Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Cheaper replacement of your cell phone...FREE shipping included!

It is amazing how life can get away from me…This month has been CRAZY!  Life sped up after the kids went back to school!!  Yikes!  I became my youngest child’s preschool teacher one day a week, it was my daughter’s birthday, and my child’s baptism to plan, AND of course a baptism to attend with family visiting for the weekend!!   I guess it is no surprise that all I have done is take pictures of the money saving ideas I have done this month, but not written about them yet.  Maybe next month, eh?

So…. Here’s another idea….

If you are one of those people who didn’t opt for the “replacement plan” for your cell phone, chances are at some time you will need to replace your cell phone for one reason or another.  (Such as you went swimming in a lake with it in your pocket, or you dropped it and it broke, or you are just plain sick of the annoying one you have….all reasons WE have replaced our cell phone.)  This can get pricey if you want a “more than basic” phone.  

There are many ways to replace your phone 
  • Once we renewed our contract in order to get a free phone. 
  • Once we went to Wal-Mart and bought a “Go-Phone” and replaced the “Sim card” in the back with OURS (the plan one…instead of the pay per minute one.)
We recently needed a new phone, and started investigating the best price….again.  I have often wondered what happened to the phones people trade in to upgrade.  Well, when visiting AT & T’s website looking for a phone, we found that they sell refurbished phones! 
This is just a few of what they offer....most of them are ONLINE offers ONLY!
One of the models they offered was the same $200 model offered to us when we “renewed” our plan 2 years ago, but being sold for $20.  Any of these refurbished phones would accommodate our “Sim card” (meaning: the chip in the back of the phone that houses our cell phone number, our address book and calling plan).  Basically, it was like getting a new NICE phone for very little.  The phone number, calling plan, and everything else stayed the same….The best part?  FREE shipping too!
Please note...we also were purchasing a GoPhone refill card...the actual phone only cost $19.99!
How we found it:  We have our cell service through AT & T....I clicked on their website, then wireless, then wireless phones, then buy refurbished phones, then clicked on GO-Phones....so then there would only be an upfront cost of the phone...NOT buying/renewing a cell phone plan.
So…if you are in the market for a new cell phone, visit your provider’s website and check out the refurbished phones before purchasing one in the store.  You won’ t have to wait more than a couple of days and your budget doesn’t have to be shot on a replacement phone….you’ll be glad you never added that expensive “replacement plan” in the first place!

Happy Stretching Pennies...

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Pillow protectors from trash bags...

As we head into cold & flu season, I start preparing the “fort”…so when it happens to us, we are prepared.  I make sure I have the medicines and cleaner in the event my children, or us (the parents) surprise us with an illness and we “hibernate” at home in recovery-- barricading ourselves from everyone so we won’t share the germs.  (I HATE errands with a sick child, or while feeling miserable myself.)

It seems my children always surprise me in the middle of the night.  (It rarely dawns on them in the middle of the day that they are “sick”.)  Most of the time, I wake to “Mooooom…..I puked.”  I only find out later WHERE.  I have advised my children that the BEST place to vomit is in the toilet.  BUT the 2nd best place to puke is ON their BED.  Yes.  You heard that right.  I bought plastic mattress covers at Wal-Mart many years ago, and it has saved my mattresses countless number of times.   (In fact, NO puke has ever touched their mattresses….or pee when they were potty training, for that matter!)   There are 2 different kinds.  I prefer the ALL-encompassing zipper kind.  This makes for easy cleaning and sanitizing with 409 and putting fresh sheets on in the middle of the night and then put the sick child back into bed within 5 minutes of their vomiting.  I prewash the sheets, throw them into the washing machine and head back to bed myself, all in less than 20 minutes.  (Plus, when the mattress covers rip...and box tape won't "repair" them anymore,...you can flip them over and enjoy months MORE of the plastic covering  before having to buy a new one!)

When we 1st learned this trick—it was great UNLESS the puke hit the pillow—then we had to throw it away.  After throwing away  3 pillows, we invested in covering them in plastic too.  They sell these at Wal-Mart—but we have devised a homemade way to do the same thing that is much cheaper and more durable as it doesn’t “pop” because there is the ability to contract and expand.
The Homemade Pillow Protector Recipe:
1.       Insert your standard size pillow into 1 plastic kitchen garbage bag.
2.       Fold down the top.
3.       Use Box Tape to tape the top edge of the garbage bag down over the pillow. 
Tip: Using 3 strips instead of one long piece of box tape allows for air to enter and escape the encasing.  (Do not cover the entire edge...you want to allow air to go in and out! If you do cover the entire opening, you'll be creating a "balloon" type situation.  When your child puts their head down, your "protection" might POP!)
Here's the FINAL look...
I love knowing that IF they get sick, my child can still go back to bed with a nice CLEAN pillow with a brand new pillow case in under 5 minutes!
Happy Stretching Pennies…
PS  Remember this plastic covering idea can help you in making potty training during the night more bearable….and cheaper.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Buying the "good" bread for less....

Yesterday my children didn’t have school due to a “Professional Development Day”….and you know what?  They ate through the brand new loaf of bread that I had purchased the day before!!

I love bread.  I love the things you can do with it…including snacking.  My children obviously love bread too!  However, the price of bread at the grocery store is CRAZY!  I don’t know how anyone can stomach it.  That is probably why I generally make my own homemade bread….although I have learned it is very difficult to make it during the summer with the kids running about and to activities at varying times during the day.  It seems to be much easier to make homemade bread during the school year because the kids are away at school for a LONG specific time period that I can work around.  HOWEVER, life does NOT always go smoothly, even during the school year and bread just doesn’t always get made.  Soooo…..when I have to buy, I prefer to buy the bread that isn’t “air” (aka. Cheap wonder bread) that doesn’t fill anyone’s tummy.  I prefer to buy the bread that is what we term “the good stuff”.  And believe me….the “good stuff” isn’t cheap, especially at the grocery store.
When I am just OUT OF TIME….but need bread, I go to the Wonder Thrift Outlet.  Yes.  You heard that right, the place that sells the “air”.  But there is a little secret you need to know about this store: It sells ALL kinds of breads!!  
Hamburger buns for cheaper...
Less expensive donuts on the left--"Air bread" on the right....
The "good stuff" on the right....
I can buy “the good stuff” (of all kinds of breads) at half of the cost of a grocery store.  They also sell English muffins, hamburger buns, hot dog buns at a fraction of the cost of other grocery stores.  Plus, if you like the hostess type snacks they are also half or more off the cost of grocery store prices.  If I buy donuts, it is at the Wonder Thrift Store. Many times, they have things for an amazing price, such as the last time I was there they had a big box of mini donuts for $1….which my family thought was a real treat—mainly because it is so unusual for me to buy them.
There are varying prices for varying types of bread....
When you want a Hostess snack...this is the cheapest in town!
My children call this store either “the bread store” or “the Twinkie store”.  I have been going to this outlet store since we moved here 9 years ago, and the clerks know us well…we chat about what is going on in our lives, etc.  Our store has a policy where they give an individually wrapped hostess snack to each child.  My children BEG to go buy bread, and can hop in the car faster than I can get my keys when they know I am going to buy bread--they know they will be getting some sort of goody—for FREE!
My kids can't WAIT to get their FREE Hostess Snack when we go buy bread!
Happy Stretching Pennies…
P.S.  When I was in college, the town we lived in had 2 different kinds of bread outlet stores.  Wonder Hostess AND Old Home Bakery—each selling bread and other items at a discount.  See if you live near one…you won’t be sorry!!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Stretching your ground beef...without sacrificing flavor or texture!

Several years ago, I was talking with a group of friends about stretching our food budgets-- specifically meats.  One friend shared how she stretched her ground beef supply.  She added TVP to her ground beef as she was browning it.  My 1st reaction:  “that’s weird”.  I went away from our conversation flabbergasted, intrigued, appalled, and “weirded out”---yet at the same time feeling extremely contemplative and curious.

After weeks of thinking on our conversation….curiosity won out.  I wanted to try it.  Winco sells TVP in their bulk bins, and I thought, “What’s the harm in buying a small amount to TRY it?”   So I brought home about 2 large handfuls and added it to my next ground beef.  And you know what???  Not one person could tell….and though it may be “Strange”” it really does work!

What is TVP? TVP stands for Textured Vegetable Protein.  Basically it is like imitation bacon bits without the flavoring!  So when you add it to your browning ground beef, it soaks in the juices and flavor of the surrounding meat and spices.
Here's what Honeyville Grain (a company who sells it) says: "is a meat analogue product produced through a special extrusion process which provides a 100% vegetable product that approaches the texture and structure of meat. This highly nutritious meat substitute is processed from defatted soy flour which contains more than 52% protein along with 18% total dietary fiber. Textured Vegetable Protein has been used for many years in U.S. Food Nutritional Service programs, and has been an integral part of the School Lunch program because the recognized health and nutritional benefit of soy protein in the diet. The added benefit of low moisture and low fat content make it an ideal product for long term food storage and family preparedness."

I like ground beef.  However, the idea of my ground beef being ½ TVP bothers me….yet the idea of stretching a higher priced item on my budget to go farther makes me willing to use TVP.  However, I personally do NOT add it to ALL my ground beef.  I like to add a little to the ground beef that is added to a lot of other things—such as sauces, sloppy joes, spaghetti sauce and lasagna.  My family and friends can’t tell the difference!!  In fact, most don't know that they have ever eaten TVP!!

Recently I made lasagna and took step-by-step pictures of the meat and tomato sauce, including of what it looked like in the different stages of it with and without the TVP.  Here is my modified Betty Crocker recipe for Lasagna.

Lasagna (makes 2)--I freeze one for later
1 lb. ground beef
2 handfuls TVP
1 med. Onion, chopped (about ½ c.)
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 Tbsp. parsley  flakes
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. basil
½ tsp. salt
2 cans tomatoes, undrained—(We like them chopped really fine!)
2 cans (15 oz.) tomato sauce
16 oz. cottage cheese
¼ c. parmesan cheese
1 Tbsp. parsley flakes
1 ½  tsp.  oregano
2 c. mozzarella cheese, shredded
¼ c. parmesan cheese
¾ c. water
uncooked lasagna noodles

1.       Meat mixture:  Cook and drain meat, adding TVP when the pink is about to disappear.
 Add onion, garlic until soft and tender.
Picture of adding TVP to the almost done meat/onion/garlic mixture...
Add in 2 Tbsp. parsley flakes, sugar, basil,  salt, tomatoes, and tomato sauce.
Picture of meat mixture (with TVP) AND spices....
This is the thickened and completed lasagna sauce....can't find any TVP, huh?
Heat to boiling, stirring occasionally.  Reduce heat and simmer until slightly thickened (about 45 min.)

2.       Cheese Mixture: mix cottage cheese, ¼ c. parmesan cheese, 1Tbsp. parsley and oregano.

3.  Assembly:  Spread 1 c. of meat sauce mixture in ungreased baking dish.  Top with noodles. 
Spread cheese mixture on top of noodles.  Top with some meat mixture.  Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese. 
Repeat with noodles, meat sauce and cheese to create 3 layers of noodles.

4. On the last layer there will only be the meat mixture and shredded cheese.
Bake 375 ˚F covered with aluminum foil for 1 hr.  Then cook uncovered for 10 min. for cheese to bubble golden brown!

Where can you find TVP?
  • Winco ($1.79  per pound...just remember this is lightweight stuff...just like bacon bits!!)
  • Macey’s (a grocery store in Utah & Idaho)
  • www.honeyvillegrain.com Cost: $9.99 for a #10 can aka. big coffee can or $48 for 6 #10 cans. (I love this company because their prices are good, and they have GREAT shipping prices too! They have a flat fee of $4.47 REGARDLESS of how much you order for anywhere in the lower 48 states!)  P.S.  I buy more than one type of product they offer...and when friends order together the shipping can become really low.  Just divide the shipping among all the people who ordered equally!  The lowest shipping I paid when spitting the cost was 20 cents!
Happy Stretching Pennies...