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From: BT, CA on Feb 10, 2006.
Question:  I am trying to not spend as much on groceries. My husband says we must have meat at every meal, and the meat prices have gone so high. How can I save on the groceries, without giving up meat?

Answer:  There are a lot of ways to cut your grocery bill. Start with not buying impulse items. Do you really need that pack of cookies, when you can make them cheaper at home? Make a list and stick to it. Look through the store sale ad, to see what is on sale that week and plan your meals around that.

Buy family packs of meat and put it in smaller containers. Serve less meat per meal. Make your hamburgers smaller, or put some crackers in the meat, before you fry them. You can't taste a small amount of crackers, but it makes the meat stretch.

Instead of buying a high end cut of meat, buy a cheaper cut and use a crock pot or pressure cooker to make it tender. There are tons of recipes on the Internet that show how to cook wonderful meals with a crock pot or pressure cooker.

Try buying chicken legs and thighs, instead of the whole cut up chicken. You can usually get a 5 or 10 pound bag of them cheaper than buying a whole cut up chicken. If you can't use that many pieces of chicken at one time, freeze the rest for another meal.

Soup is a good way to use less meat. I also have a husband that wants meat, but he will occasionally eat a bowl of soup as long as he sees chunks of meat. I make sure there are lots of vegetables or beans in the soup, to be able to use less meat.

From: Christina, Hot Springs on Feb 08, 2006.
Question:  Can your REALLY save money using coupons?

Answer:  It is worth the time to clip coupons, if the coupon is for an item you would buy anyway. If going down the aisles you see the "name brand" item you have a coupon for, by all means buy it and use the coupon to save the extra money. But check out the generic item first. Can you buy the generic for less money than you would pay for the name brand item minus the coupon? Using coupons wisely is the best bet. Use them ONLY for things you would normally buy and don't use a coupon just because you have it. It doesn't save any money if the item sits in the pantry and isn't used.

It is also better to use two coupons and buy two smaller sized containers if the prices are better. Take a calculator to the store with you. Do a little figuring to see which is the better price. Make sure you check your store's coupon policy before you use mulitple coupons for items. Some have limited amounts of coupons per item, to keep you from buying four items at a cheaper price.

Can you match the coupon with the same item that is on sale? If the item is on sale and you also have a coupon you can save even more money. But don't fall into the coupon trap if you can still save more money by using the generic of the item, or by making the item home made.

From: Gail, OK on Jan 30, 2006.
Question:  Water is constantly running in my toilet bowl. I can hear the water, and see the water moving into the bowl, long after I flush it. Can you help me?

Answer:  It sounds like your flapper is bad. The flapper is the rubber stopper at the bottom of the tank. Take the lid off the tank and shine a flashlight in to be able to see the bottom. First, see if the chain is hanging in the hole, under the flapper. If you see that it is, shorten the chain by using a paperclip to "tie" a couple of chain links together.

If it isn't the chain, then you need to replace the flapper. Go to any local hardware store, or home improvement center and get one from the plumbing department. When you get home, turn off the water to the toilet. If there isn't a shut-off valve on the toilet, turn your water off at the main valve. Flush the toilet to remove most of the water. Unhook the chain from the back side of the handle and pull up on the flapper. You will see that it is held in place, near the bottom, either by two rubber tabs, or it is slid down over the water overflow pipe. Remove the old flapper and put in your new one, in the same manner as removing the old one. While you are at it, rub your fingers along the edge of the hole that the flapper sits in to. Feel for rough spots that could be keeping you from getting a good seal. If you find a rough spot, gently rub it with an emery board and smooth the hole out.

Now turn the water back on, wait for the tank to fill, and see if that helped your problem.

From: anonymous, on Jan 23, 2006.
Question:  elain, my parents are getting a divorce and always fighting what do i do?


Since I usually only answer questions that are frugal in nature I thought it would be best to send you on to this link. It has a lot of information that could help you at this time. Good luck!

From: Heather, Washington on Dec 27, 2005.
Question:  Hello Elaine,
I have a question in regards to mortgages. I try really hard, but cannot make heads nor tails of most financial issues so would really appreciate your advice!

Right now we have a 30 year fixed mortgage at 6% interest. I have our payments automatically taken from our checking account, and also have them take an additional 20 dollars each payment. (Not a lot, but..)

Thats where I have the question. When I asked our lender, they have no penalties for making extra payments or for paying off the debt early, but several people have told me that I should never pay extra on our principal as it's just money down the toilet.

My thinking was that the lower I can get that total debt down, the better off we are... your take on this?

Thank-you so much for your time.

Answer:  I applaud you for paying more on your principal. It will lower your over-all mortgage, because it automatically takes it off your note. Just make sure your lender knows that you want to have the extra $20 to go towards the principal of your note. Keep track of how many extra payments you make. Also keep your bank statements in a safe place so if there is ever of problem you will have proof of your extra payments.

Let the people who tell you that you are doing wrong talk all they want. You are doing right by lowering your overall debt. It will not only be paid off sooner, but you will pay less in interest on the over-all loan.

From: Tina, Texas on Dec 20, 2005.
Question:  We live in a very old house and I feel a cold draft coming in my windows. The windows are wood, and there aren't any storm windows. Is there any low cost way to keep the cold air out?

Answer:  Do you happen to know the last time the window panes were glazed? If it has been awhile, it might be a wise investment to buy a can of glazing and a putty knife. Any home improvement store will have it and exact directions of how to apply it.

In the mean time you can hang plastic over your windows. They sell a type that has double stick tape and clear plastic, for inside the windows. You heat the plastic, with a hair dryer and it makes a tight seal. You can't tell there is plastic there. If seeing out the window isn't a problem, hang any clear plastic on the outside of the windows, using strips of cardboard and staples or small nails to hold it up. Staple or nail it to the outside frame of the windows, making sure all of the glass and the boards holding the wood is covered with the plastic.

You can also hang a window quilt. It is basically a quilt or blanket hung on a rod, to go over the window. The thickness keeps the drafts at bay. You can use any old blanket you have around, or make something special to go with your decor.

From: Tammy, in the boonies on Dec 07, 2005.
Question:  I didn't have power yesterday at all. How do I keep warm and what happens to all of the food in my freezer and fridge?

Answer:  Hopefully, when your power went off, you left the refrigerator and freezer shut. If you opened the refrigerator, most of the items will have gone bad and you will have to start over with those items. If you left the door shut, you can use your best judgement to tell if the items are still cool when the power comes back on. Please don't take any chances with your health to save a few food items. It would be better to throw it all away than to pay for a doctor bill because you took a chance on spoiled food.

When the power does come back on open your freezer and see if the things are still frozen, or at least partially frozen, with ice crystals. Then you can just leave them as is and use as normal. A good way to tell would be to look at the ice cubes in the ice maker. If there are still cubes, instead of a frozen sheet of ice in the bottom, you know that the food is safe to leave in the freezer. If things are thawed, you could cook the items up and then refreeze them. Don't just refreeze the items without cooking, as it not only lowers the food quality, but could be dangerous as well. The best bet would be to cook it and then refreeze it.

A way to keep this from happening in the future would be to store 2 milk jugs of water in your freezer. When the power goes off quickly open the freezer and take out one jug. Quickly put that into the refrigerator and shut the door. Leave the doors shut for the duration of the power outage. The ice water in the jugs will help keep the food cool, maybe being able to save all of it.

As for keeping warm. If you have a fireplace you are all set. Hang blankets for the doorways that go into your living room. Have a family "camp out" in the living room, with a cozy fire going. Don't worry about heating the rest of the house. Leave the water dripping in your faucets, to keep them from freezing. Quick trips to the bathroom will be a must, of course but nobody died if they didn't get a bath every day. Wait until you have power back on for that. Try to have canned foods on hand at all time, for emergencies like this. They can be cooked over the fireplace, using old pans, or outside on the grill. Please don't bring a grill into the house. Not only is there a chance of fire, but the fumes could kill you.

If you have no fireplace still hang blankets over doorways and have everyone converge in one room. Light some candles, making sure they are put where kids and pets can't knock them over. The candles will supply very little heat, but with dressing in layers and lots of blankets and family togetherness, you should be able to weather the power outage. Don't forget hats. Lots of heat is lost through your head. Wearing a hat will help keep you warm.

Being prepared for power outages in the future, with a container with canned food, old pans, can opener and a few games can go a long way to making the outage a lot less of a bother.

From: Gloria, on Nov 13, 2005.
Question:  Hi Elaine, By accident, I put hot pans on my rug and left a big mark. Any suggestions to get it out of the rug? We keep our pans in the oven I turn the oven on, forgot to take out the pans. As I took the pans out, I put it on the rug... forgetting the damage it did to the rug, HELP!

Answer:  Yikes, that is a toughy. If you have a small section of the carpeting you can cut out the burnt spot and replace it. If the knap of the carpet is high, the patch shouldn't be noticable. The patch can be put down with heavy duty double stick tape. Rub the knap of the carpet along the patch, so it blends with the rest of the carpet. You could probably get a patch off of a carpet floor. Cut the patch from the back corner of the closet, so it can't be seen.

You could also shave a little of the carpet fibers from a unnoticed part of the carper. Take some glue and put the fibers into the burnt spot.

Or place a nice throw rug over the spot. It doesn't cure the problem, but with the throw rug only you know it is there. Any guest that come in would like your decorating skills to have such a nice throw rug laid down.

From: mattnmeplus5, hiding in the closet shhh on Nov 10, 2005.
Question:  Elaine,
I also homeschool, we are blessed w/5 children on one firefighter budget. I bake bread, sew clothes, and consider myself very frugal.. except when it comes to homeschool curriculumn !! I want the best, I shop ebay but it's more than I want to spend. Any ideas where to purchase good curriculumn at great prices?
Thank you & God bless, Karin


Hi, Karin. My usual stopping place for school curriculumn is at yard sales, thrift stores, etc. I find some great school books that were donated. They come in handy as a basic starting place for our school lessons.

Another place to look is the Internet. There are many sites that will let you download worksheets and lesson plans. When I search I usually look for free age/grade related worksheets to print.

Also make good use of your public library. If you are friendly with your librarian, she can call you when a book comes in that is related to what you are studying at the time.

Have you tried a swap with other homeschooling families in the area? It would be a great end of the year gathering for the local homeschool famlies. Go to a park, that has a pavilion and lay out the books you are willing to swap, or sell for a small price. The kids can interact with others and the parents can get books for the next year.

And you have my best wishes with your homeschooling. It is a joy to see my children learing every day.

Also please tell your husband thank you for the wonderful job he does as a firefighter.
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