New way to store food – VacuVita

September 16, 2013 Money Saving Ideas

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The biggest problem, for most families, is keeping the food they buy fresh.  Let’s face it, food is expensive and the last thing you want to do is throw it out because it has gone bad.  We all know how important it is to buy fresh foods, and stay away from over processed food. But it is difficult because fresh food spoils much faster.

Vacuum sealers have become all the rage, but the bags are really expensive.  You can really only use them once.  So, you are either throwing away money on food going bad, or on expensive bags to store it.

We came across the Vacuvita system.  It is currently being crowdfunded, so now is the time to buy because the price is significantly lower.  The Vacuvita system allows you to vacuum pack your items in reusable storage containers.  It is a pretty slick containment system.

Check out the video here

 

 

 

8 Genius Alternative Uses for Kool-Aid

September 10, 2013 Money Saving Ideas

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Did you know there are a lot of surprising ways unsweetened Kool-Aid can be used around the house? We’ve heard of a lot of different uses, but here is a breakdown from AllYou.com

Here are eight new ways to use this versatile powdery drink mix:

1. Get Your Washing Machine Clean
Bet the last place you thought you’d use Kool-Aid is in your washing machine! The citric acid crystals in Kool-Aid help remove rust, gunk and buildup from inside your washing machine. And who wants to clean their clothes in a dirty machine? Just pour in a quarter cup of orange or lemon-flavored drink mix and run a regular wash cycle. Repeat whenever your machine starts to look a little yucky.

2. Use as a Temporary Hair Dye
Are you or your kids headed to a party or concert? You can use Kool-Aid to add streaks or even dye hair completely! Just mix one or two packets of your preferred color of Kool-Aid with a teaspoon of cornstarch and a few drops of water. Rub the paste into dry hair and allow it to sit for at least five minutes. Wash the goo out and style as usual. Why would you choose this method over hair dye you can buy in the store? It’s cheaper (a store-bought temporary hair dye can cost more than $12 while a single pack of Kool-Aid costs about 20 cents or less), completely customizable, there are no toxic ingredients, and it’€™s temporary (it only lasts through one or two shampoos!). Just be sure to wear plastic gloves when applying the dye so you don’€™t stain your hands.

3. Clean Concrete Patios and Sidewalks
Ugly rust stains on your concrete? Add a few drops of water to a packet of lemonade-flavored Kool-Aid. Use a brush to scrub the the paste onto those stains and suddenly you’€™ve got a clean patio! The abrasiveness of the paste and the citric acid in the drink mix helps tackle even the trickiest stains.

4. De-green Chlorine-Damaged Hair
If frequent trips to the pool turn your hair green, remove the chlorine by mixing a pack of lemon-flavored Kool-Aid with a little bit of shampoo. Lather your hair up like you normally would and then let it sit for fifteen minutes. When the time is up, rinse your hair thoroughly and be careful not to get the Kool-Aid in your eyes (it will sting!) and then style like normal. You could pay $5 or more for one 7-ounce bottle of chlorine-removal shampoo, but you can buy a 19-ounce container of Kool-Aid for just $2.50!

5. Banish Stains on Pots and Pans
Are there stains on your pots and pans that you just can’t seem to get out? Get rid of them with Kool-Aid! Just add a teaspoon of water to a packet of lemon or orange-flavored Kool-Aid and scrub away!

6. Check Your Toilet Tank for Leaks
Do you have toilet that won’t stop running after you flush? Wait before you call a plumber — use Kool-Aid to see if there’s a leak in the tank first. Remove the tank lid and pour in a dark-colored Kool-Aid, like Grape or Berry Blue. Let it sit for about 30 minutes without flushing. You’ll know you have a leak if any of the Kool-Aid-colored water makes its way into your toilet bowl. Although you might just need to replace the flapper, you’ll have to investigate further to figure out the exact cause of the leak.

7. Clean Your Toilet
While we’re on the subject of toilets, did you know you can use orange-flavored Kool-Aid to make your toilet sparkle? Pour the packet into your toilet bowl and scrub the stains with a toilet brush. That magic combo of the abrasive texture and citric acid helps break down and dissolve even the toughest stains. It’€™s even rumored that members of the military frequently use this method to clean their toilets!

8. Clean Up Your Silverware
Rust-stained, tarnished silverware can really put a damper on your dinner party. Rather than buying a fancy silverware cleaner for $10 or more, use a 20-cent packet of lemon Kool-Aid. Fill your sink or a pitcher with 2 quarts of water, pour in a packet of Kool-Aid and add one cup of sugar. Mix well, and just add your silverware. Soak 10 minutes and then use a clean cloth to scrub the stains until they are gone. And this method is good for more than just silverware — it also works on tarnished jewelry and rusty tools.

 

Project of the Week: Easy DIY Roman Shades

August 28, 2013 Money Saving Ideas

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Roman shades make a room look elegant but they are horribly expensive! Especially if you have multiple windows.  But if you want the look without the high cost, we found a frugal way to make them. There was an awesome post on Pinterest for a DIY roman shade tutorial from Amy at the blog Pure of Faith. The best part, next to the low cost of this project, (she made a matched set for about $30!), is no sewing required! How awesome is that!

Go check it out Here.

11 Ways to Shop at J.Crew for Less

August 27, 2013 Money Saving Ideas

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Love J.Crew but not their pricing? Here are a few money saving tips from All You Magazine to help save you some bucks!

1. Use your student or teacher discount. If you’re a student or a teacher, show a valid photo ID at checkout to receive 15% off all in-store purchases. Although you can’t use this discount online, you can get a price adjustment for online purchases by bringing your receipt to a J.Crew store within 14 days.

2. Sign up for a J.Crew card. You’ll get 10% off your first purchase and will earn points on every purchase after that. For every $500 you spend, you’ll receive a $25 rewards card. Other benefits? Get complimentary alterations and early access to special sales.

3. Shop sale items. J.Crew has new markdowns every week in their sale section, but the best deals can be found when they offer an additional percentage off sale. Look for the big 30% and 40% off sales for the best deals.

4. Shop promotional sales. Not to be confused with regular sales! J.Crew frequently offers markdowns on full-price items for a limited time (such as “30% off all t-shirts”). You’ll find these deals sprinkled throughout the store, not in the sale section.

5. Shopping online? JCrew.com has $9 flat-rate shipping (or free shipping on orders of $175+), but you can bypass the shipping fee by ordering an item with an associate over the phone.

6. Go factory. For lower prices, shop at a J.Crew Factory store (find a location here) or online at Factory.Jcrew.com. The website frequently offers big markdowns on already-low prices. On a recent visit, they were having a 40% off everything sale.

7. Sign up for their email newsletters. I’m guilty of having a cluttered inbox and receive a lot of promotional emails, but those from J.Crew are among the few I actually open. They alert you of the latest sales and promotional deals, and occasionally reward you with a rare coupon: I recently received one in the mail for 25% off a future purchase.

8. Compare online and in-store prices. Sometimes items are cheaper online than they are in the store. If you see something on JCrew.com that’s less expensive than it is in the store, request to be given the online price.

9. Ask about secret sales. We spoke to a former J.Crew sales associate in New York City who told us that it never hurts to ask your store associate about secret sales. They don’t happen all the time, but occasionally the store will have discounts available that aren’t being heavily marketed.

10. If you’re petite, shop at Crewcuts. The quality is the same but the designs are cheaper, and equally gorgeous. Case in point: Crewcuts jewelry.

11. Buy (and sell) items online. If you’re looking for something basic like a blazer, coat or bag, head to Tradesy.com and type “J.Crew” into the search bar. The shopping website lets users sell new and gently used items from their closet, and they have many marked-down J.Crew styles.

 

INFOGRAPHIC: The Ultimate Grocery Game Plan to Save Big!

August 26, 2013 Money Saving Ideas

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Here’s a great infographic showing how having a shopping strategy can save you a lot of money. Did you know, according to a study done by the Food Marketing Institute, supermarket visits dropped from 87 percent in 2011 to 71 percent in 2012, while  dollar stores, drugstores, warehouse clubs  and ethnic markets saw double-digit growth in foot traffic growth in that time.

Use the Ultimate Grocery Game Plan below to plot out exactly where to get a winning price on everything you need:

 

grocery-store-game-plan

How to Make Your Own Shower Cleaner

August 24, 2013 Money Saving Ideas

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Did you know you can make your own shower cleaner for pennies? Cleaners are really expensive and often contain really harsh chemicals. Here is a recipe for a daily shower cleaner that is cheap to make and will leave your shower sparkling clean:

Ingredients

  • Spray bottle
  • Water
  • 1/2 cup rubbing alcohol
  • 1/2 cup hydrogen peroxide
  • 20 to 25 drops of peppermint essential oil (tree oil or lavender could also be used)
  • 2 tsp. liquid castile soap (Dr. Bronner’s is excellent)

Directions

Step 1: Mix all the ingredients into a spray bottle.

Step 2: Add water to fill up the rest of the bottle and shake well.

Step 3: Spray the mixture onto your shower after each use to keep it fresh every single day!

6 Things You Should Always Haggle Over

August 17, 2013 Money Saving Ideas

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Have you ever been in that situation where you know you could land a better deal but you just aren’t sure if you should ask? Check out the post below and find out some easy ways you could save money just by asking:

Hotel Rooms

Especially last minute! Hotels have a unique problem, if they don’t sell a room on a given night, it is gone. So, they will often discount deeply at the last minute if they have unsold rooms! Try naming your own price at Priceline.com the day of your stay, but be prepared, you can specify the star quality and general location, but can’t pick the specific hotel. However, you can get some great deals this way.

If you must stay at a particular hotel, try calling and asking for a special rate. But get the details or you may end up staying in the living room of a suite without having the bedroom like I did, sleeping on a couch at a great rate! Who knew? (Seriously, this actually happened!)

Anything at a Garage Sale

Very few people having a garage sale expect you to pay the marked price on anything! They may have a sentimental dresser from grandma that they don”t really want to sell and won”t negotiate from that high price, but for most things I”d take the following strategy:

Gather up everything that interests you, add up the prices and go up to the owner and offer 50% to 75% of that total. The more you are buying and the later in the day it is, the more they are likely to take your offer. Chances are that they will counter a little bit higher, but still far below the marked prices.

Remember, at the end of the day, they DON”T want to be carrying that stuff back in their house!

Cars

Most people know you have to negotiate the price of a car, but what”s the best strategy to get the best deal? My strategy is to go to a reputable website like Edmunds.com for the True Market Value or KBB.com and get the Fair Purchase Price. These are averages that customers are actually paying in your area for a given make and model.

Make this the highest price you will pay. Period. Plus, talk to at least two dealers and let them know the prices that the other is offering. They can usually go lower if they have a target to beat.

If you’re buying new, don”t be afraid to go to a lower trim level of a car and add the features you want rather than paying for a higher trim level and paying for features you don”t want. Tell the dealer exactly what you want and let them search other dealers inventory for the car you actually want to buy!

Any Personal Services

Always negotiate prices on yard work, handyman services, house cleaning, anything you are paying to have done at your house. Just don’t be too hard on the teenage babysitter that lives next door!

Seriously, these service providers expect you to negotiate and will usually mark up their prices expecting to come down. You don’t want to be the one that pleasantly surprises them by just paying the first price they offer. Make sure you are very specific as to what services will be performed as it is always more expensive to go back and add work in the middle of a job!

Anytime You are Buying Multiple Items

This may not work at Walmart or Target, but it will work at almost any furniture, electronics (even at Best Buy), jewelry, or similar type store and of course, specialty boutiques. The idea is that the more you buy, the lower the prices will be.

Most of these stores have high enough markups that they can discount significantly AND they will IF you ask! Pick out all the items that you are planning to purchase and ask for their best price, then offer 10% less. Or ask them to throw in all the expensive cords you need to hook that new blu-ray to the new television.

Best Buy has predefined programs where floor reps can add in all items being purchased and the registers will come up with a package price, often a discount of 10% of more. Make sure you get all the extras such as cords, remotes, surge protectors and the like put together before they package it as these extras often will have the highest discounts!

Medical Bills

Hospital stays, physician services outside of normal office visits can kill a family budget and drain saving accounts very quickly. You should know that there are ways to stretch out and reduce the amount of these bills so that you don’t blow your budget and can maintain an emergency fund.

Here’s my strategy: Wait for insurance to pay their part and then wait for the final bill with amount you owe after insurance and only then call and talk to billing department. They almost always can offer a discount for setting up a payment plan if you are making a first payment right away and an even larger discount if you will pay the entire discounted amount right away.

Don’t agree to more than you can afford. And, be sure to call back every few months and try to negotiate it down further. As long as you are making payments on time, they will normally continue to work with you to pay off your bills without killing your budget.

Don’t put these charges on your credit card! Most of the time the payment plans worked out with the medical provider will not be charging interest, but your credit card will!

Hope these tips really encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and ask for better deals. You never know what you might get!

What do you absolutely have to haggle on?

Photo Credit: Getty Images/Blue Jean Images

Saving Tips for Back-to-School Sales

August 17, 2013 Money Saving Ideas

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It’s back to school time! The National Retail Federation now estimates is will take an average of $634.78 for a family to equip their kids with supplies, clothes and electronics. That is a horrifying number! Here are some great savings to help cut the costs:

At Walmart
** 250+ school supplies on sale for less than $1, including many of the most popular items on your teacher’s list, like Crayola 24-count crayons, black and white composition books and Elmer two-pack glue sticks
** Right now save 40% on select textbooks at walmart.com
** And don’t forget about the store’s price matching policy, which helps you get the best price even if it comes from someplace else

At Target
** Print off coupons for your favorite products here

** From August 13 to 19, Target will invite parents to upload pictures of their kids showing off their unique style on the #KidsGotStyle Facebook app. During that week, Target will create an inspiration gallery, including items and supplies inspired by the photos received. Select guests who participate will be chosen at random to win one of 100 $50 Target gift cards and a grand prize of one $1,000 Target gift card to help cover their back to school needs.

At Staples
** Check staples.com for new deals each week on school supplies
** Now through August 31, 2013 you can buy a savings pass for $10 and save 15% everyday on school supplies purchases. This guarantees you continue to save money when your child comes home from her first week of school with a list of more things she needs. If your family spends the average this year, you’ll save $95.22!

At Your Grocery Store
** Use our coupon center to find and clip coupons to save on your supplies or Find Grocery Coupons program to find specific savings.

What’s are you doing to save more money?

 

Tis the Season for Fresh Fruit and Veggies!

August 8, 2013 Money Saving Ideas

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One of the best ways to save money on food is to put up your own. It is even better if you can grow it yourself. But assuming you live in a small space, with no yard and can’t have your own garden, there are still ways of getting fresh fruit and vegetables for a fraction of the cost of supermarkets.

PickYourOwn.org is a website detailing all of the places you can go to pick your own fruits and vegetables. If you have a small freezer space, then canning is probably the route you will want to take. There are tons of canning guides all over the internet, so google the one specific to the type of food you are trying to can. Some foods require a pressure cookers, others just a straight canning pot. The basics are easy – cook up or boil what you are going to can, put it in jars, and boil it in the canner for the set time.

Putting up your own food will be the most cost effective way to save money and have healthy food in the process. Canning may be very intimidating, but once you try it, you will see it isn’t that bad.

Picking your own food will allow you to see the quality and get an appreciation for “real” food. It is also a great activity to do with children. It gives them an understanding of where their food comes from and what it takes to harvest it. It may also get children excited about a food they don’t really care for (like peas) if they have a chance to pick them.

Ball Jar has a great site which will help you determine the best method for preserving. Check it out and see what it takes.

Once a Week Cooking

April 1, 2013 Money Saving Ideas

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We’ve all seen the web sites that promote once-a-week or once-a-month cooking, leaving you with oodles of free time and a plethora of well-planned, healthy dinners that everyone in your family loves and looks forward to. And then there’s the real world—the world with changing schedules, picky eaters and not nearly enough time to prepare all of these carefully labeled concoctions and neatly stack them in your regularly re-organized, inventoried freezer.

For those who can accomplish that feat, the more power to you. The rest of us bow humbly at your feet and pray for a plan that leaves us relatively well-fed without running through the drive through every day.

An alternative is to spend a few hours each week doing what I like to call “pre-cooking.” Pre-cooking is basically just that—getting things more or less ready to go, but not quite finishing the cooking process, making things easy to have ready to go for the week, without tying you down to a hard and fast strict schedule. Instead of planning out every single meal, I stick with just the evening meal and try to get through only the work week. I plan meals for Monday through Wednesday, and Thursday becomes “refrigerator buffet” day. What is “refrigerator buffet,” you ask? That’s the day when everyone gets to choose from the leftovers from the first three days of the week, and those leftovers become Thursday’s dinner.

The easiest way to begin this is to write a list of the meals your family will actually eat—no pie-in-the-sky ideals here, just favorites that please most of your family most of the time. To make these easy to prepare during the week, I try to stick with casseroles, slow cooker meals, soups and easy to assemble dishes like tacos. If at all possible, involve your family in this process. Have each family members choose the meals from your list they enjoy (or will at least eat) to give you an idea of which meals to include most often.

Once your list is compiled, you can choose a few meals that you’d like to make for the week. Whenever possible, I try to find a few common ingredients in a few of the meals. For example, if I’m going to chop an onion, it’s just as easy to chop a couple of them. If I’m going to brown a pound of hamburger, I may as well brown a few. This makes the work go much more efficiently.

I usually set aside a few hours on Sunday to prep the week’s food. It can be a challenge to fit it in, but the time it frees up on busy weeknights makes it well worth it. The reason casseroles work especially well is because they are easy to assemble and have ready to pop in the oven by whoever happens to get home first on a given weeknight. These are especially nice to have when a majority of the family will be home for an evening meal-otherwise plating meals and having them ready to pop in the microwave works well too. Slow cooker meals are wonderful for nights when everyone is on a different schedule. By investing in a slow cooker with a timer—the kind that changes your temp from low or high to “warm” after the cooking time—you can have dinner hot, fresh and ready for each person to serve themselves as they walk in the door.

They involve a little more individual prep time, but easy-to-assemble meals like tacos or spaghetti are nice because they can work well on nights on either kind of night. By having the ingredients ready to go, with only a minor ingredient left to cook (heating up the pre-cooked taco meant or boiling spaghetti noodles to go with homemade sauce, for example), family members can quickly put together a meal without having to start from scratch.

Soups and chilis are great go-tos because it can be prepared entirely in advance and stored in the refrigerator until someone is ready to heat up a bowl—or the entire pot, if everyone is actually able to eat together.

One key to making this plan work is to make sure each meal is labeled—a piece of scratch paper taped to a lid is just fine. Include basic information (for example, “bake uncovered for 30 minutes” on a casserole or “turkey noodle soup—heat in microwave”), so everyone knows what has to be done during the week.

To try to keep things on track, post a list on the fridge or a bulletin board listing what meals are for which day, and that Thursday is “refrigerator buffet.” Not only does this keep everyone on the same page, it ends the question “What’s for dinner?” The great thing is, you can change the list if your week changes, but it gives you somewhere to start.

You may find that once you start getting organized, you have the springboard to go on to more serious once-a-week or once-a-month cooking. Of course, feel free to invite the rest of us over that point so we can revel in your culinary glory!

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