Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Build Your House On A Strong Foundation

Any project's goals need to be defined. This is one of the building blocks that provide a strong foundation. I'm a big one for strong foundations. I discovered the importance of strong foundations when I read about them in the bible, when I was a young mother. I'm not one to remember all of the logistics. I couldn't say where to find the information other than to say it is in the New Testament.

The verse talks about building houses on sand. Something that is not advised. It continues to say a strong house is built on rock. This is what the basement and concrete slab represent in modern home building.

The verse went on to say that in all things we do need to have a strong foundation. It takes time to develop the strength of a foundation, but once the development is complete it is there forever.

As stated in the verse, we can translate this principle to all things. For instance, If I had 10.00 and need milk, eggs, flour - but want cookies and ice cream, the choice I make on how I spend the money will create a foundation for healthy eating or not. The previous items will provide the basis for healthy meals, while the former items will make me sick if it is all I purchase.

The same principles are applied with the income we have. It doesn't matter if the income is from working a job or two, social security, a trust fund or welfare. It doesn't even matter if it's a small income or large. There are plenty of people making lots of money, but have nothing because they spend more than they bring in. It only matters how we use it.

Use of income first on necessities rather than wants creates a strong foundation. It provides shelter and human comfort. Wants only provide temporary satisfaction.

Somehow the current generation has been led to believe that things are exciting. Things are what bring you success in your circle of friends and family. Not many people can afford to purchase all of the things available without using credit cards. Cards, I might add, that carry hefty interest rates and penalties.

This behavior provides an economic foundation built on sand. No one can save on these habits. If you think of credit as a type of slavery, perhaps you can change the foundation of your thought process.

Changing habits is difficult. Humans have a difficult time with change, especially if we have to work at it. It's just our nature. But it can be done. With perseverance, anything can be done.

1) The first thing to do is realize money is nothing more than a tool. There is no worth to it other than that. It doesn't make you better or worse, there should be no emotional tie to money. This is the most difficult hurdle to jump. Once you get this(it will take a while), the rest becomes easier.

2) Next is to create a plan. The most difficult thing about this is not creating the plan, but chastising yourself when you don't follow it. If you find you deviate from the plan, pick yourself up and move on. Keep in mind whatever goal is set, will be met at some time in the future. It doesn't matter if the goal is positive or negative, it will always come to fruition. Remember if you stay on track 3 months and fall off track the next, you are 3 months ahead. If you did nothing to conquer debt, those 3 months would not have happened.

3) Re evaluate your spending habits. There are things we buy because of an emotional trigger. Even though I am a grandmother, I realized just yesterday that I had a difficult time dressing nicely until the past few years because an old woman said something mean to me when I was 6. That is an emotional trigger. Think about things and one by one alter your buying impulses. Most pain in this area finds it's roots in the high school environment. Keep in mind, you are no longer there. There's no popular girl to impress. (Not that they were ever impressed. They were too busy thinking about themselves.)

4) Re evaluate what you use for entertainment. Changes here are easiest to make and can provide more cash for debt payment. Use free activities in your area. Concerts in the park, the library, things like this.

5) Re evaluate your grocery and health and beauty budget. Can you find ways of feeding your family in a healthier manner? Perhaps using popcorn from a bag that cooks on the stove rather than the microwave kind. Taking a few minutes to plan a list to take advantage of sales. Using coupons and checking out RA rebate offers. Stocking up on items you use frequently when they are on sale. Every store has a cycle for putting items on sale. Learn your store's and save cash.

6) Concentrate on the highest interest debt first. Pay minimum on the other cards (most people have many) and keep moving forward. Use every available cent to pay off the debt. Fifty cents may not seem to matter, but that's less interest paid on a balance.

The credit card companies know how important that fifty cents is because they make money on it in interest rates charged.

This information is not meant to be the end all. It is intended to be the foundation of a strong debt reduction plan. If you are serious about leaving the enslaved masses, there is a ton of information on the Internet.

Read the Grocery Challenge thread on msn money. These ladies are willing to take newbies under their wing and teach anyone who is interested.

I hope you will consider this information for your future. Remember it takes years to get in debt, it may take just as long getting out of it. The reward is well worth it. Good luck.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Basic Kitchen

I've been married for forty years. My kitchen has numerous appliances and gadgets in it. Some are gifts, some I just had to have when I was a young mom. During this time I've gone through 3 sets of pots and pans, 2 blenders and 2 food processors. I refuse to buy another processor until the one I have is totally unusable.

Forty years is a long time and things accumulate over a long period of time. But, if you are just starting out it is not necessary to have every gadget or electric item available.

The following is a list of the very basic items needed to create meals in your kitchen. As time moves on, other items will be added.


THE BASIC KITCHEN LIST includes.

1. pot to boil food
2. pan to fry food
3. oven proof dish to bake food
4. hand operated can opener
5. container to make coffee and tea and other warm beverages / if you don't drink coffee, the boiling pot works here
6. measuring spoons
7. wet measuring cup
8. dry measuring cup set
9. sealed containers to store dry goods in (flour, sugar, etc)
10.set of mixing bowls one can be used to mix in and another can be used to store left overs
11. one sharp knife, others can be added as time goes on
12. salt and pepper shakers
13. wire whisk
14. hand mixer
15. toaster
16. wooden spoon
17. rubber spatula
18. turning spatula
19. paring knife
20. hand grater
21. strainer
22. cookie sheet

With these items any dish can be put together. As time goes on you will discover what you like to cook and add accordingly. I like to bake and can foods. I have 3 cookie sheets now so I save on fuel energy and time costs.

My most prized item in my kitchen is a stand mixer. I bought one about 10 years ago. Owning this item enhances my experience in the kitchen. I can make bread and rolls and concoct cookies, frosting, and cakes. I guess this is my creative outlet.


Take your time accumulating what is in your kitchen. Explore what you find comfort in making. Then you can add the items that will make the endeavor more enjoyable.

Remember it is a good idea to pay cash for any additional purchases. Staying on buget is what it's all about if you are looking for economic freedom.

The Basic Kitchen and A Healthy Budget and Body

There's a lot of products out there and as many 'hackers' who spout for 30 minutes at a time about the benefits of buying their product. These TV commercials have multiple testimonies from 'legitimate' consumers singing the praises of the product.

There's one in particular that is guaranteed to make life easier and quicker. Your food will look like a pro.

I ask myself, "What is it they aren't saying?" They aren't saying that the entire set is planned and put together by a staff. The cukes are cleaned and dried and the flour is measured in a clear glass bowl before the show begins. And, the most important thing to note is, there are MULTIPLE 'magic' machines set up. Meaning no one is cleaning them until they leave your living room.

Most food prep consists of retrieving and cleaning and measuring. The measuring cup and glass bowl is retrieved, the recipe is read and followed. Milk and eggs come from the refrigerator. The set up of ingredients takes most of the time in a recipe. The pie crust for the quiche' is made before it's placed under the 'magic' chute.

The best way to stay healthy is to use your body. Cutting and slicing and opening cans by hand is not only economical, it is healthy. Every use of your muscles helps to keep you fit and trim.

Cleaning the item takes so much more time than cleaning a cutting board and knife.

Ah, you say, "What about the uniform slices or cuts?" Most of us aren't kings and queens. We're not even wealthy. (Less than 1% of the people in this country hold 99$ of the wealth) Who are we suppose to impress with uniform slices? There is no one.

The MAGIC in a good meal is the effort and love put in the preparation. It can't be measured or studied. It just is one of those intangible things that IS.

So if you have a magic machine, God bless you, if not - don't waste away, use your muscles and buff up!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

RITE AID 1/10-/1/16/10

There are two free items, with one check rebate, on the back cover of this week's Rite Aid circular.

1. GE light bulbs, 2 pack are 2.00 with a 2.00 rebate. If you have a coupon, you can make money on this item.

2. Con Tac cold and flu is 4.99 with a rebate of the same amount.

3. Alpo canned dog food is 79 cents a can. Even though this price is 16 cents lower than my local grocery store's, I get it at Wally World for 71.5 cents a can. So a no go for me.

4. The circular also has coupons for a few products from Johnson and Johnson- Aveeno, Roc, Purpose, Clean and Clear, and Lubriderm. The same products have coupons in the Smart Source flyer in Sunday's paper. (1/10/10) There is also a rebate form in the SS flyer that is for 10.00 off of 30.00 in products. A RA receipt will list the original price first, then take off the coupons at the bottom. You can also stack the coupons and use the RA one with the manufacturer's coupon. EX: The receipt price is 4.00. Coupons total 3.50. The 4.00 price is what is used to meet the rebate money spent. (26.00 left) The product, at the register cost 50 cents. If these are items you use, there's big savings here.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Great Site For Organized Shopping

At www.houndingwithfrugalsuz.blogspot.com SUZ has done most of the work for the busy shopper. SUZ organizes all of the rebates and sales at the three major drug stores, Rite Aid, Walgreens, and CVS, that have rewards programs. You can also find a list of manufacturer's rebates here. A quick glean of the information and you're on your way to saving and making money. How do you make money? With the use of combining coupons with rewards and sale prices many times items generate an income.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Poll

As this blog is only a few months old, I was surprised to see 13 people answered the poll about coupon use. Everyone thought coupons should be used at least some of the time.

Thank you to everyone who reads this blog. Please don't be shy, join the blog. This would be a great support to the site.

Dehydrating Food

I was on a message board this morning where the topic was dehydrating food. The thread prompted my memory. I have a dehydrator. I forgot about using it this summer. Next summer I will be using it!

Dehydration is a food storage process where moisture is removed from food by the use of low heat. The source can be the sun, an oven, dehydrator, or any long and low heat processing source. Foods with a low moisture content, such as herbs, can be hung to air dry.

Moisture is the enemy of long term food storage. Even foods that are frozen eventually succumb to moisture which is what freezer burn is.

By dehydrating fresh foods - removing the moisture- the food can last for years in a tightly sealed container. If mold is seen on the finished product, it has been compromised and is no longer a viable food source.

Foods that respond well to dehydration are veggies, fruit (apples, bananas are the best because they do not need the addition of a color preserver)and meats. For fruits and veggies to dehydrate they must be clean and any exterior moisture needs to be patted dry. The pieces should be cut into thin slices so the drying process can be complete. The addition of a product such as FRUIT FRESH will inhibit discoloration. Then into the heat source for an appointed time. Every source has an individual time span so research the food item to find out the appropriate time. Dehydrators come with instructions, but the sun or oven doesn't.

Storage containers can be new or cleaned out glass jars or plastic baggies. This is an area you can get creative. If it seals tight, the container can be used to store dried foods. Make sure it is a material that is safe for storing food. A rule of thumb is if food came in the container, it is safe for reuse.

Drying meat is slightly more of a challenge. It is easier to create slim slices if the meat is partially frozen or very cold. Slices should be as slim as you can get them. The sliced meat should be marinated (personal choice) for 24 hours or more, then dehydrated. My dehydrator takes 48 hours to dry meat. The newer ones have timers and thermometers attached so can be more accurate.

I am going to look for a sale on beef and dry some as soon as possible. The rest will have to wait until this summer's harvest. Snow begone! I want to get started.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Meal Planning

I correspond with a young woman who is determined to lighten her budget. We often talk about groceries, coupons and prices. I thought if she has many questions about this subject, other young women do too. Following is the meal plan for today in our home. We feed three adults on this plan. We only eat two meals a day and 2 snacks. All of the costs are rounded up.

Breakfast:FRENCH TOAST (milk, 2 eggs, cinnamon, syrup, butter) cost $2.80 COFFEE, 6 cups $1.50 per lb. / on sale and coupon Let's say 30 cents for the pot, I'm not certain what the yield is per lb. Approximate cost: $3.10

Lunch/Dinner: ITALIAN SAUSAGE cost 1.69 on sale, 3 POTATOES cost 5.00/20 lbs, (approximately 15 cents)BROCCOLI free Approximate cost: 1.89

CAKE with frosting $1.50, 3 6 oz glasses of MILK, 3 3 oz glasses of CRANBERRY JUICE, CRACKERS, 2 1/2 oz of CHEESE, 2 stalks of CELERY for snacks. The milk cost 1.68 for a gallon. The cranberry juice was 99 cents for the bottle and the cheese was 3.00 for 2 8 oz blocks. The crackers were 1.18 for a pound box and the celery was BOGO @ 1.49. (75 cents each)

Total cost of 2 full meals and cake is 9.54. A liberal estimated cost of the snacks for today is 2.00.

Total estimated cost is 11.54. That's 3.85 per person. This adds up to 80.78 per week. I spend 60.00 per week on food for three weeks and buy only milk, bread and eggs the fourth week. This includes items we stock up on such as canned veggies.

If I don't spend 60.00 I save the extra for the future. This way I have the money to stock up on items I use often.

The costs for food were severely reduced with the combined use of planning, coupons, and sales.

I have no negative feelings or thoughts about our grocery budget. It's a fun challenge to excel in an area that's important to me.

Perhaps this is a challenge that you would want to accept for the new year. Some people keep records on excel or a similar program. I have decided to bring this one step further and record the savings to have concrete evidence of my efforts.

Happy budgeting.

Friday, January 1, 2010

STOCKING THE PANTRY

One of the advantages of a new year is we can start 'fresh' in any area we choose. I'd like to talk about the pantry.

The word pantry means a stock of food and essentials. The stock can be stored any place there is room. I've known people who put some of their stock under a bed in plastic containers. It doesn't matter where the items are stored. It does matter if everything is organized. An organized pantry saves cash. If your par level is 10 cans of soup, an organized area means you can take a quick stock of the number of soup cans you have before you go to the store.

Basic organization means to have like items stored together and labels turned forward. Beyond this your pantry can be personalized. If you use containers to store food, I would suggest plastic ones with lids. Insects can't find what they don't smell. The plastic containers will prevent infestation.

Time is money as well. A quick look is less frustrating and less time consuming than searching in every cupboard or area. The result of frustration can be anger. The next person to cross your path could receive the anger. I guess you could say being organized helps to have a healthy relationship with others.

Basic items in the pantry are a must have. If it comes down to it a meal could be made with just the basics. Try to stock the basics, as everything else, with the lowest prices you can get.

Basic items include:
flour
sugar
oil
butter (we are made to digest and process real fats from nature)
milk
eggs
baking powder
baking soda
salt
pepper

Pancakes, breads, and rues can be made with these few items Even if you ate pancakes 3 three times a day, you will never starve when you have these items.

Basic spices include:
salt (replaces electrolytes)
pepper (starves off bacteria)
parsley (good for blood sugar)
garlic powder ( good for blood pressure and starves off bacteria)
onion powder ( tastes good)
cinnamon (lowers blood sugar)
vanilla in any form (smells good and tastes good)

Any additional spices are welcomed. The easiest and cheapest way to flavor food is with the use of a variety of spices.

Out of season fresh veggies don't need to be bought. They don't have much of a taste to them anyway. In the winter you can get the benefits of veggies by stocking:
onions
celery
garlic (fresh)
carrots
potatoes
During the growing season eat as many as you can. These items can be supplemented with canned and frozen veggies. Hopefully purchased on sale.

Winter fruits are:
apples
oranges and all citrus fruits
bananas
These can be supplemented with frozen, canned or dried fruits. We eat dried apricots, cranberries, raisins, and prunes in the winter. Prunes look funny, but the fact of the matter is prunes are dried plums.

Other items to finish out your stock include:

cereal
oatmeal
canned meat and tuna
condiments in individual packets or small sealed containers and regular size containers for every day use
dry milk (cooking or drinking)
candy or goodies
crackers
breads
meats of your choice (on sale)
dried beans
rice
peanut butter
jam or jelly
confectioner's sugar
brown sugar
cake mixes
other spices you use
anything else your family eats

The pantry contains not only food, but items needed if the power goes out. A hand can opener, candles, flashlight and batteries, matches, a charcoal (and charcoal) or gas grill, and paper plates, cups, and plastic ware. We have water too. Don't forget the pets. They need their nourishment as well.

NEW YEAR CHALLENGE

Happy New Year to all. I've been thinking about a challenge(s) for the new year. Asking myself what do I want to do and how do I want to document the results. The first thing I decided to do was tear apart the budget. Look at each entry and see if I can save. I do this because it is a challenge and I like to do it. Right now I am looking at the grocery budget. We're pretty close to saving all we can because I use coupons, buy only what is on sale, and use rebates. The pantry is almost fully stocked to keep us going for 3 months in the event of an unforeseen catastrophe.

The one area I did look at is dog food. The dog always ate Kibbles and Bits and Alpo canned food. Her treats came from Wallyworld. She is a large breed so she eats quite a bit at a feeding. The cost is approximately 50.00 a month to feed her. I didn't want to make drastic changes all at once because it is not healthy for the dog.

I searched for treats that could save us a dollar a bag or more. I changed to an off brand at a savings of 2.00 a month. This doesn't sound like much, but over a year's time it's 24,00 that can go in the Christmas gift fund and equates to one or more gifts.

The next step was changing the dry food. It's important here to get good nutrition for a lower cost. I purchased a large bag of Dad's food and mixed it with the Kibbles. Then went to Dad's without the Kibbles. The dog was happy with the change. This bag I got for 1/2 price so I only paid 5.00 for it. But again a 2.00 savings each month (at regular price) to put in the Christmas fund. The fund, so far, has increased 48.00 for this year. That's an increase of two or more gifts.

Canned food was the last frontier. Alpo has consistently raised prices over the past 3 years. Kibbles and Bits was 1.50 less for a 12 can pack for a savings of 3.75 a month. If my calculations are correct, that's another 45.00 saved over the year, for a total of 93.00. That equates to lots of extra gifts.

I'll use the cash for the 2 new babies' gifts and for an extra angel tree gift.

I'm not done going through the budget. This is just the beginning.

Is there just one area you can look into in your budget? Or maybe two? It can be so much fun to challege yourself. It certainly keeps boredom away!