Category Archives: Budgeting

Moveable Raised Garden Bed for Less than $75

Hello Lovelies,

I’m so damn excited to finally have our raised garden bed built! I’ve wanted one for quite some time now and finally got around to doing it. Our soil is very poor where we are and mainly solid clay. After two years of failed in ground attempts, opting for a raised garden bed was the best option. Plus, we moved the garden to another more desirable part of the yard. Our prior garden was in the direct Texan sun for about 12hrs a day and burned everything planted. Now, as the sun sets, a shadow is cast from the house leaving about 6-8 hours of direct sunlight. 

We built the bed 4ft x 8 ft out of untreated Cedar wood. Cedar is a good insect repellant. 

You will Need:

  • Six 8′ long 6″ wide boards of any untreated wood (cedar is the more pricey option)
  • Two 2″x 2″ x 8′ boards

Lowes offers wood cutting services to any size. So no need for expensive tools. Yay!

Cut the following measurements:

  • Leave four 8′ x 6″ boards for your long sides. 2 boards on each side so that your long side walls are 12″ high. 
  • Cut two of those same boards to 4′ lengths for the shortest sides and 12″ high. 
  • Cut the 2″ x 2″ 8′ boards in 4′ lengths. 
  • Cut one of the 2″ x 2″ 4′ boards into 1′ pieces. These will be your corner pieces. One piece per corner. 

Take one 2″ x 2″ x 1′ piece, one 4′ board and one 8′ board and screw or nail together making two holes in each board. This will strengthen the corners. Do this to the other three corners to create a box. 

Now do the second level, drilling into each corner 2″ x 2″ x 1′ piece. Now you have a 12″ high 4′ x 8′ raised bed. 

Take two 4′ 2″x 2″ boards and screw in the very middle to make two 4′ x 4′ wide sections. This will stabilize the bed and help prevent bulging sides. 

This took the following to fill 3/4 of the way up:

  • 22 bags of soil
  • 1 bag pebbles
  • 1 bag mulch

Total cost with tax was less than  $75 to build. We chose untreated cedar wood and cut all of the wood for free. We had screws already and chose screws because we are still renting our home.  We can move this later. 

Total build time about 30 minutes with an electric drill. 

We found this to be a much better way to do a raised bed.  A lot of the online kits we looked at were extremely expensive and were flimsy looking or didn’t get rave reviews for being durable. This way, we built ourselves, built it strong, and learned a new skill. 

Easy 3 Ingredient Homemade Dog Treats

Hello Lovelies,

First let me start by saying, that I am no expert, this is based on my own research and public information.  In looking at the different types of dog treats and dog food, I’ve found that just like our food labels, not all ingredients must be displayed on pet food. There is a lot of pet food out there is either overpriced or has just as much gimmicky marketing and hidden truths as our own human food supply. There is a common hidden ingredient (among many) most pet parents never think about.  That ingredient is MSG. Now there are a ton of undisclosed ingredients, but MSG and bi-products I want to stay away from.  It is like us eating a McDonald’s hamburger versus making our own.  They disguise this ingredient with advertising that the product contains “natural flavors or natural flavoring.” MSG goes into most pet food as hydrolyzed protein.  It is super scary to know that additives can also create MSG in processing or are named something else like protein isolate or hydrolyzed yeast.  Their treats are laden with sugars, bi-products, and nasty stuff.  If I won’t eat it, my pets won’t either.  By making your own food and or treats, you know exactly what is in them, save money, but they are really healthy too!

I’ve started my little 6lb bunny rabbit wannabe, who is a year old, on homemade dog food and treats. The best part is, it is using things I always have in my pantry.  I make my own stocks and broths, so it makes the treats even healthier. Let me tell you, he kept spinning and jumping as they were baking!  They are crispy, crunchy, and have the consistency of hard biscuits.  I used bacon fat as I had some on hand.

You will Need:

  1. 3 cups whole wheat flour (do not use white)
  2. 3 tablespoons of olive oil, bacon fat, or other healthy fat
  3. 2-2 1/2 cups veggie, beef, or chicken broth preferably homemade and this amount will change depending on the consistency of the dough

Mix all of the ingredients together until it forms a dough that is not really sticky. Roll out the dough on a floured surface and cut out in shapes.  Use cookie cutters, a canning lid, or anything you wish to make the shape of your cookies.  I kept mine simple and used a pizza cutter.  Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes on parchment paper.  Shut off the oven and allow them to sit in the oven until the oven cools. This will further remove moisture and allow them to crisp up.

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This does make a lot of cookies for a small to medium sized dog, larger dogs it will make about 2 dozen or so.  My cookies were freehand and about 1/2″x 1/2″ to 1″x 1″ in size.

Mix up the cookies with different oils, broths, and stocks to adjust the flavor or use up what you have on hand. Enjoy!

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YAY! For Small Milestones -Paying off Debt

Hello Lovelies,

Milestones can be so hard to reach. Everyone has bills and almost everyone has debt.  It’s taken us over a year to be able to start paying some off. A lot came from previous marriages and idiotic mistakes that we’ve made when we were younger.  I learned the hard way that creditors can “refresh” your debt lengthening the time that entry spends on your credit report.  For example, I had a $44 bill on my report that was unjustified.  They refreshed the debt after I inquired about it because it was dropping off that year.  It refreshed the debt for another three years!

Some necessities do require a small amount of debt and these I can live with.  Over the summer, we needed a new mattress desperately because the one we had hurt Babydoll’s back.  They had the option of 90 days to pay without accruing interest. Needless to say, we had 90 days to pay and it is PAID! Had we accrued interest, we wouldn’t have bought it.  No more debt!

I have five student loans and they’ve haunted me for years.  We are now on a doable payment plan for all of them and it is helping the five different entries on my credit report.  Ouch!  I paid a previous small loan and now its off my report. Whohoo!

So far so good.  We have a few more big bills to take care of and we are well on our way to becoming debt free.  It feels so good to even pay one bill off and it is highly motivating. It’s a baby step with huge impact.  If you are in a situation like we are with past debt that are now with creditors, the calls do not stop.  We get calls for some companies up to eight times a day, they are relentless.  In most instances, the creditors are offering discounts on the total balance. Often you will get a bill from a collection agency in the mail to negotiate your bill so they can recoup someone of their money for buying the debt from the original creditor.  How can they do this?  They buy debt for pennies leaving them ample leg room to negotiate.  I negotiate as I go further saving money and also paying off debt. While this isn’t ideal, by all means if you have the money pay off the debt entirely.  But we’ve been able to settle for almost 40% of our total debt.

We chose to take the bills that had the highest interest or didn’t hit our credit reports yet and work on those first.  These were our primary focus.  We ordered our bills highest to lowest based on the fees and interest accrued.  Tackling the highest interest first.  This seems to work best for me and still leaves us money in the bank.  I keep one folder in our files for past debt.  I throw out the last bill and replace with the new one eliminating paper clutter.  Each month we pay something.  Every little bit helps and it is better than ignoring it.  Once paid off, I ask for a paid invoice stating my debt is now $0.  This goes gets stapled to the last bill that I have with a call reference number and the representatives name.  If needed, this information can save you later on if the payment isn’t posted correctly or if you didn’t receive a payoff letter.  After the payoff letter is stapled to the last bill, I file it in a folder labeled paid debt and keep it filed until the debt drops off my credit report.  Then I shred it.  This has saved me in the past big time!  I went for my car loan and a past bill I had wasn’t posted on my credit report as paid/settled.  With the payoff letter and rep information, I was able to submit this letter with my application and the bank accepted it. Good record keeping comes in very handy.

Does anyone use the Snowball Method by Dave Ramsey for paying off debt?  Leave your comments below and let me know if it works for you.

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image credit to earningmytwocents.com

Homemade Pasta! Fresher is Better

Hello Lovelies,

I had a lot of canning to do this weekend and included in all my food glory was my grandmother’s spaghetti sauce.  I had some larger jars that I didn’t have new canning lids for, so I decided to keep them in the fridge and attempt to make my own pasta.  It was super easy and really doesn’t require fancy equipment. Just your hands.

You will need:

  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 2 cups of white flour OR half flour/half semolina flour
  • 1 tsp water
  • Rolling pin

Dump the flour on your counter top.  Make a well in the middle (like a crater in the center of your flour) for the wet ingredients to go.

Add the rest of your ingredients. 

Using a fork, scramble the eggs carefully incorporating the flour as you go. Eventually, you will get a wet slop of flour as it will still be sticky. This is the perfect time to start using your hands. As you knead the dough, it will come together quickly.  

Knead the dough for 10-15 minutes to activate the gluten in the flour. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let rest for 10 minutes to allow the gluten to relax.

Now to get creative!  Cut the dough in half and start rolling. You do not have to add additional flour because it really doesn’t stick.  Every time you roll about 7-8 times, pick up the dough completely from the counter and rotate it.  Do this until it gets really thin and almost see through a little against your hand.  Not see through, but you can see the shadow of your hand behind it.

Cut into strips for spaghetti or fettuccine, squares for raviolis, or 2″ rectangles and pinch in the middle for bow tie pasta. Sprinkle a little flour as you cut your pasta, tossing lightly to coat so they don’t stick together.  The sky is the limit and it is really fun to make!

To cook, boil in salted water  for about 5 minutes until the noodles are al dente. Fresh pasta has more chew than box pasta, so don’t get discouraged. 

Pasta uses common staples that most homes always have on hand.  It’s fresher tasting with a slight chew versus box pasta that can get mushy.  Commercial pasta isn’t always made with eggs, just semolina flour and water, then it is pushed through molds.  So if you have an egg allergy, homemade pasta isn’t the best option unless you make it without eggs.

An average box of pasta can run up to $1.50/lb, fresh pasta at the store up to $4/lb, and homemade pasta for me in my area cost me about $.27 cents.  I buy 50lb bags of flour keeping my cost down and my eggs are .89/dozen.  In the time it takes to boil water, then cook commercial pasta, you can make your own.

Homemade Biscuits and Sausage Gravy

Hello Lovelies,  

Happy Sunday!! Every Sunday, my family has brunch. And in our home, it’s biscuits and gravy! 

I use a cast iron skillet for both my gravy and biscuits. This will also work and be just as fantastic in a regular skillet and cookie sheet. 

Gravy

  • Whole Milk 
  • Black pepper
  • Garlic powder
  • Salt
  • Paprika
  • Parsley 
  • Pork sausage 
  • Flour

Brown the sausage until it starts to develop a little crispness but just a little. Add seasonings completely to taste. I add a ton of pepper, but it’s very customizable to taste. 

Once browned, sprinkle flour over the meat and stir until coated. The flour absorbes the oil and prevents lumping. This will make a beautiful gravy without a roux so to speak.  I add about 1/4 – 1/2 cup of flour depending on how it looks. 


Add milk to almost fill the pan and stir/scrape every few moments so the milk doesn’t scald. It will thicken nicely as it cooks. 

Once the desired thickness, I add more pepper and it’s done. 

Biscuits

These are baking soda biscuits made with lard. Flaky, soft, and delicious! 

  • 2 cups flour 
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • Enough water to combine
  • 1/4 lard or shortening
  • 1 tbsp baking soda

Combine all of the ingredients except the water. You can use a mixer or a bowl. Add enough water until a dough develops, it will be sticky but not wet. If you add too much water, add more flour. Spoon out on to a cookie sheet, do not roll or form them. If you’re using a cast iron skillet, be sure to heat your skillet in the oven first. Bake at 400 degrees until lightly golden. 

This keeps very well in the fridge for just a few days. Although if you are like my house, it’s already gone! Enjoy!