8 Ways to Use Your Garden Surplus

garden surplus

Guest post from of OneThingAlone.com

Are you drowning in produce?

Right about now, vegetable gardens around the country are bringing in their harvest. And if you’re a gardener, you probably have more cucumbers, zucchini, and tomatoes than you know what to do with.

Letting them go to waste is a shame, but exactly how many ways can you cook zucchini before you hear collective groans at the dinner table? With a little creativity, you can both save money and make others happy with your garden surplus:

1. Save it for later.

You don’t have to eat everything now, you know. Many veggies freeze well if blanched first.

Simply drop a handful of veggies (carrots, green beans, peas) into boiling water, boil for 30-60 seconds, and then “shock” them ice water to stop the cooking process. Drain excess water and freeze in zip-lock bags. They should keep until the next harvest and will come in handy mid-winter.

You can also save spices like oregano and basil by placing them in an ice cube tray and covering them in olive oil. Once frozen, you can pop them out and store in a freezer-safe gallon-sized bag.

Fruit can be flash-frozen on a cookie sheet for 15 minutes and then stored in freezer bags for yummy smoothies, muffins, or healthy snacks throughout the year.

2. Make convenience items.

With just a bit of work, raw produce can become the base for many quick dinners. Use tomatoes to make a few batches of pizza sauce, tomato juice, or spaghetti sauce. Peppers can be sliced and bagged with onions for a fajita kit. Berries make delicious jams and great Christmas presents.

Veggies can also be used in lasagna, pre-made pizza toppings, and kebab kits. Simple, healthy, and money-savvy.

3. Bring them to work.

Obviously, not everyone has a vegetable garden in their backyard. While you may be up to your ears in cucumbers, others may have cukes on their shopping list. Be generous with what you have and make someone’s day.

Note: if you leave cabbage in the break room, check to make sure it’s gone by the end of the day so you don’t come back to a stench.

4. Invite friends into your garden.

I love bringing friends into my garden and letting them pick whatever they want for dinner that week. Nothing says friend like free food, right?

I get rid of extra veggies and they get dinner on the table with fresh, local, and organic produce.

5. Make a stir-fry or stew with remnants.

If all you have is a handful of peas or a small bowl of green beans, combine them all together for a quick stir-fry. Or throw them all in a pot, add some onions, seasonings and sausage, and make a stew!

Bonus: you can freeze half of the recipe for a later time when you don’t feel like cooking or when eating out tempts your wallet.

6. Double up and send it out

Whatever you’re cooking, make a double batch and surprise a friend with dinner. Whether it’s a new mama, a friend with sick kiddos, or your new neighbors, everyone can use a cooking-free night.

7. Try a new recipe

Whenever there’s a particular veggie that overproduces, try searching Pinterest for yummy recipes, print them all out, and have them handy to reference when the basket is full.

According to Google, there are 30,000,000 zucchini recipes out there, just waiting for you to give them a try. Who knew that zucchini fries, zucchini tortellini soup, and chocolate zucchini soup could taste so good?

8. “Auction” it online

Everyone likes free. Give your local Facebook friends something to smile about by “auctioning” off your produce surplus to the funniest comment or the most embarrassing mommy moment.

Create your own giveaway and make someone’s day, or offer it in exchange for babysitting, lawn services, or help with a freezer-cooking day. It’s a win-win either way.

With a bit of creativity and effort, your low-hanging veggies can save money, make smiles, and brighten days.

Asheritah is married to her high school sweetheart, Flaviu, and together with their daughter, Carissa, they make their home in Ohio. She blogs at OneThingAlone.com about the One Thing that makes laundry piles and midnight cries worth every second: walking with Jesus. 

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We Paid Cash: A Cross-Country Move

We paid cash!A testimony from Laura

My husband was getting ready to graduate from college when we decided to move our family of four from Southern Oregon, back to our home state of Colorado — a 1,000 mile move!

Since we had been living on a college-student-sized budget, we didn’t have a lot of money to spend on moving, but we were committed to doing it debt-free.

I went to a do-it-yourself moving company to get estimates, and found that to move all our stuff would cost around $2,500, including gas and lodging. But if we chose to pare down and move our stuff in a trailer that we could haul, we could move for less than $1,000, including gas and lodging.

The largest trailer we could rent from this company was 6×12. Yes, that is six feet by twelve feet (the inside of the trailer is just 11.7 x 5.5, don’t ask me how I know that)!

Since we had been living on a very tight budget, nearly all our belongings had been purchased used and they were looking quite used. We considered that the amount it would cost to move everything was not equal to the value of our belongings, and that if we chose not to move those items (and get rid of anything we weren’t in love with), we could fit into the trailer. Besides, if the Oregon trail pioneers could move a household in a covered wagon, then surely we had no excuse!

Once we decided to move, we had a month-and-a-half before the big day. Here is what we did:

I dug through every room in the house and ruthlessly purged. I kept only the items that we absolutely used and wanted, and everything else was either listed on Craigslist or went in a garage sale pile.

I listed our furniture and nicer items on Craigslist.

Then we had 3 garage sales. At the end of these three sales, we had sold almost everything we wanted to eliminate.

Between Craigslist and the garage sales, we earned $1300!

Then came moving day. When my husband went to pick up the trailer, the trailer wasn’t ready on time, so we got $50 refunded to us. What a great way to kick off our money-saving adventure.

I packed breakfast, lunch, and dinner food in a cooler to save money on restaurants, and then we camped one of the nights.

By the time we paid for the trailer, gas, food, lodging, and even a visit to a zoo along the way, we only spent $900 on our move. That meant we had a whole $400 to get us started in our new home.

Even though it was challenging to eliminate so many of our possessions, we have what we need to get started. And though we will need to spend money to replace items we originally sold, I am confident that we will find a debt-free way to do this as well!

moving

Laura Coble blogs over at Short and Sweet Moments and shares her journey as a mom, wife, and woman learning to stress-less and live in God’s grace. She is a mom to two boys and wife to her best friend. Her move taught her a lot about minimalist living and practicing Eccl 5:15 which says “We all come to the end of our lives as naked and empty-handed as on the day we were born. We can’t take our riches with us”.

Have you saved up and paid cash for something — large or small? Submit your story for possible publication here.

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PSST!! Sign up to earn money promoting our Crazy, Can’t Miss Sale next week!

Grocery University Sale

I’ve got some pretty exciting news to share with you all tonight. My team and I have been working hard on a project for a number of months and we can finally let the cat out of the bag!

One of my goals as a blogger is to offer really practical tools and tactics to help you cut your grocery bill. Which is why I’m thrilled to let you know that we are now offering the Grocery University course by Carrie Isaac.

Carrie is a long-time friend of mine (her husband is actually my brother-in-law’s cousin!) and she’s been a true inspiration to me in so many areas — especially in the area of keeping your grocery budget low!

A few years ago, Carrie produced Grocery University and has since sold thousands of copies of this course and inspired countless people to cut their grocery budgets! When I found out that Carrie was planning to discontinue selling Grocery University because her plate was too full, I approached her and asked if we could buy the rights to the course.

We’re so excited to have the opportunity to now sell this course as part of the MoneySavingMom.com product line. We’ve spent the last few months updating and tweaking the course handbook a bit to match our branding, but the information is still the same valuable information Carrie put together in 2010. You can read all about Grocery University here.

Sign Up For Our Affiliate Program & Earn 50% Of All Sales!

If you’re a blogger or someone who loves to share deals with others via email or social media, we’d LOVE to have you on board as one of our affiliates. You can earn 50% commissions on all sales made through your referral link.

But that’s not all!

We’re re-launching Grocery University next Tuesday (August 19, 2014) with a crazy, can’t miss, one-day-only sale. We expect that this sale will be a HUGE success for our affiliates and — just to make things even more exciting — we’ll be offering 60% commissions on all affiliate sales made on August 19, 2014.

Go here to sign up for the Grocery University affiliate program (it’s free). After you sign up, you’ll have access to your referral link and graphics and everything you’ll need to promote Grocery University to your readers and friends.

And then get ready to promote this sale and (hopefully!) earn some great affiliate income.

P.S. If you’re new to affiliate marketing, be sure to read this post on what affiliate marketing is and 5 ways to maximize your success with affiliate marketing. You can also download my free ebook on How to Make Money Blogging.

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at my blogging processes

Screen Shot 2014-08-13 at 5.36.54 PM

I was honored to be interviewed by iBlog Magazine recently about blogging, online marketing, and what I’ve learned from this crazy and wild adventure I’ve been on as a blogger for the past almost 10 years.

In this interview, I share a behind-the-scenes look at some of my blogging processes, how I’ve grown my team (and some key advice for those of you who are thinking of hiring a virtual assistant), my Pinterest strategy and how much time I invest in it on a daily basis, the platform I’m currently experiencing with, plus a number of lessons I’ve learned the hard way as a blogger.

If you are a blogger, an online entrepreneur, or just want to know more about the behind-the-scenes of MoneySavingMom.com, I think you’ll enjoy watching this interview. Head over here to view it.

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We Paid Cash: A Fixer-Upper Home

We paid cash!

A testimony from Katie

On May 8, 2014, a fairly new dream for us came true. My husband and I paid cash for a house!

We knew that our long term rental agreement would be coming to an end, but the thought of committing ourselves to a 30-year mortgage seemed very scary and frankly, suffocating. We were weighing our options for the better part of last year, all the while I was perusing a local real estate company’s website.

A house listed at $10k caught my eye, but because I thought it was in a not-so-nice neighborhood, I dismissed it. When the priced dropped to $8k I showed my husband. We drove by and were pleasantly surprised by the neighborhood. We made an offer that day and set the closing date a couple of months out so we could save up.

We are not wealthy at ALL. My husband works full time at a non-profit and I work part-time at a different non-profit. We have two kids of our own and are currently raising my two nephews after my sister lost her battle with cancer.

Even still, we were able to save up the $8000 and paid cash for our fixer-upper home!

Here is how we saved:

$2500 = Tax Refund

$2000 = Savings Account

$500 = Paypal cash earned from using Swagbucks. Yes, Swagbucks helped pay for our house.

$300 = My husband’s mileage and phone allowance. (He gets reimbursed monthly.)

$3200 = 3 months of my salary. I normally do not earn this much in 3 months but I have a very understanding boss who let me work extra shifts and also found some helpful but unnecessary work for me to do.

So all that amounted to $8500, which was the cost of the house plus closing. We lived off one income for those three months, we cooked everything from scratch, and did not so much as wish to turn on the air conditioning. It’s hot here!

We are currently restoring the house back to it’s 1940 glory — and we are NOT going into debt to do it! We will use my earnings to make needed updates.

For instance, the 1940′s electrical system is not up to code and we are currently replacing it. Everything we use to repair the house is recycled, upcycled, hand-me downs and we have had a few gifts along the way. We hope to spend this Christmas there.

the8khouse

MoneySavingMom.com has helped us immensely over the years and I would never have even thought of paying cash for a house if I had not been reading this site. If you are interested in following along with our house progress, you can do so at our blog, The 8K House

Have you saved up and paid cash for something — large or small? Submit your story for possible publication here.

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9 Money-Saving Vacation Tips

money-saving vacation tips

Guest post from Jackie of Mom on a Mission

Months ago, my daughter had a field trip to Charleston, SC, and the carriage ride was a part of her package cost. My teacher husband was one of the chaperones and after the carriage ride, he told the driver how much he enjoyed the tour and shared that our family was returning for a vacation.

The driver gave him a business card signed with admission for 4 adults. Wow, that was a $100 gift! It pays to compliment the driver.

When we arrived back in Charleston a month later, our two oldest kids served as the adult price and we decided to hold our 4-year-old for no charge and pay one child admission for our 6-year-old at $14.95. We could have paid $155, but only had to pay $14.95 thanks to my complimentary husband and a blessing from the driver.

We enjoy almost all our vacations in this fashion — knowing we are using our resources wisely and saving money while enjoying ourselves. If you’re planning an upcoming vacation, here are 9 ways we like to save that might work for you, too:

1. Plan Ahead With Freezer Meals.

When I’m on vacation I like to be in the kitchen as little as possible. By planning ahead with freezer meals, we not only save time and energy by having our meals prepped, we also save money for extra entertainment.

I pack a cooler full of frozen food of homemade versions of waffles, pizza bagel bites, lasagna, marinated meat or chicken, muffins and/or desserts or snacks. Once the cooler is packed to the brim, it doesn’t thaw. I’ve had frozen food last overnight when tightly packed with solid casseroles and such.

If hotel/motel space is an issue for freezer cooking, a plug-in griddle, hot pot or sandwich maker could provide some quick inexpensive meals to offset dining costs.

2. Check Groupon & Living Social.

We scan our destination to look for entertainment or restaurant coupons. This year on Groupon, we saw the Children’s museum with half-price tickets. We opted out since we’ve done it several years in a row, but I’ve seen specials on everything from spas, plantation tours, riverboat cruises, and Aquariums.

It’s worth checking out.

3. Find Restaurant.com Deals or Local Specials.

We typically eat out at least once during our vacation week, and it’s often using a coupon from Restaurant.com or eat during the lunch hours. Another option is sharing a meal at night.

This year we splurged and took advantage of Sonic half-priced shakes after 8 p.m. for a family walk on the pier. We visit the water park on Tuesdays when admission is half-price and pack our own lunch. Visiting the restaurant or calling ahead about specials can save a great deal of money. Our theme park cost us $60, but it would have cost us $120 on a different day.

Another treat our older kids enjoyed was a reusable Kangaroo cup. The cup was $7 upfront and they enjoyed a bike ride to the gas station for a 25 cent slushy refill, which would have cost $5 each. I ended up giving in to the daily unhealthy splurge since it was a vacation and thankfully, there are no Kangaroo stations in NC.

4. Look for Free Movies/Music on the Beach.

We check out the local website to see what’s happening. An outdoor movie was showing and we popped our own popcorn and brought water. It was a frugal movie night for the whole family.

State parks offer fun activities for the whole family. The state park nearby cost $1 per person and there is a free water splash play area and playground. They also offered family and kid’s activities centered on nature, some which were free. It pays to do research before traveling.

5. Visit Chick-Fil-A on Cow Appreciation Day.

Chick-Fil-A Cow Appreciation Day only happens once a year. Dress like a cow for free chicken. You bet we jumped on the opportunity to wear spots on our black and white attire and sport a mask for any meal on the menu.

Our family of six saved over $45 for dinner. This is a franchise celebration so our cow attire traveled!

6. Pack Picnics with Frozen Water Bottles.

One of our favorite activities to do is go on picnics and rather than picking up lunch, we go for our own healthy options consisting of deli meat, cheese, and whole grain bread. I often pack grilled chicken pitas with leftover grilled chicken and shredded mozzarella cheese. I wrap them in foil and place them near a frozen water bottle to stay cool for hours.

A recycled juice bottle filled with water and frozen water stays cooler longer and you have fresh cold water when thawed.

7. Bring Your Own Bikes.

Bike rentals cost up to $30 a day. We purchased our own and take them with us. My husband found an inexpensive bike rack on Craigslist and we’ve picked up a bike or two from garage sales for less than $10. Our bikes go with is so our older kids and at least one parent can enjoy riding, saving us at least $100 per person for the week.

8. Make Breakfast To-Go and Snacks To-Go.

A fast food breakfast is not always the healthiest or most frugal. I plan ahead for an early morning departure and boil eggs, pack cheese sticks, unsalted almonds, mini-whole wheat bagels with light cream cheese or homemade muffins and reusable water bottles.

Snack ideas include homemade trail mix with low-sugar cereals, pretzels, nuts and dried fruit. I make no-bake granola bars and spread peanut butter crackers on whole wheat crackers to avoid vending machines.

If we want ice cream, we stop by the grocery store and for a box verses the vendor. Large families can benefit from a box of treats verses paying $5 each. I found a half-price box of sorbet pops and the kids enjoyed two treats.

9. Rent a Vacation Home With a Clean-it-Yourself Option.

We rent a house two rows back from the beach front — which is cheaper. Walking two streets over is great exercise. In addition, our home rental does not require a cleaning service so there is no additional fee. We clean it ourselves upon departure because we’d be doing it anyway at the end of the week at home. Everyone pitches in and it gets done quickly and saving anywhere from $60 to $100.

Consider a vacation rental in early August when the price drops. Homeschooling families can take advantage of late August or early September with fewer crowds and the best rates.

Camping is another frugal option that could be considered. We enjoy half-price savings at many campgrounds through Passport America.

How do you save money while on vacation?

Jackie Brown is a mom of four whom blogs at Mom on a Mission: sharing Christ through Freezer Cooking. She makes abundant freezer meals for her family while inspiring others to bless the poor and the needy with their freezer bounty.

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