Adapting drawers for herb and spice jars

August 24, 2014 Comments Off

The three drawers in the island will eventually be replaced when we build a new island. For now though, I needed a way to keep my herb and spice jars easily sorted.

These French Quarter bottles (Target’s Archer Farms spices) were too big to fit into the drawer with the old organizer, so we came up with this easy and quick solution: a piece of scrap quarter round, trimmed to size, and glued into place. One drawer was warped so a few tacked in finishing nails kept it in place.

This works with any bottles that have a neck as it is the neck that rests on the wooden bar. It angles the jar so it is easier to grab and it keeps them from sliding around in the drawer.

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Downsizing the book collection

August 19, 2014 Comments Off

bookmounds

There are two major storage issues I need to start addressing now: 1.) books and 2.) photos. We will downsizing sometime in 2016-17 from this house we have lived in for about 17 years at 2600 sq. foot home (4 bed, 2.5 bath) to an almost-tiny home of 1 or 2 bed with one bath (less then 1200 sq. ft).

Reading is one of my biggest hobbies and when we retire, I plan on having all my favorites at the touch of a button. E-readers also makes sitting in lines or at the doctor’s office much easier to bear. I will not have room for rows and rows of bookshelves (which we own 8 now) in the new house. And if we decide to travel, the collection can come with us anywhere.

Some books of course will be kept in their current physical book form – they are now out of print, not available as an e-book, or give too much comfort reading in a paperback form (especially as some of my favorites are rather thick books with gorgeous covers!). However, many can be sold, traded or donated to the library once we have a digital format.

We own a lot of books, and when we moved back to Oklahoma from Missouri, we started to move all the Agatha Christie mystery books onto an e-reader. You would think that these books wouldn’t cost much – after all Christie has been dead for decades! but they still sell for about $7 on Kindle!

However, if you pay attention they often go on sale, so I’ve started compiling a massive wish list of books to move onto Kindle – and each paycheck, allot $20 to buy whatever is on sale that is on the list. If you are big reader, you owe it to yourself to start doing this too – it’s far too expensive to move over a physical collection into digital in one swoop.

So it’s time to say goodbye – the amount of space saved and the convenience will be massive!

Upping the Savings Game at Target

June 15, 2014 Comments Off

Okay, I upped my Target game. I saved 19% which is the best I’ve done since I bought the Juicer and got a $10 rebate on it! Yeah!

Remember, I am not an extreme couponer, so whatever savings I can get I weigh that against effort extended and if I was able to buy brands that I wanted. So this is what I did differently:

1.) I was careful with Cartwheel to get into the store before certain deals expired that I knew I wanted – such as meat, fruit and vegetable savings. These are three areas that are hard to find with coupons.

2.) 3 offers were buy one and get a second 1/2 off and each of one those deals had an additional coupon on it (Paper towels, Fiber One Cereal and Cheerios). Two of these were “accidents” and I could have upped this game a bit by looking through the ad. I am bad though about not reading ads as they bore me and I think a lot of it is hype, not savings.

3.) 6 of the 12 Cartwheel items I had a coupon for. It’s very important to coupon the Cartwheel items because it really ups the percentage to maximize savings.

4.) 78% of the items had coupons as opposed to when we scored poorly (overall items bought 50-60% had coupons). I changed this by doing some online looking for coupons (spent about 30 minutes developing my list and Googling).

I regularly buy the following brands so I signed up through their websites to receive coupons or newsletters (it’s important to use an email just for sign ups – this email will eventually get leaked and spammed so I use a different one for family/friend correspondence):

Hunts tomato sauce related products
Pillsbury – sometimes biscuits/rolls, frozen cookie dough
Betty Crocker – Blueberry Muffin Mix
Campbells – slow cooker sauces, sometimes soups
General Mills – Cheerios and cereals
Ronzoni pasta – veggie type (love it!)
Jif peanut butter – creamy daughters favorite
Pepperidge Farms – Cinnamon bread, Goldfish crackers
Land O Lakes – butter
Bummel and Brown – butter
Gold Medal Flour
Quaker Oats
Annies Mac and Cheese
Silk – Soymilk/Almond Milk
Uncle Bens Rice
Kashi Cereal
Sargento or Kraft Cheese (sliced)
Jennie-O turkey
Horizon Milk and Cheese
Minute Maid Orange Juice – Vitamins added
Pancake syrup – what is on sale/coupon
Disposable razors – what is on sale/coupon
Paper towels – what is on sale/coupon
Toilet paper – what is on sale/coupon
Other Health, Beauty, Medical needs, etc… I will go into another time

5.) Target states we saved $53 which is deceptive remember as they count their own sales (not my coupons or even Cartwheel).

Okay yeah! I feel like I am making sense with this and it saves me money without making me go crazy shopping around town, having my kids eat off brands they don’t like or “extreming” it.

Bargains no more

June 15, 2014 Comments Off

You probably want to read about some amazing deal I found: like a fantasy $10 dresser I redid and sold for $500. Personally, the reality is that those deals are getting harder and harder to find – if not impossible.

All the popularity of painting furniture on Pinterest, Facebook and in junk/vintage booth stores has made it rare to find “deals” anymore. Even average furniture has gone up in price on Craigslist and so I am not here to tout bargains. I actually am a bit tired of having to buy something only to spend weekends getting it back into some sort of shape for my home – it’s one reason the blog has not been so busy this last year as I’ve had re-decorating burnout…

LR_lamp_mercuryglass

I did find two matching lamps for the Living Room – they are the Mercury Glass style (I did try the Mercury glass spraypaint featured in many Pinterest pins and the reality is that it was crap and not at all professional in end product).

If I had bought similar ones on sale at Hobby Lobby they would have been about the same price though these are a bit better in quality. I am also no longer spending money at Hobby Lobby due to them breaking the law and trying to shame women working at below a living wage into being baby machines (or maybe breaking the law in New York advertising fake bargains from China – or maybe breaking the law in Oklahoma by holding secret meetings with government officials).

They would have cost me twice as much if bought at Pier One and these are about the same quality as Pier One lamps. But a steal? No.

lamp_table_chair_LR

I also found two matching end tables for the Living Room on Craigslist. Again, no real bargain at $120 for two. However, these are high quality pieces, nothing wrong or damaged with them, with hardware I won’t have to replace. It’s also a huge problem trying to find two matching tables – generally you find an end table with a matching coffee table (not what I wanted as it didn’t work with the room’s configuration).

I will be painting them as soon as I replace the couch and chairs. While the black and white striped curtains, the black chair, wall color and floor will remain the same, the sofa and the chairs will be changed. I may go with a gray couch and patterned upholstered chairs or gray chairs and a colorful couch. Not sure.

The chair here? Craigslist for $80. Why so high? Because it’s real leather not fake vinyl. The springs are excellent and while I might put a wax on the wood, I’m not repainting it. It’s pretty much ready to go.

Nothing wrong with dumpster diving or finding a broken dresser to fix up – but even broken things are Craigslist are going for twice what they did two years ago (I saw a dresser missing two drawers priced at $100! Really? and the ad stated – “redo like on Pinterest”).

On the bright side – it means the economy is improving. The downside is that the days of scooping up treasures next for nothing is pretty much gone.

Dealing with Hardwood Floors

June 15, 2014 Comments Off

Don’t get me wrong – I love my dark hardwood floors but now that I’ve lived with them for a year, I’ll tell you some things that you don’t want to hear.

1.) They scratch easily. Yes, don’t buy whatever the floor salesman tells you about how tough they are. I have a natural wood floor upstairs and a dark one downstairs. The dark one scratches more easily and shows it.

Dealing with it: all your furniture MUST HAVE felt foot pads installed. You can find them at Lowes or Home Depot for little cost. If you don’t put these on you will regret it. And forget your kid driving a tricycle through the house like they show on the commercials!

2.) Dark floors show dirt. You will need to clean them everyday or every other day, especially if you have pets or kids.

Dealing with it:

Option 1: Dustmop. A popular Pinterest post is showing this dustmop you can buy from Target and how amazing it is to clean hardwood floors. Yes, it is definitely easier and better than a broom. Don’t even bother with a broom. The dustmop head is washable so that is good.

However, if you are dealing with pet hair or a lot of dust/fluff it won’t do. It just pushes everything up in the air. And irregardless, you still have to use a dust pan.

Option 2: After working at a vet clinic, which had these stick vacuums in the rooms, I am sold on these if you have pets. No dustpan to use, and they are lightweight – lighter than a broom and easier on your back. Disadvantages are that they have a small container for dirt and they don’t have a nozzle like a regular vacuum.

Basically, it’s a Dustbuster with a long handle – if you have pets and hardwood floors – trust me buy it!

cleaning_hardwood_floors1

Or you can get my upcoming Christmas 2014 present to myself – the Neato Robotic Vacuum.  Oh yes, you will be mine…..

An update on my Target savings

May 18, 2014 Comments Off

I’ve kept back my Target receipts. I thought it would be interesting to see what I’m saving.

First, Target is my go-to grocery store. I don’t do Aldi (cheap food crap that tastes like cardboard so no savings for me there if no one will eat it); Wal-mart (is no cheaper than Target – go do a price/product comparison and you will see I’m right about that and the shopping experience gives me a headache); no Costco near me; and while I occasionally do Whole Foods and other organic oriented stores, those are not stores I expect to “save” at. I also want to get back to my Farmers’ Market shopping.

Second, these savings are using in-store sales (chosen to match up with coupons, Cartwheel OR just standard items I regularly buy), Target printed coupons, some manufacturers coupons, and the Cartwheel savings system at Target’s website. I am not going to go extreme on coupons so if that is what you are looking for, not the blog post for you.

Basically, this is a blog post about an average person spending about 30 minutes a week (or less) to see if she can improve her grocery bill.

Thirdly, two things I dislike about Target and this savings system:

1.) the receipt total doesn’t state how much you saved. You have to go line by line on the receipt to see this. When I compared what Target said I saved vs. what I saved the totals did not match. I think Target counts price “drops” which I do not. Not cool Target.

2.) logging into Cartwheel at their website doesn’t save my password and doesn’t remember the password from the main site. This is more time wasted out of my day. A little tweak and it would be far less irritating.

Let’s see how I did:

4/5/14 ~ Total spent $307.21; savings of $26.50. 8.6% savings. 69 items/40 with savings.

4/7/14 ~ Total spent $165.97; savings of $16.71; 10.9% savings. 45 items/29 savings.

4/18/14 ~ Total spent $266.59; savings of $55.46; 22.6% savings (we got a $10 coupon for a purchase which made a big difference). 44 items/38 savings.

5/17/12 ~ Total spent $342.43; savings of $23.60; 7.5% savings. 57 items/29 savings.

What I’ve learned so far:

Target provides the majority of their sales on their store brand. The quality of there store brands is pretty out there. For example, the dishwasher soap was HORRIBLE – I threw it away it was so bad – left a white film on my dishes and made them taste lemony. The Archer Farms frozen green beans, broccoli florets and butternut squash is good and I’m buying those regularly (and they are consistently on sale/Cartwheel) – the other veggies not tasty. The deli Target salads are also regularly on sale and have become a work lunch staple.

It’s worth trying out some of their store brands but the cleaning products I’d take a pass on.

Sales often coincide with the Cartwheel system savings. For example if Green Giant canned vegetables is on sale, Target often adds on a Cartwheel or coupon offer. This can really deep discount the savings and is worth the time. There are specific brands I know I’ll always buy: Horizon Fat Free Milk, Minute Maid Orange Juice with added vitamins, and Annies boxed Mac N Cheese for example. Keep an eye on sales but only as it pertains to brands I’m interested in.

Add on manufacturer’s coupons to sales and Cartwheel really ups the overall percentage of savings. If I know that there is a certain brand I’m buying, for example Kashi cereals, wait for a sale, Cartwheel savings, and manufacturers/Target coupon. Especially if these are items that I stock my pantry for staples that I use for backup (i.e. canned vegetables just get pitched into crockpot recipes).

Plan ahead for big ticket purchase items and wait for a sale. For example, I knew we needed a new blender/food processor. I caught the Ninja on sale with a $10 gift card. The sale discount itself was what I could have gotten at Bed Bath and Beyond with my 20 percent off coupon, but add in the$10 gift card and it was definitely better to buy from Target.

Evaluating the data

1.) Aim for 50 percent or more items need a coupon or Cartwheel savings

2.) Coupons + Cartwheel double the savings (approximately).

3.) Look for higher coupons, especially if they are $1 or more off coupons.

4.) Gift cards, rebates, combine offers and get a shopping card credit really adds up the percentage of savings.

5.) Determine what store brands would be okay with the family and maximize those with Cartwheel and coupons.

6.) Aim at 85 to 90 percent of your cart having a savings coupon of some sort.

Hm so I’ll continue to keep track and see if I can improve my game here. :D

Store brands vs. “real” brands

March 18, 2014 Comments Off

I am not big on store brands. Generally, they have failed and been crap. However, in an effort to save money I did buy the UP&UP Target store brand for liquid dishwasher soap.

FAIL. Crap. It films the glasses and leaves a lemony tasty film on the dishes. Thanks but I’ll spend another $1 and go back to Cascade.

Way back in the day when we were trying to do some Penny Pincher stuff, I made her cocoa from scratch recipe. OMG was that stuff like CHALK… pure unadulterated crap. You see it all over Pinterest about making your own this and that, and for the most part, in my trials, made-at-home-products have failed over and over again to produce the results that a commercial product can give me.

This is the problem with these coupon queens who seem to get something for nothing.

1.) they buy what is on sale, regardless if they need it. That doesn’t save me money.

2.) they buy store brands or “cheaper” brands that in my experience (see above) suck. So you save 75 cents and have a brand that simply doesn’t work. Is that a savings? I don’t think so. Another example is Birdseye vs. Green Giant. Birdseye puts more of the stems in the frozen vegetables and heavily pads their mixes with cauliflower, vs. Green Giant produces a better quality product in the frozen vegetables arena.

Yes, I do have some brand loyalty – not because of their advertising but because the product IS better (give me Ghirardelli over Nestle any day – and Godiva over that).

3.) they stockpile. Well I don’t want to tie up my money in a closet full of toilet paper. If you want to “work” your money that way go ahead but money in the hand is always better than money tied up in a purchase.

4.) they shop sales and go to multiple stores. I work now and have a lot of responsibilities outside the home. I don’t have time to go to the Dollar Store, Target, Wal-mart, Big Lots, etc…. so I can save $5. Time IS money and I would rather work with one or two stores that provides me consistent values.

Don’t get fooled by this “get groceries for nothing.” I would rather stick to brands that work – brands that taste good – brands that give me good quality – than stuff that simply is crap.

And I guess making chalk-tasting hot chocolate powder is a savings because no one will drink it!

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