Creative Ways to Make Money: The Last Resort

Look - one more creative way to make money - we're calling it "The Last Resort"!  The Strategic Homemaker and I have had a ton of fun bringing you suggestions for pocketing a little extra cash.  Please leave us a comment or two, telling us if any of these strategies have worked for you - or if you have other things that have worked for you!


Creative Ways to Make Money: The Class

I bet you know how to do something that some of your friends don't know how to do, or could use some improvement on.  Maybe you speak Spanish, know how to make soap, raise chickens, or proofread the socks off of any manuscript.

Have you ever thought about teaching?

You can start small.  Let's say you know how to play the washboard.  And you think it's cool, and you want to start your town's first washboard band.  So you ask around through your friends and colleagues, and find someone else who's always dream of washboard-ing.  In order to get your skills up (and to secure this friendship forever), you can offer a crash-course in playing the washboard - for free.  Who can turn down a free class?  You do a little research online, come up 4 or 5 little lessons, and invite your new washboard buddy over for class.
Image from here
Pretty soon, word gets around.  Your First Washboard Friend tells a neighbor that he's taking classes, and you find out there's a little more interest.  You start to be "that friend" that plays the washboard.  When it comes up in coversation, you sheepishly shrug and smile a little smile, then before you know it you've pulled out your washboard and folks are whirling around your kitchen.

Well, now that you've got a little bit of teaching experience under your belt, you can start to widen your audience of students.  Ask your First Washboard Friend and any Successive Washboard Friends for a good reference, and look for teaching opportunities in places like this:

- homeschool groups - homeschooling is definitely on the rise, and many homeschoolers participate in educational co-ops one or two days a week.  One friend of mine is involved in a local chapter of Classical Conversations that has a Lego class in the afternoon!  Seriously - a Lego class!  I have no idea what that actually entails, but I like to imagine what those lesson plans look like.

- after-school programs - both public and private schools are often looking for unique learning opportunities for their students in after-school programs.  Ask your teacher friends for names of people you might contact to talk about what you have to offer.

- summer camps - kids are interested in all kinds of things - and parents are interested in all kinds of things FOR their kids!  The Mr. spent one summer in grad school taking middle schoolers kayaking with the Parks and Rec department in town.  I know a retired art teacher who has a week-long "art camp" two or three times a summer for her friends' kids.  Local theaters often have drama camps that culminate in a small-scale performance.  The summers that I worked at camp, there were a few local artisans who were hired to teach pottery, sewing, and woodworking.

- private tutoring and lessons- this is especially relevant if your skill is more academic or artistic in nature.  I have a friend who tutors kids in Spanish a couple of evenings a week; I can think of others who have versatile writing skills that they could market to highschoolers or college students.  My professional musician friends give lessons in their living room.

- friends - I've recently tossed the idea around briefly with a friend to host a get-together night where everyone brings a few dollars to cover the cost of supplies, and we make lip balm or soap together.  While it's not exactly teaching to make money, it is a chance to try a new skill together and minimize the cost.  In other places I've lived, friends have gotten together to can tomatoes, brew beer, make homemade vanilla extract, or craft cards.

- adult education programs through libraries, parks and recreation departments, community colleges, churches, YMCAs, etc. - Adults like to learn too ... and often are interested in more niche fields than kids.  You can teach composting techniques, basket weaving, silkworm cultivation, or Arabic.  Some places are looking for short-term classes (like a two-hour introduction to composting techniques) while others want to offer classes over multiple weeks.  (I've just been accepted to teach a modern quilting class through my local Adult Ed. department this summer - Make a Baby Quilt in 6 weeks!  I first taught some friends how to quilt a few summers ago and I'm using the same strategy this time.)

- the gym - you've taken a lot of classes there, right?  How about looking into what it takes to teach?

What kind of class would you like to teach?  Can I be your guinea-pig student?


Creative Ways to Make Money: The Jar

1.  Find a jar.  The bigger, and clearer, the better.  None of this baby food jar stuff here.  You want something BIG that you can FILL UP!

2.  Write down what it is you are saving up for.  Vacation, kitchen item (ehem), new shoes, dinner at a fancy restaurant, charitable donation ... but be as specific as you can.  Attach it to the jar.
It would have been cool if I had written something less selfish on there.
But I didn't.  Just being honest, folks.
3.  Now, the fun part!  How will you get money into that jar?  Here are a few ideas ...

Any time you do something for yourself that you typically would have paid someone else to do, pay yourself.
Some examples:
- Mowed your own lawn?  $15 if you "mowed" ... $30 and up if you "landscaped"
- Cleaned out your gutters?  That's worth at least $25, right?
- Made your own doughnuts?  Those go for $8 a dozen, for the cheap grocery store kind.  You made good ones I bet.  How about $12?
-Shovel snow - you'll make a killing off yourself here.  Go ahead, rip yourself off.  Hourly wage for snow shovelers is at least $50 (I jest ... but sometimes I feel like I'd pay that).
-Cut your own hair - for the intrepid, yes.  Men: $10 in the jar.  Women: $40 in the jar.
-Change the oil in your car?  Look awesome, and pay yourself at least $25.99 (plus $3-$8 in fees you can't explain)

Collect all your loose change - from the couch, drawers, bottom of your purse, or the car.  Check coat pockets.  Or, start paying attention to the sidewalks where you live, like this family.  Seriously.  Every little bit helps.  And this could be a fun way for kids (if you have them) to participate!
I just found these in the back of my car.  $4 in pennies!
That is about 1/60th of my dutch oven.
Return things that will get you a little bit of cash.  Take your empty cans and bottles to a redemption center (if your state has them).  Return your purchases that have been sitting in the front seat of the car with the receipt attached - just do it!  (Maybe it's overwhelming to think about all the things you need to return.  What if you just do one return a week?  A quick Saturday errand, and boom - cash in hand!).  Don't get caught into thinking that it's not worth it.  EVERY. PENNY. COUNTS.  Every penny counts, people!

Siphon money away from your weekly grocery budget.  I know, I know.  You need food.  But just bear with me.  Let's say your grocery budget is $500 a month, and that you use a cash system for keeping up with grocery spending (if you don't, I highly recommend it).  $500 per month is $125 per week.  What if you siphon off $25/week for a month?  At a moment when you're not paying attention, just slip your hand in the little grocery envelope, and stick the cash in the jar?  C'mon.  You won't miss it.  You'll just peek in the grocery envelope and realize you'll have eggs for dinner instead of steak, and you'll make a salad with cabbage instead of artisan greens.
If your weekly grocery budget is less than this example, start by siphoning off $5/week - that's $20 in a month!  Celebrate the small victories, ya'll.  $20 is $20 towards your goal!

Once you start feeding the jar, you'll find it's a little addicting.

What would you write on your jar?


Creative Ways to Make Money: The Drop-Off

The Strategic Homemaker has some great ideas about another awesome way to make some extra money - The Drop-Off!  Go check it out, and then come back here and tell me if you're planning on trying out any of the ideas in our Creative Ways to Make Money series!


Creative Ways to Make Money: The Break-up

You may notice that each of these suggestions is getting a little more involved.  Don't let that scare you away!  These are just some ideas of things that have worked for me and for The Strategic Homemaker.  Hopefully they can be a springboard for you, too!

I'm calling this a "break-up," but I promise it's not sad!  In fact, this might be the happiest split you've ever heard of.  But it does require knowing a little bit about something specific (dare I say, a niche?), and keeping tabs on local for-sale ads (like Craigslist).

Start looking at ads where people are selling "lots" of things.  I don't mean "a lot" of things ... I mean, someone who says "take the whole lot for $___".  These are sellers who (a) don't know the value of what they're selling, (b) just want to get rid of something, or (c) want cash soon.  These sellers are your friends.

Compare what is in the lot to the value of each individual piece.  At first it may seem overwhelming, but with a little bit of practice, you can get in a groove and really understand when a great deal comes along.  You can use eBay or Amazon to help you find the general retail and resale value of an item.

If you find a "lot" for sale where the asking price is WAAAAAY cheaper than the combined price of each item, it will probably be worth it for you to buy the whole lot, split it up, and sell the pieces individually!

For example, a few months ago I saw a for-sale ad ... cloth diapers for $100.  One hundred dollars, you say?  That's a lot of money!  Until I looked at what the seller had listed ... over 70 diapers, in excellent condition.  She was moving.  She had a 2 year old.  She didn't need them!  So I went to pick them up that very day.

It turned out to be very much worth my while to fork over my own hard earned dough.  A valuable break-up, indeed!

PS.  Maybe you're thinking, "I don't have time in my day to follow everything on Craigslist!  You must spend hours there!"  Nope.  I just have my things I watch.  Maybe your things are garden gnomes instead of cloth diapers or ink cartridges, but it's quick and easy to just follow one thing.  Try it and see!


Creative Ways to Make Money: The Service

Andrea - aka, The Strategic Homemaker - has the third installment in the Creative Ways to Make Money series.  Check it out here!


Creative Ways to Make Money: The Niche

We all have it - that random expertise in some obscure niche field that we think will only pay off when we appear on Jeopardy.  But ... well ... you never know.  Just a little bit of knowledge can sometimes pay off!

I happen to know just about everything there is to know about ink cartridges.  Maybe that was a little prideful of me to say.  I'll rephrase: I know a lot about ink cartridges.  I know what they're worth, how to use them, how to talk about them, and how to tell other people about them.  I know brands, types, problems, troubleshooting, and durability.  I can clean, refurbish, refill, and recycle like it's my job.

Maybe you don't know much about ink (I mean, who does?  Oh, yeah.  Me.)  But maybe my ink cartridges are your power tools, or textbooks, or hand-woven ancient Incan baskets.  Whatever it is, there's something you know a lot about.

You can look for these things on super-duper sale.  You can talk to your friends who are getting rid of them.  You can look at ads on craigslist, shop garage sales and thrift stores, and pick things up off the side of the road.  Don't forget: you know about these things.  You're an expert.  Clean them up.  Make a good assessment of them.  Then list them on ebay or craigslist, find a local shop that will pay you or swap your items for store credit, or network with folks you know to find a market.

If you do this once a month and make $20 off of your expertise, that's $240 you'll make in a year that you weren't planning on.  Wait ... that's almost enough to get this!


Creative Ways to Make Money: The Drive-by

I'm totally that girl ...

I was driving through my neighborhood to the grocery store the other day.  On the way there, I saw what looked like a solid piece of furniture in decent condition sitting out by the curb.  Given the fact that I was on my way out, I hesitantly left it there, telling myself that if it was still there when I returned I'd check it out.

Fast forward an hour and a half (yes, grocery runs take a long time with two kids).  I drove back by, and it was still there!  After a slight minute of vehicular maneuvering - like, say, a u-turn and three-point backup into an unknown neighbor's driveway - I hopped out of the car to take a look.

Solid wood.
Relatively decent paint job, though scratched in some places.
Nails and screws looking good.
A little dusty.

Score!  I popped the trunk of my car open and somehow fit it into the back of my tiny sedan between an umbrella stroller and my emergency roadside box.

Yes, I was totally that girl.

But before you judge, let me tell you that I spent 2 minutes wiping it off, 1 minute taking measurements and a picture, and 3 minutes listing it on Craigslist.  I sold it yesterday for $10.  $10 for a total of maybe 15 minutes' work, if I include the loading, and answering the door when the buyer showed up.

A picture is worth ... hey ... $10!
Ahhh, yes.  The drive-by pickup!  I am not embarrassed at all to say that I am that girl.  Nor am I hesitant to ask you to be that person with me!  Wave heartily at the neighbor, ask how their kids are doing, and load up as much as you can in your car.
Take it home and clean it off!
     Tighten the screws,
          re-nail the nails,
               measure it and describe it,
                    and list it for sale on Craigslist!

The great thing about this way of making a few dollars is that you literally didn't spend ANYTHING on that item, so you can let it go for super cheap.  Also, you won't feel personally insulted when a buyer offers you half your asking price.

Of course, be honest ... don't start stealing stuff off neighbors' porches or out of their yards that aren't clearly discards!  I'm not telling you to do that at all.  I'm just trying to let you know that there is a market out there!  Ten dollars here, fifteen there ... it will add up!

PS.  Wouldn't it be awesome to fund an entire charitable donation to your favorite organization on "trash" like this?  Or, to treat you and your family to a weekend getaway?  Or take your friends out for a movie?


Creative Ways to Make Money: The Intro

Today, I'm starting a new series about a recent hobby of mine: finding creative ways to make money.  I'm not talking about the "hey, quit your steady job" kind of making money ... it's more like the "let's fund some extras without going into negatives on the important things" way of looking at things.  For example, this morning I discovered this (I was hungry and saw a recipe that used one).  I'm not going to divert almost an entire month's grocery budget just to get one, but that doesn't mean that I can't work towards it anyway.  That's why I said it's a hobby ... something I do for fun, that keeps me occupied and creative and active.

What makes this series even MORE fun is that my fellow hobbyist Andrea over at The Strategic Homemaker is also posting in the same genre.  We decided to do this because we were recently asked by a mutual friend how to earn or save money for a bigger splurge.  We had so much fun talking about it that we decided to share some tips!

$13 in there.  I dream big.
So, in the coming weeks we're just going to share a few things that have worked for us.  Stay tuned!

In case you're interested, here are a few rules I've set out for myself:

1.  Be flexible
2.  Be honest
3.  Don't be embarrassed
4.  Don't lose money (in the instances where I have to spend money to make a little more money)
5.  Don't spend money that isn't there
6.  Reward myself when I've hit my goal


Potato, Cauliflower, and Chicken Vindaloo

I am claiming this as a rhymeswithsmile original.  I was inspired by this recipe from Family Circle magazine, then combined it with another recipe in a cookbook a friend loaned me.  I tweaked the two recipes, added some spices, changed the cooking methods, and came up with the sauce.  So, this is from ME!
A picture of the ingredients is nice.
And it works if I've already eaten what I cooked up.

Serves 4

1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 lb. boneless skinless chicken thighs or breast, cut into 6-7 chunks
1/2 tsp. salt
1 large onion, diced (about 1/2 cup)
2 c. chopped cauliflower (about 1/2 a large head)
3 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 Tbsp. curry powder (less to taste)
1 tsp. cayenne pepper (or less to taste, especially if your kids don't like spicy)
1/2 tsp. turmeric powder (optional)
1 1/2 c. water with 1 tsp. salt stirred in
1 large tomato, chopped
2 c. cooked rice or quinoa
Naan bread cut into quarters

1/2 c. plain yogurt, stirred until smooth
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. salt

Heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat in a large pot.  Season chicken with salt.  Cook for 3-4 minutes on each side, searing the chicken to get a nice, brown layer.  (This was inspired by this guest post method.)  Remove chicken to a plate.  Reduce heat to medium; add a little more oil to coat the bottom of the pan if necessary.

Meanwhile, dice the onion and set aside.  Combine the curry powder, cayenne pepper, and turmeric; set aside.  Place cauliflower and potatoes in a medium bowl, set aside.  (All this setting aside is so that you have your ingredients READY when it's time to dump them in.  It goes quickly)

Saute onions in the pot over medium heat for 3-4 minutes or until they just start to go from translucent to brown.  Throw in the spice mixture and stir until the onions are coated, about 1 minute.  Add the potatoes and cauliflower.  Stir until the vegetables are coated with the spice mixture too, about another minute.  Pour in the water/salt mixture and add the chopped tomato; stir and bring to a boil.

When the mixture is simmering, return the chicken to the pot, nestling it down in the sauce.  Cover and cook for 10-15 minutes, or until potatoes and cauliflower are just tender, and chicken is cooked through.

For yogurt sauce, whisk together yogurt, garlic, and salt until smooth and combined.

To serve, spoon chicken mixture over rice or cooked quinoa.  Top with yogurt sauce, and eat with naan bread.

This is one of my final meals in the first installment of my "Year of Food" project.  Though I haven't posted many of recipes we've had (because while sometimes they turn out great, other times they're forgettable), I have been learning techniques that I've really enjoyed that I'd like to pass on.  This vindaloo recipe is a great example of a couple of things I've learned that I have already begun to translate into other dishes I prepare.

First, many of the deep flavors that come from delicious ethnic cuisines are built around the sauces and spices. Most of the Indian recipes I've been trying involve "toasting" some sort of spice mixture with sauteed onions and/or garlic.  Apparently, heating spices in oil like this brings out more complex flavors than simply adding spices to sauce would.  You can see in this vindaloo recipe - sauteing the onions, tossing in the spices, and stirring to coat the onions is the "toasting" step.  I can attest to the fact that it really pays off in flavor!  Then adding some liquid (water, chicken broth, white wine, etc) builds it into a sauce.  Simmering vegetables and meat in that sauce not only cooks those ingredients, it adds another layer of depth to the flavor.

Another thing I have learned is that I do not photograph Indian food well.  It's typically greenish, brownish, or yellowish.  While it tastes awesome, I don't present it or capture it well.  So a picture of the ingredients makes a good substitute for lousy photography skills!


Leftover Lemons

So you know how I just gave you that recipe for chicken gyros?

Remember how it calls for fresh lemon juice?

I hope you used a fresh lemon to get that fresh lemon juice.
Lemon picture from here
If you did, you can get a little extra something out of it, just like I did.

After I juiced the lemon, I threw the rind in the sink, waiting until I got around to cleaning the dishes to do anything with it.

And then, when I did get around to it, I felt like it was a waste just to throw that pretty little yellow thing away.  I tore up one half of it and put it through the garbage disposal, because I think I had heard somewhere that lemons are good for that.  I don't know if it was good for the disposal or not, but it did smell really good.

But then I still had half a lemon rind left.  So I tore that into two pieces, and rubbed one on the kitchen sink - yes, ON the kitchen sink.  It cleared up some grime and smelled good to boot!  Then, inspired by my newfound cleaning tool, I ran into the bathroom and used the other lemon piece on the bathroom sink.  It cut grime there too!

Who knew?!?  Non-toxic, smell-good, waste-free cleaning?!?  I'm on board!

You've got to understand ... I hate cleaning.  That's why I have a food blog, not a cleaning blog.  But if something like cooking with fresh lemons can inspire me to clean just a tiny little bit, I'll take it!


Chicken Gyros

Serves 3-4
recipe from here

Tzatziki sauce:
16 oz. plain yogurt (preferably not fat-free)
1 cucumber, peeled and seeded
3-5 cloves garlic, crushed with a little salt and extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. white wine vinegar
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
salt and a little pepper
drizzle of extra virgin olive oil

For the tzatziki sauce: strain yogurt with cheesecloth or coffee filter over a bowl to remove as much liquid as possible (I put a coffee filter in a strainer, dumped the yogurt in, and let it sit for about 10 minutes).
Peel and seed the cucumber.  Shred the cucumber and the squeeze with a clean kitchen towel to remove as much excess moisture as possible.  This prevents the sauce from being runny.
Mix together strained yogurt, shredded cucumbers, garlic, vinegar, and lemon juice.  Salt to taste.  Drizzle olive oil over top.  You can also add fresh dill or mint in the sauce; it is good with or without herbs.  Refrigerate at least 30 minutes before serving, though it is best if made the day before.

Chicken Gyros

1 1/4 lb. boneless chicken breast or thighs
4 cloves garlic, smashed
juice of 1 lemon
2 tsp. red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil 
2 heaping Tbsp. plain yogurt
1 Tbsp. dried oregano
sliced tomatoes
sliced onions
4 pocketless pitas

For the gyros: whisk together garlic, lemon juice, vinegar, oil, yogurt, and oregano in a bowl.  Add the chicken and coat well.  Cover and marinate in the fridge for an hour.
Preheat the broiler (or grill).  Remove the chicken from the marinade; sprinkle with salt and pepper on both sides.  Broil until cooked through, about 5 minutes per side depending on the size and thickness of the meat.  Allow chicken to rest for a few minutes before slicing into strips.

Meanwhile, heat the pitas.  Top pita with chicken, tomatoes, and onions.  Roll and eat!

Yummy!  The only downside of this recipe is that I didn't double it.  I prepared both the tzatziki sauce and the marinade in the morning, so all I had to do at dinner time was cook the chicken and assemble the pitas.
So, if you're looking for something you can spend about 30 minutes on in the morning and forget about until 30 minutes before dinner, this might be a good call.  But learn from my error, and go ahead and double it.


March Meal Plan

I didn't mean to.

Honest, I didn't.

I've always been skeptical about it, anyway.

But then, I accidentally did it, and I think it's going to work.

Yes, I accidentally planned planned an entire month's worth of meals when I sat down to make a grocery list.  Here's how it happened: I got a new cookbook right before Christmas, and started flipping through the pages and writing down recipes that I wanted to try in the next couple of weeks.  And then I put them on the calendar interspersed with some quick meals and weekly favorites, and realized there were four weeks' worth of recipes ready to go!

You'll notice that there's pizza every week, and there are only 5 meals a week.  We typically fill in one night with our church group potluck before Bible study, and the other night is leftovers.

So, I just thought I'd share:

Week 1:
Bacon and egg sandwiches
Sausage and wild rice casserole
Ravioli with homemade pasta sauce
Chicken gyros

Week 2:
Spinach and bacon quiche
Spanish tortilla
BBQ pork sandwiches

Week 3:
Chicken Vindaloo
Shepherd's Pie

Week 4:
Black bean soup
Chicken tikka masala
Breakfast for dinner
Pesto and veggie pasta

For the few extra leftover days of March, there's a chicken pot pie and some chili in the freezer.

You want to know the best part of it?  I spent my 2-week food budget, and bought the main ingredients for a month's worth of meals.  I'm still not 100% sure how that happened.  I know I'll have to make a mid-month run to the store for milk, cheese, and produce ... but I have all the staples ready for March.  If this means what I think it means, we'll save about 30-35% of our food budget, based on this accident.

Are there any of these recipes you're particularly interested in?