Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Finding Cheap and/or Good Food Anywhere

I've got a family of four. When we travel, (even on a day trip) I usually have a picnic basket of food with me. This keeps everyone from getting cranky because they are hungry and keeps me from blowing our budget on overpriced, undernutritional fast food.

However.... sometimes the trips are longer than anticipated, sometimes the planning didn't include making food, sometimes we just plain don't want another peanut butter sandwich!

The problem is, when I am out of my own neighborhood, the only "restaurants" that are within my budget, that I can easily find, are fast food chains. I dislike "chain restaurants" for a multitude of reasons, that can be the subject of a rant another day.

Today, I will tell you about a website that that can change all that: Ueatcheap.com

This delightfully helpful website will show you restaurants in the area of your choosing where you can get a meal for under $10. You put in the zip code or name of the city where you are looking for a restaurant and a map with "pins" will appear. Click on the "pin" and you can access info on the restaurant. Results can be sorted according to type of restaurant (i.e., Japanese, Mexican, Thai, etc).

The site will expand as more and more people join and tell the world about their favorite little "hole-in-the-wall" restaurant. These restaurants are the wonderful surprises that only the locals know about.

For instance, when I visit my brother in Baltimore, Maryland, he takes me to the most wonderful restaurant in the world. The Morning Edition (153 N Patterson Park Ave, Baltimore, MD 21231 410-732-5133) - best breakfast restaurant ever - slowest service EVER. If you are a local, you know both things about this restaurant and come prepared for the adventure.

Now I have given you two presents today - a wonderful new website and a great restaurant. Tell them that Jim's sister sent you.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Free Valentine's Presents that Ladies Love

Many years ago, in the early years of our romance, my husband bought me a dozen roses on Valentine's Day. They were BEAUTIFUL!! Long stemmed red roses. Just like the posters and romantic novels. How romantic.

A few week's later (the flowers had long since dead and tossed in the garbage) I saw the credit card bill for those roses - $80!! WHAT!! I couldn't believe it. I had no idea how much money flowers went for on Valentine's Day. (and this was long before the current inflation) All I could think was what else I could have done with that $80.

Since that day, I have forbidden my husband to buy me flowers on Valentine's Day. Instead, I insist that he MAKE me something special. Something that doesn't cost any money... BUT, it HAS to be romantic.

Poor guy. What a thing to do to him.

However, because I have made this demand; I have received wonderful poems, fabulous sculptures, scrumptious meals and even a song or two.

These have lasted far longer than the few days that the flowers would have lasted.

So guys (and gals)... the very, very best Valentine's Day presents are ones from the heart. They DO take time, so you can't grab them at the last minute. You have to start early.

Here are some ideas:

Poetry - good or bad - if it says from the heart - I LOVE YOU - it will be a winner. But, in case you don't know where to start, here are some opening lines:
- You are so perfect...
- My life has been changed for the better because of you...
- When I think of our life together...
- I can't imagine my life without you...
- 100 things that I love about you
- When I think of you, I smile because...
- Until there was you...
Oh.... just go on and on.

A card - with some prose inside. Same as above - good or bad - I love you BECAUSE you ARE ______ (fill in the blank)

A slide show with pictures and romantic music. Oh, gentleman, this could REALLY get you brownie points if you remember YOUR song and have pictures of your times together.

A special day full of the things that your partner loves - a walk through the park holding hands, a romantic movie (NOT a thriller or action movie), homemade dinner by candlelight, followed by...

Slow dancing in the living room to a CD/mp3 of romantic songs that you specially created. Maybe even wrote and sang yourself (how about on bended knee)?

Believe me, THIS will work. Don't be afraid of what the other guys will say... as far as I can tell, the other guys are trying to figure out the same thing.

This is Mama B's gift to you. Use it wisely. By the way, the day AFTER Valentine's Day I always buy flowers... they are dirt cheap then.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Momma B's Easy Chicken Soup Recipe

Keeping yourself and your family healthy is a HUGE way to save money. When we are sick there is lost time at work, lost income, money needed for doctor visits and supplements and medicines. So, no matter what it costs to keep our bodies healthy; it is a big savings. Cooling homemade healthy food for our families is one way to help them stay healthy and save money.

To that end, I gave you my world famous recipe for TA-DA... Momma B's Easy Chicken Soup Recipe.

1 bag of frozen boneless chicken legs and thighs
1 container free range chicken broth
1/2 bag baby carrots
4 stalks celery
1 small turnip
1 large parsnip
1 handful of parsley
1 medium onion (red or sweet)
enough water (filtered) to JUST cover all of this when it is in the soup pot
1 bag noodles of your choice (made separately and put into soup after it is all done)

Take one large soup pot. Put all the ingredients except for the noodles into the pot. Cover pot.
Heat to boil, then turn to simmer. Simmer for at least an hour.

Make noodles during the last minutes of making the soup. Drain noodles and add to soup.

Ta-Da. Excellent REAL food for your family.

The key to this soup is to get the very best ingredients you can. Get organic, free range chicken. Get the best organic free range chicken broth. Get fresh picked organic vegetables.

BUT.... if you CAN'T afford or get the very best ingredients... then at least get the ingredients you CAN get.

My family LOVES this soup. I will tell you that when I have the time, I do NOT use the broth, but make the soup from fresh chicken and then simmer it for 3 hours and then let it cool and then de-bone the chicken. Yummy, yummy delicious AND nutritious.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Best Way to Save Money at the Grocery Store

Best way to save money at the grocery store?


It's simple. It's true. You know it. Don't do it.

ltimate List of Free WindowsSoftware from Microsoft

Did you know that there are many, many, many free programs that you can download and use on your computer? I mean, all kinds of programs - from blog authoring software to foreign language translators to Office Accounting 2007 to stuff that is so technical I can't even understand the title.

The free programs have been around for a long time. The cool thing is that I found a site that says it is the "ultimate list." Hey, such a good title, I needed to pass it on to my friends.

OK... here is the link. Enjoy.

dineLA Restaurant Week

What is this? Dine LA Restaurant Week. This is one of the coolest little restaurant promotions I have ever heard of.

A whole bunch of restaurants in the Los Angeles area have joined together to have fixed-price lunches and dinners for January 25 through January 30 and February 1 through February 6, 2009.

The fixed prices vary depending on how expensive the restaurant normally is.

I'm not really a big restaurant person (I like my home cooking) but if you ARE going to go out to eat and you AREN'T using a Restaurant.com coupon, then this is a sweet deal.

Checkout the website. You can make reservations online. American Express members can make reservations earlier. General public can start making reservations on January 11, 2009.

I'm sure that the more popular restaurants book up quickly, so don't delay. I think the best deals will be the lunch menus.

I bet other cities have a similar deal. Check with your local Chamber of Commerce. (Find your local chamber here.)

I'll be interested to hear from those of you who take advantage of this offer.

Get and Use Coupons from Chain Stores

I love coupons. Especially coupons with no expiration dates and no restrictions - yipee! Just bundle up a bunch of those babies and give them to me for my birthday. You can carry them around in your purse forever and eventually you WILL find the perfect time to use them.

Meanwhile.... you might just have to do with coupons that have expiration dates AND can only be used on full-priced merchandise... but, if it is for one of your favorite stores, it can be a great bargain buying tool.

The very best way to get coupons for your favorite stores on a regular basis is to sign up for the store's newsletter.

For instance, one of my favorite stores - Michaels craft supplies - regularly mails the "knack" members 40% off coupons.

When you join Staples Rewards, you get a percentage back of everything that you buy at the store. That's not bad.

Here is a list of some other stores that will send you coupons just for registering on their web sites. Wherever possible, I've tried to link to the actual sign up page. Some sites have their sign up on the home page. Look at the page and see where it says to sign up for the email list.

JoAnn Fabrics
Bath and Body Works
Bed, Bath & Beyond
Yankee Candles
Barnes and Noble
Ocean State Job Lot
Land's End
and another of my favorites - The Vermont Country Store

I am sure that there are lots and lots more. This is just the tip of the iceberg. If you can't find how to register at your favorite store's site, find the online customer service number, give them a call and they should help you.