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Simple Savings
05/07/2010
IconStop Eating Your Way Into Debt! by Jill Cooper www.LivingOnADime.com At this time of year, there are usually 3 things people are panicking about: how to lose weight, how to save money, and how to get organized. We have already touched on losing weight so this week I would like to touch on saving money. Hopefully most of you realize that you can get into deep debt if you buy a house or a car you can't afford. That seems to be pretty obvious, although a lot of people do it anyway. But that is not what I want to deal with today. The Bible talks about the little foxes that spoil the vine. What that is talking about is the little things that sneak into our lives without us realizing it. They start picking away at the vines in our lives until it destroys us. One of those "little foxes" is eating out. Eating out is among the of the top causes of personal debt. Most of us hunt for the best interest rates on our mortgages and we complain about the awful price of gas the whole time we are pumping it. Interestingly enough though, I have yet to hear one person groan about the awful prices they had to pay for lunch today or tell how they were "duped" into having to pay such high prices at their favorite restaurant. I mean really, the government should step in and make all restaurants take steak off of their menus so I won't be tempted to order it. Of course then there are those fast food places. They shouldn't be allowed to build so close to the road and make it so convenient for me to drive in there each day. They have a lot of nerve expecting me to be a responsible adult who knows what I can or can't afford and should or shouldn't do. Tut, tut. I had better behave or I will have to fire myself. HA! HA! But I do feel so much better for getting that off of my chest. Anyway where was I? Oh, yes -- saving money and eating out. I know most of the excuses we use to justify eating out when it doesn't really fit in the budget: "I don't have time", "I'm too busy", "I don't know how to cook", and last but not least, "it's so much easier to eat out". I totally understand. I too don't have time to do things. I don't have time to take care of my yard, so I will hire a crew of gardeners to do it. I too don't have time to clean my house so I will have a housekeeper come in every day and do it for me. I don't know how to cook so I need a chef (the best French one, of course) and it is so much easier to hit my garage sales if I am chauffeur driven. Obviously my examples are tongue in cheek but, as ridiculous as that all sounds, that really is what a lot of us are doing. In the same way that I can't afford a gardener, housekeeper or chauffeur and I would be pretty foolish to go hire them, many of us can't afford to go out to eat but do it anyway. I don't think most people really realize how much they spend eating out each month and would be shocked to find that they could probably hire a housekeeper or a gardener for that same amount. Take one week and write down how much you spend eating out. That includes all those coffees, soft drinks, things from the vending machines and snacks you buy throughout the day. Be sure to write down the amount of anything that goes into you and your family's mouths for an average week. I'm afraid you may be unpleasantly surprised. Multiply it by 4 to get a monthly estimate and I think you would be just plain shocked. I'm beginning to wonder if another reason we eat out so much is that it has just become a habit. Like many bad habits, we get so comfortable with them that we don't want to change them. Even when we know that a habit is destructive to us (physically, financially and even emotionally), we still do it. Some of us look down our noses at other people with "bad habits" like drug addicts and alcoholics and can't understand why they don't just kick their habits. "Don't they see what they are doing to their families????" What is the difference between other people's destructive habits and our repeatedly going out to eat and charging it? We know the food isn't as good for our families, we know we don't have the money to pay for it, and we know on bill paying day we will be so stressed that we will take it out on everyone around us. We so proudly display our bumper stickers that say "Say no to drugs." but how many of us could proudly display a bumper sticker that says "Say no to debt, I'm debt free". (Please do not e-mail me about drug addicts and alcoholics. If you do, you are missing the point of the article and are only making it more clear to me that you are not willing to own up to or face the real issue --your debt.) I know those words may sound harsh to some, but if you have seen and dealt with as many families as I have, whose homes have been or are being destroyed because of financial irresponsibility, you would understand why I can't always sugar coat things. We sink into a fog of apathy, hopelessness and discouragement and just give up trying. I really want you to understand you can fix your finances, but it will take a little bit of work and effort on your part. Don't just throw up your hands and give up. There is a story in the Bible (John 5) that tells about a man who couldn't walk. He had laid by a healing pool for 38 years. If he could dip in the pool when the water stirred, he would be healed. Jesus asks him what he is doing there and he says "Well, I just don't have anyone who will carry me and put me in the pool" (Poor little old me.) Jesus then asks him, "Do you really want to get healed?" This might seem to us a strange question but, as I once heard a woman speaker point out, if he really wanted to get healed wouldn't he have tried some way to inch his way over to that pool even if he could only make it a half an inch a day no matter how hard it was? Maybe Jesus asked this question because He too thought here was is a man, like so many do these days, making excuses, being a victim and waiting for someone else to fix his problem for him. What did Jesus tell him to do? GET UP! (stand on your own two feet), TAKE UP YOUR BED (start being responsible for your own things), and WALK (become active in solving your own problems which may mean physical labor, or doing without somethings). You need to be like the lame man and GET UP, TAKE UP YOUR BED and WALK. If you know you are going out to eat too much then stop saying you're a victim of these "hard economic times". Be responsible for the "bed" (or the debts that you have now) and actively start doing something about it today. It isn't as hard as you think. I can take every excuse for eating out that I mentioned above and prove that they're not really valid. "I don't have time." For the amount of time it takes you to drive to some place, wait for them to take your order and then wait for them to prepare your order, I can give you 10 menus or more that would take less time for you to fix at home."I'm too busy." If you are too busy to take time to feed your family, something that is a necessity of life, then you are too busy. I have very rarely heard anyone say that they are too busy to get their hair done, go shopping, go to sports activities, talk on the phone or spend time on the computer. You really can find the time. If I sound like I don't have patience with that excuse, it's because I don't. I was a single mom with 2 teens, working 60 -70 hours a week, doing all my own yard work, home repairs, and on and on and guess what? Except when I was ill, I always found time to make breakfast and dinner. "I don't know how to cook." So learn. Start simple. Even my 9 year old grandson could boil himself a hot dog. You don't have to produce a gourmet meal to make your family happy and, in most cases, they would prefer you didn't. There are simple enough instructions on the back of a package of spaghetti noodles that, once again, even a child can read and do. Warm up a jar of sauce and dinner is served. You now have 2 main dishes that take less than 10 minutes to prepare. I understand that man can't live on hot dogs alone (although I think kids can), but don't worry -- after a week or two of simple dishes, you can move on to more complicated things like frozen French fries and frying hamburgers ;-) Plus if you really get stuck, I just happen to know of this really good cookbook called Dining on A Dime that can help you. ;-) "It's so much easier." I guess that depends on your definition of easy. To me, going to a restaurant, sitting and listening to loud music for 30 minutes with fussy, hungry, complaining kids is not my idea of fun. Going to a drive-thru is, at times, not much better. Lately it seems as if the line of cars wraps around the whole building at every fast food joint that I drive by. I was amazed to see every restaurant's parking lot jam packed two days after Christmas. (Must be that all those people who couldn't afford Christmas had gotten a wind fall.) Sorry, once again I digress. You may say "The restaurant where I go isn't that bad." but my point is that everything has it's drawbacks whether you stay at home to eat or go out to eat. It's just a matter of what you make up your mind to put up with. Do you want the pain of cooking or the pain of not knowing how to pay your bills. If you are in debt, it would be wise to start putting up with a few of the drawbacks that come with eating at home. Besides, if you are really serious about saving money, there are ways to make cooking at home much easier. You can use convenience foods. There is nothing wrong with buying things like French bread, canned biscuits or bagged salad. Line the pans you use with foil, or use disposable pans. It's cheaper in the long run to use these than going out to eat. Clean up as you cook. This is very important because I notice a lot of people make a bigger mess than necessary when they cook. Instead of messing up the whole stove by repeatedly laying a sticky spoon on it, use a spoon holder or cup. It is a simple thing that makes clean up so much easier. Keep some hot soapy water in the sink while you are cooking and wash things as you finish with them. Don't set that carton of milk down on the counter after you pour it. While it is still in your hand put it back in the fridge. Keep the amount of utensils you use to a minimum. You don't need to put a lid on a pot every time you cook something. Don't always think gourmet. Most families are so excited to get a homemade meal that they don't care what you serve them. Besides, almost any meal can be made to look "gourmet". Fruit sliced and arranged nicely on a plate, muffins keeping warm and nestled in a napkin inside a basket or mashed potatoes mounded high with a chunk of golden butter melting down the sides all have eye appeal. All right -- I made myself hungry! Maybe it's time to quit for lunch. Clean up is one of the main reasons people hate to eat at home, but if you clean as you go like I mentioned earlier and everyone pitches in to help clean up after dinner, it should only take about 15 minutes to get it all put away.* It would take longer than that to drive to a fast food place and return home. Pull out those crock pots. It takes about 5 minutes to throw in a roast, potatoes and carrots. It takes the same amount of time to throw in the ingredients for chili, stew or veggie soup. If you are dragging the kids to an after school game: Instead of going to a fast food drive in, throw some hot dogs in a thermos and cover with boiling water. They will be cooked and ready to eat by the time you get there. How long does it really take to grab a few pieces of fruit, a bag of cleaned veggies and some chips to go with them? Maybe 2 minutes? How hard is that to cook? You could also have sloppy joes simmering in a crock pot and pour those in the thermos for an on the run meal. To make it even easier, heat it up from a jar and then pour it in the thermos. I don't know who set the standard that cooking a meal in 30 minutes is fast. If I took that long to cook a meal every night I would never get anything done. There are tons of meals out there that require 15 minutes or less prep time. If you don't know where to start, then drag out our cookbook or go to our website. We have lots of ideas there to get you started. Sometimes we like to make things more complicated than they really are because that gives us a good excuse not to do them. Where there is a will there is a way. Do you really want to get out of debt? Then GET UP, STOP CHARGING, and GET COOKING! 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
IconTantalizing Tilapia By Cheryl Tallman and Joan Ahlers www.FreshBaby.com Tilapia is a fresh water fish with origins in the Nile River. Its culinary potential was appreciated by the ancient Egyptians and the epicurean Greeks. Aristotle is believed to have given the fish its name Tilapia niloticus (fish of the Nile) in 300 BC. Today, nearly all tilapia is farm-raised, in ponds or tanks. Tilapia farming is considered ecologically friendly. Fish is an important part of a healthy, balanced diet. Dietary guidelines call for eating fish twice a week. This guideline is intended to boost intake of an important nutrient, omega-3 fatty acids, which reduce the risk of heart disease. But eating more fish has also be shown to lower risk of stroke, particularly in women and reduce risk of Alzheimer's by as much as 60%. Tilapia is also low in mercury which makes it a great choice for women and small children. Tilapia has a light, sweet flavor and semi-firm texture making it the perfect fish for children and others who don't care for the flavor of stronger fish. Tilapia is less expensive than most fish. Being farm-raised there is an unlimited supply which keeps prices down. Taste and affordability make tilapia a great choice for the family table. At the market: Tilapia is sold fresh or frozen. Tilapia is most commonly sold in fillets (4-7 ounces each). Choose tilapia fillets that appear moist and resilient; avoid cuts that have a musky odor. Tilapia is sold under many names including: St. Peter's fish, Cherry snapper or Hawaiian sun fish, Nile perch, and Sunshine snapper. Storage: Frozen: Tilapia will stay fresh for up to four months if it is wrapped tightly in the freezer. Thaw frozen tilapia in the refrigerator or under cold running water. Discard tilapia that is mushy when thawed. Fresh: Thawed or fresh tilapia should be refrigerated and used within two days. Do not refreeze. Preparation: Tilapia can be prepared broiled, fried, grilled, baked, poached, sauteacute;ed, or steamed. Tilapia can be marinated but for less than 30 minutes. Over-marinating can change the texture of the fish. Here are some creative and simple ideas to include Tilapia into your family meals: Awesome Fish Tacos: Whether they are crunchy or soft shells, tacos are a fun family meal. Tilapia is the perfect fish for fish tacos. Follow the recipe for Real Fish Sticks below and add 1 Tablespoon of taco seasoning to the flour mixture. Serve with crunchy or soft tortillas and your favorite fixin#146;s, such as refried beans, shredded lettuce, salsa, pico de gallo, avocado or guacamole. Fruit Salsa and Tilapia: Broiled Tilapia (recipe below) is a great dinner entreacute;e served with fruit salsa, a tossed salad and fresh bread. Broiling is a quick way to prepare this fish. And for added simplicity, purchase fruit salsa at the market or if you have the time, make your own with the recipe below: Broiled Tilapia: Rinse tilapia and pat dry. Place tilapia in a single layer on a foil-lined baking sheet. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Broil 6 inches from heat until fish is opaque but still moist-looking in center of thickest part, 8 to 10 minutes. Serve while hot. Fresh Fruit Salsa: 1 cup of diced fruit (pineapple, grapes, mango, papaya, or peaches) 2 Tbsp chopped cilantro 2 Tbsp lime juice 1 Tbsp chopped jalapentilde;o or a sprinkle of red pepper flakes (optional) Salt and pepper to taste Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Serve fruit salsa on the side or spoon over the fish fillets. Make a Bed: The Lemon Tilapia Sauteacute; (recipe below) will look restaurant chic by serving a side dish underneath the fillet - like a bed. Of course, you can use plain rice or pasta for the bed, but here are a few more interesting "beds" that will jazz up the flavor of this dish: Couscous tossed with shredded spinach and raisins Brown rice with chopped pecans and craisins Angel hair pasta tossed with olive oil, olives, capers and garlic powder Steamed vegetables (any kind) with fresh herbs Lemon Tilapia Saute: Heat 2 tablespoons (30 ml) of oil or butter in a skillet over medium heat. Rinse tilapia and pat dry. Season tilapia fillets with salt and pepper and place them in the hot skillet. Cook for approximately 2 to 4 minutes on each side until fish flakes easily. Remove from pan. Turn off the stove heat. While the pan is still warm, melt 2 Tablespoons butter and one tablespoon lemon juice in it. Stir, scraping up the little browned bits. To Serve: On each dinner plate, spoon the bed ingredients, lay 1-2 tilapia fillets on top and drizzle the lemon butter pan juices over the top. Garnish with a lemon wedge. Tilapia Pouches: Baking tilapia in foil pouches is a hassle-free method to cook veggies and fish. Plus clean up for this dish is a breeze. Simply choose your veggies, top with fish fillets, season, fold up the pouches and pop them in the oven! Choose the veggies (1/4 - 1/2 cup per pouch): Julienne carrots and zucchini Sliced tomatoes, and onions Fresh corn cut off the cob and green peas Julienne green beans and sliced mushrooms Fish: Tilapia fillets (1-2 per pouch) Salt and pepper Seasoning (per pouch): 1 Tablespoons olive oil 1 Tablespoons lime juice 1 Tablespoons white wine 1 Tablespoon of chopped fresh herbs (basil, ginger, cilantro or parsley) Directions: Preheat the oven to 400 F. Cut four 10" sheets of foil. Place equal amounts of mixed vegetables in center of foil sheets and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Rinse tilapia, pat dry and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place a fillet on top of each vegetable mixture. Whisk seasoning ingredients together in a small bowl and spoon over top the fish. Bring together long sides of foil, crimp together to form a tight seal. Fold over remaining edges and form a tight seal. Place pouches on a baking sheet with the foil seamside up. Bake until fish is tender, 12 to 15 minutes. Open the "pouch" and serve. If you don't want to heat up your kitchen, try this same recipe on the grill. Note: Be careful opening cooked pouches, the escaping steam can cause burns. Real Fish Sticks Fish sticks can be a kid staple, but most of the "boxed frozen" brands have lots of breading, very little fish and a long unappetizing list of ingredients. This healthy recipe for fish sticks is faster to make than cooking the other kind in the oven. Plus they are so tasty; the whole family will enjoy them. For a change of pace, make little fish sandwiches by buying small dinner rolls and cutting the fish pieces in squares instead of strips. The cute sandwiches are fun and easy to manage for little hands too! Ingredients: 2 Tbsp Flour 2 Tbsp Corn Meal 1 egg 3-4 Tilapia fillets 2-3 Tbsp peanut oil Salt and pepper Directions: Crack egg into a wide bowl and beat with a fork. On a shallow plate mix the corn meal and flour together. Cut the tilapia into long strips; season the strips with salt and pepper. Dip the fish pieces in egg and then coat both side with the flour mixture. Heat peanut oil in a skillet over medium heat. Place fish in skillet and sauteacute; until they are nicely browned on both sides and cooked all the way through (about 2- 3 minutes per side). When done transfer tilapia to a paper towel. Serve fish sticks warm with tartar sauce, ketchup, lemon butter or low fat Ranch dressing for dipping. Makes 9-12 fish sticks. Makes 5-8 servings. 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
IconAfter Christmas Sales! (The most wonderful time of the year!) By Tawra Kellam www.LivingOnADime.com Now that Christmas is almost here, I've been thinking about ways you can use after Christmas sales to help make next Christmas and occasions throughout the year financially easier. After Christmas sales can be a great way to save money on things you would buy anyway, without paying full price. As you see the things that are on sale, try to predict which of those things you are likely to need during the next year. Don't limit your thinking to Christmas! Consider how you may use after Christmas items for other occasions in the coming year. Be creative! Don't go crazy and buy everything they have just because it is marked down. If you buy 20 of something you don't need and eventually just get rid of it, you didn't really save by getting it on clearance. If you want to get some great deals but you also want a lot of selection, you'll want to show up in the store pretty early on December 26th. You can get deeper discounts if you wait several days or a week for the stores to mark items all the way down to 75% off. The down side of waiting is that the item you want may be gone if you wait too long. If you really have to have it, you probably want to get it sooner rather than wait. If there's something that you want at Wal-Mart, you will definitely want to get there the first thing on December 26th because Wal-Mart attracts the die hard after Christmas shoppers who buy like hungry locusts. ;-) You can often find good buys at grocery and drug stores a week or two after Christmas because there's not as much demand for after Christmas items in those stores. Here are some of the things to consider as you visit after Christmas sales: Buy new Christmas decorations for next year. This seems obvious to some of us, but if you've never thought about it, you can usually get lights, lawn decorations, indoor decorations and other holiday-specific items for 50-75% off right after Christmas. We like to add to our display every year and it is much less expensive to buy after Christmas this year rather than before Christmas next year. Even our Christmas tree was a 50% off after Christmas buy. (Don't try this with live trees! They don't keep well! ;-) Buy "Baby's First Christmas" items (pajamas, bibs, ornaments, etc.) for those friends and relatives expecting babies in the next year. Purchase holiday craft items. Christmas ribbons, needlework, and other craft supplies are often marked down to 75% off. Get started on those projects and get them done early. Don't forget to get enough red ribbon and craft supplies for Valentines day. Buy your red Valentine's Day and green St. Patrick's Day candy on clearance after Christmas. You can also freeze Christmas chocolate for year-round baking. Christmas isn't just red and green any more. You can get every color under the rainbow now. If you are decorating a room or having a special party, such as an anniversary you can purchase your supplies for 75% off. I've also purchased things like specialty lights for my son who collects anything that will light up. Purchase gifts for next Christmas, birthdays, Mother's Day, Father's Day and teachers' gifts. You can often find wonderful gift bath sets that make great gifts for teachers at 50% off. There are also bath sets for kids, make up sets for girls and cologne and perfume for men and women that you can give for any occasion. I purchase several extra girls and boys gifts sets for the kids to take to birthday parties. I buy hubby's cologne for the year (again, as a gift set) and give it to him on Father's Day. My sister in law liked a particular large red candle that I happened to notice was on sale after Christmas. I purchased it for $2 instead of the $10 regular price. If you have a wedding coming up, look for decorations with your wedding colors after Christmas. You can also get tablecloths and napkins for your household on clearance after Christmas. I have burgundy and hunter green for the colors in my house. You can buy these at up to 75% off and use them every day. Look for wrapping paper for other occasions. Stores have colored and white tissue paper and wrapping paper that isn't necessarily just for Christmas. You can also buy Christmas paper for next to nothing after Christmas and save it for next Christmas or use it white side out for other holidays. I buy the pre-packaged gingerbread kits that are now available for my kids. For $2 each, it is much easier to have the house already baked and rolled out. I save them for the kids to decorate next year. Of course we don't eat them. I buy about 3/4 of my gift items for the year the days and weeks after Christmas. By doing this, I save hundreds of dollars on gifts over the year. 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
Icon12 Great Homemade Presents to Make With Your Kids By Dr. Laura Markham www.yourparentingsolutions.com It's the thought that counts, and the love that goes into it. No need to spend a fortune on gifts, your kids will love making them for grandparents, cousins and teachers, and the recipients will treasure them. Remember that your goal is to have fun with your child and give a token of affection, not to exhaust yourself. Hopefully this list will get your creativity fired up; more explicit directions are easily available online. 1. Anything from your kitchen: Cookies, jams, fudge, quick breads, your famous spaghetti or barbecue sauce, your special trail mix, or a kit with the makings for something yummy, tied with a ribbon: your perfect pancakes or scrumptious seven bean soup. 2. Booklet of favorite memories: Have your child draw illustrations and write or type up his or her favorite memories of/with the recipient and put it into a binder to make a book. 3: Personalized cookbook: Your recipes, your child's comments and drawings, in a binder. 4. Personalized Mousepad: Let your child draw with markers on a white mousepad. Or use flexible adhesive with any fabric. Or choose a photo and use iron-on transfer paper. Instructions at: http://desktoppub.about.com/od/transfers/l/aa_mousepad.htm Or just do it at a copy shop or cafepress.com. 5. Handmade bath salts:Mix Epsom salts with essential oils, fragrance, and food coloring in a decorative jar. 6. Candles:Add crayon chips to plain paraffin wax and dip wicks in to make hand-dipped. Or just decorate store bought candles. 7. Canvas bags with iron-on designs 8. Homemade calendars with photos of the kids 7. Painted picture frames 8. Tie-dyed teeshirts, sheets, etc. 9. Christmas ornaments with kids' photos 10. Art: For grandparents, a framed picture drawn by a grandchild is the perfect present. 11. For friends and cousins: homemade clay, fingerpaints, bubbles, puppets, a kit of dress-up items, a kit of cool art supplies. 12. Certificates for your services: A massage, babysitting, dog walking, painting a room, flying a kite together. Dr. Laura Markham is a clinical psychologist and the founding editor of the parenting web site www.yourparentingsolutions.com , featuring a popular advice column and parent-tested solutions you can use every day to connect with your kids and create a richer family life. Her work appears regularly on a dozen parenting sites and in print. She lives in New York with her husband and two children. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com. More >>

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05/07/2010
IconFresh Baby Food On-the-Go By Cheryl Tallman and Joan Ahlers www.FreshBaby.com These days, families are always on the go, whether it's off to daycare everyday or to visit friends and family once in a while. Here are some strategies to help you prepare for your baby's meals on the go. Start with six golden rules for serving Fresh Baby food away from home: Frozen food cubes take 3-4 hours to thaw in the refrigerator and 1-2 hours to thaw at room temperature. Frozen food cubes stay cold in an insulated bag with a freezer pack for about 8-12 hours. To thaw frozen food cubes, microwave for 30-40 seconds. To warm thawed food cubes, microwave 5-15 seconds. Never store frozen food cubes without refrigeration for over 4 hours. Always stir and test the temperature of microwaved or warmed food on your skin before serving to your baby. Once you've got the basics, you're on your way! A travel tote bag is an essential item for any family on the go. Buy an insulated lunch bag and a set of plastic containers with lids that will fit nicely into the bag. The best type of lunch bag to purchase is a sturdy canvas tote that comes with a reusable ice pack-the type you can place in the freezer overnight. Also consider the size of the tote so that it will fit easily into your diaper bag. Planning to get away for a day or going on an airplane, train, car or bus and need to pack up your baby's meals? First before you are ready to leave on your trip, select the food cubes for your baby's meal(s) and place them in the plastic containers of your travel tote. If you pack more than one meal or snack, label the lids of the containers with "Lunch", "Snack", "Dinner" with a permanent marker, sticker or a piece of paper and scotch tape. Pack them all into the travel tote with the freezer pack to keep them cold. Additionally, you may want to pack a bottle of water, since baby's tummies are especially sensitive to components of unfamiliar tap water. The frozen food cubes will slowly defrost inside the tote, and will stay cold for 8-12 hours, plenty of time to reach your destination. Most convenient stores and/or truck stops have a microwave and airlines will usually give you a bag of very hot water to warm baby food with (just be careful with this bag the water is usually VERY hot). Tips for going to a restaurant: Make reservations so you do not have to wait to be seated. Plan the time to have dinner or lunch according to your baby's feeding schedule. Call ahead to find out if the restaurant has a high chair. Make sure the table you sit at has adequate room for everyone, including your baby. Remove everything within reach of your baby-unless you want to see it on the floor! 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
IconHolidays with Ease: A One-Pot Turkey Dinner with All the Trimmings By Elizabeth Yarnell www.gloriousonepotmeals.com A holiday meal is typically an occasion for breaking bread and sharing the hearth with our family, friends and community. While not everyone wants to cook for an army during the holidays, there is still something about having a traditional holiday meal that evokes a feeling of celebration and custom. It's not only the combination of foods particular to that holiday ritual that feeds the senses, but also the likelihood that the event offered an opportunity to share the workload increases the bonds of kinship and friendship. For those passing a holiday alone or with one other rather than a crowd, there can be a sense of deprivation with the loss of the opportunity to partake in the traditional feast of the season of turkey, cranberries and sweet potatoes. Here is a great solution to getting the meal with all the trimmings without spending hours and hours in the kitchen or facing a week of leftovers. Because it is an "infused one-pot meal," each ingredient maintains its integrity during the cooking process and emerges separate, intact and infused with flavor, rather than merged into a stew or slab as with more familiar types of one-pot meals. Best yet, you can spend a pleasant half hour or less in the kitchen with your dining companion while you wash, chop and layer the ingredients into the pot. Preparing food offers a great opportunity to chat across the cutting board and gives you each ownership for the holiday dinner success. Just 45 minutes later, when sitting down to eat together, toast each other, toast the holiday and toast the easy answer to holiday dining: an infused one-pot meal. One-Pot Thanksgiving Dinner 2 servings Ingredients 1/2-3/4 lb. turkey tenderloin or boneless breast filets 1/3 cup whole cranberries, fresh or frozen 1/3 cup orange marmalade 1 tsp. lemon juice 1 dash white pepper 1/3 cup shelled walnuts 8-10 pearl onions, peeled, halved 1 med. sweet potato or yam, scrubbed, 1/4" slices 2 cups broccoli florets Instructions Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Spray inside of 2-quart cast iron Dutch oven and lid with canola oil. Set turkey pieces into base in a single layer, trying not to overlap pieces as much as possible. Lightly sprinkle with salt. In a food processor or blender, pulse cranberries using chopping blade (shaped like a backwards "S") until berries are in large chunks. Add marmalade, lemon juice and white pepper and pulse two or three times to mix together. Pour in walnuts and continue to pulse until walnuts are roughly chopped and you have a thick, rocky paste. Drop spoonfuls of cranberry paste onto turkey pieces until only about half is left. Toss in onions and layer in sweet potato slices. Again, lightly salt. Cover with rest of cranberry paste. Top with broccoli florets. Cover and bake for about 40 minutes. You'll know it's ready 3 minutes after the aroma of a finished meal escapes your oven. Notes In a pinch, substitute pulpy orange juice for the orange marmalade. You'll just end up with more "gravy" at the bottom of the pot to spoon over the food when serving. 1/4 cup broth added to the cranberry-walnut paste will also increase the amount of gravy. The turkey, cranberries and broccoli can all be used fresh or frozen (without thawing) and it won't change your cooking time or most things about your meal, though realize that frozen broccoli tends to emerge softer than fresh. The larger the broccoli pieces the crisper they will turn out at the end. Add a kick to your meal with 1 fresh or roasted jalapentilde;o pepper, destemmed, seeded and chopped. About the author: Elizabeth Yarnell is a Certified Nutritional Consultant, inventor and author of Glorious One-Pot Meals: A new quick healthy approach to Dutch oven cooking . The Glorious One-Pot Meal cooking technique is unique and patented (US patent 6,846,504). A Multiple Sclerosis patient and mother of two pre-schoolers, the habit of cooking together with her husband was formed early in their marriage and is one they still enjoy. Visit Elizabeth at www.gloriousonepotmeals.com to sign up for her free newsletter. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com. More >>

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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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