Tasty Tuesday:Garlic-buttered Kale

I know what you are thinking, “um, there is nothing ‘tasty’ about kale”, but you’d be wrong! I was recently introduced to kale and I really didn’t want to try it, especially since it reminded me of turnips and collards, which have never been my friend. But with some health issues looming, I had to figure out how to get more “greens” in my diet and less junk; but I didn’t want to break the bank either

I have learned eating healthier is less expensive than what you would think. I mean the whole reason I would share a recipe on a financial blog is for the money you can save, right? So I gave this recipe a shot and it is so good, I now cook it twice a week. It takes all of about seven minutes to cook and even my son will eat it. The best part about it is the cost, which is about$1.47 per person for 4 servings.

  • 2 cloves garlic – .79
  • 4 T butter
  • 1-1 1/2 bunch kale – $2.00
  • 1 T olive oil

Staple items: Olive oil – $4.00-$8.00, Butter $2.79-$4.88, salt & pepper-$3.00

  • Remove the ribs inside the kale and chop kale into bite sized pieces
  • Mince the garlic
  • Add 1 T olive oil to a medium high pan, add 2 cloves of garlic and a pinch of salt & pepper
  • sweat the garlic 1-2 minutes
  • Add the kale to the pan, add a pinch of salt and pepper, stir until the kale begins to wilt, add 1/4 c water and cook 1-2 minutes longer
  • Place a strainer over a bowl and empty the kale, garlic mixture into the strainer, press out as much liquid as you can; discard the liquid.
  • Heat the butter in the pan and place the kale back into the pan, coat the kale with the butter and cook another 1-2 minutes, adding another pinch of salt and pepper, taste it first, it tends to get salty!!
  • remove from heat and serve

This side dish goes great with a grilled or roasted meat. A small tenderloin will run $7-$10. If you are a two vegetable kind of family, add some steamed green beans at .99/lb. Your whole meal is $4.21 per person for 4 servings.

 

 

The True Cost of Eating Real Food

As you know, I’ve been eating more “real food” since I’ve started using Blue Apron. This weekend, my family and I visited the local farmers’ market for some fresh produce for the week and grabbed some nice rib-eyes for Mother’s Day at Earth Fare, our local whole foods store. Between both stores, we spent $81.00. We later picked all of our spring onions from the garden and decided to try this pickled green onion recipe and needed some mustard seed so we went to our local Winn Dixie. While we were there my men decided to take advantage of the low blood sugar attack I was having and load up on some snacks I normally only get in moderation and pick up a few extra things we needed like milk and bread. $160 later, I was floored! I started looking at the receipt at all the processed foods and how much they cost and was shocked. Yes, I said it! Processed foods cost more!

All I hear are people saying, “I try to eat healthy, but I just can’t afford it”.Well, I did some math, and quality and quantity are both higher with “real” food. I use to clip coupons to death, stock up on foods I didn’t really love because it was on sale. I still clip coupons, but I really only use coupons on meat, staples, and rare produce coupons. Now I find that I spend less at the store and I waste less food. I think it’s because before my brain didn’t recognize a box of something as food so at lot of it went to waste, but my brain definitely recognizes cucumbers and oranges and blocks of cheese and wants to eat them.

Here are some examples of how we wasted precious dollars buying junk at the store the other day and what we should have bought instead:

  • My son bought two packs of beef jerky, they were $7 each for about 6-8 pieces of jerky. You could get venison back-strap or top round and make your own with a much larger yield for that price. A round steak is about $6.00 per pound. You could get 1.5 lbs of meat, plus your marinade ingredients if you didn’t have them at home for the same price.
  • Next big thing we just HAD to have is ice cream which was close to $7 a quart. My husband’s favorite is banana split, so we will use this as an example. 1 bunch of bananas is around $1.31, give or take depending on how many pounds you get. Strawberries this week were 2 pints for $4 and I got a pineapple for $2.99 at the farmer’s market. Take 2 bananas, 1/4 the pineapple and 1/2 the pint of strawberries, freeze them. Put them in your Vitamix or your banana ice cream maker with a little frozen yogurt or some milk,$3.50 for 1 gallon this week, less than $3 if you drink almond or coconut milk. You can do it separate so you have 3 flavors, or all together like I do to get that nice swirly flavor effect. You’ve made homemade, healthier ice cream and you don’t even have to worry about the extra calories of the chocolate sauce you know you’re going to dump on there. If you freeze the entire bunch, berries and pineapple, you’ve doubled the amount of ice cream (about 2 qts.) for $3.80 more, if you don’t freeze them, you still have fruit left over for smoothies, pineapple whips or fresh toppings on your cereal.
  • My husband is addicted to Diet Coke. It cost him $7.99 for a 20 pack! If he drank water or tea we’d have saved tons! I only drink water with a squirt of lemon, lime, or oranges, whatever is in the fridge, it’s free almost everywhere, oh and I don’t buy bottled water at home, I just have a filtering pitcher.  When I want something fizzy I drink kombucha tea (my favorite is lemon ginger). You can make this yourself; but, eww it’s just not for me. One bottle is $3 for 2 servings, still a little high for my taste, but sometimes you just need some fizz and it’s worth it to not have to grow that THING in my kitchen; just google it, you’ll see what I’m talking about.
  • Chips! Chips are $5 a bag now – shame! Some of the best tasting chips you can make at home. Take you some flour tortillas, $2.79, cut them up into strips, toss in olive oil, sprinkle with salt and cracked black pepper and bake at 450 for about 10 minutes. So crispy! So tasty! Great with salsa, or hummus or even on top of soup. I also like to get red potatoes $2.99 and slice them very, very thin. Spritz them with olive oil spray, salt and pepper them and cook them the same way. These are very good. Lastly, cheese! Put down some parchment paper, put down finely shredded cheddar or Monterrey jack ($3.39 pre-shredded)in a little circle and cook in the oven til they are bubbly brown. When they cool, they will crisp like chips.

If I would have taken my own advice and looked at real food v. processed, I would have seen that I could have saved us $52 on JUNK in these four categories and a whole lot of calories and chemicals. It looks like it is really IS better to buy/eat real food after all.

 

Southern Savers has a great idea!

Southern Savers, one of my favorite coupon sites for the Southeastern US is doing a savings challenge so I thought I would share it here and see what kind of ideas I could add to save. Now, I don’t make enough money to quite save $1000, but I might be able to save 10%.

Cutting out eating out, which means crock pot meals since it’s football season. This should save a couple hundred for sure.

Unnecessary expenses, my hubby is really bad about stopping at the convenience store for cokes, so hopefully I can talk him out of that.

No unnecessary out of town trips. We don’t usually go out of town but once a month, but that can run our gas budget up an extra $100.

No rental movies. We are really bad about renting movies from Amazon because we think it’s cheaper than going to the movies, but this month, if it’s not on Netflix or Amazon prime (which we have subscriptions to), we just won’t watch them.

Those are the main ones I can think of right now to begin slimming down. We already run a pretty tight budget, but there’s always a little wiggle room.

Couponchief.com get paid to shop!

We all know that cash is best, but if you must shop online, only shop sites with coupons. Coupons are all over the Internet. If you Google “coupons”, you can get  up to 213 Million results with some of the most used coupon sites for groceries and online deals in the top ten; remember,  most used does not always mean best deals.  Do your research first and always read reviews. One of the most impressive coupon sites for online shopping has got to be www.couponchief.com

Couponchief offers several incentive programs to use their site including coupon commissions and charity programs. If you click the “How it works” link at the top of the home page, there is a short video that will show you exactly how to use the coupons on the site. There is no charge for the service, a free account is not even required to use the program; but is required if you are going to use the “pays-2-share” program, and why wouldn’t you! You can upload coupons you find and couponchief will PAY YOU 2% commission on any purchases used with your coupon, and it is connected to a Paypal account or you can opt for a paper check.  With 213 million sites to browse through to find coupons to post, you could make some extra money easily. The greatest thing is, your purchases count towards your commission, so it is like getting rebates on your already discounted purchases. Just be sure to look through the list of qualifying retailers or look for the little yellow cents icon in the corner. You can also add a widget to your own page to earn extra commission from them.

One of the most impressive features of couponchief is the “coupons-4-causes” feature.  You can search their list of causes they support and choose your favorite, or email them to add your favorite. Couponchief is paid commission by the stores linked to their site, couponchief donates 50% of the commission to those causes. Be sure you read the full terms and conditions of the donations, or you may be left wondering if money is really going to your cause because they only send the charity a check once the balance reaches $50 or more. You should always help out charities, know that a closed fist can receive nothing in return, but an open hand can receive just as it gives. Apparently, the people at this site know that too.

Be sure to leave your feedback on the pull out tab if you have a question or idea. Read the terms and conditions or the FAQ’s, they are very helpful with your questions and are written in layman’s English so they are easy to follow if you are going to try to get paid by them. Add their blog to your RSS feeds for the newest and greatest deals, The best part about couponchief.com is the coupons themselves! Some of the best on-line stores are available and there are thousands of coupons to browse through. You can read any reviews of the coupons below each coupon so that you know if that coupon is going to work or not.

Remember that if you must shop online,  never, ever shop without a coupon. Do you homework before you purchase and if you can find a better deal on another website, and they are trustworthy, use them! Read the reviews, and if you can get paid to shop from a legitimate site, do it! While researching, check out couponchief, they’re worth a look.

Look for it January 30th!

OK Coupon fanatics! P&G is releasing a coupon book on January 30th with $98 worth of savings! Look for it in your local paper. You can go to www.pgeverydaysolutions.com and enter your zip to see which local paper carries it. Nobody should pay full price for groceries, and, if you know how to shop the sales and use your coupons just right, you can save big time! Check out www.couponmom.com for a great FREE blog on how to cut your grocery bill using coupons. Or use the paid service of www.thegrocerygame.com, which is relatively inexpensive at $12-$15 every three months, and learn how to maximize your savings at your local stores.

10 Ways to Cut $100 from your Budget

During a time when finances are tight for all of us, it is important to get back to the basics of spending. Focusing on the essentials has become more important when gas prices are so high, the economy bad, high paying jobs are scarce, and relief does not seem so eminent. So when changing your habits, sometimes extreme isn’t always the best way, but small steps will lead to big rewards. Here are ten small steps towards saving $100 extra a month.

1. Cut out Watching On-Demand or Rented Movies: We often find that convenience overrides planning. Many will defend that renting movies is cheaper than going to the theatre, and this is true; however, patience can mean you can still have entertainment without breaking the bank. If you are an avid movie renter, On-Demand movies, which is just a fancy way of saying Pay Per View, can cost up to $5.99 for HD film quality. Some of the same movies on HD can be viewed on free services such as www.hulu.com or a subscription to an online movie rental service, such as www.Netflix.com. Some may say that Netflix is an unneccessary expense, but at the cost of one monthly subscription, plus one month free trial,  there are hundreds of movies available “On-Demand” plus mail in movies. Just be sure you don’t upgrade to the higher cost subscription. This takes longer than going to the store rental location, or getting on demand movies, but in the long run, it is cheaper. Just one night of On-demand movie watching can add up to $15.00 to your already ridiculous cable bill, and one trip to the movie store can cost just as much. If you do this twice a month, your cable bill just went up over $30 with tax. When you figure in gas and how easy it is to order a pizza when the movie store is next door to a pizza place, one night of “cheaper than the movies” can actually cost you just as much. You may also consider a DVD swapping club with your friends. You can swap movies they have at home for movies you have at home.

2. Don’t Supersize: How many times do you go to a restaurant or a fast food joint and they ask you what size you want? What about the fast food place with the fountain drink, how many of you order a small cup and then refill when it is low, paying less for the same amount of drink? When you go to a restaurant, consider ordering from the ala carte menu, the sides menu, or just an appetizer. There is plenty of food and you will save on your bill. Also if you are a convenience eater, and eat out every meal because you “can’t cook” consider that sometimes a sandwich or a salad made at home is still inexpensive, portable, and does not require any “cooking”. Try brown bagging it at least two to three days a week, save yourself up to $30.00. Also, when going to your local fast food joint, pay attention to your bill, often times they will “Supersize” your ticket and not your food, stating they automatically do that unless you tell them otherwise. That’s right! They do!

3. Check your Utilities: Go over your utilities and check the specials of your local providers. Often times, even existing customers will get great price reduction rates just by bundling services and letting another provider go. Before I was a budgeting goddess, I was paying $56.00 for a landline phone through AT&T, and $133.00 through my cable provider for Basic Extended Cable plus Internet. When I bundled the two together and fired the other, I saved $125.00 al-together, that is $1500 for the whole year! I now pay $65 for all three services, without sacrificing quality. That rate is for the next two years, saving me $3,000 in total if I do nothing for the next two years. In two years, or before I’ll see who has the better deal and may swap again. Loyalty is overrated! How many companies do you know whose loyalty specials outweigh new client specials? Pretty much none!

4. Swear off Restaurants or only eat at ones with coupons: I know this seems extreme, but one meal at a high-end restaurant can run you over $100. Consider eating at home instead, once you accept the fact that sometimes, you just gotta eat hamburger helper, you get use to it and you don’t get hungry and start flipping through the phone book, you get hungry and start digging through the freezer. If you just simply MUST go out to eat, consider only eating at restaurants with a coupon or gift card. Often you can ask the manager if they have any “free appetizer” or “Kid’s eat free” cards. If they want your business again, they’ll give them to you. Also, depending on the type of work you have, often they will give special promotions to your field, such as 20% off to public service or loyal customer rewards.  Check the circulars that come in the mail, you can often get coupons for fast food places and pizza there. You can also check their websites for promotions they have going on or call them before you go and ask them if they have any specials available. This can save you up to $15 a dinner, $25 if you have a gift card.

5. Coupons, Coupons, Coupons! Another thing you can do is don’t go anywhere without coupons! Everyone has them, oil change places, grocery stores, restaurants, and clothing stores. If you have to pay full price for something, go somewhere else! Some “Extreme” couponers can manage to get $600 worth of groceries for $6.00, but more realistic, you can save anywhere from $35-100 on your grocery bill alone. Always ask if there are specials going on, never be afraid to ask for a bargain, if they want your business, they will find something.

     Footnote, Save the money you save on coupons Get a notebook, write down the actual price you would spend on something without your coupons, then write down what you actually paid. Now take the difference and put it away in an interest bearing account. Not only will you see the difference, but you’ll make interest on it as well! I suggest www.ingdirect.com, they have many options for sub-accounts and different ways to save, including the “Electric Orange” checking account.

6. Save all your change Even if you are a debit card user, you can still save your change. If you break a dollar, save your silver and copper and count it up at the end of the month, if you use your debit card, round-up your check register to the nearest dollar and see how much you saved in your checking account at the end of the month. Consider how many transactions you go through in a month. Some people can have up to 3-4 transactions in a day during the week, more on the weekend or on a shopping trip or vacation. That is well over 90-100 transactions in a month, adding up your change could save a super spender $50-$100 a month in change, at least $20-$50 for a conservative spender.

7. Get a part-time job Getting a second part-time job always comes in handy and doesn’t have to be so extreme that you would need to be a pizza delivery driver, or a waitress. Consider cleaning once or twice a week for someone, or offer to do their laundry once a week. Babysit! Trust me when I say a mom would rather entrust their child to an adult than a 16 year old any day, and believe it or not, babysitting pays pretty well. Consider cleaning offices once a week around town, doctors clinics are often looking for someone to come in and sanitize a few times a week, just be sure you are up to speed on the latest OSHA regulations.

8. Pay with cash I have always said that paying with cash is the way to go. When you have to see your money dwindle down, you don’t want to spend it. Just paying with cash will make you want to at least keep a $20 in your wallet until next payday.

9. Avoid “Starbucks” with a vengeance! I know that this is what every financial blog tells you, but it is true. Spending money on a tall skinny white chocolate peppermint mocha is a sure-fire way to waste money of frivolous behavior. Buy a self-timer coffee pot, set it at night, buy the same creamers in the dairy section of the grocery store and pour a cup when you are walking out the door, squirt some whip cream on top if it makes you feel more fancy. $6.00 every morning for a croissant or oatmeal and coffee adds up, that is $180 a month in coffee.

10. Cut down on your subscriptions Review your internet subscriptions, such as ancestry.com, netflix.com, weightwatchers.com, etc. All of these are great websites, but sometimes when you begin to add up all of your monthly subscriptions, they take a bite out of your budget. If you simply cannot live without them, or if they save you money in the long run (like the advid movie renter on #1), consider using the lower cost subscription, instead of upgrading to the deluxe versions. If it is something you haven’t looked at in over a month, get rid of it.

The simple fact is there is always room in your budget. You don’t have to be so extreme that you cut cable, telephone, internet, ride bicycles, eat rice and beans, and never drink coffee again, but cutting down on excessive expenses, shopping less and always with coupons, and delving into all of our luxuries in moderation, you can easily save $100 or more from your budget. What could you do with an extra $1200 a year? If you add all of these things together, and do all at once, you could save an average of  $600-$800 for one month! Can you believe that? Now, drinking coffee made from your house and that hamburger helper just doesn’t seem that bad does it?

Thinking About Investing: Investopedia

Thinking about investing in the stock market but just don’t know enough about it? Investopedia is for you.  Investopedia is a free stock simulator that helps you learn how to invest without losing hard earned money. 

There are many wonderful tools on Investopedia.  Of course there is the stock simulator; but more than that, there are articles and tutorials for investing, finances, retirement, economy recovery, and many more needed financial links.  There are links to different investing firms and advice on which is the best one for you.  There is a financial dictionary on the site for all of your financial queries as well as a way to contact the site for advice.  There is also a section for assisting you in exam preparations for different financial certifications in your professional financial career.  Need to find articles on coupons? Investopedia has articles and tutorials on personal finances and budgeting equal to the best frugal bloggers on- line.  Need to know what a mutual fund is? The dictionary on this site helps you understand all of the financial lingo and it is put into very understandable terms.  It is all there on Investopedia.

About two years ago, I found this site when I decided on investing in the market.  I was on a very fixed income but was looking for a way to better my finances.  I found this site and began trading on the simulator.  I chose the first timers game and only invested in what I could afford in reality.  I learned about the markets and  read the stock tips and tricks.  Investopedia has an option where you can look at charts of a company’s growth up to a five year period and I chose stocks based on my research. I watched what stocks others traded and got advice from top investors. After investing a simulated $6,000 dollars over a long period of time, I had a diverse portfolio that has  stayed afloat during these rough financial times.  Not all of my stocks did well, but I didn’t worry because it was a simulation.  I had not lost any money.  I watched the stocks that did well  in this financial crisis and knew those would be the stocks I would invest real money in. 

Investopedia is a tool that I recommend to the novice investor and to the more experienced.  The research this site has done is helpful and really gives you the leg up on understanding your financial options.   Investopedia helps the reader understand that diverse monetizing of  income is the key to getting through this recession and freely gives the tools to aid in this agenda.