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Hog Days Annual Labor Day Festivals

August 21, 2014

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt one time Kewanee IL had more hogs in the area than people. Farmers produced hogs in this fertile region often on pasture. The days of confinement systems have changed some things, but the area’s hog heritage has not been forgotten. Each Labor Day there is a whole weekend of activities.

Hog Days, the biggest festival in Henry County, began as a simple barbecue to commemorate a proclamation. on Saturday, September 20, 1947, the USDA declared officially that Henry County was the “top hog” so to speak in America when it came to pork production. A barrow show was held to find the best hog of the many in the area, when farmers made a living raising hogs. In 1949, March 23rd to be exact, that the Illinois House of Representatives unanimously passed House Resolution 40 declaring Henry County and Kewanee the Hog Capital Of The World, a resolution introduced by Frank P. Johnson R-Kewanee. The festival is highlighted by the world’s largest outdoor pork chop BBQ – massive grills are set up for grilling yummy pork chops and butterfly pork chop sandwiches for the thousands of guests that crowd into the small town every year. Chop sandwiches are $3 each and pork patties just $1 – be prepared as lines are long near meal times!!
A carnival is set up on the downtown streets; there’s a large parade with floats, horses, officials and entries of a wide variety that happens on Saturday each year. It has been an annual festival since 1954.

For the past several years the Wednesday before the festival kicks off with – what else! – a barrow show at Black Hawk East community college which sets just a few miles from down town. This event was revived and is a big thing in the pig world. For those unfamiliar with pigs – barrows are castrated male pigs – their sole reason for existing is to become dinner…including the primped and pampered show pigs that take part in this show. Black Hawk East has long been an outstanding agriculture college and has a beautiful facility that welcomes people to watch these pampered porkers put through their paces in front of a judge with the objective of picking out the best one.

Friday night is a craft show and flea market, an annual pet show and musical entertainment.

A few miles out of town at another Kewanee landmark, Francis Park. Take some time to go through the tour of this place…we loved the windows that when raised pulled the screen automatically from below the window. The cooling and heating of this home, done long before electricity was the norm in rural areas, is something that is still useful today.

If pigs and cars aren’t your thing – the Kewanee Library holds an annual book sale or you can visit one of the largest furniture outlets in IL – Good’s Furniture, which is impossible to miss. Boss Gloves also has a large sale held on Saturday.

Saturday morning is a 4 mile walk/run, a kids run and a one mile race. There is an all day classic car show. At 2 pm is the Hog Days parade which winds through town. More musical entertainment is slated Saturday night.

Sunday brings still more activities…a tour of hog heaven bike ride and a hog wallow mud volleyball competition starts things off! There’s a garden tractor pull in nearby Galva, a Model T and A road rally, a pig tail contest, and a kiss the pig relay for life contest.

Monday – oh no we’re not done yet!! There’s the annual fly in pancake breakfast feed – no one leaves hungry but the lines can be long so bring your patience. Music entertainment is all weekend long.

<post from the archives, written August 2007. Still a cool festival to attend!>

5 Gifts Every Parent Should Give Their Child

August 20, 2014

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen I embarked on writing 150 Things Everyone Should Do Before Graduation I thought of the biggest gifts I’ve gotten and those I try to pass along.

There are many people who provide their children a nice home, food and “things.” The latest tech gadget? They have it. Video games or new music? They have it at release. Yet many of these gifts skip the most enduring ones. These are gifts that are used for 10 years. 20 years. 40 years. They develop a child’s life in a much bigger way than “things.” And none of them cost money.

Read to them. Barbara Bush famously selected literacy as her ’cause’ during her time as First Lady, and that continues not only in the bond it can create but the tools it gives a child. Establish a routine to make it a special time. Let kids see you reading and learning. Mrs. Bush told of meeting a young father in a library. “We talked about raising children, and he said ‘I wish I could give my daughter more – a nicer home, prettier clothes.’ And I told him, ‘You’re already giving her the most valuable gift of all.”

Unconditional love. No matter what never give the impression that love is conditional. “I love you if….” is not love, it’s bargaining. People don’t always act like we want them to act, but it doesn’t mean we stop loving them. Listen to them, share with them.

Be a role model. This includes at times when you think the kids aren’t watching. When the waitress gives you too much change, or when you lie to the officer or make excuses for not doing a better job. They learn that, good or bad! After all – if mom or dad does it that MUST be right! This can mean apologizing, asking forgiveness when wronged and other actions.

Self esteem. Let the child succeed! Don’t say “go clean your room” – what does that mean? How do they know when it’s done? Instead say “please pick your clothes up, and tidy up the top of your dresser.” It’s clear and tangible. Let them make mistakes and make them pay the consequences. Make it easy for them to learn to succeed. Empower them with choices. They don’t always need to win, but do need to do their best.

Humility. Accept losing. Guess what – the world sucks sometimes! People get fired, things to wrong…the kid that doesn’t make the team learns something that lets them get through the really tough things. This is how to get back up and try again, smarter and better. It’s looking honestly at mistakes, owning what was wrong and going on.

These are things that happen over time. It is gifts that really matter and equip the child to deal with the world no matter what happens. It’s learning lessons that allow them to process and not be a headline maker. Of all the gifts that can be bought the most lasting don’t cost money – it comes from the heart. Those are the best gifts of all.

15 Indoor Projects for Rainy Days

August 19, 2014
  • Most of these projects can be done at home.
  • Most are under $20.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe rain is falling outside and while you enjoy watching it from a warm and dry window you find yourself wandering looking for something to do. All those ideas you had when it was hot and sunny and the “if I had time I would…” ideas don’t come to mind – what to do? Here’s some ideas, along with easy ways to prepare for it when it’s not busy.

1. Start your own article book. We all have times we buy a magazine (or see a website article) and keep the whole magazine for 2-3 articles. Reduce and focus! Take those 2-3 articles and tear them out, clip them together and have available a folding file to put them in. What you’ll need: folding file (under $2), paper clips, 1/2 inch or 1 inch binder notebook ($1-2 depending on how many you think you’ll have!), clear plastic sheets (under $5). When the rainy day hits – pull out your folding file and materials and make your own book of articles. You can even group by interest – or have a couple of books.

For example – you might have a binder for household things – divide it into cleaning tips, decorating, food etc. If you collect recipes have a binder for that – the plastic sheets are easily wiped off in the kitchen! You may, for those items less than full page, want to use a sheet of paper and glue to make a page so they stay in place.

I have one for writing articles – even articles 8-10 years old from Writers Digest and others are often not time-sensitive and may provide creative boosts! I’m also making another for home decorating and one for recipes. Ever see those short pieces of great tips or handy hints? They’re a mess to corral them – but get an inexpensive photo album and put them all together in one place. These also can be unique gifts, done a little at a time. Some magazines I like to keep whole – for me things like Countryside, Mother Earth News, Grit can have information worth keeping to me. Others I might buy on the newsstand for a few articles without necessarily wanting to keep the whole magazine.

2. Once you tear the articles out, put the remaining magazine in a bin. Also going in this bin (desk or shelf size – $1 at stores like Dollar Tree and can be found in many colors) are catalogs, when a new one comes the old one goes in the bin. On rainy days dig them out and snip pictures or words, items etc for collage or “wish book”. Items needed – container to keep them collected ($1); binders ($1-2), scissors (usually on hand), notebook paper ($1), glue (under $1 even for glue sticks). Things you’d like to try, images that make you feel happy. Have a folder file or 8X10 envelope (you can use one that came in the mail and it costs nothing!) to put them in or cut and paste right away. When the catalog or magazine is gone through toss it. This is something even children can do.

3. Keep a rainy day journal – there’s many books about journaling and many things with prompts to give you ideas to write about. Cost – under $15 with many flexible options!

4. Make a memory journal – Use key prompts and write down things to pass along to children or family members. Memories from childhood, early married life, how you met your spouse, who your parents and grandparents were, put in pictures or clippings from the “wish book” files. Tips, family recipes and traditions – there’s hundreds of topics and often we don’t think to pass them along. My mom completed such a journal book I’d sent her and, with her recent passing, this is a priceless treasure of memories and things I’d otherwise not known.

5. Read a book and learn something new. Look at thrift stores, yard sales or even online at places like – think of something you’d like to learn and find books on the topic for rainy day reading. Perhaps you’ve wanted to quilt, or want to learn more about starting a business or publishing a book or raising your own food. A few hours on a rainy day and class is in session – only you get to choose the topic! You can get a few books on the topic and keep them tucked away on the bookshelf or in a desk drawer. Cost – can be under $10 or much over!

6. Enjoy tea or coffee? Get a variety pack of different teas and save them for rainy days. While you’re looking outside at the rain try a new flavor of tea and enjoy the moment. Get a special mug or cup – whimsical or with sayings or images on them, personalized or plain. Cost – mug and tea or coffee, under $20.

7. Have a small dry erase board (if you don’t want to look at it put it inside a cupboard door!) with projects on it. On a rainy day look at it, do the project and erase it! It might be organize the pantry; paint the bathroom; change filters on the heating system; inside winterizing; baking Christmas cookies. Have the items on hand to do it and when you’re bored pick a few things to do. Tip – keep projects something that can be done in an hour or two. Looking at a list of projects that take 3 hours each to do is overwhelming and easy to put off! Cost – under $5 for board and marker.

8. Go through your music and movie tapes and CDs – sort what you’d really like to keep and what you might gift to someone else. This doesn’t have to be just for birthday or Christmas – do it “just because”! Cost – nothing. As you weed through and have room you can also make room for others you’d like to get.

9. These have all been things to do at home – if you want to get out go to a local museum or tourist attraction. Often we look past what is in our own back yards. People come from all over the world for the Cowboy Hall of Fame, racing museums, museum of flight and hundreds of others. Be a tourist in your home area! Cost – usually under $10.

10. Have a rainy day fund – put $5-10 per week into it. Go to a bookstore or other place, look through the bargain bins (sometimes some good buys there!) and others. If you don’t want to go anywhere – go online to a website that interests you. If keeping that $5-10 is difficult open a “play account!” Many banks offer the bank Visa or MasterCard. Get one – at $5-10 per week this may not take very long to reach the minimum opening ($100 at most I’ve seen). Or do $20 for the first five weeks. Put your allotted amount into this account; keep the card tucked safely into a locked drawer on your desk. When the rainy day blues hit – browse sites and you have some play money to get $20-30-40 of something. For the gardening bug – browse those gardening sites – year end bargains are great this time of year! When it is nice again your plants arrive and can be planted.

11. Spend some time with the family pet. Play with your dog or cat. Give him a bath or bring out a special toy to play with inside. Give a thorough brushing, removing any matted areas. Cost – under $10 for several months supply!

12. Organize photos – Get them put into albums or scrapbooks, order online for enlargements or 4X6 prints for gift giving. Older relatives often really don’t need another nick nack or sweater; give them a small album of pictures from your life throughout the year and a certificate or gift for something they need.

13. Treat yourself to a home spa day – candles, relaxing soak in a bath, put a large towel or robe in the dryer so it’s warm when you step out of the tub. Cost – under $5.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA14. Make craft items for holiday gift giving. Having small projects means you can spend an hour or two now – and doing that a few times a month means a whole lot less stress in the holiday chaos time. Craft projects don’t have to be expensive – when doing your journal make note of things in catalogs you could make yourself. For the bird lover, for example, take a length of small log, put a few holes on it and put suet/seed or peanut butter/seed spread on it. Make a seed wreath.

15. Call a friend or family member you haven’t talked to in a while and catch up on news.
These are just a few things that don’t cost a lot of money – most under $20. They can easily be kept in small areas that don’t take a lot of room and brought out on the kitchen table to work on and put away easily.

Did you know…

Many of these can be done for yourself or to use for gifts; indoor crafts done for Christmas gifts can be done all year, easing the holiday stress load.

Dog Safety Tips for Delivery Drivers – Diva’s Domain

August 18, 2014

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMost dog owners don’t want their dogs to ever bite someone. They take caution to put the dog in a separate yard, or in a wire crate or otherwise confined so a delivery or service person can approach without getting bitten. Yet every year many people are bitten in the course of their job.

If someone isn’t aware of dogs they don’t know how their body language and postures can affect them. Having had service people in our home and having several dogs living here we try to insure our dogs are socialized friendly animals. They can be approached by strangers. They have been handled by strangers (such as the first time to a vet) without being harmed or aggressive.

A telephone service man was in the home a while back and Freckles, a border collie, initially barked as many dogs will then obeyed when told to go lay down. He worked with the wires and got the phone working again, even with shining a flashlight around Freckles didn’t do anything.

Contrast that to a visit from a cable service person – who came in with a different presence. Freckles was clearly not comfortable with him, barking and tense postured. I put her – and her daughter – in a wire crate for the time the man was here. As he stretched and moved things to hook up a new cable she made it clear she didn’t like him in the home. As the service call was finished he picked up the faulty wire, turned around and waved it towards me while stepping towards me. He can thank his lucky stars she was confined – as I am not sure if she wasn’t if he’d not have gotten bitten. The tone in barking turned very serious and was intercepted with low growls and lunges at the carrier restraining her. He was doing it innocently – she was seeing a man she didn’t trust was coming towards her owner like he was going to hit me. While that wasn’t the case – the dog’s world is different. She has no concept that cable didn’t work so the tv doesn’t work. Her life is more primal – this person is a threat to my family.

While there are some people dogs just don’t like there’s also dogs who don’t like people. As an owner it is important to be clear with anyone visiting to use caution. Actions like stepping off a ladder, thrusting a wire overhead, pulling a cable through an opening can be interpreted differently by a dog. A dog is home protection, but at the same time we normally don’t need protected from the person installing a television cable or delivering a pizza. Some people carry goodies for dogs and before doing anything greet the dog.

It’s important for an owner to have their dog under control. It’s equally important for workers who are not comfortable with dogs to say so and require a dog owner to put the dog up before entering the home. It doesn’t matter if the dog is a poodle or a pitbull – if a dog is tense and clearly agitated do not go further until that situation is dealt with. Do not under any circumstances step past the owner or bump the owner in a rush to get on with the job. A thirty second delay could well save you from a painful bite from a dog who thinks his owner is being attacked.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASomeone delivering packages, newspapers or mail can be greeted less than enthusiastically. Some bites occur when handing a dog owner an object for a signature. While it’s the owner’s responsibility to control the dog there is also a responsibility from workers to not encourage a bite. Sometimes the equipment carried or used in the course of the job scares a dog, which can result in a bite. Some dogs don’t like flashlights. Sometimes stretching or rushing for the door to the home can be all that’s needed to bring out “I need to protect my owner” in a dog.

Most bites are not done by truly vicious dogs – it’s a conflict between a person’s actions and a dog’s perception and instincts. With some consideration of the dog’s view many bites can easily be prevented, making things easier and safer for owner, visitor and dog. Ultimately the dog is the loser, unfairly deemed as being “vicious” and, if the wrong breed, immediately condemned to death. While not an excuse for keeping a truly vicious dog, most dogs kept in a home situation are not vicious. Dogs react – people think. And when situations happen where there are people in your home it’s up to the people to think and protect themselves and the dog from her actions.

  • Dog owners are responsible for their dogs.
  • Delivery and service people need to be aware of their actions when dogs are near.
  • Dogs can misunderstand the actions of strangers.

Did you know? The post office can refuse to deliver to a home with a threatening dog.

Excerpt from Dog Tails & Tales

I wish That You Could See

August 18, 2014

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI wish that you could see so many things that are behind the scenes. While many of us in agriculture blog, show pictures on Instagram and videos on YouTube and participate on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest there’s another side. At the risk of calling some folks out I think maybe it’s worth a peek at this.

You see, often on social media channels I see people saying things that aren’t my experience at all. It might be that “Big ag” is eliminating the little farms, or large operations want to ban small ones. It’s not reality. In fact it’s so far from reality that I’ll have to saddle up my unicorn to ride out and show you.

There are images of these beautiful creatures, and some ongoing stories. What does unicorns have to do with anything? Much.

You see, this week marks the fifth trip I’ll be making to the AgChat Foundation conference. The first one, in Chicago, I attended feeling somewhat an outsider. I somewhat believed that stuff people say. Internet isn’t real right?

Only it is. I met people, face to face, who have become friends. People who have taught me much, and laughed along the way. Subsequent conferences in Nashville, Kansas City and Charlotte grew and changes and this year I think will be the biggest and best yet.

As I start making preparations to leave operations in capable hands for a few days, it brings home that over the last few years going to an AgChat event was the only time away. It’s a chance to meet new people, connect with names I see on social media and greet those friends that are very much real.

Five years ago when I said I raised rabbits some snickered. Some didn’t know anything about them, some liked eating them and some knew market rabbits were shown at fairs. A niche market then, and still a niche market today. It’s more than rabbits but there’s more than that to connect.

I wish you could see the respect that I see between large and small, organic and conventional management operators and others in agriculture that might not be on farms directly. We might be different, we might have a lot of different ways of doing things but we all have a goal of providing food choices in the absolute best way we possibly can.

This year we’ll have visitors not only from Canada and the US but Australia, and I’m not sure who is more excited about the meeting. Hostel memories will likely come back and remembering, again, cattle, hogs, chickens and crops are so very much the same. The struggles might be different, but often are the same. The earnest, honest desire to communicate with those far from our homes is real – I wish you could see that.

I wish you could have seen those who tear up at stories of our kids on the farm, and unfortunately for some, threats to those kids. I wish you could hear the voice describing a phone call that said they “were sorry for what was about to happen.” You want to talk fear? Threats?

That didn’t come from another farmer. It came from someone who doesn’t want you to be able to choose your food choices. It is a stumbling block in communication when we must decide whether you really want information or want to harm our family.

Those traveling to the conference have extra measures in place not to protect us from other farmers, but from those who don’t want us to exist for whatever reason. Misinformation abounds. And that is what is pulling over 100 people from around the world to find better ways to get through on this imperfect medium that is social media.

I don’t do this to sell more rabbits, although that would be nice too. I don’t do it for marketing as honestly it would be a dismal failure for that. I do it so that you the reader, and those on social media outlets, have a connection with someone that if I don’t know the answer to your question I know someone to ask.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI wish you could see the hearts and look into the eyes of folks who want those conversations like I do. I wish you could feel the relief and responsibility when someone who “just eats” sees something and comes to ask, even if it’s a food choice he doesn’t make for himself, so that *he* knows the truth.

I will likely post some photos this week on those social media outlets, and maybe in a small way it will make a small point in what I see. I wish that you could hear the conversations as those in agriculture learn about other parts of agriculture at an informal ag swap. We never stop learning! It’s where I can make those connections with popcorn growers, and Monsanto folks, and insurance people and others outside my normal circles.

I often say agriculture is vast. This year I get to meet someone who works for a rendering company – for those not in agriculture, that’s the folks that pick up animals that die or had to be euthanized and can’t be used for food. I get to talk with those from Australia, and a Twitter buddy I’ve talked bunnies with for some time but haven’t met yet. I get to meet someone who probably wouldn’t have liked me very much a couple years ago, but who has taught me much about the reactions fear has on food decisions.

I hope we all continue to learn ways to communicate better. I hope we can, as a collective unit, work to bring the story of agriculture to y’all. I hope that you will stick around to see that.

And I wish you could see the satisfaction in each farmer’s eyes at loving what we do and being good at it. Much has changed the last 5 years but we haven’t. Not really. We’ve, hopefully, all gotten better about answering questions but there’s many more conversations ahead, and more that need to happen.

I wish you could see it all too. I hope that a small amount comes through. For many reasons, it’s pretty freaking awesome. And I’m excited to bring another year, recharge, learn new ways and crawl into technology further. It’s not always comfortable, but it’s important.

Small Farm Diversification Means Survival – Thursday Market

August 14, 2014

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMany people long for what is perceived as the good old days. We want modern convenience, and it’s easy to forget that modern agriculture, like other businesses, evolved to sell to that want.

Decades ago the quest for lower prices, more volume, get big or get out. Today, modern agriculture is just as likely to be an urban garden as an aquaculture system or 500 acres with cattle or 3,000 acres of crops. It’s diverse. Specialized equipment, such as autosteer combines and sprayers that can spray one part of the field heavier than another, coordinated by need and GPS information – those things are expensive. Efficient but expensive.

Some look at our page and doubt we really do what we say – oh we do, but it’s small scale for small scale customers. As it has been clear, we’re in an area that it’s difficult to sell local. The idea and the reality don’t meet – indeed not even in the same zip code.

Where we have a chance of survival is diversity. It means picking peppers by hand. Less automation, more labor, more time. Being creative for income is not just rabbit meat, wool, fur, crafts, compost and veggies but beyond in to what we know that others want. It’s all a part of piecing together income needed to pay bills.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s constantly looking for new ways to present what we do, as well as new things to present. Sometimes that is a big project, sometimes not so much. As a long time free lance writer, dozens of articles have been online, and in a quest to once again diversify, some of those have been collected into convenient ebooks. I hope our friends, readers and customers will help spread the news of these and buy them. It pays for projects that need to be done, materials and activities needed that may not happen otherwise.

The best part is these are cheap – $5 and under – to get them into more hands by keeping the price low and affordable. Early feedback is good. Topics are varied and what’s done and ready so far is as follows:

A Look at Agriculture – just $3 – for the person with questions about agriculture and food production. Basic overview, with sources to get more information on an as needed basis.

150 Things to do Before Graduation – As kids head back to school, time passes all too quickly. This informal guide helps provide a map, a list of suggestions of things to do that teach life skills and more. It builds memories and educations…and costs less than a fast food meal!

Dog Tails & Tales – Part stories, part sharing lessons from some incredible dogs. What kind of dog to pick, how to handle training challenges and other issues. Best $3 you’ll spend on your dog.

Basic Horse Sense – When this grew to over 100 pages, and the WorkWith Horses one hit 50, and both had much material still to add, a split was made to focus and keep the price lower. At just over 150 pages there’s a lot of information here.

So You Want to Work With Horses – Many think they can make a few extra bucks boarding horses, or perhaps want to go to working professionally. Shares the good and bad of such decisions, saving money and heartache. Worth the $3.

Racing Stories – the famous and not so famous in the racing world from Secretariat to Zenyatta and Seattle Slew to archived notes on Breeder’s Cup races and what makes some horses special. Just $3 – an easy read.

Getting By: Lessons From a Rural Past. Family history from the Depression brought forward to present day. It’s a few years old, but much still relevant. $5


All of these are set in pdf format to be easily read. Original photos throughout.

There are some that don’t see how $3 helps. Think about how many $3 items WalMart or Target or others sell in an hour. Many of our projects are $200-600 projects – from raised beds to the greenhouse hoop. A few hundred ebooks can help tremendously, but also helps those reading. Better understand your horse and add a greenhouse? Deal with a dog issue and put up dog pens? Help equip a teen for life and build a raised bed? Yes, win win situations are possible. It’s a new view of diversification.

It leads to additional turkey breeds, duck and goose rare breed conservation and one more rare rabbit herd. It leads to expanding rare rabbits and pepper varieties that are beyond the store. It allows for rosemary, stevia and mints being expanded. Right now we could sure use it!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACan we get some help? WE don’t have a marketing team but do have thousands of contacts online. A hundred ebooks sold would be a huge leap forward right now, and a lot of breathing room. Labor and time are given, but supplies cost. Help a friend with a referral to our ebook. Before another “if we could afford it” chance passes by.

Want to know how to deal with food aggression in your dog? It’s in the Dog Tails & Tales book. Thinking about a rescue horse and not sure? Check out advice in Basic Horse Sense (as well as understanding the horse’s mind if you do get him!). Thinking about boarding horses? Check out setting barn rules before you do (So You Want to Work With Horses).

Thanks for spreading the word.

15 Easy Ways to Save Money

August 12, 2014

The little things really do add up. Saving an extra dollar here or $2 there can add up faster than you think. When you start looking at $20 and $30 differences it adds up much quicker still! For starters -

  • Comparison shop – coupons, brand name, no name or store brands each can hold deals at the right time
  • Pay attention to maintenance issues.
  • Buy in bulk and consider “processing” and storing foods at home rather than pre-processed foods.

1. Check discounted food places. Many areas have a “canned food store”, “salvage store” or other place where dented cans, discontinued brands and such are deeply discounted. This can add up to big savings even on name brand items. A recent trip to a local place gleaned 10 bread and cake mixes at 59 cents each – this is a savings of $10 or so on it’s own. Potato mixes, pancake mixes and other things can be bought on sale. Usually it’s cheaper to measure and make things from scratch but when you can get a mix of nut bread for 59 cents that includes the nuts it’s hard to beat it! Mix in a couple handfuls of oatmeal and a little cinnamon for a yummy, easy quick bread that is very inexpensive. Sometimes muffin mixes can be found 10/$1. The small Jiffy biscuit and cornbread mixes for 10 cents, often with the box dented but still sealed.

2. Check the meat case for dated items – you can often find meats for $1-2 per pound. It might be pork chops one time, ground meat another and steak another. We seldom eat steak because of the cost – but when three meals worth is $4 it’s just too good to turn down! I’ve found ground burger for about $1 per pound both in one pound and 3-4 pound amounts. Take a pound of that $1 burger, a 69 cent jar of salsa, a 10cent box of Jiffy corn bread and a little barbeque sauce or 10cent pack of chili mix and a little cheese – for less than $3 you have a tasty, quick meal – simply mix it all together or top the cornbread with browned burger, salsa and cheese. This makes plenty for four people – for two we normally have two lunches leftover (and it reheats well!). You’ll need to get these discounted meats home and in the freezer, and use them right away when thawing – but between these two places you can save a lot of money on your food budget!

3. Do you have an area to plant things in? Large pots on the corner of the deck or even an old sink pressed into service…plant USNavyWikimediacommonssome food you can grow yourself. Lettuce mixes, peppers, tomatoes and other things can be grown very economically – some decent soil, a pack of seeds less than $1 and you have enough peppers or tomatoes for many. If you are in a small town or apartment community with like minded people – consider a seed swap! Many seed packets will have 30-50 seeds – more peppers than you need. One person buys a pack of peppers, someone else buys tomato, someone else buys other seeds and you can have an inexpensive, decorative and edible “garden” on your deck or patio without breaking the budget. Often you can find lettuce and replant several crops during the year – seeds 10/$1 will give you all the salad you can eat for $1 for the year.

4. Consider the no-brand or store brand items. While there are differences for some when the name brand is $1.99 and the store brand is a dollar – 30 items like that puts another $30 in your pocket! Look for things on sale; while coupons are a great idea watch using them – if your 50 cent coupon is for a $3 item it might till be more expensive than the $2 no-name-brand same item. Go to the bulk food aisle and stock up. Large plastic jars that contained pretzels have been pressed into service storing pasta – at $2.33 for a large bag we can get by for 2-3 months on a single bag – much cheaper than the boxed pasta dinners! Check expiration dates on dairy, meats and other items where possible. That $10-20-30 you save set aside – when something goes on sale in bulk you can stock up without breaking the budget.

5. Check your service plans. The long distance calls of $40 might be better with an unlimited long distance program of $25 – savings of $15 per month. Don’t rely on obvious advertising – ask. After an accident with a car that was financed we had full coverage on it – but ended up with not enough to pay it off. Lesson learned – for used cars buy cash and watch your deductible as well as coverage. Consider if for the difference of full coverage vs liability and medical if it’s worth it. For a car valued under $2,000 it usually is not! The car is easily “totaled” (more damage than the blue book value) and therefore what you get is minimal. If the difference is $30-40 per month put that money in a fund. If, heaven forbid, you have an accident and have $1500 or $2,000 saved up you can immediately go out and get another vehicle rather than waiting for the insurance to clear. In our case that took an extremely long time even though there was no medical claim or other people involved.

6. Take charge of pet health. An annual veterinary exam is a good idea. Consider carefully and research whether your pet *needs* annual vaccinations – some studies show they do more harm than good. See if the immunity level can be checked to prevent over-vaccination. Rabies shots used to cover 3-5 years – annual vaccination of the same basic thing does not give more immunity and if the animal doesn’t need it then you’re wasting money. A blood test can tell you. Learn to give vaccinations yourself (rabies vaccination must be done by a vet) – pay attention to prevention and limit the amount of food to keep the pet from being too fat, which increases health problems, is a waste of money and shortens his life.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA7. Maintain your vehicles! Regular oil changes, tire care and “babying” your vehicle insures it will be there when you need it. Don’t forget the spare tire and roadside kit which should be in the vehicle at all times. Consider a small hydraulic jack – often under $20! – instead of the inexpensive and sometimes frustrating ones that come with many vehicles. Even if you can’t do it having the right things available lets a helpful citizen have the tools along with the willingness to help.

8. Do a weatherization check on your home. Look for leaks in the plumbing, air leaks where energy is lost, weatherstripping along the doors and windows. While you’re at it check your fridge and freezer to make sure the seals are tight – a paper put into the closed door should be difficult to pull out. Good weatherization can save money!

9. Start a compost bin. You would be surprised how much is thrown out that can be composted – and put around those plants you’re growing to feed yourself and your family! Most kitchen and yard waste instead of being hauled away can be used literally in the garden. Grass clippings, leaves and other “waste” need not be a problem to be discarded – use it!

10. Search thrift stores and yard sales for great deals on clothing. Sometimes expensive name brand items can be found for under $5 each. Jeans for working out in the yard can be $20 or $30 or $4 – as long as they cover you the important thing is handled!

11. Look for “other” things or solutions to what you need. A clear example of this was recently looking for a bulletin board for the office. I balked at the smallish ones for $10-15-20. Instead I bought two sheets of white ceiling tile for $3.66 each – and have roughly a 4X4′ area for much cheaper than the standard ones. A couple nails to put it on the wall and it was ready to be put to use. Often builders throw out extra wood and other materials that they don’t need – get permission to salvage these things and use them. A cabinet on wheels with a nice countertop makes a useful, handy and inexpensive “island” work area for the kitchen or craft area – and the savings on getting free items means often the wheels and top is all you need to buy – savings can be several hundred dollars on this project! An advantage – you not only have extra work space but also extra storage under it – and it easily wheels to the corner when not in use.

12. When cooking some things make double batches – chili and other things are easy to double. Get storage containers and freeze the extra – those nights you’re too tired to cook you still have something easy to heat up without having to order out. Done enough it’s worth getting a small extra freezer.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA13. Buy direct whenever you can. Farmer’s markets, Community Supported Agriculture and other programs make it easier than ever to buy fresh, reasonably priced produce and often other products such as eggs, honey, flowers and craft items. Seek out livestock raisers and ask about buying a market hog – they take it to the processor and it’s cut and wrapped to your specifications and you pick up roughly 180 pounds of pork that is cheaper than “the store” and helps an independent farmer survive. Lamb, beef and other meats are also possible to be bought this way. For the not squeamish willing to learn you can learn to process and cut up the meat yourself after the animal is killed, dressed, skinned and chilled.

14. Avoid the drive thru! With gas prices going up all the time it’s more expensive than ever to spend 10-15 minutes (3-4 cars!) waiting in drive thrus. You are getting ZERO miles per gallon and it’s often more time efficient to park and go in – you can be out and on your way before that car that took where you would have been gets to the head of the line!

15. Consider shopping at “dollar stores” – there’s several types of these from discount stores to truly everything is $1. Again – buyer beware – the package sizes often aren’t cheaper if you compare but for many things you can save a lot of money. The Ziploc bags (no name brand) and trash bags, shampoo, potpourri and many other things are inexpensive. Storage solutions can be found as well as good deals on office supplies.

The money saved by careful shopping and attention to detail can add up very quickly. Couldn’t afford to take a vacation or go out last year? These things can make that big of a difference in this one!

Did you know…

Saving $30 per week is $1500 over a year – enough for a modest vacation or a really good Christmas fund or paying extra towards mortgage bills to get out of debt!

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