Archive | February, 2013

Reasons & Recipes To Make The Lowly Legume Your New BFF

18 Feb

ImageFunny sounding name, don’t you think? It always got more than a few snickers in grade school as our teacher robotically recited the food groups as part of the state mandated curriculum. We never really knew what it meant; in fact if you ask most adults, they are equally ignorant. Turns out one of every kids favorite dishes, baked beans, is actually the mysterious legume.

Fast forward to the Northeast Blackout of 2003, when the power-grid went down plunging several states and Canadian provinces into darkness for days, taking other utilities and gas stations down with it. Like many, I was sent home early from work and soon found myself at the local supermarket. Anything refrigerated or frozen had been sealed off from the panicked shoppers; a 30ish woman was running up and down the aisles wailing repeatedly “what will I feed my children?” At first I though she was a total idiot but then it occurred to me, she was of a generation that was raised on prepackaged processed microwavable food and she had no clue about nutrition, meal preparation or real food. Truth be told, other than canned tuna or peanut butter, I was at a bit of loss on how I would get protein in the uncertain days or weeks ahead. That’s when I rediscovered legumes.

Turns out legumes are a major component of everything from the hummus in your pita to the refried beans in your burrito, but there is a whole world of legumes out there. For those of you who wish to get your protein from places other than the fatty toxic mix of pesticides, growth hormones and antibiotics infused meat of stressed-out diseased animals from factory farms; legumes provide a wonderful alternative. Legumes are also a great source of essential vitamins, minerals, cholesterol lowering fiber and slowly digestible carbohydrates, which are especially important if you are diabetic or at risk. See nutritional chart.

While legumes are available fresh, most people use the canned or dried form for convenience. Canned legumes have a shelf life of about 5 years & are packed in liquid, which make them the preferred staple for an emergency pantry when fresh water may not be available due to extreme weather conditions. Dried legumes are the least expensive, and are best for storage since they are less bulky and have a 10 year shelf life, while lacking the sodium, preservatives & chemicals used in the packaging of the canned variety. The best prices on dried legumes are usually found at Indian grocers. Dried legumes need to soak overnight and usually cooked for an hour; see cooking chart.

RECIPES

If you or your family is new to legumes, you may want to start out slowly. Here are some easy tasty recipes, one for each legume, that include something for everyone: dip, salad, crunchy snack, soup, side dish and main dish. Enjoy!

Make legumes your new BFF, and you will be trilled at how much it trims from your grocery bill as well as your waistline.

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Are You Cleaning Your Floors With Dollar Bills? Great Swiffer® Alternatives!

10 Feb

ImageSwiffer®  style dry & wet mops are a great improvement over previous mop styles for cleaning most flooring, but they have their drawbacks too. Don’t throw them out just yet, I’ve got some great inexpensive, health & eco-friendly alternatives, including recipes, you can use with your existing Swiffer® equipment that you are going to love!

I first saw this style about 20 years ago on one of my trips overseas, and I though it was the greatest thing ever. At the time, sponge head roller mops were the height of technology in the US; awkward to wring and impossible to clean & dry the heads properly, not to mention the expensive replacement costs. When I first saw a Swiffer®  about 10 years ago, I ran right out and bought one, only to discover they did not have a removable cloth, but rather a chemical soaked one-use disposable pad!

My friend ran the mop over her floors every evening then just tossed the cloth in with the rest of the wash since there were no chemicals. I, on the other hand, was reduced to cleaning the floors just once a week since I had to use a different pad for each area & the cost really added up fast. You’re not really cleaning, since you are not rinsing, you are just spreading chemicals around on your floor, which then gets tracked all over your house and furniture. Can you imagine the harm you are exposing your kids & pets to as they lay on the floor and put things in their mouths?!

In fact, it is estimated that each year, US & Canadian consumers spend $800 million on cleaning wipes! If all types of disposable wipes consumed annually in North America were loaded into trucks, they will fill 9,000 18-wheel semis, stretching 68 miles! Worst of all most wipes are not biodegradable because of the synthetic fibers, not to mention impregnated with harmful chemicals that pollute our water supply & soil, and currently account for about 22% of landfill waste. See the problem?

So what’s the alternative?

First of all, you will be glad to know you can keep your Swiffer®  equipment. Since they have the pinch style attachment, you can tuck any of these refill suggestions and most are also the exact same size (you can always trim if you need to). You can find multi-packs of all the following items at your local dollar store so you do not have to buy the name brand.

swiffer alternatives dry

Dry/dust mop. Package of 16 Swiffer®  dry cloth refills will run you about $5; for $1 you can get the following generic versions at the dollar store.

  • 10 pack of disposable dry cloth refills. For the times you have to use disposables, like cleaning up after pest fumigation.
  • Handiwipes ®. Usually 6-pack; these are great especially if you need to apply a spray polish & need a flat cleaning head. You can use this as a disposable or hand-wash these.
  • Microfiber cloths. Usually 2-pack; these are best for grabbing dust bunnies & pet hair. You can rub it together to ball & remove most pet hair before tossing it the wash.

swiffer alternatives wet

Wet mop. Depending on the type you buy, a 12 pack Swiffer®  wet refills can set you back about $7. Again, we go to the dollar store to find everything needed.

  • Disposable wet refill. Depending which dollar store, you can usually find these 6-10 per pack. Again, these are for times when you  may be cleaning up something more harmful than the pads themselves.
  • Handiwipes ®. Usually 6-pack; these are usually best for washing tall windows or applying coating to a no-wax floor. Depending on the situation, you can either hand-wash or dispose after using.
  • Microfiber cloths. Usually 2-pack; these are best for almost all situation since you can use either the smooth or napped side. Just throw in the wash afterward.
  • Microfiber dishcloth. This cloth has a napped side which can be flipped over to the  nylon mesh on the back side when you need to scrub. You can throw this in washer, but hang-dry because of the mesh.

swiffer alternatives liquid

Cleaning liquid recipes. In lieu of pads soaked in chemicals or the 42oz cleaning fluid refill that runs about $7, you will be using a spray bottle from the dollar store with a homemade cleaning solution, depending on the surface. CAUTION: NEVER reuse the reservoir or cleaning fluid bottle! This can cause damage to body & property due to fumes, explosion & fire when chemical residue mixes with even natural products! Spray the floor in front of you & mop as you walk backwards. Use a free kitty litter bucket for your rinse water, since it the right size & shape, allowing you to squeeze excess water out by pressing it against the inside wall above the waterline. If you don’t have one, ask the people you know or post a request on Freecycle. Here are some great recipes using simple, inexpensive, & eco-friendly common pantry items.

So stop using dollar bills to clean your floors & use the method that is best for your flooring, health, wallet, and the planet. You’ll be so happy with the results you’ll wonder why you didn’t start sooner!

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What Are The Best Things To Buy In February?

1 Feb

ImageGood news readers, you can now follow me on Facebook! Simply visit Real Penny Wise and click LIKE. Be sure to SHARE with your friends too. Now back to the blog…

With the inevitable Valentine’s Day and Presidents’ Day sales looming large on the horizon, it got me to wondering if there is really a best time to buy something or if the sales are all hype; turns out, there is. In this post I’m going to give you a few general tips, then list the specifics for this month.

Most bargains follow a predictable pattern:

  • End of the model year (varies depending on product)
  • End of the retail season (ends sooner than calendar season)
  • Holiday sale (usually new, but sometimes older models)
  • Directly after a holiday
  • Off season
  • In season (fresh produce)

The downside includes:

  • Lack of inventory/choices
  • Open box/damage/refurbished
  • Older model/style
  • Unable to use/test until season changes, long past refund date

Brick and mortar stores clear out first since retail space is at a premium, but many online stores will offer competitive pricing even though their inventory will linger longer. The longer you wait, the lower the price, but you could miss out on finding what you need. Remember that a retailer’s season ends much sooner than a calendar season; that’s why you’ll find great deals on winter apparel in January & February, but you will hard pressed to find a winter coat in March when there’s still a foot of snow on the ground. You’ll notice diamonds/jewelry are not on the list; this is because men notoriously wait till the last minute and do not comparison shop, so the retail industry is poised to cash in on this.

So here’s where you can save the most in February:

  • TV & home theater (Super Bowl sales)
  • Cell phone (Valentine’s Day Sale, usually BOGO)
  • Winter coat/boots/clothing
  • Camera
  • Computer
  • Video games (Xmas releases)
  • Valentine theme food, products & gifts (day after)
  • Calendars
  • House/condo
  • Motorcycle
  • Boat
  • Broadway theater tickets

When it comes to food, the best deals are to buy in season since there is a greater supply. Obviously holiday themed food bargains are best directly following the holiday, but do not overlook the perishables; starting January 2nd stores practically give away huge pork roasts that never made it to the New Year’s Day dinner table. In February you want to check out the Super Bowl themed foods that never made it to the party, as well as Surf & Turf the morning after Valentine’s Day. One disclaimer on the produce; because there is some controversy regarding what is truly “in season” as the USA has very diverse growing patterns and hothouses are often used, I have placed and asterisk next to the items that are generally agreed upon.

Here are the best food deals in February:

  • Tangelo
  • Grapefruit*
  • Orange*
  • Papaya*
  • Lemon*
  • Broccoli*
  • Cauliflower*
  • Cabbage
  • Peas
  • Chicory
  • Celeriac
  • Asparagus
  • Rhubarb
  • Holiday theme candy & snacks (day after)
  • Super Bowl theme perishables (day after)
  • Surf & Turf (day after Valentine’s Day)

Often times you can get first rate products for a bargain prices, it just takes a little planning & patience; but don’t wait too long or you may miss out altogether.

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