Thursday, January 31, 2008

After Christmas decorating.

Have you noticed how lately more and more Christmas decorations don't even have a Christmas theme to them? I was half heartedly checking out the 90% off holiday leavings at Garden Ridge and stumbled across 'ornaments' that would look nice in my daughters room (but silly on a tree).

I had another plan in mind for these flowers but for right now I'm happy with where they are. These clip on flowers were .56 cents apiece.

These purple ballet slippers help liven up the blank wall above the closet door. The final clearance price was .59 cents.

This wintery weather is making me want something hot to drink so I'm going to mosey to the kitchen. I think while I'm there I'll throw together some pickle burger for dinner.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Book Bag: The Ultimate Cheapskate's Roadmap to True Riches

I was happy to get my hands on a fresh library copy of Jeff Yeager's Ultimate Cheapskate book. I have read quite a few how-to save money books and I am rarely impressed. This book is slightly better than the rest as the list of tips that are becoming the standard is not in sight so far. I'm on page 100 and I still haven't learned a lot. Perhaps that's because I've read so many of these books already?
Anyway, to summarize the most important highlights so far:

1. Don't spend money. He doesn't mean live below your means although that it certainly a must to attain Ultimate Cheapskate status. He means skip spending money altogether if you can. If you don't spend it then you don't have to make more money to replace what you've spent. He calls it 'skipping the money step'. To me it's more like skip keeping up the with the Joneses and stay one step ahead of the
Waltons. Pay for the basics like food, warmth and shelter and find a way to take care of everything else yourself.

2. Eat from the food pyramid to save money and your health. He states his rule of thumb for grocery shopping is to pay no more than one dollar per pound for anything. That seems simple enough. So simple in fact that it makes clipping coupons and keeping a price book almost unnecessary.

That's as far as I can go right now. I will let you know more when I finish it.I have to admit it's kept my attention better than America's Cheapest Family which was ebayed quickly after I finished it. A warning though- his language can be a bit earthy bordering on offensive. It might be worth a look at your library.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Shopping Finds

Michaels still has some Christmas mark downs. I found a few soaps like this one for .20 cents apiece. This one has a small color bleed so I'm keeping it. I have five others. I bought five small red and white baskets for .99 apiece. I'm getting a head start on the neighbor's gift bags for next year.

One of my favorite things about living near a city is the International grocery stores. Through trial and error (read the ingredients on the packaging so you won't be like me and bite into a delicious looking onion flavored cookie- gah!) we have found our favorite soy sauce and hoisin sauce. The Nestle hot chocolate looked so inviting that I had to bring it home. And it is delicious- it's a very dark brew with just a hint of sweetness. I add sugar and a bit of milk to make it creamy. So good!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Cooking with Fungus- Making a 'Scratching' Cake

Today my Sweetie and I celebrate our 11th anniversary. With our pantry void of cake mixes (a combination of no great sales and wanting to make more of our food from scratch) I knew I'd have to pull out a recipe and some measuring cups.

Baking is an excellent activity for Big Girl and I to share while her little brother naps. Today though we had a spectator. My daughter has adopted a small grey rock from our yard as her new son/playmate. There is absolutely nothing special or wonderful about this rock except that she loves it. She named it Fungus. To my chagrin/annoyance she also gives it a bath in the bathroom sink at least twice a day. So, I held my tongue when she proceeded to place him in every clean cup and bowl that we had just set on the table for our recipe. There probably isn't a cleaner rock in the county.

Well, while we were mixing and creaming the flour, shortening and butter her Daddy called us. I let her talk to him while I beat the sugar together.

"Hi, Daddy. We're making a Scratching Cake. A Chocolate Scratching Cake! But, you don't get any until after dinner."

As you can tell- we're fairly new to the make it from scratch game. But, it gave her Daddy and I a good chuckle.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Resolutions Schmesolutions? Dilemna

Tessa put up a divine list of the next set of Walgreens February freebies. Can I pass up free shampoo, deodorant, and lip plumper? Is it irresponsible of me to pass up a deal like this? What if I save the toiletries for the Boy Scouts when they collect toiletries door to door? Can I save the lip plumper and put it with a girlfriends/sister in laws Christmas gift?

What if I put all of it together in a nice gift bag and gave it to my Mom for Mother's Day? She doesn't have a Walgreens by her. Does that count?

Monday, January 21, 2008

I paid full price

That's right. I handed over a whole three dollars for this vintage beauty at Goodwill. I couldn't resist. These burgundy tapestry lovers were calling to me. And it's just the right size to tuck in a diaper and a coupon wallet.

Winter Specials: Coats

Coats are just starting to go on sale. My kids need 'new' coats every year because they are growing so fast.

Goodwill had 50% off sales on a few coats today and I picked up these two good coats for next year. Coats are often $25-30 new even at stores like K-Mart. By shopping a year ahead I can get better quality coats for a fraction of the K-Mart price. For both of these coats I paid $7.00.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The small details

We needed recycling containers. Hubby found some plain blue storage totes at Lowes for a lot cheaper than we could buy a big can. He laughed at me for my artistry when all that was required was a simple 'R.' Oh well, I was ready to get crazy with that white out brush.

Disposal Diaries & Leftover Dinners

Today I finally got around to tossing the myriad of old refrigerated leftovers. The plastic storage boxes were overtaking my fridge and something had to be done. There was a bittersweetness to saying goodbye to the food that had been forgotten for too long. Goodbye to the rice pudding made with my egg nog leftovers. It was really good on that cold morning with a side of toast topped with Dickinson's spiced pumpkin butter. The oven baked potato that I topped with homemade cheese sauce and steamed broccoli was hard to throw out too. I love baked potatoes but somehow never got around to reheating for a lunch. I was only slightly sad about the Vietnamese tofu crock pot dinner that just didn't come out quite right. I thought I would stand my ground and eat the dinner that hubby proclaimed not good enough for leftovers; but even I have my standards. Tossing out the food I made for my family reminded me of how much I love taking care of them. Every meal I make for them is made in love. I also got a good feeling about once again seeing some clear shelf space if I don't consider the waste.

Hubby suggested (for the umpteenth time) that we have leftovers for dinner- the fresh ones that aren't growing mold yet. I finally obliged. Dinner will be a strange mix of olive pizza, tofu ramen soup, a peppery breakfast burrito, banana bread, and breadmachine bread from my new Breadman Bread machine. But we will all be fed and happy- grazing on our refrigerator gleanings.

Friday, January 18, 2008

One thing to mark off of my list

We cleaned the kitchen table off sufficiently well enough for Big Girl's water coloring. I keep her water colors and brushes together in an old laundry detergent lid. I use the lid for the water cup. Having them together makes it easier because I don't have to hunt for all the supplies. I love old detergent lids. My kids use them in the bathtub for toys. I have used them for biscuit cutters.

Frugal Burnout Bandwagon

Since Meredith and everyone else seems to be talking about this, I think I'll join in on the discussion.

Since the beginning of the year my only real resolution has been not to purchase any more personal care items. Despite a lack of time to do my nails or fix my hair up I still love those bottles of fancy lotion, a good lipgloss, and new hairspray. I love it so much that I have a huge collection of beauty and personal care products clogging up valuable space in our bathroom. But, it's hard for me to get excited about using products that I have lying around when there are all these deals/freebies for new lipsticks and lotions and potions. I have made a concerted effort to delete those emails from Clinique and Lancome that give me free shipping with an extra bag of goodies. I have a major weakness for nice cosmetics so I wince whenever I see what I am passing up. I also haven't been clipping coupons for any personal care items either so I'm not tempted to buy. Clipping and sorting coupons is a lot faster now too.

I find that it's easier for me to be frugal most of the time when I allow myself small extravagances some of the time. A small cafe mocha from Starbucks once a month or a new sale book from Barnes and Noble can really take the edge off of the frugality lifestyle once in a while for me.

What plans? Rolling with the punches.

Today was going to be my cleaning day. Today I was going to drop both of the kids off at school and the sitters. I had no appointments- No chores at preschool- No errands to run. I was going to come home, turn on my dance music and scrub, sweep, unload, reload, wash, you name it.. for two blessed hours.

And then my sleepy heads told me there was something wrong when they were both fast asleep at 7:30. Little Guy has been nursing a cold for a few days and today was no better. My Big Girl woke up with a slight fever and a nagging cough. No school or sitter today.

Time to re-group. They are both very sweet and docile when they don't feel good. I hate it when they are sick but it's the one benefit from it all. Who knows? Maybe they are the same and I just feel more nurturing. Either way- today I'm not getting my whole house cleaned like I wanted. I think I'll settle for straightening the kitchen while Little Guy naps.

I promised Big Girl that we'd clean off the kitchen table for water coloring. Right now my kitchen table is a flurry of junk mail, kid art pages, and the bulky Breadman Breadmaker that I received from Freecycle.

Gotta go get some tissues for Big Girl and get started on the kitchen.

I just received a picture of Pluto the Robot and his home. I think I'll help her label it so we can show Daddy.
Life is good. I can always clean later right?

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Enjoying the journey- frugal style

We ventured out to the grocery store because it's $10 off a $50 purchase coupon day.
Last night I sat down with hubby and clipped coupons while we watched American Idol so I knew what I needed and had a list ready to go. Luckily both of the kids were little angels (it helped that I brought a baggie of crackers) and we got through the store with a loaded cart unscathed. No major great deals but we did save $23 with coupons and discounts. We're stocked up on eggs and tortillas. I happened to notice that we have peppers, onion, and mushrooms that need to get used up so we're having breakfast burritos for dinner.

While putting away groceries I was trying to do a bit of a refrigerator clean out. Two rotting oranges, a sprinkle of pumpkin pie spice, and a used herbal tea bag became stove top potpourri.

And today I bought the last thing I needed to make my own Laundry Detergent- Borax. I have been finding Borax, Washing soda, and Fels Naptha at the grocery store. I used Mary Hunt's recipe: 1 bar of grated Fels Naptha, 1/2 cup of Borax, 1/2 cup of Washing soda. Mix all three together and store in an airtight container. Use 2 tbs. per load.

Three blackened bananas and a handful of pecans precipitated a batch of banana bread.

The house smells good and I have dinner planned so the rest of those not so fun chores will be a little more endurable.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

It pays to complain

For the daytime we buy generic sale diapers but for nighttime we buy Huggies Overnights. They are the most absorbent diaper and really keep our Little Guy leak proof and fairly dry all night long. Huggies phone representatives have always been very helpful to me when I've had a problem or a request for coupons. Also, those wonderful coupons help defray the extra cost of name brand diapers.

Our last bag had two or three diapers that were not usable due to cement like gluing on the diaper seat. This morning I finally had my opportunity to call their toll free number and talk to them about my problem. The very cordial and helpful representative (with no waiting on the phone listening to muzak) took my information from the bag (keep your bags for this reason!) and the diaper. I should be getting a coupon for a free bag in a few days. So, this was definitely worth the five minutes it took me to voice my small complaint.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Not all Goodwills are equal- Buying for School Uniforms.

I tried out a new Goodwill today hoping to find clothing pieces for Big Girls kindergarten uniforms. She doesn't enter kindergarten for a few months so I still have plenty of time to gather the items that I need.

I loved this new Goodwill that is off of busy street (Manchester if you're a St. Louiser). The racks were loaded and there was a great variety of brand name clothing. In fact I saw more Children's Place than Faded Glory. I filled my cart with Le Top, Lands End, LL Bean, Kitestrings, Talbots, and Gap. Hunting was made easier because I only have a choice of three colors and all shirts have to have collars. I found it surprising how few children's shirts have collars. Turtlenecks in the necessary colors were plentiful. I also found brand new School Uniform brand jumpers in the appropriate color. Now all I need is a pair or two of khaki pants and a plaid jumper and we're all set.

I also snagged a brand new Gymboree top (so cute- ribbon embroidered with bachelor buttons) to send to a friends little girl for her birthday.

Here they are ready for the wash. I particularly love the Good Lad of Philadelphia flag sweater and the Kitestrings turtleneck with stags and a snowflake for Little Guy. There's no way I would pay retail prices for these things so finding them in perfect shape at the Goodwill is a real treat.

Cheaper Immunizations

Our insurance plan covers no well care for my children. The first time we received a bill for immunizations from our doctor we were shocked at how much the doctors office charged for them. Our former pediatrician (who I liked and trusted) informed us that doing immunizations cost him a lot of money also and he made almost nothing off of doing them. He suggested that we check out the County Health center for reduced costs.

Since we do have insurance we still have to pay a fee (to help defray costs for the non-insured I guess) but it's a pittance compared to what we paid at the the doctors office. I think the current charge is $15.00 per set of shots per person.

Now I have to go hunt up the immunizations charts and my check book. Guess what we're doing today?

Friday, January 11, 2008

The Parenting Files: The best freebie of all

Hugs from someone you love are great.

They don't go bad. They don't cost anything. They don't take a lot of time. And you can give one almost anywhere.

Checking the Mail is a joy when...

There are free samples in the pile.

One of my favorites is free samples of laundry detergent/fabric softener.

For a free sample of Purex go here.

I'm a Wal-Martian.

I've been to Wal-Mart more in the past week than I have in three months put together. It's the coupons... free bars of kids soap and cheap dishwashing packs have got me.

Then I found out that 18 ounce jars of Peter Pan are now only $1.00. Well, who can pass that up?

As I was leaving my cart at Aldi I noticed that someone had left an entire coupon insert in a cart. It was obviously abandoned as it was all rumpled and had other bits of paper stuck along with it. So, I grabbed it up and riffled through it in the parking lot. I found the $2.25 Electrasol coupon and $1.00 Peter Pan coupon and my mind was made up. I had to go back to Wal-Mart (which happens to be right behind Aldi).

I bought:

A replacement Christmas tree stand (our is sure to break again after two consecutive attempts at supergluing) (75% off)

Green paper plates for preschool snack days (.75 cents apiece for two sets)

Electrasol tablets (.41 cents after coupon.)

Peter Pan peanut butter (free after coupon)

Men's shaving gift set ($2.00 - to be set aside for father's day)

The total for all after taxes and coupons was $5.99

I think I'm done with Wal-Mart for awhile. Unless I find more coupons.

The last/first place I should have looked.

Well, my husband was all prepared to help me tear apart the house/car last night and then five minutes later he comes back from the car chuckling.

Mind you, I had been out to the car at least three times looking for keys. But, they were on the dashboard all along. And turns out that my car battery was not completely dead like I though it would be. I guess I just needed to stay home yesterday even though I feel like a fool. ; )

Yesterday I was more productive though. I made pumpkin muffins, tidied up some gathering piles of clutter (looking for keys), did my mending while watching tv, played with the kids, bathed the kids (especially after Big Girl used her markers to make her brother's face and arms look more 'cool' and then he went and stuck his foot in the toilet water), and helped do bills/rebates. That's a good thing.

But, now it's time to leave the house to drop children off and I have my grocery and errand list made. Things are looking up.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Stuck at home frustrations

I don't know what's up with me. This isn't the first day I've spent at home with the kids. Maybe it's the fact that I'm stuck here with a dead car battery and missing keys. I feel panicky. I hadn't realized how much clutter we have been amassing since our last freecycle donation go round.

Doesn't help that hubby brought up all of our old baby gear (swing, exersaucer, bouncer, etc) after he took the Christmas decorations downstairs. Yes, it is time to get rid of them but the previously empty space if filled with never to be used by us again remnants of our children's previous infancy.

So, I freecycle listed the stuff that we researched and found we couldn't sell well on Craigslist. That should get rid of half of it.
I also listed up extra throws that we were storing that never get used. Seems like someone gives me a throw for a gift every year. Unwanted Christmas decor and two outgrown jackets of Big Girls are one their way out too.

I guess I'm never going to have the patience to save for a garage sale. Oh well.
It's not finding my keys but it's doing something productive.

Oh, someone just emailed me about the baby stuff for a low income woman's group. Yay!

Double Whammy no spend day

Well, I had planned on taking the kids to the library for storytime and then running to the grocery store for produce, bread and milk.

But, I seem to have misplaced my keys. And I only have one key to my Pilot since it's one of those clicker things and I have to have another made at a dealership. Now it's apparent to me that not getting another key yet made was not a good idea. This is one instance where being frugal was a bad idea.

Add that to the fact that the Pilot has the annoying habit of not turning off the inside lights after a while so it runs the battery down. I have called AAA at least three times to come and jumpstart my car because someone (most of the time Big Girl) pressed a light on and left it on after we exited the car. Last night the culprit was me.

I guess I'm supposed to stay home today. I'll just have to make do with powdered milk today.

I even asked the 2 year old if he had my keys. You never know.. he might have delivered.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

The Parenting Files: Too Much of a Good Thing

You know it's time to make the pacifiers disappear when one isn't doing the job.

**I just noticed the dirt behind my back door. Ignore it if you can. I've tried everything but Scrubbing Bubbles which are supposed to work wonders on nasty stained linoleum floors. That's next.**

What's For Dinner: Experimental Vietnamese Tofu Dinner

Yesterday I had planned on making a Vietnamesy stir-fry with some tofu and cabbage but the day didn't go as planned. Instead I ordered in Pizza Hut- it was one of those days. Around here (and probably in many homes with small children) the hours between 4-6 pm are known as 'crappy hour'. You know... when the kids are climbing the walls, you're tearing your hair out and you're lucky to get dinner on the table. Big Girl briefly suggested that we eat my homemade granola for dinner and I almost took her up on it. In hindsight it would have been a lot cheaper than Pizza Hut but I'm trying to conserve milk so I don't have to run to the grocery store until tomorrow.

Anyway, the forlorn chopped and ready tofu and cabbage got tossed into the crock pot this afternoon on top of a pile of rice, carrots, seasonings (bouillon, cilantro, salt, pepper, sesame oil, soy sauce, lime juice, and ginger). and water. I'm hoping it comes out okay but if not I'll pull out some of our extra pizza leftovers.

** update- Well, this wasn't a hit and not a complete miss. We did get a meal out of it but Hubby begrudlingly choked it down and begged me not to make him take it for lunches. The cabbage and rice came out too mushy. Oh, well, now I know.**

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Make it yourself: Detergent and Granola

We eat a lot of cereal here during the week and my stockpile is starting to wear thin. I have enough ingredients in my cabinet to make this recipe.
I don't know if the Little Guy will like it as much as he likes fake cheerios but we're going to see.

Also, I am about prepared to make my first venture into making my own laundry detergent. I am on my last box of sale detergent. After that it's find another sale or use up those samples I hoard for using on vacation. I have pink zote in my cabinet and I've been itching to try it.

I'd better go tackle the granola while the the little one is napping.

Here's the finished product. I gave Little Guy a raisin and he promptly spit it out on the floor. Oh well. Maybe I'll get to enjoy my homemade granola and he can keep on eating those Trader Joe's and Aldi's cheerios.

Monday, January 7, 2008

A Return to Coupons

Lately I have not felt like clipping, sorting, organizing or using coupons. Call it laziness or whatever but since I don't normally buy name brand products anyway it just hasn't seemed worth it to me.

That was until this weeks coupon bonanza in the paper anyway.

Wal-Mart has the electrasol gel packs and tabs on sale for 2.66 a box for 20 in my area. I used the 2.25 coupon and spent .41 cents for a box of 20 tabs. That takes the cost from .13 cents a load to .02 cents a load.

I also used the $1.00 Johnson & Johnson coupon and got a free bar of soap for my kids. I may have to rethink my previous ideas about couponing.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Coupons Galore today

If you don't take the paper but use coupons today might be a good day to buy one. There were five coupon inserts in my paper today. The best coupon I found was for $2.25 off Eletrasol tabs/gel packs.

Friday, January 4, 2008

A healthier start

Well, it's the New Year and I guess it's that time when everyone starts to reassess their diets and health anyway. For me it's just that the tin of holiday fudge is almost empty and I want to jumpstart our grocery budget by forgoing junk food.

Two of my favorite bloggers Bye, Bye, Pie! (formerly of Bye,Bye,Buy) and Vegan Ruthie have inspired me to re-think my previous purchasing decisions in the grocery store. Vegan Ruthie has been showcasing her lunch packing talents lately and I'm jealous.
So, today with a planned trip to the regular grocery store to fill my prescription I stalked the aisles in search of healthier alternatives to snacks. I also perused the produce aisle in search of healthy new fruits and veggies for my family.
It was interesting but I see why people say buying health food (especially organically) is too expensive. I ended up buying fresh asparagus, a head of green cabbage, a bag of organic apples, an organic avocado, and a carton of organic grape tomatoes. For the snack I bought some cucumber dill dairy spread, roasted soy nuts, whole wheat crackers, and low fat soy milk. I don't drink milk. Before kids my husband and I used rice milk for cereal and cooking. But, I need something for myself to make a low-fat smoothie or to put in my coffee. I also need to bulk up my protein because the bulk of my diet is from junky carbs and I just don't feel all the good because of it. I also bought the requisite veggie sausages and 'meat' supplies. I'd like to try my hand and making my own vegetarian 'meat' products though to reduce sodium and cost. Vegan Ruthie, any pointers or recipes for me?

There was nothing new or unusual about the stuff I bought. I didn't go out on a limb to try something new (although the artichokes were tempting. Is 2.00 a good price for an artichoke? I doubt it.). I am not sure what to do with the cabbage. I think I'll shred half of it and make some Asian style dressing for it. The rest I'll probably chunk and put in a pot of soup.
The asparagus will be washed, tossed with salt, pepper and olive oil and roasted for about 20 minutes at 350 degrees. I'm not a big fan of Rachel Ray, but, YUMMO. This was one of her recipe ideas and boy howdy it sure is a great way to get my hubby and Big Girl to eat asparagus.

It's a start anyway.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Birthday Party dilemna

Big Girl talked me into another big birthday party this year even though I told myself I wouldn't do it like that two years in a row. She requested the same party as last year. I gave in because the idea of planning a birthday party for 38 people at my house the week before we have house guests and leave on a week long overseas trip gives me hives. She also has to share the birthday party with her little brother who turns 2 a week after her birthday.

The party is only for twenty people- 10 kids/10 adults. There are 13 children in her preschool class and we have another two or three families to invite. And grandparents if they want to come. There is an additional charge for each person over that 20 mark.
I don't want to risk offending any of the preschoolers by not inviting them. I don't want to leave our family friends out either. What to do? Suck it up and pay for it? Limit the number and risk offending someone?

Even with the added charges if everyone comes that we invite it's still cheaper than the other two birthday party options outside of my own house. Plus, all I have to do is supply a cake, candle, and a serving knife.

I unsure I'll attempt decorating my own cake. I might go with the giant Costco sheet cake like we did last year. Goody bags will be simple affairs with a water squish ball (ordered in bulk), clearance candy, and maybe a few other toys. Since it's a swimming party the only activity I'm bringing is pin the tail on the donkey.

It feels like I'm giving up on any frugal/creative ways to celebrate their birthdays but someday I hope to achieve the $25 Dacyczyn birthday blow out with a homemade birthday cake but- not this year.

Happy 2008 and a lack of resolutions

After years of setting New Years resolutions and then giving up on them within days I've decided I'm not doing it this year.

Oh, I mulled over an ever growing list of things I'd like to try- flossing every day, keeping the house clean and organized, weight loss, cash envelope system, and a complete spending halt on anything we already had on hand (no stock up buying).
But, the more I thought of all the things I wanted to do the more I got overwhelmed.

I need to start small so I'm picking one thing I think I can manage. I'm not spending another penny on personal care products until I am absolutely out of a thing I need (like shampoo or soap). We have such a stockpile of hotel soap, shampoo samples, lotions and potions that I could probably go a year without buying anything. So, that's what I'm going to try. That plus it helps out with getting rid of the clutter in my master bathroom.

I'd also like to finally hang curtains in all the bedrooms, put up the pictures that are still in the closet wrapped in the moving companies paper. In essence I'd like to make our house more homey.