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You can lighten any meal with these cheap and easy solutions.

By Karen Datko Dec 3, 2009 9:17AM

This guest post comes from Kris at Cheap Healthy Good.


When it comes to healthy cooking, one of the greatest skills a body can master is lightening up her favorite recipes. You’re reducing fat and calories, which is good for your waistline, but at the same time you never feel deprived because you’re always eating what you like. You don’t need pricey ingredients either, and after a while, you won’t need to consult any guides. You can lighten any dish straight off the top of your head.

Below then, are 10 strategies to get you started. Every single tip comes from personal experience (including, unfortunately, the fat-free cheese warning). Use them alone or in combination with one another for even healthier meals.

One caveat: These suggestions don’t apply to baked goods, since many baking recipes rely on precise ingredient quantities for flavor and structure. I’m not yet comfortable enough with my skillz to mess with them.

Cut back on cooking fat. Whenever I’m trying to lighten an existing recipe, the first thing I look at is the prescribed amount of cooking fat. And almost without fail, most dishes ask for way too much.


Stores are in the catbird seat, even rejecting clothes that haven't been worn.

By Karen Datko Dec 2, 2009 6:19PM

So many people are selling used or unworn and unwanted clothing that resale shops can be picky, rejecting even the priciest, most fashionable items if they’re not a good fit for the store, The Wall Street Journal reports. When resale shops do buy, the price may be shockingly low.


"Even the really, really great stuff that's in really great condition, they didn't even accept it," Ally Peet told the Journal after a Plato’s Closet in Utah turned thumbs down on her Dior and Juicy Couture apparel. "They said (the brands) wouldn't sell well here."

Resale shops are part of the triumvirate of used clothing depositories, which includes thrift stores and consignment shops. All are doing a booming business as people look for highly discounted apparel. Reportedly teens are among their best customers.


The WSJ offers some tips if you want to successfully sell your clothing items to a resale shop:


Web site encourages poetic commentary on U.S. finances.

By Teresa Mears Dec 2, 2009 4:31PM

We’ve all read (and some of us have written) reams of prose about the economy in the last few years.


Perhaps it’s time for some economic poetry.


The Peter G. Peterson Foundation, formed by the co-founder of the Blackstone Group private equity fund, has decided that’s just what the nation needs: fiscal haiku. So it has created a Web site, appropriately named, where people can express their feelings about the economy in the formatted Japanese poetry called haiku. A haiku has 17 syllables, five in the first line, seven in the second and five in the third.


So far, more than 375 people have waxed poetic, or attempted to, about the current economic climate. A few samples:


The quest for riches
led us into temptation.
Now we're all flat broke.


Will the new policy change your eating habits at the movies?

By Karen Datko Dec 2, 2009 3:32PM

One of our more popular posts was about a question asked by Frugal Dad: Is sneaking candy into the movie theater frugal or cheap?


That question comes to mind again now that theater giant AMC Entertainment Inc. has banned outside food and drinks at all of its 304 theater complexes after testing the idea at several locations. If you want to eat or drink during the film, you’ve got to buy your grub at the overpriced concession stand. Regal Entertainment, the nation’s largest theater chain, also bans outside food.


Don't buy online without first searching for discount codes.

By Teresa Mears Dec 2, 2009 1:22PM

Cyber Monday saw increased sales this year, and sales weren’t the only thing that increased in number. More shoppers are using online coupons, USA Today reports.


While sales on Cyber Monday were up 13% from last year, 42% of shoppers say they plan to spend less this holiday season than they did last year, Nielsen analyst Maya Swedowsky told the newspaper.

One way they hope to do that is by shopping sales and using coupons. And shoppers did both Monday. Coupon Web sites, such as and, reported significantly higher traffic on Cyber Monday compared with last year. RetailMeNot had 1.1 million visitors, up 57%. CouponCabin was visited 400,000 times, up 65%, USA Today reported.


She ended up with a substantial windfall by following these steps.

By Karen Datko Dec 2, 2009 1:00PM

This guest post comes from “vh” at Funny about Money.


When the job ends on Dec. 31, I’m planning to consolidate all my checking and savings accounts into just three: a checking account, an emergency savings account, and the self-escrow account to pay annual property tax and insurance bills. Right now I use one checking account as a “pool” from which incoming cash is disbursed to a half-dozen “cookie jar” accounts dedicated to various expense and savings needs.


The other day, thinking ahead to what the simplified system will look like, I added up all the money that has accumulated in the cookie jars and then estimated the last few pittances due this month. And I was astonished to discover how much cash has quietly accrued, painlessly, without my trying very hard to save.

Hang on to your hats, folks: More than $26,500 is sitting there in the credit union! That’s about $16,500 more than I thought.


What accounts for this startling windfall?


Is this what friendship is all about?

By Karen Datko Dec 2, 2009 11:16AM

This post comes from Marla Walters at partner blog Wise Bread.


After my first Arbonne “party” last weekend, I made a list of the other product sales “parties” I have attended. Can you match this?

  • Pampered Chef.
  • Princess House.
  • Mary Kay.
  • Tupperware.
  • Christmas Around the World.
  • PartyLite.
  • Oriflame.
  • Amway.
  • Stampin’ Up.

As it turns out, I have been to 19 of these things (some two or three times). I guess that makes me quite the party animal.


“Network marketing is the future!” proclaimed the Arbonne representative. Network marketing and multi-level marketing are terms that can be used interchangeably. The concept is that products are sold by an individual, but a distributor network is needed to build the business.

Interpersonal relationships and word of mouth are relied upon to market and sell. If I like a moisturizer from Mary Kay, the idea is, I’ll tell my girlfriend about it. In multi-level marketing, sellers get paid for their own sales plus the sales of others whom they bring into the company. In “direct sales,” the agent deals directly with customers, usually in a party atmosphere. These aren’t new concepts -- I remember my mother going to Tupperware parties in the ’70s.


In case you haven’t attended one of these shindigs, here is the rundown:


Better yet, give a charitable gift card so the recipient can select organizations to help.

By Karen Datko Dec 1, 2009 8:59PM

To gift card or not to gift card? Everyone has an opinion about that. But research suggests that those pieces of plastic can in fact make the perfect gift.


Bob at ChristianPF found the information in Kiplinger’s magazine: University of Pennsylvania economics professor Joel Waldfogel estimates that Americans waste billions each year buying holiday presents that are underappreciated by the recipients.

Waldfogel, the author of “Scroogenomics: Why You Shouldn’t Buy Presents for the Holidays,” said, “When I buy for myself, I spend $100 only if I see something that’s worth at least $100 to me. But if I buy gifts for other people, how do I know what they would have spent for them?”


He added that “surveys that I’ve conducted over the years show that recipients value gifts at about 20% less than what was spent. That’s about $13 billion a year wasted.”



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