How to Save

Frugal Alternatives to Mother’s Day Dinner

Posted on Wednesday, April 30th, 2014 at 7:00 am
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BarbecueMany families celebrate Mother’s Day by taking mom out to dinner. This means that the restaurants will be packed during the weekend that Mother’s Day is in. Want a less stressful, more frugal, alternative to Mother’s Day dinner? Try some of these lovely and non-traditional ideas. You may find one that your mother will just love!

Backyard Barbecue
You won’t have to worry about getting a reservation for dinner if you celebrate Mother’s Day in your own backyard! The entire family can come over and celebrate with mom at the same time. Split the cost of food and drink by having everyone bring a dish to pass.

One of the best things about this alternative to a traditional Mother’s Day dinner is that you won’t have to spend it in a crowded, loud, restaurant that is filled with strangers. Another good thing is that it enables family members to fit the event into their own Mother’s Day schedule. Young children that are unable to sit through a dinner at a restaurant can easily run around the yard after they get done eating.

Visit a Botanical Garden
Instead of bringing some flowers to your mom, take your mom to where all the flowers are at! Botanical gardens are great places to visit with mothers who love flowers (and do not suffer from allergies to pollen). Relax by taking a leisurely stroll through the nearest botanical garden together. Best of all, most botanical gardens are free!

Spend Time in a Bookstore
Is your mother an avid reader? Spend a few hours with her at her favorite book store. The two of you can suggest books to each other, share opinions about new books, and have a relaxing time together.

Pick a book store that has a coffee shop, and you and your mother can sit down, have some coffee (and maybe a pastry) and people watch for a while. If you want to give your mom a tangible gift, have her pick out a few books for herself and buy them for her.

Enjoy the Aquarium
Is there a large aquarium in the town or city you live in? Bring your mother there and enjoy it together. Aquariums are indoors, air conditioned, and generally have some places where you can sit and watch the fish. It can be very calming. The aquarium is also a great place to bring children (or grandchildren). Some aquariums will have a day where people can visit it for free. That would make this Mother’s Day celebration very frugal!

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Fabulous and Frugal Mother’s Day Gifts

Posted on Monday, April 28th, 2014 at 7:00 am
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Chocolate Chip CookieWhat does your mother want for a Mother’s Day gift? Flowers and candy are nice, and many mothers will enjoy them. However, you could make her feel really special by giving her a gift that comes from the heart, was handmade, or evokes a memory. Here are some ideas for fabulous and frugal Mother’s Day gifts.

Bake Some Cookies
Who doesn’t love a plate of warm, freshly baked, chocolate chip cookies? Giving this sweet treat as a Mother’s Day gift will bring back memories from when you were little and “helped” your mother make cookies. Bring over the cookies, and your mom will probably want to share them with you. This gives you the opportunity to sit down, have some coffee, eat the cookies, and talk.

Homemade Mother’s Day Card
Anyone can pick up a Mother’s Day card at the store, stuff it into an envelope, and mail it off! It talks very little effort. Show you mom how much you love her by making a homemade Mother’s Day card. It will be a one of a kind!

All you need is a little bit of creativity and whatever art supplies are at hand. Your mom is going to love your artwork, even if it isn’t exactly “professional quality”. The homemade Mother’s Day card is an excellent idea for a gift to moms who have young children. Have the kids make cards while their mother is at work or running errands.

Have a Video Chat
Does your mother live far away from you? Set aside some time during Mother’s Day weekend to have a video chat with her. Use Skype, FaceTime, or another program that basically lets you make a “video phone call”. You might not be able to afford to travel to where your mother lives. However, it doesn’t cost anything to get online and hang out “virtually”. If your mom isn’t tech-savvy, then try a “regular” phone call instead. She will appreciate the time you spend talking with her.

Crochet a Blanket
This is an easy gift for people who know how to crochet or knit. Who taught you that skill? Chances are, it was your mother. Making a blanket for your mother shows that you are thinking of her. It also provides a concrete example that you really do listen to what she has taught you! Pick some yarn that is your mother’s favorite color (or favorite brand). This lovely Mother’s Day gift will warm her heart (and the rest of her, too)!

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Ways to Use Up Leftovers

Posted on Friday, April 25th, 2014 at 7:00 am
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Crock Pot CookingHow long have those leftovers been in your refrigerator? We store leftover food with the best of intentions. Often, those intentions are not followed through on and we end up throwing away food that has gone bad. That’s a waste of money! Here are some ways to use up your leftovers.

Turn them Into Compost
Certain kinds of leftovers can easily be turned into compost. You can safely toss vegetable waste, fruit scraps, and coffee grounds into your compost bin. This means that the can of black beans that you haven’t finished, and the corn from last night’s dinner, can be composted. Eventually, those leftovers will become fertilizer for your garden.

Freeze Individual Portions
A casserole, or a crockpot full of soup, might be more food than your family can finish off in one night. If you put the leftovers into the refrigerator, they may go bad before someone eats them. A better way to prevent food waste is to freeze individual portions that can be reheated.

This is going to involve some planning ahead. Make a casserole that isn’t for tonight’s dinner. Let it cool. Cut it into individual portions that can fit into sealable freezer bags. Each individual portion can easily be thawed and re-heated later on in the week. Freezing food makes it last longer than if you just put it into the refrigerator.

Plan Meals Ahead of Time
It becomes a lot easier to use up leftovers if you know exactly what you will use them for. The rotisserie chicken you had for dinner still has a lot of food left on it. Cut the remaining chicken into small pieces that can quickly be thrown into a salad or put between bread for a sandwich. Plan to have one of those options for lunch the very next day.

Bread that has gone stale can be turned into French toast or bread pudding. Leftover steak can be cut up and added to a stir fry, with plenty of vegetables, the next day.

Store Leftovers Safely
Improperly stored leftovers can result in food poisoning. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has some excellent food safety tips. Leftovers can be kept in the refrigerator for 3 or 4 days, or frozen for 3 to 4 months. Leftovers should be stored in airtight packaging or sealed containers. Follow the directions on the USDA website to learn how to properly reheat your leftovers.

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Tips for Saving Energy – and Money!

Posted on Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014 at 7:00 am
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piggy bank, woman saving moneyHow high was your electric bill last month? Were you shocked by the cost? One way to save money on electricity is to make some changes that help save energy. Use less energy, and the cost of your electric bill should go down. Get started with these tips!

Change Your Light Bulbs
Energy efficient light bulbs can save you money because they use less energy than “regular” lightbulbs do. Energy Star products, including light bulbs, meet the energy efficiency guidelines set by the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

An Energy Star certified light bulb saves $6.00 a year in electricity costs and can save $40.00 to $135.00 over its lifetime. They use about 75% less energy than a traditional incandescent bulb and last 10 to 25 times longer. It is possible to “do the math” and calculate about how much money you would save if all the light bulbs in your home were energy saving bulbs.

Use the Cold Setting
Most laundry detergents are designed to work in cold water. This means you can safely use the cold setting for most loads. Save the hot water, and the energy it requires, for your dirtiest loads of laundry. Did you know that most of the electricity used by your washing machine goes towards heating up the water?

If you have an older washing machine, and an electric water heater, you can save up to 50 cents per load by using the cold setting. That comes out to about $175.00 a year in savings! When you are ready for a new washing machine, consider an appliance that fits the Energy Star requirements.

Let Your Computer Sleep
Many of us have our computers (and computer monitors) running day and night. That wastes about $40.00 a year (or more) in electricity. You can save that $40.00 simply by changing the settings on your computer’s control panel. (Or. “System Preferences” if you use a Mac).

Set your monitor to turn off after fifteen minutes of inactivity. You can also change settings to tell your computer to “sleep” after a certain amount of time has passed with no activity. Set your computer to shut down after thirty minutes of inactivity. Turn off the screen saver. They can use up a lot of energy. Once you set your computer’s monitor to turn off after fifteen minutes of activity, you won’t actually need to use a screen saver to prevent “screen burn”.

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Save Money While Being Green

Posted on Monday, April 21st, 2014 at 7:00 am
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Sun shining over a laundry line with bright clothesEarth Day is celebrated on April 22 every year. The week surrounding it tends to focus on things you can do that are good for the environment. One way to get motivated to help protect the earth is to find ways that will enable you to save money at the same time. Here are a few to get started with.

Bring Reusable Bags
Do you live in a place that has initiated a plastic bag ban? Don’t forget to bring your reusable bags with you when you go shopping. Grocery stores have started charging money for the paper bags that customers use. The same stores often give customers five or ten cents for every reusable bag that they end up using.

Recycle Cans and Bottles
California has something called CRV. In short, it means that you can take those cans and bottles to a recycling place and get back some money for them. Some other states have similar programs. One simple way to do it is to gather all the cans and bottles into a large trash bag. When the bag is full, take it to a recycling facility like RePlanet.

Use Cloth Instead of Paper
Do you use a lot of paper towels when you clean? You can save money by switching to cloths instead of paper. Cut up some of your old t-shirts that have holes in them. Use those pieces as cleaning cloths. Toss them into the wash when they get dirty and reuse them. You can save money this way because you won’t have to purchase as many paper towels as you did before.

Sun Dry Your Laundry
Is your backyard big enough for a clothesline? The weather is getting nice and warm (in many parts of the United States). Get some clothespins and let the sun and warm air dry your laundry for you. Many people enjoy the freshness of sun dried laundry. Running your dryer costs money because it uses electricity. Using a clothesline to dry your clothes doesn’t cost anything (no matter how often you use it).

Take the Bus
This idea works best for people who live in a place that has good public transportation. Instead of driving your car to work (or to dinner) take the bus instead. Taking one trip on a bus only costs a few dollars. You can avoid the expense of having to refill the tank on your vehicle (or, put it off for a while longer). Those that ride the bus often can purchase a weekly or monthly pass that helps lower the cost of each, individual, trip.

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Ways to Use Up Easter Leftovers

Posted on Friday, April 18th, 2014 at 7:00 am
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Natural Easter EggsIt never fails! There are bound to be some Easter eggs that are still in the refrigerator after Easter is over. Next to them might be some leftover ham from Easter dinner. One way to make the leftovers more appealing is to turn them into something else. Here are a few recipes that will help you use up the Easter leftovers before they have to be tossed in the trash.

Simple Egg Salad Sandwich
Food.com has many versions of recipes for an egg salad sandwich. This one is really simple! You will need:

* 6 hard-boiled eggs
* 3 tablespoons of mayonnaise
* 1 tablespoon of yellow mustard
* 1 tablespoon of relish
* Some pepper (optional)
* Lettuce (optional)
* 6 slices of whole wheat bread (or whatever bread you prefer).

Finely chop the hard-boiled eggs. Put the pieces into a bowl. Mix in the mayonnaise 1 tablespoon at at time. Mix in the mustard, relish, and pepper. Put the egg salad mixture onto bread. It is suggested that you toast the bread first. Top the sandwich with lettuce. The entire process takes about 15 minutes.

Easy Ham and Noodles Recipe
This easy recipe came from Allrecipes.com. It is a nice alternative to adding your leftover ham into a casserole. This recipe makes 4 servings. You will need:

* 2 cups of egg noodles (cooked)
* 1 cup of ham (cubed and cooked)
* 1/2 cup of cheddar cheese (cubed)
* 1 can of condensed cream of mushroom soup (10.75 ounces)
* 1/2 can of milk (10.75 ounces)

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Put the noodles, ham, cheese, soup, and milk into a 9×9 inch casserole dish. Mix it well. Bake it at 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) for 25 to 30 minutes. When it is done, put some of it onto plates. It will resemble a fancy pasta dinner like the type you would get at a restaurant. No one will know it came from a casserole dish!

Ways to Use up Leftover Chocolate
At some point, even your children will get tired of the chocolate mini-eggs, the M&Ms, and even the remaining portion of their chocolate bunnies. Cut up the pieces of leftover chocolate. The M&Ms don’t need to be cut up. Use your favorite recipe for chocolate chip cookies. Use the leftover chocolate from Easter instead of a bag of mini chocolate chips. Who can resist homemade chocolate chip cookies?

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Easy Recipes for Easter Egg Dye

Posted on Wednesday, April 16th, 2014 at 7:00 am
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easter eggs naturally dyedWhat does your family use to dye Easter eggs? The “old standard” is to purchase a package of pre-made dye. Those who aren’t so keen on that option have plenty of other ways to decorate Easter eggs. Start with some of these easy recipes that will enable you to turn white hard-boiled eggs into eggs of an entirely different color.

Kool-Aid Dye
Did you know that you can use packets of Kool-Aid to dye Easter eggs? People have also used Kool-Aid to dye yarn, or to temporarily dye their hair. This recipe comes from the Hey Jen Renee blog. You will need:

* 1 packet of Kool-Aid (or more if you want to make dye in a variety of colors)
* 2/3 cup of water (per packet of Kool-Aid)
* Hard-boiled eggs that have cooled

Put one packet of Kool-Aid into 2/3 of a cup of water. Stir! If you are choosing to make many colors of Kool-Aide dye, you will need a separate cup for each color. Put one hard-boiled egg into each cup of mixed dye. Let the egg sit for as long as you like. Remove it after it becomes the color of the dye. Don’t forget to refrigerate the egg after it has been dyed.

Onion Shell Dye
The Ulicam blog has step-by-step directions that include photos. From it, you can learn how to use onion shells (or onion skin) to dye Easter eggs. You will need:

* Raw eggs
* Plenty of onion shells (red, yellow, or both)
* A small collection of fresh flowers
* String

First, carefully place small flowers onto a raw egg. They will stick better if you moisten the egg shell. Wrap the entire egg (and flowers) in onion skins. Carefully wrap string around the egg. Try not to move the flowers. Use plenty of string so that the onion skins will remain wrapped around the egg while it boils. Place the onion skin wrapped eggs into a pot. Add the leftover onion shells in it. Cook it for 12 to 15 minutes. Next, rinse each egg in cold water and carefully peel off the onion skin. You will end up with uniquely decorated Easter eggs.

Red Cabbage Dye
Martha Stewart has lots of recipes for natural egg dying techniques. One of them is the Red Cabbage Dye. You will need:

* Hard-boiled eggs
* One head of cabbage
* 4 tablespoons of salt
* 4 tablespoons of vinegar

Start with eggs that have been hard-boiled and cooled. Boil one head of cabbage in 2 quarts of water for 30 minutes. Strain the pre-boiled cabbage water into a bowl. Add 4 tablespoons of salt and four tablespoons of vinegar to the water. Lower the egg into the mixture. Let it soak for 30 second to 1 minute for a pale color. Leave it soaking for longer if you want a deeper color.

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Frugal Alternatives to Easter Decorations

Posted on Monday, April 14th, 2014 at 7:00 am
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Easter BasketThe typical Easter basket includes plastic grass, candy, plastic eggs, a chocolate rabbit, and possibly some toys. All of that can add up to quite the expense. This is especially true for families who have multiple children that all are expecting something special from the Easter Bunny. Here are some alternative Easter decorations that can make things more affordable.

Use the Ones from Last Year
Where did you put last year’s Easter baskets and plastic eggs? You can repurpose them and use them again this year. Most children won’t remember exactly what their Easter basket looked like last year. It is impossible to tell last year’s plastic eggs from the ones in the stores today.

Paper Instead of Plastic
Plastic Easter grass is one of the most useless things in an Easter basket. You cannot eat it, and it isn’t a toy. Its entire purpose is to be a “filler” for everything else to sit on. This year, instead of buying more bags of Easter grass, substitute shredded paper instead.

Shredded newspaper will serve the same “filler” function that Easter grass does. If you really want it to be green, try shredded some of the green construction paper that your children have in their art supplies. Paper can easily be recycled when Easter is over.

It Doesn’t have to be a Basket
Don’t be afraid to think “outside of the box” when it comes to Easter baskets. Little kids will be just as happy with large, plastic, bowl that has been decorated with an Easter design. It might be more accessible for kids who had difficulty getting around the basket’s handle last year.

For older children, consider an Easter bin instead of a basket. Purchase one of those canvas bins that are designed to hold things. Pick out one in a bright Easter color. After Easter is over, your child has a functional bin that he or she can fill with toys, socks, or other items.

Skip the Plastic Eggs
Many children have difficulty opening up plastic Easter eggs. This experience could turn a happy Easter morning into an exercise in frustration. The purpose of the plastic eggs is to hold small pieces of candy. Skip the plastic eggs until your child has developed the fine motor skills that are required to easily pop them open.

Older kids tend to not care so much about the plastic eggs. They quickly figure out that all of them will contain jelly beans (or a particular type of small, wrapped, candy). It isn’t a surprise anymore. Just toss the candy into their Easter basket. They will not miss the plastic eggs.

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Don’t Miss Out on Tax Day Freebies and Deals!

Posted on Friday, April 11th, 2014 at 3:18 pm
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Chocolate Chip CookiesNobody enjoys paying their state and federal income taxes. The process is tedious and can be stressful. You might discover that you didn’t have as many deductions as you hoped for. Each year, a variety of restaurants, fast food places, cafes, and other stores offer tax day freebies (and discounts). Those should make your day a little brighter! Here are a few to check out.

Schlotzky’s is offering a free “The Original” small sandwich, (with purchase of a 32 ounce fountain drink and chips) on April 15, 2014. There is no coupon required.

Boston Market is offering a “Tax Day Tax Break” on April 15, 2014. Get two half chicken individual meals for $10.40. The meals come with two home style sides and freshly baked cornbread.

California Tortilla is offering a free chips and queso (with any purchase). To get it, say the secret password: “Taxes, Shmaxes” to the cashier. This offer is good only on April 15, 2014.

Great American Cookies will be giving out one free chocolate chip cookie to every customer on April 15, 2014. The limit is one per customer.

Sonny’s BBQ is offering a 1/2 price rib platter on April 15, 2014 (at participating locations, only). Get a platter of sweet & smokey or dry-rubbed ribs with two sides and bread. This offer is for dine-in only, is for the dinner portion only, and does not include Baby Back Ribs or All You Can Eat.

Sonic is offering 1/2 price drinks & slushies on April 15, 2014. There is no coupon required.

White Castle has a printable coupon for 15% off your total “in castle” purchase on Tax Day. It is valid on four days: April 12, 2014 – April 15, 2014.

Pinkberry (participating locations) is doing a Treat Receipt. Bring in your receipt from the day before and get 50% off a small Pinkberry. This offer is valid through April 20, 2014.

Wienerschnitzel is offering a Chili Dog for $0.99. This offer is valid through April 27, 2014. There is no coupon required.

Don’t forget to stop by the local “mom and pop” restaurants and stores in your area. They might be offering Tax Day freebies and deals, too. People tend to overlook the smaller stores because they don’t get as much attention online as the big, chain, fast food places do.

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Easy Recipes for an Easter Brunch

Posted on Wednesday, April 9th, 2014 at 7:00 am
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Anonymous woman holding a blue cast iron casserole dishThis year, instead of having an Easter dinner, why not have an Easter brunch? It can take place much earlier in the day than dinner would. A brunch might be easier for your family to schedule than dinner would be. Typically, brunch is less expensive to serve than dinner is. Here are a few easy recipes for an Easter brunch that you can start with.

Bacon Cheddar Deviled Eggs
This recipe comes from KitchMe. It adds bacon and cheddar cheese to the typical deviled egg recipe. You will need:

* 12 eggs
* 1/2 cup mayonnaise
* 4 slices of bacon
* 2 tbsp cheddar cheese (finely shredded)
* 1 tbsp mustard

First, you need to hard-boil the eggs. While the eggs are boiling, place the bacon in a large, deep, skillet. Cook over medium heat until the bacon is evenly brown. Crumble the bacon, and set it aside.

After the hard-boiled eggs are done, and cooled, it is time to peel them. Cut each one in half lengthwise. Remove the yolks and put them in a small bowl. Mash the yolks with mayonnaise, crumbled bacon, and cheese. Stir. Fill the egg white halves with the mixture. Refrigerate them until it is time to serve. This recipe gives you enough servings for 24 people.

Cheesy Ham and Hash Brown Casserole
This recipe also comes from KitchMe You will need:

* 1 package of frozen hash browns (32 ounce package)
* 8 ounces of ham (diced)
* 2 cans of condensed cream of potato soup (10.75 ounce cans)
* 1 container of sour cream (16 ounce container)
* 2 cups of sharp cheddar cheese (shredded)
* 1 1/2 cups of parmesan cheese (grated)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Lightly grease a 9 x 13 inch baking dish. In a large bowl, mix the hash browns, ham, cream of potato soup, sour cream, and cheddar cheese. Spread the mixture into the baking dish. Make sure it is evenly spread. Sprinkle the parmesan cheese on top. Bake for 1 hour (or until bubbly and light brown). This dish can be served immediately and it will serve 12 people.

The Easter Brunch can be held before Easter in place of dinner. Or, it might be fun to have the Brunch the day after Easter dinner. The above recipes are a good way to use up leftover hard-boiled eggs and ham. Turn them into something more interesting than ham and egg salad sandwiches.

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