Category Archives: House Hacks

House Into A Home Hacks – How to Keep Your Food Budget and Waistline in Check

Image of man grocery shopping courtesy of dreamstime_l_77860960

Image Courtesy of Stocksnap.io

 

ATLANTA – Written by Mel

Ok. You just moved into your home somewhere in metro Atlanta and you are settling into your new job and your new environment.  Let’s say, you have been getting into this routine for about six months now and you start to notice that you have been overspending each month.  How can you start to trim some of the fat from your excessive spending sprees each month and develop a budget for yourself?

One thing that I have noticed is that food is the most expensive thing that I buy each month.  And yes, there may be sites that tell you to cut coupons and get things at a discount but are the things that you get with coupons even necessary?  More importantly, are these things really healthy for you?  There are so many considerations when it comes to feeding yourself and your family and let me tell you that there are no cut and dry answers.  If you have discounts, by all means use them but here, I’m going to include you in on some simple hacks that I use in order to save money and be a little healthier in the process.  Trust me, food is a runaway, variable expense that you have to control because it alone can make you broke each month.

I recently started working out at the gym with a trainer and I’m proud of myself for it.  My personal trainer helped me realize how much I was getting wrong with my diet.  All of the wrong choices I was making with my diet was the root of all the excessive spending that I was doing monthly.  So the first thing you have to do in order to improve  your food budget is to decide that you are going to eat better.  I know this isn’t the answer that you probably want to hear but look on the bright side, this change will most likely improve your health for the long term.  A good way to start to eat better is to download a calorie tracking app so that you can see just how terrible some of the things that you put into your body are.  These apps will show you the sugar, fat and salt content of groceries and food that you eat at restaurants.  This alone will probably scare you into shopping and cooking for yourself more than eating out.

Once you finish this shock treatment, you will discover that food is one part energy one part waste (and the waste part is huge) so you will need to train your taste buds to eat what give you more energy and less waste so you won’t be sluggish throughout the day.  For instance, you may not need to eat fast food biscuits or pancakes every morning which could cost $5-6 dollars per morning.  Perhaps you should eat a piece of fruit or oatmeal or something light to start the day.  Your body doesn’t need that much excitement anyway first thing in the morning, so train your body to start to eat healthier breakfast.  This will make you feel better and save you $30 a week.  If you are the type that fruit doesn’t suffice as much as that big, tasty biscuit breakfast, try eating healthy, high energy snacks between breakfast and lunch.  Avoid stopping at the vending machine for that on the go snack that may run you about $1 per day and $5 dollars by the end of the week.

Lunch time may be a tough one for most, because many of you may be used to a ritual of going out with friends or co-workers and paying $6-10 dollars on lunch.  That equates to $30-$50 spent by the end of the week by the way.   If you must, minimize time spent with friends and co-workers at lunch time; or, to avoid seeming like a broke party pooper, try to eat healthier options.  This won’t save much money but at least you will reduce your waistline.  The app that I mentioned before will allow you to determine whether the food you are about to consume has too many calories, thus, you can at least make healthy choices while hanging with co-workers.   After lunch, avoid that sugar and salt rush that comes around 2-3 p.m. by eating a healthier snack alternative than a chocolate bar or potato chips which may also run you a $1.  Cutting out most of the junk food you eat during the week while at work may reduce your waistline and even place a few bucks back into your pocket for other things.

Notice that I mentioned snacking between breakfast and lunch and between lunch and dinner.  My personal trainer mentioned that healthy snacking improves metabolism and keeps the body from storing fat so keep this in mind if you are not much of a snack person.  These in between snacks can keep the body from gorging at lunch and dinner.

Now on to dinner.  I know that as Americans, we have lost a sense of sitting down and enjoying a nice home cooked meal but you should really try to do this as much as possible.  It is good for family life and it’s good for the budget.  The hard thing about this ritual is determining what to eat.  One thing that I have started to do with my teen children is we sit down at the end of each month, print out and blank calendar, and write out meal plans.  I know this may sound lame but this ritual helps me plan grocery shopping better, allows me to watch my calorie intake more effectively, and most importantly helps me prevent overspending.  When I know ahead of time what we will be eating for the month, this allows me to plan groceries better because I buy exactly what we need to consume for the month.  Another great thing about this is that it’s great bonding and decision-making time with the family which allows for the children to be involved in helping to make healthier food choices.  If you don’t do anything else that I mentioned in this article, try this method – it works!  It may start off a little wonky but persist at it for a month or two until it becomes a habit.

After putting some or all of these tasks into place, review your bank statement after a couple of months of and you should start to notice at least $50 extra bucks in your pocket per month and your waistline shrinking.

 

How are these changes working for you?  Share your results in the comments section.  And don’t forget to follow Move Me to Atlanta on social media at Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest.

 

 

House Into a Home Hacks – Adding the Right Amount of Cream and Sugar to Your Coffee

ATLANTA – Written by Mel

I recently did a hack on making the perfect cup of coffee.  But what good is it to make a perfect cup of coffee if you ruin it with the creamer and sugar?  That is why I decided to share with you all how to add the right amount of sugar and creamer every time.

When I get coffee on the go, I usually get it from Dunkin’ Donuts and I’d say 95 percent of the time that I visit, they seem to get my coffee right.  I want to be able to add the right amount of cream and sugar every time when I’m at home because you should know by now how much I hate wasting coffee.  Hey, coffee is expensive, especially if you get a special blend; so, I avoid wasting it at all cost.  I’m sure you probably feel the same or you wouldn’t be reading this article.  Here’s how I blend the right amount of cream and sugar into my perfect cup of coffee, every time.

If you don’t like cream and sugar in your coffee and prefer your coffee black, then my previous article on making the perfect cup of coffee will suffice for you.  But if you are like me and you love cream and/or sugar in your coffee, then read on.

I start with the cream that I like.  I prefer Hazelnut creamer by International Delight.  I don’t care for sugar free but this was the only one in stock. Ugh!  If you are not a fan of the flavored creamers, then use the traditional creamer.  I don’t like powdered creamers unless it is an emergency but if that is your thing, use that.  This hack is for those who use the kind of creamer that is found in the refrigerator section of the grocery store.  These taste better to me.

As the perfect cup of coffee is brewing in the coffee maker, you can work on preparing the perfect amount of cream and sugar.  Remember, the story that I told in my last blog article about the advice that my co-worker gave me about adding cream and sugar first.  If you haven’t read that post, click here to see it.  As I said before, I buy refrigerated creamer.  The problem with it is that it can make your coffee too cool to drink.  So, I warm it up before it mix it with the coffee.  I usually grab my favorite over-sized coffee mug and add the cream to it.  Trial-and-error made me realize that six teaspoons of creamer works best for me.

I use a spoon like the one above and add six spoonfuls of the creamer to the mug.  I then warm it up for about 18 seconds in the microwave.  You don’t want to warm it for too long because it may curdle the creamer.

If you only add creamer and don’t add sugar, then you can skip the rest of these instructions.  But for those that like both, read on.

After warming the creamer, I add the sugar.  I do it in this order because heating sugar changes the composition and flavor to me.  It’s as if heat carmelizes the sugar and I’m not fond of that taste.  So, I add the sugar after I warm the cream.  Through trial and error, I discovered that 2 1/2 to 2 3/4 teaspoons of sugar work for me.  If I weren’t using the sugar free creamer, I would probably use 1 1/2 teaspoon.

 

 

The coffee should be ready to pour by the time that you prepare the cream and sugar.  I then add the coffee making sure that as I pour that it visually looks as if the cream and coffee are incorporating well.  This keeps me from having to add more sugar and cream and thus packing on unnecessary pounds from excessive sugar and cream.

 

And that’s how I make the perfect cup of coffee every time.  Thus, eliminating waste and ensuring good flavor every cup.  Happy morning!

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House Into a Home Hacks – Making A Cup of Coffee

ATLANTA – Written by Mel

There is something about making a pot of coffee that makes you feel like you own your own place.  Whether you live in a house, apartment or condo, making a pot of coffee is like declaring your space.  Unless, of course, you don’t drink coffee.  In that case, I may do a future home hack post for tea, water, red bull, or juice drinkers.  But for now, I’m addressing my fellow coffee drinkers.

A virtual show of hands – who really knows how to make coffee?  It seems to me that those who know how to make it have the Midas touch because they can just eyeball the right amount of coffee and water to add to the coffeepot. A little of this and a little of that and BAM! – they have made the perfect pot of coffee.  When it comes to making coffee, I put a little of this and that together and it either tastes like diluted water or cigarette ashes.  Ugh!

I’m the only coffee drinker in my house, so I hate to waste coffee.  Some of you may be thinking, “why don’t you just buy a Keurig and be done with it?”  Honestly, Keurig can get the job done for me when I am on the go at the doctor’s office or the bank and I’m feigning for coffee, but something about the flavor of Keurig-brewed coffee doesn’t do it for me.  I don’t know if it’s because the places that I get the coffee from don’t clean the brewer enough or at all, but it just doesn’t hit the spot for me like coffee brewed in a coffee pot.

Keep in mind that my favorite places to buy coffee are Dunkin’ Donuts, Waffle House, or IHOP and this may be because they brew their coffee on traditional coffee pots as opposed to large industrial machines. Or, it may be the coffee blend.  But whatever the case may be, these places make some tasty coffee to me.

 

small coffee pot

Anyway, since I’m the only one who drinks coffee, I went to the store to buy a teeny, tiny coffee maker for about $8 bucks.  If you need multiple cups, then you may want to invest in a bigger one, but I’m a one-and-done type of gal.  And like I said before, I hate wasting coffee because this is an expensive commodity.

This isn’t my first coffee pot. I have had a coffee pot in the past, but I had considered giving up coffee, so I got rid of my old one.  Now, I own another one because I realize that I’m an addict and this is a weakness that calls me whether I want it to or not.  I’m not necessarily addicted to the effects of coffee, however.  I think it’s the ritual of making it every morning that makes me feel like a grown ass woman going off to work in the big wondrous world of the hustle and bustle or as some like to say “the daily grind.”

I noticed in the packaging for the coffee maker that instructions on making coffee aren’t really a big help.  Coffee packaging isn’t a big help, either.  So, I threw up both my hands and turned to the internet knowing full and well that someone has to be suffering from what I’m suffering from: lack of precise knowledge on how to make coffee.  Nope.  Just more information on coffee making that confuses the hell out of me.

So, I decided to come up with this hack because I’m sure there are others like me out there who just don’t understand all of this hullabaloo when it comes to making a cup of coffee.  As I said before and I reiterate, I don’t have the Midas touch when it comes to making coffee, and though I consider myself a pretty decent cook, I just don’t know how to make freaking coffee!

So I started with simple items in my kitchen because I don’t know what the heck the lines on the coffee pot measure.  I really think those are there for decoration and have no real purpose because when I use those lines as a guide, I either get the diluted water or cigarette ash tasting coffee that I mentioned earlier. So, I decided to use actual measuring tools.  I grabbed my measuring cup, and I used the cup metric because “cups” makes more sense to me than fl ounces.  Yeah, needless to say, I didn’t do well in biology or math classes when it came to measuring things.

a measuring cup

Then, I whipped out a tablespoon measuring spoon because that’s what most instructions call for – and that’s the only part of packaging instructions that makes some sense to me.

a tablespoon measuring spoon

I poured one cup of water into the measuring cup and dumped that into my favorite big coffee mug.  That didn’t fill up the mug, so I added another 1/2 cup to the mug which filled the mug to the rim.  I did this to make sure that the water that I was using was commensurate with the mug I intended to drink from.  Since some water evaporates when brewing, I added that extra half cup to make sure that my one cup had some overflow.

I dumped the water from the mug back into the measuring cup which measured about 1 1/2 cup, and I poured this into the back of the coffee pot.  (You can also pour this water directly from the mug into the coffee well if you like.  I did it this way because I didn’t want to spill the water all over the place because my coffee mug doesn’t have a spout)

coffee to water demonstration

I usually buy Dunkin Donuts or Folgers coffee from the grocery store and in this case, I had some Folgers coffee handy.  I like to buy medium brew because I feel like the other darker ones taste too strong for me.  If you like stronger coffee, aim for the darker brews.

Folgers coffee

I then inserted a coffee filter and added the coffee in tablespoons.  First, I tried 2 1/2 tablespoons, but that brew came out too watery.  Then 3 1/2 table spoons and that brew came out too strong.  So, I settled on three tablespoons for 1 1/2 cup of water ratio.  This ratio seems to work for me.  You may have to experiment a bit until you have it down to a science.

While the coffee was brewing, I prepared my mug.  If you don’t use cream or sugar, you can skip this step but I use cream and sugar.  One thing that a coworker taught me is to add the sugar and creamer to the cup first rather than the other way around because if you are like me, I get out of control with adding sugar and creamer.  Also, when I add sugar and creamer after the fact, that packs on unnecessary pounds.  So, to avoid weight gain, I use her method of adding the cream and sugar to the cup first.

coffee cup with cream inside

Once the coffee is ready, I pour in the coffee and pay close attention to how much the coffee is blending with the cream and sugar, so I won’t have to add more cream and sugar.

And that’s that.  One cup of coffee down to a science.  What are some of your tips and techniques for making the perfect pot or cup of coffee?

Share in the comments below and don’t forget to follow me on Facebook and Instagram @movemetoATL

 

Photos courtesy of Mel.