Inflation Vs Market Swing

I’ve been arguing for years that food isn’t as affected by inflation as it is the commodity market swing.  I saw this poster on facebook this week and I think it proves my point:

1958 Cost of living

For simplicity’s sake, let’s pretend inflation has driven everything 10x’s higher.  By moving the decimal point on place to the right you would see that:

A new house = $119, 750

The average income = $46,500

A new car = $21,550

Rent = $950

Tuition to Harvard = $10,000 (Nope, it’s $43,938 source)

A movie ticket = $10

Gasoline = $2.40

Postage = $.40

These numbers are rough, but fairly close. (Except the tuition thing, and gasoline is a commodity so the fact that it worked in this formula is coincidence.)

But apply the same formula to food:

Sugar $8.90 for 10 lbs —  um, no.  It’s closer to $3

Vitamin D milk $10 a gallon — nope, $4

Coffee $9.30 a lb — We don’t drink coffee, so I’m not sure but amazon sells Folgers for $7 a lb

Bacon $6.20 a lb — nope, $3

Eggs $2.80 a dozen — sometimes, but they go on sale for $1

Hamburger $5.70 a lb — closer to $3

Fresh baked bread $1.90 — nope more like $5

Think about it.  We have way more spending power when it comes to food, than our 1957 counterparts did.  Then why were they able to easily maintain a single income family and still feed their families well?

I think it comes down to two things:

1.  Thrift and home economics were valued by society.  Think Leave it to Beaver. Today these qualities are portrayed negatively by mass media. And why not?  The less thrifty they make us, the more money they can get from us.

2.  They used more pure commodity ingredients such as eggs, milk and flour.  With both spouses working and a plethora of kid actives, we tend to gravitate more towards pre-made ingredients and convenience foods just to survive.

What do you think?




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Bean and Cheese Enchiladas

Frugal food doesn’t have to be time consuming.  Here’s a fast dish I threw together with all convenience items while our bread was baking last night.  Tuesday’s activities include violin lessons for the big boy, piano lessons for the littles, and then scouts for the 2 biggest boys.  There’s a tiny gap for eating in there, but not much time for cooking.

Our kids are growing quickly and with 2 teenagers in our family of 8, we’ve outgrown a 9×13  casserole dish.  This 10×15 dish holds as much food as a 7×11 plus a 9×13, which is perfect for us with a few leftovers for lunches the next day.  I haven’t been able to find a lid for it yet though.  If you know a source, put it in the comments below.

Bean and Cheese enchiladas

Bean and Cheese Enchiladas


  • 20 6" tortillas
  • 1 can, 15 oz, refried beans
  • 1 can, 15 oz, black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 8 oz of shredded cheddar blend cheese
  • 1 can, 28 oz of red enchilada sauce


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 10x15 baking dish.
  2. Place a small amount of enchilada sauce in the bottom of the pan and spread to coat.
  3. Stir together the refried beans and drained black beans. Divide among tortillas. Add a sprinkling of cheese. Roll up and place seam side down in the baking dish.
  4. Top with enchilada sauce pressing down all the edges.
  5. Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes.
  6. Sprinkle with cheese and bake for 5 minutes more or until the cheese is melted.
  7. Serve with salad, corn, or rice.

Cost estimate:

Tortillas:  $1.50 (Aldi)

Refried Beans: $.69 (Aldi)

Black Beans: $.69 (Aldi)

Cheese: $1.50 (Taken from a 5 lb bag of Costco cheese.)

Enchilada Sauce: $1.67 (Walmart)

Total: $6.05

12 servings: $.50 each :)



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Posted in Freezer Meals, Frugal Living, Recipes | Tagged $.50 dinner; frugal cooking; save money on groceries; bean and cheese enchiladas; large family, frugal food, meatless main dish | 2 Comments

When it’s Time to Bake Bread

Crescent Rolls Homemade Bread

There are  just a few days left in the month. I used the last of our grocery money on Monday and discovered this morning that we are out of bread. It matters because all the kids pack their own lunches in a half asleep state at 6:30 am and when there’s no bread they get confused, and require my help.  I’m not good help at 6:30 am.

Danish Dough Wisk

I haven’t baked bread in a long time.  I just needed a little motivation to get back to it. Thankfully none of us are gluten sensitive.  Here’s why we still eat wheat: “Wheat ranks first among the grains for its nutritional value.  Wheat is an excellent source of fiber and many critical B-vitamins when used in its entirety, including the bran, germ, and endosperm.  Wheat germ is one of the richest sources of vitamin E if used when freshly milled, before oxidation takes place.” Source Plus it tastes good and it’s affordable.

Here’s why I don’t always soak it.  Well, that’s how I sleep at night.  The actual reason I don’t soak is it’s an extra step that stresses me out, and we prefer the taste without soaking.

Danish Dough Wisk

My all time favorite bread recipe is Vickilynn’s Absolute Best Challah. I usually bake her 2 loaf version, but today went with the whopper 6 loaf one.  It takes 15 cups of flour!  My kitchen aid can only handle about 6 before the dough starts climbing up into the motor shaft….so I mixed this by hand with a Danish Dough Wisk.  When it got too hard to do with the wisk, I dumped it out and kneaded it by hand for 15 minutes (while watching Brain Games on Netflix.)


I really wanted a lot of bread, but I only have 3 loaf pans.


No matter, the dough makes good rolls too.  I usually do clover leaf rolls with 3 small balls of dough in each muffin tin, but we had to leave for violin lessons in 5 minutes and I just plopped a big ball in each well.


And then I ran out of muffin tins….so I made crescents.


Before rising.

Bread DoughWhen we got back from violin, they were nice and big.  Time to proof the oven and let them rise a little more.

Muffin Tin Dinner Rolls

They went over well :).

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How much was that meal?

how much is this meal
This is something I hardly ever think about. I like to feed my family and guests, and not think about how much it costs. I think about the money when I’m at the store, but once I’m home, I don’t.

Last week, the school sent home a note that made me think about it a little more. They wanted to know how we felt about the quality of the school lunches and if we’d be willing to pay $3 if the lunches were better. (I know the expense doesn’t just cover food. It also pays for staff, utilities–there is overhead involved.)

$3 doesn’t sound like much at first glance. If we paid $3 per school child for lunches, it would cost us $300 a month. That’s for 5 school age children, 20 days of the month, for one meal of the day. 6″ black forest ham sub’s loaded with Veggies from Subway are $2.75. A McDouble with value fries and water is $2. (Not healthy, but $2.)

Our food budget for the month is $500. Darren gets an extra $30 for groceries to keep at work. So $530 all things considered. In a 31 day month, we eat 124 meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack.) If we paid exactly the same for each meal, it would be $4.27 a meal or $.53 per person.

Some meals I spend more, some I spend less. For example a couple of eggs and a slice of toast costs $.37. A bowl of oatmeal is around $.10. Turkey burgers (just the burger) are $1 each plus fixings and side dishes.  A cup of milk is $.18 add a couple of graham crackers for $.10 more. Grant eats a tiny amount compared to the older boys and Darren. So it’s not ever $.53 per meal per person…that’s just an average.

So how about you? Do you ever think about what that meal is costing you?

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Homemade Baking Mix

Baking Mixes save time by eliminating some steps to your cooking.  My favorite mixes are useful in lots of different applications, just like this one.

I made a little video to show you how easy this is to put together.  If you have 4 minutes, you can do this. Here’s what you’ll need:

a 5 lb bag of flour

2 1/2 cups of dry milk

3/4 cup baking powder

2 Tbs salt

30 oz of coconut oil (Use the LouAna brand if you don’t want your mix to have a coconut flavor.)

Mix your dry ingredients together, stirring for 1 minute.  Make sure all the lumps are gone.  Then cut in the coconut oil until the mixture particles are the size of small peas.  Store with an air tight seal.  If you use whole wheat flour, store in the fridge.

The Missouri Extension Center has some easy recipes that use this mix.

Plus all of the recipes below ⇓ Add your favorite baking mix recipes to the Linky :).

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Can I Afford to Stay Home With My Kids?

mother and baby

When we first married I was a 5th grade teacher. It was a great job, but also really stressful.  I became pregnant after we had been married just 3 months.  I had already signed my teaching contract for the next year. There was a steep contract breaking fee, but it didn’t matter.  My husband was in grad school and I was the only income producer in our family.  I had to work.

This was not how I planned to be a mother.  My mother stayed home with my brother and I, and it was a really good life.  I wanted to be a mother just like that.  Instead, I handed my newborn girl to someone else and went to work to spend time with other people’s babies (albeit 11 year old babies.)  It was the hardest thing I’d done so far. When I was at school, my heart was at home.  I counted the days down to when the year would end and I could stay home forever.  By then, my husband would graduate and his internship would turn into a real job.

When my dream finally came true, being a stay at home mom was a lot harder than I thought. It was a challenge just to take a shower or get dressed and still meet the needs of a fussy baby.  I didn’t have a single moment to claim for myself.  I started dreaming about teaching again! (The grass is always greener, right?)

Shortly, I became pregnant with baby #2 and spent the next 10 years pregnant or nursing, or both.  Working outside the home wasn’t practical for me.  I settled into my new role and learned to love it. While I did a few things to bring in income (like teaching music lessons, taking in sewing, running a paper route, or selling Mary Kay) my main contribution to the finances was saving money.

For us, the decision for me to stay home wasn’t difficult.  We were never a 2 income family.  When my husband went to work, he made $15,000 more a year than I did.  So my quitting didn’t reduce our income at all.

For most families, one person choosing to stay home can really affect finances. I recommend a trial run before quitting a good paying job.  Take these steps:

1.  Make a new budget only using the income from the partner who will continue to work.

2.  Allocate the other income completely to Savings.

3.  Live on the new budget for 3-6 months without touching the 2nd income.  If it’s possible, you’ll know you can quit and what kind of lifestyle you’ll need to live to do it.  PLUS you’ll have 3-6 months of your income in savings for an emergency fund.

Here’s a detailed Stay at Home Calculator.

Keep in mind, choosing to come home is still work.  It’s just a different job.  It may mean using cloth diapers, baking your own bread, ditching paper products & convenience foods, and growing a garden.  It can mean fewer vacations and no more restaurants. It means you are the full time child care person. It also means that you will be the single biggest influence in your children’s lives.  That is hard to put a price tag on.

Read more on staying home

P.S.  For newly weds where both partners are working, consider saving the wife’s entire income.  Then when the children come along, you will only be used to living on his salary anyway.  Her income can be use to dump debt, pay cash for a house, or whatever will help speed you towards your goals.

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Wrapping up the Spending Freeze

Can you believe the 31 day freeze is over?  I know some of you have already told me you are going for another month and I think that’s awesome.


We had a possible $200 from our basic living expenses to put back into our goal fund.  Those dollars were kept separate from my purse, where they would have normally gone.  Those budgets were: eating out, misc., hygeine, and blow money. The clothing fund also came out of my purse, but we can’t put those saved dollars into our goal fund. They need to be saved for future needs that we know are coming.

We had a few expenses and mistakes which left us $173 from money that normally disappears throughout the month.

I was gifted $200 from 2 separate places for Christmas/End of year bonuses that I decided to donate to the goal fund.

I also earned an extra $400 selling items on craigslist and online.

So the Spending Freeze found $773 for our project!  Guys, this is huge for us.  This means we can move the door, do the drywall, and basically create a finished bedroom to sleep in.  The bathroom won’t be done yet, but still I had doubts that this much was even possible.

 I’d love to hear how your spending freeze turned out–good or bad. Nobody can do this perfectly but even a little push in the right direction is awesome!

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Spending Freeze Day 28: Raise Your Income

work from home

Oh, Ladies, what a busy day!  Last night, I sent out a little email about $1 memberships ending Saturday at midnight, and I spent my day calling 72 of the most amazing people who wanted to find out all about it.  They didn’t know when they put their phone number down that I was going to call them personally.  It was kind of fun when they answered to say, “Hello, this is Angela Coffman from the Grocery Shrink” and wait for their response.  Most people were kind of weirded out and I think I would have been too, lol.  But what a joy to get to know some of the readers and actually hear their voices.

I’m already a day late on talking about Raising your income, and tomorrow I need to make more phone calls PLUS write the menu plan that goes out on Friday…..So I’m just going to write and hit publish and hope I can get my thoughts together for you.  That’s part of practicing what I preach, right?


Saving money is good, but if you don’t have enough income–it can’t be your end all solution.  A reader wrote in the comments last week that she was a money saving genius (my words) and lost her house anyway.  I don’t want that to happen to anyone again.  The truth is, we are really good at saving money around here, but it’s not enough to send our kids to college, replace our 20 year old cars, or finish the remodel project gone bad.

Earning money is the hard part for me, because it involves getting money from other people.  There really isn’t any way around that.  So my goal is to provide such a great service or product that the other person is better off for spending on it.  Take this fitness program for example.  I spent enough on it that I thought about it for awhile before pulling the trigger.  Enough that I had to think about where the money would come from.  BUT when I got it, I read it all immediately and then used it and it WORKED.  If it had been free, I don’t think I would have been as motivated to get so much out of it.  And Holly spent a lot of time putting all of that together to help people.  Her family had to do without her for those hours.  She deserved every dime I gave her.

You should pay people what they are worth. Which means, YOU should get paid what you are worth too.  Being stingy when paying others can make it hard for you to accept your due when it’s your turn. 


Here’s what you should ask yourself when you think about a business:

1.  Is the amount of your paycheck tied to the number of people you help? (The more people you help, the bigger your paycheck.)

2.  Is your product or service consumable?  Will the customer use it up and want to replace it?  (like with laundry soap, personal training, music lessons,–or gasoline!)

3.  Do you feel good about what you are doing?  Can you work with a clear conscience and with integrity?

4.  Are you tied to an hourly wage—like teaching music lessons for so much $$$ per half hour.  Or is your income potential open ended—like selling an e-course on music theory.

5.  Are you using your God given gifts?

6.  Do you enjoy the work?

The fastest way I know how to earn money is to work for an hourly wage.  You can run out and clean houses, mow lawns etc… right away.   I did that.  I taught music lessons and did custom sewing.  Then I used part of what I earned as seed money to start a business that wasn’t tied to an hourly wage. Because an hourly wage severely limits your income potential. It’s an ok jumping off point, but not a great goal.

Personal Entrepreneurial Job Ramblings

The following is not meant to be a text-book, just simply my journey so far.  If it’s helpful great.  If not, please don’t tell me I’m a mess.  I already know that.

I started earning money for my family by teaching singing and piano lessons.  Then added custom sewing for a little shop in Nauvoo, IL and then to dabbling in weddings.  As my family required more and more of my time, I moved from custom sewing for an hourly wage to designing sewing patterns and starting an online shop.  Yes, they took time to create, and there was bigger risk (what if no one bought them?), but once the pattern was finished I could replicated it 1,000 times with no new time spent.  This instantly moved me away from an hourly wage into an open ended wage potential. Eventually, I moved from physically printing patterns to selling download and print e-patterns, which removed more risk and eliminated more of my ongoing time commitment (since everything could be automated.)

At the same time I was doing patterns, I wrote my Grocery Shrink ebooks.  The same principle was there.  It took hours and hours to write them, but I could sell unlimited copies through ejunkie (who automatically collected the money and sent the download links to customers for me.)

While I was figuring out internet marketing (ok, I’m still figuring it out) I signed up with Mary Kay.  I could go out in an evening and sell products and come home instantly with cash.  This saved our necks during my husband’s 6 month job loss 5 years ago.

As time rolled on, I was no longer able to go out in the evenings.  There were too many music lessons and sports practices to take children to….I didn’t have even one free evening.  I still had a few Mary Kay customers to take care of, but the income stream wasn’t at the level I needed it to be.  I hired a business coach, who helped me realize that making meal plans for families as a subscription was the logical next step with my blog.  It was hard for me to justify the expense of hiring a coach but it turned out to be the best decision ever.  And Grocery Shrink Plus was born. I still work actively in that every week and recently added smart phone friendly shopping lists and video classes.  Fun stuff!  It has a great income potential, but I’m really hesitant about promoting myself… it’s not reaching it’s potential.

Work from home mom

Recently, I also joined Sandi Sullivan at MomCeo.  What a rewarding job!  I hemmed and hawed about it for 3 years before taking the plunge, forehead smack. I get to talk with amazing ladies every week and help them find natural home solutions that fit into their budgets and do business training for new associates.  I can do it around our busy schedule and completely from home (no parties!)  This appears to be the long term income solution we are looking for.

So anyhoo, that’s our journey so far.  Our dream would be for husband and wife to work together and have the freedom to travel, help others, and just be a family.  It was a reality check when my daughter turned 15 2 weeks ago, that if I wanted to realize this dream while she was still home, I needed to get a MOVE ON.  So….I did.

Where are you on your income journey?  Do you have dreams too?  Would simply saving more of your current income be enough for your family to realize them?

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Spending Freeze The Final Week! (Day 26) Let’s Earn Some Dough

It’s the last week of the spending freeze.  I’m super excited!  I’ve had to buy a few things besides food, but I was able to do it without dipping into my envelopes that I was hoping to save aside for the “goal.”  I have just enough cash left in food to grab milk or something if we need it.


Even with all this scrimping, our wad of cash to put towards the goal is small.  It’s time to make as much momentum as possible by generating some extra cash quickly.  Then tomorrow we’ll talk about more long term solutions to tiny income woes.

1.  Sell Stuff–Do you have any clothes worth taking to consignment stores?  Anything to post to a facebook garage sale site, your general facebook page, or Craigslist.

2.  Offer a blitz class:  Can you bake bread, crochet, knit or sew, paint?  Offer a $5-10 group class or maybe more than one (if there’s enough interest.)  If it goes well, it might be the jumping point for a business :).

3.  Offer a one time service for cash.  Emergency cleaning, yard work, or the like.

garage sale signs new bench 008

4.  If the weather is good enough, grab some friends and have a garage sale.  (My last sale made $700 just for me!  That’s kind of embarrassing to admit…..I don’t want you to think I’m a hoarder…)  It’s an unseasonal 58 degrees here today….that’s good enough for a sale!

What are your fast cash money generating ideas?

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Spending Freeze Day 22: Prioritizing Your Spending


If you didn’t have enough money one month to pay all your bills, what would you do? (while you figured out how to make more money…)

You’d prioritize your spending.

If you could only afford 1 thing, what would it be?


1. Probably Food (Not lobster tails, right?  Just basic nutritious food.)

3.  Then if you could only do 1 more thing, it’d probably be Lights.

4.  Then fuel (so you can get to your job) or internet if you work from home,

5. Then your house payment/rent

etc…..You’d make a list of everything you’d want to do and order them in importance. As money came in, you would take care of each need in order of importance to you.

shopping cart

Your food budget is a mini replica of that. Having a CASH budget makes the reality of your limitations, well, REAL. Most of us don’t have enough in our food budget for everything we’d like to do.  I’d like to have fresh berries every week of the year. I’d like to buy steaks once a month.  But I don’t do either of those things.

I don’t usually write down my food priorities, but if I did they would be:

1.  In Season or frozen Produce

2.  Healthy Protein

3.  Basic whole grains/staples

4.  Basic Dairy

5.  Snack Foods

6. Condiments

7. Treats like juice, soda, or desserts

Buy the necessary food first.  Nourish your family.  Then if there is money left, have a treat :).

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