Friday, April 27, 2007

Freebie Friday: April 27, 2007

Don't forget to download your free menu planner & grocery list for the week!

If you haven't seen it yet, be sure to read our article on internet safety and your children. It is an important piece that you shouldn't miss!

Health & Beauty:

Try 24 hour fitness for 10 days. Free. To get this special deal fill out the form and select a club near you.

To receive a FREE* Trial Pair Certificate for ACUVUE® ADVANCE™, ACUVUE® OASYS™, ACUVUE® ADVANCE™ for ASTIGMATISM, ACUVUE® 2, ACUVUE® 2 COLOURS™, ACUVUE® BIFOCAL, or 1•DAY ACUVUE®, please fill out the form.

Register with AMBIEN CR & Receive a Free Trial.Why spend another sleepless night? Sign up now and receive 7 days of prescription of AMBIEN CR free and talk to your doctor to find out if AMBIEN CR is right for you.

Thousands of women have tried Olay Total Effects and have fallen in love with our moisturizer. We think you'll love the age-defying benefits, too. If you would like to try a free sample of Total Effects, just fill out the brief questionnaire.

These lathering, dual-textured cloths fight seven signs of aging as they cleanse, condition, exfoliate, and remove makeup. Olay Total Effects Daily Cleansing Treatments have a smooth side that infuses skin with the Olay Vitamin Lipid System (Vitamin E, Pro-Vitamin B5, and lipids). They also have a textured side that exfoliates to reveal newer skin. If you would like to try a free sample of Total Effects Daily Cleansing Treatments, just fill out the brief questionnaire.

Sign up to receive a free seven day sample of Move Free Advanced.

Try a sample of Sarah Jessica Parker’s Lovely Perfume.


Join Regal Crown Club and earn rewards for going to the movies. Free movies, popcorn, soft drinks and more!

If you live near one of the selected cities, you can get passes to an advance screening of Shrek 3 to be held in May 2007.

Receive a free one-year subscription to ShowBoats International Magazine. ShowBoats International sets the editorial and marketing standards for the luxury yacht industry and dominates the market of exclusive yachts. No publisher in the world understands the megayacht market better than ShowBoats International! You will NOT receive any additional magazines and you do NOT have to cancel a subscription. We will not be accepting feedback on this magazine. This subscription to ShowBoats International has been purchased on your behalf by

To get your complimentary one-year subscription to Home Business Magazine (and to find out what FREE trade magazines you could receive), simply complete the following information.

Get a complimentary subscription to Western Outdoors Magazine for one year. Just fill out the survey.

Receive 18 free issues of Boating Life: Boating Life is the authority on recreational boating. Inevery issue of Boating Life, you'll find new product reviews, sound advice on buying a boat and tips for maintaining your boat. From deck boats and run-abouts to skiboats, fishing boats and pontoons, Boating Life is like the knowledgeable friend you consult before buying that brand-new model, tackling that maintenance project, getting water-sports gear ofr the kids or planning the dream boat trip.

Join the Barnes & Noble Summer Reading Program. Fostering a love of reading and its rewards, the Barnes & Noble Summer Reading Program is popular with both students in the first through sixth grades and educators throughout America. Last summer, we provided 190,000 free books and participants read 2.3 million books! This year, children can join Jack and Annie from Mary Pope Osbourne’s Magic Tree House on their summer adventure as part of their own journey in our Summer Reading program.Participation is fun and easy for kids to earn free books! They simply read any eight books — library books, books borrowed from friends or books bought at Barnes & Noble — write about their favorite part, and bring a completed Summer Reading in the Magic Tree House Journal tear page to a Barnes & Noble bookstore. Children can then choose from a list of paperback books. We’re confident there will be plenty of titles they will like.

Have your children start a lemonade stand for charity. To request your free Sunkist Take a Stand Kit please fill out the pledge form.

Families, schools, and organizations alike are invited to see great kids’ movies -- for FREE -- during AMC Summer MovieCamp®. Available at select AMC Theatres, this fun-filled program brings you: FREE movies from June 27 – August 15*. Shows starting at 10:00 a.m. every Wednesday. A great opportunity for field trips – start planning today. Groups can reserve tickets for all seven weeks of movies, starting on June 20. Check back soon to see our film lineup and download fun kid’s activities like word searches, art projects, and more. AMC KidsPack™ are also only $3.00 for one small drink, one small popcorn, & kids’-size snack. Participating cities are listed on their site.

Get a free book! LIVING BEYOND THE LIMITS: A LIFE IN SYNC WITH GOD. God wants you to experience life to its fullest…but rather than experiencing peace, joy, and excitement, maybe hints of emptiness, boredom, and frustration nag at you. Maybe you find yourself asking, “Is this all that life has to offer?”In Living Beyond the Limits, Franklin Graham focuses on God’s principles and promises essential to a full life. He relates real-life examples of men and women who have put God’s Word in to practice under some of the most challenging circumstances imaginable. You’ll be amazed by their stories. You’ll also be stirred and challenged as never before. Limit one per household. Book shown is hardback, but shipped copy will be paperback.


Host a Pepperidege Farm Spring Dessert House Party. If selected as a host, you’ll get...Samples of Pepperidge Farm Black & White Milano, Chessmen, and other cookies to taste, exclusive coupons to purchase more cookies for your party, ribbon and decorative cellophane to make take-home favors, online dessert recipes and party-planning tips, a free party website, where you can send invites, share photos and videos, and interact with partygoers nationwide & the chance to create and submit your own dessert recipe, featuring Pepperidge Farm cookies, to be spotlighted on

Pet Needs:

Receive a free four pack of The Original Scoopex Pooper Scoopers.



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Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Dollar Stretcher Tips 04.26.2007

For a sample copy of The Dollar Stretcher newsletter, send $2 to: Dollar Stretcher Sample, 6695 Cortez Road W., Bradenton FL 34210. Copyright 2007 Dollar Stretcher, Inc. Visit The Dollar Stretcher for even more tips & ideas!

Designated Shopper

I try to stay out of the grocery store after I have done my weekly shopping. If I do go for a loaf of bread, I wind up spending much more. To solve this problem, I have my husband go instead. He hates grocery shopping so much that if I send him for bread, he will run in and come right back out with a loaf of bread. It's kind of funny really, but it's also great for the budget.
Janet S.

Cheaper Futon Cover Choices

We have a futon in our loft that serves as extra seating as well as a makeshift spare room for guests. The covers can be very expensive, but I have found two great alternatives. I was using a full-sized fitted sheet and this worked quite well. They are very inexpensive if you shop sale or clearance. I decide I wanted an even better fit and tried a full/queen size duvet cover that I found on clearance for less than $10. It works great! These two options are much less expensive and the choices in patterns and fabrics are endless.
Karissa W.

See Through!

When cleaning windows, eye glasses, shower doors, mirrors or anything glass, I've found that using rubbing alcohol does the trick! It's cheaper than those "commercial" glass cleaners, takes less wiping and it's streak-free. Obviously, take appropriate care for pets and children.

Super White

We like our white clothes to look the whitest they can so I keep a five-gallon bucket in my laundry room sink. I fill it half full of water and one scoop of BIZ. When we change white clothes, I put them into the bucket until wash day. Each time I add clothes, I swish them around to get the full benefit of the BIZ. Sometimes you may need to add more water and don't forget to swish them when you do. Wash as usual. It may take a couple of soakings to get them as white as new.
Janice H.

Self-Cleaning Worthwhile

I have a self-cleaning oven, which can be expensive to operate. To make the best use of the energy requirements, I do two things. First, I only clean the oven after it's been used for cooking a meal. The oven is already partially heated and I can reduce the energy consumption of heating it up from cold. Second, I throw in my enamel on steel broiler pan, baked on enamel roasting pans or BBQ racks so they get cleaned too.
Cindy B.

Sticky Labels

Have you ever had a label that didn't want come off of a jar, a sticker that your kids placed on a mirror, or a bumper sticker you didn't want? Simply heat it up with a blow dryer. When the adhesive starts to melt, the sticker will peel right off!
Susan S. in Florissant, MO

Sweet Ride

In the mail and at department stores, I often receive those small papers with the perfume sample inside the flap. Place one on the floor of the car or in the air vent. Not only will your car smell wonderful, but also you're able to "try on" a new perfume to see if you like it.
Karen B. in White Bear Lake, MN

Grad Gifts

We are approaching high school/college graduation time. My favorite high school graduation gift was from my grandmother. She filled a storage crate with shampoo, lotion, rolled quarters (for laundry), laundry soap, snacks, etc. Gram made a crate for each semester that we were in college. I now like to give a crate or laundry basket full of supplies that a college student would need to start school. This gift can be given to someone that is moving into his/her first apartment or house.
Heidi W.

Cheaper Cereal

My husband only likes cereal for breakfast (and boxed cereals are expensive, even with a coupon). Instead, we now go to our local co-op and buy oats in bulk at 59 cents per pound. This is even cheaper than the generic brands in the canisters at the grocery store, which are usually 99 cents per pound. It also saves us on the cost of milk since oatmeal takes less milk than a bowl of cereal!
Julia in White River Junction, VT



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Amy's Notebook 04.26.2007

Be Mom of the Year:

The Cozi Connection has a great list of items you should add to your family calendar so you don’t miss a single important event. This one is a wealth of information!

Genki Desu Yo shares some tips to get your kids moving on doing chores pay per post style. This is an awesome read and much cheaper than hiring a cleaning service.

Be Cheap:

Scaling Back has a great post on how to scale back on electricity. They got familiar with the electronic meter outside and are hoping to lower their electricity bills.

Zen Habits share a simple way you can save $3,000 a year, without a lot of effort on your part.

Lifehacker shares tips for how to remove car dents on a budget. This is the kind of information every frugal gal needs (especially if you bang up the car and don’t want your husband to know!)

Spending Smart has a great list of frugal cell phone tricks. I like the Craigsnumber one that is listed- check it out!

Have a Martha Moment:

Frugal Upstate has a recipe for making homemade lemonade- yum!

Craft Magazine features an entry on some great sewing accessories you can make. I love the bag idea!

Home Ec 101 shares some ironing tips for fixing those crazy polo collars that won’t lay right. I use the iron so rarely that my son asked what it was one day. Hmm… oh well!

Craftzine shows how to make beautiful fabric brooches. This is a great way to use up some of that scrap fabric you have laying around.

Get Inspired:

Creative Organizing has a great post on how to tame kitchen clutter. There are some great ideas in this one!

Design Mom has some great solutions for inexpensive window coverings, although the expensive solutions are extremely beautiful too!

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Why Being Thankful is So Important

I just began the greatest book called, “For the Love of Letters” by Samara O’Shea. It is a guide to the art of letter writing and I am totally in love with this book already. The book is filled with ideas for writing every kind of letter you can imagine- an apology, a letter of thankfulness, a message of sympathy…any kind of letter you could ever dream of is in this book.

Growing up I never had a choice about writing letters of thanks for things that we received in our life. It was always ingrained in us that writing a thank you letter was just essential. Only those who are thankful and express their gratitude can graciously receive something else in their life.

As I have grown up though, the written word has been disappearing. Letters have been replaced by digital media and cell phones. Why take the time to write a letter when you can just shoot off a quick email and get on with your life? I imagine that this is going to be one of those things that I will have to work extra hard on with my children, as text messaging and chatting in code has replaced the formality of actually penning a response.

One of the most practical reasons for being thankful is because the act of being thankful makes people want to give to you again. And again. And again. A handwritten note, a special phone call to thank someone for something they have given you, a small token of gratitude for what they do for you- this is not only thoughtful, but also a necessary part of your life.

One example of a time of gratitude in my life was when we were expecting our second child. When we found out we were having a little girl, I was so thrilled, but I also knew that many of our boy things would have to be replaced by little girl items. I had that nervous feeling about our finances and how we were going to swing an entire new wardrobe. I knew that we could make it work, but I also knew that starting over can be pretty expensive. Cue the windfall of clothing. Do you hear it? People from all over started just giving me things. I had a girlfriend who loaned me her daughter’s entire wardrobe for the first year. Then I got that nervous feeling again. Cue another windfall of clothing from someone that was a friend of our family, and feel that sense of relief again.

When my grandmother brought over a bag of clothing from someone who didn’t really even know me personally, I wept. I was so touched that someone would give us so much and not even ask for anything in return. I called her as soon as she left and thanked her, blubbering the whole time. I asked what I could do for her- if I could offer her a gift card or a sum of money. She did not want anything from me, but thanked me for calling. I sat down and penned a note to her and thanked her family for what they did and sent off a couple of handmade hair bows to her daughters. It was a small gesture compared to the enormous gesture she offered me, but it made a positive impression. She later told my grandmother how nice it was to give to someone who was so appreciative and that she planned to give us her children’s clothing as her daughters outgrew them.

Had I just took the clothes with an open hand and never sent her a note of gratitude; I would not have received anything again from her. She would probably give the clothes to someone else, someone who would have acted like they cared & appreciated what she was doing for them.

I see this often in my life, and I try to keep this in the back of my mind.

Writing a letter of gratitude is also a great, great thing when you work from home and are trying to build your business. When someone sends you something or does something for you in your business, you should always send them a note of gratitude. It leaves the other person with a positive impression of you and also makes them want to do more for you in the future. Imagine that you are laying bricks for a pathway to your house and each letter is one of those bricks. That pathway will eventually lead you to many great things. Those positive connections will be wonderful for references or networking in your home business, or serve you well when you return to the workplace.

Have you ever received a letter that you never forgot? Do you still write letters to people in your life?

I hope you can check out this book! Not only is it a beautiful book for your coffee table, it is also a great guide to pulling off a letter of thankfulness or any other type of letter you can imagine!

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

New Article: Online Safety Chat

I got the opportunity to interview Brandon Watson, CEO of IMSafer and board member of the Family Online Safety Institute on online safety for children. He was kind enough to answer all of my questions from when is it appropriate to have a computer in your child's room, how to respect your child's privacy but keep them safe, & basic things that we should teach our children about being safe online. Don't miss this article!

For parents of older children, I am curious if you have had this talk yet with your child? What did you teach them? Do you have parental blockers on your computer? Do you monitor their chatting or just trust that they are doing the right thing?

For those of us who love a freebie, IMSafer offers a free membership or you can take advantage of a premium membership for only $30 a year.

Many thanks to Brandon for giving us the opportunity to get answers to these important questions!

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Monday, April 23, 2007

Product Review: Philips Digital Picture Frame

Philips contacted us and gave us the opportunity to review their 9" Digital Picture Frame, which we were extremely excited to try out. A digital picture frame has been on my Mother's Day gift list for a long time so we were excited to receive one of these.

Philips is a fabulous company and one thing that I really appreciate about them is their knack for design. This photo frame is sleek looking and has nice clean lines. The stand is made to to lock into the two positions depending on how you want to stand it. Overall, it is just an amazing looking frame.

Unfortunately, I am technically challenged and I was very anxious to begin loading our pictures onto it when I received it, but the software was extremely confusing for me. I waited until my tech-savvy husband got home and had him try his hand at it. I had resolved it was due to my poor technical skills, but he was in agreement that transferring photos was confusing and the software that is included was not user-friendly. We had a lot of trouble figuring out how to transfer the photos from our PC. An easier option would be to transfer your photos to a memory card, which can then be stuck in the back of the frame, which simplifies the process compared to utilizing their software.

Once we figured out how to load the pictures, we could plug it in and begin displaying them. I was extremely impressed with the quality of the picture and how vivid the colors were on the screen. Not only were the colors extremely bright, but the transitions between photos were well done and did not have too long of pauses between photos or any hokey transitions between the photos.

This frame will store up to sixty photos on it, which can reduce a lot of cluttered frames in your home without taking up too much space. You can keep the frame running on a provided AC cable or on the rechargeable battery that is included with each frame. The frame also includes a very smart feature that will allow you to only run the frame at certain times of the day, like only when you are home, to save on electricity.

The Philips digital picture frame would make a fabulous gift for the grandparents, a wonderful Mother's Day or Father's Day gift, or a gift for a special graduate in your life. The frame is currently on sale for $199.04 with free shipping through the provided link above.

Many thanks to Philips for giving us the opportunity to review such a wonderful product. We were not disappointed!

If you would like us to review a product for your company, please send inquiries to [email protected]. We look forward to reviewing products that mothers would love to hear more about!

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Cheap Date Night is running a 60% off coupon from April 23-30th of the month. The 60% off code is APRIL and can be applied at check out. In addition, they are offering a free $10 certificate with your order. This discount makes the $25 value dining certificates that normally sell at their store for $10, a mere $4 each. What a savings!

These would make a great inexpensive Mother's Day gift or a gift to a graduate.

We use these on all of our date nights and save a ton of money. We get to eat at places we could never otherwise afford and for a fraction of the cost that everyone around us is paying. We have never had an issue using these anywhere or poor service because we were using these certificates.

For a review of our first experience using these, you can visit this past entry.

Note: We do receive a small credit for being affiliated with this program, but I only highlight things like this if they really are a good deal- I promise!

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Ask Frugal Momma: The Amazing Toaster Oven

I have a toaster oven, but it is barely functional, at best. I got it for five dollars from the thrift store and was excited to upgrade from the standard two slice toaster to the toaster oven. It was quickly evident why this appliance had been donated as I burned the toast the first time. There is no signal to let us know when it is done toasting. You have to keep an eagle eye on our toaster to make sure your toast is perfectly toasted. I am thinking of just forging ahead and getting a new one though…one that actually works. Ironically, the question of the day comes from a reader who was interested in learning about the toaster and how to care for it.

The toaster oven can be used for a variety of things, not just your toast or bagels in the morning. In fact, toaster ovens are not necessarily the best option if you are looking for an appliance to just toast bread. A toaster will actually toast your bread, while a toaster oven will provide a good toasting on one side, but takes twice the time as the traditional toaster. If you are just looking for some good toast, stick to the regular old toaster.

There are many uses for the toaster oven and it is great for when you are dining alone, want to throw together a simple appetizer, need to heat a few chicken nuggets for the kids, or don’t want to heat up the kitchen. A quick search on Google for, “toaster oven recipes” will yield a ton of ideas for things you can prepare in your toaster oven.

Consumer Reports did a testing on toaster ovens, and surprisingly some of the better performing toaster ovens were the cheapest options. Consumer Reports named the Procter-Silex Cool Touch a best buy at only $15 & the Oster Counterforms 6335 at $40 as the best deals for your money.

When it comes to electricity though, which is the cheapest option to use? Compared to your oven rage, which can use more than 3, 500 watts of electricity, a toaster oven uses only 1,350-1,500 watts. Comparatively, a typical toaster only uses 900 watts so using a toaster for toasting is the cheapest option of all when it comes to the perfect bagel. For bigger jobs though, relying on your toaster oven is a much cheaper option, particularly during the summer months when heating up your kitchen requires more wattage and makes your air conditioner have to work overtime.

Cleaning a toaster oven is very easy. First, unplug the unit and make sure it is completely cool before cleaning. If you wipe spills up as they occur, it will be a lot easier to keep this appliance clean. Wash the racks in warm soapy water. Use a damp soft cloth to clean out the interior and never ever submerge your toaster oven in water. If burned food discolors the paint on your toaster oven, you can try using a liquid degreaser to help minimize the discoloration, but nothing will remove it entirely.

To clean the standard toaster, again make sure the unit is unplugged and completely cool. Carry the toaster oven to the sink, and slide out the crumb tray (located at the very bottom of the toaster) and dump out the crumbs. Next turn the toaster upside down and let any remaining crumbs fall into the sink (if you have a disposal) or over your trashcan. Wipe the exterior with a soft cloth that has been dampened a bit with water & dishwashing soap. The chrome surfaces can be wiped down with a little all-purpose cleaner sprayed on a cloth. Don’t spray into the unit, just spray on the cloth.

How often you should clean your toaster oven depends on how often you use it. We usually wait until we can see a load of crumbs on the bottom or start to smell a burnt toast smell when we run the toaster. We probably should clean our toaster oven more often, but with all of the other things demanding my attention, this usually does not top the priority list in our house.

I do remember eating at our grandparent’s house and after every breakfast, our grandmother would clean it out, wipe it down, and then put it up in her cupboard. This was just part of her morning routine, just like taking out the trash or anything else. Her toaster always looked like new, my toaster…not so much. Follow her example if you want a sparkling toaster.

For some great toaster oven tips, visit Real Simple’s Versatile Toaster Oven article. It has some really wonderful ideas for using that toaster oven of yours!

Toaster Oven Recipes:

Toaster Oven Pizza

Mini Meat Loaves (You could probably try this recipe with my own mini meat loaves recipe)

Toaster Oven Easy Muffins

Do you have any tips to share? What do you use your toaster oven for? Please share!

Keep those questions coming! Submit them to [email protected] on any topic related to cleaning, money, or food. I love to answer these and hope that this information is useful for you & your family.

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Friday, April 20, 2007

Freebie Friday: April 20, 2007

Don't forget to print out your free menu planner & grocery list!

Next week we will be running a great article on how to keep your children safe on the internet. Be sure to check back for this informative piece!

Health & Beauty:

Sign up for Oil of Olay’s new Regenerist Eye Derma-Pod. Please limit one per household and the offer is good only while supplies last.

Sign up to receive a free sample of Pepcid Complete. Please allow six to eight weeks for delivery.

Wal-Mart is offering a free sample of Crest Nature’s Expressions. Please allow up to four weeks for delivery.

Try Dial Antibacterial Deodorant Soap for free. Please allow up to four weeks for delivery.

Wal-Mart is offering a free sample of Tylenol Extra Strength Rapid Release Gel Tablets. Please allow up to four weeks for delivery.

Sign up for a free sample of Head & Shoulders Restoring Shine Shampoo. Please allow six to eight weeks for delivery.

For the Home:

Register for the Home Depot Garden Club and you will receive free gardening advice, coupons, and savings.

Sign up for a free Redwood Creek Vintage Print offer. These are really cool!

Home Depot is giving away free compact fluorescent lights on Sunday (April 22nd) in honor of Earth Day. Visit their site for details.

Food & Drinks:

Sign up to be part of the Smoothie King mailing list and receive a free 20 oz smoothie and other frequent discounts & promotions by email.

Get a copy of Ohio Wine Guide for free.


Order the free Exposed DVD from Kodak. They asked 14 of the television industry’s renowned producers and cinematographers from around the world to reveal their thoughts about film and electronic capture. They talked to us about their experiences with both. What works for them and why. What they like– and don’t like. Where they see things going in the future. And how they make their choice in the first place. Their answers, presented in engaging and informative vignettes on this DVD, may surprise you.

Claim a complimentary subscription to New Man Magazine. You can just answer, “No, thank you” to the offers. Please allow six to eight weeks for processing.

Baby Needs:

Sign up to receive a free Pregnancy & Baby Wellness Kit which will include tips for a healthy pregnancy, samples of pregnancy & baby related products, & coupons for services & pregnancy/baby items.

Join the Earth’s Best Family and receive a free sample of rice cereal.

Pet Needs:

Celebrate the 20th Birthday of Petsmart on April 24th from 6-8 PM. This is an in-store event where you will receive a free Polaroid picture of your pet & free party hats & goodie bags and fun party games with prizes. While supplies last!

Iams is offering a voucher for a free 4lb bag of either dry dog or dry cat food (up to $6.50 for dog & $10 for cat). Your voucher will be mailed to you and can be redeemed at participating retailers. For a limited time. Please limit one free dog or cat food voucher per household.

Sign up to receive a complimentary entrée of Sheba Premium Cuts for your cat. Please allow four to six weeks for delivery.



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Thursday, April 19, 2007

The Dollar Stretcher Tips 04.19.2007

Do you guys still want me to continue publishing these? I wasn't sure if you were getting anything out of these. Just let me know by leaving a comment!

For a sample copy of The Dollar Stretcher newsletter, send $2 to: Dollar Stretcher Sample, 6695 Cortez Road W., Bradenton FL 34210. Copyright 2007 Dollar Stretcher, Inc. Visit The Dollar Stretcher for even more tips & ideas!

Child's Play
My four-year-old daughter loves to play outside after school. To keep her wardrobe in good condition and to cut down on clothing expenses, I came up with a way to help her change into "play" clothes. When I'm taking care of our laundry, I fold her play clothes inside out. That way, when she's pulling clothing from her dresser drawer, she knows which items are okay to wear for play outdoors. I considered keeping them in a separate drawer, but they could easily get misplaced. My inside out plan works perfectly, and she's proud of her new independence. Valerie in Michigan

Extend Your Mattress' Life
It's hard to remember to flip and turn your mattress, but it's well known that this is the way to extend the use of this expensive part of your home. Use Daylight Savings time changes to help you remember. Spin in Spring so that the head is now at the foot of your bed. Flip in Fall to bring the underneath side to the top. Over the course of two years, your mattress will be back where it started. Sharon F. in Coronado, CA

My Allowance = Impulse Control
I have a calculated allowance that I grant myself every week that I keep in a separate wallet. I then remove all credit cards (leave them at home) and only keep my bank card for emergencies. I find that when I have a set amount of money for spending, I only look towards that wallet, and if the item I want goes over what's in there, I find it easy to keep away from the impulsive purchase. Annette

When it's time to relocate to another home or apartment, finding an inexpensive source for moving boxes is always a challenge. I found the perfect solution with my last move, and that is the shoe store! Each day, shoe stores receive dozens of large boxes filled with nothing but smaller boxes (which in turn are filled with brand new shoes). Though I'm not ordinarily a "dumpster diver," my local store manager gave me permission to take whatever I needed from his bin outside. The boxes were clean. Best of all, they were plentiful and free! Glenda in Chicago

Breastfeeding Pumps
Here's a quick idea on breastfeeding. You can borrow a breast pump or get one used and replace the tubing, which is where the sanitation issues lie. The pump itself is nothing more than an engine to get the pump to work. I did this with my second child and saved hundreds of dollars on buying/renting a pump. JHM in Boston, MA

We placed a cork board on the front door so that we can see it as we are leaving the house. On this, we post a monthly calendar where we list all of our activities and are able to post notes. We also have a slot that we can put rented movies or other things that need to be returned. This has saved us a lot in gas by not having to travel back home because we forgot something. It also saves in late fees from forgetting returns and helps our family of 5 (all going in different directions) run smoother. Theresa G.

Got It Covered
After Hurricane Isabel flooded our home, our furniture needs were so great. We got a fantastic deal on several pieces with a local furniture store. With five children, we were concerned about them scratching the coffee and end tables with their toys. We invested less than $50 on used plastic sheeting (Lexan) from a company that considered it scrap. We cut it to the right length and placed it on the top of the tables. We used little felt 'feet' attached to the bottom of the plastic to lift it off of the tables. That allows for air flow. The plastic does not affect appearance, is waterproof for drinks, and has protected the surface from scratches, crayons and markers. Not only is it saving the furniture, but also it saves time in cleaning. I can pick up the plastic sheeting and see exactly where it needs to be wiped off. It's been well worth the small investment to protect our tables. Wendy A. in Hayes, VA

Let's Do That Again!
My favorite time tip is to put little post-it notes on the pages of my favorite recipes in my cookbook. It's great when I'm feeling uninspired or need something new to make for dinner. I just flip through the tabs where I've marked our favorite recipes and choose something we haven't eaten in a while. Kathy

Fresh Flowers Plus
I've always loved having an arrangement of fresh flowers, but the cost was too much for me. Also, they would die too quickly! Now I indulge myself without guilt. I buy a small potted flower and set this on my dining room table to enjoy for about a week. Then I plant it outside. My yard looks beautiful! Lataine from N.C.

Family On a Mission
Because we live frugally in order to homeschool our kids, we as a family understand this mission and everyone is expected to contribute. When my 12-year-old cleans the kitchen, I am able to have more time to cook from scratch instead of getting tired from doing all of the chores and ordering pizza. When my 8-year-old picks up after the dogs and cleans the yard, my husband has more time to fix the lawn mower rather than drop it off at the repair shop. Additional benefits include having two sons who can fend for themselves, aren't scared of hard work, and are always courteous guests. Rachel in St. Louis, MO

Garden "Beds"
We started our first vegetable garden after reading the book "Square Foot Gardening." We built one 4x4 bed as outlined in the book (using cedar) and used an old waterbed frame for the other. (We posted for one using and received several offers.) We had great results in both beds and received many compliments. No one had realized that one of the beds was literally a bed frame simply tossed onto the yard and filled with old newspaper and soil. If we can grow a great garden in our small yard, almost anyone can. Mary in IL



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Amy's Notebook 04.19.2007

Be Mom of the Year:

The Goody Blog has a great entry on some tips for your next Disney vacation and how to maximize your visit there with your children. These are great tips for anyone going to an amusement park this summer. Don’t miss our article on the ten best activities for children at Walt Disney.

Make your kids some S’mores Cupcakes courtesy of Sew Darn Cute. Yummy!

Be Cheap:

The Family CEO has an excellent post on twenty-five easy things she does to save money.
Poorer Than You has five quick tips for cheap air travel.

Have a Martha Moment:

Pleasant View Schoolhouse has a great entry on making a chicken pot pie. Yummy!

My Home Redux has a great post on how to quickly update rooms in your house. Guess what? They are cheap!

DIY Maven has found some new uses for tin ceiling tiles.

Design Mom points out how to make fabric covered push pins. These are so cute!

Get Inspired:

Zen Habits has come up with a great entry on steps to make mail & paperwork painless.

Lifehacker has a great post on some tips for organizing your desk. I try to organize this area of our home, but somehow it always goes back to mad chaos!

Shakhammer has a great post on adding crown molding to your cabinets. This is something we
would like to do when we renovate our kitchen.

The Simple Dollar has a great list of fifteen free things to do during a money-free weekend. I love the idea of a money-free weekend and am hoping to try this with our family.

In the Trenches of Motherhood has an excellent post on taking good photographs. This is first in her series and she is beginning with framing your subjects. I am looking forward to future posts from this series as I don’t like to pay for professional photos.

Apartment Therapy has come up with compact solutions for changing stations.

Home Ec 101 has a great post on how to keep that smelly cat litter box clean.

News You Need to Know:

Punny Money (one of my favorite fun reads!) has debunked the myth that receiving a tax refund is bad for you.

The Good Blog shares tips for talking about tragedies with your children. How sad that this needs to be discussed right now…our prayers are with these families.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Prepping for Garage Sales

And, no, I will not be hosting a garage sale. My prep work involves everything that I need to know in order to truly maximize my visits to other people's garage sales. I am not ambitious enough to have a garage sale myself. I prefer to donate our items and take the tax deduction. It might be the lazy person's way of decluttering, but it works well for us!

I love to garage sale during the summer. I, in fact, look forward to garage sale season all year long. In the interim, I do a lot of thrift shopping until I can take advantage of all of those great garage sale prices.

I do most of our clothes shopping for the kids by visiting the thrift store often throughout the year. We also have friends & family who pass on their clothing to us, which is a huge financial help. All of these clothes were folded in several boxes in our basement, but I had never taken inventory of what we already had.

This weekend I pulled out all of the boxes and started grouping things together. All of the dresses in a pile, all of the pajamas in a pile, and so forth. And remember when I mentioned that I got some great organizing units from a university student? Well, in her stash were large three drawer rolling carts that would be perfect for organizing the kid's clothing.

I used my label maker and labeled each drawer with the child's name and the size of the clothing. All of the clothes were neatly sorted into the drawers, instead of thrown into boxes that might have been forgotten.

I also got out a piece of paper and wrote down what I have for each child. It was time-consuming and a pain to do, but now when I hit those garage sales I will know just what my kid's need. I realize that ten summer dresses are enough for one little girl, but one pair of jeans won't cut it. I know that my son is great for the fall, but his summer wardrobe is really lacking. This information will really help me when I go to the sales this summer.

Take inventory of what you already have in your house and make a list of things to look for when you go to the garage sales. Try to stick to the list, or only buy things that you will really and truly use in your house. Even if it is only ten cents! Do not buy things that will not have a purpose in your home. A deal is not a deal, if it is just taking up space and collecting dust on a shelf.

Do you have any tips for preparing for garage sales? Do you have a way of tracking the inventory in your homes? Please share! Your comments are invaluable!

Don't forget to swing by Rocks in My Dryer for all the other wonderful participants!

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Real Simple Magazine Features

The folks over at Real Simple Magazine contacted me and asked that we share some of the items that their editors have been tirelessly working on. Here are some of the great articles & tips they have added to their site:

Home Inventory Worksheets

Sources for Evening-Garden Plants & Pots

Dreaded Cleaning Tasks Made Easier

What is Your Favorite Speed-Cleaning Trick?

The Best Cleaning Wipes

A Chaotic Laundry Room Gets Organized

Solutions to the Most Vexing Pet Problems

Environmentally-Friendly Tips

New Uses for Clocks

Update Old Furniture With New Knobs & Pulls

Dealing with Mice, Bats, Deer, & Other Pests

I love Real Simple Magazine and have been a subscriber for years. My mother-in-law got me hooked on the magazine and she has given this subscription to me as a birthday gift every year. How wonderful is that?

Here is a tip for all of you other subscribers out there. The pictures in this magazine are beautiful and I love to hang on to my magazines and utilize them in other ways. If you notice in the front of the magazine, there is an index of what is in the issue. In the index, are tons of cute pictures that are the perfect size to be reused for cute gift tags. I cut these out and mount them on card stock to make cute tags for my gifts.

Anyone else subscribe? What has been your favorite tip from the magazine?

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Free Vacation? Seriously?

I really can't believe that I am writing this. All of this is seeming very surreal and I am still trying to digest this. My husband and I are going on an all expenses paid trip to Las Vegas. And I do mean ALL EXPENSES!

My husband entered a web design contest last year that he worked really hard on. It consumed his days, his nights, and his every waking moment for months. He sketched out drawings, he tried to make everything perfect, he busted his rear on hopes that he would win an honorable mention. He received nothing.

This year he mentioned that he wanted to enter the contest again and I will be the first to raise my hand and say that I discouraged him from entering. I begged him to just let it go and enjoy a year off without participating. The bitterness and the grumbling for an entire six months afterwards was enough for all of us. I pleaded. I begged.

He agreed to devote very little time towards the project and he followed through with it...If you can believe it, he was actually a grand prize winner this time!

He won enough money for the two of us to take a trip together. We are flying (FLYING!) to Las Vegas and staying in a suite at the Venetian. He receives other perks too, but the main perk is the fact that my husband and I get to be together for three days alone. ALONE!

We were not going to ask anyone to help us and Ryan was going to go alone. I was bummed, but that was life. Ironically, Ryan's grandparents were coming for a visit around the same time and were willing to extend their trip to care for our two children while we go on vacation together. Alone. ALONE!

Yes, it is still unbelievable. When are we going to ever get an opportunity like this again? Would we ever actually go to Las Vegas? Would we ever throw money into the wind with wild abandon? Probably not! That is why this rocks!

You can view his winning entry here.

I will still be blogging and checking the site, but will be out of town from April 29-May 3rd. Out of VEGAS. ALONE!

No, it still has not sunk in!



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Organizing Your Laundry Room

Tis the season for college students to began moving out and that means loads of great deals on organizing units and apartment style furnishings. Not only that, but many kids just offer up the stuff for free to rid themselves of having to lug the stuff home and back to school again. Keep in mind all those students who are graduating and don't think they will need their furnishings in their new & more lucrative lives. It is a bargain-hunters dream so be checking the local papers and the free online classifieds for all these goodies.

Last weekend I scored several very nice organizing units and I was able to revamp some of the organizing systems in our house. The first organizing system that I created, was a unit that I purchased for our laundry room.

I saw this organizing idea on one of those organizing shows on television and thought, "I should do that!" The show was about a mom who just couldn't keep up with her laundry and she had no good laundry system in place. She had a laundry area in her basement (just like me!) and clothes were piled everywhere. She had no idea of what was clean or what was dirty and the basement was a disaster.

The team came in and renovated her laundry area and added a shelving unit that assigned each person in the house a shelf for clean laundry. They used baskets to organize and made things look very pretty.

I loved this idea, but I wasn't willing to fork over the big bucks for a huge unit like that. Lucky for me, a graduating university student had an organizer that she didn't need anymore and I was able to score this unit for only twenty dollars.

My husband reassembled it in our basement and I set to work on creating a system for our own family. Each person has a tag now for their respective shelf. The top shelf is for our linens and then we go down the line for the family members.

Some other features that I added to my station are:

- A small dish tub, that rests below, that houses a small sewing kit and is reserved for items that need mending. Mending must be simple, but those items are now separated and have all the materials needed for a quick & easy repair.
- A larger tub for ironing. I don't iron, but someone else in the family can now find anything they want to iron themselves. Aren't I thoughtful?
- A bin for the, "Lonely Socks Club." We sort socks at the end of all our loads, but all socks who are missing a partner are now located there. It makes finding matches much quicker.

The unit is only a holding station for the family. This is not a storage facility. When the kids get a little older, everyone will be responsible for clearing their own shelf and and putting their own clothes away. Baskets are neatly assembled beside the unit and each family member has a basket for themselves.

What are some ways that you organize your laundry area? What are some important items that you keep in your laundry room? Any systems that work great for you? Please share!

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Monday, April 16, 2007

Making a Safe Haven for Baby

My daughter is in that lovely stage where she is in everything, and I do mean everything. I recently had posted about creating a kid-friendly office, and now I am just sharing some easy ways that we are making things a little safer around our home for Emily.

One of Emily's favorite hobbies is yanking down all of the items on our bookshelves. She rips out the papers and has a blast shredding our magazines. To make it safe for her (and to save our precious mementos!) I cleared the bottom shelves and filled them with things just for her. Pictured on this shelf is a basket full of toys that she can play with and several of her board books for her to read. This makes her feel like a big girl, and gives her some things to do while I am working.

One of Emily's other favorite things to do was to tear apart the DVD cases and the inserts that came with them. I found our movies were getting banged up and things were getting mixed up. My husband's games for his Playstation and the memory cards were also fair game in the mixing-up-discs game.

I headed over to Target and got this CD case for $9.99. In the first half of the case, I filled it with the children's movies so that they would be easily accessible for us and anyone who happened to be helping us with the kids. The second half of the case was filled with my husband's games and his memory cards, so they wouldn't get destroyed or lost.

This was a great solution for baby-proofing, but it was also a great way to cut down on some clutter in our entertainment unit. I went ahead and tossed all of the cardboard covers to our videos and stacked them on a high shelf away from little hands. On each side of the VCR is a stack of movies. On one side are the older kids movies (for my son) & on the opposite side are all of the baby movies (for our daughter). It has made things easier to find and also reduced the amount of clutter around our television.

Emily also loves to help out in the kitchen while I am getting our dinner prepared. I leave access to some of the fun cupboards for her to play in. These just contain the kid's plates and cups or our bins of plastic containers. I also have a container filled with her little Leapfrog alphabet sets for her to play with while I get everything ready.

What are some creative ways you make your home safe for your children? Any helpful tips for mothers in the trenches right now? I am all ears!

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Friday, April 13, 2007

Freebie Friday: April 13, 2007

How do you like the new Freebie Friday logo? My fabulous web designer hubby came up with this and I am so thrilled to have an official logo to go along with the freebie day. Let us know what you think!

Health & Beauty:

Sign up to receive your free sample of AMBI® EVEN & CLEAR™ Exfoliating Wash and AMBI® EVEN & CLEAR™ Daily Moisturizer with SPF 30 along with a $1.00 off coupon immediately, which can be used now for any AMBI® Skincare product (except Specialty Bars). This sample mailer will be sent via U.S. Postal Service to arrive in 4 – 5 weeks.

Sign up for a free sample of Aquafresh White& Fresh toothpaste. Please allow up to four weeks for delivery.

Sign up for a free sample of Sensodyne Pronamel toothpaste. Please allow up to four weeks for delivery.

Sign up to receive a sample pack of your favorite Sunsilk threesome. Please allow six to eight weeks for delivery. This packet includes shampoo, conditioner, and hair crème of your choice.

Sign up to receive a free sample of Dove Cool Moisture shampoo & conditioner. Please allow eight to twelve weeks for delivery. (Hint: creating an account with Dove makes the whole process go really quickly. Just be sure to select, “no” to the offers).

Order a free sample of John Frieda Curl Around Style-Starting Daily Shampoo & Conditioner. Please allow up to four weeks for delivery.

Order a free sample of Ban Deodorant. Please allow up to four weeks for delivery.

Try a sample of Celine Dion’s Enchanting Perfume for free. Available only while supplies last.

Print out this coupon for a free purse size Clinique Happy Perfume, to be taken to any Clinique counter. Good only while supplies last.

Calgon has introduced three juicy new scents. Get juic’d and receive your free sample today. Good only while supplies last- hurry!

Caress has free Exotic Oil Infusions. These are available upon registering on their site and then clicking the Free Sample box at the bottom of the page. You can skip through the intro. These samples will arrive within six to eight weeks.

Wal-Mart has a printable certificate for a free trial pair of FreshLook Color Contacts. This certificate expires on September 30, 2007.

Try the Miracle Set Anti-Aging Cream from Mary Kay. This offer is good only while supplies last.

Clothing & Jewelry:

Sign up for a free bracelet for your child. These are for anyone who has a loved one who is deployed. Please be respectful of this criterion.

Sign up to receive a free Coors Beer T-Shirt. Sign in and then scroll to the bottom. A small box should pop up while you are the bottom of the screen with the freebie.

For the Home:

Sign up to receive a free sample of Pledge Multi-Surface Dusting Wipes. I have run this freebie before, but this one is through another site. Good luck!

Google launched a free 411 phone service. Get the scoop from TechCrunch.

Food & Drinks:

Enjoy a free sample of Nescafe Taster’s Choice coffee. Offer good only while supplies last.

Sign up to receive a free sample of Kashi Go Lean Cereal. Please allow four to six weeks for delivery.

Chipotle is having a tax day promotion by offering a free burrito on April 16th. To get your free burrito all you need to do is buy a burrito on April 14 or 15th and bring in the receipt. Don’t forget to ask the cashier for you receipt.

Just a quick reminder: Ben and Jerry’s is having their annual free cone day on April 17th from 12 PM till 8 PM. Mark your calendars, folks!

Not technically free, but a BOGO free on Slurpees at 7-11. That’s a great deal!


Between May & April, you can sign up for free passes to see the Waitress movie. These passes are only valid in certain cities- please check listing for applicable areas.

Sign up for a free subscription of Liz Is Magazine. This is filled with smart advice, smart products, & smart women. Be sure to get your free subscription today!

Get a free Gallery Welcome Kit from Kodak. It is filled with an instructional mini photo book plus a sample Photo Greeting Card, sticker set & 20% savings.

Sign up to receive a complimentary one-year subscription to Interview Magazine. Just answer, “No, thank you!” to all the offers.

Sign up for a free subscription to The Good News Magazine. Yup, a magazine filled with only the good news! Enjoy!

Baby Needs:

Print out this certificate for a free can of Enfamil Formula. This freebie has to be given to you by your child’s doctor.



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Thursday, April 12, 2007

Eat Better America

General Mills has started a new site called Eat Better America, where they are trying to encourage people, of all walks of life, to begin taking care of themselves and their bodies by making better food choices.

The website has sections dedicated towards fitness, eating well, & a community section.

Their recipe section includes specific recipes for heart health, diabetes, weight management, & vitality. Not only can you utilize their recipes, but you can also submit your own recipe that you would like them to "healthify." Some of the recipes that are already included are healthy recipes for French toast, lasagna, and macaroni & cheese.

As a mom, I try to encourage my children to make healthy food choices. Some of the snacks that we keep on hand in our house are:

Carrot sticks
Wheat crackers
Trail mix
Granola Bars
Cheese Sticks
Cereal Bars

What are some snacks that you keep on hand for your children? How do you make eating fun in your house? Please share by leaving me a comment!

Don't forget to sign up for their free personalized newsletter where you will receive a monthly dose of advice and recipes that match your specific health goals. The sign-up for this newsletter is located on their homepage.

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New Menu Planner & Grocery List

The weekly planner is now up over at "the Aldi Queen." Make sure to print out your copies for the week and enjoy a week off from planning or writing lists.

I will be doing the, "Ask Frugal Momma" columns on Mondays now because I have been on the computer all day and it will give me something to work on over the weekend. It is sad that it is now two o'clock and I am still sitting in my pajamas trying to get all of this stuff up. We won't even address how bad the house is looking, as it looks like a tornado hit this house.

Sooooo...please enjoy all of the good reads for today and leave any new questions that you have thought of over at [email protected] and I will add them to my list. Money questions are really fun for me (Hint, Hint), although I have appreciated these cleaning questions too.

Be sure to stop by tomorrow for your weekly dose of freebies!



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The Dollar Stretcher Tips 04.12.2007

For a sample copy of The Dollar Stretcher newsletter, send $2 to: Dollar Stretcher Sample, 6695 Cortez Road W., Bradenton FL 34210. Copyright 2007 Dollar Stretcher, Inc. Visit The Dollar Stretcher for even more tips & ideas!

The Energy Contest- We are trying desperately to cut down on our utility bills. This month I came up with a fun way to get everyone to pitch in. We are playing a game in which every family member can earn points by saving energy. If someone is caught leaving a light on in the house that they are not using, a point is deducted. Everyone who helps hang clothes on the line, take them down, fold them and put them away, earns a point for each load. There are weekly prizes planned and a grand prize at the end of the month. Angela B-F

Bowl Breakfasts- Rice saves amazingly well in the fridge, so when I make a pot of rice, I make enough to last our family of five for two days. I purchased Tupperware bowls that fit one serving perfectly, and I put the rice, cinnamon and sugar in the bowls and pack them in the fridge.

The kids pull a bowl out, microwave it, and have a hot healthy breakfast ready for them with the right amount of sugar! I also fry sausage links every other day so that they have two sausage links to go with their rice and I keep fruit that they can grab and milk. They have a healthy breakfast every morning! You can also do this with flavored oatmeal, grits, and healthy cereal. If the bowl is made ahead of time, you know your kids are getting the right servings.Theresa G.

Old Socks- When traveling with a bottle of refrigerated water, I put it into a sock that is long enough to cover the top. Carrying water this way in my bag or tote keeps it cool even in the summer. Also, if you accidentally neglect to screw the top on the bottle tight enough, the sock absorbs some of the spilled water before it leaks into your tote.Hilary S.

Daily Gift- I received a Zen page a day calendar this year. I save every page (I cut off the date), and at Christmas, I will buy or make a nice container and put all the folded-up sayings inside it. Voila! My sister will have a Zen saying every day! I've also collected inspirational quotes. Following the same procedure listed above, I will have several presents that will last all year and some very happy recipients! They will also know that I put time, effort (very little!) and love (a lot!) into their gift.Rebecca S.

'Real' Savings- After a couple years of cutting my own hair, I thought about all the money I'd "saved." Then it dawned on me that it wasn't "saved" at all. It just wasn't spent on a hair cut. Starting the first of this year, I decided I did such a good job of cutting my own hair, I budgeted and paid myself $20 a month. The $20 then gets put in the savings account. Now, it is saved.KG

Custom Cold Packs- I have bad knees, so I often need to ice them. I was using ice cubes or frozen bags of water, but all those corners are terribly unpleasant. I went to the pharmacy to buy one of those reusable gel packs only to find out that they are terribly expensive! My husband joked that we should fill a bag with whiskey and put that in the freezer, which gave me an even cheaper idea. I took an 89-cent bottle of rubbing alcohol out of the medicine cabinet, poured some into a freezer bag with twice as much water, and stuck it in the freezer. I had a reusable gel-pack with no sharp corners for less than a dollar. I have two in my freezer all the time, so after I've used one, I can exchange it for the other.Janine S.

Cabinet Protection- When we installed our new cabinets about 10 years ago, we used new floor linoleum to put under the sink inside the cabinet. Water leaks no longer cause damage to our cabinet. You can get scraps cheap at any store that sells linoleum.Lakie A.

Ceiling Fan Cleaning- Don't waste your money on special fan blade cleaning brushes or your time trying to dust them by hand only to have the dust fall into your hair and eyes. Instead, when you change the bed linens, take your used pillowcase and slip it over a blade. Then grip it firmly on both sides of the blade and pull the pillowcase towards you. Both sides are now dusted, and the mess is contained within the pillowcase. When done, just toss the pillowcase into the washer.Barbara P.

Just a Bit- When you need just a portion of a cabbage or lettuce head, remove the undesirable outside leaves/skin but keep the root end intact. Cut off from the top as you need it and wash well for use. Keep root end portion stored in refrigerator as usual. This works for onions as well. Gladys

Camping Cooler- Every summer my husband and I attend a big camping event for eight or nine days. Before we leave, I buy bottled water and freeze enough to fill our cooler and we take these bottles with us. This provides two benefits. We don't have to buy ice until four or five days into the event (when everyone else we know is making almost daily ice runs), and we have ice cold water for several days of camping.Tammy

Dent Removal- How many of us have moved heavy furniture and saw those dreaded indents in the carpet where the furniture sat? Just take a steam iron, place a cloth under it on the indent, and let it sit a second. The steam will swell the padding back to it original level. Janice H.



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Amy's Notebook 04.12.2007

Be Mom of the Year:

Poorer Than You has a great entry filled with sites to help you teach your children about finances. Utilize some of these resources when teaching your children about money.

Scribbit has an excellent entry on fun ways you can teach your children table manners. I love her ideas and plan to implement these in our house.

The Lazy Organizer has a fabulous series on teaching your children to work. It is funny and insightful. As someone who is beginning this with our four year old, I have enjoyed reading these entries.

One Hour Craft has a great tutorial on how to start a garden with your children. I adore this entry!

Parent Hacks have a great entry on how to begin homeschooling with your children and free homeschooling resources you can use.

Be Cheap:

My Money Blog has a list of free phone numbers that you should program into your cell phone. This will definitely save you some billing charges on your phone bill!

The Simple Dollar has a great entry on things that seem expensive, but don't have to be. I particularly love the one on starting your own business. Be sure to read this!

Have a Martha Moment:

Creative Organizing has a great entry on ways you can organize your pantry. I love her little tags and bin ideas. Tis the season to organize, and this provides great inspiration!

Ditch those tired grilled cheese sandwiches made from plain old cheese and bread, and try something different in your grilled sandwich. Goody Blog has a great entry on new ideas for your boring sandwiches.

I saw this featured in Real Simple Magazine (one of my favorite magazines ever!) and thought this would be so cute in a kitchen. How about making clothes hooks out of old silverware? Lifehacker supplies the instructions for making this project happen in your house.

Get Inspired:

The Space Between My Peers has a fabulous entry on wardrobe choices for stay-at-home moms. I noticed that a ponytail and a jog suit were not included. Oh well!

Clever Dude has a great entry on how to breathe new life into that old lawnmower of yours. For most people, this is the season. For us, we still have snow on the ground! Enjoy!

Jeri's Organizing & Decluttering News has a great list of sites you can use to swap the belongings you already have. I can't wait to really go through this list as there are so many sites to choose from.

As if the entry above wasn't enough motivation for getting your pantry organized, read Not Made of Money's list of reasons why a disorganized pantry costs you money.

Selling a house is difficult. Selling a house with kids running around is even more difficult. Parent Dish has a great entry on tips you can use when trying to sell your house and keep it ready for the realtor. This is a great entry- don't miss it!

News You Can Use:

Jenn, over at Frugal Upstate, has a great site that she found for creating pictures for your profile. I tried it out and it worked like a dream. If your picture is looking a little outdated on your MySpace, You Tube, or blog accounts- update it with her suggestion! Great find, Jenn!

It's Not about Your Stuff! found a handy tool for calculating percentages that makes it as easy as pie. Bookmark that resource!

Have a student loan with Sallie Mae? Be sure to read Make Love, Not Debt's entry on how Upromise has partnered with the company to help you pay down your existing loans faster. Excellent, excellent tip!

Have a child suffering from eczema? Parent Dish has a great entry on a homemade recipe you can use to help treat your child's eczema. Best of all, it doesn't cost an arm and a leg.

Shakhammer has an awesome entry on how to care for granite countertops. Hint: they are NOT indestructible!

Crafty Daisies has a great entry on how to figure out what type of fabric you bought by doing a burn test. As someone who frequently buys fabric from thrift stores, this is a goldmine of information!

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The Gift Closet Part Two: Thrifty Graduation Gift Ideas

It has been awhile since I talked about my gift closet, but with the graduation season upon us, I thought this might be a good time to chat again about it.

The first part in my gift closet series included information on how to wrap your gifts and explained how a gift closet worked. Gift closets are such a fantastic way to take advantage of clearance and thrift store opportunities, and will make gift-giving a lot cheaper when planned out this way. Be sure to read that entry for the information you need to get started.
Today, for the second part in this series, I would like to share with you a list of great gifts you can give to a high school graduate. Please be sure to share a favorite gift you received or gave for graduation.

Thrifty Graduation Gifts:

1. College Coupons- One of my favorite things to ever get in the mail, when I was in college, was a care package…from ANYONE! Giving the graduate coupons for care packages can be a very frugal gift and one that they can enjoy throughout their first year in college. Coupons can be assembled with a self-addressed stamped envelope. I like to provide a menu of choices and let them write on the coupon what they would specifically like. I include simple family favorites that can easily be packaged and enjoyed by them. Cookies can be shipped to them in empty Pringles containers or in Christmas tins. Bar cookies are very good choices for your menu options because they hold up well in the shipping process. You can download a template for creating your own college coupons by visiting the download section on, and create any kind of coupon that you would like to give. I mount these coupons on cardstock and tie them together with ribbon. They are a fun & creative gift and it is a gift that the graduate can look forward to throughout their school year.

2. Gift Cards- Gift cards, while not the most inexpensive choice, are something that a broke graduate can truly appreciate. I love to give gift cards to their local supermarket so that they can stock up on food while they are at school. Other good choices for gift cards are the gas station (if they have a car while they are at school), the local salon, the campus bookstore, local eateries, or the movie theatre.

3. Useful Gifts- Try and think of the things that the graduate will need to take with them when beginning college. Some of the things that come to mind are a backpack, an umbrella, alarm clock, a shower tote (filled with things they need), a small lamp, bed linens, towels & washcloths, school supplies (cheap during the beginning of the school season), luggage, or zip drives & disks.

4. Food Kit- My food kit is all put together inside of a dish tub. Within the dish tub, I provide a set of four place settings (plastic forks, knifes, spoons, bowls, & plates) and a sponge & dish soap for doing their dishes. I also put in Ramen Noodles, Cup of Noodles, and any other food that I can find that can easily be prepared in their room. Just tie a bow on the outside and know that this is a gift that they will actually use.

5. Laundry Kit- This is one of my favorite gifts for a graduate. Just assemble everything in a laundry basket and tie a bow on the handles of the basket. Inside stick a roll of quarters, a mesh laundry bag, detergent, fabric softener sheets, a Downy Ball and you can put together a tutorial for them on how to treat stains and easy directions on how to do their laundry. Step-by-step instructions, for the newbie to doing laundry, (as many graduates are!) can be found here and ten tips for the perfect wash can also be given to them too. If you are even more ambitious than that, you can put these things in a binder for the graduate and include your own tips and recipes for getting stains out or you can laminate these.

6. First Aid Kit- What graduate is actually going to remember to stock a first aid kit before they leave? Put together a container of items for their medicine cabinet so that they are prepared when they leave home. Fill it up with aspirin, band aids, stomach medications, ointments, cotton balls, tweezers, and sun block. Include anything & everything they might need for an emergency.

7. Journals & Address Books- Gifts for a graduate who is not planning on attending college or who will be attending a community college can be a challenge. Many of the gifts, traditionally given to a graduate, are made for those who are going away to school. For these graduates an organizer or a journal can be a wonderful and thoughtful gift option. Address books, so that the graduate can record where all of their friends are going, are also nice for them. These can be purchased at your local dollar store or found at local card retailers.

The important thing, in my opinion, is to offer a gift that they can actually use. I can’t tell you how many books I got for my graduation- the infamous Dr. Suess book, Chicken Soup for the Soul books, and coffee table books. These are nice, but are usually read once and put away. I rarely reread them and they ended up collecting dust on my shelf. I am disappointed when gifts I give are not used because, to me, it is like money going down the drain. Don’t be afraid to ask your graduate what they are in need of so that your gift is actually used!

If you are the mother of a graduate, I wish you congratulations on making it this far with your child. It is an accomplishment for you both and you should be very proud!

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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Thinking Blogger Awards

I was so thrilled to see that I was nominated with a Thinking Blogger Award from Home Ec 101. Those ladies rock and if you haven't had an opportunity to visit their site, I highly encourage it. I am very grateful for the nomination and I am looking forward to sharing a few of my own favorite blogs that I think should be nominated.

1. Scribbit- She is one of my absolute favorite bloggers and every day that I read it, I learn a little more about her family and her life in Alaska. She is a creative parent, a thinker, crafty, and an amazing writer. Her blog inspires me creatively and is a pleasure to read. If you are a blogger, she writes some great tutorials for gaining traffic and becoming known within the blogging community.

2. the homespun heart- Monica is such a great blogger whom I always look forward to reading. Her blog focuses on enjoying the simple pleasures in life. I look forward to her creative ideas for the home and the crafts that she comes up with during the holidays. I try to check this blog daily because I truly enjoy it that much!

3. Fish Creek House- I came across this blog more recently, but it is already one of my favorites. It is a wonderful journal filled with stories on how they built their own dream home bed and breakfast in Montana. They share their recipes, tips on how to explore the great outdoors, and tips on traveling.

4. Rookie Moms- This blog is an excellent resource for finding things to do with your children. It is the type of blog that I wish I had when I first became a mom, as it is filled with great activities for you to do with your child. The activities are broken down by age brackets and categories, making it easy to find just what you need when you need it. These ladies are fabulous, and you can tell that they put a lot of effort into this blog! Kudos to you!

5. The Simple Dollar- What can I say about this blog? It is a wealth of knowledge and I am in complete amazement at how much information is offered each day. The posts are thought-provoking and takes the art of saving money to new heights. This blog is worth your time invested in reading through their extensive archives.

Should they accept the award, these are the rules of the game:

1. If, and only if, you get tagged, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think,

2. Link to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme,

3. Optional: Proudly display the ‘Thinking Blogger Award’ with a link to the post that you wrote (here is an alternative silver version if gold doesn’t fit your blog).

Again, many thanks to Home Ec 101 for their thoughtful nomination!

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Reynold's Slow Cooker Liners

The Reynold's company contacted me and asked if I would be game to review their Slow Cooker Liners that are now part of their product line. As someone who uses her slow cooker regularly, I was very anxious to give this product a try and see what I thought about it.

Reynolds Slow Cooker Liners are made of heat resistant nylon and designed to make slow cooker cleanup fast and easy. The liners help you avoid all that soaking and scrubbing that is associated with slow cooking. All you have to do is place the liner in the slow cooker bowl, add ingredients, and cook as you normally would. After cooking, remove meal from the lined-slow cooker, allow to cool, and simply toss the liner. It’s that easy!

Reynolds Slow Cooker Liners are 13"X21" liners, optimally-sized to fit 3 to 6.5 quart round or oval slow cookers. There are 4 liners in each carton.

For my review, I decided to roast a chicken in the slow cooker. This is one of those messier meals that I don't enjoy cleaning up at all. I wanted to really put these bags to the test and cleaning up after roasting a chicken is one of my least favorite tasks.

I was not disappointed at all, as the product actually did contain my entire dinner in the bag with no mess on the outside for me to clean up. I was able to easily take the chicken out and pour the drippings into a pan to make gravy.

To be honest, I don't usually mind cleaning out my slow cooker so this is not a product that I would buy regularly. This would be a great investment for entertaining though or for really messy dishes (like red sauces),where cleaning up can be more time consuming.

Be sure to visit our One Month with Your Slow Cooker article, where you can get an entire month's worth of yummy recipes for your family. You can also visit the Reynold's website where they have a special section dedicated to slow cooker recipes.

For step-by-step directions on how to use these liners, you will find a picture tutorial on the Reynold's site.

Much thanks to Reynold's for giving us this opportunity and encouraging families to eat together at the dinner table!

Try to stop over at the Reynolds No Scrub RV Club site and enter their current sweepstakes! They are offering several freebies for the first entries and gift certificates for a photo contest that they are running.

Feel free to share your own personal experience with this product- I am sure that the company would appreciate the feedback.

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Monday, April 09, 2007

New Menu Planning & Grocery List Format

I just wanted to let everyone know that I have made some updates to, "the Aldi Queen" blog and you can now print out your grocery list and menu planners for the week. These are in PDF file form, as it makes it more difficult for people to take my work without permission, and these should make your shopping day a little easier. The latest planner is located here.



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Friday, April 06, 2007

Freebie Friday: April 6, 2007

*Photo from*

Here is an Easter basket full of freebies. I hope you all have a wonderful Easter with your families!

Wal-Mart is offering a free sample of Purex Ultra Concentrate.

Please allow up to four weeks for delivery of this freebie.

Sign up to receive a free South Beach Diet Sweet Nut Creations Bar. This offer is good while supplies last. Please allow six to eight weeks for delivery

Wal-Mart is offering a free sample of Secret Clinical Strength Deodorant. Please allow up to four weeks for delivery of this freebie.

Get a free sample of Garnier Fructis Products from Lucky Magazine.

Wal-Mart is offering a free sample of Advil PM. Please allow up to four weeks for delivery.

Ben & Jerry’s have a Free Cone Day coming up. On Tuesday April 17th from 12pm until 8pm participating Ben& Jerry’s scoop shops around the world will be hosting Ben& Jerry’s Annual Free Cone Day. Is it a time for you to try a new flavor that you’ve been wondering about without committing your hard earned dollars or is it a time for you to enjoy an old favorite and savor in the deliciousness that is free ice cream? The answer from us at Ben& Jerry’s is yes. Visit our scoop shop locator to find hours and directions to the closest Free Cone Day experience near you, and while you’re there check out our flavor list to see what awaits. So start getting those licking muscles in shape and mark your calendars twice because this is one day you don't want to miss.

Parenting Magazine offers a chance to Mom-Test Products. Volunteer moms from across the country reality-test these items with their own families in their own homes. When they report back on their favorites, we know these products have been approved by the toughest critics out there: real moms like you. Sign up to be part of their testing panel.

This offer is not technically free because you do need to pay $7.95 for shipping, but I thought I would list it anyway. This is for a Special Pack Scotch-BriteTM Carpet Touch-Up Roller Mega Pack. This special pack Carpet Touch-up Roller is available for just the cost of shipping ($7.95). Just roll it up and toss it out. It's that easy to pick up pet hair, dirt and lint from floors, stairs, sofas and chairs.And while you’re visiting the 3M eStore, check out other innovative cleaning products and solutions from Scotch-Brite(TM) and 3M. Shipping is free on your entire order when you pay shipping for the Scotch-Brite(TM) Carpet Touch-Up Roller Mega Pack. Limit one Carpet Touch-up Roller per customer.

Houston, TX residents can enjoy one free complimentary admission to Studio Movie Grill. Enjoy!

Sign up to receive a complimentary one-year subscription to Golf for Women Magazine sponsored by American Express.

This one was offered before, but it is a goodie for all those country folk! Sign up to receive a one-year subscription to Living the Country Life Magazine.

Another awesome Wal-Mart sample is available. Try Huggies Supreme Diapers for free. Please allow up to four weeks for delivery.

Wal-Mart is offering a free sample of Biore Products. Please allow up to four weeks for delivery and limit one freebie per household.

New England residents can receive a coupon for a free quart of Elan Frozen Yogurt just for joining their mailing list. This offer is only available for a limited time.

Claim a complimentary one-year subscription to Ministry Today Magazine.

Sign up to receive a free Blue Note Records Sampler.

In May, Bank of America customers can enter select museums for free in Ct, MA, NY, DE, NH, PA, ME, NJ, & RI. Please check this site for details (currently it is listing just that the details are coming soon).

SC Johnson is giving away 10,000 Spring Entertaining Gift Packs as prizes. These include four Off! Family Care Towelettes and various coupons.

American Greetings is offering a free sample of Whiskas Purrfectly Fish Tuna Entrée. Please limit one per household and this offer is good only while supplies last. Please allow six to eight weeks for delivery.

Wal-Mart is offering a free sample of Pledge Multi-Surface Wipes. Please allow four weeks for delivery and limit one freebie per household.



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Thursday, April 05, 2007

Creating a Kid-Friendly Office

I feel very fortunate and blessed to be able to work from home. The only unfortunate part about working from home though is that it is hard to separate work life from family life. I have two children who I get to be home with and I want them to feel like they are part of my work here too. Heck, without them, I wouldn't have this site or have any parenting knowledge to draw from.

I got the opportunity to revamp our office yesterday, since my in-laws so graciously offered to keep the kids for the day, and I am amazed at how much better this house looks in one day. I tackled all of my spring cleaning and set our office up in a way that I now feel that my kids can be more a part of my day and will be able to play in here while I work.

Since I was able to refurbish that hutch last weekend, the cabinet that had resided there before needed a new home. I pulled the cabinet over to the area where our child's table set was located. I removed any junk that was still left in it and filled it with our son's arts & crafts supplies and all of the family board games for us to play together. The top shelf holds the older games and the bottom shelf is storing all of our child games.

Next to the cabinet is a basket of toys for my daughter to play with. I put various board books and small toys in there for her to enjoy while mommy is working. I also brought in one of her activity cubes to play with in this room. The new location to these items makes them "new" to her and she has been enjoying having her own little space in the office.
I also have a chair for my son to sit in to read or chat with me. He can curl up in this chair, placed next to the desk, and hang out with me while I work.

I had a lot of cleaning to do in and around our desk, but now I feel like all of us have our own space in the office.

I am interested to see how others make a home office work for them. How do you separate your work from your family life when it all is in one place? Do you have any tips for keeping the children entertained while you work? Do you have a special place for them in your workspace? Please share with me!

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Dollar Stretcher Tips 04.05.2007

For a sample copy of The Dollar Stretcher newsletter, send $2 to: Dollar Stretcher Sample, 6695 Cortez Road W., Bradenton FL 34210. Copyright 2007 Dollar Stretcher, Inc. Visit The Dollar Stretcher for even more tips & ideas!

No Longer Stiff

Regarding the problem of stiff clothes that are line dried, here's how I solved the same problem when line drying my husband's blue jeans. After completely drying the clothes on the line, put them in the dryer on the fluff cycle for a few minutes and they will soften up as if they had been dried by machine.
Bonnie B.

Cheap Shelf Liner

Liner paper for cabinets is very expensive. A great liner for cabinets is wallpaper. You can buy rolls cheaply at yard sales for 50 cents or $1, or you can even find it at discount stores. The patterns are really beautiful and can really brighten up your kitchen for a tremendous savings. You can also use them to line drawers.
Joan W.

House Game Rules

It has been reported how kids lack exercise due in part to computer games. Problem solved. My husband instituted a new rule much to my children's dismay. Before the games are geared up, the kid playing has to do a set number of push-ups. First they could hardly do eight (the starting limit) and now they can do 40! The unexpected benefits that we have seen are increased confidence and more stamina in their favorite sports.
Kathy in Addison, NY

Half Price Kitchen Remodel

To save on our kitchen remodel, instead of purchasing new cabinets, we refaced our old cabinets. The box frames were in excellent condition. The frames were refaced while new doors and hardware were put on. It looks great! It came out to be about half the price of the quotes we received for new cabinets! With the money we saved, we were able to afford nice granite countertops. I'd suggest people look into this option especially if they have no need to rearrange the configuration of their kitchen.

1, 2, 3 Squirts...Enough!

My family loves to use body wash instead of bar soap in the shower, but the expense can really add up. To solve this problem, we purchased a four bottle shower dispenser that hangs on the wall. Now we can tell the kids to use five pumps of body wash or three pumps of shampoo. Not only do we know they are using the right amount of soap without waste, but also they are saving us money.
Michele in DeKalb, IL

Those Ketchup Packets

Ever wonder what to do with all those condiment packages you get from fast food restaurants? Instead of just keeping them piled in your refrigerator for years on end, take them with you when you go camping or on a picnic. It takes up less space than lugging around big ketchup and mustard bottles, and they store better in your cooler.
Nikki B. (Mother of four)

Off Peak Power

If you haven't read your electric bill, you may not know that there are peak hour charges in many places. In northern Illinois for instance, it's cheaper to run utilities from 10PM to 8AM. Since we started running our dehumidifier, seed starting lights, dishwasher and chargers at bedtime, our bill has noticeably decreased.

One for One
For every one new item of clothing I purchase for my husband or myself, we donate one item that we already have. That way we keep our closet uncluttered and organized, and we wear all the clothes we have. Plus, someone else gets to have a "new" article of clothing from our closet.
Shanty M. in Dallas, TX

'Special' Spices

I thought I'd laugh out loud when my husband and I set up house together. He had shelled out money for spice combinations like "Cinnamon and Sugar," "Montreal Steak Salt," "Pumpkin Pie Spice," etc. I encouraged him to read the ingredients on the bottles. Sure enough, he could easily make four homemade bottles of cinnamon and sugar for the same price as the pre-mixed version. The steak salt was little more than coarse salt and pepper with a little garlic powder thrown in. Read the labels on the spice mixtures that you enjoy and see if you can't buy the ingredients cheaper. You'll have the extra benefit of having the single spices on hand when a recipe calls for it as well. After all, garlic powder shows up in more recipes than steak salt!
Gina P.

Computer Back-Ups

As a college student, I'm always looking for places to save a little money. My school allows free printing, which is nice. However, our school's computers don't have zip drives. This made it inconvenient for me to transfer files from my home computer. Instead of worrying about losing discs and transferring files, I just send an email to myself with the file attached. I can open my email and have all of my files at my fingertips. Nowadays, many email sites have a lot of storage anyway, so why not use all that space? Now I keep back-ups of all necessary files in my email account. Best of all, this doesn't cost me a thing!The only caution is that you might not want to send any files that have personal or private data on them like your credit card or bank account numbers.
Nikki in Houston, TX



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Amy's Notebook 04.05.2007

Be Mom of the Year:

Baby Cheapskate shares some fun (did I mention free?) Easter projects that you can do with the kiddos.

Like Merchant Ships shares a few tips on how to enjoy shopping with your children. The General Store idea that Meredith offers up is one of my favorites and I am looking forward to trying this with our kids.

Be Cheap:

Savvy Saver reminds us that the generic version of products is not always the cheapest. This is a great reminder to us to start checking the labels a bit more carefully.

Check out Personal Finance Advice’s ten simple ways that you can save on vitamins. There is lots of great information in this post, so don’t miss it!

My Money Blog has an excellent entry on the tricks that car salesman use to get you to buy cars from them.

Simply Thrifty reminds us to always ask local retailers if they are running any specials. I try to do this, but sometimes I do forget. Thanks for the reminder, Simply Thrifty!

Have a Martha Moment:

Visit Craftzine for a great tutorial on how to sew on flat buttons.

My dear buddy over at Harper Collins, the amazing Felicia Sullivan, is posting a contest on letter writing and I am definitely game for this. Thank you for encouraging us in using the good old pen & paper.

Get Inspired:

Not Made of Money shares some tips for running a really good garage sale. Throwing stuff on your lawn will not get you top dollar, but using these tips will.

Frugal Babe shares her latest score from her local Habitat for Humanity store. She offers inspiration on how to make something really work in your house to save yourself some cash.

Free Money Finance challenges you to find a new church if you can’t trust your current church with your money. It is a thought provoking piece of advice that is worthy of your time.

INNside Innkeeping has a great post on caring for and using your microwave. There is lots of great information in this post and this blog is quickly becoming a favorite on my feed.

Frugal Upstate has found a website that helps you read the Bible in a year and all of it is delivered to your email inbox. How easy is that?

News You Need to Know:

Apartment Therapy points toward an article on USA Today entitled, “How to Tell if You’re an Alpha Mom.” Anybody fall into this category?

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Mashed Banana, Mashed Banana

Is the song stuck in your head now?

When I went grocery shopping this week, I noticed that the bananas were looking a bit shabby. They looked exactly as they are pictured here....very, very ripe. The price happened to be crossed out though and the bananas were marked down to half off. What a steal! Fifteen cents per pound- who could resist?

I loaded my cart up with tons of bananas and headed home with my nasty bananas in tote. I got out an old butter tub and filled it with eight of the bananas. I mashed those suckers up and put them in a freezer container and then started with the next batch. Eight bananas translates to four mini-loaves of banana bread so I packaged them that way so that it would be easy for me to dethaw and dump when it came time to make my bread. I ended up with enough to do twenty-four mini loaves of bread once everything was smashed and put away for another day.

My family loves banana bread and I love to keep it in my freezer to give away as gifts to friends & family. I make a mean banana bread and I love to have loaves on hand for those unexpected occasions- a sick family member, a thank-you to someone who has helped us out, a quick birthday gift...I think it is a gift for any occasion! Tied with a bow and a thoughtful card makes your last minute gift look planned!

Bananas can be frozen whole too and thrown into your freezer, eliminating my smashing step altogether. Just chop off the tip and squeeze it out. You don't even have to touch the banana.

I prefer the smashing because it saves valuable space in my freezer and I can just chuck it into the bowl when it is time to mix it up.

Next time you are at the store and the bananas are looking too ripe, buy a bunch and keep them in your freezer. If the supermarket has not marked them down, just ask if they will give them to you for half price. Usually they just want to get these out of their store.
Here are my banana recipes for the little monkeys in your family!

Banana Pancakes

1 cup flour
1 tablespoon white sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 egg, beaten
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 ripe banana

Combine flour, white sugar, baking powder cinnamon, & salt. In a separate bowl, mix together egg, milk, vegetable oil, vanilla, & bananas. Stir flour mixture into banana mixture; batter will be slightly lumpy. Heat a lightly oiled griddle or frying pan over medium high heat. Pour or scoop batter onto the griddle, using approximately ¼ cup for each pancake. Cook until pancakes are golden brown on both sides; serve hot.

Banana Oatmeal Bread

1/2 - 3/4 cup water
1 1/4 cups mashed banana
3 T vegetable oil
2 T sugar
1 1/2 t salt
1 3/4 cups oats
3 cups bread flour
2 1/2 t yeast
Layer in bread machine pan according to manufacturer's recommendation. Bake on the sweet, basic or rapid cycle. Makes a large loaf (2 lbs).

Banana Crumb Muffins
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 t baking soda
1 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
3 bananas, mashed
3/4 cups white sugar
1 eggs, lightly beaten
1/3 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/8 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 t ground cinnamon
1 T butter

Preheat oven to 375. Lightly grease ten muffin cups or line with muffin papers. In a large bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In another bowl, beat together bananas, sugar, egg and melted butter. Stir the banana mixture into the flour mixture just until moistened. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups. In a small bowl, mix together brown sugar, flour, and cinnamon. Cut the butter until mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Sprinkle topping over muffins. Bake in preheated oven for eighteen to twenty minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into center of muffins comes out clean.

Heavenly Banana Bread

2 cups all purpose flour
1 t. baking soda
¼ t. salt
½ cup butter
¾ cup brown sugar
2 eggs beaten
1 t. vanilla
½ t. cinnamon
2 1/3 cups mashed overripe bananas (usually is about four bananas)

Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl combine flour, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl cream together butter and brown sugar. Stir in eggs and mashed bananas until well blended. Stir banana mixture into flour mixture; stir just to moisten. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan. Bake 60-65 minutes. Allow bread to cool ten minutes in pan and then turn onto wire rack.

Chocolate Banana Bread

1 cup margarine, softened
2 cups white sugar
4 eggs
6 bananas, mashed
2 tsp. vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup lite sour cream
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease two 9 x 5 inch loaf pans.In a large bowl, cream together margarine sugar and eggs. Stir in bananas and vanilla. Sift in flour, baking soda and cocoa; mix well. Blend in sour cream and chocolate chips. Pour batter into prepared pans.Bake in preheated oven for 60 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into center of a loaf comes out clean.

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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Reducing Plastic Bag Consumption

Is your home littered with plastic bags? Yes, I know that the frugal side of us can find many ways to use these, but does anyone else feel bogged down by these?

Since I do our grocery shopping at Aldi, I have always brought my own bags to the grocery store. I have had many a bag bust on me. Frankly, I find the plastic bags flimsy and not well-equipped to hold the loads that I put in them. I am not a grocery bagger so I am sure that I overload these, but I usually have a handle or bottom break on these when I take them to the store.

On the flip side of me, we shall call this part of myself the environmentally aware portion, has felt really bad about all of the plastic bags that we have been tossing out. Apparently, other people feel the same way as San Francisco has banned the use of them in supermarkets, large retailers, & pharmacies. IKEA also made the move to charge customers five cents per bag, in hopes of encouraging the public to bring their own bag. offers some surprising statistics on plastic bag consumption:

Top Facts - Consumption

 Each year, an estimated 500 billion to 1 trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide. That comes out to over one million per minute. Billions end up as litter each year.
 According to the EPA, over 380 billion plastic bags, sacks and wraps are consumed in the U.S. each year.
 According to The Wall Street Journal, the U.S. goes through 100 billion plastic shopping bags annually. (Estimated cost to retailers is $4 billion)
 According to the American Forest and Paper Association, in 1999 the U.S. alone used 10 billion paper grocery bags, requiring 14 million trees to be cut down.
 According to the industry publication Modern Plastics, Taiwan consumes 20 billion bags a year—900 per person.
 According to Australia’s Department of Environment, Australians consume 6.9 billion plastic bags each year—326 per person. An estimated .7% or 49,600,000 end up as litter each year.

Top Facts - Environmental Impact

 Hundreds of thousands of sea turtles, whales and other marine mammals die every year from eating discarded plastic bags mistaken for food.
 Plastic bags don’t biodegrade, they photodegrade—breaking down into smaller and smaller toxic bits contaminating soil and waterways and entering the food web when animals accidentally ingest.
 As part of Clean Up Australia Day, in one day nearly 500,000 plastic bags were collected.
 Windblown plastic bags are so prevalent in Africa that a cottage industry has sprung up harvesting bags and using them to weave hats, and even bags. According to the BBC, one group harvests 30,000 per month.
 According to David Barnes, a marine scientist with the British Antarctic Survey, plastic bags have gone "from being rare in the late 80s and early 90s to being almost everywhere from Spitsbergen 78° North [latitude] to Falklands 51° South [latitude].
 Plastic bags are among the 12 items of debris most often found in coastal cleanups, according to the nonprofit Center for Marine Conservation.

There are frugal ways that you can reduce your use of plastic consumption. If you can sew, try sewing some canvas bags for yourself to use in lieu of the plastic bag. Visit this site for a free pattern (use the grocery bag dimensions) on how to sew grocery bags.

Reuse the bags that you already have for anything and everything. Use them to line wastebaskets, take them to the grocery store with you, or tote them around with you while you clean up the yard.

You can also purchase bags that can be reused for your grocery day. I decided to take a less frugal approach towards reducing my plastic bag consumption, but this saved me time and helps me feel like I am doing my part to help the world. This set of bags was found through Everyday Happenings of a Frugal Mom, a blog that I recently ran across, and I loved the look of these! I purchased this set of bags from Reusable and have been using them for the past couple of days.

These bags are amazing and I am so pleased with them. They are made just like a grocery bag and are flat on the bottom so that they naturally stand upright. They have handles on them to make toting them around very easy and they hold tons of stuff. I was able to fit all of our groceries into four bags with ease. The set came with fabric drawstring bags for my produce and I used these for that purpose and for storing my eggs in.

I also went to Dollar Tree and got two plastic totes to put my canned goods in because it is easier when I am bagging the groceries myself for me to put them in the car and carry them inside.

I can’t rave enough about these and how pleased I am with my purchase. It has made my shopping day so much easier and I feel like I am doing my part to help the environment.

The shipping time is so unbelievably quick that I could hardly believe it. I literally had my order in my hand twenty-four hours after I placed it.

I have been toting my bags around since they came and taking them everywhere we go. These work great for all of my shopping, but also our frequent trips to the library. I also can’t wait to tote these bags to our Farmer’s Market this summer.

Being frugal and being environmentally aware, in my opinion, seem to go hand in hand. I cloth diaper because I want to save money, but I also make a positive impact on our environment. I do not use paper towels or napkins because I think they waste valuable grocery dollars, and I reduce the waste in our house. I choose not to buy paper plates because I don’t like using things only once and tossing them so I use the plates we already have to serve our lunch on.

Being a mom and being environmentally aware should go hand in hand too. You love your kids so you want them to have as beautiful of a world as we have. How do we accomplish that? By caring for the world so that our children can enjoy it.

What are some frugal things that you do that have a positive impact on our environment? Do you find helping the environment and your frugal endeavors seem to go hand in hand?

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Monday, April 02, 2007

Raising Healthy Children Book Giveway Results

I have five copies of the “Good Kids Bad Habits”, by Jennifer Trachtenberg, book to offer up to those of you who entered our book giveaway contest.

If your tips were chosen for the entry and I have not received your mailing address, I will be emailing you today to get that from you. I am planning to ship these out this week to each of you.

Thank you to everyone who entered and much thanks to HarperCollins for shipping us enough copies that I can now keep my own!

I was asked myself how we teach our own children to be healthy individuals. Part of it is my background in studying nutrition in school, part of it is wanting to incorporate a healthy lifestyle in our children, and part of it is just pure luck.

My children love their veggies and I have never had any problems getting them to eat anything green. It has become a running joke among some of my girlfriends that I have taken my son to McDonald’s and brought him a peanut butter & jelly with carrot sticks in lieu of a Happy Meal. People were asking me how I do that and the fact was that my son just preferred that over the Happy Meal and asked me to make his lunch. Who can argue with that?

We always try to offer fruits and vegetables at every meal. Carrot sticks, apple slices, dried fruits & nut trail mixes, broccoli hearts, green peas, bananas- these are just a few of our children’s favorite treats.

For those who need to be more inventive, be sure to visit my Picky Eater article and Picky Eater recipes for tips on getting your little one in the fresh fruits & veggies mode.

Many thanks again to all of our participants. You all are a wealth of knowledge and I look forward to offering more giveaways in the future!

Winning Entry #1:
I believe that raising healthy children starts with quality time. I choose to be home with my children.

I can limit television time and encourage active playtime using their imagination.

I can teach them about healthy eating habits by teaching them to choose healthy foods. These might include fresh fruit and veggies, yogurt, etc.

I can encourage them to be healthy and fit by doing so myself. Remember the old saying,

"Teach what you preach"? If they see Mom and Dad as healthy individuals they will want to choose that as well. Exercise, run, walk and play with them outside. Go to the playground and park.

I think the #1 key to a healthy child is encourage and being a role model yourself.

Winning Entry #2:
Instead of having your kids in front of the TV or video game machine, take them to the library and let them have their own library card. Also, let them pick a subject to research, such as a certain bug or animal. You could even let them research cultures or habitats. Help them learn how to look for the books. Then when it comes time to check out their books, help them do the self check out. Have them also be responsible for returning books. Have a weekly library day scheduled. Spend 30 minutes a night reading these books with your child. If they are old enough, they can spend time drawing pictures etc. of the things they like in the books they are reading.

Also, a lot of communities have organic fruits and veggies delivered to a central location for a weekly fee. The boxes contain a variety of new and different products. The boxes in our community give us all different recipes to try with the variety of fruits and veggies. The cost is only 28.00 every other week. The kids like to see what is new in the box. This also supports local agriculture. The recipe ideas help the children try new things.

Winning Entry #3
I have seven children, ranging from age 9 to 28. We are all very healthy, although I can’t totally take credit for it. Obviously, our genes play a part. I have made it a priority to incorporate healthful habits into our way of life, and am happy to share what works for us. Some of my "tips" may be unexpected, but I believe the following all contribute to some extent:

1) Mental and moral health affects our physical bodies. Our immune system gets weakened when we carry bitterness or guilt. A clear conscience is a tremendous asset.

2) Good oral hygiene prevents germs from spreading though our circulatory system. Regular flossing and brushing should be incorporated into our schedule.

3) Good sleep gives our bodies the opportunity to rest and recover from the demands of the day. People who chronically burn the candle at both ends compromise the body's ability to repair itself.

4) Obviously, good nutrition helps. This means different things to different people. I have a friend who never gives her children sweets, while I allow mine to eat some. On the other hand, I eschew fast food, both because I can't control what's in it, and because it's more expensive than homemade. Our kids get soda, for example, about once a month. That way, they don't feel deprived, and I'm not worried the empty calories will affect them too much, since they also eat good food. My daughter takes the time to make yogurt for her family, which is very nutritious. I have always made our own bread, using whole wheat flour, because I believe it's worth the time and effort. I have tried to use beans at least once a week and tuna likewise, for their health benefits. Minestrone is one of the cheapest, most nutritious and easy entrees to make. I just soak my beans overnight, start crocking in the morning, then add lentils, barley, carrots, onions, garlic, meat, and tomato sauce in the middle. I rarely use convenience foods, preferring to make our own pizza, macaroni and cheese, chili, chicken vegetable soup, etc., from scratch. My kids can help make these!

5) Although I realize there are circumstances when mothers cannot breastfeed their babies, it is the best first food. Formulas try to duplicate it, but there's nothing like the real thing for the right balance of protein, fat, vitamins, and minerals. Additionally, mother's milk does contain specific antibodies for extra protection.

6) Hydration is important to help the body digest food properly and get rid of waste materials. I make a point of drinking plenty of water during the day, and encourage my children to do likewise. Although I do drink coffee and milk, I limit our sodas and even fruit juices. Whole fruit is better.

7) Exercise plays a vital role in maintaining health. I have always walked at least an hour a day, and often exhort my children to go play outside. We watch maybe five hours of television a year, and a video every month or so, to minimize the couch potato tendencies so prevalent today. Any activity, whether walking, bicycling, swimming, or jumping on the trampoline, helps the immune system.

8) Maintain a good weight. I weigh a little less than when I got married, and work hard to keep it that way. None of my kids is obese, and they've never had to diet.

9) Make sure your kids realize smoking and drugs are bad habits to start. I homeschool my children, so they aren't exposed to a lot of the pressure many other kids experience, but I feel a good parent-child relationship will make children less likely to be tempted to go with the flow of their peers.

It does take time and effort to do the above, but I'd rather have an ounce of prevention than a pound of cure. Aside from the few emergency room visits we've had to make for broken bones, we rarely have to go to the doctor. We do have the usual annual checkups, but that's about it.

Winning Entry #4
We've been going to the YMCA for a while now and in the past I've just put all of my kids in childcare and gone to the cardio room to do machines by myself. Lately, though, I've been taking at least the older ones (and by older I'm talking 8 and 6 - the 5 year old has also asked to go) to the gym and running on the track with them. They think it's a lot of fun and they see me exercise (which is not something I love, but something I'm working on)- so we're learning to fit this into our family together.

Another thing I recently did was to buy (gasp) a bag of shredded carrots (there was a good reason I bought them that way - I was in a hurry to take a nutritious meal to a family at the hospital that night - in the future I will just shred them myself). They are the perfect munching size and my kids really liked them, liked their texture because they were matchstick size. This is going to be a good snack for them as opposed to the basket of chocolate Easter eggs that I'm usually tempted to let them dip into for a snack... We're trying to make changes as a family, so when I let them have input into that process (choose your favorite fruit for me to put on the grocery list, etc), they are more likely to participate in the eating of said healthier things. Megan

Winning Entry #5
Here is my list of suggestions, or we could call them lessons learned because I became a mother at 18, a child myself. One of my goals is to encourage mothers, most especially young, single mothers and share with them that their life isn’t over, and there is hope to give their child a good life. It takes prayer and a lot of hard work and determination!

I think the most important part of motherhood is love and caring. Being there in a way that makes a child feel secure and loved - hugs, kisses and ILUs go a long way towards raising a child that doesn't need to look elsewhere for comfort (drugs, sex, food, etc). Trust your child and believe they are capable of the best. Expect them to do the smart thing, the right thing and don't always assume because they are kids, they won't get it right. I asked my twelve year old daughter not long ago why and she said that I'm a great Mom, and she said "because you trust us and treat us like we're not stupid kids" I talk to my kids and tell them the truth. Sometimes that's hard, but I don't hide things unless it's something they really can't handle as a child. Children know when we're hiding things from them and it's scary. The explanation doesn't have to be detailed, but just an acknowledgement and reassurance makes all the difference.

Other than that, here's a short list I'd swear by:

1. Children need a lot of sleep. 8 hours is a minimum, more is better. Set a bed time and stick to it. Allowing your kids to stay up until 11 or 12 because they are difficult to get to bed leads to children who can't concentrate in school.

2. Don't do everything for your kids. It handicaps them and makes them feel worthless. Give them chores, allow them to think and work through problems. Don't fix all of their problems. Comfort them when they're sad, but allow them to be sad. They'll know how to deal with their emotions when they're grown if you allow them to work through it in a safe environment when they're young.

3. Find out what your kids are interested in and help them develop that. Steer them toward an interest of yours, but don't be disappointed if they don't want to be a sports nut, a ballerina, etc. It's THEIR life. Allow them to find themselves and make their own mistakes. My S20 hates sports. DH loves them. Our son tried to be good at baseball to please his Dad. He wasn't good at it and was always falling short. He walked off the field at 10 years old and refused to play again. His Dad was disappointed. It took awhile, but Dad finally realized that his son is interested in diving and robotics. He's pretty proud now... not of those few baseball trophys, but of the son that will be a college honor grad with a degree in engineering next year.. and, he earned scholarships that entirely paid his way through school. Allowing our children to devote their energy to their dreams and not ours create adults who know how and what to be passionate about.

4. Don't try to treat your kids equally and make everything the same. Acknowledge that they are individuals with individual needs as they're growing. Kids that think things have to always be equal and fair will likely turn into jealous people. Sometimes one of my children will get more attention and love than another. If they do, it's because right then, they need that. If I see one of their siblings feeling left out, I talk to them about it and explain what's going on so they'll understand. I also explain the when they need their parents, we'll be there in the same way for them. I can honestly say that we've never had a case of sibling rivalry and jealousy between our four kids.

5. Have weekly family meetings where everyone gets a chance to talk and resolve problems. Share the good things and bad things about the week. Celebrate when someone changes an annoying habit, or progress is made on problems. This give the whole family a chance to vent, be supportive and understand what each other is thinking. Make it fun, but serious.

6. Don't fight with your kids teachers. Support them unless they are doing things that harm your child. Kids need to know that their teachers have their parents respect and support. It's just a bad idea to create conflict with the person who has so much of your child's time every day. If there is a disagreement with a teacher, don't say bad things about the teacher in front of the child. Meet with the principle and work it out like adults.

7. Be consistent. Have rules and enforce them. Don't threaten a punishment you're not willing to follow through on. Be firm, kind and forgiving.

Thanks for giving me a chance to share Amy! Our kids aren't perfect, but I think they're turning out pretty good :) Our family motto is: Live Simply, Love generously, Care deeply, Speak kindly, Laugh freely and Leave the rest to God.

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Nature Valley Oats N' Honey Cereal

I received a box of Nature Valley Oats N' Honey cereal to sample and we were excited to give it a try. I have always been a big fan of the granola bars that this company puts out and was looking forward to a big bowl of this cereal.

We, unfortunately, did not enjoy this cereal at all. When you first bite into it the cereal has a great crunchy taste and texture that their granola bars are known for and it tastes really good. After swallowing the first mouthful though, you are left with a nasty aftertaste in your mouth that will not go away.

I was disappointed with this product, but I do appreciate Nature Valley giving me the opportunity to review it. I will continue to purchase their yummy granola bars, but will shy away from the Oats N' Honey cereal.

Nature Valley does offer two varieties of cereal though and I am wondering if the Cinnamon flavor offers up the same aftertaste.

Thanks to Nature Valley for giving me the opportunity to review their product and I am sorry that I was not able to offer up a stellar review on this cereal.

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What a Difference a Day Makes

I decided to hit the thrift store this Saturday in search of a china cabinet or unit where I could rest my laptop for our kitchen. I have been hunting for awhile, but just haven't seen anything with the good bones that I was looking for. I walked around for awhile before I saw IT. You know? The one! The one that I have been hunting for ages looking for? Well, I basically threw my body upon an old eighties cabinet and requested the crew help me load it in my vehicle. The cost was only $99 and the units that I had been looking at in the stores were a minimum of $250 and upwards of $600. This piece looked like it was going to be perfect and I headed over to the hardware store and got all of the supplies to tackle this project.

I was inspired by Meredith's recent post about a project that was done on Notes from a Cottage Industry. This blogger had painted her unit black and had gotten hers for a mere fifty bucks and made it look like a million.

This was my first attempt at refinishing a piece of furniture and I was pretty nervous at first, but my tentative paint strokes turned to fast swipes as I became more confident with what I was doing.

This particular piece was a knotty oak wood and had worn brass handles on it. We prefer a more contemporary look with clean lines and a silver finish to our pieces so that is what I wanted to achieve when I refinished this piece.

I decided to leave the piece with the knots in the wood, opting to skip the spackling step altogether, and purchased a primer tinted grey to give us a good start on the piece.

I sprayed the unit with a liquid degreaser to get all of the grime and muck of off the wood. Next I primed it with primer and allowed that to dry for a couple of hours. The next step was to put on the black paint and then another coat. Then another coat. Finally, another coat was applied before I could do the final touch-ups to the wood.

The hardware was the type that had been dropped into the a cut-out in the wood of the piece so there was no way that I could replace it. The worn dingy handles received a face-lift with a coat of stainless steel spray paint that was made especially for metal. Fifteen minutes to dry and only four dollars to redo all of the hardware. We are going to be spraying some other ugly brass fixtures around our house that need a little TLC, rather than purchasing new pieces which would cost us a lot more.

I started the project at six o'clock in the evening and painted until 2:30 in the morning. I collapsed in bed and then picked it back up at nine and had it fully assembled with my dishes and cookbooks on it by six the next evening.

It was a bear of a project, but I can't stop glowing or patting myself on the back for what I accomplished in a single day. The unit is absolutely enormous and I did all of this by myself with the only help from my husband being the help with moving and reassembling it.

The finished product reminds of something you would get at Pottery Barn or Restoration Hardware and I doubt that it would be only $99!

The history of the piece was as interesting as the furniture was itself. A quick discussion with one of the employees seemed to indicate that it was repossessed. After pulling it all apart we found a very mysterious hole that at been cut out of the bottom. A hole that would have no purpose except to hide something. Weed, perhaps? Who knows!

What has been your biggest accomplishment that you have done in or around your house? Have you ever attempted to refurbish a thrift store or yard sale piece? Any blunders refurnishing anything?

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