Big Taste on a College Budget

If your like me (unemployed/self-employed or just frugal) saving money is very important. But being a frugalista is hard… especially when trying to dine on a dime. I don’t want to sacrifice taste! But right now it is very important for me to keep my grocery bill small and few/far between.

I’ve started planning meals ahead. Then buying in bulk when possible. My menu consists of recipes that use things I have on hand and also items that make great leftovers or freeze well. I follow sales/circulars and plan meals around the best deal.

As much as a like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches– I don’t want to have to live off them. In trying to come up with meals on a budget, I came across an item that we used to eat a lot of in college. Ramen Noodles!

I got a great recipe from my mom. She made Shrimp Lo Mein while I was back home last month. She used the oriental flavor noodles and stir fry vegetables. At first I wasn’t sure about a recipe that called for ramen noodles…but it turns out that it tastes like take-out from your favorite Chinese restaurant– but better/fresher!

I loved that the meal was quick, inexpensive and delicious. (Which are my main recipe requirements these days)

Yesterday I attempted a similar meal, but this time with beef.

RAMEN BEEF AND VEGETABLES

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound beef boneless sirloin steak, cut into thin strips
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 2 packages (3 ounces each) beef flavored ramen noodles
  • 1 bag (16 ounces) fresh, refrigerated stir-fry vegetables ( or a mixture of fresh veggies of your choice)
  • 1/4 cup stir-fry sauce (teriyaki or soy sauce works too)

Preparation:

1. Spray nonstick skillet with cooking spray; heat over medium-high heat. Cook beef in skillet 3 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until brown. Remove beef from skillet and set aside.

2. Heat water to boiling in same skillet. Break up noodles into water; stir until slightly softened. Stir in vegetables.

3. Heat to boiling. Boil 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are crisp-tender. Stir in contents of ramen seasoning packets, stir-fry sauce and beef. Cook 3 to 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until hot.

Makes 4 servings

Tips:

  • To add a nutty, delicate flavor, replace 2 tablespoons of the water with dry sherry.
  • To easily cut the beef into thin strips, pop it in the freezer first for about 30 minutes. Beef is easier to cut when partially frozen.
  • Try other variations such as chicken, seafood, pork, etc. Try different mixes of vegetables.

Serve with crisp egg rolls or wontons!

Jim and I both loved it. It was so quick and easy. I used beef this time since it was on sale. I used frozen vegetables instead and prepared them ahead of time. This way they were partially steamed and could be added when directed. If produce isn’t on sale or in season, try a bag a frozen stir-fry vegetables that are sure to be on sale or at least less expensive.

Since this meal turned out so well, it got me thinking. Are there any other recipes that use ramen noodles?

And wouldn’t ya know–

A spiral bound cookbook compiled by a college student. The recipes are sure to fit into your tight budget and busy schedule. $9.99 from Amazon.

It includes fast, easy and filling food such as:

Creamy Chicken Noodle Soup, Tuna Noodle Casserole, Ramen Fajitas, Summer Picnic Salad and more!

I’ll definitely have to try some of these! It brings back college memories and I know I’ll be saving money while preserving taste.

Advertisements

Women Shaping Our World

“We are shaped and fashioned by what we love.”  -Goethe

 

This year March is National Women’s History month. And although most of the history of our country and others is filled with “founding fathers”, there have always been strong women leading the way and breaking barriers.

In the business world, women are said to have a “glass ceiling” that they can’t push past. And yet more and more women are professionals in high places.

“The stories of women’s achievements are integral to the fabric of our history.” This project and month of honor/reflection is meant to highlight the courage and creativity that women through history have presented. Women have always been a source of strength in their communities so it’s only natural that we learn from them.

Take time this month and look into your ancestry. I’m sure women in your own family have great stories of success and triumph over adversity. Make sure to tell those women how much you love and respect them.

Then jot down the women in your life and in history that inspire you. Learn more about them and take notes. Remind yourself each day that you are special and can do great things. Remember that the reason why women have success is that we follow our hearts, emotions and never give up.

Personally, I’m inspired by the women in my life and my female role-models in the business world.

My mother and aunt both own bookstores have done so for many years… their small business is older than I am! My mom shows me how you can accomplish things and still spend quality time at home. As a kid I never realized how much she did and how hard she worked. She is a teacher in every sense of the word. Teaching her students to read, inspiring people to love reading for fun, and teaching my brother and I about faith and so much more.

My role models are strong women in the business world and mainly in creative roles. To name a few: Martha Stewart, Oprah, Rachel Ray, Julia Child.

And these days I’m finding inspiration from Dreamers into Doers. It’s a part of the Martha Stewart’s community. It “celebrates talented and creative women who turn their dreams into careers they love”. I can’t get enough of this. I love reading about ladies who started small businesses from their true passions and turned them into something big. This gives me hope as I am trying to create my own brand, logo and begin to sell my own designs.

I’m proud to be a women in America and I’m proud of the strong heritage I come from. A month doesn’t quite seem long enough to honor all the inspirational women in our world, but it’s a start. Don’t ever forget that part of the word “women” is “WE”. We the people includes all men, women and children…. no matter race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation.

Follow your dreams and learn from the past. Stay strong and be true to yourself!!

Saving Some Benjamins

When did Presidents Day become such a day for savings?

This holiday has turned into just a day off for federal employees (Jim loves it) and a day/weekend for people to enjoy lots of sales.  I haven’t seen anything in the news or our community about anything Presidential.

Maybe the schools highlight and honor our founding fathers… but I don’t see how 30-70% off is doing anything to remind us of our great leaders.

I don’t want to complain about saving money because I’m all for that, however I think if this day is so important then somebody should figure out a way we can celebrate our history and historical figures.

I haven’t come up with any ideas yet but if I do maybe I’ll write to my congressman. haha

Today, since Jim had off work, we went shopping and ordered our dining room furniture. It was nice to take advantage of the special sales– so thank you Mr. President (current and past) for this day to save some dough.

Snow Storm Checklist

Crazy weather means you need a checklist… and no not a grocery list for Milk and Bread- lol

As still fairly new homeowners, we have gotten a crash course this winter in how to deal with the snow. No snowblower means back-breaking shoveling and digging out the car in the driveway.

Along the way we’ve learned a few tricks… so now it’s almost like a checklist for each storm.

  • Salt for sidewalks
  • Shovels with good handles and metal edge or bottom
  • Pam or cooking spray- YES really! It’s good to spray the shovels so the ice, snow and slush don’t stick
  • Scrapers for the car windows– equipped with a brush (so forget the broom) and long pole (for us short people)
  • And never leave the scraper in the car
  • Leave the windshield wipers point up so they don’t get frozen down.
  • Clean rain gutters and drains
  • Find the boots and bundle up.
  • And maybe make friends with the guy down the street with a snowblower… or keep an eye out for one on sale at The Home Depot (yes Dad we shop there, it’s closer than Lowe’s).

Our house has a mudroom which is perfect for storing all the supplies and a great place to dry out clothes after playing in the snow. And I’m excited because we just purchased a bench and shelf to put in the mudroom. It will be a great place to store gloves, hats, umbrellas and things for all the snow that’s sure to come since winter isn’t over. I’ll have to add a picture to the house album I’m making with before and after photos.

Hope everyone is enjoying the snow! We have a snow day together but for those of you that made the trek to work… be safe and stay warm!

DIY to Save a Dime

Being at home and trying to save money makes you start rethinking the items and services you pay for.

I’ve realized there are a lot of things we can either do without or do ourselves to save some dough. Some things we already do on our own.

For example:

  • Jim cuts his own hair (and trims his beard).
  • I skip on the nail salon and do my own mani and pedicures.
  • Jim being an accountant/auditor- he does our taxes online.
  • During house remodeling, we painted everything ourselves and did the electrical and some plumbing. No need to hire a handyman when you have a somewhat handy-hubby.
  • No landscapers needed, as Jim mows the lawn and trims the hedges himself.
  • Living in the suburbs near a large city, we are able to make do with only one car for the time being.
  • We bought a bucket and products and now wash our car at home in the driveway.
  • We’ve been eating lunch at home and/or taking meals to work.
  • Not that I drink coffee that often, but when I do I’ve been having a cup at home.
  • And if this beer kit works out- Jim can make his own beer, haha! lol

 

But what else can we do?

  • We could learn how to change our own oil and fluids in the car.
  • Come the spring we can use our rain barrel from the gutters to water plants.
  • Maybe we can try our hands at insulating our hot water pipes.
  • We need to look into the energy savings by switching the originator from PECO to someone else. Has anybody done this yet?
  • Keep tires properly inflated. It keeps you safe and costs less on gas. Never realized that it saved on gas!!
  • As our light bulbs burn out, we should replace them with CFL bulbs to save on electricity… and they will also have to be changed less often after that.

 

And we should always:

  • If shopping online, we need to always use coupon codes from websites like Coupon Cabin.
  • We shoud always try and find the cheapest gas… this means definitely filling up in New Jersey when visiting relatives and friends.
  • Hopefully this year we can make sure we don’t throw food out. Either not buying things we know we won’t eat or make sure to use things before they go bad.
  • Keep using coupons and discount shopping!

Hoping to grow our money and save some in the process of making our house a home. $$$$$$$

GIVE = SAVE = LOVE

With Valentine’s Day approaching I’ve been thinking of possible gifts for Jim. And now with our changed income, I’m all about saving money. I’m looking for the perfect gift on a budget. Design diva turned frugalista!

Here’s some of my ideas and online findings; something for every budget (low to high):

  • Jim loves pretzel M&M’s, so I could buy a big bag and put them in a cute box with a ribbon = estimated cost $8.00 including the gift wrap.

 

  • Jim got the kit for Christmas to make his own beer. I’m thinking about getting label paper and designing custom labels for the beer he is brewing.  The Home Brewery offers a wide selection of print ready self-adhesive labels, perfect designed for beer bottles. 32 matte finish, simple shape labels = $8.50 plus the time and design.

 

  • Guys can’t have enough t-shirts, so the create a custom t-shirt function/product on Zazzle is perfect. It allows you to add photos, text, and/or logos. There is no minimum and you can order at little as one shirt for $12.95. Plus there are 400+ styles and colors to choose from.

  • Photo-Opoly Board Game, includes instructions and materials to include up to 22 of your favorite photos. It’s available at Toys-R-Us and Amazon for $26.00. You can even customize the titles for properties… which is something I know my man would enjoy. He would like coming up with funny names.

  • We recently received an Ice Cream Maker as a gift. I’ve been thinking about learning how to operate it and then making a special ice cream social/50’s style Valentine’s night. Then I could have banana splits or a sundae for 2 and then other fun foods. Cost = ingredients for flavored ice cream since we already have the mix, and any cost for food and drinks for that meal. Budget = $35-$45

  YUMMO!

  • I’ve been saying that Jim could really use a nice comfy set of pajamas and/or a comfy robe to lounge around in. In searching for a store that carries robes, it was hard to find one with product in an actual location. Many carried them online only or online boutiques. Macy’s and Kohl’s seem to be the department stores closest to where we live that carry nice ones. Priced around $20 – $50.  And all the pajama sets are really corny looking or flannel so maybe I’ll just stick with the robe.

Croft and Barrow Solid Long Plush Wrap Robe

  • In our new home, Jim could use a guys night. Plus my gift could be stocking the bar. The guys could enjoy drinks and play video games or watch sports (and I could enjoy time with the girls). PRICELESS guy time plus cost of food and drinks = $60-$80. This could even be used for the super-bowl or a birthday gift.

(based on my husband Jim, but could work for the special man in your life/also feel free to combine ideas)

And although Jim might read this, I’m not worried about spoiling any surprise. Men are great like that. You can tell them something and they will most likely not hear you or listen but forget about it all together.

And you can never go wrong with gifts of food and beer. It’s true what they say– the best/quickest way to a man’s heart is thru his stomach!

Happy V-Day Shopping!