DIY: Uncrustables

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My children beg and plead for uncrustables (they hate the crusts!) but honestly I cannot justify the price.  $7.99 regular price for 10 sandwiches works out to .79 each.  Even on sale with a coupon it would still cost over 25 cents each.

Instead I make a DIY version for just a fraction of that!

I was given a Pampered Chef Cut & Seal (retails for $9.50 online OR I also found a similar device at my dollar store except it is square!)

 

Costs:

Bread: .87 special at Harris Teeter = about .08 per sandwich

Jelly: .25 on sale with a coupon= about .02 per serving

So for a total of .10 per sandwich I can make homemade uncrustables! Here is how I did it.

Step 1: Start out with sandwich bread and jelly (add peanut butter if you want – the peanut butter in my pantry cost me less then 50 cents a jar so add about 5 cents a sandwich if you use peanut butter)

Step 2: Jelly the sandwich ! You won’t have to go all the way to the edges because it will be cut off.

Step 3: Cut & Seal!

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The Top 5 Stockpile Blunders

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5 Stockpile Blunders & how to Avoid them

We’ve worked hard to build our stockpiles- clipping, shopping, organizing.  We stand back in awe at the amount we’ve managed to get for pennies on the dollar.  Some of us just stand there and admire them for minutes every day- grateful to know that if disaster strikes; the loss of a job, illness, car breakdowns- that we can feed our families and wash our hair.

There are some major blunders that many of us make that greatly reduce the value and lifespan of our stockpiles!

  1. Stockpiling the wrong things.  Sixteen cases of canned tuna is worthless to a family that will not eat canned tuna.  Forty bottles of mustard is worthless to the family that won’t use it.  Twenty bottles of the best lotion is worthless to the family who breaks out when using it.  Stockpiling the wrong items is wasteful of money (most of us  have to pay sales tax on the pre-coupon price) as well as space used to store it.  Picking up freebies and money makers is always a great thing when possible – but if you won’t use it- it’s a better option to either skip it or place it right into the donation bin.
  2. Storing them wrong. I recently moved things around in my pantry and realized I had 4 boxes of crushed Nutri-grain bars.  The reason? I had laid the boxes down instead of standing them up in order to maximize the space on my self.  The weight of those boxes crushed the bottom 4.  They were flat masses of cereal bar and fruit spread.  Ugh. No one wanted to eat them.  Think of your shelves the way a grocery store does.  Placing items in the boxes the way they are packed by the manufacturer usually ensures that boxes and packages are not crushed by the weight of others.  In addition, be sure that your stock pile is stored in a cool, dry place.  Heat & Humidity is dangerous to any stockpile!
  3. Storing them too long. Things expire.  Putting new items in front of the old ones just causes things to expire.  Think like a grocery store- pull the old things to the front and put the newly purchased ones behind them (check the dates to ensure that you are really putting them oldest to newest!)  Nothing is worse than going to get the last bottle of ketchup and finding out it’s two years past it’s expiration date.
  4. Throwing them out too early.  That can of peas had an expiration date that was yesterday?  Most likely it’s still good!  That box of pasta says it was best by last week?  It’s fine to use too.  As long as the packaging is intact, the food wasn’t exposed to extreme heat, cold or moisture most things are fine to use.  This doesn’t apply to foods that spoil quickly like milk, cheese or moldy items, like fruit, etc.  If crackers are a few days past expiration date just be sure they aren’t stale and they are okay to eat.
  5. Not keeping track.  It’s easy to go overboard.  That super deal on granola bars?  Sure, we’ll get 500!  Then in three months we might realize that we’ve only used 2 boxes!  We’ll never get through the other 498 before they all go bad!  We have an awesome stockpile calculator on MoolaSavingMom’s Couponer’s Toolbox.  Plugin how many you will use each week, today’s date and the date the product expires and it will tell you the max # that you should stock of this item.  Obviously if it comes back with 75 boxes of cereal you don’t need to buy all 75 at once but it’s a good number to have in your head that “I should NEVER have more than X number of cereal boxes in my stockpile.”  On the other hand, if it’s A.1. sauce you can disregard that number because you can NEVER have enough A.1. Sauce and if you find yourself with a surplus please contact me and I will take it because I LOVE that stuff!

Stockpiling requires that we think like a grocery store- because that is what we have- a grocery store in our house!  Only buying enough that will be used (sold) before it goes bad, rotating stock (merchandising the shelves) so that stock isn’t wasted.

What stockpile blunders have you made?

Sanity Saver: Lunch Station for Back to School

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lunch station

I have 3 in school this year at two different schools. This means 3 lunches, 3 getting dressed, 3 making sure they have their supplies and heading out to two different schools (because we don’t get bus service to the Magnet School)…all while dealing with a baby!  So I want to share some of my tips for making life a little easier when it comes to packing lunches!

So onward to my Lunch Station Tips:

Set it up Right:

I cleared out an entire cabinet in my kitchen.

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The drawer holds all the reusable containers, sandwich bags, juice boxes, plasticware and napkins.

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I used the pull out shelving to hold the food items.

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I put different containers I had on hand (many from the Dollar Tree) to hold the different foods.  Some of the variety packs had nice sized boxes so I cut the tops off and let them hold everything in place.

They will each be able to pick one sweet (pudding, cookie or rice krispies right now) and one salty (Chips or Crackers) and they can take a granola bar, fruit cup or raisins if they wish.

In addition, in the freezer we will have  a large stock of DIY Uncrustables.

I will have the same set up in the refrigerator.  An entire shelf devoted to lunch making.  They will include:

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5 Ways to Make Chores Fun for Kids

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making chores fun

Getting my 4 (ok the baby is too little still- so 3) kids to help around the house is hard.  There are often tears, whining, hiding, pretend illnesses, coughing fits….the list of ways they try to get out of it is long!

If you are like me,  you’d like your kids to do chores around the house with little to no argument.  In most cases, this is easier said than done.  There are a few ways to get a little more compliance and a little less fight.  Check out some of the tips below for inspiration.

  1. When choosing chores, choose age appropriate chores and don’t expect too much.  Each child has different strengths and abilities, and if they aren’t capable of completing their chore to your high standards, they’re likely to get discouraged and not try at all.  It’s better to have to redo “missed spots” than to have nothing done at all.  Practice makes perfect.  Remember that the main purpose of chores is to teach responsibility and work ethic, not to have a spotless home (which is honestly impossible with 4 kids anyway!). I know that my son is incapable of seeing the dirt under the table while his twin sister cannot wash a window to save her life.  She uses 500 paper towels on a single window and it’s still streaky.  Give her a broom though, and she attacks those crumbs like a pro and his windows sparkle with a single rag!
  2. Think outside of the box.  If a chore entails washing a floor, buy a pair of mop slippers and let them slide around while doing it.  They may want to do the entire house!  You can also get just about every cleaning, gardening, and household tool in a funky print or pattern.  Everything is more fun for children when it’s fun to look at.  Wouldn’t you rather sweep with a zebra broom than a plain one?  If you’re on a budget, you can use stickers or designer duct tape to decorate the tools for pennies.  One of my daughter’s favorite games when she was 5 was to play Cinderella.  I had to be the evil stepmother but my floors got washed- BY HAND.
  3. Play some upbeat music.  Since adults move faster and have more fun when their favorite songs are playing in the background, it only makes sense to think that a child would enjoy a little background concert as well.  There’s nothing wrong with dancing through chores.  Let them pretend the feather duster or dish wand is a microphone – they can be a rock star in their own home.
  4. If you have more than one child, throw a little healthy competition into the mix to get them motivated.  For example, whoever can get their chores done first is the “winner”.  When we play the music- whoever finishes before the song is up gets to pick the next song- this only works for quick jobs though.
  5. Don’t underestimate the power of rewards.  The reward can be money, a special treat, or even a book from the library – it doesn’t matter what it is as long as it’s something the child wants.  Be careful with this one though.  If you reward them for everything they do, it will backfire and they won’t want to help with anything unless they get something in return. Rewards don’t have to be tangible.  Try letting the “winner” choose the dinner menu or what television program they’ll watch that day.  In our house, the one who does their chore the best gets to pick what chore they want tomorrow- everyone else gets whatever Mom choses to give them randomly!  No one ever picks cleaning the living room- that’s the messiest place of all- they always pick washing the table after dinner!  Sometimes we use the power of a Red Box movie- whomever gets their laundry put up (properly again is the key word) gets to start watching it.  As they finish they can go to watch as well- but they know the longer they take the less of the movie they get to see.

I think every mom wishes their children will help out because they want to, but the truth is sometimes they need a little extra encouragement to get the job done.  As a matter of fact, we all do!  You may just find that while making chores more fun for your kids, you make them more fun for yourself as well.

 

 

Help! My Catalina Didn’t Print!

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catalina machine

With all the great Catalina Deals running currently this question keeps popping up: My Catalina Didn’t print- what should I do?

Before attempting a deal:

1) Check the terms.  Often we see printouts from the catalina machines a few days before the event starts.  We try to keep our Catalina Deals page updated.

2) Check the machine. At checkout, double check that the catalina machine is on, has paper and isn’t jammed.  All of these will cause you to lose your catalina.

3) Wait for it. Sometimes it takes a minute or two for the catalina to print after the transaction is complete.  Don’t rush off- wait for a second.  Also notate on your list that you should get a catalina.  This way you remember to ask for it if you can’t see the catalinas printing.

After the transaction: if it didn’t print

1) Ensure that you met the requirements. Maybe you got the wrong size or quantity.  Before trying to resolve this with the store or Catalina make sure that the terms were met.

2) Ask the store. Some stores are aware of the current catalina deals they are participating in.  If they are aware they can either re-ring your items and see if it prints or provide you cash back  If the store is unaware or unable to resolve it you will need to go to step 3. Sometimes their machines just disconnect from the Catalina database!

3) Contact Catalina Marketing.  You can complete the form here  and if the terms were met Catalina will send you a catalina via the mail.  It takes a bit to get it verified and sent but they do send it.

 

Make getting rainchecks easy!

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Rainchecks are a written offer by the store to honor the current sale price at a later date when an item has sold out. Check with your store on their rainchcheck policies.

Sometimes I want a raincheck for an item NOT advertised in the sales flyer but is out of stock. I’ve found an easy way to keep track of those items so when I am done shopping and go to customer service for my raincheck I have all the pertinent info on hand. This avoids delays when the store tries to find the price or size or quantity of the item. [Read more...]

CVS Freebies 8/10 + a Thought

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CVS freebie

Starting 8/10 in addition to the Speed Stick Gear deal- there are 5 freebies.

Active D’Lites Bar $1.99, get $1.99 Extra Buck
CVS Hemorrhoid Relief $5.79, get $5.79 Extra Bucks
CVS Acid Controller $6.99, get $6.99 Extra Bucks
CVS Antacid Tubs $2.99, get $2.99 Extra Bucks
CVS Gas Relief $7.99, get $7.99 Extra Bucks

Free is always fun but something to think about: In most states we pay sales tax on the pre-coupon price.  So that “Free” Acid Controller will cost 48¢ in tax.  For those who use this or a similar product- it’s a great deal!  For those of us who don’t have a need for it- it’s a waste of 48¢.

There are many food pantries & charities that will accept Over the Counter medicines and donating deals we get and won’t use is always a good thing.  Personally, I’d rather use that 48¢ to pick up a few boxes of cereal or cans of beans to donate but again, any charitable endeavor is a good one! Just something to think about as we get these “free” deals.

How to Save on Coffee

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how to save on coffee

My parents are coffee junkies. They can go through an entire bag in just a few days!  It can really add up – especially if you are buying coffee out.

Let’s look at a few ways we can reduce the cost of that coffee habit!

1. Go Reusable:  If you have a Keurig check out some Reusable K Cups you just fill them with your favorite coffee!  You get the convinience of one time use cups but not the expense.  Have a regular coffee machine?  We’ve had a reusable filter for years and a quick scrub after use and it is still going strong!  You can find some deals on Reusable Coffee Filters.

2. Don’t Be Brand Loyal.  I made a pot of coffee for my dad one evening.  We aren’t big coffee drinkers in my house so I don’t keep the fancy (ahem- expensive) stuff on my shelves usually.  He was impressed with the coffee and wanted to know what variety of his beloved Starbucks it was.  He was amazed that it was Chock Full O’Nuts that I had picked up really cheap!  Give the less expensive brands a try it may take a bit of trial and error to find the best coffee to water ratio for you but you may surprise yourself!

3. Reuse your Coffee. I can already see the looks “Drink old Coffee! No way!” It’s easy to make an iced coffee in the evening – just put the left over morning coffee in a pitcher or glass in the fridge.  Add flavored creamer or milk and ice in the evening- viola- your caffeine fix on a dime! You can get double duty out of one pot!

4. Store it properly.  The bags that the coffee comes in probably isn’t good enough to keep your coffee fresh for long. Check out some alternative storage options like this Tightvac Coffeevac 1 Pound Vacuum Sealed Storage Container,.

5. Use coupons!  Buying coffee while on sale and with a coupon is the easiest way to spend less on your coffee habit.  Check out the currently available coupons for coffee!

Tuesday Totals 7/8

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tuesday

I write this post each week to keep myself accountable to my $55 a week budget.  I had $71.29  left over from previous weeks’ budgets so I am starting with a total of $126.29  in my grocery fund. You can find the grocery deals this week here.

My freezer and fridges are FULL and my pantry pretty stocked so I am going to be focusing on household and personal care for a while! I am also reinvesting in the drug stores- getting good deals after points and rewards to start rolling again!

Value: $154.05
OOP: $70.57
Savings: 54%
Left with 16,950 pts and $19 in UP+ plus $54 in up from the clothing & gift deals
Roll over to next week: $55.72

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Do the Math: Don’t Pay MORE for LESS

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*The sales above will start 7.9 at Harris Teeter!

It amazes me that stores think that we are not smart enough to spot a fake bargain.  Here’s a perfect example of a sale that will start 7/9 at Harris Teeter:

You have two choices for canned Pepsi:

Buy (5) 12 pk cans of 12 oz each for $2 each (You must buy 5 to get this price)
OR
Buy (2) 8 pk cans of 7.5 oz each for $2.99 and an extra $1 off when you buy them both together = $2.49 each

So let’s run some math

12 pk cans
12 pk cans x 12 oz each = 144 oz per 12 pk
5- 12 pks at $2 each = 720 oz for $10
that comes out to .01388888 per ounce (let’s round that to .014)

 

8 pk cans
8 pk cans x 7.5 oz each =  60 oz
2 8 pk cans $ 2.49 each ($2.99 – $1 off wyb 2 ) = 120 oz for $4.98
that come out to .0415 per ounce

.0138 or .0415…..which would you rather pay per ounce?  EVEN if you planned to only use 7.5 ounces of soda you are going to pay nearly 3 times as much per ounce to get the 7.5 ounce cans than you would to buy the 12 ounce cans.

Yes you have to buy 5 12 pks of Soda to get the cheaper price but soda doesn’t expire in a week- it might not last on the shelf for a year like pasta but it doesn’t expire too quickly.  Even if you couldn’t use 5 packs yourself – find a friend or family member to split it with you- you’ll both come out ahead!

 

Don’t Wait to Buy Based on Clearance Price Tag

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price tag

There are all sorts of charts and “insider secrets” flying around, and have been for a long time, about Target price tags.

“If it ends in an “8″, they say it will be marked down again- so don’t buy it now” they say.

That’s bad advice for two reasons.  First- Target clearance deals vary widely by store.  One store I visit marks items down 15%, 30%, 50%, 70% and then finally 90%. By 70% there is barely enough to fill a buggy.  If I had passed up an item and 30% or 50%- most likely by 90% it would be gone.

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Tuesday Totals 6/17

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tuesday

I write this post each week to keep myself accountable to my $55 a week budget.  I had $53.73 left over from previous weeks’ budgets so I am starting with a total of $108.73  in my grocery fund. You can find the grocery deals this week here.

OOP: $57.90
Value; $200.98
Savings; 72%
Left with $20 in Gas Cards
Roll over to next week: $50.83

CVS:

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trans 1: 4 Huggies Diapers 2/$18
used $5 off $25 and (4) $4/1 Q (http://moolasavingmom.com/?p=84133)

Paid: $0.00 after $5 ecb from survey and $12.09 off HT go for gold gift card
Got $10 gas gift card

trans 2: 4 Huggies Diapers 2/$18
used $3 off $15 emailed coupon
used (4) $3/1 coupons (http://moolasavingmom.com/?p=84133)
Paid: $7.91 from HT go for gold promo, $15.26 OOP cash
Got $10 gas gift card

Final OOP: $15.26, got $20 in gift cards

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Thrifty Tip: Day Trips

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My family takes a lot of road trips, spends a lot of time at the park and travels to see family a lot during the summer.  It’s HOT and we get thirsty.

A fountain drink at the fast food restaurant will run you about 1.50.

A 20 oz soda at the gas station will cost about $1.59.

A 6 pack of Coke can be as low as $2.00 at the drug or grocery stores.

Of course a 24 pk of water is even cheaper (and healthier).

Either way- you can save a TON of cash by bringing your own drinks with you. Most times we put a small cooler in our van when we will be gone a while and put some fruit and some bottled drinks. If we’re going to be gone most of the day, we pack a full lunch.

In fact, today we are traveling to Raleigh to pick up my mother in law & we had a cooler full of food- keeps us out of the drive through lane!  Instead of using bags of ice (or cleaning out my freezer) we froze the bottles the day before in our deep freezer.  We’re using them on the bottom of the food to keep it all cold with some ice from our freezer. We will also put some unfrozen ones in there too.

When it comes time to eat our lunch the water bottles will have partially unfrozen & the unfrozen ones will be cold!  By the time we leave Raleigh and head home – the frozen ones will be icy cold & unfrozen!

What’s your road trip tip?

Tuesday Totals 6/10

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tuesday

I write this post each week to keep myself accountable to my $55 a week budget.  I had $131.00 left over from previous weeks’ budgets so I am starting with a total of $186  in my grocery fund. You can find the grocery deals this week here.

Value: $280.67
OOP: $132.27
Savings: 54%

Roll over to next week: $53.73

*Yes I went WAY over budget!But I ended up with about 9 gallons of milk, lots of hamburger and chicken breast.

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