Thursday, March 20, 2008

Cheap date

Frugal lovin'. Not that I'm doing it, but I might be thinking about it. -grin-

Snagged from an e-mail.

  1. Take a walk on the beach at twilight; picnic optional.

  2. Visit your local public gardens in the spring when everything is blooming.

  3. Hike a beautiful trail and have a picnic.

  4. Walk through the center of your town during the holiday season and enjoy the store displays and lights.

  5. Pick an outdoor activity such as in-line skating, cycling, or jogging, and go with your honey.

  6. Take a scenic drive through a wooded area or country road and talk.

  7. Check with your local museum for days when admission is free. Even if you pay, it's still a relative bargain for an all day date.

  8. Enjoy free live music, share a cup of coffee, and browse new titles at your local bookstore.

  9. Go to the mall, not to shop but to people watch! Sit on a bench together and chat about the people you see. Try to figure out who they are and what they are shopping for.

  10. Cook dinner for one another. Include candles and a fancy tablecloth (or a blanket on the rug if you don't have furniture).

  11. Walk to a local fair (parking costs money) and view all the items on display. Enjoy free entertainment.

  12. Go apple picking and make a pie together.

  13. Go pumpkin picking and make a jack-o-lantern and pie together.

  14. Go strawberry picking. Melt chocolate, dip strawberries, and feed to each other.

  15. Hold a potluck with several other couples. Watch the game, play Twister, or share stories of your most embarrassing dating moments (with your former dates, of course!).

  16. Volunteer for a cause you both believe in. Work at their events and attend for free - they get help and you get a free night out.

  17. Stay in one night and feed each other in bed.

  18. Do a sexy dance for each other.

  19. Leave the kids with grandparents. Tell them you're going out to dinner, then enjoy your empty abode together, as if it were a hotel on your wedding night.

  20. Light a fire and read poetry to each other. If you don't have any, get a book from the library or write your own love poems.

  21. Go to a bar and have soda pop. Often, bartenders will give it to you on the house - tip them well.

  22. Grab a trash bag or a plastic tray and sleigh ride down a snowy hill. When you get to the bottom (or fall off your "sled"), roll around with each other in the snow.

  23. Or have a snowball fight. Then come in and enjoy hot cocoa and warm kisses.

  24. Buy a membership or a season pass to an activity you both like (your local Y, nearby theme park, community theater, state parks pass). Use it as often as you like during season for some quality together time you will both enjoy. Once it's paid for, the rest of your dates are "free."

  25. Go Christmas caroling together. If you're good, you might even collect tips!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Ebay is a Temptress.

Isn't it pretty? I'm wearing it now, and I look fantastic. It is only half past 8 and six people (not including my kids) have already told me I look great today. It's going to be a good day.

Now this purchase was neither frugal (at 25 bucks) nor green (Shipped form Hong Kong) but it was a reward for reaching a personal goal in my life. Isn't it pretty?! If I were less camera shy I'd snap a pic of me in it but.. well, I won't delude myself that you care that much.

Another friend of mine, Erin, who is too snobby to share her blog with us all, shared with me a book she’s on her way to go pick up called Skinny Bitch. It's a book I have been meaning to read for months but it's not at my library yet so today I must break down and purchase it. I know the most environmentally friendly thing is to find a small bookshop to buy it from (only since I cannot get it from the library) but the small bookshops are 40 minutes away from home and 90 minutes away from work. So that leaves either Amazon, EBay (I do so love me some Ebay!) or Barnes and Nobles. I am not a retail giant fan. But would I rather see all the carbon emissions form shipping the single book to my door? Being green is not as always easy as I wish it were.

I haven't given a shout out to FreeCycle lately so if you have not ever checked it out, you must! Free Cycle is a play on the words Free and Recycle (Like you didn't know) It is an online community where people can post things they want to get rid of. Got a new Energy star fridge? great! Don't toss that old thing in the landfill though! I can guarantee there is someone in need who will come to your house and haul it away for thier own use. Saving you the work and expense of ridding yourself of it and providing them a fridge for free! I have gotten rid of furniture, computers, clothes and even food. We have received on freecycle clothes, books, furniture, games, tickets.. Anything you can imagine. There is one local to you, I promise, go take a peek!

I'm going to go some actual work now in my fantastic new blouse.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Insta' Food

Tia left a comment yesterday about how she cuts down on her grocery budget and it got me thinking about a lot of things I bet we all do or could do that would make a big difference. So I gathered some recipes for ‘make your own’ instant foods.

One simple ones are frozen pizza’s. We make little English muffin pizzas and freeze them, uncooked. Then you can pop them in the oven when ever you want. Instant pizza!

Homemade instant oatmeal
Ingredientsquick-cooking oatsnonfat dry milk powder (vegans and the lactose-intolerant can skip this)
one Splenda packet (or 2-3 teaspoons of sugar)
Optional- cinnamon, dried apple bits, Dried fruit, brown Sugar

Measure, mix, and store
Into a container or bag, put:
1/2 cup oats1 tablespoon milk powder
1 splenda packet
1/8 teaspoon salt (or more, to taste)
Seal the container and shake it up. You now have one serving of instant oatmeal to take to work, school, etc.!

To use your instant oatmeal: put it in a bowl, add about a cup of hot water (give or take), stir, and let it sit for a minute to cook. Enjoy!

Instant Rice mix

4 cups long cooking rice,
uncooked1 package (1/2 oz. size)
onion soup mix
1/4 cup dried minced onion
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1/4 teaspoon garlic salt
1/4 teaspoon saltDirections:

Combine ingredients; store in an airtight container for up to 4 months. Attach instructions.
Instructions: Mix one cup mix with 2 cups beef broth in a 2 quart pan; add one tablespoon butter. Bring to a rolling boil; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, until liquid is absorbed, about 10-15 minutes.
All Purpose cake mix

10 cups all-purpose flour
6 1/4 cups sugar
1 cup cornstarch
5 tablespoons baking powder
1 tablespoon salt
2 1/2 cups vegetable shortening

In a large sifter, combine flour, sugar, cornstarch, baking powder and salt. Sift, in batches, into a large bowl. Use a pastry blender or a heavy-duty mixer to blend in shortening until mixture resembles cornmeal in texture. Spoon into a 20-cup container with a tight-fitting lid. Seal container. Label with date and contents. Store in a cool, dry place. Use within 10 to 12 weeks. Use this mix as you would a packaged cake mix. ALL-PURPOSE CAKE MIX makes: Lemon Pound Cake, Yellow Cake, White Cake.

Almost Hamburger helper

2 cups nonfat dry milk
1 cup corn starch
1/4 cup beef bouillon powder
2 tablespoons onion flakes
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons dried parsley
1 tablespoon garlic powder
***Chili Mac:***
1 pound ground beef, browned and drained
1 cup water1/2 cup macaroni noodles (uncooked)
2 cans chopped tomatoes
1 Tb chili powder1/2 cup mix
1 pound ground beef, browned and drained
2 cups water
1/2 cup mix
2 cups uncooked egg noodles
1/2 cup sour cream
***Potato Beef Casserole***
1 pound ground beef, browned and drained
3/4 cup water6 potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
1 cup frozen mixed veggies
1/2 cup mix
***Quick Lasagna: ***
1 pound ground beef, browned and drained
1/2 cup mix1 onion, chopped2 cups water
16 ounces tomato sauce
3 cups lasagna noodles, uncooked, broken in bits
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
Mix the ingredients together and store in an air tight container. Use mix as a base for the following dinners. Chili Mac: Combine all and simmer 20 minutes or until macaroni is cooked Stroganoff: Combine all except sour cream. Simmer 20 minutes or until noodles are tender. Stir in sour cream and serve. Potato Beef Casserole Combine all and simmer, covered, until potatoes are tender, about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove cover and cook until excess water is evaporated. Quick Lasagna: Combine all except mozzarella in large skillet. Bring to a boil, let simmer for 15 minutes or until noodles are cooked. Top with mozzarella. Turn off heat and let cheese melt.

Let me know if you try any and how they taste for you. We use the Hamburger Helper one a lot.
Bonus hint! I buy the full fat ground beek for a fraction of the price of lean and simply rinse and drain it, nealry all the fat washes off.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Panic at the Budget meeting!

So This weekend I got my electric bill for the last month at the new apartment. Keep in mind this is a large first floor old apartment not set up in a way very conductive for air flow. There is little insulation it would appear in the walls and nothing between the basement and the floor. The bill is Gas AND electric so it was for heat (2 baseboard heaters and 2 space heaters) Lights (we are big on turning off lights though with kids the bathroom light stays on all night) Hot water (We have cut back to showers only every other day, not sure if that will fly come summer though, wash dishes once a day) and a gas stove. Also, one or two loads of laundry in COLD water, washed and dried, daily. So guess how much the bill was?

Three.. Hundred.. smackaroos.

I think I fainted. I was in shock, I am NOT kidding you. I cannot afford this on top of a 600 dollar rent! I am calling the landlord today to see if he can reduce the rent, I’m not even kidding you. And this week I am caulking every last little draft I find and pray summer comes quick. We don’t use air conditioning, but we do use a lot of fans. And we have a TON of windows so I think if we only use the fans in the room we are in and at night I can cut that bill in half. And hang clothes outside.

I went freezer shopping this weekend too but after the electric bill came in, I chickened out. I plan to call the electric company and ask them how much they think the freezer will run me a month and if it is worth it.

Seeing as I need to save even more now here are some ideas for cutting food costs that I borrowed from another site .. and I can’t remember where! If you know please please let me know so I can link back to them ASAP.

6 easy ways to keep food costs down

Eat more vegetarian based meals. Typically, meat is pricey, especially when compared to beans and frozen veggies. We are experimenting with making more meals meat-free and are having a blast. Last week, we enjoyed Pasta with Butternut Squash and Ricotta, Pad Thai with Tofu, and Vegetable Curry. Personally, I’m using it as an excuse to explore ethnic cooking. I estimate that we can save over $30 a month by skipping the meat at most meals.
Start a “Soup and Sandwich” night. Planning a “soup and sandwich” night once a week helps me save money. That night is all about simple comfort food, nothing fancy. I like to pair a classic grilled cheese with canned tomato or potato soup. How about a tuna or turkey melt with veggie soup? Substitute a baked potato every so often to mix it up. Just make it cheap and with the stuff you have at home.
Bring your breakfast AND lunch from home. Just do it. Eric keeps oatmeal, trail mix, and breakfast bars in his desk for quick breakfasts and snacks. For lunch he takes the leftovers from the previous night or I pack him a sandwich, salad, yogurt, and snack. You’ll be shocked at how much you can save by brown bagging it 5 days a week.
Minimize waste. Waste is the enemy of economy. At these prices you simply can’t afford to allow the food go bad before you can use it. I always cook fresh meat dishes in the first few days after shopping, with fish and shellfish being cooked within 1 day of purchase. Pad the end of your week with cheaper and less perishable meals like sandwiches, pasta, frozen meals, and soups. If we have meat or veggies at the end of the week it is almost always from my freezer. Eating the fresh food first really helps cut down on spoiled or unused food and that equals savings.
Plan (and hope) for leftovers. When planning your week make sure to make note of possible leftovers. I find that if I don’t plan for leftovers I’ll end up making too many dinners that week and something goes bad (either the fresh food or the leftovers). Serve the leftovers for lunch or have them again for dinner a few days later with an interesting side dish or topping. Push back meals that don’t have perishable ingredients to make room for those leftovers. Utilizing leftovers is key when stretching the budget.
Tap your pantry once a week. I usually have one or two nights a week where I don’t plan a dinner. That “free space” allows me to push back meals to take advantage of leftovers or other cravings and it “forces” me to use what I have. Many of us have stocked pantries but don’t use the food in them. When I moved I found canned corn and jello that was 5 years old! Match up the fresh food that needs to be used with several pantry items to create something interesting. Your pantry and your pocketbook will thank you.

Are you feeling the crunch at the supermarket? How do you plan to save money on weekly meals?

Friday, March 14, 2008

Off the Rolls

I hope I have been at least moderately missed. In the time I have been away we have moved, lost all the state aid we used to get (Which is both a great thing and a scary thing) rekindled my oldest and most dear friendship and worked my ass off.

The new house is mostly great. It’s old and cold and drafty and needs so much work. Like the bizarre hanging THING in the dining room and the spots in the kitchen where you can see down between the wood floor and SEE the basement. Or how the guy upstairs is using the driveway as a car lot.

On the other hand we have a lovely yard, plenty of room to garden and a fantastic deck. We have so much more room and so many great windows. We have the huge basement (when it is not flooded) and a place for the washer and dryer. I love the living room. And I might talk to the guy upstairs about maybe helping me find a cheaper more fuel efficient car. I have a good car now but as gas hikes up.. I want to go even smaller.. a little rice burner maybe! Heh.

Life has changed recently for us. We no longer get that 400 bucks in food stamps each month (We never could spend it all) but I really don't have an extra 400 bucks to replace that so while I have ALWAYS been frugal with food money I now need to cut that four hundred.. into about 200 a month.. meaning yes.. fifty bucks a week to feed a family of three a healthy, mostly organic diet.

Stop snorting.

I have in recent weeks discovered the CVS GAME (Thanks Frugal Friend!) and tonight I am going to make my first Walgreens trip armed with coupons. I also ordered the Sunday paper to start being delivered, I love having it right there each morning! And I have started cooking ahead more. Big Y is awesome for meats with the buy one get two sales! Tomorrow we are going to the evil giant that is Wal-Mart and buying a chest freezer. I shopped around and it is the only place were I can afford one. I also added a ton of new links to the list, check them out!

Not much else is new. The boys start baseball soon, I aced my midterms, work is.. Well it’s there every day and for that I am grateful.

I hope your all well!
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