Thursday, December 2, 2010

Financial Preparedness: You Can Avoid Becoming a Victim of Fraud

I received a brochure in the mail from the Federal Trade Commission and thought the information might be helpful to you.  In my lifetime, I have seen far too many people get taken by "get rich quick schemes" and scams because they don't recognize the warning signs.  Educate yourself so you can be prepared!

  • Sounds too good to be true
  • Pressures you to act "right away."
  • Guarantees success.
  • Promises unusually high returns.
  • Requires an upfront investment--even for a "free" prize.
  • Buyers want to overpay you for an item and have you send them the difference.
  • Doesn't have the look of a real business.
  • Something just doesn't feel right.
  • Never click on a link inside an email to visit a Web site.  Type the address into your browser instead.
  • It's easy for a business to look legitimate online.  If you have any doubts, verify the company with the Better Business Bureau.
  • Only 2% of reported identity theft occurs through the mail.  Report online fraud to the Federal Trade Commission at
  • Retain your receipts, statements, and packing slips.  Review them for accuracy.
  • Shred confidential documents instead of simply discarding them in the trash.
  • Your bank will never e-mail or call you for your account number.
  • Don't wire money to people you don't know.
  • Be cautious of work-at-home job offers.
  • Check out the company with the Better Business Bureau.
  • There are no legitimate jobs that involve reshipping items or financial instruments from your home.
  • Foreign lotteries are illegal in the U.S.  You can't win no matter what they say.
  • Check your monthly bank statements for charges you don't recognize.
  • Order a copy of your credit report from each of the three national credit bureaus once a year from
  • It's never too early to become an informed consumer.  Point out "too good to be true" offers to your kids, and teach them to be skeptical.
  • Take an active interest in the financial activities of your aging parents.
  • Share information about scams with friends and family.  Use social networking to help keep them safe.
If you've received a suspected fraud through the U.S. Mail, or if the mail was used in the furtherance of a crime that began on the Internet, telephone or in person, report it to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service:

U.S. Postal Inspection Service
Criminal Investigations Service Center
ATTN:  Mail Fraud
222 S. Riverside Plaza
Chicago, IL 60606-6100

The Federal Trade Commission, the nation's consumer protection agency, works to prevent fraud and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop and avoid it.  To file a complaint or get free information on consumer issues, visit or call 1-877-FTC-HELP.  Watch a new video, How to File a Complaint, at to learn more.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Cooking with Basic Food Storage: Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies Using Whole Wheat Flour

In the mood for chocolate and pumpkin?  Here's a delicious recipe that combines the two in a cake-like tasty cookie using whole wheat flour.  These are "mookies," a cross between a muffin and a cookie.  Mmmmm! 

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies 
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil or 1/2 cup applesauce (healthier version)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon milk
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
  • You may add other fall spices like ground cloves, ginger, and nutmeg to taste (optional)
Combine pumpkin, sugar, vegetable oil, and egg. In a separate bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, ground cinnamon, and salt. Dissolve the baking soda with the milk and stir in. Add flour mixture to pumpkin mixture and mix well.

Add vanilla, chocolate chips and nuts (if desired).

Drop by spoonful on greased cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for approximately 10 minutes or until lightly brown and firm.


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Provident Living: Thrifty Christmas Ideas

It's that time of year to begin planning your Christmas. Beginning early and planning ahead are the keys to being frugal. Here are some tried and true ideas to make your holiday a thrifty one!

1. Make a list and narrow it down. Determine the people you have to buy presents for. Make a list.

2. Create a gift budget. Set a total limit, then divide it among people on your list. When you shop, remember your budget for each individual and stick to it.

3. Do an exchange. This will really cut costs, especially if you have a large family or group of co-workers. Instead of buying a bunch of gifts, you only have to buy one. Our family does this and it's a huge de-stresser for us at Christmas.

4. Make your own gifts. Food items are always welcome, jar mixes, favorite quotes or photos framed (this is my new favorite gift), knitted/crocheted scarves and hats, photo slide shows, etc. We had a friend who always made delicious treats and boxed them beautifully with tissue paper and decorated boxes. They always seemed special because she put so much work into the presentation.

5. Check out the thrift store and the dollar store. Some people may cringe at this item but you might be surprised at the great gifts you can find there. You may also find ways to package gifts with thrift store finds to make them unique and memorable. My friend found a beautiful bag at the thrift store and filled it with bath products. Last year, I used Christmas ornaments from the dollar store and created star-themed gifts based on them.

6. Create home-made coupons for things like babysitting, yard work, car washes, massages. I love receiving these (especially from my kids) and redeeming them when I most need the service.

7. Make recipe books or recipe cards. One of my all-time favorite gifts was a book my sister compiled of favorite family recipes. It contains all my Mom's best recipes and adds my siblings most-loved recipes. I use it all the time! You can focus on a theme like chocolate recipes for a chocolate lover, for example.

8. Give hobby-based presents. Think about the hobbies of the person you are giving to: sheet music for a musician, a plant for a gardener, golf balls for a golfer, scrapbook supplies for the scrapper, books for a reader, etc. A well thought-out gift often has much more meaning than an expensive one.

9. For kids, try making a dress-up box or trunk. It doesn't need new clothes in it; instead, look for unique costume items at thrift stores or even in your own closets or attic. One of our favorite family activities is letting the kids go to town in our dress-ups. They come up with all kinds of unique costumes. Some of their favorite items include a siblings' old cheerleader outfit, our Grandma's psychedelic 70s clothes, a black silky shirt with diamond buttons which becomes a pirate shirt, a slinky dress with belt, etc. This gift encourages creativity and ensures hours of fun.


Thursday, October 7, 2010

Cooking with Basic Food Storage: Apple Raisin Bread

There's nothing better in the fall than the flavor combination of apples and raisins.  Enjoy these two scrumptious versions of apple raisin bread.  The first one uses oatmeal, potato flakes and powdered milk from your food storage.  The second one uses wheat and wheat bulgur.  Enjoy!


3c apple juice

2 c raisins

1/2 c butter or margarine

2 pks reg yeast ( sub 5tsp active dry)

3t vanilla

2 eggs lrg

6c unbleach flour

1c reg oatmeal

1c mashed pot flakes

1c powdered milk

1c chopped nuts I use pecans

1/3 c sugar

3tsp salt regular

1tsp cinnamon

Heat juice and soften raisins in the juice. Dissolve yeast in 1/4 c warm water. Check temp and when it is 110 add yeast, butter, sugar, salt cinn. and eggs and vanilla. Mix well. Have the flour, potato, milk powder, oatmeal in another large bowl. Pour all liquid in and stir to make a mass. Will clean bowl. May sprinkle on more flour as you go but should be a nice soft pliable dough. I usually spray my hands with oil as I knead. It becomes lovely after 10 min or so. Knead in nuts. Let rise 1 -1 1/2 hrs. This rises beautifully. de gas and shape boules Makes 4 loaves. Rise again 1 1/2 hrs. Bake at 350 for 50 min. Cover with foil if gets too dark at the end. I also double this recipe and use a 13 qt bowl. It is a WORK OUT !


2/3 c. milk

1/4 c. cracked wheat bulgar

2 pkgs. active dry yeast

1/2 c. lukewarm water

1 egg

2 tbsp. vegetable oil

2 tbsp. honey

2 tsp. salt

1 c. peeled, chopped tart apple

1 1/2 c. whole wheat flour

2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour

1 1/2 c. seedless raisins
Heat the milk to lukewarm in a saucepan. Stir in bulgar and remove from heat and set aside.

In a large bowl dissolve the yeast in the lukewarm water. Add the egg, oil, honey, salt, apples and the milk-bulgar mixture. Beat just until blended. Add the whole wheat flour and 1 cup of all-purpose flour. Beat at low speed to blend with an electric mixer for 2 minutes.

With a wooden spoon, add enough of the remaining flour to make a dough that you can knead and also add the raisins. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board and knead for about 8 minutes or until you have the dough that is not longer sticky.

Place the dough in a greased bowl; cover with a damp cloth and let rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Punch the dough down and divide into 2 loaves.

Place the loaves into 2 greased 8x4 inch loaf pans. Cover and let rise just above the tops of the pans, about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes or until the loaves are nicely browned and sound hollow when tapped. Cool in pans for 5 minutes, then turn out onto racks to cool completely.


Financial Preparedness: Thrifty and Thriving

I have started a new blog called Thrifty and Thriving, dedicated to managing money, budgeting, saving, living thrifty and thriving.  Take a peek!  I will continually be improving the site and adding more content, so check in often or become a follower.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Provident Living: My Favorite Online Coupon Sites

I have never been a big coupon user but now that we are ensconsed in a recession and I'm in a frugal living mode, I have started couponing in a small way, cutting or printing coupons for things that I normally buy.  It's becoming a game to me and I'm always excited when I save a few dollars. 

In addition, when I'm planning on going shopping, I type into my search engine the name of the retailer + coupon code (for example:  Old Navy + Coupon Code.)  The other day I saved 30% at Old Navy by doing this.  It only took a few seconds to find the coupon and I saved a bunch of money.  Some stores do not accept online coupons so before you make a trip to the store, ensure they will use your coupons.  Here are my favorite online coupon sites.  Please feel free to comment if you know of other good sites.


Sunday, September 19, 2010

Provident Living: Become a Grocery Store Guru and Save! Save! Save!

My friend, Anissa, is a grocery store guru.  I consider her a "coupon queen" because she often gets things free or for a fraction of the original cost.  With her help and expertise, many women in our church congregation are becoming shrewd shoppers.  I invited her to share some of her wisdom with us and write an article about saving money on groceries.  Enjoy!

Savvy Grocery Store Saving Strategies
by Anissa Telle

I am what most would call an extreme couponer. It is not unusual for me to buy 16 to 20 of a single item if I can get it for free or very cheap. One caveat I practice is awareness of shelf life and whether the product is something my family likes. The last thing I want is to end up with items that spoil before we use them or are not appealing for my family, so I do exercise caution before stocking up!

I maintain an awareness of sale cycles and try to buy enough to ensure that I never have to pay full price for an item and to make certain that I have the quantity needed to tide us over until the next sale.

My family for the most part is not brand loyal to anything with just a few exceptions. By saving on staples I am able to have room in my grocery budget to splurge on excellent produce and other specialty items not typically found in those who have similar limited grocery budgets.

I don’t advocate my shopping methods for everyone. I do think that everyone can cut some grocery expenses by just having a better awareness of sale cycles and being more purposeful in grocery shopping.

For example, we have just gone through the back to school grocery specials. Did you know that this is the time of year that oatmeal is at its lowest price of the year? Similarly, breakfast cereal, juice boxes and lunch time snacks were also at the lowest price of the year. I don’t give my children many juice boxes as I prefer to fill up their personal bottles and limit waste but I did get several boxes for picnics, soccer snacks, and the occasional lunch box treat. Paired with a coupon from the Sunday coupon inserts or online coupon sources resulted in free packages of Apple & Eve juice boxes.

Some upcoming sales are holiday baking items. Butter, flour, sugar and chocolate chips will all be at a large discount. Consider stocking up. Most items can be frozen. If you are unsure just do a google search and you will find out the shelf life and recommended methods. Hams and Turkeys will also be at great prices – usually under $1 a pound. You can and should buy a few extra if you have the freezer space. These are great protein sources way below my personal price point of less than $2 a pound for meat! The point here is that just like any other consumer good groceries have a sale cycle – learn it and your grocery budget will benefit!

You wouldn't go on a date without spending a little time to get ready. Grocery shopping deserves no less! Everyone needs to come up with their own shopping preparation plan that fits in with their lifestyle, but here are some suggestions to get you started:

• Don't just go blindly to the store. Look at the sales ads first to see which stores have the best sales that week for the items you need. Then write a list for the items that are on sale so you don’t forget.

• Try and plan your meals around what is on sale and what you have in your storage. (This means that you should try to come up with a menu BEFORE going to the store!)

• Check your pantry and food storage before you leave to see what items you are short on to minimize trips to the store. (This saves on time and gas!)

• A stocked pantry will help prevent impulse purchases. A great example is having powdered milk for cooking – even if you don’t drink it this is great to have to prevent last minute trips to the store to just get milk. Very few of us are disciplined enough to just buy milk and we then end up with unplanned purchases.

• Learn to read the price sticker near each item. It shows the name of the item, the size, the retail price, and cost per unit (by pound, ounce, liter, gallon or quart.) Don't assume the bigger package is a better deal. Consider the unit price on the shelf tag and buy what goes on sale. Often, a smaller size costs pennies or is free with a coupon. (In fact, when you are coupon shopping, the smaller item that has been put on special for the week is going to win over the larger bulk size every time.)

• When you are comparing costs, look at the high and low shelves as well as those in the middle. The more expensive brands are often displayed at eye level, with the cheaper or sale items placed where you have to bend or stretch. Manufacturers pay slotting fees to get items at eye level so don’t be afraid to compare using unit prices!

• Go through your coupons prior to going shopping and pull the coupons for any items that are on sale. Place these together in the front pocket of your coupon organizer.

• Budget each week to buy multiples of at least one item that is on INCREDIBLE sale – this is called a loss leader... (an item reduced drastically to get you to come to their store... this is how you can build your food storage).

• Everything that goes on sale will come on sale again within about 8-10 weeks. It is a rotation process, so if you stock up on enough of the item to last that long, you will be able to re-stock at sale prices. Once you get into this you will find that you almost always have everything you use on hand, and you rarely have to pay full price for anything. (This is also a great way to start your food storage.)

• Know what you spend the most on. Keep a list of the items you buy regularly and track the prices over a three-month period by creating a price book. Then you can buy when they reach the bottom of the range.

• Be flexible with brands. If you want to save hundreds of dollars a year on an item, buy the brand that's on sale (or has a coupon or both.)

• Be flexible with ingredients. If the price of the vegetable or other item you wanted is high, don't have your heart set on it so badly that you are not ready and willing to choose something else.

• Buy seasonal produce. This is the cheapest and best way to get great produce for your family. You should also look for long-lasting vegetables, like cabbage and carrots, so you have time to cook with them before they spoil. "Anything you throw away, that’s the most expensive food you buy."

• Bags of produce are usually less expensive per pound than loose produce.

• Meat extenders such as rice, potatoes, pasta, dumplings, and grains can help stretch a meal.

• Don't think that you can always buy it cheaper at a warehouse club. Meat, frozen fruit, frozen vegetables and non-grocery items are often a good buy there but most other name-brand merchandise can be had even cheaper on sale at a major grocery chain.

• Some items are just cheaper regular price at one store than they are at sale price at another. Aldi’s is a good example of this. There are many basic items that I pick up here because they generally don't go on sale (or at least they don't go on sale for less than Aldi’s charges for them.)

• Always, Always, Always check the scanner prices as the cashier scans everything. Often the computer makes an error which can cost you. If you don't think it is worth bringing it up for some cents, think again. Some stores have scanner guarantee's which promise you correct prices or you get an incentive. The little amounts that you let pass can add up to quite a bit in the course of a year.

• Avoid frequent trips to the store. If you’re running to the grocery store every day, you’re not planning your grocery shopping. Unplanned shopping doesn’t allow you to take advantage of the sales and coupons that can make your groceries so much cheaper. Try to keep these grocery trips down to a minimum so that you aren’t making hasty choices with your grocery budget.

• Use up what you have – First In, First Out Principle. On Frugal sites they call this Eating Down the Fridge/Freezer Challenge. This helps if you sometimes end up with food in the fridge or pantry that you may have forgotten about. Plus, you have already paid for these items so it makes sense to incorporate them into your meals.

• Use your leftovers – keep a healthy fridge and use up extra ingredients in future meals. Leftover nights, enjoying last night’s dinner for tomorrow’s lunch, soups, smoothies and casseroles are all great ways to ensure you are not wasting anything!

Don’t feel the need to implement all of these suggestions at once. Even a small change in your current grocery shopping method will help in this economy where everyone is trying their hardest to spend less and save more. The last thing I want is for anyone to become disappointed or overwhelmed. So, start small and once a particular tip is implemented, add another one and watch your savings add up!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Provident Living: Homemade Kid Fun!

We all want to keep our kids entertained.  Why not save money and make your own fun?  Enjoy these homemade recipes for Bubbles, Crystal Gardens, Edible Play Dough, Face Paint, Finger Paints, Sidewalk Chalk, and Slime. 

  • 1/4 cup liquid dishwashing detergent
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
Put the dishwashing detergent in the water. Carefully stir in sugar, trying to avoid suds. Take a regular drinking straw and cut into 4 pieces. Then dip into the solution and blow your bubbles. Tie a rope loop up to a foot in diameter on the end of a stick and make a gallon of bubbles. Dip the rope in the bubbles and run with them. This will give you giant bubbles.

Crystal Gardens
  • Bluing 
  • Ammonia
  • Salt
  • Liquid food coloring
  • Water
Day #1: Place damp sponge pieces in a shallow glass or plastic bowl. Over sponge, pour 2 Tbsp. each of bluing, salt, water and ammonia.

Day #2: Add 2 Tbsp. salt.

Day #3: Add 2 Tbsp. each bluing, salt, water and ammonia. Avoid pouring on crystal growth.

Repeat Day #3 as needed to keep crystals growing. For color, add drops of food coloring.

*Bluing can be purchased in the laundry section at the store.
Edible Play Dough
  • 1/3 cup margarine
  • 1/3 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract or flavorings
  • 1 lb. powdered sugar
  • food coloring (optional)
Face Paint

Mix first 4 ingredients together. Add powdered sugar. Knead it. Divide and add food coloring. Keep refrigerated to keep from spoiling when not in use. You can replace vanilla with flavored extracts to give flavor other than just plain sweetness.
  • 1 tsp. corn starch
  • ½ tsp. water
  • ½ tsp. cold cream
  • food coloring 
Mix all ingredients together in an old muffin pan and you are ready to paint. This amount makes one color.

Finger Paints
  • 1 pkg. unflavored gelatin 1 ½ cups water
  • ½ cup cold water liquid dish detergent
  • ½ cup cornstarch food coloring
Dissolve gelatin in ½ cup water. Set aside. In a saucepan add cornstarch then slowly stir in 1 ½ cups water until well blended over medium heat. Cook until it boils, becomes smooth, thickens and turns clear. Add gelatin mixture and stir well. Pour into containers and add a drop of liquid dish detergent. Add food coloring until you get the desired shade. Store covered in the refrigerator 4 - 6 weeks.
Sidewalk Chalk
  • 2 qts. plaster of Paris
  • Food colors
  • Water 
Mix plaster of Paris with 1 quart water. Mix in desired color. Pour into paper towel or toilet paper tubes (about 3 inches high). Let dry thoroughly (This may take several days). Remove from tubes and let the kids draw away.

  • 1/2 cup white glue
  • 6 Tbsp. water
  • Food coloring
  • 1-4 tsp. Borax
  • 1-4 Tbsp. water
Mix the glue, 6 tablespoons water and food coloring until the glue is dissolved. In a separate bowl, dissolve 1 teaspoon borax into 1 tablespoon water. Add to the glue solution. You will get a very thick clump of slime when the two mix. Pull the clump of slime out of the glue mixture and put it in a separate bowl. Mix another batch of the borax solution and add to the remaining glue mixture. Repeat until all the glue mixture is used (about 3-4 times). With clean hands, knead the slime to get it to mix. This will take about 10 minutes and is not very difficult as the slime easily separates between your fingers. If you desire a looser, more slimy texture, knead in a bit more water. The more water you add, the slimier it gets. The Slime doesn't leave a residue and doesn't get stuck on anything. This is great for Halloween entertaining. Store in an airtight container. This can easily be doubled, tripled or quadrupled.


Sunday, September 12, 2010

Cooking with Basic Food Storage: Pumpkin Brownies using Whole Wheat Flour

It finally feels like fall today.  With the cooler weather, I start craving pumpkin.  So I thought I'd share a tasty recipe that utilizes whole wheat flour and canned pumpkin from my food storage.  This brownie recipe incorporates pumpkin and warm autumn spices in a cakey brownie recipe with chocolate chips. What could be better for Halloween, Thanksgiving or anytime you're in the mood for pumpkin? It is the perfect party food for your next holiday gathering or bake sale. Be sure to store these delicious brownies in an air-tight container with a piece of bread. That will keep them soft and delicious.

Pumpkin Brownies

1-1/4 cup white whole wheat flour

1 cup brown sugar

1 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

1 tsp. nutmeg

1 cup canned pumpkin puree

1/4 cup nonfat buttermilk

1/4 cup canola oil

2 large eggs, beaten

2 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup dark chocolate chips, such as Ghiradelli 60% cacao chips (I use whatever I have on hand)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 9 x 13 pan with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.  Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices in a large bowl. Add pumpkin puree, buttermilk, oil, eggs and vanilla extract to dry ingredients. Mix well. Fold in chocolate chips.  Spread into prepared pan and bake on center rack of oven for 30-40 minutes.  Frost if desired.

Source:  Stephanie Gallagher,

Monday, September 6, 2010

Financial Preparedness: Preparing to Finance Our Kids' Higher Education

I teach the 16-18 year old girls at church and several of "my girls" are headed off to college this week.  It's made me consider how I'm going to finance my kids' college or IF I will finance their education.  Of course, we have been putting money away in preparation for our kids' schooling but I'm not certain that I want to pay for everything.  During my college days, I saw far too many of my fellow students blow their educational opportunity because they took it for granted.  Instead of studying and attending class, they partied, stayed out too late and slept through lazy days financed by their Mom and Dad.

I read an excellent article yesterday in the newspaper in which the writer explained that he pays for half of his kids' college costs.  He said many people balk at this and say, "How can you do that to your kids when you can afford to pay it in full?"  In my opinion, it's a very wise decision.  He used the analogy that by making his children pay for half, they had "skin in the game" and would thus make their money count by working harder.  The article made a lot of sense to me.  Both my husband and I graduated from college.  In addition, my husband completed two graduate degrees.  I was well-prepared at home for school because my parents emphasized the importance of education and taught me to work hard in school.  This focus on academics helped me to obtain scholarship money.  My husband and I paid for our university experience with the help of scholarships, grants, loans (for grad school) and by working.  I believe we took our education much more seriously because we were paying for it ourselves.  I also feel that having to work helped me to be more disciplined in studying outside of class because I only had a designated time to do it. 

What's your opinion?  How can we prepare providently for our childrens' higher education?

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Provident Living: Things You Should Never Buy New

According to Yahoo! Finance, certain things are a much better value when purchased used. 

  1. DVDs and CDs You can save a ton of money buying used DVDs and CDs.  We rarely buy new DVDs when we can buy previously viewed DVDs for half the price.
  2. Books:  I buy used books all the time from and they are a fraction of the cost of new books.
  3. Video Games:  Kids tire of games quickly.  Most are available used on sites like ebay and Amazon a few months after they are released.
  4. Special Occasion and Holiday Clothing:  These items have usually been worn very little and can be located at yard sales, thrift stores, online and even in some dress shops.  In high school, my friends and I traded formal dresses with each other.  It saved a ton of money and didn't seem so wasteful to only use our prom dresses one time! 
  5. Jewelry:  Jewelry depreciates dramatically when sold used.  Diamonds have a very low resale value.  Visit estate sales and pawn shops to find unique pieces. 
  6. Ikea Furniture:  Why aggravate yourself putting furniture together?  Check online sites like Craigslist and Freecycle and buy them already assembled, especially in summer when college students are changing apartments and getting rid of their old stuff.
  7. Games and Toys:  Look for them at garage sales and on Craigslist.  Organize a toy trade day with family, friends and neighbors.
  8. Maternity and Baby Clothes:  We have saved tons of money by shopping at thrift stores or at yard sales.  We often find name brand, designer clothes for as little as 25 cents!  Let others know you need maternity or baby clothes and you might even get hand-me-downs for free.
  9. Musical Instruments:  Wait to buy your budding virtuoso a new instrument once you've determined he/she is truly committed to playing it.
  10. Pets:  Shelters provide pets at very little cost, if any. Pet stores and breeders charge hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars. 
  11. Home Accent Pieces:  Many only get better with age.  Look for them at estate and garage sales.
  12. Craft Supplies:  Hold a craft swap with others to trade supplies.  If you have crafty items you've never used, consider donating them to a local school.
  13. Houses:  You're typically able to get better and more features for your dollar when you purchase an older home rather than building new.
  14. Office Furniture:  Good office furniture should stand the test of time.  With so many businesses closing, you can easily find deals on used office furniture.
  15. Cars:  Cars drop in value the minute you drive them off the lot.  Buying used saves not only on the price of the car but also the cost of insurance. 
  16. Hand Tools: Simple tools like hammers, hoes and wrenches, will keep for decades so long as they are well-made to begin with and are well-maintained. These are fairly easy to find at neighborhood yard or garage sales.
  17. Sports Equipment: Most people buy sports equipment planning to use it until it drops, but this rarely happens. So when sports equipment ends up on the resale market, it tends to still be in excellent condition.
  18. Consumer Electronics: Most folks like shiny new toys, but refurbished electronic goods are a much sweeter deal. Consumer electronics are returned to the manufacturer for different reasons, but generally, they'll be inspected for damaged parts, fixed, tested, then resold at a lower price. Just make sure you get a good warranty along with your purchase.
  19. Gardening Supplies: This is an easy way for you to save money, and all you need to do is be observant. Take a look outdoors and you'll likely find such gardening supplies as mulch, wood, and even stones for free or vastly reduced prices. Used garden equipment and tools are also common goods at yard sales.
  20. Timeshares: Buying timeshares isn't for everyone but try a resale.  On average, you'll save 67 percent on the price for a comparable new timeshare. If you're new to timeshare ownership, give it a test run first by renting short term.
  21. Recreational Items: It's fairly easy to find high ticket recreational items like campers, boats, and jet skis being resold. Oftentimes, they're barely used at all. As long as they're in safe, working condition, they'll make for a better value when purchased used than new.
Source: Lynn Truong, 2 Things You Should Never Buy New--Yahoo! Finance

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Cooking with Basic Food Storage: Whole Wheat Carrot Bread

I saw this recipe in the newspaper today and thought it sounded good.  Please comment if you make it and you're pleased with the results. 

Whole Wheat Carrot Bread

2 c milk
1/4 c (1/2 stick) butter plus more for brushing
1 (1/4 ounce) envelope active dry yeast
5 1/2 to 6 1/2 c all-purpose flour
1 1/2 c whole wheat flour
1/4 c firmly packed brown sugar
1 1/2 c (about 3 medium) cooked carrots, mashed
1 1/2 tsp salt

In a 1 quart saucepan, heat milk until it just comes to a boil, stir in the butter until melted.  Cool to warm (105 to 115 degrees).

In a large mixer bowl, dissolve the yeast in 1/4 c warm water.  Add the milk mixture, 2 c all-purpose flour, the whole wheat flour, brown sugar, carrots and salt.  Beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often, until smooth, 1 to 2 minutes. 

By hand, stir in enough remaining all-purpose flour to make dough easy to handle, not sticky.  Turn dough onto lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes.

Place in greased bowl; turn greased side up.  Cover and let rise in a warm place until it doubles, about 1 hour.  Dough is ready if indentation remains when touched. 

Punch down dough; divide in half.  Shape each half into a loaf.  Place, seam side down in 2 greased 8x5 inch loaf pans.  Cover, let rise until double, about 1 hour. 

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Bake bread 35 to 45 minutes, until loaf sounds hollow when tapped.  Remove from pans immediately.  Brush tops with butter.  Makes 2 loaves, 12 slices each. 

Source:  Linda Cicero (Cook's Corner), The Express Times, 5/12/2010

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Preparedness Matters Facebook page

To all my followers:   I created a facebook group called. . . what else?. . . Preparedness Matters.  Feel free to join the group and share it with your friends and family! 

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Provident Living: Avoiding Impulse Shopping

Have you ever purchased something you didn't intend to buy that you didn't really need? Impulse buying can wreak havoc on a family's budget and often clutters homes with unnecessary items. According to a 2001 study conducted by Interface Engineering, almost 40 percent of shoppers' money is spent on spontaneous purchases. It surprised me to discover that the three things that most motivated impulse shopping were:

  • Lowered prices

  • Product on sale

  • Free shipping

I claim that I was surprised by these three items. But should I be? In fact, I find myself enticed to make purchases by these type of promotions. A few days ago, I received a catalog in the mail. On the front cover was a credit card sized coupon for "50% off one item." I was so excited! "Wow, I must be a valued customer," I thought. I immediately whipped through the catalog and found a dress that I liked. Just as I was picking up the phone to make the order, I removed the coupon and noticed the small print: "see reverse for details." Sure enough, the opposite side stated, "Take 50% off one item with the purchase of three or more items." Grrr! Still. . . they almost had me. By now I was convinced that I needed the dress so I looked through the catalog again to see if I could find anything else I wanted. Sure enough, I found a couple of other things. Thankfully, after adding the cost of all three items together, I determined it would be less expensive for me to go to the store and purchase one and only one dress and passed. But, boy was I tempted! So maybe I shouldn't be surprised that people buy things not because they need or want them but because they simply can't pass up an attractive offer!

So if you or someone in your family has this problem, here are some solutions:

1. Keep an ongoing list of items you need to purchase at your next trip to the store. Go over the list prior to leaving and don't forget to bring the list with you.

2. Avoid looking at catalogs, opening e-mail store promotions, watching TV shopping networks, reading newspaper advertisements, window shopping, online store browsing and make as few trips to the store as possible.

3. Give yourself a time limit for how long you can spend at the store. Plan your trip in advance so you will STICK TO YOUR LIST.

4. Determine a monthly budget for miscellaneous purchases. Keep the money in an envelope in your purse or wallet. When the money is spent, do not buy anything else.

5. If you find something you really want, try waiting 48 hours to make a purchase. During that time, research and make sure you have the lowest price. After 48 hours, ask yourself, "Do I still need it?" "Do I still want it?" "Can I borrow it from someone?" "Can I make do with something else?" "Can I really afford it?" If you still want to buy it, do it then.


Thursday, April 22, 2010

Gardening: You can do it!

Container Garden

Vertical Garden

Our very own square foot garden

It's gardening time again! Three years ago, we planted asparagus and this spring, we're harvesting it every day from our garden. My kids eat it like candy. I think everyone should have a garden. As a mother, I love it! What's better than seeing my little 4-year-old picking broccoli out of the garden for a snack on a daily basis (see the blonde head in the lower right hand corner of the picture?)

Gardening promotes healthy eating, provides vegetables and fruit at peak freshness, allows us to can and freeze vegetables for the winter and saves lots of money at the grocery store. We also share our bounty with neighbors and friends.

We currently have lettuce, spinach, broccoli, peas and onions growing in our backyard. I have seed potatoes in my garage which I need to get in the ground. After our frost-free date, which is May 15th, we will plant green beans, cantaloupe, tomatoes, watermelon, zucchini, pumpkins, cucumbers, eggplant, peppers, herbs of many varieties and corn. The great thing about gardening is that you can plant what you like to eat.

We have a square foot garden which is made of raised beds. However, there are lots of ways to create garden, even when you don't have ground space. If you haven't tried gardening, this is the year to do it!

Here are the instructions to make the vertical vegetable garden shown in the picture above.

Here are some directions to help you get started in square foot gardening:

Here is some help with designing a container vegetable garden:

There are myriads of gardening sources available on the Internet. Your state extension offices are a terrific source with information about how to grow plants in your area, soil testing and master gardeners on staff. Do some research and you can find a gardening solution for you and your family. Trust me, it will be worth it! My kids love to eat veggies and I know it's because they eat them right out of the garden all summer long.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Cooking with Basic Food Storage: Peach Crisp and Apple Crumble

In my opinion, a perfect winter dessert incorporates all the yummy ingredients of a warm cinnamon-laden crumbly topping combined with baked fruit. So I'm sharing two recipes I've recently made which meet my winter dessert criteria and use food storage. My kids loved both but I preferred the apple crumble. I thought the Peach Crisp was a little juicy but they both were pretty tasty. In order to utilize more of my food storage, I used whole wheat flour.

Apple Crumble
1/2 c flour (whole wheat or regular)
1 1/2 c rolled oats
1 c brown sugar
1/2 c butter
4 c apples (about 7 medium)
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp lemon juice
Preheat oven to 350. Cut apples into small pieces. Toss the apples with lemon juice and place in a lightly buttered baking dish. In a bowl, mix the flour, oats and brown sugar. Melt the butter in a saucepan or the microwave, and incorporate into the oats mixture. Spread the mixture over the apples. Place in an oven and bake at 350 for approximately 30 minutes.

Easy Peach Crisp
2 cans (15 1/4 oz. each) Sliced Peaches
1/3 c flour
1/3 c packed brown sugar
1/3 c old fashioned oats
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 c butter or margarine, melted.
Place fruit in 1 quart shallow baking dish. Combine flour, sugar, oats and cinnamon. Mix in butter until crumbly. Sprinkle over fruit. Bake at 375 degrees, 30 minutes or until golden brown. Serve with ice cream, if desired.

Provident Living: Obtaining Free Babysitting

Do you long for a night out but don't want to spend a ton of money hiring a babysitter? The going rate around here for my four children is around $10 an hour. Ouch! For years, my husband and I didn't go out much because the cost of babysitting in addition to the cost of the date didn't seem worth it. Now I know the solution, thanks to the ingenuity of my brother and his wife. They arranged a babysitting swap with some of their friends. Here's how it works:
  • Find another family with kids around the same age as your kids whom you trust to babysit your children. Make sure the kids get along with each other. It makes it easier!

  • Select a night where your friends watch your kids, then you watch theirs another night.

  • Agree upon a time limit (for example, 4 hours.) This will prevent future problems.

  • Create a schedule, type it up and make it official. Provide a copy to each family participating.

I also used to be a member of a babysitting co-op. This was a great way for me to go to doctor/dentist appointments minus my kids and could have been a great resource for me. Unfortunately, I didn't utilize it much because I didn't really know all the mothers who were part of it and I wasn't comfortable using unknown babysitters. They had monthly meetings but I never went. If I had attended, I might have gotten to know the other partipants. Just because I didn't take advantage of it, joining or starting a babysitting co-op is another great way to obtain a much needed break from the kids for free. When establishing a babysitting co-op, setting ground rules is key. If you're interested, here's a link to a great article about creating a babysitting co-op:

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Cooking with Basic Food Storage: Another recipe for bread in one hour and ten minutes from start to finish!

I stumbled across the Chef Brad website today and found a recipe that makes 5 loaves of bread from start to finish in one hour and ten minutes. Mmm! It is delicious and quick and my kids love it! Click below to find it!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Cooking with Basic Food Storage: Oatmeal Raisin Bites using Whole Wheat and Oats

As some of you know, I have been on weight watchers for the last few months. It has been a great experience and I have lost over 50 lbs. Despite my lifestyle changes, I still crave sweets every now and then. Imagine my delight when I tried this delicious recipe which also uses my food storage. As the recipe says, "These oatmeal-raisin cookies may be small, but they have a big granola taste and they're loaded with fiber, too." I loved them and so did my family. For any weight watchers aficionados, one cookie is one point!

Oatmeal Raisin Bites

1 1/2 cups rolled oats

3/4 c whole-grain wheat flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 c butter, softened

1/4 c sugar

1/2 c brown sugar

1 large egg

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 c raisins, chopped (I chopped them in the blender)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, combine oats, flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon; set aside. Using an electric mixer, cream butter and both sugars until incorporated. Add egg and vanilla; mix thoroughly. Add oat mixture and mix until just combined; fold in raisins.

Drop rounded teaspoons of batter about 1 inch apart onto 2 ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 9-10 minutes for chewy cookies or 11-12 minutes for crispy ones. Remove from oven and let cookies rest for about 2 minutes. Cool on wire rack.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Cooking with Basic Food Storage: Delicious Whole Wheat Bread in Your Mouth in 1 Hour and 20 Minutes!

I posted a very similar bread recipe, courtesy of my sister, Emily, which contained vitamin c and rapid rise yeast a few months ago. Yesterday I didn't have either one so I tried making the bread by increasing the yeast amount and it worked just as well. Our whole family loved the bread so much that I made two more loaves this morning. I love, love, love that the entire bread-making process is complete in one hour and twenty minutes, including baking time. Try this recipe. . . it's easy, healthy and delicious, especially right out of the oven!

Whole Wheat Bread in 1:20
6 cups whole wheat flour

2 tablespoons yeast

1/4 cup high gluten flour

3 cups very warm water

4 tablespoons oil

4 tablespoons honey or sugar

2 teaspoons of salt

Mix 3 cups wheat flour with gluten,yeast and warm water; mix 1 minute. Cover bowl and let sponge 10 minutes.

Add oil, honey or sugar, and salt, Quickly add remaining flour one cup at a time until the dough forms a ball and cleans from the sides of bowl (depending on humidity, sometimes I have to add a total of 7 cups of flour for the dough to feel right). Knead 7-10 minutes. Roll into 2 or 3 loaves (depending on pan size). Preheat oven to 200 degrees and put the loaves in. Rise dough in oven until double, 20 - 30 minutes (you can also just rise the loaves on the counter if you have time). Leave in oven. Turn heat to 350 degrees and bake for 25 minutes. Remove from pans to cool. Coat with butter.

If you have Vitamin C and rapid rising yeast, try Emily's recipe:

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Provident Living: Finding Fun in Frugality

I've been thinking a lot about frugality lately. Maybe it's because of the lack of security our family feels in this job market or maybe because of the counsel given by President Monson to the priesthood brethren last October: "We urge all Latter-day Saints to be prudent in their planning, to be conservative in their living, and to avoid excessive or unnecessary debt."- President Thomas S. Monson, October 2008 Priesthood Session, General Conference

So often, we want our families to have what others have. Sometimes when I visit a beautifully furnished and decorated home, I feel my house is inferior and I need to go furniture shopping. When a friend tells me that a particular toy or electronic gadget greatly entertains her child, I feel like I should buy it for my kid. When I look at a beautifully dressed person, I believe my clothes need updating or accessorizing. However, this type of thinking is actually coveting. The "Keeping up with the Jones mentality" is one of Satan's tools, designed to make us miserable, either by buying things we don't need which clutter up our homes, buying things we can't afford and getting into financial trouble or by wishing we had something we don't have instead of counting our blessings. Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin said, "All too often a family's spending is governed more by their yearning than by their earning. They somehow believe that their life will be better if they surround themselves with an abundance of things. All too often all they are left with is avoidable anxiety and distress."

We have all heard the phrase "money doesn't buy happiness." It is actually true! Tim Kasser, Associate Professor of Psychology at Knox College and author of “The High Price of Materialism,” conducted a study of people in the same zip code within the same age group. The study compared people with a consumer mentality (typical consumer-driven middle class) versus “voluntary simplifiers” who downscaled their lives by buying less and even working in lower paying jobs. Surprise, surprise! Voluntary simplifiers were much happier while people with a consumer mentality lived lives of anxiety, depression and physical problems.

My husband and I have friends who live a life of voluntary simplicity. At the time that we were neighbors, my husband and I were busy commuting and working in the corporate world (before we had children.) Meanwhile, our friends had a small business which paid their basic necessities but didn't allow for many extras. They didn't subscribe to expensive cable/satellite service or eat out at pricey restaurants. Instead, they enjoyed listening to music on CDs, reading books and watching movies they borrowed at the library. They called their visit to the library "Lover's Night Out." They took walks, found free hiking trails, and explored local towns and historical sites for entertainment. Even though my husband and I could go to a movie or a see Broadway show anytime we wanted and visit the nicest restaurants around, we were stressed out all the time and exhausted. Our friends, on the other hand, were happy and content. There is a lesson to be learned from our neighbors. Frugality can be fun!!

So with the new year, I am determined to find fun in frugality, live life more simply, and count my blessings more often. How about you? How can you live a more joyful, simple life? Please share your thoughts.

Preparedness Quotes

"When faced with the choice to buy, consume, or engage in worldly things and activities, we all need to learn to say to one another, 'We can’t afford it, even though we want it!' or 'We can afford it, but we don’t need it—and we really don’t even want it!'" - Elder Robert D. Hales, April 2009 General Conference

"Many areas of the world have experienced difficult economic times. Businesses have failed, jobs have been lost, and investments have been jeopardized. We must make certain that those for whom we share responsibility do not go hungry or unclothed or unsheltered. When the priesthood of this Church works together as one in meeting these vexing conditions, near miracles take place.

"We urge all Latter-day Saints to be prudent in their planning, to be conservative in their living, and to avoid excessive or unnecessary debt."
- President Thomas S. Monson, October 2008 Priesthood Session, General Conference

"Avoid the philosophy that yesterday's luxuries have become today's necessities. They aren't necessities until we make them so. Many enter into long-term debt only to find that changes occur; people become ill or incapacitated, companies fail or downsize, jobs are lost, natural disasters befall us. For many reasons, payments on large amounts of debt can no longer be made. Our debt becomes as a Damocles sword hanging over our heads and threatening to destroy us."
- President Thomas S. Monson, April 2006 General Conference

“We have built grain storage and storehouses and stocked them with the necessities of life in the event of a disaster. But the real storehouse is the family storeroom. In words of revelation the Lord has said, ‘Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing’ (D&C 109:8.)”
President Gordon B. Hinckley

"We need to make both temporal and spiritual preparation for the events prophesied at the time of the Second Coming. And the preparation most likely to be neglected is the one less visible and more difficult--the spiritual. A 72-hour kit of temporal supplies may prove valuable for earthly challenges, but, as the foolish virgins learned to their sorrow, a 24-hour kit of spiritual preparation is of greater and more enduring value.

"We are living in the prophesied time 'when peace shall be taken from the earth' (D&C 1:35,) when 'all things shall be in commotion' and 'men's hearts shall fail them' (D&C 88:91.) There are many temporal causes of commotion, including wars and natural disasters, but an even greater cause of current 'commotion' is spiritual." Elder Dallin H. Oaks

“Every father and mother are the family’s store keepers. They should store whatever their family would like to have in case of an emergency…(and) God will sustain us through our trials.” President James E. Faust

“We live in a most exciting and challenging period in human history. As technology sweeps through every facet of our lives, changes are occurring so rapidly that it can be difficult for us to keep our lives in balance. To maintain some semblance of stability in our lives, it is essential that we plan for our future. I believe it is time, and perhaps with some urgency, to review the counsel we have received in dealing with our personal and family preparedness. We want to be found with oil in our lamps sufficient to endure to the end.”- Elder L. Tom Perry, Ensign, Nov. 1995

"Many more people could ride out the storm-tossed waves in their economic lives if they had their year's supply of food. . . and were debt-free. Today we find that many have followed this counsel in reverse: they have at least a year's supply of debt and are food free." President Thomas S. Monson

"Just as it is important to prepare ourselves spiritually, we must also prepare ourselves for our temporal needs. … We have been instructed for years to follow at least four requirements in preparing for that which is to come.

“First, gain an adequate education. Learn a trade or a profession to enable you to obtain steady employment that will provide remuneration sufficient to care for yourself and your family. …

“Second, live strictly within your income and save something for a rainy day. Incorporate in your lives the discipline of budgeting that which the Lord has blessed you with. As regularly as you pay your tithing, set aside an amount needed for future family requirements. …

“Third, avoid excessive debt. Necessary debt should be incurred only after careful, thoughtful prayer and after obtaining the best possible advice. We need the discipline to stay well within our ability to pay. …

“Fourth, acquire and store a reserve of food and supplies that will sustain life [if local laws permit such storage]. Obtain clothing and build a savings account on a sensible, well-planned basis that can serve well in times of emergency. As long as I can remember, we have been taught to prepare for the future and to obtain a year’s supply of necessities. I would guess that the years of plenty have almost universally caused us to set aside this counsel. I believe the time to disregard this counsel is over. With events in the world today, it must be considered with all seriousness.” - Elder L. Tom Perry, October 1995 General Conference

“Maintain a year's supply. The Lord has urged that his people save for the rainy days, prepare for the difficult times, and put away for emergencies, a year's supply or more of bare necessities so that when comes the flood, the earthquake, the famine, the hurricane, the storms of life, our families can be sustained through the dark days. How many of us have complied with this? We strive with the Lord, finding many excuses: We do not have room for storage. The food spoils. We do not have the funds to do it. We do not like these common foods. It is not needed -- there will always be someone to help in trouble. The government will come to the rescue. And some intend to obey but procrastinate.” - The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p.375

“All too often a family's spending is governed more by their yearning than by their earning. They somehow believe that their life will be better if they surround themselves with an abundance of things. All too often all they are left with is avoidable anxiety and distress” - Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin

"Be prepared in all things against the day when tribulations and desolations are sent forth upon the wicked." D&C 29:8

"Too often we bask in our comfortable complacency and rationalize that the ravages of war, economic disaster, famine, and earthquake cannot happen here. Those who believe this are either not aquainted with the revelations of the Lord, or they do not believe them." President Ezra Taft Benson

"Fear not little flock; do good; let earth and hell combine against you, for if ye are built upon my rock, they cannot prevail. . .Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not." D&C 6:34, 36

"I believe that the Ten Virgins represent the people of the Church of Jesus Christ. . . They (five foolish) had the saving, exalting gospel, but it had not been made the center of their lives. They knew the way but gave only a small measure of loyalty and devotion.

"The foolish asked the others to share their oil, but spiritual preparedness cannot be shared in an instant. . . . This was not selfishness or unkindness. The kind of oil that is needed to illuminate the way and light up the darkness is not shareable. . . . In our lives the oil of preparedness is accumulated drop by drop in righteous living." - President Spencer W. Kimball

“We encourage families to have on hand this year’s supply; we say it over and over and over and repeat over and over the scripture of the Lord where he says, “Why call ye me, Lord, Lord and do not the things which I say?” How empty it is as they put their spirituality, so-called, into action and call him by his important names, but fail to do the things which he says." - President Spencer W. Kimball"/>


All data and information provided on this site is for informational purposes only. I make no representations as to accuracy, completeness, currentness, suitability, or validity of any information on this site & will not be liable for any errors, omissions, or delays in this information or any losses, injuries, or damages arising from its display or use. All information is provided on an as-is basis.