Monday, February 21, 2011

Baby Clothes

Ahh baby clothes. This is one area where you can definitely save money when it comes to having kids. It is great if you can get gently used hand-me-downs from friends and relatives, but if not, there are other ways to save some money. Garage sales, thrift stores, and freecycle are good too. But what if you do need to supplement and buy some new things? You can often find great clothes that are cute and on sale at Target and Walmart for steal, also check out your local outlet centers, most states have a couple. One thing I can not stress enough is to bag up your clothes when you get home from the store and staple the receipt to the bad or store the clothes with the receipt. Why? The doctor may SAY your having a small baby, but it is really just a guess and that little one couple pop out weighing 10 lbs! Or you could end up with a baby that is smaller than you thought, or (god forbid) go into labor early and end up with a premie. Either way, it is a good idea to keep the tags on (I know it's tempting to nest and wash and fold them all but try to hold out, okay?) and keep the receipts where they will be easier to find. Try to buy mostly 3-6 month clothes at first, you can roll up sleeves but it is hard to make something bigger than it is.

Through trial and error I have learned that baby clothes, like adult clothes, fit differently from brand to brand. In my experience, Gerber runs really small so I would avoid buying newborn clothes from the Gerber brand unless you know you are coming home with a premie. Geranimals (walmart's brand) tend to fit larger than expected, especially width wise, so plan accordingly. I find that Carters brand fits pretty true-to-size, but again your baby may be different so your mileage may vary.

You can print coupons for clothes off of Gerber's website and I would sign up for their mail offers, you can get coupons that way as well.

I believe you need more clothes for newborns-9 months than you do as they get older. Little babies come with a lot of spit up and drool and super poop, and you will likely be changing their clothing several times a day. I find with older infants and toddlers, about a weeks worth of outfits that mix and match, a weeks worth of jammies, and a few seasonal items such as jackets and coats is really all you need if you have daily access to a washer and dryer. If you have to use a laundry mat, you may need more.

I also highly recommend getting footed sleepers that ZIP rather than snap, especially before your baby is sleeping through the night. It is hard to get all those snaps in the right spot when you are half awake at 3 A.M.

If you plan to have more children, save all of your baby clothes that you can in storage totes or bags by size as your baby outgrows them. Even if you end up getting a different gender the second time around, you can have a garage sale or craigslist the clothes you have to get money to pay for the ones you need. You can also try craigslist to "swap" with a mommy that needs girls clothing when you have boys clothing.

Any more advice out there from knowledgeable mommas?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The System and It's Flaws

So I mean to use this blog mostly as a tip line but I do feel the need to sometimes express my opinions on related topics. So with that in mind I want to talk about the prejudice that surrounds our state aid systems. There are a lot of people out there, especially in this economy, that need to use state aid. There is still a huge stigma surrounding it. That welfare is for lazy fat people who refuse to work, or for mothers that just want to pop out kid after kid and we are paying for it all with our tax dollars. The sad fact is, sometimes this is true. But for the most part, people take state aid because they actually need it and the usually feel ashamed about it. Please don't feel ashamed, or let anyone put you down for using a system that exists to help you. Have you ever worked? Did your partner or your parents work? Then consider the fact that you are only using what you already paid for by having taxes taken out of your paychecks. That is what my father said to me when we had to get medicaid so that I could take my little one to the doctor. He told me that he paid into the system for years so that I could do that, and I shouldn't feel bad about it. State aid should be considered a hand up, not a hand out. If you need it, use it to try to better your situation so that you won't need it any longer. At the same time, the systems sometimes makes it difficult to get ahead.

For instance, I recently got a job that I love and it pays well, better than any other job that I've ever had. But around here, child care is ridiculously expensive. It cost us over $1500 a month to put my daughter into day care. We also live in a suburban area, so I had to drive an hour just to get to work. Despite a good salary, I wasn't even making enough to cover my daughter's care and the gas to drive back and forth. It can be rough to climb out of the hole, and I want you guys to know you are not alone. Do not be ashamed if you have to take state aid, as long as you are working to better yourself.

Next in the series, I will be discussing the prejudice that can exist in the system.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

The Several Meal Deal-Beef Roast

This is the first in a series of posts about stretching the dinner budget by using one main cut of meat and creating several meals out of it. In this case I am using a beef roast. Here is a price breakdown of what you will need to complete three separate meals. I am assuming in this case that you are a family of four and that you have some staple items, mainly salt, pepper, and water. This can be adjusted to suit more or less family members. I am giving the prices for my local grocery store, which may be different from yours. On the upside, I live in one of the most expensive areas of the country so it may be much less where you live. Also, some of these ingredients can be purchased using WIC checks, so if you receive those you already have a good head start. You are going to need a crock pot for this one.

1-Beef roast 5LBs or so at $2.99/LB=$14.95
1-Package carrots at $1.29
1-Package celery hearts at $1.00
1-Bag yellow onions at $1.99
1-Bag potatoes at $1.99
1-Carton generic beef stock at $1.99
1-Package roast seasoning (such as McCormick, or a generic equivalent) at $.99
2-Packages brown gravy mix at $.50 for a total of $1.00
1-Box instant rice, white or brown to suit your tastes, though brown is healthier, at $1.00
1-Bag lentils at $1.00
1-Loaf of bread at $1.50
1-Package of butter or margarine-whatever is cheaper and whichever you prefer at $1.30

For a total of $29.70

Okay, early in the morning of the night you wish to eat the roast, chop up 3 or 4 of the carrots (I assume here that you bought the regular size, if you got babies you can just toss a few in) and 4 or 5 stalks of celery. Wash the potatoes and slice them into a large dice. Dice up the onion and toss it all in the crock pot. Place the roast on top of the veggies and season with the roast seasoning mix. Pour in the stock and add water as necessary to mostly cover the roast. If you have any beef bullion, add a little of that as well. Cook on low for as long as possible, checking the meat every once and a while for doneness. It should be fall apart tender.
Take the roast out and place on a cutting board. Let your family eat as much as they want of the roast and veggies and let the roast sit out on the board to cool while you eat.
After supper, slice or shred the rest of the roast into a Tupperware and place in the fridge. Once the stock and veggies are cooled off, skim off some of the fat and further dice and large pieces of veggies. Put the veggies and broth into another container and clean up.

For the next meal, slice the rest of the carrots into rounds and place in a small saucepan with just enough water to cover them and cover with a lid, heat on medium until soft. Boil rice according to package directions and while you are doing that heat up a large deep skillet. Add the leftover beef to the pan and move around frequently to warm through. Measure out two cups of water pour into a decent sized bowl. Add the two packets of gravy mix and mix with a fork until all the lumps are gone. Add to the pan with the beef and heat to boiling. Once it starts to boil, turn the heat down and stir slowly until sauce thickens, about 2 minutes. Serve the beef and sauce on top of the rice and with the carrots on the side.

Onto the last meal. The night before soak your lentills according to package directions. Heat up your leftover veggies and broth in a large stockpot and add your lentils, cook until tender. Serve with bread and butter.

This should be plenty enough food to feed a family of four for three separate meals and perhaps some lunches. Each meal would cost $9.90 or about $2.50 per person. Not bad!

So there you have it! Three complete and different meals all from one roast. People don't like leftovers usually, especially kids, but if you make an effort to transform leftovers into a completely different meal it will be received much better.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Swirly Ornaments

This might seem like a late timed post, but some people still have get togethers to attend and my main goal is to inspire you for next year. It is wise when you are on a tight budget to always think ahead. Christmas stuff goes on super clearance after the 25th and I usually buy my decorations then. I know it can be hard to give gifts to others when you are short on cash but I also know it's embarrassing to show up empty handed sometimes. So with that in mind I present you with a Christmas craft that is cheap on the wallet, easy to make, and beautiful. They are great to give and look pretty on your own tree as well.

Introducing Swirly Painted Ornaments!*

Ok so here is what you will need:

Glitter or Pearlescent paint (easily found at a craft store such as Micheals for $1-$2 per bottle and one bottle will make many ornaments)
Clear Glass Ornaments (again, easily found at craft stores, I would suggest picking some up now when they will be deeply discounted, but if you buy them at the beginning of the holiday season you will be paying around $5 for half a dozen)
Paper Towels

This is super simple, just remove the metal stopper (gently, they can break easily) and squeeze a tiny amount of paint (about the size of a nickle) into the ornament. Add another color. Fold up a sheet of paper towel and hold it over the opening and shake and swirl! You will get different patterns depending upon how you squeeze the paint into the ornament and how you shake it. You may need to add more paint to completely cover the inside of the ornament, but only add a little at a time as it is difficult to get the paint to dry if there is too much in there. Set the ornament out to dry with with opening facing up. The drying process may take several days and you may need to rotate the ornament every day or so so that paint doesn't pool in one spot and throw off the pattern. When completely dry, replace the stopper.

I gave away many of these this year for about 25 cents per piece, maybe a little less. People ooohhd and awwwddd over them.

I hope everyone had a safe and happy holiday!

*For the record I did not take this picture. I got it via a google search. When I went to take a picture of the ones I had made, my camera was being fussy.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Bulk Shopping

If you have it in your budget to bulk shop, there are several instances where it can really come in handy. I make it a point to search the grocery ads for family pack meat deals, where the price can be significantly lower than if you were to buy individual meal sizes. Take hamburger. It is usually much cheaper to buy the five or ten pound family pack than the one pound meal packs but my family of three (well two and half since my little one is only 18 months!) certainly can't eat all that at one sitting! What I do is buy the large pack and divide it up at home. Buy yourself some cheap or on sale Ziplock style quart size freezer bags. A kitchen scale could come in handy for this but isn't required. If I buy a five pound package of burger meat, I open up five of the bags (much easier to open then in the begining than trying to do so with meaty hands, plus helps to keep the bacteria under controll) and then divide up the meat into five as close as possible even portions. Place one portion of meat into each bag and then wash your hands. Now try to flatten the meat inside the bags as much as possible and push out as much air as you can and seal up the bags. These little packages can then be stored flat in your freezer and take up hardly any space at all! For a meal, I just defrost one package in the fridge and I'm good to go. I do the same thing with chicken breasts, chicken thighs, pork chops, and steaks. I just put as many portions as my family needs, usually two-three breasts chops or steaks, in a bag and stack em in the freezer. This does take some time on shopping day but can save a bundle on the grocery bill. Is there anything special you do concerning bulk shopping?

Monday, December 13, 2010


A lot of people have heard of SwagBucks at this point, but if you haven't, it's a good way to get gift cards for stores such as It's a little late for this year, but if you start now you could save up quite a bit in time for next years holiday season. SwagBucks is a search engine (and more) that works like Google. You can go to their website (click here) and sign up and just use them as a search engine instead of what you use now. You will randomly earn points (called Swag Bucks) and those points can be redemed for gift cards and other things. Currently you can get a $5 gift card for 450 points. Over the last year, I have earned about $100 worth of gift cards which I used this year to help buy Christman presents for my family. Again, like ChaCha, this isn't going to get you a tun of money but every little bit helps and all you have to do is search, which you probably would have done anyway. You can earn extra Swag Bucks in a number of ways such as refering your friends, turning in old cell phones, and taking surveys. One downfall I have found is they don't always have information that is as detailed as Google, so if you need to search for something really complex, I would use your normal search engine. Happy Holidays to all!


Okay, we all know that with the economy in the shape that it is in, it's difficult to find a job sometimes. It can also be rough on a family with only one parent working because they can't afford daycare (so the other parent could have a job as well.) Enter in ChaCha! ChaCha is a cell phone service where people text in questions and live representatives answer them. For instance, someone might text in "What's the weather in New York?" A rep would then respond with the forecast. If you go to their website (click here) and scroll halfway down the page, on the left there should be a link where you can sign up to become a rep. All you need is a computer with a decently fast Internet connection and you need to download Mozilla Firefox (click here.) You will need to go through a little bit of training and you will need to pass an exam on the ChaCha site. I had no trouble passing. ChaCha Guides (your job title) make anywhere between 2 and 10 cents per question answered, which doesn't sound like much but it really adds up. I found that I could make roughly $5 an hour, more if they were running a special contest for guides, which they do a lot. So it isn't three figure job, it isn't even minimum wage, but it is something that you can do on your own time whenever you want to and make a little extra money, and we all know how much a little extra can mean when you have to choose between eating or paying the electric bill. To get paid, you can choose to have a debit card sent to you which you can reload with your earnings at any time, but it will deduct $2 from your account every time you do that, or you can choose to have them directly deposit your earnings into your bank account once a month. Anyway, it's something you can do at night after you put your kids to bed for a couple hours and make a little extra cash. When you sign up, you can enter my guide name (butterflymkm) and we will both get a kickback for it. In any case, happy earning!