Thursday, January 24, 2013

The lost art of family dinners

Family dinners were sometimes outside. via Shutterstock
When I was growing up, we ate dinner at 6:00 pm. We didn't have a lot of money, but whomever was in our house at the time dinner was served was invited to eat with us. My mother made a homemade (not microwaved) dinner that included a raw salad, an entree and side dishes. The drink was water. There was usually some sort of dessert, but not too much of it. There was no TV watching. There were no telephone calls. We sat together and talked.

This was the way life was. Sometimes it was a pain. I HAD to be home at a certain time. I HAD to eat with my family. I HAD to eat what my mom made.

At the time, I did not recognize the value of this daily routine. I didn't recognize the value of the dollars saved or the value of the non-material gains.

Dollars saved:
  •  The food was fresh, not processed. Local and in-season fruits and veggies will always be cheaper to buy than processed food.
  •  Processed food has more additives and less nutrients. Because our food was more nutritious, we needed less of it to get energy.
  • We were healthier. We hardly ever got sick and when we did get sick, the first step to health was a bowl of homemade chicken soup made with bones broth.
  • Because we were healthier, we didn't spend money on doctor's visits and medicines to get well.
  • Eating at home every evening meant that we didn't waste food. Menus were planned and leftovers were made into the next days meals.
Non-material gains:
  • We saw each other and talked with each other. We might not always agree on subjects, but at least there was a time that we could talk about our day and upcoming events.
  • I learned to cook because of these meals. Most days I helped to prepare these meals. Even if I wasn't the person actually making the food, I was watching how it was prepared. I am a very good cook because of this and my daughter AND my son are also learning to cook and bake. This skill will save them an enormous amount of money in the course of their lives.
  • Because we saw each other every day, we could coordinate schedules and save money and time on errands.
  • We had a sense of family and community that I took for granted at the time, but now I realize was very unique and of immeasurable value. To this day, my friends talk about what fun it was to come over to my house and what a warm hostess my mother was.  It doesn't cost a lot to share, but it adds tremendously to the value of your life.
I realize that times have changed and many families just do not have the ability to eat home cooked meals every night, but perhaps starting with just one meal, once a week would make a difference. Let's face it, restaurants and the companies that make processed food are in business to make money, so they don't use the best meats and vegetables. If you make your own foods you can use the best quality ingredients you can afford.

Do you have family dinners?

How to clean copper pots for pennies

Lemon and salt ready to tackle dirty cooper bottom pot.
I'm always amazed when I look under my sink to see how much cleaning "stuff" I have purchased when none of that toxic stuff works as well as some cooking staples that I have in my cupboard.

One of the most fun items to clean is copper pots. The change is so dramatic. So, try some of these recipes and forgo the $25 price tag of copper cleaner.

Here are four different recipes for cleaning copper:
  1. Lemon juice and cream of tartar. Not everyone has cream of tartar in their cupboard, but if you ever want sugary icing to be creamier or beaten eggs to be fluffier, then you need some cream of tartar. In this copper cleaning recipe, you mix it with lemon juice (enough juice to make a paste) and slather it on your copper. Leave for 5 minutes and wash off with warm water.
  2. Worcestershire sauce. Pour the sauce onto a sponge and then sponge onto the copper surface. Just a couple of minutes wait should do the trick. Rinse off.
  3. Salt and Vinegar. Three tablespoons of salt mixed in a spray bottle of vinegar. Spritz onto the copper. Let sit 10-15 minutes. Scrub.
  4. Lemon and salt. Sprinkle the lemon on the pot or on the cut lemon. Scrub.
The reason that these recipes work is because the discoloration of copper is caused by copper atoms combining with oxygen to become copper oxide. Copper oxide dissolves in a weak acid and salt liquid. There are lots of cool experiments you can do with this concept.

Cleaning is really the application of the chemistry class you took in high school. The more you know about the material you are trying to clean, the more effective and easy your cleaning will be.

For more cleaning tips, check out my post on magic erasers.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

How to buy local, be frugal AND eat organic

Farm Fresh to You box
By now, most people who live in California have become aware of the fact that something is going on with our food system and it is very wise to eat organic fruits and veggies whenever possible.

The very best place to get those fruits and veggies is at your local farmer's market. Let's face it, we need to support the local farmer's that are going out of their way to continue to produce food that isn't toxic to our health.

But, it isn't always convenient to get to the farmer's market or maybe their isn't one near you.

Well, now there is a great service available to Southern and Northern California - Farm Fresh to You.

You sign up for the service and box of locally grown, organic food is delivered to your door. How easy is that?

Well, it gets even easier and better. You can tell them whether you want mostly fruits or mostly veggies. You can tell them what you DON'T want (no kale for me, thanks). There are small boxes and large boxes.

Plus, if you use special code 6164 and tell them my name (Bobbi Brunoehler) you will get $10 off your first box and I will get a credit on my next box.

You can get a box once a month or once a week. You can order just one box and try it out.

I love this service. The food stays fresh so much longer because it is picked right before it is delivered to you.

So, where is the frugal part? Fresh, organic food is much more filling and nutritious so you don't need as much of it. Plus, you save on medical bills because, well, this stuff is actually healthy for you.

NorCal folks - ask about adding some fresh eggs to your order. SoCal folks - they say that fresh eggs will come soon.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Natural window cleaning tip

Even Spiderman needs a natural cleaning solution.
A friend of mine just sent me this great tip on how to clean windows and mirrors naturally.

While in line at the grocery, I let a lady go ahead of me, because I had
many items and she had only about 20 boxes of Corn Starch....I asked her
what she was going to do with all that corn starch. She said she was a
professional window cleaner and it was the best thing she'd ever found to
make the windows sparkle.

Here's how: Just dilute a little bit in a bucket and make a solution. Take a
clean terry cloth and dip into solution, wipe over mirror or window. Then
take a clean/dry terry cloth and wipe excess. Turn cloth to dry side and
polish'll see it sparkle and never buy that blue or green stuff
again. Or use smelly vinegar!!!

P.S. I just put a few Tablespoons of cornstarch in a qt. spray bottle and
fill 1/2 full with water. You can't store this solution for any length of
time because it will start to smell. Just mix a small amount to use up each
time you want to clean windows, mirrors, etc.
I can't wait to try this. Let me know if it works for you!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

How to save money on a demo reel

All the people in front and behind the camera need demo reel.
Are you an actor? a musicians? an artist? Do you have a product that you sell? a room for rent? or a business of any kind? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you need a video online presence. This is referred to as a demo reel or video promo.

Because my kids are both involved in creating these videos, I’ve learned quite a bit about them. One of the things that I have learned is that there are many things that you can do to drastically cut or increase the amount you will pay for these videos.

The more work you do prior to meeting with the video editor, the less you will pay.

Here are three things that you can do to lower your cost:

  1. Do your homework. Take the time to watch videos similar to the kind that you want. Take a look at the videos that have high amounts of views. What makes them work? How long are they? Note that the longer the video, the more money it is going to cost you to produce. Most people aren’t going to watch a video (especially a demo reel or an ad) that is more than 2 minutes long. Keep it short.
  2. Have the footage in hand. Professionals charge by the hour. If the editor has to call someone to get your footage and then it is the wrong kind of format, they are going to charge you for it. Don’t assume that “Fred has the footage at his house.” Get the footage from Fred.
  3. Know what parts of the footage you want to use. Go over the footage that you have and decide what parts you want. Make note of the time on the video where the parts occur. If the editor has to watch four hours of your tapes to try and find footage, it is going to cost you more.

Of course, it is possible that you don’t know how to do steps 1, 2 & 3. You might not even have any footage available. In that case, see if you can get a package deal. Some editors will take pity on you and hold your hand through the entire process. They give you a price that includes all the things that you need to get something up on the internet.

Hope this helps. Have you made a demo reel?

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Tips for frugal crafters

By Bobbi Burger Brunoehler of BobbisBargains.

Doing crafts with your kids is a great entertainment that not only helps them nurture the creativity that problem solving requires, it is a wonderful skill that will start them on their road to frugal DIY.
Here are 15 crafting tips:
  1. Store your craft materials in clear shoe boxes. Sort them by types of materials: crayons, adhesives, beads, shiny things, etc. Stick labels on the front of the box and write the "name" of the box with marker on the label.
  2. Broken jewelry makes great decorations for gift wrap, headbands or restyled t-shirts. A dab of hot glue will glue that bit of bling onto a pin back, barrette or hair tie.
  3. Sharpen your dull scissors with sand paper. Cutting through the paper sharpens the edges. I've also heard that tin foil will do the same thing, but I believe that a fine grit sandpaper works better. Try it.
  4. Cover an old cookie sheet with pretty fabric and hang up. Instant magnetic board.
  5. Dip the end of your thread into nail polish to help thread through a small hole. You can also use a bit of soap to hold the ends into a sharp point.
  6. Hang a jewelry garment bag (those hanging bags with all the little slots) near your craft area. Keep the "little things" that normally keep getting lost in those sections. I'm talking about a thimble, thumb tacks, little beads, glue dots, tiny scissors, etc.
  7. Keep your fingers from getting burned every time you use your hot glue gun. Get yourself a set of hot glue gun helpers. This helper kit includes insulating rubber to cover your finger tips. No more burned fingers! Or figure out a DIY version and share it with readers in the comments.
  8. Use plastic snack bags to keep your craft junk drawer sorted out. I find that this is really helpful for keeping items like rubber bands, wire plastic bag ties, and birthday candles from just taking over the drawer.
  9. Use sandwich bags to keep all the little bits and pieces of metal and plastic that you find around the house. You know, the ones that you go, "Oh, this looks familiar. I wonder what this goes to? I better keep it." When no one seems to miss these parts and nothing falls apart without them, I use them in collages.
  10. Sign up for discount cards at your local craft stores. I get coupons from both Michaels and JoAnn Fabric. They take competitor coupons.
  11. Look for craft supplies at the 99 Cent store. I have found some wonderful finds in their craft aisle.
  12. Always look for craft supplies at yard sales. Almost everyone has a few supplies at their sales. When looking at yard sale ads on Craigslist, sort with the words "craft supplies." This will help you find yard sales that are specifically heavy on these items. Go early if you want to score big on these. It will be worth it. These are great resources for teachers and moms.
  13. Keep your craft area organized. At least once a year, do a big clean up. You will discover stuff that you forgot you had. This way,when you are creating a piece of art, you will remember what you have.
  14. Paper plates and bowls make for easy clean up - especially if you are working with little kids. Use the paper plate like a paint palette, then toss when the project is through. Or let the paint dry and hang it up as a piece of art.
  15. Go to estate sales to find wonderful old cards and paper. These can be used for notes or become part of recycled card art. Antique paper and cards are very hip these days, so you can save a bundle. At an estate sale, they are usually found in the room that has the office supplies and/or wrapping paper.
Do you have a favorite craft tip you would like to share?

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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The confusing truth about cooking dried beans

I like to cook recipes that include dried beans. Beans are an excellent and frugal source of nutrition. Beans mixed with a bit of meat and vegetables makes for practically unlimited recipe variations.

I tend to research everything that I do, so of course, I have researched how to cook dried beans. My research has led me down a long and winding path that eventually comes down to:
A. rinse the beans
B. check for foreign matter (sticks and stones)
C. boil until done to the consistency that you like

However, along my research trail I also read that one can/should:
1. soak beans for up to 24 hour prior to cooking*
2. throw out the water that you used to soak the beans
3. boil the beans in the water that you used to soak the beans (conflicts with #2)
4. cook beans on simmer for 1 hour
5. cook beans on simmer for 6 hours
6. put salt in the water at the beginning, middle or end
7. don't put salt in the water

You can see that trying to align points #1 through #7 above is impossible. Therefore, I suggest that you do the above steps A-C and add any of the steps #1-7 that you agree with.

If you want to do your own research on this subject, a good place to start is this article by Michael Ruhlman.

*There is one other important piece of information about soaking dried beans. Per some sources, you should soak your dried beans for up to 24 hours and rinse them off prior to cooking. During the cooking process you should skim off any foam that rises. This will ensure that the beans will be fully digestible. Dried beans can last in storage for a very long time. The quality that allows them to last this long is also the quality that makes them hard to digest if they are not soaked per the above. Not everyone believes this. Not everyone does this. This information comes from a book called, "Nourishing Traditions" by Sally Fallon. I think it is true, but I don't always do it because I don't always plan a day ahead of time that I will be using my dried beans.