Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Goodwill Hunting!

In my famiy (and by family, I mean close friends as well) we have a lot of children around. With a lot of children comes a lot of birthday and Christmas presents. Before I decided to start saving money or as it really is, stop wasting money, I spent a fortune on presents through the year but all of that has changed and the kids in my life still get great stuff. Here are my suggestions to give great gifts on a budget!

1. Start Early (or never stop!): I shop for presents all year long. Anywhere I go I always have a mental list of the kids I need to shop for. It is not that hard to store a few extra gifts around the house but I would suggest going a head and wrapping the present after you get it and tagging if with its recipients name. Before I started this practice I would often forget that I had gotten something for a child and purchase something else! HUGE WASTE OF TIME AND MONEY!

2. Used is the New New!: Just because a gift has been loved by someone else before does not mean it can not be loved by another person! And after all, regardless of whether the gift is used or not, it is new to the recipient. I have bought used gifts for most presents for the past two years and normally the kids like it better than the new stuff they get. Used stuff often can not be bought easily in a store so it is unique!

3. Always be on the lookout: I shop EVERYWHERE! Goodwill, yard sales, church consignment sales, consignments shops, Walmart, etc. I do not always buy used but I do always buy at a reduced prices. Sometimes Walmart marks things down to next to nothing and then I will buy new or often times at church consignment sales people are selling things that were obviously given as a gift and never opened.

4. Keep a stash: If I find a really great deal on something that can be used as a gift for someone ages birth-teenager,  I buy it!

Here are some examples of gifts I have gotten, where I got them, how much I paid and the recipients age and gender!

Child’s Age/Gender
Purchase Location
 7 y/o girl
 NWT Scarf/Hat/Gloves pink with snow flakes set
 9 y/o boy
 Carolina Panthers bean bag and Panthers Lunch box
 Bean Bag-2.25 (retail 45.00 on amazon)
Lunch Box-1.00
 Yard Sale-Bean Bag
 3 y/o girl
 NWT Coloring book with markers that only color on that kind of paper (forgot what this is actually called!) and Dora Table and Chairs set. (The little kind for a play room that kids can draw at or eat a snack)
 Coloring Book-.50
Chair and Table Set-5.00 (more than I normally pay but it was cute and her sisters could use the table as well.
 Church Consignment Sale (Half off sale)
 5 y/o girl
 Teddy Bear backpack/purse, and NWT sparkly pencils w hearts on them
 Backpack/purse: 1.99
Pencils-.25 (bought after Valentines Day)

11 y/o boy (This is my son and was part of his Christmas presents. All of his stuff was used or on sale and believe me the child had a great Christmas!
NWT-Nike long sleeve shirt, 48-inch flat screen tv and Large assortment of books.
Nike Shirt-1.00
TV-20.00 (It had crayon marks on the part that surrounds the screen but they came off with a magic eraser.
Books-5.00 for over 30 books. Hardy boys, goosebumps, graphic novels, Percy Jackson, Witch and Wizard, Harry Potter.
Books-Some craigslist, goodwill, yard sales, and some came from a library giveaway.

Hope this is helpful!

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Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Homemade Baby Food: DON'T BUY!

Ok, some people may have a problem with the title but let me assure you, I am not condemning anyone who buys baby food because I certainly did and probably will be forced to in the future! Life happens and sometimes you just need it now!

Having said that, I really think buying baby food is a waste of money. You are paying for someone else to smush up things that you could do easily yourself. Here is my plan for doing it and remember that I work a full time job and have another child to deal with so it is possible to do this and be busy and on a budget. (It really helped our budget!)

1. Cook what you normally cook. 

I try and cook most meals at home anymore for two reasons: Its healthier and cheaper! Since I do this anyway, I normally can just make enough for my baby to eat as well but of course I do not want him having much salt so I have to be careful how I season or I wait to season until I have taken out his food.

EXAMPLE: last night my family had hot dogs, cauliflower and green beans. Both the veggies were frozen. I cooked them as I always do based on the package directions (cook in water, bring to a boil) and then before I added salt, pepper and a little butter I took out a half cup of each and threw it in the blender. Viola' ! Baby food!

2. Use your freezer

I have a chest freezer but even if you just have the above the fridge kind, its no biggie. Sometimes you will need some go-to food for your baby and not have the time/energy to make it right then. This is why I use my freezer! I do not do what some mothers do and spend an entire Saturday each month cooking because Saturday is taken up by baseball games and soccer practice but I do spend a little time every so often making extra when I am already cooking to puree and freeze.

EXAMPLE: Last week I cooked sweet potatoes as part of dinner for my hubby, DSS and myself. I threw the rest of the sweet potatoes that I had into the oven (made 3 for us and threw in 3 extra) to cook with the ones we would eat. After dinner as I I peeled them (the skin falls right off after baking) and threw them in the food processor, process and then poured the contents into ice cube trays. Then you just wrap the ice cube tray in plastic wrap of some kind and freeze. I sometimes take the cubes out and put them in freezer bags so that I can use the ice cube tray for different kinds of baby food but only if I need the tray. Works great and is very easy! One sweet potatoes costs next to nothing compared to a jar of sweet potato baby food!

I do not make that much in advance because I figure fresher is better but I always have a little extra just in case. Also, if I buy too much of something and I know it will go bad before we eat it, I use it for baby food.