Archives for 2010

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)

The Christmas holiday is barely over, but the New Year is quickly approaching. That means its already time to start thinking about this summer and the bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables that will be available.

If you have any interest in participating in Community Supported Agriculture, now is the time to sign-up. Most programs offer discounts if you sign-up before the end of the year. The savings can be big – up to $100 for joining early.

What is Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)?

Community Supported Agriculture means you buy a “share” in a local farm. You invest before the growing season begins, then share in its bounty throughout the summer. Your “share” comes in a weekly box of fruits or vegetables or a mix of both.

Most farms typically offer a variety of shares to suit the size and budget of your family. Some CSA farms even allow you to buy a working share which requires you to work at the farm in exchange for a discounted price.

By buying into the farm early, you do assume some of the risk. If the growing season is poor, you may not receive much for your share.

Why Participate in Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)?

Buying a share in a CSA allows you to support the farmers in your area. It keeps your dollars local and allows you to choose how your food is produced. It also means you will get peak fresh produce delivered each week over the growing season.

What Can You Expect from Your CSA?

The beauty of buying into a CSA, is you can choose what kind of program you want to join. Most farms give you an idea of what will be planted and what kinds and varieties of produce you can expect. Do you want more say in what goes into your box each week? Find a CSA that gives you that flexibility. Want to include eggs, meat, herbs, or flowers? Chances are you can find that in a local CSA as well.

Where to Find a CSA Near You?

If you want to investigate joining a CSA, I’ve found Local Harvest to be a great source of information.

By participating in a CSA you will be eating locally, seasonally, and healthily. By acting now, you will be acting frugally as well. Check it out and be sure to let me know if you find a farm you’re going to invest in!

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy here.

How to Shop Overstock and Closeout Stores

From national stores like Big Lots to smaller chains like Bargain Mart, overstock and closeout stores offer big discounts. How to shop the closeout stores like a pro is the topic of today’s:

Do you shop the closeout stores? Then you know how good the deals can be! Closeout and overstock stores offer products that are being discontinued, products where the packaging is changing, or products that were test market products.

If you are looking to save on organic and natural products, consider cruising your local closeout store to see what bargains you can find. Check out all the great natural and organic products I found at Bargain Mart recently:

My savings were huge! I saved anywhere from 40% to 83%! The 83% was on the Say Yes to Cucumbers Soothing Eye Gel. It retails for $14.99, but I found it at Bargain Mart for $2.50! The product does not expire for another year – I think the package has just changed!

Ready to start shopping the closeout stores and finding your own bargains? Here are some strategies for making sure you get the deals you want!

1. Find Out When New Merchandise Arrives – Ask a manager to see if they have regular days when they restock. Then plan on arriving early that day!

2. Look At It As A Treasure Hunt – Since merchandise changes quickly, you never know what you will find. Go in with low expectations and hope to be pleasantly surprised.

3. Check the Expiration Date – You will find food and drink products that are past their expiration date. Make sure you are comfortable that the product is still good before you purchase it.

4. Know Your Prices – Not everything you find will be at discounted prices. For example, the San Pellegrino at Bargain Mart was marked at $1.20. Because I know my prices, I know that King Soopers/Krogers regularly include San Pellegrino in their Mega Sale Events and I can pick it up for less than a dollar.

5. Evaluate the Condition the Merchandise is In – Is it on closeout because it was damaged? Make sure to open the box and carefully examine any merchandise before you buy it. When I bought the Seventh Generation Dish Detergent, I could feel that humidity had gotten into the box and turned the detergent into a solid block. However, I knew I had a simple fix – break it apart with a meat tenderizer – so I found the condition acceptable. The reward for my effort? 40% off regular retail!

6. Ask About the Return Policy – If something does go wrong with your purchase, you want to make sure you can bring it back for a full refund.

So are you ready to shop the closeouts? Make sure to let me know what great treasures you find!

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy here.

DIY Christmas Gift: Bottling Your Cherry Bounce

Back in the summer I showed you how to make Vodka Cherry Bounce while cherries were in season. If you haven’t made any yet, you still can! However, you’ll need to buy frozen organic sweet cherries and remember to make sure you let the Vodka Cherry Bounce sit for at least 4 weeks.

What you will need if you’d like to bottle your Vodka Cherry Bounce:

  • clean, empty bottles
  • contact paper
  • skill knife
  • glass etching cream (I bought mine at Michael’s with a 50% off coupon)

Here is how I bottled the  Vodka Cherry Bounce for gifts.

I used empty maple syrup bottles. Don’t they look a bit like flasks?

Score the label and soak the bottle in hot water to easily remove the label.

Next, draw whatever you’d like to put on the bottle on a piece of contact paper. I chose to draw a cherry. Make sure it will fit in the area you want it to.

Cut the pattern out with a skill knife.

Stick the contact paper pattern to the bottle.

Apply glass etching cream according to the package directions. This is nasty stuff. Be sure to wear plastic gloves!

Wash it off and you have your finished bottle. Fill the bottle with the Vodka Cherry Bounce using a funnel. Discard cherries – they have soaked up so much alcohol they are horrible!

Present as gifts and hope who ever you present your gift to offers to share!

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy here.

How to Repurpose Egg Cartons: Top 10 Ways

Cardboard and plastic eggs cartons can simply be thrown in the recycling bin. But why? When they can have such a purposeful second life? Be sure to wash them thoroughly – especially if you plan to use them for food items!

HOLIDAY USES


1.  Place delicate ornaments in cushioned egg cartons to store safely.

2.  The cups are the perfect size to hold mini-muffins, truffles, small cookies or cut brownies. Decorate the carton to present as a holiday gift.

3.  Use them to cushion gifts when mailing them for the holidays.
4.  Plastic egg cartons can be used as extra ice trays. Handy during party season.

FOR USE WITH KIDS

5.   Fill each cup with a different treat – nuts, crackers, raisins, etc. – and take a snack to go!

6.   Fill a cardboard egg carton with dryer lint. Melt wax from old candles in a double broiler. (you may want to use a coffee pan in a pot of water to save on clean up). Pour the melted wax over the dryer lint. (feel free to add a bit of cinnamon stick or dried orange peel to add a delightful scent.) Cut cups apart and use to help light a fire.

7.   Turn them over and use them as taco shell holders. This makes building tacos simple and kid-friendly!

8.  Stacking, sorting, building, imaginative play with small toys – egg cartons can provide hours of fun for a little one!

9.  Fill each egg carton hole with a little paint for easy clean-up!

FOR USE AROUND THE HOUSE


10.  Store your jewelry in them! My earrings have found a great home in an old egg carton.

11.  Collect cardboard egg cartons to start seedlings. Cut cups apart and poke a small hole in the bottom. Fill with organic potting soil and a seed. When ready to be planted, there is no need to take out of the egg carton cup. Simply cut the bottom out with scissors and plant in the ground!

12.  Organize your office supplies. Rubber bands, paper clips, brads can all be corralled in an egg carton.

Apparently I couldn’t stop at just 10 uses! What other uses have you found?

Linked up to Simple Lives Thursday

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy here.

Tips for Black Friday and Cyber Monday

Here are some helpful tips to getting what you want at the best price on Black Friday and/or Cyber Monday.

  1. Make a List of Gifts – Compare your list to the Black Friday/Cyber Monday ads. Are there gifts on your list you want to buy on either of those days?
  2. Set Target Prices – How much are you truly willing to spend to get the deal? Make sure this falls within the budget you set for yourself!
  3. Find Your Retailer(s) – What stores have the make and model you want?
  4. Go Early or Set Your Alarm – Whether you’re shopping at the stores or from home, in order to get the best price, you need to act fast! Find out when the store opens, or when the deals will be posted, and plan your schedule accordingly. Either way, it may mean getting up in the middle of the night!
  5. Become an Existing Customer – Most online retailers will save your address and payment information, allowing you to log-in with just an email and password. If you think you might want something from any online retailer, I suggest you become an existing customer ahead of time. Then, when the deal happens, you have less information you need to enter.
  6. Stick to Your List – Focus on only buying the items you need at the price point you set. Do not get caught up in the buying frenzy! Just because something is a good deal, doesn’t make it a good deal for you!

Will you be heading out Black Friday?

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy here.

FREE Downloadable Wine & Gift Tags

When invited to dine with friends and family, many of us will bring a bottle of wine or nonalcoholic sparkling cider for the host and hostess. So, I created some fun Wine Tags to dress up those bottles.

Here’s how you can make your own:

  1. You can use any clipart/image you wish. I downloaded a free image from Briar Press.
  2. Save the image in a folder.
  3. Upload the folder to Picasa.
  4. In Picasa, select “Create” “Picture Collage”.

This layers your image onto a plain background. Once you get your image onto the background you want, select the “Create Collage”. Then you are ready to add text.

I like to chose the Edit in Picnik button and add text in Picnik, but you can add text right there in Picasa.

If you have never used Picnik before, play around! You can add text, add stickers, play with borders … there are all kinds of possiblities!

Once you have the finished product, print it out on cardstock.

Matte the tag with fun paper if you wish. Cut a piece of coordinating ribbon to whatever size you need.

Push a brad through the tag and ribbon to secure and you’re finished!

I had so much fun I had to make a few more. In fact, I wanted to make some tags for some very specific recipients. Perhaps you have someone in your life for whom these would be fitting?

All these labels are FREE for you to download! Wine Guy, Joy to the World, Let’s Get Blitzy, Please Accept This Regift

So tell me, anyone you know regift?

Submitted to Tip Junkie

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Reading Nutrition Labels: Supermarket Strategies

Do you read nutrition labels? What do you look for?

As I’ve been documenting on this website, I’ve been Feeding My Family of Four a Green Diet for $15/day. Part of my definition of Green Diet is buying products with ingredients that are recognizable, pronounceable and nutritious. All that information is on the nutrition label! That’s the focus of this week’s:

When buying a product, try to take the time to read the label first. What to look for:

Short Ingredient List

First, read the label to make sure the product is not high in transfats, sugars or salt. Next, remember the fewer the ingredients in a product, the better. If you see a long list of unrecognizable ingredients, it indicates added chemicals and fillers you don’t need or want. Finally, check the serving size. You may be astonished to see how small the serving size is!

Ingredient List You Can Pronounce

Again, if you can’t pronounce an ingredient you probably shouldn’t be ingesting it or using it on your body. Who knows what that stuff is?

Look For Whole Grains NOT Multi Grains

Buying a product made from whole grains means you are getting all three parts of the grain kernel – the bran, the endosperm, and the germ. Multi Grains are made from several grains, but these grains may have been refined – meaning the grain kernel may have been stripped of some of its nutrients. Look for labels that identify 100% of a grain. For example, pick 100% Whole Wheat bread to get a whole grain product.

Avoid Labels with MSG, High Fructose Corn Syrup, or Artificial Colors

MSG (monosodium glutamate) is a food additive that has been linked to allergic reactions. Best to steer clear rather than to risk an adverse reaction.

High fructose corn syrup is made from chemically altered cornstarch. It is high in calories and low in nutrition. It leads to weight gain, tooth decay and poor nutrition. And it shows up in the most unlikely places (like 100% Whole Wheat Bread!) So be sure to check your nutrition labels.

Artificial Colors are man-made dyes that can cause an allergic reaction in some people. Some of the worst culprits have been banned. (Remember the Red Dye scare?)

Look for Non-GMO Labels

Looking for the label “NON-GMO” is particularly important. GMO stands for genetically modified organisms, which is a way of saying science tampered with nature. The absolute best way to avoid GMOs is to buy organic.

I am by no means perfect in my buying. I did buy Pillsbury crusts this week. And I struggle with my desire to buy Gatorade. It’s so cheap this week! However, I am consistent in other areas – like only buying organic milk and eggs. My weekly strategy is to shop the perimeter of the store for most of my groceries – focusing on single word foods – like banana. That way, I always know what I’m getting.

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy here.

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