One way to save money on groceries and cooking is Once a Month Cooking (OAMC) or freezer cooking. If you search for OAMC or freezer cooking, there are various websites and blogs with recipes and ideas. With OAMC you make a plan for meals for a month and make all of the meals in one or two days. The concept is that by purchasing the items you need, you may be able to use some items for a number of the meals. Also, you save yourself from making a lot of dirty dishes throughout the month and some meals you can make in an assembly line fashion. In some cases you can only make enough meals for a couple of weeks so it is not so much work. It is an easy way to start so your don’t get burned out.

Instead of making a whole month’s worth of meals, I make a few meals in a weekend once in awhile. Since I am single, when I do this, I freeze the meals in individual portion sizes. I did this on Saturday. I made a few hot dishes and froze them in individual sizes. This is handy to take for lunch or so I know I have something almost ready when I get home, it makes it less tempting to stop for takeout after work. I either take them out the night before or in the morning. Also if you are making lasagna, meatloaf, meatballs, etc you can make an extra pan or so and put it in the freezer to use at a later time.

You can also make various baked goods and freeze. Also, you can make up cookie dough and freeze scoops of it on a cookie sheet and store in freezer bags. Then you can bake a few at a time when needed and have fresh baked cookies easily.

In one sense by clearing clutter and being organized you can save money. If you have things organized and in certain places, you know what you have. How many times have you had to go out and buy something and then later found the same item in your home. Also, with articles of clothing if you have too much clutter you may forget what you have and go buy an identical item. The more stuff you have, the more time it takes to organize and clean your house.

One suggestion I have heard of is to have 3 boxes or bags on hand. label them, “toss”, “donate”, “keep”. Start with one room and start picking out 27-30 things and put in the correct bag.

If you have a lot of clutter and unorganized items, it may take longer to find items you are looking for and you waste time, you could be using to do something else.

Also, with the growth of self storage units. Some people need these for a place to store items while moving, etc or extra boats and other RV vehicles. But some people spend money to rent these units because they don’t have enough room in their houses for all of their stuff. When you consider the cost of renting extra space, the cost of your stuff get even higher. And if you purchase the items on your credit cards and carry a balance your cost for the items increases even more.

There have been numerous articles about people adopting a minimalist way of life. Some people have been writing blogs about how they go 30 days with only wearing 6 different pieces of clothing during the month. A recent <a href=

Organizer, Peter Walsh has a new book that just came out <a href=http://www.thesimpledollar.com/2011/01/09/review-lighten-up/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+thesimpledollar+%28The+Simple+Dollar%29&utm_content=Twitter>Lighten Up</a>.

Even though we all like having stuff, it is important to take a look at what you have and consider what it is actually costing you and if it is worth it.

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1812048,00.html>article</a. is about a guy that is trying to have only 100 items.

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Nancy Kvamme

With the start of a new year, also comes thoughts of tax returns. April will be here before we know it. People who are expecting a refund usually file their taxes earlier to get the refund earlier. But a tax refund should not be considered “free money”. If you do receive a large tax refund, you are essentially giving the government a tax free loan.

If you usually receive a large refund, it would be wise to look at your deductions you have marked on your W-4 with your employer. If you change your deductions and have less deducted from each check you could either use that on other expenses throughout the year or save it and use it to buy something like you use your tax refund.

Also, some people use their refunds for things that they could not normally afford. It is fine in some cases to purchase these things, but if you do have debt, it would be wiser to put that money towards your debt.

Also, if you e-file, it is possible to pay extra to get your refund faster. Look into the fees for this before doing it. In some cases, the fees associated with it will take a large chunk of your refund.

So, although it is nice to receive that extra money in April, take a look at how much you do get back and see if it would be wiser to change your deductions.

More information can be found on the <a href=http://www.irs.gov>IRS</a> website.

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Nancy Kvamme
The other day I found this book at the library, The Teen Girl’s Gotta-Have-It Guide to Money which has ideas about ways to make, save and spend money. It has ideas of ways to make money besides having a full time job such as babysitting, dog walking, cleaning houses, etc.
And when you are ready to apply and interview for a job it gives you tips on things to do and not do to ace an interview.

When it comes to saving the author explains The Rule of Four way of spending. To think of the money you have as a grid divided into four squares. Spending, Saving (Short term), Saving (Long term) and Charity. Their suggestion is to allot 30% of your money to spending, 30% to each of the Saving squares and 10% to Charity.

The book shows you how to make a list of your short term and long term goals and how to save money towards them.

It also explains compound interest and the different kinds of savings accounts.

It is a good book with basic ideas on saving, spending and giving to help a teen gain the knowledge of how to earn and spend money. It is only 95 pages so it is a quick read and a great reference. In the back there is a list of websites to check out.

One of the personal finance authors I follow is <a href=http://www.finishrich.com>David Bach</a>. He has a new book, Debt Free for Life that just came out and he is offering a free <a href=http:// http://www.walletpop.com/david-bach>download</a> of it until midnight tonight.

A couple of his other books are Smart Women Finish Rich and The Automatic Millionaire. I have read all of his other books and would recommend all of them. They are easy to read and understand.

Debt Free for Life includes 10 steps to get out of debt and stay out of debt.

He calls it the Finish Rich Plan to Financial Freedom.

So I hope you get a chance to get the free download, otherwise checkout your library or go purchase it.

I am sure it will be worth the money.

Nancy Kvamme

This afternoon I stopped at the Dakota Boys Ranch store on 32nd Ave and saw they have boxes of valentines for $0.99 (30-36 cards per box).  Some of the boxes have cards and pencils (16 per box).  Also, cello treat bags $0.49 for a package of 20 bags.

Some of the themes of the valentines are Scooby Doo, Iron Man, Sponge Bob, Spiderman, Hello Kitty, GI Joe and Sports Experience.

They will probably have them at the other Dakota Boys Ranch stores too.

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Nancy Kvamme