Ditch the Cost of Convenience

Love the convenience, hate the price. I find myself saying that a lot lately.  Instead of lamenting our country’s economic situation and its impact on my family, I’m slowly but surely trying to become more self-sufficient.  Learning to make or do things on my own instead of paying for convenience is one way to be a wise steward.  It also ensures that first things stay first around here.  If I caved too often to the cost of convenience, I’d buy my way right into a job outside my home!

I’d love to tell you that I’ve taken to sewing our clothes, creating natural homeopathic remedies for our ills, and whittling our furniture out of tree stumps.  But alas, I still rely on hand-me-downs, coupons, and second hand stores for such things.  I am, however, learning how better to stretch my dollar in the kitchen.

Boneless, skinless chicken breasts are one example of a convenience food that I’ve always had a hard time saying “no” to.  Until recently, I tried to stock up whenever I saw them on sale for under $2.00/lb.  Now, however, I look for the split/bone-in breasts on sale.  They are often found for $1.00/lb.  Last week I found a package for 90¢/lb.!

Here’s what I do to get more for my money and still enjoy boneless, skinless chicken breasts.

  1. Freeze bone-in breasts for an hour or two, or until they are easy to work with.  (TIP:  much easier to cut partially frozen meat!)
  2. Pull the skin off (TIP:  use a paper towel or rag for a better grip.)
  3. Cut most of the meat off for a nice boneless breast.  Don’t stress about getting every little bit.
  4. Cook the bones with meat attached in water.  Shred that meat for casseroles, taco filling, etc.
  5. Make chicken stock with the bones, a little vinegar, water, and some veggies.

Here are a few other convenience-cost-free items I like to make myself. The food items taste better homemade, and are certainly healthier than the canned, processed, fake-food-laden store versions.

  • baby wipes
  • syrup
  • bread, buns, pizza dough, etc.
  • soak dried beans instead of buying canned
  • refried beans
  • cream of mushroom soup
  • gravy
  • applesauce (with free apples from my neighbor’s tree!)
  • tortillas ~ I still need lots of practice with this one!
  • play dough
  • window cleaner ~ I use vinegar and water, and wipe with a newspaper.

I have so much more to learn!  I really want to make my own laundry soap, but I’m still searching for the washing soda.  And bubble bath.  I love a hot bubble bath. I should definitely make my own.  Anyone have a recipe?

What are some of your favorite do-it-yourself tricks to live large on less?

This post is linked to Finding Freedom Friday and Frugal Friday.

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Comments

  1. Wow! That’s quite a list! You are way more ambitious than I am:-)

  2. I do the same thing with chicken breast! Great tip. It is alot cheaper to buy bone in rather than boneless. You just have to be willing to work a little harder to save a little more.

    Thank you for linking your homemade baby wipes. I had no idea it was so easy. I might have to give that a try!

  3. Wow! I am impressed. :) I have not come nearly as far as you, but I did start making blueberry muffins from scratch instead of buying the mix. Making them from scratch with real blueberries is actually cheaper than even the Jiffy Mix! I guess I also stopped eating so much fast food. The fast food industry is the King of convenience and was probably also the largest overall contributor to the debt I slowly wracked up! Thank God I am now on a plan to get debt free!

  4. Wonderful post ~ thank you for ALL of the great ideas. I love them!! :)

  5. I hope to one day get my life organized enough to do some of those things. We don’t eat breakfast cereal any more. We have oatmeal or toast and fruit or breakfast cookies. Great post. It’s got my head working.

  6. Why the vinegar in your broth? Just wondering… I make it too, but never heard the vinegar thing.

    Amy here: Someone told me once (or maybe I read it) that a little vinegar will help draw out the calcium in the bones. Can anyone confirm that for me? Based on the science experiments I used to do with my sixth graders, it should work. ;-)

  7. Great tutorial on the chicken breast. I’m a numbers geek. Did you weigh the breasts afterward (just breast meat) to see if it really was a “savings”?

    Amy here: I’m basing my chicken breast info. off of this post from Happy to be at home:

    Tonight, after supper clean-up, I got a package of bone-in chicken breasts out of the freezer to defrost for tomorrow. I always buy bone-in chicken breasts with skin, because I can regularly buy them for 99 cents/lb, which is much cheaper than boneless, skinless chicken breasts. I simply remove the skin with my kitchen shears, and cook them for 4-6 hours in the slow cooker. The meat is so tender that it just falls off the bone.

    Someone once told me that bone-in chicken breasts aren’t actually cheaper, because you have to pay for the weight of the bones and skin. To put that theory to rest, I actually saved all of the bones and skin from a 5-pound package of chicken and weighed it. It weighed approximately one pound, so I recalculated the unit price, and determined that the only way boneless, skinless chicken breasts would be a good bargain is if I could buy them for $1.31/lb or less. Around here, the cheapest sale I can find is $1.69/lb. So, HA!

    Plus, not only did I get some nice-sized chicken breasts, I also got 2 cups of shredded meat and 6 cups of natural, healthy, unknown-chemicals-free chicken stock out of the deal! ;-)

  8. Boneless skinless chicken breast are one of those things I seem to find on sale for a lot so honestly it is just as cheap to have it already done for you!

    I made some refried beans the other day and they were so yummy! Love to make my own pizza dough, my son who will be 13 says he loves my pizza better than domino’s so that is compliment!

  9. I’m curious about the vinegar in the broth as well.

    I really wish I could get over my “bone issue” so that I can cash in on this. I’ve tried, but it seriously freaks me out! Maybe one day!

    Your list is very similar to mine, but I’ve never made playdough. I don’t know why, either. Maybe this weekend–since we’re suppossed to get SNOW!

  10. Great post! I have recently found the chicken breast too.
    Thanks for sharing!
    ~Liz

  11. Isn’t it amazing how cutting down on these “conveniences” can have a HUGE impact on the pocket book? I’d love to see how you do tortillas!!

    In my household, convenience bread, granola bars, and yogurt were all traded in for homemade and I think we save about $20/week on these items.

    Luckily, my husband has mad knife skills and can de-bone a chicken in 10 minutes, so he gives me those convenient boneless breasts :).

  12. My list looks very similar to yours, although I have never tried making baby wipes. But I will be able to try that one out when our grandbaby makes her appearance this summer. It’s amazing how much we pay for convenience, isn’t it? I find myself coming back to your blog over and over again. Have a great weekend!

  13. We are slowly breaking away with buying convenience foods too. Our current rule is if we are buying a convenience food it has to have 7 or less ingredients or we make it at home or do without.

  14. We do eat more non-processed foods because it’s healthy and they taste better.
    Saving money is just another benefit.

  15. Great advice!!

  16. for bubble bath, I use dish soap, the kind that “softens hands”. I get it for $.50 – $.75/bottle using coupons and sales. Just a little squirt fills the tub with foamy bubbles- the plus, no soap scum to deal with. It works for us!

  17. Great post and thanks for the tutorial. Do you have a Winco near you? I heard they sell the washing soda.

    Loved the whittling furniture out of a tree stump. Love to see that!

  18. I didn’t think about freezing the chicken first for awhile.
    I just started making tortillas. They’re finally beginning to look round and not like the state of TX!
    I found this phone number you can call to find out the stores in your area that sell Washing Soda: 1-800-524-1328 UPC code (33200-03020) I called and they were very friendly. Hope this helps.

  19. Amy, I could’ve hooked you up with washing soda! It’s in MY tiny town (well, the next one over, anyway) grocery store. I tried calling the automated number (or maybe I found the same thing online?) and had no luck. Then one day I happened to go down that aisle at the store and there it was.

    After you posted on making wipes, I finally gave it a try. After a bit of help from Joy (put the extras in a container in the fridge to keep them from molding), we are happy as a clam with them. Thanks!

  20. “Whittling our furniture out of tree stumps,” LOL! Thanks for my first laugh of the day! (It’s Saturday morning.)
    We prefer boneless chicken cutlets, so I stock up on them when they are on sale. But you are right, the boney ones are cheaper. I never knew how easy they are to debone, so next time I see them I’m going to try your method. Thanks, you probably saved me a ton of money!

  21. Awesome ideas..thanks!

  22. The best bet in finding the washing soda is at the grocery store and you can also is the . You would think Walmart would carry it, but if I remember correctly they didn’t have it. If you really can’t find washing soda you can use baking soda instead. Here’s a link to the recipe I use, but I usually make a 5 gallon. http://www.thesimpledollar.com/2007/03/15/how-to-make-your-own-laundry-detergent-and-save-big-money/
    Renee

  23. i make my own “fabric refresher” with mostly water (in a spray bottle) and a capful of liquid fabric softner. smells great, and gets out wrinkles!

  24. Michelle H. says:

    Suave body wash makes great bubble bath. I do the CVS thing, and wound up with a bunch of free bottles at the same time I ran out of bubble bath for the toddler. Tried the body wash one day and it made far better bubbles than the actual bubble bath ever did!

  25. I can help on the chicken stock issue! Yes, it draws minerals out of the bones. Please check my “how to” post here: http://www.kitchenstewardship.com/2009/03/30/monday-mission-how-to-make-your-own-homemade-chicken-stockbroth/
    You can also see how much $$ I save making my own broth.
    I have been working on HM tortillas all winter, and I finally found the best way, and they’re 100% whole wheat! Click on the Recipes tab at my site. You also will find lots of other frugal, healthy tips on beans, homemade yogurt (easy!), and more if you click around a bit.
    I think I’ve landed at your site 10 times tonight…time to sign up for the reader! :)
    I also left a comment on the baby wipes post with some renditions I’ve made to the recipe.

  26. Great tips on the chicken! Thanks!

    One thing I do to save on pie crusts is make them in bulk and freeze them. I did a batch recently as well as made my own faux maple syrup, which I’m still experimenting with. My tutorial for the pie crusts is here.

  27. I use Soap Nuts for my laundry, it’s super cheap, and I don’t have to do anything, except put them in the bag and trade them out after a few washes.
    http://www.betterlifegoods.com/ProductDetails.asp?ProductCode=BLG-CAT21496

    • @Mary C., I keep seeing soap nuts (on blogs) and really want to try them. So you like them? Inexpensive and they work well? Definitely will keep that in mind!

      • @Amy, I LOVE them! They’re not messy, easy to use, and very inexpensive. One blog I read said she worked it out to about .10/load. I’m guessing mine are less than that, but I have no idea, bc I don’t keep track of that sort of thing, lol. Maybe something to do when I get another bag, which will probably be in another year or so.

  28. I guess it’s time to update your links above ;) You now have recipes on your site for all of your homemade items! Just a prompting to get it done :D

    Allie

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  1. [...] the meat tends to be more flavorful and doesn’t dry out in the same way as boneless. Plus, I trust Amy’s math that it is the less expensive [...]

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