Tuesday, August 27, 2019

The Little Free Pantry

Have you ever heard of the Little Free Pantry? Little Free Pantry is a grassroots movement geared towards feeding hungry people in our communities.

Also known as "Blessing Boxes," these are miniature food pantries. These were created to fill the immediate need for people who are hungry. These pantries are able to help hungry people find food more easily any time of the day or night. 

Each pantry across the country is stocked with nonperishable food items, such as oatmeal, cereal, canned vegetables and meat, etc.

The food is provided by people volunteering to fill them and is available free with no questions asked or requirements to prove need.

Whether you have a need for food or the desire to donate food to help alleviate hunger, Little Free Pantries help to fill the void in many neighborhoods.

If you're interested in helping feed people in your community or need help with food, you can click on the website and then click on the map to find one in your neighborhood.

You can also follow the movement on Facebook or Pinterest

~ Living within our Means ~ 

Sunday, August 25, 2019

My Frugal Kitchen ~ What We Ate This Week

Here is a list of what I planned on making for dinner this past week: 

1. Chicken 
2. Tacos 
3. Pork Tenderloin 
4. Hamburgers 
5. Spaghetti 
6. Pizza 
7. Grilled Chicken 

Drinks Available: 

1. Water 
2. Iced or herbal tea, sweet or unsweetened 
3. Lemonade 
4. Green Tea 
5. Grape or Orange Juice 

Breakfast Options: Grits with or without cheese, Oatmeal, yogurt, cereal, fresh fruit are apples, blueberries, cantaloupe, 

Sunday: BBQ Pork Roast, Green Beans with Onions and Potatoes, and Rice with Cheese. 

Monday: Cheeseburgers, the last of the green beans with onions and potatoes, and corn. 

Tuesday: Beefy Baked Beans, Yellow Squash with Onions, the last of the Rice & Cheese from Sunday.

Wednesday: Another hot day subbing, so I took some pork taco meat out of the freezer this morning and placed it in the fridge to thaw during the day. 

When I got home I heated that up and found a package of lime taco shells (can't recall where they came from, but glad to use up this lurker). I warmed those up, grated some cheese, and diced some lettuce and tomatoes. I served this with some corn on the side. 

Thursday: Hot Italian Sandwiches & Chips

Friday: Fiesta Rice or Ham & Rice

Saturday: My Dad is in town and treated us to dinner at the Mexican restaurant. I had grilled chicken with Mexican rice and cheese dip. Delicious. 

~ Living within our Means ~
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Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Frugal Workshop Podcast #7 - 14 Frugal Principles Transcript

Good morning and welcome to the seventh podcast of the Frugal Workshop blog. I'm your host, Belinda Richardson and I want to welcome you and all of my readers from Frugal Workshop. I'm so glad you decided to join us.

Today’s topic is going to be about the Principles of Frugal Living

There are several basic principles to living the frugal life. Today I’m going to share 14 of those with you.  

The first one is to ...

1. Know What It Costs to Live

In order to know how much money you need to live on, you need to know what it costs you to live. Begin by saving your receipts for purchases and bills for one month and add everything together. 

Be sure to include those expenses that don’t occur each month like car insurance, license plates, property taxes, etc. Divide those amounts to find a monthly amount that you need to set aside each month for those expenses.
Once you have everything written down you’ll know how much it costs you to live every month. Now you can get down to the business of living a frugal life. 

This is the area where you can figure out how to cut down your monthly expenses and save money. 

You can search for whole categories of spending to eliminate. For example, living without a car can save a lot of money. You won’t have to spend money on gas, repairs, insurance, taxes, licenses, registration, cost of the car, etc.

This may require living close to town, your work, close to public transportation, and/or your willingness and ability to ride a bicycle. Just check our Mr. Money Mustache’s website for inspiration on this frugal tip. 

2. Live Beneath Your Means

This simply means to spend less than you earn. 

You want to live a good life without going into debt for it. Learn how to do that with less money. 

The young man who picks up our garbage and does light yard work for us works very hard. Not only does he have a full time job, but he also has several side hustles. He is only 22 years old and already owns two houses because he works so hard. We’ve had long talks where he’s given me great ideas on how to do things for less money. 

He is earning an honest living by honest work. If you find yourself wishing your had more money to make more purchases, and you are wisely not willing to go into debt to accomplish this, you can take a page out of his book. Pick up a few odd jobs or side hustles to cover the cost of those extra expenses. There’s nothing wrong with picking up an odd job to spring for a new iPhone. 

3. Use Resources Wisely

One principle of the frugal life should be to use your resources wisely and that includes food, time, and money.

Rather than going to the grocery store to pick up something specific for dinner, take a look at what’s in your pantry and try to come up with something using the ingredients on hand. I’ve come up with some great meals doing this!

Instead of watching TV, use your leisure time to learn new money saving skills. Learn how to bake bread, or make yogurt, or learn to change the oil in your car. There are plenty of resources online or in books, and nothing beats the power of self education. Although, this may be a principle you are already familiar with since you are listening to my podcast.

Don’t forget that money is a resource, and you can make it work for your by saving, investing, and stretching your dollars in any way you can. 

4. Save Money

Another principle of frugal living is to save money every month, even if it is just $5.00. As you learn to live better with less, you will be able to save more money every month. 

Learn how to delay personal gratification. Having money in the bank will mean more to you than the latest gadget. It will allow you to have some security in case something happens and you need a cushion to fall back on. 

As The Great Depression moves further back in history, I think we’ve forgotten some of the principles that came out of that. Our grandparents and great grandparents had to learn to live with little to no money and they were the founding members of frugal living. 

With today’s technology, instant gratification is a constant resource but that doesn’t mean we should feed into that, especially involving our money. If you see a new dress or electronic you want, rather than putting it on a credit card and having it instantly, save up your money for it. You may be surprised how much better it feels when you are able to buy it in cash, or it may even cause you to realize how much money it actually costs and you may change your mind about purchasing it at all. We don’t always realize in the moment what the true cost of something is. 

5. Get Out of & Avoid Debt

As previously mentioned, one way to avoid debt is to save up for those things you want. For example, If you want to buy a new computer, make payments to your savings account until you have enough money to pay cash. It’s what my daughter did when she needed to buy a new laptop this year. 

If your debts are causing you financial trouble, find a way to fix the problem and get out of debt. Generally, only carry long term debt for education and purchase of a house. Never carry debt for entertainment or frivolous consumer spending. Don't use credit cards, payday loans, or pawn shops to increase your expenditures for consumer items or entertainment. 

Every penny you borrow must be paid back with interest, and as your debt increases so do your payments. Meaning that the $50 dress your purchased in February might actually have cost you $62 if paid off this month.

Did you decide to go to college with student loans? Did you take the full amount they offered, so you could live on it too or did you accept only enough to pay for your classes and books? Borrowing the full amount will cost you more in interest in the long run. 

Consider working part time during college to have money to live on instead of borrowing money that won't be paid back for years with interest accruing.

Every penny that you spend on something you don't really need is a choice you are making. Do you want to stay in debt or do you want to live debt free? The choice is up to you.  

6. Buy Second Hand

Another principle of the frugal lifestyle is to buy second hand. Always shop the second hand market first when you need to buy something. Shop at flea markets, yard & garage sales, pawn shops, and thrift stores. 

Only then, when you cannot find what you need in the second hand market should you consider buying something new. And even then make sure you pay for it with cash you've saved up and not on credit. 

Also, if you must purchase something new, price shop! Don’t purchase from the first place you find your item. Take a look at many places to find the best price, and always take a look for coupon codes if your purchasing online.

7. Cook from Scratch

Another principle of frugal living is to cook from scratch as much as possible. This is one of the best ways to save money. And when you do cook, use everything you can. Save those butter wrappers to grease pans in baking, use the chicken carcass or vegetable scraps to make broth, use stock leftover from cooking meats to start other meals like soup, stew, or another dish altogether. 

Save as much money as you can on food. Look and search out those places where you can find food cheaper. Always keep looking for new places to save yourself the most money. Make your own jam, jelly, preserves, and yogurt. 

8. Grow Some of Your Own Food
Growing some of your own food, if done correctly, will give you the potential to save money on your grocery bill. It is entirely possible to spend a lot of money on a vegetable garden. The secret to saving money with a vegetable garden is to minimize spending while maximizing yield. 

Amy Dacyczyn has several pages in her book dedicated to this topic, so do your research first and learn how to garden while saving money  at the same time. 

9. Preserve Your Own Food

Canning your own food, like growing your own food, if done correctly, will help you save money on your grocery bill. Jars can be bought new, which will be part of the initial start up cost, will be used year after year and can be considered an investment. Jars can also be found inexpensively at yard sales, thrift stores, and flea markets. 

Again, Amy Dacyczyn has pages dedicated to this topic, so do your research first and learn how to preserve your own food while saving money  at the same time. 

10. Keep a Well Stocked Pantry

Another principle of frugal living is to keep a well stocked pantry. This means to fill your pantry with food that you are able to purchase at the lowest possible price. Keep a price book in order to know what the lowest price is for your family. Stocking up when the price is right on food and non-food items you and your family use will provide security against rising grocery prices. 

Another principle is to understand the consequences of your financial choices. Make sure you pay for your necessities first before you spend money on anything that is non-essential. Pay the rent or mortgage, pay the utility bills, insurance, gas for cars to get to work, and food. Paying for necessities first will give you peace of mind over your financial life. 

11. Do It Yourself

Skills such as changing the oil in your car, mowing your own lawn, cutting your own hair or your dog’s fur, sewing & mending will save you a lot of money over the years. 

12. Take Care of What You Own

Cleaning the filters in your refrigerator and air conditioner will ensure that they work more efficiently and will last longer than those that are poorly maintained. 

Becky from Becky’s Homestead has a YouTube video on how to remove a window air conditioning unit and clean and wash it well in your own yard. I will include a link to her video in the resources for this podcast. 

Taking care of your leather shoes with polish or balsam will make them last longer. Also, avoid overcharging your electronics, this will not only save electricity, but will help your electronics last longer.  

13.  Ignore Advertising

 Advertising encourages people to spend money they may not have for products they may not need. You should only use advertising to compare prices. Educate yourself on the tricks of advertisers and learn to ignore them.

14. Teach your Children These Principles

Children who are taught by their parents to embrace instant gratification, to spend money frivolously, to find meaning in the right clothes or the perfect car will be at a serious disadvantage in the years to come. 

Hopefully by teaching your children these frugal principles, they won’t  succumb to poor financial choices that may hurt them in the long run. 

Principles of Frugal Living

1. Know What It Cost You to Live
2. Live Beneath Your Means 
3. Use Resources Wisely
4.  Save Money
5. Get Out of & Avoid Debt
6. Buy Second Hand
7. Cook from Scratch
8. Grow Your Own Food
9. Reserve Your Own Food
10. Keep a Well Stocked Pantry
11. Do It Yourself
12. Take Care of What You Own
13. Ignore Advertising
14. Teach your Children these Principles

In Conclusion

There are a lot of principles on frugal living and I there are plenty more that I’ve not discussed here today. We will discuss more of this in a future podcast. I hope that this information has been helpful to you and I want to thank you for taking the time out of your day to listen.

Resources Used In This Podcast

Becky’s Homestead
How to Clean A Window Air Conditioner The Easy Way

Mr. Money Mustache
Get Rich with Bikes

~ Living within our Means ~
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Monday, August 19, 2019

Frugal Workshop Podcast #7 - 14 Frugal Principles is now Live!

Episode 7 is now live and you can listen to it right here. 

The topic this week is 14 Frugal Principles. 

I hope you enjoy listening. 

Tune in tomorrow for a printed transcript. :)

~ Living within our Means ~
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Sunday, August 18, 2019

My Frugal Kitchen ~ What We Ate This Week

Recently I mentioned taking our toaster oven out of the pantry and putting it on the kitchen counter, so I could use it instead of heating up the house with the big oven. 

Because the toaster oven took up a lot of counter space, I had to move and find a place to put my Pioneer Woman utensil container. We use one of these because we have limited drawer space in the kitchen here. 
Moving it closer to the stove has actually made it easier for me to find what I need to cook with and has made preparing dinner even easier. 
Here is a list of what I planned on making for dinner this past week:

1. Chicken
2. Tacos
3. Pork Tenderloin
4. Hamburgers
5. Spaghetti
6. Pizza
7. Grilled Chicken

Drinks Available:

1. Water
2. Iced or herbal tea, sweet or unsweetened
3. Lemonade
4. Green Tea
5. Grape or Orange Juice

Breakfast options for this week: cereal, oatmeal, eggs & toast, yogurt, and fruit options were apples, peaches, cantaloupe, and blueberries. Yogurt parfaits were also an option.

And here is what we actually made for dinner this week:

Sunday: Bailey found some chicken and bacon tortellini on markdown, so I made a cream sauce to go with it. We served it with a side salad and garlic bread.

Monday: I set out some ground beef to thaw. For dinner I made some hamburger steaks and used some Worcestershire sauce and the last of the half and half to make a gravy to go over the steaks. I made green beans with potatoes to go with them.

Monday was a busy day in the kitchen. I cut up a cantaloupe, made two gallons of iced tea, made pasta salad for the week using two pounds of pasta. And I used up multiple cans out of my pantry. Cans of green beans, potatoes, chick peas, and tomatoes. Busy day, but felt good about it at the end of the day.

Tuesday: Pork Tenderloin, Pinto Beans, and Yellow Squash with Onions.

Wednesday: First day back to subbing, so leftovers it was. Everyone was able to choose what they wanted from Pork Tenderloin, Pasta, Pinto Beans, Green Beans & Potatoes, Potato Salad, Pasta Salad, Cantaloupe and Strawberries.

Thursday: Pulled Pork Sandwiches, Potato Salad, and Cantaloupe.

Friday & Saturday: We made a big Taco Salad, enough to last two days. These are the items I included in ours: ground beef seasoned into taco meat, pinto beans from Wednesday, tortilla chips, black olives, lettuce, tomato, onions, cheddar cheese, and sour cream seasoned with taco sauce for the dressing.

That's what we had for dinner in our home this week. How about yours?

~ Living within our Means ~ 

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Frugal Friday ~ August 16, 2019

This week I was able to sub for two days, so I'm grateful for that. Naturally, I packed my lunch and brought plenty of water for both days. 

My time was spent in the gym where there is no a/c. All the doors are open and there are big industrial fans, but it is still hot, so I drink a lot of water. 

These are the containers I brought with me. One is my regular water cup and the big one is a one gallon Bubba Keg. I bought it years ago at a yard sale for 50¢. It keeps ice all day long and even overnight. It was a good investment as a new one will run about $30.

Jody asked me to come over on Saturday and help him can peppers. He had grown all of them in his raised bed gardens. He had canned with his parents and grandparents when he was young, but they've all passed away since then. 

This was his first time canning since then and he wanted someone there to make sure he was doing it right. He does so much for us that I was more than happy to help him. In the end we had twelve half pints of peppers. 

The Mennonite community here has boxes of produce for sale at this time of year for $7.00 for canning. Jody said we should get some green beans and can them and split them up for our families. I thought this was a great idea.

Cool Gear really came through with their replacement for me. They sent me three containers and one of those was an expandable Bento box, which was very nice of them. 

We both received a free sample from the Freeosk at Walmart this week. This was a free sample of the Smarty Pants Women's vitamins. 

Weight Watchers magazine is no longer going to be published, so my subscription was switched over to Eating Well magazine, which came in the mail yesterday. 

There are a lot of good looking recipes in there that I'm going to have to try out. My original WW magazine subscription was free, so this one was as well. 

Last week I sold a cookbook that I bought at a yard sale for 15¢ for $5.00 on eBay. I also sold three other items on there this week. The money from these sales will help supplement my income this month. 

If you're interested in what I did in my frugal kitchen last week, be sure to read that blog post here

Thanks to my wonderful readers, this week I was able to cash out on Microsoft Rewards for two $5 Amazon gift cards making my balance $20 now. 

If you're interested in signing up for the program please follow my link here: 

Microsoft Rewards

My daughter went to town on Wednesday and scored a good deal on  Coca-Cola 2 liters. 

Publix has them on sale for buy two, get two free.  They also have a coupon in their coupon flyer for $2.00 off two certain coke products.

She bought me my favorite lemonade and stocked up on some other flavors that aren't pictured here like Mello Yellow and Pineapple, Orange, and Strawberry Fanta. 

My daughter worked out a deal through Influenster and earned a $15 shopping spree for Big Lots. One of the things she bought me were these dryer balls, so we will be trying these out this week. 

Panera Bread sent me an email for a free pastry this week, so I picked out this chocolate croissant. 

Toy Story 4 is ending in theaters here this week. We've seen all the Toy Story movies at the theater and wanted to see this one there as well. We saw it on Tuesday since it's $5 night and since we are reward members that comes with a free small bag of popcorn. 

It was a very busy week getting back into a routine and tiring at the end of the day, so I slept well. I hope you all have had a good week as well. 

~ Living within our Means ~
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Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Frugal Workshop Podcast #6 ~ Is College for Everyone? Yes or No?

Here is the transcript of Podcast #6 for all of my readers who prefer this format. 

Good morning and welcome to the sixth podcast of the Frugal Workshop blog. I'm your host, Belinda Richardson and I want to welcome you and all of my readers from Frugal Workshop. I'm so glad you decided to join us.

Today’s topic is going to be about college.

Back when I was growing up it was implied that college was the sure fire road to success. And that was true for my daughter’s generation while they were growing up.

But is the reality of that true?

How many people do you know that have a college degree, but don’t have adequate employment or don’t use it to earn a living? 

Bailey’s tongue in cheek contribution:

Girls go to college to get more knowledge;
Boys go to Jupiter to get more stupider.

This week I was shopping at Target when 
I saw someone I knew from back when our children (her granddaughter) were in grade school. We were catching up on their lives when she mentioned that her granddaughter had left home for college in 2016, studied for 1.5 years and quit. She didn’t return home, but found gainful employment and still lives there.

My own daughter went to the local community college in 2016, earned her two year degree, and decided to become an entrepreneur and now owns her own business.

The class of 2016 has been interesting for me to watch as they’ve grown up over the years. I watched them in grade school and heard teachers say they didn’t give them homework because they didn’t want the parents doing it for them. 

To my surprise, I watched the ‘no homework’ mentality continue through middle school and most of high school for my daughter’s class. She rarely, if ever, came home with work and if she did it was of her own volition or because she missed a few days.

Other parents I spoke with said that their children never came home with any work either. I feel that this was a complete disservice to the students seeking to go on to college as it did not prepare them for the workload of college classes.

The high school here really presents the idea of college for all students and even more so when the state of Tennessee began to offer free college for two years starting with the class of 2015.

My own daughter originally wanted to go to New York for college, but over the years changed her mind to finally deciding on a local two year college for free. I think she made the best choice for herself.

She started college right out of high school and even though not everyone is ready to go to college at that time, she was. However, she had a huge class load and was stressed out to the point that she was not enjoying any of her classes.

Out of all the classes she took in high school, even some college prep courses, there was only one class that she felt prepared her for college, and she would tell you that one wasn’t enough.

College can be tough and a lot of hard work and I don’t feel that the school system here prepares students for college life. The no homework rule is a good example of that. Why would you pressure students to go to college, but not prepare them for the experience that it will be for them?

Because Tennessee was offering free college for every high school graduate the school system did their best to sign up all of their graduating seniors. I knew in my heart that some of them were not college material and sure enough many of them crashed and burned in September 2016 as a result.

What about students going to college who end up with student loan debt like we talked about last week? In Tennessee high schools are supposed to teach students one financial literacy class, but my own daughter’s Finance class was a joke taught by one of the gym teachers who didn’t care or take time to prepare for his class.

Are we seriously pressuring students to go to college, take on student loan debt, and not giving them the skills to pay it off in a timely manner? Why do we teach them what a mitochondria does, but not how to invest their money?

Since that time I have heard the stories of other students who didn’t make it in college. One of my daughter’s friends graduated from the two year college with her and went on to a four year college only to quit because he was offered a great job.

Another student thought community college was beneath her and stuck her nose up at the fact that my daughter and her other friend were going to the local community college for FREE. This friend was already in student loan debt in her freshman year of college even though she could have went for free also. Today she has student loan debt but no degree.

Some of you may remember a lady who used to post on the old AOL tightwad message boards. She was angry over the fact that she had invested in a college education, but was still unable to find gainful employment.

The stories of my daughter’s classmates has been interesting to watch and that brings up the topic of this podcast.

So the big question here is college for everyone?

I think this topic is a very personal decision, which requires taking all sorts of things into consideration. Does this person need to go to work and earn a living right out of high school? Many students need to do this to help and support their birth family or their own family.

They need to ask themselves several questions.

Is College worth the investment?

College costs have risen over the years to the point where it can be a very expensive investment that will take years to see a pay off. Will people see a good return on their investment even if it’s not a STEAM degree?

Unfortunately, there are many people out in the world with a college degree who have a low paying job and are saddled with student loan debt. Some of these people do not want the government to bail them out either because they made the choice to go to college and take on the debt.

Can the time spent earning a college degree be put to better use?

There are plenty of jobs out there where it makes more sense to immediately go to work because on the job training and experience is valuable. This will allow those who choose this path to have four years of valuable job experience under their belt. And just think of the money they’ll have earned and hopefully saved in the four years while their peers were in college.

Are there plenty of jobs available that don’t require a college degree?

Yes, but if that is not your cup of tea you can start your own business. My own father didn’t graduate high school, but did end up going to trade school and became an electrician. When an auto accident ended his career he started his own business and supported a family of five on the income from that business.

There are high paying jobs out there that do not require a bachelor's degree. Jobs such as Electrician, Lineman, Postmaster, Web Developer, Plumber, Paralegal, Construction Workers and Brick Layers.

My brother, who also did not graduate high school, makes a great living as a bricklayer. He runs his own business, makes his own hours, and has been richly rewarded as a result. He is a very hard worker too, which I know is part of the reason for his success.

Not everyone is college material.

Unfortunately, this is true. Where I’ve substituted I’ve seen students who were not college material. I’ve consoled students who were told by a teacher that they were not college material. It’s a hard truth to face, but it’s true. Are we doing those students a disservice when we pressure them to go to college? Are we setting them up for failure?

When I graduated high school in 1985 I went to the local community college, but I dropped out after the first year. After a divorce in the fall of 1999 I went back to college as a non-traditional student.

In May of 2004 I earned my two-year college degree. After earning that degree, I went on to finish my four year degree and graduated in December 2007 with my Bachelor of Science Degree in Interdisciplinary Studies.

Earning those degrees and taking classes at that stage in my life was a deeply moving and rewarding experience that I would not have traded for anything. That feeling of reward and value was something that I wasn't even looking for. It was a great experience for me and made me realize that not everyone is ready to go to college after high school. Sometimes it might take them a while to get there and reap the rewards that come with an education.

And that reminds me of something my friend Anna taught me over the years. You don’t need to go to college to continue to educate yourself. There are plenty of classes you can take right now just for the pure enjoyment of learning.

Has my college degree served me well? It has value to me as a wonderful learning experience. I learned more during those years than I remember from my first education. It has not helped me financially, but I believe that is because of the rural area we live in. My brother assures me I could find a great job if I moved back to Illinois.

I do have student loan debt though, so there is that. I place a high value on a college education, but I know it is not for everyone. As I said earlier, I think it is up to each individual to decide for him or herself and to consider all these things mentioned here and even more.

Ultimately, what’s most important is that you find a career or vocation that you really enjoy because, when you’re passionate about what you do, the money will come. It’s what my brother in law taught me. He didn’t finish high school, but went to work for Auto Zone and took classes until he finally became a certified mechanic and now makes a great living doing what he loves with no college degree.
In Conclusion

There are a lot of aspects regarding college and I have barely scratched the surface here. I hope that this podcast has been helpful to you and I want to thank you for taking the time out of your day to listen (read).

~ Living within our Means ~
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