25 Informative Resources About the GI Bill and Its Educational Benefits

August 18, 2011
25 Informative Resources About the GI Bill and Its Educational Benefits

Most military personnel know that the original Post 9/11 GI Bill had problems…but now, the issues have been addressed, and a new “GI Bill 2.0” will go into effect by August 2011. Veterans Affairs has posted a new Web site addressing this change (listed below), and many other sites, blogs and articles address the new bill as well. This list of 25 informative resources about the GI Bill — specifically its educational benefits — include all the above, and can provide answers to your questions about an affordable future in college. Read More …

A Baker’s Dozen: 13 Ways to Enjoy Your Oatmeal

April 19, 2011
A Baker's Dozen: 13 Ways to Enjoy Your Oatmeal

Love oatmeal? We do too, but eating it the same ol’ way every day can get…old. The thing is, oatmeal doesn’t have to be the same boring fare day in, day out. Have fun with your oatmeal and you’ll end up all the healthier and full of fiber (and who doesn’t want that?).

    1. The Gracious Pantry – Dark Cocoa Raspberry Oatmeal If your oatmeal needs a makeover on the weekend, this is the way to go. This recipe incorporates raspberries and dark cocoa for a decadent flavor that will make you forget you’re enjoying a fiber-friendly meal. The addition of agave adds even more sweetness and the Greek yogurt lends a creamy consistency that will make it feel like you’re having dessert for breakfast.

    2. HealthFreax – Peanut Butter Pumpkin Oatmeal If you’re a fan of peanut butter, you’ll go nuts for this oatmeal concoction. This is another one that can be enjoyed as a snack or breakfast. All it involves is adding peanut butter, pumpkin puree and a dash of pumpkin spice to basic oatmeal. The result is oatmeal with a kick, making it ideal for fall and winter months.

    3. Not Dabbling in Normal – Healthy Carrot Oatmeal Bites We were cautious of this recipe, simply based on the name. Anything that says”healthy” and includes a vegetable in the title is usually a recipe not worth the hassle. Luckily, these bites fit the bill for those on a diet, but taste like a treat. Coconut and ginger add a sweet flavor to these little oatmeal balls, making them a great party snack that won’t weigh guests down.

    4. En Petit Chef – Oatmeal Lace Cookies This is a classic cookie recipe that is easy, but looks impressive. The ingredients are simple and so is the cooking process, making this a great baking recipe for those who aren’t handy in the kitchen. The lightweight cookies are the perfect midnight snack with a cold glass of milk and there’s no sugar high included, so you can get right bac to bed after.

    5. Side of Sneakers – Southern Fried Oatmeal Don’t let the name scare you! This oatmeal comes out like a slice of granola and can be enjoyed with yogurt or fruit (or both). The blogger suggests making this with leftover steel cut oats you have on hand. Coconut oil is used to give the oatmeal slices a nice brown color and just a hint of sweetness.

    6. Steamy Kitchen – Banana Oatmeal Cinnamon Creme Brulee The name alone let us know we had to try this version of oatmeal. The blogger originally had it on vacation, then came home and created a”shortcut version” that would be easy to make with a hectic lifestyle. This recipe could not be easier and involves simply mixing the key ingredients in with your oatmeal.

    7. Fat Free Vegan – Blueberry Oat Bars Cozy up to these oat bars on a cold day when you have nothing by daydreaming and reading the newspaper on the agenda. These fabulous blueberry oat bars are vegan and fat-free, so you know you’re doing something right when you get in the kitchen to whip them up. Vanilla, apple juice and agave nectar add a sweet infusion and the blueberries provide intense color.

    8. Banbini Banana Queeny – Banana Oatmeal Cookie Recipe This blog is all about bananas, so it’s no wonder the writer came up with a way to mix bananas and oatmeal, beyond throwing them in a bowl together. We love this recipe because it involves nothing more than dropping ingredients, mixing them and then creating misshapen clumps on a baking sheet. The cookies aren’t the most appealing to look at, but they will bring your taste buds to life when you’re hankering for something sweet, yet subtle.

    9. Penny De Los Santos – Sexed Up Savory Oatmeal We’re used to fruit and we’re used to sweet, but what about savory oatmeal. Send your oatmeal on a new journey by making it savory with sea salt and shavings from good cheese. We know it sounds a little out there, but it’s a combination that many foodies swear by. This blogger added a sunny-side up egg too.

    10. Muy Bueno Cookbook – Avena (Old Fashioned Mexican Oatmeal) This classic Mexican breakfast is enjoyed by many and it’s simple to make when you’re tired of your basic oatmeal. It includes cinnamon, honey and sugar and the condensed milk gives it a fabulous consistency that you may not be used to in your oatmeal. It’s definitely worth trying if you’ve never had it and can be enjoyed with fruit in it or on the side.

    11. Paperseed – Vanishing Oatmeal M&M Cookies Need a way to get fiber in your kids without them knowing? Throw a few colorful M&Ms into the mix and they’ll gobble these classic oatmeal cookies down like there’s no tomorrow. This recipe can also be made sans M&Ms and turns out oatmeal cookies that are just sweet enough without making you feel like you need a nap. In the comments section, one reader suggests adding pumpkin spice for a rustic note.

    12. Bake With Us – Chocolate Oatmeal Drops Get ready to make these oatmeal drops over and over again. The recipe is simple enough for those with limited baking experience, but even if you’re a pro in the kitchen, you’ll want to try this oatmeal recipe. A combination of cocoa, chocolate, light brown sugar and oatmeal marry to make these indulgent little bites that are sure to be gobbled up by family and friends the minute they’re set out.

    13. Good Grace – Chocolate Strawberry Oatmeal Smoothie Recipe If you want your oatmeal fix in the morning without cooking it, check out this smoothie recipe. It’s fast, easy and satisfies your sweet tooth without blowing your diet to shreds. This also makes a great snack for your kids when they’re itching for something sweet, but you don’t want them bouncing off the walls.

Oatmeal is a simple way to get a healthy lifestyle going and if you have numerous ways to enjoy it, there’s a stronger chance of you sticking with those new eating habits. Remember to experiment with any baking recipes with oatmeal, since timing is key for the right consistency. We love oatmeal, but we don’t want to bite down on a cookie and get a load of oatmeal flakes.

42 Items You Should Be Buying From the Dollar Store

April 3, 2011
42 Items You Should Be Buying From the Dollar Store

In the past decade, dollar stores have popped up in every neighborhood, large or small. Whether you live in an urban area with an independent dollar store or in the suburbs where dollar store chains roam free, there’s a good chance that you’re missing out on some serious savings if you’re walking buy the store without checking it out. Not everything in a dollar store is worth your dollar (nor do all things in there cost a dollar these days), but there are many items you can grab for a buck or two that will serve you just as well as the pricey versions from the grocery or super stores.

Food to Buy at Dollar Stores

Many dollar stores have a wide array of pre-packaged and prepared snacks and food. Here are the ones to buy that will be the same as the food found in your supermarket.

    1. Soups. Even name brand soups and low sodium/low fat versions of soup can be found at dollar stores.

    2. Bulk candy. Giant bags of licorice, hard candy and lollipops can be found for a steal to fill bags for you kid’s birthday party.

    3. Crackers. Check the date on these, but there are plenty of crackers to be found at dollar stores.

    4. Fruit juices. You may not find the 100% real fruit juice found at a dollar store, but boxed fruit juices and the type found in jugs can usually be had for a dollar or two.

    5. Soda. Many dollar stores now stock Coca-Cola and their other products. You’ll always find off-brand cola products too.

    6. TV dinners. If you’re going to buy a TV dinner, it may as well be cheap since the pricey ones you find at the grocery store contain just as much salt and fat as the low end versions found at the dollar store.

    7. Gum. Gum fanatics know that their chewing habit can add up quickly. Grab your gum at the dollar store. Some even sell it by the box.

    8. Noodles. The quick cooking noodles like Ramen or Cup O’ Soup can be found at most dollar stores for next to nothing.

    9. Stock. Chicken, beef and veggie stock can be found at many dollar stores. If you’re trying to cut the sodium, dilute what you use with water to keep the flavor while using less of the salty stock.

    10. Pickles. Pickles are a mainstay in some households and can be found at the dollar store. They may only have whole pickles, so be prepared to go home and slice them, but considering the fact you’re saving a few dollars, that’s no biggie.

    11. Tuna fish. Canned tuna fish and salmon can be found at dollar stores and are often the same brands you find at your supermarket.

    12. Extra virgin olive oil.If you use EVOO in your cooking daily, you know it can be pricey. Buying it at the dollar store saves money and since you’re cooking with it, you don’t need the fancy schmancy cold-pressed kind (which is best for dressings or consuming straight up).

    13. Cashews and almonds. Some dollar stores have an array of raw and salted nuts, especially around the holidays. These are great for putting out for guests.

    14. Sugar. Sugar is cheap at the grocery store, but it’s even less at the dollar store. A sizeable bag of sugar can go for a dollar or two and goes just as far as the $4 bag from the grocery store.

    15. Eggs. Oh yes. Some dollar stores have refrigerated sections with eggs. While you won’t find any organic eggs, the standard kind can be found for under $2 versus the almost $4 you’ll pay at the market.

Dollar Store Items for Around the House

There are items you use every single day that can come from the dollar store. Remember that the quality of products offered vary from store to store, so if you’re in a new area with a dollar store, it may be worth visiting to see if they have better brands than what’s stocked at your usual store.

    16. Cleaning products. Not every cleaning product sold at the dollar store will work as well as the house or name brand found at a super market (we know, we’ve tried, but items like glass cleaner and furniture polish are safe bets.

    17. Toilet bowl cleaner. If you go through these fairly quickly, buy it for a dollar and don’t feel guilty about ditching it.

    18. Baking soda. There are so many uses for baking soda and buying it at the dollar store will save you money each time you go through a box (use it to freshen the fridge, cure itchy skin and create a base for eco-friendly homemade cleaners).

    19. Vinegar. Like baking soda, this product has many uses and can be purchased in large jugs at the dollar store.

    20. Paper towels. If you run through paper towels like crazy in your home, the thicker versions sold at the grocery store probably don’t matter. Or buy a pack at the dollar store to keep on hand for the kids, who are usually known to waste paper towels.

    21. Toilet paper. Tread carefully with this one. If you’re super picky about toilet paper, the kind from the dollar store isn’t for you, but if you’re living on a serious budget, it may be an area you’re willing to work with.

    22. Zip top plastic bags. In the past it was only the rinky-dink sandwich bags that were sold at dollar stores, but now we’re seeing zip top plastic bags. These bags are available in various sizes and work for freezing food, meaning you waste and throw out less.

    23. Plastic containers. They won’t be Tupperware brand, but who cares? They’ll hold and store your food just the same and if you lose one or leave it at work and it gets stolen (hey, we’ve heard of it happening), it’s no big deal.

    24. Air freshner. Air freshners of every type, from sprays to oils can be found at dollar stores to add a fresh scent to your home.

    25. Tea towels. If you cook a lot, you know that having a dozen or so tea towels is helpful for quickly wiping off your hands when you’re in the kitchen. Grab them at the dollar store, since the ones we’ve purchased have held up just as nicely in the wash as those purchased at pricey home boutiques.

    26. Pot holders. Pot holders are expensive, even at the grocery store. While your dollar store may not have the most sophisticated designs or colors, they will have them for a bargain.

    27. Batteries. On a recent trip to a dollar store, we were elated to spot lithium batteries for about 30% less than we’d seen them at a drugstore just up the street. Not all dollar stores will have lithium batteries, but they will have standard batteries which work in most children’s toys and games. Lithium are best for digital cameras.

    28. Bath soap. Bar soap for the shower can be purchased at the dollar store for far less than a grocery store. They even have name brands, so you don’t have to worry about an allergic reaction (though that can happen with any brand).

    29. Shaving cream. Most men aren’t too picky about what shaving cream they use, so why buy it anywhere else?

    30. Tape. The dollar store has all kinds of tape! Duct tape, masking tape, gift-wrapping tape. Score it for a buck and keep it organized so it’s always ready to go.

More Items to Buy at the Dollar Store

What else can you snap up for a buck? Here’s a look at a few more items worth exploring the next time you’re at your local dollar store.

    31. Gift wrapping paper. It gets tossed, so why spend $6 or more on a single roll? Hit your dollar store for seasonal gift wrapping paper and stock up so you always have it.

    32. Party decorations. Items like balloons and crepe paper can cab found at dollar stores in an array of colors for every occasion.

    33. Kid’s party supplies. Theme birthday plates, napkins, goodie bags and more are at most dollar stores.

    34. Holiday decorations. Inexpensive paper decorations can be found to hang up around the house. These items usually can’t be stored and saved for the next year, but for the price it won’t be a big deal to throw it out.

    35. Hair accessories. Bobby pins and hair elastics are always available at dollar stores and cost nowhere near the high prices found at grocery and drug stores. These tiny items are often lost, so buy them for less.

    36. Kitchen supplies. Serving dishes, utensils, sponges and almost anything else you need in your kitchen can be found at your dollar store. Check for sturdiness and make sure hinges are in working order.

    37. Dishes. It won’t be fine china, but it will look chic. Choose a solid color like white or navy to make your meals look fabulous without spending a bundle.

    38. Kettle. Have you priced a kettle lately? $30-$40 is average for a kettle, but you can find them at the dollar store for about 10 bucks. It will heat water for your tea just the same too!

    39. Beach toys. Foam noodles, frisbees and sand castle supplies are a bargain at the dollar store.

    40. Coloring books. If your four year old goes through more coloring books per week than pairs of socks, snag a few at the dollar store to keep him or her occupied for cheap.

    41. Art supplies. If you’re starting a career as an artist, the dollar store isn’t for you, but for crafty kids and teens who need their art supplies replenished monthly, the dollar store has great bargains. Paint brushes, paints, watercolors, and sometimes even sketch pads can be found for a few dollars each.

    42. School supplies. During back-to-school season, super stores run great deals on school supplies, but after the school year’s set in, forget it. Go to your local dollar store for pencils, pens, spiral notebooks and folders for the kids.

If you haven’t stepped into a dollar store in ages, now’s the time to go! Forget the musty spaces with expired goods and low quality products. Today’s dollar stores are just as bright and shiny as your favorite super store and stocked with products that are already on your list, only for a lower price.