admin / July 31, 2008

Ways for the Budget Savvy Cook to Save Money in August

While produce isn’t as cheap as it was just a few years ago, summer is still a great time to cut some dollars from your food budget.

Farmer’s Markets
I have to admit that I haven’t visited the farmer’s market this year. When I do I usually buy in bulk, that way we can eat half now, and the other half, I’ll store in the freezer for fall and winter meals. A couple of years ago I invested in a food dehydrator and every summer I dry fruits like strawberries and cherries. I then store them in bags using my food saver machine and eat them as is or add them to oatmeal in the winter. Dried fruits make the perfect in between meal snack and ideal additions for lunchboxes once school’s back.
You can find farmer’s markets in your area by checking this site www.ams.usda.gov/farmersmarkets

Plan Ahead for Next Year
Next summer we might see even higher food prices so it makes sense to plan ahead. August is always a great time to think about joining a Community Supported Agriculture scheme. And it’s not too early to sign up for next year. You pay a certain amount of money to a farm and throughout the season you get a share of their produce. Many farms in these programs grow organic foods, so it’s another way to eat pesticide free fruits and veggies at lower prices. Visit this site for more information www.localharvest.org

Get Some Exercise While You Save Money
As a city girl, one of my favorite summer activities has always been heading out into the countryside and visiting a ‘pick your own fruit; farm. And when I was a child I just thought that it was so much fun to take a basket and pick strawberries and raspberries straight from the bushes. It’s low cost too, you get some exercise, along with some as fresh as you can get produce. www.pickyourown.org

Jams
Another memory of summer is watching my friend’s mom make homemade jam. I think she made jam with just about every fruit out there. And to this day, she still remembers me watching with fascination as she put the jam into jars. While I haven’t made jam for a couple of years now, it’s definitely on my list of things to do this August.
www.uga.edu/nchfp/how/can7_jam_jelly.html

Brush up on your Canning Skills
And another way to save money and preserve the bounty is to bottle fruits and vegetables. If it’s been a while since you’ve done any canning or you’re a novice, check out this site to learn the basics http://ohioline.osu.edu/hyg-fact/5000/5338.html

admin / July 31, 2008

The Budget Smart Girl’s Guide to Swapping and Bartering

Sometimes I’ll look around the house and see an item sitting there and think’ if only I could swap you for something I need now’. One item that comes to mind is my old fax machine. I haven’t used it in years and it’s just taking up space. I keep thinking about having a garage sale, and that maybe someone will give it a home. If you’re feeling the pinch right now and have some items you think you might like to swap or barter, here are some ideas and resources.

All in the Family
Sometimes swapping items is as simple as just asking other family members if they have anything they’d like to trade. I’ve had many items I’ve no longer wanted and that by coincidence, someone else in the family just happened to be looking for at the time. I’ve swapped a bookcase for gardening tools and even kitchen appliances.

The Friends and Co-Workers
Another source of potential ‘swappers’ is friends and even co-workers. As most people are now looking for creative ways to save money, you could start an official swap group at work. Make a list of what each person is looking to swap, and what they want in return and put it on the notice board. Even if you can’t make an exact swap right now, you could give each person a credit when someone takes something off their hands and let them use the credit when they need something. I know lots of people like to get rid of baby/ toddler toys and furniture, so you could even think about starting a swap in your neighborhood or at the local daycare.

My Bookshelves are Buckling
As an avid reader, my book collection sometimes gets out of control. While I don’t mind donating some of them, I’ve found several ways to get rid of old ones and netted myself some new reading material for little or no money. Here are some sites that let you swap books.

www.bookins.com It’s free to join and pay $4.49 shipping when you request a book, and you don’t pay postage when you mail a book to another member. You can also swap DVDs at this site too.

www.swaptree.com also free to join and you can swap everything from music to games.

www.frugalreader.com it’s free to sign up and you pay the cost of postage, (for media mail is $2.23 for the first pound) to send books to other members. Then when you request a book, the other member pays the postage.

And if you’re based in the UK, you might like to check out this swap site. www.readitswapit.co.uk

Clothes
Yes, we’re all guilty of this one, buying clothes and then not wearing them. I have a few items like that sitting in my closet and here are some sites where you might be able to swap those items for ones you really will wear-

www.swapace.com, you can also swap books and services on this site too.

www.swapathome.com, you can swap books, DVDs… plus your summer cottage. Well, that’s if you have one.

Odds and Ends
And if you’ve got other items sitting around the house, try some of these sites

www.trashbank.com

www.targetbarter.com

www.u-exchange.com

Bartering Services
We all have at least one thing we really excel at and sometimes you can use that talent to barter services. Maybe you cook like a gourmet chef and maybe your best friend is a talented seamstress. One idea is to cook a meal for her family in exchange for her altering the hem on a dress or pair of pants.

Be Cautious
I haven’t used the services of all the sites I’ve listed here and my advice is to proceed with caution when you enter into any agreement to swap, barter, or just list your items. Read all the small print and rules of use, and if something doesn’t seem right, don’t swap or barter. And if you do run into a problem, then go ahead and report it.

admin / July 23, 2008

The Budget Smart Girl’s Guide to Low Cost Things to Do This Summer

One of my dreams has always been to live close to the ocean so I could go to the beach whenever I felt like it. When I was a child I used to pretend just that. The concrete section of the backyard was the sand and the grass, the ocean. I’d sit there all day, reading, and then occasionally I’d venture into the water for an imaginary swim.
While I still haven’t made my dream a reality, it does prove that with a little imagination, there are lots of low cost ways to enjoy the summer.

What’s in your Neighborhood?
Have gas prices and the high cost of airfares made you say no to a vacation this year? If so, it doesn’t mean you have to sit at home. Just look around your own neighborhood. The area where I live has free concerts and movies. It also has bike and walking trails and lots of places to picnic. I’m taking a guess that with a little detective work you can find things to do and places to see right in your own neighborhood. Check with your local city hall, tourist office, or chamber of commerce. And yes, sometimes they have discount coupons to local attractions.

Don’t Pay Full Price
Do you have a membership to organizations like AAA? Many memberships offer perks like discounts to major theme parks, etc. And do you have a membership to a zoo or aquarium? Many members get one free admission or at least discount on tickets.
And check your local library. Mine offers free passes to many of the local museums.

Summer Reading
And speaking of the library, one of my favorite and free things to do during the summer is sit in the backyard and catch up on all my reading. Once spring arrives I start making a list of all the books I want to read. Visit your local library or the library’s Web site and start making a list. We’ve still got at least another six weeks of summer left so it’s not too late.

Shop Sales
All Budget Smart Girls think and plan ahead. Think about things you might need not only for the rest of this summer, but next summer too. For example, swimwear, children’s toys, games for the backyard. Just today I was in the DIY store and noticed that they had a huge summer end clearance section. They were selling everything from umbrellas, loungers, and games like croquet and volleyball. And August is prime time for sidewalk sales. I’m guessing that this year we’ll be seeing even more discounts than usual.

Learn a New Skill
I know summer is meant to be all about taking a rest from our regular schedules, but before the nights get longer, why not learn a new skill. Maybe you want to learn to play tennis, golf, finally learn how to swim. Or perhaps you could learn a new skill that can save you money, like sewing, cooking, even a class that will teach you some valuable DIY skills. Many community educations programs have 6 week courses that cost less than $50.

Make Jams and Jellies
One low cost family adventure is heading to a ‘pick your own fruit’ farm. You spend the day picking strawberries, raspberries, etc, and then the following day you head to kitchen and turn all the produce into jams and jellies. These are both great activities for when you start to hear the words ‘mom, I’m bored’.

When It’s Too Hot Outside
When you just can’t stand to be outside, either rent a bunch of DVDs or go to a matinee at your local cinema, which is usually a lot cheaper. And many cinemas are now offering summer discounts.

Have a Picnic
One of my favorite summer activities is a picnic. It can be at the local park or in your own backyard. Low cost, fun and if it’s something you do as a family every year, something to remember even when the kids get older.

admin / July 23, 2008

No Cook Meals For the Budget Savvy

Whether you’ve been out to work all day, or just had a lazy day at the beach, cooking dinner on a hot summer day is sometimes the last thing you want to do. Here are some no cook meal recipes and suggestions for items to keep on hand for an impromptu meal.

Cold Soup
I know some people can’t accept the idea that soup can be served cold, but to those people I say, you’re missing out on a quick and easy summer meal. Many years ago I found a great recipe for gazpacho and since then I’ve been experimenting with it and here’s my version of the classic soup. It serves 4-6

4 cups of V8 juice
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup red wine vinegar
A good pinch of both salt and pepper
A good dash of Tabasco sauce
1 English cucumber, or any other seedless variety, peeled and finely chopped
Half a medium onion, finely chopped. I like to use Walla Walla or Vidalia, but red onion works perfectly too
1 rib of celery, finely chopped

In a blender, add the V8 juice, oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, and Tabasco sauce and blend. Pour the mixture into a large bowl. I like to use a glass bowl as the soup seems to chill faster and keep cooler longer. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir together. Chill at least two hours and serve in bowls that you’ve placed in the refrigerator for at least an hour before serving.

Salmon Quesadillas (Serves 2 as meal, 3 as an appetizer)
4 flour tortillas
1 7 oz. can pink salmon, drained and bones removed
¼ cup of mayonnaise, mixed with 1 teaspoon of dill weed.
Mix the salmon and mayonnaise together and spread the mixture on two of the tortillas. Top them with the remaining tortillas and press down slightly. Lightly grill or fry them until they’re golden brown on each side and cut them into quarters.
Serve with them salsa to which you’ve added about ½ cup of chopped, peeled cucumber.

Curried Chicken Salad (Serves 4)
This one’s really tasty and full of good for you ingredients. If you don’t want to use chicken, you can opt for tuna. And if you want to go vegetarian, I use a product called Quorn, www.quorn.us, which you can buy in many supermarkets and co-ops. I use the Chik ‘n Tenders for this recipes and use them in salads all summer long.

3 cooked chicken breasts, chopped into bite sized pieces
½ cup of mayonnaise
1 cup of seedless red or green grapes, halved
¼ cup chopped pecans or walnuts, toasted
1 tablespoon curry powder
Just mix everything together in a bowl, and serve with French bread or in a scooped out tomato.

Pasta Salad (Number of Servings depends on what you have on hand)
Take any cooked pasta, my favorite’s penne for this one. It’s also great for using up leftover pasta, even spaghetti. Toss the pasta with chopped tomatoes, fresh shredded basil, and cubes of mozzarella cheese, chopped olives, and a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar to taste.

Veggie Loaf (Serves 4-6, depending on how hungry everyone is)
Here’s something I’ve been making for years and I always connect it with summer.

Take an uncut loaf of bread… any round shaped bread is great for this. Cut it in half horizontally.
In a bowl, had half a sliced onion, two chopped tomatoes, half a red pepper, chopped.
Add a handful of pitted chopped olives, ¼ cup blue cheese, and enough Italian or vinaigrette dressing to coat all the ingredients.
Mix everything together and pile onto one half of the loaf and top with the other half. Press the loaf down firmly and wrap with cling wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour. When it’s chilled enough, slice it into wedges. You’ll find all these ingredients have blended together and made the bread soft and full of flavor. This also makes the ideal picnic treat.

The Pantry Comes to the Rescue
I’ve found the following items are ideal to keep on hand for no cook or quick cook meals. Cans of tuna, beans, pasta, olives, sun dried tomatoes, lots of herbs and spices. And in the freezer keep a couple of different kinds of bread on hand. You can make pizza, sandwiches or just something to eat with a salad.

admin / July 21, 2008

The Blog-Something To Smile About

Doesn’t it seem like every time you turn on the radio, turn on the TV, there’s even more bad news about the economy? Last week I turned on the radio in my car while I headed out to do my shopping and errands for the day. My first stop was the supermarket which is only about a mile away, and in that short time I heard two negative reports about the economy and how things could get worse before they get better. Could things go downhill from here? Well, it seems, and excuse the cliché here, that every cloud as a silver lining. I came up with five good things about the current slump.

One-articles about ways to save money are in abundance now. Here’s a link to one I found last week on Yahoo!
http://finance.yahoo.com/family_home/article/105199/gadgets-priced-for-frugal-times

Two-rumor has it that great customer service is back in style. Yes, that’s right; companies and business are fighting for our business now. They’re offering more discounts, coupons, and yes, they might actually show up on the day and time they tell you.

Three-and this is connected with the above, it seems we the consumers are back in the driver’s seat. Companies and stores now expect us to haggle over prices, expect not so perfect merchandise to be deeply discounted, and accept that we’re going to do a lot of shopping around before we buy just about anything.

Four-purchases now come with bonuses. I’ve seen no end of commercials for store sales that are offering $100 gift cards for either gas or groceries.

Five-everybody is learning to live like a Budget Smart Girl. I’ve heard people are eating out less, using leftovers, mending shoes and fixing clothing and not just throwing them away. Walking instead of driving…well, the list goes on. Will it last long after this rough patch is history…only time will tell?

admin / July 17, 2008

Healthful and Low Cost Snacking This Summer

I received an e-mail that I thought I’d pass along to you because it’s all about saving money and eating healthful snacks. Liz Weiss and Janice Bissex are two registered dietitians and authors who are known as the Meal Makeover Moms. Here’s what they had to say about snacks and what you can do to save some money. They also sent along a great recipe that I can’t wait to try.

In addition to the high price of gas, food prices rose 5 percent in 2007 and are expected to continue to rise another 4 to 5 percent in 2008. And withkids consuming an average of 840 snacks per year, busy families will surely experience a dent in their wallets. Whether it’s sticking home and being
lazy, taking a trip to the beach or a play date in the backyard, one thing remains clear: it is tough to save money and eat a healthy, well-balanced diet when kids are eating you out of house and home.

Liz and Janice have a few suggestions to make sure that parents and kids not only enjoy their summer snacks both at home and out and about, but also feel satisfied and energized without overspending.

Start the Day Out Right – Before you begin your day, be sure everyone eats a healthy breakfast, that way, you’ll all be less tempted to grab a donut or mid-morning snack. Choose an all-natural, whole grain breakfast cereal that will fill you up without empty calories and refined sugars. Liz and Janice love Mom’s Best Naturals variety of cereals because they contain no artificial ingredients, are affordable, delicious, and produced in an eco-friendly way.

On the Go Snacking – Admittedly, bananas don’t travel well. However, there are lots of other fruits to choose from that will hold up in a cooler. Take advantage of the summer’s best with cut up watermelon, cantaloupe, grapes and cherries. Dried fruit is an excellent stand-by when you’ve run out of fresh. Packed with nutrients and fiber, try dried apricots, cherries, apples and raisins. Baby carrots are perhaps the number one go-to vegetable for families on the go, but there are plenty of others to choose from including sugar snap peas, sliced red or yellow bell peppers, celery, and crunchy green beans. Dip to your heart’s content in anything from hummus to Ranch dressing.

Healthy Homemade Goodies – No one said that eating healthy can’t include dessert. You can make your own affordable healthy treats from scratch with whole wheat flour, whole grain cereals, nuts, dried fruit, and healthy oils to bring better nutrition to the table (or backyard). * See recipe for Cookie in Disguise below.

Cookie in Disguise
Makes about 3 1/2 dozen cookies

These irresistibly crunchy on the outside, chewy-on-the-inside cookies,
packed with health-enhancing ingredients, are guaranteed to keep the troops
happy when you’re on the road. They’re so yummy, it’s hard to believe they
are actually good for you!

1 1/2 cups quick-cooking oats
1 1/2 cups Mom’s Best Naturals Honey Grahams, crushed into pea-size pieces
1 cup pecans, finely chopped
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup dried blueberries or currants
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, beaten
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Lightly oil or coat two large baking sheets with nonstick cooking spray and set aside. Whisk together the oats, Honey Grahams, pecans, flours, dried blueberries, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, brown sugar, oil, and maple syrup until well combined.

Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients, and stir until just moistened. Working in batches, roll the batter into 1-inch balls and place on the prepared baking sheets, leaving about 1 inch between.

Bake 12 minutes, until golden brown.

Cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheet before transferring to a wire rack. Repeat with remaining batter.

Nutrition Information per serving (one cookie):
100 calories, 5g fat (0g saturated), 65mg sodium, 13g carbohydrate, 1g
fiber, 1g protein

For more healthy tips and recipes visit www.mealmakeovermoms.com.

admin / July 17, 2008

The Budget Smart Girl’s Guide to Staying Cool

The temperature’s rising and so is the cost of cooling your home. This week I’ve read some interesting and humorous articles about ways people are keeping cool without turning on the air conditioner. Some of them could actually work, but here are some other ideas for staying cool.

Keeping Cool in Your Car
I’ve always wondered if it’s true that turning the air conditioning on in your car actually uses less gas than rolling down the windows. Last week, I turned on the TV and a local news station asked the same question. They had a couple of car experts run tests and here’s what they found. When you’re driving on side roads and traveling under 40 miles per hour, go ahead and roll down those windows because it’s a lot more energy efficient than turning on the air conditioning. However, when you get to the freeway, close all the windows and turn that air conditioner on. It seems that at faster speeds, having the windows open adds more drag…and not to mention noise.
And I haven’t tried this product, but it’s a good price, plus it doesn’t take any energy to run. I’ve seen the solar powered auto fan advertised in lots of catalogs, and all at various prices. So far, the cheapest I’ve seen is $9.95 from www.carolwrightgifts.com item # 34607 and you get a free car organizer too.

Fans
And speaking of fans, most of the articles I read this week said that more people are installing ceiling fans these days. They don’t cost that much and if you live in an area where you don’t get lots of humidity…oh, I only wish, sometimes a couple of ceiling fans are all you need to cool the house. Last year we bought a light/fan combo for the bedroom and had an electrician install it, total cost was around $200. And best of all, when you do have to turn on the air conditioning, turning on the fan makes it more energy efficient because it pushes the cold air around the room that much faster.

Floor fans can also aid efficiency and just make you feel a lot cooler. I have a feeling that because more people are relying on fans to keep them cool now, manufacturers and store are going to raise their prices. So, if you’re in the market for one, go shopping this weekend.

In The Kitchen
In this week’s Budget Smart Cook, I’ve covered the topic of staying cool in the kitchen, so I hope you’ll check that out. The only thing I’ll add here is to say eat light meals, and pick foods with high water content, like salads. And don’t forget to plan ahead. Don’t cook meals on hot days. Stick with sandwiches and salads. And be sure to double recipes on cool days. You can reheat these readymade meals in the microwave when you can’t stand to be in a hot kitchen.

Washing Day
I’m a big fan of putting the laundry outside to dry. And when the temperature heats up, it makes perfect sense to let Mother Nature do the drying for you. You save money, often save time, because the clothes dry faster. And in the end, your clothes last longer.

Plan, Plan, Plan
Being a Budget Smart Girl means you’re no longer a creature of habit and therefore, always plan out your activities to suit the weather. I never do lots of cooking, laundry, clean the house, or work out in the yard when I know it’s going to be 90 degrees with tropical level humidity. When days are cool, I cook a couple of day’s meals in advance and get the heavy housework out of the way.

Sneaky Ways to Stay Cool
Here are some easy things you can do around the house to stay cool and save energy.

Leave the room…turn off the TV and lights. Yes, they do add heat to a room.

Turn off the computer…if you’re just planning to go online to read the newspaper or check the weather forecast, don’t bother switching it on. When I sit in front of my computer all day, I realize just how much heat they generate.

Have a drink of something nice and cold. Sometimes when I’ve been outside and the perspiration is running down my cheeks, I think it’s the air conditioner that needs switching on, when in fact, I just need a few minutes to sit down, cool down and have a drink of something icy cold, like a glass of water or lemonade.

Limit the alcohol…yes, there’s nothing nicer than sitting on the patio or deck with a glass or wine or margarita, but alcohol actually makes you feel warmer. Stick with the non-alcoholic drinks until the temperature dips.

admin / July 17, 2008

Staying Cool in the Kitchen

I love to cook, but on hot summer days, even I’m tempted to head to the nearest restaurant. However, there are ways to stay cool and enjoy a great meal in your own home. And best of all, trying to stay cool often means saving money too.

Select Your Appliances
One easy way to keep the heat out of the kitchen and house is to use an outside grill. The only problem is if it’s that hot and sticky outside, do you really want to head out there and stand by a hot grill? A couple of years ago, I invested in a tabletop style electric grill. It doesn’t take long to heat up and cooks just about everything in less than 15 minutes. Another appliance I rely on during summer is my electric steamer. Mine has three different containers that you can pile on top of one another, so everything can be cooked in one shot. It even has a special container for rice. If you don’t want to invest in an electric one, you can buy the stainless steel basket steamers at just about any supermarket and most of them cost less than $5.
And let’s not forget the slow cooker. I know most of us associate it with cold weather foods like stews, but it makes perfect sense to use it on hot days too. I know lots of people who use it to cook beef and pork and use the meat for cold sandwiches. And if you have an outside electrical outlet on your deck or patio, you can even take your electrical appliances outside. This works really well with my electric grill.

The Brown Bag Supper
Sandwiches aren’t just for lunch on sultry summer days. In fact, I can’t think of a better evening meal. Serve them with fruit salad or fruit kabobs, or even pair them with a fruit smoothie. And if you like the sandwich/soup combo, skip the hot soups and try a cold soup like cucumber or gazpacho.

Salads
Salads are my favorite meals anytime of the year, but in summer, they’re a must eat. I start with the basics like romaine lettuce or field greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, and then add protein like grilled chicken breast, tuna, cheese, and beans such as garbanzo. You can also add shredded carrots, chopped olives, and one of my favorites, sun dried tomatoes.
Another favorite of mine is a Greek platter salad. It’s pita bread, homemade hummus, feta cheese and olives. These salads are easy to put together and light enough to eat so that your digestive system doesn’t have to work overtime.

Select Quick Cooking Foods
One food I keep on hand all the time is instant couscous. You just boil water for about five minutes, stir in the couscous, let it stand for five minutes and you’re done. You’ve got yourself a quick and easy side dish that pairs with just about anything.

Be a Sensible Cook
If you’re brave enough to do some serious cooking during hot weather, cut things like vegetables into smaller and evenly sized pieces to speed up the cooking time. Stick with quick cooking proteins like fish. And defrost everything thoroughly before you cook it. And make sure you cover pans when you boil something. Hot steam making its way around the house isn’t that pleasant during the summer.

Keep Your Eye on the Weather
I hate to be obsessed with the weather, but these days it can save you some money. I watch the 7 day forecast, and check which days are going to be hot and humid, and which days are going to be cool and pleasant. With this information I plan out my cooking schedule. Salads on hot and humid days, etc. and on cooler days, I’ll make a few extra dishes to eat on the hotter days. On those days all you need to do is pull them from the fridge or freezer and microwave them.

admin / July 14, 2008

The Blog-Double Coupon Days Are Back

While grocery shopping isn’t one of my favorite things to do, I have to admit there’s great satisfaction in hearing coupons being scanned and seeing the total gradually going down. It definitely makes clipping and organizing coupons worth the effort. The local supermarket used to double coupons on Wednesdays, but then for some unknown reason, decided to stop it. Good news is double coupon Wednesdays are back until the end of July. So you can guess what day I’ll be shopping this week.

And there’s another way you can save or make some money while you’re grocery shopping and that’s get a refund or a gift in return for your purchase. The other week while I was shopping for cereal, I noticed that Kelloggs is offering a free Kathy Smith exercise DVD with the purchase of specially marked boxes of Special K. You need five coupons to qualify. I have two so far, but the best thing is Special K has been on sale most weeks that I’ve shopped at the store. And I have to admit I do like some of the new flavors of Special K. I bought one that’s pecan and cinnamon and I’m thinking about using it as a base for a chocolate mousse recipe I’m testing. And if you want to check out all the promotions a company is offering, a good idea is just to go to their Web site. I checked out www.kelloggs.com and clicked on promotions. One includes $10 off a new pair of jeans…I always need more jeans. And they also have some great toys and games for children. It’s definitely worth checking out.

Last week I was in my local DIY store shopping for batteries and decided to go ahead and purchase a battery recharger and a set of rechargeable batteries. I’d been thinking about it for some time and thought now was as good as ever. Like most things, you have to pay more upfront, but in the end your purchase pays for itself. They have several different times of rechargers but I opted for one where you can recharge all types of batteries. I purchased a pack of AA batteries with the recharger and will buy a different type of battery each time I go to the store until I have the whole set. Another plus to my purchase is there will be no more running to the store for batteries.

admin / July 10, 2008

The Budget Smart Girl’s Guide to Getting Organized

One way to quickly lose money is to be disorganized. You forget where you place items and then you rush out to buy a new one, only to find the original item a few days later. And jumbled closets with clothes that you buy, but they never get worn. Bills that get hidden and don’t get paid and yes, you get stuck with the late fees. The list goes on. Getting organized always seems to find its way to my New Year’s Resolution list every year. So what holds me back time after time? Not the hassle of getting organized, but the cost of all the stuff you need to organize your home and life. And if you don’t have the budget to hire a professional organizer…that’s one of my dream scenarios, here are some tips and resources I’ve found.

A One Stop Organizing Site
I’ve found this site, www.onlineorganizing.com is a great place to start before you do any type of organizing. It has lots of links, articles, templates, etc. Put aside an hour or so and do some browsing and note taking.

It’s Free!
The words ‘it’s free’ are definitely music to the Budget Smart Girl’s ears. Someone told me about this site, and best of all it’s free to register and use www.cozi.com. From this site you can create a shopping list and coordinate everyone’s schedule. And if you need a calendar for each room in the house or for each member of the family, check out this site www.printfree.com

They Had Other Uses
I’ve found that the large organizing boxes won’t break the bank, but for some reason the smaller ones seem to be pricey. So I went looking for other items that serve the same purpose and can sometimes be found sitting around the house.

When our old refrigerator broke and needed replacing, I decided to use the old fixtures as organizers. The produce bins are now used for paintbrushes and rollers in the basement. In the pantry, they store boxes of rice mix and macaroni and cheese. The dairy container now sits next to the washer and dryer and is home for loose buttons etc.
And the wire racks from the freezer section are perfect for keeping pots and seed trays organized in the potting shed.

And how many articles on organizing your closest show all the shoes lined up in their own containers with photos on the front? I priced how much it would cost to do this, and it didn’t fit into my budget. My solution is to store off-season shoes like sandals and flip flops in those cereal boxes such as those made by Simple Harvest. They’re perfect for flip flops and have a window so you can actually see what’s in there.

I also use old oatmeal canisters for storing craft items like knitting needles. And old vases keep pens and pencils organized on my desk.

In the kitchen, attractive glass soda bottles are perfect containers for lentils and split peas.
So my advice, plenty of items, and yes, ones we often throw away, can be turned into organizing containers.

The Closet
For me, the closets are some of the hardest areas of the house to get and keep organized. I’ve ditched wire hangers and now use plastic ones. And I’ve color coded them too. White for blouses, blue for jackets, etc. I face winter and summer clothes in opposite directions on the rail, and loop the plastic ties from the garbage bags on any hanger with clothes that needing mending or cleaning.

Maximize Space
Most of us think we’re running out of space in our homes, when in fact, we’re just disorganized. For example, as I love to cook, I have lots of appliances. I used to keep them all on the countertop and it gave the kitchen a cluttered look. Now I store things like the mixer and bread machine in the cupboard above the fridge. And just keep ones like the toaster and electric kettle on the countertop.

Best Places to Buy Organizing Items
My favorite place to buy supplies for getting organized has to be IKEA. Just strolling around one of their stores gives me no end of ideas. And best thing is everything is reasonably priced. If you don’t have one in your area of the world, you can shop online at www.ikea.com I also think Target stores www.target.com offer a good variety of items and at prices that fit into most budgets. And don’t forget online stores, like www.collectionsetc.com and www.lakeside.com. I’ve also found good deals with www.harrietcarter.com and www.carolwrightgifts.com

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