admin / September 14, 2009

The Blog-The Library Has It All

I’m back to my regular reading schedule so last week I stopped by the library. You know it’s one of my favorite spots not only for books and DVDs, but if your library is anything like my local one, it has classes and resources that show you how to save money.

I picked up the fall events and classes brochure and found a ton of good stuff. Lots of libraries in the area are offering free gardening classes and best of all some now have free courses called Money Matters, everything from couponing 101 to getting by in tough times. Another thing I discovered from the brochure was that beginning October 3rd you can borrow something called a Power Check meter which helps you identify high energy appliances. You check them out just like books and they come complete with a home energy assessment worksheet.

Seems like more manufacturers are offering coupons for their products…which is great news for us. I’m even finding more inside packages of things like pizzas. Some are even printed on the inside of the box, so be sure to check before you toss it out. Here’s some I found on line
www.tryv8.com
www.healthychoice.com/news-special-offers/
www.dannonomics.com
www.kashi.com, click on free cereal

I ‘cashed’ in some points I’d earned through our local recycling program. One was a dollar coupon for cream cheese. I know that always goes on sale close to the holidays so I’m guessing with the coupon it will probably be free. I also got a coupon for a free bottle of Seventh Generation dishwashing liquid. I usually buy it when it’s on sale and it’s one of the best cleaners around. I also cashed in points for $5 off a gourmet pizza for a new franchise that opened in the area.

This week on Budget Smart Girl-Cheap foods that are good for you and ideas for quick and easy meals.

Have a good week.

admin / September 11, 2009

September is National Coupon Month

September is National Coupon Month so what better time to use these little slips of paper to help stretch your food dollar. Here are some ideas and hints on finding coupons, and how to use them for maximum benefit.

Newspapers and Magazines
I get about 50% of my coupons from the Sunday newspaper. If you’re looking for coupons for food items, it can’t be beat. Magazines, especially women’s magazines, are another good source. And if you want to buy items like natural and organic foods, try picking up a copy of Delicious Living. My local co-op has free copies at the information desk and every issue has at least two coupons I can use. The best part is they often have a face value of $1, which is great news when it’s double coupon day at my local supermarket.

And Speaking of…Your local supermarket is also a good source of coupons. Look out for those little red machines that are attached to the shelves along each aisle. They usually have a flashing red light so you can’t miss them. And if your store has a double coupon day, these can be a goldmine. And don’t forget lots of stores produce their own coupons. If you don’t receive a newspaper containing a flyer, make sure you check the one at the store before you head down the aisles.

New to the Stores
If you see a product that’s brand new, there’s a good chance the company who makes it will be giving away free coupons and samples to introduce it. Check their Web site.

Just How Much am I Saving?
I’m guessing these days people who never shopped with coupons don’t read the newspaper without keeping a pair of scissors by their side. If you’re still not convinced just how much you can save think about this. If it’s only $10 a month, that’s $120 a year…money that could be pay another bill or even money you could add to a mortgage payment. Believe me; using coupons isn’t a waste of time.

Coupon Swap Groups
If you really need more coupons and have no way of finding them, why not start a coupon-swapping group. You could put a notice up at day care centers, the supermarket notice board, or even the local coffee shop. Get a group of people together and meet once a month to swap coupons. Let others know what you’re looking for, and even swap money saving tips and recipes.

Straight to the Source
Before I head to a store, I not only check their flyer, but their Web site too. Sometimes that has special coupons that are only available online.

Hot Coupon World
If you haven’t already visited www.hotcouponworld.com Do it today and sign up for their newsletter that arrives in your e-mail box twice a week alerting you to deals and links to lots of great coupons. These days I find at least 50% of my coupons through this site.

All You
You might remember me telling you that during a recent trip to Walmart I bought a copy of a magazine called All You. It’s not only a great read but a goldmine for coupon hunters like myself. www.allyou.com
And speaking of Hot Coupon World, one of the links this week was to Amazon.com. Currently they’re offering a two year subscription to All You for $29 (after cart coupon).

Flattery Gets You…coupons
We all like to receive a pat on the back from time to time. And being nice to companies and manufacturers can sometimes reap you rewards in the form of coupons. If you’re pleased with a product, let the company know. And check if they have a loyalty program or newsletter so you can receive e-mail alerts about specials and coupons.

And Remember…
Don’t let your coupons just sit there. At the beginning of each month, pull out the ones that expire in the next 30 days and work out your week’s menu with the coupon items in mind.

admin / September 11, 2009

Soup, a Great Budget Meal

I can’t think of a better comfort food than a bowl of homemade soup. Whether you’ve been raking leaves or feeling under the weather, there’s nothing quite like a hearty soup waiting for you on the kitchen table. But most of all, I love soup because it’s one of the best bargains out there.

Ingredients are Inexpensive and Plentiful
Eat with the seasons and most of the ingredients that go to make soup are usually not that expensive…vegetables and cheaper cuts of meat that tenderize during this slow cooking process.

Fiber Feels You Up
Thicker soups like split pea or lentil contain lots of fiber that fill you up quickly. Sometimes they don’t even need meat or chicken added to them to make a hearty meal. Fiber also keeps away the hunger pains and the urge to snack.

Just Like a Gourmet Meal
Soups containing dairy products add a satisfying richness that tricks us into thinking we’ve eaten an elaborate meal.

A Meal In Itself
Serve a soup containing a protein and some vegetables, add some great crusty bread, and you’ve got yourself one of the least expensive meals you can put together.

Make Now, Enjoy Later
Soup is also a great item to make in large batches and freeze. Sometime this month I’m going to make double batches of curried cream of vegetable and baked potato soups. Half will be used for lunchtime meals, the other half, stored in the freezer for fall and winter eating.

It’s Better The Next Day Anyway
And never be worried about leftover soup. In fact, ask any top chef and he or she will tell you that all soups should ideally be eaten the day after they’re made. There’s a local restaurant where I live that proudly states on its menu that all soups were made the previous day.

Leftover Veggies
If you have leftover vegetables you’re not quite sure what to do with, make some soup.

Make Your Own Stock
And if you’re thinking about making a stock for the soup, try saving up all your veggie peelings, and boiling them together. Some people also sauté the scraps and add the water after. It does give you a more flavorful stock, but if you’re watching your fat intake, the boiling method works just as well. You can either use the stock straight away or freeze it. You can also make soup from leftover meat bones and don’t forget to add ham bones to soups like navy bean and split pea. Some supermarkets sell them for less than a dollar; some will even give them to you for free.

Tips I’ve Learned Along the Way
Here are couple of tips I’ve picked up over the years to keep some of the fat content down while still get a really rich soup. Always cook the vegetables in the right order, sauté the onions first, then the root vegetables, then the ones that tend to cook quickly like zucchini. If you find you have to add more oil when you sauté the veggies, try adding some water or even stock. To get a creamy soup without adding cream, take out some of the soup, put it in a blender and then add it back to the pot. If a recipe calls for cream or half and half, I use about only 25% of the amount the recipe calls for and make up the difference with low fat milk.

Two Soup Recipes
Here’s a soup I usually make when corn is still cheap and abundant. You can freeze it but the contents seem to separate out so I recommend passing on the freezing and enjoying it the week you make it.

Spanish Corn Chowder
(Serves 6)
Ingredients
I cup chopped onions
3 tablespoons oil
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 ½ cup chopped tomatoes
2 cups chopped potatoes
1 chopped green or red pepper
2 cups water
2 ½ cups corn, fresh, (frozen or canned work too)
1 cup milk
½ cup grated cheese

Preparation

1.In a medium size saucepan, heat oil, add onions and cook until translucent, add potatoes, and then green/red pepper. Add water and simmer until potatoes are tender.
2.Stir in corn and tomatoes.
3.Stir in milk being careful not to overheat the mixture.
4.Stir in cheese until it’s melted.

And as there’s a hint of fall in the air…yes, the leaves are already turning where I live, pumpkin season must be arriving soon. Here’s a recipe from The Spice Hunter. They also have a recipe for pumpkin spread I’ll be testing and I’ll share the recipe and a photo with you in this month’s newsletter.

Pumpkin Soup

Ingredients

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter or margarine
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 can (14 1/2 fl. oz.) chicken broth
1/2 cup water
1/2 tsp salt
1-15 oz. can Pumpkin
1 1/2 cups half-and-half
1/2 tsp Spice Hunter Pumpkin Pie Spice
cayenne to taste

Preparation
Melt butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic, cook for 1 to 2 minutes or until soft. Add broth, water, salt and pepper; bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to low; cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes. Stir in pumpkin, half-and-half and spices. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

Transfer mixture to food processor or blender (in batches, if necessary); process until smooth. Return to the saucepan. Serve warm.

admin / September 3, 2009

Save Time and Money on Breakfast

It’s a new school year and what better time to rethink breakfast. Studies have shown that people who eat a good breakfast tend to weigh less, less likely to snack during the day, and children do better in school. Breakfast doesn’t have to cost a lot and it doesn’t take that long to prepare.
Here are some of my ideas for saving time and money on breakfast.

Think Ahead
Most of us are great about getting the lunch box ready the night before, but then forget about breakfast. Take some time the night before to get a head start. Most fast food restaurants sell breakfast muffins and biscuits. Okay, they won’t break the bank but why buy one when you can make it at home. Buy a package of English muffins or make up a batch of biscuits at the weekend. The night before scramble some eggs, cook some bacon or sausage and all you have to do the next day is assemble them. You can even wrap them and take them to work or school.

Smoothies
Sometimes I don’t feel like eating when I get up and I look for something light and easy to make. My first pick is a smoothie. One of my favorites is chocolate soy milk, a banana and some PB.

Who Said Dinner Can’t Be Breakfast?
Most of us think cereal and/or bacon and eggs when we hear the word breakfast. But a couple of things you can make the night before and reheat are pizza and quesadilla. Scrambled eggs, chopped bacon, sausage, even some chopped tomatoes and cheese.

Leftovers Are Good
And I’m always thinking of ways to use leftovers. I’ve made everything from burritos using leftover beans and pairing them with scrambled eggs. To leftover veggies added to an omelet.

Oatmeal
Yes, my family laughs about my love of oatmeal, but it’s good for you, budget friendly and it’s easy to make. I buy the old fashioned oatmeal in canisters and microwave it…it doesn’t take more than 3-5 minutes and then add milk, and honey and sometimes dried fruits.

Breakfast on the Run
And if you are in a hurry to get out of the door, try an energy bar or even something like the Nature Valley Granola Nut Clusters I got to sample last month. One thing I liked about them was they’re easy to add to a lunch box or for a breakfast on the go. Even if you can’t eat them in one shot, there’s no waste.

Recipes to Check out
And here are some sites I found with lots of breakfast recipes to check out-
www.recipesource.com/main-dishes/breakfast/

www.breakfast-recipes.com. I’m definitely going to try some of these recipes. I think they’d make some great lunch and dinner meals too.

www.bbonline.com/recipe/casseroles-breakfast.html A site listing recipes submitted from Bed and Breakfast inns from around the country. A little bit more extravagant when it comes to time and money, but an ideal way to treat yourself to a leisurely Sunday brunch or even breakfast in bed.

admin / September 3, 2009

Learn a New Skill or Hobby This Fall

I can’t believe it’s almost Labor Day. Although a few nights of chilly weather has made me think about fall and winter and what I’m going to do when the gardening season is over. For me, it’s the perfect time to learn a new skill. Firstly, you can learn to do something that could save you money at a later date. And two, you could make something and turn your hobby into another stream of income. Having said that, you don’t want to invest a ton of time and money into pursuing something you hate…and okay, find out you’re hopeless at it. So here are some sites I’ve found offering free classes, free patterns, and low cost supplies on everything from art to knitting.

Cheap Joes
I keep saying I’m going to take an art class but I never get around to it. For the budding artist in you, check out www.cheapjoes.com. Their tagline says Make More Art, Spend Less Money…I like the sound of that!

The King of Crafts
I stumbled upon this site www.craftking.com that seems to sell supplies for any craft. Prices look okay too.

Fiber Arts
If fiber arts are more your thing, you’ll want to visit www.dharmatrading.com.

Can’t Decide
And if you don’t know what you’d like to pursue, visit www.discoverahobby.com which has everything from dancing to investing.

Crafts and More
And I found this one with lots of good stuff www.craftsetc.com

Handbags
I’ve made a couple of homemade bags and this site has some free patterns www.ghees.com

Need More Instruction
If you want to buy some books or DVDs, yes try the library but also check out www.ctpub.com

Two I’ve Mentioned Before
And if you missed the following two sites last time I mentioned them, there’s www.favecrafts.com and www.dollarstorecrafts.com

Want To Try Selling?
And should you find you want to sell some of these arts and crafts, two sites to do just that are www.etsy.com and check out www.indiecraftshows.com

Learn More Skills
Check out www.selfmadescholar.com and also www.ed2go.com they have some great classes that are tied in with community education programs.

Check out the new Budget Smart Girl Store Dismiss