admin / December 28, 2009

The Blog-A Grocery Bill to make a Budget Smart Girl Smile

Hope you had a wonderful Christmas and got everything on your wish list.

My last grocery shopping trip of the year was a great one. It was not only double coupon day but I had two $10 gift cards I earned from the store. Plus, my husband was given a $20 Butterball turkey gift certificate at work. All this meant that I left the store with a turkey and four bags of groceries….in fact, just about everything for the holiday meal including drinks, appetizer, bread etc. for just $9.87. And I earned $1 off per gallon of gas next time I fill up the car. Only wish I could do that every week!

Look out for lots of sales and discounts this week. I bought some marked down Christmas wrapping paper for future craft projects. Many food items are also still on sale.

Budget Smart Girl will be back to its regular schedule next week. However, here’s a preview of what’s in store for 2010. Lots of expert guests will be stopping by giving us tips and advice on ways to save more money. I’ll be chatting with the folks at RedPlum, also a teacher will share with you his tips for making ends meet. A new feature will be ways to make more money or earn a second income. Entrepreneurs will share their stories with us and show us how to get started. And I’m going to follow one of my dreams. I’m going to write a cookbook (yes, it’s a budget related one). I’ll be testing recipes and sharing them with you. I’ll give you a link to where you can follow along with me as I put the book together and share photos of the dishes. Finally, this is just in the preliminary stages right now but chances are good that in the fall, I’ll be launching Budget Smart Girl as an Internet radio show.

I thank you all for your holiday wishes and for being part of the Budget Smart Girl community. If there’s anything you’d like to see featured or have a budget related question, feel free to e-mail me.

Here’s wishing you a very Happy New Year.

admin / December 21, 2009

Six Desperation But Yet Budget Friendly Last Minute Gift Ideas

Still not sure what to get one or two people on your list? Running out of money? Or has someone unexpectedly given you a gift so now you feel obligated to buy them something too? Just a few days left but don’t despair. Here are my six favorite ideas.

Coupons
More people are finding it hard to make ends meet. These days I’m seeing just about everyone in the supermarket holding coupons as they peruse the aisles. If you’re in a bind, buy a coupon wallet and add some coupons from your own supply. Even download some from the Internet. It’s an idea gift for an elderly neighbor or someone who’s out of work and needs to stretch their budget.

Books
I always head to the bookstore when I need a gift that looks expensive but isn’t. Places like Barnes and Noble and Borders have at least a couple of aisles full of books that are deeply discounted. Some are fiction; some are illustrated books on topics like cooking and gardening. They even have aisles packed with children’s books, some as low as $1.

Magazine Subscription
Here’s another gift idea that’s come to my rescue at the last minute, a magazine subscription. Buy the current copy and wrap that along with a card saying a year subscription is on its way. Best thing is most magazines have cards placed inside with discount offers for subscribers. An added bonus, it’s the gift that arrives every month of the year.

Coffee or Tea
Check the supermarket shelves and you’ll find holiday flavored teas and coffees at bargain prices. The other year I found eggnog flavored teabags that tasted a lot more expensive than their $1.99 price tag. Great for drinking yourself or for keeping on the shelf just in case someone stops by with a gift for you.

Chocolates
One other thing that seems to go on sale and is often marked down drastically a few days before Christmas is chocolate. I’m seeing most stores offering boxes of chocolates, buy one get one free. Most are in the $5-7.99 price range, making this another bargain buy.

Gift Certificates
Many stores and businesses are offering added bonuses when you purchase gift cards. For example, buy a $25 gift card and get a $5 gift card free. One option is to keep the larger amount gift card for yourself and give away the $5 gift card or vice versa. Either way it’s an added bonus and a quick gift.
And if you’re really in a bind, time and money wise, you can always make your own. Maybe one week of dog walking services, I’ll make dinner one night, I’ll wash your car…Best thing is you can match them to the recipient’s needs.

admin / December 21, 2009

The Blog-Last Minute Shopping

Hope you’re all done with your holiday shopping and that you found some great bargains. I saw a commercial for Walgreens the other night where they were advertising stocking stuffer ideas. Seems like the stores have a separate display of suggested items. I checked their Web site but couldn’t find any further information but if you’re looking for last minute gifts it might be worth a trip there.

I decided to stock the freezer and pantry while everything’s on sale. Don’t think I can get another item in the chest freezer right now. I got some good deals on shrimp, salmon, frozen vegetables, bottles of sparkling fruit juice. I even stocked up on flour and cream cheese. I also decided to buy extra to qualify for another $10 gift card. That means this week I get a $20 gift card to use towards groceries.

Be sure to check out the ‘after the holiday sales’ this coming weekend. I have a feeling the discounts will once again be deep and in our favor.

As this is a short holiday week, there will just be one article…desperation yet budget friendly last minute gifts. Next week I’ll be taking a short break. I will post the Monday blog but the normal schedule will be back the week of January 4th.

Hope you all have a wonderful Christmas.

admin / December 17, 2009

Reasons for the Budget Smart Cook to Love Christmas

There’s so much to love about the holidays. Being with family and friends, the food, creating memories, and okay, the gifts too. But the budget smart cook has some other reasons to celebrate this season.

Sales During the Holidays
Have you noticed how many food items are on sale between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day? Being a budget minded cook, I really look forward to receiving fliers from all my local stores this time of the year. If I’ve been a bit lazy about planning ahead or organizing the pantry, seeing all the items I can buy gets me back on track. December is the perfect time, and if your budget allows it, to stock up on extra items. Things like cans of vegetables, cranberry sauce, pumpkin. And don’t forget items like flour can also be stored in the fridge or freezer. My local store is selling its brand name cheese for just 88 cents this week. I don’t always like the texture of cheese when it’s taken out of the freezer, but adding it to things like sauces and soups is a perfect way to use it.

Sales After the Holidays
Sales don’t only happen during the holidays. You can find some great deals long after the last Christmas decoration is taken down. And don’t just think food items. Christmas canisters and bags are perfect to put aside ready for next year’s holiday food gifts. I often see gift packages with things like dried fruits and nuts, sometimes 50-75% off during the first week of January. I don’t buy them to give as gifts, but use them myself during the next couple of months. They usually end up being cheaper than buying these items in bulk. Plus, I also get a container or basket to use for gifts next year.

Leftovers
Holiday dinners and parties often result in lots of leftover food. Some can be made into new meals, but other things like appetizers can also be frozen and pulled out for a quick lunch or snack during the New Year.
Making Resolutions
Whether it’s making a resolution to eat more healthful foods, or trimming your budget, the holidays are a great time to think about your goals for the coming year.

Making Extra
While you’re cooking for a crowd it doesn’t take much more effort or money to put together extra servings. Sometimes I’ll cook extra mashed potatoes and put them in my food saver bags. Sometimes it’s extra stuffing that I’ll freeze. And around this time of the year I’ll put together complete meal kits, potatoes, veggies, and chicken that I put on a plate that’s suitable for the freezer and once again seal them using my food saver machine.

Food of the Season
Do you have a favorite food that’s only available during the holiday season? For me that’s cranberries and sweet potatoes. If you want to use these types of food in a recipe in say July, first of all good luck trying to find them, and secondly, if you do, they cost twice as much. I always buy at least five bags of cranberries during the holidays and keep them in the freezer. I also cook and mash sweet potatoes, put them in storage bags and load them in the freezer too. Sometimes it’s just a nice change of pace to pull them out in the middle of summer and think back to the holidays.

admin / December 11, 2009

Parties for the Budget Minded

Being on a budget shouldn’t stop you from entertaining this holiday season. With a little planning and ingenuity you can throw a great together. Here are things I always keep in mind-

Serve Food You Can Eat Later
Okay, I’m guilty of this one, making too much food and ending up with leftovers. Not just any leftovers, but sometimes food that I can’t ‘recycle’. I know I’m never going to shake this habit so now I plan ahead. What could I serve that could be used for other meals after the party’s over? Cold cuts and things like baked chicken could be turned into sandwiches or even fillings for omelets.
How about the vegetable platter with the leftover carrots or celery, etc.? They can be added to soups, salads, even roasted, or turned into veggie stock, frozen and used in the New Year.
Leftover dips make ideal substitutes for things like butter and mayonnaise. And leftover chips and bread can be put into the blender to make homemade breadcrumbs. And if you’ve got flavored chips they make a tasty topping for casseroles and baked pasta dishes.

What’s On Sale? What Does Double Duty?
One of the best things about the holiday season is supermarkets slash prices on lots of things from crackers and chips to more expensive items like shrimp. Even things like fresh pineapple that you don’t usually think of as party food is on sale. My local store was selling them for $2.55. They work as a centerpiece and you can eat them after the festivities are over. Pick up the store flyer or go to their Web site and check out the specials of the week. Plan you menu around those items and save yourself some money.

Buy in Bulk
One way to save money is to serve a buffet. Something else that usually goes on sale in December is value packs of items like chicken wings, meatballs. All foods that can fill a buffet table for a lot less.

The Pasta Party
Just about every guest asks what he or she can bring along to a party? This idea takes care of your response and also takes a lot of pressure off you. Ask each guest to bring along his or her favorite pasta sauce. You supply three or four different pastas, a salad and bread and each guest arrives with the ready-made sauce.

A Recipe Swap Party
And speaking of homemade recipes, you’ve heard of cookie swap parties during the holidays, how about throwing a recipe swap one? Each person arrives with a homemade dish along with copies of the recipe. Everyone gets to take home leftovers and recipes for their favorites of the evening.

admin / December 7, 2009

The Blog-Couldn’t Resist This One

If you follow me on Twitter you know where I headed on Friday morning. Yes, the local library ‘end of year’ book sale. It was a cold morning which kept a lot of folks away which meant browsing with ease. I stocked up on paperbacks…some were brand new. And yes, I couldn’t resist the odd cookbook or two. One was on canning so I figured it would save me money in the long run.

I just finished reading the latest issue of All You magazine. One of the features was the winners of their Grocery Challenge. (Spend no more than $25 per family member per week for four weeks on groceries). Some great ideas and they’re running the contest again in the spring. If you’re up to the challenge check All You in the coming months.

Another magazine I love to read is Woman’s World, lots of great recipes and tips. And here’s some shameless self promotion, pick up the December 12th issue and you can read a mystery story written by yours truly.

Remember the Eco Bags from the first gift guide? They’d like to offer you a 20% off coupon for all your purchases at www.ecobags.com (Enter code FF09 at checkout)

And here’s yet another gift idea, The Joy of Green Cleaning by Leslie Reichert www.thejoyofgreencleaning.com It’s full of green cleaning recipes you can make at home. Leslie will be sharing some of her money saving cleaning tips with us in the New Year.

And finally, Marlene who’s a BSG reader in Canada is venturing into a new job as a coupon converter. She’d like to hear from other Canadian readers who have food coupons they’re not using. She’s looking for coupons for items such as Betty Crocker products, Bisquick, Jet Dry Rinse, Campbells soups etc. Contact Marlene directly at goldenopportunity@yahoo.ca for more details.

This week on Budget Smart Girl…only a few more weeks left until Christmas, so it’s time for the annual stocking stuffer gift guide, lots of good stuff this year. And as requested by many, more ideas for budget friendly parties.

Have a good week.

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