Showing posts with label Frugal Living. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Frugal Living. Show all posts


SOS Mom Saver: Cook Once, Eat Twice

Homemade Pot Pie With Top Designed by Kirstie
Like many moms, I want to make sure that my family eats as healthy as possible. The best way to do that is through home-cooked meals.  Who wants to spend every night in the kitchen, though?  Well, okay...unless you're Paula Dean or the Pioneer Woman, most of us don't want to spend hours every night in the kitchen.

I like to make the best use of the time that I'm already spending on something.  When I'm cooking dinner, that means I'm going to put together another 2-3 batches of that same meal we're having.  I've just spent ONE night cooking and have THREE days worth of meals to show for it!  My feet are thanking me already.

Another huge plus to cooking this way is that you've almost always got a meal ready to go should someone in your circle of friends have a new baby or need meals because of a sick family member.  Making the best use of your time can also allow you to be a blessing to others!

SOS Mom Saver: Grocery Items to Stock up on Now!

Any seasoned couponer can tell you that there are grocery "seasons".  There are certain times when you should buy certain items.  For example, cereal is cheapest in August, September, & January.  You can't beat the deals on hot dogs at the end of May & first of July.  Want chips and dips for cheap?  The end of January is when you'll want to shop.

So what's best to buy NOW?  Well, as we approach "Turkey" day, I would think that one great deal item is obvious.  (For my new and thus sleep-deprived moms...that would be turkey.) You can expect prices as low as 29¢/lb; depending on your area.  We've already seen 59¢/lb here.  And that's not even including the "Buy $100 in groceries per week for 4 weeks get a free turkey" deals.

What else is a good buy right now?  Between now and Christmas, you can expect deals on the following items:
  • Turkey 
  • Stuffing
  • Baking Items 
    • Corn Starch
    • Baking Soda
    • Corn Syrup
    • Sugar
    • Flour
  • Canned Gravies
  • Green Beans
  • Cranberries
  • French Fried Onions
A good rule of thumb with this season is that if you typically see it around the holidays (Thanksgiving & Christmas) then it's on sale.

I'm curious...are you baking this holiday season?  What are some of your favorite things to bake?  I've got a ton of new things I want to try out saved over on my Pinterest page.  Check them out if you haven't yet.  I spend way too much time there!


SOS Mom Saver: Homemade Dog Bed

I was at the pet store the other day looking for a new bed for my growing puppy.  While there, I started unzipping the beds to see what was inside them.  I was trying to ascertain if the bed would be an easy-to-wash bed because...well...they're dogs and as such, they roll around in the dirt and mud.

As I was doing this, I had an epiphany!  I had just unzipped a bed that had an egg crate mattress pad in it.  The bed was one of the cheaper ones there because it was on sale for $24.99 (normally $39.99).  It occurred to me when I saw that bed that I could do this myself for MUCH cheaper.

(Are you surprised that it would occur to ME to make something myself?  Didn't think so.)

The bonus in making the bed for myself is that I could make TWO beds.  Our other dog has a bed, but it doesn't have a removable cover & thus isn't as easily washed as I would like.

Here's what I did:

I got an egg crate mattress pad.  (Like the one pictured below.)  The one below cost just under $17 at Amazon.  However, they have the cheaper ones for $10 at Walmart.

Picture from Amazon

I took the twin-sized pad I got & cut it in half (we have big dogs).  If you were so inclined, you could sew a "real" cover to go over one of these.  Instead, I chose to take the easy way out & just used a couple of old fitted sheets.  I wrapped those over the beds & kept it simple.  If you didn't have a couple of old sheets to use, you can usually buy a fitted sheet at a thrift store for $2. 

If you had to buy a couple of fitted sheets, your total out-of-pocket would be around $15, including taxes.  If you just had to buy the pad, your cost would be even lower (just over $10).  Keep in mind, this is for TWO beds!  That means you're total cost PER ped would be $5-$8...for a bed that costs almost $40 brand-new!

With that lower cost comes MUCH less stress should a new puppy happen to chew the bed or have an accident (our older dog will throw up if she happens to eat something that doesn't agree with her).


SOS Mom Saver: Thrift Store Shopping

I love shopping at thrift stores and garage sales.  I go about once a month to garage sales (which I'll address in another post) and once a month to my favorite thrift store.

There are things you should keep in mind when trying to bargain shop at thrift stores and garage sales, though.
  • The main thing?  What they are selling there is not always a bargain. I have seen things at greater than what the new price would be.  Seriously.  One local thrift store is particularly prone to this.  I have yet to see a regular-mouth quart canning jar at this particular thrift store for less than $1.99. They have regular-mouth pints at 99¢-$1.50.  Kerr/Ball brand regular-mouth pints are 58¢ each and regular-mouth quarts are 66¢ each at Walmart.  So why, pray tell, would I over-pay just because something is at a thrift store?  I wouldn't.  I wait until my once-a-month trip to my favorite thrift store and get them for 50¢ each.  And that's just one example.  KNOW what things are new!!!
  •  Don't only know the full-price new, but also what you can expect to pay for something on sale as well as what (if any) coupons are frequently out for those items. 
  • Check the condition.  Something isn't a deal if it's broken or will require a good bit of time or money to fix & bring it up to usable condition.  You can expect to find some items needing cleaning at a thrift store, but they should be working.  I've yet been to a thrift store that won't let you plug electronics in & test them.  Same for garage sales.  If they won't let you test the item...RUN!!  It's not worth your money!
  • And again I say...check the condition.  This time, on clothes.  Check for holes, stains, tears, general, make sure the item is actually a good buy keeping in mind the current condition & the knowledge that you can regularly get things fairly cheap on clearance at Target & Kohls (my favorite places for kid's clothes).
  • Make sure all of the pieces are there.  The only exception I've made to this is when a 1/2 game that I know we're missing pieces on is on sale for 25¢ or I can get a brand-new pad of playing sheets for the same price.  (In our case, it was a game of Yahtzee where some dice had gotten lost in a move.  As a bonus, we got almost an entire pad of new playing sheets.  I've also bought Clue for 50¢ for 2 new pads of sheets because I couldn't copy them for that cheap.)  So...if you make an exception, just make sure it's worth it.
  • Don't be afraid to ask them to negotiate...even at a thrift store.  For example, I've recently been on the lookout for a full-size ironing board.  I already have a pad for one that someone gave me so I really just needed the board.  The board with a pad retails new at Walmart for just under $14.  They don't sell the ironing boards new without pads.  I found one at a thrift store that didn't include a pad that was listed for $10.  My goal is to never pay more than 50% of the best retail I know I can get (sale or regular price.)  I asked if they'd take $5 pointing out that it didn't even include the pad that comes with it in the stores.  (They didn't need to know that I had one at home.)  They said they'd give it to me for $7.  BINGO!  I just met my goal AND got something our family wanted.
  • Keep a list.  I have a running list of things we're looking for.  My husband loves camping, fishing, and hunting so I'm always on the lookout for gear related to that.  (At least until he stops telling me he "needs" stuff.)  I'm ALWAYS on the lookout for canning jars and new lids.  Always.  I'm sure you CAN have too many jars, but I'm not there (yet).  Sit down and write out what you're looking for so that you go in with a plan.  This will help you eliminate unnecessary spending on "stuff" that you don't really need.  It will help you go in focused.  
  • Don't be afraid to walk out empty-handed.  It's not uncommon for me to come out with nothing or have a garage sale day where I don't buy a thing.  And that's okay.  I'm not out there just to buy stuff.  I'm out there to get a good deal on stuff that my family has already determined in advance that we need or want.
 What tips do you have for thrift store or garage sale shopping?

School Supply Freebies and Deals 7/24-7/30

I was awakened early Sunday morning by my husband.  I was delirious, moaning in my sleep, and burning up.  My temperature was 104.9.  Sorry, the school supply deals weren't getting done.  Nor were they any other day as my temperature continued to stay high.  After a trip to the doctor, my temp is below 103 for the first time today.  Except for going to work, I've been at home & in bed most of this week.

I've had several people asking me for the deals which I did start to type up on Tuesday...and then lost when a child accidentally closed the file without saving.  I don't have the deals for you this week, but you can find a comparison list of all the sales at Pocket Your Dollars

         Price Comparison List of School Supply Sales 7/24-7/30

I apologize for not getting them out this week.  It's been a week.  We've all had one of those.


SOS Mom Saver: Selling on Craigslist

After a cousin posted today in frustration that her items listed on Craigslist didn't sell, I figured it was about time that I post about how to sell on Craigslist.  I don't post only as a seller.  I post as a buyer.  If you understand how the mind of a buyer works, then you can make your item appeal to them...even if it's a little bit out of their price rage.  Well, unless they're me.  Because I'm cheap.  And stubborn.  And will wait nearly forever for the "right" price.  But it will work for a "normal" person.  Which I have been told I'm not.

The MOST often overlooked item when selling on Craigslist is a picture.  People want to see pictures.  Pictures immediately make your listing stand out.  It makes your listing real.  Plus, if you don't include a picture many people won't even SEE your item as Craigslist has the option of ONLY viewing listings with pictures.  

Did you hear that?  If you don't have a picture on your listing, many people (me included) will never even see your post because we filter it out!

When you're selling on Craigslist, what you hope to get for the item will largely determine how detailed your listing needs to be.  If you have a cheap blender that someone can get for $20 at Walmart, then it doesn't really matter if you include great details.  It's a blender that someone will probably be willing to pay you $5 for.  I want to know if it works and I want to see a picture.  End of story.   

If you're selling expensive items, it's very important to list the brand name and as many details as possible. Tell me it's only been in one home so I know it hasn't been damaged in 10 moves.  The more details you give, the more you can get. Most buyers won't take the time to ask questions. If it's not listed, we assume it's not. (i.e.-brand, solid wood, etc.)
The typical Craigslist buyer is expecting to pay no more than 50% of the original retail value unless the item is new and in the box.  I'm specifically speaking of higher-end items here.  For example, if something retails new for $1,000 then I wouldn't pay more than $500 on Craigslist. However, the person who will get the sale from me is the one who has a detailed listing with pictures and is listing it for $475. 
Sometimes, however, items are so available on Craigslist that you won't get but 25%, if that, of original retail value. Which items these are will vary by market. However, things like treadmills usually fall into that category.
Don't list an item for $75 if I can get it new for $80.  You're wasting your time and mine. 

Be creative with your pricing.  Say something retails for $600.  You want to list it for $300.  Instead, list it for $299.  I know that's only a dollar difference, but that's a HUGE difference in the mind of buyers.  That means they're only paying $200 for something instead of $300.  And that makes them feel good.  It's totally psychological.  But if they're going to think that way, why not play to it?

Even better, offer that item for $275.  You'll catch buyers who have a budget of $250...but are really willing to spend a little more.  You should know, though, that this buyer might also try to negotiate with you to stay within their budget.  Usually, they'll still buy if you're willing to meet them halfway.

When you do finally get an inquiry on your item, be wise.  There ARE scammers out there.  Make sure you're talking to a real person and only deal with people who are currently local.  NEVER allow someone to wire you money or give you a check for Craigslist items.  And NEVER send money back to them.  Most transactions through Craigslist should be cash only...and in person with you directly dealing with the buyer who pays you and immediately takes his/her stuff.

Transactions involving large sums of money (such as for a vehicle) should be conducted at the bank where the buyer will be withdrawing his/her check so that they can do so IN FRONT of you.  You should also have the bank notary notarize the title change over and bill of sale at that point.

And speaking of protecting yourself...don't be afraid to meet in a public place if you're at all uncomfortable.  Buyers are used to this in bigger cities.  If you're selling furniture and they must come to your home, have someone else there with you.  Don't be alone when they come.

Be wise and protect yourself!

SOS Mom Saver: Fun in the Sun for Kids

This is a repost of an oldie, but a goodie.  It's hot why not take advantage of it?  Have fun outside with your kids...while utilizing that sun for some good!

Bake some cookies, brownies, or a cake outside.  If you're worried about bugs, put the pan on the dashboard of your car.  You can then tell your friends that you have taught your children about "going green" and solar cooking.  You'll instantly be "hip" and "relevant".  (You know, if those are things you aspire too.  I gave up on such titles years ago.)

Not in the mood for sweets?  Repurpose broken, useless bits of crayons and turn them back into useful crayons.

It's SO incredibly simple to do!

You just need some muffin pans or another type of silicone or metal pan (I have several that I've gotten at thrift stores for $.25-$1 each).

And of course...the broken crayons!

You put the broken crayons in the pan (whichever one you chose).  Be creative!  You can either mix colors or put all of the same color or variations of the same color into one section.

If you live in Vegas or another REALLY, REALLY hot area, you just put the pans out in the sun or on the dash or hood of a car.  If not, you can put them in an oven on 250.  (Some people will put the oven as high as 350.  We don't only because the silicon we use is not mean for high heat.)

They're starting to melt!

You can stir them every 10-15 minutes until they're completely liquid or you can just let them sit until they're liquid.  You can see the one at the top left corner that has been stirred (by my 8yr old it's not the neatest stir).

Once they're done, bring them in and let them cool.  If you live in a warmer area or just want them to cool more quickly, you can put them into the fridge or freezer to speed up the cooling process.  This may cause some cracking, though, if you don't let it sit on the counter and at least come to room temp first.  When you're done, you have a new, fun crayon shape!

They're done!  As you can see, we lost a snowflake.  We'll still use the bigger chunk, though, and put the smaller pieces into a baggie to use next time around.  These are the same molds we use when we make soap...aren't they pretty?  And so festive!

Look at the detail on that snowflake!  We make these to put on top of gifts at Christmas time or for birthdays instead of a bow.  It's much more useful than a bow!

Here you can see the front (pretty) side of the star as well as the back (not-so-pretty) side of the star.  You could use a knife to make the back side look prettier, but it would still look fine if you didn't.

When the crayons you made break down again, down, repeat!  The great thing about silicone is that you can usually just pop them out without hurting the shape.  I do pop them out slowly, though, especially with more brittle shapes (like the snowflake that we lost this time around).

This is a fantastic way to do a fun craft with the kids while being frugal and using up all of what you've got!

Disclosure:  Some perfectly good, non-broken crayons were harmed in the making of this post.  However it was a sacrifice they were happy to make on your behalf.

SOS Mom Saver: Christmas in July, Part 3

You've now got all of your Christmas cards addressed, right? Yeah. Neither do I. I'm one step closer to being ready, though. My lists are made and I now have a more solid idea of what I'm giving to each person. I've made a list of what I need to buy and what I already have.


Start planning what you're going to do when you get your gifts.

My favorite thing to do? Wrap them as soon as they get in the home! I will write the name of the recipient in pen or pencil in a bottom/underside corner of the gift. I mainly do that so it's not quite so obvious who it's for. (You know...for snooping kids? Not that I have any of those, mind you.  Ahem.)  Except they read this blog.  Perhaps telling you guys wasn't the wisest idea.

I already have my wrapping paper because I bought it on clearance last January.  I also have scotch tape from a deal a couple months ago.  What I do now is make sure they're all in one place (with scissors, of course) ready for me to use when gifts come in.  I also select a couple of bins in which to hide the wrapped gifts. 

This not only keeps the gifts well hidden from snooping children, but it takes you one step closer to being ready for Christmas without a ton of extra work in an already busy season!

Miss parts 1 and 2?  Check them out here:

*Christmas in July, Part 1
*Christmas in July, Part 2


School Supply Freebies and Deals 7/10 - 7/16

The school supply season has officially started.  Please note that the deals do vary in different areas of the country (I recommend you check your ads or visit each store's website to confirm the deals before you head out to shop.).  The deals I list are what is valid in the Las Vegas area.

Staples: (Teachers are allowed to get 25 of each of the deal items; regardless of limit.) Sun-Wed Only
  • Staples Cap Erasers (12pk) $.01/ea w/ $5 min. purchase, lt. 2
  • Bic Round Stick Ball Point Pens (8pk) $.01/ea w/$5 min. purchase, lt. 2
  • Staples School Glue (4oz) $.01/ea w/$5 min. purchase, lt. 2
Staples: (Teachers are allowed to get 25 of each of the Extreme Deal items; regardless of limit.)
  • 2-pocket Poly Folder (these are the better, stronger ones) $.25/ea, lt. 2
  • Staples Stickies 1/2" tape flags (125ct) $.25, lt. 2
  • Bic Mechanical Pencils 0.9mm (5pk) $.25, lt. 2
  • Slider Pencil Case $.25, lt. 2
  • Staples Multi-Purpose Paper (500 sheets) $5.99 - ($5.74) esr = $.25, lt. 2 (Teachers lt. 2 also)
       Office Depot:
      • Office Depot Multipurpose Paper (500 sheets) $6.49 - ($5.49) rebate = $1, lt. 2
      • Office Depot File Folders (100ct) $6.99 - ($6.99) rewards = Free, lt. 2 per day (must have their card)
      • Mr. Sketch Scented Markers (12 ct) $7.99 - ($7.99) rewards = Free, lt. 2 per day (must have their card)
      • PaperPro Compact Stapler $9.99 - ($9.99) rewards = Free, lt. 2 per day (must have their card)
      • Uniball Vision Rollerball Pens (12 ct) $17.99 - ($17.99) rewards = Free, lt. 2 per day (must have their card)
      CVS: (Thanks to I Heart CVS for the following deal information.)
      • Balance Bar (1.76oz) $1.69 - ($1.69) ecb = Free
      • Complete Multi-Purpose Solution (12 oz) $7.99 - ($7.99) ecb = Free
      • Lumene (any) Buy $20 get $5 (buy following combo of items):
        • Lumene Wipes (buy 5) $4.19 - 5($4) 6/19/11 ss - ($5) ecb = Free + $4.05
        • Lumene Creme (buy 7) $2.99 - 5($4) 6/19/11 ss - ($5) ecb = Free + $5 (Most CVS stores will not give you overage on coupons. The computer automatically adjusts them down...which is why I say to use 5 rather than 7 coupons for this transaction.)
        • There are other combos of deals, but you get the idea.  Find the best combo utilizing the $4 coupons that you have to (ideally) pay no more than $5 before ecb yielding you free products.  (Or even better...profit up to $5 after ecb!)
      I would encourage you to do deals for extra-cheap school supplies or free products even if you won't use that item.  You can donate what you cannot or won't use to others.   SOS is accepting donations in office for school supplies.  You can also donate them to most food banks.  Find one in your area by going to Feeding America.

      If you have any questions about a particular abbreviation or word, check out my coupon definitions. If you still can't find the answer, post here or shoot me an e-mail. Want to see the best grocery deals for your area? Check out Savings Angel. I use them when I'm short on time or not feeling well but still need groceries for the week.


      SOS Mom Saver: Christmas in July, Part 2

      Why Christmas in July?  So you can enter the holiday season debt-free and with little (if any) stress.  How awesome would THAT be?

      If you haven't yet, make a list of who you need to purchase gifts for.  If you made a list earlier in the year, update it.  Make sure you any new family members are added and gifts already purchased are recorded (including their storage location if need be!).

      Update your Christmas card list (or make one if you don't have one yet).  Add new friends or family members, delete those who made you mad (just kidding), ensure addresses you have are current, and gather needed addresses.

      If you already have your Christmas cards, start addressing them now.  Make a goal to do a couple a day.  Before you know it, they'll be done.  You can even put stamps on them now so that come the first of December, they'll be ready for you to mail.  Wouldn't you love that?

      If you do picture cards for Christmas, you can take them and have them printed now (or within the next couple of months) so you can have them addressed, stamped, and ready to mail come December.  Why wait until the last minute when everyone else is trying to schedule pics and get them printed in time for Christmas?

      If you do a Christmas letter, you can start that now too.  Get the stationary, address and stamp the envelopes just like you would "regular" cards.  Write updates through now and add a little each month until it's time to print and mail them.  You might even buy an extra ink cartridge to ensure effortless printing when the time comes.

      Next Tuesday, we'll have part 3. 

      Be sure to check out previous posts in this series:

      Christmas in July, Part 1


      SOS Mom Saver: Christmas in July, Part 1

      You thought yesterday was a holiday. Nope. Today is...the beginning of Christmas in July; a MomSaver series. 

      What does that mean for you? It means that you need to start planning NOW for Christmas. It will help you avoid debt and go into the holiday season with little (if any) stress.  If retailers are thinking about Christmas (and our money) now...then why shouldn't we?
      The first step?  Start planning what you will get your kids for Christmas.  Toy clearance starts at most stores now as they prepare to clear out last year's stock in preparation for this Christmas.   

      Most stores will be at 30% now, but will eventually go as low as 75% (Target & Wal-mart) and 80% (Kohls).  However, if there's something that you know you definitely want for your child then it's usually best to purchase that item at 50%.  If it goes lower, you can always purchase the item at the lower price and return the first item you bought.  (Make sure you keep your receipt!)

      Thursday will bring part 2!


      SOS Mom Saver: Free & Cheap Summer Activities for Kids

      Summer can often mean bored kids.  Bored kids means you need things to do.  The cheaper (or free-er?) the better. Yes.  I know "free-er" isn't really a word.  Work with me here.

      There are a good bit of free (and often air-conditioned) activities for kids in the summer; regardless of where you live.  Here are some that are offered in our area or have been offered in other areas where we've lived: 
      • Movie theaters run free movies...or cheap $.50-$1/movie (sometimes includes $1 concessions too)
      • Rec centers usually have activities & classes that they charge for, but look closer...they often also have free events & classes throughout the summer as well
      • If you're going to pay for a class at the rec center, check ALL of the rec centers that are within easy driving distance of your home.  In our area, there's one pool that offers swimming lessons for $12 a child...versus $32 per child at every other area center.  That's a HUGE difference when you've got 3 kids taking lessons!
      • Reading programs at the library & at book stores with prizes for the kids including free books, kids meals, movie tickets &/or tickets to local attractions or events
      • Cooking events just for kids at local health stores 
      • Local attractions will often have free or reduced days or times during the weekday (local zoos, aquariums, etc).  Usually, these will be during their usual slow times.  The free or reduced rate is an attempt to drum up business that they wouldn't have otherwise had.  If it's free, they're probably hoping you'll buy something in the gift shop or concessions to cover their losses...or it's a day that's been sponsored by a major company.
      • Be on the lookout for reduced swimming passes. If you know your kids will be at the neighborhood pool every day, it very well may be cheaper to buy a summer pass than to have them pay each day they go.  A bonus is finding a place that offers a pass like our rec centers.  We buy an all-access pass that works for swimming & fitness use, doesn't expire, and isn't exclusive to one person.  
      • Restaurants will often have cheap or reduced drinks ro desserts during the summer.  Again, you'll find these promotions happening during their typical slow times or what they call a mid-day "happy hour" from 2-4.
      • School districts or rec centers will often have free or reduced lunch programs for kids at local parks.  The bonus is that they'll also usually have some sort of activity or even a day camp during the time/hours they are there for the lunch.  You can usually participate in the free activity even if your child doesn't get a lunch.
      What are some of your favorite free or cheap activities for kids during the summer?  Post here, on Facebook, or message me & I'll add them here.

      SOS Mom Saver: Buy a Gift Card, Save Money at the Grocery Store

      At least a couple times a year, grocery stores non-typical promotions involving gift cards, a freezer, or something else you don't usually find in your weekly ad.

      You'll usually find freezer promotions around March and gift card promotions around tax time.  Albertsons is currently running one such promotion.  If you buy $100 worth of gift cards to OTHER stores (found in their "Gift Card Mall" display), then you get a coupon for $20 off of a future purchase.  (You can also find this deal at other Sav-On stores such as Jewel Osco.  Call your local store to verify that they're participating before you purchase your gift cards.)

      Are these deals worth it?

      That depends.  If they offer gas cards or cards to stores you would have already spent money at then you'll spend no more than you previously would have but will get a bonus for having bought the gift card at Albertsons first. 

      At our store, they offer gas gift cards to Shell or Arco gas stations.  I can take my regular monthly gas budget of $200 and use it to buy gift cards.  In return, I get $40 back to spend at Albertsons.  I've just made $40 to spend on groceries without spending anything I wouldn't have otherwise spent.

      We're also going to be replacing our washer.  I've done the research and know that after price-match, guarantee discounts, coupons, and taxes we'll pay just over $400 for the washer we want at Lowes.  Since our Albertsons also offers Lowes gift cards, we'll spend our $400 there first on gift cards.  For doing so, we'll get back $80 which is a bonus savings on what we were already going to spend...just for buying a gift card first.

      The gift cards offered at each grocery store CAN vary even within the same chain.  In this promotion, buying a gift card to Albertsons is not allowed.  (Previous promotions at tax time have allowed you to buy an Albertsons gift card.)  At my store, they have gift cards to Shell, Arco (both gas station chains), Lowes, Home Depot, Sears, Kohls, several different fast food restaurants (like Jack-in-the Box), sit-down restaurants like Olive Garden, sporting goods stores like Cabellas, mall stores like Disney (which can also be used to purchase tickets for a Disney trip), and Southwest Airlines. 

      If you have extra money, you could really capitalize on this deal by buying gas gift cards for a couple of months so you can get the bonus now.  This deal runs through Saturday, June 18th.

      SOS Mom Saver: Get Rid of Fruit Flies (The Easy Way)

      Even though the hottest temperatures aren't yet upon us, summer is here.  With summer, comes fruit flies!


      They're nasty.  They're disgusting.  They're nasty.  They're unsanitary.  They're nasty.  They make your house feel dirty (at least they do to me).  Did I mention that they're nasty?

      So what do you do?  I've read and tried just about every solution out there.  Some of them are really effective, but they're also really complicated or require materials that I don't usually have on hand or want to dedicate to fly-catching all summer.  I want effective AND easy.

      I can be picky that way.

      The solution I've found is cheap, effective, and easy.  Plus, if a child or dog should happen to get into your mixture, it's not going to hurt them.

      You put apple cider vinegar in a bowl.  Add a couple drops of dish soap and watch.  Well, you don't literally have to watch.  But if you're easily entertained you can.  I keep a natural, chemical-free dish soap just for this purpose so that my mixture really is non-toxic.  You know, except for the dead flies floating in it.

      In other words, you can't really catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.  Well, you might attract just as many, but they won't go into the honey and be trapped by dish soap and die a brutal death of water-boarding with honey.  They'll just sit on top and breed while laughing at you for thinking that the honey would actually attract them INTO it and kill them.

      Don't ask me how I know this.

      What can I say?  I'm a curious sort.  And I talk to flies.  Apparently.

      And also, I hate fruit-flies.  Therefore, I have no qualms about experimenting with ways to kill them.

      Wow.  That makes me sound really sadistic, doesn't it?

      Don't worry.  I'm just that way with small children fruit flies.


      SOS Mom Saver: Homemade Brown Sugar

      I mentioned homemade brown sugar last week and promised that I would show you how to make it. 

      Do me a favor.  Grab a bag of brown sugar from your cabinet.  There should be only 2 ingredients listed; sugar and molasses.  It's really THAT simple.  You take sugar and molasses and mix it together.  Yet you pay a premium to have the store pre-mix it for you.

      Plus, if you buy pre-made brown sugar, you have to do something to keep it from getting hard.  We've all been there.  You have to add bread or something else to keep it soft.  Why not just make it yourself right when you need it?  It requires very little extra work.  (You can make some to store, but I find this so easy that I just mix it myself right when I need it.)

      For light brown sugar, you mix 1 cup of sugar with 1 tablespoon of molasses.  Add the molasses to the sugar and mix until it's blended.  If you want a darker brown sugar, you double the molasses to 2 TB.  The 1 cup/1 TB ratio is what's common for light brown sugar you find pre-made in the store.

      An added bonus is that you can use raw sugar instead of processed sugar making your brown sugar even healthier.

      I'm often amazed at how simple most homemade items are.  We tend to think that we can't live without pre-made products when the ingredients to make those products are so simple to store and keep long-term...while the pre-made product will go bad fairly quickly.


      SOS Mom Saver: Creative Line Drying

      We've line-dried our clothes to some degree for several years.  In Michigan, we didn't do it year-round because I was a bit scared of setting up a line inside.  Would it be too heavy?  Would the clothes drip on my floor?  I just didn't want to deal with it.

      Fast forward to Vegas.  It's summer.  A HOT summer.  I hear tales of clothes drying with lightening speed here in the hottest parts of summer.  But there's also the wind.  And the sand.  Lots and lots of sand.  Combine the wind with the sand and you have once-clean clothes that are now nicely dried...with sand on them.  Add to that combo your friendly, neighborhood HOA (that's Homeowners Association for those of you blessed to NOT live in an area that has one) and you have a recipe for fines.  Lots and lots of fines.  Almost more fines than the sand on your clothes after you've dried them on a windy day.

      But I want to line dry!!!  (Insert toddler-like whining here. WAAAAHHHH)

      Okay.  I'm done.  Thank you for indulging me.

      So is it a lost cause?  Nope!  Of course not!  You can spend bukus (is that even a real word?) of money on fancy gadgets.  They have freestanding wooden drying racks, wooden drying racks that fit over your tub or in your tub, and drying racks that will attach to a wall or door and fold up when you're done using them.  There are also retractable lines which are great for garage or basement areas, but few of us want a retractable lines in our main living areas and adding them to a typical bathroom won't yield you much more space than a shower rod.  So why not just use a shower rod?  Or several?

      I stood at a garage sale one Saturday morning and had one of those "DUH!  Why didn't I think of that before?!" moments.  In front of me were 2 shower rods for 50 cents each.  We have a bathroom with a tub that only gets used to bathe the dogs or by guests.  (I promise we clean it before you come visit, Nana.  Really we do. WHAT!?!  Stop looking at me that way!)  So that bathtub became our inside drying rack.

      I liked it so much with 2 rods to dry that I added 2 more.  And then I added 4 to our main shower (just a shower) as well.  That gives us 8 rods in the bathroom if we don't also use the rod the shower curtains are hanging on.

      A benefit to using your shower to dry is that if you have someone coming over, you just shut the shower curtain and the clothes are hidden.  You don't have wooden things all over the house or a line going across your entire bathroom forcing your guests to walk under your drying clothes to utilize the facilities.  Plus, you can dry year-round this way!

      I do still occasionally put some items outside on one of our wooden racks.  It's not a permanent drying rack and isn't usually out for more than an hour...a couple at the it's allowed.  I do this with white items that I want the sun to naturally bleach for me.

      Why line dry?  Besides the obvious energy savings from not using your dryer, your clothes will last longer.  Think about it; you don't have to remove lint from your drying line or rod like you do from a rod.  What is that lint?  The fibers from your clothes that have been broken down by the dryer.
      If you don't line-dry, why not?  Is there something keeping you from doing so? 

      Don't forget to check out my Facebook page as most conversations about my blogs happen there.

      SOS Mom Saver: Homemade Popsicles

      I've been getting ready for summer by dehydrating foods we'll eat while out and about this summer.  Now, it's time for me to fill my freezer with healthy popsicles. 

      Feed my kids popsicles for breakfast?  Why not?  

      (What kind of a mom ARE you?  You'd feed your kids POPSICLES for BREAKFAST?!?!  I'm not sure I can keep reading your blog!)

      I promise.  I'm not crazy.  In fact, I can almost guarantee that YOU will feed YOUR kids popsicles for breakfast too after I'm done with you.  These aren't your typical "is there even any actual fruit in there" popsicles.  These are popsicles that you and/or your kids make from scratch.  And it's EASY!

      The easiest way to make popsicles at home is to use pre-packaged fruit juice that you'd buy at the store.  If you purchase a juice from the "Simply" juice line, the Lakewood "Just" juice line, or the Knudsen "Pure" juice line, then you'll be giving your kids pure fruit juice popsicles.  (The Minute Maid "Simply" juices would be the cheapest of the above.  They're also found at almost all grocery stores.  The others are more costly and aren't carried in all regular grocery stores, but also come in organic varieties.)

      I like to go a step further here, though.  I like to find creative ways to use the fresh fruit that I get...especially as it gets past its prime.  (I know every one of us has that apple that gets lost in the back of the fruit drawer in the fridge.)  Many people think these fruits are trash.  The opposite is actually true.  The riper the fruit gets, the sweeter it becomes.  I wouldn't eat it plain, but I'll freeze this fruit straight to use in smoothies kid's favorite...puree the fruit and make homemade popsicles.

      The ingredients are incredibly simple:
      • A blender, food processor, or smoothie maker
      • Popsicle holders (or small cups)
      • Lids for the popsicle holders or small popsicle sticks
      • Fruit...Be creative!
      • Some sort of liquid: Yogurt or Kefir can be used for a thicker popsicle.  Juice or water can be used to make it more light.

      We got these molds on sale at Albertson's for $2.49 each, but you can find them at Wal-Mart, Target, and other discount stores as well.  WARNING:  The lids typically do NOT hold up well!  I would highly recommend that you have wooden sticks on hand because the lids WILL eventually break on these cheap holders.

      The fruit is in!  It's ready to go!

      It's blending!  (The blender pictured has long since died.  I now have the mother of all blenders; a Vitamix...which I LOVE! Someday, I will update these pictures.)

      Ready to pour!  This is when the kids run over and try to eat some before we pour.  They usually end up eating a good bit of this "fruit sauce" before I get it all poured.  I fought them off this time just for you.  You should feel special.

      Children have been fended off and pouring begins!

      They're all poured now and ready for the freezer.  Wasn't that easy?

      Once you put them in the freezer, they'll be ready in about 12 hours...although my kids are usually trying to grab their first one well before that.

      Doesn't that look delicious!  And it's FULL of nothing but fruit!  How awesome is that?  So go tell your kids they can have popsicles for breakfast now, K?


      Have Healthy Foods Even in the Heat of Summer

      One of the hardest things to do is to give your family healthy foods even when you're out & about in the heat of summer.  It doesn't matter where you are, foods like to go bad quick in the summer!

      To get around this, we dehydrate many fruits & veggies so we can safely take them anywhere with no fear of them going bad while we're at the park or running errands on a hot summer day.

      I could go item-by-item and tell you how to best dehydrate each food.  However, someone beat me to it!  (And for this I'm grateful!)

      Dehydrate 2 Store has a wonderful website and YouTube channel dedicated exclusively to teaching you how to dehydrate.  She not only gives you instructions on how to dehydrate in general but goes through different foods telling you how to dehydrate each one.  Her site provides a wealth of information on this subject. 

      Don't feel overwhelmed by her expensive dehydrator and vacuum-packaging machine.  You can get the same results with a cheaper Nesco dehydrator.  (I know; I have one.)  I do now have a Foodsaver, but it's only because I got it for $15 at a local thrift store.  Until then, I just put my foods in clean jars.  We went through the foods quickly enough that it wasn't ever a problem.


      Deal Sites: Are They Worth It?

      It seems like there's a new deal site popping up on a regular basis now.  Are they worth it?  Are they legit?  How do you know?

      First let me say that I only currently recommend Groupon (If you join Groupon after clicking on that link, I will earn a referral commission for your doing so.  I do appreciate this, but it is not required.  You can just go directly to the site to get more info or join should you so desire.) and Living Social.  They have been around for quite awhile and are, by far, the most reliable deal sites out there.  There are other sites out there, but they are newer and don't have the same track record that Groupon and Living Social do.  Are they bad?  Not necessarily.  They might even be better than the two I mentioned.  However, I won't spend my hard-earned money to find out until they're proven.  I'm cheap frugal like that.

      How do they work? 

      It's fairly easy.  They offer, for example, to give you 5 Netflix rentals for the price of 2.  The good deals are usually fairly cut & dry like that.  My favorite, by far, was a $50 gift card to US Cellular that I only paid $10 for.  I was able to gift that to my grandmother to help pay her cell phone bill.  I've gotten a $20 gift card to for only $10 (we buy some of our gluten-free products from there on a regular basis).  They've had a $20 gift card to Barnes & Noble for only $10.  I got a $20 gift card to our local health foods store for only $10.  We buy our honey there.  It never goes on sale; except now I get it for half price!

      I'm sure you can see a pattern here.  Usually, what they offer is half off the retail price. 

      Are they worth it?  

      That depends.  Are you spending money that you weren't planning on something you don't really need and wouldn't normally buy?  If so, then you ARE wasting your money and they're really not worth it.  I only take advantage of ANY deal; whether an online one like this or one in the store if we would have already purchased that item.  (Unless, of course, the item is free or is a moneymaker.  But you won't find either of those in these deals.)  I would recommend you go into these with just as much caution as you do any other purchase.  It's a LOT easier to make an online purchase in your pj's at midnight than it is to take the time to go into the store to make the purchase.  Sometimes, it pays to plan ahead and know what you're going to buy BEFORE the offers even start coming in!

      I included my referral link for Groupon above.  Be aware that if you DO join & then (for example) also have your husband join that you can get referral credit if he joins through your referral link.  The referral will give you $10 to spend on any Groupon which will give you an opportunity to try the site without spending any money.

      What are your favorite deal sites? 


      SOS Mom Saver: Make Full Use of Your Library

      People don't realize all of the resources that are available at the library.  The library is no longer just a place to go and do research papers.  You can get so much more.  Here's what's available at my local library: 
      • Books 
        • (of COURSE)...but I couldn't leave it out! 
      • E-books 
        • You know...the kind you'd have to pay for on your Kindle?  Get them from the library instead!
      • Movies 
        • Yeah...They've got every Veggie Tale video ever made.  Did you know, however, that you can get new releases there?  They have to wait the "typical" 28 days before they can get new releases (the same time-period that must be observed by Redbox and the like).  After that, though, they'll have the new releases.  Forget $1 for a day.  You'll get 3-7 days for free!
      • CD's 
        • Here again, they'll have every Veggie Tale CD ever created.  But did you know that they'll ALSO have your current pretty much any format.
      • Magazines 
        • They'll usually have the current issues for reference only.  However, once the new issue comes out, you can check out the old issues just like a regular book.
      • Software 
        • From language programs to typing software, you'll be surprised at what your library has to offer!  These are FANTASTIC finds for homeschoolers on a budget!
      What happens if they don't have a book, CD, magazine, or movie that you want to see?  You ask them for it.  Many times, all it takes is ONE request for them to order that particular item.  Bottom line?  It never hurts to ask.  The worst they can say is no, but you might be the request that gets that item ordered!