7 Tips for Saving Money in the Kitchen

I tend to spend a lot time in the kitchen, and that’s also where I get to do a lot of thinking. So I started thinking of ways I could be saving money in the kitchen. These are some random, money-saving tips for the kitchen: basic and unusual. 

1. Use washcloths instead of sponges. I get that some things just clean better with a sponge (or so we like to think), but if you’re trying to save money, use a washcloth that can be washed and reused, and if you think some items might need a sponge, soak them for a while.

2. Rinse all your dishes before washing, particularly if you don’t have a dishwasher. Having food and beverage residue stuck and dried onto your dishes will undoubtedly require more soap. And since water is cheaper than soap, rinse those babies! This also keeps away bugs if you’re not able to or choose not to wash them right away, and that saves you more than just money!

3. Meal plan. If you’ve never tried this before, you must try it! There are some great, free meal plans out there! If you’ve tried it and it didn’t work out as well as you’d hoped, I encourage you to give it another try. I’ve experienced personally the savings from this – savings of money and time and stress, simply by making a comprehensive grocery list for the next week or two. If it seems daunting, try doing just one week. You’ll be glad to not have to make more than one trip to the grocery store, and you’ll save money by having food on hand and not going out to eat or making impulse purchases during another trip to the grocery store.

4. Save resealable, plastic bags and containers. Unless you use the plastic bag for raw meat, why not wash and reuse? My husband taught me the easiest way to wash plastic quart or gallon sized bags: turn them completely inside out and then wash! Works magically. I’m only referring to quart and gallon sized bags, as sandwich bags are so flimsy and thin that it’s not worth the time and effort to me. But hey, if you can get another use out of it, why not?

5. Wash and reuse foil. I just recently started doing this, but so far I like it and appreciate not messing with tearing off the foil again!

6. Save paper bags from take out or other shopping and use them as lunch bags or whatever else you want to transport! I use these again and again for taking lunches or snacks to work.

7. Repurpose citrus peels to make an amazing aroma on the stove (that’s my favorite use for them – just add some cinnamon, clove, or rosemary and water!) or use the peel to make a zest to save for later (dry out before storing), or if nothing else, use it to freshen your disposal.

Have you tried any of these? How do you save money in the kitchen department? I’d love to know. Let me know in the comments!

Photo credit: Ginny | Cropped | No endorsements

15 Priceless Gifts from my Parents

Christmas presents under the tree

 

The more I’m around, the more I realize how truly wonderful my parents are. I can’t imagine how different my life would be or how different I personally would be if my parents had failed to instill any of these qualities.

If you’re a parent, and you love your kids, keep it up! You’re already doing great! If you give them love, affection, food, shelter, and clothing, you’re seriously awesome! 

I wanted to give you some encouragement this Christmas season: no matter what material gift you give your kids, regardless of what you can or can’t afford, every parent can give their child priceless gifts. One that doesn’t break down or fade with time. Instead these gifts increase in value as the years go by and become more precious with age.

And as a side note, if your parents aren’t in your life – for any reason – or if this is a sore subject because of past hurts or regrets, my heart goes out to you. Our Heavenly Father loves you unconditionally – more than anyone ever could – and He understands.

I consider this more of a thank you note to my parents than anything else. My childhood wasn’t perfect. Whose is? But still I’m indebted to my parents for so many reasons! Here are just a few (alphabetical because I couldn’t decide on an order of importance):

An example of work hard – hard work wins out in so many areas!

Contentment – if I never received another thing, I’d still have a full, satisfied life

Christianity – the most important gift of all: a relationship with our Creator God through the Savior, Jesus Christ

Christian education – I was given an incredible, loving environment in which to learn and develop

Consequences for actions – I don’t know if there’s a better lesson I could’ve learned. Every action – good or bad – has a consequence

Earning what you want – if it’s worth having, you’ll work to earn it

Gratitude – we were taught to be grateful for everything, whether we wanted it or not, and that lesson lives on

Honesty – I don’t remember questioning my parents’ honesty to us, their employers, or anyone for that matter.

Humility – we never lived our lives trying to make impressions or keep up with anyone, and my parents never tried to make a showcase out of us

Love – I never wondered if my parents loved me or wanted me around

Sacrifice – my parents sacrificed a great deal to keep their priorities in their correct places (family and Christian school are the two major priorities I think of)

Sense of humor – Life is hard; make it fun and funny when you can!

Support – Having three kids and working a full-time job an hour away, my parents still made every effort to come to all of our sports games and cheer us on

The importance of family memories and family time – I can’t tell you how many times a sweet memory came to mind and brought such joy on a long day

Time – Though my parents worked full time, I don’t remember ever lacking for their time or attention…and I still don’t!

I’m sure I’m missing things, but I think these are some of the “big ones.” How about you? What are some lessons you’re glad your parents taught you? What are you endeavoring to instill in your children? I hope you can take some time over the Christmas holidays to create some family memories and evaluate what priceless gifts you’re giving your children. You won’t regret it, and your children will be indebted!

Photo credit: Dreamer 

My free personalized DIY door-hanger

If you are looking for an inexpensive craft, you have found the place!

Okay, so this post in not meant to be a tutorial (sorry, guys!). I just wanted to show you that you can very likely make something cute, using only what you have at home. I had some cardboard from Aldi (I love Aldi!), and I had some burlap (leftover from my beautiful wedding:). I also had some ribbon that came on a gift I was given (why did I keep that? for such a time as this!) and the same goes for the flower (yes, it’s awkwardly placed, but it’s covering up a difficult spot I had :).

Here’s my cost breakdown:

  • Cardboard: free
  • Burlap: free/gift
  • Hot glue sticks: probably $.20
  • Ribbon and embellishment: free/gift
  • Total: the cost of glue sticks and electricity, but for sake of ease, I say “free!”

Hot gluing burlap to cardboard can be BAD. How do you avoid getting burned when the material you’re hot gluing has holes in it (and so the hot glue comes through the holes where you’re trying to glue… it’s just bad). If you can handle some finger burning, this craft is great! (and if you have a better option, please tell me!!) If your last names starts with something easy like “L,” this craft is definitely for you!

I simply cut out the cardboard “J” and started wrapping burlap around the cardboard and gluing along the way to help the burlap stay wrapped around the cardboard. The edges are probably the hardest part. I had to get creative with cutting smaller pieces and stuffing them in to the other layers of burlap in order to cover all the cardboard.

Once it’s all covered to your liking, find some cute ribbon to glue on the back, add some embellishments, and there you have yourself a homemade door hanger, cheap as can be (that is, of course, if you already have burlap or paid very little for it, but it’s not usually an expensive material)!

Best wishes to you as you seek to use what you have in your home to make a happier, more simple life!

10 Things Frugal People Do (Part 2)

Frugal people do things differently. Plain and simple. And regardless of where you stand on the frugality scale, you can incorporate changes today to save you a lot of money (and even stress) in the future!

If you missed part 1, you can check it out here.

Cut the unnecessary. In our modern world, we are bound to fill up our lives with unnecessary expenses from time to time! Do you use your gym membership? You could easily run around the neighborhood for free or do an at-home fitness video. Do you need your cable TV if you also have Netflix? Do you read all the magazines you pay for, and do you eat all your produce before it goes bad? Think of the ways you can cut out the unnecessary; once you start thinking, you’re sure to come up with something.

Use everything you have. I recently wanted to do some crafting, but I didn’t want to spend any money on any part of the craft. I had some burlap my mom gave me, and I had some cardboard from Aldi, so I made a cute, J-shaped door hanger. When you start thinking of using only what you have in your home, I bet you’ll surprise yourself with how creative and inventive you are. This is also how I stopped buying paper towels in exchange for other household items.

Find ways to make money. Recycle, do side work, sell unused and unwanted items online or locally, sell clothes online (I’ve used Poshmark and Mercari, and they’re both good for different reasons). I’ve taken my juicer to work, along with some produce, and set up shop on my lunch break, making juices for coworkers; of course I also set out a tip jar (just make sure you’re following your company’s protocol for this!).

Take care of what you have. Clean your vacuum cleaner when it’s time, not waiting until the belt is broken from overload or the filter is irreplaceable. My husband’s expensive Colehaan shoes have to be resoled and polished regularly, and using a shoehorn is best because it helps absorb sweat and keep a good shape. Resoling and polishing and shoehorns all cost money, but those costs are better than a new pair of expensive shoes! Bottom line: If you need it or if it means something to you, take the time and money to take care of it. Usually the maintenance is cheaper than the replacement piece, and it’s almost always cheaper than replacing it altogether!

Don’t turn down help when it’s offered. It’s amazing to me how God has always given us wonderful friends who love to help us. We have a beautiful kitchen table, thanks to some very wonderful friends. We have a nice 6 foot Christmas tree, thanks to some other very wonderful friends. When you live in a way that is “unlavish,” often your friends or family notice without your saying a word. And they usually want you to enjoy nice things, especially if it’s in their power to help. So if they offer, let them! If they are asking if you want to take home left-overs from an event, say “yes!” (This does not mean to go around, sounding like an impoverished soul that needs some help, in hopes that someone will feel sorry enough for you to offer to have you over for dinner or something!)

Do you consider yourself frugal? Is there a tip or two you can incorporate today? Do you have tips to add? Let me know what you think of the list! If you missed part 1, check it out here!

Photo credit: Ken Teegardin | Cropped

10 Things Frugal People Do (Part 1)

budget-savings-danaleighjones-dana lee jones - simpleWe can all agree that managing our finances is not always easy. Sometimes we need a little reminder of what direction we are supposed to be heading. Sometimes we need a reminder or an idea of how we can be saving more money for a better financial future.

I like to think I grew up learning frugality. I know that I am frugal, regardless of how I arrived here. I don’t mean I have arrived and know it all; I certainly do not know it all! But for lack of a better term, I’ve arrived at being cheap. Plain and simple. Regardless being frugal or needing to learn it, I hope some of these tips will help you toward your next financial goal.

Don’t buy anything at the store that you can make at home for cheaper. Now the list of things you can make at home for cheap is seemingly limitless, so you have to know your personal limits. I work full time and have chosen a rather busy lifestyle, so there are some things I need to buckle down and learn…when I have time. However, with our loose “no spending rule” going on right now, I’ve learned how to make homemade spray starch for clothes (no chemicals and way cheaper? YES!) for starters and am excited to learn more! What can you make instead of buying?

Borrow instead of buying when possible. We don’t buy movies, games, or tools. We borrow. We have enough friends that movies, games, and tools are more than readily available in a wide variety. Not only do tools and toys cost money, there’s maintenance too!

Don’t eat out. This is similar to #1, but it’s so important that it has to be reiterated and in a category all its own. Eating out is such a money sucker! It’s literally a moment of pleasure for double or triple the cost if you had bought the ingredients and made it yourself. Don’t let convenience win out. Plan your meals ahead of time, so you don’t have to wonder about dinner when you’re already starving. For the occasional times your spouse is treating you, even if it’s an anniversary, check Retail Me Not for good deals and choose where to go based on coupons you find.

Look for the best price possible. Using Krazy Koupon Lady, the Sunday morning newspaper, and countless other tools, you can easily find the best deals. Tiffany at Don’t Waste the Crumbs has this awesome idea of keeping a “price book,” suggesting you take a journal shopping and make a list of the main grocery stores you shop, the main foods you buy, and their prices per units, then refer to that when you’re wondering where to buy what. Such a novel idea.

Never pay full price for retail items. Not paying full price would apply more to clothes, shoes, home goods, etc. After all, sometimes you have to pay full price for gasoline, but you can still be getting the best deal. I always shop the clearance racks and cannot remember the last time I paid full price for our clothes. We just don’t go there. And even with not paying full price, I still look for coupons. There are too many clearance items, great sales, and coupons out there to pay full price for anything.

Part 2 of 10 Things Frugal People Do will be continued next week. Until then, let me know what you can implement this week!

Photo credit: Ken Teegardin | Cropped

5 Ways to Enjoy Life: Simple and Free

It’s amazing that with so many people in the world, this still remains: Everyone is different! We all require something different to make us “tick.” Maybe you’re not naturally a simple person. My sweet husband isn’t. If the choice is between Best Western and Hilton, you can bet we are going to the Hilton. Does that mean he buys all expensive stuff? Nope. He’s awesome. But no doubt, his natural bent is toward life’s finer things.

Regardless of being naturally practical or high maintenance or whatever, you can enjoy the simple things. It’s all about the mindset. Simply put: determine how you will save money, realize that simple can be fun, and get some sheer grit to stick to it (regardless of complaints from family or friends!). Here are ways you can enjoy the simple life today:

Read books. Books take you places. If you’ve never experienced a book taking you somewhere: don’t knock it till you’ve tried it! And not only does it take you places, you grow as a person. Books are cheap if you look for deals; they are free if you borrow from a friend or become a member of your local library.

Be recreational. Go for walks around the neighborhood, so you don’t have to drive anywhere or pay for a membership. Take your kids and/or pets to the nearest park; play football, basketball, soccer, or create a game using materials around the house. You never know what family memory you are creating! (Just writing this brings back fond memories of packing a PB&J picnic lunch for my younger brother and nephew and walking to the nearby park… those were some GOOD times; I still love driving by that old park!)

Watch only the free/paid for stuff. If Amazon prime is worth the money to you, only watch movies on there. If an extended family member is willing to share their Netflix, only watch that. Then there’s that library again; they have movies as well! I’ve been known to borrow movies from friends. Just be sure to return it promptly so your friend happily lends you movies next time.

Enjoy nature. Get up early to watch the sunrise or enjoy the sunset with friends or go for a hike. There’s something about nature that reminds us that life is bigger than ourselves. Our Creator God would love for you to enjoy nature and become closer to Him through that enjoyment.

Host a potluck. If you’re living on a budget and missing your friends, host a potluck! You’ll have fun with friends without putting out more food than you can afford. If you don’t have games or a TV to offer, ask a friend to bring a game or find a free game online (like Headbands).

I know there’s more out there than just this short list, but I wanted to keep it simple. 🙂 How about you? How do you like to keep life simple and enjoyable? Let me know in the comments!

Photo credit: Unknown

5 Foundational Money Saving Tips

Saving $1,000 may seem impossible. Just when you start saving money, something breaks.  And don’t get me wrong, it happens. Life happens. Stuff really does come up that you HAVE to tend to. You can’t drive around with a flat tire.

Sometimes that “have to” is imagined though. Friends drop in; you don’t “have to” feed them an elaborate meal outside your means (that’s a “want to”…impress). Here are five basic tips that have helped us save money lately:

Define necessities. We are spending only what is truly necessary. Defining those necessities can get tough, particularly if you’re married because of those “seemingly-pesky differing opinions.” Even within the realm of food – a basic necessity – we differ in opinions. Personally, I don’t think it’s wise to cut produce from our groceries. My husband, however, can get so into our “strict rice diet,” that produce is cut quite easily. Anyway, opinions differ. It’s important to define true necessities (and agree on them if you’re married).

Create a budget. To fail to plan is to plan to fail. A defined budget means you tell your money where to go instead of wondering where it went. For starters, try a journal or Excel. My favorite is a free mobile app, Every Dollar. If you aim for nothing, you’re sure to make it. Why not at least try? You have nothing to lose and much to gain, so start your free budget today!

Live within your means. If you’re living by a budget, you’re living within your means, right? Not necessarily. You can definitely have a budget and not stick to it. And you can absolutely still be using a credit card. Only buy what you can truly afford. If that means telling friends that you can’t go to their fun event, so be it. Live within your means.

Be realistic. You know you have a required meeting that’s 50 miles round trip, so plan your gas money accordingly. You can’t think, “I’ll just make it work,” and then run out of gas before the month’s end. For me, I have to be realistic about how much produce we’ll actually eat in a week. 🙂

Enjoy the simple things. If you’re truly living within your means, you may have to adjust your lifestyle a bit. But boy is it less stressful! Here’s my list of ways to enjoy the simple (and free) life.

Can you implement one of these today? If you’re married, talk to your spouse about what you can work on together. It’s amazing how fast money adds up…either in your savings or on your credit card. What can you do today to make a better financial future?

*A note to those in debt: these small steps matter (just see Dave Ramsey in his Total Money Makeover). However much debt you have, you can beat it! Promise. But every day you wait, it’s only getting worse. So what are you waiting for? Start today!

Photo credit: Frankieleon | Cropped