Little girl’s embellished Tshirt

I love crafting.

And food.

And catching up with good friends.

So ladies craft night is the perfect Saturday night if you ask me! This weekend I hosted my 3rd craft night in my home and we had a great time! All 9 of us got our creativity on and worked on all sorts of things from scrapbooking to wreaths to embroidery.

I didn’t take pictures of us busily chatting working away, but I do have a picture of my final project. My youngest daughter needed something to wear to Valentines Day..she is a big preschooler, now ya know! And I happened to find this adorable idea over at http://www.somewhatsimple.com/all-you-need-is-love-skirt/   I used the idea on a plain tee and used different colors. I printed off letters in a cute “kiddish” font onto paper, cut them out, traced them onto felt scraps, and hand stitched them onto the tee. For the “o”, I used some leftover sparkly denim fabric from my older daugher’s jeans that I hemmed last month.

*Sidenote: Why are pants so ridiculously long anyhow?? I cut off 5 3/4 inches off each leg! But I kept the hem cause it was cute material.

My cost for this project was just $3.99 for the tee…and only because I didn’t use a 40% off coupon at Michaels. But you could do it for much cheaper if you already have a plain tee sitting around or can find a cheaper one.

So now my cute little Valentine has a new adorable tee for Valentine’s, or any day really!

 

 

 

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Saving money doing laundry

Today I was in the kitchen making lunch and my 3 year old (who loves to be involved in anything I’m doing in the kitchen) saw the cheese grater in the drawer, and said “Time to make soap mommy!”

Now, for many households I realize this would sound very odd, but not in ours! Because she knows my thrifty ways and my oh-so-fabulous laundry soap recipe. If you aren’t making your own, and I haven’t enticed you enough, read on…

One of the topics of last year’s MOPS meetings was homemade stuff. And one of the women shared her recipe for homemade laundry detergent. There is a liquid and a powder version. You may have seen the Duggars’ liquid method, and I know many people make it this way. But the powder version is wayyy easier, and honestly I would have never tried the liquid version since it seems too time consuming for me. But if I can put 3 ingredients into a bowl, and mix, you can too!

All you need is 1 box 20 Mule Team Borax (76oz), 1 box Arm & Hammer Washing Soda (55oz) (NOT baking soda), and 1 bar of soap (Fels Naptha is the most preferred). All of these can be found in the laundry aisle of your local store. Fels is actually an old-fashioned laundry soap which is great for stain-fighting; you can even rub it directly onto stains.

 

Step #1: First, you grab that cheese grater and grate the bar of soap. I’ve heard most people use Fels Naptha, but you can also use others, such as Zotes (found at Home Depot) or Ivory. I was using Fels Naptha for months, but decided this time to try Dove because that is the brand that a dermatoloist recommended for my daughters’ eczema. I figure if its gentle and safe enough for their baths, it’s got to be the best for cleaning their clothes, especially in this cold dry winter season.

Now, this is the most tedious step, so be sure to enlist a little helper (or however many you have!) Can you tell she loves to do this? She does! She really can’t grate it with her little hands, but she sure thinks she’s helping!

In this picture my little helper is holding a bar of Fels Naptha.

The picture below shows what the Fels looks like vs. the Dove, once they are grated. The Dove grates much more fluffier, almost like snow. But they both dissolve great in the washer.

Step #2: Add 1 cup borax

Step #3: Add 1 cup Washing Soda

Step #4: Mix all 3 (grated soap of your choice, borax, and washing soda) in large bowl and store in an airtight container.

Just add 1-2tbsp per load. For front-loading machines, place directly into the machine, not into the dispenser cup.

Your laundry will be soft, clean, and odorless. It might take awhile to get used to if you’re used to that fresh downy smell. But we had to switch to sensitive soaps/softeners because of our girls’ sensitive skin so we have to do without that nice fresh scent anyway. But if you really want that fresh scent you can add oil, which I believe can be found in the laundry aisle as well. Also if you have really messy kids (who doesn’t?!) you can add a scoop of oxyclean powder to your mix. I usually use the spot spray for stains and that works great.

If you’re still not convinced, here is the price breakdown:

1 box Borax…$3.38

1 box Washing Soda…$3.24

1 bar soap…$1.00

I have not figured the math myself because you still have plenty of borax and baking soda left for future batches, but according to my trusty MOPS friends, the breakdown comes to just PENNIES per load!!

If you read my blog last week on homemade dishwasher detergent, then you read that white vinegar can be used as a rinse agent. Well, it works the same for laundry! As soon as I read that it can be used in place of softener, I gave it a try. And it works great!  Just fill up your softener compartment (or even use it in your downy ball) with plain white vinegar and run your load.  It acts as double duty because it is a natural cleaner for your washer…bonus! Your clothes will not have any trace of vinegar smell, I promise!! Even on just 1 rinse cycle. I do have a bounce dryer bar in my dryer that helps soften too, but I am saving $$ by skipping out on dryer sheets.

Give it a try!

 

 

Couponing

If you have seen the hit show “Extreme Couponing”, then you have seen how much money the right coupons can save you. No, I am NOT an extreme couponer, but I have been using coupons and store reward programs for about 2 years now. I have saved roughly $1,000/year by buying the right products at the right time using the right coupons. I have done this by buying 1-2 Sunday papers each week and by taking advantage of Walgreen’s Register Reward (RR) program and CVS’s Extra Care Bucks (ECB) program. It does not take much time because I just file the coupon inserts away in order by date and only clip them as I need them. Every week I match coupons with sale prices and also store program specials. I do not go to each store every week because I check out the deals at home first and if there’s nothing that I need or use, then I wait for the following week. Some months I go to each store every week; other months I might not go to either store for a few weeks. It just depends on what the sales are. And, yes, I only buy when things are on sale, unless absolutely necessary.

This is my coupon insert stash from the Sunday papers; it is just a greeting card organizer but you could use a folder or a binder or whatever you have on hand.

I also use a larger binder for those “extra” coupons such as store coupons that print at the register, coupons that I’ve already clipped but haven’t used, coupons that come inside product packaging, and coupons that come via mail (there are all sorts of free samples that are available from product websites/Facebook pages that you can request and have sent to you). I organize these by category using those clear baseball card pages.


By doing this, I have built up a supply of all of our toiletries so that we rarely run out of something. Throughout the year, body wash, shampoo, deodorant, dental care, and skin care is on sale often! And most of these items are easily gotten for free (after using coupons). Since so many people are familiar with the use of coupons nowadays, I won’t bore you with the details of the store programs or how to use the coupons, but they are incredibly valuable!

My first year of couponing I had a lot to learn but I was able to stock up on a lot of toiletries. In fact, after the Joplin tornado, I was able to donate about $100 worth of items to that area! And there are always places to donate your extra stockpile to; local hope centers, shelters, etc. You can stockpile as much or as little as you want. Mine covers 3 large shelves and is just enough for our family. Like I said, I buy 1-2 Sunday papers each week, check out the weekly deals, and grab those deals IF they are used by our family. That’s it, I don’t make multiple trips to the same store, or spend all my gas driving around town to clear the shelves. The best way to get started is to start small.

Couponing also trains you to think outside the box. I recently ran out of Softsoap hand soap. But I saw that there was a great deal on Suave body wash last week. So I decided why not use body wash as hand soap? Both of my stores had deals on Suave the same week (not uncommon). So at CVS, the sale was 3 bottles (12oz size) for $5, which makes them $1.67 each. And for those of you who aren’t familiar with this type of sale, you don’t have to buy 3 items when the sale is 3/$5; even if you buy just 1 item it will be $1.67. But since I also had a “Buy 2 Get 1 Free” coupon, I did buy 3. So I was able to get 3 body washes for $1.11 each. Walgreens, on the other hand, was offering $3 in Register Rewards (which is basically store credit) once you spend $10 on Suave products. So I used another “Buy 2 Get 1 Free” body wash coupon and also 2 Suave deodorants (using coupons on those too) in order to get my total up to $10. So after the $3 RR, I snagged 3 body washes and 2 deodorants for 80 cents each.

During the holidays, I didn’t get to the stores as often and my stockpile was becoming disorganized. So I recently rearranged and took “inventory” so that I can easily check and see what I’m running low on. Again, if you’ve seen the extreme couponing show, then you’ve seen these people’s stockpile rooms/closets/garages. I just don’t have that extra space so you won’t believe where I chose to store my mini stockpile…

Yep, it’s a shower! This shower is very tiny. It’s in our master bath (also tiny) and we weren’t using it. Also most of the items are bathroom-related, sooooooo yep that’s where it is! I found some shelving that fit perfectly and voila! I am too cheap thrifty to spend a lot of money on clear bins for everything so I use empty boxes of all shapes and sizes to put everything in. Might not be as pretty, but it’s still practical and serves its purpose. I did have to remove the shower doors simply for the purpose of this picture, but I can put them right back on and close the doors and it looks like a completely normal bathroom. Well it IS a completely normal bathroom…with a secret hidden stockpile of a thrifty mom!

So there you have it…my mini stockpile!

Couponing has so many benefits besides saving money. Since it requires a little bit of planning ahead for your trips to the store, it helps you to be prepared so that you avoid those unexpected trips. It teaches your kids the value of money; my kids know that if we’re at the store, don’t even ask for it unless we have a coupon! My 3 year old has been shopping with me so much that one day while we were at my in-laws, she grabbed her little purse, slung it over her shoulder, and announced “I’m going to Walgreens!” 🙂

Even my husband has learned the value of couponing. He’s not pro (yet) but he has been to the store with a few coupons to see what deals he can grab. I also showed him how to use a coupon database. Many coupon websites have this feature. It’s great because if you’re in need of an item, you simply type in the name into the search box an it gives you a list of possible coupons available, both from Sunday papers and printable ones from online. So even if you do need to make one of those unexpected trips, you can still quickly find a coupon for what you need. Usually there is a link to the product’s website and you can print one from there. Since I live near St Louis, I usually go to http://www.savingmoneyinmissouri.com/ or http://stlmommy.com/. But you can always find a great coupon site with store matchups that are suited for your area.

Being crafty (I’m not just thrifty ya know!) I like LOVE to visit Michaels and Hobby Lobby often! Before I go I always go to their website to see what coupons they have available to print. There is usually a 40% off coupon and I usually print 2 and ask for 2 separate transactions at checkout. Hey if I have to drive 30min to the nearest Michaels (or 45min to the nearest Hobby Lobby! no kidding!!) I figure I’m going to make it worth the trip!

I do use coupons for food items too but not as much. That’s another blog for another day…

Saving money doing dishes

No one likes doing dishes…am I right? 

My husband would actually rather vacuum or clean a bathroom before loading or even unloading the dishwasher! But it makes it a little more enjoyable when you know you’re saving a ton of money by doing it your own way. About a year ago, I was looking for a way to save money on everyday household items. And I was having trouble with those convenient little individual dishsoap tablets not releasing all the way during the dishwasher cycle, which would leave a mess in the compartment {not so convenient for me!}. I had also read that the detergent manufacturers had stopped putting phosphates into their formulas because it was not good for the environment. I’m all for that, but why pay a fortune on overpriced cleaning agents if I can make my own using the same ingredients they use? So that’s why I started making my own dishwasher detergent. And I have not been disappointed, in fact, I love it! Since then, I have had several family members ask me about the recipe I use and how to use it.

At first I used a very simple recipe using equal parts borax and baking soda, but we have very very hard water where we live so the dishes were coming out cloudy. Sugarfree lemonade drink mix helps a lot with that. Alternatively, you can use Lemishine which is also shown in the picture. Lemishine can either be added in place of the drink mix, or you can sprinkle a little in the bottom of the dishwasher before you start the cycle.

Here is the price breakdown at my local store:

76oz box of Borax $3.38

55oz box of Arm & Hammer Washing Soda $3.24

Lemonade Drink Mixes (24 packets) $7.92

Epsom Salt $2.86

(Optional – Lemishine $3.66)

The total is only $17.40 and should last a VERY long while!

I used the recipe I found on http://beingcreativetokeepmysanity.blogspot.com/2011/01/dishwasher-detergent.html. 

You  just mix all 4 ingredients into a very large bowl and store in an airtight container. It made about 10cups of powdered detergent and you only need 1-2 tbsp per load. I did actually cut the recipe in half so the picture you see below is only half the recipe.

The mixture may harden after awhile, so you can either stir it frequently or add some rice wrapped in a cheese cloth and place in your container.  

Another thrifty tip: if you have hard water like us and need a rinse agent, white vinegar does the trick for much cheaper than store bought rinse agents! You can just fill up your rinse compartment with it just like you would with Jet Dry. Regardless of the size bottle you buy, vinegar averages to about 6 cents/fill. Jet Dry costs $3.99 per fill! You will not smell vinegar at all during or after the cycle – it is completely rinsed away. Give it a try!

I have also been making my own laundry detergent for awhile now. It has saved me a bundle but I’m ALWAYS looking for ways to save more! So check back later for money saving tips in the laundry room! See ya next time!

Another January Birthday

Yes our family has a few January birthdays, 5, to be exact. But this person is getting spoiled the most…my husband!

He does so much for our little family so he deserves only the best. We went on a fun family outing on Sunday. Then yesterday my girls and I put on our aprons and got to work! Since he is a sports fanatic, I decided to make a football cake. This was actually very simple – no rearranging cake pieces, no fancy decorating tips, only 2 colors of icing and I didn’t even need food coloring since I just needed the basic chocolate and vanilla!

Here is the football cake:

 

And here is a picture of him with our girls; they are so lucky to have him for a Daddy!

 

 

I am trying out a few new recipes this week and so far I’m 2 for 2! Tonight I made Slowcooker Cashew Chicken from  {http://www.365daysofcrockpot.com/2009/12/day-336-cashew-chicken.html} and it was delicious! I will share the others as soon as I try them all out. But tonight’s homemade Chinese was a hit!

Happy Birthday Honey!!

We also celebrated our youngest’s first day of preschool today. She fit right in and did great and told her teacher “I’ll come back tomorrow, okay?” so I think that means she loves it. We’re a little sad now that both girls are at “school” for atleast a couple hours during the day, but it gives me just enough free time to explore more thrifty crafty ideas, and more time to spend on my blog.

Here is a picture of her this morning all ready to go:

Accessorize!

What do you visualize when you’re told to bring an old T-shirt to craft time? Maybe some painting or some stitching? How about a trendy accessory? At my mom’s group (MOPS) this week we made these fun T-shirt scarf/necklaces…not sure exactly what to call them but they were such a hit! We were all told to bring an old T-shirt (or two). Then one of the mentor moms got us started by showing us how and the creativity started flowing! Some of use even started trading color strips to add more variety. It was a lot of fun and easy too. All you have to do is cut the T-shirt (preferably seamless) into horizontal strips from the bottom to the armit. Then pull the strips so they stretch and curl. Then loop and tie! Mine is pink, white and gray and I add the finishing touches at home by adding the rolled fabric flowers that I made from the leftover sleeves. So here’s a shot of my finished product! Whaddya think?

The best part of this craft is that it can’t get much thriftier; it was entirely free!  I guess that would be called a “Repurpose” in the craft world, or maybe a “Refashion”!

Happy Birthday to my Dad!

Happy Birthday to my Dad!
He has the biggest heart of anyone I know and is a wonderful father and grandfather.

I happened to see a recipe recently on Pinterest for almond joy brownie bites (http://www.confessionsofacookbookqueen.com/2011/04/almond-joy-brownie-bites/)

and pinned it. Then I remembered that my Dad loves almond joy bars. So I had to give the recipe a try and they were a huge hit! Since I’m not used to making brownie bites, I didn’t realize how fast they cooked so they were in the oven a tad longer than they should have been. But they are the cutest things ever and a perfect sized snack. I could hardly keep the kids away from them…until I put the coconut on…I don’t know about everyone else’s kids, but mine won’t go near coconut. But they were worth it thanks to a fairly easy, budget-friendly recipe (a total of $7…I already had enough almonds on hand since you only need 1 for each bite). And of course they were fun to make…who doesn’t love dipping things into CHOCOLATE?!

 

Here is a picture of this treat – I am realizing I need to brush up on my photography skills (ok I need to learn a lot) so that I can post great pictures of my products!  I HAD to take a bite so that you could see what makes it so delicious. The best bite is the very center, where you get brownie, coconut, chocolate, and the crunchy almond! As Rachael would say “YUM-O!”

So, Dad, ENJOY!!!

Almond Joy Brownie Bites

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