Stretching Your Produce Budget Further

Anyone who has made a simple budget has struggled with making their food budget fit with the rest of the budget.  If you attempt to eat healthy, one of the biggest components to a food budget is the produce.  Stretching your produce budget can be somewhat difficult.  Growing seasons are short, and the cost of produce keeps going up.  But, there are a few things we can do to stretch that produce budget, and make it a bit easier on your overall budget.

  1. Stretching your produce budgetStock Up on Sale: buying your produce on sale allows for you to stock up when the item is cheaper, then store it until you need it.   Canned produce is really easy to store.  Frozen only requires a freezer.  And if it’s the fresh stuff, there’s a few things you can do to store a surplus when you do pick it up in season and on sale.
  2. Canning for stockpiling: When you’ve got a surplus of produce, one of the best things you can do is can it to preserve it for another day’s use.  Canning only requires a few pieces of equipment, and a little time learning the process, then you can be off to the races filling your pantry shelves with preserved fresh produce to use later in the year when produce is much more expensive.
  3. Freeze it: Every year, around the end of summer, corn pops up in the backs of pickup trucks and in the farmers markets.  Compared to the rest of the year, it’s really cheap, and it tastes so good!  Unless we want to eat nothing but fresh corn, though, the season is fleeting, and we’re left with no other corn but the commercially canned or frozen corn you can get at the supermarket.  It’s just not the same.  Last year, we bought a whole bunch of corn (4-5 dozen), shucked them all, then cut the kernels off and combined them in a huge stockpot with some butter, a little bit of salt, and a little bit of water, and then cooked it for a little while.  Once it was done, we let it cool off, and then filled quart size freezer bags with the corn and froze it.  Now, if we want a little taste of that sweet summer corn, we just grab a bag, heat it backup and eat.  We did similar things with pumpkin, squash, zucchini, and a whole bunch of other summer fruits and veggies.  All it takes is a little bit of prep time and the freezer room to enjoy the flavor of fresh produce all year round.
  4. Grow it: If you already grow a garden every year, this might seem like a no-brainer of a tip.  But, growing your own garden can be an excellent way to stretch your produce budget out.  Last year, we enjoyed an abundance of tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, onions, jalepenos, cucumbers, and even an eggplant or two from our tiny container garden.  This year, we’re planning on consolidating down to a smaller selection in hopes that we’ll have some extras that we can can as well.
  5. Find a Farmer’s Market: Buying your produce from a local farmer can often be just as cheap as buying at the supermarket.  In some cases, if you order ahead, you can get a deal on bulk orders of produce which is great if you are planning on canning any of it.  It’s also fresher since it only had to make the trip from the farm down the road instead of the farm across the country.  It’s not always a great way to stretch the produce budget, but if you want high-quality produce that will last longer before spoiling, it’s a good place to check out.
  6. Pick it Yourself: A reader on twitter commented that I’d forgotten to add the u-pick farms.  I hadn’t really forgotten them, as they just don’t exist in my neck of the woods and the cost to drive to the nearest one would negate the savings.  But, if you have a u-pick farm nearby, it’s an excellent way to get out of the house, pick a ton of fresh produce (fruits usually) and save a pretty big chunk of change.  Many of the farms only charge about 1/3 of the cost at the grocery store!

Extending your produce budget is important, not just when there are droughts, but as a way to provide healthy options for you and your family to eat year round.

What do you do to stretch your produce budget?

Earn Rewards with Swagbucks

It’s been a while since I last wrote about Swagbucks.  A little over a year to be exact.  And almost 3 years before that.  I’ve been using Swagbucks for a long time, I guess.  What is Swagbucks?

Swagbucks is a rewards program.  You earn rewards called Swagbucks for doing a variety of activities.  What sort of activities?  Glad you asked.

Swagbucks Search

Earn SwagbucksThis is probably the easiest way to earn Swagbucks.  You can install the Swagbucks add on for your browser and set the Swagbucks search as your default search so that when you search in the location bar it directs you through their search engine.  When you use their search, you can randomly win Swagbucks.  It’s not every search, but depending on your search volume, you might win about once a day.  Your winnings will vary, but they can range from lower amounts like 5 Swagbucks all the way up to 20-50.  The search feature is powered by Yahoo search.

Swagbucks Polls and Surveys

This is probably the second easiest way to earn Swagbucks through the program.  You log into the site and take a poll.  The payout is usually something like 2 Swagbucks for each poll you take and the polls are usually pretty short.  You can also take surveys which tend to be a little longer, but the payout, which varies, is usually a bit better as well.

Swagbucks Coupons

Swagbucks has a relationship with Coupons.com that allows for you to sign into their site and print off coupons.  Because of that relationship, there’s always a pretty good selection of coupons on stuff you’ll use all the time.  For each coupon that you redeem, you earn 10 points.

Swagbucks Shopping

Like most rewards programs, Swagbucks has agreements with all kinds of online retailers where you can click through a link on the Swagbucks site and then earn points based on the money you spend at the retailer.  For example, their homepage is showing 4 Swagbucks for every dollar spend at Walmart.com right now.

Swagbucks Daily Crave

This is a newer way (to me at least) to earn Swagbucks.  There’s a link on the sidebar of the Swagbucks site that leads you to a new page that shows you some videos.  You earn a Swagbuck for watching a few of them.  Pretty easy to use and easy to earn a few Swagbucks each day.

Swagbucks Play

With the play feature, you can play online games for Swagbucks.  The amount you can win varies depending on the game, but certainly a great way to have a little fun and earn some Swagbucks easily.

It’s pretty easy to earn Swagbucks and work towards rewards.  Do a few of these tasks each day and the Swagbucks will add up pretty quickly.  And trading the Swagbucks in for your rewards is pretty easily too.

There’s two ways to redeem your Swagbucks.

Rewards

This is my favorite way to redeem Swagbucks.  For me, the thing I redeem them for the most is the $5 Amazon gift card.  It’s only 500 Swagbucks.  There’s a whole bunch of different places that you can get gift cards from, and you’re sure to find at least one or two that you’ll want to have.

Swagstakes

While it’s never a sure thing, Swagstakes can be a fun way to redeem your Swagbucks.  Obviously, Swagstakes is a play on Sweepstakes.  You redeem your Swagbucks for entries into a Swagstakes with the hope that you’ll win something worth way more than your Swagbucks are worth.  The entry “cost” varies by the Swagstakes, but most are less than 20 Swagbucks per entry.  I don’t use this option very often as I tend to prefer the sure thing of a gift card, but I have entered a few of them.  Never won yet though. :(

Swagbucks is a pretty cool rewards site that I’ve been using for years and I’ve never had a bad experience with them.  Over the years, I’ve redeemed my Swagbucks for a whole bunch of Amazon cards.  Depending on how much I use the site, I’ve sometimes earned a new card every month.  On average, it’s more like every 3-6 months though.  Still, for a few minutes a day, it’s an easy way to save a bit of money on my Amazon purchases.

 

 

Do Your Kids Do Chores?

I recently saw an article on Yahoo! that said only 28% of today’s kids do chores versus 82% of kids from our generation.

I don’t know about you, but I had chores when I was growing up.  I took care of our pets, washed the dishes, and helped clean the house ALL day on Saturdays.  (I still have nightmares about cleaning each and every slat on our huge stereo.)

My kids are definitely part of the 28% of today’s kids who have chores.  My 10 year old is responsible for doing three chores a day including things like vacuuming the living room or his bedroom, emptying the dishwasher, and cleaning the bathroom.  My younger kids are 6 and 5, and they’re responsible for two chores a day including picking up their toys, cleaning their rooms, putting away clean clothes, and feeding the cat.

Kids do ChoresWe have our kids do chores because we want them to learn to be self-sufficient, and we want them to understand that there are not always people there to do things for them.  I plan to work with my oldest this summer to teach him how to prepare some basic meals.

Repercussions for Kids Who Don’t Do Chores

But what about the other 72% of kids who don’t do chores?

One of my friends had surgery recently, and she had trouble getting up to prepare her food.  Her boys are 17 and 13, but neither of them could make her anything while her husband was at work because they hadn’t yet learned to cook.  Her son had to go to the store to buy some frozen meals for her.

And herein lies the problem.  “Too often children leave home for college unable to look after themselves adequately.  They have to rely on junk food or expensive ready-made meals” (Yahoo!).

If your children do not have the most basic of skills to care for themselves, when they’re adults their lack of skills can cost them a small fortune.  You likely know of people who don’t know how to cook, so instead they fill their grocery carts with frozen meals or go out to eat every night.

Even worse, your adult child may be so cozy at home that he never leaves!

Parents Sacrifice Now So Greater Rewards Can Come Later

My guess is that many parents don’t give their children chores because training them to do chores properly takes time, sometimes a few weeks to a few months.  It can be a painful process.

Gina Gardiner, author of the Yahoo! article, states, “Many parents I believe are suffering from the ‘It’s quicker, easier and less hassle to do it yourself syndrome.’ Of course, it takes time to teach children how to do chores and a real commitment to motivate children to do the chores and understand why it’s important—but it is well worth the investment.”

I know that is why I have neglected to teach my oldest to cook and why I’m waiting to do so until the summer when we’ll have more time.  Teaching him to cook will require patience on my end (and perhaps his, too), but it will be well worth the time and effort.

Do you require your children to do chores?  If you don’t, why not?