Black Friday

Even if you aren’t one of those crazy people who get up in the middle of the night to wait in line for the “it” item you need to have, there are some great deals to be found on Black Friday. This year, I’m shopping early on Black Friday – probably around 6am – but I’m going for everything but a TV or electronics.

Some things I shop for on Black Friday:

– kids’ clothes – My girls seem to grow faster each year. If I can get pants and pajamas for half price, I’m stocking up. This year Sears has kids’ jeans on sale for $5 as well as girls tops and sweaters 50% off. Good thing I have girls who like clothes because they’ll be getting some under the tree!

– batteries – Cameras, handheld gaming systems, toys, flashlights, remote controls … you name it, it needs batteries. Walgreens has their store-brand batteries on sale – buy one package for $3.99, get three free. Even if it is a store brand, you can’t really beat that.

– art stuff – My girls love to draw. Last year I bought them each a huge art kit – over 100 pieces – for $8 on Black Friday. There are still some of the pieces hanging around. It was a great buy and I plan on doing it again. This year, Walmart has two different Crayola art sets on sale for $8 again.

– Playdoh – Another timeless item that my girls will play with for hours. And another one I got last year that I’m doing again. Walmart has a 24-pack of large Playdoh jars on sale for $8. This will be one of Lauren’s gifts but I know they’ll all get plenty of play time with that many jars to share.

– Small appliances – No one lines up to buy a slow cooker on Black Friday but it will be the one “big” item I’m going for. Sears has a brand name 2 quart slow cooker on sale for $9.99. My slow cooker, which I’ve had for 10 years, is now broken and I use it enough that it needs to be replaced. I’ve happily waited a couple of weeks, knowing that if I did I would be saving at least $10-20.

So that’s some of my Black Friday list! What’s on yours?

fresh!

Back in our
dirt poorfinancially lean years as a young married couple with a couple of kids running around, I made all our food from scratch. Bagels. Pretzels. Muffins. Granola. Granola bars. Snacks. Bread. Tortillas. Potato chips. Everything. This evolved over the years as finances changed and demands on my time changed. More store-bought foods found their way into my grocery cart each week. Some things stayed the same. Because of Alyssa’s allergies, I still bake most of our sweet treats from scratch.

As I examined budget demands a couple years ago, I started making homemade laundry soap and household cleaners. Even though this does take a bit of time, the financial savings are such that I can’t bring myself to buy detergent. Well no, I take that back. Once and awhile (usually around the holidays), I take a break and buy a bottle of detergent.

I find myself buying more pre-made groceries to save time. This is the way it is. There is a season for everything. As I find myself drawn out of the house more (usually by a daughter saying “Mooommmm, we’re going to be late!“) it is just more convenient for me to grab the tortillas for dinner at the store. But there is something so satisfying about sitting down to a meal with my family and knowing that I prepared -from scratch- every single thing those wonderful people are eating. Is it more challenging? Yep. Time consuming? You betcha. But totally worth it.

I made pretzels this afternoon for the first time in years. My girls don’t even remember the last time I made them, which is the #1 thing that tells me it’s been too long. When I told them I know how to make bagels, they looked at me like I’d grown another head! They don’t remember that either. It’s sad. We always have all the ingredients for most baked goods on hand (great reason for shopping in bulk!). I have no excuse but my own busy-ness or more likely my own laziness.

It’s time for me to get back to the fresh stuff. Fresh bagels for breakfast. Fresh, sweet granola for snack time. Fresh bread for sandwiches at lunch. It’s healthier, less expensive and creates awesome memories. That’s what should matter.

Oh and fresh, crisp potato chips piled high next to a cheeseburger right off the grill. oh my. Probably not so healthy but we might have to work on that one next!

laundry

I don’t really like laundry. It is not my favorite household chore. I especially loathed the feeling of dumping my money down the drain with expensive detergents. I’d feel like my clothes weren’t going to get clean unless I used something pricey but who wants to spend all that money on soap?!

A few months back (I use a larger recipe now, same basic idea though) I started making my own detergent. It sounds like it would be complex and time-consuming but it is just the opposite. You’re thinking that nothing will get clothes and diapers as clean as Tide or Charlies, right?

nope.

My girls are quite the rowdy little princesses at times and their clothes show it. Washing in the homemade detergent not only saves us tons of money but it is great on their clothes. It gets out every stain I’ve ever thrown at it with a little pretreating scrub and a spoonful of detergent. Lauren’s diapers are clean and fresh. I’ve even washed kitchen towels used to wipe up a grease spill. Clean. I love it.

Here’s how:

Shred one bar of soap. I started making detergent with Fels Naptha. But I wanted something a little less harsh with all the dry skin in this house. So I switched to Dr. Bronner’s soap. It is fantastic. I think it cleans better than the Fels. It leaves our clothes very fluffy, fresh-smelling and soft.

Put the shredded bar of soap in a sauce pan. Add water – about 3/4 of the way full. Heat until soap dissolves, then add: 1 c. of washing soda and 1 c. Borax. Heat and stir until everything is dissolved and bubbly.

Fill a clean 5 gallon bucket half way with warm water. Pour in soap mixture and stir. Then fill bucket with water, cover and let sit over night.

That’s it.

Use about 1/2 cup of detergent for regular washers and 1/4 cup of detergent for front loaders. It is not a sudsy soap so don’t expect the frothy bubbles you get with store-bought detergent.

The Dr. Bronner’s soap I found was about $4.50 for the bar. (You could use Ivory, Irish Spring or any cheap soap you like. That will change your final price. This was the most expensive load I’ve made.) Each box of Borax and washing soda is around $2.50-3.00 locally. There is enough to make approximately 6 batches of detergent in each box. By my crude calculations that makes a 5 gallon batch cost around $5.50. With adding in the cost of water, a bucket (which are easy to find – used and cheap) and the expense of heating the soap let’s estimate the total at $7.

5 gallons of quality detergent for $7. That is one hard-to-beat deal. You should try it.

a deal!

With the weather forecast looking a bit snowy, I decided it was time to pull out the winter boots. Sigh. Despite Lael’s insistence that her boots from last year still fit, this morning’s fitting proved Mom right. The boots are much too small. And Alyssa’s boots (hand-me-downs from Lael) have a giant gaping hole in the toes. Thank goodness its only October! We have plenty of time to get new boots. Last year’s boots may have to work for awhile but when we get ready to buy new ones I want to know I found the best deal.

After checking some prices I was surprised to find that Lands’ End winter boots are cheaper than Payless winter boots. Shocked is probably a better description. Considering that Lands’ End boots have no goofy characters or embellishments their boots are a much better deal. And if sign up for the Lands’ End e-newsletter you can bet on getting a free shipping code pretty quickly.

It’s so nice when the lowest price equals the best quality.

vinegar is my new best friend.

Why, you ask?

Well vinegar is one of the only solutions for a terrible problem.

Getting the skunk smell out of dog fur.

Yep. It happened again.

{For those who don’t remember every detail of my strange life, about 3 years ago a skunk sprayed underneath our back room. The scent was pulled into our furnace and blown through the whole house. At 3 AM. I had to wash every thing – curtains, blankets, clothes, pillows, etc. – and spray the entire house with a mixture of vinegar, water and vanilla. It took days before our house (and our clothes. We stunk.) didn’t smell bad.}

So at least this time, I was in the kitchen when I started to smell that horrid scent. Max was outside and I just knew he got sprayed. Because that is just the way things happen here. I looked up how to get rid of the smell just as Josh was really starting to notice it at the other end of the house. For inside, we put some coffee grinds into an empty pot and put it on the stove, cooked it until smoke started and then walked the smoking pot through the house. I felt like we were doing some kind of strange tribal coffee blessing or something. Josh kept up the tribal ritual and I moved onto the dog. Vinegar and Dawn dish soap. Lots of it. Outside. Being rinsed with the hose. At 9:30 PM. Just after the warm muggy air had blown over and it was cool and breezy. My poor dog and I were soaking wet and freezing. But Max stood there and let me rinse him over and over. Finally, I brought him in and dried him off. The scent seemed to be gone but I was too afraid to let him inside until we were sure. So Max slept in the back room with a dish full of burnt coffee grounds to absorb anything left of the scent.

Sheesh.

But Max is inside now and doesn’t smell any more. The girls all woke up and asked what the funny smell downstairs was. I’m just thankful we didn’t let him in and that the smell in the house never got overbearing. Laundry needs to be done. Tomatos need to be processed. We need to run some errands. And coffee has never tasted so good.