Did your family blow up the budget over Christmas? Are you trying to figure out where to cut corners to get back on track? Perhaps it is time to sit down as a family and work together on a spending plan. (’Spending plan’ sounds more appealing than the word budget.)

I’ve seen statistics where young working folks (millennials) are spending up to 40% of their paychecks on eating out and then whine about not being able to afford the lifestyle they want to become accustomed to.

Just for fun, take your own paycheck (in our case, the calf check) and take out 40% of that for food. Crazy, isn’t it?

It’s winter, it’s cold outside, and we are all busy. The “there’s just not enough time to cook” excuse is just that – an excuse. Anyone can operate a crockpot or slow cooker. Back in the day, grandma used to put a pot on the back of the stove and let it simmer all day long with something good to eat inside. The crockpot is the modern version.

I have found hundreds of delicious, simple recipes to use in this appliance. I load the food in it the night before and put it in the refrigerator. The next morning, I simply put it in the cradle and set it to cook on low. We can be gone up to 12 hours, and the food is ready to eat when we finally get in the door. (What a nice ‘welcome home’ that is!)

You can easily feed your ‘bunch’, clean up the dishes and reload the pot for the next day – all in less time than it would take to go to a restaurant, order the food, pay the bill and drive home.

You don’t even need a cookbook to find great recipes. There are literally tens of thousands readily available online. Pinterest has a plethora of recipes ideas and best of all, nice visuals of the cooked meals.

Here’s a couple good search results to browse:

Pictured above: Slow cooker crockpot Coca-Cola beef roast. One sweet and simple trick offered up by Queen Bee Coupons.

EatingOnADime.com offers up some simple, budget-friendly crockpot recipe ideas:

This month’s HELPFUL HINTS for the HOME

Weight Loss Helps the Hungry

A reader writes:

A friend of mine has lost a lot of weight this past year and was afraid she would gain it all back if she didn’t have something visible to remind her. So, for every pound she lost, she bought a one-pound bag of rice, dried peas, beans or macaroni to give to the local homeless shelter. She took in 75 pounds of the dried food just before Christmas and has already started on the second box as she has at least another 75 pounds to lose yet.

We thought this might give someone else the motivation to do the same.

(tip submitted by AC, NV)

Oven–Shower Cleaner

Mix together the following:

  • 2 ounces Dawn liquid detergent
  • 4 ounces of lemon juice
  • 8 ounces of vinegar
  • 10 ounces of water

Put in a spray bottle and spray over all parts of the oven and/or shower. Leave the mixture on overnight, and it will wipe clean in the morning. Sparkling clean, no chemicals!

(tip submitted by AH, IA)

Forever Drawer Liners

I found a ‘forever’ solution to drawer liners. I collected linoleum scraps from floor jobs in my house, along with some extras at a flooring store. I glued them on the shelves and in the dresser drawers. No more flimsy paper liners to replace.

(tip submitted by CM, CA)

Homemade Puzzles

Have the children take some of those wonderful colored pictures on old calendars and glue them to light cardboard. You can cut them into puzzle piece shapes. A good rule of thumb – cut no more than 6 or 8 pieces for the pre-school crowd, and more as the children get older.

(tip submitted by MT, AZ)

Creepy Critter ‘Stay-Away’ Spray

Mix ½ cup each of vegetable oil, shampoo and vinegar in a bottle. Shake well, and spray all around the outside of your house. I sprayed around my windows and within two hours, it took care of all the flies and mosquitos. (My friend also said it will kill roaches, but thankfully, I don’t have any of those!)

(tip submitted by GW, TN)