admin / January 29, 2009

Throwing a Super Bowl Bash on a Budget

Whether you’re just going to watch the game with a few friends or having a Super Bowl bash, here are some of my favorite recipes that won’t break the bank.

The Chili Bowl
Chili’s a great bargain meal any time and also a dish that’s idea to serve to a crowd. And another great thing about chili is leftovers can be frozen or served as a topping for baked potatoes. Here’s one chili recipe I came up with one day when I was in a hurry to get something on the dinner table.

Chicken Chili with Cheese Cilantro Bread
Serves 6
You have a couple of options when you make this dish. One is to use boneless, skinless chicken breasts, in that case you probably can use just three instead of four. Two, you can leave out the chicken for a vegetarian version. And if you don’t want to serve bread with it, rice and/or tortilla chips are great accompaniments too.

For the Chili•Two tablespoons oil
•Four chicken breasts; remove the chicken from the bone and cut it into half inches pieces.
•One 15 oz. can of Kuners of Colorado Southwestern Black Beans with cumin and chili spices. If you can’t find this brand or anything similar just use a regular can of black beans, but add one tablespoon of chili powder and one teaspoon of cumin to the recipe.
•One 15 oz. can fire roasted chopped or whole tomatoes. Try Hunts or Muir Glen brands. And if you’re using whole tomatoes, chop them into bite size pieces.
•One cup of chopped onions
•One cup of frozen or canned corn: drained or defrosted.
•One cup peeled and chopped sweet potatoes.
•One tablespoon Frontera Chipotle hot sauce, if you can’t find this brand.any other hot sauce will do and add the amount that suits your own ‘comfort’ level.

For the Cheese Cilantro Bread •One loaf French or Italian Bread
•About one tablespoon oil
•One cup shredded cheese mixed with about two tablespoons of chopped cilantro, more if you’re a fan of this herb.

•Heat the two tablespoons of oil in a large pan or Dutch oven, add the chopped chicken and cook until it’s not longer pink.
•Add the onions and stir together with the chicken.
•Cook the onions until they’re translucent, about five minutes.
•Add the sweet potatoes and stir everything together.
•If you’re using regular beans, add the chili powder and cumin and the rinsed beans. If you’re using the flavored beans, don’t rinse them. And add about half a can of water to the pan.
•Add the can of tomatoes and stir everything together.
•Add the hot sauce. If the mixture looks thick, add another half can of water to the pot.
•Bring to a boil, turn down the heat, and let the mixture simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the sweet potatoes are tender.

For the bread-
•Meanwhile slice the bread and toast it under the broiler on both sides.
•Brush each piece (one side only) with oil and top with the cheese/cilantro mixture and broil until the cheese starts to bubble.
•I like to serve the chili with bowls of sour cream, shredded cheese, and some more chopped cilantro.

This next ‘recipe’ is really simple to put together. I often serve seven layer dip and chips and if you’ve got more than a few people digging into the dip, the table usually ends up a mess, here’s what I came up with-

Layered Dip Pizza Style
Serves 10-15

You’ll need-
•One large bag of tortilla chips
•Two cans of refried beans, the spicy varieties work really well for this one.
•One 16 oz. container of sour cream
•Two avocados, diced, toss them in lime juice to prevent them from browning
•2 cups of shredded cheese
•One cup of salsa
Take a large platter and place the chips on it, make sure to cover the whole platter, chips overlapping the edges are perfect. Place the refried beans on top, then top with the sour cream and then the diced avocados, and finally the cheese. Usually I place the salsa in the center of everything.

I find it’s best to have a large spatula by the platter so guests can transfer everything to their plate just like they would with a pizza.
And this recipe is perfect if you’re not going the party route and just looking for something tasty to snack while you watch the game.

Pizza Party
Just about everyone loves pizza. Either make your own pizza dough or the day before the game, visit your local pizza store and buy some pizza dough. Cut it into individual size portions and set out various sauces and toppings, like cheese, olives, pepperoni, green peppers slices and have everyone make their own pizza.

Desserts
One dessert…if you can call it that, that always comes to the rescue and once again a crowd favorite is ice cream. And it’s also always on sale. Set out two tubs, one chocolate, one vanilla and put bowls of toppings alongside them, chopped nuts, toasted coconut, chopped candy bars and even some M&M’s in the team colors and have everyone create their own ‘Super Bowl Sundae’.

Last Minute Snacks
If you’re looking for a last minute snack or something to put on the buffet table, there are two products that you can find at just about any store and they pair perfectly together. Tostitos 100% white corn with a hint of lime tortilla chips, and Pace Pico de Gallo. Every time I serve them, they’re gone in minutes

admin / January 29, 2009

Valentine’s Day for the Budget Savvy

Seems like celebrations creep up on us faster than we expect. And yes, Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. I’m guessing some budgets might be recovering from the recent holiday season, but don’t panic, you can still find something to give to your loved ones. Here’s what I found-

Chocolates
If you or someone you know is a chocoholic, I don’t have to tell you the number one spot for great chocolate is Godiva. I can’t walk by one of their stores without going inside and at least doing some ‘window shopping’. Most of their chocolates used to be out of my price range, but here’s one good thing about our gloomy economy, even Godiva has slashed their prices. Go to
www.godiva.com and check out their Chocolate Covered Sale. They have some gifts starting at as low as $6. There’s a Godiva Chocolate Party Tower for just $13.50. And don’t miss the Winter Treasure Gift Basket, are you ready for this, it was $100 and now it’s just $35. I’m guessing there’s enough chocolate in there for you to divide up into two or three smaller gift bags or baskets.

Bears
No, not cuddly teddy bears but bears in chairs. And who can resist a bear in any shape or form. Check out www.bearsinchairs.com. You can personalize your own bear in a chair or pick from an assortment of bears from couples to families. Base price for the I Love You Bear is $13.99 and you can add on as your budget allows. They also offer free personalization.

Virtual Gifts
You might remember a company called Animoto made it onto my Holiday Gift Guide. Send a Valentine’s Video greeting for just $3…a card is probably going to cost you at least that much and this is so much nicer. www.animoto.com

And if you can’t afford red roses this year, check out this site. Yes, you can buy real flowers there, but you can also send your love a virtual bouquet. www.virtualflorist.com

Designer Gifts at Budget Friendly Prices
When I’m searching the Web looking for great sites to tell you about, I often stumble upon ones that have great prices but products that look like, well, just junk, and that’s not what being a Budget Smart Girl is all about. We want to be known for the wonderful gifts we give, they look expensive, but they’re not and that’s our little secret. So it’s always great when I stumble upon a site like this one www.designergifts.com. You can shop by price…always my favorite thing to do, and shop by recipient etc. While I haven’t seen these products in person, they look great for the price.

One of My Favs
One catalog I love to receive is from a company called Current. www.currentcatalog.com Lots of goodies and at great prices. Check out their Valentine’s merchandise for just about everyone on your list.

Relaxation on Budget Savvy Prices
A couple of weeks ago I was sent some information about Lush USA. Sometimes people send me news about items that they feel have a budget friendly price, but really aren’t, but I’m happy to say the products made by Lush fit the bill. Here are some you might like to check out-

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www.lushusa.com
Strawberry Feels Forever Massage Bar ($8.95)
Shave the Planet Shaving Cream ($14.95)

And I was working on an article about getting a good night’s sleep and was contacted by Rachel Timmerman the co-founder of Athenas Olive Tree. www.athenasolivetree.com When I checked out the Web site, well, the prices made this Budget Smart Girl smile. Rachel has recommended three romance related products that you might like to check out-

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Romance Soap Bar: www.athenasolivetree.com/soaps_romance.htm $4.95
Romance Liquid Soap: www.athenasolivetree.com/soaps_romance_liquid.htm$ 9.95
Romance Soap Parfait www.athenasolivetree.com/soaps_romance_parfait.htm $10.95

And I’d also check out the Chocolate Bath Cookies for just $3.25 and The Romance Bath Sea Salts for $3.75/$7.50

And here’s a special offer, Rachel is offering you a 10% discount on your purchase. When you check out you’ll need to use the coupon code budgetsmartgirl to qualify. This offer is only valid from January 29th through February 10th.

admin / January 26, 2009

The Blog-Sometimes I Can’t Resist Buying One

Don’t know about you, but sometimes I can’t resist buying one of the handy gadgets you see advertised on TV. The words ‘save you time and money’ gets this Budget Smart Girl every single time. I’m more cautious about handing over my money for these types of products now, but once in awhile I’m still willing to give something a try.

So what got my interest this time? The new Point and Paint system. Anyone else seen the ads? Some of you might remember that I’ll be giving my kitchen a makeover this spring and I have walls to paint. Not just regular walls, but ones that are way, way up there, I’m short, I hate climbing ladders. Yes, you get the picture. So when I heard the guy on the commercial saying with Point and Paint you can reach high spots with no dripping paint on your head, less trips up and down ladders to reload rollers, I was hooked. And then I found out you don’t even have to tape all the trim in the room. Hey, this really could save me time and money.

Well, I finally weakened, and on Friday I ordered a kit, which also comes with free lifetime replacement of the pads, you just pay shipping and handling each time. I’ll be giving the system a test drive when I finally get around to painting the entryway next month. Yes, for those of you who have followed the Budget Smart Girl from the beginning, you know the paint for the entryway has been sitting in my basement for a long time. I’ll let you know what I thought about the product and if it’s worth buying. If anyone’s already used it, I’d love to hear some feedback. And if you’re scratching your head wondering what I’m talking about, here’s their Web site with a video about how the product works www.pointnpaint.com

What’s lined up for Budget Smart Girl this week? A Valentine’s Day Gift Guide with a special offer just for you. And some tips for putting together a great Super Bowl bash.

And congratulations to Bernedette M who won the $50 SmartyPig gift card. She tells me she’s saving money for when her children get married.

And I had some subscribers from Canada ask me about the Upromise program that was mentioned in the newsletter and if you can use it there. Sorry to say you can’t but another subscriber told about the Futura Rewards program, here’s the link, www.futurarewards.ca

admin / January 22, 2009

Getting Organized on a Budget Smart Price

Getting organized is always on both my do and New Year’s resolution lists. One thing about being organized is it’s saves you money. I can’t remember how many times I’ve lost something under a pile of papers on my desk, rushed out to buy another one, and then found the original one the next day. Disorganized yes, budget smart, no. I try my best, but sometimes it’s the price of all those fancy organizers that hinder my progress. So I turned to expert help. Laura Leist CPO, CRTS, is a Seattle based professional organizer and also founder and president of Eliminate Chaos www.eliminatechaos.com. Her book Eliminate Chaos: The 10-Step Process to Organize Your Home & Life has been one of the top five organizing books on Amazon.com for the last three years in a row.

Budget Smart Girl (BSG)-Where’s the best place to buy bargain organizing supplies?

Laura Leist – Eliminate Chaos- The best place to look first is in your home to see what you already have on hand from previous purchases. In our 10-step process, as documented in Eliminate Chaos: The 10-Step Process to Organize Your Home and Life, shopping is step 8, not step one. One of the biggest mistakes people make when organizing is that they want to shop first, which usually results in wasted time and money. If you follow our process, you will have a concrete idea of what you ‘need’ to shop for because you will know exactly how much space you have and what you will be trying to contain in that space or product.

BSG-What’s the biggest waste of money when you’re buying organizing supplies?

Laura Leist – Eliminate Chaos-See above.

BSG-And what’s a must have buy?

Laura Leist – Eliminate Chaos-The answer to this question depends on what room of your home you are organizing. Product is specific to projects you’re working.

BSG-What are your tips for organizing a pantry?

Laura Leist – Eliminate Chaos – Use plastic bins or baskets to contain open bags of chips and crackers. This will keep crumbs from getting all over the shelves and will allow every family member to quickly find the snacks. Use ‘can risers’ to store canned goods on so you can easily see the label of each can. Use turntables for excess items, such as salad dressings, oils, vinegars, etc…so you can easily find the item. This keeps your back up items easy to find without getting shoved to the back of the shelf.
Take a close look at what’s in the pantry and how long it’s been in there. Do you have expired food? If so, let it go. If you have food you know you’re never going to eat, donate it to a food bank. This is a great first step in getting your pantry organized.
Use the middle shelves for those items that you use most often – they are easier to see because they are at eye level.

BSG-Most people’s biggest headache is organizing their closet, sweaters that tumble on your head when you pull one out, shoes shattered on the floor. Any easy solutions, any inexpensive products you can recommend using in the closet?
Laura Leist – Eliminate Chaos If your closet has a wire shelf in it, you can purchase a shelf divider that attaches to your shelf and holds stacks of sweaters, jeans or workout clothes in place. You could also use a hanging sweater bag and store several sweaters in each component. To maximize the space in the sweater bag, store 2 or 3 sweaters per section and place a sweater divider between each so it’s easy to remove a sweater without the other two landing on the floor.

BSG-Are there any items that readers might have sitting around their house that might work as organizing equipment?
Laura Leist – Eliminate Chaos Ice cube trays can be used for organizing earrings, beads or nails. Boxes from checks can be used for organizing supplies in a desk drawer. Strips of wood the width of canned goods can be used to create your own ‘can risers.’ Ziploc bags work great to store lots of different items in.

BSG-What mistakes do most people make when they attempt DIY organizing?
Laura Leist – Eliminate Chaos The three most common mistakes made are: 1. Shopping first. 2. Losing Focus. 3. Trying to accomplish too much in not enough time.

BSG-I’m sure lots of readers are just like me, I get everything organized and then within the month, I’m back to my bad habits. Any tips for breaking the cycle, or is organizing just on ongoing task?

Laura Leist – Eliminate Chaos-Organizing is a ‘lifestyle’ you choose. If you want to live an organized life, it must be a priority. You will make time in your life for those things that are a priority. Organizing is a ‘process’ NOT and event. Organization is about creating and ‘maintaining’ systems that work for you that you will make the time to maintain on a regular basis. Getting organized is like getting in shape. You don’t go to the gym with the idea that you’re going to lose weight and get in shape and then once you lose the weight, not keep up the exercise. If you don’t keep it up, the pounds will come back. Think of clutter as excess pounds for your home.

If you’re interested in purchasing Laura’s book, visit the Eliminate Chaos Web site and you’ll be able to order an autographed copy.

admin / January 21, 2009

The Budget Smart Girl Newsletter

Issue 1, Number 1, January 2009

Welcome to the debut issue of the Budget Smart Girl Newsletter. Thank you to everyone who subscribed. The response has been overwhelming and I didn’t think we’d grow this fast this soon. In fact, I’m now looking at a different newsletter delivery service to handle sending the newsletter to you each month, so stay tuned. And as requested by many, the first few newsletters will go up on the Budget Smart Girl Web site on the same day the newsletter is mailed out. Each month I hope to give away a prize/gift which will be for subscribers only. You probably already know that this month’s prize is a $50 gift card from SmartyPig. The winner will be selected later today so watch your e-mailbox to see if you’re the lucky winner.
If you have a money saving tip to share, any questions you’d like answered by me or one of the experts I interview on the site, or want to see a topic covered, just let me know. I hope this newsletter will grow into a valuable resource for everyone.
Well, here we go-

You Might As Well Make Some Money
Yes, we all have to buy stuff, but don’t you just love getting something for your purchases? This month I’m featuring two programs that are perfect if you have children and want to save money for college or other necessities.

www.upromise.com
Lots of folks are worried about how they’re going to pay for their children’s college education and Upromise is a free service designed to help families save for just that. You simply sign up for a membership on www.upromise.com and begin saving when making purchases from any of the thousands of companies participating in the Upromise program. Upromise also helps members learn how to invest and grow the money they’ve saved by transferring it directly into a 529 college savings plan. Upromise members can earn cash rewards of up to 25% of purchases by shopping at retailers in their local community or by visiting any of the 550 companies in the Upromise online mall such as: FootLocker, Bed Bath and Beyond; Eddie Bauer, Staples, Dell, Best Buy, Apple, Wal-Mart.com, Target.com, Sears.com, Kohls, L.L. Bean, and many others. And best of all, even current college students can benefit from Upromise rewards because the cash rewards can be applied directly to college loans.

And also check out-

mmm

http://tinyurl.com/9v46h5
With each Mead® or Five Star® school supply purchase, students earn Mead Money Madness points, which can be banked in an online account by registering at www.meadmoneymadness.com. Students can then spend points in weekly online auctions to win items from gift cards from popular retailers to game systems, iPods and much, much more. In addition to points from purchased products, students also can earn points by interacting with the website – taking part in surveys, trivia contests and other activities.

Fashion
And what Budget Smart Girl doesn’t love to look her best? Here’s a site that gives you a head start on finding fashion bargains-
www.stylenotes.com

Home and Hearth
You might be lucky enough to be somewhere warm right now, but where I live, brrrr has been the catchphrase for the last couple of weeks. It’s tempting to turn up the thermostat, but when you’re being budget smart, you have to find other ways to keep warm. Yes, I’ve been wearing another sweater and putting a blanket over my lap when I’m sitting at my desk, but I did find this site that can give you even more ideas-
http://tinyurl.com/9frylv

Leisure and Entertainment
More people are staying home these days, but it doesn’t mean we all have to sit around the house with long faces waiting for the good times to roll around again. Check your local library for DVDs and CDs. Ask your local tourist office about museum and art galleries that might offer free admission.

Don’t know about you, but our cable company keeps raising their prices and cutting out a channel or two. We’ve been thinking about switching to satellite TV or dropping cable and just renting more DVDs. However, I did find this interesting article on line about ways you can watch great programs for less or even for free. And if you saw one of my posts on Twitter, I also recommended you check out- www.fancast.com
http://tinyurl.com/8z6lml

I was sent the following information and thought I’d pass it along to you because it’s surprising just how fun and inexpensive a family night at home can actually be…

While families across the country might be feeling the credit crunch, there’s no reason to cut spending where it matters the most – in the form of time with your family. Starting this week – National Board Game Week – Hasbro encourages Americans to share a weekly night of laughter, bonding and fun – and still stay on budget – with a Family Game Night.

Board games can certainly be played and enjoyed at any time, but a designated family game night provides an opportunity for families to share an affordable night of staying in and creating new memories together. In fact, according to a survey conducted by Hasbro in May 2008, nearly half (48%) of Americans believe that a family game night is the most enjoyable form of family bonding. Board games top other traditional family activities such as watching movies (22%), cooking (19%) and playing sports together (9%).

“Having a family game night is a cost-effective way for families to connect and laugh out loud,” says Laura Rowley, author of Money & Happiness: A Guide to Living the Good Life and a columnist for Yahoo! Finance. “I was raised in a large family where game night was a given – and continue the tradition with my three children. For families on a budget, buying a new game costs significantly less than many other entertainment options, such as dining out or attending a sporting event, which makes adding a new game to your game night repertoire a smart and economical choice.”

Planning a family game night is simple: choose a date and time, pick up a game that is appropriate for the family (taking into consideration the ages of those playing and the number of people) and then, play! Plan to laugh and have a great time. To add another element to the evening that will help establish a family tradition, bring home a pizza, serve a family-favorite dessert or grant a 30-minute extension on bedtime.

“Family game night invites families everywhere to turn off the outside world for a short time and reconnect with each other,” says Matt Collins, Vice President of U.S. Marketing for Hasbro Games. “This year we are pleased to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Hasbro’s Family Game Night initiative, which continues to encourage families to play games together for fun, learning and laughter.”

When planning your Family Game Night, consider some of America’s favorite Hasbro games, most of which are available for less than $20: MONOPOLY, CLUE, SCRABBLE, SORRY!, THE GAME OF LIFE, CONNECT 4, CRANIUM or OPERATION. Or, if you’re looking for a new game, try PICTUREKA!, a fast finding picture game that provides fun for the whole family.

Some of the classic favorites have been updated, adding a new dimension of play to the game. For example, MONOPOLY Here & Now: The World Edition invites players to buy and sell cities from around the world instead of the streets of Atlantic City. SORRY! Sliders is the newest game of sweet revenge and invites players to send pawns embedded with ball bearings whizzing up a ramp towards the center target of the game board, knocking out other pawns and sending them back to home base. And CLUE has received a modern-day make-over with a celebrity-style mansion providing the background for the crime instead of a Tudor mansion.

For additional information about games and other tips for Family Game Night, visit www.familygamenight.com.

In The Kitchen
Cutting down on your food budget seems to be on everyone’s mind right now. Here are some tips from the Meal Makeover Moms, Liz Weiss M.S., R.D. and Janice Bissex M.S., R.D. who will be chatting with me on the Budget Smart Girl site next month to share more of their money saving tips. And if you’re thinking about shopping for organics, Mom’s Best Naturals cereal is priced 20-50 percent less than other natural/organic brands.

Check labels for the healthiest ingredients – Stay in the fructose free zone! Look for foods that do not contain artificial colors, flavors and high fructose corn syrup. Mom’s Best Naturals breakfast cereals and instant oatmeal are a great option because they are all natural and priced 20-50 percent less than other natural and organic brands.
Buy food in season – Purchase fruits and vegetables that are in season, if not, buying frozen is always a great option and a convenient way to make sure families enjoy healthy foods even when they aren’t available.

Comparison shop using unit pricing – Look at the unit pricing versus the total price of the foods you purchase. This will allow you to find extra savings. For example Mom’s Best Naturals Sweetened Wheatfuls™ have a unit price of 10 cents per ounce as compared to Kellogg’s Frosted Mini Wheats® with a unit price of 17 cents per ounce. That adds up to a saving of almost a dollar for each box.

Purchase foods that come in bulk or larger sized packaging – Not only will you save money but you will also reduce the amount of waste your family generates. Mom’s Best Naturals breakfast cereals are packaged in larger, family sized boxes and are priced 20-50 percent less than other natural and organic brands. On average, Mom’s Best Naturals are about 10 ounces bigger per box when compared to mainstream brands.

Add “extenders” to recipes that help you get more out of your food – Adding black beans to burgers and oatmeal to meatloaf may sound old fashioned, but not only does it allow you to save money, it adds extra nutrients to food. Try Mom’s Best Naturals all natural Quick Oats in your favorite meatloaf recipe. Check out the Meal Makeover Moms Cheesy Black Bean Burger recipe below.

Cheesy Black Bean Burgers
Makes 8 Servings

Ingredients:
One 15 1/2-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 pound lean ground beef (90% or higher)
1 large egg, beaten
1 cup pre-shredded reduced fat Cheddar cheese
1/3 cup seasoned bread crumbs
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
8 hamburger buns

Preparation:
Preheat the grill to medium. Place the black beans in a large bowl and mash with the back of a large spoon until smooth but still a bit chunky. Add the beef, egg, cheese, bread crumbs and garlic powder and mix until well combined. Divide the beef mixture and shape into 8 patties. Place the patties on the grill and cook until no longer pink inside and an instant-read thermometer registers at least 160°F, about 4 minutes per side.

Serve on hamburger buns with your favorite toppings and condiments.

Nutritional Information per Serving: 310 calories, 8g fat (3g saturated),
510mg sodium, 32g carbohydrate, 7g fiber, 28g protein

A Note from BSG-Whenever I think of black beans, I think southwestern spices, like chili powder and cumin. I looked for seasoned breadcrumbs but couldn’t find any, so try adding about half a teaspoon of each spice to the breadcrumbs for a variation of this recipe.

In the Garden
Okay, most of us can’t head out to garden just yet, but like me, you might be thinking about planting a vegetable garden this year. A ton of catalogs have landed in my mailbox since the holidays and some of the prices seem too good to be true. In the past, I’ve had some bad luck with low cost plants that died within a few months of planting them. So check out this site to see what others have to say about seed and plant companies before you hand over your money-
www.gardenwatchdog.com…don’t panic if the URL Dave’s Garden pops up, it seems to be another name for it!

Health
Have you lost your job, or maybe your employer is cutting out or cutting down on prescription benefits? Something to check out is the Walgreen’s Prescription Savings Club. They offer 5,000 brand name and generic medications. You can earn rewards when you purchase Walgreen’s brand products and their photofinishing services. And you also get a coupon book with $50 in savings. It’s $20 per year for individuals and $35 per year for a family. And here’s an added bonus, if like me, a four legged friend is part of your family, you can add their name to your family membership and their medications are also covered. You can either sign up online or at your nearest Walgreen’s store. Check out all the rules, etc, and to see if it’s the right for you. They have a great FAQ section on their Web site. www.walgreens.com, click on Prescription Savings Club.

Book Review
The Everything Meals on a Budget Cookbook By Linda Larsen
$14.95…Amazon.com is selling it for $11.21, Can $16.50
ISBN 10-159869-508-8
Adams Media 2008

I already own another one of Larsen’s cookbooks which I love, so when I saw she’d written one with a budget theme, I had to check it out. The book contains 300 penny saving recipes. Besides them all sounding delicious, they list the cost per serving at the top of the recipe. The prices might be higher now, but still within most people’s budget and it’s an easy way to search for a meal that’s really low cost. The average cook should be able to put the recipes together. Another nice feature, all the recipes use ingredients that you can buy at just about any supermarket, no trekking cross town to find one or two special items. In fact, I’m guessing most of the ingredients are already sitting on your pantry shelf.
Some chapters include Breakfast on a Dime, The indispensible Leftover, Pasta for Pennies, What a Deal Desserts.
As my normal routine, I borrowed this one from the library. I only checked it out last week so I haven’t tried many recipes from it yet, but I did make the Curried Chicken Pot Pie for dinner last week. It was great and made a meal in itself. All I added was a simple dessert, see recipe below, to accompany it.
Other recipes in this book include Spinach Stuffed Chicken Breasts $1.89 per serving and Salmon Linguine for $1.06 per serving.
One chapter I especially like is the Make a Meal from Almost Nothing and includes Cheese Soufflé, Spicy Thai Peanut Noodles and Double Cheese Quesadillas.
I give this book a five star rating and will be adding to my Budget Smart Girl bookshelf.

Recipe for Chocolate Ginger Shortbread
I really hate calling this even a recipe because there’s no cooking involved and they’re simple to make. All the ingredients were sitting on the pantry shelf and were leftovers from my Christmas stash of goodies.

1 box of shortbread cookies, try the Keebler Sandies Simply Shortbread Cookies
1 cup semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips. I used Ghirardelli brand
Just under ¼ cup of finely chopped crystallized ginger

Put the chocolate chips into a measuring jug and melt in the microwave, stir in the ginger until the two ingredients are well blended. Dip half of the shortbread cookie into the chocolate and then set on waxed paper to set. These make a simple dessert with something hot and spicy or even a treat when the mid afternoon slump sets in.

See you next month.

admin / January 12, 2009

The Blog-It’s Free and It’s in Your Neighborhood

What’s the saying about there’s no such thing as a free lunch? That might be true, but when it comes to finding free resources in this tough economy, just check your own community.

Last week I stopped by the library to pick up some books. I also grabbed a copy of their Events and Classes catalog that lets you know what’s happening in libraries around town in the next three months.

First of all, all these classes are free. Secondly, I was amazed at the variety of topics offered these days. For example, if you need to brush up on your job hunting skills they have a class for that. Need to brush up on your computer skills to land a job, they’ve got that too. Not just World, but Excel and Access too. They can show you how to search the Internet to find a job. And when it comes to tax time, and yes, you know it’s coming…they can even offer assistance which is free if you’re on a limited or low income. And here’s a class that I’ve never seen offered before…not even in community education, how to shop using coupons.

After the library, I stopped by the county service office to renew my driver’s license. The office is housed in the same building as the extension offices, so I took a detour to find out what they were offering. Seems they rent DVDs on topics like gardening, cooking, how to improve your credit score. And they have a whole bunch of brochures on cooking and food storage topics.

My tip for this week, check your library and extension offices to see what’s going on in your neighborhood. I think you’ll be surprised what you can find.

And what’s ahead on Budget Smart Girl site this week? I’ve got a great expert lined up for one of this week’s articles. I’ll be chatting with him later today and he’s going to share some secrets about ways to save more money. And I’ll be giving you some tips and Web site links to help you reach your financial goals.

admin / January 8, 2009

Get A Work Out on A Budget

About six years ago when my husband lost his job, we sat down and looked through our bills to figure out what we could eliminate to save money. Top of our list was the membership to the local health club. We used it on a daily basis, but knew we could easily live without it. Yes, it took some getting used to, but here are some ideas I came up with.

There’s Always An Alternative
One of the main things I missed was using the club’s indoor track during the winter. Every lunch hour I’d head to the club with my Walkman and listen to music while I walked one or two miles depending on my schedule. After we dropped our membership, I searched around for walking DVDs and discovered that Leslie Sansone specializes in walking DVDs www.lesliesansone.com I can still wear my headphones and listen to music or an audio book and it’s almost like being on an indoor track again. Best part about it, I don’t even have to leave the house now.

Walking Clubs
And if you really love walking, you’ve got other options besides DVDs. Just about every mall has a time set aside for walkers, usually early morning so it’s great for a pre-work, workout. Well, as long as you don’t get tempted by all the goodies in the store windows as you walk by! I’ve even heard of some of the local malls starting stroller walking clubs where moms can get a workout while pushing the little ones in strollers. Mom gets to exercise, meet other moms, babies and toddlers get to be with mom and you don’t need to pay a babysitter. And who knows you could start a coupon swap group after you’ve walked around the mall.

Community Education
Another inexpensive way to get some exercise is to sign up for one of the community education classes most cities offer. They usually have instruction for everything from yoga to Pilates and at half the price of a health club.

DVDs
There are some great exercise DVDs out there and right now, lots of them are on sale. My first recommendation, check your local library. Over the years, I’ve bought one too many I ended up hating, so now I check the library before I hand over my money. If you find one you like, try www.collagevideo.com you can preview them on the site, the service is great and you can even return DVDs… yes even ones you’ve opened! And just the other day I found this site www.consumersearch.com/exercise-video-reviews. You get some feedback on the DVD before you buy and it site lets you compare prices. And while you’re on the site, you can check out items in other categories too, such as Home and Garden, Health and Beauty.

Another Man’s Good Intentions
Is your gain. Yes, you’ll always find folks who buy exercise equipment with every good intention of using it on a daily basis and then, well, the novelty wears off. The equipment often takes on a second use, like a place to hang laundry! Drive by any garage sale and you’ll probably find some exercise equipment sitting there.

Going Out of Business
Unlucky for the business that’s going bust, but lucky for us. With more people cancelling their health club memberships these days, we’re probably going to see some clubs going out of business. Some of them will be selling their equipment and you might pick up a bargain or two.

Homemade Weights
Weights aren’t that expensive to buy, but if you’re really feeling the pinch, try using milk containers. If you go with the gallon size, you can add as much water as you want and work up to a heavier weight. I also know some people who use the supersized cans of vegetables.

Places to Buy Cheap Equipment
I’ve found good deals at Target and Marshalls. And best thing about looking for exercise equipment in the New Year is there’s plenty of choice and it’s usually on sale. Although this year, I wouldn’t be too surprised if sales are down and we see deeper discounts next month. So it might be a good idea to wait another month or two.

admin / January 8, 2009

Food Resolutions for the Budget Savvy

Food resolutions don’t always have to be about dieting. Finding ways to trim your grocery bill in 2009 is definitely something to think about this week. Here are some things I’ve already been doing for the last six months or so.

Buy Less Brand Name Foods
My groceries now consist of at least 50% of supermarket brands and I’d say I save between 25 cents to a $1 per item. It doesn’t seem like a lot but I’ve been buying supermarket brand name cereals, canned vegetables, peanut butter, milk and eggs, and these small amounts add up when I reach the checkout. And with the money I save, I’m able to buy a few organic versions of these foods too. Most taste just as good if not better than the brand names …so far I’ve only had one item I didn’t like and that was a box of tea. So resolution #1, check out a couple of supermarket brands on each shopping trip.

Shop in Bulk
Whether it’s at the supermarket or a co-op, bargains await you in the bulk bin section. You can buy as much or as little as you need, which means less waste. And you can find some of the best prices on dried organic foods in the bulk bin aisle.

Try Leftover Sundays
Last year, I decided to make Sunday leftover day at my house. It’s sort of half buffet, half Sunday brunch where I pull out all the foods we haven’t eaten during the week and set them out on the countertop. Main entrees get paired up with new side dishes and sandwiches take on a creative twist. It’s almost like getting one free meal a week, plus, you get a day off from cooking.

Pantry Meals
It’s like having a wardrobe full of clothes and thinking you don’t have anything to wear. Your pantry, fridge and freezer have items waiting to be paired up to create a meal and most of the time we don’t realize it. You can save money but cutting back on the amount of groceries you buy and instead rely on what you have on hand to create at least one supper per week. Good candidates-omelets, pasta, sandwich and soup combos.

Think Ahead
Here’s a trick I learned in one of my cooking classes. Plan your menus around ‘like foods’ and nothing gets wasted. For example, if you need half a cabbage for a coleslaw recipe, find another recipe that uses cabbage so you don’t…and yes, we all do it, have half a cabbage sitting in the fridge for weeks. You forget all about it and just end up tossing it in the garbage.

Be Flexible
Until food prices started to shoot upward, I was adamant about certain brands I bought. One example is Fleischmann’s Olive Oil spread. It used to be $1.69 for two tubs but the price has gradually increased by a $1. My thinking was if all the items I bought were going to increase that much, I could be spending another $50 on each trip to the store. Now whatever is on sale that week is my new item of choice. And so far, I haven’t purchased anything I don’t like and that isn’t comparable in taste of Fleishmann’s spread. And if Fleishmann’s brand does go on sale, I’ll stock up and put it in the freezer.

Get Back to Basics
I recently got back into the habit of making more things from scratch, with bread being one of them. Not regular bread we use for sandwiches, but fancy breads that were costing a couple more dollars at the store. And eating out less and cutting back on readymade foods, not only helps your waistline, but your wallet too.

admin / January 5, 2009

How to Stay Strong in a Weak Economy

One of the first things most of us cancel during tough times is a health club membership. If you’re one of those people but still want to keep in shape, you have lots of alternatives. A couple of years ago, I interviewed NY-based Austrian fitness expert Stefan Aschan for an article I was working on and he’s been a great source of fitness and nutrition tips ever since. I asked him to share some of his tips for working out when money’s tight. And later this week I’ll be posting another article on inexpensive ways to keep in shape.

Do check with your doctor before you try any new exercise regime and if you’re working out at home or by yourself, take care and precaution. It’s never budget smart to get injured and end up with a huge doctor’s bill.

Here are Stefan’s tips and you can also visit his Web site at www.stefanaschan.com

Use your own body resistance, no equipment needed. Using gym equipment often means working out with the same movement patterns and resistance with each exercise, which can mean minimal results from not enough exertion.

Take advantage of existing furniture and architecture. Use a solid chair as a bench for single leg step-ups and triceps dips and a low sturdy box as a step for a cardio workout. Try the stairs at your house or at the nearby park or school for interval training. Working on an incline with your own bodyweight will increase your supply of oxygen needed and usage of muscle fibers, enhancing your coordination ability toning and strengthening your body in a new and different way. In short, a change of routine is from benefit to see better results.

Try resistance bands, which are not only cheap, but are also light to carry and provide different resistances. You can work out in your living room, outside, or at the park or beach. Possible workouts include biceps curls, lateral shoulder lifts, overhead triceps extensions, lateral side steps, and back rows. Worried about resistance? They come in various strengths. And for definition results use a lighter band and increase your repetition up to 30.

Replicate the gym vibe and the shared motivation. Play motivating and upbeat music to get you pumped and keep you going. Do you miss the motivation of having other gym goers around you? Invite a friend over and workout together – the friendly competition will push you harder and help you both reach your goals. If you need more motivation, purchase a home workout program DVD, which gives you new ideas and guidance and shouldn’t cost more than $30.

Try a trek. Whatever the season, if you dress appropriately, a brisk walk, run or sprint outside can be the perfect amount of activity for an efficient low-impact workout. Try hiking, biking or rollerblading to switch it up while still re-connecting with nature. Up the ante with a Nordic trekker, specially designed poles that engage the upper body during any of these outdoor activities, and can get your heart rate 17 beats per minute higher than with normal walking.

Soak and soothe sore muscles. If you miss the sauna or steam room, take twigs of rosemary, a cinnamon stick and 4 teabags, like blueberry, green or peppermint tea and place them in a hot bath. Let them soak for 15 minutes before diving in to soothe muscles and unwind after a good workout.

admin / January 4, 2009

The Blog-I’m Twittering

I hope the Holiday season was good to you, that you got some rest and you’re ready to save money, and yes, even make more money in 2009.

The Budget Smart got mentioned in some major publications recently and Kimberly Palmer, a senior editor at U.S. News and World Report named this site one of the 6 Money Websites to watch in 2009. Thank you Kimberly for your vote of confidence. In fact, one of my goals for the New Year is to make Budget Smart Girl one of the best resources for finding ways to save money while still living the life you want.

So what have I been up this last week or so? I did get my office organized, well, sort of. There’s less clutter sitting on my desk, but there’s still work to be done. It did give me an idea for an upcoming topic for Budget Smart Girl and that’s getting organized on a budget.

Right now, I’m putting together the first Budget Smart Girl newsletter. I’m aiming for a January 21st issue date and then we’ll gradually switch to the first of the month. This month will feature some sites where you can earn rewards, a site with handy tips on saving on your heating bill. And in the kitchen section, some great tips from the Meal Makeover Moms, and they’ve even got a low cost recipe to share with us.

And if you haven’t noticed the update on the front page of this site, you can now follow The Budget Smart Girl on Twitter http://twitter.com/budgetsmartgirl I’ll keep you up to date on things I’m up to throughout the week and pass along any deals I hear about, or even cool money saving Web sites. And what finally convinced me I should be Twittering? Pressure from my writing buddies and yes, it doesn’t cost a penny to sign up and use their services.

Check out the new Budget Smart Girl Store Dismiss