Freebie Heaven from #Influenster and #BzzAgent

In a previous post I checked out Influenster and BzzAgent as product review sites and I must say I was somewhat skeptical. Do companies really send you stuff for nothing in the hopes that you like it and review it? What if I hate it? Anyway, I signed up, completed all the surveys available and did a few product reviews and then moved on with my life for about three weeks. Well, this week I reaped the rewards and received my first Influenster VoxBox and my first BzzAgent package as well!

As one of the tasks asked of the Influenster people is you create and upload yourself opening the VoxBox I also got to create and upload my first YouTube video. It’s really fun and I can see why people enjoy it so much. Here’s the link if you are interested. Bear in mind it’s the first one I’ve done and I haven’t really had time to set up my channel yet!

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCVX1e1d9S9hS7vo7NE-Bvmg

I got some fun stuff in my Influenster box:

Freebies from Influenster

Freebies from Influenster 

In this little box of fun – the #SurfsUpVoxBox I got the following:

A coupon for a free Jamba Juice Smoothie Kit and a $1 off coupon, a 2oz bottle of Hawaiian Tropic Silk Hydration After Sun, a First Aid Shot Therapy pain relief liquid, a bottle of SinfulColors Professional Nail Polish and finally a tube of Covergirl Bombshell Curvaceous by LashBlast Mascara. This is about $20 worth of products but let’s be honest I wouldn’t probably buy blue nail polish on a regular basis. I do buy mascara though and After Sun.

Also from BuzzAgent I received a 3 lb bag of Purina Beyond Tuna and Egg dog food valued at about $8.99 and two $3 off coupons to share. And on the way from them are three new flavors of Crest Toothpaste to try. Again I wouldn’t usually buy Purina dog food because I am very particular about the food I feed my dogs but this looks better than the typical purina stuff, no corn, soy or grain for a start. I feel a product face off coming!

Buzz Agent Freebie

Buzz Agent Freebie

Once you receive these products the idea is you use them and then start conversations about them online. Yes, I have blue nail polish on as I type this, which seems a little at odds with my personality but hey I’ll try it!

As I’m still in the using everything phase I will post product reviews at a later date. I’m very interested to see if my dogs like the idea of tuna and egg food. I’m not sure how nice that sounds to be honest but who knows?

So far I’m pretty impressed with both BzzAgent and Influenster, honestly I thought it would be more trial sizes and coupons but I think they want you to enjoy using and reviewing these products. And come on, who doesn’t like getting free stuff in the mail?

 

Saving Time AND money!

Like everyone else in the world, I do not have enough time to do everything I want to right now. Add to that the fact that I am not able to go out much at the moment – bad back again! Sigh…and that money is tight and I start to feel deprived. Deprived is dangerous to living on a budget, it sneaks up on you and whispers in your ear, “You’ve got so much going on right now, why not have a cookie or ten?” To combat this and being unable and unwilling to pay for a $5 frappachino – seriously how do you spell that, am I close? – I decided to make up a batch of iced coffee. The inspiration came from Ree Drummond’s Pioneer Woman show but I have changed it up somewhat, I like my iced coffee sweetened so I add it to the pitcher. Saves me adding it later. If you are opposed to sugar just leave it out, if you like it stronger add more coffee, do what you want, it’s your coffee and this is America, damn it!

In a pitcher add half a packet (6 oz) of good quality coffee. This makes a big difference, don’t cheap out on coffee, not ever. I’d rather have no coffee than weak or tasteless coffee.

Top up the pitcher to the top with cold water – I use a 1 gallon pitcher. Actually I use two you’ll see why later. These pitchers cost $2 each from Walmart.

Then give the coffee a stir and leave it to steep for a good few hours, I usually leave it overnight.

In the morning – or 8 hours later or how ever long you can wait, start straining. Now this does take a while but just go about your day and let it do its thing.

At this point I make a simple syrup of one cup sugar and one cup water, put them in a saucepan and warm until the sugar dissolves completely, then put it in the pitcher.

When it’s all drained stick it in the fridge and let it chill down. This pitcher lasts my family a week or two and it’s never gone bad on me. I find that it feels super decadent but it’s not too bad for calories, especially if I avoid the extras which I usually do, using almond milk helps. You could omit the syrup and use a sweetener like Stevia if you wanted to. Like I said, it’s your coffee.

20140614-100410.jpg

20140614-100426.jpg

20140614-100441.jpg

20140614-100452.jpg

20140614-100504.jpg
Here’s my serving suggestion – ice cubes, almond milk and some whipped cream. I don’t always add the whipped cream, because I don’t always have it in the fridge. I have also blended it to make a frappachino and it’s ok but it does separate pretty quickly. I have also added caramel sauce or chocolate sauce or Toffee syrup which was delish but my teenager found it and the expensive bottle of syrup is now in the recycling having been drained in a couple of days! Kids, sometimes only the thought that one day my son will be a parent and all his stuff will be appropriated is all that keeps me going.

I’m going to have one right now.

Saving Money in the Kitchen

I have never been much of a one for boxed or convenience food. I also don’t own a microwave, not because I have anything against them, I’m sure they have their uses, it’s just I never really got the hang of them. Food either came out desiccated and rubbery or desiccated and still frozen in the middle. Plus I have very limited counter space. I used to have a microwave until one weekend I put it on top of the fridge to make more room, and there it stayed totally unused for about two years until someone else needed a microwave and I gave it away. That was about ten years ago and only once or twice since have I thought it would be useful.

Going back to basics in the kitchen can be really useful. The first few times I tried to make mayonnaise it was a complete failure. I could not get the eggs and oil to emulsify, I tried a food processor, a blender and an immersion blender. After wasting so many eggs I was practically crying with frustration and as a last resort got out a balloon whisk and had one more try. It worked, I am now the queen of mayonnaise – but it struck me as interesting that the manual tool is where I had to begin. I can now make blender mayonnaise, I figured out what I was doing wrong while I was standing at the counter whisking a drop of oil into an egg yolk for twenty minutes, but I don’t think I would have figured it out without my trusty balloon whisk.

So I decided to go back to basics with something else – sugar. I use quite a bit of sugar, I bake every week and I usually have granulated, sometimes superfine, confectioners and light brown and brown sugars in my cupboards.

I have seen elsewhere tutorials on how to make brown sugar and I will go into that another day, but then I wondered if I could save money making my own sugars.

The first thing I realized is that buying superfine sugar (we call it castor sugar in the UK) is a complete waste of money. If you really feel you need it just plop the required amount of granulated sugar in the food processor and pulse a few times and hey presto! Superfine sugar. It doesn’t even require a recipe. Now, never buy that overpriced sugar again! Next up – confectioners/icing/powdered sugar. It is almost as easy except for each cup of granulated sugar you put in the food processor add a tablespoon of cornstarch. Then zap for a few minutes until you have confectioners/icing sugar. Ta-dah! You just saved some money. Again it’s not really a recipe but here are some pics:

20140608-141119.jpg

20140608-141142.jpg

20140608-141148.jpg
Yes, a tip – let it all settle after a few mins before you take the top off the food processor or you get confectioners sugar on the ceiling, walls, dogs, your own eager face, and the inside of your lungs. I speak from experience.

Here are the numbers:

On sale granulated sugar was $2.79 for 4lb. If you use a quarter of that bag to make a pound of powdered sugar it would cost you $0.70. Powdered sugar was $1.99 per one pound bag on the same day. Add on a few cents for cornstarch and I’d estimate I’m saving $1.24 per bag.

This is assuming that one pound of granulated sugar makes one pound of powdered sugar – the mushroom cloud will have thrown off my figures a little! I’m never buying powdered sugar again.

It’s even more for superfine sugar. Dominos sugar is listed at $2.17 a pound. Use the granulated that’s been processed in your food processor and you’d save $1.47 a pound.

Money in the bank!

As to quality I’d say it is not as fine as bought powdered sugar – I tried using my blender instead of food processor and it was much finer, less of a cloud too. I’ll be using the blender from now on!

Time for Creativity!

My last few blog posts (like my life) have been all about saving money but this week I needed a creativity fix. I was vaguely pondering what to do when one of my neighbors put this on the sidewalk. Now putting things on the sidewalk is code in our locale for, “Please someone take this hideous thing that the dog has chewed to pieces because I just can’t stand to look at it for one more day. Plus I have replaced it with something better and/or found the dog a new home.’

So I sent my son and my husband over there and this is what they came back with:

20140604-112853.jpg

In fact I had to send them back for it because my husband thought it had woodworm (English version of termite damage!) and wouldn’t bring it over. It turned out to be dog tooth indentations and gnawing – poor bored dog!

But I liked the shape and figured the worst of the damage could be covered up. I spent Monday prepping and sanding the cabinet and filling most of the holes with filler. I say most because I ran out of filler. Then headed off to the store for supplies. Tuesday was painting and more painting. Luckily it is really dry and warm here so the paint dried within an hour. I decided to stencil a pattern on the drawer and it took me a while to figure out a pattern. I have a cricket (diecut) machine so I cut out my stencils to the size I wanted and got stippling.

Here is the cabinet half way done:

20140604-133349.jpg

To make this a useful pretty thing I decided to tile the top – plus I have never laid a tile in my life and wanted to have a go. I chose little white mosaic tiles, they come on a big sheet so it was really easy to use, plus they were the cheapest tile in the place. I added some trim to hide the edge of the tiles and some more dog damage and ended up with this:

20140604-133407.jpg
You can see Cesar taking a long look at it, no peeing or chewing allowed!

I’m thinking of using this as an outdoor buffet/cocktail cabinet but after the husband has seen it he wants it inside. I’m not so keen though, it is still a little, shall we say ‘rustic’? I don’t mind imperfections outside but I think it is a little rough for the dining room!

Well I got dirty and paint splattered, used a saw and learned how to tile. That’s a good couple of days work!

Cost of all materials: $75 or so.

Now, I really need a potting bench, I wonder if I can make one?

20140604-135301.jpg