Frugal Food Shopping 101

As food costs continue to soar, it’s a good time to revisit the basics of frugal food shopping. Follow these tips and provided you don’t end up buying twice as much, you really will see your food costs plummet.

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GO WITH CASH ONLY. Shopping with cash—only cash—is one of the best ways to make a severe grocery budget work. If you have the discipline of a superhero, good for you. Use your credit card. If you’re like everyone else in the world, take cash out of the ATM and don’t let yourself spend a penny more. If you’re out of cash and you have 10 days of the month to go, it’s time to start raiding your pantry. You might have an odd menu for a few days, and so what? It won’t kill you.

PLAN IT OUT. Find recipes that fit your budget—recipes, as in cooking and preparing meals from ingredients. With very little cooking background, anyone can learn to make great soups and casseroles. Deciding on recipes and planning meals in advance will become your financial lifesaver.

SKIP PACKAGED ITEMS. You pay a big premium for packaged items like salad kits, meals in a bag, fruit snacks, pre-sliced produce, chips or vegetables that come in a steam bag. Anything that has been processed and packaged comes with an additional markup. Peeling potatoes, slicing apples and chopping lettuce might take extra time, but you will be rewarded well for the effort. And you’ll end up with a fresher, tastier result.

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Your Best Thanksgiving Feast Ever—Healthy, Delicious and … Cheap!

If there’s one thing we should be thankful for this Thanksgiving, it’s this: Turkey is cheap! And the rest of the Thanksgiving dinner can be, too.

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The secret to enjoying a traditional feast without overspending is to know a few tricks. I sat down with two highly respected professionals—a butcher and a personal chef. What I learned from John Smith, professional butcher and author of Confessions of a Butcher: Eat Steak on a Hamburger Budget and Save $$$ and personal chef, Liz Tarditi, pretty much blew a hole in everything I thought I knew about buying, thawing and preparing a turkey.

TRICK #1: GET THE BEST TURKEY

Choosing the best turkey is easier said than done unless you fully understand the difference between a store brand or name brand bird. Just because a turkey is more expensive does not make it any better, says John. All that means is that it has a lot of advertising built into its price.

What customers don’t know is that one turkey processor will slap many different labels on his crop of birds. The turkeys are all the same, only the labels are different. This is a rule you can count on, according to John the Butcher: “Always go with the cheapest turkey and you’ll never go wrong. I’ve sold tens of thousands of store brand turkeys to very happy customers.”

EC: Fresh or frozen?

JS: First, let me define a “fresh” turkey. According to the people who make the laws, turkeys can be called “fresh” even though the moisture in the bird is frozen! If you press very firmly on the bird the meat is not frozen. The turkey processors have it down to a science. They bring the temperature of the “fresh” birds down to the very legal limit before sending them off to the store two weeks before Thanksgiving.

Frozen turkeys, on the other hand, are quick-frozen immediately upon butchering. So the freshest turkey is really a frozen turkey. The freezing process has no noticeable effect on the quality of the bird.

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Chromebook Laptops Better Than Ever—Cheaper, Too!

Only a few months ago, I told you about what was happening in the world of Chromebook—a laptop computer that runs Chrome OS as its operating system and is designed to be used primarily while connected to the Internet. That in fact, Chromebooks had just (and for the first time in the U.S.) outsold Apple’s range of Macs.

111716image1Chromebooks have become so popular, manufacturers are competing like crazy to expand functionality while at the same time lower the price. You know who wins that game, right? Consumers—and just in time for Christmas!

If you go online or walk into a store’s electronics department to purchase a Chromebook, prepare to be hit with a serious case of FUD—fear, uncertainty and doubt. That’s because there are hundreds of Chromebooks from which to choose; from dozens of manufacturers with hundreds of options. But not to worry. I do not expect you to slog through all of this technical stuff to figure out your best inexpensive option. It’s my job to do the hard work so you won’t have to!

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6 Free Websites Help You Save Time and Money


Take a little time from your busy day to check out these six websites—all of them fun, free and designed to help you save time and money … every day!

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RECIPES THAT CROCK is a website created by the slow cooker obsessed blogger Cris Goode. There are a ton of fun, tummy warming recipes to fire up your slow cooker this autumn and beyond. Simply search for recipes at Recipes That Crock, or sign up for the newsletter which arrives a few times per week.

CHECKY. Technology can be a good thing, but when you’re spending too much of your valuable time checking your smartphone every five minutes, it’s just down right distracting. To get insight into how often you’re checking your phone use the Checky app. By discovering how extreme your actual checking habit is you’ll become more mindful instead of mindless when it comes to your smartphone. Also Available for iOS and Android.

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Homemade Tub Tile n’ Shower Cleaner Makes Soap Scum Disappear Like Magic

It’s the number one request that shows up in my inbox—“Can you give me the recipe for that magical soap and scum cleaner?” Well, yes I can! And here it is. (Please make sure to read all of this and follow instructions carefully.) You’re welcome!

Quite possibly one of the best tips to ever land my mailbox came from a guy who is a professional property manager. He handles rental apartments near a big university, and lots of them. As an apartment is vacated, his job is to see that it is thoroughly cleaned and made ready for the next occupants.

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He told me that the biggest challenge is always the bathroom, specifically the tub and shower. He kindly left specific details up to my imagination but let me know that “gross” is not strong enough to describe what he often finds. And that’s when he gave me his super magical potion—the only product he uses to return showers, tubs, tile, enclosures, faucets and doors to their sparkling clean and sanitized condition.

I gave his unbelievably simple recipe a try. Since that day, I’ve used nothing else to clean tubs, showers, sinks, toilets, patio furniture—just about anything that will stand still long enough to get sprayed and can be rinsed easily. This product must be rinsed off.

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The Blessing of Self-Government

You’d have to be living under a rock to not be aware of the turmoil and economic agitations going on in the U.S. And the growing debt. Who ever imagined that the word “trillion” would just roll off our tongues, not causing even a flinch. Too bad we can’t do much about it. The truth is that we are powerless.

But I have to say that it’s kinda’ fun, if not momentarily empowering, to think about what we could do if anyone would let us. I’d be wickedly effective as Governor of Colorado. Oh, the things I would do.

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First, I would abolish state income tax. The state would exist rather on fee-income. Coloradans would pay fees for the services they want and use.

I’d adopt a scorched-earth policy in going after government waste and abuse. I’d place a freeze on hiring while I cleared out off the “dead wood” and identified all areas of workplace redundancy within the state government.

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20 Best Learning Toys for the Kids

Learning toys do more than sit there and entertain—they stimulate and teach kids important skills like critical thinking, problem solving, logic and even coding. Learning toys—open-ended games, kits, toys and crafts—make for great Christmas gifts.

To help you get past the shock of realizing Christmas is fewer than six weeks away, here’s my list of the best learning toys. I love them because they’re fun but at the same time stimulate learning through creativity and mind-challenging play. I think the kids in your life are going to love them, too. Enjoy!

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1. Sit-to-Stand Learning Walker.  This early learning center for babies who are not yet walking, is just adorable. It’s a clever toy that encourages and teaches a baby how to move from sitting to standing position and then walking, all the while encouraging interactive play. The learning walker has 70 sing-along song onboard, sound effects, and fun phrases. Meant for babies and toddlers from 9 months to 3 years. About $25.

2. Chat and Count Smartphone. There’s some kind of magnetic attraction between babies and mobile phones. Have you noticed this? Now you can separate little ones from your phone without stifling their curiosity by giving them their own smartphone! This adorable “phone” from the folks at LeapFrog mimicks the real thing with more than 15 phone activities, a music button to sing along to tunes about counting and phone manners. Skills to learn: numbers, pretend play, social interaction and conversational skills, as well. Ages 18 months to 3 years. About $12.

3. Pretend & Play Teaching Cash Register. This working register encourages imaginative play while teaching measurements, basic math and early money skills. Kids will easily learn currency denomination and have fun handling life-size money and this working cash register. Features a solar calculator, pretend credit card, play bills in various denominations as well as plastic coins and more. This realistic toy will give children endless hours of fun pretending, playing and developing math skills! Ages 3 and up. About $28.

4. Little Apps Tablet. This kid-size toy tablet keeps little ones busily learning for hours on end with its color-changing screen, letter buttons and piano keyboard. Includes 12 learning activites with progressive learning levels. Thankfully, it also features volume control and automatic shut-off to conserve on battery life. And if that’s not enough, check out just how adorable it is! Ages 2 years to 5 years. About $15.

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Dirty, Stained, Grimy, Dried Out, Sticky Leather—Help Me, Mary!

To me there’s nothing quite so lovely as soft, supple, beautiful leather. I’ll take it in a handbag, shoes, car seats, jackets and furniture, too. I love fine leather.

With that in mind, try to imagine this scene from just a few of days ago: Me in my comfy chair, my favorite handbag on the floor next to me and a hot cup of coffee on the table to my left.

I stand up and somehow—I could never re-enact this feat in a million years—I turn to the left in such perfect form, I launch that entire large cup of coffee into the air where it makes a flawless entry into my purse. I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was like a 100-year flood in my Dooney. Everything inside was bobbing up and down, gasping for air.

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I credit a conversation with a friend who owns a used car dealership with the fact that my favorite leather bag (I’ve had it for almost 20 years) came through unscathed, following my heroic emergency rescue.

He told me the secret for how his dealership cleans, conditions and protects leather car seats and interiors to make them look like new. Since then, I’ve been treating this bag like the interior of a fine Italian sports car. I had no idea I was also protecting it against the stains and torment of future flooding.

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