Thursday, April 29, 2010

Adventures in Cooking: Vol. 2

Slow Cooker BBQ Pulled Pork
Okay so this wasn't exactly Armadillo Willy's Pulled Pork but it was pretty darn good.  Very tender and tasty.  I used some Costco BBQ sauce instead of the one in the recipe.  It was really easy to make, what's easier than a crockpot right!  We ate it over rice one night then as a sandwhich the next couple.  My son even took a sandwich to school and enjoyed it cold.  I heated one up at work for lunch and was told I can't eat at my desk anymore because the food smells too good and was making people hungry. 

Asparagus Au Gratin
This is a simple way to serve asparagus.  My son even ate it, and he hates asparagus.  Very cheesy and yummy. Best to eat right away so the cheese doesn't get cold.  

Green Beans Saute
Sorry, didn't take a photo of this one.  This is a simple veggie saute that is easy to make and offers a great alternative to simply steamed green beans.  The onions give a great flavor and I added some minced garlic to give it an additional burst of flavor.  I served this with the pulled pork and rice, great combo.

Strawberry Mango Muffins 
I put these together on a whim because I had a mango and a ton of strawberries that were going to go bad.  What better way to make use of ripe fruit than in a muffin, right?  Baking is going to be the death of me I swear, but at least it'll be a sweet death!  These muffins are super moist and full of strawberry goodness!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

17 Years of Minimum Payments....

**UPDATE 11/19/10**
In April of this year I wrote the post below.  I am happy to say that effective 11/19/2010 I made my FINAL payment on my last credit card and am now 100% credit card debt free!  In less than 1 year I managed to rid myself of almost 10K in credit card debt.  Grant it a bit of saccrifice was required but the relief I feel after ridding myself of this huge burden is well work it.  Here's to living on a CASH basis.  My new motto is: If I can't pay for it with CASH now then it I don't NEED it!  To learn how I did it read on....

**UPDATE 09/17/10**
My original post below was written in April of this year.  It is now September and to date I have paid off 2 of my 3 credit cards in less then 5 months.  I have one more to go which should be paid off my mid next year, it is my highest balance one, and then I will be credit card debt free!  It has been a struggle at times to come up with the extra payment some months but the reward of being free of the debt is definitely worth it.   I highly recommend the Life or Debt 2010 debt reduction plan for anyone looking to free themselves of the pressure and stress of debt.
You make your minimum credit card payment every month and the balance never seems to go down.  That's because making the minimum payment ensures that you will be paying that credit card for many many years to come.  Check out the scenario below based on one of my credit cards.  Yes, the interest rate is insanely high I know!  Despite my decent credit rating the credit card company decided to jack my interest rate from 9% to 26.24% last year.  Why you ask, I have no idea, I assume it's simply because THEY CAN.  Needless to say that card is CLOSED and no longer usable, yay me!

Balance: $3961
Interest Rate: 26.24%
Minimum Payment: $130

If I continue making just the minimum payment it will take me 17 years to payoff this card.  That's right, not a typo 17 years!  I will have paid $6440 in interest, nearly double the principal amount that I owe.  Is that insane or what???

After reading Life or Debt 2010, the book that saved my life and bank account, I kid you not, I discovered a method for eliminating my debt and avoiding 17 years of minimum payments and over $6000 in interest.  To get full details you're going to have to read the book for yourself, which I highly recommend.  To give you the jist of it the method is a snowball effect.  You attack one item of debt at a time starting with the smallest and working your way up to the largest.  Every time you pay off one item you move onto the next larger item and add whatever you were paying on the previous item to the payment for the next item in line.  I know sounds confusing, read the book the author explains it much better than I do!

So let's say instead of making the minimum payment of $130 per month on the card in the earlier scenario I attack it with a $600 payment each month.  The results are astounding! By making a payment of $600 per month the card will be completely paid off in 8 months and I will have paid only $263.68 in interest.  That's a savings of $6176.32 in interest!  Yes, making a $600 a month payment is a bit tough and requires discipline, planning and cutting back on non-essentials, but with those kind of results how can I not?  Don't take my word for it, see how many years and dollars you can save yourself with this Debt Reduction Calculator from CNN Money.  Then go get Life or Debt 2010, to save money do what I do, use the most important piece of plastic in your wallet, no it's not a credit card!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Cable Schmable!

At the time of the mandated television digital conversion I had the basic expanded cable package from Comcast.  I was paying about 30 bucks a month.  Just before the full transition took place I lost my favorite channels (Bravo, Food Network and TLC).  Basically all channels above 35 were GONE!  I don't own a fancy TV that is digital ready so I called Comcast and asked for converter boxes for the 3 TVs in my house.  I was informed that unless I upgraded to the next level of service (a cost of $50 per month) they would not be able to provide me with converter boxes.  This upset me since I had seen many Comcast commercials stating that Comcast customers would be taken care of through the transition and that I had nothing to worry about.  Talk about false advertising.  Since I am on a budget I decided to drop cable all together, there was no way I was going to pay more money for the 3 channels I watched rarely.

I purchased my own rabbit ears and converter boxes (which I got free through the government voucher program).  This system worked good in the beginning but eventually became a hassle.  It seemed whenever I watched my favorite shows I would have to fiddle with the antenna.  That just wasn't going to work!

I was already a subscriber to Netflix and through some online browsing I learned of their instant streaming capabilities on the XBox 360, which we already owned.  I gave it a shot and was instantly hooked!  Now the only form of TV I watch is Netflix and I am saving the $30 per month ($360 per year) I was spending on cable!  Netflix instant streaming is easy, all you need is a Netflix ready device (there are many kinds including blue-ray, HD tvs, PS3 and now even the Wii).  Currently I pay about $16 a month for two out at a time unlimited DVD rentals which includes unlimited hours of instant streaming.  There is a lower level one available for about $8 a month that includes one out at a time unlimited DVD rentals and unlimited instant streaming.  Instant watch is also available for viewing via a computer.  You will need an internet connection (not dial-up) to utilize either method of instant streaming.

Netflix provides me with endless hours of entertainment.  They have tons of instant watch titles available including many TV shows and movies from all genres.  If you aren't already a Netflix subscriber check out their free trial for new customers!

photo credit:

Monday, April 19, 2010

Adventures in Cooking: Vol. 1

I have always enjoyed cooking, but recently it has become a passion.  I absolutely love it!  It calms my nerves and brings me great joy to see people consume the food I worked so hard to make.  So, for those that like to cook or those interested in learning to cook here are a couple of recipes I tried recently and really enjoyed.

Cinnamon Apple and Carrot Muffins
I don't bake much at all, and when I do it is NEVER from scratch!  I found a recipe for Apple Doughnut Muffins on a blog called She Eats, She Runs.  I tried the original recipe and liked it but it just wasn't the perfect muffin to me.  After several tweaks I came up with this recipe.  They are good without the lemon sugar topping if you are looking to save on some calories.  My son and I baked the final batch together and had a blast doing so! I highly recommend getting the little ones involved.  I wish I had spent more time in the kitchen with my father, grandmother and mother who are all terrific cooks.

Cheesy Garlic, Chicken, Ham and Veggie Calzones
Sorry I don't have the photo for this one, forgot to take one.  These came out delicious!  So much flavor and oh soooo cheesy!  My son and I once again made these together and by the end there was flour all over the kitchen since he was in charge of rolling the dough.  He doesn't like a ton of variety in his pizza or calzone so he made his with ricotta, mozzarella, ham and pepperoni.  They were very good as well.  I will say that cornmeal is the key here!  The dough sticks to everything so coat the rolling board, baking sheet and any in between board to sheet surface you put it on.

Caribbean Chicken
I found the original recipe here but the nutrition didn't seem quite right so I re-created the recipe less the brown rice. The flavor seems more asian to me I think due to the cider vinegar and pineapple.  It is very light and won't leave a lump in your stomach.  I do warn you though, if you don't like fruit served warm or pineapple mixed with your savory pass this one up.  If you don't mind that then enjoy!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Grocery Shopping on a Budget...

If you don't have time to shop or are concerned about over spending at the grocery store, home delivery may be a good option for you.  A friend of mine recently told me about her experience with grocery delivery from Safeway.  At this point in time she doesn't have a car so shopping online and getting her groceries delivered is a great way to solve her shopping dilemma.

I gave grocery delivery a shot last week and found it to be very useful.  Since I was able to see my total online before I purchased there were no surprises at checkout.  I avoided the temptation of display stands and impulse buying.  I was also able to compare prices on the available brands for the items I chose and see what was on sale.  Safeway offers free delivery on your first order, FREE always works for me!  You can choose from a 2 or 4 hour delivery window.  The delivery guy showed up right on time.  He was very nice and even carried the groceries into my kitchen for me.  Another great thing is that the drivers aren't allowed to take tips so you don't have to feel obligated to give them one.  All in all it was a great experience.  The only negative thing I have to say is that I feel like I could have saved some money by shopping in my usual way.  Overall grocery delivery from Safeway is convenient, saves time and gas.  But don't just take my word for it, give it a shot yourself.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Eating Healthy on a Budget

I came across this great article about eating healthy on a budget.  Many of the suggestions coincide with things I practice myself.  Just thought I would share for those that think it impossible to eat well on a budget.  Planning is key!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Most Important Piece of Plastic in My Wallet....

My LIBRARY CARD!  Yes, it is indeed the most important piece of plastic in my wallet because it provides me with endless hours of FREE entertainment.  FREE always fits right into my budget!  At the library you can check out everything from books to CDs, DVDs new and old and much much more.

Another great way to save money with the library is by taking advantage of their internet access.  Many libraries also have wireless internet available for your use.  If you don't use the internet much at home why pay for it monthly!  Just head on down to the library and use their internet for FREE!

Getting a library card is quick and easy, just stop by your local library to sign up.  You can even try online to see if your library has an online application.

One can find me at my local library at least 1-2 times per week taking advantage of all the goodies.  So much to explore.  Don't have time to browse?  That's okay too, many libraries have online catalogs you can use to reserve items.  The items are pulled for you, all you have to do is run in and check em' out!

Okay so now you are out of excuses so hop to it, get yourself to the library and see what treasures await YOU!