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Friday
Feb202015

18 Frugal Foods You Should Always Have in Your Freezer

Here are 17 items that should always be chilling in a frugalista's freezer.

1. READY-TO-EAT MEALS

These could be dinners you batch cookedpancakes stacked between sheets of parchment paper, or heck, even TV dinners and frozen pizzas purchased on sale. It's up to you whether your emergency rations are homemade or store bought; the point is that when you are running late and haven't packed yourself a work lunch, or when kids' activities keep you out of the house until 15 minutes before dinner, you need something to fall back on to prevent you from wasting your money on unintended restaurant meals.

2. CUBES OF… EVERYTHING

Don't waste left-over coffee, tomato paste, or even champagne — just empty it into an ice cube tray, then later pop out the cubes and store in a labeled freezer bag. Go past the obvious uses for ice cube trays — try preserving fresh herbs or making ready-to-bake cookies.

3. RAW MEAT

If you're a carnivore, there is no more versatile meal base than a one-pound package of ground meat. Defrost it in the microwave, and you're ready to make a casserole, chili con carne, or so many other recipes.

My grocery store marks down meat by 30%-50% close to its expiration date, so I generally have three or four packages of discounted meat in my freezer. Some Costco shoppers repackage the warehouse store's mammoth meat portions into meal-sized freezer bags. Some clever folks even pour marinade into their frozen meat bags. On the rare occasion that I find a BOGO sale on whole chickens, I'll chuck a whole bird in the freezer — just keep in mind that these take a lot longer to defrost than small portions of cut-up meat.

4. COOKED, CHOPPED MEAT

Even if you don't go all-in for "freezer cooking" or "once a month cooking," having a pound of cooked, chopped up beef, pork, or chicken ready to defrost can cut 20 minutes or more off meal prep time.

5. FISH

Although fish can be on the expensive side, a lot of wild fish is really good for you. And itcooks quickly from a frozen state, making for a great weeknight dinner with no pre-planning needed.

6. A WHOLE TURKEY

When turkey prices dip below a dollar a pound at Thanksgiving, why buy just one? I always buy at least one spare, depending on freezer space, for a future family feast with lots of leftovers.

7. A WHOLE COW

Okay, you're not going to fit a steer into the freezer over your refrigerator. However, if you are feeding a family of carnivores, and especially if you prefer grass-fed or organic meat, consider purchasing a whole animal directly from a ranch, or splitting one with another household. You may have to buy a chest freezer, but you can save a lot this way.

8. COOKED BEANS

You can save money over canned beans by soaking and boiling your own. But who wants to do that every time they make chili? I soak a whole pound of beans at once, cook it all up in the slow cooker overnight, then use a cup or two for dinner while freezing the rest in meal-sized portions.

9. COOKED RICE

We like brown rice, for which restaurants often charge more. So when we order Asian takeout, we'll skip ordering rice and make our own. To be honest, I don't see defrosting frozen rice as much less work than cooking a fresh pot — but if you forget to start rice before the doorbell rings with your food, having a bag or two in the freezer that you can quickly microwave is a savoir.

10. OLD BREAD

A lot of recipes, like meatloaf, call for breadcrumbs, others, like strata or stuffing, call for cubed bread. I never have to buy bread crumbs, because every time I have a slice or two that has been sitting around too long, I add it to the large bread bag in the freezer. When I need crumbs, I throw some in the food processor.

11. BAGS OF FROZEN VEGETABLES

When the grocery store has a deal on frozen veg, stock up. Even if you prefer fresh produce, this way you'll never be stuck eating a meal with no greens. My favorite veggie to keep in the freezer is peas, because I can reach in for just a handful every time I make a salad, and they'll defrost on their own while I chop the fresh veggies. Other Wise Bread writers have lots of recipe ideas for frozen spinach and frozen broccoli.

12. BAGS OF FROZEN FRUIT

Frozen berries or mango pieces are great to have on hand — they're so much less work than washing and cutting up fresh, and when making smoothies, they can substitute for ice. If you have an orchard or garden, of course, freezing your own fruit is even more frugal than buying it.

13. MILK

If you are going out of town, you don't want to leave an opened container of milk in the fridge to go bad. But you don't have pour it down the drain, either. Pop the whole carton into the freezer if you have room, or decant it into a smaller container, or even save a leftover ounce in an ice cube tray. Perfect is you take your coffee with milk.

14. BUTTER

Running out of butter can be a real recipe killer, so even if it didn't save me any money I would keep a pound or two on ice. This stuff tends to go on sale around the holidays; buy multiple pounds then and you'll be set for a few months.

15. BACON GREASE

Now that cooking with lard, chicken schmaltz, and other animal fats is coming back into vogue, I've started saving my bacon grease and other drippings for cooking, just like my mom did. If you're not going to use them up quickly, you can always stash them in the freezer.

16. HOMEMADE STOCK

When you're a guest at Thanksgiving dinner, others might think it's weird if you ask to take home the turkey carcass. Do it anyway. You can boil those bones to make cups and cups of delicious stock, the base of future soups, stews, and recipes you never even thought of. Once you've made your stock, pour it into containers or bags, label and freeze.

17. STOCK INGREDIENTS

Not every day is Thanksgiving (thank goodness for our waistlines). You might not feel like making stock out of the carcass of a small chicken or even from leftover rotisserie bones, but you still shouldn't throw them away. I keep two large bags in my freezer: one labeled "carcasses," and one labeled "veggie scraps." All unused chicken parts go in the first bag, broccoli stalks, carrot scrapings, and other unused bits of plants go in the second. When they start to bulge, I pour everything into a stockpot, add a bay leaf and some spices, cover with water, and, voila! Stock. (By the way, my stock never seems to suffer from having been made from frozen ingredients, then refrozen when complete. Stock is forgiving.)

18. FREEZER POPS

They may not keep your kids from wanting the ice cream truck's treats (for my kids, nothing does that), but homemade pops are an affordable summer treat that can even be healthy, depending on the ingredients.

 

Source: Wisebread.com

Monday
Feb162015

Consumer News: Walmart Savings Catcher Program

Starting February 14th, Savings Catcher will not apply to produce and bakery items. Additionally, Walmart is limiting comparisons to offers of other mass market retailers, grocery and dollar stores and removing comparisons with drug stores. 

As a reminder, Savings Catcher compares your receipt to advertised prices from top stores in your area, and if it finds a lower advertised price, you get the difference on a Walmart eGift Card – all you have to do is enter your receipt and then Walmart does the rest of the work for you. Or click “Redeem to Bluebird” on your Savings Dashboard and Walmart will double your Reward Dollars and turn them into Walmart Bucks – separate funds on your Bluebird Account that can only be spent at Walmart.

Thursday
Feb122015

Pillsbury Free Coupons, Samples and More

Click below to get FREE products, coupons and more from Pillsbury!

 

Sunday
Feb082015

18 Awesome Ikea Money Saving Tips

Go here for all the info and save even more @ Ikea!
Saturday
Feb072015

Coupons.com: Clip Coupons and Print Them Later 

On the go and see Coupons.com coupons you don't want to miss out on? You don't have to! You can now clip coupons from your mobile device and email them to yourself to print when you have access to a computer and a printer.

Just follow these easy instructions:

Step #1: When on a mobile device, select the coupon(s) you like and click the red “Email to Print Coupons” button located towards the top right of the page.
Step #2: Enter your email address and click on “Email Coupons.”
Step #3: Check your email and once you have access to a computer and a printer, follow the “Print Coupons” link included in your email to print your clipped coupons.

Thanks Hip2Save for this great info!

Saturday
Jan172015

8 Buys That Will Be Cheaper in 2015

Here are the eight things that will be cheaper in 2015.

1. GASOLINE

As a resident of the notoriously expensive state of Hawaii, I couldn't be more ecstatic about this news! U.S. gasoline prices ended 2014 at their lowest levels since May 2009. And they might be about to drop even lower. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, in 2015 the average price per gallon will be about $2.60 (the average in 2014 was about $2.71). Some states are expected to enjoy per gallon prices below the $2 mark. As of December 2014, some gas stations in Texas were selling gas at $1.89 and $1.99 per gallon.

2. AIR TRAVEL

The benefits of falling fuel prices are trickling down to other industries, among them the airline industry. Carrier companies are likely to cut the average flight's ticket price by 5% in 2015. However, don't expect this price drop to happen right away. Airlines are experiencing healthy demand from consumers and are still tied up with fuel contracts at old prices. Due to this, economists suggest that it will take about six months for airfares to drop. Some analysts predict that flights leaving from Dallas, Washington, and Tampa could experience the biggest drops from last year's prices (-11.2%, -6.7%, and -5.9% respectively).

3. BACON

Bringing home the bacon just got easier: Experts expect prices to fall 15% to 17% in 2015. I know what you're thinking, "How do I go about becoming a bacon expert?" But let's keep on topic. Due to moderate corn prices, the pork and poultry markets will be able to lower the prices of several products, including cheese, chicken breasts — and yes, bacon.

4. MILK

There are two reasons why you can expect lower milk prices this 2015. First, Russia's ban on U.S. milk imports is forcing producers to find other buyers. Keep in mind that milk is a perishable item, so this puts pressure on them to accept lower prices. Second, the lower price of corn, used in the feeding of cows, is boosting per-cow milk output to record levels. U.S. dairies are expected to reach production levels of 212.8 billion pounds of milk in 2015, a 6.7 billion pound increase from 2014 levels. This excess supply means lower milk prices for you.

5. SMART WATCHES

  • 2013 gave us the Samsung Galaxy Gear.
  • 2014 revealed to us the Apple Watch.
  • 2015 will give us a bigger and cheaper selection of smart watches.

While the Apple Watch looks very cool, its expected $349 price tag may turn off price-sensitive customers. That's why Chinese equipment manufacturers are racing to capture the wearables market by producing Android-based smart watches with retail prices as low as $30. This aggressive pricing strategy is bound to drive down the price of existingAndroid-based smart watches below $150.

6. CLOUD STORAGE

If you're currently paying for your cloud storage, you probably loved seeing Microsoft and Amazon dropping their cloud storage prices by up to 50%. In August 2014, Dropbox reduced the price of 1TB storage to $9.99 per month. Then later in October, Microsoft rolled out unlimited cloud storage to its Office 365 subscribers.

Cloud storage's race to zero, as in $0, is on. Take advantage of these falling prices, but make sure to keep your data safe. (See also: 10 Critical Steps to Protect Your Data in the Cloud)

7. NEW HOMES

Most analysts agree that new home sales will be above the 500,000 mark in 2015. That means that builders need to come up with about 50,000 new homes from existing inventory from the Great Recession era. One opinion is that builders are going to sell fewer expensive new homes to be able to come up with that inventory. These new homes are often packaged with eased credit conditions for buyers with moderate credit scores. As theprices of homes are plateauing around the country and new inventory becomes available, 2015 may be a good year to acquire a home.

8. GOLD

What goes up, must come down. And gold is not an exception.

Gold is often used as a commodity to hedge against rising prices. Given that there are so many industries set to enjoy cost breaks throughout 2015, there are fewer concerns about inflation, thus reducing demand for gold. Goldman Sachs forecasts gold prices to drop $1,050 by December 2015, while SocGen expects a price of $950 in 2015's Q4.

To put things in perspective, the price of gold peaked at $1,923.70 an ounce in 2011. If there was ever a good time to pick up gold, it would be 2015.

So, the next time somebody tells you about the "good ol' days," you have eight reasons to let them know that the good ol' days for consumers are here now.

Source: Wisebread.com

Tuesday
Jan132015

9 Financial Skills Everyone Needs

1. MAKE A BUDGET — AND STICK TO IT

It's tough to barely cover bills month after month, but if you make a budget and look for little ways to save some money, a little advance planning pays off big time — it can mean the difference between living comfortably and looking for change between the cushions to buy your next meal.

The first step to managing your money is to know how it's coming in, and where it's going. Use an accounting tool, whether it's paper and pencil or an online program like Mint, to keep tab of your income and expenses. Total all your expenses for the month and compare that to how much you earn every month. If current expenses exceed income, then you need to figure out where to cut.

2. WHEN IT COMES TO SAVING, EVERY PENNY COUNTS

There's always going to be something to spend on, whether it's your faltering car engine or a costly toothache. Living on a small income can make it hard to save for a roof repair or a retirement fund, but it can be done.

  • Ask your bank to automatically transfer funds each month — even as little as $10 — from your checking to your savings account.
  • Put all your loose change into a piggy bank, then transfer it into your savings account. A nickel a day, plus $10 from your checking-account transfer, adds up to $140 a year — and over a lifetime can total many thousands of dollars.

3. SEEK MORE MODEST HOUSING

Too many of us have larger (or more expensive) homes than we actually need. Consider downsizing to the least costly home that will meet your family's needs. If you own a home, check with your lender whether you can refinance your mortgage at a lower rate. Mortgage interest rates are at historic lows, so refinancing could save you years of payments and a good deal of money that you can stash away into savings. Or, consider renting out a room in your home or finding a roommate to reduce costs.

4. REDUCE YOUR CAR USE

When you're on a tight budget, you're attuned to minimizing your driving as much as possible in order to cut gas costs. The best way? Combine multiple shopping trips into one. Of course, you save even more on gas and auto maintenance if you can ditch the car and walk, bike, rollerblade, or even skateboard to the store or work.

5. MAKE USE OF AVAILABLE BENEFITS

Low and moderate-income workers can qualify every year for an Earned Income Credit on their tax returns, which can refund up to $496 for an individual and $5,450 for a family of four. You can find out if you're eligible by using the IRS's EITC Assistant website.

And don't forget to make use of health care benefits — an unexpected medical emergency can be costly, so make use of Medicaid, or hospital financial assistance, if you qualify. Also, remember that the Affordable Care Act offers government subsidies that can offset all or part of the cost of private health insurance. HealthCare.gov is a good place to start.

There are plenty of other useful programs that provide help with a variety of things, such as utility bills or advancing your job skills. Start at the Benefits.gov website to see what you could be eligible for.

6. FIND A SIDE GIG

As many people with tight budgets know, one paycheck is rarely enough. Even if you already have a full-time job, a little extra income can come in handy to pay off debt, cover bills, and save for emergencies. And there are plenty of money-making ideas that won't detract from your 9-to-5 job, such as selling items on eBay or renting out your extra room on Airbnb. If you have desirable skills, freelance or consult on the side. Many side jobs have little to no start-up costs and can be done during your down time.

7. BE SAVVY ABOUT HEALTH CARE COSTS

People on tight budgets use these methods to lower medical costs:

  • Find the lowest-cost place to purchase prescription drugs. Call and do a price check at ethnic supermarkets and discount centers, and look online at mail-order pharmacies.
  • Ask your physician to consider prescribing generic drugs. Generics can cost several hundred dollars less to purchase annually than brand-name drugs — and they're thoroughly regulated by the FDA.
  • If you've got a minor ailment (like the flu or an achy muscle) check out low-cost retail clinics in your area. CVS, Walgreen's, and Walmart often offer these.

8. NEVER PAY FULL PRICE IF YOU DON'T HAVE TO

People with limited incomes usually can't afford to pay full price. And you should get in the habit of never doing so, either. If you're shopping retail, wait until the end of a season to buy items once they're priced half off or more. And save your receipts: Most stores will refund the difference if your purchased item's price declines within 30 days of purchase.

9. POOL RESOURCES

Carpooling, sharing baby-sitting duties, and cooking pot-luck dinners are examples of ways to reduce costs by pooling resources. Can other family members live in your home and pitch in for rent? Can older kids make a few extra bucks by mowing lawns on the weekend that can be used to pay for school lunches? Communal living not only brings us closer, but also reduces expenses and creates a sense of common purpose.

Source: Wisebread.com

Saturday
Dec272014

Trade in Gift Cards at Walmart

Starting Christmas Day, Wal-Mart is letting customers exchange gift cards from more than 200 retailers, airlines and restaurants for a Wal-Mart card. The cards don't expire and can be used in stores and online.

It's a test program, but if it's successful, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. said the card swap could become a permanent service. Wal-Mart spokesman Ravi Jariwala said the chain doesn't have specific metrics to evaluate that but will watch how shoppers react.

Shoppers won't get the full value of their gift cards to use at Wal-Mart. For example, with Amazon.com, customers can redeem up to 95 percent, while for Staples that figure is up to 90 percent and for Gap, up to 85 percent. For some brands, a Wal-Mart gift card will be worth just 70 percent of the original card.

To exchange a card, go to http://walmart.cardcash.com and input your information. The Wal-Mart eGift cards should be emailed to you within an hour.