Monday, April 29, 2013

Couponing or Not?!?

So, do I have any die hard couponers out there?!  I know I used to be one myself (not the clear the shelf couponer who left nothing for anybody else, but rather the couponer who used a coupon for EVERYTHING), but I have since scaled back.  I know, I know you may be wondering why on earth someone who tries to be as frugal as possible would actually scale back on coupon usage?!  Well there are many reasons & our season of life has changed again...

One of the biggest reasons I have strayed from couponing is that we have had to eat gluten free, which has actually been a mixed blessing in many ways (more on that in a future post), so the items most coupons are meant for are not things we can eat any longer.  They do have limited coupons for gluten free items, but w/a growing family they are still pretty unrealistic as we'd need to use at least an entire package of something if not 2 or to 3 packages so we could all have some, which would then blow our budget.  Gluten free bread is absolutely exorbitant in price, especially those that are yummy & don't just fall apart, so we either don't eat bread or make it at home.  GF bread ranges from $4-7 PER loaf, which by the way, is FAR smaller than traditional bread... buns & rolls run $1- $2 PER bun or roll, which is just not realistic for my family. 

With that said, I have actually had to start making pretty much everything from scratch.  I do buy some packaged GF items, but I usually save those items for time when I may make a treat to bring to a potluck, etc.  Gluten free baking & cooking can be hit or miss at times (especially for someone still learning the ropes) so when baking/cooking for others I like to stick to things that usually have consistent results or that I feel hopeful will turn out, like rice cereal treats (which I use to make traditional krispy treats or even a "cake" out of them & then I decorate it like a cake) or peanut butter bars, both of which I use some packaged products for (i.e. peanut butter, krispy cereal, marshmallows, etc.).  I have made some fabulous tasting GF desserts, that LOOKED horrible... even when I made them for us at home & they were near perfect in looks & taste previously, it just doesn't seem to fail that when baking for others said dessert, etc. will be a flop... so THOSE are the times I pull out my trusty coupons for packaged GF ingredients.... I sure don't want to bring something saying it is GF & have it taste (or even look) bad... people already cringe enough when we mention something is GF... then they almost always TASTE it, smile, & say they can't believe it is GF.

Another reason I have scaled back on couponing is that we now garden & it requires all hands on deck... I would rather spend my time doing what I can to ensure maximum yield of food that we simply can't afford to buy in the store (grown organic) than lugging my crew to a store.  The fresh air, sunshine (& natural D3 from it), our hands & feet in the dirt, the giggles, & family time outside are priceless... and they make the gardening mean even more.

We do buy some organics, but it isn't in our budget to buy all organic produce.  I honestly try to avoid anything on the "Dirty Dozen List" for being the highest in pesticides.  One of the 12 is strawberries (which we love), so we are able to enjoy backyard strawberries for a bit & then we typically don't eat them the rest of the year, unless we are at a party, potluck, etc. where they have strawberries.  Organic strawberries typically run $5 for a tiny container of them, & I'd rather take that money to buy an entire BAG of something else organic instead.

Last but not least, the time required for die hard couponing is just not something I have right now... I try to clip some coupons & even stack them w/store coupons when I am able to plan ahead of time, but I typically wing my shopping trips now so it isn't always possible. 

Since I have quit super couponing I have not given up on finding the best deals, I am just not usually clipping coupons to do so.  I have also changed our shopping routine up a lot, & we only buy a few items at a handful of box stores (usually only a few times a month between all of them), now shop @ two club stores, & we buy online.  I have been able to stretch our budget to meet the demands of a growing family, as well as the need to eat with food sensitivities. 

Back in my super couponing days I was mainly buying cosmetics when I found a deal on the brands we used that I found to be the safest we could afford, packaged mixes (cakes, desserts, etc.), a handful of snack-size frozen pizzas each month, ice cream (the relatively "healthy" brand w/out all of the other additives), etc... for the most part I used couponing as a means to be able to afford some of the better brands of things that were as healthy as we could buy in our budget, for being packaged items. 

Don't get me wrong, I still seek out deals when I can & try to use coupons as well, but I have found that just by stocking up on certain items when they are on super sale (I watch the ads for the specific stores), we save so much money even on items there are no coupons for (like store brand items), and usually the food quality we can buy is now better than what we could get with coupons previously.

If couponing is working for you, awesome!!  If it isn't don't lose hope... you can find other ways to get what you need for less too!!

Do YOU coupon??  Do you SUPER coupon??  What do you do w/the items you get from your adventure??  I used to use some for us, donate, & even swap items with others... do YOU swap or donate things you don't need?? 

I actually know of someone making a living by couponing & selling the items purchased via couponing for a bit higher than what they are paying for the items.  It not only helps them to pay their bills, but it helps those who buy the items at reduced prices to save not only money, but time they themselves don't have to spend couponing (and, no, they aren't clearing store shelves to sell the items ;0).

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Saving Money... (On Batteries)

As I have said before, I am very well known for being frugal (sometimes extremely so)... which came to be out of necessity, but is also a very fun way of life if you ask me (most days, anyway)!  I mean why throw something out that can be used again?!  Why buy new when you can buy used & save oodles of money?!  Why buy at all if you can make what you need from something else you already have but may no longer be using??

The day before our 1st child was born Mr. Lee came home w/a digital camera.  It threw me for a loop, as I do NOT like change & I certainly do not like it to be thrown at me without time to process it.  Knowing our very 1st blessing was going to arrive the next day, I had so much else going on & could have cared less about that camera.  In fact, I was so far removed from the point of a digital camera that I would take pictures with the digital camera & then tell my photo subject to hold their pose while I tried to duplicate the picture with my 35mm (yep, seriously!!).  I did that for a couple of years, I think... I was poked fun of about that recently too.  Mr. Lee would jokingly call me a Japanese tourist because I would constantly have a 35mm camera, a digital camera, and a video camera at my ready hanging around my neck (what can I say, I have LOVED to take pix for a long time :0)!). 

One area of change I was willing to accept pretty easily was that when Mr. Lee bought the digital camera he also bought a 3 in 1 battery charger (for AA's, C's, & D's) & some rechargeable batteries (the same man who would run out of the house so I couldn't give him a **gasp** coupon to use because he was too cool to use a coupon... I should have known after seeing that charger he would eventually come over into my world of coupon using, but he held out on me as long as he could! LOL). 

When I finally was able to grasp the concept of a digital camera, embrace the idea of it, & I learned how to use it better, that camera and I were inseparable...and those rechargeable batteries?!  Well, they were the key to taking tons of pix of our first born... I'd take 300 pictures (or more), then the batteries ran out & instead of having to pay for the expensive brand name batteries that worked best for high drain devices, I always had batteries on the ready fully charged and I didn't have to keep buying more batteries.  I was hooked!! 

Our 3 in 1 Charger
It wasn't long before I was buying rechargeable batteries for other things... in fact, more than a decade later I am STILL using THAT charger ($20 at the time) & those same rechargeable batteries ($8 at the time), and while those exact batteries are no longer powerful enough to use for high drain devices they work very well for kid's toys, etc.  I'd say we more than got our money's worth out of our original investment, wouldn't you?!  To think, I was skeptical of them at first! LOL 

Now they make rechargeable batteries to perform even better, so they last even longer before we downgrade them to "batteries for toys."  A few years ago I also bought a rapid charger that does AA's & AAA's which came about because it was the same price to buy the charger with 4 batteries ($10) than it was to buy the batteries alone (also $10), which made no sense because the batteries were the exact same batteries.  Needless to say I opted for the charger and batteries combo instead.  I have since read that the rapid chargers aren't always the best option & I don't remember the technical details, but the gist was that the rapid chargers are harder on the batteries which makes them not last as long.  It hasn't been an issue for us though as I have found that our universal charger will typically charge batteries overnight or in about 10-12 hours, whereas the "rapid" charger can take 2-3 days until the light indicates they are done... go figure!  Hmmm, so THAT'S why the charger with batteries was the same price as just the batteries?!

Anyway, I LOVE the charger & was actually considering getting one that does 9V batteries because I find that 9V batteries run out super fast, even when not in use, as in they are brand new...we have an extra one in our junk drawer & I go to use it 6 months later, it is almost always dead or near dead... (& we are talking the expensive name brand batteries because I have found with 9V batteries name brand ones are best...especially when we use them in our smoke detectors...) I don't get how they always go dead just sitting in the drawer... I mean they last & last in the smoke detectors, but not in the drawer... & the other non-rechargeables don't do that?!  So, I am probably going to add a 9V charger to my shopping list & see if I can find an affordable one... last time I checked I think EACH 9V batter was $10 though, so we'll see how far I get with that. 

The downside to rechargeable batteries for me is always the initial up front cost of $10 for 4 AA or AAA batteries... YIKES!!  Even knowing how much we are saving by using them, it is still hard to swallow sometimes to have to have such a big cash outlay up front.  Recently we actually had to spend $20 on 4 rechargeable C batteries for an infant swing... we spent $20 on the swing itself buying it from someone via Craig's List, so $20 just for the batteries seemed crazy to me, but I was able to convince myself to do it because I knew we'd spend way more than that using regular batteries... and once we are done with the swing, we will still have the batteries to use for other things... like flashlights, which almost always seem to have dead batteries because the littles like to play with them... not sure how, but they could track down a flashlight in a sandstorm.. it is a gift children have, no?!

Do YOU use rechargeable batteries??  If so, what brand do you like best??  If not, do you think you may give them a try now too??  What are ways YOU save money?? 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Letting Go...

Are there any things in your life that you have had to let go of or at least scale back on to relieve your stress level??  I know I sure have!!  Back when we only had 1 child, I was sure to return EVERY. SINGLE. Little People person, animal, & accessory back to the play set it came with... yep, really! LOL  Now I am just glad if they all make it off the floor, ideally into their designated compartment, but I will accept off the floor.... and I used to have play dishes & food all set up for "cooking" fun w/the play kitchen... little pots & pans hanging... salt & pepper shaker on the "counter"... phone in its cradle (hey, our REAL phone doesn't always make it back to the cradle, but THAT phone did... EVERY. SINGLE. DAY... or at least when I helped w/tidying it did!)... books were all tidy... everything in its place.  I scoff at that now!! LOL   

I wasn't just particular w/toys... the stove was always cleaned right after using it... sometimes while still hot & I would burn myself, but hey, it was clean!  Once a week the house was cleaned spotless top to bottom, while Mr. Lee played w/the kiddo.  It wasn't a long process (a couple of hours at best) since I kept up on the chores every day, but it was what I did & I liked having a nice clean house and a great start to the upcoming week.

After being blessed w/more children I had to let go of some things... okay, a lot of things... & my very clean house was one of them.  No, my house is never gross or dangerous, but lived in w/disheveled beds (I have joined the thought of why bother making the bed when it is just going to get used again... so we only make them for company... & usually only when someone is coming over that hasn't seen our house & may ask to see it... if someone has been over before then the beds do not get officially made), sticky floors, a messy desk, laundry needing to be put away, & happy kids! 

It is funny how our perspective can change about things over the years... whether it be based upon life changes in family size, having to take on a new job, etc.  After more blessings came along, the only time our house was spotless top to bottom (besides for company) was when it was for sale... & I was a bundle of nerves then trying to keep everything spotless w/children & pets... EVERY showing I was literally heaving 2 laundry baskets full of papers, etc. I needed to sort / keep out of sight because it looked cluttered (if you have ever tried to sell a house, especially in this brutal real estate market, you know what I mean about no clutter allowed... in fact they advise to depersonalize, which basically means to make your house feel like you don't even live there any more by taking down personal pix, kids' artwork, etc.) which is a BIG no-no, into my vehicle every time we had to vacate for a showing... then I would bring it back in the house, get it all sorted into piles of "to read", "to file", "to shred", etc. only to have to throw it all back into the laundry baskets & heave them back into my trunk for another showing... for nearly a year!     

My messy stove...
When the house was sale, I also had to back track a bit on my more laid back stove cleaning habit, because over the years I had adapted the clean it once a week or wait for someone else to clean it routine... it really made sense & I never realized how much I HATED to clean the stove until I had to clean it at least 1x a day for showings for a year. 

What induced my laid back approach to stove cleaning was having to eat gluten free, which required that I start cooking EVERYTHING from scratch... in order to conserve my time to spend it cooking & washing the endless dishes while I figured out our new eating situation, I came up w/the ingenious idea (or lazy according to some people! LOL) about not cleaning the stove after every single meal... it also saved me from burning my hand as much because I always insisted on cleaning it while it was still hot before sitting down to eat so I didn't have to clean after the meal... I hated having to spend the time trying to clean it once it all dried on... no fun at all! 

So, now that we have long since moved, are unpacked, etc. I am back to my wait & see approach w/the stove... wait & see if anybody else cleans it before I get to it! LOL  Hey, cooking 2-3 meals every day is a lot of cooking & I find that if I just let it go I don't feel the urge to wipe up the spilled rice while the grates are still glowing anymore... saving myself many blisters & burns! 

Mr. Lee often jokes that people can tell what we have eaten for the past couple of meals by looking at our stove.  Being gluten free there is almost always a bit of rice on the stove, no matter how hard I try to keep it contained in the pan... especially if I have a helper stirring the rice... then it is pretty much a given it will be spilled on the stove top...or if it was just cleaned... then no matter what, something will get spilled on the stove!  Cleaning the stove less often may not seem like it would save time, but for me it does, especially when like I said, I have to cook 2-3 times a day 7 days a week... & don't get me wrong, it is never a fire risk, health risk, etc. it is just not ALWAYS spotless like it used to be... did I say I have HAPPY kids?!

Are there any things YOU have had to scale back on??  Do you cook a lot??  What are some things you do (or don't do) so you have more time to get other things done that must come first??  Is your stove always spotless??  Do you insist on making beds every day??  Do you have any other time saving suggestions to share??

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Whose Children Are They?!

Just a quick update to touch base... we have had a crazy busy few weeks... including one of my sister's getting married & another is having a baby tomorrow (on the other sister's birthday).  I have so much to share & will be back next week!

In the meantime, I would strongly urge you to watch this very short video clip & see the insane statement made by Melissa Harris-Perry, an MSNBC host and Tulane University professor. 

Whose Children Are They    

To learn more about protecting parental rights go to this site
My children are gifts to MY family, from God!!  I don't need a village or any collectivism in my family, thank you!!  Ironic how while in the womb my CHILD is a fetus & just a blob...but once they are born they belong to EVERYBODY?!

More coming very soon!!
Mama Lee

What have you been up to??  Have you attended any weddings lately??  Do YOUR children belong to the "village??"  What are you doing outside if you are blessed to be experiencing warmer weather... gardening?? hiking?? going to the beach (our weather is not THAT warm, but I know it is for many... & I am slightly jealous... okay, truth be told, I am VERY jealous others have beach weather... there I said it, I am jealous... not that I go to the beach, but I do like the warmth)??  What is YOUR favorite weather??