52 Different Ways to Save $100 Per Year: Develop Contentment {Week 52}

Contentment

Every week for 52 weeks, I’m sharing a different way you can save $100 this year. If you do all of these things, you’ll be able to save over $5,000 this year alone! Many of these things will likely be things you’re already doing, but hopefully all of you will pick up at least a few new ideas or some inspiration from this series.

Can you believe it? We’ve made it to the end of this 52-week series. It ended up taking me a few months longer than 52 weeks, but I’m just going to celebrate the fact that I followed through with writing all 52 weeks! :)

For our final installment of this series, I want to talk about contentment. Because truly, this is the heart of frugality.

I’m slowly reading through In a Pit With a Lion on a Snowy Day (it’s so good!) and this section challenged me at a deep level:

Man’s Search for Meaning ranks as one of the most thought-provoking books I’ve ever read. In it, Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl writes about his experiences in a Nazi concentration camp.

Everything was taken away from the Jewish prisoners. They were stripped of their clothing, their pictures, and their personal belongings. The Nazi captors even took away their names and gave them numbers. Frankl was number 119, 104. But Frankl said there was one thing the Nazis couldn’t take away: ‘Everything can be taken away from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms–to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances.’

The most important choice you make every day is your attitude. Your internal attitudes are far more important than your external circumstances. Joy is mind over matter.”

-In a Pit With a Lion on a Snowy Day, page 68

When you learn that stuff doesn’t buy happiness, your life suddenly becomes much richer. As I wrote about in this piece on contentment (stop right now and go read this post, if you haven’t already!), when we were first married and our budget was so tight, I quickly learned that contentment is a choice.

You can choose to be contentment — whether you are in the middle of a feast or a famine. Why? Because contentment isn’t about what model of car you drive, how big your house is, what brands of clothes you wear, what kinds of foods you eat, or how much money you make.

Contentment is first and foremost about your heart. It’s an attitude you can get up and choose to have (or not have) every single day.

Contentment

If you struggle with contentment, I encourage you to read my post on 16 Ways to Become More Content and 6 Things That Will Help You Have a More Positive Attitude.

Also, here’s a snippet from a guest post published in 2012 on How to Be Content With Less by Tessa who blogs at The Recreational Word Slinger:

3 Ways to Be Content With Less:

1. Expect less.

Stop expecting to buy something every time you run an errand. I was so guilty of this before we switched to using cash. I would think that I deserved a little treat for having to get out and grocery shop or run errands. Direct your thinking towards expecting less.

2. Ignore the urge for more, more, more.

This is easier said than done in today’s society. We are constantly bombarded with different advertisements telling us that we need more. We have to retrain how we listen to or pay attention to such ads. When you become immune to advertising, you might find that your desire for more decreases.

3. Look at what you do have.

This idea is by far the one that has helped me get over my obsession with stuff. One way to do this is by verbally thanking our Creator for what He has given us. When I am more mindful of the blessings that I have been given, then I find that I am less mindful of my humanistic desire for more.

Read the full post.

What practical suggestions and ideas have helped you become more content? I’d love to hear!

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52 Different Ways to Save $100 Per Year: Stay Home More {Week 51}

Stay Home More

Every week for 52 weeks, I’m sharing a different way you can save $100 this year. If you do all of these things, you’ll be able to save over $5,000 this year alone! Many of these things will likely be things you’re already doing, but hopefully all of you will pick up at least a few new ideas or some inspiration from this series.

My number one tip for keeping things simple and saving money is to stay home more. Staying home is one of the easiest ways to have more time, spend less money, accumulate less clutter, and well, to plain just live a less frantic lifestyle.

Staying Home = More Time

A lot of times I’m asked how I get so much done. Let me tell you, I’m no wonder woman, but I do know that one of my “secrets” to efficiency is that I stay home a lot.

I love quiet days at home and I find that we function best when we have at least a few days every week where we are home all day. It’s not always possible for this to happen every single week, but I do my best to make it a priority that we have at least 1-2 full days at home every single week.

I’ve purposely said “no” to a multitude of outside activities and opportunities because I know that running around with three children not only wears me out, it is a surefire way for me to spend more money (i.e. trips through the fast-food lane while we’re out, swinging by to check out a sale I see signs for when I don’t really need anything, or ordering carry out for dinner because I’m exhausted and didn’t have time to make anything for dinner) and get less done. It’s just not worth it, folks.

Now, am I saying you need to cut out every outside activity and commitment and never step foot outside your doorstep? No. What I am encouraging you to do is to carefully evaluate all outside commitments and see if there are some that are really necessities or if they are just cluttering up your life for no good reason.

Save Money By Staying Home More

Staying Home = Fewer Expenses

It’s pretty much always true that the less you shop, the less you buy. Stay out of the stores and you won’t be tempted to purchase things you didn’t know you needed in the first place!

Challenge yourself to stop spending money for a period of time — whether that’s a day, a week, a month, or longer. {Well, start small if this is a brand-new idea to you!} You’ll likely find that you begin to have a whole new appreciation for what you already have… and you’ll realize that you spend a lot more money than you need to.

When you think that you need to buy a replacement or just something new altogether, see how long you can make do without it. I’ve sometimes gone for years without replacing something that I once that was a must-have!

When you feel like you “don’t have anything to wear”, shop your closet before going shopping at the mall. See if you can come up with some new outfit combinations that you hadn’t put together before. It will feel like you went shopping — and you didn’t leave your house or spend any money.

Not only are you less tempted to spend money on things when you don’t go out shopping, but you’ll also spend less money on gas and have less wear and tear on your vehicle. It’s a win all around!

Staying Home = Less Clutter

One of the nice side effects of shopping so rarely is that we don’t have a lot of clutter. In fact, some would probably think our home looks really bare, but I’d much rather have only things we need, use, and love taking up residence in our home, than to have our rooms bulging with stuff we don’t need, haven’t used in a long time, and don’t like in the first place.

And when you have less clutter, you don’t need as much space and you will save money by being more organized.

100_0479

I want to end this post by sharing a post I wrote back in 2008 on how much I learned from our law school years when we didn’t have money to spend and I spent almost all day, every day at home:

A lot of you know that my husband and I spent the first three and half years of our marriage with him in law school and us living on a part-time income. We never went hungry and we always had a roof over our head and clothes to wear, but it was a very lean time.

During those years, we lived in a little basement apartment that only had four windows on one side. I could plug the vacuum cleaner into one outlet and vacuum the entire apartment without ever switching outlets.

We only had one old vehicle almost the entire law school tenure and Jesse usually used it for transportation from work and school. We knew hardly anyone in town we lived in–in spite of many efforts to try and make friends–and there were really not any safe places I could walk to from our apartment.

It would have been easy to have been swallowed up in despair and I won’t pretend there weren’t moments when I felt sorry for myself or wished we could be living in a little better circumstances. However, I decided, with God’s help, to try and make the most of what might seem like a less-than-ideal situation.

Maybe we didn’t have money to go out, but I challenged myself to think up creative ways we could still have fun without spending money. We’d check out a movie from the library and have homemade pizza. In the winter, we’d brew some coffee, pop some popcorn, and play a board game. Sometimes, we’d go to the park with a picnic or we’d browse the book selection at Barnes and Noble.

We didn’t have money to spend on decorating our home, but I still found ways to make it homey and inviting. For starters, I tried to always keep it clean and clutter-free–even if it wasn’t very pretty, at least it could smell nice and look clean! We tried to have music playing in the background and that always spruced up a rather bare home, too.

We couldn’t afford fancy foods or restaurant meals, but that didn’t mean we couldn’t eat well. I had fun trying new recipes, searching out good deals, and stretching our grocery budget as far as possible. I discovered AllRecipes.com and enjoyed using their ingredient search feature to come up with new recipes to use what I already had on hand.

Instead of going out and buying things, I’d go to the library and check out a stack of books. Sometimes we’d check out CD’s too, so we’d have new music to play in our home throughout the week.

It was also in this little basement apartment that I first began blogging and tinkering around with online entrepreneurial things. Had it not been for the free time and lack of friends, I would have never even considered pursuing blogging or had the time to learn about basic web design, online marketing, or producing an ebook or ecourse. Little did I dream that in a few years, those same skills would allow me to help supplement our family’s income by doing something I very much enjoy while keeping my priorities as a wife and mother first and foremost.

And guess what? It was holed up in this little basement apartment with sometimes only $20 to spare for groceries for the week that I was searching grocery deals online and came upon this store called CVS that everyone in a now-defunct savings forum was raving about. I could never have imagined what that simple search would uncover for me that day, nor how many thousands of other individuals I’d have the opportunity to introduce to CVS, as well!

Yes, living in that little basement apartment in an unfamiliar town barely squeaking by financially would never have been something I would have chosen for myself, but I’ll always be grateful God allowed me those three and half years of learning to be content, learning to love simplicity, and learning to make the most of what I had.  And I hope I never forget those lessons.

A cheerful attitude can go a long way in less-than-ideal situations; you can either complain about the thorns or you can savor the roses which bloom in the midst of those thorns. Choose to bloom where you’re planted–even if it seems like it’s among thorns!

How does staying home more save you money? I’d love to hear!

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52 Different Ways to Save $100 Per Year: Eat From the Pantry {Week 50}

Eat From the Pantry Challenge

Every week for 52 weeks, I’m sharing a different way you can save $100 this year. If you do all of these things, you’ll be able to save over $5,000 this year alone! Many of these things will likely be things you’re already doing, but hopefully all of you will pick up at least a few new ideas or some inspiration from this series.

One very simple way to save money is to skip shopping for a week or two and use what you already have on hand. We call this Eating From the Pantry at our house and it’s something we try to do at least once a quarter.

Here’s how it works for us:

Make It a Game

Instead of approaching eating from the pantry as a difficult thing, we make it a game on occasion to see how long we can survive without going to the store. When you view it as a fun challenge, it makes it exciting and interesting. And it can help bolster your spirits when you find yourself eating some rather interesting meals. :)

Set a Goal

Set a goal not only for how long you’re going to try to go without stepping foot into a store, but also set a goal for what you’re going to do with the money saved. Maybe you’ll put it toward paying off some debt, or use it to pay cash for an item you’ve been saving for, or even put it toward your Vacation Savings fund.

You could also consider donating the money to charity — which can give a lot of extra purpose to this challenge!

Inventory Your Supplies

Look through your cupboard, refrigerator, and freezer to see what you already have on hand. Dig really deep and make sure you’re pulling out all the possibilities.

Once you’ve inventoried what you have on hand, use the ingredient search feature on AllRecipes.com to get some recipe ideas for using up what you have in your pantry. I love that you can type in what you have on hand and what you don’t have on hand and it will generate a list of recipe ideas for you!

Go For It!

Once you’ve set a goal and inventoried your supplies, it’s time to dive right in and start using up what you have on hand and staying away from the grocery store.

And remember: even if you end up breaking down and going to the store before you your goal date, you’ve still saved money and used up a lot of what you already had on hand. Also, you probably learned some valuable lessons in the process — or at least were challenged and stretched in your creativity a little. :)

Eatin From the Pantry Challenge

My Friend Kelly wrote a guest post on her family’s one-month experiment with Eating from the Pantry and the lessons they learned back in 2010. Here’s part of the post:

At the end of November, I embarked on my own challenge to clean out my pantry and freezer. I am proof it can be done even if you’re not a master baker or planner. If this pantry month seems too difficult let’s start with a new perspective.

This is not a challenge, it’s an adventure! Adventures are fun and exciting, full of surprises and exploration. Here’s just a taste of what you might learn on this adventure:

Re-discover Creativity

Remember the days when an empty plastic container and cardboard from the paper towels could entertain you for hours? Or times in college when you made pasta in the coffee pot and grilled cheese sandwiches with an iron?

It’s time to get creative again! Whether it’s breakfast for dinner to finish up some pancake mix, using stale bread for croutons, or finding substitutes, cooking is about enjoying the process and breaking out of the mundane.

Creativity comes when you have seventeen cans of tuna and need a new recipe. Creativity is testing new sauces on pasta and trying new recipes, ingredients, and styles of cooking.

Discover Thankfulness

As we settle into our routines, grocery shopping can become a tedious chore. Take this month to focus not on what you don’t have in the pantry but what you do. Instead of focusing on the deals you might miss, enjoy the ones you found already! It’s simple to grab chili on sale and celebrate a great deal but it’s a little harder to make chili and cornbread or chili on a baked potato three times a week to use it up.

Look at all the opportunities we have to buy food and utilize discounts, coupons, and rewards. It’s easy to take that for granted. When was the last time your family gave thanks for having a local grocery store, fresh produce, and the funds to pick up a treat or two?

Discover Usefulness

Once you embark on the Eat From the Pantry “Adventure”, try a little trick I call ‘spelunking.’ Simply dig through your stock and find something you can use in place of going to the store. Crunchy salad toppers can be used in soup. Top macaroni and cheese with the last tablespoons of bread crumbs. Turn mushy apples into applesauce and juice into popsicles.

Try Amy Dacyczyn’s Universal Casserole Recipe. Or, if you get stuck without an “essential” ingredient this site on substitutions is one of the easiest to reference.

I know my great grandmothers would be ashamed to see the amount of food I let spoil each week. They didn’t waste; the mantra was to “use it up!” In that spirit during my Pantry Month I rescued a ham from the work potluck that was to be thrown away. Ham omelets, sandwiches, added to beans and soup helped stretch many meals. If you’re thinking your stock can’t possibly last 31 days give it a shot and find out how long it WILL last. The worst that can happen is you’ll find your answer.

Read the full post here.

Have you ever tried an eating from the pantry challenge? If so, how long have you gone without going to the store?

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52 Different Ways to Save $100 Per Year: Shop At More Than One Store {Week 49}

Shop at More Than One Store

Every week for 52 weeks, I’m sharing a different way you can save $100 this year. If you do all of these things, you’ll be able to save over $5,000 this year alone! Many of these things will likely be things you’re already doing, but hopefully all of you will pick up at least a few new ideas or some inspiration from this series.

When I mention how I save a lot of money by shopping at more than one store, I’m often met with resistance:

“But I don’t have time to go to more than one store! I can barely make it into Walmart once a week.”

“That’s not saving money! You’re wasting all sorts of time and gas running around to fifteen different stores in one day. Wouldn’t it be more cost-effective and efficient to just do all your shopping at one store each week?”

“I’m glad that works for you, but I don’t have near the patience or organization to even attempt something like that!”

Let me be clear: I am not advocating going to 15 different stores that are 45 minutes away from your home in order to save $2 at each store. That’s not saving money, in my definition. Instead, that’s wasting enormous amounts of time and effort and producing little to show for it but wear and tear on your vehicle and an exorbitant gas bill.

What I am advocating is taking a little bit of time to scout at your nearby stores each week and pick a few which have the best sales and deals. Then base your grocery trip planning on shopping only at those stores.

How to Get Started Shopping at More Than One Store

1) Make a List of All Stores in Your Area

Don’t just list the grocery stores, think of any possible place you might be able to buy grocery-related items:

  • Co-ops
  • Dollar Stores
  • Scratch and Dent Stores
  • Overstock Stores (Big Lots, etc.)
  • Big Box Stores (KMart, Walmart, Target)
  • Warehouse Stores (Costco, Sam’s Club, B.J.’s)
  • Drug Stores (CVS, Walgreens, Rite-Aid)
  • Asian Markets
  • Bulk Foods Stores
  • CSA’s
  • Farmer’s Markets
  • Health Food Stores

I’d recommend searching online or pulling out the phone book to see if you have any of the above stores in your area if you’re not sure. And ask your friends and neighbors if they know of any great places to shop which you might not know about.

If you live in a small town, this should be simple. In fact, you might only have two stores to choose from. (And if you only have one store to choose from, you’re exempt from any of this legwork!)

If you live in a larger town or big metropolis, this is going to be a bigger undertaking. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by all the options, limit the stores to those within a 5 mile radius or which are close to areas you regularly frequent.

Shop at More Than One Store

2) Visit Your Area Stores and Record the Prices of 25 Items You Routinely Buy

Thanks to Joy at FiveJs, we have some handy free downloadable Price Book Forms you can use to record these numbers:

  1. Price Book (by Store) :: Record the prices for products at a single store. This can be done first, and then the information transferred to individual product sheets like, like the Price Book (by Product) form below.
  2. Price Book (by Product) :: Record the prices for a particular product at multiple stores.
  3. Half-Sheet Price Book (by Product) :: Record the prices for a particular product at multiple stores, but laid out two to a page.

Once again, if this feels overwhelming, just pick two or three grocery stores to start with. You’ll have plenty of time to branch out in the future. Don’t bite off more than you can chew and end up burning out on this whole bargain-shopping thing before you’ve even really started!

3) Determine Which Store(s) Regularly Have the Lowest Prices and Best Sales

After filling out the price book forms and finding out your local stores’ coupon policies and mark-down policies, you will have a pretty clear picture of which stores are best to shop at on a regular basis. However, most stores run their sales cycles every twelve weeks or so, with a few incredible sales and loss-leaders thrown in on occasion. To get a more accurate picture, I’d recommend tracking the sales at a few stores for three months.

This does not mean that you necessarily need to go to five different stores and fill out a price book form every week. But I would recommend scanning the sales fliers each week and actually visiting each store at least once a month.

Shop at More Than One Store

4) Consider How Much Time You Have to Invest

Time is money. So if it’s scarce for you, don’t expect that you’ll be able to spend six hours grocery shopping each week. That’s just not feasible or realistic.

I’d suggest that you be willing to set aside at least two hours each week if you want to see fairly significant savings. Invest 30 minutes in planning and clipping/organizing coupons and an hour and a half in shopping. In that time-frame, you should be able to plan your shopping trips and shop at one to three stores. It might sound unrealistic right now, but the more you practice, the better you’ll get.

But I Don’t Have Two Hours to Spend!

Maybe you don’t. But how important is saving money to you? Is it worth giving up time spend watching TV or working on a hobby? Look at your schedule and see if there is something you regularly do each week that you’d be willing give up in order to save money.

You might find that clipping coupons and reducing your grocery budget can become a fun hobby in and of itself. And it’s one of the best hobbies ever because it doesn’t cost you money, it saves you money. Plus, it greatly benefits your family!

If you have more than two hours to invest per week, you can tailor your plan accordingly. Perhaps you have time to hit four or five stores, instead of two. Or maybe you have time to research more deals and clip more coupons. Do what works for you. However, don’t overdo!

Shop at More Than One Store

5) Rotate the Stores You Shop At

When the weekly sales change in your area, sit down and quickly scan the grocery store fliers (most larger chains offer their fliers online), your price book, and your coupons, and decide which stores are running the best sales. Keep in mind what your schedule is for the week and what areas of town you’ll already be in. Based upon which stores have the best deals and what your schedule looks like for the week, plan your shopping trip accordingly.

Even though I’ve been bargain-shopping for years, I’ve rarely shopped at more than three stores in a week. A more normal week would include a stop at either Aldi or Dillons (a Kroger affiliate) and a stop at the health food store to look for mark-downs.

However, for years, I’ve rotated the stores I shop at, depending upon the sales and what coupons I have. Over a six-month time period, I may have shopped at nine to ten different stores–but I never shop at all of them in the same week, or even in the same month!

That’s the beauty of shopping at more than one store. You don’t have to shop at five stores each week, or even more than one. But you can rotate which stores you shop at every week in order to get the best deals and lowest prices.

Note: Don’t Feel Obligated to Hit Every Deal

I think one of the biggest mistakes new bargain-shoppers make is that they discover this world of great deals and get so excited about all the money they are saving, that they go a little overboard. Pretty soon, they are completely burnt out and go back to spending large amounts at the grocery store each week.

The better approach is to take it slow. Pick and choose the best deals to do and don’t worry about hitting the others. There will always be another sale on milk and cereal or whatever else it is that seems like such a great deal at the time. Pace yourself and you’ll find that you enjoy it a lot more.

In addition, realize that it’s okay to step back and take a break every now and then. Sometimes, I’ll shelve my coupon box and just do my shopping at Aldi for awhile. Or sometimes, we will just skip shopping and eat from the pantry that week. Maybe I didn’t get the rock bottom prices that week or miss out on some stellar deal, but over the course of the year, it’s much more money-saving and sanity-saving to pace myself.

Do you shop at more than one store? Why or why not?

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52 Different Ways to Save $100 Per Year: Make Homemade Cards {Week 48}

Making Homemade Cards

(Homemade cards made by Amanda.)

Every week for 52 weeks, I’m sharing a different way you can save $100 this year. If you do all of these things, you’ll be able to save over $5,000 this year alone! Many of these things will likely be things you’re already doing, but hopefully all of you will pick up at least a few new ideas or some inspiration from this series.

You can spend a lot of money buying Hallmark cards… possibly as much as $100 per year, or more. For instance, if you typically spend $4 per card and you purchase 25 cards per year for birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, and other occasions — that’s $100 per year you’re spending on something that will most likely just be thrown out after it’s received.

Making Homemade Cards

Instead of having that money go straight into the trash can, save yourself a nice chunk of change by making your own homemade cards. Not only is it a fun way to exercise your creativity, it also will often be a lot more meaningful.

Make Handmade Cards

There are so many different ways to make your own homemade cards. If you have some magazines, cardstock, and glue, you can get creative making collage cards with cut-out words, phrases, and pictures that remind you of the card’s recipient.

Mixed Molly has some fantastic ideas for recycling last year’s Christmas cards into new Christmas cards for this year. You could use this same idea for cards for other occasions, too.

It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money or take a lot of time to make a homemade card. You probably have supplies on hand that could work. However, if you want to, you can come up some really amazing homemade card ideas, too.

Not Crafty? Write a Letter Instead!

Maybe you feel like you’re not crafty and creative at all. Never fear! You don’t have to pull out the glue gun and glitter. Write a meaningful letter, instead!

Here’s an idea from Victoria who blogs at Snail Pace Transformations:

I don’t remember the exact Mother’s day. I don’t remember even why I picked that Mother’s day to give this gift, but I have been forever touched by it’s impact.

That year I grabbed a dollar store card, and in it, I placed a simple list written on plain paper. Little did I realize how much my mother would cherish that list. Perhaps if I did, I would have chosen nicer paper. Perhaps I would have used my best handwriting, but then again, I doubt that would have changed the cord it struck in my mother’s heart.

On the list, written with the ink of a inexpensive dollar store pen, were 10 things my mom held dear.

What were those 10 things? What was that list? Why did it touch my mother’s heart so?

The title read “10 Reasons Why I am Glad You Are My Mother”.

Each point I thought about, some were simple “I love your habit of backwards dinners” some were more deep “thanks for providing the best you could for me with what you had”.

Never was a thank you said, never was the list even mentioned until one year when my mom knew her time on earth was coming to an end. She said, “honey, the best Mother’s day gift you ever gave me was that list. In fact, I still have it an read it often”.

Words (not things) have lasting power.

Do you have any quick, easy, and inexpensive homemade card ideas? I’d love to hear about them — and feel free to share links to your blog post(s) or other ideas online, too!

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52 Different Ways to Save $100 Per Year: Eat More Beans {Week 47}

World's Easiest Crockpot Refried Beans

Each week for 52 weeks, I’m sharing a different way you can save $100 this year. If you do all of these things, you’ll be able to save over $5,000 this year alone! Many of these things will likely be things you’re already doing, but hopefully all of you will pick up at least a few new ideas or some inspiration from this series.

We use a lot of beans around here; they’re inexpensive, they’re filling, and they’re nutritious. Pair them with rice and you have a complete protein.

I use beans to stretch our taco meat and as a base for many soups and other dishes we regularly eat. If you purchase dry beans in bulk, they are even more economical!

Some of Our Favorite Bean Recipes

How-to-Live-on-Beans-and-Rice-for-a-Week

How to Live on Beans & Rice for a Week

When I read Ruth’s post here on how to live on beans and rice for a week, I thought it’d be fun to try and come up with my own version. While we’ve never tried to just have beans and rice all week long, Ruth inspired me to come up with an almost-week-long beans and rice menu plan, too, using some of our favorite legume recipes.

Day One: Cook up a big ole’ pot of beans (I do mine like this. You can add in seasonings, onions, etc. if you prefer). I’d recommend cooking black beans, pinto beans, and chili beans. Mix equal parts of the beans and make chili (we like to add onions, diced tomatoes, tomato juice, spices, hot sauce, pickle juice, and anything else that strikes my fancy that evening! You can add some browned ground beef if you like.). Serve over brown rice with cheese and hot sauce.

Day Two: Take the leftover chili and make “haystacks”–set out bowls of chopped lettuce, tomatoes, corn chips, rice, cheese, sour cream, olives, and hot sauce. Let everyone pile things on and make up their own “haystack”.

Beans and Rice

Day Three: Mash up some of the black beans and pinto beans (you can make them refried like this, if you like) and mix with a little salsa and chopped chicken. Roll up in tortillas, sprinkle with cheese and heat through.

Day Four: Make pizza crust and top with mashed/refried beans, salsa or diced tomatoes, onions (if you like) and cheese. Bake. If you have leftover lettuce and tomatoes from Day Two, you could sprinkle them on top of the baked pizza. If you have any leftover chili, you could also make “Chili Pizza” using chili and tomatoes and cheese as the pizza topping.

Day Five: Use any leftover chili, beans, or mashed beans you have left to make Mexican Lasagna (like this or this or this–only substitute most of the meat for beans.)

Beans-and-Rice-Budget

Does someone in your family hate beans? Check out this post from Kelly on how to eat on a beans and rice budget when your husband hates beans.

How To Freeze Beans — From Janelle at Gluten-Freely Frugal

Did you know that could be done? I didn’t, until I read an article in Gluten Free Living Magazine about preparing beans.

I have greatly modified their recipe to due a much larger quantity, and have modified cook times. It is not terribly labor intensive, but spans a pretty long period of time while you’re doing other things, so pick a day you’ll be home for a few hours.

Here’s how to make Recipe-Ready Beans for your freezer:

1. Find a big pot. I use an enormous soup pot. Bring 9 quarts of water to a boil. Do not add salt; it keeps the beans from softening. Rinse six cups of beans in cold water. After the water has reached a boil, add the beans. Boil at a rolling boil for about 3 minutes.

2. Remove from the heat and let the beans soak for an hour.

3. Return to the heat and bring to a simmer. Simmer until the beans are soft. It took mine about 2 hours (they were small black beans). Many things can affect how long it takes, including the type, the size, and the age. Older beans tend to take longer to soften.

4. When they are soft enough, package in 2-cup containers (that is the approximate size of a can, so it’s recipe -ready!) You can add some salt now if you want to, and leave them in their liquid.

Now, next time you have a recipe that calls for beans, you can easily thaw out a container from your freezer, at a fraction of the cost.

I ended up paying about $0.80 for 6 cups of dried black beans at the discount store (you could do any kind, though). I got six pints of beans out of this recipe, which equals about $0.13 per “can”.

What are your favorite ways to serve beans? I’d love to hear!

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