Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Save Money on Paper Products!


I spent $250.00 yesterday at Wal-Mart! I was shocked. Even though some of that money was on food items for my son who is away at summer school, most of it went towards household and beauty products. I can’t afford to waste money like that anymore. The cost of food and gas are outrageous and college is very expensive!

So, it is back to basics. First on the list are paper goods. We use a lot of paper towels, toilet paper, napkins, paper plates, garbage bags, aluminum foil, saran wrap, baggies, facial tissue, and cupcake papers. We can cut back or even eliminate everything but toilet paper, facial tissue, and garbage bags. Paper towels can be replaced with white wash cloths. You can buy around a dozen for about $5.00 at Wal-Mart or the Dollar Store. You can use them for cleaning and wiping up spills. Put the paper towels away for really dirty jobs and set out a few wash cloths instead. Some people like to use sponges but I find wash cloths to more hygienic. Used newspapers can be used to clean windows and mirrors. Napkins and paper plates can be replaced with cloth napkins and dinner wear. This will generate a little more laundry but it is worth it. Saran wrap and baggies can be replaced by using and reusing leftover containers as well as old plastic containers and jars. Use Pam Spray instead of aluminum foil and cupcake papers. Comparison shopping for toilet paper, facial tissue, and garbage bags can save you money and they can be bought in bulk or on sale. Watch your toilet paper hanger. Some rolls of toilet paper have a wide hollow inside that allows the paper to roll off faster and if you are not careful you can find yourself tearing off more than you need. I do not care for using handkerchiefs but you could sure save some money there. Some people re-use plastic shopping bags for small garbage cans. Then you can just dump the contents into your larger bag.

Beware of the generic brands. Some are just as good if not better but there are a lot of bad ones.

I have done these things before and they have saved us a lot of money. It is easy to fall back in the habit of relying on paper products to make life easier. It's better for your budget and the environment if you eliminate or at least cut down on the use of these products. If you do use a lot of these products remember to recycle and reuse all paper items such as paper towel and toilet paper rolls, paper bags, newspapers, junk mail, and cardboard boxes. It is not as convenient as using paper products but once you get in the habit it is pretty easy and you will love saving money and helping the environment.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Recycled Coin Bank Project

Do you recycle?

I do. I wash and separate all my plastic containers, cans, and papers and set them out by the curb once a week to be picked up by our local recycling company. Yesterday I was looking at that stuff and I started thinking about trying to reuse these poor discarded objects. I realized that I could have a free box of “craft supplies” to work with every week.

I am very proud of my first project. I made a coin bank out of a Hershey’s Cocoa Box. I spray painted it and decoupaged it with some Cubs wrapping paper I had saved from a Father’s Day Gift. My husband loves it and has taken it to work and added it to his collection of Cubs memorabilia. He is putting his change in it every day.

You can use any kind of sturdy container with a removable lid such as drink mix jars, oatmeal boxes, salt boxes, or coffee tins. Any kind of paper can be used as well as photographs and greeting cards. Buttons, bows, beads, jewelry and other embellishments can be attached with a hot glue gun to the finished bank. I only had to buy a jar of Mod Podge Gloss Lustre. It is a water based sealer, glue and finish. A small bottle costs around $3.00 at Wal-Mart. It can be reused for many different projects. It is a very simple, fun, and creative project.

Coin Bank

Sturdy container with removable plastic lid.
Paper cutouts to decorate box.
Mod Podge Gloss Lustre
Sharp scissors or craft knife
Paint brush
Sandpaper – optional
Spray paint – optional
Acrylic varnish – optional
1. Remove label from container and wash thoroughly. Dry thoroughly. Carefully cut out a slit in the lid for inserting coins. You may have to poke some holes in the general slot area to make cutting easier.
2. Spray paint lid and container if desired in a color that coordinates with the paper or papers you have chosen to decoupage. Let dry.
3. Arrange paper over container to create the design you want. Apply a coat of Mod Podge to the container and then smooth your paper over the container. Let dry.
4. Apply 2-3 more coats of Mod Podge over container allowing to dry at least 20 minutes between coats.
5. Apply a coat or two of acrylic varnish for extra durability if desired.

Note 1: Lightly sanding the container before painting helps the paint adhere better.
Note 2: The bank can be decorated after the last coat of Mod Podge or varnish with buttons and other embellishments with a hot glue gun.

I had a lot of fun with this craft and am looking for more recycling crafts. I have ordered some books from the library and have some been looking at some web sites. This was my first time decoupaging and I think it is a lot of fun!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

We are overloaded with zucchini and cucumbers right now. What do you do with all that lovely zucchini? I had a favorite chocolate zucchini cake recipe but I lost it. I needed to bake one today so I had to look for a new one. I tried this new recipe from Simply Recipes:

Chocolate Zucchini Cake Recipe

• 2 1/2 cups regular all-purpose flour, unsifted
• 1/2 cup cocoa
• 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
• 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1 teaspoon cinnamon
• 3/4 cup soft butter
• 2 cups sugar
• 3 eggs
• 2 teaspoons vanilla
• 2 teaspoons grated orange peel
• 2 cups coarsely shredded zucchini
• 1/2 cup milk
• 1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
• Glaze (directions follow)


Preheat the oven to 350°F.
1 Combine the flour, cocoa, baking powder, soda, salt, and cinnamon; set aside.
2 With a mixer, beat together the butter and the sugar until they are smoothly blended. Add the eggs to the butter and sugar mixture one at a time, beating well after each addition. With a spoon, stir in the vanilla, orange peel, and zucchini.
3 Alternately stir the dry ingredients and the milk into the zucchini mixture, including the nuts with the last addition.
4 Pour the batter into a greased and flour-dusted 10-inch tube pan or bundt pan. Bake in the oven for about 50 minutes (test at 45 minutes!) or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan 15 minutes; turn out on wire rack to cool thoroughly.
5 Drizzle glaze over cake.
Glaze: Mix together 2 cups powdered sugar, 3 Tablespoons milk, and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Beat until smooth.
Cut in thin slices to serve. Makes 10-12 servings.

While it was baking, it smelled like heaven. It was easy to make. I substituted 1/3 cup orange juice for the zest and added chocolate chips. Instead of the glaze I just sifted confectioner's sugar over the top. It is moist and delicious. My family will never guess it was made with zucchini!

I found dozens and dozens of zucchini recipes – even a zucchini brownie recipe that I will be trying next week.

It is recommended that you blanch zucchini before freezing. Blanching inactivates the enzymes that cause frozen zucchini to become discolored and mushy. However, you can place a measured amount of shredded zucchini in bags and freeze to be used in breads and other baked goods.

Now, what do we do with all those cucumbers!