Track Your Finances with a Bill Paying Schedule

August 20, 2009 · Filed Under Being Frugal, Budgeting · Comments Off on Track Your Finances with a Bill Paying Schedule 

Have you ever had to pay a late fee because you forgot a due date? Or ever “lost” a bill in a pile of papers on your desk? Or ever caused an overdraft in your checkbook because you neglected to enter an automatic debit payment? Many of the most frugal moms can sadly say yes, that at one time or another we’ve cost ourselves money by not having our finances better organized. Well, there are ways to stop this aggravating problem! The simplest way is to create a monthly bill paying schedule.

This is especially easy if you have Microsoft Excel or another spreadsheet program on your computer. But even if you don’t, you can create a simple form to help you track monthly bills and payments so you don’t spend money on mistakes like the ones above.

To create a bill planner in Excel:

• Open the program and create a new spreadsheet.

• Title the first seven columns: Date Due, Company/Bill, Amount Due, Amount Paid, Date Paid, Check Number and Balance.

• Date Due is the date the bill must be paid to avoid late charges. If you mail a bill rather than paying it by phone or online, you may want to allow five days for the bill to reach the office.

For instance, If you have a bill due the first of the month, enter the Date Due as the 25th of the previous month, just to be sure the bill gets to the billing office on time.

• The Company/Bill column is for the name of the company you pay the bill to.

• Amount Due is the Net amount due before any late fees are added. This is the amount you hope to pay each month.

• Amount Paid may be the full amount from the previous column, or–in the case of paying only a partial bill, or a monthly installment–that amount. This is the amount paid on your account for this payment only.

• Date Paid is the date you mailed your check, or paid the bill online or by phone.

• Check Number may be the number of an actual check, a money order number, or a confirmation number if you pay by one of those methods.

• The Balance will be $0 unless you pay a partial payment or the bill is an installment loan or credit card with a carry-over amount. The more $0 balances, the better.

Once you’ve created the necessary columns, you can design the format to suit your needs. You may prefer to leave a blank column between each of the columns above, shade the headings, add lines, etc. Do whatever works best for you and makes this a comfortable form to use.

To create a bill planner manually:

• On a blank sheet of paper, draw the seven columns as mentioned above. Create the form on lined paper to make it easier to enter data.

• Draw a line between each column to help you keep the data separate and make the completed form easier to read.

• Make several copies of the form then write “Original” on a self-adhesive note and stick to the front of the original so you don’t accidentally use that one and have to recreate the form again each month.

To use your new bill planner:

• Take each bill at the beginning of the month, or as they arrive, and fill in one line for each payment due.

• Enter bills in line order by date due when possible to make it easier to track in order by due date.

• Enter only regular monthly bills such as utilities, telephone, mortgage, credit card payments, medical bills, installment loans, etc. Don’t enter items like clothing, food, gasoline, or books. You can track them on a similar sheet, but this one is for fixed monthly expenses that you have less control over.

• Check your bill planner at the beginning of every week to see what bills are due that week and what can wait until another payday. This will help you see every bill that must be paid from that week’s paycheck in order for the payment to arrive to the company on time.

Tracking your finances with a monthly bill planner doesn’t have to be elaborate, complicated or difficult. The goal is simply to write down what you owe, when you owe it, and when and how you paid it.

A bonus to using a monthly bill planning schedule is that after a couple months, you’ll begin to get a clearer picture of your overall financial situation and begin to see where you may be able to save money by paying off certain bills or eliminating other expenses.

The ABCs of Frugal Living

August 20, 2009 · Filed Under Being Frugal · Comments Off on The ABCs of Frugal Living 

Always return items you buy that don’t fit when you get them home.

Bake your own cookies, cakes, bread, etc.

Christmas shop during “day after” sales and have your gifts ready for next year.

Do it yourself… anything you or a family member can do free will save money. This includes lawn care, hair cuts, car repair and more.

Evaluate every purchase you plan to make–before you buy!

Fix what’s broken. Leaky faucets, cars that burn oil, ovens that waste heat, and other things that need repair cost money every time you use them.

Grocery shop on a full stomach and without the kids.

Host birthday parties and celebrations at home rather than going to the local pizza place.

Invest at least a portion of your money every year, or every month. Penny stocks, gold, even real estate are possible investments that could pay off well in time.

Join a recycle group such as Freecycle and give away what you don’t need or want, and find things you do… free.

Kick the habit! Save your lungs and hundreds of dollars a year.

Leave the oven door open to let it help heat your kitchen in the winter.

Manage your budget. Pay bills on time to avoid late fees, balance your checkbook to save overdraft charges, etc.

Never buy something you don’t want or need because a friend is having a party and earning rewards!

Open a savings account and deposit 10 percent of everything you make every week.

Put your change in a jar every day and see how the savings add up at the end of the year. You may even have enough to pay for a family vacation!

Quit beating yourself up when you overspend. Sure, you don’t want to make excuses or get in the habit of blowing your budget, but a little splurge here and there probably won’t hurt that much.

Rearrange your schedule, if possible, to save on child care. Work while the kids are in school, shop when your husband is home, take classes when a friend or relative can watch the children.

Stop spending! Every penny saved is indeed as good as a penny earned!

Take your lunch to work instead of going out to eat.

Use everything you own until it wears out.

Visit free local attractions, museums, parks and other places of interest that don’t cost anything when you want something to do.

Watch movies you borrow from the library instead of renting them, or going to a theater.

eXamine monthly statements to be sure the charges are correct. Large companies often make mistakes on what they charge.

Yield not to temptation where your money is concerned. If you feel you shouldn’t buy something, then don’t.

Zipper bags are expensive! Wash and reuse any that haven’t contained raw meat.

Save Money Surfing the Web

August 19, 2009 · Filed Under Being Frugal · Comments Off on Save Money Surfing the Web 

According to Nielsen-Online, nearly 156 million Americans are online every month, and while it may be costing you money to allow your family the privilege of surfing the Net, it could actually be saving you more money than you realize. If it isn’t, then you need to know how much you’re missing out on! Here are several ways you can be saving money online.

Shop online. We all know about eBay, Amazon and other online retailers that sell products at a fraction of the store price, but did you know that a lot of store’s sell their own products for less online than in their actual stores? This is especially true with store’s that sell electrical consumer goods such as computers, stereos, and the like.

Compare everything. For years we’ve been told to “shop around” before we buy anything, and while in the past this has meant trawling around the shopping mall for hours, in terms of the Internet, this couldn’t be easier. Many store Websites now offer comparisons of products on other Websites. You should be wary of bias, however. It would still be wise to check individual store Websites for yourself.

There are also many Websites dedicated to comparing products, but as with store Websites, be aware that some comparison Websites affiliate with company’s who offer them a commission for every customer that website brings to in. Make sure you always do your research.

Bank online. Sometimes it’s hard to remember exactly how much money you’ve spent, and it’s not always easy to get to an ATM. But these days, nearly every major bank offers the benefit of online banking, allowing you access to your finances 24/7. This guarantees you always know how much money you have and never overspend your bank balance, and allows you to keep an eye on all of the bills you pay.

Many banks also offer credit card deals and loans that are only available online and that are far better than what you can find locally.

Receive your bills online. With the encouragement to go green and save the planet, many companies actually prefer it if you only receive online bills from them, rather than paper copies–especially electric companies, telephone companies and other utility companies.

This is beneficial to you for more reasons than simply saving the environment though (and that’s a good reason!). Many companies have started charging customers who insist on receiving paper copies of their bills. And if you set up an automatic debit to pay your bill, many companies will reward you for that, too, with added discounts or other perks.

Freebies. When large companies, in particular, launch a new product, they like to give away free samples so people can try the product, love it and tell all their friends how brilliant that company is. While ten years ago these samples would be placed in the mailboxes of a privileged few–most of whom wouldn’t even use the product–in the Internet age, most free samples are offered online to the first 100 or so people who ask for them. This gives the companies more control over their disbursement and while you may not get every one, there are plenty of samples to be found. There are even Websites that specialize in doing the work for you and will find all of the free things they can so you don’t have to.

Travel. If you need to travel a long distance by air, bus or train, then you should definitely consider ordering tickets online. Look around and it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll find early-bird or last-minute fares at greatly reduced rates. And the same applies for hotel bookings and car rentals.

Moving. You can save 30 percent or more on the cost of renting a moving truck through Budget, Uhaul or Ryder when you order online. Be careful, though, if you book a truck and don’t pick it up as promised, or if you wait to long to cancel the rental, you could be charged a cancellation fee of up to $50.

Get Frugally Active

August 19, 2009 · Filed Under Being Frugal · Comments Off on Get Frugally Active 

You don’t need an excuse to be more active in your everyday life, but living frugally is a great one. Here are a few ways you can save money while getting yourself and your family more active.

Ditch the car. Only use the car when absolutely necessary. You might even consider getting rid of it completely if it’s feasible for your family. Think how much money you spend every year running a vehicle: taxes, insurance, gas, maintenance. It all adds up. Instead, consider taking the bus, riding a bike, or walking when you can.

Speaking of bikes… dust yours off and start pedaling. Rather than driving to work or school, hop on your bike. An hour of gentle cycling to and from work can burn between 300 and 600 calories.

Walk everywhere you can. Walking is the easiest way to get fit, you’ll burn at least 150 calories and you won’t have to spend a cent to do it.

Shop closer to home. If there’s a small grocery store near you, don’t drive to the grocery store unless you absolutely have to. Instead walk to the local one for smaller things. Even if things cost a little more than Wal-Mart, think about how much you’d be spending on gas if you drove further.

Get off the bus a stop earlier. Getting off the bus earlier not only means that you have to walk further, but it also means that you could potentially save some money, depending on how your local bus company charges fares.

Forget the fancy hotel. If you’re going on holiday, ditch the idea of staying in a posh, expensive hotel. Instead, take your family camping. Camping costs a small fraction of the cost of a hotel and the kids will love the adventure. If you camp out in the wilderness, there will be plenty of opportunity for activity, from walks and hikes to bike rides, maybe even fishing or canoeing.

Wash your car by hand. Rather than paying to have a machine wash your car, wash it yourself. Water and dish soap are cheap, and you can burn between 100 and 300 calories doing it.

Get rid of your gym membership. Gyms entice us in, and we make ourselves believe that paying a membership fee will be enough to encourage us to actually workout twice a week. But how many of us really get our money’s worth at the local gym? Few. Cancel your membership and get fit around the house instead. You can really burn some calories doing housework and caring for your family. For instance:

• Cleaning windows–180 calories an hour
• Vacuuming or mopping floors–200 calories an hour
• Scrubbing the floor strenuously on your knees–up to 500 calories an hour
• Gardening, including pruning, weeding and mowing the lawn–about 350 calories an hour
• Child care–about 500 calories an hour
• Cooking–about 350 calories an hour
• Pushing a stroller with a child in it–up to 1,200 calories an hour!

There are hundreds of ways to get fit and save money at the same time. Begin to notice them and take advantage of each one, and before you know it, you’ll not only be slimmer, you’ll be able to pay for a new outfit with the money you’ve saved!

Dressing up a Plain Hot Dog

August 13, 2009 · Filed Under Being Frugal, Frugal Meals · Comments Off on Dressing up a Plain Hot Dog 

While hot dogs may be an all-American meal, plain hot dogs can be… let’s say it… Boring. Frugal moms know how to turn boring into brilliant, though! Here are some ways to dress up that plain dog and make it not only edible, but delectable, for those who don’t want to seem unpatriotic, but who don’t care if they ever see a plain hot dog again!

• Top it off. Make slaw dogs by topping with some slightly sweet, creamy coleslaw, or add sauerkraut for a German flair. Go simple with mustard, ketchup and onions. Or add chili for a to make them more filling.

• Try something different. Add thin slices of hot dogs to pizza, nachos, or other foods. Experiment! You may be surprised what delicious oddities you discover. Here are some recipes to get you started.

Sweet & Sour Hot Dogs

1 pkg. hot dogs
2 T. margarine
1 c. brown sugar, packed
3 T. flour
2 t. dry mustard
1 c. pineapple juice, unsweetened
1 c. pineapple chunks
1/2 c. vinegar
2 t. soy sauce
2 c. cooked rice

Cut hot dogs into 1″ chunks. Brown slightly in butter. Combine brown sugar, flour, mustard, pineapple and juice, vinegar and soy sauce in small bowl. Add to hot dogs. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until thickened, stirring often. Serve hot over rice.

Beans & Franks

1 pkg. hot dogs
2 cans pork & beans
water

Place hot dogs in a medium saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil and boil until plump. Cut into 1″ chunks. Return to pan, add pork & beans. Mix well and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer about 5 minutes.

Biscuit Pups

1 can biscuit dough
3 hot dogs

Preheat oven to 350° F. Cut each hot dog in three equal pieces. Wrap one biscuit around each hot dog piece (will have one biscuit left over), sealing edges. Bake on ungreased cookie about 10 minutes or until biscuits are golden brown.

Mac & Dogs

1 pkg. macaroni & cheese
1 pkg. hot dogs
water

Prepare macaroni & cheese according to package directions. Place hot dogs in a medium saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil and boil until plump. Cut into 1″ chunks. Return to pan, add macaroni & cheese. Mix well.

Sauerdogs

1 can sauerkraut
1 pkg. hot dogs
water

Place hot dogs in a medium saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil and boil until plump. Cut into 1″ chunks. Return to pan, add sauerkraut. Mix well and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer about 10 minutes or until sauerkraut is heated through.

Cheesy Hot Dog Casserole

8 oz. pkg. macaroni
12 oz. (3/4 of pkg.) Velveeta cheese, separated
1/4 c. milk
5 hot dogs, cut into 1″ chunks
1/2 c. tomato, chopped

Preheat oven to 350° F. Prepare macaroni & cheese according to package directions and set aside. Cut 8 oz. of the Velveeta into cubes. Cut remainder into slices. Place Velveeta cubes in large saucepan. Add milk. Cook on low heat until cheese is melted, stirring constantly. Add macaroni, hot dogs and tomato to cheese sauce. Mix well. Pour into 13″ x 9″ pan. Bake 30 minutes. Remove from oven. Layer cheese slices on top. Bake 5 more minutes or until cheese is melted.

Heavenly Hot Dog Hash

6 hot dogs
2 T. vegetable oil
6 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium green pepper, cut in thin strips
1 t. salt
1 t. pepper
1/8 t. garlic powder

Boil potatoes until tender. Cut hot dogs into 1″ chunks. Heat vegetable oil in medium skillet. Add remaining ingredients. Cook until potatoes are golden brown.

Surviving Garden Overload

August 13, 2009 · Filed Under Being Frugal, Frugal Meals · Comments Off on Surviving Garden Overload 

There’s a recurring condition that happens every year around harvest time. It’s called garden overload. When you find yourself drowning in zucchini, overrun with tomatoes, and so tired of cucumbers you never want to see another one, you’re probably suffering from this common ailment. But don’t despair! You can find ways to use all that wonderful, fresh garden surplus that comes from growing your own garden each year.

• Share! Take a bag of extras to a shut-in, neighbor you don’t see often, a family member or church friend. Look for those who don’t have gardens of their own and they’ll be thrilled to receive your extras.

• Can it. Invest in a canner and some canning jars and start “putting up” food. You’ll have delicious produce all year long. If you can’t afford the canning supplies or equipment, check Freecycle. A friend got three large canners, a strainer and several boxes of jars from someone on her local Freecycle group.

• Freeze some. Freezing is another great way to preserve fruits and vegetables. Check the library for a good book on freezing, if you’ve never done it before. A word of caution, if your power goes out for an extended period of time, there is a chance you could lose all the food you freeze. It helps to have a small generator, or other backup plan if you decide to freeze very much.

• Start baking! Nothing can beat zucchini bread, pumpkin cake or blueberry muffins. Whip up some of your favorite recipes and freeze the results. Then when you have unexpected company or don’t feel like baking, grab one of your homemade goodies and toss it in the microwave.

• Cook up some goodies and preserve them. You can make soups, sauces, salsa, pickles and just about anything else your family eats in large batches and can them for later use. Follow proper canning guidelines for safety!

• Swap with other gardeners. If you know someone with an abundance of corn, trade some of your green beans for a few ears. You’ll both have greater variety and it will save you having to grow every potential vegetable your family would eat. There is actually a website called VeggieTrader that helps you set up local vegetable swaps. This may be an option if you can’t find someone you know to trade with.

• Sell some. Set up a roadside produce stand or take part in a local farmer’s market. All you need is a table, some plastic shopping bags (leftovers from Wal*Mart are great), and change. You’ll want to be sure you’re in the shade so you don’t get a sunburn, and you may want some small produce baskets to measure out your goods. But it’s a great way to make some extra cash, and have fun in the process!

• Donate it to someone in need. Perhaps you have a neighbor who is always struggling financially, or know of a local food pantry or shelter that could use the food. You’ll feel the satisfaction of knowing you’ve helped someone else while solving a problem of your own (too much produce). What could be better than that?

• Dry ’em out. Dried tomatoes are just the thing for pizza and other dishes. And dried fruits such as blueberries make a wonderful snack. Look for recipes and instructions for drying foods and give it a try. This is an especially viable option if you go camping or hiking since dried foods are great to carry along in a backpack.

• Save a few for seeds. While you may think you never want to consider another garden, keep in mind that by next year’s harvest this abundance of food will have been eaten. If you think you might want to try again, then be sure to save some seeds from all your goodies so you can start all over in the spring.

Stretch Your Family Budget with Rice

August 12, 2009 · Filed Under Being Frugal, Frugal Meals · Comments Off on Stretch Your Family Budget with Rice 

To people in many parts of the world, rice is as much a daily staple as bread is to Americans. And it’s easy to see why. It’s inexpensive, easy to cook, tastes great, and can be used in a multitude of recipes. Rice easily picks up added seasonings to create a variety of flavors, and works well for breakfast, lunch, or dinner in side dishes, entrees or even desserts. Rice is truly one of the most versatile foods frugal moms will find. And it can be used for purposes other than food as well. Here are some ideas for using rice to in a variety of money-saving ways

• Use traditional rice rather than quick-cooking rice to save the most money.

• Keep quick-cooking rice on hand for emergencies. Rice makes a quick add-on to a meal that needs to be stretched to accommodate unexpected visitors, or for when your menu plan didn’t include a side dish.

• To make perfect rice, use a heavy pot so it doesn’t scorch the bottom, and a tight fitting lid. Rinse the rice before cooking. Drain thoroughly. Add 1 part rice to 1 1/2 parts water. Cook on low heat for 12-14 minutes. Let rice sit, covered for five minutes before serving.

• Saute rice in 1 T. vegetable oil before adding water to help grains remain separated after it’s cooked.

• Rice is great for handcrafted bean bag filling, but be careful using it around small children as it could cause a choking hazard.

• Rice is often used in beauty products, particularly by the Japanese. Make your own facial toner and scrub with the following recipes.

Rice Facial Toner
2 t. rice
1/2 T. thyme
1/2 c. water
3 T. lemon juice

In a small bowl, crush rice, Add thyme and stir with a fork. Bring water to a full boil in a small saucepan. Add rice mixture and lemon juice. Let cool completely. Strain and apply liquid to face with a cotton ball. Refrigerate leftover.

Rice Scrub
1 t. rice
10 strawberries, chopped
2 T. extra virgin olive oil
1 t. sea salt

Combine strawberries and olive oil with a fork until well blended. Add crushed rice and salt. Mix well. Massage onto face, feet, elbows, knees, etc. Let stand 2-3 minutes. Rinse thoroughly.

• There are hundreds or thousands of recipes available using rice for all kinds of dishes. The following will get you started experimenting.

Spanish Rice
2 c. cooked rice
1 pkg. taco seasoning mix
1 small can diced tomatoes
1 t. salt
1 t. pepper
1 t. chili powder
1 t. cilantro (optional)

Combine all ingredients and mix well. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.

Easy Rice Pudding
1/4 c. uncooked rice
4 c. milk
2/3 c. sugar
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. nutmeg
1/2 c. raisins (optional)

Preheat oven to 300° F. Combine all ingredients in a baking dish sprayed with cooking oil spray. Bake 3 1/2 hours, stirring three times during the first hour of baking to keep rice from settling.

Hawaiian Breakfast Rice
1 c. cooked rice, cooled
1/2 banana, sliced
1/4 c. coconut milk
2 T. coconut
2 T. pineapple
2 T. raisins
1 T. chopped almonds

Combine all ingredients and mix well.

Rice Pilaf
2 T. butter
1/2 small onion, chopped fine
2 c. rice
3 stalks celery, chopped fine
1 large can chicken broth
1 t. salt
1 t. pepper

Melt butter in large skillet. Add onion and saute until tender. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer over low heat until rice is done, about 15 minutes.

Give Yourself a “New” Bathroom for Under $100

August 11, 2009 · Filed Under Being Frugal, Cheap Home Decorating · Comments Off on Give Yourself a “New” Bathroom for Under $100 

Giving your entire home a new look can run into some big bucks, but choosing one room at a time, especially a small room, is doable on most any budget. A good place to begin is with your bathroom, since 1) it’s typically the smallest room in the house, and 2) there are so many frugal options to choose from that you don’t have to spend much money at all to achieve a great new look! Here are some ways to quickly–and inexpensively–update your bathroom decor for under $100.

• Paint. You can find a gallon of paint on sale for $10 and update the entire look of your room in a few hours. Even if you don’t do anything else, you’ve got a bright “new” room with this change alone.

• A wallpaper border from the dollar store will transform your plain bathroom walls into a romantic hideaway, a jungle adventure, a deep sea odyssey, or a relaxing mountain lodge.

• Change the shower curtain to match your new paint and border. You can make your own from a flat sheet for less than the cost of a store-bought one and have fabric leftover for other projects.

• Buy new towels and use some of that leftover sheet to add a border around the bottom. Or crochet an edging in a coordinating color.

• Hang new towel rods and hooks, or paint the ones you have. They’ll show-off those newly decorated towels to their best advantage.

• Pick up a new toothbrush holder, soap dish and cup set at the dollar store. A solid color will work best since you’ll have it if you decide to change patterns later. And the full set can be found for $5 or less.

• Paint a shelf to complement your new paint then hang it about a foot from the ceiling on a wall in the bathroom. Fill it with guest towels, baskets, or other decorative items to match your new style.

• Set baskets around and fill them with the things you use every day such as lotions, make-up, colognes, hair care products, etc. Spray paint the baskets to match the decor, or leave them natural. They look nice either way.

• Frame some magazine prints that fit your new room. You can often pick up old magazines at yard sales for 10¢ each. Add a 25¢ frame and you’ve got new, “original” artwork for pennies.

• Reframe your vanity mirror. Some simple strips of wood can turn that old, dated mirror into something modern and uplifting.

• If your mirror frame is wood, paint it. You can add some decals or leave it plain. Or choose a patterned, self-adhesive paper that matches the room.

• Mobile homes often have flat mirrors that are simply glued to the wall. If that’s your case, it could create a major project to repair peeling mirror paint. Instead, look for decals that can be adhered directly over the worst spots. You may not cover every bad spot, but it will certainly make the mirror look better and the spots less noticeable.

• Add new carpet. Since many bathrooms are small, you may be able to carpet (or tile) the bathroom for just a few dollars and some labor. Give it a try. Carpet remnants come pretty cheap, and the whole room will feel more plush when you’re finished.

Frugal Three Course Company Menu

August 11, 2009 · Filed Under Being Frugal, Cheap Parties · Comments Off on Frugal Three Course Company Menu 

Frugal moms like to entertain occasionally, and enjoy the company of close friends, family and colleagues. But sometimes entertaining can be difficult and expensive, especially if you’re expected to provide a three-course meal. Here’s a simple three course menu of easy-to-make recipes that’s as nice on your pocketbook as it is good to eat.

First Course: Clear Tomato Soup

1 small onion, chopped fine
2 T. butter or margarine
2 c. tomato juice
1 bay leaf
1 t. cloves
dash of basil
1 t. parsley
2 t. sugar
1 T. lemon juice
4 T. fresh cream
salt and pepper to taste

Saute onion in butter in a saucepan for about 7 minutes on low heat so they don’t brown. Add tomato juice. Add cloves, basil, bay leaf, sugar and parsley. Bring to a boil and reduce to low heat. Cover and simmer gently for about 15 minutes. Strain. Return soup to pan, add lemon juice and more salt and pepper to taste. Let sit until ready to serve then reheat. Ladle into warm bowls. Add 1 tablespoon cream on top of each.

One of the best things about this soup is that it can be prepared well in advance of the meal then takes only a few minutes to reheat. This frees up your time to prepare the other dishes.

Main Course: Spaghetti Bolognese

1 medium onion, chopped fine
1 clove of garlic, chopped fine or 1/8 t. garlic powder
2 T. olive oil
2 oz. mushrooms, chopped
1 lb. ground beef
1 can tomatoes or 4 fresh tomatoes, peeled
2 T. tomato paste
1 t. pepper
12 oz. spaghetti
1 T. butter or margarine
Parmesan cheese

Saute onion and garlic in oil. Add mushrooms, cook and stir for 2-3 minutes. Add ground beef. Stir and cook until blended and meat is well done. Chop tomatoes and add to meat, then add tomato paste and pepper. Mix well. Cover and simmer for 30-40 minutes.

While sauce is cooking, cook the spaghetti in boiling, salted water for 10-15 minutes or until done. When tender, drain spaghetti, return to pan, adding butter and sprinkling with a dash of pepper. Toss to mix and keep warm over low heat.

Place spaghetti on a large serving dish, top with meat sauce and cheese.

Dessert: Raspberry Coulis

1 pint raspberries
1/4 c. sugar (or Splenda)
Ice Cream

Strain raspberries to remove seeds. Add sugar or sweetener. Mix well. Serve over two scoops of ice cream.

Entertaining Children’s Birthday Parties

August 10, 2009 · Filed Under Being Frugal, Cheap Parties · 1 Comment 

Children’s birthday parties are always a big to-do with lots of ice cream and cake, and pretty party dresses. Then all the food has gone and you have 15 kids to entertainment! Doing this frugally could be a problem, but here are some few tips frugal moms can use when organizing a child’s birthday party that will alleviate the “What do we do now?” blues

1. Buy a large bag of balloons, but don’t blow them up until you’re ready to use them. Blow them up in front of the kids and watch their faces light up as they fight to be the first to get hold of a balloon. Let them toss the balloons around and have their own fun. But be prepared for lots of popping!

2. Check the local library for teaching DVDs. This could be anything from dancing to painting and anything in between. Sit the kids in front of the DVD with the needed supplies and see how long it takes them to join in. (Provide smocks if the video teaches something messy.)

3. Play games like musical chairs, or pin the tail on the donkey. Or try pass the package.

Wrap a small treat inside a small box, then place that inside another box with a little bit bigger prize and wrap it. Place that box inside another box with an even bigger prize and wrap that one until you have a large package filled with enough smaller packages for each child to get one.

Have the children stand in a circle. Play some music and let them pass the package around. Then suddenly stop the music. Whoever is holding the package gets to unwrap one layer and then they’re out of the game. The prizes don’t have to be expensive. The children will love the surprise of it no matter what it is.

4. Give them each a pack of colored pencils and hold a contest challenging the kids to draw something specific like a zoo filled with animals. Let the other kids vote for a winner who gets a small prize.

5. If the group is all girls, give them a selection of bright beads in a variety of colors and some thin elastic. Have them string their beads into bracelets or necklaces and tie the elastic in a knot so they can slip it on and off easily. Trim the ends with scissors.

6. Buy a set of face paints at the dollar store and paint each child’s face in a design of his or her choice. This is always a favorite, especially with very young children.

7. If you’re having a theme party, find a movie that goes well with the theme. Some movies are more obvious, like Spider Man if you have a Spider Man theme, but don’t be afraid to get creative. For instance, play Cinderella for a princess theme, or Finding Nemo for a deep sea theme.

8. Also look for crafts that go along with the theme. If you’re throwing a knight-themed party, have the kids make swords out of cardboard and tin foil. This is also a great way to recycle old cereal boxes, shoe boxes, etc.

9. If you live near a park or wooded area, take the kids outside and hold a scavenger hunt. Make a list of things they can find like specific flowers or leaves. Give a prize to the one who collects all their items first.

10. Either buy a toy bubble machine or small bottles of bubbles and watch the kids go crazy blowing and popping them. It’s amazing how much fun kids make with something as simple as bubbles.

11. Buy a plain, inexpensive baseball cap or T-shirt for each child and let them decorate their own. They can use almost anything such as glitter, stencils, paints, jewels, crayons, or beads. This is a great craft and activity because then the children get to take something that they made home with them.

Children’s parties can be a lot of fun for a little cost. Get creative and use your imagination to find ways for the kids to use theirs!

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