Archive for the ‘Money’ Category

I hate to waste food. It sabotages the food budget that I try so hard to stick to each week, there are tons of hungry people in the world, and… well,  it’s just plain wasteful.  Since we eat a lot of cereal in my house (bought on sale, mainly in generic form, and sometimes with coupons), I have an easy way to use all the bottom-of-the-bag leftovers that no one wants to eat. 

Use all these leftovers, supplement with crispy rice cereal, and whip up a batch of Peanut Butter Mystery Marshmallow Treats!  You can’t go wrong with this crowd pleaser.  Just about any cereal works, and the standard recipe (or your own) is perfect.  You could keep a plastic container to collect all the cereal in until you have enough to make a batch of treats.

You know the drill…here are the ingredients:

A package of marshmallows, half stick of butter or margarine, and a generous scoop of peanut butter for flavor and protein.  I also add ground flaxseed for a nutrition bonus, and no one will ever know it’s there.

Melt butter in a large pot, then add peanut butter to your taste; I generally use about 1/2 cup.  Add marshmallows and stir.

Turn off the heat and stir in about 6-7 cups of cereal.  Corn flakes, Special K, Chex, Corn Pops, Cheerios; just about anything works well in this.  This is also the point where you stir in the ground flaxseed, if using.

At this point you’ll dump the mixture into a greased 13 x 9 inch pan.

Now, onto flattening this sticky mess….simply run your hands under cold tap water, shake, and press the cereal mixture down.  Don’t oil your hands (yuck!), this water trick works like a charm.  Using cold water also buffers your hands against the hot mixture. 

Let it cool, flip pan over onto a cutting board, and cut into squares.

No two batches will ever be exactly alike, but they will all be yummy! Perfect snack; one the kids will love it in their lunchbox.  Easy, inexpensive, and you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing you’ haven’t let any cereal go to waste!



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I love to garden, but it can get expensive really fast! Here are some tips on how to garden frugally.

Use seeds from the things you eat at the grocery store. Many times this method works well, but sometimes it does not. You just have to experiment with it a bit to see what will sprout and what will produce. If you buy a pepper at the store, cut it up and put the seeds on a plate on top of your fridge for a few days until they dry out. Package them up and save them until spring when you are ready to plant.

Save seeds in the fall from veggies from your garden. Scroll down to the bottom of the page on this link for instructions on exactly how to save seeds from common vegetables.

Don’t buy expensive seed starter packages. If you want to start seeds early, you can use your own dirt in recycled containers or paper egg cartons in front of a sunny window. You can sow many seeds outdoors directly into the garden when it is warm enough and avoid seed starting altogether.

Plant your own annual flowers from seed for planters, hanging baskets, and window boxes instead of buying packs of flowers or preplanted containers.

If you buy plants, buy small instead of spending more for larger plants. Your small plants will grow and fill in just beautifully in time.

Use groundcover plants under trees and shrubs and around objects instead of paying for mulch. Check this out.

Get free plants from cuttings, divisions, shoots, etc. If you are interested in a certain plant, there are many resources online available to show you how the plant reproduces.

Share and trade your plants and seeds. You can do this with friends and family or on many online gardening websites or Freecycle.com.

Perennial plants are plants that come up every year. Annuals die off in winter and you have to buy new ones. Plant more perennials.

To develop easy and inexpensive new beds, check out lasagna gardening.

If you don’t have much space for your garden, check out square foot gardening.

You don’t need expensive tools or equipment most of the time. What you need: A shovel, a hand trowel, a rake, and pruners. You may also need twine and stakes (sticks) for certain plants that require support. If you need an expensive tool, borrow one or rent one and split the rental fee with a neighbor.

You may need to amend your soil. Take the time to get a soil sample test done so you know exactly what to add and how much. This will save you time and money in the long run.

Make a hidden area on your property into a compost pile for grass clippings, leaves, kitchen waste, etc.  If you have rabbits, their droppings can go directly into the garden. If you have chickens, goats, etc., then you have to compost their droppings first or they will be too strong and burn your plants.

Look for sales on plants, seeds, and bulbs at the end of season. Seeds and bulbs can typically last more than one year so you can save them until you are ready to use them.

Conserve water. You can gather rainwater in barrels or containers from your downspouts to use in the garden. A soaker hose will also conserve water as opposed to spraying. It is best to water first thing in the morning.

Learn about each plant you put in so that you can care for it correctly. There are lots of resources online. My favorite forum is GardenWeb.com. There are many experts there who can help you with any questions or problems you might have.


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Simple Way to Budget!

Aren’t we all looking for a better budgeting method?   After trying all sorts of coupon files and notebooks to track our family spending, I have stumbled on the absolute simplest way to keep tabs on where your discretionary money is going.  Nothing to download, no fancy program to learn, and all you’ll need are some business envelopes and a stapler.

This system is for tracking your “extra” money, or the money you use for everything besides your monthly bills and savings.    Whatever cash you have left after depositing money for bills and savings is your discretionary funds, meaning that how you spend it is left to your own discretion.

Here’s the method that will sort out your madness.  Figure out what categories make up your day-to-day spending habits. Categories might include:  groceries, dining out,  entertainment,  kids expenses, doctors/prescriptions and gifts.  It never hurts to include a miscellaneous category as well.  Label each envelope with a category.    I find it best to label on the flap side of the envelope along the top.   In addition, label one envelope as “extra”.    (I also added in the warning, “Don’t touch!”  to make a point.    This will encourage you to try to save the extra bit from week to week.  Even if it’s just $5 or $10 carried over, you could have yourself a mini Christmas or vacation savings going before long.

Now that you have all your envelopes labeled, staple them together along the bottom using 4-5 staples.   You’ve created your own little accordion file folder.  You can even cut the flaps of each envelope off if you prefer a clean edge.

Here comes the budgeting part. After you’ve deposited your paycheck in the bank, take your remaining cash and distribute it among the envelopes. You may want to ask your bank teller to give you smaller bills to make dividing easier.

What’s great about this system is that you can certainly swap money from category to category as the need arises.  We all know that no two weeks are the same, and your spending is never exactly the same.  This is why traditional budgets don’t tend to work;  you are locked into a set spending pattern with no wiggle room and life just doesn’t work that way!  With this system you will become aware of  where your dollars are going when you pull them out of the envelopes. You may decide to splurge on dinner out one week,  and see that you’ll have to cut down on the grocery bill that month to compensate.    You may have to dole out money for baseball sign ups this week,  so you’ll decide on a DVD at home on Saturday rather than an afternoon at the theater.

I’ve also found that the whole family gets more involved using this system.    Our envelopes are left in a central location,  so if one of my boys needs money for lunch or an outing,  they will ask and I’ll tell them to go ahead and get it from the envelopes.    They can see with no lecturing that we have a finite amount of money to spend rather than a money tree or an ATM card.  It’s fantastic for keeping spouses on the same page, as well!

A note about the “Extra – don’t touch” category:  There are no snapping jaws that will bite your fingers off if you try to take from this envelope. Some weeks won’t allow for extra savings and you may have to dip into it, but I find it to be a great reminder of the bigger picture. See if you can’t end up with an extra $40 or $50 at the end of a month and deposit that into your savings account,  put it toward a credit card bill,  or go out and treat yourself guilt-free!


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Budgeting & making money

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