Category Archives: Saving Money

Money Saving March Day 5

money saving marchWelcome to Day 5 of Money Saving March! Each day during the month of March we will take on a new challenge that is easy to do and will save or earn us some extra money. 

Well, March is certainly coming in like a lion with yet another winter storm. Today, I think we need an easy money-saving task that will also help improve our homes.

The challenge for today is to go around your home and find at least five things that no longer add meaning to your life. Place these things in a box or a bag and set them aside to either donate or sell. Selling the items may earn you some cash, but if you donate them instead, you can get a write off on your taxes.

After doing this little purge, the items will no longer take up valuable space in our home, so you won’t be paying the square footage just for storing things you don’t really need or want. If you rent a separate storage unit, then today’s challenge can have even more impact. The more clutter you remove from your life, the closer you are to removing the monthly storage fee!

Ready? Set? Go!

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Money Saving March Day 4

money saving marchWelcome to Day 4 of Money Saving March! Each day during the month of March we will take on a new challenge that is easy to do and will save or earn us some extra money. 

Welcome to Day 4? How have you been doing so far? For today’s challenge, take a few extra minutes to hang up some laundry instead of tossing it in to the dryer. This does two things as far as saving money. First, hanging laundry or using a rack saves you the money you might have spent on running the dryer (heat-generating appliances are notorious energy hogs). Second, it reduces the wear and tear on your laundry items, extending their life, so you don’t have to replace them as often!

Don’t worry if it isn’t warm enough where you are to hang laundry outside. I like to hang laundry up in my basement during the winter, because the clothes dry fast and they contribute some much-needed humidity to the dry winter indoor air. If you want to hang laundry on a regular basis, invest in a good quality drying rack that can be folded out-of-the-way when not in use.

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Money Saving March Day 3

money saving marchWelcome to Day 3 of Money Saving March! Each day during the month of March we will take on a new challenge that is easy to do and will save or earn us some extra money. 

Day 3 is here. Our challenge for today is to bake something from scratch. Now, now, don’t panic. Baking from scratch doesn’t have to time-consuming or difficult. Just pick a simple recipe and go for it. Skip the hand-cut apple pie and make a batch of muffins or some granola, instead.

Why do we want to get into the habit of baking from scratch at least once in a while? It really saves money, especially when we substitute our own baked goods for the expensive breakfast cereal or lunchbox snacks.

bunny rolls

Today, I’m going to give those cute bunny rolls that are all over Facebook a try, using my own Bread Machine Dinner Rolls recipe.  I’m hoping that they don’t come out looking like deranged turtles instead. Ah, the kids won’t care, right?

Wish me luck, and I’ll do the same for you for whatever baking you decide to tackle today!

Ready? Set? Go!

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Money Saving March Day 2

money saving marchWelcome to Day 2 of Money Saving March! Each day during the month of March we will take on a new challenge that is easy to do and will save or earn us some extra money. 

For our second challenge, we need to go around the house and find all of those unused gift cards! You know the ones we get for birthdays, holidays and rebates? The typical family has at least couple of hundred dollars worth of unused gift cards lying around.

Some of the typical places where unused gift cards hide include wallets and purses, junk drawers, stacks of mail, dresser drawers, etc.

Once we have gathered up our gift cards, we are going to put them in a safe, accessible place, so the next time we go shopping, we can use these cards instead of paying by cash or credit card. In my home, I use a simple but pretty cardboard box that is labeled “Free Money.” It is very visible, so I know to check the box before I leave the house on a shopping trip. You might want to keep your gift cards in a separate wallet, a business card holder, in the car, or whatever works for you.

To keep the motivation going, add up the dollar value of all of the cards you find and then post your total!

Ready? Set? Go!

* Update: I just found out that in some states, if your gift card has a balance of less than $10, the store that issued the card must pay out the balance in cash if requested.

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Money Saving March

money saving marchWelcome to Money Saving March! Each day during the month of March we will take on a new challenge that is easy to do and will save or earn us some extra money. Isn’t that something we all can use right now?

Along the way, we’ll discover some new ways to save, establish great money-saving habits, and have a little cash left over.

Each daily challenge will take no more than 15 minutes to complete!

For the first challenge, we need to get out a pad or notebook and a pencil and jot down at least three things you would do if you had some extra money around. It is okay to jot down as many ideas as you like, but to complete the challenge, narrow your list down to just three and prioritize them. We’ll be looking at the list all month as a way to keep us motivated.

Ready? Set? Go!

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Finding Time to Cook

This post originally appeared on Families.com

When life gets busy, cooking at home is usually one of the first things to go. It is tough to find the time to cook, when there is work, school, kids activities, etc., isn’t it? Eating out becomes the normal thing to do. Unfortunately, eating out can be both expensive and unhealthy, especially if it is continued over time. Because of these two facts, effort must be made to do most of the cooking at home. So where do we find the time to cook?

Track the Time Commitment

Eating out can actually take more time than you think, unless you are on an all-drive-thru diet. The next time you do eat out, track the time it takes, from the moment you get in the car to the moment your meal is actually served. You might be surprised. If it takes more than 15 minutes total (oh, and add in the travel time back to your home), then you may actually be spending more time eating out than you would cooking at home since there are a plethora of recipes out there that require only 15 minutes or less.

Get the Kids Involved

Many hands make light work, so get the whole family involved in preparing the meal. It will give you all a chance to be together, too, reinforcing family bonds. Give each member of the family at least one task, even if it is just pouring frozen vegetables into a dish before microwaving.

Use Simple Ingredients and Recipes

You don’t have to create an entire gourmet meal every time you cook at home. A simple casserole, a pasta dish, burgers…it’s all good. Just try to get the food groups in and you’ll be fine. Simple ingredients and recipes can make for quick easy meals.

Do Prep Work Whenever

The next time you are on the phone for an extended time, use a headset or place it on speaker phone and go and do some dinner prep. Chop vegetables during TV commercials. Add some marinade to frozen chicken and place it in the fridge while you are waiting for your tea to steep.

The point is to do prep work in pieces, whenever you have time. Then when it is time to make the actual meal, there will be less to do, and you won’t have missed those bits of time that you spent on the prep work.

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TVP Saves Money

save moneySince it is Friday, I thought it would be a good time to share a money-saving tip about using TVP. We often get tired of cooking by Friday and want something quick and easy for dinner.

TVP, or texturized vegetable protein is quick to cook, full of protein and very cheap. Often used as a meat substitute, TVP can extend many meals, providing nutrition for very little money.  TVP comes dried, so it lasts practically forever. You can purchase it at your local natural food store or even a chain such as Whole Foods. You can get it in a non-GMO version, which basically means that it hasn’t been genetically modified, as so many of our plant and vegetable products usually are.

Tonight, I’m putting my money (or should I save savings) where my mouth is and using some TVP to make healthy, vegetarian and really cheap Sloppy Joes. Since I am also making homemade buns thanks to my bread machine, the meal is literally costing us less than $5 to feed our family of five, and that includes a can of ready-made Sloppy Joe sauce and some frozen veggies on the side.

What is your favorite ingredient to use to save money?

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Avoid Food Waste in Your Home

This article originally appeared on efoodsDirect

by Mary Ann Romans

Most Americans waste 25 to 30 percent of their food. Yup, that is the percentage of once-edible food that winds up in the trash instead of feeding the family. Knowing how to use up everything you have and avoid food waste can make a difference in your home in so many ways.

First of all, avoiding food waste will save you money, since your food budget will be smaller. You will spend 25 percent less on your groceries. Second, having the mindset, the strategies, and the tools to avoid food waste in good times will leave you better prepared in lean times or times of emergency. Every member of your household should know the importance of being a good steward of your food.

Put the following practices in place in your home, to help you avoid food waste.

Do Regular Pantry Checks

Every few months, take items out of your pantry and check their expiration or best by dates. It is a good idea to rotate food, but let’s face it, during busy days, we don’t always do this. Depending on your stockpile, pantry checks should take you less than 15 minutes. Put regular pantry checks on your calendar, or knock out this chore during a long phone call or while dinner is cooking.

Get Creative with Ingredients

After your pantry check, you will probably have a group of items that are getting a little “long in the tooth.” Place these items up front in your pantry or even on the countertop to remind you to use them. Then get creative and find ways of using them up. Many vegetables or beans can be thrown into soup or casseroles, for example. A half-eaten peach can be cut up, mixed with a little sugar and butter and microwaved for a desert treat. A half-cup of apple sauce can be used as a substitute for oil in muffins.

Purchase Extended-Life Food

One way to avoid food waste is to purchase meals and ingredients with a long shelf life. It is easy to not waste food when it will stay fresh and ready for consuming even after fifteen or twenty years. Just make sure that whatever you choose to buy is both sealed well and high in nutrition.

Practice Meal Planning and Portion Control

Whenever you buy food (or grow it), make sure that you have a plan in mind for using the food before it can go bad. For example, if you see some nice heads of broccoli, ask yourself how will you prepare them? Will they be a side dish, a broccoli cheese soup, or part of a casserole that week? Having a plan means it is less likely for food to go to waste.

At the same time, practice good portion control. This is especially important when you have children. Only serve them what they can eat at one time. This way, any unused food can be saved for another meal or snack instead of being scraped off of the dinner plate and into the trash.

Challenge your family to waste no food this month. Use your family calendar to mark off the days when there has been no food waste. See how far you can get and award a prize, such as a fun family outing when you hit a certain number of days. Pretty soon, avoiding food waste will be second nature.

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Saving Money Making Bread with a Bread Machine

1349406464ni3b4Through a recent calculation, I just learned that each time I make a loaf of bread in my bread machine, I save an average of $3 a loaf! That is because the average cost of bread machine bread is about 50 cents. Compare that to my normal $3.50 (sometimes more) a loaf, and you can see the savings. Plus, with the bread machine, I’m not spending money heating up the oven.

With cheaper bread, I wouldn’t save as much. Bargain loaves cost less, but the problem is that they usually carry nasty things that I don’t want to feed my family, such as preservatives and high fructose corn syrup (say all you want commercial lady in a field about high fructose corn syrup being merely sugar, I’ve read the research). Plus, honestly, once you are used to fresh baked bread, the store bought stuff taste like cardboard. That has been rained on. And then used as play-doh before being formed back into a loaf.

Sometimes we do buy specialty bread from the Amish at a local farmer’s market. My six-year-old is so into cherry bread that he made up his own song: “Do you want some cherry bread, cherry bread? Yes, I want some cherry bread, cherry bread…” but the cost of it is a whopping $5.95 a loaf. Why wasn’t I using my bread machine to make it instead? file000153779528

Well this week we ran out of our store bought bread and haven’t gotten to the grocery store for days. The kids like bread for school sandwiches (tortilla roll ups did not go over well on Monday), my dad has bread at every meal, and the key to my husband’s heart is in a nice warm cinnamon raisin bread with a slab of melting butter.

So my goal this week is to make one loaf a bread a day, or every other day, depending on how quickly it is consumed. In fairness, I only make a one-and-a-half pound loaf each time, on average, and there are six bread-loving people living here. Plus various bread-loving sneaks friends that turn up.

The bread machine makes it pretty easy to make bread, even on a daily basis without too much trouble. I use the turn loaf of bread loosely, since I’ll probably also make my yummy bread machine rolls that are so addicting, one friend nicknamed them “crack.” Not in front of the kids, please. Bread machine cinnamon rolls are another favorite in this house.

file000290322202You don’t have to spend a lot of money on a new bread machine, although I suggest that you get a better brand if you plan on making homemade often. Better quality machines do make better bread. If you have never used a bread machine before, get a free one and try it out. Chances are that a friend or relative have one that is not being used. You can also find them at yard sales and thrift stores. When you get hooked, then have fun choosing a machine you can love.

 

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Small Temptations: Families.com

This piece was written for Families.com, where I blog regularly. 

Small temptations

Sometimes its not the big expenses that shatter your resolve to save money, it is the small temptations that will get you. It is those small temptations that I, personally, most have to guard against.

For example, although my husband and I often like to stop at the Apple store and look at the iPads whenever a new one is released, we aren’t in danger of purchasing one any time soon. It just doesn’t make that much sense to spend that much money when our emergency fund isn’t, well, as fully funded as we would like and we still owe on our mortgage, and the oil tank will probably have to be replaced soon.

Often, though, we aren’t too good about avoiding the little expenses, such as overpriced cupcakes as a treat for the kids, a new kitchen device, a muffin from the cafeteria at work, or take out on the way home when we have perfectly good food in the fridge. While these are small expenses, they do add up, and what is more, they aren’t purposeful by any means. These small expenses tend to be spontaneous, a sort of I-want-it-I-get-it thing without much thought. While there is nothing wrong with little treats and luxuries, I want to get serious about saving as much as possible this year, and I want to spend less on the small temptations as well as the large.

There was a good example just yesterday. There was a Kindle book I wanted to read, right then and right now. Buying it would have been so easy. The cost was only $9. Instead I clicked over to our local library site and ordered the book plus its sequel. To make the trip worthwhile, we all went to the library as a family and selected books that we can keep for three weeks.

Okay, one small temptation licked. But then in the lobby of the library, were magazines for sale, all of those from the previous year. One bundle contained a year’s worth of one of my favorite magazines for only $2. Very tempting. In the past I would have purchased it no problem.

It doesn’t seem like much, the $2, the $9, but with some frugal living, those numbers could turn into homemade popsicles, a dinner made from scratch, or one tiny step closer to building up that emergency fund. Just $10 a day equals $3,650 a year, and while I may not experience a small temptation each day, with five of us in the family, it is likely that someone will.

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