strategy


Yes, Believe it or not, this is Cheap Parenting – and Stacy isn’t the only parent. I’m usually more of the behind the scenes guy on this blog, but as we were talking, Stacy mentioned it might be good for me to occasionally pop in and give my experiences with some of the changes we’ve made.

I feel like we have a lot of lady readers out there, so I was wondering if any of you have shared Stacy’s posts (cloth diapering, make your own cleaning supplies, dropping paper towels, etc) with your man. What was his response? Did he have questions? Was he interested in trying any of our cheap tricks?

I’m happy to share the insights that have helped me with these transitions to a more alternative/non-consumerish lifestyle.  Yes, I checked wikipedia, non-consumerish is a word.

Let me know how I can help.

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Today my mind is a flurry of activity. I feel like I have a lot to write about. Things like what I want to do with a thrift store sweater, or my latest craft project that has me excited to girlify Kalea all up, or perhaps the healthy and yummy sounding brownie recipe I have found that I would like to try. In fact, today I am in the mood to be very very domestic. I could sew up a storm, can up a what ever it is that you can up (as long as it isn’t chicken, I am done with that). I would make my own soap (because I do you know) but I don’t need any right now so I won’t. I am in the mood to grind my own flour, make my own butter and all other kinds of incredibly ambitious domestic kind of things. But you know, the fun ones, not the washing dishes and folding laundry ones.

Yes I would love to write about those right now, but alas I can not. Why? Well first of all because I don’t have pictures of any (except that blue sweater, but I haven’t done my project with that yet) second, because that doesn’t have a whole lot to do with saving money, and today is Thrifty Thursday. Third, it is better to write about it after I have accomplished it, which I have not because the kids are still awake =)

After my chicken post, I was all planned to tell you how I did/do groceries for $120 for a month. I should have just written it then, because I am not really in the mood right now. So instead I think I will tell you about how I save money cleaning. (Maybe next  week we will talk food.)

I had thought about making my own cleaning supplies for a while, mainly to save money. Then about 2-3 months ago I had an epiphany. As I was cleaning my bathroom Alex walked in… and walked right back out carrying my chemically bathroom cleaner bottle I had laid down. AHHHHHH DON’T PUT THAT IN YOUR MOUTH, I shouted. After I rescued my son from the cleaner and nearly passed out myself from the horrid smell I decided that was it.

Bye bye chemicals, hello natural food based cleaners.

Here is what I use:

For windows and mirrors : White vinegar (probably could dilute, but I didn’t when I first put it in my bottle). And rags. No streaks!, Works better than W!ndex and I don’t get a head ache from the ammonia.

Bathroom Cleaner:

  • 1/2 cup vinegar
  • 1/4 cup baking soda
  • 2 liters water
  • Mix together and dump in an old spray bottle, it scrubs and shines, deoderizes and disinfects.

    For a toilet bowl cleaner I just sprinkle Baking Soda in the toilet, a little vinegar and let it set till I am done with the rest of my bathroom, scrub and flush.

    My stove gets cleaned with baking soda for those tough stuck on things.

    Are you sensing a pattern here? =)
    I still have a big bottle of P!neSol left that I mop my floors with yet, I won’t replace that until it is all gone (Cheap remember?) But other than that, we are pretty non toxic.
    I even make my own laundry soap (though that will be another post, when I need to make some again). I know you can add essential oils to make for a better smell, but I keep forgetting to pick them up when I go to the store. (Hey I go with two kids under two, give me a break 😉 )

    Benefits:
    1. CHEAP I just bought a BIG container of distilled white vinegar for $2.30. That will last me a looooooooooooooooooong time. Baking soda is pretty inexpensive too.
    2. Non-toxic. While I wouldn’t encourage Alex to drink any of these concoctions I don’t freak out if he comes in to “help” me clean.
    3. I no longer get sick cleaning. For as long as I can remember I got horrid head aches whenever I cleaned with name brand cleaners. Now I don’t get headaches, I get hungry 🙂 I love salt and vinegar chips, and the smell of my cleaners makes me crave them 😛

    Hmmmmmm now I should go use some of these so I can plop myself in front of the sewing machine after my babies go to sleep…

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    I have to say I am rather impressed with how far we can make our grocery budget stretch. Many people will tell you there secret to stretching groceries is “couponing”. I have to say, I am not one of them. Coupons work really well for some people just not me. Maybe it is because no one has ever really showed me how. But every time I try to try it, the only coupons I can find would require me to purchase something I wouldn’t really purchase anyway. So I would end up spending $1.00 (for extra product) in order to save .20 on that same product. For me (so far) it just hasn’t been worth it. But if someone could show me the trick to coming home with getting paid for buying toothpaste, I would probably reconsider.

    Since I don’t coupon, my “secret” is simple:

    Buy Bulk.

    Generally speaking, the larger the quantity something is sold in the cheaper per unit it costs. Last week I once again, struck gold. Our local bulk foods market ran a sweet special. Boneless, skinless chicken breast for $1.59/lb if you bought 40lb boxes. So I of course did! In fact I bought 2! I split one of the boxes with mom, so I ended up with 60 lb of chicken breast. Unfrozen, just waiting for me to do wonderful things to it.

    Now I will tell you, it was a lot of work up front. But it will save me TONS more time and money in my grocery budget for the next several months. Here is what I did:

    My set up

    Step one was trimming the chicken. I cut off all the fat, then measured it using a kitchen scale. I cut each breast into 3.5-4 oz (the recommended serving size) pieces. If a piece was smaller than that I set it to the side to be used for stir fry.

    Pre- packaged individual meal servings.

    After it was all sectioned I put 3 pieces into one quart freezer bag. If it was the “scraps”  it got cut up into stir fry pieces and 10 oz went into one quart bag.

    Yumminess!

    Once it was bagged I added the marinades to each quart bag. This will help out already knowing what to do with it in the future. This time I used, Raspberry Chipotle BBQ, Italian and home made Teriyaki. I also left  some just plain so as to allow for creativity in the future.

    Who says pre-cooked meals can't be yummy?

    Some Chicken I didn’t marinade, I cooked it on my (mom’s much larger) George Forman grill. Then bagged 3 of those. This way if I need something SUPER quick it is ready, or to grab for a quick lunch. Better than deli meat in my opinion =)

    Meals for the winter/spring.

    Meals for the winter/spring.

    Once each quart bag was marinaded (or not) I put quart bags into larger freezer bags, and labeled. I fit about 7 quart size into 1 gallon size. The reason is two-fold. First extra protection against freezer burn, and second. This made for a more organized freezer.

    All in all, I ended up with 84 meals worth. Which breaks down to $1.07 a meal for meat total, or .37 per person per meal. And I now have  “convenience” food without the convenience food price!

    But just to be clear, any dish I take anywhere this winter, will involve chicken 🙂

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    There are few things that I love more than saving money. Except possibly (ok definitely) seeing my kids smiling and having fun! Enter : All Kids Stuff Sale. Pretty much the best thing ever for cheap thrifty parents.

    It is basically a giant, amazingly organized garage sale, with some quality control. (They really don’t sell junk stuff) Priced somewhere between garage sales and chain re-sale shops (like Once upon a child). I have found that especially with baby/kids things getting something new is really overrated. The kids don’t use something long enough (in general) to make it worth the outrageous price that a lot of retailers put on the item simply because it is labeled “baby”. I went tonight and struck gold! Here is how I do it.

    1. I sorted through all the kids clothes last week to see where they are lacking. (Alex only needs snow pants, Kalea some
    more 6-9 or 9-12mo stuff. More on this later)
    2. Jason and I talk about and compile a list of what we think the kids need, so I have a plan of attack going in.
    3. I get there an hour before the doors open to the sale so I can get a front spot in the line.
    4. First place I head is if I have any major items on my list (like a pack n play, stroller or crib.) This time my “big item” was outdoor toys.
    5. If something even makes me think about it and it is a “big item” I grab the tag off of it (claiming it as mine, even if I can’t lug it around the whole sale) I can always put a purchase back.
    6. I always go in with a budget and keep a running tally (roughly) in my head.
    7. I re-evaluate all my purchases before I check out.
    8. My general rule of thumb on pricing is : if I can’t make it cheaper, I will buy it. If I haven’t seen it cheaper I will buy it.

    9. Unless there is a major clothing item (like a winter coat) I don’t purchase any clothes till Saturday. That is their half price day. There are soooooo many clothes that it is easier to even look for clothes when they have been kinda picked over.

    So here is what I got last night:

    All my finds

          

    They will cook lots of yummy meals with this!

    Some pretty cool inside toys.

    Some pretty cool inside toys

    Two wall hangings with matching bedroom set.

    All in all I got : Play kitchen, lots of play food/dishes, outside swing, two baby dolls, baby basket, head bands for Kalea, play lawn mower, Little Tikes car, complete bedroom suite (including 2 twin quilts and 2 wall hangings), somewhere around 15 match box cars, somewhere around 10+ animal “action figures”

    For a grand total of: $64.00.

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    I have just a few more things to finish up in the nursery (finish binding my quilt, finish one more bumper, and put away all my baby’s adorable little clothes and things) but I thought I would share a quick update on the *almost* finished nursery.

    My secret diaper storage, cleverly hidden behind the crib.

    My secret diaper storage, cleverly hidden behind the crib.

    Extra storage for clothes and bedding etc.

    Extra storage for clothes and bedding etc.

    I had gotten these storage crates as a graduation present (a few years back) and love them. I said something to Jason about setting them up. And he came up with the idea of hanging them on the wall. They are all independent of eachother so if we need to move one we can without moving the others. Plus I think it looks really cool how he has it set up. (Great job Jason!!!)

    All the nursery furniture in place

    All the nursery furniture in place

    We got the crib and mattress at once upon a child. The crib is in AWESOME condition, not a scratch on it. And the mattress was a nice Serta. All together we got it for $150.00. And the changing tabel I got at the All kids stuff sale.  For $15.00

    The bumpers I made for the crib :-)

    The bumpers I made for the crib 🙂

    I got my bumpers (well one anyway) done for the crib. My sis Karissa takes total credit for the  frog theme because she is the one that found the fabric and inspired the theme. (Nice taste K) I kinda had to make up my own pattern but I think that it turned out OK 😉

    Some bibs that I made.

    Some bibs that I made.

    Blocks that I made.

    Blocks that I made.

    These are just a few more of the little crafts I have made. Two of the blocks have little bells in them. And the one with ABC on it, I made out of some scrap  terry cloth from the bibs. I had some fun with these, and after I finish a few more pressing projects I’m going to make some more of both 🙂

    If you want to make more projects like these, I found the patterns here. You can save a TON of money by making your own things, and buying second hand. I am just about ready to add up the total of what our nursery expenditure has been. I’ll post it when we do.

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    I have a confession to make, I am addicted to cheap things, free things and blogs. Completely, insanely addicted. (There are worse things I suppose). Here is how it started…

    The end of last week I stumbled across a blog that a friend had mentioned. And it just so happened that that particular day she was having a blog giveaway. So I signed up. I didn’t win, but I also didn’t invest anything.
    But that was probably a dangerous move, because this week it has been extremely S L O W in the office, and I am the only one there. So after I filed and re-filed things, twiddled my thumbs and organized my desk I got on the same blog again, and found a link to another blog that was having a giveaway. That is when I got lost.
    Apparently there are simply a TON of blogs that routinely give away free things. Some products are eh so-so but most times there are some pretty sweet things. I have signed up for everything from diapers to necklaces. And I certainly won’t bore you with all the details. But I will share a few blogs that I stumbled accross that I thought were pretty neat.
    Totally not parent related, but a cool giveaway I will share are these beautiful necklaces .

    Ok my two new favorite blogs to check out -not just for the frequent giveaways-
    www.mamasmoneysavers.com lots of giveaways and product reviews. I have decided I really like product reviews, because even if it is something that is too expensive for me, I can take the idea and figure out how to modify it to my budget 🙂
    The other website that is really cool is mommies with cents. This website is awesome! It has recipes, coupons, giveaways, and the best part…. They go through all the major stores and lay out what deals they have going on that week. Including if they were shopping what they would purchase to get the best deals. Right now they have photo deals up through shutterfly and kodak. It really is a great resource.
    No I haven’t actually won anything yet, but thats ok… one of these days if I enter enough I might win something… and if I don’t… I didn’t spend a dime 🙂
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    Since we heard the baby’s heart beat we have decided it is “safe” to start purchasing some need-to-haves. My sister-in-law told me about a local baby store that is going out of business. Since I am always on the look out for sweet deals I decided to check it out. From my experience, I have come up with some guidelines for getting the best deal possible.

    1. Scope out and ask around. I went in last week and looked at what they had. I took a pen and paper and made notes of items that were of interest to me. Everything in the store was 25% off. So I wrote down the items, and the prices, then went home without buying anything. I asked my mother-in-law and sisters-in-law about what good prices are for the items I had written down. That way I could narrow it down to what I really wanted to get.

    2. Just because it says sale doesn’t mean its a deal. This is why I asked around before I bought. Some things really were decent (like a toddler to infant bath tub for $9) Other things really weren’t a deal at all. (Like a bebe pod infant seat for $35). But since I am not familiar with baby pricing I did some research, so I didn’t get sucked in to spending more than I needed to just because I saw the sign “sale”.

    3. Prioritize needs over wants. Think ahead. What is something that you are really going to need. What can your baby not adequately survive without? Those adorable baby bumpers, and wall hangings really are cute, but are they needed. Spend money on the needed things first, then think about what you can get as shower gifts, then get whatever you really really want with left over money.

    4. Don’t fall for fancy trimmings. I walked into the store tonight (for the second time) and the owner remembered me. I picked up a fisher price infant to toddler aquarium bathtub. It was quite adorable. Originally priced at $24 at this shop (other places had it retailing at $30) then 25% off of that dropped it down to $18. I was happy with this price, saving $12 on typical retail price. But before I checked out I saw a table that was marked down to 50% off. On it was also an infant to toddler tub. It was a First Year brand. Original price $18, but at 50% off it was only $9. Before I purchased either tub, I compared the two.

    The First Years brand

    The Fisher Price Brand

    As you can see the Fisher Price brand is flashier, and could be quite tempting. But when it comes right down to it, the only real difference between the two tubs was the 3 bath toys that came with the Fisher Price one. They both had rounded plastic bodies, they both had soft rubber grips/cushions for the toddler, they both had plugs in the bottom to let water out and they both had soft mesh infant attachment. The Fisher price had patterned material and the First Years one had plain material and of course the lack of toys. Practically speaking, babies won’t play with toys in the tub, nor do they care if their are fish on their seats or not. So I decided to spend $9 and get an infant to toddler bath tub 🙂

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