Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Homemade Vanilla Extract

Imitation vanilla extract maybe much cheaper than the real thing in the store, but it's chocked full of artificial colors and chemicals to achieve that vanilla flavor. Now, you can be frugal and enjoy the richness of real vanilla extract!

Using vanilla beans, cheap vodka, and father time, you can have your own fantastic vanilla extract. Start by purchasing good vanilla beans. I purchased a sampler pack from The Organic Vanilla Bean Company! The sampler pack I purchased actually contained 22 beans which gave me a small bonus bottle of my homemade extract.

Take the beans and slice them down the middle to expose the soft insides of the beans. This will help the beans infuse the vodka with their wonderful flavor!

I bought two- one liter bottles of the cheapest vodka I could find. Fortunately, DH and I had a small 375 mL bottle of the pricier stuff that was given to us, but it remained unopened! I put 9 beans in the one liter bottles, the remaining 4 beans I placed in the 375 mL bottle.

Put the lids back on the bottles and store them in a cool, dry place. Give them a shake every so often. In about 3 months you should have fantastically flavorful vanilla extract.

Extra Tip: Put this in small bottles and hand them out for holiday gifts!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Tips From My Readers

I want to start by saying, if you're looking for great ways to help foster learning in your kids visit THIS BLOG.

Two tips were given to me to help clean around the house.

Tip #1= If you have hard to remove stains from your toilet, use a squirt of toothpaste and scrub. I know that this tip is extremely useful to those of us with hard water stains.

Tip #2= My kids love foaming hand soap. Unfortunately, it's not the cheapest hand soap at the store. If you have a foaming hand soap pump, use 1 Tablespoon of liquid hand soap and then add water to the fill line. Now your kids can continue enjoying foaming hand soap at a fraction of the cost!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Cheap and Easy Fruit and Veggie Wash

I love organic produce, but it's not the most affordable option at the grocery store. For all of my produce (including the organic produce from my own garden), I use a homemade fruit and vegetable wash. Bottles of fruit and veggie wash can cost a pretty penny, but this wash is simple, cheap, and easy!

Fill your sink with cold water. Add 1/4 cup of vinegar and 2 Tablespoons of salt. Allow your fruits and veggies to soak for 15 minutes then rinse!

It does not change the flavor and draws out the nasty stuff you don't want to eat.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Say No to Expensive Blenders/Choppers

I want to say thanks to the ladies at Trading Mamas for passing this great tip along to me.

If you need to finely chop something, don't pay $70-$100 for one of the newer expensive hand choppers. Chances are, you already have what you need to get the job done! All you'll need is a blender and a mason jar (I use the pint jars for most items). This is a great tool to use for chopping nuts, finely chopping veggies, and even making your own homemade laundry detergent!

Remove the lid from the jar and the blade base from the blender. Attach the jar to the blade base.

Attach jar to blender base and chop away!
Note: in the photos I have use a 1/2 pint jar. These can be used to chop dry herbs, but I recommend a pint or quart jar for most chopping needs.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Stretching Dishwasher Detergent

Here's a great idea that was shared with me recently. Get more for your money with your dishwasher detergent. Combine equal parts baking soda, your favorite powder detergent, and washing soda. Here, I used Seventh Generation Free and Clear Detergent, but I find other detergents work much better. To really stretch your dollar, try using $ store variety!
Find a container (preferably with a lid), and combine ingredients. Shake/mix well.

For a full load of dishes I use 1.5-2 Tablespoons of my mixture. Instead of paying for a small bottle of liquid rinse aid, put vinegar in the designated rinse aid compartment. It will help you dishes sparkle!

*Note: If you have liquid detergent on hand, you can combine the washing soda and baking powder and mix it with detergent in the dishwasher. Just use 1 Tablespoon of the washing soda and baking soda mix with 1 Tablespoon of liquid detergent.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Save money on movie night!

I was at the grocery store today, and I had put popcorn on my list. I wanted to have a great snack for our Friday night family movie (Borrow a movie from your local library for even more savings). The cheapest popcorn I could find was $1.09 for 3 small bags of popcorn. Luckily, I noticed bags of popcorn kernels on the bottom shelf. One bag of popcorn kernels was the same price as the box of three separate microwaveable bags!

With a lidded stockpot, 3 Tablespoons of vegetable oil, and only 1/3 cup of popcorn kernels I was able to pop a large bowl of popcorn. Not only is this a great way to save money, but you're cutting down on the amount of trash by cutting out the paper bags in microwaveable popcorn. Don't forget, your kids will have a blast watching the small, yellow kernels pop all over the place!

Another Family Tip: If you have family members with different tastes, you can give them options of different toppings for their individual bowls of popcorn. My husband loves butter, but I prefer sea salt and black pepper!