Saturday, April 9, 2011

Garage Sales Begin!!!

I can't tell you how much I look forward to garage sale season! Part of it is the hunter in me. Ryan enjoys hunting deer, I adore hunting bargains! The other part is that I grew up in a very frugal family and can't seem to kick the habit!

I love to dress my kids in name brand things and still be able to afford my food and housing! One way I do this is to shop a year ahead. It is a little tough when they are small and you're not sure how they are going to grow. However, I usually am pretty on target for the most part. I figure that even if I miss some things because I guessed wrong, I still am spending less than retail overall. Plus, I do a lot of clearance shopping, especially for bigger boy clothes, which are very hard to find. I keep the tags on them and if I'm wrong, the resale shop will ALWAYS buy them from me with tags. I can't tell you what a rush it is to open up my Rubbermaid bin for the next size up and see it stocked with clothes for my kids. I do fill in the gaps with things on sale in the current season. However, I don't feel bad spending more on matching Christmas or Easter outfits when I've been so careful on the rest of their wardrobe.

I love to decorate my home with Pottery Barn-ish type things, but can't afford it! So I look at the catalogs to get ideas and then I garage sale to find adorable things that I can refinish, recover, paint, or just use how they are. I was inspired by my college friend, Angela, who has the most beautiful home and half of it is decorated from her resale shopping. She once told me that she garage sales so that her family can have a higher standard of living than they could normally have on one income. That really stuck with me and inspired me to search for treasures! I watch blogs, too, and get ideas on how to make things beautiful for not a lot of money. They have so many tutorials on these unbelievably easy projects that look like a million bucks!

I used to stay away from the Mom-to-Mom type sales because I like to barter. At those, they usually have everyone give their stuff and they group it all together by size and such. I feel like they can be really overpriced. I found out they have the same types of consignment sales, but each person has their own table and you can barter! What an exciting find! It's like a massive kiddie subdivision garage sale, but it's indoors and has a bathroom! I went to two of these today with my friend, Sarah. We got all the way through the 80 tables at the first and through a portion of the second one before it closed down.

I was a little shocked when I added up what I had spent. I thought Ryan would kill me for sure when he found out I spent $189!! So I had to come home and really catalog my finds to see if it really was as great of a deal as I thought. This is what I bought:

1 Leapster Game
21 books
2 sets of flashcards
2 games
1 brand new pair of ballet slippers
1 pair shin guards
4 coats
18 pair pajamas
2 pair flip flops
1 swimsuit
1 swim shirt
13 pair shorts
3 pair socks
13 pair pants
14 dresses
8 skirts
1 sweatshirt
5 sweaters
40 shirts
2 baby one piece outfits

I felt so much better when I realized that I had purchased 150 items for $189!!!! I hope that, as my friends have inspired me, I can inspire you! Garage Sale shopping is not only great for your bank account, but it's great for the environment, too. Reduce, reuse, recycle, right?! Now go hunt for your bargains!! Happy shopping!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Spring is in the air!

Maybe it's because it sort of feels like Spring, but there are no flowers out, but I cannot stop making flowers. Crafting is one of those things that you don't do forever and then when you get on a roll, you just cant quit! There are such amazing tutorials online and I followed those to make these flowers. So fun and relaxing and inexpensive! Here's the link to the tutorial I used to make it: Here's another one I put together this morning. I was supervising the kids while they were doing schoolwork and multitasking! I thought it would be so pretty on a simple Easter dress or on a bag or even a headband for spring! I may have to plan our Easter outfits around it! The directions call for 1.5" ribbon, but I really think you could size it down and use some cute 1" grosgrain for a little girl...or even for a big girl who wanted a smaller flower :)

I bet there are lots of people that could pull this off on a headband like I photographed above, but I'm certainly not one of them!! Maybe if it was smaller! It's so fun to try it all different ways. Here's the link to the tutorial:

Happy crafting!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Yummy easy soups!

I made this first recipe for lunch today and remembered how much I love it so I just have to share! I adore fast soups so much. My friends Amy and Liz gave these recipes to me and I have loved using them. I've modified them to make them my own. Hope you try them and enjoy!

Cream of Wild Rice Soup:

1 large onion, finely chopped
3 ribs of celery, finely chopped
3-4 carrots, finely chopped

After they are soft, add 1/4c. butter and 1/4c. flour. Cook for about 1 minute then add:
8c. chicken stock*

Bring to a boil to thicken and add:
3c. cooked brown rice (you can use 2 packages of Uncle Ben's brown/wild rice combo and it's so good)
1c. leftover cubed chicken or turkey
1 can fat free evaporated milk
Salt and pepper to taste

Chicken Pot Pie Soup:

1 large onion, finely chopped
2 chicken breasts in small cubes

Add 1/4c. butter and 1/4c. flour and cook 1 minute.

1 quart chicken stock *

Let boil to thicken and then add:
1 can fat free evaporated milk
1/2 bag hash brown square potatoes (frozen) OR diced potatoes
1 bag frozen mixed vegetables

Cook until veggies are tender.
Salt and pepper to taste.

Top each bowl with:
Puff pastry sheet cut into 1 inch squares and cooked according to package instructions until puffy and golden brown
Pie crust cut into 1 inch squares and cooked until golden brown.

Tortellini Soup:

1 large onion
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated
(optional) mushrooms or artichoke hearts

2 quarts chicken stock *

Bring to a boil and then add:
1 bag frozen tortellini
2 small cans diced tomatoes WITH the juice
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook until tortellini is done. Can you believe it's that easy?!

*I really prefer homemade stock for soup. I usually use bones from roasted chicken or turkey, or a ham bone and add big chunks of onion with skin, celery tops - the leafy part, and whole unpeeled carrots and cook it for a few hours. I strain it and throw the stock in the freezer in the Ziplock circular 4c. containers labeled for when I need a quick soup. You could totally use it from a box or a can, though and it would be fine!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Steel Cut Oats

Ok, so we all know that oatmeal is great for us. However, no matter how yummy and convenient those little packets are, I don't think they are the healthiest option! Because quick cooking oats are already so broken down, your body doesn't have to do much work to digest them. Steel cut oats are all the rage because they are so unprocessed that your body has to work hard to break them down. I decided that would be a great thing to try. So I bought some and after I made them once, they stayed in my freezer for almost a year! For those of you who have never used them, they take about 30 min to cook. Who has that kind of time in the morning?! Plus, my kids rebelled a little because they were kind of chewy. But then I was reading a blog and it mentioned alternative cooking options for them. I have tried quite a few and not only is it so much more convenient, but they aren't chewy!! These are my favorite options:

1. bring to boil the night before, cover and then cook only 5min the next morning. Sometimes, though, even that is too much work for me. So here's my favorite:

2. crockpot!!

Here are some of the recipes that my family has tried and approved. They have been gathered and adapted from many sources that I won't reference. Also, many of these recipes make enough for a family of 4-5 for one morning. I ended up buying a $10 2-quart crockpot to make it in because my regular crockpot was too big and ended up burning the oatmeal. The greatest thing about these recipes are that they only take 5 minutes or so to put together the night before and then breakfast is ready when you wake up! Also, if everone in your family is on a slightly different schedule, it stays warm and fresh in the crockpot. We always add a little brown sugar or raw sugar and a little milk to our bowls in the morning to make it nice and creamy. Try them and enjoy!!!

The very easiest and my favorite (pictured above).

Applesauce Oatmeal:

1 1/2 c. steel cut oats
3 c. water
2 c. applesauce
1/2 t. pumpkin pie spice (if you don't have it, just use cinnamon)
1/2 c. chopped nuts - I always have raw almonds on hand so I use those, coarsely chopped

Cook in crockpot on low for 8 hours

This one is pretty much the same as above, but a slight variation.

Apple Oatmeal:
1 1/2 c. steel cut oats
3 c. water
2 c. peeled, chopped apples
1/4 c. sliced almonds
1/2 t. ground cinnamon

Cook in crockpot on low for 8 hours

Pumpkin Oatmeal:

1 (14oz) can pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie mix)
2 c. water
2 c. unsweetened almond milk
2 T. raisins
1/4 t. salt
3/4 t. pumpkin pie spice OR 1/2 t. cinnamon, plus 1/4 t. cardamom, plus 1/4 t. cloves
2 c. steel cut oats

Same as above! Mix it up the night before and let cook overnight on low. They recommend toasting pepitas and serving on top. I tried it and it was so good!