Sunday, November 30, 2008

Cheapo Alternatives

With the price of food so high these days, we've found a couple of cheaper alternatives to some staples:

1. Using skim milk powder when you are cooking with milk. ( ie for pancakes, cream soups) It virtually tastes the same as liquid milk after it's cooked. Though it does taste kind of funny when you are just drinking it.

2. Popping your own corn...a $2 bag of kernels and a >$20 air popper can produce a LOT of popcorn!!! We can make probably the equivalent of 10 bags of microwaveable popcorn. It's no-low fat as you control the amount of REAL butter you put in it...along with any other flavor powders.

3. Growing your own herbs can save you truckloads of money!!! We bought our basil plant for $5 three years ago and it has faithfully been producing fresh basil for us ever since! Better yet, you can propagate it easily by pinching the tops and putting it in water until it roots...You can also save green onion tips (the white, rooty end) and grow it hydroponically (how's that for a big word?) and harvest green onions for 2-3 times.

What else have you found?

Simple toys are better for kids' imaginations

Our philosophy when we buy toys is that the toy must be as simple as possible so that the child's imagination can be maximally flexed.

Have you ever noticed this? When you buy a toy that has a small number of degrees of freedom to imagine or play the child seems to lose interest in that toy after a week. It's the toys that encourage imagination that keeps the kids coming back for more.

In our family, we have building blocks, ice cream buckets, yogurt containers, and other items. These toys need not be very complex. We often wait for people to give us toys and often we request that the toys be very simple so that the kids can grow their brains.

Why do I mention this? It's because simple toys are much cheaper than complex and commercialized toys. they also don't need batteries so this is better for the environment in the long run.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

An interesting way to spend 2-3 quality hours

My wife had her cookie exchange today and it was a girls only event. So, my older son and I had defined something to do during the 2-3 hour stretch of time.

I was thinking about what to do todayfor the last week and especially last night. Should I go to the museum? Should I walk to the park with him? Or should we just chill out somewhere? Perhaps go shopping? This morning I realized one thing after I glanced over at my bus schedule. I realize that my son hasn't taken a bus in Halifax before, though he had taken some overseas when he was too young to remember.

What a great idea! We ended up taking the bus all the way to the terminal, which coincidentally was a shopping center, and we tried to find a pet store there. Unfortunately, I guess my memory didn't serve me that well this weekend and we couldn't find the pet store. Anyhow, we ended up buying some fruit at a local grocery store and then riding the bus back. My son had a wonderful time as I showed him the bridges, buses, people walking around, battleships, power stations, and other sites while he sat on my lap for about an hour and a half. He even saw someone in a wheelchair and also an act of respect as someone got up to let someone elderly sit down.

This really simple lesson has taught me that it is very important to spend time with your kids, that most importantly quality time arises as a result of quantity of time, and that the best things in life are truly free. Such a simple act of writing a bus together and taking the scenic route was completely free, due to my bus pass, but for my son represented several hours of hang out time with his father and a lot of learning by appreciating the world around him. I couldn't have done this otherwise with a car or by walking around.

Lost art

Cooking and Baking seems to be a lost art these days. Here are some pros to adding some love to you what you feed your body:

1. You know exactly what you are putting into your food.
2. You can tweak your recipes to the way you like it to taste (ie. less/more salty or sweet).
3. It promotes team work and conversation in your family.
4. It's fun to experiment!
5. You can make goodies at all hours of the day/night and have it fresh! (mmm...cinnamon buns...)
6. It stretches your creativity.
7. Encourages your young ones to develop hand dexterity and life skills.

So find a recipe and try it today! If you don't know what certain words mean (ie folding the batter, al dente), you can look it up on Youtube or google it!

Make sure your fridge is level.

Here's a quick tip that can save significant amounts of energy. When you open your fridge door, does it stay open by itself? Do you often have a difficult time closing that fridge door?

If your answer is "yes" then you need to see if your fridge is actually level. If your fridge is level then we can really help you. If your fridge is not level than take the time to level it. Once it's level then doors will close much easier and will stay closed. This will save energy because the cold air has a greater chance of staying trapped inside your fridge because your door will not have a tendency to swing open.

Friday, November 28, 2008

F*ing meals

Tired of cooking everyday? Try cooking more portions and freezing some of it for when you have a lazy day. All you have to do is set the table and reheat in the microwave! You will love saving money and having healthier *near* instant meals while your family thinks you've been slaving all day for a home-cooked meal. As taken from the Knorr commercial, Frozen doesn't have to be a bad word...

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Save up those digital photos for deals!

Do you really need to print digital photographs the moment you take them? Why not tag them with Picasa (or another program) and save up all the tagged photos? When you find a great photo deal, print all of your photos in a batch.

That will save you cash as well as a extra trips to the photo lab.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

For the ladies and metromen out there...

Need some TLC for your dry and damaged hair? Try showering and washing your hair every other day instead of daily. Your body's natural oils are the best at repairing your hair. You'll save your money from getting hot oil treatments....better yet, forgo the hair dyes, permanent straightening treatments or perms and you'll have a healthier head of hair! That'll save you at around $100 a month!

Dollar store substitutes

These items are great dollar store substitutes. The items are usually sold for more than $1 elsewhere and nobody really cares how much you bought it for.

Toilet plunger? Why pay >1 dollar for it?
Toilet scrub? Why pay >1 dollar for it?
Dish scrub? Why pay >1 dollar for it?

Those sorts of things can be substituted for by dollar store items. For things like this, it doesn't really matter about the quality of the dollar store item. If it ends up breaking, you can replace it. How often does a toilet plunger break anyway?

Anyhow, you decide for yourself. We don't really buy anything else from the dollar store (i.e. we avoid the food) other than household 'grunt' goods (i.e. scrubs, etc).

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Smaller bath towels use less water

When you dry yourself after a shower, have you thought of using a smaller towel? It is just as effective and you will likely not notice things (i.e. you won't be colder) and I would argue that it is probably even faster to towel off with a smaller towel.

A smaller towel uses less water when it comes time to wash it. In addition, you can wash it more often so that you have fresher towels. Either way, you end up using less water in the long run. Try it!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Soap dispensers: foam vs. non-foam

We've moved our entire house to foaming soap dispensers. Why? Have you noticed that when you use non-foaming soap, that you sometimes waste soap? (i.e. the soap doesn't get dissolved and used, but instead is flushed down)

We buy liquid hand soap (no antibacterial properties) but dilute this soap with clean tap water before putting it into the foam dispenser. We've noticed that you can make soap last a long time with this change - about ten times longer (10 pumps lasts about 100 pumps).

Getting the most out of toothpaste

You're getting to the end of your toothpaste tube and you're wanting to throw it away. Don't!

Have you ever tried cutting the toothpaste tube? If you do, you will find that you can scrape at least another 10-15 brushings from it! Depending on how many times a day you brush, you could be extending the life of your toothpaste by several days.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Defrosting in the fridge

When you have a frozen food you need to cook (say, a turkey), and you know you will cook it on a certain date, defrost it in the fridge. Be sure, however, to put the turkey on something in case the plastic wrapping has come apart or torn! (that way, turkey juice doesn't get all over the place in the fridge).

Anyhow, it'll save you energy because you won't be heating up something frozen to room temperature. Instead, your turkey will slowly defrost to fridge temperature and keep the fridge cool as well! Instant energy savings.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Shopping for food

Don't shop when you're hungry because you'll end up throwing a lot of junk food, pre-prepared foods, instant foods (you get the idea) in your cart....and it'll end up costing you more too. We've found that buying non-processed food items is better for your wallet and better for your body. So eat something before you decide to stock your fridge and pantry.