35 Uses for Vinegar

35 Uses for Vinegar

When not turning into wine, vinegar is my second favorite use for grapes (and getting that nasty gunk off ’em!) Vinegar also makes for a fantastic part of a salad dressing and it’s a nice way to marinate some meat, but it’s a high-performer elsewhere in the house as well. That said, please note that my suggestions below are just that – suggestions. Don’t use vinegar on something without spot-testing first as I am in no way liable should you use vinegar in a way that causes unfortunate results.

With that out of the way, we use so much vinegar in our house that we have to buy huge jugs of it from Aldi almost every week so we can use it on things such as…

Vinegar Uses – Home and furniture

De-decal your windows – If you like to put up window clings during the holidays, or your children love to put stickers on…everything, you can use vinegar to remove all traces! Simply apply undiluted vinegar to the grimy aftermath of the stickers or decals and let it sit for 5 minutes. A credit card or other thin piece of plastic will help you scrape off the bits and then a good scrubbing should remove the rest of the remnants.

Erase pen marks – Undiluted vinegar and some elbow grease can remove your children’s artwork from hard surfaces. It may take a few applications and some assurances to your kids that you still love their art, but it works!

Undustify your blinds – Venetian blinds are the worst to clean, but you can make it far less terrible with vinegar! Get a bucket of equal parts vinegar and water, wet the fingertips of a cloth glove or a rag, and use your index finger and thumb to glide along each slat. The vinegar helps get rid of the oil and dust incredibly well.

Spruce up wood (haha, “spruce”) – Wood ages like anything else, be it paneling or furniture. A mix of 1 cup warm water, 4 tablespoons of vinegar, and 2 tablespoons of olive oil will help bring it back to life. Mix it up and wipe it onto the wood with a cloth. Let it sit and soak for a few minutes, and then buff it up with another dry towel.

Hide scratches in wood – A mix of undiluted vinegar and iodine (small amounts) can conceal scratches in wood. Use more vinegar for lighter woods and more iodine for darker woods, and then apply with a small brush (a nail brush works well).

Keep your computer clean – Get rid of oil and dust buildup on your electronics with a mix of 1 part water to 1 part vinegar. Use the mixture to dampen a cloth and wipe down your electronics and accessories. Don’t use a spray bottle, and don’t overly saturate the cloth. Again, I’m not liable for bad results, so be smart here and use common sense!

Clean carpets – A mix of 1/2 cup vinegar with 2 tablespoons of salt will remove minor carpet stains. Simply mix the two together and rub into the stain with a cloth and then let it dry. Once it’s dried, vacuum it up.

Vinegar for the Kitchen

Pickle EVERYTHING – If you have a bumper crop of peppers, onions, or (of course) cucumbers from your garden on a budget, you can whip up a pickle in an instant. Mix 1 cup vinegar with 1 cups water, 2 tablespoons salt, and 1 tablespoon sugar, and bring it all to a boil. Chop your veggies and add them to jars (you ARE re-using jars from the store, right?), and pour the brine on top. Let them cool to room temperature and then store in the fridge. After about 3 days they’ll be delicious and pickley.

Perfectly poached eggs – Poached eggs are really delicious but it’s super easy to obliterate the egg on accident. Adding 2 tablespoons of vinegar to your water along with 2 teaspoons of salt, and adding your egg in just before the water reaches a boil will help keep the egg together. Cook for about 2 minutes for a nice soft poach, or 3-4 for if you like them a bit firmer.

Clean your garbage disposal – You can’t really scrub your disposal for at least several good reasons. Fortunately, lemons and vinegar will do it for you. Take an ice cube tray and put a wedge of lemon in each cube. Then, fill each cube up with undiluted vinegar, and freeze them. When they’re good and frozen, pour 1/2 cup of bakin soda into the offending garbage disposal, add 3-5 lemon cubes and run the disposal until they’ve stopped rattling. This will do a great job of deodorizing your garbage disposal.

Unclog your drains – 1/2 cup baking soda and 1 cup vinegar, poured directly into the clogged drain (you can use a funnel) will help unclog drains. Once the commotion and bubbling stops, run hot water from the tap. Wait about 10 minutes, and then run cold water. This is also a great way to deodorize your drains (particularly if they’ve been clogged for a while).

Fight that grease! – Getting rid of grease from your hard surfaces doesn’t require harsh cleaners. Simply wet a cloth with an equal mix of water and vinegar and wipe down the greasy surfaces. It may take some muscle, but it will work. It’s also a great idea to mix up a spray bottle of 1/2 cup vinegar, 2 cups water, and 3 tablespoons of dishwashing liquid. Use this daily on surfaces to keep them clean and repel grease.

Clean your nasty microwave – If microwaved food explosions have you in the pits, place a bowl with 1/4 cup vinegar and 1 cup water into the microwave, and then turn it on for 5 minutes (on high). The steam it creates should loosen any food or stains and they should easily wipe away with a damp towel or sponge.

Disinfect all the things – Undiluted vinegar is a very potent antimicrobial. If you read my post on interesting ways to save money, you know that we use vinegar as a cleaning solution every day! Wipe down surfaces you cut raw meat on, especially counters and cutting boards, with undiluted vinegar. Creating a spray bottle full of undiluted vinegar for optimal disinfecting is another way to help kill nasties like staph, e.coli, and salmonella. A solution of 1 part water to 1 part vinegar is also very good for disinfecting kids’ cups or sippies that can harbor mold growth. Just let them soak and wipe them down.

Make metal magnificent – Silver soaked for a few hours in 1/2 cup white vinegar with a tablespoon of baking soda will regain it’s luster. Be sure to wash it off in cold water and dry with a soft washcloth. A paste of vinegar and baking soda (equal parts) can be applied to copper and brass to remove tarnish. Again, this might take some elbow grease but it’s very effective.

Sanitize water bottles – If you use BPA-free, reusable water bottles day-to-day, you really need to keep them sanitary. Every few days, fill it 75% full with equal parts vinegar and warm, soapy water. Shake it up well to get into all the crevices and then let it sit for half an hour. Rinse it thoroughly with warm water and let it air dry.

Clean kitchen shears – Don’t use water to clean your scissors or kitchen shears – it will rust them. A better idea is to use undiluted vinegar and wipe down the blades and then wipe them dry. This will also disinfect them. You can use this for regular scissors as well, as rusting is not good for them, either.

Ungunk your can openers – Can opener blades are disgusting, let’s just admit to that. You can make them reasonably not-disgusting again by using a toothbrush and undiluted vinegar to scrub in all the nooks and crannies. You may need to scrub a lot, but a douse in cold water should remove all that gunk afterwards.

Get rid of gnats (fruit flies) – Whatever you call them, those tiny little bugs are the bane of kitchens everywhere (especially if your husband forgets to leave a dry piece of cardboard over the top of your DIY worm farm…) Make a vinegar trap to catch and eliminate those little buggers! Take a jar with a lid, poke some holes in it, and fill it about halfway with apple cider vinegar, and place it where they’re the worst. If your kids eat yogurt a lot, you can also re-use those cups before they hit recycling – pour about a 1/4 inch of ACV into a coffee mug, poke two or three holes into the bottom of a cleaned yogurt cup, and then put the cup into the mug. It should do a fantastic job of getting rid of them, no matter what you call them.

Clear the air – If you burn food or simply cook something smelly, you can boil 1/2 cup vinegar with 1 cup water until it’s evaporated (or very nearly). It will get that smell right out of the air and remove all traces of that sardine-and-cabbage casserole your husband burned yesterday.

Clear away mineral deposits in a teakettle or coffee pot – Boil 2 cups of undiluted vinegar in your tea kettle or in a pan to then pour into your coffee pot. Let it sit for a minimum of 4 hours but overnight works well, too. Rinse it out the next day and it should be sparkling clean.

Naturally non-stick – Boil a cup of water until it evaporates in a frying pan to give it a natural non-stick coating that lasts on average about a month.

Homemade cottage cheese – Bring 1 gallon of whole milk to a near-boil (around 190 degrees Fahrenheit), then pour in 1/2 cup of vinegar. Once the mixture is cool, it will be separated into curds and whey. Pour it through a strainer and add the curds to a bowl, mixing in salt and whatever other spices you want. A smidge of cream here makes it smoother, but it’s not necessary, and it’s read to eat!

Clean Your Car with Vinegar!

Prevent frost in the winter – At night, spray your windows down with a solution of 3 parts vinegar to 1 part water. This will help prevent frost from forming and it will help reduce the impact of ice buildup. It’s not going to stop snow from building up, but at least you won’t likely have a hard layer of ice to deal with after clearing snow away.

Windshield wipers – Dirty wipers will streak your windows and that’s pretty much the exact opposite of their intended use. A cloth soaked in undiluted vinegar, wiped up and down the blades a few times will get rid of the grimy buildup and get your wipers back to fully functioning fabulousness.

Remove old bumper stickers – If you’ve got the ghost of an old bumper sticker sticking around, undiluted vinegar applied directly on top and to the sides will help get it off. Use a thin piece of plastic like an ice scraper to remove the paper parts, and then reapply the vinegar to get the sticky icky glue-bits off, too.

De-grime wheel wells – If you’re prone to muddy driving, chances are good your wheel wells are less than sparkling. That’s okay, because a solution of 1:1 vinegar to water will help clean them off and also aid in repelling dirt!

Laundry Room + Vinegar

Deodorize that washer – So it’s not doubt that washers can get stinky. You could use bleach but vinegar is far safer and not likely to ruin clothes if it doesn’t get washed out completely. Run an empty small, hot wash cycle and add 1 cup of undiluted vinegar. If you can, add a second rinse cycle to make sure it’s all gone.

Pre-treater for stains – Mix 1 cup water, 1 cup vinegar, and 1/3 cup borax in a spray bottle, directly apply to stains, and then let it sit for at least an hour before throwing in the washer.

Deep-cleaning towels – Mildew buildup can still leave towels smelling awful, even after being washed. To remedy this, toss your towels by themselves into the wash. Turn the water on hot, and use 1 cup undiluted vinegar and 1/2 cup baking soda to wash them 1 full cycle. This will banish your mildew and get them smelling like things you’d want on your body again.

Destinky stinky shoes – Spray the insides of the offending footwear with 1:1 vinegar to water solution and let it sit overnight. Then, add a few drops of an essential oil of your choice to a cotton ball and put it in the shoes and let THAT sit overnight. The vinegar solution should kill odor-causing bacteria and the cotton ball should give your shoes a much more pleasant scent.

Miscellaneous Uses for Vinegar

Remove dry skin from your feet – This one is weird and I know it’s going to sound weird, but bear with us. 1 cup of Listerine and 1 cup vinegar with 2 cups of warm water makes a foot soak you’ll soak in for about 15 minutes. Then, apply a pumice stone or foot file and the dry, dead, gross skin should come right off.

Non-toxic weed killer – Fill a spray bottle with undiluted vinegar and then add 1-2 teaspoons of dish soap, and apply to weeds and the ground around them. The acetic acid in the vinegar will burn the weeds and alter the pH of the soil, killing the root, too. This solution is non-toxic, but it will murder any plant it touches, so be careful what you spray it on. Dish soap helps it stick to the plant, and the pH imbalance will wash out after a good rain, making the ground suitable for planting again.

Disinfect your mops – If you have mops with removable heads, you can use vinegar to disinfect and deodorize them. Simply toss them in your washer, add a cup of vinegar and wash on “hot”. They’ll be whiter, brighter, and actually CLEAN.

Everyday scented spray cleaner – Take an empty spray bottle and fill it with 2 parts water to 1 part vinegar, 1 tablespoon of dish detergent, and the peels of lemons, oranges, or other assorted citrus. Let that soak for a few days before using and you’ll have a great, all-purpose cleaner that smells divine.

 

Investing in a Chest Freezer: A Cool Way to Save

Investing in a Chest Freezer: A Cool Way to Save

If you’re like me, your grandparents had at least one chest or deep freezer or a spare fridge/freezer combo in their basement. My grandparents had both – a 30 year old fridge/freezer and a newer chest freezer and they were both stocked ALL the time. I believe it’s a byproduct of growing up in the Depression and not knowing if you’d have food at a later date, but in any case it was good economy to keep these simple appliances on hand.

My grandfather grew two extensive gardens (probably 1/8th acre altogether which was impressive for city living) and my grandmother was a master grocery-shopper and canner. With their powers combined, there was always canning, harvesting, freezing, and meal-smithing going on in their household, and I reaped the benefits: fresh produce all summer and fall, and delicious pickled and canned foods in the winter. Because of this, their freezers were always full of veggies, fruit, and meat – all homegrown or bought when it was on sale. This saved immense amounts of money in the long run because they planned meals on what was handy and on sale, not based on what sounded good at that exact moment.

Please note some of the links within this post may be affiliate links and therefore clicking them may earn me a commission at no additional cost to you.

To Freeze or Not to Freeze

If you don’t already have a chest freezer, the first step is getting one of course. I can’t speak to the most efficient new models, but what I CAN suggest is looking on Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, or garage sales and finding one that way. Chest freezers ideally should be incredibly simple – a rectangular, insulated box with a compressor to keep food frozen. That’s it – it doesn’t need dials, buttons or whistles to work. A decent freezer might run between $150-$500 new, but a good used one will cost a fraction of that. I’ve seen them going for $50-100 in some cases, and at those prices it would be a steal. So once you’ve found a freezer, the next thing is to learn how best to utilize it.

Farmer’s Market Finds

Depending on where you are in the country, your local farmer’s market or co-op is probably winding down its offerings, coming into fall crops like squash, corn, apples, etc. It’s at this point that, as peak season for a lot of summer offerings is waning, that you can find drastically reduced produce that is nearing the end of its optimal eating period. That doesn’t mean it’s not worth picking up, though! Pretty much any vegetation, save for maybe lettuce, is freezable without reducing quality or nutrition to any significant degree. Chop up fruit into bite-size pieces and freeze in freezer bags and they should be good for up to 9 months. Berries are great because you don’t need to do anything really, and frozen berries are absolutely perfect for smoothies, straight from your chest freezer. Hit up the farmer’s market and pick up everything you can think you’d eat and cool it down!

Grocery Goodness

You can almost always find great deals on meat and produce at the grocery store. I already love Aldi (and have written about it on several occasions) and one main reason is, as meat gets close to its “sell by” date, they mark it down drastically. It’s not uncommon to see meat, at their already very low prices, marked $1, $2, or even more off the marked price. Taking it home and freezing it immediately (or after some minor prep work) will save a tremendous amount of money in the future. Most meat is still great up to about 6 months.

Fruits and vegetables are the same way – an excessive influx of produce or reduced sales one week might mean deep discounts the next. Get in there and reap the benefit! You can peel and freeze nearly overripe bananas and use them in smoothies or as a base for healthy ice cream.

You can even freeze eggs and butter, if you’re so inclined. Butter freezes very well because of its low water content, and eggs can be cracked into ice cube trays to freeze them for up to 6 months.

Meal-Prep Maestro

Keeping your eye out for cheap meat and produce, as well as some great sales on pasta or other staples can actually aid in another money-and-time-saving technique I love: meal prep!

I have a friend who bought a tremendous amount of green peppers for essentially .25c a pepper, and then ground beef in bulk. Coupled with rice she had on hand and some cheap tomato sauce, she prepped up dozens of stuffed peppers and froze them in her chest freezer. Prepped meals like this keep great for generally at least 3 months, and can be popped out of the freezer on a busy night or for a quick lunch in the microwave. Saving time and money? Absolutely, sign me up!

Hurry Up and Freeze!

With a bit of preparation and some investigation, and a little patience, you can find a cheap deep freezer and put it to good use. Whether you’ve got a bumper crop from your garden, a healthy CSA (community supported agriculture/co-op) or a neighbor who likes to give you all their extra tomatoes and zucchini, you can find use for all of it. Being able to meal prep, store, and save money all at the same time makes a chest freezer a brilliant investment that is cheap to maintain and fix, making it an incredible tool in your money-saving arsenal!

Do you own an extra fridge or deep freezer?

What’s your favorite thing to freeze and save up on?

I’d love to know in the comments below!!

How to Create an Easy, Healthy Meal Plan on a Budget

How to Create an Easy, Healthy Meal Plan on a Budget

Creating a healthy meal plan on a budget can be tricky. We so often have the best of intentions: we develop a meal plan(ish), buy our groceries, fist pump when we’re $16 under budget, and then suddenly your two year old is screaming, the baby has a rash, and making that Pinterest-worthy quiche for dinner is the last thing on your mind because McDonalds here we come!!

The guilt of feeding your toddler a Go-Gurt and cheeseburger for dinner doesn’t weigh as heavy as your eyelids from not having slept all week, so you brush it off and pray you get to bed before midnight tonight. You tell yourself you’ll do better next week. You’ll create a better meal plan that is healthy but that allows for some flexibility. This week was just a rough week. Next week will be better…hopefully…

But then next week comes and your budget is all out of whack because you went over your food allowance thanks to one too many “happy” meals and the produce you bought last week is now squirrel food and and AND….

Take a breath. I’ve been there.

Creating (and sticking to) a healthy meal plan can be tough when we’re constantly pulled in a thousand different directions and there’s only so many minutes in the evening to get things done. Fortunately I can help.

A few simple steps can be the key to keeping your family fed and healthy, and your wallet fat and happy.

(Please note this article contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a commission should you click through. This in no way impacts my recommendation of any products/services.)

How to Meal Plan on a Budget

How to meal plan on a budget

Take Your Time Meal Planning

“Step 1: My TIME? Did you miss the memo about my lack of time??! Thanks, Amber…”

Stick with me, dear reader. If you’re creating a meal plan just before you go grocery shopping, you’re going to create a panicked, rushed menu that might be short-sighted or be missing key ingredients; suddenly it’s Wednesday, you’re supposed to have lasagna, and you don’t have marinara sauce or noodles.

One of the best ways to start your meal plan is to flip through your local grocery ads. This way you can craft your menu around the great deals being offered on produce or meat that week.

You should also take the time to consider what your kids will actually eat, what’s in season, and what day of the week your grocer creates sale prices. Often you can find meat or produce drastically marked down on a specific day of the week because it’s nearing the end of its shelf-life. This doesn’t mean it’s bad, but just that it’s nearing the time in which it can still be sold.

It’s especially important to keep an eye out for great deals on meat, because that can be frozen and used at a later date, and still picked up for half the cost of what it was just one day before.

Cook Once, Eat Twice

Cooking enough for your family is a given, but if you take five minutes to cook extra of the base ingredients, you can save yourself thirty minutes in the long run.

If you’re cooking a grain like rice or quinoa, or a big pot of pasta, it takes hardly any extra effort at all to toss some extra in and store it individually for a future meal. In fact, to get the most mileage out of the time spent cooking, you’re shortchanging yourself if you’re not getting at least dinner and a lunch out of your efforts.

In addition, cooking a large batch of a grain or pasta on a Sunday will leave you with a base from which to work later in the week for the meals on your plan. This cuts down significantly on the prep work for the weeknights, time far better spent relaxing with your family.

cheese on a chopping block

Put Your Leftovers to Work

Beyond simply increasing your portions for future meals, a good meal plan flows together as the week goes on.

Cooking a protein on Monday can mean that Tuesday’s dinner is already prepped. For instance, you can roast a chicken on Monday night then shred the leftovers, toss in some seasonings, and have chicken tacos on Tuesday!

This is a great way to make the most of the leftovers you have, even if reheating leftovers isn’t necessarily your thing.

A dinner meal plan that flows might look like this:

Monday –Crockpot Chicken and Veggies
Tuesday – Chicken Tacos
Wednesday – Bolognese and Quinoa
Thursday – Mostaccioli
Friday – Tilapia
Saturday – Thai Lemongrass Tilapia Curry Soup
Sunday – Sirloin steaks
Monday – Steak stirfry

You also want to take into consideration what produce you can cut up ahead of time for multiple meals. For example, we make a vegan bolognese that incorporates a lot of the same veggies that go into korma so I often try to make those meals close together.

Cut once, cook twice!

Shop Locally, Shop Seasonally

I went looking for eggplant the other day and when I finally found it at the local HyVee, it was exceptionally expensive. I swear I just bought one for like $1 the other da….oh, nope, that was three months ago. Heh. Oops.

When I last bought eggplant, it was from the Farmer’s Market when they were at their peak and everyone had dozens of them for sale. When fruits and vegetables are in season, there’s an abundance, and what’s more you can get them from local farmers that are concerned about how they manage their produce. Normally you can count on food that’s not doused in pesticide, or eggs that are free range and fed normal feed instead of industrialized garbage.

Learning to find out what produce is in season is a great way to train your body to enjoying a wealth of different foods, not to mention how much better they taste than the tiny, off-season offerings we have at the stores now. If you’ve shopped for zucchini in the last few months, you know what I’m talking about – they’re tiny! I’ll wait until summer when they’re the size of small dogs and bursting with flavor, not to mention cheaper.

How Big is Your Chest?

Being able to freeze leftovers, extra meat you purchased on sale, or in-season produce can make all the difference when it comes to eating healthy on a budget. Not having enough freezer space can be quite costly, so consider investing in a chest freezer.

If you have the time, canning is considerable work with a wonderful payout, but again, there’s that catch – if you have the time. If you don’t, freezing can be a viable substitute for in-season fruits and vegetables that are plentiful and cheap. Buying in bulk, divvying up into containers or baggies, and then freezing produce is a great way to stretch those dollars.

Similarly, you can buy a lot of meat in bulk from local farmers (we’re talking a quarter of a cow!) for a great price and then freeze it all, using as you need it.

If you’re patient, you can usually find someone on Craigslist or a Facebook resale page selling an old deep freeze for cheap. It doesn’t need bells and whistles; it just needs to get and stay cold.

ebates referral

Use Cash

As I often recommend for many of those who have a harder time sticking to a budget, use cash. Figure out how much you’re going to spend on groceries per week and get to the ATM.

This allows for two things:

1. You can see exactly where your money is going in a way that using a debit or credit card doesn’t allow for.

2. It discourages impulse spending.

Keep a tally as you shop so you know whether or not you can actually afford that sweet treat or a six-pack (no, sadly, I do not count that as an essential!)

Know Where to Cut Back

We used to have a pretty insane food budget per week – $200 for our family of three (at the time). And we’d go over it sometimes! That’s pretty much the definition of insane idiocy!

Knowing we had to cut back (and quick!) we started first by developing a meal plan and tracking where our biggest expenditures were coming from.

Once we had a good grasp on how much we were spending and where we were spending it, we began by cutting it down a bit each week, and as of the time of publishing, we’ve cut it in half.

$75 for (now four) of us is much more palatable. There are still days we go over a bit, because having two little ones is nothing if not busy. That’s ok, though! At least the days of going over $200/week are done and gone.

Here’s how we cut back:

– We started off only cutting $20/week and saw how we had to adjust and what we were comfortable with/without.

– We changed the stores where we bought most of our food. Schnucks became Aldi and believe me when I say we’ve never looked back.

– We buy most of our dry goods online and in bulk. 10lbs of quinoa for $25? Hello!

– We improved the quality of the food we eat, and by that I mean we cut out a great deal of the processed foods and replaced them with whole, natural produce, meat, eggs, and dairy that actually left us sated.

– We cut out impulse buys significantly by only using cash to make our purchases. Aldi is a two-fold boon here, because they only take cash or debit cards. It helps with this strategy.

Shop Online

As I mentioned above, we often buy a lot of our dry goods online, such as pasta, flour, and sugar. While your grocer probably has a lot of what you’re looking for, chances are it’s going to be more expensive than you need to pay.

An example of this would be quinoa – we use a lot in our household because it’s incredibly healthy, very versatile, and can be used in a huge variety of applications from savory to sweet, breakfast to dinner. Local stores, if they even have it, usually charge $5/lb+, but on Amazon, I recently bought a 10lb bulk bag for a little over $2.50/lb, and that includes shipping.

Of course you want to see your meat and veggies up close and it’s unlikely you could get those things online at a good price anyway, but buying bulk pantry items from Amazon.com is a fantastic way to stock up without burning a hole in your wallet. Plus they deliver straight to your door! Oh, how I love online shopping…(Don’t forget to use Rakuten and Ibotta to save even more!!)

Simplify

Trying to cook elaborate meals when you have an infant and a toddler is like trying to catch a bunch of flies when you’re surrounded by bullfrogs; it doesn’t make sense. Your kids likely don’t care what they’re eating, if they’re eating at all, and your spouse is too busy going from odd stain to odd stain, deciphering if they’re spills or spit-ups, to care if your dinner looked amazing on Pinterest.

If you need to make a meal of jarred alfredo and rigatoni, with some frozen broccoli tossed in, then do it. It would only cost about $4 and would easily feed a family of four!

Sometimes you simply want a big salad for dinner, and you know what, that’s great! Salad comes together in minutes, can be full of healthy proteins, fats, and veggies, and can be incredibly cost effective.

My point is that homemade dinners don’t need to be elaborate or expensive. Like ever. Don’t stress about it.

Get Familiar

Starting a new week with five new meal ideas, even if they’re simple, is a recipe (haha) for disaster. I’m not suggesting you never branch out to try new foods, but you should always have a good amount of solid, well-liked recipes in your repertoire so that you can pull an old standby out in a pinch. Remember how your older relatives always had actual physical recipe boxes? Use those!!

This also helps you easily gauge what you’ll need for leftovers or a flowing meal plan since you’re already exceptionally familiar with the ingredients and cooking involved.

Visualize Your Plan

Buy a magnetic white board, some wet erase markers, and stick it to your fridge where you’ll see it daily. From there, write down your meal plan so that everyone can see it, you are constantly aware of it, and there’s no surprises.

An added benefit to having it on a white board is being able to erase and adjust as needed. Just like having cash at hand when you go to buy groceries, awareness helps inform every decision you make, from purchase to plate.

This will go a long way to creating savings and efficiency in later meal plans.

Now go meal plan

This post isn’t exhaustive by any means, but it’s a great place to start if you want to cut your expenses and still eat healthy food.

If you focus on eating the majority of your meals at home, meals comprised of whole foods and minimal waste, you can improve your health and the health of your finances.

Remember, we’re not just trying to save money, we’re trying to save time so we can improve the quality of our lives.

Happy planning! 🙂

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Spring Cleaning in a Thrifty Way!

Spring Cleaning in a Thrifty Way!

It’s time to toss off the blankets, shake off the dust, and throw open those windows – SPRING IS HERE!! And with Spring comes the spring cleaning tradition. Spring cleaning, though, doesn’t have to be an arduous chore that you dread. Oh no! Spring cleaning can in fact be fun and DOESN’T have to take all day!

Save time with your spring cleaning fun by…

Not Multitasking

For many people, the thought of spring cleaning sounds daunting. Because it seems like so much to handle, many people prefer to take the position of a frantic person who tackles the entire house at once. Truthfully, this is a very hard feat to accomplish. As you begin the task of spring cleaning, it’s best to make a list and figure out what tasks you’ll need to accomplish and in what order. Then, take it one room at a time.

Take It By Room

Some people take the method of doing one step for each room in the house. For example, some people might think it’s wise to dust the entire house at one time and vacuum the entire house at one time. When it comes to spring cleaning, it’s best to take it room by room. When you focus on one room and complete it, it’ll give you more motivation to continue on the other rooms. Once you focus, it’s also easier to get the job done in a shorter period of time. It’s also good to take the size of your home into consideration.

Use All-Purpose Items

Using all-purpose items will help you focus on covering more area at a quicker pace. And when I say “all-purpose”, I don’t mean you have to go the chemical route! There are many DIY ideas to make spring cleaning easier. Personally, I mix a 1:1 ratio of white vinegar:water with the juice from half a lemon and a few drops of tea tree oil in a spray bottle and go to town. Just make sure you spot test your surfaces first!

There are many uses for vinegar, but my favorite is definitely the way you can clean with it.

cleaning hacks

Be realistic about the time you’ll need to clean

Take an honest look at each of the rooms in your home. Consider the decluttering benefits and then the deep cleaning process. Once you factor all of those things in, create a timeline. If you really want to save time and still get your home clean, you might have to do it all in increments. Those dust bunnies aren’t going to go without a fight!
Your home didn’t become cluttered and messy overnight. Please keep this in mind as you progress through your cleaning adventure and don’t let the length of the process deter you from getting it done! Things piled up in your home during the fall and winter months, it happens to the best of us. It may take a few weeks during the spring season to get everything as clean as you’d really like it to be. Take a look at your schedule and carve out some time to really focus on one room at a time, even if it means only getting one room done every few days! If you just spend twenty minutes each day for seven days, you can fully deep clean at least one room in your house.

Open the windows

When the temperature drops during the cooler months, it makes sense to seal the windows (or use bubblewrap!) When you seal the windows, the heat stays in the home and keeps the cold air from seeping through. During the warmer months, it’s time for fresh air. Your home needs a good amount of circulation on a daily basis. Get into the habit of opening the windows for 15 minutes a day. Not only will this practice allow proper air circulation to happen, it’ll also make the home seem fresher and cleaner without much work.

Spring Cleaning Checklist

Declutter

In a lot of cases, people have more things than they really need. If you were to get rid of all of the things you really don’t use, your home might end up spic and span. A thorough decluttering job can make a major difference. Before you start to dust, mop and sweep — declutter.

Once you declutter each room, you’ll find that you don’t have to spend as much time with the cleaning process. You can give things away to the local thrift store or donate items to charities. You could even get the kids to help declutter!

You could host a garage sale and sell your old, unused items, You might even want to give items away to family members and friends. Otherwise, dump the things you don’t use and give your home some breathing room.

Spring Cleaning Tips

Get the family involved

Many hands make work light. When you have a few people working on one job, things will get done faster. If you have a few children, don’t shy away from getting them involved in some way. They could do something as simple as pulling out the toys they no longer play with.

If your spouse has a ton of clothes, ask them to go through the pile and get clear about what they don’t need anymore. If you live by yourself, consider asking a friend to come over and help you for a the afternoon. Not only will this method help you save time, it’ll also help you save energy. Besides, spring cleaning might be a cool time to create new memories with those you’re cleaning with!

The annual ritual of spring cleaning might feel arduous and long. However, by using these tips, you’ll position yourself to really enjoy the fruit of your labor. Once you start a project, do your best to complete. Your home will be healthier and more beautiful place to live when you clean it well.

Are you ready to dive into spring cleaning?

Comment below and tell me your favorite part about getting it done!

Win a free copy of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up!

Win a free copy of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up!

Marie Kondo is about to rock your world and any clutter you may still be hanging onto.

Was decluttering your life a part of your New Year’s resolution? Now is a good time to check in with yourself and see how that’s going!

Review The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

Whether you think you’re already fairly organized or you could use a good kick in the rear, I’ve got a GREAT book to recommend. It’s called The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing

Amazon Giveaway: Win a free copy of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up!

The opportunity for one lucky reader to win a free copy of this book ended in 2016, but Kondo is still going strong. I truly recommend you check out this book to help you find motivation to declutter your own home!

Benefits of Decluttering

Make the space for your joy to find you. There are so many perks to removing the clutter from your home or office! Overall, though, it all comes down to one thing – granting yourself the freedom to live life on your terms.

Start with one space and grow from there. Whether you focus on your main living space, your bedroom, or your home office, every bit you remove helps.

Clutter can be incredibly overwhelming sometimes, but it’ll help if you focus on the joy you’ll find once it’s done. Trust that the most successful people are not ones to allow for chaos.

And while it can be difficult to declutter when you’re a parent, know that the sooner you do it, the better off your whole family will be. Goodness knows that any time clutter threatens to creep in our house is when our children tend to misbehave the worst – a coincidence? Or is it just what happens when you’re 3′ tall and all that clutter is at eye-level?

There are many benefits to removing the clutter from your home, but whatever your reason, it’ll only get better if you start now. And if you’re struggling to do it, check out Marie Kondo’s book!

Winterize Your House: The Bubblewrap Method

Winterize Your House: The Bubblewrap Method

Can bubblewrap help insulate your windows? Keeping your gas bill low is always important, especially during the colder months. While there are many ways to prepare your house for the winter, there’s one great way that costs almost nothing and takes no time at all…provided you can keep your inner-child in check…

Bubblewrap Window Insulation

I had seen the “bubblewrap” method posted from time to time on Pinterest or Facebook, but never really bothered to look into whether or not it actually works. Well this year I decided to collect all the bubblewrap that came from online shopping over the holidays and put it to use.

diy bubblewrap window insulation

Please note this post contains affiliate links, which means if you make a purchase through those links, I may make a commission at no extra cost to you.

To bubblewrap your windows you’ll need:

  • bubblewrap
  • a spray bottle filled with water
  • scissors
  • double-sided tape*

bubblewrap windows

*I only needed the tape for our bathroom windows as the condensation seemed to cause the bubblewrap to lose its grip on the windows. All other windows are still holding nicely with just water!

Cut your bubblewrap to fit, lightly spray the window down with water, and then place the bubblewrap so that the bubble-side is against the window. And you’re done!

An Easy Way to Insulate Your Windows

Crazy easy, right?

I put the bubblewrap up about a month ago and it’s held up nicely, but you can always use a couple pieces of double-sided tape should you have any issues. With just bubblewrap in our bathroom and foyer, I’ve noticed a huge difference in temperature. It’s wonderful!

With Illinois weather being what it is, it is so nice to not be cut off from opening my windows all season long because goodness knows we’ll have a 60-degree day in the middle of February (and we did!)

I must admit, I still used window shrink wrap in some of the draftier rooms.

We bought a heat gun this year and I had to try it out! It makes such a difference. Seriously, if you plan to shrink wrap your windows at all, spend the $20 and get a heat gun instead of using a blow dryer. The time you save is well worth the money (plus you can always use it for other projects, like a DIY Worm Farm!)

I would also recommend using Great Stuff to fill in any gaps or cracks that are letting air in or out. I love this stuff and it’s also great to use outside to make sure no visitors (mice) come your way.

can of gap filler

 

How do you prepare for winter?

Or are you one of the lucky ones who never sees a day below 60?