Saving at the Grocery Store (Part 3)

A lot of my friends and family ask how I save money at the store. When I tell them, they often tell me that they “don’t have the brain for math” or “I don’t have time to do that”.  I do spend roughly an hour planning my trip and looking for coupons. The math I do at the store is typically limited to figuring out which size package is a better deal. Most larger stores have the information on the tag that shows the price per unit (although that unit isn’t always the same.. one size may show price per ounce, while another shows price per pound).

How can I save money with little time and preparation?

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Saving at the Grocery Store (Part 2)

You’ve probably heard the old saying, don’t shop when you’re hungry. It’s absolutely true. Grocery stores are designed to sell you things you didn’t intend to buy. There’s actual psychology behind store design and it’s solely for the purpose of selling you (or your kids) things you don’t want.  Seems obvious right? But we all fall in the trap. How often do you walk into the grocery store and there’s a table of freshly baked cakes or cookies just begging you to pick them up.. if you’re not hungry, you have a better chance of looking the other way. Stomach growling, you easily spent an extra $20 on things you didn’t really want, took home and now feel guilty for eating.

What can you do?

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Saving at the Grocery Store (Part 1)

I’ve been asked to share some of my tips on saving money at the store. I know there’s a million articles that will tell you that you can save a LOT of money if you follow their tips.  Some will even tell you that you can spend nothing at the store.  You may have even watched Extreme Couponing and thought, how can I do that.. Honestly, almost no one can. Even if you could, do you need 100 bottles of mustard. Food banks probably don’t even want the tons of mustard that people are donating because they earned .01 back on each bottle. So, here’s the first in a series of tips for shopping for a real family and saving money.

We’ve lucky here because we have a selection of at least 3 large chain grocery stores, another half dozen family owned local stores, and several discount grocers (both chain and local). My first tip is to try out a couple of stores and get to know them.  You may be able to check them out through their websites and looking at their sales flyers to see if they have good prices and good selections of things you buy.

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Inexpensive Halloween Costumes

My kids and I love Halloween. There’s just something fun about dressing up, but costumes from the store are not cheap (they’re typically not good quality either). While a store bought costume can give you a lot of options and is certainly the fastest way to get a costume, with a little preplanning you can create something cool and fun.

Some of the best costumes can be make from clothes you already have or inexpensively from thrift stores. Because I sew, over the years I’ve had some extravagant costumes (that weren’t very cheap but made a huge impact), to fun costumes that cost under $10.

Thrift stores typically have a rack of costumes near the front of the store right now, although I find most are for younger children where I’ve shopped.

Red Riding Hood (just need a red cape and just about any “little girl” clothes and a wicker basket. I made my cape, but you can check thrift stores or halloween shops for an inexpensive one. Everything else I already owned.

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free cookbooks – You don’t need a smartphone or tablet to get free e-books

I absolutely LOVE cookbooks. They are definitely my weakness… BUT… my husband HATES clutter. They’re so tempting sitting at the checkout aisle (they’re like candy), but I can’t tell you how many I bought, liked one or two recipes and never make the ones I do like regularly, so, I had wasted a lot of money on cookbooks.

My solution comes in many flavors.

1) The public library (this one is obvious) they have tons of cookbooks in many topics. My library is always getting new cookbooks and has a huge selection. I get one or two a week, photo copy the ones I like or think I’ll use.

2) This one might not be as obvious to everyone. E-books. A smartphone isn’t in my budget (I do get to use one for work and it’s opened my eyes to resources I might not otherwise have looked at).

Ease the stress of grocery shopping during the holidays

(ARA) – Hectic schedules often make meal-related decisions a chore. And planning for a bigger family meal over the holidays just adds to the stress. Affordable and simpler shopping routines could help you start savoring family meal time again.

Regardless of whether you’re planning a holiday feast, a birthday celebration, or just day-to-day meals throughout the year, it’s easier and more cost effective if you go into grocery shopping prepared.

Consider these tips from national grocery retailer Save-A-Lot before your next shopping trip:

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Time-saving Tips To Help You Enjoy The Holidays

(NAPSI)—As the holidays get closer, it can be easy to feel like there is too much to do and too little time. Fortunately, there is no need to panic.

The good news is that there are plenty of ways to make the holidays simple and stress free, cutting down on chaos and making more time for what matters most: family and friends. Now is the best time to utilize your Amana brand appliances to make the mixing, cooking, prepping and baking easy. Here are some tips:

Start with smart planning. Two weeks before guests arrive, look over your recipes and write out your menu to make shopping quick, organized and easy. Stock up the week prior to the main event and store produce in your refrigerator crisper to keep it fresh.

Make as much as you can ahead of time. A week before the main event, take a closer look at the menu. What can you make ahead of time? Prep deli meats and cheeses and make what you can of your appetizers and even side dishes. Set them on a serving platter and store in the refrigerator. All you have to do is unwrap and serve when your guests arrive.

Make good use of your microwave. With your side dishes already prepped, pop them in the microwave so they’re ready to serve in seconds. Reheat as needed during your dinner and—of course—use your microwave when feasting on leftovers.

Let the freezer be your friend. Whether you’re hosting a big holiday dinner or bringing a dish to pass, if your schedule is hectic—fear not. Freeze cookies, dessert bars and breads. Thaw them out and you’re good to go. Keep a few extra batches on hand in the freezer during the busy holiday season and never be left empty handed.

Clean as you go. Just like whistling, try cleaning up while you work. Keep dishes moving from the counter to the dishwasher so they’re ready when you need them. It’ll keep you from facing a mountain of cleanup at the end of the night.

With a head start on holiday planning, entertaining friends and family couldn’t be any easier or more enjoyable. And that’s really the whole point of the holidays.

For more useful tips, visit www.amana.com.

Holiday Meal Planning

It’s almost time for American thanksgiving and for those cooking the big meal, it’s time to start planning. Locally the frozen turkey’s are going on sale and if you’re buying locally fresh, don’t waste any time, they may already be sold out.

Make your list of main course(s), side dishes and desserts, check your pantry and make your shopping list of all the ingredients you’re going to need. This time of year, more than over makes it easy to overspend, and impulse buy, just adding unnecessary cost to your holidays (I couldn’t help buying leftover discounted halloween candy.. I’m a sucker for Laffy Taffy).

Many home made pies can be prepared in advance and frozen to help make the actual holiday less hectic (I cook the Christmas meal and personally, I like to put the turkey in the oven and crawl back in bed for an hour)

If you’re thinking of trying something new this year, now is the time to try it out in advance and if it’s not as good as you thought it would be, you still have time to adjust your menu and try again.

Are you making your centerpieces (or having the kids help), this is definitely a “do ahead” project and not a night before stress to think about.

Here’s a funny article on the

Ten Steps to a Less Than Perfect Thanksgiving

Remember, this is the NOT to do list 🙂

#5 Begin to defrost your turkey on Thanksgiving morning. You know how magazines tend to exaggerate how long it takes to defrost and roast those little gobblers. And who cares if dinner’s not ready until 9:00 p.m.?

Time to turn the clocks back

It’s that time again for many of us to “turn the clocks back” ending Daylight Saving Time. Your local fire department also reminds you that now is the time to change the batteries in your smoke detectors. I know that batteries can be expensive. Look for coupons or special sales, but don’t skip this. With the holidays right around the corner and winter heating in full swing for many of us, fire risks are serious. If your battery operated smoke detectors are more than 10 years old, it may be time to replace the entire smoke detector. Just like any piece of electronics, they wear out and don’t work as well (or at all). Simple smoke detectors can cost under $20 each and smoke and carbon monoxide detectors can cost under $40 each. Replacing just one a year even on a tight budget is very do-able.

Smoke detectors are often your first chance at saving your property and maybe your life.

More information on fire safety:

Now is a great time to look at one more common household fire starter: your clothes dryer. Do you clean your lint trap after every load of laundry? That’s not the only place that link collects. Here’s an excellent video on how to clean your dryer.

Even if you don’t want to take your dryer completely apart, taking off the vent (the silver tube) and pulling out any visible lint is extremely easy in most cases and allows you to reach into the machine as well. You can a purchase dryer cleaning kit that allow you to vacuum out the inside of your dryer without removing screws and cover plates. I personally use one from Flylady.net that works very well for me.

Simple tips for clothes dryer safety

Seven days, seven ways to put a new spin on potatoes

(ARA) – Few things say “fall” like the crispness in the air, the bright colors of changing leaves and the warm, comforting foods that come with the season’s harvest. While the classic recipes that you rely on year after year will always have a place on your menus, simple twists on a beloved vegetable will keep everyone clamoring for a prime spot at the dinner table.

Seven unique potato types mean you can try a new one every day of the week for a fun and varied menu plan. Not only that, potatoes are a healthy addition to your menu. At just 110 calories per serving, they’re packed with essential vitamins and minerals and are a good source of potassium. A medium-size (5.3 ounce) skin-on potato has almost half your daily value of vitamin C, and no fat, sodium or cholesterol.

Try these recipes from www.potatogoodness.com to give your family new ways to enjoy a perennial favorite.

* Yellow potatoes – These buttery delights have smooth, golden flesh under a thin golden skin. They’re dense enough to stand up to grilling, and using that method will give you crispy skins and a hint of sweet, caramelized flavor. Recipe to try: Grilled Potato Planks.

* White potatoes – Varieties with light tan skin and creamy white flesh are a great choice for making classic mashed potatoes. Because their flesh is dense, it becomes thick and rich when mashed. Because the skin is thin, there’s no need to peel before mashing. Spice up your favorite mashed dish with new flavor additions. Recipe to try: Chipotle Mashed Potatoes.

* Russet potatoes – They’ve likely been a fixture on the dinner table since you were young, but russets have more to offer than just the basics. Indeed, they’re great for baking, because their flesh comes out light and fluffy, and the skin stays tasty and crisp. Recipe to try: Baked Potato Nachos.

* Petite potatoes – Kids love the mix of colors and adults love them for their concentrated flavor and quick cooking times. Prep is simple for potato salads – cook whole and unpeeled potatoes your preferred method until they’re fork-tender, toss with your favorite potato salad ingredients, and you’ll have a dish that tastes as good as it looks. Recipe to try: Red, White and Blue Potato Salad.

* Fingerlings – Small and slender, these are popular on the menus of gourmet restaurants throughout the country. A secret – they’re easy to cook at home, too. They come in a range of colors and have a firm texture that’s great for pan frying, which brings out their natural nutty or buttery tastes. Recipe to try: Pan Fried Fingerlings with Wild Mushroom Sauce.

* Purples – The vibrantly colored skin and flesh of these potatoes look like something out of your child’s favorite fantasy book, but they’re a healthy, delicious choice for everyday meals. They hold their shape well with cooking and their nutty flavor is a unique addition to salads or other side dishes. Recipe to try: Blackened Blue Potato Salad.

* Reds – Preparing roasted meals is much more appealing in fall’s cool temperatures, and red potatoes are ideal for that cooking method. They stay moist and flavorful even after roasting. They retain their color, making a visually appealing addition to your table. Recipe to try: Roasted Pesto Potato Salad.

Experimenting with different types and preparations of potatoes may just help you find a new family favorite – it could even help you fully accessorize your kitchen. By entering “Better Homes and Gardens” magazine’s Prize Tested Recipe contest, you could win a $500 monthly prize or even a grand prize of $10,000 in Frigidaire kitchen appliances. For more information, go to BHG.com/ptrcontest. Deadline for entry is Oct. 23, 2011.

Visit www.potatogoodness.com and www.facebook.com/PotatoesTatersAndSpuds to see more healthy potato recipes and how-to videos for inspiration.