Friday, July 30, 2010

Resourceful Gifting - Plan Ahead

Is it really worth $7.00 to buy all this on the way to the shower?

The most important piece of giving gifts resourcefully is planning ahead. I cannot stress this enough. If you know you have an event coming up and you plan to take a gift, don't wait until the last minute to buy something. Here are several reasons I try to make planning ahead a priority:

1. A last minute gift isn't as fun to give. I don't feel like I've put much effort or thought into a gift I pick up on my way to the baby shower.

2. If I am buying off a gift registry there is often very little left, if anything, to choose from at the last minute that is within my budget.

3. Sometimes a last minute gift also requires last minute gift wrap. Nothing irks me more than buying a giftbag and tissue paper at Target. It's ridiculously expensive and I have lots at home already!

4. A card at the last minute also usually costs a few bucks when I have lots at home and lots of materials to make something special if I had planned ahead.

5. Finally, it's just more fun and relaxing to head off to an event with a gift I am proud to be giving all ready to go. No stressful last-minute wrapping, no snapping at my husband because I'm in a rush to get out the door, and no unnecessary or unplanned spending.

I am the first to admit that I am a huge procrastinator and at least some of the time I am not giving a well-planned gift. However, I have a much more peaceful and joyful attitude when I have planned ahead so I definitely want to encourage you readers to do so if at all possible.
This blog isn't just about saving money; it's about being happy with what you have and hopefully making your life a little more easy and joyful. I enjoy writing it and I hope you are encouraged.


Thursday, July 29, 2010

Resourceful Gifting - New Series!

I love to give gifts. I enjoy planning to give, I love the shopping, the gift wrapping, and just blessing someone else because I have been blessed. I also love to save money and have learned over the years that there are lots of lovely ways to give without spending an arm and a leg. I thought a series on Resourceful Gifting might be appropriate as I am starting to think about Christmas and it has already been a summer of weddings and babies.

At this writing I am hoping to address several Resourceful Gifting issues and ideas including:

Planning Ahead
Gift Registries
Gift Stockpile
Homemade Gifts
Gift Wrap
Gift Baskets - baby
Gift Baskets - wedding
Gift Bags/Baskets - kid birthdays

I am planning to post on Fridays for this series, and I'm hoping that publishing that intent that will motivate me to stay on track!


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Spring Cleaning Update

If you are a regular reader you'll have noticed the Spring Cleaning has morphed into a cleaning & organizing project for each room. I think much of this has to do with nesting and preparation for the baby who is only 6 weeks away! I'll try to quickly finish up this series as it has been lingering and frankly, I'm tired of reporting on my progress (or lack thereof!).

I'm hoping to post over the next week or so while I'm out of town about the master bathroom, the guest bathroom, paint touchups, and the linen closet. These are all ongoing projects that I just want to finish. I still would like to do a Cleaning & Organizing pass on the master bedroom, the living room, and the kitchen cabinets. We'll see if I manage that before baby, but no promises. =^)


P.S. it is my dream to have an organized office, but I will not even pretend that project will happen before our next baby.

Top Foods Redmond - 25% off Almost Everything

The Redmond Top Foods store only has 4 days left before closing. Their ad indicates that virtually every department is 25% off. Here's a list:

All Meat
All Wine & Beer
All Produce
All Grocery
All Bakery
All Delicatessen
All Dairy & Self Service Deli
All Frozen
All Candy
All Bulk
All Heath & Beauty Care
All Housewares

I would recommend going to check it out - with high value coupons you could get some screaming deals. I can't make it until the wee hours tomorrow, Thursday, because I don't have a vehicle today, but I'm looking forward to see what kind of bargains I can find!

If you can make it to Top in Redmond this weekend check out some printable coupons here and see if there are any for products you normally buy. 25% off plus the coupon could be a great deal, particularly on diapers, organic food items, vitamins, and other normally expensive items. I am going to check out baby formula because I have some great coupons that might make the Top deals cheaper than Costco.


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Meal Swap - Sweet & Sour Chicken (with helpers!)

I had my monthly meal swap again last night. This time I made Sweet & Sour Chicken. I chose this dish because I had a big jug of Sweet & Sour sauce in my pantry and because chicken was on sale last week. I had a little trouble finding a recipe that uses Sweet & Sour sauce - most recipes I came across included making your own sauce instead of using premade. I found this one at that was published by Kikkoman, the manufacturer's of the sweet & sour sauce I used.

Here are the ingredients:
1 T Cornstarch
1 T Soy sauce
1 pound chicken, cut into 1" cubes
2 T vegetable oil
2 Carrots, thinly siced
1 Onion, chunked
1 Green bell pepper, cut into 1" squares
1 C. Sweet & Sour sauce
1 8 oz. can pineapple chunks, drained

This was a little labor intensive because of all the chopping, but I had some great helpers! Here Eve is working on the pineapple. She opened the cans, drained the juice, and divided the pineapple into equal portions.

Here is Naomi peeling carrots. She mostly has the hang of it, but ended up with several carrot bits stuck to her face (due to particularly vigorous and hilarious peeling motions).

Here is Joanna, wanting in on the action so she sampled a carrot.

After all the prep work we had 6 bags of veggies in sauce, 6 bags of rice, 6 bags of marinated chicken, and 6 bags of pineapple. This many Ziploc bags was painful for me, and used up most of my "new" supply (I don't use recycled bags for the meal swap unless I've planned poorly and have no other options).

Our Meal Swap group purchase gallon, freezer Ziplocs together (as a group), so these final bags were actually intended to be meal swap bags and weren't as painful for me to use. Altogether each meal had four small bags inside the larger gallon freezer bag for a total of 30 Ziploc bags used! Oh well.

Here is the rest of the recipe, and what I made for dinner last night. We had just enough sweet & sour sauce, the veggies and almost 1 pound of chicken left to make one more portion, but I used all the pineapple in the freezer meals so the pictures don't have pineapple.

1. Blend cornstarch and soy sauce in a small bowl; stir in chicken until well coated.
2. Cook chicken in hot oil in a large skillet over med-high hat until outside turns white. Stir in 1/4 cup water. Cover and simmer 20 minutes, stirring occassionally.
3. Stir carrots, onion, bell pepper, and sweet & sour sauce into chicken mixture. Simmer, covered, 10 minutes longer, stirring frequently.
4. Add pineapple chunks; cook and stir only until pineapple is heated through.
5. Serve over rice.

Here is the chicken cooking:

Adding the vegetables:

After 20 minutes simmering:

Of course I forgot to take a picture of this with the brown rice on a plate and looking pretty. It was yummy, though a little sweet for me.

Here is the cost breakdown:
Cornstarch - on hand
Soy Sauce - bought a big jug for $4.34
7# Chicken - $12.22
Vegetable oil - on hand
14 carrots - $2.00
7 onions - $3.00
7 bell peppers - $3.50
7 cups sweet & sour sauce - free gift
60 oz. pineapple - $3.00
Total cost: $28.06
Cost per meal: $4.01

The meals I received this time were White Chicken Lasagna, Beef Fajitas, White Chicken Enchiladas, and Lemon Pineapple Chicken. If any of you readers are local and interested in joining our swap, let me know. We meet once a month and make meals for 4 to 7 other families (depending on who's participating), 4 servings per meal.

Have a great day!


Monday, July 26, 2010

Monday Menu Plan & Weekend Shopping

Major Shopping to do and only $45 left in the budget. Did I manage?

For the Meal Swap tonight I decided to make sweet & sour chicken. I had a huge jug of sweet & sour sauce and chicken was on sale so I found a recipe. I had some of the ingredients, but I had to buy the chicken, bell peppers, pineapple, onions, and soy sauce. Check out tomorrow's post for the recipe and the meal preparation.

I also am trying to plan for camping the first week of August where I have to provide dinner for 10 adults and 5 kids on two nights. I am making a taco bar one night and beef stew the other night. So I also was watching for ingredients for those meals.

Dinners this week:
Monday - Sweet & sour chicken
Tuesday - Potato Soup (need to use that milk in my freezer)
Wednesday - baked pasta (with white cheddar - a big hit last week!)
Thursday - beef stroganoff (using more milk)
Friday - BBQ
Saturday - leftovers before we leave for camping

Lunches this week:
Monday - Quesadillas
Tuesday - grilled cheese
Wednesday - Mac & Cheese
Thursday - pb & j
Friday - chicken nuggets
Saturday - leftovers before we leave for camping

Here's my haul for the weekend shopping. Altogether I spent $50.51 so I didn't quite make it with my $45 left for the month. Close enough! I actually returned a clothing purchase before my Fred Meyer shopping, as well, so I could use a store credit toward the groceries.

Here's what I bought:
2 english cucumbers - $.50 each on sale
8 bell peppers - $.50 each on sale (for meal swap)
green onions - $.50
red & green grapes - $.99/lb
bananas - $
5# bag of onions - $4.79! (Seriously irritated at this price! Ridiculous!)
pint whipping cream - $2.29 (50% off clearance) = $1.15
YoPlus yogurt - $2.29 sale ($.50 store coupon) ($1.00 MC) = $.79
Yoplain Delights yogurt - $2.29 sale ($.50 store coupon) ($1.00 MC) = $.79
Yoplait Fiber One yogurt - $2.29 sale ($.50 store coupon) ($1.00 MC) = $.79
Toradoes - $2.99 (50% off clearance)($1.00 MC) = $.50
2 packages 3+# Chicken Breast - $3.49/lb BOGO
Angel Food cake mix - $2.19
2 - 2# bricks cheddar - $3.49 each
BallPark Jumbo Franks - $1.29 clearance ($.75 MC) = $.54
English muffins - $.49 clearance
2 Sour Cream - $1.50 (BOGO MC) = $.75 each
Sour Cream - $1.50 ($.40 MC) = $1.10
Gallon Fat Free Milk - $1.99 sale ($1.00 markdown) = $.99
Gallon Whole Milk - $1.99 sale ($1.00 markdown) = $.99
3-20oz cans pineapple - $1.00 each
2-GoGurt - $2.00 sale ($1.00 markdown)($.75/2 MC) = $.63 each
Darigold creamer - $1.99 sale ($.50 MC) = $1.50
Jug Soy Sauce - $5.79 (25% off sale) = $4.34

In retrospect I should have bought a much smaller amount of soy sauce and skipped the angel food cake mix and whipping cream. Then I'd have stayed within my $45.

Heading into August I still need to buy a few things for the camping trip like tortillas, olives, & salsa, but overall I feel like I'm in pretty good shape for what's coming up!


Saturday, July 24, 2010

Top Foods in Redmond closing

I heard several weeks ago that the Top Foods in Redmond was closing. Today I was shopping there and noticed some sales related to that store's pending closure on July 31 and wanted to pass along some deals.

I am guessing that some stock will be difficult to move to other locations and that many items are unique to the Redmond location - perhaps lingering from it's Larry's Market days - and aren't carried at other Top Foods stores.

The 'big' sales were 25% off various departments incuding all bulk food items, all health and beauty, many specialty housewares, and many items in the International Food aisle.

The bulk foods are all 25% off. This sale is pretty starightforward.

The health and beauty aids are also all 25% off from regular prices. This is a big department including feminine products, makeup, dental, razors, deodorant, hair dye, vitamins, hair products, medicines, & more. 25% off isn't an incredible sale, but if you have coupons and/or use some high end products these could be some great prices.

I wish I could have lingered in the International Food aisle, but needed to get home. I may go back to see what deals I can get with 25% off and coupons. Most of the sauces & vinegars were reduced in the Asian food section, as well as many types of noodle and the Simply Asia meals. Across the aisle, Gia Russa whole wheat pasta was also all 25% off.

The specialty housewares are many and varied. I'm sure most of these are lingering from Larry's days and while these aren't great deals (due to housewares being sold at a grocery store), they could be good deals at 25% off, especially if you have weddings coming up and want a quality gift. Here's a big list: Kitchen gadgets including range pans, utensils, silicone pot holders, plastic or wooden cutting boards, colanders, mixing bowls, and foil baking pans. Le Creuset Stoneware baking dishes, kettles, honeypot, pitchers, butter dishes. Wine glasses by Spiegelau and Riedel and numerous wine accessories. Pyrex baking dishes, measuring cups, & bowls. Good Cook baking pans including bundt and angel food cake pans. A small selection of very expensive castiron cookware. Pizza stone. Hamilton Beach appliances including food processor, regular and single-serve blenders, toaster, toaster oven, 6 or 12 cup coffee maker, coffee grinder, two sizes of slow cooker, and can opener. Proctor Silex waffle iron. Joyce Chen asian items including 5 piece tea set, sake set, chopstick bowls, bamboo placements, bamboo steamer, wok, stovetop ceramic kettle, and many sushi accessories.

There are also some vases on clearance from the floral department ranging in price from $1.99 to $10. Some of these were very tall and unique and if I was any good at decorating I would have considered purchasing one.

Seasonal items are also being cleared out including Coleman adult sleeping bags for $14.99 and table top gas grills for $17.49.

I'm wondering if the 25% off will be increased as July 31 nears so I'll try to keep an eye out this week and keep you readers posted.


Friday, July 23, 2010

Melissa & Doug Clearance at Amazon - 70% OFF

Amazon is having a great sale on Melissa & Doug items - some are up to 70% off! You can look at those items here. Scroll down the page and click the 70% off link under the "Discount" heading on the left side of the screen. At this writing there are 83 items in that category.

There are many craft items & a few puzzles. If you have kids aged 4 or 5 and up or have birthday parties coming up definitely check this sale out. Free shipping with Amazon, as ever, if you spend $25. The $25 has to be spent with Amazon as the shipper, so look for the note that says "Eligible for Free Super Saver shipping" in the description under each item.

I was able to get my girls some birthday gifts and I've covered Christmas for my nieces as well!

I saw this deal on MommySnacks.


Thursday, July 22, 2010

Resourceful Birthday Card

I received these two cards within a few days of each other earlier this month. The thank you note came first and then a birthday gift arrived with the card on the right. I was delighted to see the sender of the birthday card had been so resourceful! Apparently no birthday card was on hand so she just doctored a thank you note to become a blank card!

Since this blog is about being resourceful I thought I'd share her trick here. It will also be incuded in my "Resourceful Gifting" series that starts next week.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Spring Cleaning - Joanna's Room

This room has taken ages to organize & clean! I've been doing one small piece at a time as I find time. For example, one size of clothes or one drawer or one shelf.

Here is Joanna's closet. It is pretty jammed with any baby paraphenalia in the house, storage boxes for baby clothes up to size 2T, and some of my closet overflow (formal gowns, suits). I don't even know what all I will find in here.

Here is a more general picture of Joanna's room. It tends to become a "catch-all" space because the girls don't play in there and use the floor space. You can see some luggage & storage boxes and baskets in this photo. There is also a matted print and frame that the big girls managed to break the glass out of that just sits in this room awaiting . . . what?

The first big project was sorting and organizing the clothes for Joanna and the new baby (who remains nameless). I am pretty vigilant about not keeping too many clothes and limit myself to one under-the-bed box of each infant size. My mom loves to thrift shop and is constantly providing all the girls with new clothing items. I have to limit how many clothes I keep or there would be no space for them all! As it is, an under the bed box in each size up to 18M and two for each size in 24M/2T to size 6 takes up quite a bit of space!

I also had a big box of shoes from size 7 & up all jumbled together. I sorted those into new boxes and labeled them so I can handily put outgrown shoes into their appropriate spot (provided they aren't destroyed or just in too bad of shape to hand down), or grab the next size up when the time comes.

There was a grocery bag of socks & tights on a hanger that I spent an afternoon sorting. I felt so accomplished with the socks all sized! Why didn't I do this three daughters ago and make my life easier? It'll be really easy to switch socks out next time.

The closet shelves/drawers were like a treasure trove! Here are some surprises I found:

1.Two partial boxes of wipes all dried out. I just added some water and we used them up.
2.Three sippy cups that I thought I had gotten rid of. Thankfully we had only purchased one replacement so the extras have been very nice.
3.I have 39 pairs of cloth training pants in varying sizes. This sounds like a lot, but considering the amount of times we ran out of clean ones I am electing not to get rid of any (though I gave a few 'boy' pair away to a friend with boys).
4. I did decide to get rid of some plain white plastic exterior/cloth interior training pants because I had 12 pair and could certainly make do with 3 in the appropriate size for carseat accidents while potty training. I also got rid of many child-proofing items we have never used and lots of miscellaneous bottle pieces.
5. I found some leather "seat protectors" I had forgotten all about. These are just in time for our carseat transfer to the leather seats in the Suburban.
6. I discovered I had 8 crib sheets so I got rid of over half of those, too. I had accumulated so many because of potty training in a toddler bed, but as I plan to never have a toddler bed again I only need a couple of sheets.
7. I have not one, but two car seat carrier covers. I got rid of the gender-neutral one of those, too.

Do you notice a theme here? I've decided that on my fourth daughter I don't have to keep all the "what if I have a boy" gear. I'm stuck with neutral carseats & stroller, but I have gotten rid of all the yellow sleepers and onesies. I also was given a pink Bumbo - Yay! And added a brown/pink pack'n'play to our collection.

Here is the newly organized closet:

For the main room I first put away the luggage - we stash it in the hall closet but have to move the dresser to get it there so it's kind of a pain. After asking DH to do it a couple of times and having him move the luggage back into Joanna's room from the hallway I just did it myself. Yep- seven months preggo and shoving dressers around. Whoo!

I also found a piece of glass for that matted & framed print the girls had broken. I had an old poster in the garage from my own childhood with the same size frame so I just pulled the glass from it to use on this print. Then I rehung it where it belongs.

I had been searching for a laundry hamper for a year and finally found one a few weeks ago at a consignment store in Issaquah. It was only $10! This was a big find for me.

Here's the freshly cleaned room:

I did the spring cleaning pieces: vacuum moving all the furniture, touchup paint, seriously dust, wash inside windows, wipe down outlet plates, and wood polish on the crib & rocker. I didn't spot clean the carpet or wash the curtains. I just didn't manage, and I'm so ready to be done with this room I skipped it and am moving on to the master bathroom.

Overall it feels so great to have this space organized! Everything has a place, and now I just have to keep putting things back in their place and/or finding places for new gifts.


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Garden Update - pictures

I hope you all aren't tired of the garden updates. I just get so excited to see food growing in my yard!

This is one of the tomato plants DH brought home from work. Its existing fruit is maturing though there aren't any new buds, so I'm not sure it'll continue to produce.

This is one of our original tomato plants. Those yellow flowers are finally turning into little tomatos! I am so excited to harvest these babies and put up all sorts of food for the winter! I am planning pizza sauce, salsa, and diced tomatoes so far. Yay for a canner and lots of jars!

Here is one of the zucchini plants. There are three plants altogether, and two of them are pretty close to eachother so I'm not sure if those will be too crowded. This is the third that is by itself. All three have several squash getting started.

This is the broccoli. Last year it barely grew so I was excited that it's been getting so big this year. However, there are no flowers and I'm not sure what exactly to look for as it's the first time I've seen it growing. Does anyone know what I should look for?

This is the mountain of romaine lettuce. I am going to have to thin this out before the heads get much bigger, and am looking forward to yummy Caesar salad. I love romaine! In the lower right corner of the picture you can see new Romaine sprouts. I am hoping to enjoy this lettuce well into the fall!

Those new peas are growing like mad. This photo is only 15 days after the seeds were planted. I can already see the curly tendtrils reaching out on a few of the biggest plants, so I'll need to get stakes in this week.

Here are our original peas. They are flourishing.

I was late picking some of the peas for two reasons. 1. We were out of town this weekend and 2. Some of the peas are growing very low to the ground because the vines never climbed and I just didn't see them. I had trouble getting a shot in focus, but you can see these pods are split.

This is everything I picked yesterday. Crazy amounts of mixed greens & spinach, peas, and a few strawberries. We're saving the strawberries for strawberry pancakes on Friday. I didn't even touch the romaine lettuce, so it's a lettuce overload!


Monday, July 19, 2010

Monday Menu Plan - Getting Creative

We did very little grocery shopping this week as I was out of town. DH picked up some bananas, grapes, salsa, and coffee creamer while we were out of town, but otherwise no shopping.

There are a few good sales this week with loss leaders, but I want to conserve the money left in the budget until I know what I'm making this weekend for the meal swap (next Monday) and plan our meals for camping (the first week of August).

All that to say I'm delving in the freezer and pantry for my meals this week and I am all out of freezer meals! I have to get creative & make meals from what I have.

Monday - Taco Salad
Tuesday - Baked Ziti (no mozzarella, so I'll try white cheddar) & green salad (garden)
Wednesday - Sausages (from freezer) and pasta salad
Thursday - Hamburgers & green salad (garden)
Friday - Rigatoni with red sauce & green salad (garden)
Saturday - a friend's birthday party
Sunday - dinner out at Applebee's

Monday - Grilled cheese & fruit
Tuesday - mac & cheese with sugar snap peas (garden)
Wednesday - quesadillas & fruit
Thursday - pb & j/yogurt packed lunch
Friday - strawberry pancakes (strawberries from garden)
Saturday - Burritos (beans from pantry) & green salad (garden)
Sunday - soup & sandwiches

Short shopping list: Sour cream & onions


Sunday, July 18, 2010

Hanging a Clothesline

I thought I'd post about how to hang a clothesline since it has been such a great change for our family. Not only have we saved some cash on the utility bills, but it gets me outside in the yard with the girls much more often than would have happened otherwise. I love getting that Vitamin D!

I hung our clothesline about a year ago and wasn't sure, at first, where to put it. I watched how the sun moved over our house and figured out where the sun was during the hottest part of the day. This was so clothes would dry quickly and also happens to coincide pretty well with naptime, when I'd be able to work most efficiently.

Here's what our clothesline lookes like. It's in a "W" shape. Our fence is the top of the "W" and the posts of a small deck are the bottom points of the "W." This is not a symmetrical "W" at all - it's in the back yard and who really cares? I just looked at the sunniest spot of the yard and thought, "where I can screw in anchors for a clothesline?" and "how can I maximize hanging space?" If you can't stretch across your yard without putting a hole in your siding some other options are: Trees, a corner of the fence (use line to make a triangle), outbuildings, swingset, or just dig a hole to sink a post into.

I bought these hooks at Home Depot last summer. I don't remember what they cost, but I'm sure it was less than $1 each. I drilled holes and screwed these sturdy hooks in. Big nails would have worked, but I didn't want to mess with rope staying put behind small nail heads or tension causing the nail to come loose. If you go with nails, use a washer to make the head bigger.

I didn't have any appropriate rope for a clothesline when I made this. I had some twine, but it was really too thin and I thought maybe a bit dirty. I looked at Home Depot and was surprised how much rope cost! In my neighborhood HD and Fred Meyer share a parking lot so I decided to check out Fred Meyer's prices. Jackpot! In the sporting goods deparment I found this white rope that was thick without being too heavy and looked like it wouldn't collect dirt. It was less than $3! I think it was called crab line?

I tied a loop at one end of the rope, hooked it at the tip of the "W" and then ran the line through all the hooks. At the other end of the "W" I tied a knot around the hook. A few times when the line has seemed to sag it's very easy to tighten the whole setup by pulling the line and making another loop around that last hook. By avoiding knots at every juncture I can just tighten things up without having to untie, pull, and retie. The rope slides through the hooks.
I had a friend ask me about clothespins recently and I had no good advice! All of my clothespins are from yard sales. I looked once at the Dollar Store and didn't see any, but I have, oddly, seen them at grocery stores in that tiny housewares section. I also prefer the spring clips, not the push on, though I don't have a good reason. And I like the wooden as opposed to plastic - again I don't know why. The plastic ones would certainly be easier to spot when I drop them.

Please comment if you have good clothespin advice or if you found a great place to string a clothesline in your yard!


Friday, July 16, 2010

Bulk Ketchup

I have had this huge can of ketchup in my pantry for over a year. I'd been waiting to crack it open until barbeque season knowing that we'd be using large quantities of ketchup. I did some calculating and figured to fill 4 bottles. I had been saving these bottles in the pantry specifically for this purpose & I do the same with syrup bottles. Remember though, that I threw out a bunch of excess bottles when I was cleaning the pantry.

As it turns out the can filled 3 very full bottles with about 3 tablespoons left over so I just left it at 3.

I think this #10 can was between $3.00 & $4.00 at Costco or Cash'n'Carry. Ketchup sale prices tend to run between $1.50 and $2.00 for this sized bottle so buying the big can is the way to go if you'll use this much ketchup over the course of a few months. If you get screaming sales plus coupons the prices probably work out about the same.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Who needs Ziplocs?

In our recent extreme frugality I ran out of gallon ziploc bags. I elected not to replace them because I found they weren't a necessity and those few bucks would be better spent elsewhere.

Then we ran out of fold-top sandwich bags. This was inconvenient, but again, I decided we could wait to purchase them and added them to my "buy in Oregon" list so I could save sales tax.

Then I ran out of the gallon 'storage bags' which don't have a closure, but are nice big, clear bags. Same story - didn't replace them.

So what to do almost no plastic bags? We made do and I've been having such a fun time figuring out creative solutions I might not buy more plastic bags for a good, long while.

The biggest challenge right away was how to pack DH's lunch. I generally send him with leftovers in a plastic container, a piece of fruit or yogurt, and a treat. But sometimes I send a sandwich and what do you do when there's no sandwich bags left? Enter MamaLuvs, these great little bags a friend of mine makes. I won these as a prize at MOPS this year and hadn't even tried the sandwich bag. This big bag is a sandwich, the small bag is 3 cookies, and the grapes are in a recycled produce bag. Check out MamaLuvs here - a great product that's great for the environment.

The next challenge was keeping food covered in the fridge. I used to toss things in sandwich bags or ziplocs (depending on their size), but I was out of both. I quickly started noticing how many plastic bags come through my kitchen - constantly! I had been busy patting myself on the back because I always use my grocery totes and almost never have those irritating grocery sacks anymore, but in reality I am bringing home tons of plastic in packaging! Here you can see a recycled bread bag for the cheese block and another produce sack for the cucumber. Since I realized the amount of plastic I've been bringing home I've cut down at the grocery store, too. For example, if I'm buying two oranges, I just put the oranges in the cart without a bag. Same with cucumbers, bell peppers, lemons, limes, & kiwi. These are things I usually only buy 1 or 2 of so I just skip the bag.

Finally, and this is my favorite, I've been using cereal bags! These bags are durable and I love using some of that extra packaging. Here is some lettuce I've packaged up to give away. Rather than use a gallon ziploc (like I did last year), I just put the lettuce in these bags and fold the top down. Voila!

Another great bag is the tall, thin newspaper sack. I don't like to use these for food because of the newsprint, but they are awesome for diapers.

I also realzed that the tortillas we buy come in a ziploc bag so I rinsed one and used it as part of sorting & organizing Joanna's closet.

The most common bags I've been using are bread, bun, & bagel bags - all you have to do is shake out the crumbs. I also use a lot of the produce bags because they're versatile and even cutting down, I come home with at least two each week.

Do you have any other good ideas for not using plastic bags or recycling the plastic bags you have?


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Tuesday Grocery Shopping $41.63

I did a little shopping yesterday so I could snag some good deals that were ending and to use the Albertson's double coupons from the Sunday paper. I ended up getting more than I thought . . .

Gallon Organic 2% milk - $4.99
Gallon non-fat milk - $2.39 ($1.00 Markdown) = $1.39
Hot dog buns & hamburger buns - $1.00 - not a great deal, but I needed them.
2# bags of carrots - $1.00 each
Roma tomatoes - $.58/lb
Yogurt cups - $.30/each (Buy 7, Get 3 Free coupon) = $.21 each
Dozen eggs - $.99
Pimento stuffed olives - $3.99
Hillshire Farms smoked chicken sausage - $1.99 each markdown (for stir-fry meal swap soon)
Fletcher's breakfast sausage links - $1.99 each (out of breakfat meat)
Baby Food clearance $.25 each (I picked out the 3 packages dated 2011 or later so I can use them for #4 due in September)

Kellogg's Deal
Buy 8 get $8.00 off
Nutrigrain Bar $3.99, on sale $2.50 ($1.00 deal)($.75 MC doubled) = FREE
Poptarts $3.89, on sale $2.50 ($1.00 deal)($1.00/2 MC doubled)= $.50 each
Rice Krispies $4.69, on sale $2.50 (1.00 deal)($1.25/3 MC) = 1.08 each
Raisin Bran $4.59, on sale $2.50 ($1.00 deal)($1.00/2 MC doubled) = $.50 each

Not pictured: hand of bananas $.59/lb, 2 cucumbers $.50 each, markdown dozen doughnuts $1.99.

All this cost $41.63, but I had a gift card for $23.92 making it only $17.71 out of pocket.


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Garden Update - It's not too late!

Just a quick garden update.

I want to encourage you to go ahead and plant something if you have been thinking about it. It's not too late!

This is romaine lettuce after only 5 1/2 days of growth. It should grow well and be ready to pick by the second week of August & I'll be able to keep picking it for 6-8 weeks!

These are Sugar Snap Peas also after only 5 1/2 days of growth. They have sprouted nicely despite the not-too-fine soil, and they also will be ready to pick by mid-August and harvest for about a month.

Here's a pretty zucchini blossom I just had to photograph. Can't wait for zucchini bread!

Finally! The bush beans have blossoms, but no visible veggies yet. I'm hoping to can green beans, so I would love for these to be fruitful plants.

More on the garden next week!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Grocery Outlet Trip - $15.09

I was in Portland all weekend for a getaway without my kids and I was able to do a little shopping including a trip to Grocery Outlet. Here's what I purchased using a $5/$25 coupon which works out to 20% off. I listed the prices after the 20% discount. I also got a few non-food items that aren't pictured & those got my total up just over $25 so I could use the coupon. I was pleasantly surprised to find so many things I had on my "should buy soon" list here.

Crisco Spray $1.59 (almost out)
Mayo $.79 (right at pull date so I'll use it right away)
Ocean Spray juice $.79 each (for camping)
Generic Ritz crackers $.79 (for camping)
Applesauce $.79 each (for camping)
Sparkling Grape Juice $1.20 each
Can of coffee $3.20 (almost out)
Del Monte fruit cups $.79 each (for camping)
Imitation vanilla $.79 (almost out)

Menu Plan:
Monday lunch - nachos & applesauce
Monday dinner - french toast & bacon
Tuesday lunch - mac & cheese with grapes
Tuesday dinner - pork chops, cheesy broccoli rice (this one keeps getting put off), salad
Wednesday lunch - grilled cheese & applesauce
Wednesday dinner - hamburgers, salad
Thursday, Fri, Sat - out of town with girls - leaving food for DH
Sunday lunch - chicken nuggets
Sunday dinner - chicken or pork with rice pilaf, salad


Thursday, July 8, 2010

Electric Bill - No freezer & almost no dryer

Our energy bill this month didn't seem significantly lower than last month so I was initially discouraged thinking that all my efforts to line-dry our clothes and keep our freezer unplugged as long as possible were for naught.

Then I looked at some fine print and felt much better!

In the same 30 day period in 2009 we reduced both our electric and gas usage.

Our electric usage went down 30.57%. That's almost a third! It isn't because we're using the lights less because the days were the same length last year, right? I think most of this can be attributed to having our outside freezer unplugged and barely using our clothes dryer. Yay for evidence that our efforts produced something!

Additionally our gas usage went down 8.63%. I'm sure this decrease isn't attributable to our gas furnace since I'm sure it wasn't in use last May/June (just like this year). However, I have been washing about half of the laundry with cold water instead of warm so perhaps that has helped. I am sure we are doing significantly more laundry today than one year ago since we added DD #3 so the 8.63% decrease may not be comparing like to like. Now if I could just get DH to agree to a low-flow shower head we might really get somewhere.

Overall I was pleased to use our energy use decline so significantly.


Gas 5/19/10 to 5/31/10 was 7.78 Therms
Gas 6/1/10 to 6/17/10 was 10.17 Therms

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Hurry! Free Ziploc Gift Pack!

I just saw this on Money Saving Mom:

Right@Home is offering a FREE Ziploc Back-To-School Gift Pack which includes:
  • One box of 50-count Ziploc® Brand Sandwich Bags
  • One box of 25-count Ziploc® Brand Storage Bags with the Smart Zip™ Seal
  • One package of Ziploc® Brand Containers with the Smart Snap™ Seal (small bowl)

Hurry and sign up! There are only 10,000 gift packs available and they will go fast.
It looks like Money Saving Mom got this from Coupon Pro, to give credit where credit is due.


Pampers - Gifts to Grow Points

Does anyone participate in the Pampers "Gifts to Grow" program? I understand you enter codes online to collect points and then can redeem points for various rewards.

If you participate I have codes for 110 free points I'll be happy to send you. These are one-time codes, not like the monthly Facebook code, so I can only give them to one person. Please comment and I'll send them your way.


Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Garden Update With Lots of Pictures

We had a family work day Saturday. That means we all go outside for a few hours and DH and I work while the DDs alternately play or "help" us. We actually got a lot done this weekend with DH mowing thoroughly (moving the play structure) and spraying weeds in the front and backyard. He also pulled major weeds that were growing in a terrace. I have been wanting to plant some bulbs there, but thought I shouldn't climb up to pull 4-foot weeds with my center of gravity messed up with pregnancy. I spent my work time in the garden picking, weeding, and planting. I'm hoping to get those bulbs in this week.

I was delighted when DH brought home some tomato plants last week. Someone at his office was giving them away and DH was given two. Both had tomatoes already growing. I immediately decided the struggling bell peppers would give way to these beautiful plants and made the switch.

Here's how the garden looks:

Here are the gorgeous new tomato plants:

These are our original tomato plants which are doing well with lots of blooms but no tomatoes yet:

Here are our sugar snap peas. It's always hard for me to see these guys, but there are three nice pods in this picture:

The girls picked the only full pea pod and made short work of it. I hope their eagerness to eat the peas continues! We had fun planting another patch of peas together. The seeds are nice and big and easy for little hands to handle.

A couple of zucchini squash are making their tiny appearances:

The giant pumpkins look promising, though there are no blooms yet.

Eve had fun picking a few more strawberries:

The lettuce continues to flourish. I thinned it further but still have vast quantities to pick and have been giving much away. This great supply will wane in the next couple of weeks (I think) so I planted more romaine and mixed greens. It may or may not grow as lettuce doesn't sprout if the soil gets too warm - around 75 I think. I'm hoping our temps don't grow crazy this week.

I would have liked more spinach, but I'm out of spinach seeds. I decided I'd use up the other lettuce seeds instead of spending money to buy more spinach seeds.
These are plastic grocery bags full of lettuce.

The carrots didn't take at all so we just retilled that area to plant more romaine and another pea patch. I pulled the bell peppers (which were alive but had only grown about 10% in two months) to plant the new tomato plants. I am still hoping to find cucumber plants so I didn't plant anything in that spot.
Overall I'm feeling like things are growing well!