Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Chri$tmas Care Tip$

Is the stress of preparing for Christmas robbing you of your JOY this holiday season?
Here are a few tips to help you through the holidays.

1) Take control of your schedule and eliminate those events which stress you out. It might be the office cookie exchange party (let them know you'll be bringing store bought this year) or Secret Santa, party or dinner out (you'd love to but...just can't fit it in...sorry!) Take a good hard look at where you spend your time and trim out all of the events that don't bring you or your family JOY. (OK, you might have to go to Aunt Mildred's again this and every year...for the sake of family harmony)

2) Take control of your budget. Know how much you can spend and be brutal sticking to it. The presents ARE NOT the main reason for this celebration...

3) Practice saying NO. Repeat. See #s 1 and 2

4) SLOW down. Take a moment each day to organize your tasks. Eliminate all but the top 3 things. Pray, meditate or take a brisk walk to regain your perspective. Savor the walk from your car into the mall (it's exercise). Practice clearing your mind.

5) Keep things simple and uncomplicated: presents can be placed in gift bags, meals can be catered or use a frozen dinner for a quick bite during the weeks leading up to the big day. FOCUS on the relationships...not your to do list.

6) Rest one day a week. If it's good enough for the creator of the's good enough for you.

7) Count your blessings by being of Service others-whether it is just by letting the mom with the crying toddler go in front of you in the checkout line, offering a word of encouragement to the harried clerk or ringing the bell for the Salvation Army, serving breakfast at the local homeless shelter or visiting an elderly resident in a nursing home.

8) Allow others to help. Employ the "It's good enough Strategy". This works for things like decorating, cleaning, baking and wrapping. Even the youngest family member can help if given the right project!

9) Breathe...take a warm bath, light a scented candle. Hug your mate and children (repeat), sing carols (LOUDLY), appreciated the beauty, sights, sounds and smells of the holiday! Be purposeful about it and you'll feel your stress melting away.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 6, 2010

It's beginning to look a lot like Chri$tmas...

Christmas is NOT a frugal time of the year and you don't need this BLOG to tell you that...but it can be done in moderation.

10 ways to keep the season under control

1) Exchange ornaments ONLY with adult members of your family (we give kids who have graduated from college on up a special ornament to commemorate some "event" that occurred during the year.
for example:
in 2001 to commemorate 9-11 we gave Fireman ornaments, USA Flag and eagle ornaments
For graduations, weddings and births we give commemorative dated ornaments
This is fun and spreads the expense out across the year as we purchase from where we vacation, visit or travel through

2) Create a budget and stick to it!

3) Limit stocking stuffers to items you purchase at the dollar store (this really works and can be done all year long)

4) Stockpile you gifts in one location so you don't lose it and have to replace it on Christmas ever.

5) Keep a spreadsheet of gifts: I include the recipients name, the gift (or gift idea) and the cost.
The spreadsheet tallys the sum of all the money spent and is easily printed when shopping must be done to assure I don't purchase another gift for Aunt Betty when when is already stored under the bed.

6) Be creative and give a hand crafted gift. Do you knit, sew, bake, garden? Put your talents to use and create a one of a kind gift!

7) Cut down your list (WARNING--This needs to be done early in the year so feeling are not hurt) If your finances dictate you need to cut back, gently explain to your family and friends. They will understand, trust me! They want you to be financially healthy and are delighted to be a partner with you in this. They have probably wanted to do the same thing and have not had an idea of how to proceed--so you are doing them a favor too!

8) Save a small stipend each pay day of the year. I put aside $25 each payday in an envelope. That way I always have CASH to spend throughout the year when I find the perfect gift. $25 saved each of my 26 pay periods results in $650 for Christmas!

9) Give gifts that require your time not your money (rake the yard, clean the gutters, wash windows, read to an elderly aunt, prepare a meal once a month and eat with the recipient, take walks together...etc)

10) Write a letter to those that mean the most you you. A heartfelt letter will be their most treasured gift! Try it and see for yourself!

Consider only giving gifts to the BIRTHDAY BOY, Jesus...Give to the charity of your choice, in service hours. After all, Christmas is the ONLY Birthday party where EVERYONE but the Birthday boy gets a gift! Remember the REAL reason we celebrate Christmas and enjoy it more!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Recipe$ u$ing ingredient$ you have on hand

We live 7 miles from the nearest fast food and as a cheapskate, I cook most of the family meals during the week and am always looking for quick, nutritious recipes that I can get on the table in a hurry after cross country practice. Tonight I was planning on using some Market Day ravioli I had on hand but my palate was not too thrilled by the idea of that topped only with some canned spaghetti sauce.

Lucky for me I stumbled on This site allows you to input the ingredients you have on hand (and also allows you to EXCLUDE items from a recipe search in the event you have, say, an aversion to broccoli or an allergy to shellfish) and provides a large list of recipes from which to select. It was a fast, easy process. I printed a few of the recipes and have yet to decide (Ravioli Alfredo with Mushrooms or Ravioli Lasagna are currently front runners) what I'll prepare tonight--but I am looking forward to dinner this evening.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Facebook and Free Ice cream--YUM!

Facebook and Free Ice cream
Get FREE ice cream for you and 31 of your friends from Baskin-Robbins.

1.Go to the Baskin-Robbins Facebook page. Join a group.
2.Share with your friends and ask them to join your group.
3.When your group reaches 31 people, you and ALL your friends will each get a FREE scoop of Baskin-Robbins ice cream!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Free Yoga Cla$$e$!

Take advantage of free yoga classes and events during National Yoga Month September in your community. Search for events near you or check with your local yoga studio.

Learn how to get ONE WEEK FREE YOGA in September at a local yoga studio by going to

Friday, August 20, 2010

Dining out for le$$

Have you given up on finding DEALS on fine dining? Check out for dining deals in your community.
You'll be asked for a zip code or select the location you'll be vacationing in to be directed to the coupons available in that location.

You can currently buy a $25 certificate for only $3 by entering the code STEAK.

Most of these coupons have restrictions of some sort, and have a gratuity added in automatically so READ the details before purchasing!
I've purchased and used several of these and have been VERY pleased. I hope you will be too!

Retail Coupon$

Sign up to receive an e-mail with some great retail coupons

Today's site included free PINK Lotion from Victoria Secret with a PINK Purchase
25% off any item at Express
Free Bath and Body Works items with a $10 purchase
$10 of $25 purchase at Yankee Candle
and Gap, Old Navy, Childrens Place, Petco, Banana Republic and many, many more

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

When to $hop

USA Weekend offers these tips
Before you shop for that big-ticket item, check the calendar for the best time to buy. Selection is best early; prices are better later, says Mandy Walker, senior project editor for Consumer Reports. Here's when to shop for:

Cars. August and September, when dealers are clearing inventory to make room for new-model-year cars.

Gas grills. September through December.

Lawn mowers. October; it's also the best time to buy winter coats.

Camcorders. November; also best for GPS devices and bicycles.

Appliances. December through January. Post-holiday prices are best on appliances both large (refrigerators, stoves, dishwashers) and small (toasters, blenders).

Exercise equipment January; prices drop in time for New Year's “get in shape” resolutions.

Furniture (indoor). February.

TVs. March — also best for DVD and Blu-ray players, MP3 players and digital cameras.
Computers. The end of each financial quarter — April, June, October and January — when sellers need to move inventory.

Athletic shoes and apparel. May.

Tools. June, also the best time to buy electronics.

Furniture (outdoor). July starts end-of-season close-out sales.

Free Chicken Cookbook

Access this site for a free downloadable chicken cookbook


A good dinner is the perfect ending to a hectic day. A delicious meal comforts emotionally, time spent with loved ones provides a safe haven to talk, connect and work out schedules, problems or share a good laugh. Studies have indicated that families that share meals together have lower rates of divorce, children perform better in school and there are fewer medical issues, including obesity. is a busy, working mom to get a good meal on the table AFTER cross country practice ends at 7 and we don't get home until 7:15? SO, my cross country friends, this post is for you!

1) Plan a weeks worth of menus ON PAPER (I do this a week or more in advance, which allows me to grocery shop intentionally and without having to cram a grocery shipping run in at the last minute). Take a good look at your schedule and estimate how much time you REALLY have to put a dinner on the table.

2) Check out your pantry (see a previous post for a well stocked pantry) and make a list of any ingredients you'll need, including perishables.

HINT: Keep a running list of what you use up and restock the next time you go to the store. This will keep you from NOT having a critical ingredient when you get ready to prepare dinner.

3) Put the menu on the fridge so you know what your to do list is every night before you go to sleep or before you drive off in the morning. Typically, I have to remove meat from the freezer or prepare a marinade, each of which tale only a few minutes!

Here's what I fixed for dinner last night (it was on the table by 8pm and we didn't get home until 7:30pm)

Marinated Flank Steak
Score a flank steak (large enough to feed your family or 1.5 pounds for a family of 4)
Place in re-sealable plastic bag
Add the following or feel free to add what you like"
3 cloves minced garlic
1 bay leaf
1 tsp oregano
1 TBS minced onion, use dried if you prefer
1/2 tsp capers or green pepper corns
salt and pepper to taste

1 TSP olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar or more
1/2 cup dry red wine or more
Seal bag, "squish" to distribute ingredients and allow to marinate overnight. Remove bay leaf, discard marinade and grill to your liking. Slice the meat across the grain and serve with starch of your choice (microwaved baked potatoes) and a vegetable (I served pan fried squash last night but a can or corn or some frozen Market day broccoli is also a welcome side)

Delicious, fast and a lot better than a frozen pizza or a hot dog!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Le$$on$ from Di$ney

10 Frugal Lessons from Disney Movies

Submitted by: Kira @ Tip Hero 07/13/2010 3:15 PM

Disney movies and I go way back. As a little girl, I used to plop myself down twice a day to watch The Little Mermaid swim and twirl her red hair around under the sea. Even much more recently, I was delighted by the fact that The Princess and the Frog would bring back the old Disney animation and musical format. I've learned a lot from Disney throughout the course of my life. Dare to be different. Don't be afraid to dream big. Learn from your mistakes. The list goes on and on.

While pondering what Disney movie to watch the other night, I got to thinking. Could there possibly be any frugal wisdom buried within these gems? The answer, of course, was yes. And surprisingly, these frugal lessons were not too difficult to find. So after much careful consideration, here is my list of the top ten frugal lessons we can learn from Disney movies (in chronological order, of course).

1.If Something Seems Suspicious, It Probably Is

Snow White: She was the first animated Disney princess, so I suppose we can't blame her for falling for one of the oldest tricks in the book. If a witch lady shows up to your home with a shiny red apple, you should probably ask a few questions first. How does this translate to our real life lesson? With innumerable "get rich quick" schemes and scams abound, the frugal person MUST do their research. If something seems too good to be true, it most likely is. I'm referring mostly to those online scams that say something like "Make $30,000 in 30 days!" or emails that says "You've won $1,000,000! Click here to claim your prize!" These claims have one very important thing in common with Snow White. They are both fictional.

Always read the fine print. Don't just take something or purchase something because it's easy or right in front of you. Make sure to do your research, whether you are looking for the best deal on something or familiarizing yourself with the details of "free" items or "prizes." The best deals on things are not just going to show up at your kitchen window. Saving money requires time, study and patience. Snow White settled for convenience, and look at the price she paid.

2.Dishonesty Doesn't Pay

Pinocchio: It is more than okay to be creative in your quest for frugality. However, it is not okay to be dishonest. As a common rule, if something feels wrong, it probably is. Trying to pass a 14-year-old off as a 12-year-old is a dishonest way of getting a discount at the movies. It probably feels wrong to do, and therefore, is. Frugal people should unite under a code of frugal ethics. Don't lie or be dishonest to save money. Here's what the Dollar Stretcher has to say on the subject:

Whenever you're in doubt about whether something is ethical, ask yourself if it would be OK with you if the situation were reversed and you were the person potentially coming up short. Be honest. We've all heard "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." If you would object to others doing it to you, you better look for a better way to save.

Being honest is something we have to hold ourselves accountable for. Our noses might not get any bigger, but if you feel guilty about the means you used to acquire something, you're probably breaking the frugal moral code. Don't hurt anyone else on your quest to save a buck. Only by remaining honest will you become a real boy, or girl.

3.It Does Pay, However, to Be Resourceful

Cinderella: Cinderella's fairy godmother was an extremely resourceful woman. I mean, come on, the lady turned a pumpkin into a carriage and some rags into a beautiful ball gown. It's true; we may not have magic wands or the ability to perform that kind of Bibbidy-Bobbidy-Boo, but we all have the ability to harness the power of creativity. We can take a leaf out of her book and turn something old, used, or dull into something else that will be useful. I see examples of resourcefulness and repurposing everyday on Tip Hero. Sometimes, we just need to take the time to think: before I throw out this item, is there any way I can transform it into something else useful?

For example, Kimm over at Reinvented has a weekly column called Trash to Treasure Tuesdays where she transforms something that could be tossed away into something wonderful and useful. I think that taking on this task every Tuesday definitely requires some magic.

A Bonus Tip from Cinderella? Often times, wealth is short-lived. Always have a budget plan and enjoy your money wisely. And always have a backup plan for when the clock strikes midnight.

4.Make Work a Game

Mary Poppins: "In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun. Find the fun and snap! The job's a game!" Wise words from a wise lady. Mary Poppins sure knew how to turn boring jobs into playtime. All she had to do was snap to tidy up a room. While most of us can't fold clothing by snapping, we can turn dull tasks and chores into fun. offers some great tips for making chores more fun!

We can use creative means to stay on task with frugality as well. Make sure to budget for fun and rewards in your budgeting plan. Pick a friend or partner to have frugal challenges with, i.e. challenge each other to find fun things to do without spending money. Find ways to spice up any dull task and you'll be one step closer to being practically perfect in every way.

5.Sometimes, You Have to Make Sacrifices

Little Mermaid: Growing up, as I have mentioned, I used to watch the Little Mermaid twice a day without fail, and I say that proudly. So of course I had to find a way to incorporate my favorite finned Disney princess into this article. Ariel was given the chance to make her dreams come true, but she had one huge challenge to overcome. How would she win her prince when she had to sacrifice her beautiful voice to be given the chance to do so? We frugalistas face similar issues in our day to day lives. How are we to live our lives to the fullest (or even achieve our dreams) without spending much money? This is where creativity again comes into play.

In the end, Ariel does become a part of Eric's world, but it comes at a price, like most things in life. She has to give up her fins for good and live in a world apart from her family. To live a frugal lifestyle, you may find yourself sacrificing some things in life such as luxury, convenience, etc. But in the end, hopefully what you gain, financial security and freedom among other things, will be more valuable.

6.Don't Be Afraid of a Challenge

Beauty and the Beast: Belle is not quite like everyone else in her town. This admirable beauty doesn't ever worry about keeping up with the Jones'. She is strong-willed and intelligent and is certainly not afraid of a challenge. She is able to see the best in a bad situation. While many others would be queasy about living in a castle full of animate, speaking objects, Belle does what she can to make a life for herself. She takes on the challenge willingly for a good cause; to save her father's life.

In order to live a frugal lifestyle, we are presented with challenges every day. Questions such as these arise all the time: How do I cook without an oven when the summer heat is unbearable? or, How do I get rid of a headache without pills? are just some of the challenges that we've featured on Tip Hero. Don't give up your quest just because it seems difficult at first. Meet those challenges head on. You never know if there's some magic hiding within them (not to mention a good tip)!

7.Don't Let Money Change You

Aladdin: Even though Aladdin did have to resort to stealing sometimes (which I certainly do not condone), he was a pretty positive guy considering his living conditions. Even before he stumbled upon a genie in a bottle, he kept an upbeat attitude and knew what life was all about, hence making him a diamond in the rough. Sure, he made a few mistakes with his first two wishes, but who wouldn't make grand wishes if they were offered anything in the wide world. But in the end, he makes a wish that we can all learn from.

Instead of making himself a prince so that he can marry the beautiful princess Jasmine, he sets the genie, who has been enslaved for thousands of years, free. He makes a completely unselfish decision, and lo and behold, karma comes around and makes his dreams come true anyway. If you suddenly won the lottery or came into a lot of money, would you change your frugal practices? Would you buy extravagant things and spend frivolously? Aladdin would certainly urge you not to.

I was truly moved by many of the responses to last week's Great Depression Question of the Week. Even when people were dirt poor and had nothing at all, they were still willing to open their homes and kitchens up to others in need. If the poor can do it, then certainly the rich should be able to. Remember, karma is a very powerful thing. Be generous if you have the ability to be. Don't forget who you are. Stick to your practices, save your money and continue to analyze and research before you make rash decisions.

8.Take Responsibility for Your Actions

The Lion King: Simba, the cutest little lion cub you've ever seen, believes that he is responsible for his father's death and runs away from everything: his responsibilities, his problems, his family, etc. He starts a new "carefree" life and stops worrying. Meanwhile, Scar has taken over his rightful kingdom and has made it a terrible, gloomy place where it always rains for some reason. All of Simba's problems and much more are waiting for him when he finally does return.

Sometimes, when we get into a bit of trouble financially, all we want to do is run away or hide under a rock. Debt can be intimidating, but it will not go away if you run. In fact, it will probably just get worse. Check out this article on EzineArticles about what can happen if you ignore credit card debt. Scary stuff. That's why it is always best to:

1.Prepare for the worst. Always have backup plans and emergency funds.

2.Have a budgeting plan and stay on track so that you can efficiently avoid/eliminate debt.

3.Manage your debt in a timely fashion so that it doesn't continue to grow heads like the Lernean Hydra from Hercules. Set up payment plans. Set up automatic payments to avoid late fees. Do what you have to do to take responsibility, both for your actions and your money.

So learn from Simba's problems. Don't run away in the first place and you'll avoid having to clean up a huge mess upon your return to reality.

9.Respect the Earth as a Living Resource

Pocahontas: Pocahontas and her people sure knew how to cultivate the earth. They didn't have grocery stores back in those days. Everything they ate, they had to grow or catch. In modern times, it's a bit more convenient to enjoy a meal, but we can definitely take a leaf out of Pocahontas' book. Those with a green thumb can use the earth to grow their own food to save money. We need to treat the earth as a living, breathing entity that offers us so many gifts. We should never treat it as "a dead thing you can claim."

Pocahontas' tribe had to make everything they needed from what they could find. Tools, shelter, clothing, you name it. It may take more time and energy, but it is definitely cheaper in most cases to do exactly that. Find ways to make your own/DIY/ grow it yourself. Sometimes, you don't have to look any further than your own backyard for inspiration. Don't forget, often times going green goes hand in hand with frugality. Love the earth. Respect the earth. Paint with all the colors of the wind (or, at least, all of the colors in your frugal toolbox).

10.Dream Big, but Keep Goals Within Your Reach

The Princess and the Frog: Now to the most recent movie on the list. We've heard this common Disney theme many times before: if you follow your dreams, with enough persistence, your dreams will come true and you'll live happily ever after. I agree with about half of this, in theory. Following your dreams is always great. Persistence is wonderful. But sorry, kids, some dreams are not ever going to come true. (I hope I haven't crushed anyone's wildest dreams about becoming a princess or finding your own personal fairy godmother.)

What I admire so much about The Princess and the Frog is that we actually see a girl with realistic dreams. Tiana wants to open her own restaurant someday in honor of her late father with whom she shared a passion for cooking. Tiana works overtime every week to raise enough money to realize her dream. She doesn't expect anyone to swoop in and save her. She is a strong and independent woman with a fierce talent and extreme determination. She sets goals that she is perfectly capable of achieving.

Now, I'm not saying to give up your wildest dreams. If you still want a pony, keep on dreaming. But if you want something badly enough, you need to set achievable goals so that there is an end prize in sight. For example, if you want to take that dream trip to Italy, set up a savings account now and start working on a plan. Get that second job and work, work, work until you've saved enough. With enough hard work and determination (and somewhat realistic goals), you too have the potential to make your dreams come true.

An added bonus lesson from Tiana? She invests her money into a restaurant - something that will continue to make her more money in the future and allow her to continue pursuing her dreams

10 Frugal Lessons from Disney Movies

Monday, July 26, 2010

Free $tuff

Who doesn't love a freebie? I sure do--but hate the sites that end up requiring you to subscribe to an e-mail or take a hundred clicks to get to the real meat of the offer and then it seems you get spammed a lot after taking advantage of the freebies, making them less than FREE.

For those reasons alone, I LOVE
I don't get unsolicited e-mails and I get products I need and use.

Click on IN stores now (left hand side of page near the bottom)
Once you are redirected to that portion of their site you can click on any of the freebies, tools or music downloads
I've received pet treats, feminine protection items,beauty items, coffee samples and more and my kids love the free downloads. I even sign up my daughter and have the samples which are appropriate delivered directly to her college address.

For the products I might not use personally, I save them for mission trips (create a free, use it if you need it box of samples, like your concierge service at an upscale resort) or donate pet items to my local shelter or charity.

Happy Surfing

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Back to $chool $avings

Whatever happened to my FREE public education?

Honestly, between "renting" the required text book; the locker, sports fees and equipment; yearbooks; required school agenda (which never gets used because of its inefficient format; necessitating the purchase of one that actually gets the job done!); and boxes of sanitizing wipes, paper towels, tissues and hand sanitizer required for the classrooms; composition notebooks, loose-leaf paper, graph paper, binders, pencils, TI-83 calculators and the like I am out more than $400 before I buy the first pair of new shoes (we'll not go THERE in this post).
So, how is a frugal mom supposed to save some cold hard cash this time of year? Glad you asked! And, BTW--you are going to spend much more than you save this time of year, so take an aspirin before proceeding:

1) First, you must have a plan which includes knowing what you are required to provide for your student. Thankfully, our school makes back to school packets available in mid-July before the back to school sales begin in earnest. Don't buy a lot of stuff that is not on the list because it may not get used!

2) Stock up-this is a must for the frugal mom. Peruse the Sunday ads, making plans to shop around and only purchase the best deals at a variety of stores.

Purchase 2-3 times the number of items on the list (if 7 composition notebooks are required, purchase a minimum of 14-21 to assure mid-year replacements are available at a reasonable price). At 25 cents each 14 notebooks will cost you $3.50. Should you fail to purchase the necessary replacements for later in the year you'll be lucky to find these for a $1.00-so stocking up is critical and your net savings throughout the year is over $11.00. I also purchase crayons, glue sticks, colored pencils for arts and craft project, Christmas and Easter gifts and my Operation Shoebox at this time of the year and store them away.
Apply the same strategy to folders, pencils, lose leaf notebook paper and 3 subject or 5 subject spiral notebooks and any other school supplies.

For my college kid I employ the same strategy and even use this time of year to buy new toilet brushes (yes, they are on sale for $2 less than the normal price and I make a habit of replacing them every year at this time), wastebaskets, sheet sets and small appliances are on sale too.(for your personal use or as a replacement, Christmas gifts or wedding showers you know are coming up)

3) Develop a storage system-No one likes to use a bent or tattered notebook. After all, new supplies are the highlight of returning to school for some folks, me included. Therefore, storing your purchases in pristine condition until you need them is a requirement. I use a plastic drawer ed bin but an under the bed box or any secure container which will keep out the dust is satisfactory! DON'T purchase a new storage system, that defeats the frugal part of this post--use what you already have!

4) Get Freebies-make sure you take advantage of any BOGO free offers, rebates and don't forget to pickup any free samples (pencils, post it notes, hand sanitizer, chip clips and caribiners seem to be popular items this year) at your local state fair or community event. Put these in your storage system as you accumulate them over the course of the year.

5) Keep your receipts and don't be afraid to return the UNUSED binder that was desired until DD saw what all the other 7th graders were carrying.

6) Shop early to assure the best selection (you can always return what you purchased but didn't actually need). Younger kids especially enjoy selecting their own supplies and this will insure they are actually used.

Happy Shopping!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Tried and True Tip$

I am naturally frugal by nature and often complain that there are NO new frugal tips and hints. These are not new or difficult ideas BUT they do work for me and are tried and true ways to save money! I posted this on a frugal website and won $20 for my ideas! I will be at work camp with our Senior High students next week so will not be able to post any new tips until I return!

Laundry Room
• Re-use dryer sheets, cut in half OR dampen a washcloth with liquid fabric softener.
• Pre-treat stains caused by cooking oils with dish washing liquid. This gets even the WORST grease stain out of fabrics.
• Pre-treat stains as soon as you notice them.
• Do not dry garment that is still stained, re-treat and wash again.
• Use a cold water rinse in your washing machine.
• Use the lowest amount of water and detergent for each load.
• Don't overload the washing machine. Clothes need to be able to agitate to get their cleanest.
• Re-use bath towels. Our family uses 2 towels a week per person, changing them out on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
• Purchase the best quality bath towels you can afford. I have towels from Land End that are 20 years old that are still not frayed on the edges.
• I like to use facial cleansing cloths-they are not cheap so I cut them into quarters and don' feel so bad about this purchase.
• Use showerheads that use a lesser amount of water but feel like a full blast.
• Use drain cleaner as necessary to avoid costly plumber bills.
Kitchen and Pantry
• Use a micro fiber cloth to clean glass top tables, stainless steel sinks and range tops-no chemicals and they sparkle, no chemicals to purchase.
• Use your waffle iron as a panini or quesadilla maker.
• Don't purchase the latest gadgets. If you MUST have, try to get it used at a yard sale.
• Learn to cook! Teach your kids to prepare some basics like mac and cheese, grilled cheese or omelets to help out when you are bushed or time doesn't allow you to prepare a meal and you are tempted to order takeout.
• Keep FROZEN pizzas on hand for that quick meal at the end of a busy day.
• Use as little prepared food as possible. Wash and then tear up the head of lettuce when you get home from the grocery store so it will be available when you need it.
• Purchase in bulk ONLY when you will use the items before it expires. Check the price to be sure the large size REALLY is more economical.
• Make a large batch of meatballs at one sitting, make 2 meatloaves and freeze one, etc.
• Keep your pantry well organized-it is easier to see what you have and use what you have.
• Know the prices of items you purchase regularly so you can stock up WHEN you find a really good deal.
• Check with your grocery's meat department to see if they will sharpen your knives for free.
• Use your coupons. Combine store with manufacture coupons if your grocery permits.
• In the grocery store be sure to watch prices as they scan your purchases. Many times, items do not ring up at the advertised price (some stores then give you this item for free).
• Know you stores Buy One Get One (BOGO) Free policy. Do you have to purchase 2 items to get the better price or do pay half-price for the first item?
• Buy the store brand or generic-many stores allow you to return it (or the empty packaging) and get a FREE replacement of the National brand if you don't like the store brand of the product.
• Plan a weekly menu and try to use the items that you have on hand as the basis for several meals. This is especially important when you have fresh produce that will otherwise go to waste.
• Use local produce, meats and cheeses. Do you REALLY know how much it costs to eat strawberries out of season that have been transported (using fossil fuels) thousands of miles? Read Barbara Kingsolver's "Animal, Vegetable Miracle: A Year of Food Life." It was a very interesting read!
• Brown bag your lunch.
• Eat your leftovers!
Bedrooms or Living Areas
• Redecorate your room in the spring and fall by changing out your comforter and throw pillows. I have done this for about 8 years now and am still using the same ones. I get to "redecorate" and no money is spent. Plus, it extends the life of my items.
• Use 3 way bulbs in the lamps so you'll have the option of brighter lights when needed.
• Buy the highest quality sheets, furniture, etc. you can afford. They will last for years.
• Rotate accessories for a fresh look. Just changing the flowers or color candles in your holders will give you a seasonal look.
• Turn off the TV when not in use.
• Set a weekly entertainment budget. Put CASH in an envelope and use it to pay for movie tickets and dining out. When the money is gone you have to do FREE things or stay at home.
• Volunteer at museums or theatres for free viewings of plays or events.
• Be a Docent at the Zoo.
• Take a stay-cation in your home town. Sleep late, see local sights, eat out but try to limit your expenses. It's fun planning that kind of "trip" and your children can really get involved in the research of this.
• Have a technology free day once a week-no TV, computer, cell phone, I-pods, etc. Play board games, read, walk. Spend time with your family. We host a family game night once a month and all the aunts, uncles and cousins get together. The kids love it and they range from 4-24 years old! Everyone brings a snack to share! YUM!
• Use your library for books, movies, music and books on tape. Saves the rental and late fees, improves your vocabulary and helps the environment!
• Host a book club, Bible study or weekly coffee or play date at the park to stay connected to friends.
• Exercise with friends, take walks or ride your bikes.
• Make a list for everything you need to purchase: I have a grocery list, wholesale club list and need to purchase this week lists. I carry them with me.
• Match your coupons up with the lists.
• Use sales flyer's to find the best prices OR use self control and wait to purchase an item until it comes on sale.
• I organize my coupons and carry them with me at all times just in case I need to make an unexpected purchase.
• Set a little aside for unexpected purchases each week.
• Pay in cash. Using your credit card or debit card generally adds an additional 15% to your purchase price.
• Don't grocery shop when hungry. Leave the kids home if possible. Shop early in the morning if you are able to do so. You are fresh and the shelves are stocked.
• Get rain checks when the store is out of a featured product.
• If you fail to redeem a coupon take it and your receipt to the service desk on your return visit and ask them if they will honor it.
• Organize your errands to avoid backpacking and to use the least amount of gas.
• Keep receipts in order to return items when necessary.
• Obtain gift receipts and include with gifts (tape to the lids of the gift box).
• Be aware of time limits on receipts. Often you can only return for a store credit after a designated period of time.
• Consign clothing and toys your children have outgrown. Our church hosts a consignment sale 2x a year and I make 60% of the purchase price plus a tax receipt for any donated items after the sale.
• For items that are not eligible for sale (too old and worn or out of style), clip off buttons, buckles, appliques, etc for future craft or repair projects.
• If you are crafty, recycle your clothing into a new garment (men's ties into a skirt or handbag, favorite t-shirts into a quilt, etc.).
• Host a clothing or accessory exchange party among your friends. Select a party night set out a few munchies and invite your friends to bring their unwanted accessories, shoes or clothing items for exchange. Even if you have to take it all to the goodwill afterwards, you've had a good time with your friends for very little cost!
• Learn to make minor repair to garments, sew on a button or tack up a hem.
• Have your shoes resoled or re-heeled instead of buying a new pair.
• Put on a sweater when you are cold.
• Limit purchase of items that require dry cleaning.
• Learn to iron your husband's dress shirts! Better yet, teach HIM to iron!
• Use things until they are worn out.
• Do not purchase trendy clothing items. Stick to the basics and limit your trendy purchases to accessories.
• Host a potluck party, dinner or progressive dinner to lessen the expense associated with parties.
• Make some of your holiday gifts. Do you knit, paint, craft?
• Give the same gift to several people.
• Give gifts of your time (Take a child to the park and out for an ice-cream, clean your grandmothers' kitchen and then make her lunch, surprise your spouse with a picnic). You'll be surprised how appreciated and meaningful these gifts are to both you and the recipient.
• Buy items on sale AFTER the holidays whether it is household decorating items, paper products or stocking stuffer, sprinkles for cooking, linens or costumes.
• Purchase items for gifts all year long (record in a spreadsheet and store in a box under your bed so you'll have them when the birthday or holiday rolls around).
• Return unwanted items and purchase something you'll REALLY use.
• Make mittens out of 100% WOOL sweaters you've purchased from the Goodwill.
• Knit scarves form yarn scraps. These are some of the MOST beautiful I have created.
• Glue buttons, belt buckles, seashells or bottle caps onto old frames for an unusual gift.
• Create a scrapbook using only papers you have in your stash-combine for unusual color combos. Scrapbooks make great gifts.
• Buy old necklaces at a yard sale for beading crafts.
• Vow to finish the many projects you have on hand before purchasing the next one!
• Use old Christmas cards to create greeting cards or gift tags. Use greeting cards to decorate gift bags.
• Use your clean jars to make gifts in a jar (cookie, soup, or beauty items etc.) Find gift in a jar recipes on line.
• Use the library's craft books and magazine subscriptions instead of purchasing your own.
• Host a craft swap with other creative friends for gifts or your own use
• Attend craft fairs and browse for ideas you can make yourself. Purchase a sample, never steal an artist's idea!
• Save your scraps and combine for interesting projects.
• Borrow items from friends and neighbors that will be used infrequently like a roto-tiller.
• Consider renting an item for a repair or yard project instead of purchasing.
• Clean your own carpets with a rented or borrowed machine.
• Perform routine maintenance on your appliances (lubricate, vacuum, clean or replace filters or replace hoses, etc to keep them running in top condition).
• Read the owners manual prior to calling the repair man.
• Turn your thermostat up or down 2 degrees and put on a sweater.
• Use your crock-pot in the summer to keep the kitchen cooler.
• Do without! See how many days you can go without making a purchase. Or swear off purchasing (the latte', lunch or craft supply).
• Save more than you spend.
• Save for Christmas every week. Even if it is only $10, you'll have saved $520 dollars in one year.
• Plan for the unexpected emergency and have some money in the bank to cover it so you don't have to use your credit cards.
• Pledge to use what you have on hand for one week (each month) whether it is for dinner, a craft .or entertainment (re-watch that old movie sitting on your shelf).
• Color your own hair, use a cosmetology school for haircuts on children.
• Wash the dog in the backyard.
• Walk, ride your bike, exercise to videos instead of joining pricey clubs. An added benefit is the time spent with friends and family!
I hope a few of these work for you and help you save some of your hard earned money!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Re$taurant $avings

I just snagged a great deal at purchasing $175 in restaurant gift certificates for $15.80 using the promotional code FUN. These certificates DO NOT EXPIRE as they have in the past. Some restrictions apply (such as location, day of the week and minimum purchase) but are well worth the price...even if you fail to use one of them.

You select the location by state or zip code and then click on the coupons you wish to purchase. Each restaurants restrictions are clearly visible prior to purchasing. Enter the code as soon as you enter the shopping cart area after making your fist selection. These make great gifts (Think Christmas!) even at the regular price (purchase a $25 certificate for usually $10)

If you enjoy eating out, this is a great way to save a few bucks! Restaurants are local and several are upscale (no chains)! Enjoy the savings with a nice dinner out!

$imple Energy $avings

1) Educate yourself to understand your utility bills and each line item and charge included in your bill. Knowledge can save you money!

2) Review your monthly bills carefully. Look for unexpected increases in your usage. This could signal a larger problem (water leak, decaying caulk around windows, etc)

3) Raise your thermostat 2 degrees in the summer and lower it 2 degrees in the winter. Wear a sweater when you're cold

4) Take advantage of ON-DEMAND conservation if your utility companies offer it. Mine credits my bill $5 during the warmest months ($20 annually) by switching on and off my units with no adverse effect to my homes cooling

5) UNPLUG anything plugged into an electrical outlet pulls current even when it is turned off. Unplug anything you can when it is not in use!

6) Yes, your father was right! TURN OFF THE LIGHT when you leave a room. This goes for computers too.

7) Pay your bill automatically via your checking account. You'll save the price of a stamp each month and never make a late payment. Plus, this is a free service

8) Take advantage of energy audits if offered by your utility company. They'll suggest ways to reduce your energy consumption. They are generally free

9) Use high efficiency lighting by replacing your incandescent bulbs with CFL light bulbs

10) Close blinds and curtains during the hottest part of the day to reduce super heating your home. This works well in the winter months to keep out the cold at night!

11) When replacing appliances, purchase the most energy efficient you can afford.

12) Showers use less water than baths

13) Collect water in a container to water your plants while waiting for the water to heat up for your shower.

14) Install low flow showerheads.

15) Employ a timer when taking a shower to reduce the amount of water that goes down the drain.

16) Reduce the water in your washing machine to match the size of the load. Wash only full loads. Wash in cold water whenever possible.

17) When possible, allow clothes to air or line dry.

18) Sign up for the budget plan if your utility company offers it. The budget plans, bills you a set amount for a set period of time (usually 6 months) calculated from your previous utilization. This helps you avoid a nasty $400 bill when you least expect it. It's easier to budget your energy costs.

These savings tips are not painful and will help your pocketbook while helping the environment.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

$tolen Post-Tip Hero commentary on Cooking

I have been out of town on a yoiuth mission trip...sorry I was unable to post
I hope you enjoy this stolen post from a Tip Hero reader. I don't agree with all the tips...but you may find something of value for yourself!

Saving Money on meals

1) EAT what you cook, prepare, or buy ready-made. You'd be surprised how much gets wasted. And I mean all of it, not most of it. When the kids or the spouse want something new, just look at them sympathically and say "I'd love to make some choc chip cookies, but I can't until we finish the ones we have open". Or, "I'd love to make you some hot dogs a'la BBQ sauce, but we have to get rid of that dab of pasta first." DON'T stick it in the freezer, that's just a way of fooling yourself into thinking you'll use it later; it wastes plastic bags, and delays the inevitable throwing away, when you'll feel virtuous for 'cleaning out the freezer' and 'getting organized'!!

2) Get creative with the leftovers. Personally I found a HUGE amount of dessert items went out the back door to supplement the wildlife. Crush cookies NO ONE will eat for a crumb crust, or make yogurt parfaits, or sprinkle over ice cream. Make mini-ice cream sandwiches. That one leftover hot dog can be cut up thinly, added to a can of any kind of beans, and give one big eater or two small ones lunch. Serve over that one last stale hot dog bun.

3) Learn to cook. This sounds obvious, but it often goes unmentioned. You might think you can cook; can you really? Know how to make a thick white sauce? Because that's all cream soups are. Start with simple things you really can't screw up, experiment with those, and move on to one new dish a week if you can afford it.

4) Ramen noodles. Enough said.

5) Rice. If you can't afford to waste that buck and a half on screwing up a meal because you can't cook rice (and some of us can't), then use instant. The nutritional difference isn't huge.

6) When making things like hamburger helper, double the noodles & sauce but only use one pound of burger. Just break it up very fine while cooking and add some canned peas or other veggie to flesh out the dish.

7) When you can possibly afford it, hit Goodwill for kitchen gear. Lots of people never learn to cook because they can't afford the tools needed to do so. Tin foil only works for so much!

8) Can't afford a ham? Pick up a little canned one at the Dollar stores for about $2.50. They're pretty salty, but used in other dishes it evens out. Learn to live with generic Spam, canned Jack Mackerel, Tuna. Chopped up, those little canned ham products can stretch further than rubber bands.

9) Shop in your own pantry and Fridge. What is about to go South on you? Use up those carrots, that one bell pepper, the half of the onion that isn't soft and sprouting a hail-mary offspring. There---you have some ingredients for an omelette or hearty scrambled eggs. Can't afford eggs? Saute' those veggies & put'em in beans or rice. Oila', instant rice pilaf.

10)Stop throwing away stale bread or the heels. Spread with butter, sprinkle some sugar, broil for seconds & instant cinnamon toast. Kids love that stuff. They just have to be fed. They don't have to have gourmet breakfasts.

11) Don't let friends, family, or others embarrass you into doing things you just can't afford.

12) Find an elderly lady who is willing to give you kitchen advice. LISTEN.

13) When you're really, really busted, Ramen noodles & hot dogs will get you through the week. Spring for a package of cheese if you can afford it. Personally, I am from Kentucky, and have spent many an evening eating beans and cornbread.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Putting up Produce

The asparagus and broccoli have been blanched and placed in shrink-vacuumed bags and placed in the freezer for use this winter.

Here is a recipe for a quick and delicious use of some of your broccoli

Chicken Tortellini Alfredo with broccoli
1) Grill seasoned chicken breasts, slice
2) Heat a jar of your favorite Alfredo sauce, seasoned with a few flakes of Cayenne if desired (may need to thin with a bit of milk) in a large saute pan
3) Cook a head of broccoli which has been separated into florets, drain and add to Alfredo sauce
4) Cook a package of cheese tortellini according to directions, drain and add to Alfredo sauce mixture
5) Toss all ingredients together and place chicken strips atop the past mixture. Delicious, easy and fast!

Berries are coming in and they will be picked, placed on a cookie sheet and allowed to freeze before packing in freezer boxes. Jam recipes are being researched for the black berries (because I don't like to eat them but do love a good blackberry jam on a toasted English muffin). I am planning on giving away some jams as Christmas gifts

Monday, June 14, 2010

Yarn $tash Prayer $hawl

I am about half way done with a prayer shawl (cast on of 80 stitches, garter stitch) created from my yarn stash of Lion Brand yarn. The rows are varying widths depending on how much of a particular color I have. I alternate a dark with a light (neutral) color for the best contract. Can't wait for you to see the finished project. It is great use of my leftover supplies which were not enough to complete any one individual project. Purchasing enough skeins of yarn to complete a regular shawl runs $18-20 when using Lion Brand skeins. This shawl is going to be beautiful (DD want to trade in her solid red one for it)and was created with love from a treasure trove of "leftovers"

Friday, June 11, 2010

Eating clo$e to home

Summer is a great time to change your eating habits to reduce your food costs. By eating what is "in season" or grown and raised close to your home you can significantly lower your grocery bill. Much of your store bought food costs are associated with the transportation of foods from distant locales. Do you eat strawberries in December? They probably arrived in your grocery store from South America, adding additional expense associated with the shipping of the produce.

To reduce your food costs you have to discipline yourself to eat what is in season. Now is the time to indulge in strawberries, lettuce, radishes and broccoli and other cool weather crops. Eat your asparagus in the spring when it is available locally (freeze some for winter use). In the summer load up on squash, zucchini and tomatoes. I am sure you agree that everything tastes better when it is in season so it is a win-win! I'll post how I "put up" produce for later use in another post.

To take advantage of local produce visit your farmers markets, make friends with the local egg farmer and seek out farm raised fish, shrimp and other meats. Your wallet and your palate will be glad you did!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

$ummer Fun(d$)

Looking for cheap things to do now that the kiddies are out of school for the summer?
My oldest DD hosts a summer camp of sorts for a few pre-teen aged girls so they don't have to go to the after school program all summer so I've included some of those ideas here.

Start by first making a SUMMER BUCKET LIST. This can and should include any and all things you hope to do as a family this summer. You can refer to it when you get bored! It might be make cleaning the basement, making snow cones, watching a specific movie, going to a specific park or museum or scrap-booking last summer's vacation photos.

Here are some cheap or free ideas to keep the kids occupied this summer

1) Cheap movies-either "rent" from the Library for free or attend the local theatre for 50 cent movies (we bought a Cinemark pass for $5 which allows each person to see 10 movies, one each Wednesday at 10am. They're second run...but who cares!) For a home showing, make up paper tickets, have popcorn, candy and lemonade available. Makes for a more festive atmosphere and seems special even if it's a movie you've watched before!

2) Join ANY and ALL reading challenges offered by your library or a local bookstores. Our library offers a package of coupons for completing 300 pages of reading and the kids won a prize at the library for participating last year. Several bookstores offer a free book when you show proof of reading 10 books. A great FREE way to expand your library and keep up their reading skills

3) Recycle t-shirts in to new fashions. Check out the Web for some ideas that only require an old t-shirt and scissors. We also purchased a book on the subject and you can check them out from your local library.

4) Adopt a "Charity" once a week for the entire summer- visit a local nursing home, pickup trash in your neighborhood park, tend the garden or walk the dog of your elderly neighbor.

5) Allow the kids to plan and prepare an easy meal once a week this summer. They'll have fun and learn some life skills too! Plus you'll have a free night off! Even if it's hot will be a good experience. Don't forget that cooking requires clean up too!

6) Find a local free or low cost water activity or pool. We have a pool in our subdivision that is not well utilized so it is like having our own private pool. We also have a spray park on the waterfront downtown. Combine that with a picnic lunch and you've wasted most of the day!

7) Have a PHYSICAL contest that lasts an entire month or summer-it could be playing a Wii game, running, jump roping, etc. Pick an activity and get moving! Make a contest out of it and offer a small prize at the end (for all participants!) We always have pool Olympics with silly games, jumping contest (biggest splash, pencil jump, belly flop, etc.)too.

8) Create a time capsule. THis can be especially meaningful if going into middle school or highschool.

9) Visit your local museums when they have free days

10) Visit local parks and take advantage of story tellers, craft fairs, etc. Learn to identify bird calls or leaves.

11) Some local craft stores offer FREE make and take it events. Take advantage of those.

12) This works best if you start now and plan to host later in the summer. Have the kids clean out their drawers and closets. Host a yard sale and they can keep the cash. If you want to spend the extra dough, sell popcorn and lemonade too.

Allow them to take their clothes to consignment and save the money for a back to school shopping spree. This really gets my kids engaged in the cleaning out process.

Donate the remaining items to a local charity.

13) If you kids love to craft have them use the available free time to make Christmas gifts for their friends. I'll post some free or cheap ideas occasionally! So check back often!

14) We have a local exotic petting zoo in our area. Take a bag of carrots and feed the camels, llamas and porcupines. Don't forget the camera.

15) Take advantage of any free Vacation Bible school, music camps or the like local churches have to offer. If your children are too OLD to attend, allow them to volunteer in some capacity.

Have fun, be a bit adventurous and RELAX...isn't that what summer is all about, anyway? Love a little more intentionally, say yes whenever possible, make a mess now and again and think outside the box.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Notebook photo$

Here are a couple of shots of the menu planning notebook
It is attractive enough to sit out with the other cookbooks. The content is only notebook paper. I used an old notebook the kids had abandoned. Practically Free!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Planning weekly Meal$

I love to eat! It is as simple as that. I have learned to cook delicious meals on a budget (of both time and money) and you can too! I budget $100 a week to feed a family of four. This money also covers household paper goods, cleaning and beauty supplies. If you'd like to reduce your stress when it comes to meal preparation, My Meal Planning Notebook may work for your household.

I am a compulsive list maker and have a notebook which I use for meal planning. This allows me to prepare delicious meals most nights of the week with 15 minutes or less of planning each week (not counting grocery shopping or preparation time).

The purpose of my meal planning notebook is 4 fold:
Home cooked meals save money.
It avoids food boredom by providing insight as to when we last had a specific meal.
It provides inspiration for what to prepare.
A few minutes of preparation reduces food costs,the time spent in the kitchen and my stress!

Home cooked meals save money and it is reported that families that eat at least 3 meals together a week are healthier, have stronger marriages, the school age children make better school grades and are less likely to engage in illicit drug use and underage drinking. What other reasons do you need?

To create your own notebook:

1) Use a small notebook (3ring or spiral) to collect your meal planning data. I use a 3 ring binder which I decorated with scrapbook paper, a set of tabbed dividers and a couple of manila file folders. Use whatever you have on hand and whatever system works for you!

2) Tabbed dividers are labeled by meal type (chicken, beef, pasta, fast and easy, grilled, crock pot, etc.) and placed in the front of the notebook. A final tab can be used for your monthly calendar or just list the days of the week and the date on a piece of notebook paper to record what meals you are going to prepare on what day.

3) For example, my PASTA page has Spaghetti and Meatballs, Pasta Carbonnera and Gib's Cajun Pasta and all other pasta recipes listed. I also record recipe page number if using a cookbook, when necessary.
Each general meal category has it's own list.
Some meals will be listed in several categories...this is OK.
These lists should be meals you will actually make.
If you have recipes that you want to experiment with, use a separate page to list those and add to your main page once they have passed your family's taste test and you are assured you can and want to prepare it!

4) Using a calendar page record the proposed meal on the corresponding day. Your family calendar could be substituted for this since it holds all your daily appointments and responsibilities, letting you know at a glance how much time you can devote to meal preparation and dining. If you will be eating out on a specific day, circle that date and pencil in where you will be dining (Dinner at Grandmas, Track banquet or Anniversary date, etc.) I cannot stress enough how important it is to coordinate your daily responsibilities with your meal plans. If you don't have time to cook a more elaborate meal one day, move it to a day when your schedule does permit it.

For example this week's calendar read
Monday: Chicken Pasta (takes about 40 minutes to prepare)
Tuesday: Hot dogs, Baseball game
Wednesday: Sloppy Joe's, CHOIR Concert
Thursday: Track Banquet
Friday: Outback style steaks
Saturday: Smoked Ribs and chicken

You could expand your list to include all side dishes if you feel that is necessary. Since I have a well stocked pantry, I do not feel the need to include that level of detail.

5) Now check the pantry and make a shopping list for any recipe items you do not have on hand. Purchase any needed items so you can easily prepare the meals you have planned. Nothing throws a monkey wrench into your meal preparation and forces you to order an expensive delivery pizza than being one critical ingredient short!

6) TO expand this idea I place clipped recipes by category in an accordion file (Chicken, pasta, crock pot,etc) which allows me to pull them out and place in my weekly file at the back of my notebook. It makes grocery list planning and recipe preparation a snap.

7) I also have a file of dishes that sound good. I like challenge myself to prepare a new meal at least once a month. They are not always "keepers" but it has been a successful way of expanding our recipe repertoire. I also keep a file labeled SUMMER and WINTER so when I have an abundance of squash, for example, I can go to that file for a new recipe.

8) If you enjoy cooking I'd like to suggest the following sites for recipes. Restaurant websites offer recipes on some of their dishes-search for your favorites offers copy cat recipes of many of your favorites

If you employ a meal planning notebook I can assure you your family will enjoy better meals, at a lower cost and you will experience less stress. Bon appetite!

I'll post some photos of my notebook this weekend!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

OOP$ Wa$te not...

Get in the habit of assigning a dollar value to every food item you toss in the garbage. That half a loaf of bread equals $1, that leftover casserole you meant to eat for lunch -$2, that spoiled onion -$0.50. Seeing several dollars worth of wasted food going in the trash on a weekly basis is enough to get you to change your shopping, eating and storage habits. Try this for a week and you'll be amazed and disgusted at how much you actually throw away.

Have you gotten into the pantry and found that your potatoes have started to sprout eyes or an onion has gone soft, threatening the quality of the entire bag of produce? Is the celery going limp, the bananas brown or the pepper less than perky?

DON'T throw out that produce. Instead, "process it" for later use:
Dice or slice potatoes and freeze in a zip lock bag for hash browns or soups and casserole which calls for potatoes
Dice or mince peppers, garlic, celery, etc. and freeze in snack bags (or single recipe size containers) for use in casseroles, soups, quiches and sauces
Remove the skins from bananas and store in a snack bag for use in breads and muffins
Dice (or grate) stale bread and use as bread crumbs
Hard cheeses can be grated and frozen too
Store all these mini containers in a small plastic "shoebox" in your freezer. This box is easy to remove, keeps small containers from straying in the far recesses of your freezer and keeps these items available for use.

I also employ this when I only use half the FRESH VEGETABLE such as a head of cabbage, green pepper or other suitable vegetable.

Waste Not, Want Not!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Mama'$ Meatball$

As promised, a fantastic meatball recipe
This makes about 48 meatballs

Part of saving money is also in saving time
I make these meatballs when I have a free afternoon and freeze them for future use.

Mama's Meatballs
5 lbs ground chuck
5 eggs
2 cups Romano cheese, grated
4 cups seasoned breadcrumbs
3 heaping tablespoons minced fresh garlic
5 heaping tablespoons oregano
5 heaping tablespoons basil
salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients using your hands
Roll into balls a little larger than a golf ball
Cook in a skillet until lightly browned on all sides or freeze for future use.

Yummy! Bon Appetite!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

A well $tocked Pantry

It seems like every time I go to the grocery store the prices have risen yet again on the items I use most frequently. It is quite discouraging! And just today I had to pay $0.72 for a can of beef broth which, I can usually purchase on sale for 2/$1.00. I had to restock at the full price because I had "cleaned out the pantry, refusing to purchase items until the "cupboard was bare". I won't be doing that again!

Having a well stocked pantry accomplishes a few basic tenets of frugal cooking by keeping me out of the grocery store more than once a week and it allows me to purchase items in "bulk" when they are on sale. I always purchase enough of an item to tide me over until the next time it comes on sale. If you don't have an actual pantry in your kitchen an empty cabinet or a few shelves in the basement work fine as a substitute.

Determine what staples you use to prepare your meals and add or eliminate from my list to create your well stocked pantry. I have listed my pantry for our family of four and listed the minimum of each item I keep on hand. Volumes may differ according to your family size and personal food preferences. And remember, at any one time I may actually have 6 or 8 of each of these if (space permits) they are on sale.

Pasta sauce (I prefer Marinara-2 and Alfredo-2)
Canned tomatoes (homegrown, canned if possible)or 28 oz cans-2
Petite diced tomatoes-14 oz can-2
Canned tomato sauce, 28 oz-2 and 14 oz-2, 8 oz-2
Broth: Chicken 2, Beef, 2, Vegetable 1
Canned cream soups: Cream of Mushroom-2, Cream of Chicken-2
Canned Mushrooms-4
Soups your family enjoys for a quick lunch-6
Great Northern Beans-2
Home canned green beans-4
tuna-1, salmon-1
Brown rice -1, dried bean-1, white rice-1
assorted boxed rice mixes-6 (I only purchase these when they are on sale for $1.00, when they retail for $2.19), grits
Dried onion soup mix-4, ranch dressing mix-1, taco seasoning-2
flour-1, sugar-1
assorted cereal
cake mix-2 (flavors of your choice), brownie mix or dessert mix-1
muffin mix-4
chocolate chips-2
peanut butter (no one but me likes jelly)
assorted nuts for baking
vegetable oil-1, olive oil-1
assorted spices, as needed, baking soda, baking powder, salt, pepper, garlic powder
potatoes, onions and Sweet potatoes
pretzels, popcorn and crackers (I hate buying potato chips but my family holds me hostage),

I also stock my freezer when items come on sale
Whole chickens and chicken breasts
ground beef
shrimp and fish
meatballs and meatloaves I have prepared (I'll post a recipe in the future)
frozen vegetables (tomatoes, Lima beans, berries, diced potatoes, peppers, squash, etc.)
frozen pizzas-2, frozen dinners (Michelina's or Lean Cuisine for a a kids' lunch)-10
and a frozen pie crust or two

The fridge is stocked with condiments (ketchup, mayo, mustard, horseradish and assorted salad dressings, etc.) as well as milk,eggs, heavy cream, butter, sour cream and cheese. Lunch meat, fresh produce is purchased according to the weekly menu but we always have some apples on hand(they last a long time) and a large container of minced garlic in oil

We love to eat and I am always experimenting with new recipes. With a bit of planning, you can enjoy a delicious home-made meal, avoid a hefty pizza delivery fee and pocket the savings!

With a well stocked pantry you'll soon be eating better meals, enjoying them more and saving money! Bon Appetite!

Weekly Challenge-1

Here's a little challenge to get you motivated to begin a life of living within your means:

This week I challenge you to FINISH SOMETHING without making an additional purchase.

It could be a craft project, a meal or menu item, a scrapbook page, cleaning out the iktchen junk drawer/basement/garage, weeding a flower bed. Let me know what you choose, what motivated you and how it turned out.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Vacation to the "Mo$t Expen$ive Place on Earth"

We are once again planning to visit the "Most Expensive Place on earth". Disney World in June of 2011 and plan on staying on the property in the Beach Club. Now, I know that this is NOT a frugal vacation...but since we take so few vacations we choose to splurge with nice accommodations and a stay of 7 days.

We'll pay CASH for the entire thing including airfare (unless we choose to drive) so planning is paramount.

First things first:
I purchase both the Disney Pass-porter and the Unofficial Guide to Disney's well as use various websites (I love as each offer varied, detailed information, touring plans and "insider info". All accumulated info is kept in a multi-page spreadsheet, which is easy to update, color code and update for future visits.

We have stayed at both the Wilderness Lodge and the Swan on previous visits. Our DDs are age 19 and 13 for the 2011 trip so staying at an Epcot resort on the Boardwalk OR the Polynesian were my initial choices. Searching the Disney website made it a quick decision because the Polynesian was so much more expensive than the Beach Club Resort(lowest priced rooms since we spend so few hours actually in the room). I have 12 months to save the money so the total estimated amount needed is roughly calculated (I used the Resort fee, Dinsey Dining plan with one sit down meal daily, park hopper option plus $350/airfare per person to get a rough total)and I will transfer that amount to our savings account immediately on paydays and earmark it for DISNEY.

Next part of the plan will be to begin to consign un-used clothing and toys, e-bay items sitting in the basement, sell used books, albums and CDs and stockpile the extra money. I may even get my ETSY store up and running! I'll post other creative ways I sequester money for the vacation.

$pare Change

I am a firm believer that anyone can change anything about themselves if they only believe they can.
Change requires 3 things
1) Hard work
2) Stick-to-it-ness
3) Commonsense

Ready to get started down the yellow (gold) brick road to living the good life within your means?