RSS

Tag Archives: organization

Making the most of the whole bird

Thanks for your patience with my lack of posts for the last few months. With being back to full-time teaching, I don’t seem to have time to blog much. But, I am not complaining with the economy the way it is and with teaching jobs so hard to get!

Recently my husband has found a new way to save us more money and time. He has been using our freezer to make our cooking very efficient and allow us to have meals we couldn’t afford otherwise (like boneless breast recipes).

Let’s start with chicken.

100_8907

When we get chicken for Shabbos, we do not always eat the whole thing and some parts get wasted (or eaten as a not-so-healthy snack for my husband). So instead, my husband has been using all the parts of the chicken very creatively. From two chickens, he puts aside:

  • one chicken breast for a meal later,
  • the wings for a meal later,
  • the necks, back of the breast, and wing tips are saved for making soup stock and then used for soup meat,
  • and one thigh for a meal later.
  • If we are having a roasted chicken, he saves the carcass for making soups, too.

100_8899

After several weeks or months, he has enough of each part to make:

  • a boneless chicken dish (from the breasts),
  • teriyaki or barbecue chicken wings (from the wings) – pictured above,
  • chicken soup stock and chicken soup (from the necks, backs, and wing tips),
  • and smoked chicken for seasoning or chicken pieces for a stir fry (from the thighs).

Cheese:

We buy large packs of shredded cheese from Costco. The pack contains more cheese than a single meal uses. So he packages the cheese into smaller servings as soon as we get home. These get frozen in freezer bags to use later as needed. For more ways to cut down on meal costs read Stretching your dinner dime… dollar.”

Refried beans:

My husband has created the best refried beans recipe. He makes a huge batch in our largest soup pot and packages it up in large Gladware containers. (We used to be able to use the soup and salad size, but our family eats more now!) One container or two small ones makes for a great meal of burritos. They are also good to pull out when we cook for a friend with a new baby or for another occasion.

Milk:

Sometimes we stock up on milk if it is a particularly good deal or we have been given milk that is close to expiring. If we freeze it and then thaw it later, we can get a few more days out of it than if we had used it right away. For more tips on how long various foods will last, check out my post “Shelf life of your food.”

Bread:

We recently found an Entenmann’s outlet that sells Arnold and Thomas bread products as well as Entenmann’s baked goods. They have store coupon as well as a punch card. We can spend $10 and leave with 5-7 items! We keep a few out and save the rest for later. Between this and our bread maker, we our saving a ton of money on bread. This has been a big help with all four of our boys in elementary school this year!

Challah:

We always make several challahs at once. What we don’t need for that Shabbos gets frozen for later Shabbosim. To see why making your own challah is worth it moneywise, read “Making your own challah.” We have also tried canning. Read more at First canning experiment: apple butter.”

Kugels and desserts:

This is not always possible, but we try to double kugel and dessert recipes when preparing for Shabbos so we have one to freeze for later. This depends on what ingredients we have available.

How do you use your freezer to its potential? Share your tips below!

Related posts:

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Making lunches – a matrix of choices!

healthy gluten-free school lunch

Many of your children have probably started back to school already. Mine do not start until next Wednesday. However, with this being the first year my little boys have gone to camp, we have been making lunches for the past four weeks. (Or should I say my husband has.) It has gotten me to thinking about how to make this chore easier and to provide the most variety for my children. My husband and I typically take leftovers to work, because we can heat things up or don’t mind eating something cold if we have to. The boys on the other hand…

I used to have a list on the refrigerator of lunch choices, but it has gotten a bit out of date. So I created a new one. It mostly includes dairy options because with keeping kosher meat is expensive. There are also only certain days the kids can bring meat to their Jewish day school.

Below is my matrix of lunch choices (in green). It will be a great tool for adding to our grocery list each week. Then each day when we pack lunches, we will choose one item from each column. This way our kids will get a variety of foods and it will make sure that all of one type of food doesn’t get eaten up in a week! (I just bought a lot of Chex Mix on sale last week at Walgreens and if I let them, my kids would have it every day!) Feel free to edit this document for your needs and your kids’ tastes.

Lunch choices 2013

Other tips for saving money on packing lunches:

∞ Use up your leftovers when you can. This may not work as well for the kids, but the grownups can eat them!

ziploc divided container∞ Use as little packaging as possible. We use reusable water bottles, lunch bags, and as many containers as we can instead of bags. I just bought these Ziploc divided containers for my kids’ lunches and today was their first day using them. I figured it would be a great way for them to know what was their lunch food and what should be saved for snacks. We also use cloth snack bags for some items when we can. For more details, see my post Switch over your disposables.”

∞ Buy cheap water bottles. I have learned from camp that my kids lose water bottles constantly. It does not pay to buy nice ones because I cannot count on them coming back! So the dollar Spot at Target and the dollar store are my favorite places to buy water bottles. See my posts on Why I love Target! and Are ‘dollar stores’ really a good deal?

∞ Stock up on nonperishable lunch items. When you spot something on sale (and even better have a coupon, too) get a few! I got granola bars on sale at Target yesterday and had a manufacturer’s coupon and a Target coupon. This is the best way to stock up – having all three conditions! I also buy in bulk when I can through Costco and Whole Foods. See my post on “Bulk discounts.”

∞ Make as much homemade as you can. We recently got a breadmaker and my husband is enjoying figuring out the best recipes to use. It smells so good when he has a batch ready to go in the morning, With all four boys in elementary school this year, we could easily go through a loaf of bread in a day! Our next project is to experiment with some homemade snacks. See Little House Living and my posts on (More) Make your own… and Don’t buy it, make it homemade – Part 3 for recipes.

∞ Look for outlet stores. We recently found a local outlet bread store (thanks, Lori!) that saves us a ton on bread, bagels, and sandwich thins. They even have store coupons!

∞ Use your price list. Make sure you are buying things at the best price you can get. Just because something is in a larger size of is on sale, doesn’t always mean it is the best deal! To learn more, check out my post “Keeping a price list.”

∞ Check out the sales at the end of this month. Pretty soon all the back-to-school items will go on sale, which means lunch bags, containers, and the like on sale for cheap prices (check out Target, Wal-Mart, drug stores, etc. for these deals). Last summer we got the boys their current lunch bags for $3 each! I love them because they have a zipper at the top and a space for their name on the back. I also got backpacks from Lands’ End at a very deep discount last summer! Be sure to stock up on those swimsuits and rash guards while you are at it, too!

Do you have any tips for packing lunches that you would like to share? Please add them in the Comments section! Thanks Rivka H. and Jessi L, for your ideas I incorporated into the matrix.

Related posts:

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The best $10 a month I spend – Dropbox!

A few years ago, right around report card time, my laptop got one of those horrible trojan worm viruses. It hid all of my files and I couldn’t access anything even though I could see the files were somewhat still there. It took me hours to do research and figure out how to bring them back. Shout out to Bleeping Computer for helping me solve this awful problem!

But back to my story… After this I went out and bought an external hard drive, for fear of losing my files again. I had eight years of digital photos and all of my teaching and personal files on that computer! The hard drive worked great, right up until a month or two after the warranty and then for some reason it stopped turning! We took it to Best Buy and they said it could not be fixed for any reasonable amount of money. It would be a couple thousand dollars to recover the data! That’s was the last straw! I also had lost about a 100 ebooks from Scholastic (that luckily they reloaded for me on their website, but now I have to take the time again to download them!). I would not be relying on an external hard drive or any device again!

Image representing Dropbox as depicted in Crun...

I had heard of Dropbox, but had never tried it. I decided it was worth looking into. With Dropbox, a cloud storage solution, you can get up to 2 GB of space for free. You can then earn more free space by referring others and sharing Dropbox via social networking sites and completing other activities. However, even with that extra space, it was not enough to store all of our files and photos.

So for $9.99 a month, I get 100 GB, which is more than enough. However, there are higher plans that can accommodate 200 and 500 GB. They also have business plans for multiple users.

Why should you try it?

  • Gives you the peace of mind that all of your files are protected and backed up.
  • You have the ability to share files and folders with others. This has been great for accessing my husband’s files. He doesn’t need to keep sending me certain files I need when he updates them; I just click on the link on the first email he sent me with that file.
  • It is easy to set up.
  • It works without you doing much. You just put everything you want to be backed up in your “Dropbox” folder on your computer. It backs up files any time you create new ones, make changes, delete files, etc.
  • You don’t have to remember to back up your computer on a certain schedule. It does it every time your computer is on.

Definitely worth that $9.99 a month! Give it a try and let me know what you think! FYI – I am using a PC; I hear from friends with Macs that backing up your information is done differently.

Note: I am not working for Dropbox and receive no benefits from posting this information!

Related posts:

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on July 19, 2013 in Other savings tips, Reviews

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Purim is coming too fast!

Last year I started preparing for Purim early and really worked hard not to leave everything to the last-minute. I was so happy not to be finishing my boys’ costumes right before the sueda! However, this year, with my new job, it has been hard to get started early. Now I am down to one week before Purim and so much to do: costumes to make, shaloch manos to assemble, and food to cook. Luckily we are not hosting a sueda, so that is one less large task.

Thankfully all of my past research and checklists will help me get through it all. Here is my Purim checklist that you can adapt for your needs: Purim prep.

We did our shopping today for our shaloch manos supplies (thank you Costco) and spent the afternoon making shaloch manos as part of a charity project we have done for the past 16 years. Now my goal is to get supplies for my kids’ costumes. I always have luck finding ideas at Family Fun or Parenting magazines’ websites, so I will check there again. Here are a few links to check out:

Here are my kids from last year — my oldest as a knight and my little ones as superheroes.

100_7709

If you are like me and are behind in your Purim preparations, here are a few of my older posts to help you:

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Financial New Year’s Resolutions

Resolutions 2012When I was in high school and college, making New Year’s Resolutions was a big deal. I used to pore over magazines coming up with plans for how I would lose weight, exercise more, etc. However, now that I have become religious, I tend to make more serious goals around Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, thinking about how I will become a better wife, mom, daughter, friend, teacher, and Jew.

With New Year’s approaching, though, I realized it might not be a bad idea to come up with some New Year’s resolutions related to our finances. My husband’s job has not turned out to be what he expected and finances have been really tough. He is looking for new work and I am hoping the new year will provide that. But in the meantime, new job or not, we need a plan to get us in better financial shape.

Here are my goals for the new year. I hope they will inspire you on your own quest to get your family set.

1) Get back to menu planning on a regular basis.

With money being so tight, my husband has become a master at creating meal plans based on whatever is in the house. We haven’t had the money to make full shopping trips and therefore have let our menu planning slide. However, it makes extra stress for him every morning to have to also figure out what to make. I want us to get back to menu planning each week regardless if we can buy two things or a loadful! See my posts on “Menu planning” and “Monthly menu planning.”

2) Keep up with our receipts.

Bill paying and entering receipts into our Quicken program are my least favorite tasks. So of course, I procrastinate. But then we are more likely to bounce or to encounter fees for paying things late. I am going to work harder at entering them every few days instead of waiting until I have several weeks worth! See my post on “Make your checkbook digital!”

3) Get our oil changed on a regular basis.

I always think of car maintenance last. When we don’t have much money, I think we can’t possibly afford to spend money on the car. Well, that thinking got us into big trouble this past year. We have neglected to change the oil on our van, for probably years. As a result, the engine died completely. After several hundred dollars of repairs the auto repair shop thought could fix the problem, we had to get a whole new engine. The repairs were then several thousand. It was the most expensive and embarrassing mistake we have ever made. I guess I should take my own advice. See my post on “Pay now to save later” and “What does an oil change cost?”

4) Really watching our budget.

During my husband’s trial period at his new job (when they were paying him a base), we were doing a bit better financially. I started a new routine that really helped us budget better. I virtually set aside a certain amount for our monthly and irregular expenses each half of the month. Then whenever we spent money in those categories, I would debit it from that amount/transaction. I knew how much we had left to spend in those categories by what amount was left in that transaction. It really helped us stay under our budget for the month on categories that we have more control of.

What are your financial New Year’s resolutions? Please share in the Comments section.

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Time to get ready for the 2012 High Holidays!

Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) is just 17 days away and I am realizing it is time to start our preparations. As I have mentioned before in my posts on getting ready for Pesach (Passover), I have a checklist to help me get ready for each holiday. It really helps me not forget anything that needs to be done and it gives me a timeline to do them. It also reminds me of things that have worked and not worked from past years.

Here is my High Holiday prep checklist, which includes Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot. You may want to adapt it to your needs and to include the following things which we do not do:

  • Holiday cards (we send ours our around Chanukah/Christmas)
  • Babysitting arrangements (either at shul (temple) or at home, for whatever days you want to go to shul to daven (pray))

I store this file on my computer, but also have a copy in my Holiday Prep binder, which has preparations lists for all the Jewish holidays. I have separate binders for Chanukah/Christmas and Pesach, since those two involve a lot more preparations!

When planning our menus, I like to type them, too, so that I can print them out and put them on our refrigerator. Then my husband highlights items as he cooks them! I can’t wait to try some new recipes and hope the New Year brings us some better mazel!

Related posts (sorry – there are a lot!):

If you have any tips about how you successfully get ready for the holidays, please share them below!

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Back to school: Jewish learning resources

Normally at this time of year, I am starting to get things ready for the school year and setting up my classroom. However, this will be my second year working for the Child Abuse Prevention Program at Jewish Family & Children’s Service. I don’t need to get my own classroom ready, but it is always great to find good resources for my own children. It is so helpful to have websites to go to for accessing holiday ideas, projects, information sheets, etc. for different things my children are studying.

For this post, I wanted to provide Jewish resources that you could use whether you are a parent, homeschooler, or teacher. You might even find them helpful for your own reference if you have no children at all! While this post will not save you money, it will sure save you time and energy when you want to find an activity or idea!

Chinuch.org

This is one of my favorite Jewish resources. I used it a lot when I taught preschool as well as third grade. I also found some great additions and activities for our family seder last year. You can search for materials based on age (early childhood, elementary, middle school, high school, special education, administration, or kiruv) or by topic (which includes Torah, Hebrew language, Interactive classroom, Yamim Tovim, Halacha/Dinim, Arts and Crafts, and more). This site, which is sponsored by Torah Mesorah and the Avi Chai Foundation, allows educators to upload and share a variety of resources with other educators and parents. The resources often include not just instructions, but typed resources (or pdfs) ready to copy or change as needed. Many include photos as well. Additional resources include clip art, forums, audio/video, Olomeinu archives, and more. Their database grows daily!

Organized Jewish Home

I have mentioned this blog before, as it has some great resources and articles. The author is a homeschooling Orthodox mom who writes about many topics of interest to frum families: menu planning, holiday preparations, activities for kids, organization, recipes, and more. She posts resources for each parsha that are particularly helpful if you homeschool or if your children attend a public school and you want to supplement their Jewish learning. She also has a “Shalom Bayit Book” that is somewhat similar to my Family Control Journal. See my post on “Starting a Family Control Journal.” Check it out and let her know I sent you!

Central Agency for Jewish Education, St. Louis (CAJE)

This is the website for our local Jewish education agency. They have a section for Teacher Resources that is helpful for families as well. It includes Beginning of the Year materials, board games, Shabbat materials, holiday materials, Hebrew letter review materials, Hebrew prayer materials, links to other teacher resources, and early childhood resources. I can’t wait to use some of the Hebrew ideas and board games with my own children!

Related posts:

Do you know of any other great Jewish education resources? Please share them in the Comments section!

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on August 9, 2012 in Email and online tips, Family ideas

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Coupon “re”-organization

For the past many years I have organized my coupons in small vertical photo albums that hold three photos on each side (see my post “Organizing coupons” for details). This worked great because I could just slide my coupons in the slots and I could see six sections at once. I didn’t need to fold many (except the Target coupons which are a bit bigger) and I could see the whole coupon. I could open them in the basket of the shopping cart and they were lightweight. I was using more coupons and could easily compare deals while in the store, versus how hard it was to find what I needed when I used an expandable small coupon holder. My husband and I often got compliments at stores on what a great idea they were.

However, we needed three of these such albums to hold all of our coupons: one for groceries, one for toiletries/supplies/household items, and one for store coupons and amusement. It was a pain switching between albums while at Target and sometimes they wouldn’t stay open in the cart basket. The pockets were also ripping a bit and it was sometimes hard to get a small coupon out, since you could only reach inside the pockets sideways.

So I decided to make a leap to try the cloth zipper binder method that so many couponers use. I decided against the decorative coupon holder/bags, because I am sure my husband would not want to carry something that looks like a lady’s purse! I bought a 3″ 3-ring Case-it zipper binder from OfficeMax, not as cheap as they later went on sale for at Target; but my husband couldn’t find any at our local Target.

I then researched page protectors/coupon holders and decided that I liked the three slot holders best because it would be similar to what I was used to. I found a great deal from Hobbies Depot for a pack of 100 for less than $20 (and no shipping charge).

They arrived the other day and much to my dismay and surprise, they were one-sided! I had no idea they were like that. My friend and fellow couponer, Jessi, assured me that I had not bought the wrong thing; they all were one-sided.

Thus, my dilemma – how to maximize my storage capabilities and still have a system similar to what I was used to (6 sections to see at once).

In comes my patient, helpful, and intelligent husband, who obliged by listening to my problem. Then he came up with a brilliant solution! Adhere the page protectors back-to-back so that we had slots on both sides! I found some double-sided removable Scotch tape in my office supply stash, and applied 5 small strips to the back of one protector and attached it to the back of another protector, so that each had the pockets facing out and the tops the right way.

Perfect!

The only downside is that our “coupon” albums had a white backing behind the pockets so that you didn’t see through to the other side. We thought about maybe putting a piece of paper between the two page protectors, but this would have made a lot of extra work (with needing to tape twice for each set of pages) and more weight for the whole binder. We will just have to get used to it!I did steal a few ideas from Laurie at Passionate Penny Pincher, thanks to her video tutorial on her coupon organizing. I used a few plastic sleeves that have diagonal or horizontal slits in them. You can get them with or without divider tabs. These I used to hold coupons that I don’t need to necessarily see laid out at a store like automotive, amusement, home repair, medical, etc.

I am so excited to use my new binder! I love that it has a pocket for the coupons I have pulled for the checkout and dividers to hold sale fliers, etc. I even plan to put a copy of my price list in the front. I normally keep it in my purse, so that even if I am shopping without coupons, I have it handy. With the price list in the binder, my husband can use it, too, and it will be easier to flip pages.

* For more information on couponing, see my posts “Coupon websites – updated!” and “Don’t throw out your expired coupons!” My friend and fellow blogger, Mara, at Kosher on a Budget, has lots of great information on couponing in her series Couponing Basics.

Let me know what your coupon organizing style is and how you have made yours work!

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Scheduling visits and meals for others made easier!

Freezer Meals

One of the biggest timesavers for me when my dad was in the hospital was to create a CarePages website for him. I was able to post updates on how he was doing and then send them to anyone who wanted information. It was much easier than making a million phone calls a day, especially since I had other things to take care of for my father. The site would send an update email to anyone on my invite list and they could then logon to see the update. I have friends who have set up this type of website either for themselves or for friends suffering from a serious illness.

I particularly like this site because people can also send you messages and you can add photos. When I was pregnant with my triplets, this site was invaluable for letting people know how the babies and I were doing. It was also fun to post pictures of me growing!

CarePages, as well as many similar care coordination websites, has different settings to set up privacy settings. You can set your page up so that only those you invite can participate and logon, your page can be public, or you can choose something in-between. You can also connect with other people going through similar issues.

Another aspect of helping those dealing with illness, pregnancy, etc. is lining up meals, volunteers, errands, etc. One of my friends used Lotsa Helping Hands for a friend of hers who was battling cancer. I also set up a page on there for my father, so that we could make sure he would have visitors when he began rehab. I like that this website lets you set up a variety of tasks that people can help with, not just bringing meals. It also sends reminders to anyone who signs up to do a task/job. Like CarePages, you can also post announcements/updates and photos. This is a feature that I was not aware of, otherwise I would have used just this site alone to post everything for my father!

Other similar websites include:

All of these care coordination websites are great because they:

  • Are free.
  • Allow you to get in touch with many people in a short-time. They saves everyone time (no matter if you are the subject of the site or the person coordinating care, visits, meals, etc.). This can be a big help if you are a coordinator of meals for your temple or church.
  • Work for births, illness or injuries, bereavement, etc.
  • Allow family, loved ones, friends, and others to send support and encouragement to the person in need.
  • Often can direct you to support groups, information, and other pages set up by people with similar needs.
  • Link with Facebook and other social networking programs.

Related posts on doing good for others:

If you have used any of these sites and have reviews or tips, please share in the Comments section!

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Are “dollar stores” really a good deal?

A few weeks ago I went to my local Dollar Tree for water bottles for camp. It seems we always lose a few right away and I like having a backup for everyone. I took a little extra time in my browsing to write down what items are good deals at a dollar store. You do have to be careful because for some items, you get what you pay for. Like those water bottles. This year’s selection held up only one use before the sip top broke and the handles broke, too, Last year’s lasted a bit longer! Remember to bring your price list with you, so you can really determine if something is a good deal (for instance aluminum foil and plastic bags were not cheaper than the Ziploc brand at Sam’s Club). See my post on “Keeping a price list” for how to create your own.

Here are some items that ARE a good buy at your local dollar store:

Plastic containers: I love to find plastic baskets for organizing my classroom or toys at home, for gifts (like Shaloch Manos – Purim gift baskets), and more.

Dish scrubbers: Our sponges seem to get so disgusting even with frequent washing and microwave cleanings. So we instead love to use the handled dish scrubbers with nylon bristles.

Certain toys: There are some good deals on toys such as large bubble wands and other seasonal toys, mini figures (I found superheroes and Toy Story figures), silly straws (a great cheap prize for my kids), bug kits for outdoor discoveries, and stickers.

Teacher supplies: You often can find stickers, dice, playing cards, notepads, accents, and more for your classroom.

Party/gift supplies: Tissue paper, party bags, goodie bags, and thank you cards are super cheap here. Helium balloons are a great deal as well.

Craft supplies: The quantities are not big, but you can find a variety of craft supplies good for home or school.

Cheap ponchos: I would love to buy a bunch of these and donate them to our shul for emergency rain showers!

Shower puffs: Why pay more for a fancier shower puff when these work just as well!

Tea lights: At 16 for $1.00, this is the cheapest place I have found for tea lights. I use these in emergencies when I am out of Shabbos candles. They also work well for guests who need to light Shabbos candles at your home.

Food items: I have not priced out the food items yet or looked to see what is kosher, but friends tell me Goya beans are a good deal. I also like to get the Mrs. Freshley’s baked items like nutty bars. Cheap sinful treat!

Related articles:

* Do you have any favorite items you go to the dollar store for? Please share in the comments section!

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 112 other followers

%d bloggers like this: