Monday, April 8, 2013

Kitchen Organization for Cheap!

In our current situation  Daddykins and I have a small kitchen, without much storage, but with a lot of ingredients, cook and bake ware and contraptions.  And I happened to do a lot of canning last summer, so we needed to find space for that as well!  This time around, I wanted to focus on 3 things specifically... the pots and pans mess, the spices mess, and the 'pantry' cupboard.  With the help of the dollar store, I was able to make some changes, without much impact on my budget!  

Pots and Pans ::
once stacked and organized, pots and pans are not that bad, but the pot tops are obnoxious 
Easy Fix :: dish drainer from the dollar store!  Keeps all the tops organized and accessible!  Never-mind those silly store bought organizers for now, this was a quick, cheap fix!

We love to cook, so we have a ton of spices.  But they can be hard to find, especially when they were high up atop the stove, so I moved them and sorted them into bins from the dollar store!  So now they are organized into 'everyday,' 'Indian/Mexican,' and 'baking' and I can just pull the whole bin out according to what I am working on, which is neat and organized.

The Pantry::
We have a lot of canned goods and dry goods, and every week I add to it, but some weeks it feels like we take very little out of it, so it gets filled and unorganized!  Cue the mason jars!  I have a ton of extras lying around, so I put them to good use!  I also wrote on them with a dry erase marker so I can keep track of everything.  So far, so good!  

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Lentils and Sweet Potato - Yum!

I am continuously being told Spring is right around the corner, but with measurable snow fall this April, I am wondering what corner everyone is looking around, because I don't see winter ending anytime soon.  BUT, the good news with that is, I can use stews and sweet potatoes longer!  I had intended this to be a crock pot recipe, but when I got home from working the overnight, I was too tired to even plug the thing in!  So I changed my plan and just made it on the stove top.  This meal was hearty and had a unique combination of savory and sweet, but it was really quite filling and delicious.  I served it with crunchy bread and salad.  Quick, easy, cheap and best of all, vegan. :)


1/2 onion diced 
1-2 cloves garlic diced 
1 - 2 tablespoons oil 
1 - 2 cups water
1 large sweet potato - cut into 1/2 inch cubes 
1 cup rinsed lentils 
1 tablespoon vegetable stock 
2 teaspoons each rosemary, thyme and sage 


  • saute onions in oil until see-through, add in garlic, being careful not to burn garlic 
  • add water, sweet potatoes and lentils 
  • once warmed, add stock and spices, and simmer until lentils and potatoes are tender (about 30 - 40 minutes) 
  • At the end, I added about a half cup on frozen spinach to give its some green and it turned out to be a nice addition!

Spending so much $$ on fruits and veggies, just to waste them!

In my house, I always seem to over estimate how many fresh fruits and veggies we will eat in a week, and, as much as I hate to admit it, a lot of them go to waste.  But, on our new budget, I have very little wiggle room and so I have become better at estimating, as well as preserving what we purchase.  As Spring and Summer approach, we will be able to purchase more veggies for less money, and hopefully increase our consumption during that time!

Ways to extend the life of fruits/veggies...

  • keep the fridge clean
    • leftovers that sit too long accumulate bacteria that increase the spoiling rate of other foods in the fridge.  
    • we keep unfrozen leftovers for only 48 hours and discard them after that 
    • I use my standard cleaning spray (vinegar, water, tea tree essential oil)  wipe down all surfaces of the inside of the fridge every 2 weeks (or more if I notice anything)
  • if fruits or veggies ripen too fast outside the fridge, I toss them in the fridge to give me an extra 2 - 3 days to use them 
    • bananas will turn brown in the fridge, but will still be fine to eat
    • I usually end up throwing my tomatoes and avocados in the fridge by the end of the week, but they still taste just fine to me!
  • as soon as I get home from shopping I wash the fruits and veggies - it makes them last so much longer!!
  • I do it for all veggies, even melons and squashes... keeps them
    fresh longer!
    • it is quite simple... wash out the sink, fill with cold water, add a half cup vinegar, and soak everything for 3 - 5 min, rotating as it floats up... viola!  
    • the vinegar helps stop any fungus or bacteria growth and inhibits decomposition for some time, which obviously keeps things fresh!!
  • Hydration is your friend!! 
    • soft or soggy veggies (peppers, broccoli, celery, asparagus etc) can be freshened by cutting a new edge (the top stem of a pepper, the ends of celery etc) and placing the fresh end in a bit of cold water and allowing it to sit for an hour will give you fresh veggies once again!!
    • sometimes veggies are beyond help, so be sure to look for mold, rot and slime... I would not advocate eating or trying to save those!!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Living and Saving on a Budget

At the start of the year, Daddykins and I started a new budget and so far, it is working well.  We have a few savings options and ideas kicking around, but what I love most is my file folder of savings.  Our amounts saved grow little by little every week and so far, so good!  

I have a few categories that were immediate needs for us, and so those became the categories we contribute to on a weekly basis (most of the time...).  All of the accounts have a capped limit, and once the limit is reached, the funds will be diverted into another account.  If I have to take money out of an account, then I will revert to building the emptied account as I did before it was full.   

  • Girl's Food - Amount contributed: $20/week -  we buy the girl's food from amazon, but I did not want it sitting attached to my debit card, so I pull $20 out a week, and then put it back in my account when we need to purchase.  This is the only account that has money coming and going on a regular basis.  The account will be frozen at $200, and new incoming money will be put into their emergency fund.
  • Girl's Emergency - Amount contributed: $10/week - we do have pet
    Just a simple file folder found at the dollar
    bin in Target!  Love my dollar finds!
    insurance on the girls, but just in case anything happens, we have something to go on.  I have the account to be frozen once funds reach $400 and then we will contribute new incoming money to our vacation fund.  
  • General Emergency - Amount contributed: $5/week - this is for those unexpected dryer repairs, calls to the plumber, 'last pair of sneakers finally worn out' things that come up in our lives.  I have less contributed to this account than others because we historically have had few of these 'emergencies' and I am banking on the trend continuing.  Once the account reaches $400 and then new incoming money will be put towards our "car emergency" fund.   
  • Car Emergency - Amount contributed: $5/week - I hate cars, hate hate hate them... they always break.  And cost a lot.  So I have this fund, and I hope I never have to use it!  This is capped at $400, and I am sure it will be forever in use and never actually full, but in the event that it is, money will then be diverted to my oil changes and tolls fund.  
  • Oil Changes/Tolls - Amount contributed: anything extra - I couldn't justify having a real amount given to this, so when I have a mileage check come in or an extra few bucks, it goes into this account.  
  • The ledger I created to help keep track
    of what was going in/out of the accoutns.
  • Camping - Amount contributed:  My Nannying Money - we love to go camping and have most of our supplies but food and gas still cost money, and so I don't blow our weekly budget when we want to go, I have a fund!  And it is full at $300!  So now all my money from part-time Nannying will go into General Emergency!  So happy to have an account full... I never thought it would happen!
Other accounts that will be contributed to in the future... but our budget didn't allow for it now, but I have plans for it!
  • vacation 
  • home improvement 
  • health emergency 
  • wedding fund

To keep track:

  • I ended up making a ledger for each file within the folder.  It allows me to keep track and add/subtract as things change, and I can easily remember how much I contribute and what my goal is so I know when I can stop.  I also put a sticker on the back of each one which tells me what I will be contributing to next, once my account is full. 
So, what does this look like on a weekly basis?  
  • To do the saving I want/can do, it is only $40 a week, which fits into our budget well. 
  • Pop it in, adjust my ledger and move on!  So fast and easy once I had it set up and I have a little cushion to fall back on in case of emergency.