Sunday, December 9, 2012

New To Us Foods- Real Food Eating

The other night as Paul and I were searching the far corners of our kitchen for the perfect bedtime snack, I realized something.  We eat weird foods.  Maybe I should clarify, we eat "real food" which in translation, can mean weird.  Below you will find listed a few of our favorite "new arrivals" and where I have found the best deal.  Keepin' it frugal....or rather, keepin' it real.

Almond Milk-  Almond milk has 50% more calcium than dairy milk (who knew?) and unlike milk, it happens to contain 50% of your daily value of antioxidants and vitamin E.  Learn more about almond milk vs. other options by clicking here (Frugal Tip: Aldi now carries Almond Milk)

Farm Fresh Eggs/Chicken-  We LOVE our farm fresh eggs.  Once you taste the difference it will be hard to go back.  We found a farmer not far outside of town who has free range, antibiotic, and hormone free chicken/eggs.  Nothing like chickens literally greeting you as you step out of your car.  (Oh yea, their chicken is fantastic too!)  (No Frugal get what you pay for.  I'd recommend Weavers if you are from around here or find a farmer- they are out there!)  

Quinoa-  We have been eating quinoa in place of rice for the most part.  Quinoa has 50% more protein and fiber than brown rice among other benefits.  It is often referred to as "The Supergrain of the Future." (Frugal Tip: I have found it to be cheaper if you buy it out of the bulk bins.  Festival, Gordy's and Mega all carry it in bulk)

Chia Seeds-  These seeds are crazy good for you! 100% more essential fatty acids than salmon, double the antioxidants found in blueberries, 6x more calcium than milk, 6x more iron than spinach, high in fiber, anti-inflammatory, and provides natural extended energy.  We sprinkle them on oatmeal and bake them in about anything that bakes. Click here for more info. (Frugal Tip: Again, go bulk bins on this one.  Festival is actually cheaper than Weavers.  Ordering online may also be worth looking into.)

Coconut Oil and Olive Oil-  These 2 oils have replaced my canola oil and become my go-to.  My favorite real food blogger has a great post on oil choices if you are interested.  (Frugal Tip- Unrefined coconut oil can be expensive!  I have found the best deals on Amazon and have purchased in bulk on free shipping days.)

Sea Salt- Did you know that sea salt contains 92 nutrients vs. table salt which contains only 2?  Aluminum and sugar is also sometimes added to table salt.  That was enough said for us.  We are a sea salt family now.  (Frugal Tip: Although I purchased my sea salt at Walmart for a litte more than table salt, I noticed the Dollar Tree carries it now.)

Kale-  True story... As my husband was eating this the other day he paused and said "Wow, I love this stuff.  I could eat it everyday."  I had to fight back tears of joy.  (Frugal Tip: Farmers Market is an awesome place to buy kale!  Walmart and other grocery stores carry it during the "off-season" Appleton friends- shop Woodmans on this one)

Fruits- We eat a lot of fruit.  Some of our new favorites are grapefruit, kiwi, and avacado.  All of which have super food properties. One kiwi provides 117% of you vitamin C which is more than an orange has to offer.  (Frugal Tip: Aldi had fantastic produce and prices!)

Oats-  We eat a lot of oats around here.  We eat oatmeal most mornings, make homemade granola cereal,  and I am learning how to incorporate oats into my baking.  (Check out my sister-in-laws blog for an awesome granola recipe)

Natural Sweeteners-   We have been trying to cut back on processed sugar for lots of reasons.  Just google sugar and you will get a wide variety of opinions on how much is safe, what kinds are good, and everything in between.  After researching it, we have decided to cut out high fructose corn syrup (which is in almost everything....),  be very aware of how much processed sugar we are eating, and whenever possible, go back to the basic sweeteners.  I use primarily honey and maple syrup with the intent to look into stevia (haven't made up my mind on that one yet).  (Frugal Tip:  Nothing will be cheaper than white refined sugar but if you choose to go a different route buy local.  Ask around.  I get our honey from my old neighbor when I can, and syrup from Cranberry Fest) 

What superfoods or real foods are your favorites?  Does anyone have any tips on being frugal when it comes to purchasing these things?  All this talk about food is making me hungry.  Time to hit up the kitchen for a Packer victory snack.... too soon? 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Real Food Eating- UNREAL Candy!

I love candy bars.  I love them fresh, frozen, in fruit salads and on top of just about any dessert.  If you asked me to tell you my favorite, I couldn't.  Snickers....oh wait, no, peanut butter, scratch that, milky way??....  So as you can imagine, when we set out on this journey of real food eating,  you can imagine my disappointment when I looked at the ingredient list on a candy bar for the first time ever and realized it was loaded with some crazy things.  It was a sad day in the Behnke household as I came to terms with viewing candy as a rare treat instead of an everyday topping.  That is until last week when I came across an awesome product..... it's unreal. (pun intended)

Unreal Candy Bars.....  I came across a review of this new "better for you" candy bar from one of my favorite real food bloggers.  No Artificials, No Hydrogenateds, No Corn Syrups, No Preservatives, and No GMO's.  Sounded a little too good to be true.  I grabbed my most honest critic (my husband) and we headed over to Target to give this "Unjunked" candy bar a shot.  We decided on Unreal 8 (snickers) and what do you know?  It rocked!  Compared to a Snickers bar it had almost half the sugar and 5 times the fiber. (check out the comparison here)  I was also super pleased with the price because it was comparable to any candy bar.  Although I do not intend on adding this Unreal Candy into our daily lifestyle, it is super nice to have an unjunked option when we want something sweet.


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Save Stylishly Take 2- Dresses

Back in April I wrote a blog entry on saving stylishly.  I had such a great response I thought I would post a second take on it but this time focus on dresses.  Maybe it is just a season in life, but ever since Paul and I were the first among our friends to say "I Do" summer pretty much equals a crazy amount of weddings.  At the start of the summer I found myself staring into my closet with an empty glare.  I needed some new dresses and in a hurry!  The next few weeks I was on the lookout and was pleasantly surprised with my finds courtesy of clearance racks, garage sales, and my personal favorite; Goodwill. 

If you saw me this summer at a wedding, rehearsal dinner, shower, or graduation ceremony, you have probably already seen an outfit or two.  Oh, and a special shout out to my wonderful husband who I continually interrupted to be my photographer. (I think I need a model!)  Naturally, we were wasting time between a wedding ceremony and reception.  Go figure. 

Outfit Total:  $5.00    (Goodwill- dress $1.99, belt $1.99, clearance rack gold hoop earrings 99 cents)

Outfit Total: $5.00  
($3.99 clearance rack dress, $1 garage sale sandals, hand-me-down earrings and sweater)

Outfit Total: $8.00 ($3.00 garage sale dress, $4.99 clearance rack sandals, hand-me-down shirt)

Outfit Total: $9.00  (Goodwill dress $4.99 and $1.00 sweater, Payless $3.00 shoes, hand-me-down necklace)

Outfit Total: $11.00  (Goodwill $4 dress, Clearance rack $1 bracelet, $1 shoes, and $5 sweater)

Outfit Total: $11.00 (Goodwill $4.99 dress, 99 cent sweater, clearance rack $3 shoes and $2 necklace)
Outfit Total: $5.00  (clearance rack $4 dress, $1 headband)
Outfit Total: $2.00  (Garage Sale $2 dress, hand-me-down necklace)

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Cream of Something Soup

One thing about "clean eating" seems to be true.  It takes time.  No, not the eating part, but everything in between.  So far I have discovered it means more time planning, shopping, washing, cutting, mixing, cooking, baking, and results in more dishes!  I still have a long way to go, but with time, I am pretty sure I will figure out shortcuts and how to be most efficient with my time.  For now, it's one thing at a recipe at a time.... and today I want to share one that has become a pantry staple and favorite... and yes, it is also "frugal."


Being that I am born and raised in the Midwest, I have way more casserole recipes than I know what to do with.  Most of those recipes call for a can of cream of something soup.  Up until this point I have been perfectly content with picking up a can of  condensed"cream of" soup from the store, but with an ingredient list into the teens and most brands containing MSG, those days are long gone.  I came across a great dry recipe mix on pinterest for cream of something soup.  It's easy; you simply mix a few dry ingredience together, store it in the pantry, and heat it up with water when you are ready to use it.  We have used this for multiple recipes and not only has it worked, but it has improved the taste of the dish.  The best part is, according to my estimated calculations, each "can" comes in at around 40 cents verses the typical $1.20/can the store charges.  Just think of how many more casseroles you can make this winter with those kinds of savings.... I mean, come on you guys, who doesn't love a warm casserole on a snowy night?

Cream of Something Mix

1 cup dry milk
3/4 cup corn starch
1/4 cup boullion *
4 tbsp minced onions
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp pepper

Stir all ingredients together.  Store in pantry.  When ready to use mix 1/3 cup dried mix with 1 1/4 cup water.  Heat until thick.  Equal to one can of condensed soup. 

*  Make sure your bouillon is MSG free.  Another option would be to use homemade chicken stock in place of the water and leave out the bouillon entirely. 

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Peppers "Real Food" Eating- on a Budget

I wish I could pick which 12 top the dirty dozen.  If I could, you had better believe peppers would not be on it.  We love peppers around here.  Not a day goes by that a pepper doesn't appear in one of our meals or snacks so when I realized they were something we were going to buy organically, I began to panic a little.  I don't know when the last time was that you priced an organic pepper, but at my local grocery store they are right around $4 for one.  I find it really difficult, if not impossible, to bring myself to spend that on a tiny little pepper.  The time had come to search for a frugal solution. 

In Season-  As much as I would love to have my own garden, I do not, so the next best solution for us is our local Farmer's Market.   To technically have the "Certified Organic" stamp of approval,  a farmer has to pay a fee. Many of the small, independent farms don't have the means to do so, but are practicing "organic" methods so in theory, you are getting an organic product.  Of course, not all the produce at a farmer's market would be considered organic so don't be afraid to ask.  Most farmers are more than willing to share the information with you.  Plus, you are "shaking the hands that feed you." 

Out of Season-  We have decided we will not be spending $4 on a pepper out of season so I have been busy freezing peppers for the winter.  It's an investment of time now, but I am looking forward to pulling a bag of pre-sliced peppers out of the freezer come winter.  I will not lie to you and pretend that a frozen pepper has the same property values as a fresh pepper.  A pepper that has been frozen tends to take on a soft, almost mushy texture. Luckily, most of the peppers we eat in the winter will be in something so you will likely not even notice the difference.  The good news is, from a nutritional standpoint, you are still doing pretty well with a frozen pepper. Especially considering produce from the grocery store in the middle of winter is often shipped long distances and tends to loose much of it's nutrients before it reaches the store.

This year, I really lucked out and was able to buy all of my peppers for the winter from a local Amish grocery store.  They were home grown, chemical free, and dirt cheap.  I walked away with 43 peppers for $14.  That is about 33 cents a pepper!  Had I purchased them all organically throughout the winter, I would have spent around $172.
I was so thankful for my food processor and the handy attachments that came with it.  It saved me a ton of time and effort! 

There is really no trick to freezing them.  First I washed them, dried them, and cut out the stem and core.  From there I cut them according to the recipes I plan to use them in and measured accordingly.  It did take me all day and my kitchen needed a good scrubbing after, but it was well worth the savings in my opinion.  Bring on the snow....  did I just say that out loud?...
Ready for the Freezer!
A nice addition for our compost bin. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

"Real Food" Eating- on a Budget

There are two words in the dictionary that are polar opposites:  Organic and Frugal.  It seemed entirely foolish to me to spend 3 times as much for "higher quality" food.  Sure, I could taste a difference in much of the produce but to save money I was more than willing to make the sacrifice.  I mean, taste was all  I was sacrificing by buying the "cheap" stuff, right?.......

This question led me on a  full year journey of researching, reading, watching documentaries, and talking with people who stand on extreme ends of the "organic" controversy.  My main goal in the beginning was to simply make an informed decision for myself on where I stood on the topic and why.  Little did I realize then, that eating organic was only the tip of the iceberg and would get pushed down the list of importance for me as more significant realizations and discoveries began to surface.

Along the way, I shared much of what I was learning with my husband and as certain things clicked, we began to make changes.  This wasn't an overnight thing for us and to be honest, I feel like I am only beginning to sort out the puzzle pieces.  To keep this blog post to a minimum,  food author Michael Pollan says it best: "Eat food.  Not too much.  Mostly plants." 

Our goal is primarily to eat "real food", minimize the amount of meat we eat (about 3 meals a week), and substantially increase our daily fruits and vegetables.  "Real Food" tends to have 5 ingredients or less (all of which should be pronounceable and familiar).  Easy way to remember it, real food eventually rots and it is likely the kind of stuff your great grandparents ate.  Most "real food" hangs out along the outer edges of the grocery store which is now where I hang out too. 

"You are what you eat eat's too."   That is our new attitude with meat and animal products.  Not only are most animals on factory farms given preventative antibiotics as a part of their daily diet and growth hormones to increase their size (meat) and milk production, but most are fed corn.  (more on that later)  We want to be able to "shake the hands that feed us" and currently are able to do this with our beef, chicken, eggs, and have switched over to almond milk.

And last but not least, fruits and vegetables.  Turns out we really like the stuff!  Since they have become a significant part of our diet, the whole organic debate that was the instigator of this quest comes into play.  Basically,  most fruits and veggies are sprayed with some type of pesticide, herbicide, or fungicide which I assumed would be safe enough for humans to eat.  Funny though, that 20 ingredients found in pesticides have been found to cause cancer in animals... and atrazine, a commonly used pesticide in the US has been banned for use in all European countries.  Maybe it has something to do with the fact that atrazine has a world market worth of $400 million?.... (stats taken from Harvey Blatt's book America's Food)  I could go on and on, but the more you look into it, the more complex and scary it becomes. 

For now, what we have settled on for fruits and veggies is eating organic off the "Dirty Dozen" list.  (the top 10 most contaminated)  Everything else I buy as I always have unless it is easy and comparable in price.  Organic carrots for example, are not on the dirty dozen but it's about twenty cents more at Walmart so we splurge.  We also try to eat locally and in season to get the most nutrients. That means a whole lot of canning and freezing for the winter.  Sounds like another blog entry for another day! 

And now for a few final thoughts on sugars and labeling.  I look at every label of everything I buy.  I use to look at the nutrition facts and calorie counts but no more. The ingredient list is my go to.   I avoid high fructose corn syrup (a highly processed sugar) and if sugar is listed as one of the first 3 ingredients, I check out the sugar amount.  You would be shocked at what has sugar in it that shouldn't.  I have also learned not to trust health claims on packaging.  Quick example:  Kellogs Smart Start Cereal boasts "lightly sweetened" on it's box but if you trust that, you should have just went with a serving of oreo cookies which has the same amount of sugar....   How about "natural"?  It means nothing at all, just sounds good.  Oh, and ever read the slogan "good source of"?.... Is 10% to 19% of your daily requirement really a good source?  Repeat:  I now read the ingredient list of everything I buy.  We also only buy full fat foods.  No more reduced or diet for us.  Turns out when they take the fat out, otherwise known as flavor, they fill it with other sweeteners and fillers to make up for the taste which is harder on your system than if the fat had stayed in the first place.

So there you have it.  A glimpse of what "real food eating"  looks like for us in a nutshell. I do have to say, as much as I know you are thinking "wow, they are really extreme, forget inviting them over for dinner or out to eat ever" that is not the case at all.  We are choosing to eat this way a MAJORITY of the time, NOT ALL the time.  Really, last night we went out to eat with friends and my husband ate a burger covered in peanut butter (don't ask), we drank soda (high fructose corn syrup) and had greasy fries and enjoyed every bite of it! 

Now for the challenge.... how to be frugal and continue to eat this way MOST of the time.  Much more to come.  Thanks for reading. 

Resources I've found helpful in no particular order:
Eating Between the Lines by: Kimberly Lord Stewart
The Safe Food Handbook by: Heli Perrett, PhD
Eat This Not That by: David Zinczenko*
Fork Over Knives Documentary*
Fork Over Knives- How to Companion by: T. Colin campbell and Cabwell B. Esselstyn*
Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead Documentary
The Unhealthy Truth by: Rachel Kranz*
In Defense of Food by: Michael Pollen*
100 Days of Real Food Blog*
Perry's Plate Blog*

* Favorites

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

It's Not Over Yet- Garage Sales

It is true, fall is upon us once again.  With' back to school' supplies lining the store shelves and apple crisp recipes filling the pinterest home page, it is easy to forget that there might still be time to fit in that summer activity you didn't get around to.  For me, that activity is garage sales.  I don't know what happened but here we are, well past the season prime and I am sad to say I didn't make it out half as many times as I had hoped for. 

Last weekend we went down to visit my parents and my Mom and I got up bright and early to scoure the neighborhood for some end of the season sales.  To make a long story short, I think I made up for all the sales I missed this year!  Sometimes you just hit a good one and boy did I find a good one.  Well I know little about the lady having the sale I do know a few things: 

1.  She was my size to a 'T'.
2.  She was a shopoholic.... the kind with a closet full of clothes with tags still on.
3.  We have very similar taste in clothing.
4.  She could care less about making much at her garage sale.

Needless to say, 10 shirts (4 still had tags), 4 headbands, 3 purses (1 with tags), a watch, a dress, and a pair of mittens, shoes, and earrings later I was one happy girl.  My grand total.... just under $20.00! 

Some other fun and random finds from that morning consist of an original Nintendo system with controllers and 6 games.  My original thought was to buy to resell but my husband seems to have hijacked the idea for now.... guess what he has been doing all week?  Asking price for the whole thing was $2.... total...

Another thing I was super excited to find was a brand new I-pod speaker hat with headphones built into the hat.  It will be perfect for running during those chilly fall mornings.... and for those of you that know me well, take a stab at the color.  Yes, it is yellow!  It was meant to be and all for only $1.

So long Garage Sale Season.  Until next year that is...

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Homemade Dishwashing Detergent

 UPDATE:  After using this for 2 weeks I am sad to say it has failed!!!  In other words, don't make it... not so much a frugal find.  I guess that will happen every now and again.  After about a week my dishes began to get cloudy.  Then, after not opening the soap for a week it decided to clump together.  Sadly, I threw it all away.  Back to Great Value brand for me. I will stick with the homemade laundry detergent instead!

After having success with making my own laundry detergent, I decided to try my hand at Homemade Dishwashing Detergent.  Over the past few months I had pinned a few recipes on pinterest.  After weighing the pro's and con's of each recipe, I decided on a recipe from Simply Designing and I must say, so far so good!  Not only was it easy to make but it seems to be doing a fantastic job getting my dishes sparkly clean.  The best part though, it's frugal.  Here are a few price comparisons to consider:

Cascade Dishwasher Cubes- 18cents per load
Cascade Dishwashing Powder- 16cents per load
Finish Dishwashing Powder- 10cents per load (comparable to most off brands)
Homemade Dishwashing Powder- 5cents per load

Homemade Dishwashing Powder Recipe
makes enough for 96 Loads

2 Cups Borax
2 Cups Washing Soda
1 Cup Lemi-Shine*
1 Cup Kosher Salt

Vinegar as a rinse aid*

Combine borax, washing soda, lemi-shine, and salt in a container.  Use 1 Tablespoon per load (70% in wash and 30% in prewash compartment)

*  If you have hard water you can use up to 2 cups of Lemi-shine for best results.
*  I have yet to try the vinegar as a rinse aid, but I am betting it works well.  If you try it, comment below and let me know what you think.  

All of these items can be found at Walmart.  The best part is, you will have leftover borax, washing soda, and kosher salt for future batches or other household cleaning needs.

Just one Tablespoon a load will last a while- If you run your machine everyday it will be 3 months before you need to make more.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Hot Deals

So far this summer has been hot, hot hot!  I have been so very thankful for my working air conditioner and that these temps don't stick around for long.  I am use to being "trapped in doors" due to the cold, but due to the heat?... huh?... what do you do?  I don't know about you, but what I do is a simple 4 letter word.  SHOP!

Off to the mall I went but instead of looking for a tank top or a new set of flip flops which would certainly be appropriate attire to be shopping for this time of the year, I was on the lookout for sweaters and boots...... why you might ask?  Because they are cheap!  Who wants to buy thick layers of clothing when wearing little to nothing sounds more appealing?......Answer- no one except me.  Bingo, frugal finds galore.

Last year around this same time of the year I blogged about some fun off season finds I found for my husband Paul.  This year was my turn.  If you know me at you know I pretty much live in boots from about mid fall to early spring.  Going into this season I was hoping to replace my black boots that are literally falling apart and have permanent salt stains decorating the sides.  Also on my wish list was a pair of snow boots for those rare sledding adventures and winter hikes in the woods.  It was my lucky day because I walked away with 3 new pair of boots, originally totaling just over $100, for a whopping $21. I was, and still am, pretty excited about this frugal find...... now, bring on the snow!

$39.80 marked down to $5.98.  Sold!

$42.80 marked down to $11.98. 

Hear me out on these.  They were $3.... and for $3 I can deal with the Bling these boots bring!  Plus, I plan to mainly wear them with snow pants which will only reveal the tops of the boots. 

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Desk turned Vanity

Is it really July already?  Summer is moving along at it's usual pace.  At the beginning of the summer we had a garage sale and in a spur of the moment decision decided to sell my vanity which I have had since late elementary school.  It has followed me from place to place over the years and despite the floral padded seat and the yellow gold that has clashed with pretty much every room it has resided in, I used it faithfully day in and out. 

Besides the fact that it was in style a few decades ago, there were a few negatives to the function of this particular piece of furniture.  For one thing, there were no drawers of any sort so my make-up, curling irons, and other random items could never really be hidden away.  Another symptom it deveolped over the years was a broken leg.  This made for a balancing act most of the time while I tried to apply my makeup.  Needless to say, it was time to begin looking for a replacement and where other would I turn than to my new lifeline of information, pinterest

After only a few clicks in I was drawn to the re purposed desks, end tables, and decorative tables that now took on the new identity of a vanity.  After a few seasons of garage sailing (yes, you heard me correctly, it takes a while when you are looking for something specific via garage sales)  I found just the thing for $5.  I also picked up a little chair along the way for 75 cents which received a facelift as well.  I am very happy with the end result and not only that, but the frugal find it turned out to be.  I actually came out $1.25 ahead after selling my old vanity.  That's pretty much a McDonalds hot fudge sundae which sounds amazing on this hot summer evening......Anyway, the vanity....

The Desk Before..... I think it is a desk at least.  Not sure what those "arms" were all about on it. 

My 75 cent chair that I am pretty sure was a garden ornament in it's previous life.

Nothing a little wire brush, spray paint, and fabric scrap couldn't help!  I found the fabric on clearance at our fabric store in town.  It was a discontinued sample. 

I wasn't a fan of the original hardware so I went to Rebuilding Hope, a construction thrift store here in Eau Claire, and found a few pieces with "style".

The finished product!  I LOVE all the storage space in it.  I didn't even come close to filling it up and the shelves along the back are even better! 

I found this IKEA spice rack at a garage sale for $1 with 6 of the glass jars (2 pictured here).  After a little paint this was a great way to store my "everyday" items.  I may add another one in the future. 

Eventually, I would like to find a mirror to hang on the wall behind it.  For now I am stealing the one out of my guest room in the basement.  Maybe the mirror will be my next frugal find??..

Friday, June 1, 2012


Yes, rebates, really!  This week I came across a great rebate offer at Menards of all places.  It was for TIGI haircare products.... sometimes I wonder what home improvement stores don't carry these days.  The offer was good for up to 10 products and was a full rebate return!  So, after picking out 5, spending $50 up front,  and spending a few minutes filling out the rebate form,  my 5 new haircare products will have been the cost of a stamp to send the rebate in. 

On a side note, most rebates send you back in store credit.  If it is not a store you usually end up spending money at, it may not be a win win situation for you.  For us, we run to Menards every other week for this or that so we will have no trouble using the rebate on things we would have needed to purchase anyway.  Here's to frugal finds, awesome rebates, and good hair days.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Fun and Frugal Invitations

I love event planning almost as much as I love a good event.  I love details, lists, and seeing a fun idea come to life.  I especially like to see just how little I can spend.  When my husband and I got married I was bound and determined to have a  beautiful, large wedding (400 plus), with all the bells and whistles for under $5,000.  With the help of some books from the library we accomplished our goal.  Since then, with this new era of endless ideas on blogs and pinterest, throwing a cheap yet tactful event is easier than ever and literally at your fingertips. 

Today I want to tackle one small area of event planning, invitations.  Sending out a unique invitation can be fun.  It is often the guests first impression of  what the party will be like.  If you are like me, you think "Oh, that's cute," and then maybe hang it on the fridge for a week or two.  Eventually though, it finds it's way into the garbage.  For that reason alone, I don't like to spend much on an invitation. 

Recently I helped my husband plan and host a dinner party event for a group of about 50.  We didn't have a lot to work with budget wise so I went with simple.  After searching the internet for an idea I headed to our local craft store and bought the necessities- a pack of cardstock, scrapbook paper, and double sided tape.  It took me a few hours to put them together but I was pleasantly surprised with the finished product and even more thrilled to have saved well over double of what I would have spent on a pre-made invitation kit. 

Currently, I find myself planning a graduation party for my husband who will be graduating with his Masters next week!  I first checked out Walgreens and a few other places because I wanted to do a picture invite.  Depending on what you are looking for, some of the most basic formats are about 65 cents per invitation print.  Instead, I opted to upload a picture to a free online website called fotoflexer.  This website had a lot ton of fun editing options including text boxes.  After downloading the picture I wanted along with a few quick edits and added text, I saved it to my computer and sent it on it's way to Walgreens to be printed.  I ended up spending 19 cents per invitation which is three times less than what I would have spent had I used the pre-made format.

So there you have it, my secrets on frugal invitation making.   Happy party planning! 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Warehouse Sales

Warehouse sales are basically a big company version of a garage sale.  You never know what you will find.  Occasionally it is just a bunch of junk and you walk away with nothing.  Other times you are pleasantly surprised.  This past week I had the later of the two experiences.

Club Choice Fundraising located here in Eau Claire WI occasionally has a warehouse sale.  I love this sale not only because the prices are extremely low, but also because the assortment of items are random.  Think with me for a minute about the last fundraising catalog the cute little neighbor kid showed up at your door with.  It was likely an assortment of just about anything you could think of and was overpriced.  Cut out the overpriced part and you have an idea of what this warehouse sale is like.  They had everything from gourmet cookie dough and specialty pizzas, to wrapping paper and candles.

Below are a few of my frugal finds from this sale.  If you are in the area and want to check it out for yourself  they are still open this week noon to 6 through Thursday, and noon to 5 on Friday.  Otherwise, keep a close eye on the adds in your paper for your next local warehouse sale.  

We eat a lot fo guacamole dip around here so I was thrilled to come across our favorite brand of spice mix for only 50 cents a packet.  (I usually fork out $1.15 at the grocery store.)

Check out one of the great new prints of wrapping paper they had for only $1 a roll! 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Keeping it Short (Literally)

Last week's random stop at Goodwill reinforced why I love the Eau Claire Goodwill so much!  Three pairs of shorts, ALL with original tags still on (2 Target brand, and 1 Banana Republic!) , ALL in my size, ALL priced at $1.99 each, equals one very happy girl.  Bring on the summer sunshine and let the frugal finds continue! 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Save Stylishly

Two of my many passions in life include putting an outfit together (pinterest inspired counts) and getting  a lot for a little when it comes to spending money on fashion.  You don't have to spend a lot to put together a cute new-to-you outfit.  Below you will find a few tips and tricks I have picked up along the way.

1.  Thrift Stores- almost every town has one.  It takes a little time to figure out how to shop for clothes at a thrift store if you have never done it.  The best thing to do is figure out where your size is and start digging.  I tend to look through everything piece by piece because the "good stuff" is usually tucked in there.  I also am really picky about how much I will pay for things at a second hand store.  I take the brand and condition of the piece into consideration.  If the price is similar to what I would find on a department store clearance rack I rarely buy it.  Keep a close eye out for "sales" at the thrift store.  Often there is a certain section where clothes have been marked down even more and that is where you will really save.  One other thing to keep in mind:  Try the clothes on before you buy them!!  I know some of you might be completely disgusted by the idea but trust me, it's not that big of a deal.  I have been trying things on at thrift stores for years and have yet to have any horror stories to share.  Trying things on will save you money.  I probably purchase less than 50% of things I try on at thrift stores. 

2.  Garage Sales- The key to successful garage sale shopping is having a plan and executing that plan within the first few hours that the sales open.  If you wait, all the good things will be picked over and you will be left with the worn out ugly sweater that the owner overpriced because of it's sentimental value.  My personal rule of thumb is to think twice if anything is over $1 when it comes to clothing.  Since you can't try it on you are stuck with it and will add up quickly.

3.  Clearance Shopping- When I am hitting up the mall clearance racks the very first thing I do is randomly grab a few price tags to get an idea of just how great my savings will be.  I often don't give anything over $10 the time of day.  I know, I may be over the top but I save a ton!

4.  Friends-  If you have friends who wear a similar size share your clothes!  Swap a few items for a week or two and then do it again.  Do this with shirts, pants, shoes, accessories, nail polish, and so on.  Unless you ruin something of hers this is a super frugal way to go.

5.  Hand-me-downs.  This is possibly my favorite way to "shop".  I have a few friends who are more than willing to let me dig through their bag of goodwill-bound clothes.  I will admit, it is a little awkward wearing their stuff in front of them sometimes, but often it is cute and free so who cares?!  If you find a friend who is willing to let you go through their donation bags, offer to drop off what you don't want at the thrift store when you are done.  It is a win-win.  If you don't know how to start getting hand-me downs mention to your friends that you are interested in them.  You'd be surprised how many people are excited to let you look through their stuff first!

Below are a few examples of some of my more recent outfits.  Check out the caption of each photo to find the outfit total.  Let the frugal fun fashion begin!

Shirt- $4.99 Yonkers Clearance, Hand-me-down pants, $2.99 Payless Clearance Shoes, $1.99 Bass Clearance necklace, watch gift.  Outfit Total- $10

Shirt- 99 cents Goodwill, Cardigan and pants hand-me-downs, $1.99 Walmart clearance shoes, 50 cent garage sale scarf, bracelet- homemade.  Outfit total- $3.50

Garage Sale finds- 50 cent shirt, 25 cent bracelet, $2.00 necklace, TJ Max clearance skirt (actually a halter dress!) $5.99, Earrings gift.  Outfit Total- $8.75
Clearance Rack Finds- $4.99 shirt, $9.99 skirt, $1.99 necklace.  Hand me down Cardigan and belt, 50 cent garage sale bracelet. Outfit Total-$17.00

Shirt- 50 cent Garage sale, Cardigan $1.99 and skirt/belt $1.99 at Goodwill, Boots Christmas Gift, Earrings- hand me down.  Outfit Total- $4.50

Sunglasses- 50 cents and shoes $2 at Garage sales, Jeans and black coat hand me downs, orange long sleeved undershirt $1.99 Goodwill, Walgreens scarf $5.  Outfit total- $9.50
Hand me down Pants and Earrings, Homemade necklace, $1.99 Goodwill top (tags still on), $1.99 Walmart Shoes.         Outfit Total- $4.00

Hand me down pants, $1.99 Goodwill sweater (tags still on), necklace/bracelet set 50 cents at a garage sale.                      Outfit total- $2.50