Save money with flexible cooking ideas for dinner

I've been cooking for years. Although, if you ask my husband, I've been screwing up fried eggs for just as long. (His secret: Fry them on low to avoid cooking the egg too quickly.) So I am no genius in the kitchen, but I am getting better.

Flexible Cooking

I used to follow recipes exactly, afraid to deviate at all. (Didn't have all the ingredients? Find another recipe!) But then I discovered a recipe in a cookbook that had the same basic ingredients (meat, pasta, diced tomatoes), but the recipe authors gave suggestions on how to use different spices (chili powder or Italian seasoning) and cheeses (mozzarella vs. sharp cheddar) to totally change the taste of the dish.

Since then, I have been trying my hand at doing a little kitchen experimentation. And I came up with "Flexipes" or flexible recipes. (Uh, at least I thought I coined the phrase. I guess not.) Flexipes are recipes that allow you the flexibility to create delicious, delicious dishes while using up what you have in your pantry.

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More about...Food

Deals on wheels: Should parents buy their child a car?

As far as I know, only one reader of Get Rich Slowly knows me personally. And last week, I was having lunch with my one-person fan club. (Actually, I am not sure she's even a fan, but she did buy my lunch. Thanks, Lisa!)

"You really stirred up some controversy with one of your recent posts," Lisa said, a forkful of salad in hand.

"You must mean the one about not paying for our kids' college, right?" I said.

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More about...Transportation

Why we aren’t saving for our children’s college educations

For a few years, I got to skip Dave Ramsey's Baby Step 5. Save for our children's college education? That was an easy one…since we didn't have children, that answer was NO!

But now we have two kids (soon to be three), which means our days of delaying that decision are over. And since our oldest child is ten, we've already missed out on a decade of compounding.

Most personal finance experts, including Dave Ramsey and Suze Orman, recommend saving for your children's college education only when your own financial house is in order. If you still have student loans, credit card debt, or anemic retirement savings, it's much better to get yourself out of that hole. Continue reading...

More about...Education

How to get out of poverty

Until I reached my early 20s, I believed that my childhood had fewer financial advantages than the average childhood. Once I gained more life experience, I saw that my family hadn't been as poor as I thought we were.

That doesn't mean we weren't poor, though. We wore hand-me-downs, didn't go on vacations much, qualified for reduced school lunches, things like that. But we were "poor with potential." When I arrived, my parents were in their very early 20s, and my dad was at the beginning of establishing his farm. While they didn't have much money at that point, they knew how to manage it. And while they didn't have much income coming in from jobs, they knew what to do to make that happen. Things started to change when I was a teenager. In fact, my youngest sibling remembers a completely different childhood -- vacations and new carpet, but nothing about the really difficult times.

Through the years, my eyes have been opened to the ugliness of what it really means to be poor in the US (which is, admittedly, different from other parts of the world). My kids go to a school where 67 percent of the students are low-income. A couple of acquaintances have also taught me a lot about the cycle of generational poverty.

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More about...Planning, Frugality

On a time crunch? Squeeze more out of your day

When I (or others) want to improve our financial situations, most excuses involve time. I am too busy to take on another job. I don't have time to start that business I've wanted to start for the last three years. I wish I could really get my financial ducks in a row, but I feel like I'm already using every spare minute of my days.

While time budgeting and money budgeting share a lot of similarities, the interesting thing about time budgeting is that, while we all have the same number of hours in each day, we just don't get the same number of days in our lives. As my life gets more full, I experience more challenges balancing the demands on my time. I want to use my time wisely so I have more time to do the things that really matter. And maybe, just maybe I will have time to start that business that I definitely was going to start in 2013. Ha.

Mind over matter

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More about...Budgeting, Career

How to winterize your home

As I write this, the back side of my house is mostly exposed to the studs with loose fiberglass hanging out in the area where landscaping will be someday. That's right: Some crazy people choose to do remodeling projects in the middle of the coldest part of winter. Which doesn't make a lot of sense, considering this article is about winterizing your home. Having one wall with very little insulation during sub-zero temperatures is not winterizing.

The (expensive) changes we're making this year are supposed to pay off in lower heating costs in the years to come. And they are expensive. All-new windows, spray-foam insulation in the basement and outer walls, and some new siding all add up to one pricey, pricey project. But it wasn't always this way. We have lived in our drafty house for almost seven years. The windows are old and allow for plenty of ventilation (which isn't what you want when, baby, it's cold outside). However, windows are expensive, so we've spent the last seven years limping along while still winterizing our home as cheaply as possible.

Cool Down Your Heating Bill

Most of our changes have been small. But enough small changes added together did make a difference on our heating bill.

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More about...Home & Garden

One way to survive without health insurance

When I was considering leaving my full-time job, I had some concerns. My main concern? Health insurance. And it wasn't just me. Since my husband didn't have health insurance coverage through his job, he had been covered under my policy for years. Plus, we were going to be adding kids to our family, so we needed to think about them too.

First, we took care of my husband's needs. About a year ago, he started looking for a private health insurance plan -- and since he is a healthy guy, he found an inexpensive one rather easily. And once we adopted the kids, they could also go on his plan with no problems.

So that left me. If I quit my job, I had a few options: 1. Find my own private health insurance plan 2. Go without insurance 3. COBRA 4. Find a non-insurance alternative.

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More about...Insurance, Health & Fitness

How to meal plan and save some cash

Few questions are as unwelcome or unanswerable (at least in my house) as "What's for dinner?" Every few months, I make futile attempts to meal plan or grocery shop smarter. I spread out cookbooks, I write down recipes, I make shopping lists, and then everything disappears (it seems) and I am back to my usual chaotic "It's 4:45 and what are we going to eat again?!"

In these moments, I am much more likely to order pizza or stop by for a supermarket rotisserie chicken. Not only are these choices probably not as healthy as what we could make at home, but they are also more expensive. And at the moment, we need to cut our eating out/convenience food spending as much as possible.

I am no domestic diva, as you have already discovered. But there are plenty of people of who are. And some of them don't even require googling. Take my mother-in-law, for example. She raised eight children on a tight budget, and I think she came up with a genius idea. Listen to this: She served the same seven meals every week. For instance, Monday was always spaghetti night, Tuesday was always chicken potpie, and so on. It meant her shopping list was the same every single week. Of course, it also means that my husband was burned out on repetition, so we definitely can't adopt the same policy in our house. But I do think it's a great idea.<

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More about...Food, Frugality

Getting technical: an alternative to traditional college

In 2000, I graduated from my first round of post-secondary education and landed a job. My first annual salary was about 13 times more than my entire education had cost me. It wasn't that my job paid so well, but that my education had been so inexpensive.

Now that my husband and I are parents, we have some decisions to make regarding our children's education. We, of course, want to find the best value possible…you know, an inexpensive but good education. With the average student holding over $26,000 in student loans, though, do "inexpensive" and "education" even belong in the same sentence?

I keep hearing that it's a different environment now than it was when I got my first job (and it is). But is it so different that an expensive education at a four-year institution is the only option? Continue reading...

More about...Career, Education

Declutter and save your sense

Once, I couldn't find a matching pair of shoes, so I put one foot in a ballet flat and the other in a tennis shoe and acted like I had sprained my ankle. True story.

You may wonder then why this girl is writing an article on decluttering and disorganization and their relationship to finances, especially since I still have a lot to learn. While there are definitely others who are more organized, I have come a long way.

I have no idea how much being disorganized has cost me directly, or how much a cluttered life affected my finances indirectly. But it's significant: Paying credit cards late, getting overdrafts, losing bills or other important papers, buying stuff only to find out I already had it, and on and on. It was painful in so many ways.

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More about...Home & Garden