Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Month of Savings - Day 31 -- GIVEAWAY!!

I can hardly believe that I have made it to the end of March. This month came in like a lion and is going out like one too. We are expecting 8-13 inches of rain between now and Thursday. That is on top of the 5 inches we got Saturday. Our April Showers are arriving early.

My savings tip for today is to find a cheaper way to get the things you want. Some people believe that living frugally means you must do without those little things you enjoy. For me that is magazines. I admit that I am addicted. I currently subscribe to 50+ magazines. The good news for my budget is that I pay nothing for most of them and do not pay full price for any of them. That deal you are offered in those "renew now" mailings is not really a deal. I get free magazines from deals others share on blogs such as The Thrifty Mama. I get some free from survey sites. I order discounted magazines from Publication Station or Best Deal Magazines. One of my current favorite places to get free magazines is through My Coke Rewards. Most people cannot be bothered with entering the codes, but I get a good portion of my magazine subscription through this promotion.

Now for the Giveaway

This is my first giveaway, and I am excited. The prize is a year's subscription to one magazine of your choice from the following: Better Homes & Gardens, Good Housekeeping, Ladies Home Journal, or Redbook. The contest will run through Monday, April 6. The winner will be announced on Tuesday, April 7. To enter, leave a comment with a money saving tip and either a link to your blog or your e-mail address so I can contact you. The randomly chosen winner will have 48 hours to contact me with a mailing address and choice of magazine or an alternate winner will be chosen. Good luck!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Month of Savings - Day 30

Today's money saving tip is to grow a garden. If you want to be even more budget conscientious, start your plants from seed. I am blessed to have a greenhouse where my potted plants can spend the winter and my spring seeds can get a head start. On the subject of seeds... if you do not use all of the seeds one season, do not toss them out. Put the packets in a zip top baggie and store them in your refrigerator. Most of the seeds I used this year are 1-2 seasons old. I have had good germination and sprouting on all of them. I gave myself a challenge to grow everything from seed this year that included all of my flowers.

Here are a few of my seedlings. I have tomatoes, basil, peppers, mesclun , popcorn, cucumbers, zucchini, yellow squash, and mums left from last year.

This is watermelons, herbs, tomatoes, larger lettuce plants, and lots of flowers.

I adore ferns. They are easy to grow and can be divided each year into more plants. These Japanese painted ferns started out as one plant that I bought for $6 at Lowe's last year. Now I have two plants not counting the one I can to my mom.

These are aloe plants. I started out with two pots that were long past needing to be repotted. I ended up with about 30 pots of aloe. I am hoping to sell some of these at the yard sale.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Month of Savings - Day 29

Bake Bread. I do not know about your area, but the price of bread healthy varieties or not has skyrocketed. I have a bread machine which I love, but I wanted to make more bread by hand. Since I had some money left from my yard sale savings, I decided to buy Kneadlessly Simple: Fabulous, Fuss-Free, No-Knead Breads from Amazon. It arrived Friday, and I immediately picked out a recipe to try. My first choice was the Easy Oat Bread. I mixed the dry ingredients with the wet ones in a large bowl, which went into the fridge for about 10 hours. It looked like this went it went in the fridge.

Step two was to remove the bowl from the fridge and set on the counter for 12-18 hours. I went with about 15 since it had increased in size dramatically. Here is the dough after rising. (A bad picture, but it did rise quite a bit.)

Next I gave the dough a good stir, greased two pans, sprinkled oats in the bottom of each, divided the dough in half and spread it out in the pans. I topped it off with a few more oats and covered each pan with greased/oiled plastic wrap. I left it to rise for 2 hours after which it looked like this.

I put the loaves in a pre-heated oven. My one change from the book's directions was the baking time. I only had to bake it half the time that was recommended in the book. I think it turned out very pretty.

Dh agreed that it tasted very good, and he would eat a sandwich on it. This is a huge accomplishment as he hated all of the bread machine bread recipes I had tried. It sliced wonderfully with our Rada Cutlery bread knife. I am anxious to try more recipes from the book.

I bought a 25 pound bag of bread flour and 2 pounds of yeast from Sam's on our last shopping trip. The bulk yeast is much cheaper and makes bread baking affordable. I was most pleased with the fact that there really was no kneading required, but the bread turned out great with a nice texture. Even after just one recipe, I recommend this book. The instructions are easy to follow and many call for whole wheat flour or other whole grain add ins. There is also a section with some gluten free recipes.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Month of Savings - Day 28

Say no to disposable! For over a year we have been using cloth napkins. I tried sewing some and it did not work out. Instead I bought a bunch at Walmart on clearance. We also very rarely use paper plates. I have several packs of Chinet purchased on sale, and they should last a long time. My next step is to cut back on paper towels. Dh brought home a bunch of cloth rags that were going to be thrown out. There was absolutely nothing wrong with them, but they were headed for the landfill. It is a common occurrence in our disposable society. I am working to use the rags more and less paper towels. My end goal would be to completely do away with paper towels.

Yes, it takes a few more minutes to wash a couple of plates or cups. I have a load of rags every couple of weeks. It takes a little longer to hang out the napkins than it does to toss one in the trash. The money savings might not be overwhelming. (I still wonder where those Shamwow people found anyone spending $20 a month on paper towels.) I know it does add up. Plus I am doing a little more for the environment in the process.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Month of Savings - Day 27

Make a great baby shower gift. I am not a seamstress. I am lucky to sew a sort of straight line. I saw these cute burp cloths on A Feathered Nest. I picked up a pack of cloth diapers and a yard of boy themed material. The material turned out to be enough for all 12 diapers. I did four for the baby shower I am going to tomorrow. I am pairing these with a pack of changing pads for a nice gift under $5.

I like to keep gifts on hand if possible. I have a nice supply of baby clothes. This particular mother-to-be is an avid yard sale shopper. I know from talking with her that she has more than enough baby clothes. I thought these would be a cute, but functional, gift. My plan is to make the rest of the pack of cloth diaperswith the boy themed fabric and make a dozen using girly material. I will have a good supply on hand for gifts.

Month of Savings - Days 22-26

This has been a crazy month. Between working in the yard, helping dh with his new groundskeeping duties, and general household stuff, I have barely been near the computer. I refuse to skip out on sharing 31 saving ideas though.

22. Make friends with the store staff. I was in Walgreens last week and was alerted to a clearance sale on chewing gum by one of my favorite employees. No one had gotten around to marking the price yet. I was able to stock up on the sugar-free gum dh chews. When you get good service at a store, email the company or tell the manager. Those 1-800 numbers are not just for complaints.

23. Plan ahead. Being organized is a great savings tool. I have been watching the approaching rain all week. With this is mind I washed as many clothes as possible so I could hang them out. I am only left with one load (socks) that will have to be dried. These dry quickly though. I washed jeans and towels which take much longer to dry earlier in the week.

24. Make your own laundry soap. I use the recipe provided by the Dugger family. It cleans my husband's dirty work clothes. It works great and is just as good (if not better) than the purchased soap. The best part is that is it a fraction of the price.

25. Choose a cheaper alternative to fabric softener. I was doing this before visiting the Dugger website, but it is listed on there also. I use vinegar as fabric softener. I prefer to use more natural products when possible. Vinegar makes clothes just as soft for less money spent.

26. Learn to Do It Yourself. I know not everyone is handy, but I am blessed to have a handy husband. This week he has installed a new kitchen faucet and fixed the ice maker on our refrigerator. Our old faucet was beyond repair. The parts for the ice maker cost $2.25. We will not talk about the mess behind the fridge when he pulled it out to fix the ice maker.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Month of Savings - Day 16-21

I got quite lax about posting my month of savings. I have still been saving though. Dh placed a bid for cleaning the church grounds, and it was accepted. I have been busy helping him in the mornings with that. My afternoons and evenings have been spent watching the college basketball tournament. I definitely have MARCH MADNESS!

Here are a few of my recent money saving tips all lumped together.

16. Use less! This can be trying to use less dish or laundry soap and see if you get the same results. My use less is the drink mix packs. One packet is supposed to flavor 16 ounces of water. I have been using the Crystal Light brand and found that it was a bit too strong for my liking. I use 1/3 of a packet per 2 cups of water. The flavor is just right for me. I also turned a box of 10 servings into 30 servings.

17. Combine your shopping trips. Dh had to go into town to pick up his check, a push mower, and a few other items. I needed to get some groceries and do my shopping at Walgreens and CVS. We ended up going together cutting the amount of gas we might have used in half.

18. Make a trade. I needed some pants hemmed and my mom wanted some Dianthus flowers. We had a coupon for Lowe's, and I needed a bit more to cover the coupon amount. I picked her up several pots of the flowers in exchange for hemming my pants. (*Yes, my mom would have done them for nothing, but I do not like to take advantage of her. I prefer and give and take relationship.*)

19. Get rid of ants with Dawn dish detergent. We have fire ants here. The stores are packed with expensive poisons and potions claiming to rid your of these evil villains. Truthfully they rarely work and usually cause the ants to just move their bed over a foot or so. I was told that mixing Dawn dish detergent with water and pouring it over the bed worked. It does! You need regular Dawn (not the Ultra). Fill a gallon jug almost full and then squeeze in about four or five good squirts of Dawn. The water should be blue. Shake slightly and pour over the ant beds. The ants will be gone. By gone I do not mean to the other side of your yard, but they will be gone for good! At $1 a bottle this is a cheap fix.

20. Look for extras included with a purchase. The Gillette Fusion razors were on sale at several places this month. The power version was the same price as the regular one. Dh likes the regular razor but not the power razor. Both are the same blade wise. I buy the power razor simply because it is like getting a free battery. The same goes for bonus packs of items or a free with purchase option. Get more for your money!

21. Get caught up in March Madness. I have spent less money and done less shopping the past few days, because I have been caught up in the almost non-stop games. Unfortunately that means I do not get to bed until about 2am since I have to stay up for the recap show. That might not be a real money saving tool for the rest of the world, but it works for me. I also love, love, love college basketball and had to work that in somehow.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Month of Savings - Day 15

Yard Sale Finds!

Yard sales can be great money saving shopping. Keep a list of what you are looking for and a budget in mind. Before asking a price on an item, I always have a price in my mind that I am willing to pay. I am also willing to walk away if I cannot negotiate the price to within my range.

Friday was the start of a big annual Peaches to Beaches yard sale in my area. I save my money up each year in anticipation of finding a few good buys. I was a little disappointed in the turnout of sellers this year. I might have bought more but did not find what I was searching for this year. I also keep my eye out for any hidden treasures. Here are the items that I did find.
All of these items were hidden treasures. First is the divided tray with a removable dip bowl in the center. It was in good condition and was only $1. Next in back is the Brita water pitcher. Dh actually found this one, which was new in the box. He negotiated the price to $3. Finally is the Salad Shooter. I had one that I purchased at the Salvation Army years ago, but the battery died. This one is electric and had the original paperwork. It looks barely used and was also $3.

Normally I get a bunch more books than this. I know that borrowing books from the library would be more frugal, but I love books. My library also does not have many of the authors that I enjoy reading. I also picked up the DVD for $2 to add to our collection. Most sellers were asking $8-$10 for their used DVDs. Ouch! The hardback books were from a church sale. The asking price was 20 cents each, but I gave them more money since it was going toward their new social hall.

This cross-stitch pattern book was on 50 cents! It has lots of fun ideas. I especially liked the cross-stitched socks with a little design on the cuff. I never thought of doing this, but I plan to give it a try very soon.

I saw this purse two years ago at a gift shop for close to $30 if my memory is correct. I thought it was so unusual, but it was definitely out of my price range. I am thinking the gift shop went out of business as this was among several in a person's yard. I could not resist. This was my most expensive purchase at $10.

Dh and I had a fun day even if we did not buy much. My friend, Terri, of PennyAnnPoundwise started at the opposite end of the yard sale route. We did not meet along the way as I gave up long before I got to her area. Check her blog to see what treasures she found.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Month of Savings - Day 14

I hope you all will be patient for another day for my yard sale treasures. I have not gotten around to taking pictures of everything yet.

As a substitute savings idea for today, use what you have! This applies to most areas of my life. I try to use the craft supplies I have before buying more. I look in my closet before heading out to buy clothes. I am especially trying to use what I have in the pantry and freezer.

Tonight's meal was chicken enchiladas, Spanish rice, and peach crisp. I did buy some tortillas for dh to make quesadillas with and used some of those for this meal. The chicken, soup, green chilies, and cheese were all items I had on hand. For the Spanish rice I used onion, bell pepper (freezer), brown rice, ketchup (substituted for tomato paste), and some spices. The peach crisp was a way to use up three peaches getting mushy in the fridge. I also used some granola cereal that was not quite enough for a bowl full.

From time to time it is good to do a pantry/freezer challenge. My goal is to omit a big shop for this month. I am only buying fresh items or things that are too good of a sale to pass up. Stockpiling is silly if you let things go bad before using them.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Month of Savings - Day 13

Whew! Dh and I are home from a long day of visiting yard sales. I will share my finds tomorrow. We got a late start thanks to the 6(!) overtimes it took to end the Syracuse/Connecticut game. After sleeping in a bit, we hit the road. My money saving tip is to stock up on snacks and drinks from home. We put several drinks in a small cooler as well as packing a bag full of snacks. When we stopped to get gas this morning, there was no temptation to pick up a few things. The prices at convenience stores make me shudder.

The drinks were from the Pepsi deal at the first of February. The snacks were from coupon use at the grocery store as well as a few single serve bags from the dollar store. Dh and I cannot agree on what chips to get. We had several things leftover and those will either be at home snacks or get put in dh's lunch.

We did stop and eat lunch. That was our only food purchase for the day so we felt we could treat ourselves!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Month of Savings - Day 12

I suppose the topic of this post would be saving so you can give. I have had a few people think that living on a budget or below ones means equals being stingy and not giving back. By shopping smart dh and I can actually afford to give more. One example is with the Operation Christmas Child (OCC) boxes. We stock up on toothpaste, toothbrushes, and those great Johnson's Buddies soap throughout the year to include in shoe boxes.

Today's find for shoe boxes was 10 cent knit gloves and hats at Dollar General. These are perfect additions for a shoebox. Another thing I look for is the summer toy markdowns. Last year I included inflatable beach balls. It was a simple way to send a big ball and make it fit in a shoebox. Shop throughout the year to keep your giving in your budget and be able to give more. If I have an overflow of CVS extra bucks and need to pick up something, I check the $1 section for things to include in a shoebox such as socks or a solar calculator. School supply items are always, always, always purchased at the back to school sales. I look for small stuffed animals after Christmas, Valentine's, or Easter.

Last year my pastor asked what it cost to put together a shoebox. I told him that I usually had less than $5 in each box (not counting shipping). I keep Operation Christmas Child in my mind throughout the year to be able to fill a box cheaply. If you fill OCC boxes, keep an eye out for bargains over the coming months so you do not have to pay full price for items in December.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Month of Savings - Day 11

I will be the first to admit that most of my money saving ideas take time. As a housewife I have time. Since quitting my job about 7 years ago, I quickly learned that time was much better than money. I had a salaried job and my 8 hour days were usually more like 10-14 hour days. I had the same amount of money but gradually less and less time. I was shocked to notice that when I went back to my old workplace three people were doing the jobs that I was expected to do on my own. After I got over the initial shock of have a smaller income amount to work with I loved the time more than I ever loved the money.

A few of the things that take time but give me rewards are surveys, and point sites. Some of the survey sites (Harris Poll and E-Rewards) give points toward rewards. Others such as Survey Spot pay with checks. I also like My Points and get the majority of my points from reading emails with only a few coming from shopping. Recently I have been doing search sites include Swagbucks and Live Search.

The rewards from sites such as this usually are things that might come from an entertainment budget. I get music downloads or gift cards for movies or restaurants. The time it takes me is minimal compared to the reward. Good use of time is an important tool for saving money.

Month of Savings - Day 10

Ah computer issues! A day late but here it is. We love French fries. Unfortunately with dh's health issues and my family history the fry part of French fries is not good. Bought on sale potatoes are a good bargain. I tried to do baked fries but they always turned out mushy. I wanted that crunch. Here is my Baked French Fry recipe.

Scrub clean as many potatoes as you need. I do not peel the potatoes. I just slice them up to the size we like. Put the potato strips in a bowl and sprinkle with a good bit of salt. Cover with water and soak for at least 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Drain, rinse, and pat dry the potatoes. Put back in bowl and cover with olive oil. Toss. Sprinkle with whatever seasonings you like. I do not add salt since the potatoes soaked up some plus we are trying to cut back on that. I use black pepper, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper. Spread out in an even layer on one (or two depending on how many potatoes you have) baking sheet. Give them a good stir every ten minutes and bake for about 30 minutes. They should be crisp and practically as good as fried.

Lately we have been been pairing these potatoes with SeaPak shrimp bought on sale for 32 cents and slaw made from the cabbages in our garden. That makes for a good but cheap meal for the two of us!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Month of Savings - Day 9

We do eat out from time to time. I usually try to find a coupon to use. Otherwise I sit through most of the meal calculating how much I could have saved by making it at home. One of our favorite local pizza restaurants accepts Restaurant.com certificates. The regular price of $3 for a $10 gift certificate is a good bargain. I wait until I can get a discount code though. You print the certificates immediately, and they are good for one year. Currently you can purchase a gift certificate for half price with the code CHEF at Restaurant.com. Check the requirements for the redemption of the certificate and then enjoy your meal.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Month of Savings - Day 8

I love coffee. Most days I drink one or two cups. Other days I may want three or four. I drink organic, fair trade coffee made from green beans I roast myself. I get my beans from U-Roast-Em. Now I did not go out and buy a fancy coffee roaster. I use a popcorn popper purchased from Walgreens. The catch is that the popper must have a solid bottom. If it has one of the mesh ones, the chaff from the beans will fall down in it and catch the popper on fire. I do not know this from personal experience. Reading about it was more than enough. The cost of the green, organic, fair trade beans is slightly more than your average supermarket coffee, but it is so very good. I also like knowing that the beans are fair trade. I hate to think of someone working in horrid conditions so I can have my caffeine fix.

My first money savings tip is that you can have luxury items on a budget. I consider roasting my own coffee a luxury. It sounds even more decadent than buying coffee at a coffee shop. I ordered a small pack of several different kinds to try so I would know what I liked best. My top three beans are Mexican, Guatamalen, and Nicaraguan. Once I knew what I liked I could order in bulk and save even more.

On the days when I drink the first two cups and decide I want a little more, I do not throw out the grounds from the first batch. Instead I add in only half of the grounds for a second batch on top of the old grounds. So if I used two Tablespoons for the first pot, I would add one Tablespoon on top of the previous grounds for pot number two. Make sense? You are not losing any flavor. The second pot will still taste just as good, but you have cut the cost in half. Try it for yourself!

Month of Savings - Day 7

This is a bit late, but I did not want to skip day seven. My reason - I was a little under the weather. The savings part of that was I had some over the counter medicines in my pantry. Now I was not sick when they were purchased on sale at CVS, Rite Aid or maybe Walgreens. I knew that the odds were excellent either I or someone I knew would get sick.

Yesterday it was much nicer to go to the pantry in my PJ's and pull out some medicine rather than get dressed and drive the 20 minutes into town. I also try to keep the pantry stocked with some "I don't feel well foods" such as soup, Gatorade, and crackers.

My stocking up had a double good effect as DH came home with a cold sore last night. I had a package of the Oral B overnight cold sore patches. He was able to wake up feeling a little better without having to wait until we could buy something for it.

I try to only buy items that I know I will use or can giveaway to someone. Stocking up on children's cough syrup would be silly since we have no children in the house. A good medicine or sick foods stockpile can be a sanity saver when you are not feeling your best. It makes good money sense to stock up when items are on sale before you need them rather than paying full price when you run out to the first store that is open regardless of the price.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Month of Savings - Day 6

Today was a no spend day for me. One of the best ways to save money is simply not spend it. I do not know how many of these I have each month. That would be something good to keep up with one month. Most of them are not intentional. I am perfectly happy spending an entire day at home doing no shopping at all.

Aside from budgeted expenses, most spending is truly extra and a bit frivolous. I am not against having a little fun when it is within the budget. Some days it is nice to not spend. I do have plenty of stuff so a the no spending days only help my family's budget.

Do you keep up with your no spending days each month? If not, try setting a goal to see how many days you can have with no spending.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Month of Savings - Day 5

Increasing savings does not mean you need to increase your earnings. I focus on trying to living within or below our means. One area of the budget I try to keep under control is our electric bill. We do use CFLs in the rooms we spend the most of the time in. I shut my computer down at night.

A big money saver at my house is very (very) rarely using the dryer. I hang out all of my laundry outside if possible. Some days that means I forego doing a load if the weather is rainy. I do plan in advance so I am not behind on laundry during those days. Good clothes often get hung on a drying rack inside. Some nights I will hang clothes by the wood heater before I go to bed. I wake to dry clothes. Yes, it takes a little longer than throwing everything into my dryer but not much. I actually enjoy that chore and especially enjoy not having a higher than necessary electric bill.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Month of Savings - Day 4

I often joke that I am able to be a housewife because I use coupons. That is actually a semi-joke. It is not the only reason I am able to stay at home, but it is a serious contributing factor. Using coupons is a good way to stretch your budget if used correctly.

My first personal rule is to use coupons honestly. I do not think it is worth the guilt to my conscience to get a deal dishonetly. I find too many good honest deals to go after one that is not.

My second personal rule is that I do not buy something simply because I have a coupon. If it is something I know I will buy anyway (example: Dh's allergy medicine), I will try to combine the coupon with a sale to get the best deal. Otherwise I only use the coupon if I am getting the product free or nearly free.

Organization is the key for effective coupon use. I prepare my shopping lists prior to going to the stores. I clip all my coupons for each store together. On my list I make a note of the coupon to use with each item. I will refer to the coupon while I am shopping to make certain it is applicable for the item I am purchasing. The preparation takes a good bit of time so I want to cut my shopping time down as much as possible.

Here is what I purchased on a recent Wal-Mart shopping trip.
I got a 2 Ltr Diet Dr Pepper, three packs of Quaker rice snacks, large can of Planters nuts, three packs SeaPak shrimp, Jello rice pudding, and two packs of Schick razors. I got all of this for $1.92 with coupons.
Today I saved just over half of my food bill by shopping with coupons. I do stock up on items that my family uses. I have a bigger stockpile of non-food items than I do of food items. It is nice to be able to put together a gift basket or help someone out simply by shopping in my pantry. Coupon use allows me to do this.

I think with the current economic times that coupons are "in". Hopefully the sterotype that only "poor" people use coupons will fade away or at least diminish. Coupons are just good money sense.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Month of Savings - Day 3

One of the best ways I found for increasing my savings was to decrease my debt. In the case of my family we were able to eliminate it and plan to stay out of debt. We followed Dave Ramsey's Babystep Plan. One thing that really shocked us into being committed to living debt free was to total up the interest we were paying each month. That was basically money out of the window, and it was a bit sickening.

We looked for ways to cut our spending. We each have an allowance of money that is spent on whatever. This gave us the freedom to give in to our wants without having to feel guilty. Any extra money went toward the debts. It was so great to knock them off one by one. When we were finally debt free, it was exhilarating. That was better than the purchase of any "thing" could ever have been.

Since we are committed to being debt free, we did not put that extra money into the spending category. We have a vehicle account where we make payments to ourselves. Instead of paying interest we are earning it! When the time comes to purchase another vehicle, we hope to be able to pay cash. I always thought that only rich people paid for vehicles with cash, but we are going to do just that. If we cannot afford to pay for something, we do not buy it. That seems odd in our instant gratification society, but I have never been one to follow the crowd.

Want to watch the Dave Ramsey show? It comes on the Fox Business Channel nightly. I love that his advice is simple to follow and down to earth.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Month of Savings - Day 2

My slow quiet day at home turned into a busy day of being gone. Don't you love it when than happens? It does however bring me to another way of saving money - Freezer Cooking! Now I imagine that many people are imagining yucky casseroles or boring frozen meals. We are having Brunswick Stew tonight. I took this out of the freezer this morning. It simply needs reheating. While I am doing that I will make some grilled cheese and we will have a nice, quick, cheap meal. Another option would have been a pizza that I made for the freezer.

Homemade frozen meals can be a budget saver on the days when life is too hectic to cook and you do not want to resort to the drive through. One of my favorite sites for freezer cooking information is 30 Day Gourmet. It offers bunches of free recipes for freezer meals that even my picky DH enjoys. Here is a link to the archived issues of the free newsletter. This goes way beyond casseroles.

Also consider making mealtime a bit easier. If you do not want to freeze the entire meal, cook and freeze parts of it. We eat brown rice, which takes 40 minutes to cook. That 40 minutes is for two servings or the entire bag. I good the whole bag at once, saving energy I might have used to cook four separate times. I package it in meal sized portions and pop it into the freezer. When I need brown rice, I simply thaw and serve. I have done this with pasta by simply undercooking it before freezing so it does not turn to mush when reheated.

Did you have a little leftover taco meat? Freeze it! I mix the leftovers which are not enough for a meal on their own with some black beans (also homecooked and frozen) to make beef and bean chimichangas. This keeps food waste to a minimum.

If you are making a meal your family enjoys, just double the recipe and freeze the second half. Do a test run of any new meals. You do not want 10 meals worth of chicken Parmesan only to discover that your family hates it. As much as possible I use freezer containers rather than freezer bags cutting out a bit more cost. I prefer making my own frozen meals. I know exactly what ingredients when into the dish, and I can control the amount of salt.

Say "NO" to fast food once a week and serve your own homemade fast food!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Month of Savings - Day 1

In order to encourage myself to do better with blogging this month, I am doing a month of savings. I am going to share 31 money smart ideas. Some most people already do, but I hope to come up with a few creative ideas.

When giving a gift consider if your recipient would be happy with a used or refurbished gift especially with dvds, video games, or electronics. This might be a bit drastic for some, but in my family it goes over well. I do ask in advance. For example I drew my cousin's dh's name for Christmas, and he wanted DVDs. I told him I could get him one new one or four used ones. He opted for four previously viewed ones. My teenage cousin wanted an MP3 player one year. I got him a refurbished iPod for less than a plain MP3 player. He was thrilled to have an iPod. Only the package gave away that it was refurbished. A couple of Christmases later he upgraded to a bigger iPod and picked out another refurbished one as he could get more for his money that way. My niece and nephew both got refurbished MP3 players for Christmas. As posted earlier my Dh got 3 used video games and a used dvd. I could have purchased one of the video games new and have more in it than the four items he got. I also know that it will take him about a week to "beat" each game and he will be done with them.

Buying this way has allowed me to give more without blowing my budget. Shop around to get the best deal. Apple has a section for refurbished products. See it under "Special Deals" toward the bottom lefthand side of the page. Amazon and Ebay are also great places to find used DVDs and video games. I know this is not for everyone as many people would be insulted by a "used" gift. Choose your recipients well, and this could be a money saving idea that works for you.

Birthday Party

I do not have all of my receipts handy, but I did spend all of my $200 grocery budget for February. The last of it went to DH's birthday dinner which was last night. I took a bit of money out of entertainment to cover the rest of the meal. I fed 8 adults and two children in our teeny, tiny house. My MIL provided the ham, and I spent about $25 on the rest. The rest of the meal included:

potato salad (potatoes bought on sale about 2 weeks ago)
salad (on sale last week)
macaroni & cheese (cheese on sale last week)
butterbeans (from freezer)
squash (from freezer)
homemade rolls
chocolate mousse
angel food cake with fresh strawberries and real whipped cream

I would have done the ham since that was on sale last week also, but my MIL insisted. Dh took the leftover ham to work and a coworker bought bread. They all had lunch. My parents ate leftovers with me after church. I am cooking some chicken to go with the remainders of the leftovers for tonight's meal. Whew! We ended up feeding quite a bit of people. That was much better than the cost of a meal out for all of us last night.

Dh's gifts from me were all used video games from his wish list along with a used James Bond movie. The first thing he asked was did I pay more for the games than he would have. Of course, I told him no which was the truth. It is nice to have a frugal minded (most of the time) husband!