Fruit-to-go for the Kids

Looking for a quick and easy fruit fix for the kids? Buy bananas and have them readily available when preparing lunches. Prepare your apples, nectarines, peaches, plums, or oranges so they are a quick grab and go for lunches (or when you’re flying out the door).

Prepackage grapes in snack size baggies. Do not wash until the night before you’re going to put them in your lunch. This will keep them crisp longer. Then when you’re putting lunches together, grab a bag of grapes, rinse the grapes and you’re ready to go.


Inexpensive Date Night Ideas

candle lit dinnerDo you feel like you’re in a dating slump with your special someone? Maybe you don’t have someone to look after your kids, or you find it too expensive to go out for an evening. If you’re anything like me, by the time I pay for a baby sitter, then the expense of dinner out, drinks then maybe a movie if you’re lucky? That’s a lot of money in my book… money I could spend elsewhere. Now don’t get me wrong, I love to spend quality time with my husband. AND I can totally appreciate having alone time outside the house. (Believe me, I totally can) Next time you feel like having some quality alone time with your honey, send him the link for this page so he can get some ideas at a fraction of the cost of heading out for the evening.

1. Have a romantic dinner for two. Feed the kids early, send them to bed or off to grandma and grandpa’s if you have the luxury. Spend the extra amount on a nice bottle of wine and good dinner. Even if you cook yourself steak with baked potatoes and a side of salad or vegetables, you’ll pay a fraction of the price of what you would pay in a restaurant. I promise you, dinner won’t cost more then $20 for both of you. Add a nice bottle of wine (here are some of my favorites), and you’re guaranteed to have a delicious dinner. Have you ever had chocolate eruption cake? You pay $7 each minimum. They are sooo easy to make. You’ll save so much money, your honey can definitely afford to buy you a bouquet of flowers. Buy some white candles if you don’t have some already (dollar/discount store) and dim the lights. Play some Michael Buble as background music, get out the wine glasses and cook together in the kitchen. You’ll have a wonderful evening together that doesn’t cost a fortune. You can even get dressed up fancy if you feel like going that extra mile.

2. Movie Night In. You can make this a special night if you put a bit of effort into it. Remember, you’re saving a lot of money by not going out to the movies. Last time I went to the movies with my husband, it cost us $50, not including the amount I paid my babysitter. Looking for something other than wine? Try some delicious Tequila Rose on the rocks with milk, or make some hot chocolates with Kahlua. If beer is your thing, have some nice frosted glasses in the freezer. Make a plate of nacho’s or make a big bowl of popcorn. Cuddle under a blanket on the couch and pretend like you’re back in high school again.

3. Let the Board Games Begin. My husband has recently purchased a few new board games that we love to plan after a long week at work. If we’re planning a evening together, I’ll try put together some of our favorite treats so we’re not pulled away from the game. I love to put together veggies and dip, or my layered nacho dip. Glass of wine for myself and a cold beer for my honey and we’re set for the night. Once the board game is purchased, you have many nights of free entertainment ahead of you. Our recent favorites? Smallworld and Katan (ever watch Big Bang Theory? “Got wood?” It’s similar to risk and a lot of fun. Once you get the hang of it, invite a couple of friends over to enjoy the evening with you.)

4. Wine and Cheese Tasting Party for Two. As I’m sure you figured, there is nothing I love more than a delicious bottle of wine. I love trying new wines, or grabbing a bottle of my favorite for a relaxing Friday evening after a long week at work. I recently had a wine tasting party and discovered how much I also love to pair wines with cheese (and chocolate). Do a bit of research and find a new bottle of wine you would like to try. Now find a cheese or food that pairs well with that wine. Sit with your honey and sip wine while you sample the cheese or food and talk about your week.

5. Picnic Time. Pack a basket with some gourmet sandwiches and other fun finger foods. Lay a blanket on the floor in the living room, start a good move or play some cards, and open your basket. You can even make s’mores over mini unscented tea lights.

Other date night ideas include:
6. Make homemade pizza’s for dinner
7. Spa night – give each other mini manicures, soak your feet and finally give each other back massages
8. Fondue Party. Make a cheese or chocolate fondue and start dipping
9. Eating in the Dark. Make a dinner and turn the lights out to eat your dinner. Not that adventurous? Blind found your date and feed the food to her/him.
10. 20 Questions. Have a list of questions each of you have to answer over dinner. Here is a list of ideas.

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Recycle Your Fruits & Vegetables

green onionsLooking for a way to save a bit of money and time? If you find some fruits or vegetables turning soft on you in the fridge, chop them up, toss them in a ziplock bag and store them in the freezer. When you’re preparing a meal that requires these ingredients, you’ll have them all ready to go. You’ll have to test this on your vegetables, not all vegetables freeze nicely. I have used this trick on onions, peppers, beans and many different kinds of berries. If my strawberries are looking a little less then perfect, I just freeze them and use them to make smoothies or for my oatmeal in the morning. This also works for blueberries, peaches, raspberries. Berries are so expensive, I can’t stand to throw out money like that.

I particularly like to do this with green onions. I never seem to be able to use up an entire package of green onions. So I use what I need then I’ll chop up the rest and freeze for another day. Then when I’m making my homemade chicken soup or spinach dip, I already have the onions ready to go and I use what I need.

Tackling Groceries and Keeping Your Sanity

Depending on your life schedule, you may like to run to the grocery store a few different times a week. I personal do not, nor do I have the time. Unless I absolutely need something mid-week, I wait for my Saturday morning trip into the city to get what I need. There are a lot of wonderful applications that you can use on your cell phone or iPad now that help you make and track your grocery lists. I find them extremely useful. When I come across something in my house that I need to buy I add it to my list. If you don’t have one of these high tech devices, the old fashion way works just as well – have a paper on your fridge and add to it during the week.

The night before my shopping trip, I’ll do a quick inventory check on my basic staples and add these items to my list if needed. If I’m writing my list out on a page, I tend to sort my list on the page in order to how the grocery store is organized. For example, most grocery stores tend to have their customers walk through the produce department first so the first items to make my list are my fresh fruits and veggies I’ll need for the week.
I’m also a chronic flyer shopper. I always watch my prices and I know when something is a good deal. If I find something a higher price than normal, I’ll either try finding a cheaper substitute or not get it at all.

Also keep your eyes open for coupons, even if it’s only 50 cents. The money is better in your pocket then the manufacturers. If you do have a coupon, write it on your list so know you need to dig it out when you get up to the cash. Some stores also offer price matching. If you bring in one of their competitor’s flyers showing an item on sale at their store, they will match that price. This saves you money and the time it takes a trip to the other store down the street!
I like to do my shopping first thing Saturday mornings – I find it takes less time as the crowds are still small. I don’t have to navigate around people going down the aisles, all the fresh produce has already been taken out and the lines at the cash are small, or do not exist at all. If you’re organized, you can get this painful chore over and done as quickly as possible.

If you have children in tow, make sure you pack drinks and snacks for when they start to complain they are hungry and they know the McDonalds is right down the street from where you’re shopping. This tip alone will save you a ton of money and time. Not to mention the snack brought from home will most likely be a lot healthier than what you would get at a fast food restaurant. Don’t forget to pack something for yourself too!

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