I love January 1st. I especially love the brand-new calendar, empty of dates and to-do’s but filled with promise, hope, and possibilities. A new year is like a clean slate, where anything is possible.
With this perspective, and perhaps a bit of a haze leftover from the holiday “cheer”, I think about my New Year’s resolutions. Like forty-something percent of my fellow Americans, I use this time of optimism to set goals for the year. At some point in my life, I have tackled most of the “top ten” of popular resolutions, focusing on money, health and quality time with loved ones. I have had varying levels of success, resulting in some of the resolutions being repeats on my list and some, much to my surprise, lasting beyond the end of January.
This year, my resolutions will once again focus on money, health and loved ones but with an energy efficiency slant.
Money. With the fairly gloomy economic outlook, “save more, spend less” is becoming a common mantra in American households. In our house, our version is going to be “save more energy, spend less money”. A lofty sounding goal but how do I accomplish it? Starting with the easy tips on this website, I’m going to make a list of 12 tips (one for each month) to do in 2012. By signing on to Duke Energy’s online services, I will be able to compare my savings from the prior year’s spending. Maybe not an exact science but I know if I overcomplicate this, my likelihood of sticking with it will be much less likely!
Health. I’ve mentioned in a prior blog that my slow cooker is one of my favorite appliances. I’m going to invest a bit of time looking for some healthier versions of my favorite recipes. I’m also going to seek out a few ways to use my microwave beyond popping popcorn and melting butter. When I do my meal-planning each month, I will incorporate one new healthier meal a week. 52 new recipes over the course of the year seem pretty doable.
Loved ones. Ah, yes… the family. Achieving MY resolutions requires getting the guys in my house onboard. This may require some stealth and mom-ingenuity. But I am determined to succeed in spending more quality time together AND have their help in “save more energy, spend less money”! My “how to” plan? First, our family nights are going to shift from sitting-in-front-of-the-TV-with-laptops to blowing-the-dust-off-the-board-games. Second, we are going to use the plethora of reusable water bottles we have for more than lacrosse games; I am going to recruit my son to keep the dozen or so bottles we have filled and in the fridge. Double win on this one: less plastic waste AND we fill up the extra space in the fridge to maximize the energy use. Lastly, I’ve signed the hubby up to run a 10K with me in the spring – we are going to get healthy and moving together. But let’s keep that between us until I figure out how to finesse that one.
Are you a resolution-maker? What are you going to do in 2012 to “save more energy, spend less money”? Please share your ideas with us – and check back with us for more tips to try.
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Thanksgiving morning, I get up at o’dark thirty to get the turkey in the oven and the casseroles assembled. Before Macy’s even THINKS about starting the parade, most of our dinner is prepped and ready to pop in the oven. My reward? Black Friday ads.
Yes, I am “one of those.” While I’m tackling the bird, I make the hubby run out and get me the ginormous paper. Then, I sit down with coffee and the ads, creating a master plan for my Black Friday adventure. I love to find steals and deals, and, yes, believe it or not, the camaraderie of shopping with others who enjoy this foray into the holiday shopping frenzy. (Which lasts until about 10am, at which time I grab my latte and head home!)
The shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas are a plethora of discounts, freebies and sales. And, since several family members have agreed to a gift price limit and/or homemade gift exchange, I have a little bit of extra money to spend to support our efforts to keep our heating and electric bills down. So where will I focus my spending?
Heating the family. I have lowered the thermostat to 65 degrees during the day while we are gone and while we are in bed; 68 degrees is the day time setting for when we are home. So to help keep everyone warm and grumble-free, I will be looking for: flannel sheets and pajamas; slippers; extra throw blankets; and down comforters. And maybe some of those snuggle blanket things as gifts!
Fun without the cords. Like most families, we are typically plugged in; yes, the spouse and I have actually had a conversation via Facebook while in the same room. But I like for us to have family time together UNplugged as well. For indoor fun, this is a great time of year to find new board games, playing cards, books and crafts really cheap. And, for the 3 snow days Charlotte gets each winter, I will stock up on gloves, scarves and hats. I am also going to look for deals on telescopes and footballs to gift to unnamed family and friends!
Meal planning. No, I don’t mean surfing the web for 101 ways to use up leftover turkey. Small kitchen appliances are a huge loss leader for stores trying to get you in the doors. Slow cooker and toaster oven discounts abound! You can even find deals on microwave ovens. Rather than heating up the entire oven for a dinner for 3, I use my slow cooker a couple of times a week. To share this energy (and mom!) efficient cooking method, several folks on my shopping list might be getting slow cookers this year ~ with some of my favorite recipes to make it extra special!
A couple of additional shopping tips:
Look at the stars. Energy Star appliances, that is. Home appliance and other big box stores will discount dishwashers, dryers, and ovens this time of year. I’m really not in the market right now, as my darling hubby got me new Energy Star-rated appliances a couple of years ago. But if you are looking to update your avocado green for stainless, now might be a good time to check out the deals! (Click here for more info on Energy Star appliances.)
Decorating with less. Less electricity. If you are looking to add to your holiday decorations, you might find some deals on LED lights and solar powered holiday landscape lights. Keep in mind that these will probably not be deeply discounted until AFTER Christmas, but if you need to replace the frayed, tangled spider-web of lights, you should be able to find some sales to take advantage of.
By the way, I cheated. Many “Black Friday” sites already have deals for stores posted, and I found all the items mentioned above at one or more stores!
I’d love to hear what steals and deals YOU find during the holiday season to help reduce your energy consumption and save money.
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I actually like cooking. Maybe because I like EATING and no one else in the house is volunteering! But with swim team and lacrosse practices 6 out of 7 nights a week, plus a full time job, plus running the house, plus…plus…plus…Well, you not only get the picture but I’m sure many of you relate!
With our crazy schedule even eating out takes too much time! So what’s a busy parent to do?
Two words: SLOW COOKER!
In recent weeks, there seems to be an uptick in slow cooker interest on Facebook and the web. But I have long been a fan of this nifty kitchen appliance! After that all-important first cup of coffee, I pull all the ingredients together, dump it all in the crock, push a couple of buttons — high/low, timer — and move on with the rest of the day.
And VOILA! I get to come home to the wonderful scents of a lovely meal! (If I’m home, I might even open the windows to share the tantalizing aromas with the neighbors!)
Slow cookers are amazing — easy, convenient, energy efficient!
- Have a hard time following recipes “to the letter?” No problem! Recipes are typically “recommendations.” Don’t have an ingredient? Simple substitutions. Measuring spoons? Nah, eyeball it! (FYI: I HATE baking — all that precise measuring, cakes that NEVER rise like they are supposed to, having to WATCH the cookies so they don’t burn. Way too much work!)
- Not ready to eat when you thought you would? No problem! Most, if not all, slow cookers move to a “warm” function when the set cooking time is done. Still get a hot meal but on YOUR schedule!
- Hate to heat up the kitchen to feed the family? No problem! Slow cookers use less energy AND don’t heat up the kitchen. (Bonus: your A/C doesn’t have to work harder to keep you from sweating, either!)
As a displaced Texan living in the home of Carolina barbecue, I thought I’d share a favorite recipe of mine to get you started: Slow Cooker BBQ Beef Brisket! Let me know how it turns out for you!
This is the first of a series on ways to save you time AND energy in the kitchen — maybe a few bucks too! So check back for more yummy recipes!
Got a favorite slow cooker recipe? Share it with us on our Facebook page.
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