Friday, December 31, 2010

Around here you gotta earn your keep!

I have some goals for 2011 (wow! that is crazy to, type!) that I'll be sharing one day real soon, if I was on top of it I'd have them finished already.  One of my goals is to continue to trim our family's grocery bill.  I have considered many options: skipping meals, having the kids alternate who eats dinner each night, a meat free existance. None of those seemed viable- I was completely joking about the kids (don't call CPS), I get waaayyyy grouchy when I don't eat so skipping meals is out and we are a carnivorous family who enjoys meat! I went back to the drawing board and remembered a Christmas gift my hubby gave me:

Ignore the bed head and focus on the waffle maker, that is my money saver.  Yep, that $10 waffle maker is an investment! Our oldest is an oatmeal kind of girl, she eats it every morning without fail.  I had already figured out how to save money on oatmeal, you can scope that out here.  But, my youngest, she is not a big fan of oatmeal.  She is a waffle gal, everyday the kid eats waffles.  Have you checked out the price of waffles lately though...whew! At our Wal-Mart they run $4.38 per 24.  That makes them 18 cents per waffle, doesn't seem like a lot but she eats an average of 10 a week so that's $95 a year.

With my new handy dandy waffle maker I'm going to lower that breakfast cost for our 4 year old.  A box of Krusteaz waffle mix is $1.78, add in the eggs and oil and it is about $4 to make the entire box. A box makes about 12 large, round waffles with 4 pieces each. So the cost to make 48 smaller (child size portions) is 8 cents per waffle, using the same 10 per week formula our waffle consumption cost goes down to $41 per year. I could probably lower the cost a bit more using flour and other ingredients instead of a box mix.  But the reality is that I am a busy mom so a box mix works for me. 

I plan to make these in one big batch and freeze them, just like the fine folks at Eggo. Some will be plain, some will have blueberries that I froze after buying them at Wal-Mart reduced to $1 a pint and some will be filled with strawberries that we picked and froze over the summer (free and family time!!).  I may get really crazy throw some chocolate chips in some for the weekends. 

Now, I know you are thinking: that is an awful lot of work to save $55!!  It isn't really that much work, it will take less than an hour, be healthier than the store bought frozen variety and save some moolah. But add that to the $132 I save in oatmeal and we are saving about $190 a year to feed our munchkins breakfast and that is without coupons, which I occasionally find on the items needed for these DIY breakfasts!  Again, some of you may think $190 isn't that much money but here is some examples of how it compares to other aspects of our expnses:
$190 = 1/3 of the total cost to insure our house or cars
$190 = The cost to pay our water bill for 5 months
$190 = Our cell phone costs for 3 months
$190 = a summer of entertainment with a family pass to our local pool : )

Thursday, December 30, 2010

My 75% off Target trip

Today I went into the big city, one with more than 1 stop light and a Target! And a Panera Bread, be still my heart.   I didn't have high hopes of finding any good deals since my Wal-Mart was barren of after Christmas deals yesterday.  But was I delightfully surprised!  Here is a quick recap of my visit:
My stomach is always on my mind so of course I started grabbing food!  The Poppycock (in the back) were only $1 each (reg. $3.99), the brownie mix with a wooden spoon was $0.75!! I will use the brownie mix at our church family bingo or give as a thank you with a note about being sweet to someone deserving.

My 4 year old was so confused as to why I was buying wrapping paper, I tried explaining...she just wanted to look at toys. Here were my deals, 5 rolls of wrapping paper at $0.62 (reg. $2.50) each and 2 at $1.25 each (reg. $5). I also scored 3 rolls of tape for less than a buck, 6 shirt boxes for a $1, bows for $0.50 each and two packs of gift tags for $1 each! My wrapping supplies for next year total $9.35!!!

The stockings will be hung with care with our new stocking hangers.  Our old ones were not all. They came from The Dollar Tree 7 years ago before they had kinda cute stuff aaaaannnnddd they were gold.  I hate gold!  So I was on a mission to replace them this year, these cute snowflakes fit the bill, 12/24 they would have rang up at  $25.98 for the set of 4 but today they came home with me for the bargain price of
$6.49!!! Less than the original cost of 1!  I can't wait to use them, no one else in my house was feeling the excitement that I was about these babies, I showed them to the dog and he gave me this look:

Thanks Bo! No on here loves a deal like me...back to the bargains

A little home decor...yah! The Dt. Mtn. Dew was not purchased at Tar-Jay not is it part of this segment, I just have to have one within arms reach to, seriously I do!  See that wreath there, I have long dreamed of  a cute berry wreath but the problem is I'm cheap so I'd never buy one.  Until today when that $20 wreath joined us for 5 smackers.  And yes I know $20 isn't a lot for a wreath but it wasn't on my radar for $20,  $5 works for me.  Those beeeaautiful chrome thingmajigs beside the wreath are actually flowers and planters, they were $2 each!  The planter is super nice and worth more than $2, the flowers are an added bonus.   Let's all cross your green thumb (is that possible) that I don't kill them, I'm not a gardener. Here's a closer look:

Plus, my mom will be happy I have an indoor plant.  Our lack of plants bothers her. Are you happy Mom? 

And now for the Grand Finale!! Drum roll please......

Yep, a dining set! No, not really but I did score the table runner, napkins and napkin rings. Wanna guess how much?  How does $8 sound...yep for all of it! The runner (reg. $19.99) , 8 cloth snowflake napkins (originally $4.99 for 4) and 8 silver napkin rings ($7.99 per set of 4)!!! Woo to the Hoo!! Double bonus, we live in a snowy area so I feel like I'm ok to leave this out through January so I can enjoy it a bit even though I HATE snow! 

Isn't it pretty?? I'm so excited!

So here is my Target total.....$38!!  A few things were 80 - 90% off so it was better than I thought!
Regular price would have been $180
So I saved $142!!!  

Did anyone else score any post Christmas deals?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Need a last minute gift?

Ok, raise you hand if your still Christmas shopping?  Whew, both my hands are busy stuffing Christmas goodies in my mouth so luckily I don't need to put any in the air!  But, you over there in the corner with your hand up, you still need a gift?  I've got a super easy one that you can whip up in a jif!
Here are your needed supplies:
-1 white salad plate (scored mine at the Wal-Marts for $2.96)
-Modge Podge
-Scrapebook paper
-a Dry erase marker (look for one with a magnet on the lid)
-Magnet (optional)
Plate stand (any craft store for $2-$5 buck-a roos)

Using Word type "Notes" in a font that makes you all warm and fuzzy inside, print it in your cutesy paper or just a colored paper.  Cut it out in an oval or circle.
Carefully Mod Podge it on your plate and let it dry.
If you go the magnet route adhere it to the back edge of the plate.
Ok, your finished!
Wrap that puppy up, you have given the gift of communication or organization and a cutesy message board!

If you have the paper and mod podge you could easily complete this for less than $10!

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Coasting to Christmas...sorta!

It's official, my family has moved to a snow globe that some pesky kid keeps shaking! It is the 16th day of December, we have had the white stuff falling all but 3 days this month and today we are getting hammered!  My kids have attended school 2.5 of the last 9 days, and are sure to make it 2.5 of 10 tomorrow!  Needless to say, I haven't had time to blog!  I have been too busy dressing and re-dressing kids, barbies and babies, refereeing squabbles and determining whose turn it is to lick the spoon after we make our latest baked treat.  But, I did want to give you an idea for a DIY Christmas gift that you could do this weekend This one is sure to be a hit with Grandmas, Grandpas aunts, uncles...the whole crew! 

Here's what ya need to get going:
- 4 4x4 white tiles from Lowe's (these ring in at about $0.25 a pop)
- 4 pictures, trimmed to fit the tiles
- Mod Podge (you know I love me some Mod Podge!)
- Mod Podge clear acrylic sprat
- Paint brush
-Cork or felt
-Glue gun

This is a super simple craft! After you have trimmed the picture go ahead and slather some mod podge on the back of a picture.  Carefully adhere it to the tile then brush a layer of mod podge on the front.  Repeat for the other 3 tiles. 

After and hour or so apply another thin layer of mod podge and a bit later one more for good measure.  After the final layer is dry you can start the layers of acrylic spray.  Do 4 or 5 thin layers of spray allowing 15 minutes dry time in between. 

In the meantime cut your felt or cork to fit the back of the tile.  Either will work, felt is WAAAAAY cheaper though and happens to be what I used.  When everything is good and dry use you handy dandy glue gun to secure the felt or cork to the tile.  Stand back and behold your awesomeness!!

This set will be in my Mother in Law's gift, those are her 4 darling grandkids.  My mom is getting a set too!  Since my hubby and I were basically teen parents I forget that some of you may not have kiddos to show off. Ok, to clarify, I was 23 and he was 24 but we had only been married 13 months when we welcome our oldest so I feel like we have been parents FOREVER! 
Anyhow, some ideas if you don't have kids would be vacation pics, or pictures from the internet of favorite spots.  You could use word to create a cute monogram for your sister or initials for newlyweds, favorite quotes or bible verses even showcase your favorite sports team...Let's Go Mountaineers!  Sorry, it is a reflex, I hear sports and think WV!
Just have fun!  And the best part is these are cheap-o!  If you have everything but the tiles this project will only set you back a buck!  If you have to buy the spray and mod podge try making multiple sets to lower your total cost per set!   

Thursday, December 9, 2010

DIY gifts for the Grandma's....well sorta

My girls are lucky to have two Grandma's who adore them, Quinn, our oldest is the first grandchild on both sides of the family.  My hubs parents had waited awhile for a wee one, although I don't think they expected their youngest child who had been married only 5 months to call and say he would be providing them one! They were over the moon when she arrived 7 and half years ago, our oldest nephew joined the crew just a few months later.  Rounding out the posse on my hubby's side is our Reagan who joined us 4 years ago and Michael the baby at 2.   My girls are still the only offspring in the grandchildren category among my brothers and I. In an effort to chronicle the kids in their early years and give the Grandma's something to show off to their friends I started making photo calendars as Christmas gifts a few years ago. 

5 years into this tradition it is less of a surprise and more of an expectation from both Grandma's.  I joked with my mom that I just didn't have time to do it this year....she didn't all.  She then told me to go to my room and make a calendar and don't come out until it's finished!!  Yes ma'am!! The first year I started doing this there was only one or two places that offered photo calendars, now my email box receives offers from a different company daily. 

I consider this gift to be a DIY sorta  because it does require a couple of hours to sort through the pictures and arrange them in the calendar.  Most places even let you include birthdays, anniversaries or other special events too.  I have used several companies over the years, this year and last I went with Vista Print.  They offer great prices, good quality and quick turn-a-round time...everything I look for.  They are currently offering 50% off!! Woo to the hoo!! By the way, I didn't do the express shipping, I ordered last Monday and received them on just 8 days! At around $8-$15 each they are affordable for everyone too, you usually get a discount for buying more than one too and since we have found that aunts and uncles enjoy them too why not get a few made! 

This is a gift that is truly enjoyed all year and since I know both Grandma's have everyone I've made stashed somewhere they will be enjoyed for years to come!

Here are some of the cuties gracing this year's edition of the Raffo Family Calendar:

Reagan: The elusive rebel

Anthony: The Dare Devil

 Quinn: The Sweetheart

Michael: The Wild Man

P.S. The peeps at Vista Print are not aware of me or my lil' blog and did nor compensate me to include them... just sayin'.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Easy homemade gift idea

Remember way back in October when I said I was making most of my Christmas gifts this year and you all laughed. Well, with all of my  Christmas shopping complete I am happy to report that I did make at least half of my gifts, if not more.  If my kids would have been happy with a bleached shirt instead of insisting on a Nintendo DS and Buzz Lightyear I could have made more, darn kids for ruining it.   The gifts that I was unable to make were all on sale and I used a coupon for most of them. So  I am happy to report that I came in over $100 under my Christmas budget which was pretty modest to begin with, like below $500 for everyone on our list. 2 kids, 2 parents, 4 grandparents/parents/ step-parents, siblings, aunts, nephews, cousins, friends, get the picture. 

Over the next dew days I'll share some of my gifts with you.  Since some of the recipients read the blog I won't be mentioning who they are for most of the time. First up, a simple and small gift.  A nice gift for a mail carrier or someone you want to show your appreciation.  Since my kids go to a school that has a lot of extra teachers that help in addition to their classroom teachers I may be handing out some of these to those teachers:

How cute is that vintage milk jug??? Cute and useful, two of my favorite things and everything my kids are not! Just kidding, they are useful sometimes and always cute : ) These cuties serve as a conversion chart when you are cooking, so you can figure out that 6 Teaspoons = 2 TBSP when you can't find your measuring spoon because your 4 year old has it hid under her bed until she can use it in the sandbox. Did, I come up with these?? Heck no, I am not that thoughtful or that good at math but thanks for thinking I'm capable.  The queen of cooking Martha Stewart created these puppies.  I bet she lays awake at night thinking up really useful stuff, I just try to think about where the latest lost item could be in our house.  After you download these cuties, cut 'em out, laminate them and attach a magnet to the back, or head to kinkos and they'll do it for you. If you live in the sticks like me and there is a foot of snow on the ground you'll have plenty o' time to do it yourself.  You could give these with cookies, or some other baked good.  If you aren't a baker, like me, I have another idea too:

Hot Cocoa Cones!  These are soooo easy to make and paired with a coffee mug or the milk jug would make a great gift.  You can buy the cone shaped cello bags at any craft store, I got mine at Hobby Lobby, 25 for $1.99.  You will use 2 per cone so prepare for that!  My girls and I double bagged them, added cocoa powder, chocolate chips, crushed candy canes and marshmallows.  Then we tied the inner bag, wrapped a bow around the outer one and ta daaa! Cute gift!

You should be able to make both of these for less than a buck, so if you have to give several (we are handing out 15!!) you won't break the bank!

Tomorrow I'll be covering what the Grandma's are getting from the girls.  Both of them read the blog on occasion but since they pretty much demand that we give this gift (this is year 4) I think the element of surprise is out!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Hi, remember me...crazy deal lady???

Ok, first off, I'm sorry.  I quit blogging for a while because I was overwhelmed.  See, I have this problem where I can't say no when someone asks me for help.  My kids school, soccer, 4-H, church....the list goes on and on.  Add in the 2 kids a husband and my wife and mom duties and I became too overwhelmed.  I was stressing to blog everyday so I just quit doing it at all.  Yeah, in retrospect that wasn't the best approach.  Plus, I was convinced I was the only one who would even notice.  But then something funny happened, people asked me and emailed to ask why I wasn't blogging anymore.  After the initial shock wore off I started thinking maybe I should put on my big girl pants and try again. So, I decided to give it another go, but I won't put unrealistic expectations to blog 6 times a week like my pal Pioneer Woman.  Ok, so maybe she and I aren't pals and she has no idea who I am but we both like to blog so I can see a friendship on the horizion. 

So, on my first day back I'm gonna share a deal I did yesterday at Wal-Mart.  Hasbro has some coupons for $5 off games:


So, you can use those on regular games or head for the travel games like I did.  My Wal-Mart only had travel Hungry Hippos and Battleship but get this, they were only $5.24!! SWEEEETTTT!!!  I got them for $0.24 each!  The payer (as they are called by my children, you may refer to them as a cashier) was shocked when I used 6 and brought my total down by $30!!!  I plan to use them as stocking stuffers for my girls and give some to my nephews, one is on a travel hockey team so they travel to games a lot.  If you have a Target or Toys R Us in your area they have the travel games priced similiarly!