Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Work On It Wednesday - Coupon Offers

As I am working on Couponing and finding ways to save money I thought I would pass on some of these to you. I have some coupon offers already on my sidebar so that you can download and print these off. I think it is a great way to get some coupons easily. I only get one newspaper myself and I am all about convenience.
Here is the newest form of getting coupons. I am excited to try it myself. You can download coupons directly onto your shopping card. So even if you carry coupons with you to do your shopping, you may have an extra on your card. Better yet, if you are out and aren't expecting to stop at a store, so you do not have your coupons with you - then you may have the coupon you want right on your store discount card. Cool huh? Look for Cellfire on my sidebar to take advantage of this.
Ok...I just downloaded my first coupons onto my Kroger card. So easy!!
I am also just beginning to investigate some of these survey, reading e-mails and clicking for point sites. Already I know of a couple I really like, and at least one that I don't.
I will be working up a page that you will be able to access by a button on my sidebar if you want to also take advantage of this. That should be coming within the next couple of weeks.

What have you been working on?
Share it with us, so we can follow on your journey. You may win my Gem of the week award.

Organize your Roller Blades and Helmets

With nice weather comes roller blading, roller skating and kids playing outdoors. How many of you have a mess that looks something like this in the summer? Roller blades, helmets, knee and elbow pads everywhere?

I found this cool organizer at The Container Store to keep everything in its place. There are hooks so they can easily put each roller blade up themselves. Hooks for the helmets and a little basket area for their elbow and knee pads. You can also put a hockey stick down in the side to store that if you need to. Perfect.
I shopped around at several places for this for my client. I actually found The Container Store ($24.99 and then 25% off that so $18.75 until the end of April - click here for coupon) to have better prices on these then Target ($39.99) . I was shocked. So shop around if this is something that you are thinking of getting.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Guest Blogger - Ellen from Thrifty & Chic Mom

Thrifty and Chic Mom

Ellen from Thrifty & Chic Mom is a blogger who I have had the privilege of meeting through our new local bloggers group. This is who is teaching me the art of "couponing". I told her I did NOT want to use coupons...I really didn't. I thought that I bought mostly generic and I saved more already than using coupons to buy name brand items!! (For those of you who haven't read before I have been kicking and screaming as I learn this coupon method of saving money.) She told me, "Sandy, I never pay for toilet paper, I don't pay for toothbrushes, I never pay more than a dollar for a name brand box of cereal." I was like,"What?...Are you kidding? Please tell me no...I don't want to do this!!!" But I am trying it and its not bad. It just takes some time, but I think once I get it down it will really be worth it. I am learning...but it is slow. I am thrilled because Ellen is going to put on a class locally to help us "coupon dummies" get the technique down. She has been featured on the local news several times and has it down. Her blog is one you want to follow if you want to save money.

Hi my name is Ellen and you can find me at Thrifty & Chic Mom.
I am thrilled today to share with you my money saving philosophy as it applies to coupons and hope it encourages you to take the plunge and start couponing and saving your family money.

As I continue on my journey of saving money and stretching my dollars farther I have slowly reshaped the way I shop and view my money. This attitude is constantly evolving but I am going to attempt to explain my thoughts, philosophy and methods in order to help you enjoy the benefits of saving money as I have.

This mainly refers to shopping grocery and household items but can be applied in other areas as well.

I regularly shop each week at 2 grocery store and 2 drug stores. Yes I know that is a lot of time and travel. This is only worth it if you have the stores all within a short distance and the time to do it. If you spend too much gas driving around the savings are not worth it. I am lucky and have Kroger, Giant Eagle, CVS and Walgreens all very close. Meijer is a bit farther but the deals are worth it for me to drive to.

Each week I look at the deals at my grocery stores and decide where I am going to shop at based on the store with the greatest number of applicable deals. All week I keep a running grocery list on my fridge which I update as I run out of basics. Then based on the items I have on hand and the deals running that week I make a meal plan and add the missing ingredients to my list. Next I take this list and add to it based on the items that are Great deals, these items are not necessarily for the upcoming week but are such a great price that they are to be stockpiled for the future.

I buy constantly for the future. By that I mean that by stocking up on items when they are on sale I already have them on hand when I need them. You should almost always buy when:

* it is a great deal
* you will use it at some time, now or in the future
* it is either non-perishable or freezer friendly
* it will not put you over your budget ( unless you have money to wiggle with)

If these criteria are met, buy as much as you can without blowing your budget. By stockpiling in this manner you will build a great supply to pull from in the future. This way you can plan your meals based on what you have and what is on sale. Planning your meals and shopping this way can drastically reduce your monthly bills.

A word of caution, if you wouldn't buy it normally don't buy it just because it is cheap. A great deal can suck you in but it doesn't have to. For example I do not buy most snack foods. So even if cookies are very cheap I still do not buy them because it does not help me save money if I buy things I normally wouldn't. I make snacks at home instead because it is cheaper and healthier for my family. Try to stick to your normal shopping list by saving money on those items you would usually buy, that is the best way to reduce your cost.

I also shop at both CVS and Walgreens for my household items and some grocery items. If the item is FREE I always get it ( as long as we will use it or it is good for donating). If it is cheap I check my stockpile and assess whether it is worth purchasing based on my future needs. Once again buying for the future is the key and not for now. Now should be already covered from past last weeks of shopping.

Hopefully this helps explain the way I shop and can help you develop your own shopping strategy. For more couponing and money saving advice please stop by Thrifty & Chic Mom.

Share my Recipe Sunday - Heather with Easist Ever Avocado Salad

This week's Gem of the Week goes to Heather from Just Doing My Best. She had presented a couple of good recipes. This is her Avocado salad. Did you know you can freeze avocados? I didn't. Make sure you visit her blog and see what else she has been up to.


This embarrassingly easy recipe came from my grandpa in Texas, whom I think is one of the best cooks ever.

Easiest Ever Avocado Salad
Coarsely dice 2 avocados and 3 small tomatoes and place in serving bowl. (I've used Roma and they work well because Roma's have less liquid than some of the other varieties.) Then, coat the diced duo with Italian dressing. You will have to eyeball the amount, but you will not want to use too much. Just enough to coat.

It's THAT easy. My kids like to eat avocado salad with tortilla chips, as they would guacamole, but it's also great served by itself. The salad is extremely versatile so you can vary the quantity of fruits used based on the size of your family and personal preferences.

Join me for Share your Recipe Sunday. Add your name and recipe to Mr. Linky. Post it on your site with the Share your Recipe Button. You may win my Gem of the Week award. Be sure to pick up some other good recipes and come back each Sunday if you would like to add even more recipes!

Friday, March 27, 2009

National Clutter Awareness Week

I just learned that the 4th week of March was National Clutter Awareness Week! (thank you @clutterdiet on twitter for making me aware of it.) The beginning of spring and spring cleaning does make sense for the perfect time to declutter.

The biggest reason for most people to have clutter is because you do not have a place for everything you own. So it gets set down on a table or desk and then just continues to accumulate, and accumulate and accumulate.
You may think.."I don't have clutter". But look around. Are the surfaces of your counters and side tables clear? Can you find the surface of your desk? If you can't..then you too may be guilty. LOL....heck, we all are at some point!
If it is past a point that you can't take 10 minutes and pick it up and put it away...then you may have a clutter problem.
Generally it is because we have more "stuff" than we have room for the "stuff".The solution is simple - decrease the stuff. Simple. Right? No..it usually isn't that simple.
Start small. Set a timer for 15 minutes and pick a small space. A junk drawer maybe, or small desk top. Think fast and don't ponder on one item for more than a few seconds. (you have to "depersonalize" it)
Decide 1) Do I use it?
2) Do I need it?
3) Does it add value to this space?
4) What is the worse thing that will happen if I don't have it?

Then you can decide if you need to keep it, can donate it or throw it away.
Give it a try.
Wouldn't you rather work in an space like this instead of the above? (Yes it is the same space after we sorted, decluttered, painted and moved furniture.)

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Organizers LOVE this Store

I made a trip to The Container Store today to take advantage of the discount that Oprah and Peter Walsh are offering. I needed to get recycle bins, and wanted to see what other goodies I could find. I did find a magnetic paper towel holder and some cool little baskets with handles.
Loved the discount.

I just love this store. I am like a kid in a candy store (Oh..I love candy stores too!!)
It would be fun to go in there with a big gift certificate wouldn't it?

Going into this store is always a good time for me!
Don't always consider they have the highest prices, they don't. I purchased roller blade hangers for the garage a couple of years ago and shopped at 3 different stores first before finally buying them here, because TCS had the best prices.
Many times you can find things to use around the house to do what you need, but when you can't be sure to check them out first as they have great selection. Find what will work for you, then shop around to see if this is a good deal or not. (At least that is what I do)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Work On It Wednesday - Still working on couponing.

I am continuing to try learning how to really make these coupons work for me. I went to Krogers and CVS today. I just wonder...does the longer the receipt mean you are doing better? LOL They are longer because you have all the extra Kroger discounts and coupons off.
I spent $119.55. I had a total of $39.63 off my bill. $15.48 of that was from manufacture coupons. The rest from Kroger discounts. So is that good? I am getting some name brand items. I always make sure that I am getting that name brand item for less than I would be paying if I was buying the same thing in a generic brand.

For CVS I know I did good.
I bought 2 things of CVS brand contact solution. It was on sale for $4.99. Normally it was I think $6.99. I also bough a thing of acne wash for the boys that was on sale for $3.49. Then I bought some hair color. I normally pay about $9.99 on sale for it. It was on sale for $6.99.
Now I had a $2.00 coupon for the hair color. I also had a $2.50 off of $12.50 coupon on CVS products.
Then I had a total of $9.98 in extracard bucks from my last visit.
So I paid a total of $6.54 for $28.96 worth of products.
I think that is good!! I was excited about that one.
Join me to let me know what you are working on. Add your name to the Mr. Linky. You may win my Gem of the Week Award.

Adventures in Couponing - Stockpiling

Stockpiling is a bad word to a professional organizer. So why am I discussing it? Because that is evidently one of the keys to making the couponing valuable and saving you money down the road. To buy the items when they are at their cheapest and then using them when you need them.
With the economy at its worse in most of our lifetimes, there are some things that we all need to change.
For me it may be that stockpiling can change from a "dirty" word...to a "valuable" word.
Actually, I don't mind a little stockpiling. I have no problem with having a back up peanut butter or ketchup.
But with the economy it may be something that needs to be done a little to help out the family budget.
I do think that it would be easy to get carried away though.
If you realistically as a family would never finish 24 boxes of cereal before the expiration date or bugs got into them...do not buy them!
**A "good deal" is not a "good deal" if that "good deal" ends up in the trash!
If you are able to get something almost free or very inexpensive and know you can't use it or won't use it - please locate a food bank or family in need near you and donate it.

Point #1
Make sure you have the space to put up some shelves that are safe from bugs and moisture.
Point #2
Only buy it if you can use it before the expiration date, or if you can donate it to someone who can use it within the time frame.
Point #3
Make sure that you keep your stockpile organized. First one "in" needs to be the first one "out". So that you do not have things get expired. Put the newest items you buy of that product, behind the older ones.
Also be sure to know exactly what you have. Put "like" items with "like" items.
Point #4
Only buy items you know that you will use.

Couponing has been coined "addicting". As with any "addition" it can go to extremes. Be sure to keep your stockpiling and "bargin" buying under control, so that it truly is saving your family money.

*Here is an example I just found at Milk Donor Mama, she talks about all she bought and how she did it and how much she saved. But what I think is great is at the end of the article she explains what her family will use, what her parents will use and then how she will donate the rest! Love it.
(photo found on photobucket - nope...not my stockpile...although those bags of chocolate sure look good!!)

Monday, March 23, 2009

Guest Blogger - 3 Bay B Chicks and a earthquake readiness plan.

My guest post is from 3 Bay B Chics Blog.
The 3 Bay B Chicks are comprised of three long-time friends, Thuy, Kacey, and Francesca, who love their little corner of the world in the San Francisco Bay Area in California. Their blog began as a way for friends to help one another remain sane after becoming parents. The three of them offer something a little different to the blogosphere each week. Kacey is the resident style expert, Thuy is the queen of bargains and tips, and Francesca writes mostly about her everyday experiences with her kids.


As evidenced by my tendency to drive like an old lady, I have always been a cautious person. Since giving birth to our son, I’d like to think that my sense of cautiousness has taken a more focused and productive path. You see, my family lives in earthquake country in the San Francisco Bay Area in California. Because both my husband and I commute across the Bay Bridge to work, I feel inclined to be even more prepared than the average person.

What does this mean exactly? For starters, I followed the guidelines at Ready.gov to prepare food and extra supplies that my family would need in case a natural disaster strikes. In addition, I took these extra steps:

Put an extra pair of shoes underneath our bed (next to the baseball bat) in case we need to run out of the house and there is shattered glass on the ground.
Packed an emergency kit for the car, complete with water, cash (cash is king!), extra change of clothing, coats, and trail mixes.
Assigned an out of state emergency contact because the network will be flooded with calls to the area.
Last, but not least, I created a “What To Do If I Die” file on the computer for my husband.

Okay, I know that last one sounds incredibly morbid, but as the one who takes care of all the paperwork at home, I thought my husband should know about the bills he’d need to pay, the numerous accounts to keep track of, where to find our son’s medical files, who our life insurance contact is, etc.

Basically, the computer file contains a rambling of all the things that my husband would need to address in the event that I pass. I did take care to also write beautiful and heartfelt notes to my family in the file. It’s not all instructive! J

In spite of my various disaster preparedness efforts, when I saw this Life.doc book on sale recently, I thought it might help me to organize my rambling thoughts a bit more.

The book is broken down into the following categories:

Emergency plan
Family basics
Medical history
Legal issues
Contacts (housekeeper, babysitter, etc)

It is certainly a cute little book and, after investing the time to list all the insurance policies and bank account numbers, I felt so much better about our emergency preparedness. Once I completed the various forms, I also scanned them, encrypted the file, and e-mailed it to myself so that if I couldn’t grab the Life.doc book quickly, all would not be lost.

Though I must admit that my “What To Do If I Die” file worked well, filling out the Life.doc folder made me realize that I was missing lots of information. The book is definitely something that I could easily grab if I was running out of the house, as all of our information is now nicely consolidated in one place.

Now, if only I could plan for the little things in life, like dinner!!


Saturday, March 21, 2009

Share my Recipe Sunday - Quick and Easy Banana Cream Pie

Sweet stuff today!!! This looks so good! Plus it is lower calorie. Tara from Feels like Home wins my Gem of the Week award for this week. I love pudding, I love bananas and chocolate and when it is something that can be made lower calorie....that makes it all the better.
Quick & Easy Banana Cream Pie

* 2 boxes of sugar free, fat free Jello banana cream instant pudding
* 2 cups milk
* 8 oz Cool Whip Lite
* 1 bag of semi sweet chocolate chips
* 1 bag of white chocolate chips
* 1 pre-made chocolate graham cracker pie crust
* 1 banana

1. I used a 2 quart bowl to whisk the 2 boxes of pudding with 2 cups of milk for 2 minutes, more or less according to the package directions. Once it was all whisked, I folded in the whole container of Cool Whip Lite, a handful of chocolate chips, and a handful of white chocolate chips.
2. I poured the whole pudding mixture into the pie crust. If I’d had some hot fudge, I think it would have been wonderful to spread in the bottom of the pie crust before I put the pudding in.
3. Slice a banana into thin slices and arrange on top of the pudding. Sprinkle with chocolate chips if desired for desired.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Ford Invited Bloggers to the Columbus Auto Show

I was among 7 bloggers who were invited to the Columbus Auto Show to see their new cars and be educated about them. My invite came from Christina whom I would like to thank for thinking of me. You can read my post on my review site Organize with Sandy Reviews.
Please also visit the blogs of the other 6 attendees.

1) Christina - A Mommy Story
2)Ellen - Thrifty Chic Mom
3)Lisa - Condo Blues
4)Cheryl - Being Cheryl
5)Dan - Dan On It
6)Tara - Deal Seeking Mom
Ellen is on the left and Christina on right

From left: Lisa, Cheryl, Dan and Tara

Then onto the Hyatt for a lovely lunch.

Click on my Review button to read my full review on Ford.

Ask the Organizer - Vlog on Organizing your pantry for less

Denise from Musings from Mommyland asked me if I could help her with ideas for organizing her pantry.
I do not have a fancy pantry (one that you could drool over that all of us would love to have...you know, the kind that most of us could make into a home office.) and thought I could benefit many of you best by showing some of the inexpensive ways that you can add "space" to your pantry without having to spend an arm and a leg to do it.

These wire shelf additions can also be used on non wire shelving. Some of the ones on the top shelf and floor can be turned upside down and used to hang from a shelf also. Be creative.
If you have an idea you would like to me help out with, please let me know.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Ultimate Blog Party '09

Ultimate Blog Party 2009
Click on the button to join a fun blog party for the week March 20-27th. There are prizes and live performances from @ChrisMann and others.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Benefit from Oprah and Peter Walsh

Oprah has started the Clutter Crew headed by Peter Walsh. He is an Organizing Great, I had the pleasure of meeting at my National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) conference last year.
He has partnered with Oprah and had a show on springtime organizing.
I have never seen a sale like this at The Container Store (really!!) I have seen some sales on their Elfa shelving, but never on everything in the store. I suggest you take advantage if you know of some specific things that you had planned to purchase anyway. (Don't just buy because it is on sale)

I will put another link on my side bar. This promo is good through April 13th if there is something that you were planning to purchase, this is a good way to do it.

Work on it Wednesday - My Day off

I am taking off today as it is my birthday. I had to share with you the cake my husband had made for me. (by a dear friend of mine who does an awesome job on cakes).
We celebrated on Monday night since we had Hubby's kids that night. Isn't it so cool!! I had to share it with you.

But not to forget Work on it Wednesday because we can't always take days off:
I do want you to all go back to Chaotic Kitten's blog the Dehoarding Diary and see how well she is doing with her dehoarding project.
Would love you to join us on picking a project you need to work on and add onto the Mr. Linky. Grab the button and put on your blog. Click here for more information.