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Simple cleaners: do more with less

February 25, 2010 • Paige

When we took our trip to Memphis for the fencing tournament, I knew I would be doing a load or two of laundry, so I brought a plastic bag with some of my home made laundry powder, and a small bottle of vinegar for softener.

However, I didn’t remember to bring any dish soap, or buy any at the grocery store. Oops!  I discovered that a half tablespoon of laundry powder works for washing dishes, as long as I used a lot of vinegar in the rinse water.

I wouldn’t want to use the laundry powder very often on dishes, but it is fine in a pinch and kept me from going back to the store to buy anything.

Categories: Personal Posts
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Grow something!

February 23, 2010 • Paige

Last spring was our first try at growing edible plants.  Since we live in a rental, we are growing in containers in lieu of a garden.  On the the front porch we had basil, rosemary, thyme, marjoram, peppermint, stevia, tomatoes, aloe, and some other random plants.

We got started pretty late and even though we did so many things wrong, there was an abundance of fresh herbs all throughout the summer.  The basil, stevia, thyme were lost to Autumn cold weather.  The aloe plants are still going strong, and the rosemary and peppermint are coming back from their brush with death a bit slowly.

This year I want to do better.  I have saved a few paper egg cartons for starting seeds indoors.  I can get started with that just as soon as I decide what I want to grow. 🙂 This year we’re also going to try our hand at several different kinds of vegetables and small fruits.  I scrounged up some plastic bins to re-purpose as planters.  Hopefully I will be able to harvest and store my herbs, veggies, and fruits this year.

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Low budget vacations and road trips

February 21, 2010 • Paige

We just returned from a trip to Memphis, TN for a national youth fencing tournament.   My son has fenced in several national tournaments, which means travel and hotel stays, and everything else that goes with it.  They say the role of a fencing parent is “Chauffeur, Go-fer, and Credit-Card Holder”, and they are right up to a point.  However, there are ways to make these trips less costly.

Many families fly to tournaments, but we drive.   My son’s first tournament was in Albuquerque, NM which is a two-day drive for us.  The hotels near the convention center cost between $150 and $300 per night, but we were able to drive to a far less expensive hotel about ten minutes away.   We paid less than half of what many other fencers paid. We chose a hotel with microwave and fridge in the rooms so that we could more easily eat in our room instead of at restaurants.  I brought a cooler with a little bit of pre-cooked food, and some frozen dinners.  We brought our tea maker and didn’t have to buy any drinks for several days. I know we spent far less than many other families at the tournament, but we still needed to do better.

The most recent tournament was in Memphis, which is only about six hours away from home, which lowered our expenses significantly. I found “extended” type hotel with a kitchen in the rooms with a full fridge, mini stove and a microwave.  This hotel cost even less than a standard hotel room with a microwave in the same area of Memphis.

I cooked several ‘one-pot’ meals ahead of time and froze them in resealable plastic bags.  We got the rest of the weeks’ groceries from a store near the hotel.  We had home-cooked food all week, and only went to a restaurant twice.

The next tournament will be in Atlanta, GA and I’m planning ahead for it as much as possible. 

Categories: Being Frugal
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Stock up when things are on sale

February 13, 2010 • Paige

I’m embarrassed to say what we paid for a spiral ham at Thanksgiving.  I’m usually better at not overspending but I hadn’t planned far enough ahead and we had to buy it when the prices were the highest. Live and learn.

A few weeks ago, my grocery store had the same spiral hams for 70 cents per pound.  It was a two days before payday so I could only pick up one ham at the time.  My husband and I returned two days later and bought the last two and stashed them in our freezer.

I wish I had been able to pick up a few more when the grocery store had several dozen but I am determined to get better at this.  We may need another freezer soon….

Categories: Being Frugal
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Quit drinking soda to save money and your health: .

February 5, 2010 • Paige

For health reasons as well as saving money, my family gave up drinking soda a few years ago, and switched to water and iced tea.  It took a little while for the change to take hold, but once it did, I can’t stand to drink soda any more, it all tastes terrible and I much prefer cold, filtered water, or some iced tea.

Making your own iced tea at home is cheap, and you have control over how much sugar is in it. You can replace a lot of the sugar with honey, but that will cost more unless you buy honey in bulk. 

We splurge on our favorite brand of tea which is usually not the lowest price, but even that works out to about fifty cents per gallon instead of $2.99 per two-litre or 6-pack of cans.

For road trips, we fill up an ice chest with bottles of home brewed tea and never have to buy drinks on the road.  Now that we’re traveling twice a year to attend national fencing tournaments, we’ve really got to know how to travel without spending a lot of money.

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Cheap and healthy snacks: Popcorn

February 3, 2010 • Paige

For the same price of a 6-count box of microwave popcorn, you can buy a big bag of popcorn kernels that will last you a month.  It is so easy to make popcorn the old fashioned way and it tastes so much better than microwaved popcorn. 

These instructions were written by my 15 year old son, who has been making healthy popcorn snacks for years.

To make healthy popcorn snacks on the stove-top;

1. Get a small pot and pour a layer of popcorn about one kernel thick on the bottom
2. Pour a small amount of corn/canola oil onto the popcorn, and stir. You need just enough to wet the kernels.
3. Put a lid on the pot and turn the heat on high.
4. Pops in about 2 minutes, shake occasionaly to keep from burning/sticking

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If your child is too young to use a stove, he/she can make healthy popcorn snacks in a microwave;

1. Pour about 1 tablespoon of popcorn kernels into a paper lunch sack
2. Fold the mouth of the sack down to the bottom, then put in the microwave
3. Set for about 2 1/2 to 3 minutes, depending on the power of your microwave
    Stop the microwave when the popping slows to once every second or two.

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