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Monday, June 29, 2015

Fresh Drinks to Refresh You

Summer is a killer for my convenience food budget – by this I mean that when I’m outside and sweating in the too heat, or in my car with NO AC… the ads for ice cappuccino, frozen drinks and the like are very appealing.  And since many drive-through outlets have sales, I can most often get a drink for about $2.00 + tax.  However…
This does add up.  In summer, my desire for these drinks is at least daily.  If I’m at home, I’m 3 minutes away from the Canadian Icon of coffees, and if out in my car or on my bike, the main road I live on has at least 5 places I can stop at between home and my work.    Temptations are everywhere!
Because I am frugal (and honestly, a bit lazy – why leave my sunshine at home and my bikini to get a cold drink?), I have worked in my kitchen to make my own versions of frozen drinks at a fraction of the cost, and no mystery ingredients.  Here are a few.
Ice Capp:
- about 1 cup of cold coffee (left over from the last pot and refrigerated)
- about ¾ cup of milk (we use skim or 1%)
- about 2 Tbsp granulated sugar, powered sugar or chocolate syrup.
- 4 ice cubes
- BulletTM or extra strong blender
I found that my BulletTM doesn’t break ice cubes as easily as I expected so it’s better if I break the ice cubes in chunks first.  To do this, I put the ice cubes in a plastic bag, place the sealed bag on a cutting board, and then hit it with either the edge of a can, the handle of a knife, or a hammer.
After that, put all the ingredients in the blender and blend away.  I like to drink mine in a thermal mug (like the one I use for tea in winter) with a straw coming out through the drinking hole of the lid.  Cheers!!
If you are craving a healthier and less caffeinated drink, a fruit smoothie is probably a better option.  However, know that commercial fruit smoothie has a lot of added sugar to give it the strong taste it shows.  But here we can make it a tad healthier.
Fruit smoothie:
- about 1.5 cups soft fruit in chunks (apples are not good; almost everything else works)
- about 0.5 (1/2) cup orange juice (I find orange juice has a stronger taste than OJ)
- ½ cup (or an individual container) of flavoured yogurts (so that it’s sweetened).
- 4 ice cubes (optional)
- BulletTM or extra strong blender
Read above for advice about ice cubes.  The ice cubes here are optional and depend in part on how thick your smoothie is without the ice and how thick you like it.  Basically, put all ingredients together EXCEPT the ice.  Blend away and check for consistency.  Add ice if needed and blend again.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

The Price of Buying Cheap Stuff

I stopped at a dollar store yesterday.  I needed some clipboards and some core foam boards.  Each item was around $1 and I figured it was an amazing deal.  Except that…

I needed to decorate the clipboards with scrapbooking paper (which I had purchased previously).  I peeled off the protective plastic wrap to discover that one of the clips was loose from its board.  Fortunately, I had purchased extra clipboards for a later project so I could use some of the extra clipboards for this weekend’s project, return the defective one later, and still have my decorated clipboards ready for Monday.

The foam core boards were something else.  They are normally about $7 at the craft store, so having them for less than $2 was a bargain; or so I thought.  As I starting cutting them with an sharp work knife (I needed to make 6 squares out of each board), the black covering was ungluing itself from the foam AND the foam was breaking instead of cutting.  My squares looked awful. 

So what did I learn from this? Well, cheap is often a synonym of poor quality.  Not always, especially if you find something on sale, but too often I’m disappointed in the poor quality of items I buy.  Most of my clipboards are fine – they are wooden clipboard with a metal clip which is quite robust.  And knowing I was on a time crunch, I made sure I had a couple of extra ones.  And even if I decided to throw out the defective board, my average cost per clipboard is very low.

But what about my frustration level at using poor quality items? What about the angst at trying to solve a problem that should not have been there? What about my panic when looking at my foam squares that are not so good looking and needed in 2 hours?  What is worth it? Possibly not…

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Do You Need to Spend Money to Save Money?

You’ve heard people say that you need money to invest in order to make money.  I won’t argue about that one – I’m not a great investor of stock and bonds (and I should be).  However, I know that sometimes you need to spend some money in order to save some as well (save MORE than what you spend!).  For example…

1. Buying a few KITCHEN APPLIANCES to save on eating out or convenience foods: a blender will do wonders for you if you like mixed drinks; a coffee maker or a French press will help you drink good coffee at home and not go to a coffee shop; a wok will permit you to make delicious stir-fries at home; etc.  You get the point.  Of course these appliances can be received for birthdays and celebrations, but do not put on hold buying a $12 frying pan for your omelets if that means you will eat in for weekend brunch.

2. Buying a BICYCLE to save on transportation.  This is very important if your bus pass does not cover transportation in the summer.  But more than that, a bicycle can make it more convenient for you to get around AND it provides exercise.  However, bicycles come in a wide price range: from just above $100 at your favorite Canadian T*** store to thousands of dollars for a 20 lbs road bike.  However, to be useful, the cheap model works very well.  A used one is an even better deal.  In the same vein, investing in WARM WINTER CLOTHES means you will not mind as much walking outside in winter and will skip using a taxi.

3. You’ll need a few BUSINESS pieces of CLOTHING in order to interview for jobs and to work (unless there is a mandatory uniform).  Regardless, clean pants (I like navy or black)and a couple of button down shirts are not expensive and can be purchased in good shape, at a used clothing store (Value Village has lots).

4. Purchasing a SHOPPING CADDY can mean not having to take a taxi when you come back from grocery shopping.  This depends entirely on where your closest or discount grocery store is, but when I was a graduate student, the bus did not drop me off close enough to home for me to easily carry my grocery bags home every week.  Having a shopping caddy meant I could avoid taking a taxi after a particularly successful shopping trip.  A large back pack is very convenient too, but often more expensive (although it looks much cooler than the shopping caddy).  The shopping caddy is also very useful when using a laundromat.

In general, buying certain items in order to save money (in the long run) makes sense – however, you can see that the items I’m suggesting are not all that exciting to buy!