How to save money:
1. Don't turn on the heater until November. Can you make it? Sure! Just buy everyone in the family a suit of long underwear and button up. Make your shivering a point of pride. (And don't tell anyone about the heat pad you're hogging on your side of the bed. 'Cause, y'know, your baaaaack hurrrrrts. Oughtn't you to go have a lie-down about now?)
2. Inform your kids several months in advance that you will not be doing typical Christmas presents. Keep an eye out for an Xbox instead (they're going cheap on Craigslist these days!), and save your pennies for when Guitar Hero World Tour comes out. Because the family that rocks out together… uh, stays together?
3. Make this soup. Be surprised when your kids don't turn up their noses at it. Be astonished when they each polish off the first bowl, inhale a second and ask for thirds. (Sorry, kids… we gotta save some for lunch tomorrow.)
1 Tbsp cooking oil or butter
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium head green cabbage, chopped (about 10 cups)
4 cups chicken (or veggie) broth
1/2 lb smoked sausage (or not… but the sausage is pretty good)
1/2 cup flour
1 tsp salt
Black pepper & red pepper flakes to taste
1 cup milk
2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce (which the kids delight in pronouncing "Whirr-cess-ter-shyer")
Heat oil or butter in a soup pot over medium heat. Add onion and saute until translucent. Add cabbage and cook, stirring frequently, until it has wilted down a little. Add broth; bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer, covered, 10-15 minutes. (Probably more like 10.) Add sausage; heat through.
Whisk together flour, milk, salt and pepper until smooth. Stir into soup; cook and stir about 2 minutes, until thickened. Whisk in Worcestershire sauce. Serve it forth with thrifty gusto.
Serves 8 or 10, depending on how much your kids eat at once; and I added up what I spent on all the ingredients (well, sausage, cabbage, onion, broth & milk anyway) and came out to less than $3. Poor People Power!
Note that you could also use bulk sausage, if it were cheaper than the smoked variety, and just saute the onion and cabbage in that instead of using oil/butter. Flexibility is key.