Monday, May 18, 2009

Baby Powder Power

Baby Powder is used to absorb extra moisture in a baby's diaper. However, it need not be used exlusivley there. My neighbor told me that baby powder is a must when you go to the beach. When you want to go home -sand free- just put baby powder on. It soaks up the moisture that is holding the sand on your body, and the sand falls right off.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Big energy saver for cooking pasta.

I came across this one in a book by the Frugal Zealot. Put a lid on your pot of water and turn your stove on. When the water is boiling, put your noodles* in a stir a bit so they won't stick together. Bring water back to boiling put lid back on and turn off the stove. Let the noodles sit with lid on for about 8 to 10 min or until al dente. It works like a charm and saves 8 minutes of energy time!

*Does not work well with spaghetti noodles.
**A trick to keep your noodles from sticking after is to add a bit of Olive Oil to the water BEFORE you put your noodles in. This will coat the noodles slightly and prevent them from sticking together.

Stretching Soap

**Disclaimer** I do not have the luxury of double sinks in my kitchen where I can fill up one side with dish soap for washing and have the other side for rinsing. So I have to wash each dish separately in my one sink.

I had another ah-ha moment tonight while my mind was in frugal mode. I was washing the dishes in my one sink. My dish soap container was very low but I didn't want to run downstairs to get another one. My laziness led me to discover a way to use less dish soap and hot water. Interested? Keep reading.

Most people, including me put a healthy squirt of dish soap on any dish that they are washing. It doesn't matter if the dish is small or large, the same amount of soap goes on. The amount I squeeze is a habit of mine.

Now, after the soap goes on, then I have to turn on the water to lather the soap. While I proceed to scrub the dish the hot water stays running until I need rinse it. This ways uses a lot of hot water and a lot of soap.

Let's show the difference of the frugal way tonight. Since I didn't want to go all the way downstairs, I diluted the soap in my container. I squeeze the same volume amount on as if it is full strength (this is my habit) but I am using 50% less soap because it is diluted with water.

Since the soap is already mixed with water there is no need to turn on the water to scrub the dish. So I save hot water while I scrub. Then I just have to rinse. I save about ten minutes in hot running water and at least 50% in soap.

You can also do this with hand soap. I have noticed that the hand soap companies have their dispensers put lots of soap out per squirt. This is good for them because it forces you to buy more of their product.

Instead of re-buying the little dispensers of soap, buy the refill sizes (on sale and with coupons of course). Then put in half soap and half water and mix in the small dispensers that you are reusing. Then same idea as above. No need to run hot water to lather the soap. All you need to do is rinse.

Looks like clean savings to me :)


Super Sweeper

My mom visited me a few weeks ago. While here, she was so kind to sweep my floors. However, she told me that I needed a new broom. Now, moms know best and this includes mine. I had owned this broom for nine years and I have to admit it needed help.

Now, being the frugal woman that I am, I kept thinking that it would cost me around $15 to replace this broom. I didn't want to spend that money on a broom. So, I had an ah-ha moment tonight.

I took out my kitchen shears and gave it a hair cut. There was a dirt line where you could see the bristles full of dirt. They were also kind of spread out. But the bristles were in good condition beyond that.

So, I took out my kitchen shears and trimmed it along the dirt line. And guess what? It is as good as new! It took me about five minutes to do it and I saved $15. If you times that out into an hourly wage, that is $180!

I look forward to another good nine years out of my broom and keeping the $15 in my wallet :)

Buget part 1 of 3 revised

If you read this earlier, please read again. There is additional info.

Okay, so I can't wait any longer to talk about budgeting. I was very disturbed by the story in the news about the man who killed his small children, his wife, and himself because of unreal debt. There are many people in our country that are in trouble and I want to help. So let's get started on the road to having and STAYING WITHIN a budget. **Keep in mind this is just advise on a blog. If you need to please seek professional help**

First things first, if you are married or have your finances mixed with a significant other, you both need to be involved. Don't get me wrong, if you are trying to make things better that is a great start. But if the other person is still spending out of control it won't completely solve the problem. It is like trying to ride a bike with one full tire and one flat. You aren't going to go very far. I am going to write this toward a couple. However, if you are on your own then just go through all the steps with yourself.

Now, this approach is different than any other approach I have seen. We are going to start with where you are, plan for where you want to go, and the have an execution strategy. My DH (dear hubby) and I use this approach with our clients and it has been very successful.

So for all of you out there lets start with tracking your budgets. This is very important because it lets you see what your spending behaviors are. I feel that you can't set a realistic budget without knowing what you are doing now.

The best way to get a snapshot is to track your expenses for 2-3 months. There are three ways to do this:

1. Keep a small notebook or piece of paper in your wallet or purse and write down EVERY penny you spend. The date, place, and amount. Both people do this. Assign the expenditures into categories.
2. Download your expenses from checking and credit cards into Quicken and assign to categories. Keep in mind this will not show where your cash went.
3. My DH wrote a Budget Excel Spreadsheet where you can look at your credit card, checking statements and write them down in the spreadsheet. You can download a copy of it from my website for $1. (I wanted to offer it for free, but PayPal wouldn't let me do it. So I am charging as little as possible.)

***Regardless of which method you use, I will be using the Excel Sheet to help you plan this. I would have given it away, but PayPal won't let me do that. To be successful you need the right tools and this is one of them for the budget.

Now remember, don't let your perfectionism get in your way. I know that it is scary, but I will help you through it step by step.

**Instructions for using the Excel Sheet to look at your spending history.

First of all, enable the macros for the spreadsheet. There are formulas that link the info to the different pages.

Secondly, ONLY TYPE IN THE YELLOW PARTS. The formulas will fill in the white parts for you from the info you type into the yellow.

Now, I want you to set up your budget categories. Go to the "Plan A Budget" tab found at the bottom of the Excel Sheet. We have a list of possible categories. If you need to add more, decide if it is a fixed expense or variable expense. Then click on the "Insert Income Category" under found under the type of category.

This will pop up a box that will ask you to name the category. Name it what you need. The spreadsheet will automatically fill in this category all through the spreadsheet. If you don't need a category we have listed. Just leave it blank for now.

Fixed Expenses are ones that you have to pay every month there is no decision to make about it, ie, mortgage, rent, utilities, car payment, etc. Now in the future we will talk about purchasing things that force you to pay for them long term, but for now we are seeing what you are doing right now.

Variable Expenses are ones that you can make more decisions about, like groceries (do you have to buy that candy bar or can you go without?), clothes (do you really need that new purse this month?), gas (do you need to run that little errand or can you wait and combine it with another errand on another day?), etc. You have more power make decisions on how you will spend your money in that category.

Some categories can fit into both, like dance lessons. Do your kids really need dance lessons or can they go without? Use your best judgement to how these things fit into your life.

Tracking Function
Now I want you to go to the next tab on the bottom which is labeled "Past Register". On this page you will find your categories on the left side. Then, there are columns to type in past expenditures in each category for three months.

Get your info on your spending. If you do most of your spending on cards, download your statements (both hubby and wife). If you tracked manually for the three months get that info now.

Go through your info and decided what category each transaction falls under and type them into the yellow squares. Make sure that you do it month by month. The spreadsheet calculates the averages of the months to help you see on average what you are spending. Once you have done this, you can move onto the next step.

Good luck!

the info provided is copywrited by 2009

Monday, May 4, 2009

Budget part 2 of 3

Okay, so some of you have probably already downloaded three months worth of transactions and are waiting for the next step. So this is for those that are ready to jump ahead. If you have chosen to write everything down for 3 months you need to finish that before you start this step. You need to know where you are before you can move forward. The first step is sooooo vital. Do it right and you will be glad.

One thing I want all of you to keep in mind is that this is a step by step process. Most people I know don't budget. They run their finances like yo-yo dieting. It is either feast or famine. Or, when their own feast runs out they turn to someone else's table and keep consuming. NO MORE!! You are taking control!!! You are going to be successful and I am going to help you!! (Little side note here, it took me being married for seven years and failing at budgets before I became successful. Now, if I can do it, you can do it too.)

I can't remember exactly what I wrote in the first episode. I might reiterate things, but remember I am trying to let go of my perfectionism, it is late at night, and I want to get this up. So please bare with me. It is probably good that this info be repeated anyway.

With that said, the first goal of building any budget is to see how you are spending. Many people and programs I've seen, sit down and try to make guesses at what they think their category amounts should be. With this they are saying what they HOPE that category will be. However, it is important to see what you are actually doing. That is why step 1 is so important.

Now, step number two is to make your budget. Now, if you are using the spreadsheet my DH wrote. You have typed in three months worth of expenses on the "Past Register" page. Now if you click on the "Plan a Budget" page (look at the bottom of the spreadsheet for the tab) you will see your category averages for three months.

If you are like me and most of my clients, some of your spending will surprise you :). This info give you an accurate "snap shot" of your spending behaviors. You will probably need to make some budget cuts, but now you can realistically make those decisions. For example, if you spend $500 per month in Dining Out, cutting it to $0 probably isn't realistic. You are used to eating out and going cold turkey without it may not be realistic - unless you are willing to be drastic.

This is the part that I think is fun. You need to take your gross income and subtract the amounts of money that you assign to your budget categories, so that money in, equals money out.

If you are planning on saving - and you should - that needs to have money assigned to it as well. The most powerful part of having a budget is telling EVERY dollar where to go -including to your goals.

So let me step you through this "Plan a Budget" page. Up at the top in yellow you will see columns B,C, and D places to write down your Gross Income. Type those in for the three months. The spreadsheet will calculate the averages in column F. In column H (in yellow) you type in the average amount you see in Column F. (Remember - ONLY WRITE IN THE YELLOW).

Keep going down column H typing in the amount you want to assign to each category. Remember column F tells you on average what you are spending. The last cell in column H should be $0. Keep working the numbers until this happens.

Please email me at if you have any questions.

Keep up the good work!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

The World's Best Bread.

Tonight, I am sharing the super easy recipie for the World's Best Bread. Now, I don't say that lightly. I am the kind of person that grinds my own wheat to make my own whole wheat bread. My mom bought me a special mixer to handle large batches, etc., etc. I think you get the picture :)

However, my friend makes this bread that is so good people scramble over each other to get a piece. It is super easy to make since you can use the dough setting on a bread machine to mix it all together. I like to put the ingredients in the night before so that the dough is ready in the morning. Then all I have to do is split it in half prep it either into pans or braid it , place it in a warm oven to rise, then turn the oven up to bake it.

Even though this bread is white bread, it is more healthy than regular white bread. It uses Canola Oil, Bread Flour (which is healthier than all purpose flour), and lowfat buttermilk.

I hope you enjoy it!!

So here it is - drum roll please................

Buttermilk Bread
from Apryl

*1 and 1/3 cup Buttermilk
(can also do 1 c buttermilk and 1/3 c water, if really need to cut calories by fat--but note that buttermilk is typically between 1/2% and 1 1/2% milkfat)
*4 TBLS canola oil
*1 TBLS lemon juice

*1 and 1/2 tsp salt
*4 TBLS sugar (white granulated)
*1/4 tsp baking soda
*about 4 cups white Bread flour

(must be _Bread_ flour, also sometimes called Baker's Flour. It is flour made from hard winter wheat and has a different gluten and fiber ratio than all-purpose flour. All-purpose flour will not function for bread. It doesn't rise much, just becomes a somewhat larger gooey puddle...)
Another note on flour, the amount of flour needed is very weather specific. In the winter (colder, dryer) you'll tend to use a little less flour. In the summer (hotter, wetter) you'll tend to use a little more flour.
*1 and 1/2 tsp instant yeast
(can also use active dry yeast. I think the conversion ratio is to triple the yeast amount if using active dry. In other words, 1 oz active dry equals 1/3 oz instant. I use instant yeast only because you can typically dry it in airtight packages of larger quanity than active dry, and it keeps much longer with less degradation than active dry. I make bread daily and so go through a lot of yeast, so you'd think degradation wouldn't be an issue for me, but because I make so much bread I like to buy yeast in large quanities. Instant I can buy a bag of--several bags and keep the extras in the freezer--use on it for a couple of months with my container stored at room temperature, without needing to adjust for degradation. And since I use a smaller amount it goes further.)
If using bread machine, place ingredients in canister as they are listed above, with the wet going in first and the dry on top. Set your machine to its "dough" setting. When the machine signals done, take the dough out and separate it into two equal balls. Shape balls into loaves, place in loaf pans, and let rise until the crown of the dough loaf reaches the height of the top of the loaf pan.
Baking bread is very oven specific....
So noting whether your own oven tends to "cook hot" or "cook cold" (ie, temp seems above or below average), try bread within the 350-400 range. You'll have to figure out how long by experimentation as well, somewhere between 15 and 30 mintues. You're looking for a bake that doesn't leave a doughy center and doesn't burn the top. In some of my ovens over the years I have had to cover the top of the loaf (loosely) with tinfoil when the bread is half-way through its bake, because the oven was a hot-top-baking type...
GLASS LOAF BREAD PANS are a must for yeast bread baking, or the loaf will not brown all the way around.
If you are not using a bread machine, then you'll make the dough in the following manner:
Mix wet together and leave out at room temperature until the liquid IS room temperature. Sift dry together except for flour. When you are ready to put the wet and dry together (again, except for flour), then dissolve the yeast in your combined liquids and then immediately combine the yeasted liquids with the drys (again, the drys minus flour).
Add flour gradually, mixing in each cup thoroughly, kneading in the final cup. Add flour until soft and tacky, just past not sticky. It is something you get a feel for over time ;). You'll tend to use more flour in the summer and less in the winter, due to the effects of temperature and humidity.
Allow to rise double in size (amount of time this takes depends on the time of year and state of weather that day), then punch down and knead.
Allow to rise double in size again, then punch down and knead.
Recipes makes two one pound loaves, so separate in half, form into two loaves, and place in loaf pans. Follow rest of directions as noted above.