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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Increase Your Income and Build Relationships By Renting Out Part of Your Home

renters

Guest post from Lisa Joy of Eclectic

A few years ago, we moved from a tiny condo into a split-level home. We loved our new floor plan and knew we could expand to fill it — but we didn’t have to. We had an extra bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen downstairs; and since we didn’t want to waste that space, finding a renter seemed like the logical thing to do.

For the record, you don’t need an extra kitchen to have a renter. My parents, who are entering the empty-nest stage, have invited a local college girl to live in a spare bedroom upstairs. They have also remodeled part of their walk-out basement to be a small apartment.

Having a renter in your home can expand your family’s relationships while increasing your monthly income. Also, income earned from a renter has the added benefits of often being tax-free (you’ll want to research this as you do your taxes), and requires no continual work hours.

If you live in a home with a little extra space, or if you could consolidate to make that space, having a renter may be a good option for you as well. Here are a few things to think about if this is a path you would like to pursue:

Find the Right Fit

A renter can be a nightmare if it’s not a good fit for your family, but a good fit can be a huge blessing. We are just about to welcome our third renter into our home. All three have been single, Christian women who have just completed their undergrad degree.

To find them, we advertised through two local colleges. We make it clear that we are a small Christian family with young children. We will only accept females who are willing to keep quiet hours and respect our property.

We ask each prospective renter for three references, and we do a background check. We also ask them to come visit our home and share a meal with us, so that they can see the place and so that we can get a feel for their personality.

Set Clear Boundaries

I’m a private, introverted person, and having a renter only works because we have clear boundaries. Both we and our renters sign a lease agreement before they move in.

The lease agreement includes specification of what space belongs to whom. Some space belongs to us, and the renter is not allowed to enter without invitation.

Some space belongs to our renter, and we are not allowed to enter except in case of emergency. Some space is shared.

Because we have a split-level home, the entire upstairs is our private space, so I can wear my pajamas around without having to worry. Not like I would, you know, but just in case! ;)

We ask our renters to get a post office box, so we’re not sharing a mailbox. We also specify where our renter should park their car.

If you share a kitchen or bathroom, you can specify things like which cupboard or fridge/freezer shelf belongs to your renters. You can specify when your renter does laundry. We also make rules about the number of guests allowed, and ask our renters to get permission for overnight guests.

Our lease agreement includes basics like a security deposit to cover any damages, and a deadline when rent is due each month. And because we have small children, we set quiet hours from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m.

Clear boundaries upfront protect both you and your renter, and help you find someone with a quiet lifestyle who will respect your privacy.

Enjoy A Mutual Blessing

I remember being a single woman just out of college, and it was challenging. Finding housing that is both affordable and safe can be difficult. Adjusting to a new area can be lonely.

Many single women welcome the opportunity to live with a family. In some cases, you may find that you are not just a landlord, but a friend.

A renter can also be a blessing to YOU. We hire our renter not only for baby-sitting, but also for getting mail and watering plants when we are out of town.

We occasionally invite our renter up for a meal and last winter we visited together when we were snowed in. Our children consider them almost like adopted aunts.

I had some initial misgivings, and of course there’s been a little inconvenience, but ultimately having a renter has been so worth it. I’m grateful for the opportunity to increase our monthly income, and to reach out at the same time.

Lisa Joy is a disciple of Christ, living in the Shenandoah Valley with her husband, son, and daughter, teaching part-time, fostering, homemaking, and blogging a little around the edges at Eclectic.

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5 Lessons for Financially Wise Children

financially wise children

Guest post from Angi of SchneiderPeeps

Over the last few years, our children have done some pretty cool things. They’ve had opportunities to go to Boy Scout Jamboree, Philmont and Northern Tier High Adventure Camps, get training with Actors, Models and Talent for Christ, start a beekeeping business, and go to jewelry school. These are all things that have cost thousands of dollars and that THEY have paid for themselves.

We are pretty proud of what they have each accomplished… and so are they. As I look back over the years, I see several things that I believe have helped our children learn to be wise with money.

1. Learn to work

All of our children know how to work. They are each responsible for their own belongings and for helping with household work.

Even small children can empty small trash cans or put away silverware. Whether to pay your child an allowance or commission for household work is a very personal decision, one that parents need to carefully consider.

It’s important that children learn that in order to have money they need to work, but it’s also important for children to learn to work hard even when pay isn’t involved or if no one is looking.

One interesting thing that has happened from working hard when pay is not involved is that my older children are regularly hired to help friends with projects that they have going on in their home.

2. Learn to save

When our children were young, we required them to save a certain percentage of all their money. As they have gotten older we have not needed to have this requirement; they all have learned to save for things they want – both big and small.

Some of our children have learned this discipline quicker than others, but all of our older children are savers.

3. Learn to give

It’s really important to us that our children learn to give generously. At a minimum, we have always required that our children tithe on their earnings.

We no longer have to require this, they just do it naturally. But, we also want them to give in addition to their tithe, so we have made sure that they have opportunities to practice giving by filling shoe boxes for Operation Christmas child, giving to a family in our church whose home burned down, purchasing curtains for our local Women’s Shelter, sending clothes and school supplies to a friend’s village in Kenya and taking meals to families who have had a new baby or are experiencing a hardship in some way.

4. Learn to be content

Contentment is hard to teach because it’s a choice that we each have to make in our hearts. But that doesn’t mean we don’t encourage our children to be content.

One way we’ve done this is by being content and thankful for what we have and not chasing the next new shiny thing. We try to buy quality items and then keep them for years.

One thing my older children have observed about electronics is that as soon as a new product is released the company is already working on the next generation. It can become a vicious cycle trying to always have the latest and greatest technology or clothing style or car.

Don't protect your children from making mistakes

5. Learn from mistakes

My children have made mistakes in their financial journey. Fortunately, those mistakes have been minor compared to what can happen when they are on their own.

It’s hard to see them struggle and the “mommy” in me really wants to rescue them from their choices or to forbid a choice that I know is unwise. However, I’d rather see my child make a mistake that costs only a hundred dollars and learn the lessons he needs to learn than to make mistakes as an adult that cost thousands of dollars.

If I keep them from making mistakes or rescue them from the consequences, I just delay them learning the lessons they need to learn.

Learning to be financially wise does not just happen, it has to be something that we diligently teach our children.

Angi Schneider is a minister’s wife and homeschooling mom. She blogs about their homesteading and homeschooling adventures at SchneiderPeeps. Angi and her husband, Carl, are also the authors of Hope-Thriving While Unemployed, an ebook to help those who are unemployed or underemployed.

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Delicious Left-Overs Quiche

left-over quiche

Guest post from Laura of Life as a Loewen

Any frugal-minded mama will tell you: it’s all about using what you have on-hand.

Finding creative ways to use what’s already in your fridge and pantry will save you a ton of money {and time}!

This quiche recipe combines two of my favorite things: pinching pennies and amazing-tasting food. It’s thick and hearty, and can be served for breakfast, brunch or dinner.

For breakfast or brunch, try bacon and Swiss cheese served with fresh, seasonal fruit.

For dinner, try ground lamb or beef with feta served with a salad and fresh bread.

The ideas are truly endless, just include what your family loves and what’s in the fridge!

Below is what we used the other day, and my entire family {husband and kids aged 5, 3, and 1} gobbled it up.

The beauty of this recipe is that you can put in whatever you have on hand. Depending upon which ingredients you chose and time of day you serve it, you can really have a entirely new meal from one great baseline recipe!

Laura is a mama of three littles {and adopting another!} trying to pursue Jesus daily. Attempting to be genuine and raw, Laura seeks to find the humor in everyday life. Laura shares her journey through faith, motherhood, and marriage at Life As A Loewen. She’s passionate, sometimes loud, and always in the mood for cupcake ice cream.

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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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Quick & Easy Fried Rice

fried-rice

Guest post from Aliesha of Feathers in Our Nest

Restaurant-style fried rice is easy to make at home! It’s a frugal recipe to serve for lunch (or alongside some homemade Asian food) and it is great for incorporating sale produce or using up veggies in your fridge that are about to go bad.

This recipe is very flexible – just use what you have on hand and adapt it to your family’s taste preferences. We like to make it using leftover rice from another meal, but you can definitely cook rice specifically for this recipe.

Aliesha is a stay-at-home wife and mom with three precious blessings ages three and under. Her blog home is Feathers in Our Nest, where she writes about family, ministry, food, and frugal living. Aliesha loves to read, shop thrift stores, drink coffee, and cook for her “foodie” husband.

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