Friday, October 8, 2010

Frugal Feasting Friday

This past Saturday I had the following conversation with my EJ.
Mom: "Hey EJ, would you like a treat after you finish cleaning the hen house and coop?"
EJ: "Oh Yes! What kind of treat?"
Mom: "How about a banana split?"
EJ: "OH!! Yes, Yes, Yes!!"
This very excited response is immediately followed by a sudden pause of silence. Then ...
EJ: "Mom, what's a banana split?"
How's that for terrible parenting? My poor, deprived, little EJ has lived a long life of 8 years and doesn't even know what a banana split is!! How, oh! how can this be?
It is because poor, deprived, little EJ's mom is a MAJOR TIGHTWAD. I realistically can not bring myself to spend $3 or more on a banana split Sunday at Dairy Queen, Sonic, Baskin Robbins, Marble Slab or any other specialty ice cream shop. Especially when we lovely folks down here in S.E. Texas have all the Blue Bell ice cream those folks at the Blue Bell ice cream factory can not finish eating. Why, there simply is not a store bought ice cream better than Blue Bell. (for those of you who don't have the privilege of Blue Bell, I extend my sympathies... everyone down here knows that at Blue Bell, "they eat all they can and sell the rest" - they really do ... employees can literally eat all the ice cream they want for free directly before their shifts, on breaks or directly after their shifts).
I usually have only one flavored dessert sauce on hand at any given time hence, usually a plain old Sunday not the extravagance of a banana split. However, this past Saturday I felt industrious and made three, yes THREE flavors. The total costs of all three homemade sauces & whipped cream, the ice cream, and the bananas is a little more than $12. However, by making the sauces and whipped cream myself and purchasing the Blue Bell and bananas from the grocer, I can make around 10 banana splits. That's only a cost of about $1.30 each vs. the $3 ea., or more, from the specialty store.
So, this Frugal Feasting Friday I'm going to share recipes for homemade dessert sauces with you. Please remember these sauces are also very yummy over pancakes, waffles, French toast, brownies, etc. Best of all these sauces take less than 10 minutes from start to finish to make :-)
Homemade Hershey's Chocolate Sauce
2 c. granulated sugar
1 c. water
1/2 c. unsweetened Hershey's Cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. vanilla
pinch of salt
In a large sauce pan whisk together the sugar, water and cocoa powder. Heat, stirring constantly over medium heat. When mixture comes to a full rolling boil stir and boil for a full 3 minutes. Remove pan from heat and stir in vanilla and salt. Allow to come to room temperature before pouring into a pint size jar. Store in the refrigerator.
Homemade Butterscotch Sauce
1 c. packed brown sugar
1/2 c. milk
1/3 c. butter (do not substitute margarine)
1/4 c. corn syrup
1/8 tsp. salt
In a large sauce pan combine all ingredients. Cook and stir over medium heat until mixture comes to a rolling boil. Boil and stir for a full 2 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Pour into a pint jar. Store in the refrigerator. This sauce will thicken up while in the fridge. Just scoop some out into a small bowl and soften either in a hot water bath or in the microwave.
Homemade Strawberry Sauce
2 c. sugar
1 c. chopped strawberries
1/3 c. water
1/2 tsp. lemon juice
Combine all ingredients in a large sauce pan. Cook and stir over medium heat until sugar is melted. Remove mixture from heat and pour into a blender or food processor. Process until smooth. Return mixture to pan and bring mixture to a boil stirring frequently. Once the mixture begins to boil stir constantly and boil for another 5 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Pour into a pint sized jar, store in the refrigerator. NOTE: with the exception of bananas, you can substitute any of your favorite fruits (fresh, canned or frozen), in this recipe.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Back To (Home)School ...

During the past week or so I've read a few blogs and it seems most folks have "back to school" posts up. Since we home school year round, taking time off as needed for Mr. B's travel schedule (aka visits home), family visits, holidays, etc., we generally don't have any "back to school" trauma, events, expenses ... yes, I said expenses.

I was shocked to learn that my neighbor's kindergartner's school supply list included items such as a flash drive, dry erase markers, file folders in various colors, post-it notes, etc. I was even more shocked to find that after refusing to purchase items such as the flash drive, dry erase markers, etc., her little kindergartner's school supply list still cost more than $135.00!! My neighbor stated that if she had purchased everything on "the list", she would have been out more than $200.00 ... AND her child will not bring a single school supply item home at the end of the year. This, of course, does not include the expenses of school clothes and the $2.10 per day school lunches.

I remember when my older boys were in public school and the supply lists began morphing into an office supply vs. a school supply list. I was one of "those" parents who would stay up until 2AM writing, in permanent marker, my child's name on EVERY item I sent off in his back pack. Yup, I labeled every single file folder, box of chalk and pencil with my child's name. As I remember, back then the school never returned the crayons, pencil bag/box, map pencils, etc. at the end of the year either.

Thus, I come to the point of my post. Many parents have told me they'd love to home educate their children, but they simply can't afford it. They assume the curriculum is too expensive. Most parents, we certainly always have, generally keep "real" school supplies (glue, scissors, constructions paper, crayons, colored map pencils, etc.) on hand at home for various crafts and entertainment. When adding up the expenses of public education, I continually wonder how anyone can afford public school?
"School" Supplies
$200.00 per child

Lunches - our district attends school 183 days per year (yeah, one could always brown bag it, my older boys did, but I seriously do not personally know a single family whose children take their lunches to school now days.)
$384.40 per child

Field Trip (budgeting for only ONE per year)
$15.00 per child

That's a total of $599.40 per child and that does not include school clothes/uniforms OR extra curricular activities such as, cheer leading, sports, cosmetology, art, etc.

May, 2010 was our seven year anniversary since we chose to liberate our family from our state's public school system. After visiting with my neighbor, I decided to figure out exactly how much money we've spent on curriculum home educating our children during the past 7 years. (I am a type "A" personality and thus, a record keeper - I have all my home education receipts on file). During the past 7 years, we've spent a total of $2,582.24 on home schooling curriculum, that's an average of $368.89 per year for up to 3 students. We haven't purchased "school" clothes in seven years. Our kiddos have play/work clothes and church clothes. Since we home school, we don't need "school" clothes or uniforms.

Our first year home schooling was our most expensive year as we were educating only 1 child. Years 2-4 we educated 2, year 5 we were educating 3, years 6&7 we are now back down to 2 (JP, our 1st child to home school, was graduated from high school 2 years ago). I have met several home educating families who spend upwards of $2,500.00 or more per year, per child. Because of this, many often wonder how we educate our children so frugally. Here's a few things I do: (And believe it or not, I've actually met folks who home educate for as little as $50 per year, per student!).

1. We do not participate in satellite schools, distance learning schools or programs that take care of record keeping, etc. These "services" are, in my opinion, very expensive AND I personally think they restrict our family's personal freedom in educational choices. When using these programs / services the family must use the program's/ service's curriculum, one is restricted to grading period deadlines (not good for families who travel often), etc.

2. We do not use computer dependent curriculum. Not only are they expensive, can not be re-sold, but we can not save it and pass it down to younger children because of expiration dates.

3. We search for, find and purchase used text books and teacher's manuals. After all, if my kiddos were in public school they'd be issued used text books. Used curriculum is literally 1/2 the cost of new. 95% of ours is purchased through our local home school curriculum stores.

4. Because of an 8 year gap between JP and OG, when JP had completed his curriculum to our satisfaction, we re-sold the books. Our local home school curriculum stores will buy back used curriculum at 25% the cost of new. Occasionally, I've sold our used curriculum to other home schoolers at 50% the cost of new, so I've always recouped 50 %-100% of our initial investment (remember, I generally purchase used curriculum at 1/2 the cost of new).

5. There is only 3 years between OG and EJ, thus I save OG's curriculum to use with EJ. When EJ finishes to our satisfaction, I re-sell that used (twice by our family) curriculum which allows us to recoup at least 25% of our initial investment.

6. We use the public library. After all, our tax dollars have already purchased all those books.

7. If we need the sort of information generally found in an encyclopedia, we use the internet to look it up.

8. Many of our school supplies have been in our craft cabinet for years. We only add to them when needed. Thus, we literally spend less than $15.00 per year on consumables like glue, construction paper and maybe a new box of crayons every now and then.

Hummmm, $368.89 divided by 3 = $122.96 per student (WoW! that year we spent less than the public school supply list for all our curriculum).
$368.89 divided by 2 = $184.45 per student (WoW! still less than the public school supply list!)

Well, after considering how much money we've saved by home educating, I don't think our family can afford to place our children in public school ... Not that we'd ever want to go back to that ...