How to Save

The Kids Summer Book Clubs are Starting!

Posted on Friday, May 9th, 2014 at 7:00 am
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Grandmother and granddaughter reading and smilingReading is so important! One of the difficulties with summer vacation is that many kids lose some of what they learned in the previous school year. There is a fun way to help your child keep his or her reading skills nice and sharp while school is out. Have your child join a kids summer book club! Some of them have already gotten started (but it isn’t too late for your child to participate).

Barnes & Noble Summer Reading Program
How it Works: Parents can download a free Reading Journal from the Barnes & Noble website. Print it out. Kids need to read eight books while the summer reading program is still going on. They need to write down the title and author of each book and write a short description of who they would recommend that book to (and why). Bring the completed Reading Journal to a Barnes & Noble store.

Your Child Can Earn: One free book (from the list that of books that is on the Reading Journal). Some Barnes & Noble stores will let children fill out as many Reading Journals as they have time for before the program ends. Others will limit it to one per child.

Ages: This summer reading program is for kids in first through sixth grades.

Dates: Bring in your completed Reading Journal between May 20, 2014, and September 2, 2014.

Pottery Barn Kids PBK Summer Reading Challenge
How It Works: Parents can download their bookmark reading list from their website. Your child should read all summer long. Parents can download and print out a Progress Tracker Poster from their website. (Or, pick up the bookmark and the poster from the Pottery Barn Kids store). Kids can color in one book on the poster for each book they have read. Parents can download a certificate from completion from the website. Bring the completed Progress Tracker Poster to a Pottery Barn Kids store.

Your Child Can Earn: One free book (from a participating Pottery Barn Kids Store).

Ages: The PBK Favorites Book list is for children who are old enough to read to themselves. The Early Reader Book List is for younger children who need a parent to read with them.

Dates: It begins on May 15, 2014, and will end on July 17, 2014.

Pizza Hut Book It! Spark Your Greatness Summer Reading Challenge
How It Works: Parents need to register their child for the program through the Pizza Hut website. The challenge incorporates reading with fun activities, exciting games, and a chance for kids to win prizes. Parents can print out an Official Entry Form from their website. Kids must read five books and complete the Instagram contest.

Your Child Could Win: a prize that will be awarded by random selection. See their website for full details.

Ages: The Pizza Hut Spark Your Greatness Summer Reading Challenge is for kids ages 4 – 12.

Dates: It begins on June 1, 2014, and will end on August 15, 2014.

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Free Kids Events in May

Posted on Wednesday, May 7th, 2014 at 7:00 am
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Creativity lesson(preschool activity)Do your children enjoy doing arts and crafts? Do they like to learn how to build things? If so, then there are plenty of free events that will be happening in May. Some of these events will give your child the opportunity to make a Mother’s Day gift or card for you.

Lowe’s Build and Grow
Lowe’s Build and Grow offers free kids clinics on Saturdays. Each child will get a free apron, goggles, patch, and the opportunity to create a wooden project. You must register your child ahead of time of you want him or her to attend.

May 10, 2014: Flower Delivery Truck – Kids can put together a colorfully decorated Flower Delivery Truck. Later, they can add a flower to the top of it and use it to deliver a Mother’s Day gift to mom. This event will begin at 10:00 in the morning.

Lakeshore Learning
Lakeshore Learning offers free craft events every Saturday. They start at 10:00 in the morning and end at 3:00 in the afternoon. The events are for children who are age 3 and up. There are no reservations necessary.

May 10, 2014: Mom’s Coupon Book – Kids will create a coupon book that is filled with promises for mom. They also get to decorate the cover of the coupon book.

May 17, 2014: Catch of the Day – Kids will put together a fishing pole craft, complete with a fish craft that they can decorate.

May 24, 2014: My Superhero Puppet – Kids get to transform everyday collage materials into a powerful superhero puppet that saves the day. This is a craft that turns into a toy that can spark their imaginations.

May 31, 2014: Mermaid Mobile – Kids will create a hand-crafter mermaid mobile that twinkles in the sun.

Pottery Barn
You can find out about upcoming Pottery Barn in store events from their website. Use it to check to see which Pottery Barn stores will hold the event.

Week of May 5, 2014: Mother’s Day card station – Kids can come to Pottery Barn anytime this week and create a one-of-a-kind card for their mother or grandmother for Mother’s Day.

Barnes & Noble
Barnes & Noble will be doing a special Mother’s Day Storytime on May 10, 2014, starting at 11:00 in the morning. The event is called “Oh, The Things My Mom Will Do”. Children can listen to stories about moms and create a Mother’s Day card. This event is free to attend.

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Ideas for Mother’s Day Gifts that are Free

Posted on Monday, May 5th, 2014 at 7:00 am
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Ikea BreakfastLooking for some budget-friendly ideas for a Mother’s Day gift? It is always the thought that counts, not the money you spend on the gift. Show your mom that you love her by giving her something that comes directly from you and your own efforts. Here are some ideas to try that won’t cost a dime!

Breakfast in Bed
This is a traditional Mother’s Day gift that is sure to bring a smile to your mom’s face. It also one that is easy for a person who is the spouse or significant other of a mom to put together. Give the little kids something simple that they can do to help with breakfast. It doesn’t have to be fancy. Scrambled eggs, toast, and a glass of orange juice will be enough to show that you care. This gift also gives mom a break from having to cook breakfast for everyone else.

Flowers From Your Own Garden
Does your mother admire the beautiful flowers in your garden? Pick some just for her. Put together a bouquet. Secure it with a ribbon, some raffia, or whatever you have at home. Make a handmade card to go with it. This gift will be a lot more meaningful than flowers that you took five minutes to order and a card you grabbed off the shelf on your last grocery shopping trip.

Clean Mom’s House
Everybody loves a clean house, but very few people actually enjoy the act of cleaning. Spare your mother from these chores by coming over and cleaning her home for her. It would be a good idea to have a talk with her about it first so you can figure out a good time come over. Bring her grandchildren along to help (if they are old enough to do it). Some moms will take offense at the idea of having someone else clean their house. If that describes your mom, choose a different gift.

Movie Night With Mom
When was the last time you and your mother sat down together and watched a movie? Bring your mom over to your house. Choose a couple of movies that you know she loves. Or, pick some that the two of you have been meaning to watch together (but haven’t gotten around to yet). Use movies that you have at home, or select some from Netflix. Pop some popcorn to share. This is a relaxing, and entertaining, gift for mom.

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Easy Cinco de Mayo Recipes

Posted on Friday, May 2nd, 2014 at 7:00 am
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Cinco de MayoReady for Cinco de Mayo? There is still plenty of time to put together a party for family members or a few friends. Celebrating this way can be less expensive than going out. Try some of these super easy recipes for food and drink that is perfect for a Cinco de Mayo celebration.

Pinto Bean and Cheese Tacos
Real Simple has an easy recipe for Pinto Bean and Cheese Tacos. It serves four people and only takes about 20 minutes to make. You will need:

* 1 can of pinto beans (rinsed) (15-ounce can)
* 3/4 cup mild salsa
* 1 heart of romaine
* 8 taco shells
* 1 cup shredded Cheddar

Combine the beans and 1/2 a cup of the salsa in a small microwave-proof bowl. Microwave on high until hot. It should take two or three minutes. Next, tear the lettuce into bite-size pieces. Divide the taco shells among 4 plates. Divide the bean mixture by putting a little into each taco shell. Top it with the lettuce, Cheddar, and the rest of the salsa.

Want to add meat to that recipe? Add 1 pound of ground beef or turkey. Brown it in a skillet until it is no longer pink. That should take about six to eight minutes.

Slow-Cooker Spicy Chicken Nachos
Old El Paso has a simple recipe for nachos. It makes 24 servings. You will need:

* 1 loaf of Mexican prepared cheese product with jalapeno peppers (cut into cubes) (16 ounces)
* 3/4 cup of Old El Paso Thick ‘n Chunky salsa
* 1 can of Progresso black beans (drained and rinsed) (15 ounces)
* 1 container of sour cream (8 ounces)
* 1 medium red bell pepper (chopped) 1 cup
* 3 medium green onions (sliced) (3 tablespoons)
* Large tortilla chips

Spray 3 to 4 quart slow cooker (or crockpot) with cooking spray. Put in the cheese, salsa, beans and chicken. Cover it up. Cook on low heat for 2 hours. Stir once about halfway through cooking. Next, stir in the sour cream, bell pepper and onions. Increase the heat to high. Cover it again. Cook for about 45 minutes, or longer, until the mixture is hot.

Margarita
Cooking Channel has an easy recipe for margaritas. Cinco de Mayo celebrations and margaritas go so well together. The recipe is for 1 drink, so you will need to repeat the process until all your guests have one. You will need:

* 1 – 1/2 ounce silver tequila
* 1 ounce Cointreau
* 1/2 ounce of fresh lime juice
* Splash of simple syrup
* Salt (for the rim of the glass)

Combine all the ingredients (except for the salt) in an ice-filled cocktail shaker. Shake until it is cold. Strain it into a chilled salt-rimmed glass. Serve!

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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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