Handy Tips Everyone Should Know
This is a topic that can grow like wild fire! Books have been written on the subject. Experts, as well as those who are not, have much to offer on the subject. There are so many, different tips, hints, ideas and opinions out there. These are some I have found to be very helpful in my life, as I hope they will be in yours.
-Food and food items:
1.) Honey (and other thick, sticky food items)
Have you ever gone to get the last of the honey out of the plastic container, only to find that it's crystalized... stuck to the inside of the container? Well, I have, and it's not fun! It got me thinking, "What can I do to get the last of the honey out?" Then, I thought about microwaving the container, for just a few seconds, to see if this would re-liquify the honey. It worked, and I was able to use the last of the honey in a recipe. Try it, sometime!
2.) Cottage cheese
I'm sure you've heard the tip to store your cottage cheese upside-down, in its container, and it will keep longer? I'm here to tell you... it works! I have a container I bought almost a month ago that I store this way, that is still good!
3.) Cheese (block)
No matter what you hear against this tip, it works! I've done it for YEARS, with no problem. Yes... you CAN freeze block cheese! No... it does NOT matter what type of cheese it is. I've had success freezing cheddar, colby, pepper jack, mozzarella, provalone and my favorite... Havarti! I have also frozen creamed cheese; however, it does alter the consistency somewhat. The taste is the same. The myth that the cheese crumbles because you freeze it is ridiculous, too. I've had very little that this has happened to. Most cheeses are good frozen just the way they come... in their plastic wrapping. I simply thaw (or not), to use.
4.) Meat (beef, chicken, pork, seafood, prepared meats)
One thing that has saved us a lot of money on our grocery bill, is freezing meats in family-size portions. I use ziploc freezer bags for this. Since we only have two in our family, I will place two chicken leg quarters in each bag, and freeze. I do the same with all my meat. With hamburger or ground meat, simply add the amount for the recipe you wish to make. For example... if you are planning on chili one night, put the amount of ground meat you would use in a chili recipe in the bag, and freeze. The same for other recipes, like meatloaf and spaghetti and meat sauce. I also freeze small packs of pepperoni, pork sausage roll and most lunch meats (if I buy them, which I usually don't do). Trial and error... that's how you learn these helpful tips!
5.) Bread (crackers, croutons, dry cereal, etc.)
How many times have you (or your kids!) gone to get a slice of bread, only to find the lone heel at the bottom? For some reason, no one seems to want the heel. When you're a child, I think it's pure pickiness. When you're older, there's no excuse. Instead of allowing that good bread to mold, or throwing it away, how about freezing it or using it in a recipe? There are so many, different things you could use it for. To begin with, here are a few: toast and use for breadcrumbs (in meatloaf, meatballs, as a thickener, etc.); use for bread pudding, french toast, garlic bread; toast and use in place of crackers (in soup, as stuffing). If you get bread products (see above) when you go out to eat or order in, don't throw them away, either. They can be used just the same.
Condiments are one of those things that, for whatever reason, are difficult to get (the last, little bit) out of its container. If this is the case for you, too, there are a few things you can try. If it is something that will go into a dish that will be cooked/baked, try microwaving it. If you are going to use the condiment cold, try adding a little bit of water (or milk) to the container, giving it a good swish and pouring it out. If all else fails, and you can do this without injury to yourself or someone else, you can try cutting the container so as to get the remainder of the ingredients out.
No matter what many people believe, this is a non-essential drink... consumed, only for leisure. Soda has no nutritional value and is not a good health choice. It's not good for your budget, either.
With milk prices the way they are today, we've done a few things in our household to alleviate this budget-crusher. For one... we used to drink only 2% milk. That has changed. There's, like, a 20-cent difference between 2% and skim, and skim is better for you, anyway. I also purchase powdered milk. The benefits of powdered milk are numerous. Not only is it a good cost-per-serving investment, but you can make your milk as strong (i.e. whole milk) or as weak (skim milk) as you/your family like. Other benefits of powdered milk include: using in recipes/dishes, as a substitute for liquid milk and as creamer in your coffee... just to name a few.
Juice is one of those things that you have to be careful with. First of all... if we're drinking ANY juice, it's only 100% real fruit juice. All juice drinks are out... for obvious reasons (no nutritional value, another budget-buster, etc.). We tend to stick to a few, quality juices... based, mainly, on nutritional value. They include orange, grape and cranberry (more for me, than for anyone;). The good thing about juice, is... you can dilute it as much or as little as you wish, without greatly altering the taste and consistency of the juice. The kids will never know!
Tea is one of those beverages whose benefits are becoming more apparent to us. I buy the cheapest, best-tasting tea I find. I've tested many teas, and there are some pretty good, generic/store-brand teas for sale. Don't think you have to buy the most expensive (that goes for anything!), because... you don't. Buy the least expensive tea that you and your family enjoy. I like honey in my (hot) tea, so I only buy the cheapest of that, as well.
Although I am a coffee drinker, coffee is also one of those things you could do without. That said, I am particular about my coffee choice. It's only Folger's for me;) Despite that fact, I watch for sales and coupons I can use to purchase my coffee. The same goes for powdered creamer (flavored syrups and sugar). For the longest time, I had a coffee pot with disposable coffee filters. Then, one day, it dawned on me... if I had one with a reusable filter, there would be no need for disposable ones. It would eliminate the cost for them, as well. So, when I found a good deal on one, I got it. Great investment!
This goes without saying, but... water is the best beverage you can possible consume. The benefits of consuming water are many. These are just a few that, through personal experience, I've found to be of great benefit. Water quenches your thirst, like no other beverage can. Water cleanses your body of toxins and waste, where no other beverages do. One benefit I find extremely interesting, is... water regulates your body's temperature, cooling you off when you might otherwise not be able to be cooled off. I have found- especially in the summertime- that, if I drink a lot of water, my body cools itself, bringing my temperature down and ceasing the sweating our bodies do when it's really hot. So... the next time you're standing in the sweltering heat of summer or you (women) are having one of those, not-so-pleasant hot flashes... give a glass of nice, cold water a try!
9.) Snack foods (chips, cookies, cakes, etc.)
I will skip the part where I say, none of the above has any nutritional value and is a waste of your precious money. Instead, I will add a few hints... if, indeed, you do partake of these occasional "treats." Did you know, that... all of these items can be frozen, for later consumption? Not only that, but you may just find that some of these items taste better frozen;) As for HOW to freeze them: chips- just as they are... in the bag they came in; cookies- the same way, or (if you want to save freezer space) place in freezer bags and freeze that way; cakes- leave in the wrapping they came in and place in freezer bag. No need to throw away stale chips, cookies and cakes! Chips can also be used in place of crackers (in soup, meatloaf, on top of green bean or other casseroles, etc.). Cookies and cakes can be used for ice-cream topping, in ice-cream cakes and other desserts.
Fresh fruit can go bad quickly. That said, there are ways you can prevent their sweet (or sour) demise. I like to freeze my fresh fruit. If you're big on how the fruit looks (i.e. that your apples don't brown), then take care to use a bit of lemon juice with your fruit before freezing. I don't think there are too many fruits I haven't frozen. I take that back. I don't believe I've frozen a star fruit yet. Not because it wouldn't freeze well, but because we eat them before we can freeze them;) I have also frozen fruit sauces (apple sauce, compotes, etc.), with good results.
If you have cooked/leftover veggies, do NOT throw them away! Here are just a few ways they can be used: soup, casseroles, side dishes, desserts (Yes... you read that correctly! I'm talking about such veggies as sweet potatoes, white potatoes, squashes, beets, broccoli, spinich... the list is really endless!). In reference to the desserts suggestion... have you heard about/read/seen Jessica Seinfeld's cookbook... the one where she sneaks veggies into her family's meals? If you are not aware of it, you should be. The funny thing, is... like me, there are many-a-mother that have already been doing this type of thing for years, with great success. It's a way to provide extra vitamins and nutrients your family needs, and... if they don't know, who will it hurt?
How to use grains, other than cooking and eating? Use, for kids, in place of sand (in kiddie pool or similar container). Use for arts and crafts projects (collages, etc.). Use as stuffing for bean bags, pillows, maracas and such. Whatever you do, do NOT use to throw at bride and groom at their wedding! Hopefully, most people know, by now, that this is NOT good for birds. It will kill them! Use birdseed, instead. Of course, you can cook any grain, for use in recipes or as a stand-alone side dish. Some of our favorites include... brown/white rice, couscous, oats, barley, and others.
1.) DO try looking at different stores, shops and businesses for lower-priced items. For instance... one of the 1st places I go (to look for something I need), is the Dollar store. The things you find here are endless. Let me just say... if you're looking for something to last for years, the Dollar store won't, normally, be the place for items like this. Here, you will find such things as books, some music/video, office and stationery supplies, party supplies, cleaning supplies, household goods, limited clothing items, beauty and personal hygiene products, arts and crafts items, toys and limited games, holiday decorations/products, candy and limited food products, etc. You can also find limited tools, automotive supplies, dishware and baby products (including limited clothing items), here. So... for cheap stuff that you can use in-the-moment, the Dollar stores can't be beat. You can also try looking at your neighborhood Goodwill, Salvation Army or other secondhand store. It used to be that, you could find outrageous deals in these places, but not so much anymore. You really have to know what you're looking for and be alert to the sales, items and whether it's worth it, or not, to you. Let me just put a plug in for Freecycle. This nationwide group is invaluable... not just for the items you can get (did I mention, EVERYTHING'S FREE??!), but for the contacts and relationships you make along the way. If you're not familiar with Freecycle, you should be! One more great place to look for things, is... yard sales. There is one point I'd like to make, though, in regards to yard sales. There are two, main types... those where people want to make money, and those where people want to get rid of stuff. You want the latter! You can usually tell the difference based on what you find at the sale, and how much they want for things. If, for instance, they won't budge on the price, there's usually a reason why (money-maker). So... just, be careful.
2.) DO be flexible.
Sure... we all have specific things (characteristics) we have in mind when going shopping. I would LOVE to have a brand-new microwave (preferably, red), that has certain, digital settings and fits on my counter top. Does that mean, I'll break my back trying to find this, specific WANT? Absolutely not! I will be open to any and all makes, models, colors, etc... in order to get a quality model at a great deal. The microwave we currently have is one that was given to us (headed for the landfill) when we moved... SIX years ago! At that time, the thing that attracted me the most to the "purchase?" It was FREE;) It's a nice unit (a bit older), quite large (which, I like) and is all digital. I have kept it up well, thus... it continues to serve us well. Let's take another example. Say, you're looking to buy a dress for a wedding you're going to soon. My first question would be, "Does it HAVE TO be new?" To me, this is just a given. If I can't easily find a new dress, I would go down my list of shopping options. Do I have to BUY anything? Can I borrow or barter with someone for the dress? If not... can I find one, at a reasonable price, at a secondhand store? If not... what about a yard sale? If the answer to all of the above is no, then I begin looking at retail. No matter what, though, I will remain open-minded about things like style, design, colors... most everything, except for price.
3.)DO look everywhere for coupons, coupon codes, sales, rebates, etc. I have this saying: For everything you wish to buy, there's a coupon out there just waiting for you. The internet is an invaluable tool in this search for great deals. Whatever it is you're looking for (food, clothing, shoes, purse, fan, automotive supplies, baby products, etc.), just put that item along with the word/s "coupon," "sales," "rebates," "freebies," etc. into the search bar and you'll be surprised what you come up with! It usually doesn't matter whether or not the item you're going to purchase is on sale, clearance... whatever. If it is an issue, it will say so on the website, coupon, rebate form, etc. If not, you're just saving even more on your purchase than you would have, had you never found the deal! Even if you don't find one of the above-mentioned deals, you will more than likely be able to sign up for email offers, deals, samples, etc., so... you won't come away empty-handed!
4.) DO approach the store manager and ask for a "better deal." Despite what most people think... product prices are NOT set in stone! I was a skeptic, myself, when it came to this, but my eyes have since been opened to a whole new way of shopping, and... SAVING! Here's an example: My young, teenage son wanted a certain video game. He had X amount of money, but X amount wasn't going to get it. So... while he begged and pleaded (for more money), I had an idea. I asked an employee if he could summon the store manager, which he was more than happy to do. The manager was pleasant, so I explained the situation... my son wanted X game, but only had X money. Would there be any way he could take, say, Y money for the game?! There was a short pause, then the manager agreed to take Y money! A couple of hints to succeeding when approaching a manager? It always helps to mention that you're a loyal customer of their store. I even mentioned that, I do not like Walmart's (their competitor's) pharmacy, and why, so... instead of hassling with them, I will continue to frequent his store/pharmacy. If the manager says, no, don't get an attitude/get angry. Instead, ask if there's anything else they can do (i.e. come down $10 instead of $25 or throw in free delivery if you pay full price). It can't hurt to ask. Another approach that often works, is... saying, "If I buy TWO (or 10, or 20) of them, can I have them for X dollars, a piece?" Again... all they can say is, no. It helps to be patient. It helps to be cordial. You never know where it'll get you!
1.) Anything is fair game! When it comes to decorating a space (be it your living room, dining room, kitchen, bedroom, bathroom), there is nothing that is off limits. Use items that you already have on-hand. Do you have a pair of old curtains you no longer use... that are just collecting dust? If so, drag them out and brainstorm ideas of things you can use them for. If they're large enough, you could use one (or both) of them to cover a pillow. With some basic sewing skills, you could make a small pin cushion or bean bag with the material. Use to make hair/ponytail holders. Cut to-size and use as dust cloths, dinner napkins, baby bibs. If they're large enough, cut to make placemats. Looking for an inexpensive piece of wall art? Frame material and hang on wall! The possibilities are endless. If you have furniture in rooms (or storage) you don't use, figure out where else in your home you can use it. For instance... I had an old dresser we got at an auction. My son had been using it, but got something different, so I had to figure out what to do with it. Then, it came to me! I would put it downstairs, in our living room, as a t.v. stand... and, use the drawers below to store our linens!!! We needed something tall enough for the t.v. and I desperately needed more room to store linens. This move killed two birds with one stone!
2.) Experiment! Whether it's a seating arrangement, cupboard placement or color coordinating, DO try different things. You know those myths, like... do not mix red and pink? Throw them all by the wayside! Be prepared to try anything. Open your mind when it comes to things like, which furniture belongs where, whether or not it's "o.k." to have the light over here (as opposed to over there) and so on. Forget about what everyone else might think/say. It's you and your family that truly matter.
3.) Comfort, comfort, comfort! If it's not comfortable, get rid of it (move it, use it for another purpose, give it away, sell it, etc.). Your home should be a place that is not only visually appealing, but relaxing to the body and mind, as well. Too many people say, "I'm going to get that dining room suit," and forget about things like comfort, size, visual appeal, etc. Then... they get it in their home and discover that it's not everything they thought it would be. I think we've all made purchases like that before. One, most recent, purchase I made, was a top-of-the-line, all-bells-and-whistles-included bread machine. My intentions were good, but once I got the thing home, out of the package and read the bread-making instructions... I, pretty much, knew it wasn't for me. While I thought I did all my homework on this purchase, I've learned a lesson through it all- do MORE!!!
If you're able (and you are not renting, borrowing, etc.), and you want a quick, easy and highly-effective decorating change... try, painting! Let me just say... don't limit your painting to household walls, only. I could be the outside of the house, a nearby shed or barn, a dog house, a child's playhouse, accent pieces (stair rails, crown molding, floors, picture frames, decorative glassware), etc. Paint makes everything better... if- of course- you use the right color;)
1.) Free entertainment abounds! Whether by word-of-mouth, newspaper activities calendar, internet or any other means, there are so many FREE things to do. Most art centers, theater play groups, movie theaters, museums and such have discount/or free admission days... when you can visit for next-to-nothing. Our local movie theater has family days, when admission is seriously reduced. Of course, there are always matinees, where you go earlier in the day and admission, as well as concessions, are highly reduced. We have a movie theater back home, that would have certain days (usually Saturdays) when... you could come and see a certain movie (usually a very good, recent pick), but in place of the admission, you had to bring a canned good. Free movie for you... food for those in need! What's better than that? There are also little-known places, like a few we have here, that you might be interested in. We have an oil and gas museum, which is free (all the time, I believe). There are volunteering opportunities, which are good for, both, adults and children, and are a positive for families who do it together. This is a win-win situation, for sure. Our local schools sponsor events which are free or very low-cost. My son's school just started something recently, where... the whole family can come (it's usually on a Sunday, I think) and have a "Family Fitness Night." It's pretty cool. It gets family members out of the house... allowing them to exercise and spend time together for a good cause- fitness! There are carnivals and fairs, where you can get in free if you volunteer a few hours. The Boys and Girls Club is another, low-cost option for kids. I think, it's $9/yr. for membership, here, which...you can't beat! They will have access to computers, swimming, arts and crafts, video games, educational/homework help and other, fun activities. When the weather is nice... think about picnics, bike-riding, kite-flying, dog-walking, a good ol' game of hide-and-seek or duck, duck, goose (remember those?;). Catch fireflies with the kiddos. Go to the park. Go fishing (don't forget the license, if you need one). Go outdoors and look at the stars. Do you have access to a 4-wheeler, moped or other such vehicle? If so, these provide endless hours of fun. Have dinner outdoors. Go to the airport and watch the planes take off and come in (we used to LOVE doing this, as kids!). Use your imagination. The possibilities are endless!
2.) Gather the masses. Whatever you do, it's usually more fun when there's more than one;) I love to entertain, so I have lots of ideas for this. Game Night! Invite a bunch of friends, supply snacks (or have it be potluck) and get out the board games. Talk about fun! One of my most memorable, and joyous, events was an Arts and Crafts Night (for the kids in our local congregation, and parents). I hosted it at our home and I had all the supplies on-hand. I had paints, glues, fabrics, foam, leather, glass, plastic, crayons, markers, clay, stickers, beads, buttons, sequins, different types of paper and so many more arts and crafts mediums. Everyone brought a snack and I supplied the drinks. Whatever was made, the artist got to take home. This was over a year ago, and we're still talking about it! What about hosting an event for a charitable cause? It doesn't have to be elaborate. Invite people you know, decide on menu (or not), brainstorm ideas and have fun! As the weather gets warmer, gather everyone together for an impromptu basketball game, volleyball game or ping-pong match. Make it as competitive or as leisurely as you'd like.
3.) Corral the kids! Kids are a ton of fun to be around, to play with and to share good times with. A few of the good times we've had include... puppet shows, plays, karaoke, dance-a-thons, sports-related activities, tea parties, baking/cooking, make-believe, dress-up, movie nights/game nights and on, and on.
4.) Try new things. Whether it's a new food or a movie you might not ordinarily watch, doing something new opens your mind to ideas and experiences you probably wouldn't have, otherwise. One new thing my son and I tried together, is... indian food, and we have never regretted it. We still love indian food and even cook certain dishes, ourselves. I was reading an article in a magazine, a while back, and there was a recipe, along with a picture. By looking at the picture, I thought... there is no way I would eat that! It turns out, the food was kimchi... an spicy, asian cabbage dish. We love cabbage, so I went ahead and made it. To this day, kimchi is one of my favorite, culinary "finds." My motto is: Try it once. If you don't like it, that's o.k. At least you tried it. As a result, I have an almost-grown son who will eat just about anything, and... for the most part, has always been that way. I honestly think, if it wasn't for my love of eclectic foods and foreign cultures, he might not have been so willing to try different foods.
5.) Investigate. Do your research. When it comes to recreation and entertainment, look around and ask around. Tell people you know (family, friends, acquaintances, school teachers/administrators, babysitters, etc.) you're looking for low-cost or free things to do. If you don't mind driving, look at possibilities in neighboring communities, counties and states. It just depends on how far you want to travel. Look through the Yellow Pages, for ideas. Does your community have a free paper (events, kid's, families, etc.) you can look in? If there's an arts and entertainment section in your local paper, look at it. You could also contact the person who writes/collates the column, at the newspaper. This person probably has a wealth of information you might not discover without that phone call. The same goes for your local librarian. Call or visit the library, to discover what there is to offer. Not only will they be able to point you toward local, low-cost and free, recreational opportunities, but they will also be able to tell you what your local library has to offer, for free or low-cost. Opportunities and activities abound. You just have to ask!
So... while this is not, by far, a complete list of the tips, ideas, hints and money-saving advice I have to offer, it is a beginning. When learning about new money-saving tips and opportunities, we all start somewhere, and this is how I began... by reading someone else's tips. Hopefully, this will be of some use, and value, to you and your family. Good luck, and happy savings!!!