By Julie Norman
Wednesday, June 18, 2014
The pesto below was just part of a "fancy" seeming meal I made for dinner the other night. I discovered, while making it, that yet again those meals that seem expensive can actually be made quite cheaply at home. For the whole rundown, click the image.
By Julie Norman
Tuesday, June 17, 2014
We spent most of our Saturday out in Palisade at the Bluegrass Festival. It was a great day for it; the temps were cool, there was some cloud cover, and there was only a brief period where it seemed to be raining cotton. We love this festival and have been fortunate to get discounted or complimentary tickets each year, which helps to defray costs considerably! Still, this year we really overspent on food at the festival. If we'd been thinking, we would have brought more of our own snacks, etc. So, for next year we've decided to plan a little better and save ourselves some extra money at the festival. How do we plan to do that?
We already take water bottles because the festival provides a huge container of drinking water. You simply walk over, fill up your bottle, and go on with your day. Free!
Check the festival's rules on what can and cannot be brought in. At the Palisade Bluegrass Festival, the only thing not allowed in is alcohol. There is plenty of that for sale inside. BUT there are no restrictions on food!
So for us, the easiest thing to do next year will be to bring a small cooler with some substantial snacks, etc in it so we won't be tempted by all the good smells wafting from the food carts. Sure it tastes good, but it's not good for me or my wallet! We can bring in even fancy snacks like speciality cheeses or hummus, deli meats like salami or pastrami and good rye bread. Who needs a Nathan's 1/4 lb hotdog when I've got an entire antipasto platter right in my cooler?
Sure, we'll still splurge on drinks, because who can say no to a yummy beverage from the Palisade Distillery? But on food? No. We're done with that. It'll be the same for us at the Riverfront Concerts this summer too. We'll take in our own food and then spend a few bucks on a beer or two. That way we get the best of both worlds!
So how can you apply this to your own festivals or even to theme parks?
Check to see what is allowed inside. Can you take a cooler? An empty water bottle? Some festivals might say "no coolers" but even that doesn't really restrict you from bringing in other snacks and such that don't need to be refrigerated.
Can you leave the festival or park once you enter? If so, and if you're parked close by, you could leave your cooler in the car, along with some chairs, and just head back there when it's time for lunch. This way you get a break from the festival/park atmosphere and you still don't have to pay exorbitant prices for food.
Are there cheaper eating places close by? I know people who visit Stoker Stadium for events but then walk over to Arby's or McDonald's to buy food because it's cheaper. So maybe that's an option as well.
The most important thing is just to check first with what's allowed and what's not. Then you can make a plan of action. Perhaps if you have to eat in the park you can plan to just have a light lunch and then eat a big dinner after you leave. Even that will save a little money. Plan ahead and you'll be able to enjoy a great festival without gritting your teeth over food costs.
By Julie Norman
Friday, June 13, 2014
Honestly, burger buns are pretty darn cheap and probably it's not any cheaper to make them at home...but the Frugal Girl posted this link in a blog post and well, I just can't help myself! I think I'm going to make these soon and if you are at all interested in making more stuff at home and buying less at the store, then you should try them too! Click the image to get the recipe.
By Julie Norman
Monday, June 9, 2014
We take at least one backpack trip every year and usually our dinners consist of Mountain House dehydrated meals. There's nothing wrong with the taste...what there IS something wrong with is the price! Each meal costs between $7 and $8. If we take a third person then we usually end up with 2 meals a night. So that's $14 a night in food...over 4 nights...we've just spend $56 on food for BACKPACKING! This year I've decided to take a different approach and this weekend I started figuring out how.
Safeway had O Organics blueberries on sale for super cheap because of "overstock" clearance. So I bought 2 small packages and dehydrated them. These, along with a box of Safeway plain instant oatmeal, will be part of our "design your own oatmeal" breakfast. I also plan to mix up a baggie of sugar, cinnamon and butter buds. This is cheaper than Mountain House granola...honestly for all the blueberries and oatmeal I probably spent $6. That should give us 2 meals; $3 per meal; $1 per person per meal. The Mountain House granola is probably $5 a bag. And one bag feeds 1-2 people.
I had a FREE offer for a Horizon organics mac and cheese. We're going to use that as a tester product to see how well the noodles rehydrate when just sitting in boiling water. Then, if it works, we'll buy a cheaper mac and cheese and create a second meal with that. I also bought a pound of ground beef yesterday (backpacking meals are supposed to be cheap, though they aren't always the healthiest...) for $2.44. I browned the ground beef and dehydrated it. We're going to combine that with a Hamburger Helper mix ($1.66) for another meal. So that entire meal will cost us $3.66 for 3 people. I mean...an entire box of Hamburger Helper for 3 people? We should be stuffed!
Finally I plan to use a box of cous cous with seasoning. It ONLY takes boiling water to rehydrate and we can then add some dried veggies (I've got peppers, onions and potatoes in the freezer) and a package of vacuum sealed chicken, for a third great meal. Now we're down to one Mountain House meal, and if I can come up with another idea, we won't even need that!
Even though some of these are still processed meals, I feel a little better about them. I can add tons of veggies to these and I actually just remembered I've got some broccoli bits leftover from dinner the other night...those would be great in my Mac and Cheese meal! Over the winter I dehydrated peaches and berries, so we've got plenty for our oatmeal. I am hoping we'll discover a whole new way of cooking in the backcountry with some new and different "homemade" meals.
By Julie Norman
Friday, June 6, 2014
So you've been saving by clipping coupons, consignment shopping and following the whole 'reduce and reuse' idea, but what do you do with all that money that you've saved?
Here are some tips and ideas from around the interwebs:
Brittney Castro of the MintLife Blog provides several tips here. The best one she mentions is "automatic investing." This basically means that if your company has a 401K you should be participating in it. I participate in ours and whenever I get a raise (no matter how small), I increase by 1% the amount I'm putting into my 401K. Right now I think I'm at 10%. Another way to "automatically" invest is to have money auto transferred from your checking acct to savings on the days you get paid. That way you don't even notice that it's moved! I do this too, putting somewhere around 12% of each paycheck directly into savings.
If you're already participating in some "automatic" investments but still have some extra cash, maybe you should put it towards a vacation or start a vacation savings account. I have friends who do this and it keeps them from putting their entire vacation on a credit card. For more ideas on vacation financing, check out these tips from CNN.
Still not what you're looking for? Then maybe real estate is more your thing. There's a great article from US News here about buying vs renting. There are both positives and negatives to buying a home, but if you can afford it and feel you're at a place in your life where that might work for you, it's worth looking at. Owning a home means you'll always have a roof over your head; it means you can paint, add on to, renovate, xeriscape to your heart's content! (mostly).
So hopefully these links and thoughts will give you some ideas of how to invest or spend all that money you've been saving. Whatever you decide to do with it (even if you decide to do nothing with it right now) at least you'll be secure in the fact that you know how to save money and pinch pennies when you need to.