Kid Tested, Mother Approved Hot Chocolate Mix

How are you spending Black Friday? Have you been up for hours? Did you stand in line in the cold?

I’m decorating for Christmas! I chose this year’s theme last December! There is no way you will guess it! (Actually, in the last three years, only one person guessed my theme correctly and he found a clue I left in a pretty obvious place. Go, Luke!)

Whether you are just getting home from shopping or are in the middle of your decorating, you need a cup of hot chocolate!Homemade Hot Chocolate "Kid Tested, Mother Approved Hot Chocolate Mix" frugalfish.org

I have a recipe for “Hot Chocolate Mix” that every kid will love and every mother will approve. My kids still love it!

“Hot Chocolate Mix”

  • 7 Cups Nonfat Dry Milk
  • 2/3 Cup Powdered Sugar
  • 1 1/4 Cups Dry Coffeemate
  • 1 – 2 pound can of Nestle’s Quick

Mix all ingredients together and store in a sealed container. Use 1/3 cup of mix for each cup of hot water.Jar of Hot Chocolate Mix "Kid Tested, Mother Approved Hot Chocolate Mix" frugalfish.org

Mothers love this mix because each cup is a cup of milk! Kids love it because it is sweet from the powdered sugar and creamy from the Coffeemate!

 

You can top the hot chocolate with one of the following:

  1. Marshmallows
  2. Crushed Peppermints
  3. Whipped Topping
  4. A Scoop of Ice Cream

My frugalfish tip is – homemade is always better! Make your own!

Next week I will reveal my “2017 Christmas Theme.” I’m so excited!

©2009-2017 frugalfish.org

 

An Apple for the Teacher

Happy First Day of Autumn!

I like to move into the season a bit more slowly than most. I don’t pull out the pumpkins until October. Usually, I start with apple decorations and save the yellow, orange, and brown decorations for later. Last year, it was all about fruit, see here.

My granddaughter, Olivia, started first grade this year and as I decorated, I thought about what you would see in a classroom. I had David pull out the apple decorations from my Rustic Christmas Decorations box. I used them on my wreath with a flag from the July 4th box, two pencils, and a yellow ribbon.

School Wreath "An Apple for the Teacher" frugalfish.org

You may recognize the globe in my kitchen from my Christmas decorating last year. It represents geography in my decorating this month. The paints and crayons are for art and the apples are salt and pepper shakers!

Globe, Crayons, and Paint in kitchen "An Apple for the Teacher" frugalfish.org

Apples fill the trifle dish and another bowl in my china cabinet.

Apples in the China Cabinet "An Apple for the Teacher" frugalfish.org

There is more art downstairs in my dining room. I framed four more pieces of priceless art my children made in school. I used the frames from pictures I bought at Goodwill.

Framed Children's Artwork "An Apple for the Teacher" frugalfish.org

The theme for the dining room table downstairs is music. As you can tell, I collect small rhythm instruments.

Music in the Dining Room "An Apple for the Teacher" frugalfish.org

I was not sure how to decorate my glass block until I remembered most elementary classrooms have a fish or other small animal. I made it a fake fishbowl with a fish-shaped candle resting in a sea of blue glass marbles. Every fake fish needs fake fish food. I just turned the carton of popcorn salt around. The Liberty Bell from my July 4th box represents history.Fake Fish Tank "An Apple for the Teacher" frugalfish.org

My son offered to loan me his calculator to represent math but that is a class most people want to forget! I didn’t accept his offer.

I used primary colored towels in the bathroom and pinned a bicycle pin on them. Above it is a printable saying I saw from theinspiredroom.net. She has a link to get a free one!

Fall Printable "An Apple for the Teacher" frugalfish.org

My Frugalfish tip for this week is to personalize your printable sayings. I used markers on mine to match my decor. (I think I will use watercolors on a spring printable.) I got the frame at Goodwill for less than $3.00!

Personalized Fall Printable "An Apple for the Teacher" frugalfish.orgNext week I will show you how I store produce now that works better than just using Green Bags.

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Same Price for Pork Chops or Roast

We pay the same price for our pork roasts as we do for our boneless pork chops. We pay the same price for 1/4″ chops as we do for 1/2″ chops and we get all of them for under $2.00 a pound!

I know it sounds too good to be true, but it’s not. We wait until a pork loin is on sale. We have paid from $1.59 a pound to $1.99 a pound. (Lower food costs is a benefit of living in Iowa.) They weigh around 10 pounds. When we get it home, David gets to work.

Using our meat/cheese slicer, see here, he cuts boneless pork chops off and puts 4 to a package. He cuts up to the last third of the pork loin. That leaves about 3 pounds and makes a nice sized pork roast. Sometimes, he cuts two roasts and not as many pork chops. He can cut them whatever width he likes.

David Cutting up a Pork Loin "Same Price for Pork Chops or Roast" frugalfish.org

You don’t need a meat/cheese slicer to do this. All you need is a sharp knife! You can even cut thicker pork chops and stuff them! Keep your eyes out for a sale on pork loin!

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Save on Senior Pictures

My nephew, Brayden, played “Pomp and Circumstance” for the last time on Sunday. Next year, he will be marching down to receive his diploma! There are many things to do before that last march on the football field and the first one is best done this month.

When my youngest graduated from high school, we couldn’t decide where to get his senior pictures taken.

We had three options:

Photographer 1 took the senior pictures of my first two children.

Photographer 2 is a close friend of the extended family. So close, that her family has attended our family reunion for decades.

Photographer 3 is a relative of my daughter-in-law. She took a family picture of us after their wedding.

They all are excellent photographers and we worried about hurt feelings. Then I remembered the deal I made with Photographer 1.

My oldest son graduated in 2005. I saw a picture of a 2004 graduate that captured her personality, taken by Photographer 1.

When I called, I told the photographer I had a senior and a junior. I asked her if she could make me a deal if I had my daughter’s pictures taken there the next year.

She offered me two free family sittings. I used the first free sitting for my extended family in 2004. I never used the second one.

I called Photographer 1 and reminded her I still had a second free sitting. I asked her if we could use it for my youngest sons’ senior pictures.

She said, “Yes!”

They base sitting fees on the different outfits worn for pictures. In his case, it was $25.00 per outfit. Derek wore a baseball uniform and three other outfits for his pictures. That saved me $100.00 in sitting fees.

Derek's Baseball Picture "Saving Money on Senior Pictures" frugalfish.org

Top Ten Tips

1. Book your appointment in June. Most photographers will have a reduced rate or throw in free pictures for early bookings. My sitting fee for my first son was 75% off because I booked in June. Every photographer has their own incentives.

2. If you have more than one child, ask for a deal and have all of them photographed by the same one. The pictures will have a similar feel because each photographer has their own style.

3. Limit the outfits your child wears. This is especially hard with girls!

4. Ask if the photographer has a “Participation Bonus”.  You get a free gift or picture when your child is wearing a uniform: band, sports, even FFA.

5. Have your child be a model for the photographer for a free or reduced sitting fee.

6. Order the minimum number of pictures needed. Make a list of all the relatives you are buying for and write the size of the print you want for them next to it. Buy a large print for yourself and an 8 x 10 or 5 x 7 for your child. Don’t order hundreds of wallets. Derek graduated with 129 other students. I ordered 100 wallets for Luke and had a stack left over. I ordered 88 wallets for Laura and used them all. So, I ordered only 88 for Derek and used them all.

7. You may get more opportunities for free pictures later in the year by writing a review.

8. In January they go on sale. They contact you to see if you need more photos, sometimes at reduced prices. You can also get a copy of your child’s portfolio or picture DVD at a reduced price.

9. Some photographers throw in a free bonus picture if you pay in full when you place your order.

10. You can also get free photos and other freebies based on the amount of money you spend, i.e. spend $200.00 – get one freebie, spend $300.00 – get two freebies.

$ $ $ $ $ $ $ $

If your photographer is a family member . . .

  • do not expect a free sitting. This is how they make their living. Be willing to pay full price and be grateful if they offer you a discount.
  • do not expect them to clear their schedule to accommodate you.
  • do not cancel at the last-minute, unless it is an emergency, and pay them the sitting fee anyway.

Being frugal is not about being cheap; it is about making the most of your money!

©2009-2017 frugalfish.org. All rights reserved.

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Tricking My Sweet Tooth

I had a high metabolism. I could eat anything I wanted and not gain weight. Life was good until I went to the dentist.

“Which is worse on my teeth, Mountain Dew or Hershey’s Kisses?”

“Both!”

All the fun ended when I hit that birthday beginning with a 4. The metabolism slowed down, and even worse, I had to take regular rounds of Prednisone. When you take steroids, you don’t feel hungry but starving!

I will never forget the day I went to the doctor and the nurse told me I lost 5 pounds. I replied, “It only took 10 years.”

$ $ $ $ $ $ $ $

My mom loved to bake. We had dessert at lunch and at dinner – or is that dinner and supper. Anyway, I liked having something sweet at the end of a meal.

When I stepped down from my job and my clothes no longer fit, I had two reasons to give up Mountain Dew: 1) I couldn’t afford it, and 2) I couldn’t afford new clothes. I switched to sweet tea instead.

I took my coffee with 2 scoops of sugar and 2 creamers for years. I cut back there by using a dollop of whipping cream and 1 teaspoon of sugar. (There are natural sugars in the cream.)

Now that I had my drinking under control . . . ( No, wait, I never did acquire a taste for alcohol – just sugar) . . . I decided to curb my desserts. I switched to eating dessert at lunch and a few pips of a Hershey’s candy bar at supper. That took self-control that I didn’t really have.

I started making homemade trail mix. There are enough M & M’s in it to satisfy my sweet tooth and I measure it out, one-fourth a cup, in snack size bags for portion control.

My biggest weakness – well after chocolate – is ice cream. I loved having a big bowl at lunch, preferably on top of a banana! I started getting ice cream cones and reduced my consumption by two-thirds.

I was also buying yogurt, but it would spoil before I could get it all eaten up. I came up with a plan. I scooped one-fourth cup of Yogurt into muffin tins and froze them.

Freezing Yogurt in Muffin Tins "Tricking My Sweet Tooth" frugalfish.org

Then I removed them from the pan and placed them in a plastic ziplock bag.

Individual Frozen Yogurt "Tricking My Sweet Tooth" frugalfish.org

I put one in a bowl in the refrigerator 3 hours before lunch to partially thaw. Then I make a frozen yogurt cone! It is much cheaper freezing it myself and healthier than eating ice cream.

Homemade Frozen Yogurt Cone "Tricking My Sweet Tooth" frugalfish.org

Last night I made David some green tea. I brewed it on the stove and my son suggested I add honey to it. That could be my next step!

©2009-2017 frugalfish.org. All rights reserved.

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New Kitchen for Five Bucks

It started with chipped paint in between the bottom cabinet doors. That chip peeled and eventually became a hole. I only intended to fill the hole and touch up the paint.

Our cabinets are original to the house, 1971. When we moved the refrigerator to the corner, it left a 12″ space. There was an oak cabinet at the lumberyard that someone ordered and then changed their mind. We bought it and I painted all the cabinets white. The original cabinets were “pecan.”

The door fronts were similar enough that you didn’t notice it was a different cabinet – until you looked down. The toe kick was an inch higher than the “pecan” cabinets. It had bugged me for years and I decided to do something about it.

I found a piece of scrap trim downstairs. (I always keep scrap wood.) It wasn’t long enough or deep enough, but I nailed it to the cabinet anyway. I used a paint stirrer taped to the cabinet with duct tape to line up the outside edge.

Nailed on trim "New Kitchen for Five Bucks" frugalfish.org

 

 

 

 

 

Then I glued the trim to the bottom of the cabinet. I used scraps of wood and broke a paint stirrer in half, to support the trim while the glue dried. (I keep wood glue and wood filler on hand.) It took three coats of wood filler to completely fill in the seam.

Glued on trim "New Kitchen for Five Bucks" frugalfish.org

 

 

 

 

Wood filler in cracks "New Kitchen for Five Bucks" frugalfish.org

 

 

 

 

 

 

David asked if I wanted him to remove the handles and hinges. I said “Yes!”

We put these new handles on in the 90’s when I painted the cabinets white. They were black with just a touch of copper showing through. At the time, I was collecting copper to “warm” up the decor in the kitchen. But I am over that copper phase, it looked “country.”

Kitchen cabinet with copper hardware "New Kitchen for Five Bucks" frugalfish.org

We talked about replacing the hardware, but I liked the traditional style. I just wished they were black to look like wrought iron. He took them off on Saturday, and I spent the day scraping white paint off of them with a metal nail file and steel wool. I used craft paint that I had on hand to paint them.

 

David brought home a $5.00 can of Acrylic spray paint because he didn’t want the paint to come off from the metal hardware. I finished scraping and painting the hardware on Saturday night. We let the paint cure on Sunday and he sprayed them with acrylic on Monday night.

Tuesday, I finished touching up the paint on the doors and the seam of the trim I added. We put the doors back up and installed the handles.

When our son got home, I asked him to turn on the light and check out the cabinets. He said,

“Wow, it looks like a new kitchen!”

New Kitchen "New Kitchen for Five Bucks" frugalfish.org

I got a new kitchen for $5.00! In maintaining our homes, we forget the two most important items to use: time and elbow grease! I worked on the cabinets a little every weekday for 10 days. I spent 9 hours scraping and painting the hardware on Saturday. I believe that was time well spent.

You may find a project in your house that only needs things you already have on hand, time, and a little elbow grease.

©2009-2017 frugalfish.org. All rights reserved.

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Surround Sight, Not Surround Sound

I reached the age . . . somewhere around 40 . . .  where my arms aren’t long enough to read. The eye doctor said that dreaded word,

“BIFOCALS!”

The top of my glasses is for seeing far away, the bottom for seeing close up. When I recline, the angle has me looking through the bottom of my glasses and I have trouble focusing on the TV!TV on TV Stand "Surround Sight, Not Surround Sound" frugalfish.org

David has the same problem. We either prop our head on a pillow or on one arm to look through the correct part of our glasses. Then we would get a “crick in the neck.”

We needed to raise the TV!

We could mount it on the wall but would have to buy a kit. I looked around for a more frugal solution. Then I remembered the hutch in the bedroom with a large mirror set on it.

Hutch with mirror on it "Surround Sight, Not Surround Sound" frugalfish.org

We brought it out and placed the TV on it. The height was perfect! I moved a bookshelf under the hutch and set the soundboard on it.TV Raised Up on Hutch, "Surround Sight, Not Surround Sound" frugalfish.org

$ $ $ $ $ $ $ $

Next week is Thanksgiving and I did some serious thinking about after the meal. We eat at noon and my family will usually watch TV. The best seats are on either end of the couch, which has built-in recliners, or in the big recliner. Usually, 1 or 2 will sit in the middle of the couch and the rest will take the chairs which we bring in from the other rooms.

Another problem is we store the toys for our granddaughter in the ottoman. She can’t get to the toys because the one(s) sitting in the middle of the couch have their feet on it. When she is playing, her movements can block the TV. I moved Olivia’s toys to the bookshelf and hid them behind a curtain on a tension bar.

That solved 2 problems!Toys on Shelf Behind Curtain "Surround Sight, Not Surround Sound" frugalfish.org

Invariably, I am the last to sit down and the only seat left is next to the TV. Everyone can see the TV, but me!

David hung the large mirror over the couch. I sat down in the chair and said, “Ouch!” I had moved a CD organizer to use as a side table next to the chair. It was too tall and it hit my elbow! It disappointed me that I could not see the TV in the mirror!

I got out a smaller mirror and David moved it along the wall until I could see the TV while sitting in my chair. We tried 2 different mirrors until I could see the entire TV in the reflection. (This second mirror was David’s grandmother’s and recently given to us by his aunt. I love having something of hers in my front room.)TV Reflected in Mirror "Surround Sight, Not Surround Sound" frugalfish.org

I brought up a white bookshelf to put in the bedroom where the hutch was formerly. It wasn’t as deep and that gave us 6 more inches between it and the bed.Shallow Bookshelf Gives More Room "Surround Sound, Not Surround Sight" frugalfish.org

I wanted to raise the TV in the bedroom, too. I looked around but couldn’t find anything the right size that was sturdy.

$ $ $ $ $ $ $ $

Back in the front room, I tried a few side tables, that were 3″ above or below the arm of the chair, to replace the CD organizer and finally decided on a square column. (It was a demo of the four different styles available at the lumberyard where my husband worked. They switched companies and he brought it home.)Column Demo Makes a Side Table "Surround Sight, Not Surround Sound" frugalfish.org

I started to take the CD organizer back downstairs when I realized it was very sturdy. We laid it on its side on the piano and put the TV on top of it. It worked!CD Organizer Raised TV "Surround Sight, Not Surround Sound" frugalfish.org

I raised both TVs, and can watch them from any seat, without spending any money! It increased the square footage of the front room because the TV stand was a foot deeper. Between the narrow hutch and the mirrors, my room looks much larger.

This weekend look around your family room. Can you switch pieces and free up some square footage for your family this holiday? How about mounting a mirror on the wall across from the TV to let it be viewed by both sides of the room.

©2009-2016 frugalfish.org. All rights reserved.

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September Decoration Flip

Derek was not impressed when I got out my flag for September. He was hoping for colorful leaves and pumpkins. He was not expecting the apples!Fall Flag, "September Decoration Flip" frugalfish.org

But September is still warm; it was 80° yesterday. Everything is still green and you can run around barefoot.Barefoot girls on Vase, "September Decoration Flip" frugalfish.org

It is also when the fruit ripens; pears, apples, and grapes are on sale.Pear Candle, "September Decoration Flip" frugalfish.org

Rubber grapes make a nice bow on my plain wooden wreath.Wooden wreath with grapes, "September Decoration Flip" frugalfish.org

Apples and leaves are my themes for this month, mainly because I had a new, flameless candle, embedded with leaves. I set it on my apple runner and put “Apple Salt and Pepper” shakers on each side.Leaf candle with apple salt & pepper shakers, "September Decoration Flip" frugalfish.org

Instead of putting my decorative dishes in the china cabinet, I put them on the shelf leading to the basement and filled them with apple/cinnamon potpourri.Dishes filled with apple cinnamon potpourri, "September Decoration Flip" frugalfish.org

Now for My Secrets!

There are three leaf-shaped votive candles on top of wooden napkin rings on the tiny shelf by the door. Underneath, a mug with gold leaves on it.Leaf-shaped votive candles on wooden napkin rings, "September Decoration Flip" frugalfish.org

On the windowsill between the kitchen and dining room, I put a plaque and two votive candles.Plaque and candles, "September Decoration Flip" frugalfish.org

The candles were not tall enough. I filled the votive holders with cornmeal to raise them up!Cornmeal raises candle, "September Decoration Flip" frugalfish.org

On the dining room table, I put a burgundy tablecloth and a red runner for the two different shades of apples. This runner is tone on tone and the backside blended with the tablecloth better. I removed the tag and you cannot tell it is the backside. Apple, acorn, candle, centerpiece, "September Decoration Flip" frugalfish.org

A leaf brooch dresses up the towels in the bathroom.Leaf brooch on towels, "September Decoration Flip" frugalfish.org

Without a washcloth in the color I desired, I used the “spring” washcloth and folded the decorated side over the back.Tuck decorated portion of towel behind, "September Decoration Flip" frugalfish.org

Those are my “September Decorating Flips:”

  1. Use a napkin ring as a votive candle holder or small pine cone holder.
  2. Use cornmeal, or popcorn, to raise a small candle up to the desired level.
  3. Flip your table runner and remove the tag.
  4. Tuck the decorated side of a washcloth behind to have a plain colored washcloth.

I didn’t spend any money to decorate for September; since I picked up the leaf candle last winter on clearance. You can see different ways I used these same decorations on my Pinterest page!

©2009-2016 frugalfish.org. All rights reserved.

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I Don’t Get Dressed Until Noon

I’m sure you think every writer spends the day in their pajamas. Some do; but not me. I put on exercise clothes when I get up. It is an added incentive to exercise.

workout clothes

During these “dog days” of summer, it has another benefit. I do the hot jobs in the morning: cleaning, laundry, cooking, exercise, etc. By the time I finish those tasks, I am dripping with sweat. I jump in the shower and dress before David gets home for lunch.

(Okay, I did have an off day, and I was hurrying to get dressed before he got off of work, but it was because I was doing two days worth of tasks. I had a project that would take most of the next day. Of course, I got caught. I always get caught!)

I started doing this when our air conditioner was dying. I would rather be writing than exercising during the heat of the day. Our new air conditioner has no trouble keeping up, but when the heat index is 105° I don’t want to feel the need to turn it down. It is already working hard enough.

My strategy has paid off. We are saving money with lower utility bills. Our utility company offers time-of-day pricing. They charge more for use during the heat of the day, and a reduced rate after 9:00 pm and before 8:00 am. I tried it, but it did not work for us. Our children were all at home and I was staying up late, and then getting up early to keep up with the laundry. Doing the hot jobs first is a better strategy for us.

I realize this tip will not work for most people, but you could try it on the weekend. After doing the hot jobs, the rest of the day feels like a vacation!

©2009-2016 frugalfish.org. All rights reserved.

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Christmas Gift Projects

Christmas decorations and supplies are in stores. Some are upset and feel like we are rushing the season. But, for those of us who are crafty and make some of our gifts, we are happy to see it.

In May, the rage on Pinterest was patriotic, bandanna wreaths. I wanted to make one using my existing wreath. Imagine my surprise, when I went to Hobby Lobby a week before Memorial Day and found they were out of the red, white, and blue bandannas! I had a red one at home but had to go to 2 different stores to buy blue and white ones.

Don’t let that happen to you!

Christmas is six months away. If you would like to make gifts, now is the time to start! Get supplies while there is a good selection and you have plenty of time to complete it. I spent one Christmas Eve finishing up sewing projects and I don’t recommend it!

If you would like to make gifts, here are a few ideas:

Dehydrated Herbs

Jar of dehydrated parsley

Homegrown, dehydrated parsley.

Individual Freezer Apple Pies

Top of jar

I put labels with the baking directions on top of the jars.

Carved Wooden Statue

Man by carved wood ear of corn

It took one month from start to finish.

Blanket-Stitched Kitchen Towels

2 Christmas towels

The kitchen towels I added blanket-stitch yarn to for Christmas gifts.

Puzzle Board

Board with partially finished puzzle on it

My puzzle board.

Coffee Mug Cozie

Cup with knitted Cozie around it

Coffee Cup Cozie

Painted Picture Frames

Picture with a painted frame.

The pictures third frame

Scarf

Sashay scarves on a table runner

Two Sashay yarn scarves I knitted.

Tee Shirt Quilt

Tee shirt quilt

Tee shirt quilt I made for my son.

 It’s time to go through your craft items to see what you already have on hand.

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