Back to school bargains

This week while my kids are at vbs, I took advantage of some shopping time sans kids. Hubs decided to go with me. I don’t know why shopping without kids feels like such a vacation, but it IS!! I usually take my school-aged daughter to get her back to school supplies. But this year her supply list was much shorter, and we had a couple items already at home, so I decided she could skip out on this adventure this year.

Here is her list:

Pretty short, right? yay!

I started at Dollar Tree to get things that I knew were not on sale at Target. I got loose leaf paper, baggies, and a plastic shoe box….$4 total!

For everything else, I headed to Target, which seemed to have everything we needed on sale this week. My total…$8.

24 pack pencils…$1.12 each…the $1 ones were already gone:(.

Folders….   .49 each

Spiral Notebooks…   .17 each

3ring binder…$1.79

Glue bottle….    .50

Red pens…$1

I already had Kleenex and crayons.

The only thing I will need to find are a YELLOW notebook and folder. Her teacher has a color system for different subjects. Why, Mrs. Miller did  you have to pick the one color that Target did not have? 🙂 oh well, back to school shopping would have been entirely too easy otherwise. I realize that many classes have much longer lists, but if you can get the most expensive items on your list on sale, you will save a bunch!

So my total for everything was $12. Even after the 2 items I still have to find (darn yellow notebooks), and the lunchbox I picked up for her last week, I will still be under $20. So if you have multiple kids with multiple lists, I suggest keeping an eye on the weekly ads starting around the beginning of August and when you see that the majority of the things you need are on sale, plan your trip!

I also purchased extras of the things that she tends to run out of during the middle of the year so that there are no last minute high priced purchases before the next round of back-to-school supply shopping. I will probably even have her pick out a backpack because the one she’s using has lasted 3 years now, but this is probably it’s last.

So have fun back-to-school shopping!

We are packed and ready for Meet the Teacher night!

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Yard Sale Success

Yard sales can be a lot of work, but they can also be very rewarding. We just had our first one ever. It was a mega baby yard sale. We kept every single baby item we acquired over the past 8 years! We had kept everything because we never knew if we were done having babies. We finally decided this year that we are complete with 2 kids and that we are going to bust out of our home if we don’t start simplifying our belongings.

Our sale was a success because I have been thinking about it for a long time and because I had some great help! My friend Sarah has had successful sales in the past and gave me lots of great advice. Thank goodness for mother nature too, because we had been in a triple digit heat wave for days, then it lowered for the weekend, and now it’s back up again. I have no idea how we managed to pick the perfect weekend, but we did!

Here are my tips for a successful yard sale:

Planning! I am definitely a planner. I decided that since this was a mega sale, I wanted to keep things simple by keeping my prices simple. Most clothing/shoes one set price, books/ movies one set price, small toys one set price. For very nice name brand clothing and holiday dresses I set up a hanging rack and set one price for anything on those racks.

Know how much stuff you have to set out and make sure you have enough tables . If you don’t have tables you can use old doors or plywood and set them on empty bins, tables , or sawhorses. I only had 3 tables, so I also used 3 doors which gave me 6 tables total! And that was just for clothes!! It was funny how many people asked “how many kids do you have?” haha…only 2!

Group like items together and categorize them. It helps to lay out your clothes in order by size. I had an abundance of clothes, so I had a table for each size. And labeled the tables so people could find the size they were looking for quicker. Instead of tagging each piece, I set a price so they would all be the same. I did the same for shoes, and put them in a bin under the corresponding clothing sizes…infant shoes under the infant clothing table. Then the tables were in order of size. Aside from clothing, organize other categories as well. Baby safety items grouped together, electronic toys together, stuffed animals together, etc.

For items that I wanted to price differently than others on the same table, or for “odd” items, I used prelabeled stickers that I picked up at the dollar store. In these packs, there are also blank stickers to fill in your own price, and “make offer” stickers in case you’re up for a little negotiating.

Have plenty of cash and change available. You don’t want to have to turn someone away because you don’t have the right change for them. Most people bring $20s and spend less than that. I got 2 rolls of quarters that I didn’t even have to open, but it was nice knowing I had them just in case.

Have plenty of plastic sacks to bag up purchases. Our Walmart has a large recycling container for this at the entrance, so I grabbed a bunch before my sale, and took the extras back afterwards.

Since I often have my kids with me when I’m out yardsaling, I saw this fabulous idea at another house that turned out to be very popular! I set out a bin of “freebies” in front of where you “check out”. I gathered small toys from past goody bags, and happy meals and made a “free to take” sign for it. Kids loved it; some of them just sat there and played the whole time while their parents shopped. Even adults took something to bring home to their kids.

One important thing we learned:

We were fairly prepared for this sale, but in the future, we will prepare throughout the year. Meaning as we find items to include in our next sale, we will tag them, price them, and put them in a designated spot for yard sale items. That way, when we are ready for our next sale, or if a friend or neighbor is having a sale and asks if anyone has anything to add, we will just pull the items out and be ready in no time!

More helpful info:

Some of my friends have found some local facebook groups where you can post items that are for sale and organize pickup for those items. There are atleast 10 in my area, and probably more that I haven’t discovered yet! My favorites are Baby Swap and Sell, and Yard Sale Junkies. So search Facebook for any local pages like this if you are looking for a used item to purchase, or if you are looking to sell some things. I started posting things a couple weeks before my sale, and made $100 even before my yard sale! And now I am working on selling things that did not go at the sale.

I won’t talk about tips for what to do after the sale, because I’m still in the middle of all the craziness. 🙂 The tables are still in my garage waiting to go back into bins. But a trip to Goodwill is in my future this week! And here is a link to some helpful info on how to determine your donation amount after your trip to Goodwill: Donation Value Guide.

CVS Trip

A great trip to CVS is always worthy of a blog post.

I made a very simple trip to CVS today for some basic necessities. So I hope this shows you that you don’t have to “extreme coupon” to be able to save money on household things.

I bought 2 Secret deodorants, 2 VO5 conditioners, and 1 Colgate toothpaste.

My original total (before sales and coupons) would have been $19.25.

I only paid $7.91, I saved $12.50!

{I also earned another $6.00 in Extra Care Bucks for my next visit!}

My savings:

$5.00 in sales

$2.50 in manufacture coupons

$5.00 rewards card from viggle

 (a reward program where you can check into your favorite TV shows and earn points/rewards)

I love CVS!

Just an average couponing trip

I have only posted once on the topic of Couponing {click here to read it}, even though it is something that I keep up with every week. The other night as I sat clipping my weekly coupons, my husband said “Ya know, you haven’t taken any pictures or posted on any of your great deals lately!”  So I decided I would share the details of a couponing trip I made this week.

So I am going to show you everything I bought at CVS, and what I paid for it.  Occasionally there are items that I have to buy that aren’t on sale, but I still manage to get a good overall savings on my transaction.  My example this week: headache meds. I ran out and these are a necessity to me (and most moms). I have kids…LOUD kids…kids that don’t always treat each other kindly…hence the need for headache relief. {ok, now I feel bad for blaming it on the kids, sorry kiddos, love you!}

To start with, I had $10 in Extracare Bucks (ECBs) from last week. This is store credit for anything in the store. $10 in ECBs is a lot for me; sometimes I don’t have any leftover – it just depends on the week. Also, this time when I scanned my Extracare card at the magic coupon machine, I happened to get 2 coupons for things that were actually on my list! The only thing better than that is when it prints a 20% off your total coupon…love those! So when I walked into the store, I started off with a total of $12 in coupons that I didn’t even have to clip from the Sunday paper!

CVS Receipt: Spent $4.79...Saved $22.02...Made $4.98 in ECBs for next week's trip.

For the rest of the transaction, I will breakdown the details:

The deodorant was 2 for $5. I had a B1G1 free (buy 1 get 1 free) coupon PLUS a $1 coupon and a .75 cent coupon. Which totaled .75 cents for the pair!

The gum was .99 cents each. I used a $1 off 2 coupon. So I bought 2 packs for .98 cents total.

The toothpaste was $2.99 each. I used a .50 cent coupon and a $1 coupon. So I bought 2 for $4.50 PLUS there was an advertised Extracare reward on this item, which gave me $4.98 back in Extracare Bucks!

Then there was the CVS brand headache relief for $8.99. Thanks to my leftover ECB’s, this was covered by those coupons.

CVS Goodies

So I paid $4.79 for everything in the picture, saving $22, and receiving another $4.98 in ECB’s for my next visit. So by using sales, coupons, and store rewards, I scored these necessities for free. And this is what I do every week to keep stocked up on the things we use everyday. If you start doing this on a regular basis (doesn’t have to be every week), so that 1 trip you buy toothpaste and deodorant, next trip you buy hair products, next trip is body wash and lotion, etc…you get the idea…over the course of time you manage to almost always have necessities on hand. The idea is to buy things that you use when they are at their lowest price, instead of when you need them, which is inevitably at full price, which no one wants to pay. And yes, occasionally we run out, or need extra for trips/vacation, or just want to try something new, but I have a little system going and even a small stockpile.

Now if you’re picturing spending hours clipping coupons from the Sunday paper, lugging a gigantic coupon binder into every store, or standing in the checkout lane forever with mounds of items and coupons, do not fear!  All you need is about 1 hour to scan through the weekly deals, clip the coupons you need, or print from online (coupons.com is a great source!). Also, when I go shopping, I only bring an envelope with the coupons that I plan to use for that trip. The rest stay home in my binder until they are clipped for next week’s trip.

So if you’re already an avid couponer, keep up the good work…and I sure hope I didn’t bore you to tears!

If not, start small, every little bit helps, and best of luck to you! And feel free to send me a message if you have any questions! Good luck!

Uncrustables!

My kids are cuckoo for Smuckers Uncrustables!

They love PB & J but they won’t eat the crusts.

The problem: Uncrustables cost $6 for 10 sandwiches!

(even Aldi’s brand costs $8 for 4 sandwiches)

So what do I do in a case like this? MAKE MY OWN!!

You got it, DIY Smuckers Uncrustables!

You’ll need…you guessed it…peanut butter, jelly, and bread.

I also invested in this handy little tool but you don’t have to. You could easily cut the crusts off using a cookie cutter, and pinch the edges together, but I love this tool that I ordered from Amazon. there are several on the market so pick your favorite, or just use your own method.

After spreading the PB&J, I individually wrapped them in plastic wrap, put them in ziploc freezer bags, and placed them in the freezer…in the original Uncrustable box so the kids know exactly where to find them when they’re looking for them. I’m not fooling them at all – they know these are made by Mom but they eat them anyway.

They are perfect for school lunches and after-school snacks!

And because there’s no such thing as too healthy, I have taken it a step further and decided to add my own secret healthy punches to these snacks. Have you heard of the Sneaky Chef line of cookbooks by Missy Levine? I love this idea of pureeing fruits, veggies, beans, etc and “sneaking” them into all sorts of foods to get extra nutrition into your kids’ diets. I have been adding the orange puree to our pasta sauce, the purple puree to our brownies, and the white bean puree to our cookies and muffins for years. She also suggests adding white bean puree to peanut butter to add more nutrition. So I did! In case you were wondering about the white dollop on top of the peanut butter in the pictures above, its the puree.

All you need to make white bean purée:

Drain and rinse the beans, then purée them with 1-2tbsp water in your food processor. I portion them out using ice cube trays, let them freeze, then pop the cubes into a ziplock freezer bag. Then I pull 1-2cubes out each time I am ready to add some to some of my recipes.

And the kids still loved them! Now, I’m not sure exactly how much healthier mine are compared to the name brand, but if you use whole wheat bread, natural peanut butter, and reduced sugar jelly, you are already doing your family a favor. I love being able to control how much nutrition goes into these. You can use your favorite bread (white or whole wheat), use whatever peanut butter you prefer (omega 3 or organic) and whatever jelly you prefer (you could even make your own jelly).

my Uncrustables:

Total Cost:

3 loaves bread…$3

1 jar peanut butter…$4 (I used 1/2 tbsp for each sandwich and still have 1/2 jar left)

1 jar jelly…$2 (I used 1/2 tbsp for each sandwich and still have 1/2 jar left)

So let’s break this down.

Since I only used 1/2 jars, my $6 made 30 sandwiches, compared to $6 for 10 for store-bought sandwiches.

That’s TRIPLE the savings!!!

So if you are buying Uncrustables, do yourself a favor and try this out to save a little $$.

Or if you just make a lot of PBJs, do your family a favor and see how healthy you can make this, while saving yourself some time in the kitchen each day!

Saving on healthy groceries while keeping the hubby happy

We are in a bit of a health kick around here at this time of year and are trying to make better food choices, yet not get bored with the same healthy recipes over time.

I know it is not easy to buy healthy groceries on a budget. Produce can really cost you an arm and leg. That’s why I buy most of my groceries at Aldi! They do have a great Fit & Active line of food, but you can’t get everything there. Since both my husband and I are home for lunch ( I am a SAHM and he works from home) we were getting tired of sandwiches. My husband says he needs more MEAT but he doesn’t care for leftovers everyday…who does? We were looking for other options for quick, healthy lunches. Frozen lunches are the quickest, but not always the healthiest, UNLESS you invest in the healthy ones.  So I used a coupon database (you can see my post on Couponing  for how to use this very handy feature) to find coupons for some healthy, meaty meals in minutes. Most healthy brands all cost around the same whether its Weight Watchers Smart Ones, Lean Cuisine, or Healthy Choice. You can find coupons for Smart Ones and Lean Cuisines (they are usually $1 off 5 or something similar), but I found several online (and higher value) coupons for Healthy Choice and Morningstar veggie burgers, so I decided to stock up on those. Also, they have more flavor options besides chicken. I was able to print 8 coupons (4 of which were Target store coupons). Walmart is closer to my house AND they honor competitor coupons, so I decided to stock up at Walmart using all my coupons.

What I learned from this:  It was not as easy as I thought to use competitor coupons there so I should have done 2 things:

A) Told them I was using these coupons BEFORE they started

B) Asked for a separate transaction for all my Healthy Choice items (I meant to do this and forgot before they started ringing them up).

See? I’ve been couponing for 2 years and I’m still learning as I go. 🙂 But I do know that if you’re nice to your cashier, they are usually willing to work with you and get you the deals you came in for.

Anyhow, it all worked out and I was able to save $8.48 on  $47.56 worth of healthy meals. Since he doesn’t eat these every day, these 16 meals lasted my hubby about a month. The Morningstar burgers are 4 per box so we have eaten some of those for dinner. I figure if he worked in an office and ordered his lunch just once/week for 1 month, it would still cost more than his frozen lunches for a month! AND he doesn’t get bored because I bought all beefy meals! No chicken since I cook enough of that at dinner!

I used 7 of these coupons: 6 $1 off coupons and 1 Buy3Get 1Free coupons {I did not use one of the B3G1Free’s}.

I bought these meals:

Once we started running low on those meals, I was able to print more coupons, so this week I bought 10 more meals, while saving $6 in additional coupons.

So, aside from eating more fruits and veggies and less snacking on junk food, this is one way we have eaten healthier this year, and saved while doing so!

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!

 

 

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