Saturday, February 25, 2012

Plastic bag holder


An empty rectangular tissue box makes a convenient holder for small garbage bags, plastic grocery bags and small rags. Simply thumbtack it to the inside of a cabinet door.


Super Easy Wine Glass Rack

Wine glass molding

T-molding designed for wood floor transitions makes a perfect rack for stemware. Just cut it to length, predrill screw holes and screw it to the underside of a shelf. For a neater look, use brass screws and finish washers. Prefinished T-molding is available wherever wood flooring is sold. A 4-ft. section costs about $25

Organize your wraps, bags and foil

Utilize the space underneath hanging cupboards, you can install a paper towel holder,  knife holders, etc. 
Install an organizer for your wraps, bags and foil on a cabinet door or in your pantry to keep them handy.

Measuring cup hang-up


Free up drawer space by hanging measuring cups inside a kitchen cabinet. Position and mount a wood strip so that the cups will hang between the shelves and allow the door to close completely. Mount a second strip for your measuring spoons, then screw in cup hooks on both strips.

Kitchen pantry

Stash Items Over-the-Door

Stash pantry items in the see-through pockets of an over-the-door organizer to virtually eliminate search time


Free Jam and Gift Label download

freebies « packagery

Monday, February 20, 2012

{How To} Homemade Hair Gel & Chapstick « Born in the Wrong Century

{How To} Homemade Hair Gel & Chapstick « Born in the Wrong Century

Gluten Free Products - Manufacturers

The following list shows a list of brands that produce gluten-free products.  The asterisk (*) indicates a brand that is exclusively gluten-free.  All others produce both conventional and gluten-free products.  While most of these brands are primarily located in the natural or green sections of the store, some are in the regular areas.

Be sure to check labels of all products before you buy to ensure they say "gluten-free" as ingredients change.

If you can not find these products in your grocery store, do an on-line search to see where they may be available in your area or if they are for sale on-line.  You can also check the websites to see what products in their line are gluten-free.

Amy's - frozen foods, soups
Ancient Harvest - pasta
Annie's - pasta, mixes, soups
Bakery on Main - granola
Betty Crocker - cake, brownie mixes
Blue Diamond - crackers, almond milks
Bob's Red Mill - mixes, grains
DeBoles - pasta
Eco Planet - cereals
Ener-g Foods - shelf stable bread
Enjoy Life - cookies, cereals, bars
Enrico's - rice
Envirokidz - cereals, bars
Erewhon - cereals
Fantastic Foods - reice dishes
Food for Life - frozen breads
Glenny's - snacks
* Gluten-Free Pantry
*Glutino - mixes, frozen foods
GoGo - rice bowl
*Hol-Grain - bread crumbs, crackers
Hot Kids - crackers
Ians - frozen foods
Imagine - soups, milks, broths
*Kinnikinnick - frozen bread, muffins, cookies
Kohinoor - Indian foods
Lundberg - rice
Maranatha - nut butters
*Mary's Gone Crackers - crackers
McDougalls - soup
Mi-del - cookies
Mrs. Leepers - dinner mixes
*Namaste Foods - cake, brownie mixes
Nature's Pat - cereal, bars
Nueva Cocina - dinner mixes
Pacific - broths
*Pamela's - cookies, mixes
Rice Crisps -crackers
Seeds of Change - pasta sauce
Shelton - broth
Sun Butter - nut butter
Tambo Mambo - rices
Texmati - rices
*Tinkyada - pasta
Van's - frozen foods
Almond Dream - almond milk
Peanut Wonder - nut butter
Soy Wonder - nut butter
Rice Dream - milks

A Recipe for Handmade Cuticle Cream

A Recipe for Handmade Cuticle Cream

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Easy Ways to Save Money

Pay your bills on time = Avoid the late fees. Organize you bills so that you know what and when they are due. Automate them when possible. Most banks these days have "Bill Pay" programs. You can even have the bills sent to your bank and they will alert you when a new bill comes in. So there will be no excuse not to pay a bill on time and forking out late fees. If for some reason you are late on a bill, and this is your first time, call the company and ask nicely to have the late fees removed. Most of the time they will do this for you.

Know how to freeze and store your food. Here is a bunch of info on how to do just that.
Know your banks ATM fees and be aware of the charges for using other banks ATM's. Some banks will waive fees, most won't. Use your banks free ATM's or make a withdrawal directly from the bank.
“The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.’ - Henry David Thoreau
Bottle your own water. Buy a reusable water bottle (for those who won't use plastics) or buy a bottled water once in a while and refill it yourself. If you don't like tap water then invest in a Brita pitcher or a Pur faucet filter and refill the bottles. If you are a water drinker, this can save you hundreds a year (if not a thousand). You will also be keeping bottles that don't break down out of the landfills.
Plan ahead for vacations. Vacations are important for keeping your sanity and are healthy for you too. Plan ahead so you can save the money to pay for it instead of putting it on a credit card. Check the discount sites such as Hotwire, Priceline, Expedia, and many others. Package deals are usually the better deals and make sure you book at least 2 weeks in advance.
Instead of buying books, borrow them from the library. You can also borrow magazines, DVD's and sometimes games too. There are also other things offered at your local library, such as children's reading time, summer programs, and the list goes on. Check it out....IT'S FREE!
Lose your landline if possible. It is very possible to have just cell phones to communicate these days. There are reasons to keep a landline, but if it is something you can do it would save you some major money. I have lived without one for about 2 years now. We have our internet through cable.
Know what your bank balance is and avoid getting overdraft fees. If you do a lot of check writing or debit card transactions. If you have bills being paid from your account automatically, make sure you are aware of your balance. Overdraft fees can be very expensive.
Put distance between you and "high maintenance" friends. If you have friends who have every conceivable new gadget, eat out in high dollar restaurants all the time, have large screen TV's in every room, buy new (or lease) new cars every year or so. Keep a them at arms length. They may be wonderful people that mean no harm, but by being close to them it could lead to desires, wants and sooner or later - discontent. Is it more important to have them as friends or have your peace of mind??

Bang Head Here "X"!!

Time for another rambling rant.  I just can't understand a persons need to spend money recklessly.  Without thought, without plan.  I'm not talking about the occassional "let's go to lunch" or "I'll have a coffee" type of splurg....I'm talking big things.  Like buying a car on a whim, or having elective surgery.  I'm not saying that you are wrong and if you want to get into debt to do it....well, that's your choice.  I'm saying I will never understand it. 

I know someone who is about to "unplug" their 401k (borrow from it) to do something that well, doesn't really need to be done.  Let me explain why this does not make sense.  First you are taking money out of your retirement, which means it is no longer there to earn money for you.  Then you are paying it back with interest, which means you are "paying" to borrow your own money and you are paying interest, which as a frugal person I will never understand.  If you are to "leave the company" for any reason, that money is due in full or it will be deemed an early retirement and you will be taxed and penalized as though you took your retirement out early....about 40%.  If you die, you survivors will owe the money or they will have the tax bill and penalties to pay. 

I was sitting at lunch the other day talking to a friend about saving money, about how I did not choose to spend money until I had it saved to pay cash.  Another person at the table got all disgusted with me and told me to "stop being so cheap!"  I wasn't shocked, I was sort of happy he noticed.  I let him know that I'm not cheap, I'm frugal....there is a difference!!  I will spend money when I have it.  When I have planned and saved and it does not harm the families finances in any way.  I will not pay interest to have something now that I can not afford.  Cheap people will not spend the money at all. 

I listen to people talking about how they can't pay their bills as they smoke their cigarettes and toss back a $4 beer.  I see people getting forclosure notices and they have a brand new car sitting in the driveway.  I see people living on Ramen Noodles, but buying lottery tickets everyday.  I can't help it, I can't understand it!! 

I have had people tell me the reason they buy stuff on credit or borrow to have things is because they "deserve it, they work for it".  Guess the way I look at it is you don't deserve it unless you have already worked for it, saved for it and can pay for it (other than a home mortgage - and I am trying to change that too). 

Yes, I know it is none of my business how and why you spend your money.  It does not concern me.  I do hear you talk and I do hear the sad tales, but I'm not saying anything anymore.  I have found very few people want advice, they just want sympathy.  Sorry, I don't play that game anymore.  If you can't help yourself, if you can't make it happen....I'm not sympathetic.    I will truly care when I see that you are really trying and that you are doing all you can.  There are still people like this out there!!

I just want a place to "bang my head" when I hear it. 

National Center for Home Food Preservation | How Do I? Freeze

National Center for Home Food Preservation How Do I? Freeze

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Cheap or Free Date Nights -

Grab a loaf of old bread, or buy a cheap loaf and go down to the lake to feed the ducks. Take a walk around the lake and enjoy the fresh air and each other's company.

Go to that new restaurant and split a sinful dessert.

Climb up on the roof or find a clearing and watch the sunset together. One of our favorite things to do.

In the Spring, buy a cheap kite and go fly it. 

Go to a ball game or a sporting event.  Get the cheap seats.  Don't forget to save some money to get a hot dog (so you can have the whole experience).

Go swimming without the kids. Need I say more?

Head over to the roller-skating rink. As long as you don't mind being the oldest people there who aren't chaperoning their children, it's a great way to have fun.

Take a class together.  Be it a pottery class or a yoga class, it is time well spent together.

No matter where you live the local bands want you to come listen to them. See the local talent - who knows, you may be watching the next big thing coming up. You can pick the type of band once and then your date can choose...swap off. Then catch that sinful dessert afterwards that you can share. What a wonderful night.

Go to the farmers market and try new fruits.  Maybe pick out something wonderful for a good home cooked meal.

Visit a museum on free admission night.

Find a Drive-In movie theater. Take blankets and pillows so you are all comfy. Find out that the back seat of your car really is for necking.

Pack some cheese and crackers, grapes and some wine or your sparkling juice and a blanket and have a picnic in the yard.

Make s'mores over candlelight. Yummmmm

Spend the day hiking and taking pictures of each other.  Then when evening comes lie across the hood of your car and look at the stars.

Get out the board games and see who really is the champ at Rock 'em Sock 'em Robots.

Spend the afternoon walking around a flea market.  Look for things from your youth and talk about memories (good ones only).

Take a tour of a candy, chocolate or cookie factory.  Call your local manufactureres and see if they do tours.

Put on music from when you were in high school and dance in the living room.

Hang up twinkle lights around your patio or deck.  Get some ice cream and enjoy an evening outside.

Go to a local carnival, go on a few rides and eat popcorn.  Take in the free entertainment.

Go bowling.  You can talk about how many feet have been in those shoes.  You could also put your pet names for each other up on the electronic score board.  That's right....Stud Muffin and Snuggle Butt are on lane 4!!

High schools and colleges offer great deals on plays and musicals usually in the Fall and Spring.  It is a wonderful way to see a different version of a play and help support your local schools.

Go to the park or the airport and sit and watch the people.  Make up stories about them and names.  It's a fun way to pass some time together.

If you have children, try to find 3 other friends with kids and start a babysitting coop. Each weekend one person keeps all the kids, then next week is anothers turn. This way each month you get 3 weekend date nights and you keep all the kids on one night so everyone else can go out. It's free babysitting. Just set the rules, such as each person has from 6 pm to 11 pm on a Saturday night (whatever, you agree on it between each other). Just make sure the rules are followed and understood so no one gets taken advantage of.

Check out an amateur night at a comedy club.  Usually only costs you cover or a couple of drinks.  Spend the night laughing.

Go to a coffee shop on open mike night.  You never know what you will get, but it's entertainment.

If you have a gym membership, go work out a spin class or a challenge.  Take advantage of your gyms sauna and pool if they have one.

Get your camera and go hit some of the tourist spots around town. 

Go to a botanical garden and hold hands as you enjoy the beauty of the gardens.

Is it too cold out to go star gazing.  Get tickets to the planetarium and cuddle up while watching stars indoors.

Play a round or two of miniature golf or putt putt golf.  Make it a high stakes game...whoever loses gives the other a back massage (or you name the prize).

Friday, February 17, 2012

Grandma's Tips

If you get a burn in the kitchen, just slice a piece off a potato and apply to the burn. It really helps!

Have a fireplace that has been sitting unused for a while. The next time you go to use it crumple up some newspaper and then sprinkle coffee grounds over them. Light your fire. The coffee grounds will help the house smell good and it will cut down on that sooty smell without you having to be exposed to the nuerotoxins that are commonly found in air fresheners.

Put a coffee filter inside your cast iron skillet before storing it. It will keep it dust free and it will absorb any moisture you may have left inside.

The next time you use a container of store bought icing to frost your cakes, try this tip - empty it into a bowl and use a mixer to whip it. It will go almost twice as far. You will be able to frost more cupcakes or a double layer cake.

After you boil your potatoes, pasta or vegetables, save the water. Let it cool down and then water your houseplants and your garden with that water. It is high in nutrients for your plants. They will love it!

If you don't want your entire house to smell like cabbage or ham when you are boiling it, just add a little vinegar to the water it is boiling in.

If you don't want your entire house to smell like cabbage or ham when you are boiling it, just add a little vinegar to the water it is boiling in.

Heat lemons before using them and you will get twice as much juice.

WW2 War Cake Recipe - - 1881

"Without frugality none can be rich, and with it very few would be poor." --Samuel Johnson

Here is a potato 2fer (2 tips for the price of 1).
#1. If you soak your potatoes in salt water before baking them, they will bake quicker.
#2. Adding a little sugar to the water that you boil your potatoes in will add flavor to old potatoes.

Don't throw away old pillow cases (or as some call pillow slips). Use it to protect clothing. Simply cut a small slit in the end with the seam and slip it over the hanger that the clothing is on.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Owe the IRS?? Pay Dimes to the Dollar

If you owe back taxes then you may want to pay attention to this.  The OIC (Offer In Compromise) Program was designed to allow delinquent taxpayers to negotiate a lump-sum payment.  Up until recently most offers to the IRS were denied.  Taxpayers who had homes that had appreciated in value were told to get a second mortgage to pay the bill.  Well, that has changed since things went "kaplooey" in the housing market during this recession.

The IRS is starting to consider all reasonable OIC's because of the bad economy.  The IRS is now reviewing each OIC on it's own merits.  If you have a lump sum to make a one time deal with the IRS it may be worth the gamble.  You could end up paying dimes on the dollar. 

There is a $150 application fee when you apply to do an OIC.  But you can save thousands in the process based on your own circumstances and back taxes.  For more info go to and do the keyword search "Offers in Compromise".

What Can I Do With Orange Peels?

What Can I Do With Orange Peels?

Make your Own Taco Bowls by Flipping Over a Muffin Tin

Make your Own Taco Bowls by Flipping Over a Muffin Tin

Dollar Store Crafts: Homemade Fruit Snacks from 100% juice

Dollar Store Crafts: Homemade Fruit Snacks from 100% juice

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

What to Buy in February

If you are in the market to buy an IPad or tablet (whatever you call them these days), this would be a good month to do it. The new IPad 3's are coming or have just arrived (I'm not sure of the release date) so you can get some really great deals on the IPad 2's. Check into deals on the refurbished IPad2's also. The retailers will want to move those out to make room for the new models coming in.

Now is the time to buy your winter coats. Stores are already trying to unload their stock of coats and due to the mild winter this year there is more choices than ever. Great time to look for ski jackets, parkas and down jackets too!
When looking for the kids coats for next year, go up a size or two. It's better to be a little too big than too small.

If you need a get-away this month, try a ski resort. They are offering really good discounts this year due to the warmer weather and lack of snow. You can pick up some awesome package deals in Park City and Salt Lake City, Utah and Keystone, Colorado right now.

New furniture is hitting the showroom floors this month, so retailers have to get rid of the old stock. If you are looking for a new sofa, now could be one of the best times. Prices on that bedroom set, coffee tables, etc. could be 40 - 50% off. Watch for huge sales coming up for President's Day. Furniture stores could run some hefty 3-day sales.

Okay, like you didn't see this one coming.....chocolate. Yes, it will be going, going, gone tomorrow at around 50% off. I know, you are thinking "I don't know what I'll do with a bunch of pink and red candy or chocolate (besides the obvious)." Did you think about this.....those red and pink M&M's make great chocolate pieces for chocolate chip cookies or in brownies.... You can make Red Hot Jelly from those cinnamon red hots. If you or a friend is getting married, stock up on the candy for the candy bar/buffet. Do you know someone who is having a baby girl?? Pink candy for the baby shower!! It's a great time to buy little romantic gifts, such as sild rose petals and heart shaped candles for a wedding shower gift basket. Use you imagination and take advantage of the sales!!
Oh, and don't forget stuffed animals!! A real bargain and they can be given for birthdays, Christmas or even to childrens charities.

Last but not least is fitness equipment. Retailers ordered up on this at Christmas and for the January craze on fitness that comes every new year. Now they have a bunch left over and the 6 weeks after resolutions have been made are faded. There is a lot of stock they need to move because peoples thoughts are soon turning to the outdoors and they want the room for outdoor sporting equipment. You can get good deals now.
For better deals, flash some cash and ask for bigger discounts. It works!!

Ways To Save At The Bulk Stores

Today will be "Ways To Save At The Bulk Stores". This is stores like Costco, BJ's, Sam's Club, etc.. They can already save you some money, but we will go over maybe some ways you don't know. This could also inspire you to try them if you never have.

Don't buy a membership at all. Most of the bulk stores will allow members to bring a friend with them to shop. If you aren't going to use a membership more than a few times a year, ask to go with a friend who maybe goes every week or so. This will save you at least $40 a year.
You could also offer to split a membership with a friend if you want to go more regularly. Costco and Sam's Club give 2 cards per membership, so you can split it and then you won't have to go together every time you want to go shopping.

The USDA did a survey and found that 86% of the food items it compared were cheaper at a bulk type store. The best savings were canned goods, meat and store breand items (such as Kirkland's at Costco). What that means is that there is a good percentage (14% to be exact) of foods that do not cost less. You need to do a little math and compare unit prices. Compare how much per ounce, per pound, per liter that it costs at the bulk store compared to the same thing at your grocery store. Sometimes the bulk store wins, sometimes the grocery store wins.

When shopping at the big bulk stores it pays to buy the store brands much like it does are regular grocery stores. The store brand usually costs less. Example:
Tide (the 110 load size) = $19.99 while the Sam's Club version costs around $13.99 (146 load size). That is about $.12 a load and if you do a lot of laundry in a year - that's a savings.
This is just an example. I make my own so I don't even buy laundry detergent. It gives you an idea of how the store brand can help you save. Things like diapers are also something that could be price compared too.

When buying parishable foods at a bulk store and you have no where to really store that much, split it with a friend. Then you just pay half and you don't waste the food. If you have the room in your freezer you could freeze the great deals in fruits and vegetables, but if you don't and you can't eat 10 lbs. of apples in a few days - it makes sense to split it with others and share the cost, but get the savings.

Bulk stores offer much more than just food. Take advantage of the other extras such as gas, tires and car care, fast food or cafeterias. My "sister-by-choice" had her eyes examined and bought her glasses at one bulk store and saved a good bit over the mall stores. They also have great deals on seasonal things such as yard equipment or garden materials too. Toys at Christmas. Don't forget clothing.

Stick to the basics when stocking up. Last year I went through a pineapple kick. Loved pineapple and bought a lot of it because I got it in bulk at a really good price. Well, now I'm pineappled out and I have a lot I won't eat on my pantry shelves. Stick to pantry staples and basics when stocking up such as flour, sugar, rice and pasta.

Hope this gives you an idea of ways to save at these bulk stores.  As always, be an aware and informed consumer.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Food Stretchers -

Let's make our food stretch a little farther by adding to it and making a meal.  Here are some ideas that can help you make more for your money and feed your family for less.

The #1 food stretcher is pasta. Does anyone not like pasta? It is cheap (super cheap) and it comes in so many shapes and sizes. Pasta can make meat stretch into several meals. One pound of ground beef, pasta sauce and some pasta could feed a large family (or a small family for 2 meals). How about elbow macaroni, cheese and chopped bacon or sliced hot dogs for another super cheap meal. Ramen noodles with an egg added to it is super, super cheap!!

Fish can be costly (especially here in the U.S.). Remember when we thought it was "a poor man's food"? Potatoes are a great way to stretch the food budget. Here is a recipe from my good friend half way around the world The Happy Housewife. It takes fish and makes it into a meal for the family instead of just a serving or two.
I encourage you all to check out her page. It is so nice to have my coffee in the morning while she has her tea and learn about a culture that is so wonderful.
Rice is great for stretching your food dollars. A bed of rice for veggies can make a very filling meal. Use it to stretch things such as chicken teriyaki (which requires not a lot of chicken). Beef stew over rice can make it last much longer. Pour a can (or homemade) of beef soup over rice and it can feed a family instead of one or two people. Rice can also make a great filler for tacos and burritos too. Makes that pound of ground meat go so much farther.
You can even use canned chicken in this recipe if you find it BOGO or really cheap. I am thinking of trying this with tuna too!
Canned tuna or salmon can be stretched to feed several people too. Tuna casserole is a real dollar stretcher. Canned salmon can be added to chowders, put in omelets, made into patties (which I love on a bun like a burger). Add to a salad too....with lettuce and other veggies it can go a long way and be very filling.
Here is another recipe from The Happy Housewife (today is our lucky day). This has two food stretchers in it...potatoes and canned salmon!! The Happy Housewife also says to check out Delia Online for other great tried and true recipes.
Frozen vegetables are another thrifty way to stretch your food. They are even healthier unless you grow your own or can get produce that has been picked within that day or so (perhaps from a farmer's market). Frozen has more nutrients being frozen soon after it is picked. It is a great thing to add to casseroles, soups and rice dishes and more. Look for sales at your store. Don't be afraid to buy large bags because you use what you need and keep the rest frozen for another meal.
Beans are an amazing food stretcher because they have so much protein that they can replace meat in a dish such as soup or chili. Get some canned red beans and mix them up with rice for a wonderfully filling meal. Mash some pinto beans and use them as filler for tacos and burritos. I love refried bean burritos with guacamole and sour cream. Dried beans go a long way and are super inexpensive. Today I made a big pot of black turtle bean soup....yummy! It will last me for at least 3 meals for my husband and I, and cost about $4. to make
Quinoa is a good food stretcher too. A little more expensive then rice, but it goes a long way. Very high in iron for those of you who may be anemic.
This is a good way to use those rotisserie chickens you can buy for around $5 at the grocery store. Already cooked and ready to go....can easily make 2 meals when stretched out. Don't forget to save the bones for stock!!
Eggs are one of the best values for your money. They also can give you a very healthy meal too. They can be stretched in so many ways. Make French toast with stale bread, make a breakfast casserole - maybe add a little ham or bacon. A quiche is wonderful with brocolli, cheese, ham, bacon, sausage....whatever you want to throw in. Hard boil eggs for egg salad or add some to tuna salad. a 3 egg omelet can feed 2 people if you fill it with other things. Fried rice or add it to a cup of Ramen. I love eggs! To me, they are the perfect food.
Potatoes can stretch out a dinner too.  They are great in casseroles.  A bed of hash brown potatoes for eggs is a very cheap meal.  Add Italian sausage to AuGratin potatoes for a filling meal.  Shepherds pie is a delicious way to strecth some ground beef and veggies.  Don't forget potato soup too, it's a meal in itself, or serve with a sandwich. 
I hope this has given you some ideas as to making your food and money go a little bit farther. 

25 Things to Do With Rotisserie Chicken | Wise Bread

25 Things to Do With Rotisserie Chicken Wise Bread

Dollar Store Ranch Chicken Recipe

I'm sorry I do not know where I got this recipe from, or I would give credit to that person.  I do know that it is yummy if you like food with a little kick to it.  I made it as a freezer meal, so we have had it a few times now.  I love this dish!

Dollar Store Ranch Chicken

8 ozs. cooked macaroni  (I used 16 oz to make it go farther and a little less then 2 lbs of chicken)
1 to 2 lbs of shreded cooked chicken
1/2 cup hot sauce (I used Frank's because it was on sale)
1 can evaporated milk (12 oz can)
6 oz. shredded cheese - your choice
1 packet of ranch dressing mix (I used my own homemade mix)

1. Preheat oven to 350f

2. Mix hot sauce, evaporated milk, dry ranch dressing together in a bowl.

3. Add macaroni, chicken and cheese.

4. Spray a casserole dish with non-stick spray.  Pour all ingredients in.

5. Bake for 15-20 min. until warm and the cheese is melted. 

I separated mine into 3 separate casserole dishes for baking.  This made the perfect size portions for my family and so I could have one and freeze two.  It was a real hit with the hubby!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

10 Simple Ways to Save Money at Home :: Money Saving Mom®

10 Simple Ways to Save Money at Home :: Money Saving Mom®

Top 10 Hot Water Money Saving Tips

by: WaterMan Blog

Saving water is not just for eco-people anymore. Its for people who know that saving hot water means saving all types of moola ...
Save Hundreds of $$$ Per Year With WaterMan's TOP 10 HOT WATER MONEY SAVINGS TIPS
So you wanna be budget wise and eco friendly? Then follow my ...
  1. Install water-saving showerheads.Take shorter showers too.
  2. Use the minimum amount of water needed for a bath by closing the drain first and filling the tub only 1/2 full.
  3. Lower the thermostat on your water heater; water heaters sometimes come from the factory with high temperature settings, but a setting of 120°F provides comfortable hot water for most uses.
  4. Insulate your electric hot-water storage tank, natural gas or oil hot-water storage tank - but be careful not to cover the water heater's top, bottom, thermostat, or burner compartment . Follow the manufacturer's recommendations.
  5. Insulate the first 6 feet of the hot and cold water pipes connected to the water heater.
  6. Fix leaky faucets and plumbing joints.
  7. Retrofit all wasteful household faucets by installing aerators with flow restrictors.
  8. Run only full loads in the washing machine and dishwasher.
  9. Run washing machine and dishwasher with cold water.
  10. Soak pots and pans instead of letting the water run while you scrape them clean.
Bottom line, if you follow my tips, your family will save hundreds of $$$ per year in energy costs and tens of thousands of gallons of precious H2O. If you own multiple family dwellings or an apartment buliding or you manage an office complex - your savings will simply multiply., WaterMan Blog

Friday, February 10, 2012

Living Within Your Means

By Frugal Sally

Living Within Your Means = Don't spend what you don't have! If you can't pay for it then you can't afford it. Period!!

Let's start with a budget. Yes, the dreaded "B" word. You need to have a budget (ON PAPER) before the month begins. You need to tell your money what to do. Give every dollar a name. If you don't tell your money where to go, you will wonder where it went. If you want to bl...ow some money than put a blow catagory on your budget....but every dollar needs to be told what to do. Don't expect the budget to work the first month, maybe a little the second month, and maybe by the 3rd month it will fall into place. Don't give up. Write down everything you spend money on and go higher on the food catagory (because everyone seems to underestimate food for the first few months). is a FREE budgeting site that can help you set up your budget. It is super easy and can be adjusted whenever you need to do that. It can be a real awakening as to how you spend your money and give you a clue as to how to plug some of the holes in your wallet.

The envelope system is a sure fire way of living within your means. It is a great budgeting tool and it WORKS!! Watch Dave Ramsey explain it and try it yourself. You will be so surprised how easy it is and how much money you will save!!

Yes, I quote Dave Ramsey a lot, but then again he is the one I was taught by.  It works!  All my life I have read finance books and books on money.  I literally have shelves full of them at home.  I knew there had to be a way that made more sense.  This does.  Living within your means is a wonderful feeling and a real stress reliever.

This step is so important. It can make or break your attempts at getting out of debt. After your budget (your writen budget) and before anything else. Before you start aiming at the credit debt or any other debt, you need an emergency fund. Just a "starter" or "mini" emergency fund of $1000. This is murphy repellent. Do whatever it takes to build that $1000. fund.... Sell something, make something, take in some work, have a yard sale, babysit.
The reason for the fund is simple. If you have no emergency fund and something happens (your car breaks down, the washer breaks, the roof leaks) you will end up using your charge cards. We are trying to live within our means. Charging on a credit card is living above your means. The emergency fund could save you from charging. It's your cushion between you and murphy (bad stuff). If you have to use your emergency (also known as a rainy day fund) fund than just pay minimums on your bills again until you rebuild it.
It is the difference between making it and not making it!!

Again, this means living with what we have and what we make. It means not having to borrow and finance. If you make $40k a year than the goal is to live on that OR LESS! Yes, it can be done! Yes, it is hard sometimes. Yes, it is worth it!!

After you get that "mini" emergency fund started we will concentrate on paying off your debts. Dave Ramsey teaches to pay y...our lowest bill off first. This has two reasons behind it. One, it will free up that much money quicker. Two, it is a behavioral thing. A pat on the back and a "yes, we can do this" cheer for yourself. When you pay that small bill off, take the money you normally would have paid on that and pay it on the next smallest bill.
Focus all you have on that smallest bill. Put the same intensity towards it as you did setting up the emergency fund.
Don't say you can't find the money! If your child was deathly ill and you couldn't borrow the money or you didn't have it already, and they would die without the cure (and it just so happens to cost what your bills add up to), I bet you would find a way to make that money!! This is life and death folks, this is important!! Sorry to be so grim on that and use such a drastic example, but it's to show you it's all about priorities....make this a priority!!

It's about wanting what you have instead of having what you want. It's about living a frugal life to so you can survive well with what you make. Stretching the dollars to go further. Use coupons, shop the sales at the grocery store. Buy used instead of new. Recycle, upcycle, reclaim and reuse, wear it out, make it do. It's about not being a "slave to the lender"....
When you are debt free the world opens up for you. You can start saving for your kids college and your retirement. You can take paid for vacations and not have to worry about paying for it months or even years after you get home. I know people who are still paying for Christmas 2010 and then have 2011 on top of that!!
Think about it, how much money would you have to live on if you had NO bills. No credit card payments. No car payments. No student loans. You can do it!

Once you have snowballed your debt and it's gone, you can go back to your "mini" emergency fund and fully fund it - 3 to 6 months of expenses. Put it someplace safe such as an on-line bank which earns more interest than a regular bank. Then you are a little more safe against the rain storms that can pop up in life. It will give you more freedom to do things like rais...e your deductibles on your car and homeowners insurance (because you will have the deductible if something happens). It will be your saving grace if you are temporarily out of work. It is peace and security.

Another thing I want to bring up. Don't forget to treat yourself every once in a while. Put a little fun money into your budget. Just a little, not much, especially when you are still working the snowball. It can be a larger amount after all the bills are paid. About once a month or every other month, go out for an inexpensive dinner or a movie and enjoy it (and you really will because then it is super special). If you don't do this once in a while, you will really get bitter about the whole "getting out of debt" thing. It's a long journey, and it's hard work, so give yourself a reward every now and then (like after each bill is paid off and you check it off the list).

After the emergency fund is totally funded then the real fun begins. Investing and paying off the house (can you imagine not having a mortgage?). College funds or retirement. The goal is to put at very least 15% in retirement savings. It can be done easily when you have no bills to pay....
I have been debt free for a few years now. We are working to pay the house off early so we won't have to worry about it in retirement. We don't worry like most people do about if they can make the mortgage or how are they going to feed the kids. We haven't really even noticed this recession we are having. We are even going to do something this year that I've been wanting to do for the last 5 years. We are taking our grand daughter to Disney this year and it's paid for. We have been saving for it and can't wait to see her face when she sees all the Princesses. It was a hard road, becoming debt free (I married a man with a good bit of debt). Trust me, I would rather walk into a store and buy my cleaning products instead of making them. I would have liked to buy store bought cookies, but I made them. He would like to eat lunch out, but he brown bagged it. Funny thing is, now we could buy those things, but we don't want to. I love my frugal life.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Dave Ramsey's Envelope System - YouTube

Dave Ramsey's Envelope System - YouTube

Top Ten Money Saving Tips - YouTube

Top Ten Money Saving Tips - YouTube

Savings Experiment: Tissues vs. Toilet Paper - DailyFinance

Savings Experiment: Tissues vs. Toilet Paper - DailyFinance

Salad Dressing and Condiment Recipes

Salad makes a great cheap and healthy meal – especially when you grow your own ingredients. Whip up a different salad dressing each time, and you'll never tire of eating it. Here are several dressing recipes to try:
Balsamic Honey Dressing
Basic Vinaigrette
Blue Cheese Dressing
Buttermilk Dill Dressing
Cool Cucumber Dressing
Creamy Lime Mustard Dressing
French Dressing
Honey Mustard Dressing
Hot Bacon Dressing
Italian Dressing
Lemon Honey Dressing
Maple Vinaigrette
Mustard Vinaigrette
Orange Seasame Dressing
Ranch Dressing
Russian Dressing
Spicy Peanut Butter Dressing
Sun-Dried Tomato Dressing
Sweet Ginger Dressing
Watermelon Basil Vinaigrette
Thousand Island Dressing
Use-What-You've-Got Buttermilk Dressing
Yogurt Mint Salad Dressing

Cocktail Sauce

A basic, three-ingredient recipe for cocktail sauce that you can customize to your tastes.

So Simple Salsa Party Dip

Create a cheap and easy salsa party dip out of just two ingredients. It's sure to be a crowd pleaser.

Chive Blossom Vinegar

Create a delicious chive-infused vinegar to use as a dressing.

Horseradish Sauce

A five-ingredient recipe for horseradish sauce.

Hot Dog Chili

Make homemade hot dog chili in 30 minutes or less. Makes enough for 20 dogs.

Hollandaise Sauce

A recipe for hollandaise sauce made from a handful of pantry staples.

Allspice Substitute Recipe

Use spices you already have to create a good substitute for allspice.

Homemade Steak Sauce Recipe

A simple, two-ingredient steak sauce recipe.

Thank you to

Depression Era Recipes Cookbook - - 225279

Depression Era Recipes Cookbook - - 225279

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Frugal Ideas for Children's Parties

Children's parties can get expensive and blow a budget quickly.  Here are some frugal ideas to keep within your budget and still have an impressive party that your kids will love.  Make sure you give yourself time to gather things and plan, because last minute usually means extra money spent. 

The first thing I would do is talk to your child about a theme. What kind of party they want to have, so you know what direction to go in. You won't be buying or making stuff that has nothing to do with what the child wants. This also helps to involve the child in the planning.

.Invitations can set the tone for the party. You could send e-invites or make your own. I love this idea for making invitations. Let's say your little one wants to do a tea party theme. Dress her up in the hat and gloves and have her hold the sign saying "Come to my birthday tea party". Have copies made and tape or glue stick them to a piece of card stock that you can print the place and time on. If you son still has his super hero's costume from Halloween - that would be cute too. Or you can just make your own invitations with constructions paper or computer printer. 

Store bought cakes can cost a mint, so make your own. What? You aren't a cake decorator? It's okay, just make a sheet cake and put plastic figures on top. You can get them at the dollar store. I love to do cupcakes. Perfect size portions for children. The kids can help decorate them too. You could also make a giant chocolate chip cookie (like those expensive places in the mall) and write on it in icing. One year we baked the cake batter in ice cream cones and then served an ice cream cake and had all the kids dressed backwards and had a "backwards party". It was a blast!!

When it comes to decorating for a childs party, keep it super simple. They really don't care about all that. I would keep it to decorating the table and maybe over the table, but the whole house is a little over the top. A few accents that have to do with the theme are fun and frugal. It is more fun to make the kids part of the decorations themselves. Example: If it's a tea party, have the little ones dress in their Mom's dress and heels and have hats and gloves. A little boys pirate party, they can all dress like pirates and wear eye patches. Summer parties are fun too, because you can have them decorating - nature does it for you!

Favors are a little thank you for coming gift. I love doing these even though you don't have too. They don't have to cost much, it is really the thought that counts. It could be as easy as giving candy or cookies. I like to use the cups that you are supposed to serve the drinks in - you know the kind that match the plates. Fill them with little toys and candies from the dollar store (they don't have to match the theme of the party but it's fun if it does). Wrap the cup in syran wrap and put a bow on it. I have also used the empty crystal light containers for favors.

The party paper goods. You can get so much more if you stick to plain paper plates, or even the sturdy plastic ones that come in pretty colors. Food is going to be on the plates so they aren't going to see the princesses or the dinosaurs. If you want to spring for theme type things, do the cups and or napkins. The tablecloth makes a bigger statement. You can usually get twice as many plates and cups in solid colors than you can in a pack that has the pictures on them. Just coordinate the colors of the theme....such as red and blue for Spiderman, or purple and pink for a princess!

When it comes to decorations take your biggest inspiration right from the kids themselves. Use their toys and posters that they already have. Such as transformer toys as centerpieces for a Transformers party. Princess jewelry and tiaras as table decorations. A big poster of their favorite super hero or Thomas the Tank Engine hung up on the wall over the party table. Use what you already have! Balloons are cheap decor. It is also very easy to make your own signs and banners - you don't have to pay big $$ to say "Happy Birthday Johnny" and Johnny is to little to even read. Remember, the party is for the child, not to impress your adult friends.

Instead of games where you give prizes, just do some fun activity such as dancing or watch a kids movie that was just released. Maybe a movie that has to do with the theme of the party. Water balloon fights for a summer party and slip and slide.  I know my kids like to play that Rock Star video game and one of the kids actually put on the Michael Jackson Dance video for everyone to get up and try.  It was cool watching all the kids do the Thriller dance.   Save the money of giving prizes and just give all the kids a small favor when they leave.

When the kids are a little older you may consider an over-night or slumber party (as we called them). You don't have to do decorating, but remember there is a lot of snacks and drinks. You will also be providing breakfast in the morning. Pizza bought on sale is a great dinner item for so many kids. Popcorn is a cheap snack.
The rule of thumb is no more than 1 guest per year your child is in age. So if your child is turning 8, then only 8 guests or less. Also, be prepared to be awake most of the night.

Hope these tips help you create a memorable party that doesn't break the bank.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Valentine's Day Savings

Romance at home. Avoid the Valentine's madness and crowds and stay home. Make a wonderful Italian meal at home complete with pasta, bread, and inexpensive wine. Don't forget the tablecloth, candles, and a dessert you can share. Put on some romantic music and you have a wonderful romantic evening with someone you love. Oh, you may want to spring for a babysitter (that may be the biggest expense...but it's worth it).

Men know that a way to a woman's heart is with flowers (well, one way anyway). Check for on-line coupons first, many flower sites will be offering special deals. Also, try places you would not think about getting flowers at, such as Costco, the grocery store, Target. Usually much cheaper than at the florist. I personally would rather have a potted plant that I can replant in the yard instead of cut roses. They last longer and give me joy for years....but you know your loved one best.

Kids need Valentines for the entire class? Check the dollar store for great discounts on cards.

Instead of spending a bunch of money at the mall, try to do something personal. Make a giant cookie and write a message on it. How about a certificate to an hour long message. A picture collage. Make your own card with a poem that you wrote (it really doesn't matter how bad the poem is, that just makes it sweet).

For the kids who have Valentine's parties at school - Don't buy the goodies you send to the party, bake them yourself (if the school will allow that. I know some only allow store bought). Make extra to share with the family too. Let the kids help with frosting cupcakes or making hearts on cookies. They can tell their classmates they helped!!

If you absolutely have to go out to celebrate Valentine's Day, and you didn't budget for it, try going out for dessert and drinks instead of dinner. You still get the same wonderful feeling and you are not going to go broke doing it.

If you saved last years cards....reuse them! Make new cards from them. Cut the back off them and glue them to constuction paper for a whole new card. If you didn't save cards from last year, do it this year. Making your own cards is a great money saver and fun for the kids too!

Celebrate Valentine's Day on a different day. Who said it has to be on the 14th? It will help you avoid the super inflated prices and long lines at the restaurants too.

Make Valentine's a family affair. Stay home and have a family night. Rent a movie, play games and have fun. You will save by not having to pay a babysitter too!

Valentine Handprint Card | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

Valentine Handprint Card Flickr - Photo Sharing!

Make your own Valentine's Day cards and save.

crayonhearts | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

crayonhearts Flickr - Photo Sharing!

Make a Popsicle Stick Puzzle

Make a Popsicle Stick Puzzle

Monday, February 6, 2012

Making Your Finanaces As Simple As Possible

We are going to attempt to simplify your finanaces and make them not so overwhelming.  Here are some tips that may help you accomplish that.  Staying organized and cutting back on paperwork can help.  Automating a lot of it can help too. 

Sign up for automatic payment of regular monthly bills. You can also set this up through bill pay with your bank too. I recommend doing this only with bills that stay the same each month, not the ones that fluc...uate. It will help you not to forget certain bills and take some of the work off you.

Enable automatic transfers to your savings and retirement accounts. Whether you do this weekly or monthly. Remember, pay yourself first!

Carry one debit card in your wallet. If you must carry a credit card (ugh!) that goes the same, only one. Leave all the others in a safe box or safe place at home. This will keep you from so many calls to make when you leave your wallet someplace or have your purse stolen. You don't need to carry them all on you anyway.

Take advantage of direct deposit at your workplace. Beats waiting for the mail, or it getting lost in the mail. If you company has a currier bring it, who knows what can happen to them. Direct deposit is automated and usually never is rare.

Get on the "do not mail" and "do not call" lists to keep down the temptation of buying things.

Use budget billing to level your bills so they are the same each month. Usually offered on your utilities. This helps with budgeting. You won't have to wait till the bill comes in to see how much you owe.

Buy a good shredder and use it. Make sure you shred anything with any information about you on it. That includes telephone numbers, address, birthdates, social security numbers....anything that is personal to you.

Keep all your tax-related info for the year in one place. Have a folder, a box or something that you won't have to look for at tax time that you can keep all your paperwork, receipts and info in.

Consider a single insurance company for your needs so that you can consolidate the bills and get discounts.

Buy a used car with cash so you won't have to worry about car payments or taking out a loan.

Use software, whether you pay for it or it's free to keep up with you finances. Software such as Money or Quicken are great. among others are also available for budgeting.

If you invest your money for the long haul, stop checking the market or your investment balances.

When you are doing your budget, assign every dollar a reason (a name).  If you want to blow some money, put it in the blow catagory, but do it on purpose.  You need to tell your money where to go instead of wondering where it went.

Get rid of unnecessary expenses or withdrawls from your checking account that eat up your cash.  Such as automatic renewal of magazines, club fees, etc..

Get rid of accounts that charge you fees to keep them open.  This includes checking accounts, savings accounts, credit cards.  If your bank charges for debit cards you really need to ask why you still bank with them. 

Get a calendar and keep track of important dates, such as when your bills are due.  When automatic drafts are coming out of your accounts (such as life insurance, homeowners association fees, etc.).  You can also use it to keep up with "unexpected or pop-up expenses" such as birthday gifts, upcoming wedding gifts, baby shower gifts.  Don't forget to add in financial goals too, such as vacations. 

Put yourself on an allowance (a grown-up allowance if you will).  Then you can stop tracking your fun and personal type expenses.  Just stay within that allowance.

If you must have all these and it is cheaper this way, bundle your internet, cable and phone service.  There is usually a discount for having all three with one provider.

Store your valuables and important papers in a safe place, like a safe deposit box.  Or a fire proof lock box.  Make sure your spouse knows what is in it and where it is in case something happens to you. 

Use the bill pay feature your bank offers to avoid writing checks.  Saves you time and money!

Unless you plan on itemizing, use the standard tax deduction.  There is no reason to track all your expenses all year. 

All in all, just keep things simple.  We, as human beings tend to over complicate everything.  Make it easier and it won't take over your life.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Little Dollar Stretchers

Here are some little things you can do to stretch your dollar.  They may not save tons of money, but it can add up to a tidy sum.  Sometimes it is the little things you can do that make the biggest difference.  You won't know till you try!

Use Coupons. Yes they are time consuming. They are a pain in the rear, but they can save you money. If you don't want to buy a paper (and the price seems to always be going up on them lately), hit the internet and print them. Use an app on your phone to bring up coupons. Load them to your loyalty cards. Just use them!!
Use them for planned purchases ONLY! I know ...a lot of you use those big ol coupon binders that you work so terribly hard on. When you take those to the store and you walk down isles buying things that were not planned and tossing things in your cart just because you have a coupon and it's cheap - you are spending money that you don't need to spend!! Have a list and a plan and STICK TO IT!

Brown Bag It! Taking your lunch to work can save you 40% over buying your lunch everyday each month. It may not be a "cool" thing to do when everyone else is ordering out and paying $7 or more for lunch, but who will have money in the bank at the end of the week? Break it down in time to make it a little more realistic. If you make $10/hour (after taxes about $8) then you will have to work about an hour just to pay for lunch!! That is 5 hours a week you have to work just to eat at the job you are trying to make money working at.

Have A Night In - as opposed to going out. Once a month (or week, it is up to you) have your friends over for a night in. Make sure you ask each one to bring food as a part of the dinner. Watch a newly released movie or an old classic. Play a game or watch a game. Having fun at home is so much cheaper than going out on the town. What could be better than good food with good friends?

Bundle Your Insurance - Get all your insurance in one place. Most insurance companies will give you a discount for having 2 cars or your car and homeowners policy with them. So check with yours to see if they have "bundle discounts". If not, think about going elsewhere for better discounts.

Keep Track of Your Spending - You will find where all your leaks are when it comes to your money if you keep a log of what you are spending. Using a site like can also help with this. Just an old fashion notebook is a perfect tool. Sometimes you just don't realize where you spent your money, so by writing down every cent you spend you could go back and say "we spend $700 on restaurants!! I know where our money goes.....we ate it!!"

Spend in a Controlled Way - Buy only what you have planned to buy. Only what is budgeted for.  Stick to your list!

Take Snacks With You - Going to the movies? Long car trip?   Put an apple or snack and a bottle of water in your bag and you won't have to pay the inflated prices while you are out.

Don't Charge It -  By paying cash instead of credit card you are saving.  Figure 18% interest on $1000 is about $15 in 30 days.   That's $180 a year!!  Pay cash and come out ahead.

Coordinate Your Fashions - Buy things that work together instead of outfits that don't.  You can mix and match and make many looks from a few well picked coordinating pieces. 

Buy Used - Buying used you are letting someone else take the hit in depreciation.  When you buy a new car, the moment you drive it off the lot it sinks in value.  The same with just about everything you buy.  Buy used and save!

Trade Off Babysitting - If you have a friend of family member babysit for you, you could do it for them in return.  Or barter with them for another service of goods other than pay.  You may even come up with a 50/50 method of paying some and bartering for the rest.  I have a friend who cleans her babysitters house on the weekend for the lady who babysits for her 3 days a week. 

Take the Bus - I you have access to public transportation, take advantage of it.  With the price of gas and the wear and tear on your car and tires, this could save you a fortune.   You could also carpool and save some money driving every other day or having everyone chip in for gas. 

Compare Prices - Search the internet and any other way you have to research the product and prices. 

Friday, February 3, 2012

5 Things to Play on a Cold Wet Day



Whether your kids have a cold or it is cold, heart-pounding playtime — the good kind — isn’t always possible outdoors during inclement weather.
In the winter months, moms like me can have a tough time keeping their busy kids from getting bored, especially when said kids are used to living it up covered in mud.
Too wet to go out
And too cold to play ball.
So we sat in the house.
We did nothing at all.
Dr. Seuss
Rather than just sitting there wishing for something to do, here are some out-of-the-box ideas for your Thing One and Thing Two:

1. Blanket Forts

Best made in low-traffic areas and avoiding blockading the entrance ways (because neither rain nor snow will keep the mailman away), blanket forts create a secret world within familiar walls. Simply connect sturdy pieces of furniture, such as chairs, by draping blankets over them. Flashlights, goldfish crackers, a good stack of library books and secret knocks make fort living even more fun.

2. Roller Skating

With groovy music playing, turn your concrete basement floor into a roller skating rink. You know your kids like to run in circles through the kitchen, living room and dining room. Wheels will wear them out even quicker! If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, you can dust off your own skates and teach them hot numbers such as Disco Duck and the Hokey Pokey. (Shh…. I never used headgear and knee pads when we used to do this as kids, but you may want to strongly consider it to reduce the injury factor. Remember : Potty emergency or not, absolutely NO skates on the steps!)

3. Bathtub Snow

Fresh, beautiful snow is an insult to injury for kids who are stuck indoors recovering from the flu. A solution? Bring the snow to them! It will take a little bit of work on your part, but, using a five gallon bucket, scoop up several loads of snow. Leaving the drain open, on that off chance it just might get covered and you have to be the one to open it when playtime is over, dump the snow into the bathtub. Break out the beach toys so that your kids can carve sculptures and cities out of snow. Sand molds work beautifully with this medium. If you care at all about your bathroom floor, you may choose to put down some towels as knee cushions, topped with a waterproof painter’s tarp. Hot chocolate with marshmallows is the afterward preferred treat.

4. Swinging Indoors

Baby swings are often hung in interior thresholds, but older children can safely swing so long as the frame of the door has thick, wooden support (not plaster!) and the swing is very securely bolted into place. (Admittedly, I am stealing this idea from my dad. He installed a swing for us kids in the threshold of our kitchen. I can still remember watching the snow falling outside of our windows as the sun went down, while listening to the Carpenter’s Christmas album.) Be sure there is plenty of room in front and behind the reach of the swings. Hallways are perfect.

5. Nerf War

Slightly safer than rubber band guns and way more fun, playing with Nerf Guns is one of my favorite ways to roughhouse without leaving a mark… from getting shot, at least. Best of all, starting an all-out, sweaty, indoor war is easy. Simply start shooting squishy foam darts (mine glow in the dark) at your kids while they’re trying to play video games. Bring it!
I hope you enjoy these ideas, and look forward to hearing some of your own!
One last thing — All of these activities are a million times more fun when performed costumed in items from your post-Halloween raid of the dollar store combined with the clothes mommy and daddy used to wear in their former lives.
Follow author Sarah Joy on Twitter here: @mrsalbrecht

Nacho Cheese Chicken and Rice Soup | Rock Star Dad

Nacho Cheese Chicken and Rice Soup Rock Star Dad

Fruit Leather Recipe

Fruit Leather Recipe

Homemade Baby Food: Cereal - YouTube

Homemade Baby Food: Cereal - YouTube

Frugal Gift Idea: Homemade Photo Cubes - | Online Coupons & Savings

Frugal Gift Idea: Homemade Photo Cubes - Online Coupons & Savings

Comeback Sauce | Syrup and Biscuits

Comeback Sauce Syrup and Biscuits

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Grocery Store Savings

By: Frugal Sally

Food is something we can't live without, but it seems as though it is the thing that is killing our budgets much of the time.  It is one of the only things (dollar wise) that we can control and it is one of the few things we can choose (in some cases) that we can cut back on.  These are my suggestions for helping you to stay within your budget and be happy with it.  Most are for newby grocery budgeters, but you ol pros can maybe find a few new things that you can add to your list of savings tips.

1. Establish a Grocery Budget:  I suggest going back over your grocery receipts or bank statements for the last 6 weeks and total them up.  Then divide that by 6 (the number of weeks).  That will give you a weekly average of how much you have been spending at the grocery store.  Then take that total and cut 10 to 15% off of it.  Again, this is for new budgeters.  It is hard for the grocery shopping budget pros to cut much more from your budget - although the challenge of 10% would be fun! 
Then every 2 weeks or so cut that grocery budget another 10 to 15% until you are down to 50% off of where you were when you started your budget.  Do not make a second cut until you have mastered the first cut and so on.  Challenge yourself to get a little better each week.  Do not start with trying to cut it 50% , you will end up being dissappointed and you won't want to continue.  Besides your family will curl up in a ball and start a have to ease into this.

2. Cash Only: After you establish your grocery budget, go to the ATM or cash a check for your budgeted amount. Put it in an envelope. Leave the credit cards, debit card, checkbook at home. You can only spend what is in the envelope....that is it. When the cash is gone, you are done shopping. Hopefully there will be some left in the envelope! Take a calculator with you... if you must, put things back if you are getting to close to your limit. This will make you stop and think if you really need certain items. 
By having cash only you will not be tempted to spend more or on a whim leading you to go over budget. Besides, spending cash hurts, it makes you think before parting with it....plastic or checks don't seem to mentally hurt as much and plastic for sure feels like you are using someone elses money. We want it to be an ouchie!! NO excuses about it is easier.....convenience costs to much!!
There are a few more steps before you leave for the store, but at least you have a budget to not go over and the cash to know your limits.

3.Have a plan and a list:  Buy the Sunday paper.  Gather the weekly ads for the grocery stores you shop at.  You may want to shop several for the best bargains.  Look in your pantry, cupboards, fridge and freezer for what you already have.  Make a menu for the week using things you have already bought and paid for.  Then check the ads to see what is on sale to finish up your menu's.  Example: you have chicken and pasta - make a pasta meal that has chicken in it.  So you need cheese for the recipe - check what store has cheese on sale.  Check to see if you have coupons from the paper to bring that price down even more (Try stacking coupons too.  Manufacturer and store coupons together).  Make a menu that includes the meals you make each day and don't forget the snacks (because not planning for them is a budget buster, and it gives you control as to how much and what your family eats).  I write my store lists on an envelope for each store.  I put the coupons in the envelope for that store.  It makes it easier.  Buy what is on the list and only what is on the list.  I do recommend a $5 "unknown sale" allowance.  This is for manager's specials or store markdowns that are great deals. 
Now you have a week or two planned meals, buy only what you need for those meals.  Stick to the list!!  This will keep you from aimlessly walking around the store throwing things that "look good" into your cart.  It will cut down on junk food and impulse items that the store is featuring (usually not a good deal). 
Tip: When coupon shopping, do not be tempted to buy something just because you have a coupon.  Only buy what you need and what you will use.  Even if the item is only a few cents, it is a few cents wasted if you won't use it or don't really need it.

4. Check out a few more options:  Check on-line coupon sites to see if there are coupons you can print off for items you need.  Check the manufacturers sites too, because they sometimes have coupons or you can sign up to get coupons. 
Don't be afraid to buy store brands.  Most are made by the same national brand companies you usually buy...worth a try if they are cheaper.  Even if you have a coupon, look at the store brand.  Calculate which would be cheaper, another brand or your item with the coupon discount.  Sometimes decisions have to be made in the store as to which is a better deal. 
SHOP ALONE!!  If there is anyway you can go alone so you can concentrate on what you are doing and focus on the shopping.  Kids and spouses tend to raise the cost of a grocery trip by about 15%.  There are too many moms and wives that can't say "no, it's not on the list" or "no, it's not in the budget".  By the time you buy several snacks because they "are only $1" you will have spent way over your budget.
Eat before you go to the store.  It is true!  Shopping hungry will cost you!!

5. Know Your Prices:  If you have to keep a price book then do that, but know your prices.  I would keep up with the items you are constantly purchasing.  It will also give you a clue as to how the store cycles it's sales.  
 I can not tell you how many times I have seen 10 for $10 sales and they really aren't good sales at all. Example: A can of Chef Boyardee is 10/$10 at one store and only $.89 at another.  Yet people will stock up at the more expensive store because it sounds cheaper.  Also, you find yourself buying 8 other items you may not need just to get the 2 items that you came for.  Don't fall for that game!
 I have seen food, paper goods and cleaning items at the dollar store that are less than the grocery store or making them yourself.  
Consider what it would take to make it yourself.  I can make a batch of taco seasoning for about $1.  It will make an equivalent of  4 packets that would cost anywhere from $2 to $4 total.  I can do the same for cleaning products too.  I can make 5 gallons of laundry detergent for equal or less than you can buy 32 oz. for.  As I said before many times "convenience costs money". 

6.  Check your store to see if and when they do markdowns on items such as meat, produce and bakery.  I know that the store close to me does meat markdowns every morning.  They mark them down about 50% sometimes more, and if I cook them right away or freeze them it doesn't make a difference if they still have 2 days before they shouldn't be sold.  I have never had a problem with this at all as far as food saftey goes.  Today I found ground beef marked down and I am making a huge double batch of chili to freeze for later dinners. 
Check for produce too.  I have bought celery, onions and bell peppers marked down to a great price and then cut them up and put them in the freezer to use for future meals.   I found ripe bananas super cheap and they are great for banana bread and muffins.  Apples are great for applesauce and apple butter.  The same with bakery goods.  I will freeze them for later.  My latest find was carrot cake cupcakes and I wrapped them individually and froze them.  Hubby takes them in his lunch bag to work. 
These are also items that usually never have coupons.  So if you have ground beef or chicken on your shopping list and you see it on a markdown, you can buy double for the same amount you normally would have spent on just one.  OR you can just buy the one you need and save some money.  It's a win/win either way. 
Always take a glance at the clearance section of the store too.  You never know when you could come across a real steal.  The other day I had crackers on my list.  I had the best buy on the isle in my cart and went to check the clearance section.  They had crackers marked to half on the shelf.  Best of all they were organic and better than the ones I had in my cart - and cheaper!!  Just don't buy things you really don't need just because they are on clearance. 

7. Always budget a set amount each week for "stock up items".  This would be canned goods or frozen foods.  Things with a longer shelf life.  I allow myself $5 to $7 each week to stock up on 1 or 2 sale items.  This week I know that canned tomatoes will be on sale at my store BOGO (Buy One, Get One free).  So I have it in my budget to buy $5 in canned tomatoes.  I keep them stocked because I use them a lot in my cooking.  I stocked up pasta about two weeks ago and beans this past week.  Now when I need something, I just look in my pantry and it's there.  No running to the store and buying items that aren't on sale.  This will take a while before you build your pantry up, don't try to do it over night.  Only buy enough for about 4 to 6 weeks, it will go on sale again.  Don't hoard or build huge stockpiles.  It is an incredible waste of space and money.  You end up throwing things away when they expire.  As I said before, you may have only spent $.10 on the item, but it's $.10 wasted if you throw it away. 

8. Avoid buying items at the grocery store that can be bought elsewhere for less.  A lot of health and beauty items could be purchased at drug stores or even big box  (such as Target) stores much cheaper.  The same with many paper goods such as toilet paper.   Pet food and supplies can be purchased at places like PetSmart cheaper too.  Diapers and baby supplies usually always are cheaper any place but the grocery store.  Don't fall into the trap of buying everything in one place because that will cost you.  Unless you have to travel great distances and the gas would kill the savings, do your homework and hit a few stores to and from the grocery store.   
Shop places like Amazon for some of these items.  Compare prices.  If you belong to Amazon Moms you can get free shipping on things like baby supplies. 
Become card carriers (loyalty cards) for the stores and drug stores in your area and take advantage of their program and discounts.  Target now has a free debit card that will give you a 5% discount when you use it. 

9.  COOK!  Cooking from scratch is cheaper than prepared foods.  Healthier and tastes better.  Cook in batches and freeze some for later.  It is less expensive to buy in bulk, cook doubles and triples of a recipe and freeze them in family (your size family) portions.  An example of cooking from scratch costing less than prepared is Hamburger Helper.  It may only cost $1 or so a box, but it makes 1 meal for a small family (or just the 2 of us...we eat a lot).  For that $1 you could make a big batch of the same mix and pasta and make twice as much (if you get the pasta on sale).  There is very little to it.  You could make it healthier too (no preservatives, colorings, dyes, etc..).   Whatever you make, make double and eat one tonight and freeze one for another night.  Cuts down on leftovers, waste and saves money.   On nights you are to tired to cook, or forget to defrost something, just take a meal from the freezer and pop it in the oven or microwave.....just as you would a frozen meal - but better.  It took you no more time to cook 2 then it did for you to cook one!!  You will be surprised how much money this saves you.  After you do this for a week or so, you will see that your freezer is stocked and the next time you go grocery shopping you may only need to buy 1 or 2 meals worth of food. 
It's a wonderful thing!!

10.  Look high and low:  Focusing on the things at eye level in the grocery store is going to cost you.  Look on the high shelves and the bottom shelves for your best deals.  Manufacturers and vendors pay A LOT of money to have their products placed at eye level or featured on end caps and displays.  Look past those for the deals.  You will see a lot of the store brands and lesser known brands low on the shelves. 
Check the ethnic sections of the store too!!  I have found that I can get much cheaper spices looking in the Latin or Indian sections of my grocery store.  McCormicks Cayenne is about $4 for an ounce or so and I can get the Badia brand in the Mexican food section for less than $2..  Cumin is over $3 in the spice section for a little spice size bottle and I bought a big container in the Indian section for around $4.  Tortillas sometimes cost less in the Mexican section and sometimes in the dairy cooler than over on the bread isle. 
When looking for specialty items such as gluten you homework.  Check to see if you store marks its gluten free products.  One of the stores I go to has a big "GF" on all gluten free items.  If you look in the section that is especially for gluten free you will see very high prices.  Look throughout the would be amazed at all the products that actually contain zero gluten.  The same goes for any special diet, be it diabetic or whatever....when you specially label it, the price goes up.  Cooking from scratch also helps cut these costs too!

11. DIY Everything You Can:  I touched on this a little while ago, so now I will explain it further.  Anytime you can do something yourself, it saves you money.  It is no different when it comes to food and your groceries.  When you get meat that is already cut into chops, steaks, chicken parts, diced ham....whatever it is, the price goes up.  Anytime someone has to put their hands on it, in it, mix it or so on - it costs you!!  Do it youself and save!!  Get a whole pork loin the next time it goes on sale, don't be afraid.  Slice it into chops, keep a larger piece for a roast, cut another hunk of it into chunks for chili or pork stew.  For the same price as a couple of packs of boneless pork chops you made enough to do 4 or 5 meals that will feed at least 4 people.  The same goes with cutting up your own chicken or buy leg quarters and cut the thigh from the drumstick....have you seen the price of just thighs??  If you are a family of 4 then 8 leg quarters (costing about $4) will feed you for 2 meals! 
Mixes are the same...make your own taco seasoning, ranch dressing, spaghetti sauce.  You may say to yourself....that Frugal Sally is crazy, I can buy spaghetti sauce for less than I can make it.  Think again, you buy a 24 oz bottle of sauce and it makes one meal for a family (sometimes you have to use 2 bottles or jars), for about the same price or maybe a hair more depending on the veggies you throw can make a huge pot that makes several meals.  A packet of dry ranch dressing is almost $2 for a name can make what amounts to 4 packets for less than that. 
Make your own cleaning supplies.  Some of them take less time to make than for you to go down the isle and take it off the shelf.  I just made some fake Clorox Clean-up for less than a dime....what do you pay for it in the store.  It took me all of 2 minutes to make it.  Saving me nearly $3. 

12. Use Meat as Part of the Meal, Not the Focus of the Meal:  Meat will go much further if you use it in a recipe and not as the main dish.  Having meat such as steak and sides can get very expensive and it isn't all that healthy for you anyway.  If you want steak make Philly Cheesesteak sandwiches or a stir fry.  This way it isn't one steak per person, it is one steak for the entire dinner.  One pound of chicken breasts goes a long way in a white chili or a casserole than it does if you serve a breast as a main part of the meal.  Adding meat to a rice or pasta dish will really help spread out the cost of meat.  Soups are another good way to make the best of meats.  Making your own broths from chicken carcasses can help save some grocery dollars.  Freeze it too and you will have it for all those recipes that call for broths and stocks. 

13. Change it up.  Switch it out!  Don't be Brand Loyal.   Replace old habits with something less expensive.  Try swapping the soda habit for water.  Not bottled water either....get a refillable 5 gallon bottle.  Invest in a filter for your tap or a pitcher and refill those bottles.  Can't do just plain water.  Add lemon or an inexpensive drink mix.  Frozen concentrate is cheaper than bottled fruit juices, only takes a minute to whip it up and save some money.  Always buying packages of cookies?   Check the bakery for deals on cookies if you don't want to make your own.  They sometimes (not always) have cookies with more in a package for less....who knows, you may like them better.   Make your own ice tea or ice coffee instead of the incredibly expensive brand name bottled drinks.  Be willing to try new things that cost less....don't be brand loyal.

14. Shop the Local Farmer's Markets:  If you can find it locally grown and sold, you will probably get a much better deal and maybe even fresher.  Buying local and in season saves you over the grocery store prices because they have to pay for shipping and storing and on and on.  Make the best of in season fruits and vegetables by buying in bulk then canning, freezing and cooking freezer meals.  You can also dehydrate too.  Make the best of a good thing.

15. Be Aware of Mistakes:  Watch as your groceries are being rung up.  Watch for mistakes in quantity and in price.  Count your change.  Try to have it fixed before you leave the store.
If the store is out of a sale item, have them issue you a rain check so when you come back you can get the item at sale price.  You won't have to rush back again before the sale is over to get your item.  You can get it on your next trip.  These days with the extreme couponers wiping out the shelves before you can get what you came for, it is so important to get those rain checks. 

If you can't make it to other stores and they have something on sale, see if your store will price match.  Most stores will only price match stores that are close to them if they do it at all.  But really folks, if you can go to the other store, just do it.  You should be shopping the sales in the other store anyway.

See if your store accepts competitors coupons, you may be able to stack them with manufacturers coupons for better savings.  Example: you store accepts Target coupons.  You could use a Target coupon AND a manufacturers coupon for the same item.  Know your stores coupon policies if you use coupons.

16. Plant a Garden:  I know this one isn't for everyone.  It would be hard for me since I barely have a yard and the homeowners association frowns on it.  I can plant a small herb garden and that saves some money too.  For those who can have gardens, this is a great way to save money.  So even if it's just a window garden with still helps to save you some cash.  Don't forget, you can freeze herbs too, so they can keep on giving!

17.  Pay attention to unit pricing.  Price per ounce.  Sometimes the larger can is not cheaper.  At times you aren't getting the same thing you got last week.  Manufacturers are doing a new trick these days.  They are making the package smaller, but the price is still the same.  So that 14ounces of sauce you purchased last week is now 12 ounces and now the other brand may be cheaper.  Most shelf tags in stores show the price per ounce.  Use that to try to get the best deal.   Stores will also play pricing games.  Such as this week the shelf lable says it is $1.45 and next week they will say it is 2/$3. - the 2/$3. looks like a great deal, but actually the $1.45 was better.   You would not believe how many people fall for that. 

18. Cut the Junk or at Least Cut It Back:  Need I say more.  Junk food costs, and not just money.  It could also cost your health.  That being said if you must have it, make it a small part of the budget and try to make it smaller each week.  Yes, you should have a snack and it should be planned on the menu.  There are also things like cookies or chips for lunches.  Just try to keep it to planned menu items and not just having tons of junk laying around to be eaten at any time.  Getting the munchies can be a budget killer. 
When buying snacks for lunches or home.  Don't buy individual serving sizes.  Buy a large bad and divide it up.  The same goes for just about anything.  Individual cookies and snacks are expensive.  Divide and package them yourself and save.  Make a pan of brownies and wrap them for lunches.  Make your own "lunchables" with crackers, some cheese and some lunch meats. 

19. Replace Household items with reusable items:  Replace paper towels with washable towels. Replace paper napkins with cloth or just use kitchen towels that can be washed.   Replace baggies with reuseable containers or wash them and use them several times.  Reuse aluminum foil that isn't dirty or has nothing on it.  Refill spice bottles with bulk spices that you can buy in your produce departments that don't come in bottles.  Use empty containers for your mixes and empty cleaning bottles for your homemade cleaners so you don't buy jars and spray bottles.  All this can save you money and helps the environment too.  Use reusable bottles to fill with your own drinks to spare the cost of buying so many bottles.  Reuse the plastic shopping bags to line small garbage cans so you don't buy trash liners.  Wash plastic utensils that you may have picked up at a fast food restaurant to use in lunch bags and school lunches instead of always buying new ones. Wash your sponges in the dishwasher instead of always buying new.  By reusing you are saving!! 

20. Baby Go Green:  If you have a baby at home, make your own baby food.  Breast feed if that is an option for you.  Use cloth diapers.  Make your own baby wipes and products such as using corn starch as powder.  Babies can add a lot of money to a grocery budget.  The more you do the less it costs!

21.  Ring up food separate from household.  This will give you a better idea of what your weekly food budget it.  Or just have it rung up first and ask for a sub-total.  When you hear people say "I fed my family on $30 a week" it is because they are talking food only.  Not all the paper goods, health and beauty items and they don't include things like pet food.  So if you want to know where you are standing with a food only budget...separate your purchase at the register.    It just may give you inspiration to challenge yourself to do better next shopping trip.

I know there is probably some things and points I am leaving out, but this will give you a place to start.  A jumping off point.  I hope you all are now able to better cut those grocery bills down to size and save a bunch of money.  Let's go shopping!!