Penny Pinchers

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Frugal Friday Links: Gear Reviews

By Julie Norman
Friday, May 2, 2014

The Frugal Girl reviewed a Vitamix blender today and seems to pretty much have the same philosphy I do when it comes to large it better to buy a cheap blender and replace it every three years, or is it better to buy something high quality to begin with? Find out what she decided by clicking here.


photo from

Over at you can find out what the Leake family considers essential kitchen tools.

While eating "real food" doesn't constitute penny pinching, their section on 100 Days of Real Food on a budget does, so after you check out essential kitchen gear, go spend some time browsing through their other posts too.


Happy Friday!


A Penny Pinching Recipe

By Julie Norman
Wednesday, April 30, 2014

I just ran across this online and thought I'd share it. It's a recipe for "Tex Mex Casserole" and sounds like it could be a good winter comfort food type meal.  It might even be good with elbow noodles substituted for the rice. 

Here's a link to the Passionate Penny Pincher's site, but I'm including the recipe below too.


Tex Mex Chicken Casserole


2 cups cooked rice
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cooked
1 can cream of chicken soup (I used their Healthy Request brand)
4 oz sour cream (I used light)
8 oz. cream cheese, softened (also used light) :)
1 can Rotel
1/2 cup red onion
black beans (optional - I left these out but think they would be delicious!)
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 tbsp chili powder
salt & pepper to taste


Mix together cooked rice, chicken, cream of chicken soup, sour cream, softened cream cheese, Rotel, chili powder, red onion, black beans (optional) and 1 1/4 cups cheddar cheese.
Pour into greased 9x13 baking dish or two smaller dishes.
Bake at 325 for 20-25 minutes.
Sprinkle additional 3/4 cups cheddar cheese over casserole.
Bake another 5 minutes, until cheese is bubbly.
Cool 10 minutes - Enjoy!


FREE stuff is the best stuff!

By Julie Norman
Monday, April 28, 2014

Let's face it, free stuff is always the best stuff, right?  Ok, maybe not always, but it's sure worth it sometimes!  I love free stuff if it's useful stuff. 

Today, my co-worker and cube mate handed me a cute lavendar t-shirt with some sparkly stuff and a neat design on it.  "Do you like this?" She asked.  "Yeah, it's cute!" I said.  "You can have it.  I can't wear it."  It's 8 a.m. and already today I'm getting free stuff!

Next, another co-worker and author of the Let's Get Dirty blog, Penny, brought me 6 planters of ground cover that she dug up from her yard.  I've been on the hunt for a good ground cover and this one apparently can hold its own against invasive weeds.  SCORE!

Finally, this past weekend when the weather was gross, I went shopping and, along with a pair of $70 Calvin Klein pants that I got at ROSS for $22, I also got some super awesome gold nail polish at Old Navy for 30% off.  While the nail polish wasn't free, the pedicure I gave myself later was.  First I took off all my old polish, then I used my favorite Miracle Foot Cream on my feet and let them sit for a good 10 minutes.  Then I did this:

And it was FREE!!!!


Potluck Penny Pinching

By Julie Norman
Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Potlucks can be dangerous.  Suddenly you want to try out that new recipe, or the one your mom made for years and years...but it calls for a block of cheddar cheese (at least $3), breakfast sausage (another $3), see where I'm going with this.  Potluck meal costs can add up quickly! However, I've found a few ideas for great potluck meals that are healthy and in the end cost-saving too.

This past week we had a potluck birthday lunch for a co-worker.  I opted to bring a nice green salad.  I know what you're thinking: that's dull.  But you know what?  Every potluck needs a nice green salad.  For one thing, it's something everyone can eat.  Green salads are gluten free, vegetarian, can be dairy free and even fit a macrobiotic (raw foods) diet. Secondly, it is easy to take home the leftovers and the costs really are more beneficial than you'd think.

For instance, for the green salad I purchased: a whole lead of leaf lettuce ($1.59), 2 bottles of Kraft dressings ($2.99 each, for a total of $6), a cucumber (.59) and some croutons to have on the side ($1.25).  I had a 2lb bag of carrots at home that cost about $1.50 and a container of grape tomatoes that was probably $3. So right now the cost of all these ingredients is: $13.93.  But here's the catch:  You aren't going to use ALL of any of those things, which means the rest are available for you to use at home! 

I probably used half a head of lettuce, 2 carrots, half a cucumber and half of the tomatoes.  Maybe 1/3 of each of the dressings got used and 1/2 of the croutons.  So that means for a work potluck I spent: $5.53.  On top of that, not all the salad got eaten.  I put the leftovers in a plastic bag and ate them with dinner for 2 more nights!  PLUS I've still got carrots, lettuce, croutons and salad dressings to use at home.

On Sunday I attended an Easter potluck and made a fruit salad.  It has all the same benefits as a green salad! AND if you choose the right fruits, it's super cost effective.  City Market was having a sale on berries and cantaloupe, so I threw those in the cart.  I also got bananas (which are always cheap).  Blackberries: $2.99; Strawberries (2 lbs) $3.00; cantaloupe $2.15; bananas: $1.00

I used all of the strawberries and blackberries for the salad, one of 4 bananas, and maybe half a cantaloupe, so my total cost for that potluck was: $7.31. The dressing for this salad was made with ingredients I already had at home.  As long as you've got something sweet (honey, a simple syrup, brown sugar...) and something a little tart (lemon juice, a balsamic vinegar, etc) you can make a dressing for a fruit salad.  You coud also use a fruit yogurt if you have one.

Other options for cheap but impressive potluck dishes:  pasta salad (think viniagrette with pasta, tomatoes and cucumbers or olives), a nice loaf of french bread with a homemade topping like a white bean and tuna topping or a pesto topping, "texas caviar" with black eyed peas, bell pepper, onion, etc and some nice blue corn chips...there are plenty of options out there!  You don't have to spend a fortune to contribute to the potluck, but you also don't have to just grab something from the deli (although if you're short on time there's nothing wrong with that!)

Get creative at your next potluck and share your Penny Pinching recipes with us!


More ways to avoid waste

By Julie Norman
Monday, April 21, 2014

I made some bread last week using my awesome bread maker that I got for Christmas from my sister.  This was a different recipe from my normal "Hearty Nut Bread." It was supposed to be a "French" bread but what it turned out to be was super crumbly.  The last bit wasn't even suitable for toast, but instead of tossing it I decided to make bread crumbs with it.

Super crumbly leftover French bread

I tore it into pieces and put it in the food processor then spread it on my toaster oven tray and toasted it.

Then I just poured these into a zip-top bag and labeled them.  Now they're ready to be used for meatloaf, as a coating for a crunchy pasta topping...whatever!  The point is, I didn't waste it.

I also made applesauce this weekend with some apples that I froze last fall.  I thawed them, added them to a pan with a little cinnamon, 1 tsp of sugar and some organic apple juice.  I let them cook down for about 10 minutes and then ran them through the food processor.  This applesauce has been particularly great mixed in with oatmeal.  You could easily do the same thing with fresh apples that are about to go bad.  Find a purpose for those items!  Don't waste!

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