Thursday, May 29, 2008

Meal Planning: Part 1

This will come in many parts because I have a lot to say and I don't want one really long post because that will get boring.

Meal Planning:

The first thing to do is make a list (in an accessible area, or on the computer) of your family favorite meals. Beside each meal, list the ingredients required to make that meal. Definitely do this for dinner, but if you are a SAHM, do it for every meal and snack. Don't worry about doing it all in one day, but add to a bit at the time and always leave room for new creations/recipes.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Coupon Sharing

as anyone ever done this in a group? How did it work? I would like to start something like this, by mail, in person, whatever.

I think it would work something like this . . . clip and post what I have, then mail them them out.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Cleaning Rag

I was a paper towel user, big time, many a day, sometimes a half a roll if I was doing a whole house spruce up. As I was going through my expenses and rethinking some things, I realized I use a TON of paper towels. So, I now use an old rag. I have probably 5 or 6 old rags, in previous lives they may have been washcloths or dishtowels, but now they spend their days in the lively profession of homecleaning. Some days I just use one if I'm not doing much other than the casual table and coutner top wipedown a couple of times a day. If I'm doing some serious work, I may use 3 or 4. The cost of tossing them in the laundry then drying them on the line is pretty much nil, especially compared what the cost of papertowels used to be (and even the good papertowels will only stand up for so long. A couple of words to the wise about this though - rinse often so they don't get nasty, sweep up the crumbs first (I sweep the table, counters, etc. with a little dustpan and brush set). Sweeping up the junk first takes only a few seconds, and disposes of the particles so that you rags and your home feels cleaner.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Dilution Solution

I buy concentrates on just about all of my cleaning products. This saves money since I can add the water myself and storage space because the packages are smaller and I don't have a hug home. I am trying to go green at my home, and I have discovered that the green concentrates are probably 1/5 the price of the regular. So, for all purpose cleaner spray, I use the concentrate and dilute. For window cleaner, not only do I dilute, I actually over dilute simply because I feel like since you could actually clean windows with just plain water and a good microfiber cloth anyway, why do I need a ton of chemicals (ecofriendly or not) to make my glass streak free? Good news, over diluted window spray still makes your glass sparkle and leaves a few extra cent in your pocket, which is good news for me.

I also dilute dishwashing liquid, hand soap, moisturizer, juice for the kids (they don't need all the sugar anyway), fabric softener (and it still does the job), foundation makeup and mascara (keeps it from clumping or looking 'whore-y'.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Line Drying

I know, I know. The first thought that comes to mind is poor people with crusty clothes. But have you ever considered the potential impact line drying may have on your wallet? In the summer you pay to have your home cooled, so why dry clothes in a dryer that's going to fight your AC unity. I'm not saying everything has to be dried on a line, but I bet if you do the heavier items that take too long to dry anyway on a line instead, you'll see real savings in your electric bill. I did, and now I'm drying as much as possible on my line. And it's also eco-friendly since you're not burning extra electricity.

Friday, May 16, 2008

The Depression Generation

I am 31 years old, my mother is 59. This means that neither of us has ever lived through a time of true need and depravity. My maternal grandmother is 81, which means that she was a small child during the depression era, my paternal grandmother, who recently passed away, would be 91 now, which means she was a child and into her teens during the depression. Now, people who lived through this era really know how to be frugal and thrifty. They know how to make it work without all of the parts or ingredients, but they got it done. They lived off of very little money and/or resources. I can remember listening to my late grandmother talk about the things she and her family used to do just to make the ends meet (7 children in the home). My living grandmother has a treasure trove of stories too as she was one of 13 and they were poor even before the depression.

So I encourage you, please take the opportunity when you can to talk to those who have lived through the worst so you can gain a few tips to prevent it in your own homes.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Homemade Quick Wipes

I used to buy the Clorox and Lysol brand quick wipes all the time, but at $3 or more a pop, that can get pricey. So, I did a little research on other sites and came up with a formula and method for my own at a fraction of the price. I purchased 2 square shaped tupperware-style containers at my local Wal-Mart (about 2.50 for a pack of 2) and of course you pick the size that fits the size of the wipe. I also bought a top quality white napkin (the ones that are folded into quarters like bounty or brawny) I stuffed the square container full of the napkins. Then I used a high quality all purpose concentrate like Lysol and diluted it according to package directions. I poured the mix over the napkins a cup at a time until they were well soaked. I closed it up and left it overnight so that the solution could have time to soak into the middle of the stack. Then I just labeled the container as such and use them whenever I need a quick wipe.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


This is something I used to hate to do, re-use stuff in a new way. I don't know why, but when I was younger I just never saw the need to do this. Hmmm, I wonder how many bucks I could've saved then?

Re-use does not mean washing out and reusing your ziploc bags or butter containers, although that is a useful habit (the butter containers, not the ziploc bags - could be dangerous bacteria since a bag is harder to clean). I use the term reuse to describe taking something and creating it into something new. For instance, I was looking through a pottery barn book at some of their decor ideas, and one thing that they had was 3 purchased open cynlinders (like oatmeal cylinders) that were stacked in an offset fashion between a wall and printer and they were being used to cubby things like scissors, writing utensils, rulers, etc. Well, what about the good 'ol oatmeal container? You can cut it to your desired length, decorate it with leftover wallpaper, wrapping paper or just let the kid color them and add bows, ribbon, jewels, whatever and use them for storage. For girls they're great for brushes, hairbows, doll clothes, etc. Boys may use them for toy soliders, blocks, or matchbox cars. When I get mine done, I'll take a pic and show you what I use mine for, but be creative and take a second look at things that are going to be tossed out, or are just collecting dust on top of a shelf or shoved in the back of a closet somewhere.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Free Exercise Videos

Do yourself a favor, don't buy another exercise video that you know will just end up collecting dust and taking up precious space after about 2-3 weeks of use. Rent one for free (for about 3 weeks at a time usually) from your local public library. The loan time is generally about as long as your interest in that particular video will be anyway. AND, to optimize your workout you're supposed to change it up every couple of weeks anyway to keep your workouts effective and calorie burning. You could also look for free workout videos from myspace and YouTube also, but please, don't pay money for them!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Independant Gas Establishments

My family and I just got back from a trip to visit relatives from Maryland. On the way up and on the way back I noticed something. the independent gas stores were cheaper than the chains (for the most part). For instance, we visited St. Mary's County in Maryland, and in Leonardtown, the Burchmart was 3.68, and when got about 6 or 7 miles outside of town, the little older, almost run-down looking store (but very much open) was only 3.55. And all the through Virginia, we noticed much the same thing. So, pay attention to your gas stations.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Dollar Stores

They go by many names, Dollar Tree, Family Dollar, Dollar General, 99 cent store, etc. But have you ever been down the grocery items aisle? Now I normally do not go grocery shopping in a dollar store, never have, but I found some suprising finds. For instance, Nature's Own Honey Wheat Bread, in Food Lion it's 2.19 a loaf, there, $1. There was also Cinnamon Toast Crunch which in Food Lion goes for upwards of $3 for a 14oz box, is on $1 for a 9 oz box. Yes, it's a smaller box, but you can't be the price per ounce, and with a smaller box, it's less likely to go stale. Also, minced garlic in the 8oz jar for $1, which in the grocery is usually $1 for the 4oz jar. Now if brand is an issue for you, buy all means, get what you're comfy with, but for me, things like garlic, elbow macaroni (32oz for $1), kids juice boxes (100% natural, of course), I am happy to save the bucks on!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Crusty Stale Desserts

I don't know about other households, but when I make a batch of cookies or brownies or even a cake, there are always leftovers that get stale and hard and eventually thrown out. Well, here's an idea. Take your stale leftover desserts, and whir them in a food processor or blender until they are bread crumbs. Then store them in a baggie in the freezer until it's time to make a cheesecake, pudding pie or other yummy that may benefit from an extra boost of flavor. Can you imagine how wonderful a homemade cheesecake would be with a chocolate chip cookie crust? Or a chocolate pie in a fudge brownie crust with chocolate shavings on top.

Related tips: If you are going to try this with leftover cake, either don't use an iced cake or make sure you don't use the part of the cake that's touching the icing. For soft dessert leftovers like brownies or cake (without chocolate chips in it - they'll just melt and get nasty during toasting) crumble them on a cookie sheet and dry them out a little more in a warm oven (but by all means, don't turn your oven on especially for this task - energy waster) just pop the sheet into the oven after you're done using it for something. This way you don't waste the heat that's already been produced and you're not cranking up the oven again ($$$) just to try to re-use something that may save you a buck or two.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Thrift Shopping

My advice is if you are going to shop at a thrift shop, do 2 things: visit a good one and check your merchandise thoroughly. One of my local thrift shops is always kept very clean, no stuff on the floors, and the clothing is sorted by type, size and color. This makes searching easier and faster. If you check your merchandise well and make sure there are no holes, stains or excessive signs of wear, you can leave with a quality item at a low price.

This doesn't just go for clothing, but also for decorative items, items used for crafts, kitchenware and furnishings.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Diapers at 60%+ off

I have a discount card at every store I regularly use (MVP at Food Lion, VIC at Harris Teeter and ExtraCare at CVS). These cards will prompt the little coupon machines at the store to spit out coupons. Well, on my excursion to the grocery store (Food Lion) yesterday, I noticed that the Jumbo Packs (40 size 5's) of Luvs diapers were on sale for 7.99 a pack with your MVP card (.20/each). Okay, nothing to get too excited about because the boxes I get at Sam's Club breakdown to .17/each. Well, I also happened to have 2 $3.00 off Luvs coupons (spit out of the register machine) PLUS a $2.00 off any $15 baby purchase (same machine) coupon. So let's see, 7.99 a pack on sale is over $15 (for 2 packs) so the $2.00 off coupon applies, plus the 2 - $3.00 coupons (1 coupon per pack, since I bought 2) that equals 3.99/pack or .10/each. NOW THAT'S A DEAL!!!!!!!

Check your coupons and sale ads regularly and save (especially on pricey items like diapers)

Friday, May 2, 2008

What to do with Leftovers

There are several fast and yummy ways to get rid of your leftovers without them resembling the original meal. For instance, Sunday's roast chicken with rice and a salad, Monday's pot roast with mashed potatoes and veggie medley and Tuesday's Spaghetti and meatballs with salad can be transformed like so: Wednesday chicken fajitas with fried rice (Sunday's chicken cut up with peppers and onions and seasonings added - plus leftover Sunday rice with chopped onion, garlic and seasonings aded, and tortillas), Thursday beef stroganoff from the leftover pot roast adding egg noodles, mushrooms, sour cream and seasoning. Friday's meatball sub - just add cheese and a bun! Salad components are generally stored separated and can show up again as a side dish for any meal and veggie medley can be added to a casserole or just show up as a side dish again. Re-used side dishes are better if served with a new main course than with the same main course again.

Things to consider when re-using leftovers:
fajitas, quesadillas, enchiladas, etc
stir fry
homemade pizza (any style)

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Keeping Tabs

If you have not done so already, you may want to keep a price notebook, or a price spreadsheet on your computer that you can print off before you go shopping. Here are the basics of this idea: keep a running record of an items price, size, store purchase and unit price so that when you are at another store, you can easily calculate whether or not it is a good deal. This is especially helpful at warehouse stores since buying in bulk is not always saving money.