PhotobucketWhy Be Frugal?

I consider frugality an art form and a religious conviction. I learned about paying cash for purchases, recycling and reusing just about everything and being generous to friends and those in need from my parents.

My faith instructs me all things are gifted by God and so I am compelled to be a good steward of my gifts. [The highest heavens belong to the LORD, but the earth he has given to man. Psalm 115:16]

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Sunday, January 31, 2010

Quick Tips - De-stink Stinky Sneakers

These tips are from the October 2009 issue of Good Housekeeping magazine.

#1: Shake baking soda inside the sneakers, coating the insoles as well. Dust some on the outside of the shoes, working it into any crevices where bacteria may lurk.

Dump out excess baking soda. Whisk off the outside with a dry, soft brush. This will also remove dirt.


#2: After wearing them, stuff shoes with newspaper to absorb smells and moisture (even the kids could do this!!).


#3: Use antimicrobial fabric spray, like Febreze, to kill bacteria and help eliminate odors.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

February = free dental care for children


Each February, the American Dental Association (ADA) sponsors National Children's Dental Health Month to raise awareness about the importance of oral health. In most cities, free dental services are provided to children as a "Give Kids a Smile Day" on the first Friday in February. This year, Give Kids a Smile Day is Friday, February 5.

To find out if there is a Give Kids a Smile program in your area, click HERE.

The American Dental Association offers:

While we cannot promise that free care will be available for your child, we can direct you to clinics closest to your home where help may be available. In some cases, a fee may be involved depending upon your ability to pay.

To find dentists in your state who participate in State Children’s Health Insurance Programs (SCHIP) and Medicaid, visit the Insure Kids Now Web site or call the Insure Kids Now hotline at 1-877-KIDS NOW.

Here's a list of free "dental health activities" to download, offered by the American Dental Health Association:
Every year many adults go without routine dental care as well, due to the cost and/or lack of dental insurance.

If you are an adult seeking free or low/cost dental care, click HERE to locate a (medical and/or) dental health center near you. This website is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. You can search by address, city, state or zip code to find a conveniently located center where you an receive care (including the option to get a map to the center).

Thursday, January 28, 2010

OnTel Product's Dryer Max Dryer Balls Product Review

I'm not generally one to purchase every new gadget or latest invention advertised on television but I did purchase OnTel Products' Dryer Max Dryer Balls over two years ago. My husband and kids have allergies to some laundry products, including ingredients in some laundry detergents, fabric softeners and dryer sheets so I thought I'd give them a try.

I purchased the Dryer Max Dryer Balls for $9.99 at Walgreens. The Dryer balls come 2 per package and each rubber ball is a little smaller than a tennis ball. The balls have soft nodules - like soft rubber spikes - all over them and my set is light blue.

The Dryer Max Dryer Balls are much gentler on the fibers of clothes, towels and other laundry items than traditional fabric softener. I've noticed that since I've switched from fabric softeners to the Dryer Max Dryer Balls, I have less lint to clean out of my dryer's lint filter and off the door of the dryer. That's how I know the fibers in the fabrics of my clothes, towels, etc. are not being broken down so harshly - more lint = more fabric fibers.

Also, the fact that drying clothes using the Dryer Max Dryer Balls means that we're not adding chemical compounds to our clothes, and releasing them into the environment.

Some of the ads indicate you'll cut your drying time in half. I haven't found that to be the case all the time, especially when I'm drying a load of towels or jeans. But the time is reduced and for lighter weight loads, the drying time may very well be close to a 50% reduction. We also have very little static electricity when the clothes come out of the dryer.

I know we have saved money by not having to purchase liquid fabric softener or fabric softener dryer sheets. We also never need to worry about not having fabric softener when we're ready to dry a load of clothes.

The life expectancy of the Dryer Max Dryer Balls is about three years. (Ours are still going strong after 2 1/2.) That's a savings of a tremendous amount of chemical compounds from being released into the environment and into our clothes and a savings of at least a couple of hundred of dollars over the life of the Dryer Max Dryer Balls.

I give the Dryer Max Dryer Balls by OnTel Products a 5 out of 5 stars!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Save money by shopping on the 'right' day of the week

In this day of the internet, it's easier than ever to shop smart and spend less on groceries, clothes, household items and even vacations!

In fact, Smartmoney.com promises that "savvy shoppers can pay less than full-price on any day of the week that ends in "y"."

The sites Stretching A Buck and Becentsable are great on-line resources for finding freebies and good deals on food, baby items and more. There's even a "how to" tab at both sites for beginners to the couponing and freebie-finding revolution.

The website, Yahoofinance.com offers a way to save mega-money by shopping smart and planning ahead. In an article posted at Yahoo. Smartmoney.com offers a day-by-day guide to saving money on everything from groceries to furniture, from sheets and towels to vacations.

Best day of the week to buy groceries: Sunday or Tuesday. Maximize savings when you combine coupons with store sales. (Don't forget to ask for a raincheck-to lock in the sale price if the item isn't on the shelf.)

Buy cars on Monday: Low foot traffic after the weekend makes it seem like there are fewer potential buyers on the lot--dealers may be more willing to negotiate. With all the "special deals" associated with government stimulus package, you may be able to pay far less for a car than even a year ago!

Entertainment and Airline Tickets: Many movie theaters and amusement parks offer deep discounts or special promotions mid-week. Airlines, responding to discounted weekend fares of their competitors, often slash their rates to remain competitive.

Best time to buy gas and Clothes: It doesn't seem as if Gas and Clothes should be in a category together! Gas prices tend to go up on the weekends, so buy your gas on Thursdays before 10 a.m. After that the weekend prices start inching up.

On Thursday nights, stores stock their shelves for the weekend sales. Shop retail clothing stores Thursday evening for great prices and avoid the weekend crowds.

Friday and Saturday: Check the yard sale ads in the paper and on-line. Make a list of what you're looking for, plan your route for visiting the maximum number of sales without backtracking. Start early! By 10:00, all the best items are usually gone. Also, go back to the sales where there were items you wanted, but were priced too high. If they're still there by mid-day, you'll probably be able to negotiate a lower price.


This article was originally published at Richmond Frugal Family Examiner.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Frugal Find: Clothespins!

I'm always looking for low tech, low cost ways to teach important concepts to children, to decorate my house, and generally make my life a little easier. That's why I just love clothespins. Clothespins are one of the most versatile and inexpensive inventions ever made! You can purchase a package of twenty clothespins at a local "Everything's A Dollar" store. That places clothespins in the low cost category.

Clothespins, and just about anything else you might need or want, can generally be found at the dollar store. I've purchased everything from cleaning supplies, to silk flowers, to gift bags, and frozen foods. You really ought to check you local dollar store-you'll be hooked, too!

Refrigerator Magnet

Just attach a small magnet to the back of a clothespin and stick it up on the front of the refrigerator. Craft stores have magnets in all shapes and sizes. Some of the magnets are backed with glue and you can just peel and stick one to the back of the clothespin. You can also hot glue a small magnet strip to the clothespin. If you desire, you can paint the clothespin to match your kitchen d├ęcor. Use the clothespin magnet to hold your grocery list. As you run out of items, add them to the list; and even other family members can help keep the list updated. (OK, that might be a stretch!)

Chip Clip

Yes, those plastic "chip clips" you see in all the stores are cute. They are available in all sizes and colors and shapes. Let's be honest, though. Does anybody really see those clips? Aren't they in the cabinet on a bag of chips? Wooden clothespins work just as well, and they don't break! Clothespins are more heavy duty than those plastic clips. Clothespins can also be used to seal up cereal bags and snack items. I use clothespins to keep big bags of frozen vegetables sealed up in my freezer.

Hang Clothes and Artwork in Children's Room

Finish reading this article at Associated Content: Clothespin Creativity - Beyond the Clothesline.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Dinner for a family of 4 for about $4.30 a day through Angel Food Mnistries

What is Angel Food Ministries?

Angel Food Ministries is a non-profit, non-denominational organization dedicated to providing food relief and financial support to communities throughout the United States. Since it began in 1994 it has grown to serve hundreds of thousands of families every month across 44 states.

What's On The Menu?

Angel Food is available in a quantity that can fit into a medium-sized box or cooler for $30 per unit. Each month's menu is different and consists of both fresh and frozen items with an average retail value of $60. Comparison shopping has been done across the country in various communities and depending upon where you live, the equivalent retail value for the same food is between $42 and $78.

The food is all the same high quality one could purchase at a grocery store. There are no second-hand items, no damaged or out-dated goods, no dented cans without labels, no day-old breads and no produce that is almost too ripe.

The Signature Box is available for $30. Angel Food indicates the contents of one Signature box feeds a family of four for one week or one senior citizen for close to one month. Our family consists of three adults right now and one meal serves all of us easily.

For information about how to order and find a pick-up site near you, read my article at Examiner.com, Angel Food Ministries help Richmond families save on their monthly grocery bill. This article is written for my Richmond audience, but the information applies regardless of where you live (in the U.S.).

I'll be posting part 2 of the Angel Food Ministries articles in the next few days. We've been buying Angel Food ministries food for over a year and are very pleased with both the quality and the variety of food on the monthly menu.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Chop Chop Chop!

One great modern convenience - especially for those of us who like to cook -- is the abundance of grated, chopped, sliced and cubed cheese, fruits and vegetables available at the grocery store.

I'm all about saving time, but at this point in my life, saving money is even more important! The truth is, the more "processed" the food is, the more expensive it is. You can save at least $2 per pound buying block cheese vs. grated. Involve the kids and have them use their math skills by bagging up 1- or 2-cup portions into freezer bags.

Dig out that vegetable peeler and peel your own carrots. Buy "whole" celery stalks, wash, trim. Cut vegetables up into slices and divide them into single servings in zipper bags so the kids can help themselves to a healthy snack. Chop up 1-cup portions to have handy for salads and other uses.

You'll save a couple of bucks a week buying vegetables that haven't already been "cleaned up" and "cut up."

Of course, reuse those zipper bags over and over again! You can use plastic containers , but they take up a lot of space and can be quite expensive.

Think about this: saving just $7-$8 a week equals over $400 a year!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Speed Up Baking With Master Cookie Mixes

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Oatmeal Cookie Mix


This Mix recipe is from More-with-Less Cookbook. I've been using the mix for many years and it is wonderful and very inexpensive.

To make 1 Gallon of mix (I usually mix up 4 gallons at a time):

1 ½ cup white sugar
½ cup brown sugar
3 cups flour
2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
cut in :
2 cups shortening
add:
6 cups rolled oats.

Mix well. Store in cool place.

To make cookies:
Combine in bowl:
2 beaten eggs
2 tsp vanilla
4 cups oatmeal cookie mix

Mix well, drop teaspoonfuls onto greased baking sheet, flatten with fork and bake at 350 degrees for about 12 minutes. (The cookbook indicates this makes about 4 dozen--I like to make my cookies just a little bigger, and typically get about 3 dozen)

This mix keeps for a long time. I've added nuts, coconut, white chocolate chips, peanut butter chips and just about anything else I had in the cabinet.

1001 Cookie Master Mix and Recipes
(I found this recipe at Simply Susan Godfrey waaay back in 2006.)

5 cups all purpose flour
3-3/4 cups Sugar
2 tablespoons baking powder
2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons butter or margarine -- softened

1. Spoon flour info measuring cup and level with spatula. Put in large bowl with at least 4-quart capacity.
2. Measure sugar, baking powder and salt into flour. Stir until thoroughly blended.
3. Add butter and use pastry blender or clean hands to work into dry ingredients until mixture resembles coarse meal.
4. Store in the refrigerator for up to 3 months

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Chocolate Chip 1001 Cookies

2 cups 1001 Cookie Mix
1/2 cup firmly packed Light Brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 package semi-sweet chocolate chips -- (6 oz.)
1/2 cup chopped nuts

1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Grease cookie sheets.
2. In large bowl, mix together cookie mix, brown sugar, egg and vanilla. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts.
3. Drop dough by slightly rounded teaspoons onto prepared cookie sheet 2 inches apart.
4. Bake for 12-15 minutes until lightly browned. Cool on wire rack.

vvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvv

1001 Peanut Butter Cookies

3 cups 1001 Cookie Mix
3/4 cup peanut butter
1egg

1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Grease cookie sheets.
2. In large bowl, mix together all ingredients. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Place 2 inches apart on prepared cookie sheet. Flatten in crisscross pattern with fork dipped in flour.
3. Bake about 10 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Cool slightly; remove from cookie sheet and cool on wire rack.

-- To Make Peanut Butter Stars: Roll balls in sugar. Place about 2 inches apart on greased cookie sheett; do not flatten. Bake until edges are lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Immediately press 1 milk chocolate star firmly in each cookie. Cool slightly; remove from cookie sheet and cool on wire rack. Makes about 4 dozen cookies.

-- To Make Peanut Butter and Jelly Cookies: Shape dough into 1 inch balls. Place about 2 inches apart on greased cookie sheet. Bake about 10 minutes. Remove from oven and flatten with a spatula. Cool slightly before removing from cookie sheet; cool completely on wire rack. Put cookies together in pairs with jelly.

Makes 24 sandwich cookies.

For more varieties using this mix, visit Susan Godfrey at Homestead Momma.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Bartering = "Free" Services, Merchandise, Advice


Bartering rather than purchasing new items or disposing of no-longer useful items is a great way to reusing, repurposing and recycling that puts resources back into our economy without adding a strain on our planet. The saying goes, "one person's trash is another's treasure."

Articles I've read on the topic suggest starting slowly, with a friend or two to see how comfortable you feel. I have a friend who details cars as a side job and I offered to advertise his business on my blog and website for free if he would keep my car looking sharp. Needless to say, he jumped at the idea and my husband is thrilled not to hear me complain anymore about my dirty car:-)

Bartering for several meals prepared and delivered or child care in exchange for small home repairs or tax preparation are two pretty safe trades to begin your bartering adventure. From there, who knows!

The October 2009 issue of Parents magazine suggested these three sites for "cyber-swapping":

barterplanet.com - Barter Planet is a free online community that allows you to trade what you have for what you need. Membership is free. This is a new site, only on-line for a few months. There were only about 20 posts when I checked the site this evening, but the site may grow over time. Services or goods to trade are listed by zip code/city.

swapstyle.com - Swapstyle claims their an on-line fashion swap party where you can Swap Clothes, swap accessories, swap cosmetics, swap shoes and lots more with people from all around the world. It's free to join and trades are unlimited. This site also offers to sell or buy items on the site. They do recommend members become "address verified" for a one-time fee of $10. This adds an extra level of security for parties to transactions.

My favorite site of the three is: zwaggle.com - This site is home to a national network of parents who want to share their resources. You receive Zwaggle points (or Zoints) by giving your gently used things to other families, then use those Zoints to obtain "new" things for your family. This site is currently offer 25 free "zoints" for signing up!

Be cautious, start with small trades and start making a list of everything you can do, everything you have and everything you want. Then, have fun!

Do you have successful bartering experiences? Unfortunate experiences you'd care to share? Help others out. Leave a comment. I love it when readers share.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

What to Do When You Can't Use Your Gift Card


So many of us received gift cards for Christmas. Our family is fortunate, in that we are able to use (if we haven't already) each of the cards we received as gifts this year. Sometimes, though, you may receive a gift card from a store you don't or don't want to shop.

Well, all is not lost! Mary Ann Romans at Families.com has some great suggestions on how to make the best of an otherwise undesirable gift card. CLICK HERE to read her ideas.

Mary Ann reminds us that in August of 2010 a new law will go into effect that will require that gift cards be valid for at least five years without expiring. Won't that be great?

In the mean time, check out Mary Ann's advice on how to make the best of your situation.


Check back here often for more great ideas, tips and techniques for making the most of your money--no matter how much or how little you have!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Tips for Stretching Your Dollar and Freezing Food

(Originally posted at Associated Content, May 16, 2008)

Grains: When you buy rice (not instant), cornmeal or any kind of flour at the store put the bag(s) in your freezer for 48 hours. This will probably work with oatmeal too, though I haven't tried it. After that, you can keep it in an airtight container or the original packaging and it will last “forever.” The freezing kills any vermin that may infest the grain if left at room temperature. I've had flour that lasted for months and never had a problem with it after it comes out of the freezer!

Ground beef/ground turkey: Mash 1 can kidney beans or black beans. Mix the mashed beans with 2 pounds of ground meat.

For meatloaf: add bread crumbs, crushed corn flakes or regular oatmeal (uncooked) and an egg, spices, ketchup; mix all ingredients together.
For hamburgers: add enough ketchup or barbeque sauce to hold together (not too much or they'll fall apart); add some spices, shape into patties, place a square of waxed paper between each patty. These can be stored in an empty bread bag in the freezer.
For tacos or casseroles: Brown meat, adding desired spices such as taco seasoning. Store in 1 cup portions in freezer bags. Bags can be flattened to take up minimum freezer space. Be sure to label your bags!

Eggs: Crack the eggs and place one or two each in freezer bags. When you're ready to bake, take out of the freezer several minutes before use. If you make quiche or other egg based dishes often, bag up the eggs in the appropriate quantity per bag.

Milk or Juice: Buy it on sale. Pour out 1/8 cup (give it to one of the kids to wash down a cookie) reseal carton or jug and freeze. To save even more money, switch to powdered milk or frozen concentrate juice (add water when you're ready to mix it up). If you mix up powdered milk, refrigerate it for several hours before serving (in other words, nice and cold) I bet no one will even notice the difference.

Potatoes: Peel, boil and mash. Allow to cool, store in gallon freezer bag. You can press the bag flat, and it won't take up much room in the freezer.

To save even more money: use coupons for your freezer bags or buy them at the Dollar Store. You can rinse/wash plastic bags and reuse them as long as they did not have eggs or uncooked meat stored in them.

FYI: a 5 lb. bag of flour fits perfectly in a one-gallon ice cream tub.



Click on the links for more Frugal Kitchen Tips, Creative Storage and Cost-cutting Tips for Buying in Bulk and check out Richmond Frugal Family at Examiner.com for current information on frugal deals and steals.

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Friday, January 8, 2010

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