Tips for Using Up Produce Before it Goes Bad

One of the biggest ways you can waste money is to let produce go bad before you use it. Here are several tips for using up produce before it goes bad.

One of the biggest ways you can waste money is to let produce go bad before you use it. This often happens when we buy too much of something, get too busy to use it as intended or even forget about it in our fridge. It is almost maddening to open the fridge and see produce you now have to toss in the garbage because it has gone bad. Here are some tips for using up produce when you know you won’t be able to use it up in time for what you bought it for instead of tossing it in the garbage.

Tips for Using up Produce Before it Goes Bad:

Use your freezer. If you have onions or peppers that are turning over-ripe, dice them and place them in zipper bags in the freezer. The freezer will stop the ripening process and it will allow you to use the vegetables for things like omelets, casseroles and slow cooker meals in the future.

Get Creative with bananas. Pretty much everyone knows that over ripe bananas are perfect for banana bread, but you can also use them for pancakes or for thickening up milkshakes. Just cut the bananas into chunks and flash freeze by placing on a cookie sheet for a few hours and then storing in plastic freezer bags.

Start a compost pile. If you have scraps from vegetables or fruit or you have some produce that is totally unsalvageable, this is the perfect start of a compost pile. Composting is great for gardeners as well as just fertilizing bushes, trees and even your lawn.

Over-ripe produce is perfect for soups. No one will know the difference. Soups are historically known for being created out of need to use leftovers. In fact, some of the best soups ever made were made up just from what people have at home needing to be used up.

Fruit that is starting to go bad or is bruised can be used for pies, tarts, sauces and compotes. Simply throwing some apples in a small slow cooker with some seasonings is all it takes to make a delicious applesauce.

If you are a big fan of smoothies, don’t go out and buy expensive frozen fruit for them. Instead, look for ways to turn discounted produce at the store and fruit like bananas, berries and pineapple that you have at home into smoothie-ready chunks in your freezer.

Don’t assume that because part of the fruit or veggie is bad, all of it is. With some fruits like berries, this is usually true, but with many, it isn’t, and you can use part of the vegetable or fruit with no problem. We are so used to buying produce that isn’t blemished or bruised that we think one that is, is no good any more.

Make Homemade baby food. If you have a baby who is on solids, produce that is starting to turn (but is not moldy) or is bruised is perfect to make baby food with. Just stick it in a food processor and you have homemade baby food ready to go.

One way to avoid having produce waste is to only buy it as you need it or shop organic or local. While it may seem more expensive this way, it actually saves you a lot of money if you are the type that throws out produce frequently because it will have a longer shelf life in general.

Want more tricks?  See these 11 ways to reduce food waste at home.

Frugal Tip – Consider the Cost Per Wear

cost per wear clothing

I thought I’d share a frugal tip that my mom taught me quite a few years back because I happen to think it’s a really great tip!

Before buying any new clothing, always consider the item’s Cost Per Wear.  I like to think that an article of clothing costs me $1.00 each day I wear it.  So, for example, consider the basic t-shirt that costs $10.  Can I see myself wearing it for 10 days out of the year at the cost of $1.00 per wear?  If so, then it’s absolutely worth purchasing.

Another example:  You spot a really funky top that you can see yourself wearing to the office party next week.  It is on the clearance rack for $20, but, can you see yourself wearing it 20 times?  If you can only picture yourself wearing it to one event, $20 per wear, might be a bit much.  Of course, that’s ultimately for you to decide.

The cost per wear of $1.00 might seem really low to you, but aiming for a goal of a Cost Per Wear of $3.00 or less is ideal if you want to get the most bang for your wardrobe buck.

Considering the Cost Per Wear is important because there’s a tendency for some bargain shoppers to focus only on the price of an item, rather than the usefulness of the item. In the long run, purchasing something you don’t need, will make any savings you may have initially made during the purchase, seem silly.

Frugal Tip – Use Cruise Control

drive

I recently discovered that using cruise control can save a lot of money in gas! I’ve started using it whenever possible. I live rural, with a lot of highway driving, so it’s very easy to implement and it has saved us in fuel consumption. It’s hard to say how much this can save a person, depending on how often you use it, and the make/model of your vehicle, use of air conditioning etc…. This CNN article states that there is an average fuel savings of 7% while using cruise control: http://money.cnn.com/2007/05/09/pf/gas_myths/

This frugal tip was brought to you by Leah who submitted her tip for the Best Frugal Tip giveaway.  The contest is still accepting entries through the end of July 12, 2013.

Saving Money on Food While on Vacation

Saving Money on Food While on Vacation

Planning a family vacation this summer? Meals, snacks and drinks can really add up during those days away from home. While food is one of the most expensive areas of a vacation budget, I have some tips and ideas to help keep those costs down.

Plan ahead

Will you be eating out?  Preparing your meals in the hotel?  By having an idea of what you intend to do about the meals on your vacation, you have to opportunity to plan ahead by researching restaurants, grocery stores within walking distance, and even compile a meal plan if you’re cooking in!

Use those daily deal sites

Sign up for the email list for your vacation destination on daily deal sites like Groupon, WagJag, and Living Social.  Keep an eye open for deals featuring restaurants you may enjoy eating at.  Might as well get a deal if you’ll be eating out anyways!

Be a local

By simply asking locals where the best place to grab an affordable meal is, they’ll most likely point you in the direction of a fantastic, hole in the wall restaurant that will give you more bang for your buck.  Stay away from those tourist traps!

Entertainment coupon books

Order the Entertainment coupon book for your vacation destination.  Not only are there tons of coupons for discounted meals, you’ll find coupons for local attractions and shopping. :)

Search out restaurants where Kids eat free

I have a list available on Simply Frugal where Kids Eat Free in Canada that might be worth checking out.  Or visit MyKidsEatFree.com for a huge list of restaurants in the United States!

Stop in at the local tourist bureau

Stop in at the local tourist bureau and peruse the brochures they have available because you might find some great coupons inside!  Most likely, the staff on hand will gladly point you in the direction of money saving coupons and even help you find affordable eating options.

Stay at a hotel that offers free breakfast

My husband and I love staying at hotels that offer free breakfast.  It’s so nice to walk down, grab from the variety they have available, then get on with our day!  When we’re on vacation, we like to eat a big breakfast so that we can skip lunch, which helps to keep our food budget lower.

Pack a cooler full of food

If you’re road tripping, bring along a cooler full of food.  Buns, meat, fruit, vegetables and snacks are all great things to have readily available in case you come across the perfect picnic location.  Consider freezing some milk to use as an ice pack.  You can then use it the next day for cereal!

Hit up the local grocery store

Once you’ve arrived at your destination, hit up a local grocery store to stock up on snacks, drinks and simple meals.  Even if you intend on eating out at restaurants, by incorporating a few grocery store meals, you’ll be saving a bundle.

Bring a slow cooker

If you can, consider bringing along a slow cooker.  Put something together in the morning, head out sight seeing for the day, then arrive back at the hotel with dinner already made!

Meal plan

If your intention is to not eat out at restaurants while you’re vacationing, create a meal plan before you leave home that will help take the stress out of deciding what to eat.  Keep it simple and allow for some leftovers.

Buy premade meals

Once again, if you have access to a kitchen, consider purchasing premade meals.  While this is more expensive then cooking from scratch, you’ll still save quite a bit of money if you take this route.

Now it’s your turn, how do you save money on food while you’re on vacation?

30 Foods You’ll Never Have to Buy Again

DIY nutella

Visit BuzzFeed Food to discover 30 Foods You’ll Never Have to Buy Again, because they can easily be made at home!

Reader Testimonial – How I Stopped Living Paycheque to Paycheque

pay cheque

The following is a Financial success testimonial from Alison!  Enjoy!

This year I had a goal of depositing two full paycheques directly into my savings account on top of my regular monthly 10% savings. I was discussing my budgeting and savings plans with a credit counselor and she told me she had never known someone to be successful at what I was planning…challenge accepted! This past month I was able to successfully do this and wanted to share with other frugal minded individuals how I did it so you can too.

My employer pays me bi-weekly, which means I receive two paycheques every month except for two wonderful months of the year when I receive three paycheques.  At first this provided an interesting budgeting challenge because there are a few ways to calculate a monthly salary:

1.   Take the overall yearly salary and divide it by 12 months.
For example, if I made $39,000 per year and divided that by 12 months, I would get a monthly salary of $3,250. This number is valuable for certain financial situations, but unrealistic for my monthly budgeting.

2.   Add up the paycheques received in a month.
In this scenario, if I made $39,000/year, 10 months of the year I would be paid $3,000 and the other two months of the year I would be paid $4,500.

When creating a budget, what was I supposed to do with these three different amounts: $3250, $3000, and $4500? I started by making a decision:  I do not want to live paycheque to paycheque.  I wanted to create a system that always had me ahead of the game.  I also decided to live off the amount of money I am paid for those 10 months of the year involving two paycheques and was determined to put those additional two paycheques, in their entirety, directly into my savings account.  Saving 10% of my regular monthly salary is great, but I wanted a better security net.

Here’s what I did:

  • Took my lowest monthly income number to create a realistic budget.
  • Used helpful tools such as “Budgeting Basics – How to Get Started” found on Simply Frugal and tracked my expenses to determine what was sustainable.
  • Created an overall budget that allotted every dollar of my two paycheques per month.
  • Determined what money I would need as cash on hand during a month and what I could leave in a separate bank account. For example, grocery money is cash I need to take out of the bank. Gift purchases or dental appointments, while budgeted for, are not necessarily money spent every month. I’ll call these my “planning ahead expenses.”
  • Once the budget was nailed down, I totalled all my “planning ahead expenses” and my savings, then divided those numbers in half. This is what I transfer out of my main chequing account every paycheque into sub-accounts. For example, $20 per month is budgeted for gifts, of which $10 is transferred every paycheque to a “Gifts Account.”
  • Leave the rest of the money needed for cash on hand or for bills directly debited out of my chequing account to build up my monthly float. My monthly float is every dollar that I will spend during the next month.

Through the month as I deposit each paycheque, I transfer out all of my “planning ahead expenses” and let the rest remain to build up for the next month. Because each paycheque that I deposit into my account is not needed for any immediate expenses, I am released from my dependence on it. When I deposit a paycheque, I have no thought of spending it because I know I do not need it for the current month. This freedom is essential because when one of those three paycheque months comes along, I treat the first two cheques just like any other normal month by transferring out my “plan aheads” and building up my float. Those two cheques set me up for the next month and that third one can go straight into my savings account without a second thought.

Using this system of building up a float is how I stay away from living paycheque to paycheque. I did sacrifice a bit of savings to set myself up in this way, but the benefits are worth it:

  • Eliminated the stress of relying on my next immediate paycheque.
  • An extra month’s cushion of money if I lost my job, in addition to my emergency fund.
  • At the end of every month, I have exactly the amount of money I need in my account to pay my bills and variable expenses for the coming month.

Sticking to this takes planning and discipline, but it is worth it when I see the big jump in savings a couple times a year! It is also worth it to know that being frugal and wise with my money allows me to do something that someone in the financial world thought wasn’t possible.

About Alison:  I am a lover of coupons and good deals; I believe in saving money where I can so I can spend it on what really matters. I am currently exploring my childhood dream of being a writer through internet ramblings on my blog: http://theconvertedagnostic.wordpress.com

Do you have a financial success story you’d love to share to help inspire others?  Send your stories to me here.

11 Ways to Reduce Food Waste at Home

ways to reduce food waste

With a little creativity and some smart shopping, it’s possible to reduce your food waste at home quite simply.  If you find yourself  throwing out rotten food on a regular basis, you’re also throwing away the money you used to purchase the food.  And that’s not good for the grocery budget!

Here are 11 ways to save money and your food:

Create a Meal Plan

Creating a meal plan is a crucial step to help you spend less and waste less. When you know what you’re going to eat every day of the week, you ideally will only purchase the foods you need at the grocery store.  Without a meal plan and a grocery list based on your plan, you’ll most likely find yourself wandering the aisles grabbing whatever looks good to you.  That’s fun, but you’ll most likely end up with not enough or not the right groceries for a week’s worth of meals.

In the end, creating a meal plan isn’t enough, you must stick to it!  I admit, this is my downfall, so quite often I’ll find ingredients I bought for a certain recipe gone to waste :(

Account for Leftovers

If you find you usually have quite a few leftovers, account for the leftovers in your meal plan.  Maybe set aside one or two nights that you devote to eating up those leftovers.  Or, turn those leftovers into another meal.  Perhaps all that leftover spaghetti sauce will create a wonderful chili, as an example.

Buy Less

If your pantry and freezer are quite well stocked, start your “shopping” there.  By using what you have on hand already, will ensure you don’t buy more than you need and will help prevent food waste on the products you’ve already purchased.

Also, something I’ve learned about our family is, while buying a big package of celery (for example) may be cheaper in the long run than buying individual stalks, most of it goes to waste!  We’re not big celery eaters so purchasing individual stalks is actually cheaper for us because I only buy what we will use.  This same principle can apply to many different items in the grocery store.

Buy What you Love

You may have had some moments where you think you should eat more quinoa/fish/whatever, as you’re strolling through the grocery store.  I’ve had plenty of those nutritional guilt trips, but this inevitably leads to unplanned purchases for items your family may not be too excited about yet.  Focus on the foods your family enjoys, and add new ones gradually, after you’ve found recipes worth trying.

Buy Local

In all honesty, I never understood how buying local produce could save you money since the price I was looking at paying was more expensive than something I could purchase from a regular grocery store.  But then I realized that local produce travels way less than anything purchased from most grocery stores.  Because local produce travels less, you’re paying for a fresher item that will have a much longer life span!  Makes sense, right?  An obvious reason to support our local farmers.

Take Smaller Portions

Before you dish out another big portion, ask yourself if you really will finish what’s on your plate. Since it’s not likely you’ll save that little piece of chicken you couldn’t finish, stick to smaller portions. You can always get seconds!

Freeze Leftovers

Rather than scraping your leftovers into the garbage or if you don’t feel like eating them before they go to waste, put them in the freezer!  This makes for a great way to reduce waste and creates an easy meal for a busy night.

Store Produce Properly

Not all produce should be stored the same way.  Here’s a great guide on Design Mom with 6 Secrets to Properly Washed & Stored Produce.

Learn to read the labels

Take some time to learn what “Sell-by” or “use-by” dates actually mean.  The sell-by date is the last recommended day you should buy a product from the store, but you can still eat it several days to a week after. “Use-by” is the date through which the item will be top-quality.  But, if stored properly, most foods will stay fresh a few days longer than the use-by date!  Of course, if you note any weird odors, textures, or colors, throw it out.

Overlook Imperfections

Whether it’s soft spots in apples, bruises on bananas or dark spots on potatoes, all produce will develop imperfections. With produce that is past its prime, simply cut around the “bad” parts before you eat or throw veggies into a stock pot for soup, or make a smoothie with the less pristine fruits.  Just because something isn’t in perfect condition doesn’t mean it’s inedible!

If you’re dealing with mold, though, it’s time for the garbage.  Unless it’s cheese.  You can cut around the mold to salvage the rest.

Save it for the compost

Some food waste is unavoidable, so why not set up a compost bin for fruit and vegetable pieces and peelings? In a few months you’ll end up with nutrient-rich compost for your garden!

How do you reduce food waste in your home?

How to Get Stuff for Free

 How to get free stuff

I love free stuff.  You love free stuff.  Everyone loves free stuff!  I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone that claims to dislike getting stuff for free.  Everything we want can be bought with a price tag, but before you head to the store to purchase an item, read my tips for acquiring the things you need for free.

Here are my 6 favourite ways to get stuff for free:

Borrow

Borrowing could be ideal if you need a particular item only for a short time.  I do this all the time with friends and family.  Especially with serving ware used for big gatherings that I don’t have room to store. :)

Check Freecycle

Freecycle.org is an online network found in most communities around Canada that provides you with a way to acquire something you need for free.  It’s also a great way to unload items you don’t have a use for any more!  You simply create a post stating what you’re looking for, then someone will reply to you via email if they can fulfill your request!

Exchange Services

Say you would like a room in your house painted, but you’re terrible at paint brush control.  You do, however, know how to build a very sturdy shelf that a friend of yours has been hunting for.  Why not suggest exchanging services?  You’ll get a painted room and your friend will get a nice shelf in exchange for a few hours of work.  Win win!

Use coupons

If would be silly to not mention using coupons as a way to get things for free.  While getting stuff for completely free is not possible (you still have to pay taxes), it’s a fantastic way to get stuff you need for pennies.  If you follow my weekly Coupon Match Ups that get posted on Thursday’s, quite often you’ll find items on the list that are free when you match a coupon to a sale price.  Many companies are also offering FPC’s (Full Price Coupons) these days, most often through their Facebook pages.  See also the How to Coupon in Canada series for more coupon details.

Swagbucks

For the past several years, I’ve been collecting Swag Bucks through their search engine (and other options), then redeeming them for free Starbucks, Amazon and PayPal gift cards!   They offer a ton of different products in their Rewards store, but those three are my favourite.  Here’s a post I wrote featuring 6 Ways to Earn More Swag Bucks that may help answer some questions.

Sign up for Freebies

At least a few times a week, I’ll post a great freebie offer that a company is offering.  The offers range anywhere from sample size body lotions and shampoos to full size products, like bacon!  There are also frequent Mail in Rabate offers that will pop up from time to time good for a free box of dish detergent or stain remover, for example.  While you do have to pay out of pocket initially for mail in rebate items, you will be reimbursed if you fill in all the paperwork correctly.

There you have it, 6 of my tried and true methods to get stuff for free!  Have you tried any of these methods?  What are your tips for getting stuff for free?

No Spend Challenge – Free Family Activities

Free family activities

Family fun doesn’t always have to cost money.  There are plenty of activities you can try together that are just as fun, or even more fun, then activities that require cash.

Here are some free family activity ideas that are sure to please!

  • Have a picnic, inside or outside depending on the weather
  • Have another family over for dinner – this is way cheaper then eating out!
  • Movie night – grab a movie off the shelf that you haven’t watched in a while and make some homemade microwave popcorn!
  • Have a theme night/day – Mexican, Italian, pirate…the list goes on. Plan dinners and activities around your theme!
  • Have a craft night – paint, sew (here are some simple felt sewing ideas), draw…etc!
  • Head to your local library – stock up on reading material or even sit in on story time!
  • Have a game night – pull out those board games and cards!
  • Unplug – Turn off the cell phone, TV, computer and just reconnect with your wonderful family!
  • Go bird watching – see how many different types of birds you can spot. Maybe bring along a bird book from the library.
  • Build an indoor fort – camp out in it or have a picnic in it!
  • Check out the free community events offered in your area
  • Make a list of activities you want to do during the Summer
  • Go for a walk
  • Have a yard sale and set up a lemonade stand that the kids can man.
  • Clip and organize coupons.  Make it a game for the kids.
  • Help an elderly neighbour or friend
  • Visit a playground and actually play together

Many of these ideas can be adapted to every season, but the important thing is that you get out there and have fun together as a family!  Enjoy each other!

What other free or cheap activities can you suggest?

Air Miles, Not Just for Travel

air miles

Have you checked your Air Miles balance lately?

You may collect them, but never use them because you may think they’re only for travel. (And when you use it for travel, there are
administration fees.)  There are all sorts of things you can get with Air Miles – including Dyson vacuums, laptops, cameras and much much more. It’s a great way to save money on items you need, and use up the otherwise wasted Air Miles!

Click here to visit the Air Miles website.

What have you redeemed your Air Miles for?  Do you collect Air Miles?

Thanks Ilean!