Thursday, October 30, 2008

Food Friday: Pumpkin Bread

I'm not sure where my mom found this recipe, but it is a Christmas tradition around my house. Two years in a row my office gave it out to our vendors as Christmas presents. Both of those years I baked over 40 loaves. It was insane to bake that many but it was fun too. I normally start making these sometime in October and freeze them as I go. My Christmas present of beef is arriving next week so I have not begun baking them this year as I need the freezer space.

This recipe makes two medium sized loaves but you can use a variety of sizes, just adjust the baking time. Many times I make one large loaf and several smaller ones. Wrapped in plastic wrap and topped with a pretty bow, this makes a great Christmas present.

Pumpkin Bread

3 eggs
3 cups sugar
1 cup oil
2 cups canned pumpkin (1 can)
3 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cloves
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg

Mix eggs and sugar on medium speed until fluffy. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well. Pour mixture into two greased loaf pans and bake at 350 degrees for one hour.

How Well Do You Know Your States

If you are bored, go here for a fun game where you place all of the states in their correct place. Being years since I've been in school, this was a fun refresher game for me. For those who homeschool, this could be a great way for the kids to learn geography of the United States.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Waste Less Wednesday: Electricity

I normally focus on an actual item that can be reused but this week we are going to talk about reducing the electricity bill by using less of it. Each day, we waste energy without even realizing it but here are a few very easy ways to waste less:

Turn the thermostat down: I know you have heard this one before but it still amazes me how many times I hear "that won't work in my house". The easiest way to change this is to drop the thermostat one degree each week. Because it is such a small change, most people will never notice. We keep our heat on 69, but I'm trying to get it a little lower. If you are cold, simply put another layer on or grab a blanket and snuggle with your significant other. The same theory works in the summer by turning up the A/C one degree at a time. We keep it on 78 most of the summer.

Unplug appliances: When we began living on less a year ago, the first thing I did was go through the house and unplug everything that was not necessary. It still drives my husband crazy that he has to plug in the toaster every time he wants to use it, but it is saving us money. Appliances still use energy when plugged in, even if they are not turned on. Most appliances these days have lights, clocks, etc and those take electricity too.

Turn out the lights: We are lucky in that we live in a house with a lot of natural light. Many days, I never turn on the lights until it gets dark outside. If you are not so lucky, feel free to turn on the lights but turn them off as soon as you leave the room. I make it a habit to turn off all lights when not in use and now my 2 year old is doing the same thing. It amazes me that he has picked up on this but I'm glad he is learning now instead of having to reprogram him later.

Use a fan: In the summer, we wait as long as possible to turn on the A/C and use ceiling fans instead. It really cuts down on our electricity bill. I've been told to turn the fan on in the opposite direction during the winter in order to pull the air up. It is just now getting cold here so I plan on trying that in the near future.

Using these tips, and many others, we have significantly lowered our utility bill. In our area, gas, electric, water, and sewer all come on one bill. Our babysitter lives down the street in a very similar house to ours. She was ecstatic over the nice weather because it dropped her bill to just under $300. Our bill for the same time period was $102. A few changes do make a difference!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Free Chex Mix Bar


Sign up for the Betty Crocker newsletter and receive a free Chex Mix bar. I've tried these new bars and they are a yummy treat. This is a great way to try something new for free and get a useful newsletter with recipes and coupons.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Always Back Up Your Computer

My computer is officially toast. We were able to get power to it for awhile this weekend, but not very long. The fan went out and there is a weak connection where the power supply plugs in. Please let this serve as a reminder to back up your computer often. We hadn't in awhile and now I'm scrambling to replace those documents. When I get a new computer, I plan on backing up more often by placing a reminder on my calendar. We are going to take the computer to one of our computer geek friends and see if they can take the hard drive out and put it in another computer so we can get our information off.

In the meantime, I'm using my husband's work computer. It makes me appreciate my computer that much more. He isn't allowed to save any passwords or download anything on this computer. It is driving me crazy that there is no tab feature on his Internet Explorer and that I have to type in every single password. I am grateful for a backup computer though so I can't complain too much. We hope to have a new computer sometime in the next few week's. My parents offered to help us out by applying our Christmas money towards the computer. I will miss opening presents under the tree, but I'm glad we don't have to dip further into savings for our computer.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Can The Flood Please Stop?

I think I can safely say that my "when it rains, it pours" posts have turned into a flood. My laptop just died. I'm using my husband's work computer to get things done. The computer will work for a few seconds and then it will say there is no battery power. The battery barely works but the computer is plugged in. For some reason, it will not recognize that it is plugged in for more than about five minutes. I'm looking right now to see how much a replacement power supply is but I'm thinking it is time to replace the whole thing since we have had one problem after another with computer. For the record, I'm no longer a fan of Compaq. Our computer is 2 1/2 years old and should have lasted much longer.

To top off this fun time of everything expensive dying, my son has been a holy terror today. He finally just crashed for a nap - on the couch. I'm grateful for the nap, but I really need him in his bed. I was planning on cooking during naptime because my parents are coming over for dinner. The kitchen is right next to the living room so this will not work. After trying to move him three times, I finally gave up.

On the positive side, my husband was off work yesterday and he thoroughly cleaned the house. I came home from work to a very nice looking house.

Food Friday: Apple Bars

I was searching for some main dish recipes on the internet this past Saturday and came across this amazing recipe. Of course, it isn't a main dish, but that didn't stop me from trying them. I was planning on making cookies that afternoon but as soon as I realized I had the ingredients, these bars quickly replaced the cookies. They will be gooey when done but they are delicious. Warning, it is hard not to eat the entire pan.

Apple Spice Cookie Bars

2 cup plus 2 Tbsp all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp allspice (I left this out since I didn't have any)
small pinch ground cloves
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 Tbsp vanilla
2 apples, cored and diced (a little less than 2 cups)
cinnamon sugar for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line 9x13 pan with foil and baking spray. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and cloves. Whisk to combine well and set aside.

In a bowl from stand mixer, combine sugars and butter and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about one minute. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well to combine. Turn mixer on slow and fold in flour mixture a little at a time until just combined. Fold in apples.

Spread mixture evenly into prepared pan and sprinkle top generously with cinnamon sugar. Place in oven and bake until cooked through, when top slightly bounces back to the touch, about 30 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool completely before removing from pan, cutting and serving (bars will be very soft and gooey).

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Family Traditions

Many families have long standing traditions during the holidays and ours used to until I became married. My brother happened to get married 7 weeks later so the two of us really messed up the holiday traditions in our family. Since we both have our own families now, we are working on new traditions. Our biggest tradition, pre-family, was to go to my grandparents for Christmas and then have a huge family gathering the afternoon of Christmas.

The biggest change came from my husband's side. His family alternates on which holiday they celebrate each year - Thanksgiving or Christmas. This year we will be celebrating on Thanksgiving, which means I need to get cracking on my shopping for his family. I kind of like this tradition because then we do not have to figure out how to visit both families each year.

Another tradition we do is to get together with several of our friends. Since college, I have hosted a Christmas party for my friends every year. Ok, a few times someone else hosted, but I helped organize the annual event. I started this tradition because many of my friends were spread out across the country for college. Many of them still are, but we all try to get together every year. If someone can not make it, we give them a call during the party. It has evolved over the years from going out to a nice dinner to now having a potluck and watching the kids play. A couple of years ago we added a secret santa aspect to it.

I heard a great tradition this week from one of our MOPS mentor moms. The kids dress up in their PJ's and they all drive around town looking at Christmas lights. Afterwards, they go to Krispy Kreme for a yummy treat. My child loves lights so I'm thinking of doing something similar this year.

I also hope to include him in my marathon baking sessions. Some years I bake a ton, and some years just a little. Last year I bought ready made cookie dough and let him cut out cookies. He loved it and the cookie dough saved me the mess of making it homemade (I wasn't in the mood to clean up the flour that would have been thrown throughout the kitchen).

What are your family traditions and how have they evolved over the years? Feel free to leave a comment.

Vacuum Update

The vacuum is dead - it was not the belt. In fact, the belt was in perfectly good condition. I saw a Dyson on Craigslist last night for next to nothing (comparable to a new Dyson) and was very tempted to buy it but it is still way out of our budget. For now, I will get my exercise lugging my basement one up and down the stairs.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

When It Rains, It Pours Part 2

My vacuum just died. It has been sounding awful for awhile but as you know, we are on a super tight budget so we've just been praying it would limp by until my husband has a full time job. I was cleaning the couch and it died. My house smells like burnt rubber so I'm going to check and see if it was simply a belt but I'm thinking it was more. Of course, my little monkey will not go down for a nap so I check it. If all else fails, I have another that I use in the basement and I will lug it upstairs everytime I need it. I'm appreciating the new flooring that much more right now because it is less rooms I have to clean with the vacuum.

Waste Less Wednesday: Chicken

For those of you new to this blog, each week I take one common item from around the house and show you how to reuse it in order to be more frugal and green.

This week's feature is on chicken. Many times, I've cooked chicken to put in a casserole and had some leftover or we've had chicken for dinner and none of us could finish it. I've also been known to buy rotisserie chickens when they are discounted in order to have ready cooked meat. Instead of letting the chicken go to waste, here are a few ideas on how to reuse it.

Soup: Precooked chicken is a super easy way to add protein to just about any soup. Sometimes I gather all of the stray chicken and veggie leftovers and freeze them in a Ziploc bag. Once the bag is full, I add broth and seasonings and have a one of a kind soup.

Quesadillas: This is a great way to hide some veggies for kids too! Put chicken, veggies, and cheese between two tortillas and heat in a pan until desired crispiness.

Nachos: Can you tell I like Mexican food? Build your own nacho night is one of my favorites. Top chips with leftover chicken, cheese and veggies and cook in microwave or oven until warm.

Baked Potato: For a quick dinner, bake a potato in the microwave for approximately 5 minutes. Top with leftover chicken and salsa for a healthy meal. Cheese, brocolli, or your other favorite toppings can be added to.

How else do you use leftover chicken? Please leave a comment and share your ideas.

Monday, October 20, 2008

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Store

Today was co-op and it was my day to play so I decided to do a little shopping. I have very few fall clothes that fit but I have very little budget for clothes right now so it is a challenge to find anything. I was armed with $10 in gift cards to Target and $20 of birthday money left. The funny thing that happened is that I found my priorities have changed drastically over the past year. I used to find a decent shirt or skirt for a few bucks and buy it if it fit without thinking much about it. I've always been frugal so nothing was usually over $20. Today, I found several cute things, but I couldn't even bring myself to try it on unless I absolutely loved it. No more buying just because I wanted something new.

I wound up with a shirt from Target for $9.99 and a shirt from Goodwill for $5. I really wanted a new skirt since I only have one fall skirt that actually fits and is semi in style but apparently skirts aren't selling right now. I saw a few out there but most store barely even had one rack for them. It looks like I will be wearing slacks to work and church instead of skirts but at least I have two new shirts and even a little money left over.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Creatively Entertaining Your Child

Ellen at Thrifty & Chic Mom had a great Sanity Saver post this weekend on how to keep her toddler occupied while caring for a sick child (who knew there was such a thing as window markers?!). This post got me to thinking about creative ways to keep my child entertained when I need to get something accomplished. She made a great point that many times the activities are simple, we just need a little refresher to think about them.

One of my new finds for entertaining my child is the camera on my phone. My parents recently took us out to lunch and our little monkey would not sit still for anything. I turned on the camera on my phone and he was fascinated with seeing everything through it. He would hold it up to the menu, my parents, his food, etc and squeal with delight every time something he recognized came on the screen.

Another saver for me is toy cars. A new car can keep him occupied for quite awhile. I pick up cars at garage sales all the time for next to nothing.

What is your sanity saver for entertaining your child? Feel free to share so we can all learn new ideas.

Friday, October 17, 2008

This Modern Mommy

Each Friday, Modern Mommyhood features an interview with a mom blogger and today I am the featured blogger. Check out the interview here. Thanks Rachel for featuring me!

Food Friday: Chocolate Crackles

This is one of my favorite, easy cookies and they aren't too bad health wise either. One cookie is approximately 60 calories and 2 grams of fat. When I'm in the mood for chocolate, this cures the craving.

Chocolate Crackles

1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 egg
2 egg whites
1 2/3 cup flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup powdered sugar

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Combine oil, sugar, and vanilla in large bowl. Beat a medium speed until blended. Add egg and egg whites and beat until well blended. With a spoon, stir in flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt.

Place powdered sugar in a shallow dish or large Ziploc bag. Shape dough into 1" balls and roll or shake in powdered sugar until coated. Place about 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake at 350 degrees for 7-8 minutes or until almost no indentation remains when touched lightly. Do not overbake. Cool on cookie sheet 2 minutes before removing to a cooling rack.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Gift Baskets

Gift baskets are a great way to give a personalized gift and they can be frugal too. I pick up baskets or fun containers at garage sales to hold all of the goodies. You can be creative too and hold the items in something other than a basket such as a hat box, trash can, or sand pail. By shopping all year long, you can put together a great gift basket for pennies. These make great gifts for Christmas and other holidays. Here are a few of my favorite baskets I've put together:

Family Night: For this one, I put in an age appropriate game, DVD, and snacks. It gives the family an excuse to spend time together and it saves you money by buying one gift for the family instead of a gift for each person.

Movie Basket: If you know a movie the recipient would like, go ahead and buy it when you see it on sale. If you do not know their taste, put in a gift card for movie rentals. I also add bags of microwave popcorn and movie theater boxes of candy (you can buy these at the dollar store). My favorite way to tie it all together is to put it in a popcorn bowl. Last year, I found some great bowls in the dollar section at Target.

Food: This is great for college students and foodies alike. For college students, put in basic cooking utensils and packages of muffin, cookie, and/or cake mixes. Easy things to eat are great too such as Chex Mix, granola bars, or small packages of candy. One of my friends knows I love to cook so last year she put together the ingredients for chocolate pretzel candy, a sample she made, and the recipe card in a nice Christmas container. It was a great gift for me and I'm thinking of doing something similar this year for my foodie friends.

For the bride: A practical gift for the new couple just starting out is a laundry basket full of cleaning supplies. By shopping sales, you can pick these up for cheap and it will greatly help out the new couple.

What are some fun gift baskets you have put together or received? Feel free to leave a comment letting my readers now.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Waste Less Wednesday: Coffee Filters

Photo from Brenda Hyde

Coffee filters have many more uses than just to make coffee. They are super cheap too. Today we are going to focus on ways to use them for crafts. Down the road, we will look into household uses for them.

The picture at the top is made simply using water colors. My two year old even did this craft at church so it is great for the younger crowd too.

Once you paint your coffee filter, it is easy to turn it into a butterfly, flower, or holiday decorations. To find several great coffee filter crafts, click here.

If you have used a coffee filter for a craft, please let my readers know. I enjoy finding great crafts for my child and this is an easy one.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Potty Training & Freezer Updates

I know you all are just dying to know how the potty training is going. Today was the first day he asked to go as soon as he got up. Yesterday he decided he was done with diapers and would only use Pull-ups. I took some Pull-Ups to the babysitters today so hopefully he is doing good in them. If he keeps doing so well, we may try underwear this weekend. I'm very excited that he is doing this on his own and I'm not having to put much effort into it.

Now, for the freezer update. I found the door of the freezer yesterday. That is a huge start because bread fits perfectly in it so I can put my bread stash in there and probably free up at least half a shelf. We have been trying hard to eat from our freezer but I fell off the bandwagon today as we are having egg salad sandwiches for dinner. I have about a month and a half to find more room for all of the meat coming and I'm starting to think I can make it. Last week, I wasn't so sure.

Monday, October 13, 2008

When It Rains, It Pours

It seems like every electronic item in our house is falling apart lately. With my husband not working full time we cannot afford to replace them all at once. Here is my plan of attack on how to replace these items:

Laptop: This seems to be dying rather rapidly and it doesn't help that my toddler keeps pulling the keys off. We had someone look at it last week to take care of a few issues and it seems to be working better. It still randomly shuts off but a few other issues are taken care of so this will have to work for now. We are hoping it can at least limp by for a few more months.

Digital Camera: You have heard my complaints about my camera before so you know I am hoping to get another one for Christmas. If I do not get another one, my plan is to use my swagbucks points to get several Best Buy gift cards. I'm getting close to having enough for my first one. Digital cameras are becoming more and more affordable so hopefully I can make up any minor difference from our budget. If you would like to sign up for the swagbucks search engine and begin earning your own rewards, click on the button to the right of this post.

Television: The TV in our basement flat lined last week. Literally. My son was watching it and all of sudden, there was a line straight across the middle of the screen. You could still hear the show, but there was no picture. I can now turn on the TV and get a picture for awhile, but it still flat lines everytime. We are searching Craigslist for a decent replacement because a new one is definitely out of our budget right now.

How do you handle unexpected expenses? We could probably take money from our emergency fund but none of these seem an emergency at the moment.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

I've Been Tagged

Wow, what an exciting week - first an award and now a tag! SnappyMom tagged me and I'm supposed to tell you seven random things about myself.
1. I'm a huge Dave Ramsey fan. I've never been a fan of debt but listening to his radio show convinced me even more to work my tail off to avoid debt.
2. I freelance on the side as a virtual assistant. I started doing this to make a little more money when my husband had his hours cut but I'm finding I'm really enjoying it.
3. My favorite food is Mexican. I could eat chips and salsa every day of my life and be very content.
4. My staple wardrobe every summer is tank tops and flip flops. It is a sad day when I have to put these clothes away since I love the summer.
5. My child is more active than the average toddler. Most people think I'm making that up until they meet him.
6. I'm addicted to Diet Coke from McDonald's. I didn't realize how much I enjoyed it until I was pregnant and could not have it. I craved it daily but did not have a Diet Coke until after delivery. When the L&D nurse asked if I wanted anything to drink shortly after labor, my entire family told her in unison that I wanted a Diet Coke.
7. If I could have any profession in the world, it would be to work in a bakery. I love to bake and have dreams of turning it into a job someday.
I'm supposed to tag seven others but I was recently tagged on my private blog so I'm going to pass this time. Thanks SnappyMom for the tag!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Free Trade Magazines

Click the above banner for free trade magazines through I know many of you are SAHM's and think this is weird but if you plan to go back to work at some point, this is a great way to stay up on your industry. I subscribe to several trade publications in my industry in order to stay on top of the changes.

Food Friday: Black Bean Burritos

One simple way to save money on groceries is to eat vegetarian meals. Meat can be expensive but there are some great non-meat meals out there. Today I am featuring one of the few vegetarian meals my meat loving husband will actually eat. These are easy to make and taste just as yummy as leftovers.

Black Bean Burritos

1 large onion, chopped
1 medium green pepper, chopped
2 Tbsp chicken broth
2 cans (15 oz each) black beans, rinsed and drained
1 1/2 cups picante sauce (I use salsa)
12 flour tortillas (fat free or reduced fat work fine)
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese (reduced fat is fine)
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (reduced fat is fine)
3 cups shredded lettuce
6 Tbsp fat free sour cream

In a non-stick skillet, cook and stir onion and green pepper in broth for 2-3 minutes or until tender. Mash one can of black beans. Add to the skillet with 3/4 cup of picante sauce and remaining beans; heat through. Spoon 1/4 cup mixture down the center of each tortilla. Roll up and place, seam side down, in a 13"x9"x2'' baking dish coated with nonstick cooking spray. Combine tomatoes and remaining picante sauce; spoon over enchiladas. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Uncover, sprinkle with cheeses. Bake 5 minutes longer or until cheese has melted. To serve, place 1/2 cup lettuce on each plate and top with 2 enchiladas. Garnish each serving with one tablespoon sour cream.

For those on Weight Watchers, these are 3 points per burrito. I calculated that many years ago so feel free double check this.

My husband seriously dislikes tomatoes so I sometimes leave them out on simply only put them on side of the dish. This is an easy dish to adjust to your likes and dislikes.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Blog Award

I've been nominated for my first award! Thanks to Money Saving Pro for nominating me. It means a lot that a fellow frugal blogger enjoys my writing.
The words to this award are in Portuguese and mean, “This blog invests and believes, the proximity” (meaning, that blogging makes us ‘close’ -being close through proxy). I feel like I have gotten to know many of you well over the few months I've been blogging and I agree that it makes us close.
I'm passing this award on to eight other bloggers that I follow. I hope you enjoy reading their posts and feel free to leave them a comment saying you found them through Living on Less.

Mary from Owlhaven

Potty Training

I've always heard that if you wait long enough to potty train, it will be easy and some kids will train themselves. I think we may be entering that stage. For about a year now, our son has loved to sit on the potty but he never does anything on it (half the time he is fully clothed). A month or so ago he was interested for about two weeks and actually peed on the potty a few times. Just when we thought it might be time to take this seriously, he lost interest. Towards the end of last week he decided to give it a go again. We made huge progress when he asked me Sunday night at church to use the potty. This was our first public experience so that was exciting. Today was our best day so far and I didn't even really try. I let him wear a pull-up this morning and he went three times on the potty. Two of those times I didn't even ask, he simply took off his pull-up, opened the bathroom door and hopped on the potty all by himself. I sure hope this is the beginning of good things to come. I let his babysitter know so she is going to work with him the two days a week he is there. I'm sure we have some challenging days ahead, but I'm hoping we can say goodbye to daytime diapers soon. He still overflows a diaper at night so I don't expect overnight potty training to happen for awhile. Anyone have any potty training tips you would like to share?

Waste Less Wednesday: Shampoo

I have several bottles of shampoo that I tried but did not like. I have a hard time throwing these away since there is still good product left in them. I've heard several times that it makes a great soap scum remover so I gave it a try a few months ago. You know what? - it works! Put a little shampoo on a washcloth and rub over the soap scum. The area I first tried was thick with soap scum and I could quickly tell it took a layer or two off. Every so often, I work on getting a few more layers off. My shower is starting to look better than ever. I could probably get it all cleaned up at once if I had the patience but I get bored easily.

I've also used leftover, gentle shampoo in place of dog shampoo. We ran out of dog shampoo one time and I turned to some yummy smelling stuff I had in the cabinet. My dog never smelled better. I don't recommend using it often as dog shampoo has special chemicals to keep your dog's skin and fur soft, but it works great in a pinch.

Feel free to share your ideas on to use leftover shampoo.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Kitchen Magnets

I'm feeling crafty this week and with all of the Christmas talk from yesterday so I thought I would show you how to make cool kitchen magnets. I started with clear glass gems that I found at Hobby Lobby in the floral department. There were approximately 70 for $4.00 (sometimes they are half price). I've also seen them in smaller quantities at the dollar store. I used the larger size but they do make a smaller gem. I prefer the larger because they are less of a chocking hazard.

Then, I gathered leftover scrapbook paper and old magazines. Trace the glass gem on the paper or magazine and cut it out. You will probably have to trim it once you cut it but it does not have to be perfect.

Put glue on top of the image and glue to the flat side of the gem. I used Elmer's school glue and it holds up just fine. I have heard others mention silicone glue but since Elmer's works for me, that is what I used. The glue will dry clear. Make sure the edges of your image are glued down well.

Finally, add a magnet. I've found the rolls of magnets are not strong enough, so I used button magents. Michael's sells 50 for $5.99 but they are not self adhesive. I found the self adhesive ones at Walmart and they were around $2 for 18. I prefer one less step of messy glue so I went with the ones from Walmart. This pictures shows the backside of the magnet.

To package these for gifts, Altoid tins make a great holder. The top can be covered in scrapbook paper. Most craft stores also sell little decorative tins for a buck or two. We made these as a craft at MOPS a few weeks ago and the ladies loved them. They look expensive but they are really pennies to make.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Saving Money on Christmas

Today starts the 12 Weeks of Christmas over at Modern Mommyhood, so today's post is about Christmas to celebrate this new carnival.

I recently talked about how to be more organized for Christmas and many of those concepts will help you save money too. I would love to hear how others save money so feel free to leave me a comment.

Budget: Make a budget and stick to it. Remember the list of gift recipients you made - go find that list and put a dollar amount next to each name. Also, make a budget for food and parties.

Intentional shopping: Have you ever gone to the mall or a store just to see what they have and come out with more than you planned on buying? I'm sure most of us have and this is where intentional shopping comes in. Do not go to a store just to browse around. Go in knowing what you intend to buy and then only buy that item(s). Since I began intentional shopping over a year ago, I've saved hundreds of dollars.

Buy ahead: Start collecting food and gift items now when you see them on sale. I save a lot of money at the grocery store by using The Grocery Game. Sign up now to begin creating a stockpile of grocery and toiletry needs for the holidays. Many of these great finds can be turned into a gift basket or donated to the needy. I've been watching the craft stores too for supplies on sale so when I get ready to make Christmas gifts, I have all my supplies for a fraction of the cost.

Homemade: Not everything needs to be homemade, nor should it be but you can save some serious dough by making a few things. Over the next few months (starting tomorrow) I will feature a few of the homemade things I am either doing or have done over the years. My problem this is year is that I have more ideas than I have people to give them to.

Have a few go to meals on hand: We all know the holidays are crazy and in my household there are many times I want to turn to fast food to save a few minutes. If I plan ahead though, dinner can be ready in no time and it will be much healthier. I'm planning on putting a few casseroles and soups in the freezer to have on hand for those crazy days. I will also be using my crockpot a lot. Nothing is better than coming home to a home cooked meal ready and waiting for you.

So, what are you doing to save money during the holidays this year?
If you signed up for The Grocery Game, I would appreciate you using me as a referral. My referral email is light52b at yahoo dot com. Thanks!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

I Won!

I've won another prize thanks to a wonderful blogger. Check out Nickels-n-Dimes for some great money saving ideas. I won a $5 Walgreens gift card on one of her giveaways and she promises to have more coming soon.

Are you ever curious how I find these giveways? Usually on Tuesday of each week Money Saving Mom and Freebies4Mom have a post where everyone can link to their giveaways. I simply look at the ones that interest me and sign up. I've met some great people doing this and now I've won two useful prizes. I can definately use this as I buy most of my cleaning supplies and toothpaste through Walgreens.

Apple Butter

I finally figured out how to use up all of apples my inlaws gave us - apple butter. I've never made apple butter before but it was super simple. I even took the time to can it so I can have homemade apple butter all year long (or give it as gifts). I always thought canning was hard but Mary from Owlhaven is constantly talking about how easy it is so I finally gathered the courage and gave it a try. The basic recipe is:

crockpot full of apples (peeled and diced)
4 cups sugar
2 Tbsp cinammon
1/2 tsp cloves

Put all of the ingredients in the crockpot on high for one hour and then move it low and cook overnight. Mine was still a little chunky when I woke up the next day so I took the potato masher and broke up those pieces. It was a little soupy too so I took the lid off for about an hour to take care of that. I looked at many recipes on the internet and all were similar, with many people suggesting taking the lid off at the end. Here is what my apple butter looked like in the crockpot.

The image at the top is my finished product. I used 1/2 pint jars and had enough for five jars, plus a small container full to use now. To can all you need to do is wash jars, fill, and boil for 1o minutes. I'm proud to say that all five sealed. Since it was my first experience, I was fully prepared for at least one not to seal.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Food Friday: Apple Crisp

This is a super easy crisp that can be prepared ahead of time and frozen. Freeze the apple mixture in a gallon sized freezer bag and the topping in a quart size bag. I usually add some lemon juice to the apples so they do not brown. When ready to use, thaw the apples in the refrigerator for about a day and then assemble. I make several of these in the fall so I can have fresh apple crisp all winter long.

Apple Crisp

5 cups sliced apples (3-5 apples)
2 to 4 T granulated sugar
½ cup regular rolled oats
½ cup packed brown sugar
¼ cup all-purpose flour
½ t cinnamon
¼ cup butter
¼ cup chopped nuts (optional)

For filling, place fruit in a 2-quart square baking dish. Stir in the granulated sugar.
For topping, in a medium bowl combine the oats, brown sugar, flour and cinnamon. Cut in butter till mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in the nuts. Sprinkle topping over filling.
Bake crisp in a 375 oven for 30-35 minutes or till fruit is tender and topping is golden. If desired, serve warm with ice cream.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Redbox Winner

The winner of the Redbox Giveaway is Kathy. Her idea to help with the winter boredom is to bake. My sweets loving child will love this idea so thank you.

Thank you to all of the great comments everyone left. I now have some ammo for winter and hopefully will not dread it as much!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Waste Less Wednesday: Newspaper

We recycle our newspapers, but there are plenty of uses for the paper before it hits the recycling bin.

Make a hat: There are several versions of this, but this one offers pretty easy instructions.

Use as packing materials: Use several layers of paper between plates or breakable objects when packing. If shipping items, shred the paper and use as filler. When I sell on eBay, I will sometimes fill newspaper bags with shredded paper and use this to protect whatever I am shipping.

Protect your table during messy projects: If painting or doing another messy project, newspaper can make a great barrier between the project and the table.

Wrapping paper: The comics make great wrapping paper. I've also used other sections of the paper, such as a cooking article for someone who likes to cook. It makes a great conversation piece and costs nothing extra.

Feel free to leave a comment with other ways you reuse newspaper. Also, do not forget to enter my first giveaway which is for three redbox codes. We love to use redbox for cheap date nights and sometimes family night. The contest ends tonight and I will post the winner tomorrow.

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