Saturday, March 23rd, 2013
Planning to do your taxes this weekend? Here are a couple of free online programs that will make it super easy for you to do an easy, accurate return.
We’ve used free programs like this the last several years and have loved it. It seriously is so easy and the program makes sure you don’t miss anything which we love.
* H&R Block
* Tax Act
Thursday, March 14th, 2013
Reader Abby recently asked:
When is the right time to invest in a chest freezer? I’m assuming you must have one just based on your purchases and how much you say you’re freezing.
I *finally* got a great deal on 80/20 ground beef at $1.99/lb, so I stocked up and bought almost 20 lbs. I also found cheese at Gordon Food Service. Mozzarella was $2/lb and cheddar was just a little more, so I stocked up there too. Now my teeny fridge freezer is completely full. I probably would have bought even more beef if I’d had more room, since it was the best deal I’ve seen in the 6 months that I’ve been watching.
A. Yes, we do have a chest freezer. Two of them actually!
If you are finding that your fridge’s freezer is constantly overflowing and you can afford it, I highly recommend getting one. We’ve found that ours take very little electricity (less than $10/mo. from what we can tell and they are both OLD) but they have saved us a bundle. We got both of ours used and have had good success with them.
Two things to note: chest freezers are more energy efficient than upright freezers. Full freezers take less energy than empty so try to get a size that you think you will meet your needs but not be too big.
Here are 4 ways that our freezers have saved us money.
1. Helps us eat healthier
I buy large quantities of fruits and veggies in season when they are generally at their cheapest price and then I freeze them. This allows us to enjoy the delicious, nutritious benefits of these foods throughout the rest of the year. (Frozen produce has been shown to have pretty much the same nutritional value as fresh.)
I also freeze lots of homemade things like bread, cookies and chicken stock too.
2. Allows me to stock up during sales
One of my biggest ways to save is by stockpiling. When an item that we use regularly is at rock bottom price I’ll buy a bunch of it. If it is something that can be frozen I simply throw it in my chest freezer and use it as needed. Obviously if you eat lots of freezer dinners or frozen pizzas this would save you money as well, although I don’t recommend eating that way!
Some of the things that I have stockpiled and frozen:
Flour, butter, ice-cream (yes, it’s my weakness), shredded cheese, bacon, chicken, sausage, ground beef, ham and orange juice.
Tip: Most things can be frozen for months without any freezer burn. I’ve discovered that pork products, especially chopped ham, don’t fare quite as well. You can freeze them but I would try to use chopped pork or open packages within a couple of month’s time.
3. Keeps us from eating out as often
Because we always have our freezer stocked with lots of meat, fruits and vegetables and a variety of other foods, the temptation to eat out happens less often. I always have something in the freezer that we can eat even if it is just the occasional frozen pizza.
4. Allows me to cook in bulk and save time
I often make a double recipe of a dish and freeze half it. This gives me an easy dinner at a later date (and helps with not eating out as mentioned above!). This is especially helpful when you are preparing for a new baby.
When I make bread, I make 6 loaves at one time and freeze all but one to eat later. It’s not uncommon for me to make up some homemade burritos, wrap them individually, and toss them in the freezer to have for an easy lunch on busy days. When I make cookies, muffins, rolls, or cake I keep out what I think we’ll eat in several days time and freeze the rest. This keeps us from eating more than we need and keeps our food fresh.
I frequently buy 10 lbs. of chicken (buying in large quantities often gets you bigger savings) and cook it up, separate it into smaller 2-4 c. portions and then freeze it. If I make a soup, casserole or wrap that calls for chicken, I can skip the step of cooking it which saves me time and helps my meal prep go that much faster. You can do the same thing with hamburger or sausage.
Do you think purchasing a freezer is worth it? Why or why not?
Have a question that you’d like to see featured here? Leave me a comment or email me. (Email link is found on the right hand side of my blog under “Follow Lydia Beiler”.)
Monday, March 4th, 2013
Wow, if you’ve been thinking about trying out Sam’s Club, here’s your chance. Right now Living Social is offering a one year Sam’s Club membership for just $45! Here’s what all that gets you:
- $45 ($79.84 value) for a one-year Membership package
- Includes a $20 Sam’s Club gift card
- $19.84 in food-service vouchers valid for an Artisan Fresh Rotisserie Chicken, a 16″ Artisan Fresh Take-and-Bake Pizza, and two boxes of 6-, 12-, or 24-count Artisan Fresh Cookies
That’s basically like getting a one year Sam’s Club membership for just $25 plus all the free food vouchers! This has really got me wishing we had a Sam’s Club nearby!
Friday, February 22nd, 2013
Several days ago I asked on Facebook if you all would enjoy weekly tip post. The response was overwhelmingly yes. I’m excited about starting this and plan to post all sorts of tips- anything from ways to entertain your children to organizing your home to saving time and of course money saving ideas too. If you have any suggestions or topics you’d like to see let me know via email or by commenting.
Soak and cook your own dry beans instead of buying cans of beans.
Why I recommend it:
It is easy to do, doesn’t take much time and is cheaper too!
How much will it save me?:
This amount varies a lot because prices obviously vary. But on average you are going to save at least 40% by soaking and cooking your own beans. For instance, Walmart sells dry Black Beans for $1.08/lb.* One pound of beans will make around 6 cups of cooked beans or the equivalent of 3 cans which makes your cost just $0.36/can! Aldi sells cans of black beans for $0.59 and at many other stores they are at least $0.75/can.
* Actually, I think they raised their price a bit. This is just the price I have written on my price list, so please don’t hold me to it!
There are lots of different ways to soak and cook your beans. And if the following way doesn’t appeal to you or doesn’t work for whatever reason, I highly recommend checking out Central Bean Company’s website for lot of other ways to cook and soak your beans.
Here’s how I do my beans.
1. First, rinse the beans to get off any dirt. Look for any pebbles or odd shaped beans and remove them.
2. Put the beans in a pot; for every 2 cups of beans add 10 cups of water. Cook the beans until they boil for 2-3 min. then remove them from the heat, cover them and let stand for at least 4 hours. This is called the Hot Soak method.
3. After 4 hours drain the water off the beans and add fresh cold water to the beans. Cook them however you choose. (I cook them in my pressure cooker following the directions in my Pressure Cooker Instruction booklet. I used to just cook the beans in a pot until they were done but several years ago switched to using my pressure cooker since it cut the cooking time down significantly. If you decided to use your own pressure cooker to cook beans, be sure to follow your cooking manuals instructions as each pressure cooker requires different amount of liquids and cooking times.)
4. Once cooked, drain the water off the beans and use them as you wish. If you aren’t going to use them right away, place in freezer safer containers and freeze.
* I’ve found that for some reason my beans always get too soft and smooshy if I follow recommended cooking times. If this happens to you, just cut back the cooking time by 1 min. until you get the bean texture that you like.
* One 15 oz. can of beans is equal to approximately 2 cups of beans.
* The longer you soak the bean, the more digestible it will be. In other words, the longer you soak it, the less gassy the bean should make you!
* If you freeze beans, Central Bean Company recommends slightly undercooking them since freezing them will make them a bit more soft.
* 1 cup of dry beans equals approximately 3 cups cooked beans.
Do you cook your own beans? What tips do you have?
Wednesday, February 13th, 2013
Do you love shopping at Target? If so, I highly recommend getting a Target REDcard debit card. When you pay for your Target purchases with your Target REDcard you will save 5% on everything! And if you shop online and pay with your Target debit card you will get free shipping on top of the 5% discount! Plus there are lots of other benefits like 30 extra days for returns, pharmacy rewards and more.
I don’t know what rock I was living under because I love Target but only learned about the Target REDcard and the 5% savings about 6 mo. ago. When I saw that I could save 5% on my purchases- even ones that I use coupons on- it was a no brainer to me! And several times I’ve saved myself a trip to the store and instead ordered online and enjoyed getting free shipping directly to my home. What’s not to love!?
Planning to do the Target Pampers deal this week? Use your REDcard and get them for $4.74/pack instead of $4.99.