Friday, February 27, 2009
My First Blog Award
Thanks to Sandy from Organizing with Sandy for presenting Just Doing My Best with its first award. I was so surprised! Be sure to check out her site. She is a professional organizer but blogs about a variety of topics.
The award came with a rule. I am to list seven of the things I love and then present it to seven other bloggers.
So, here it goes. I love:
- My God
- My family and friends
- morning coffee
- blogging and writing
- Texas chili on a snowy day
- playing with my kids outside on a sunny, 70 degree Spring day
- good hair days
I think the following blogs deserve the award:
- Adventures in Frugal Homemaking
- Cents to be Debt Free
- Frugal Girls
- Wisdom Pursuit
- That's just Freaking Lovely - Her felt food crafts are adorable!
- Tammy's Recipes
You can grab the button from my site to post on your sidebar, while linking back here to Just Doing My Best. Don't forget to link back to the seven blogs you chose and let them know via email or comment that they won.
Thanks again Sandy!
Thursday, February 26, 2009
Want to Read More?
I'm a contributing writer for Happy to be at Home, so please take a second and check them out. You will find plenty of great articles on a variety of topics. While you are there, you can also learn How to be Frugal:The Four Essentials.
Labels: writing on other sites
How to Save a Bundle at the Grocery Store
My favorite grocery tip of all time is, "Buy when it is cheap and not when you need it." I save more money at the grocery store with this tip alone. Let me explain what I mean and how it works. For years, I restocked our pantry at Walmart with generics and carefully planned our menus to make the best use of the food I purchased. I price-matched and even brought a few coupons to use on our favorite foods.
While it was a good attempt, I had it all wrong! Now, I scour the sale ads while comparing them to my coupon collection, looking for where they match. If the matching items are inexpensive and something we will use, I buy several and plan our menu around them. A few months ago, I stocked up on some Lawry's Marinade when I got it free at Meijer. They had it on sale for $1 and I had a 50 cent off coupon that doubled. There ya go, free food. I bought a few bottles, knowing the expiration date was quite a while out. This last grilling season, I bought several bottles of mustard for pennies by combining the sales and coupons. I was able to buy enough to last until this grilling season and it probably cost me less than a dollar for all of it. Had I waited until I needed the mustard, I would have paid over a dollar each time.
Though the savings aren't as great for fresh food as packaged food, you can still get good deals. Each time I am at Kroger, I check their sale and markdown meat (a frugal use for that Lawry's Marinade) and that's usually the only meat I purchase, unless I get a special request. I rarely go into the store planning on what meat I will buy, unless it was in the sale ad. Recently, Kroger had a pound of lean ground turkey on sale for 99 cents, so I bought several and double wrapped them for freezer storage. If I had bought the ground turkey when I needed it, rather than when it was cheap, I would have paid an extra $2.xx per pound.
By combining sales and coupons, buying sale and markdown meat, and watching for in-season produce, I have saved our family a bundle. With a little creativity, our meals are formed from these bargains and the remaining food we need to round out the menu or the pantry is very minimal. While this route may take a little extra time as opposed to one-stop shopping, it works for our family and the money saved has been worth the time spent, in my opinion.
Friday's Frugal Tip of the Day: Buy when the item is cheap, not just when you need it. (BTW, this can be applied to more than just food.)
Labels: coupons, Friday's Frugal Tip of the Day, frugality, plan ahead
Need kids clothes on the cheap?
I was in Kohls the other day and found they have much of their clearance at 80% and 90% off. I picked up a pair of velour Chaps pants for my daughter, regular $34.99 for $3.40. I also found a zippered cardigan for her, regular $32 for $3.20.
If you need some clothes for your family, (think next year) then 80-90% off is a good time to be shopping. Have fun!
Labels: clothing, deals, plan ahead
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
How to Pay Less for Your Newspaper
At one time, when the economy was stronger and the newspaper industry was not cutting jobs, I could occasionally pick up my Sunday newspaper at Walmart or Walgreens for 99 cents, which would be a sale price from the original $1.75. I am an avid coupon fanatic, so I would buy a couple in order to have the extra coupons. For one 99 cent paper, I could break even by redeeming just one 50 cent coupon at a store that doubles.
These 99 cent newspaper bargains have ceased and $1.75 is the new weekly norm, unless I go to the Dollar Tree. They still sell papers for $1.00 so when there is a week that I know I want extra coupons, I head to the Dollar Tree to pick up my $1 newspapers. (I'm not sure if this is available in other newspaper markets or other $1 only type stores. Maybe a few readers could fill us in if you know this is available in your area.)
Paying a discounted price for newspapers work for me. For more Works for Me Wednesday tips, visit our new host at We Are THAT Family.
Labels: frugality, tips, Works for Me Wednesday
Plan Ahead for Some Frugal Summer Fun
Believe it or not, summer is just around the corner. Now is the time to start saving plastic bowls from butter, yogurt, whipped topping and anything else that you can envision as a fun outdoor tool or toy.
I'm sure your children can find many uses for the plastic dishes, but some ideas are the sand box, at the beach, for mud pies, and chalk paint. OK, so chalk paint might be new to you. My daughter created it and has played with it the last two summers. Watch for a post from her later this spring detailing her creation.
Just stash a small box somewhere out of the way to collect these bowls and old plastic containers. Your children will love it!
Labels: frugality, fun with the kids, plan ahead
Frugal and Time Saving Cornbread
By its nature, cornbread is one of the most frugal dishes you can make. The trick however, is finding a recipe that your family enjoys. While all families are different, my family thinks it is a treat when I make the following recipe. It is a lighter, cake-like cornbread.
1 cup corn meal
1 cup flour
1/4 cup sugar
4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup milk
1/4 cup oil
Mix together and pour into a greased pan. 8x8 or 9x9 usually works well, but a larger pan will suffice. If you use the larger pan, the cornbread will be much flatter. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until bread is done in the middle and golden on top.
Now for the time saver, when you are making your batch, dish out extra dry ingredients and put into zippered bags. By adding all the dry ingredients now, you will save time later by having it partially assembled. Next time you are wanting to serve cornbread, just pull out a bag, add the wet ingredients and bake. Be sure to jot down the quantities of the wet ingredients and baking instructions on the outside of the bag.
Labels: food, frugality, plan ahead, recipes
Monday, February 23, 2009
Sunday, February 22, 2009
Wisdom Pursuit - This site is one of my newest discoveries and I already love it. It's a must read especially if you have older children. I especially enjoyed her posts on wisdom, parenting and life lessons.Cents to Get Debt Free - Check out her carnival on cutting expenses and post your link if you have some ideas you can share. Happy to be at Home - This is an online magazine founded by 3 moms with a wide range of topics, from cooking, homeschooling, frugality and giveaways, to exercise.
Labels: Sunday's Spotlight
Thursday, February 19, 2009
Five ways to stretch bread
OK, so bread may not be the first thing we think of when we talk about stretching food, but why not? Every little bit adds up to something substantial.
I'm convinced there are two types of people. There are those who routinely discard the heels of the loaf and those who use every scrap in the bread bag. If you fall into the latter category, please leave me a comment so I can learn from you. If you routinely throw the bread away, stop! You are throwing away food that you can use and I will give you ideas how.
- Save the heels in the freezer until you accumulate enough and turn them into a big batch of french toast. It may not be gourmet, but it still tastes good and fills hungry bellies.
- Make a triple-decker sandwich with the heel being the center slice. The guys in your life will thank you. They say the best way to a man's heart is through his stomach. "They" knew about triple-decker sandwiches.
- Croutons - These are just pieces of hardened bread, so why not use the firm bread you already have on hand? There are numerous recipes online, so search a site like Allrecipes.com and look for a recipe you like.
- Cut into strips and top with garlic butter (softened butter mixed with crushed garlic.) Then broil for just a few to make homemade bread sticks.
- Use your food-processor and turn the ends into bread crumbs for meatloaf or meatballs.
Friday's Frugal Tip of the Day: Before you throw away the ends of the bread loaf, be creative and see what else you can do with it.
What are your ideas? If you use those last bits of bread, what do you do with it? If you still want to save even more on bread, read this post.
For more frugal tips, visit Biblical Womanhood and Cents to Get Debt-Free.
Labels: food, Friday's Frugal Tip of the Day, frugality
Thanks Lands' End
A few days ago I attended Blissdom '09. For those who may not be aware, Blissdom is a blogging conference sponsored by Blissfully Domestic and One2One Network. One of the many perks of attending the conference was the sponsor provided swag. Lands' End was overly generous in providing these great canvas totes. When I returned home, even my young daughter noticed the quality. In her words, "it will last forever because it's so heavy." Maybe not forever, but I am very impressed with it. Inside, you will find pockets surrounding the perimeter and a metal clip on an attached strap to prevent items like keys from disappearing into the bottom of the bag. There is also an outer pocket for the items you need to keep handy. I love the pink straps, but if pink isn't you, there are about 15 other colors to choose from.
While I am a huge bargain hunter and this bag is not what would typically be considered a bargain price, it is definitely a good and reasonable price. I acknowledge there are times to spend a little more for quality that will last and this bag fits that description. Check out their website as they seem to have sales quite often and even have an Overstock and Reduced section.
Labels: Blissdom '09, Just My Best Picks - product reviews
Too pretty to not share
I love surprises.
Labels: Just sharing
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
I should have titled this: Never Miss the Garbage Pick-up Again.We missed getting the trash out to the road for pick-up once again. Our disposal company does not seem to have a rhyme or reason to which holidays it observes. I assumed that since Monday was a Federal holiday and they did not come on other Federal holidays, they would observe this one too, making them a day late. I was wrong. My olfactory senses and I are glad it's not summer, which would allow quicker fermentation of the garbage within smelling distance of our home.This smelly oversight has a solution though. I have an information board on the inside door of a cabinet that we use for miscellaneous household supplies. There is some information we need routinely and looking up the same phone numbers grew old, so I began taping them to the inside of the door. I included the numbers of our doctors, my hair stylist, the dog groomer (guess I need to update since we no longer have a dog), the tax preparer, etc. I will print out the garbage pick-up schedule from their website and tape it to my information board. Missing the garbage didn't work for me but I found a solution. For some ideas that actually work, visit Works for Me Wednesday at Rocks in My Dryer.Do you have a handy method of keeping track of important information that needs to be at your fingertips?
Labels: organization, tips, Works for Me Wednesday
Monday, February 16, 2009
Celebrate President's Day with This Edible Craft
Are your children home from school today or do you homeschool? If so, this is a great edible craft to make in honor of President's Day.
Grab a bag of pretzel rods and peanut butter and summon your inner architect. Your children can build their own log cabins with these two simple supplies. Just use the pretzel rods as logs and use the peanut butter to hold the "logs" together.
There is no right or wrong, so get creative and have fun!
We plan to make one later so there are no pics to show yet, but if you try this, please leave a comment on how it turned out or post a picture of it on your blog and come back and let me know. Have fun!
Labels: fun with the kids, holiday ideas
Sunday, February 15, 2009
Calico Beans - a hearty dish that stretches ground beef
1/2 pound ground beef1 medium (1/2 cup) chopped onion1/2 cup ketchup1 teaspoon salt3/4 cup brown sugar1 teaspoon dry mustard2 teaspoons vinegar1 can pork and beans1 can kidney beans1 can lima beansBrown beef and saute onion until tender. Combine beef, onion, ketchup, salt, brown sugar, mustard and vinegar in a 3 quart baking dish. Partially drain beans and add to baking dish, stirring gently. Bake at 350 for 40 minutes. Great served with cornbread!For more recipes, visit Organizing With Sandy.
Check out these great blogs today and then come back to Just Doing My Best tomorrow to see what's new.
Labels: Sunday's Spotlight
Friday, February 13, 2009
Smart clothing purchases for children
One of the best things we can do in our frugal homes is to make wise purchases. (Watch for an exciting product review section coming soon!) We can do this by planning ahead when we are shopping.
When my son was a baby, I loved buying the baseball blue sleepers and the construction themed outfits. When I found out I was expecting my daughter, my blue buying days were over, for a while. I left the fun, boyish outfits for the grandparents. Instead, I began purchasing green, white and yellow onesies and sleepers that the new baby, regardless of gender, could grow into after my son was finished with them.
Now that they are older, I still do this to a degree. Some items do not lend well to this idea but others are perfect. Turtlenecks (which you are buying on clearance for next year, right?), some shorts and some t-shirts are purchased gender neutral. Unless the bargain is too amazing, snow pants and snow boots are never purchased gender specific.
Friday's Frugal Tip of the Day - Think ahead in purchasing items for your oldest child and make sure the gender neutral base pieces are in neutral colors. This gets the longest possible life out of a piece.
When these pieces have been outgrown and assuming they are still in good shape, take them to your local consignment shop for resale. Some clothing items keep giving and giving!
Labels: clothing, Friday's Frugal Tip of the Day, frugality, plan ahead
Thursday, February 12, 2009
Frugal and Free Valentine Ideas for the Kids
Whether you have procrastinated in planning anything fun for your kids this Valentine's Day or if you are too cash-strapped to consider much, let these ideas serve as a spring board to finding something that works for your family. Most of the time, children do not care WHAT you did, but rather that you simply DID.
Serve red food all day. My kids loved this when they were younger. For breakfast you could serve toast with strawberry jelly (cut into a heart shape of course), bacon strips, red grapes, and strawberry (or at least pink colored) milk. For lunch, you could serve tomato soup, red pepper strips (see pic under post title) and apple wedges with peanut butter. For dinner, you could have pasta with marinara sauce, salad with tomatoes and maybe even a red dressing like Catalina. Don't forget the candles; kids like them too. What is in your pantry? One of the keys to frugality is being creative and using what you already have.
Look in your Christmas decor and birthday supply boxes to see if you can come up with any appropriately colored plates, napkins, etc. Anything different from an average day will be great. Don't forget to stock up on the plain colored partyware when it is on clearance after Valentine's Day. Depending on the colors, they can be used for birthdays, 4th of July, and Christmas.
Wear lots of red. This is especially good for the younger children, let them see how much red they can wear. It's ok if they don't match today!
Let them have a lunch date with their "friends." Suggest they bring their most treasured doll or stuffed animal to the table for a meal. When my children were younger, they loved setting a place for one of their dolls or animals and then sharing a meal with them.
Gather lots of white, red and pink paper. Cut out an abundance of hearts and teach them to do the same. Then, rather than instructing them to make the classical butterflies and mice from hearts, let them create creatures on their own. Provide them with white supplies like cotton balls, coffee filters and Q-Tips. You may be surprised at what they create.
Use the library - venture out for some Valentine books and don't forget to look in the video/ DVD section for some Valentine-themed children's movies. If you try any of these ideas or have any to share with me, please leave a comment. I'd love to hear from you!
For more frugal Valentine craft ideas, you can visit Money Saving Mom.
For more homemaking tips, visit my main page.
Labels: frugality, fun with the kids, holiday ideas, tips
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
Shopping for Free
I love going to my local consignment shop because I usually shop for free. Sound to good to be true? It's not and it just takes a little planning. At the beginning of each season, I am faithful to make my appointment to bring in the items I want to sell. I usually make two appointments since I have growing children and she has an item limit. Then, a few weeks later when I stop in to see if there are any new bargains that my family needs, I do not request the cash or a check for the items that she has sold. I simply let her keep it in my account and whenever I need to buy something, she simply deducts it from what she owes me. I have only had to pay out of pocket a few times. The deal is even sweeter when I stop by on the sale and clearance days. At the end of the season, she clearances items for $1 and I buy ahead for the next season, all from the account I have built up. You could shop for free too, just check with your local shop and ask about their policies. If you stop by the store regularly, you will build a rapport with the staff and will be aware of any store policy changes. For more tips, visit Works for me Wednesday at Rocks in My Dryer.
Labels: clothing, consignment shops, deals, tips, Works for Me Wednesday
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Need some free photos?
Carrie over at MoneySavingMethods.com has a great post on how you can score some free photos.
No more excuses for not eating your veggies
The biggest time saver in my kitchen is prepping veggies before we need them. Once a week I will wash, de-core, peel, chop and slice the week's purchases and put them into their own containers. When I prep the vegetables ahead of time, there are always healthy snacks ready for hungry children (and adults.) When we want a salad, we merely have to assemble the pre-cut veggies, or perhaps just cut them into smaller pieces if they are not already salad size. Also, when making pizzas or casseroles, the veggies are already washed, peeled, de-cored, etc., and all I have to do is chop them more finely for the casserole. Now, there are no more excuses left for us not eating our freshly prepared, readily available vegetables...
You can read more kitchen tips at Tammysrecipes.com.What do you consider the biggest time-saver in your kitchen?
Labels: food, tips
$1.00 off Chex Mix - You can find these on sale often, so be sure to wait for the sale. When you use your coupon with the sale price, you will get a nearly free product. $1.00 off Cascadian Farms product - I've been able to get inexpensive frozen veggies with this coupon. Our Walmart use to have them for about $1.27 so it was .27 after the coupon.
Coupons.com (see right side bar) is said to have new coupons up for the month.
As always, copying of printed coupons is not allowed. Be sure to combine these coupons with store sales for the biggest bang for your buck!
Monday, February 9, 2009
I just got back from the amazingly informative and fun Blissdom '09 conference where I met some great bloggers. I will ask some of these great ladies to guest post occasionally. In addition to meeting new friends, there were fabulous sponsors who made the weekend even more special with some great swag and events. The weekend inspired many new ideas, introduced new blogs for me to suggest to you, and even provided a giveaway for my readers, so check back often to see what I've got up my sleeve.
Labels: Blissdom '09
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
Double duty with clean microwaves and clean sponges
There are very few things that I am fanatical about. First is not ever, ever, EVER allowing noodles in my grandpa's Best Ever Texas chili recipe. If you are from the Ohio Valley area, like me, or can cook a mean pot of Texas chili, you can understand what a big deal and paradox this is. (For those of you who do not understand the problem here....Texas Chili must never be defiled with noodles. But, most people in my neck of the woods think chili is best with noodles. Herein lies the problem.)
The other fanatical obsession I have is my microwave must always, and I do mean always, be spotless. I have one of those plastic, inverted bowl type lids that is constantly being used and washed routinely. This helps keep the microwave clean most of the time and I quickly wipe up any spills before they dry. Sometimes though, a family member tries to be helpful and cook something themselves in the microwave. Since they do not share the same microwave compulsion as me, inevitably, there will be splatters as a result of their electromagnetic culinary skills. Of course, I am quick to clean the mess that they "didn't see" but when I miss one of these events, I have a double duty trick.
I sanitize my dishwashing sponge in the microwave and when it is done, the dried on nastiness will wipe off with no effort. Just grab a papertowel and wipe down the entire microwave as soon as you remove the sponge.If you do this routinely, your microwave will never be dirty either and you can join me in my clean microwave compulsion...Ok, seriously now...A word of caution: it is recommended you sanitize the sponge for 2 minutes, but this makes it dangerously hot. To prevent fire, the sponge must be thoroughly soaked before nuking.
The jury is still out on the best way to sanitize since there are variances in sponge sizes and power levels in the ovens. Because some germs are rather nasty, I would be remiss to say I know the best way, but this is how we do it. The microwave though...that's another story. We've got that one nailed.
For more tips, visit Rocks in My Dryer for Works for Me Wednesday.
Labels: cleaning, tips, Works for Me Wednesday
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
Here are some great coupons I've run across lately. Progresso Broth - save $1.25Progresso Soup- save $1.10Any Biz product - save $2.00, not sure if this one will work for you, but it's worth a try. Have you run across any great coupons? Check back soon as I will be adding more.
Croutons in a pinch
After a crazy week and a couple of not-so-healthy-meals, my guy and I decided a Buffalo Chicken Salad was exactly what we needed. We proceeded to make the best salad ever by incorporating just about every fresh veggie we could find in the fridge. The chicken was just right, seasoned perfectly, (thanks to the aforementioned "my guy") and the aroma filled the kitchen. The bed of veggies was colorful and crisp and awaiting the final assembly.
But, we had a problem. The best salad ever was missing a major ingredient- those little crispies that make a salad special...croutons. There were none in the house and this salad just HAD to have some. So, I reached for our kid's ranch-flavored Goldfish crackers and sprinkled some on top. I was unsure what to expect, but they were fantastic! (And kinda fun too.)
By the way, I could have called this post Making Salads Fun because this might be another handy way to entice kids to eat their salads. I posted some ways that work for our family here.
Labels: food, tips
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