Archive for November, 2006

New Frugal Articles Posted

Wednesday, November 29th, 2006

Just wanted to let everyone know that a couple of new articles have been posted to the website.

If you have ever run out of an essential ingredient when cooking, then our new article is for you. This article contains recipes for making your own mixes and convenience foods from things you probably already have on hand. If you have a recipe that we didn’t cover, please feel free to share it!

We also have recently posted an article on Frugal Ways to Winterize Your Home. It is definitely worth checking out if you want to keep your heating bill down this year.

If you have other suggestions for articles please feel free to email them at [email protected] or just leave a comment and I will add them to my list of things to write!

Frugal Momma’s Test Kitchen: Homemade Microwave Popcorn & Caramel Corn

Tuesday, November 28th, 2006

I love popcorn. I love flavored popcorn, I love plain popcorn, and I love the air popped variety. Since we enjoy popcorn so much, I purchased an air popper at a thrift sale last year and we have used it a lot, particularly for our Friday night family night. It is a great little tool to have in the kitchen. It pops popcorn quickly and is also much healthier than the prepackaged stuff.

There are times though where I miss the convenience of the bagged variety. Unfortunately, it is expensive and also not as good for you.

Recently though, I happened upon a recipe (on Food Network) for making your own bagged popcorn. The instructions seemed easy enough and the results…near perfection.

To make your own homemade version all you need is popcorn kernels (purchased in bulk at your wholesale club cuts down the cost on these even!), a paper bag (lunch bag size), and a stapler.

Pour a 1/4 cup of popcorn kernels into the bag (for one generous serving) or a 1/2 cup (for two generous servings). At this point, you can add two teaspoons of olive oil (if you wish), add your salt (if you wish) and then fold the bag down a little. Using your stapler, staple a single staple into the top to keep it shut. Put the bag in the microwave and pop for one to two minutes. Be sure to keep a close eye on the popcorn because it burns quickly. Open the bag, pour into a bowl, and enjoy!

My only gripe with doing popcorn this way is that the bag creates a bit of a greasy mess on the interior of your microwave since it is so thin. You could lay down a napkin or paper towel though to keep it clean while the popcorn pops and avoid this mess completely.

If you are interested in making caramel corn, this too can be made from your microwave. This is a great treat to have around the house or to give as hostess gifts when going to all of these holiday get togethers.

I ran across this ezine article that explains the process in much better detail than I could….

Microwave Caramel Corn
by Joyce Moseley Pierce

Part of the hesitation in making caramel corn is the sticky, gooey mess that remains once you’ve finished making it. You almost need a blow torch to remove the hardened sugary stuff from your pans.

Help is on the way! This recipe can be made in your microwave, and when you’re finished, you can just throw the paper sack away.

This doesn’t mean that it doesn’t take a little preparation time, but at least you can relax
and enjoy the finished product without having to worry about a lot of cleanup.

Next time you go to the grocery store, ask for your groceries in paper bags. You’ll need one bag per batch.

Here’s what you’ll need:
3-4 quarts popped corn

1 stick of butter (no substitutes!)
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup Karo Syrup

1 tsp baking soda – add last

Pop the corn and discard the unpopped kernels. Put the popped corn in the paper sack. While the corn is popping, put the butter, sugar, salt and syrup in a glass bowl and bring it to a boil in your microwave. Stir after one minute, and let it boil for an additional minute. Add one tsp of
baking soda and stir well, until thickened.It will turn light in color and look like taffy.

Pour this mixture over the popped corn in the paper bag and shake well. Put the paper bag
back in the microwave and cook an additional 1-1/2 minutes (90 seconds). Remove and shake well again.

Return to the microwave and cook another 1-1/2 minutes. Shake again. Open the bag and let it
cool. You can even tear the bag down the side and speed up the process.

Plan to make more than one batch because you’ll want to eat the first one! Great for Christmas
or birthday gifts. I gave this as a Christmas gift to my co-workers one year and the next year they started hinting for it again in September.

Once completely cooled, break up the chunks, put it in a plastic holiday bag and tie with a festive ribbon. If you eat a lot of ice cream the containers with lids make a great receptacle for packing the caramel corn.

Save your ice cream containers throughout the year, wash them out, line with plastic wrap and stick a bow on the top. Include the recipe and directions unless you want to tell them it’s an old family secret, but let me warn you that if you don’t share the recipe,
they will come back next year begging for more.

Joyce is a freelance writer and owner of Emerson Publications. She is the creator of “All They’ll Need to Know,” a workbook to help families record personal and financial information.…43554/index.htm She is also the editor of The Family First Newsletter, an ezine for families with young children. To subscribe:

Happy Holidays!

Can You Help This Reader?

Monday, November 27th, 2006

I am hoping that some of you will be able to offer some advice and tips to this reader. Please reply in the comments section if you know of any resources or ways that you could help her. I would greatly appreciate it!

Dear Amy,

First of all I wanted to say thank you for taking the time to read this email from me. I have been in need to cry out for help for so long and I’ve gotten to the point where I just can’t deal with things anymore. I am a single mother of 2 wonderful kids ages 9 & 6. I am behind on my rent and in the process of eviction, my electricity and gas bills are on disconnect notice, and I don’t even have milk and bread for my children. This morning I didn’t even have any breakfast to feed my kids. Its sad the life we are living but unfortunately I don’t have any other help. My ex husband, the father of my children, is incarcerated and will not help out. I don’t have any close family that has any financial means to help out with. I am currently working 2 jobs and still can’t make ends meet. It seems like I’m always running into a brick wall and something else will pop up that I have to pay. I haven’t even been able to buy winter clothes for my kids or winter shoes for my kids because I don’t have the money. I don’t care to have things that I need, I just want food and proper clothes for my children. Do you have any resources or ideas that may help myself and my children??? I seriously need help. any assistance or guidance that you can provide will be greatly appreciated.

Thank you and God Bless

Jamie N.
Gardner, KS

Set Your Recorders

Saturday, November 25th, 2006

One of my favorite parts about the holiday season is all of the great holiday specials that are on television. I think I would miss it terribly if I didn’t get to see “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” or the infamous, “Charlie Brown Christmas.” It is one of those things that I look forward to all year long.

Planning our television schedule has become much easier this year now that I have discovered this site, which gives you the dates and times for all of those great holiday specials. The best part about the site is that they only share the shows that are suitable for your entire family.

This schedule of shows will be added to as new shows arise, so add this site to your favorites and set your video recorder, DVR, or TiVo for the ones you really want to catch this season! No need to run out to the video store for these shows now that you know exactly when they will be on.

Some of the more notable shows that we have set to record are The Polar Express, Elf, and Christmas with the Kranks. These are all movies we would have ran out to the video store to get and now can enjoy from our own home!

Happy holiday viewing!

Freebie Friday: November 24, 2006

Friday, November 24th, 2006

If you are not out braving the shoppers and finding the deals, you must be sitting in your comfy chair and enjoying your Freebie Friday this week! I am obviously not out shopping and instead spent the day compiling this list of great freebies for you. Please share our site with your friends and check back often, as my blog is updated a few times a week!

Let’s begin with our letters for the week!
We can all use a freebie to keep us healthy so here’s a free sample of Airborne On-The-Go.

I saw this in the Sunday paper’s coupon section.

Love your website! Keep up the great work!


I also received a great letter from my sweet pal over at The Homespun Heart (an incredible blog that I gain a ton of inspiration from!)

Hi Amy!

My Mom sent me an article mentioning freebie websites, I have not checked these out, but wanted to pass them on to you: (I saw this one on your list this week) (free family calendar that you can download to your desktop) (free financial guidance through an education kit posted by the federal gov’t)

Have a great weekend!


Sign up to receive a free subscription to Beautiful Woman Magazine. The box is on the right side of the page and you will go to the sign up form after entering in your email address for their online newsletter.

Receive a free calling card with ten minutes of free talk time on it from The calling card will be emailed to you upon completing the registration.

Print out a coupon for a free complimentary twelve ounce brewed coffee from Borders. This coupon is only good for today (11/24).

Sign up for a free sample of Swiffer Duster. This one is a repeat, but they are still offering this sample so I thought it was worth mention again to our new readers.

Sign up to receive a free Reach Access Daily Flosser sample pack. Please limit one free sample pack per household.

Sign up to receive a free Scrubbing Bubbles Shower Caddy and a five dollar coupon towards the purchase of their Automatic Shower Cleaner. This offer is good only while supplies last.

Xerox is offering everyone an opportunity to send a soldier in Iraq a thank you card for the holidays. The response has been wonderful to this freebie and they have already sent over five million thank you cards to the soldiers. You can pick your design and Xerox will have the thank you printed out and mailed to a soldier on your behalf. Please visit this site for more information.

Dairy Queen is offering a free ice cream cone on their site for children sixteen and younger.

Chick-Fil-A is offering a free breakfast on their website. Only select states are included (Offer available only to legal U.S. residents of AL, AR, AZ, CA, CO, DE, FL, GA, IA, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MA, MD, MO, MS, NC, NH, NJ, NM, OH, OK, PA, SC, TN, TX, UT, VA, WI, WV, WY (“Eligible States”) age 18 or older. Limit one (1) Breakfast Coupon and one (1) Milkshake Coupon per person, per e-mail address, per mailing address). They will mail you the coupon and also send you a coupon for a free Milkshake with the purchase of a water and a chicken sandwich. This is a GREAT freebie! Only the first million can take advantage of this one!

Google Checkout is offering to put ten dollars in your account (up until November 26th) and you can use that ten dollars towards a ten dollar purchase from their retailers. Basically, you are getting a freebie if you spend ten dollars!

This is not necessarily a freebie, but it is a great cash back rebate on a PayPal purchase. Receive free shipping when you make a purchase using your PayPal account from a participating merchant. Participating PayPal merchants will be displayed on the PayPal Holiday landing page starting 11/23/06. Offers may be limited to shipments within the 48 contiguous United States. See merchants’ websites for additional terms & conditions. Receive a $20 USD Cash Rebate by registering for this Cash Rebate offer on and purchasing items in a single online payment of $50 USD or more using your PayPal account. To qualify for this offer, purchases must meet the following requirements: 1. Purchases must be made on, or on merchants’ sites in the US or Canada. 2. and purchases must be made through the eBay checkout flow via the eBay website and must not be made through the PayPal send money tab. 3. Purchases must be made between 11/23/06 12:01 PST and 12/31/06 11:59 PST. The following transactions are excluded from this Cash Rebate offer: Send Money transactions, payments to Personal Accounts, eBay payments made to Personal accounts, donations, Text to Buy and payments for services. The Cash Rebate will be deposited into the participants’ PayPal accounts within 6 to 8 weeks after 12/31/06. Limit one registration and one $20 rebate per person and/or PayPal Account. Offer available for a limited time. Offer is limited to US and Canada registered users. PayPal conversion rates apply. PayPal account must be in good standing prior to and throughout the offer period to qualify.
This is a limited time offer, but Sno -Way is offering a free hat or gloves on their website. This is a great freebie so take advantage of it while you can!

Get free nail polish from Sally Hansen Nail Products. This is a special beauty promo that was also featured in the Vibe Vixen Magazine. To receive a free trial size of the nail polish, simply fill out the form and submit!

Creating Holiday Traditions

Tuesday, November 21st, 2006

I am trying very hard to create some new Christmas traditions for our family. As my son gets older, I have been able to implement more things and it becomes more and more fun as the years are passing. I know each family has their own traditions, but here are a few of our family’s traditions. Maybe they can become a tradition in your family too!

Growing up, stockings were just for show. We didn’t actually stuff anything into them, so one thing that we did start doing in our family was filling the stockings. When my husband and I were first married, we filled each other’s stockings. It was a lot of fun to do that for each other.

When we had kids, we have noticed that our own stockings have lacked that “star quality” that they once had. Because our daughter was born five days before Christmas this past year, we didn’t even put anything in our stockings. This year, I am trading stockings with a girlfriend. There is a twenty dollar limit and who knows you better than your friends? This should be a fun one to open this year!

One year, in lieu of the little trinkets for the stockings, I put out index cards in a basket with a pen on Thanksgiving Day. Each day, between Thanksgiving Day and Christmas, we would write one thing that we found special about each other. It was fun to see what my son said at two about what he thought about us, and also to see what my husband appreciated most about me.
On Christmas Eve, we got to dive in and read all of our notes to each other. There was definitely a glow about all of us that day!

This year, we are adding two new traditions to our growing list. The first tradition we are adding is filling a jar with twenty-five activities to do between now and Christmas. Things like building a snow man, popping popcorn and watching a movie, making an ornament, going to see the lights in the neighborhoods…basically anything that is free and fun to do. Each day we will draw and do one activity together.

The other tradition that we will be doing is making an advent chain. Taking paper, we will make a chain and number them, to do our own countdown to Christmas. Now that my son is at the age where he is extremely interested in the whole Santa factor and what he is getting, he has already started the, “When is Christmas?” questions. This will hopefully slow down the questions because he will get to tear off each day for the countdown.

If you have special traditions in your home that you would like to share, please leave them in the comments section. Maybe it will inspire others for ideas to add to their family traditions.
Happy holidays, everyone!

Freebie Friday: November 17, 2006

Friday, November 17th, 2006

Welcome to Freebie Friday! We will begin with a letter from one of our readers…

Hi Amy,

I’ve been checking out your blog for a few weeks now and LOVE it. I love your Freebie Fridays and am currently in the middle of a month of slow-cooker dinners, thanks to you! My family loves it.

Here’s a freebie I thought I’d pass along to you, it’s worth checking into: is offering a free trial of 25 free songs that will work on any MP3 player, including the iPod. You just join and get the songs as part of your free trial, and if you cancel before the trial’s over, you don’t have to pay a thing and get to keep the 25 songs for FREE. Thanks for the great blog! As a stay-at-home mama, I’m loving the wealth of information on here.

Have a great week!


Many thanks to Lindsay for sharing her freebie find this week. If you would like to share a letter with us, just email me at [email protected] and we will share your freebies with our readers.

Register to receive a free bag of Purina One Dog or Cat food. There is a short questionnaire which will take between three and five minutes to complete. Please allow four to six weeks for your coupon for free dog or cat food to arrive. If you are already registered with Purina, this process takes about one minute to complete.

Claim a complimentary one year subscription to Antiques Magazine. This is a GREAT addition to any coffee table. Beautiful pictures and would make a lovely gift for someone special in your life. You can answer no to any of their offers, making this a truly free magazine subscription.

Claim a free one year subscription to Giant Magazine. This is a digital version, not the print version.

Get a free Choose to Know Bracelet, making women aware to have testing done to prevent them from cervical cancer.

Register to receive a free subscription to Global Finance Magazine.

Get a free sample of Feline Greenies for your cat. Please limit one per household.

Walmart is offering free samples of Viactiv Calcium Chews on their website. Please allow up to four weeks for delivery.

Register to receive a free 1GB USB Drive. The offer is really for a 512mb drive, but you can upgrade to a free 1GB USB drive if you provide email addresses for three of your friends. This offer does not ask for your email address so there are no worries about receiving any spam from this company. Please allow six to eight weeks for delivery.

Print your own holiday cards for free, with 23 templates to choose from, by using this free software from Post-It.

Get a coupon to receive a free beauty magazine from Sally Beauty Supply.

Black Friday 2006

Thursday, November 16th, 2006

Black Friday is quickly approaching so start resting up! Most of the store advertisements are posted and ready for your viewing pleasure. If you want to view scanned versions of the advertisements, discuss deals with others, join a mailing list, and comparison shop visit this Black Friday 2006 website. The comparison shopping, in particular, is a great tool. Just search under the specific item you are looking for and they will pull the information from each advertisement for you and tell you the best deals.

Click the comments and share what deal you have found and how you plan to do your holiday shopping this year. Are you shopping on Black Friday or holding out until the crowds die down? Waking up at the crack of dawn or holding out until ten in the morning?

Happy shopping and enjoy paging through those advertisements!

Pumpkin Spice Lattes

Monday, November 13th, 2006

My absolute favorite drink at Starbucks is their Pumpkin Spice Latte. Each year, I look forward to them adding this onto their menu and this year was no exception. Unfortunately, my wallet can’t handle the frequent trips to get coffee so I have had to get creative this year.

My girlfriend, Christina, had this amazing little gadget called the Cocomotion. If you haven’t seen one of these, check it out and put it on your Christmas list. I decided to go with the Back to Basics Cocoa-Latte Maker (similar, but it has a dispenser to dispense the drink) and I have yet to be disappointed with it. It is so nice because it stirs and heats everything up, just like a blender. When it is hot, it will stop stirring and you can hit the Dispense button. As it comes out, it will come out with a beautiful froth on top, just like the coffee shops. I think the best part about it is no cocoa or coffee goes to waste. I hate when you get the bottom of your glass and there is all this cocoa that fell to the bottom and didn’t get mixed properly. With this machine, you don’t have that problem.

We have had our little cocoa machine humming every single night. As soon as I flip it on, it is like I have Pavlov’s dog in our house. Everyone runs up the stairs to wait impatiently for the cocoa to be ready.

Well, my handy little gadget makes the absolute BEST Pumpkin Spice Lattes and after trying several combinations, I finally have a recipe that I am happy with. This recipe will make two large lattes and I hope you can enjoy it as much as we have.

To save on cost, store your morning’s coffee in the fridge to be used for the lattes. You can also save on the cost of these by making a batch of powdered milk for your drinks.

If you want to splurge a bit, make sure to have whipped cream on hand to top with a dusting of cinnamon.

Let me know if you get a chance to try this recipe! Adjustments can be made according to your own taste! This is the perfect post-Thanksgiving Day treat!

Amy’s Version of Starbuck’s Pumpkin Spice Latte

2 cups milk
1 cup very strong coffee
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 teaspoons sugar (or one packet of Splenda)
1 teaspoon cinnamon (plus extra for dusting)
2 heaping spoonfuls of pumpkin

Pour all of the ingredients into a pot and heat over medium-high heat until the coffee is steaming hot. Pour into mugs and top with whipped cream & cinnamon. Enjoy!

If you are interested in purchasing a Cocoa-Latte Machine, check out Ebates and order from there. They have the Cocoa-Latte Machine (just go under Search in the left hand corner) for $29.99 with four percent cash back through the Ebates program.

Not an Ebates member? Read my short sermons on why you should join and sign up today. You get five bucks in your account and so do I for referring you. It is THE place to Christmas shop! Please be sure the use the link provided so that we get credit for our referral!

The Christmas Jar

Saturday, November 11th, 2006

Creating memories for Christmas can be an amazing experience for your child. Buying presents is easy, but creating a memory that will last a lifetime is more difficult and more rewarding for parents.

This year we are creating a Christmas Jar and we are filling it with twenty-five activities to do with them starting on December 1st. Each day we will draw an activity and complete it. Not only will the activity be fun, but it will also be a great way to mark down the days until Christmas.

Find any Mason jar and decorate it any way that you would like. On pieces of wrapping paper, create an activity to do each day and tuck it inside of the jar. On December 1st, begin the ritual of drawing from the jar and completing the activity for the day.

Here is a list of ideas to be included in your jar. You can change the activities as your child ages and as their interests change. The important thing is to be creative and have fun making memories with your children. They will remember these activities more than the latest gizmo you tucked under the tree for them. This may even be something that they do with their own children someday! Holiday Activities for Your Christmas Jar

  1. Watch a Christmas movie or holiday show on television. Get a complete list of Christmas shows and record them to watch together.
  2. Go see the Christmas lights in the neighborhoods in your pajamas.
  3. Drink a mug of hot cocoa under your Christmas tree.
  4. Read the true story of Christmas.
  5. Open one gift early.
  6. Bake cookies and take a plate to the firefighters. See if you can get a tour of the fire station and the engines!
  7. Write a letter to Santa to leave on Christmas Eve.
  8. Make a snowman.
  9. Make a snow angel.
  10. Pop popcorn and play a board game together, while listening to holiday music.
  11. Go to the dollar theatre and see a movie. Sneak in a snack.
  12. Go to the library and pick out books about Christmas. Read them together.
  13. Give the kids a bath while Christmas carols blare into the bathroom. See who can sing the loudest.
  14. Get or make stocking stuffers for Dad.
  15. Write a note to each member in the family to tell them how special they are and what you love about them. Leave them in their stockings.
  16. Draw a holiday picture and send it to a relative (of the child’s choice).
  17. Take a tour of lights in another neighborhood. Pop popcorn to take with you and blast Christmas carols in the car.
  18. Make an ornament together for the tree. Try to incorporate a picture of your child and have them choose the decorating. Write the year on the back and try to add one of these each year.
  19. Bake cookies for yourselves.
  20. Visit Santa at the mall (even if you already did this once).
  21. Start a holiday memory book. Quote your child and ask them what their favorite thing they had done (so far) was for the holidays. Record what they asked for from Santa. Take a picture of them for that year with their Santa gift.
  22. Print out a Holiday Coloring Page and color it.
  23. Make Christmas Crackers to put in each stocking. Take tissue paper and cover each toilet paper roll with it. Take ribbon and tie to close one end of the roll. Fill it with candies and confetti (if you wish). Tie the other end with ribbon and place these in each family member’s stocking. These can be opened on Christmas morning. To make them extra special, have your child write a note to each family member and tuck them inside. It will be a special surprise for everyone!
  24. Go to the library and pick out a movie to watch together as a family. Make homemade pizza and curl up together on the couch.
  25. Put together a box of items to donate and take your child with you to donate them. Ask them if they would like to contribute something that they have outgrown.

I hope that these ideas are a good start towards your Christmas Jar. Remember that these are the types of things that your child will remember and nothing in your jar necessarily has to cost you any money at all. Your child will long remember these times together and you will have created a memorable Christmas for the entire family. Happy Holidays!