A Fabulously O’Frugal St. Patrick’s Day! Friday, Apr 11 2014 

Okay, I don’t mean to make a lot of what is essentially a “Hallmark” holiday, but I have to be honest – with this ridiculous winter wrapping up (It IS wrapping up, right?…. please?), it’s time for a great excuse for some fabulous Springtime celebrating. St. Patrick’s Day to the rescue! Whether you’re full-blooded Irish-American, or you’re like me and can’t claim a drop in your family tree, read on for fun St. Patty’s Day ideas that will help usher in the warmer weather without frying your wallet.

(1) The Food! – On St. Patrick’s Day, keep it simple and delish with fabulous Irish favorites like Ham and Cabbage, Sausage and Potatoes, etc. Easy to cook, fun to eat, and remember – carbs don’t count on St. Patrick’s Day! I had some great crock-pot ideas sent in from readers (thanks, gang!), and for more super-simple recipes that your family will love, try hitting the “Taste of Home” or “Food Network” websites for fun lunch, dinner & party ideas. For dessert, let the kids decorate a fabulous green themed cake (sprinkles, anyone?) and if you head out for some St. Patrick’s Day fun, and find yourself driving by an extremely popular fast-food chain that features a little (inexpensive) treat called a “Shamrock Shake”, indulge with no guilt. St. Patrick’s Day just comes once a year!

(2) The home décor! – Keep it simple with a trip to your local Dollar Store. I swear, the local stores have taken St. Patty’s day Décor to a whole new level. Highly impressive, and very reasonably priced. Take even moderate care of it, and it’ll store beautifully for next year as well! Side note – if your kids are feeling creative but your schedule is too strapped to get out of the house, dig out the remaining green, white & yellow construction paper from the Christmas holidays and create loop chains to hang around the house. It’s easy, the kids love doing it, and trust me – they look hysterical draped over ever, single, conceivable nook and cranny of your house.

(3) The Crafts! – One word for you crafty types out there. Pinterest. Good Lord – Martha Stewart with a cappuccino I.V. drip running thru her veins couldn’t compete with all of the crafty ideas that Pinterest has to offer. If you’ve never looked before at that website, I urge you to give it a review. Squelch the urge to feel completely overwhelmed, and instead rejoice in all of the fabulous craft ideas that will fit your brilliantly creative kids skill levels perfectly.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, everybody – Frugal On!

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Create a Fabulously Frugal Father’s Day! Saturday, Jun 8 2013 

As another beautiful summer unfolds, we come upon one of my favorite holidays – Father’s Day! When I put out the word to my social media army requesting tips for a fabulously frugal Father’s Day, they didn’t disappoint! For everyone out there with a special Father, Grandfather, Stepfather, Godfather or someone “whose like a Father to me” they’d like to honor on June 16th, read on for a list of four thoughtful sentimental gifts that Dad will LOVE, without breaking the bank!

(1) A Flawlessly Clean Car: Ladies, I hate to break it to you, but you know how you and I personally really don’t mind a somewhat-cluttered car? I mean, really, what’s the biggie about having a baggie of crushed goldfish crackers keeping company with your kid’s empty hamburger wrapper? Newsflash: it makes the guys nuts. This Father’s Day, pull out all the stops with a car-cleaning session that will make him instantly forget the time your daughter left her lunchbox in the hot back seat for an entire weekend…open…with an uneaten dill pickle marinating in 140-degree heat for two days. Plug an extension cord into your vacuum, haul it to the driveway and use every attachment it possesses to reach every crevice from the front seat to the trunk. A couple of rags and some Windex (Febreeze also highly recommended!), and the interior will sparkle as well.

(2) Personalized Golf Balls: For some reason still completely unknown to medical science, 99.9% of Dads are somehow drawn to the sport of golf. Put the paternal DNA in its happy place with personalized golf balls! Get your hands on a dozen or so from his golf bag, scrub them well, and let the kids (or grandkids!) have fun with their favorite markers – I’m told just about every type of marker out there will stick. Make sure the kids initial it and add the year, and you are guaranteed Dad will keep these wonderful mementos for decades to come.
(3) Buffet on the Barcalounger: You know how Moms adore the Mother’s Day Breakfast in Bed? Allow me to introduce the male counterpart: a Father’s Day Buffet on the Barcalounger! Get Dad in his favorite chair, and surround him with the snacks he loves most, as well as a free pass to pick the television programming of his choice (golf, anyone?). It’s a no-carb-left-behind kind of holiday, make sure he does it proud.
(4) Certificate of Achievement: As hard as the Dads in our lives work every day, we exist in an economy where raises and recognition are at undeserved historic lows. It’s time for an Awards Ceremony that shows Dad how much he’s appreciated. Take two minutes on the computer to draft something along the lines of: “For outstanding accomplishment and performance, dedication, commitment to excellence in all aspects of work and home, for being a wonderful husband and outstanding Father, and in recognition of your superb and tireless efforts to support your family well, Happy Father’s Day!” Put it in italics, center it on the page, tweak it a bit here and there for effect, print it out and have the kids sign it. Then put it into a classic frame from the local dollar store. I guarantee you he will hang it with pride.

Above all else, use this wonderful holiday to unabashedly tell the wonderful Dads in your life how incredible they are and how grateful you are for them. A special side note to Victor and my Dad – the two best Dads on Earth – Happy Father’s Day!

Today on The Brilliant Frugal Living Show: Five outstanding strategies to earn more income from home! Tuesday, Jul 17 2012 

Then, Isagenix millionaire Jimmy Smith joins me on the air to discuss his story – a butcher for 40 years who retired due to injury, he turned to a Network Marketing career, and has earned thirty million dollars in the last 10 years. Sound interesting? It’s all today on Philadelphia’s News/Talk 1180 – tune in at 11A (Eastern) or livestream us at the link! http://www.BrilliantFrugalLiving.com

Today on The Brilliant Frugal Living Show – how to easily save thousands of dollars on your favorite summertime activities! Tuesday, Jul 10 2012 

Vacations, Sporting Events, Summer Blockbusters, have all the same fun without spending a ton! Then, Bill O’Brien, Director of Development for BLOCS, discusses how businesses large & small can easily redirect thousands of dollars of their state taxes to local schools instead.  Sound interesting? It’s all today on The Brilliant Frugal Living Show – tune in at 11A (Eastern) or livestream us at the link!  www.BrilliantFrugalLiving.com 

A Brilliant Frugal Homage to Mom! Tuesday, May 8 2012 

Happy Mother’s Day, everybody! To all of the mothers, grandmothers, stepmothers, godmothers and “just like a mother to me” ladies out there who know how to stretch a buck and balance a budget in these crazy times, this one’s for you!

M: is for Money – To all the moms who prove daily that a fabulous life doesn’t require a lot of cash. From delicious bag lunches to fun, free library trips to birthdays at the park to gorgeously maintained hand-me-downs, you have mastered the mantra “Never try to keep up with the Joneses,” and in doing so, have no doubt surpassed them in your bank account – not to mention taught the next generation how to do the same.

O: is for Options (Eating Out, or Eating In?) – Guys, need I say it? Don’t spend this Mother’s Day in an overcrowded, overpriced restaurant. You have the opportunity to create one of Mom’s most brag-worthy moments today – breakfast in bed! Strap on the fabulous “World’s Best Cook” apron she got you for Christmas and get to it. Put the kids on toast detail, throw some eggs in a frying pan, try not to break anything as you head up the stairs, and watch Mom as she not only beams with pride at your creation, but eats charred toast and runny eggs with the delicacy and enjoyment of Queen Elizabeth sitting down to tea at the Four Seasons.

T: is for Thrift Stores – One of the last bastions of frugal hope for incredible holiday gifts, as well as an amazing place to score beautiful clothes, books, furniture and jewelry for easily 90 percent off. Is Mom in the mood for any of the above? Hit your local “Tiffanys for Tightwads” and find her something gorgeous!

H: is for Handbags – It goes without saying that, regardless of how many handbags currently line a frugal Mother’s closet, there’s always room for one more. While you’re in your local thrift store, hit the accessories section to peruse the gorgeous selection of Coach, Tommy Hilfiger and Kate Spade lining the shelves. My latest find was a Louis Vuitton number for $9. I’m still glowing from the experience. Got bling?

E: is for Erma Bombeck – It wouldn’t be Mother’s Day if we didn’t acknowledge one of the world’s greatest moms. A classic quote: “Mothers have to remember what food each child likes or dislikes, which one is allergic to penicillin and hamster fur, who gets carsick and who isn’t kidding when he stands outside the bathroom door and tells you what’s going to happen if he doesn’t get in right away. It’s tough. If they all have the same hair color they tend to run together.”

R: is for Radio – Where better for a loudmouth frugalista to honor her favorite, female, frugal role model! Join me on The Brilliant Frugal Living Show today at 11 a.m. on 1180AM WFYL as I have the great honor and privilege of interviewing one of the great frugal minds of all time – my mom! Learn firsthand the strategies and money-saving tactics she used for decades (then handed down to her three daughters, no easy task), to keep the budget balanced, the food fabulous, and the financial goals on track, including a retirement schedule featuring numerous cruises to tropical locales. Mom, did I mention my expert luggage carrying skills?
Happy Mother’s Day, everybody!

— Kristen Hagopian is a Radio talk show host, columnist, consumer reporter, motivational speaker & author of “Brilliant Frugal Living”. The Brilliant Frugal Living Show airs Tuesdays & Saturdays at 11 a.m. on Philadelphia’s 1180AM WFYL. You can find her online at www.BrilliantFrugalLiving.com

Create a Fabulous Summer Barbeque Without Roasting Your Wallet! Wednesday, Jun 15 2011 

www.BrilliantFrugalLiving.com

Yup, this first heat wave of the year makes it official – it’s Summertime! Bring on the barbeque! I’m hearing from a lot of people how the double whammy of tighter wallets combined with rising food prices is putting the potential squash on summer entertaining plans. But no fear – your food-loving-frugalista is here! Read on to throw a fabulous summer bash, without getting bashed at the bank.

The Food – If you’re like most summertime party-throwers, the neighborhood all-you-can-eat-steak cookout of years past might be well out of your budget comfort zone this July. No worries, easy solutions abound that will still satisfy your heartiest meat-loving friends. A fabulous alternative: take one of those gorgeous steaks, cube it, and skewer it with fabulous veggies like zucchini, grape tomatoes and peppers to create enough beef kebobs for four people! If one of your wonderful neighbors is just starting to get produce in their garden, encourage them to bring as much as they’d like, and add it to the mix! It cuts down the food costs significantly, and guests will adore your culinary touches.

To cut down the costs further, never forget your meat and potatoes purist buddies who come to a barbeque looking for nothing more than a fabulous burger, a hotdog or two, and a handful of chips. Keep the costs low by hitting your local discount gourmet grocery to get the best brand names of those summertime staples, for easily 50% off. And don’t forget to pick up fresh jars of condiments as well! This time, in addition to the usual ketchup, mustard and relish, keep an eye out for some of the more exotic fare. Burgers are great, but burgers put together with some salt, pepper and oregano, topped with jalapeno-studded-swiss and a touch of herbed mayo are going to be raved over. It’s the little touches that your guests will adore, and they’ll cost pennies to create.

The Side Dishes – Here is where a brilliant summertime host can really shine without breaking the bank. Potato salads, pasta salads, green salads, all easy to make (don’t you dare hit the supermarket and pay $25 for a container of potato salad you can easily make for $2!). The secret is in the ingredients. The simplest of herbs, the perfect blend of spices, the right vinaigrette will turn an average salad into a showstopper. Hit your local discount gourmet grocery for the ingredients, then head to a dependable recipe database like http://www.FoodNetwork.com and go straight for the “Easy” recipes. There you’ll find thousands of recipes for every bite of your BBQ menu – fun, fabulous, and zero stress. You’ll have a table full of incredible side dishes faster than you can say “Paula Deen”.
The Alcohol – I’ve spoken to people (who clearly party far heartier than I do) who have regaled me with stories of parties of years past in which the alcohol budget inadvertently surpassed that month’s rent. Yowsa. It’s generally acknowledged that an alcohol budget can be one of the toughest things to keep under control when you want to pull off a great party. The fabulous fact here is that all of your guests are going to want to bring something to your get-together, and here is where their offerings can keep costs down considerably. Have your buddies with the more expensive beer tastes bring a pack of their favorites; let your designated driver friends bring a pack of their favorite organic carbonated cola. You supplement with the sodas and mixers. Always remember, the more the thermometer peaks at your party, the more you need to stay hydrated – above all else, keep the ice water flowing!

The Kids at Your Party – Throwing a bash that will ensure lots of little ones running around? How fabulous, the more the merrier! Keep in mind that your ingrained frugalista mindset is perfect for a munchkin menu. Kids have wonderfully simple tastes that couldn’t be easier to satisfy. Your fabulous orzo and zucchini medley delicately tossed with raspberry vinaigrette will get little more than a wary glance from these guys. However, hotdogs, chips, brightly colored soda and some fun desserts (unlimited cupcakes and popsicles, anyone?) will put you at hero status with the 12-and-younger crowd. Hey, you’re only young once.

Above all else, remember that these fabulous get-togethers are about celebrating another gorgeous, long-awaited summer and having a terrific time with family and friends. Bon Appetit!

Can you feed 4 people (fabulously!) for less than $300/month? YOU KNOW IT! January Challenge is COMPLETE at $289! WOO HOO! Monday, Jan 31 2011 

BRILLIANT FRUGAL LIVING
AMELIA’S GROCERY OUTLET – SAVE MONEY!
Challenge, Schmallenge – we knocked it out of the park, folks! WOO HOO! It’s official! Where (so called) experts are proclaiming a household of four requires $800/month on average for food, it’s now been proven that it can EASILY be done for $300/month, if you know where to shop!

Hitting Amelia’s for all of my groceries this past month has been an amazing experience. No matter what store in the chain I visited, it had what I needed. Fruits, vegetables, dairy, pasta, meats, snacks, breads, and of course, my beloved coffee – I found everything I needed to create fantastic, frugal feasts! One stop, quick shopping, at 50-70% off. Big Saturday Brunches, Big Sunday Chicken Dinners, Italian Food, Mexican night, good old stick to your ribs ham & potato dinners, even Chinese food – this month’s menu had it all, and took care of a household of four hungry people, for less than $300.

One of the best parts of the Challenge – all of everyone’s suggestions, recipes, ideas, and feedback! The blog has hit over 10,000 viewers time and again as a result of the Challenge, and the Facebook friends list for me AND for Amelia’s Grocery Outlet is going thru the roof!
Many thanks to everyone for making this month’s Challenge so much fun to do! You guys are the best!

Day 31 Total: $12.25, total for the month is $289.95!

Today’s Menu:
Morning Coffee: (0.75) – double batch of Hazelnut, with (celebratory, super luxurious) Heavy Cream, instead of half & half. Yes, I’m a wild woman. Fun fact: if I’d bought all of my coffee ready-made at a fun coffee/donut shop, it would have cost $85!!

Breakfast: ($1.50) — Adults had HB eggs (4 total), kids had freshly baked banana muffins with juice!

Everybody’s Lunch: ($1.00) Katie was at school, so I packed her lunch box with crackers & cheese, grapes, juice box, pretzels, and a cookie ($1 for everything). The adults had leftover pot roast w/scalloped potatoes (Victor brought his to work to microwave), and Robbie had a bite of pot roast with corn.

Afternoon/After School Snack – ($2) More grapes! Grapes in January, what’s not to love?

Dinner: ($6) – Kept it simple for this last night of the Challenge! Delicious beef ravioli (25 oz frozen bag for $2.50), topped with organic marinara & parmesan cheese (1.50), with side salad, (.50), breadsticks ($1), and cake for dessert (.50). Bon Appetit!

Evening Snack: ($1) – yes, last night’s nachos with TGIFriday’s nacho cheese (only .50/half-pint at Amelia’s!) were fabulous, but I felt a deep need to wrap up the last day of the Challenge with the snack that saw me thru – POPCORN!

Total for today: $12.25, total for the month is $289.95!

Many thanks to everyone’s emails & suggestions – you helped make the January Challenge a fabulous, frugal success (go team!). Now, it’s time to set our sights on a Frugalista Challenge for February! I’ve got a few ideas here & there, and would love to hear from you! Frugal On!

Update! Feeding 4 (fabulously!) for $300/month, and a brief word on Experts, Schmexperts… Thursday, Jan 13 2011 

AMELIA’S GROCERY OUTLET – SAVE MONEY!
BRILLIANT FRUGAL LIVING

Hey gang! Happy Thursday – one day closer to the weekend, AND, if you’re off for Martin Luther King Day on Monday, a 3-day weekend to boot! It’s all good.

On a somewhat serious note, I’m hearing experts on the news today predicting (with well thought-out reasons) that food prices are to make a 4% jump over the course of the year, meaning that a family of four (previously spending an average of $800/month on food), will now “have to” spend an average of $832/month, or nearly $10,000 to feed their family this year. Combine that with a similar increase in the price of oil, utilities, etc, and it can create a bleak picture, especially given the current trend of pay freezes, pay cuts, and of course, the higher unemployment rate.

One of the biggest points I’m trying to make in this month’s unsubtle, loudmouth frugalista blog is that there is NOTHING more satisfying than taking these experts numbers and shredding them into confetti. Come on now, $10,000 “required” to feed a household of four for a year? Hogwash. The whole idea of this month’s blog is showing how easy it is to do it for $3600/year instead! If I can do it, anybody can! Decide what your budget will allow, then make any necessary changes to accommodate today’s budget constraints. Resources are everywhere to make your money stretch further than ever. When it comes to food, if you’re living in Southeastern Pennsylvania, take a look at your local Amelia’s Grocery Outlet. Chances are excellent you’ll find everything a growing household needs, and for much less than you’re spending now! Let’s show the experts how it’s done! Tell a friend!

Alright, enough of the nightly news, back to important topics. Like cheap snacks to veg out with in front of the tv.
For last night’s menu, I aimed for Mexican food, so tonight I’m leaning towards some old fashioned stick-to-your-ribs fare.

Day 13 Total: $7.44, Total for Month: $117.36!
Today’s Menu:

Morning Coffee: (0.25). Back to Snickerkicker coffee. Buckets of it. FAB.

Breakfast – ($1.56) — four HB eggs total (0.56) for Victor and I (he brought his to work), and the kids had cheerios w/milk (.50) and some sliced apples (.50)

Kids’ Lunch: ($1.20) – Tacos for Robbie! Last night’s taco shell container had twelve taco shells, and we only ate half of them, so we had plenty to go around for lunch today. Kids loved them! I’m thrilled (and shocked!). It wasn’t quite feasible for Katie to bring tacos to kindergarten, so I sent her off with the usual fun fare – apple juice box (.15), cheesy crackers for snack (.05), PB&J sandwich (.50), and a fruit cup (.50). Even after lunch we had enough taco shells, meat & cheese left over for the kids to enjoy over the weekend.

Adult lunch: (0.39) – Tacos for parents too. He also brought a pound of bananas with him to snack on. (.39)

Afternoon Snack – ($1) kids and I snacked on another pound of apples and one pound of bananas. It’s quick, it’s easy, it tides the kids over until dinner. All cool.

Dinner: ($4.25). Went with a huge slab of Berks Hickory Smoked Ham (.99/#, I used two pounds to ensure leftovers), baked it in the oven at the same time as a pan of Au Gratin potatoes (.75). Side of green beans (.50) and salad with dressing (.50), and we’re set! Sugar cookies for dessert! (.50)

Evening Snack: (.35) Popcorn, popcorn, come to Momma you awesome popcorn. ¼ cup of popcorn popped into around 6 cups, topped with ¼ stick of melted butter.

Total for today: $7.44, total for the month is $117.36!

Hang in there gang, only one more day until the weekend! Frugal On!

Day 6 Update: Can you feed a household of four for just $300/month? Yup! Thursday, Jan 6 2011 

Amelia’s Grocery Outlet
Day 6 Total: $16.98 Total for Month: $63.74.

Hey guys! Happy Thursday! Day 6 is finito, we’re closing in on a full week of frugal fabulousness. I’m thrilled at all of the feedback from everybody checking in, including now no less than 26 recipes, many of which I have GOT to try over the course of the month! Thanks so much, guys!

Here’s today’s Menu:
My beloved coffee – 0.25. And a big shout out to all the other Moms & Dads getting little people thru a rotten cold, unite! Poor little guys. I think we’re on the tail end of it over here tho. This upcoming weekend will be great for helping them some extra sleep too.

Breakfast – ($1.48) Four HB eggs (total) for the adults for $0.56. Kids had cinnamon whole wheat toast (.25) (VERY light sugar), and one pound of sliced apples (.67).

Lunch/Snack: $2.70 – Katie’s lunch, apple juice box (.15), her beloved cheesy crackers for snack (.10), ham roll ups (.50), and two all natural, no preservatives added cookies (.15). Robbie had more leftover chicken corn soup for lunch, he’s loving it, and if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, I say! ($0). I’m going to freeze the rest of it, there’s a TON left!
Lunch for me was raviolis from last night and some reheated coffee from this morning. Hubby brown-bagged it with a pound of apples (.66), and lots of leftover ravioli ($0.0). Kids had more sliced apple for a snack in the afternoon ($0.67).

Dinner: $11.55 — Okay, yup, blew today’s budget right out of the water, BUT did so with a solid plan to bring the daily average back in line. Also, given some lower totals in days past, I could splurge a bit without torpedoing the total for the month too badly. Went with a 7+ pound Perdue Oven Stuffer Roaster at $1.29/pound ($9.16 total), Au Gratin Potatoes (.65) and a side salad (.50).
With the cake completely devoured in the last few days, I bought some “Back To Nature” Peanut Butter cookies for .99, and only ¼ of the box was consumed for 0.25.

Evening Snack: (0.35) More popcorn! ¼ cup popped into 6 cups, with ¼ stick of butter melted on top.

So there we have it, managed today for $16.83, total for the month is $63.59. I know the daily budget of $9.67 should only have me spending $58.02 by the end of the day today, so I’m currently over budget by more than $5, BUT the Perdue Oven Stuffer Roaster has loads of meat left on it for dinner tomorrow, AND for making soup on Saturday, so costs are going to come back down nicely over the next few days. Watch & see, and keep those great ideas coming! Frugal On!

Brilliant Frugal Living’s “Frugalista Diet” – Menu for Day 24! (Cost of food for today: $0.70!) Thursday, Jun 24 2010 

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http://www.BrilliantFrugalLiving.com

Hey everybody – one more day until the weekend! Great news, but also the type of thing to inspire me to SERIOUSLY get myself in gear, as fabulous family will be here in 24 hours. Also, doesn’t look like I’m getting the car back today (tonight, perhaps), so even better circumstances to keep me at home prepping for weekend guests AND connecting with blogging buddies & facebook friends on all topics large & small. For instance, keep the great ideas about a July Challenge coming at me, I am loving them all!

Menu for Today!

Breakfast – coffee, two hard boiled eggs
Cost = .23

Lunch – Let’s hit the corned beef hash again. Super easy to microwave, and yes, a bit of a sodium hit, but we’ll just have half the can & save the leftovers as a great “zero-cost” meal in a day or so.
Cost = .05

Daytime Snack – Watermelon flavored jello with a half can of fruit
Cost = .13

Dinner – Leftover rice & beans from last night – SO good. Really hit the spot & super filling. Loved it.
Cost = .00

Nighttime (blogging) snack – Getting a zero-cost meal for dinner can only mean one thing – BIG chocolate bar for blogging tonight! WOO HOO! Forget that dinky Dagoba bar…tonight, I’m hitting the Scarffen Berger, baby.
Cost = .25

Total cost of food for today: $0.70. Good stuff!

Keep sending in your thoughts, ideas & suggestions. Have a fantastic Thursday, everybody!

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