Friday, August 18, 2017

In debt... because of sales

I have had a lot of very interesting conversations this summer.  One conversation that was interesting to me was with a young mom of multiple children.  We talked about providing for our kids and taking care of what they need.

She shared with me that one of her weaknesses is the clearance section at the stores she likes to shop at.  Because of that weakness, she accumulated some credit card debt that she is now working part-time to pay off.

I reflected on my experience with the clearance at Target.  I have to admit that I enjoy shopping.  And I love buying things on Clearance.  But, the past two months have made me pause many, many times and consider what I have purchased that my family actually needed and didn't.  I remember purchasing clothing items on clearance when my kids were little and then discovering down the road that they either wouldn't wear them (some pajamas last winter that I'd bought for my son) or didn't fit given the season and my child's height/weight.  So, in the end, I didn't save anything by buying that item on clearance.  I actually lost or even wasted money.  I didn't take on debt to buy things on clearance, but I realize now that though clearance makes one think he/she is saving money, he/she may not be...

When I realized this, I made myself stop buying kids clothing on clearance.  If I need to buy some clothes for kids, I always check the clearance first, but only for that current season.

We are in the process of moving.  It's been interesting to see how much we have accumulated while living in our current home!  Every time I packed a box I took a look at what I was packing and asked myself, "Do I need this?" and "Do I want to move this?"  A lot of things in my basement are there for the "what if...?" but we don't have a garage and many things are there for the future or for the once a year time when we need them.  I also have a grade span of 6 grades that I have to store homeschool books for, many of which are out of print or hard to find.

I still remember in 4th grade when my mom asked me about a sweatshirt I really wanted "Do you need it?"  I didn't.  I wanted it.  My mom didn't have any extra money to spend on it and I knew it.  Sometimes it's easy to be honest with myself about what we do and don't need.  Sometimes there's room in our budget to buy something for a rainy day.

But, I want to do better in the future.  I don't want to hold on too tight to possessions or money, but I want to remember that I only need to buy what we need.  Storing things up takes time and energy!  (and if you're moving, it takes extra energy and space!)

Friday, May 26, 2017

Two Kinds of People

Yesterday, I sat across from my mother in law and next two my oldest daughter.  We had a discussion about coloring and drawing.  My daughter loves to draw, but not color.  She loses interest halfway through, she explained.  My younger daughter chimed in that she loves to color, but not draw and my mother in law felt the same way.  I listened and smiled, realizing that we all have different ways of expressing creativity.

For those who enjoy coloring, the new fad of workbooks and cards is a joy!  Last year, I reviewed a coloring book and a set of multi-occasion cards from Storey Books.  This year, they are publishing a Create-Your-Own Handmade Christmas Cards.  Caitlin Keegan has designed 30 Christmas cards to color along with a decorative envelope that asks for a little coloring.  They are similar to other cards she has published in the past.
set of

One of the tricks I find with coloring pages or cards is finding ones that are colorable!  Sometimes the lines are too small or not clear enough.  Sometimes the design can seem almost overwhelming.  Sometimes the activity of coloring and the design aren't compatible.  But, these cards are definitely easily colorable in my opinion!  I like them quite a bit.  My 11 year old daughter was very excited to sit down and color one!

If you're looking for a fun way to feel a little crafty next fall as you get ready for Christmas, but don't have a lot of time to do elaborate crafts, these cards are a great option!  They allow you to relax and color, but still feel productive!  These are cards that I will enjoy giving to my friends next Christmas.

Please note that I received a complimentary set of these cards from Storey books but that these opinions are entirely my own.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Saving Money on Food

Yesterday, I was at the grocery store buying food when I came upon a sign in front of the chicken.  It said that all packages were $3 off.

I love to talk to people, so first I explained to a woman who approached that they were $3 off--in spanish.  She didn't understand the sign in English.

Then, I mentioned it to the next man who came up.  I asked him if the small package or the large package would be the better deal.  He said the large.  I explained to him--No.  The small package is the better deal--as long as all packages are the same price per pound.  He later told me as he was checking out that he enjoyed talking to me.

Next, I asked the cashier when I checked out which was the better deal?  Small or large?  He again answered, "The larger package."  I explained that the smaller package is, because then the $3 is divided between fewer pounds--more is saved per pound.  The cashier said that he learned something new every day!

I came home and then asked all three of my children.  Two said the large package and one the small--but for the wrong reason.  I explained to them.

Then, I called my best friend and asked her.  She replied that she thinks about this all the time.  Her husband would say the large package.  She would ask first which package had the best price per pound and then think about it.

My mom was the only one who said within a second when asked that the smaller package was the best deal--which is because my mom taught me when I was young to look at the price per pound and evaluate how much coupons take off per pound/ounce.  The larger package is not always the best deal--whether it's chicken or salad dressing!

Please know that you can't hear my tone when I asked this question.  One might infer that I had a tone of trying to compete or be uppity, but that wasn't my tone of voice at all!  I simply asked the question with a smile--like one would in a game or with a trivia question.  And that was how all of the people I spoke with interpreted the tone of my question--I know this because I later asked my friend about my tone and the man's comment and the cashier's comment confirmed this.

I know that kids often question whether math is important or will matter to them in life, but it does!  It pops up in the most unexpected ways...

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Buying a suit

My husband has needed a new suit.  We've tried to figure out where to go.  He looked online.  I went to Marshalls, Macy's, and JCPenney's.  But, in the end we went to Jos. A. Bank.  We'd gone to Men's Wearhouse before (which now owns Jos A. Bank).  I was so pleased by our visit to Jos. A. Bank!

When I went into Macy's last week, not a single salesperson spoke to me.  I walked through the men's suit department (where suits cost $600) and still I saw only one woman at a counter near the men's shirts--who never spoke or addressed me and the store wasn't busy.  I was there because I needed help.

I found the same thing in Penney's.  No one approached me or helped me.  There was no one there who I could ask questions of.  I did find a blazer for my husband--which cost $90 after the sale and a 25% off coupon, but that was it.  I learned on Saturday that the distinction is that blazers have solid colors, brass buttons and sportcoats--patterned, non brass buttons.  I saw the same slacks in Marshalls as Macy's, but the ones at Marshalls were $20 and the ones at Macy's of the same brand/style were $50.  But, I could buy slacks and shirts.  A suit has always been trickier.

We walked into Jos. A. Bank Saturday morning and were helped by a man who did not try to hardsell us at all.  My husband found two suits on sale that were less than Macy's price, several oxford shirts, and dress shirts, as well as a tie pin and cuff links that we were very pleased with (all thankfully on sale)!  It was immensely helpful to have someone help us who knew how the suit should fit.

It's appealing sometimes to buy clothing and shoes online.  It can be very convenient.  But, it can also be full of hassles and expenses in other ways.  I had been searching for some replacement sandals for the ones I've been wearing for two years.  I finally found them in the right color last month.  But, when they arrived, they were too narrow!

I'm going back to the old ways--no more shoe shopping online for me.  I stopped by Marshalls and found a pair of Croc sandals for $20--the same price as the sandals online--except that I got to try them on first, make sure they fit, and not have to pay $13 return shipping if they didn't fit!

I think the key for me is finding the stores that I can shop efficiently at, find a reasonable price, and get the help I need when I need it!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Salt Potatoes... from a non-New Yorker

One of my husband's favorite side dishes is New York (specifically upstate NY) style Salt Potatoes.  The first time I attempted to make them was a disaster.  A complete disaster!  I couldn't fathom not pricking or cutting the potatoes.  It went against my nature.  If you have made salt potatoes before, I'm sure you know exactly how they turned out!  The salt soaked into the potatoes and they were uneatable.  I gave up after my first try and didn't think I'd ever successfully make them.

But, a few years later, I had regained my gumption to try again.   So, I bought some small potatoes from Wegman's and tried.  My second attempt was halfway successful, but I didn't get the right salty flavor that's true to Salt Potatoes.  But, I became determined to get it right.

I still don't have it quite right, but I have arrived at a recipe that my family likes.

Our Family's Salt Potatoes

3 pounds of small or fingerling potatoes
7/8 cup kosher salt

Wash potatoes and place in pot.  Cover in water.  Add salt and bring to a boil.  Boil until a fork easily pierces a potato.  But, be careful piercing the potatoes because the salt will seep into those holes!  Wait until you think they're done and only pierce one or two.  When the potatoes are done, drain potatoes in a colander.  But, DON'T wash them!  The salt will form a coating on the outside of the potatoes.  Place in bowl and pour

6 Tbsp. butter, melted

over the potatoes.  Toss and serve.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Apples, Apples, and More Apples

In my house, apples turn into apple pie, applesauce, sauteed apples to go along with pork chops, or Waldorf salad.  But, beyond that...

Sometimes it's fun to get new ideas of what to do with apples.  My family likes apples and there's only so much apple pie that one can eat.  The Apple Cookbook by Olwen Woodier is filled with such ideas.  My mom and I had a mixed experience with the recipes.  Of the ones we tried--some were
good, some were just okay.

The recipe I remember most was for the English Apple Crumble.  My oldest daughter doesn't have a super sweet sweet-tooth.  So, she loved this dish.  It was nice, especially with a little whip cream on top.  I generally found that true of the recipes in this book--they weren't overly sweet.  This can be good thing if you're trying to cut back on your sugar intake or if you prefer dishes that are not overly sweet.

I liked how this cookbook was formatted.  The ingredients are clear and easy to read.  The formatting makes it easy to follow the directions which weren't flowery or wordy.  And of course, the pictures.  The pictures are appealing and well done--they make me want to cook, which is what they're supposed to do.

If you love apples as an ingredient, this cookbook is probably right up your alley!

Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this cookbook for review from Storey Books.