“The Best Thing Since Sliced Bread”

My husband and I just recently discovered what has become one of our favorite tips ever…like the best thing since sliced bread.

Ever get produce and promise yourself that – this time – you will use it all before it goes bad? Been there; done that; wasted the money. Just yesterday I was throwing out cilantro that went bad. Cilantro. I love cilantro!! Really, I couldn’t have taken the time to do something with it before it went bad?

Maybe you’ve heard of the term blanching, the process of boiling a vegetable and then immersing it in ice cold water and drying it so that you can properly freeze it. This is super helpful for stocking up on a veggie sale!

This trick, however, not only saves you from throwing out produce that went bad before you could use it, but it is also so incredibly simple. No blanching required. Additionally, you will want to get this from the freezer regularly; it’s not something you stick in the freezer (to help you feel better about not throwing it out!) and then forget about it because it’s just not a favorite item. No, on the contrary, you may not even need to freeze it, but if it’s hot outside, it will serve a dual purpose: fruit flavor and an “ice” cube of sorts.

The trick I’m referring to is…wait for it… washing and slicing lemons and limes and freezing them for infused water!!! Sheer brilliance. We have tried to do infused water in the past, only to forget about it, get lazy, and not want to fuss with washing and slicing it (because if you slice it all at once and leave it in the fridge, they might get soggy and gross before you can use them all, right?). This trick, however, means that the lemons and/or limes are already washed, sliced, and frozen so that we even need less ice in our water!

If nothing else, this trick has helped us drink much more water than we were previously getting because we enjoy flavored water SO much more than plain water. Use as many or as few slices as you like, depending on how strong you like your infused water to taste and also depending on how juicy and flavorful your citrus fruits were. Then refill with more water as often as you’d like until you don’t taste the citrus anymore – then you know it’s time to get new slices from the freezer! How easy is that?

Do you like infused water? What’s stopping you from having it at the ready whenever you want it? Maybe it’s time to stock up on lemons and limes and store them for the upcoming months to ensure proper water intake as the seasons start to change. Let me know what you think!

Photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash

Essential Oils – from Skeptic to Sold

Although I have not figured out all the tips and tricks for them (but really who has?), I find them so useful that I wonder what I did before I had them! I used to be so skeptical of essential oils, thinking they were just the new rage or someone’s scheme to make some money. Not anymore! I’ve seen and experienced some serious benefits, and I’m a believer!

Am I the only one who used to think that essential oils were overrated? I would see many great uses for essential oils, and then I’d look at the price of one bottle, and think to myself “Are they crazy? Surely this is just a fad.” What made the difference for me was not buying it for myself. (I am entirely too frugal to buy a $30 bottle of oil that I don’t know how to use and don’t feel I have a need for, just to see how I like it or just to see what everyone is talking about. That is just not me.)

What made the difference was a friend. Although the doctors are still uncertain what’s wrong, my friend has changed dramatically in the last year. Maybe one day I can share her story with you. I couldn’t tell you the different oils she’s tried or what specific oils have helped her (nor will I elaborate anymore on this friend than what’s already been stated), but I do know that there is an amount of healing power that is untapped and unknown to much of our modern world through these oils.

My husband bought me some oils for my birthday the year before last, and I got to work figuring out how to make the best return on this investment. I began Googling oils, experimenting, doing some more searching, then some more experimenting, and before I knew it, I was hooked! My husband took a little longer to come around (though putting lavender on his sunburn definitely helped him see the benefits of oils faster!). Disclaimer: we both realize that these are not some magical potion to replace medications or doctors order or anything. 

I’d love to take a class or two on natural health, but so far I’d say I’ve learned the most from Dr. Josh Axe. What a great resource he is for so many people!

On my quest to live frugally, I’m learning that natural health and preventative medicine will save so much money – among other benefits – in the long run. My husband and I have already saved ourselves a couple trips to the doctor, and I’m endeavoring to learn more and to keep that number as low as possible.

This is in no way a comprehensive list, but a few  ways I’ve incorporated some basic oils into our lives are (these all came in my original Starter Kit):

Lavender – allergies, stress relief, sleep aid, gifts

Lemon – cleaning, allergies, mood

Peppermint – allergies, muscle pain relief, headaches, gifts, energy

Because our pure, therapeutic grade essential oils are potent, a normal “dose” for allergies, pain, stress, and sleeping just requires a few drops! And at $.04-$.10 per drop (for the aforementioned oils), we can definitely afford to go natural in this way!

If you’d like to know more about how oils can help you, feel free to let me know. I’m not an expert by any means, but I find great pleasure in helping others find oils that work well for them.

Have you been a skeptic to oils? Thinking about giving them a try? What ways have oils helped you live a more healthy and/or frugal lifestyle?

PS – if you’re in the market for oils, I use Young Living and believe they are some of the best – if not the best – oils out there. If you feel Young Living is right for you as well (and I can help you learn why it might be;), I’d love for you to check out what the Starter Kit can do for you and then let me know if you have any questions. My member number is 3874390.

Photo credit: Abi Porter, no changes made

Are You Ready for Amazon Prime Day?

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Have you heard of Amazon Prime Day? It’s coming up, starting the evening of Monday, July 10 (at 6 PM PT) and goes through Tuesday, July 11. If you’re in the market for anything, you definitely should check it out for some epic deals! Last year on Prime Day, sales went up 50% for Amazon as they attempted to create a “Black Friday” for the summer months. More than two million toys and more than one million pairs of shoes were purchased on Prime Day 2016, and over 90K TVs were sold!

If you don’t have Amazon Prime, I highly recommend it! There are so many privileges to having Prime:

  • Get free, 2-day shipping on millions of items!
  • Amazon music is better than any other music app! Ad-free, 2 million+ songs, limitless skips and replays (probably my favorite part!), and of course, it’s free with Prime.
  • Video streaming even allows you to download so you can watch movies and series offline!
  • Prime reading offers over a thousand free books and magazines.
  • Borrow Kindle books and get to read new books the month before their release.
  • Audible Channels are available…because listening to a book or series is sometimes more practical than sitting down and reading.
  • Enjoy free unlimited photo storage and many other deals (too many – and too detailed – to mention on this post, so they are included here on the Prime Insider page)!

What are you waiting for? Here is where you can sign-up for your free 30-day trial! Or you can opt for the Amazon Family Free 30-day trial which includes all of the above, plus a 20% off diaper subscription and exclusive coupons and deals. Check out that feature here.

Once you have Amazon Prime, some things you can expect to be on sale on Prime Day include the Amazon exclusives like the ever-popular Echo dot or the Fire TV. Kindles will also likely be on sale for a great price (at the time of this post, they are $50 off!). If you’re in the market for one of these, Prime Day is the time to jump on it!

If you’re like me, and you aren’t in the market for the more expensive stuff, you might consider some of these practical items (check Amazon or click on links for most current pricing as the deals change through the 30-hour Prime Day; these were on sale at the time of this post):

Apple-certified, 6 ft charging cable

2-pack wired earphones with mic from PWOW

6-pack Lux LED high efficiency light bulb, 60 W

48-pack, AA batteries from Amazon Basics

Anti-fatigue, standing comfort mat – this will probably revolutionize your dish-washing time, seriously!

24-pack silicone, reusable baking cups

Again, check out Amazon for all the latest deals, and be sure to get Prime before you start shopping! I hope you’re able to take advantage of some of these awesome deals while they last! Happy shopping!

 

How We’ve Had a Debt-Free Vacation 


It is time for vacations all around! Summertime just screams vacation, doesn’t it? We once thought we would start taking our vacation time in January, due to the nature of our jobs. That was quite a difficult adjustment to my way of thinking. You go from having all this extra time at Christmas with family and friends, relaxing, shopping, eating, paid vacation days for Christmas and New Years…and a couple weeks later you’re supposed to take your vacation for the whole year? Additionally I grew up taking family and/or church trips just about every summer. Again, summertime screams vacation!

Last year we decided we would go to Ohio for Jesse’s grandparents’ 60th wedding anniversary. More details on that to come. Suffice it to say, this trip to the Cleveland area was absolutely worth the saving and scheduling in order to celebrate such an occasion and to be with family that we so rarely see.

I’m not saying that this is a savings plan to follow in order to get to an incredible international or far away destination vacation. This was a more simple vacation, but we still made it across the country for a little over a week and have relaxed and enjoyed our time without going into debt. Some basic ways we accomplished that include:

We made the savings of the plane ticket cost a line item in our budget for months. This is the most obvious and worthy way of not going into debt (the rest are mostly practical ways of keeping costs low). Each month, we would save a particular amount because we budgeted to “pay ourselves.” Instead of looking at it as if we had saved $200 in a month or two for just anything, we knew we had that money specifically for the time to pay for our flights, and in our budget, it looked as if it were already spent. (More on why a budget is important here and how to keep track of a budget here.)

We are lodging with family. Though we might stay a night in a hotel (and have saved to do such a thing), we are with family for about 7 nights. That most certainly adds up into major savings for us!

We have not had to rent a car because we have had so many different people to ride around with, as well as an extra car available should we need it. We might rent a car for a day or two, but ride sharing has still kept our cost down tremendously.

We have rarely had to pay for food. We have eaten out and can afford to eat out more, but for the most part, we’ve been eating together as a family at home, and we prefer home-cooked food anyway!

We packed a lot of snacks for the plane ride; this particularly came in handy for our 7 hour layover through the night.

We don’t need any souvenirs. Since this isn’t a “destination vacation,” we don’t really feel compelled to buy a bunch of mementos of our trip.

Of course, vacations to see family are not always possible or practical, but when or if we can work it out, it can certainly result in great savings as well as great memories! If you’re looking for some easy ways to relax this summer without spending any money, here are some ideas.

Photo credit: Scott J WaldronJGrace Photography, and Joel Jones

Happy 60th Anniversary to Grandma and Grandpa Jones!


And these parents are celebrating their 35th anniversary this month!


Don’t we look so relaxed?

How to Cut Back on Every Day Expenses (and Be Happier)… for the Working Person

 

What does a normal work day look like for you? Is it scrambling to get to work on time, running to the cafeteria or out to eat for lunch, and then figuring out what’s for dinner while you’re on your way home?

Sometimes when you’re working full-time (or more), it feels like all you can do to just stay afloat, financially and physically. But just staying afloat shouldn’t be the goal for your life or mine.

Did you know that a few minutes of preparation can save you hours down the road? And that doesn’t just apply to areas like travel, vacation, or big events. I’m here to tell you how it can apply to your daily life and to your finances as well!

If you can implement just a couple of these tips and plan out your week in advance, you can absolutely overcome some of the financial, physical, and emotional struggle of the daily grind. (Although, the focus is definitely more on the financial benefit here!)

Use less product. Americans use so many products in day-to-day routines, and we get so busy that we don’t even think about how much we are actually using versus how much we actually need. If your hair only needs a quarter-sized amount of shampoo, don’t use more. If you can feel clean without squirting on the shower gel three different times, then don’t. You’d be amazed how much longer your products last! (We’ve also discovered that we can survive without paper towels – here are some more tips on that!)

I realized how much money I could save in this area when I started washing my hair less frequently than every day. That one trick has saved me money and lots of time! I’ll save the details for another post.

Take your lunch to work. If you’re not already doing this, you’re missing out! Taking your lunch to work saves money AND time! Even if you don’t eat out for lunch but instead go home, you are still saving gasoline and drive time by simply packing a lunch. (Just be sure to get your needed time away from your work station in order to still thoroughly enjoy your lunch, to reduce stress, and to come back more effective.) Take a couple minutes in the morning to pack a sandwich and clean an apple. This few minutes will save you a roundtrip for lunch (wherever that is) and will likely save you some calories and/or some stress on your pocketbook.

Carpool. Despite gasoline not being quite as expensive now as it has been in the past, it’s still a money-saver to carpool. You’re not only saving gasoline, you’re saving the wear and tear on your car (and there’s an estimated average of $515/year that our roads put on our automobiles!).

Use less energy. If you haven’t heard of “ghost appliances,” it’s a real thing! This lady saved 26% by unplugging items when not in use, so let the unplugging begin! Be sure your AC and heat are only set to be on when someone is home. If you can put your dinner in the crockpot on low during the day, it will save you on those summer evenings from your house getting too warm (and thereby causing your AC bill to go up). Think through your personal situation to see if there are any ways you are wasting money while you’re away, at work, etc.

Meal plan. Like I said earlier, a few minutes of preparation can save you hours down the road, and while that applies to many areas of life, it definitely applies to our meals! Meal planning will save you from going out to eat – what a money sucker! – and from going to the grocery store after work, and from buying items unnecessarily. Because if you’re going to the store at the last minute or straight from work, you likely will forget if you also need milk or oil or a particular spice, etc., and, therefore, you end up spending more money on “impulse buys” than you needed to or had budgeted.

Additionally, when you plan out your meals, you lower your risk of wasting food…there’s no wondering how you’re going to use the extra this or that. When you shop, you buy exactly what you need (which also saves you money). Meal planning is a post in itself, but for now, I suggest checking out one of these helpful printables to get started:

Free Weekly Meal Plan, Shopping List, Recipe Cards, Calendar

6 Meal Planning Templates

Isn’t it amazing that daily routines can have such a huge impact on your life? Little things certainly add up. What can you get started on today to make your week better than last week, physically, emotionally, or financially? Let me know if you have any frugal ideas to add to this!

Photo credit: taxcredits.net

Eliminating Debt by the Snowball Effect – Part 2


If you weren’t able to read Part 1, it’s a must! Check it out here

As stated in Part 1, the steps here are not optional; they are a NEED for getting out of debt. I hope you did your necessary homework (again, check out Part 1 to know if you are up to speed!). This is an abbreviated version from Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover which is simply awesome (must read for all who are in debt and want to get out!)!

So without further ado, here are the rest of the steps to eliminate debt using the Snowball Effect:

5. Once the smallest debt is paid off, take everything you were using to pay off the first debt and start attacking the next smallest debt, continuing to pay the minimum on the other debts. 

6. Refuse to get into any more debt (this is why you should build up your $1,000 in emergency funds before you start on attacking your debt…because things will come up!). If you don’t have it, don’t spend it!

7. Sacrifice. If it means eating a lot of beans and rice for dinner, so be it. If your friends think you’re crazy, you’re probably on the right track. If getting out of debt were easy, fewer people would have debt, and more people would have savings! Did you know that according to a 2016 GOBankingRates survey, 69% of Americans have less than $1,000 in their savings accounts? It takes some discipline, but you can absolutely beat the norm! Sell anything and everything you can do without. (In Dave Ramsey’s words, your kids should be worried that they are next! Now that is serious!) 

8. Stay focused. Imagine yourself in a life without car payments, without student loan debt, without medical bills, without credit card debts, and without debt collectors calling. It will not be easy. Maybe you wandered your way into debt; you certainly can’t wander out of it. Get gazelle-intense and don’t let up until that last debt is paid off!

Here’s the thing – if you will take the necessary steps to make it to this point, you will absolutely not regret it! Life becomes so much more enjoyable when you are debt free. Take heart; it’s possible to live debt free, and if you stay focused and intense, it’s in the bag! 

I’d love to hear some of your debt- elimination success stories; feel free to share in the comments!