Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Best Blog Posts of the Week -- Turkey Day Edition

This week's best blog posts are early due to the holiday week. I hope everyone has a safe and happy Thanksgiving holiday. If you're headed out on Black Friday, here's to getting the best deals possible!

With that, here are some of the best blog posts of the short week:
Let me know if I'm missing any posts that you think I should've included. Happy Turkey Day!

Bookmark and Share

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Product Review: Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker

Have you check out CSN Stores yet? They have everything from appliances to bar stools.  I recently had the opportunity to review one of their products, a Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker.

Ice cream -- whether you get it from the store or the ice cream man -- can be expensive. What better way to be green and frugal, than to make your own ice cream? Best of all this ice cream maker is snazzy enough to keep out on the counter. Unheard of, right?

As you may know, my husband is the cook in our house and loves to try out new gadgets. He quickly purchased everything you need for homemade strawberry ice cream -- strawberries, heavy cream, milk and sugar -- and within two hours we were eating some of the tastiet ice cream I've  ever had!! We adjusted the amount of sugar, but it didn't change the taste. It was delicious. Best of all, you just add all the ingredients, turn the ice cream maker on and you're done.

There's one piece that looks like a metal bucket that must be kept in the fridge for a few hours prior to making ice cream. (It's permanently in our freezer so that it's ready to go at any given time.) Aside from waiting for that bucket to get cold, making homemade ice cream was a cinch.

Here are the specs from CSNstore.com:

•Ice cream maker
•Transparent lid
•Freezer bowl
•Mixing paddle
•Instruction/recipe book

•Double insulated freezer bowl holds up to 2 quarts of frozen dessert
•Brushed metal housing with embossed logo
•Fully automatic
•Heavy-duty motor makes frozen desserts or drinks in as little as 25 minutes
•Large ingredient spout for adding mix-ins

•Limited 3-year warranty
•Overall Dimensions: 11.25"H x 8"W x 8.25"D

I highly recommend the Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker for some of the best-tasting ice cream you've ever had.

Do you make you're own ice cream? Any funky recipe flavors that you'd like to share?

Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Get Ready for a Green Thanksgiving

Plan ahead Thanksgiving saves time, money and waste

You may balk, but the best way to save money, save time, save waste and save your sanity if you want to have an eco-friendlier feast this year, is to--say it with me now--plan ahead.

Planning helps zero in on when to buy, how much to buy, how to decorate, how to deal with leftovers and all the other details around hosting a fun, Earth-friendly celebration.

One hour of planning can make the difference between a pleasurable event and a frenzy of expensive over-consumption.

So gather the kids, a pen and pad (or be extra-eco and write on a blackboard), and start by posing and discussing these 10 questions:

  1. What foods do we traditionally serve? Are we going overboard? If we usually provide eight side dishes, could we cut that to six?
  2. What items should we be sure to buy organic? (Here's the list of fruits and veggies with the most pesticide residues and those with the least.)
  3. How are we going to decorate the table? Can we use décor we already have? Borrow? Use items from nature? Do double duty with edible décor?
  4. Can we check with friends and neighbors to see if they'd like to join us in buying organic produce in bulk at reduced cost?
  5. Can we aim for a no-waste Thanksgiving by avoiding pre-packaged items?
  6. Can we find what we need at a local organic farm and save money while having fun by picking veggies and fruits? 
  7. Can we consider an organic turkey or a heritage variety? (It's complicated and time consuming to wade through all the labels you may find on turkeys, but the USDA organic label offers pretty clear standards. If you're buying from a local farmer, ask about methods used in raising and slaughtering. Their turkeys may not be labeled organic because of the cost involved in doing so, but assuming you trust the farmer, you should be purchasing a healthier alternative to conventionally raised birds.)
  8. Do we have enough dishes, flatware and glasses for the crowd? If not, how will we sidestep purchasing new? (We suggest asking guests to bring their own place settings. To add meaning to the greening, ask them also to be ready to share the history of the plates. Were they a wedding gift? Handed down from great grandma? Purchased with your first paycheck?)
  9. How much of our meal can we make using in-season items instead of those imported from far away? 
  10. What will we do with leftovers? Will we provide guests with upcycled glass jars for them to take home what they like? Can we make something delicious from leftovers and take to a food bank? Freeze for later? Will we compost anything we can't use? If we don't compost ourselves and haven't asked, can we call our local trash service and ask if they will compost food scraps?
Whether you go all out in celebrating an eco-Thanksgiving or take one or two steps, be sure to give thanks for the bounty that the Earth provides.


This post is brought to you by: Lynn Colwell and Corey Colwell-Lipson are mother and daughter and co-authors ofCelebrate Green! Creating Eco-Savvy Holidays, Celebrations and Traditions for the Whole Family, available at http://www.celebrategreen.net/.

Bookmark and Share

Monday, November 15, 2010

Book Review: The Total Money Makeover

I keep hearing about Dave Ramsey's book, The Total Money Makeover, so when I saw it in our local library, I jumped at the chance to read it.

The book is focused on eliminating all debt, including your mortgage, in order to invest, save for retirement and contribute money for a child's college education. I completely agree with everything in the book, but I do find it lacking in providing step-by-step instructions. Instead, it provides numerous stories of people who have used Ramsey's system to become debt free.

The chapters include:
  1. The Total Money Makeover Challenge
  2. Denial
  3. Debt Myths
  4. Money Myths
  5. Two More Hurdles
  6. Save $1,000 Fast
  7. The Debt Snowball
  8. Finish the Emergency Fund
  9. Maximize Retirement Investing
  10. College Funding
  11. Pay Off the Home Mortgage
  12. Build Wealth Like Crazy
  13. Live Like No Else
I did enjoy reading the success stories and there are some worksheets at the end of the book, but it would've been helpful to include some worksheet examples. That said, Ramsey does have another book called Financial Peace. I'm going to see if the library has it so I can read it to see if it fills in some of the blanks that I've noted.

I'd love to hear your thoughts if you've read any of Ramsey's books.

Bookmark and Share

Friday, November 12, 2010

Website Review: CSN Stores

I love to shop online. It's easy, convenient and best of all, there are lots and lots of choices. I may have mentioned CSN Stores before. But I recently realized that they're adding more and more sites, which means more selection, convenience and cost savings!!! Plus, many of their items include free shipping.

CSN Stores has over 200 online stores where you can find everything from stylish handbags, to modern bar stools, or great cookware. Want to learn more? Check back in a few weeks when I review an item from their home collection...

Until then, here are just a few of their sites:

Have your used any of the CSN Stores websites? I want to hear what you think.

Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Best Frugal is Free

If you can get it for free, why wouldn't you? That's exactly what my husband and I were thinking when we found out that you can get free wood chips from the electric company. When the electric company trims trees around their electrical lines, they have to do something with the wood chips. Normally, they'll just throw them away at the local dumps. However, if they're doing work in your neighborhood, you can ask them to dump the chips in a pile on your property.

The first time, we thought it was too good to be true. We've since received two more piles of wood chips. While it's not the best batch since there are leaves, branches and other debris, it's perfect for putting around trees or any other items set away from your house. Since the wood chips aren't treated, they could potentially have bugs so it's best to use them appropriately (away from your home or other structures).

It's amazing how far three giant piles of wood chips lasts. While it takes awhile to spread, it looks so nice once it's done.

What are some unexpected items that you've gotten for free?

Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Green and Frugal: Get Fit for Less

I recently started another blog -- http://www.fitmomsofnj.com/ -- to share tips and workouts. So it got me to thinking about frugal ways to stay in shape. As we get older, it gets harder and harder to keep the pounds at bay.

Here are just a few ways:
  • Walk or Run -- All you need are a pair of sneakers and you're off. There are no excuses since you don't need a gym membership. No matter where you are or what the weather may bring, walking or running is the simplest and one of the cheapest forms of exercise that you'll fine.

  • DVDSs -- If you don't have your own exercise DVDs, stop by the local library to borrow some for free. Other options include Swap.com, eBay or your other favorite site to find cheap exercise DVDs. Again, a cheap way to get a workout since all you need is a TV and DVD player.

  • Free gym membership by working at a gym -- From getting certified to teach exercise classes to working at the front desk or child care center, there are lots of ways to score a free or significantly reduced gym membership. 

  • Scour garage sales or Craiglist for free or cheap gym equipment -- The free section of Craiglist usually has some kind of exercise equipement. I scored a NordicTrack treadmill that retails for $800 for $300 and full gym set for $200 at a garage sale. Now I'm on the search for a Spin or recumbent bike...

What are your frugal tips for staying in shape?
Bookmark and Share

Monday, November 1, 2010

Green and Frugal: More on Greenwashing

I had written a previous post on greenwashing and recently came across another article by Hunter Richards regarding "Software to Hold 'Greenwashers' Accountable."

Enterprise Carbon Accounting (ECA) is a new type of software that simplifies tracking greenhouse gas emissions. It's thought that ECA software can play a major part in stopping greenwashing if it’s as widely accepted as the use of traditional financial accounting software. There are really five key things that are going to help increase adoption:
  1. Government regulations
  2. Adoption of carbon accounting
  3. Expansion of accounting standards
  4. Economic incentives
  5. Informed consumers.
I encourage you to check out the article and let me know what you think. To be more green, it's imperative that we eliminate imposters and scam artists who try to claim that their product or service is environmentally friendly.

Bookmark and Share