Sunday, May 19, 2013

Skype me Baby!

For the past 4 years, I have enjoyed keeping up with family and friends with Skype. While living in Australia, my daughter got to know her American family through this amazing service so when they met for the first time, she knew everyone by their face. I even used Skype to telecommute from Australia to the USA. My clients thought that I was just around the corner. Little did they know that I was around the world.

Skype is a VoIP (voice over internet protocol) system that allows me to make video and traditional phone calls to anyone in the world for little or no money.  These services can be free for people who want to Skype others who already have a free Skype account set up on their devises. The only challenge is arranging times to call because both parties need to have their Skype accounts open at the same time.

I upgrade my account for their premium package for convenience purposes. For around $75 per year, I make and receive unlimited calls in the USA to my family and business contacts using my computer, Ipad and Ipod. The system even has built-in texting and voice mail. Compare this to the $0.10 per minute phone charges that I currently have on my prepaid telephone, and compare it to several people who currently spend over $100 per month on smart phone calls, and I'm saving big.

I upgraded my subscription by adding a local phone number for my jewelry store so that customers have an easy and non-intrusive way of reaching me.

Of course, there are drawbacks. Occasionally, my father has a hard time understanding me when I speak into my computer's microphone, but it is easy to fix by plugging a headset into the computer. The biggest drawback is when I get an unexpected video phone call when I have bedhead or when the hubby decides to walk shirtless behind the computer on his way to the kitchen? Simple cure? Just toggle off the video portion and continue the conversation as always.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Great prices at Vons right now

Today, I took advantage of some amazing grocery store savings and plan on creating pre-prepared meals for the next month. My entire meat bill was under $40. You can do this too.

Farmer John Louisiana Brand Hot links - 12 for $5 ($5 Friday deal) - Perfect for Summer Grilling!!!!!

First I separate package into 3 groups of 4 links each using freezer bags. I freeze 2 of the packages for later in the month. I then refrigerate 1 package for grilling this weekend. It expires in July so if our plans change, it is fine. By separating out these hot links into 3 packages, it helps to control our portion sizes. I already know that these are delicious and if I cook all of them, my husband and I would probably eat 2 each and regret it later. As it is, we will complement the meal with Rice a Roni (99 cents) and a green salad with tomatoes. The entire meal ends up costing around $1 per person not including charcoal. If we decide to save on charcoal, we can use the stovetop grilling pan.

3 1/2 lbs of 80/20 Ground Beef - $10.23. Meatloaf, hamburger patties, spaghetti, and chili

I am not purchasing the low fat beef, because the flavor is in the fat. Instead, I'm reducing the amount of beef that I use by adding fillers and stick to appropriate portion sizes. First, I separate the large package of meat to 4 portions. These portions end up being a little less than a pound each. I extend each of these recipes to 4 servings by adding either cooked rice, beans, or breadcrumbs, and nobody misses the reduced meat usage.


  • 3/4 lb ground beef
  • 2 slices of bread - diced
  • 3 small squash diced - whatever you have on hand. I'm growing zucchini and yellow so I'm using it here.
  • 1 tablespoon of dried onions
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 2 tablespoons of mixed spices
  • 8 tablespoons of ketchup

Mix all ingredients together with my hands and shape it into the form of a loaf. Place in a loaf pan and cook in a 350F oven for 40 minutes. Cool and Freeze for later or eat this evening with mixed salad and watermelon for dessert

Gourmet Hamburger Patties:

  • 3/4 lb ground beef
  • 1/4 cup dried bread crumbs
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon of mixed spices

Blend all ingredients together and flatten and form into hamburger patties. You can add an egg before forming the patties but you will need to cook them immediately. I prefer to separate the hamburger patties using rounds of parchment paper. Freeze for later use. Cook them in a frying pan from their frozen state. Do not defrost.


  • 3/4 lb ground beef
  • Can of Prego
  • 1/2 container spaghetti

Defrost and brown the ground beef. Combine the jar of Prego or Ragu and heat throughout
Meanwhile, boil water and add dried spaghetti. Cook until done
Combine the spaghetti and sauce.


3/4 lb ground beef
Chili seasoning package
Can of tomatoes or fresh tomatoes
Can of kidney beans

Defrost and brown the ground beef
Add chili seasoning, tomatoes and kidney beans

Whole Pork Loin: $18.54 for 8 lbs. The butcher sliced half of the pork loin into individual servings and left a 3 lb roast. I froze each package into 3 servings per package and left the pork loin whole.

Australian Pork Parmi: Pound each pork loin piece until it is very thin. Dredge in bread crumbs and spices and plan to fry up in 1T of oil.

Pork Chops - season and bake or use Shake and Bake

Pork Roast - I will coat the pork roast with applesauce and season with slices of preserved lemon and then will bake until done.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Prepaid Cell Phones vs. Paid Plans

For the first 10 years of owning a cell phone, I enjoyed receiving a free phone with a 2 year cell phone service commitment. Just like most people, I love shiny new gadgets and couldn't resist the offers of the latest and greatest phones. I started to get a bit antsy with the bills as I noticed new usage charges and taxes every month. My $29.99 monthly plan would end up being closer to $40 every single month! Adding to the frustration, I would receive calls from telemarketers from my phone company, suggesting that I move to a different, more expensive plan several times per year. Does this sound like you?

Finally, in 2011, I decided to switch to a prepaid plan. The phone itself is very basic, and if it breaks, I'm not worried about it. When it loses its sparkle, I can always spend another $40 to get a new one. The best part is that through AT&T Wireless, I only pay $15 per month or $25 for two months. If it appears that I am going to use all of my minutes, then I top up the account. The only true annoyance about the phone is that I often receive calls from bill collectors from the previous owner of my phone number. It can be pretty irritating to receive one of these calls and then when I hang up, to see that I was just charged 10 cents for someone wasting my time. Still, this could have happened with a traditional cell phone plan.

I love the bells and whistles of smart phones, just like most people, so I carry an IPOD Touch. I've loaded all of the apps that I need on it other than GPS, which came standard with my car. The benefit of the IPOD touch is that whenever I am within wifi service area - library, coffee shop, home and work - I can make and receive unlimited free phone calls using Skype. Now, if only I can break my addiction to the app, Candy Crush!

Thursday, May 9, 2013


Santa Barbara on a Shoestring, 2nd Edition has just been published on Kindle!

Seven years ago, I wrote the first edition of Santa Barbara on a Shoestring for a fledgeling market of Kindle users. At the time, our wonderful town had 3 bookstores on State Street, several factory outlet stores, no 99 cent store, Best Buy or World Market. Times have certainly changed! Now, 22% of all books are read electronically, smart phone money saving apps are the rule, and the way we save money and time has changed dramatically. The new version is only $3.99 and for a limited time, it is free for download for Amazon Prime members.

Now that I've revised and posted the book, I will start blogging again on this site. I hope that you will subscribe to learn about the latest ways to live well on a budget.