Last year, on my sparingly used single credit card, I racked up $358.96 in reward points. I turned these points back onto the card and got my bill reduced. This year, I’m doing the reward points a little bit differently. I’m going to ‘cash’ them in for reward gift cards. There are no fees or expiration dates on these gift cards, so that’s a very good point. Plus, this year hubby and I will be doing a lot of traveling on the road (thus racking up more reward points) and these gift cards will come in handy. Especially for the Dunkin cards, iHop, Cracker Barrel and Panera cards. Normally, if we have to stop for a hot meal or a cup of coffee, these would be the go-to stores we would flock to.

I’ve stopped buying books a long, long time ago. I get everything I need, including eBooks (which are great on my iPad or iPhone) from my local library. I have, however, from time to time, purchased cookbooks. Sometimes, having the hardcover helps when preparing a new dish. Recently, there was one book I was contemplating on buying. ‘Cool Bean’ (to help me with all the dried beans I have in my pantry!) It’s around $25 for the hardcover, but Amazon made me an offer of $4.99 for the eBook version. When I clicked on the link, the price jumped to $8.99. I hate when companies play the old bait and switch. A quick inquiry at my local library showed me the hardcover was available, and voila…I have the hardcover and I can renew it up to two times (three times if no one is on a wait list for it). That’s six weeks and those six weeks should do it. I’m not buying cookbooks any more either.

We’re eating out less and making the same take-out meals at home. This saves us a ton of money. For example, flat bread pizzas are all the rage right now. Hubby and I make them at home. Two flat breads, at Aldi currently cost $3.09 (up from $2.99). We have been preparing them for a Saturday night dinner, along with a side salad for the both of us. If we were to buy this meal at Panera, it would cots us $23 plus tax. To make the same thing at home, with spinach, mozzarella and grated onions, along with two side salads, our cost would only be a bit less than $10.

I no longer buy birthday cakes, quick breads (banana and cranberry), strawberry shortcake, apple pie, pumpkin pie, cherry crumb pie, peach crumb pie or standard regular coffee cake! Same goes for cookies. I make the standard chocolate chip cookie, oatmeal and raisin cookie as well as the Mexican wedding cookie in seconds flat!

I’ve stopped buying cleaning products as I now make my own cleaning solutions from a mixture of Dawn and water. It can clean everything from kitchen to bath. I bottle-can my own roasted red peppers which I later use on my own sandwiches. I make a mean BLT!!

I make my own salad dressing weekly (balsamic vinaigrette for hubby and Caesar Salad dressing with anchovy for me). I even make my own croutons! I no longer buy bread crumbs or panko because I save the ends of all my breads and make my own. I even make my own hot chocolate mix (using freeze-dried, non-fat milk makes the mix less caloric, more nutritious than store bought!)

Hubby and I no longer pay for haircuts as we buzz cut our own hair now. We don’t buy new clothes anymore. We either get them from Goodwill/Thrift Shop/Consignment or as a discontinued item from a retail store. I live mainly in jeans and tee shirts (that I pick up at Goodwill). We no longer buy CDs or DVDs. We have an annual membership with Amazon Prime and in addition to no shipping costs, we can listen to whatever music we want, for free from Amazon Music. We can watch the latest rental movies for free by racking up Amazon Rewards (by coordinating shipping dates, we get reward dollars which we can either use toward renting movies for free or buying eBooks for free) in addition to the regular Amazon Prime movies offered for free. We no longer pay for cable or satellite as hubby installed an antenna! For the first time in almost twenty years (that’s how long we have been living here) we are listening to local news vs city news (over 100 miles away!). We finally know what the heck is going on around here! For free!

We clip our own dog nails (at a cost of $23 per clip!) plus I’ve been learning how to groom our new addition to our family, a maltipoo. (a savings of $72 per doggie spa visit. Ouch!) We no longer buy canned soups, as I make them all from scratch. I no longer buy chicken broth, as I make it from left over chicken back bones and freeze the golden liquid in pint sized containers for future use. Some of my favorite home made soups I ruslted up this winter are: butternut squash, split pea, minestrone, vegetable, chicken noodle, Tuscan Bean, lentil, vegetable dumpling with spinach, ramen, ramen with Asian veggies and matzoh ball soup.

One of our favorite meals out used to be fallafel sandwiches ($8 each) and/or with a side of hummus and pita bread. No more. I make all of these products, myself, from scratch and they taste better than any take-out/dine-in restaurant can offer.

Lastly (for now) I’ve stopped buying canned Italian tomatoes. This past summer I bought a bushel of locally grown, San Marzano Italian plum tomatoes ($25) and I canned them myself. I made 10 pint sized plastic containers (retail value $35-$40!!!), filled with peeled Italian tomatoes and a few basil leaves, just perfect for a Sunday afternoon sauce over linguine. Magnifico! Bon appitito!