Showing posts with label penny pinching. Show all posts
Showing posts with label penny pinching. Show all posts

Friday, February 13, 2015

5 Ways to Save Money on Valentine's Day - PG-13

So depending on your family situation there may, or may not be stress associated with what to buy or do on Valentine's day for your loved one. Luckily, I have a wife that is extremely practical and has a love language of quality time. Even this year I thought about surprising her with flowers at work, but then thought a bit longer and realized that she would be upset that I spent the money on something that is going to die shortly after and had no serious thought behind it (every dude sends flowers to his lady on Valentine's). Here are 5 things you can do instead that will cost less and hopefully be a bigger hit!

Shout out to my beautiful Valentine!!! 

1. Cook your Valentine's favorite meal for them. Make sure to set the mood with some relaxing music and candles from the thrift shop. Regardless of what you cook, it will be cheaper than buying it at a restaurant and you won't have to wait in line. Dessert is a must! A great and inexpensive dessert that is romantic is fondue. You can melt chocolate over the stove or look for a fondue maker at that same thrift store (I see them at Goodwill all of the time.) Here is a link to some great recipe ideas: http://www.food.com/recipes/romantic


2. Go to the thrift store (MAKE SURE TO READ FURTHER!!!). Have a game in which you each get a set dollar amount to spend on the other person like $5 or $10. You then can spend that much money on gifts for your Valentine right then and there. This is great because it gives you the opportunity to be goofy or sweet.



3. Make coupons for your Valentine that are acts of service. If you're a married couple you can get really creative with this (wink wink). For everyone else some great ideas would be a back rub, foot rub, cleaning a room of the house for them, washing and vacuuming their car, doing their taxes, or anything else they may like. They can expire after February 14th or be valid forever! You can find love coupons here http://freebies.about.com/od/valentines-day-freebies/tp/printable-love-coupons.htm


4. Get some hot cocoa and go ice skating. Ice skating in general is pretty inexpensive and so is hot cocoa. If you have to pay for both it is still a pretty cheap date. However, there are even more opportunities to save money with this. In Grand Rapids for example, there is free ice skating at Rosa Parks Circle Downtown or you can find a random frozen pond. Pair this with some delicious homemade hot cocoa in a thermos and the night costs ingredients and gas!. Make sure to hold hands while you skate and keep your attention on your date.



5. Go to an Adoration Chapel, spend time with God, and ask for St. Valentine's intersession for your relationship. This one is for my Catholic friends! Here is a great prayer for you to do as a couple while you are there: http://www.catholic.org/prayers/prayer.php?p=2961 This is an spiritual investment for your relationship and by deepening your relationship with Christ you are also doing so with your spouse. Part of this could also include verbally letting God know what you appreciate about your spouse and state your intentions of helping your spouse make it to Heaven. If an Adoration Chapel is not available you can do this anywhere, but I think a church or chapel would be more special. This may be a great activity to pair with one of the other ones as well. Numbers don't lie, and couples who share their faith are happier and have more healthy marriages. Plus, intimacy is better as outlined by this article: http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2013/07/17/devout-catholics-have-better-sex . 


Please comment with your money saving ideas for a meaningful and memorable Valentine's Day!

Thanks for reading. If you would enjoyed reading and would like to receive updates on new posts please put your email into the right column of the blog (no spammy stuff...promise).

PFF

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Semi Crazy Ways to Save Money

I wanted to create an interesting list of ways you can save money that are a little less practical than some of the other things I have posted. I'm affectionately calling these my "Crazy" ways to save money. So here it goes...



1) Go #2 at work if possible.  This is sure to save you money on toilet paper and water/sewage usage. In addition, you will have to clean your bathroom less and use fewer aerosols or odor maskers when you are finished.



2) Extreme Home Temps. In the Summer set your A/C between 80-85 (or higher) and run multiple fans. Fans take a lot less energy than an A/C unit. For the Winter months use a programable thermostat to keep you house between 60 and 62 in the waking hours (we wear slippers, sweat pants and sweat shirts around the house) and down to 52 to 55 during the sleeping hours (you'd be surprised how well you can sleep in the cold). You'll want to set it to start warming up so it is not crazy cold when you awake in the morning.



3) Take Condiments and Disposable Utensils When You Can and Wash Them. Another crazy thing we do is grab extra condiments and disposable utensils when we can. The condiments are great for when you are traveling at a later date or want individual servings. The utensils are great to take to work with you for your lunch but make sure to keep them and wash them for additional uses. The best part is that you don't pay for any of it!



4) Wear Pants for Multiple Days. This may be TMI for those that know me, but I wear the same pair of pants multiple times before washing. I feel as though pants don't get all that dirty with one day of wearing. What I generally do is rotate a few pairs of dress pants and a couple of pairs of jeans for a couple of weeks and then wash them all together with other clothes. Not only do I not need as many pairs of pants, but I do significantly less laundry than if I wore a different pair every day. (This works with towels as well). It is practical to have a drawer or part of the closet where you put the things that you have already worn so you can keep them separate.



5) Time Your Showers So You Don't Waste Water. We found out that we can take really fast and adequate showers when camping in Acadia National Forest when you had to pay for showers and they were timed (I think it was one minute). So it is reasonable to think that you can take a 3 minute shower if you are conscious of your time. Get a time app that is free for your smartphone such as this one: http://goo.gl/4S7E6j (I use this one with my Android phone). This will drastically cut down on your water bill in a family home. You can also add a energy efficient shower head such as this: http://goo.gl/9tw3AX. It may not look beautiful but it will save you money.



6) Alter Some Driving Habits. If you are like me you like to go fast and not waste time. However, you will get the best mileage out of your car by going between 60 and 65 on the expressway. I personally look at opportunity cost with saving time and money to decide how fast I'm going to go. Another fun game to try while driving that will save on gas is to try to keep your RPMs under 2,000 when accelerating and trying to coast to stops when coming to stop lights and stop signs.



7) Use Reusable Wipes Instead of Toilet Paper. Now this one seems to be a better money saver for the ladies. I do not recommend doing this with poo (there's been a lot of bathroom talk on this post :p ). You can either purchase reusable wipes that are used when children use reusable diapers or make your own with a sewing machine and spare or clearance fabric. These will get washed with the laundry and reused. Another similar way to save would be by using a handkerchief instead of facial tissue as well.



8) Only Fill Light Fixtures Half Full with Lights. In our bathrooms we have these light bars above the mirrors. We only put half of the lights in place and there is more than enough light still. It doesn't even look all that bad!



Thanks for reading. If you enjoyed the blog please subscribe by entering your email into the email update box on the right column.

FFF

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Grocery Savings



One of the largest portions of our budget as a family is groceries. The price of groceries can add up very quickly especially due to the fact that we are fairly conscientious about trying to purchase organic products whenever possible. This in itself is a financial investment because paying a little more for our fruits and veggies should cost less than potential health problems later due to health hazards related to pesticides and potentially harmful GMOs.



My wife does a majority of the shopping during the school year and I hit the store some more during the summer due to my profession as a teacher. One thing that she has done is she has made a spreadsheet with prices of common items we purchase and where they are cheapest. The main businesses that we shop at which are included on the list are Costco, Meijer, Aldi, and a co-op of Country Life Natural foods. Please note that these shopping options are in the Grand Rapids, MI area. A great idea for a family trying to save money is to make their own spreadsheet with the stores they commonly shop. Then you can easily update prices at each place as you shop using a smart phone.

Here is the spreadsheet that she uses! Feel free to print it off and use it too!
http://goo.gl/1JN2pR

Here is a screen shot example of the spreadsheet but the link is the only way to get a great view.






Of course nothing beats a sale price so double check the sale price against your spreadsheet! You may notice that there is not a lot of animal product options on this list. This is due to the fact that we try to have a whole food/plant based diet for personal health reasons. We also will spend more if an organic option is available. This spreadsheet may be a great starting point for a family to save some money on common everyday items.

Before going shopping she also checks for coupons on  Meijer's M Perks and looks for deals on Saving Addiction http://goo.gl/TFg8Aa.


For more information about Country Life Natural foods check out this link: http://goo.gl/nhh0VI




Another resource that I have heard folks have success with but have not tried myself is the Retail me Not app: http://goo.gl/fL7Fs0



Look forward to reading more about how to save even more money when grocery shopping!

Thanks for reading. If you enjoyed the blog please subscribe by entering your email into the email update box on the right column.

FFF

Friday, January 30, 2015

Saving Money on Ground Beef - Taco Meat Recipe






Meat is often the most expensive part of any meal, especially if you try to buy high quality organic grass fed ground beef like us. Even after shopping around we still pay $4.99/lb at Costco, but we looking into buying part of a cow from a local farmer (post to come!).  An easy way we have found to save money on meat is simply to use less with each meal. Meals with meat as an ingredient such as chicken noodle soup, lasagna, or enchiladas use a lot less meat than a meat centered dish such as steak, pork chops, or marinated chicken. You can easily decreased your grocery bill by replacing one meat-centered meal a week with a vegetable or bean-centered dish.

Another method to reduce your meat budget is to stretch your meat! Not with artificial fillers like many fast food restaurants, but instead with wholesome legumes such as lentils. The easiest example of this is with taco meat. After cooking our ground beef we add cooked lentils and then season them both with taco seasoning. Most people can hardly tell the difference which we observed when we cook tacos for a group of young adults at a weekend retreat. Cooking for 40 people on a small non-profit budget teaches you to be frugal!



The ratio of meat to lentils is up to you and can easily be adjusted. For those that are not used to lentils we recommend starting with 75% meat to 25% lentils and transitioning to 50/50 (we go even further and usually use 75% lentils to only 25% meat). With anything, change can be hard so gradually transitioning to more lentils is usually better. When you first start eating more beans and lentils you may notice increased flatulence (farting! lol). The good news is that your body adjusts within two weeks. So that old saying schoolyard saying - Beans, beans...



.. is only half true! Even if you only cut your meat from 100% to 75% your price will be greatly reduced.



For those that need proof: Let’s figure a family of 4 (two adults and two children) are going to be eating tacos for dinner. To be generous we will estimate that each person will eat 1/2lb of taco meat.
4 people X ½ lb =2 lbs
2lb meat x $5/lb= $10 meat


If you replace 50% of the meat with lentils which usually cost less than $2 for a 1lb bag (5 cups cooked) you can cut your cost by $4.20.
50% meat= 2 cups (1lb)
50% lentils= 2 cups cooked lentils


with lentils being $2 for 1lb bag or 5 cups cooked
$2/5 cups= $0.40/cup


Total total of “taco meat” (50% meat 50% lentils)= $5.80
Total Savings using 50/50 “taco meat”= $4.20
(Of course bigger families would save even more!)


Still not convinced? Let’s pretend you make our “taco meat” once a month you would save $50.40/year. That is not including using lentils in enchiladas, burritos, spaghetti sauce, meatballs, sloppy Joe's, Shepard's pie, etc.


  1. Rinse lentils in a strainer
  2. Cover with water in a saucepan or pot (use the same one you plan to cook them in to save dishes)
  3. Soak overnight on the counter
  4. Drain and cover with water again
  5. Bring to a rapid boil then reduce heat to a simmer and cook uncovered for 20- 30 minutes or until soft. Drain any remaining water.
No time to soak or forgot to plan ahead: Follow the same directions but increase cook time to 30-45 minutes.


How to Cook Lentils (Dry and NOT Soaked)
  1. Rinse lentils in a strainer
  2. Cover with water in a saucepan or pot
  3. Bring to a rapid boil then reduce heat to a simmer and cook uncovered for 30-45 minutes or until soft. Drain any remaining water.


Time Saving Tips (Time is Money!)
When cooking lentils you can cooked the whole bag and freeze in two cup portions for using later. Two cups of frozen lentils quickly thaw when placed in the pan with cooked ground beef. Make sure you have enough seasoning (link) for both the lentils and beef after they are mix together. If it becomes too dry add some water you saved after draining cooked lentils.


Save even more money by making your own taco seasoning. I make a triple batch of the spicy version and save it in an airtight container. Here is the recipe for homemade taco seasoning(link):




Taco Seasoning


2 TBSP chili powder (spicy version: 2 1/2 TBSP)
1 tsp Oregano
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp sea salt
½ tsp black pepper
¼ tsp crushed red pepper or cayenne (spicy version: ½ tsp cayenne)


Directions: Mix together and store in an airtight container for up to 6 months. If you want a spicy version add more of the chili powder and cayenne pepper. Those that do not like spicy feel free to reduce chili powder and cayenne or completely leave out.  To make a smoky version add smoked paprika instead of sweet paprika.

Thanks for reading. If you enjoyed the blog please subscribe by entering your email into the email update box on the right column.

FFF

How to Cook Dry Lentils


How to Cook Lentils (Soaked) - Recommended for better nutrients and digestion
  1. Rinse lentils in a strainer
  2. Cover with water in a saucepan or pot (use the same one you plan to cook them in to save dishes)
  3. Soak overnight on the counter
  4. Drain and cover with water again
  5. Bring to a rapid boil then reduce heat to a simmer and cook uncovered for 20- 30 minutes or until soft. Drain any remaining water.
No time to soak or forgot to plan ahead: Follow the same directions but increase cook time to 30-45 minutes.

How to Cook Lentils (Dry and NOT Soaked)
  1. Rinse lentils in a strainer
  2. Cover with water in a saucepan or pot
  3. Bring to a rapid boil then reduce heat to a simmer and cook uncovered for 30-45 minutes or until soft. Drain any remaining water.



Time Saving Tips (Time is Money!)
When cooking lentils you can cooked the whole bag and freeze in two cup portions for using later. Two cups of frozen lentils quickly thaw when placed in the pan with cooked ground beef. Make sure you have enough seasoning (link) for both the lentils and beef after they are mix together. If it becomes too dry add some water you saved after draining cooked lentils.


Thanks for reading. If you enjoyed the blog please subscribe by entering your email into the email update box on the right column.


FFF

Monday, January 26, 2015

Quick Tip - Energy Saving Oven Tricks

Quick tip for today!

It is pretty cold here in Michigan during the winter and we like to save as much money as we can on heating the house.

One tip is to leave the oven door open (or cracked open) when you are finished cooking. Let that heat that has already been made escape into your home and your furnace won't have to work quite as hard.

There would be the same amount of radiant heat as if the door was shut. However, you would not notice a difference as it would escape slowly over time and you would lose some heat to the wall that is behind the stove that could escape elsewhere. It gives you a higher until rate of radiance over time when open.

My brother-in law Joe also suggests shutting the oven off early in the Summer and letting the food cook so you get the most out of the heat output. Great idea!

Actual savings? I don't know. But it has to help!



Thanks for reading. If you enjoyed the blog please subscribe by entering your email into the email update box on the right column.

FFF

Friday, January 23, 2015

Get Yourself a Cooler for Traveling!

So here's a quick money saving trick that saves us hundreds of dollars annually; using a cooler when traveling or staying somewhere over night!

My wife and I tend to travel often. Both for short family vacations and traveling to see family members. We don't live in the same areas as our parents so we seem to be on the road frequently.

When I was growing up we would always stop at fast food or a gas station to load up of drinks and snacks whenever we were on the road, even if it was just a hour drive to where we were going. As we started our own family we decided that was way too expensive and impractical.

We now have a little travel cooler that goes with us whenever we travel. Here is a link to the one we have (although we did not pay this much for it): http://goo.gl/xsl0Ox . When heading out on the road some things that are often packed are, but are not limited to...



Apples
Bananas
Soups in Containers (can heat with microwaves at gas stations)
Pre made pasta dishes (can heat with microwaves at gas stations)
Water (in reusable bottle that you can fill at gas stations)
Homemade Iced Tea
Sandwiches (Canned tuna or salmon mixed with avocado are our favorite for the road)
Salsa for chips and salsa
Hummus and Veggies

and many more...

It costs less than $10 to fill that cooler with enough food for a meal and snacks easily and we are not spending money on needless drinks at the gas station.

If on a longer vacation make sure to hit up a grocery store when possible to replenish. When we're traveling we really like finding a Trader Joe's to stock back up on our fruit and veggies. Also, we've had some great luck getting free ice when stopping because we show the cooler to gas station attendants and tell them we'd be wasting a lot of ice if we have to purchase a bag. In the worst of cases they'll charge 50 cents.

All of the ways we've used the cooler to save money:
Overnight at the hospital
On the road
Overnight at a family or friend's home
To the park
Running errands all day
All day sporting event
Overnight in a hotel without a fridge

Make sure to check out this LINK for tips on packing and some great road-trip recipes. 

You can also use it to incubate your homemade yogurt (look for how to in a later post)

Thanks for reading. If you enjoyed the blog please subscribe by entering your email into the email update box on the right column.

FFF



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