Free Storage and Grocery Bag

I like free stuff, as long as it is useful and not clutter. Here’s a couple freebies from the week.

1.) Boxes from work. Immediately upon receiving my paper ream orders at work, I knew the boxes should come home with me. They’re nice, sturdy and roomy, and best of all – they’re free. I unpacked all of the paper and set the boxes aside, not really sure what to use them for, but figuring it would be put to use in the boy’s room.

(Actually in the picture you see 2 freebies. The boxes, and then the dresser. My parents picked up the dresser at a garage sale, stained it, and gave it to us. Muy cool!!)

Football uniform storage. I need 1 more box, but I’m happy to at least have the twin’s stuff put away. The boxes will go downstairs with the rest of the sports equipment.

2.) A freebie received. My Earthbound Farm tote. Love it. Used it a couple days ago to lug in my groceries.

Laundry Detergent – What Do You Use

I’ve used nearly every laundry detergent known to man.

Arm & Hammer
Generic Something-Er-Other
Target Brand

Lately it was the Ecos, then Tide (because, over time,  nothing seemed to be getting clean enough). Tide is more expensive and I’m disappointed with it. It doesn’t seem to be getting my clothes clean AND it leaves soap scum.

Now, I use vinegar in the rinse cycle (for softness – works GREAT, yo, just had to add that in)… but still. Nothing. Getting. Clean. Enough. I went back to Gain after forgetting how much I like that brand. I fell in love with that years ago when the kids were little. I’m starting to wonder if it is my over-priced, top-loading, no-agitator washer. An agitator might damage clothes, but by golly – it get’s ‘er clean, too. I’d really love to use an eco-friendly brand, or even one homemade, but frankly if my clothes aren’t getting clean enough, it is not worth it to me.

So, I’m just curious as to what detergent you use, and why?


Congratulations to Courtney, she won the book!! There’s more where that came from; just keep checking back.

Is anyone else doing nothing this summer? I know summer is the typical time for “vacations” and all that jazz, but we don’t have it like that to take a family vacation to Destination Somewhere this summer (or, well, pretty much ANY summer). We contemplate going up north to my parent’s cabin, but with the prices of gas, we’re looking at $250-$300 round trip in our van. That’s some crazy stuff. Seriously. So, we’ve been trying to make the best of our mosquito-infested, non-vacation taking summer. Baseball games, trips to the public pool, bike rides, etc.

Lists of Five

Anyone else doing Homecationing? Here’s a few suggestions:

  1. Backyard camping – Set up a tent in the backyard (yours or a neighbor’s, if you want to make it more “destination bound.” You can even have backyard fires in most cities. Nothing screams camping like a tent, fire and s’mores. Maybe some swimsuits and a run through the sprinkler in lieu of a watering hole.
  2. Grilling out/picnicking at a local park – We’ve done this many times before. With friends or without. Having a little picnic, even if it isn’t far away, spices things up a bit, breaking the summertime monotony.
  3. Rediscovering the library – For some it is an underused free destination. If you don’t go there, make a point to do so. Ours has a ton of free programs for kids with reading incentives. Carlito just picked up free admission to a baseball game and a State Park for reading X amount of hours so far this summer.
  4. Movie marathon – If you have a weekend, or a couple days off (great rainy-day stuff), rent yourself – better yet, borrow from the library OR note some movie times on TV and catch a couple a day. Pop popcorn, make some fun snacks and make it a special occasion. Watch with friends, watch as a family, or watch alone. But make the event around the show.
  5. Utilize the State Park – if you live in the US, there’s probably a state, city or county park nearby. Many of them have activities throughout the summer (for free or for a minimal amount). Take advantage of the trails, ride your bike or just visit a part of the park you haven’t been to. Combined with a backpack lunch or picnic really makes a mini-vacation out of a simple trip.

Most of the above things can be done for free or for less than $50, which is only a hint of what a regular vacation can cost. Putting an activity on the calendar and sticking to it, as if it were a real vacation, makes it even more of an “event,” something special to look forward to. The simple act of marking a Me Day or Family Day on the calendar and thinking up 3-5 things you’ll do special for yourself/your family, turning off email, phone and centering only on the day together is a vacation in itself.


What it costs to fill up our tank.

Picture on Picasa

Are you brave enough to take a picture of the pump after you fuel up? I’d like to see it. If you do, leave your link here for me.

I know most people are sharing in the misery of paying for high-priced gasoline. The dent it makes in our budget is becoming more and more… tangible. We have a BIG van for our BIG family. Our van has a 30-gallon tank. Whenever I fill that sucker up, I feel the attendant’s eyes burning into my back, waiting for me to speed off without paying. I hear that’s been happening more and more.

Our little car has a 10-gallon tank and the price just to fill that little bugger up is nearly as much as the 30-gallon was (in what seems like) not that long ago.

So of coarse, the question is – What do YOU do to cut down on the impact of high fuel prices?

Some ideas to ease the blow?


  1. Take less trips; plan more when we do. A gallon of milk costs $7 if I have to run out late at night to get it instead of planning ahead, or doing without until I can combine a trip.
  2. Ride-sharing. Especially when it comes to the kids and practices (mainly the older ones). Think of it as “free” gas (gas you would normally be using, but found out a way not to). That helps me remember how important being creative about saving a bit on the gas bill is.
  3. Combining errands (similar to the first tip, but if I’m simply driving somewhere, school, practice, etc. Think about where am I going, what (other stores) will I be driving by and do I really need to take this trip? If I know I have to drive D out to practice (which isn’t close, mind you), there’s a grocery store on the way. If I have my act together I can shop while he’s at practice. It is like getting “free” gas.
  4. Figuring out the cost to certain destinations. Weigh the cost against the benefit of going. This helps me put it into perspective. I figured it costs me about the same amount of money to drive to work as it would to take the bus. I was contemplating taking the bus, but since there’s no real savings (on money), and there is on time, I opted for driving.
  5. Teach your older kids to to be savvy bus riders. We are fortunate enough to have very good public transportation. Our kids can use their semester bus pass to board the buses, even when they aren’t going to school. We take advantage of that when we can. The bus that goes by our house goes right by my parent’s house as well. If Beaner’s visiting gramma, she can often take the bus. Again, it’s like free gas!!

Half Price Medieval Times Tickets

Last year (well, OK maybe two years ago), we took the two older kids to Chicago to see the Medieval Times. We had a blast, and I thought it would be fun, someday, to bring the younger three. Since we’re heading that way again for a tournament this year, we thought it would be as good a time as any. The ticket prices are rather steep, though, and when I added in our totals (3 kids, 2 adults), I almost lost my functions.

Forget it, we aren’t going, I thought.

But then I found a coupon code for 1 free kids admission with a paid adult. A savings of over $60 for us, since we have 3 kids coming with. Just enter this code: WEBKTF upon checkout and they will be added automatically. It is only good for Schaumburg, and only good through the end of April, 2008. It says it isn’t valid online, but it

Mom’s Best Naturals

Mom’s Best Cereal Yesterday we went shopping and I loaded up on some Mom’s Best Naturals cereals. They don’t do a lot of advertising, which is why I’d like to give them props, getting the word out as cheaply as possible, so they don’t suddenly disappear from our store shelves or raise their prices.

Mom’s Best Cereals are cheaper and have better ingredients (no preservatives, hydrogenated oils, high-fructose corn syrup, artificial colors or flavors) than most of their popular counterparts. And if you haven’t noticed —  cereal is getting expensive, yo. With 5 kids eating cereal in the house, we spend a lot on cereal. Sometimes one of our local chain grocers will have decent deals on cereal, but it is usually the high-sugared kinds and we try to refrain from buying those.  You can read more about Mom’s Best Cereal’s here; and if you see them in the store, give ’em a try. For the first time I saw they made instant oatmeal, too. We generally make it the old-fashioned way, but instant is nice when you need the convenience of something fast.

Money saving coupon here, although I couldn’t get mine to print out.

Cloth Napkins

We’re not working with much cash right now. Annoying and stressful as it is, it is also a bit humbling. It forces us to really look at where we are spending and how we can make a difference. I say “us” but I really mean “me” because Frank doesn’t have anything to do with any of our money. Besides earning it. So many times I’ve said that I need to sit him down with me while I pay bills to he can see where the money goes.

. . . . .

A while ago I was reading up on some ways to be thrifty and came across some information on cloth napkins, which… inspired me. We could try cloth napkins, I thought. First, I planned on making some. I scoured my house for fabric but found none. I also didn’t think I’d be satisfied with the outcome of my own sewing. So I kept my eye open at Goodwill for some. They did occasionally have them, but they were .69 cents a piece and something in my head told me that was too much to pay for used cloth napkins. Found some at Pier I, but they were muy expensive. I found some at TJMaxx and was thisclose to buying them. They were $10 for a pack of 6, I believe. Buuuuuuut didn’t get them, thought Goodwill was a better bet. With 7 people in our house, we’d need at least two packages, and $20? Bah. Couldn’t bring myself to do it. I kept the cloth napkin idea on the shelf, but didn’t want to settle for anything less than a bargain.

In Target one day post-Christmas, there was a sale on all the leftover Holiday goodies. 75% off. I was looking for wrapping paper and scotch tape, maybe some chocolates. But you know what I saw? Some rectangular packages, red cloths… my mind clicked. Napkins!! At $9.99 each my tired brain tried to calculate what they would be at the discount. Realizing that this was the best price for brand, spanking NEW napkins, I took all they had and put them in my cart to “think” on it for a bit. I knew I’d want 4 for sure, maybe five. But I hoarded all available napkins in my cart for safe keeping. I did end up purchasing them, but my hoarding came back and bit me in the butt because I forgot that I had grabbed ALL of them, and at the checkout I just threw everything on the moving belt and paid.

Cloth Napkins

Patience paid off. I’m very glad I waited, and I’m not bent out of shape that I got a few extra with the deal. They’re red, so they don’t show stains and I can throw them in with my colored laundry. It seemed like I had way too many at first, but the good thing is I don’t have to worry about them running out.

We’ve used them for a week now, and haven’t run out. And we don’t frivolously use up the napkins, as we did with paper ones. My oldest son wondered if we were really saving money, considering they would need to be washed. However, in the long run I think it is more economical and less wasteful. And, everyone enjoys wiping their hands on the cloth napkins. It is kind of a treat. The other day we had Buffalo Wings. How nice it was to wipe our hands on the cloth napkins and not have to use paper, which peels and rips, leaving sticky paper attached to fingers. I smiled at Frank, happily, hearing little pennies go “cha-ching” adding up in my head the benefit of the cloth napkins.

Here’s some links to articles on making your own cloth napkins — I might just try them. Some flannel ones might be nice. But as far as purchasing goes, I’ll keep my eye open after holidays. I’m sure making them would be more cost-effective. I’m a little rusty at the whole sewing thing, never making it past novice, high-school sewing class, but I could probably handle some squares.
Family Homestead