Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Belinda's Cheese Dip

This week I experimented with making a new cheese dip that was more affordable. 

This recipe called for pepper jack cheese, but I used American cheese slices instead of pepper jack cheese, which made it more affordable. 

Also, I only made half of the recipe, which only required about 6 slices of cheese. You can add more or less according to your taste. 

Belinda's Cheese Dip 


1 lb pepper jack cheese
8 oz cream cheese
½ cup sour cream
1 - 10 oz can original Rotel, drained
4 TBSP whole milk (if needed)
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp chili powder 1 tsp cumin 


In a medium bowl, combine the cheese, cream cheese, sour cream, and Rotel and microwave in one minute increments, stirring well each time. 

Let the mixture heat until the cheese melts and a smooth sauce forms, stirring often. Add spices if desired, and add milk if needed.

Once melted, serve immediately, or transfer to a slow cooker with a “warm” setting to keep dip warm and melted. 

Enjoy with tortilla chips if desired. 

~ Living within our Means 

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Monday, March 30, 2020

Barbara G's Homemade Beanie Weenies

Today I'm going to share a very frugal recipe with you for homemade beanie weenies from my late friend Barbara Garrett. She was a former poster on the old AOL tightwad boards who passed away a few years ago. This is a very affordable recipe that you can make to feed your family inexpensively. 

The remainder of this post will be in Barbara's own words. 

Beans and franks. The very name conjures up frugality carried to dirt-cheap eating levels, but not necessarily tasty eating. Keep the price low AND improve the flavor by shoving aside the canned version and making up your own fresh....from dried beans. 

 Even without being on sale, the ingredients don't cost much, but if you can find the franks on special, you can make up a whole 5-quart slow cooker pot full of these for well under the $4.75 it cost me to make these. Even so, this is a HUGE pot of beans. It will feed at least eight to ten hungry adults generously, especially if you serve it with cornbread and a salad. Even better, the inclusion of the franks makes this feel like junk food, so Americanized kids will likely adore them.

Incidentally, if your larder is truly bare, the beans are fine all by themselves without the wieners, although I think you'd want to add at least a little meat flavor in the form of bacon drippings. I made it through the first two years of college in the 70s on meatless Crockpot-cooked barbecued beans and boxed mac and cheese. I usually did NOT have the bell pepper and celery on hand, but if the budget allows and I have them in the house, I greatly prefer the flavor with them included. In lean times or when there's none in the house, don't worry about it. There are plenty of flavors going on here to carry it.

Let me tell you, though, a pot of barbecued beans goes a long way when it's just one person eating it! These freeze fine, but let them thaw overnight in the fridge and then rewarm. They'll be a bit mushier, but just as delicious.

Barbara G's Homemade Beanie Weenies

The beans are quite tasty enough without the bell pepper, celery or Louisiana hot sauce, so omit them if little ones in your family object, or you just don’t have any in the house. If you like peppery hot beans, then try using the hot-style franks. Tabasco really is not a substitute for Louisiana hot sauce, as the hot sauce contributes more of a full pepper flavor and not just heat, whereas Tabasco is mainly just heat. My opinion, of course.


2 lbs dried white beans–navy or Great Northern (about 5 cups)
1 bay leaf
1 packet onion soup mix, (OR one chopped, sauteed onion plus 2 beef bouillon cubes)
1 1/2-2 cups ketchup
1/4 cup yellow prepared mustard
1/4 cup brown sugar OR 2 T. sugar plus 2 T. molasses
6-8 frankfurters sliced into thin "coins" (good-quality)
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
½ large green bell pepper, chopped (optional)
2 stalks celery, chopped (optional)
2 cloves garlic, chopped
Dash or two Louisiana hot sauce (optional)
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

Pick through the beans and discard any deformed or split beans or foreign particles. Rinse well. Put beans into a largish (at least 5-quart) slow cooker with the bay leaf, and fill about 2/3 full of water. Cook on “Low” overnight, or until beans are just tender. Sometimes I add the garlic here. It's up to you. It'll cook out to have a slightly more mellow, sweeter flavor.

Taking care not to mash them or to burn yourself, pour warm cooked beans gently into a colander to drain off most of the liquid. RESERVE THE NUTRIENT-FILLED LIQUID. Add all the remaining ingredients at once to the pot and stir to combine them. Add the beans and stir gently to distribute the sauce and vegetables throughout. Taste for seasoning and adjust with salt and pepper or hot pepper sauce. If the tomato flavor is too anemic or the beans are not saucy enough for your taste, add a little more ketchup. Continue to cook on “Low” for 2-3 or more hours, or until flavors meld and vegetables are done to your liking. Add reserved bean liquid as necessary to keep beans loose enough to be saucy, but not soupy.

Cool and refrigerate, then freeze leftover bean liquid for a grand soup starter, or season it up as a broth soup unto itself, perfect for the sniffles.

Lazybones alternative, with some risk: If there is too much liquid and the beans are only barely done and you don't feel like draining them, then cook on “High” for an hour with the cover ajar to assist evaporation. If you do this, gently stir the beans from time to time, scraping the sides to keep it from scorching, while taking care not to break up the beans any more than necessary. Of course, if you do break them up and the beans turn to mush, just call it baked bean soup. :D Remove the bay leaf before serving.

Serve as a main course with a green salad or vinaigrette-dressed cole slaw and a big chunk of Southern (NO SUGAR!) cornbread. If you can take the heat, even better is spicy Mexican cornbread. Some chilled fresh fruit afterward will be appreciated, but keep it simple. A big slice of watermelon, for instance, or a handful of frosty grapes straight from the freezer. These rewarm nicely, as long as you don't stir them too much so as to break up the beans. They'll keep fine for 2-3 days in the fridge; two-three months in the freezer.

A super cheap wiener tip: You can get by with using fewer wieners if you cut the "coins" extremely thin. Nobody has to know you cheated.

~ Living within our Means ~
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Friday, March 27, 2020

Frugal Friday ~ March 27, 2020

Hello to all my frugal friends. Thankfully we've made it to Friday again. I hope and pray that all of you and your families are safe and sound and healthy. 

The news in the world is about the same as last week. Schools here were closed due to Spring Break, but we would have been closed due to the Coronavirus Pandemic anyway. 

I've gotten the official word that schools will be closed here now until at least April 24th. I had been scheduled to work next Thursday and Friday, but that will not be happening now. 

I'm trying to keep my routine as normal as possible. I wake up and shower and have a to do list on my phone that I accomplish each day. I've been keeping myself busy and reading more than I normally read. 

This week we listened to The Secret Garden for free on Audible.com this week. 

I also completed the 2020 census during my down time this week. 

My eye doctors office called and cancelled an appointment I had for Friday. This was fine with me because I was going to call and cancel anyway because of the virus.

My paycheck came in the mail this week. The thought of going out when we have been self quarantining bothered me, however. 

What I ended up doing was taking a photo of my check and depositing it in the bank via my smartphone. I had no idea I could do that until Bailey mentioned it to me.  

See, the school district has direct deposit for faculty and staff members, but not for substitute teachers. 

On payday I have to drive home, get my check out of the mailbox, drive to town and deposit it, which is a 45 mile round trip. Being able to do this on my phone saves me gas and wear and tear on my car, which is a win- win situation. 

In the kitchen I've been cleaning, organizing, taking pantry inventory, cooking and all the other little tasks I find to do in there. I love puttering around our home cleaning and doing things to make life here better. This is a perfect time to do things just like this. 

-Some time ago I bought a container of soy sauce packets from Amazon, so I could take them in my lunch box. Little did I know how long it would take to use those up. 

Today I decided I was tired of the little packages, so I took the packets, cut the tops off and put them in our regular soy sauce bottle. I washed the jar they were stored in and quickly found a better use for that jar. 

-I went looking for and found my sour cream containers. A bad habit I know, but I wasn't putting them in the same place after they were washed, but that is fixed now. 

I don't want to throw these large containers away and contribute to the landfill as I know someone will have a good use for them and probably ask for them someday. 

So far I have given large glass jars and egg cartons to teachers at school. It's because I save these items that I'm able to donate them when a request is made. It's been my experience that teachers are thrilled when a request like this is fulfilled.

- On Sunday I took our last chicken out of the freezer to cook for dinner. I decided right off the bat that I would stretch the chicken like nobody's business. 

I cooked the chicken in my Instant Pot and added onions and several spices (salt, pepper, paprika, Weber's garlic and herb) along with enough water, which ended up making a very rich broth. 

On Tuesday I made a chicken pot pie using Bisquick instead of a pie crust since that is what I had on hand. I used part of the rich broth for the pot pie and froze the rest of the broth for a later time. 

My bank offered "relief of fees" due to the Coronavirus Pandemic this month, although you had to ask for it. They kindly refunded my service fee for March, which is savings for me of $8.00.

I cleaned up and organized my spices this week. I emptied several of the same spice into a larger mason jar and labeled it. I had a couple of glass spice jars that I cleaned up and will save for another purpose. 

The following tip comes from Chef AJ. She saves her spice bottles when they are empty and reuses them. 

She says that research shows that most people don't eat 30 distinct and different meals each month, but rather repeat their favorite meals every week.

Chef AJ says her Red Lentil Chili is no exception. Instead of measuring out all 7 of the spices every time she goes to make it, she uses several empty spice bottles and makes them all at the same time. Then all she has to do is grab one and put them in her pressure cooker with the rest of the ingredients.

I do this with taco seasoning mix that I make up, although I just place them into small bowls. I make about 10 at a time and it is a big time saver, but now I'm saving my glass spice bottles for this purpose. :)

Gas is down to $1.39 per gallon here.

We watched A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood for our family movie night this week. If you like Mr.Rogers you'll like this movie.

I cleaned out my e-mail box of any unwanted subscriptions. Not knowing what is on sale where will help me save money. 

We did a curbside pickup this week at Piggly Wiggly and Kroger. The reason I did this at two stores is because they were out of stock of several items we needed. 

We used our last roll of toilet paper on Wednesday. Piggly Wiggly's website sold me toilet paper, but when I got there they didn't load it into my cart. Turns out, they were out of it, but I am grateful for the items we did get.

Finally, we’ve been drinking herbal tea every day through quarantine. It’s healthy, hydrating, and a great self care routine. My favorite is the Peppermint. What’s your favorite herbal tea?

~ Living within our Means ~
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Thursday, March 26, 2020

Something to Share from the Front Line of the Coronavirus Pandemic

Some things are so beautiful they need to be shared. This is how I feel about this video, which was broadcast on World News Tonight With David Muir who stated, "That landed today when I saw it".

Here is Dr. Elvis Francois singing a rendition of John Lennon’s “Imagine,” accompanied on the piano by Dr. William Robinson, both of the Mayo Clinic after working their shift during the Coronavirus Pandemic.

And finally, Dr. Elvis Francois's words on his Instagram post where he shared the video: 

Imagine all the people...
In life, there are so many things that divide us. Religion, race, politics, social status and many more....But today a global pandemic brings us all together as one.
Over the next few months our health care system will be tested. Many lives will be lost. Health care providers will be under an incredible amount of stress to save thousands of people. But when times are as dark as they are today, nothing shines brighter than the human spirit. —-
There is something beautiful about a collective struggle. And the beauty in what we are facing today is that the only way to overcome this pandemic is for us to all come together as one....
Nurses, doctors, students, research scientists, politicians, Uber eats drivers, cashiers, factory workers etc.....Getting through this will be hard but one thing is certain...the only way we will get through it is together, as one
“You might say that I’m a dreamer. But I’m not the only one. I hope some day that you will join us...and the world will live as one....”

Thankful for my brother @w_a_robinson on the piano.

~ Living within our Means ~
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Sunday, March 22, 2020

Free Audible.com during Coronavirus Pandemic

Audible is making hundreds of titles available for free during the coronavirus pandemic.Simply visit stories.audible.com from any web browser to get started. No log-ins, credit card or passwords needed.

We've been listening to The Secret Garden this morning.
~ Living within our Means ~
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Friday, March 20, 2020

Frugal Friday ~ 3-20-2020

Here it is Friday and I hope that all of you are doing well considering what is going on in the world right now. 

We've stayed home all week other than venturing out to the mailbox one day. I can monitor what mail is coming via my email, so we don't always feel the need to go especially when it's junk mail. 

We've not been able to fill our grocery pick up order due to them being out of stock, so we've been living out of our pantry. We have been able to purchase a few things online (sugar, tea, tuna) and have those items delivered. 

In the kitchen this week I took one of the hams I had stored in the freezer and made pinwheels, ham salad, and served some for breakfast. Afterwards I slow cooked the ham bone and made broth out of it. I stored that in the freezer. I also froze a gallon of milk that was about to expire into smaller servings.

We've also eaten more meatless meals than usual this week, which has helped to save money. 

We're hoping that eating more plant based will help us get more nutrients into our bodies, which hopefully will help keep this virus at bay. Because of that we ordered our first box from Misfits Market. 

It was so nice to get fresh produce delivered since we've been unable to get a grocery pickup.

We have really enjoyed our first box. The day it arrived I fixed the green beans and potatoes for dinner and made a salad out of the greens, radishes, cucumber, and tomatoes.

It was all so good and fresh and I love the fact that it is all organic. I've already ordered another box for next week.

If you're interested in trying it out, here is a code to use for 50% off your first box:


How are you doing dealing with all that is going on right now? I hope you are doing well physically, spiritually, mentally, and financially. 

~ Living within our Means ~
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Sunday, March 15, 2020

My Frugal Week

Good Sunday morning to all my readers. What a week this has been. Like so many other schools across the country our local schools will be closed this week and were already scheduled to be closed next week due to spring break. 

This week I was scheduled to work every day, so that is more lost income for my household. However, we still have some income as we believe in multiple income streams here.  In the meantime we are staying home and waiting it out along with so many others. 

We are planning for the worst, but hoping for the best.  

Last Sunday I worked on making some scrunchies on my sewing machine. They are pretty easy to make and are popular once again. These would make a simple gift to give to someone and would use up some of your scrap fabric. 

On Monday morning I stopped in at Hardee's on my way to work and said "Happy Morning" and received a free sausage biscuit. 

On Tuesday we were invited to a birthday party at my BIL's home. I asked him ahead of time if he could fix the headlight in my car as it was out. He only charged me $6 for the bulb to fix it. 

This week I sold two items on eBay and am thrilled to have those items out of the house. 

My income tax refund came this week, which was quick as I only filed at the first of the month. I quickly paid my auto insurance premium and have left the rest in the bank. 

Saturday was the day I was going to get our usual monthly grocery order. But as the last few days progressed, items on my order were marked out of stock to the point that I decided not to fill the order. 

We will just wait until those items are back in stock and then fill the order. We have plenty of food here to make it through even if we need to get creative. We are used to doing that. 

And if we do run out of toilet paper I'll just cut up an old t-shirt and use that. I'm sure most people have a couple of articles of clothing they no longer wear and can use that. Necessity is the mother of invention and all that. :)

How are things in your area of the world?

~ Living within our Means ~
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Saturday, March 7, 2020

What to Do with a Large Amount of Cash such as an Income Tax Refund

Last week I mentioned that I had filed for my income tax refund. Every year around this time I make a list of thing I need to purchase with this refund. The list includes things such as new shoes, yearly health club membership, car repairs, new tires, Insurance payments, new clothes, etc. 

Since I have a variable income I've always needed to be organized and decide beforehand what items I would spend money on after receiving a large sum of money. I wouldn't want to spend the money willy-nilly and then have nothing to show for it as that would be irresponsible. 

So, with that in mind here is a list of things you could do with a lump sum of money. 

Pay as many of your bills that you can in advance, especially if you can get a discount for doing that. Car insurance is one example where I can save money if I pay for the six month premium verses the three month premium. For those who live paycheck to paycheck keep in mind that any extra cash will allow you to pay current bills without getting hit with late fees, which will also save you money. 

Use some of the money to open a bank or credit union account. Last year an H & R Block employee told me that many taxpayers asked for their refund be placed on the H&R Block debit card because they didn’t have a bank account. I can't imagine not having a bank account and think everyone would benefit from having a checking and savings account.  Tax season is  a good time to open both types of accounts. 

Build or start an emergency fund. Many personal finance experts mention saving $1,000. Others recommend saving one, two, or three months worth of expenses in your emergency fund. Getting a large sum of money is the perfect time to begin to build your own emergency fund. 

Pay off or pay down a credit card or a debt. This is an excellent use for a large amount of cash. Paying off a credit card will save the debtor from having to pay interest on the amount of debt owed. This will also free up more cash in the following months. 

Take a class that improves your job marketability. This doesn’t have to be a university or community college class, but can include job skill seminars and resume building workshops. The videos I've been watching of Ramit Sethi includes such things as building your own resume and self development programs. His videos are a wealth of information on making yourself more marketable. 

Purchase the supplies that you need to organize grocery store coupons. You can purchase one of those large coupon binders, or an index card box or an accordion file. To save money use some of the supplies you already have on hand like paper clips. The cost of this project will vary depending on which method you use. 

Buy those items you need in your kitchen in order to cook at home. This could include an Instant pot, crockpot, griddle, new pots and pans. I received one of those copper skillets for Christmas and I love it. It's made clean up in my kitchen a breeze. Need new spatulas or dish towels? Now is a good time to buy those things you need. 

Buy some plants for your garden. Do you want to have a garden with raised beds? Having a large sum of money is the perfect time to invest in a garden. Buy fruit trees and you'll reap the benefits for years to come. 

Buy a sewing machine. A sewing machine is a useful tool for making clothing repairs, making household items such as curtains, and creating items that will save you money over the long haul, such as cloth pads. 

Buy a tool kit or tool box for the house. It will be easier to do minor home repairs when you have the proper tools. Doing it yourself will save you money too. 

Inventory your disaster supplies. If you live in Tennessee you know the chances are good that your power will go out several times a year.  Do you need to buy a hand-crank radio, cooler,  generator or any other number of things to help you make it through without having to spend a small fortune. 

These are just some of the ideas I've come up with that we could do with a large sum of money. I know you will have many good ideas of your own to add to this list. We'd love to read what you would do in the comments. 

~ Living within our Means ~
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Friday, March 6, 2020

Frugal Friday 3-6-2020

Good Friday morning to all my readers. I hope you've had a great frugal week. This week I was able to sub three days and I'm grateful for that. Tuesday was Super Tuesday, so school was closed as we use our schools here to vote. 

Bailey and I made sure to get our votes in too!

My brother and his fiance came from Illinois for a visit this week. We had not seen each other in eight years, so it was good to catch up with him. 

We made a trip to Kroger this week to use the $25 gift card they awarded me. They actually put $30 on my card and said the extra $5 was for an order pickup fee, which we didn't use. They let us apply it towards our groceries and not the fee anyway. 

These are the items we picked up:

- 12 Chobani yogurts, marked down to 45¢, we had $1 off four coupons, so we paid 25¢ each. 
- Kroger brand Yogurt
- one gallon of Milk 
- four packages of cream cheese
- two packages of Doritos
- two container of Lay's Stax
- 2 bags Teriyaki Stir-fry that was on markdown
- tomatoes
- bananas

Needless to say I was really tickled to be able to pick up all this food for free. 

Other things we did this week to save money include:

Used the same dryer sheet for two loads.

Used a buy one get one free Subway deal to get two foot longs sandwiches for $6.54

Two free orange juices from a student at school.

Submitted my income tax return using the free version of Turbo Tax.

Received a free RX prescription in the mail, which is good for three months. 

The sad news that our local IGA is closing came this week. This will officially make the town where I sub a food desert as it will have no grocery store. Thankfully we have other options in other towns. 

If you have a Hardee's in your town be sure to stop in on Monday March 9th as they are giving away free sausage biscuits. 

Speaking of breakfast, I made my daughter her favorite banana chocolate chip pancakes over the weekend

Gas is currently $1.83 per gallon here.

That's all the news to report from here. How was your week and what have you done to save money this week?

~ Living within our Means ~
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Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Creamy Crockpot Chicken Stuffing and Green Beans

This was what we had for dinner Monday night. I put it in the crockpot in the morning, which switched over to warm after four hours so it was ready for dinner. I served this with mashed potatoes. 

Creamy Crockpot Chicken Stuffing and Green Beans


2 lbs (about 4 chicken breast)
1 (6 oz) box of stuffing mix
1 (10.5 oz) can cream of chicken condensed soup
3/4 cup sour cream
1/3 cup water
10 oz bag frozen green beans
salt and pepper to taste


1. Prepare crockpot with cooking spray. Season chicken with salt/pepper and place in the bottom of a crockpot.

2. Next, top chicken with 1 box of stuffing mix.

3. In a separate bowl, mix together condensed soup, sour cream and water. Spread mixture over stuffing.

4. Place green bean on top. Cover and cook on HIGH for 4 hours. If you need a longer cooking time, you can do LOW for 6 hours, but I recommend the high setting

~ Living within our Means ~
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Monday, March 2, 2020

My Frugal Week

Welcome to the Frugal Workshop. Yesterday was a beautiful sunny day here with a temperature of 61 degrees and today the rain has set in for the day.  

I spent several hours outdoors yesterday enjoying the weather and our cats. I even pulled out a bicycle rack we no longer use and cleaned it up in order to sell it. 

Something else I sold this past week was my Oldsmobile 1998 Cutlass. 

Some readers may recall that I kept this car after I bought a replacement because we hauled off garbage in it, but in the last year it needed an expensive repair that wasn't worth fixing.  

Now that we have someone who hauls off garbage for us, I decided it was time to part with the old blue car. So, we sold it to a company that will probably just scrap it. 

As I mentioned before, this week I called to have an Rx switched to Walmart. I've also had it set up to be delivered, so I won't have to drive there and use my gasoline. This switch will save me $25 on my prescription, which makes the switch well worth it.   

I've been watching Ramit Sethi's YouTube channel this week. I read his book, I Will Teach You To Be Rich, a few years ago and really enjoyed it. 

He has a really good article on why his resume got him a job offer from Google. With this in mind I decided to redo my own resume. I'm tired of school being cancelled and losing out on pay. I've lost six days of pay in February, so I'm looking around to see what's out there.  

Saturday morning I used up two bananas that needed using and made Banana Pancakes with chocolate chips. They are always a big hit here. 

We ate all of our meals at home this week and continued to resist the urge to eat out. We hit a milestone with our savings account in February and we want to keep the momentum going.

What frugal wins or fails did you have this week? We would love to read about it in the comment section. 

~ Living within our Means ~
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