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You will now find all of my money saving ideas, Scratch vs. Store Bought comparisons, menu plans, before and after photos of my home organization projects, and general thoughts on life at TheSavedQuarter.com.

Comments are closed here, but are open over there. This blog will redirect to the new one within a few days, but come on over and join the party now!

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This week, we’re testing Scratch vs. Store Bought Refried Beans by reader request. I’d never made refried beans from scratch before, so this was a new cooking adventure for me.

The Recipe

I used my pressure cooker and a slightly altered recipe from Lorna Sass’ Cooking Under Pressure. Yields 4 servings, 1/2 c each.

1 c. Pinto Beans
4 c.water
1 T oil (to keep beans from foaming)

Pick over beans, rinse, and drain. Cook 1 cup of unsoaked beans with 4 c. water and 1 T oil for about 25 minutes, or until soft-cooked and mushy. Quick release the pressure and drain the beans, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid.

1/2 T olive oil ($.02)
1 t whole cumin seeds ($.02)
1 small onion, finely chopped ($.15)
1 clove garlic, minced ($.02)
2 c. soft cooked pinto beans ($.40)
1/2 c. bean liquid, vegetable stock, or water
dash cayenne pepper
1/3 t salt, to taste
1 t cider vinegar (optional)

In a large skillet, heat the oil. Add and sizzle the cumin seeds for 10 seconds while stirring. Add the onion and garlic and saute until onions are soft and lightly browned, about 3-4 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium, add about 1/3 of the cooked beans and 1/3 of the liquid, mashing the means with the back of a spoon.

While the mixture is simmering and the liquid is being absorbed into the puree, continue adding beans and liquid in two more batches. Add cayenne, salt, and vinegar to taste. Serve immediately.

The Cost Breakdown:

Rosarita Vegetarian refried beans cost $.75 on sale for 3.5 servings, or $.25 per serving.

Home made refried beans cost $.61 for 3.5 servings, or $.15 per serving.

The Taste Test:

The left side is from a can, the right side is from scratch. The color difference? I can’t explain that. How do the canned beans get so evenly brown? Either way, they’re not winning any beauty contests.

The home made version is lightly seasoned, so the bean flavor is fresh and comes through. You also get the occasional bite of onion. The canned version was much smoother, and quite a bit saltier. Mr.Penny thought the canned version was more flavorful; I thought it was too salty. He thought the home made version was bland; I liked that the bean flavor was most prominent, and it wasn’t too salty. There was no clear winner.

The Time Factor:

Home made beans were ready from dry beans in under 45 minutes using my pressure cooker. Only about 15 minutes of that was hands-on time. (I wrote most of this post while they bubbled away in the cooker!) If I had soaked the beans overnight, the y would have been cooked in 6 minutes, so the entire dish would take just about 15-20 minutes. It’s certainly longer than opening a can, but it’s not as intimidating as several hours on the stove as is traditional with dry beans.


Rosarita Vegetarian Refried Beans: Cooked beans, water, less than 2% of: Canola oil, salt, distilled vinegar, chile pepper, onion powder, spices, garlic powder, natural flavor

Calories: 120
Fat: 2 g
Sodium: 540 mg
Carbohydrate: 19 g
Dietary fiber: 6 g
Protein: 6 g

Home made: Cooked beans, water, onion, garlic, olive oil, spices

Calories: 147
Fat: 2 g
Sodium: 193
Carbohydrate: 24 g
Fiber: 8 g
Protein: 8 g

Both are very healthy, although the home made version is higher both in fiber and protein, and much lower in sodium.

Scratch vs. Storebought winner:

The cost of home made is significantly less, and salt can be added for those wanting a saltier bean, so I’m calling it for homemade. You may also want to play around with spices if you like a more well-seasoned bean. The only thing lacking is the color, but if you’re putting it inside a burrito with salsa and cheese, that factor won’t be too big.


Next time on Scratch vs. Store Bought: Flour Tortillas. I’m open to suggestions of what to test after that!

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My baby girl spent her first night in a rail-free crib, after discovering how to scale the rail a few nights back and landing with a heartbreaking thud early in the morning.

Last night, Mr. Penny took off the rail, laid down couch pillows in case she fell out, and Sweet Pea climbed on up into her “biggull” (big girl) bed cheerfully and slept there all night. Considering that she wouldn’t sleep unless she was physically on my body until she was 6 months old, and only slept in a crib after she turned one, I’m kind of amazed at her rapid ascent into being a big girl. In the morning, she toddled in to me with the biggest, proudest grin. My baby is growing up!

Other examples:

  • Her love of shoes, and all things “piddy” (pretty)
  • Her fearlessness on the playground, going down big slides all on her own and yelling “whee!” all the way down
  • Her great vocabulary, including “no” and “mine”
  • Her choice of story books. She picked this off the shelf when I asked what she wanted to read yesterday!

The toddler bed is a temporary measure; hopefully she’ll sleep happily on a rail-free mattress and I can move her to the trundle bed under Peanut’s bed by the end of the year, freeing up that chunk of kid-room real estate to be used for play. I’m envisioning a little table and chairs and their play kitchen nestled into the corner to make a cozy play house.

This picture is from last year, when I rearranged Peanut’s room (before Sweet Pea moved in)  and organized everything. It’s time to do it again! The room is the quickest to pick up, but the kids pull everything out in 3.4 seconds, and like many kids – and like me – they have simply too much stuff.

He has a trundle-captain’s bed, the best piece of storage furniture evah. It has three broad drawers and a twin sized bed that pulls out, plus the book-case headboard. Under the headboard is a bed-shaped open space, which I currently use for Space Bags full of clothes in the next size up. Can’t waste that space! I got the furniture as a set for $400 on Craigstlist, including the trundle-captain’s bed, headboard, night stand, bookshelf (pictured), a 5 drawer dresser, two mattresses and mattress pads. Score! Recently, I found a deeper matching shelf that is being used across the room for toy storage, just $25. The quilt was Peanut’s 3rd birthday present from my mom, who made it out of super soft flannel.

I’m currently making matching Paintbox quilts (or more accurately, acquiring scraps to make the Paintbox quilts!!) and I’m planning on painting their room, as 4 years of toddler use has been hard on the walls and I have another paint store mystery shop coming up. I like the blue, but I’m thinking of adding more color, like this adorable room on Flickr and it’s cheerful, bright closet. I also love how they painted the furniture, and I’m seriously considering that to cover up the Sharpie attack on the headboard from its current owner and dog scratches on the end of the bed from the previous owner. The quilt and the paint should make for a nice, bright, cheerful room.

What do you think?

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How To Cook Everything

This week, I’m using recipes from the cookbook How To Cook Everything by Mark Bittman. I checked it out of the library, a great resource for cookbook lovers like myself! Do you read cookbooks for fun, cover to cover like a novel, or am I the only one?

I’ve heard good things about this book, and its vegetarian counterpart which was already checked out. I’m excited by the variety of yummy-looking dishes!

I also got a fantastic deal on raw spinach this week, 2.5 lb. for $3.99, so we’ll be eating a lot of spinach this week, including Green Smoothies for breakfast (not in the book.) Good thing we like spinach!

This week, we’ll be having:

Pollock en papillote with spinach, baked potato
Bean and Corn Pancakes, brown rice broccoli
Meatloaf with spinach, mashed potatoes, green beans
Stir-fried chicken and spinach, fried rice
Creamy squash soup, cornbread


Last week’s Lorna Sass “Pressure Perfect” menu didn’t disappoint. Did I mention last week that just about any meal made in a pressure cooker can easily be frozen for a quick meal on a busy night – just defrost and heat up. The Un-Stuffed Cabbage in Sweet-and-Sour Tomato sauce with meatballs is always delicious, and really good reheated. I made an extra batch for the freezer, and an extra batch of split pea soup with smoked paprika. Yum!

Coming up this week:
* Pictures of the kitchen, and the organized entry cabinet
* Kids clothes close to free
* Scratch vs. Store Bought: Popcorn
* More money making and saving tips

To see more menus, head over to Menu Plan Monday.

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I’m a Winner!

My Dining Room Makeover won second prize over at I’m an Organizing Junkie!

I won a VIP membership to The Home Office Organizer and  The Declutter Happy Hour‘s premium e-course! Thanks, you guys!

The Home Office Organizer membership will be shared with my husband, who runs his office out of our converted garage, and it is a MESS! Getting organized will save him time and money, and I’m sure that will be a benefit for our family.

The Declutter Happy Hour will be great for getting the rest of our home up to the standards that the dining room has set. I’m working on a bank of storage cabinets in the living room in March, clearing them out to make room for my art supplies (currently overflowing from the hall closet) and I’m hopeful that their tips and audio recordings help me stay motivated to get it done.

Thanks to everyone who stopped by and commented; I appreciate all the kind words!

Also a winner: Sweet Pea, who peed in the potty! Woohoo!

Mr. Penny told Peanut that if he could get Sweet Pea to use the potty, he could pick out any candy he wants at the store. Apparently candy is a great motivator and he’s been bringing Sweet Pea in to the potty with him each time he goes, saying “Come on, it’s pooping time!” They both sit on the potty and he taught her to grunt, which is hysterical! It was only a matter of time before something came out of it. We did lots of high-fives, cheers, and a little dance. Peanut was happy because he now gets to pick out a candy!

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Peanut is four years old, and he’s a cut-up!  Here are a few of his recent gems.

I moved the dining chairs into the kids’ room while I painted the dining room. The kids were out for the day. Upon returning home, Peanut asked, “Why are the chairs all in my room? Did you have a butt party in my room and I was not imvited?”

While watching figure skating during the Olympics, he asked, “Is she magic?”

Upon giving me the card he made me for Valentine’s Day: “I make you a Valentine. You say, ‘Thank you’ with your polite words now, then give me chocolate for dinner.”

After being asked to get his bicycle helmet for a ride around the neighborhood: ” I don’t want to wear a helmet. I want to get knocked up.”

Mr. Penny was putting the kids to bed tonight and when he put Sweet Pea down, she was saying, “Mo! Mo!” (more! more!) Mr. Penny asked Peanut what she meant and he said, “Moo.” Mr. Penny asked, “What’s a moo?” Peanut said, “it’s a part of a cow.”

And one from 18 month old Sweet Pea, who is a chatterbox these days:

She was tugging at my shirt, wanting to nurse, singing “Rockabye Booby!” and laughing. That counts as baby’s first joke, right? When I gave it to her, she said, “Oh, hi!” before latching on and passing out in boob-coma. Ha!

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Signs of spring

The little apple tree in our front yard is full of pink blossoms, and one hearty little Easter lily is popping up near the spigot!

We put down mulch so there is minimal maintenance  and there is a soft landing near the  freebie Little Tikes slide. The kids love scooping it up and hauling it around inthe little dump truck.

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The kids were playing Duplo Legos in the living room, where I could see them from my dining room cleaning. I heard Peanut (4) go into the bathroom, and he’s potty trained so I didn’t think much of it until a few minutes later when he yelled, “Mommy, come look! I made a disaster!” He wasn’t kidding.

I don’t know how, but he had spirited a box of cereal into the bathroom and poured it out in the sink. He then scooped water from the toilet to pour over it. (I gagged at this point in the story.) But it gets worse! He told me, “I was cleaning up!” He used the new roll of toilet paper and my make up brushes to “clean” the dirty-toilet-water-cereal mixture. Oh, and he was naked, with his clothes a wet heap on the floor. He was in there less than five minutes.

So he had to have a bath, the whole bathroom needs a good scrub down with bleach (guess what I’m doing after dinner!) and I’m completely drained of my will to clean.

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With trepidation, I’m joining OrgJunkie.com in the 28 Day Organizing Challenge.

The room that should be used for dining is really an unorganized box storage and catch-all pit. In a house as small as ours (just over 900 square feet) it’s shameful to let this much of it go to waste! So it is with no small part embarrassment and hope that public humiliation will be just the motivation to get me moving, here is my dining room:

Yes, that is my Christmas tree at the back. On February 1. Yeah. And I took this photo after I pulled out a box of toys from under the table today, so this is (ridiculously) an improvement. My grossly cluttered desk is in the corner. It is no better than the rest of the room!

Why is there an empty soda bottle next to my computer monitor? And that stack of papers? Ridiculous.

So I’m jumping on board with Org Junkie and by the end of the month, will be back with “After” photos of a delightfully tidy, pared down space, where we can peacefully eat our meals and do crafts together!

Thinking of joining me on the quest toward a more organized home? Here are The Official 28 Day Organizing Challenge Rules:

  • During the month of February participants have 28 days to organize either a whole room and/or small space in their home
  • You can enter multiple spaces if you’d like but participants will be asked to create a separate blog post for each entry
  • Two Mr. Linky posts (one for small space and one for whole room) will go up on the morning of March 1st for participants to link up to with a post showcasing BOTH their before and after pictures of the newly organized space. Participants will also be asked to answer a few questions about the process they followed. Questions to come.
  • Entries that don’t include both before and after pictures and/or question summary will be eliminated.
  • The challenge end Mr. Linky cut off will be March 2nd at 12:00 pm PST.
  • Judges will be specifically looking at overall transformation, creative use of space, storage solutions that work and overall experience.

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Head over to Money Crashers and sign up to win in their New Year Giveaway Bash! The contest runs through January 31 and winners will be randomly drawn on February 3. From the Money Crashers’ website:

We’ve partnered with various finance companies and bloggers to put together over $9,200 in sweet prizes – including $3,150 in cash, $1,105 in gift cards, the entire line of Apple iPod mp3 players, 2 Amazon Kindles, a whole bunch of popular finance books, and much much more.

Scroll down for all the ways to sign up for the giveaway. While you’re there, check out their great personal finance articles.

If you have a blog, you can increase your odds of winning by posting about the giveaway, and by sharing the $1,000 bonus giveaway offered by Dream Routine:

Good luck! (I’m not on Twitter, but if you are, check out the ways of getting entries by tweeting!)

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