Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Best Thing EVER!!!

How many times have you been at a Church party, the school carnival or a BBQ in the park and the drips from the giant thermos of lemonade have made the floor horribly sticky? I tell you, I've been to a lot of them. It always makes me crazy. I know we've put towels down and spent hours mopping but there is a better way.....

Today while I was helping to serve chili at the American Red Cross blood drive, I saw this....I know, it's a two-liter bottle cut in half with a hole in the top. But, look at what it does...
You hang it from the spigot of a giant thermos (or a coffee urn, in this case) and it catches all the drips. Isn't it fabulous? I can't wait to use this sometime.... I don't know when, but I'm going to use it for sure! (They left the bottom so it was full - kind of cut it like an L shape, I guess, with a hole on the top.)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Easy Christmas Gifts Part 2

M&M's — "Have a merry and most wonderful Holiday Season!"

Soup or soup mix — Wishing you a "Souper" Holiday Season!

Frozen or ready to bake pizza — "Warm up to a wonderful Holiday Season "topped" with Christmas cheer!"

Apples and Hershey's Hugs — A teacher can't live by apples alone ... She needs "hugs" too!

Popcorn balls — Hoping you have a "Ball" this Holiday Season!

Loaf of bread — For being there when you were "kneaded", for "rising" to the occasion, large or small. For never "loafing" on the job, for helping others to "heel" with TLC. No matter how you "slice it", you do a terrific job loving others. Merry Christmas!

Jolly Ranchers — Have a Holly "Jolly" Christmas!

Root beer — We're "root—ing" for you to have a happy Holiday Season and a wonderful New Year!

Chex party mix — Remember Santa "Chex" his list twice to see who's been naughty or nice ... so be good for goodness sake! Merry Christmas!

Box of Hostess Ho—Ho's — Hope a merry "HO — HO — H0" fills your heart the whole year through! (Put a Santa sticker on the label)

Wire whisk — (Filled with chocolate kisses) "We "whisk" a Merry KISSmas!"

Jar of jelly — Jelly is like love — you can't spread it around without getting some on yourself! Merry Christmas!

Christmas Tray — We "tray"sure your friendship! Merry Christmas!

Bell — With each chime of this festive bell, may a Christmas wish come true. And bring you peace and happiness to last the whole year through! Merry Christmas!

Yule log — "We send you warm greetings this Christmas Season!"

Potpourri — "May this sweet scent bring back thoughts of warm Christmases long ago!" Merry Christmas!

Cleaners — "You add sparkle and make our life brighter!" Merry Christmas!

Nuts — "We're nuts about you!" Merry Christmas!

Lifesavers — " You've been a life saver!" Have a great Christmas!

A juice pitcher filled with candy canes— "We pitcher you raising a little "cane" during the holidays!" Have a Merry Christmas!

Broom — You're "Dust" the finest neighbors we know! Merry Christmas!

Paper towels — "Blot out your troubles; absorb the Christmas Spirit!"

Measuring cup or glass measure — "Wishing you joy beyond measure!

Bananas — If we could choose our friends, and we searched the whole world through, we'd go bananas trying to find a better bunch than you!"

Any star ornament — "Remember the reason for the season!"

Chocolate mousse mix — "Merry Christmousse" to our "Deer" Friends!

Wooden spoon — Whether stirring up cakes, cookies, soups or souffles; You'll find this spoon useful in so many ways. But whatever it's use, it says, "Merry Merry Christmas from us to you!"

Flower — "If friends were flowers, we'd pick you! Happy Holidays! Or "You make friendship bloom all year round!"

Heart Christmas ornament — "May the joy and love you give away, come back to you on Christmas day!"

Cinnamon sprinkles — (Cinnamon & Sugar, or cookie sprinkles) "May your Christmas be sprinkled with laughter and love!" Merry Christmas!

Hershey's Hugs — "A friend always knows when you need a little hug!"

Christmas music ... CD or tape — "May the sweet song of Christmas make your heart rejoice!" Or "May the merry sounds of Christmas bring a Joyful Melody to your holiday season" Merry Christmas!

Filled basket — "Wishing you a basket full of Christmas blessings"

Salsa — "Add a little spice to your holidays!" Merry Christmas!

Stocking or filled Jar — "Have a fun filled Christmas this year!"

Lamb — "Have "eweself" a Merry little Christmas!"

Candle — "May your days be happy, your heart be light, your Christmas merry and the New Year Bright!

Holly — "Happy Holly—days!"

Calendar — "Keep Christmas in your heart the whole year through!"

Shaped sugar cookies — "Rolling out a batch of Christmas cheer, for someone we think is very dear!"

Cherry 7—up — "Just a Little Christmas cheer from happy hearts this time of year! Merry Christmas!"

Sparkling cider — "Wishing you a sparkling holiday season!"

Warm casserole or bread — "Bundled up with warm wishes!"

Popcorn or carmel corn — "Just "popping" by with a Holiday Hi!" Or "May your holidays be poppin'!"

Seasoning mix — "Seasoned with love" Merry Christmas!

Eggbeater — "Have an "Eggstra" special holiday!"

Hershey's hugs and kisses — "Christmas hugs and kisses to you " Or "Holiday hugs and kisses to you!"

Apple pie of apple crisp — "Wishing you a scrumptious Christmas!"

Fruit Basket — "May your New Year be Festive and Fruitful!"

Any Sweet Treat — "Wishing you a season filled with sweetness!"

Oranges — " Orange" you glad we're Friends!?" Merry Christmas!

Chocolate orange — "Orange" you glad it's Christmas? Hope your Christmas is a sweet one!

Sprite — "May your Christmas be merry and Sprite!"

Ice cream snowballs and hot fudge — " Here's some packaged "snowball" treats — Just drizzle hot fudge and it's ready to eat! ... Enjoy!"

Snickers bar — "Don't "Snicker", just be glad you got something!"

Mints — "Friends like you are worth a mint! Merry Christmas!

Matches — "No one matches you as neighbors!" Merry Christmas!

Strainer — (With a Christmas bow) " We couldn't restrain ourselves from wishing you a very Merry Christmas!"

Box of light bulbs — "Have a bright and radiant Christmas"

Bubble gum or Bubble bath — "May your holidays "bubble" over with fun!

Pencil and notepad — "Merry Christmas from our pad to yours!" or Merry Christmas to a "noteworthy" friend!"

Jar of Pickles — "Just in brine, Our wish for a merry Christmas!"

Grater and cheese — "To a grate neighbor! Merry Christmas!"

Ice cream — "Have a "cool" Yule!"

Bear-shaped honey — "Have a Bear Sweet Christmas!"

Santa — "Ho — Ho — Hoping your Christmas is heavenly!"

Angel — "Hoping you have a heavenly Christmas!"

Eggnog — "Have an "udderly moovalous" Christmas!"

Gingerbread house — "Nibble, nibble like a mouse, We hope you'll nibble at this house!" Merry Christmas!

Mugs with hot chocolate mix — "To our special friends who are so Dear, We wish you all a cup of Cheer!" (One Mug would be a special gift for a teacher. "To a special teacher, wishing you a "cup of cheer"!"

Cocoa mix — "Wishing you a warm and wonderful Christmas!"

Muffins or muffin mix — " You're getting "muffin" for Christmas!"

Gum — "By gum, you're a great neighbor! "Have a Merry Christmas"

Veggies and dip — "Dip into a wonderful Holiday season and a healthy New Year!"

Christmas-shaped pasta — (Or any pasta and a bottle of sauce) "Have a Pasta—tively Happy Holiday!"

Jar of jam — "Hoping you have a holiday "jam" packed with fun!" "Have a "berry" nice holiday season!" Or "Hoping your Christmas is "jam-packed" with Christmas cheer!"

Cookie dough — "Here's a little extra "dough" for Christmas! Or "Everyone needs a little extra "dough" for Christmas!"

Homemade frozen rolls — "Here's a little holiday treat. Rise and bake, it can't be beat! Warm fresh rolls just for you. Top with butter that's all you do! Warm Holiday greetings to you"

Brownie mix — (Or any Mix) "Whip up this mix for a wonderful holiday fix! Wishing you a "rich" Holiday Season!" (Be sure to attach the recipe!)

Homemade caramels — Hoping you have a "rich" and "wonderful" Holiday!"

Pie — "Just a "Holiday Hi" and a tasty pie! Happy Holidays!"

Divinity — "May your Christmas be "divine" and your holidays so fine! Sweet Christmas wishes!"

Rice Krispie treats — "Snap, crackle, pop" We think you're really tops! "

Toffee or brittle — "Any way you break it, We think you're the greatest!"

Fudge — "Fudge" a little on the calories and enjoy the holiday season!"

Cheese ball and crackers — "We don't mean to sound "cheesy", we just hope you have a "ball" this Holiday Season! Or "Spread a little Christmas Cheer this Holiday Season!"

Apple anything — (Pie, Cobbler, crisp, muffins etc.) "Sending you a "bushel" of love this Holiday Season!" Or "You are the apple of my eye, teacher!"

Banana bread — "Banana bread just for you, because you have so much to do ... We also love you a whole "bunch" too! Merry Christmas!"

Cinnamon rolls — "Here's a sweet treat "rolled" up with warm Holiday Wishes! Merry Christmas!"

Homemade chocolates — "You're so sweet ... having you as neighbors is really a treat! Have a heavenly Holiday Season!"

Cake or cupcakes — "You take the "Cake" neighbor, We think you're first rate! Happy Holidays to you!"

Cornbread or mix — "We're not trying to be "corny" we just want you to have Merry Christmas!"

Carrot cake — "I really "carrot" a lot about you! Merry Christmas"

Spiced drink mixes — "Hoping your holidays are "spiced" just right!"

Homemade ice cream of a frozen treat — "Here's the scoop ... Hoping your holidays are a "blizzard" of fun!"

Recipe — "Just like you friend ... it's tried and true, just for you! Happy Holiday baking or Merry Christmas cooking!"

Pizza — "Hope your holiday has a touch of "Pizza—zz!" Merry Christmas!"

Candle — "You light up my life!" Thanks for your friendship! May your Christmas be merry and bright!"

Crayons and coloring book — Hope your holidays are colorful!

Plant — " The kindness you show makes our friendship grow and grow! Hope you have a Happy Holiday!"

Soda pop — "I'd "Soda" like to wish you a Merry Christmas!

Stuffed animal — (Beanie Baby) "Pawsing" to wish you a Merry Christmas!"

Donuts — "Donut" you know we love you? Have a Happy Holiday

Monday, November 2, 2009

Easy Christmas Gifts Part 1

Sometimes I feel like I need to give a little something to the neighbors during the holidays. Here's a list that I've collected over the years. I'd love for you to add any ideas you have, too!

*Nestle’s Crunch bars: "When you feel the season “crunch” you
And you might feel just a bit blue
Just nibble on this chocolate –
And soon you’ll feel like new!"

*Doughnuts: “Do-Nut” feel great when the holidays are here?
Hope that the feeling can last throughout the year!

*Strawberry jam: Have a Berry Merry Christmas!

*Jolly Ranchers candy: Have a Holly Jolly Christmas!

*Hershey’s kisses: Merry Kiss-mas!

Mounds candy bars: Have Mounds of fun this Holiday Season!

*Spiced apple cider mix, potpourri, or Holiday Fragrance: This little gift comes with lots of love for a dear friend who is “scent” from above!

*Mints/mint truffles: This is “mint” for someone dear...
Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

*Whisk filled with kisses: We “whisk” you a Merry Kiss-mas!

*Box of Hostess Ho Ho’s: Ho Ho Ho! Merry Christmas!

*Reisen’s candy: I have lots of “Reisens” to wish you a Merry Christmas!

*Jar of homemade soup mix: Hope your Holiday season is “soup-er”!

*Jar of salsa: To spice up your holidays
And make them real hot...
Just open this salsa
And enjoy it a lot!

*Package/book of Lifesavers: Merry Christmas to a real Lifesaver!

*Bag of popcorn balls: Just having a “ball” this holiday season!
Hope this gives you a very good reason to have one, too!

*Banana bread: This wonderful loaf of homemade bread comes to you today
With the very warmest of wishes for the holiday!

*Miscellaneous items: The magic of the snowman will melt and depart
But the magic of Christmas can always be in your heart!

*Anything cheesy: Cheeze-ons Greetings!

*Basket of oranges or orange slices or orange soda: “Orange” you thrilled the holidays are here –
That St. Nick is coming – that Christmas is near?

*Homemade jelly: Nothing’s more pleasant than the sweet taste of jelly
Or the sight of dear old Santa and his jolly old belly...

*Teddy bear, Gummi bears or teddy grahams: Hope your Christmas is “beary” nice.

*Bag of Jelly Beans: Thanks for “bean” such a wonderful neighbor. Merry Christmas!

*Can of nuts: Hope the holidays don’t drive you NUTS!!! Merry Christmas!

*Hot chocolate mix (see recipe): Wishing you a warm and wonderful winter.

*Anything hand made: I’m “sew” glad we are friends. Merry Christmas!

*Bag of caramel corn: Just poppin’ by with a warm Christmas “Hi”!

*Any baked goodie: Hope your holidays are delicious!

*Mag of M&Ms: Have a Merry & Most wonderful Christmas!

*Cookie Dough: It seems as though this time of year
We all run short of DOUGH. . .
And so we want to help you out
Ho! Ho! Ho! Ho! Ho!

*Bag of Whoppers or Raisenettes: We were awakened when we heard Santa call
“Dash away, Dash away, Dash away all!”
But soon we discovered, out on our lawn,
Santa and his reindeer were all gone.

With our little shovel we started to scoop,
All of the droppings, YUCK reindeer poop.
But then we so generously filled up your sack.
Hope you have a Merry Christmas and enjoy your snack!!!

*Bag of mini-marshmallows or white whoppers:
Heard you’ve been naughty so here’s the SCOOP,
all you’ll get is . . . SNOWMAN POOP!

*2-liter bottle of Sprite: May your days be Merry and Sprite!

*Bag of Hershey’s Hugs: You can’t put Love in a box . . . but you can wrap a person in a HUG!

*Anything Yummy: Season’s Eatings!

*2-liter bottle of Sprite and a package of microwave popcorn:
Pop! Pop! Fizz! Fizz! Oh what a good neighbor you is!

*Golf balls or tees: Merry Christmas to a real swinger!

*Hershey’s Hugs & Kisses: We hope this isn’t too sentimental or too gushy or too sweet –
But we think you’re really terrific, and just knowing you is a treat.
So here’s a bunch of hugs and kisses sent with our love your way –
Thanks for always being so sweet – and have a Merry Christmas holiday.

*Popcorn bowl filled with treats: Your Christmas shopping is finally done
The presents are wrapped under the tree
Now it’s time to enjoy the holidays –
You deserve the rest, we agree.

So here’s a family entertainment center
Built for your enjoyment and fun –
Watch a movie and eat a treat or two,
Enjoy the season ‘til it’s over and done.

*Bubble bath or bath salts The holiday an be a strain
On our body and our brain –
So when you feel stressed
A hot bath is the best
It truly will help keep you sane!
Merry Christmas!

*Dishcloths tied as pants: Now don’t get excited and don’t be mislead
These aren’t for you but for your dishes instead.
Pull out the bows, take out the stitches.
You’ve gained to dishcloths, but lost your britches!

*Garbage bags: I’m not saying you’re trashy. In fact you’re squeaky clean
But Christmas generates garbage if you know what I mean –
There’s wrapping paper and ribbon, and baking remnants galore
Craft clippings, empty boxes and litter by the score!

You’re gathering debris from over here and there –
And sweeping up muddy footprints is a sight none too rare.
Well, don’t get discouraged – don’t let your spirits lag.
When you use this present, you’ve got Christmas IN THE BAG!!

*Other gift ideas:
Girls socks with beads crocheted to the edges
Holiday napkins surged around the edges (18" for each napkin)
Popcorn bowl with name written in paint-pen on the outside and popcorn inside
Decorative bottles containing flavored vinegar
Sweatshirt with child’s handprints in shape of a Christmas tree (footprint could be tree trunk)
Reindeer pin made out of a Christmas light bulb
Basket filled with favorites
Twelve Days of Christmas Stories (choose 12 favorite Christmas stories to make into a book)
Bag of Reindeer Food (glitter or confetti mixed with oats) with a note to sprinkle it on the front lawn on Christmas Eve
Jar mixes
Homemade notecards (I use fabric scraps and fusible interfacing-brand name Heat & Bond)
People feeder (chicken feeder and mason jar wfilled with candy
Foot heater (pillow filled with rice – heat in the microwave)
Holiday pillowcase
Hooded towel (can be made for infants, toddlers & adults)
Brownie sundae kit (brownie mix, ice cream and fudge - see recipes)
Candy wreath

Friday, October 30, 2009

Pumpkin Bread

It's Fall and that means Pumpkin Bread!!!

Here is my favorite recipe for pumpkin bread. Not only is it delicious but it is also so moist and SUPER easy.

1 spice cake mix
1 15 oz can pumpkin

Mix together. Put in greased loaf pan (or three small loaf pans). Bake at 350* for 45-60 minutes.

Variations -
*apple pie filling or two cups applesauce and one spice (or yellow) cake mix
*peach pie filling and one spice (or yellow) cake mix
*lemon pie filling and one lemon cake mix (this is a favorite)
*blueberry pie filling and one lemon (or yellow) cake mix

Two cautions -
*raspberry pie filling and lemon cake mix makes a delicious flavor but it's full of raspberry seeds
*cherry pie filling and chocolate cake is delicious but hard to know when it's finished baking because the pie filling is so gooey

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Game of Economizing - Part 2

More Economizing Tips I've Learned Recently

1. I make simpler dinners now. I love the one-dish dinners that contain a protein, carb and vegetable. It cuts down on dishes to wash and my kids usually don't mind the vegetables. It also means I don't always have to have a salad or another vegetable on the side.

2. We turn the heater down and wear more sweatshirts. My kids love to wrap up in a blanket on the couch. Luckily we have TONS of quilts to use.

3. Along the lines of #2. This summer I saved $120 a month by turning the air conditioning off and the fans on. Seriously - $120! The only time this doesn't work is when the humidity is above 75 or 80%. Those days are killer and the A/C has to be turned on.

4. DH hung a clothesline for me along one edge of the carport. I don't mind hanging out the laundry and it saves a ton if I don't have to use the dryer as often. I'm hoping that when harvest is over he'll make me a real clothesline for next summer.

5. We really missed our garden this year. We moved too late in the summer to plant on here but have it all planned out for next year. We loved the fresh produce and being able to can/bottle some for the winter, too.

6. How many Christmas cards and pictures can a person actually save? I save the ones from immediate family and have a huge stack. This year I might (still thinking about it) email the letter and picture to most of our list. It will save a ton on printing fees and postage.

7. Aldi's is my new favorite grocery store - again. I shopped there when we lived in Hutchinson. Now that we are back near an Aldi's I shop there again. I can find most everything I need and it has helped with the food storage while keeping within the food budget. www.aldifoods.com

8. Make Christmas gifts - I have tons of fabric scraps and can use them for lots of things. I like to make pot holders, aprons, and appliqued dishtowels. I also make "jingle socks" and hooded towels for children. I will post tutorials soon. I know of a family that always does "a priceless gift" for each family member. It has to be something that doesn't cost them any money. I think that is a great idea.

9. I've stopped using prepared mixes and boxed dinners and have started making more things by scratch again. This has cut down on the garbage we produce and has saved us quite a bit of money. If I start the dinner in the morning (and at least get the casserole prepared and ready to throw in the oven) then I have time to make things from scratch.

10. I am no longer brand-loyal on most things. If it's on sale and it's something I need then I get it, even if it's not the brand that I usually use. I am also a fan of the store brands for most things. You can save a lot by purchasing store brands. Sometimes, though, a national brand that is on sale is cheaper than the store brand - especially if you have a coupon.

11. Homemade laundry soap - I haven't tried this yet but I am anxious to. I haven't found a store that sells washing soda and no one will order it for me. I might have to order it online. I'll post the recipe in another post. My friend Tanya swears by this stuff, as do several of my cousins.

12. My NUMBER ONE money saving tip is using coupons. I was not a believer that 50 cents here or a dollar off there would add to big savings but I am a believer now. I will devote a full post to using coupons in the future but until then, here is one of my favorite coupon sites - http://hip2save.blogspot.com/. Sign up as a follower and you will be emailed when she updates her blog. She gives you tips, tricks, ways to stack coupons on a sale and generally save money. Also make sure to check out her instructional videos on the right side of her webpage.

I'll leave you with a final thought - a poem that my mom first quoted to me when I was leaving for college -

Use it up
Wear it out
Make it do
Or do without!

I didn't appreciate it then, but I certainly appreciate it now!

I would love to hear your favorite money-saving tips! Please post a comment or a link in the comment section.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Game of Economizing - Part 1

This morning, while I was putting dinner in the crockpot, my mind turned to ways we, like the rest of the United States, have been economizing. We probably should have been economizing all along but we haven't been. We've been living "high on the hog" for many years - at least until the prices of things, like gasoline and milk, have started jumping higher and higher. With the expenses of our recent move and other expense-incurring happenings, it has been necessary for me to either go back to work or find ways to save money at home. It has almost become like a game. Here are the ways that we've been saving money.....
1. Inconvenience Foods - This is what prompted me to think about the ways we economize. I was peeling and cutting carrots. I probably have not done that in YEARS - there was just no need. I always purchased baby carrots. They were quick, easy, but certainly not cheap! A bag of baby carrots in our neck of the woods is close to $3. A bag of regular carrots only $1.44. That's a savings of more than 50%. Combine that with a roast I found on sale at WalMart and five potatoes and you've got a great dinner! (Recipe - Put the roast, peeled and cut carrots and potatoes in the crockpot with a package of dry onion soup mix and a cup or two of water. Cook on high for six hours or so.)

I have also started buying a full head of green leaf lettuce instead of the bagged lettuce. Again, it's usually half the price. I *hate* to make salad but this game of economizing has made a believer out of me.

2. Recycle Clothing - The other day my DH and I were in the basement sorting through some things (okay, we were trying to make a pathway through all the totes and boxes that we have carted all over the country but have rarely opened). We found a box of clothes marked "Boys - 4T". Guess what!!! I have a boy who is size 4T and he was in desperate need of winter clothes. Like most parents, I have saved clothes from the older children to use on the younger ones. My problem has been that I haven't always been good about sorting and marking them correctly or digging them out when I do know where they are. It's just easier to pick up a pair of this or a larger size of that when I'm at WalMart. However, I estimate that I saved close to $50 by opening the 4T tote and puting the sweatshirts, long-sleeved shirts, jeans, socks and shoes in Tuff's drawers. I was lucky that the sizes and season were correct.
3. Recycle Halloween Costumes - The above picture is of a friend's children. Batman and the witch costumes are borrowed. The large jack-o-lantern was made last-minute when another costume didn't work out (idea courtesy of familyfun.com; vines courtesy of the fake houseplants). The baby pumpkin is a costume that all four children have worn their first Halloween - a fun family tradition. (I just talked to my friend and she said the total cost of the Halloween costumes was less than $5 - and that was for the face paint and the brown pipe cleaners on top of the jack-o-lantern. My friend is all for borrowing and exchanging costumes with friends. You don't have to give them away - just lend them. Really, what else are they going to do - sit in the dress-up box over the holiday? They might as well be enjoyed!)

4. Garage Sales and Goodwill - Two more great sources for inexpensive clothing are garage sales and thrift stores. My mom and sister are great thrift store shoppers. They are always dressed to the nines and have rarely spent a lot on their outfits. I am not as good at finding things for myself but frequently I can find fabulous things for my kids - most of them so close to new-looking that it's impossible to tell that I bought them at the thrift store.

5. Ebay - I totally love ebay. I have been an ebay purchaser for many years but have only recently discovered the massive amounts of clothing on ebay. I recently purchased this white dress for my daughter for $15 plus shipping. The trim alone would have much more than $15 if I had attempted to make it. I have also bought brand new ties, skirts, piano books and birkenstock sandals (off season to get the best price). I am just in love with ebay!
6. Boys Haircuts - I bought a set of hairclippers years ago and have pulled them out to start using them again. I can save $20 every six weeks by cutting my boys' hair. Sometimes it looks better, I'll admit, but in my defense, the youngest is a moving target. I had my mom do it last time they were here to visit so the boys will look great for the next few weeks. If you don't know how to cut hair, take your son to the barber and watch how he does it. Ask questions and learn how to do it. I used to trade babysitting for haircuts when we lived in Fargo. She was a hairdresser so we traded three hours of babysitting for one haircut. I knew I was going to end up watching her kids periodically anyway so it was great to get a free haircut out of the deal!

7. School pictures are soooo expensive. It would cost be more than $90 to have all three kids' pictures taken at school. Instead I can have their pictures taken at JCPenney, Target or even WalMart for less than $10 a child. That's a savings of $60.

8. When we moved into this house the previous renters had two garbage cans. We only need one so I canceled the second one - save us $7 each month.

9. When we first signed up for the internet here, we opted for the middle-of-the-road speed. Our computer isn't that fast so the internet didn't seem fast even on the second speed. I downgraded to the lowest speed (of the high-speeds) and haven't noticed a difference at all. A savings of $10/month.

10. Our house phone has an answering machine attached to it. While I like that voicemail will take messages while I'm on the phone, I'm really not all that popular or all that important. It's not like phone is ringing off the hook and I need to have that feature. For a $5/month savings, I disconnected the voicemail and we are back to using the answering machine on the phone.

11. If we connect a phone cord from the satellite dish box to the phone jack we will save $6/month on our bill. I have the phone cord sitting next to me on the desk, I just don't know where to plug it in. I'll call the company in the morning and have them walk me through it.

12. When I make a pasta dinner I add extra pasta to stretch it a little. This lets DH have a good lunch the next day that 1) doesn't cost a lot extra and 2) is more filling than a sandwich.

13. My kids take home lunch instead of eating a school lunch. School lunch costs $2 here and I can make it for a lot cheaper than that. My kids still eat lunch at school but it's usually only a couple times a month now.

14. I love, LOVE, L.O.V.E that I made dessert on Friday night without having to go to the store. I forgot that I didn't have a dessert in mind to make for when company came over that night for dinner. I ran down to the basement and saw all the bottles of apple pie filling that I canned last year. I called my friend and she gave me her yummy apple crisp recipe. Luckily I had all the ingredients for it in my food storage. Woohoo!!! Gotta love that year supply! (And it was a dang good apple crisp. I even had some for breakfast the next morning. Oh come on, it was apples an oatmeal. Totally breakfast foods!)

I'm only about halfway through my list of economizing tips, but I think I'll go to bed now and post the rest another day.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Barf Bucket

If flu season hasn't hit your neck of the woods, beware - it'll be there soon. This little tool was shown to us by a nurse at an Enrichment Meeting in Hutchinson, Kansas. I love this tool because all you have to do is lift up the top bag, tie the top of it in a knot, and throw it away. The new layer is ready to go for the next round. If you set it on a towel to catch the drips then you don't have to touch anything germy and cleanup is a breeze. My kids have named it THE BARF BUCKET!

The last time we had the stomach flu hit our house, my oldest complained of a headache the night before. I knew we were in for it because the only time he gets a headache is when he's going to be sick. At midnight he woke up with a stomachache and I set the barf bucket on a towel by his bed. At 5:30 in the morning he still had a bad stomachache. At 6 a.m. I heard him throwing up in the bucket. By 6:15 he felt much better, took a shower, and spent the rest of the day on the couch, watching cartoons - with the barf bucket, on a towel, next to him!

To make a barf bucket, first, take an ice cream bucket or a small waste paper basket. Next, line it with a plastic bag (grocery bags work fine as long as they don't have holes in the bottom). Third, rip up a bit of newspaper and lay it in the bottom to absorb the vomit. A folded paper towel or a couple of napkins work fine, too. Repeat the entire process with another bag. I usually do three or four layers of bag/newspaper. I keep one of these at the ready at all times.

P.S. If anyone can come up with a cuter, less disgusting name than barf bucket, please let me know. The name really bugs me.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Bib Tutorial

In my quest for the perfect baby shower gift (one that doesn't cost a lot or take a lot of time, but is still hand-made), I have started making bibs to match the burp cloths and self-binding receiving blankets. The bibs are very, very easy. Just follow the tutorial for the burp cloths. The only thing different is the shape and adding the velcro at the end. For the shape, either use your favorite bib as a pattern (see picture) or draw one out on a piece of brown paper or pellon. For the velcro, just machine sew it on either end of the flaps when you are completely finished.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Burp Cloths - Tutorial

1. Draw a pattern - I like the burp cloths to be bigger than normal. I had two very spitty babies. K threw up for the first six months of her life - she even had to have an upper GI with a barium swallow (yucky x-ray for a baby). Tuffer threw up for an entire year. The only thing that helped a little was a weekly visit to the chiropractor. These burp cloths are about 17 inches long, 9 inches at their widest part, and 8 inches at the narrow middle. I've given lots of them as gifts and everyone always comments on how large they are - perfect for spitty babies. Just freehand a drawing until you are happy with it.

2. Cut out the fabric, making sure to leave extra fabric for a seam allowance. Pin, right sides together. Sew around the edge, leaving a 3 inch hole for turning.

3. Clip the edge of the fabric so that when you turn it it doesn't pull and bunch.

4. Turn the burp cloth right side out through the hole. Press the seam so it's not inside. I usually put a knife through the turning hole and run it along the inside of the seam and then press. Pin the turning hole closed.

5. If you have decorative stitches on your machine, sew around the burp cloth about one inch in from the edge. If you do not have decorative stitches, top stitch around the burp cloth about one inch in from the edge. Hand stitch the turning hole closed.

Note: I love to make these to match the self-binding receiving blankets. I usually make sure I buy enough flannel to make a blanket and two burp cloths (about 1-1/4 yards of each print will do it - or 1-1/4 yards of the back and 1 yard of the front.)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


Snickerdoodle Cookies (Makes 24 servings)

1 cup butter
1 1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 3/4 cups flour
2 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
3 Tbs sugar
3 tsp cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 350*F
2. Mix butter, 1 1/2 cups sugar, eggs and vanilla thoroughly.
3. Combine flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt in separate bowl.
4. Blend dry ingredients into butter mixture.
5. Chill dough and ungreased cookie sheet for 15 minutes in fridge.
6. Mix cinnamon and 3 Tbs of sugar.
7. Make 1" balls of dough and roll in sugar/cinnamon mixture.
8. Bake for about 10 minutes, until crackly on top. (If you take them out of the oven when they are still a little short of being done, they will be super-chewy and super-yummy!)

(I didn't chill the cookie sheet and they turned out fine.)

These are seriously the best cookies - EVER!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Medical Journal

Here's my tip - a Medical Journal for my kids. The idea originally came from my mom almost 11 years ago when JJ was born. She suggested I get a small notebook and write in it every time I take them to the doctor. I didn't take the advice until Tuffer was born. I wish I had used this notebook when JJ and K were babies. It has been so valuable. Since we move a lot, I have a detailed account of what past doctors have said, medication dosages, frequency of illnesses, etc. It was very handy when K had frequent bladder infections. I was able to tell them how many times in the previous six months they had occurred and what different types of treatments and tests we had done. It has been wonderful in keeping track of JJ's medication evaluations and also Tuffer's growth. It's just a simple 5x7" notebook with a pocket in front where I keep the shot records (also handy to bring along to doctor appointments when you move a lot).
I divided the notebook into four sections (positive thinking that we might have a fourth child someday) by putting a round sticker on the top right edge of a page. If you have more than four kids you might want to divide the books and have one for boys and one for girls. This has been the handiest thing ever. Every entry has the date, the reason for the appointment, weight and height of the child, diagnosis, tests performed, treatment given, and anything else I feel is important to write down.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Sweet and Sour Chicken

Sweet and Sour Chicken
5 to 6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 large bottle French dressing
1 can chunked pineapple (and juice)
1 cup brown sugar

Mix all ingredients in a 9x13 pan. Bake in oven at 350* for one hour. Serve with rice.

(You can also make the sauce and pour it over shredded chicken from your freezer. See this post for directions.)

Monday, September 28, 2009

My New Favorite Thing

After each pregnancy my periods have gotten increasingly longer and heavier. It was a nightmare for two or three days (and nights) before it tapered of to only strong annoyance. Then when we were visiting friends this past July, Tanya introduced me to these...Tampax Pearl ULTRA Tampons
(15 to 18 ounces)

Normally I am a cardboard applicator kind-of-girl. Maybe it's my nod to going green and the cardboard is biodegradable (and yes, I know there are other go-green options, but this is a comfortable option for me). Regardless, I tossed those cardboard applicators aside for a few days and tried the Tampax Pearl Ultra Tampons. Oh my! Heaven! My time-of-the-month is still annoying and stressful but this product makes it a little more bearable.

(A bonus use for empty tampon boxes... hiding chocolate and other treats from family members. You can even tell them that treats are in that box and they won't touch them. I promise!)

Friday, September 25, 2009

Menu Planning

Direct from the outside of my fridge is this week's homemaking tip.... I know it is important to make menus but I really don't like to do it because I can never decide what to make. Soooo...Here's what I do. I have given each day of the week a category. This helps to focus my efforts and narrow my choices when I am making menus. Most of the recipes I have can fit into more than one category. Now it is easy for me to plan menus. Also, planning menus helps me save money at the grocery store because there is no willy-nilly purchasing. I have a plan and can get all the ingredients when I know in advance what I am going to make. (Here's a bonus tip - my mom told me about a lady she used to visit teach. This lady would always have the dinner made for her family by 10 a.m. Then, when it was late in the afternoon and she really didn't feel like cooking, all she had to do was pop it in the oven. I have tried this several times and I love it. I don't know why I don't do it more often.)

In case you are curious, my categories are:
Sunday - Crockpot
Monday - Pasta
Tuesday - Beef
Wednesday - Miscellaneous
Thursday - Mexican
Friday - Chicken
Saturday - Easy or leftovers

(I have a friend who does something similar but she uses side dishes - potatoes, rice, etc. - as her categories.)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Prepared Chicken

This tip is courtesy of my mom. For years, whenever she cooks chicken breasts in the crockpot she throws in a couple extra to put in the freezer for use in a casserole on another day. I have issues with touching meat, raw or cooked, so cooking more at once works for me (and my issues).

1. Take a bag of chicken (above).
2. Dump it into a crockpot (below). Cook on high for about six hours or low for about 10 hours. I often turn it on before I go to bed and let it cook all night.
3. Take the chicken out of the crockpot and let it cool. Divide it into ziploc bags and freeze. When you need cooked chicken for a casserole, just defrost a bag of chicken and throw it into the bowl!

You can also do this with hamburger. HERE

Monday, September 21, 2009

Browned Hamburger

I really don't like to cook. It takes a really long time and the clean up is a pain, too. In analyzing this a while back I decided that I prefer making recipes that are just "dump and go". That's not possible with recipes that call for browned hamburger or cooked chicken.... or is it????

Today's tip.... Browned hamburger - frozen and ready to go.

1. Buy a lot of hamburger meat. I usually buy at least the 5 lb package.

2. Brown the hamburger meat in a big skillet. I never add any onions or flavoring because it will be used in a variety of recipes. I can always add the flavors when I defrost it later.

3. Rinse the browned hamburger in hot water. I'm very serious - this is the trick so it doesn't go rancid. I put the browned hamburger in my colander and run hot water over it until the water draining out the bottom runs clean. Sometimes I need to stir it a couple of times to make sure I get everything rinsed.
4. Spoon the browned, rinsed hamburger meat into ziploc bags. For most of my dishes, 1 1/4 lbs of hamburger is about the right amount. The five pound package of hamburger meat yields 4 bags of browned hamburger. Now, when I am cooking dinner I don't have to worry about pulling the meat out the night before and putting it in the fridge or browning it in the afternoon so I can have dinner ready on time. I can just grab a bag of cooked meat, throw it in the microwave to defrost for two minutes and put it in my casserole.

I do something similar with chicken. HERE
Happy to post this tip on....

Tip Junkie
Tackle it Tuesdays
Tempt My Tummy Tuesdays

Friday, September 11, 2009

Dryer Sheet Tip

Tip of the day - Cut your dryer sheets in half or even in thirds. They take care of static cling just as well as a whole dryer sheet but you get twice as many for the same price. (Some brands are easy to rip with your hands. Others require scissors.)

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Inaugural Post

What, oh what should I have as my first post? Should it be something profound? witty? creative? Since I am rarely profound, hardly witty and not usually creative, we'll settle for something all can enjoy - food. For my first post, I'll share a recipe that my family loves... Beef and Bean Enchiladas!

Beef and Bean Enchiladas
1 pound browned hamburger
1 pound can refried beans
1 pkg (1/4 cup) taco seasoning
2/3 cup water
8 small tortillas
1 small can mild enchilada sauce
1 can tomato sauce
grated cheese
sliced olives

Mix hamburger, beans, taco seasoning and water in a skillet. Simmer until "most" of the water has boiled off. Spoon into tortillas, roll and place in 9x13 pan. Mix enchilada sauce and tomato sauce and pour over enchiladas. Top with grated cheese and sliced olives. Bake at 350* for 20 minutes or cover with plastic wrap and microwave for 10 minutes.

(Add another can of refried beans and use small tortillas to enlarge the recipe to make 14 enchiladas.)


About Me: I'm just your every day mom. I'm fabulous at a couple of things, horrible at several things, and average at most things. I shave my legs once a week unless I have a leg full of mosquito bites and then it might be awhile. I have a couch full of clean laundry and a dishwasher that usually needs to be started. I used to teach school and dabble in craft shows. I am now a SAHM who is active in her church and trying to be active in the parents' association at the school. I live on a budget, shop the sales, and splurge on hair gel, foundation, and office products. I'm the oldest of six, the youngest of eight and mother of three. I have a severe fear of spiders and a strong dislike for Spongebob. I enjoy couponing, reading, quilting, playing the piano, and just about anything that doesn't involve sweeping the floor. I am truly an every day mom.

I've moved around a bit in the last 13 years and have gathered lots of tips and tricks from the many friends I've made along the way. I decided to share these through this blog. I hope you find something useful. I would love it if you would share your tips with me so I can post them here. laytonjc @ gmail (dot) com