Showing posts with label SOS Radio. Show all posts
Showing posts with label SOS Radio. Show all posts


SOS Mom Saver: Is Your Home As Safe As It Should Be?

Do you have more than one story on your house?  Then you NEED this:

Photo Courtesy of

No, Really.  

You do.

This won't save you time or money, but it very well could save your life or that of your children.  It's not a gimmick. It's a safe way out of the house should a fire leave you or your children trapped in a room.

You can buy the one linked above at or you can purchase one in person at Walmart.

Ideally, you should have one for each bedroom that is slept in.  If you can't buy all of them now, start with one.  One is better than none...and at least gives all of you an escape should you be trapped upstairs.

No, this isn't a pleasant topic, but it's an important one.  After hearing yet another story of a child dying because they didn't have a way to escape from a second floor was time to broach the topic.  I was shocked to hear a friend say that she didn't even know these existed.  

Well now you know.  

So go buy one!!

Disclaimer:  If you click on the above link and purchase the ladder, then I will get credit for that purchase as a part of the Amazon affiliate program. However, I don't care if you purchase through that link. I DO want you to buy this item if you don't already have one and live in a multi-story home but could care less whether you do so through that link, by going directly to Amazon, or by driving to your local Wally World!  Just please buy one. K? Thanks.

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 Lakewood "Just" juice line, or the Knudsen "Pure" juice line, then you'll be giving your kids pure fruit juice popsicles.  (Thankfully, these are now carried in most grocery stores.  As a bonus, they 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?

SOS Mom Saver: How To Test the Freshness of Eggs

Cracking Eggs in a Bowl

Ever had eggs in your fridge that you thought had perhaps been there a little too long?  You hate to throw out good eggs, but you don't want to risk your family getting sick if they're bad.  Is there something you can do to test their freshness?

(You know there is or I wouldn't be writing this.)

There's what's called the "Water Test".  You fill a glass half way with water and drop the suspect egg (or eggs) in. (When I say "drop" it in, you should do so carefully.  I don't recommend giving the instruction to "drop" an egg to your 9yr old boy without first clarifying exactly what you mean.  Don't say I didn't warn you...)
  • If the egg goes down to the bottom, then it's good.
  • If it goes down to the bottom, but is kind of in their diagonally with the top end pointing up, it's still good for baking.
  • If it floats...throw it out.  I wouldn't recommend that you open it either as it will likely smell.
 This is what they did back in the "good ole days".

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: What Flowers Say "I Love You"?

I have to be honest here.  I think Valentine's Day is a farce created by Hallmark and FTD.  Isn't my husband lucky?

He's actually even luckier than that.  I don't like roses.  I'd much rather have carnations, tulips, or lilies.  I'm so easy.  And cheap.  (Okay...that didn't sound quite how I intended it to.)

There will be some women who expect flowers on Valentine's Day.  They don't just want flowers, though, they want the coveted red rose.  Except their husband forgot to order ahead.  Save for a lone, sad rose or two in the gas station, there aren't any available in the entire city.  What's a guy to do?

He can pick one of the other flowers that means love.  You can find complete lists at and from Tara Florist in St. Joseph, Michigan.  I'll make it easy for you, though.  Here are several that stand out:
  • White Chrysanthemum:  Truth, Loyal love
  • Calla Lilly:  Magnificent beauty
  • Orchid:  Rare beauty, love, refinement, beautiful lady
  • Red Tulip:  Declaration of love
  • Yellow Tulip:  Hopeless love, There's sunshine in your smile
If all else fails and you can't find any flowers, get her a cactus.  No.  Seriously.  It stands for "endurance".

(Disclaimer:  I cannot be held responsible for your wife's actions should you actually bring her a cactus for Valentine's Day.  I wouldn't actually advise doing this unless she has requested that you do so.  This is not official medical advice and I'm not the attorney general, but bringing your wife a cactus for Valentine's Day may be hazardous to your health.)

SOS Mom Saver: Homemade Oatmeal Packets

My family LOVES oatmeal.  This is great as it's incredibly healthy.  Unfortunately, they also like the convenience of oatmeal packets.

But..have you looked at the ingredients for those packets lately?  Yeah.  Um.  Not exactly healthy...or even pronounceable in some cases.  Even those that are organic or healthier are full of refined sugar.

Even if you did find a healthy packet of oatmeal with only good ingredients, I challenge you to find one that's reasonably affordable.

So...I set out to make the bulk oatmeal also convenient.  I have promised a couple of friends who have asked that I will detail out the process with cost and pictures the next time we make packets.  In the meantime, here's a basic ingredient list for each of our 3 favorite oatmeal packet "flavors" (which are pictured above):

Oatmeal Raisin:
  • 1/2 cup oats (I put these in the food processor and pulse them a couple times to break them up some.  That's not necessary if you're using quick oats.)
  • 1 TB ground oats (see note below)
  • 1 TB ground flax seed
  • 1 tsp cinnamon (You can use 1 tsp -1 TB; depending on your taste preference.)
  • 1/8-1/4 tsp ginger 
  • 1/4 cup raisins
Strawberries & Cream:
  • 1/2 cup oats (I put these in the food processor and pulse them a couple times to break them up some.  That's not necessary if you're using quick oats.)
  • 1 TB ground oats (see note below)
  • 1 TB ground flax seed
  • 1/4 cup freeze-dried or dehydrated strawberries processed in the food processor to your desired consistency (We've also used blueberries in this recipe instead of strawberries.  YUM!)
  • 2 TB powdered milk (You can use 2 TB -1/4 cup powdered milk; depending on taste preference)
Apple Cinnamon:
  • 1/2 cup oats (I put these in the food processor and pulse them a couple times to break them up some.  That's not necessary if you're using quick oats.)
  • 1 TB ground oats (see note below)
  • 1 TB ground flax seed
  • 1 tsp cinnamon (You can use 1 tsp to 1 TB; depending on your taste preference.)
  • 1/8 tsp ginger  (1/8 tsp to 1/4 tsp; depending on taste preference
  • 1/4 cup freeze-dried or dehydrated apples processed in the food processor to your desired consistency
Put all ingredients into a sandwich-size baggie.  Close the baggie, shake to mix the ingredients, & you're ready to go.  I do re-open the baggie after mixing the ingredients so I can get the air out before storage to save space.   I'll typically do a couple hundred packets at once.  No.  Really.  That means I don't have to do them again for awhile.  We keep them in a food-grade storage bucket that we got from a local donut shop for $2.

To cook, you simply dump the oatmeal packet into a bowl and add 1 cup of hot water. (We use the hot water from our water cooler right now, but have used water from our stove-top kettle in the past.)  Stir and enjoy!  Yes, you MUST enjoy.  We also add honey to ours when serving.  We don't typically use much.  A 2 lb container that we use only for oatmeal lasts us a couple months.

A note on the Ground Oats:  You know that powder that you see in store oatmeal packets?  That's what this is.  It's a combination of the sugar...and some ground oats which helps your oatmeal be more "mushy".  If you like mushier oatmeal, then you'll want to add some of this to each packet.  (It doesn't take much.)

The thing to remember here is that these recipes are VERY forgiving.  You can add healthy things (like the flax seed) that your family likes and take away what you don't want or like.  You can add different fruits to suit your liking. Experiment and find what your family likes best.

Exactly HOW healthy is our oatmeal?  The oats, flax seed, and raisins that we use are organic.  The powdered milk isn't organic, but is rbgh-free. 

Like I said, I will detail out the exact cost in a later blog when I do our next batch.  The estimated cost here, though, is about 36¢/packet.  If you include the cost of the honey, it makes it a little over 38¢/packet.  Note that this is for largely-organic oatmeal that contains only ingredients you can pronounce.

SOS Mom Saver: Make BPA-Containing Plastics Safer For Your Family

Are BPA-containing plastics as bad as they've made out to be?  In short, yes.  They are really bad for you.  Ideally, you should change out all of the BPA-containing plastics in your house over to BPA-free varieties or glass.

And now, I introduce you to...reality.

Unfortunately, most of us don't have the money to change over all of the plastics in our home at once.  It' costly.  Trust me, I know.  I've tried to switch over literally every piece of plastic in my home that contained BPA.  It's not nearly as easy as you'd think.  I'd venture to say that most of society has no idea how many of the plastics we encounter on a daily basis contain BPA. 

If you can only afford to change a little at a time, I always recommend starting in your kitchen.  Specifically, with dishes that you eat on daily or  storage containers that you use on a daily basis.  (Rubbermaid now makes a fairly affordable BPA-free line.)  The starter set is only $10 at Walmart.  However, our favorite storage containers are glass.  We have a ton of canning jars, but will also re-use old pickle & applesauce jars.

In the meantime, what do you do?  Just keep exposing your family to the BPA and pray for the best?  Well yes, but there's also more you can do to ensure that you are lessening the exposure they may have to the BPA in the plastics.

The number one thing to remember is that heat is what causes the BPA to leach into your foods.  In order to minimize the likelihood of that happening, you can do one of two things.
  1. Hand wash your BPA-containing plastics.  We all put our plastics on the top rack of the dishwasher, but if that plastic has don't want it exposed to the heat of the dishwasher at all!
  2. Don't put hot foods in any plastics that contain BPA.  Save those bowls for cereal, ice cream, or other room temp or cold foods. 
That's it.  Those are the two main rules to remember when using BPA-containing plastics if you hope to minimize your family's exposure to the BPA in those plastics.

I do recommend that you change over the BPA in your kitchen as soon as possible.  In the meantime, do what you can to help your family be safer and healthier.

SOS Mom Saver: Make Packing for a Vacation Effortless

For some reason, we (apparently) like to plan vacations and trips to Tulsa at the last minute.  True to form, we've decided fairly last-minute to go back to Tulsa.  We didn't really want to make the 20+ hour  drive in the winter due to hazardous road conditions.  However, serious grandparent-sickness has struck.  (That's similar to home-sickness, but specifically involves grandkids and great-grandkids who just MUST see their grandparents.)   We need to go back.  The kids need to go back.  And so we are; during our already scheduled vacation.

Again, I'm thankful for advance preparation.  Has anyone ever NOT been thankful that they prepared in advance?  Last October, the same advance preparation allowed us to get packed in an hour to go home when my mom passed away.

Every time after we get home from a trip, I unpack our stuff and put it away.  Then, I REPACK our toiletries bag and our bin of travel food.  I started doing this some time ago to make sure that we didn't forget things like allergy medicines that we don't normally use, but always need when traveling because of changes in climate.  It also helps spread the cost of food for our trip out over several months...instead of in the month OF the trip...when we're already strapped for cash.  Food is typically a fairly big expense for us when traveling because of food allergies.  We either take it with us or have to buy it when we get there. 

There are some basics that we all use that can be packed for a future trip:
  • Toothpaste
  • Toothbrushes (we put new ones in a baggie)
  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner
  • Soap
  • Lotion (coconut oil for us)
  • Sunscreen
  • Hair stuff (ponytails, headbands, bobby-pins, etc)
  • Small brush
  • Hair gel
  • Razor
  • Medicines for the trip (For us, that means allergy meds, 1 month of maintenance meds, and extra nebulizer mask for our son.)
  • Socks (For some reason, this flip-flop family nearly always forgot we pre-pack them.  We barely wear them so we've got extra to keep packed.)
We also keep a bin ready with foods that we use for a trip.  I figure out what we're missing and fill it back up in the month or 2 following a trip.  We keep the following items in there:
  • Cereal
  • Granola bars
  • Fruit leathers
  • Dried fruits
  • Canned fruits
  • A small can opener
  • Oatmeal
  • Bags for trash
  • Travel bowls and silverware (we keep a cheap set for travel)
  • Extra blender (smoothies are a regular part of our diet and family members don't have a blender so this is a necessity)
  • Shelf-stable milk like rice milk (I was missing this for this trip, we took cold milk instead.)
Because of our daughter's allergies, it's vital that we be prepared food-wise.

The extra that add for a winter trip is winter stuff "just in case" we get stuck somewhere.  Here in Vegas, we just keep all of our winter stuff in a bin year-round anyway because...well, we never need it.  (Please don't hate me, Michigan friends.)

I cannot tell you how valuable it is to have our toiletries bag almost completely packed and our food and food supplies already gathered in one place. I pull them out, added clothes for the trip and we are ready to go.

What things do you do to make travel easier on your family?

SOS Mom Saver: Shop Black Friday Without Leaving Your House

 This was my "haul" last year on Black Friday.

Did you know that most Black Friday deals that are in the stores are ALSO found online?  This doesn't apply to some of the biggest sales & limited-supply items...but usually those only constitute a handful of things from the ad.  Nearly everything else you'll find in the ad...and even most of the door busters can also be found online.

There's even an unknown bonus to shopping online.  Often, the stores will open up their online Black Friday sales at midnight.  For stores that are still opening at 4am or 5am, this means you get a good 4 or 5 hour jump start on those waiting in line.

Anyone who has shopped Black Friday online in the past knows that sites slow down considerably once their sales go live.  There are a couple of things you can do now to make sure that your online purchases go as smoothly as possible:
  • Peruse the ads beforehand and know what you're looking for from each store.  Make a list just as if you would if you were going to the store itself.  This helps you stay focused and makes sure you don't overspend.  (Which is very easy to do on a sale day like this!)
  • If you don't already have an account with the stores from which you want to purchase items, open one now.  (Typically, online stores don't hold any Black Friday items in your cart.  They're not really yours until you hit the "submit" button to finalize checkout.  If you don't already have an account, that could add 10 minutes between the time you put the item in your cart & the time you checkout.  On Black Friday, that 10 minutes is a LOT & someone could easily buy the item out from under you.  Having an account already set up speeds up your checkout time considerably.)
  • If you do have an account, log into it now to make sure you remember your password and are ready to go.  It takes so little time to make sure you get in & out quickly (and back to bed) on Black Friday.
  • How will you pay?  If you pay through Paypal, Google Checkout, or any other way...make sure that your account has current info, all cards are current (I just had to update the expiration for mine on Paypal), your mailing address is current, etc.  Again, log into it now to make sure you remember your password and are ready to go. 
  • You don't want computer issues like an outdated browser or Java to slow you down when sites will likely already be bogged down.  Update your IE, Firefox, or Chrome as well as Java now to ensure you don't have issues on Black Friday.
  • As you get closer to the day (like...while your husband is watching a game on Thanksgiving.  Okay...just typing that made me laugh hysterically.  If you know my know why.  He is so NOT a sports guy.)...anyway, you can go to the actual item and save the URL.  When the sales go live, you just enter the URLs in and proceed to check out.  If the store creates a new item number for the Black Friday item, you won't be able to do this, but I'd still try.
  • Some stores will let you save the item to your cart NOW.  Some will actually clear all carts of that item.  Yet other stores will create an entirely new item number for the Black Friday sale item.'s worth a try to add the item to your cart now, but it might not work.
  • Many stores have free shipping offers on Black Friday.  You'll often find these on their home page.  Be sure to look for them before checking out!
  • Don't forget to check for any additional coupon codes that you can usually use in addition to the sale prices.  (A bonus of buying online!)  RetailMeNot is my favorite site for finding online codes.
Do you shop on Black Friday?  Do you do so online or are you brave enough to go in person?

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: Save Your Child's Life!!!

Do you have more than one story on your house?  Then you NEED this:

Photo Courtesy of

No, Really.  

You do.

This won't save you time or money, but it very well could save your life or that of your children.  It's not a gimmick. It's a safe way out of the house should a fire leave you or your children trapped in a room.

You can buy the one linked above at or you can purchase one in person at Walmart.

Ideally, you should have one for each bedroom that is slept in.  If you can't buy all of them now, start with one.  One is better than none...and at least gives all of you an escape should you be trapped upstairs.

No, this isn't a pleasant topic, but it's an important one.  After hearing yet another story of a child dying because they didn't have a way to escape from a second floor was time to broach the topic.  I was shocked to hear a friend say that she didn't even know these existed.  

Well now you know.  

So go buy one!!

Disclaimer:  If you click on the above link and purchase the ladder, then I will get credit for that purchase as a part of the Amazon affiliate program. However, I don't care if you purchase through that link. I DO want you to buy this item if you don't already have one and live in a multi-story home but could care less whether you do so through that link, by going directly to Amazon, or by driving to your local Wally World!  Just please buy one. K? Thanks.

SOS Mom Saver: Clean Your Ceiling Fans Without Making a Mess

SOS Mom Saver: Semi-Annual Consignment Sales

I am a huge fan of buying used and saving the difference.  In years past, this has been more like, "buy used because we don't have the difference".  Many of us have been there at one time or another.  One of the biggest such sales is coming up this weekend here in Vegas.  (If you're just looking for that info, you can scroll down to find the info on it below.)

There are many such sales throughout the country throughout the year.  Most of the bigger ones hold two main sales a year.  One, in the fall, features Halloween costumes, fall & winter clothes, and baby items.  The other, in the spring, features spring & summer clothes and baby items.  Some sales offer maternity clothes while others don't. 

Some of these sales only charge an entrance fee on the first day of the sale.  Others charge every day of the sale, but only charge you once for the entire sale.  (In other words, you can pay on Friday & get a ticket allowing you to come back Sunday without having to come back again.) Still others only charge for early entrance into the sale or early entrance on the last day when a good portion of the items are marked down to 50% off.  Discounts or free admission are usually offered to the military and sometimes new moms &/or new foster moms.

All of them allow you to earn early shopping privileges by volunteering early.  Consignors usually get early shopping privileges as well as do new moms & new foster parents.  Some also allow offer early shopping privileges on barter if you provide supplies they need for the sale &/or bring food for the employees and volunteers.

Where are these sales?

  • As They Grow Kid's Consignment, Las Vegas
  • Friday, October 14th - Sunday, October 16th 
  • Fall/Winter Sale features:
    • Baby & children's clothes to size 16 for girls & 20 for boys
    • Halloween costumes (I was there today.  There are a TON of them!)
    • Every baby item you could imagine (strollers, playpens, swings...and everything in between) 
    • The only item missing is cribs because of recent federal regulations that prohibit the resale of cribs
  • The sale is at 7570 S. Dean Martin Dr. in Las Vegas (89139)
  • The entrance fee is $2.  However, that covers ALL days of the event.  In other words, if you go on Friday then you don't have to pay again to go to the half-price sale on Sunday.
  • On Sunday, many items will be 50% off.  
  • The deadline for consigning at this sale has passed, but they'll have another sale again in the spring.  We'll talk later about what you can do to prepare between now & then.
  • I two of the "founding" ladies today.  They are Christians and SOS listeners.  I'm happy to support them!
Everywhere Else:
  • Several cities throughout the US have their own semi-annual sales similar to As They Grow that are individually owned. A quick Google search should reveal if there is one in your area.
  • Just Between Friends
    • The link above will take you to their sale-finder page.  Currently, they have sales semi-annually in 24 different states.
    • This is the sale that I started out at "way back when" in Tulsa, OK.  I remember their early (and much smaller) days well.  
Do you have a sale in your area?  Feel free to post it here, on Facebook, or Tweet or e-mail it to me.  I'll get them on here so we can come up with a nationwide list of these sales.

SOS Mom Saver: Saving Money On Health Costs

Sometimes, we cannot avoid expensive medical procedures.  If you have a low or no deductible, then there's likely no stress when this happens.  If, however, you have a higher deductible, the cost of these procedures matters greatly.

Did you know that you can negotiate health care costs?  Before you start attempting to do so, though, you'll need to know a few things.  Most of them can be found out by calling your insurance company.
  • Is there a co-pay for the procedure you're needing to have done.  You may find that for some procedures that there is a co-pay.  If, for example, the co-pay for an MRI is $100, then you likely can just stop here.  You're not going to get an MRI for cheaper than that.
  • What is your deductible & how much of it have you met to date?
  • After you have paid your deductible, what is your co-insurance amount?  (In other words, what percentage of the cost do you have to pay after you have met your deductible.  This is typically 10%, 20%, or 30%.)  
  • What, if any, is your total out-of-pocket max for the year?  (For example, a person might have a $1,000 deductible and a co-insurance after of 20%, but they don't have to pay more than $5,000 total out-of-pocket every year.)  Usually, this number does not take into account co-pays which aren't included in your out-of-pocket maximum.
  • Is there a facility you must use for the ordered procedure?
Once you know these questions, you can then call the facility you must use for your insurance and ask them the last question:
  • What is the contracted amount with your insurance for the procedure?  
  • They may try to tell you that this will depend on your benefits, etc.  The contracted amount is a pre-determined amount that they have agreed they will charge.  This doesn't change according to your benefits.  The only thing your benefits determine is how much of that contracted amount YOU will pay.  Tell them that you know your insurance benefits & just need to know their contracted amount.  If they won't give it to you, go in & request it.  (Although I have always gotten the information over the phone.)
Once you are armed with this information, then you can know...UP much you will be required to pay.  Here's how you figure that out:
  • You have a $1,000 deductible and 20% co-insurance.  The contracted amount for the procedure is $1200.  You have not yet met any of your deductible for the year.  You will be required to pay $1040.  (Your $1,000 deductible and 20% of the remaining $200.)  Here's another example:
  • You have a $1,000 deductible and 20% co-insurance.  The contracted amount for the procedure is $1200.  You have met $600 of your deductible for the year.  You will be required to pay $560.  (The remaining $400 of your deductible and 20% of the remaining $800 charge.)
If you are not comfortable with what you will be required to pay, then you can proceed from there to find a cheaper rate elsewhere.  It is vital to know what you will actually pay before continuing, though.  Attempting to find a cheaper rate is simple:
  • Call providers in your area who provide the procedure you have been asked to have. (Don't forget to also call the place that is contracted through your insurance.)
  • Ask them what their cash price is.  It really is that simple.
  • Don't forget to ask if the price they give you includes contrast if that will be required (such as for an MRI).
If you find someone with a cheaper cash price than what you'll be required to pay using your insurance, you just take the order your doctor gave you to that facility and pay cash instead.  Don't even mention to them that you have insurance.

The only bad I have ever seen to doing things this way is that the cash you pay won't go towards your deductible or yearly out-of-pocket max.  We've had some plans with deductibles as high as $8,000 so for just wasn't necessary to worry about a particular procedure's cost going towards that deductible. 

Disclaimer:  I am not suggesting that you do this without fully understanding the risks involved (that the money you pay won't go towards your deductible &/or yearly out-of-pocket max).  "They" always suggest that you consult with your doctor, insurance provider, &/or financial provider before deciding to move forward with anything like this.  We decided that moving forward with this was beneficial to us and our situation.  As I cannot look at everyone's situations, you must decide for yourself whether this is a good idea for your family or not.

Recommended Books for Teens

I mentioned several books for teens on the show today.  You can find them on Amazon by clicking below.  (Please note that you are NOT obligated to purchase through Amazon or through the links I have provided if you do purchase from Amazon.  The links are purely for your convenience.  If you do decide to purchase through the links, then I will make a percentage of the sale which will be put towards the operating costs for the site.)

 (Picture from Amazon)

  (Picture from Amazon)

Uncompromising: A Heart Claimed By a Radical Love

  (Picture from Amazon)

Find out more about Alex and Brett Harris and how they are encouraging teens to live for Christ by going to their website:  Rebelution.

SOS Mom Saver: Using Coupons & Saving Money on Groceries Part 5: Where Do I Find Coupons?

I think this is one of the most commonly asked questions about couponing.

What good is knowing the coupon policies at your stores and how to handle any problems you may encounter while couponing...if you don't have coupons?  They're kind of an important part of couponing!

So where do you get coupons?

The easy answer to that question is to buy the paper every week.  However, that is not the only way to get coupons...and there are even specific papers you can buy to increase the likelihood that you'll get good, high-value coupons.

So...Where do you get 'em?
  • Buy a paper (of course).  
    • If you have a choice, you should get a bigger city paper like the Chicago Tribune or the LA Times.  These papers are going to be more likely to have higher-value coupons (and more coupons period).
    • The big thing to remember when buying papers is to check for the coupons BEFORE you buy them.  This is VITAL.  There's nothing worse than paying for a paper (or several) only to find out you didn't get the coupons you paid for.
    • Some papers will offer a discount if you buy multiple subscriptions.  Call & ask.  The bonus here is that they'll deliver the papers to you! (But it also means you get the paper even on weeks when there are no coupons.  And it's up to you to follow-up with the paper if you happen to not get coupons in one (or more) of your papers on an given week.  (Before subscribing, make sure that the paper still includes the coupons in their delivered editions.  Some don't.)
  • Buy whole inserts from a place such as Whole Coupon Inserts.
  • Buy just the individual coupons from a place like The Coupon Clippers.
  • Get coupons on Ebay (I wouldn't recommend going with any seller who has less than a 100% rating with no negative reviews.)
  • "Blinkie" coupons which are right by the products in the stores  (These are the coupons with the red borders that are right on the store shelves.  They used to be in red machines that blinked (hence the name).  In many areas, however, they're now in cardboard boxes.) 
  • "Tear Pad" coupons which you'll find on the shelves or on the door of a cold case in the stores.  Don't forget that you can even find these at some gas station chains.  (I know Shell and Speedway have them.)
  • "Peelies" which are coupons that are attached to the product in the store.  Note:  These are not a part of the box or container, but are a sticker that is attached to the product.
  • Booklets in the stores.  Some of these will be up at the front right by the ads.  Others will be on special displays throughout the store.
  • Catalina coupons
    • These are the coupons that print out at the register at your grocery store
    • They're called "Register Rewards" at Walgreens, but these are also Catalina coupons
    • Check with your local grocery store to see if they will take a Catalina coupon that printed at another store (even Walgreens) in their store.  If they say "manufacturer coupon" on them, then many grocery store chains will take them.  (Those that I know do take Catalina coupons even if they weren't printed in their store include Kroger/Smiths/Food-4-Less & other stores in that chain, Albertson's/Jewel & other stores in that chain, Vons/Dominicks/Safeway & other stores in that chain, Family Fare & other Spartan chain stores, Meijer, Publix, & Walmart if it's off a specific product.)  Don't be afraid to ask.  The worse they can say is no.
  • Call or e-mail companies for your favorite products (or ones you're brand-sensitive on) and ask them for coupons. 
  • Go to online sites to print coupons:
  • Go to the website for your local grocery stores.  Many of them offer printable coupons.  Here are a few:
  • Go to the website for your favorite companies.  Many of them offer printable coupons.  Examples:
  • Load coupons onto your store card.  You can do this from many store websites as well as from these 3rd party companies:
The above sources are not an extensive list of everywhere you can go.  The number of places to get coupons is far too numerous for me to put them all here.  They are merely a starting point to help you know where to find coupons. 

Be sure to check out all of the posts in this series:

Using Coupons and Saving Money on Groceries Part 1:  Don't Be a Brand S:nob
Using Coupons and Saving Money on Groceries Part 2:  Know Your Coupon Policies
Using Coupons and Saving Money on Groceries Part 3:  What if I Have a Problem?
Using Coupons and Saving Money on Groceries Part 4:  Store Cards 
Using Coupons and Saving Money on Groceries Part 5:  Where Do I Find Coupons?
Using Coupons and Saving Money on Groceries Part 6:  Price Matching


    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?

    SOS Mom Saver: Freebies

    It's so stinkin' hot here that save for a fantastic deal, I pretty much stop all couponing for the summer.  The heat doesn't really leave me itchin' to get out & grab the deals. 

    Then, the unthinkable happened.  I realized when I went to replace mine, that we had no more toothbrushes.  And, um,  I really don't want to stop brushing my teeth and don't yet have a snazzy homemade alternative to the toothbrush. the coupons I go.  (I'm certain that's not grammatically-correct.  It's like 180 degrees outside.  Work with me here.)

    One thing I learned years ago is that even when I stop couponing, I need to keep getting the coupons every week.  Without fail, every time I have not done this, I have regretted it when I started couponing again.

    So...I quickly perused my favorite sites, cut the coupons I needed...and off to the store I went.  (I didn't have time to spare.  I had already thrown my old toothbrush away.) 

    A couple hours later, I came home with 3 tired kids and this...

    Paid $1.47 total for all of this!

    Well, actually, I had more than that...but I tried to keep the 3 aforementioned kids calm by bribing them with some of the Gatorade drinks and energy bars. (Tip: Before trying such a thing, you should first make sure that what you are offering your children ACTUALLY tastes good. Don't say I didn't warn you.)

    Some of these deals were one-day deals (like the Dove soap which was an almost $3 money-maker).  However, others (like the toothbrushes, hair gel, & deodorant) are deals that you can get through this Saturday at least.  Some are good until Tuesday or Wednesday; depending on your area.

    Here are the deals:

    • Degree Deodorant 
      • You're getting the ones that the ad says are 2/$4 with a $1 register reward...but you're going to get a better deal.
      • Buy 4 of them (not the 2 listed in the ad) $8 - 4($1) 7/31 Unilever - ($4) register reward = Free!  
      • Some areas only got the $.75/1 coupons in the same insert so your total would be $1.
    • Colgate 360 Pro-Relief Toothbrush $4.99 - ($1) 7/31 ss - ($4) rr = Free + 1¢
    • Colgate Sensitive Pro-Relief Toothpaste (4oz) $4.99 - ($1.50) 7/31 ss - ($4) rr = Free + 51¢
    • Crest 3D White Toothpaste (4oz) (buy 2) $5 - 2($1) 7/31 pg - ($3) rr = Free
    • Keri Lotion (15oz) $8.49 - ($2) 7/17 ss or ($2) 8/21 ss - ($5) rr = $1.49 (Or even better, Free + $1.01 if you got a raincheck when they had them on sale for $5.99 a couple of weeks I did.)
    • Check your Walgreens sunscreen and clearance sections for the sunscreen.  The face stick alone normally retails for $6.99.  The combo packs were from $1.87-$2.74 each.  The sunscreen I got doesn't expire until 2013 which makes this an AWESOME deal!
    • Gatorade deal has run out of prints so it's over.  Sorry.  (They were all free.)
    • Dove deal is also over.  Sorry. 
    • LA Looks Hair Gel (20oz) $1 - ($1) 7/31 rp = Free!
    • Motts Apple Juice (64oz) (buy 10) $1.28 ea - 5($2/2) MDA bklt found at Safeway stores (Vons, Dominicks, etc) = 28¢ each (This is only available at stores in some areas.  Other areas have Hansen's Apple Juice for $1.48 ea wyb 10.)
    These are the deals I got this week.  I haven't checked the other grocery stores yet and CVS had nothing worth mentioning this week.


    School Supply Freebies and Deals 8/21-8/27

    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 Extreme Deal items; regardless of limit.)
    • Spiral Notebooks (1 subject) 1¢ w/$5 minimum purchase (lt. 6)
    • Zebra Z-Grip 0.7mm Mechanical Pencils (7 ct) $3.99 - ($3.99) ESR = Free (lt. 1, teachers too)
    • Sharpie (2 pk) 25¢ (lt. 2)
    • Mini Composition  Notebooks (2 pk) 25¢ (lt. 2)
    • Poly Binders 25¢ (lt. 4)
    • Dual Dome Pencil Sharpener 50¢ (lt. 2)
    • 8 1/2" x 11" Photo Paper $14.99 - ($14.49) ESR = 50¢ (lt. 2, teachers too)
    • Pencil Box 50¢
    • Jumbo Paper Clips (50ct) 50¢
    • 4" x 6" Photo Paper $13.99 - ($12.99) ESR = $1 (lt. 2, teachers too)
    • Poster Putty $1 (lt. 2)
    • Highlighters $1 (lt. 2)
    • Mini Binder Clips (40ct) $1 (lt. 2)
    • Multipurpose Paper (1 ream) $5.99 - ($3.99) ESR = $2 (lt. 2, teachers too)
    • Avery Note Tabs $2 (lt. 2)
    • Flash Drive (4gb) $6.99
    • Backpacks 25%-50% off
         Office Depot:
        • Spiral Notebooks (1 subject) 1¢ (lt. 3)
        • Pencil Eraser Caps (12 ct) 1¢ (lt. 3)
        • Vinyl Ring Binder (1") 50¢ (lt. 3)
        • Glue Sticks (4 ct) 50¢ (lt. 5)
        • Multipurpose Paper (1 ream) $6.49 - ($5.99) Rebate = 50¢ (lt. 2)
        • Sharpie Highlighters (3 ct) 50¢ (lt. 3)
        • Flash Drive (8 gb) $9.99
        • 2-pocket folders $.17 w/ac
        • Papermate Pens (10ct) 29¢ w/ac
        • Poly Folders 29¢ w/ac
        • Index Cards (70-100ct) 29¢ w/ac
        • Pencils (10ct) 39¢ w/ac
        • Scotch Tape 39¢ w/ac
        • 5-tab dividers (10ct) 50¢ w/ac
        • Colored Pencils (12ct) 50¢M
        • Most of their backpacks are $9.99 & b1g1f which means you can get TWO backpacks for under $10!!!
        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 their office for school supplies from 9am-5pm M-F (until this Friday).  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.