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Learnvest: Free 10-Day Budgeting Email Course

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Learnvest is offering a Free 10-day email course to help you get your finances in order.

This a 10-day free email course, one email per day, with tips and advice, free finance calculators and inspiration to work on budgeting.

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Using Your Freezer to Stockpile Staples

Cooking: Food - Freezer Tips, "Freezer Fundamentals," p. 211

I was making some room in my freezer for a large tub of ice cream some friends brought over and I started thinking, am I using my freezer enough? I mean am I using my freezer to stockpile staples when they are on sale? The answer is no, and it is mostly because I do now know what freezes well and what does not.
I decided to do a little research. Here are some things I discovered.

Eggs: I am not sure why you would want to unless you got a really good deal but you can freeze eggs, as long as they are out of the shell and beaten. Freeze yolks and whites separately in resealable plastic bags. (If you’re freezing only yolks, beat each with about a teaspoon of sugar first to keep them fresh.) Thaw under hot running water or in the refrigerator overnight.

Pancakes and Waffles: We actually freeze these often in freezer bags. If you really don’t want them to stick together you can separate with wax paper and then freeze.

Cakes:You can freeze cake! To freeze a frosted cake (a whole cake or a piece), place it in the freezer uncovered until the frosting is firm (about two hours, depending on the frosting), then wrap in plastic, then foil.
To thaw, unwrap the foil and the plastic, then reshape the foil so it creates a tent over the cake. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight. Let the cake come to room temperature before serving.

Nuts: Can and should be frozen because they contain oils that can turn rancid if you keep them in a pantry. Who knew.

Cheeses: Shredded cheese freezes just fine, for me block cheese seems to get a little crumbly after it is frozen. For firm cheese such as Parmesan, Romano, and aged provolone, grate and store in resealable plastic bag.

Fruit: Freeze cubed melon, peaches, mangoes, watermelon, and bananas(I usually freeze these whole and they seem to work just fine) that are becoming “overripe”, and use them to make smoothies or muffins.

Meats: I usually freeze these in their original packaging. Anyone have any specific advise on this?

Milk- You apparently can freeze milk. Most people say to pour a little out of the gallon container to allow for expansion. Also, you may have to shake vigorously or mix with a mixer once it thaws. Most of what I found said it should be thawed in the refrigerator, and will take a day or more for a gallon to thaw thoroughly.

Bread- I have never tried to freeze bread but a friend told me to just put it in the freezer in it’s original bag. Has any one else tried this? We are always running out of bread around here but if I buy too much it goes bad before we get to it.

According to the FDA here are some guidelines on how long things can remain in your freezer.
Bacon and Sausage-1 to 2 months
Casseroles- 2 to 3months
Egg whites or egg substitutes-12 months
Frozen Dinners and Entrees-3 to 4 months
Gravy, meat or poultry-2 to 3 months
Ham, Hotdogs and Lunchmeats-1 to 2 months
Meat, uncooked roasts-4 to 12 months
Meat, uncooked steaks or chops-4 to 12 months
Meat, uncooked ground-3 to 4months
Meat, cooked-2 to 3 months
Poultry, uncooked whole-12 months
Poultry, uncooked parts-9 months
Poultry, uncooked giblets-3 to 4 months
Poultry, cooked-4 months
Soups and Stews-2 to 3 months
Wild game, uncooked-8 to 12 months

That is what I have learned so far. What about you? Do you use your freezer to stockpile? If so, what do you freeze and how do you freeze it?

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Budgeting Your Spending in 2010

envelope

I have received numerous questions about how I set my budget, stick to a budget, and just how to budget… so, here are the basics of how I budget. It is not too complicated which may make some of you excited and may be disappointing to others.

Grocery Budget

How did I set a budget? THE HUSBAND and I came up with a goal then we tried to meet it for a few months. Our number was a little ambitious, we made some adjustments and after a few months we settled in on $400/month. That is just what works for our family right now.

How do I stay on budget? This is a pretty low tech system. I have five envelopes. The beginning of each month I put $100 in 4 of the envelopes and I know I have $100 to spend that week. This includes food, toiletries, diapers, cleaning supplies, dog food, over the counter meds, etc. (Usually when the money is gone I am done spending that week. Occasionally something will come up and I need to borrow from another envelope.)
The fifth envelope is for left over money. Once in a while I will have some money left over that goes to the fifth envelope and is used to cover gaps in longer months, stockpile or whatever else I need.

Overall Household Budget

THE HUSBAND bears most of the burden for tracking the overall budget of our house.  He loves his super detailed excel spreadsheet and working through all of the numbers. I am so thankful for that- I dread tasks like that.  If you already have a budget and are looking for ways to track it you could design your own spreadsheet or use something like this  Excel Savings Tracker which you can download and use for free thanks to The Coupon Project or the free budget software here .

If you do not have a budget read on-

Setting a budget- I’ll keep it simple

Tell all of your money where to go at the beginning of each month.

1. Write down how much money you have to spend- exactly how much income you will have that month.
2.Make a list of all your expenses. Your giving, bills, debts etc.
3. Pay each one of them on paper.
4. Look at the money you have left and assign that money a category. For us this includes entertainment/eating out money, money for gifts or other things we will need that month and we have an extra envelope with a little money in it in case we blow our budget or just need to splurge- a little.

That is a quick overview of how we budget. The basic idea is you spend only the money you have and you decide each month how to spend it.
If you are really wanting to get on a budget, get out of debt (which is why we started budgeting a few years ago) or just get spending under control I highly recommend checking out Dave Ramsey. Believe me, when THE HUSBAND introduced this years ago I was less than enthusiastic. However, after a while on the system I can say it has been a major blessing in our life. The planning and saving has helped through some very lean times and just being on the same page with finances makes things a lot easier.

What about you- Do you budget? Are you planning to start a budget this year? Do you have any budgeting secrets we need to know? What are your financial goals?

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Latest CELLFIRE Coupons 11-3-09 (@cellfire coupons)

cellfire 110309 ad

cellfire 110309 adBe sure to follow Cellfire on Twitter if you are not already… @Cellfire

Cellfire also has Fan Page on Facebook.

Here are the coupons they have released:

*Remember: By loading your Savings Card by following the inks below, you are supporting CouponKatie.com, and I thank you for your support.

Available at Kroger stores, Safeway and ShopRite stores (available on ShopRite on 11/08)

Pillsbury® Crescents Save $1

Save $1.00 when you buy any TWO Pillsbury® Crescent Dinner Rolls.

BC Potatoes Save $.40

Save $0.40 when you buy any flavor Box or Pouch Betty Crocker® Potatoes (Except Potato Buds®).

BC Frosting Save $.50

Save $0.50 when you buy ONE TUB any flavor/variety Betty Crocker® Frosting.

Bisquick® Save $.60

Save $0.60 when you buy 40 OZ. OR LARGER Original Bisquick® OR Bisquick Heart Smart® Baking Mix.

Chex Mix® Save $.50

Save $0.50 when you buy any flavor 4.5 OZ. OR LARGER Chex Mix® OR Chex® 100 Calorie Snack.

Green Giant® Vege’s Save $.50

Save $0.50 when you buy TWO any variety Green Giant® Frozen Boxed Vegetables.

Hamburger Helper® Save $.75

Save $0.75 when you buy THREE any flavor Hamburger Helper®, Tuna Helper® OR Chicken Helper® Home Cooked Skillet Meals.

Kix® cereal Save $.55

Save $0.55 when you buy any Kix® cereal – Kix®, Berry Berry Kix® OR Honey Kix®.

PB Italian Meal Bred Save $.40

Save $0.40 when you buy any TWO Pillsbury® Italian Meal Breads (Includes any Loaves, Breadsticks, Dinner Rolls, and Pizza Crust).

PB Rolled Pie Crusts Save $.50

Save $0.50 when you buy TWO packages of Pillsbury® Rolled Refrigerated Pie Crusts.

PB Refrig’d Grands! Save $.30

Save $0.30 when you buy TWO any size/variety Refrigerated Pillsbury® Grands!® Biscuits.

PB Sweet Rolls Save $.40

Save $0.40 when you buy any TWO Pillsbury® Sweet Rolls OR Grands!® Sweet Rolls.

PB Holiday Cookies Save $.75

Save $0.75 when you buy any TWO Pillsbury® Refrigerated Holiday Cookies.

Progresso® Broth Save $.50

Save $0.50 when you buy ONE any variety Progresso® Broth.

Progresso® Soups Save $.50

Save $0.50 when you buy TWO any flavor Progresso® Soups.

Romano’s Mac Grill kit Save $1

Save $1.00 when you buy any flavor Romano’s Macaroni Grill® Restaurant Favorites® Dinner Kit.

Yoplait® Delights(tm) Save $1

Save $1.00 when you buy any flavor Yoplait® Delights Yogurt Multipack.

Cottonelle® Save $.25

Save $.25 on any ONE (1) 4-pack or Larger COTTONELLE® Toilet Paper.

Huggies® Diapers Save $1

Save $1.00 on any package of Huggies® Diapers

Available at Kroger stores and Safeway but NOT at ShopRite

LEAN POCKETS Save $.55

Save $.55 when purchasing 1 box of LEAN POCKETS® brand BREAKFAST sandwiches.

BC Cookie Mix Save $.40

Save $0.40 when you buy any flavor 17.5 OZ. OR LARGER Betty Crocker® Cookie Mix.

BC Warm Delights Save $.50

Save $0.50 when you buy ONE any flavor Betty Crocker® Warm Delights® Bowls OR Betty Crocker® Warm Delights® Minis Bowls.

Chex® cereals Save $1

Save $1.00 when you buy any TWO Chex® cereals.

Fiber One Muffin Mix Save $.50

Save $0.50 when you buy any flavor/variety Fiber One(tm) Box Muffin Mix.

NV Granola Nut Clustrs Save $1

Save $1.00 when you buy ONE BAG any flavor Nature Valley® Granola Nut Clusters.

PB Cookie Dough Save $1

Save $1.00 when you buy TWO PACKAGES any variety Pillsbury® Refrigerated Cookie Dough.

PB Frozen Grands! Save $.75

Save $0.75 when you buy any TWO Frozen Pillsbury® Grands!® Biscuits, Cinnamon Rolls, OR Mini Cinnamon Rolls.

Yoplait® cups Save $.50

Save $0.50 when you buy SIX any variety Yoplait® Yogurt cups OR any flavor Yoplait® Original OR Light Smoothies.

Available Only at ShopRite (and NOT at Kroger or Safeway)

Lipton® Tea Bags Save $0.35

Save $0.35 off your purchase of any ONE (1) Lipton® Tea Bags (any size)

Ragu® Pasta Sauce Save $0.50

Save $0.50 off your purchase of any ONE (1) Ragu® Pasta sauce (26 oz.)

Scotch Fur Fighter Save $4

Save $4 on a Scotch(tm) Fur Fighter(tm) Hair Remover Starter Kit.

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The Twelve Days of a Budget Christmas-Day 3 Frugal Gift Baskets

christmas post day 03

christmas post day 03

Day 3 ideas come from Honey. She is a great frugal friend and when she left a comment that she was putting the free meat thermometer in a gift basket I told her that was a great idea. She offered to write a guest post on how to assemble other frugal gift baskets and I could not say yes fast enough. So enjoy Honey’s great ideas.

Here are some gift ideas. By being creative and practical you can give gifts that will be well received without spending too much. Think about your Christmas list, upcoming weddings, and birthdays. By “shopping” all year you can get many bargains on high quality items that will easily fit into these categories.

“Sewing Kit” (Martha Stewart’s idea)
Items needed:
Ball Jar (or other durable, inexpensive container)
Thread (black, white, red, blue, tan)
Needles
Various sewing notions (seam ripper, thimble, small scissors)
Buttons (variety of colors)

“Instant Date Night
Items needed:
Bowl or Bucket
2 Glasses (Check Dollar Tree for first two items)
Microwave Popcorn
Blockbuster Gift Card ($5 gets you a movie)

“Pasta Bowl”
Items needed:
Pasta Bowl (check the person’s registry or places like Home Goods)
Cloth Napkin(s) to line the bowl
Bag of Pasta (gourmet varieties)
Pasta Sauce
Tongs or Pasta Spoon
Cheese grater
Strainer
Seasonings, the list goes on and on…

“Pantry basket”
Items needed:
Bowl, Bucket, Basket or Tray
Various Gadgets (look at Bed, Bath & Beyond-use their coupons, Big Lots, Dollar Tree)
Spices
Mixes
Cook Books/Booklets (look at Big Lots, Discount book stores, grocery stores or sign up for online freebies. I found two free baking booklets at Kroger yesterday-this is the time of year to find those.)

“Gym Bag”
Items needed
Tote Bag
Towel
Sports Drinks/supplements
(You could also include sport-specific gear like swimming caps, goggles, running socks, golf balls/tees, etc.)

“The Spa Treatment”
Items needed:
Basket
Luxury bath items (like bath oil, soaps, essential oils, bubble bath)
Quality bath towel (look for sales, coupons)
Candles
Lighting tool/matches
Magazine or Paperback
Relaxing Music CD (check for these at Dollar Tree)

“College Survival Kit”
Items needed:
Basket
Change for Laundry
Laundry detergent
Washcloths, Towels
Snacks & Sodas
Non-Perishable Food (trust me they will eat anything!)
McDonald’s gift card
Notebooks, Pencils and other school supplies
Personal Care items (soap, toothpaste/brushes, feminine, deodorant, razors, etc)
Hot Pot (dish liquid and scrubber -to clean the crock pot)
“Write now”
Items needed:
Basket
Stationary
Quality Pen
Postage Stamps
Stickers
Poetry book or book of quotes
Diary (check at Borders using sale/coupon or Dollar Tree, Target, Big Lots-I got some last year which were leather bound and had gilded pages for $5!)
Small dictionary or thesaurus
Art supplies or gift card for them (AC Moore, etc)

Hostess Gift Ideas
With the holidays around the corner, many will be invited to parties. Here are some ideas for small tokens of appreciation:
Baked Goods (from your own kitchen or store bought from Fresh Market)
Jars of jam , honey, or nuts (Dollar Tree, Big Lots has some nice gourmet ones)
Fragrant Candles (dig out the freebies from Walgreens and CVS)
Christmas Ornament
Decorative Napkins
Offer to help clean up or serve food (hey-that’s free!)
Chocolates and other treats
Small Notepad/Pen
Handwritten note thanking them for their hospitality
Plants (if the person likes them-I enjoyed the small Rosemary shrubs Lowe’s carries)
Small serving bowl
Most of these ideas are things the person can use to entertain (since that’s what they like to do). But I have heard (etiquette-wise) that it is not expected that the person would use your item at that event. So don’t be offended if they concentrate on their guests and leave the gift in the bag to open and enjoy later.

Have you ever received or given one of these creative gifts? Do you have any more ideas on frugal creative gifts? Leave a comment and inspire us all.

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The Twelve Days of a Budget Christmas-Day 2

christmas post day 02

christmas post day 02

The Budget Christmas tip for Day 2 comes from my mother.

Every Christmas she would get out a pile of envelopes, write names on them and then put a certain amount of cash in each envelope. (She even had one for wrapping paper, ribbons, etc.)

That is what she took Christmas shopping with her. When the money in your envelope was gone she was done shopping for you.  It kept her right on budget.

I do a lot of shopping online for Christmas but when I do hit the stores I use this system. Rarely in budgeting for Christmas do I add in tax but that can really add a lot of money to your overall budget. The cash envelope system takes care of that and,  no matter how much I know my sister would love that cute scarf if  her envelope is empty I am done shopping for her.

It makes spending more concrete and I am not as tempted to cheat. If I want to buy something more for a particular person I have to take money out of someone else’s envelope and that just does not feel right.

So, if you have a hard time sticking to your Christmas budget I highly recommend the cash envelope system. Plus, as you purchase gifts you stick receipts in each person’s envelope keeping them organized and easy to find if anything has to be returned!

How do you keep track of Christmas spending?

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The Twelve Days of a Budget Christmas- Day 1

christmas post day 01

christmas post day 01

As I was thinking about this series I thought- is it too early for posts about Christmas?

I decided it is not. If you are like my mother you have been Christmas shopping since December 26th of last year so this series is actually really late. If you are more like me you are just realizing that we are half way through October and you are just starting to think about your Christmas list.

As a side note, I know everyone has different ideas/traditions around holiday gift giving. This is something THE HUSBAND and I had to work through early in our marriage. (I love to give gifts, he is more on the anti-commercialization of Christmas side.  We have come to appreciate each others ideas and we now have a good compromise.) I am not trying to talk anyone into change I just wanted to offer some tips to help you spend whatever amount of money you chose to spend on gifts the best way you can!

DAY 1- Budget

It is true, the first key to an affordable Christmas is to set a budget. Do not think of all the people you would like to get gifts for or what all those gifts would be.Think of your budget.

What have you saved for Christmas gift giving? What can you comfortably afford for Christmas gift giving? Decide on a budget first.

You may now start making a list of all the people you want to buy for. You can even write gift ideas beside their names. (This is one of my favorite parts. I love to brainstorm gift ideas for my loved ones.)

Assign a dollar amount per gift for each person on your list. Add those number up- if they are more than your budget you will have to cut numbers or people.

I know this sounds a bit scroogeish but setting a budget early on and committing to it will help you joyfully and freely spend whatever money you have allotted for each gift.  You will not have to stress in the store about your budget and how you are doing, you will know. Christmas shopping will be more enjoyable.

So set your budgets and get ready for Day 2. There are a lot of frugal ideas and practical tips coming your way, including a guest post for one of my favorite guest posters, Honey.

What about you? What is your best frugal tip for the Holidays? I am always looking for good ideas so please share!

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