Category Archives: Saving Money

Pantry Challenge

I periodically do this myself when I want to save money for something. Right now I am trying to save up money for 2 large expenses that are coming up soon. The challenge for everyone is to eat out of your pantry as much as possible over the next 4 weeks. This will get you to right before Thanksgiving. This can also help you save money for Christmas gifts.

The challenge is to eat out of your pantry as much as possible. Set a limit of a certain amount of money for your groceries each week. If you have a large family and generally spend $200 a week for groceries try setting a limit of $70- $100 per week. If you are single like I am your weekly budget can be much smaller. I will be setting myself at $30 per week. That includes personal hygiene products as well as cleaning products.

I have plenty of meat in my freezer so I won’t have to purchase that often. I will come back tomorrow to share my meal plans for the week using items out of my pantry. I will also do my weekly grocery shopping tomorrow as well and I will be doing my best to stay under budget.

So who is in?

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Homemade Vanilla Extract

I saw a recipe on Chickens in the Road for homemade vanilla extract. I made some yesterday but won’t be able to taste the results for at least 2 months. I made it exactly as she had written so be sure to check her recipe out.

Now can you imagine what it was like for me to go into a liquor store? Imagine this.  I cook with different wines but I don’t drink at all. My husband doesn’t drink at all. When people first meet me they automatically know by my personality that I am not partier. When I was getting out of my car I saw three men inside the liquor store laughing and talking. The minute that I walked through the door the men stopped talking and the store was deadly quiet. Not being familiar with items in the store I had to eventually ask where they kept the Vodka and Rum. Just my luck the vodka was on the first shelf and the rum was on the last shelf in the store.

I became very confused when it came to picking out the vodka. They had many different brands and some were very expensive and some were amazingly cheap. I decided that if I wanted my vanilla to taste like a good quality vanilla that I needed to at least go middle of the line price wise.

Next I went to the rum aisle. Oh my,  now it gets tricky. It seems EVERY region of the world have their own spin on what rum should be. Rum comes in all colors and hues of the rainbow. I had no idea which would be better for this as it only calls for a couple of Tablespoons. I decided to get Bacardi since I had seen it in a magazine before. hahaha

I had priced vanilla beans at the store and it was outrageous. They wanted $4.59 for one bean. I bought them online at Amazon for $6.29 for 16 beans. That is a huge difference. With shipping I spent $9.67. Not bad at all.

Now, I want to show you the savings that you will get from making it yourself. Over the weekend I bought a little 6 ounce bottle of Vanilla extract for almost $10.  This recipe calls for  750ml of Vodka. That comes out to 25.35 ounces of vanilla when it has cured for 2 months. It only calls for a couple Tablespoons of rum so I figure I used 20 cents worth of it.

  • Vodka- $7.49
  • Vanilla Beans- $7.25
  • Rum- 20 cents
  • Total= $

To have bought 25.35 ounces in the store I would have paid $42.25. That is a savings of $16.90. I am guessing it probably tastes better too.

This is what it looks like today. I will come back in a month and share another picture.

Save-A-Lot

Do you have a Save-A-Lot near your home? I used to shop there all the time but stopped for several years. On Saturday I dropped in just to pick up milk and was pleasantly surprised to find many changes there. I walked up and down all of the aisles to see what they had new. They are carrying more items than before and the prices are pretty fair. I still think Aldi’s produce is much much better but the fresh meat department had more of an option.

They had a deal that I was very pleased with. They had many meat items that had stickers on them that if you chose 5 packages you could get them for $19.98. If you purchased the items separately they would have cost you more than $25 so this was a deal. Since there are only 2 of us living here buying 5 packages of meat would last us 2 weeks of meals for only $19.98. I plan to take advantage of this deal often.

Do you shop at Save-A-Lot?

Romance for You and Your Budget

“Sorry, I can’t. I have a hot date tonight!”

Date night is a regular occurrence in my marriage for 2 reasons: 1. I married THE most amazing man on the planet, and 2. it is absolutely necessary in order to keep our marriage strong and healthy. Below are some ideas that can help keep romance in your life– and your budget.

1. Reconnaissance Missions– Each weekend Ben and I have been trying out 1 or 2 independent coffee shops from a list I found on a local blog. It’s a low-cost coffee date with an adventurous twist (yay for GPS). What can you discover in your neck of the woods? Historic sites or beautiful hiking trails? Independent art galleries or unique food markets? If you can’t find an established blog like I did, why not start your own and pave the way?

2. Learn Something New– I destroy my husband at most card games because I’ve been playing most of them with my mom since I was old enough to say “hit me.” To even the playing field, we spent an afternoon learning a new card game (thanks to Google) and playing from equal experience. Perhaps you both learn to kayak? Maybe try a completely foreign style of cooking that requires skills neither of you have learned before (sushi)? Learning something new together puts you on equal footing and is something that you will share with only each other. Your first kiss with each other may pale in comparison to your first couple’s table tennis championship.

3. Serve Together– Is there anything sexier than a man working in the sun with a smudge of dirt under his eye in just the right place? How about one who is doing work for someone in need? Swoon! When you serve together you feel good about yourself and you get a chance to see the truly attractive qualities in the other person. Oh yeah, and you get to do some good in the process.

4. Make Lists– Feel like you are running out of things to talk about? Designate a notebook and make lists with each other over coffee or at home in your living room. Lists can include places you would like to visit together, favorite memories together, names of future or invisible pets (or children), favorite childhood TV shows, or things you would like to accomplish in your life together. Save the notebook and flip back through it from time to time.

Lastly, notice small opportunities for romance.

 

  • Ask them out in a creative way, like mailing a card to the house or leaving an old-fashioned “check yes or no” note. Sometimes Ben calls me on the phone- from the guest room in our house while I am in the kitchen- just to ask me if I’d like to go on a date.
  • Set the expectations beforehand with sweet text messages or notes on the bathroom mirror leading up to the date. Make sure you get dressed up for each other sometimes. Sometimes my husband will sneak outside and ring the doorbell as if he is arriving to take me out.
  • Give a thoughtful and thrifty gift. Flowers are always nice- my husband once bought 1 rose and gave me an album with 12 pictures of that rose at places that were meaningful to us (and I got the rose). Buy a bag of sunflower seeds or a bottle of Coke, whatever they are addicted to, and give it as a gift.

Spending money doesn’t guarantee romance. It really is the thought that counts. What are some other ideas for budget-friendly romance?

Why Your Grocery Bill Will Double In 2011 and What You Can Do About It

On Saturday, I watched a 45 minute video titled, “Why your grocery bill double and what you can do about it” by Marjory Wildcraft. You can watch the video at this link.

Video Link

Ms Wildcraft gave me a lot to think about and offered ways to survive without going bankrupt when food prices soar. She mentioned that each grocery store only has a 4 day supply of food if for some reason trucks were not able to bring daily supplies.  Recently in areas where large storms have occurred the store shelves were bare within a couple of days because everyone went into survival mode and hit the stores running.

Wouldn’t it be nice to plan ahead for emergencies and be prepared? She also mentioned that due to oil prices increasing that the cost of food is going to at the very least double. Shell quoted that in 2011 they expect gasoline to soar to $5 a gallon. This of course will affect food prices as well as vacation, travel and availability of items.

She mentioned that we have already seen a 26% increase in the cost of food this year. She suggest that you store what you eat. She also suggest you plant a garden and breaks down how much you need of certain items. I highly suggest watching her video. It was eye-opening for me. I hope to eventually have rain barrels on my farm to catch water from the roof of our home in order to sustain our garden and animals.

I loved the water system she had with her chicken coop that provided a way to constantly supply water to her chickens using rain water. She mentioned that 30 countries have already banned exporting food because they are experiencing a food crisis and want to sustain their own people. This number of countries doing this is expecting to increase. The United States does not have a surplus of food. It is up to us to plan ahead and grow our food and can it to sustain us throughout the year.

Here is my question for my readers. Try answering the following questions and let’s try to have a dialogue. I want to learn from you how best to provide for my family.

  1. Do you garden?
  2. How many are in your family?
  3. How large is your garden?
  4. Do you can what you grow?
  5. Do you stockpile items when you can get them at good price?
  6. How long do you believe your family could go if necessary without going to the store and not go hungry?
  7. Do you have a cellar to store your food?
  8. Do you raise your own animals to eat?

Ms Wildcraft stated that she has a free newsletter that you can subscribe to where she offers advice on how to be self-sufficient.

www.Backyardfoodproduction.com

There was so much important information on her video. I hope that if you watch it you share your opinions here.

Cancel Cable Without Losing Out Part 2

Yesterday I shared how I personally keep up with my favorite shows without a monthly cable bill. Today I’m outlining some pros and cons for switching to this lifestyle.

Cons:

  • No more channel surfing or turning on a channel for continuous background noise. Instead you will choose everything you wish to watch. Your shows and movies will play in separate units, similar to watching on DVD.
  • While a DVR records things to be watched as soon as it is recorded, online episodes usually take 1 day to post online and some are a week behind.
  • There is a learning curve. You will have to learn how to navigate Hulu and Netflix and possibly learn to use a new device. Though I am confident this is very doable for each of you, this can be off-putting for some.

Pros:

  • You will find yourself being more intentional about what you watch. Instead of getting sucked in by a continuous stream of programming on a network, you will instead find yourself watching only what you wish. That just makes me feel better about myself.
  • Try out new shows, a season at a time. Netflix recommends shows and movies based on what I have enjoyed in the past. When we checked out Bones based on one of those recommendations, we were hooked. This was fine, though, because all of the previous seasons were on Netflix Instant. We are getting caught up.
  • You can better monitor what your children are watching. Netflix has a large children and family section, allowing you to select exactly what they are watching. Since the shows have a definitive ending time, you as the parent can know exactly how much time your children are spending watching television.
  • Viewing in this manner removes commercials, keeping your children safe from those embarrassing age-inappropriate commercials or programming.

No solution is perfect, but I’ve found in my own experience that the pros definitely outweigh the cons when it comes to excluding the monthly cable bill. I think the biggest challenge is just changing the way you think TV should work. Why not make it work for you? Here are some resources for those considering making the switch:

  • Another Perspective Part 1 and Part 2: This guy also shared on his blog how he cut out the cable bill. Aside from being a really funny guy, this is a great resource for those who may still have doubts.
  • Hulu: Provides an extensive online library of old and current TV shows.
  • Netflix: Provides an extensive online library of movies and seasons of TV shows. Also provides a by-mail DVD rental with no late fees.
  • Roku: A device that allows you to access programs like Netflix and Hulu and watch them on your TV (yes, even in HD)
  • Other Devices: Apple TV, Google TV, Boxee, Xbox360, PS3, Wii. The Roku seems to be at the top of the market for this type of device, but I wanted to let you know there are other options.
  • Windows Media Center Internet TV: This came with Windows 7 for us. It’s a safe and legal player on your desktop that connects to the internet. Browse and enjoy shows with limited commercial interruption, just like on Hulu. We think Hawaii Five-O just looks prettier on this player. 🙂

So what about you? Do you have any questions about this or something else I didn’t address?

Cancel Cable Without Losing Out Part 1

One way my husband and I save money is by not having cable. If you know us then this might sound crazy because we follow an embarrassing amount of weekly TV shows. We also work very long days, often being gone in the evenings when our favorite shows air. So how do we stay up to date on The Mentalist’s search for his wife’s killer or the latest shenanigans of Glee’s New Directions?

We stay current in three ways:

1. We watch streaming video on the internet (legally and safely)

We rely on our internet connection for most of our TV watching. We have a free account on Hulu.com where our list is updated weekly with the most recent episodes of our favorite shows. This is actually our favorite way to watch our shows because there are very few commercials (usually 1 30-second commercial for each standard commercial break) and we can pause and rewind the show at our own leisure. Some fight scenes on Human Target are worth rewinding and watching again.

We watch most of our content on our laptop in the living room, but if you prefer to watch on your TV you can purchase a Hulu Plus account for $7.99/ month and stream the content to your television set through one of the supporting devices. We are looking forward to when we can use Hulu Plus for the Xbox 360 (coming soon).

Outside of Hulu, many networks offer their most recent episodes of shows on their own websites, requiring you to visit them weekly so they can make more money from the traffic to their site. While this is a bit more annoying (CBS is notorious for this), the viewing experience is very similar to that on Hulu.

2. We utilize Netflix Instant Watch, streamed through Xbox 360 to TV

Our Xbox 360 connects to the internet for game play. Many people don’t realize that the Xbox 360 offers many “apps” for other internet related fun such as Facebook, Twitter, and Netflix. If you have an Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, or one of the other supporting devices,  you can easily stream Netflix to your TV.

We received a year of Netflix for Christmas, so we are currently not paying anything for our account. We have the subscription that allows for streaming Instant watch and 1 DVD in the mail at a time, which if purchased would be $9.99/ month. If you purchase a year at a time you can get a lower fee. They offer a free 1 month no commitment trial. Careful, it’s like crack-it doesn’t take much to get hooked!

Netflix has an extensive online streaming library of movies and seasons of TV shows that we can watch instantly. Though many of their most “premium” movies are currently only available by mail, we have never found ourselves without something to watch. Thanks to Netflix we discovered a new favorite show, Bones, and have been watching all of the seasons from the beginning- without commercials! We are in season 4, please no spoilers. 😛 Netflix has also said that they would like to move to having all of their content available online for Instant viewing, thus making the slow by mail option obsolete. This will be amazing.

3. We have an antennae (remember-some channels are free)

When we are home, we do enjoy watching stuff as it airs. Having an antenna also allows us to watch big events like the Super Bowl and the Oscars. We get all the basic network channels, so daytime TV that is unavailable online (i.e. Ellen) is available for normal viewing. Our TV is older, so we also require a digital converter box for our antenna to work.

Cost Savings:

My mom pays $121/month for combined cable and internet and is able to get internet alone for $40/ month. If she cancelled her cable and purchased both Netflix and Hulu Plus, her monthly fees would drop to $57.98/ month. She would save over 50% monthly. That’s a savings of $62.02 each month, or $744 each year, and that’s a lot of money! Savings like that are worth doing without the very few shows that are unavailable with an internet connection.

For her there would be an upfront cost for a device that streams to her television, (I recommend Roku but there are many devices from which to choose) but you may find you already have the capabilities in your existing gaming system.

There are other benefits to switching to this method of TV watching, but I’ll go into that more tomorrow. For now I hope this information is enough to get you thinking about doing away with your monthly cable bill.