Thursday, July 7, 2011

Back To School Sales Aren't Just For Kids

You don't have to have children to take advantage of the back to school sales that are starting to crop up or the summer clearance sales going on as well. You may be in the mindset of barbecues, vacations and lazy days but now is the time to take advantage of the bargains to be found.

CLOTHES: If you are purchasing items for your children, consider purchasing just the basics for the first weeks of school. In our area, school begins in early August when the temperatures are still hovering near 100. I combine sales and clearance items to purchase shirts and shorts and a few pair of jeans in case the temperature drops unexpectedly. Combined with what is in my Next Size Up box, I'm usually set until early to mid fall. These sales are a great opportunity for the adults to stock up as well. I can always find great values on tops, khakis, cute accessories and shoes.

SUPPLIES: This is a great time to replenish your home office supplies. Paper, pens, ink cartridges, you name it and it is on sale. Go ahead and refill your office supply closet. Every place from the big box stores to the office supply places and dollar stores are offering up the lowest prices available. Once I get stuff for the kids, then I load up on everything the house needs: sticky notes, tape, Sharpie markers, paper clips, envelopes, the list is endless. I'll be set until next year. When my kids were too young to go to school, I would stock up on construction paper, spiral notebooks, colored pencils, paint, tape, glue sticks, markers and crayons at rock bottom prices. Those things saved our sanity on many, many rainy days.

HOME: The sales will be huge for the College Stuff too. Now is the time to get the dorm sized refrigerator for your office. It is also a good time to replace kitchen supplies, linens, laundry baskets and the like. Clearance beach towels make great bath towels because they are huge, absorbent and just fun to look at. I also look for things like plastic forks and spoons for the kids' lunchboxes. Who cares if they are red, white and blue?

KITCHEN: All summer goodies are on sale now and are perfect for school and work lunches. Look for non perishables such as peanut butter, single serving  snack packages, lunch meat (can be frozen), individual soups and crackers. You can find plenty of things that will fit in your desk and stave off the hunger until your lunch hour.

End of summer and back to school sales can be a useful tool for you to restock your home and closet without having to spend all your hard earned dollars. Just do yourself a favor and actually deposit your 'savings' into your savings.

Friday, July 1, 2011

From the Kitchen: Creative Leftovers

I love saving time and money. I do not love eating the exact same thing over and over again.  The trick to eating leftovers--and liking it-- it to use them in a way that is very different from the original dish. Recently, I've come across all kinds of things in the fridge and here is how my family 'recycled' them.

MEATLOAF-- I admit it, I don't enjoy meatloaf sandwiches. However, when cubed or crumbled, it makes a great addition to pasta sauce. The kids didn't even realize it was the same meatloaf they cringed at two days earlier. Love it!

RICE: I chopped up some onion and leftover cooked carrots into some olive oil with a tiny bit of butter. Once the onions were done to my liking, I added some leftover rice and a very small amount of low sodioum soy sauce. Once that was ready, I pushed it to the side of the pan and scrambled some eggs in the empty space then mixed it all together. I also used half of a pork chop sliced into small pieces. Pork fried rice in about 10 minutes. Wonderfully simple and the kids gobbled it up.

STRAY VEGGIES:  This is the easiest and cheapest thing ever. Take every stray vegetable you find and  turn it into broth. I did this today and it was crazy simple. During this past week, I froze remaining vegetables  for this very purpose. This included broccoli, green beans, and corn. I tossed this in the pot with as many other vegetables as I could find: three potatoes, three tomatoes, half a bell pepper, one onion, a sweet potato, fresh corn cut off the cob as well as all the juice scraped off the cob with the back of the knife. It wasn't very elegant. Just chopped up and tossed in the pot, skins and all. Next,  I added some multi purpose spice, garlic powder and a little fresh rosemary. I covered with water and cooked it for about 2 hours. You are trying to leech out every flavor and vitamin possible so the broth will be very dark and rich looking. Taste it and add whatever you like. Cool and strain through a collander as many times as needed until you're left with a wonderful broth that you can freeze in appropriate sized portions. Use for soups, stews or any recipe that requires water.

YOGURT: If this is getting close to the expiration date, blend with fresh fruit, a little honey and ice for a smoothie. Or layer with granola for a parfait.

EGGS: If you're not craving something scrambled, try supper omelets filled with leftover veggies with a bit of cheese or some salsa.

STEAK:  Slice thinly and cook with cubed potatoes, onions and peppers for a skillet dish that's restaurant-worthy. This also works with any kind of sausage, pork or chicken.

I thought I was saving money by having leftovers. Unfortunately, I was throwing away money because they weren't being eaten. I had to find away to make them more palatable. It isn't too hard to get creative with your leftovers. Just use what you have and do what you know. For me it's almost a game. I just tell myself, 'You've got such and such. Now how quickly and you do something with that so that no one recognizes it from last Tuesday.' It will only take you a few minutes to pull together something creative, different and tasty. You will get the satisfaction of having a great meal for a fraction of the restaurant cost and without the wait.

Bon Apetite!