"We can do no great things, only small things with great love." - Mother Teresa

Friday, November 26, 2010

First snowman of the year!

Well, we got some snow this year. Thanksgiving was the best snowman snow of the week. So, while the adults worked on dinner, the kids made their very own snowman. Good job, huh?
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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The end of $20 at Rite Aid

Well, I am done with my $20 at Rite Aid experiment. I have so far accumulated $225 worth of products, and I now have $21.50 left to spend. However, it is starting to get difficult to track the exact $20 I started with, so I am ending my experiment. I think I have more than proved the merit of Rite Aid's coupons/+Up Rewards/Single Check Rebates.

However, I am now a confirmed deal shopper. So, in the spirit of my "place for everything" blog, I have created a new blog. You can visit www.tarasplacefordeals.blogspot.com and there find my continued saga of deals and steals ('cause sometimes the deals are so good, it feels like stealing. Like this week, I got a $85 item, and after the sale, coupons, mail-in-rebates, and single check rebates it only cost me the tax!)

I hope you have enjoyed this as much as me! See you later!

Homemade laundry detergent

Although it seems that I am just obsessed with coupons/deals these days, that is not actually the case. I am simply learning to be more frugal. The art of finding a good deal is just more exciting than some of the other things I have been doing. However, I came up with a pretty intriguing one a few weeks ago that I got to try out today.

Have you ever heard of homemade laundry detergent? I hadn't. But, in talking to my sister, she mentioned it. Since the price was right, I got the ingredients and waited to run out of the detergent I was using. Today was my lucky day!

How do you make your own laundry detergent? Easy. Really.

Get a big can (I used a #10 can left over from Costco peaches) and add 6 cups of water. Put that in a big pot of water and bring to a boil. (This "double broiler method may not be necessary, but I didn't want to cook in the same pan I was making laundry detergent.) Then, grate 1/3 of an Ivory soap bar and add to the heated water in your can. The goal is to melt your bar soap in the water. When the soap has melted, add 1/2 cup Borax (found in the laundry soap section) and 1/2 cup washing soda (this is made by Arm and Hammer, and I found mine in the laundry detergent section at Ace Hardware. Walmart failed me on this one.) Mix until the powder dissolves. Then, pour 1 quart of hot water into a 2.5 gallon bucket. Add soap mixture and then 22 cups (11 pints) cool water. Stir and let sit until cool. When the mixture cools, it turns to a gel. When you are ready to use, just mix detergent (so that the gel breaks up a bit) and add 1/2 cup to your washing. Done! Mine looked like this:

One batch makes 2 gallons, which means 128 loads of laundry. The super amazing thing about this stuff is the price. Let me do the math here:

Borax - $4.29 for 76 oz - 19 batches in a box - $0.23 per batch
Washing Soda - $3.79 for 55 oz - 13 batches in a box - $0.29 per batch
Ivory bar soap - $1.50 per bar - 3 batches per bar - $0.50 per bar (of course, if you get a good sale, this is MUCH less)
price per 2 gallons of detergent - $1.02
price per load - NOT EVEN A PENNY!

So, as you can see, it is fairly economical. To be mild.

How does it work? Well, I will have to post more about that later. I just washed the sheets that got wet on last night, as well as some assorted kids clothes, and they came out smelling and looking clean. So far, so good. However, I will use it for a bit and post some more opinions. And, since I want to give credit where credit is due, I found the recipe here! Thanks, Tipnut!
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Friday, November 19, 2010

$20 at Rite Aid continued

Well, this week's trip was a little late in the week, sorry! However, I am including the link to Hip2Save where I found all the deal info for the items purchased today here.

Today I got all this, a $52.03 value, and I only spent $3.43 out of pocket. You can't pay for tax with +Up Rewards, so that has to be paid cash. Fortunately, many of the items I purchase have Single Check Rebates, so I am able to continue my original $20 cash flow that way. I actually spent $0.50 of my original $20 today, so my total stands at $225 worth of products, and I still have $19.50 to spend! Previous posts on this strain here.

On a fun side note, a month or two ago I got a free subscription to Martha Stewart Living. My December issue had a card for $5 off your total purchase at Hallmark. So, today I swung by and picked up two rolls of 45 ft Christmas paper for $1.87, and then they threw these two cute little coin purses in for free! Score!
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I heart vinyl!

I LOVE vinyl! There are so many options! Yesterday I flipped my halloween word blocks over and made some for autumn/thanksgiving. Thanks, Erin, for cutting these out for me!

One day I will be the happy owner of a Silhouette and not have to beg cutting favors from my lucky sisters...
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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Yummy and Chocolate

Mmm, don't they look good?

I taught Activity Girls tonight. We were doing manners, and I decided that hot chocolate served in china and petite fours (sp?) might persuade the girls to behave a little more mannerly. It worked!
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Monday, November 15, 2010

Giving Thanks Tree update

Why is it that pictures NEVER turn out looking like you want them to? Ah well. We have been working on the Giving Thanks tree for two weeks now, and it is looking really cool, so I wanted to share. My biggest problem has been getting the leaves hung, it takes a lot of time to put the string through the holes, tie them and hang them with the colored side out, on the tree. Thanks Celeste for the great idea to just put them on paper clips! It takes a fraction of the time!
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Friday, November 12, 2010

Veteran's Day hike

Why is it that kids get to a stage where they can't help but make funny faces when a camera comes out? And, why do they get stuck in that stage for at least a decade?
We sure love living in such a beautiful place!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Joy the guitar strummer

I had completely forgotten about this video until I was flipping through stuff last night. We were listening to some fun music, and Joy wanted to be part of the action. She ran up to her room and returned with this little travel-sized guitar my dad gave me. She had fun strumming along, but it just amazed me to see how grown-up she is getting.

This is mainly for those of you who just don't get to see the kids everyday. Enjoy! (And no, I don't think she has a good shot at a career in the industry!)
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Rite Aid part 4

The deals on essentials are so good this week that I had to go back for a second round. Here is the haul:
$31.03 worth of toothpaste, vitamis and supplements. And, I still have $20 left to spend. Just in case you were wondering, I am paying for sales tax out of the original $20. The amazing thing about Rite Aid is that, when you go over the value of the product in coupons, you get that amount taken off other items on your bill. And, lots of these purchases qualify for single check rebates, so I actually get a check in the mail. That's how I am paying the sales tax. So, for my original $20 I have gotten $173 worth of products, and I still have $20 left to spend. Have you started shopping at Rite Aid yet? See here for the last purchases.
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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

$20 at Rite Aid part 3

Next trip to Rite Aid this evening. I scored ALL of this stuff - $52.16 worth of stuff - for FREE!
Total left to spend (out of the original $20) - $21! Whoohoo Rite Aid! See here for last week's haul.

If this confuses you, I am on a mission to see how much I can get by putting in $20 at Rite Aid. So far I have gotten $142 worth of stuff!
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Monday, November 8, 2010

Simple, but oh so effective

Which, of course, is my favorite.

This came about because I felt like I was disciplining kids all the time. ALL the time. I wanted to find a way to focus on and reward their good behavior, instead of always punishing for bad. So, after combining some good ideas of various family members, I came up with the "Good Behavior Chart". It is a simple idea. Each child has a clothes pin with their name on it. Any time they do something "good", they move up one spot on the chart. For the littler ones, anything good counts - saying "thank you", putting dishes in the sink, eating their dinner without fussing, anything! For the big ones, they have to do those things without being asked. It is a 1:1 ratio - one good behavior - one spot up. When they are bad, they move down a spot. Since this is a good behavior chart, I try not to move them down much.
When they get to the top of the chart, they get a Good Behavior Buck. These bucks can be redeemed at the Good Behavior store.
The Good Behavior store consists of a bin full of dollar store items, each priced for various Good Behavior Buck amounts. The most prized items have the highest prices (even though they only cost me a buck!)

Although this is a remarkably simple system, it works wonders. We have been using it for almost two months now, and it still works! The kids are excited to see their progress up the chart, we are focusing much more on their positive behavior, and they are learning the value of saving. I don't know that Hyrum has ever gotten anything more than a sucker (the $1 item), but Brigham and Paul are remarkably good little savers!

As well as being very useful, it was incredibly easy to construct. I cut 14 5.5x1.25" strips of construction paper, lined them up on a piece of poster board, and cut the board out around the size the strips made. I covered the thing in contact paper, wrote the kids' names on some clothes pins, and hung it on the wall. Viola! The Good Behavior Bucks (which I made in Word) are just kept pinned on the top of the chart behind the back. When they earn bucks they want to save, those get thumb-tacked to their spots on our cork board. I love it, it it really seems to be making a difference in their behavior!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

What do you do with 15 kids for 4 hours?

I am lucky enough to be a part of a weekly date night babysitting group. We have four families who, each Friday night, combine kids at one persons home. Three couples leave, one remains with the kids. It works out GREAT! You get three Fridays a month where you don't even have to feed your kids, and you get four hours out with no enormous babysitting bill. However, when it is your Friday to sit, you get all 15 kids! We have all found that it is best to have some riveting activity for the kids to be involved in. This week, I went to the dollar store, got six packages of twisty balloons with pumps, and distributed them among the five oldest kids and myself. I was amazed at how creative the kids were. The hats that came out of this bunch were quite impressive.
Some of them got more impressive as time went by - And, of course, we did have a few traditional dogs in the mix, just to make things interesting!
Now, I have a month to plan the next night...

Friday, November 5, 2010

Sweet deals at Albertsons!

We stopped by for a quick trip to Albertsons after dropping the kids off at school today. We got LUCKY! I brought a few coupons of my own, but the Eggos (which were on sale, a mix and match so they ended up $0.99 each when you bought 10 participating items) also had a peelie on them that brought the regular price of $3.59 down to $0.45 per box! Needless to say, we stocked up. Also on the same sale is Green Giant vegetables, regularly $1.69 per can down to $0.39 per can! (has to be part of the 10 mix and match) So, we ended up getting $130.09 worth of groceries for $26.12! Excepting the brownies that cost me $2, these are things we use all the time!

Who says coupons aren't worth the time?
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Wednesday, November 3, 2010

$20 at Rite Aid part 2

For those of you who are just tuning in, I am doing a little experiment. I am trying to see how much I can get by spending $20 at Rite Aid. On 10/27/10, I started by making a $20 purchase which resulted in $20 of in-store credit (+Up Rewards, in Rite Aid language). To see what I got then, go here. Having made that initial $20 purchase, I am now just using those +Up Rewards to see how much more I can get for my $20. Here is today's haul, regularly priced at Rite Aid for $50.82. (I know that sounds like a lot for this stuff, there is also a $20 item that is not pictured.)
To make this purchase, I used $13 of my $20 +Up Rewards - that's it! I went to Hip2Save, found out the sales for the week, used those sales and $25 in coupons, and my total for the purchase was only $16. Unfortunately, you can't use +Up Rewards to pay tax, so I did pay $3 out-of-pocket. However, all is not lost! I got an additional $9 in +Up Rewards from this purchase, and will also get a check for $6 in the mail the end of November when my single check rebates are sent to me. So, I have $16 in +Up Rewards and $3 in cash from the rebate. $1 down, $19 to go!
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Monday, November 1, 2010

Giving Thanks Tree

I am so impressed with myself - I actually had all the parts in place in time to implement an idea. This is our giving thanks tree. Yes, it looks bare, that is the point! After dinner each night leading up to Thanksgiving, we are going to write one thing we are grateful for on the back of a leaf and then hang in from our tree. Each leaf has to be a new gratitude, no repeats! By the end, we should have 125 leaves on the tree.

These are the first five. It was a great FHE, and I think the tree has some real potential.
Now, if I can just find a way to decorate the rest of the mantle, all will be right again in the world.
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Yes, that is just what it appears to be!

I swear, I was just down the hall in my room, with the door open, even! It was only five minutes! Suddenly, I heard the sound of water being splashed around a little too vigorously to be the tooth-brushing sounds I expected. So I went to check it out.
Let's just say that they didn't get wet from running their toothbrushes under the sink.
When I walked in I was really tempted to scream, but instead, I walked away, picked up my camera, and documented.

While I was gone, they decided that it wasn't enough to dunk their heads, they wanted to try baptism by immersion. Fortunately, they are too big to get all the way in. But, Brigham was really pulling his foot out of the pot when I snapped this shot.

After documentation was taken care of, I had them strip down and hop in the tub for a little one-on-one with some soap and hot water. While they were scrubbed, we had a little chat that went something like this:

Me - "So guys, what kinds of things go in the potty seat?"
Boys - "Potty"
Me - "What else?"
Boys - "Toilet paper"
Me - "What else?"
Boys - (turning greenish and getting quiet) "poop"
Me - "And, where did you just stick your heads?"

I don't think we will have this particular problem again.