Friday, January 30, 2015

Saving Money on Ground Beef - Taco Meat Recipe






Meat is often the most expensive part of any meal, especially if you try to buy high quality organic grass fed ground beef like us. Even after shopping around we still pay $4.99/lb at Costco, but we looking into buying part of a cow from a local farmer (post to come!).  An easy way we have found to save money on meat is simply to use less with each meal. Meals with meat as an ingredient such as chicken noodle soup, lasagna, or enchiladas use a lot less meat than a meat centered dish such as steak, pork chops, or marinated chicken. You can easily decreased your grocery bill by replacing one meat-centered meal a week with a vegetable or bean-centered dish.

Another method to reduce your meat budget is to stretch your meat! Not with artificial fillers like many fast food restaurants, but instead with wholesome legumes such as lentils. The easiest example of this is with taco meat. After cooking our ground beef we add cooked lentils and then season them both with taco seasoning. Most people can hardly tell the difference which we observed when we cook tacos for a group of young adults at a weekend retreat. Cooking for 40 people on a small non-profit budget teaches you to be frugal!



The ratio of meat to lentils is up to you and can easily be adjusted. For those that are not used to lentils we recommend starting with 75% meat to 25% lentils and transitioning to 50/50 (we go even further and usually use 75% lentils to only 25% meat). With anything, change can be hard so gradually transitioning to more lentils is usually better. When you first start eating more beans and lentils you may notice increased flatulence (farting! lol). The good news is that your body adjusts within two weeks. So that old saying schoolyard saying - Beans, beans...



.. is only half true! Even if you only cut your meat from 100% to 75% your price will be greatly reduced.



For those that need proof: Let’s figure a family of 4 (two adults and two children) are going to be eating tacos for dinner. To be generous we will estimate that each person will eat 1/2lb of taco meat.
4 people X ½ lb =2 lbs
2lb meat x $5/lb= $10 meat


If you replace 50% of the meat with lentils which usually cost less than $2 for a 1lb bag (5 cups cooked) you can cut your cost by $4.20.
50% meat= 2 cups (1lb)
50% lentils= 2 cups cooked lentils


with lentils being $2 for 1lb bag or 5 cups cooked
$2/5 cups= $0.40/cup


Total total of “taco meat” (50% meat 50% lentils)= $5.80
Total Savings using 50/50 “taco meat”= $4.20
(Of course bigger families would save even more!)


Still not convinced? Let’s pretend you make our “taco meat” once a month you would save $50.40/year. That is not including using lentils in enchiladas, burritos, spaghetti sauce, meatballs, sloppy Joe's, Shepard's pie, etc.


  1. Rinse lentils in a strainer
  2. Cover with water in a saucepan or pot (use the same one you plan to cook them in to save dishes)
  3. Soak overnight on the counter
  4. Drain and cover with water again
  5. Bring to a rapid boil then reduce heat to a simmer and cook uncovered for 20- 30 minutes or until soft. Drain any remaining water.
No time to soak or forgot to plan ahead: Follow the same directions but increase cook time to 30-45 minutes.


How to Cook Lentils (Dry and NOT Soaked)
  1. Rinse lentils in a strainer
  2. Cover with water in a saucepan or pot
  3. Bring to a rapid boil then reduce heat to a simmer and cook uncovered for 30-45 minutes or until soft. Drain any remaining water.


Time Saving Tips (Time is Money!)
When cooking lentils you can cooked the whole bag and freeze in two cup portions for using later. Two cups of frozen lentils quickly thaw when placed in the pan with cooked ground beef. Make sure you have enough seasoning (link) for both the lentils and beef after they are mix together. If it becomes too dry add some water you saved after draining cooked lentils.


Save even more money by making your own taco seasoning. I make a triple batch of the spicy version and save it in an airtight container. Here is the recipe for homemade taco seasoning(link):




Taco Seasoning


2 TBSP chili powder (spicy version: 2 1/2 TBSP)
1 tsp Oregano
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp sea salt
½ tsp black pepper
¼ tsp crushed red pepper or cayenne (spicy version: ½ tsp cayenne)


Directions: Mix together and store in an airtight container for up to 6 months. If you want a spicy version add more of the chili powder and cayenne pepper. Those that do not like spicy feel free to reduce chili powder and cayenne or completely leave out.  To make a smoky version add smoked paprika instead of sweet paprika.

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FFF

Make Your Own Taco Seasoning



Taco Seasoning

2 TBSP chili powder (spicy version: 2 1/2 TBSP)
1 tsp Oregano
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp sea salt
½ tsp black pepper
¼ tsp crushed red pepper or cayenne (spicy version: ½ tsp cayenne)

Directions: Mix together and store in an airtight container for up to 6 months. If you want a spicy version add more of the chili powder and cayenne pepper. Those that do not like spicy feel free to reduce chili powder and cayenne or completely leave out.  To make a smoky version add smoked paprika instead of sweet paprika.

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FFF

How to Cook Dry Lentils


How to Cook Lentils (Soaked) - Recommended for better nutrients and digestion
  1. Rinse lentils in a strainer
  2. Cover with water in a saucepan or pot (use the same one you plan to cook them in to save dishes)
  3. Soak overnight on the counter
  4. Drain and cover with water again
  5. Bring to a rapid boil then reduce heat to a simmer and cook uncovered for 20- 30 minutes or until soft. Drain any remaining water.
No time to soak or forgot to plan ahead: Follow the same directions but increase cook time to 30-45 minutes.

How to Cook Lentils (Dry and NOT Soaked)
  1. Rinse lentils in a strainer
  2. Cover with water in a saucepan or pot
  3. Bring to a rapid boil then reduce heat to a simmer and cook uncovered for 30-45 minutes or until soft. Drain any remaining water.



Time Saving Tips (Time is Money!)
When cooking lentils you can cooked the whole bag and freeze in two cup portions for using later. Two cups of frozen lentils quickly thaw when placed in the pan with cooked ground beef. Make sure you have enough seasoning (link) for both the lentils and beef after they are mix together. If it becomes too dry add some water you saved after draining cooked lentils.


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FFF

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Quick Tip of the Day: How to Save with Amazon Prime

If you missed the deal it is alright! There are still savings to be had using Amazon Prime!


Here's how you can get even MORE out of it!


  • Arrange with a close friend or family member to split the cost of the membership and only use one person's account (you really have to trust them!).

  • You can ship to multiple addresses and use multiple forms of payment so you could pay for your own stuff and get it shipped to your house.

  • Two people can stream video at the same time so both families can watch at the same time as well!

  • Kindle books can be sent to multiple devices including Android phones, internet browsers and any tablet. You could easily share this as well.

For an even cheaper option that does not involve streaming you can add up to four different people. If you split the cost of Prime evenly that would be about $25 a person per year. You may want to think of a different arrangement because only the originator of the account can take advantage of the video and music options.Maybe a $20, $20, $20, $40 split with the person paying $40 getting the streaming ability.



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FFF

Monday, January 26, 2015

Quick Tip - Energy Saving Oven Tricks

Quick tip for today!

It is pretty cold here in Michigan during the winter and we like to save as much money as we can on heating the house.

One tip is to leave the oven door open (or cracked open) when you are finished cooking. Let that heat that has already been made escape into your home and your furnace won't have to work quite as hard.

There would be the same amount of radiant heat as if the door was shut. However, you would not notice a difference as it would escape slowly over time and you would lose some heat to the wall that is behind the stove that could escape elsewhere. It gives you a higher until rate of radiance over time when open.

My brother-in law Joe also suggests shutting the oven off early in the Summer and letting the food cook so you get the most out of the heat output. Great idea!

Actual savings? I don't know. But it has to help!



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FFF

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Cheapest Baby Toy Ever (I think)

So my 9 month old son is quite active and seems to lose interest in toys rather quickly. For about a day now this has been one of his new favorites.


So here is how you make it:

Put some popcorn kernels (or dried beans) in a plastic bottle. It is also a good idea to clean this bottle well before handing it to you kid.

This happens to be an empty pop bottle that I obtained from a table at the public library (free).

So it really cost us almost nothing.

I can also envision some creative folks bedazzling the bottle up in ways to make it even more engaging for their children. My wife suggested adding a little bit of multiple dry food sources to make it more comfortable. I opt for the most simple route usually :)

Thanks for reading,
FFF




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FFF

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Save Money by Using an Egg Substitute...Flax Meal

This post is somewhat inspired by this morning's breakfast, oatmeal raisin pancakes.

As a family we try to limit our consumption of animal products. This is not only for health reasons, but it is also a money saver. We do eat eggs from time to time but when we do we usually spend a little more for higher quality organic eggs from Costco for about $0.28 an egg. Most people pay closer to $2.00 a dozen or $0.166 an egg.



You can easily get that price per "egg" down to $0.036 (between 3 and 4 cents) per egg by using a simple and effective flax meal substitute. I came to that price per egg by taking the price of a regular bag of organic flax meal and dividing by the number of servings. I guess you could round up to 4 cents to account for the price of the water you will use, but it wouldn't even equal that four thousandths of a dollar.



Anyway, here's how you do it for one egg!

In a small bowl mix a tablespoon of flax meal with three tablespoons of warm water.
Let it sit for about 3 minutes.

Stick a fork in it because it's done! (don't actually stick a fork in it).

It will look like this.



We use this as a substitute in all kinds of recipes that include baking, cooking etc.

We have also used a hybrid for some things that need that super strong binding ability of eggs in which we will use one flax meal substitute egg and an actual egg. However, we find that this quick trick works really well for daily uses and it saves us money while givings us a wider range on nutrients.

The health benefits of flax meal are wonderful as it is very high in fiber and in essential fatty acids.

Here is a great blog with much more information about flax in general by Kitchen Stewardship: http://goo.gl/GKukmR

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FFF

Friday, January 23, 2015

Get Yourself a Cooler for Traveling!

So here's a quick money saving trick that saves us hundreds of dollars annually; using a cooler when traveling or staying somewhere over night!

My wife and I tend to travel often. Both for short family vacations and traveling to see family members. We don't live in the same areas as our parents so we seem to be on the road frequently.

When I was growing up we would always stop at fast food or a gas station to load up of drinks and snacks whenever we were on the road, even if it was just a hour drive to where we were going. As we started our own family we decided that was way too expensive and impractical.

We now have a little travel cooler that goes with us whenever we travel. Here is a link to the one we have (although we did not pay this much for it): http://goo.gl/xsl0Ox . When heading out on the road some things that are often packed are, but are not limited to...



Apples
Bananas
Soups in Containers (can heat with microwaves at gas stations)
Pre made pasta dishes (can heat with microwaves at gas stations)
Water (in reusable bottle that you can fill at gas stations)
Homemade Iced Tea
Sandwiches (Canned tuna or salmon mixed with avocado are our favorite for the road)
Salsa for chips and salsa
Hummus and Veggies

and many more...

It costs less than $10 to fill that cooler with enough food for a meal and snacks easily and we are not spending money on needless drinks at the gas station.

If on a longer vacation make sure to hit up a grocery store when possible to replenish. When we're traveling we really like finding a Trader Joe's to stock back up on our fruit and veggies. Also, we've had some great luck getting free ice when stopping because we show the cooler to gas station attendants and tell them we'd be wasting a lot of ice if we have to purchase a bag. In the worst of cases they'll charge 50 cents.

All of the ways we've used the cooler to save money:
Overnight at the hospital
On the road
Overnight at a family or friend's home
To the park
Running errands all day
All day sporting event
Overnight in a hotel without a fridge

Make sure to check out this LINK for tips on packing and some great road-trip recipes. 

You can also use it to incubate your homemade yogurt (look for how to in a later post)

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FFF



Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Plastic Debate...



So as a money saver I do enjoy catching Dave Ramsey on the radio from time to time to hear what he has to say. Obviously, this guy has some aspects of his program that really work for people. If you do not know who he is you can check him out here: http://www.daveramsey.com/home/. He's all about becoming debt free, and in general, I agree with his message!





One aspect I have heard of his program on the radio is to have people stay away from plastic, i.e. credit cards and debit cards. There is a ton of research that states that people do tend to spend more compulsively when using plastic and I believe it in terms of the general public. However, there are some great advantages to using plastic as well.


Advantages:


1) Instead of cayring a bunch of cash around it is much safer to carry around a card or two. If stolen or lost you can deactivate them and they are widely accepted.

2) Many credit cards and debit cards offer reward programs. For me, I make around $50/month in credit card rewards depending on what type of promotion is offered for the particular month. Right now the 5% cash back with my Chase card is for groceries and I am going to buy those regardless. The Chase Freedom card has worked very well for us



3) If you have a disputed charge with a credit card you can simply call the company and they are likely to work with you. For example, friends of ours bought furniture from Ashley furniture that arrived damaged. They returned the furniture Ashley wouldn't work for them on a full refund After calling Chase our friend's payment was stopped and they were not charged.

4) It is really the only safe way to make purchases online and there are vast savings to be had on the world wide web.



5) With some rewards programs you can get gift certificates worth more than the cash back would be worth which are great for when you need to eat out when traveling or giving as gifts.

6) It builds credit if you use them responsibly.

7) It is easy to save purchase information by just checking your account on-line or on an app on your phone. For me this organizational ability great.

Some tips for not overspending using credit cards.

1) NEVER CARRY A BALANCE!!! I went all caps there on purpose. It defeats the whole purpose if you are using it as a payday loan.

2) Move cash from one account to another as you make purchases. Have the second account set up as the automatic payment account for your credit card and then you are only spending cash that you do have.

3) Pay monthly bills that have to be paid anyway automatically with credit cards. Heat and electricity are prime examples. You might as well take the kick back that you would not get if paying out of your checking account.

4)Do not keep it in your wallet if you are a super compulsive shopper. Bring it with you for outings to the grocery store and only buy items that are on your list.

5) Have only a couple of credit cards that are different. Do not get two different Visa cards as they may not both be accepted everywhere. I personally break this rule a little as I have two credit cards that are Visas and two debit cards that are Master Card (more to come on the debit cards later).


All in all, for the right user credit cards are great secure ways to make purchases. Like anything, they do take some will power. For me personally, I feel it just as much if I swipe the card as if I pay cash because I know and understand that they are all coming from the same pot of money. If your self control is in place credit cards can actually be a way to save money and work on becoming more frugal!

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FFF

Welcome to the Faithfully Frugal Father!

This is going to be my first attempt at a blog but I am very excited. I am a proud family man and other than my faith I find that I have a passion for pinching pennies in meaningful and practical ways.

Here's a little background about me that got me to where I am...

My wife and I are devoutly Catholic and use our faith to inform all of our financial decisions.

I am a relatively new teacher (first profession) and am toward the bottom of the pay scale.

My wife has been a nurse for four years.

We have a 10 month old son.

My father was a small business owner and I worked for him from ages 6-20.

At this point we have no debt except for our home (which many do not count as debt...but I do).


This blog is intended to give ideas about how to save money; not only by doing quirky things around the home, but in order to work toward building wealth and managing money properly for a more stable family.

I am not claiming to be an expert but I have found some things that work well for us and I'd like to share to possibly help others on their financial journey.


By being frugal we have been able to live in a neighborhood that is much nicer than people with similar incomes, take annual family vacations, build future financial stability with various methods of retirement, and be able to just be comfortable in our own skin when it comes time to pay bills every month.

Some of the savings I have found are in the areas of entertainment, food, home, child expenses, healthcare, shopping, clothing, etc.

More specific blog posts coming soon!

Thanks for reading. If you enjoyed the blog please subscribe by entering your email into the email update box on the right column.

FFF