Making Your Own Cleaning Supplies

I’ve recently begun making my own cleaning products. It’s incredibly cost effective the products work just as great if not better! When I started researching homemade cleaning products I was surprised at the percentage of water in most products. Just one more reason to keep making my own.

MY TOP 5 FAVORITE CLEANING SUPPLY RECIPES

Fake Windex from Fake-It Frugal

Miracle cleaner from One Good Thing

Dishwasher detergent from Simply Designing

Fake Febreeze from Fake It Frugal

Homemade Oxiclean from Money Saving Mom

Tot School: Christmas Learning Gifts

For Christmas we got Eleanor a couple of learning gifts and we’ve been having so much fun with them!
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IKEA Mula Stack & Nest Cups
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IKEA Mula Bead Roller Coaster

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Melissa and Doug Geometric Stacker

We also got her many board books with Amazon’s 4-for-3 promotion. She seems to like the Sandra Boyton board books the best and asks for us to read them over and over again. Especially Happy Hippo, Angry Duck which is perfect because we’re focusing on feelings lately!

Happy Hippo, Angry Duck

Image taken from Amazon.com

Planning Your Coupon Routine

Developing a coupon routine has really made a huge difference in how successful I have been with coupon-ing.  Coupon clipping and bargin hunting can take a lot of time and effort but over the past year I have tweaked and perfected my coupon routine.

My coupon routine starts on Saturday.  Saturday is when my two favorite coupon sites, the Krazy Coupon Lady and Southern Savers release their match-ups for Target, CVS, and Walgreens.  First I look at the stockpile items offered for the week and print/find the coupons to match.   Then I look at the ads in a more general sense to help plan my menu and to decide which store has the best price on the items that I need for the week (ex: we’re out of Cling wrap and while it is not a rock-bottom price at Walgreens it is on sale for a fairly decent price).

I then place 5 scraps of paper in front of me and make my 4 lists: Target, CVS, Walgreens, Grocery.  I put those lists along with the coupons I will need in a corresponding envelope for that store.  The last scrap of paper is for notes on which coupons to grab from the next day’s paper before I start out.

When I first started coupon-ing I went to the closet stores whenever it was convenient for me during my week.   This didn’t work very well because if I got to the store on Wednesday all of the items I was looking for were sold out.  I decided not only to change the day and time when I started coupon-ing but also the location.

We live very close to a state university.   I found out that by shopping near the university most of the sale items were in stock.  I imagine this is because college students are not out at Walgreens at 12:05 am on a Saturday night trying to score deals.  I found a Walgreens and a CVS that were not open 24 hours.   This new route also allowed for me to make a circle of stores instead of going in all different directions.  And this new route was only 3 minutes further than my “convenient” route.

I start at Walgreens at 7:30 am.   I am usually the first person in the store that day.  There is usually a young man as the only cashier who is my buddy.   We chat and sometimes he’ll go grab some of the items I check out with for himself!  I also grab my 2nd paper at Walgreens (our newspaper will only deliver one copy to our home).  After Walgreens I head to Target, then CVS, and then I finally finish my coupon morning at Aldi’s.

Aldi’s is grocery store chain that offers a “no frills” grocery shopping experience that allows the company to offer groceries for a very low price.   You need to bring your own bags, bag your own groceries, and rent a shopping cart for a quarter.  There are also not as many choices as a traditional grocery store and they do not offer services such as a bakery, deli, or pharmacy.  Aldi’s does not accept coupons but I find that their prices are lower than other grocery store chains so I try to get most of my non-stockpile items here.

I take my grocery list to Aldi’s and cross off as many items as possible.  Then I head home to show the family all of my loot and brag about my savings!   Whatever items I did not get today that I really need for the week I will grab later at Publix, the grocery store closest to my home.

Later in the day on Sunday I discard all of my expired coupons from my coupon binder and clip and place the new coupons from that day’s paper.

Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday I keep my eyes open for fellow couponers posting deals on coupon sites for Target and Walgreens.  Also on Wednesday I make a list for stockpile deals that will be at Publix (Publix starts their deals on Thursdays).   On Thursday before I have to pick up L from my mother-in-laws I go to Publix and to Target (if there have been enough new deals) to pick up stockpiling items and whatever items we discovered that we need since my Sunday trip (mainly milk and produce).

I’ll admit that it at first it wasn’t easy to give up such a big chunk of my weekend time but now I’m so glad I did and have made it part of my weekly routine.   If L is up by 7:30 on Sundays I take her and IbDad with me but it’s kind of nice when she is not.   My shopping usually takes less than 2 hours but it’s alone time none the less!   I crank my car stereo up loud, take my time in the stores, and sometimes stop for a Starbucks.

Try changing up your routine when coupon-ing gets boring or becomes a dreaded chore.   It may be just the change you need!

2012 Goals

This year I am thinking more about goals for our family than personal resolutions.   As long as I can remember I’ve had a New Year’s Resolution to lose weight.   Last year I lost 10 lbs and I’m proud of that!  But this year I don’t feel pressure to lose weight.  I’m very happy with where my life is at and I’ve found many cute plus size clothing retailers so I no longer feel pressure to lose weight to fit into clothes that I like!

Retrospectively I thought that losing weight would make me a better person.   And that’s simply not true.   My actions make me a better person not something as superficial as my weight!

Here are my goals for 2012.

Financial Goals

1. Improve credit score

2. Stay on track with my household budget

3. Increase income

Health Goals

1. Find out why I have crippling stomach cramps.

2. Exercise more.

3. Drink more water

Family Goals

1. Start L’s tot school.

2. Spend more time together as a couple.

3. Use what we already have instead of buying new things.

L’s Favorite Things: 2011 Edition

As the holiday shopping season has it’s big kick-off next week (although I’ve already started and am halfway done) I thought that I would do a series of posts of our favorite things!

L, my daughter, is a very active 13 month old.  Likes: cheese, cats, long lukewarm baths and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse when she can get it.  Dislikes: getting dressed, vacuum cleaners and weaning off the bottle.  Favorite song: The Itsy Bitsy Spider.

L’s Top 10 Favorite Things

1. The Fisher-Price Laugh and Learn Kitchen.  She received this kitchen last Christmas from her grandparents and she’s played with it almost everyday for the past 6 months.  It does the usual Fisher-Price things: spanish, learning, and music.  She likes to store things in the oven.  This Christmas I plan on making her some felt food to go with her kitchen and getting her some pots and pans from Ikea.

Fisher Price Learn and Laugh Kitchen

2. Melissa and Doug Puzzles.  Recently L started playing with the puzzles when we would go to the library and she seems to favor these awesome Melissa and Doug puzzles.  They keep her entertained for a really long time, she sits still and plays and sings with them.   She also hides the puzzle pieces around the house!  This Christmas I plan on getting the puzzle storage rack as well as a couple more puzzles.

Melissa and Doug Puzzle Rack

3. An old wipes container filled with fabric pieces.  I first saw this idea at A Spotted Pony.   L was always going after the diaper wipes container to yank out wipes by the dozen so I saved one and filled it with cut up decorator fabrics that my mom gave me (she’s an interior decorator and is always giving me her old fabric samples!).

4. Small tape measures.  L loves to pull the tape out and watch it snap back in.

5. The Fisher-Price Laugh and Learn Laptop.  L will repeatedly pull it out and play with this laptop throughout the day.  The only problem is if you leave it on the spanish mode you will get “Hola… that means hello!” stuck in your head.

6. A big plastic bouncy ball.  I can’t find one online but if you go to the ball pit at either Target or Toys R Us (I recommend TRU for a cheaper price) you’ll be able to find one.  Ours cost me $1.25.

7. Ikea Mula Stacking Rings.   As soon as L gets to her room she makes a beeline for this ring stack.   She likes to unstack them, roll them around on the ground, chew on them, pretend they are ice skates, the list goes on and on.

Ikea Mula Stacking Rings

8. Baby Touch and Feel Animal Books.  L and I usually pick out books together once a month and I like to let her (gently) peruse the offerings until she comes away with something that she likes.   Time after time she comes back with the baby touch and feel animal books.  I think we have every kind!

Baby Touch and Feel Animals

9. Her sensory tub.   For those of you not familiar a sensory tub is just a container filled with stuff that encourages your child to explore within the tub.  Most sensory tubs are filled with a base (oatmeal, beans, rice) and then have other objects in them.  L has measuring cups to scoop things out of her tub.   Here are some excellent sensory tub ideas.

10. Melissa and Dough High Seas Symphony.   This one is lots of fun for me too!   I love to break out these instruments and sing with L.   This is also a great set to share with friends.   One afternoon we invited some of our mommy & me friends out to a park and had a jam session.   It was great!

Melissa and Dough High Seas Symphony

As you can see I really like Melissa and Doug toys although I didn’t realize until now how much we love our Fisher Price toys as well.  Of course, the one thing that I did not put on this list but is certainly #1 for L is attention from IbD and I.  Keep in mind that it’s YOU that your kids really want, not all the toys (well, at this age anyways!).

Grab a Starbucks for a friend!

Starbucks has an awesome offer starting this Thursday and ending on Saturday

Anytime between 2 and 5 PM on November 17-20th, choose between a gingerbread latte, peppermint mocha, and caramel brulee latte and get the 2nd drink FREE!

My mother-in-law’s favorite Starbucks drink is the gingerbread latte so I plan on picking one up for her (and for me too!) when I head over to pick up L on Thursday.  I figure someone taking care of 3 toddlers could really use a pick-me-up in the afternoon!

So I suggest that you surprise someone with some Starbucks this weekend!  I’m certain they’ll appreciate it.

In Between a letter and a card

I’ve always loved receiving other families Christmas letters but have hesitated on writing our own for a couple of reasons.   Reason #1 is that it kind of seems like bragging (we went on a fantastic vacation, IbD got a fantastic promotion, we have a super beautiful child) and Reason #2 is because we don’t have very much to talk about.  There’s only 3 of us and when there was only 2 of us there was REALLY not much to say.

But I’ve still always felt like sharing something more than just a “Happy Holidays from the Ib’s!”.  Just a little glimpse into our life but nothing overwhelming.

I’m guessing that there are many other consumers out there with the same thoughts because this year I saw several photo card companies introduce the story card.  And the great thing, for me, about some story cards is that they come in a list format.   I am much more comfortable with list format then free form text most of the time.   I image it’s because I’ve spent the last 9 years compiling bullet lists and powerpoint presentations!

Some of my favorites are:

Top Ten Cards from Shutterfly.

Yearline Photo Cards from Minted.

Type in “Story photo card” on Etsy and you’ll get some great choices.  Depending on how many cards you need this could be a money saver because most of the time you pay for a digital file then order the photos from your favorite printing source (possibly taking advantage of all the photo coupons floating around this time of year!).   I really like this one from ZaZaZoo.

I’m debating whether to choose a card offered from the sources above or try to design my own in Photoshop.  I’m leaning towards ordering a pre-made card, not sure if I want to add one more thing to my Christmas To Do list!