Saturday, December 26, 2009

vacatioin

I will be taking a few days off for a much needed break. I will be back shortly.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

How to have a frugal Holiday

Each year people run around trying to get the best deal, spend their money and money they don't have, and by the time Christmas gets here they are broke. Whats the fun in Christmas when you cause yourself all that stress? I have my mother to thank for giving me such a great attitude about everything. We have little or no money most of the time and my mother had to get creative. Memories of Christmas boxes being delivered to us come to mind. Each box was filled with food to last a few weeks, and gifts all wrapped up. Although I really did not appreciate it all back then, I surely do now. Those horrible ugly grandma boots I received came in handy later. I learned that even though we didn't have much, you always appreciate what you do have. We had each other and that's all that counted. It didn't matter what you had. Yes I wanted many things, A Jem doll comes to mind, but its not what you want but more about what you need. This was a lesson I learned very early and still go by now.
So a big THANK YOU to my mom. I love you for this and appreciate you even more.

Over the years I have come up with some creative gifts. Some are super simple and some take a little planning. But the common thread here is that they are frugal. Here is a list of things I have given over the years. Use any idea's you want or just pass on the info.

Baskets-this is my favorite thing to do. You can get baskets in thrift stores all year round and save them for when you need them. Just stick to a theme and do one theme a year. This will save you money and time. Here are a few theme's I have done.

-Candles. Can be bought on clearance all year and saved. Simply wrap some ribbon or a string of beads around with a tag. Maybe throw in some candle holders. Throw in some cookies you have made and that's it. Each basket cost about $5
-food. One year I made my own pancake mix and put it in a pretty bag. Threw in some wooden spoons (dollar store), small honey pots (Grocery Outlet) , and knit some pot holders. Simple and easy to do. Each basket cost about $5.
-Pamper. I made some bath salts for the parents using essential oils and used cocoa for the kids. I decorated girls with muffins and the boys with trucks (cocoa being the mud). Threw in some bubble bath with some cookies of course. Each basket cost around $3 to make.
-Soaps. Buy soap and a mold from the craft store. Make your own just using your microwave. Use a coupon (Michael's has a 40% off one all the time) and make it even cheaper.
Meals-one package of noodles, 1 jar of pasta sauce, one wooden spoon, etc. You get the idea? Throw together a simple meal and throw it in a basket. Done!

Thrift shop finds
Some people have a problem with thrift shop buying on holidays. To me, I encourage it. Have a friend who loves a particular type of glass ware that you cannot buy anymore? Thrift stores have it. My girls love Raggedy Anne and Andy but they do not sell them anymore. Thrift stores here I go! Its just as fun hunting for the item as it is giving it to them. Last year my daughter was into tea parties. I found an amazing old set of clear glass tea cups and saucers. Then I found a vintage set of tea gloves at a barn sale. She screamed so loud when she opened her present. She still plays with it all the time. Just think of what each person loves and try to give a gift around that idea. Not only is this a personal gift that you took the time to find, but it will also save you some money.
This year my 5 yr old twins bought their sister books from the thrifts shop. They were so proud to buy their sisters books that they will love. They even used their money they made from doing chores all year long. Little bits of change really do add up. They are super excited to see their faces when they open them up.

Sales and clearance
I usually buy for gifts all year long. If I find an amazing sale that I cannot pass up, I buy it and stash it. You never know when a birthday sneaks up or your in the need of a thank you gift. Example: When I was still working, I was a P.I.C (price integrity coordinator) which meant that I would be the first to see all clearance, mark them, and be in charge of setting them up. Lucky me! I found cotton yarn only 25 cents each. When I clocked out that day I ran back to the yard and snatched it up quick. I think I bought about 20 of them. All my knitting friends and family received yarn, knitting needles and a pattern I printed out that was simple and easy to do. Oh yeah also I put them in a basket of course. So keep an eye out all year for things you know your family or friends would love. Pay little now, save big later.

Homemade. One year my sister in law made cute little snugly girls out of the most wonderful fabric. Simple but adorable. She also gave my older girls each a stationary set. She printed out paper with their initials on it, threw in matching pencils and put it all in easy to sew bags she made to match the set. Simple and frugal gift that my girls loved! This year I'm making fire starters for those who have fire places. Using egg cartons, lint, and wax left over from used up candles. Might even throw in some oils to make them smell good. I'm also making a basket full of cookies galore. This year its homemade everything. Another year I made beautiful frames out of dollar store frames, ribbon and pretty buttons.

Brown paper bags. Yes, I said it. Brown paper bags. These are super cheap and can be bought for less than a buck. I would say this would be a perfect gift for co workers or neighbors. Have the kids decorate your paper bags. They will love this. I usually make a super easy dry coffee mix (or cheat and buy it done already) . Simply put them into bags, throw in a candy cane, and top it off with some ribbon. Super easy and cheap gift. Also super fast! Remember to write on the bottom or remind each person to recycle the bag!

Coupons. Yes, just like you did as a child. Maybe you have a friend that watches your kids or you watch theirs. Make a coupon booklet with a few coupons in it they can use all year long. One free day care date night. One free house cleaning. One free hour just for mommy. One kid free grocery shopping day. Get creative! I would love this gift!

Need vs want. This year we decided to give gifts to our kids that they needed. Yes they all have wants, but there are things they simply need more than want. I asked my girls to make a list of things they wanted for Christmas. I have yet to get a list from any of them. They could not think of any toys they wanted. So this time I asked them to tell me what they needed. I was amazed by my girls. No toys were on the list. So this year, there will be no mass produced toys under out tree. None! Instead things like jackets, slippers, handmade dolls, and things like that. I cannot wait to see their faces. They will be so happy. So I encourage you to get things for people that they need. Maybe dad needs a pair of gloves because he keeps wearing his holey ones. Or maybe your daughter needs a winter jacket. Or maybe its something simple like undies or socks. This is especially helpful when it comes to friends gifts. My friends know that I love coffee so sometimes I get gift cards to Starbucks or other coffee shops. I take that gift card and go buy coffee grounds. I choose 100 cups of coffee at home over 3 specialty coffee's from the store.
Just get creative. Your friends and family will thank you for thinking of them and saving them money.

Decorating Yes even decorating can be frugal. Take your kids to little out of the way thrift shops and let them pick out some decorations. Everything we have decoration our home was either given to me from friends, received from free from the "free box" at a thrift shop, bought super cheap from Goodwill, or bought on super clearance after the holiday. Most are vintage which I love. Or if you do not have a thrift shop around you, hit up your local dollar store. I have 2 cone Christmas tree's I bought for a buck. Just saw those at a store for $20 each. No thanks, I will keep that $19 in my pocket. Ornaments can be bought used too. This year I bought a large bag of ornaments for $4. It was so much fun going through the bag and deciding which ones to put on the tree. Our tree is filled with some Ive made, some from childhood, kids have made, gifts, or thrift store finds.

I hope Ive inspired you to have a frugal holiday. You really do not have to have very much money or any at all to have a good holiday. Just the idea that you put that much thought into each person is enough. I will take that over any brand new marketed gift anytime.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Simple Frugal Gifts *Ginger Soak*

Ginger Soak

Treat yourself to a restorative soak, or assemble the ingredients for this natural blend to give to friends or family. Combine 2 cups baking soda, 1 cup Epsom salts, and 2 tablespoons ground ginger.

Attach instructions:Add to a tub of warm water and soak for 20-30 minutes.

Packaging:For gifts, put the ingredients in cellophane bags: tie with ribbon and add tags. To make this gift eco friendly, put the ingredients into a wax sandwich bag(found at Whole Foods) and then put that into a paper bag with ribbon. Simply add to the instruction tag-throw bag into garbage and it will compost naturally. Or to skip paper all together, find a vintage glass jar or use a mason jar. Just keep an eye out for cute spoons.


Sunday, December 13, 2009

Goodies for Giving *Blondies*


This is a great snack for those who do not like to eat brownies. Just like them but minus the chocolate. Super yummy and healthy. Buy organic whenever possible. Use little or no salt to cut back on sodium.

Blondies with Almonds

1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1/3 cup all purpose whole wheat flour
1/3 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp butter
3/4 cup + 2 tbsp dark brown sugar
1 lg egg
1 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup slivered almonds, divided

350 degree's 8x8 pan with cooking spray and lined with foil.

Whisk together oats, flours, baking powder, and salt in small bowl. Set aside.
Melt butter in small saucepan over low heat. Stir in sugar and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook, stirring until smooth, 1-2 minutes. Pour into large bowl, add egg, vanilla extract, and reserved dry ingredients and mix well. Fold in 1/4 cup of almonds.
Pour batter into prepared pan, spread evenly with spatula, and top with remaining almonds.
Bake 18-20 minutes.

Nutritional info per bar:
137 calories
2 grams protein
18 grams carbohydrates
1 grams fiber
6.5 grams fat
3 grams saturated fat
25 milligrams cholesterol
88 milligrams sodium

Now if you are not worried about the sugar and fat, throw in some butterscotch chips and these would be super yummy! If you do this option, forget about the nutritional info above, your on your own!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Eco Friendly potty training



Yes even potty training can be Eco friendly. We really have come a long way! Again wished I had these when my girls were younger but better late than never.

Nature Baby care Training Pants

Nature baby care diapers and training pants are 100% chlorine-free and keep oil-based plastics away from babies delicate skin. Absorbent pulp is from sustainably harvested Scandinavian forests and the patented center-channel means a less bulky fit while enhancing leak protection

*60% natural materials are used in the diapers instead of plastic

*Diapers are super soft and cloth-like providin

g comfort without sacrificing protection. Product Features and Benefits:

-Award winning Premium Performance Eco-friendly disposable training pants

-NO oil-based plastics against baby’s delicate skin

-Kinder and more gentle to your baby and the environment

-Breathable and chlorine-free with natural based material, for natural protection

-Ultra-thin construction gives a non-bulky f

it, enabling your baby to move around freely-Consumer packaging is based on 100% natural, renewable, and biodegradable material No oil-based plastics

Retail $11.99

My view-Anything is better than regular training pants. Seventh Generation also makes a great pull up but they are usually about $1 more per package. Sign up with http://www.seventhgeneration.com/ and get great coupons. But if you have no coupon, then Nature Baby care is the way to go. If you wish to skip shipping, Whole Foods carries this brand on a regular basis. Just keep an eye out for sales too!

Planet-Friendly Potty beCO potty
A becopotty starts life as bamboo and rice husk, which are left over material from farming. The ground extracts are ground into a find powder and mixed with biodegradable resin and pressed into a hot mold and the becopotty is born!
The ergonomically designed becopotty is comfortable and easy to use. . The high back offers extra support, large splash guard helps keep potty training hygienic, and this is made from bamboo and rice husk left over from farming. When finished bury in your garden, plant some seeds and let the natural product biodegrade and feed your new plant life. Helping the environment with less landfill!
Retails $12.99

My view-Wow, what an amazing product. This would be such an excellent gift for any 1 yr old. I am just amazed how cool and amazing this product truly is.
I have not found a store to buy this at but its always available at http://www.trendykid.com/store/catalog/bECOpotty_p_17196.html.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Eco friendly baby diapers and wipes



There are so many options now days for just about everything which makes it easier for you the consumer. Earth friendly has never been so easy. Just wish they had these when my girls were babies. I hear many excuses from people when it comes to them explaining why they do not buy green baby products. To me its the smartest decision I can do as a parent. So for those who have a hard time finding green products, I will make it easier for you. I scoured the Internet searching for green products just for you!

Elements Naturals baby wipes. 100% compostable and biodegradable wipes. Free of synthetic chemicals and preservatives, 100% natural and renewable, chemical free, fragrance free, chlorine free, resealable pack, and even the package is made from recycled packaging. 80 ct.
Retail price $5.99
My view-These would be perfect for on the go. No worries of throwing them in the garbage or anything. Just toss and go. You can find Earths Best and Seventh Generation for about the same price so you really cannot go wrong with buying any of these three. I stuck to a few brands when I shopped for diapers and wipes. I would purchase which ever was on sale or I could get cheaper but only with a few brands I trusted. Same rule applies here.
Nature Baby care 44 count
Eco friendly baby care has never been so easy. Awarded the Eco label "Good environmental choice" from the SSC. There are no oil based plastics against the babies skin, very breathable diapers, and are chlorine free (which do not add to the dioxin pollution) with natural based material. They have no plastic, no latex, fragrance or TBT.
Retail $11.99

My view-I looked over Seventh Generation, Earths Best diapers and these have a better overall value. Yes you can get the others cheaper but only on sale or with coupons. These are always a good value and regular price is $11.99. So these would be a great diaper you can always count on for a good price. Which ever brand you can get cheaper that day, just grab those. As long as you keep it green, its a win win!

Both of these are available at the following places
For no shipping cost try your Whole Foods Market. Always available there!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Winter blues

Here in the Northwest its super duper cold. Its so chilly that you avoid going out as much as possible. But when you have 4 kids or any kids for that matter, it gets a bit much after a while. I am always looking for things to do in the home. Keeping my kids busy keeps my home quiet. No picking on and fighting with each other, no giving them the "1, 2, 3 okay go to your room, and no parents hiding in their rooms where its quiet. Just a happy home. Ahh what a thought!
I have found a few things that keep my kids entertained on those days where its just too cold or icky to go out. Have any suggestions? Leave a comment!

Board Games-Luckily my daughter received a few for her birthday so we have new ones that we play often now. Old favorites like Sorry, Operation and Uno are favorites still. Thrift shops are great places to find board games for cheap. Remember to make sure they have all their pieces.

Crafts-I have way too much craft stuff so I let my kids go hog wild on them anytime they want. 10 yrs working at a craft store means I accumulated a ton of stuff. I turned my kitchen dining room into a art room. All art will go up on the wall for everyone to see. 2 nails, 1 string and some clothes pins can hold lots of art on the wall. An old cork board painted bright red also holds lots of art work. This keeps my kids busy for hours. The dollar store has lots of cheap art supplies fyi. Thrift stores have stuff too so keep your eye out for good deals.

Movies-I pop some popcorn and the kids pick a movie they want. Movies we have received as gifts or I found in thrift stores come in handy. Or have a buck? Try the http://www.redbox.com/ out. Located at most Mcdonalds and Albertson's. Just return within 24 hours so your not charged twice. Sign up and get a free movie rental. They often have free movie codes too! Or try out http://www.hulu.com/ where you can watch old TV shows, movies, and just about anything else related. Best of all its FREE!!!

Chores-Yeah I know, seems boring but what else do you have to do? Have the kids get involved and let them be your helpers. My 5 yr old twins love this but my older girls know better. Laundry is a favorite for them because they get to fold WARM clothes. Hint hint. Maybe everyone helps out each other cleaning their rooms. Switch rooms and get them all done! Its always faster when you have help. Or maybe just clean out your closet or pantry. I always feel better when I do this.

Baking-Kids love helping with the baking. Take a peek at what you have on hand and give them options of what can be made. Let them discuss it and decide what they want to make. This should eat up an hour or so of your time. Plus you get to eat the goodies when your done.

Redecorate rooms-My girls love rearranging their rooms every few months. Have fun drawing diagrams, reusing items, and mixing up bedding and colors. Maybe add a blanket to a bunk bed for extra privacy, hand a sheer panel up to make a head board look larger, switch out some bedding, or make a vanity from dresser and a mirror. Have fun with it and let your kids imaginations go wild.

Do a home improvement. Paint a room you have been putting off, fix that chair you have been needing to do, or maybe just sew up some holes in clothing. You know you will feel better after its all done. This week we hung plastic in our old windows. No more drafts! Whahoo!

Read-Grab a quilt, pillow, and a good book and snuggle up to have reading time. Encourage your children to do the same. Or even better, let the kids each pick a book of choice and read it to them. Fun!

Freestyle! Take all decorations out of the living room and change them up. Maybe switch out some pillows, candles and move some furniture around. My favorite show that redecorates your room of choice with what you have already and better yet cost no money. http://www.hgtv.com/freestyle/show/index.html. Check your local listings for times and dates.

Music-Were iPod fanatics so music is a favorite past time for us. Throw the iPod in the player and enjoy. Maybe make some play list. I have a Christmas music play list that is playing right now. Free holiday music from http://www.amazon.com/ is especially nice. Check out their 25 free holidays songs http://www.amazon.com/gp/feature.html?ie=UTF8&ref_=dm_gw_castingcrowns4&tag=slickdeals&docId=1000453281 My current favorite is their Lady Gaga Christmas Tree.

Make cocoa, tea, or hot apple cider. Make it from scratch with the kids, they will love this. Here's a fantastic idea that we do each year. Load a warm drink of choice up in to go insulated cups (one for each person) and get in the car. Drive around your neighborhood slow looking at Christmas lights. Play your free holiday music from your iPod as stated above. What a fun night it is.

Feeling a bit daring? Try doing what I just listed above but walk around your neighborhood. Just make sure you bundle up everyone. I swear my nose felt like it was going to fall off this morning when I walked my daughter to the bus stop. Buuurrrr! Like I said, only for the daring.

How about...Well you know. Hanky panky keeps you warm. Just saying...lol

Game cube, Wii, etc. Get a game where you can all play and have fun. For us its the Wii and we love playing Wii sports with each other. Boxing will get you some exercise and keep you warm too. Challenge your kids and see them light up. Fun!

Snuggle-My kids love to snuggle so when its cold out, we pull up a warm quilt and snuggle. Watch some TV, listen to music or just hang out. Snuggling is always fun.

Now this should keep you busy for a while. Have an idea that I missed? Leave a comment!

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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Goodies for Giving *Almond Rocha*

I have to credit to my great friend Tessie for bringing this recipe to my attention. I cannot believe how easy this is to make. What a great gift idea this one is!

Almond Rocha

1 lb Read Butter 8-10 Chocolate Bars
2 cups of Sugar 1 cup Sliced Almonds

In a large frying pan, over medium high heat, cook butter and sugar stirring constantly until mixture is caramel colored; approx 20 minutes.
Pour on cookie sheet and spread evenly.
Cool until tacky. Break chocolate bars into pieces and lay on top. Spread chocolate as it begins to melt. Sprinkle almonds on top. Cool completely. Break into pieces.
DO NOT STORE IN AIRTIGHT CONTAINER.


Monday, December 7, 2009

Energy Saving Tips-try to stay warm NW!

Due to local Northwest weather, I thought it would be good to give you energy tips again. This will not only keep you warm but it will save you a bundle of money.

The wind is picking up and running straight through my sweaters. Burrrrr! I love the cold weather but do not like being cold. I'm one of those people who are constantly cold and always wearing sweaters, thick socks, a scarf and quite possibly some gloves on a regular basis. Burrr!
Speaking of cold weather, have you started saving on your energy bill yet? What? Goodness you need to start now! Try out all or at least some of these tips so you can start saving money on your energy bill.

ENERGY SAVING TIPS

-Buy energy saving appliances if you can. A lot of stores offer rebates so look out for those. Our washer was over $700 but was actually only around $500 after rebates. It uses less water and energy. 2 ways to save money. We replace our old ones when they give out, and buy new energy ones.

-Air dry your dishes instead of heat drying.

-Clean out lint from lint trap to increase air circulation. You can throw lint in your compost as well. Or save it and make fire starters. Just pour old wax onto your lint which is inside paper egg cartons. Break them apart and light them up to use in your fireplace. Talk about recycling!

-Consider buying a laptop. Use less energy and don't take up a huge amount of space. Most will turn off to conserve energy when not in use.

-Don't over dry your clothes. Use the sensor if yours has one.

-Use power strips on appliances you don't use often. Household use 25% more power to power things not in use. So unplug when ever your not using or get a power strip so its easier and convenient.

-Invest in rechargeable batteries. If you use a lot of things that require batteries, it will save you a lot of money in the long run. Don't throw away batteries, recycle them. there are places that take them. Unplug charger when not in use. Don't forget.

-There is a myth that screen savers on your computer use less energy. This is not true. So turn your computer on sleep mode or turn it off completely at night or when your not using it.

-Clean warm air registers/baseboard heaters. Make sure no furniture is blocking air from getting in.

-Install a programmable thermostat. We have ours at 60 at night and 65 during the day. Were used to this so it doesn't bother us. I turn if off during the day when the sun is out. I open up all our drapes and blinds to let the natural sun heat our home. Then turn it on later when the sun goes down.

-Insulate your hot water heater and pipes. Cut down on heat loss.

-Maintain your heating furnace/water heater/or fireplace each year. No build up to start fires and your furnace/hot water heater will work properly saving you money.

-Install new windows. That alone will save you so much money. Make sure you seal them correctly. This is on the top of our list for 2010.

-Apply sun control or other reflective films on south facing windows to reduce solar gain.

-Close drapes, or blinds on south windows. They allow cold air to enter.

-Close drapes,blinds during the night. Open up during the day.

-Tape or frame in heavy duty plastic film on inside of your window during winter. Keeps cold air from getting in your home. This alone saved us a ton of energy and kept us from freezing our bottoms each night.

-You can save up to 30% more energy if you insulate your walls, attic, and under your home correctly. Check your home for this. Again this is on our to do list.

-Close fireplace dampers when not in use. They allow smoke out, and if your not using your fireplace then your allowing all that hot air you just paid to heat your house to escape.

-Plant trees to shade your home. They should start shading the first year but really shade after 5-10 years. Remember: your tree's have roots and take that in to account when planting. Don't want those roots to mess with your home. This will save you energy during the summer.

-Plant shrubs around your home. Plant at least 1 foot away from home. They will help insulate your home as well. Just remember to research how big these shrubs will get.

-During the winter, low lined or trees will block north or northeast wind from hitting your home.

-Use high intensity discharge (HID) or low pressure sodium lights

-Turn off any lights when your leaving the room.

-Use dimmers-less energy used is less on your bill.

-If your air conditioner is old, consider buying an new one. It will reduce your energy to 50 % and save you money. Keep an eye out for rebates too! Call your local electric company, sometimes they have incentives.

-Don't set lamps or lighting near your air conditioner. I will run longer.

-Wash only full loads of dishes or dirt clothes.

-Take short showers instead of baths. Time your showers and see how much time you can shave off with each shower.

-Drain a quart of water from your hot water heater to remove any sediment from it.

-Lower temp on hot water heater, do you really need it that hot?

-Repair anything leaky. Just last month a renter of ours didn't tell us about the leaky toilet. Well our $600 water bill told us. EEK! Repair them immediately. And if your renting, tell your owners fast.One tiny leak can cost then big time and might even trickle down to you.

-If heating a swimming pool, invest in a cover. Evaporation is the largest source of energy loss. Make sure to check for leaks each year too, this will cost you a bundle if you have a leak so always check.

-Use a crock pot instead of your stove.

-Microwave

-Keep all lights off during the day until you absolutely have to use them.

-Switch out your old bulbs when they are done with energy efficient new ones. They can last up to 10 years.

-Hang dry your clothes if you can. I have 2 of these fold able racks that I use on a regular basis in our home.

-Use blanket warmers. We use them during the winter, why heat your home up when all you need warm is yourself. This is especially good when you have a larger home. You can get them after winter for pretty cheap. Mine was only $20 for a queen one. Get them for all your beds in use. Saves you a lot.

-Invest in flannel sheets for each bed. I have one flannel and one cotton set for each bed in use. Cotton ones keep heat off you during the summer. They stay nice and cold. During the winter use flannel ones. they keep you pretty warm. Again, you can get these after the winter for pretty cheap. I found my girls for only $12 a set.

-Slippers-I get cold during the day sometimes and I find that if I just put my slippers on , I feel a lot warmer. So invest in these for everyone. Again you can get them for pretty cheap after winter. Buy and save them.

-Don't let the water run when brushing your teeth.

-Put a container full of water in your tank of the toilet. Saves on water for you.

-Cover a fireplace-we found that cold air leaked from our gas fireplace during the really cold nights. We covered it with just a quilt and it kept cold air out. Wasn't the prettiest but it worked. But I like quilts so it didn't bother me.

-Keep lap blankets near. We have a few around our living room for when we get a little cold. Saves you energy. So instead of turning up the heat, grab a blanket and your slippers. Give you an excuse to cuddle as well.

-Take a shower/bath every other day. Cuts your water bill in half. I used to take one everyday but now its every other day. Our bill went down pretty good after that. My husband and I take a shower one day. The next our 2 older girls take a shower and I give my twins a bath together.Sometimes they can go 3 days without a shower/bath. Depends on if they played hard.

-Have friends and family over-sounds weird but the more people in your home, the less energy you use to heat your home. So rotate having dinner at friends/family. They come to your home, you use less energy. You go to their home, turn off your heat. Use no energy that way. Win win situation. Plus saves you money on food as well.

-Got quilts? I find them at thrift stores. We use them at the foot of our beds to keep our feet warmer. Then we don't get cold at night. They are pretty cheap at thrift stores and most the time they are crazy quilts. Cool colors and patterns hand made which you cannot find in a store. They are super expensive in stores anyways.

-Have your kids run around playing before they go to bed. They will be hot and tired. They will be less likely to be fussy going to bed, and they will be plenty warm.

-Wash your clothes in cold water. This alone will save you a ton of money especially if you have a big family like mine.

-Drink warm drinks before bedtime. I like a nice hot cup of cocoa or apple cider. My girls love a warm cup of tea so they usually have a night time tea. It calms them and keeps them warm. I usually do not have a hard time putting them to bed either.

-Turn off or block heat registers that are in rooms you do not use on a regular basis. Master bath and bedroom are blocked because we have a plug in blanket. We can suffer but my children will not. Our laundry room and laundry room bathroom are shut too. Why waste your energy and heat on rooms that no one is in?

-Keep doors closed during the day. My oldest daughters rooms are closed while they are at school. This keeps our living room much warmer. We have a old draft home so it helps us.

-Keep your fridge closed. Sounds easy but when you have small children its not. Your fridge will have to run on over time to keep it cold if it keeps getting opened.

-Dress warm. We wear a sweatshirt and slippers constantly at home. Were never cold, its just normal to us now. Saves us energy and in return saves us money.

-Wood stove or insert. We have a very large fireplace that takes up a whole wall in our living room. Wood stove would ruin the whole experience of having a fireplace so we decided to get an insert. Our fireplace really does not heat or home, only those who are standing by it. So the insert will have a grate that is hollow and a fan. Once it gets hot enough, the fan will kick on and blow the hot air into our home. Wood stoves are great too so look into those as well. My husband grew up in a 2 story home and 1 wood stove. No electric heating at all. If you wanted to get warm, you started a fire. Slippers were a must. lol

-Warm food. Sounds silly but it works. During the Fall I make lots of soups. This heats up our kitchen and heats up our bellies. To save on energy I pull out the crock pot. Fill it in the morning and enjoy it later for dinner. Crock pot uses way less energy than a standard burner. Same goes for bread machines. I like to bake instead of frying so when I'm done doing my baking, I simply leave my oven open for a few minutes to let the hot air escape into our home.

-Have a fire place? Save money on fire wood a few ways. Work somewhere that uses wood crates? Or maybe wood pallets? Take them home and break them down. These can be used for starter wood. Have a wood cabinet business nearby? Most will leave their scraps in a bin for anyone who wants them. Take home the bare wood. Do not burn wood with any varnish or finishes on them. Have a chainsaw? A friend who needs a tree taken down? You take down the tree for free and they let you have the wood. Win win! Get creative and never turn down wood.
You can use your fireplace instead of your central heating. Fun to sit and cozy up by the fire with the family.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Save $2,010 in 2010


I know its a bit early for me to start talking about saving money in 2010. Honestly why not? I say the earlier the better. Great thing happened today, I received my Womans Day magazine for January. I was already in the works with my own list so this came in handy. So here is a list of ways you can save money. Just think of all that money staying in your pocket. Ohhh what a wonderful thought.....

Reduce kitchen paper. If a family uses 1 1/2 rolls of paper towels a week at $1.25 a roll, your paying at least $98 a year for things your throwing away. Doesn't that sound silly? Reduce to one roll a month or better yet stop buying them. This will save you a ton of money and don't forget about saving all those tree's from being cut down. Simply use fabric hand towels and fabric napkins and simply wash them. Keep a clothes line in your laundry room and save on energy used to dry them. This easy idea is the first thing I ever did to become green, now look at me!

Unhook the cable. I know I know, breathe breathe! Just make a 1 year commitment to no cable TV. Just remember, now days there are tons of free channels and don't forget Hulu! Better yet, $50 a month is staying in your pocket! Thats a whopping $600 a year staying in your pocket!

Use rechargeable batteries. I can personally say this one saved me a bundle. They say Americans buy 3 billion batteries a year. Rechargeable batteries can be reused hundreds of times, saving you money and reducing waste.

Drop the landline. The average family spends $90 per month for home phones, cell phones, pagers and phone cards. If you have all those connections, maybe its time to join the 20% of American households that are only using wireless. Even if all you have at home is a single line with basic local service, you've been spending about $25 a month, and that adds up. It may as well start adding up in your savings account. Switch and you will save $300 a year.

Chop 'n' grate Did you know that when you buy already grated, peeled, fruit already cut up, and veggies already chopped, you pay about double what you would for whole items. So start buying whole items and quit being lazy. This alone will save you up to $260 a year.
While your at it, try to stop buying prepackaged anything. No more throwing food into the microwave or oven. This will save you a ton of money.

Cancel the gym. You know your paying around $35 a month whether you use the membership or not? There are easy ways to exercise and they are all free. Push-ups and sit-ups are free! How about going jogging? Take a jog around the block and make it even better with your ipod full of your favorite music. Even if you don't enjoy jogging, go for a walk. Play some football with the kids, have a great game of tag, or play peek a boo with your baby while doing sit ups and your baby on your legs. Better yet, get on the computer and find tons of free online work outs and training regimens.

Reduce dry cleaning. Better yet don't dry clean unless you have to. There are plenty of at home kits to dry clean in your own home. To be honest, ive never (yes I said it) taken any of my clothing in to be dry cleaned. Usually I simply wash on low tumble and air dry. I have neer shrunk or ruined any of my clothing doing this. You could save up to $120 a year by doing your own. Save even more by not doing it at all.

Think before you print. Most computers have a preference for printing. Draft, black only, etc. I print on "draft" 99% of the time. This saves me a bunch of money because I do not have to buy ink as much. When printing coupons, do you really need the fancy picture of the item? You only need the bar code! Want to save money on paper too? Take your kids papers that come home from school and flip them over and print on the blank side. I have not had to buy paper in months. I have 2 in school now and will have all 4 in school next year so I don't think I will have to buy paper ever again.

These few simple idea's should save you over $2,010 a year. Once you get the ball rolling you will be trying to save in every aspect of your life.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Goodies for Giving *Kisses Chocolate Chip Cookies

I won the Hershey's Cookie Exchange!!! I am so excited! Instead of throwing a party, Ive decided to cook up all kinds of cookies and give them away as gifts. This month has already been scheduled and were way too busy to even think of throwing a party. So I will bring the party to them.
Each pack included the following:
3 packages of Hershey's Kisses
1 coupon for FREE Hershey's Cookie Dough
15 Hershey's boxes
15 Recipe flip cards with beautiful pictures of each cookie
1 free calendar with all kinds of recipe's and some coupons
1 Hershey's kiss ceramic kiss holder

Each box I fill will contain many different types of cookies that I made using the Hershey's recipe, a
recipe flip book, and lots of Hershey's Kisses. This way each family can decide which cookie is their favorite and be able to make it using the recipe flip book.

What about those who did not win the cookie exchange? Well Hershey's has the best website around and you can get any of their recipe's you want there.
Simply sign up for free, and explore!

Want something other than just cookies? Check out the Hershey's site for lots of other great recipe's, get their monthly emails, Save your favorite recipe's, build a grocery list, and share your favorite baking tips.

Kisses Chocolate Chip Cookies

48 Hershey's Kisses variety of choice. (almond etc)
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
1/3 sugar
1/3 packed brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/4 cup mini chocolate chips
1 tsp shortening

Directions
Heat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and remove the wrappers from 48 Hershey's Kisses. Beat together one cup of softened butter, 1/3 cup sugar, 1/3 cup of brown sugar and one teaspoon of vanilla into a large bowl until blended smooth. Add 2 cups of flour to butter mixture and blend until smooth. Stir in one cup of mini chocolate chips. Mold scant tablespoons of dough around Hershey's Kisses, covering completely. Shape into balls and place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes or until set. Cool completely.

Prepare chocolate drizzle by placing 1/4 cup of mini chocolate chips and one teaspoon of shortening in a small microwave safe bowl. Microwave at a medium (50%) heat for 30 seconds; stir. If necessary, microwave at a medium heat for an additional 10 seconds at a time, stirring after each heating, until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth when stirred. Drizzle mixture over each cookie.
Makes about 4 dozen.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Frugal Advent Calendar

This project takes about 20 minutes to do and any age 2-adult can do this. Super easy and only takes paper, glue and scissors. Its a twist on the old familiar paper chain that we have done since we were children in school. Just look at my picture and build one for yourself.
Starting on December 1st, rip off 1 ring each day.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wow, today was just amazing. Yes I was a crazy mad woman running around my home cooking, cleaning and trying to chat with my family. But I still was having a wonderful day. Nothing was burned but my stuffing was a bit dry. I forgot about my corn but my homemade pumpkin pie was a hit. So all in all it was great.
Today got me thinking. I truly am blessed to have such great family and friends. I have so many things to be thankful for so I thought I would share them with everyone. Yes some are easy ones but some are little things that just make me happy. Keep in mind the first few are on the top of my list. My family and friends are always first in my life. Everything else in in no particular order. So here we go.

50 things I'm thankful for

1. My husband. He is my Mr.fix it, my go to man, my everything. I love him more and more each day.

2. My daughters. They drive me crazy but I love them to pieces. They are the most wonderful children I know. They are what inspires me to be Eco conscious .

3. My house. Its old, needs updated but man oh man does it feel like home.

4. My best friend Dulcimer. Yes Dulcimer is a instrument but it is her name. I swear. lol. She is who I call first for just about everything. She gives advise whether its what I want to hear or not. I love her.

5. Grape juice. I just love it.
6. Goodwill/thrift stores. You have saved me so much money and I owe you everything. I love you.
7. My van. Its big and its blue. It will haul my 4 daughters, a dog, and groceries. Or my trip to goodwill where I picked up way too much stuff and came home with the van stuffed with furniture. Sorry honey...

8. Tupperware. I just love all of you. Every single piece of it I own, I love them all.

9. My neighborhood. No one telling me what I can or cannot do in my home or on my property. I love this. I can grow my own garden, paint anything any color I want, or take a fence down. I can even hang dry my clothes. I love my neighborhood.

10. My garden. Although its not exactly how I want it right now, its still giving me food. I love having my own space to grow whatever I want. I love being in my garden with my girls asking me all kinds of questions.

11. My laptop. Oh sweet laptop how you make me happy each day. I wake up, grab a cup of coffee and off I go to my laptop. You bring me so much joy.

12. My ipod. You are with me when I go jogging, watching my daughter at soccer practice, or in my purse for those days when the twins are driving me insane and I need to get groceries in peace. You keep them occupied and I thank you for that.

13. Coffee. You truly bring me to life each and every day. I love you.

14. My ugg slippers. When I found you at goodwill, you put a smile on my face. When I brought you home, I put a smile on your face. I wear you each and every day. Yes you have holes, and yes you are old. But you still do your job each day. Keep my feet warm. I love you for that.

15. The United States. Weird huh? lol. I love that I have freedom of speech. I love that I can believe in what I want or don't want. I love that I can be anything I want to be. I truly am proud to be an American.

16. The play structure in my backyard. You keep my kids occupied while I try to get laundry done or just try to tidy up the house.

17. Winco. I love your cheap prices and your bulk section. You allow me to not buy food in packages and save some tree's. You save me so much money. I just wish your aisles were a little wider.

18. Our fireplace. I love sitting by the fire and falling asleep. I love the sound, and smell you fill my home with.

19. Oregon. I love living here. Beautiful state full of tree's, ocean, dessert, and even a little country. It really does have everything you need with in a few hours of me. I really really do love it here. No way I'm leaving.

20. My mom. To her I owe thanks for many things. Teaching me how to cook, save money, get through the tough times, use coupons, and most of all you taught me how to help. Helping friends, neighbors in a tough time, or even for people you don't even know. You taught me that you don't have to have money to help people. There are always way to help. So I thank you for that.

21. For having common sense. Nuff said

22. For being a granola, tree hugger or whatever you want to call it. I'm thankful I was born this way. I live as green as possible and it makes me happy.

23. For toilet paper. Nuff said

24. For pretty smelling lotions. You truly do make me happy.

25. Hair dye. Seems stupid but it makes me happy. You make me feel younger, and I feel a little taller too....weird

26. My plug in blanket. Especially now days, its just too cold. I look forward to running to you each night.

27. Fred Meyers. You truly are a one stop shop as you say in your commercials. I love your mark downs on groceries, and those lovely coupons each week. We had a bit of a bad October but ive forgiven you.

28. My niece and nephews. They truly are adorable and I love each and every one of them. I'm thankful to spend time with Johnathon on Thanksgiving. Hoping he will look forward to visiting Nany's house. From Michaels infectious smiles to Emily's crazy wild hair. I love them all.

29. Shampoo and conditioner. I finally found a brand of them that I really do love. I know I can count on you to be wonderful each day I use you. No oil build up, and no frizz. Sigh

30. My Jetta. You give me great gas mileage, you make me look good, and your paid for. Whats not to love about that? You do stink a little (diesel).

31. My neighbors. I know that I can count on you for anything. You guys are amazing and I'm so lucky to have each and every one of you.

32. My kitchen. Your a little outdated but you do the job. I have tons of counter space, and lots of places to put things. I just really do love my huge kitchen.

33. Bubble baths. I look forward to taking a bubble bath after a long hard day. I washes all the stress away and makes me a happy mommy.

34. Our wii. My kids can play it and have fun. After they go to bed, I can get my Mario on!!! Nothing like playing old school Mario Bros.

35. No cable. I know I know. Who in their right mind would not want cable? Yes, I am thankful for no cable. I'm so happy to have more free time with my family. Sometimes we don't even turn the TV on at all. Its nice. Nice and quiet.

36. Life. I do have a wonderful life. I love taking a deep breath and thinking how happy I truly am.

37. My bread machine. You make it possible for me to make wonderful healthy bread for my family. You fill my home with the most wonderful smell. Mmmm

38. Converse. Through the years you have stuck by me. You keep my feet comfy and covered. You last for years and years and still do your job. I know that if I ever need a new pair, I can always find you. Thank you Converse.

39. Music. From my latest love of The Killers to my old school Beastie Boys. Ever since grade school you have brought me amazing music. From your contagious beats, to your amazing lyrics. You guys are the best. Keep up the good work.

40. My blog. It gives me the ability to reach more and more people and to help them save money. I hope all my crazy thoughts give everyone inspiration to try new things out. From saving money, to new recipe's, or just to get my random rambles out. I love getting up each day to speak to everyone through my blog. I love the journey I am on.

41. Seasonal goodies. In spring its the joy of planning my garden. In summer its the warm days and nights. Fall its hot apple cider and everything pumpkin. And in Winter its cold days sitting by the fire. I buy seasonal so that my children have something to look forward to each season. No way im gonna enjoy hot cider in spring. Its just doesn't taste the same.

42. My fans. Each and everyone of you (yes you!) I give thanks to. You are what keeps me going each day. Sometimes I wonder if anyone even reads my blog, then someone comments and thanks me. This gives me the inspiration to keep going. You stick by me through my writers block, my horrible spelling, and my crazy projects. And I love you for that. Thank you thank you thank you!

43. Whole Foods, Trader Joe's and New Seasons. Without you I would have to shop online. You bring me the latest green solutions, and my everyday items that are green. From non toxic cupcake papers, lactose free products, organic milk, and of course super yummy samples of foods I never would of even taken the second to try out. My kids love you for this too. I can buy it local, and save me money. Thank you!

44. My animals. My dog who is the weirdest dog on the planet, and my cat who thinks she is the queen of this home. They protect and keep this home warm and inviting.

45. My glue gun. Oh how you make my life easier.

46. Stores that have cleaning wipes by their carts. Oh how I love you. You make my life much easier and my shopping experience so much better. Germ freaks like myself now don't have to prepare and pack them before we go out. We can now just go, clean the cart and feel good about putting our children in them. Ahhh how I love thee.

47. Stores with double seating carts. Let me just say that having these makes my life so much better. Not only do I have room to put my twins in them, but I don't have to have that conversation with them on why one has to be in the cart while the other has to sit inside or hang on the front. And then I can avoid the whole crying and explaining of the whole situation. So I want to give a shout out to Costco for each and every cart having this option, Fred Meyers for having many of them, and Whole Foods for having the best double seating carts around. Thanks guys!

48. Earth. For giving us all the plants, animals, waters, and air. Mother earth truly does help us. And now its our turn to help it. If everyone would do little steps, they truly do add up.

49. Candles. They smell so wonderful and give our home a wonderful glow. Little things make me happy.

50. This list. For bringing my attention to everything I truly am thankful for. I now know how blessed I truly am. If ever I am having a gloomy day, I know where I can find a great list of things that make me happy.

Now, what are you thankful for? Anyone? Come on! Share with everyone!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Green Review Bob's Red Mill Bread Bag




If your not familiar with Bob's Red Mill, you need to check them out. This place has everything you need for all your baking needs. I am amazed how many things they sell. From flour, soy products, gluten free products, cereals, grains, baking aids, books and much much more. The reason I love them so much is because they are local to me and I can just swing by and pick up anything I need. But for those of you not local, good news for you is that they ship anywhere in the USA. Whahoo! You might check their product finder option. Just type your zip code in and they will direct you to your local store that carries their products. Stores such as Safeway, Haggen, Fred Meyer, Trader Joe's, Price N Pride, and on and on will carry their products. If you do not find it in the baking aisle, check the natural section of the store. They are usually in both locations. Check them out here http://www.bobsredmill.com/
Okay back to my review.
Bobs Red mill Bread Bag
Cloth Bread Bag 17" An efficient way to store your loaves of bread. This bag is lined with heavy flexible plastic and keeps damaging air away from the loaf. Closes with a handy Velcro strip. The Bag keeps bread machine loaves and rustic bakery loaves fresh and fragrant and bagels just the right texture. It is also great for bulk-purchased flour, grains and pasta. Using the Best Fresh Bread Bag is a "Green" solution that reduces dependence on plastic bags, while reducing waste and recycling efforts. A practical solution from the wide easy-access opening to the longer loaf size. When not in use, the bag folds down smaller than a breadbox. Bag is made of thick cotton while the inside is thick-gauge polyethylene plastic lining for air-tightness. The combined strength of these two layers make the Best Fred Bread Bag reusable for years. Machine washable.
Retail $8.29

What a great deal! Plus you have options on shipping. Not in a hurry to get it? Try Parcel Post for $4.90. Yeah its only a few bucks but hey, those few bucks stay right in my purse where they belong. So to me its a win win! Ive searched all around the Internet and this is the best deal I have found.

Lucky me, Bobs Red Mill sent me a bag for free to review. This is my opinion of the bag and Bobs Red Mill has nothing to do with it. Strictly my trial and error.

Review: First of all I have to say this bag is made of super thick cotton fabric. This is going to last for years and years if I take good care of it. The inside is just as it said, thick plastic. Im not a fan of plastic at all (as you know from all my rants lol)but you have to remember that bread dries out super fast so its a need in this case. Plus i'm only buying this one bag, not plastic bags like the ones our store bought bread comes in that rip open and get holes in it super easy. I made my bread, let it cool , then put the bread in. I left it over night to see how it last for a few hours. Next morning my bread was nice and moist. Since we go through a loaf a day, I cannot say how long a loaf can actually last in this bag. But I can say that its super sturdy and will not have to buy another one of these for years and years. Velcro closure is the best part. You can roll it up to any size you need and simply Velcro it shut. Done! No ties, or plastic tabs lingering around.

Score: A+++. Best thing Ive found so far. Best price, best shipping price, and best company. Love love love everything about this company!

Live in Oregon? Take a day trip to their grain store or restaurant.
5000 SE International Way
Milwaukie , OR 97222

Hours of operation
Mon-Fr 6am-6pm
Sat 7am-5pm
Phone: (503) 607-6455
Toll Free: (800) 553-2258





Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Make your money stretch


I'm sure you all have the same problems I have. Its a week before payday and you have to make stuff stretch as far as it will go. So instead of going to the store and putting groceries on my credit card, I try to use what we have and get creative along the way. Over the years its become easier for me to do this.
Ive been telling you for a year now to buy seasonal. Seasonal? Yes, each season stores and farmers are selling what is in season for super low prices. When this happens, I buy and stock up. Currently apples are cheap, potato's, squash and things like that. How can I make my money stretch further? Its easy. You can dehydrate, freeze, or eat it.

Dehydrate-If you do not own one, borrow one. I found mine at a garage sale for $3 a few years ago and it was the best investment. During the summer I dehydrated cherry tomato's, squash of all kinds, carrots, mushrooms, and recently apples. I put them into canning jars and in the darkest part of my pantry so they will last longer. Now if I want a savory soup I simply take a few of each veggie I want, put them into water and boil for 20 minutes. Mmmm yummy. I recently bought 30 lbs of apples for 50 cents per lb. The dehydrator came in very handy for these. Now anytime my kids want something different, they have apple chips that mom made. Or we chop them up and add them to muffin recipe's. When the muffin cooks, it plumps up the apples. If you see a Dehydrator for cheap, snag it while you can.

Freeze-Now this is a love hate thing with me. I have a old fridge with a small freezer. Been looking for a freezer to put in our garage but other things have been coming up so I still have no freezer. Bummer! One day...I can dream though. Until then, I have to constantly remember whats in my small freezer, move things around like Lego's until I can fit everything in there. Frustrating to say the least.
You can get things that are in season and super cheap then simply freeze them. Currently I have peaches(99 cents lb), blackberries(free!), raspberries (99 cents lb), shredded zucchini (free my garden), pumpkin puree(49cents lb), and even fig puree(free). These things freeze very well and can be used in many ways. So saving them is worth it. Forgot to mention the quince jelly I made from a few pounds of quince I received for free. Another great tip, do not ever pass by free food. I would recommend writing the date on some tape on each item. This way you know what needs to be used first. By having all these things in my freezer, I can simply look in the freezer and get creative. Cobblers would be easy for me, pumpkin pie's, shredded zucchini for muffins, or we can make some smoothies.

Eat it. Well what I mean is plan your meals around what is in season. So freeze what you can, dehydrate what you can, then anything else left over that you have no room to store, eat it. So this week its potato's. I bought a 10 pound bag of potato's and completely forgot I also had my potato's from my garden this past summer. So guess what were eating now? Yep, potato everything. Who doesn't love potato's? Soups, mashed potato's, fried potato's, fries, and even shepherds pie. And don't forget about the apples I bought, apples are in each lunch for the kids. They store in your fridge for weeks so apples are always a good buy. So remember to plan your meals around whats in season.

Internet. Internet is your best friend. If you ever have one thing but don't know what make from it, just get on the Internet. My favorite web site is http://www.recipezaar.com/. I simply type in what I have (lets say potato) and it will give me a ton of recipe's. I simply check each one out and see if I have what they call for. Super easy! Remember, you don't have to follow each recipe exactly. You can sub or leave out anything you want. Don't like onions? Just leave them out. Have no black beans like they want but have pintos? Just throw those in instead. Get creative!

Store. Remember you can store food anywhere in your home no matter how big or small. Our old house was so tiny that I stored cereal and boxed food under our benches at the dinner table. Get creative and don't forget where you put everything. Lets say you are at the supermarket and they have box's of cereal discounted so low that you simply cannot pass them up. Maybe the package was banged up or they were discontinued the product. No, you really do not need cereal right that second but if you buy it now for that super low price, you save later. So never turn down a good deal. My pantry is well stocked all year. Were not attached to any brand so I save even more this way. My pantry is filled with canned tomato's, tomato soup, flour, cereal, oils, bulk food, all my dehydrated food in jars, jams I made, and any snacks I might have bought on super sale with coupons. One would say its boring (my sister) but not me. My pantry is full and we could live off it for a year. No joke. Just think of yourself as a squirrel gathering food for the winter. lol

Have no meat or little of it? No problem. Currently I have no packaged meat in my home. I have a package of bacon. This needs to last my husband and I for 3 more days. How can I do this? Its so easy.
Bacon idea's
bacon gravy. Who doesn't love gravy? Especially bacon gravy! Make a simple white flour gravy and add some bacon crumbles. Pour over toast and you have sh!t on a shingle as my mom would call it. lol
Baked potato's with bacon crumble
Breakfast muffins. Make a simple muffin and leave out the sugar. Add scrambled eggs and bacon crumbles and bake as usual. Mmmm these are good.
Save the bacon grease and use it later for making meals. This is what my mom would of done. This grease will have a great smokey bacon flavor. Use this instead of olive oil when you make saute veggies over rice. Use bacon grease while making pancakes....mmmmm memories of my childhood come to mind. I can smell the bacon now...

No bacon? Maybe another piece of meat? No problem. All the idea's above can be made with any meat.
No meat at all? Just use beans. If you buy dried beans(I recommend it!) you can make any dish and sub with the beans.

The point of this is simple. If you have no money, don't go to the store and charge anything on your card. You may save money but will pay it later with interest. Use what you have and get creative. Make it your challenge. You will thank me later when you have no credit card bill with added interest on it.

Another great money stretching idea? Check out my blog on Facebook or Twitter!
I have freebies daily as they come in and links to lots of money saving blogs.


Monday, November 16, 2009

Baby its cold outside

The wind is picking up and running straight through my sweaters. Burrrrr! I love the cold weather but do not like being cold. I'm one of those people who are constantly cold and always wearing sweaters, thick socks, a scarf and quite possibly some gloves on a regular basis. Burrr!
Speaking of cold weather, have you started saving on your energy bill yet? What? Goodness you need to start now! Try out all or at least some of these tips so you can start saving money on your energy bill.

ENERGY SAVING TIPS

-Buy energy saving appliances if you can. A lot of stores offer rebates so look out for those. Our washer was over $700 but was actually only around $500 after rebates. It uses less water and energy. 2 ways to save money. We replace our old ones when they give out, and buy new energy ones.

-Air dry your dishes instead of heat drying.

-Clean out lint from lint trap to increase air circulation. You can throw lint in your compost as well. Or save it and make fire starters. Just pour old wax onto your lint which is inside paper egg cartons. Break them apart and light them up to use in your fireplace. Talk about recycling!

-Consider buying a laptop. Use less energy and don't take up a huge amount of space. Most will turn off to conserve energy when not in use.

-Don't over dry your clothes. Use the sensor if yours has one.

-Use power strips on appliances you don't use often. Household use 25% more power to power things not in use. So unplug when ever your not using or get a power strip so its easier and convenient.

-Invest in rechargeable batteries. If you use a lot of things that require batteries, it will save you a lot of money in the long run. Don't throw away batteries, recycle them. there are places that take them. Unplug charger when not in use. Don't forget.

-There is a myth that screen savers on your computer use less energy. This is not true. So turn your computer on sleep mode or turn it off completely at night or when your not using it.

-Clean warm air registers/baseboard heaters. Make sure no furniture is blocking air from getting in.

-Install a programmable thermostat. We have ours at 60 at night and 65 during the day. Were used to this so it doesn't bother us. I turn if off during the day when the sun is out. I open up all our drapes and blinds to let the natural sun heat our home. Then turn it on later when the sun goes down.

-Insulate your hot water heater and pipes. Cut down on heat loss.

-Maintain your heating furnace/water heater/or fireplace each year. No build up to start fires and your furnace/hot water heater will work properly saving you money.

-Install new windows. That alone will save you so much money. Make sure you seal them correctly. This is on the top of our list for 2010.

-Apply sun control or other reflective films on south facing windows to reduce solar gain.

-Close drapes, or blinds on south windows. They allow cold air to enter.

-Close drapes,blinds during the night. Open up during the day.

-Tape or frame in heavy duty plastic film on inside of your window during winter. Keeps cold air from getting in your home. This alone saved us a ton of energy and kept us from freezing our bottoms each night.

-You can save up to 30% more energy if you insulate your walls, attic, and under your home correctly. Check your home for this. Again this is on our to do list.

-Close fireplace dampers when not in use. They allow smoke out, and if your not using your fireplace then your allowing all that hot air you just paid to heat your house to escape.

-Plant trees to shade your home. They should start shading the first year but really shade after 5-10 years. Remember: your tree's have roots and take that in to account when planting. Don't want those roots to mess with your home. This will save you energy during the summer.

-Plant shrubs around your home. Plant at least 1 foot away from home. They will help insulate your home as well. Just remember to research how big these shrubs will get.

-During the winter, low lined or trees will block north or northeast wind from hitting your home.

-Use high intensity discharge (HID) or low pressure sodium lights

-Turn off any lights when your leaving the room.

-Use dimmers-less energy used is less on your bill.

-If your air conditioner is old, consider buying an new one. It will reduce your energy to 50 % and save you money. Keep an eye out for rebates too! Call your local electric company, sometimes they have incentives.

-Don't set lamps or lighting near your air conditioner. I will run longer.

-Wash only full loads of dishes or dirt clothes.

-Take short showers instead of baths. Time your showers and see how much time you can shave off with each shower.

-Drain a quart of water from your hot water heater to remove any sediment from it.

-Lower temp on hot water heater, do you really need it that hot?

-Repair anything leaky. Just last month a renter of ours didn't tell us about the leaky toilet. Well our $600 water bill told us. EEK! Repair them immediately. And if your renting, tell your owners fast.One tiny leak can cost then big time and might even trickle down to you.

-If heating a swimming pool, invest in a cover. Evaporation is the largest source of energy loss. Make sure to check for leaks each year too, this will cost you a bundle if you have a leak so always check.

-Use a crock pot instead of your stove.

-Microwave

-Keep all lights off during the day until you absolutely have to use them.

-Switch out your old bulbs when they are done with energy efficient new ones. They can last up to 10 years.

-Hang dry your clothes if you can. I have 2 of these fold able racks that I use on a regular basis in our home.

-Use blanket warmers. We use them during the winter, why heat your home up when all you need warm is yourself. This is especially good when you have a larger home. You can get them after winter for pretty cheap. Mine was only $20 for a queen one. Get them for all your beds in use. Saves you a lot.

-Invest in flannel sheets for each bed. I have one flannel and one cotton set for each bed in use. Cotton ones keep heat off you during the summer. They stay nice and cold. During the winter use flannel ones. they keep you pretty warm. Again, you can get these after the winter for pretty cheap. I found my girls for only $12 a set.

-Slippers-I get cold during the day sometimes and I find that if I just put my slippers on , I feel a lot warmer. So invest in these for everyone. Again you can get them for pretty cheap after winter. Buy and save them.

-Don't let the water run when brushing your teeth.

-Put a container full of water in your tank of the toilet. Saves on water for you.

-Cover a fireplace-we found that cold air leaked from our gas fireplace during the really cold nights. We covered it with just a quilt and it kept cold air out. Wasn't the prettiest but it worked. But I like quilts so it didn't bother me.

-Keep lap blankets near. We have a few around our living room for when we get a little cold. Saves you energy. So instead of turning up the heat, grab a blanket and your slippers. Give you an excuse to cuddle as well.

-Take a shower/bath every other day. Cuts your water bill in half. I used to take one everyday but now its every other day. Our bill went down pretty good after that. My husband and I take a shower one day. The next our 2 older girls take a shower and I give my twins a bath together. Sometimes they can go 3 days without a shower/bath. Depends on if they played hard.

-Have friends and family over-sounds weird but the more people in your home, the less energy you use to heat your home. So rotate having dinner at friends/family. They come to your home, you use less energy. You go to their home, turn off your heat. Use no energy that way. Win win situation. Plus saves you money on food as well.

-Got quilts? I find them at thrift stores. We use them at the foot of our beds to keep our feet warmer. Then we don't get cold at night. They are pretty cheap at thrift stores and most the time they are crazy quilts. Cool colors and patterns hand made which you cannot find in a store. They are super expensive in stores anyways.

-Have your kids run around playing before they go to bed. They will be hot and tired. They will be less likely to be fussy going to bed, and they will be plenty warm.

-Wash your clothes in cold water. This alone will save you a ton of money especially if you have a big family like mine.

-Drink warm drinks before bedtime. I like a nice hot cup of cocoa or apple cider. My girls love a warm cup of tea so they usually have a night time tea. It calms them and keeps them warm. I usually do not have a hard time putting them to bed either.

-Turn off or block heat registers that are in rooms you do not use on a regular basis. Master bath and bedroom are blocked because we have a plug in blanket. We can suffer but my children will not. Our laundry room and laundry room bathroom are shut too. Why waste your energy and heat on rooms that no one is in?

-Keep doors closed during the day. My oldest daughters rooms are closed while they are at school. This keeps our living room much warmer. We have a old draft home so it helps us.

-Keep your fridge closed. Sounds easy but when you have small children its not. Your fridge will have to run on over time to keep it cold if it keeps getting opened.

-Dress warm. We wear a sweatshirt and slippers constantly at home. Were never cold, its just normal to us now. Saves us energy and in return saves us money.

-Wood stove or insert. We have a very large fireplace that takes up a whole wall in our living room. Wood stove would ruin the whole experience of having a fireplace so we decided to get an insert. Our fireplace really does not heat or home, only those who are standing by it. So the insert will have a grate that is hollow and a fan. Once it gets hot enough, the fan will kick on and blow the hot air into our home. Wood stoves are great too so look into those as well. My husband grew up in a 2 story home and 1 wood stove. No electric heating at all. If you wanted to get warm, you started a fire. Slippers were a must. lol

-Warm food. Sounds silly but it works. During the Fall I make lots of soups. This heats up our kitchen and heats up our bellies. To save on energy I pull out the crock pot. Fill it in the morning and enjoy it later for dinner. Crock pot uses way less energy than a standard burner. Same goes for bread machines. I like to bake instead of frying so when I'm done doing my baking, I simply leave my oven open for a few minutes to let the hot air escape into our home.

-Have a fire place? Save money on fire wood a few ways. Work somewhere that uses wood crates? Or maybe wood pallets? Take them home and break them down. These can be used for starter wood. Have a wood cabinet business nearby? Most will leave their scraps in a bin for anyone who wants them. Take home the bare wood. Do not burn wood with any varnish or finishes on them. Have a chainsaw? A friend who needs a tree taken down? You take down the tree for free and they let you have the wood. Win win! Get creative and never turn down wood.
You can use your fireplace instead of your central heating. Fun to sit and cozy up by the fire with the family.


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Challenge for good

I have a challenge for you readers today. Please do one thing today that will help another person. Donate your change, open the door for someone, bring a homeless person food, or donate some household items to someone in need. Just the act of thinking of others makes me feel good. How about you? Tell me what you did later today. Share your story with others. Come on people, I wanna hear some stories!


If you don't think you have anything good to give others, your wrong. Just as most American families make it check to check, so do we. Seems like there is always something that comes up and takes our extra money. This month its one of our duplex's that we own. You all know how expensive plumbers can be. So I know how it is, I live it just like each and every one of you. But I have found other ways to help out. It did not cost me one cent out of my pocket and all I had to do was a little leg work.
I recently ran into a friend of mine that I worked with for a few years. She is a single mom with a 11 yr old daughter and a 6 month old son. Sad thing was that she was laid off and was starting over her life with nothing. Well she has some things but only furniture and beds. She was getting help with formula for her son but not for food. Since she was laid off she was getting unemployment checks but they were covering most of the bills and was not anything left over. I felt for her and wanted to help her out as much as I could. This is what friends do. Well since my current issues in my own life (duplex) I had to think big. I was able to help her out a few ways. Maybe you can get some inspiration from my example.

1. Made calls to all my friends and family and told them I had a friend in need who needed everything but furniture.

2. I logged onto my Facebook and posted that I had a friend in need who needed help. We as moms needed to stick together and help out a fellow mom in need.

3. Talked to my neighbors, told them the story, and each neighbor came up with a bag of groceries from their own pantry.

4. Went in my own pantry and filled 4 bags of groceries.

I came to my friends house that day and was able to bring her 6 bags of groceries filled with lots of goodies. Baking goods so she can make food from scratch, frozen meat, bacon, canned goods, and the list goes on and on. Plus toothpaste, toilet paper, etc. A few days later I brought her some pots and pans and picked up another care package from a Facebook friend and brought them over to her. She now had a way to cook her food. She was limited to a few pans she did have.
Another great thing is going to happen this week. I'm hosting a clothing exchange party at my house this weekend and she is invited. Because I posted about my friend in need, most of my friends who have boys are bringing baby clothes for her little boy. And if she still doesn't have enough for her children, I'm planning a Goodwill trip with her next week and were going to hunt for what she still needs. I will be babysitting for a friend tomorrow and the money I make there will go to help my friend.
I could of just shook my head and thought "Oh I wish I could help but I have no money myself."Then turned around and went home and forgot all about it. Personally I just cannot do this. I cannot turn my head when someone is in need. Its something I was born with and imprinted in my brain. Memories of my mother giving out produce from my grandmothers garden come to mind. We lived in low income apartments where you had to have children to live there so there was always someone who could use the produce. Babysitting for others, giving away our clothes, and just being there for others was how I grew up. So helping is my calling. I will continue to help out as many people as I can and my children will be right there by my side. I will lead by example and my children will learn and lead by example too one day.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Goodies for Giving *Chocolate-Peanut Popcorn*



Chocolate-Peanut Popcorn

12 cups popped popcorn 1 cup corn syrup
2 1/4 cups salted peanuts 1/4 cup butter
1 3/4 cup milk chocolate chips

Combine popcorn and nuts in a greased roasting pan; set aside. In a heavy saucepan, melt together chocolate chips, corn syrup and butter, stirring constantly. Bring mixture to a boil; pour over popcorn, tossing well to coat. Bake at 300 degrees for 30-40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. Remove from oven, stir and allow to cool slightly in pan. Remove popcorn to a baking sheet lined with wax paper to cool completely. Store in an airtight container. Makes 14 cups.

Packaging
Whole Foods sells wax small paper bags that you can use to put 1 cup increments into. Then put that bag into a paper lunch sack that has been decorated. Top it off with some ribbon and your done. Perfect frugal gift to give co workers, neighbors or just special someones.

Extra Zest
Maybe after you bake the popcorn, throw in some holiday sprinkles.