Oh, look! It’s a Q&A post.

Every Some Mondays (heh!), I answer a few of the questions that my readers send me. If you have a question you’d like me to answer in a future Q&A post, just leave me a comment here or email me (thefrugalgirl [at] gmail [dot] com) and put Q&A in the subject line. I look forward to hearing from you!

I am curious about your take on the Capital One acquisition of ING DIRECT. I started an ING account this summer at your recommendation (remember the July 4 sale?), but Capital One isn’t exactly a name I associate with frugality.

Cheers!
Karen

Oooh, that’s a really good question.

I believe Capital One actually acquired ING back in February of this year, and I was bummed out when I heard the news. I’ve adored ING since they opened their virtual doors back in 2001, and I liked that they were a smaller, different company.

My past experience with mergers has been less than fabulous (Mr. FG’s last two companies were bought out, and things went really downhill after the mergers.), so I’m in a slightly suspicious wait and see mode right now.

Capital One has owned ING for a while, and I haven’t noticed any negative changes yet, but I’ll be on the lookout as they start to roll ING into their own Capital One brand.

So, I guess I would say that for the moment, I still feel comfortable recommending ING savings accounts, given that I personally own a ton of them at this point. I like that there’s no minimum opening balance required and that you can have as many accounts as you want (I use mine as virtual budget envelopes.)

As they do every year, ING is going to be offering some pretty sweet Black Friday deals, and I’ll share those with you all once I get the details. I’m not quite as enthused about promoting these deals as I have been in the past, but hey, free money is free money and if you decide down the road that you don’t like what Capital One is doing, you can always close the account.

If you’ve got $250 to put down, you could always open an ableBanking account instead of an ING account…ableBanking is still a really small, different bank (their customer service is great too!), and I do feel 100% comfortable recommending them.

Anyhoo, I’ll keep you all posted with my ING thoughts as things progress with the merger.

(I know Karen already has an ING account, but if you’re wanting to open one, don’t do it right now. Wait for the Black Friday savings bonuses!)

When you go through the freezer or pantry and eat down what is in there… how do you come up with recipes? I wind up with odd bits that I don’t have recipes for often, and am not sure what to do with them. I hate to waste, so we wind up with weird meals to use things up. I would love to find a better way (and so would my hubbie!)

-D.

I don’t think I have a set method for this, since what’s in my freezer and pantry varies so much! I generally just take stock of what’s in there and then try to think of meals that would use up those foods.

For instance, if I find some frozen lunch meat, I either put stromboli or paninis on the menu (paninis are good for using up odds and ends!) Or if I find the last bit of a package of bacon, I cook it up and sprinkle it on top of that week’s pizza.

Soups are a good way to use up odds and ends as well, if you can round up enough things that would complement each other. Scrambled eggs and frittatas are also good ways to disguise random ingredients.

If I have just a small amount of something, I often make a single-serving meal to use it up. For instance, if I have a bit of cilantro left, I might make a small batch of guacamole and eat it at lunchtime.

My husband and I have one child, a daughter who is not yet school age. Currently we are leaning toward not having any more children, though this could change. Ordinarily, I do not think socialization need be an issue with homeschooled children, even though that is usually the big objection people raise to it.

However, what are your thoughts about homeschooling an only child, with no other children present? Do you think socialization would become an issue for that situation, with the child home all day with only the parent to talk to? Do you think this would be too confining or limiting?

I guess I just might worry that my daughter would start to feel a little stir-crazy, wishing she had someone besides me to hang out with all day… I would imagine then that special care would need to be taken to socialize her outside the home, such as with volunteering within the community, or possibly finding a homeschool group in the local area (and of course encouraging friendships with other kids)? We are active in our church, so that would be at least weekly interaction with peers, and others outside the household/family. But what about the day-to-day monotony of it? Do you think that teaching and learning can be done well in a one-on-one-every-single-day kind of atmosphere?

-Sarah

I’d say that this will depend a lot on your daughter’s personality. If she’s the sort that thrives in big groups of people, she might be unhappy being homeschooled. But if she’s more of an introvert, having a quieter, more one-on-one educational experience could be really great for her.

Sonia and Zoe reviewing their Latin flash cards. The exercise ball is optional.

As you say, though, homeschooling doesn’t have to mean that you’re at home all day, every day. If I were homeschooling an only child, I’d definitely look for fellow homeschooling families and for a local homeschool group as well. And I’d be a lot more intentional about arranging playdates with other children (as it is, my kids stay pretty busy playing with each other and with neighborhood children.) I’d also probably do more extra-curricular group activities than I currently do with my own kids.

In a nutshell, yes, I think it could work out just fine. It just would probably look different than homeschooling does for larger families.

__________________________________

Readers! Do share your thoughts on these questions…I’d love to hear what you think.

Comments

  1. says

    That’s interesting about ING, is that the whole ING Group or just the US ING? It’s so hard to keep track of who actually owns companies these days!

    I am a long-standing ING customer (I also use them as envelopes, but don’t have as many as you do!) and haven’t noticed any changes lately, hopefully there won’t be any since I’ve been happy with them so far :)

    • Kristen says

      That’s an interesting question. Hmm. Have you received any communication from ING about a change? We here in the U.S. already have, so if you haven’t, maybe you’re ok!

    • WilliamB says

      Capital One bought ING’s online bank; ING as a bricks-and-mortar bank remains as it was (or did last time I checked). Capital One’s business mentality is very different than ING online so I’ve been wondering how this would pan out. Let us know if your experience changes.

  2. rosie says

    I used to work for Capital One, and when they announced the purchase of ING, they made a point to communicate that they would stay the same course that ING is on- no fee accounts, etc. I no longer work for Cap One, so I don’t have a vested interest either way, but I do have ING accounts and am more than happy to keep them as is, until something changes.

    Just as an FYI- in the banking crisis, Capital One actually did not take any bailout money, unlike a lot of the larger players. And Cap One has operated banks regionally for some time, through acquisition of Hibernia Bank, North Fork, etc and their accounts are cheaper to hold than some of the bigger guys- again speaking as a customer standpoint, not a “they used to sign my paycheck standpoint”.

    Also, if you happen to live in certain markets, you can refinance your home through their home equity department for 0 fees. No joke, I used to work in home equity, and they don’t charge anything, not even for the appraisal- only any govt fees associated, depending on your state. Not a regular mortgage refi, is specifically to home equity department, but you can do a regular refi. Rates are a little higher as you cannot buy don’t points or anything like that, but to be able to drop your rate for nothing out of pocket is pretty amazing these days!

    Like any company, Cap One has it’s issues and drops the ball sometimes (which huge company doesn’t, except for USAA???), but overall I know that they care about their employees and their customers, and am happy to continue doing business with them (banking, ING banking, credit card) despite the fact I chose to pursue a different career path. I was there 10 years and loved it, and felt that I was helping people every day.

    • Virginia Dare says

      Capital One bought out my local bank a couple of years ago. The local bank was very large because we are in a major metro area, but it was still local and a lot of people fretted when it was bought. Well, I’ve only noticed two changes: 1) more checking account options that are free or nearly free. I guess a larger organization can do this more. 2) slightly less efficient customer service. When I changed to my married name, they goofed it up twice and I ended up in the branch three different times (kind of inconvenient when you work full-time). I couldn’t help but think it might have gone better if their HQ was still local rather than in another state; however, they were very apologetic and nice and overall it was fine.

  3. Terri S. says

    I homeschool an only child and we live in a very small community. You will find, like I did, that there are endless activities for homeschooled children to participate in. My son is more of an introvert so he is not really interested, but there are enough activities in our small community even, he could participate in something everyday of the week. I would suggest talking to homeschool moms, they will guide you. I have found them to be the most helpful people!!!

  4. Kim says

    As far as using leftover bits from the freezer, I have a recipe for Clean-the-Freezer soup that I got from the two women behind the Desperation Dinners 20-minute cookbook (my absolute favorite cookbook). This recipe isn’t in that book, but I found it online. I just made it last Saturday and even my picky 9 year old son ate it (serving it with fresh homemade bread didn’t hurt either;) Basically, you look through your freezer and cook up any meat and vegetables that would otherwise go to waste and add a few other ingredients that are probably in your pantry already. Here is the link: http://recipecircus.com/recipes/Greybird2/SOUPSandSTEWS/Clean_the_Freezer_Soup.html

    I never use the boullion to keep the salt content down and I just make it on the stove, not the slow cooker. Hope this helps!

    • Jen says

      The leftover soup recipe seems like a good idea, but does the long cooking time just turn everything into mush?
      I do like their cookbook and everything my husband makes is from it. I think it would also be a good cookbook for teens just learning to cook-everything is tasty without too much fuss!

  5. says

    I have missed your Q and A posts, Kristen! Thank you for posting this. We opened quite a few ING savings accounts recently, and I’ve been very happy with the results of saving for only a few months. It’s easy to navigate their site and make transfers, and I’ve found everything to be very straight-forward. Thank you for the great recommendation!

  6. Alicia says

    I am very interested in opening the ING account, and I think I use to have one a long, long time ago. Can you please share when you find out the black friday deals.

    Thanks
    Alicia

  7. says

    D-
    Soups are perfect for this. I have containers in the freezer for chicken leftovers, and beef leftovers. In them are anything from fat trimmings, bones, the veggies I cooked with them, or the ends, or “wimpy” (still edible, not crunchy anymore!) veggies from when I clean out the fridge. You can then make stocks with them, and add in good meat chunks, whatever pasta or rice is available, and any other random veggies to use up. I’ve even made my own rustic noodles with an egg and a bit of flour, and I’ve crushed up broken manicotti noodles as well. I have heard people making fish stock/soup- but I don’t think that would fly here.

    This is one of my best frugal tips- making soup this way very rarely requires you to buy new ingredients especially for this meal, chances are you have enough in your cupboards to make something jive, and you can make a big batch, or a little one. I have an instructional for a beef soup on my blog if you’d like more details.

    Pizzas are also great. My son is strictly a pepperoni fan- but we can put whatever we want on our side :)

    I make chicken or ham salad, and eat in on crackers, heels of bread, tortillas, or whatever. An awesome chicken salad is to use Kristen’s toasted pecan/walnut recipe (cooled!), with grapes and apples.

    I make artisan bread, which is SO easy, and you can add stuff too it before you bake it. I’ve added cheddar cheese, cottage cheese, fresh herbs, etc.

    I don’t know anything about the other questions!

  8. says

    I am homeschooling an only child, a six-year-old girl. I live in a huge metropolitan area so there are many homeschool groups to join and activities to participate in. My daughter tried school for a short bit and then decided to homeschool. She asked to do it again this year so we are. For us, the only child situation just means that we need to make a conscious effort to schedule time with friends, partake in community groups, and join some type of scouting-like group! She loves it!

  9. WilliamB says

    D – in addition to soup and eggs as Kristen wrote, two other use it up meals are stir fries and fried rice. It’s hard for me to be specific about how to make Odds & Ends Soup/Eggs/Stir-Fry/Fried Rice work but if you share your list of odds and ends I can share some ideas to help get you started.

    In general I’m not a fan of spice packets but a $.50 packet of fried rice mix, which includes a recipe that you can riff off of, can be a strong addition to frugal kitchen.

    A final option is to put the foods into a search engine and see what pops out.

    • Jen says

      Fried rice is great for odd bits. I just season with soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, ginger and a squirt of Sriracha.
      Curry works well for odd bits, too. Saved some leftover spinach salad last week by dumping it into curry.

  10. Amanda Yoder says

    I also was curious/nervous with the Capital One visible takeover of ING (although I knew they bought them a while back)–I use them as virutal envelopes too, which I LOVE. I hope they don’t change much! please keep us updated if you see/experience/hear of changes!

  11. Kim C says

    Sarah, we had only one child for 10.5 years and she has been homeschooled from day 1. She already has an outgoing personality, but we did make an effort to join some of our local homeschool groups for field trips, 4H, and extracuriculars like bowling. Kids in public school only have the opportunity to socialize with other kids their own age (while at school) whereas when homeschool kids get together there is every age imaginable there. From newborns to grandparents so they get to socialize with all ages. We have never had a problem at all and my daughter is very comfortable talking with anyone. I know all kids are different, but this is what we have experienced with our family. When my daughter was 10.5 we had a little boy so now we have two children, but we still get out for extra activities. Homeschooling has been a huge plus for our family and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. If you decide to homeschool I’m sure you’ll find what works for your own family.

  12. says

    When my only was young our church offered a weekly gathering for Moms with child care for the littles which helped get her out with others. If I were in this situation now I would also be looking at history, science and art museums and the local library for their offerings for kids. Local sports leagues can be good for this, too, depending on who is coaching them. And scouting groups teach a lot of skills in a group setting. Join the local Y and sign up for swim lessons. Many parks have nature activity programs. There are lots of opportunities to get your child out among other kids once you start looking.

  13. Brenda says

    I am a homeschooling mother of a 12 year old boy. We decided to begin homeschooling in 6th grade. Socialization was an issue we considered when making the decision to pull him out of brick & mortar schools, however, it has been the best decision we’ve ever made. There are countless opportunities to have your child socialize with others, be it church, co-op groups, other homeschool families, etc. You will also be amazed at the amount of school things you can get done in a short amount of time with only one child.

  14. Kris says

    I am an introvert … married to an introvert … and we produced two introverted children. Our children attend public school and it has done them a world of good for their social skills. I am sure you can successfully home school an “only” introvert, but from personal experience I can say that it is very important to push social opportunities. I think it is especially crucial to make sure your child has a chance to socialize on a regular basis (several times a week, IMO) without a parent around. As a child I would use my parents to fall back on if I felt uncomfortable in a social situation (which was most of the time!) but if they weren’t present, I had to figure it out for myself. There are great benefits to being introverted–some of the most compassionate and creative people I know are–but it’s important to balance that out with developing “people” skills.

  15. says

    I think the socialization thing is over rated. People have been homeschooling for hundreds of years–look at the pioneers who had to homeschool when they went out west and they didn’t have a school house yet. Abe Lincoln is another example, for a part of his life he learned at home. Much of the socialization I see kids engaged in, is not the best, and they pick up language and bad habits.
    I involve my homeschooled kids in positive activities–such as a Christian coop that meets weekly, 4H, Girl Scouts, church, youth group and time spent with Christian friends.

  16. Lilypad says

    We have deliberately limited our family to just one amazing child (11) and we’ve been homeschooling for 4 years now. He takes one class at a local homeschool co-op (his choice, he could take 3 or 4 classes 2 days a week but he has some special needs and gets too stressed with that much activity) and has regular play dates with schooled friends from our old neighborhood. He’s mad about computers, so I started a computer game day through our local homeschooler email list and we’ve met a lot of like-minded kids that way. They play together in person and also online. In summer, we have weekly park days with various homeschool groups—we could go 2 or 3 days a week if we wanted to. In past years, he’s taken martial arts classes and camps/classes at museums etc. Everywhere we go, he’s made friends with kids of all ages, races, and religions which is really great. I’m extremely introverted and it’s been hard for me sometimes to keep up with all the social activities, but I put myself out there so that my son stays active. He also appreciates the down time and once told me “it’s fun when friends come over but nice when they go home, too!” Please, please, please: whatever you do, don’t have another child just because you don’t want your only to be “lonely”. My mother actually told me that the only reason she had me was so that my sister would not be an only child. Guess what—my sister and I are tremendously different people and she never played with me anyway. ;-) Enjoy your one child and know that she can excel as an only child homeschooler. You can even start your own homeschooler group if you can’t find one that fits. Just post a flyer at the library or start a Yahoo group and you’ll be surprised by how many other homeschoolers are out there too.
    Best of luck to you!

  17. michelle says

    I think that decisions about homeschooling an “only” depend a whole lot on your particular situation and personalities. We have a 10yo daughter, 5th grader who has been homeschooled from the start. It has worked very well for us so far, and I’ve loved having this much time with her. However, she is very much a people-person, and I am very much an introvert, and I have really struggled with seeing that she has enough time with other kids. She’s involved in a number of weekly activities, but seems to really crave unstructured play time with other kids lately. Because there aren’t a whole lot of kids her age in our neighborhood, that’s something that isn’t always easy to arrange. Take time to think things through, and don’t be afraid to re-evaluate as often as necessary. No decision is irrevocable!

  18. Lori says

    I think one thing to remember with homeschooling an only child is that a lot of schools don’t allow a whole lot of time for socializing, anyway. We now have my son in a small private school that has a lot of time for free play, but when we had him in a charter school (that we pulled him from after a few months, and then homeschooled him up until this year), they had very little time for social talking or free play. Honestly, I think that was almost more frustrating for my very, very social child than being home and doing school just with me. He had a very hard time, in the charter school, finishing his work and then just sitting there quietly or finding something solitary to do when there were all these other kids around who he wanted to play with and talk to.

    We have a lot of families with kids in our neighborhood, so when he was doing homeschool, I’d try to make sure we played with friends at least a few times a week, either mid-morning or afterschool. When the weather was nice, we’d often visit friends every day, and sometimes he’d play with friends both in the morning and after school. I honestly think he ended up getting just as much social time as he did when he was in school and they had about 30 minutes of recess the whole day.

    Homeschooling doesn’t take all day. I homeschooled from kindergarten to second grade, and the most we’d ever spend on lessons was 2 hours a day. Most days, it was more like 60-90 minutes (and my son was working above grade level). So there is plenty of time to visit friends who are home, to take trips to the library or a playground, or to otherwise get out and see people.

  19. Karen. says

    Thanks for addressing my question, Kristen, and thanks to the others (especially commenter No. 4, rosie) for also weighing in!

  20. EngineerMom says

    On using up those “last bits”

    I have found fried rice to be a great way to use up last bits of vegetables or meat when there isn’t enough to make a whole meal for the family. I sometimes add a scrambled egg or two if there isn’t quite enough meat even for fried rice, and I keep bags of frozen veggies (corn and green beans, usually) on hand to add if I have meat but no veggies.

    Some other non-soup use-it-up meals:

    – Nachos with leftover taco meat, chili, black beans, anything even remotely mexican-ish. Same thing with quesadillas
    – Chef salads with choose-your-own toppings. I do this a lot in the summer when cooking feels like a chore.
    – Baked potatoes with choose-your-own toppings. This works well when we have things like cooked broccoli, a bit of cooked chicken, leftover chili, etc., things you would find on a menu in a restaurant that features baked potatoes. We use 0% Greek yogurt instead of sour cream, and I always keep that on hand since we eat it a lot mixed with fruit or maple syrup.
    – Just instituting Leftover Night. We do this once a week, usually on Thursday, although this week it will be on Wednesday. I pull out all the leftovers from the previous week, and everyone gets to pick what they want for dinner. We reheat things in the microwave, or warm them up in the toaster oven. I’ll try to start everything heating up right when B comes home so it’s all hot for us to sit down together, but if it doesn’t happen, at least we’re all in the kitchen at the same time warming things up!

    I personally don’t mind eating leftovers, so I tend to eat most of them for lunches. A good thing to keep in mind with using up leftovers is that recipes aren’t written in stone. Your recipe for lasagna may call for Italian sausage, but you can also use a mixture of spices plus ground beef and chopped up chicken, and throwing in that last slice or two of cooked, crumbled bacon certainly isn’t going to hurt. A spaghetti sauce recipe may call for frozen, chopped, cooked spinach, but you can also use kale or pretty much any other cooked green that’s been finely chopped. Swapping out one kind of cheese for what you have on hand in homemade mac and cheese may help you come up with a recipe you love even more. Speaking of mac and cheese, you can add things like minced bell peppers, that leftover bit of kielbasa, or even some mashed sweet potato or butternut squash to the sauce.

    A good way to figure out how to use things up is to think of a recipe that uses something similar, and substitute. Chicken and pork are usually interchangeable, so if you have an extra chicken breast that got a little overcooked, try cooking it in some bbq sauce and a bit of cider vinegar, then shredding the meat for sandwiches. Say you have some spaghetti noodles, but no sauce. Try making something like fried rice, but with noodles. It turns out a bit like lo mein. If you have some leftover sweet potatoes from Thanksgiving and can’t face another serving, mash them up (marshmallows and all, if that’s your version) and use in place of pumpkin in some pumpkin muffins or bread (knock back the sugar a little if you make really sweet sweet potatoes!). That last half cup of mashed potatoes can be tossed into a batch of bread, or mixed up in some pancake batter.

  21. Carolyn says

    Sarah: We homeschool our only child, partly because she was so uncomfortable in groups when she was very little, it seemed that homeschool was the only option. She did attend a really neat charter school for first and second grades, but after that we returned to homeschool. Playdates, friends, homeschool groups, church, and family members all gave her different ways to be social. Now, at age 15, my daughter is socially adept and able to relate to people of all ages. Homeschooling is a great choice for some families. The important thing is to do what’s right for your whole family — mom, dad, and child. Remember that you can take it a year at a time! If you change your mind and want to send your child to school, there are plenty to choose from. Life is rich!

  22. LoriB says

    Have missed Q&A as well as some of your other routine posts. Would love to see them again every now and then. They were what made Frugal Girl so special. Loved how your older posts showed you living out your frugal principles.

  23. Forthebyrds says

    RE: Food this and that

    Love the All Recipe site search by ingredient option for this. Enter combinations of what you have on hand and sort by best rated. If you keep getting recipes that includes an ingredient you don’t have, there’s an exclusion option for your search. I’ve made some stinkers, I’ve modified heavily, but mostly have had a lot of good luck. I use this option quite a bit when trying to use items from my grocery store’s sale ad or the food co-op as well.

    RE: ING Black Friday
    Waiting to open our newest additon’s savings account on Friday in hopes that there’s an incentive for children’s accounts!

  24. MisoB says

    I have a question on the mechanics of the ING account. After setting up an account to ING, do you transfer money online from a brick & mortar bank into the ING account? How do you take money out? Transfer back to the B&M bank? If so, do you only use these accounts for things that you would only make sporadic payments on? For instance, beginning in Jan 1, we will have a flexible spending account for health care. We want to guestimate our spending low for the year because what’s left in the flex account, you lose. However, we have a high deductible health insurance plan & would like money in another account to cover the deductible should something come up. I found that I was cutting a check a couple times a month – so once the flex $ is gone, I would be transferring money a couple times a month. Does this make sense? Thanks for your advice…

  25. Susanna says

    when I clicked on able bank I see $1000 minimums in the fine print. Was this waved for a time then increased? I didnt’ want to start filling out the application without knowing. I already have a savings and checking with ING and I think the bonuses are limited to one per account holder. no kids to open accounts for.

    • Kristen says

      Oh my goodness! I had not noticed that.

      They must have changed it, because I most certainly do not have $1000 in the account I started there (I’m saving for braces for Sonia.)

      I am so disappointed, because gosh, how many people have $1000 to START a savings account? That’s what I’ve loved about my ING accounts-you can start with almost no money.

      • Susanna says

        well shoot I hoped they offered the $250 from time to time. I think I’ll open more at ING – I’ve been very happy with ING over the years – had an account there since 2003 or so when you could open with $10 and they gave you $25 if you left the $10 there a few months! :-) $250 is hard for people to come up with too – I think ING had some deals where you put in a few hundred and got the bonus but I didn’t have any friends with a couple hundred free.
        thanks for checking!

  26. says

    Two other sites that you can search for recipes using ingredients you have on hand are My Fridge Food and Supercook: recipe search by ingredients you have at home. They would be useful if you’re not thinking about leftovers but actual random ingredients you want to put together.

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