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Simple Savings
05/07/2010
IconThanksgiving Feast by Jill Cooper LivingOnADime.com It's really hard to find ways to save on your Thanksgiving dinner because, let's face it -- It doesn't get a whole lot cheaper than a turkey dinner! Still, I have found some ways that you can save and today I'll pass them on to you! ;-) For starters, the larger turkeys are usually cheaper, so buy the largest one you can. I hear some of you groaning now about what to do with all those leftovers because you really don't need a 22 lb. turkey for 6 people. Not to worry -- just don't bake the whole thing. I discovered one year by accident that my butcher (at a regular national chain grocery store) would cut it in half for me. Even if it is frozen he can still do it. This discovery really changed my life. (That sounds dramatic, but I was really having a problem becoming "one" with my turkeys.) I suddenly had the revelation that I didn't have to deal with mounds of leftover turkey that haunted my post Thanksgiving menu for years. I had just enough for a good old turkey sandwich and some soup. I mean Thanksgiving really isn't Thanksgiving without a few leftovers, is it? It was so much easier to handle and prepare an 11 lb. turkey rather than to man handle a 22 lb. one. Getting it cleaned and into the pan was a breeze and in and out of the oven was just plain simple. Just wrap the other half and freeze it to use for Christmas. I've often made ham for Christmas just because by Christmas we are so sick of turkey that we don't want to think of preparing another one -- ever! By not creating so many leftovers, your family might not mind having turkey again. That's also potentially one less thing to buy for Christmas dinner. Inexpensive Thanksgiving Turkey Dinner! If you still don't want to have turkey for Christmas, save it for some cold day in January. If you have a large enough crock pot, cook the turkey it the crock pot. If not, cook it on very low in the oven so that it slow cooks all day. Do you know how delightful it is to come home to the yummy smell of slow cooked turkey? Save by making your own pies and instead of buying the expensive pre-made ones. If you are daunted by the thought of making pie crust, just buy a ready made one. They are usually on sale for very little around Thanksgiving. It really isn't that hard to make the filling for most pies. Often they are easier to make than a cake or cookies. If you like the traditional pumpkin pie, most cans have the recipe on the back. I also know a real good book you can find the recipe in called Dining on a Dime. HA!HA! If your family and friends aren't fussy about having the traditional, then you can make banana cream, chocolate, or butterscotch pie. Just take a box of banana pudding, mix it up and pour it into a baked pie crust. Cover with sliced bananas and whipped topping. For the chocolate pie use chocolate pudding with chocolate chips in it and cover it with whipped topping. For the butterscotch use butterscotch pudding, whipped topping and sprinkle with butterscotch chips. My mouth is watering just thinking about it! You don't have to make so many pies that you could open a bakery. I have found that most kids are just as happy with a platter of cookies. Don't overdo it. You'll just wear yourself out! If you have time, make the cookies in the shapes of pumpkins and turkeys. Save on your relish dish. Buying ingredients for a relish dish can get expensive, especially where we live. One year I paid more for my relish dish items than my turkey. If you're having this problem, only use 3-4 veggies on it instead of 10 and cut out on the more expensive veggies. For example broccoli and cauliflower are very high priced for us so I would probably use carrots and celery. I fill the celery with cheese or peanut butter or cut them into fancy shapes. On this occasion, the turkey is the star and most people won't even notice that you cut back on the relish dish. Don't make so many side dishes-- Like I said the turkey, gravy and mashed potatoes are above all else. By the time everyone stuffs themselves on those, they only eat a token amount of the side dishes. Why? ---Because of course everyone wants to save room for dessert!!!!! Jill Cooper raised two teenagers alone on $500 a month income after becoming disabled withChronic Fatigue Syndrome. To read more of Jill's articles and for free tips and recipes visit LivingOnADime.com .Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com. More >>

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05/07/2010
IconHealthier Halloween By Cheryl Tallman and Joan Ahlers www.FreshBaby.com Halloween is truly a kid's holiday -- good friends, creative costumes, event-filled parties -- all with a cool spooky theme -- who could ask for more? Oh yes, one more thing, the treats -- lots of sugary candy treats! With all the fun of this holiday come a parent's worst fears -- too many sugary treats in your kid's possession and the arguments that ensue over this treasured trove. If you don't feel like to contributing to the neighborhood children's tooth decay, consider giving treats that are healthier. Here are some suggestions: Cheese and cracker packages Naturally flavored and sweetened gun or sugar-free gum Small bags of pretzels Small packages of nuts or raisins Peanuts in the shell Fruit-Roll Ups Granola bars If you are not opposed to sugar, but would prefer your treats to be natural or vegan, we suggest you visit your local natural food store. There are many natural candy companies that offer a big variety of candies. The one drawback, expect to pay more for these items. Natural products come at a higher price tag. You could make a homemade treat. Unless you are in a neighborhood with close friends, we don't suggest this approach. Most parents are trained to go through the Halloween candy and throw out unopened, unwrapped or homemade treats. If you decide to make your treats, wrap your homemade item up well, and add your name and phone number to the bag with the treat. If the parent recognizes your name, it will make them feel the treat is safe. Halloween treats do not have to be edible An alternative to avoiding the junk food challenges is to hand out a non-food treat. Today, many families are opting for this choice. With a little bit of thought and some clever shopping, you can find some really nice items for a few cents per item. Here are few ideas: Cool stickers or temporary tattoos Halloween balloons, you can even rent a helium tanks and fill them on the spot Crayons, pencils, colored chalk or fun-shaped erasers Whistles or noise makers Rubber spiders, worms, or other equally creepy figure Spider, skull, or pumpkin plastic rings Check your local dollar store for fun items. There is also plenty of time to shop online, and have items shipped to you. DollarDays.com and OrientalTradingCompany.com are just two sites that offer a good selection. A quick search on Google will give you plenty more online sopping choices. Halloween Day: Star the day off right, with a festive breakfast of bagels, pumpkin cream cheese (recipe follows) and fresh apples. This meal also works as a great treat for a morning Halloween party at your child's school. Pumpkin cream cheese Beat in a bowl: 8 ounces softened cream cheese 2 tablespoons brown sugar 1/2 cup of canned pumpkin 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice Serve with toasted bagels and fresh apple slices. Before your children venture out in their costumes, make sure they eat a meal before going trick-or-treating. Try the Incredible White Bean Pizza recipe below. It is fast and simple. With full tummies, they won't be so tempted to dig into their bag of goodies before they get back home. Ask your kids not to eat candy while they are out. Incredible Bean Pizza 1 can white beans, drained and rinsed 1 clove garlic 2 tablespoons water frac12; teaspoon oregano 1 pizza crust (like Boboli) Shredded Mozzarella cheese Fresh diced tomatoes Chopped basil Directions: Puree first five ingredients in a blender and spread mixture over the pizza crust. Sprinkle with shredded mozzarella cheese, fresh, diced tomatoes and chopped basil. Bake in a 425 degree F oven until cheese is bubbly, about 10-12 minutes. When your children arrive back at home, don't let them take control over their bag or bucket of candy. Working with them, check the treats and keep only treats which are unopened. Be sure to inspect fruits and homemade goods for anything suspicious. While you are going through their candy, let them pick two or three treats that they can eat on this special night. Store the rest of the candy out of reach and out of sight. Over the next few days or weeks, rationing the treats is the best approach. Allow your children to make their own selections, but tell them they can pick one large piece or two small pieces. If your children have trouble with this, do it for them (in advance). Just place small amounts of candy in bags, and let them select one of the bags. If there is just too much candy, consider donating some of it to a shelter. It will bring smiles to others. About the authors: Cheryl Tallman and Joan Ahlers are sisters, the mothers of five children and founders of Fresh Baby ( www.FreshBaby.com ). They are the creators of the award-winning So Easy Baby Food Kit and Good Clean Fun Placemats, available at many fine specialty stores and national chains including Target and Whole Foods Markets. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com. More >>

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05/07/2010
IconPumpkin Recycling To Roast or Not to Roast! By Tawra Kellam LivingOnADime.com/ Peter Piper Picked a Profoundly Plump Pumpkin -- Now What does he do with it? Every fall I get many questions about what to do with pumpkins. Many people find curious fascination in imagining what it would be like to grow these versatile little gems, as if growing something that produces a large fruit is somehow more respectable than growing, say, a serrano pepper. Many people eventually venture into pumpkin experimentation. Some succeed and many fail. Much like a dog that chases a car, many people never give thought to what they would do if they actually succeeded in successfully raising a patch of these fall favorites. Whether you have found yourself with more pumpkins than you know what to do with or you are one of the people who had to buy pumpkins and duct tape them to the vine, these tips for roasting and using pumpkins are sure to help you make the most out of them (no matter how you acquired them)! How to Roast a Pumpkin You can only do this with a freshly carved pumpkin! Do not use on a pumpkin that has beencarved and sitting out for several days. To bake a fresh 6 to 7 pound pumpkin, halve the pumpkin crosswise and scoop out the seeds and strings. Place halves, hollow side down, in a large baking pan covered with aluminum foil and add a little water. Bake, uncovered, at 375 for 1 frac12; to 2 hours or until fork-tender. Remove. When cool, scrape pulp from shells and puree, a little at time, in food processor or blender. Mix with a little salt. To freeze pumpkin puree. Put 1-2 cups in freezer bags along with spices and use in pies. To use pumpkin puree for recipes: Line a strainer with a double layer of cheesecloth or a flour sack dish towel and let the pumpkin sit to drain out the extra moisture BEFORE cooking with it. Pumpkin is very moist, so in order for your recipe to come out correctly, you MUST strain it. Roasted Pumpkin Seeds Boil seeds in water for 5 minutes. Drain well. Sprinkle with salt or seasoned salt. Place a thin layer on a cookie sheet. Bake at 250 . Stir after 30 minutes. Bake frac12;-1 hour more or until crunchy. *Squash seeds may also be used. Pumpkin Smoothies frac12; cup pumpkin frac34;cup milk or vanilla yogurt frac14; tsp. cinnamon 1/8 tsp. nutmeg 2 tsp. brown sugar 4 ice cubes whipped cream (optional) sprinkles (optional) Place all ingredients in a blender. Blend until smooth. Pour into 2-3 glasses. Serve with a small amount of whipped cream on top. You may also add orange sprinkles if you like. Serves 2-3. Pumpkin Pancakes 2 cups flour 2 Tbsp. brown sugar, packed 1 Tbsp. baking powder 1 frac14; tsp. pumpkin pie spice 1 tsp. salt frac12;cup nuts, chopped (optional) frac12;cup pumpkin 1 large egg 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil 1 cups milk Combine ingredients. Stir just until moistened; batter may be lumpy. Heat griddle or skillet over medium heat; brush lightly with vegetable oil. Pour 1/4 cup batter onto hot griddle; cook until bubbles begin to burst. Turn and continue cooking 1 to 2 minutes. Serve with Pumpkin Maple Sauce and nuts. Pumpkin Maple Sauce 1 cup maple syrup frac14; tsp. ground cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice 1 frac14; cups pumpkin Mix together until well blended. In 5 years, Tawra Kellam and her husband paid off $20,000 personal debt on an average income of $22,000 per year. Tawra is the author of the frugal cookbook Dining On A Dime. Dining On A Dime has over 1200 recipes and tips to help you eat better and spend less. For more free tips and recipes visit her web site at LivingOnADime.com/ . Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com. More >>

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05/07/2010
IconTeaching Kids about Money by Jill Cooper www.LivingOnADime.com ( See Part I for the Steps One and Two .) Step three is to be sure and teach your child about savings and tithing. I will never forget the first allowance I ever received. I was about 7 years old and my allowance was a quarter. I remember two things about that day. The first was that my mom said that out of any money we earned, we were to give 10% to God. I didn't know about percents at the time and had to ask how much 10% of 25 cents was. She said it was 2 1/2 cents. I remember being confused and asking how I was to give half a cent. Then she said the second thing I will always remember from that day. I couldn't give half a cent, so I should give 3 cents because that extra half cent would show our thankfulness for all of the many other things that God had given us as gifts that weren't in the form of money. To this day I have always given my tithe without hesitation and I round it up to an even number. Because there are so many extras that God has blessed me with other than money; the sack of tomatoes from the neighbors garden, the used car someone sold me at a discount, the meal that was brought to me by a friend when I was sick and so on. Do you see what a big influence my mom's words and actions had on me? She was my best example as you are the example for your child. As far as savings goes, I always tried to teach my kids to tithe, save a little and spend a little. I have found though that the best way for a child to learn about saving is through the "hard knocks" of life. Maybe for a child, I should change that to the "soft knocks" of life. ;-) There is no better way for a child to learn to save than for that child to quickly spend all of his money at a bubble gum machine and on candy bars and then see a sibling, who has carefully saved, be able to buy a really cool toy the next time they go shopping.Another way for kids to learn about saving is, when they desire something very much, to have mom or dad tell them to save their money for it. You can't break down and buy it for them because you will defeat the purpose. It's hard I know. It's even worse being a grandmother and not breaking down and buying them everything they want, but after a while you will come to realize how exciting it is for a child to save and save and then finally reach their goal's end. How much should you pay a child for allowance? My first quarter was enough for me to buy four Hershey's bars with almonds, to tithe and to save a couple of cents. I thought I had died and gone to heaven -- four whole candy bars! For this reason, I have always regulated my children's allowance to make sure that they have enough money to buy four or five candy bars. I wouldn't want to say, since some think I'm an expert in finances, that my whole belief system revolves around the price of candy bars but hey, if the shoe fits, I must proudly wear it. Of course, as the children grow and take on more responsibilities they should get gradual "pay raises" in their allowances. Just a couple of closing thoughts: With more money comes more responsibility. Keep the amount of money you give your children in proportion to how responsible they are. This will help them to learn to use their money wisely rather than to waste it because they have more than they know what to do with. In the same way that you wouldn't give a ten year old a new car to drive because he isn't responsible enough yet and doesn't know how to use it properly, don't give your children more money and things than they can responsibly handle. Teach your children to use their own money to buy those things that they want so badly, rather than buying lots of things that you can't afford. This will this teach them how to save, how to be more discerning when presented with an opportunity to buy something and how to care for things better and appreciate the things they have more. Lastly, but possibly the most important: teach your children to use a small part of their money to buy gifts and to give to others. This could include anything from buying a family member something little at a garage sale to giving 50 cents to the humane society or to that special offering for missions at church. Remember, the whole object is to learn to be wise stewards of their money and to be givers not takers. Jill Cooper and Tawra Kellam are frugal living experts and the editors of www.LivingOnADime.com . As a single mother of two, Jill Cooper started her own business without any capital and paid off $35,000 debt in 5 years on $1,000 a month income. Tawra and her husband paid off $20,000 debt in 5 years on $22,000 a year income. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com. More >>

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05/07/2010
IconTeaching Kids about Money - Part I by Jill Cooper www.LivingOnADime.com So many people ask how to teach their kids about money, hoping we can give them a 1-2-3 formula to use that will help their child become a wise caretaker of his money and maybe even a future Bill Gates or Oprah Winfrey. Many parents ask this question because they are terrified that their children will turn out just like themselves when it comes to spending money. They hope that the "Do as I say, not as I do" method might actually work in this case. The bad news is it won't. Children usually become "chips off of the old block". It really is a monkey see, monkey do world. They almost always learn by example - your example, dad and mom. The good news is that you (parents) can change. That is the first step in the formula. Put into practice the things that you want your children to learn. I know a lot of you don't want to hear that but I'm afraid that is the way it is. The good news is that it really isn't as hard as you think. If you expect a 5, 6, or 7 year old to learn to handle money wisely, surely you as a grown adult will be capable of doing it too. I read a lot of novels. You can learn quite a bit about human nature from novels. In almost every novel I read, the hero works as hard as his men and expects no more out of them than what he expects of himself and the men love and admire him for it. Now I know I'm talking about a novel but think about it with regard to these everyday life examples. How do you feel at your job if your boss places strict demands on you to do certain things that he is not willing to do himself? Resentful, angry and frustrated? Your children feel the same way if you expect them to be wise in money matters when you are not. The second step in the formula is to teach children how to earn money before they learn how to handle it. This should seem logical and you may say "Well of course everyone knows that!" but do they? The people we deal with on a daily basis don't seem to know that. How many people do you know (maybe even you are guilty of this yourself), who spend money they haven't even earned. Do you instantly say not me! Hmmm... How many dollars worth of credit card debt do you have? Isn't that spending money you haven't earned yet? We need to keep our eyes open to how we handle money, before and after we earn it. The best way to help children learn positive work ethics and give them a chance to earn money is through chores. There is nothing wrong with age appropriate chores and jobs. Chores help to teach children the weights and balances of earning and spending - Earn $10 and you can spend $10. A lot of parents live with the idea that one can spend $10 and then frantically try to work to get $10 to pay for it. Another alternative that seems to be gaining popularity is to mooch off of someone like their parents or to become indebted to a credit card company. Is it surprising why children are getting confused? It is because they are receiving mixed messages from dad and mom. This is why it is so important for parents to get their acts together first. I believe in giving allowances for chores that are done. This is a great way to teach our children the earning - spending concept. It teaches them another life skill to prepare them for when they enter into the work world. It's simple. Do your job, do it well, do it on time and you will get paid. Whatever you do, don't give your children allowances when they haven't earned them. You are doing your children a great injustice when you do this. They learn early on that they don't have to do a thing because mom and dad will pay for it. Twenty years later, parents find themselves with a 28 year old man sitting on their couch, watching their TV and munching on pizza and chips that their hard earned money paid for. They can't figure out how to get rid of him or what went wrong. By giving kids money and "stuff" without having to earn it, they learn to be takers and not givers. Then we wonder why, as adults, they have the attitude that the world owes them something for nothing. They have learned that they have no reason to bother to lift a finger to contribute to society. Some people refuse to give allowances because they say that children should do things because they are members of the family. They need to learn to do things without expecting a reward. I agree with this to a certain extent so what I did was divide the jobs up into certain categories. For example, feeding the cat, walking the dog or raking grandma's yard could be done just to teach the care and responsibility for someone else because we love them. This teaches responsibility towards those we love, expecting no reward. Things like keeping their rooms clean and beds made could be included under the allowance category. There were also times when we would have extra large projects like painting a fence or cleaning a very messy garage. In these cases, I would give the kids a little extra because they were such big jobs and the kids had worked so hard doing them. Like everything else there is a happy medium. Everyone likes a reward for a job well done. Even God rewards us for jobs well done. If we never give our children an allowance, they could become resentful. You may ask, "What do I do if I really don't have any extra to give my children at this time in my life?" First, you don't need to give children a lot. Even a small amount can seem huge to them. You can also pay them in other ways. For example, if you do this job, I will let you watch TV or play video games for an extra hour. Sometimes these things are more important to a child than money. My grandson mows my yard for me. He would do it for nothing, but I like to pay him a little for it. One day when he was done mowing we walked to a convenience store by my house and I bought him a slushy. He was more excited about that than about all the money I had paid him before. If you really have nothing to pay them at this time, that's OK too. Children have a very keen sense of justice. They usually know when mom and dad are not paying them because things are in "crisis" mode. If you have been fair with them in the past, they know you will be fair with them in the future when things aren't so tight. See Part II next week... Jill Cooper and Tawra Kellam are frugal living experts and the editors of www.LivingOnADime.com . As a single mother of two, Jill Cooper started her own business without any capital and paid off $35,000 debt in 5 years on $1,000 a month income. Tawra and her husband paid off $20,000 debt in 5 years on $22,000 a year income. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com. More >>

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05/07/2010
IconThe Great Milk Crisis by Jill Cooper LivingOnADime.com I rushed to my computer to write this when I heard the news. I knew there would be a great panic over it and thought I could hopefully calm some fears. What was the news? Was it something earth shattering like flood, epidemic, or war? No! But it made the headlines - "The price of milk is going up!" I could hear the panic in the newscaster's voice and the trembling in "Mrs. Woman-on-the-street's" voice as she answered his question, "What will you do now?" "I guess I will have to just start watering down my children's milk because they just love it so much." Then she took a deep heart wrenching sigh... Of course, I'm telling you this with tongue in cheek. We live in a world of panic and fear. I try to put these things in perspective. I mean compared to the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl (for those of you who aren't up on your history, that's not a new football game ;-), the flu epidemic of 1917, and World Wars I and II, the fact that the price of milk is going up 50 cents ranks pretty low on my list of things to panic about. No, I don't have lots of money to throw away. At this time in my life I am pretty much living off the same amount or less than most people on welfare or some elderly people on social security so any price increase is hard on me too. What I found most interesting was the next item of news after the earth shattering milk scare. It was about a new "apple" that is coming out on Friday and everyone can hardly wait to buy one for $500. I mean to me, paying $2.50 for three pounds of apples is outrageous, let alone spending $500 for one apple! OK, I've got my tongue in my cheek once again! Even though my children think I am completely computer illiterate, I do realize that the new "Apple" they were talking about was some sort of fancy hand held computer/phone (I think ;-). Here's my point: We sometimes have our priorities goofy. These people were horrified at having to pay an extra 50 cents for milk -- food that they really needed for their children, but they thought nothing of having to pay $500 for what basically amounts to a new electrical toy. Having milk prices go up is irritating yes, but it is not the end of the world. (Having my Hershey's candy bar double in price over night -- now that is something to panic over. HA! HA! Talk about priorities! ;-) Before you come unglued each time you hear that the price of bread, milk or gas is raised, try putting it into perspective. I don't want you to think I am taking this whole thing too lightly. I do want to help make things a little easier for you, so here are some tips to help you save if the price of milk is getting out of control in your area. Most of these basic principles can be used with any food item whose price is getting higher than you would like. One of the main ways to save on milk is portion control. You have heard me say again and again that we need to start seriously controlling the amount and portion size of the food we give our children. The woman in the news interview above said she would just have to dilute the milk for her children. That really isn't the best solution and usually all that does is to make the milk taste nasty. Now that I think about it, I guess that would be one way to keep the kids from drinking more of it but it's not really the best idea. A better solution is to have the children drink water more often. Use milk (and juice) only as part of the nutritional value of the meal, not as a primary way to quench thirst. When you plan your menu, if you have cheese or yogurt for your meal, you don't have to serve milk because you already have your dairy. Let everyone drink water. If there is no dairy in the meal, give them a proper serving of milk (6-8 oz. not 16 oz. which is the size of a lot of glasses used at meals). Waste not want not. This good old fashioned saying really is true. Stop wasting milk. How much milk is left in that half eaten bowl of cereal and poured down the drain each morning? What about that large glass of milk that you poured for your child who drank only half of it? The average American family could cut the amount of milk they buy by 50% just by controlling portion sizes and waste. (That includes that sour milk in the fridge that always gets thrown out). Stop your children from using the "dump" method with their cereal. You know what I mean, they pour out the cereal, not paying attention to what they are doing, until there is a huge mound in their bowl. Then they pour in enough milk to equal the portion of cereal they have dumped in. You may have to take the time and effort to pour the kids' milk in their cereal bowls for a while to help cut back until they learn to use the right amount themselves. Sometimes something as simple as pouring the milk into a pitcher that is smaller and easier for a child to handle can help. I find a gallon of milk hard to pour so I can't imagine how a young child can handle it properly. I use a small pitcher for my kids and grandkids and they have always loved getting to use the cute little pitcher. I think it is one of those "little things" that helps make their lives easier and they appreciate that. Make foods that don't use as much milk. Instead of having cereal every morning, make oatmeal, eggs and toast, or pancakes. I like to use milk even if my pancake mix calls for water but you can change that to half milk and half water and it will still taste good. Instead of making pudding for dessert, make a pan of brownies or cupcakes from a box that calls for no milk. Having company this summer? Think watermelon instead of homemade ice cream. Watch for milk that is marked down and buy all that you can. Most people don't realize that you can freeze milk. All you have to do is be sure you shake it well after you thaw it. Find out when your store stocks the milk or mark it down. I was at a store just yesterday and there was a man putting some cheese on the shelves. I simply asked him when they stocked their dairy products and what time. He didn't mind telling me at all. As much as I hate to admit how old I am, I have lived many years now and one thing I have found is the price of food always changes - up and down, this way and that - but it is nothing to panic over. Everything usually balances out in the end. Just adjust your eating habits accordingly and you will do fine. Besides, over time most incomes usually end up adjusting to the price of things, so it all balances out. Hopefully, you can now enjoy your next glass of milk... but watch out for those terribly expensive "apples"! Jill Cooper is the editor of LivingOnADime.com . As a single mother of two, Jill Cooper started her own business without any capital and paid off $35,000 debt in 5 years on $1,000 a month income. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com. More >>

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05/07/2010
Icon$40 Bedroom Makeover By Tawra Kellam www.LivingOnADime.com By shopping at thrift stores and making do with what I had, I spent under $40 redecorating my daughter's room. Elly's new room took me two days work, 15-30 minutes at a time, resting about 1-2 hours in between. It took me about one day to put the paint on the walls. (That's with the help of a 3 year old.) I was sick or I would have been able to complete it in one day. To redecorate, we designed the room around a comforter that Elly had received from her grandmother as a gift. We purchased everything from the thrift store over 2 weeks. We had to go about 3-4 times, but it was well worth the savings. For color on the wall behind the bed, I found a twin sheet that I had on hand that I had purchased for $1 at the thrift store. I ironed the sheet and then used the staple gun to staple it up on the wall. I hung the canopy with a hook we already had and then tied it by gathering it and stapling the gather. Then we stapled a tassel on the gather. We found the tassels for $.12 each on clearance after Christmas. Elly wanted a tall princess bed, so we took identical sized boxes of books from the garage and put one under each leg. (We self-publish so we had a ton of books.) We removed the wheels from the bed frame. Then we put a board on top of the boxes for stability. Elly's bed frame is now about 15 inches feet off the ground so use the space under the bed for storing toys. My mom made some pillows to go with Elly's comforter from material she already had. The long pink bolster was the one thing we bought retail. That was some new "extra fluffy soft" material that she purchased for about $5 for one extra special pillow. I found a picture at the store to put on the wall behind her bed instead of a headboard. We didn't have any night stands that would work, so we stacked three boxes of books in the corner and one box in front to make a staggered "L" shaped night stand. We covered the boxes by layering a white sheet and then lace on top. She now has a nice place for her drinking cup, clock and stuffed animals. I couldn't find curtains to match and didn't have any material to make any so I had to come up with something else. I found a white round tablecloth that I had. I ironed it, folded it in half and then draped it over her curtain rod. Then I took some fake flowers that I already had and put them on top. It turned out pretty nice for a free curtain! We found a free standing mirror for $5 at the thrift store. There were two things wrong with it. It didn't have a base and the person had painted it black, inadvertently getting spray paint on the glass. Polish remover took off the paint in a just a couple of seconds and we simply leaned the mirror against the wall in the corner. We made a craft table from one that the neighbors had left on the curb. It was pretty ugly, so we covered it with a tablecloth that looked nice but wouldn't be too big of a loss if she spilled something on it. Mom had a chair that was the right size, but it looked bad, too. She took some lace and tied the corners. Then she put a cluster of flowers on the back. We also thought she needed something to hang all her art projects on. I found a corkboard that was in good shape, but had been marked up with markers, pens and crayons. I tried painting it with latex paint but the marker marks kept bleeding through. I took the blow dryer and dried the paint. I took the glue gun and hot glued some lace over the top of the cork material to cover up the marks. The paint showed through the lace but the lace covered up the marker marks. She wanted to decorate with hearts and stars, so I took a large car washing sponge ($.75 each at Dollar General) and cut stencils out of them. I found heart and star coloring pages on the Internet and I printed them. I traced the heart and star on two sponges and then took a razor blade and cut out the edges. I only went down about 1/2 inch with the cut to remove the excess sponge. Then I put paint on the sponge and pressed it onto the wall. The sponge didn't stamp the image as well as I would have liked, so I painted over the top of the mark my stencil had made with a paintbrush. We were able to keep Elly out of the room while I did it so she didn't really know what was going on in there. On the day of her birthday, I put a large sheet of wrapping paper over her doorframe and wrote Happy Birthday with a marker and bows. That way she could open her "present" from mom and dad. She was very excited about it! Tawra Kellam is the editor of www.LivingOnADime.com .Tawra and her husband paid off $20,000 debt in 5 years on $22,000 a year income. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com. More >>

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05/07/2010
IconAre You Preparing Your Child for Financial Trouble? By Al Jacobs In the world we live, no one grows up to become financially knowledgeable without guidance along the way. The number of young adults struggling to make ends meet bears witness to the fact that many persons reach maturity without an ability to look after themselves. Unfortunately, there is nothing that most young people encounter in life that prepares them to survive financially in this world. Whatever Americans know about handling their dollars did not come from school. This is understandable, of course, if only because the typical classroom teacher is equally mystified by the world of money. Nor is there any information to be gleaned from the media and its supporting advertising. Those formative years, in which the average child spends 28 hours per week in front of a television screen, does little more than inculcate a taste for Pop-Tarts, Cocoa Puffs, Hip-Hop music, designer jeans, and the emulation of celebrities. I'm convinced that financial counseling must come from the parent. If you're not indoctrinating your offspring into sound habits of thrift and discernment, there is a likelihood they will blunder through life with no sense of monetary values. That's a recipe for personal disaster. I'd like to offer the following suggestions on how to instill a sense of fiscal responsibility in your children. 1. First and foremost, start early. There is no more accurate truth than the ancient adage: As the twig is bent, so grows the tree. As soon as your progeny develop an awareness of what is going on around them, they're entitled to instruction and guidance on the realities of the financial world. Admittedly, the approach to your 4-year-old will be far different than to your teen-ager. Nonetheless, if properly presented, both will acquire skills that will accompany them over a lifetime. Mean what you say. Whether or not you believe it, your children really pay attention to what you say and do. As the first authority that normally appears, a parent becomes a model on which the child fixates. It's important to realize, however, that your counsel must be consistent for the lessons to be learned. If messages are contradictory, they will be received as mixed signals. If, for example, parents proclaim the importance of living within their financial means while simultaneously indebting themselves through purchases they cannot afford, it will not go undetected by the children nor induce them to pursue habits of thrift. The only way that sound financial values can be transmitted from one generation to the next is by a systematic and continuous program that reinforces these values. Only through precept and example will sound habits be engrained. Don't encourage unattainable goals. Well-meaning parents, who urge their children to aim for the stars while ignoring reality, do them no service. One typical example is the encouragement given to attend a prestigious university when family funds are unavailable. Over the past several years I've fielded many a letter from these children, themselves well into parenthood and overburdened with tens of thousands of dollars in unpaid student loans. In most cases, the grandiose plans envisioned never came to pass. Whatever added luster a high-priced school is designed to impart often proves to be illusory. Reasonably priced educational institutions are available and every bit as suitable. The point I want to stress is that realistic and attainable goals, taking into consideration the inherent abilities and limitations of each offspring, must be the basis on which guidance is given. Despite the prevalent attitude in modern society that everyone is endowed to achieve at any level, the wise parent will recognize reality and seek to counsel the child accordingly. Don't try to direct your child's discretionary spending. If a child is to learn about money, he or she must sense some meaningful connection to it. Though it's the parents' responsibility to advise their offspring on sensible spending and saving, they must not dictate how the youths handle their earnings. The decision on how money received is to be spent-or horded, if that's the choice-is that of the recipient. Most importantly, don't habitually come to the rescue. When mistakes are made, the repercussions are the most valuable part of the learning process. Managing finances is a lifelong challenge, and the sooner experienced, the better. Don't fight against human nature. Over time I've seen a lot of strange behavior that ignored human nature. One of the more bizarre instances concerned an indolent young woman, who over many years repeatedly received instruction from her wealthy father on how to balance her checkbook. She habitually issued checks whenever she chose. When the account balance fell below zero, the bank phoned her father who deposited more money in the account. Somehow her father never understood that his instruction sessions ignored human nature; the checkbook balance held no significance for her. What's the purpose of this observation? It's to stress the importance of parents' awareness of what is important to their offspring. Human nature dictates that all actions actually have meaning. AL JACOBS has been a professional investor for more than four decades. His business experience ranges from real estate, mortgage, and securities investment to appraisal, civil engineering, and the operation of a private trust company. In addition to managing his investments on a day-to-day basis, he is a featured financial columnist for both online and print publications. He is the author of Nobody's Fool: A Skeptic's Guide to Prosperity . You may subscribe to his financial Newsletter, "On the Money Trail," at no cost or obligation, by visiting www.onthemoneytrail.com . Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com. More >>

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05/07/2010
IconNo Veggie Left Behind By Missy Chase Lapine www.thesneakychef.com A grateful reader recently wrote to me and said she had a better chance of getting Brad Pitt to call her for a date than to get her kids to eat their vegetables. And her name was not Angelina. Well, fear no more. The days of the picky eater are over, and there's a new life for those super healthy foods we could only wish our kids would eat. How is this possible? Haven't we tried every trick in the book to get our kids to stop demanding white and start eating green food? We've made log cabins out of asparagus and forests out of broccoli stalks. We've promised trips to Disneyland if they'll just take one more bite, and we've turned every food on earth into a mini version of itself hoping they would think it was cute enough to eat. And yet there our kids always sit, staring defiantly back at us with their lips pinched shut. Every single green bean and leaf of spinach has still been meticulously separated from the buttery mashed potatoes with surgical precision. In the end our garbage disposals are better nourished than our families.So get smarter. Get sneaky! Most of us know perfectly well what our kids should be eating; the trick is simply how to get them to eat it... hmmmmm.... Hide it! Get out that cute mini food processor and puree the super veggies with a little water. Make yourself a smooth and creamy puree that will hide perfectly in all kinds of meals kids already like to eat. Do your kids like mac n' cheese? Most kids love it and it has a kid-friendly cheesy taste that covers up the "White Puree," which has almost no taste of its own. Throw some white beans, zucchini and steamed cauliflower into blender, then mix the puree in with their favorite boxed macaroni and cheese. Set it on the table and keep your little secret to yourself. They'll eat it right up without a peep of protest. Try steaming and pureeing orange and white veggies like yams, carrots, peeled zucchini and cauliflower and mixing it into pizza and pasta sauce. With this method, you'll smile all the way to the dishwasher after you watched the kids gobble up previously rejected healthy foods. The whole world opens up to you with the sneaky method. In addition to healthy meals, there will now be peaceful meals, and you can start teaching good nutrition in a much less pressured environment. Because you're confident that your kids are already getting the nutrition they need in the sneaky recipes, you don't have to fight with the same edge in your voice over the plain broccoli stalks that aren't hidden. And all those veggies you used to walk right past in the grocery store? There's now a recipe for every one of them. Your new motto will be: No vegetable left behind. copy; Missy Chase Lapine Missy Chase Lapine is the author of The Sneaky Chef: Simple Strategies for Hiding Healthy Foods in Kids' Favorite Meals (Running Press, March 2007). She is the former publisher of Eating Well magazine and the founder of a natural baby product line Baby Spareg;. Missy is currently on the Culinary Arts faculty of The New School, in New York City, and operates The Sneaky Chef workshops. She is available to individuals, groups and businesses for private cooking instruction, workshops and personal coaching in The Sneaky Chef methods and recipes. Missy lives with her family in Westchester, New York. For more information, visit www.TheSneakyChef.com . Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com. More >>

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05/07/2010
IconWonderful Watermelon By Cheryl Tallman and Joan Ahlers www.FreshBaby.com Eating watermelon is not just fun, it is healthy too! Watermelon is chock full of lycopene, a powerful antioxidant that fights free radicals which are highly reactive molecules that damage cell membranes, attack DNA and cause disease. Tomatoes are often associated with lycopene, but watermelon contains higher levels than fresh tomatoes. Watermelon can also help maintain cardiovascular health. Watermelon has amino acids, citrulline and arginine, that help maintain the arteries and blood flow. A 2-cup serving of watermelon is also an excellent source of Vitamins A, B6 and C. These vitamins provide optimal eye health, help the body cope with anxiety and panic, and bolster your immune system's defenses. At the market: Check the watermelon out. Look for a firm, symmetrical watermelon with no bruises, cuts or dents. Lift it. The watermelon should be heavy for it's size. The underside of the watermelon will have a creamy yellow spot from where it sat on the ground and ripened in the sun. Pre-cut watermelon: Available in many markets, this is a nice option for a small family or when a whole watermelon is too much. Keep the cut surface of a melon covered with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Stays fresh for 3-4 days. Storage: A whole watermelon can be stored at room temperature until ready to cut up. Cubes of watermelon: Place in covered container and refrigerate immediately. Stays fresh for 3-4 days. Preparation: Wash, slice or cube and enjoy. Here are some quick ideas to add watermelon into your family meals: Terrific Breakfast Treat: Cut up watermelon into bite-size chunks and place them in a cereal bowl, top with a fruit-flavored yogurt, sprinkle with a healthy helping of granola. Dig in! Watermelon Dippin' Stix: Here's a simple creamy snack or dessert. Cut watermelon pieces into 3-inch long sticks. Stack the sticks on a plate and serve them with a bowl of vanilla yogurt flavored with a touch of lime juice and chopped fresh mint or Ranch dressing for dipping. Shrimp and watermelon skewers: Shrimp and watermelon are a wonderful flavor combination. This simple dish is great as an appetizer or light lunch. Start with a few wooden skewers, thread cooked shrimp and watermelon cubes on the skewer. Place on a serving plate and drizzle with thai peanut sauce or ginger vinaigrette. Multi-Melon Salad: A perfect side dish with grilled fish, pork or chicken. Mix equal parts, cantaloupe, honeydew and watermelon cubes in a bowl. Toss with raspberry vinaigrette. Sprinkle with blanched almonds, shredded coconut and dried cherries. Wow Watermelon Soda: Exotic soda flavors are soaring in popularity, but many of them are filled with unhealthy artificial ingredients and high fructose corn syrup. Why not try making a homemade watermelon soda that the whole family will love? This recipe will take a few minutes to make, but it's quite simple and the fresh watermelon flavor is totally worth it. To make the soda, you'll make watermelon syrup and add sparkling water or club soda to it. Enjoy quick access to watermelon soda all summer by making a batch of the watermelon syrup and freezing it in So Easy Baby Food Trays (or ice cube trays). When thirst heats up, simply drop a cube into soda water. It's an instant refresher! Ingredients: 5 cups of seeded chopped watermelon 5-6 Tablespoons superfine sugar 2 Tablespoons lime juice 1/8 teaspoon salt 3 cups of sparkling water or club soda Directions: Puree the watermelon in a blender or a food processor. Pour the watermelon puree into a fine strainer set over a bowl. Let it stand for 20 minutes until the juice has drained through. Stir the watermelon gently one or twice, but do not press the puree or the syrup will be cloudy. This will yield about 2 cups of watermelon juice. Stir the superfine sugar, lime juice and salt into the watermelon juice until dissolved. To serve, pour frac14;- frac12;cup watermelon syrup with 1/2 cup sparkling water in a glass. Top with ice and enjoy! Makes 5-8 servings. About the authors: Cheryl Tallman and Joan Ahlers are sisters, the mothers of five children and founders of Fresh Baby, which includes products such as the So Easy Baby Food Kit and Good Clean Fun Placemats. Visit them online at www.FreshBaby.com to check out their newsletter. Fresh Baby products are available at many fine specialty stores and national chains including Target, Wild Oats, and Whole Foods Markets. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com. More >>

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