These cookies are sooo good and supply that sweet craving in one bite. (If you can stop at one!) I love these little guys. Use your favorite sugar cookie dough recipe, here is mine. Roll out and cut as desired. I purchased these cute mini star cut outs! Perfect for little bites and the little ones! Bake as directed. Cool.
Place 1/2 Cup of butter (softened) into a medium mixing bowl. Add 1/ Cup of whole milk. Next add 2 tsps of vanilla. Mix and add 1 Tbl of espresso powder. *If you do not have espresso powder available you can substitute with instant coffee (only add 1& 1/2 tsps though). You can also add cinnamon if you desire- it’s another great addition, simply add 1/2 tsp as well at this time.
Mix & beat until creamy. Next add 2 &1/2 Cups of powdered sugar. Mix and frost cookies! Eat and enjoy.
*Remember this is a base recipe~ experiment! There are so many varieties available. Also if you are on a budget and you don’t have the espresso powder or instant coffee, just use coffee you made and reduce the milk a bit OR be prepared to add a bit more powdered sugar! (As in the picture above!)
5. If your family loves to travel like ours, what a perfect addition these would be! If you only do a few state a year, why not add a couple each year and write the year on the back. Cute & a wonderful idea to bring back memories for years to come! Check out this tutorial here!
Lighting- The most obvious choice, but overlooked choice is lighting. Turn of the lights not in use. Use dimmer switches, timer lights, and/or motion lights in entryways and outdoors. Use energy star bulbs. These LED light bulbs can save you up to 75% on your lighting costs. Now purchasing these have a cost right? Not always. We were looking into reducing our electric bill after noticing that even with less usage our bill kept rising. So we had a few things left we had not done. Lighting seemed minor since we are outdoorsy family. But we knew it would reduce some because after all we are still home a lot. Our librarian told us the local city hall gives the florescent lights away on a energy grant program they received. We would have never known. Sure enough, we went to the local city hall and they gave us a few packages of light bulbs and free smoke detectors. The ones we have purchased since were roughly $.99 a piece, if you do need to purchase them. During the holidays, calculate here, your extra lighting expenses if needed to keep within your budget.
Use your main electricity in off peak hours– Wash your clothes, tend to the dishes and extra electrical uses on the off peak hours. (Including watering the garden or lawn.) Simply go to your power companies website and look at their “Time of Use” schedule. That simple? Yes, depending on your power company rates. Your time of usage can save up to 48% of your power bill. Crazy right? However, if your company is like the couple we’ve dealt with, you would have to select your “usage timeline” to find that savings.
Turn Down Your Hot Water Heater- Check the settings on your hot water heater, it costs nothing. Set your hot water heater to a sufficient heat to keep your home clean and efficiently running, but not overworked. Another factor can be your hot water heaters location. Is it in a drafty cold area? Is it running efficiently? If looking for long term savings, check into tankless water heaters. These are more efficient, but have a larger upfront cost. So if you currently have to replace one, perhaps the little extra expense is worth the long term savings to you.
Purchase water saver appliances- this was a big savings for us! As our family grew and the wash machine seemed continual, the water saver upgrade was a noticeable monthly savings for us. Not only do certain appliances save water, but your faucets and shower-heads can save you money. Look for these aerator faucets and shower-heads that use no more than 1.5 gallons a minute.
Get rid of electric appliance dependency- this can even go extreme. Just think of all the items you use in a week, or a day. Microwave, toaster, waffle maker, crock pot, rice maker, quesadilla maker, coffee maker, electric mixer… the list goes on. We live in a day in age where we have a “maker” or an appliance for everything. I find people fall on one end or the other, rarely in the middle. Either you can run 10+ appliances in a week or under 5 in a month. Either way, we can all be a little more frugal. Even if it means turning off the coffee pot after it’s made and using that thermos we got from Christmas last year that guarantee’s hot coffee up to 5 hours. 😉
Weatherize our home- Anything from caulking the windows, plastic around the windows, weather stripping air loss areas, door rugs or pillows, or even more. This is another area many people do not know about. Some communities actually have programs that upgrade older homes and they redo your insulation with blown in insulation and cut down on your heat loss area. Simply check your area or local weatherization program. The worst response is no, we don’t have that in our area.
Change your filters- Yes, that can actually save you money. Your heating or air conditioning can run smoother, and it provides cleaner air to your home. (Scented now if you’d like too.)
Use a thermostat- This can help reduce fluctuation in temperature AND in return prevent the furnace or cooling system from having to kick into high gear. In other words, save you from using more electricity and it keeps your appliances “healthier”.
Use powerstrips- this saves so much money. If every outlet was covered or contained a simple powerstrip, when you leave the house for the weekend or simply need to shut multiple power units off, on switch can do so. So many electronics use electricity sitting unused. Think about it, if it has a little light showing “on”, that is powered by something.
Unplug- Last, but no least. Actually, one of the largest power wasting devices is our computers, game counsels and such devices. Turn off the computer at night. Is the T.v. all night while your sleeping? Make a game charger station with a powerstrip and shut off the powerstrip a few hours after the kids go to bed and everything is charged.
**BONUS ENERGY SAVING IDEAS**
~Check your dryer to see if you have a damp setting. It will shut the dryer off when the clothes are dry even if the cycle timed dry is not up, therefore saving electricity.
~Air dry your clothes.
~Get rid of that extra fridge or freezer. We went to more canning as our family grew so we didn’t have to run a second freezer after our fall harvest. We also starting pickling and drying more goods.
~Look for energy star products and appliances. If you have to upgrade or replace an appliance, look for a better energy saving one. As a general rule we agreed each year at tax season, we would invest in an upgraded household appliance or put that money aside for when we would need to. It has worked thus far. If that’s not an issue and you have extra to do so, why wait? Some of the old fridges/ freezers use 2x more power than the new ones. (*And the new ones are bigger)
~If capable, switch your heat source. Where we lived, wood was available inexpensively if you were willing to do the work. This cut our heating drastically and was a great supplement. However, with tighter regulations and fees. For nearly the same cost (and no labor) we can heat the majority of our home with pellet heat. A friend found coal to be cheaper and more available in their area. It’s worth looking into.
~If able switch to natural gas. Regardless of where you live, natural gas seems to be overall the cheapest and most efficient. However, it means buying propane appliances, which can be expensive to switch to for some. Others can find newer appliances where there are many propane users in the area, within local ads and craigslist’s.
~ Use shades, blinds and drapes.
~Add a Solarium to your home.
~Seal cracks and gaps.
~Schedule tune ups and check ups for seasonal maintenance. This keeps the appliances working most efficiently.
~Rotate your ceiling fans. In the summer, have the fan pushing air down. In the winter, change the direction to pull the air up.
~Lastly, this does not reduce your overall bill- HOWEVER, check your power company for REBATES. Many companies have usage rebates or upgrade rebates. You will not know though, until you check their website.
So, here are a few helpful tips to lower that power bill. You’ll be surprised how little something may seem, but most homes can easily reduce their bill by 35%. So if your bill runs $120 a month, that means over $500 a year in savings. If you are really proactive and willing to pay close attention you could be like us, our bill was about $140 a month and hasn’t been over $80 in over 6 years. (Over $4000 savings). In the summer, it’s nothing for us to have a $40 bill. (This includes the power to our heating sources.) Leaving our biggest home expense (heating) almost half of what it used to be. So, if our family can do it, so can you & yours!