Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Newly Tested Designs

I recently had the priviledge of testing a few designs for . They turned out really cute. She's making a small adjustment and they will be offered on her site very soon. Excuse the quality of my pictures. I took them right as the sun was setting, so they have a sunset glow....LOL

Monday, April 11, 2011

Blog Design

I have spent waaaayyyy too much time this morning trying to change the background on my blog. I really like this one, but I cannot figure out how to get the hazy foreground to go away! The background should be black and hot pink, but looks gray. I would appreciate any input on how I might fix this. Thanks so much! UPDATE : I FINALLY got it figured out. What a pain! I'm still not sure I completey love it, but I'll live with it for a while and see. I've been being super crafty lately. Doing lots of sewing and embroidery and wanted to start sharing more about that on my blog, so I was trying to make my blog reflect that just a bit more, but boy, oh boy....I had no idea what an undertaking that would be today. Why does blogger keep changing things?!?!?!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Couponing Sites

We also shared some basic how-tos and the benefits of couponing. Here is some info we shared on helpful Couponing Websites. Getting Started Section – Teaches the ins and outs of couponing as well as how to coupon at the drug stores. Store deals including Wal-Mart Directs you to printable coupons FAQ section Forum Basics of Couponing Lots of other info! Has a list for Kroger, Publix, Target, CVS, Rite-Aid and Walgreens. Section on Learning to Coupon Section to direct you to printable coupons Others section includes online bargains and deals at Wal-Mart Store deals include Dollar General Restaurant Deals Section on Freebies and Samples Other couponing sites:

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Lowering Your Grocery Budget

Our homeschool group has a newly resurrected group for Mom's of elementary aged children and younger. A friend of mine and I head it up. We have a Mom's meeting every month and a field trip each month. This months meeting is about Lowering Your Grocery Budget. These are the tips that I put together for our meeting. Hope you find them helpful. Menu Planning – Planning your menu greatly cuts down on waste and impulse buys. Our paychecks are bi-weekly. My budget works best when I do one big trip with every paycheck (I do usually have to go back for milk and sometimes bread.) It also is a big help when I plan very specifically all the way down to snacks. For my family I have used a weekly breakfast/lunch/snack menu and a bi-weekly supper menu. Low Cost Staples – Rice and Dried beans are a big help in a budget menu. I buy my rice in bulk at Sam’s and keep it in a 5 gallon bucket. We’ve been using the same bag for at least a year. In the past I allowed the time commitment to keep me from using these things. I often bought canned beans and minute rice. I have since learned to cook the rice in the microwave while I’m preparing the rest of the meal and I’ve learned to cook dry beans in the Crockpot. Microwave Cooking Directions for White Rice Ratio: 1part rice to 2 parts water Place Rice and water in a covered casserole dish. Cook on high for 5 minutes. Then cook on Medium for 15 minutes. Allow to stand for 5 minutes. You may need to adjust the times slightly for your microwave. These are a general guideline (I think we do 6 minutes on high). You can also do an internet search for cooking brown rice in the microwave. No-Fail Crock-pot Beans (Starting w with one pound of beans) 1. Sort dry beans, removing any small rocks or dirt pieces. Put the beans into a strainer/colander. Rinse well with cold water. 2. In a large pot, heat 6 cups of water and 1 tsp. salt to boiling. 3. Add beans; simmer for 10 minutes on the stovetop. 4. 4. Pour beans and hot liquid into crock-pot and cook on low setting overnight (8 to 12 hours) You can now use these beans in a recipe or freeze (2 cups would be equivalent to a 15.5 ounce can of beans). Shop at the Bread Store – Bread stores don’t just sell “day old bread”. They often sell the same bread that you find on the shelf in your local grocery store at a much discounted price. Deep Freeze – Owning a Deep Freeze really enables you to buy in bulk when things are on sale. You can pre-cook many things to help eliminate convenience foods and store them in the freezer. We bought ours for $150 5 or 6 years ago at a used appliance store and I’m certain it has helped us save much more than that. I suggest an upright freezer, as it takes up less space than a larger chest freezer and it’s much easier to know what you have in the freezer, which helps eliminate waste. Frozen Vegetables – Frozen vegetables are generally cheaper than canned veggies and are more nutritious as they typically do not have additives. Buy Whole Chickens – Buying whole e chickens is much less expensive than buying them pre-cut. I can often get them at Sam’s for $.87 per pound. I do not butcher them and use them that way, but they roast very well for a meal and the leftovers are great for using to top salads or make chicken salad, etc. I also boil them whole, shred them and freeze them in meal sized portions and freeze the broth. This makes meal prep easier and saves money. A great way to do this with very little time investment is to cook the chicken overnight in the Crockpot. Cutting the Meat – I have over time realized that when I use half the ground beef a recipe calls for we don’t miss it. We’ve also completely cut out the meat in things like stir-fry. When we are eating things like chili and it doesn’t have as much meat, you really don’t have to worry about the protein factor. This has saved us a lot of money. We still have meat almost every night for supper, but occasionally I omit it and I often use less than called for. Cut out Convenience Foods – Breakfast - Make things from scratch. It takes very little time to make pancakes from scratch and they freeze well. Make up a big batch this week, then use the freezer leftovers next week. Make your own biscuits. You can freeze the cut out biscuits and pop them in the oven just like the store bought ones. Make your own instant oatmeal: Snacks – Try things like muffins that you premake and keep in the fridge or freezer. It’s a much heartier snack and saves money. Try peanut butter crackers or cheese crackers the old-fashioned way. Make them yourself. Whole wheat cinnamon toast is a great snack or cheese toast. Don’t buy gimmicky snacks that aren’t filling (fruit gummies, roll-ups, etc.) The heartier the snack the less your children will snack. Lunch – Make up homemade soups, etc. and freeze in lunch sized portions. Also, try new things. One of my kid’s favorites is tortilla pizza. This is very inexpensive and very quick. They use one tortilla, pizza sauce and cheese. If we don’t have pepperoni we will sprinkle Italian seasoning on top for added flavor. Stop Buying Paper Towels – Some time ago we ran out of paper towels and I decided to try not buying them anymore. I cut up a couple of old t-shirts for window cleaning and dusting. I also cut up some old towels for cleaning spills. We barely missed them. I do intend to make some cloth napkins soon. The only time that we have “needed” paper towels was the rare occasion that we cooked something greasy and would have liked to have them to absorb the grease. Make your Own Cleaners and Detergents – Laundry Detergent - I have found most of the ingredients for this at Publix. I think I spent around $8.00 for my ingredients and have made many gallons of detergent from them. I do use this in my front-load washing machine. Cleaners - has many money saving hints and tips.

Saturday, April 2, 2011


~We are finally beginning another fix-it-up project around here. Our house is 113 years old and we bought it as a major fixer-upper. When we first moved in we did a LOT of work. It seemed like there as no surface that we didn't paint and we had a MAJOR amount of yard/exterior work that had to be done. Then about 4 1/2 years ago we had a kitchen fire that resulted in a completely gutted/remodeled kitchen and new flooring. This go around we are working on the laundry room and a little bit of the kitchen. The floor under the kitchen is not supported well, so we will be adding some floor jacks under the kitchen. The laundry room has BIG foundation problems. It seems like the whole house shakes when the washer spins. We'll be fixing the foundation in there, putting down new sub-floor and flooring. My laundry room is HUGE by laundry room standards. It's 12x13. It currently has a full wall of cabinets and a sink in it. My husband is going to remove the sink and lower cabinet. Then he's going to install a counter that has electrical outlets all along the back (he picked it up when they did some remodeling at work. That counter will be supported by legs, so it'll function like a bar. When he's done with that I'll have all of the upper cabinets for storage and the counter will be the permanent hang out for my sewing/embroidery machines. I'm SEW excited...LOL Those are the definites. There is also a possibility that we will be adding a hallway and pantry. Currently you have to go into the laundry room to get to what will be the den/office and we don't have a pantry (one of the things I miss about our smaller house). When you walk into the laundry room you look straight at a floor to ceiling cabinet. We will pull that out and build a pantry there. This will free up some cabinet space and enable me to bring my 5 gallon buckets of wheat, rice, etc. into the house (it's currently stored in the outside storage room). The door to the den is on the left, so we will add a wall to the right with a pocket door to get into the laundry/sewing room. That'll take that room down to about a 9x12, but I still think that is a generously sized room and our washer and dryer are stackable. We haven't been able to stack them because of the floor, but once that problem is fixed we'll be able to free up some floor space that way. Probably even enough to be able to leave the iron and ironing board set up, which will be super convenient for my sewing projects. I'm not excited about all the work and how disruptive it's going to be, but I'm EXTREMELY excited about the end result! ~Also, this process is going to necessitate a change in our laundry habits. This is probably ridiculous, but we have always taken all of our laundry to the laundry room, sorted it and kept it piled up there until it got caught up. If you have a family, you know how often all of the laundry actually gets caught up. This little system that we had mean that there were always baskets of dirty clothes in there. My Pastor and his wife have 12 children (10 still living at home). There 16 year old daughter recently volunteered to take on the laundry. Her mom told me that she had come up with a system that was really working well, so I asked her about it. It's such a simple idea, but I never thought of it. She has each person keep their dirty clothes in a hamper in their room. When she is ready to do laundry, she has one person bring their clothes and she finishes with all of those before she starts anyone else's. I was also told by another friend how much having color catchers had saved her time doing laundry. Carbona has a reusable one and Shout has disposable ones. She said she had stopped sorting clothes and just using the color catcher. I'm going to be doing a combination of those things. We separated all of the dirty clothes into which room they belonged in and sent them back there today. Obviously all the people will have their laundry in their rooms. The bathroom hamper will house towels and washcloths from the kitchen and bath and there will be one hamper in the laundry room for whites. I think this is going to work really well. I'm also thinking I'm going to have the kids be responsible for their own laundry. The already help, but only with my prompting. The girls will be responsible for theirs from start to finish and Mason will help me with mine and I'll help him with his. I'm very excited to have a new system and really think it's going to help tremendously. What about all of you (my 2 or 3 readers, anyway...LOL). Do any of you have big changes happening in your homes?