Archive for the ‘Money saving tips’ Category

Food challenge!

We have been blessed with food. Lots of food! Add that to the fact that I tend to stock stuff away and then have a harder time using it, and you’ll see why I need to challenge myself several times a year to use what we have.

OK, not only what we have. We still need fresh produce and dairy. But otherwise, I’m trying to turn to my pantry, refrigerator, and freezer for the rest of August to get through some of what we have. I want to avoid waste and make room for more.

Here’s a partial list of my extra freezer alone: 10 lbs ground beef, a meal of kung pao chicken in marinade, 3 pans of raw chicken in sauce, 2 gallon baggies of cookie dough balls, 4 lbs of meatballs, 3 noodle kugels, 2 boxes of veggie “hamburgers,” and more.

I’m starting by making a list and working things into the rotation. I’m also trying to use up the partial bottles of sauce that take up lots of room in the fridge as well as other lurking leftovers there. Plus my pantry and the stockpile of good deals that aren’t good deals if they are wasted. Menus to come!

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Leftover bread?

As a regular challah maker, I have extra sometimes and need to find creative ways to use it. If I just have a little left, I crumble it up into a bag that is stored in the freezer until I have enough to make french toast casserole. Some other things I have done or heard of doing:

  • bread crumbs
  • sliced into french toast
  • served on french onion soup
  • sandwiches
  • garlic bread (spread with butter/margarine, sprinkle with garlic and salt, and toast)
  • cheese bread (garlic bread with cheese on top and toasted)

Any other good ideas? I’m always looking!

I don’t pay for razors or toothpaste anymore…

I get them for free! No, not the infamous 5-finger discount, but just watching sales and using coupons wisely.

I’m not an extreme couponer. I actually saw a special on that recently, and I was shocked. People spend 40 or more hours couponing each week. They have stockpiles of things that will last them years, all because they got them for a good price or free. There was even someone with cases and cases of diapers and kitty litter. Only she didn’t have kids or a cat. Hmmm…

Anyway, I have a CVS nearby, although this strategy works for Walgreens and Rite Aid, too (here is a good resource to start with finding these and many, many more great deals at CVS, Walgreens, or Rite Aid). I simply watch for these items to go on sale for free or for what I have a coupon for, and then I only buy them then. I actually have enough toothpaste for quite a while, so I’ve stopped bringing them home and started donating. Sometimes I even make a little money on these purchases!

Razors and toothpaste are the easiest to break into IMHO. You can’t be too brand specific, but you can get the expensive brands for free. Easily and regularly! I also don’t pay more than $1 for most brands of shampoo, and get makeup at drastically reduced prices (sale plus store coupon plus manufacturer’s coupon). And more. This is a kind of like a game to me, and it’s fun to see how much I can save–without becoming an extreme couponer.

Because no one should have to pay for razors or toothpaste! đŸ˜‰

Quenching thirst in a world-friendly way

Recently, I bought the 5 oldest people in our family their own water bottle (I got these). Each person has their own color, and we fill them as necessary and leave them on the kitchen table all day. I wash them at least once a week in a sani wash. This has been a very good thing for several reasons:

  • We drink more water since it’s easily accessible
  • We save time – the kids can all (even my 22 month old) get themselves a drink when they are thirsty, no adult needed!
  • We waste less (no paper cups, broken glass, or wasted water washing each cup each person takes each time they get a drink)
  • We don’t have fighting over whose cup is whose (or most likely, who knocked over someone else’s cup).

A good decision all around, I would say!

Pantry inventory, raid, and planning!

I find it amazing that with shelves of food, I still find that I need to shop to make meals! I do  tend to buy what is on sale, and buy in bulk if it’s a good sale, so that builds up my stores. But since sales are on a 12 week cycle, sometimes I get more than I need for that 12 weeks and then have more than I need…and then I get more on sale! It’s only saving money if you actually use what you have, right?

Now seems like a good time to inventory your pantry and cupboards and put what you have to good use. If you still have holidays coming up, I would imagine that you have a lot of food ready to celebrate–and your budget (and waistline?) could use the break around those holidays. If not, well…couldn’t we all use a break? And with all of the ingredient sales going on now, and healthier food sales to come (as whatever percentage of Americans decide they need to diet), shouldn’t we know what we have and what we will need?

I tend to store up lots of different things which then get pushed to the back. I like to buy new snacks and items that I think would be good to try, but some of the time, those get lost.

Right now, I’m motivated to do this because 1. I have a break from school (I teach college courses), so theoretically more time, and 2. My pantry is bulging with seemingly “nothing” to make, and my freezer has lots of odds and ends with “nothing” to eat, and 3. Passover (spring holiday requiring basically all new prepared foods) is coming!

Let’s start today with a list of what you have in the following places (not marked for use at a specific function):

  • Kitchen pantry/cupboards (dry goods, cans, cereals, grains, sauces)
  • Refrigerator (partially opened jars, sauces, anything else with an up and coming use-by date)
  • Freezer (list both complete meals and pieces)

My goal is to get this done by this Friday. That’s all that has to get done for right now–we’ll work with the lists next week.

Winterizing the house

Our  house needs some work. OK, whose doesn’t? But we moved in when I was about to deliver a baby, so we didn’t get to it last year. Understandable, but costly in terms of heat and AC.

This year, however, is different. I have spent time caulking the windows and doors. My baby’s room is actually a few degrees warmer/cooler than the rest of the house, depending on the weather. There were some really large cracks around the window that I caulked to death! I’m also plastic-ing (excuse my word inventing) the windows to further insulate them. All this before 8 AM!

We are also probably going to get someone to do the insulation in the attic. DH doesn’t feel comfortable doing it, and I am off balance with another blessing swelling my belly. So someone else will tramp through our attic, increasing our measly 4 inches of insulation by at least another foot.

There are all sorts of other projects to be done as well, but they are more cosmetic and thus, will wait. We had no real idea of what was necessary to successfully manage a house before we bought this one last year. Who would have thought so much went into a house? But we are intensely grateful for the house, and the learning experiences, too.

Presto!! Leftovers are new again

Lucky is the cook who can predict exactly what her family will eat and make exactly that much food and no more. Or is she?

There are ways to make leftovers work for you! And that does not include serving the same thing over and over and over…unless that is what you and your family adore. (In that case, what are you doing reading this? đŸ˜‰ )

My favorite use of leftovers is TV dinners. In fact, I try to make an extra serving or two make my TV dinners! A quick how to: choose your container. For short term storage, which is what is needed for my family, I usually take a paper plate or bowl, depending on what the food it. Then I prepare a plate with the different items. Recently, I’ve done a few small pieces of chicken, some pecan rice, and broccoli on one plate, or some kung pao chicken over rice in a bowl. Then, I cover the container with plastic wrap (so it can be microwaved) and last, foil (to keep it fresh in the freezer). Label and freeze. These make good lunches (thaw the night before) and dinners when time is tight, too.

Another interesting option is one I’m working more on, but still figuring out; intentionally creating leftovers to cook with. I did a whole chicken a while ago, and served the chicken one night and shredded the rest. The carcass can be turned into chicken soup. And two nights later, we had chicken enchiladas and my freezer got a chicken pot pie with leftover shredded chicken. This is a really interesting option, but definitely requires some more forethought (and cooked chicken recipes!)

There are some other possibilities for using planned leftovers, the simplest of which is making an extra meal to freeze and serve at another time.

Any other ideas?