Pick up items on holiday clearance
Holiday clearance sales are a great way to buy gift items or add to your home inventory. Many of the items in these sales are not in traditional holiday colors, and clearance products cover much more than just candy and decorations now, too.
Look for kitchen tools, paper goods, home scents, health and beauty items, clothing and accessories, dishes and cookware, craft supplies and appliances, to name a few.
The first reader tip shares another great clearance product to stock up on:
Shop holiday clearance: Look for baking items. I went to my local Aldi store and found pumpkin pancake mix for 25 cents per box. I bought all of it, which was around 30 boxes; I'll keep 10 boxes and donate the rest. I also bought 40 boxes of Halloween brownie mix (the kind you frost and decorate) at 25 cents per box; I'll keep 20 and donate the rest. Frosting and cake mixes were also available for 25 cents per box. People may be inclined to think that because there's a holiday on the box it must taste different, but it's actually the same as the regular product.
Lunch organization: I have a list posted inside one of my cabinet doors noting what each person likes for lunch. I just go down the list to make sure everything is packed. I also have everything organized in bins. All the sandwich-making supplies, for instance, are in a single bin in the fridge.
Silicone baking cups: I use those silicon cupcake liners to freeze food in. Once it's frozen, I pop the food out and put it in a Ziploc bag in the freezer. I make big batches of steel-cut oatmeal, which takes forever to cook, then I freeze it in single-portion sizes. It works perfectly. I live alone, so I freeze a lot of what I can't eat right away. I don't throw out food! This method would be good for soups, casseroles and stews, too.
Christmas gift-wrap: Instead of using gift tags, I use different colored wrapping paper for each person. So everything blue is for one person, everything red is for another person, etc. The paper doesn't have to be identical, just the same color. I group them all by color under the tree, too.
Reuse jars: I save my peanut butter containers. It's a messy job, but it feels good to keep them out of the landfill. They're large, transparent containers that aren't too pretty to write on or label, and they don't break if they're dropped.
Stretch the food budget: Find foods whose prices have remained stable and use them more.
We're eating a lot more carrots -- they're healthy and inexpensive, and their price hasn't fluctuated much. They've become a much more frequent ingredient or veggie side in our household than they once were.
Try out new foods that you haven't tried before, to replace some of your more expensive usuals. I've started experimenting with different greens when they're on sale. For example, we had eaten lots of spinach and rapini (broccoli raab), but not kale. Now kale shows up on the table as I experiment with new foods in an effort to get the most bang for my buck while still eating healthy.
You can also find seasonal items at decent prices. Since it's in season, pumpkin has been a good budget stretcher for us. An extra-large pumpkin goes a long way.
• Sara Noel is the owner of Frugal Village (www.frugalvillage.com), a website that offers practical, money-saving strategies for everyday living. To send tips, comments or questions, write to Sara Noel, c/o Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO, 64106, or email email@example.com.
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