admin / June 29, 2009

The Blog-Get a free e-book

It’s a short work week so let’s get right to something you’re going to enjoy reading about. Remember Hot Coupon World that I told you about many months ago? One of its co-founders, Julie Parrish teamed up with the folks that produce the Entertainment Book and has written an e-book about how to save big time when you use the coupons from one of these books. The plus…it’s free. Go to www.hotcouponworld.com/free-entertainmentbook-ebook/ to download your free copy. I read it this morning and it’s full of great tips. I’ve purchased a few of these books in the past and thought they were just for saving big time on hotels, restaurants, etc., but after reading Julie’s book I realized I can save just about every day and every place I shop. They’re also offering a deal where if you pre-order the 2010 edition, you get the 2009 free. So there’s still lots of time to use the 2009 coupons before they expire. You’ll find the link for that deal on the same page as the one for the free e-book.

This week on Budget Smart Girl…as it’s a holiday week, we’ll just have the Budget Smart Girl newsletter. Sorry it got delayed this month…doing edits for my new book kept me busy.

Have a safe and Happy Fourth of July and for my Canadian readers, a safe and happy Canada Day.

Have a good week.

admin / June 26, 2009

The Budget Smart Girl’s Guide to the Fourth of July

If you’re looking for some fun ways to spend the Fourth of July but don’t want to spend a fortune doing it, here are some Web sites I’ve found that should give you plenty of ideas.

Fireworks
Many local park and recreation departments put on firework displays for local residents, so be sure to check your local city or suburb’s Web site. Here’s one I found. Try typing in your city to see what pops up or try Chamber of Commerce or tourist board Web sites.

•www.craftsfaironline.com/4th.html

Throwing Your Own Party
If you’re thinking about throwing your own party this year, here’s a site I found that not only offers ideas, but also has virtual invitations you can send to your guests. Save money and some trees!
www.evite.com

Cards
I know some people like to send greeting cards on just about every occasion and if you’ve shopped for cards recently you know some of them are now in the $4-5 price range. Here’s a site where you can send a virtual card for free.
www.happydaycards.com

Cheap Things to Do On The Fourth of July•Check your local area for free concerts
•Some local parks have rides and games for the children… and those young at heart. Phone your local city office to find out what’s planned in your area.
•Plan a potluck picnic to spread the cost of food with others. If you don’t want to host the party at your house rent a picnic shelter at the park, maybe the other party goers will share the rental cost with you.
•And for even more variety, have a progressive potluck party, where you start with appetizers at one person’s house, main course at another, and then dessert at yet another house. It’s a way of assuring the cleanup and cost isn’t down to just one person or family.
•Go hunting for seashells.
•Independence Day has many people thinking about their ancestors. Make a scrapbook with cuttings from the country they came from and any other information you have about them and pass it down to the next generation.
•It’s a holiday, just relax with a good book. It’s the ideal time to start reading before summer’s over.
•Visit an historical site and learn more about the history of America.

The Budget Smart Girl’s Tip
Many summer related items like patio furniture, swimwear, etc. go on sale after the Fourth of July, so be sure to check for upcoming bargain buys.

admin / June 24, 2009

The Fourth of July on a Budget

It sure feels like summer. Temperatures in the 90s and high humidity which means the Fourth of July isn’t far away. Here are some treats and dishes I’ve found that taste great but still easy on the budget.

Drinks
Instead of the standard ones like lemonade, try fruit flavored ones. Not mixes, but drinks you can easily put together yourself using real fruit. As strawberries and raspberries are in abundance right now try adding them to lemonade. You can put the lemonade into a blender and add about a cup of chopped strawberries and blend. And how about just adding some fruit, like blueberries, to a soda like 7-Up. If you get the wide topped one-liter containers you can put the blueberries straight into the bottle. Let it stand in the refrigerator overnight and you’ve got a drink that’s changed color and added some natural fruit flavoring, try using raspberries too. This also works with lemonade too.

Appetizers
Sometimes my favorite items at restaurants are appetizers. They’re also great if you’re heading out to listen to a concert on the Fourth. Or maybe you’re going to watch the fireworks and need just a light snack to take with you. I also like to serve appetizers when guests are stopping by after they’ve been to another venue and already eaten. They’re not too filling and you don’t feel bad about not serving your guests something to nibble on. An easy one is to take a tortilla, spread it with cream cheese with chives, and add some slices of turkey or chicken, you can also add some fresh basil, roll it up, and cut into pinwheels. A couple of other easy ones are flavored cream cheese piped into cherry tomatoes, and mini quiches. You can also get ready-made mini phyllo dough shells in your supermarket freezer. They cost less than $2 for 15 shells, and are made by a company called Athens. You can add just about anything to them and as they have a neutral flavor, plus, they’re perfect with both savory and sweet fillings. I like to add chicken, tuna, or egg salad.

It’s Picnic Time
If you’re heading out for the day, or even just staying at home, a great way to celebrate is with a backyard picnic. One way to save some time is to buy a large loaf of uncut bread, slice it in half horizontally and start layering it with herbed mayonnaise, mustard, cold cuts, cheese, tomatoes and peppers. You can leave it whole and have guests slice off what they need. If you’re taking it out and about with you, I prefer to wrap everything individually and assemble it once we arrive at the picnic site. It prevents the usual soggy bread, and it doesn’t take that long to put it all together. If you’re having guests over and want to turn it into a real party, why not give each guest a ‘picnic’ box with their name written on it. Inside you can add a sandwich, maybe wrapped in some red white and blue paper. Put in some of those red and blue corn chips, a little dish of salsa for dipping, and a cookie/brownie, or a container of fruit salad.

Desserts
Would any holiday celebration be complete without something sweet to finish off the day? One of my favorites, and an alternative to a pie, is a fruit pizza. You can use a regular pizza crust, and I know some people like to use crescent rolls as the base. The first layer is cream cheese sweetened with some powdered sugar. Then you just start layering on whatever fruit you want. Another dessert that’s really simple and makes an impressive centerpiece is Baked Alaska. I’ve found the keys to making a successful Baked Alaska is one to make sure all the ice cream is covered before you put it into the oven. And tip two is to serve it straight away. You can experiment with different types of cakes and ice cream combinations to come up with your own unique Baked Alaska. I love dark chocolate cake and cherry ice cream. It’s also a great way to use leftover cake.

admin / June 22, 2009

The Blog-More Dollar Bargains

If you’re not a Twitter fan you might have missed me posting about the free exercise DVD in specially marked boxes of Kellogg’s Special K cereal. This one features three of the 10 Minute Solution exercise programs. I’m skeptical about free exercise DVDs but have to say this one is great. 30 minutes of exercises that target waist and thighs. Don’t know if I’m out of shape or what, but after doing the waist program, I hurt the next day.

I checked out more items in the dollar aisle at the supermarket. Seems like they bring in new products every week. I found the dishwasher powder and cubes again. They also had dishwasher gel. I couldn’t find the potato chips this time, but did buy more of the roasted red peppers. Plus, they had one pound bags of pasta. That’s always handy to keep in the pantry for a quick meal. My other buy was freezer storage bags.
What surprises me the most is that every time I shop there, it’s the only aisle that has no other shoppers. Not sure if people don’t know about it or just don’t think something that costs a dollar can be any good.

I’m happy to see so much great produce hitting the stores now. Last week I bought a couple of pounds of cherries that were on sale and had to stop myself from eating them every time I walked into the kitchen. Can you tell they’re my favorite fruit? I thought about buying more and canning them or even freezing them for winter eating.

And speaking of cherries; seems I had a run of spilling things on white and yellow t-shirts last week. First of all my yellow t-shirt got splattered with cherry juice. The following day, my white t-shirt mysteriously got mud on it. I used the Fels Naptha soap on both stains and presto they’re gone. If you haven’t tried this soap, buy some on your next trip to the store. Lots of my clothes would end up as gardening attire if it wasn’t for this product. And the added plus, is, it’s an inexpensive item.

This week on Budget Smart Girl-is it possible it’s almost The Fourth of July? How you can enjoy the festivities even on a budget.

Have a good week.

admin / June 19, 2009

Inexpensive Things To Do This Summer

Staycation is the new buzz word this year. If you’re staying close to home this summer, here are some ideas for having fun while saving money.

Visit Craft Fairs
I love checking out craft fairs not only because I like to see what people are making and selling but you can also pick up inexpensive gifts for birthdays and holidays. Find one near you at www.craftsfaironline.com If you’re a crafter this site also has some great links too.

It’s Raining…it’s too hot
If it’s raining or just gets too unbearable outside, head to your nearest cinema. Great news is many theatres have cheap summer deals. Check our AMC Theatres $1 Movies for Charity all summer long every Wednesday at 10 a.m. www.amctheatres.com/smc Also, Regal Cinemas have their free Family Film Festival 10 a.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. www.regmovies.com

Learn Something
Want to learn something this summer? Check out community education programs. They’re inexpensive and less crowded than the fall classes. Okay, the choices aren’t so great but you can improve your golf swing or maybe learn a new computer program ready for fall.

The Library
I know I mention libraries a lot but that’s because I think it’s a community’s best free resource. Either check out some DVDs, take the kids to story time or ask a librarian about free stuff in the neighborhood. For example, my local library has free passes for museums. They might also know about what museums have free admission days.

Concerts
Okay, they might not be concerts by headlining stars, but many park and recreation departments organize free concerts in the park for both kids and adults.

Having a Party?
A fun way to spend a day in the backyard is to throw a party, here is one of my favorite companies for party supplies www.orientaltrading.com

Visit the Tourist Office or Tourist Web Site
Most tourist offices know people are staying closer to home these days. I’ve noticed many are specifically promoting free or inexpensive things to do. Many have coupons too and if they don’t, it doesn’t hurt to ask. For example, I was sent information about Ohio tourism. They have lots of fun activities going on this summer including the 40th anniversary of Ohio native Neil Armstrong’s moon walk. Check out www.discoverohio.com

If You’re Hitting the Road
If we do go out and about, even for a day, one thing we do to save money is pack the cooler with foods and drinks so we don’t have to eat out. If we do head to a restaurant, we eat early. It’s less crowded and many restaurants offer the same meal for a couple of dollars less. Money you can either save or put toward dessert.

admin / June 17, 2009

Ways to Save Money on Organic Foods

I have to admit I’m a fan of organic foods, but as you know I also like to save money too. Here are some ways I’ve found to strike a happy balance between the two.

What’s Important to You?
What are some of your family’s favorite foods? What foods do you eat on a regular basis? If one particular food is on the top of the list, then maybe that’s the one you should think about buying in an organic version. Sticking with a food budget often means looking at what’s a priority for you. If eating more organic food is important, then rethink your budget. Maybe switch to a cheaper version of a non-food item and put the money you saved toward buying an organic product or two. (I do this by buying aluminum foil and plastic storage bags in the dollar aisle). Or maybe go with a vegetarian dish, something like organic vegetable curry rather than buying meat to make the same recipe.

Think Locally
The great news is farmers markets are open for business. They’re not only a great way to save money on summer’s bounty, but lots of organic farmers take their produce to markets. Another plus to shopping at a market is vendors will often give you a price break if you agree to buy all your produce from one farmer. Remember it never hurts to ask for a discount.

Search for Bargains
Just like everything else you buy, you have to do some homework and look for the bargains. Something I’ve discovered at my local supermarket is the organic section carries bagged produce by a company called Melissa’s. I’ve found it has some really competitive prices on things like organic kiwis and apples.

Check out the Warehouse Stores
More organic foods are finding their way into the warehouse stores. Three things I always buy there are organic milk, juice, and field greens because they have some of the most competitive prices. If you don’t have a membership, or the cost doesn’t fit into your budget, why not ask if any family, friends or co-workers are members. Ask to shop with them and perhaps buy them lunch in exchange for the favor.

Share the Cost with Friends and Neighbors
Lots of areas have nearby ‘pick your own produce’ farms. Many are organic, and a great way to spend a morning or afternoon is to head to one with some friends and stock up on things like organic strawberries or apples. And if you can’t eat everything within a week or so, turn them into jam or freeze some produce for winter dining.

Don’t just think Supermarket
Supermarkets aren’t the only places to buy organic foods these days. Spend an hour or so searching the Internet and you’ll sure to find lots of companies who sell organic and natural foods. Oftentimes these companies don’t have storefronts, just warehouses, so they can pass along their savings to you.
Another plus is they will often sell items by the caseload. Things like frozen burgers, vegetables, and canned soups. Buying by the caseload often qualifies you to purchase the product at wholesale prices, which is another way to save some money. And once again if you don’t think you can use that amount of food, or can’t fit it into your budget, why not start a buyer’s club with some neighbors or friends.

Trader Joe’s
Another store you might want to check out is Trader Joe’s. I’ve found some of the best prices on organic foods at their stores. Items like juice, peanut butter etc.

Supermarket Brands
Check out your supermarket’s own brand. With the increasing interest in organic foods I’m seeing more stores selling their own brand of organic produce.

Grow Your Own
One of the cheapest ways of getting organic produce is to grow it yourself. Most stores sell organic seeds now but if you have trouble finding them check out these two sites www.seedsofchange.com www.gardensalive.com.

Don’t Let It Go to Waste
Organic fruits and vegetables spoil a lot quicker than regular produce, so don’t buy more than you can eat within a couple of days or so. And finally organic or not, remember to wash your produce, even if it claims to be pre-washed. It’s not just pesticides that can make you sick.

admin / June 15, 2009

The Blog-More Than One Use

I spent most of the weekend in the yard putting the finishing touches to the new flowerbed I created earlier this year. It was time to buy some mulch so I headed to Home Depot. They have a Cyprus mulch that is just $2.75 a bag that covers 2 cubic feet and this stuff is great for the money. It’s better than wood chips, the color is great and it goes a long way. I bought a dozen bags thinking it would just be enough for all the areas I wanted to fill and ended up with two bags more than I needed. They didn’t go to waste because I used them on another area that always plagued by weeds.

Outside work has been taking up most of my time, but we’ve had a couple of rainy days. A project I began a few weekends ago was to get the pantry more organized. I’m always looking for ways to give leftover containers and bottles a second use. Here’s a photo of the Kraft mayonnaise containers I’m now using for storing thinks like noodles and breadcrumbs. A good way to save money and keep things from the landfills too.

photos for budget food blog 048

What’s on Budget Smart Girl this week? I’ve been hearing conflicting reports that organic food sales are down because of the economy and others have said people don’t care about the price because they just want pesticide free food. Either way, it’s good to buy great foods at the best prices so I’ll share with you my tips for buying organic foods on a budget. Also, June 21st is the first day of summer and that means looking for fun and yes, this year, cheap things to do. I’ll let you know what I found.

Have a good week.

admin / June 11, 2009

Sites Worth Checking Out

Here once again is a list of sites I’ve stumbled upon or had e-mailed to me. Hope you find something of interest and a way to save more money.

Help the Environment…find some recipes
A link to this site arrived in my mailbox this week. Even if you’re not interested in green issues, it’s worth checking out for its tips on gardening, especially growing your own foods. Plus, it has some recipes too. Click on the learn tab. www.climatecrossroads.org

Organic and Green Products
Seems like finding a coupon or discount for an organic or green product is next to impossible, but I stumbled upon this site www.sustainlane.com/green-saver-discount-coupons/

Need Gardening Help?
Remember I told you about the Home Depot garden newsletter? Seems there’s a gardening club you can join for free. Sign up and then ask experts about gardening problems or get instructions for DIY projects. www.homedepotgardenclub.com

A Budget Smart Girl Friendly Site
Here’s another site I found that’s definitely worth checking out www.nickels-n-dimes.com

Inexpensive Body Care Products
If you’re looking for some inexpensive scrubs, soaps etc. or looking for the perfect gift, this site has some good prices and some interesting merchandise www.dionissoap.com

Looking for A Great Place to Live?
Seems we’re not moving homes as often as we once did, but if you’re looking for a nice place to live that’s budget friendly, U.S News put together this list www.tinyurl.com/kvbj4d

If You’re Not a Computer Geek
I have to admit, what I know about computers would fit on one page. And if you’re like me and have to ask others for help, check out this site www.howtogeek.com

Selling Items Online
If you already do or thinking about selling unwanted items on line, first of all check out a site called www.auctionbytes.com It keeps you up to date on what’s going on in the online auction and selling business. You can sign up to receive their daily updates. Recently they had a link to this interesting article www.auctionbytes.com/cab/abn/y09/m06/i02/s03 If you’re thinking about starting your own business a company called Alibaba is giving away $100,000 in grants to US entrepreneurs.

Selling, Buying?
Are you selling items or maybe looking for bargains in your neighborhood, I found this site that might be a great resource for doing just that www.tagsellit.com

Background Music
I love listening to music while I’m writing. Sometimes I get bored with my CD collection and oftentimes I like checking out music before I buy it. Here are two sites where you can sign up to listen to music for free www.pandora.com and www.jango.com

Prizes
I’ve never won anything big like a car or a house, but over the years I’ve netted a sound system, a jewelry shopping spree and a body care gift set. Check out www.sweepstakestoday.com. They list current and upcoming sweepstakes.

Moving?
If you’re moving this summer or have a teen who’s heading to a college later this year, here’s a site I just found out about www.usedcardboardboxes.com

admin / June 8, 2009

The Blog-Use the Internet for Big Savings

The other day I was sorting through some old cookbooks and out fell a recipe I’d clipped for Split Pea Tortellini Soup. It contains all dried ingredients that you can store in a jar and make the soup when you feel like it. So why had I clipped it and not tried it yet? One of the ingredients is dried carrots and I had trouble finding them at the store. I’ve been in the mood for putting together ready-made meals and this recipe just looks too good to pass on so I did some searching online. I not only found companies selling dried carrots but lots of other goodies that are perfect for the pantry. Here are three I found that you might want to check out-
http://store.honeyvillegrain.com/freezedriedvegetables.aspx
www.justtomatoes.com/
And this one sells lots of dried foods for hiking and camping but also has dried vegetables you could use in recipes at home www.wildernessdining.com

And speaking of searching for items on the Internet. About three years ago we had our old pond taken out and a new one build with a waterfall. The new one is made of concrete and needless to say we’ve never been able to use it because it’s had constant leaks. This year I was determined to get the thing in working order. I called in one company to see if they could fix it but the cost was out of our budget. So being the Budget Smart Girl that I am, I decided I’d try and fix it myself. I decided we’d have to lose the look of the natural rocks and cover it with a liner and then place a few rocks on top. I went shopping online and found some good resources if you do any water gardening. I just ordered a pond and stream liner from a company in Maryland called Webbs www.webbsonline.com. They had the best prices of any place I checked out. And the rocks I’m using are free! While I’ve been digging in the yard, I’ve kept all the bigger rocks I’ve been finding. Something that’s not hard to do in my back yard.

So tip of the week, if you’re looking for something you can’t find at the store, or want to make sure you’re getting the best price, you can’t beat the Internet.

This week on Budget Smart Girl- It’s summertime, the kids are out of school and they’re hungry, some tips for finding good for them and good for your wallet snacks and meals. And this month’s round up of sites, resources and bits and pieces I’ve found that can help save money.

Have a good week.

admin / June 4, 2009

Cooking Quick Tips, Shortcuts, and Tricks

‘If I only had more time or another pair of hands’. Most of us mumble those words at some time or another. When you’re desperate to get dinner on the table, the temptation to head to the nearest restaurant can be overwhelming. But don’t panic, here are cooking shortcuts I use when time isn’t on my side.

Boiling Water
You know the old saying about watching milk boil, seems water’s no different. When I’m short on time, pasta usually comes to the rescue. However, waiting for a large pot of water to boil sometimes slows things down. I know the guideline is that water for pasta should be as salty as the Mediterranean Sea, but one cooking instructor told me that salted water takes longer to boil. I tried leaving out the salt and she was right. So now I add the salt after the water has reached a rolling boil. And here’s another shortcut. I boil the water ahead of time using an electric kettle and add it to the pan.

Smelly Foods
Okay, so the cooks on TV make it look so quick and easy to peel and chop garlic. Slam your fist down on the clove and chop away. I love using garlic in recipes, but hate the lingering smell on my hands. I found the perfect solution…jars of chopped garlic. It’s also great for adding to butter or margarine to make your own garlic bread.

Cooking Vegetables
If I’m boiling or steaming vegetables and I’m in a hurry, I usually cut or dice them into smaller than usual size pieces. Make sure they’re all about the same size so you don’t have to wait for just one piece of vegetable to cook. I do the very same thing when I’m throwing together a quick soup or casserole containing veggies, especially root vegetables. If I’m roasting them, I usually parboil them first. Just long enough that when you put a knife into the vegetable it pierces about a quarter inch of its outer layer.

Melting Butter or Chocolate
I did buy a double boiler for jobs like this, but find I use the microwave more often. Just watch things carefully though. Don’t cook them too long or you’ll end up with a separated or curdled mess.

Don’t Try Anything New
When time is short I always rely on recipes I’ve made so many times before I could probably prepare them in my sleep.

Collect Everything You’ll Need
Gather up every single ingredient and cooking utensil, pan etc. you’ll need before you start to cook. No more running back and forth to the pantry, fridge, etc.

The Right Equipment
Always make sure you’re using the right size pans or dishes for the recipe and sharpen your knives once in awhile. There’s nothing more annoying than a blunt blade when you’re chopping lots of foods.

Speedy Clean Ups
I always line hard to clean pans with aluminum foil and use a vegetable cooking spray for things like lasagna or when I’m roasting vegetables that I want to caramelize.

Put Away The Blender
I have lots of soup recipes that require you to puree the soup once it’s cooked. A couple of years ago I invested in an immersion blender. No more cleaning hard to reach blender blades.

Those Tough Vegetables
After cutting my fingers a couple of times, I now microwave tough skinned vegetables like squash before I peel and chop them. I piece the skin a couple of times with a fork and then microwave them anyway from 30 seconds to a minute, depending on the size and variety of the squash. Press the skin and if it yields just slightly, it’s ready for chopping.

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