Snowy February

Despite the fact that February brought us immense snow and even though it’s sleeting as I write these words… spring is, according to our spending, somewhere on the horizon.

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Maple Sugaring

Last spring, we made our own maple syrup from our own maple sap from our own maple trees for the very first time! This year, we intend to replicate that sweet success. Sugaring season happens in early spring, which makes February the prep month. We’ll tap our maple trees in March and hopefully have some sap on the boil by mid-month.

Every year we get a little better at homesteading and every year, we learn from our mistakes. Then, we proceed to make an entirely different set of mistakes the next year. Based on this, we bought stuff we didn’t have for last year’s sugaring operation that we noted would be nice to have this year, including: a synthetic cone filter, a hydrometer, a hydrometer cup, and parts to make adjustable legs for our maple sap evaporator. Wondering what these things are? We wondered the same.

Here’s what we learned and why we bought what we did:

Last spring’s sugaring operation: Mr. FW with the evaporator

1) Synthetic cone filter: this is used to filter finished maple syrup to remove minerals that precipitate out of the syrup. If not filtered, these minerals settle to the bottom. Last year we didn’t filter, so our syrup was sandy on the bottom of the jar. Not a major issue (we just don’t pour our syrup very fast) but, the filter was pretty cheap and will allow us to have clearer, more pristine syrup.

2) Hydrometers: measure the density of maple syrup and provide an easy way to know when your sap has finished boiling off into maple syrup. We boiled without a hydrometer last year and used a meat thermometer to gauge when the sap completed its transmutation to syrup. That approach worked OK, but it’s flawed in that the temperature of the sap can be impacted by external factors and a meat thermometer isn’t as precise as the tool meant for the job: a hydrometer.

3) A hydrometer testing cup: allows the hydrometer to float freely in the sap, which is what’s needed for accurate measurement.

4) Parts to make adjustable legs for our maple sap evaporator. The evaporator (we have the Sapling model from the Vermont Evaporator Company) is what we use to boil our maple sap into maple syrup. In order to do this accurately–and avoid burning the pan and/or the sap–the evaporator must be level.

Our homemade maple syrup.. yum

Syrup-making is an outdoor activity and we don’t have an inch of level ground on our land–no poured concrete or asphalt–which means the evaporator must sit on the earth. No problem, we thought, we’ll just level out a patch of ground and set it up! Trouble is, sugaring happens in the spring while snow is melting and, when snow melts, the ground shifts. Despite leveling a spot and setting down a few cinder blocks, the evaporator kept teetering off balance and requiring shims of wood underneath its little evaporator feet.

That approach worked and Mr. FW could be seen shoving shards of wood under the four legs of the evaporator every 15 minutes. Fun as that was, this year he devised a system to install adjustable legs onto the bottom of the evaporator so that it can be leveled more easily and with greater precision.

5) Fire bricks. Another downside to boiling sap outside is the fact that a lot of heat gets lost through the sides and bottom of the evaporator. To mitigate some of this heat loss (and hopefully reduce the amount of fire wood we have to burn), we bought 21 fire bricks and lined the interior of the evaporator with them. These should help keep more heat inside the kettle drum of the evaporator and make our sap boiling more efficient. We got the fire bricks for $1 a piece off of Craigslist; they’re around $4 new so this was another saved Craigslist search for the win!


Glamour Shed rocking February on the homestead

Somehow, February is the time to order seeds for our vegetable garden. Since Vermont is cold (and where we live is particularly cold), our growing season is mercilessly short. Given that, we (and by “we,” I mean Mr. FW) start most of our vegetables from seed indoors so that they have a chance to mature and, you know, actually produce fruit before the fall frosts set in. This year, we’re trying out yet more and yet different crops! I’ll give you a rundown of what we’re planting in an upcoming installment of This Month On The Homestead.

Cooking and Baking from Scratch

This is turning into a very homestead-y expense report! I bake our bread (in a bread machine I bought for $5 at a yard sale) and I’ve found it’s cheapest to buy my yeast and vital wheat gluten in large quantities online (affiliate links). Since I keep both in the freezer, they don’t go bad.

Two other from-scratch items made in our kitchen are hummus and roasted chickpeas. Mr. Frugalwoods helms these operations and he starts both with dried chickpeas, which we buy in a 50 lb quantity (it’s two 25 lb bags, if you must know).

50 pounds is a lot of chickpeas and that bag usually lasts us over a year. His recipes for both are simple, delicious, and dirt cheap. If I had a chickpea for every time someone asked me for his hummus recipe, I’d never have to buy chickpeas again. And so, here you go, folks:

Mr. FW’s Healthy, Hearty Homestead Hummus


  • Garbanzo beans aka Chickpeas (we use dried beans because they’re cheaper, but canned beans would work just fine too)
  • Garlic (1 clove)
  • Salt (to taste)
  • Lemon (the juice of three lemons plus zest their rinds)
  • Water (until the texture is right)
  • Olive Oil (until the texture is right)


1) Cook garbanzo beans with garlic, salt and bay leaves (if using dried beans).

2) Put desired amount of garbanzo beans into a food processor.

3) Chop 1 clove of garlic and add to the food processor. You can do a rough chop since the food processor will do most of the chopping for you.

4) Add salt to taste.

5) Squeeze three lemons and add their juice. Zest the rinds of all three lemons.

6) Turn on the food processor.

7) Add a small amount of water as you start the blending process.

8) Pour in olive oil as it blends.

9) Periodically stop the blender and stir to ensure there are no clumps.

10) Blend it to your desired consistency.

Voila! Hummus. As you’ll note, there’s no tahini in our hummus because tahini is expensive and we happen to like our hummus without it.

Credits Cards: How We Buy Everything

Kidwoods with our friend’s horse

Mr. Frugalwoods and I purchase everything we possibly can with credit cards because:

  1. It’s easier to track expenses. No guesswork over where a random $20 bill went; it all shows up in our monthly expense report from Personal Capital. I spend less money because I KNOW I’m going to see every expense listed at the end of each month. Here’s a more detailed explanation of how I use Personal Capital for my expense tracking (and other stuff too).
  2. We get rewards. Credit card rewards are a simple way to get something for nothing. Through the cards we use, Mr. FW and I get cash back as well as hotel and airline points just for buying stuff we were going to buy anyway.
  3. We build our credit. Since Mr. FW and I don’t carry debt other than our mortgages, having several credit cards open for many years helps our credit scores. By the way, it’s a dirty myth that carrying a balance on your credit card helps your credit score–IT DOES NOT. Paying your cards off IN FULL every month and keeping them open for many years does help your score.

For more on my credit card strategy, check out The Frugalwoods Guide to a Simple, Yet Rewarding, Credit Card Experience. I also wrote this guide on how to find the best credit card for you.

If you want a simple cash back credit card, here are a few good options that don’t have annual fees:

  1. The Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card. This one’s good because it offers a flat 1.5% cash back on all purchases. There are no categories to keep track of, you just get a straightforward 1.5% cash back on everything you buy. Nice, easy, and fee-free! What this means is that if you spend, for example, $1,000 on this card in a month, you’ll get $15 back. Plus, if you spend $500 in the first three months of having this card, you’ll get $150.
  2. From my hiking path through our woods

    The Chase Freedom Unlimited is also excellent and also offers a flat 1.5% cash back on all purchases–with no categories or restrictions–which makes it super simple to use. This card also offers you $150 if you spend $500 in the first three months of having it.

  3. The Fidelity Rewards Visa (which is the card I have) offers 2% cash back on all purchases, with no categories or restrictions, but the downside is that it requires you to have a Fidelity account. If you’re already banking with Fidelity, then I think it’s a great deal, but if you’re not (and you don’t want to open a Fidelity account), I’d go with either the Capital One Quicksilver or the Chase Freedom Unlimited.

If you’re more interested in travel rewards, a lot of people love the Chase Sapphire Preferred as well as the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card.

The best way to find a credit card that’ll work for you is to search for it yourself; I have a guide to help you do just that: The Best Credit Cards (and Credit Card Rewards)!

Huge caveat to credit card usage: you MUST pay your credit card bills in full every single month, with no exceptions. If you’re concerned about your ability to do this, or think that using credit cards might prompt you to spend more money, then credit cards are not for you–stick with a debit card or cash. But if you have no problem paying that bill in full every month? I recommend you credit card away, my friend! (note: the credit card links are affiliate links).

Cash Back Earned This Month: $39.39

The silver lining to our spending is our cash back credit card. We earn 2% cash back on every purchase made with our Fidelity Rewards Visa and this month, we spent $1,969.73 on that card, which netted us $39.39.

Not a lot of money, perhaps, but it’s money we earned for buying stuff we were going to buy anyway! This is why I love cash back credit card rewards–they’re the simplest way to earn something for nothing.

Personal Capital: How We Organize Our Expen$e$

Indoor art on a cold winter day

Mr. Frugalwoods and I use a free, online service called Personal Capital to keep track of our money.

Tracking expenses is one of the best–and easiest–ways to get a handle on your finances. You absolutely, positively cannot make informed decisions about your money if you don’t know how you’re spending it. If you’d like to know more about how Personal Capital works, check out my full review.

Without a holistic picture of how much you spend every month, there’s no way to set savings, debt repayment, or investment goals. It’s a must, folks. No excuses. Personal Capital (which is free to use) is a great way for us to systematize our financial overviews since it links all of our accounts together and provides a comprehensive picture of our net worth.

If you’re not tracking your expenses in an organized fashion, you might consider trying Personal Capital. Here’s a more detailed explanation of how I use Personal Capital (note: these Personal Capital links are affiliate links). 

Yes, We Only Paid $18.88 for Cell Phone Service (for two phones)

Our cell phone service line item is not a typ0 (although that certainly is). We really and truly only paid $18.88 for both of our phones (that’s $9.44 per person for those of you into division). How is such trickery possible?!? We use the MVNO Ting (affiliate link). What’s an MVNO? Glad you asked because I was going to tell you anyway. It’s a cell phone service re-seller.

MVNOs are basically the TJ Maxx of the cell phone service world–it’s the same service, just A LOT cheaper. If you’re not already using an MVNO, switching to one is an easy, slam-dunk, do-it-right-now way to save money every single month of every single year forever and ever amen. More here: My Frugal Cell Phone Service Trick: How I Pay $10.65 A Month*

*the amount we pay fluctuates every month because it’s calibrated on what we use. Imagine that! We only pay for what we use! Will wonders ever cease.

Where’s Your Money?

Creek in the woods, flowing like it should

One of the easiest ways to optimize your money is to use a high-interest savings account. A high-interest savings account gives you money for nothing. With these accounts, interest works in YOUR favor (as opposed to the interest rates on debt, which work against you). Having money in a no (or low) interest savings account is a waste of resources–your money is just sitting there doing nothing. Don’t let your money be lazy! Make it work for you! And now, enjoy some explanatory math:

Let’s say you have $5,000 in a savings account that earns 0% interest. In a year’s time, your $5,000 will still be… $5,000.

Let’s say you instead put that $5,000 into an American Express Personal Savings account that–as of this writing–earns 1.70% in interest. In one year, your $5,000 will have increased to $5,085.67. That means you earned $85.67 just by having your money in a high-interest account.

And you didn’t have to do anything! I’m a big fan of earning money while doing nothing. I mean, is anybody not a fan of that? Apparently so, because anyone who uses a low (or no) interest savings account is NOT making money while doing nothing. Don’t be that person. Be the person who earns money while sleeping. More about high-interest savings accounts, as well as the ones I recommend, here: The Best High Interest Rate Online Savings Accounts.

Expense Report FAQs

  • Want to know how we manage the rest of our money? Check out How We Manage Our Money: Behind The Scenes of The Frugalwoods Family Accounts. We also own a rental property in Cambridge, MA, which I discuss here.
  • Why do I share our expenses? To give you a sense of how we spend our money in a values-based manner. Your spending will differ from ours and there’s no “one right way” to spend and no “perfect” budget.
  • Are we the most frugal frugal people on earth? Absolutely not. My hope is that by being transparent about our spending, you might gain insights into your own spending and be inspired to take proactive control of your money.
  • Wondering where to start with managing your money? Take my free, 31-day Uber Frugal Month Challenge. If you’re interested in other things I love, check out Frugalwoods Recommends.

But Mrs. Frugalwoods, Don’t You Pay For X, Y, Or Even Z????

Wondering about common expenses you don’t see listed below?

If you’re wondering about anything else, feel free to ask in the comments section!

Alright you frugal money voyeurs, feast your eyes on every dollar we spent in February:

Item Amount Notes
VT mortgage $1,392.86
Groceries $775.64
Daycare for Littlewoods $760.00 Read about our childcare decision-making process in this post.
Clothing for Mrs. Frugalwoods $284.54 Dresses, sweaters, and long underwear tops to round out my non-maternity/non-nursing wardrobe.
Household, farm, garden, and miscellaneous supplies $260.64 Thrilling items such as: toilet paper, shampoo, laundry detergent, dishwasher soap, over-the-counter medications, dental floss, and more.
Gasoline for cars $236.00 This was a lot higher in February on account of the weather and our need to drive the truck more often. Usually, we default to driving our hybrid Toyota Prius, but since it doesn’t have 4WD, we have to drive the truck in order to get out of our driveway on super icy/slushy days.
Maple sugaring supplies $143.05 We tap our maple trees to make our own maple syrup and the sugaring season is almost here! We bought: a synthetic cone filter, fire bricks, a hydrometer, a hydrometer cup, and more spouts.
Vegetable garden seeds $88.45 Purchased from Sample Seeds and High Mowing Organic. It’s almost time to start our vegetable seeds (indoors) for transplanting into our garden in late May.
Bulk dry chickpeas (50 lbs) $81.95 50 pounds of dry chickpeas, which we use for making homemade hummus and roasted chickpeas. This bag will last us a little over one year and yes, this is the cheapest price we’ve found.
Massage for Mama $80.00 From my monthly massage/childcare co-op.
Tail light for our Toyota Tundra $73.45 Our Toyota Tundra needed a new tail light. We bought this one and Mr. FW installed it himself (affiliate link).
Internet $72.00 We really, really, really love our fiber internet.
Date night! $69.50 My husband and I go on one kid-free date night per month. Read all about it here.
Approximately 9 months worth of service for our landline $50.00 Since we don’t have cell service at our homestead, we have a landline phone through the VOIP.MS service. This amount will cover our usage for about nine months.
River Roost Brewery (cans) $48.00 Beer from a fabulous local brewery, River Roost. Highly recommend if you’re ever in the area!
Gin and caramel vodka $47.98 For our weekend drinks nights! Since giving up drinking Mondays through Thursdays, I find I really look forward to our special weekend cocktails!
Horseback riding helmet $36.03 I recently started horseback riding with a friend who has horses and, to be super safe, I purchased this helmet for myself (affiliate link).
Diesel $28.69 Diesel for our tractor
Lunch out with the kids $27.09 I took the kids out to lunch in between doctor’s appointments and they had a blast. They actually did pretty well and both ate about a pound of turkey during the meal…
Yeast and vital wheat gluten $26.01 I bake all of our bread (using this recipe) and this is the best and cheapest yeast and vital wheat gluten I’ve found (affiliate links). I’ve tried this recipe without the vital wheat gluten and it doesn’t come out as well.
More AA rechargeable batteries $25.41 We got these AA rechargeable batteries from Amazon, which work well (affiliate link).
Used books $25.24 A mixture of used kid and adult books for our family of readers.
Cell phone service (for two phones) $18.88 This is so cheap because we use an MVNO called Ting (affiliate link). MVNOs resell wireless service at discounted rates (but it’s the same service).

MVNOs are basically the TJ Maxx of cell phone service.If you’re not using an MVNOcheck out this post to see if you can make the switch. The savings are tremendous

Parts to make adjustable legs for our maple sap evaporator $18.52 Another item to prepare for maple syrup making season!
Utilities: Electricity $18.35 We have solar (which I detail here); this is our monthly base price for remaining grid tied.
Prescription medication $15.00
More AAA rechargeable batteries $13.77 We got these AAA rechargeable batteries from Amazon, which work well (affiliate link).
Rooting hormone for our vegetable crop $4.81 Rooting hormone for our vegetable garden (affiliate link).
Total: $4,700.86
Minus mortgage: $3,308.00

How was your February?

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Advertiser Disclosure: Frugalwoods partners with CardRatings for coverage of credit card products. Frugalwoods and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers at no extra cost to you.

Editorial Disclosure: Opinions, reviews, analyses and recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities.

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  1. Do you buy detergent, tp, shampoo every month? I find that a 6 pack of floss from Costco lasts me forever!

    1. No, we don’t buy the same stuff every month. That “household supplies” category has different things in it every month, but it encompasses all of our hygiene, household, farm supplies, kid stuff (such as their vitamins), and seasonal items (such as ice melt for our icy walkway). It’s a real hodgepodge and I should probably break it all out, but I’m lazy ;).

      1. I was about to be really concerned for you if you were doing all that laundry! More caramel vodka needed!

    1. This was a winter wardrobe stock-up! Since cleaning out my closet and getting rid of everything that was maternity/nursing or too small (I have a different body after having my kids), I didn’t have much to wear! I’ve landed on a “uniform” of sorts that serves me really well: it’s comfortable, looks nice, and is warm. I love that I can wear the same clothes all day (comfortable enough to be on the floor with the kids) and then if I have a board meeting or date night in the evening, I don’t have to change clothes! I bought: 4 long-sleeved sweater dresses, leggings, long-sleeved silk tops to go under the dresses, and five long cardigans to wear over the dresses. I am so comfy and happy :)! Come to think of it, maybe I should write a post about it?

      1. I’m sure I’m not the only one who’d love a post on this! I’m working on a uniform look and am still struggling to figure it out.

      2. Yes, please! I’m pregnant with my second right now, so I’m a ways off from a non-maternity/non-nursing wardrobe but I would love to live vicariously through you 🙂

      3. I’m also curious! Did you try sourcing a lot of it used? Or did you buy higher quality clothing that would last longer? I just had my third and hope to have at least one more (so I’m also not in this position yet), but I would love a post on your process, too!

      4. I third this suggestion! I loathe shopping and when you posted about the Skimmies, I promptly ordered two pairs (I was previously using an old pair of cut-off control-top pantyhose)! I think this would make for a great Reader Suggestion post too – readers could weigh-in on their best clothing purchases (cheapest, longest-lasting, not cheap but well worth the splurge, etc). Currently, I am desperate to find a decent pair of jeans that doesn’t turn my legs into sausages!

        1. Lynn, that is the BEST IDEA ever! Now we all know what next month’s Reader Suggestions will be! Thank you!

          1. I fourth this suggestion! I would love to hear what others have bought that’s lasted a long time. I generally dislike clothes shopping and hate how so many things I buy tend to fall apart quickly.

      5. I would be interested in your warm weather clothes such as the silk top. And what you wear under the dresses to keep your legs warm. I am out and about in the city regularly and it’s cold! And since I am no longer pregnant I am excited to redefine my wardrobe.

        1. Leggings and boots do a great job – when I’m outside my coat reaches to my knees, where the boots then take over for warmth.

      6. I would love to hear about it! I’m sure the silk tops are luxurious, but I’ve been using Costco’s 32 Degrees 2-pack of long sleeve breathable underlayer tops and pants. I think they were $12 (on sale) for a 2-pack last Fall, and they go on sale regularly every year. They are very warm and lightweight and comfortable in cool weather, I like to wear them as PJs too!

  2. I know tahini isn’t to everyone’s taste, but have you tried adding in a little cumin to your hummus? Super yummy!

    1. Yum! We’ve experimented with different spices over the years and Mr. FW used to make a fairly spicy version; however, our kids do not appreciate the spice just yet, so we keep it more lemon-flavored for their budding taste buds.

  3. Did you know that if, as your first step in your hummus, you start the food processor, and drop the whole clove of garlic into the clean, dry container as it runs, it will chop itself? Then add your chickpeas and carry on as usual.

  4. I’m wondering what benefit you find to using a bread machine? My husband bakes all of our bread, and the bread machine only lasted about 6 months before we realized it was much easier to just bake the bread in the oven. Our kitchen is so far from minimalist (OMG- he has so many gadgets), but the bread machine was an easy thing to get rid of.

    Our spending- it seems to be through the roof lately. Daycare for 2 means that our cash flow is negative each month (intentional, as we didn’t want to change our investment plan, 50% of our income is automatically invested each month, and we have enough cash to allow it to be negative for 2 more years until one goes to kindergarten, without losing any emergency fund) and we seem to have allowed some lifestyle creep- we still never go out to eat or the movies, but we are up to 4 vacations a year, and with kids, just the flights mean those aren’t cheap.

    We also decided to pave a patio in the backyard, so that is going to be about $5000. I think it will be worth it to be able to use the yard more for the kids to play.

    Medical expenses also seem to be killing us. I thought tubes would help my baby’s ear infections, but he still seems to be in the doctor non-stop for them. They tell me the tubes will likely prevent hearing loss from scaring though, so that’s a huge plus. I’m also constantly at the doctor.

    I feel like I’ve run out of places to cut little things though. Our budget doesn’t have low hanging fruit left.

    1. For me, the bread machine is a very useful tool. In the winter, I let the bread machine do the kneading & rising and then I finish baking it in the oven. That way, I don’t have to be at home and available during the kneading/rising cycles. During the summer months when it’s too hot to use the oven, I usually let the bread machine do the baking part as well. I do like the bread better when it’s baked in the oven, but there’s no way I’m turning on my oven when it’s already too hot in the house, so if I want fresh bread, I have to settle for the machine.

      1. I have–no joke–baked bread in the bread machine outside on the porch during the hottest days of the year 😉

    2. Hang in there! You’ll be out of the daycare bills eventually and then will have such a great system in place for that money. In terms of the bread machine, I do love mine because I find it so easy to use–I measure the ingredients by weight (using a food scale), so I don’t get anything dirty in the process. I just dump the ingredients in, turn it on, and done! Sometimes we bake bread without the machine and I find it takes me so much longer and gets so many more dishes dirty. But, if your husband has a system that works, I say stick with it!!

  5. I’ve tried making hummus several times and have failed miserably each time — too garlicky, too dry, to flavorless, etc. I’ll have to try your method to see if I can finally tackle this problem. My sister-in-law makes the best hummus, but she hasn’t shown me how she does it.

    Great job on the $5 bread maker too! I’m debating about getting one, since my boyfriend has one and I have limited space. They’re great, though!

  6. Do you feel like the Evaporator is worth the expense? It was our first year last year too, and we used a propane burner. Not sure if we should bite the bullet and buy a Sappling or not. Thank you for any feedback.

    1. That’s a great question. I can’t really answer it well because: 1) we were given the Evaporator (more on that here); and 2) we’ve never made syrup any other way, so we don’t have anything to compare it to. The Sapling is awesome and the VT Evaporator Company is equally awesome. But, again, I haven’t tried sugaring with any other method. I think it probably depends on what your sap yield is and how much syrup you want to be making every year. If you’re aiming for a small amount, I imagine the Sapling wouldn’t be worth it. But if you’re looking to increase your yield, then it might make more sense. I’m sorry I can’t be more helpful!

  7. So glad you included a hummus recipe! The Lebanese place right beside my work has the best hummus but they won’t share their recipe. I am going to try the Frugalwoods recipe. I really wish Mr. Frugalwoods would do a monthly post with one of his recipes- I am always looking for simple, tasty, budget friendly meals.

    I feel off the tracking expenses/being financially responsible wagon about a year ago and February was my first month to track again. Oooof, it was rough looking at that spending but really gave me a good ideas on where to be more mindful. I spent $319.07 on eating out!!!!! I wish I could blame our town’s annual restaurant week but I fear February was actually a low month compared to other months 🙁

  8. Curious about the hummus. How long does a batch last? Does it keep well in the fridge or do you need to make smaller batches for freshness?

    1. A batch lasts us less than a week–our kids eat A LOT of hummus! It stays fresh in the fridge for that long–we haven’t had a problem with it going bad. I’ve never tried freezing it before, but I think that would work? We do sometimes freeze the cooked chickpeas if we have too many and that works fine.

  9. I add a small amount of chickpeas Or a small can of the same to almost every soup and casserole I cook. It’s a great way of adding protein do adds little or no taste if run through the food processor.

  10. I love the Red Star yeast. I buy the 32 oz package at Costco for about $5 and it lasts a really long time.

  11. Dear Mrs. Frugalwoods,
    I love seeing all those beautiful jars of Maple Syrup…they look so inviting catching the light like they do! I wonder if you would ever like to write a cookbook …I keep seeing the word Frugalicious 😊 in my mind. February has been a good month for us. My sister gave us a bread maker and I am excited to use it soon. Thank you for your posts . I look forward to them every week.

    1. Oooooo Frugalicious!!! Only problem is that I’m not the cook–my husband is! Maybe I can needle him into putting more of his recipes down on paper 😉

  12. I tried to use the handy dandy search tool for high interest savings accounts and it appears broken. The answer is always Capitol One no matter the criteria.

    BTW, love the blog and your transparency. Your homestead is lovely as is your family.

  13. To where do you do so much driving to use that much gasoline? Just wondering because I also live in Vermont, have a long-ish 5 day a week commute, and need to drive a less-than-ideally-fuel-efficient vehicle to get out of my driveway this time of year – but didn’t spend that much on gas in January and February combined. It seems like you’d have to be driving several hours every day to do that.

  14. Thanks for the bread recipe! I’ve been meaning to bake my own. I don’t have a bread machine though, but I think that’ll be OK.

    One of my goals this spring is to review our cell phone usage and see if the plan we have still makes sense for the data and messaging we use (We also have a MVNO but it’s not the lowest cost one). One of the restraining factors we have is that my phone was originally purchased from Verizon so I think I can only use it on certain networks. And I am loathe to just buy a new phone to replace a perfectly good one. My phone will be three years old this summer so I am guessing it is a matter of time before it dies anyways, these phones aren’t built to last.

    1. You can ask your MVNO to unlock your phone. I was with Virgin mobile for many years but they recently ended cell service and automatically transferred all their customers to Boost Mobile. The call service isn’t that great so I’m switching to Mint Mobile where you can bring your own unlocked phone. I sent Boost a message today asking them if my phone was unlocked and they unlocked it for me but said it might take up to 72 hours. Crossing my fingers all goes well and there are no problems switching my number over. I would love to pay $15 month for service on Mint Mobile (I don’t use that much data so I’m thinking of getting the 3GB plan)

  15. If you want a hint of tahini flavor without the expense, add a few drops of toasted sesame oil. Not exactly the same, but I like it.

  16. Wondering how much syrup you use a year? I admit I’m not much of a pancake/syrup consumer so a single bottle lasts at least a year usually.
    I did buy some syrup in Nova Scotia last fall that I love. Maybe good maple syrup would make me eat more? Otherwise, it seems like a lot of work to cook own syrup. Perhaps you give as gifts, which I’m sure would be special and appreciated.

    1. I bake with the syrup, which is what really uses it up for us. I use maple syrup instead of sugar or honey in most of my baking recipes. Crucially, I use it in our whole wheat sandwich bread, which I bake at least a loaf of every week. I also bake a lot for friends/parties/potlucks, so I seem to go through the syrup!

  17. I have the Amazon Prime credit card through Chase. You get 5% cashback on Amazon and Whole Foods purchases. I buy a lot off Amazon and this is a pretty good return rate.

  18. Thank you for sharing your passions with us. Just a concerned word of warning, I used a bread maker (also bought used) and a very similar bread recipe (also adding vital wheat gluten), with two kids around the same age, after a year or two I developed some pretty severe health issues – migraines, vertigo, fatigue, etc. It took me a many years to recover and although I don’t have a double-blind study to prove it, I’m 99% sure it was the vital wheat gluten that kicked it all off. Just one data point, the rest of my family was fine.

  19. Fiesta brand dried garbanzo beans are $17.29 for a 25 lb bag at Smart Foodservice which is only in the Western states, but there must be something similar all over the country. Many people think that this is a wholesale only store, but that is a myth. Anyone can shop there, and I love it!! So many great deals for frugal weirdos. Another frugal tip: the cooking water from garbanzo beans (and the liquid in the canned beans) is called aquafaba, which can be substituted for egg whites in many recipes. You can read all about it on Wikipedia. I use aguafaba in my homemade hummus, instead of plain water. I think it gives the hummus a silkier texture and reduces the amount of oil that I have to add.

  20. Thank you for the hummus recipe! I plan on trying it out–we live in an RV fulltime traveling. Then I got to thinking, would replacing a bit of the olive oil with toasted sesame oil give it some ‘tahini’ (sesame seed paste) touch of flavor??

  21. Hello to you, when making hummus, I also make the tahin myself. You take a small amount of sesameseeds, roast them in the oven (175 degrees C) or in a fryerpan till brown. Let it cool down and grind with some olive oil and some lemonjuice. Keep it in a sterilized jar. Stays o.k. for a month in the frigidaire. Amount depending how much you need. As I don ‘t want the tahin to become stale, I juist make a small amount for the hummus I’m making. Hope this Works for you too. Kind regards from the Netherlands. Love to read your blogs, although our way of life is different from jours. Francine

  22. The sweet picture of your child with the pony brings back memories, really bad ones. I swear I never met a meaner (possibly possessed) animal than the Shetland ponies my friends had. Those little jerks took every opportunity to bite me or kick me when I wasn’t looking! Never trust a Shetland any further than you can throw it!

  23. Thank you, Mr. FW, for the hummus recipe. I recently found out that I’m mildly allergic to sesame. No sesame, which of course means no tahini and no traditional hummus. Now I don’t have to live a hummus-free life!

  24. We also use a Sapling Evaporator to boil our maple sap into sugar down here in southern Vermont. I put the Sapling on a metal garden cart and now can wheel it in and out of the barn myself, as well as move it around to find a level spot. This has made my sugaring season significantly easier. I have been backyard sugaring for several years; this hobby brings me great joy and strong arms.

  25. I’m happy you’ve started riding, can’t wait to see pictures on Instagram. I love horses and used to work in exchange for lessons as a teen. I took a 5-year break from lessons while in grad school/getting my career up and running, but started back in August and am really enjoying being back in the saddle. Did you ride as a kid/teen? I’m sure the girls are loving being around horses.

    1. I am LOVING it so much. I rode as a kid/pre-teen and have a lifelong love of horses, which I think Kidwoods is inheriting… 😉

  26. Maybe I missed it but can you tell us where you buy chickpeas? We go through a lot (buy dried) and if I could get a better deal in bulk like that, I’d like to. I have pressure canned them so they can used as a convenience food, too. Love to know your source.

    1. Me too! We bumped into friends at the restaurant and ended up sharing a table with them, which I think helped. Somehow four kids and three adults eating together worked pretty well 🙂

  27. Ooooooh, I would love to see a post about your decision to give up alcohol Mondays-Thursdays, if you’re willing to share your thoughts on the subject matter! Or maybe it’ll come up on a happy hour podcast episode 🙂 Also, as a side note, I am always AMAZED to see your pics and to see how different snowfall is across VT. I am in Middlebury, and we have had a particularly snow-less winter. Only really one big storm so far, and it’s all melted now.

    1. Yeah, we seem to live in a snow pocket–anytime VPR calls for snow on ridges or mountains, we get it! Regarding the alcohol, it was a decision I came to for health, financial, and general life reasons. I thought it would be an easy way for us to save on some calories and just generally drink a bit less. The Monday through Thursday regime was an idea I got from a Frugalwoods reader and it seemed easy to implement and easy to follow, which it is! We’re all about habit and routine, so this is just one more routine for us.

  28. Hi Mrs. Frugalwoods,
    Thanks so much for sharing your credit card recommendations! We absolutely love using credit cards to get a combination of points or cash back. We have the Chase Freedom Unlimited, but now we’ll look into the Capital One Quicksilver card. Thanks for the recommendation! We have to spend money on everyday expenses anyway, so why not get some cash back or points 🙂

  29. The picture of Kidwoods and the furry horse got me wondering–what are your (plural) thoughts on adding animals to your homestead? Rabbits and/or chickens? What about a cat or dog? I can see reasons to keep life simple as-is, and other reasons to “add to the adventure”!

  30. This is out of context for this post. I read your instagram, but not on instagram to comment.

    PLEASE, Please, please write a post on this:
    “Sap’s on the boil, syrup’s in the making. Maple odor is in the air (that is, in fact, a real thing). This is my evaporator, from @vermontevaporatorcompany. This is my husband and my oldest child. This is my land. What you can’t see are my people, my community surrounding us. There are mamas and dadas and kiddos and a dog running around, holding my youngest, cooking me lunch–they came over to enjoy, to support, and to live together. I am a believer in community because I require it to survive, to thrive. I am grateful for this family we’ve created. I’m thankful that there are other people in this polarized, fearful world who come into my kitchen, find the pots and pans and get to cooking while our kids run around trying to feed that one dog, who turns out very well fed at the end of it all. I didn’t know I needed this until we moved here. People ask me (all the time) if I feel isolated here in rural Vermont, living as I do on 66 acres with trees as my neighbors, and I have to laugh because I am encased, surrounded, and consumed by love and presence. We don’t have cell reception, so texts don’t always come through, and sometimes the power and internet go out and so, folks just stop by. Today, one group left as another arrived. All relatively last minute, hasty, and unscheduled. But all perfect and exactly as I’d hoped my life would unfold. All exactly as I hoped to raise my children. My gratitude is a well that grows deeper by the day. #vermontlife #vermontbyvermonters #maplesyrup #maplesyrupseason #maplesugaring #vermontevaporatorcompany”

  31. Target sells chickpeas for 99 cents a pound. Plus free shipping if you have a Target card as well as 5 percent off. If you don’t have a Target card, I think you just have to buy $35 to get free shipping. They’re fine, but you have to buy 50 bags if you want 50 pounds. I don’t buy there anymore, I’ve found cheaper in the Asian grocery stores, about 75 cents a pound.
    I also make my own hummus, I add some hot sauce sometimes to give it a little kick. Also roasted red peppers are really good in it (and, yes, you should roast them yourself, they’re so much better than jarred!).

  32. I live in Canada and I was wondering if you can tell me what the best credit card with cash back rewards is?

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