Today’s post will be brief…….

19 years ago I gave birth to a beautiful, talented, amazing, loving, caring, soul that I named Coral.   I have had the privilege of being her mother…. watching her grow and learn…. fall and get up again….. fail and succeed….. question and get answers…. cry and laugh….. get hurt and be loved.   As much as I have taught her, she has taught me as well.

I love you Coral….. Happy Birthday!

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Just thought I’d give you the heads up on a new instant win contest that Dove is sponsoring.  It’s the Dove Reveal to Rebalance Instant Win Game.

You could uncover prizes like Dove® go fresh Body Wash, Anti-Perspirant/Deodorant & Body Mist in NEW Rebalance and a
$250 Target GiftCard® or Dove® yoga mat!  You can play daily thru September 6, 2011.  No purchase necessary.

To play, click here:

http://www.dove.us/Offers/insider-exclusives/reveal-to-rebalance.aspx

 

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We don’t have a dishwasher.  In all honesty, the times I have had a dishwasher we just never used it enough to justify even having it.  I can’t understand how it is useful when you have to rinse the dishes off anyhow.  So, I have pretty much always done dishes by hand.

Some people prefer to wash the dishes as they dirty.  Simply putting soap on the sponge and washing them a few at a time.  While it does get the dishes clean, it tends to use too much water and soap. 

When I was a kid, one of my chores was to do the dishes after dinner every night.  The procedure was as follows (we had a sink with two sides) :  fill one side of the sink with hot soapy water (use the drain plug) and put the dishes in the water to soak for just a few minutes.  Wash them and put them into the empty side of the sink.  Then rinse them all off and put them in the dish drain or on a towel to dry.  This is still how I prefer to do dishes to this day.

The beauty of this system is that if I run the sink of soapy water in the morning, the dishes can just be added to the water as the day goes on and I do one big load of dishes after dinner.  It takes very little time. 

Aside from saving on water and soap, this also helps keep my hands in good condition (I have eczema flareups on my hands and they hurt really bad if I am not careful).  Also, a sink full of soapy water with the dishes under the bubbles looks a lot better than a sink full of dirty dishes with food stuck on them!

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Do you fill out those store surveys that seem to be on every store receipt these days?  I do!  You never know when you might win!  Most of the prizes are pretty big ($1,000 or so) and that would be a welcome addition to my income!

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After having four kiddos, I know most of the “tricks of the trade” for getting good deals on clothing for kids.  The number one, hands down, cheapest method of purchasing kids clothes is to find thrift stores that have “stuff a bag” deals  (of course getting free hand-me-downs is cheaper, but I am talking just about purchasing clothing).

I love those places!  Ususally they are run by charities or churches that just don’t have the manpower to handle all the clothing donations so they just dump them in a bin or on a table and let YOU sort thru it!  This is a GREAT way to find some wonderful deals!

I have gotten lots of tee shirts for Ben this way (Iron Man, Batman, Spiderman, etc)!  He loves them all!  I have found clothing for myself and my daughters this way too. 

Usually I can fit about 12 items into one bag.  My favorite place that does this charges $3 per bag, so I am essentially paying about 25 cents per item of clothing.  Don’t forget that this is a good way to find sewing notions too! You can remove and reuse zippers, buttons, and if the clothing item is large enough you might even be able to reuse the cloth!

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Pretty lazy Friday around here - it is just too hot to do too much these days!  So after cleaning up around the house, the kiddos and I ventured out to run errands. First stop was Blockbuster so they could swap out their movies (for free!) from our Club Wannawatchamovie memberships.  If you missed my post on that, you can read it here:  http://occupiedlife.com/2011/07/18/summer-school/

Then we stopped at Winn Dixie where I scored 4 boxes of Snackwell cereal bars (2 boxes of Peanut Butter and two boxes of Chocolate) and two boxes of family sized Pillsbury brownie mix.  Before coupons & deals the total was :  $17.94!  After deals, coupons, etc.  my total spent is 0.99!  YEAH!  Ninety nine cents!  How did that happen….. here is what I did (I used two transactions for this):

Transaction #1    

bought two boxes brownie mix (on sale bogo and had a .40 cents off coupon)

bought two boxes Snackwell bars (on sale for $2 each and also had a .75 cents off coupon for each one)

total before coupons and sale prices: 11.36 * after coupons and sale prices I paid $4.49 out of pocket AND I got a $3 catalina coupon back for my next shopping trip

Transaction #2

bought two more boxes Snackwell bars (on sale for $2 each and also had a .75 cents off coupon for each one)

total before coupons and sale prices:  $6.58 * total after coupons and sale prices I paid $2.50 AND I got another $3 catalina coupon

Total out of pocket for both orders was $6.99 AND I got the $6 in catalinas for the next time I am at Winn Dixie.  I did not try to use the catalina coupons today because sometimes if you use a like coupon for your order and those items are in the order, you will NOT get another coupon.  Not sure if I explained that clearly or not but basically you usually cannot “roll” catalina coupons because they won’t print other ones for you.

Winn Dixie also has the new Cocoa Puffs Brownie Crunch cereal on sale for $2 each box and a few weeks ago there were .75 cents off one box coupons that came out in the newspaper.  I got four boxes a few days ago for $1.25 each but just thought I’d put that in here so you can snag that deal too if you venture over there.

After that excitement :-D   we headed over to Cold Stone Creamery to use a $20 gift certificate that I got a few months ago over on LivingSocial.com   I paid $10 for the $20 gift certificate and so all four of us got HUGE portions of ice cream with one mix in each!  Total there was -0.04 cents!  LOL!  Not kidding, the total was NEGATIVE 4 cents!  I just let them keep the four cents.

Then we headed home to settle down in ice cream bliss while some homemade pizza dough is getting ready in the bread machine for dinner and movie night later today.  Since I had all the ingredients on hand (flour, yeast, etc) and I use leftover spaghetti sauce for pizza sauce, the only real cost to me for making a pizza is the cheese which I try to get on sale for $1.50 or less per 8 oz bag. Even cheaper than the $5 pizza deals at the chain pizza places!

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Recently I have been talking to a lot of people about the amount of money spent on groceries and household items.  This topic is really interesting to me because I am an avid couponer. 

For our household of four, I budget $50 per week for groceries and other household stuff (paper towels, toilet paper, toothpaste, laundry detergent, etc).  To me that is a reasonable amount.  Easily do-able.  Sure more money would be nice, but right now that’s what my budget allows.

When we are at the store and my kiddos ask for something that is not on the list or not in the budget, I explain to them that we spend less per month at the store than some people spend in a week.  Shelby gets a real kick out of seeing the before and after coupon totals.  I really enjoy that part too!  Usually they are so excited about whatever snack items were on sale that week that they don’t miss what we did not buy!

 

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When school ended this year, Shelby went to her “Fifth Grade Graduation”.  The theme was “Hollywood: Black & White”.  It was a very red carpet affair, complete with “swag bags” full of goodies from local merchants.  Shelby came home very excited!  She was showing me all the stuff she got in her bag and then pulled out a PILE of coupons for free stuff!  I asked her “Where did all those come from?”  She replied “My friends didn’t want them and were throwing them away so I brought them home for us to use!”  She had coupons for free Italian Ice, pizza, Chick Fil A, bowling, Wendy’s, etc.  I would say she brought home about $100 worth of coupons! 

A few weeks ago, Ben still had $20 of birthday money that was burning a hole thru his pocket.  We were near a GameStop store and he wanted to go in. I happened to have a “buy two used games and get one free” coupon on me, so I said okay.  He could pick out two games $10 or less each and then he agreed to let Shelby pick a game too (the free one).  So, we spread out all the used Wii games that were under $10 on the floor.  Ben picked two and Shelby picked out one.  The total was $24 and change. Ben paid with his $20 and I paid with the coupon and the balance of $4 and change.

A few days later, Ben comes to me and says “Mom can we go get more games from GameStop?”  I explained to him that he used all his birthday money and we had no more money for games.  He said to me, “Oh yeah.  You gotta have dollars or COUPONS to get the games, right Mom?”  OMG!  I fell over laughing!

The moral of the story is if you don’t believe that your children are watching and paying attention to everything you do, then YOU aren’t paying attention:-D

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Some of my favorite memories from my childhood were also some of the most unusual times of my life.  When I was in elementary school, my mother worked for an answering service at night.  She worked the 11 pm – 7 am shift.  Since my father traveled for work a lot, she occasionally had to take my sister and I to work with her.  We were both in elementary school at the time.  I remember sleeping behind the huge switchboards. I remember getting dressed for school in the bathroom down the hall from the office.  I remember stopping for Krisy Kreme donuts on the way to school in the morning! 

In that tradition, I try to do “unusual” things with my kiddos every once in a while.  Last summer we went out to the beach at 10 pm at night.  I let them swim in the dark, vast ocean.  There were no crowds, no heat, no parking issues.  They thoroughly enjoyed it!  On the way back home we stopped for ice cream.  They still talk about it to this day.

A lot of times when Shelby asks what we are doing or where we are going and I tell her of my big plans, she says “Mom, you’re crazy!”  I just know that you gotta keep ‘em on their toes!

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I am not brand loyal.  I buy whatever brand is cheapest and will meet my needs.  Buying food that no one will eat is a waste of money no matter how you look at it.  Keeping that in mind, there are two things that I will not buy a generic of:

Kraft Mac & Cheese * okay, do I really need to explain this?  I am not a mac & cheese fan of any kind but my kids WILL NOT eat generic mac & cheese no matter what!  After tasting the generic and the Kraft brand, I can’t say that I blame them 

Natures Own buttertop  bread * we love this bread!  Generics just can’t hold a candle to how soft this bread is!  My kiddos even eat the crust on this bread!  It is just that soft.

What about you?  Is there anything that you just WON’T buy a generic of?

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