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IconWhat to Cook When You're Exhausted By Ruth Haag www.manageliving.com You've had a long, hard day at work only to get home to discover it is your turn to cook dinner. You really want something nice, but have only about 15 minutes of energy left. Here is what my husband, Bob would do: Bob's quick dinner solution # 1 Look in your refrigerator and freezer. Find some of these things (it's ok to not find all of them): Onion Garlic Sausage Chicken Green beans Broccoli Zucchini Cauliflower Peas Green pepper Paprika and Cumin or Sage, Basil and Oregano Tomatoes Cut up what you have, and keep in piles on the counter. Get out the frying pan, add a pat of butter and a dollop of olive oil. Put the ingredients into the pan and cook them in the order listed. Turn off the heat and add the tomatoes last, so that they just get warm, but don't get overcooked. Scrounge around for some bread and serve. Bob's quick dinner solution #2 Start some rice cooking Find a steak in the freezer Start the charcoal grill outside (in any weather) Make a tossed salad Grill the steak Serve Set a nice table No matter how tired you are, take a brief moment to set a nice table. Your busy work world will melt away when you sit in the luxury of a good meal and a nice environment. Use a serving bowl, not the skillet, to serve the meal. Make sure that you have all of the proper utensils. This is not a time for sporks; think about adding a cloth napkin. In the winter, candles really make the meal special. About the author: Ruth Haag's "Useable Cookbooks Series" was designed to help her family learn to cook, so that Ruth would have time free to run her company, and to write other books. Listen to Ruth and Bob Haag weekly on their Internet Radio Show, Manage Living, at www.modavox.com/VoiceAmericaBusiness . They will help you manage the work world; and will tell you how to take those solutions home, to better manage your home life. Visit their website, www.manageliving.com . Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com. More >>

IconEaster Egg-stravaganza! By Tawra Kellam LivingOnADime.com OK, so the kids noticed on the calendar that Easter is approaching and they want to make a huge production of dying eggs. In the past, the little stickers you bought at the store sufficed, but now they want the real thing. Here are some old standards with a few new ideas for you. One important note: When the kids get really excited about egg dying, don't feel sorry for them and pour the left over egg dye in their bath water so they can have more fun (no matter how much they beg and plead! Especially if it's food coloring). Someone might panic and declare a citywide medical quarantine if they see your kids dyed all sorts of strange colors in their Easter finery. Before you decorate Easter eggs, cover the entire table with newspaper. Keep a huge roll of paper towels or rags handy for messes. Have each kid wear one of dad's old (now disposable) tee shirts. Making Easter Egg Stands: Cut toilet paper roll cores into one inch cylinders and use for egg stands. Decorate with stickers or paint. Decorating Eggs: Traditional method Hard boil eggs. Fill several mugs with boiling water and add 1-2 tsp. vinegar. Place a few drops of desired food coloring in each mug. Place eggs in mugs for several minutes until eggs reach desired shades. Remove with a spoon. Place on paper towel to dry. When dry, polish with a small amount of shortening on a paper towel. Buff until glossy. You can draw or write on the eggs with a light colored or white crayon before dipping. The drawing will remain white after the egg is dipped. To clean out mugs, put a little bleach water in the cups and soak for a few minutes. Natural Easter Egg Dyes If you would like to try dying eggs naturally, try the following: Yellow-- yellow onion skins, turmeric (frac12; tsp. per cup water) celery leaves Orange--any yellow dye plus beet juice Red--beets, paprika, red onion skins Pink--cranberry juice Blue--blackberries, grape juice concentrate, red cabbage Brown--black tea, white oak, juniper berry, coffee, barberry Light purple--blackberries, grapes, violets Green--alfalfa, spinach, kale, violet blossom plus frac14; tsp. baking soda, tansy, nettle, chervil, sorrel, parsley, carrot tops, beet tops or dip yellow egg in blue dye Hard boil eggs with 1 tsp. vinegar in the water. Place dying ingredients in non-aluminum pans, cover with water and boil 5 minutes to 1 hour until desired color is achieved. Use enough material to make at least 1 cup dye. Crush ingredients as they boil to extract as much dye as possible. Strain the dye. Most dyes should be used hot. Let each egg sit in the dye until it reaches the desired color. Some dyes will take longer than others to make the desired colored on the egg. Remove the egg and let dry. Glitter Eggs- Place 1 tablespoon each of glue and water in a cup. Stir the mixture and then paint the eggs with it. Sprinkle with glitter. This can also add sparkle to already dyed eggs! Crepe Paper Eggs- Wet a white or dyed egg. Dab torn pieces of colored tissue paper or pieces of pretty colored napkins on the eggs. When the paper dries, the paper falls off and leaves the color behind on the egg. Decoupaged eggs - Tear small pieces of wrapping paper, napkins, stickers, or clip art. Mix equal amounts of glue and water. Paint egg with glue mixture. Place paper on top and then cover with more glue mixture. Let dry. Spotted Eggs- Place 1 tsp. of cooking oil in dye. Dip the egg. The oil will cause the dye to make an irregular pattern on the egg. Waxed Eggs- Dip a portion of the eggs in melted paraffin or candle wax. Then dip them in the dye. Remove from dye. Dry and peel off the wax. The egg will be white on one half and colored on the other half. You can also dip in dye before waxing to get two colors. Hollow Eggs- Poke a hole in one end of an egg with a very small needle. Poke another slightly larger hole in the other end. Then blow on the small end and the egg will come out the other side. Decorate as desired. Tawra Kellam is the author of the frugal cookbook Dining On A Dime: Eat Better, Spend Less. For more free tips and recipes visit her web site at LivingOnADime.com . Get your own FREE copy of Tawra's Quick Dinner e-book here . Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com. More >>

IconKid-Friendly Treat: Best Ever Granola By Cheryl Tallman and Joan Ahlers www.FreshBaby.com Granola can be great tasting hippie food, but buyer beware. On one side, some of the packaged brands cram a lot of unfamiliar flavors in the mix. While these ingredients are often healthy, the flavors can be tough to swallow for kids. On the flip side, the more mainstream brands cram a lot sugar and artificial ingredients into their products which put them on par with the nutritional value of a candy bar. Sticking to basic ingredients is the trick. Simple flavors - oatmeal, pecans and cranberries baked with natural goodness. This recipe is so simple, that homemade granola may soon become a staple in your house for breakfasts and snacks! Best Granola Ever is perfect for family members 3-99 years old. Ingredients: 4 cups of old-fashioned oats 1 frac12; cups chopped pecans frac12; cup packed brown sugar frac12; tsp salt frac12; tsp cinnamon frac14; cup cooking oil frac14; cup honey 1 tsp vanilla 1 cup dried cranberries Directions: Preheat over to 300 degrees. In a large bowl, mix the oats, pecans, salt and cinnamon. In a saucepan warm the oil and honey and stir in the vanilla. Carefully pour the liquid over the oat mixture. Stir gently with a wooden spoon until the mixture is evenly coated. Spread the granola onto a large cookie sheet (15X10X1 inch). Bake 40 minutes, stirring carefully every 10 minutes. Remove from oven and cool completely. Stir in dried cranberries. Storage: Store granola in an air-tight container at room temperature for one week or in the freezer for 3 months. Makes 9-10 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 >>

IconToo Many Oranges? by Tawra Kellam LivingOnADime.com It's that time of year. You found a really good deal on oranges but you purchased a few more than you can eat. Now what do you do with them. Here are a few suggestions from LivingOnADime.com to get you started. 1. Make juice out of the oranges and then use the peels for Candied Orange Peels. 2. Use the leftover syrup from Candied Orange Peels on pancakes or French Toast. The syrup can also be used to make popsicles. 3. Wash peels thoroughly. Grate the peel before using and freeze the zest for later use. 4. Cut up orange segments and use as a garnish for salads. Use in fruit salad or sliced as a side dish. 5. Cut up slices and use a garnish for meat or relish dishes. 6. Cut up peels. In a saucepan add peels, 1 cinnamon stick, a few cloves and fill to the top with water. Simmer for a nice potpourri or dry peels and use in dry potpourri. Easy Orange Marmalade 1 orange* 1 Tbsp. water frac12; cup sugar Cut the un-peeled orange and place into a blender or food processor with the water. Pour mixture into a saucepan with the sugar and boil for 15 minutes. *If a non-organic orange is used wash peels thoroughly before peeling. Candied Orange Peel Peels from 3 large oranges, grapefruits or lemons* 1 teaspoon salt 3 cups sugar water Cut the peel on each fruit into quarters. Pull the peel off in these quarter sections. Slice peel into frac14; inch-wide strips. In a saucepan add salt and cover with cold water. Boil 15 minutes, pour off water and add fresh water. Boil 20 minutes. Change water again and boil another 20 minutes. Drain and cover with 2 frac12; cups sugar and 1 cup water. Simmer, stirring constantly, until all the syrup has boiled away. Do not let the peels scorch. Spread on wax paper. Roll peels in remaining sugar. Let dry. Store in an airtight container. Keeps one week or can be frozen. *If non-organic fruit is used wash peels thoroughly before peeling. Jill Cooper and Tawra Kellam are frugal living experts and the editors 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. 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 >>

IconKymythy's Kitchen Nutrition: Summer in a Glass By Kymythy R. Schultze, CN www.Kymythy.com Question: The sky is gray and the air is cold. I can't afford a cruise to Bahamas; so how about a recipe to lift my spirits and remind me that summer will return! Answer: Okay, but that cruise sounds pretty good too - can I come? In addition to the following recipe, you might consider using full-spectrum lighting in your home and workplace. These bulbs produce light waves that more closely resemble those of the sun. Without the sun's light, some people can become unhappy or depressed. So, screw in some full-spectrum lighting, sip on the following smoothie, and imagine yourself basking on the cruise ship's sun deck! Tropical Treat 1 banana 1 cup pineapple 1 cup peeled papaya 1/2 teaspoon fresh ginger Coconut milk to taste Cut fruit into chunks (use fruit from the freezer section if fresh isn't available). Put the first four ingredients in a blender or food processor and puree; add coconut milk to desired consistency. Garnish with a sprinkle of shredded coconut. Coconut milk is made from the expressed juice of grated coconut and water. One cup contains more than 5 grams of protein, along with important minerals such as magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, copper, and zinc. The medium-chain fatty acids in coconut are easily digested and absorbed. They provide cells with a direct, efficient source of energy and may improve the body's absorption of other nutrients. They also increase metabolism and may help with weight loss. Coconut is also rich in lauric acid, a fatty acid that's antifungal, antiviral, antibacterial, and good for the immune system. Coconut has also been used successfully in the treatment of skin and digestive disorders, chronic fatigue syndrome, and hypothyroidism. Kymythy R. Schultze is a Clinical Nutritionist (C.N.) and has been a trailblazer in the field of nutrition for nearly two decades. For healthy delicious recipes, check out her book "The Natural Nutrition No-Cook Book" and for your pet's health "Natural Nutrition for Dogs and Cats" both published by Hay House, Inc. Please visit Kymythy's website at www.Kymythy.com . Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com. More >>

Icon20 Foolish Ways to Spend Money By Al Jacobs With the passing of 2007 and a fresh new year upon us, it's appropriate that we renew our past financial resolutions and vow, once again, to spend our money wisely. Of course simply making the pledge is no guarantee that our dollars will work diligently. Wasteful ways to use resources are easily adopted, and these habits become a way of life. In the hope of dissuading you from blowing your often hard-earned dollars in a fashion you'll later regret, I've listed twenty not uncommon expenditures that are often ill-advised. Pay close attention. If you see yourself in any of the following scenarios, perhaps you should give a second thought to what you're doing. You've just handed the clerk at Rite Aid Pharmacy $4.34 for a package of Marlboro cigarettes. You will repeat this procedure tomorrow. By year's end you'll be $1,584 poorer, while wheezing just a little more. To safeguard your wife and children, you purchase a $250,000 life insurance policy. At the urging of the agent, it is a universal policy with a $3,000 per year premium instead of a term policy at only $350. During a week-end visit to Palm Desert, California, you book accommodations at the Marriott Resort and Spa at $350 per night, despite the fact that an equally suitable room is available two miles away at Residence Inn by Marriott for $120. On the recommendation of your auto Owner's Manual, you regularly fill your tank with 91 octane premium gasoline, even though it performs equally well on less expensive 87 octane fuel. With your insurance representative's assurance of it's suitability as a short-term investment, allowing early withdrawal of your money if necessary, you just purchased a variable annuity. You periodically permit the balance on your bank checking account to drop below the $2,500 minimum required to forestall a $15 monthly service charge. Although the tube of Wet 'n Wild lipstick, available at Target for $1.39, contains the same ingredients found in the Chanel brand sold at Macy's for $25, you prefer to patronize the latter establishment for this product. You make a generous annual contribution to your local branch of United Way, despite the fact that you have no idea how the money is used or in what activities the organization actually engages. To enable your daughter to enroll at Columbia University, an institution with annual tuition and fees of $25,922, plus $7,966 room board, where she will major in Earth Environmental Engineering, you have just placed a $150,000 mortgage loan on your home. To demonstrate your apparent prosperity to friends and relatives, you have assumed the lease on a 2007 Cadillac Escalade Sport Utility Vehicle, at $785.91 per month, with 34 months remaining on the lease. You are not certain what your liability may be at the end of that period. You enthusiastically purchase lottery tickets each week in the hope that you will become a winner. Whenever the advertised jackpot becomes exceptionally large, you increase the number of tickets you buy. Though the effective annual interest rate on your credit card balance is currently 18.24%, you consistently make only the minimum monthly payment required. The hedge fund in which you hold significant investments charges a 2% annual management fee together with retaining 20% of all profits generated. At the local supermarket you can purchase a dozen rolls of Angel Soft, 450-sheet, 2-ply, toilet paper, manufactured by Georgia-Pacific, for $11.85. The same 12 rolls are available at a nearby Wal-Mart for $5.25, but you won't buy them there because you're certain the lower price means they're inferior. The sports jacket you purchased fifteen years ago continues to fit well and look good, but at the urging of your wife you will donate it to the Salvation Army, because it simply isn't acceptable to be seen in old clothes . You cannot resist subscribing to the newspaper advertisement offering a half-pound silver commemorative medallion from The Perfidious Mint , at the "special advance price of only 139 dollars." To deal with the fear and anxiety engendered in you by the widely publicized threat of global warming, you will attend an 8-hour therapy session offered by a noted eco-therapist who will, for $1,750, "sooth your heart and reinvigorate your soul." To realize a lifetime of dream vacations while avoiding the inconvenience and expense of searching for a hotel year after year, you have purchased a timeshare property. The envelope you've just sealed, and which seems to weigh several ounces, must be mailed. As a scale is not handy, you'll affix two dollars in postage on it just to be safe. Unaware of a funeral home's typical 300 to 500 percent markup on casket prices, you authorize the funeral director to provide that item at the forthcoming ceremony for which you are responsible. 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 >>

IconDutch Oven 101 By Elizabeth Yarnell www.GloriousOnePotMeals.com If you think all cookware is the same, then you've never used a cast iron Dutch oven. Traditionally loved for long, slow cooking of roasts and stews, Dutch ovens are flexible enough to bake cakes and breads, boil sauces, braise meats and even flash-cook entire meals in record time. Humans have a long history of cooking in Dutch oven-type vessels as cast metal pots have been used for cooking in Europe since at least as early as the late eighth century. The term "Dutch oven" may originate from a Dutch casting process brought to England, and from there to the British colonies, in 1704 by Abraham Darby. Or, it could have been a nickname given to the Dutch immigrant traders who sold the pots in the new world, or possibly it referred to early Dutch immigrants in the Pennsylvania area who used the heavy, lidded pots. However the name arose, the practical, versatile and durable vessels were the staple of the American pioneers and explorers, including Lewis and Clark on their famous expedition. The Dutch oven was popular because it could cook a wide variety of foods: plants and animals as well as staples such as flour, corn, and sugar. It could be used for boiling, baking, stews, frying, roasting, and just about any other use. Older Dutch ovens often sported three legs and a hinged bail handle for hanging the pot over a fire; more modern styles are legless with side handles for easier lifting. Some have flanged lids for holding hot coals in a campfire, while others have flat or rounded lids. Some even have dimples on the insides of their lids. Called a French oven or a casserole by some modern companies, Dutch ovens can be enamel-coated cast iron for a rust-proof, non-stick, dishwasher-safe surface, or simply raw, uncoated cast iron. You may even find Dutch oven-shaped pots made of stainless steel, aluminum, or non-stick materials with a glass lids. While these may be familiar in shape, they lack the cooking powers of cast iron and may not function as well in Dutch oven cooking methods. Regardless, all Dutch ovens share some basic characteristics: a flat bottom (not conical or otherwise sloped), vertical sides (not convex or concave), and an inner lip around the lid that allows the lid to provide a closed seal when seated correctly. Dutch ovens are making resurgence and appearing on cooking shows, in department stores and in kitchens everywhere. Elizabeth Yarnell is a Certified Nutritional Consultant, inventor, and author of Glorious One-Pot Meals: A new quick healthy approach to Dutch oven cooking . Glorious One-Pot Meal recipes are protected under US and Canadian patents. Visit www.GloriousOnePotMeals.com to learn more about this unique cooking method and www.EffortlessEating.com for Elizabeth's philosophy and recipes for living naturally. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com. More >>

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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