FRUGALITY- "Prudence in avoiding waste." (

Why This Blog?

I am on a pretty strict food budget; I also pray that my family and I will never go hungry, so after so many years of being creative with limited food supplies and money (including a three-pound whole chicken turned into 13 meals for the 5 of us), P-R-A-Y-S became a food and household budget philosophy. It can be anything that keep you in line with your budget. Like PORTION, ROTATE, ANTICIPATE, YELL (from joy of having money left over) and SAVE. Each post will show how this philosophy was broken down with every dish and budgeting I share. So hold on to your wallets and stay tuned!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

When Money Is Just Not There

Good Housekeeping dot com

How do you deal with" very little" or "no money" situations?

I just read one of my friend Lara's post on how they managed a summer of no paychecks and it's amazing how when money's not a problem since it's not there, people get creative and become happier and more talented, if not wiser in the end. I, too, share that sentiment.

We've had our financial throw-downs over the past decade. But somehow, we have always managed. How?

We always PRAY for help. It gives us courage and open mind to rethink our situation and not let it overwhelm us. Back in 2004, when Mr. Man lost his well-paying job and had to be a cashier at a resort, our pleas brought us the decision to move to Mesa, AZ and he went back to school. Most of our school loan surplus went to paying the rent and electric bill during the hot spring and summer months! (you know I'm not exaggerating! AZ spring time is very warm and summers are brutal!) With coupons and careful math, our fridge, freezers, pantry, linen closet and room closet were full of what we needed. I was able to stock up diapers for my son and even help out a family for two full meals when their electricity went out due to a failure.

REINVENTING uses of what we do have help to stretch our dollars and creativity. Plus we get to spend more time together as a family. Our mentality of FREE is the best price for everything keeps us patient and courageous enough to ask for things that others discarded. We've also instituted the idea of "if we can spend money, we can find money". Ever heard of dumpster diving? Mr. Man, a total fan if there's a worthwhile coupon to hunt down.

ACCOMMODATING needs first have helped us focus on what's important and to live within our means. We have a needs list that we renew every year and is prioritized accordingly. We talk and research and then we wait. We even time our school shopping during tax-free days, money for shopping and deep clearance times to make sure our small budget hauls in big budget finds. Our children give up old clothes and shoes to be donated for new ones twice a year. It helps them hold on to their clothes longer and not have the "gimmes" in the store. "Gimme" whines are simply not allowed.

YOUR choices make a difference. During one extra lean year, I chose to hold a daycare for extra income and play the coupon game aggressively so that our cupboards never emptied, and it didn't! I ended up getting mostly free food and was able to use our then $20-a-week food budget towards other necessities that normally have coupons. We also no longer do gift-giving at Christmas time. Back in 2007, when Mr. Man's paycheck didn't even cover outside of our rent and car payment, we were blessed with amazing support from family, church members and friends. Miracles poured in left and right. We decided that we would focus the month of December in showing our gratitude to He who made our lives intact while living on practically nothing for 6 months. From that decision stemmed the January Shopping Spree where we save up $1 a day and use it in January for a "whole day shopping spree" of individual and family gifts, a movie and lunch.

We also make it a point to SAVE items with multipurpose potential for household "last minute" ideas and money from change, found coins and any extra from paychecks. We stick to a small budget and take advantage of unbelievable deals on items on our needs list. We literally celebrate when the bank is not screaming for us to pay any fees or when we have enough for an emergency dinner during a hectic night of "school functions".

I've learned that when we follow moderation and sensibility, our financial stress level does not go up (or even make a tiny hiccup) and we reap the benefits of being DIO (Do It Ourselves) people. We emphasize quality over quantity so that most projects are done once. I consult my pantry carefully for dinner time and always remind myself that we have enough food for the day.

So, how do you deal with your lean years?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Food Storage Spotlight- Oils

EVOO, Canola, Vegetable, Corn, Peanut, Butter, Lard...

They all have their place in our kitchen repertoire. Now it's up to us to store enough so that when there's an emergency and water is scarce for boiling, we can still bake and fry enough food until we can secure water.

It is best to understand that oils are both good and bad for you. But in moderation, they offer, Vitamin E, belly fat busting benefits such as Omega fats 3 & 6.

Sites like Nutra Ingredients dot com endorses mixing oils to harness the most benefits and books like Flat Belly Diet touts that with the right oils and fats, you can start to target belly fat that is quite harmful to your overall posture and heart health. Butters can be home made from whipping cream and block butter harden and can be frozen.

As with your other Food Storage,
-PICK the oils you wish to store and will use.
-RESEARCH best containment for long storage.
-ASSIGN an area where oils are far from variable temperature to secure freshness.
-YIELD oil amount to water amount storage. Water is more important to secure, inspect and rotate.
-STORE oil bottles in plastic containers to catch any spills that may happen during rotation.

This is from LDS. org about oils:

Storing Fats and Oils

Oscar A. Pike, “Storing Fats and Oils,” Ensign, June 1999, 71–73

Anyone who stores cooking oil knows how quickly it can develop “off” odors and flavors, a state called rancidity. An understanding of the causes of rancidity and proper storage conditions can help us enhance the storage life of cooking oil and other foods containing fat.

Some populations throughout the world obtain too many of their calories from fat and are striving to limit dietary fat. Nevertheless, we all need some fat in our diet from the standpoint of nutrition and taste. With respect to nutrition, certain fats are required in the diet for growth and good health, and fat is the “carrier” for certain essential vitamins. Regarding taste, many of the textures and flavors of foods that make eating enjoyable are attributable to, or carried by, the fat.

Storage conditions that affect the deterioration of fats, oils, and food in general are summarized in the acronym HALT: Humidity, Air, Light, and Temperature. Reducing exposure to humidity, air, light, and warm temperatures will prolong storage life. Proper food packaging can reduce or eliminate moisture, air, and light. Newly opened oil should be left in its original container or be placed in a clean container, since even a small amount of old oil mixed with fresh oil will hasten rancidity. Temperature dramatically affects the storage life and quality of fats and oils. Some fats, such as butter or margarine, can be frozen to prolong storage time. All fats, oils, and foods containing fat keep better in a cool area of a house, such as a basement.

Fats and oils vary in their ability to store for prolonged periods. Generally, shortening can be stored for several years, whereas cooking oil must be rotated more frequently. The storage life of fats and oils and foods containing them varies widely for several reasons: (1) storage conditions differ, (2) expiration dates differ, (3) most food products contain a mixture of different kinds of fats that vary in stability, and (4) individual consumers differ in their ability to tolerate rancidity. What may taste acceptable to one person may taste unacceptable to another. However, almost everyone can detect rancidity when only a very small amount of fat or oil has deteriorated. Thus foods containing even less than 1 percent of fat or oil can have a reduced storage life because of rancidity.

Food storage rotation, important in avoiding rancidity, is easier when we buy and store the types of foods we are accustomed to eating. In the United States, an average adult consumes each year the following approximate amounts of dietary fat in these various forms: 24 pounds in cooking and salad oils and mayonnaise-type dressings; 23 pounds in shortening and frying fats; 20 pounds of dietary fat from meat, poultry, fish, and cheese; and 13 pounds in butter, margarine, peanut butter, and other foods.

Obviously an ideal list of what everyone must store does not exist. Differences among countries, cultures, climates, and individual preferences require flexibility in food storage. Still, an understanding of the causes of food deterioration and proper storage conditions is helpful in maintaining quality food storage.—Oscar A. Pike, associate professor of food science, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah

Once you understand that oils are entirely your enemy, you can easily add them to your Emergency Food Storage knowing that with moderation, fried foods or salads have endless selection!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Decorating on a Budget

Do you find yourself in this situation?
-You have more design or idea magazines than furniture that you actually like?
-You have more ideas than pieces that you can afford?

Here are some tips that have worked for me over the years.

PICK out pieces you like from all sources until you have a style in mind.

REDUCE your choices until it is manageable and you can visualize them in your space. Incorporate what you already have to further reduce cost.

ARRANGE your pieces according to what room you wish to start in.

YOUR eyes are your best tool; keep on the lookout for deals on the pieces, on a great deal, that are very similar to your choices. Do not get stuck in exactness; similar lines give off the same feel without damaging your wallet too much.

START pairing your choices and ideas with paint samples to best show them off once you've gathered enough to start a room redo.

We got our new house back in March. Our Family Room looked like this- white and blah
By starting to place items that might work, the idea solidified in our heads. So we got started...

Here's our (almost) finished Family Room:
We wanted a Tropical Jungle feel. Deep in the jungle where the sun doesn't reach much.

We first decided on paint colors that would give us that feel. To eliminate claustrophobia, we painted the far wall a deep red to give that tunnel like effect to give depth. I kept the greens to the plants to further emphasize the tropical feel.

Paint-Lowe's with 10% off coupon. Red and Camel
Sofa-JC Penney; 60% off plus extra 10% coupon
Lamp bases- Lowes; Clearance $17 each / shades-40% off
Live plants and pots-Home Depot; 50% off
Orchids-Michael's 2009; 50% off
Mirrors-Ross 2008; $10 each
Curtains-Walmart; $10 each
Turtle Prints- JC Penny Outlet-70% off + 10% off on Tuesdays
Vases-Ross; $5 each
Bookcases-Ikea; 40% off
Books- Half Price Books; on clearance for another 50% off
English table with tropical feel-JC Penney; 80% off + $10 off
Ferns-Walmart; $3.50 each
Asian pot-Friend; FREE /stand-Arizona 2002; $10
Candles-Ikea; $10/3

Even designers go through much research in finding just that right piece to bring out the theme of the room without being too loud or garrish.

With a sharp eye on deals for pieces you absolutely want, you can soon enjoy the room you've always envisioned. Happy designing!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Just Two?

Just two. Ingredients that is!

Panda Pork Chops

3 lbs. pork chops, cut thick ones in half to thin it out
Panda Express Orange Sauce (Costco or Panda Express)

Cut and rinse out the chops. Lay out into a glass baking dish. Pour over some the sauce and spread it all over the chops. Cover tight with foil. Put dish in cold over then set @ 350F for 1 hour. After 1 hour, poke holes on foil to release some steam and bake for 15 more minutes.

The result is some of the most tender pork chops you'll ever have!
(Sorry I have no pics... The kiddos dove in as soon as it hit the table... Maybe next time!)

PULL recipes that you can REINVENT with lesser ingredients but do ATTUNE your new dish with those the family's accustomed to. That way, you'll guarantee some YIPPEES! and big SMILES!

More great tips next time!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Yahoo + Walmart = Dinner Choices

Yep, Yahoo has an article presented by Walmart about some great dinner choices for the week.

Check it out then apply the PRAYS philosophy to further stretch those dollars and culinary imagination. The name of the game is find, improve and save!

PERUSE media for easy recipes. READ thru for any conflicting ingredients; i.e. allergies, cost. ASSIGN each dish for a better day on the week. YOU are in control; therefore, SUBSTITUTION of all kinds is totally up to you.

Using what you already have while rotating your stores is a sure way to be more pleased with the dish that is now your very own recipe!

For example, back in 2006, I had all these Asian spices that prompted me to create my own sauce. I marinated chicken in it overnight. I came up with Sweet Asian Chicken that is still a great crowd pleaser.

This week, while looking up some Hawaiian dishes for a themed dinner I'm hosting, I came across HULI HULI CHICKEN which to my surprise, uses the same ingredients I have in my sauce! The only difference in my recipe, lemon juice!

Just that discovery alone made me feel like a real chef since the same dish have been feeding a whole island for centuries! Wow!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Just Do It!

Happy MET MONDAY to all! Yay, I get to join in again today!

Thanks much to our host Susan of Between Naps on the Porch and for all of you for stopping by.

Oftentimes, it's easier to find a pro or expert to get the job done.

But honestly, where's the fun in that? First, you blow all that money away and all you get to do is choose and wait until it's all done. (Ok, I know that's fun and easy, but you can't outdo being your own Michaelangelo or Rembrandt of your landscape.)

I've been gardening-both indoors and out. But with summer being still too hot, I have to wait until the cover of night to get things done. The other hold up, bugs!

But, gardening takes PLANNING, RESEARCH, ASSESSMENT areas of YARD and once you've done all that, you can then START your vision of your desired landscape!

Here's the BEFORE picture of our front door. See the purple? Totally F-A-K-E!!! The previous owners did not really tend to the yard and often blamed the wind for the dead plants they often end up with. The ground cover is some climbing vine that over run the area and choked the soil.

Also, the main plants around were crepe myrtles, bush and trees alike, pinks- 3 shades! I think enough is enough don't you?
My vision started with wanting a Tropical Landscape; so what's more of an obvious landscape emblem?

Hibiscus of course! I found these big pots of red ones at Walmart for $3, yep, $3! I got two...
My urns were first there and I got these Ixoras at Lowe's a few months ago and are barely holding their own. In the Philippines, a SE tropical country, Ixoras are called Santans and I loved picking these flowers as their nectar is quite sweet.
And so far, here's what my entry looks like. What do you think? Am I headed in the right direction? I did all of these myself. I have the sweat, dirt and back pains to prove it!
I can't wait to add some spider plants, ferns, succulents and some climbing vines.

Start envisioning and with all that savings from not needing extra labor, you can start to enjoy some great accessories and a congratulatory drink! In my case, a nice cold pina colada!

What are your gardening projects?

Food Storage Spotlight: BEANS

Picture from Cooking Light dot com

Here are some great recipes I came across and can't wait to try myself this Fall--

We all have dried beans stored away. From various reasons and seasons. But most of us, don't know how to cook them. Well, this Fall, why don't you "healthy up" and "cozy up" with your savings by using this wonder food- protein, vitamin and fiber packed!

Here's what I got from RWood dot com: (click on the link) Let's use these tips together and enjoy our other protein source without the guilt!

No need for meat at all, but a few sprinklin's of Spam or bacon, these dishes will win anyone!

So, which bean recipe got you all warmed up inside?

Pantrys Need Love, too!

This is from our old residence when we organized our upstairs Linen Closet-turned-Food Pantry; back in March 2009.

Our main problem: Our kids help us fill this closet and a very busy household.
Our incentive: We were starting a 10-day NO EATING OUT or SHOPPING.

Well, we got the pantry organized tonight. Thanks to my great hubby, Mr. Man!

Some befores:

This is just right before we got started in reinforcing some shelves... We had to take stuff out as you can see...

This is my "oh-so" gorgeous hubby making sure those shelves will stay put. There he is testing out the new layout... Almost done!

And the afters! Doesn't my pantry look ready for a 10-day raid? Mr. Man did such a great job, "thank you, Mahal!"
Above is the left side where we put the cans and heavy stuff, and below is the right side where the lighter stuff now resides! And look, an empty container! Yay!

One of our children have many food allergies and maintaining a strict "hide the nuts" policy have to start in this closet for his safety. Making each inventory more visible and accessible, our son can help grab stuff out without any danger of being exposed to any nuts. Thank goodness he's not "nuts dust" allergic-purely skin contact and direct ingestion.
I'm off to tweak the menu for the week as we found a lot of goodies we'd rather eat! We're off to a good start with our family project!


As you can see in the pictures, the pantry is full of things we eat and use. It housed both our Food Storage, Everyday Stock and Non-Food Items. Since it was the only closet for all of our needs, we decided to be really organized about the space.

We partitioned using FREQUENCY, PURPOSE, STORAGE, TEMPERATURE SENSITIVITY. (it is upstairs so naturally, it is a bit warmer). Food Storage on the bottom and back shelves, Everyday Stock in middle shelves while non-food items are up top since we have our children help us bring stuff up and down this closet.

So, we... PONDERED about our needs and space. Then we REDESIGNED to have easier ACCESS for even two people. We no longer had to YANK what we needed at the higher shelves since we place a step stool inside and since we were set on a 10-day shopping hiatus, this new setup, made our experience SIMPLE and SUCCESSFUL!

Good luck to your own organization projects!