Here’s a quick tip when you’re shopping online or getting ready to head to the grocery store – Google the product(s) you want to buy and add the word “coupon” or “deal” to your search. You’d be surprised what you might find! I do this all the time and while I don’t always get coupons for everything I need, I do find enough to make the task worth the time and effort.

Two examples from this year:

1) I had to give a foster cat some medicine and hiding it in his food was just not cutting it; he’d smell the smashed up pill and refuse to eat. I had read about these treats called Pill Pockets but knew that they’d be on the pricy side so I Googled the name along with the word coupon and found that if I signed up at the manufacturer’s website I could print a coupon for $2 off a package. So instead of paying $6 I only paid $4. It was a lot, yes, but these treat worked wonders and the cat finally got the medicine he needed.

2) My hard drive crashed. I went to Google and put in “hard drive deals” and the first hit was for a site called Tech Bargains where they were linking to a hard drive on sale at NewEgg.com for $80 (normally $100). In addition, they had a checkout code for an additional $10 off. So I got a replacement hard drive for $70 instead of $100. Talk about a deal! I had to get one anyway but I saved $30 just by doing some quick research.

Keep in mind if you’re shopping online make sure you are dealing with a reputable company. When in doubt, or if the price seems way too good to be true, skip it as it might be a scam. In any case, try this tip next time you’re getting ready to make a purchase and see how it works for you.

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Last Pass

Trying to remember all the logins/passwords to all the sites you visit, particularly those you don’t go to daily, can be a nightmare. This is why I recommend using a service such as LastPass. Not only can you have it generate passwords that are more secure than what you’d come up with, but you can have it log you into certain sites automatically. The best part? It’s absolutely free! In fact, my only complaint is that you do have to sign up for their premium service (which is currently $12 per year) to have it work seamlessly with your iPhone or Android phone. That’s not to say you can’t access your passwords using your phone, it will just be a bit more painful to do so.

A bonus to using LastPass, which I just discovered recently, is that if you use Firefox and have the LastPass extension installed, it comes with a very easy to use form filler which is great if you’re like me and enjoy entering online sweepstakes. I had installed multiple extensions that were difficult to use and all this time all I had to do is set up a profile for forms in my LastPass extension and now it prompts me when there’s a form to fill out (and you can make unique profiles for each site)!

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Pinterest is a great website for inspiration, and for me that usually pertains to food. One of my latest new recipes is below. I modified one I found online to suit my tastes and encourage you to do the same, but if you want to follow the original recipe, here’s a link to it.

Oatmeal Banana Breakfast Muffins

Ingredients
2.5 cups old fashioned oats
1 cup plain low fat greek yogurt (or a 6 oz container of the yogurt with an additional 2 oz of unsweetened applesauce to make 1 cup)
2 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1.5 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
2-3 ripe bananas
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1-2 tbsp of cinnamon sugar
optional: chocolate chips or other fruit such as blueberries (experiment on the amount to desired taste)

Directions
1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Spray tin with non-stick cooking spray or line 12 muffin tins with silicone or foil liners (not paper ones as they won’t work as well).
2. Put the old fashioned oats in a blender on the grind setting, or use a food processor to grind it up until it looks similar to flour.
3. Put the ground-up oats in a large bowl and add your other dry ingredients. Wisk them thoroughly so they are combined well.
4. In a separate bowl, add your bananas and mash them real good. Then add in all your other wet ingredients and combine thoroughly.
5. Now add the wet ingredients to the dry and combine thoroughly, but do this by hand.
6. Divide batter among cupcake liners, and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.

Note: These come out pretty moist which means they will begin to mold after a few days. I suggest freezing them and they will last for many months. All you have to do is put them in the microwave for a short time or let them defrost overnight in the fridge.

Enjoy!

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Today while I was editing some photos I took for a rescue organization I work with, I realized that my image processing software outputs file extensions in ALL CAPS (.JPG) instead of lowercase (.jpg) like I prefer. It’s not a big deal, but I like my file extensions in lowercase.

I wasn’t up to editing 35 files individually, so I took to Google and quickly found this very easy to follow tutorial on how to update the file extensions on all files within the same folder at once with one quick command.

Whether you’re comfortable with computers or not, I suggest you check it out because it’s super easy and may just come in handy one day!

Note regarding Method #1 on the site: The asterisk is a wildcard character which tells the system that any file name ending in the extension you specify should be changed to the new extension you specify.

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It’s not always necessary to buy plastic storage containers from the store when some of the food you eat comes in one that you were planning on throwing away or recycling anyway. Unlike my grandmother, however, I don’t like the idea of reusing containers that still have their labels on because not only do they look tacky, but it makes it difficult to know what’s actually inside them.

Recently, I came across this blog entry which explains a quick and easy way to remove labels from yogurt and sour cream containers using acetone. The only change I made was that I used a paper towel, set it on the top of the container, and poured the acetone on top, letting it soak for maybe 30 seconds. Then I was able to wipe the label off with barely any effort at all. I repeated the procedure on the sides, and as the pictures show below, it worked like a charm!

Before:
Sour Cream Container Before

After:
Sour Cream Container After

I made sure to do this in a sink while wearing rubber gloves and I kept the lid on the container so that no acetone got inside. I washed the outside of the container with dish soap (Dawn) thoroughly and then washed the inside. Now that I have a plain container I could decorate it, write on it in magic marker, or make a label of my own to stick on it.

For this particular container I am not doing any of those things because I’ll be using it to store my hamster’s yogurt treats on the shelf beneath his cage so I already know what’s in there. I’ve already re-purposed an empty Nutella container to keep a few weeks’ supply of his block food so I don’t have to constantly go in and out of the resealable bag every evening when I feed him.

These containers are great for storing leftovers, but I would not recommend heating those leftovers in the microwave since the plastic is likely not BPA-free and could leech into your food.

One last tip – I noticed that certain brands’ labels are easier to remove than others. I have a lot of luck with the brand in the photo as well as Market Pantry (Target’s brand).

If you have any tips on how to re-purpose other containers, please share them in the comments!

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Dropbox

The last entry centered around what you can do with Evernote, so I think a natural extension of that is Dropbox. Whereas with Evernote you can store all your notes, Dropbox lets you store all your files in the cloud so you can access them from the web, your computer, your phone, or your tablet. It’s a very handy service, and best of all, it’s free!

You can create as many folders and sub-folders as you like and you can even configure it so that every photo you take on your phone is automatically uploaded to Dropbox (although with the Photostream option on the iPhone you might not want to do this).

Your Dropbox folders are private by default but you can make them public to share files with friends/family, or even designate a particular file as shareable and provide a link to retrieve it. In addition, there are many apps that work seamlessly with Dropbox, such as Notesy which saves all your notes in a Dropbox folder.

Dropbox is a free service I couldn’t live without and I highly recommend it to keep your life organized. Once you install it, check out these articles for ideas on how to enhance your Dropbox experience:

Top 10 Dropbox Apps for iOS, Android, Windows and Mac OS X
Five Free Dropbox Tools You’re Not Using (But Should Be)
Dropbox Addons

Feel free to share your favorite ways to use Dropbox in the comments.

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Evernote

Have you heard of Evernote? A lot of people have, but surprisingly, many have not. And that’s unfortunate because it’s a handy little free service that allows you to store and access notes wherever you are. There’s a desktop version for your home computer, an app for your phone (iPhone or Android), and you can access your account via a web browser anywhere there’s internet access. Talk about convenient!

There’s no limit to what you can use Evernote to track, but here’s what I use it for:

Conversations – I track conversations I’ve had with companies, particularly for those I have to contact repeatedly for answers. I note the date, time, person I spoke with and the results of that conversation. I include screenshots from websites where necessary. This saved me when disputing a charge for my local newspaper as I had a screenshot that contradicted what I was told. So again, another money saver.

Donations – I take pictures of the items I’ve donated and note their donation date, where they went, and a brief description of what is pictured. This helps jog my memory when a year later I’m wondering why something has “disappeared”. In addition, I keep track of monetary donations made to the local food bank and other charities so I can record them when tax season comes around.

Home Inventory – Ever buy, let’s say, toilet bowl cleaner, only to come home and realize you already have three bottles of it in the garage? Well I have, but I don’t anymore. I keep an inventory of my cleaning products in Evernote so I know when I’m low on something and when I have plenty of something else. Of course this requires discipline to keep the list updated so your mileage may vary.

Location of infrequently used items – Nothing is worse than tearing apart the house looking for your packing tape or the window fan you stored away once it got colder outside. Well, if you make a note of where you put them you wouldn’t have that problem! So whenever I put something seasonal away, I make a note of its location for reference later. This also works well if, like me, you have a garage full of storage totes. I have many of mine color-coded (orange for Halloween, red/green for Christmas, pink for Valentine’s Day, etc) but if you use more than one for a given holiday/season it’s great to label them with a magic marker with a number and then note what is stored in each one. It will save you from digging through multiple totes to find what you’re looking for.

Evernote Food Review

Products / Food – I take photos of products or food I’ve tried and paste them into a note with my impressions. I can’t tell you how many times this has saved me from buying something at the store I already tried before and didn’t like. No more waste! On the flip side, it helped me recall items I did like so I could buy more.

Travel Ideas – I use my travel notebook to keep track of future places I’d like to visit and build an itinerary from there. Eventually I end up moving the details into Excel because I’m a nerd like that but Evernote is great for the preliminary planning process.

I’m sure there’s lots of other uses for Evernote but the above are just some ideas based on how I use it. Feel free to share your suggestions in the comments.

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Target Redcard

I’m not a big proponent of store credit cards. In fact, until last year I only had two in my lifetime, and both were obtained when I was younger and have since been closed. That being said, I think signing up for a Target REDcard is a great idea IF 1) you shop there often and 2) you can trust yourself not to go over your budgeted amount and 3) you pay off the card in full every month. If #1 applies but #2 and #3 do not, you can also consider getting the debit version of the card. In either case you get 5% off every purchase every day, 30 extra days for returns, and free shipping if you order from Target.com.

Considering the fact that our local Super Target is where we purchase a good 80% of our groceries, not to mention all sorts of other stuff, it was a no-brainer to sign up. In fact the only thing I regret is not doing it sooner. Last year we saved nearly $200 using the card and shopping like we normally would. The only difference now is that if I’m comparing prices between stores I have to remember to factor in the 5% discount.

As an added bonus, once you’re signed up you can log into your account online and choose a school to which Target will donate 1% of all your purchases. If you’re interested in learning more, visit Target’s REDcard rewards and benefits page.

Note: I am in no way affiliated with Target other than the fact that I love shopping there.

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