Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Things to Make Your Life Easier

One of my favorite new websites is stumbleupon.com
You put in your interests and it finds websites that match those interests. It is kind of like one of my other favorite websites Pinterest.

While "stumbling" through, I found this great article!
Things to Make Your Life Easier

I am all about ways to save and ways to make my life easier.
I hope that you find the info useful!

LiveWisely

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Freeze Cheese

Okay...So who knew that CHEESE freezes so well? We are big cheese eaters and my lovely husband enjoys a particular brand. Sometimes the cheese is $5.99, sometimes more...and sometimes it is on sale for a bit less. But Halls Market right on Park Rd sometimes has it down to $2.99 a lb. Now that is a crazy deal.

A good friend of mine, (DC) who has a large family told me that she often freezes her cheese and it stays well. I just had to try it.

SHE WAS RIGHT!!

CHEESE FREEZES SUPER WELL.

Now when the cheese is on sale, I buy at least 4 lbs!!. I then put them in the freezer until I need them. Then I just take one out, put it in the fridge and within a few hours, it is defrosted and ready to go.

I have also found that shredded cheese freezes well. Again, being such big cheese eaters, we enjoy homemade pizzas, taco's, etc. How frustrating is it to be all ready to throw your pizza's in the oven, when you realize that you do not have cheese!! So I buy a large bag, then separate it into smaller bags and voila! (and seriously it takes almost no time to separate the cheese!)

If you have any other tips, please pass them along!!

LivE Wisely

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Grocery Shopping is SO Expensive...Is This Why??

If anyone has been grocery shopping within the last 5 years, I am sure that you have noticed an increase in the price of food. So If you are like me, you pay a bit more attention while food shopping... with your two screaming kids, phone ringing, oh and late for a meeting...thank you for those wonderful car shopping carts. I have been known to follow people who have just left the store with a full car shopping cart, just to ensure that I can have one for my shopping adventure.

Unfortunately coupons do not cover many of the items that I purchase, especially if you shop at a store like Trader Joe's or Whole Foods.

So here are some of the things that I have done to keep my grocery bills lower...:

-I do not buy as many snacks. I try my best to make things. Not a baker? Try things like buying frozen fruit when it is on sale. Tastes great and less expensive than the fresh kind, (blueberries, strawberries, etc). Great for yogurt, smoothies, baking, etc.
-I do my best to not get sucked into ..."wow that looks so good, I must buy it!" moments.
-If something is on sale that I like, I try to stock up...But stick to what you really need and only allow yourself, 2-3 TREATS.
-Sometimes I buy my paper goods at places like Target, Walmart, CVS, Walgreens. And many times I will have a coupon for these items.
-I do my best to either write down or keep a mental note of some of our favorite items prices. So for example, my eldest daughter loves applesauce. I find that the small packages are less expensive at Target, so whenever I make a run there, I try to stock up.

Here is one IMPORTANT thing that I have realized. Sometimes when I go to stores that are very inexpensive, I tend to buy more. Target is a good example. The prices are sometimes great. So you actually end up buying more than you actually need. Just because it is a good price, does not mean that you really need it! Refrain and focus in on what you actually need. Do you need 4 bags of chips just because they are $2 cheaper at this store than your normal store? Do you really need to buy those pretzels, just because they are so much cheaper here?

If you shop at a store that offers WHAT YOU NEED, as opposed to offering steep discounts, you may actually save yourself money by not buying things that you really do not need!

If you have more shopping tips, PLEASE SHARE!!

LivEWisely

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Coconut Oil and Its Many Uses

I love it when I find a product that can be used for just so much!!
One of my favorite oils to use around our home is Coconut Oil. It can be a bit pricey if you buy it from Whole Foods, ...so I typically buy mine from either the Indian Grocery store in my neighborhood or my local Trader Joe's. 

I found this great site http://blogs.cincysavers.com/the-many-amazing-uses-for-coconut-oil/ 
that lists all of the wonderful ways you can use Coconut Oil...not just in your kitchen!!




LivE Wisely!!

Friday, March 29, 2013

Re Purposed Left Overs


I love to take left overs and make them into something fabulous. I can't skate board, can't swim well, can not sing, struggle with sitting still...but I can take leftovers and make them into something completely exciting and new!!


Okay, so I know that pictures are super important with blogging...especially when you are discussing recipes. Who maintains interest if there isn't a beautiful picture to look at. Frankly it drives me a bit nutty because there are just some amazing photo's online of food that are works of art!! I mean did they even taste the cupcake or just take a picture of it!! I enjoy photography but I am by no means an expert. And honestly, when I am cooking and have two children hanging on my legs, I have no time to set up an appropriate backdrop for my latest chicken dinner!!


So maybe we can just visualize what I am about to go through??

Here are some recent examples of some "Re Purposed" meals!!

*Made macaroni with a homemade ground chicken tomato sauce for the kids. My husband and I went out to an amazing dinner...we needed it desperately.
Re Purposed Meal:
Took about a cup of polenta and covered the bottom of a glass pyrex dish with it. Then took some of the left over sauce and poured it on top of the polenta. Then poured in a bit of milk/half and half...whatever kind of milk product you have laying around. Water would also work. Then put a layer of spinach on top. Just a thin layer because I had just a bit left over. You could use any kind of veggie. Then poured more sauce on top and because we had a bit of left over chicken pieces I also through those in. Then I threw shredded mozzarella in and voila... I put it in the oven and baked for 20-30 minutes. The result was a creamy tasty new meal that everyone gobbled up!!

*Had some italian bread, a few veggies and eggs laying around.
Re Purposed Meal:
Took a pie pan and put in some sliced bread to cover the bottom. Then threw in some veggies, (any would work) and mixed up a few eggs, (2-6) with some milk a bit of water, and then poured into the dish. Threw a bit of cheese on top...and yum...a improvised quiche is born!!

*Left over steak, veggies, mashed potatoes, (any kind of potato would work).
Re Purposed Meal:
Took a casserole dish and put in some sliced up steak on the bottom. Threw some veggies on top and then covered it with the mashed potatoes. Just to ensure that the meat would not dry out I put in some milk and water to moisten everything up. Baked the meal for 20 minutes and we ended up with a modern Shepard's pie! 

*Left over rice, lettuce or any kind of leafy greans.
 Re Purposed Meal:
Sauteed up the greens with garlic and onions, threw in the rice and added a bit of soy sauce, (any kind of sauce would work). Then threw in 2 eggs and mixed it all up. I had some nuts in the pantry so when I served up the dish I added some on top for a bit of crunch.
 Re Purposed Meal:
Take the leafy greans, (spinach and kale work great) and put into a salad bowl. Chop up any tomatoes, red pepper...whatever you have laying around that would work well in a salad. Then throw a bit of rice on top. Pour a bit of rice vinegar, (if you have it), soy sauce or toasted sesame oil, ...maybe some agave or maple syrup for a bit of sweetness...and you have  delicious Asian inspired salad.

LivE Wisely!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Swap Clothes...Nosh & Whine...





Swap Clothes...Nosh & Whine...
I have now successful thrown two Clothing and Accessories Swap Parties. And I have to say that each time, just about everyone, (except returning guests) exclaim "why hadn't they done this before??" Everyone brought at least 5 items, either a food or drink and each walked away with at least one new item! Whatever was left was donated.


Now I am sure that you can get all "professional" with regard to the rules...but we just laid out the clothes, (in my living room) and walked around as if we were at our favorite boutique. We laughed at some of the items that we had brought...what we were thinking when we bought this shirt...but wait...there is always a buyer for everything...so of course, your close friend, absolutely loves the shirt...and wait it fits too!!

I will say that this go around I forgot to borrow a full length mirror. It is always nice to be able to try on and see what you look like. :)

One of my friends came a bit later while we were all in the middle of shopping. She had a bag in her hand filled with goodies. She was instantly mobbed! Well, maybe it was me that mobbed her. I saw a gorgeous scarf popping out. It had an Anthropologie flare to it...and guess what... it was Anthropologie!! She just could never get it right! Well, I tried it on...and perfecto!! I had been looking for a cool scarf for awhile.

I recommend swap parties to everyone!! They are a great way to clean out your closet and find new items to fill it with...and all for free of course! And you know that I love me some free stuff!

LivE Wisely!!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Price Matching...Don't Forgot to Ask!!

Have you ever found yourself dreaming about a specific pair of shoes, purse, pair of jeans? And I say DREAM...because maybe they are a bit out of your price comfort zone.  Maybe if you divide the number of times that you plan on using it, by the years that you plan on keeping it...it seems less painful. But for me, spending $200-$300 on a pair of shoes seems steep.

A wonderful friend of mine convinced me...actually a few friends convinced me into buying a pair of FRYE boots. "you have to buy a pair!" "they last forever" "they are the most comfortable boots"...
I have my Uggs...and I love them..."no but these are classic..." "you can wear them dressed up or down."


Okay, so in true LivE Wisely fashion, I have to get them for a deal. I scoured the web for a deal.
I am a big fan of Nordstrom's because of their customer service. I went to the store and tried on a pair. Wow, the boots were magical. Do they price match? In fact they do...just have to prove that the same boots, color and price are available somewhere else.

EASY!!

So at Nordstrom they were listed for $257. I found them for $206! With Tax, $219!

I can not wait until they arrive.

So, Do Not Forgot to Ask if a Store will Price Match! You Just Never Know!!

LivE Wisely...Always!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A Pink Party by LivE Wisely!!

 It was my youngest daughter's first birthday recently and I wanted to make it special. I love children's parties. It is fun to be creative, (at least for me) and I enjoy making fun treats. As usual, I was watching my budget so I made all of the food and most of the decorations. Trust me, it was pretty simple and took under a few hours.



For the cupcakes, I wanted to make them easy. I love frosting, especially whipped cream frosting. Yes, the "piped" frosting on top of cupcakes looks professional and beautiful but I actually prefer the "dolloped" look. And it is of course much easier!! To me, the frosting seemed whimsical.







I also did rice crispy treats which I dipped into some frosting and added sprinkles for a fun touch. 
I found some cotton candy on sale and put it in a bowl. Who doesn't love some cotton candy!!








 


 I made paper flowers, super easy to do...check out this site http://www.ehow.com/how_4522222_make-paper-flowers.html. We then put them all over the house!


For food, (I forgot to take a picture), I bought deli meat and cheeses and made a cold cut platter. Placed some bagels, rolls, and bread in a large bowl, some condiments, lettuce and tomato, and voila!

For snacks, (chips etc) I used some small boxes that I had bought a few months back from Target. Any fun container would have worked.



For the goodie bags, I used paper "lunch" bags and my oldest daughter and I decorated them with stickers. 







The party was a success and I enjoyed it even more knowing that I didn't break the bank!!

LivE Wisely!!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Dinner on the Fly...Cheap and YUMMY!!

You need a quick easy and of course yummy dinner that you know the kids will enjoy. 

 I just had one of those nights...did I forget to take out chicken to defrost?? Quick, look in the fridge and pantry...What do I find, some bread that we NEED to use or else it will go stale. We just had some mozzarella cheese. I am not in the mood for that again. 
I do have some Ricotta cheese...seems a bit weird to use on a pizza instead of sauce right?! But Cheese is cheese right. Let's go for it.
 



As you may remember I always always keep a couple of frozen veggies in the freezer. Luckily I have some tri colored peppers which are super tasty! I find some sausage, (the kind that you get at the meat counter) that can be easily and quickly defrosted. Just put them in some warm water for a few minutes to defrost. I take them out of the "skin" and saute them up with the peppers.

 At first I wasn't sure if I was just going to serve the bread and saute'd mixture separately or together...but then I thought...why not?! I can just sprinkle with some parmesan and put in the oven for 10-15 minutes.
 The final product was so delicious!! 


Remember to be creative! Shop in your fridge and your pantry. Always keep certain items in the house for emergencies and do your best to make what sounds good to you. Drop the rules of this goes with this and that goes with that. 
Dinner will be more fun this way!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Fashionable USED Clothes for KIDS!!

Luckily, buying USED clothes is "cooler" now. People are more aware of the damage that overproduction can do to the environment and of course, kids clothes is super expensive so if you can save a buck or three...why not?


One of the sites that I am most obsessed with is Thredup. This site has gotten better over the years and it is very very easy to find shirts, pants, assesories, whatever quite easily. The pictures are wonderful...I wonder how they do it...and shopping for your kids...AT QUITE A DISCOUNT...becomes fun.

Try Thredup and let me know what you think!!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Shop and Earn Money?!?!

A good friend of mine reminded me about a unique webpage that offers you money for buying through their site. So for example, if you are in the market for a blender, go to Ebates and start your shopping.

There are thousands of participating stores. Right now Kohls is giving 6% cash back if you buy through them. Amazing!!

I took the below right from their website...why not have them explain how it works!!

Why should I use Ebates?

Shop through Ebates, and earn up to 25% cash back at your favorite stores. How? Our stores pay us a fee when you shop. We then share the fee directly with you - it's just that simple.
Incredible deals don't end with cash back. We hunt down cut-rate coupons and exclusive offers plus amazing deals on hot products. Unlike any other savings site on the internet, you can layer the deals. Save big by using coupons and getting cash back at the same time! With deal layering, you really stack up the savings.
Best of all, we never charge a membership fee or require mail-in rebate forms. We just send you your cash, no strings attached.

I have already earned almost $20. It doesn't hurt to try it out. Why not save money while you shop?!

Let me know how it goes!

LivE Wisely!!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Swap Party

Have you ever been to or held a SWAP PARTY?

Typically a swap party is where a group of people get together and swap clothes, shoes, and/or accessories. Realistically a swap party could be for sports equipment, mens clothing, kids clothes, furniture, etc. But the idea is to share what you have and hopefully pick up some great pieces for free! Who doesn't love FREE??

I held a swap party a couple of years ago, (has it really been that long) and it was AWESOME! I walked away with some great pieces and my guests also found some great pieces. Who hasn't bought something, loved it for a minute, and then realized that it just wasn't for you. How about you share it with someone else?!

Rules of a Swap Party: Each person typically brings at least 5 items, (they should be in relatively good condition). If you can, have a way to display the items. Can you borrow some clothing racks? Or take some hangers and place them over doors, or on the spindles of a staircase? The idea is that you want people to clearly see the items, (just like in a store). You are able to take the number of items that you yourself brought with you, (so if you brought 4 items, you can take 4 items). Whatever is left, donate!

And remember that rules are meant to be broken!! Just have fun!!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

ReUsing ALLLL Leftovers!!



I hate to throw away food. There is always something that I can make out of a left over.
I realize that sometimes you are just not in the mood to cook...so what if the left over goes bad?!

 Well what if you freeze the left over? Label it and then throw it in say meatballs later. I bring up meatballs because I think that they are a great vehicle for left overs. You can throw almost anything in them and typically it will only enhance the flavor. And for me and my family, I like to have fun with our meatballs!


For families who have children who are not big veggie eaters, puree some left over veggies and throw them in one of your meals like lasagna. I bet you no one will notice!

One of my favorite veggies to throw into almost anything is shredded carrot. It has a natural sweetness and is so so good for you! My husband dislikes cooked carrots so this is my sneaky way of getting him to eat them. :)

So before you toss that left over broccoli, think of one meal you may make during the week and see if you can use some broccoli in there. Maybe a tomato sauce with some pureed broccoli. I promise that it will not change the flavor!!

I have posted my famous Naan Pizza in the past and it is also a great place to add left overs!! Listen anything covered in cheese tastes delicious in my opinion! (20 Pantry Items and How to Use Them to Your Advantage--Posted on 12/12/12)

Here is a great website that is easy to follow and offers a ton of "left over" recipes!!
http://teriskitchen.com/leftovers.html

Happy Eating and Don't Forget to LivE Wisely!!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

REFINANCE Your Home??

Mortgage Rates.., they go up down up down...will they go lower? Lock in now or later...My husband and I have refinanced twice already!!

I have always heard that you should refinance if the difference in your current rate and the new rate is more than 1%. Also if you are in a 30 year and a change to a 20 or 15 year is nominal/affordable, then go for it.

Take a look at your finances, if you can afford to pay a little more towards your mortgage, refinancing might be for you. There are a few mortgage calculators out there that can be helpful.

http://www.bankrate.com/calculators/mortgages/mortgage-calculator.aspx
http://www.mortgagecalculator.org

According to Yahoo Homes, there are four reasons why you should refinance in 2013:

1-  Interest Rates are Expected to Rise
"I think most economists would agree that the Fed has been suppressing rates artificially for some time to try to stimulate the economy. But I think interest rates will go up in 2013 and beyond," says Chris L. Boulter, president of Val-Chris Investments, Inc., a California company specializing in residential and commercial loans.

2- The Government's Financial Involvement Will Eventually EndSince the recession in 2008, the government has been trying to stimulate the economy with its quantitative expansion policy, which has helped the housing market, stimulated the economy, and kept interest rates at historic lows. But this won't last forever. In fact, Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve, which sets U.S. monetary policy, said in December 2012 that there will be two factors that mark the end of the government's intervention: the unemployment rate and the inflation rate of the dollar.

3- Because Your Rate Could Adjust Up (if You have an ARM)
"And with rates at historic lows, I advise anyone who can refinance to a fixed rate now to do it because there is nowhere for rates to go but up, " says Duffy.

 4-  Because You Could Afford a Shorter-Term Loan
If you can pay $705 more per month, it might be a good investment since that will save you over $110,000 in interest over the life of the loan. Oh, and you'll own your home 15 years earlier, too. With this plan, 2013 is always looking better than 2012, isn't it?

Do yourself a favor and at least investigate whether or not refinancing is the right thing for you to do. If not, well then you don't need to stress about it anymore. 

But if so, then Yippee LivE Wisely!!


Friday, January 11, 2013

Saving Wisely with AMAZON.com...

I am a fan of Amazon. They seem to have everything. And because you can also buy used, you can often times get really good deals.

Some people forget that you can purchase grocery items, (food and paper goods) on Amazon as well.

Did you know that there are Amazon coupons? Check it out!

For those of you looking to save a bit more...try Subscribe and Save:
When you order through Subscribe & Save program, you'll:
• Automatically receive a new shipment of the item in the monthly intervals you select
• Receive a discount off our every day price
• Receive FREE shipping on every Subscribe & Save shipment that arrives on your monthly Subscribe & Save delivery day
• Pay for each order only when the item is shipped
• Have the option to cancel at any time

Take a look at an example of how you can save:

Right now Scott Bath Tissue, 1000 Sheet Rolls, 20 Rolls
If you went to Target.com, (and I loooovvveee Target), SCOTT TISSUE 16-RLLS 
Sale Price $13.00 
 


Amazon Prime is another way to save. This is a great option for someone who is a frequent shopper on Amazon.com. The fee is $79 per year, but you do get:
  • FREE Two-Day Shipping on millions of items
  • No minimum order size
  • Unlimited instant streaming of thousands of movies and TV shows with Prime Instant Videos
  • A Kindle book to borrow for free each month from the Kindle Owners' Lending Library

I hope this helps in your quest to LivE Wisely!!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Easy Meals Just By Spicing a Few Things Up

It is 4'o clock and you have yet to prepare dinner. The kids scream...Not Pasta Again!!

Here are a few things that you can do to spice up Pasta Meals!

Instead of slicing up zucchini, try shaving it with a peeler! It turns the zucchini into fun ribbons. You can do this with sweet potato, summer squash, carrots, beets...

Instead of always reverting to a jarred sauce, toss with other easy sauces:

-Drizzle Olive Oil and Some Shaved Parmesan Over Pasta, (add Balsamic Vinegar for a fun twist)
-Puree any kind of squash or sweet potato with some milk, salt and pepper. Puree until until the sauce is thin enough to pour over pasta. 

-Puree Peas with Olive Oil for a Twist on a Traditional Pesto sauce. Add some Parmesan for flavor

-How about a Clam Sauce? I have yet to try this so here is a recipe that looks fairly easy:
http://family.go.com/food/recipe-866710-linguine-with-clam-sauce-t/

 -Who doesn't love a cheese sauce: Mix together some whole milk or cream with some left over cheese and a bit of flour to thicken. Poor over and enjoy!

- Chicken or beef broth would also work well over pasta. Thicken with flour.

-Mix Olive Oil and a bit of lemon for a fun kick!


Top Pasta's with:
-Any kind of meat, (including Pepperoni, Kielbasa and Bacon)
-Any kind of veggie, (try non traditional items like green beans, brussel sprouts, swiss chard)
-Beans are awesome on top of pasta, (I prefer cannellini)
-How about throwing a salad right on top! Go Crazy.
-CHEESE!!! Any kind would work, (even feta or goat)

Have you ever tried frying your spaghetti? Put some in the pan and pour some oil on top, (just a bit). Who doesn't love a bit of crunch on top of your pasta!

I just found this great recipe for Lazy Lasagna! Check this out:
http://family.go.com/food/recipe-654581-lazy-lasagna-t/

HAPPY COOKING!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

What to do with Unwanted Stuff in Your Home...Sell it...Give it Away...

Master Organizer I am not. But I do enjoy a clean house and I am always finding things that we no longer need. My husband has forbidden me to turn our basement into a what he refers to as "junk" and I refer to as "treasure," depository. So I either have to sell what I find or give it away.

How to distinguish between donation or sell? This is just what I do:

Donation Bucket:
-If it is in good condition and I can not first sell it, I will donate it.
-Children's clothes
-School Supplies

Sell Bucket:
-Newer Items
-Items that I feel are of high value to others, (some furniture, kitchen appliances, etc)

Where to Donate:
-Goodwill  (860)529-6838
-Salvation Army  (860)953-6104
-Vietnam Veterans Donation Pick Up
- Big Brothers and Big Sisters,  1.888.413.2227    
- Gifts of Love  860.676.2323
-My Sister’s Place, Hartford, CT, 860-895-6629
-The Clothes Horse Thrift Store   860-233-1411
-Dress for Success  860-525-5025
-St. Agnes (860) 521-7516

Where to Sell:
-www.Freecycle.org 
- www.Craigslist.org
-www.u-exchange.com
-www.swaptreasures.com  
www.playitagainsports.com
-Max and Lily's Closet (860) 920-5270
- Elegant Consignment (860) 523-4400
-Panache 860-233-8103
-Revival Home Consignment LLC  (860) 313-0093
- Second Time Around 860-233-8650

  For Tax Breaks:
Search for a charity to which to donate your used furniture. Tax breaks are only given to those who donate to 501(c)3 corporations. To find out if your chosen charity is a registered non-profit you can use the Internal Revenue Service's charity search database.

Also do not forget to obtain a receipt for your donation. This receipt is used for tax purposes and should be kept with your personal tax records.

Feel Good and Organize!!

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