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Last summer I was waddling around, 8 months pregnant with a monster craving for my favorite Mexican joint.  It was one of those crazy cravings like I could kill someone if I didn’t get it.  So I huffed and puffed all the way down to this place only to find it was CLOSED!! OUT OF BUSINESS! BELLY UP! And I was about to join it, literally, with my back on the pavement and my swollen feet and belly pointing at the sky. I was horrified, hysterical, crying why why WHY???  Don’t they know never to come between a pregnant lady and her food?  There was nothing I could do but hoist myself back into the car and drive home, although I thought of driving straight through the front window.

We all have those restaurants we can’t live without, whether we are dining in or carrying out.  But sometimes those great places are just not on the menu for us.  Maybe we don’t have the energy to go out, maybe the place we really want has closed down in this economy or it is on the other side of the country.  Most likely of all, we just don’t have room in the budget for that kind of splurge.  The good new is, maybe we don’t have to give up on these treats entirely.  Here are some tips for faking those great dishes you crave.

The first place you can search is in your grocer’s freezer. Several popular restaurants are now packaging up some of their favorite dishes and sending them to grocery stores everywhere.  If you are jonesing for some T.G.I. Friday’s, Claim Jumper, Marie Calendars, or P.F. Chang’s swing by the frozen section. True, some dishes don’t live up to the “real” thing but some do and the others will do in a pinch.

There is also pretty great stuff in the dry goods isle from great eateries.  Macaroni Grill sells bottled pasta sauce and dry pasta for you to whip up fresh at home.  Taco Bell has made its sauces and seasonings available.  BBQ sauces from Tony Roma’s and Famous Dave’s will taste just as good, maybe better on ribs you dress at home.

Almost every great BBQ joint I have been to, and I have been to many (love me some ribs!) sell their signature sauces separate, usually right in the front of the restaurant.  One example is the world famous Corky’s BBQ in Memphis.  And it isn’t just sauce from BBQ joints.  Many restaurants are willing to sell you just their masterpieces, their prizewinners, what they are famous for.  You can get Fuddruckers buns, Brick Oven’s root beer, Claim Jumper’s baked goods like the huge Chocolate Motherload Cake and dinner rolls, all right out in front, easy to stop by and grab.

Snoop around at your local bookstores and possibly even the library.  Cookbooks have been assembled now with some of the most sought after dishes.  I have seen one with Olive Garden’s lasagna and breadsticks and another with Red Lobster’s greed-inducing cheddar biscuits.

Finally, don’t forget about the be all end all of information in this day and age: the internet.  You would be surprised to see how many websites out there have the info to do your own take out.  At-home-chefs have managed through trial and error or from past experience working at popular restaurants to figure out many of the recipes we all drool over. This is where I found the recipe for that chicken green chili stuffed quesadilla I desperately needed last summer.

In closing, remember that Seinfeld episode with the amazing soup that makes your knees buckle?  Then Elaine screwed it up for everyone?  In case you have heard the dreaded words “No Soup For You!”  No worries.  You’ve got it covered.  The recipes are in the armoire (or the internet).  Free yourself from the soup Nazi!

Share your own tips here.  Do you find it cheaper to make your restaurant favorites at home?  How do you “fake it” as you make it?

Article publié pour la première fois le 27/03/2012

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It’s easy to get comfortable with monthly payment plans and Direct Debits for your household bills and services. For some things, it doesn’t really matter that much, you might save a few pounds here and there, but you can play it safe with some things such as your telephone bill or contents insurance.

But there are some areas you really need to review more regularly, your energy supplier for example – there are often good deals to be had, and it is worth doing your research and comparing providers to get the best deal. Unfortunately, it is quite difficult to compare prices and deals with the big energy suppliers accurately, but it’s worth the effort when you do.

Many people have bundled packages for satellite or digital TV, phone and broadband. This is a highly competitive market and it can be difficult to find the right deal to suit your needs. With these bundled packages, be sure you have a clear understanding of the terms and charges relating to your phone, TV and broadband and compare them against buying the services you need independently.

When comparing broadband deals, it’s much, much easier. You can probably search for a great deal and have it all booked while watching you favourite TV programme.

With many of us spending more and more time at home using the internet for home shopping gaming, social media and banking, it’s vital we get value for money and the best quality broadband available.

Key considerations when selecting broadband services:

1) Always choose a reputable company, check the web for user ratings and customer feedback where possible

2) Ensure the vendor has good quality broadband available in your area, aim for a minimum speed of 5MB for good quality video streaming and download speeds.

3) Check the product information so you are clear about any product banding or pricing categories. Is there a set up and installation fee? Will you have to pay line rental or organise phone line installation?

4) If you are buying a bundle with satellite or digital TV included, make sure you ensure there are no hidden expenses for each individual item – always try and agree a fixed fee to help manage your costs

5) Be mindful of introductory deals, whilst they can be a great incentive, costs can increase considerably after the introductory period so check future costs before signing any contract.

6) Always check the terms and conditions accurately reflect the service quality you expect and that your rights are protected

7) Make sure you get a clear schedule for connection dates and make sure you know who is responsible for each item to be set up, for example, satellite installation, phone line installation, modem and wireless hub

8) If you need help setting up your broadband, ask your supplier, but it may come at an additional cost.

There are some fantastic deals around, search online and boost your roadband today.

Article publié pour la première fois le 25/06/2014

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Hubs Let’s Me Handle The Money

I was reading this article at Christian PF today and it occurred to me that I’ve never really talked about how Husband and I manage our finances.  Really, I just assumed that you knew, seeing as how we are practically like family now. 

It’s really the thing to do in the personal finance blogging world, because, after all, who wants to read financial advice from a lady who can’t even balance a checkbook.  Yes, I could straight up lie to you, tell you I made millions in futures, commodities and other equally obtuse investments. 

I’m not gonna lie.  I’m basically Abraham Lincoln sans the beard right now.

 

The Basics 

We are a single-income family of two, have one debt – a military loan with basically a 0% interest rate (so, no real reason to pay it off early), no house, soon-to-be no cars, Roth IRA’s, 401k’s, and a few other vanilla investments.  

We are boring. 

 

What We Think We Do Well

Minimize Crap Buying – This is something that two anal-retentive, clutter-hating people are bound to do well.  Our favorite tool for crap-minimization has been our separate “allowance” accounts; they make us think more about small purchases and put a cap on the amount of junk we could actually buy, even if we wanted to. 

Pay Off Credit Cards Completely Every Month – I’m aware that anyone who knows anything about money management knows that this is a very basic rule.  Well, we follow this rule very well and I want a gold star for it.  

Maximizing Our Investment Contributions – Hubs contributes the full 5% that the Air Force matches to his Thrift Savings Plan (401k) and, when I had a job, I did too – free money!  We also max our Roth IRA contributions every year (we’ve only been married a year and a half, but it’s a good start). 

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Article publié pour la première fois le 04/11/2010

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A Spouse’s Guide to: Laughlin Air Force Base

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Del Rio Top 3:

1. Have a garage sale (off base, in the Buena Vista area).  People will buy EVERYTHING.  I knew a girl who sold an old car cigarette lighter off her floor.  Just be careful, personal space is not observed in Del Rio.

2. Go to parties, float the river, and be social.  We had the absolute best time and made true, life-long friends.

3.  If you’re not working, go to the education center.  There are some amazing scholarship opportunities available for spouses.

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Article publié pour la première fois le 11/06/2010

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Saving Starts at Home

 

I never took a Home Economics course and as a result, I “cannon balled” my first pot roast (much to Husband’s amusement).  That’s alright, I’ve seen that man accidentally drill through the table a time or two.  Clearly we’re learning as we go.

 

Truly, saving at home requires a bit of Home Ec and a bit of Shop all rolled into one.  I think that Jennifer Derrick puts it well as she describes the roll of the Home Economist, here are a few of the tasks that she names:

  • Balancing the checkbooks.
  • Researching High Yield Savings Account
  • Making sure the bills are paid on time.
  • Doing a lot of repairs, chores, and maintenance myself and shopping for price quotes and reliable tradespeople when special skills are required.
  • Being vigilant about finding new ways to save money.
  • Retirement planning.

You see, Home Economics isn’t just about baking pies; if that were the case, it would be called “Baking Pies 101.”  It’s actually about spending your money economically (defined as: Prudent and thrifty in management; not wasteful or extravagant).

 

Knowing your way around the house, around the drill, around wastefulness can add up to some pretty hefty savings.  Here are a few of those tips and tricks that you might have missed out on if you too were absent from Home Ec.


 

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Article publié pour la première fois le 15/09/2010

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Around the Interwebs – Week of August 2nd

7 Things I Learned Watching Honeymooner Re-Runs @ Saving Money Today


Should Unemployment Benefits Be Extended? @ The Digerati Life


The Best Things to Buy in August @ Lifehacker


Article publié pour la première fois le 07/08/2010

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