Every Day

This Recipe Is A Keeper – UPDATED

I cooked a half ham for our Christmas Eve dinner. It was just for the two of us so you can imagine the amount of leftovers we had. We usually make bean soup which I will today. The beans have been soaking overnight. 

I purposely soaked too many beans for the soup. So they got put in freezer bags to use to make minestrone soup for lunches later this month.

We ate some cold ham with veggies this week.Then there is always au gratin or scalloped potatoes to put it in. 

But I was looking for a new to us recipe and I found it. We made them last night and they were so delicious that Hubby couldn’t stop raving about them. He even ate three. I had two and we will split the last three for lunch today. They will reheat beautifully in the toaster oven or air fryer. The recipe is Leftover Ham Turnovers

So if you are looking for a new recipe for all that ham, try them. I don’t think that you will be disappointed. They are so easy to make. I just made up the filling in the morning and put them together before dinner. The best part is that I had all of the ingredients already in our home.

The soup I make today will use up more of the ham plus
the meat on the bone. The rest I will food saver into meal size
portions for some meals in January and February.

I hope you are having wonderful holidays. I am off to get my bean soup in the crock pot.  

Do you have any favorite leftover ham recipes that you could share with all of us? Please feel free to leave them in the comments.

Every Day

Merry Christmas

See the source image

I want to wish all of you and your families a very Merry Christmas and a Happy, Healthy, and Wealthy New Year!

It has been a good 2018 and we are hoping for an even better 2019 for all of you and ourselves. I will be here blogging for the New Year.
Enjoy your  holidays and please stay safe!

Every Day

Just being Spontaneous!

I know I wasn’t going to post but I am just being spontaneous which has given me a great idea for posting in 2019! More on that in January.

We had a recipe box that was really a large photo box. I have been collecting our favorite recipes in it for over 51 years. Hubby likes to cook and this box was driving him crazy. Recipes were filed behind alphabetical dividers which meant every time you wanted to make a recipe, you had to go through every “C” recipe or “S” recipe.

He found a better way. He used a recipe program online and typed all of the recipes into it. It let him categorize them into appetizers, meats, desserts, etc. He then printed them out on blank “Franklin Planner” paper that fit a planner 3 ring notebook. These were both items that weren’t being used and had been sitting in the office for years. We had over 200 recipes when he was done. We can easily add recipes to it when we find a new one. He even made a Category Index. It is still a work in progress. He is awaiting custom tab pages from Franklin Planner to separate the categories and he has to put a label on. He has named it “Mom and Dad’s Cookbook”. We are hoping someday to gift it to our kids. 

But just to give you an idea, it is open and pictured above. Last night I made the Chicken recipe and of course I forgot to take a picture before we dug into it.  I made a huge pan that will feed us three nights because I am busy and don’t have much time to cook this week. We loved this and I hadn’t made it in a few years.

Yes, he spelled Bleu wrong but it is easily fixed and he is fixing it now.

Hubby and I no longer exchange Christmas gifts but this is the best gift that he ever could have given us for Christmas. It took him many hours to do and I am most appreciative. Now we can easily find whatever recipe we are looking for.

Every Day

Please Keep Me Out Of This Aisle!

I had better stay out of this aisle in Aldi’s! I just got back from looking at their delectable cookies and chocolates and other German items that they have a special aisle for. I now have to add $50. to what I spent for Christmas. 

These you could hardly see in the picture. I had the two of them stacked one on top of the other. They will be handy for when neighbors stop by. They usually do around Christmas or New Years. That is why I picked up two boxes. We like to be able to offer them a nice confection and some hot chocolate or egg nog. I am not a great cookie baker. So these are easy and edible.

A lady in the aisle with me told me that these cookies are so good that she keeps coming back and getting more and more of them. So I got a bag of each kind.  

We love chocolate covered cherries and Hubby loves the Dark Chocolate Hot Chocolate. I may have to go back and stock on a year’s worth for him. The gingerbread cookies, caramels and stollen are other things that we enjoy at Christmas.

If you haven’t shopped the specialty aisle at Aldi’s, run don’t walk! And bring lots of cash! Hubby and I aren’t having any family company this holiday and we don’t buy gifts for each other. So this morning, Hubby said go and buy the treats that we like to have around during the holidays. I took him at his word. We will enjoy them and really need to go to the gym the beginning of the year.

Have you guys been there?

Every Day

Need To Save Up To $3365.?

Americans need money to pay for the necessities in life. Everyone knows that. If they are in a lot of debt or saving for a luxury that is extremely important to them, they need to take a good hard look at how they are spending that money. If you have been tracking your spending then it is time to assess that spending. But for those of you who don’t track, here is a pretty good assessment of how the average family is spending their money.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics released this chart last September which shows the average consumer’s spending in 2017 compared to 2015 and 2016: 

Average consumer spending

I find it a very interesting read. The highest expenses of housing, food, and transportation were not a surprise nor were the amount people are paying for social security and contributing to their retirements.

The surprise for me was what the average family consumer (they call it a unit) is paying for Food Away From Home. For 2017, that figure is $ 3365.! Am I the only one shocked by this amount? The figure for Food Eaten At Home was $ 4363.  

I know food is expensive, so the figures for food eaten at home is not surprising. But the amount spent for eating away from home seriously shocked me. You add the two figures together and you find that the average consumer unit is spending $ 7,728. on food. Holy Cow! No wonder so many people cut their food budgets when they need money for other things. Food is a huge cost!

However, I can’t even imagine spending that amount 
of money eating away from home. We like to eat out once in a while but I can’t imagine spending that much in one year. And I know that when my children were living at home, we spent nowhere near that much. If we ate out once a month, that was a lot. But when we did, we knew that we could pay for it.

So if your income is being cut or you are in debt up to your eyeballs, cut your eating out. You may not be able to save the entire average of $3365. because you will be eating those times at home. But I would bet you could save a significant amount of it without trying too hard. 

I am not saying to quit eating out. If you can afford to pay cash for your food and your eating out, then go right ahead. But if you are in debt or losing income, this is the first thing you should cut. Over the years, I have seen people who are always complaining that they are broke eating out every week, even two, or more times a week. How are they doing that, you say? Well, they just whip out their credit cards and charge it. Then they pay interest on top of their meal. Most people don’t ever consider what the real cost of that meal is.

So dust off your cooking utensils and start eating at home the majority of the time. Make a meal plan every week and only shop for what you need to make those meals. I stockpile at rock bottom prices so we eat from our stockpile. I grocery shop for the few things I might not have at home to make those meals and any rock bottom prices on items on sale that can go in my stockpile. I don’t shop every week. Sometimes it is 2 and 1/2 weeks until I need something. Just because you may have $100. per week set aside in your food budget doesn’t mean that you have to spend that $100. every week.

If we had no stockpile, we would make our meal plan by looking at our ads. If we didn’t get a newspaper, then I would look at them online or pick up an ad at the grocery store. Then I would make our meal plan for the week from the loss leaders on the front page. If hamburger or chicken is the best price, make most of your meals from either chicken or hamburger that week. Your family won’t die from eating the same meat. They will get a new variety the next week. if you have $5. or $10. more that you can spend, then buy extra hamburger or chicken and freeze it for future meals. Do this a few weeks and you will be able to make a variety of meals each week at rock bottom prices and build your stockpile at the same time.

After you pick your meat or main item for dinner, look at the back page for what produce is on sale. Only buy what is on sale which is most likely whatever is in season. If what your family will eat is not in season, then buy whatever frozen or canned vegetable is on sale. Next figure out what kind of a starch is on sale, whether that be pasta, bread, rice or some other starch. Base not only your dinner on those sales but also your breakfasts and lunch. If you have food at home to make all of these meals, then you are less likely to eat out.

I have heard over the years many excuses for why people eat out. The one that I have always hated is, I deserve it. No one deserves anything if they can’t pay cash for it. Spending your money before you earn it, is the quickest way to dig a hole that will take you years to get out of. Keep whipping out that credit card because you deserve it and eventually you will end up with no money. 

Another excuse I have heard is, I don’t know how to cook. That one makes me laugh. Get a simple cookbook or look up how to make recipes online. A great cookbook that has simple, frugal meals is:

Dining on a Dime Cookbook

Or you can go look at the recipes that the Prudent Homemaker has on her website .

Then there is I am too tired to cook. I know what that feels like. So go out to eat once in a while. But not if you can’t afford it. Make something simple like scrambled eggs and toast or jarred spaghetti sauce over pasta. Make a salad and throw a piece of meat on the grill or in the oven. Make simple meals. Not every meal has to be a gourmet meal.  

So if you need to cut your bills, start with eating away from home. Just think of all the money you could save to pay other necessities if you just cooked at home.

I hadn’t planned on posting today but when I saw this article this morning, I just had to. We are coming into a New Year. Make 2019 the best money saving year that you have ever had. Make a goal of eating the majority of your meals at home. Your wallet and possibly your body(restaurant food is calorie laden) will thank you!

Please feel free to leave a comment.  

Every Day

Phantom Energy

So you say “What is phantom energy?” Phantom energy is the electricity that items in your home are using when they are turned off but still plugged in.

Do you have any idea how much this phantom energy is costing you? I didn’t until I actually took the time required to research it. How did I do this? Well, there are two ways to do it.

You can use an energy meter like mine which is pictured above or you can purchase one of your choice on Amazon or another store. I wouldn’t spend a whole lot of money on doing this because cheaper meters are pretty accurate for our purposes.

Mine measures the watts used for each item and converts it into a monthly or yearly cost. I have owned it for years. You first have to plug in how much you are paying per kilowatt hour. If you can’t figure it out from your bill, call your electric company and they will tell you. It works well enough for me to be able to decide which items in my household are drawing the most phantom energy. Because it also tells me how much energy we are using each month for each item when it is being used and plugged in, it helps me determine what the “energy hogs” are. 

If you don’t want to spend any money to find out, you can use a
calculator like this one to figure it out. Personally, I like using my meter. It is a lot less time consuming although it will take you a while to get all of the usage for all of your items that are run by  electricity.

My meter has to be plugged in for at least 45 minutes to get an accurate reading. So it takes a while to do this with every appliance in the house both plugged in and turned off and when the appliance is turned on and being used. Although it isn’t much hands on time.

So you ask, did I find any surprises?  Yes!  I found that the cable boxes that my cable company is providing me with are drawing 18.2 watts even when we are not using the cable TVs. We have three televisions in our home so this adds up to quite a bit of money a year. So we have plugged the TVs, cable boxes, dvr’s, etc. into power strips in each of the three rooms so that we can easily turn it all off when they are not being used. That way they are drawing 0 kwh’s.

I also found that our dehumidifier in our basement is not at all energy efficient. It is probably because it is 9 years old. We will be keeping an eye out for a more energy efficient one on sale. We only use it in the spring and summer months so we have time to get a good deal.

Our refrigerator and our freezer are pretty energy efficient considering they are plugged in 365 days a year for 24 hours a day. They and the dryer are some of the biggest usages of electricity in our home along with the A/C in the summer. A clothesline or drying racks are a whole lot cheaper than paying to dry your clothes.

We found that LED bulbs take hardly any kwh usage. We have replaced all of the bulbs in our home with LED’s and it dropped our electric bill by about $15.+ a month. Yes, it is expensive to replace all your light bulbs with LED’s. However the LED’s last 10-15 years so you only have the upfront cost during that time period. But we are saving a fortune in electricity during those 10-15 years. If I didn’t replace them, I might as well have just thrown $15. in the garbage every month.

So you say, it seems to be a lot of work to get all of this information and use it to your benefit. Is it worth my time? Of course it is. I don’t know what you pay for electricity every year but I paid a total of $ 1937.87 for both electricity and natural gas for my household in the past year. That is a significant amount of money! No matter how much income you have a year, it is to your benefit to do the research and save as much money as you can on your bill.

If your income is being cut or you are in debt, do the little bit of work it takes to figure this out and reduce your yearly outgo for this expense. Every little bit will help you pay your other expenses and get rid of your debt.

I actually like gadgets so I enjoyed this little project. It was fun. And it lets me be aware of how I can reduce my utility bills in 2019. Our gas and electric company has stated that they expect prices to go up 5% this winter. Do I want to pay 5% more? Heck no! So I will be finding ways to make up that difference and more.

So where have you been all week American Dreamer? We have been doing some projects around our home. One was this tracking electricity project. We are trying to get some other projects done so that we will start the New Year feeling ready and good about 2019.

We are also enjoying this time of year by spending time talking to old friends and going out to dinner with our Buffalo ones. And of course, family is always on the top of our list.

So I will pop in once in a while as I have time but we will be mostly taking the next few weeks off and just enjoying things and getting things done. I hope you are enjoying yourselves this month too and getting ready for 2019.

Every Day

Frugal Things The Past Few Weeks

These are the frugal things that we have been doing the past few weeks:

– The storm door for my morning room finally got installed last week. We are loving it. The draft that has been there since we moved in is now gone. The installer did a great job putting it in and caulking it with clear caulk both inside and outside sealing any tiny areas that you could see a little bit of light through. It will be interesting to see our next heat bill. It was too cold for me to go outside today to take a picture so I just did it from inside. 

– Hubby ordered our filters for our refrigerator online on sale. I think he got 60 or 65% off plus money back from Ebates. Within the next couple of days, they went on sale for 5% more. He called them and nicely asked them to credit us the additional 5%. They did. 

– We have earned enough points from our supermarket to get (5) $50. gift cards for just $40. each. I picked up one the other day and will pick up the other 4 tomorrow. We are getting Lowe’s cards because they always come in handy for house projects.

– Hubby is making me a cookbook in a three ring binder. He is using my large photo box of recipes that I have used over and over again. He is entering them one by one into a program that will print them out the size we want. The cookbook will have indexes just like many cookbooks. I am beyond thrilled with this Christmas present. It is something that I have wanted done for a long time. It will have all of my favorites and many that have been passed down through the family. Perhaps, I see a gift for my sons and their families next year.

– I ended up buying three turkeys and one ham on the Thanksgiving sales. Those will give us many cheap meals over the winter.

– We spent a total of $ 1259. for Christmas gifts for family, my hairdresser, the mailman and UPS man, and the newspaper lady. I also put $20. in the Salvation Army kettle in the supermarket. I also included $20. that I always tip my favorite carry out guy at the supermarket. I included the cost of party mix that we will make for Christmas. I am not buying any other special foods for Christmas.  I mailed 33 Christmas cards so that was $ 16.50 in postage. The cards were bought a long time ago at 90% off and I don’t remember the price so I am not including the cards. We have spent no gasoline to travel to buy Christmas gifts. Most of the of the gifts were purchased online or were cash. So I think we have done well. We certainly didn’t spend $1000. per person like the Today show supposedly said most people do.

– I have closed off the two extra bedrooms in the house to save on heat even though I was told to never do that by a heating guy. Hubby says that is hogwash. So the doors are closed to those rooms, the heat registers are closed, and the snakes are in front of the doors to seal them up better.

– We continue to use our small appliances to cook meals thereby saving energy.

– I saved $ 5.00 off our grocery bills the last two weeks using a coupon Top’s sent me. I also got free bananas and a lot of them. Some have ripened and been frozen for banana bread.

– We are keeping the energy saving shades down now that it is so cold. They let light in so we don’t need lights during the day unless it is dreary or dark out.

– We have been cooking 99% of our meals cooking at home. Hubby made us a bacon, onion, balsamic vinegar chicken dish a few days ago. It was delicious.

That’s all for now. What have you been doing frugally? Please share with us in comments.

Every Day

Updates on Our Two Families

I quickly heard from one of our couples this morning. Their lives have become hectic with Noreen working her part time job so she hasn’t been able to e-mail me as often. The following is what she told me this morning.

She and Bruce have paid $5300. on their $21,000. debt since the end of September. They have been able to do this with her part time job paycheck and cutting every expense that they can since the last time we spoke. They expect to continue doing that until the credit card bill is paid and then they will reevaluate where they are at. They are making one exception. They are going to use $300. this month of her paycheck to purchase Christmas gifts for their son and some nieces and nephews. Any extra will be used for some special food items for Christmas.

They have not spent anything for clothing or eating out. They have cancelled all entertainment and hobbies except for Netflix. They decided that gave them enough things to watch.

Through careful planning, they have cut their monthly grocery bill down to $100. They had a small stockpile and they have been eating some of that which is helping their grocery budget.

Noreen says that Bruce has always gotten a Christmas bonus from his company. So if that happens this year, they will apply it to their debt to pay it down faster. They also expect that they may get a Tax refund in early 2019, so that will be put on the debt also.

I have to say that I am impressed that they have stayed the course. They are doing really well and are still very motivated to get all of their debt paid in full. They have done what needs to be done to get themselves on secure footing again. So many people start working on it and then give up. Some people continue to use their credit cards for every bump in the road and that gets them no where….just farther in debt. But not Bruce and Noreen. They have not used a credit card since they started this journey.

I have not heard from the Joneses. I have e-mailed and e-mailed and get no response. I am wondering if they have given up. I hope not because they were doing very well! If I ever hear from them again, I will let you know.

Every Day

2019 Goal: Clearance Shopping

I love when I see something on clearance that we can use. But I really don’t have a trained eye for it. It is not something that I go in to a store and look for. But that is changing.

In 2019, I will be scanning for clearance whenever I go into a store no matter what kind of store it is: grocery, department, hardware, etc. Matter of fact, I started looking this morning. I needed to stop at Walmart to buy onions. We use a lot of onions and I was down to just one which made me nervous. So I went in and planned to scan their produce, bread cart, grocery clearance, dairy, and any place that I saw the yellow clearance balloons.

The only clearance that I found that I knew we would use is in the picture above. I was thrilled to find the snow peas on clearance. Both packages were in good shape so I got them and put one in the produce drawer to use in stir fry this week. The other I froze  until we need it. Snow peas are one of my favorite vegetables and this was the best price I have ever seen. It doesn’t take much to make my day, but this did it.

I have used this breading before to make coconut shrimp and we really liked it. So when I saw this package, I grabbed it. I just wish they had had more.

I purchased these
items using my Walmart Savings Catcher money. I think they call it
Walmart Payday Money now. Paying nothing out of pocket always makes me

They had lots of other clearance on the bakery cart and a bit of other grocery clearance. But nothing I needed. My goal of baking all bread unless I can get a loaf for less stopped me from buying bread. Their clearance prices are too high and I don’t need the calories from the pies, cookies, cakes and donuts they had reduced. I didn’t check meat because I rarely buy their meat unless it is a brand name.  

Walmart had lots of clothing on clearance for everyone but we don’t need clothing. If you do, I would check your Walmart.

I will learn to do clearance and hopefully do it well. I refuse to buy things that we don’t need, even if it is a good clearance price. I hate clutter and I don’t want to to become a hoarder of things that we will never use. I might as well burn our money if I do that.

Do any of you clearance shop? Are you good at it? Are there any tips that you could share with all of us about certain stores?  Please let us know in the comments.