Tuesday, May 31, 2011

My name is Tracy, but you can call me Martha: Tiered Organizer

This is such a knock-off project, but when I saw Kristen from The Crafting Chick's guest post on Mary Janes and Galoshes I just had to make one of my own!

Here is Kristen's beautiful tiered organizer:

The Crafting Chicks

How cute! Can you tell what it's made out of? TIN PIE PANS!!

I figured there had to be a million tin pie pans at my local antique store so I headed down right away. As it turns out, there are only about 12 tin pie pans there, most of which were priced between $5-$10. Seriously??? For a used, somewhat rusty old pie pan. Paleaze people! I did manage to find a few, for just $2.25 total, but I had to settle on the sizes- they weren't exactly what I was looking for but they will do.



Here's my version:



I wish I had put something in the photo to show scale. It's a little large and in charge!

While I loved how Kristen left her tin pans untouched, mine weren't in the best condition. Once again, I opted to spray paint without first priming. Probably not the best decision in this regard. I felt like I was spray painting for days. Of course, it didn't help that central PA unleashed about a zillion tons of water on the area last week. Rain doesn't make for the best spray painting weather, or else this post would have been up over a week ago.

I used Krylon Indoor/Outdoor Satin Finish in Pistachio for the trays. I bought the two candlesticks in the center at the Dollar Tree in two different heights and painted those my new favorite spray paint in the whole wide world: Krylon Brushed Metallic Satin Finish in Sesame Shimmer. I love this color! Admittedly, my judgment might be swayed a bit by the fact that I found two bottles of it at Walmart on clearance for $1 each but still, it's a very pretty brownish/goldish metallic color. I glued them onto the pans with E6000, my go-to glue for most crafting projects.

So I made this pretty thing and then my husband came in and said "Where are you going to put that?" Uhhhhh.... I had no idea. I just HAD to make one but I had no plans whatsoever for it. This might be my first clue that I have a spray painting problem but I'm not ready to admit it yet.

It ended up finding a home, at least for the time being, in our living room, as you'll see in my upcoming living room mini-makeover post.

Anyone else crafting with reckless abandon or is it just me??

Linked up @ Made By You Monday ; 
The Thrify Home

So Excited to be the most viewed post on Reasons to Skip the Housework's Tuesday Time Out Link-up Party!

Modern Translation: The Awesome Wife's Guide (Rule #6)

(This is the 7th post of this series. To read the entire series, click on the label to the left that reads "Modern Translation Series.")

* Over the cooler months of the year you should prepare and light a fire for him to unwind by. Your husband will feel he has reached a haven of rest and order, and it will give you a lift too. After all, catering for his comfort will provide you with immense personal satisfaction. 

It's awfully hard to think about cooler months after the weekend we've just had!

Thank you 1950s Housewife for the suggestion, but I think I’ll pass on this one! If for no other reason, my husband seems to be a little to good at lighting fires on his own. I'm referring to the Opening Day Bonfire Debacle of 2010, otherwise known as “The Day I Prevented my Husband from Burning Down the Garage.” 

Mid-April marks the Opening Day of trout season here in Central PA- maybe in other places too, I couldn’t tell you. Honestly, if it wasn’t for the bonfire incident I wouldn’t even remember when it happens here each year. 

My husband grew up fishing but like so many, he fled his small, rural hometown the day after college graduation in search of a more exciting big-city life. After about 5 years in the DC area, he felt his soul slowly being sucked away from him and moved back to Central PA. Fishing was one of the big draws back to the simple life. 

As with most of his fishing outings, Opening Day 2010 started at, what I like to call, the ass-crack of dawn.... roughly 5:00 am. My husband always sleeps through this early morning alarms. I, of course, wake up as soon as I hear the first beep. About 10 minutes later I finally get him awake enough to turn off the alarm but by now I am fully, completely, no-doubt-about-it awake with 0 chance of falling back asleep. Dammit! So, once he downs a Red Bull and gets on the road I decide to make the most of my longer than usual day. In Spring 2010 I was knee-deep in wedding planning, so I set off for a full day of errand running and wedding-project-supply shopping. 

I couldn’t tell you what exactly happened in the Hubs world between the hours of 6:00 am and 3:00 pm but I can promise you it involved beer... and lots of it! My understanding of Opening Day is that about 10% of the day is spent fishing and the other 90% is spent drinking. Consider it St. Patrick’s Day for non-Irish Pennsylvanians. Opening Day also tends to usually have the worst Spring weather: rainy, cold and windy. Opening Day 2010 was very... very... windy. I cannot stress this enough- very windy. 

I arrived home with an armful of wedding madness at 3:00 pm, just in time to witness my husband strike the match, starting a bonfire, as Thing 1 and Thing 2 (his partners in crime that shall remain nameless) crack open new beers. I believe the exact words out of my mouth, as I walked into the house were “This cannot end well.” I have said those words on other occasions to my husband, to name one when he attempted to do a keg-stand on his 30th birthday, but never in the history of our relationship did the words ring truer than that day. Did I mention it was windy? 

To cut a long, dramatic story short the day ended with a flame-singed section of lawn, a garden hose and a passed out husband. I mention this story because a) it was the first memory that came to mind when I read 1950s Housewife’s advice on husbands and fires and 2) I learned a lot about my husband and myself that day. It was, actually, the day I knew I was 100% ready to marry him. (I promise I will explain.)

I have never been madder at my husband than I was that day but, in the three years we’ve been together, it was the only time I was truly mad at him. I’ve been upset, I’ve overreacted before, I’ve acted mad for short periods of time, but I have only once been exceptionally, fuming mad at him. I felt that day that my husband had put himself, myself, our guests, our cat and our property at risk by drinking beyond the point of responsible behavior. 

So, what did I learn that day? I rely on my husband and I need to be able to trust him 100% of the time. Even on Opening Day, my husband is responsible for taking care of me and us. He doesn’t get a day off from being an adult. He doesn’t get a day off from being responsible, trustworthy or accountable. He doesn’t get a day off from being a husband. But, even the man I hold in the highest regard and lean on each and every day can make a mistake and I don’t get a day off from being his wife. I don’t get a day off from loving him unconditionally. I don’t get a day off from better or worse days. 

One week after we were married one of my bridesmaids filled for divorce. They had been married around a year and a half. They were miserable. They fought all the time, over the littlest & grandest of issues. This husband and wife had many challenges stacked against them and in the end they were not committed to overcoming them. I remember once hearing a quote about marriage by Will Smith (and thanks to Google I will share with with you now): “Marriage is the hardest thing you will ever do. The secret is removing divorce as an option. Anybody who gives themselves that option will get a divorce.”

Now, I’m not saying that divorce was a reasonable response to this fight/situation involving my husband and the bonfire. Actually, it couldn’t have been because we weren’t even married yet but I’m using it as a talking point because we’ve yet to have our first post-wedding fight. I mention it because it brings up a discussion on the obligation a husband & wife have to one another and the dedication they must have to their marriage. 

I learned that day that he is obligated to me and I am obligated to him and that never goes away and it brings with it serious pressure that some can buckle under. I learned that even in the face of pure anger my husband and I can have a healthy fight. In our conversations following that incident we discussed our feelings about our obligations to one another, not specific wrongs or actions. It was important to me that he understand that it was not the bonfire or the drinking that upset me, but the fact that he gave up responsibility. I learned that I am always committed to him and us, regardless of when he or we make mistakes.

So, in a round-about way I have a point. Part of our obligation to one another is to provide a “haven of rest and order.” We won’t always do that. In fact, some days, we may provide a haven of chaos and dysfunction and you know, that’s okay, because nobody is perfect. What is important is the comfort that comes out of learning from those days and mistakes, and the personal satisfaction that comes from rededicating to one another and your marriage even in the wake of bonfires.


Dear 1950s Housewife, 
Thank you for reminding me that fires can be good or bad... or bad before getting good. Thank you for reminding me of my obligation to my husband and I will take this as an opportunity to thank him for fulfilling his obligation to me (except on that one day). We will both continue to work on providing a haven of rest and order in our home and within each other, but I think we will let the fire pit rest for a little while longer.  

Have a pleasant day,
The 2010s Housewife

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Weekend Hiatus

Happy Memorial Day Weekend!

I wish I could say I needed to take a weekend vacation from blogging because I have a ton of fun, relaxing family activities planned... but I don't. Unless you count helping my parents move a fun, relaxing family activity. In actuality, I'm certain someone will bleed and someone will cry... and there is a very good chance both will be me. Ah, the joys of moving!

I'm actually going to spend most of today and tomorrow working on quite a nice sized list of blogging projects! Excited?? You should be! I've got some big plans for the month of June! I've got some sewing, some painting, some decorating, some good deeds, some refinishing (ekk!), some baking, some cooking and some money saving adventures lined up for ya! So I will see you all back here Tuesday morning!

Have a wonderful weekend!!!!!

Showin Some Love: A Mommy's Life

Sometimes the saying "When it rains, it pours" is meant in a good way! I am so loving this new blog community I've invited myself to joi I cannot believe how awesome all the bloggers I've found thus far are and I just have to tell you about the newest: A Mommy's Life. Whitney was so sweet to feature me in her Pinterest Loves post this week!

So check out A Mommy's Life and let's show some love back!



Friday, May 27, 2011

Easy Southwestern Stuffed Peppers

Before I met my husband my standard order at a restaurant sounded a little like this: "I'll take that, except no tomatoes, onions, peppers, mushrooms, olives or anything spicy. And please no blue cheese or feta on the salad. And I'll take any condiments and sauces on the side. Thanks! Oh, and is the cheesecake made with cream cheese? If so, no thank you."

Fortunately for me (and all servers that get the pleasure of waiting on me now) I have expanded my horizons a bit over the last couple years. I am way less picky and now love a lot of foods I didn't use to like. One dish my husband turned me on to is stuffed peppers. Man was I missing out!

My mother-in-law has a family favorite recipe for a cheeseburger stuffed pepper which is phenomenal. Lately, we've been trying different variations on the recipe. Tonight I decided to try to make a quick & easy stuffed pepper with all the flavors we love- Southwestern Style!

Take 6 whole green peppers, wash, cut off the tops and throw out all the guts. Put in a casserole dish.


Cook 2 cups of brown rice (I used Uncle Ben's minute rice, nothing fancy.) *That's two cups uncooked, so four cups cooked.


In a large bowl mix the rice with one pound of ground beef, half a cup of shredded Mexican cheese, half a can of diced tomatoes w/ green chilies (not drained) and one cup of fresh salsa. The original recipe calls for chopped onions. I didn't want to take the time to chop onions, nor did I want to deal with the watery eye business. My grocery store has the best fresh salsa in the produce section and it was on sale this week so I thought I'd save some time and energy and give that a try. If I had thought of it ahead of time, I would have added a cup of black beans (drained) and a cup of corn... but sadly, I didn't.

Salt & Pepper.


I used a large ice cream scoop to mix everything up (so I didn't have to take off my rings) and the scoop made it really easy to stuff the peppers. I divided up the remaining diced tomatoes and put those on top in lieu of the traditional tomato or spaghetti sauce. Then I added some sliced pepperjack cheese on top to make it all melty and pretty and spicy.


Bake 1 hour at 350 degree. Yumm! Easy peasy! Open a few cans, cook some rice in the microwave- one bowl and one pot cooking!

Linking @ Make Ahead Meals for Busy Moms

Check, Check, Double Check

Here's a little lesson in bargain shopping- check, check, double check!

I couple weeks ago we receive an invitation to a little girl's first birthday party. We don't have kids yet and I know virtually nothing about children so I tend to default to one gift for kids: books. I'm pretty sure one-year-olds aren't reading yet but one day they will and in the mean time they can certainly be read to so I like to buy books that I loved growing up.


I went to the closest book store near us, Waldenbooks, and picked out three of my all time favorites: Amelia Bedelia Celebration: Four Stories Tall with Audio CD by Peggy Parish (I love anything Amelia Bedelia does!); Richard Scarry's Best Storybook Ever! (Giant Little Golden Book); and Richard Scarry's Best Word Book Ever (Golden Bestsellers Series). These three together added up to roughly the amount I had budgeted to spend but the cashier informed me that all books in the store that day were buy 4 get the 5th free. Well then, I had to go back and pick out two more.

I added on Mary Engelbreit's Nursery Tales: A Treasury of Children's Classics and The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. I like to buy children' books with multiple stories inside: I feel like it's more story bang for your buck. When all was totaled, however, I spent about $80 ($30 over the original budget) but I bought them anyway because I wanted to cross that task off the to-do list so I didn't have to go out shopping later that week.

Lesson #1: Not all promotions are bargains. I found the books I wanted to get and was at budget. By taking advantage of the sale I went over budget. No bueno!

I felt a little guilty about going over budget, so the next day I went online and did a little price comparison. As it turned out, Barnes & Noble offered the exact same 5 books for just $56.94 (shipped). These were their regular prices, not even sale prices or with a promotion!

PLUS, since I was ordering online I linked through to B&N via Ebates (see my post here to learn more about Ebates) and earned $3.42 cash back on that purchase. DOUBLE PLUS, Ebates was offering a promotion to new customers (I had just signed up) which earned me a $10 gift card to Target for placing a purchase over $50. (I think the qualifying order had to be placed within the first 3 months of opening the account.) If you are interested in signing-up with Ebates, just click here.

I'll do the math for you: $56.94 - $3.42 - $10 = $43.52. That's UNDER budget!

Lesson #2: Shop around! Even if you make a purchase in store, checkout competitors prices online. You may need to return the original purchase (as long as you are still within that store's return period) but in this situation it saved me over $20. I didn't waste the gas making a special trip for the return though.  I just put the original 5 books in the trunk of my car and the next time I made a trip to the mall I returned them. You might be able to ask the original store to adjust the price to meet the competitors but I always find that to be a hassle and not always a guarantee.

In summary, it never hurts to check, check, double check to make sure you got the best deal!

If you are interested in purchasing any of these books, just click the links above. You can currently get all 5 for just $59.34 on Amazon.com with free shipping!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

EKKK!

I was featured on Simply Sweet Home's Friday Favorites!


Photobucket


I'm so excited!! My first blog feature! A special thank you to Jerri @ Simply Sweet Home!

Closet Organization

I organized my hall closet on Sunday! I'm so pleased with myself (probably because I was so unproductive the rest of the weekend).

Here are the before photos:


I know, I know- it wasn't that bad to begin with but there were things that weren't working for me. The top shelf was a huge space that wasn't being fully utilized. Things were organized into bins but I couldn't see what was inside without taking the bin out. The closet looked nice when you opened it, but because I couldn't easily see what I had I was rebuying or not using up products I already had. The bottom two shelves were just messes with stuff piled on top of stuff.

Here's what I did:


Pulled out all unused containers, bins, totes, etc. from around the house - anything that I might be able to use for storage/organization.


Gathered everything that wasn't in the linen closet that I wanted to try to fit into the linen closet. You gotta know what you're working with. I used to store my paper towels in the basement with the rest of my stockpile but I thought they would be a good item to eat up some of that unused space at the top of the closet. (Plus, I wouldn't have to go downstairs to get paper towels anymore.)


I started with the level that bothered me the most: the bottom where I threw all our work towels (bath towels I've ruined with bleach, gotten paint on or that we just don't use anymore) and drop cloths. I rolled all the full size towels and put them in a laundry basket with the drop cloths. I put everything standing up so we can easily see what is available. (Some drop cloths are large than others so it's nice to be able to see and grab any particular one we want, rather than having them stacked.) I did the same with the hand-towel-sized work towels and put those in a small tote for easy access.


There were a few cleaning rags thrown in the mess too, but that's not where I keep most of my cleaning rags so I gather all of them up and hung a basket in my cleaning closet so it's easy to grab a rag and go.


Next I tackled my first aid & medicine basket, pulling out all the expired items. As you can see from the photo, pretty much everything was expired. I'm going to take this as an opportunity to create a proper first aid basket before the summer gets into full swing and we begin all our outdoor projects, which will include completely rebuilding our front porch (and probably some blood).


I had a container for all the hotel soaps, shampoos, conditioners, lotions, etc. that I've squirreled away over the years in the linen closet. I like to use up these small bottles when traveling but the problem is that I keep all product samples I receive in the mail in a different container in the basement- which is where I tend to go when packing a bath bag for travel. So, I moved everything down to one location (in the basement) and pulled out a bunch of items to donate to Hip2Save's Hip2Help Tour. (A totally awesome and worthwhile cause! Click the link and please consider donating yourself!)

And here's the after photo:


I know, not a huge difference (at least not in the photo) but I think the small changes I made will make a big difference in how useful and accessible the closet is for us.


The top shelf looks crowded but at least I can say that every inch of the closet is being used now! I moved our beach towels up to the top so those are easy to grab now that the weather is heating up outside (not that we have a beach anywhere near us). I think it will be easier to grab a rolled bath towel without the entire pile crashing down on me now. 



We now have a separate basket with first aid items and a separate basket with medicines. I think this will be useful when it's grab-the-first-aid-and-run-in-the-bathroom-before-you-bleed-on-the-floor time. All the way in the back of this self is mine and my husband's travel bags. We have travel bath bags that hold all the health & beauty items we need for about a week's worth of vacation. After getting back from each trip I restock my bag and put it away in the closet so that's one less that I have to worry about when packing the next time.



If you are like me, you have a collection of half used hair products, lotions, etc. I have a bad habit of opening a bottle of something, using half, getting a new product and being too excited to wait to use it so I end up with this gigantic basket of product that needs used. I threw out all the way old or not-enough-left-to-make-it-worth-the-space-it-takes-up items.


I love my little toilet paper rack. I'm not sure what its intended purpose is. I'm pretty sure you can buy them at Walmart with all the other storage/organizational stuff. I have a small basket with a few extra rolls of TP in the bathroom, but I like having a couple more on hand just outside the bathroom door in the linen closet.

So that's my new and improved linen closet. Did anyone else tackle a major organizational project this weekend?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Wife Points Wednesday: Turn a Nag into a Joke

(Wife Points Wednesday is a series of posts contain tips for little things you can do to earn wife points. We can all use extra points some days!) 


I didn't think coming up with a Wife Points Wednesday topic would get so hard so soon! Everything I think of involves food or buying something, so to avoid setting the precedent that men only speak the language of food and toys I really wanted to come up with something different to do for my man this week.

While cleaning up around the house I discovered my husband's stash of socks. He watches TV in his man cave every night and it never fails... his socks come off and land in the same spot on the floor. There they stay, and accumulate, until I find them and nag, nag, nag him to stop leaving his socks piled up on the floor. 

While working on an organization project over the weekend I emptied a storage bin that was previous in use so I decided to make a funny:




In case you can't see, the label on the bin says "SOCKS." It's a sock bin! A bin... for his socks! So when he takes them off they will land in a storage bin and therefore he bypasses my complaint of them piling up on the floor. Get it?!? 

I figured since the nagging wasn't really working I'd take another route. He hasn't found it yet... fingers crossed he finds it funny too!


Happy Wife Points Wednesday!

PS: I tried making my husband his own version of Krista's Husband 6-Pack (from While He Was Napping) but I had a little set back: He came home & caught me! :( 

Here is as far as I got:



I used a 4 pack of Starbuck's Frappuccinos that I bought at Target last week and filled them with sunflower seeds, sweet tarts, hot tamales and sour patch kids. I remembered to spray paint the lids and was getting ready to cover the box when he came home. It's not a 6 pack of beer so I was going to make it a work-appropriate 4 pack so he can have his pick after lunch of what sweet treat he wants.  

Oh well, I'll surprise him next time. He liked it and wouldn't let me waste the paper to finish it off. Mission accomplished I guess! :)

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A Trip to the Dented Can Store

Here in Central Pennsylvania, we have a number of Grocery Outlets or as I like to call them "Dented Can Stores." I'm not quite sure where grocery outlet's get their food, but it appears to be products that have fallen off the back of trucks, rejected from other stores or pulled from shelves due to expiration dates.

Sounds suspect, eh? I assure you, they are BUT if you know how to shop them properly you can find some good deals. Here are the rules:

  • Check the expiration date! If an item doesn't have an expiration date, do not buy it! Sometimes these stores are tempted to place the price sticker over the expiration date so be on the look out for cleverly hidden dates. Only buy the item if you know you will use it before it expires. 
  • Buy nothing dented. Inspect every can and if it has a dent put it back on the shelf and step away! 
  • Buy dented boxes. Dented boxes are okay. I often find perfectly good food items that are in boxes where it looks like the palette might have been smooshed or sometimes even with just problems in the printing on the package. The company may be able to write off a run of product where the labels just didn't adhere correctly to the can/jar/bottle with little financial impact which means I can buy it for less financial impact than the pristine package. What do I care what the box/label/wrapper looks like?
  • Pay attention to prices and know what you pay for the same item in your primary grocery store. Sometimes I wonder what the grocery outlets are thinking! I can get a bag of cookie mix at the grocery store with a coupon for $.50-$1 so why would I pay you $.99 for a bag that expires in 3 months? You are taking some risk by buying anything at a grocery outlet so make sure the price is worth taking that risk.
  • Exercise caution when shopping in the freezer or refrigerated cases. I once had a Graduate Assistant miss a couple days of work due to a bad box of seafood paella. After that, I don't even bother looking in those cases. I would say the rule of thumb should be to assume all items were at one point above freezing or thawed and then refrozen. If it wouldn't be safe to eat under those conditions, do not buy!
  • Put anything you buy at the grocery outlet to the front of your stockpile. You should always place items with the nearest expiration date at the front of your pantry or stockpile so you will grab that box/jar/can to use first. 

I didn't have the best trip this weekend, but here's what I found:


2 boxes Kashi Go Lean Crunch (1 lb. 9 oz.)- $2.49. This isn't the lowest price I've paid for cereal but I love me some Go Lean Crunch (eat it every day for breakfast) and my stash was running low.
Price at grocery store: $4.99. Savings: $2.50 each

2 bottles of Ken's Light Options Caesar dressing- 2/$1.00. As you've seen after my fridge clean out last week I was in dire need of salad dressing and this is mine and my husband's favorite.
Price at grocery store: $2.55. Savings: $2.05 each

1 can of Del Monte Diced tomatoes (with zesty mild green chilies)- $.69.
Price at grocery store: $1.75. Savings: $1.06


I often scout out my dented can store for cat food. My cat is on kitty weight watcher's and his diet food is expensive- about $7 for a small bag. For some reason, my grocery outlet almost always has his cat food and it's usually priced about half off ($3.69). I never buy an item if it's opened but the cat food bags tend to be ripped, however there is an inner and outer bag. I only buy it if the inner bag is still intact, even if the outer is torn.

I find the best prices at outlets on seasonings, food coloring/extracts/other baking items, olive oil and trash bags. (Often times the trash bag boxes were opened and then taped shut but they are usually priced well enough that it doesn't matter if a few bags are missing.)

Here's another tip if you feel adventurous enough to shop in a grocery outlet: Leave the price tag on the item. My store puts bright orange price stickers on every item. I like to leave the stickers on as a signal to me that the item came from an outlet so I can be sure to check the expiration date before using it.

Is anyone else a fan of grocery outlet shopping?

Fridge Organization

Earlier this month I read a post by Jenn @ Clean & Scentsible about organizing a fridge. I was inspired to take a crack at my fridge... and somewhat embarrassed by the outcome.

Before:



As you can see, we have a lot of stuff crammed into our freezer and quite a nice little bottle collection in our fridge. My husband has a love of hot sauces (in fact, my brother-in-law makes & sells his own ghost pepper hot sauces and BBQ sauces). I was having a hard time finding things in our freezer and have absolutely no room to grow if I find a great sale on meat at the grocery store so it was time to take action. I also felt that we didn't have a good system in our fridge- like items weren't really with grouped together and leftovers were finding their way to the back of the shelves and getting forgotten about.

So, Step #1- pull everything out of the fridge, group into like categories and throw out all the expired items.

That was about as far as I made it, since... well, pretty much EVERYTHING in our fridge was expired!


I'm so embarrassed! And I must apologize to anyone who has eaten a salad at our house within the last month but thankfully you've all survived the dressings. But I'm willing to put my shame out there for the whole world to see as a cautionary tale. Warning to all: I think it's time to sort through your fridge & pantry on an expiration date checking adventure!

The After:




I tried Jenn's idea of using storage bins in the fridge, but, as you can see, there wasn't much left to sort. I did put all the condiments in one bin so when we have cookouts this summer I can easily grab everything at once.

You can't really tell from the photos, but all the frozen meat is labeled and sorted by type. I can actually see all the boxed items in the freezer now and have one place to put frozen veggies (top shelf of freezer door). Birdseye and Green Giant are always on sale but if I'm not careful there won't be room for anything else in the freezer besides bagged vegetables & rice. Now I can see exactly how many I have and will know when to avoid the sales and when it's time to stock-up.

My husband's hot sauces and BBQ sauces are all together in one door shelf. I'm going to try to get him to limit himself to what will fit on that shelf. All leftovers will now go on the left side of the bottom shelf- no more getting lost in the chaos!

After the fact I added a glass bowl to the top shelf to hold fresh veggies, like peppers and cucumbers (two things I often forget I have plenty of and over buy). The two vegetable crispers are now dedicated to potatoes and onions, which I like to buy in the big bags.

I wish I could offer more tips, but you don't really need any when you have nothing to organize! I guess the lesson of the day is to do an expired item purge, at least more frequently than I have!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Reader Question: Man Couponing 101

YAY! Reader Question #2... and this time, from a man!

I don't know about others, but I know I'm overrun with paperwork in my life; despite being a computer geek, I still amass stacks of bills (paid/unpaid), coupons (to be used and those forgotten), and other paperwork to retain (bank statements, insurance documents, etc etc).

How do you manage it all without misplacing it or forgetting about items?

If I knew the secret to this problem, I'd probably be a billionaire charging a hefty sum for my services! Just joking! Here are a few suggestions:

Go Paperless

Seriously... it's 2011, it's time to go paperless!

Take your current stack of bills, go through one by one & check to see which you can update online to paperless statements. The company will email you each monthly statement rather than mailing the paper copy. Most online bill companies (credit cards, banks, etc.) keep a sufficient backlog of statements, meaning you can go back at any time and check whichever statements you need to refer to. If you ever do need a paper copy, for example, to dispute a fraudulent charge on your credit card, you can request a copy of just the necessary statements online.

This is definitely the "green" way to go, but I honestly do it to save my own sanity. Saving trees is a total bonus! One of my least favorite chores is filing bills and my husband hate, hate, hates to shred. (Probably because he lets the shredding pile stack up for years at a time!) Some companies offer incentives for switching to paperless statements. Discover Card offered a promotion at one time where you earned an entry into a giveaway for going paperless. (I didn't win.)


Have a Paper System

I suggest developing a system. It will help if it actually works. (I'm being cheeky.)

Everyone has to find a system that works for them. Our system is pretty simple. I have a bin near by desk where everything that needs filed gets thrown into; bills, receipts, warranty information for home appliances or repairs, etc. This is under my desk and out of the way, so I don't have to look at it often. The downside to this is that I sometimes forget it's there until all of a sudden it's full. If you follow my model, I'd suggest getting a very small bin.

Since I don't like to file it's just not realistic for me to file each item away as it comes in. I'd rather not do it for a couple months and bite the bullet one Sunday afternoon for a few hours. When it does come time to file away, I pull a rolling filing cabinet out of the closet and file items into labeled hanging folders. The cabinet has two drawers: the top is for items I'll only want to keep for a year or two (credit card statements, minor receipts, copies of mail-in-rebate paperwork, etc.) and the bottom is for long term paperwork (receipts related to our vehicles or home, tax documents, etc.).

I have a portfolio that I carry around with me pretty much everywhere that I go. It has a legal pad for my to-do lists, blog ideas, and other notes to self. It also has a pocket for storing items that need attention: bills, notices, magazine subscription renewals, things I pull from magazines that I want to look into, etc. Chances are, you don't carry a handbag... not that I'm judging if you do! But I'm guessing this isn't realistic for you. I'd suggest one file folder somewhere important. I'd also suggest remembering where that important place is.

Set a time each week to go through this file folder. Being a tech guy, I'd suggest going as far as to schedule it on a calender system that will email or text you when it's time for your file folder "appointment," so you don't forget to take care of it. I get paid once a month so I sit down the morning my paycheck hits the bank and send all my dollars away via online payments. This is such an "adult" thing to do... but sooner or later we will have to grow up!

Couponing For Men

Let me first say that I LOVE that you use coupons! Go you! I just stumbled across a photo that might also convince my husband to start couponing and build his own stockpile:



ValuesCoupons.com
A beer stockpile- I love it! But alas, I've yet to see a coupon for beer in the state of Pennsylvania.

Seriously, though... I've saved over $2000 couponing thus far in 2011, and that's nothing compared to serious coupon shoppers! It's totally worth it. Now, let's figure out a way to make couponing easier for the average man.

I clip just about every coupon that comes in my Sunday newspaper and file them all away in my coupon binder. I find coupon clipping relaxing and enjoy couponing as a hobby. I'm guessing you have other hobbies and just want to coupon to save some money.

Here's the biggest tip about using coupons to save money: A coupon doesn't save you money if it's not an item you want or need to buy! I've said time and again that I buy items we don't need or use but only if I can get it for free and only if it can be donated or used by a friend or family member. Your best strategy is to a) get a Sunday newspaper each week and then b) only clip the coupons for items you use.

Now, what to do with those coupons? There are a number of systems people use:


The Coupon Binder, Courtesy Niftymom.com

The Coupon Tote, Courtesy BargainBriana.com
The Coupon Mini-Accordian, Courtesy Mommysideabook.com

But I think this idea might work best for you, a low-quantity-coupon-shopper:

A Plastic Zipper Coupon Pouch, Courtesy BargainBriana.com
You can pick up a medium-sized plastic zipper pouch anywhere, like Walmart or Staples. It's doesn't have to be clear if you want to keep your thriftiness incognito. Inside the pouch put all the coupons you clip. Then, get one small mailing envelope for each store you shop at (your grocery store, CVS, etc.) and write the name of each store on an envelope.

Here's your system:

Before each shopping trip, make a list of what you need or want to get. If you aren't already doing this than I guarantee you are either frequently forgetting items or overspending on impulse purchases... or both. Stop that and start making a list!

Once you have your list, flip through all your coupons and pull out the ones that match the items on the list. Put those into the envelope for whichever store you are going to that day. You can then put the envelope back into the pouch or just take that envelope to the store. If you take the whole pouch you'll have all your coupons on hand in case you find a great deal on an item not on your list but that you remember having a coupon for. By making your list right before your shopping trip, and flipping through all the coupons you have, you are more likely to remember having a coupon for that item when you see something on clearance or marked down to a great price that you don't want to pass up.

Other tips:

Blinkies

Since you probably won't be caught dumpster diving for extra coupon inserts anytime soon, (oh yes, we they do that!) you'll want to be on the look out for blinkie coupons.

Courtesy Grocerycouponguide.com
Blinkies are the machines that pop out coupons in grocery stores, usually near the item that the coupon is for. I think some of them blink, hence the name. I'm surprise by how easy it is to overlook these little machines, even when it's right in front of your face. However, blinkies are a great way to increase your coupon savings without requiring you to hoard coupons. BUT, once again, don't buy an item you don't want or need just because there is a blinkie for it (unless of course the blinkie makes it free).

Double Coupons

Did you know that many grocery stores double the value of coupons? Yep, they sure do! My store will double a coupon up to a $1 value, so a $.35 coupon becomes $.70 and a $.55 becomes $1 off. You'll want to check your grocery store's website to see if they have a coupon policy. If so, this should tell you what the doubling policy is. (You might be able to find this information on the website's homepage or under a tab called "Savings" or something similar.) My store also has huge banners on the windows of the store that advertise their double coupon program. (I bet you $1 your store does too and you've just never noticed!)

Weekly Ads

Did you also know that your store puts out a weekly ad of all their current sales? (Sarcastic? No... not me!!)Definitely check out the sale ad when making your shopping list. This will help you maximize savings and make sale + coupon match-ups before even getting to the store.

Store Value Cards

If you don't already have a savings or value card for your store, get one! Many times sale prices are only available to card holders, so find the customer service desk and ask for a store card on your next shopping trip. This applies to grocery stores and drug stores, like CVS. Be sure to give the cashier your card to scan before ringing up any groceries and follow the prices on the register monitor as he/she rings everything up. Check, check, double check to make sure everything rang up the correct price! You can save money by not accidentally over spending on register errors.

Ebates

Ebates is a way to save money by making money. Men shop online... a lot. My husband does most of his shopping online. (There is a standing rule in the month of December that I cannot look at any packages that come in the mail.) It's free to set-up an account and then all you need to do is log into Ebates before shopping online and click through to the store you want from their site. By doing that you will automatically get a rebate up to 25% of your purchase total. The rebate amount varies depending on the store. A check is mailed to you every 3 months if you earned $5.01 or more during that quarter. If not, your earnings will roll over into the next period.

Expired Coupons

You'll want to sort through all your coupons regularly and toss any expired ones. Or, better yet, put all expired coupons aside in an envelope and mail them at the end of each month to a military family! Commissaries overseas, where military families do their grocery shopping, accept expired coupons. For more information, check out The Krazy Coupon Lady.


I hope I answered your questions and that these tips help simplify your life a bit! Does anyone else have a suggestion for our reader?

If you have a question about couponing, saving money, or the meaning of life, feel free to email me at 2010housewife@gmail.com!

Modern Translation: The Awesome Wife's Guide (Rule #5)

(This is the 6th post of this series. To read the entire series, click on the label to the left that reads "Modern Translation Series.") 

* Gather up schoolbooks, toys, paper etc. and then run a dust cloth other the tables. 

Once again the Good Wife Guide is telling us something we already know- and a silly little rule at that. Can I get a DUH ?!?

This is sort of related, but mostly just something that has been on my mind lately. I hate being a working housewife! 

I wake up every morning at 6 AM. The very first thing I do is wash whatever dishes are in the sink. Then I prep the coffee pot and pack my husband's lunch. If there's time, I do a 5 minute pick-up around the living room and kitchen before putting in a good 20-30 minutes on the elliptical. If there is a load of laundry in the washing machine I throw that in the dryer and carry any clean laundry upstairs after my workout. After making sure my husband is awake and moving, I get online and check all our bank and credit card accounts (I've been the victim of fraud before), read emails, check my blogs, reply to reader questions and post my first post for the day. When the bathroom is free I start getting ready for work. 

That whole time I will be thinking about all the things I would accomplish that day IF I didn't have to go to work. Then I think about all the things that will still need accomplished that day regardless of the fact that I'll be at work for a good 8-9 hours. Needless to say, this doesn't exactly put me in the best mindset to be the most productive, pleasant and happy employee once I do get to work.  

I work. While I'm working I add to the mental to-do list and daydream about all the recipes I could cook or bake, things I could spray paint, improvements I could make around the house, crafts I could do, things I could sew, etc. I survive the day, at best. Then I come home and get cracking on the to-do list. Fold the laundry from the morning, make new dirty dishes to wash tomorrow, clean, maybe get some reading in (you know, for personal enjoyment). I go to bed, exhausted, and dream yet again about all the things I wish I could do with the time I don't have. 

And we are going to add a few kids on top of all this??

I love so many things about my life, I do. I love my husband. He is way more helpful than any other husband I know. There is just too much to do! 

Sometimes I get mad at the 1950's housewife who didn't feel like she was contributing enough to the world from inside the home. Sure, I contribute something to world while working my job but I feel that perhaps the biggest part I can play in the large scheme of things is to raise good citizens, cultivate a happy, healthy, lasting marriage, support my husband and oh, I don't know, not lose my mind! 
  
Housewives today have the exact same responsibilities as the 1950's housewife, and then some. We have to manage the home, children, a husband... all on 40 hours less a week. 

Dear 1950's Housewife, 

You and I have a love-hate relationship, I think. We need to work on this. I'll make a compromise with you- You show me where I can have 30 minutes of my day to myself (that isn't spent chasing a piece of cheese pizza on a string at the end of a treadmill) and I'll run a dust cloth over the kitchen table. Deal?

Have a pleasant day, 

Mrs. 2010's Housewife 


Saturday, May 21, 2011

Making Lemonade

This is simply meant to be a funny post... unfortunately at my dad's expense. Sorry dad! We are laughing with you, not at you!

About three weeks before my wedding last Fall, I got a phone call from my mom that went a little something like this:

Mom: "Tracy. Don't freak out, but your dad just shaved off one of his eyebrows."
Me: <hysterical laughter>

I'm still not 100% clear on the logistics but an incident occurred involving my dad and a razor (and possibly a rum & coke). This certainly wasn't something I was hoping would happen in the weeks leading up to our wedding but since there was nothing I could do about it I decided to laugh it off. In times like these, you need to appreciate situations for the story value they provide.... and then give your dad a mustache-on-a-stick from the photo booth.

Photo Courtesy the Best Wedding Photographers in all the lands, Carden's Photography

This is one of my favorite photos from our wedding! When life hands you lemons, take a funny photo!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Money Saving Tip: Family Cell Phone Plan

One way that my family saves money is by using a Family Plan for our cell phones. It started first when my husband added me to his plan a couple years ago. Shortly after that his father retired and therefore handed over his work cell phone so we added him to our plan. Then my parents moved to Pennsylvania and wanted local phone numbers so we added them too.

Here is the breakdown for our cell plan:

700 Minute Plan- $60
Unlimited Text Plan- $30
Unlimited Data Plan (for my husband's smart phone)- $30
4 Family Share lines @ $9.99 each - $39.96
= $160 a month

Divided by 5 people = about $32 per person a month

Now, 700 minutes isn't a lot, but our cell phone provider offers unlimited mobile-to-any-mobile minutes meaning that all calls from our cell phones to any other cell phone (regardless of who their provider is) are included in our unlimited minutes. This helps keep our minute count down significantly! Many people are transition to cell phones only and eliminating their landlines. Additionally, our provider offers rollover minutes of which we currently have quite a stockpile!

If each of us had our own plan, it would cost us $40 for the cheapest plan plus $20 for unlimited messaging. Add that to $90 for my husband line alone ($40 + $20 + $30 for unlimited data) and we're looking at $330 plus taxes! That's a $170 savings each month or over $2000 a year!

Do you have a tip for saving money on cell phones? If so, just email 2010housewife@gmail.com or leave a comment below.