admin / May 26, 2009

The Blog-Coupon Savings Galore

Hope everyone enjoyed the holiday weekend. I used my extra ‘day off’ to try and catch up on getting my office organized and making some make ahead meals. So far so good, but I’m still running behind schedule.

Last week was a great week for coupons. I shaved close to $30 off my grocery bill. If you don’t think coupons are worth the effort, believe me, they are. I netted a whole bunch from the links in the newsletter from Hot Coupon World and used those coupons for items that were already on sale at the store. I had a coupon for $1 off Tombstone pizza. The store was offering 4 of them for $12. I noticed one variety had a $1 off coupon attached to it so I used that too. Both coupons were doubled as it was double coupon Wednesday so I finally paid $8 for 4 pizzas. An added plus was I qualified for a coupon for up to $3.50 off my next purchase of milk at that store.

And I took advantage of some of the sales that were going on. Hamburger and hot dog buns were on sale. I bought several packages of both to put in the freezer. I also stocked up on cans of baked beans and frozen juices. And Kraft cheese had a big promotion for their new line of cheese. 2 packages for $4 plus a 50 cent coupon that was doubled. I always buy cheese when it’s on sale and freeze it. Yes, it does change the texture slightly, but it’s great for shredding.

Do you read your local newspaper? If you don’t you should because it too has coupons for local restaurants and news about new stores that could actually save you money. Last week I found a flyer in my local paper about a bakery outlet that opened this past weekend. They make bread for lots of top restaurants in the area and have now decided to sell their unsold items every Saturday morning from 8 a.m. – 12 noon. I’ll be checking that out when I get a free Saturday morning and hopefully find some good buys to stock my freezer.

This week on Budget Smart Girl- As this is a short week and I’m working on a deadline for an article; it will just be the Budget Smart Girl newsletter this week. Watch out for it Thursday or Friday.

Have a good week.

admin / May 21, 2009

A Memorial Day Feast on the Cheap

I think of Memorial Day as the first of many days of eating outside, firing up the grill, or even putting together a picnic to take to the park or beach. Here are some recipes ideas that won’t bust your budget.

Hamburgers with a Twist
I know just about everyone loves a hamburger and they’re easy on the budget, but once in a while it’s nice to give them a little twist or two. Yes, there’s the cheeseburger, but how about forgoing the regular slice of cheese. Switch to something with a little more kick, like blue cheese, and placing it inside the burger, so it melts into the meat while it’s on the grill.

Not Just any Salad
How many picnics and get togethers have you either been invited to, or thrown yourself, where the same recipe for coleslaw or potato salad is rolled out every single time? Over the years I’ve been adding different items to potato salads, like chopped eggs, roasted red peppers, chopped celery, sun-dried tomatoes. So experiment and see what works best for you. I also like leaving the skin on the potatoes, and also using a combination of white and sweet potatoes.
As for coleslaw, I’ve been using the broccoli slaw you can find at just about any produce department, and adding blue cheese dressing instead of mayonnaise. Try it; it really puts a new spin on a favorite side dish.

Baked beans are another favorite side dish at most cookouts. I’ve been adding sultanas (if you can’t get them, use raisins, but plump them up in some hot water first), and curry powder. For every 2 cups of beans I use about ½ cup sultanas and one-tablespoon curry powder, depending how hot you like it.

I never think any meal is complete without the potato, but just throwing one on the grill can be a bit bland. Here’s an herb butter I’ve been using for a couple of years with baked potatoes. Add some to the potato as soon as it comes off the grill, everyone says it compliments just about any type of dish.

Fresh Herb Butter
½ cup trans fat free spread or if you’re not watching the cholesterol, butter
1 cup of fresh herbs, I like a combination of thyme and basil, sometimes dill if you’re serving fish
1 small clove of garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard
Place the butter into a bowl, and add the rest of the ingredients and mix until everything’s blended. Cover and store in the refrigerator until you’re ready to use it.

Another tip is to wash and scrub the potato, rub it with oil and then sprinkle with salt. It flavors the potato from the outside in.
And sometimes I’ll cook the potatoes indoors. I love homemade seasoned fries. Simply cut the potatoes into wedges, toss in oil and add salt, pepper, smoked paprika, and I’ve even had success adding soy sauce for a really savory taste.

Quick Picnic Fare
I’ve always been a big fan of picnics and here’s something that is so simple and easy to put together. It’s best made the day before the picnic. I like to use bread like a foccacia, or you can use French loaf, Italian bread, anything that’s not pre-sliced. You want to slice it in half horizontally. On both halves spread either some olive oil, or pesto sauce. Then just start laying it with whatever you like. I often select cheese, roasted red peppers, artichokes, olives, for a really summer taste. You can use sliced ham, turkey. When you’re done layering, place the other top on the sandwich and wrap the whole thing tightly in cling wrap. Put it on a plate and then place it in the refrigerator. Next put something heavy like a large can of tomatoes or a gallon jug of milk, and leave it overnight. In the morning just put it into your picnic basket and when you’re ready to eat, cut it into wedges.

Stock Up the Pantry
Remember it’s a holiday and that means lots of items like hamburger buns, BBQ sauce, etc, will be on sale. Stock your pantry and freezer for the hot summer days ahead.

admin / May 21, 2009

A Professional Looking Garden for Pennies

Gardening is one of my hobbies and sometimes I think I spend too much time outside planting, landscaping, you name it. But just the other day I found out all my effort could be a wise investment. A home with a nicely landscaped yard always sells faster and sells for more money. Seems like no matter how much money you put into the yard, you eventually get the majority of it back when it’s time to sell.
And yes, some landscaping tasks are costly, but here are some ways to make the yard look like a million dollars for a lot less.

Do you have plants in your yard that you hate or are growing out of control? I’m guessing friends and neighbors feel that way too. See if anyone wants to swap plants with you. Some gardening clubs also have weekend swaps too.

Divide and Conquer
Yes, some of my plants fit into the category of growing out of control. However, it’s not a bad thing. Last week I divided most of them and replanted them in another area of the yard I’m landscaping. I managed to get a wheelbarrow load of plants for well, almost free. Some skill and knowledge is required so here’s a link to some great advice on dividing your plants

Two tricks I’ve found for success are- one, make sure you water them well when you first transplant them and continue to water them. And two, some of them look like they’re dead, but they just need some time to recover so don’t dig them up thinking you’ve killed them.

Sales for Charity
Where I live there are no end of plant sales that are held in aid of a local charity or two. Some of my best deals have been at charity plant sales. A couple of years ago I purchased two peonies for just $5 each. They’re just about to bloom and my favorite plants in the yard.

Herbs Stretch your Budget
I’m a big fan of herbs because I use them a lot in cooking, but they also make your gardening budget stretch further. Just about every gardening store and farmer’s market sells them, they’re cheap and they fill in any area for just pennies. Added plus, they’re edible and the budget cook’s best buddy.

They Keep on Growing
One good return for your money is perennials. Yes, it’s nice to see some colorful annuals hanging in baskets on the deck, but perennials are the better investment. Buy them once…and okay, unless you kill them, they’re in the yard for almost ever.

I switched from using rocks to mulch and I’m glad I did. Not only is it cheaper, it’s easier on the back, and I find it keeps the weeds at bay longer and more efficiently. Drawback…it has to be topped up every year. However, some tree trimming companies have leftover mulch that they’re sell to you or let you have for free. Word of caution here, just make sure the mulch isn’t from a diseased tree. I know someone who saw a sign for free mulch, covered their garden with it and lost all their plants and a couple of their trees. And someone else had an infestation of beetles.

Use Mother Nature
I’ve been cutting down shrubs and tree limbs and keep some of the branches and limbs to add some design and texture in the flowerbeds. It’s free, it looks natural and keeps things interesting too.

Water Features
I’ve always been a huge fan of any garden design with a fountain or running water. Years ago they were pricey and had to be installed by professionals, but now just about anyone can install some type of water feature in their yard for sometimes less than $100.

admin / May 18, 2009

The Blog-Some Things You Can’t Put Off

I took a trip to Home Depot last week and finally found sharpeners for the garden tools! Seems like I’m going to need them because the outside chores are never ending.

And on the topic of things you can’t put off, our deck and fence have seen better days and we’ve finally decided to just replace them. I’ve been busy trying to remove all the plants that are near the fence and deck so they don’t get trampled on when the new stuff is installed. It’s more money than you plan to spend but we’re looking at it as a worthwhile investment to add value to the house. Plus, as we’re spending money on home improvement instead of going on vacation this year, we figure a nice deck is something you need when you head out with a glass of lemonade and a good book.

I’ve been spending so much time outdoors, I’ve found myself scrambling for quick and easy meals. One thing that came to my rescue last week was the Pillsbury’s ready- made pie crust. I used a coupon and got two pie crusts for just over $2. One night I made a cheese and asparagus quiche. And another night a pot pie. Great pastry and if you’ve never tried it, give it a test drive some time. I even took a shortcut with the potatoes I served with it. Last month the supermarket had a dollar sale on certain items and one was the Idahoan potato mix. I’m not usually a fan of instant potatoes, but I thought for a dollar, they’re perfect for emergency pantry supplies. I have to say they were great and paired perfectly with a pot pie. Today I’m making focaccia (yes, the dough is hopefully rising as I write this) which I plan to use for grilled veggie sandwiches with pesto sauce.

Hope you’re signed up for the newsletter at Hot Coupon World because last week they had links for more coupons than I’ve ever seen. I printed out a bunch of them and hope to save a bundle this Wednesday when my local supermarket has double coupon days.

This week on Budget Smart Girl- Some low cost food ideas for Memorial Day and saving money on your yard.

Have a good week and a safe and fun Memorial Day weekend.

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