Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Before we had our first child, Andrew and I were changing our eating habits which meant less "convenience" foods and more cooking from scratch. We were noticing that certain foods were giving us heartburn or indigestion, or we'd get headaches or some sort of physical reaction to the foods we were eating. Something had to change, so we decided to stop buying all the ready-made mixes and after we used up what we had in the pantry, we'd go natural and start our garden. We got rid of the microwave, too, since we hardly used it. This was also the year we quit smoking (2001) and decided that sometime that year, I'd stop taking birth control and we'd try for a baby.
I found that a lot of the coupons I used at the time were for the foods we were no longer buying. That sucked. It made it a lot harder to save money on the grocery bill, but I could still use coupons for the toiletry items and cleaning supplies. We weren't saving a whole lot, but every little bit helped.
Meanwhile, in our quest to eat better, we started having less symptoms and no longer dreaded certain meals, knowing at the end we were going to have heartburn. I made and canned my very first batch of salsa and strawberry-rhubarb jam that year. I learned to make and can pickles. Our first garden did so well, that I have yet to repeat that success! Talk about beginners luck!
Fast-forward 9 years and we still make the majority of our meals from scratch, though the microwave has snuck back in for quick re-heating of leftovers. I learned how to make a lot of my own pasta and rice dishes, and have eliminated a lot of those packets for making chinese foods or gravies or other sauces.
9 years later, the coupon world has also changed-- a lot! There are more organic foods and health food stores available and many of them offer online coupons. Where we live, there are no major health food stores like Trader Joes or Whole Foods, so I am unable to shop there, but we do try to buy from local farm stands when they are open. I never did switch to cloth diapers or try "green" diapers because I am too lazy for the first and there are none available here for the second. With the coupons available for national brand diapers, I can get them for almost free, so it's cheaper for me to use them, though I do feel guilty for not doing my part in keeping diapers out of the landfills.
The majority of the coupons we use now are for scratch pantry items, toiletries and cleaning supplies. A while back, one of the coupon websites I follow posted the pros and cons of making your own or buying ready-made cleaning supplies and the cost value came out the same when you factor in coupons. Personally, I use a home-made vinegar cleaning solution for all-purpose cleaning of the tables and messes on the floors, but use store-bought laundry soap for our clothes. Not too long ago, I was able to get Arm and Hammer Laundry soap for $1.50 a bottle and Wisk Laundry soap for $1 a bottle. I use paper towels for cleaning up pet messes, vomit and poop but cloth towels for human messes (spilled milk, Peter running around without a diaper, etc). I made our own cloth napkins and stopped buying paper napkins.
Coupons are great for getting brand-name toiletries for cheap! There are also a lot of coupons available for natural brands, too, like Tom's of Maine and Burt's Bees, to name a couple. You can go to the brand's website and search for coupons, or even contact them and ask if they have any coupons. Many times, they will send you some or give you a link where to find some. I have not had to pay for toothpaste or floss since I've been extreme couponing!
I have not ventured into making my own shampoo, though I have wanted to, but with 4 young children to bathe and clean, sometimes it's easier to just grab a bottle of baby shampoo and wash 'em down. I can pick up a medium sized bottle of Johnson & Johnson's baby wash for under $1 when I wait for a sale and use a J&J coupon plus a store coupon. This week, at CVS, they have Aveeno shampoo on sale and combined with coupons, store coupons, and CVS bucks, I got 4 bottles for free PLUS there is a $10 rebate that I can send away for which ends up giving me $10 profit. With deals like that, it makes it hard for me to give that up to make my own shampoo.
Our kids drink a lot of juice, so we use coupons for getting 100% juice products. There are a lot of coupons out there for juices-- everything from orange juice to cranberry to fruit/vegetable mixes. They can be big money savers when it comes to 4 kids drinking several glasses of juice a day. I can tell you personally that several juice brands offer coupons on their websites. We also drink a lot of iced tea, and there are coupons out for several different brands. My personal favorite is Lipton, and there is a coupon for them every couple of months, and when it's out, I get several papers and stock up when there is a sale.
Feminine products-- I have been wanting to make my own cloth pads, but until I get around to making them, there are tons of coupons out there for many different brands. This week, I was able to pick up two packs of pads for free because they were buy one, get one free and I had 2 coupons, which made them free plus overage (3.69 for 2, I had 2- $2 off 1 coupons=$4 which means I paid nothing plus I got 31 cents extra off my total bill).
We like ice cream (yum! who doesn't?!) and last week there was a sale on Edy's for $2 a carton and when combined with a coupon, I can get them for as little as $1 a carton. This week Food Lion has a sale on frozen dessert items and it's an extremely good sale-- buy any 5 items and get $5 knocked of the total which basically means $1 off each item. Cool Whip is included in that deal and it's on sale for $1 which means what?? Buy 5, get $5 off = FREE! Add in a $1 off 4 coupon and you've got overage that will come out of the total bill. Cool Whip is my guilty pleasure, so it's not something I buy often, but with a sale like this, it's worth stocking up on a few containers, since they freeze well. If I dole it out carefully, I can still have some in the freezer for apple and pumpkin pie season in the Fall.
So, even if you don't buy a lot of convenience foods, you can still save a lot of money with coupons in other ways. Contact your favorite brands and see if they have coupons to offer, check with your local grocer's and see if they have coupons for loyal shoppers, they may even have coupons at the service desk, which I always check for. Search online for rebates and even more coupons. There are hundreds of coupon blogs for the many different stores in your areas, just do a little search for them.
Hope this helps! :o)
Monday, June 28, 2010
It was a good trip, though, and we enjoyed our visits with everybody. We didn't return home until after midnight and it was so good to be home again, in the quiet, cool mountains, away from all the hustle and bustle of cars and smog and crowded homes.
We have our moments, sometimes, when we wonder why we moved more than 2 hours away from all our friends and family and all we need to do is visit them to be reminded why we love it where we are. We live where people go away to for the weekends.
The fourth of July is coming up and we may go back to the Big City for that day, depending on if Andrew has to work or not. Looking forward to being with friends, not so much the traffic. Wait and see what happens at work-- The Boss fired someone, so Andrew and his co-worker need to pick up the slack and work more hours. Good for the bank account, so I'm not complaining.
Speaking of the bank account, I've been doing really well with the couponing. People that save huge amounts and pay little are called 'extreme couponers' and I think I can join the ranks now. Sunday was a very good day for me at CVS (a drugstore). I sat down with the sales papers and my coupons and worked out a plan on Saturday night (no more partying for me on Saturday nights!) and then Sunday morning I went to CVS. My grand total came to $82 and I paid only $6 plus I got $11 back in CVS bucks! Whoo-hoo! I got stuff we needed, too:: paper towels, diapers, pads, razors and shaving cream. It's a thrill to see the cash register total go down, down, down as I hand over coupons and CVS bucks to pay only small amounts and get approving nods from the cashiers.
I was telling my friends about it and I was thinking of maybe hosting a workshop for other deaf people to show them how to use coupons to the extreme. It doesn't take a lot of time to use coupons, only a couple of hours a week to cut them out and match them up with sales and then comes the fun part-- shopping!
We used to struggle with the grocery bill every month and a lot of times we had to go without because our budget just couldn't allow it. Since I've been extreme couponing, the pantry has been consistently stocked and I find myself spending way less than we used to, even though we have more mouths to feed (Grandma moved in and Peter now eats regular foods). Even the bathroom cabinet is nearly overflowing with extra toiletries we use; like shampoo and soap, toothpaste, razors, body washes and band aids.
I get diapers for cheap, too. The other night, I didn't pack enough diapers for our trip to the Big City, so I made a last minute run to CVS for a big box of diapers. Usually, last minute purchases are expensive, but lucky me, I had my coupon book, so I bought a box of 54 diapers that normally cost $25, on sale for $19.99, used a $3 off $15 store coupon, a $3 manufacturer's coupon, a $3 store coupon, and $2 CVS bucks so I paid $9 plus tax and got back $10 in CVS bucks for my next shopping trip, so I ended up getting it for FREE! Sweet!
Then Sunday, airhead me forgot to pack more diapers in the diaper bag, so I needed to buy diapers, again, when Peter took a dump while we were in the store. I managed to get an 8-pack of paper towels, 2 packs of pads, and a pack of diapers and after using coupons and CVS bucks, I paid? 77 cents! Yes, 77 cents! How can you not enjoy shopping when you don't even have to touch the bank account??
Andrew used to get a little grumpy at me when I said I was heading out to the store for what seemed like the 18th time that week. It only looks like I am shopping a lot more, when in reality, I am spending a lot less, just making more purchases to spread out the coupon love. Some stores limit how many coupons I can use, like multiples of the same coupon are not allowed at one store; or another store will not take internet coupons that have 'buy one get one free' on it. So I have to get smart and spread 'em out a little bit. When Andrew checks the bank balance and sees that we still have money in there at the end of the month, in fact, more than he expected, he feels alright about my shopping practices. He likes to hear how much I saved or how much I paid for a certain item.
Target, this week, has Oscar Mayer hotdogs on sale for $1.39! That's the cheapest I've ever seen them, then add a $1 off 2 coupon and that makes it 89 cents each!! Good time to stock up and throw some in the freezer! That's really what extreme couponing is about: stocking up when the price and the coupons are right and then when you need it, you have it, instead of paying full price for it later on. I happened to have 6 coupons, so I bought 12 packages of hotdogs. Now for the summer, I won't need to buy any more hotdogs and I can focus my attention to other good buys and coupon matches. Oh, and to go with those hotdogs, Heinz 40oz ketchup is on sale at Target for $1!! Good deal! An even better deal is Hunt's ketchup for $1 at Food Lion and there is a $1 off 2 coupon which makes it 50 cents a bottle! My family prefers Heinz, but I bought Hunt's for cooking with-- like when I make sloppy joes or meatloaf.
Anyone interested in a couponing workshop?? Let me know and I'll see what I can do! :o)
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
I use cattle panels for my tomato plants. You can see the panels above behind the pool and I am also using old carpet as a weed blocker. I borrowed the idea of using cattle panels from fellow blogger O'Melays last year and they work great! Much better than the flimsy tomato cages, which I never liked using, and better than stakes, which the tomatoes always grow higher than and end up flopping over. Using cattle panels allow me to plant on both sides and then tie the vines to the panel as they grow. So much more sturdier and cheaper, actually, than using tomato cages.
Here's the math:
40 plants = 40 cages @ $3.50 each = $140.00
40 plants = 4 cattle panels @ $18 each = $72.00
We had lots of rain this Spring, plus it was rather chilly, so it feels like we got our garden in later than usual and the ground was just too wet for me to plant at times. I never got my peas in, which I'm really disappointed about, but some of the other stuff we got in are doing great. Potatoes are starting to really come up and I need to hill them this week. The peppers got a rough start when the chickens got into the garden and pecked their leaves off, but now they are starting to flower and show fruit. My cabbage and broccoli are been eaten by tiny black beetles and caterpillars-- I can never seem to grow these here. I had not planned to grow corn this year, but I still had seed left from last year, and space in the garden from not planting other things, so I got 12 rows of corn in and they are about 6-8 inches tall now. Hope they grow better this year and I get more ears than I did last year:: 550 seeds planted = 12 ears.
I failed to get onions planted, along with asparagus, strawberries, beans and cukes. I'm aiming for a winter garden, though, my first, so I'll be trying cabbage again and some root crops like carrots and potatoes. Starting small and if it is successful, I'll add more next year.
Sunday, June 20, 2010
The menu: Pulled pork BBQ sandwiches, hot dogs, 2 kinds of potato salad (one is Andrew's Grandmother's recipe and the other is mine), chips, veggies and dip, and of course, cake and ice cream.
Evelyn requested a 'buggy' cake, so after much thought, I came up with a caterpillar cake. Cute?
After the pool was filled, we still had water left in the water truck, so we filled up all the bins I had previously used to try and salvage water from last time. Turns out I am glad we did, Peter has lots of fun going from one bin to the other and we use one bin for dunking feet before getting into the pool. Of all the big bins he could hang out in, he chooses to sit in the bucket! Silly Peter!
Friday, June 18, 2010
One of the things I am forever telling her, is to leave the chickens alone. She'll say, "okay mama", and then turn around and pick one up. ~sigh~ I don't mind too much when she is being loving towards them, but half the time she has a mean streak and just wants to see them jump and squawk when she throws a stick at them or chases them around the yard. Our chickens are friendly birds and they come running when one of us goes outside, usually looking for scraps or a hand full of feed.
Here's Evelyn in one of her loving moods towards the chickens. She has one of the younger ones, either the Rhode Island Red or the New Hampshire Red-- I can't tell the difference just yet.
Monday, June 14, 2010
Sunday, June 13, 2010
I found a good deal on a pool-- one of those pop-up jobs with the inflatable rings and as you fill it with water, it rises to hold the water in. Combined with a gift card, coupon and sale, we got a 12x3 feet pool for pretty cheap. Plenty big for us but not so big that we can't maintain it. It's something we have been throwing around for a long time, always talking about getting one, but never actually buying one. We have talked long and hard about the pros and cons of pool ownership, especially one that uses a filter and pool chemicals and we decided to bite the bullet and get one-- figuring out that it's cheaper in the long run to have a pool here that we can use daily versus driving and then paying to use the public pool/beach.
Anyway, after scouting out the most level area we could find (we live on a mountain, the whole yard is on a slant), we set it up inside the fenced garden area in a spot that I can see from the house and inside the fence where Peter can't get into the pool. A pool that size uses quite a bit of water, and we didn't want to use our well water if we don't have to, so we called a water guy and found out that 2000 gallons would cost $100. Not too bad, we thought, so we went ahead and told the guy to come. The pool holds just over 1700 gallons, and if I had several barrels, I would have put the surplus water in there for when the pool needs topping off.
The guy came and before filling the pool, he told my husband that the pool was not level. We told him we were aware of that but go ahead and fill the pool anyway. I didn't hear him say anything else, I was busy with the kids/keeping Peter away/making bottom of the pool smooth/hushing a barking dog... The pool was a little lopsided-- I quipped that there was a deep end and a shallow end and we were ok with that. Needless to say, there was a lot of excitement between the kids, but after the pool was filled, it was late, past 7:30 and we still hadn't had dinner which was quickly getting cold on the grill. Andrew and I put the pool cover on for the night and said we'd play in the pool the next day, Saturday, after we hooked up the filter and rigged up the steps.
In the morning, we told the kids over and over to stay away from the pool, wait for Mommy or Daddy to be there first. Andrew left for work at 9am and shortly after, I was outside hanging laundry on the line. Evelyn was near the pool in her bathing suit and swim goggles just bursting with anticipation. The next thing I see, Evelyn is walking towards me, she is near the burn pit and I see something glimmering, like one of those shimmery, hazy mirages you see on a hot day looking down the road. I look again at the glimmery sight and I realize the water is flowing from the pool!! All this feels like slow motion as I run as fast as I can to the pool and catch the side and pull it up, then turn around to see a small river flowing down into the woods. Might as well have been $100 in shiny pennies flowing away. There was about 8 inches of water left in the pool.
What am I going to do? What the hell happened? Did Evelyn do something? How do I call Andrew and tell him at work? Can I call the water guy and get the extra 200 or so gallons that we paid for but didn't get? $100 fucking dollars! Shit! Maybe the pool IS more trouble than it is worth! So much for a cheap pool if it is costing us this much in lost water. All this went through my head within seconds. What am I going to do??
Here's what I did: I called the water guy and asked them if they could give us the extra water and I was told that he warned us that this would happen-- the water flowed out because the pool was not level and if he came out and filled it again, it would happen again. Well shit. I didn't hear him say that. I think if I had I would have asked him what we can do to prevent it from happening. So I thanked him and hung up. Do I call Andrew and tell him what happened, thereby ruining his day at work or do I wait for him to come home all excited to go swimming only to find out there's no water to swim in? I opted not to call him.
I grabbed all the empty bins we had in the house, dumped out the ones that had stuff in them and brought them out to the pool. I was determined to salvage what water was left and to dig under the pool to make it level. From 10 am until nearly dinner time, I was out there scooping water into bins; shoving the pool aside; digging about 6 inches down on one side of the pool; taking the dirt and dumping it (might as well turn lemons into lemonade, I now have enough dirt for a raised bed). When Andrew came home at 4, he helped me finish the job. By then I had worked out all my anger and put it all into my shoveling, but Andrew was still angry, hissing and spitting.
The pool is level now and we dumped the rest of the water that was in the bins, the same water that I salvaged from the pool, because the kids used it as a dunking area and got it all muddy and we didn't want to put it back into the clean pool. Today is hot and humid-- 90 degrees at 9 this morning-- and would have been perfect for dipping in the pool, especially with the sunburn I have from being out there all day yesterday, but-- no pool.
We have a double birthday party planned for the 19th and we already told some people to bring swimsuits for the kids. We already had the pool opened and filled, then emptied and it's not possible at this point to return it. We already opened and used the pool cover and cannot return it. I already dug out underneath the pool so it's ready to be filled. We are going to swallow the very large lump and pay the water guy another $100 to come back out and fill the pool again. This time I am going to lock the over-excited kids and the barking dog in the house with Grandma so I can hear every word that comes out of the water guy's mouth and if he says something is wrong with how our pool looks, I want to know how I can fix it, so I don't ever have to see money flowing into the woods like that again.
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
Another happy berry face!
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
Monday, June 7, 2010
- She has lost 8 baby teeth so far.
- She loves to play with her Barbie dolls.
- She doesn't need me for a lot of things anymore, but she always says she needs me.
- She wants me to pierce her ears. I did it for my friends but poking a hole in your own child's ear is something different. Brave girl, she sat patiently still while I fumbled with a needle, tears escaping from her clenched eyes and all she has to show for it is a tiny hole in her ear with no earring. We are taking her to a piercer at the end of the week.
- She has a teeny bit of a mean streak and gets sent to her room when we catch her being mean to one of her siblings.
- She loves to swing as high as she can and catch the leaves with her feet.
- She has an adventurer in her and if we let her, she would explore the woods around us and we probably would not see her until dark.
- She delights in meeting other 'Evelyns', even when the majority of them are old ladies.
I think I did pretty good.
Thursday, June 3, 2010
Like this blue corner hutch. Ain't it sweet? The blue is growing on me and I like how it pops with the yellow wall behind it. I'll be taking off the hearts on the bottom and I'll try and color-match the paint to touch up the spots here and there. It was ~only~ 20 bucks! A steal for solid wood furniture!
At another sale, we picked up the items you see on the shelves: sweet vintage tin cake carrier with an asian design on it, promoted by Uneeda Biscuit Co*., which later became Nabisco (*see bold lettering). A near mint vintage Fisher Price clown car pull along toy (I'll sell that later), and a cookie/candy tin to add to my collection of english-made tins. At the same yard sale, I found some extra nice children's clothing for Fall/Winter for only 50 cents apiece, and a brand new Discovery Toys Labyrinth game. Looking forward to playing that with the kids.
At a different yard sale, I scored 11 of these great Hazel-Atlas half-gallon canning jars! $7 for all of them and I'm pretty pleased about that! They sell half-gallon Ball jars brand new for about $10 each around here. I don't actually can with these, but I use them for juice, teas, wine and syrup in the fridge. I'm really trying to use less plastic for food storage and these jars will sure come in handy for that.
The last yard sale we went to felt more like a museum than a yard sale. I didn't have my camera with me at the time or else I would have taken pictures. Everything was vintage and in near-mint condition! The people must have spent years collecting the stuff, and they were either down-sizing their collections or running out of room and something had to go. There was a sweeeeeet mustang for sale that Andrew drooled all over, garage-kept and in perfect condition; lots of mint vintage games and toys, christmas decorations, collector's items models and posters and more. We enjoyed looking at everything, and I picked up a couple things-- chinese checkers in the original box, a box set of children's puzzles and christmas tree metal icicles. I think I could have easily bought more, but I have my own basement full of stuff that I need to get rid of.
I passed up on a lot of pyrex bowls and other glass dishes... I love them, but I really do have too many bowls. I sold quite a few of them on ebay and I still have more I need to whittle out and keep only my absolute favorites. We'll be having a yard sale of our own this summer, for sure!
Find anything good lately?
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
I am loving the new color! We have been working hard this year to make the house, yard, and garden all come together and look nice and so far we have been doing pretty well. This is another step closer to making our new patio area look good.
Now if I can just get the kids to stop pulling out what I've just put away and leaving it all around the yard!