Tuesday, April 15, 2014

HOW to Start Gardening Earlier....AND How I harvested my own bean seeds last year!

I have had cabin fever really bad this year!  I couldn’t wait to start my garden and start harvesting veggies! Soooo...last month, I planted 3 pots of string beans, 2 sunflowers, and 3 pots of tomatoes and have had them in my window sill and next to the slider door.  Sadly, the kids have already damaged the tomatoes beyond repair, along with one of the sunflower plants…and I will have to start again.  HOWEVER, my string beans are doing remarkably well.

The beans I used to plant were harvested from last year’s string bean crop.  I didn’t have to go out and buy seeds!  I learned this trick from an amazing book called, “The Forgotten Skills of Self-Sufficiency used by the Mormon Pioneers” by Caleb Warnock. 
According to Mr. Warnock, there are several types of open pollinating plants that you can save your own seed from year after year.  (String beans, potatoes, and lettuce)  Last year, I followed his suggestion of leaving one of my vines untouched and saved the seeds for the next year’s crop.  I was skeptical…but wanted to give it a try.  I let one vine grow beans until they turned a  brown/yellow crunchy type and harvested the dry beans.  I put them into a paper envelope and stored them in a sealed mason jar inside my refrigerator until I couldn’t take the suspense anymore.  Guess what?  They came up!! 
I have 6 successful bean plants in my kitchen that I am looking forward to planting outside when the temperatures warm up enough!

After seeing the 6 beans come up successfully, I decided to give another one of his methods a try…since he gardens YEAR ROUND.  (I loved his book so much; I bought another one of his called, “Backyard Winter Gardening”.)   I took an old GIANT Brita type container, cut off the top, and created what he calls “Cloche”. 
Cloches have been around since approximately 1623 (and they are also called “bell glasses”)…They are used “to help tender plants from the cold and wet during the worst period of the year.”  Originally Cloches were made of glass…but I was scared my kids would break the glass in my SMALL backyard…so I went the 'modern version' with a more durable plastic—thus the GIANT Brita type plastic jar.  I first planted them outside in the beginning of April.  I was so excited to see plants come up.  After a week, I checked them every day.  I was disappointed because they didn’t come up.  BUT…I was persistent and kept watering every couple of days.  I guess being outside in the colder air they just needed a little more time.  Last week, one plant popped up.  I was thrilled…. I became even more thrilled when a 2nd popped up several days later.  The cloche method officially works!! 
Now, I just need to find another FREE giant water bottle to create more little greenhouse domes!  I want to have the situation he describes…a garden producing in its prime when everyone else is starting to plant!

Give a “Cloche” a try….You’ll have to be patient…but you won’t be sorry!

Happy Pinching Pennies…

P.S.   Just remember when the plant comes up you have to be aware of temperatures.  I have to make sure my plants don't "cook" during the day, by uncovering them.  I put the cloche back on when the sun looks like it is thinking about going down.  (Right now, that is about 5 p.m., but I am sure it will get later as the day lengthens.)

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Inexpensive (and easy) AIRPORT food!!

It’s “Girl’s Retreat” time for my extended family!!  (I’m still the person who lives the farthest away from where the festivities take place, so I must fly to where I enjoy time with 7 of my 8 sisters-in-law AND my mother-in-law.)    Each year I make this homage back, it is a financial sacrifice to make it happen.  Yet, it is important…so we find a way to make it happen.

Traveling is expensive—especially flying.  I shop around for flights and make sure I’m aware of any “deals” so I can take advantage of them.  This year I flew with Southwest with one of their “Wanna Get Away” deals.  HOWEVER, one of my sisters-in-laws told me about another inexpensive airline that she has used that I had never heard of before called: Allegaint.   

WHO has the better price???  It's worth checking!!
They offer cheap flights that compete with Southwest’s cheapest fares.  The only downside to flying with them is they only have a few select times/days to choose from and NO snack service.  BUT, if an inexpensive flight is your goal to get where need to go, don’t rule them out.  It could save you a lot of money!!

One of the more expensive parts of traveling by air is being trapped into buying food at an inflated price at the airport…because they know you are limited to go elsewhere!!  I did a post a few years back on this topic…where I gave a TIP on drinks and a main dish.

I am always on the lookout for ways to expand my meal options while at the airport—especially healthier options.  As I went down the soup isle, I came across a single serve cup of “just add water” mashed potatoes by Betty Crocker AND Idahoan for 98¢. 
Flavor choices: Four Cheese,Roasted Garlic, Creamy Butter, Loaded Baked, and Applewood Smoked Bacon!
Now, I could never justify the expense for such an item for daily use, considering a box of potato flakes is a considerably cheaper route…but the idea of having something pre-seasoned and pre-served held my attention.  Not to mention significantly cheaper than airport prices!!  I chose to give the “Idahoan Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes” a try.

I loaded them up in my carry-on luggage and headed off to the airport. 
I decided not use it on my flight to my destination and saved it for the return trip.  This one serving package made it through two different security checks without a problem.  When I decided to use it, I walked up to a little fast food place inside the airport, behind security, and asked for a cup of HOT water.  They wanted to know what it was for.  Replying it was to make Mashed Potatoes, they gave me a small cup.  Since no one was in line behind me, I mixed it up right in front of the cashier.  They remarked, “That smells good.”  When I was done, I walked away to find myself a nice place to enjoy some mashed potatoes (110 calories) and self-made lemonade.  
Guess what?  It was enjoyable to eat!!  Plus, I will be honest and say that is the most FULL I have ever felt at the airport.  I sustained me for a long time!!  I feel confident in highly recommending this idea to ANYONE who wants to save money flying (or otherwise).  There are many flavors to choose from…so if “roasted garlic” isn’t something that “lights your fire” give a different  flavor a try!!

Happy Penny Pinching….while traveling!!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

FREE Extracurricular Activities for your children (or for a nominal fee)!

I want my children to develop a myriad of talents.  However, I do NOT have the resources for them to be in sports, clubs, and many other extracurricular activities.  I have NOT let this financial setback be a stumbling block.  There are many other ways to approach giving your children extracurricular activities without breaking the bank.

My suggestions:
  • Check with your local 4-H clubs to see what they offer.  You might be pleasantly surprised what your children can join for little to NO cost to you!!
    • Our local 4-H club offers a FREE archery club (providing equipment during practice) and a sewing club for a nominal fee of $25 for 8 weeks.
  • Check your local golf clubs.  Many offer classes for kids.  One of our local golf clubs has a financial aid/hardship application.  Two summers ago my children have had one month of golf lessons for free.  (This is something they would never have done on our budget.)
  • Check your local archery clubs in town. They may have a FREE shoot for kids.  We have a couple different archery groups in our hometown.  One offers a FREE shoot during the summer for children, ($5 for adults).  During the winter months, they offer a 1-2 times a week shoot for everyone for a nominal fee (Kids $1, Adults $1).  The gear is all provided!
  • Check with your local swim team.  When I was young, my mother traded her time, (being the club’s treasurer), in exchange for me and my sister’s membership on the private swim team.  I wanted the same swim experience for my children.  I went to our local swim team to ask if I could exchange my time for a discount.  It turns out the team has a “scholarship program” for lower income families.  I filled out the application and volunteer a certain number of hours per child during the year.  Now my 2 children who can swim across the pool get a significant discount.  It has helped out tremendously because if it weren’t for this discount, they would not have the opportunity to swim like they currently do.  (I have also loved that the team has let my children volunteer as well.  They are invested in swimming and find a sense of accomplishment in helping to “pay” for their lessons.)
  • Keep your eyes peeled for those flyers!  Whether they come home with your kids from school or at local community centers such as libraries and pools, many times there are “one time FREE events” (or for a nominal fee) to expose kids/families to different kinds of sports or cultural events.  I happen to know of an event this weekend, where I live, that for $2 teens can learn different dances from a traveling group coming through town.  Next month there is another event for kids’ ages12-18 to learn all about aviation for FREE, including the kids participate in a simulated flight where THEY are the pilots!
  • Our local library has events all the time that provide learning new skills for children, teens, and adults!  For the younger children, our library has a Lego Club, and a Craft Club….others are for the older teens such as book club, gaming, card games, and computer education.  For adults, there are lectures, computer education/help, and monthly classes—all for FREE!
Being on a strict budget does not need to limit your children’s (or your) opportunities!!  You just need to be a little more aware and diligent in seeking for and taking advantage of the things happening in your community!!

Happy Pinching Pennies!