Exercises in Frugality, Part 2

Hot Chocolate Mixes

Living here in chilly Wisconsin, we love our hot chocolate. I usually buy big boxes of hot chocolate mix at Sam’s Club, but decided to try to save a few dollars by making my own. Since I have a food processor, this isn’t hard to do.

There are many hot chocolate mix recipes online. Here’s the one I found, with ingredient costs in parentheses (all ingredients purchased at Aldi):

Hot Chocolate Mix

4 cups dry milk ($1.87)

1 1/2 cups sugar ($.26)

1 cup powdered coffee creamer ($.26)

¾ cup cocoa powder ($.50)

½ package instant vanilla pudding ($.25)

Blend ingredients together in a food processor. Use 1/3 cup mix in a mug of hot water.

A mug of this hot chocolate tastes fine. The instant pudding prevents the mix from sinking to the bottom of the mug. So what’s the problem?

The cost! It works out to 14 cents a serving. A box of 60 envelopes of Swiss Miss mix from Sam’s Club is $5.38 for 60 envelopes, or 9 cents a serving. Bummer. I didn’t work out the price ahead of time because I figured homemade would be cheaper.

However, all is not lost. Our son loves a brand of peppermint hot chocolate mix that is a bit expensive. Adding ½ t. of peppermint extract to this mix recipe makes the hot chocolate he loves at far less than its usual cost of 28 cents per serving.

Exercises in Frugality

R2D2, aka DAK

R2D2, aka DAK

Frugality, one of my favorite topics, continues to increase in popularity as the economy negatively affects more and more families.

Some people apparently take frugal tips pretty seriously; note a couple of cranky commenters at this post. Two thought the blogger’s tips were too common, and one misguided soul suggested the blogger stop homeschooling, put her kids in school and start an in-home daycare.

Instead of complaining that someone’s frugal tips are too basic, most commenters helped by sharing their own tips. I think I’ll do the same for the next few posts.

Bread machines

My beloved Oster bread machine died several months ago after about ten years of use. The unit still worked but the pan began leaking oil (or something similar) into the bread because the seal was shot. A perusal of eBay introduced me to a few people* who would love to sell me a replacement pan for $20 plus $10 shipping.

Not interested. Instead, I hit the local Goodwill and bought a replacement, a Regal for $9. It made so-so dough and baked bread that resembled a doorstop in shape and heft.

I waited patiently while watching Goodwill for a new bread machine but kept seeing the same type as the Regal. A blogging friend suggested I buy a Zojirushi BBCCX20 Home Bakery Supreme Bread Machine as she’d had great luck with it. I checked it out on Amazon: $200+, and some (though definitely not most) people had trouble with it.

I know how ticked I’d be if I spent $200 on anything and it didn’t work right. So I decided to keep being patient and checking Goodwill. But then I saw a Sunbeam breadmaker at Walmart for $50. It had pretty decent online reviews, so I decided to use my birthday gift money to buy one, but when I went back, they’d cleared out that model and replaced it with another, whose model number came up empty on a Google search. Not a good sign!

Not long after this, I stopped by Goodwill and found four bread machines. Three were Regals or looked like them. The fourth was so funny looking that I didn’t realize it was a bread machine at first. But it came with recipes, and at $5 it seemed worth the gamble.

Turns out it’s old (1990) and works great! It has quite a fan club, and I can see why. I thought I was being so clever calling it R2D2 until I found out that many people call it that.

Anyway, it makes great bread and dough, it was $50 cheaper than the bread machine I saw at Walmart, and $200 cheaper than the Zojirushi. Definitely worth waiting for!

* Sounds like a profitable racket, so I gave my old Oster and the Regal to my eBay seller daughter, hoping she can make some money off the parts, paddles and manuals 🙂

Spending Too Much Time Shopping for Food and Supplies

If you’ve read my last book or visited my website, you know that I’m a huge fan of keeping extra food, household supplies, and medicine in the house. (I call my stored supplies my stashes, and I think they’re invaluable to busy homeschooling moms.)

But once we decided to move, I started using up my food and supply stashes, figuring it made more sense to consume them than to pack, move and unpack them.

Using up what you have at home certainly makes for reduced bills. Not only do you not have to go shopping much, but staying out of the stores reduces impulse buys, so your bills are even lower than normal.

That’s the good news. The bad news is, now that we’ve moved, I not only have a hundred “moving in” things to do all at once (change addresses, banks, etc.), but I also have to go shopping for items I’d normally find at home in my stash.

To make it worse, no matter how many times I’ve run to the store since we moved in, I inevitably come home to hear someone say, “We’re also out of (fill in the blank).”

Sigh. I’ve moved “Restock the pantry and cabinets” to the top of my list.   :0

(Learn more about stashes HERE.)


We’ve spent the past week packing and now unpacking, and the result is that we’re eating lots of fast food and prepared meals from the grocery store.

This is not how we usually live. I’m frugal and prefer home cooking (i.e. meals made from scratch), so I’m accustomed to cooking all of our meals. Our transition from old house to new house may have given me a break from cooking, but it’s also shown me how much waste there is in eating this way.

First off, it’s a waste of money. For example, I spent $16 for breakfast for four at McDonald’s our first morning here. All we had was coffee or juice and Egg McMuffins. I could have made that much cheaper at home!

Then there’s the garbage that little breakfast created. Wrappers, paper napkins, plastic and paper cups and lids, cardboard cup holder….we had quite a little mountain of trash to pitch afterwards.

Once I found the paper plates, I did buy some prepared meals that I could just microwave or throw in the oven. They’re cheaper than eating out, but not by all that much. And again, there is waste in all the packaging involved that you then throw out. Tonight’s dinner of Stouffer’s Chicken Alfredo resulted in a large box and a large plastic pan being thrown out.

Finally, whether we eat in a restaurant or buy prepared food at the grocery, I know what we’re eating is not nearly as healthy as eating home-cooked meals. In some ways, it’s a waste of calories. Who knows what’s in the stuff we’ve been eating? At least when I cook, I know what’s in our meals: less fat, less salt, few preservatives……and more nutrition.

The Aftermath of Moving

Moving In

Buy at AllPosters.com

It’s good to be back online, even though I have no business doing so since I’m surrounded by boxes and chaos everywhere I look.  But sometimes you just have to take a little break here and there to keep your sanity.

If you’ve ordered a book directly from us, bear with us. The printer isn’t hooked up yet (don’t know where it is but it has to be around here somewhere!) so we can’t print invoices and shipping tickets. We’ll get your order out soon, I promise.

Dd18 begins tech college on Monday, and soon after that I’ll start another year of homeschooling, but this time with only one child, our youngest, ds16. What a strange feeling! I’ve been homeschooling at least two children for so long that I can’t remember what it’s like having only one child to work with!

This year we’re homeschooling in a new place. We loved living in Door County, Wisconsin the past two years. While the area we just moved to is not nearly as scenic (not many places in the Midwest can compare to Door County!), it’s three hours closer to friends and family, including our adult children. So that’s a big plus  🙂

The house we just moved into was built in 1920. It has only ever had two owners. The first was a school teacher who never married. The second is our landlord, and she’s also a school teacher. I think having homeschoolers in this house will be a nice change of pace! It’s a very pretty house with high ceilings, original woodwork and lots of character.

We’ve never lived in a city before and never lived in a historic district, so this is a continuation of our adventure of living in new places, which began when we left suburbia two years ago for life in a vacation town between a bay and one of the Great Lakes. Once we get settled in, I think we’re going to like it here. But we’ll never get settled in if I don’t go back to unpacking boxes, so offline I go……