Posts Tagged ‘saving money’

How To Find Affordable Produce – Home Canning

Friday, June 11th, 2010

by Tracy Falbe

Home Canned FoodPreserving your own food with home canning techniques is no longer the dying art of grandmothers and church ladies. Younger people and families are reviving home canning, but you need fresh food in bulk in order to preserve it.

So, how do you get the produce without spending too much?

Growing the food yourself is the obvious, but not only answer. Home gardeners have been canning their fruits and vegetables for generations. Planting a garden and putting in some fruit trees are definitely rewarding. You will get the freshest and most convenient produce this way, but you probably can’t grow everything you want. Time and space limitations often restrict your ability to produce in quantity as well, but you do have options.

Farmers’ markets are expanding all over the country and they offer you a great way to buy fruits, vegetables and other produce. Check your local daily or weekly newspapers for ads and articles about farmers’ markets in your area. The markets are often located in downtowns, so check with your chamber of commerce or downtown business associations for information about farmers’ markets. The website has a searchable database of farmers throughout the United States that may be helpful as a starting point too.

You will likely find that you have more than one market in your area through the summer. While you’re at the market, you will be able to meet growers of the types of food in which you’re most interested. Growers often open their farms to the public, and you can find out if you can connect with them directly outside the market venue. They often have bulk deals at the farms. At the market, expect to pay retail prices. Sometimes the prices are better than the supermarket, but you will still be at the retail level.

You-pick or U-pick farms are also widespread. These operations are popular for berries and fruits. You can find them through ads in local publications and signs on the side of the road. Sometimes your vendors at the farmers’ market have u-pick operations too, so be sure to ask. You can get a great price on produce at the u-pick farms because you are supplying the labor and transportation.

I just paid $1.50 a quart for strawberries by picking them myself. The work was a little dirty but otherwise a fairly pleasant activity. It actually felt nice to be out there with other people harvesting food.

People have been doing this since we were wearing fig leaves, and the experience had a natural and serene quality. If I had to do it all day, the work would have been backbreaking, but it’s a nice outing for an hour to get food for your family at a great price. You will certainly gain a deep empathy with the underpaid people who have to put in long days harvesting the food sold at the supermarket.

Another emerging way to find produce is If your community has an active Craigslist be sure to frequently scan the ads in the farm and garden category. This will alert you to deals on local produce, markets, and u-pick farms.

Road side stands usually have decent prices as well. The produce tends to be very fresh because the stands are often right next to the fields.

You can reasonably expect to find good prices on fresh produce during peak seasons. With a little effort you can find the best growers and obtain quality food for home canning.

When I picked strawberries the other day, I paid $12 for 8 quarts. This would have easily cost $24 at the market, so I gained a 50 percent discount with under 1 hour of labor. With that 8 quarts of super fresh strawberries, I put up 18 half pints of jam, made a strawberry crisp dessert, and froze about a quart of whole strawberries to use in a pie later. I put in a big day of work, but all that jam will last my family for months and taste better than anything I can buy.

This is the basic recipe for Canning Strawberry Jam:

  • 5 cups strawberries
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 package fruit pectin powder
  • 7 cups sugar

Fill and heat a water bath canning kettle. Bring the water almost to boiling, at least 180 degrees F and sterilize 8 to 10 half pint canning jars and new lids in the hot water. Set them aside on a clean cloth.

Then in a big sauce pan, add the strawberries and lemon juice. Crush the strawberries with a potato masher while heating to a boil. Once you have a nice berry mash, thoroughly stir in the pectin. Bring this to a hard boil that cannot be stirred down. Then stir in the appalling amount of sugar. Keep stirring until you reach that hard rolling boil again. Maintain the boiling for 1 full minute and then shut off the heat.

I usually let the jam cool for 5 to 10 minutes and stir it a couple times. Turn the heat back on for your water bath and start filling your jars to within 1/4 inch of the top. Wipe clean the jar edges and put on the lids and bands. Once the water bath is boiling, lower the jars into the water bath and process them for 10 minutes. (If you’re at elevations about 1,000 feet, you may need to process longer. Look for directions specific to your area.)

Remove the jars from the water bath and set them on a counter to cool for 12 to 24 hours. Do not disturb them. You will likely hear the lids pop shut within minutes of taking them out of the water.

You can get many jam and jelly recipes like this one out of the box of fruit pectin. For complete information about home canning and more recipes, please visit and bookmark my website Canning Local

State Specific Actions To Achieve Money Saving Goals – Frugal Challenge

Monday, January 4th, 2010

Piggy BankWhen you sit down and start looking at all the things you want to accomplish in the new year, I’m sure the list seems endless.  You may be tempted to shorten the list up a bit by stating your goals in less detailed terms.  This will indeed shorten your list but it won’t help you achieve your goals.  Being specific about what we hope to achieve is more apt to produce results.

Think about the goal of losing weight.  If you state “I want to lose 20 pounds this year” the concept is out there, but the idea becomes so vast, even vague.  However, if you say “I am going to walk 3 miles every Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday” you have a goal that is concrete, and that will probably yield the result you had hoped for – weight loss.

This same method applies to saving money.  If you state your goals in terms that you can’t wrap your arms around, the vagueness of the concept may be just too slippery to grasp.  Once you state a specific action, like “I will install a water filter on my kitchen faucet”, your ultimate goal of saving money will come naturally.

Today’s frugal challenge is simple – choose one, two, or three things that you can change in order to save money.  Choose something specific, like the water filter example.  Or, another example would be “I’m going to plan meals with leftovers in mind twice a week.”  Anything that has a definite strategy and method that you can put into action.

You can always change your goals, or add new ones as the year goes by.  Get started with a few basic money saving actions and you could be well on your way down the path to a new frugal lifestyle this year.

Resolve To Focus On Frugal Living – Frugal Challenge

Monday, December 28th, 2009

Money On Fishing Hook websizeWhat do you consider your biggest challenge as you try to institute frugal living into your everyday life?

Since it’s almost the New Year, I’d like to examine a “Two Step Frugal Resolution” to consider for 2010.

Step 1) I Resolve To Become More Informed

Anyone who tries to institute new methods for frugal living knows that the first thing to do is gather information.  If you keep doing the same thing over and over again and you’re not saving any money, you may not have accurate information.

For instance, let’s say you’ve been shopping at a big warehouse store because you’ve heard you’ll save money, but your grocery budget hasn’t really improved like you wanted.  It’s time to go back and not only compare prices, but review your needs, wasted products, impulse buying, etc.  There are reasons to shop at big warehouse stores and there are reasons NOT to shop at big warehouse stores.  Educate yourself about the pros and cons, as well as your own habits, before you decide to shop using this route.

Another example of where information reigns supreme is energy usage as well as other simple household money saving ideas.  Talk to your energy provider to find out if they offer a free energy use examination of your house or apartment.  Ask about the money you may save by installing updated thermostats or energy saving appliances.  Do you qualify for any tax incentives to upgrade heating or cooling equipment, windows, or insulation?  A quick search or two on the internet will give you information about how much money you’ll save if you simply turn off lights, televisions, monitors, computers, and games when not in use.  Compare energy usage of incandescent light bulbs to florescent light bulbs, while you check out the styles of florescent light bulbs available for home use.  Information is power, and in this case, power is money!

Reviewing old habits is another avenue to gain insight and information.  You may be comfortable paying the same old phone bill each month or the same old car insurance premium.  Perhaps a bit of sleuthing could enlighten you on some savings offered by other plans.  Do you need a home phone?  What could you save if you disconnected it?  Is there a service you use that could be found elsewhere for less money, or discontinued entirely?  Have you been visiting the same grocery store and buying the same fruits and vegetables when there is a farmers market down the street that’s less expensive?  Your research will pay off if you learn how to save money by making a change or two in your habits.

Step 2) I Resolve To Put The Information I Have To Work Every Day

We know that information about frugal living is only as good as the effort you put into these strategies each and every day.  The road to the poorhouse may be paved with good intentions, in this instance.

A good example of frugal living desire that may lack action is the recipe saver.  If you clip frugal recipes and throw them in a box, you’ll end up with a nice box of recipes.  What you won’t end up with is more grocery money at the end of the month.  A stack of frugal recipes won’t do any good if the meals never reach your table.  Instead of adding more and more recipes to your boxful of recipes, chose five, six, or seven frugal recipes and plan your meal this week around them.  Next week, do the same thing, and repeat each week.  Once you’ve made a dish, decide if the recipe is a “love it” recipe, a “like it” recipe, or a “never again” recipe and file those recipes accordingly.  Now you’re putting your frugal recipe clipping into frugal action.

Since you have the information you need to save money, you should take a hard look at whether or not you’re putting this information to work.  If you haven’t replaced your bottled water with filtered tap water yet, now is the time.  Have you set your thermostat a few degrees one way or the other to save money?  Have you shopped at the best thrift shops in your neighborhood?  Have you turned down your water heater and wrapped it in an insulated cover?  Are you monitoring your technology users to make sure their systems are turned off when not in use?  Have you switched phone plans yet?  Have you shopped for new car insurance?  Do you have a supply of florescent bulbs ready and waiting to replace your next burned out incandescent light bulb?  Have you visited your local farmers market?

We all fall short of our goals for the New Year.  We start out with guns a-blazin’ and sooner or later our resolve starts to fizzle.  That’s okay.  It happens to everyone.  But, if you don’t START with a plan you won’t have a chance of succeeding.  So, begin with a plan.  Gather the information you need in order to focus on a frugal lifestyle.  Then, put that information to good use each and every day!  You’ll soon have a bit more money to jingle in your pockets… and maybe even enough to start laughing all the way to the bank!

Your Cash Is Not Disposable – Tight-Fisted Thursday

Thursday, April 9th, 2009

When a family sits down to develop their household budget, the first items that usually get listed, right after the income amount, are the “fixed expenses”.  We typically start with the mortgage or rent, and work our way down through all those things we need to keep our house warm and snug and operating.  Then, we move on to the items that we need to live, like groceries, but are considered “flexible expenses”.  Since you’ve been keeping your journals to track the money you’re spending, you have a pretty good idea of how much you spend each month on the items like groceries, gas for your car, clothes, and school supplies.  So, your budget should be all set.

Except, I’m seeing a big “miscellaneous” item at the bottom of the list.  Some folks refer to the money after the budget has covered all the necessities as “disposable cash”.  Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happens to this cash… it’s disposed of.  For you this is no longer disposable cash.  This cash has fallen into your tight fist.

A tight-fisted budget needs to go beyond keeping track of where your money is going.  Your budget’s purpose is to reorganize your money-spending habits.  Moving that so-called disposable cash up into your fixed or flexible expenses column will not only save you money, it will earn you money.

For instance, say you have a credit card payment in your flexible expenses column, paying whatever the minimum payment happens to be on it that month.  If, at the end of your budget, you have included a miscellaneous category, a cushion, a walking-around-money fund, you are short-changing your financial freedom.  Even $50 moved from your cash cushion each month into credit card payments could make the difference between becoming debt free or being increasingly burdened by your interest laden credit cards.

Another problem of a loose budget happens when the grocery money runs out at the end of the month.  Payday is just around the corner and the cupboards are bare.  The next trip to the grocery store will have to go on the credit card because that extra cash cushion you had is long gone.  If you took the same $50 walking-around-money and put it into your grocery fund, you wouldn’t need to put those last few days of groceries on credit, racking up interest month after month.  If you routinely run out of grocery money and routinely use your credit card for groceries, you are just digging a hole deeper and deeper.

What about putting that $50 on one of your fixed expenses?  This can work several ways.  Most mortgage holders are allowed to pay extra each month toward the principle on their mortgage.  This is a good way to pay your mortgage off earlier than planned which saves massive amounts of money in interest.  Talk to your lender about the advantages of this plan.

You may also consider paying that extra $50 for several months on other fixed expenses like heat and light bills, or insurance. The way this works is simply as a guard against a month in which you incur an unexpected expense, one in which may make it necessary to use a credit card to pay the heat bill.  If you are a month or so ahead, you have a bit of relief when something comes up that makes it difficult to pay that month.  You don’t miss the heat bill entirely, possibly having a disconnection which also has an additional charge.  More money wasted.

The last line on your budget, that bit of money you currently consider miscellaneous cash, doesn’t have to trickle away, slipping right through your fingers.  We know that disposable cash is the bane of every budget’s existence.  When you rein in that cash and put it to work for you instead of treating it like it has no value, you are building your family’s security.  Every single dollar in your budget needs to have a purpose.  Give your disposable cash a job.