4 Free Things That Aren’t Worth It…

file3211250724024.jpgI’ve been meaning to write this article for a while, and while we were on our way to meet friends for lunch and playtime, we drove past Little Caesar’s, which was giving away free pizza and sodas today from 11am-1pm.  The line was down the sidewalk and around the corner. There were probably 100 people in line.

Like many of you, I subscribe to several money saving magazines, blogs and newsfeeds. Every one of them has at least once every few months an *exciting* article on “Free Stuff” and how you can save hundreds, if not thousands of dollars.

Some of these freebies, well, are not useful, or actually free.  Before you say, “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth”, I am of the belief that when writers offer advice, it should be tested, useful and one shouldn’t have to go out of their way to obtain a free item or service.  If I have to drive for 2 hours for a free sample or service, it is no longer free (especially with gas at $3.53/gallon in my neighborhood!), or if I have to wait in line for 3 hours for something that’s valued at less than $30, it’s not worth it. Yeah, my time is worth $15/hour, especially if I have to leave the kids with a sitter (which costs about $15/hour most of the time).

Here are a few suggestions that I see time and again that are not really “free”.

  1. Free WiFi: Awesome.  Free internet is great. But if I have to leave home and go to bookstores, coffee shops, restaurants and libraries, any time I want to surf the net, that’s not free.  I have to spend money on gas and potentially have to buy something (in the case of coffee shops and restaurants).  That also means any time I want to surf the net, I have to leave my house.   My suggestion- Shop around for the best deal on internet service and/or plan errands or trips out of the house where your can access free Wi-Fi along the way. 
  2. Unlimited texts from your PC: I love to text.  Its great to shoot off a quick reminder or check in with someone when you are on the go. One magazine I read suggested, “Sign up for a free email account with google or AOL and as long as you have access to a computer, you can text any mobile number (and receive texts) through your account for free.” But… When I’m not home (or at a computer), I can’t do that.  Most of the time when I text, I’m not at home, and that is the same for many adults. So, this may not be a super freebie for everyone. My suggestion: look into inexpensive cell carriers or an unlimited texting package that you can afford.  Or- don’t text!
  3. Makeup Application: Now at day spas, most do offer complimentary makeup application after a spa service ($$), however, at department stores, the idea behind the makeup application is that you will buy one of the products that are used on you. Not buying anything is.. well, crappy.   Also,, VERY IMPORTANT: People stick their dirty fingers in the makeup testers that are used to do those free makeup applications.  People also put the lipstick on their mouths, and mascara on their eyelashes with the tester wand instead of using the disposable applicators. People have cooties, and pink eye and herpes. EWW.
  4. Godiva Chocolate Rewards Club.   The local Godiva shop doesn’t participate, so I spent 15 minutes signing up and validating my email for no reason.  However, I can just walk into my local See’s candy shop and get a free piece of candy (and my kids each get a free piece too- Godiva only gives candy to grown-ups).  No club, no sign ups and the kiddos get a sweet treat too! Now I did include the link in case you want to check it out and see if your local shop participates.

 

Remember- just because something is free, doesn’t mean  that you have to go out of your way to obtain it.  There are a lot of freebies that I signed up for, but later wasn’t able to redeem them, so in the end, I could of spent that time with my family or friends, instead of chasing down a freebie.  Ya’ll know I love a good birthday freebie (see my posts herehere, and here).

Talk Back: What are your favorite freebies?

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Recipe: Colonial Chowder

stemarie_1650sfortentrance.JPGMy mom found this recipe in a local paper years ago in a column called “Making it Light”. The basic gist of the weekly article was to take crazy fat and calorie laden recipes healthy.

The problem becomes that that a lot of the changes that are made are so super drastic that the food no longer resembles the original recipe.  Since both recipes are published within the article, my mom was able to combine parts of each recipe to make something tasty and healthier than the original. I don’t have a link or a photo of the article or the original recipe, since it’s been over 20 years.

Without Further Adieu…. Colonial Chowder

Ingredients:

  • 2 T. Butter
  • 4 slices of bacon, finely diced (or you can use 1/2 cup of pre-cooked bacon crumbles)
  • 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite size pieces
  • 1 large yellow onions, diced
  • 4 ribs of celery, diced
  • 3 large carrots, diced
  • 3 potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1 tsp. of each of the following: basil, oregano, thyme, sage
  •  Bay leaves (I usually use 2-3)
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 1.5 cup frozen corn, or 1 can rinsed and drained salt free corn kernels
  • 1 can cream-style corn
  • 1 can evaporated milk
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
Directions:
  1. In a large stock pot, melt 1 T. butter, and cook bacon.
  2. Add chicken and cook chicken until no longer pink.
  3. Add onions, and cook until translucent (about 5 minutes)
  4. Add remaining carrots, celery, potatoes, and chicken broth. Cook over medium heat, until potatoes are soft.
  5. Add both types of corn, and milk. Cook over medium/low for about 20-30 minutes.
  6. Add Salt and pepper as needed. Serve with Cheddar biscuits.

This recipe serves 8-10, freezes well, and makes great leftovers!

This recipe is naturally gluten free. It cannot be made vegetarian/vegan.

Family Recipe: Aunt Linda’s Mess

file8721293943264.jpgAunt Linda’s Mess, this recipe has been in my family for at least 50 years. When I was a kid we ate it at least once a month. My mother was born on her Aunt Linda’s birthday.  Aunt Linda and her husband live in Minnesota, where the majority of my mother’s family still lives today.  This dinner is what is referred to in the midwest as a “hotdish” and is frequently prepared in an electric skillet. This recipe serves 6-8 with a side dish, like a green salad, or steamed veggies.

This cheesy delicious mess is a great meal for kids and grown ups alike.  I’ve modified it a bit from it’s original form (which calls for Velveeta and canned mushrooms).

I’m not sure if Aunt Linda invented this dish or if she inspired this dish- and no one knows why it’s called a mess.  It reminds me of a cheesy stroganoff. Regardless- No one can say no to this dish!

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1C chopped mushrooms (fresh are better, but you can used canned mushrooms if you prefer- just remember to drain them!)
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup (you can use low fat/low sodium if you prefer)
  • 1/2C+ shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 carton sour cream (or plain Fat free Greek yogurt)
  • 1 package cooked spaghetti (you can use any kind of pasta or macaroni- you want 6-8 cups of cooked pasta)

Directions:

  1. Brown and crumble beef.
  2. Add onion and mushrooms. Sauté until onions are transparent and mushrooms have softened (about 10 minutes).
  3. Add canned soup and cheese.
  4. Cook until the cheese is melted.
  5. Remove from heat and stir in the sour cream.
  6. Add the cooked, drained pasta and toss to coat the pasta.

You can omit mushrooms if you don’t care for them. Unfortunately, I’m not sure if there are any vegetarian or vegan work arounds for this recipe, since it’s mostly meat and dairy products!

I’ll be posting more family recipes over the next few weeks.

 

100 Business Cards from Vistaprint- Just $5!

Screen Shot 2018-01-17 at 12.34.57 PM.pngI’ve talked to quite a few people over the past week who have started a new business or endeavor this year.

Screen Shot 2018-01-17 at 12.46.10 PM.pngNew businesses mean time for new business cards! And if you aren’t in need of business cards, they have some really great mom/parent cards that list your contact info, kids names, and any allergies. Great for handing out when you meet moms and kids you “click” with at parks and playdates!

Vistaprint has a great sale right now- 100 Business Cards for $5.00 (plus shipping, which starts at $6.99). There are Pearl business cards and Square business cards available. And if you need anything else, you can click here and get 40-50% off your purchase on many other items!

I took advantage of this deal to re-order my cards. I’ve been giving a lot of them out lately!

Day After Christmas Traditions- Helping Others!

file0001189581306.jpgOne of the things that I like to do on Boxing Day (that’s the day after Christmas), is to clean out the fridge. It seems like a strange time to do it, but I like to end the year being able to start fresh. Here is a list of stuff I’ll be doing today:

  • Clean out the fridge and toss/recycle/compost (I have a friend who takes compostable stuff for her bin) the unwanted/expired stuff and containers.
  • Go through the oft neglected kitchen cupboards and pull out kitchen gadgets and stuff we don’t use. Figure out whether to integrate them into daily life or donate them. I’m in a Facebook group that brings neighbors together, so I’ll probably post the stuff there before I take it to AMVETS.
  • While doing laundry, I’ll pull out the kids clothes that is started to get outgrown. I’ll also pull out clothes from their drawers that don’t fit/they don’t wear and separate into two piles: pass along to friends and donate. I did my clothes a few weeks ago. I’m still waiting for husband to do his….
  • I’ll also go through the linen closet too. I donate old towels and sheets to the local animal shelter.
  • On the sly, I’ll go through the kiddos toys and pull out the ones that don’t get much play. We’ll donate those. The toys that are broken, missing pieces (oh hi, every puzzle in our house!), or are just junky will get tossed.
  • I usually start entering the tax info I have into Turbo Tax today, but I started last week, so I’m all caught up. I keep a manilla Folder in my desk with the tax year written on it, and I toss tax paperwork and receipts into it as we  get them, so at the end of the year, it’s not a huge rush to gather everything for tax time.

I’ll also be doing the meal plan for this week, as we were busy with family yesterday.

Looking for Frugal Fun for Christmas? Check out Neighborhood Light Displays!

file2901261162927.jpgIt’s back… We’ve already been through a few areas, and Henry is itching for a big cuppa Cocoa from Starbucks and a ride in Miss Sally (my car) to go check out all the lights in ONE NIGHT!

We love looking at holiday light displays, and I’ve noticed more neighbors than in past years are putting up lights all over east county! If you want to get out and check out the sites (and lights), here are our favorites:

EL CAJON, 92021

  • Jingle Bell Hill (also known as Pepper Dr. Lights). Solomon Ave./Pegeen Pl. and surrounding area. Off 67 & Bradley. Dec. 8-26, Mon-Th 6-9 pm, Fri-Sun 6-10 pm. There is usually a Nightmare before Christmas house, but we didn’t see it the other night. Henry was bummed.

LAKESIDE, 92040

  • 10248 Paseo Palmas Dr. Nicknamed “Tinsel Town”. Dec. 1-25, 5:30-9 pm. Most of the houses on this street are very well decorated with lights and moving displays!

SANTEE, 92071

  •  Starlight Circle, East and West Glendon Circles. Through December 26th, 7-10 pm. This is extremely popular! You can park and walk through. There are neighbors selling cocoa, coffee, popcorn, and cotton candy. If you walk, take money with you! Starlight Circle even has a facebook page!
  • 9773 Roe Dr. 27,000 Christmas lights dance to 10 songs over 128 computer channels. Food Bank and St. Jude donations accepted. Dec. 3-Jan. 2. Sun-Th, 6-10 pm and Fri & Sat, 6-11 pm.www.DBChristmas.com It is very impressive!
  • I haven’t been by to see if it’s up this year, but in years past…. If you love South Park, after you stop by Roe, cruise down Lake Canyon Drive (in the 9400 block, East of Carlton Hills Blvd) and check out the Woodland Critter Christmas Display.

 

We pack the kids into the car after dark with cocoa and snacks and head out for a drive. It’s a fun way to spend time together, and it’s pretty frugal!

What holiday traditions do you want to share with your kids?

 

Tie Dying: Family Fun!

I love to tie dye! It’s a great way to give clothes that may have been stained a new life. Since I get most of our clothes from clothing swaps, I often find really cute light colored kids clothes with minor stains.

Well, and when you’ve got kids, a lot of stuff ends up with stains, and not just their clothes, I have several shirts that I had to tie dye to cover little people stains from dirty hands and faces rubbing on my during hugs.

There are a lot of tie dye kits available at your local craft store, but what they don’t tell you is that the dye in those kits doesn’t last.  We used this kit last year and the remaining shirts we have have faded to very light pastels. So, if you want to do some awesome, vibrant tie dyes, I recommend using Procion Dyes like the ones Dharma Trading sells.

I also have cultivated an Amazon Store with all the stuff you will need , including a kit that contains Procion Dyes- All you need is a bag of Urea and the kit is ready to dye! Procion dyes are best for Cotton, ramie, hemp, rayon- Natural plant based fibers (not linen- that stuff is a bear to dye).  If you have blends with synthetic fibers (like polyester, acrylic, lycra), the color will not be as vibrant. Anything less than 50% natural fiber will end up being pastel.

Since Tie Dying can be a little intimidating, let’s break it down. In addition to your dyes and chemicals…

You will need:

  • A big open space (We use my parents backyard)
  • 2-3 6 foot tables covered in protective plastic (tarps or trash bags work well)
  • 1-2 Large Buckets (5 gallon buckets from Home Depot are great)
  • Access to warm water
  • Measuring cups and measuring spoons (I recommend plastic ones)
  • Plastic bags or plastic wrap (to cover up /wrap up garments after they have been dyed)

Here is my pinterest board with tons of great folding techniques and patterns. You are ready to fold and tie once you’ve selected your garments and laundered them without fabric softener. I love incorporating marbles, canning jar lids, clamps  to make tie dying more interesting.

Screen Shot 2017-11-26 at 8.19.02 PM.png
Folded, tied, and zip tied!

Once everything is folded/tied and secured (either with rubber bands, zip ties, or cotton string), it’s time to mix the washing soda and hot water. 1 cup of washing soda per gallon of water.  Mix together in the buckets, and soak the tied garments for 15 minutes-1 hour. The washing soda raises the pH of the garments allowing the dye to be more readily absorbed.

Washing Soda is NOT BAKING SODA.  Washing soda is caustic and will hurt you if you submerge your hands in it. Wear gloves when you handle it. Wring out the garments after soaking so they are damp, not dripping.  You can keep using the same water for your entire session.

While your garments are soaking, mix up your dye.  The most dye will come directions, but remember to mix your water with Urea. 1/4C of urea to 1 quart warm water. Urea helps the dye dissolve and remain mixed. It also helps the colors stay vibrant.

TIME TO DYE! Once your soaked garments are wrung out, it’s time to apply the dye. If you aren’t sure which colors will look good together, Get a color wheel. It will help you with color placement too. When you tie dye, colors will run together, so using complementary colors will help your garments look better when they are finished.

Remember to apply dye all sides, and if your garment is bunched up a lot, you may need to squirt dye between the folds to make sure the dye penetrates all of the layers.

Screen Shot 2017-11-26 at 8.13.21 PM
Bags and bags of baby onsies!

After the garment is dyed, place it in a plastic bag, or wrap it up in plastic wrap. You want to lay the item flat.  Let the garments sit for 24 hours (or over night), rinse the garments one at a time under cool water until most of the water coming from our garment is clear or a very pale. Then remove the binding (rubber bands, zip ties, string).

Wash completed garments with Synthrapol. It’s laundry soap that binds the color molecules to the fabric and sheds the dye that is not bonded. Once you wash the finished garments with Synthrapol, the clothing won’t shed dye or rub off on you, you can use your regular detergent from then on out. I also throw a couple Color Catchers in the wash too for good measure.

Once your garments are dry, the are ready to wear! I use the word “garments”, but you can also dye fabric, bed sheets, even pillow cases.

Here is some of the most recent stuff I dyed:


Tie dye shirts make great gifts! You can also tie dye socks- That’s what Bitty Bird is getting in her Advent Calendar this year!

I have utilized Amazon links within this post, prices can change at any time, and I may receive a commission when you click the links to Amazon and purchase items linked. Commissions help cover the costs associated with blogging.