December 30, 2009

Fareway Deals week of 12/30/09

Fareway has some really good deals in the ad that starts today.  Your individual store may also be doing additional savings on New Year's Eve.  Mine stuck a flyer in my grocery sack Monday with some really good savings.  Here are just some highlights from my ad.

  • Shortloins for $3.99 a pound.  You have to purchase the whole shortloin, which could be around 20 pounds.  While that sounds like a lot of meat, the short rib is where the Porterhouse and T-bone steaks are.  The meat counter will cut the steaks to the size you want, package them all the way you want them packaged, and even trim the fat if that's what you want.  The last time they had this deal, I was able to get 20 steaks for under $4 each.  We packaged them 2 per package and have lots of steaks for grilling.
  • 1 pound packages of baby carrots for 66 cents each.  I keep these in the door of the fridge for the kids to snack on.  
  • $3.99 for 12 packs of soda---Coke and Pepsi products, but $6.49 for Pepsi and Mountain Dew cases.  6 packs of 24 ounce bottles are 4/$12, which makes it 50 cents per bottle.  I don't use much soda, but these sound like great deals.
  • 24 oz package of Fastco string cheese for $4.79.  The cheapest this normally goes is $4.99.
  • $2.89 for 16 oz packages of Fastco cheese, looks like it includes any kind of cheeses.
  • 99 cents a bag for Dole Salad Mix.
  • Limes 5/$2.
There are many more deals, but these are the ones that most interested me.  In my local ad (if you "know" me, you know which Fareway that would be) there are 3 pound bags of individual boneless skinless chicken breasts for $3.99 (that $1.33 a pound!), fresh boneless skinless chicken breast for $1.49/lb, butterfly pork chops for $1.99/lb, and many other good deals for 12/31 only.

If you load up on chicken breasts, you can refer to my What to Do with Chicken post for how to prepare and package the meat.  Some of the marinades will also work well with pork chops, or you can also use your own favorite recipes.

Don't forget to look at the widget over there >>> to find the coupons you need to go with your deals or for your other shopping needs.  If you need a refresher on where to find other coupons, you can check out my Couponing 101 post.

December 28, 2009

AND I Am Back...with clearance deals

I have neglected the best time to shop for Holiday items...Right NOW. Target is having a really good toy and Holiday clearance in store--probably the holiday items will be 75% off tomorrow or Wednesday. The toys are currently 30% off, and there are a LOT of them. They also have an extensive 75% off section online right now. Expect them to add to that as the New Year comes and goes.

Look around at all of your stores, though. We have a Ben Franklin with awesome clearance deals as well, and almost every big AND little store will have similar sales right now.

Amazon is of course blowing it out with some good year end deals. They are also still having daily lightning deals on Toys, with some good deals for only a short period of time. I don't know how long the lightning deals will continue, but you can check first thing every morning and they allow you to scan through all the deals with the times they start. Also look at the new year end deals deals daily.

Long Time, No Post--Freebies?

Maybe some freebies will make up for the lack of posting with all the Christmas crazy going on around here.

  • First off, has a lot of great new coupons, including some good Leapfrog deals. Did your kids get some Leapsters or Tag Readers from the great Amazon deals? Get them some games to go with them or save money on the systems with the new coupons.
  • Next, you can sign up on the Cheerios website to get 4 $1 coupons.
  • Free stress relief downloads.
  • Download a free Beatles song from Blackberry.
  • Free sample of Galaxy Granola!
  • Free taco from Taco Bell.
  • Freebie bag from Orient Watch. It's a surprise!
  • Free beauty samples.
  • Free one year subscription to Taste of Home magazine. I love this one.
  • Free sample of Canker Melts.
  • Free Redbox codes! TGZD57V, ACME25, DVDONME, DVDATWAG (only at Walgreens)
  • Free ebook downloads: HERE and HERE and HERE.
  • Don't forget, if you have a Kindle Reader, Amazon has many free books available HERE
Enjoy! I will be back with some more substantial posts Wednesday.

December 23, 2009

FREE Two Year Subscription to LEGO Magazine!

Here's a great gift for the child (or adult who acts like a child) in your life. It's a free two year subscription to LEGO magazine. Just go to this page and over on the top right is a link to sign up for the subscription. Yay, freebie!

What to Do with Ground Beef

Much like my previous post, What to do with chicken, this post will have some ideas for once a month cooking and stockpiling while using current store sales.

Our local Fareway often has a tube of 93% lean ground beef for around $1.79 a lb, sometimes even less. You have to purchase the whole tube, which is 10 pounds. Some people see this and think, what would I do with 10 pounds of ground beef? I have several ideas. First, you can usually have the butcher divide it up into 1-2 lb packages if that is how you would use it. I don't do this, because how do you use ground beef when you buy it? I will make meatloaf occasionally, but for the most part I brown it for Italian style dishes or I make meat for tacos or enchiladas.

Here is what I do when I find myself with 10 pounds of ground beef. I bring the tube home and start preparing it to freeze.
  • Ground beef for casseroles or "helper"--For two pounds, I add a chopped onion and a few cloves of minced garlic, then some salt and pepper to taste. I brown two pounds at a time and put it all in my large Tupperware bowl in the fridge to cool. I may do this with all 10 pounds, or sometimes only half of it. 2 to 2.5 cups is equal to 1 lb for recipes, so I freeze that much into a quart sized freezer bag.
  • Taco meat--For three pounds, I add enough taco seasoning packets (or your own mixture of seasonings) to season, plus a chopped onion. I brown it up and cool it in a separate bowl. Because the prepared taco seasoning often has a lot of salt, I use 2 packets for 3 pounds so there's slightly less seasoning in it. Sometimes I will do 2 pounds with one packet of seasoning. Do what works for you. 2 to 2.5 cups is equal to 1 lb for recipes, so I freeze that much into a quart sized freezer bag.
I actually use this measuring cup filled to the brim to fill the bags. It's a two cup measure, but if you fill to the top it's pretty close to 2.5 cups which is "officially" 1 pound. Also pictured below is the large Tupperware bowl I use for any time I cook large batches of anything. I love that it has a lid, and I can let the food cool in the fridge till I'm ready to freeze it.

  • My meatloaf--For two pounds, mix up the meatloaf of your choice. I do not use a set recipe for meatloaf, but I try to make the most of it healthwise by using the leftover heels or crusts from my whole grain bread instead of white bread crumbs. I have also used oatmeal with great results. I always use a can of diced tomatoes without draining it. In addition, I will finely grate or chop a zucchini or some carrots (or both) to get more veggies into our meals. You can add pureed veggies as well, and I often "stretch" the meat by adding a can of black beans. I add one or two eggs to bind it together, then season to our family's taste. I divide this into 2 or 3 disposable (but not) 8x8 pans and freeze without cooking it. When I am ready to cook, I thaw it overnight in the fridge and bake for 45 minutes in a 350* oven.
  • If your family likes meatballs, this works the same way. I form the meatballs and put them on a cookie sheet in the freezer with wax paper or parchment paper, then remove them and put them into a ziploc bag once they are frozen. This way, they don't all stick together. Again, don't cook them until you are ready to serve, which helps keep them from drying out.
These are the freezer containers I use. I buy several at a time and use them over and over till the lids break or they get too rough looking. These are both freezer and oven safe, so they work great. I mostly use the smaller one because it is a size that works great for our family of two adults and two small kids, but the larger ones work well for larger families or for taking to potlucks.

The best part about this is that it might take 2 hours to prepare all this meat, but it saves so much time later on when you need something fast to cook for dinner. Just like the chicken, you can do whatever your family likes. I adapted recipes to the way our family likes to eat. This 10 pound tube of ground beef may have saved us up to 50 cents a pound and also saves us a lot of cooking time. I decide when I get the meat how I want to prepare it. You can also make patties for hamburgers and freeze those in the same way I described for meatballs.

December 20, 2009

Probably My Last Amazon Holiday Post

It's the last day to get your items in time for Christmas with 2 day shipping, so we're nearing the end of the awesome deals. If you have put it off so far, you may be in luck! Especially if you are in the market for family board games, there are a million good deals, and I'm talking in the $3-$5 range.

Make the best of your family game nights, even if you don't need these for holiday gifts.

These deals cycle in and out FAST, so if you see a game you like, I guarantee it's not getting cheaper than it is right now. As I am posting them, these games are all under $5. Good luck and happy shopping!

If you need some last minute magazine deals, they have a few $5.00 and $10.00 magazine subscriptions. (click the dollar amount) My favorite is Entertainment Weekly for $10 for a year! That's 52 magazines and 95% off cover price.

December 19, 2009

Surveys--My Favorite

This is my favorite survey company, and they are VERY RARELY looking for new people. If you're an avid follower of my blog, you'll be lucky to get in by clicking on the banner ad at the top of the page in this blog. Good luck! They have sent me about 5 surveys in the last week, and every time you do a survey for them, they pay you $3 straight to your paypal account within a couple of hours.

These ads don't last long, because they don't recruit too often. Jump on it!

December 17, 2009

One More Good Gift Idea

It's the last day for free super saver shipping from Amazon, and it's only 1 week till Christmas Eve, can you believe it's here already? I just found a nice deal on cashmere and Pashmina scarves. There is shipping, but I think with the low prices and some BOGO type deals, it is still a good buy.

There are two different styles, with different prices and deals. First the pictures, then the description of how to make the most of it.

The first is a cashmere pashmina shawl, and quite large. They have a 4 star rating with many reviews, so even though it's marked down from $125 to $25, I'd say it is worth it. They have two deals, use code FALLBOGO to buy 2 and get 1 free, or use SALE2009 for 15% off if you purchase more than one. I tried this, and it brings the price of 3 to $55 (shipping included.) It looks like these items won't make it for Christmas, though, unless you use expedited shipping.

The second one ranges anywhere from $6.99 to $8.99 depending on color, and it looks like you can buy several of the scarves without too much addition to the shipping cost. If you spend $75 or more, you will get free shipping. I was able to put 11 scarves in my cart for just under $76 shipped.

December 15, 2009

Awesome Gift Idea for $14.99!

This is one of those gifts that goes for the WOW factor. You purchase a set of tea flowers (they open up into flowers while the tea is steeping) and you get a free tea pot to go with it. Just add both of these items to your cart, and it will take off $24.99 (the price of the pot) when you check out. It doesn't get much better than that.

It doesn't have to be this set of flowers, there are a few others from which to choose.

Love it!

December 14, 2009

Nice Bedding Deals

Amazon has some good deals on bedding. I thought they were worth sharing. There are a lot of different styles of high thread count sheets, flannel sheets, duvet sets, and down comforters and throws. Though it's often difficult to trust purchasing things online without seeing or touching them first, I usually search for those fulfilled by Amazon (free shipping) and with 4 to 5 star ratings.

I also wanted to let people know that as deal expire, I may be going back and deleting some of the posts. I want the main focus of my blog to be more of the frugal living aspect, so I hate to clog up the archives with items that are no longer good deals.

Prices on Amazon change rapidly. When I post these deals, they are generally 50% or more off, or what I consider a good deal. Once items sell out, they are still often offered by 3rd party sellers through Amazon, and you'll see higher prices and often shipping charges. Be sure to double check that before you order.

Amazon also has an exciting new program. They offer a chance for you to order immediately using a "Payphrase." You make up a 2 or 3 word phrase and also have a numerical PIN, and if you enter those instead of putting the item into your cart, you can also get 10% cash back on your orders. What a great way to save even more! I've tried it out already and it was very simple. See a better explanation HERE.

Fun Cheap Shopping

There are several good sites that offer a really great deal on just one item. It's available all day or until it sells out, and then there is a new product the next day. I have been able to get some really great deals on sites like these.

Woot is probably the best known of these sites. Woot has 5 sites, kidswoot, winewoot, good ol' woot, shirtwoot, and selloutwoot. The best part is that you can see all the items sold on all of them from the main Woot page. These items are extremely marked down and you pay $5.00 shipping no matter what the item.

1Sale A Day is fun. The item they offer is usually FREE, but you have to pay $5.99 shipping. Not too long ago, I purchased the steering wheel and tennis racket for the Wiimotes. These would have cost somewhere between $6-10 each, so it's a good savings. Today they have a digital photo keychain.

There are many more sites of this type, and someone has of course started a site that tracks all of the deals.

December 13, 2009

What to Do with Chicken

If you're living on a budget, you are going to end up eating a lot of chicken. For that matter, many families are hesitant to eat red meat due to health concerns. When chicken breasts go on sale, I buy as much as they'll let me. For a savings of often 60 cents a pound, buying up 10 pounds at a time is a great money saver. It can then become a time saver for you, so I want to explain what I do when I find myself with 10 full boneless skinless chicken breasts.

I use boneless skinless breasts, but you can do a lot of the same things with wings, thighs, legs, or you can even buy whole chickens and take them apart yourself for these recipes.
  • Bake at least 3 in a large stoneware dish, put in 1 cup water, salt and pepper to taste, and 4 cloves minced garlic at 350 for 1 hour. When they come out, I let them cool enough to work with, then cut them into strips, shred, or cut into bite-sized pieces for casseroles. I then put 2 to 2.5 cups of chicken in freezer bags. When a recipe calls for 1 pound of chicken, I just pull one out to throw in.
  • The next thing I do is put one raw breast in a freezer bag or container with a marinade to freeze. This way, the chicken marinates while it thaws in your refrigerator. It's a huge time saver. I have a lot of different recipes that I use, and you may have your own favorites.
  • Teriyaki sauce (you can purchase this or make it very easily). If you put a little extra in with the breasts, it's great to throw in with some mixed veggies and serve over rice for a fast stir fry.
  • BBQ sauce, nothing fancy, I just use prepared BBQ sauce and pour it into the bags with the chicken.
  • Italian dressing is great over chicken, pour it in and freeze.
  • Any sort of vinaigrette is also good for this purpose.
When these are in your freezer recipe-ready, you'll not only save time but you'll be a lot more likely to grab one out if you are rushed for time and a lot less likely to drive through somewhere or order pizza. This also saves money and gives your family a healthier meal.

Teriyaki Marinade
1/4 C. sugar
1/4 C. soy sauce
1 tsp. grated or minced ginger
1 clove garlic

Balsamic Marinade
1/2 C. peanut oil
1/3 C. soy sauce
1/4 C. balsamic vinegar
2 T. Worchestershire sauce
1 tsp. hickory smoke
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. pepper
1/4 C. parsley

Sesame Marinade (sesame chicken)
1 tsp. honey
1 tsp. molasses
1 tsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. sesame oil
1 clove minced garlic
1 tsp. grated ginger
1 tsp. sesame seeds

If you want to triple it, use 1 Tablespoon of each and 3 cloves of garlic.

Fast Chicken Casserole
1 bag of precooked chicken
1 can cream of chicken or mushroom
1 package of any noodles or pasta
salt and pepper to taste

Cook the noodles, then throw it all together and stir. I often add 1-2 cups of frozen veggies in this as well.

Fast Italian Chicken Bake
1 bag of precooked chicken
1 large jar or two cans tomato sauce
1 can diced tomatoes (don't drain)
1 tsp italian seasoning, or your own blend
2 cloves minced garlic
1 package any pasta (we like multicolored rotini)

Mix everything together without cooking the pasta first, cover with cheese (or don't, your choice), then cover with foil and bake at 350* for 45 minutes. If you used cheese, take the foil off for the last 10-15 minutes. This is also good with a package of thawed frozen spinach mixed in.

December 11, 2009

More Good Finds

Seinfeld Monopoly $4.99, Beatles Monopoly $9.99, many Tag Reader books in the $5.00 range:

A great little stocking stuffer game for $4.99

December 10, 2009

Dining Out on a Dime (or slightly more)

Eating out is often the first expense cut when budgets need to be revised or down-sized. Especially once you get a few kids into the family, eating out together can cost upwards of $50. If you eat out just once a week, you've added $200 in extra expenses for the month. Because of this, getting to eat out can often be a luxury that a family just can't afford.

So, how can you make the most of your dining dollar? There are many ways.
  • If I order pizza from a local place, I will ask "are there any deals going on right now?" Many times, they will have a buy one get one free offer, or get free drink or breadsticks with purchase. It never hurts to ask.
  • Many cities have chain places that deliver pizza. These places often have special deals if you order online or coupons that you can find in the Sunday circulars. Just as an example, I went to Pizza Hut's webpage and entered my address, and the following offers came up: 5 breadsticks and a 2 liter for $3.99, 2 medium pizzas and an order of breadsticks for $14.99, lunch buffet for $5 (obviously this one is printable).
  • If you'd like to dine out, there are also options for saving money. Get to know your favorite local restaurants. Many offer free kids meals on certain days. Ask at the restaurant you like--Tuesday is a very common day for free children's meals.
  • is awesome for local restaurant discounts. The way this works is this, you will buy what is essentially a coupon for the restaurant. They have $10 coupons for $4, $25 for $10, etc. I most often purchase the $25 coupon, so I will explain using that one. I will wait for to have a sale (they often have 70% and even up to 90% off) and then stock up on the restaurants we like. You have up to a year to use most of them. Using the example of the 90% off coupon, I would buy a $25 GC for $1, take it to the restaurant, and spend at least $35 on food. They will add an 18% gratuity to the check BEFORE the coupon and of course you'll pay sales tax, but that $35 bill would have cost us $35+20% gratuity=$42. With the use of the coupon, it will now be $10.00+6.30 gratuity+$1 for the coupon, or $17.30. Even if you paid full price for the coupon, it still saves your family $15.
  • Local to my area only (if you're in central Iowa, you're in luck!) there are Real Deals which lets you get $50 in gift cards to local places for $25. These restaurants change every Wednesday, and the gift cards go fast, so check back often on them. I'm sure other cities have similar options.
If you know of other ways to save money on eating out, let me know through the comments. I'd love to add more information for people to share.

How to Get and Try New Products FREE

If you're like me, you're always curious about new products, but maybe you don't want to waste your money on them if they're no good. One of the best ways, of course, is to watch the weekly coupons. New products almost always have the high value coupons in order to entice people to check them out. Many of our favorite websites also will offer free samples through their email list, their website, or freebie pages. This was how I first tried Mr. Clean Magic Erasers, one of my all time favorite products. They mailed it to me, I stuck it under the sink, and when someone wrote all over my wall with a marker, I found it, it worked miracles, and I was hooked.

Here are some other good ways to get to try out new products, and some even pay you in cash or other free products.

Bzzagent is a great site. Their goal is a different style of advertising, called viral advertising. Basically, they discovered that word of mouth is the best advertising a product can get, so they send out products along with valuable coupons to their agents. The idea of this is that you get it, try it and like it, then you tell all your friends how much you love it and they buy it, too. What's better? They encourage you to write reports about the conversations you've had about the product, and give you points (through MyPoints, even) for each report you write.

Vocalpoint (done by Proctor and Gamble) is somewhat similar, though they don't pay you to write reports. They will send out a pile of coupons or sometimes the actual sample, then they will maybe ask you to do a poll on the product. It's a fun community as well.

SheSpeaks is a lot like Vocalpoint. I have only recently joined them, so I am not as familiar with their methods. They also send out items to test and have an online community for people to discuss different products. Go ahead and try it out with me.

The great thing is that you don't have to pay anything at all to try new things, and you get to tell all your friends about the next big up-and-coming products.

One thing I would like to add. Often times you will see a banner ad on a webpage or get an email from someone claiming that you can try out and keep laptops, etc. These kinds of things are indeed scams, either looking to take your money for nothing or get a lot of your information for spammers. Please remember that if it looks too good to be true, it probably is. No company should ask you for money to join their trial offers or ask you to pay even a nominal fee for a "free" trial.

December 8, 2009

Snow Day Freebies

It looks like most of the country is being hit (or will be soon) by a large winter storm. May as well get a few freebies while you are stranded in your house. This is the view out my front window of about 3 inches of snow out of our expected 8-12. After we get all that snow, mother nature is sending in the wind to blow it into giant drifts.

So, enough about the weather! How about some freebies? Remember, these can go fast if enough people catch wind, so act fast if you want them. Some may last for months, so go ahead and check the old threads. It's worth a try.

  • Free ebooks from Sesame Street.
  • Free Stacey's pita chips when you friend them on Facebook.
  • I just got another great freebie from Vocalpoint. That one's over, but they send them out all the time. They send out samples of a lot of products, plus tons of coupons that they want you to share with your friends. Nothing wrong with that. Sign up for Vocalpoint HERE so you're ready for the next freebies.
  • Free samples from Splenda.
  • Free knee pain guide.
  • Free earplugs from 3M.
  • Free Gettysburg visitor's guide.
  • Free sample of personal lubricant.
  • Free glucose meter, but then you'll get tons of junkmail from Quality Health. Some people like them, I don't. Use a spam email if you don't.
  • Oooh, a free scented bookmark for reading your trashy novels. What could be better?
  • Free hot beverage from 7-11. Wish I had one closer, because looks like you could print as many as you want.
  • $3 coupon for GE Holiday Lights.
I had another good mail day, worth slogging through the snow to get $15 in SC Johnson rebate checks (you can still try for these, very easy), $35.70 from Inbox Dollars, $5 coupon from Toys R Us, and 3 $10 off coupons for JC Penney.

December 7, 2009

Freebies from Amazon

If you're there buying those Wii games or finishing up your last minute holiday shopping, you may as well get some free music and books, right?

Amazon is doing a free download a day on their site. It's almost all Christmas music, but I see some pretty popular artists on there. Check HERE every day till Christmas.

They also have a lot of free books for the Kindle Reader. I don't have this, but it certainly looks like a cool way to read your books. The free book list makes me think you could read a lot before you have to pay for one. If you look at that bestseller list, you'll find the free books are high on the list.

December 6, 2009

Good Shopping Weekend

I'd like to show an example of how you can stock up on items for little out of pocket. Remember that Band-Aid deal I showed earlier? I went to Walgreens to take advantage of some of their weekly RR deals.

In their weekly ad, they had:
  • 8 packs of Sharpies, normally $8.99, marked down to $3.99.
  • Scotch tape was buy one get one free. $1.79
  • Band-Aids, regularly $3.99, on sale 2/$3.00. Used the $2 off coupon from the Children's Activity book. I bought four packs, and it either adjusted the coupon to where I saved $1.50 per box, or the limit was for 3 items. $1 RR.
  • Toothpaste and toothbrushes were 4/$10.00. I used a manufacturer's coupon for $1 off 2 brushes, another one for $1 off 2 toothpastes. I used the Walgreens coupons for $1 off from the Childrens Activity book. $5 in RR.
So, for those items, total before sale and coupons=$44.49
Total paid=$9.78
Register Rewards received=$6.00

Total actual cost=$3.78.**

Then I went to Target to get the big Christmas gift for our family. We decided earlier in the year that we wanted to buy a Wii. I set about saving to make sure that we could get it. We got a bonus right off the bat when Nintendo lowered the price from $249 to $199. I saved up my rewards from MyPoints and had $100 in Target gift cards, and bided my time for them to offer a gift card with purchase of the Wii. This week was the week, and as luck would have it, they also offered a coupon on their web page for a free Nunchuk with purchase of a Wii. A friend called and offered a coupon she had received for $15 gift card with purchase of $150.

So for about $100** out of pocket, I got a Wii console, a nunchuk, and $35 in Target gift cards to use when I need them.

**I did not take sales tax into account on either of these shopping experiences, because tax differs from place to place.

Some Good Cooking Resources

I do enjoy cooking, though some days if we're running 10 different directions, it's great to be able to pull something out of the freezer to eat. The great thing about once a month cooking (OAMC, though I don't really do it once a month) is that when these meals are prepared by you, you know what ingredients were used. Every family has different dietary restrictions and preferences, so you can also personalize the recipe or adapt a family favorite for freezing.

I use a variety of resources for cooking, though not too often do I get out an actual cookbook. I have learned a lot from my perusal of the 'net, so I will share some of my bookmarks.

  • Crock pot or slow cooker cooking. There are a ton of recipes out there, but no one has the variety of A Year of Slow Cooking. She cooked a different recipe in her crock pot every day for one year, and there are so many delicious options.
  • Good everyday recipe finder. One of my favorite online cooking resources is Recipezaar. They let you search for recipes by ingredients, or even by not having a certain ingredient. If you need a specific recipe, you can bet it will be there. The recipes also have reviews, so you can sort by what has the best review.
  • Once a month cooking. There are a few good choices here. I love 30 Day Gourmet. They have a fairly extensive free section, or buy their freezer cooking manual and have access to everything. I also will browse Recipezaar by typing OAMC into the search area.
  • Budgeting and meal planning. I love the Hillbilly Housewife. She has menus for every budget, tips for saving money on about anything, and lots of good information on cooking from scratch. Be sure to check out her emergency meal plans for when you have only a very limited amount to spend on groceries.
  • More menus than you can imagine. There's nothing like browsing other people's meal plans for finding good ideas. I know I often hit a brick wall trying to decide what to cook for the week. One person would eat steaks and potatoes every day, one would be happy with mac and cheese, and when I ask for help with planning, I get very little. That's why I love I'm an Organizing Junkie. (I know I am not.) She not only has her own menu plan for the week, but links to lots of other people's blogs with menus. It really helps when you get into a cooking rut.

December 4, 2009

I Spy Bags

I've been working on some I Spy bags to donate for our church's busy bags for kids. My first one actually went pretty well, though I had a mishap with the photos that I took while making it. I must say to preface this: I really want to be a crafter. I have good intentions, and I try hard to plan well, but I always make mistakes. Since I'm donating them to the church rather than selling them, I feel like I should be allowed a few errors.

I Spy bags are beanbags made with little toys/buttons/beads inside and a small viewing window to find all the little toys inside. The child manipulates the bag to find all the items inside. It's a great quiet activity to keep little ones sitting tight for a little while, keeping hands busy doing something positive.

When I researched for directions, I found that some people make them about 4 inches, which seemed way too small, and others made them about 7 inches, which seemed about right. I made a 4 inch one to start with, figured I would make it for my little girl and get the kinks out on that one.

I used a small remnant of polar fleece, and put in a few small items and the letters to spell out the little one's name. I thought a circle would be easier to sew around and i wouldn't have to worry about getting it set squarely in the middle of a fairly small square. I was wrong there, and I also lost my photo with all the pieces inside for making the label for things to look for. She's 2.5, so she really didn't mind.

Here's a close-up of the viewing window. I've since washed off the marker I used to draw the circle, and trimmed a little closer, so it does look slightly better, if not entirely circular now.

Below is the finished product. I stitched around the outside and used pinking shears to trim the edges. I think this made it a lot easier to make, without having to turn it and hand stitch the opening closed. This one turned out ok, though I think the sharp-edged screw was probably a bad choice for a pre-schooler's toy.

The next project I tried was a 7-8 inch bag. I think I cut the fabric at 8 inches, but with 3/8 inch seams all around. I used some fleece for a local sports team and tried to get the logo in. Since it had an argyle pattern, I decided to use one of the little diamond shapes as the viewing window. The first one, I stitched around three sides of the bag, then remembered I hadn't done the viewing window first. I went back and did the window without it stitched together. It's tough to see here, but the whiter square is where I've sewed the plastic in and cut away the fabric on top.

Next I chose the items to go inside. I used mostly beads, and some buttons from the craft store, along with a few random things to fill out the bunch. The letters spell out "Go Hawks."
I stitched the two sides together, filling it with the filler items and poly pellets, then again cut around with pinking shears. I thought I would like the larger size better, but it seems that the smaller size is better suited for little hands. The big one is also pretty heavy and I think it could easily stretch out the fleece and become misshapen. I think I'll go smaller in the future. Here's the picture of the finished project, do you spy a soccer ball?
Photobucket Photobucket

December 2, 2009

Great Freebie!

Saw this one on Deal Seeking Mom. Get a free tote bag from Aveeno.

Also, Amazon has a lot of the Transformers 2 movie Transformers for $7.99 each. I'll link one, but if you go down under the item description, you'll find many more at that price.

Some Good Inexpensive Gift Ideas

Woman Within has some great inexpensive stocking stuffers for under $5. I have purchased some of their bags in the past and used them to pack my gifts in. They are great for theme gifts. Here are a few I've done.
  • a movie bag, put in some popcorn and movies.
  • a pampering bag with some lotions, body wash, etc.
  • family game night, put in an inexpensive family game and some snacks.
  • you can put in some slipper socks and a n0-sew throw.
  • a book and come hot chocolate, coffee, or tea.
Here is the link to the items. All are $5 and under, and there's a great selection for right now. These go fast, though.

December 1, 2009

Stockpiling Household Needs

Some of these items--toothbrushes, shampoo, soap, lotions--can get very expensive. A trip to the store to get a few items can easily total $20 or more. There are often coupons, and this can help, but what you really need to do is stockpile these items when you can get them cheap--or in some cases free.

I am a recent convert to Walgreens shopping. Some of my friends have been going there for a long time, but it seemed to me that everything was so expensive. Why go somewhere and pay more? Here's why. Register Rewards. Walgreens also puts out their own coupon books every month that provide a coupon stacking opportunity. When you put Walgreen's coupons together with manufacturer's coupons, and then add in the Register Rewards, there are often time when you are getting paid to take some items away.

Here is a brief explanation and I'll use an example from this week's Walgreens deals.

Character Bandaids (like Spongebob, etc.) are on sale 2 for $3. That's a decent price, and who doesn't use bandaids? Walgreens has a coupon in the Children's Activity Booklet (can be purchased in store, it's a coloring book with a lot of good coupons) that gives you $2 off PER package. Now you've gone from paying $1.50 per package, to having an overage of 50 cents per package. Throw in the Register Rewards that they have this week for another $1 when you buy two. You've now MADE $2 on this item.

Some caveats here:
  • You'll have to add in a filler item in order for the coupons to deduct the full amount. There are many other items you may need for the household that might not be on sale, so just add in something that is over $1.
  • Register Rewards are a little confusing at first. It prints out as a Walgreen's coupon when you get your receipt. You can use these on any item the next time you shop in the store. You will only get one Register Reward per deal, so if you buy 4 packages of bandaids, you'll still only get $1 RR.
  • However, if you come in the next day, you can get the deal again as long as you don't use the same RR. Meaning, you can't use that $1 RR to purchase the bandaids or you won't have a new one print out.
I will post the link for my favorite coupon matchup site for Walgreens deals. Common Sense with Money has all the deals for you, so give it a look. There are new deals every week, and more new deals that last for a month.

Some can go overboard with stockpiling, but I usually try to only get a few extras of most items. Toothpaste and makeup items can expire, so you will lose money if you get too carried away.

Good Mail Day

I have mentioned before how much I love getting good mail. Today in the mail, I received:
  • 2 $15 off $15 coupons for Lane Bryant, plus a 40% off coupon that they encourage me to combine.
  • 1 $10 off $30 coupon for Bath and Body Works.
  • Free sample of Nature Valley Nut Clusters and coupon.
  • Free sample of Nature Valley granola bar and coupon.
  • 25 lb bag of Poly Pellets, for a craft project I'm doing for our church. I will do a post on this when I get some done.
Maybe it's time for some good freebies while I'm posting about getting the freebies (except the poly pellets.)

  • Free MP3 downloads from Amazon.
  • And two free songs from Oprah. Today only.
  • Free samples and bath salt recipe from Veria.
  • Free signed bookplate for the book Freakonomics. This was a great book and I understand he has a new one out.
  • Free Mighty Small OB tampons.
  • Free fall recipes book. Download or get by mail.
  • Free dog "waste" disposal bags.
  • Free Redbox code! Use SPNSV9 once per debit/credit card.
  • Don't forget your free batteries from Staples.

US Census Hiring

The US Census is hiring for temporary employees right now, with flexible hours. The pay is between $10-$20 per hour, depending on your area and what you do. You can read more on the Census Webpage. It would be a great way to earn a little extra money in the short term to help pay off extra bills.