Tuesday, February 16, 2010

We made out at the Gap sale!

We ended up with a pretty heft haul at Gap yesterday for their 45% off sale! Even though there was a major winter snowstorm on it's way in, we trudged out in the snow, credit card in hand!
We got there about 20 min after they opened and boy am I glad we went early. Within 20 min or so, it got insanley packed! Todd found himself a pair of work pants for only $3 (!!!) as well as 3 pairs of jeans for around $15. I got Brooke a few of the favorites I've been drooling over on the internet for spring, as well as a pair of plain white Robeez sandals that will match many outfits this spring/summer. I got the most stuff for Luke for next fall. He got several pairs of shoes/boots, a book bag for preschool, and several shirts. I did pick up two pairs of pants for myself, but both just don't fit right, especially for $25 still. I'd rather get a pair from (gasp) JCPenney's for half the price. Sorry, I have a lot of love for the Worthington Wear pants for work!

Anyway, here is a few pictures of the kids in their new clothes:

I also bought about a bag full of sale extras to sell of Ebay. My "strategy" was to pick things that there was only one left of, thinking it was probably a popular item! Seems like it worked pretty well. I've started listing things on Gymbofriends and I've sold quite a few, but the only thing I'm getting from that is rewards and points towards silver. I didn't add any extra for them. Tomorrow I plan on listing on ebay and starting my bid at the price I paid. If they buy it for that amount, great, if they pay more, added bonus!

Our frugal dinner...

We got another surprise bill tonight...$241 at Gymboree that I thought was part of last month's $500 bill. Oppps! Yeah, this is a great example of how I got WAY off track on meeting our savings goals. And just because I needed to use my Gymbucks (aka, I bought $500 worth and got $250 off, plus another 5% off) is no excuse. I shouldn't have spent that much period on just part of Brooke's spring waredrobe!
I hate grocery shopping because it's one of the biggest budget items for us. I also hate grocery shopping because it feels like it never ends. Every Thursday I start thinking about it again. I'll write a list of what we have on hand and I'll try to mingle that with sale ads and coupons, but a lot of times I fall into the trap of seeing a recipe that looks delicious, and it might use up the chicken we have in the freezer, but then I need to buy 5 things to make the recipe. We also fall into the trap of quick snack items, especially for the kids.

My solution, a month long menu, well in our case it went from Sunday to March 18th, the day we leave for our Gatlinburg vacation, so about 33 days. We're going to try not to eat out or get carry out, not even for lunch, that entire time. AND we're going to try to stay under $50 every two weeks which is a BIG goal for us considering we have been spending about $150 every week.

I will post my monthly menu soon, but tonight's meal was frugal AND delicious, so I had to share. Our locally owned grocer had chicken leg quarters on sale for $.49/lb. I was able to get 6lbs (6 leg quarters - which is basically the drumstick and thigh I believe) for around $3. Last night I boiled them in some water and taco seasoning (I made a big batch of homeade seasoning since our family loves tacos). I then shredded all the chicken off the bone. I put 1/3 aside for tacos tonight and divided the other 2/3 into freezer bags, one for chicken tacos in the future and one for chicken tortilla soup next week. I then saved the chicken broth for both tonights spanish rice and next weeks tortilla soup saving me about $4 from two large boxed chicken broth.

For tonights dinner, I just tossed the shreded chicken in a skillet with more taco seasoning and just a tad of water. I also threw in a little corn to make it stratch a bit. We just threw that on some small soft taco flour tortillas we found at GFS for under $2 for 50 of them, topped them with chopped tomatoes, lettuce, cheese, a few packets of Taco Bell sauce I found in the fridge and a little sour cream.

As I side, I made spanish rice. I had remembered a recipe my brother had to make for his 4th grade class...a rice with tomatoes and bacon. For years I've tried to recreate it, but the second I laid eyes on this, I knew this was it. You have to check out this recipe at http://oneplusoneequalssix.blogspot.com/2009/06/spanish-rice.html. Added bonus...I've had two giant bags of long grain white rice sitting in my pantry for a long time, but never knew what to make with it. Pathetic huh? I'm a minute rice kinda gal. But this recipe not only used the rice (only 1 cup made a HUGE pot), but it also used up green onions I had for later this week, chicken stock I made last night, and a leftover can of diced tomatoes from dinner last night.
***These are borrowed pictures from the internet. Brooke was *dying* of strarvation, so I rushed to the table to feed her before I had time to snap pictures!***

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Kids clothes...

I've only been shopping for kids clothes for about three years, but I finally think I've figured out the best way to save money. You know the old saying "it takes money to make money?" Well, I take that saying to heart! Well, not really making money, but maybe saving money.

Anyway, in the past, I've always been good about shopping clearence racks, buying ahead, buying used clothes, etc. BUT, almost everything I bought was just a single item. For boys, it was fine most of the time because pretty much anything matched a pair of jeans or khaki pants, but for Brooke this just hasn't been working out! Do you seriously know how many shades of pink there are or how hard it is to find plain jeans for girls without hearts or flowers embroiderd on them?!?!?

I recently joined a messag forum called Gymbofriends and started "educating" myself. My first thought was a bunch of prissy moms who blow money on their kids clothes. But I figured I coud scoop up the deals by buying their used clothes that were to small. But what I didn't know was all the coupon/sale savvy moms on that site. With the knowledge I've learned on that site, I am hoping to break even from now on as far as the kids clothes and a few items I might actually make money on! I first sarted buying Brooke's spring/summer clothes during the Gymboree Rd Balon Sale. Everything was $6.99 and under plus I used a 20% off coupon. I also got 5% off for using my Gymboree credit card and recived $25 in Gymbucks for every $50 I spent. I was able to sell those on Ebay for $5/$25 Gymbuck. I also bought a few extras and sold them on ebay. One dress was bought for about $4 and went for $25! Crazy! And the resale for these outfits are great. I should get back at least what I paid for these items after she's done wearing them.

Then the Old Navy Baby sale came around. I only got the kids a few things, $4 sweat shorts for Luke, brown thong sandals for Luke, and oxford shirt, anda dress for Brooke. I also got myself a pair of pants for work at 40% off. On top of the already reduced prices, I got free shipping for spending $50, $10 off with the THANKYOU code, and an extra 15% off. I ended up getting 9 things for $45!

Gap has always been my favorite brand for Luke but I just haven't seen that great of sales s I've been buying most of this spring/summer waredrobe online, through Gymbofriends or ebay, or in store at Once Upon a Child and Moms Market. I also bought him two pairs of jeans during their buy one, get one for $10 jeans sale yesterday because I coulld use a 25% off coupon in conjunction with it. $30 for two pairs of jeans isn't too bad.

But lo and behold, Gap is now having a ridiculously good sale tomorrow, 45% off for cardholders!!!!! That is like insane considering it'll sell used for about the same amount! I'm so excited to not only get a few things for Todd and I, but also to get a few things for Brooke. Luk may get another shirt or two, and another pair of flip flops, but that's it!

Another HUGE tip I've learned is buying things in outfits! For resale purposes, this is HUGE, but it also is nice for planning purposes. I've started keeping complete outfits in the kids closets in those canvas shoe cubbies. I don't always get the kids dressed (either my mom does or Todd when he gets home for work) and sometimes I'm embaressed at how mismatched they are. So this has helped us tremendously!

This sure beats reselling Circo brand shorts that I paid $5 for for $1.50 at Mom's Market though! It may have cost less overall, but the quality just isn't there so it's hard to justify asking much for it when it'll probably only last through one or two more kids. But quality clothes go for more resale becase the quality is so good. It still looks brand new even if we wore it every week all winter long! Not to mention they look cute nd "stylin" inall their clothes too! Now if I'd just dress like I cared as well...haha!

Anyone else have tips of cutting your clothing balance???

Friday, February 12, 2010

And I just have to share...

something happened to my baby! She's growing so quickly, I just had to share a quick picture or two of her!An this last one, I swear she was actually stapped in and we were right there. It was quite halarious that Luke has fallen in so much love with a stroller we found at the curb (even though it looked brand new!) We found it when I was still pregnant with Brooke and Luke recently found it back in storage! Go figure! One day he decided it would fit Brooke perfect and much to our surprise, it actually did. This was a one and only time though..Curious George is now the lucky rider in this vehicle of style...prepared for long walks as soon as this 20 ft of snow melts away! Oh, and yes, he has no pants on. During potty training he picked up this no pants thing and it's stuck. Thankfully it's just a home habit or we'd have some trouble! ;P

Our first bulk meat purchase!

We've talked about it for years but we finally walked the walk. I've done lots of research on the benefit of buying grass fed beef (mainly the decrease in fat and the increase in Omega 3's) and I've searched local farms high and low. From my research, it ran from about $3-$6/lb fully processed. And there is every range from someone who posts on Craigslist (with bad grammer and spelling errors) to farmers who come highly recommended on many local eating sites yet have a wait list at least a year long to recieve their meat, yet still require a $250 deposit up front! I did end up finding our farm, Bare Family Farm on Craigslist, but he had a very nice ad with a link to a very informative and nice webpage.
In early December we actually went to the farm to visit and they were the nicest people. Showed us around the farm and even invited us in so our kiddos could warm up and play with their kids. The farm is a working farm, aka, not the picturesque farms you see in a issue of Martha Stewart Living, but overall very clean and a great set up for raising beef and their 4-H goats (their kid's projects for the county fair).

Three weekends ago we picked up our first bulk meat order from the butcher, 142 lbs, a 1/4 a side of beef. Just for anyone who is curious how much meat that actually is, here is pictures of everything on our counter.
We actually ended up giving my parent's about 50 lbs of it so after all that, it really isn't all that much. It will easily last us 4 months I'm sure though if we only eat beef 2-3 times per week.
And just in case anyone is interested, this is a picture of how our beef is marked. I was a little weary beforehand about knowing what was what, but I was so relieved to see the packages marked this way, with the date and what each item is.
For 142 lbs we got approx 40 lbs of ground beef (1 lb packages), 6 packages Tbones steaks (3/4" steaks, 2 per package), 6 Ribeye Steaks (3/4" thick, 2 per package), 2 packages of soup bones, 2 or 3 packages of short ribs, 4 packages of beef stew meat, 5 packages of cube steak, a half of a flank steak and several roasts.
So hows the taste? This was probably my biggest concern is that we wouldn't like it. Overall, we do like it and will do it again. The biggest thing for us to get used to so far is one, not having large steaks. In a restaurant, we are used to being brought T-bone steaks that amost fall over the side of the plate. With grass fed beef, especially from a younger, smaller (aka, more tender) cow, the steaks are MUCH smaller then we are used to. BUT, we know this is the amount of steak we should be eating so it's just something to get used to. The other is more variety. We had flank steak the other night and it was great. Todd asked when we could have it again. Well, the next time we buy a cow since cows ony have one flank per side. But we like flank more often than this. So that is something we just need to get used to.
As for the taste, I think it's delicious. We made burgers the other night with the ground beef and they were just to die for. Steaks are okay, but we just arn't huge steak fans since we don't eat anything around the fat. Flank steak was incredible and we're looking forward to trying a roast, short ribs, and cube steak in this weeks menu.
Also stay tuned for my report on buying 1/4 pig (110 lbs). We're picking it up tomorrow. Not sure how it's going to fit in our already stuffed to the brim deep freezer and fridge freezer, but tomorrow morning I better get it figured out!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

I'm back...to living on a dime!

Call it a blogging break, call it a case of the winter blues, call it whatever you want, but I took a break. My main reason...I felt a little funny writing a blog called "Living Large on a Dime" when we were not living it. We were living large, but we were also paying large. Our biggest splurge ever, a third vehicle.

We did need a bigger vehicle, and we decided that keeping my 2003 Honda Accord would save on gas mileage to and from work, but still, it wiped out our entire savings. We still have our 2 year emergency fund, sitting high and tight earning a whopping 4.5% BUT it's been a long time since we've lived exclusively on my income along to build back up our savings. We've also had some of those "large, one or few times a year purchases" like buying a 142 lbs of beef in bulk, 110 lbs of pork, paying 1 year of trash service, paying 1 year of preschool, carpet for our basement remodel, title and taxes on th new vehicle, and many more I feel like. So we have gone from living very large to saving every dime we can. We've even resorted to making as much extra money as we can. I've been working my rear off bringing in extra income by selling things we don't need on Ebay/Craigslist/several other diaper/clothing resale sites. I've made close to $1,000 in the past month. Todd has been pulling in extra money by shoveling snow which we have been getting A LOT of lately! He's also been finding odd jobs like painting a friends interior, selling tools he no longer needs (or has two of), and making raised planter boxes from the extra decking we had left over. Who knew he could be so efficient during the small 1 hr window when both kiddos were napping!

A big area of improvement for us has been tracking expenses. We've never been serious about this until now, mainly because I always thought I had a pretty good grasp on what we spent and where it went. Anymore, it's gotten out of control. So we started tracking everything...how much we spent, how much we had come in, how we paid for it, and how much we saved. Only 2 weeks in and we're really excited to see how it's coming along.

Another huge improvement, mainly for me, NO EATING OUT! I'm ashamed to admit it, but when I became pregnant with Brooke, I craved McDonald's sweet teas BAD! But of course you can't just go through the drive thru for a $1, so I added on breakfast as well for about $3-$4 per day. Then to make matters worse, I got into the habit of grabbing food at work when I was running late, which was basically everyday. It wasn't anything special - sandwich, chips and a pop but it came to $5-$6. So almost $10 a day for food. For the past three weeks, I have not ate out once! Tonight was the first night we've had dinner out in a LONG time too. We got carry out from a bar and grill type place and only because it was Todd's birthday and he had recieved a gift card. Halfway into eating it, we realized this is one thing we really don't miss. Our biggest cravings have been fresh vegtables.

So, here's to my committment to get back on th frugal living train. We've got a lot of thing we plan on buying in the next few months, so hopefully documenting on how I got the best price on things will be quite an intersting journey.