Monday, February 25, 2013

Essential Oil Uses

Some of the obvious things I have used them for recently is in soap and other body products.  I use some for when we are sick as an inhalation therapy in a bowl of hot water with a towel over our head or a couple drops on the shower floor before a hot shower.  Same goes with the bath for sickness or just relaxation reasons.  I just read somewhere that you should always follow the dosing recommendations though, even in a bath full of alot of water, because they do not dilute and stronger doses may not be safe, depending on the oil.  There is a wealth of information at that defines each oil by common name and gives information you should not be without, but my favorite resource is because they give the properties and, if you are looking for scent information and are lost as to what to mix with what, they have a top, middle, and base note info for each scent.  No reason to waste your precious oils competing with each other or getting lost under a super strong one.  They also list common illnesses and the appropriate oils to use for aromatherapy or other ways.  Please read as much as you can before using them for safety reasons.

That being said, when you go to purchase them, you will have many options including organic.  It is a good option because you do not want pesticides getting a free ride into your system.  Quality varies with the company and some do dilute their product.  Again, read up!  This has been a really fun part of making my own products.  I am saving up for a particularly expensive one that knocked my socks off at the local organic market last week for use as a perfume.  Make sure you smell them at places like this before you buy for soap or body products unless you need it for therapy reasons and have to get what you have to get... just sayin.  Its also a great place to find out what all those mysterious ones really are like. 

You will also find that there are mixtures of oils already put out there for relaxation/nervous tension, alertness/focus, or other mood changers.  Just do a quick read at one of the sites above to know properties they have, you may find they may not be the great mix you thought or they are even better than purchasing them separately.  Have fun!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Links that work- Goldmine

Going through my favorites gave me the idea that I should share some of the gold mine sites that I've stumbled across in my travels.  Maybe save you a trip or two down the internet maze.... I have used this to find instructions for a yard sale food processor, side of the road elliptical, and my very old convection oven hand-me-down.  Also used it to download (print to pdf) a digital copy of manuals I already have to my computer. How-to's for all kinds of things from crafts, to diy, to survival stuff! Nice all-in-one 'do it cheap' site. All things homesteading for all levels.  The videos in the store are worth the money. The information in the forums are priceless. More frugal 'running the house' information. How to do anything green or greener.  My favorites include links on this site for 5 minutes a day for homemade bread, homemade ketchup, etc.

***Ps, this is ditto for any magazine you enjoy- look online for almost all archived articles and save money! Cheap/good herbs and herbal primer/recipes. Plug in what's in your fridge/pantry, get recipes... when you're really stuck for ideas.... Sustainable gardening ideas for your backyard Basically like MotherEarthNews for gardening/farming When you need ideas, instructions, or a 'wow' moment- WARNING- major addiction element!  This site was in 'invitiation only' mode when I joined.  If this is still the case, email me and I'll invite you...

Friday, February 15, 2013

Things that DON'T work/comparatives

Thought I'd take a detour and give you a short list of things I've tried, in an attempt to save money, that were NOT worth the effort. 

Garbage bags... Store brand sometimes are ok, however the 'super generic' roll-type bags or value boxed bags are not worth the money. They tear and do not hold much and you will be determined to finish the bag/box before replacing them, guaranteeing about a months worth of frustration.

Toilet paper.... if you have a large family like mine, the 1000 sheet rolls are a must.  Name brands do not matter here as the store brand usually has a 1000 sheet roll or set of rolls.  They last 2-3 times longer than the other rolls.  No, they are not as stiff as 'parochial school brown sandpaper' toilet tissue either.  Don't even think about trying the $1.00 four packs.  They evaporate when no one's looking.

Buy one, get 2 free deals if they tripled the price just in time for the sale.  Nuff said.

Cheap digital cameras.... if you have a  semi-serious photographer in the family, the quality will really suffer.  Better to get a midline model on sale pre holiday or post holiday.  We found a nice waterproof digital camcorder for half the price of our old vhs camcorder this way. 

Super Saver shipping on Amazon... really check on each item if you are actually saving shipping.  Most raise the base price to cover this.  This works best on multiple heavy or larger items.

Alternative/cheaper charger cords for Nooks, etc.  Though these technically work, they usually charge much slower and do not fully fit the ports.   What DOES work is getting the warranty to cover the Nook, etc and getting cords that actually fit replaced for free if/when they do break.  We've replaced 3 cords this way on the same warranty.

Cheap vacuums.... I got a Kirby once many years ago, and my husband still teases me about it.  It didn't last a lifetime like I expected- only about 10 years, but I replaced the cheaper ones almost every year prior to this.  Since moving away from the local dealer/repair shop, I've had to revert to a canister one and I've already clogged it because of our heavy use.  Again, warranty to the rescue. Rule of thumb: Over $50, warranty it!

Cheap sheets... like bargain basement cheap... they are scratchy.  If you are not picky, they do work, but they do not last and it will take years to become soft and only once they are threadbare.  Flea markets sometimes have the nicer ones in a higher thread count that are cheaper than main stores, but be aware they may be seconds and not fit correctly. 

Cheap sneakers... I vacillate on this one because I have 4 kids who grow out of shoes faster than they change grades.  We did the walmart thing every year, but they wouldn't last 3 months before they would come apart BEFORE they grew out of them.  Very frustrating.  On the other hand, mine last forever... must be a kid thing.  But for them and me, the nicer brands are better on your feet and last much longer.  We have outlets nearby that we can get the second pair half off, so we shop the clearance racks and get 2 nice pairs for not a lot more than we would for two at wallyworld.

Cheap tax preparers... got an instant $50 for walking in to a particular office last year.  End result?  Our taxes were messed up for months and we owed a surprise $700 in August. Best bet, get word of mouth referrals, and if you cannot afford a tax person at all, look into the program Tax Slayer or similar programs.  We did this one year when our taxes were simpler and it was easy, fast, and cheap.  Otherwise, some communities offer free volunteer tax preparers to middle and low income families. 

I'm sure some have missed my list, so I will do another one in the future.  Hope you enjoyed and feel free to post your bad experiences- we can all learn and save our money!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Free Ebooks

Just a quick note today.  Was given a head's up from my favorite homesteader site about free ebooks for our kinda style :)

Here's the link and have fun!

These change daily or occassionally, so keep checking back for new ones!  You do NOT need a Kindle to take advantage of these, you can download the app for your computer or android...

Hugs all!

Saturday, February 2, 2013


While making brown sugar blueberry muffins this morning, it occurred to me I have not yet touted the great aspects of some things that are necessities in my kitchen and how I use some of them as time savers.  (Real bakers, beware, you may gasp at my process)

One tool I have never regretting paying a lot of money for and it has paid for itself 10 times over.  It is my favorite workhorse, the Vitamix.  At the time, I had a cheap food processor, a hand mixer, dough maker, and a blender when I stumbled across the infomercial...yeah, I'm a bit of a sucker sometimes.  After some research and reading the reviews, I decided to Ebay all my other pieces and an upright toaster to have some to put toward this.  Well, that was 13 years ago!  Granted, the wet canister has since kicked the bucket in the last 3 years and I have not replaced it, because I have used the dry one for everything since.  It no longer purrs, it growls, but believe me when I say that it does everything.... it makes smoothies, chops veggies, crushes ice, makes ice cream, mayonnaise, grinds spices/coffee, and makes bread dough among a million other things.  Here's the real baker's shocker... when I bake anything, I put all the wet ingredients, sugar included, in the vitamix at once, blend, and add this to all the dry ingredients in a bowl.  Do I make souffle's often? No.  Ever? No again.  But, for everything else that is not finicky, it works.  Ie, muffins, cakes, breads, doughnuts, you get the picture.   It also makes fantastic gravy with no lumps. If anything in my kitchen has helped goad my trip down natural lane, this is it.  It has made making food from scratch much more attainable.

The second was a more recent gift from my mom, a Kitchenaid Mixer.  This was on my dream board for a couple years and something I was working toward. Not sure why because I was making all my doughs by hand.  Actually, maybe that was why.  Anywho, when I received it, I was well aware of its worth and broke it out immediately.  I use it exclusively now for bread making.  Can't tell you how great it is to proof yeast in the bowl, add the flour, and let it knead for 10 minutes while I do other things.  I also use this occasionally when we make meringue because the vitamix is a bit harder to see when they are done before they are overdone. 

Third, my little dynamo, is a Pampered Chef small spatula.  It is the only tool we use to get out brownies, strata, cookies, pizza, and scrape burnt stuff off cookies sheets.   This is another one that has been in my drawer for years.  Add to this another of their items, the dual liquid/dry measuring cup, and my needs are met ;)  I melted my first one and my second has threatened to be melted after putting it on a stove top too soon.  Yes, another one of my fire hazard stories.  I may have to use it on my brown sugar blueberry muffins as I just realized they have been in there 20 minutes too long....OK, not so bad... and glaze covers a multitude of computer evils!

A recent acquisition from cleaning my mom's kitchen, is a small rice cooker.  I've had the microwave types before and used them, but the way they looked after a while made me wonder exactly what was getting into my rice.  That and I am not too sure of the safety of microwaved foods either. This little wonder is a cinch to use and I don't burn the rice- yes, that has happened too.  Add the rice, cover with water or broth, put the cover on and press the button.  It turns itself off at just the right time and keeps it warm after. LOVE it!

Lastly, but not a complete list, is my canner.  I use this thing all year, because I can all year.  Almost wish I had two because when I get going, I really make it worth it.  Sure, you hear the horror stories about pressure canning, but it is a breeze if you do a quick check before starting to ensure the parts are working and again, worth the money. 

Most of these items I put on the Amazon links below.  Some are not exactly what I have since my things are somewhat ancient, but I found similar ones...

Friday, February 1, 2013

Free and Almost Free....Groceries

The first way to achieve this is obvious: coupons and rebates.  I like to think my late father-in-law may have been the inspiration for Extreme Couponing 20 years ago.  They would drive to the next state to get the Sunday paper because they had different coupons than we had here.  Then they spent some of time cutting, sorting, and adding them to their impressive pile.  They combed the sale flyers of the 3 local markets to see what could be matched and who offered triple or double coupons, then made their list.  On one trip, they filled up a cart to overflowing with items that were on sale and buy one/get two deals.  After they handed over the coupons, instant rebates, and triple coupon vouchers, I heard the clerk say the grand total....about $3.00.  If I wasn't mystified enough, she meant the store owed him approximately $3.00!  They also had mail in rebates that they received checks for down the road from this same trip.  Did they buy only things they needed at that time? No. Did I reap the benefits of them storing extra items? Yes! But, as hard as I tried, I couldn't wrap my brain around this process. So, if you have space for storage and time to plan, this might work well for you. As for me, I need more brain storage, maybe after the kid era.

What I can handle is a warehouse membership, that is if I can make the initial cost worth the savings I receive during the first month.  The best part is that I have receive many more items in a box/bag than at regular stores for almost the same price, and sometimes for less.  This way, some are technically free.  I have actually found some organic items for less than the regular store-brand items.  Juice and school snacks fall into this category. Plus, I have been able to use store and manufacturer coupons together to make other things even cheaper like supplements, razors, and natural yogurt. 

My other favorite thing is finding the day-old shelves for produce and bread in the regular stores.  Since my resolution, I have been able to procure some awesome veggie deals and nice bread for the rest of the family for 1/3-1/4 the regular price.  More for free!  Yes, some things are worth passing up, but it is a tragedy what stores throw into their composter, and not because they are actually stale or past prime. Believe me, I have seen beautiful organic produce and gourmet deli breads tossed out because of a stamp or because the greens on the carrots were not as bright.  Whole heads of lettuce were tossed due to one bruised outer leaf that would be removed anyway, apples because a new batch shipped in, and grape tomatoes because one in the container was slightly wrinkled.  The breads are almost always still soft and made by the bakery, not mass produced like the rest of the items in the bread aisle.  We got fresh garlic bread the other day for .70 because the bag was wrinkled when it was put on display.  Really?? I would like to make more of my own, but time is my enemy lately.

Another trick in my bag is to grow some of our own food.  When we bought our house, I had the plans for my first garden already in hand.  The first summer was spent leveling ground, building beds, getting compost started, and putting fencing in place- all with second hand tools and materials. It's not Better Homes and Gardens, but it grows food!  By the second season, I had also received donations of canning jars from many kind friends' attics and basements.  I have put many of these to good use, but not all from my garden.  I am still getting the hang of making the harvest last longer than the season.  However, I do purchase carrots, green beans, potatoes, yams, poultry, beef, pork, and squash when they are less than $1 a pound and process those for later use.  In November, I especially look forward to turkeys for .50-.60 a pound.  I cook up most of these, can the meat, cook the carcasses, can the broth for soup or gravy, and freeze a few for later in the year.  This removes some cost and cooking time from my weekly needs for many months.

As a side note, it is worth mentioning that if your family has had to choose between paying the mortgage, keeping the heat on, or buying groceries, there are community groups that offer free groceries weekly or monthly.  Some ask for income information for verification, some ask only for what other assistance is received, ie fuel assistance, and others ask for no verification.  Some of these same groups also offer free hot meals daily or weekly with no questions asked.  I hope the other methods work for you, but I would be remiss to not mention the help others offer when you've done all you can do. 

How have you saved money on groceries?