Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Today's trip to CVS - This is what 22 cents looks like.

I stopped by CVS today to check out their sales and I found some great clearance deals over in the deodorant aisle. The Dry Idea deodorant in the photo was marked down to $1.00 and I had two $1.00/1 coupons in my new coupon organizer. The Suave deodorant in the photo was marked down to .60 and I had one $1.00/2 coupon. I also had a coupon for free gum. The bottom of the receipt stated that I saved $13.75 today, but today this is what 22 cents looks like!

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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Finally, I found a coupon organizer that I like!

I have been looking for a coupon organizer that I like and that fits my coupon use for a long time. I was using a small plastic box for years, but it was hard to manage and it didn't fit in my handbag. When it broke recently after it fell on the floor, I set out on a mission to find an organizer that I really like and find useful.

I use enough coupons that I need an organizer, but I am not at the level where I need a big binder. As I was strolling through Wal-mart, I found an organizer that I really like. It is flat so it fits in my purse and I can now keep it with me at all times. It only has 13 tabs, but I consolidated my tabs and it is working out for me. There is a back pocket where I keep my Wegmans coupon book and my CVS bucks.

I never thought I would be so excited over a coupon organizer...I really need to get out more!

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Monday, April 27, 2009

Make It Yourself Monday - Party fruit & veggie trays

I love to cook and would much prefer to eat something homemade then made from a box. Homemade food tastes better to me and my family and a lot of the time the meals are healthier and less expensive than their store made, processed counterparts. Make It Yourself Monday gives me a chance to experiment with some recipes that I might not have tried before.

As we were planning my 1 yo's first birthday party, my husband suggested that we buy pre-made veggie and fruit trays from the local grocery store. In horror, I gasped, "I'll do it myself". I was positive I could do it for far less money, but I had never analyzed it before.

With one phone call to the grocery store for some pricing information, I knew I could save a lot of money making the trays myself. We were having about 30 relatives for the party, mostly adults who nosh on anything and everything.

Medium veggie tray - $19.99, feeds 14-16 people
Large veggie tray - $26.99, feed 20-25 people
Medium fruit tray - $29.99, feeds 16-20 people
Large fruit tray - $35.99, 20-28 people

I shopped at this same store and bought cucumber, red pepper, celery, carrots, grape tomatoes, cantaloupe, grapes, strawberries, and a pineapple. My bill for all of this was about $16. I used ranch dressing that was in my fridge and I made some hummus for dip for the veggies. I didn't bother with dip for the fruit, because instead of putting the fruit on a tray, I mixed it all together and made one big fruit salad.

It all turned out delicious and I saved at least $34, depending on what size pre-made tray I would have bought. I also think my selection of produce was better than what is included in the pre-made trays. I am not a big fan of honey dew and cauliflower.

Some might think that it would be worth the price to not have to chop all of that produce, but honestly I find chopping to be therapeutic. Ever since I invested in good knives many years ago, I like to chop!

If you read last week's post about the strawberry cupcakes that I made for the party, you know that I also saved money on those as well. That makes my total savings on this party at least $71.50 over other parties we have had. I have learned my lesson, I can do it just as well and for far less money.

Other Make It Yourself Monday posts you might enjoy:
There are many more, look for the "Make It Yourself Monday" label on the right side of the blog.

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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Our yard sale yields $300.

$300 is a lot of money for me to make at a yard sale. I usually only make about $80-$100. I don't have yard sales to get rich; I am just trying to de-clutter our home. They are also social events for me. My neighbors participate and the neighborhood becomes very lively. It is usually a lot of fun. Our neighborhood holds a yard sale every year and it usually just runs on a Saturday in May. This year it was moved to April and the event was Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Homeowners could participate in 1,2 or all 3 days, depending on their schedules. I was able to do all three days from about 7:30am - 1 pm each day. The weather was beautiful and people turned out in droves all 3 days. I think people were excited to get out after a loooong cold winter.

All winter long, I foraged through closets, drawers, the basement and the garage looking for items that were no longer used or needed. As I found items I put them in boxes in the garage. The boxes became overwhelming, so ticketing every item was out of the question. Instead I used cardboard boxes to hold similar items like baby clothing and wrote a price on the flaps of the boxes. This saved a lot of time. I originally put the boxes on the ground thinking that people would just go through them, but I noticed nobody was taking the time to look in the boxes. I moved the boxes on top of tables and then the items really started to sell.

We didn't have any big ticket items. The $300 was made mostly from .25 - $3.00 items. I had alot of new baby clothes with tags still on that I priced at $3. They sold very well. I think my highest ticketed price was for a very old leather Dooney & Bourke handbag. After checking on ebay I put $15 on the bag. No one even looked at the bag on Thursday or Friday so I intended on lowering the price on Saturday, but a lady beat me to it and asked if I would take $10. Sold...that bag had been in my closet for years. When I pulled it out of my closet this winter I found a restaurant coupon inside with an expiration date of 1998. I'm not sure why I held onto it for so long.

We were able to de-clutter the house a little, but de-cluttering seems to be an ongoing challenge for us. My cousin invited me to participate in her neighborhood yard sale in July, so I think I will go through the closets again, now that I am inspired by the wad of cash sitting on my kitchen counter.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Strawberry Cupcakes

I love to cook and would much prefer to eat something homemade then made from a box. Homemade food tastes better to me and my family and a lot of the time the meals are healthier and less expensive than their store made, processed counterparts. Make It Yourself Monday gives me a chance to experiment with some recipes that I might not have tried before.

Wow...leave it to Martha to find such a delectable recipe for strawberry cupcakes. We are on a cupcake kick at our house. My 3 year old loves them and they are fun for her to help me make. She likes to put the wrappers in the muffin pans and then she is usually done with the helping until it is time to lick the spatula. My baby turned 1 over the Easter weekend and we had about 30 relatives over for a party. Usually, I buy a cake for all of our special occasions from the specialty bakery where we got our wedding cake almost 9 years ago. We love their raspberry cakes and have purchased quite a few over the years. But this year I was trying to save money and the raspberry cake is about $40 for the size that I needed. My 3 year old suggested cupcakes and I thought it was a great idea. Of course the boxed variety just wouldn't do and I was also looking for some MIYM post ideas, so I hit my recipe binder and the web for some recipes. I had this recipe for Sprinkles Strawberry cupcakes in my binder that I printed a couple of years ago, but I never tried it. The recipe is found on Martha Stewart's website, but the recipe is from Candace Nelson of Sprinkles cupcakes.

Do yourself a favor and print this recipe and make these cupcakes...they are delicious and very easy to make. The only ingredient I had to buy was a bag of frozen strawberries, so I saved myself $37.50.

If you liked this recipe, you might also enjoy some recent Make it yourself Monday recipe:
Grammy's sugar cookies
Whole wheat pitas

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Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Don't throw those pineapple peels in the compost yet, use them for an at-home pedicure.

Long gone are the days when I go to a salon for a $45 monthly pedicure. Don't get me wrong, I love to get pedicures. I find them very relaxing, but at $45 a pop, I just can't justify the expense right now. With the temperature creeping upward, I have dusted off my flip-flops and taken off my feet are in need of some pampering. So I created a "citrus spa" last week in our sunroom and my 3 year old and I spent the afternoon pampering our piggies.

I gathered all of the supplies: foot bath, citrus foot soak, citrus foot moisturizer, nail polish and pineapple peels.

I found this tip to exfoliate feet in my Feb 1, 09 edition of Women's Day magazine. It sounded funny at first, but we eat a lot of pineapple so we always have pineapple peels that I usually just throw in our compost bin. Apparently the pineapple skins contain bromelain (a meat tenderizer), which naturally helps to exfoliate feet. We sat on the floor rubbing pineapple on our feet and then used the foot bath to soak and rinse off our feet. My husband bought the foot bath years ago to help his aching feet and it has been in a closet for years. I cleaned it up and filled it with warm water and I think that was my daughter's favorite part of the pedicure. I put a tiny bit of foot soap in the water and it bubbled up.

I'm not going to show you my toes, because I really want you to come back to my site, but take my word for it, they needed some attention. I think I will need a few more applications of the pineapple to really get rid of my dry cracked feet, but they did look a lot better after some pampering. I also saved myself $45 and spent a fun afternoon with my daughter.

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Monday, April 6, 2009

Cajun red beans and rice

I love to cook and would much prefer to eat something homemade then made from a box. Homemade food tastes better to me and my family and a lot of the time the meals are healthier and less expensive than their store made, processed counterparts. Make It Yourself Monday gives me a chance to experiment with some recipes that I might not have tried before.

Before my husband and I had our kids and we were both working outside of the home, dinner was always a struggle to pull together and I made a lot of boxed red beans and rice as a side dish. Honestly we loved it and it was easy to make, but the sodium was too high for us, so I stopped buying the boxed rice mixes. When I saw this recipe for Cajun Red beans and rice in Cooking Light a few months ago, I was interested in trying it because we missed the boxed version. The recipe calls for chicken andouille sausage links, but I used turkey sausage instead because I always have that on hand.

We really liked this dish. My 3 year old gobbled it up. It was also very easy to make and very hearty.

If you enjoyed this recipe, you might also like:

This post is linked to Carnival of Super Foods - beans and legume edition at Kitchen Stewardship.

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Friday, April 3, 2009

Before an economic crisis hits you, are you willing to live on half?

Did you watch Oprah on Thursday, April 2? Suze Orman was on the show and apparently she predicted an economic crisis a couple of years ago on the show when she lamented about how much debt Americans were in.

On Thursday, Suze challenged viewers, whether they are single or married to live on half of what they are currently living on now and put the other half in the bank. "If all of a sudden you find yourself without a job—or your partner finds themselves without a job—you are now going to have your income cut by 50 percent almost immediately," Suze said. According to her, unemployment also only makes up about 50 percent of your income. It is better to figure out where to tweak and cut now, before a lay-off, then later when you are distressed. She challenged viewers to live on half for 6-8 months, because it can take that amount of time to find a new job.

I immediately grabbed our household budget and tried to cut it in half. It is one thing to actually be in that dire of a situation, but to cut the budget in half before we are forced to do so is another. We don't live lavishly, but we do have some luxuries built into our budget that I'm not sure I want to give up just yet. I wrote back in early March about how we had a difficult February with our business. We reduced our spending in March, but we didn't cut our spending in half. Cutting the budget in half would call for some serious slashing. There is a big difference between slashing and reducing. I need some time to ponder this and of course cutting the spending in half would have to be a decision I make with my husband and I know he is not ready to give up his NFL channel just yet.

Grab your budgets and take a look. Can you cut it in half? Are you willing to try?

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