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
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 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.


-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.


-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.

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.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Can it be true? Cut our trash in half? Yes I can!

As many of you know, I try to cut our everyday living cost as much as possible. This includes everything in our life. My latest project has been our trash. My next door neighbor asked if we would be interested in sharing a trash service. She would cancel her trash service and we would use just ours. We would then split our trash bill in half with them.
My first thoughts was that there was no way we could do this. I have a family of 6 and she has a family of 4. This would be 10 people's trash into one tiny trash can. Yikes. We rarely ever filled our trash but our recycling bin was always over filled. Well we decided to try it out and boy am I glad we did.
Here is how we do this.

-All food scraps are put into our compost. Anything but meat and dairy. I do not like waste so the only thing that usually ends up in our compost is fruit peelings, veggie peels, and egg shells.

-Plastics are in a separate container now. I keep 2 brown paper bags in my home. 1 for any type of thin plastic wrappings. Bread bags, plastic wrap around packages, etc. The other bag is for all other plastic. Yogurt containers, milk lids, plastic hangers, etc. You get the idea. Every few months my neighbor will take these in to get recycled for free. Yes there is a option to do this, you just need to take advantage of it.

-Anything that can be recycled is. Any paper, cardboard, cans, milk cartons, etc. Its all put in recycling.

-Anything that cannot be recycled is put in the trash. Let me say that there is very little that is not recycled. Styrofoam (we do not have this service yet), thrown out dairy(rarely if never) and things like that.

There are a few things that have helped us reach our goal and have taught us. Having a wonderful neighbor has helped out. Anything I have a question about or she has about, we talk to each other. We figure out ways to recycle it or reuse it.
We keep 2 options in each bathroom and kitchen. 1 bag for recycling items, and the other is a trash can. Once a month these are taken out and put in the appropriate places.

Added bonus!
Not only is this helping us recycle and keep our footprint small but this saves us 50% off our garbage bill. May not seem like much but it will add up to over $100 each year we save by doing this. I rarely have to take trash out anymore, what a huge bonus! Also it has taught us as a family to be kinder to this earth and try our best not to leave a footprint on it. Its also taught us to reuse anything we can. Current items to be reused are wine corks (for another art project), beer bottle metal lids (art project) and juice lids(more ornaments). My girls try to think of a new way to reuse things before they throw them in the recycling. Or sometimes they will dig through our recyclables and find something to use in a art project. I am so proud of my girls and how open they are to learning new ways to be kinder to this earth.

My question to you: Have I inspired you to try this out?

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Goodies for Giving *Chewy Bars in a jar*

Chewy Bars in a Jar

1/2 cup peanut butter chips
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 cup brown sugar, packed and divided
2 cups biscuit baking mix
1 quart mason jar with lids
1 piece of scrap fabric
1 piece of ribbon

Layer ingredients in a one-quart jar, wide-mouth canning jar in the following order: peanut butter chips, pecans, 1/2 cup brown sugar, one cup biscuit baking mix, remaining brown sugar and baking mix. Pack tightly between each layer. Additional peanut butter chips may be added if there is extra room at the top of the jar. Put scrap piece of fabric on top of lid and secure to the jar with the ribbon of choice and attach instructions with the ribbon as well.

Empty jar in a large mixing bowl. Add 1/2 cup melted butter, one egg and one teaspoon vanilla extract; stir to blend. Press into an 8"x 8" greased baking dish; bake at 350 degrees for 18-20 minutes or until golden brown. Makes 18 bars.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Christmas Ornament on the cheap

My husband built a wood shed outside our home and embellished it with some copper he bought at a local Home Depot. While he was working in it I found some extra pieces he left on the floor of our garage. There was no way I was going to let any of this copper go to waste. I just love copper. I found some juice tops (from frozen concentrate), ribbon, a color book, scissors, and a pencil and went to work. This could also be done with thin aluminum if you have it. Also bought at Home Depot in the roofing area. Here is how I did this.

1. Cut copper in a circle leaving about 1/2 inch around the juice lid.
2. Decide your pattern (mine was our initials) and write it backwards. Works best with a stencil.
3. Put copper on the color book and trace pretty hard your design with your pencil. This should leave your copper embossed. If you have an embossing tool it would work best.
4. Once pattern is done lay over your juice lid. Your extra copper around the edge should be snipped every centimeter or so.
5. Pick where the top of the ornament will be, you will want to use your ribbon to wrap your copper around so you will not have to glue it on. Once your ribbon is on start wrapping all the other extra copper around the juice lid. There is no need for glue on this project.
6. Once all copper is wrapped around the edge of the juice lid, take the same pencil and use it to make sure all copper is bent properly around it.
7. Your done!

Here is your end results!