Tuesday, April 15, 2014

HOW to Start Gardening Earlier....AND How I harvested my own bean seeds last year!

I have had cabin fever really bad this year!  I couldn’t wait to start my garden and start harvesting veggies! Soooo...last month, I planted 3 pots of string beans, 2 sunflowers, and 3 pots of tomatoes and have had them in my window sill and next to the slider door.  Sadly, the kids have already damaged the tomatoes beyond repair, along with one of the sunflower plants…and I will have to start again.  HOWEVER, my string beans are doing remarkably well.

The beans I used to plant were harvested from last year’s string bean crop.  I didn’t have to go out and buy seeds!  I learned this trick from an amazing book called, “The Forgotten Skills of Self-Sufficiency used by the Mormon Pioneers” by Caleb Warnock. 
According to Mr. Warnock, there are several types of open pollinating plants that you can save your own seed from year after year.  (String beans, potatoes, and lettuce)  Last year, I followed his suggestion of leaving one of my vines untouched and saved the seeds for the next year’s crop.  I was skeptical…but wanted to give it a try.  I let one vine grow beans until they turned a  brown/yellow crunchy type and harvested the dry beans.  I put them into a paper envelope and stored them in a sealed mason jar inside my refrigerator until I couldn’t take the suspense anymore.  Guess what?  They came up!! 
I have 6 successful bean plants in my kitchen that I am looking forward to planting outside when the temperatures warm up enough!

After seeing the 6 beans come up successfully, I decided to give another one of his methods a try…since he gardens YEAR ROUND.  (I loved his book so much; I bought another one of his called, “Backyard Winter Gardening”.)   I took an old GIANT Brita type container, cut off the top, and created what he calls “Cloche”. 
Cloches have been around since approximately 1623 (and they are also called “bell glasses”)…They are used “to help tender plants from the cold and wet during the worst period of the year.”  Originally Cloches were made of glass…but I was scared my kids would break the glass in my SMALL backyard…so I went the 'modern version' with a more durable plastic—thus the GIANT Brita type plastic jar.  I first planted them outside in the beginning of April.  I was so excited to see plants come up.  After a week, I checked them every day.  I was disappointed because they didn’t come up.  BUT…I was persistent and kept watering every couple of days.  I guess being outside in the colder air they just needed a little more time.  Last week, one plant popped up.  I was thrilled…. I became even more thrilled when a 2nd popped up several days later.  The cloche method officially works!! 
Now, I just need to find another FREE giant water bottle to create more little greenhouse domes!  I want to have the situation he describes…a garden producing in its prime when everyone else is starting to plant!

Give a “Cloche” a try….You’ll have to be patient…but you won’t be sorry!

Happy Pinching Pennies…

P.S.   Just remember when the plant comes up you have to be aware of temperatures.  I have to make sure my plants don't "cook" during the day, by uncovering them.  I put the cloche back on when the sun looks like it is thinking about going down.  (Right now, that is about 5 p.m., but I am sure it will get later as the day lengthens.)

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Inexpensive (and easy) AIRPORT food!!

It’s “Girl’s Retreat” time for my extended family!!  (I’m still the person who lives the farthest away from where the festivities take place, so I must fly to where I enjoy time with 7 of my 8 sisters-in-law AND my mother-in-law.)    Each year I make this homage back, it is a financial sacrifice to make it happen.  Yet, it is important…so we find a way to make it happen.

Traveling is expensive—especially flying.  I shop around for flights and make sure I’m aware of any “deals” so I can take advantage of them.  This year I flew with Southwest with one of their “Wanna Get Away” deals.  HOWEVER, one of my sisters-in-laws told me about another inexpensive airline that she has used that I had never heard of before called: Allegaint.   

WHO has the better price???  It's worth checking!!
They offer cheap flights that compete with Southwest’s cheapest fares.  The only downside to flying with them is they only have a few select times/days to choose from and NO snack service.  BUT, if an inexpensive flight is your goal to get where need to go, don’t rule them out.  It could save you a lot of money!!

One of the more expensive parts of traveling by air is being trapped into buying food at an inflated price at the airport…because they know you are limited to go elsewhere!!  I did a post a few years back on this topic…where I gave a TIP on drinks and a main dish.

I am always on the lookout for ways to expand my meal options while at the airport—especially healthier options.  As I went down the soup isle, I came across a single serve cup of “just add water” mashed potatoes by Betty Crocker AND Idahoan for 98¢. 
Flavor choices: Four Cheese,Roasted Garlic, Creamy Butter, Loaded Baked, and Applewood Smoked Bacon!
Now, I could never justify the expense for such an item for daily use, considering a box of potato flakes is a considerably cheaper route…but the idea of having something pre-seasoned and pre-served held my attention.  Not to mention significantly cheaper than airport prices!!  I chose to give the “Idahoan Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes” a try.

I loaded them up in my carry-on luggage and headed off to the airport. 
I decided not use it on my flight to my destination and saved it for the return trip.  This one serving package made it through two different security checks without a problem.  When I decided to use it, I walked up to a little fast food place inside the airport, behind security, and asked for a cup of HOT water.  They wanted to know what it was for.  Replying it was to make Mashed Potatoes, they gave me a small cup.  Since no one was in line behind me, I mixed it up right in front of the cashier.  They remarked, “That smells good.”  When I was done, I walked away to find myself a nice place to enjoy some mashed potatoes (110 calories) and self-made lemonade.  
Guess what?  It was enjoyable to eat!!  Plus, I will be honest and say that is the most FULL I have ever felt at the airport.  I sustained me for a long time!!  I feel confident in highly recommending this idea to ANYONE who wants to save money flying (or otherwise).  There are many flavors to choose from…so if “roasted garlic” isn’t something that “lights your fire” give a different  flavor a try!!

Happy Penny Pinching….while traveling!!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

FREE Extracurricular Activities for your children (or for a nominal fee)!

I want my children to develop a myriad of talents.  However, I do NOT have the resources for them to be in sports, clubs, and many other extracurricular activities.  I have NOT let this financial setback be a stumbling block.  There are many other ways to approach giving your children extracurricular activities without breaking the bank.

My suggestions:
  • Check with your local 4-H clubs to see what they offer.  You might be pleasantly surprised what your children can join for little to NO cost to you!!
    • Our local 4-H club offers a FREE archery club (providing equipment during practice) and a sewing club for a nominal fee of $25 for 8 weeks.
  • Check your local golf clubs.  Many offer classes for kids.  One of our local golf clubs has a financial aid/hardship application.  Two summers ago my children have had one month of golf lessons for free.  (This is something they would never have done on our budget.)
  • Check your local archery clubs in town. They may have a FREE shoot for kids.  We have a couple different archery groups in our hometown.  One offers a FREE shoot during the summer for children, ($5 for adults).  During the winter months, they offer a 1-2 times a week shoot for everyone for a nominal fee (Kids $1, Adults $1).  The gear is all provided!
  • Check with your local swim team.  When I was young, my mother traded her time, (being the club’s treasurer), in exchange for me and my sister’s membership on the private swim team.  I wanted the same swim experience for my children.  I went to our local swim team to ask if I could exchange my time for a discount.  It turns out the team has a “scholarship program” for lower income families.  I filled out the application and volunteer a certain number of hours per child during the year.  Now my 2 children who can swim across the pool get a significant discount.  It has helped out tremendously because if it weren’t for this discount, they would not have the opportunity to swim like they currently do.  (I have also loved that the team has let my children volunteer as well.  They are invested in swimming and find a sense of accomplishment in helping to “pay” for their lessons.)
  • Keep your eyes peeled for those flyers!  Whether they come home with your kids from school or at local community centers such as libraries and pools, many times there are “one time FREE events” (or for a nominal fee) to expose kids/families to different kinds of sports or cultural events.  I happen to know of an event this weekend, where I live, that for $2 teens can learn different dances from a traveling group coming through town.  Next month there is another event for kids’ ages12-18 to learn all about aviation for FREE, including the kids participate in a simulated flight where THEY are the pilots!
  • Our local library has events all the time that provide learning new skills for children, teens, and adults!  For the younger children, our library has a Lego Club, and a Craft Club….others are for the older teens such as book club, gaming, card games, and computer education.  For adults, there are lectures, computer education/help, and monthly classes—all for FREE!
Being on a strict budget does not need to limit your children’s (or your) opportunities!!  You just need to be a little more aware and diligent in seeking for and taking advantage of the things happening in your community!!

Happy Pinching Pennies!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Thinking "GREEN" when preparing lunch snacks saves YOU money!

My kids love snacks in their lunches…sometimes I think they would prefer that their lunches consist of ONLY “snacks”. 

Prepared snacks are convenient, but expensive.  I send a lot of homemade snacks, but sometimes my kids just want to feel like the other kids around them with “individually wrapped snacks”.  (Is there something intrinsically pleasurable about having a “flashy colored wrapped” snack?    Or is it just the desire to feel like everyone else?)  HOW do I accommodate this desire, keep it healthy AND keep it affordable?

My kids like raisins.   
I bought a bag of small raisin filled boxes on a Halloween clearance about 3 years ago.  These boxes do NOT need to be a single use!!  I have my children bring them home.  When I have enough empty ones, I refill them.  They are just as convenient as the prepackaged mini boxes!  It only takes about 10 minutes to refill them all by myself…and 5 minutes or less IF the kids are helping me refill them.

Here are pictures of how simple it can be!
Step 1: Get Out Your Supplies
Step 2: Fill The Boxes
Step 3: Store Then in an EASY convenient container for on-the-go snacking!
Step 4: Make Sure You Have a Place to Keep the "Empty Boxes"so They Don't Get Lost or Broken!
 Happy Stretching Pennies...

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Great Price! Out of Stock?? NO PROBLEM!

I was on a church task with a friend, when we drove by a certain grocery store on our way home.  I asked her if she minded my running into to pick up a fabulous sale item, so I didn’t have to turn around later to go back to pick it up.  (It was the last day of the sale.)  She agreed to stop.  When we got to the sale item’s location—there weren’t any left.  My inner voice said, “Darn.  I put off going to the grocery store too long!   My verbal response surprised my friend, “Oh well.  I guess I’ll just have to ask for a rain check.”

Apparently, she had never heard of such a thing.  A good sale doesn’t need to pass you by just because they ran out!!  Just go to the cashier and ask for a “rain check”.  They will pull out a copy of the ad and write all the pertinent information on their “rain check slip” in order for you to pick up that sale item at a later date when they have it in stock. 
Typically a rain check is good for 30 days after the day it is issued.  Just don’t lose the paper in the abyss of your car, the stack of papers in your kitchen, leave it in your pocket to be laundered, or watch it fly away in the wind.  (My habit: I put the rain check in my purse with my receipts.  When I got home I take it out and attach it to my fridge, on top of my budget sheet, with a magnet.)

There are a few exceptions to the rule.  Rain checks are not offered on :
1. Case Lot Sales
2. When noted in small print.  (This is more unusual, but it does happen.)

Happy Stretching Pennies…

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

TIME is MONEY: Fast & Inexpensive Fruit Cups!

Now that school is well under way, I hope everyone has settled into a nice routine!  For the most part, we have—though my surprise surgery threw us off for a while.

Do your mornings feel rushed?  Do you find yourself throwing your kid’s lunches together in the morning?  Are you putting the same things in their lunches day-after-day and getting just as bored as they are….or do you find yourself purchasing a variety of “convenience” lunch items at the store (that are vastly more expensive…therefore draining your food budget) ?

Assembling your children’s lunches (or your own) does not need to be such a chore or so expensive if you MASS PRODUCE items!  Think “freezer”!

Premeasured fruit cups at the store are convenient…but oh-so-expensive.  Opening a single can of fruit and dividing into 3 Tupperware containers is less expensive, but occupies more time than the grab-and-go style.  BUTthere is a way to make it MUCH less expensive and just as fast as the grab-and-go style!
TIP: This is a great trick is wonderful if you have picky eaters OR have a child who has allergies!

Here’s HOW:

  1. Purchase LARGE cans of fruit—(think coffee can).   Sometimes pre-diced fruit is available…thus saving you time!  Places like Costco, Sam’s Club, Cash-n-Carry, and restaurant supply stores carry these large cans of fruit.
  2. Pull out your muffin tins and fill them up with your favorite combination of fruit…to the top!
  3. Freeze until FIRM!  (think—one day)
    Please excuse my messy freezer & notice the muffin tin on top freezing for the day....
  4. Fill the bottom of your kitchen sink with approximately one inch of warm water.
  5. Take your muffin tin from the freezer and place in your kitchen sink for approximately 1 minute.
  6. Use a knife and gently remove from the tin.  (If it doesn’t easily move, place muffins tin back in the kitchen sink for another minute and try again.)
  7. Place each frozen cup in its own sandwich fold top baggie.  (They are in their own individual baggie so they won’t stick to one another! )
  8. Place all the bagged up cups inside a gallon Ziploc bag, labeled with the date and contents, and place in your freezer!
  9. For Lunches:  Take a baggie out of the freezer.  Dump the contents into a Tupperware.  Put the lid on and place in your lunchbox.  It will thaw and be ready for consumption at lunch time--just like you took it straight out of the freezer!
    Can you tell I got a new camera?  (I took the other pictures last spring!)
 Happy Pinching Pennies...

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

AFTER back-to-school shopping that saves TONS!

The back-so-school frenzy typically ends at the end of August around here.  People are starting to feel settled into their *new* routines…their kid’s sports teams are going strong (or starting)—so people are not focused on buying clothes anymore.

September is the time for overhauling your (and your kids) wardrobe.  It’s the right time to add pieces or trade out items in your closet!!  This strategy is all based on “supply and demand”.  Right now the “demand” for clothes has nosedived (with the exception of school uniform items) and the “supply” in stores is up.  Stores are wanting to transition to their fall/winter merchandise and are slashing prices to accommodate them.  Timing is everything…at the beginning there are styles and sizes to pick from.  If you wait until the end of the month, it will be picked through.

Yesterday, I was at Burlington Coat Factory looking for a particular item and most of the store’s clothing was at 70% off.  Today, I was at Walmart getting my monthly shopping trip done, and I was able to pick up work shirts ($3 polo style) for my husband, several tankini tops ($5 each) for me, a couple styles of swim suits ($5 each) for my daughter, several tank tops ($1.50 each) for my daughter that she uses for “modesty undershirts” and a couple of awesome logo styled t-shirts ($3 each).

Since I didn’t bring my camera with me, I dug up some pictures on the internet that resembled what
I've seen for the past 2 days...

NOW, truly is the time that demand is DOWN and supply is UP.  Rock bottom prices with a lot of selection IF you get your timing right….purchasing clothes for pennies on the dollar!!

Happy Pinching Pennies…