Oct 29, 2010

Cheap & last minute costume ideas

Last year I stumbled upon this fabulous website that gives a great last-minute-guide to halloween costumes. Last year I was able to create a costume from what was already in my closet, while still getting a positive response from the masses. This year, by using the same site, I found another great last minute costume that I'm eager to try out! It's called Robin's FYI and even though the site looks a bit tacky, it's got a lot of good info on it. I even used it to download free Halloween Bingo cards for a job-related event. Definitely a useful site.

If you don't have the right stuff already to create something, you could always take a couple hints from this Saturday Night Live 3-minute scene and embrace a costume in any condition.

Good luck costume shopping & happy halloween weekend!

Oct 25, 2010

How to cook with ingredients in your pantry

We all know that by eating out less and and cooking at home more, we can save a little bit of cash on food. But if you like to try out new recipes, you know that buying groceries doesn't always seem cheaper. Sometimes shopping for every single item the recipe calls for can really add up, especially if you don't start with most of the food. The best case scenario is always using up the food you already have in your pantry before shopping for more.

Unfortunately, I often look in my pantry, and as a novice chef, I have no idea what to make out of what I have. Sometimes I try to make dishes up, but this has proven to be unsuccessful and sometimes even disastrous. Luckily there are two websites I've discovered that make cooking good food cheaper and easier.

1)The website I most often use is allrecipes.com. There are a few things I love about this website.

- It can pick recipes based on food already in your home. If you go the site, click on "ingredients" right above their search bar. Type in the main ingredients you would like to use, and voila! It picks out recipes using your key items so you have to shop for less.

-Reviews are right on. Since this is a high traffic site, lots of people rate the quality of recipes. I've found that if a recipe has over 20 or so people rating it at 4.0/5.0 or higher, the final product is pretty delicious. Once I've decided on a dish, I always scroll through the comments where readers post comments on how they tweaked the dish or substituted ingredients and how it worked out. This site is not to be underestimated.

2) Mere minutes ago I discovered a new website I am very excited about. It's called recipematcher.com. I just spent some time registering for the site an entering all ingredients we have in our kitchen via a provided checklist. In return, the site produced a list of recipes that I can make with the food I already have. It stores "my pantry" on the site, so I can just log in and update it as necessary when I eat food or add more ingredients to my kitchen.

This does take a little more time to get set up, but not if you consider the fact that it saved you a trip to the grocery store. Tonight, I think I am going to try the Grilled Chicken with Lemon-Thyme Dressing. It sounds delicious and best of all, I don't even have to go shopping. Woo hoo!

Readers, any other grocery tips to share?

Oct 22, 2010

My love for IKEA

Today I noticed a difference in myself. This morning I was browsing through the latest IKEA pages in my early morning stupor accompanied by my trusted cup o' joe and it's almost as if I'm looking through "O" (Oprah). Nothing grabs me. I'm not emotionally seized by the Norden occasional kitchen table, though it is chic, or the simple yet dashing Ulsberg nightstand.

Last year at this time, I could not STOP looking through the IKEA magazine and website, convinced I needed almost everything to make my apartment look as clean-cut, organized and smart as the collection of rooms featured within those vibrant pages. Reflecting back, I realize, I've been there, done that. And perhaps my 500 square foot apartment is a blessing in disguise. There is no room for anything else.

Sure, I could fit a couple Salong vases or a classic Dekad alarm clock, but I feel something I didn't expect. I feel satisfied. My apartment is certainly not nearly in contest with the perfect rooms within those flashy pages, but it's got something to offer and I've done by best to turn our outdated wallpaper and hideously cheap maroon rug into the setting for a stylish apartment, with touches of updated furnishings and decor. Oh, the glories of renting. There's only so much I could do and I did my best.

Maybe this year, I'll just settle for the vases.

So long, IKEA!

Oct 17, 2010

Boston & beyond: Get free beer

Besides the Freedom Trail, there is another source of free entertainment in Boston, and in almost any other big city. Brewery Tours and tastings are held at local breweries across the country. Be sure to visit one when you travel and soak up the local culture.

We visited Harpoon Brewery at one of their daily tasting times, which are listed on their website. Everyone was given a 4 ounce taster cup and a staff member talked about each of the beers... and then we got to try as many of them as we wanted! We didn't have to buy anything, we didn't have to pay for the tasting, it was all free.

Lots of breweries host free brewery tours and tastings hoping that you'll really like their beer and take some home or become a lifelong fan. So for us, that means free beer, sometimes occupanied with a free brewery tour...and that is free cultured entertainment, folks.

Oct 13, 2010

Boston: Get some culture

Jeremy (my boyfriend) and I arrived in Boston yesterday evening around 7pm. With only a couple days to explore the city and relatively little cash, we had to be a bit creative with our entertainment options. My boyfriend is a vegetarian and เคนे saw that a Hare Krishna Temple called ISKCON Boston was offering a free vegetarian dinner at one of their public programs. The program included devotional singing, a "message" given by a spiritual leader and a wonderful vegetarian meal (pictured below). I had to sneak a picture of the meal when I could, as you can tell, I already enjoyed a good portion of it.

The talk given was on karma: the different types of karma and the way to reach transcendence through lack of karma. . The most interesting thing I heard was that they believed that to achieve spiritual transcendence, one must live without karma, almost like above karma, where your actions have no consequences. This is achieved by communing with God through meditation and service.
At any time a person can achieve this transcendence and it does not have to be through Krishna, a devote catholic can reach this stage as well as other intensely spiritual devotees.

I enjoyed the different cultural experience. It's one thing to read or hear about a different religion or culture, it's another to experience it. In this case, we just happened to leave having had a great cultural experience as well as a delicious free meal. Definitely a win-win-win situation (we win for obvious reasons, they win for having visitors, and Krishna wins, probably).

All in all, unique religious experiences with free meals attached = great entertainment at a great price.

Oct 10, 2010

Leftovers inspiration

I LOVE saving leftovers. In fact in college whenever my friends and I would go out to eat or order out, I would make a point to eat only half of the meal so that I could turn the food into two meals. At the time, I was very broke and I had to make the most of the food I had. Now I'm just cheap.

My friend Crystal has a blog I follow called The Food Aisle. Her latest post is on experimenting with leftovers in a creative way... to literally spice it up. It was an inspiring post to read.

I would encourage you to read her article: Reviving leftovers: Chinese. I believe it will open your eyes to new possibilities in relation to saving your leftovers. When it comes down to it, saving leftovers = saving food = saving money. And as we all know, that's the point around here. Enjoy the read.

Oct 7, 2010

Craigslist: Save money, don't get scammed

Craiglist is a fabulous online buying/selling website set up like a message board. You can skim through items local people are selling as well post your own goods to sell, and it's all completely free. I've bought iPods, furniture, and other electronics. I've also sold textbooks, an iPod, purses and much, much more. If used wisely, it can be a great resource for saving money through buying stuff cheap and selling off what you already have... BUT, it's important to be careful because there are tons of people lurking on Craigslist who don't want to buy your product, they want to take it off your hands for free or take your money. These people are also known as scammers.

Here is an example of a scammer at work. I posted my laptop for sale on Craigslist a couple weeks ago. Here is the conversation I had with a "Dr. Melvin Nelson". (He sounds all official, right?) But just look...

I am interested in purchasing your item.
I need to know the final price of the item.
Dr. Melvin.

It's two hundred cash only.

Thanks for your quick response to my mail... Alright, am ok with the Price. I want to purchase it for my son who is in Over seas for his job with the construction company over there...And i will be paying you through PayPal or money order Company... So if you have an account with them send your PayPal address to enable me send the Payment to you but if you do not have an account with them, just send your full name and full contact address and i will send it through money order Company that will deliver the payment in cash to your resident address....Note: I will be paying you extra money to cover the shipping cost through USPS EXPRESS MAIL....Also i wanted you to consider this sold to me and please remove the post from the craigslist site.....Thank you and God Bless
Dr. Melvin. Frm(English Rd.Foristell, Montanna.)

Sorry, I don't do scams.

What exactly do you mean?
Are you insinuating that am a scammer!!!
Am gonna inform my lawyer about this and as tell my brother
Agent Smith.
Have a lovely day ahead.
Dr. Melvin Nelson.
-end of conversation-

Ways you can tell you're dealin with a scammer:

1)They make up a reason to not deal with you in person; i.e.they are away on business, they are on a church missions church, they are sending it to their son/daughter in (insert name of third world country here). Don't fall for this. They don't want to meet you because they live in a far-away country. They want you to send your product to their middle man at said address and then their check/money order will not go through. Bam, they just got your product for free.

2)They offer more money than you're asking. They want to make sure you take their offer, so they offer more money. Sounds like a great deal, but really it's just a scam.

3)They want YOU to send money somewhere/give it to someone. You're selling something, you should never have to give money to ANYONE. It's a scam!

4) You don't have to understand how they can scam you. My parents are landlords and they posted that they were looking to fill an apartment. They had a man respond who said he was moving from Canada and that he would be happy to send my parents a money order. Once they got the money order, he was going to send his furniture to the apartment and my parents had to sign for it and give the mover $200.

They told me about it, they were very excited and I said DON'T DO IT! Honestly, it took us a long time to figure out how this guy would take my parents' money and run...we figured he would cancel the money order and we would be stuck with furniture? We don't really know but if you can't figure it out, you don't have to. Just know that if it seems shady, just don't deal with that person...regardless of how tempting it is.

I'm telling you all this because I want to encourage you to use Craigslist. I LOVE it. Testimonial: I bought an 80 gig iPod on Craigslist for $90, that's incredible...I also sold my 4gig iPod on it for $50. I got a MAJOR upgrade for just $40, not bad. And remember, you can buy almost anything on Craigslist and you can sell almost anything.

With all that being said, I just want you to know what you might come across so you can go on saving without being scammed out of money/product. Craigslist can save you money, but only if you don't get scammed.

P.S. Stay away from singles on Craigslist, bad news bears.

Happy shopping!

Oct 3, 2010

Five things you could do this month to save money on your water bill

Toilet with flush water tankImage via Wikipedia
1. Drink less water.

2. Use the "water closet" sparingly. Because you are already filling up your glass less, you'll be urinating fewer times as well, which will save crap loads of money from being flushed.

3. Shower less. At first this one might cause some problems at work or with a partner, but explain that you care deeply for the environment and you are just doing your part in trying to save water. They will quickly apologize and thank you for your efforts to go green.

4. Wash hands with less water. It has been said that you should wash your hands for as long as you can sing the entire "happy birthday" song. In this case, simply cut it down to quick "happy birthday" statement instead.

5. Collect water from your roof for emergencies. It's tough to not use water, so grab some from that holding spot so you have some available, just in case you need some.

Obviously these suggestions are not for the novice thrifter. It takes dedication to save water...but I know what you're thinking: it's worth it.
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