Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A Programable Thermostat: the convenience of warm WITHOUT the sacrifice!

A programmable thermostat is a fabulous investment!  A basic one costs about $30, but you can easily save that in one season!
No one likes to wake up to a cold house OR come home to a cold house.  A programmable thermostat allows you to have the temperature set lower while you are away OR under your covers (nice a cozy)!  You can easily program it to warm up the house 30 minutes before your alarm goes off in the morning OR before you return home from work.  This way you maximize your comfort, are doing a great simple thing to save money --ALL while being environmentally friendly!
When we had little babies in the house, I didn’t set the temperatures as low because they would unravel themselves from their blankets and I worried about them getting cold.  (I didn’t want to put a huge comforter in their crib that could smother them either.)  HOWEVER, now that my children are not babies anymore, we have invested in some really warm comforters from IKEA.  Because they are so PLUSH and WARM (rated 4-5), our “program” is set to decrease to 60˚F at 11p.m.  Please remember the program doesn’t function on an instant drop (like opening the refrigerator) …it just means the furnace doesn’t kick on again until it reaches that temperature.  SOOOO…it takes a while for it to get there.  The thermostat’s program kicks back up to warmer temperatures 20 minutes before my husband’s alarm clock goes off, (which is 45 minutes before our children get up.)  In all honesty—NOT ONE PERSON in our house has noticed the change.  The house is warm when all of us hop into bed, and warm when we all get up in the morning.  Stretching pennies couldn’t be easier!!  Convenience of warm WITHOUT the sacrifice!

Since I am a stay-at-home mother, we generally only have the daytime temperatures set lower when we are on vacation OR are going to be away for the day.  If your schedule has you away from your home  during the day, consider programming your thermostat to lower temperatures during your absence.  The only thing you will notice is more money in your pockets!! 

NOTE:  Even if you are a stay-at-home mom OR work from home…. IF you have a schedule that has you being gone on certain days or at regular times, make sure you program that in.  Every person can benefit from this trick!

Happy Stretching Pennies….

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Splurging the frugal way...

Everyone has their “favorite stores”…the places they go regularly (or wish they could go to regularly) to shop or eat.   It’s smart to look for coupons for these places.   My “preferred stores” are: Office Depot, Charley’s, Kiddie Kandids, Dairy Queen, JoAnn’s, Pier 1, Michael’s, Bed Bath & Beyond, Papa Murphy’s, El Pollo Loco, Mom’s & Pop’s, etc . 

I do NOT go to these places all the time.  I am NOT a shopper by nature, nor do I go out to eat often…  BUT when I do, I like to have a coupon on hand for my favorite places so that I don’t have to spend as much.  It makes me feel just a little better about my splurge.
Each person’s “system” for keeping track of these “preferred place” coupons may be different, but mine is coupon board- (NOT used for coupons for the grocery store…JUST my “preferred stores”).   It is a frame with the matte and glass removed.  My husband cut some sheet metal down to the right size and I inserted it inside and it has been the perfect attractive way to store them!  Just a few strong magnets from JoAnn’s (at 40% off), with a few embellishments from some pictures, glue and clear glass stones and it is great attractive way to display pictures of my family while storing coupons for future FUN things. 
(Ok. Some of the magnets have picture embellishments. Some are just magnets that I haven’t gotten around to making yet.)
Just remember that
just because you have the coupon
does NOT mean you have to use it
that would defeat your FRUGAL lifestyle!
Happy Stretching Pennies…

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Autumn Soups are simple and inexpensive!

I love autumn!  I love the colors.  I love the holidays.  I love the harvest.  AND I love the FOOD!
As life speeds up with the kids in school and activities, the weather starts to get colder.  Homemade SOUPS can be "finance friendly" AND "time friendly" as you save for Christmas (or just plain penny pinch).
The crock pot becomes my BEST FRIEND in the autumn and into winter.  Homemade soups are a snap to throw together in the morning as you throw a little of this and that into the crock pot.  And who doesn’t want to come home to a great smelling aroma of homade soup with very little effort and very little expense?!?
My best time-saver tip: When you make a crock pot soup….make a BIG one that is more than double batch.  Freeze the unused portion.  This way on a REALLY busy morning you can take that container straight out of the freezer and microwave for about 1 minute to loosen the contents and dump the whole thing into the crock pot..and run off on your busy day!  (Enjoy coming home to that wafting aroma of homemade soup with NO effort!!)

Lifestyle tip: If you want to make these soups even LESS expensive to make, consider hydrating your own beans instead of using a can!  (I will do a post on this later.)
Here are of our favorite soups that our family really enjoys:
Cowboy Soup 
2 c. cooked black beans (or 2 cans drained beans)
1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes
1 can (4oz.) green chilis
3/4 c. cooked ground beef
3c. water 
1 c. frozen corn
1 small onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 T. cumin
½ tsp. hot pepper sauce
1.     Mix all ingredients in crock pot. 
2.     Serve with shredded cheese and sour cream.
Chicken Tortilla Soup
2 cans (14.5oz) diced tomatoes
1 can (4.5 oz.) diced green chilies
2 cans (14.5oz.) chicken broth
1 can corn, drained
2 c. Refried beans
2 c. shredded cooked chicken
Corn chips
Shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1.   Combine everything BUT the cheese and chips in a crock pot. 
2.  Serve...and top with Corn chips and cheese.
Taco Soup
1 lb. cooked Ground beef
1 pkg. Taco seasoning
2 c. variety beans (or 2 cans drained beans) example: Garbanzo, black, kidney, pinto
1 c. Mild salsa
Corn (frozen)
1 can stewed tomatoes
2 oz. Diced chilies
Olives (optional)    
1.       Throw everything in the crock pot in the morning.
2.       Serve with crackers or tortillas.
Hearty Black Bean Soup 
1 c. salsa
2 cans (15 ½ oz.) black beans, drained and rinsed
2 c. chicken broth (or substitute with chicken bouillon)
1 tsp. lime juice
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
Sour cream (optional)
1.     Put everything but the sour cream, lime juice and cilantro into the crock pot in the morning.
2.   In the evening ladle ¼ of it into a food processor (or blender) and puree it.
4.     Return puree to the soup.  Stir in lime juice and chopped cilantro. 
5.     Serve with a dollop of sour cream if desired.
South of the Border Chili…Pronto  (a little spicier than mild) 
1 lb. cooked Ground beef
16 oz. Mild salsa
1 can beans
1 can (10 oz.) enchilada sauce
2 tsp. Mexican seasoning    
Toppings:  Crushed tortilla chips, green onions, shredded cheese, sour cream
1.       Throw all ingredients into crock pot in the morning, except toppings.
2.       Prepare toppings.  Serve.
Chili (Lion House Original) 
1 c. chopped onion 
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 c. water
½ c. diced green pepper
2 cans (14 ½ oz.) chopped stewed tomatoes (undrained)
1 can (15 oz.) red kidney beans, drained
1 can (15 oz.) garbanzo beans, drained
2 Tbsp chili powder
1 ½ tsp. Cumin
Sour cream
Note: If desired, add cooked ground beef!
  1. Throw all into crock pot on low in the morning.
  2. Top with sour cream.
(Stovetop: bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 30 min. to blend flavors and thicken chili.)

Happy Pinching Pennies..