Monday, December 28, 2009

Unusual Places to Shop

A friend recently told me I should share some of my *frugal* (okay, CHEAP) shopping tips.
I shop thrift shops, yard sales and a few other stranger places (more on those later).

Yard Sales:
Unless you are the hyper type that has to rush around to yard sales to find *all the good stuff before it is gone* do these things:
Go later in the day when people are liable to be ready to shut it will get deals because people don't want to haul that stuff back in!
Go on cloudy days when the skies are threatening rain.
Go on days when it is so hot and humid that people are dropping of heat stroke.
Go on a cold, chilly, windy day.
Inclement weather is AWESOME to go yard-sale-ing.
People do NOT want to endure nasty weather to get 7 bucks for that coffee table...offer them 4 bucks so they can get back inside under the ac or heater or out of the rain. They'll take it.
Take your time looking. Especially in bad weather. I frequently have sellers blurt out to me "Look, what do you want, I'll make you a deal!"

ONLY carry one dollar bills and change. Yes, it will be a pain in the butt to count out 20 bucks in ones for that tv, but if you pull out a wad of 20s and 100s, you'll be charged higher prices!

Think ahead. If you see things new in package or close to new or maybe an antique or used item that would be appreciated by someone in your family or circle of friends, think ahead to birthdays, Christmas, Mothers Day, Fathers Day, etc. If you have an infant and you spot a toddler bed in great shape at a cheap price, GET IT! Store it until you need it...that baby will be needing it sooner than you think and you won't find a bed at that price again!

That's my yard sale advice.

On to *stranger* places to shop:

Dry Cleaners. Yup, go shopping at your local dry cleaners, especially if they are a *mom and pop* type business. Though state laws differ, most dry cleaners sell off clothes left behind by customers after 30, 60 or 90 days. Frequently they sell them just for what is owed--the cost of cleaning them! Men's suits, coats, jackets, prom dresses, wedding dresses, sweaters, women's suits! I have seen them all (and bought quite a few). Where else can you get a freshly cleaned 300 dollar leather jacket for 15 bucks? A friend of mine bought her wedding dress this way. Sixty dollars. She looked the dress up online--$4000.00! A designer wedding dress for 60 bucks! She paid another $100.00 for alterations and had a gorgeous wedding dress that fit her well!

Now...onto another strange place...check with companies in your area that rent out linens for events. Tablecloths in particular. Call a wedding planner and ask what company they use. You want the BIG tablecloths. They discard them after they get a stain or the edges fray or they get a hole in them. Frequently, they are 100% cotton, but since they have been washed so many times, the fabric will be pre-shrunk when you use it. Some use cotton-poly blends. Most take dye really well. They are perfect for curtains, quilting, I have even made skirts and dresses out of some. You can dye the fabric using various techniques...solid color, tie-dyed, batik, etc.

Look, ways to shop frugally and save money are out there!
Sometimes you just have to look in *out of the box* places to find the best ways for you!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Big Holiday Meal Ahead!

Okay...I know everyone is prepared for the huge holiday meal (be it Yule, Christmas, not have time to name them all!).
Are you using any food storage items in your holiday meal?
If not...What is wrong with you?

Huge feasts were, in bygone times, not just a way to celebrate a festive occasion, but a way to show friends and family that you had provided well for your family, your harvest had been abundant and your livestock had produced. It was a gathering of the fruits of your labors for the benefit of your household and the meal was a gentle *boast* as well as a meal.

I have flour that will be turned into bread, cookies and cakes. My honeyed ginger slices that I will finely julienne and add to my home made cranberry sauce...quick recipe--2 cups fresh cranberries, 1/4 cup honey, 2 teaspoons julienned ginger, 1 teaspoon orange zest, 1/2 cup orange juice and a teaspoon of lemon juice. Sometimes I add a drop of vanilla to the mix. I bring it to a boil, then put it on simmer and cover. Cook it down until nice and thick. Great served with turkey or ham...or over ice cream or a smidge on vanilla pudding.

I have some white beans...I am thinking of cooking up some of them as a side dish.
I am making cornbread today...going to let it dry up a bit to turn it into cornbread stuffing.
I have some dried elderberry that I may turn into elderberry jelly today to serve on the bread I plan to make.

Food storage does NOT have to be boring or bland when included in your meals.
It can be quite festive! Use imagination, find great recipes and experiment!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

More *Everything for a Buck* gift ideas

Okay, I had occasion to wander into our local "Everything $1" store here recently.
Now, as I posted about a month ago, you can pare down your Holiday gift giving expenses by shopping at one of these places and still get gifts that will be appreciated and used.
Make your budget and STICK TO IT!

For the kids (age 10 and under): There are usually oodles of toys, coloring books, childrens books, childrens Bibles (at my local one!), socks, rubber duckys, infant clothes (for babies or dress up a hand made baby doll!)

For adolescents and teens: Journals, diaries, cosmetics, pocket knives (at my local store), rain ponchos (good to go in a B.O.B or E.D.C.), notebooks, pens (does anyone ever have enough pens?), bubble bath, bath fizzies, fancy soap, books (saw several good novels suitable for teens at mine), Bibles, covers for cell phones, fake tattoos, jewelry...and on and on...

Women: The aforementioned rain poncho, bath goodies, perfumes, jewelry, books, Bibles, pretty scented candles, office and stationery supplies, cosmetics, hair accessories...and on and on....

Men: Pocket knives, tools, car accessories such as cup holders--etc, computer mouse pads, Biibles, books, mens cologne, covers for cell phones, etc and son...

Use your imagination! If you only have $5.00 budgeted for Aunt Martha, go in there and get her 5 presents!
Maybe Aunt Martha likes her bath-time...
A pretty basket, some Yardley English Lavender soap, a lavender scented candle and some lavender bubble bath and lavender bath fizzies.. Crumple some tissue paper into the basket, put the soap, candle and bubble bath and fizzies in, tie a ribbon around the basket, DONE!
Aunt Martha like to write? Stack a journal, a thesaurus/dictionary, a package of nice pens, a pack of pencils and a pencil sharpener together and tie ribbon over it to tie it together.

Now Uncle have $5.00 budgeted for him, too.
Uncle Bob like to fish?
Looking at my local $1.00 store, I actually found some fishing stuff!
So, get Uncle Bob a little tupperwear-type container (I saw a nice square one that had a handle, I think it was actually for school supplies), a couple of lures, a package of hooks, a pocket knife and (if your store has it) some pine scented soap to get *fishy* smell off his hands.

Budgetts may be limited, but your imagination is endless!

I haunt yard sales all summer long and buy stuff for presents there. Many people have no clue that I NEVER spend more than $1.00 on each present I give.
Yeah...I AM that cheap!
This year, I outdid myself.
I got presents for an entire family...6 kids and 2 parents that are friends of mine.
TOTAL cost (I am almost embarrassed to admit this): $2.50.
That's right. I spent no more than 25 cents on each person.
NOT impossible.
I went to a yard sale my neighborhood association had...they had OODLES of stuff and it was close to the end of the day.
They were almost giving it away!
For Mom and Dad, I got each a book.
For the two youngest boys I found toys (still in original packaging! Seriously!), For one child, a snowglobe that plays music, for the 3 girls, jewelry and a purse and a book.
They aren't big presents, but they are all nice and I know the people I am giving them to will use them and like them.

After the holidays I will be grabbing up wrapping paper and tissue paper and gift bags for next year!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Cold Weather = SOUP!

We finally got some sorta brisk temperatures here in South East Texas, so I made soup.
I love soup.
Soup is also cheap and filling and nutritious, as long as you make it yourself and don't buy that heat and serve garbage they sell in cans!

I am about to disclose oone of my most cherished secret recipes.
I have never shared it before and seeing as there are no future daughter-in-laws on the horizon (Hello, boys? This is Mom...GET MARRIED AND PRODUCE SOME GRANDCHILDREN!!!),
so I decided to go ahead and post it here.
I fed 10 people with the batch of soup I made the other night. The soup cost me under 10 bucks for the whole batch!

Lets get started...
5 pounds of potatoes, sliced 1/4 inch thick (leave skins on! wash well!)
1 LARGE yellow onion, sliced thin
1 stick of butter
chicken stock (or use bouillon cubes dissolved in water) About 4 to 6 cups
milk (2 cups)
heavy cream (about 1 cup)
flour and more butter (to make roux, you'll need about 1/2 cup roux total)
garlic (3 cloves, minced fine)
salt pepper
Italian seasoning (2 tablespoons)
crumbled bacon
grated sharp cheddar cheese

Cook potatoes in chicken stock, caramelize onions in melted stick of butter, add onions and melted butter to potatoes and chicken stock. Simmer until potatoes are tender. Add minced garlic, salt & pepper to taste, and Italian seasoning, cover. Make roux from 1/2 stick butter and 1/2 cup flour, whisk in milk until you have a thick sauce, about 1 1/2-2 cups milk...add to potatoes and stock, uncover and stir . Let soup thicken. 10 minutes before serving, add 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup heavy cream. Stir in gently. Let come back to simmer.
You can also make this in a crock pot. Just caramelize the onions before you add them to the crock pot.
To serve:
Ladle soup in bowl, add croutons, crumbled bacon and grated cheese on top.

Now, my other favorite soup is Beef and Barley. I usually serve that with a nice slice of French bread that I have put a slice of cheddar cheese on and stuck under the broiler until all melty....*drooool*
Beef and barley soup is also inexpensive to make...and will fill you up and make you feel all warm and cozy inside!