Sunday, August 26, 2012

DIY fall yarn wreath

I love wreaths.  Like seriously love them.  This year, I learned how to make yarn wreaths and they are SO pretty!  I've made three total for the inside but have been wanting to make some themed ones for the front door.  I decided to start with a fall one, since it'll be that time soon enough!  I always put up my fall decorations on the first of September, so I will be hanging this wreath up very soon :)
Here's what you will need to make a yarn wreath:
Styrofoam circle
glue gun
whatever yarn color(s) you want
whatever felt color(s) you want
decorations (if you wish)
something to hang the wreath (ribbon or raffia)
glass of wine- A NECESSITY! :)

For this wreath, I chose to use three colors of yarn, my other ones have been only one color.  I like to use the Vanna White yarn, I know, weird right?  It's just so soft!  I never knew Vanna was a crafter.
I only got one roll of each color, if you are doing a solid color, grab two rolls, you will probably end of having some extra, but you will most likely use a whole one.  Start by hot gluing the end of the yard to the wreath.
If you are not familiar to using a glue gun, you may want to add "band aids" to your list since this glue gets way hot. I've been using a glue gun since I was 7, so I'm a pro.  After gluing the end on, start wrapping around the wreath.  Keep wrapping until you've covered the area you want.  Be sure you can't see any of the white through the yarn and be sure to keep it as straight as possible.  Don't cut the yarn until you are done with that section (if you are doing "stripes").  When you are done with that color, cut the yarn and glue it to the back of the wreath, then grab your new color, glue it down and start again.  Continue until the whole wreath is covered with yarn.
Pretty, huh??  I probably shouldn't of photographed it in the lime green table because it makes the colors look a bit weird, but you get the picture.  Ok, now to decorate.  There are different types of felt flowers you can make, but for this wreath, I chose to make a felt "rose", like I tend to call it.  Cut your felt into a wavy circle, larger if you want a big flower, smaller, if you want a smaller one.
Using basically a whole sheet of felt will make roughly a 2 in. flower, half a sheet will make a 1 in. flower.  So cut your felt depending on how many flowers you want and their desired size.  I made two larger ones and two smaller ones.  To make the flower, start on the outside and begin cutting around the edge, leaving about an inch or so strip, spiraling towards the center.  Keep cutting and when you get to the center, leave a half dollar sized circle, as this will be the base of the flower.  When you are done, you will be one long piece of twisty felt.
To make the flower, start at the other end than the circle and begin rolling the felt like a you would roll a roulade. I roll a few times, then put a dab of glue and then keep rolling.  This way, the flower wont unroll when its glued on the wreath.
Keep rolling and don't forget to glue occasionally until you have a pretty felt flower!
Make all the flowers you wish then hot glue them on your wreath.  I used some fall leaves and berries under the flowers.  Be sure to decide where you want to put them BEFORE you glue them!  I used green raffia to hang it.
Voila!!  All done!! I'm think it turned out great and am excited to hang it on my door soon! :)  Now, it's time to tend to the peas and get ready for church.  After, we will be relaxing by the pool... yay! If you decide to make your own wreath, let me know how it turns out!  Happy crafting!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

A place for everything...

There's no secret I love to organize.  I even think my organized house could be MORE organized.  I am constantly trying to re-organize my laundry room, but it's hard because there is a lot of crap shoved in a small space.  It looks neat, though.  We have clearly out grown this house but are not in any position to try and sell and upgrade to a bigger one, so keeping organized is the key to my sanity! One place that I am satisfied with, is my "command central".  This is an area in the kitchen where I keep all of our day-to-day things organized and ready to go. Here is also where we keep all the kids shoes and accessories so we can get out of the house as smoothly (ha!) as possible.
On one corner, I have my newest addition to this area: the shoe bench!  I love this thing!  Each kid has their own shoe basket labeled with their names so they know where to put their shoes.  The small cubby above holds the older two's library books from school so they stay separate from our regular books.
On the other corner, I have my nine-cubby holder.  The top three baskets, one for each pea, hold the kids "accessories": sunglasses, hats, mittens...This keeps it neat and is easy for each of them to grab what they need.  The middle three hold my stuff: coupon binder and my "kid-free" purse, my tutoring and ptsa/preschool folder, and then my diaper bag.  The bottom three are carry over, the girls boots, slippers and I, so kindly, gave David a basket for his hats :) On the floor next to it is the shoe basket where everyone can take their shoes off and throw them in there.  There is another one by the front door, but we primarily use the garage to come in and out of.

This rack and the smaller on below is where I hang Abby's backpack and the kids coats, when its cooler out.
Here's is my command central.  I use the two cork boards to hang up important school papers: lunch schedule, spelling words, homework and the school calendar.  I also hang up David's schedule, since it is ever changing, my monthly meal plan and my laminated daily to-do list.  Next to the cork boards is my weekly white board so I can write down what's happening that week so I don't forget anything!  On the top of the bookcase is my file holder that I put important papers that need to be filed away in the file boxes in the closet.  This also holds things like pens, pencils, stamps, post its, etc...  Next to it is my yearly planner.  I do use a digital planner (cozi) but I just can seem to NOT use this one too.  This way, I can keep track of up-coming appts, school events, date-nights, and other things I can't forget!  Lastly is the two-sided brown basket where David and I each have a side to thrown our crap into: keys, ipod holder for running and all the nonsense David brings home from work daily.  This system works for us and it quite easy for the kids so access their things.  They know to put their stuff in its correct place so they can find it later.  I use a similar system for their toys in their bedrooms and in the living room.  Unfortunately we don't have a playroom...booooo :( keeping things organized in there is even more important!  Someday, we'll have a playroom and I already have 1000 ideas pinned and ready to go!
Good luck organizing your command central!!

Monday, August 20, 2012

I made a new craft!

So the other day I was feeling crafty, which happens often to me, but didn't want to go out any buy anything, so I decided to see what I had on hand. My good friend Stacey kindly saved a bunch of baby food jars for me so I started scrubbing those sticky labels off but I wasn't sure exactly what I wanted to do with them so I checked my crafting bible for ideas...pinterest, of course.  Then I saw this state outline printable and decided to wait on the jars and work on that!
I love all these free printables you can find online!  It's great!  It's not great that I have a crappy printer, but oh well.  I started off by painting an old frame a pretty blue and putting a sealer on it.
I didn't sand the frame first because I wasn't concerned if it looked a bit "rustic". I sort of wanted a beachy feeling to it and this is the accent color on my kitchen so it went with my desired feeling very well.  I miss the beach and my home state so I try to incorporate these into my house as much as I can. 
Here's the link to all the state printables, she has all the states that you can right click and save to your computer.  In addition, you can print a page of different colored and sized hearts and place one over your hometown :)  Very cute!  I choose my heart, cut and glued it into place, cleaned the glass and put my now-dry frame all together!

Adorable, right???  Remember, that I have a crappy printer so yours may come out better if you have a nicer printer than I do.  I also cannot make any guarantees that if you print Arizona your printer won't reject this and blow up in a firely ball of rage...fair warning.  I have a good looking state, eh?  She's super buff! to hang it.  I decided to hang it by my command central so I could see it often :)
How'd those kids sneak in my picture??  Cuties!  See that awesome yarn wreath?  I made that too, but I'll save that tutorial for another day because I've been itching to make some new ones for my front door. 
To the right of the tack board is a white board with my weekly schedule and while i was feeling crafty, I make a cute dry erase marker holder as well using an old tube that held one of my wall decals, scrapbook paper and glue.

Yay!  Super cute!  Let me know if any of you make your state, I'd love to see them!! Happy crafting! :)

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Creating a stockpile...

Finally!  My last couponing post on the basics: creating a stockpile.  In order to really start seeing savings on your weekly grocery/target trips, you need to have a stockpile of cheaply purchased (or free) items that you use on a daily basis.  By purchasing these items in larger quantities you won't have to "quick" run to the store to buy toothpaste that will set you back $3.00 because you know you have x amount of them in your stock.  This will overall lower your weekly spending because these items won't need to be purchased. 
What's a stock up price??
Well that will depend on you.  For example, I won't buy cereal unless it's under $1 but a couponer just starting out that is used to spending almost $4.00 a box may think under $2.00 is a stock up price.  The better you get, the more you will notice what's a good price to get lots of an item of.  This is a good time to order coupons if you know of a snazzy deal coming up and you currently only have 4 coupons, for example.  Times I have done this were to get basically free items we use a lot of: toilet paper, paper towels, dish soap, hand soap, pasta, dry pasta sauce and certain other items.  I usually order in a lot of 10 or 20 so I can help build my stock.  We go through LOTS of these types of items with three kids, so 20 doesn't seem excessive to me!  The Krazy Coupon ladies once put up their stock up price list, if you are interested, you ca search and try to find that to get an idea.  I don't use theirs because I know whats a good deal and what to pass on. 
How much to stockpile??
Well, again, that depends on you and your family.  I was once told that you should order enough coupon inserts or papers for each member of your family.  I order 4 papers, but also print lots and occasionally order some if needed.  My kids are also small and don't eat too much so four works for us.  I have other ways of getting q's too, so normally I have more than four of each coupon.  If you had teenagers who ate tons, you may want to stock more!  Stores run their sale cycles in 12 week cycles.  So, normally, you'll see a sale now, and most likely it will be on sale again for a similar price in 12 weeks.  That doesn't necessarily mean you'll have the same coupons to score a great deal, but it's a good judge of how much you should have on hand.  One rule I also have if I really won't have more on hand of an item that I can store in its designated space.  So if my razor drawer is completely full, I won't grab anymore, unless its completely free, of course, because not all items come up free :)  I will, however, donate my excess at times.
How should I store my stockpile??
I don't have a super awesome walk-in pantry so I had to get creative in where I store my extra stuff. The bulk of my stock is in my laundry room on the shelf that is above my washer and dryer.  When I first started to get a stock, my mom and I went to target and bought two 3-ft wire shelves and installed them above the existing so my one shelf became two.  This is where my extra food, paper towels and toilet paper go.  I also have a free shelf in the garage that I've occasionally used to store extra paper goods as well.

As you can see, I don't have a humongous stock, but I have a fair amount.  I have about 15 boxes of cereal, 12 cans of green beans (the only veg david will eat), about 15 dry pastas, 8 sauces and lots of bbq sauce, mustard, salad dressings and canned tomatoes.  I also have some kids snacks and other odds and ends.  In addition, I have a fully stocked pantry in the kitchen. This is also not as much tp and pt's as I would like, but I'm hoping for a nice p & g sale coming up at frys to build my stock :).
In the laundry room, I also have a LARGE stock of cleaning supplies (three shelves worth) and that includes about 20 dish soaps and 10 laundry soaps.  I have enough cleaning supplies for at least a year.  I store some personal products as well in here in a shoe rack hanging behind the door.

Here I have about 20 body washes (and more in the bedroom), 20 bar soaps (also more in the bedroom), 10 shave creams and some face washes.  This storage takes up NO space and is very convenient :) In the bedroom on the floor under david's clothes, I have two three drawer plastic storage things full of more stuff.

These drawers are clearly labeled and are LOADED with stuff.  I have AT LEAST a years worth of toothpaste, floss, tooth brushes, deodorant, and razors.  I also have more bar soap and body washes on top.  But if you notice, it barely takes up any space and it is neatly tucked away.  I also have a stock of kids body products and some kids medicines in a basket under their sink in their bathroom, lots and lots of baby wipes and diapers in the girls closet on the top shelf, and some feminine products, adult medicines, cotton balls, q-tips and hair dye under our sink.  All is stored in a basket and is also very neat.  Just because you have a stock pile, doesn't mean you have to be messy!!!  The final place I have items are on a few shelves in the garage, which hold about 50 hand soaps, 20 bottles of vinegar and lots of baggies.  Don't forget to check expiration dates and the "first in, first out" rule. 
So know you are armed with all my knowledge about couponing!!  Remember, no one taught me, I got my crap together and got out there and practiced.  It doesn't come over night and don't expect to save 60% on your first order.  If you keep at it though, it will come.  New coupons come every Sunday (except on a holiday week) and new ones are always appearing online.  Every week, there are new chances to grab great deals, it's very exciting!!! I hope you all give it a try because, honestly, there are so many places in life that it's almost impossible to save, like your mortgage or those dang medical bills, so why would you want to spend more on food when with some planning, you don't have to??  You know I am right!! Good luck and happy couponing!!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Get your shop on

Today I attended my first coupon class.  You'll be glad to know that I didn't really learn anything "new", besides a few tricks, which means that you too can self-teach yourself how to coupon.  But, you don't actually have to "self-teach" because I am here to help you.  As I attended my class, I thought "I could have done this!" which makes me think that maybe I should have a class someday??  If you think this would interest you, facebook me! Anyways...let's get to it!  Ok, so this post will be about shopping with your coupons.
I ALWAYS bring my binder when I shop.  I just do.  Before my binder, I would always tend to see some deal where I'd wish I had my coupons with me!  I have three little kids and I DO NOT like making multiple shopping trips a week, so I like to do my best to get it all in one shot.  Occasionally I will have to run back for a new deal, but only for a quick run.  Speaking of new deals, once you find a site you like, check it regularly because new deals are always appearing!  This is why I love, love, love "the cents able shoppin".  Sheryl, who I had the pleasure of meeting today, is sooo great at updating new deals daily! There are also unadvertised deals you may score, if you have your binder with you.
When I shop, I like to grab the stuff that may be sold out of first, then begin my regular shopping.  I always check sales and coupon prices to make sure that the sale I planned to get it actually the best one, which is why having all your q's with you is helpful.  Now I will go over some basics of couponing:
* read the print on your q, if it says an amount off of 1, you have to buy ONE item and can use ONE coupon.  If it says an amount off of 2, then you have to buy TWO items, but can still only use ONE coupon.  Make sure you have the correct number of items per coupon or else the register will beep and you may have to adjust something which is a pain and may mess up if you are doing a sale like the "mega" sale, where you need to buy X amount of items to get a certain amount off.
* pay attention that you are grabbing the correct item to match the coupon, read the print, don't just look at the picture, because you may be able to get a different item than the coupon shows.
* pay attention to expiration dates, MOST stores will not take them after they have expired, the register will beep
* you can use ONE STORE coupon and ONE MANUFACTURE coupon per item.  Target is a great example of this.  Store coupons are put out by stores, manufacture coupons are put out by companies.  Go to and print their coupons and you can stack that with a manu one. For example, say Gardiner shampoo is normally $2.99 for one but is one sale for $2.49.  Say target has a $1/1 and Gardiner has a $1/1 that you got in the paper, stack those and you are now getting shampoo or conditioner for $0.49!  That's a pretty good deal!!  Even if I have 5-6 of an item, this is the kind of deal I will always snag, because I KNOW I will need this at some point!
* to coupon well, you can't be a brand snob.  This was a bit harder for me when I first started.  I have my limits but I am ok with buying most brands of items, if I can score a good deal.  There are certain things I won't budge on though. like I have to buy "free and clear" laundry soap and I prefer to buy more "natural" cleaners.  It's easy to find deals if you are alright with not always using the same brand of deodorant.
* If the store is sold out of a particular deal you wanted to score, grab a rain check.  If it's an "unadvertised" deal, a store may not give you one, but it can't hurt to ask.
* Something I forget to mention in my first post about where to get q's is CATALINAS.  A catalina is a coupon that will print when you are checking out.  A catalina deal is when you have to buy a certain number of items and you get a coupon that will print out that you can use on your next order (OYNO) for anything.  These are great to score, if you can.  Here's example of a cat deal I grabbed this week at frys: fiber one bars (chewy granola and the mini brownies) were on sale at the mega at frys for $1.99 wyb 10 (normally $2.49 each).  I bought four and used a $0.50 cents/1 coupon for each that was matched up to $1/1 so I got each box for $0.99 BUT then when I bought 4, I got a cat coupon that printed off for $2.00 OYNO, so it's almost like getting each for 49 cents, which is pretty good since normally they are $2.49!  Look for cat deals to print at the end of your transaction and also listed on deal sites.
* Stores are paid 8 cents per coupon, so don't feel bad about using them! 
* Break apart your transactions if your store limits the number of coupons that will double.  If your store only lets you use three like coupons, but you want to buy 6 items, split your main transaction into smaller ones to maximize savings.  My fry's still isn't limiting, but many are, so just be prepared.  Get a copy of the store's coupon policy and carry it in your binder!  That way if some fool check out lady (yea, it's usually the ladies that give you the most trouble) questions what you are doing, you can whip out your policy and prove her wrong.
* Speaking of check out people....CHOOSE WISELY.  I have a list of people I will go to and won't.  Try to shop at the same times so you know they'll be there!  I love my fry's guys! The fry's ladies?? Not so much...Teenagers are ALWAYS a great choice, they could give a sh*t about you and your q's, they send them ALL through :) Im my experience, STAY AWAY FROM THE OLD LADIES.  Trust me.
* Varying stores are different to shop at: shopping at walgreens and cvs are totally unique, if you want to know how to shop there, let me know, it's a pretty major event. Walmart will price match, but I hate walmart so I don't care about them
Ok, I'm DONE typing for tonight...I hope to GOD someone is reading this and is being inspired, because this is a lot of work!! Ha! Tomorrow will be the last coupon post, which will be about stockpiling.  I need some more wine!  Good night all!

Friday, August 17, 2012

A little planning goes a long way

Ok,  now you have your coupons clipped, filed, and sorted into appropriate categories so now it's time to get ready to shop!  Before you step into the store, though, you need to make a plan.  I love plans, I plan everything.  I don't like to just wonder what's going to happen, I need to know know! Same goes with my shopping, especially for things like food and target trips.  It's much easier to stay on budget with a plan!  My planning begins at the beginning of the month with my supper meal plan.  I use a cute blank calendar from The Project Girl and I plan my suppers out for the month.  I take into account what's typically on sale and what I have in my stockpile when planning.  One of the benefits of having a husband who isn't home most nights for supper is that I don't have to cook meat, which is quite expensive, every night.  I only plan for about three "meat" meals a week, and typically stick with chicken or lean ground beef since it's cheaper.  I'll buy steak, my husband's fav, maybe once or twice a month...if he's lucky!!  The kids and I aren't big meat eaters, so it works for us.  We always do breakfast for dinner at least once a week, different pastas a few nights and usually a soup/sandwich combo as well.  This helps to keep weekly food costs down.  I like planning our suppers so when I make my list, I can look up each recipe and check on any ingredients I don't have on hand and add them to my list.
I shop every Wednesday for food and usually Monday for Target.  I don't go to target EVERY week, but come on, you know I WANT to ;) Why those days?  Because that's the first day of my store's sale cycles.  Fry's and Safeway's sales run Wednesday through Tues and Target begins its new sales on Monday.  Mass friends, you'll have to check for yourself because I'm not sure. Check your weekly sales flyer, it will be at the bottom.  The reason I like to shop at the first day of the sale is for more inventory!!  Us couponers know the deals and if you don't get on it, your store may be out of stock. Before I shop, I make my list at home.  I start by writing down the things we are out of, obviously, then I check my recipes for the week to see if there are any weird ingredients I don't have on hand.  I'm sure those of you know know me well know where I get my recipes from ;) Then I start looking for my deals....
This is the part where it's nice to know where to look.  I follow certain coupon blogs that list the deals and coupon match ups by store.  If you are in T-Town or Phx, I LOVE the centsable shoppin.  She is based in Phoenix and lists the local deals by store.  The krazy coupon ladies are pretty good too, but i find their prices vary some since they post them nationally.  I love to gossip is based out of Maine and I see her listing sales for Shaw's.  These sites will list the sales and tell you which coupons are available for match up with.  If you take anything away from this post its this: ALWAYS TRY TO MATCH A COUPON WITH A SALE.  My family knows that I will not buy junk, ie. chips, cookies, ice cream, fruit snacks unless they are on sale AND I have a coupon.  I just won't do it!! Here's where it comes in handy to have your coupons organized.  Find your deal, match it with your coupon and add it to your stack.  Simple, right??  Well, mostly :) I am sooooooo lucky to have my Fry's match all manufacture coupons to $1, it's amazing and awesome.  This way, all coupons that are less than $1, like "save 40 cents/$1" now becomes $1/1, whics is how you get free stuff :)  For example, that hand soap, hefty baggies and GUM tooth brushes were all 10/$10, making them $1 each. Since the coupons I had were $.35/1 for the soap, $.55/1 for the baggies and same for the tooth brushes, fry's rounded up my coupons to $1 each, making them all FREE!  Yippie!  It's ridiculously easy to get toothpaste, floss, toothbrushes, deodorant, and certain foods, like condiments, free.  I won't pay for these types of items. Why would I?  Because I know they will be free soon, and I have a nice stock of them, so I am not forced to spend money on them.  Yes, I realize that one cannot survive on floss and mustard, but not having to spend money on these and other items saves money monthly. The trick to saving money is building a stockpile of items.  I will go further into this in another post, but essentially having items on hand bought super cheap or free, helps to defer your costs.  I have a substantial stock of all health and beauty products, including shampoo and conditioner, cleaning products, tp and paper towels, baby wipes, vinegar (which I use for cleaning), and certain canned and boxed foods, like dry pastas, cereals, and certain snacks.  I have more than I listed but I will go into it further later. In order to build a good stock, you need more than 4 coupons.  If you pay attention, you can know when a good sale is going to happen and order some coupons for that item.  My couponing buddy, Kim, and I just fairly recently started doing this and it's great!  We both got 20+ vinegars and 20+ packages for toilet paper free recently since we ordered the coupons!!  This is a great way of getting a lot of a particular item you use a lot, like toilet paper!  We have 5 bums in this house...that's a lot of TP! Target will also match their coupons with a manufacture one, called a "stack".  I will go into this more tomorrow, but this is the best way to save at target.  So, find the sites you feel good about and "like" them on facebook so you can get a heads up on what's happening.  "Like" a few since some tend to figure out smoking deals before others.
Ok, I think that's good for today...tomorrow I have a free couponing class (yippie!) I am going to, hopefully I can learn a few new tricks to pass along to you all.  Tomorrow night, I will post about actually shopping with your glorious q's!!

Here's a recap of my favorite sites:

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Organizing all your new-found coupons

See that loveliness above???  That's my version of "extreme couponing". 99% savings at one store and 100% at a second.  Total on all those items I spent $1.15.  Want to learn how??  Well then pay attention because I will teach you, but not today because first you need to organize your new found coupons that we talked about yesterday.  A place for everything and everything in it's place.  Its my motto in life as well as couponing.  You can't save big at the store without a plan and you can't make your plan if you have a bunch of coupons stuffed in an envelope.  Well, maybe you could, but you'd look like a fool and you don't want that, do you????  I didn't think so. So today, I will explain how I organize my coupons.  I used to use a small accordion file when I first started, but that was when I was small-time, now I am more awesome so my coupons needed an upgrade.
Step one: get a binder
My first binder was a 2-in, then I traded up for a 3 in.  It was just your traditional 3 ring binder, but I began to find it hard to carry that, the kids, my diaper bag, my chai and my reusable bags from the car to the store.  Can you picture me with all that stuff??  It was a fricken riot.  So I decided that I did not care if i looked like a nerd, I wanted a zippered binder with a strap.  YES A STRAP.  And it's awesome.  Dorky and ugly but awesome.  Now I can zipper up and keep my coupons safe and have one less thing to hold.

Hideous, right??  Now if only Kate Spade would design a coupon binder I'd be all set.  Until then I feel at peace knowing my coupons are safe and I got a smoking deal on this binder using a coupon stack at Target. Ok, so why the 3 ring binder??  Because you are going to fill it with baseball card holders at you can put your coupons in.  This way, they are all separate and none are being lost in a stack in an envelope.
Here's the inside of my binder.  It actually had two sets of rings so I have food and non-food items separate.  You can buy these binder sheets at Target fairly cheap.  They are in that weird section of baseball and pokemon cards.  You can also steal them from your kids, mine are two small for these cards though.
Step two: get your binder sheets and separate your binder into sections that make sense for YOU. As an example, I have fresh produce in one section, dairy in another, meat in a third, bread in a fourth.  I combine pasta, sauces and rice in one because they are all in the same aisle in the store.  I do the same with non-food items: soaps and body washes are together, cleaning products are on their own, laundry and dish washing to together.  So separate them in a way that makes sense to you, clip your coupons and put your small stacks of the same coupons in one little sleeve.  If you want me to tell you all my sections, as me on FB and I'll message them to you. Watch for expiration dates, sometimes similar coupons will have different ex. dates so make sure you separate those so you don't waste them! 
Step three: clip, sort and file your coupons.  Now that that is done you are almost ready to shop.  I have added some extra things to my binder to help me plan my trips.  In the front of my binder, I have a plastic sleeve for each store and some lined notebook paper.  This way, when I plan my trips, I can place my coupons that I am going to use in the sleeve and write my list on the paper.  This keeps all my stuff together so nothing gets lost in the craziness that is my life.  My awesome binder also has a cool smaller front zippered section that I keep a small pair of scissors, pens, paper clips and a calculator, just in case. If you have a regular binder, you could use a pencil case that can attach to the rings of the binder.
Ok, so that's about it.  Now you have your coupons and have organized them in their proper places.  Now when you plan your trip, they will all be easy to find and to grab.  Tomorrow I will teach you how to PLAN your shopping trip, because shopping like this does take some planning.  I'm a planner by nature, so I don't mind.  Plus saving money is part of my job description.  I also like getting crap for free. :)

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Coupons are a girl's best friend!

Ok, fair warning: this post, and probably the next few, will be about couponing.  So if you are uninterested in saving money, then skip these ones! Now I didn't always coupon.  Before kids, I was a "shop only at Clinique" and a "new designer bag every season" type of gal...but oh, how times have changed.  When Abby was first born, I started using coupons to save $1 or $2 on diapers or whatever and I thought I was awesome when my receipt would say I saved $15!  Wow!  That was like 3 starbucks!  How exciting!  Then came Jacob and then came Hannah and then came the decision for me to stay home.  Now I never made an amazing salary teaching, but it was more than I make now which is basically zero, besides the little money I get from tutoring a few times a week.  When I was going to stay home, my full-time job became to take care of the kids, run the household and save money.  David makes the money and I try hard not to spend it all ;) I am not going to get into budgeting and stuff, I'm not always the best at that myself.  I will, however, give some serious tips on getting starting couponing and a few tricks I've learned.  People always ask me to teach them what I know, so I will do my best.
Please be aware that I consider myself a semi-pro when it comes to couponing.  I know a few people that are better than me but many more that I could kick their butts.  This is not like that show "Extreme Couponing".  I actually hate that show.  It's not very realistic when it comes to everyday shopping.  Essentially those people are getting 100 of four or five items, so it's easy to save that way!  I have done transactions where I've saved 100%, but not on my weekly shopping trips, where I am buying cheese, milk and produce.  I am going to do a series of posts on couponing, the first one being on finding your coupons!
**First tip:  you cannot save big money buy using 4-5 coupons.  It just doesn't happen.  Any savings is good, but you need more coupons to save more, obviously.  I save an average of 60% when I shop, sometimes more, sometimes less.  I start by getting some coupons!  I order four papers a week delivered.  I get 2 AZ daily Stars and 2 AZ republics.  Different papers can carry different coupons so check them out before you order them. The Republic is the Phoenix paper and usually has much better coupons, but I still get the daily star too because some coupons are regional so it's good to have a variety.  I ordered my paper's on a special of $1 a week, so I pay around $16 a month in papers.  You can always get more from the store, but be sure to check the paper because some people are thieves and steal the inserts!
**Other places to get coupons: facebook, redplum, smartsource,,,, and all have printable coupons.  Usually you can print two of each per computer from the internet. Print in black and white to save money on ink, if you can. 
**Ordering coupons:  Know of a great deal coming up??  (I'll teach you to find a the great deals in another post) There are different coupon clipping services you can order from.  I like couponsbydede or Ebay.  Usually there is a small fee, like 8 cents a coupon, and you buy them in lots of 10-20, depending on the site.  This is a great way to build your stockpile (which we'll get into on another post). You can also order whole inserts and no papers from these sites.
**Other places to get q's: friends, family, neighbors that don't use their coupons.  My mom used to always print me coupons and mail them to me :) Miss that!!  Have a coupon buddy that you can trade with...maybe you need baby coupons and she needs dog ones??  Trade! You can email companies and comment on their products, usually you will get coupons in the mail.  Us pro's call this "coupons for compliments".  You could complain, but I don't like to be a jerk, so I only compliment.  Sign up for your stores loyalty cards, usually you will get coupons in the mail, if you shop enough.  There are also coupons on the products.  We call these "peelies", when they are actually ON the product, "blinkies" the little machines that are in the store or "hangies", the little hang tags. My kids are great at finding all these for me!!  I may be forgetting other ways, but you get the gist.
Ok, now you have all your post: how to organize them!  I was going to put both on one, but I have been at the computer for longer than I am allowed and my house looks like a Thomas the Train factory exploded.  I must go tend to the little ones...stay tuned for pics of my binder!!!!!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

God works in mysterious ways

Yes, I (usually) attend church with the kids on Sundays.  I don't consider myself to be OVERLY-religious, but I do have faith.  Yesterday, though, my faith was proven and I swear we met a version of Jesus; and he was driving a small, red, dusty car.
Yesterday our Supper Club took to the road and drove up to the Salt River in Mesa.  David and I are so lucky to have two other couple friends we try to hang out with on a regular basis.  The husbands, Joel and Curtis, work with David and the wives, Wendy and Marissa, are so much fun and truly great friends. The Salt River, for my MA friends is basically one long party on a river raft.  We went in college and had a blast, from what can I remember ;) We had the expectations of having fun and hoping not to get sunburned.  What happened, though, was much more than that!
Besides two near death experiences of the water trying to take us away, we had the usual River fun; lots of laughs, some drinks and a yummy bag of chips.  We made friends with some "unique" people, to put it politely and were having a blast.  Then David decides to cliff jump.  Not from a high place, but one of the lower rocks.  Against my request not to, he did anyways.  No one actually saw him jump because the current took us around a bend.  We pulled to the side and waited for him to swim back.  Then as he did, I first looked to see if he was ok, which he was except for a swollen knee, and large scrap on his chest. Then  he uttered words we dare not hear: "I lost the car key".  We all drove up together in our car, and he had the one key around a lanyard with a whistle.  Now it was at the bottom of the Salt River.  The spare was in Tucson, 3 1/2 hrs away. We were screwed.  The rest of the river trip was not as much fun, we were mostly done anyway.  As we end the trip,we turn in our tubes and make the way to the car.  David's cell phone, the only one we had, was almost dead.  Thankfully Curtis and Marissa had AAA so they opened the car for us for free so now we had access to the other phones.  To make a longer story short: after many failed options, we realize the only way to get in the car is to have Wendy's sister get our extra keys (from Oro Valley to Vail) and then drive up to Mesa. So we wait.  Its going to be a LONG wait. We're out of food, limited water and nothing around us, we try to make the best of it.  It's a good thing we were with great friends!!!  Then the haboob starts.  Again, translation for my MA friends, a haboob is a crazy, large dust storm.  Walls of dust.  Google it. Hours go by, we're basically alone in the parking lot, it's crazy windy and dusty like a mo-fo.  And then it happens.  I see a small, red car with a weird looking guy drive up right next to us.  "Did you guys lose you keys?" It was fairly obvious that we had, and as my friend Wendy said, our car looked like a third-world country: wet sheets trying to create a swamp cooler effect (because it was 109 degrees out), muddy shoes strewn about, empty coolers...not a pretty sight. "Yes"I say.  Now everyone is out of the car, wondering what this guy wants.  "We're they on a lanyard with a whistle?"  "YES!" we all say. The he pulls out the keys.  Jaws drop, we jump up and down whooping and hollering like a bunch of kids on Christmas morning, or college kids who were out of beer and suddenly find a hidden 12 pk.  It was AMAZING.  "How did you find them??" We all ask, because mind you, they were at the bottom of about 30 feet of water.  He says to call him Aquaman, and that he find missing things.  Inspired by the moment, I say thank you and god bless!  I don't think I have ever said that in a normal conversation before.  He then says that God blesses him everyday and he drives off.  We were free, also in complete and total shock.  We could drive home.  But first, cheeseburgers were in order.  Was is Jesus in a red car?  Probably not, but it's nice to think we were all blessed yesterday.  I guess God does work in mysterious ways. Thank you Aquaman.

Us ladies braving the haboob!

Friday, August 10, 2012

My first post!! first blog is it!! Having spent more than 3 hours last night just getting the blog ready to post on, I already have high expectations..haha!  But seriously, I have toyed with the idea of writing a blog for almost a year now.  It's a good way to share with family and friends what the Thomas Clan is up to and also to share some of my words of wisdom sprinkled with a hilarious story or two.  My mom, who passed away in March from breast cancer, always said I should write one.  I even registered this page almost a year ago!!  My hesitation was that my fear that I would be writing for an audience of one, and what would be the point of that?  I am already living my life so why would I need to write it down?  I've had a few friends tell me to just do it and one in particular that PROMISES me she'll read every post, soooo at least I will have an audience for two. Nevertheless, here I go.  I dedicate my blog to my mom, who encouraged me to do what I dreamed, no matter how silly :)
Those of you who know me know that I do not drink coffee.  I never have enjoyed the taste of it unless it was smothered in sugar, mocha or caramel.  Having had my metabolism go down the pooper as I turned 30 a while back, I try to avoid all those extra calories, especially in liquid form, unless, of course, it's a margarita because in that case I'll have three :) So I always have had my usual cup of tea in the morning and usually a home-made chai (or even a real one, if I am lucky) during the day. But recently, I've decided that I need some more kick and wanted to give some homemade coffee drinks a shot.  After pinteresting some recipes and testing a few out, I decided to create a delicious one that isn't half bad for you and isn't loaded with sugar. Some friends have requested my recipe so I will share!  Keep in mind that I am no fancy cook, my husband is MUCH better than me.  I am by-the-recipe type of gal, but i think this turned out pretty good.

Banana Coffee Smoothie

First thing you will have to do is make some "coffee ice cubes".  I only had instant coffee so I used 1 heaping tablespoon and mixed it with two cups of water and poured it in an ice cube tray to set over night.  I have been making two or three trays at a time so that way I have some on-hand.  I also have a plethora of empty trays left over from my baby-food making days, so there is never a shortage of those.  When your cubes are frozen, take them out and place in a zippy freezer bag for easy use.

Ok, now onto the recipe:
10 coffee ice cubes
1 small banana
1 1/4 c skim milk (or whatever milk you use)
1/8 t. vanilla extract
1 t. of sugar (sometime I use 2 t. if i want it a teeny sweeter)
a dash of cinnamon

- I "ice crush" the cubes a bit before to break them up some and then add everything else in the blender and blend till smooth.

There ya go, very easy and lower on calories.  I don't know how many, but I know it's less than a frappuccino!! One batch actually makes twice what the picture shows, I just put in in a fancy cup to look pretty in a picture.  Normally, I fill up my venti iced starbucks cup and get my drink on.    Try it out and let me know how you like it!!