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#890 Think About Your Money Like A Kid

21 May

baby playing

Mom and Dad couldn’t resist this toddler’s request for money.

She said it clearly with an expectant look on her face – “Money.” She had never said the word before. I thought maybe I had misheard. But she repeated it – “money” – with the same expectant look on her face.

Yikes! The kid’s not yet two, and she’s asking me for money. Clearly this toddler expected to receive some money. While I was scraping my jaw off the floor in shock after my child’s first request for money, my husband was dancing around with her. He was ecstatic at her growing vocabulary, impressed with her demand and handing her $1 from his wallet.

“Money, money, money,” my daughter repeated, clutching her dollar bill.

“We’ll have to save it, and you can buy something with your money when you go shopping with Mommy,” I said.

She and Daddy found an acceptable stash spot for safekeeping until the weekend. Come Saturday, which is shopping day, she requested her dollar and retrieved it from her piggy bank.

Now that she was requesting money and receiving some. I’d have to show her how to use her money responsibly.

one dollar bill

What can you get for $1?

“You have one dollar,” I told her. “Whatever you can find for your dollar, you can buy. Something you want. But it has to be a dollar because that’s all you have.”

I dreaded trying to find something for $1 (what about tax?). So we made a stop at Goodwill. I knew they had lots of $0.99 kid items. With my 10% discount card, it would take care of the tax question.

My daughter found a pack of Crayola washable markers and immediately said, “uh huh, uh huh, uh huh,” and clutched the package tightly to indicate that this was it. No need to look further. And it was the on sale color of the week, meaning it was 50% off of the marked $0.99 price. This girl could already spot a deal. I was proud. With my discount card, the markers were $0.47.

I had her get her dollar from her pocket and hand it to the cashier. She parted with the money in exchange for the markers with no protest, much to my relief. I told her the change was hers to keep.

As we progressed through grocery shopping, I had promised to get her a dog coloring book to go with her markers. “Wouldn’t it be nice if she could get it on her own instead,” I thought. We shuffled through the whole coloring book display to find the coloring book with only dogs. The last one left had a box cutter slash through the cover from when the stock clerk had opened the box. It was $1. I saw how this could work.

“Here’s the coloring book. Mommy will bargain so you can buy it with your money,” I told her.

At the register, I used my usual friendly and casual mention (with a hint of concern) to point out the box cut cover.

“I’ll mark it down to $0.50,” said the cashier.

Score! At $0.53 for the coloring book and $0.47 for the markers, it was exactly $1 for my daughter’s first purchase. No extra money from Mommy, just a little bargaining help to compensate for her limited vocabulary. I’ll never be so lucky again. But the whole process got me to thinking about how I thought about money when I was a kid, and how I want to teach my daughter responsible money habits.

Here are kid thoughts on money that would help anyone:

  •  The money you have is it. There is a $1 in your hand. There are lots of items out there that you want but only the items that are $1 are available to you to buy. No credit, no extra indulgences. Pick an item that matches up with the money in your pocket, and you’re done. This is perfect for daily purchases and everyday necessities.
  • Put the money away for safekeeping. You don’t spend your money right away. You put it in a safe place and retrieve it when you’re ready to buy what you want. You wait patiently. Occasionally you can take a peek at the money to make sure it’s still there. But no touching it until it’s time to spend it.
  • You can spend or save. You have money. You can choose to spend it, or save it. If you spend it, you don’t have any money left. If you save it, you can get something bigger once your money accumulates. Or you can keep saving like a squirrel storing nuts, planning for the long winter.
  • You have to earn your own. Even if parents give you money, it has to be earned. For chores, for working a “real” job or, when you’re not quite two, for impressing your parents with your vocabulary.

I can see a whole thesis being born based on this philosophy. All I needed to know about money, I learned in preschool…

#891 Reuse Ziploc Bags

17 May

brownies in ziploc bag

Photo via flickr by quinn.anya.

This is one of those things my mom did that I swore I would never do. But then I hated to throw out a Ziploc bag that was perfectly useable. And I hated even more to run out of Ziploc bags when I was in the middle of trying to throw something in the freezer. So once I was the one cleaning up the kitchen and freezing food, I started to reuse Ziploc bags. Something I really disliked before suddenly seemed like a great idea. An added bonus is that it saves money by significantly reducing how often you buy Ziploc bags.

Here are some ideas for reusing Ziploc bags to save money and reduce trash output:

  • Get the good kind. If you’re going to be reusing bags, the good brands are sturdier and will endure more washing and re-washing. Generic brands tend to be flimsy and thin. Neither Ziploc or Glad zip bags have BPA so that is not a concern with re-use.
  • Only get the large ones.
    sandwich bento box

    Go reusable for sandwiches and lunch items instead of wasting money on sandwich bags. Photo via flickr by anotherlunch.com

    Limit purchasing Ziplocs to gallon and quart sizes, which are great for freezing and storing food. Use a reusable, plastic sandwich saver or Tupperware container for sandwiches. Sandwich bags are a waste of money and resources. Plus your sandwich will never be crushed in your lunch bag if it’s in a hard plastic container. When using the large bags for food storage and freezing, limit your use by using a more durable, reusable container if possible. Ziplocs are ideal for freezing chicken breasts and fruit or keeping fresh an open bag of chips.

  • Mark the bags. Most large Ziploc bags come with a spot where you can write on them. Write down the contents and date it with a permanent marker. When you wash the bag, use the bag for the same item again and re-date. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to use a bag used for chicken for cereal, so I avoid cross-contamination skeevies by reusing chicken Ziplocs for chicken. It’s easiest to reuse Ziplocs used for bread or dry good storage because if the product was in a bag, the Ziploc might just need an quick, dry wipe out to reuse.
  • Wash and dry properly. To really get a good clean, make sure the bags are turned inside out, and the Ziplocs get a good hot water and soap scrub. Inside out bags can also go in the dishwasher. Now for drying, they can be hung clothes line style in your kitchen or on your clothes line with the open bag end down so the inside and outside are aired out. Make sure the bags are well opened so they can dry thoroughly. If I need one right away, I will get a fresh dish or hand towel and pat dry.
  • Know when to throw them out. I think why I hated my mom’s version of Ziploc reuse is that she continued to reuse them well past when they were done in. If the seams are ripping or the bags are irreparably greasy (bacon and tomato sauce are the worst), then throw the bags out or recycle them if your waste disposable accepts them for recycling.

Happy saving!

#892 Don’t Get Rid Of Dead Batteries

15 May

batteries

Photo via flickr by Matti Mattila.

I have to admit this one came out of desperation… and then I realized it actually worked. When the battery or batteries die in a remote, toy or appliance, don’t assume the batteries are totally dead. Instead I put the “suspected” dead batteries into a zip lock bag to save for later use. What can these “suspected” dead batteries be used for? Items that don’t need much juice can use a battery that otherwise doesn’t “work.”

I started using suspected dead batteries in my wireless mouse. Turns out a wireless mouse uses very little power and can use the charge left in a battery that otherwise doesn’t power other items. I’ve run my mouse on “dead” batteries for a month or more. Once I use up my not-really-dead battery in my wireless mouse, I then put the “really” dead batteries in a separate zip lock bag for later recycling.

call2recycle logoNow when I’m caught with no fresh batteries in the house, I have a store of “suspected” dead batteries to try out. After success using the batteries in my wireless mouse, I started testing the suspected dead batteries in toys and other items before using new, fresh batteries. More often than not, the batteries will work. Sometimes for a longer time than others, but at least I get a little more life out of them. Other times, if a full set of suspected dead batteries doesn’t power the item, I’ll put in one or two fresh batteries (usually because I don’t actually have the correct amount of batteries needed) and one or two suspected dead batteries, and presto, it works! If I’m mixing and matching, I mark the non-fresh batteries so I know that when the item needs new batteries to only switch out the older one or two batteries instead of all three or four.

Getting the longest life possible out of a battery means spending less on new pack of batteries. Other ideas to save money on batteries include:

  • Buy generic. Tests by companies who test that rid of stuff show that generic batteries work just as well or better than more expensive brands. If the expensive brand does last a bit longer, the price difference does not make up for the performance difference.
  • Get rechargeable batteries. The electric cost to recharge batteries is much less than spending on disposable batteries and it reduces battery waste. Rechargeable batteries can be used many times over.
  • Keep batteries cool. Keeping batteries in the fridge, especially in hot climates can help extend the life of the battery. It’s a small amount, but if you’re storing batteries, why not keep them in the fridge to make sure they last as long as possible.
  • Take the batteries out. If you’re not using the item all the time or use it only seasonally, take the batteries out of the item when not in use.

Whatever you do, don’t throw batteries away! The chemicals they leak into landfills are serious contaminants. They should always be recycled. While this can be a challenge sometimes, Radio Shack or other electronic stores may have a recycling program if your local waste disposal does not recycle batteries. For rechargeable batteries and cell phones, look up a drop off service from Call2Recycle. You should always recycle your dead cell phones and laptop batteries as well.

#893 Put A Hold On Toilet Flushing

14 May

fresh water

Be a good fresh water steward, use less water at the toilet. Photo via flickr by Corey Leopold.

If it’s yellow, let it mellow… If you live in a dry or drought area, you’re probably familiar with the waste of fresh water to flush toilets, and the cost to flush every time you use the bathroom. It’s not just a monetary cost, but the strain on the water table and fresh water resources costs as well.

Old toilets can use as many as four to seven gallons of water per flush, more water than an average citizen in many parts of the world would use per day. Newer toilets do a bit better with one and half to three gallons per flush. Either way, limiting flushes reduces fresh water waste and saves money. At pennies a time, the big savings would occur over a lifetime, but small savings per year also accumulate. Not only does saving fresh water by reducing flushing save money on the water bill, but it also helps with the future outlook of limited water resources.

toilet

Don’t flush your money down the toilet. Photo via flickr by Titanas.

While water is not expensive currently, many speculate it could become the next oil, a treasured and expensive commodity. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), American households spend about $2 per 1,000 gallons, and $474 on water and sewage charges per year. The EPA estimates the average American uses 90 gallons of water per day, while a European uses 53 gallons and a sub-Saharan citizen uses three to five gallons a day. A single person saving three flushes per day could save seven gallons of water per day (calculating average flush use of four gallons of water) or 49 gallons per week or 2,548 gallons per year, which would be just over $4.50 per year saved. Multiply that by a family of four, and the savings increase to $18 a year or $324 for 18 years of children living at home. This of course is assuming that the $2 per 1,000 gallons will not increase exponentially as water becomes scarce due to drought and contamination by farming, pollution, runoff and sewage.

In many ways, conserving water now is a way for payoff in the future. Being good stewards of the resources we have now will mean that we’ll continue to enjoy those resources at a low cost in the future. Not flushing every time isn’t the only way you can save water at the toilet. You can multiply savings a few other ways as well.

First, check for leaks in your toilet. A few drops of food coloring in your toilet tank will tell you if you have a leak. If the color comes through in the bowl after 15 to 20 minutes, then there is a leak and fixing the leak can save 1,000 gallons or $2 a month or $24 a year. It’s an easy fix that most likely involves replacing the valve seal. A brick or plastic bottle filled with sand and sunk into the tank will displace water, which means there will be less in the tank and less water per flush. You can replace an old toilet from a four to seven gallon model to an efficient one and a half gallon model. I like the European model toilets that are tankless and allow you to have a “big” flush button and “little” flush button to address the issue of not always needing a huge flush.

Here are some tips for refraining from flushing and saving water on bathroom use:

  • Don’t be grossed out. The mellow yellow approach is best saved for in home use. As long as you’re home by yourself or with family members who are all on board with the practice, it’s just a matter of getting in the habit and not being offended by it. Have a rule for flushes, like every other pee or every three pees so the yellow and TP don’t collect excessively. When guests are over, social convention kicks in with toilet flushing, unless you are in a drought area and comfortable explaining the limited flush model. Remember pee is sterile. Obviously anything besides pee should be flushed.
  • Don’t run the water at the sink or shower. Don’t wait for the water to get hot, jump right in or start to wash right away. A little wake up isn’t bad. Some people end their shower with a cold blast of water as a health aid to improve alertness. Or change your shower head to a low flow model. My family has one where you can shut the water off at the shower head as you soap up and shampoo. If you have a warm bathroom, it’s not unpleasant to skip being under the running water the whole time.
  • Consider graywater. Why use fresh water for toilets? Some people ask this and say don’t. Graywater is the water runoff from showers, sinks, dishwashers, ect. Anything that is not sewage from toilets. If you are constructing new or doing major renovation, look into recycling graywater into your toilets so the household water flows from the freshwater sources into toilet use, which eliminates wasting fresh water on toilet flushes. You can even use graywater for irrigation outside.
  • You’ll be saving your septic and sewage. Saving on water in the bathroom means that your septic or sewage system won’t get overloaded with water. This means less to go wrong and less overflow contamination of other freshwater sources.
  • Don’t think it doesn’t apply to you. I don’t pay for water, I don’t own a home, my water is included in rent… whatever the reason that you think you don’t pay for water, you do. It’s part of the cost of living whether you feel it or not.

 

 

 

#894 Love Your Spatula

13 May

Is spatulize a word? If not, it’s the word I made up to to indicate an “empty” jar is not empty. I can spatulize it and get what I need. No running to the grocery store or doing without. Here is a demonstration from today’s lunch:

This jar of peanut butter…

jar of peanut butter

Is NOT empty…

empty jar of peanut butter

Enter the spatula…

red silicone spatula

I prefer a good quality, silicone spatula that really gets the job done…

spatual and peanut butter

Enough peanut butter after spatulizing…

spatula with peanut butter

To put on a slice of cinnamon-raisin bread…

cinnamon raisin bread and peanut butter

Because that’s all I have…

And some jam that also needs a little spatula love…

peanut butter and jam

Yum…

peanut butter and jelly

A scraped together, strange sandwich calls for excessively nice china…

peanut butter sandwich on china

Limoges, to be exact…

limoges china stamp

The first half of the sandwich was much nicer than I thought it would be…Kids would like this for sure….

peanut butter and jelly sandwich

Spatulize!

If you would like to feed this starving artist, donate here. I promise to use a spatula to get the most of the jar of peanut butter your donation will provide.

 

#895 Use The Right Amount Of Soap

10 May

dishwahser dishes

Using too much soap will shorten the life of your appliances. Photo via flickr by David Locke.

No one wants to flush money down the drain. But think about how many household soaps you use that you may be overusing. Do you know exactly what the dishwater needs? The washing machine? Shampoo? Face wash? Hand soap? If you’re anything like me, when the bottle is new, I end up dumping out way too much. And then when the bottle is almost done, I’m scrimping the last bits to get out a drop to finish the job.

The best thing to do is make a conscientious effort to find out how much is an appropriate amount of soap for the job. Read the dishwasher and washing machine instructions. Or at least the back of the bottle or box of soap. Technology has advanced rapidly. High efficiency soaps and machines need a lot less product than you may have used in the past. It’s even the case that the recommended amount of soap can be halved in most machines. Contrary to what most of us think, lots of suds means way too much soap in washing machines and dish washers. If you don’t think you are using too much soap, run these tests to see what your results are. Most likely you’re using too much soap.

front loading washing machine

Front loading washing machines need very little soap. Photo via flickr by Editor B.

Not only is too much soap in washing machines and dishwashers wasting money on your soap product, but over-soaping wears out the machinery faster by gunking it up, creates mold and mildew (you wouldn’t think as it is soap!), wears out your clothes faster and leaves your dishes filmy.

As for shampoo and other liquid soaps, unless they come in a pump bottle, it’s too easy to dump out twice as much or more than you need out of the original bottle. I recommend getting a pump bottle for your shampoo and conditioner to be able to control the amount of shampoo and conditioner you dole out. Squeezing it out of a standard flip top bottle leads to a lot of waste. How much shampoo you need really depends on your length of hair. For chin to shoulder length hair, which is the standard for most bottle instructions, it would be a portion of shampoo the size of a quarter (2.5 cm). But for shorter hair than this, it would be less, closer to nickel size (1.5 cm) and longer hair would be a little more.

bar soap

Bar soap is cheaper and less prone to overuse than liquid soap. Photo via flickr by Horia Varlan.

For body wash and hand soap, I would recommend getting rid of liquid versions altogether and using bar soap. Bar soap is cheaper, and you are much less likely to overuse the soap. Contrary to some thinking, using a bar of soap for a household doesn’t transfer any bacteria or germs. Especially if the bar is given a clean off rinse after use. The only drawback to bar soap is the filmy wet scum, which can be combated with a good soap dish. If someone in your household is really attached to liquid body wash or other liquid soaps, a pump bottle if it doesn’t already come in a pump bottle is a good idea. Don’t be afraid to use only half a pump if that’s all you need.

Once you start watching your soap use, you can make your soap products last twice as long or more by using the appropriate amount of soap for the job at hand.

#896 Stop Using Paper Towels

8 May

paper towel roll

Quit them cold turkey if you can. Photo via flickr by edkohler.

A friend joined a warehouse club and was excited about the savings, until she realized – where am I going to store my five billion rolls of paper towels? Instead of building a warehouse to store your warehouse purchases, try eliminating the need for many of the bulk buy purchases. First on the list to eliminate? Paper towels.

As a single-use product, paper towels are economically not a very good investment. Depending on the rate of use, paper towels can fly off the roll and into the trash faster than a weekly shop can keep up with. Instead of trashing your money and trees with paper towels, get rid of them altogether and replace paper towel use with things you already have around the house.

Here are some ways to stop using paper towels and save a little more from your grocery and supplies budget:

  • Go cold turkey. All smokers or other addicts know that one of the most effective ways to quit an addiction is to eliminate the  product and make it unavailable for consumption. If you eliminate paper towels from the house completely, you’ll be forced to adapt and find alternatives. Like any other cold turkey quitting program, the first two weeks will be hard and then it’ll get easier. Soon you’ll wonder why you spent money on paper towels to begin with.
  • Rediscover sponges.
    A better choice for cleaning up spills. Photo via flickr by Horia Varlan.

    A better choice for cleaning up spills. Photo via flickr by Horia Varlan.

    If you have a dishwasher, you may hardly ever touch a sponge, but you probably have one at the kitchen sink. Sponges are perfect for cleaning up spills – the number one excuse to use a paper towel. A sponge will do exactly what a paper towel will do – soak up a spill and allow you to clean it up. The big difference is that a sponge is reusable. You can rinse and wring for later use or if the spill requires more than one go with the sponge, it’s no problem to rinse and wring until the job is done. Instead of using half a roll of paper towels, try one reusable sponge. I have a “nasty” sponge pile of old kitchen sponges that I use for toilet cleaning or other particularly nasty uses so that I can throw them out after a long life as a “clean” sponge.

  • Explore rags. What to do with those old t-shirts and cloth diapers? Turn them into cleaning rags for dusting, wet cleaning and other jobs that paper towels are used for. Like sponges, rags are washable and reusable. If you are reusing old clothes or sheets for rags, then cut them up into varying size rags and store them along with cleaning products in an easy-to-access place for all your cleaning needs. An old rag, can go into the “nasty” rag pile and used for a nasty job and then tossed after a long life as a t-shirt reborn as a cleaning aid.
  • Dry your hands on a hand towel.
    hand towel hand drying

    The proper way to dry hands. Hint: not with a paper towel. Photo via flickr by AlishaV.

    One of my pet peeve uses of paper towels is using them to dry hands. That’s what hand towels are for. Or dish towels. I like to keep two hand towels or dish towels in rotation so that when one gets really soaked, I can use the other while the wet one dries out. Have a well ventilated place where the towels can live in a spot convenient to where you normally do a lot of your hand washing and drying. Throw the towels in the weekly wash to keep them fresh. If you have family members who are paper towel hand drying offenders, remove any paper towels from easy reach or altogether, leaving only the hand towel available.

  • Wash with a wash cloth. If you use paper towels for messy kid hands and face, then keep a wash cloth handy as well and use the wash cloth to wipe them down after meals or before running out the door and into public view.
  • Keep a limited supply of paper towels. Buy a roll and make sure it lasts for a certain amount of time – say a month or more. This will make you think every time you reach for a paper towel, “can I use something else for this job?” The answer is most undoubtedly “yes.” The only tricky paper towel replacement is draining bacon. Paper towels are excellent for draining bacon, but if that is your only paper towel use, I think one roll could last a year or more.
  • Use silicone mats and products for baking. Another tough to replace paper towel use is greasing cookie sheets. Replace a paper towel and butter or oil with silicone baking mats, cups and trays that can be reused thousands of times.
  • Don’t use paper napkins either.
    cloth napkin

    Photo via flickr by jenny downing.

    Get classy and use cloth napkins. Growing up in my large family, we each had our own napkin ring with our initials to store our cloth napkin so the napkins would not get confused during the week. Then they’d be washed at the end of the week. Holiday dinners and company meant my dad broke out the ironing board and used the nice cloth napkins instead of our every day ones.

  • If you really need a transition aid… you can try the reusable bamboo paper towels made from renewable bamboo sources called Bambooee that can ease the transition to not using paper towels. Make sure the spouse and kids know not to throw them out. And after they are torn from the roll, they’re really just another reusable rag. But hey, they can drain bacon!

The added bonus of being thrifty and saving lots of money usually means your also being green and saving resources, which is never a bad thing. Eliminating paper towels is no exception.

#897 Make Your Own Envelopes For Fun Invites And Appreciation Notes

7 May

With Mother’s Day around the corner, there’s nothing like a unique handmade card to say thanks. And why not catch your mom’s attention with a handmade envelope? You know those magazines you hate to get rid of because of the beautiful photos? Turn them into eye-catching envelopes that will spice up any thank you note or invite you send.

First you need a visually appealing photo. I usually use magazines, but you can use old books, maps or anything else headed for recycling land. I got these magazines from the library free give away pile. You can also dumpster dive the recycle bin.

magazine envelope

envelope 4
Next you’ll need a template. I printed one out from this site or you can use another envelope that has been deconstructed.

envelope template

Tape the template to the magazine page you’ve selected and cut the envelope out.

 envelope 10

Fold each side with your “nice” side out. Make crisp folds that come together neatly like a real envelope. Tape or glue stick the envelope sides. I like glue sticks as tape looks less professional.

magazine envelope

Then you’re done! You can cut a piece of card stock for your notes or use cards you already have. Get creative with what’s inside as well. You can use sticky address labels if you are mailing the envelopes or cut out and glue a neat rectangle of paper to address the envelopes. I love using gold or silver pens to write the address right on the envelope. Whoever receives it will be so excited to not only get a card, but to open this pretty package as well.

envelope 9

The time to cut out and assemble two envelopes took me less than 10  minutes. If you have a lot of notes, like wedding thank yous, you can pre-cut all your envelope templates before assembling. Depending on the occasion great magazines to use would be bridal magazines (to use up that stack you bought during planning), home and garden magazines, fashion and decor magazines or photography magazines. Don’t panic if you haven’t gotten Mom anything yet. Pull out a garden magazine and make her a unique envelope with a heartfelt note, and she’ll be touched.

#898 Buy Farm Fresh Eggs

6 May

farm fresh eggs sign“Growing up in Croatia, I always wanted perfect, white eggs like on American TV,” a friend told me once. She was eating brown farm eggs. The truth is that the dream of having perfect, white eggs is a lot less tasty and nutritious than those brown farm eggs. And if you have access to a local farm or a neighbor with a chicken coop, the cost of a dozen fresh eggs can rival that of the store brands that use claims like “free range,” “cage free” and “humane” to lure the more conscientious shoppers. At the store, the lowest price for eggs with happy chicken claims stamped on the carton is $3.99 a dozen and goes up from there. Around where I live the price for a local carton of eggs from chickens I can see for myself are happy ranges from $2 to $3.50 a dozen. Not only are the eggs cheaper, but I can be assured they are far fresher than anything that has endured transport and storage at the grocery store.

farm fresh eggs

Farm eggs come in a rainbow of colors.

Studies have shown that eggs from free range chickens are lower in cholesterol, have less saturated fat, have more Omega-3s and more vitamin A and E. Buying farm fresh eggs, almost ensures that the chickens are free range. The beauty of buying directly from the person who raises the chickens is that you can see the chickens for yourself. Usually they’re running around under your feet or pecking away in an enclosure around their coop. Small scale farmers and neighborhood hobbyists aren’t ones for cramming chickens into cages so they can lay away without moving.

Then there’s the taste. After you experience the deep orange yolks and richer taste of farm fresh eggs, the insipid yellow yolks of store eggs, no matter how much you paid for them, are unappealing and disappointing.

Not only are farm eggs more nutritious, flavorful and less expensive, but supporting the local economy means your dollars spent will help your community thrive and aren’t going far away to a faceless entity. If you live in an  area where you have farm stands, there will be someone selling his or her extra eggs as well. Maybe even at the same farm stand.

Here are a few more things that I love about farm fresh eggs:

  • The colors.
    double yolk egg

    Free range eggs are tastier, more nutritious and seem to have double yolks quite often.

    I can appreciate a romantic vision of America where eggs are white and perfect, but I love the colors of farm eggs. They range from all shades of brown to speckled to colorful depending on the type of chicken that laid the egg.

  • The freshness. It’s rare that I buy eggs from someone who’s got a sign out that are more than a day or two old. Most times, they tell me the eggs are fresh from that morning. The biggest challenge is finding someone who isn’t sold out during times of the year when hens lay less.
  • The bits of straw and feathers. Most egg cartons I buy have a stray feather or piece of straw in them. It’s a relaxing reminder that I know where my food came from. Sometimes the eggs have a speck of poop, but they’re usually well scrubbed.
  • Duck eggs. Duck eggs taste pretty much like chicken eggs only they’re enormous and the yolks are a little richer with a little different, but pleasing consistency. Duck eggs pack a lot more nutrition than chicken eggs, but have more cholesterol and calories. A lot of locals who have chickens also have ducks and will give you a duck egg or two on occasion. Or have them available to buy. If I were to raise fowl to provide my own source of eggs, I’d go for ducks over chickens any day. They’re friendlier and cuter.

Next time you’re driving around and see a sign for eggs for sale, stop in. You may have to knock on the door. Or buy them at the farmer’s market. If you’re really adventurous, you can take on backyard chickens or ducks and be selling your own eggs before you know it.

#899 Buy Your Fruits And Vegetables Seasonally

3 May

fiddleheads

I expect to see these in the store soon, or could forage my own. Photo via flickr by New Brunswick Tourism.

It’s nice that we can have tomatoes and strawberries year round, but they don’t taste the same for the majority of the year when the fruit is out of season, and they’re more expensive when they’re out of season. To get the most out of flavor and your dollar, buy fruits and vegetables when they are in season.

Following the seasons is not just for top chefs but for the thrifty as well:

  • In season is always on sale. When the market is flooded with a crop of fruits or vegetables that are ripe and ready to sell, the grocery store needs to move the inventory. The in season fruits and vegetables are always on sale because the produce needs to move off the shelves. This meaning savings for you and better quality and taste because the produce is naturally in season, which always taste better than year-round hot house varieties or produce that has been shipped halfway across the world to get to you.
  • It builds anticipation.
    rhubarb plant

    Rhubarb produces spring cooking joy after a root vegetable winter. Photo via flickr by MiikaS.

    At the end of winter when you can’t stand another root vegetable, strawberry season is like Christmas and your birthday all rolled into one. Throw in rhubarb for a fresh strawberry-rhubarb pie to celebrate May Day, and you may just swoon with joy. Fruits don’t get that kind of reaction if you have them all the time. Following the seasons has you looking forward to the next crop to play with in the kitchen.

  • You can buy local. It’s nice that you can get fresh produce that came from the area, which means your dollars are staying close to home. You can also take advantage of farm stands and deals on organic produce. Just because the produce is local doesn’t mean it’s more expensive, often you can get great deals on local produce.
  • Buy in bulk. If you’re ready to try some canning and freezing to combat those dull winter days, you can buy produce in bulk and save a lot of money. You can even split a bulk buy with a friend to benefit the both of you. It’s expensive to buy the quantities of fruits and vegetables you need for preserving if you don’t grow it yourself or buy in bulk when the crop is in season locally.
  • You can pick your own. I love going to pick your own farms. I’ve already discussed how it saves money and how much fun it is here.
  • A glimpse of the fleeting. Some crops have such a short in season window that if you blink, you’ll miss it. Local delicacies shine in this respect. Don’t be afraid to try a local forage or crop that is not seen elsewhere.