Saturday, February 28, 2009

Homemade Goodness *Chocolate Syrup*

I'm happy to announce a new topic on surviving and thriving on pennies. I will try to bring you as many good recipes I can find. No crazy recipes that will keep you in the kitchen forever. Just simple things that you can make yourself and not have to go buy.

Chocolate Syrup

1/2 cup cocoa
1 cup water
2 cups sugar (add less if you want)
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 tsp vanilla

Mix the cocoa and the water in a sauce pan. Heat and stir to dissolve the cocoa. Add the sugar, and stir to dissolve. Boil 3 minutes. Add salt and the vanilla. Pour into a sterilized pint jar, and store covered in the refrigerator. Keeps for several months.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Frugal Stress-Less Strategies

Need to relax? Cant figure out how to do this when you have children running around everywhere? Well here are a few idea's for you to try out. I am guilty of getting stressed to just about everything. So this will be a learning lesson for you and me both. Okay lets go...

Listen to music or read.
Music with a slow beat may cause brain waves to keep time and mellow you out. Whereas getting lost in a good book allows you to disassociate from real-life chaos for a bit. When I walk my girls to school, on the way home I plug my ears with my ipod with my favorite music. I usually will pick a fast beat song for uphill streets, and slow songs for flat streets. This way I can get through the hill but not notice how my legs are burning. lol

Watch tv or a movie
Anticipation of a fun event, even a new episode of a funny show, lowers stress hormones and revs up immunity. But if your trying to do something and turn off the tv. Your attention gets scattered, making it harder to unwind. If im up and worried about something late at night, I turn on the tv to get my attention else where. Sometimes I worry about the silliest things. A couple days ago I was worried about my next day trip to Ikea. Didnt know if they would have a stroller cart big enough for my twins. See what I mean?

Talk with friends
Friends help you manage your negative emotions and brainstorm new ideas for solving problems. Giving support is as soothing as getting it, because listening can make you feel needed. But dont get too whiney about it. Talking in circles will just create more angst. Spend no longer than 5 minutes complaining about it, then move on. So keep your closest friend on speed dial . lol

Exercise 30 minutes
1/2 an hour of aerobic exercise can release chemicals that help blunt your body's stress response for up to a full day. Do more, benefit more. Everyday I do 1 hour of walking, and fyi im pushing my 4 yr old twins in a stroller the whole time. Yep, and I even jog with them. Yes I get stomach cramps and have to walk. Im no pro. I can say that I do it. It keeps my mind off any worries and I feel good and healthy.

Pamper Yourself
A little self-love lowers your blood pressure and distracts your brain from its worries. And it doesnt have to cost a thing. A warm bath can activate neutrons that increase serotonin. Try putting a good lotion on your feet and give yourself a massage. Your feet will thank you and you will relax. Put on your favorite pj's (anytime of the day) and this automatically makes you feel better.
Have lots of love making
Yep I said it. Even a 20 second kiss or hug raises your endorphin levels. Plus, reaffirming connections with your loved ones is a sure-fire tension reducer. Dont stop at a cuddle. Doing the deed releases more calming hormones than anything.

Keep a journal
Just pull out a school spiral you bought for your kids on sale for craft time. What? Am I the only one who does this? Stressful thoughts tend to be disorganized and can set off the fight-or-flight response. When you write them down, you can look at things logically. A study finds that a mere month of expressive writing can help reduce hypertension. The first time you write about a worry, you can feel worse. Write for at least 3 days to move past venting. Its for your eyes only so dont hold back.

Be a better breather
When you make a effort to breath deeper, it naturally brings your body back to a more relaxed state. Place your hand on your stomach and watch it rise as you inhale for a count of 3 or 4; hold your breath for the same count, and then exhale for as long as comfortable and watch your belly fall.

Look foward to something
Each morning think about one little, enjoyable thing you plan to do that day(using that freebie coupon ) and one bigger pleasure on the horizon(maybe a camping trip). This ritual trains your brain to focus away from what can go wrong that day.

Post pics of your happiest moments
Put pictures of your happiest moments on a mirror in the bathroom. Just 10 seconds of concentrating on the images is enought o reduce muscle tension and stabilize your heartbeat.

Dish out a compliment
Studies have shown that the more warm personal connections you make, the better your body will be at fighting off the effects of stress.

Convert Monday to Friday
You know that more heart attacks occur on Mondays than any other day? yep. Have a play date, moms day, or coffee date with a friend on Monday. This way you will look foward to that day and not dreading it. Or you can completely ignore Mondays like I do. lol

Come home 15 minutes late
After work, or a stressful day of taking care of the kids, take a extra 15 minutes for yourself. Liten to music or take a walk. Its an important way of decompressing and transitioning back into relax mode.

Make a worry list
A constant loop of anxieties keeping you up? Put a notepad by your bedside table, write down your worries and tell yourself, I will not fret until 11 am tomorrow. When that time rolls around, you'll likely see things anew. Im gonna try this one out tonight. I struggle with this one.

Learn to fight fair
Women stress over fighging with a significant other. Its what we do. Take a time-out every five minutes of an arguement to take deep breaths and calm down. Then end every fight with a positive activity such as kissing or dancing to raise your endorphin levels. Im not sure how this one will actually play out. I know im not in the mood to dance or kiss after a fight. Maybe a hug will due? lol

Stop and smell the rosemary
Breathing this scent for five minutes lowers cortisol. Sniff out valerian to aid sleep and bergamot and rose to calm down. Maybe you have fresh rosemary in your garden? Pick a sprig and rub it gently. Lay it on your bedside table. This should do the trick. If you have lotions with these in it, just put some lotion around your neck. I do this with lavender lotion. Helps me sleep better.

Gain perspective.
Weve all had our moments: Im gonna be late, he's gonna get mad! Take a dep breath and picture your stress shrinking and your happiness growing. Make a mental note of it. Im a little iffy with this one. We will see if this actually works.

Stress busting foods (vitamin B)
To brightening your mood
Almonds Low fat yogurt
Pistachios Salmon
Scallops Shrimp

Jump start immunity (Vitamin C)
Blueberries Broccoli
Green Bell Peppers Kiwifruit
Strawberries Tomatoes

Managing anger (Potassium)
Advocados Banana's
Black beans Corn
Potatoes White beans

Sounder Sleep (Magnesium )
Chickpeas Lentils
Oatmeal Pumpkin seeds
Spinach Swiss Chard

Thursday, February 26, 2009

GREEN REVIEW Snack Taxi reusable bags is an amazing and wonderful company. Small business doing a big job. A mother of 3 started this company. She strives to keep her company local and never would use outsource labor. This is a must in my book.
One bag from this company eliminates an average of 1,000 plastic bags. Can you believe that? Amazing.
Beautiful colored fabrics to choose from for the outside. The lining material is coated nylon. They chose this fabric to get away from our original lining, which was PVC. In their research, they read that polyurethane is preferable to PVC when it comes to environmental impact. The polyurethane coating is very thin, and is applied to the underside of the nylon, so it doesn't actually come into contact with the food.
Their motto is "Saving the earth, one snack at a time."
These cost $8.95 for a sandwich size and $6.95 for the snack size (or half sandwich). Worth every penny.
Test:1 week of school lunch's for my two daughters. I was worried about the bread getting dried out but no problem there. Thought the sandwich would be squished but I ended up putting it last in the bag and it was never squished. Then the ultimate thing happened. My daughters apple sauce leaked all over the inside of her lunch bag. The entire snack taxi bag was covered with apple sauce. But the sandwich was in perfect condition. No soggy lunch for her. I cleaned out her bag and hand washed the taxi bag. Let it air dry over night and it was up and running for the next day.
Yah or nay? Heck yah!! This is the best thing ive found so far this year. This company comes through with flying colors. In fact im ordering more for all my girls. I just love the fabrics they have. Boys or girls. You like it, its there.
Check them out today, you wont regret it.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Extreme Bargain Hunting

Track Cost
Make a list of 10-20 nonperishable items that you buy regularly, and keep tabs on their prices for a few weeks so you'll really know when you find a good deal. Stock up on these essentials when prices hit rock bottom.

Scour Bargain Racks
Mark-down meat is fine if you eat or freeze it the same day. Ditto for fruits and veggies. Get good deals on baked goods at wholesale outlets. Buy soaps and paper goods at discounted stores (example Grocery Outlet). Ive been doing this for years. I buy marked down meat, take it home and either cook it that night or I put it in a ziplock bag (I wash and reuse them until they fall apart) and freeze it for later use. I do this for everything. Veggies can be done this way too. Just cut up, freeze on a cookie sheet not touching each other and then take out to put in a ziplock bag. Bread can be frozen for a while. I choose to only freeze for about 3 weeks, I find it gets that freezer taste if its in their any longer.

Watch For Shrinkage
Manufacturers are dealing with rising cost by downsizing packages:12 oz of coffee instead of a pound. 20 cans in a case, not 24. Know exactly what you're getting before you consider it a bargain. I stopped buying most food from stores like "Costco,Sams Club" a long time ago due to this. I always found I could get things much cheaper in smaller packages even added up to the same size from these stores. Only thing I buy from them is frozen vegies, milk, and things like that. I do buy home goods like vacumes and such from them because they have the best return policy.

Hunt High And Low
Wholesalers pay extra to have brands shelved at eye level in big supermarkets, and that cost gets passed on to the consumer (thats you). To find the most economical deals, look on the top and bottom shelves. Look for store brands, they are almost always 1/3 cheaper. My rule of thumb is always look for what ever item you need in the bulk section first, then the aisle. chances are its cheaper in bulk. Added note: Stores are starting to have alot more organic, low fat, low sodium, etc items now. Bobs Red Mill is a favorite of ours and Winco now carries it in their bulk section. Yipee!

Beware of Overcharges
Watch closely as the cashier rings up your items-or go over the reciept once you leave the register. I wouldnt wait until you get home. You will have to drive back and waste your gas. Do it then while your there. If you spot an error, go to the customer service desk immediately. They will always be willing to fix the problem. Some stores are natorious for this. I find that Albertsons, and Safeway are always offenders of this. My daughter now reminds me to check my reciept. I think she has seen me get angry a number of times and tries to help me out. lol.

Be Brand Flexible
Buy what's on sale and in season. Dont pass up the store brands. The same companies that make make brands often manufacture store brands, so you may be paying a premeium for that well-known label. Most name brands are starting to carry their items in the bulk section now as well so dont forget to check there.

Coupon Clip but be wise
Not all coupons are good deals. Yes I could get a box of Cheereo's for 2/$5 with a store coupon. Or I could get the store brand of cheerio's for only $1.99. Yes, its a savings of only 51 cents but that change add's up after a while. Here is my rule of thumb. Use coupons only when these things happen.
1. Get it for free. Of course free isnt always good. Free box of chocolates? No. We dont eat that much sugar. So I will use this item as a gift for a friend who has a sweet tooth.
2. Get it for almost free. Example. Target has Goldfish Crackers for $1.69, their is a printable coupon on Targets website for $1 off 1 pack. I can get 1 package of crackers for only .69 cents. Good deal in my book. My kids just love these.
3. Staple item. If its a brand I buy always, I use the coupon. Since my girls and I have Excema, certian brands of lotion are a must and I have to buy them. So when I see a coupon, I will use them with a sale to get them for much cheaper. But if I can buy the store brand and get it cheaper than the name brand with the coupon, I will get the store brand. Im about whats cheapest.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Too many options?

Is there such thing as too many options? I didnt think so when I lived in my old town and only a few options. I kept thinking about how much fun and exciting it would be to shop at all these places that people blog about. Yeah well I was so wrong. So wrong. Ive been to a few stores and tried to scope out the discount spots. "Oh boy...". I was overwhelmed. So looks as if im gonna need some time to figure them all out.
Please be patient. Keep up hitting up the favorite places for free samples. lots of new samples new ones daily lots of moms update hourly

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


Sorry it took so long to get back. We moved and are almost done unpacking finally. We had to wait to get our internet hooked back up. But im back now and ready to get the ball rolling again. Since I live in a new town with lots of stores, I can find many more deals. Before we only had 4 stores to choose from. But I live in a much bigger town and have at least a 100 stores to pick from. I will be checking out all the stores, finding their mark down sections, ask when they mark down their dairy etc, and seeking outlets. If you havent done this in your town, its the only way your gonna find the deals so start asking around.
I was so used to knowing where everything was, what days t0 hit up each store, and how I could cut back on everything in our last home. Now its all new. I have to figure out where to cut back in every aspect of our new home. My old house was a newer built one so it was pretty energy effeciant. This house we have now is over 40 yrs old. Old windows, hardly any insulation, etc. Slowly but surely we will be updating but keeping the integrity of the style of the home. First thing were gonna do it get insulation blown in the attic and walls. Then were replacing all the old windows. This should help out a ton. Until then its turning the temp back, wearing warmer clothes, and taking advantage of day light sun coming in and keeping the lights off.
I will keep you posted on what I find, what I do, and my journey though it all. Until next time...

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Recycling Clothes & Gear the right way

You know how it is, you either have way too many clothes, or lots of clothes that just dont fit anymore but wished they did. So here are plenty of ways you can put your clothes to good or prevent this from happening again.

1. Buy what you need only. No matter how cute it is, do you really need it? One exeption would be if you bought this years after season clothes in a size larger for next year. Those put in a box for next year.

2. Seek used whenever possible. There is a wide veriety of nearly new items available, buying used lets you conserve on everything from raw materials to energy. And you will save money too. Consignment shops, thrift stores, and garage sales are great places to find gently used stuff for way cheap.

3. Find friends and family who could use your items. Dont let your sentimentalist talk you into keeping everything.

4. Get your hand me downs back later if you have more children. This way you are really recycling.

5. Repurpose items. Use old towels for kitchen rags, socks for dusting etc.

6. Donate your items to cherity. Goodwill and Salvation Army are great places. Also check out your local homeless shelters, and womens shelters. They can always use items. Call ahead and see what they need.

7. Dont forget you can get a tax deduction for donating your clothes.

8. If donating isnt an option, try . This organization has a free email list for almsot every region. You submit messages of what you want to get rid of and people respond.

9. Another great place is which has a $4.95 lifetime fee. Limited on regions but consentrates on maternity and children items.

One thing for sure is your doing the earth good by doing any of these things. You will be helping others care for their children without the added expenses. Its a win win situation for everyone.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Important Message !!!

This will be my last post for possibly a week. Im moving in 2 days and its getting harder and harder for me to get to the laptop. We are suppost to get our internet service the day after we move but we will see if we do or not. So hope this post last you a few days. I encourage you to go out on your own and find some freebies! Ive given you a few post this week that should help you out. So good luck and see you in a few days. Wish me luck too!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

You have a money saving routine?

Just about everday I have a routine I do. I didnt realize this until recently. Im pretty predictable. Ive never been one to be "routine" and "predictable" and it simply just throws me that im that way now. Just to give you an idea, here's what I do about 5 days out of the week.

1. Walk the girls to the school bus
2.Pack a lunch for the twins on our walk
3.Walk with a neighbor around the town (2 miles)
4.Come home
5.Walk up to Safeway/Walmart looking for deals. (2 miles)
6.Come home
7.Check the mail
8.Walk to get the girls from the bus stop
9.Cook Dinner
12.Go to bed

Yep, its pretty sad but this is what I do almost everyday. I keep thinking to myself "Geez Im boring."But you know what? Im not boring. Im saving us money and living my life. Here's why I do these things everyday.
Go for a walk. -Its exercise and makes me healthy. I get out my jogger/stroller . Im in comfy clothes, and ready with my ipod. Sometime's I listen to music to relax and sometimes the twins will watch a movie on it. The girls are each 30+ lbs now so I get a work out pushing 60+ lbs in a stroller. This also saves me gas. And I get to chit chat with my friend/neighbor.
Pack a lunch-I pack the girls each a whole wheat sammie with homemade jelly, a fresh fruit cut up, and sometimes crackers or cereal. This alone saves me money. They usually get hungry on our second walk (they smell fresh bread baking in the store). So instead of getting a snack everyday, I pack a lunch which saves me a bundle.
Go for another walk. My next door neighbor likes to take walks too so I usually will walk with her right after I get back from my other walk. This saves me gas money. Its 2 miles to and from so it can really add up. One quick ride up to the store everyday adds up to a full tank of gas I have to purchase later. This gets me exercise and feeling healthy.
Safeway/Walmart-after I get home from taking the girls to the bus stop, I get on my computer, blog and check my many sources for deals. I will print out any coupons that I think I will use or get items for free. I put them in my purse so I wont forget. This way I know what I clipped when im in the store and dont have to remind myself and get them out. I hit up Safeway first looking in my usual markdown areas. Deli, dairy, meat, produce, and sometimes a shelf they put out with steals and deals. This is how I buy all my yogurt. Then its to Walmart if I have coupons. I will again hit up their clearance sections and sales. Usually its food and home items I will buy. Rarely will I ever buy clothes. It has to be almost free before I will buy it.
Dinner-Dinner will consist of chicken. Right now is the season to buy chicken(legs and drumsticks) and I can get it regularely for 88cents-99 cents a pound. I throw it in the oven at 4pm for 1 hour. This way all I have to do it do the rest of dinner and not worry about the meat. Vegies is also whatever is in season. Carrots and celery are cheap so I incoorporate those into the meal. Im getting pretty good at making differant chicken meals. No one is bored of it yet.....
Laundry-I choose to do it at night, usually when we are sleeping. Thankfully I have a 1-6 hour delay button. This saves us money on our electricity bill. I then put it in the dryer when I get up early in the morning. All items that can be hang dried are hung up all day until the night when I go in to put another load in. I make my own soap at a cost of 1 cent per load.
So there you have it. Im regular and predictable now. It being this way saves me money, and gets me exercise..... then im okay with it. I will proudly stand up and say "Im predictable and boring!". And I still have money in my pocket from saving so much money and a full tank of gas. Can you say that?

BUT......Im moving in 8 days. This is all going to change and im freaking out a little bit.
No neighbors to walk with.
No Walmart (which is okay with me).
No routine walk plan.
Old house to update.
New schools
Dont know anyone
I have to start over and find all the hidden mark down spots everywhere.
Im scared but excited.

Trader Joe's and Whole Foods within 2 miles of me (yipee!)
You name it, its there. All within minutes of my new home.
A better school system
Family within 10 minutes of us
A chance to meet and gain new friends

So im excited and scared. The countdown begins......

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Free broth anyone? SAVE YOUR MONEY!

I just dont see why people buy broth when you can get it for free anytime you cook. Its easier than you think to make, super healthy, and taste so much better. You can make any type of broth you want. Fish, poultry, vegetable, pork, beef, etc. You name it. You can do this while your doing dishes after dinner, or during the day when kids are in school. Make it fat free, low sodium, or even no sodium.

Here's what you need:

Animal carcass or left over dinner bones
lots of water
large pot
salt (optional)

Take your large pot, put in the bones, and add alot of water. Put on medium high heat and boil covered for 1-2 hours. Cook until bones fall apart.
Once done, drain into a large bowl over a strainer ( to catch bones etc). Set broth aside.
Go through bones and pick out any usable meat and set aside in fridge for another meal or freeze for soups later.
Throw out bones.
Put boneless broth back into pot and cover.
Put into fridge and leave over night or all day.
Before dinner (or next day) pull out and you will notive a layer of fat hardened and floating on the top.
Scoop out all fat (super easy) and save for later if you like. Rich in Omega 6 fatty acids. Or you can throw it out.
You can use this broth for that day to use or scoop 1 cup portions into freezer bags for later. I freeze mine in 3 cup portions. This way I dont have to use many ziplocks.

This can be done with vegetables as well. Save vegetable ends, and herbs for later in the week to make broth. Add all vegetables into a big pot with water and boil for about 45 minutes. Strain and put in fridge. Freeze into 1 cup portions or use that day. Fat free and FREE!

Or you can go pay $1 a can for broth in the store. Your choice.

Easy on the pocket DUMPLINGS

Yes, you heard it. Dumplings. Ever made them? I never did until I started trying to find frugal dinners on the net. Now anytime I make a soup or stew, I jazz it up by throwing in some dumplings. Its super yummy and filling.

2 tbsp vegetable oil
3/4 cup water
1/4 instant milk (or instead of water and dried milk just add 3/4 cup of milk)
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Mix dry ingredients then add wet ones and stir until mixed together.Drop dough into simmering liquid of choice, and cover for 15 minutes. Allow to set for 5 minutes.

Cornbread Dumplings
Do the same as above except reduce flour to 1 cup and add 1/2 cup of cornmeal. And then prepare the same way.
This is expecially yummy when you use anything involving tomatoes or beans. mmmmmm

Monday, February 2, 2009

Recycle and get creative

For me its hard to come up with craft idea's on my own. Working at a craft store for 10+ years you might think I should know this stuff, but no. But if I see something done, I usually can figure out how they did it and figure out a way to do it cheap.

Now days its a must that we recycle. With our landfills filling up like crazy , its our job to fix what we have done. Recycling is a MUST. So to encourage your kids to recycle, it seems like a task in itself. If tought early, kids wont think its a task. Now days it seems parents need to be tought, not kids. But now there are thousands of books, lots of web sites and even classes in local craft stores that who you how to be creative and recycle. Here is a site that I found that can help you out. Not only can you find recycled gifts, but you can find hundreds of other craft idea's.

-Free patterns
-Green Crafts =Earth Friendly crafts
Indoor and outdoor gardening
Nature Projects
-Holiday Crafts
-Blogs -craft blogs you can check out any time
-Free printables
There are 1,000's of projects you can try out for free. From detail instructions to pictures you can see of each project.

This is a cool site. Has some places where you can buy items but a ton of good idea's. From old sweaters turned bags, to a trash planner. Lots of blogs you can check out or just get inspired by.

If you have any eco friendly sites that might be of interest to everyone, email me!