Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Banana Muffins

I absolutely love this fall weather! So many gorgeous colours and the air even smells good. Yesterday I went for a long walk on a beautiful trail about 5 minutes from my house... I can not believe we have lived here for over a year and I haven't been on it before! The scenery was so nice I couldn't help but bring some of it back with me and throw together a quick and easy centerpiece.

Now that the leaves are making the house look nice, I figured I would make it smells nice too and did some baking today. I decided to use up some 'rotten' bananas from the freezer and make banana muffins.

Muffins are one of the easiest foods to grab and eat at anytime, which is why I love having them around the house. Today I thought I would do a cost break down of homemade banana muffins verses those you can buy pre-made at the grocery store or at a coffee shop. The banana muffin recipe that I use is actually a 'banana bread' recipe from My Patchwork Quilt. The only thing I do differently is replace the margarine with an equal amount of apple sauce. I made a loaf and some smaller muffins but this recipe will make 12 or more very large muffins, like the huge ones they sell at Tim Hortons or Starbucks, but cheaper! Once I broke it down, the whole recipe only cost me $2.15.

Price Breakdown (One Muffin)
Coffee Shop: Average $1-$2 each
Grocery Store: $0.50
Homemade: $0.18

By taking an afternoon to make some homemade muffins and eating one twice a week, rather than grabbing it at the grocery store or on your way to work in the morning, you could save between $33.28 to $189.28 a year! These muffins are equally as delicious as any store bought ones (if not better!) and make your whole house smell good. If banana isn't your favourite, don't worry, I hope to share a few of my other favourite muffin recipes over the next few weeks as well.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Summer Savings

The weather is slowly starting to cool off and some of the leaves in the backyard have started to turn red. Fall is on the way! There are sooo many things I love about fall. So many awesome apple and pumpkin recipes that I'm dying to try in the next few weeks. But first, I am just trying to deal with and find recipes for all the produce from our garden! Picking fresh beans and tomatoes from the garden got me thinking about all the ways that the summer months help us save money and I thought I would share a few of my favourites.

1.) Gardening, obviously. I started getting produce, lettuce to be exact, in June and continue to harvest an abundance of vegetables to this day. I figure there are still a few weeks left for the garden. Despite what some people may think, you really don't need to put a lot of time or money into gardening in order for it to be worthwhile. You also don't need a ton of space. My husband spent an evening preparing my garden, I spent an afternoon planting and then we probably only spent a few hours weeding it over the entire summer. It would look a lot better if we had done more, but it still grew a 'ton' of food. Even if you don't have a large yard for planting, or even if you live in an apartment, you can grow lots of vegetables in a small space or in pots. We only had two cucumber plants grow this year and still got about 20 cucumbers so far, and I have seen people plant cucumbers in a pot on their porch before. Check out the links below to learn more about small space gardening. Garden food is so fresh and delicious, plus it is free!

Container Gardening

Five Best Container Vegetables

Vegetables That Anyone Can Grow

How To Plant A Compact Garden

2.) Use the Sunlight. Choosing to open the shades and light your house with sunshine rather than electricity is common knowledge, yet lots of the time people don't do it. Sometimes I walk into a sunny room in my own house and turn the light on, even though its basically as bright without it. Maybe it's just out of habit? Either way, I am working on opening all of the blinds and curtains when I wake up, especially in the warmer months.

Next, let your laundry dry outside in the wind and sunshine. I read an article the other day that said the average cost of using a dryer was $0.31 to $0.49 per load. Definitely more if you do it at the laundromat. So, a family doing about 5 loads a week, or 260 loads a year is spending $80 to $127 on energy for their dryer.  Drying outdoor as often as you can will help bring down the cost, make your laundry smell fresh like sunshine and flowers and force you to get outside and enjoy the fresh air. Also, this doesn't just apply to people with the convenience of a pre-strung clothesline hanging in their back yard. Metal drying racks work really well, or you can be like me and use whatever you have available to you. I use a shoe rack we happen to have, our patio chairs and sometimes the fence.

These don't just apply to summer either. Let the sunshine light your house all year and hang your clothes out to dry on any sunny, windy days throughout spring and into late fall. Apparently freeze drying items in winter is a thing too, though I have yet to try it out!

3.) Entertainment. We've only gone for dinner once since spring and the movies maybe twice but we still had plenty of fun! Why pay for activities that keep you cooped up inside when you could be out enjoying all the free ones. My favorite frugal things to do in summer are:

- Go to the beach
- Outdoor pool
-Hiking! Even if you aren't athletic (or you are pregnant!) trails range from super easy to more difficult. Plus nature is basically a free stress reliever.
- Water park or splash pad
- Picnic! Find a nice spot by a lake or river or even just at a park
- Picking fruit! Even if there are no great berry patches hidden around your home, you could always go to a local farm. This is obviously more expensive but in the end you get both fresh fruit and a great experience.
- Have a baking session with all the awesome fruit you just picked.
- Invite some friends over and have a potluck BBQ.
- Bonfire... unless there's a fire ban.

I hope these suggestions will help you to save money over next few weeks, the very last few of summer. Also, start planning your garden! Do the research now and you will be a gardening expert when it comes time to plant next spring.