Saving Money on Produce

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Although I have a vegetable garden it’s not really large enough to supply all the vegetables my family uses through the year. I’d love to double the size of my garden but I’m still married and want to stay that way. He says it would take up “all” the dogs’ running space. He’s wrong but, being a diplomatic type, I almost never tell him. Meanwhile, I’ve found some ways for saving money on produce so I’m able to can, dehydrate, and freeze what I can’t grow.

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Saving Money Series – More Tips and Tricks to Save Money

I’m always looking for ways to save. This post gives you 10 more tips and tricks to save money.

 

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  1. If you find your sliced bread goes stale or moldy before you get through the loaf try putting bread in the freezer. It thaws very quickly so you can take out only the slices you need and keep the rest from going bad.
  1. If you run out of mouthwash and really need fresh breath but can’t run to the store put 1 tablespoon of white vinegar in 8 ounces of water. Swish it around your mouth, spit it out, and rinse with clear water.
  1. You can re-use coffee grounds if you bake them. Spread the grounds on the filter in a baking dish and put them in a moderate oven for about 30 minutes. Only bake the grounds if you’re using the oven anyway, otherwise you’re not really saving any money.
  1. Do you use olive oil on salads or bread? Do you find yourself accidentally pouring too much on your food? Try putting olive oil in an old, clean pepper shaker. You can shake out just the right amount.
  1. Line the produce drawers of your refrigerator with newspapers or paper towels to absorb excess moisture which causes produce to rot. Change the paper as it gets really moist to keep your vegetables fresh longer.
  1. Any vegetables that you haven’t used and may go bad soon can be chopped up, blanched, and frozen. Or just throw compatible vegetables in the blender to make a base for soups and stews.
  1. Refrigerate candles (any kind) for a few hours before burning them. They’ll burn slower and taper candles will drip less. And remember to trim the wicks before burning candles, whether new or old.
  1. Save money on gas by slowing down. If you cut your highway speed from 70 mph to 60 mph you’ll save about 15%.
  1. Another vehicle related tip; buy your antifreeze in the summer. When temperatures are high the price is low but when it starts to get cold the price of antifreeze goes up.
  1. Find free or low cost entertainment. Check if local museums have free days. Find fairs and festivals with no entrance fees. Avoid buying food and drinks there. Go to the movies during matinee hours. You can save half the cost of a ticket. Attend free movies in the park. Your kids can play on the playground until movie time and you can pack a picnic. A town near us offers “Float and Flick” movies in the high school swimming pool. You can float on an inner tube while watching a family-friendly movie after a swim. Although it’s not free, it’s low cost and doubles the entertainment dollar.

Making A Coupon Organizer System

In my post Simple Steps To Saving Money — Part 1: Groceries I talked about using coupons to save at the grocery store. One problem I’ve seen so many times at the checkout is that people often don’t organize their coupons. They miss using coupons for items they’re buying only to find them afterward, they pull out expired coupons, and sometimes the coupons are so wrinkled and worn they can’t be read. It may seem like a silly topic, but coupon organizing is important in helping save money.

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There are many ways to organize your coupons. Here are a few of the ways I’ve seen used and used myself over the years.

Boxes – If you’ve looked at the pictures in many of my posts you’ll know I’m a big fan of boxes. Using a box for coupons can be an excellent way to organize them. The box can be as small as a recipe box or as large as a shoe box. It all depends on how many coupons you need to organize.

I like index file boxes because I use the blank tabbed dividers to separate my coupons into groups. You may choose to divide your coupons by expiration date or type of food or cleaning products, etc. Pick the method that make the most sense to you. Mark each tab of the dividers with the types of coupons in that section. You can fit a really large number of coupons in one of these boxes.

The only real issue with boxes is that they can be inconvenient to carry to the store.

Expanding Accordion File Folders – These folders come in a wide variety of sizes. If you’re really into couponing the large folder would be great. If you’re more like me and never have a huge number of coupons then the wallet size folder would probably work out just fine.

An advantage to the expanding file folders is that the normally have a way to hold all the contents within the folder. You don’t have to worry about your coupons ending up all over the floor if you drop it (of course that’s only when it’s closed). And the folders are easier to carry to through the store than a box.

Zippered Binders – I’ve seen a couple of local ladies who keep their coupons in a zippered binder. I have to admit I’ve been intrigued. They carry the coupons and a calculator so they can keep track of their coupons and do a sort of running tab on the groceries they’re buying. I thought they had the coupons in page protectors but they actually use those little plastic sheets that photographs in albums. They have dividers that separate the sheets into their particular coupon system.

Envelopes – This is a simple system in which you just separate the coupons by group and put each group in its own envelope.

You may choose to separate your coupons by aisle in the grocery store if you’re very familiar with the layout. But this can be problematic if the store changes locations of products. You can also separate coupons by:

Product type – You may choose to group your coupons by product type like all baking items in a group or all products found in the cleaning aisles together.  

Expiration Date – Although sorting coupons just by expiration date is one way to organize your coupons it’s not always the most efficient. Yes, you’ll avoid having expired coupons with you but you’ll have to sort through all the coupons to find the ones you want. I prefer sorting by the type of product and putting the coupons that will expire soonest in front.
Before shopping make a list and go through your coupons to match items you need with coupons you have. Note each item on the list that has a corresponding coupon with a C or some other way to remind yourself you have a coupon for that item. You can pull all the coupons for that shopping trip while you’re making your shopping list and take only those you know you need. However, you may want to take all your coupons in case you pick up an item on sale and want to also use a coupon.

Saving Money Series — Save MORE Money on Cleaning Supplies

I’ve given some tips on how to save money on cleaning supplies.  Here are some other ways to save more money on cleaning products.

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  • Buy reusable cloths and mops – I invested in a spaghetti mop and a good mop bucket with a wringer. When the mop head gets dirty I simply launder it with other cleaning cloths. I keep a spare on hand that’s been laundered in case I have an overwhelming urge (or need) to mop when one is dirty. For cloths I found that used surgical towels are wonderful, lint-free cleaning cloths. You can buy used (fully sterilized) surgical towels online.
  • Use store brands – Compare the ingredients or make up of store brands to nationally known brands. Many times these cleaning products are made by the same companies and only the labels are different. And, of course, the price. Don’t pay extra for the advertising big companies use to get us to buy their products.
  • Look for double duty products – If you check out the cleaning products aisle at any market you’ll see that there are many, many items for each job. You could spend a lot of money and take up a lot of space buying specific cleaners for each chore. Instead, opt for multi-purpose cleaners.
  • Make your own cleaners – There are recipes all over the internet for homemade cleaning products. Some I’ve tried and loved and some didn’t do the job at all. Research the recipes by reading reviews and then try the ones that get the most raves. But be careful not to mix ingredients without checking that it’s safe to do so.
  • Use “cleaners” you already have in your kitchen – Lemons can be used to bleach items like cutting boards. Baking soda is a mild abrasive that can be used in place of many harsher cleansers. Coffee grounds can take the place of baking soda to absorb odors. Just put a bowl of used coffee grounds where you want to soak up odors and replace every couple of months. Ketchup is wonderful for shining brass. Pour a little ketchup on a cloth and shine your brass as you would with a store-bought polish. Just remember to rinse the ketchup off with clear water and dry the brass. A great article for using stuff you have around for cleaning can be found at: http://www.moneytalksnews.com/19-uses-for-baking-soda-dryer-sheets-and-beer
  • Spray your cleaning cloths not the surface – Spraying cleaners on surfaces usually wastes the cleaner and leaves excess on the surface. You’ll spend more time just wiping away wasted cleaner than if you spray it directly on the cleaning cloth.
  • Foam is better than liquid – When it comes to bathroom surfaces foam is better. Foam clings to surfaces instead of just running quickly down and pooling at the bottom. You get more cleaning bang for your buck.
  • Adjust the amount of dishwasher detergent – It’s not always necessary to fill both dispensers of your dishwasher. Fill each cup about halfway and add a little bit more for extra dirty loads and if you have hard water. Too much detergent leaves a residue on your glasses and flatware and filling both dispensers all the way just means you have to buy detergent more often.
  • Always measure laundry detergent – Because laundry detergents are concentrated (2x and 3x) using a full cup for every load is just wasteful. Extra detergent doesn’t mean extra clean clothes. The agitation of your washing machine is doing most of the cleaning. And using too much detergent means that the items you’re washing will just have excess soap in them at the end of the wash cycle, making the rinse cycle less effective. And many front loading machines simply shut down if there are too many suds.
  • Buy cleaning products on sale and/or with coupons – Try to stock up on the cleaning supplies you do buy when they’re on sale or when you have a coupon. If you store allows you to use a coupon for a sale item it’s even better!
  • Store cleaning supplies properly – Most important is keeping cleaning supplies away from children and pets. And you’re also wasting money if you expose your cleaners to extremes in temperature or light. They’ll be less effective or not effective at all and have to be replaced.
  • Keep it clean – By maintaining a cleaning schedule and keeping your home clean you won’t need really tough cleaning products. You will be able to keep things clean with things like water and dish soap, vinegar, baking soda, and other inexpensive items. And you’ll use less of the cleaners you do buy.

 

 

 

Saving Money Series – Save on cleaning products

We all want to have clean homes and these tips will help you save on cleaning products. Don’t waste money when a cheap alternative is available. Save that money for something you really want!

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  • Soft, white socks are great for dusting and can be washed and reused unlike paper towels or those dusting cloths that require a handle.
  • Use a pillowcase to clean ceiling fan blades. Slip the pillowcase over the blade and slide along the length of the blade. When you get near the end of the blade be sure to hold the pillowcase carefully. You can take it outside, turn it inside out and shake the dust and dirt off. Finish by laundering the pillowcase as usual. You’ll save money by not buying those fancy wands and dusters made just for fans.
  • Save money on garbage bags by breaking down boxes and crushing bottles and jugs before throwing them away. They’ll take less space and you’ll use fewer bags. *Rinse milk jugs before crushing and cap them after crushing to eliminate that spoiled milk smell in your kitchen bin.
  • Don’t buy products meant to remove hard water build up from faucets and shower heads. Slip a rubber band over the plumbing you want to clean. Pour white vinegar in a plastic bag and slip it over the faucet or showerhead. Tighten the rubber band so the bag doesn’t slip off. Let the fixture soak for several hours or overnight. Don’t bother adding baking soda in spite of what you may have read online. Combined the two make a dramatic show of foaming and bubbling but the reality is that you’ll end up with mostly water. It’s because baking soda is a “basic” and the vinegar is acidic.
  • Paper napkins are generally cheaper than paper towels. Don’t waste money using paper towels to wipe your mouth. Use napkins for meals and paper towels for clean-up.
  • Get rid of musty smells in closets with white vinegar. Cut slits or punch a few holes in the lids of plastic containers (like the ones from the deli) and fill the container with white vinegar. Place the container inside the closet and leave for a day. Keep closets smelling fresh afterward by partially filling another container with holes in the lids with baking soda.
  • Vacuum the back and the space beneath the refrigerator at least once a month. Dust clings to the condenser coils and can cause your refrigerator to overheat. Sometimes a quick vacuuming can get it working again but sometimes it means the refrigerator must be replaced.
  • When you use your electric hand mixer and other small, motorized appliances be sure to clean the vents afterward. It’s the same principle as the refrigerator. If the vents of your mixer are clogged with cake batter there’s no airflow and the motor overheats and burns out.
  • Replace spray window cleaners with a little Dawn® dish detergent and a few drops of Rain X® in hot water. Use a soft cloth to apply the mixture and a squeegee to finish. Water and dirt will roll off the exterior of windows and, used on mirrors in the bathroom, condensation will do the same keeping everything clean longer.
  • Clean your stove burners with ammonia. Just place the burners in a bag with ¼ cup of ammonia and leave them overnight. Don’t worry if the burners aren’t covered; the fumes do all the work. Do not mix the ammonia with any other cleaner and thoroughly rinse the burners before putting them back on the stove.
  • Don’t throw that last little bit of dishwashing detergent out. Sure, it’s a pain to get it to pour and turning the bottle upside down can result in a leak that’s a nightmare to clean up but you can use the end of the bottle. Pour a little hot water in the nearly empty bottle and swish it around. Then pour the resulting liquid in an empty pump bottle, the kind in which expensive hand soaps come. The result is a soap you can use when you need a quick hand wash.
  • Before buying vacuums or other cleaning equipment go to the library and read the latest Consumer Report issue covering that appliance. You can also check their Year End Report. You could potentially save hundreds of dollars and get a much better product for less.

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A Sample Pantry List

If you are following along on my Simple Steps To Saving Money Series, this is a sample of a pantry list I use. I don’t have every item on this list and I don’t have every item I’ve ever used but it’s pretty complete. Of course you will adapt your list to the things that you have in your pantry. I have a separate list of staple refrigerator items like milk, butter, and eggs.

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Simple Steps To Saving Money — Part 1: Groceries

Retirement is supposed to be that golden time of life during which your spoil your grandkids, travel, and do all the renovations on the house you’ve been putting off. Unfortunately, for many of us retirement means a serious cut in income. Add the sometimes minor, sometimes serious health issues of growing older and your disposable income can quickly disappear.

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