Category Archives: Simple Thrift Tips

Lesson 1140 – Keto diet and backyard chickens

It turns out that a Keto diet is a *very* good diet to be on if you have chickens (and want to make a thrifty dish or two. This one crustless quiche recipe uses 12 eggs (although to be fair it makes 12 servings so that’s really only one egg per serving.) Once made, I froze the leftovers and in the mornings I take one serving out, sprinkle more cheese on it and then heat it in the microwave.I think this is a terrific breakfast recipe for anyone, especially older kids who sometimes are so rushed they forget to eat something for breakfast.Here is the original recipe from I breathe I’m hungry.

It’s a low carb and gluten free breakfast casserole recipe that is hearty and easy to make!

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Lesson 1131 – Real Soup in a Cup – A thrifty and healthy lunch

Several people pointed me to this news story that has made the rounds recently. Basically, it’s the lament (whining) of a 350 lb. woman on benefits (she lives in the U.K.) She currently receives about $32,000 year (includes public housing) and claims that she remains fat because the government is not giving her enough money to buy healthy food or to join a gym. If she only had more money, she claims, she would be able to lose weight.I’m not even sure where to start with this one.

First, if you look at her cupboard, you’ll soon realize that the woman wouldn’t know healthy food it came up and bit her on her substantial bum. Second, last time I looked, walking was free.

As a mother of 6, I have spent years figuring out how to feed my kids a healthy diet without breaking the bank. I’m all about saving money and I’ve written about it in newspaper and magazine columns and articles. I’ve even taken the SNAP challenge and did quite well on less than $35/week (and I also showed how I could *save* money while on SNAP.

My kids, deprived beings that they are, very rarely get grocery store cookies, cereals, or soda. They just don’t because none of us need that garbage. The other night we had a cake for a birthday celebration. We all enjoyed it because it was special. Cake is celebration food – it’s not something that should be eaten every day.

Some of my readers have asked me to write again about how I plan our weekly menu and then how I shop for it. (I routinely spend about $160 – $180/week to feed our family of 7 adults – that comes to about $26/week. And trust me, when money was *really* tight, I’ve fed everyone for less.)

I have a few other projects to finish up, but in the next few weeks, I will do just that. I’ll share our weekly menu (something I do every Sunday morning) and my shopping list. I’ll make the meals for the week and will show you exactly what we eat.

If one spends $180/week on food that comes to $9360 per year. That’s a far cry less than $32,000 (and remember, I’m feeding 7 adults (our youngest is 15) – the woman in the news article is feeding herself and two children.) With the money I could save on her benefits, I could probably afford to buy a second-hand bike which could provide even more exercise.

Until I do my menu sharing, to start things off, I’ll give you a quick money saving healthy recipe which I plan on using for the entire winter.

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Project Chickens before the Eggs – Lesson 76 – Chicken parties and broken bones

Last year, as part of a personal challenge, I tried to see if I could hold a children’s birthday party for under 10 dollars. Not only was I able to do it but the kids went to the movies (at the local library) ate cake, candy and ice cream and even did some crafts for a total of $3.19.

This year I wasn’t necessarily trying to come in under 10 dollars but I was still trying to make it thrifty.

Why not use the chickens, I thought? They provide easy free entertainment and a great learning opportunity.

When the party started, I had the kids sit off to the side and we let out the larger birds. I talked about what we do to take care of them and about the different types of eggs we get. The piece de la resistance was, of course, the baby chicks that we brought out for the kids to see.

The kids had plastic eggs filled with candy, peeps on their cupcakes, ice cream and a box of chocolate marshmallow eggs to take home. Many thanks go to the half price Easter remains.

The day was bright, sunny, and warm and after the cake the kids decided to play hide and go seek. All was well until someone came running up to me telling me that my daughter Emma was hurt. Continue reading

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Why so much emphasis on saving money? the kids made me do it.

Why do we work so hard at saving as many pennies as we can?

Well beside the most obvious answer that it just doesn’t make sense to me to spend more money than you need to … on anything. (I mean, just why would you?) We also save money where we can so that we can do things with and for our tribe of kids. I don’t care how much money you make, if you have 6 kids, it means you have to be careful with how your cash is allocated. (It also means that instead of buying new seat cushions, you learn to turn them over and pretend that you don’t know they have been destroyed by the dogs).

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Simple Thrift Column – Nashua Telegraph – December 22, 2009 – Lose some weight, then donate it to a good cause

Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Lose some weight, then donate it to a good cause
Wendy Thomas
Many of us are carrying extra weight. It’s tough to keep it off, especially at this time of year when so much of our holiday entertainment is centered around food. Add that to especially cold temperatures, and, well, it’s just easier to sit on the couch with hot chocolate than go outside for a brisk walk.
Not only is extra weight hard on our bodies (resulting in increased medical costs as we try to find ways to alleviate our aches and pains), but it also creates an increased cost on our food budget, as we have to buy the extra food needed to sustain the weight. Let’s face it: Extra weight on our bodies is just not a thrifty way to live.
The goal is then to lose the extra weight. It’s not easy, and often there is little incentive for us to pass on that chocolate cheesecake.
In a magazine, I recently saw a story about a woman who turned her weight loss into good for others. Weight Watchers has a program like this, as do a few other groups. It got me thinking.
I can do the same. Since last January, I’ve lost 22 pounds. I’ve had some ups and downs, but right now it stands at 22. At the end of the year, I’ll take my total weight lost for the year and will donate that weight in canned goods to a local food pantry.
Similarly, a friend of mine, Linda Lusby, of Indiana, told me about how she donated 75 pounds of food to her local food pantry through Weight Watchers. That food represented the 75 pounds she had lost from the beginning of the year until October. There were 13 (16-ounce) boxes of Cheerios to represent the 13 pounds she lost on her own before joining Weight Watchers, and 62 (16-ounce) jars of peanut butter, which represents the weight she lost while on the program.
That’s nothing short of an impressive accomplishment on her part, and the fact that she was able to do good as a result makes it just that more admirable.
A big part of living a thrifty life is sharing what you have with others. That’s especially important to remember at this time of year.

More eggs
You know that expression “be careful what you wish for”? Well, we are currently getting around six eggs a day, and the number will be increasing as our birds age into laying.
We are becoming very good at figuring out how to use eggs in our recipes. In fact, all of my kids are becoming quite adept at independently making some pretty mean scrambled eggs.
½ chopped onion
2 eggs per person, mixed in a bowl with a fork
A healthy pinch of shredded cheddar cheese
Splash of olive oil
Pepper to taste
Using medium-high heat, saute the onions in the olive oil.
Add the eggs, and start scrambling.
When the eggs are somewhat dry, add the cheddar cheese, and continue cooking until cheese has melted.
Serve with pepper.

With this basic recipe, my kids have also added different cheeses, leftover vegetables and even chopped-up meats.
Who knew that having chickens would result in my kids learning how to cook for themselves?

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Simple Thrift Column – Nashua Telegraph – December 15, 2009 – eggs and memories

Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Chicken eggs are coming, and more holiday ideas
Wendy Thomas

I haven’t talked about the chickens lately, but I have big news. We are starting to get eggs on a daily basis! The older girls have started laying, and the second younger batch of six should also be laying in the next few weeks. The eggs range from brown to light blue to green – proving that, indeed, there is such a thing as green eggs and ham.

We can positively identify two of the layers. Zelda, true to what her previous owner had told us, tends to lay double-yolked eggs. Her eggs are larger, and we need to avoid them in recipes where another yolk might be a problem. For your information, using a double-yolked egg in brownies may not be the best thing for your cholesterol, but it sure makes them extra “cakey.”

Squishy is the one who lays the brown eggs; this I know because I got a frantic call from my son one day telling me, “Mom, I saw the egg come out of Squishy. She was yelling, and then it just sort of popped out. How does that big thing come out of her like that? No wonder she was squawking.”

When I got home, he hugged me. “Mom,” he said, “do you know that you essentially popped out an egg like that six times? Wow.”

Yes, indeed, we are all still learning from our chickens.

Holiday memories
Here are some more holiday memories when money was tight that will warm your hearts.
n Every year, whether money was tight or not, my children and I made something homemade; even when they were teens, they still wanted to do it. We would buy plain Christmas balls and cover them with glitter, or at the craft stores, you can get little knickknack things and paint them. One year, we made Santas out of felt and walnuts still in the shell. Anyway, my mom and aunts still hang them on their trees each year. My children are now 25 and 29!
– SUSIE TAYLOR, Harpswell, Maine

Last year, I had $49 to my name. (I had savings, of course, but being retired, you never know how far they will go, and that’s for the future, anyway.) My day-to-day expenses left me with $49 until the end of the year. I had a thrifty year, because the economy took away the ability to withdraw from my savings, so it’s good that I ended in the black at all!
As a result, my grandchildren were the only recipients of gifts from me. I asked each one what they would like for a painting for their rooms. Kate chose horses galloping across a field, and Ben chose a soccer player scoring a goal.
– PAULA SUPER, Merrimack

There were many years my mother wouldn’t waste money on gift wrap and instead used the funny papers for wrapping presents. I’ve learned from her – my kids have been receiving gifts from Santa in the same recycled gift bags for years.

The adults in my family have, for a number of years now, decided that we can’t afford to buy presents for each other, and none of us really need anything anyway. (We’re not a well-off family, but we’ve also – knock on wood – been pretty lucky about staying employed and keeping roofs over our heads.)

So, one year we decided to start making gifts for each other rather than buying them. We make the same thing for everyone, so when the family gets together to celebrate Christmas, we all open, for example, my sister’s present at the same time, then my parents’ present, etc. That way, the surprise isn’t ruined for anyone else if one person opened the parents’ present while another opened sister’s. There have been some pretty imaginative and well-made gifts over the years.
The real concept is that a handmade gift is of far more value to us than a store-bought one. Of course, we each think our own handmade gift is the stupidest yet, so we ended up calling these our “Stupid Christmas Crafts.” I’m still working on mine for the year, and, yes, I think mine is the stupidest yet!
– JANE LAW, Concord

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Simple Thrift Column, Nashua Telegraph – December 09, 2009 – holiday memories

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Thrifty holiday days

Wendy Thomas

For many families, money is tight this holiday season. There might be fewer gifts, but that doesn’t mean that the holiday spirit still can’t burn bright.

I asked my friends to share memories of times past when money had not been in abundance. For many, it was when they were newly married or when they had young children. For others, it’s now while being a college student and having to watch pennies.

In all cases, however, these friends fondly remember the times when they had to make do with what they had. Having to be creative and resourceful left them with happy, nostalgic memories of a time when the focus was on more than just store bought gifts. Enjoy these memories.

Favorite cereal as a treat

I stumbled on this idea several years ago when strapped for cash, but looking for “bulk” under the tree, and now it’s become a family tradition: I buy everyone’s favorite cereal (and I actually spring for name brand!) and wrap it. Presto: For about $10-$15, I have four large wrapped gifts to add to the thrill of Christmas. And sometimes more when I know family members or friends will be joining us for the holidays.


Decorating and caroling

Well, as a college student, I’m strapped for cash. But I still get the holiday joy by decorating with the dollar store’s supplies. And I take up any activities that the college offers. For example, this Saturday, I’m going to spread Christmas joy by caroling with the Sisters of Rivier.


The kindness of others

I had my first son when I was 18, and for his second Christmas, we were on a list for gifts from the YMCA. He got clothes and toys. I also bought all his other presents at a consignment store. It was a wonderful Christmas where I was so thankful for the generosity of strangers.

– LAURA PLOSS, Merrimack

Handmade ornaments

As a young 18-year-old newlywed, I made salt dough ornaments and paper chains for the tree. In later years, the children and I hung gingersnap cookies on a tree so unwanted, the Boy Scouts couldn’t sell it, so it was free. We called it our Christmas bush because it was completely round. Now Bob and I are two of the 200 people who spend $5 for a permit to cut a small balsam tree from the White Mountain National Forest (and no, no one is allowed to know our secret spot!). I am still making handmade ornaments, and that is usually my Christmas present to friends.

– HOPE MANSEAU, Canterbury Station

Yard sale fun

Every year in my extended family, one of us is always strapped for cash, so instead of buying for everyone, we made a list of all of the adults, and we rotate every year who we will buy for. The fun part is the guys only buy for the guys and the women only buy for the women. The men usually go for the tools or books, and they are thrilled with the opportunity to buy for another guy.

One year, we planned early, and the theme was “yard sale.” The item you bought has to be from a yard sale. The one constant rule was that you couldn’t spend more than $10.

People get so creative when they have to work under guidelines. It was so successful that we all voted to do it again and again. This has been a tradition for close to 20 years now.

– DEE AVERY, Merrimack

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Simple Thrift – Nashua Telegraph – November 24, 2009 – try bartering

Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Consider bartering during the holidays

Wendy Thomas

Bartering for goods and services has a long standing history in New England. We’ve all grown up reading stories about how the colonists helped each other out by trading products or services. Hey, I’ve got a dozen eggs – I’ll trade the eggs for help with tilling my garden.
These days, bartering is still alive and well. In my case, one way I save money by bartering is that I review books for a Web site. I don’t get paid for the reviews, but I get to keep the books, which then become gifts for friends and family. To me, that’s a pretty good tradeoff. Books are wonderful gifts and ones you can personally recommend are even better.
In another case, I have a friend who has offered to help us pick up the leaves in our yard in exchange for my setting her up an account and getting her going on Craigslist. Living near woods with lots of tall oaks, this is a welcome trade I happily accepted.
This season, think about how you might be able to barter for what you need. Can you provide a meal to someone in exchange for helping you figure out a software program? Can you watch a friend’s child for a few hours in return for help cleaning out a garage? Can your son shovel a driveway in return for some math tutoring?
With so much to be done in all of our lives and with continued limited funds, the time has come to be creative and think about how we can share what we have to help each other along.
More uses for eggs
With the holidays comes company. Here are some tasty recipes that will stretch your dollar as far as it can go by using those incredible, edible eggs. Which, by the way, we still have not gotten any more since that first (and last) one.

• 2 eggs
• ½ cup mayonnaise
• ½ cup milk
• 8 ounces shredded cheese
• 8 ounces imitation crabmeat, chopped
• Dill weed and chives, to taste
• 1 frozen pie shell (or if you are ambitious, roll a pie shell, or make a crust and place on a pie plate)

Mix together first five ingredients. Pour into pie shell.
Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Let sit for 10 minutes before serving to allow it to set.
Serves 6 as a main dish.
(Recipe from Shannon Barnes, Merrimack)
• 4 egg whites, room temperature
• 11⁄3 cups sugar
• 1 teaspoon vanilla
• 12 ounces chocolate chips, about 2 cups

Mix, whip egg whites until stiff. Add sugar and vanilla. Mix.
Add chocolate chips, and stir.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Drop by teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets.
Put in oven, close the door and turn off the oven. No peaking until next morning.
Makes 4 dozen.
(Recipe from Gale Taylor, Merrimack)
Send your money-saving tips and ideas to Wendy Thomas at She also writes at

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Simple Thrift Column, Nashua Telegraph, November 17, 2009 Coupon Savings

Tuesday, November 17, 2009
If investing the time into them, coupons can be worth it
Wendy Thomas

I’ve never been much of a coupon user. I’ve always justified it by saying that I usually don’t buy the type of preprocessed foods that usually have coupons. Lately, though, I’ve started to rethink that. I’ve checked out a few Web sites and talked to a few people, and there is a lot to be said for using coupons.
There are lots of Internet coupon sites that teach you how to shop with coupons and help you match them up with what is on sale at different stores. A good one is, which tells you where to find the offers and coupons. On the site, you can also search for coupons using keywords or by a specific store.
Another good site is, where people post questions for other members to answer, post about successful shopping trips they have had with specific details on how to duplicate their success, and submit notifications of upcoming sales.
Carole Barker, of Nashua, introduced me to Big Tent. She told me, “At first, I was pretty overwhelmed. I stuck with it, though, and it began to make sense.”
Barker outlined the steps she takes to drastically reduce how much she pays out of pocket. She says you need to:
• Invest time to plan your shopping trips.
• Amass multiple copies of coupons (buy multiple copies of newspapers, have friends and family give you what they don’t use, search online sites for printable coupons, buy coupons for a fraction of their face value from coupon-clipping services and/or on eBay).
• Watch for sales.
• Take advantage of “buy x amount of these products, get y back to spend on your next purchase.”
• As much as possible, combine as many of these elements in each transaction as you can.
She explained how she now combines coupon offers: “I needed to get some Robitussin for my daughter. Before, I would have checked to see if I had a coupon for Robitussin, and maybe checked to see if it was on sale somewhere, and bought a bottle. It was, in fact, on sale at CVS that week, for $5.50 rather than $6.49, and I would have most likely had the $1 off coupon clipped from a Sunday coupon insert. So, $4.50 for one bottle. Good, right? Well, instead, I took the extra time to read the ad thoroughly. At CVS, if you spent $20 on a select group of cold remedies (of which Robitussin, both adult and child formulas, is a part), you got $10 back in Extra Care Bucks, i.e. $10 off on a future CVS purchase. I also went online and was able to print off two additional coupons for $2 off one Robitussin item.”
“So, off I went, got two bottles each of adult and child formula Robitussin, which came to $22 (and therefore, over the $20 threshold to get my $10 Extra Care Bucks). I also presented my three coupons, taking $5 off the $22 total. I also had a $10 Extra Care Bucks coupon from a deal last week, so I paid $22 minus $5 minus $10, equaling $7, and I left with $10 Extra Care Bucks, but even without that, to pay $17 for four bottles of Robitussin and then get the equivalent of $10 back – now, that is saving!”
Barker said it can take a lot of time at first to understand store policies and which stores to go to. “But when I tallied my numbers last night, I must say that I was pretty impressed.”
Barker admits that some of the products she buys she has no use for – such as blood glucose monitors, packaged food she doesn’t use – but when something is actually free or, in some cases, she makes money by buying it, she takes it and finds it a good home for it, such as food pantries, outreach agencies, etc.

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Simple Thrift Column – Nashua Telegraph October 27, 2009

Wendy Thomas – Simple Thrift
Published: Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Create inexpensive family traditions columnists653

I recently gave a talk to Merrimack Friends and Family, which is a great service and social club for women and their families in Merrimack. While talking about thrifty ways we have fun in our family, I told them that one way to add fun and memories into our lives is to have inexpensive, but meaningful family traditions that the kids look forward to each year.
For example, in the fall, the Fall Fairy visits our house.

The way you call the Fall Fairy to your house is to catch a falling leaf before it can touch the ground and lose its magic. This is done by taking the kids to the woods on a bright, fall afternoon and setting them lose to run and chase the falling leaves. If you don’t catch a leaf, the Fall Fairy doesn’t visit, so even the teenagers are good heartedly involved in the chase.

Once you have the leaf, you then place it under you pillow before you go to bed that evening. Continue reading

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