Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Holiday Cards...Can they be done on a Budget?

It's the most wonderful time of the year....Time for holiday either love 'em or hate 'em.  The big question is, though, can you do them on a budget?  I think the answer is, "yes."  Here are some tips for budgeting for cards this year.

1. Look for deals for free cards.  Shutterfly, Treat, and Cardstore all provide codes around this time of year for free cards.  All you pay is shipping.  Heck, Cardstore even ships them for free so they are completely free!  You may need to sign up for their emailed newsletter to get a code or search or for a code.

2. Postage...its a killer...I suggest only sending cards to those people you are really close to and maintain a relationship with more than just at the holidays.  It really cuts down on the number you need to send.

3. Still having a hard time justifying the money for postage?  Adjust what you are spending on gifts.  A lot of our gifts this year are handmade.  I've pinned some great ideas on my Pinterest board and have even used some of them in the past couple of years!  (What good are Pinterest boards unless you use them? Right?)

Friday, November 16, 2012

A Frugal Gift Idea for A Spouse/Significant Other

My husband and I usually skip gifts for each other at Christmas.  I mean, how fun is it when you both have the same credit cards and can check statements online for purchases made with the card?  In an effort to save money, we just don't do gifts.  Well, I've come up with an idea to keep the cost low (i.e. it's not costing me anything but my time) and provide my spouse a meaningful Christmas gift.

Putzing around on Pinterest, I found a pin for 12 Love Notes for Christmas.  I took a look at it and while I like her idea, I think it can be done cheaper and with better notes than the ones she provides for downloading and printing.

I have postcards lying around my house.  I'm taking 12 of them and on each one I'm going to write about significant, funny, sad, or interesting memories we each have but may have not thought about in a while on each one.  Some will be recounting of the story with a commentary on the event as I see it now and others will just be nice things that I feel like I never tell him enough.  I'll give each one to him 12 days before Christmas day.

Not only does this provide a no-cost gift.  It's one I know he'll love the best out of everything that he gets.  It never gets old or breaks and it truly comes from the heart.  And, best of all, Christmas lasts 12 days instead of just one!  I'm hoping this makes the Christmas season this year more special than in the past.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Cheap Cleaners

A few months ago I would have told you you were crazy if you told me I wouldn't need to buy cleaning products.  Well, I'm a believer.  I use vinegar all the time to clean bathrooms, glass and other surfaces.   Hey, it kills 99.9% of germs without creating bacterial resistance like other antibacterial cleaners.  It's a win-win.

I make my own carpet cleaner too.  A bit of vinegar and some baking soda does the trick.  Hey you can also use some dish soap, hydrogen peroxide and baking soda in a mixture for laundry stain removal.   Works just as good or better than Oxiclean.

The other good news is also that each of these things cost pennies on the dollar to make yourself which is way better than what you'd pay for them at the grocery store, even with coupons.  They're environmentally friendly and you aren't introducing your kids, pets, and other family members to harmful chemicals.  Another winning situation. :)

Monday, September 24, 2012

What You Should Know About Money Before You Are 30

There's a great article in USAA magazine this month about what you should know about money before you are 30.   The link to the article is here.  There is some really great information for service members that I didn't even know about (but wish I had).  Hope it proves helpful!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Taming the Want Monster

I found this great blog post over at the Minimalist Mom that really spoke to me.  We really are bombarded by a ton of ads within a given day thus causing us to want more "stuff."  But is the "stuff" what makes us happy?  I'd be willing to argue that it's not.

In addition to the suggestions she mentions to tame the Want Monster, I know I evaluate my purchases based on whether or not I can justify long term use of an object.  If I'm only going to use it for a short bit of time, it's probably not worth spending money on.  There must be an alternative.  I also don't make impulse purchases.  I always give myself a few days (sometimes weeks or months) before I buy something.  I like to really think about whether I need it or not.  Most of the time, I find out that I don't need something and thus I avoid spending money on it period.

We are not defunct of "stuff." We still have some "stuff" that we didn't necessarily need in our house.  I don't think a few "luxuries" are bad.  The Want Monster has won when you are overrun with "stuff" and you don't even use most of it.  If you find yourself constantly cleaning out and getting rid of "stuff" and some of that stuff was seldom used, minimizing the Want Monster's claim on your life might be for you. :)

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Another Laundry Trick

It never children always manage to get something on their clothes that makes a dark spot on the clothing when it comes out of the laundry.  For some reason the laundry detergent just doesn't cut it to get this spot out.  Neither does any Oxiclean, etc.

I did some digging online and decided to try putting some dishwashing detergent on the spots.  Would you believe that more often than not, the spot comes out?  I've tried using this on oil stains as well with good results.  You just have to make sure you put it on like right after you spill a bit of oily stuff on yourself....otherwise, it doesn't come out as well.  I've used both Palmolive and Joy (what I had on hand) although I imagine that Dawn is probably the best...

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Another Pinterest Winner!

My husband says to me the other night, "We need more granite cleaner." I tell him to put it on the list and I'll pick some up at the grocery store.  The next day I venture down the cleaning aisle and I can't find the granite cleaner I use anywhere!  All they have are wipes...expensive wipes.  So I continue looking for a moment and then remember that I pinned something for homemade granite cleaner.  Problem solved...I'll just make my own.

Here is the pin.  I left out the essential oil (I didn't have any).  I whipped up a bottle of this and I'm happy to tell you that it works great!  All it cost me was like $1 for the big bottle of rubbing alcohol I bought.  Way cheaper than a bottle of granite cleaner.  It only took 3 seconds to put it together too.  Awesome!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Don't buy Oxiclean! This Works Better!

I found this recipe on Pinterest.  I'll admit, I was skeptical that this DIY creation would actually work.  It does work and I had to share!  Just mix some hydrogen peroxide, water, and baking soda in a bottle and use on the stain.  Then wash. Voila!  Stain gone!  I used it on a pasta sauce stain and it took it right out.  No multiple washes and pretreats to get it out.  And this is a cheaper concoction than buying some bottled Oxiclean anyway.   It's a win-win!

Monday, July 16, 2012


My husband and I were discussing finances and how we spend money the other day.  I realized during our discussion just how fortunate we are to have found each other and the fact that we have such similar views on finances.  Not everyone is so fortunate.  Conversations with friends and acquaintances have brought to light that not everyone is great with money and moreover, they aren't effectively spending it (or saving it).   So it got me thinking that maybe I would lay out what we as a family deem worthy to spend money on or, perhaps, what we don't spend money on:

I will never buy a brand new car again.  Crazy, right?  The usual rationale behind buying a new car is reliability and the fact that it is covered by a warranty.  While this is great, we find that the depreciation we end up paying for in the car is not worth it.  We recently purchased a 2000 Honda Odyssey EX from a not so close family member.  It was in near perfect condition inside and out and only had 68,000 miles on it.  We paid $7000.  It came with all the records and has been maintained with all milestone maintenance performed and my husband knows enough about cars to know that the car was in amazing condition.  It was a no-brainer.  We're not worried about needing a warranty.   My husband can fix just about anything that would go wrong with it.  Honda engines last forever and even if small things like windows stop going down or whatever eventually stop working, it doesn't affect the driveability of the car.  Why pay for all that depreciation when we'll get several years use out of it at a much smaller price tag?  It definitely serves the same purpose as a new car.  If you can knowingly spot a quality, well-maintained vehicle, and you can do your own maintenance, then buy a used car and save some money.

I don't buy much that isn't around the perimeter of the grocery store (all the major food groups).  As a result, we avoid the high priced processed stuff in the middle of the store.  I only buy pasta sauce and pasta on sale (less than $1 with or without coupons).  I only buy crackers and cereal on sale or with coupons.  I make most of my own baked goods so I only require some flour and a few things down the baking aisle every once in a while and they are all less than $2 a bag.  Stocking up is a must when stuff is on sale.

Red meat is almost always expensive so I don't buy any of that.  I only buy ground beef on sale or when they offer it for reduced for quick sale.  I buy chicken breast only when it's less than $2 a pound.  As a result, I save money on meat and we still eat very healthy at home.

I definitely shop the bread thrift store and I buy reduced items at the grocery store and the farmer's market.  The bread I throw in the freezer and pull it out when I need it.  The reduced produce I use in meals for the week or freeze what I can't use in time (if possible).

I don't have to have the latest and greatest fashions.  I'm a mom so I wear what's comfortable and classic so I don't have to keep up with trends.  I haven't bought myself new clothes since last Fall.  (Sorry if this is sacrilege to some, but everything in my closet fits and I can't justify new stuff).  My husband only gets new stuff when what he has is so faded that I can't take it anymore.

For the kids, I shop the off-season and guesstimate what size they'll be.  I'm currently done shopping through next spring.  And I never buy my children anything on the full price rack.  I also don't buy designer because let's face it, they're boys and they tend to ruin clothes quickly.  Why spend more money on clothes that I will feel terrible about them ruining?

I'm all about spending money for memberships to museums!  My kids love them!  They're educational! I'm giving to a non-profit that uses the money to upkeep their collections.  A lot of times you get access to special events (many at no extra cost to you).  You can't go wrong!

I don't typically see movies in a theatre.  Only on Moms Night Out (and we hit up the $5 wednesdays) or if there is something I have to see (Dark Knight Rising...yes, please).  I never get refreshments while I'm there.  I eat before or after I go (no sneaking in snacks for me...healthier to boot!)

We don't rent movies.  I get anything I want to see at the library.  Or there is an array of stuff on Amazon Prime (which we have at a discount because my husband's a student).  I don't have to see the latest and greatest movie to be entertained.

I don't have cable.  We used to before we had kids and found ourselves not watching most of the channels.  Frankly, I like that we don't watch tv that much since most of it tends to be mindless anyway.  Anything I want to watch on cable I can usually watch online anyway.

We get outside as much as we can.  And guess what?  That's almost always free.  Stroll around the park trails, hit up a state park (nominal fee), or hit up an arboretum or conservatory and you get to enjoy nature at its finest.

Vacations are great but you don't have to spend a ton of money to get a break from your routine.  I don't have to fly to Tahiti to hang out at the beach.  There are great vacation options that don't require you buy airfare or spend a ton of money on hotels.

If you are going to travel farther away, research and find your best deal.  It's possible to do a big trip on a budget.  Research restaurants and food before you go.  You can find stuff that's in your price range and already know where it is so you aren't starving and just grabbing food at the closest place.  Cutting costs is easy when you don't need to bring home really expensive gifts or souvenirs.

Other Stuff
I research, research, research before I buy any big ticket items.  I want to ensure that I get the best quality for the price and something that will last for a long time.  If you have to replace something of lesser quality that is cheaper, then you almost always end up dishing out more money than if you have spent your money on the quality piece in the first place.

I'm a big believer in DIY.  If you can make it yourself, exactly the way you want it, for less money--it's a no brainer!  Yes, there is a time investment you have to consider but if you were going to spend that time watching YouTube or the television, then aren't you spending your time more wisely anyway?

Well, that's it.  That's how we spend our money for the most part.  In the past it's served us well because my husband's salary was more than enough for us to live on with extra left over each month which I squirreled away in a small savings account or our retirement accounts.  Now that we make much less than my husband did in the military, there's just less money to put in savings accounts and retirement.  Our way of living really didn't change much.  Hope this was helpful.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Deli Meat for Less!

I don't know if every Meijer does this but the one on Carpenter Rd. on occasion has deli meat that they must have over sliced for the day sitting in half pound packets in the cases with the gourmet cheeses and meats.  What's so great about this other than you don't have to wait to get it sliced?  Well, it's usually much cheaper per pound than the stuff you would have sliced at the counter.

I've gotten turkey for $1.99 a pound and today I got ham for $2.99 a pound.  Not only is it cheaper but it's definitely less processed than the packaged lunchmeat so we eat healthier at the same time.  Two for one!

The moral of this story is keep a lookout at your local grocery store or even ask the deli counter if they ever pre-slice meat for the day and have leftovers.  Might save yourself some dough.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Cheaper and Healthier Popsicles

As summer starts to warm up, popsicles inevitably become a snack of choice for the kids.  The ones you buy at the store are great but they can be costly, especially if you want to buy 100% fruit or juice ones.  The cheaper pops are basically sugar water and dye.  While giving my kids these types of popsicles is ok every once in a while, I prefer to try to keep the popsicles as healthy as I can.

To make healthy popsicles I use my blender to blend yogurt and fruit together and pour the blend into ice cube trays.  I then put a toothpick in each cube and put them in the freezer to freeze.  That's it!  Nice and easy!  For my kids who are 1 and 3, these smaller popsicles are perfect because they usually can't finish a traditional popsicle anyway (too cold and too big).  You could easily pour your yogurt and fruit blend into a traditional popsicle maker too.  Either way, its cheaper and healthier.  You save money by not buying the commercialized pops and you know exactly what's in the popsicles because you made them yourself.  It's a win-win.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Controlling Overspending

Found this great blog post on the ins and outs of overspending and how to control it. Lots of interesting information.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Stubborn Stains: Part Deux

Ok, I'll admit it...I am guilty of bleaching a shirt (or two) by accident. The shirt must have gotten put on a surface that had bleach on it and the bright green shirt (and bright blue shirt...) now have some pure white spots....sigh...

There is good that has come out of this though! I created some new duds for my youngest! Here are a few before pictures (sorry they are not great since I forgot to take before shots before I "created" the new shirts...)

This is the green shirt with a gorilla on the front.

This is the bright blue shirt.

I decided the best way to "fix" what I did was to bleach tie dye the shirts. I took a paper towel soaked with bleach and blotted the shirts all over front and back. No rhyme or reason to it. Just what I thought looked good as the color started to fade. The blue shirt has a more subtle tie dye to it. The blue shirt had a huge stain on the front that I was trying to get out (hence how I accidentally got bleach on it in the first place...) The green shirt has a much bolder brighter white and green tie dye on it. I just used more bleach and occasionally dripped some bleach from the container on the shirt in places to get more defined white spots.

Here are the after pictures.

This is the green one. I think I like this one was the second one I did and I think I used too much bleach in places after I did the final rinse and then washed it. It looks a lot better than it did with just one section of bleach on it though...

This is the blue one. It came out great in my opinion. I like this one the best out of the two. You can't see the stain or where I dropped a little bit of bleach on it in the first place at all.

Why do this? I really wanted to salvage these shirts so they could be worn. I think they can be now. Cheap way to change a shirt into a new one too!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Our Frugal Friday Favorite

For at least the last two months, our Friday dinner has been the same. We make homemade pizza. I've never cared much for homemade pizza in the past but I think that's because we haven't found the right crust recipe. Well, we've found a winner! This is my favorite pizza crust recipe. I have made the garlic cheese sticks too and they are awesome!

I use this dinner as an opportunity to clean out my fridge. Leftover meat, leftover veggies, stuff that needs to be used up soon--all of it goes on a pie! I'm creating less food waste and we never have the same pizza twice!

I also get creative with the sauce. We've used BBQ sauce instead of pizza sauce and my favorite by far is using homemade ranch dressing. I like this recipe.

Fridays are by far my family's favorite day of the week because they love pizza!

Friday, March 9, 2012

My New Favorite Side Dish

I have a new love and its name is Pan Bread. While trolling Pinterest one day, a friend of mine posted a blogpost that included a recipe for Pan Bread. It sounded interesting so I checked it out. It's wicked easy to make and only takes about 5 minutes or so. I use it as a quick side for dinner. I make a few for peanut butter and banana sushi for my son. They make great little "tortillas" for sandwich stuffings.

I also love their versatility. I have been experimenting and adding different ingredients to compliment our dinners. One night I add italian spices for spaghetti. Parmesan cheese to go with salads. Whole wheat instead of regular flour for a more healthful recipe. Cinnamon and sugar for a more dessert-y bread. The possibilities are endless! And its made with staples you usually have in your fridge and pantry anyway so its really, really cheap! Check out this great recipe here.

Friday, March 2, 2012

I Won't Ever Buy Bread at the Grocery Store Again!

We've lived in SE Michigan for about 6 months now and I pass by an Aunt Millie's Bakery Outlet all the time. I kept meaning to stop and check it out but I kept forgetting/the children were not cooperating etc. Well I finally made a trip the other day. All I can say is awesome! I got 2 loaves of bread (brand name wheat and a five grain) and a ream of 5 bagels for $2.87! Way cheaper than even the sale price on bread at the grocery store! The bread was $.89 a loaf! What! Crazy! They had a ton of different stuff in there from sweet treats to rolls, etc.

Check and see if there is a bakery outlet or thrift store near you. The prices can't be beat on bakery items and its the same quality stuff you'd buy at the grocery store. I throw most of the bread I buy in the freezer anyway so I don't worry about sell by dates anyway. Happy Shopping!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Quality vs. Quantity

I've come to the realization (especially lately as my sons' birthdays approach) that there is a lot of, for lack of a better word, "crap" for sale these days. I don't need something that makes a ton or noise or lights up or whatever because my children could care less if it did any of those things. In my search for a tow truck for my son for his birthday, I have come upon so many cheap, plastic toys that won't last more than a week or so in a household with two very imaginative and active little boys.

Why even bother making such a product? The answer is simple, "To create a product as cheaply as possible to turn a higher profit." You can find these products everywhere. They are made overseas with cheap labor and then "marked up" in price for the consumer to purchase. We've received some of these cheaply-made plastic toys for our boys and they inevitably break or fall apart within a week's to a month's time. Then I find myself trying to super glue them back together (usually to no avail) and having to explain to my 2 year old that "It broke," and has to now be thrown away since its no longer usable. More money is then spent to find a replacement.

Is there a cost-effective solution to this problem? I would argue, "yes." Melissa and Doug offer some great wooden toys and puzzles that have lasted the longest in our house. The boys can beat them up and wood just "takes a licking and keeps on ticking." Now the paint inevitably gets scratched up a little bit but the functionality of the toy remains and my kids love them. They are a little more expensive than some of the "cheaper" plastic stuff but you can still get a great deal by using 40 and 50% off coupons to use in-store at Michaels and A.C. Moore.

Plan Toys also offers wooden and eco-friendly toys. We have a set of blocks from them and they have also withstood the test of time (and little boys' rough play). Their website offers a list of retailers. I know I got our blocks from when they were having a 15% off sale. I also know that Amazon carries their stuff as well. And if you do Swagbucks, you can earn gift cards for Amazon just by watching videos, doing surveys, and answering polls. I've gotten many a gift card this way without having to "sign up" for anything.

Another great way to find quality toys is to scour thrift shops, garage sales, craigslist and consignment shops in your area. Not only could you find a great, quality toy but you often save even more money and help the environment by buying used.

I'm sure there are a number of other companies out there that makes some great quality toys. Do some research and read reviews to find what you are looking for. Don't be afraid to wait a bit to see if you can catch a sale. Holiday weekends are prime for sales...

The ultimate point that I'm trying to make is I'd rather buy quality than quantity. If I have to keep buying replacements for the cheaper toys, I end up spending more in the long run. I get the most "bang for my buck," if you will, by buying the boys a little bit more expensive toy they can enjoy for a long time rather than a lot of cheap ones that will break and be unusable in a short period of time.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Friday, February 10, 2012

Reducing your Impact and Your Grocery Bill

I recently paid attention to the number of paper towels my family uses in a given day. It was A LOT! I used paper towels to wipe down counters, use as napkins, and wipe down my kids, etc. My husband was using them as tissues. It was getting out of control. We could go through a roll of paper towels in two days! That's a lot of wasted trees and money...

So, I remedied the situation. I make sure we use our dish cloths much more frequently for tasks like wiping down the counter. Increased cloth napkin usage (since I'm clearly doing laundry anyway...) and the introduction of terry washcloths to wipe down the kids have helped reduce our paper towel usage. I'm proud to say we have been on the same roll of paper towels for 3 days or more now. I also found a good tutorial for making your own "Unpaper towels." As soon as I get a sewing machine, I'll be making my own with the hope that I can eliminate paper towels from my grocery list for good.

I encourage you to take a look at what you are consuming in your house regularly. How can you reduce your usage? Will it save you money? I'd be willing to bet that it could.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Casseroles--It's What's (Leftover) For Dinner!

I love casseroles! They are great for using up leftovers in the fridge. Very little food goes to waste in my house because of casseroles. I use all manner of leftovers in a casserole.

My basic recipe is usually the same:
-a 9 x13 pan
-2 cans of cream of whatever soup (I tailor which cans I use by what I'm putting in it)
If you don't want to use cream of soups you can find a recipe for a cream of whatever in this recipe here.
-about 2 cups of some sort of rice base (I've used white rice, brown rice, quinoa, and cauliflower "rice", or a mixture of 2 of these types of rice)

Then I raid my refrigerator! I choose a meat if I have one (Leftover chicken--yup! Leftover ham--sure!). You could throw some tofu or a soy based "meat" too for the vegetarian folks. Then I look for leftover veggies or any fresh veggies in my fridge that HAVE to be used soon. I've used peas, carrots, mushrooms, broccoli, corn, yellow name it--I've used it in my casserole. I use common sense here and try to not to put anything that might be weird together in the dish. Be creative--add some bacon, toasted breadcrumbs, anything else that strikes your fancy :)

I mix up all my ingredients and spread in the pan and top with shredded cheese (sometimes I put some grated parmesan in the casserole mixture itself). Then I pop it in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes. Voila! Easy dinner! You save money by not wasting the food in your fridge! Bon-appetit!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Stubborn Stains

Lately, I've been faced with some very stubborn stains on clothing in our household. Usually it involves a white piece of clothing coming into contact with spaghetti sauce. I've also acquired some clothing for my kids that had that strange "off white" hue to areas of the white shirt where some weird old stain or spit up or something didn't quite come out. I used to just try some stain remover in one wash cycle and if it didn't come out, I just used the shirt or whatever as a play shirt or rag...I decided to be more proactive this time around. I was determined to salvage these garments as best as I could. After all, money doesn't grow on trees, right?

First I treated the stains with Tech (my mother in law bought this at a grocery store in Illinois. I have not seen it anywhere on the East Coast, but please prove me wrong...) or if that was unavailable some OxyClean Stain Remover. I let that set for a bit then soaked the clothes in warm water with OxyClean for an hour or so. Then I ran them through the wash on cold water with detergent and a Tide Stain release. No bleach in the wash only because the shirts in question had areas of color that I didn't want to risk bleaching. This usually lightened the stain. Then I took a paper towel and poured enough bleach on it to make it damp in a small area. I then blotted the light stains (only if they were on an only white area of the shirt) with the bleached paper towel. I believe in using as little bleach and harsh laundry additives as possible since they affect the longevity of the garment.

I was amazed at how effective the bleach worked! I could see the stain fade in front of my eyes. Even old stains that had probably been there a while! Even shirts that didn't get stain treated for several days after they came into contact with spaghetti sauce! I then rinsed these shirts out and ran them with the next load of laundry I did. Voila! Stain gone!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Dinner--4 Ways

I've gotten pretty creative with meals lately as a result of having a kitchen that allows me to see my kids while they are playing and a new take on our financial reality (i.e. we're living on less with my husband's research assistantship salary).

So the other night I made Rotisserie Chicken in the Crockpot (recipe here.) I subbed baby carrots for the onions (not a huge onion fan..and I was able to cook a side simultaneously with the chicken). I threw together a box of stuffing (yeah, I was lazy like that...) to go with it. Thus, Dinner #1.

Dinner #2 the next night, I took some of the leftover chicken to use in burritos. Made some rice (see this post), pulled out some cheese, sour cream, tortillas, cut up some tomatoes, and sauteed half a yellow pepper. Voila! Dinner #2!

Dinner #3 is more like Lunch #3. I got creative this afternoon and whipped up Avocado Chicken Salad. Here's what I used:
-leftover chicken (enough for a sandwich)
-1 avocado, mushed up
-some celery salt to taste
-about 4 leftover baby carrots, chopped (I didn't have any celery.)
-some Mayo with Cracked Pepper

I mixed all this up and tossed it on some wheat bread. Turned out surprisingly well, the carrots give it the little bit of crunch that celery usually gives Chicken Salad. The Cracked Pepper Mayo gives it a bit of a zing and all-in-all it's rather tasty. (Sorry no picture for this one...I'm too lazy to take one of my creation...)

Dinner #4 is Homemade Pizza. The crust recipe I use can be found here. I'm going to get creative tonight and make Chicken Alfredo Pizza. Here's my ingredient list:
-leftover chicken
-pizza crust
-alfredo sauce
-mushrooms, chopped (I have some in my fridge I need to use)
-fresh spinach (again, I have some I need to use...)
-leftover tomatoes (The ones I cut up for burritos the other night)
-mozzarella cheese, shredded
-parmesan cheese, grated

I'll throw these things on top of the pizza crust and bake according to the crust instructions. Voila, Dinner #4. (Below is a picture of a pizza but not the one I made...again, lazy...)

Happy Leftover Using? Can I say that?

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Taco Rice...Easy Without Buying the Pouch Rice

I'll admit that I usually buy the "throw in a pot rice sides." I have noticed however that they are much more expensive at the regular grocery store than they were at the Commissary. I love using the Mexican or Taco rice sides when we do burritos, tacos, or other Mexican dish, however I'm appalled that it costs me upwards of $1.25 or so for just one packet! There are store brand generics but even those are fairly expensive at $.89 or more a packet. So I've been on a quest for a substitute that is just as easy.

Enter homemade Taco Rice. So I looked up recipes for Taco/Mexican rice and decided it took me much longer to locate all the ingredients and cook the rice on the stove, blahdy, blahdy, blah. However, today I decided to throw some medium white grain rice, and part of a ready made packet of Taco seasoning in with the water in my rice cooker. I did mix it up before I turned the rice cooker on. If this works, I can make lots of Taco rice, much cheaper than buying the packets and without having to increase my "workload." I can also control the spices in the rice so my two year old and nine month old can eat it without complaint. I can add as much or as little as I want.

When I opened the rice cooker, I was hit with the smell of Taco seasoning. The rice itself was tinted a reddish color and upon tasting the rice, it has a very light flavor of spices. It's not the "heavy" taste of the rice packet, but I'd be willing to bet that my version is much healthier for you with much less sodium. Overall, I think this version will be great for my use of leftover chicken for tacos/burritos for dinner tonight. Another plus, I'm saving more money doing it this way too.

Got any suggestions for this recipe? Let me know in the comments!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Shopping Out of Season: Take 2

I know that I've written about shopping out of season before but I thought it was time to revisit the post. The original post is here.

In addition to hitting up the stores at their end of season sales, check out your local children's consignment shop for their end of season sales. I went to one of our local shops today and scored Fall and Winter clothing for both of my children for $1 per piece of clothing (regularly priced $4.99 or less). Everything I bought was either Land's End, Gap, The Children's Place, or Gymboree. Some stuff even still had original tags on it! I got 29 items for $30 after tax.

Crazy! All those savings! I know that all of these clothes will wash up great (given my experience with other items from these brands.) I keep money in my pocket and my kids are stylin' in brand name clothes.

I also feel better knowing that I bought second-hand and helped reduce my carbon footprint. By buying second-hand no new natural resources had to be used and no factories had to produce the clothing a second time. Also awesome!

So check out the specials going on in your area....they are probably happening about now since the spring lines are coming out...

5 Tips for Saving on Groceries

Found this blog post today and thought it might be helpful for helping to save some money on groceries (especially if you eat non-coupon things...).

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Budget Friendly Vacations

I'm not currently thinking of planning any sort of vacation but I know there may be others getting ready for Spring Break etc. so here is a blog post I found for planning travel.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Extreme Couponing: An Opinion

Ok, so I finally saw an episode of Extreme Couponing. These people are insane. I saw a 16 year old boy stocking up on feminine products because they were "free." What in the heck is he going to do with them? I saw people with store rooms full of things that have expiration dates on them and the items were stacked so deep, there is no way they would ever use them before the expiration dates!

Extreme couponing doesn't necessarily save you money. I know as a mom, my time is money. If I have to shop at 8 different grocery stores to get stuff for "free," with both of my children in tow...its not worth it to me. There are so many other ways that I can spend my time--taking my kids to museums, exercising, walking the dog, playing at the park, etc. Not to mention the fact that I have now spent wear and tear on my car and used gas to get to those 8 grocery stores...All that "free" stuff is no longer "free."

The food that these people are getting for "free" is stuff that is really bad for you or stuff they'll never use (20 tubs of IcyHot, really?). If eating healthy is your goal then buying 30 Pringles chips isn't helping your case...

I pose the following alternative. Shop at one grocery store for a majority of groceries. Buy the sale items. Match coupons with those items when you can. Use the E-coupons if your grocery store offers them and stack them with manufacturer's coupons and sales. Buy local produce--cheaper and more environmentally friendly. If somewhere is having a good sale on one or two items you need, then by all means, if it fits in your schedule, stop and buy.

If you cannot resist the urge to extreme coupon (apparently, it's addicting...), all that stuff you get for "free" that you will never use, donate it! There are so many food banks and organizations to help people in need that could use non-perishables or feminine products or razors or toothpaste. Put the addiction to work for a cause.

End rant.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

I'm the Homemade Queen

I have been the "Homemade Queen" lately. I've made everything from bitter apple spray to donut holes to pizza crust to fruit snacks. It's been a regular bake-off/make-off in my house. I love the fact that I don't have to rely on "the infinite marketplace" to make my family something. I know exactly what I put in everything so I know it's not harmful to my family's health. And I'm saving money while I do it! I don't have to go buy mixes or cleaning products etc. I just use products that I already have around the house. Pinterest is a bevy of information when it comes to finding homemade/D-I-Y recipes and ideas. If you are interested in some of the stuff I've found, you can see my pinboards here. Hope you'll give "homemade" a try. Happy making/baking everyone!