Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Baby Formula Price Point

If you read about my shopping trips you may have noticed I've been stocking up on baby formula recently. This is in preparation for Phoebe's arrival. I don't want to go to the store for a good while after a c-section and when I do eventually get there, I don't want to pay ridiculous prices for formula!

Carly asked about brands I buy so I thought I'd post my general formula shopping strategy.

1. We have been blessed with 3 non-picky girls so far. We don't think this is just lucky, we have prayed for each of them to have good digestion and not to have food difficulties. Praise the Lord, we have been able to feed them any brand without trouble, we haven't had major spit up or reflux issues, and we've avoided gas & colic, too. We are trusting the Lord this will be the case again with Phoebe.

2. In general powdered formula is the least expensive. With liquid formula you pay for the convenience of having it mixed already.

3. Costco has the best price on powdered formula. My pediatrician told me that most formula is the same, even made in the same facilities, but different labels get put on the cans for various stores. I am fine using the Costco brand. It costs about $10 for the 25ish ounce can compared to $15-20 for generic store brands and $22-27 for the name brands.

4. I compare all sale prices on formula to that Costco price point. Sometimes if a store has formula on sale I can combine it with a store coupon and/or a manufacturer's coupon to get it under the $10 Costco price. Usually this is not the case. Clearance prices are a different matter and I can usually get under the $10 with a coupon on top of the clearance price.

5. Coupons are more valuable on smaller packages. This is just basic math - a $5 price reduction has more effect on a price-per-ounce basis on a small package than a large package. That's why you see me purchasing small bottles of formula I would almost never otherwise buy.

6. A Costco can of formula makes approximately 25 - 8 oz bottles. At $10/can that's $.40 per bottle. A quart of liquid formula costs about $6 and makes 4-8 oz bottles. That's $1.50 per bottle! A huge difference for convenience, right? Well, if I use a $5 coupon on a quart of liquid formula, then the price of an 8 oz bottle just went down to $.25 making it cheaper than Costco.

7. Costco doesn't take coupons and the name brands at the grocery stores are significantly more expensive, even with the coupons. I would rather get fewer name-brand bottles at $.25 each (buying small packaging) than a week's worth at $.70 each using the same coupon (buying large packaging). When I run out of coupons and $.25-per-bottle formula I can plan a trip to Costco for my price point.

So in response to the questions about formula coupons and/or checks the answer is Yes! I'd love to have anything you're not using.


Monday, August 30, 2010

Monday Meal Plan & Weekend Shopping $60.87

9 Days left to get stuff done before Phoebe arrives! There is still much to do, but I have been making steady progress with DH's help.

For meals this week I am trying to use up some of the oldest items in the freezer - mostly bits and pieces that I bought on clearance to try out or just weren't big enough for full meals.

Dinner Monday - Sliced Ham, Au Gratin Potatoes, Corn on the Cob, Salad
Dinner Tuesday - Ham & Bean Soup (need to use some red beans), Salad
Dinner Wednesday - Chicken/Apple Sausages (random freezer), Corn on the Cob
Dinner Thursday - Pork Chops (old freezer), Cheesy Rice, Salad
Dinner Friday - Ribs (random freezer), Mashed Potatoes, Salad
Dinner Saturday - Pork Loin with Pears & Cranberries (random freezer), Salad
Dinner Sunday - Beef Stir Fry - to use up garden produce & random freezer veggies

Lunch Monday - Leftover Mac'n'Cheese pie, Little Smokies (random freezer)
Lunch Tuesday - Crostini, Little Smokies
Lunch Wednesday - Grilled Cheese & fruit
Lunch Thursday - Cheese, Crackers, Fruit, Nuts
Lunch Friday - Nachos
Lunch Saturday - Whatever Daddy makes (PBJ or M&C)
Lunch Sunday - Leftovers

Here is a photo of my weekend shopping - Total spent $60.87, Total Savings $60.20 (not including formula deals).

Honey Nut Cheerios - Sale price $1.50 ($1/2 MC) = $1.00 each
Powder Formula - Clearance Price $5.00 each!
Liquid Formula - $6.00 each ($5.00 formula check) = $1.00 each
Gallon milk - Clearance Price $1.50
1/2 Gallon milk - Sale Price $1.25 each
Bananas - $.59/lb
Hillshire Farms Sausages - Clearance 1.99 ($1/2 MC) = $1.49 each
Elbow Macaroni - Sale Price $.89 each
18 Eggs - Coupon price $1.49 each
7# Pork Loin - $1.99/lb
Cream Cheese - Sale Price $.99 each
Yogurt - Overstock Price $.25 each
Cucumber - Sale Price $.50 each
Corn on the Cob - Sale Price 3/$1
3# Ground Beef - Clearance Price $2.99
Red Beans - $1.25
Smuckers Topping - Clearance Price $1.51 ($.55 MC) = $.96
Nectarines - Sale Price $.99/lb

I spent more than normal this week, but overall I am OK with these totals because of the huge pork loin and so much formula.


Sunday, August 29, 2010

Garden Update - Tomatoes

I have been waiting and waiting on tomatoes this year! I'm not sure what's keeping them from ripening, but I suspect it may be the overall cooler weather. You can see there are many, many tomatoes that are green and growing. In fact, the plants are so heavy that several have fallen over despite their tomato cages - the cages just fall with them!

My solution to this was to pull the cages upright again and to secure them to the fence that runs behind the garden. I twisted a couple of hooks into nearby fence posts and used old pantyhose as a 'rope' to pull the cages upright. You can see this setup in the above photo. I used pantyhose because the material gives a little and is easy to tighten up if I need to. I also used small pieces of the nylons to tie individual stalks to cages and stakes because a) slugs will get to any tomatoes lying on the ground and b) pantyhose is stretchy and won't bite into the plants/cut the stalk.

The cherry tomatoes have been ripening steadily at a rate that we can use. I have been using them in salad, soups, tomato sauce when I made lasagna and I've given a few away. Cherry tomatoes are pretty reliable as far as production goes in my limited experience. The girls also love to help pick these ones and are only supposed to pick the red ones, not the orange. I regularly hear DD#1 telling DD#2 "Not that one!" or "Just the really red ones." or "Oh, No! (*sigh*) That's OK."

I ocassionaly find a large ripe tomato among all the green, but I really have to look! You can see in the below photo where I found one ripe fruit hidden amongst all the green. See that bit of red? Yeah, I was happy to spot it, too.

I was hoping all of these would be ripening by now so I could be harvesting and canning before Pheobe's arrival. As it is I think I'll be blanching and freezing the tomatoes whole instead of canning. We'll see how I'm doing on freezer space in the next month or so.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Spring Cleaning - Kids/Guest Bathroom

This Spring Cleaning was more of a "redecorate" and I'm so very pleased my cousin wanted to come help me accomplish it! She is much better than I am at home improvement projects and actually did most of the work here herself with the removal of fixtures, painting, and shopping with me to find decor items.

I wish I had taken a before picture! The best I can do is show you what the decor used to look like. My Mom-in-Law gave us this shower curtain and matching hangers shortly after we were married. We thought it would be great in the kids' bathroom and it was! I just got tired of it also being the guest bathroom - I wanted something softer for company.

This is what it looks like now.
My first favorite thing: The new shower curtain was only $7. I wanted purple in it, but didn't want to spend money on towels so was delighted that the old turquoise and new purple were both in this curtain. Can you even tell the walls are purple? I got the palest shade I could find.
My next favorite thing: The idea my cousin gave me for wall art was great! We bought a triple frame at IKEA and I put these bath pictures of the girls in it. How fun for their bathroom!

For cleaning I emptied the cabinet, purged, and sorted. The walls and ceiling were all freshly painted so I didn't have to bleach anything, but I did dust the light fixture.

I also picked up these stackable bins at The Container Store to keep the girls' hair stuff under control and have a place for their toothbrushes, toothpaste, and flossers which seem to always end up all over the house and subsequently, in the baby's mouth. Love the new bins.


Friday, August 27, 2010

Resourceful Gifting - Cards

Did you wonder where the Resourceful Gifting series went? You know, the one I said I'd post every Friday but hasn't been seen for oh, a month? Yeah, well it's back - finally!

This installment is to encourage you to send cards of various types thoughtfully and resourcefully.

Our family loves to receive cards. We display them and enjoy them for all occasions including birthdays, holidays, new babies, graduations, etc. Here is a photo of DD#3's bedroom door after her first birthday. Everyone in the family gets to see them and she gets to be celebrated a little bit longer. The bonus to displaying for a few weeks is that even those cards we receive late are enjoyed.

We love to receive cards so much that we also love to give them to other people. Our daughters regularly make cards to send various friends and relatives - some more interesting than others - and our hope is that the recipient feels blessed by being remembered. I also try to send cards for occasions, but truthfully am more often than not too late and end up calling.

Cards don't have to be expensive and your thoughtfulness isn't measured in how much you spent. A $.50 card from WalMart can mean just as much as a $5.95 one from Hallmark. If you make a card your only expense is the $.44 stamp. One of the Grandmas like getting mail from the girls so much that she gave them each their own book of stamps so we wouldn't have to keep buying so many stamps!

Another great option is to send a postcard. A postcard only costs $.28 to mail and should still produce that delight that comes along with receiving "real" mail. It's super easy to make a postcard so don't bother buying one. Basically any heavy paper cut to the correct size will do the trick. One of our favorites is to make them from cereal boxes. Another great idea is to print a photograph on heavy cardstock and just write on the other side. Recently I had some old party invitations that I just cut in half to have birthday postcards (I recycled the half that was printed with the "Date: Time: Where:" lines).

Postcard rules: Must be at least 3.5" x 5" and cannot exceed 4.25" x 6". Must be plain, printed material that is flat (no stickers or raised surfaces). The girls don't like the postcards as much as cards because they prefer glitter glue, foam stickers, and gems to decorate - all of which must be contained in an envelope. Here are some postcards I currently have tucked away for future use:

My one caution is that you shouldn't hesitate to just use the mail and pay for a stamp. I generally try to hand-deliver when I can just to save the cost of a stamp, but on occasion I end up carrying around a card for an extended period and kicking myself that I just didn't drop it in the mail.

A card is small gift and a blessing to give and receive. Send one this week just to tell someone you're thinking of them. You and the recipient will be blessed.


Thursday, August 26, 2010

Garden Update - Lettuce

The garden continues to grow, though it is not producing as well as I had hoped. I think this has just been such a cold summer some of the plants aren't producing according to my schedule - Darn nature!

One of the bigger garden tasks in the last few weeks was pulling out the rest of the romaine lettuce. I had been letting it grow into big heads, but we couldn't eat it fast enough and some of the heads were starting to get too tall and the outer leaves wilting so I pulled it all out in two big batches, washed it, and shared it with friends.

Here's a photo of the very last of it about a week ago along with the first few cherry tomatoes, some green beans & a zucchini.

The hardest part of reaping this much lettuce at once was getting it all cleaned. I have to pull the whole head so I have all this dirt to cut off and then I toss it all in the sink to soak in cold water. The cold water really refreshes the leaves and plumps things up. When I was washing this first batch I came across a slug - so super gross- that was small and I figured had drowned. Nope, I tossed it aside and a few minutes later it was crawling up the side of the sink - so super gross again. As I washed the lettuce I found two more slugs - again teeny, but gross - and DH and I fought over who had to get rid of them. It is seriously disgusting to have slugs in your kitchen sink. I'm sure you can imagine.

This is what I picked today. Finally we are getting a couple larger tomatoes along with lots of cherry tomatoes & snap peas. The girls helped me pick peas & tomatoes three days ago, so all these are only 3 days' worth of ripened veggies - Yum! Also, check out that tomato that looks like a pumpkin!


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

If Adam & Eve Were Muslim

If Adam & Eve Were Muslim

I got this as a forwarded email a couple days ago and still think it's hilarious. I'm posting it here soley so I can link to it on Facebook.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Monday Menu Plan

The menu plan is an easy post because I have to figure out what we'll eat all week anyway - so no extra stress!

I did grocery shop this week using my $5/$25 coupons at QFC and Top Foods, but I didn't take photos of either trip. I also spent $10 at Albertson's using a gift card. I am well beyond my $200 for the month, but we adjusted our budget to allow for the extra spending because I am stocking up on baby formula, using the $5/25 coupons, and bought 75 pounds of peaches.

The best deal was finding Bar S thick sliced bacon on clearance for $.99 at TOP in Woodinville yesterday. It's "best by" date is August 23 so I just tossed it right into the freezer and I'll pull it out as needed. I bought 11 pounds to bring my shopping total to $30.17 so I could use my $5/$25 coupon and then use a coupon for $5 in my Top Connection Wallet if I made a $25 purchase. My total was $25.17 and I'll use the $5 "wallet" next time I'm at Top. Overall I saved 33% on each item I purchase so the bacon was really only $.66/lb. Woo-Hoo. I also did the Tillamook Deal to get 2# of cheese for $4 (or $2.67 with the 33% off) and butter for $2.00 (or $1.34 with 33% off).

QFC was a necessity trip for bananas & milk. I also picked up blue cheese dressing, mozarella cheese, and some clearance sausage to get my total to $25. I love to make a veggie soup about once a week to use up garden veggies and DH only likes it with sausage. You can imagine my delight to find 3 pounds of organic sausage for only $1.99 each pound.

At Albertsons I also got free infant formula. I have lots of $5 "checks" from Similac that I have been using one at a time to buy a quart of pre-mixed formula. I did the math and the $1 or less I end up spending makes this formula cheaper than costco powder formula. Yesterday I got the formula for free because there was a bottle on clearance for $3.84 and I used a $5.00 check for it.

Here's my dinner plan for the week:

Monday - Chicken Pot Pie (need to use a box of stuffing and I have chicken, veggie, and pie crust in the freezer)
Tuesday - Stuffed Bell Peppers (didn't make them last week)
Wednesday - Lasagna (I finally found mozarella on sale - I'll make a double batch and freeze one for after Phoebe's arrival)
Thursday - Tacos
Friday - Macaroni & Cheese Pie (Eve's special request)
Saturday - Sausage/Veggie Soup
Sunday - Whatever I make for the meal swap (either chicken skewers or chinese noodle chicken)

Lunches - whatever I find. This mama is takin it easy.


Blog Update

I am now in my 38th week of pregnancy and really feeling it!

I am also very busy at home with nesting projects and "harvest" projects like canning, picking, freezing, etc.

After getting myself seriously stressed out and weepy and last week, I have decided to just do what I can do and not get freaked about posting on this blog every day or loading it up for the month after the baby arrives.

So I'll still be posting a couple times a week for the next six weeks or so, but I'm not going to commit to more than that with the level of exhaustion I am currently experiencing and expect to have for about a month after Phoebe arrives. More than that will just be a bonus.

I am not so vain to think this really affects any readers, but I hope you do keep reading my less frequent posts.


Thursday, August 19, 2010

Albertson's Shopping Trip

I made it to Albertsons to use the double coupons late Tuesday night. I also took advantage of the General Mills promotion. Here's what I bought for $11.87.

GM Buy 10/Save $5 Deal:
4 boxes of Cheerios - $2.00 sale ($.50 GM)($1.00/2 MC doubled) = $1.00 each
3 boxes Hamburger Helper - $1.25 sale ($.50 GM) ($.75/3 MC) = $.50 each
2 boxes BC potatoes - $1.00 sale ($.50 GM) = $.50 each
a box BC cake mix - $1.00 sale ($.50 GM) = $.50
Clearance Deals:
1 lb Bacon - $1.49
Activia 8 pack - $2.49 ($1.00 MC) = $1.49 for 8
Dan-o-nino 6 packs - $1.00 ($.50 MC and $1.00/2 MC doubled) = $.50 for 18 cups total
Beech Nut baby food - $.25
Other Deals:
Simply Cinnamon Cornflakes - FREE after Mail-in-Rebate included on box - also used a $.75 off coupon so after a stamp this is still FREE + $.31 Overage

Bunch of Parsley - $.79
Bunch of Bananas - $2.65

I didn't see any great deals in the Albertsons ad for this week. The generic Mac'n'cheese is only $.49 with store coupon and Dannon Light & Fit is $.50, but those are the only two that looked even remotely attractive to me. I probably won't go to Albertson's this week unless there are double coupons in the Sunday paper this weekend.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Free Ebay Listings through 9/7

Ebay is offering a promotion for free auction style listings through September 7, 2010. This means you can list an item at no cost and you only pay a commission to Ebay if it sells. If it doesn't sell there is no payment to Ebay.
The email I got says you can list up to 100 items for free. Usually the listing fee increases with the minimum bid you require, so this is a good deal for higher priced items you would normally have to pay a hefty listing fee to sell.
I don't know if I'll get anything listed in the next 3 weeks (time left before baby), but this is a good motivator. We'll see!

Champion Food Outlet

I had a great trip to Champion Foods in Issaquah before the camping trip. It's always a treat to see what kind of goodies I'll find when I make it over there.

I bought all the Size 4 & 5 diapers I could find. While we cloth diaper most of the time, we use disposables at night and if we are headed out. I got 164 diapers for $15.50 which works out to
about $.095 per diaper - a steal for these larger sizes.

I also bought several packages of bamboo skewers for only $.25 each! I saw these at TOP Foods this week for $2.79 regular price. $.25 is awesome!

There are still lots of Cool Fruits freezable juice pops for only $1.00. These juice pops are a favorite at our house at only 25 calories each and 99% fruit juice with no sugar added.

I bought a couple packets of powdered milk for camping. With limited cooler space I thought I could just make enough milk for each morning and not have to keep anything cold.

There were also a number of Arrowhead Mills baking mixes for $1.00 and I bought a gingerbread cookie mix because my girls asked for it and it came with a free cookie cutter.

Finally, I also bought some baby snacks to toss in my purse. They are organic dried fruit and whole grain bites intended for 12M + and were only $.50 for the resealable pouch.

If you haven't checked out Champion Foods in Issaquah I would highly recommend you plan a trip, especially if you buy primarily organic or gluten-free foods. Their address is 1590 NW Maple St. That's right across the street from the big bus transfer station between Newport & Maple, in the big storage unit complex.


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Quick Albertsons Reminder

My friend, Sarah, called yesterday to remind me of some great General Mills deals at Albertson's this week. The sale is ending today so this is a last minute reminder. Also, if you haven't used your double coupons yet, those expire today, too.

The General Mills/BoxTops deal is a Buy10/Save $5 promotion making each item $.50 cheaper if you buy 10 total items. You can mix & match the products - you don't have to buy 10 of the same thing.

With the $.50 off each item some of the deals are: Several varieties of cereal including Cheerios for $1.50, Betty Crocker cake mix for $.50, Betty Crocker frosting or cookie pouches for $1.00, Hamburger Helper for $.75, Progresso soup for $1.00, Gogurt or Trix yogurt for $1.50, and lots more. The back page of the ad lists all the sale items. Additionally, most of the items eligible for this promotion have had MCs in the Sunday paper during the last month making them even less expensive, or free if you use one of the double coupons.

I'm planning to go to Albertson's late tonight to see what I can get.


Monday, August 16, 2010

Monday Meal Plan & Weekly Shopping

I am a sucker for those $5/$25 or $10/50 coupons. It just seems like too good a deal to pass up when you can get great sale prices, use your coupons, and then just knock another 20% off the total bill.

This week I used a $5/25 at TOP, a $5/25 at QFC and a $10/50 at Safeway.

The QFC trip was right when we got home from camping - I bought milk, bananas, grapes, and 8 pounds of bone-in chicken.

Here is a picture of the Top Foods trip (minus 2 packages of cookies) totalling $20.72. I also sent away for a $10 mail-in rebate making all this cost only $11.16 including the cost of a stamp.

The best deal at TOP was the 8 boxes cereal & 2 packages of Keebler cookies which ended up costing $.19/each after sale, man. coupons, the $5/25 coupon and the mail-in rebate. I got lots of Raisin Bran, but was bummed the store was out of Rice Krispies which my girls love. I am hoping to find Rice Krispies at a great price sometime in the back-to-school sales.

Here is a picture of the Safeway trip (minus a gallon of organic milk) that cost $42.98:

I had some great Safeways coupons I received in the mail (along with the $10/50 coupon) and their ad coupons were great this week, too. The best deals were free pasta, pasta sauce, taco shells, and ketchup. I also got quart sized creamer for $1.19 each, Wishbone salad dressing for about $.46 each, and a carrot cake mix with a tub cream cheese frosting for $1.20 for the pair. You can see the rest in the photo, but those listed are my favorite deals. If you want to hit Safeway by Tuesday you can get cucumbers and bell peppers for $.50 each and canteloupe is $.99 per melon.

The menu plan is a little up in the air. I have plenty of groceries and produce and had several meals I planned to make this week, but it's been so hot I don't want to cook at all! I just realized I should start reserving my freezer meals for use after the baby's arrival, so I can't fall back on those.

Here's the tentative plan for dinners.

Egg salad sandwiches (this isn't your normal egg salad), stuffed bell peppers with corn on the cob(cook rice the night before), Mexican dip & chips (I can make this ahead of time and reheat in the microwave), Sour cream chicken over rice, Taco Salad (cook meat night before), Pasta salad & cold chicken, Quesadillas.

I also planned to make chicken pot pie and lasagna this week, but I don't want to bake either of those in the heat. If I can find time I'll go ahead and put those together, then put them in the freezer.

Lunches are just going to be whatever I have in the fridge and need to use up. Leftovers, sandwiches, fruits & veggies, etc.

DH has been very understanding the last few days about the heat and how it's been affecting my pregnant self. Last night we just ate bagels, canteloupe, and applesauce for dinner. The girls were a little confused, but they ate the cold dinner just fine so I'm hoping they'll continue to be flexible.


Sunday, August 15, 2010

Camping $urprises - Ouch!

It has been a busy (and hot!) week around here so the blog has been neglected with all the running around. Also, our office which has a full wall of windows and no window coverings so it's like a greenhouse and gets ridiculously hot right about naptime for about 5 hours. This also limits my blogging.

I am finally posting about camping thanks to my friend Meredith who mentioned she was waiting for it. I probably would have waited even longer to write this up if she hadn't said anything . . .

We had a fun week camping, but it was full of surprises, good and not-so-good, and lots of resourceful ideas.

First, DH and DD1 woke up sick the day we were supposed to leave. I had been diligently planning and packing steadily through the week in order to avoid extra cost outlays and to make our stay as comfortable as possible. I had kinda figured on DH's help over the weekend to help with some things though, and I didn't get it because he ended up working all night Friday trying to wrap things up at his real job and then was gone the bulk of the day Saturday wrapping up Census work. No wonder he woke up sick Sunday! I ended up packing the car and my wonderful DH stood next to it, sick and clammy, handing me the items I asked for as I tried to fill every square inch of space.

We finally left about 3 hours behind schedule. DH was feeling well enough to drive but DD1 was still throwing up periodically. DD2 and DD3 had this same bug earlier in the week and we knew it was a 12 hour deal so we decided not to delay our departure by a whole day.

About 2 hours into the drive we were feeling pretty good. DD1 had only thrown up once, and it was right into her little pink barf bucket which we promptly pulled over to dump and sanitize before hitting the road again. I glanced out my window and noticed the driver beside us guesturing frantically that our tire was flat. She was mouthing "You have a flat tire!" and pointing to our right front tire. I told DH what was happening and we slowed down to pull over immediately. We were cruising along at 70 MPH in our suburban and didn't even notice anything was wrong. We saw a rest area ahead of us about a mile away so we aimed for it, but as soon as we slowed down the tire starting smoking! We were able to pull safely and quickly off the road and praised God for a really wide shoulder!

We hopped out and looked at the tire. It had started separating, but wasn't off entirely. Praise God we were spared a full-fledged blowout! And Praise God we were all OK - blowouts can be really dangerous. DH called AAA immediately. We love this service and have used it well. Our spare was buried under all the camping gear, but we dug it out without too much trouble. The jack and tools to change a tire were way too far in to bother digging out with AAA coming. I took the big girls on a walk to the rest area. We walked on the far side of the safety rail which was really far from the road because of the wide shoulder. It was about a 1/2 mile and a fun adventure in roadside debris. By the time we got back to the Suburban AAA had come and gone and DH was repacking the back. Praise God for a full-size spare that allowed us to travel quickly to our camping destination!

Our next not-so-good surprise was having our battery die mid-week. DH and I had been charging our cell phones in the car and didn't think anything of using the battery like we have in the past. A jump would get us going but the battery wouldn't re-charge itself enough to start again. Praise the Lord we were with people who know about cars when this happened and we had minimal inconvenience. My brother ended up pulling the battery out of my parents' Suburban for us to use and DH headed out to the nearest Les Schwab (about 30 miles away) for new tires and a new battery.

A very painful $927 dollars later we were set to go. Yeah, you read that right. Suburbans are big cars and they have big tires. We didn't have the luxury of shopping around for prices, but we are loyal Les Schwab customers and there's a 95% chance we would have purchased there anyway. The added bonus is that we were in Oregon so there wasn't sales tax or this transaction would have been over $1,000 dollars. Another big praise is that we actually had the money for this emergency without using our emergency fund. DH had some Census checks come in that we had hoped to send to pay down our timeshare debt, but instead we used that money to cover this expense. I also now feel much better about driving the Suburban now that it has new tires. This is becoming my primary vehicle because with DD4's arrival next month we won't be able to fit all the kids in the Toyota.

We also had a lot of fun and financial blessing while camping.
  • Our big group had a baby shower for my SIL and I who are due a week apart. We were blessed with some lovely gifts and had fun playing a couple party games and eating cupcakes.
  • The park had a great kids' program that DH was awesome about taking the big girls to. I got a break almost every day while DD3 napped and the rest of the family went to the kids program. There was usually a craft afterward, too, that DH would linger and help them with.

  • We were so thankful to have an electrical site! I was able to cook on our plug-in grill from home and heat up hot water fast.

    We also borrowed a small fridge from my folks so we didn't have buy ice all week long. Even better, we were given the fridge at the end of the week because mom was planning to get rid of it as it had become clutter at her house. The electrical outlet also provided means to run a fan inside the tent which provided white noise and breeze for the baby.

  • We brought a ring of baby gates to help contain Joanna, but my brother and mom had some, too. We combined them to make a big play area and even put down some outdoor carpet to keep the dust down. It was a popular place for the littlest kids on the camping trip. I picked these up at a yard sale for $25 and they retail for $100. They are great for outdoor play.

  • My cousin was selling her tent a few weeks ago at a garage sale and we were able to get it. Our other tent was a 5 man tent which would have been a tight squeeze with four sleeping bags and a pack'n'play. The new tent is much bigger and has entrances on three sides with two divider walls we could hang up. We set up the entrance on one end and put the big girls on either side of that door, then we walked through to the widest 'room' where DH and I had our air mattresses, and in the back we set up the pack'n'play and a card table with a changing pad on it. It was really luxurious! The baby had her own space and we didn't have to bend down (much) to change her and it was awesome that DD3 couldn't see her sisters at bedtime. It helped her sleep much more easily.

We had a few minor mishaps, too, like I woke up to use the bathroom at 5:30 AM and one of the DDs wasn't in the tent! She was in the bathroom that was right behind our site and I found her before I had time to get panicked, but still - very scary that I didn't even hear the tent zipper open! We also had many, many bumps and bruises that were obvious when we finally got the girls into a bathtub after the trip. One of the girls loved playing in the dirt with her cousin and got seriously filthy the first couple of days. DH and I talked about it and decided we'd "fight that battle" and tried to keep her out of the dirt the second half of the trip. It's always a challenge when one kid is allowed to do something and we are trying to keep our kid from doing the same thing, but she mostly did great.

This is the night before we were done camping. It's pretty funny now to see how tired and dirty we all are!

Over all we had a really fun trip and are looking forward to doing it again next year, hopefully it'll get easier with the kids another year older!


Thursday, August 12, 2010

Small Threads - 20% off Sale

You may have read about one my favorite consignment stores, Small Threads for Kids, on this blog previously. The reason I like the store so much for purchasing is that the prices are really reasonable. For example, I bought a white wicker laundry hamper there for only $10.

There is a summer clearance sale going on through Sunday that will give you an additional 20% off pink, peach, mint, and purple tags. Another 20% off already low prices could net you some great deals.

If you haven't checked it out, now is a good time to head over. Small Threads is located in Issaquah in one of the adjacent buildings to the QFC on Gilman.


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Garden Update - Slugs!

I meant to get this post up before I left for camping, so these pictures are from the last week of July.

This is a full garden shot and the back of my neighbor's house.

Here are the second round of sugar snap peas, humming right along.

These are zucchini getting ready to produce abundantly, I think. Last year we had piles and piles of zucchini to share.

The slugs like the zucchini, too. I found this little guy one morning when I was watering. At first I thought the zucchini had been sunburned or something, but then I realized the skin had been eaten off and this little zucchini was essentially hollow on the whole top half. So yuck! I can't seem to kill slugs, but I usually just throw them across the yard and away from the garden. Yeah, I'm a total girl, but it takes care of the problem temporarily.

You can see that slugs are also eating the sugar snap pea leaves. These are the old vines that aren't producing any more, but you can see a slug right in the center of the shot on that leaf with all the holes in it.

This is our first pumpkin getting started. I'll post again next week so you can see how much it has grown!

And finally, the first big green bean picking.

Now that we're back from camping I am so excited to get tomatoes! There are so many promising green ones and I'm waiting, waiting for them to turn red. We also have lots of zucchini, green beans, and lettuce still growing to help with the grocery budget.
My friend, Ruth, watered the garden while we were out of town and she said I should pull the strawberry plants out (since they're done growing) and see if I can get another quick crop of spinach or sugar snap peas in. I'll give it a try now that the weather is supposed to be improving.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

July Wrap-up & August Goals

Our camping trip has delayed this post significantly, but I was able to have a quick conversation with DH this morning so I could go ahead and post our monthly update.

First July Goal: Groceries under $200. I was at $202.73 for July - that's about as close as I've ever been to the goal so Yahoo for me!

Second July Goal: Finish the Spring Cleaning. I didn't quite manage this, but I am wrapping up now that we're less than a month from the new baby.

Third July Goal: List 5 things on Ebay or Craig's List. I didn't do this . . . again. Seriously I don't know why I keep making it a goal except I have all this junk I want to unload. I did participate in my Aunt's garage sale and got rid of lots of stuff, but not any of the stuff that I keep intended to try to sell on eBay.

Fourth July Goal: Use my dryer less than 5 times. Amazingly I didn't use my dryer even once until the last day of the month. We were getting ready to go camping and I just couldn't wait for three loads to dry on the line (like cloth diapers, DH's work shirts that get 'ironed' in the dryer, and a pile of play clothes for the DDs). Yay for great weather most of the month!

Last July Goal: Post about chickens, clotheslines, and start gifting series. I didn't post about chickens, but I did get the "how to" post done about a clothesline and did start the Resourceful Gifting Series.

Now that DH is back to full-time work we are re-prioritizing our financial goals. We were so blessed not to accumulate any credit card debt during our year of super-tight finances, but we have delayed several things including car maintenance that we are trying to slowly catch up on.

We are big Dave Ramsey fans so we also want to get rid of all our debt, the first goal being to pay off our Timeshare which we were inexperienced enough to buy new instead of on the secondary market. Anyway we were able to pay off 17% of that debt in July and are eager to pay off more in August! I'll keep you posted.

We didn't end up buying Suburban tires in July because when had the oil changed the guys there said we were only in the 'yellow' zone for replacement and not the 'red' zone which means the tires would need to be replaced. We decided to put off the tires until Septemer and instead we got the muffler replaced on the Suburban which was also a need. As it turns out we did need new tires as you'll see in my camping post in a couple of days. I guess the 'red' zone really means "Danger: Get New Tires Yesterday" and the 'yellow' zone means "Get New Tires."

Goals for August include:

  • $200 Groceries
  • Finish Spring Cleaning or get out of denial that I'm even doing it anymore
  • Continue Resourceful Gifting series & post about chickens already
  • Pay at least another 15% on the Timeshare debt (hopefully much more!)
  • Be diligent in prayer for our new baby and the family's adjustment to a 4th child.

Thanks for reading & caring at all how we're doing!


Monday, August 9, 2010

Top Foods Cereal Deal - Through Tuesday

OK - So I just looked at the grocery ads and TOP Foods is having an awesome deal on Kellogg's, Keebler & Sunshine products with the Fuel for School promotion.

Here's how it works:
  • Buy 10 Kellogg's Products at $2.99 each
  • TOP Foods will automatically deduct $10 when they're bought in the same transaction
  • Then you submit your receipt, proofs of purchase, and Rebate form (in TOP ad) for an additional $10 mail-in-rebate.

    These two steps will get you each item for $.99 each.

    • TOP is additionally offering a free gallon of Darigold milk when you buy the 10 products.
    • You can use Kellogg's manufacturer's coupons to make this an even sweeter deal. Get Kellogg's coupons herefor $1/2 Mini-Wheats, $1/2 Raisin Bran, or $1/3 any cereal.
    • I got a $5/$25 coupon in the mail on Tuesday (a week ago) with my grocery ads that I'll use to save an additional 20%.


    Monday Menu Plan - home from camping

    OK - we're back from our camping trip - We had a great time with a couple mishaps I'll post about in the next few days.

    We are low on groceries, but here's the plan for now:

    Monday - Hot Dogs/Sausages (to use up hot dog buns) with potato salad & corn on the cob
    Tuesday - Quesadillas & green salad
    Wednesday - White Chicken Lasagna (freezer meal) with green salad
    Thursday - Mexican Dip & Chips (using up cream cheese)
    Friday - Pineapple Lemon chicken (freezer meal) with green salad
    Saturday - Company for dinner - BBQ
    Sunday - Sausage soup (using up zucchini, carrots, tomatoes)

    Monday - Grilled cheese & fruit
    Tuesday - Mac'n'Cheese & veggies
    Wednesday - French Toast (using up rolls) & fruit
    Thursday - PB & J (packed lunch)
    Friday - Quesadilla
    Saturday - Mac'n'Cheese
    Sunday - Leftovers

    Must buy: Bananas, other fruit, eggs, milk,
    Should buy: butter, coffee creamer, mac'n'cheese, cheddar, pork, chicken

    I'll likely shop at QFC and Top this week because of my $5/$25 coupons. I'll check out the ads & see what is on sale through tomorrow.

    Sorry for the brief post - I am ridiculousy busy today doing laundry & unpacking.


    Saturday, August 7, 2010

    Paint Touch-Ups

    This is an idea I've been wanting to implement for over a year. With the Spring Cleaning project I am finally getting to it.

    This box is to make my life easier and to help me get to paint touch-ups faster & more easily. It contains baby food jars with paint for various rooms of my house and a small paintbrush. Next time I need to touch up paint I can just grab this off the pantry shelf and quickly fix the problem spot.

    Previously I would have to head out to the garage, dig through a dozen gallon paint cans, find the correct paint, can opener, stir stick & brush, pry the lid off & stir, then touch up the paint. Of course, then I'd have to find a hammer to put the lid back on and put the paint & tools all back to the garage . . . eventaully. The putting it away usually takes me several days, sadly. I am hoping this little box helps!


    Wednesday, August 4, 2010

    Top Foods Deals

    I did make it to Top Foods for the 25% off sale, but I didn't find any crazy deals other than the liquid formula.

    Tortilla Chips - $1.50 ($.37) = $1.13
    Pancake Mix - $2.49 ($.62) = $1.87 for 2 lbs
    Bisquick Mix - $3.29 ($.82)($.50 MC) = $1.97
    Krusteaz Mix - $8.99 ($2.25) = $6.74 for 7.5 lbs
    Sour Cream - $.59 clearance ($.15) = $.44 each
    pull-ups - $9.99 ($2.50) = $7.49
    Canning lids - $2.99 ($.75)(1.00 MC) = $1.24
    Ricotta - $4.29 ($1.07) ($1.00 MC) = $2.22
    Organic Carrots - $2.00 ($.50) = $1.50 for 2 lbs
    Gala Apples - $1.69 ($.43) = $1.26/ lb
    Pink Lady Apples - $1.99 ($.50) = $1.49/lb

    DH was out of deodorant so I figured I'd check prices at Top. I really hate to spend any money on 'drugstore' items, but DH likes plain deodorant without antiperspirant and it's hard to find that for free. I bought 2 that were $1.44 each after the 25% off and a $1.00/2 MC.

    The large cans of formula were originally $19.99. I had a MC for $5.00, a 'check' for $5.00, also from the manufacturer, and there would be a $5.00 25% discount leaving only $5.00 total cost per can. I was excited to get these at a great price. However, at the register, the cashier wouldn't take my $5.00 printed MCs so I was only able to get them for $9.99 per can. This is about the same price as Costco, but as it saved a trip to Costco I went ahead and bought them anyway.

    The liquid formula was a much better deal. Those were priced at $6.49 each and I had a sheet of 4 'checks' from the manufacturer for $5.00 off. After the 25% discount these only cost $4.86, but the cashier, again, wouldn't take the checks. My total purchase had to be over $5.00. So I tossed in a King-size candy bar for $.75 each and got my totals for separate transactions over $5.00. I picked these candy bars because everything in the check out lane was $.99 for the regular, but these were $1 for the king-size.

    Overall I was disappointed with the cashier, but she was probably irritated with me and my coupons and needing several separate transactions. Oh well.


    Monday, August 2, 2010

    Monday Menu Plan - Shopping for Camping Trip

    We're camping this week and I have been planning our meals the last two weeks trying to get a handle on price of groceries and figuring out how to maximize our cooler space.

    We have an electric hookup even though we're tent camping, so that will make cooking much easier. I'm planning to bring our grill, toaster, and blender.

    Here's the plan for 6 breakfasts:
    Pancakes & Bacon
    Pancakes & Sausage
    Skillet with egg, potato, ham & cheese
    Bagels with cream cheese & ham
    Cold cereal x 2

    6 lunches:
    Hot Dogs/Sausages x 2
    Grilled Cheese
    PB & J x 2

    2 Dinners for 10 adults & 5 kids (other nights will be provided by other folks):
    Mexican Taco Bar (chips, tortillas, lettuce, beef, beans, rice, tomato, cheese, sour cream, etc)
    Beef Stew & Biscuits (Beef, carrots, potatoes, corn, beans & rolls)

    I already had lots of the ingredients for these meals and only needed a few supplemental things. I got sucked into a trip to QFC because I got a $5/$25 coupon that expires before we get back from camping. I bought very little I needed (but plenty we'll use) trying to get to the $25 mark. It struck me while I was shopping that I was using the coupon to get 20% off my purchase since I aim right for $25 and it was just like shopping at Top calculating the discount. I actually felt like my efforts at Top were kind of a pain for only 5 more percent. At any rate, Here's what I got for $20.18:

    All those yogurt were $.30 each with dates August 25 or later.
    1/2 gallon organic milk was on clearance for $2.23
    Bananas $.59/lb
    Organic strawberries $2.99 (for strawberry shortcake with guests)
    Canteloupe $.38/lb
    5# onion $3.99 (actually needed these for camping)

    Somewhere my math was off and my total was only $23.68 at the checkout instead of at least $25 so I threw in $1.50 worth of candy bars to get over $25.00. I figure after the discount $.40 is OK for a candy bar and I'm pregnant so I'm allowed.


    Sunday, August 1, 2010

    Off for Camping!

    We are headed out for camping this week. I had hoped to get the blog all loaded & ready to post each day while I was gone, but I just didn't manage. There are a few posts for this week, but otherwise I'll be back at it on Moday, August 9th.

    Wish us luck camping! 8 Months pregnant, a flu bug has bitten DH & two of the girls, and we're off!