Frugal healthy lunch ideas: works for me Wednesday

frugal healthy lunch

Frugal healthy lunch ideas from Midge

Hi all! It’s Molly’s cousin Midge here. Molly knows I’ve been working hard to find new ways to be frugal and for this new year – I’ve set some personal goals for my health as well.

Fortunately for me, my Molly Green magazine membership will allow me to have exclusive access to the Dine on a Dime menu planner from Build a Menu (coming soon) AND I get a big discount on a full membership to BAM which includes the fabulous Trim Healthy Mama recipes to help me even more.

Now, I know you may be thinking “lucky Midge – being related to Molly and all”  but, this is not just a family deal - YOU get the same benefits with a Molly Membership – see,  you can join the Molly Family too!

So now, about those frugal healthy lunches . . .

I’ve been making my very own kind of “Lean Cuisine” meals for the week.  When I do my batch cooking  or prepare evening meals – I set aside food to build the lunches with the tips as follows:

  1. Measure 1 cup of extra brown rice to add to broth. Freeze in baggies for quick access.
  2. Place portions of rice in freezer containers and add chopped veggies for a frugal, healthy homemade lean cuisine.
  3. Use broccoli stems to chop small pieces to add to rice for lunch stir-fry or to salads.
  4. Use the tops of tomatoes and bottom portion and chop for a fresh pico de gallo - to add to beans, salad, or chicken,  a Mexican rice dish or fish – for an instant burst of flavor that will light up your taste buds!  pico de gallo
  5.  Use tops and bottoms of white onions and peppers you might normally toss out for the same purpose. Chop ‘em small and throw them into sauce or soup too.
  6. Freeze washed berries and grapes individually on a tray and then divide them into portion sizes for your smoothies and health drinks.
  7. Chop bite size pieces of leftover meats – chicken, fish, steak – and freeze in portion sizes to go into your rice or healthy pasta for a protein boost at lunch.
  8. Once cooled, freeze lunch size portions of your homemade chick broth  in Mason jars or other freezer containers – add leftover rice, chicken, and veggies for a hearty hot lunch.
  9. Use frozen broth to make a homemade Egg Drop Soupfrugal healthy lunch: egg drop soup
  10. Freeze stuffed bell peppers  for a flavorful lunch – use leftover ingredients of rice and lean ground beef, turkey, or venison to fill them with.

Frugal healthy lunches can be yours with just a little bit of prep and planning ahead of time.

Don’t wait to get your Molly Membership so you can take advantage of the big discount for Build a Menu and have the Trim Healthy Mama recipes at your finger tips – or just use the Molly Membership to enjoy the ever frugal Dine on a Dime menu planner!

Go here to get your first month for only $1 and only $7.95 ever after. 

linking with Works for Me Wed

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Creative Christmas gift for friends & loved ones

*affiliate links may be present

Thinking outside the box this year for Christmas? Midge has a few ideas up her sleeve to share with you!

midge Christmas ideas

Hi there! Midge again – I’m giving my newly educated frugal mind a good old fashioned work out this Christmas, as I try to stick to a rather strict budget for our family.

Although the gifts are not the most important thing about our Christmas celebrations, I do like to make sure each of our loved ones has a little something to show how much they mean to us.

 

With a budget as strict as the one cousin Molly has put me on this year, it means digging deep and getting creative. I thought you might enjoy seeing some of what I have come up with so far for some special friends who love to garden.

Any input is welcome as we put our heads together and think outside the proverbial Christmas box!
For those sweet gardener friends of mine – I thought new gardening kits would be fun. I found this one pre-made.

Fiskars 9424 Garden Bucket Caddy – Under $12 (not including the bucket or tools – just the apron bucket caddy)

 

gardening bucket - Christmas ideas
I also found this beautiful pink one that I love, but it is double the cost at about $25:

pink garden caddy for Christmas

 

Bond 6930 Pink 5 Piece Garden Tool Bag Gift Set

Other things I came across in my research include this good looking garden hat that could be added to a basket of goodies!

The Womanswork Cotton Rancher hat is $15.98

I found a 3 pack of pretty garden gloves for only $9.47 – which could all be added to one big basket or separated into 3 individual gift packs for friends and loved ones.

For my particularly small budget, I have gathered several pretty baskets from around the house. A couple of them will get a fresh coating of paint to freshen them up. Using things I have, giving them new life with a fresh coat of paint, and creating something new as a creative gift idea is a terrific way to be both frugal and green. So far, I am sure I have Molly’s approval!

My plan is to use homemade shredded paper – from saved colored scrap paper or left over paper grocery bags to fill the base of the up-cycled baskets. I get free shipping from Amazon on all the products I’ve added here with my Amazon Prime membership. You might find other deals locally instead of shopping online. I find it both frugal and convenient to use the Amazon Prime account.
I could divide the 3 pairs of pretty gloves between each basket. I have ordered this 4 pack of Heirloom tomato seeds – from Ferry Morse for only $7.16 and will add a packet of those for sure. Each of my loved ones will appreciate the heirloom seeds because they will be able to reproduce the tasty tomatoes year after year!

I was fortunate enough to find a large pack of vegetable seeds for less than $21  - Ferry Morse Vegetable Garden - It contains 12 different Ferry Morse seed packets.

With the addition of these Peat pots, my plan began to take shape!

 

gardnergiftbaskets

My most frugal option, and one I believe my friends will love, came together as follows:

3 baskets from my own gift storage – FREE

Paper filling for gift baskets – FREE

Wooden tongue depressors - $6.56 (I plan to paint and label these to dress them up)

12 packs of Ferry Morse Vegetable Garden seeds - $20.47

4 pack of Heirloom Tomato seeds – $7.16

Set of 15 Peat pots – $4.27

3 of the $5 aprons – $15.00

Total cost = $53.36 or $17.79 for each gift basket

Add the gloves and the total would be $20.94 each

Additionally, I have several mason jars to place in the baskets. They will hold the personalized plant markers and may be used for ice tea or lemonade while working in the garden. I’ve added little garden notebooks for recording planting information.

These were also FREE as I had them on hand. If needed, you can easily find cute notebooks at the dollar store.

If you decide to think outside the box and make a frugal Christmas basket of your own – you could even add a small container of home baked cookies just to push your delighted friends right over the edge!

Comparable gift baskets  I came across ran on average between $40 and $124 a piece and were far less personal.

All in all – I believe any garden savvy friend would love to receive one of these as a gift any time of the year, and they sure won’t break the bank.

4 Meals from 1 Chicken: a guest post by Midge

4 meals 1 chicken

These meals are designed to feed a family of 4 or 5 with little ones. If you have a larger family, you may only get 2 – 3 meals from your chicken, but by putting the broth to good use, you’ll be surprised at just how far you can stretch a chicken!

This is one of the favorite lessons I’ve learned on my journey to a more frugal lifestyle. I believe you’ll like it too!

4 Meals from 1 Chicken:

1)      Roasted Chicken – Begin with 1 whole chicken, rubbed with olive oil and sprinkled with garlic, salt and pepper. Add 1/2  inch of water to bottom of baking dish for a moist and tender chicken. Bake at 350 degrees, for 1 – 1 ½ hours (general rule is to roast the chicken for 20 minutes per pound with additional 15 minutes for browning). Be sure the juices run clear and that your chicken is cooked through. Cover with foil for the first 45 minutes, then remove foil for browning. (Adjust browning time for larger chickens – 15 to 30 minutes is all that is needed for a crisp, browned top.)

Slice and serve with veggies and potatoes for a hearty meal.

2)    Yummy Vegetable Soup Boil leftover chicken in large stock pot for 2 hours. Add pepper flakes, garlic, salt and pepper to the water with a heaping spoonful of coconut oil. Strain chicken and bones out of broth, then set aside to cool. Save remaining broth simmering on low. Pick chicken off of bones and store bones in bag. Store chicken pieces in another bag.

Add sliced carrots, celery, corn, peas, chopped onions and tomatoes to broth and cook on low for about 30 min. to an hour, until veggies are all tender.

Serve with fresh bread or corn bread for a delicious vegetable soup.

cheese sauce 

3)     Cheesy Chicken Noodle Casserole – Boil noodles in a pot of water. Grate 1 cup cheese (cheddar, jack or other favorite). Add leftover chicken pieces to pan with chopped onion and a pat of butter or coconut oil to heat. In a separate skillet, add a TB of butter and heaping spoonful of flour and stir until it begins to brown. Add ½ cup of milk and stir. Continue adding ¼ cup milk at a time until gravy is a thickened liquid (or desired consistency – remember, it will thicken a bit after sitting). Add the grated cheese and stir until combined.

Drain boiled noodles and put them in a large mixing bowl, pour chicken and onions over them and add cheese sauce, then stir it all together. If desired, add to a casserole dish and sprinkle Durkey onions on top. Place in oven to brown for 15 min. before serving.

 crock pot broth

4)     Wholesome broth for soup, stew or dumplings – Add leftover chicken bones to a crock-pot full of water. Sprinkle in red pepper flakes and garlic powder (add salt to taste later). Cook bones on high for 8 hours; continually adding more water to make sure it does not dry out. Store cooled broth in jars or bags in freezer for ready-made healthy and homemade chicken broth. Use for soups such as potato soup, vegetable soup, chicken dumplings and more!

These 4 in 1 meals can be enjoyed during a single week, or frozen for later use. If you have favorite ways to stretch a chicken I would LOVE to hear about it! Please share in the comments below.

 

Homemade Guava Jelly

 

homemade guava jelly

 

Guest post by: Midge

So, this week, my husband brought home some guavas and we decided to make guava jelly. Now, this is a newly acquired skill, but I think we did a pretty good job. Guava has a different kind of flavor and it may not be for everyone. My husband absolutely loves it!

Ingredients:

guavas ripened – sugar – lime or lemon juice, and water

guava fruit

Directions: 

  • Wash ripe guavas.
  • Peel and cut the ends off each guava and remove bad spots. Slice fruits into quarters and set the seeds aside. Put fruit in pot, cover guavas and seeds with water, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for a couple of hours, stirring regularly to keep them from burning.
  • Remove from the heat, cool down and place in refrigerator overnight.
  • Strain liquid through cheese cloth and measure by cups into a new saucepan.
  • Add two tablespoons lime juice or lemon juice and one cup of sugar to each cup of guava juice.

guava boiling

  • Bring mixture to a boil, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon to keep from scorching the bottom.
  • Cook until reaching 220º F on candy thermometer.
  • Ladle into prepared jars, leaving a small amount of room at the top for expansion, and follow directions for canning according to the jar size for your pressure canner.

See the National Center for Home Food Preparation site for safe canning instructions here

 

I’m thrilled to be branching out and learning new (to me) things! Some special family and friends may even be getting some yummy guava preserves for Christmas.

How about you … Do you have special recipes you use for Christmas gifts

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Elk Meat: It’s what’s for dinner!

frugal homemaking

Guest post by: Midge

Although my “year of the carnivore” series is officially over, I came across a situation I just could not pass up sharing with you!

This week a friend of ours came home from a big hunting trip out west and brought back a cooler full of elk meat to share with our family. Now, as you may know, I’ve been cooking deer meat in a special venison chili  (and boy was it good!) but, elk meat, I have never attempted. In the spirit all things frugal, I certainly could not pass up the opportunity to learn. So, elk, it is.

In the process of finding out how to cook this new dish, I learned a few things. Did you know that elk meat has less fat than chicken, pork and beef? It’s true! I even read somewhere that it’s lower in fat than some seafood.  It has less cholesterol than bison, venison, or turkey! Who knew?

As a matter of fact, in most cases, at least in the recipes I came across, it was recommended that some fat be added to the dish in order to add moisture. The elk can be substituted for any red meat. You can use it in stir fry, grilling, roasting in an oven or the crockpot. You can even fry it up in a pan!

Evidently, elk makes a great burger when wrapped in bacon and grilled. If you decide to cook a roast, it’s as simple as adding plenty of moisture, like water with a few spices and slow cooking for a couple of hours.

I used the same kinds of special spices I keep in the pantry all the time to add to my roasts. Personally, I choose a sprinkling of garlic, a little fresh ground pepper, and maybe a touch of salt. Simple is good, and elk is a flavorful meat that does not require much dressing at all.

If you are keeping tabs, so far, I haven’t spent any extra money on this meal. (Now aren’t you proud?)

We are big fans of country fried steak (in olive or coconut oil) and all that is required to make that happen with elk, is the elk. The recipe I found is just like the country fried steak I always make. Cut it into strips, rinse and pat dry, then lay out flat. I like to season my flour (about 1-2 cups) with a bit of salt and pepper and then dredge the meat, coating it on each side. Heat 3-4 tablespoons of oil on medium to high in a cast iron skillet or a heavy pan and sear them on both sides. Lower the heat to medium low and continue to cook through for a few more minutes on each side. Once all the country fried elk steak has been cooked (and placed on a plate lined with paper towels or napkins to soak up extra oil) you can use the skillet leftovers to make a delicious country gravy.

roast elk

Being the busy mom that I am, during a busy week, like it is, I decided to go with an elk roast. I added an inch or 2 of water to the bottom of my roasting dish. I rinsed the meat and placed it in the pan and then added garlic powder, pepper, a pinch of salt and a just little bit of mixed dried Italian spices (just for fun) and covered it with foil. I placed it in the oven at 300 and roasted for an hour. I pulled it out and added carrots, onions, checked the water level and removed the foil to place it back in the oven for an additional 45 minutes to an hour.  You can slow cook the meat for longer, just be careful that it does not dry out.

The elk meat is naturally tender and flavorful and it’s now a favorite addition to our frugal family meal planning! Fortunately, there was about 45 pounds of elk meat in that cooler, so I’ll be trying some of those other recipes for cooking elk very soon.

How about you? Have you ever prepared elk meat? I’d love to hear about your favorite frugal recipes!

Sincerely, Midge 

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Salmon – Off the Hook

Midge copyGuest blog by: Midge

Ever have a good idea for a meal… that ended up rolling into a dinner party for ten?

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My last Year of the Carnivore Series meat selection is: Salmon!  I decided to be INCREDIBLY frugal and bought some $2 small filets at our mart of many discounts.  Going the easy route, the salmon filets sounded like they would be easy breakfast fixings for just my husband and I.  Then, I started to doubt myself… wait, am I really trying salmon if I just use these bargain filets?

So, last week as I was at the market and I spotted a large salmon fillet on special.  Now, that fish is what a “Midge Challenge Meal” is all about!  Large and in charge, this salmon looked like it could feed an army (or at least four more people – ha ha)!  So, I decided to invite a few people over to dinner.  Soon, the number rose to ten with a few children to boot!

My next point of conflict… what if the children do not like the way I prepare the fillets?  So, I bought a few salmon burgers to even out our salmon choices.  But, when it came down to THE DAY of the big meal I realized what all of my piece meal salmon buying had come down to.  I now had three different packages of salmon to cook for a dinner party of ten with side dishes and new recipes to conquer.  I suppose I have come a long, long way from the Midge of a couple of years ago because surprisingly, I looked forward to the challenge.

I created three separate salmon meals:

A salsa based salmon bake prepared in tin foil in the oven ~ SALMON BAKED IN FOIL

Salmon fillets grilled on our BBQ with limited seasonings ~ VIDEO OF GRILLING SALMON

IMG_0456[1]

And I also bought a pre-made Salmon Burger frozen product and cooked it on our indoor George Foreman grill.

**In case you were wondering, we served it with freshly baked cornbread, fresh raspberries, grapes and apple cider.**

My husband and I favored the salsa baked salmon.  It was flavorful and moist although I would definitely choose to use my own salsa choice next time as the lemon flavor the recipe required was too much and threw off the taste of the salsa and salmon.  Our other party guests enjoyed the grilled salmon fillets but they were a bit on the dry side.  This was probably due to the fact that the sun had set by the time the salmon was finishing on the grill.  I cooked by flashlight and had a hard time identifying whether the meat was “truly” done.  Three out of four kids ate their whole salmon burger… so I can only guess that it was a success!!

On a side note, I did panic a “wee little” bit (okay, a lot) before attempting to create the salmon.  But, I put out a call on my Facebook page saying, “help, there is a salmon in my freezer and I don’t know what to do!” or something like that ;) .  I had many helpful hints from my friends and felt a lot more confident embarking on this salmon cooking endeavor than before I posted my cry for help!!!  Two of my favorite were ideas from Christina Mann and Rachel Crites; writers at the HIDING THE PEAS BLOG.  Christina shared her favorite recipe with me for a sweet bourbon salmon…. Wow, that sounded good (wish I could share it here!!)!

And Rachel, shared a few helpful hints plus the following recipe:  Wrap your salmon in tin foil and add butter, lemon juice and dill weed.  Bake it at 350 for 15-20 minutes until it is white and it flakes apart.  She stated that this was the main way they enjoyed salmon.

And really folks, salmon is just that easy.  Although for me and my taste buds, we will just stick to MAHI MAHI and TILAPIA ;)   Salmon is a bit too fresh “off the hook” fishy tasting for me!

 

How do you cook your salmon?  Every have a small dinner turn into a dinner party for ten… or is that just me? ;)

 

 

 

 

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What’s Bugging Midge?

Midge copyGuest Blog by: Midge :)

Wasps, Flies and Other Nuisance Bugs ~ Natural Solutions

My husband travels a lot for work.  This means the job of eradicating bugs from this house has become my duty.   This is not my preference as I have never had an easy time with anything creepy crawly (especially… scorpions).  But, flying nuisance bugs likes wasps and small fruit flies (you know, the gnat like insects that sometimes take a ride into your home on fresh fruits) have become the toughest bugs to eliminate!

What's Bugging Midge

The last time I tried to conquer a wasp in my house was a bit crazy!  I am a bit on the short side and the wasp was dive bombing our heads from the dining room light.  The fly swatter was just not going to work!  I ended up grabbing a broom in one hand while holding back my child with the other hand.  The whole thing ended up with me getting the wasp stuck on the broom, screaming like a little girl (oh yes, I did…) and literally throwing my broom out the back door slamming the wasp and the broom out in the cold.  The wasp survived (WHA??!!??), my nerves survived and more importantly NO ONE was stung.  I felt like a real hero… we just won’t mention that part about the screaming, right?  LOL

Wasp Chat ~ My three big ideas about wasps in our house…

  1. Fix the Problem: Maybe I should fix our bent screen door?  It has probably let in about 75% of all the wasps who have snuck into our house in order to scare the daylights out of us.
  2. Identify the Location of the Nest:  My first idea when spotting the creepy wasp was to guide it through the back door.  But, you know sometimes that plan just lets in more of his friends (see #1).  We really need to identify if there is a nest near the back door and take care of it. And when I say ”we”, I mean ”he”… as in my husband can tackle that job!  Seriously, who am I kidding here!  If there is no nest near your home or in a spot of danger for your family, move on to #3.
  3. Naturally repel the wasps away from the house.  At a recent event, I had a friend who was even more timid around wasps than I am.  A few lazy wasps had gotten into a room and she brought out orange soda and a mason jar.  I am not sure where she learned about this idea but amazingly the wasps stayed closed to the jar and away from the area where we were going to be.  By the end of the event, I believe she had even caught a couple in the soda.  (See below for another natural way to trap wasps).

Natural Bug Repellant/Traps

With having a wee one in the house, I often worry about using chemicals, sprays or other store bought measures to take care of bugs.  This past year, I have asked Molly a couple of bug “HELP!” questions through the newsletter.  I have used the ideas she shared here: NATURALLY ABOLISHING GNATS AND FLIES many times.  We had a small gnat issue awhile back and by using the mason jar/vinegar trick, the gnats in my house went extinct.   She also gave some detailed advice about dealing with the dreaded MOSQUITO.

This natural wasp catcher: HOMEMADE WASP TRAP looks easy and effective.

Are Ants and Cockroaches a problem in your home?  Try #30 on this link: Baking Soda Help!

 

Have any other hints on how to naturally repel bugs?  Ever had a wasp experience like mine?  LOL I would love to hear it!

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Oh Deer

Midge copyGuest blog by: Midge

Three more meats to go until my Year of the Carnivore blog series is complete!!  So far, I have accomplished 8 random meats plus today’s selection!  I never would have tried any of these meats if it had not been for writing guest posts for Molly Green on Econobusters.  Thanks Molly! :)

CLICK HERE TO SEE MORE OF MIDGE’S YEAR OF THE CARNIVORE BLOG SERIES

Deer

We are in the thick of hunting season in our area so I thought it would be appropriate to select deer for our meat series today!  Confession ~ I have never been hunting.  But, I am surrounded by a community and several family members who enjoy hunting both as a past time and as a way to provide for their families throughout the year.  In order to procure some deer meat, I just asked my next door neighbors if they had a little extra that I could use for the blog.  And… ta da… dinner is served!

Molly wrote about using deer meat or venison in a blog she posted last year about alternative Thanksgiving meals (CLICK HERE TO READ MORE!).  Some of the ideas were out of this world creative… like the turducken… WHA??!!??  But, the deer chili was what caught my eye.

For this blog, I decided to forgo a chance at making deer chili and instead stick close to my friend’s recipe advice.  The last time I tried this recipe was for some elk meat she had given me to try.  I was a bit nervous and am sure I messed up the recipe a bit because this time around I enjoyed the dish more.

IMG_7089Here is the basic recipe:

½ cup of butter (plus a bit more butter for the pan)

½ cup flour

Seasonings or salt/pepper to mix in with the flour (I use this spice: DEEP PIT SEASONING)

Small package of filleted deer meat (½ lb or so)

Rinse off the small portions of deer meat with water.  Then, dip them in a bowl with the ½ cup of butter which has been melted.  Put them immediately into the flour and spice mixture and cover them fully.  After that, place them into a frying pan which has about a tablespoon or more of butter already melted in it. Make sure to add a bit more butter if needed to protect the bottom of your pan.  You can grill them at medium or medium low on the stove top.   The meat will need to cook until it is no longer pink (similar to cooking ground beef) and the flour mixture will have turned a deep brown color.  We served our deer pieces with a side of corn and some garlic herb flatbread.

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I have a two more meats already selected for my upcoming blog series… but I still need ONE MORE!!!  Do you have any suggestions?

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Some More Laundry Schmaundry

Midge copyGuest Blog By: Midge

About a year ago, my husband made the mistake of adding bleach to our colored clothes ending in a streaked clothes disaster.  LAUNDRY SCHMAUNDRY PART ONE We are still wearing our slightly bleached outfits (and we found a few more splotches on some other items) for our every day cleaning kind of clothes.  Every time I come across the worst items of the pile, I end up smiling remembering the humor of that laundry fiasco!

BUT, I have a small problem now.  I actually need to wash some white clothes and really ensure that they come out white.  Our family borrowed some white collared shirts for a special event and now I need to return them… in 100% condition.  I only have one chance to make sure I do this correctly.

The worst laundry mistakes I have ever made usually revolved around lipstick left in a pocket, an un-cashed check crumbling to pieces in the soapy water or a white shirt being washed with a red dress and turning pink.  And of course, the first thing I think about with white shirts is somehow turning it purple or pink… or bleach eating a hole into one of the shirts.  Man oh man, laundry shouldn’t be this difficult!

You can see the bleach disaster loud and clear on this ruined black shirt!

You can see the bleach disaster loud and clear on this ruined black shirt!

 

 

Molly fans ~ I need some help!!  What do you do to ensure that your white clothes stay white after being washed?  Do you use straight bleach or a combination of other ingredients?  Is there a natural way to clean your white clothes?

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Staying Frugal While Being Sick

Guest blog featuring: Midge

Ever have just one of those weeks?  One word can sum up my week so far… sick.  I am the kind of sick where your head feels like it’s full of lead and your body aches when doing small things like walking across the room or even brushing your teeth.  Who knew brushing your teeth could be so strenuous?

I am super prepared to take care of my baby daughter when she falls ill yet seem to lack the ability to take of myself when an illness strikes.  Our medicine cabinet is chock full of thermometers (yes, I have many different baby thermometers!), the blue nose bulb thingy and a variety of odds and ends that our pediatrician recommended to keep in times of sickness for the baby.  But, it is seriously deficient in the grown up medicine department.

I do not ever expect to be sick but inevitably it happens.  During those times, I find myself running quickly into the drug store for cough drops or a pain reliever.  I don’t care how much it costs; I buy it because I feel so miserable.  I would love to have a frugal plan of attack whenever one of those life draining illness hits.

What do you keep regularly stocked in your medicine cabinet?  How do you stay frugal while being sick?

Thanks everyone for weighing in!

Love ya,

Midge

 

 

 

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