Thursday, October 30, 2008

Fall is here!

Stop and look around. The tree's are yellow, orange and red. If you listen quietly you can hear the leaves scurry accorss the street, or geese flying in formation to the south. When I think of fall, I think of cocoa, soup, and warm home style meals. I love fall.
I try to make food that is going to be warm in my girls tummies and something they are going to look foward to eating. So I ask them every fall what they want me to make for them. Its usually a few items every year that pop into their minds. All is made with whole wheat noodles, or flour.

1. Macaroni and Cheese-whole wheat noodles with homemade cheese sauce. Sprinkle cheese on top and put under broiler until cheese crisp up.

2. Soups -of any kind. Usually chicken noodle is first kind they want. Pea soup, potatoe soup, vegetable soup, white beans with pork shank, etc. I try to use left over meat from the following day with sale produce and work with that.

3. Muffins-simple muffins with cereal is a favorite. Small chocolate chips(very small amount), scrambled eggs and bacon, oatmeal, granola, dried fruit, frozen fruit, nuts, etc. Endless possibilities. Last nights request was whole wheat muffins with chocolate chips and flax seed.

4. One pot meals. Cassaroles are a favorite. 1 lb of whole wheat noodles, meat of choice, and a vegies that goes well. Served with bread and butter and fruit.

5. Cocoa-especially on super cold days. I make my own cocoa with powdered milk. I cut down on the sugar and sometimes use cinnamon for mexican cocoa.

6. Tea-warm tea with a tid bit of milk is also a favorite for my girls. Caffine free of couse. They just love tea. Took a while for my girls to like tea. They first drank fruity kinds but now like just regular tea now.

7. Breakfast for dinner. Pancakes, or french toast. Served usually with eggs and sometimes bacon. If no bacon, they they eat fruit with it. I will give you the recipe soon. Anytime I make these, I throw in some flax seed.

8. Warm rice cereal. Anytime I make brown rice for dinner, I usually make extra and set aside 2 cups for my girls the following morning. Take 1 cup of rice with a tiny tab of butter and microwave for about 1 minute to get really hot. The butter breaks the rice into individual pieces and add's a yummy flavor. I add 1 tsp sugar and a sprinkle of cinnamon. Add milk right on top until it covers the rice. Mix well and eat. The milk will cool down the rice and make it warm. I had this as a child, and my girls too. Maybe some day they will give this to their children.

9. Popcorn-I have a old fashion popcorn maker that I bought for only $1.50 at a garage sale. You know the kind you put 1 scoop of corn kernals, and that same scoop you put butter in on top and it melts as the corn pops? I make a big bowl of it and we sit down usually 2 nights a week and watch movies that ive recorded on our dvr. Kids channels have at least 3 movies a week each week so I dvr the ones they will like. My kids will get pillows and blankets while im making the pop corn. Super healthy and wonderful family time.

10. Fireplace. We have a gas one that we rarely use. Instead of using it, we usually will put on a sweatshirt, socks and hang out with blankets on the couch together. We keep our thermistat at 65 during the day and 60 at night. All beds have flannel sheets, 1 blanket and a comforter so were all warm. And when its cold outside and were watching our movie, we put on the fireplace. Its just fun to sit in front of it and get warm. Hopefully we get a house with a real fireplace soon.

Okay so here are some idea's for you for this fall. Try them out and spend some time with the family. Its these memories that your children will remember and carry on in their future familes.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Beans Beans the magical fruit

A good budget friendly food is beans. Any kind of beans that are dried are usually cheap. You can get 1 lb of beans for $1-$2 per pound. Sometimes less if you buy bigger quanities. There are some basic steps for making them.
1. Soak for a few hours(I do this during the day)
2. Before bedtime rinse beans
3. Put in crock pot
4. Add water till covers the beans
5. Add salt and spices to your preferance
6. Turn on low
7. Cook all night
8. In the morning(when I take kids to bus stop) turn off
9. Let cool till room temp
10. Put 2 cups of beans per freezer bag
11. Put in freezer

I do this to lots of differant beans for a few days that way I get it out of the way and have lots of beans to choose from whenever I want. Since I use only 1/2 lb of meat per meal, I throw in 2 cups of beans to add protein to our meals.
Here is an example of how much you could save

$1.69 1lb of dried black beans
Each pound makes about 10 cups
Thats about 17 cents per cup. Making it 34 cents (most cans have about 2 cups per can)
Average cost of canned beans is 79-$1 per can.
5 cans of beans for the same amount of buying 2 cans. I think I will make my own.

Not only is this a budget friendly meal, you dont have any extra added preservatives and what not. You can add no salt or spices so it will be no sodium.

Idea's for use
2.Black Bean soup
3. White bean and ham soup
4. add to any meal for protein
5. Mash and make refried beans

When I let mine cook all night, I get up early to get my girls off to school. Today I cooked white beans so I used them and added cut up ham lunch meat for them to take to school and eat. They just love bean and ham soup. Throw in some crackers and you have a great lunch. Since its fall now, they love warm food at lunch time. Super hot in the morning but cools just enough for them to eat at lunch time. This is why I cook them at night time. You certianly could cook them during the day and use them for dinner time. Its just easier for me because my husband dislikes the smell of beans.

Budget Friendly Knitting

Have you heard of the knifty knitter? Its worth every penny. Usually cost around $14.99 but you can find it on sale at Michaels for around $10 during the fall and winter. Or you can use your 40% off coupon when its not on sale. It comes with 3 rings, instructions and a knitting tool. You can make hats, scarfs, pillows, and even blankets. There are also lots of idea's on the internet so just research and the possibilities are endless.

Hats are my favorite. I let my girls pick their own colors and make them hats every year. I add pom poms for my little ones. They just love them. They watch me make them and are so excited when they are finally done. Each hat maybe takes a hour to make so they are super fast.

The reason I say its budget friendly is because you can get around spending very much money to make hats. This yarn in the picture is wool Lion Brand Yarn that I picked up when I worked for Michaels. Its been laying around forever so it was no money out of pocket this year. Plus I worked at Michaels for 10 yrs so I probably picked it up for super cheap. Wool isnt the favorite yarn for most. It isnt the softest but we love it and it doesnt bother us. Plus you can felt with this yarn.

Here's the budget part of it. You can pick up random yarns at thrift stores anytime of the year. And its usually super cheap. I saw some last week for only 40 cents per roll. Super cheap! The knifty knitter needs medium weight yard to make hats. But if your in a pinch and only have thin yarn, then double it up. As you can see from my pic, I used 2 yarns at once. You can use any yarn too. Not just wool. If you use cotton yarn, I would reccomend also using a polyester yarn with it so its stretchy. Cotton tends to be very tight to work with. Its great for hot pads, washclothes and things like that. Cotton is really good for baby hats because its soft.

If you dont have a knifty knitter, borrow one from a friend. You can find them anywhere. Walmart has them, Micheals, and many more places. Worth every penny.

This picture is one of my twins. I still need to add the pom pom to the top. I am working on the other hat for my other twin and I wanted to make sure I had enough yarn for her hat before I made the pom poms.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Simple Ways to cut down your grocery bill

A lot of people ask me how I save money like I do without the time to do it. Here are a few simple things I do on a regular basis.

1. Shop early in the morning. This way you will find markdowns and get sale items. You wait to long and they will sell out and you will have to get a rain check. Dairy and meat will almost always have mark downs.

2. Buy seasonal-I work my meals around these items. Potatoes are super cheap so we've been eating a lot of them. Apples are in season so the girls eat a lot of those for snacks. This alone will save you a lot of money. Chicken seems to be on sale a lot too so stock up on it. Just buy as much as possible, take home, pull the skin off, put in freezer bags and in the freezer. Buy now when its cheap and eat later.

3. Produce-Apples are on sale for pretty cheap right now so when you buy them, pick the smaller ones. You wont know the difference when you eat it, plus your paying less because they weigh less.

4. Clean out your fridge before you shop. No reason to buy something you already have or go to use something and find out its expired. Its a good excuse to clean your fridge too.

5. Buy dried or dehydrated things. They will not expire and you use them when you need them. I always have powdered milk for when I bake or cook. That way I can use fresh milk for my girls to drink or in our coffee. This is a great option for people who don't like to drink milk but need it for cooking. This way they don't throw out milk from expiring. Saves a bundle. I even use it instead of fresh milk when were broke. Once its cold , you cannot tell the difference between it and the fresh. If you can find a large box for under $10 grab it. Ive seen it as high as $18 for the same size. So if you can afford it, grab it. You can easily get 5 gallons out of it. That's only $2 per gallon.

6. Produce-don't buy too much at one time. I buy just enough for the week. Enough for my girls lunch's for school and enough for snacks for the rest of us. This way your not throwing out fruit that you couldn't eat fast enough and wasting money. I buy whats on sale and in season each week.

7. Try too cook with what you have. Look at your pantry and think outside the box. Ive came up with some creative dinners this way. Only have a half a pound of meat and some noodles? Make Burger Helper. Just brown meat up in a pan, add noodles, add water till it covers noodles, and cook until noodles are done. Once done, add a couple spoons of sour cream(or half % half, or plain milk) and spices of your choice. Done! Kinda like hamburger helper but healthy. Ask friends and family for idea's. My neighbor and I always tell each other what were cooking so we can get inspired off each other.

8. Rethink things. Do I really need this? Am I going to suffer later when I don't have enough money for something when I should of not bought that item earlier in the month? Most the time I don't need the item. Just would be nice to have it. So rethink things.

9. Coupons-only use them if they are on a item that you must have or can get it for almost free. This is how the companies get you to buy their stuff. They give out coupons and we go buy them because of the coupon. Most coupons are for unhealthy foods. Now days more and more organic companies are offering coupons which is great.  Since I cook everything from scratch, I rarely ever use a coupon. 
10. Buy in bulk when you can. Some stores are more expensive this way but discount wholesale stores are cheaper. Winco for example is the best place around here. Your not paying for packaging and you buy as much as you want or as little as you want. Good place to get baking items and dried fruit. Anytime we travel I buy dried fruit. . Plus whatever we don't eat while traveling,I can use later for baking muffins and what not. When you buy in bulk it also means less packaging. Bring your own and remember to weigh it before you add food in it.  Many stores will allow you but make sure to ask before you do it. 

11. Shop discount stores. Our local discount store is Grocery Outlet. They are pretty cheap anyways but when they mark down stuff, its super cheap. I get all our snacks from them. Crackers, granola bars, etc. They are usually $1 or less a package. When big time shopping, I will go there first. I don't know how many times Ive shopped there after the big store and found things I just bought for 3 times the amount. And I'm so anal that I will buy them again and return the others. So now I just shop there first and save myself frustration, gas and money.

12. Don't always stick to a list. Like I said before, I cook around seasons. Summertime its lots of salads, fall its lots of apples, winter its squash. You get the idea. Cook around the seasons instead of buying that crab that you had to have and spend a pretty penny for. Eat crab when its in season. Or buy a ton of it and freeze it for when you will crave it later. You will save yourself a ton of money this way.

13. Can or freeze. When it comes to produce, I will buy a ton of it when its super cheap and bring it home to freeze. Red bell peppers were 4/$1. I bought a bunch and brought them home. I rinsed them, cut them into strips, put them on a cookie sheet and put them in the freezer. Once frozen I pull them out and put them in a freezer bag. Done. You have ready to cook bell peppers for up to 3 months. I do this will all our berries, beans, meat, produce, and baked goods. My freezer is always full. Saves me money down the line. This month again is tight but I'm using up the chicken that I got on sale for 99 cents per pound and will be good until the end of the month.

14. Bake-instead of buying baked items like muffins, cake and etc. Make it. You can control how much sugar goes into it and make it healthier.

15. Fresh or frozen is best. Don't buy premade or packaged meals. You will waste your money and usually its not healthy at all. I don't trust companies anymore, they will put in lots of preservatives, anti cake who know whats, and are usually stuffed with fat and sodium. I feel much better about making all our food. Sometimes it takes longer but its worth it.

16. Crock pot-I could go on forever about the pros of cooking with a crock pot. Just know that if you don't have one, invest in one or find one at a thrift store or get from someone getting rid of theirs. I cook all soups this way, and our beans. Uses less energy, and you can throw food in and forget about it until dinner time. Worth every penny to buy one. I soak dried beans, and cook them in a crock pot for up to 6 hours. Once done I separate into freezer bags (2 cups per bag) and we use beans a lot with our meals. I use only 1/2 lb of meat per meal with 2 cups of beans to make our meat bill smaller. Meat is expensive when your cooking for 6. And beans have lots of protein so we sub with them. We eat a lot of Mexican dish's so it works for us. And I usually have enough beans to add ham to. My girls love ham and bean soup so I make enough extra for their school lunch's. Same with black bean soup. Endless idea's. So buy one!

17. Stop buying soda or anything unhealthy. We drink RBST free milk, water and lemonaid which we make (1 cup organic sugar, 1 cup lemon juice and fill with water).  I sometimes buy seasonal drinks for the girls.  Currently we are drinking organic apple cider which I found on sale for half price.  Otherwise its usually water or milk. 

18. Stop buying fancy coffee. I admit that I still do drink them but not nearly as often as I used to. Only if I have the extra money (which isn't often). There are ways of getting a fancy coffee for free. You know those punch cards they have? Buy 6 drinks get 1 free? Tulley's has this card and I found a way of saving me a bundle. Whenever we shop at Fred Meyers (Tulley's is in it) I get a child's cocoa for the girls if they are good. They are only$1 and the workers will split it into 2 cups for my twins. It will take me a month or two to fill the card because we only go every once in a while.  Once I get 6 punches, I will then save the card for when I'm broke. When I don't have any money at all and were in the store, I will pull my card out and I get $5 credit towards any drink I want. Espresso Shake here I come. FREE! Its worth it to me. My girls don't always get cocoa so it varies how long it takes for me to fill my card.

So I hope this helps you save some money. its small little things but if you try them all, you will start to see the savings.

Monday, October 13, 2008

A Thrifty 30 day challenge

Has it been hard to find ways to buy everything your kids need? Do you have to budget in just about everything? This month im giving you a challenge. How about instead of budgeting in things you need, try to find it at a thrift store or yard sale? You would be suprised what goodies are at them. I know of alot of people who are afraid of used things, or just even shopping in these places. I promise nothing is going to happen if you buy something used. Iven been wearing, using and shopping in these places since I was born. There is nothing to be afraid of. My earliest memories are digging in out of the way thrift stores looking for cool finds. And let me just say that the thrift stores these days are WAY better and cleaner than back then.
Let me give you an example. Ive always had a facination with Tupperware since I was little. I just love the stuff. I dont like the newer kinds (not big on pastels or primary colors). I like the old retro kinds. And the only place you can find them is in thrift stores and yard sales. Ive recently started activily looking for it so I can replace my old #1 plastic containers. You know, the kinds you get your lunch meat in, or you can even just buy them by themselves. #1 plastic holds odors and bacteria. I would like to have all safe plastic for my family to use. Old Tupperware is perfect. Plus you get them for super cheap in the thrift stores. Once a week I hit up my 2 favorite thrift stores for Tupperware and finds. Here is what I found last time

1 Tupperware cup 10 cents
2 Halloween outfits $2.00-im saving money, saving it from the landfields, and my kids are having fun coming up with a cool halloween outfit.
2 pairs Adidas soccer shoe's $1-larger size for next year. Will save me $20 next year. I washed them and let them air dry.
3 pairs of kids play shoe's $3.00-I just paid $20 for two pairs of new shoes for my girls. UURR! If I just waited I could of saved a bundle. They can use these for play and the others for family events.
4 books-$1. This is the best way to buy books. If my 3 yr olds tear pages or write in them, im only out 25 cents each.

So try this for a month and see how much you will save. Need another ice tray? They have tons. Looking for play clothes, yep they have it. Plus you can donate anything you dont want at the same time. Two goals with one stone. Try this and I promise you will be inspired. And even better, support your local centers. All profits from my two favorite stores go to the senior center and womens center.
These days we need to save as much money as we can. Why not inspire our children to recycle and support our local charity?

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Homemade Laundry detergent for 1 penny per load and dishwashing detergent

2 of my daughters are allergic to all dyes and perfumes and both have eczema. I have had to learn this on my own due to doctors not knowing exactly what was causing the eczema. Trial and error and lots of help from other moms going through the same thing.

I have had to research and learn how to make laundry detergent. They are pretty expensive in the stores. Just for laundry soap alone its $8.99-$13.99 for one bottle of the soap. Yes they are plant based but this doesn't concern me because I just need perfume and dye free soap. Here is my recipe for laundry soap that I use everyday and has made a huge impact on my daughters eczema. Theirs has almost completely disappeared.

Did the math and this soap is 1 penny per load. So would you like to pay $8.99 for 32 loads?
Or 32 cents?

Homemade Laundry Soap

Things you will need:
5 gallon bucket with secure lid(can buy for around $5 Walmart or paint supplies or use old large container of dry laundry soap.
1 bar of soap (I use plant based) use 1/3 bar with any non natural soap bar
1/2 cup Washing Soda (found at Winco) Removes dirt and odors
1/2 cup of Borax (found at Winco, Albertsons, Walmart) whitener deodorizer
few drops of natural oils. (lavender is my favorite but use tea tree oil to get stains out better)

Grate your bar of soap and put in a medium sauce pan. Add 6 cups of water and stir with whisk on medium heat until soap is completely dissolved. Turn off heat. Add borax and washing soda and stir well. Pour 4 cups of hot water into your bucket and add your hot mixture into it while whisking. Next add 1 gallon and 6 cups of  warm water into bucket and continue to stir. It will gel up almost immediately. Use 1/2 cup per load for regular washers and 1/4 cup for energy efficient washers.

Once in a while you will need to remix the soap, it will thicken up and water will go to bottom so just remember to stir once in a while. This soap even gets out pee oders from animals and children. My 3 yr old twins are almost done with potty training and this gets out all accidents with no left over smells.
I do 2+ loads a day washing clothing for my 6 person family. Been using this for over a year now and find it works better than any other soap Ive used in the past.
PLEASE keep out of reach from children. Only use containers with a secure lid so children cannot get into it. Keep it locked up or out of reach from children.

Disclaimer: This is a recipe that Ive used for a year now with my energy efficient washer and have has no issues with anything. I am not responsible for anything that happens to your washer or clothes. I would test this before using it on your clothing. Again Ive yet to encounter anything at all going wrong with this soap. Use at your own risk. Please call poison control if eaten or gets into eyes.

Soap bars-I usually use Trader Joe soaps because they are natural and only cost $1.49 for two. Oatmeal is a favorite because its a natural laundry softener and you don't have to use dryer sheets. I use tea tree oil bars for hard to get stains out. Its a natural oil used for years for many things and this is one way. Try not to buy soaps with chunks. Oatmeal bars, and lavender bars usually have the chunks in it. Trader Joe's has no chunks so I recommend them. If you don't need natural soaps and like the scent of your favorite body bar of soap, you can use this as well but you need to know it will sud up more. So use 1/3 the bar.

WARNING Flameless Candle or any Plug Type Room Freshener Owners with Children

To the parents who have children  and own a flameless  Candle (don't want to be sued but its a name brand and you can buy them anywhere)

Two of my daughters have eczema and are allergic all dyes and perfumes. Ive found ways around this by making my own soap, and only using plant based products. I thought it was only for things "touching" their skin. They didn't ever have any breathing problems or anything like that, it was just their eczema would act up. So last week I bought a flameless Candle and put it in their room. They are still some what potty training and I wanted to freshen up their room and this was perfect. They wouldn't even know it was there, and I didn't have to plug it in. I put it in their room when they were not in there and put it on a super high shelf so they couldn't reach it. Battery operated so it was perfect.

Then the nose bleeds would start. Just about every night or nap one of my twins would get a nose bleed. The twin with allergies and eczema. My other twin hasn't had any issues(she has no allergies or eczema) or nose bleeds. Every night this week, a nose bleed. So last night I was trying to figure out what was different that we were doing that would cause this. The candle was the only thing. So I took the candle out of their room and guess what happened? No nose bleed!

So I looked up this company on the computer to find out the warnings and such of this product. No warnings of anything about the oils, if you need to keep doors open, etc. Couldn't even find out what kind of oils are in it. So I emailed them telling them my story. Within 10 minutes I received a phone call from them. I gave them my info, they switched to their health people and I talked to them. He said that its synthetic perfumes, not natural oils they use. I told them that they should state this on their packaging. After all was said and done, they are sending me a check to cover the candle.

I called my child's doctor and told them what was going on and we have an appointment next week to discuss eczema and their allergies. I will keep you posted. So if you have a child who is allergic to dyes or perfumes, yes it doesn't have to touch their body to still be allergic to it. They can even get reactions from breathing in the fumes.

Update: I now use a Aura Cacia diffuser that I can add my own essential oils and put in any plug in my house. These have never given my daughters nose bleeds and I know that there are no synthetic fragrances in them. You can find them in most Whole Foods or natural grocery stores or get them online.