I generally try to avoid anything that seems gimmicky. The whole Black Friday, Shop Small Saturday, Cyber Monday all seem crafted to make people feel like they must buy all the things NOW. Being a small business owner, though, I wanted to address the “Shop Small” thing.
All those cute memes you see about small business owners doing a happy dance with every purchase, the care that goes into creating and packaging a product just for you, and the direct impact your purchase has on an individual or family? They’re all true, for me at least, and for the other small business owners I know. I celebrate each and every sale. I make sure to package every order with care and a handwritten thank-you. Every sale goes towards helping my family directly.
That’s not to say that big business are bad or don’t help their employees or don’t appreciate our business. Not at all. I’d be lying if I said the big blue Amazon truck never stopped at my house or I never shop at Walmart. They absolutely have their place, too. But, if today or any other day throughout the year you are able to make a purchase from a small business, know that we thank you for your support and are celebrating. Probably with a happy dance, although I refuse to post video evidence.
If you’re not in a position to make a purchase from a small business or what they offer just doesn’t fit your needs, there are other ways to offer support. Sharing their information with others that might like what they have to offer is one way. Letting them know what you like about their products is another.
Spread the Love
If you are a small business owner or know of an awesome one, please leave a comment with the shop’s info so that I and my readers can check them out, whether it’s Shop Small Saturday or some random Tuesday. Artists and authors are welcome, too. I would love to have a list of small business to refer to and to share with my friends and family.
No matter what our budget looks like, food is always a part of it. You have to eat, right? There are many thoughts on the best way to save on food. These are the things that work for me.
Eat at home
This one is probably the most important. If you eat out, regardless of whether it’s a dine-in or fast food restaurant, you are going to spend more than if you cook and eat at home. It’s fine to splurge once in a while, but if you’re looking to save, eating at home gives you the most bang for your buck.
Buy mostly ingredients
Prepackaged foods are sometimes quicker, but they are usually more expensive per serving. If it’s a choice between eating out and eating convenience foods from the grocery, it’s still usually cheaper than eating out, so if it’s a choice between KFC or a deli rotisserie chicken, bagged salad and prepackaged dinner rolls, the deli chicken is probably the cheaper and healthier option.
There are some convenience items that I find helpful, especially when life gets hectic. Jarred sauces, bouillon and frozen potatoes in various forms are things that I like to have on hand to help me get a meal on the table quickly. When there’s not time to make the sauce from scratch or I don’t have homemade broth on hand those can make it easy to still throw something together. They’re also usually fairly inexpensive, so I feel they are budget friendly convenience choices.
Buy in bulk where it makes sense
Don’t buy a ton of perishables like fresh fruit just because it’s on sale. If you have time to prep and freeze or can the fruit, then go for it. Things like canned goods, freezer staples and shelf stable items are great for buying in bulk, if you have the room. We have a small chest freezer, so I’m able to buy fruit on sale to freeze for smoothies or desserts and an extra ham or turkey when they are on sale for under $1 per pound around the holidays.
I also buy basmati rice in 20 lb bags because we prefer it over other types of rice and it is so much cheaper that way. To keep it fresh and manageable, I keep a small container of it in the cupboard and the rest goes into the freezer.
It’s easy to have one or two grocery stores or box stores where you do all of your shopping. If you have farmer’s markets, discount groceries or ethnic groceries in your area, you may find better deals on some items.
For starters, if you have an Aldi nearby and haven’t given them a try, please do. I’ve found them to have a good selection of staples and they have a good guarantee on everything they sell. You won’t find many name-brands at Aldi, but with their guarantee, it’s worth trying and seeing if you like their store brands. They also carry a lot of gluten-free options, as well as dairy-free milk alternatives and a dairy-free mozarella cheese.
I also frequently shop a local Vietnamese grocery store. They have tons of fresh greens and other produce at really good prices. I also get a lot of specialty items, like things for making pho or sushi for sometimes half the cost or less of what I would pay at Kroger or Walmart. Bulk spices and rice are also cheaper there. For gluten-free pasta, rice noodles from there are cheaper than gluten-free options from Kroger and Walmart.
Find a method of meal planning that works for you.
Some people do really well with having every meal, every day planned out to every last detail. I prefer something more flexible that allows for changes based on last minute plans or whatever is on sale that week or whatever leftovers we need to eat. Regardless of the type of meal planner you are, have some sort of game plan in place.
Meal planning is one area where I need to improve, but I do have a basic game plan for meals that I’ll post on at a later date.
While you’re planning, don’t forget lunch. Leftovers are quick and easy lunches, so if you’re planning a dinner that reheats well, make enough for lunch the next day.
Keep staples for one or two quick meals on hand always
This is important in case you forget to plan, or something doesn’t work out with your plan. Whether it’s spaghetti and premade sauce, eggs, fruit and toast or some other meal you can throw together in under thirty minutes, keep the ingredients on hand for one or two backups that you like. Having a backup option makes it easier to eat at home when you might otherwise be tempted to eat out.
Eat real food
If you have to change your eating habits due to health or personal beliefs, it’s easy to try to substitute faux or “free” foods tailored to that diet. Price-wise though, it’s better to adapt your diet with real foods. Rather than faux meat burgers, try grilling portobello mushrooms or making your own patties with chickpeas. Instead of gluten free pasta, substitute rice or potatoes. Instead of diet drinks, flavor water, tea or soda water with fruit.
If you’re really craving cheese and you’re dairy free or bread and you’re gluten free, go ahead and splurge on the dairy or gluten free options. If you’re on a plant-based diet but desperately want something like a real burger, go for one of the faux meat patties. Just try to keep those splurges to a minimum and you’ll save money.
Find recipes for soups, stews and beans that you like
Soups, stews and beans are usually cheap, filling and can be a one pot meal. Having a few recipes you like and keeping the ingredients on hand can really help save money on food. They also are easy to make in bulk and usually freeze well, so making a bunch and having it for lunch or in the freezer for nights that dinner plans don’t work out helps prevent eating out. I love crock pots or pressure cookers for making soups and stews. It’s absolutely not necessary to run out and buy a slow cooker or pressure cooker, but if it’s something you’ve been considering, I love my electric pressure cooker for so many things.
Social distancing due to COVID-19 has made a big impact on all our lives. It’s all to easy to focus on the negative impacts but there are positives as well. Here’s five of the ways social distancing has made a positive impact on my grocery shopping.
Shopping kid-free for social distancing
If you’re lucky enough to have someone to watch your children, you’ve probably been shopping kid-free. That was my preference before, too, but now it’s easier to insist that they stay home with Daddy. Not only does it help with social distancing, it makes it easier to focus on getting what I need and getting out.
Fine-tuning weekly shopping
I used to try to make grocery shopping a weekly event, but I would always wind up making extra trips for things we need throughout the week. Now, though, I’m definitely more motivated to shop once a week at the most. Because of this, I’ve paid close attention to how quickly we use up staples and adjusted my shopping list accordingly.
Creating a realistic budget
Weekly shopping makes it easier to keep track of how much we spend on groceries. Knowing exactly what we spend in a week makes it easier to realistically plan how much of our budget needs to go towards groceries.
Since we haven’t eaten anything other than home cooked food since around the end of February, we have a clear picture of what it costs to eat every meal at home. Comparing the cost of one meal out to our current weekly expense makes it clear just how much eating at home saves.
Sticking to a list
Weekly shopping means having a thorough list. Forgetting something means going without or having to make a second trip. I’ve been much more thoughtful about planning for snacks and accurately gauging how long the staples we have on hand should last.
Needing an accurate list made me reorganize some of my kitchen storage. Knowing what I have is the first step to knowing what I need and what I need to use up.
Weekly shopping and eating at home for every meal has made me get more creative. I’ve always been more of a well-stocked pantry person than a detailed meal planner. While I don’t usually have a specific meal plan, I always have some general meal ideas when I head to the store. That flexibility, along with knowing what I have at home, works really well when I may have to make last minute substitutions at the grocery store due to shortages.
To keep us from getting totally bored with eating at home, I try to experiment with a new recipe at least once a week. I don’t wan’t to have to make a separate trip to find specialty ingredients, so I look for recipes that use mostly staple ingredients with maybe one or two new ingredients, like curry or miso paste that bigger grocery stores are likely to carry. That way, if they don’t have it, I can easily work with what I have.
Near the end of the week, I try to use up any leftovers, sometimes combining them with new ingredients to make something different.
What positives have you noticed with social distancing regulations? Please, share them in the comments.
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A few days ago, I learned that my local Kroger is closing. Luckily there is another one not too far. Still, I’m used to the layout at my local store, and I’ve gone there for so long that many of the employees know me.
Since the announcement, I’ve seen many conversations about that store and Kroger in general on Facebook. One thing that I’m constantly hearing is that Kroger is overpriced and Walmart is much cheaper. There’s even a Walmart commercial running on TV right now that compares a basket full of similar items from each store with Walmart’s basket coming out to be cheaper. While the commercial doesn’t surprise me, I am a little surprised every time I hear an individual say Walmart is cheaper. For me, I’ve always thought Kroger is cheaper on most groceries I buy. With everyone saying the opposite, I decided to do a little price comparison shopping.
Kroger vs. Walmart: The Plan
For the comparison, I created a grocery pickup list for each store based around some of my most common purchases. As much as possible, I matched brands at each store or chose the store brand at both. I used the normal price rather than the sale price where applicable. Due to eating gluten and dairy free, things like bread and milk that most people regularly purchase won’t be on my list.
The Food and Price Comparison
Coffee: Kroger Select Blend Medium Roast, 30.5 oz, $4.99. Walmart Great Value Classic Roast Medium Ground Coffee, 30.5 oz. $4.93. Winner: Walmart
Frozen Mixed Vegetables: Kroger Store Brand, 32 oz, $1.99. Walmart Great Value Brand, 32 oz, $1.94. Winner: Walmart
Bath Tissue: Kroger 1000 Sheets per Roll Bath Tissue, 12 rolls, $6.79, $0.57 per roll. Walmart Great Value 1000 Bath Tissue Rolls, 16 rolls, $9.12, $0.57 per roll. Winner: Tie
Cascade Complete Gel Dishwasher Detergent, 75 oz: Kroger $7.59. Walmart $5.97. Winner: Walmart. Honestly, this one wasn’t a surprise to me because I do find Walmart better on a lot of non-food items.
Kroger vs. Walmart Price Comparison: Overall winner
Kroger, by a whopping $1. At Kroger, the almond milk is currently on sale for $3.99 and the ground beef is on sale for $8.97. With those discounts, my Kroger total would have been $3.50 less than my Walmart total.
For the kinds of things I normally buy, Kroger is generally the cheaper store overall. I’m not a big coupon user, but I do check the Kroger app frequently and load any coupons that I think I may use to my Kroger card. After that, I shop like normal and any coupons I qualify for get applied automatically. Between that and sales, Kroger is almost guaranteed to be consistently cheaper for me.
I also generally like the produce and canned goods at Kroger better than Walmart. I usually can find what I need at both places, but if I need to buy lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, I avoid Walmart.
Having said that, there are things, like dishwasher detergent, that are definitely cheaper at Walmart. I wouldn’t say it’s worth it to make a special trip, but if I’m at Walmart anyway, it’s worth stocking up on.
Like I said earlier, my shopping list may look nothing like your shopping list. With more and more stores offering online shopping for pickup or delivery, it’s worth it to periodically do a price comparison between your local stores. It’s so easy to do online, and you may learn ways to adjust your shopping habits and save money.
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Another kitchen gadget I find myself using almost daily is my air fryer. Like my electric pressure cooker, my air fryer was a Christmas gift from my parents. This is the Gourmia model I own. It has a six quart basket and eight preset functions, or I can manually set the timing and temperature.
Unlike with my pressure cooker, I honestly wasn’t sure what to do with the air fryer at first. I don’t fry a lot of things, mainly because it’s messy. I also have the added challenge of making gluten free breading. Even before going gluten-free, I found it hard to get the breading to stick on things like chicken and have it cook all the way through without burning the outside. After some experimenting, though, I’ve found that the air fryer makes frying easier. I’ve also found that the air fryer does so much more than frying.
Ways I use my air fryer
Potatoes Whether it’s fresh home fries or frozen tater tots, the air fryer browns them all nicely. My air fryer has a french fry preset, so I just add the potatoes and start it. Every once in a while during the cooking, I give the basket a shake to keep them from clumping. This is especially important if the basket is fairly full. You can cook them completely without oil, but I do like to toss them lightly with a little olive oil. This seems most important with french fries. They’re okay without it, but I like the flavor better with it.
Sausage and bacon Both turn out beautifully in the air fryer. All the excess grease drains under the basket, leaving the bacon crisp and the sausage not greasy. I use the bacon setting on mine for both, but I reduce the time to nine minutes for sausage.
Reheating leftovers We got rid of our microwave a few years ago. We really only used it to reheat leftovers, which never tasted as good as if I heated them on the stove or in the oven, and it took up a lot of counter space. While I still use our stove and oven to reheat things for the whole family, if I’m just heating a plate of food or other small amount, I’ll use the air fryer. It’s quicker than the oven, and the food heats more evenly than it did in the microwave. The texture is better, too.
Frying I still don’t do this much, but I finally got gluten-free fried chicken to work, so that may change. I did cheat a little by quickly frying it on the stove first, just to lightly brown and set the breading. Then I added it all into the air fryer basket and let it finish it with the chicken preset function. While it’s not as low fat that way, the chicken turned out crisp and juicy but not at all greasy. That also freed up my skillet to make gravy while the chicken finished cooking so it was all hot and perfectly done at the same time.
Baking It is essentially a counter top convection oven, so it bakes as well as an oven. I don’t use this function as much, because, with a family of five, the oven is usually more convenient. If I’m only making a few cookies, though, it works really well. I’ve also baked cheesecake in it using the recipe that came with my air fryer. It turned out delicious and was super easy to make.
What are your tips?
I’m still learning new things to try in my air fryer. With just those five things, I already use it almost every day. I would love to hear more creative ways to use an air fryer. If you have one, please share your favorite tips and recipes in the comments.
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If you follow me on social media, you know I frequently post inspirational quotes. I decided to start offering mugs printed with select quotes in my shop. Since I am a crafter, I’m starting with quotes focusing on art and creativity. Honestly, selling something that is my design but not my handiwork made me a little nervous, as I am a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to my products. I’m a big coffee and tea drinker, though, and the thought of getting to see a quote that makes me smile in my design every time I reach for my cup inspired me to take the plunge.
My first mug
“Creativity takes courage,” by Henri Matisse seemed like the perfect quote to start the new year. I ordered my mug on Friday, and it arrived on Thursday, so it only took a week total for printing and shipping. My mug arrived securely packaged in a box designed to protect the mug without needing additional packing material. Yay for no plastic or excess packaging!
The mug itself turned out beautifully. My late night craft room with my cell phone photos really don’t do it justice. The colors are true to the original product photos and the designs are crisp. Unlike my photos. They are a little grainy and for some reason the dots in the center of the flower show up brown instead. In person, they are bluish-green. Hopefully the storms hold off long enough for me to break out my camera for daylight photos tomorrow.
In last week’s tutorial, the bottom hem was double stitched but otherwise left raw. Since knits don’t unravel, it is fine to leave it that way. I prefer to finish the raw edge, either with a serger or by enclosing the cut edge.
The top seam is finished by serging the raw edge. If you don’t have a serger/overlock machine, you can use a zig-zag or overcast stitch on a regular sewing machine.
The bottom seam is enclosed. Do do this, when following the first tutorial (found here) do NOT turn the shirt inside out when sewing the first bottom seam. Instead, sew it with the shirt right side out. Once it is sewn, trim any excess material from below the stitch line, leaving about 1/8-1/4 of an inch.
Now, turn the shirt inside out and smooth the bottom seam flat, like in this photo:
Once it is all smooth (ironing helps) sew a seam at least 1/2 inch to 5/8 inch from the bottom. This stitch line encloses the raw edge. Since it is the bottom seam that will get the most stress, I still stitch it twice. Turn it right side out, and you’re done, unless you’d like to add a little shape to your bag.
Boxing the bottom
Boxing the bottom of the bag basically squares off the bottom, similar to a paper bag. I rarely do this with t shirt bags. They are too floppy for it to make much difference without adding a ton of interfacing for support. I also like these bags because they are easy to fold and stash in the car or my purse. Boxing the bottom complicates that a little. Even so, sometimes a boxed bottom can help things like cereal boxes or egg cartons fit neatly, so having one or two is nice.
With your bag inside out, flatten the bottom seam so that it forms a triangle. That is a horrible description, so hopefully you can see what I mean from this photo:
The white stitching is the bottom hem of the bag. It should be in the middle, cutting the triangle in half.
Measure about 3 inches down from the point of the triangle and draw a straight line perpendicular to the hem stitching.
Sew along the line you drew twice to make it a strong seam. This photo shows my stitching in red and my chalk line.
Repeat steps 1-3 on the other side.
To finish, you could cut the excess part of the triangles and leave them raw or overcast/zig-zag stitch the cut edges. If you want to add strength and more structure to the bag, leave the triangles intact. Fold them down flat into the bottom of the bag and either tack in place with a few stitches at the point or sew along the loose sides of the triangles.
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