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Frugal Friday


FF - Coffee!!!

Hey all, if you're at all like us...we LOVE our coffee!  Specifically, Caribou Coffee (I know, I know - hard to believe in this Starbuck-crazed world!!).


Kevin - Turtle Mocha - Dark Chocolate, Non-Fat, Extra Hot, with Whip

Heather - Mint Condition - Dark Chocolate, Non-Fat, Extra Hot, No Whip


As much as we love these, we all know they can get to be quite expensive.  So I, Kevin, have taken it upon myself to master making my own Turtle Mocha at least as close as possible without an expresso machine and an endless supply of Caribou Coffee beans.

For me, mint and chocolate just should not be combined so as for the mastering of Heathers drink...well she's on her own - no taste testing will be done here.  :)

That being said, if you're like myself and are interested in saving a few bucks, by all means, continue reading.  For my Turtle Mocha knock-off I use the following (all measurements are approximate, and make about...well my travel mug size ~14 oz):

- 1.5 Tbs Chocolate Syrup (Hershey's Special Recipe Dark)

- 1Tbs Carmel Syrup (Hershey's)

- 2 tsp Sugar

- 2 tsp heaping Instant Coffee* (we like NesCafe brand from Costco)

- 8 oz Hot Water

- 3-4 oz Milk (your choice on fatiness)

 * We like using instant coffee because it allows a bolder, more expresso-like flavor than regular brewed coffee, and it can be easily tailored to taste. *

And there you have it, nothing super exciting about the ingrediants...but it's close enough to Caribou's that I'm happy drinking it everyday.  And seeing the nutritional info from their site (snipit below), I'm pretty sure that mine is a little bit 'less bad' for us.

 Tutle Mocha

Serving size (g): 479.0

Calories: 580.0

Total Fat (g): 27.0

 YIKES!  An occasional treat - yes, but not everyday.





Frugal Friday - Vacation

Finding a family vacation destination that doesn't break the bank is tough these days.  Although Disneyworld, indoor waterpark resorts, amusement parks and cruises can be the ideal vacation to some, they can also be out of the budget for others.

Kevin and I love to camp, and our kiddos have followed us in our the love of the great outdoors.  Sometimes however, it's nice to be able to get away and not have to rely on an open campfire to cook our food, and to have such modern conveniences as indoor plumbing and microwaves!  Just a few weeks ago we were blessed with the opportunity to use the family cottage of my dad's cousin in Canada for free.  We had to supply the gas to get ourselves there and the food to feed ourselves, but otherwise the vacation couldn't have been any more frugal!  Perfect for a family on a budget.

We were blessed with this vacation opportunity because we swapped services with my second cousin (my dad's cousin) this past winter.  What a frugal way to relax and rejuvenate!  When on a budget, ask yourself: do I have services or abilities I can offer to others?  Do I own something that can be lent or used to save someone else money?  Budgeting for an extravagant vacation is very exciting and worthwhile, but in the in-between years it's good to be creative and enjoy your family without having to count every penny.  Get to it!  Rack your brain for ideas and ask those around you for some swapping suggestions.  It might not be a vacation you get out of it, but there are plenty of possibilities, to be sure.

Do you have any great penny-pinching vacation ideas?  What are some of your favorite budget-friendly activities?  Any swapping successes?  We'd love to hear what you do with your family.

And of course, here are some of our photos from the trip to Canada:

And you can't expect two photographers to go into the glorious Canadian wilderness (or cottage country, at least) and NOT take scenery pictures!  Kevin took the majority of these images early in the morning (between 5am-6am) - now that's some photography dedication to get up early on vacation!

And, of course, we couldn't miss out on the sunset and night time pictures either.

~ Heather



Frugal Friday - Sunglasses

I was on the road early the other day heading east on the freeway when I noticed something surprising and interesting...if I had to guess, I'd say that only about 25% of the drivers had sunglasses on.  Of the other 75%, about half had their sun visor either up and the other half down, but both were squinting to see where they were headed because of the bright sun light.  The thing I found most interesting...actually funny...was the fact that there were even a few people steering with one hand and holding the other hand up, arm fully extended, to block the sun from their eyes.  Why?  Sun glasses can be so cheap anymore and come in so many different styles.  Fun, funky, stylish and practical - why not invest in a pair?

Photographer or not, we are all pretty much left in the dark without our eyes, so we have to make sure we protect them as best as we can.  Be smart (frugal!) now and hopefully you will be blessed to miss the joy of cataracts later in life.

Of course any type of sunglasses will do the job.  There are fun ones... 

 Diva (or Divo) ones...

70's ones...

Heck, they can even be broken sunglasses (just ask Heather about her pair).

Just remember to protect them, God only gave you one pair.  Be frugal with your eyesight and take care of those eyes!

~ Kevin



Frugal Friday - In a Jam

Nothing says summer to me like fresh, sun-warmed strawberries, straight from the garden.  Mmm mmm mmm!

A few weeks ago was peak strawberry time here in Michigan so the kiddos and I went strawberry picking at a great little U-Pick Farm we love in Belleville, MI (the heart of strawberry country around here).  Even better - my mom and my sister's family met us there!

The kids had a field day and were stained pink from head to toe with super ripe and juicy fruit - you could tell they were in strawberry heaven!  We picked a few quarts of berries and easily ate half of them within the next day or two.  We could have easily eaten them all, but I strategically saved a bunch of the berries to make homemade Strawberry Freezer Jam.  Making this jam has become a yearly tradition, and not only is it super sweet and super delicious, it is also a super frugal way to use up fresh strawberries.  The recipe only requires 4 simple ingredients, and easily could supply you with a year's worth of jam (if you have the proper storage).

If you have the opportunity to go strawberry picking, I highly recommend it.  Supermarket strawberries may be large and pretty to look at, but they don't even begin to compare with the taste of garden-fresh.  Plus, if you have children, a spouse, a significant other, or even a stranger from who-knows-where, picking your own fruit can provide great memories and great, healthy playtime outdoors.  Have fun, be free, and be sure to frolic through the strawberry fields!


  • 2 cups crushed fresh strawberries
  • 4 cups sugar
  • 1 (1.75 ounce) package dry pectin
  • 1/2 cup water

Mix crushed strawberries with sugar, and let stand for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, stir the pectin into the water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, and boil for 1 minute. Stir the boiling water into the strawberries. Allow to stand for 3 minutes before pouring into jars or other storage containers.

Place tops on the containers, and leave for 24 hours. Place into freezer, and store frozen until ready to use.

Yields: 4, 12-ounce jars

Recipe can be easily doubled.  For a thicker set, use slightly under-ripe strawberries.

Around here, each jar of homemade Strawberry Freezer Jam ends up costing about $1 for a 12-ounce jar (not including the cost of the container).    Fun and frug-la-la!



~ Heather



Frugal Friday - Batteries...extended

This Frugal Friday we're going to piggyback on last week's post regarding batteries, but today we're going to talk about battery charging.  (excited yet?!?!  lol)

Last week we talked about 'slow charging' your batteries.  What is the difference between 'slow charging' and 'fast charging', you ask?  Well, you're in luck - we have the answer!  According to the Rechargable Battery Review: "Fast charging gets your batteries charged faster but usually results in more stress due to heat. This can reduce a rechargeable battery’s useful life. Also, fast charging may not provide a complete charge.

Slow charging usually means that the battery is stressed less and does not heat up as much. It also may result in a more complete charge. Remember, this is not always true. A bad slow charger can overcharge your batteries resulting in excess heat and permanent damage.

A good charger will not overheat or overcharge the batteries which can lead to damage and a shorter rechargeable battery life span. Good and bad chargers are not based on whether they are slow or fast chargers. Good chargers are built on technology that can monitor and react to changes in  the rechargeable battery temperature and voltage appropriately."

More batteries are damaged by bad charging techniques than all other causes combined.

With all of that in mind, we wanted to let you all know about a great product that will save you $$$ and still gives an accurate slow charge.  We found a wonderful smart charger by Maha that we absolutely love!! This charger holds up to 8 AA or AAA's. It has the ability to slow charge or fast charge, however we only ever use the slow charge feature.  This method of charging takes about 2 hours to complete, so plan ahead.  In comparison, the alternative fast charge option is completed in 1 hour.  We appreciate that in the Maha charger there is a built-in microprocessor that keeps the batteries from being over charged or under charged.

It's definitely an all-around great product to have on hand if you use batteries frequently, like we do. 


~ Kevin