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Monday Q&A | Stuffed Animals, 1% Yogurt, and Business Taxes

Every Monday, 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!

OK, silly question, I noticed you have stuffed animals in your grocery pictures every week. Somehow this has only really dawned on me lately even though I’ve been reading your blog for well over a year. Are they the new ones you buy every week on your grocery shopping trip or are they just for decoration?


A lot you asked about this after the latest grocery picture. Way back in the early days of my blog, Joshua hid a stuffed spider in among the groceries, and that spider made a lot of weekly appearances thereafter. The girls wanted to get in on the action too, so they started putting a few stuffed animals in the photos as well. It’s all just for fun, and Sonia and Zoe are especially pleased to think that their stuffed animals are famous because they appear on my blog. 😉

So, no, none of those are new…they’re just stuffed animals that my children already own. If I bought new stuffed animals every week, we’d have no space in our house by now (even though we buy them fairly infrequently, we’ve already managed to amass quite a collection!)

I’m curious whether or not you have ever used whole wheat instead of buying flour…and if you know anything about the benefits of that. I’m considering the costs and the added benefits for my family (currently we buy bread and freeze it) of making our own bread but going a step further and getting whole wheat and milling it into our own flour.


Yup! I own a grinder and I mill all of my whole wheat flour. I share more about that on my FAQ page.

If any of you are newbies to my blog, go check out the FAQs! I’ve answered a lot of the most common questions there.

I have a question about the homemade yogurt. Can I use 1% milk? Have you tried it? I am trying to lose some weight and the extra fat in the whole milk will hinder that a little but if the texture and flavor will suffer I will skimp elsewhere.


You certainly can if you wish. The yogurt will not be as thick and creamy as when it’s made with whole milk, though. To combat this, you can try adding some powdered milk to the mixture before you stir in the starter.

I personally feel that the whole milk is totally worth the extra calories, simply because of the lovely texture it provides.

My husband is trying to start his own business of selling firewood. I know that you teach piano, and I was wondering how you would handle taxes and finances.


I take care of all that myself…I use Quicken to keep track of my income and my business expenses, and when tax time rolls around, I always use Turbo Tax.

TurboTax - Choose Easy

My piano teaching business and my blog are both sole proprietorships and I file a schedule C for each of those.

You can’t use the free edition of Turbo Tax if you need to file a schedule C, but the deluxe version, which you’ll need, is totally worth the money. Doing your own business taxes if you’re a sole proprietorship isn’t really that hard if you’ve got Turbo Tax to guide you. It’s really, really, really user-friendly and takes all the guesswork out of filing.

I love Turbo Tax, and I highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in doing their own tax preparation.


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Elspeth @ paper armour

Tuesday 24th of January 2012

I'm so glad another user asked about taxes, as my husband is considering starting a freelance business. We hadn't even gotten to this stage in the plan, but it's great to know your experienced advice. :)


Monday 23rd of January 2012

"Can I use 1% milk? Have you tried it? I am trying to lose some weight and the extra fat in the whole milk will hinder that a little but if the texture and flavor will suffer I will skimp elsewhere."

Using low fat yogurt concentrates the sugars/carbohydrates and IT IS CARBOHYDRATES, NOT FAT that causes bad cholesterol and interferes with weight loss. Really! You may think you're doing a good thing for your body by cutting out the fat, but you're not. Kristen has it right--healthy WHOLE foods, including whole dairy, are best. Kristen goes even further by seeking and paying a little more for fresh milk from pastured animals--a great source of heart healthy Omega 3's.


Tuesday 24th of January 2012

Kristen does set a good example!

There are many factors that can lead to high cholesterol....fat in foods being one of them. The food industry has cut the fat out of food products and increased the carbs to make up for the loss of flavor. The funny thing is that by doing that we have just become fatter. If you are trying to lose weight and are doing it by diet AND exercise, the fat in whole milk should not hinder your weight loss. Good fats help the body properly process fat. Tracking your food intake (calories,fats/carbs and protein) will help if you are concerned about too much fat in your diet.


Monday 23rd of January 2012

A very simple method to thicken any yogurt that is runnier than you'd like is to drain it: 1. Suspend a colander or strainer over a bowl with at least 1" of clearance between the bottom of the bowl and the bottom of the colander. Line with either a double thickness of cheesecloth so there's lots hanging over the edges, or with a double thickness of paper towel. 2. Dump in the yogurt. 3. Lift up the edges to cover the top of the yogurt (if it doesn't quite cover, just add another paper towel or piece of cheesecloth and sort of tuck it around the edges). 4. Cover with a plate that is smaller than your strainer so that it's "floating" free on top of the yogurt and can move down. 5. Place a can on top, and return the whole thing to the fridge for 30-60 minutes.

If you pull it out and it seems too runny, let it sit longer. If it seems too thick, you can mix some of the drained off whey back into the yogurt to thin it a bit. A whisk is best for mixing in extra whey at this point.

This is my method for making "greek-style" yogurt from the least expensive yogurt I can buy at the store. We use that thickened yogurt in place of sour cream on tacos, nachoes, in chili, etc. I have to watch my carb intake (pre-diabetic), and removing the whey also removes some of the carb-y lactose (why greek-style yogurt is higher in protein per cup and lower in carbs).

At some point, I'll try making yogurt!

Alexis @ Simply Alexis

Monday 23rd of January 2012

Just to clarify--are you lining the strainer or the bowl with the paper towel? I'd love to see pictures of this process as that is the best way I understand directions--otherwise, I can get pretty lost!

Heather :) :) :)

Monday 23rd of January 2012

Thanks for the info about small businesses and taxes. Where would I go to find out what my states rules are regarding starting my own business/ie. selling stuff on Etsy etc? It used to be, in Oregon, that if you earned $400 or less,you didn't need to report it, because it's considered a "hobby level" enterprise...but any more than that, you have to fill o ut tax forms. I'd like to be legitimate when I do start to sell stuff on Etsy. Love and hugs from the ocean shores of California, Heather :)

Adventures in dinner

Monday 23rd of January 2012

We're turbo tax fans too! Yogurt! Which reminds me-I've got extra milk this week that needs a purpose :-)

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