Viewing category ‘Frugal Living’


Coping with the Working Mom’s Witching Hour: Dinner in 15 minutes

Categories: Frugal Living, Hacking Life, Making Time, Parenting, do more with less


I call it The Working Mom’s Witching Hour: 6 p.m. or so. The kids are ravenous, I’m cranky, we’ve all just gotten home from work and school and childcare. It’s tempting to hand them a snack just to keep them from gnawing on the furniture, but then they won’t eat dinner. The food-o-sphere is rife with meals that you can make in 30 minutes or less, but what if you don’t even have a half hour to spare?

In our family, take-out isn’t often an option. Aside from the fact that our budget is tight right now, three of our five kids have food intolerances or allergies, which means anything with gluten is a no-no. That rules out pretty much anything that’s ready-made.

So how does The 36-Hour Day household cope? Here are my five go-to meals that can be made in 15 minutes.
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Boosting your energy levels

Categories: Frugal Living, Hacking Life, Working? Living?


So, I thought as I woke up to another pitch-black New England morning that gradually lightened to a dingy gray. This is what they mean by the dead of winter.

The lack of sunlight affects my motivation, my mood, and my energy levels. I’m on mega doses of several vitamins now — a “let’s see if this helps” effort stemming from that cancer concern from late last year — which helps a bit but, even so, it’s hard to get going, some days.

Like today, for instance

So, what do you do when your to-do list is a mile long and your energy seems to be tapped out after you’ve exerted yourself getting dressed in the morning? I mean after  I’ve — I mean you’ve — knocked back those three cups a coffee?
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5 ways to help others this holiday season

Categories: Frugal Living, The Juggle, Uncategorized, do more with less


With all due respect, Andy Rooney, it’s awfully hard for me to feel badly for you because you’re uncomfortable having “quite a bit” of money right now. 

It’s not because I’m feeling cash-strapped and stressed. It’s because the Christmas tree at my youngest kids’ preschool is decorated with tiny colored lights and pairs of red and green paper mittens, and on the mittens are scrawled Christmas wishes from local children.

The wishes aren’t extravagant. A 5-year-old asked for “any toy.” A 14-year-old wanted a set of extra-large fleecy pajama bottoms. A tween asked for a scarf, gloves, and a hat. Several teens each requested a gift certificate to a fast food place; one child asked for a gift card to a local grocery store.

This is the new, heartbreaking norm. According to the Wall Street Journal, kids are asking Santa to bring the essentials this year — shoes and socks, eyeglasses, and even jobs for their parents. A recent survey by the American Psychological Association says that children are more stressed out than ever before, and about 30 percent of kids surveyed said their top worry was about their family’s financial situation.

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Dreaming of a green(er) Christmas

Categories: Frugal Living, Hacking Life, The Juggle, do more with less


Last year at Christmas, I stood in the living room amid the swirling scraps of wrapping paper and heaps of ribbon and ripped-up boxes, and thought, “There has got to be a better way.”

Having five kids makes for a lot of post-Christmas detrius, even though it’s true that as the kids get bigger, the gifts get smaller (and more expensive). And the economy has dictated that this Christmas is going to be a little leaner than Christmases past. But if I’m going to go for a more eco-friendly holiday, there are still several areas where I can make a change or two.
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Are Black Friday / Cyber Monday mega-deals bad for us?

Categories: Frugal Living, Hacking Life, Uncategorized


I didn’t take advantage of a single deal on Black Friday or Cyber Monday.

It’s not because I didn’t want a shiny new gadget or a gorgeous new outfit. It’s not that my kids weren’t clamoring for the latest noisy toy. It’s because my budget has taken a serious hit this year, and even some incredible deals weren’t enough to make me whip out the credit card unless I was oogling something we really need. And, frankly, we’re very lucky; while there’s tons of stuff we want, there’s very little that we actually need.

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Leftovers: The next best part of Thanksgiving

Categories: Frugal Living, do more with less


Maybe it’s crazy, but I love leftovers. I deliberately make too much food just so that I can have leftovers to transform into something else later in the week. Thanksgiving is no exception. In fact, it’s safe to say that I plan my Thanksgiving leftovers almost as thoroughly as I plan the Big Meal itself.

I’m not talking turkey — there are eleventy-billion ways to use up the rest of the bird, so I will simply direct you to my earlier post on things to do with a leftover roast chicken and tell you to use your imagination.

No, it’s the rest of the traditional Thanksgiving meal that poses a real challenge to frugal and busy people like us. The stuffing. The green beans. The mashed potatoes. The rolls.

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5 ways to use up Halloween candy

Categories: Frugal Living, Hacking Life, do more with less


Now that Halloween is over, I want to get rid of the metric ton of candy sitting in my house. I could bring it in to the office, but if I can’t resist the siren’s song of the fun-size Snickers bar in my pantry, how can I turn my back on it when it’s sitting there, in plain sight, next to my desk? Besides, I left the candy at home this morning by accident, and my coworkers have already filled our corner of the office with tiny bars of every candy ever invented. To bring in more would be overkill.

But not if I’ve magically transformed them into something else first.
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Drug-free ways to get through flu season

Categories: Frugal Living, Hacking Life, Parenting, Uncategorized, do more with less

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Let’s face it: Whether you get the flu shot or not, and whether you’re worried about H1N1 (a.k.a. Swine Flu) or not, chances are you and your kids are going to be facing some flu-like symptoms this season.

Why? Well, even if you’ve gotten the vaccine, it can take as long as two weeks for your body to produce enough antibodies to protect you, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. And the flu shot only protects against flu — if you catch one of the many, many non-influenza viruses out there, you can exhibit miserable flu-like symptoms but not actually have the flu.

This isn’t a post about whether or not to get the flu shot. (Want to discuss that anyway? You’re in luck — this one is!). But if you’re looking for a drug-free way to ease the misery at home, regardless of the state of your immunizations, check out these options:
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Do more with less: Saving money on medication

Categories: Frugal Living, Hacking Life, Uncategorized, do more with less

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Before you weigh in (or opt out) of the current debate about health care, you should first read the HR3200 bill for yourself. (Don’t feel like sifting through all 1,018 pages of it? A group of voice actors, including Work It, Mom! member Mandy Nelson of Dandysound, have recorded it as an audio book. Check it out.)

Once you’ve done that, you need to sift through the rhetoric, from President Obama’s speech to Congress yesterday to Sarah Palin’s Wall Street Journal piece and everything in between. (The American Nurses Association has put together a great fact sheet that can help.)

And, if you’re like me, you’ll probably need to find ways to save money on medication while you’re waiting to see how healthcare reform affects you.
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Can you really save money with coupons?

Categories: Frugal Living, Hacking Life, Uncategorized, do more with less


I started clipping coupons when I was a dirt-poor college student, having to decide whether to spend and extra 60 cents on a couple of packages of Ramen noodles or use that money for bus fare to get to work. (Sounds terribly dramatic, but it’s true. It was Syracuse, N.Y., and it was worth going without dinner in order to avoid a three-mile walk home in the snow at night). Back then, the quarters I scraped together went a long way — a couple of coupons could yield savings equal to the amount needed to wash a load of laundry — and so the sorting and clipping was definitely worth my time.

I still clip coupons, but now it’s more an exercise in frugality, as well as a challenge to see how little I can pay for the things I usually buy anyway. Every once in a while I hit a jackpot — a buy-one-get-one free item for which I have coupons, for instance — and I find myself wondering: What if I did this all the time? Can you really save that much money with coupons?

Kathy Spencer says yes. And she can help teach you how.
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