Tag Archives: saving money


It’s October 1st and we are freezing!

Wait. What? It’s a beautiful, sunshiny, warm-ish (for October in the Pacific Northwest) day! But alas, my household is freezing. Our spending, that is.

Ruth over at Living Well Spending Less has put out the challenge, and I am up for it! The challenge: 31 Days of Living Well and Spending ZERO! Yes, ZERO! I’m a little nervous, but my nearly non-existent budget for the last…well, as long as I can remember…has prepared me for this day and this challenge.

My long-time blog readers and followers may recall me going on assorted different spending freezes, clean out the fridge/freezer/pantry challenges, and just plain being broke over the years, but this will be the first time I take on the challenge of actually committing to spending NO MONEY (aside from necessities and bills, of course.)

$10 Menu and Shopping List (Yes, I used coupons. No, I don't always spend so little at the store.)

$10 Menu and Shopping List (Yes, I used coupons. No, I don’t always spend so little at the store.)

All of this means that I am going to be brewing my stock-piled coffee stash (my beloved Starbucks Tribute will find its way into my coffee cup this month), will not be drinking wine (this isn’t a necessity, and I did NOT stock up before taking this challenge, because, well, that kind of defeats the purpose, right?) but may pull some long-forgotten vodka from the back of my freezer as I dig around in hopes of locating an also long-forgotten yummy treat to enjoy, and our menus will be fun and maybe a bit quirky as we use what is floating around our pantry, fridge, and freezers. This also means that my lunch-time visits to Starbucks are on hold for the month, as well as my more-frequent-than-I-care-to-admit trips through the McDonald’s drive thru for lunch (good-bye cheeseburger and small fries. I don’t think I’ll actually miss you, and I will be happy to keep my $2.62 per visit all to myself!)

What would you have the most difficulty giving up for a month, or even indefinitely? For me, it’s coffee (I know, shocking, right!? :)). And chocolate. My chocolate stash will surely run out this month…good thing I have plenty of chocolate chips. Yes, I know they are meant for baking into yummy treats, but I see no harm in popping a handful of that semi-sweet chocolatey goodness in my mouth while I give myself a pep talk convincing myself I do NOT need to go buy more Godiva chocolate (at the mall, where of course I will want to stop in at all my other favorite stores as well…). Don’t worry, Godiva, I WILL be back again. I won’t leave you forever, I love you too much and you make my stress melt away. xo

Now that you know what I *won’t* be buying, let’s talk about what I *will* spend money on. Bills. Gas (so I can get to and from work so I can get paid so I can pay those bills). Required school fees for my teens.

Perishable foods including produce (if needed. But we have an awesome neighbor who likes to share his garden goodies with us, so those may not be needed. Plus, I already spent the money on a Bountiful Baskets contribution that I get to pick up on Saturday, which should hold us over for a couple of weeks at least.), dairy, perhaps bread (I may decide we should just get back to making our own like we used to…) Our grocery budget is generally low anyway, in about the $200/month range, but we are cutting way back to just the basics and I anticipate spending around $40 this month.

Stick with me this month and see how much fun we can have without spending any money! It CAN be done, even with two teenagers roaming the house with me. They’re on board for the challenge too. I think. I hope. Well, if they’re not, I guess it’s time for them to get jobs. 🙂

I may not post all my random ramblings about this challenge here on my blog, so pop on over to my Instagram account and join the fun there. ThatCookGirl on Instagram


Filed under Life in General

Finding Dinner Menu Planning

Your menu planning and grocery shopping worries are about to come to an end! Introducing That Cook Girl’s Finding Dinner Menu Planning! Each week, you will be greeted in your email inbox with a new menu plan and grocery list. Stop wasting time and money wandering the aisles at the grocery, deciding what to make for dinner. I’ve got it all planned out for you.

The details are HERE and you can get started with your kitchen basics list HERE to get an idea of how simple your meal time can become.

So, are you ready? Subscribe now and don’t miss a thing!

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Filed under Cooking With Love


I owe you all so many posts. I had fun trying new foods with my kids in February, but was having so much fun and there were so many new and exciting things happening in our lives that computer time was limited at best. That’s a good thing, right? 🙂 I still want to share with you some food fun we had, and I will try to back-track and do that soon. In the meantime, I wanted to share with you some exciting news: I am changing jobs and career path! I realized I need to work directly with people and start working towards some larger life goals, so I have gone to work where I get to learn about coffee, talk to people, and smile all day long (and they pay me for this?!) This is going to free up a lot of time for me to get into college, learning about nutrition and so much more. It’s an exciting time!

And here’s some more excitement: My best friend talked me into offering my weekly menu planning and shopping lists to subscribers to make a little extra money. I wasn’t sure how that would work, but found a lot of people interested, and so I’m giving it a shot and I’m excited to launch my first email subscription with an aim to launch by April 1st (eek! That’s only a week away, isn’t it?! I better get back to my menu writing!)

So… for more information about joining my “Finding Dinner” menu subscription, check out the Finding Dinner tab and keep watching for details on how to confirm your subscription and find more time and money in your budget.

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Filed under Cooking With Love

Gettin’ Pickled

Two weeks ago was “pickle-makin’ weekend” at my sis’s house. I joined my parents, my sis and her foster daughter, and my own kids (who had arrived on Friday afternoon with my parents, as I was at a training and not arriving until nearly midnight) for the weekend on our quest to get pickled!

Mom & Dad picked up the cukes and other supplies needed for the pickling extravaganza, including snipping all the dill from the plants in my garden (I was hoping that big ol’ thing that was out-of-control was going to be useful!)

We had a great time all day, the kids were helpful… the girls were helpful by staying out of our way (at least I think that’s what they have made themselves believe. 😉 ) and the boy was helpful and learned how to make pickles, like my Great Grandma used to make!!! I’ll share the recipe with you, and you can see my sis’s video in her post about the weekend (linked in the first paragraph). As a reward for the all the boy’s hard work, the girls did all the dishes while he got to sit and relax. And he got to be the one to try the very first pickle out of the jars!!!

So, why did I wait 2 weeks to tell you about gettin’ pickled? Because it is 2 weeks from pickling day that the hard work pays off and you get to open the first jar and give them a try. Which means that TODAY, while my sis and her foster daughter were here, we opened the jar and watched as the boy child chose his pickle and took the first bite. And it was good. (And he is still alive, so we must have done it right, huh?)



Want to make your own pickles? Here’s the recipe:

Mom’s Dill Pickles
(Well, my Mom’s Mom’s… so that would be my Great Grandma)

Put 1 quart cider vinegar, 1 quart water, and ½ cup pickling salt together in a non-reactive**** saucepan and boil for a few minutes. Then pour the mixture over small cucumbers which are packed tightly into jars along with garlic, peppers, and fresh dill. (Ratios to your taste.) Process in water bath for 15 minutes.

I got to take home 28 of the 54 jars of pickles, because of my larger family. For those of you who think this sounds like a lot of pickles… well, today for lunch, we ate half a jar. My kiddos love to take pickles for their lunches and I like to put them out as a snack when we have people over, and then of course there is potato salad, sliced pickles on sandwiches, chopped pickles in tuna sandwiches… the list could go on and on… So… I think we might have enough to last us the year…

::Notes taken from my sis’s post:

** We are not bound by these guidelines, but if we want to enter things in the county fair, they must be made to USDA standards. Oh, and it’s meant to be safer.
*** Ratios of water/vinegar have been changed from the original to be in line with what we made. Dad also points out that some of the reasoning for this is that ‘in the olden days’ vinegar was more acidic that it is today.
**** Non-reactive saucepans are a stainless steel, chip-free enamelware pan, or glass pans.


Filed under Canning, Cooking With Love, Recipes

A Little Money Goes a Long Way

Many people are surprised to learn that I lived on and supported myself and 2 children on nothing more than $650 a month and the help of a food grant from the state for several months and during that time, we ate healthy, well rounded meals. I was fortunate enough to be living in assisted housing, which of course helped me make the ends meet. I’ve answered many questions about this time of my life, and I am always happy to share what I learned and how I managed to get my family out of that tough spot. Some of the more common questions have been:

1.) What was your food budget? (A: Around $150-$200/month)

2.) Yeah, but was the food good? (A: Why does food have to be pre-packaged or expensive to taste good?)

3.) Can I really make it work for my picky family? (A: YES! My kids were young, 2 & 4 years old… those are some of the pickiest eaters on the planet–ask any parent, they’ll tell ya!)

I have this first-hand knowledge of what it’s like to live on extremely limited income. I pulled myself up from that situation with the help and support of many wonderful people, to a point that I now work with families living in similar situations to what I got through. In my position, I don’t have the opportunity to share what I learned, what I went through, and how they can come through it.

One of the most important things I learned through it all is that menu planning will save you time, money and sanity! Some day, I will have at my disposal all the resources necessary to reach out to families living at or below poverty levels, and help them learn the skills to plan healthy, affordable meals. Menu planning, budgeting, and grocery shopping are skills that have been lost along the way and it’s time we start finding those skills, learning them and teaching them to everyone!

You don’t have to be rich to eat well. You just have to know how to shop and plan. I want to teach you these skills, and then I want you to teach the skills to someone else, plus pass the knowledge to your children.

Give me the resources to share and watch as changes emerge!


Filed under Cooking With Love, Menus

“I don’t have time to cook”

This is what I hear from many people I talk to for their reasoning to eat dinner “out” on a regular basis… To people who tell me they don’t have time to cook and then question how I find time to cook with how busy I am, I say “I don’t have time to eat out”… let’s think about this… and if you have kids at home, this especially applies to you…

I’m going to use my favorite local mexican restaurant as my example for the following reasons:

  1. I rarely eat dinner out, but when do, this is usually where I go
  2. They have probably the fastest service of any restaurant in town
  3. Moderate prices, friendly service 🙂

For the sake of argument, let’s assume you aren’t going out for dinner during “peak” dinner times. (Although we both know, if you’re going out to eat, you’re probably hitting the dinner rush along with everyone else who believes they don’t have time to cook.) Let’s also assume you know the menu pretty well, and it only takes as long as the drinks arriving at your table to make your menu selection… with those things in mind, let’s see if we can time it…

  • It’s dinner-time. 5 o’clock. You decide to go out. If you’re lucky enough to live in a small town and not have traffic to fight (I am that lucky!), let’s say 5 minutes to get to the restaurant. 5:05.
  • You are greeted by your favorite cheerful waitress who immediately takes you to your favorite table, chatting along the way. Drink orders are placed as you sit in the booth. 5:07
  • Menus open. Chips & salsa (and of course the guac you always order 😉 ) and waters arrive. Menu choices are made. Drinks arrive. 5:12
  • Place your order, but of course you know the waitress so there’s a little chatting, as well. Afterall, you eat out often, right? Because you don’t have time to cook… so you know the waitress. 🙂 5:18
  • Look at that… almost 20 minutes has gone by…
  • Now you’ll get a chance to visit with your family and eat some chips, salsa & guac and wait for your food. Since you’re supposedly not eating at “peak” dining time, let’s say food arrives quickly. 5:28 (Yes, at my fave place, when I go at off-peak times, my food really does arrive that fast, or faster! Sometimes even that fast at peak times…)
  • Listen to that sizzle, smell that yumminess in front of you! How fast do you eat? Well, that varies for everyone, but let’s say 15 minutes? 5:43
  • Your waitress is sweet and realizes you’re always in a hurry, so she left your bill while you were still eating. Get out the card to pay (paying with cash and don’t need any change? that’ll save you a few minutes). Credit card slip arrives to sign and you’re ready to head home. 5:45 (let’s just pretend that it only took 2 minutes to process that payment… we all know it takes a bit longer, though. 😉 )
  • Load up the family, drive home. 5:50

There you have it. 50 minutes for dinner! And guess what?! Your kids still have homework to do, and showers to take, and wouldn’t it be nice to get in a little snuggle time or reading time with them, too? And let’s be completely honest here… you’re probably eating at the dinner rush time, which will add quite a bit of time to your evening, not to mention  most people linger over their meals at a restaurant more than they would at home, and sit at the table long after they’ve finished eating… so we’re really looking at an hour+ for dinner…

My proposal to you: Spend 15 minutes on an evening, or a weekend sitting down with your family, planning out your week. Know what’s on the calendar for everyone, and plan your menus accordingly. No fancy software required. A simple notepad, lined or unlined, or a simple menu planning calendar like this one I found at a craft store will work just fine. Use your slow cooker for those craziest of days/nights, and you’ll spend 10 minutes prepping in the morning to come home and have dinner ready to eat! Next, by taking the time on a weekend, or evening to prep some foods for the week, you’ll be more likely to eat at home, knowing you have things ready to go. Cut the vegetables, slice or cube some cheese for snacks, shred some cheese, too, so you don’t have to buy the pre-shredded cheese (that’s not only more expensive, but has extra “stuff” on it to keep it from clumping!). Anything you can prep ahead of time for the week will save you time, and then MONEY by not eating out. You’ll also be saving your health!

Stay tuned for more on menu planning and quick meal time tips! I’ve got plenty, because I’m a busy momma and “I don’t have time to eat out”.

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Filed under Cooking With Love

Benefits of Cooking Dinner

As I was eating my lunch today I realized I should share with you one of the many benefits of cooking dinner at home. If you plan your menus and cook large enough dinners, you have your lunch sorted out for the next day. You save money not once, but twice (or more, depending on the meal and how much is left!).

I often am tempted (and give in to that temptation) to eat out for lunch when I’m at the office. It’s just that it’s so easy to run down the road and grab something. But, oh boy, does that put a damper on the budget! I’d like to go on vacation this summer. Eating lunch out 2-3 times a week sure won’t help me save up any cash for that!

So last night’s dinner leftovers were stored away in a nice lunch container and I brought it with me to the office today. A lovely roast with potatoes, carrots and asparagus awaited me when I realized I was quite hungry and needed a break from the piles of paperwork I was sorting through. I not only saved the cash I would have spent on lunch, but I can now use my lunch break time to write to all of you. 🙂

Comfort Food

Comfort Food. It's not just for dinner anymore.

Comfort food. It’s not just for dinner anymore!

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Filed under Lunches