Friday, August 29, 2008

Rebate Freebies for kids.

Ah, the house smells so good with the smell of fresh bread. Here's some freebies for the kids in your life.

Sunmaid Raisins is giving away A Blue's Clues Healthy Snack book with the purchase of mini raisins. I paid $1.33 for a bag at Wal-Mart. You need the receipt, the UPC, and the printed form.

Voila freezer meals is giving away a choice of Charlie Brown dvds with the purchase of three bags of their product. I think these were around $4.00 a bag at Wal-Mart. You need the 3 UPC codes and the printed form.

Cleaning? Nah. Let's Cook.

Well, I was supposed to be getting out the dishrag and the mop but- cooking is good too right?

In under an hour I assembled:

Grape Kool-aid popsicles
Banana Blueberry Bread (I used Aldi's Morning Gold mix recipe- added blueberries and wheat germ and substituted soy flour for one egg as I'm running low on eggs.)
Vegetarian Beef Stew (carrots, potatoes, onion, celery, two packs of Boca crumble, water, and veg. gravy mix)
Honey Oat Bread (This recipe is all kinds of good. I add a cup of wheat flour and 1/2 tbsp. of wheat gluten.)

This time was well spent because now we won't have an excuse to order in and breakfast is already half done. I also cleaned out the crisper and vegetable bin just in time to rescue some potatoes, onion and celery before they rotted.

The toddler is requesting juice. He loves the Northland Cranberry mix that I picked up for .99 cents at the Salvage Store. Good thing since we're all out of OJ concentrate.
I must go to the grocery store sometime soon. We're even out of bread flour.

Practicing What I Preach.

A Clean House Is A Happy House. A Happy House Saves Me $$$$.

Little Guy and I are just now getting over yucky colds. For the last week I've let the house go except for keeping up with the dishes and the laundry. And it's no wonder that I dislike being home when my home is not welcoming. So, you know what I've been doing? Shopping.
Walgreens, Goodwill, Save-A-Lot, Aldi, and Deals have all seen my not so smiling face and my credit cards this week.
I need to stay home and give my wallet (and my hubby) a break. Guess what I'm doing for the next few days? Cleaning my house and saving my money.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

When you need to be frugal.

Wondering if you need to be frugal?

Do you have credit cards that don't get paid off every month?
Do you have unpaid student loans?
Do you have to make car payments every month?
If you missed more than one paycheck would you be in serious trouble?
Do you have three months worth of expenses saved up in case of an emergency?
Do you have a mortgage?

These days people think it's no big deal to have credit card balances and car payments. Student loans and mortgages are looked as as safe nuisances that everyone must endure. Being free of all debt is a dream that seems unreachable and practicing frugality seems like an exercise in pure boredom and drudgery.
Being free of debt is only unreachable if you think it is.

As I write this, I am not yet debt free. But, my husband and I are working on it and we have a plan. We have two decent paid off cars, credit cards that get paid off every month, and no loans except for a mortgage which we are working on whittling down. And we are a one income family.

We started our life together about $30 G in debt. I had student loans and credit card debt. He had a lot of credit card debt. Our first priority was paying off those loans before we bought a house, a nice car or started a family. We both worked full time and sent any extra money we had to our debts. Eventually we were debt free and we started to save for a home. We bought a tiny starter home, saved some money, and I was able to quit my job to have children because we could afford our lifestyle on my husband's income.
How did we do this?
By putting paying our debts and bills as a priority. We wanted those gone before we could start our adult lives.
We got by with doing little things like hanging laundry to dry, cooking at home, doing without cable tv, using the library, using coupons, planting a vegetable garden, shopping sales, buying second hand, shopping the clearance rack, not buying new furniture, going to garage sales, picking up curb side treasures, not buying new cars.
We still went on vacations. We still had some new clothes. We still ate out (sharing entrees and salads and drinking water). We still gave nice presents. We still went to movies (the matinee and shared a small popcorn). We never felt poor. We never live beyond our means.

So, how do you know if you need to be frugal? If you think you need more money you need to be frugal. If you have any kind of debt you need to be frugal. If you worry about how to pay your bills you need to be frugal.

So, how do you go about it. There are a thousand different websites and books that I could point you to. I could tell you a hundred tips on how to save money. If you make it a priority then you will gain the knowledge that you want. If you make having extra money and being debt free a priority you can make it happen.

Everyone loves the The Complete Tightwad Gazette for a reason. You could start there. Or you might prefer Dave Ramsey.
Don't go out and buy these. Use or get a library card.

There are all types of frugal lifestyles and you don't have to give up everything you love to make it work for you. But, you should try to make it work.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Using the recycling bin for art supplies

We have paints, crayons, markers, all kinds of scissors, hole punches, stickers, beads, ribbons, glue, tape, glitter, and paper galore.

What do my children want to play with?

Water and everything from the recycling bin. As soon as I wash something and put it in the recycling bin, I turn around and it's being carted away to the bathroom to test it's tensile strength and buoyancy. It's cheap entertainment and perhaps (it's a stretch, I know) some scientific knowledge is being gleaned. But, I'm getting really tired of cleaning up leaking milk jugs partially filled with paint colored water and water sogged toilet paper tubes.

I know in the future, maybe as I'm helping to pack them for college, I'll be wishing that they were still gleefully flushing the toilet over and over (Little Guy) or hunting pet rolly pollies under every rock in the back yard (Big Girl).

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

You know it's a frugal food week when-

The rice cooker, bread maker, popcicle molds, muffin tin, and crock pot are all dirty.

The dishwasher is filled and washing away. Btw, I like Aldi's Reeva dishwasher powder better than Eltrasol tablets.

As for dinner:
I just did a quick fridge clean out and assessment and we're having a mix of leftover seasoned rice with veggie crumbles, thawed black beans from the freezer, a handful of onion, and four cut up veggie dogs. I'll top it it some cheese and breadcrumbs and call it a casserole. I'll mix up some Gladiola corn bread mix that I bought for a quarter at the salvage grocery.

Too Early to Christmas Shop?

Not for me.

Etoys has free shipping if you spend $68 dollars on select items. They have a lot of sales on Groovy Girls, dress up clothes, Thomas the Train toys, etc. I finished my Christmas shopping for my children and nieces this morning. Now I just have to wait to have it delivered.

I do love Christmas but one thing I can't stand is commercialism and the crowded stores. This just makes it a little easier.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Frugal Upstate: Best of: All Day Mac 'n Cheese Recipe (Crockpot)

This is what I've got in the crock pot right now. A side of veggies and dinner is done! How easy is that?

Frugal Upstate: Best of: All Day Mac 'n Cheese Recipe (Crockpot)

Friday, August 22, 2008

Flying Away....

Remember those caterpillars I blogged about? One hatched today into a beautiful girl Monarch.

Big Girl tearfully let it go amid echinacea blooms and we watched it fly for the first time.


This is number two that hatched this morning. This one is a boy. He has spots on his hindwings.

Ways to Use up Rice

Got leftover rice? Great.

You can make breakfast-



Hot Rice Cereal- Cover leftover rice with milk. Heat until a low bubble. Add sugar, cinnamon, butter, raisins, peanut butter. Whatever you like in your malt-o-meal. Top with fruit (or not) and serve.


Scrambled Eggs with rice. Make scrambled eggs (one per person)- Salt and pepper to taste. Stir in some butter or margarine to the eggs, Add cold rice and stir together until heated. Top with soy sauce.



Clean out the crisper and make a stir fry. Serve on top of heated rice.

Cook some meat, tofu, meat substitute. Add gravy and serve on rice with a side of steamed veggies.

Soup- Clean out the crisper and make some soup with stock or bouillon. Add rice to thicken.

Quiche- Make a crust of two cups of rice, one beaten egg, and one tablespoon of grated parmesan. Press into a greased 9 inch pan. Bake the crust for three minutes at 400 degrees.
Fill with your favorite quiche ingredients. The Tightwad Gazette Universal Quiche is a great guide for ideas.

Indian Rice Pudding (kheer)

Add a cup and a half of basmati rice to two cups of whole milk. Let it come to a boil, stirring frequently. Add half a cup of coconut milk (I buy dehydrated and add water). Add half cup of sugar, a handful of raisins, 1/4 tsp. of ground cardamom, 1/4 cup of chopped pistachios. Simmer until thickened.

Any other ideas that I missed? Please comment.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Walgreens Coupon

Here's a printable Walgreens coupon for $5 off of $20.
You have to spend $20 after coupons and you can't use it on prescriptions. It's good only Friday and Saturday.

Free Bundinos rebate/coupon

I just got turned onto All You magazine by other frugalistas in blogland. This magazine is full of coupons.

There is a .50 cent coupon for Bundinos filled rolls. If you go here you can download a rebate form

DIY Cravings

Hubby and I love Indian food. I'm really craving it today and first thought I'd talk him into a trip to our favorite Indian restaurant for dinner.

Nah- I've got Naan mix and basmati in the pantry, a fridge full of food, and a pantry full of spices.

This green bean recipe looks promising. I have tofu and an abundance of tomatoes for this paneer hack. And for dessert- Rice Pudding.
And no need to go grocery shopping either.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Not Frugal But a Worthy Splurge

I love candles.

Amy's Country Candles makes my favorite candle ever - Vanilla Sugar Cookie. I found them while visiting Louisiana's Laura Plantation gift shop in 2001.

The smell is intoxicating without being overwhelming. The candles last a long time too.

Free Coupons and Samples in your mailbox

Can you tell I've been on a freebie, rebate, and sample kick lately?

I joined Vocal Point awhile ago and since then I've gotten a nice little stack of great coupons and a few great samples. If you have a minute to sign up it's definitely worth the time.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Clean the Free Way.

Get a bottle of Arm and Hammer Essentials cleaner free after rebate.

Try Arm and Hammer Plus Oxiclean detergent free after rebate. Click by the Love it or Your Money Back button. has a free roll of Scott toilet paper.

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Parenting Files: First Day of Kindergarten

I wasn't the only parent with a few tears in my eyes as I said goodbye to my Big Girl this morning.

Sigh. Has it really been five years since I brought a wriggling, crying baby girl home for the first time? Has it been two years since I dropped her off for her first day of preschool and she clung to my leg and cried? Today she didn't even look up when I waved goodbye. Sniff. I'm so proud, sad, happy....

Well, it's not Thomas the Train but it will do...

We've been looking for a used train table for months and even considered making our own from lumber purchased from Lowes.
Today I found this low coffee table at Goodwill for 20% off. It's acquired a used patina (ok, a lot of scratches and some sticker goo) but for $28 it's a solid wood table (with a drawer for train storage) that fits the bill for us.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Contemplating the Job Loss Scenario.

I've taken to looking at our shopping receipts and scanning them to see what I would have skipped if we were on a survival budget. Luckily, Hubby's job still seems firmly in place. In this shaky economy it couldn't hurt to at least contemplate a make-do budget. While we're already quite a bit pinchier with our money than most of our friends, we still leak money in silly ways. I spend too much money on snacks, prepared convenience foods, and take out. We could easily cut that out and save at least a quarter to a third of our grocery money.

If my husband lost his job tomorrow there are a list of things that I would do to save money.

The air conditioning would be set at 80 or higher if not turned off altogether.
DTV, Netflix and Tivo would be history.
Air dry all clothing and wash everything in cold.
Cloth diapers again.
Entertainment budget would be $20-$0. Library books and movies here we come. Family walks around the neighborhood every night would do nicely.
Trips to the store would be only out of necessity (with heavy planning and a list) to save money on gas.
Groceries would be absolute essentials like flour, produce, beans, and rice. Scratch cooking would be the norm rather than an occasional frugal treat. Little Guy would have to learn to like legumes.
Items earmarked for Ebay or Craigslist would be put up post haste.
No more leisurely trips to Goodwill for entertainment- all trips would have to be necessitated by holiday gift purchasing and needed items.
Gift purchasing would be greatly diminished and probably eliminated for everyone other than my children... baked treats would suffice for everyone else.
Extra curricular classes for kids would be eliminated and replaced by playdates with neighborhood kids and trips to the walking distance playground.
DIY house repairs and projects.
Planning for next years garden expansion would be in the works.
Recycling and trash would absolutely have no useful life left after surveyed for another use.
Reconsider a downsizing move to a smaller, cheaper house.

What we would keep-
Our internet service. We use it for everything.. and it would be a great help for Hubby (and myself) in a job search.
Our cars- they are paid for.
Health Care.

We've done quite a bit of pinching in our pre-children, two income days when there was a lot of school and credit card debt to pay. I'm no stranger to hanging laundry, making my own cleaning supplies, and stretching our belongings to the max. While I don't imagine that I would enjoy the stress of wondering how to pay our mortgage and feed our kids from month to month, I don't envision eating beans by candlelight as a hardship and something to be endured. In fact, it seems kind of nice and something to consider once again.

Like free magazines and samples?

Start Sampling keeps me supplied with free magazine trials and samples.
You can pick one every twenty four hours. Today I selected Town and Country magazine.

To Wal-Mart or not to Wal-Mart? That is the question.

Our Wal-Mart is being super sized. It's taken months and it's almost finished.

There is a certain joy for me in being able to do one stop shopping. I love that I'll be able to run in and buy tube socks and veggie sausage at one store.
But, every time I go to a Wal-Mart and deal with the grumpy crush of humanity and grouchy (understandably so) cashiers, I just feel like it's not worth it.

I think I do better bargain hunting at the regular grocery store anyway with less temptation. Minuscule price rollbacks (with often shoddy made in China merchandise) are less and less appealing when I can buy better quality at Goodwill and yard sales.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


Grandma sent two monarch caterpillars home with us last week. They've spent the last few days scarfing down milk weed and then finally crawling to the top of their tank to hang upside down in preparation for the changes to come.

This morning Big Girl and I watched in awe as one of them shed it's skin and wriggled into a chrysalis. The other is soon to follow.

Nature is so cool!

Monday, August 11, 2008

What's for dinner: Grandma's Garden Groceries & Frugal Monday

This week we are blessed with an abundance of garden fresh corn, tomatoes, peppers, and peaches from my in-laws garden.

Tonight we're having corn on the cob, tomato slices, 'meat'loaf from the freezer, fresh honey oat bread, and a peach crisp.
Anyone have any ideas on how to easily freeze or cook tomatoes to use in sauces for pizza, spaghetti or lasagna? My canning skills and supplies are nil.

Here's an interesting video clip on saving money at the grocery store.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Just More DeCluttering and Simplifying Thoughts

A load of toys, baby items, and boy clothes were donated yesterday leaving me with perhaps a handful of things to clear out of Big Girl's room. The house is becoming more and more manageable and easier to clean. And I don't miss one thing that I've sent on to others.
Instead, I'm ready to get to the next phase of my life where I start living in the house I want and using the things I have rather than letting the things I have use me.

Today we're returning a pair of jeans I bought at Gordman's. They were on clearance for $20 and I fell for them since they were very plain jeans. No rips, bleach spills, zippers, or anything else that's so popular now. The last thing a plus size woman needs are extra embellishments on her backside or thighs. I should have tried them on in the store. When I do try clothes on I invariably put 80% of it back because I don't like the fit. Doing that would have saved me time and effort in a return trip to the store. But since the jeans don't fit right (and I did briefly consider trying to shrink and hem them- bah!) we have to make a special trip. A ten minute visit to the dressing room would have saved me time and money. Next time.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Dollar Store Decor

I stopped by Dollar General to fill some bags (using coupons) for the pantry donation I was making today. They had 70% off clearance and I picked up two metal wall hangings for my sparsely decorated living room for $2.40 apiece.

I hung them myself which you might not know is a big deal for me. I'm nervous about any home decoration undertaking that includes making permanent holes in the wall. This explains why we still have hideous mauve shades and country blue valances in our downstairs. But, since we've decided to stay here and not downscale, I'm determined to make this house a home my family and I enjoy.

I have a stash of curtains waiting to be hung. I've been reading The Nesting Place blog for inspiration and courage. I have no hopes of impressing anyone with my techniques- nor do I care if I do. However, I feel a strange sense of elation at making this place my own. Yes, even after two years- I still look around my house and don't feel like I really live here. It's high time that changed.

Frugality Finds a Way- Decorating on the Cheap

I had an extra hour to myself yesterday so once again I found myself strolling the clearance decor section of Gordman's. Two large black matching frames caught my eye. The matting provided several spaces for a selection of pictures. I could have a family picture collage finally. The price was right- $3 and $2 each. The only drawback was that the matting had "Graduation 2008" in black on each. I put them back with a sigh and then I realized that I could just flip the matting over. Voila! Problem solved. Money Saved.
They are now filled with our family memories and smiling children's faces.

Still having camera issues. Sorry for the lack of a photo.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Giving Thanks and Counting Blessings.

My mind has returned to thinking frugally after a month or so of distraction. These last few weeks (well, two until school starts) have me pondering how to suck the last little bits of joy out of summer.
My favorite frugal things in summer:

Hanging laundry to dry
Garden fresh tomatoes
Buttery corn on the cob
Sun Tea
Catching Lightening Bugs
Bubbles and Sidewalk Chalk
Shady playgrounds
Kool Aid popsicles
Goodwill sundresses


I took a load of (free with coupon) cat food to the food pantry this morning. I took a spin around their thrift store and was amazed at how low their prices were. I bought .50 cent Carters shirts, and like new OshKosh overalls for $1.00. I bought myself a new Liz Claiborne purse for $1.
It puts the Goodwill pricing to shame. But, the pickings were slim as it's back to school time and a lot of people get their items for reduced cost or free when they can't afford them otherwise. It's a great charity and I wished I had brought more to donate as the need seemed great.
So, after I left I went to the discount grocery store- I needed to go anyway. And the sticker shock hit again. I didn't buy as much as I intended too because the prices of previously cheap foods have risen so much (generic mac and cheese is now .35). But, I did fill two bags and plan on delivering them tomorrow with some outgrown toys and kids clothes. It looked like they needed them.

How glad and blessed am I that my husband's job provides for us well and I am able to do a small part to help others. I think often of how the poor economy affects those who were just scratching to get by before the prices starting going up. How much worse can it get? It makes me nervous.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Inspiration is just a link away

Rat Race Remedies has a whole series of printable articles on saving money for your perusal.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

A clear floor- a relieved woman

We just loaded up my cousin's trailer with so much baby stuff.

Three highchairs
an infant car seat
a bag of clothing
a diaper bag filled with accessories
Matching Noah's Ark crib set, lamp, and unused border
An exersaucer
A infant toy car
A Sparkling Symphony Toy
A Tiny Love play mat
Our old crib and mattress
A bag of extra crib pad and sheets.
A Boppy and cover

Most of my sadness is gone in favor of a huge sigh of relief that we no longer have to store this stuff. It's also a relief that almost all of the stuff we gave away was bought secondhand or given to us.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Out with the old- Out with the old

I'm still on the decluttering topic.

Last night we moved Little Guy (who's 2 1/2 and not so little anymore) into a big bed. This weekend my cousin is coming to pick up his crib and other accessories for her own baby. This morning I dropped off a nursing pillow and a small box of baby girl clothes to my hair dresser who's getting a Granddaughter in a month.

At first thinking of getting rid of so many items that hold such joyful and hope-filled memories was very hard. I kept a few things. The rest need to leave my house so I can make room for new memories with our kids. Our baby days might be behind us but we still have years of childhood to look forward to.
That plus, it's less stuff in our way.