Learning New Frugal Skills

There comes a point in your quest for a more frugal lifestyle where the same old tools just aren’t enough. Coupons of course, are a given. Meal planning is just smart. What happens when you are ready to take it to the next level?

Sewing, knitting, cooking from scratch and other homesteading skills are no longer passed on from generation to generation. If you do not make a conscious effort to seek out ways to acquire new skills, you will never learn them.

How do we learn? From each other. That is the beauty of having sisters in Christ to glean from. The blogosphere can bring those skills right into your living room. You can even learn to knit on You Tube.

Why should I make this effort? To become better stewards. The small steps we take towards managing our homes ultimately save money and honor the Lord. And our children are watching.

Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. ~ 1 Peter 4:10

This year is a year of firsts for me. I decided in January that it was time to go beyond coupons. Each month, I attempt something new – a recipe, a skill, something DIY.

It all started with a cake. My Leah turned five and I decided for the first time, to bake and decorate a cake and forgo the store-bought version I typically indulge in. She was very excited and requested a simple pink and purple color scheme. Now keep in mind that I had no idea what I was doing and did my best to follow Wilton’s tips for cake decorating.

Here are the results (no laughter please):

Ahem. Clearly, cake decorating is not one of my hidden talents. At least it tasted good! My point is… I tried. It flopped, but I tried. Leah very graciously asked me to “just buy at the store next time, please mom?” and we all had a good laugh.

More recently, we celebrated my son’s second birthday (which came entirely too fast). I reluctantly decided to attempt another homemade cake, but without the frosting. A frosting-less cake? What fun is that? Oh, but this was not just any cake. I stumbled across a recipe for a decadent, melt-in-your-mouth rich flourless Chocolate Truffle Cake. I realize this is not your typical 2-year old boy’s birthday cake, but Colin loves anything chocolate and I didn’t think he would mind.

The results: (better?)

The birthday boy and his guests loved this cake, served with fresh berries and a scoop of vanilla ice cream. This one’s a keeper!

I have other frugal goals for this year. The sewing machine collecting dust in my hall closet is begging to be used. Empty walls in our home have waited a year for a coat of paint and some decor. My (lack of) photography skills could use some help. I may not accomplish everything, but one small victory with cake will motivate me to continue growing.

How do you plan to grow this year?

Recommended Resources:

The FishMama Shop from Life as MOM
Heavenly Homemakers
eBooks, charts, recipe cards & more

This concludes our Put Your House in Order series. Visit my fellow bloggers for more inspiration at home:

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About Alyssa Francis

A thirty-something wife and mother of four! Two daughters by birth, one son by marriage, and a sweet baby boy born in April of 2009. Oldest sister of four girls raised by a single mom. California native. Grew up in Hawaii. Somehow ended up in North Texas. Once a single mom. Former agnostic. A survivor of abuse and addiction. Forgiven by a great big God. Married to my best friend.

Comments

  1. Emily Freelove says:

    I want to try something new this year and that would be starting a new business, a simple Etsy store or something similar. My real goal in this is to prepare my oldest daughter and teach her some business skills! She is an accomplished seamstress, can sew anything, make curtains, hats..you name it. Now I need to nurture that skill! Maybe I should have her blog about sewing??

    http://www.savingwithaplan.com/
    Emily Freelove´s last blog post ..This Week In Review

  2. I LOVE your cakes!!! I took a cake making class at our local craft store before having children. I found it so fulfilling to make my OWN cakes!!! I thought I’d do it forever – but now that I have kids – it’s so hard to find 3 hours to make a cake before a birthday party when I’m cooking a full meal, cleaning the houe top to bottom etc. But I dream of making cakes again someday!!! Maybe when Alexis is old enough to really be a help in the kitchen I’ll go back to this. Looking at your little starter cakes inspire me :-) ! And remind me that I can do that! Why don’t I?

    Thanks!
    Courtney
    Courtney (WomenLivingWell)´s last blog post ..A Summer Book Club You Dont Want To Miss!

  3. I think your first attempts are lovely! I have a cake decorating handicap, although I have two sisters who decorate cakes like they were on the Cake Boss. sigh! Good for you, though! :)
    Blessings,
    Sarah Beals

  4. Heather Anderson says:

    That’s terrific. Think about it, even if learning just a couple of new skills a year (or more if very ambitious), five years from now will find one very skilled indeed!

  5. sandy16502@hotmail.com says:

    I loved your daughter’s cake. She has a wonderful name that she shares with my Mom whom I have been missing alot these days. Maybe that’s why I like the picture so. I think you did fine for a first attempt. Keep at it.

  6. Love it Alyssa! I’m learning to tackle new things too….homemade yogurt…you gonna hold my hand? LOL! I’m getting a kombucha culture soon too. Ack! :)
    Myra @ My Blessed Life´s last blog post ..10 Home Organization Tips

  7. Great first attempt and that chocolate cake looks absolutely decadent. I have been decorating cakes for years and it takes a lot of practice. There are still things I don’t know how to do. You can check out some cakes I have done and some my sisters have done too at http://www.homeecathome.com
    I have a page on my site just for cakes.

  8. I think your cake attempts are wonderful for a first go ’round! keep it up – you will not improve unless you keep trying.

    I love the idea of learning some new skills this year. I too, have a sewing machine that cries my name as I pass it by – reminding me that my amazing husband allowed me to purchase it with some of the monetary gifts we received at our wedding, and reminding me of the adorable things my own mom made for me when I was younger.

    I pray that with the 1st birthday of my youngest, I will again find time to indulge in something that only I can do (my other 2 are nowhere near old enough to sew or can or knit yet), that will still be beneficial to my family.

    It seems to be a large struggle for me – balancing caring for my family and enriching myself. Somehow, the enriching seems a bit selfish. Perhaps it wouldn’t if I was learning how to be a better steward of my resources and making clothes, or saving money by making and decorating dessert treats…

    thank you for sharing!

  9. Amber Hurd says:

    I think the first one was very cute. The second one looks delicious:) I have been cooking more things from scratch myself. I plan on making my husband a carrot cake for his b-day. Sounds good to me and it was the kind he wanted. I would also love to learn how to sew and knit.
    Amber Hurd´s last blog post ..Meijer Deals for week of April 17- 2011

  10. I think both cakes look great! :) My first decorated cake was a disaster–a LOT worse than yours. Let’s just say the frosting wasn’t stiff enough :) Anyway, you mentioned your sewing maching collecting dust…when you get ready to break it out, check out sew4home.com–they have super-cute projects and many that are great for beginners. And I laughed when you said you can learn to knit on YouTube because I actually did. :)

  11. I thought both of your cakes turned out great!

    I’m wondering if the frosting maybe wasn’t thick enough for the decorated cake and that’s why some of the frosting looks like it’s sliding. You should definitely try it again, and try a new frosting recipe.

    You should also make sure that the frosting recipe you use has been adjusted for the zero trans-fats in the shortening, since that really makes a difference in the frosting. I have to add butter to my recipe now, whereas I didn’t before.
    Corrie´s last blog post ..Mailbox Monday – Freebies 4-18-11

  12. Alyssa Francis says:

    @Emily Freelove, I think that is a great idea, Emily! What a wonderful way to prepare her for life. Those are valuable skills she can use is so many ways!

  13. Alyssa Francis says:

    @sandy16502@hotmail.com, Thank you, Sandy. I don’t hear the name Leah very often these days, but I am sure your mother was a sweet soul, just like mine. :)

  14. Alyssa Francis says:

    @Myra @ My Blessed Life, Yogurt is so easy! Now kombucha? I am so not ready for that, ha!

  15. Alyssa Francis says:

    @Corrie, I think you are right about the frosting. I used just butter and coconut oil to healthy it up a bit, but the consistency just wasn’t right. Thanks for the tip, I will keep trying!

  16. Ashley S. says:

    I’ve kept up with making my own laundry detergent, and that’s huge for me! I’d also like to get back to knitting/crocheting winter items for my family. Next is learning to sew with my grandmother’s sewing machine I just acquired.

    And I think the cakes look great. If you want an easy cake to decorate, try getting a cake mold, like a dinosaur or a princess crown. Probably not saving much $ at the beginning, but they are SO easy to decorate!

  17. I am right there with you! I have been making and learning to make so many things this year and it is so much fun! I’ve learned to decorate cookies and mastered the best recipe along the way, garden, paint, make great bracelets and the list goes on. Up next, is learning to sew. I’m just not sure I have the hours in my day!

  18. Sherry Perry says:

    I think your daughter’s cake looks great! I’ve been decorating my boy’s birthday cakes for years. I take two box cakes mixes and combine them into my lasagna pan. Bakes a little longer, but turns out great! The b-day boy helps me decorate it.

  19. We are on the same wavelength. Ever since we moved back Stateside (nearly 3 years ago now) I have tried to learn “old-timey” skills. From canning and preserving, to gardening, to homemade laundry soap, to knitting, just some activities that are not only useful but are a blessing to my family and those around us. You are a much more ambitious woman than I am though…the cake decorating thing is nowhere near the list. :)
    Julie @ Pary Moppins´s last blog post ..Perfectly Practical 55 – Make a Cup of Tea

  20. The cake looks great – most important you know what is in it – including lots of LOVE! I have found no matter how creative I get with the decorating, my son always loved a small inexpensive toy placed right in the middle! No amount of perfect decorating could ever replace the joy of a .99 hotwheel!

  21. Alyssa Francis says:

    @Diana, Thanks for the sewing tip, Diana! And that is too funny that you learned to knit on YouTube. That is also on my “someday” list!

  22. i love the ‘homestead blessings’ videos from vision forum. they are expensive in the beginning but a great resource!

    http://www.visionforum.com/browse/productlist/?search=homestead

    to grow this year, i want to build my own furniture.

  23. Great job on your cakes! I am learning to make things homemade to keep my grocery bill down. We just made homemade pizza dough tonite and cinnamon rolls a few weeks ago. I love the satisfaction I get from making something homemade especially when my kids love it and it saves us money!

  24. I just did my first cake this year for my daughters 5th birthday. It actually came out great but boy did it take a lot longer than I thought it would. I have a few house painting projects I’m trying to tackle this year but your post is inspiring me to pull out my sewing machine and give it another try. We have lived in our house for 5 years with no dining room curtains because I can’t find any I love and hate to pay so much money for something I’m not in love with. Perhaps this week the swing machine and I will do battle. Keep up the great work Alyssa!
    Julie´s last blog post ..How To Save On Baby Food Homemade Pear Puree

  25. Great idea both about the pan and the helpers!
    Julie´s last blog post ..How To Save On Baby Food Homemade Pear Puree

  26. how do you make your own detergent? i want to learn to sew, too! mainly so i can tailor my WalMart bargains, but also to create my own tailored ‘bargains’! it’s hard to find time even to clip coupons. but i am starting again, that is how i found you… great blog! thx!…
    if anyone has a video or “how-to” for beginner sewing, i would appreciate it! i guess i could go to youtube… a blouse, is my first project-i have a pattern and cloth and machine but they are collecting dust… thanks y’all!

  27. Great post! I have had to learn many new skills as we have tried to survive our unemployment. In fact, I recently bought my first sewing machine so that I could sew some costumes my kids need and curtains and pillows I desperately want to change. It is always fun and exciting to learn something new. You will be amazed how quickly you learn to make and decorate a cake. In no time at all, you will be a pro at it!
    Heather´s last blog post ..Crazy Month of May!

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