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In what year were you born? 1933

Where did you grow up? Poplar Bluff, MO, so in the country

Did you get any education/specific training after high school? If so, what? Nursing school for three years; earned my RN degree.

Where have you lived as an adult? Poplar Bluff area, Fayetteville, Ark., back to Poplar Bluff, Sikeston, Mo., Kansas City, Mo., St Louis Mo

What has been one of the most challenging times economically in your life?
The most challenging time was when my husband got out of college. I was pregnant, and  had premature twins, so I was not working and he got his pay checks once a month.

What are some lessons that you learned during this time to make resources stretch?

  • I had a small garden
  • I walked to the grocery store (had 1 car and husband took it to work)
  • We bought mostly grocery items on sale and made meals from those.
  • No clothes dryer, put everything on the line.
  • Bought only clothing that was on sale.
  • We also took no vacations.
  • We went to the library and checked out books every week instead of buying them for the children.
  • Bought toys and  clothes at garage sales.
  • Saved water in gallon jugs from the water faucet until it got hot instead of letting it go down the sink to wash dishes or shower. We then used it on plants outdoors and inside, mopping floors.

What are three (or so) key tips you would like to give to those younger who are figuring out how to manage a household, run a family, and/or become better stewards of the resources God has given them?

  • Don’t buy anything that you can get by without.
  • Save cash to buy furniture or a car.
  • Don’t put things on credit cards unless you can pay for it monthly without fees.
  • Don’t buy any costumes, make them with the items you have around the house.
  • Use coupons, but only for things you absolutely use or need.
  • It’s cheaper to make meals instead of buying box or ready prepared foods.
  • Use all left overs, either in soups or combined dishes.

Carol R’s Recipe For Cranberry Chicken

Serves 4-6

1/2 cup flour
1/2 salt
1/4 tsp pepper
6 skinless boneless chicken breasts
1/4 cup butter or margarine
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
1 cup water
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
Dash ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar, optional
Cooked Rice

  1. In a shallow dish combine four, salt, pepper.
  2. Dredge chicken in flour mixture.
  3. In a skillet melt butter or margarine over medium heat.
  4. Brown the chicken on both sides. Remove and keep warm.
  5. In the same skillet add cranberries, water, brown sugar, nutmeg and vinegar if desired. Cook and stir until the cranberries burst, about five minutes.
  6. Return chicken to skillet. Cover and simmer for 20-30 minutes or until chicken is tender, basting occasionally with the sauce.
  7. Serve over rice.

I’m so excited to start this new series! Awhile back I got the idea to interview my mom with the intent of picking her brain for information you all would find helpful. In the process of talking with one of my readers about this, we brainstormed how great it would be to interview many different women who are further along in the journey of life.

Our goal is to get to know these ladies a bit, find out some things they’ve learned in the course of their lives, and glean helpful info as we seek to live our own lives to the fullest. Essentially, we are going to “chat with mom”!

If you know of someone you think I should interview for this series, please contact me so we can go from there. frugalouis (at) gmail (dot) com. In addition, if you have a question you think I should add to my interview form, please leave a comment to that effect on this post. Thanks!

And now, without further ado, the chat with my mom, Ruth B!

In what year were you born? 1944

Where did you grow up (and if from the STL area, what high school did you attend)? Kirkwood, MO—KHS ’61 (rah, rah!)

Did you get any education/specific training after high school? If so, what? College of Wooster 4 years

Tufts University—Eliot-Pearson Dep’t of Child Study—Ed.M in Child Study (early childhood education)

Where have you lived as an adult? Wooster, OH; Chicago, IL ; Evanston, IL; South Bend, IN

What has been one of the most challenging times economically in your life?
Actually, I don’t think it was when we were unemployed, although those were tough—I remember more stress a bit later, when things just were very tight. I remember a really fun Christmas, when both we and some cousins were really (for us) broke, and had just simple little gifts. We shopped at the international store that was up the street then, and found little gifts for $0.10 and $0.25.

What are some lessons that you learned during this time to make resources stretch?

  • I found out that there lots of kinds of dried beans to use and cheaper meats, to stretch food costs.
  • Also, not stopping for iced tea or coffee and…
  • not buying new clothes. Thrift stores!
  • God provides — through friends, through thrift stores having just what we need (plaid shirts, no buttons on collars!, in my son’s size, $0.10 each!!), for mysterious boxes arriving—cowboy boots for our younger son and no one knew where they came from…God’s loving attention to detail!

Have you had other factors in your life that have led you to live a more frugal life? If so, please share. My Home Management Resources training has reinforced the “Use it up, wear it out, make do, or do without” policy.

What are three (or so) key tips you would like to give to those younger who are figuring out how to manage a household, run a family, and/or become better stewards of the resources God has given them?

  • Keep track of EVERYTHING that you spend—use an envelope and write everything down!
  • Plan in some fun money for yourself and the family.
  • Give faithfully, as God shows. He pours back.
  • Have a family meeting every week—it’s like therapy. You know that you can get something off your chest and so can make it through until then. Include a fun dessert and maybe a game.

Is there anything else you would like to share with us? See family meeting tip above—this is something that I wish that we had done more faithfully during the growing up years.

Would you please share a favorite recipe, stain removal tip, or other simple key to managing a frugal household? For stains, Basic H (now H2) usually works, or soaking in Nature Bright (both Shaklee products).

Ruth’s Recipe:


Serves: 2-3

1/2 pound sausage (links or bulk)

oil, if sausage is lean

3 rounded Tablespoons flour

2 eggs

pinch of salt

Milk – enough to make a thin batter

Gravy (leftover is fine)

1. Preheat oven to 425 or 450.

2. Brown sausage well in heavy skillet (cast iron works best).

3. Make a “Yorkshire Pudding” or popover batter:

-Mix flour and salt in a bowl; make well in the center.
-In separate bowl, mix eggs until fluffy.
-Stir eggs into flour/salt “well”.
-Beat until smooth while adding enough milk to make a thin batter (like liquid whipping cream).
-Beat well – lots of air bubbles are good.

4. Pour batter over cooked sausage in skillet.

5. Bake in hot oven until brown and crispy, about 15-30 minutes (if using 450 heat, turn down to 375 after first 8 minutes).

Serve immediately with gravy and your choice of veggies. Enjoy!

So far we’ve looked into laundry issues and inventorying our freezers, then moved to keeping an inventory of the pantry. In last week’s post I shared how I keep track of our shopping lists.

Now it’s time for what some of you might consider a real challenge: menu planning.

The year my husband and I got married, I was working for some friends of mine helping out the wife, who could not drive due to health issues. At the time, all six of the couple’s children were still living at home, and it was a busy household. In addition, the wife is a fantastic cook. What resulted was that I got paid to learn some great household management skills! Pretty nice, eh? (In all fairness, I must add that most of what I learned that year reinforced, rather than reinvented, what my mom had demonstrated all my growing-up years. 🙂 )

Probably the single greatest skill I acquired that year was menu planning. In addition, my employer/mentor/friend used a program called Cook’n to digitize her recipes, plan menus and make shopping lists. Often she had me enter recipes, which gave me a great chance to familiarize myself with the program. Then she gave me my very own copy of the software for my birthday, and I’ve been using it since! There are several other menu planning programs out there, but Cook’n is one of the better-known ones…and the only one I’ve used and can speak to from personal experience.

Regardless of how you do it, I believe creating and following a menu plan is one of the most important ways you can control your grocery spending. It is enormously important.

Here are some things I’ve learned about menu planning:

  • Schedule time into my week to plan the menu, preferably after the sale fliers for the week are out and a day or two before I plan to shop.
  • Consult my pantry inventory, food in my refrigerator and kitchen shelves, and my freezer inventory if I’m not sure what I have on hand.
  • If I’ve made a list of items I need to use, such as those nearing an expiration date, I’ll keep this list handy while making my menu.
  • Look over at least a couple different sales fliers and make note of the items I’m interested in.
  • This is also a good time to consult a coupon match-up for the sales fliers.
  • Mentally or actually check my calendar for the coming week to note any times we’ll be away from home at meals, or if we plan to have company.
  • Sit down to plan the menu, using items on sale for the week or that I have on hand as much as possible.
  • I have found that for a normal week, planning dinner is enough for us. We just make sure to have breakfast foods (green smoothies and hard-boiled eggs for us almost every morning) on hand, as well as a few “filler” lunch foods in cast we run out of leftovers. Some people love to put all three meals on their menu plan though. Just find out what works for you.
  • Realize I have the freedom to rearrange the order of the menu as needed. To keep track of this, I simply check off the meal after I’ve made it so I can see at a glance on my printed menu what I have available still to make.
  • Make a shopping list straight from my menu, and add other items off my running grocery list as needed. Cook’n generates a shopping list for me from my menu. I love this feature! Once the list is generated, I can check off items I have on hand to remove them from the list before I print it.

And now for a little blurb about Cook’n. Which, by the way, I am doing only because I use and enjoy the product. There is nothing in this financially for me. 🙂 :

After the somewhat laborious task of entering my recipes, I’ve found Cook’n to be easy to use and such a help in planning my menus! My recipes are right there for me to browse on my computer, search based on ingredients, and add to my menu. In addition, I can buy cookbooks from Cook’n to add to my collection if I desire, or I can import a friend’s personal cookbook if she uses Cook’n. My friend who started me on the program blessed me by giving me a copy of all of her recipes, and I was able to do the same for her.

How about you? Do you menu plan? Why or why not?

In part one of this series we talked about some laundry tips and keeping tabs on freezer contents. Part two covered an inventory of the pantry, both for food and non-food items.

So what’s next?

Considering that we’ve talked about managing food storage a bit, let’s move to keeping track of our shopping lists. Now, I’m not claiming this is rocket science by any means, but it’s a method that has worked well for us.

It’s simple:

  • I took some post-it-note pads and taped magnets to the back. The pads then hang on my fridge.
  • Then I put a title on each one for a store that we frequent, either online or brick-and-mortar. It might not hurt to have an “other” list as well.
  • For a running grocery list, I used a larger post-it-note pad and actually just stuck it on to the fridge with its own adhesive.
  • Right in with all of this is a pen, to which I taped a magnet. This comes in super handy, and I use it several times a day to update these lists or my pantry inventories.
  • This way when something comes to mind that we need, such as socks for one of the kids, I have a place to write it down.
  • When I go to shop or order online, I can pull off the desired list and take it with me or transfer it to a compiled list.
  • If I’m at a store and don’t have my list, I can call my husband (assuming he’s at home) and ask him to read me the appropriate list. He knows exactly where to find it.
  • The white paper is my “wish list” because I often don’t have a good answer when someone asks what I want for a birthday or Christmas. This way I remember what caught my interest, and I can even go back after some time is passed and cross things off because I realize I really don’t want or need them.

So how about you? What tricks have you found to make your shopping lists more efficient?

Coming next Wednesday: Menu Planning!

A frugal household is an efficient household, right? Misplacing and needlessly replacing items leads to waste, and we’re all trying to reduce that.

In part one of Running a Frugal Household I shared the system we’ve developed for keeping tabs on items in our freezer. We also looked at ways the laundry process runs more smoothly.

Today I’ll show you what works for us in terms for knowing what surplus food and non-food kitchen items we have. Take a look:

Our house is small, and we do not have the luxury of a pantry in the kitchen. We do, however, have some great storage in the unfinished side of our basement. Therefore I have turned a section of these shelves into our “basement pantry storage”.

  • Surplus food and non-food kitchen items (such as dish soap and plastic bags) are kept here.
  • The cereals and most other dry goods are in the large clear container at the bottom.
  • Containers with several items are labeled (ie, “party supplies”)

This wouldn’t do us much good, however, if we didn’t keep track of what we had down there! And so we came up with this solution:

A simple list! It is labeled “Basement Pantry Inventory”.

  • The columns, from left to right, are for number of items (with room to mark changes), space to indicate if an item is open or in a larger storage container, general name of item (ie, cereal), specific name of item (ie, Cheerios), and type of container (ie, box, can or bottle)
  • This is taped to the inside of one of our kitchen cabinets.
  • When I make a shopping list, it’s easy to consult this list to discover what I’ve got on hand.
  • Clearly, it’s imperative that this list be kept up-to-date. Otherwise it is useless.
  • Every few months I take down the list and update it in the computer so I’ve got a clean list, in alphabetical order, to hang.
  • I do not have included any expiration dates, which would be fantastic info to know. For me that’s just getting a wee bit too organized, however. My solution to this is to simply try to put newer cans/bottles/etc toward the back and move the older things forward.

The system we’ve found that works for keeping track of extra non-food kitchen items, such as dish or dishwasher soaps, foils and wraps, and the like, is very much the same:

This is hanging inside a different cabinet door in the kitchen and is labeled “Basement Pantry Non-Food Inventory”. It includes columns for:

  • Number of the item we have on hand
  • (A column we don’t actually use)
  • General description
  • More detail, if needed
  • Container type (ie, box)

And not that it really has much to do with running a frugal household, but here’s what’s inside the cabinet door over our large toaster oven:

Detailed instructions for using the (somewhat confusing) toaster oven! Oh, and a meat temperature chart too. As far as the oven instructions go, though, I posted them when my in-laws were going to spend the weekend at our home with our son. Did they use the instructions? I have no idea, but at least I felt much better having tried! 🙂

What about you? What systems have you developed for keeping tabs on the items in your household?

Coming next Thursday: Managing Shopping Lists!

I’m willing to venture that two top frustrations for homemakers are running out of items and unknowingly buying duplicates. Argh. Add to that simple forgetfulness that is common to us all, and it can be a challenging combination!

Having fallen prey to the above irritations, I’ve come up with a few systems around the house that help me to be more frugal with my time and the resources God has given us. Several of these ideas also let another person (such as my mom or mother in law) get a head-start on maneuvering in my home. This is particularly helpful after a baby is born.

Take a look:

  • Detailed instructions for washing and drying our cloth diapers are typed and then put in a page protector. This is taped with clear packing tape to the top of our washing machine.
  • Next to this is a sign I made with a 3×5 card covered with clear packing tape and a magnet taped to the back.
  • When I have a load of laundry with an item that shouldn’t go in the dryer, I place this sign next to the handle of the washing machine door as a reminder. This is more for me than anyone else, and can save some costly laundry errors!

Taped to the top of our chest freezer is a note reminding people to add/remove items from our inventory sheets when they add/remove items from the freezer.

  • This has been invaluable for keeping tabs on what we have in the freezer, and is an easy way to know if we have an item without opening the freezer and letting cold air out.
  • I have a page each for meals, meat, dairy, bread, fruits, vegetables, and other.
  • These are simple Word documents with tables in them.
  • The freezer inventory sheets are kept in a manila folder with a pen handy and stored on a shelf directly behind our freezer so they’re in arm’s reach.
  • I think a little three-ring binder would serve this purpose as well.

Have you found any great ways to keep things running smoothly in your frugal household? Please share!

Coming next Wednesday, part 2 of inventory and label!

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