Create Your Own Designer Cuisine

 

Ever feel like kitchen klutz? Wish you could take that odd assortment of stuff in the pantry, refrigerator and freezer and make something delicious without a specific recipe and without having to run to the market? Well, grab your whisk and shout for joy! Thanks to this fool-proof 5-Step plan you can create fabulous, original, homemade, delicious and nutritious entrees designed by You, using the items you have on hand.

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Step 1: Combine 1 8-ounce carton sour cream, 1 cup milk, 1 cup water, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper with one item from Group A (omit sour cream and milk when using tomatoes).

Step 2: Stir in one item from each of Groups B, C, D, and E.

Step 3: Spoon mixture into a lightly greased 13- x 9- x 2-inch baking dish.

Step 4: Sprinkle with one or two choices from Group F.

Step 5: Cover and bake casserole at 350 degrees F, for 1 hour and 10 minutes. Uncover and bake 10 additional minutes. Servings: 6.

How to Afford Big Ticket Items

 

Finally, you have a couple of months where things are going well. The bills get paid on time and you actually have money left at the end of the month. Then Pow! Without warning, the water heater bursts, the car breaks down and the first half of the property tax bill is past due—and you’re broke.

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How can you possibly plan or budget for life’s big-ticket items? Many people believe it just can’t be done, that they have no choice but to rely on their credit cards to cover the cost of emergencies—whether it’s something they should have known was coming or not. 

Strategic Packing Prevents Travel Misery

 

It’s happened to us more than once. We’ll arrive at our destination, but not so for all of our luggage. On one vacation to Pawley’s Island, S.Carolina, it was two full days before all of our luggage showed up. That was a miserable situation. The one bag that did arrive with us did didn’t hold much of anything we really needed. But never again thanks to today’s first tip. What a great idea!

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STRATEGIC PACKING. When traveling by air with a companion, be sure each checked piece of luggage has a change of clothing and some toiletries for both of you. That way if a bag gets lost or is delayed (chances are at least one will show up), you’ll both have at least one change of clothing. Cindy B., Indiana

Why I’m Crazy about Amazon Prime

 

It’s been more than five years now since I first looked into a membership service offered by Amazon.com called “Amazon Prime.” Being the frugalista that I am, of course I dismissed it out of hand for one simple reason—$79 annual membership fee. For what, I asked? Nothing tangible, that’s for sure.

I wish I’d researched Amazon Prime more thoroughly back then. I had no idea what I was turning down. By not joining until two years later in 2009, I spent far more in shipping costs alone than I would have paid for the annual membership.

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Honestly, I am in love with Amazon Prime and my love only grows as the years go by. My life is so busy and I am such a disaster-waiting-to-happen in a shopping mall environment that I rely heavily on Amazon for everything from household needs and personal items to business supplies and equipment. Free shipping alone saves me hundreds of dollars in shipping fees every year.

How do I love Amazon Prime? Oh, let me count the ways:

Six Common Money Blunders

 

I could be wrong but I’m going to guess you’ve made a money blunder or two in your life. For many of us, it was a non-stop series of blunders that finally brought us to our financial knees.

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But I’m not talking about the kind of blunders that got us into trouble. We could list those in our sleep. These are the blunders commonly made while clawing our way back to financial freedom. Avoid these blunders and you’ll get there much faster.

The Perfectly Peeled Peach (Recipes, Too!)

 

At this moment I’m finding it difficult to think of anything more luscious than a perfectly ripe peach, dripping with juicy goodness. One of summer’s most anticipated treats, the fuzzy-skinned stone fruits are great in pies and cobblers and quite tasty all on their own.

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Today I have four fabulous recipes that call for fresh peaches that must first be peeled, pitted and sliced. Too much trouble? Not at all, provided you know how to slip those skins off so quick and easy you’ll believe you’ll think it’s some kind of peachy magic.

May I Speak to Mr. Fido, Please?

 

Dear Mary: A friend told me that you are charged a fee if you want your phone number to be “unlisted.” Is that right? Marla B., CA

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Dear Marla: Yes, most phone companies charge an “unpublished” fee. But you may not have to pay it. Instead instruct the company to drop your address from the listing (no charge for that) and then inquire if the company will allow you to list your number in the name of an alias. Here’s how it works. You call your phone company. Tell the customer service rep that you want to list your name in the name of an alias. This is done all the time to accommodate celebrities, politicians, and other public figures. If you choose your dog’s name and then someone calls for Fido, you’ll have a good laugh and know it’s an unwanted caller.

Dear Mary: I am slowly paying off my debts but I got a shock today. One of my credit card companies (Company A) decided to sell my account to Company B. When I called they said Company A no longer carries accounts in my state. I accepted that. But Company B’s interest rate is 26.4 percent. Company A was 16 percent. They’ve changed my rate to 26.4 and not on just new purchases, but on my entire balance as well. Is that legal? Jon A., Pennsylvania

Dear Jon: If you go back and reread the application you signed, in the fine print you will find something like “… terms of which may be changed at any time and for any reason.” While your chances of getting that interest rate reduced are slim, I suggest you exercise your only option: Beg for mercy. Call and in your most assertive-yet-courteous-manner suggest that you may take your business elsewhere unless they would like to lower the rate. Don’t hold your breath, but if your payment history is exemplary, they might do it to keep you as a customer. If that doesn’t work, consider switching the entire balance to a low-rate, no-fee card. You can find a current list at IndexCreditCards.com

Dear Mary: I’ve heard that I can get government grants to help buy a home and also get out of debt. Is that right and should I bite the bullet and shuck out $40 to buy the book that shows how? I’ve checked the library but they don’t have it. What do you think? Jolene R., Wisconsin

Dear Jolene: I think you’ve been watching a little too much late-night TV. Look, if what you suggest is true we’d all have government paid-for houses, and no one would be in debt. These scam artists have been using the subject of government grants to swindle naive consumers for years. These crooks hit consumers where they’re most vulnerable and then take their last dime. Or in your case 40 bucks. The FTC is going after these scam artists with limited success. They nailed National Grant Foundation and Grant Research and Publishing, finally. They settled with Free Cash Grants (FCG) for misrepresenting that consumers who purchased their $47 program were likely to receive grants.

I suggest you devote your creativity and energy to getting out of debt the right way by working hard and repaying what you owe. And get some sleep!

Slash the High Cost of Gas

 

I can sum up my response to the high cost of gasoline in just one word: Aargh!

While waiting for prices to come down (do you think they ever will?) don’t sit around complaining all the while paying through the nose to drive your car. Do something about it!

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There are lots of things you can do to increase the number of miles you can squeeze out of each gallon of gas, effectively reducing its cost. Here are a few: