Never in my life have I canned so much food. I am still coring and peeling apples from my tree. Some of them have rotted by now from the bins outside so today I am hoping to work through the pile and get it all done. So far our canning mission consists of about a dozen salsa pints and half pints, and pints of applesauce. I still have tomato sauce to do. That will be an all day project when the tomatoes are ready to be picked.
In the last couple of months Ive also been blessed with many cans of homemade jam from family members. Jam seems to be the most popular canning mission for many people. With so many others giving me jam why bother, right? Joking aside, I found out a friend of mine has a peach tree just waiting for someone to come pick off its abundance of fruit so peaches are next on my list. I absolutely love canned peaches. Since peaches are not something I buy from the grocery store on a regular basis this is a treat. So it looks like I will have a full cabinet of canned goods in my future. Im so excited beyond words. I find myself scanning neighborhoods now when Im driving, looking for fruit trees, or berry bushes. Ive got the canning fever…..;-)

I cant believe its already a new school year. The summer flew by so fast! Nows the time to get the kids ready for the school year if you haven’t already. Just a few tips I use that makes it easier on the checkbook.

1. Inventory your childs clothes. The worst thing I did in the past was think I had to buy my children an entire new wardrobe. That was the old Carol. I used to think my child had to wear the best clothes, and have everything brand new from the best stores. While I still care about appearances Im not as crazy about it as I used to be. I still try to get my kids the brands they like to wear, but at a fraction of the price. So we start by inventorying all her clothes. Toss those stained, outgrown, ripped etc. Instead of spending the normal $300-$400+ you could get by with $100-$200 instead per child.

As Ive mentioned before the best ideas are to keep a good coupon app on your smartphone, and get on the email list for your favorite stores to know when the sales start. My favorite store is Aeropostale because they have some great sales all year round. And if you live close to an outlet you may be able to pick up jeans between $3-$10 a pair as I have done many times in the past. Those jeans are normally between $50-$60 a pair regular price. Lucky for me I have only 1 child left to buy clothes for and she isn’t girly at all. As long as I can find t-shirts that are popular in her age and shorts and jeans that fit shes a happy camper. But life wasn’t like that with Victoria and so I had to be on my game with the best sales and coupons available. Whatever the case may be use all your resources. One other thing Kohls likes to send out $10 cards in the mail, and monthly 15%/20% off coupons. In addition they sometimes do Kohls cash and will also give you money back if you use your Kohls Charge. One thing you should know about Kohls is this, You can use all of those discounts on the same transaction!! I have done it many times. I bought a $110 winter jacket a couple of winters back for only $20! I caught it when it was on sale 50% off, then I used the $10 coupon I got in the mail, kohls cash, a 15% off coupon from online, and an additional %15 off card that came in the mail. Kohls is the best when it comes to discounts!

2. Now for sports shoes and boots I have found the best deals at Big 5 sporting goods. They have coupons too via email and flyers in the mail so watch out for those. I also have an email alert from them so I know when the sales are. Since I have girls I still need dress shoes, sandals etc. and I normally hit up payless shoes when I get the coupons either in the mail or via coupon app. If you are military you can use both the coupon and military discount. This is great when they have their sales. Now that Jacquie needs special shoes it may be more difficult to get as great deals as in the past.

3. Don’t pass up the free haircuts at JCpenneys for kids up to six grade. Call your local Jcpenney salon for a free haircut during the month of august.

4. Take inventory of your school supplies and don’t throw out anything from the year before. If you have more than one child you may do this already. Victoria is now going into the military so she no longer needs school supplies. For the passed several years I had Victoria save all her school supplies she didn’t use so they were available in case Jacquie needed them. It has proven to save me lots of money.

5. Backpacks are a problem In my house. They never seem to last the entire year but miraculously we end up with half a dozen backpacks accrued from other people, events etc. So I started going through those and the ones Victoria didn’t want I saved for Jacquelyn. Jacquie is hard on her backpacks so this method has also proven to save me lots of money. If you are crafty you can take a plain backpack and create a one of a kind creation with studs, sequins and fabric paint.

6. Last, check out your favorite thrift stores, neighborhood and online garage sales. Just be aware of the quality of items and whether or not you can get better deals at in store sales.

Happy Shopping!

 

In a few short months my husband will be retiring from the military and we may have a significant drop in pay for a few months until everything is processed. I started putting a list together of foods I can stock up on. What I did was think about items that I can buy in bulk and are versatile. Ive already tried a few things such as homemade biscuit, and flavored oatmeal. I invite you to add a comment about the sorts of things you add to your pantry as well.

Things I try to keep on hand are:

1. The basic baking supplies- Flour, sugar, brown sugar, baking soda and powder, and spices.

Uses: pancake batter, cake mix, donut mix, breads, pie crust, cookies, pizza dough, tortillas, etc.

2. Oatmeal- Oatmeal is something Ive kept in  my pantry for years. It is very versatile. Use it to make your own flavored oatmeal, add to meatloaf, breads, veggies burgers, etc.

3. Coffee creamer- This is something new Im trying. In my house we go through a lot of coffee creamer. You can make a base and add your own flavoring along with either real sugar or artificial sweetener. Make it as healthy or unhealthy as you like.

4. Large bags of rice- At a local Asian market I can buy 40 lbs of rice for $20. Now we don’t eat rice very often so 40 lbs would probably last me several years but its a great way to stock up on foods and not break the bank. Just add your own flavoring such as chicken, teriyaki, or beef.

5. seasonings-Make large batches of seasonings to keep on hand in your pantry. Seems like Im always searching for taco seasoning. This year Im keeping taco seasoning and ranch dressing on hand in the pantry to be available on hand.

6. Dried fruits and vegetables. One of my favorites are dried veggies. In the store its about $8 a lb. How the companies get away will selling dried veggies for so much money is beyond me. This year Im investing in my own dehydrator. Instead of chips I’ll have a mix of dried fruits and vegetables. Some will be from my apple tree and garden. Dried tomatoes are a great item to have on hand to throw into soups, or crockpot meals.

7. Drinks- Most of the time we drink purified water from our faucet filter. But I do change it up a bit by making sun tea or lemonade from the lemons off our tree. I large box of liptons tea is a great item to have on hand. It lasts quite a long time and is about $3-$4 in the store. Plus you don’t have to add sweetener if you don’t want to and its pretty much all water so you are still getting hydrated.

8. Once again I have a fruit bowl on my dining table which I plan to continue to fill throughout the year. Right now my apple tree is overflowing and the apples are ripening well. Over the last week all the apples in bowl have vanished. Its a nice way to keep healthy snacks available at arms reach when you’re hungry. If you don’t have your own fruit trees or have access to any I recommend your local farmers market. My favorite stand is located in Suisun valley. There are actually a few farmers markets there that are open daily. One is Larry’s produce which has a huge selection along with cheap prices. My favorite is actually further down the road and do not spray their produce (though they cannot legally call themselves organic because farms are too close to sprayed farms). Their prices are comparable. If you live in Napa but don’t want to drive to Solano county I recommend the napa-vallejo flea market. There are local Hispanic farmers who sell their produce at a very reasonable prices  well as lots of other items. And the best part is they do speak English but the flea market is only open in the weekends.

9. Homemade butter- There are lots of different recipes online to make flavored or regular. Make a big batch and freeze it. This one is on my list!!

10. Homemade ice cream. We go at least a 1.5 quart size of ice cream in a week. This is on my list of items to make and keep in my freezer! Make its fattening, low fat, sugar free, etc.

I hope Ive given you lots of ideas so far. Having versatile foods items in your cupboard is a great way to go especially if you want to stock up but you don’t want to break the bank. Its great because there are so many things you can make out of it. Im even learning how to make vegetarian food such as burgers, hotdogs and other items.

**Other items I am adding are bulk laundry detergent and fabric softener.

This year we are taking our first cruise along with a week long vacation at Disney World. We have been looking forward to this trip for the last 12 months. Since we are avid travelers we know that there are things we will need to bring so we wont be stuck paying high prices at the last minute.

So what Ive been doing is making lists of items I will need on our trip. I did research about what is on the cruise ship as well as what will not be available. I also printed all receipts and confirmation pages in order of our trip such as car rentals, hotels, airfare boarding pass, cruise boarding passes, luggage tags, etc. Being organized is the best way to make sure your trip goes smoothly, and doesn’t cost more money than your budget allows.

So I don’t go broke before our trip begins I have shopped around at thrift stores, dollar store, Walmart, etc. We all needed different items. For example beach towels, sun dresses, bathing suits, sunglasses and cover ups. I took an inventory of what items we did have and wrote a list of items we needed. Jacqui lost her favorite sunglasses at the beach last weekend and so we took her to the Dollar store and had her choose two pairs along with a strap to wear around her neck. I priced those straps other places and they were $5-$20.The same goes for cheap sunglasses at other stores. I don’t see the need to spend a lot of money on sunglasses for a kid who may lose the next pair. I figured it was a good plan to get two pair and keep one in the suitcase in case she loses one. Dollar stores are great for items you need but don’t care losing those items in the event they go missing. We will be on a cruise ship with hundreds of other people.
I asked around to see if I could borrow some items, such as hanging toiletry bags ( As those are about $15-$25 each). I bought refillable TSA approved shampoo and conditioner containers for each of us for about .75 each. I then emptied my bathroom stash of shampoo and conditioner that I saved from all the hotels we have been to over the last year into my refillable containers and mixed it with my favorite shampoo and conditioner brand Redken.

Saving all the toiletries from our trips to hotels throughout the year proves to come in handy. Normally I save those for the kids to take to camp with them every year, but since we are going on vacation I thought it was a great way to utilize what we have and save money in the process. Items that I save from hotels are shampoo, conditioner, lotion, and bars of soap. In addition I also save everything we get from the dentist office so I have a collection of toothbrushes, dental floss, travel toothpaste. I throw everything into a box in my bathroom and utilize the collection throughout the year as needed. Its a great way to save money, have a back up in case you run out of toiletries, or are running tight on cash.

One thing I always bring is my own medical bag. In addition to our own daily medications, I also bring pepto bismo, motrin, band aids, various creams, vitamins, etc. In a nutshell I bring a little bit of everything. I don’t ever want to be in a position where I have to pay $10 for 2 motrin, or pepto. I always come prepared.

In the past we paid and brought a weeks worth of spray sunblock lotion. I used to use coupons and bought it on sale so we would have it. I don’t do the spray sunscreen anymore. Its a waste of money. One can lasts us one day and then we are on to the next one. Each can costs about $7. We now buy the large bottles at Walmart which will last us the entire 2 week trip and it cost about $8. Much better deal. Besides most of the time the sunscreen we buy will last so long we can never use it before the expiration date. And Just in case, we will be bringing after sun lotion. The best I have found is the type with lidocaine. Its a blue gel and works fantastic.

Our cruise line is Carnival and they require a soda card (for soda or juice) for each person in order to get carbonated drinks. Its about $40 per person. Since none of us girls are big soda drinkers the only person getting a soda card is my husband. So we opted to buy a large plastic cup with a straw and lid to take onto the cruise ship. Each of us has a different color and I will be putting our names on them. The reason is so we can fill up our tumblers with iced tea or lemonade (which are complimentary). Thanks to the advice of my mother in law we wont have to constantly be running back to the Lido deck for a tiny cup of beverage. The reason I bring this up is that as a family we primarily drink water or milk at every meal. We can only bring 12 bottles of non alcoholic beverage including water with us on the ship (per person). That is 48 bottles of water that is supposed to last us for 7 days. I can drink about 8 of those in a day. It will be a little bit of a change but is doable. It will keep any of us from drinking too many of our calories, and will save money as well. Instead of spending $160 in soda cards we opted to buy one ($40) for my husband since he is the only one who drinks soda.

Oh and of course Ive been scoping for restaurant coupons, and discount cards. Ive already been looking, Ive received my florida discount card in the mail. I may not get to use most of those coupons but at least I will have them in the event we need them. I have access to restaurant.com as well if I need them. I still have lots of vouchers to use and this trip would be a great time to try out new restaurants.

Well that’s it for now. I hope you’ve got some great ideas here.

I love the summer time! It all about backyard barbeques, family vacations, swimming, and just enjoying the heat here on the west coast. But I know the $$’s can quickly suck up the bank account if we aren’t careful. At our house we are constantly on the go and in the past we would eat out a lot. These days we are trying to eat healthier and save money by trying to stay away from fast food restaurants. Below are some good tips on avoiding having to spend extra money on day trips:

1. Plan ahead by packing snacks. Healthy snacks such as whole fruits (apples, oranges, bananas, grapes, etc), carrots, and celery, and trailmix are great finger foods. Our favorites are dried fruits and veggies. I normally carry around a bag of some kind of seed or nuts as a quick healthy snack. Another popular snack at my house is popcorn. I keep an air popper on my counter in the kitchen so the kids can make their own snack. The great thing about popcorn is that you can add your own flavoring and place it in a large Ziploc for easy carry in the car. Its cheaper than chips and healthier.

2. Packing for lunch and or dinner- More times than not I bring along leftovers to eat for lunch or dinner. I have an insulated backpack that I purchased for about $10 that I use to hold cold or hot items. Its fantastic and really handy. If I’m bringing hot food I will just pop it in the microwave for a few minutes, then place it in a thermos or other microwave safe container before placing it in the backpack. I bring plastic utensils and napkins, and I always keep a small picnic set of plates, silverware and cups in my car. My favorite thing to do is make up a separate container for each person as a meal. We happen to have Tupperware containers that are designed to hold a balanced meal for each person. Perfect portions!

If I don’t have leftovers than I will bring sandwiches but they aren’t that popular at my house. Whatever you’re preference, its easy to bring healthy balanced food with you on the run either in a cooler or insulated bag of which I typically have one or the other when we are out and about.

3.Each of us carry our own water bottle with filtered water. This way we are contributing to the environment and know where our water comes from. A large water bottle is sufficient for all of us for the day and is easily refillable from a drinking fountain if needed.

There are lots of new products out now that are handy powder that can be added to your water if you aren’t a water drinker. Be aware that a lot of these products have artificial additives, and harmful chemicals so if you are health conscious and would rather not add artificial powder to your drink, you might consider slivers of orange or lemon to give your water a little flavor.

4. Bbqing at the park or beach? You might consider throwing in a pack of hotdogs and premade burgers (whatever your preference ie beef, turkey, veggie) in a ziplock in your cooler. Bring along some premade salad(s) in a sealed container and you’ve got a great meal or meals to enjoy. A little hibachi grill is easily transportable if your planned destination doesn’t have a grill available. Or you can check out Youtube on how to make a rocket(homemade can) grill.

5. Dessert- I don’t like to bake in the summer because I don’t have A/C. If you are a dessert person than consider making no bake desserts that can easily be transported like no bake cookies/bars, or pre-sliced fruit or fruit salad. I’ve made individual portions of jello, pudding, or applesauce in a small 6 oz cup with a sealable lid as well.

Hope these ideas help you plan and budget your summer day trips a little easier. The best part about bringing your own food is that you don’t have to drive around looking for a place to eat or decide where to go that’s cheapest. You can just dive into your own food and enjoy when you’re ready. This is especially true for kids because we all know kids can get really grumpy when they have to wait to eat. It just makes life easier for everyone!

Thanks for reading!

Today I am getting ready for my daughters graduation and along with that comes cleaning the house, grocery shopping, and doing yard work. Well several weeks ago my weed eater quit working only because the primer bulb is cracked. I should have ordered the part when it happened. Instead I borrowed my moms electric weed eater. Now my moms quit working and I have no weed eater. LESSON LEARNED! I should have ordered the part I needed several weeks ago. After spending time on the phone calling all over town I was informed by each store that I must order the part. So I just ordered the part which was only $2.49. I had to pay for shipping which was $6.00 and am now waiting for my part to come which is estimated at around 5 days. Needless to say I will be spending time today pulling weeds instead of wacking them. This is not an easy task since my front yard is at the bottom of the list to be landscaped right now. If you’ve been to my house you will see quit often the weeds poking up through the old landscaping rock. Its not the prettiness yard on the block by any means but we are trying to get through other more important projects on the house before landscaping is done. So the upside is that I will not have to buy a new weedeater, but the downside is that I must wait at least 5 days for the part so I can weedeat my yard again. So take it from me friends, when something breaks and you need to order a part, order it right away.

By the way, I ordered the part I needed on http://www.ereplacementparts.com.

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