Get Rid of Fallen Branches – FRUGALLY! Friday, Apr 11 2014 

Hey guys! Again, you’ll never guess where I got the idea for this week’s Column. Good Lord. If your yard is anything like mine, you’ve got huge fallen branches and limbs everywhere. If Mother Nature took out some serious wrath on your yard as well, read on for easy, inexpensive ways (gleaned from readers’ fabulous emails and texts) to rid your yard of the wooden carnage.

One of the most popular responses from readers – rent or borrow a chipper! Around here, rental rates range anywhere from $50-$80 for a few hours, and it’s a fabulous way to transform ugly fallen branches into decorative mulch for your house, or fantastic nutritious mulch for your garden. If you borrow the chipper from a neighbor or friend, make sure you compensate with some mulch they can use in their garden, as well as some fabulous baked goods and/or the beverage of their choice. If you’ve got more mulch than you can possibly use, put out the word to neighbors on social media. One West Chester resident tells me he got rid of a six-foot pile of mulch in one day by mentioning it on his Facebook page!

If you’ve got big piles of branches downed in your yard, and the branches are decently thick (perhaps an inch thick or more), think about listing them on Freecycle or Craigslist. We’ve got a lot of people around here who heat their homes with wood, and giving away your branches for free kindling and firewood is an great solution for everybody involved. If you don’t have the machinery or strength to cut the wood into stackable piles for pickup, make sure that’s clearly stated in your ad. Even if there’s work involved, chances are excellent that the prospect of free wood will still have people responding.

Another great option sent in by readers is to donate the wood to local charities. If you’re interested, start by contacting your local Church or charity and spread the word that you have wood available for free. You get rid of ugly branches in your yard, the tree goes to good use and a needy household gets some extra warmth. Talk about a win-win!

Without a doubt, the most popular method for getting rid of wood in your yard cheaply and quickly – cut it, stack it and put it in your front yard in neat-ish piles with a big sign saying “FREE”. According to readers, cars driving by your property will notice it, and put out the word. Without fail, readers report that even the biggest piles are often gone within 48 hours.

Above all else, pat yourself on the back for surviving another nasty mood swing from Mother Nature. Here’s to a fabulous Springtime!

Kristen Hagopian is a Syndicated Radio Talk Show Host & Columnist, Consumer Reporter, Motivational Speaker & Author of “Brilliant Frugal Living”. The Kristen Hagopian Show airs Nationwide via Business Talk Radio Network Wednesday nights. She resides in Chester County with her husband and two children. You can find her online at

Can you really feed 4 (fabulously!) for less than $300/month? Abso-frugal-lutely! Day 30 Update! Sunday, Jan 30 2011 

Hey guys! Hope you had a fantastic weekend. I ran out with the kids earlier, and everywhere we went was PACKED! Looks like everybody else is getting stocked up for Wednesday’s weather whammy too. Over here, I’m so thrilled at the numbers on the Challenge I can’t stand it. As of this morning I had only two days left on the Challenge, and $35 to spend to cover it! WOO HOO!
Option A: I could spend a bit of it out in a restaurant to prove you can keep a household food budget to $300/month AND afford to go out once in a while. Option B: keep doin’ what I’m doin’ and delight in the ultra low numbers. Going with Option B and denying myself NOTHING when it comes to some fun home cooked meals.

Day 30 Total: $12.75, total for the month is $277.70!
Today’s Menu:

Morning Coffee: (0.50) – double batch of SnickerKicker. Love that stuff. Can’t quite describe the flavor, but it’s very holiday-ish. Goes great with all the snow outside the window.

Breakfast: ($.00) — Loads of leftover french toast from yesterday. Super easy to heat & eat.

Everybody’s Lunch: ($0.00) Leftover Chinese food for adults, leftover chicken & pilaf for little people.

Afternoon Snack – ($2) Kids are loving the grapes, and they appear to tide the kids over for ages between lunch & dinner. Works for me!

Dinner: ($7.75) – Love of a big Sunday dinner (combined with tons of wiggle room in the budget) calls for a fab-u menu. Went with a beef pot roast ($5), with scalloped potatoes (.75), corn (.50), salad (.50), rolls (.50), and cake for dessert (.50). Gotta love Sunday night dinner.

Evening Snack: ($2.50) Nobody panic, but I’m going for something other than popcorn tonight. Spotted some fantastic TGIF Restaurant brand nacho cheese sauce (normally $3/pint) for .50/pint at the Amelia’s in Thorndale, so I splurged & grabbed some on Friday. Heats up beautifully and goes fantastically with some nacho chips for $2. Nice way to wring the last few hours out of the weekend!

Total for today: $12.75, total for the month is $277.70 !
Amazingly, I have the family room to myself tonight…which also means I have the TiVo remote all to myself. And wait, do you hear that? Off in the distance…from the kitchen! It’s Tortilla Chips & hot, melty TGIF Nacho cheese calling my name! “Coming, darling! Coming!” Have a great night, everybody!

Can you really feed 4 people for just $300/month? Absolutely, if you know where to shop… Monday, Jan 17 2011 

Hey all – Hope Monday treated you well! With any luck, you had today off for the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. If not, if your day was anything like mine, it FLEW. Had a fantastic time in Allentown this morning with two live spots on WFMZ’s “69 News at Sunrise”. Working with Morning Anchor Eve Tannery is always so much fun! And can I tell you guys, the kitchen set at that station is absolutely sweet. LOVE IT! Many thanks to everyone at the station for making things run so smoothly, as usual!

Okay, folks – we’re on Day 17, more than halfway thru, and today was phenomenal in that we received a record number of hits on the blog today, 10x more than usual – such fun!

Day 17 Total: $9.09, Total for Month: $157.68.
Today’s Menu:

Morning Coffee: (0.50). Going with double batches the last few days (hazelnut today), and generally blitzing thru it over the course of the day. Scary caffeine intake, but I’m getting lots done!. What was that joke Jeff Bezos once made about coffee? “In Seattle you haven’t had enough coffee until you can thread a sewing machine while it’s running!” That’s about where I’m at right now.

Breakfast: ($0.56) — Four HB eggs for the adults (two each), and the three remaining slices of leftover French toast for the kids. Super easy, everyone’s a winner.

Kids’ Lunch: ($0.99) Katie had off for the MLK holiday, so she’s at home. Went with Chef Boyardee’s no preservatives mini ravioli with meatballs (15 oz for .99)

Adults’ Lunch ($0.70): Victor brought two large apples (1# = .70) to work, along with leftover pork loin & pilaf from last night that he microwaved at work ($0.0). I had the same thing at home!

Afternoon Snack – ($1.00) Apples & bananas for little people, one pound of each.

Dinner: ($4.99) – Trying to wake up my brain a bit here – coffee will only take me so far – so I’m going with fabulous brain-friendly Santa Fe Salmon with Corn & Bean relish ($1.99). Green Beans (.50) and a salad (.50) to go with it. Kids aren’t into salmon so much yet, so I sautéed ½ pound of chicken breast ($1) and gave them corn (.50) as a side dish. Yellow cake with buttercream icing for dessert (.50). Salmon with all the trimmings for adults, chicken breast with the trimmings for the kids, and yellow cake for dessert, ALL under $5? THAT’S what I’m talkin’ about!

Evening Snack: (.35) Loving the buttery popcorn every night. It’s a special treat that I and I alone can hog. No matter what you’re watching on tv, if you’re eating hot buttery popcorn at the same time, it’s a great show.

Total for today: $9.09, total for the month is $157.68!
Have a great night, everybody! K

Day 16 on the “Feed 4 for $300/month” Challenge: Halfway there, and I’ve spent $148.59! Woo Hoo! Sunday, Jan 16 2011 


Hey guys, hope you had a great weekend. Went by WAY too fast, BUT I’m psyched about a morning spot I’m doing on Allentown’s WFMZ’s Channel 69 tomorrow morning. Can’t wait! Topic will be how to save big money in 2011, and easy spending tricks that will give you the $5,000-$10,000 raise you deserve! Should be on between 8:40-8:50A!

Okay, back to da blog… halfway there, and feeling GREAT about the totals.
Day 16 Total: $11.15, Total for Month: $148.59

Today’s Menu:
Morning Coffee: (0.50). Hello caffeine, my old friend. Yup, another double batch today. I’m so whipped this weekend, what’s up with that?

Breakfast: ($0.0) — leftover French Toast from yesterday. So fast, I love how I look like a hero when I get this on the table in 5 minutes. I even have a couple of slices left for tomorrow. SWEET!

Lunch: ($3.00) I’ve got a big Sunday dinner planned, so we kept it easy for lunch & went with one package hotdogs & a box of macaroni & cheese.

Afternoon Snack – ($2.00) Apples & bananas for the hungry masses.

Dinner: ($5.30) – pork loin marinated in lemon & garlic ($4). Melt in your MOUTH! Made a big batch of rice pilaf (.30) and a side salad (.50) to go with it. Also made another yellow cake with buttercream icing for $2. If it’s anything like the other cakes I did, it’ll last four days, so I’m pricing it out at .50 per day for dessert.

Evening Snack: (.35) say it with me now…POPCORN! Didn’t catch a good Saturday night flick last night (wound up with some fabulous Nigella Lawson on TiVo), so hopefully tonight the movie gods will hook me up.

Total for today: $11.15, total for the month is $148.59!
Have a great night, everybody! K

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


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!

January Challenge, Day 10 Update! Touch Kris’s popcorn & suffer her frugal wrath… Monday, Jan 10 2011 


Hey all! Hope your Monday was kind to you. Especially since Tuesday is going to kick our collective backsides in the snow department. Got milk?
Here’s the breakdown for today!

Day 10 Total: $9.98, Total for Month: $95.93!
Coffee: (0.25). Was feeling sophisticated, so went with the delectable hazelnut. Come to Momma, you yummy stuff.

Breakfast – ($1.40) — four HB eggs total for the adults, and cheerios with milk for the kids.

Kids’ Lunch: ($0.90). – Katie’s lunch, apple juice box (.15), her cheesy crackers for snack (.10), cheese sandwich (.50), and two all natural, no preservatives added cookies (.15). Robbie had leftover soup.

Adult lunch: (.40) I had some leftover soup as well, hubby brought some to work with him too, in addition to bananas.

Afternoon Snack – ($1.50) kids and I snacked on apples & bananas before dinner.

Dinner: ($5.18). I did Salmon for dinner, kids got a free pass on it so they went with Chef Boyardee (no preservatives added variety, it’s fabulous!) mini ravioli with meatballs (.99), and the adults did Santa Fe Salmon ($1.99) w/Risotto ($1.20) and a side salad (.50), with chocolate cake (.50) for dessert!

Evening Snack: (0.35) More popcorn! Fast, simple, cheap. Love it.

So, in a nutshell, did today for $9.98, total for the month is $95.93!
Have a great night, everybody!

Day 8 total: $0.90, Total for June: $5.03 Tuesday, Jun 8 2010

Hey all! Sorry tonight’s blog is so late, I’m still coming down from a fantastic time in Philadelphia today. Off the charts amazing.

The menu for Day 8 underwent a bit of a shakeup, courtesy of my previously mentioned trip to the city. No big deals in budgeting, just skipped the eggs for b’fast & the planned lunch & the canned peaches for a snack. AND, best of all, instead of Overstuffed Ravioli & canned peaches, I ate the most amazing fruit salad I’ve ever had in my life. Yes, it was that good. Truly.

Breakfast – coffee = .15

Lunch – ’86’d the ravioli, and instead had a few bites of a friend’s generously offered amazing fruit salad. Bite of mango, touch of pineapple, bite of strawberry there, I was a mere mortal in fresh fruit heaven! It all became a bit a blur very early in. Not sure if they saw the blog or not, but their generosity was very appreciated. 🙂 Tempted to cost it out at zero, considering it was a gift, but in the interest of exact accounting, I’d estimate the cost at around $0.50.
Cost = .50

Dinner – 2 oz of whole wheat linguine (.09), with a small portion of “Four Cheese” spaghetti sauce that I opened earlier in the week (the entire can was .05, I’m calling this serving .01 worth…)
Total cost: = .10

Nighttime (blogging) snack – my beloved Dagoba organic chocolate bar. I’m ready to call this ritual “chogging”.
Cost: .15

Total cost of food for today: $0.90.

Great ideas sent in by bloggers & facebook buddies suggesting I invest in the upside down tomato plant that hangs from a hook outside, one person wonderfully recommended that I hit a local orchard and see what they want for “drops”, and one other reader recommended joining some kind of a recycling co-op. Great stuff! Keep up the fantastic suggestions! Have a great night, everybody. K

Brilliant Frugal Living’s “Frugalista Diet” – Menu for Day 8, AND a shocking, unexpected development! Tuesday, Jun 8 2010

Howdy fellow frugalistas & frugalistos – hope the day is treating you great! Over here, a truly shocking, “deflating” development. I lost a pound on this diet! WOO HOO! Truthfully, not eating this way for weight loss, and I’ll NEVER argue or question the forces that help me to lose weight, but truly didn’t expect it! Lovin’ it!

The menu for Day 8 is as follows:

Breakfast – coffee, two eggs = .23

Lunch – necessity (and 20 cans in the inventory) dictates that I return to my culinary love, Chef Boyardee, for lunch. Going with Overstuffed Ravioli.
Cost = .05

Daytime Snack – Can of Dole Peaches.
Cost = .05

Dinner – B&B had their usual sale on pastas (some that cost as much as $2.60/box all selling for .60 a box instead!), so our heroine has some wiggle room in her diet. Going with 2 oz of whole wheat linguine (.09), with a small portion of “Four Cheese” spaghetti sauce that I opened earlier in the week (the entire can was .05, I’m calling this serving .01 worth…)
Total cost: = .10

Nighttime (blogging) snack – my beloved Dagoba organic chocolate bar.
Cost: .15

Total estimated cost of food for today: $0.58.

Keep sending in your thoughts, ideas & suggestions!
Have a great Monday, everybody! K

Day 7 total: $0.73 Total for June: $4.13 Monday, Jun 7 2010

Hey guys! Hope you all had a great Monday! Here in Fabulous Frugalville, life is pretty damn great. Ran some errands today, including hitting the Goodwill (yeah, I know, a shocker), and found a beautiful Gucci bag that I SWEAR was looking at me like a puppy in the pet shop window…just lookin’ for a home. A $3 price tag didn’t make it a hard decision… Black leather, it’s like butta. Put wings on me gang, ’cause I’m in Gucci Heaven.

Back to Frugalista Diet Talk – Stuck to plan, very healthy food choices, made a fantastic soup this evening for dinner, enjoying my beloved organic chocolate bar as I type this, and looking at GORGEOUS blue skies at 7:20P here in Chester County, PA!

Breakfast – coffee, two eggs = .23

Lunch – tuna, a side of green beans
Cost (two cans @ .05 each) = .10

Daytime Snack – Can of Dole Pineapple.
Cost = .05

Dinner – another frugal soup, this time consisting of one can of organic chicken broth, add some pinto beans, corn, and peas, along with pepper, oregano, basil. Turned out REALLY well! Would have been great with a salad, but that would have been a budget breaker, all things considered. Ah well.
Cost = 4 cans @ .05 each = .20

Nighttime (blogging) snack – my beloved Dagoba organic chocolate bar.
Cost: .15

Total cost of food for today: $0.73.

Loving all of the suggestions. More than one person has suggested that – for future challenges – I go all organic vegetarian and see what the costs are. I have to agree, it’s an interesting idea. Your thoughts? Ideas? Suggestions? I’d love to hear them! Have a great night, everybody!

Brilliant Frugal Living’s “Frugalista Diet” – Menu for Day 7! Monday, Jun 7 2010

Hey all! Happy Monday morning to everybody! Gorgeous blue skies here in Chester County, PA. Perfect for hanging some wash on the line. Only problem is that the washing machine is making some ridiculous noises (think of a car engine in trouble, going “puh-huh, puh-huh, puh-huh”…), so now it’s a matter of finding out if it’s something fatal, or just a 24-hour appliance bug. So far, clothes are still coming out clean. Keep your fingers crossed (and your ears plugged).

The fabulous comments from fellow bloggers & Facebook friends are still coming fast, furious, and outrageously funny!! By far, the biggest comment is the concern that a diet based on so little fresh food isn’t exactly doing a frugalista good. True enough, however, I’m managing sodium intake by limiting the serving size of the highest-sodium dishes (primarily anything made by Chef Boyardee), and I’m also getting 5+ servings of fruits & veggies every day (granted, they’re all canned).

Today, in honor of those fab frugal friends still concerned with my sodium-soaked welfare, these food choices are for you!

The menu for Day 7 is as follows:

Breakfast – coffee, two eggs = .23

Lunch – tuna, a side of green beans
Cost (two cans @ .05 each) = .10

Daytime Snack – Can of Dole Pineapple.
Cost = .05

Dinner – time for another soup recipe, I think. Let’s try a can of organic chicken broth, add some pinto beans, corn, and peas, along with pepper, oregano, basil. I’ll let you know how it turns out!
Cost = 4 cans @ .05 each = .20

Nighttime (blogging) snack – my beloved Dagoba organic chocolate bar.
Cost: .15

Total estimated cost of food for today: $0.73.

Keep sending in your thoughts, ideas & suggestions!
Have a great Monday, everybody! K

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