Friday, September 6, 2013

Back to school, CHEAP!

Most of our kids are back to school already.  This means you probably had a substantial list of supplies you needed to provide to the school for your child's education.  Now, these supply lists are a thorn in the sides of many parents.  After Christmas, back to school season is the biggest retail season of the year.  It is also the BEST time to score great deals on all those back to school supplies.  Seriously, some stores are literally GIVING away supplies.  Free paper, pens, highlighters, glue, scissors, etc.  Just take a look below.

All of this was FREE or a penny.  This picture does not even include the stuff I already sent to school with my 3 kids, these are the leftovers!  I bet you think I must have spent hours pouring over sale ads and coupons blogs to get the deals and then running all over town, wasting gas to save a few pennies on a notebook.  Nope, quite the opposite.  I would simply look at one ad match up site a week.  That takes maybe 10 minutes and if I was near the store on a regular errand run, I would stop in.  Staples is the store that is only a few miles away and had the best deals.  I think I went there 3 times total, I didn't even get all the deals.  They gave away 3-4 reams of paper every week for 6 weeks straight!  I also did some deals at Rite Aid, but only if I was shopping there anyway for the usual stuff like diapers and shampoo.

This makes back to school shopping almost fun for me because next year, I will start my back to school shopping in my basement.  That usually knocks off at least half my list.    Then I'll see what deals pop up and head to my local discount store for those last few items.  I probably spent $15 at most on all the supplies this year.  I am not just saving money, but saving myself the stress of finding all the correct specific supplies and possibly going all around town anyway to find a specific color folder that is on every supply list and gone from every local store.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Kale Chips... meh.

Not horrible, but not great.  I figured I would try to make some kale chips since it is all over pinterest and super healthy.  I did a basic recipe.  Pull the leaves off the spine and wash in a salad spinner.  Then toss with a little olive oil and salt.  Bake at 350 for 15 minutes.  Definitely easy peasey.  They looked like the other pictures.

I tried one, and at first it was yummy.  The ruffle edges made a very light and airy texture.  You immediately taste the salt and it is pretty good.  Then the kale flavor starts to come through as you chew...  not horrible but not what I would call good.  Kale is kinda bitter and you definitely get that with the chips.  After eating a few, I kinda had this weird aftertaste, too.  So, I'm not loving this one.  But I tried.  Alex is my kids who asks for salad with every meal and he didn't like it either.  Andrew's words were "that's disgusting."

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Printing Money.

Printing is the easiest way to get coupons.  You are basically printing money to buy groceries.  The best part is, you don't even have to look through all the hundreds of coupons on the printing sites because the bloggers have already matched the coupons to the sale ad with a link to the exact coupon.  Really, could it get any easier?  Coupons often expire at the end of the month and a new batch of printable coupons are available at the beginning of the month.

Worried about the cost of paper and ink?  I get paper free with coupons and rebates.  I get my ink refilled at Walgreens for less than $12, which is much cheaper than buying a new cartridge.  Plus, you only need to print coupons in black and white.  I use the economy/ink saver setting on my printer and the coupons scan just fine.  (I used everyday color printing on the above picture.)

Maybe you don't eat Chex Mix, Frozen pizza or canned veggies?  Well, there are tons of health and beauty coupons, too.  Everyone needs toothpaste, soap and razors.  

Thursday, April 18, 2013

$2.04 at Publix.

Had a good trip today with some rain checks.  I saved them for Thursday so I could get the penny item, too.  The freebies were the Bertolli pasta sauce, cat food and Paper towels (well, they were a penny!)

This is the breakdown:

Bertolli sauce Bogo for 1.39 each.  $1 off 2 Publix coupon stack with $1.50 off 2 manu coupon = Free

Gogurt Bogo for .98 each.  .50 manu coupon doubles to 1.00 off = Free

Sheba cat food sale .50 each.  B2G1 Free Publix coupon stack with Bogo manu coupon.  The manu doubled to $1 = Free

Bertolli pasta Bogo for 1.14.  $1 manu coupon = .14

Sargento cheese 2.50.  .50 manu coupon doubled to $1. = 1.50 (I needed this for dinner)

Thursday, April 11, 2013

How I get free stuff

When people ask how I get such great deals on groceries and even free stuff, I am more than willing and even excited to share my technique.  I have realized that most people want me to say "Oh, they just hand out free stuff on Tuesday morning" because as soon as I even mention clipping a coupon I get a bunch of excuses.  "I don't have time" is the biggest load of BS I hear.  I know ladies with 5 kids and a job that find time to coupon.  If you have time to Facebook and Pinterest, you have time to coupon.  It is just a matter of if it is important to you to save money.  But seriously, I do not care if you coupon or not.  In fact, it is better for me if you don't coupon at my preferred stores.  As with anything, it takes time up front to learn and then it is just a lifestyle, like eating healthy and exercise.  You get out what you put in.  In the end, it saves me time because I usually plan my meals in advance and I have a stockpile from which to make a meal at the last minute.  In the past, I would have just had my husband get fast food on his way home from work.
So, just a quick freebie that is SO simple...  and you can get this deal right now!  FREE Pampers baby wipes.  Don't have a baby?  Well, take it from this mom of 3...  those things are great for wiping up anything...not just baby bottoms.  Plus, they also make a very appreciated baby shower gift that will not ever be returned.  How can you get this deal?  Well, at Kroger the coupon policy allows for double coupons that are .50 or less.  So a .50 coupon really takes 1.00 off your total.  Pampers baby wipes are part of a Kroger Mega sale when you buy 5 participating items, you get $5 off your total.  Baby wipes are 1.99 in the mega sale.  There are printable .50 coupons for the wipes.  Buy 5 wipes, get $5 off your total for the mega sale, use 5 coupons and get another $5 off your total.  That is free folks.
Where can you get 5 coupons?  You can print the coupon twice per computer.  I know a lot of people have more than one computer in their home.  Still can't scrounge up 5 coupons?  Ok, so get some of the other participating items.  Chances are you need some of the items, and they will have coupons, too!  If that seems like a lot of work, then couponing isn't for you.  It doesn't get much simpler than printing a little piece of paper and bringing it to a grocery store where you are probably going to stop by for food anyway.

This week I also loaded up on Sheba canned cat food, which Publix actually paid me .85 to take 6 cans out of the store.  Seriously, the cashier handed me the bag of cat food, the receipt and .85.  There is something free every week!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Max and Ruby..... duh, duh, duh, duh, da dud, da duh, Ruby and Max.

Happy Birthday to Baby Girl!  Well, Sassy is turning two but she is still the baby of the family.  She doesn't get too excited about TV, but she does love Max and Ruby.  When it comes on she points and yells "RUDYYYY," yes with a D.  At this stage the boys like Elmo so this is a new one for me.  For her birthday, what else could I do but a Max and Ruby theme?  Unfortunately, this is not as popular as some characters so I had to go online to order a few party supplies.  Since Ruby wears a yellow a-line dress with orange and green crosses on it, I thought maybe I'll make Sassy a matching dress.  I started with a McCalls pattern 6303 that I had picked up on sale for $1 one week at Hobby Lobby.  I bought the pattern with no exact intention but I was glad to have it for this.  It is easy to make a pattern for an a-line dress, but I just find a professional pattern makes it easier for me.
See...  a-line dress just two easy pieces.  I cut 2 of the pattern pieces and made the dress reversible.  I usually do this because I hate sewing small seams.  Plus the fabric I choose was light yellow and it needed a lining.
I added some ric rac detail to the "reverse" side or lining side.
Pin and sew the top and bottoms to their "mate," leaving the sides open.
Turn one right side out and put it inside the other piece.  Pin sides together, leaving a gap on one side to turn.
Sew it, turn it then find the gap you left and carefully stitch the hole.
You can barely see the stitch on the side seam.  This is not a detailed tutorial, but there are tons on pinterest and youtube.
Add buttons and button holes and voila!  I used fusible webbing to make the crosses and ironed them to the dress to look like Ruby.  I think it is a pretty good match to the character.
I bought a purple t-shirt for underneath.  My model doesn't cooperate with me when I want to take a picture.
I put on a headband with rabbit ears and she's the cutest bunny ever.
The dessert table featured a yellow cake with pink vanilla frosting and sprinkles, just like the one Ruby made for her party.  I made butter cream icing frozen transfers for the Max and Ruby characters on the cake.  For variety, I made chocolate cupcakes with fudge frosting and added "worms" and "dirt," just like Max's cake.  Not pictured is the "rabbit food" veggie tray and fruit plate.  Having this party near easter made it easy to find lot of rabbit themed stuff like carrot bubble necklaces for the goody bags.  It was a fantastic party!

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Hey it's Franklin!

Book character Day at school, you know because they don't allow Halloween anymore and kids like to dress up.  I can appreciate keeping things focused on learning, but that means I have to come up with costumes when there are not a zillion cheap ones available at Wally World.  Yes, I can sew pretty well but with the price of all the fabric and notions being so high, I will gladly pay for an affordable pre-made costume.  This was not an option for Franklin the turtle.  So, my search began...  I mean why reinvent the wheel when I was sure pinterest could lead me to greatness.  I found lots of ideas that weren't exactly great looking and then I found this blog The Almost Perfectionist that had a tutorial for a turtle shell that looked good and was easy.  Not just easy, but a no sew tutorial.  I basically followed her steps, with just a few modifications.
I cut a cardboard oval and a larger oval out of green fleece.  Then I cut brown fleece in a turtle shell pattern and hot glued it to the green.  I wrapped the green around the cardboard oval, leaving a section unglued for stuffing.  To be totally honest, I glued the whole oval then realized I forgot to leave a hole for stuffing...  it was late.  So, I pulled a section off the cardboard and stuffed the shell with recycled grocery bags... a lot of them to make it nice and full.  I added a scalloped "trim" piece of brown fleece around the edge to look like the edge of a shell and glued that around the edge.
You can see the scalloped trim better in this one.  Now Franklin has a very predominant plastron, or lower shell to which it is commonly referred.  Yes, I looked that up to sound smart...  hahaha.  My husband called it the chest plate.  So I took some yellow fleece and just drew the approximate shape freehand on the material.  Cut 2 pieces of fabric and then I cut 4 pieces of green ribbon.  I would recommend using something sturdier, but ribbon is what I had on hand.  Put 2 ribbons on top and one on each side.  Then sew right sides together, leaving a hole for stuffing.  Don't forget the hole!  Trim the edges and flip right side out, like you would a pillow.  I used  1" foam to stuff the chest plate so it would the shape.  Stitched up the hole and stitched a few contour lines in the front.
You can see the top ribbons better in this pic.  The other two were about waist level on each side.  To finish it up, I glued the ribbons to the cardboard part of the shell.  Then I took the second oval circle and covered all the raw edges on the cardboard to finish it.  The shell just goes over the head.  Franklin also wears a red hat and neckerchief.  So I did a paper cut out of the sun design and taped it to a red baseball hat.  I had red bandanna to tie around his neck and it was complete.  I didn't go so far as to buy a green sweatsuit, like I have seen on other blogs.  Just a green shirt we had and jeans.  He was very happy with his costume and all the kids at school thought he was a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle...  sigh.  

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Frozen icing transfer.

Let me apologize in advance for my long and poorly formatted post about this icing transfer.  I should share my background is in computer programming, not journalism.  I hated English/Literature class in school and it is obvious I lack creativity in that way.  Continue...

My son loves Sonic the Hedgehog.  Last year for his birthday we all wore Sonic character shirts and I made Sonic cupcakes.  I thought for sure this year he would pick something else but he wanted Sonic again.  Well, Sonic character stuff is not widely available like say Spiderman stuff.  This year his party was just family so I didn't want to spend a fortune on a sheet cake so I started searching pinterest.  I saw several posts about making a butter cream icing transfer to put on a cake and I figure I would try it.  Seemed easy enough, after all it was just tracing a picture and putting it on a cake.   Well, not so easy but I'm still going to call this a pinterest success.  I found a coloring page online and printed it out.  Then I traced the Sonic head in black sharpie.  I only did the head b/c it was a pretty simple design and I was just making an 8 inch round cake.  Tape the paper down to a small (toaster oven size) baking sheet.  Then I taped wax paper over it and I was ready to go.
I used Wilton black icing in the tube and a small round tip (#2 I think) to trace the outline.  This part went very smoothly and I was getting confident this was going to be a masterpiece.
Next was to fill in the spaces with colors.  I read one blog that said to put the outline in the freezer for 20-30 minutes so the black won't bleed or get messed up.  So, I mixed the blue icing while the outline was chillin'.  My first mistake was not mixing all the colors before starting to fill in.  I finished the blue and wasted time mixing a little bit of green and  flesh color.  The black outline was moving around as I tried to fill the other colors, so I froze it again and then finished the color fill.
You may notice I messed up the ear and filled it with blue.  I scraped most of the blue out and decided to fix that part when it was flipped on the cake.  Now I stuck this bad boy in the freezer overnight to get it good and solid for the transfer to the cake.  I also read that you can cover the entire shape with your cake color.  This gives it more stability, but also makes it a little thicker and I opted out of that step.  Maybe I should have done that though...
Here is where the not so much fun begins.  I have my round cake baked and frosted, just ready for a big Sonic head to adorn the top.  I get up the next morning and attempt the oh so easy transfer.  Well, when the blogs said work quickly, they mean FAST!  I removed the wax paper from the pan and carefully  flipped it over on the cake and began peeling away the wax paper.  Well, part of it came off fine and then the icing began to stick like gum on the bottom of a shoe.  Yes, it was becoming a mess.  So, I popped the whole cake with the transfer and wax paper back in the freezer.  I waited maybe 30 minutes and tried again...  still sticking!  I had to leave it in a few hours before trying to work on peeling the wax paper.  It still took me 3 times in and out of the freezer (which amounted to all day.)  I did eventually get all the transfer off the wax paper and on the cake with just a few breaks in the outline.  I used a wet toothpick to do some repairs.  I had also saved the left over icing from the night before and filled in some holes and gaps.  Then to smooth it all out, I dipped a small knife in hot water and went over the whole thing.  This is how it turned out.
My son LOVED this cake.  Although it took me longer than expected to make it and it isn't exactly a "masterpiece," I saved a ton of money and I know what not to do next time.  Yes, there will be a next time...  Max & Ruby party in March!  Wish me luck!

UPDATE:  Buttercream works MUCH better.  It gets so hard and doesn't stick at all.  It is actually pretty easy to make and you can make exactly as much as you need.  Plus, I bet it is better because it doesn't have anything weird in the ingredients.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Bead Board Nook

I would love for the title of this to be "Bead board mudroom," but lets face it...  I don't have room for a mud "room."  Honestly, it sounds like something else I would have to clean more than I want to anyway.  My dilemma was finding an easy and organized area for the multiple jackets, book bags and lunchboxes.  They have been left on the floor or piled on some hooks the previous owner screwed into the side of my kitchen island...  lovely.  Just the right height for a toddler to get in and right in the walkway between the island and frig.  Solution:  turn a useless nook into a storage spot for the "get out the door before we miss the bus" stuff.  Here is the before:

I saw a fabulous thing called bead board wallpaper on, where else, pinterest.  I love the bead board look without the thickness of wood.  Plus I didn't want to have to hammer anything.  I used *Riches to Rags* by Dori: Bead Board Wallpaper!!!! as my inspiration and went with a high chair rail look with wide trim.  There is a smaller trim on top to make a narrow shelf.  Add some hooks and it is looking good!

I tossed around the idea of making a built in bench with storage, but again I would need to hammer.  So, a few clicks on Amazon and I found an affordable walnut bench with beige storage cubes that fit the space perfectly.  When I say perfectly, the space is 42 inches and the bench is wedged in the door trim on either side.  It actually makes for a snug fit which means no little people can pull it out and push it over to the pantry so they can reach the snacks.
And with some of the stuff for school...

Now, I LOVE how this turned out!  It wasn't hard, but took some time.  I first prepped the area by removing all the caulk around the floor board and side trim.  Then I lightly sanded the walls.  Next, I applied the wallpaper.  A friend gave me a roll of wallpaper that was not pre-pasted, which seemed like a pain but I honestly have NEVER wallpapered before so who knows if pre-pasted is easier.  (But it sounds easier)  Next, I bought the trim and painted it and the wallpaper once.  Find the wall studs and screw in the trim and caulk the seams.  Then paint a second coat on everything and install the hooks (over the screws so you can't see the heads).