How to Save

Great Freezer Meal Recipes

Posted on Monday, July 14th, 2014 at 7:00 am
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Sloppy joe sandwich against a white background.Freezer meals are fast, easy to reheat, and a healthy alternative to fast food. Another great thing about them is that making them enables you to use up your groceries before they go bad. Do the cooking at night (when the weather is cooler) and freeze individual portions. Use your microwave to reheat the food on days when it is too hot to cook! Here are some great freezer meal recipes to try.

EatingWell Sloppy Joes
EatingWell has a freezer recipe for sloppy joe mix. It makes 8 generous servings. The filling can be kept in the freezer for up to 1 month. You will need:

* 12 ounces of 90% -lean ground beef
* 1 large onion (finely diced)
* 2 cups cremini mushrooms (finely chopped)
* 5 plum tomatoes (diced)
* 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour
* 1/2 cup waterproof
* 1/4 cup cider vinegar
* 1/4 cup chili sauce
* 1/4 cup ketchup
* 8 whole-wheat hamburger buns

Crumble the beef into a non-stick skillet. Cook it over medium heat until it starts to sizzle. Add the onion and mushrooms. Keep cooking. Stir occasionally to break up the meat. Stop when the vegetables are soft and the moisture has evaporated. Next, add tomatoes and flour. Stir to combine. Stir in the water, vinegar, chili sauce and ketchup and bring it to a simmer. When it is done (and cooled) you might want to divide it into individual servings before freezing it.

Macaroni and Cheese
Martha Stewart has a freezer recipe for what many consider to be a “comfort food”. It will make a total of 8 servings. You will need:

* 1 pound of short pasta
* Coarse salt
* 6 tablespoons butter
* 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
* 4 cups milk
* 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
* 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
* 3 cups sharp white cheddar cheese (shredded)
* 1 cup Parmesan cheese (finely grated)
* 3 cups fresh breadcrumbs (very coarse)

Follow the directions on the package to cook the pasta. Drain when finished, rinse, and return the pasta to the pot. While the pasta is cooking, heat 4 tablespoons of butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add milk, cayenne, nutmeg, and 2 teaspoons of salt. Whisk it while it cooks. Stop when the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Whisk in the cheeses until smooth. Pour the mixture over the pasta, and toss to coat.

Next, melt 2 tablespoons of butter and toss with breadcrumbs. Sprinkle that over the pasta. Divide it into 8 servings, each in it’s own dish. Cover each one tightly with plastic wrap and freeze it. (It can be frozen for up to 3 months.) Visit the Martha Stewart website for directions on how to reheat the dish in your oven. Otherwise, use the microwave and stir it frequently.

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Ways to Save Money While Camping

Posted on Monday, July 7th, 2014 at 7:00 am
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family camping iStockDoes your family enjoy camping? The gear, the food, and the fees can make what at first glance appears to be an inexpensive vacation into something pricey. Here are some helpful hints that you can use to save money while camping.

Entrance Fee Free Days
The National Park Service has special days every year when the entrance fees to the National Parks will be waived. Upcoming dates on 2014 include: August 25 (National Park Service’s 98th Birthday) September 27 (National Public Lands Day) and November 11 (Veterans Day). Visit a National Park (or camp there) on one of those days and you can save yourself the cost of the entry fee.

Save the Recycling
Start saving some items that you would typically toss in the recycling bin (or trash) in the months before your camping trip. You will need plenty of empty toilet paper rolls and old dryer lint. These make great fire starters!

Tuck some dryer lint inside each empty toilet paper roll. Don’t stuff it too full! Ideally, you want a loose fit in order to allow for optimal oxygen flow and the best burn. This saves you the trouble of searching for kindling and the cost of purchasing wood to bring with and burn.

Borrow From Friends and Family
Buying brand new camping gear can get expensive. Before you make a purchase, see if any of your friends or relatives would be willing to let you borrow some of their gear. Most people go camping once a year and then store everything away. It won’t trouble them to let you borrow it.

Make sure you take really good care of the camping gear that you borrowed. Return it in the condition it was when you borrowed it. Repay your friend or relative by letting him or her borrow your camping gear when you aren’t using it. Another option is to pair up with a fellow avid camper and split the cost of a new tent, cooler, or other camping gear.

Camp Day-To-Day
This isn’t always possible, but can save you money. Instead of pre-paying for your campsite for an entire week, see if you can pay day-to-day instead.

This prevents you from losing money if you end up going home earlier than expected. The weather may get cold, rainy, or nasty. Someone you are camping with might get sick and need to leave. Pay by the day, and you avoid the potential of losing money on days you couldn’t stay at the camp site.

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Simple Ideas for a 4th of July Party

Posted on Monday, June 30th, 2014 at 7:00 am
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WatermelonYour 4th of July party can be fun without it having to be difficult or expensive. Turn it into a relaxing way to celebrate with your family and close friends. Here are some ideas that will help you to keep things nice and simple this year.

Shop the Dollar Store
Dollar stores are a great place to find the things you need for a party. Look for red, white, or blue napkins, paper plates, and plastic cups. You should also be able to find inexpensive tablecloths to cover the tables that the food will be served from. These items won’t cost very much at all.

Consider a Pot-Luck
Many people have a backyard barbecue to celebrate Independence Day. One way to split the cost of food and drinks is to ask guests to bring a dish to pass. You might want to do some organizing ahead to sort out who will bring a side dish and who will bring a dessert. This “share the expense” idea works well with family parties.

Carve Some Watermelons
You’ve probably carved some pumpkins for a Halloween party. Now is the time to carve some watermelons for a 4th of July party! It’s a lot easier (and neater) than carving pumpkins.

Create a simple stencil to use. It could say “July 4”. Those of you with artistic skill can make a more detailed design. Use a vegetable peeler to carefully remove small portions of the watermelon rind until you can see the red part that is inside. The watermelon now makes a nice decoration until it is time to eat it.

Make it a Picnic
Here’s a unique idea that will work nicely for families with small children. Instead of backyard barbecue with a lot of people coming and going, turn your party into a picnic. Select a park that is walking distance from your home. Bring along a picnic blanket to sit on (or to cover a picnic table with).

Pack a cooler with sandwiches, easy to eat snacks, and water bottles. Put everything into a wagon that can be easily pulled along to the park. Bring the whole family on a nice walk. Sit down together and eat and then let the kids play on the swings and run around the park. This can fill time between the parade and the fireworks.

Serve Popsicles
Hot weather is the perfect time to serve popsicles! You can go as frugal as you want with this idea. Buy a big box of the popsicles that come in plastic strips. Pick up some boxes of popsicles that are red, white, and blue and resemble a rocket. Another option is to buy fruit based popsicles that are red or blue.

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Free Kids Events in July

Posted on Friday, June 27th, 2014 at 7:00 am
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Creativity lesson(preschool activity)Need something fun for your kids to do in July? If they enjoy making arts and crafts, or building projects, there is plenty for them to do! Here are some frugal kids events that will take place in July (and the end of June). All of them are free to attend!

Lowe’s Build and Grow
Lowe’s Build and Grow has free kids clinics on Saturdays. Each child will receive a free apron, goggles, patch, and the chance to build a wooden project. Parents must register their children ahead of time if they want their child to attend.

June 28, 2014: Sheep Drop Game – Kids will build their own wooden sheep drop game that is based on the movie “How to Train Your Dragon 2”.

July 12, 2014: Kids will build a Turbo with pullback motor

July 26, 2014: Kids will build a TurboTaco Truck

Lakeshore Learning
Lakeshore Learning offers free kids craft events every Saturday. They start at 11:00 in the morning and end at 3:00 in the afternoon. These events are for children who are age 3 and older. No registration is required.

July 5, 2014: Silly Summer Cap – Kids will make a headband shaped cap that they can decorate with markers, stars, and pipe cleaners

July 12, 2014: Count and Decorate Octopus – Kids will make a cute octopus craft that helps them count. Each tentacle has a certain number of decorations on it to help kids count from 1 to 8.

July 19, 2014: Wiggly-Eyed Glitter Fish – Kids will make a fish from paper and craft sticks that they can decorate with glitter and a googly-eye.

July 26, 2014: Make & Shake Noisemaker – Kids can make a noisemaker out of a folded paper plate. They can decorate it with markers and glitter.

Home Depot
Home Depot offers free kids workshops once a month. Kids receive a certificate of achievement, a Workshop Apron, and a commemorative pin. They also get the chance to build a project. Registration is required.

July 5, 2014: Build a Bug House – Kids will learn how to build a bug house that they can actually keep bugs in. This project is for kids ages 5 – 12. The event will start at 9:00 in the morning.

LEGO offers an in-store mini model building event every month. The event is open to kids who are 6 -14. It starts at 5:00 in the evening. Quantities are limited and offered “while supplies last”.

July 1, 2014: Build a LEGO Beach Van Mini Model Build – It is a little green van with a surfboard on the top.

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4th of July Crafts for Kids

Posted on Wednesday, June 25th, 2014 at 7:00 am
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Fireworks clusterThe 4th of July is celebrated with a parade in the morning and fireworks at dusk. What are you planning to do with the time in between? One way to keep your kids entertained is to let them do some crafts that fit in with the 4th of July holiday. These ideas should fill at least an hour or so.

Chalk Fireworks
Kids of all ages can draw their own fireworks. All you need is some chalk and some black construction paper. Or, you could use sidewalk chalk if you want to do the artwork outside. Draw a dot anywhere on the page (or sidewalk). Make lines that go out from that dot. You can make them all one color or mix it up. Keep adding lines that go outward from the dot until the drawing resembles a firework.

Hand Print Fireworks
All Kids Network has a very cute kids craft that makes fireworks. Have your child trace his or her hand onto red construction paper. Do it again on blue paper and white paper. Make as many paper hands as you can. Cut them all out.

Arrange the patriotic colored paper hands in a circle (with them overlapping at the center). Use some glue to add glitter around the edges of the fingertips all the way around the circle of hands. Check out the All Kids Network website to see a photo of the finished art project.

4th of July Coloring Pages
Kids of all ages can color! Crayola has several different designs of coloring pages that connect to the 4th of July. Parents can print them out for free (as many times as needed). Crayons, markers, or colored pencils will all work well with this simple coloring craft.

Popsicle Stick Flag
iVillage has a 4th of July craft that turns popsicle sticks into an American flag. Have your kids save their popsicle sticks after they have eaten the treat. Or, you can buy a package of craft popsicle sticks from any craft store.

Paint three sticks white. Paint three sticks red. These will become the stripes of the flag. Cut three popsicle sticks in half and paint them blue. Those will become the blue part of the flag. Glue the red and white sticks onto a piece of cardboard. Glue the three, blue, half sticks onto one corner of the flag. Stars can be made from paper and glued onto the blue sticks (or you can leave that area blue).

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Two Ways to Make Pasta Salad

Posted on Monday, June 23rd, 2014 at 7:00 am
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Pasta salad istockSpending the day out in the sun, enjoying the summer weather, can make you long for something cold to eat for dinner. No one wants to overheat their home by using the oven on a warm, humid, day. One option is to serve your family a cold pasta salad for dinner. Cook the pasta the night before and put together the pasta salad just before dinner time.

The Best Macaroni Salad Ever
You can’t possibly go wrong with a recipe for the best macaroni salad ever! This recipe comes from The Pioneer Woman website. Visit it to see wonderful step-by-step photos that show how to make this recipe. You will need:

* 4 cups elbow macaroni
* 3 whole roasted red peppers (chopped)
* 1/2 cup black olives (chopped fine)
* 6 whole sweet/spicy pickle slices (diced)
* 3 whole green onions (sliced) (white and dark green parts)
* 1/2 cup mayonnaise
* 1 tablespoon red wine or distilled vinegar
* 3 teaspoons sugar (more to taste)
* 1/4 teaspoon salt (more to taste)
* Plenty of black pepper
* 1/4 cup milk
* Splash if spicy sweet pickle juice (extra to taste)

First, cook the macaroni in lightly salted water. Follow the directions on the package. Drain and rinse pasta under cold water. Mix the mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar, salt, and pepper together. Add in milk. Splash in pickle juice for extra flavor. Set the mixture aside.

Put the cooled macaroni in a large bowl with 3/4 of the dressing. Toss the salad, and add more dressing if you want. Stir in the olives, red peppers, pickles, and green onions. Chill for 2 hours before serving.

Roasted Chicken and Bow Tie Pasta Salad
This recipe is from Cooking Light and has been posted on MyRecipes. They suggest that you use rotisserie chicken from the deli and cut it up for the pasta salad. This recipe makes 6 servings. You will need:

* 3 cups of uncooked bow tie pasta
* 1/3 cup orange juice (fresh)
* 1/3 cup lemon juice (fresh)
* 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
* 1 tablespoon stone-ground mustard
* 3 teaspoons sugar
* 1 and 1/4 teaspoons salt
* 1/2 teaspoon black pepper (freshly ground)
* 1 and 1/2 teaspoons rice vinegar
* 2 cups shredded cooked chicken breast
* 1 and 1/2 cup seedless grapes (halved)
* 1 cup celery (cut thin and diagonally)
* 1/3 cup finely chopped red onion
* 1/3 cup coarsely chopped walnuts (toasted)
* 3 tablespoons fresh chives (chopped)
* 2 tablespoons fresh parsley (chopped)

Cook the pasta by following the direction on the package. Drain the pasta, and let it completely cool. Combine the orange juice, lemon juice, olive oil, stone-ground mustard, sugar, salt, black pepper and rice vinegar in a large bowl. Whisk to combine them. Next, add the pasta, chicken, grapes, celery, red onion, walnuts, chives, and parsley. Toss the salad to combine the ingredients.

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What to do with Leftover Garage Sale Items

Posted on Friday, June 20th, 2014 at 7:00 am
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garage saleYour garage sale was successful and you made some money. Most people will end up with some items that did not sell. What are you going to do with those? Here are some ideas that help you to get rid of the stuff that didn’t sell at your garage sale.

You can’t wait to get rid of the “leftover” items from your garage sale. There are people in need who would love to have them! Pack up the clothing, bedding, towels, and kitchen items into some boxes. Donate them to your local Goodwill (or your favorite charity).

Make sure you contact the charity and get information about when they take donations. Ask for a receipt. You might be able to claim those donated items as a tax deduction.

Sell it on eBay
Are you active on eBay? There is a chance that your unsold garage sale items might sell if you post them on eBay. Doing so gives those items a wider audience of potential customers. Things like electronics, toys, and vinyl records could potentially attract attention on eBay. Take a good photo of each item and be extremely honest in your description of it.

Help your family
You don’t need the items that you were trying to sell at your garage sale. Do any of your family members need it? Consider offering the unsold items to a family member who can use it right now. Give the items away as a gift and feel good about making things easier for your relatives.

College students who will be moving into their own apartment are usually in need of kitchen related items. They might also need a nightstand, end table, lamp, bookshelf, or other furniture. Pregnant relatives will soon have a need for the baby clothing and baby items. Start asking family members if they would like some of the stuff that didn’t sell.

Give it away through Craigslist
Find the Craigslist website for the city or town you live in. Look for the “free” section (that is under the “For Sale” category). People post items that they want to give away for free on their local Craigslist.

Someone who wants some or all of your garage sale items that did not sell can contact you. Typically, the person who wants the free stuff is expected to come to you in order to pick it up. You are not required to bring it to them. Craigslist can be a bit “iffy”, but might be worth a try if all else fails.

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The Best Things to Buy at Garage Sales

Posted on Wednesday, June 18th, 2014 at 7:00 am
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Collection of wedding dresses in the shopOne of the great things about shopping at garage sales is that you could end up with an excellent deal on the things you buy. The key is to understand what your current needs are and to avoid buying things that are a waste of money. Here are a few of the best things to buy at a garage sale.

Wedding Dress
Are you planning a wedding? Brand new wedding dresses can be incredibly expensive. You can save a lot of money if you buy a wedding dress from a garage sale. Check to see if it is in your size.

The dress will probably require some tailoring in order for it to fit you well (but so will a new wedding dress). Designer wedding dresses, that have not been heavily altered, can go for a fraction of their original cost when sold at a garage sale.

Baby Clothing
Babies and toddlers grow so quickly! Your budget might not allow for frequent purchases of brand new clothing. Take advantage of what you see at a garage sale. There will be some items that have never been worn, or that have only been worn once.

Typically, people sell baby clothing at a garage sale when they are done having children. It should be priced very low (because people really want to get rid of it). Select clothing that is in good condition and that will fit your baby or toddler right now. Pick a few items that you think your child will grow into within the next few months.

Hardcover Books
Book lovers quickly realize that hardcover books are way more expensive than eBooks. Those of you who prefer to read books that are in hardcover format can find awesome deals at garage sales! A lot of people are transitioning from physical books to digital ones and are looking to unload their hardcover (and softcover) books at a garage sale. The prices will be low!

Basic Tools
You won’t find a better price on a hammer or screwdriver than at a garage sale. Another good reason to buy basic tools at a garage sale is that you can immediately see if it works. Power tools, on the other hand, require you to plug them in a test them before you can find out if they are functional. If you need a hammer, screwdriver, pliers, or other basic hand tools, a garage sale is the best place to buy them.

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How to have a Successful Garage Sale

Posted on Monday, June 16th, 2014 at 7:00 am
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garage saleWhat are you going to do with all the stuff that is stored away in your garage or shed? If you haven’t used it in years, it may be time to have a garage sale. Here are some tips about how to prepare for a garage sale and make it a successful one!

Go through your stuff.
Has it been a while since you went through the stuff that has been taking up space in your garage or shed? Now is a good time to go through it. There may be a couple of things that you want to keep. Throw away (or recycle) anything that is broken. It is unlikely that you will be able to sell it as-is.

Start gathering similar items together. Get a box and fill it with kitchen related stuff. Put the baby clothing into another box. This initial step towards organization will pay off later on!

Put a price on everything.
People are more likely to consider buying something if they know what it costs. Take the time to stick a price on everything. All you need is a marker and a roll of masking tape. Stick a piece of tape on the item and write a price on it.

Don’t make the mistake of pricing items as if they were brand new. People go to garage sales because they are looking for items that are priced incredibly low. Consider making things $1.00, or $0.25. Large items like furniture or exercise equipment should be priced less than $50.00 (or they won’t sell).

Set things up in your garage.
After everything priced, it is time to organize it. Set up some card tables or other foldable tables inside your garage. Fold clothing and arrange it nicely on the tables. Put the kitchen items in a nice arrangement on another table. Like goes with like. Ideally, you want to do this prep work a few days before your garage sale. When you are ready for the garage sale, all you have to do is carry out the tables of pre-arranged items.

Get a cash box.
Where are you going to put the money that people give you after buying your stuff? A cash box is the perfect spot. You can pick one up from an office supply store. This will help keep the dollars and change organized. It is a good idea to visit your bank and pick up some quarters and single dollar bills so you can make change for customers.

Make a Craigslist ad that states the time and date of your garage sale (and your address). Post some information about it on your Facebook page. Put a sign in front of your house. All of these efforts will help attract people to your garage sale.

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Cold Soup Recipes to Beat the Summer Heat

Posted on Friday, June 13th, 2014 at 7:00 am
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Eating SoupWhat can you serve your family for dinner on summer evenings when it is too hot to use your stove or oven? How about some refreshing, chilled, soup? Cool off with something delicious and nutritious. Here are a few recipes for soups that are intended to be served cold.

Simply Recipes has an easy recipe for Gazpacho that takes 15 minutes to prepare. It will serve 8. You will need:

* 6 ripe tomatoes (peeled and chopped)
* 1 purple onion (finely chopped)
* 1 cucumber (peeled, seeded, and chopped)
* 1 sweet red (or green) bell pepper (seeded and chopped)
* 2 stalks celery (chopped)
* 1-2 tablespoons fresh parsley (chopped)
* 2 tablespoons fresh chives (chopped)
* 1 clove garlic (minced)
* 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
* 1/4 cup olive oil
* 2 tablespoons lemon juice (freshly squeezed)
* 2 teaspoons sugar
* Salt and fresh ground pepper (to taste)
* 6 (or more) drops of Tabasco sauce (to taste)
* 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce (optional)
* 4 cups tomato juice

Combine all of the ingredients. Blend them until they reach the desired consistency. Place in a non-metal, non-reactive storage container. Cover it tightly, and refrigerate it overnight.

Chilled Cucumber Soup
Country Living has a recipe for a healthy, creamy, soup. It takes 15 minutes to prepare, and makes 6 servings. You will need:

* 2 cups Greek yogurt
* 1 cup vegetable broth
* 2 English cucumbers (peeled, diced, and divided)
* 4 green onions (sliced and divided)
* 2 tablespoons fresh dill (chopped)
* 2 tablespoons fresh parsley (chopped)
* 4 teaspoons of fresh lemon juice
* 2 teaspoons salt

Combine the Greek yogurt and vegetable broth in a bowl. Puree 1 peeled, diced, English cucumber, 2 sliced green onions, the dill and the parsley in a food processor. Add the cucumber mixture, fresh lemon juice, and salt to the yogurt mixture. Whisk to combine it. Stir in 1 more peeled, diced English cucumber and 2 more sliced green onions. Refrigerate for 1 hour. If you like, you can garnish each serving with chopped dill and croutons.

Icy Olive Soup
Taste of Home has a recipe for Icy Olive Soup that will make 6 servings. It takes 15 minutes to prepare. You will need:

* 2 cups plain yogurt (16 ounces)
* 2 cans condensed chicken broth (undiluted) (10 and 1/2 ounce cans)
* 2 cans sliced ripe olives (drained) (2 and 1/4 ounces each)
* 1 cup cucumber (coarsely chopped)
* 1/2 cup green onions (chopped)
* 1/2 cup sliced pimiento-stuffed olives
* 1/8 teaspoon white pepper
* Seasoned croutons (optional)

Stir the yogurt in a large bowl until it is smooth. Whisk in the broth. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Cover it. Refrigerate it for 4 hours. Stir it again before serving. Garnish with croutons if you want to.

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