because living on less doesn't have to suck.
Friday July 25th 2014

How to Make Simple Homemade Broth

Homemade Broth
Making homemade broth at home is easier than you might think.

One of the key ingredients in many recipes is broth. I know many of my frugal brothers and sisters tend to substitute reconstituted bouillon in their recipes and on occasion I’ll do the same, but in keeping with my desire for taste, lower sodium and most of all for using everything I buy whenever possible I make my own when I can – and so can you regardless of how much experience you have in the kitchen.

The first (and arguably most important) step for me is to save what others throw away. The next time you are cutting up fresh veggies for a soup or stew, save the peels and the ends! This applies best to carrots, celery, onions & garlic, but you’re mileage may vary. You can store them in a large freezer bag or empty coffee can. You can save the drained liquid from canned veggies in the same manner (just add everything to the freezer container).

The next time you cook meat, save the carcass and/or bones. Don’t you dare toss them, the still have important nutrient and flavor-filled goodness to impart! Put them in a large stockpot over low-to-medium heat along with your freezer savings and add water as needed. Add a bay leaf (my granny taught me that), some seasonings (garlic, parsley, basil, oregano, salt, pepper…your choice) and simmer for a few hours. Don’t let them boil, just simmer slowly. This gets the most out of the bones – more minerals and gelatin means more health and more flavor!

I allow the pot to cool and strain into freezer containers, usually in 2 or 4 cup increments. The next time I need 2 cups of ______ broth for a recipe I pull it out of the freezer and pop it right into the pot!

When all is said and done, a little extra time will yield a fresher and more flavorful stock for mere pennies. You’ll remember it the next time you go shopping and pay $.50 – $1.00 for a few ounces! More important, you control every ingredient that goes into your homemade concoction and the vast majority of it was FREE!

I love to use homemade stock instead of water when I am making rice. You don’t have to season it at all!

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Gone Frugal Freezer Soup

Freezer
photo: sporkist via flickr

With Summer officially here, I wanted to give you one of my favorite frugal produce tips so that you aren’t wasting even the tiniest bits of those delicious vegetables! This is one of my most popular homemade soups, and no one knows (until now) just how simple and inexpensive it is to make.

To start with, you will need a seal-able freezer container. Most often I use a large freezer bag and that seems to work just fine for me. Every time I use fresh produce, I chop up the extra bits and add them to my bag. This works well for produce that is about to go bad, too.

Depending on what I have available at any given time, my mix may include any or all of the following:

  • Onion (chopped)
  • Carrots (diced)
  • Corn (whole kernel)
  • Tomatoes (sliced, diced, chopped, pureed)
  • Celery (chop the leafy parts and add them too!)
  • Herbs (I use rosemary, basil & oregano)
  • Green Beans
  • Peppers (chopped)
  • Potatoes (diced)

Once my container is nearly full, I dump the lot into my crock pot with a few cups of my homemade stock (look for tips on making stock tomorrow) and water. I set the crock on low heat and leave it to work its magic for a few hours.

This is a delicious soup as-is, or if you have leftover meat you can add that as well. Break up hamburgers or chop chicken, beef or ham. You can also add a cup or two of small pasta (I use shells, macaroni or egg noodles) to the mix.

At the very most, this soup costs me about two dollars to make and it fills my large crock pot full. I freeze leftovers in individual containers for a quick meal anytime.

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Vinegar – It Ain’t Just for Pickles Anymore

5 KITCHEN Uses for Vinegar You Might Not Know

vinegar Since I was a kid I have known about the virtues of vinegar and what seems to be an endless string of ways it can be used to make life easier and yet it seems like every time I look up I hear of yet another way to use the stuff.

Here are five of my favorite time and money saving frugal kitchen tips that use vinegar.

1.  Metal Cleaner
Dissolve a teaspoon of table salt in a cup of distilled vinegar for a quick and easy cleaner that works on brass, copper and even pewter.

2.  Emergency Buttermilk
Add a tablespoon of vinegar to a cup of milk and wait 5-10 minutes for it to thicken and you have instant buttermilk that can be used in any recipe.

3.  Fluffier Rice
Want to make your rice light and fluffy?  Add a teaspoon of vinegar to the water when it boils and continue cooking as per directions.

4.  Eggs
A tablespoon of vinegar added to boiling water will help poached eggs keep their shape and it will help keep boiled eggs together.

5.  Meat Tenderizer
Marinating meat in vinegar overnight before cooking can help make even the toughest cuts of meat fork tender and flavorful.

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Coupon Karma and Lessons Learned

My coupon binder is legendary.  There are cashiers at the store who refer to me as “the coupon guy” an alternatively cringe or look on in awe when I hand over a stack of coupons that will inevitably result in a savings of no less than 40% on my bill.

Gone Frugal Michael's Coupon Binder

That coupon binder gets a lot of attention from fellow shoppers as well and I get lots of questions about it.  Nearly every time I talk to someone about clipping and using coupons I get some form of the same response.

“Oh, I’d do it but it just takes too much time to save a few pennies.”

That’s about the time when I laugh so loud that I snort, recover, and give them my quick Coupon 101 lesson.  I pull my most recent receipt for the store I’m in out of the binder and show them how many pennies I saved and usually further my coupon karma by handing them a few coupons for whatever items I see in their shopping cart.

People are so used to being told how hard it is to save money they don’t bother trying for themselves to use coupons to lower their grocery bill.  With just a little leg work you can consistently save a huge wad of cash at the grocery store and it is easy!

Case in point.:  In the mail today came this great surprise:

Gone Frugal Free Turkey Bacon Coupon from KraftA coupon for free Oscar Mayer Turkey Bacon from Kraft Foods First Taste, plus an extra coupon for $1.50 off one package of Turkey Bacon.  This offer wasn’t a fluke and it isn’t something that you have to know the right people to get.  I got this for signing up with Kraft First Taste and you can sign up as well – in minutes – and start getting coupons and free offers for yourself.

I also get free coupons for things I use because I use my customer loyalty card for the stores in which I shop.  Last week without even asking, I received these in the mail (along with other coupons worth more than $20):

Gone Frugal Kroger Coupons

I realize that my coupon binder is a bit over the top for most people but it works for me.  Having page after page of sleeves full of organized coupons helps me to spot unadvertised sales and couple them with my  coupon money to get items for next to nothing, and that happens on every trip I make to the store.  Just clipping a couple of coupons each week can save you  a lot of money over the long haul!

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Better Than Refried Beans

Gone Frugal Slow Cooker Recipes Refried beans are a staple food in my house. I use them all the time when I make homemade tacos and burritos and it surprised me when I learned that I could make a simple recipe that was better than refried beans in my slow cooker.

Not only am I saving money but I also know every ingredient that goes into the pot so I am protecting my family’s health as well!

This recipe quickly became one of my favorites and it is one of the first I teach to anyone who tells me that they want to learn to cook.  It is so easy to make that the prep takes just minutes and because you are using the crock pot, all the hard work is done for you!

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 bag of dried pintos (about 2 cups)
  • 6-8 cups water
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon Gone Frugal Taco Seasoning Mix
  • 1/2 jalapeno, coarsely chopped (or a few jarred slices)
  • 2 teaspoons granulated garlic
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons salt

INSTRUCTIONS

Do The Night Before: Rinse and sort dried beans and add to crock pot.  Cover with 6 cups of water and allow to soak until morning.

1.  Drain soak water and add 6-8 cups of water to the crock pot along with beans and remaining ingredients.

2.  Cover and set your slow cooker on low heat.  Cook for 5-7 hours on low, or until beans are fork tender.

3.  Drain beans over a large bowl or pot to keep the cooking liquid.

4.  Using a wooden spoon or potato masher, mash the beans until they are the desired consistency.  For me that means a coarse mash that’s about 50/50 creamy and chunky.  Add reserve liquid as needed and freeze the remaining liquid for adding to soups or stews later.

NOTES:  You can use this recipe as a guideline for just making a really good pot of pinto beans if you don’t want to mash them.  There are some who think that adding the salt before the beans are cooked will not allow the dried beans to cook thoroughly but I assure you this recipe works exactly as stated.

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Dollar General Revises Coupon Policy

Good news, frugal folk!  Dollar General has revised their official coupon policy and will now accept printed coupons from the Internet!

Read all about it: http://www.dollargeneral.com/OurStores/Pages/CouponPolicy.aspx

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Building Your Safety Net: How to Save for a Rainy Day in the Middle of a Drought

Everyone knows that we are supposed to have a financial safety net – a sort of fallback cushion in case something unexpected happens that requires us to spend beyond our norm.  The problem is that for many who are living the frugal lifestyle these days it is nearly impossible to save for a rainy day because we are living in a financial drought where almost every penny of our income is going toward keeping our bills current.  How then can someone in a financial bind like this still build a safety net?

At one time or another we have all wondered what it would be like to earn a living working on the Internet and while some have succeeded at making money online, the majority of online moneymaking schemes are just that – schemes.

Get Serious About Saving

If you are serious about building a savings safety net then you are going to need somewhere to save that money.  Bankrate.com has a simple tool for searching for the right savings account for your needs and many of them don’t require a minimum deposit.  Set up a savings account to be used for no other purpose but to build your safety net.  That’s the first step!

Have A Virtual Yard Sale

We all have accumulated things over the years that are perhaps not as useful as they once were.  Maybe you don’t have the time or the space to arrange a yard sale at home, but there’s nothing saying that you can’t put together a virtual yard sale in your spare time.  With online auction sites like Ebay as well as free ad sites like Craigslist, it is easier than ever to clear out the attic, pare down the closet clutter and pocket some cash at the same time.

Read Your Junk Mail

Websites like Inbox Dollars and Send Earnings actually pay you to open their emails.  It isn’t much (about $.02 each), but you’re going to get junk mail anyway, and in the time it takes you to delete it you could have earned a couple of pennies.  Each of these sites also offer surveys and other ways to earn and I only recommend them here because I have been a member for over 2 years and have been paid by them on more than one occasion.

Save Your Pennies

Everybody has a change jar and most of us just let it pile up anyway so why not designate that spare change to go toward your savings safety net?  Even if it is no more than $5 a month, that’s $5 closer to having a financial cushion when you need it in the future!

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Being Frugal with Your Time – 4 Kitchen Timesavers for the Freezer

Often people who are of a frugal mindset get so easily bogged down in clipping coupons and watching for sales that they forget one of the most important ways to be frugal is to save their time.  Our time is valuable so it makes perfect sense for us to save it whenever we can. 

Here are 4 kitchen timesavers for the freezer you might not have thought about before:

1.  Chop Your Onions
chopped onions

Okay, so nobody likes to chop onions but so many recipes call for onion that you have to chop whether you like it or not.  Why not chop once and be done with it for a few weeks?  It’s possible and easier than you might think.

When you bring your onions home from the supermarket simply set aside 10-15 minutes and chop them all at once.  When I do my big chop, I then add 1 cup of chopped onions into individual sandwich baggies and place those baggies into a larger freezer bag that is clearly labeled.  Now anytime I need chopped onions for a recipe I just reach into the freezer and grab a baggie; they are already chopped and recipe-ready.

SIDE NOTE:  I do the same thing with peppers (both sweet and hot) when I see that I won’t be able to use them before they spoil.

2.  Ground Beef Mix

So many of my recipes call for browned ground beef and onions, I had a thought that couldn’t possibly have been original (I’ve since seen it mentioned on several blogs).  I buy ground beef in the larger bulk “family” sizes because that will usually save me an extra $.20 per pound which can really add up.

hamburgers on the grill When I get home I separate my ground beef into allotments for the various meals I like to prepare.  My hamburger recipe will be mixed up and formed into patties which are then frozen.  Then the rest of the ground beef is browned in a large skillet with chopped onion and drained. 

Once it cools completely, I fill quart-sized freezer bags with my pre-browned ground beef mix.  Now anytime I need a pound of browned ground beef for a recipe I have just saved myself at least 10-15 minutes which can often mean the difference in cooking at home or grabbing something because it is faster.

3.  Make-Ahead Pancakes

pancakes Not only do I think I have one of the best pancake recipes around, it gets even better by adding the time savings I get every time I make a batch. How’s that, you ask?  Because when I make pancakes, I make a lot of pancakes.  Those stacks aren’t wasted, they are frozen for lightning fast breakfasts anytime.

You can freeze as many together as you like.  For me the magic number is two because I can thaw two for a quick breakfast with syrup or to use as a breakfast sandwich with an egg and a couple of slices of bacon.

4.  Freezer Soup

Don’t you hate it when you have just a little bit of leftover veggies after dinner ?  You know what I mean, not quite enough for a serving but you don’t really know what to do with it.  Well I have the answer – Freezer Soup!

soup This isn’t a new idea but it is an effective one:  You start with a freezer container.  When you have a few spoonfuls of corn, carrots, peas or other veggies, you just drop the leftovers into the container and return it to the freezer.  I’ll add leftover pasta and chopped or shredded meat as well. 

Got beans?  Add ‘em!  Tomato juice, puree or sauce?  You guessed it!  When the container is close to being full, dump the lot into the crock pot with some homemade stock and let it do its magic on low heat for a few hours.  Oftentimes the leftover bits have enough seasoning between them that I don’t even have to add anything to the mix and I am greeted with a pot full of yummy freezer soup that evening!

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Free Garden Seeds

basil Despite the fact that it snowed in Atlanta yesterday, Spring really is right around the corner.  One of the most frugal moves you can make this year is to grow at least some of your own veggies, fruit or herbs at home.  With the high cost of produce these days you will save a lot of cash but there are even more reasons to consider growing something yourself:

* You will know whether the produce is truly organic or not.  Believe it or not, it isn’t always cut and dry as to whether or not the stuff in the produce aisle is really grown organically.  Grow it yourself and you can be sure.

* Help the environment by decreasing food miles.  The term food miles refers to the number of miles a food item must travel from its point of origin to your plate.  Decrease the number of food miles and you decrease the amount of fuel needed to transport the food.  This helps the environment tremendously!

How about some free basil seeds – three different types – to help you start gardening right away?  All you have to do is sign up for an email newsletter from Tomato Heirlooms and they will send you free basil seeds!

Click here to sign up and get growing.

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Facing our Fears: Why do Coupons Scare Us?

I started writing about frugal living when people thought the term frugal lifestyle meant that I was a hoarder who kept the same pair of worn out tennis shoes for 20 years, reused tissues and wrestled homeless people for a penny I saw on the sidewalk.  Then our generation’s Great Recession began and people began to look on this frugal thing a bit more favorably.

Gone Frugal As recently as a few years ago, the person in the supermarket who is thumbing through her coupon organizer and handing that stack of coupons to the cashier would be looked down upon though for the life of me I simply am unable to comprehend why.  In my mind I don’t see using coupons as anything other than a different form of currency and if you learn how to use coupons properly you will never again see them as anything other than money in your wallet.

Somehow we – the few, the proud, the couponers – have become less laughable these days as more and more people are looking for ways to save money where ever and whenever possible.  Now it isn’t quite so cool to spend ridiculous amounts of money when you don’t have to.

Even with a recession I get people who tell me things like:

“Using coupons takes too much time.”

People say this to me all the time and I generally debunk it in under a minute by asking them how much they get paid for an hour at work.  In an hour of coupon research I can make anywhere from $20 – $50 or more. 

(more…)

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Latest Topics

How to Make Simple Homemade Broth

How to Make Simple Homemade Broth

Instead of buying expensive canned broth at the store, why not make your own for pennies? It is much easier than you [Read More]

Gone Frugal Freezer Soup

Gone Frugal Freezer Soup

With Summer officially here, I wanted to give you one of my favorite frugal produce tips so that you aren’t [Read More]

Vinegar – It Ain’t Just for Pickles Anymore

Vinegar – It Ain’t Just for Pickles Anymore

5 KITCHEN Uses for Vinegar You Might Not Know Since I was a kid I have known about the virtues of vinegar and what [Read More]

Coupon Karma and Lessons Learned

Coupon Karma and Lessons Learned

My coupon binder is legendary.  There are cashiers at the store who refer to me as “the coupon guy” an [Read More]

Better Than Refried Beans

Better Than Refried Beans

Refried beans are a staple food in my house. I use them all the time when I make homemade tacos and burritos and it [Read More]

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