Baby Room on a Budget

Tuesday, July 14, 2009 by Jen · 2 comments
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Our Baby Room on a Budget

So I know I haven't been posting for a while--I'm hoping that once school starts again and after we've had a few weeks with baby, I'll be able to get back into the routine.

Since I am now at week 37 and basically just waiting for the arrival of our new family member, I thought I would share some picts of our baby room and how we have kept our costs low. Take a look . . .

The main way we are able to save on the baby budget is by using all of the baby items we have left from our other two children. We prepared this baby room 7 years ago for my daughter, and we just moved my 4 year old son out of it into his own "big boy" room. But some things wear out, and we did need to make a few purchases--but garage sales and friends really helped out. Everything that I received used I laundered or washed with hot, soapy water. Here are a few pictures with specifics:

Changing pad and cover, purchased at a garage sale for $5. (Would have cost close to $40 new at Babies R Us -- full price)

Our Baby Dresser -- This used to be our old dresser, but with a few coats of paint and some new knobs, it makes a perfect dresser and changing table. After 7 years, the paint is wearing out, but it still works. I love the deep drawers--plenty of storage.

Hats, Socks, and Onsies -- some left over from past babies, some from garage sales, some from friends and my sister

Sleepers -- again, used but still in great shape!

Crib Set Up -- My handy husband assures me that our used crib is sturdy and ready to serve another baby. We've checked, so we know that this crib has never been recalled, so I am confident in using this again. A friend is lending me the bumper and skirt, so I have a little bit of a new look.

Car Seat Stroller System -- I gave in and decided to buy this new. It's an Evenflo--same as our old one, so I know and like how it works. Bought at Target when it was on sale for $118.99 and used my $20 Target gift card, earned by filling out a Target Gift Registry, so paid just over $100. I'm very glad to have a new, safe system. This was our one major purchase.

Bouncy -- purchased at garage sale $10

Medala Breast Pump -- purchased off Craigslist for $40. (I have my own supplies, tubes, and bottles from a previous pregnancy, and after talking to the former owner, I feel very comfortable using this used system.)

Swing -- Friend gave to us (also have a large swing up in garage)

Book Shelf -- purchased at a garage sale a few years ago for $3 (what a memory I have). Coat of paint makes it perfect. Can't wait to read all of our little board books again!

Glider Rocker -- again purchased 7 years ago. I never had the ottaman, but I love using a basic foot stool--works great for me! Quilt matches the crib set from a friend.

2 Bobby Pillows -- from 7 years ago--I couldn't live without these.

This winter, I stocked up on Pampers from and Huggies during a deal at Walgreens. And just tonight, I went to Walgreens to do a deal on Huggies wipes and Kotex (haven't needed those for a while). Great to stock up where there's a deal!

Baby Carrier -- purchased 5 years ago at a garage sale for $15. Didn't use much with my son--we'll see this time.

Baby Play Mat -- $5 at a garge sale--perfect condition. Also purchased a really nice Exersaucer for $5 but that is up in the garage -- no space.

Boys Clothing -- my boxes and boxes of boys clothing--just waiting for my new little one to wear.

So now we are just waiting, getting very excited to meet our new little one. My other babies have been born early--I've never made it to 40 weeks--I'm hoping not, but there is always a first. It's an exciting time for us. I'll keep you posted on how it goes . . . Thanks for reading!

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Winners of Turtle Chex Mix Bars

Monday, July 13, 2009 by Jen · 0 comments
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Thanks to everyone who entered my giveaway to win some Turtle Chex Mix Bars! Congrats to the three winners below, chosen using Random Integer Generator!

Stephanie -- stephaniek______@
Mike -- gapboy@
Leslie -- LeslieVeg@

If you are winner, you will receive an email from me, and you should receive your Turtle Chex Mix Bars from MyBlogSpark soon! Thanks again to everyone who entered! Have a great week!

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Free Showerhead for MN Residents

Wednesday, July 8, 2009 by Jen · 0 comments
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If you are a customer of Centerpoint Energy and your house was constructed before 1992, you can register for a free low flow showerhead (Thanks Clara). Here are the details:

-Available only to CenterPoint Energy residential natural gas heating customers in Minnesota.
-Showerheads only available to households who have not received a free showerhead previously.
-Homes must be constructed before 1992.

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Shopping without Coupons -- Aldi is the Place!

by Jen · 3 comments
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When I am not using coupons or my grocery budget is limited, I LOVE to shop at Aldi. I was introduced to the store a few years ago, and, at first, I wasn't sure what to make of the store, but there are definite reasons I now love to shop there. Here are my thoughts on shopping at Aldi:

Why I Love Aldi
1. I love their inexpensive produce -- this is the main reason I go to Aldi to shop! On a week where there is little produce on sale at the major markets, I head to Aldi to stock up!

2. On weeks when my budget it limited, I can head to Aldi, stock up on basics (produce, dairy, bread, and maybe some meal) for under $25. You can get a lot of groceries for your money--this is another reason I shop here sometimes.

3. I don't have specific numbers, but by shopping at Aldi, I know I am saving at least 20%--without using coupons. When I don't have my "coupon act" together, I shop here and I know I am still stretching my money and saving.

How Aldi is Different than Major Supermarkets
1. The store is a lot smaller, so their variety of items is limited. Expect to find mainly the basics.
2. You need to bring a quarter for the cart rental, and you need to bring your own bags (unless you want to purchase them).
3. Aldi does carry some name brand products, but most of their products are what I would call "store brand" or "off brand."
4. There are not many cashiers--expect to wait in line a bit longer.
5. Aldi only accepts cash or debit cards -- no credit cards!
6. When the store gets busy, they run out of sale items or the "best priced" items.

Tips on Shopping at Aldi
1. Find out when their trucks come in and shop as early as possible on those days.
2. Start small to become familiar with what Aldi carries and what products you like for you and your family.
3. Know your prices -- there are some things that I won't buy at Aldi, either because I don't like the product or the price isn't lower than what I can buy at my major market. For example, when milk was really high this past winter, I would buy milk at Aldi, but lately, I can't beat the weekly prices at both Cub and Rainbow--in my opinion much better prices than Aldi.
4. Be open to using store/off brand merchandise. Again, you might need to try their products before you find out what you like best.

My Favorite Purchases
1. Dried Goods -- Crackers, flour, sugar, canola oil, dried milk, cereal, canned goods, rice, snack items (tortilla chips -- under $1.50), condiments, honey, inexpensive spices
2. Diary -- yogurt, sour cream ($.89), eggs, block cheese, fresh salsa
3. Household -- napkins, toilet paper, dishwasher detergent
4. Produce -- bananas ($.49), in season fruit, strawberries (as low as $1), blueberries (as low as $1), cantaloupe, onions, potatoes, carrots, apples
5. Frozen -- vegetables, orange juice, hash browns, ice cream, shrimp, salmon

If you have an Aldi in your area but you haven't shopped there, I would definitely suggest that you give it a try. It definitely helps me save when I am not in the coupon mood. What am I missing? I would love to hear about your favorite Aldi products or why you shop their so please leave a comment and share your experience. Thanks for reading!

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Enter My Chex Bar Giveaway ---ends Thursday!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009 by Jen · 0 comments

Just want to remind everyone to enter my Chex Mix Bars Giveaway this week! My 4 year old and I just had one for a snack again today and it was really yummy--loved it! Remember 3 lucky readers will win 2 boxes each, so enter today! This giveaway ends this Thursday at 9 p.m. so enter now! Good luck!

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Not Using Coupons -- a Week of Shopping Strategies

Monday, July 6, 2009 by Jen · 1 comments
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Last week, I had a great week saving with coupons at my local grocery stores Cub and Rainbow. Using coupons can really help me stretch my budget and get lots of food for my family--spending less. It takes a little bit of planning and organization, but the time invested is SOOOOOO worth it! But some weeks, I am just unable or unwilling to shop with coupons.

So I have decided to take this week at Cents in the Cities to focus on ways I save at the grocery stores WITHOUT using coupons. Over the course of the week, I will talk about what I do and how I shop when I don't have my "coupon act" together or I don't want to use coupons. So stay tuned for my strategies and hopefully an interesting discussion on how to save even when the coupons are not in your hands! I hope you will have some "no coupon shopping" suggestions for me as well--I love to hear some new ideas.

To start, I wanted to share a few reasons why I might NOT use coupons at the stores. Can you believe that sometimes Iplan to NOT use coupons in order to save? Check it out. . . .

Reasons I Don't Always Use Coupons
1. Available Budget Is Low -- I use a two week grocery budget, and sometimes I spend most of my grocery money in the first week because I can't pass up the good deals. So my second week, I have to plan my shopping accordingly and spend less. Sometimes I do this because the deals are so great (like last week), I choose to spend more the first week and less the next, knowing I might miss a few deals the second week. Other times, it is a result of poor planning on my part.

2. No Time -- Most people who advocate using coupons to save money say that it takes them little time to use coupons and save. At the same time, it does take some planning, but with a little organization, it's very doable for the average shopper. But there are some weeks jam packed with activities and events that I lack the time and don't want to focus on coupons. I might use a coupon here or there, but I don't do any major shopping and saving with coupons. It's just a reality of our busy life!

3. Need a lot of Staples -- Some weeks, my cupboards and refrigerator are bare, and I just need to stock up on the basics--meat, protein, dairy, produce, and whole grains. Sometimes there are coupons and deals, but other times, I just need to buy some ground beef--coupon or no coupon.

4. Planning for Major Cooking -- Some times, I want to set aside some money to do some major batch cooking or for a trip to Trader Joes, where I buy more items in bulk. I might adjust my budget and shopping accordingly to set aside some of my grocery money to make this happen.

5. Coupon Box is a Mess -- When I don't focus on coupons, I am still gathering available coupons as I can, but I just put them in a pile that grows and grows, creating an unorganized mess. When my coupon system is a mess, I don't even want to touch my coupons, and I choose not to use them. For me this happens every few months--just part of the way I use coupons. It's not a bad thing, just reality.

6. Week of No Good Deals -- Sometimes I look at the sales flyers, and nothing really interests me! There are no good deals that appeal to what I want to buy for my family! Usually there is something out there on sale that I can apply a coupon to, but sometimes I'm just not interested in the deals!

7. Other Things on My Mind -- This past month of June, I got off to a slow coupon start and I never quite caught up. Lately, we have been focusing on getting ready for baby's arrival, and with this on my mind, I haven't been as interested in the coupon deals.

There you have a few reason for why I don't use coupons--sometimes. I'd love to hear that I'm not alone -- sometimes--so please leave a comment and share your thoughts! Stay tuned tomorrow for my first strategy on how to save with out using coupons!

Thanks for reading!

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Turtle Chex Mix Bars -- Giveaway!

by Jen · 1 comments
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I love Chex Mix! It's one of my favorite "salty" treats to make, and I love it when I can find a bag of it on sale. We also eat a lot of snack bars at our house. So I was very excited when MyBlogSpark sent me two boxes of Turtle Chex Mix Bars to try.

And they are delicious! They combine the crunchy, salty taste and texture of Chex cereal--which I love--with caramel, chocolate pieces, and pretzels and peanuts! They are really good--seriously! My husband gave them a great compliment, saying they remind him of a favorite cookie his Mom made when he was growing up. I don't have that recipe right now, so he's really enjoying these bars!

Besides the great taste, I LOVE that these Chex Mix Turtle Bars use whole wheat flour and have 4 grams of dietary fiber. So when I give this sweet treat to my kids, I know that it is going to be more satisfying for them with some healthy ingredients. These bars are a great sweet, satisfying indulgence.

What's even better? MyBlogSpark is also going share some boxes of Turtle Chex Mix Bars with THREE Cents in the Cities readers! I think that's pretty awesome! So fill out the form below to to win some Chex Mix Bars for your family--three entries will win! (If you do not see the form in your blog reader or email, please go directly to Cents in the Cities to see the form and enter your information!)

Thanks for reading Cents in the Cities and entering my Chex Mix Bars Givaway--contest ends Thursday, July 9th, so enter now! Have a great week!

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This Is Me -- Mulberries and the 4th!

Saturday, July 4, 2009 by Jen · 0 comments
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It has really been a wonderful summer week here in our corner of the Twin Cities. Late Tuesday night, my daughter returned safely from North Carolina, having had a wonderful time and with a nice summer tan! She mainly spent time playing with cousins and going to the swimming pool and the ocean. I'm so glad my sister and her family are visiting in August--MN is a great place to visit in the summer or anytime really. . . (Read Entire Post for more)

Being pretty pregnant, I'm glad I didn't go--I like the comforts of my own home and bed--and knowing that I'm very near my doctor and hospital. My husband and I had a great time with our 4 year old son--it felt like a vacation with only one child around (it's amazing how quiet one child can be). We are all happy to have my daughter back and to move back into summer routines with a lively, loud household!

It's just been a nice, uneventful week! The kids and I have again discovered the Mulberry tree in my neighbor's yard, and we have had so much fun picking and eating berries--yum. I wish I had some pictures of their purple faces and feet, and of course we have purple shoes and shirts. The robins, other birds, and even the squirrels flock to this tree, so it's been so nice just sitting and enjoying the wildlife. It has been cooler this week, which I have enjoyed, but I think we are heating up for the upcoming week.

Shopping and Saving
It was a good week for shopping and saving with coupons--haven't done this for a while! Feel like I got some great deals this week at both Cub and Rainbow, and my cupboards and freezer are full, which is always a good thing.

Family Fun & Zoo-mobile
We had a really nice family evening yesterday (Friday), which reminded me about the value of community planned activities. We headed out for $1 burgers at Culvers, which we took to the park for a picnic. The Zoo-mobile from the MN Zoo was giving a presentation at this park, so we got to see and learn all about millipedes, aardvarks, and, opossums. All the kids raise their hands to ask a questions, including my 4 year old, who I didn't really think had a question (just wanted to be like all of the other kids). So it was fun to hear him ask a really smart question, "How does the snake walk?" It was a very fun evening at the park.

4th of July
And it's the 4th of July today --Happy Independence Day! I need to take a moment and remember what this day is all about--helps to have children to talk to about these things--they are always interested. My husband works the first part of the day; then, we are heading to southern MN (my husband's hometown) for a small town parade, activities, and fireworks--a great way to spend the 4th. Hope you are having a wonderful celebration with family and friends!

"This Is Me"
Just a note on blogging and my "This Is Me" posts --thanks so much for reading--and I appreciate all of your thoughtful comments and emails! I'm the kind of person who processes by talking, or in this case writing, and it helps me just to get my thoughts and worries out of my head, and then I can move on! I use these posts to ramble on and on, and I'm trying to be more concise with other posts (not sure if I'm there yet, but that's my intent). Anyway, my goal is to "release" rather than complain--I like to keep that to a minimum.

Anyway, thanks for reading and enjoy these July days--wherever you are! Looking forward to a great week!

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Great Week of Coupons at Twin Cities Grocery Stores!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009 by Jen · 2 comments
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(Today's Rainbow Shopping: Two Transactions; total OOP for all of this: $2.36. Seriously! Now that's some good shopping!)

So I have a confession to make: for the past few weeks I have hardly looked at much less used a coupon at a grocery store (gasp)! You're shocked, aren't you (OK not really, esp if you just read my "This Is Me" post.)

So I finally am getting my "coupon act" together. Since it's the end of the month, I cleaned out my coupon box, filed all of my coupons and expired coupons, and got ready to do some serious shopping! Feels good to start again!

I have another confession: I'm just a slow shopping planner. If you are a new coupon user and are reading this, don't be discouraged, it's just me. Really it's genetic--I'm blaming you Dad--one of the slowest engineers I know. Writing my shopping list, organizing the coupons, planning my menu around the deals, and actually sticking within my budget--this all takes me too much time! I know I overthink and overplan sometimes. And sometimes I am faster than others--once I have my shopping and saving groove on--anyway.

But sometimes it's SOOOOO worth it! Like this week--a great week to shop with coupons at both Rainbow and Cub! "Read Entire Post" for the best deals out there in my mind including links to the resources I used:

Rainbow This Week
So I decided to shop double coupon day at Rainbow today and planned my transactions using available resources. Carrie at Pocket Your Dollars does a great job with a Rainbow Coupon match--check it out if you haven't already. I also like to go to the Rainbow Forum at A Full Cup--another great place where people share ideas about the deals of the week.

Awesome Deal #1: There was an awesome Kelloggs cereal deal this week. If you bought 8 cereals at $20 total, the register automatically took off $10. I had tons of Mini Wheat Coupons from Vocal Point to use and other coupons out of the Sunday inserts. I won't go into the nitty gritty of the deals (my brain is too fried right now), but I will say that the deal was so great because I was able to get $3 in overage, and I did two transactions. So basically I got lots of cereal, poptarts, and used the overage and other coupons to buy bing cherries, bar soap, and 3 boxes of bandaids for only $2.36 TOTAL (see first picture). For me that's awesome shopping and worth the effort!

Awesome Shopping #2: In the second picture, I show what I bought in my other two transactions--my main shopping of the week. All of the items in this pict cost me $32.33, with a total savings of $56.86. Rainbow has great prices on Strawberries, blueberries, and cantelope--great to stock up on even if you're not doubling coupons. Using doubled coupons, I got Bushes Baked Beans (free), Eggo Waffles (free), Ragu Sauce (cheap), 4 pkgs hot dogs (cheap), and more--plus lots of fruit and lettuce. Again, I don't have the details this week, but it's fun at least for me to see all that I got for my money this week!

Don't worry!! If you didn't get in on the deals at Rainbow this week, there are new deals starting Sunday! There's sure to be more coupons to use! And like I said, some great produce deals there this week--I'd head there just for the produce.

Cub This Week
After realizing that there is an available $5 off a $50 purchase coupon at Cub this week (thanks Karen at Minnesota Coupon Adventure), I decided I should also head to Cub. After reading the Cub forum at A Full Cup, I also decided to do a few catalina deals:
--If you buy 5 Kraft cheeses ($1.77 each) you can earn a $4 catalina.
--If you buy 4 Tombstone pizzas with Cub Coupon at $9.99, you can earn a $3 Catalina.

So I decided to head to Cub and do these deals, buy a few staples like milk, eggs, and bread, and stock up on water softener salt, also on sale (last week paid full price because we were out). To make sure I made it to $50, I used a few "free" manufacturer coupons that I have out of the Sunday paper. With all of the coupons I am using, my out of pocket (OPP) was a lot less than $50--more in the mid $30s. Again, I know I don't have the details today, but just the general idea.

So there are a few of my coupon deals from the week! My budget is spent, and even though I would really like to go back to Cub once more this week, I need to stop--my fridge and cupboards are full anyway. Enough shopping! There's always more to do, more deals to be had. . . next week! Thanks for reading!

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This Is Me -- All or Nothing Mentality

by Jen · 3 comments
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This is me, this is me, this is me and my energy! ~Laurie Berkner

So I've been trying to come up with a reason for why I haven't been writing lately, and what I come up with is my "all or nothing mentality." It's not a great way to look at things, but it sometimes plagues me. This is the kind of thinking I'm talking about (Read Entire Post):

--Cleaning -- Every room in my house is a mess, but it's so overwhelming that I can't tackle any of it until I can do it all. So until I can do it all, I ignore the toys, the toothpaste spattered sink, and the piles of papers. Wouldn't it be smarter to tackle a little at a time, say, like clean one room a day, but oh no, that would be too easy. That's an all or nothing mentality.

--Reading -- I love to lose myself in a great book, and sometimes I just can't stop reading. So rather than reading a little at a time, I sometimes stay up until 2 or 3 in the morning to finish--because I just have to finish! The problem is I have kids who get up by 8 AM who need their Mom to be awake! Wouldn't it be just as enjoyable to read a bit at a time and to get some sleep? Well you would think so, but not in my mind I guess. That's an all or nothing mentality.

--Eating Healthy -- So I believe eating healthy on a regular basis is important--take care of your body, treat yourself right. But then I decide to have a bowl of ice cream one night, and it's a great excuse to "throw in the towel" and eat tons of junk food. Wouldn't it be smarter to have one or two treats rather than lots and lots--better for the waste line and general health? Not in my mind sometimes--that's an all or nothing mentality.

--Blogging -- So summer is here and preparations for baby are on my mind, and I haven't been quite as focused as I normally am (again, blaming this pregnant mind of mine). So rather than write once or twice a week or when I can, I don't write at all, even though I think about it a lot. Now does that make sense? That's my all or nothing mentality!

So as you can probably see, if I could change one thing about myself it would be this "all or nothing mentality" that's kind of a form of paralyzation or procrastination in my life. I'll keep working on it, one step at a time.

Over the past few months, I have truly enjoyed sharing my perspective at Cents in the Cities. I really enjoy this blogging thing, but I struggle with balancing the writing with living my life. Cents in the Cities is just something I'm doing for fun, and sometimes I can barely get to the grocery store and do a few shopping deals much less writing about the shopping I am doing.

And now that baby is almost here, I'm not sure where the next few months will take me. There will very likely be a few more weeks of very few (if any posts). But I do want to keep writing--talking about living simply and why it's important! And if you are interested and want to read, I hope you'll keep coming back.

And I will keep talking about shopping deals, coupons, and saving money as best I can. I just can't promise that I will be able to talk about every deal all of the time.
I will try to check in more on a regular basis--like maybe once or twice a week at least. It's a good thing that there are a few emerging blogs out there these days that talk about the deals at MN stores. They are doing a great job, so I'll keep trying to figure out what I can write about best at Cents in the Cities.

I guess I am saying that I'm not really sure what direction I am taking with Cents in the Cities right now. Changes are a happening in my family -- my youngest is almost 5--so having a baby to care for will be quite the change! It's amazing how much you forget! So these changes will very likely throw us into a new mode. It's kind of exciting to think about what's in store, but, as I've been saying, Cents in the Cities might suffer a bit.

At the same time, I'm not giving up on this blog yet. I'm going to keep on posting as best I can and we'll see where it leads me in a few weeks or months. And if you are interested in the reading, I'd love it--great to be talking to more than just yourself.

So this is me right now, my all or nothing mentality, and my random thoughts athe moment. Whew--feels good to get that out of my head! If you've made it to this point, you really are amazing. Thanks for reading Cents in the Cities--appreciate it!

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