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Meet a Reader | Stephanie from Texas

Hello, readers! Today we’re meeting a Texas reader who has a family habit of making interesting foods with faces. 😉 We can relate over here!

1. Tell us a little about yourself

Hi! I’m 45 and live with my family (husband and four kids) in central Texas.

texas heat.

Typical Texas summer weather!

I stay home and homeschool/cook/manage the household, and my husband works in education.

yellow sunflower.

We have one kid in college, two in high school, and one in junior high. I teach at a homeschool tutorial/co-op while my kids attend classes (helps pay for extracurriculars!).

Grinch rice krispy treat.

jr high son made this for a youth group Christmas challenge

We eat most meals at home (or packed at home), so we’ve developed fun food traditions over the years.

chewbacca cookies.

We enjoy themed foods for any occasion – making Star Wars foods on May 4th, having lembas for Tolkien day, Mario-themed foods for Mario Day, blueberry pancakes on National Blueberry Day, creative gingerbread cookies in December, and of course pie on pi day.

star wars gingerbread men.

Fun food is an inexpensive way to turn everyday events into celebrations!

cheese ball in shape of storm trooper.

2. How long have you been reading The Frugal Girl?

Since 2009. I stumbled upon a ‘how to make yogurt’ post and stuck around.

I already cooked from scratch, but Kristen’s posts motivated me to be more diligent about reducing food waste. Kristen’s bread-baking posts also helped me branch out and try more variety in yeast baking.

3. How did you get interested in saving money?

I am naturally more of a saver than a spender, but I became especially interested in saving money and frugal living when our first child was born. I wanted to stay home indefinitely, so I was determined to cut expenses so that we could live very simply on one income.

christmas cookie in shape of Yoda.

I read Miserly Moms and Frugal Families, used coupons back when stores doubled them, upcycled and sewed kids clothing, refinished discarded furniture – whatever would help us make it on one income without debt.

4. What’s the “why” behind your money-saving efforts?

As with so many readers, I want to save money in the areas that don’t matter to me in order to spend money where it does matter.

sunrise in the neighborhood

sunrise in the neighborhood

Initially, it was out of necessity/survival, though. We started our married life with no debt and were determined to continue that way. 20+ years later we have more wiggle room, but this is a more expensive season of family life (braces, teen drivers, college, etc.), so we’ve continued the frugal habits.

We love the freedom to give generously to causes that are meaningful to us and we want to help our children begin adulthood debt free. We’d like to travel more, but when you’re in the middle of Texas, getting out of the state is a LONG drive.

5. What’s your best frugal win?

No mortgage!

before picture of living room.

We purchased an outdated home when property values were relatively low and spent a few years renovating it.

renovated living room.

We sold it when home values had increased and made enough profit to buy another home in need of updating and repeated the process.


In 2020, after several houses and renovations over a period of nearly 10 years, we were able to purchase a smaller, simple home in a more affordable area that meets our needs and pay for it outright.

before picture of living room.

We scraped lots of layers of wallpaper, scraped popcorn ceilings, and added a wall & doorway to divide into two rooms.

after photo of living room.

It was a lot of hard work, and we don’t miss being in the house-renovation season, but we’re so thankful for the opportunity that season gave us to have no mortgage payment.

renovated bathroom.

Gutted and updated master bath – wish we’d thought to take a ‘before’!

Plus, we purchased just outside of the city limits so we have lower property taxes, fewer restrictions, and the freedom to have chickens in our backyard.

On a smaller scale, being able to sew and alter clothing and decor has saved me a ton of money! Thrifted clothing can be altered to fit better, too long curtains can be hemmed, costumes can be created from scraps or bedsheets, and favorite items can be mended. Even basic sewing skills are a great frugal skill!

6. What’s a regrettable money mistake you’ve made?

We spent way too much money on a vacuum from a door-to-door Kirby salesperson years ago. I’m sure the vacuum will last the rest of our lives, but now we mostly have hard floors!

7. What’s one thing you splurge on?


As Kristen mentioned in a recent post, money spent in order to spend time with people I care about is so worth it to me. I’m all for packing picnics and going to museums on discount days, but I really value time with friends/family and am willing to spend more to make that happen.

I do tend to be more tight-fisted than my husband, though, so I first try to find ways to have the experience for less. He’d rather just go and enjoy the experience without searching for all the deals and coupon codes and cheapest options.

Sometimes I need to stop trying and just enjoy the time!

8. What’s one thing you aren’t remotely tempted to splurge on?

Fancy clothes / décor / cosmetics / stuff.

One thing I love about a smaller home is the lack of space to put things. If my closets and cupboard are full, then I don’t need more dishes or board games or clothing. Or I need to clear things out before bringing more in.

We don’t have a basement or usable attic, so that helps control clutter as well. We shop mostly at secondhand stores, so if I get rid of something, it’s likely I spent very little on it to begin with.

9. If $1000 was dropped into your lap today, what would you do with it?

Add it to our septic system fund. We need to replace our 40-year-old septic system and it’s expensive!

10. What’s the easiest/hardest part of being frugal?

The hardest part for me is staying content when friends/family live more extravagantly.

I’m so thankful to have some like-minded friends who accompany me to museum discount days and picnics and free library events, but we also have people in our life who live differently (large, beautiful homes, new vehicles, grand vacations, paying for lawn and cleaning services…). Sometimes I have to remind myself of our ‘why’ and remember to be grateful and content.

The easiest part for me is making it work in day-to-day life.

Cooking and eating at home, making do with what we have, game nights at home instead of going out, movies from the library instead of paying for them, hosting friends for dinner instead of meeting at a restaurant – so many of the little things have been habits for so long it doesn’t take much thought or effort anymore.

And an upside of those habits is lots of memories of time spent together doing simple things.

11. Is there anything unique about frugal living in your area?

The cost of living is quite manageable here. Our area has nice parks and local attractions. It’s too hot in the summer to enjoy many of them, but the rest of the year it’s great!


A local lake where there’s free swimming

12. What frugal tips have you tried and abandoned?

Homemade laundry detergent. Really not worth the mess and smell and hassle!

(Note from Kristen: ME TOOOOO. My clothes smelled so disgusting after several months of using homemade laundry soap. Nope, nope, nope. Never again.)

13. What is something you wish more people knew?

(Disclaimer – totally just my opinion)

Once our needs are met in an area, having more of that thing doesn’t necessarily increase happiness or contentment. When we have reliable transportation, a fancy new car might be fun initially, but eventually it’s just transportation. When we have a home that provides safety and shelter, a larger house doesn’t give us more safety and shelter.

We can get so caught up in bigger and better and more, but what we already have might be enough if we shift our perspective.

(I acknowledge that I’m approaching that from a first world perspective and have never truly experienced ‘need’ the way much of the world has.)

14. How has reading the Frugal Girl changed you?

Reading the Frugal Girl has made a huge difference in our food waste. We find creative ways to use up leftovers and throw out very little. Plus, we have chickens, so even peels, cores, seeds, and parts we don’t eat get eaten by our hens.

sewn chickens.

some sewing fun

15. Which is your favorite type of post at the Frugal Girl and why?

Five Frugal Things are among my favorite, along with furniture rehabs and new recipes.


Stephanie, I smiled when I saw you mention Miserly Moms! I remember reading that book. I bet there’s a big overlap between Tightwad Gazette readers and Miserly Mom readers. 🙂

The Miserly Moms site is no longer active, but you can see a recent picture of the author here.

I love all the fun cookies you guys make, of course. And I’m curious: what function do your cute homemade chickens serve? Are they doorstops?

You mentioned that it’s a long drive out of the middle of Texas, and I wondered: is it also a long drive to an airport? Air travel can be pricy with a family of six, though, so I can understand why you might not do a lot of flying at this stage of life.

Readers, the floor is yours!

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Sherri in GA

Friday 18th of August 2023

I adore the Star Wars themed foods, especially the Wookie cookies! Thank you for sharing!

Kristen W.

Thursday 17th of August 2023

Stephanie, I agree that less can be more when it comes to homes, cars, and stuff! We were only given a certain amount by the lending bank when we were building our home. We built within our budget, giving up some of the space and ammenities we had originally planned. Our neighbors, however, were given what seemed an unlimited budget by their lender (even though our salaries were similar) and they built a MUCH larger home. Now that our 2 children are adults and out of the home, I am so thankful for our smaller, more manageable, and almost paid off home. The limited space also kept us from buying beyond what would fit in our home, which meant less stuff to manage and care for. We have enough space to have guests over now, and the financial freedom to take vacations and do fun things and help our girls out if they need it. Contentment takes daily practice, especially with social media and the constant bombarding from online retailers, but when you find it, there is peace and more time to spend doing what you love and with whom you love. :-)


Tuesday 15th of August 2023

Hi Stephanie!

Nice to meet you and thanks for sharing!

I love your artistry expressed through your cooking! Shows lots of creativity and love.

And the heat in your part of Texas, oh my...

Paige NeJame

Monday 14th of August 2023

I love all the fun you have with food…and that it seems like your kids are still into it as teens! Great tradition!

Central Calif. Artist

Monday 14th of August 2023

Hi Stephanie, Thanks for letting us peek into your life. 1. Your sunflower photo is beautiful. 2. I always suspected that "Texas Bluebonnets" were in the lupine family and after seeing your photo, I know it to be a fact. 3. I am so impressed with your house renovating and moving and saving; moving is a nightmare, and yet you did it multiple times with 4 offspring. 4. Your #13 doesn't sound like a "first world perspective" to me; it sounds practical and unusual (except for here in Frugal Land). 5. May I have a cookie, please?

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