Tuesday, January 25, 2011

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Monday, January 24, 2011

The Land of Me: Kids Educational Software

I have been given the priviledge to try out a children's educational software called The Land of Me. Let me first tell you what it is about before I tell you what I think about it.

What Is It?
This educational software targets children aged 2 -6 years old. It is designed to give you the feel of reading a picture book but one that is interactive. The three main characters are Buddy Boo (the bear), Eric (the raccoon) and Willow (the owl).

There are 6 chapters (or games) and each covers a different learning concept.
  1. Chapter 1 is about shape, size and colour. (By the way, this chapter is free). Children get to transform the 3 friends into various creatures by selecting a combination of different shapes, sizes and colours.
  2. Chapter 2 is called The World Outside. The 3 friends tell Mr. Rigby, the eagle, where they have ventured to. Children select the landscape, the weather and the time of day to create different sceneries.
  3. Chapter 3 is about making things. Anthony, the anteater, has children select what kind of building they want, what is it going to be made of and on what kind of foundation. So children may end up with let's say, a jelly teepee on water or a stone pueblo on mud.
  4. Chapter 4 will have the 3 friends dancing with Dodo the otter. Children select 3 animals they would like to imitate. Then, with music, they will hop like a rabbit, swish like a shark, snap like a crocodile, pinch like a crab etc....
  5. Chapter 5 is music time with Bernard the crocodile. Select which friend you would like to sing about. Then decide on the type of music and if it is going to be fast, medium or slow paced.
  6. Chapter 6 allow children to create stories. They select the hero, what the story is going to be about and also if they want a happy, sad or funny ending.
If you want to learn more about it, click the following link: The Land of Me

Have a look at what Chapter 2 is like.

What I Think About It?
  • The first thing that struck me was the graphics. It really is beautiful and different from usual cartoon illustrations of other computer games. I am reminded of Disney cartoons. You don't get loud, annoying music nor graphics that make your head spin. It really is like a story book.

  • It is best played with the accompaniment of an adult. I like how at the top right hand corner of the screen, are additional facts and questions that parents/caretakers/educators can use to add to the lesson. For example, there was a question that asked "why do you think Willow always sits on top of Eric's head?".

  • You won't find your children playing on the computer for hours with this software. Well, at least not in my case. My son (4 years old) doesn't play more than 1/2 hour. After a while, he gets bored. It is understandable because this is not like other mindless or violent computer games that are purely just for entertainment. It is a perfect addition to my homeschooling effort for my son. After some reading and writing exercises, I use this software as a break. He gets to use the computer and I get to squeeze in more educational stuff. So, it is best not to treat this program as a "babysitter" but rather as a fun teaching supplement.

  • I like how the children get to change the words in the sentences and that will change what is happening on the screen. However, I do wish they had more choices. Each word only has 3 choices.

  • It is not just computer games. There are printables too. You can continue offline doing crafts and activities that you can print out.

What I don't like about it?
  • It was quite time consuming for me to download everything. First, I had to download the software. Then I had to download the "Chapters" one by one. Each chapter took me about an hour to download. Now, not everyone has a fast internet connection. If that is the case with you, I advise you to order the DVD.

  • I notice you have to buy each Chapter separately. If there was a packaged deal where you buy all the Chapters at a discounted price, I think that would appeal to many people.

Overall, I think it is a beneficial software for young children. It is something they will enjoy playing with you by their side.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Organic Baby Products You Should Consider

What's the big deal about organic baby products?
  • Organic products are restricted in their use of chemicals and should contain fewer additives or chemical treatments than standard products.
  • Some will also be fair trade so you can be sure the manufacturer is not profiting from exploitative work policies.
  • Buying organic gives you as a parent more security in knowing that nothing toxic or harmful should be coming in contact with your beautiful baby.
Here are some ways you can be organic with your baby.

Organic Baby Bath Products
Baby bath wash and lotion is a small but important purchase that you will be making. If you buy organic bath products you should find that all of the ingredients are natural. Soap ingredients should be plant-based rather than made from animal fats, herbal oils will be used, and any coloring and fragrance should be natural. Organic products will usually be easier on your baby's skin, so that sensitivities and rashes are less likely to develop. Also you should not need to worry about the long term effects if your baby drinks some of the bath water.

Organic Diaper Cream
Organic diaper ointment or cream is a wonderful product and comes highly recommended. An organically formulated diaper cream should be 100% natural and perfect for your baby's sensitive bottom. Again herbal essential oils, beeswax and natural plant-derived butters are used. These are less likely to cause irritation than chemical-based products, and they are usually easier to wipe away.

Organic Baby Food
Organic baby food has become popular in the last couple of decades along with all other organic food. The rules for organic food products are very stringent and if the label says 'organic' you can be sure that the ingredients were all grown in an environment free of pesticides. In addition, purified water will be used and the mashed and strained fruits and vegetables that you buy for your baby will have undergone less processing if they are organic.

You can also buy organic infant formula which gives your baby a great start in life. This is made from the same ingredients as non-organic formula except that it will be free of pesticide residues and genetically modified ingredients. It may be easier for babies to digest and the lack of chemical residues means that it is less likely to spark an allergic reaction.

Organic Baby Clothes
Organic baby clothing is usually made from organically grown cotton. The same rules apply as for organic food. The cotton will not have been sprayed with pesticides and is less likely to irritate your baby's skin. The fabric is often softer too. However, the lack of treatments means that the cotton is more likely to shrink, so you may want to buy a size bigger than you need right now.

Positively Organic Baby Clothes

Organic Baby Toys
The way babies put their toys in their mouths all the time, you will see why many parents want to buy organic baby toys. You almost have to consider them as food! Organic toys will be made from natural materials, without the chemicals that are found in plastics. Examples of organic toys are rag dolls and other soft toys made of cotton, wooden trucks and other wooden toys, and board books made of organic cardboard. Organic toys are very attractive with an old fashioned style and although they can be more expensive, they will be high quality and often last longer than cheap toys.

All of these products are things that you and your baby will use every day for the first important formative years. You can be reassured that you are providing your baby with the best chance of staying healthy and growing strong with organic baby products.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Five simple substitutes that lead to a healthier diet

(ARA) - Eating right is often easier said than done. You like what you like, so breaking old eating habits is never easy. That's why sometimes it can be easier to slightly modify your diet instead of giving it a complete overhaul.

The good news is subbing in healthier substitutes doesn't have to make your food taste less flavorful. Here are five healthy substitutions to try on your journey to better health:
  1. Make things whole. Consider what type of bread, pasta, flour and rice you are regularly eating. Switching to the whole grain versions of these foods not only helps you cut down on calories, but also add nutrition to your diet. Whole grain foods are also packed with fiber, which helps you feel full and aids digestion.

  2. Consider beverages. Did you know the average can of soda contains about 150 calories and no nutrients? On the other hand, try opting for tasteful beverages that have a neutral, or even a positive effect on your health. For example, natural teas can provide added health benefits - oolong tea can help lower your cholesterol and green tea can help boost your metabolism. Like soda, tea can also be quick, easy and refreshing - cold-brewed tea from brands such as Teawan come in packages that can be brewed in minutes.

  3. Watch where you start in the kitchen. Cooking more at home is a sure-fire way to reduce the calories you take in, but your cooking methods can be another place to make gains in eating healthier. Instead of using butter, vegetable shortening or lard, consider using olive oil, peanut oil or canola oil, which contain less saturated fat.

  4. Creamy substitutes. When a recipe calls for heavy cream, try substituting half and half or milk. Or use yogurt instead of sour cream. These simple substitutions can provide great taste for a fraction of the calories and fat.

  5. Modify your meat intake. You don't have to suddenly become a vegetarian, but try a stir fry using only veggies or substitute ground turkey for ground beef in your favorite recipes. By making a similar substitution once a week or more, you'll consume less calories and fat - and possibly discover some tasty variations on your go-to dishes.
You may find that some substitutes actually make your diet more interesting and give you more options for healthy eating. As you work toward eating healthier, you ultimately have to find options you enjoy to achieve sustainable and nutritious diet.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Baby Is 16 Months Old

Here are some words to describe babyK:
  • Cheeky. She'll give you that cheeky smile when she is up to something, and then she'll run when you try to get her.
  • Octopus hands. She will open her siblings cupboards and rummage through their things. Her hands are always reaching for something. One of her favorite thing to do is to attempt to sharpen pencils (and pens too).
  • Demanding. Definitely we are at the Terrible Two stage. If she doesn't get what she wants, she will slowly recline herself onto the floor and scream.
  • Fierce. She will scream and scold her siblings if they disturb her or get in her way.
  • Independent. Wants to feed herself. The only way we can get her to eat her food is to let her hold the spoon to feed herself. Sometimes she will push our hand away when we try to help. Unfortunately I still have to change her diaper. If only they could be independent in that area.
  • Screamer. Will scream like a banshee when reprimanded.
  • Resourceful. She knows how to use stools and chairs as climbing aids to get to places out of her reach.
  • Fast learner. Especially pertaining to things she shouldn't do.
  • Energizer battery. Always on the go, always moving.
  • Slipper thief. She loves to walk in my house slippers. That's why they are always missing. One slipper will be here and another will be goodness knows where.
  • Loving. She will go over and pat whichever sibling is crying.
  • Daddy's girl. She loves daddy to carry her.
  • Keropok girl. Absolutely loves to eat keropok.
  • Computer geek. Everyone spends time on the computer. She doesn't want to be left out. Her favorite game... Sesame Street's Peek-A-Boo.
What are some words she can say?
This, where, yes, papa, mama and jie-jie (Yeah, she can say jie-jie for sister, and everyone else is called papa, even me).

BabyK is definitely a handful but we love her to bits. When she gives you her smile, she chases all the black clouds away.

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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Today's Lunch

Today's lunch menu:
  • Fragrant Braised Chicken (coriander leaves on the side coz' I'm the only one in this family who loves to eat it) - You can get the recipe here
  • Ipoh taugeh (bean sprout) with prawns
  • Long beans with dried shrimp
  • Watercress soup
Happy Cooking!

Cheap Children Books

Just to let you know that I saw some really cute books for toddlers over at BookCloseOuts.com. They have a brand new selection of books by Castle Street Press. The books are bright, easy to read and sure to captivate young children.

You'll find concept board books to help children with their ABCs, 123s and shapes. Non-fiction books on baby animals, farm words, transportation, tractors and trucks, spiders, bugs and insects, dinosaurs will improve your children's vocabulary and increase their knowledge.

There are also reference books such as "My First Picture Dictionary" and "My First Picture Encyclopedia".

If you prefer to indulge them in fiction books, check out classic tales such as Three Little Pigs, The Elves and the Shoemaker, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Gingerbread Fred and Little Mermaid., Sleeping Beauty and Three Billy Goats Gruff.

Hurry over and check out their vast collection of wonderful and cheap children books. Just click the affilate link below:

Don't miss out on educational and fun children books at discounted prices.

p.s. I spotted Roald Dahl's Fantastic Mr. Fox in their New Arrivals section. That is such a great story to tell the kids. I remember reading it to my kids and they sat through the entire reading without losing interest. That is some feat for my kids who always act like they have ants in their pants. Really good book, that's all I can say. Better click the affiliate link below to see if it is still available.

Winter Desserts The Healthy Way

10 Minute Home Office Workouts

During the winter months many people tend to pack on the pounds. They may not be eating any more than normal, but they’re less active so they don’t expend the same amount of energy. Many people feel they have to give up anything sweet in an effort to keep them from gaining weight. These healthy winter desserts will allow you to have your cake and eat it, too.

For healthy winter desserts, choose desserts with fruit as a major ingredient. Pies, cobblers and crisps would be delicious as well as nutritious. Apples, peach, blackberry, strawberry-rhubarb and other fruits can be made into cobbler. Choose desserts which are served warm so you’ll have something terrific tasting which will warm the soul as well as the stomach.

Gingerbread and shortbread cookies are normally a healthier choice over some other kinds of cookies. You can also find recipes which are healthier than traditional gingerbread or shortbread. Oatmeal raisin cookies are full of fiber and can also be a healthy alternative.

Angel food cake is one of the best dessert choices for people watching their weight. Make simple syrup and poach your favorite fruit in it. This can be drizzled over a slice of angel food cake without adding too many calories.

Make an apple salad with fresh, raw apples, carrots, raisins and chopped nuts. This may not seem like a dessert but you’ll be surprised at how satisfying it can be. To make the fruit salad more special, add a warmed dressing which can be poured over it.

Some desserts are expected during the winter months but that doesn’t mean you have to throw health to the wind. Try to find ways to make your favorite cake healthier, for example by using applesauce in place of the fat. You can also try reducing the sugar in the dessert and see how it is affected. In many cases reducing the sugar doesn’t make that much of a difference in how the dessert turns out. Reduce sugar even further by substituting agave nectar or Stevia.

Focus on rich taste rather than high calorie. Desserts don’t have to be laden in calories. Here’s a simple recipe for an apple dessert that tastes great:
  • Slice four cooking apples into slices after removing the core.
  • In a microwave-safe casserole, place 3 tablespoons of butter.
  • Microwave until melted; then stir in 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 2 tablespoons honey and 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon.
  • Place the apples into the mixture and turn so both sides are coated. Cover with plastic wrap and microwave for an additional 4-6 minutes or until the apples are tender.
  • You may need to turn the dish in the microwave after a couple of minutes to ensure the apples cook evenly.
  • Allow it to cool for a couple of minutes before serving.
You don’t have to give up dessert just because you’re trying to lose weight. You can eat these healthy winter desserts or change the recipe in your favorite dessert by removing some of the sugar or fat. By choosing carefully which desserts you eat, you can still have an enjoyable way to end your meals.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Make Time To Have Fun With Your Children

Children can be such a joy to be around! They have an exuberance that is catching. They know how to enjoy themselves with the simplest of things. If you’re usually stressed, you may not know how to have fun with your children. Try using some of these ideas - you’ll soon be acting just as silly as your children.

It’s not unusual for parents to forget how to enjoy their children because they have so much on their minds. Parents can easily become overwhelmed when their children are young. They’re concerned about their children’s safety, and they want to ensure their children are healthy. However, you don’t want your children to grow up and miss out on having fun with you. Here are some tips.

When it’s time to tuck your children into bed, pull out a story book and read them a bedtime story. Instead of reading it in a normal voice, create a new silly voice for each character. Of course, in the process of reading you may accidentally (or on purpose) talk in a female voice when the character is a male. Exaggerate the voices and your children will get the giggles. Once they start to giggle set the book down and tickle them to get them laughing harder. If you can get them settled down they should fall right to sleep and with a smile on their face.

Set aside some time to have some fun teaching your children to cook. Find an easy recipe where your children can do most of the work. Don’t worry about the mess they make because it will clean. Invariably the children will get more flour or other ingredients on themselves. Take pictures of them, mess and all, so you have something to remember the day of fun.

Plan a day to play video games with them. If you have a computer console where more than one person can play at a time, find games which you can play together. Don’t be surprised if your kids whoop up on you, though, since they have had more experience playing these games.

If it’s nice outdoors, go outside and play with them. Toss a ball or play hopscotch. If the weather is cold and snowy you could always have a snowball fight. Think of games you played as a child. If you had fun playing them it’s a good chance your children will have fun, too.

Build a fort in your living room using the cushions from the furniture, pillow and blankets. Help your children use their imagination as you play with them. Does your child have a teddy bear that can walk the plank or a doll that can be held in a castle tower? If you use your imagination your child will try to do the same thing.

After you’ve taken time to play and have fun with your child, don’t forget to do things which are fun for you. You need time to regenerate yourself. You may find you’re more relaxed and less cranky if you have fun with your children. It’s even possible you’ll be less cranky and more fun with your partner, too.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Simple ways parents can help relieve kids' cold and flu discomforts

(ARA) - Any parent who's sat up through the night with a sick child knows relieving their symptoms is only part of your mission. Easing the discomforts of cold and flu for your little one is a No. 1 priority.

"Watching your child suffer, even if it's from something as minor as a nose that's sore and chapped from repeated blowing, is a terrible feeling for any parent," says Dr. Tanya Remer Altman, a mother and pediatrician who is a best-selling author and spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics. "Relieving the discomforts related to cold and flu not only helps kids feel better, it also reduces stresses for their parents."

"Dr. Tanya," as she's known to her patients and the millions who've seen her on the Today Show or who follow her blog, offers some tips to help parents make children feel more comfortable while fighting a cold or the flu:
  • Flu vaccines are recommended for everyone 6 months and older, but it's not unusual for children to fear a shot. Ask your pediatrician about giving your child the flu vaccine in a nasal spray form. It's available for children 2 and older, and provides the same protection and safety as the traditional flu shot.

  • Your mother probably swore by chicken soup and she was on to something. Serving sick children chicken soup not only gives them the benefit of nourishment while their bodies are fighting a virus, studies show chicken soup has anti-inflammatory properties as well. Plus, it's a popular comfort food that most kids love.

  • Sore, chapped noses add to the discomfort of having a cold. Tissues with added lotion, like Puffs Plus with Lotion, can help prevent chapping from frequent nose blowing and wiping. The strong, lotion-filled tissues can help children get more out of their nose blowing, ensuring they're confident they can blow without getting anything "icky" on their little hands. You can also use petroleum jelly or unscented ointment to soothe the irritation and discomfort.

  • Another way to help relieve a stuffy nose is to try a few drops of nasal saline and gentle suctioning. A cool mist humidifier and a liberal application of Vicks on children older than 2 can also help, especially at night when lying down can make a child feel stuffy. Remember, however, never to use Vicks on children younger than 2 years old; it may actually increase the mucus in their airways.

  • Frequent hand-washing is important to prevent the spread of viruses. Yet washing your hands a lot, especially in cold weather, can leave them dry, sore and cracked. Teach your children to wash their hands while singing "Wash, wash, wash your hands, wash them every day. Wash them with water and wash them with soap to wash the germs away" to the tune of "Row, row, row your boat." Then follow up with a soothing lotion. You can find many fragrance-free varieties specially formulated for children.

  • When your child's throat is sore, he might be unwilling to eat or drink much. Offer a sugar-free fruit Popsicle instead. The coolness can help ease a sore throat, your child will get some hydration from the frozen juice and he'll feel like he's getting a special treat.

  • Make trips to the doctor's office fun by bringing a book or toy to keep your child occupied, and a snack in case she gets hungry. A special reward or treat after the visit is also a nice tradition.
Finally, don't overlook your own mental comfort as well; call the doctor if you feel your child's symptoms are worrisome. "Parents often tell me they thought about calling, but didn't want to be a bother," Dr. Tanya says. "Most pediatricians are parents too, and they would rather take a few minutes to reassure you that your child's cold symptoms will improve on their own than to not have you call about your sick child who really needs to be seen. Your pediatrician is there to help you, so if you feel something is important, pick up the phone and call."

Friday, January 14, 2011

Our First Surviving Baby Rabbit

Say hi to "Champ". We're calling him champ coz' he is the first baby rabbit to survive. In the past, they didn't live past 2 days. Champ was a pleasant surprise for us. We didn't even know he existed until DH spotted him hopping around in the cage yesterday. He must have been hidden in a burrow.

We're not sure who is the mother. But we're guessing it's Brownie, our brown rabbit coz' this little fella looks like he's got a bit of brown fur on him. But then, maybe it's dirty from mud :)

When people have lots of babies, they like to say you're "breeding like rabbits". From my experience, it is not easy to breed rabbits ok. I've been puzzling over why the past few litters have all died; almost giving up hope that we'll ever see a baby rabbit survive.

Well Champ, you're just in time to celebrate the year of the Rabbit. Hope you keep on surviving.
Click this affiliate link for more info on rabbit care.

Today's Lunch

Just sharing what I prepared for lunch today. I know it is tough to figure out what to cook for the family everyday. Hope this will give you some inspiration.
  • Broccoli, carrots and button mushroom
  • Egg Fu Yong - scrambled eggs with chives ("ku chai"), sliced chinese mushroom, diced roast pork ("siew yok"), and spring onions
  • Egg toufu with minced pork mixed with water chestnut and sliced shiitake mushroom. Spring onion as garnishing.
  • Brinjal (a.k.a. eggplant) with fried shrimp and chilli.
  • Baked beans (coz' it was expiring).

Dine Without Whine Sample

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Happy 4th Birthday

My boy D2 just turned 4 years old. No big party. Just a special dinner, home-baked cake and a trip to A&W for root beer. No presents coz' he has got enough toys and too many clothes. As they say, kids don't need our presents but our presence. Well, we do have a tradition that the birthday kid gets $5 to spend at the store.

Siblings were given special instruction that nobody was allowed to scold the birthday boy. I think he liked that.

He wanted roti canai for breakfast but the shop nearby was closed. So I cooked him pikelets. He enjoyed it with syrup. Such a sharing boy. I said I was cooking it specially for him. Immediately he quipped "I'll share it with daddy and mommy".

The birthday cake: Devil's Food (thanks to Pilsbury for making it super duper easy and fast). BUT I made the chocolate frosting myself. The kids and my niece decorated the cake: sprinkles and skittles. Got some cute candles too.
Digging up all the skittles.

Special dinner: 2 different kinds of roasted chicken, french fries, coleslaw, nachos with salsa.

So, what are some things about this 4 year old of mine?
  • He can read lots of words
  • He can count very well
  • He loves music. He can play "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" and "Baa Baa Blacksheep" on the keyboard. Very diligently memorizes his church primary songs (practices his singing everyday too).
  • Likes to play badminton. When we play, he will say to me "I want to be your servant". What he means is "server" but mistakenly say "servant". He wants to serve the shuttlecock for me.
  • Slowly learning how to write. Below is an example of the work he does: So far we have worked on writing the letters 'a', 'b', 'c', 'd', 's', 't' and 'm'. After he finishes his work, he will ask for 11 or 14 stars.

  • He still laughs a lot.
  • Also can pull a very, very long face and scream very loud.
  • I love to hear him pray.

  • Have a wonderful, funtastic 4th year my boy!

    Friday, January 07, 2011

    Publish Your Kids' Stories With Illustory

    Illustory has been given many rave reviews. Parents are using it to encourage their children's creativity. Children get to write their wonderful stories, add in illustration and then have it published in a real hardback book. It'll look like a book you buy at the store.

    This is a perfect gift to give a child who loves to read, write and draw, especially 5-7 year olds who are just beginning to write. It is a way to make them proud of their work. It is also a way for you to show them that their writings are of value. Of course you can just staple some paper together to make your own book. However, Illustory helps you create a storybook that you can treasure and keep for years.

    • 12 special book pages for your child to draw and write. Marker pens are provided.
    • Send your work over the manufacturer in a postage paid envelop where they will reproduce the writings and drawing into a book.
    • A few weeks later, you will receive a professionally bound hardcover book.
    • You even get an "About the author" page.
    • The size of the book is 7"x9.
    • The cover and title is laminated.
    • Have your children write a story to record a special family occasion such as a family vacation or celebrations.
    • Dedicate the book to someone special like grandma or dad for Father's Day.
    • Have your kids write a book (or several books) every year. They will love to see how their writing changes from year to year.
    • Makes a great birthday or Christmas present.


    • They've made the process of writing very simple. There are instructions to follow.
    • Also included are tips, activities, pre-planning diagrams are included to make writing easier.
    • The finished product is of exceptional quality.
    • You can only put 20 words per page and only 12 pages. May be quite limiting to some children who have a lot to say.
    Over at Amazon, this product rates 4 1/2 stars out of 5. Here are excerpts from their feedback.
    • "He is so excited and proud of himself when he shows his friends, family and teacher his publications!"
    • "The books are a great family keepsake"
    • "It challenged them to come up with their very own story, using thier imagination and when the books arrived, they were so proud!"
    • "This really helped my niece become more sure of herself and she now loves to write! "
    Illustory is available at Educational Warehouse.
    To go straight to the product page, click this affiliate link: ILLUSTORY

    Complimentary Ebooks for Moms

    At the dawn of a new year, many of us find a burst of motivation to be a better person. Well, here are some complimentary e-books to help moms get better organized, save money and live healthier.

    There are 3 e-books at your disposal:
    • How to get your kitchen organized
    • The healthy weight loss success guide
    • Free menu planning kit
    You can access all the above at the following link:

    Free Menu Planning & Grocery Sheets

    Thursday, January 06, 2011

    Four ways to stretch your dollar in 2011

    (ARA) - The beginning of a new year is a great time to do some self assessment and figure out how you can make the next year even better than the last. It's also a logical time to take a look at your family's budget and figure out how you can make your money go even further next year.

    Since you'll soon be digging into your financial records in order to file your taxes, why not take a little extra time to set a budget and identify some areas where you and your family can save a few dollars? Here are four simple ways to get more for less this year:
    • Take an inventory of monthly expenses. It's always a good idea to take a look at your regular expenses at least once a year to see if there's somewhere you could be saving. Maybe you are no longer bound by a cell phone contract and could get a better deal elsewhere. Or perhaps it's time to reevaluate insurance options. It could also be something as simple as evaluating how often you dine out or stop for a gourmet coffee and changing your habits to save a few dollars by cutting back.

    • Let the coupons do the work. While clipping coupons might seem like a thing of the past, it's easier than ever to save using coupons. Coupons can be found in traditional places like the newspaper, as well as online, often from the manufacturer's website. Another place to look is right on the packaging of your favorite products. For instance, where available in certain retail store locations, Procter & Gamble is currently offering coupons for other P&G brands within specially marked products from Crest, Pampers, Olay and Charmin, among others - with coupon values up to $80 in savings when they are all used.

    • Save by using the Internet. By signing up for e-mail newsletters from manufacturers and local businesses you can access special offers that you might not be able to find elsewhere. For example, you can sign up for regular notification of promotions for products you use every day at www.pgeverydaysolutions.com. Following businesses on Facebook and Twitter can also help alert you to special offers.

    • Develop a grocery shopping routine. Plan weekly meals and shop accordingly. If possible, find out what items are on sale each week at your grocer before making the list, so you can take full advantage of the sales. Stock up on nonperishable items when they are on sale.
    With a few changes to your shopping and spending habits, you may find yourself with a healthy chunk of extra cash next year that you can either stick into savings or spend on something special as a reward to your family.