Hi there! Kristen’s The Frugal Girl blog is one of my favorites. I’ve been a fan since the beginning of her blogging journey. So I was stoked when she published my interview.
Instead of responding to the reader comments on Kristen’s blog, I thought I’d answer some questions here, and link to some articles that might be of interest to the frugal types who read TFG.
“Carrie, any tips on how to manage higher education frugally for 7 kids? Not every kid is the same, so I’m sure it’s not a one-size fits all solution.”
This is a great question! I’ve talked about frugal homeschooling a lot through the years, but never higher education.
The simple answer is, this is a very new topic for me as well. My oldest opted to apprentice and learn a trade, and works full-time in that field. My second is entrepreneurial and has a couple of small businesses and a flexible job, and that’s what makes him happy. I offered to assist them both to attend college, but it wasn’t for them.
My college-bound kiddo. She wants to study interior design.
My third-born got accepted to a school that’s thankfully minutes away, so she’ll continue living at home while furthering her education. She took a gap year and worked to save money.
My future plan will involve a combination of part-time jobs (preferably with tuition reimbursement) and scholarships. We’re a work in progress with this. Incidentally, the part-time job I got recently offers tuition reimbursement for my kids, a perk I’m very happy about. I’ll be attending college (for the first time!) myself in several months on the company’s dime.
“I was wondering if you have a weekly/monthly meal rotation plan in place? And if you do, if you would give a sneak peek into what a typical day of breakfasts, lunches and dinners looks like at your house and how you shop for all your ingredients. Do you make bulk batches of certain meals, eat the same things on repeat, freeze a lot and how often you make a grocery run, etc….I always find it interesting learning about how other people eat and prepare for meals or in some cases do not prepare.”
Great question Vicki, as food has always a big part of my day with a large family. Meal planning is not something I love, but I do it faithfully because it makes such a huge difference in my budget and stress level. I do a lot of “cook once eat twice” type planning.
For example, I cooked a huge pot of white beans last week and froze them. They turned into several dinners over the next two weeks. White bean and rosemary soup, Italian sausage with white beans and tomatoes, minestrone, white chicken chili. I’ll cook a bunch of chicken leg quarters and use them for fajita soup, chicken quesadillas, chicken and rice casserole, etc.
I have a monthly meal plan that I pull out when life is extra busy. And sometimes I outsource meal planning to the kids by putting a piece of paper on the fridge asking everyone to write what they want to eat. Ha!
This is such an old pic, that domain is no longer valid, but I used to host a podcast there!
I grocery shop twice a week. Usually Sunday or Monday for the week’s meals, then a quick stop on Wednesday when the new Aldi deals go live. Aldi is a mile from my home, and on the way home from work, so it’s no trouble to swing by.
p.s. My Aldi book comes with a free meal plan.
Typical breakfasts are “egg in a nest” (these go by many names depending on what part of the country/world you’re from!), oatmeal, french toast and fruit. Smoothies are a favorite in summer.
Lunches are usually homemade tomato soup and grilled cheese, bean burritos, quesadillas or sandwiches (tuna, egg salad) with fruit. Thankfully, my kids aren’t picky and don’t especially need variety (it’s me that gets bored!). Also, all but one are now old enough to make their own snacks, which is so nice.
For dinner we love soups (probably my signature “thing”) with whole grain bread from a local bakery, lots of salads, sheet pan meals like Change Your Life Chicken, one pot meals from this cookbook… and my 16 year old has a few dishes she enjoys making which is a real treat for me. (Is it just me, or does food always tastes better when someone else cooks it?)
See: 7 ways to cook dinner faster and easier.
Carrie, I almost fell off the couch with your cleaning products solution. Seriously, does this really work on everything in the bathroom?
My response? yes it does! I use it for the shower doors, tub, sinks, and floors. And everywhere else around my house, including sprucing up trash picked treasures. My trash-picked chair got a gorgeous glow-up courtesy of the hot water + Tide mixture.
(This pic reminds me that I need to do a post on the frugal cat!)
And I take no credit, I got the tip from GoCleanCo (*not an affiliate link). They’re a professional cleaning company in Toronto, and I got the recipe from them.
For disinfecting you can safely add a splash of bleach to the powdered Tide/hot water mix. I literally buy NO other cleaning products and this recipe is all I use.
I also don’t use brooms and vacuum everything because of their training. Life changing.
Jenn and Meghan wanted more info on the Tide/hot water cleaning solution:
I’m picturing you going around the house cleaning with a bucket of solution. Do you fill spray bottles? Does the solution last or have to be used up that day?
I think it’s supposed to be used within 24 hours, but I’ve found it’s effective even if I don’t use it all up the same day.
If I’m going to clean a bathroom, for example, or mop the floors, I mix up the recipe in a small bucket, and use several microfiber cloths to clean with. By the time I’m done, the water is dingy so I pour it out. Then I’m done cleaning for the day. (Except for general “tidying up” of course.)
It works better for me to clean this way, in 15-30 minute batches, focusing on one room at a time, so I don’t mind taking a few seconds to make the solution. Because I’ve mixed it up, I tend to want to clean until the mixture is all “spent”, which is curiously motivating for me. Whatever works, right?
I also sometimes put a tiny bit of Tide (I have a 1/16th and 1/32 tsp measure perfect for this) into an empty spray bottle with 2 cups hot water for smaller jobs. For windows, I use only water and a microfiber glass cleaning cloth.
I think we all have to find a method of cleaning that works for us, and this works for me! I’ll never look back. (I’m such a superfan, I have GoCleanCo’s dry erase cleaning book.)
Carrie, how do you save on homeschool curriculum costs?
I’ve written quite a lot here about frugal homeschooling. Some of those posts are a bit older, and it’s true that textbooks tend to be more expensive for the upper grades. But, it’s still very possible to purchase used curricula online, at yard sales and thrift stores, as well as homeschool curriculum swaps.
I’ve even snagged some free from PaperBackSwap.
Textbooks get passed from one child to the next, keeping the cost-per-child very low. And, I can often recoup 75% of the cost of a schoolbook when I sell it in good condition on eBay.
I’m also very thankful for free resources such as Khan Academy, YouTube, and the public library, which has so much more than books. I’m “checking out” free tickets to a local theater production courtesy of my library card.
I share Will’s love of the public library.
This reader had an interesting comment:
“Please share with us a couple of non-obvious frugal tips, if you would. Most FG readers understand the basics and are looking for new ideas.”
I mentioned in the interview that I loved Amy Dacyczyn’s book The Complete Tightwad Gazette. In fact I’m re-reading it for the third or fourth time. I estimate that at least 75% of the “tips” in the book are obsolete, or completely irrelevant to my personal situation (I don’t wear pantyhose and don’t need to know how to make them last longer!). No one needs “tips” on how to save money on long distance phone calls or encyclopedias in the 2000’s.
But I learn from the principles in the book. Those are timeless.
I created a monthly budget worksheet, and at the top in bold letters is the phrase “question everything”. That means that I am constantly on the lookout for ways to lower my expenses. I never view anything as a “fixed” expense. Tips differ for the individual depending on the person’s location, circumstances, time, etc.
Thanks to TFG readers for the kind comments about my natural hair! And thanks again Kristen for letting me introduce myself to your readers!
More articles that might interest The Frugal Girl readers:
- My ebooks on Amazon: two are about frugality and eating healthfully at Aldi
- Here’s why I stopped coloring my gray
- How to save money on utilities and wireless bills
- The how and wow of budget meeting (this info is still relevant if one is single)
- My biggest money mistakes and what I do differently now
- A minimalist wardrobe and why I love it
- Favorite books on radical frugality
- How I got out of debt as a single mom of 4