Thursday, May 19, 2011

Get Yourself Into A Jam

A nice freezer jam, that is. One warm evening last week, my craft group decided to do something a little different. We bought a couple flats of strawberries, and made freezer jam. Ball Canning makes a product called Instant Pectin which can be used to make freezer jam out of any type of fruit, without cooking. You can find it in most grocery stores.

It was easy. First we hulled the strawberries, then mashed them in a big bowl with a potato masher. We left them pretty chunky. Next, we mixed the instant pectin with sugar, according to the directions on the package. Then we stirred the pectin and sugar mixture into the strawberries. We spooned the jam into jars, waited 30 minutes for it to gel, and that was it! The finished product can be stored up to 3 weeks in the refrigerator, or up to 1 year in the freezer.

We bought canning jars, but since you are not boiling the jars, any saved food jars you have would work fine. This would be a great way to use any surplus fruit from friends who have fruit trees. It is great to do in the house during the summer, since it doesn't involve heating up the kitchen. With some cute handmade labels, this would make a great gift too! Just make sure the recipient knows it can't be stored in the pantry like pressure canned jam.

Go ahead, get yourself into a jam. You'll be glad you did!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Ten Terra-rific Tips

In keeping with my annual Earth Day tradition, I've come up with a list of green tips for you. If you can incorporate even a few of these into your daily routine you will be living much lighter on the planet.

1.  Air dry laundry or use a drying rack whenever possible.

2.  If you must use the dryer, dry loads one after another.  You'll use much less energy that way, because the dryer doesn't need to heat up each time.

3.  Make sure your water heater is set no higher than 120 degrees.

4.  Your refrigerater doesn't need to be any colder than 35 to 38 degrees, and your freezer between 0 degrees and 5 degrees.

5.  Install aerators on all your faucets - you'll use a lot less water, and still get decent water pressure.

6.  Bring toxic items such as old paints, cleaners and solvents to a hazardous waste facility for safe disposal.

7.  If your office doesn't recycle, see if you can take the aluminum cans and paper home to recycle.

8.  Use your toaster oven or slow cooker to prepare meals whenever possible, rather than heating up your oven.

9.  Bring your used up batteries to your local pharmacy's photo department.  Most will accept them and send them in with the batteries they take out of the disposable cameras for recycling.

10.  Consider purchasing LED bulbs for your most used light fixture.  The prices are starting to come down and you can get them at the big hardware stores for a more reasonable price.  Remember, they cost a lot more upfront, but last 5 to 10 times longer than CFL bulbs, and 50 to 100 times longer than incandescents.  They also use about one tenth of the energy an incandescent bulb uses!

For more inspiration, check out my previous earth day posts, here and here  Now get busy, and go green!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Be Entertained For Monetary Gain

In the evenings, while I watch tv, I like to earn a few extra dollars at the same time. If I'm watching something that doesn't require much concentration (most shows fit this criteria) I can easily do two things at once.

One thing I'll do is click on the ads at "pay to click" sites. This only pays a penny or two for each ad, but it adds up, and doesn't take much time, since I do it while I'm watching the tube. Some of the sites only pay a fraction of a penny per ad, so I skip those. I find them to be a waste of time. Some of the sites I like, that I have actually been paid by, are, (this one lets you cash out to paypal after earning only $1),,, Some of the sites I get a referral, so if you use the links I provide to sign up, I will get credit for your clicks too. If you have any friends who are interested, you can have them sign up under you and you will get credit for a percentage of their clicks as well. It only takes a few minutes to sign up for each site, and will only take you a couple minutes each day to click on the ads. Some sites offer a "premium" account which you have to pay for. I never do this. I just sign up for the free, standard account. One word of caution: make sure you have active anti-virus software on your computer. The sites don't guarantee that one of the ads from their advertisers might not have a virus or malware. I have never had any problems, but make sure your virus software is up to date just to be safe.

Another double-tasking activity of mine is performing short tasks on Tasks pay anywhere from a few cents to $20 or more. Tasks can be surveys, audio transcription, tagging photos with appropriate tags, behavioral studies submitted by universities, all sorts of interesting things. I personally don't usually bother with hits that pay under 25 cents for a few minutes work. Before you accept a hit, it will tell you about how long it should take. If you start a hit and find that you can't do it, you can return the hit for someone else to work on, but don't do this too often as it will affect your rating on the site. There is a record of your earnings when you log in to, and you can use them there to purchase whatever you want. There is also a way to have the funds transferred to your bank account, although I have not done this.

I also like to enter contests while I am in couch potato mode. It is free and easy to enter most contests online, and occasionally I win! I like the ones at Woman's Day magazine:, All You magazine:, and Better Homes and Gardens: I also find sweepstakes on these three websites:, and Even if you don't win that often, it's fun daydreaming about all the great vacations and life-altering windfalls you could be the recipient of!

One more view while I earn activity of mine is to take part in the sponsored polls at I do the surveys too, but I find I don't qualify for many of them. There are always polls available to earn points. Each poll earns you anywhere from 15 to a couple hundred points, and only takes a few seconds. It might direct you to a survey afterward, depending on your answer, but you don't have to fill it out if you don't want to. You can just direct your browser back to the site and do more polls. It takes 60,000 points to earn a $20 check. I find that I can quickly and easily earn 1,000 points per day, allowing me to cash out for $20 every few months.

I hope this post has given you a few ideas about how you can be entertained for monetary gain! If you have any of your own tips for earning while you veg in front of the tv, please share!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Enjoy A Stack Of Sweet Savings

This Tuesday, March 1st from 7:00 am to 10 p.m., IHOP is having their annual benefit for the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals. In return for a voluntary donation, you receive a free short stack of pancakes. It's a great opportunity to do some good and enjoy an inexpensive breakfast with friends at the same time. If you have an IHOP near you, why not get out and show your support!

If you don't have an IHOP near you, enjoy some pancakes at home. They are cheap, easy to make, and can be healthy if you use whole grain flours and top them with fresh fruit, or make savory pancakes and top them with vegetables and cheese. If you prefer your pancakes with syrup, here's a thrifty recipe:

Homemade Pancake Syrup

This recipe is taken from The Complete Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyczn.

3 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups water
3 tbsp. molasses
1 tsp. vanilla
2 tsp. butter flavoring
1 tsp. maple extract

Bring all ingredients to a rolling boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Turn off burner but leave pot on burner until bubbling stops.

They are good for breakfast, or have breakfast for dinner once in a while! Good recipes abound on the internet. You can even make a few extra and freeze them, then reheat for breakfast on the go!

Have some pancakes today, and enjoy a sweet (or savory) stack of savings!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Enjoy A Few Laughs With Your Better Half

While watching the DVD of a well-known comedian's recent live performance on Netflix instant the other night, it hit me. This would be a fun idea for a frugal Valentine's Day "date night" at home. After all, laughter is an aphrodisiac!

If you don't have Netflix, you can rent a comedy DVD or find one at your local library. Prepare some appetizers like they would serve at a comedy club. Make a pitcher of cocktails, or mocktails if you don't drink. Wait until the kids go to bed, get cozy on the couch, arrange everything on the coffee table and crack up together. If you get a little tipsy, well at least you don't have to drive anywhere. You won't have to pay a big bar tab at the end of the evening either!

Happy Valentine's Day!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Get A Move On

Although I fervently hope my moving days are over, a friend's recent move inspired this post. Moving can be an expensive proposition. Here are a few ways to lower the cost, and make things simpler.

Don't buy moving boxes. Look on Craigslist or Freecycle for someone who has just moved and is giving boxes away. Wine boxes are great for packing glasses and fragile knickknacks without wrapping. Ask at a liquor store or Trader Joe's for empty boxes. They are usually happy to get rid of them. Ask friends to save bubble wrap and newspapers for you. I packed all my plates between layers of padded mailers last time I moved. It was so much quicker than wrapping each one, and nothing broke! Use your linens as padding for breakables.  If you are not able to use wine boxes, socks are great for separating glasses and protecting them.

Leave clothes on hangers. Make a small hole in the bottom of a garbage bag, poke hangers through, and tie shut. It goes without saying that these should be dollar store garbage bags. When you get to the new house, you can simply hang the clothes up.

Quilts and blankets are good for protecting furniture corners. They work just as well as those pads that come with the moving truck, which of course you won't be renting. Find some friends with a van or pickup truck. This means that you must be willing to help them when they move, too!

If you are only moving a block away, consider skipping the truck altogether, and hand carrying everything. As long as you have enough help, it's not that bad, and the planet will thank you.

Make sure you have lots of reusable bottles filled with cold water for your helpers. Consider making sandwiches for everyone ahead of time, rather than ordering pizza or other takeout.

I hope you'll be very happy in your new home!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Savings Amassed In The Year Just Past

Many people scoff at me for taking the time to sign up for freebies, submit rebates and fill out surveys. At the end of last year, I became curious exactly how much money I make by taking advantage of freebies and rebates, and participating in surveys, focus groups, etc. Throughout the year, I've been keeping track. Here are my results for 2010.
The total value of all merchandise received, including free samples, items which were free with a coupon, and items that were free after rebate, including those store gift cards for $10 free at Kohl's or JC Penney, was $995.84. I did not include savings from regular cents off coupons, or my free magazine subscriptions, mainly because I pass them around to my friends and relatives, and I'm not sure which subscription is whose anymore!  I estimated the value of each free sample at 25 cents, which may be a little low. Some samples are just a dab of lotion on a card, while others, such as coffee are worth more. I figured it would average out.

The total earnings from surveys, pay-to-click sites, participating in online communities sponsored by brands and programs like Nielsen Consumer Panel and Amazon Mechanical Turk was $890.22.

This comes out to a grand total of $1,886.06 from all sources for the year. This has not been a particularly good year for surveys or samples, with the state of the economy. If I had been keeping track in previous years, I'm sure the total would have been much higher. Is it worth it to do all the little things I do to earn extra money? I say definitely! With relatively little time devoted to these activities, you can really augment your household budget. Many of these things I do while watching tv, so they don't really take up much of my day.

I plan to write some posts in the future that go into greater detail about some of these programs. In the meantime, feel free to comment and ask any questions you might have.

Happy New Year to all my readers. Let's save some money in 2011!