My Purpose

As a recent college graduate preparing to be a teacher and a recent bride, I'm learning how to live in a limited budget. In the process, I've had to find money saving tips & ways to re-use common items, create cheap lesson plans, cook inexpensive meals, design DIY wedding projects, and more. With the economic situation that many of us are in, I think we can all use any ideas that people care to share, and that's exactly what I want to do-- share my own ideas and those that I've found in my searches. I hope you find this blog useful and share it with others.

The blog can be viewed in chronological order of posts via the "Home" button, or you can select a specific title for pages that contain information organized for one idea, such as "College," "Wedding," or "Party Planning." Also, you can view pages specific to one particular label by using the "Categories" element down the left side of the screen.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Re-Arrange a Room

With all the decorating shows out there that demonstrate how you can spend $500, $1000, or even $5000 to re-do a room, many of us having the desire to re-decorate a room in our home--if not the whole house. Well, let's be honest--- who has that kind of money to spend?? Not many of us! With that being said, let's see how the furniture you already own can be re-arranged to form a room with a different feel, a different flow.

The size of this room is quite unique. It's a lengthy room with three doorways- the front door, an extra wide doorway to the dining room, and a doorway to the hallway and stairwell. The furniture in the living room consists of two identical couches, a TV table and tower, one recliner, a glider rocker, and a few end tables.

Before the room rearrange, all the furniture was along the outside walls, making an open walk way and room, but not a very warm or "home-y" feeling space. By pulling the furniture up and creating a room divider with one of the couches, the size of the space utilized as a living room decreased and all walkways through the space were eliminated. By doing so, the atmosphere of the room was changed, just as the home owner wanted. Also, an entry way and designated walkway through the room was created- rather than having numerous walkways through the living space.

The couches were placed in an "L" shape with an end table in the corner of them. One of the end tables (with extra storage inside and shelves on the front) was able to be used as a coffee table in front of the couches. The TV table and tower were slid into a corner to make the most of that odd sized space, and the recliner was able to fit snuggly into another corner. The glider rocker, an end table and a sofa table all fit into the new "entry way" to create a more welcoming space.

All wall hangings were able to keep their location, except for one shelf that has to be relocated due to a walkway being created in the area where the shelf was at head level. The new "coffee table" was decorated with a simple place mat (found on clearance), basket and candle holders (found at a yard sale) that the homeowners already owned. A bouquet of bright flowers were put on the end table just inside the front door to offer some cheer for incoming guests. The family's willow tree figurine found a new location on display in front of a display of candles (found on clearance racks and at yard sales.) Due to a small child living in the home, several items had (and others will soon be moved) to find home on shelves out of reach.

I hope this room makeover can be inspiration for you if you've been wanting to try something like this also. Good luck with your re-arrange and be sure to comment and tell me all about it!

Thanks for visiting and have a great day!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Refrigerating or Freezing Food

How long can you freeze food?

Raw Beef Roast and Steaks

Refrigerator: 3 to 5 days
Freezer: 6 to 12 months

Raw Pork Roast and Chops

Refrigerator: 3 to 5 days
Freezer: 4 to 6 months

Raw Lamb Roast and Chops

Refrigerator: 3 to 5 days
Freezer: 6 to 9 months

Raw Veal Roast and Chops

Refrigerator: 3 to 5 days
Freezer: 4 to 6 months

Cooked Meat

Refrigerator: 3 to 4 days
Freezer: 2 to 3 months


Refrigerator: 3 to 4 days
Freezer: 2 to 3 months

Raw Chicken Pieces

Refrigerator: 1 to 2 days
Freezer: 9 months

Cooked Chicken Pieces

Refrigerator: 3 to 4 days
Freezer: 4 months


Refrigerator: 3 to 4 days
Freezer: 1 to 2 months

Luncheon Meats

Refrigerator: 3 to 5 days
Freezer: 1 to 2 months

Raw Fatty Fish (Salmon, Tuna, etc.)

Refrigerator: 1 to 2 days
Freezer: 2 to 3 months

Raw Lean Fish (Cod, Flounder, etc.)

Refrigerator: 1 to 2 days
Freezer: 6 months

Cooked Fish

Refrigerator: 3 to 4 days
Freezer: 4 to 6 months

New Uses for.... Velcro

Use Velcro to:
1. Hang pieces of art or photos on a wall. Stick several strips of Velcro to the wall and to the back of a lightweight frame.
2. Prevent a jacket or a blouse from gaping open. Sew small pieces of Velcro between the buttons to create a smooth surface.
3. Keep a rug in place. Stick pieces of Velcro to the floor and to the bottom of the rug.
4. Stop seat cushions from sliding off kitchen chairs. Place strips of Velcro on the chair and on the cushion.
5. Organize toys. Affix a Velcro strip to the wall and Velcro pieces to stuffed animals to make cleanup fun for toddlers.
6. Keep track of the remote. Use Velcro to attach the remote to the side of the TV when it’s not in use.
7. Remove pills from sweaters. Use the hook side of Velcro to pull off pesky balls.
8. Restrain wayward cords. Keep them in one place with a strip of Velcro.
9. Keep a pen or paper handy. Place a small piece of Velcro next to a desk calendar and on a pen so you can jot down to-dos ASAP. In the car, stick a notepad to the dashboard or the door of the glove compartment and you’ll always have paper for a brilliant thought or a last-minute errand.
10. Picnic in peace. Keep a tablecloth from flying away by applying Velcro to the underside of the cloth and to the picnic table.

New Uses for.... Coffee Filters

Use Coffee Filters to:
1. Diffuse the flash on a camera. When you’re taking a close-up, soften the brightness by placing a coffee filter over the flash.
2. Strain wine from a bottle with a broken cork. Place the filter over a pitcher or a carafe and slowly pour the wine into it.
3. Serve popcorn or other snacks. The filters act as disposable bowls, so there’s no dishwashing.
4. Make yogurt dip. Use a rubber band to secure a paper coffee filter over the mouth of a deep cup or jar. Slowly pour 8 ounces of plain yogurt onto the filter. Let drain for one hour. In a bowl, mix the thickened yogurt with 1 small minced garlic clove, 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley, and salt and pepper to taste. Serve with crackers.
5. Heat up leftovers in the microwave. Use a filter as the protective covering over a bowl or a plate.
6. Prevent soil from draining out of flowerpots. When repotting, place a filter at the bottom, over the drainage hole, then add the soil.
7. Prevent scuffs and scratches on fine china. Use flattened coffee filters as spacers when you stack your dishes.
8. Protect hands from Popsicle drippage. Slide the wooden stick of an ice pop through a coffee filter so your hands stay mess-free.
9. Serve pita sandwiches. A circular filter is the perfect size for carrying a sandwich on the go.
10. Clean windows and glass when you’re out of paper towels. Coffee filters leave no lint or other residue.

New Uses for.....dryer sheets

Use Dryer Sheets to:

1.Freshen smelly shoes. Insert a dryer sheet into the offending pair and let sit overnight.
2. Remove static from clothing, hair, TV screens, and computer monitors. Wipe the surface with a sheet.
3. Clean pet hair from the floor or furniture. Rub a dryer sheet over the spot where Fluffy left her fur.
4. Replace a sachet. Keep a dresser drawer smelling fresh and clean by placing a dryer sheet on the bottom of it.
5. Loosen caked-on food from a pan. Place a fresh sheet in the bottom of a dirty pan, fill with lukewarm tap water, and let sit in the sink overnight. The pan will be easier to clean in the morning.
6. Tackle suitcase and gym-bag odors. Place a dryer sheet in your suitcase or gym bag so your clean clothes won’t take on the odors of the dirty ones.
7. Prevent old books from smelling musty when in storage. Stick a dryer sheet between the pages of your beloved copy of Pride and Prejudice.
8. Wipe up sawdust after working in the garage. Rub a dryer sheet over the fine wood particles.
9. Prevent thread from tangling when sewing. Run a threaded needle through a dryer sheet right before you begin your handiwork.
10. Dust venetian blinds. Close the blinds, then wipe up and down with a dryer sheet.

New Uses for.... newspaper

Use Newspaper to:

1. Deodorize food containers. Stuff a balled-up piece of newspaper into a lunch box or thermos, seal it, and let sit overnight.
2. Ripen tomatoes. Wrap them individually and leave them out at room temperature.
3. Pack delicate items.Wrap frames and figurines with several pieces of newspaper, then crumple the remaining sections to fill extra space in the box.
4. Wipe away tough streaks on glass. Use newspaper with cleaning fluid to clean mirrors and windows.
5. Preserve antique glass. Some older frames have finishes on the glass that can be damaged by cleaning solutions. Remove smudges by rubbing with newspaper dipped in a solution of one part white vinegar and one part warm water. Let air-dry.
6. Dry shoes. Place crumpled paper in them overnight.
7. Wrap gifts. Use the comics to wrap a child’s birthday gift, or try the wedding announcements for an engagement gift.
8. Create a home for slushy snow boots. During the winter, keep a pile of newspaper near the entryway. When your little snowmen and -women come home, they can toss their winter wear onto the newspaper instead of creating puddles on the floor.
9. Prepare a garden. In the fall, mow a patch of lawn to make room for a dedicated bed. Cover it with four layers of newspaper, then a four-inch layer of shredded leaves or bark mulch. Hose it down. Come spring, the compost blanket will have smothered the grass roots, and the bed will be primed for planting.
10. Keep the refrigerator vegetable drawer dry and free of smells. Line the bottom with newspaper.

New Uses for.... a lemon

Use Lemon to:

1. Sanitize a chopping block. Run a slice of lemon over the surface to disinfect.
2. Eliminate the browning that occurs when food sits out too long. Sprinkle apple or pear slices with lemon juice before serving, or squeeze a bit into guacamole and give it a stir.
3. Remove tough food stains from plastic and light-colored wooden cutting boards. Slice a lemon in half, squeeze the juice onto the soiled surface, rub, and let sit for 20 minutes. Rinse with water.
4. Fade tea stains on cloth. Dilute lemon juice with an equal amount of water. Use an eyedropper or a Q-tip to make sure the juice targets the stain. Thoroughly flush with cool water.
5. Decorate on the cheap. Fill a glass bowl with lemons for a sunny centerpiece. Or display a row of them along a windowsill.
6. Relieve a sore throat. Cut a lemon in half. Skewer one half over a medium flame on a gas stove or an electric burner set on high and roast until the peel turns golden brown. Let cool slightly, then mix the juice with 1 teaspoon of honey. Swallow the mixture.
7. Whiten fingernails. Rub a wedge on the surface of your nails.
8. Shine the interior of copper cookware. Sprinkle a lemon wedge with salt, then scrub.
9. Brighten laundry whites. Add 1/2 cup lemon juice to the wash cycle of a normal-size load.
10. Remove soft cheese or other sticky foods from a grater. Rub both sides of the grater with the pulp side of a cut lemon.

Advice for College

"Things to know" for college

*Elementary Education major*

This website will help you create your schedule. Create an account and then you can look up almost any professor and find what others thought of the teacher style and how the class went for them. Ratings will be given in multiple categories and will be a big help in selecting teachers you’ve never heard of, especially for core classes.

Weight gain

The freshman fifteen is a known concept for college, but it’s not just for drinkers. The lifestyle, sleep schedule, and food intake changes will lead to a weight gain. You’ll probably want to go out to eat often and the pounds will start to add on. Take advantage of the FREE gym, pool, track, courts, and so on.


Ask around for people who might have taken the class before you with that same professor (the same class will have different books depending on who taught it) to find out if you need the book or not. If you do, ask to buy theirs or maybe just borrow it. If you have to buy your own, check out before paying the bookstore price. To buy offline, you’ll need the ISBN number from the book. You can go to the online bookstore or the campus store to find the ISBN in the front of the book. Also, your text books are rarely needed in class. It’s not necessary to take all your books the first day. Your teacher will probably let you know if and when you should bring the book, otherwise it can be left at home.

Good shoes, umbrella, backpack

The three things to spend money on for college are good walking shoes, a good and big umbrella, and a strong backpack.


Many restaurants and stores in college towns offer discounts if you show your student ID. They’re not much, but they do add up!

School supplies

Many ED classes will expect you to create posters, signs, games and so on. To make these projects cheaper, invest in the back-to-school sales in the fall. Buy crayons, markers, glue, pencils, and so on when you find them cheap and keep them all together. Also, some Dollar Tree stores have “Teacher’s Corner” where you can find a lot of cute and useful resources for your EDUC classes and presentations.


Almost every ED class will require a binder at the end of the semester. Most will want a 1” binder with the plastic insert on the front. If you find them on sale, buy as many as you can. You may find yourself using binders for other classes just because they help you stay organized. (Some classes require the plastic sheets and others don’t, but if you find them on sale too, you might buy a couple of packs of those, as well)

Take Praxis early

This test is similar to an I-STEP or SAT test. It costs about $150 and must be taken on your own time at a testing facility in town. This test is usually a pre-req for ED classes over a certain level, such as EDUC 350. If not passed, classes over that level can’t be taken and this can become a major set back for many students. Take it early in your college career!

Use professors’ office hours

Professors offer the office hours for help. If you’re struggling in a class and a teacher sees that you’re trying and making an effort to get help, they may “help you out.”

Where to sit

Sitting in the back of the class often allows you to get distracted and not get as much out of the class as possible. These classes cost a lot of money and re-taking a class can cause a lot of problems in your schedule. Sitting near the front will make a good impression on your teachers and increase what you learn in the class.

Meet as many people as you can—teachers and students

Make a strong network. Get phone numbers and email addresses and add people to Facebook or Myspace. This will come in handy when you need help with an assignment, forget how the teacher said to start that paper, or want to study with someone.

Don’t spend all your graduation money

Most likely, you’ll receive a lot of cash for graduation--- save some of it. Buy what you need for college—maybe a computer, printer or other necessities, but put some back in a “rainy day fund.” If you buy a computer, I suggest buying a laptop. That way, you can take it on campus and to other apartments for group projects or study nights. But-- don’t take it to class, its just a distraction.

Learn how to study and take notes

Every person learns differently and you have to find what helps you study. This will be most helpful for your core classes. Learn to write fast and to take notes on almost everything that is said.


Professors expect a lot of papers, articles, and lesson plans printed, turned in, or passed out to the class. This can get expensive! Buy a lot of printer paper and find free printers in the classrooms, or use the printer in a building like the Residence Life. Also, always carry a small stack of printer paper with you. You or a friend might need to print something you forgot about quickly before class starts.

Library Cards

Get a library card to the library in town. In many towns, if you can prove you have a residence there then you can get a card for FREE! Libraries have a large selection of CDs, DVDs and software--check here first for something before you buy or rent. Also, for some classes you’ll need children’s books and libraries will be great resources.

Cramming classes into a few days

It may seem like a good idea to make your classes all Tues/Thurs or Mon/Wed with a couple of night classes, but it’s really not. It creates a lot of stress and a lack of time to complete homework, or to go out with friends and get away from the stress. Unless you're commuting or have to create a school schedule around a work schedule, then spead your classes out a little bit more.

Attend the optional review sessions

Some professors will offer an optional review session before a midterm or final—attend it! Even if you think you’re already prepared, go to the review because sometimes the professor will go through the test, nearly word for word.

On-Campus beds

The mattresses in many dorms and apartments are plastic covered, so investing in an egg-crate or memory foam pad may be beneficial.

Learn to cook

You’ll get tired of cheap oven pizza or macaroni and cheese, and going out to eat will get old (and expensive), so learn how to cook a few cheap and easy dinners. Start collecting recipes, especially old family favorites- you’ll miss them L

Spend money on comfortable dress clothes and shoes

ED classes require observations in elementary schools in town or teaching lessons in the campus classroom. This requires dress clothes, so start creating a “teacher wardrobe.”

*File cabinet, binder, box, etc*

Start creating a resource collection for teaching. Keep anything you think you might use in a classroom. Invest in a filing cabinet, binder, box, crate---something that will keep lesson plans, books, articles, websites, etc. that you might be able to use or fall back on while creating lesson plans later in college, as well for your first year of teaching. Spend your down time looking up ideas for lessons you might want to teach, books you might be able to use, classroom management skills, or decoration ideas for your classroom.

Free Events

During “Welcome Week” there will be free activities on campus--- check them out! There’s probably free food, free games, and often-- free prizes! You’ll get to meet people and enjoy all the free stuff!

Last and most important tip for college: There will always be another party.

Wedding Planning on a Budget

We are still ten months away from our wedding, but we've already had to make some money saving tips. A lot of what I've read about how to save money when planning a wedding is, well---unrealistic. For instance, one of the biggest ways to save money is to NOT mention the word "wedding" when speaking to a vendor.... or to plan a wedding on any day other than Saturday. Well, unless a wedding is planned on a holiday, such as New Year's Eve or Christmas Eve, planning a wedding on a weekday is a little difficult. Also, not mentioning to a vendor that you're needing them for a wedding is a bit difficult. I mean, how are you to explain to a DJ that you're going to need a song for a "group entrance" without telling what they're being booked for.

Anyway, here are some money saving tips I've found most helpful.

- Sign up at stores to be a part of their mailing list. Stores such as Michael's Craft Store sends out coupons a couple of times a month and they can be worth as much as 50% off one item. Sometimes, the coupons are 10%-20% off for your entire purchase--including clearance items. Don't be ashamed or embarrassed to print them and USE them! (that's my biggest problem--I feel like I'm cheating someone by USING a coupon, but that's why they're there!)

-Use silk flowers! So much money (and time and stress) can be saved by using silk flowers. Table arrangements and bouquets can be arranged so far ahead of time when silk flowers are used, not to mention that they don't cost nearly as much!

- Take your time. If you're having a long engagement and have time to, then take your time and shop around. Many stores and dress shops have BIG sales a few times a year. Shop around, get some ideas of what you're wanting, but take your time when it comes to purchasing. Also, your taste and ideas will change, so think choices through and don't buy items for the first idea you have. You will most likely change your mind.

- Buy gradually. For items you most likely won't change your mind about (such as the guest book, unity candle, aisle runner, and so on), buy gradually. Put some cash back and when you're out (and have a coupon) pick up something you still need.

- Keep your eyes open for a deal at yard sales! Look for things you can use and store-- flowers, decorations, cake topper, candles, and so on.

- Find a seamstress. Ask around for the name of a seamstress in your area to make your bridesmaid dresses. A lot of seamstresses will make a dress for less than $50!

-Pick a top priority, splurge on it, and save money in other places. For most couples, they splurge on either the photos/video, decorations, venues, the dress or the food. In my case, we're splurging on the photographers and saving money on the dinner (I'm working for the caterer and getting the dinner "at cost"), the decorations, and the dress (well, I'm getting a reasonably priced one--not a couture or anything! haha) Pick one passion...and save on the other stuff!

- Do your own looking and shopping around. Don't just book a vendor because someone you know used them. Do some looking around--- the internet can be your best friend! As previously stated, if you have the time to shop around, do it. Spend a day or two doing some searches for photographers, DJs, venues and so on. Try to find vendors that aren't the ones you hear about often. You'd be surprised at the amount of talent out that that's not well known!

- Downsize your wedding cake. By eliminating a layer or two or your fancy cake and making up for it in a sheet cake, you can save a little bit of money. Most guests will never see the cake being cut once the bride and groom step away and go about their business, so who cares if the slice of cake a guest eats come from the layered cake or from a sheet cake that's rolled out? No one. Save yourself some money!

- Buy books of the Forever stamps in advance. It may not save you much money each time the price of postage goes up, but every bit you can save will help!

- Look into DIY projects. Making a bouquet probably isn't as difficult as you may think. Also, you can learn to make your own pew bows, how to decorate your own unity candle, or how to create your own flower girl baskets. Again, the internet is your friend! Search for instructional videos or "how-to" pages.

- Rethink those decisions. Do you really need a limo? Do your guests really need that big, fancy dinner? Do you really need a dress for the wedding AND the reception, or that couture gown? Do you need that expensive wedding video, or can a family member just film it? Do you really need those expensive wedding invitations? Just take a moment to step back and rethink some of the ideas you've had. Are they really that important? Will you still think it's important in five or ten years?

And last, but not least-
- Stay focused on the marriage you're creating, not on the wedding. The wedding lasts only one day, but your marriage lasts (hopefully) for the rest of your lives. Take time to still "date" while you're planning a wedding and talk about things besides the wedding and its plans.

Date Ideas

Living on a college budget and planning a wedding means that my fiance and I try to save money anywhere we can. Sadly, that means that sometimes we don't spend as much time "dating" as we should. I've recently started researching cheap date ideas and here are a few.

Tour a local winery-

Pack a picnic-

Explore local tourist sites- or find your state's tourist website

Watch a show at a local live theater or college

Take a walk and just talk
-not about your finances, children, wedding plans, stress caused by work or school, and so on...
*when you were falling in love, these things weren't discussed

Exercise together
- tennis, golf, weights, run, frisbee, bike ride, and so on

Spend an evening watching a whole season of a TV show on DVD

Decide all decisions based on the flip of a coin
-my parents do this when they don't know where to go and what to do
*at every intersection or choice to be made, my parents make a decision based on the flip of
a coin

Visit the zoo or local children's museum

Hopefully these ideas are something you can try in your area, or at least might inspire another idea!

Monday, August 10, 2009


In the past couple of years, I've been experimenting with cake decorating. I only have a few pans and a few tips to fit my one piping bage. I haven't taken any classes (only read tips online), and really have no experience (or talent for that matter!! haha), so the cakes aren't professional by any means. I really have no desire to ever become professional, but it's just a fun hobby----and its cheaper than ordering a cake from a bakery for someone's birthday. For several of my friends and for my fiance Cameron, I've made their cakes as their birthday presents. And hey, being able to make birthday cakes for my children will be kinda fun later in life!! :)

Just recently, I've come across amazing recipes for the cake and icing that I've been told makes it take just like a cake from a local bakery..... so that's exciting!

With each of the cakes, I try to find an interest of the birthday person. Some are movie themed, some are decorated with the person's favorite colors and others are done for their age (Budweiser for a 21st birthday).

This was the first cake I ever made. I used just a box cake mix and a can of icing (that I dyed blue). I didn't know how to pipe a border around the edge, so I dyed sugar and sprinkled around the cake. I found these little "Finding Nemo" figures at a local dollar store (for $1 a piece) and colored some icing for seaweed and coral.

I think this is my favorite cake that I've made. My fiance Cameron is a huge movie buff and enjoys anything that has to do with film. I was able to get a roll of actual movie film from a family member that worked at a movie theater. The film that touched the cake had to wrapped in plastic wrap because of the possibilities of the coloring and chemicals soaking into the icing. The movie reel is just a round cake, covered in gray icing, and with 5 chocolate cookies pressed into it to make the "holes." The popcorn is a square cake cut in half and stacked. The popcorn is real popcorn mixed with marshmallows and butter (as if making rice krispie treats) and formed into a mound at the top of the cake. The stripes are made from pull-n-peel licorice.

This is the most recent cake that I've made. My fiance turned thirty and to mark the milestone, I spent a while trying to decide what would be the best cake idea. I decided to create a star on the Hollywood walk of fame. It's made from two stacked square cakes, covered in gray icing everywhere except where the star would go, which was filled with red icing, and trimmed in yellow. I made a few speckles (like how the real walk has) from white jimmies.