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Feeding a Large Family on a Shoestring Budget

May 2nd, 2014

“♫♪ Here’s the story of a lovely lady. Who was bringing up three very lovely girls. All of them had hair of gold…♪♫” Yes Mrs. Brady was bringing up three lovely girls, and also three sons, but she had help! What would she have done without the assistance of Alice, the trustworthy housekeeper, who handled not only the cleaning, but also cooked all the meals.

Alice from The Brady Bunch

Photo courtesy MSN Entertainment Canada

Ann B. Davis played Alice not only in the original TV show but in follow up specials, and even wrote a cookbook! In celebration of the leading lady, whose birthday is today, here are some tips on ways to feed a large family on a budget, much like Alice did!

  • Evaluate what you currently spend and see where cut-backs can be made.
  • Determine what foods kids will actually eat and stop buying what they won’t.
  • Buy in bulk as this always offers a discount and has a bonus of having often used items on hand when you need them.
  • Plan meals a head of time to make sure you only buy what you need – this helps avoid impulse buys.
  • Learn how to make great dishes from less expensive cuts of meat – more cooking time and a few tricks can turn tougher beef cuts in to tender meals.
  • Don’t shop when you are hungry as people tend to buy more junk food and already prepared foods.
  • Use coupons when you can – why pay more for the same thing when you don’t have too?
  • Watch for weekly specials and stock up!
  • Try more veggie dishes – if you go meat free once or twice a week you will save money.
  • Buy local and seasonal produce as the prices are cheaper. Strawberries in January are great but not practical on the pocketbook.
  • Watch waste – don’t dish out more than someone will eat as they can always go back for more.
  • Use leftovers for lunch the next day, or turn in to a new dish for dinner.
  • Start a garden to grow your own veggies – cheaper and fresher.
  • Make your own meals from scratch and avoid pre-packaged, processed, ready-made meals – you will save on fat and salt content as well as dollars.

While you may not have a Brady Bunch sized family to feed, these tips are sure to help you cut down on your grocery spend. Let us know your tips and tricks to feeding a family on a budget!

Decorate Easter Eggs with These 5 Ideas

April 18th, 2014

Hop out of the box with your Easter egg decorating this year and follow these Pinterest-inspired nontraditional techniques.

  1. Glue and Glitter
    Dip your eggs in glue and then roll them around in glitter, beads or sequins. For polka dots, drop dots of glue and then sprinkle glitter. This method also works great with sprinkles.

    Easter eggs dabbed with glue and rolled in glitter to make glitter polka dots
    Source: http://www.domestifluff.com/2009/04/how-to-make-sparkly-dot-easter-eggs/

    Egg rolled in glue then glitterSource: http://www.boredpanda.com/easter-diy-ideas/

  2. Pretty patterns
    Using a Sharpie or other fine-pointed writing utensil, draw intricate designs onto your egg, such as big stripes, little stripes, chevron or squiggles. You can even write a favorite quote or saying onto the egg.

    Easter eggs decorated with SharpiesSource: http://obviouslysweet.com/blog/2012/04/easter-eggs/

    Easter Egg with words in sharpieSource: http://alisaburke.blogspot.com/2012/04/everyday-decorating-easter-eggs.htm

  3. Lovely lace
    To dress up your egg in a bit fancier way, glue on some lace and a small flower or other decorative piece. Your eggs will be sure to be egg-squisite!

    Easter egg with lace and a bowSource: http://www.bhg.com/holidays/easter/eggs/quick-and-easy-easter-egg-decorations/#page=19

  4. Bring out the Buttons
    Grab the craft box and pull out all the odds and ends of random buttons, ribbon and paper galore and have fun gluing this creative smorgasbord onto all your eggs. The more random, the better!

    Eggs with buttons glued on themSource: http://organizedclutterqueen.blogspot.com/2014/02/button-easter-eggs.html

  5. Stick ‘em!
    If you don’t have a steady hand to create your own designs, try painting over stickers to imprint designs on your eggs, and peel them off afterwards to reveal beautiful patterns. You can also paint the eggs first and then stick on white colored stickers, as pictured below.

    Eggs with designs made by painting over stickersSource: http://www.bhg.com/holidays/easter/eggs/quick-and-easy-easter-egg-decorations/#page=13

6 Ways to Feng Shui Your Home

April 16th, 2014

By Kellie Pearson

Many environmental scientists and architects incorporate the basic idea of Feng Shui into their designs on the premise that clutter in our homes hinders our sense of well-being. Surrounding yourself with objects and architecture that uplift your mood and ensuring items are in proper places and not in chaos can give you a better state of mind. To put it simply, as the old saying goes, a clean house is a happy house. Here are six ways you can put the ancient Chinese advice into practice and make your home harmonious.

Keep your front entrance friendly.

It’s a well-known fact: Nobody wants to go inside a home that has a dark, disowned and dreadful look to it. In a way, the state of your front entrance can symbolize your desire to welcome guests into your home. Dead flowers and peeling paint don’t exactly scream to your nearby neighbors that you are guest-friendly. Clear the pathway leading to your front door, clean up overgrown plants, tuck away toys and sweep the porch to make your home more inviting to others. The Home Owner’s Association will probably appreciate it, too.

Make your home shoeless.

There’s something satisfying about taking your shoes off after a long day – especially if they are high heels! A deep sigh of relief is almost inevitable after unlacing and untying those constricting things. By encouraging your family and guests to take their shoes off at the entry way before coming inside your home, can put them at ease and give them a mindset of leaving their cares at the door and help them enter into a peaceful place of comfort and rest. Not to mention the amount of dirt and hours of floor cleaning that can be minimized!

Give the garage a makeover.

Your garage is the first and last thing you see when arriving and leaving your home, so you might as well make it organized, attractive and something you enjoy seeing every day. Clear out plenty of space for driving and walking into and install shelves and cabinets for storage to avoid scattered clutter. Design areas for gardening or crafting hobbies that can provide getaways from the usual household routines. Keep trash and recycle containers clean and easily accessible. These tasks will make you feel more peaceful and less stressed when entering and exiting your home.

Illuminate the laundry room.

The laundry room, especially if it is directly connected to the garage door, can be a constant reminder of uncompleted chores – yuck! Nothing can give you more of a sense of discontentment than being greeted with that. Try adding curtains or closet doors to cover the washer and dryer and separate them from the rest of the room and decorating the walls with nice wallpaper or bright colors. Hang up a few reminders of your favorite things, such as your child’s artwork, a nature painting or a travel poster. Believe it or not, with some effort, you really can make the laundry room a space you enjoy being in, as long as it feels open and welcoming.

Dress up the hallways.

Sometimes, hallways can be quite stark and stagnant. Fix this problem by adding warm lighting, a gallery of pretty paintings or family portraits, and a splash of light pastel or vibrant color to give it a brighter look. Color also makes the hallway appear to be wider rather than closed off. Wider hallways can also be enhanced with book shelves, plants, rugs and furniture. This will make your home look more attractive and feel much more open.

Create a lovely living room.

Living rooms serve as the central part of the house where all the social gatherings occur, so, of course, you want to make it lovely! Choosing neutral tones for the larger pieces of furniture can be cost-efficient when you change your mind on the color scheme of the walls. Arrange your furniture to encourage social intimacy and create a sense of comfort and safety by placing the seating in view of the door. Adding a mirror that reflects the doorway from the sofa is also an option. Show off your favorite collections and art pieces to give your world a glimpse of what you love and enjoy.

With all this in mind, remember that your home is the environment in which you live, so take special care to make it a place in which you appreciate being and relaxing.

World Health Day: 10 Tips for Healthy Living

April 3rd, 2014

By: Katie Koleas

April 7 is globally recognized as World Health Day. The World Health Organization created this day to mark the anniversary of their founding in 1948, as well as to help draw attention to the importance of global health. While reflecting on this year’s initiative to combat vector-borne diseases, also remember to focus on the health of you and your family.

Spring into health this season by following the Mr. Appliance Top 10 tips for healthy living.

  1. Go Natural
    Whenever possible, avoid processed foods and harmful ingredients such as artificial sweeteners and partially hydrogenated oils. These additives promote an increase in cancer-causing free radicals.
  2. Hydrate
    Studies show that about 75 percent of Americans are chronically dehydrated and not drinking the adequate amount of water for the body to properly function.  Men should drink three liters (about 13 cups) of fluids daily while women need 2.2 liters (about 9 cups).
  3. Sleep More
    Getting less than seven hours of sleep causes sleep deprivation, which triggers stress hormones to accumulate, resulting in weight gain and depression.
  4. Get Active
    Twenty minutes of physical activity per day, three times per week, promotes longevity and reduces your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
  5. Take a Probiotic
    This live source of healthy bacteria helps to promote gastrological health and boosts immunity, which helps to prevent illness.
  6. Cut out Sugar
    White sugar has almost no nutritional value and increases your risk of diabetes, heart disease, obesity and depression. When sugar cravings strike, reach for antioxidant-rich fruit instead of your favorite candy to satisfy your sweet tooth.
  7. Quit Smoking
    Smoking is the largest preventable cause of death. If you haven’t already, quit now, if not for yourself, do it for those around you suffering from secondhand smoke.
  8. Build a Healthy Plate
    Ensure that half of your plate is filled with fruit and vegetables to make sure you are getting all the necessary vitamins and minerals. The USDA recommends about two cups of fruit and three to four cups of vegetables daily.
  9. Stop When You’re Full
    Your body is biologically geared to know when you’re full. Take time to listen to your bodies hunger cues to prevent overeating and weight gain.
  10. Give Back
    One of the best ways to fight stress and boost your mood is to do something good for someone else.

Sources:
MayoClinic.org
MedicalDaily.com

Dryer Vent Cleaning Tips

March 28th, 2014

Did you know dirty dryer vents cause 15,000 home fires a year? That adds up to a collective $201 million in damages! According to recent studies, nearly 92 percent of all laundry room fires can be traced back to either a dirty dryer or a dirty dryer vent system. Either way, it’s kindling simply waiting for a spark.

And that’s all it takes – just one small spark can ignite lint buildup. Once ignited, that lint fire can then quickly spread into vent tubing throughout your home walls. The good news is lint fires are, for the most part, preventable. The key to prevention is plain and simple – get rid of the lint buildup.

A Specialist holding dryer lint that could be potentially dangerous

Here are four, quick dryer vent cleaning tips to help you prevent fires and keep your dryer lint free:

  1. We all know it’s important clean out the lint trap between each load, but it’s also just as important to clean the lint trap itself as well as along the edges of the trap.
  2. Remove the lint trap and clean the inside of the machine for the lint that made it through the lint filter. Use a damp cloth to wipe around inside of the dryer and grab all of the escaped lint pieces.
  3. Clean the dryer vent tubing leading outside of the home annually. This service is requires specialized equipment and professional services, but removes the threat of lint build-up inside the walls of the home.

Maintain your dryer vents, so you can maintain your lifestyle – happy and lint free!

5 Money Saving Tips

March 28th, 2014

It seems everywhere you turn these days, someone is offering up the latest and greatest money saving tips. Have you noticed it’s usually the same tips over and over? They’re recycled and bedazzled, but nonetheless, they’re the same. The most common tips are adjust your home thermostat, stop eating out (including trips to the local coffee house), and pay off your credit card balance each month.

While those tips are great, there are also subtle, little things that you can do that can make a substantial difference. Here are five money saving tips that don’t normally come to mind, but can save you money and allow you to maintain your lifestyle.

Money and a piggy bank
Photo rights reserved by 401(K) 2012

  1. Make a grocery list before you go shopping and stick with it. You shouldn’t put one single item in your basket that isn’t on the list. That includes the oh-so-tempting impulse items in the checkout line that always seem to add a little extra to the grocery bill.
  2. Call your credit card company and ask for an interest rate reduction. Just a 2 percent reduction on a balance of $6,000 will save you $120 a year. The worst thing the company can do is tell you no.
  3. Don’t speed. While driving over the speed limit will help get you from point A to point B quicker, it doesn’t help fuel efficiency. Your gas mileage actually decreases. Plus, slowing down will not only help your wallet at the pump, but it’ll also prevent a nasty speeding ticket.
  4. Keep leftovers. Leftovers often get a bad rap. Instead of tossing leftovers into the trash, reinvent them with a little pizazz. Transform old bread to bread crumbs, leftover rice to rice pudding and last-night’s chicken into chicken soup. The possibilities are limitless, but if you need some help Greatest.com has some great ideas to get the ball rolling.  http://greatist.com/health/leftovers-meals-healthy-recipes
  5. Give your time. Instead of buying gifts for every occasion, think of ways you can give your time. For a baby shower gift – an evening of babysitting; for the housewarming gift – a day of yard work; and for a get well soon gift – an afternoon of housework. Be creative and see what you can come up with.

The main thing to remember is little changes can add up big. If you would like additional money saving tips, AllYou.com has compiled a great collection of blog posts with ideas to help you simplify your life, stay comfortable, and ultimately save money.

10 Ways to Spring Clean Green

March 25th, 2014

Spring is here, spring is here! It’s time to open your windows, welcome the allergies and best of all … start tackling that monstrous checklist of deep-cleaning items that get handled this time each year.

A clean home is a happy home, but not when it’s filled with harsh and dangerous chemicals. Fluffy’s skin can get irritated by the stuff you use on your carpet and small children shouldn’t be anywhere near a dangerous chemical due to potential ingestion.

The good news: you can still deep clean your house without any of those harsh chemicals. There are thousands of “green cleaner” recipes, from carpet shampoo to laundry detergent, but we narrowed it down to our 10 favorites.

Water stains: Ain’t no water hard enough.

Easiest cleaning technique on our list! Get rid of your hard water spots by cutting a lemon in half and sliding the citrus over your spotted, used-to-be-shiny appliances.

Glass cleaner. I can see clearly now the chemicals are gone!

Mix 1/4 cup vinegar with one quart water in a spray bottle then spray it on your glass and wipe clean with a window squeegee or lint-free cloth.

Air freshener. Natural freshness.

Spritz a cotton ball with your favorite scented essential oil and stow it out of sight (you can do this in your car, too!). Keep them out of reach of pets and children.

Add some green stuff. Living air filters… so natural

Houseplants are natural air purifiers. Try spider plants, English ivy, rubber plants, and peace lilies. Plan for 15 medium-sized (6 to 8-inch diameter containers) houseplants for a 1,800 square foot house. If that’s too much for your taste, focus on the rooms in which you spend the most time.

Ditch the paper towels. Save trees and cut down on waste

Go green by not filling your garbage can. Special, reusable cloth materials in various lint-free fabrics are common, but you don’t have to race out and buy a cleaning cloth to clean! Cut up strips of your old t-shirts and rags to do your dusting. When you’re done, just pop them in the washing machine.

Couch upholstery cleaner. You already have the materials

Fill a container with half dish detergent and half water – mix it up with a hand mixer then grab a rag to rub it on the spot and froth it up. Once complete, rinse clean.

Clothing freshener and dewrinkler. Keep the chemicals off your clothes

A simple combination of two tablespoons white vinegar, two tablespoons fabric softener (use something organic) and 10 drops of your favorite scented essential oil in a 16-oz squirt bottle will do the trick! Just fill the remainder with distilled water.

Dusting spray. Say goodbye to harsh dusters

Combine two tsp. of olive oil, one tsp. of lemon juice, ¼ cup of white vinegar, and one cup of warm water in a squirt bottle then go to town!

A Fresh Look at Frozen Food

March 20th, 2014

By Kellie Pearson

The recent social trend of “Super Moms” has women feeling like they have to do it all: work, cook, clean, raise kids and appear calm and collected all the while. The “Super Moms” at Mr. Appliance have a secret weapon for keeping all of the balls in the air and maintaining your family’s healthy lifestyle: the freezer, and frozen meals in particular.

In recognition of Frozen Food month, Mr. Appliance has taken a closer look at that ubiquitous frozen nourishment and has come up with a few reasons you should reconsider checking out the freezer section at your local grocery store.
March is Frozen Food Month

Save yourself some time

First is the obvious time savings that accompanies frozen meals. Each day, most of us handle everything from temper tantrums to snotty attitudes – and that’s before you’ve even left work. After a long day, finding the time (and motivation) to whip up a gourmet meal is a daunting task. Packaged meals are flavored and prepared by skilled chefs with proven recipes, so you don’t have to slave over the stove and can enjoy more quality time with your family.

And also some money

Saving money is on the top of everyone’s to-do list. Opting for the frozen version of fruits and vegetables gives your food an extended shelf life, thus offering a more convenient and cost-effective method by allowing you and your family to enjoy the fruit and veggies longer.

They are healthy, really!

Finally, the health benefits of consuming frozen foods, in moderation can be paramount. Oftentimes, the company packaging the frozen foods includes perfectly sized portions of all the essentials needed in a meal. According to a recent study done by the University of Georgia in 2013, some vegetables are actually healthier frozen compared to their fresh counterpart.

While frozen foods can be healthier, be aware of possible added preservatives that can be harmful to your body in large amounts. Being intentional about reading the nutrition labels, calorie-counting and getting your daily value serving of fruits and vegetables can lead to a healthier diet and lifestyle.

Celebrate Frozen Food Month with us and share your favorite frozen foods in the comments below…

5 Ways to Repair Your New Years Resolutions

February 27th, 2014

by Rebecca Elliott Melton

Haven’t been awesome about keeping those New Year’s Resolutions this year? Statistics tell us that most of us aren’t. So you’re not alone!

At Mr. Appliance®, we believe in maintaining your lifestyle and in working towards improving life for our customers. Maintaining, restarting, or actually starting to make promises, or resolutions, for improving your life is a good thing. But how can you get back on track if by this point you’re already off?

  1. Set reasonable goals. Rather than focus solely on the end goal, think about the resources and work required to get there. If your goal is reasonable, then you will of course be more likely to reach it! A good example: Susan wants eat out less often, but she doesn’t consider herself very skilled in the kitchen and is not accustomed to making time to shop for groceries. Can she find time to learn to cook better? Or get to the store? If not, that goal of “eating out less” likely won’t happen. A more reasonable goal for Susan might be to attend a cooking class and find time to get to the market once per week to practice making her meals at home, and then setting the goal to eat out less often.
  2. Measure your resolve. Measure that progress! In school, we got report cards that helped us stay accountable for reading that novel the English teacher thought so important. We had a finish line, and it was there to teach us to value the rank we achieved. Measuring your progress with a set goal is encouraging because you see progress and success. So the classic “lose some weight” becomes “lose 9 pounds before summer vacation trip,” which is something we can track and measure.
  3. Make it fun! The new trend in staying motivated is called “gamification,” and it involves using our competitive human psyche to make less than awesome things to do into a game we can enjoy and win. Lifehacker’s article (http://lifehacker.com/the-psychology-of-gamification-can-apps-keep-you-motiv-1521754385) says gamification works because of our love of dopamine, a feel-good chemical that our brain rewards us with when we win something. So you want to take up running but can’t stay motivated? You might be pretty motivated if you were outrunning zombies! Numerous apps can help you game your goals, and this one http://lifehacker.com/5892625/zombies-run-turns-your-exercise-routine-into-a-game-of-survival turns exercising into a game of zombie survival that you can win. Tip: Check out online reviews of the apps you are considering, as the choices are plenty and can be overwhelming.
  4. Don’t over-share. In his TedTalk, Derek Sivers asserts that studies prove when we announce our goals to others and they respond with a positive response, then we get that feel-good reward too early, and it keeps us from doing the work to achieve a goal. http://www.ted.com/talks/derek_sivers_keep_your_goals_to_yourself.html Others say to vocalize goals to create a sense of accountability. Maybe the key is to not over-share, tell select people who will encourage you to stay on track and don’t let the goal-setting be a reward in and of itself.
  5. Live in the present. Sure, we hear this all the time, but resolutions are promises to yourself to improve your life. If you didn’t do so great and feel bad about it, how motivated are you to do better? Let bygones be bygones and take the right actions today to meet your goals, and you’re already on track to success. And for a business perspective on staying motivated, check out this Forbes article.
    http://www.forbes.com/sites/nextavenue/2013/07/19/how-to-stay-motivated-and-accomplish-anything/

We at Mr. Appliance wish you luck in all this year’s endeavors!

National Love Your Pet Day

February 20th, 2014

Today is National Love Your Pet Day and little shows love better than special, scrumptious dog treats!

Forget the price and packaging of pet store delicacies; your own kitchen can be your furry friend’s favorite bakery. Check out some of our simple, all-natural dog treat recipes Fido is sure to love:

Love your pet day

Chicken Jerky

Ingredients

  • Two to four chicken breasts

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees
  2. After removing any excess fat, slice the chicken into 1/8-inch thick strips
  3. Bake the strips on a baking sheet two hours (your chicken should be dry and hard)
  4. Let it cool and watch your dog go crazy of their jerky!

Trail Mix

Ingredients

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees
  2. Cut ingredients into ½-inch thick slices
  3. Bake until dry

Kitties like to chow down, too! Sooooo …

Kitty Crunchies

Ingredients

  • ½ Cup quinoa flour
  • ½ Cup brown rice flour
  • 1 Tbsp dried catnip
  • Four to five sardines
  • ¼ Cup parsley, rough chopped
  • 1 egg
  • ½ Tbsp olive oil

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Combine ingredients in a food processor with a blade attachment
  3. Mix until cohesive and slightly sticky
  4. Roll into small balls or personalize it with tiny shapes
  5. Bake for 10 minutes.
  6. Store in airtight container.

This recipe is similar to store bought treats, minus the additives like food coloring, making it healthier for your pet.