Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Life Hack: Non-Stick Cooking Spray

Here's a quick tip.  When you need to spray a muffin tin, cake pan or pot with cooking spray do it over your dishwasher!
I simply open it up and do all my spraying right over the door.  This way the mess is contained and when you run the dishwasher it's all washed away!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Money Saving Monday: Utility Bills

I don't know about your house, but in mine the electric bill is the largest bill (outside of the mortgage) that we pay each month.  Utilities can really eat up a chunk of your household budget, so why not try to keep them as low as possible. 
While we all like to enjoy the creature comforts of the 21st century (myself included) we don't like to shell out the big bucks associated with them.  Here are a few ways we try to reduce our utility bills.

  • Keep it as cool in the winter and as warm in the summer as is comfortable.  I typically let our house get up to 76 degrees in the daytime in summer months.  Yes it can get warm, but it can save big bucks.  Likewise in the winter we let the house go down as low as 62 degrees at night.  Pile on the blankets and snuggle up to the one you love!
  • Adjust the heating/cooling while on vacation.  It's not practical to let your heating/cooling go to extremes on a daily basis, but when you're away adjust it so you aren't wasting electric unnecessarily.  
  • Don't run the dishwasher if it's not full.  How many times have you run yours 3/4 full.  If you can squeeze in a few more dishes wait until after breakfast to run it.
  • Utilize rain barrels and harness the power of the sun.  When it's cold out, but sunny, raise the blinds and let the sun shine in.  If it's hotter than the sun out there lower your shades to help keep your house cool.  Put up a clothes line!  It might be low tech, but it works.
  • Shut the HVAC off!  For 2-4 weeks in Spring and Fall we turn our HVAC off.  We open the windows, air out the house and enjoy the beautiful weather.
  • Make sure your doors and windows are well sealed.  If you can see your curtains blowing in the wind it's probably time to look at sealing them up.
  • Utilize the grill in summer.  I love to bake, but when it gets above 80 you'll be hard pressed to get me to bake.  The oven heats up the house too much!  In the warmer months we grill, grill, grill--keeping the heat outside, where it belongs.
The list could go on and on, but I feel as though these are some of the most effective ways to save some $ while still being practical.  Do you have a favorite way to save on electric, gas and water? Share it with us!

Life Hack: Safely Disposing of Razor Blades

If you're a DIYer or crafter you probably go through a few box cutters, Exacto knife blades, craft knife blades etc...I know that some people are probably just throwing these in the trash, but you could dispose of them a little more safely with just 10 seconds of work.

I tape my used blades to a piece of cardboard and then throw them out.  This not only keeps it from ripping the trash bag, but will keep animals from eating it, kids from cutting themselves and lower risks to your hard working trash people!

Stay safe out there!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

In Season: Early Spring

The birds are chirping, the sun is shining and pollen is floating freely in the air--must be spring.  As soon as the weather warms we start craving juicy Watermelon, succulent tomatoes and sweet corn.  Unfortunately for our pallets we've still got a ways to go before any of the a fore mentioned items begin to bud. 
Just because summer's bounty isn't ripe for the picking doesn't mean there aren't some items that have begun to show their lovely faces!  Here are a few things you can start to look for.
  • Lettuces
  • Strawberries
  • Herbs
  • Leeks
  • Green Onions
  • Asparagus
  • Peas
I try to shop and eat as seasonally as my wallet and family's patience allows.  This means we haven't seen a plump, delicious tomato in over six months.  Sometimes it's hard, but I can tell you that the light at the end of the tunnel is that much sweeter because we wait.  Buying seasonally will allow you save money, reap the best nutritional benefits, eat locally and get the best tasting product.
What am I eating right now?  Strawberries and asparagus have been wonderful.  Today Kroger I picked up asparagus for $
What's in the garden?  Lettuce, leeks, peas, carrots and a bounty of herbs are all in the ground and happily soaking up some rays.  In three to four weeks I'll be able to start harvesting lettuce and peas.  About that time peppers and tomatoes will be ready to go into the ground. 
I know it's tempting to eat whatever whenever, but I promise you if you try eating seasonally you'll learn that food really does taste better coming from closer to home!
If you're interested in a seasonal diet I recommend checking out the book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.  It really changed the way I see eating!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Money Saving Monday: Fix What's Broken

As Americans we're more likely to throw something away and replace it than we are to fix it.  What's wrong with us?  I've never sat down and figured out how much we save by being DIYers but I can tell you it's a lot.
There are ways to save BIG dollars like refinishing furniture and cabinets or doing your own car repairs/maintenance.  However you don't need to be an avid DIYer to save yourself a boat load.  By doing preventative maintenance and minor projects yourself you can still rack up a substantial savings.  Here are a few ideas.

  • Clean your vacuum!  Your users manual has a section on cleaning/preventative maintenance; read up on it!  I clean my filters monthly and clean the hoses and rotators twice a year.  You will definitely extend your vacuum's life by treating it right.
  • Have a hole?  Sew or patch it yourself!  Even if you're not a sewer you can still patch a minor hole.  Big box stores like Wal-Mart sell iron on patches in a variety of colors.  If the hole is in a place where it's highly visible you can always sew an embellishment over it!    
  • Give it a fresh coat of paint.  When our mailbox post was looking broken, faded and in need of replacement what did I do?  I painted it!  It's amazing what a fresh coat of paint will do for almost anything.
The bottom line; think the next time you reach for the trash can.  I've been challenging myself to throw away less.  I'm thankful I have a handy hubby, but I promise you don't need to be the blocks Mr. Fix-It to fix yourself!

Friday, April 5, 2013

Lean, Mean, Green Juice

I'm not a big proponent of diets.  Most of us can't stick with them and then end up feeling unsatisfied and frustrated come the end of the day.  I am a big proponent of eating a well balanced diet.  I'm always looking for a way to get more veggies into my diet and turning them into an unfiltered juice is the easiest way I've found of doing this. 
Most smoothies feature too much sugar and not enough nutritional benefits to justify the calorie intake.  My solution is to turn to juicing (pureeing really) raw fruits and veggies.  You could make a fresh juice with just about any fruit or veggie.  The most important thing is to use a good blender.  This doesn't mean a super expensive counter top hog, but that $10 blender you got in college probably isn't going to cut it.  I bought my Oster blender from Wal-mart.  It's a 600 watt blender with just a few buttons, and it breaks down easily for cleaning.

This recipe makes two 16oz juices.  I recommend consuming immediately.  If not, refrigerate and shake well before drinking.

1 ripe banana, sliced
4 strawberries, quartered
1/2 orange, sectioned (I use 1 clementine)
1 handful spinach
1 carrot, diced
1/2 c. orange or apple juice

Put the carrot, spinach and juice into the blender.  Pulse the blender until the carrot is broken down enough for the blender to run smoothly.  Run the blender on high for 30 seconds.  Add in the banana, strawberries and orange, pulse 10 times.  Ta-da!  You made a healthy, delicious juice drink!

Don't be scared of it, the spinach gives it a green color that some don't find appealing, but you really can't tell it's in there!  This is full of antioxidant and fiber.  I often drink this in place of lunch.  You could add a cup of yogurt to this to give it more body.  Give it a try, you just might enjoy it!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Money Saving Monday: Family Activities

Movies, museum excursions, zoo outing, baseball games and other family activities can really eat into one's budget.  There are ways to have family fun without breaking open the bank.
We allot $30 a month for 'entertainment'.  Thirty dollars might not sound like much for a family of 3, but I assure you we get at plenty of outings out of our $30.
Here are a few ways to get the most out of your entertainment budget; whatever it may be.
  • Take advantage of discount sites such as Living Social and Groupon.  I've gotten tickets to our local Discovery Center for 50% off.
  • Use coupons or discount tickets.  Frequently the grocery stores or fast food restaurants in our area pair up with attractions.  Entertainment books, Clipper magazines and other discount magazines also have coupons for area attractions.
  • Use any type of student/military discounts.  Many attractions offer 10% off with a student or military ID.
  • Take advantage of free days.  Many museums, national parks and zoos have a free day fall and spring, for residents.  Just provide your driver's license.  The Memphis Zoo here in TN is free on Tuesdays from 2PM until close.
  • Some movie theaters run a special discount period, ours has 'twilight shows' (4-5:30) that costs just $5.50 and children under 3 are free (score!)!  We also purchased a popcorn bucket for the year for $17 during a promotion.  This will allow us to fill it up for $3!  It's a great way to splurge without spending a fortune!  You could even split the upfront cost of the bucket with a neighbor, friend or family member!
Now if you're living paycheck to paycheck or you just don't have the money to spend on family outings--don't.  There are lots of FREE options for a day of family fun.  Here are a few of my family's favorite ways to spend a day out for free.
  • Pack a picnic and go to the park!  Parks are free and the fresh air is good for everyone.  By packing a picnic lunch you've made it an affair!  If it's raining hit up your local mall's play space.
  • Find free local events.  Check with the community center, your local newspaper and follow favorite restaurants and attractions on Facebook.  For Easter Chick-fil-A had an Easter egg hunt with prizes, face painting and a bouncy house...all for free!  We did buy 2 biscuits and a cup of coffee (1 biscuit was free w/a coupon) for less than $5.
  • Take in the local beauty.  Do you have a a picturesque town nearby?  We frequently go to the town of Franklin and window shop and take in the fresh air!  
  • Go to the library!  Our library has story hours (Barnes and Noble also does this) twice a week.  It's a great way to spend an hour.
The most important thing about your family is that you get to spend time with them.  So whether you're spending time around the dinner table or at the zoo know that in the long run no one will remember that you did or didn't spend money on family together time!

M.I.A. and Looking Forward

I hope everyone had a wonderful, peaceful Easter. I'm sorry I've been MIA for the last few days.  Between prepping for Easter and catching (another) head cold I've been wiped out!  Never fear though, I'll have some great posts coming in the next 2 weeks!
My husband and I finally got my new raised garden bed finished and some plants in the ground.  I'll have some pictures of our new raised bed and a guide to early spring planting up later this week!  Just because it's not warm out yet doesn't mean you can't grow some fantastic and super nutritional produce!

I've decided to follow along with Crystal over at Money Saving Mom while she does her 30 Day House Cleaning Challenge!  You'll be able to stop in here every evening and see what I've tackled.  I'll be bringing you my own organization tips, a trip to the Dollar Store for 'getting organized under $10' and a peek inside my (slightly OCD) garage sale organization!  We have a HUGE community yard sale here every August and I spend the whole year boxing up items in anticipation of this.