Friday, September 29, 2006

Frugal Fridays- Cheap Toddler Toys

Thanks to Crystal at Biblical Womanhood for once again hosting Frugal Fridays!

When I first started doing some in-home childcare about a year ago, I didn't have very many toys or money to buy them.

Drawing from my experience as an Early Childhood major as well as using some common sense, I began looking around my house for items that the babies could play with. As I've been able, I've supplemented my toy basket with some nice classic toys from yard sales as well as a good selection of wonderful board books that were almost all purchased for a quarter each. (One day I sat down and figured out that buying all these books brand-new would be well over $100!) I also keep a good supply of basic art supplies handy such as crayons, used computer paper, markers, play dough, water color paints, etc.

I've found that the kids like playing with my homemade toys or the recyclables better than the store-bought toys! The basic items tend to keep their attention longer than the battery operated stuff they have at home.

I hate clutter, so I continually am cleaning out the toys and sorting to only keep one basket full of stuff in my living room. My living room is too small to have lots of toys all over! I rotate the toys in and out every month or so and that helps to keep interest up.

Here are some cheap things that I've found that the toddlers like:
~oatmeal containers
~any plastic container with a lid
~orange juice concentrate lids(I decorated these with a sticker on each and cut a slit in a coffee can for an inexpensive but fun, "Kerplunk" game. Remember it's toddlers we're talking about here!)
~laundry detergent scoops-wash these well and keep in your outdoor bag for sand and water play
~boxes- Aldi boxes work well as well as bigger boxes, especially when you have someone to push you around in your "train".:-)
~food boxes-these usually last a short while, then they get cluttery and I recycle them:-)
~wooden spoons and other non-dangerous utensils
~ tin or aluminum pie plates
~water bottles-clean and dry them then add colorful objects such as jingle bells, ribbon, shells, beads or colored water. Be sure to hot glue the lid on or only give a tightly shut one to a small child that you know is not able to open it yet. (Use your common sense with this because of the potential choking hazard and consider the age of your child.)
~measuring cups and other plastic kitchen items-I use these while cooking. It keeps them occupied as well as close by where I can see them and interact with them.
~diaper wipe boxes-fill with scarves or tie scarves together for child to reach in and keep pulling out.

Hope this gives someone some great frugal toy ideas. Let me know of any more you've used or thought of!

Children don't need expensive toys to learn or to be happy. Little ones love having a caring adult close by to sing, talk, play and include them in their daily activities.

Check out Crystal's blog for more great Frugal Friday tips!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

A Sweet-Smelling Home

This time of year, as the weather turns a little cooler, and thoughts turn to the coziness of fall and winter, I start to make a real effort to make sure my home smells nice and sweet. Now, I do like my home to smell good all year round, but for fall and winter there is just something nice and cozy about the home smelling as though I've been baking!

A sweet-smelling home is one where family and friends will want to be! I love being at home when my house smells nice! For some reason, it just makes me feel more domestic. Our friends have commented on the nice homey smells in the house and how comforting it is to them.

A cute little story that tells of the power of fragrance is about a little girl from our church. About a year ago, she and her father stopped by unexpectedly one afternoon to get something from my husband. It so happened that I was baking some pumpkin muffins while they were here. The following Sunday, her mom commented how her little girl said that she wanted to live at Miss Mary Ann's house because it smelled so nice, like living in a gingerbread house! I share this story with you, not because my house always smells yummy-it doesn't- but to encourage you to make your home one that has smells that draw people, especially your family, in and make them want to stay!

Here are some ideas:
~Candles- I bought a pumpkin pie scented candle at Wal-Mart this week. It smells great and was very inexpensive. There are lots of food scented and other homey scents out there to choose from.

~ Simmer a potful of cinnamon sticks, orange peel, whole cloves, even apple slices in water. Keep adding water as needed. Just remember to turn the stove off if you are leaving the house!

~Add some spices(even kitchen spices that are old) to the vacuum cleaner bag.

~Set out a bowl of potpourri.

~Bake something special for your family. This won't only make your house smell yummy, but make your loved ones feel very special as they eat a fresh-baked treat.

~Sprinkle a carpet deodorizer/powder on the carpet before vacuuming. Glade makes some very nice scents. My favorite for year-round use is Fresh Linen. The dollar stores carry these too and they don't cost much at all.

~Keep your trash emptied! This will help a lot!We all have dirty diapers, food scraps and other garbage that contributes a less than pleasant odor to our homes. Emptying the trash every day or every other day(depending on your own family) and cleaning the trashcans on a somewhat regular basis will help this problem tremendously.

What are some ways you use to make your home smell sweet and nice?

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Works For Me Wednesday-Sewing Tip

Here's a simple little tip for those of you who sew. I was finding that it was taking me so long to cut something out with all the pinning and such, so I looked around to see what kind of weights I could use. Big heavy magnets were the key! I put them around the edge of the fabric I'm cutting and it is quick and easy and works great! No more dealing with little pins! And they can be conveniently stored and used on my refrigerator when I'm not sewing.

Note: This doesn't work well with small items; the magnets get in the way and move around too much. So I use pins for the little things I'm cutting out. But this is a real time-saver for large pieces!

Be sure to check out Rocks in my dryer for more Works For Me Wednesday ideas!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

$1.59 Jacket

Several years ago, my mom gave my husband a brand-new jacket (uni-sex)that had been given to her and was too big. It fit him perfectly. The only problem was that her name was embroidered on it and unfortunately, mom and dear hubby don't share a name. And for some weird reaon, he didn't want to wear a coat with a woman's name on it(can't imagine why!!!).

Taking out the embroidery would have been quite time-consuming and most likely would've looked pretty bad by the time I was done. So we found an iron-on applique at the fabric store that fit over the name and I sewed it on over it.(I didn't iron it on because of potentially damaging the fabric.) It literally took me a minute to complete and Voila! he has a brand-new jacket for winter that only cost me about $1.59.

Too bad it only took me 3 years to get this simple project done.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Frugal Fridays-Yard Sale Cash

I love going to yard sales and I often find many useful items and gifts, as well as occasionally finding a few items to sell on Ebay.

As we all know, even shopping at yard sales costs money. And money is often scarce, right? But the great thing is that you can get so much for so little at yard sales. I have found that the only way to have some spending money for yard saling season is to save my change. We use the envelope system for our budgeting and at the end of each month, I carefully empty all the change into my yard sale change purses(one for quarters, one for nickels and dimes, and the heavy one is loaded with pennies-graduated size cosmetic bags that fit into each other; there is even room for dollar bills, but we don't usually have very many of those left!LOL!!!)

When we leave the house on Saturday morning to go treasure-hunting, I grab my change purse and my money is all right there. This also helps us to keep our spending in check and to choose our purchases carefully. Having a change purse helps to keep me in good favor with the sellers as I am not making a 50 cent purchase and asking them to give me change for a $20 dollar bill at 8 am. Having my change handy also immediately identifies me as an avid yard saler.:-) I have stopped using pennies for more than 10 or 25 cent purchases, much to the relief of my husband, who thinks pennies are made to be rolled, not counted out into dollar increments while he waits, embarrassed!!:-)

I will sometimes dip into another budget category to buy a bigger ticket item, such as a Christmas gift or piece of furniture that we have had on our list to buy. But otherwise, keeping my change for yard sales has really worked for us!

Thanks for stopping by my blog today! Be sure to check out Biblical Womanhood for more Frugal Friday tips!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Works For Me Wednesday-Flu And Cold Season Preparation

Now is the time of year where I start to prepare for the flu and cold season by stocking up on "sick supplies". I try to keep regular cold and flu remedies on hand throughout the year, but as the seasons change, I am reminded to take note of what I have and what I need more of. Having these items on hand will hopefully eliminate those late night and early morning emergency trips to Wal-Mart as well as making it easier to get well if I am the one who gets sick.

Here is a list of what I keep on hand throughout the winter:

In the medicine cabinet:
-Cold and Allergy meds
-extra asthma meds for me
-Vitamin C
-Vaseline(for chapped lips and peeling noses)
-working thermometer

In the kitchen:
-Ginger Ale or 7-up
-Chicken Noodle Soup (also ingredients to make my own)
-Saltine crackers
-variety of juices-Orange, Grapefruit, Cranberry
-lots of water, of course!:-)

In the house:
-extra sheets and blankets(just in case!:-)

Be sure to visit Rocks In My Dryer for more great ideas and tips!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Washing My Shower Curtain Liner

My shower curtain liner always gets all gunky and nasty with mildew and soap scum. A while back I read a WFMW tip that said to throw it in the wash machine with bleach to wash. I washed it this way last week and then hung it in the bathroom to dry and it worked great! It was so much nicer than my previous way of dragging it outside and scrubbing and hosing down, etc. (I used cold water and a gentle and shorter cycle for this.)It came out all white and shiny with no stains in sight!

I don't have any idea whose blog I saw this tip on, but it was a really good tip-one I will be using often!

I thought I would pass this along!

Friday, September 08, 2006

Frugal Fridays- More Ground Beef

This is a very simple tip, one that some of you might already know about. But for the rest of us....:-)

I buy the 5 pound rolls of ground beef at Wal-Mart. I used to always cut them into 1 pound chunks to freeze in ziploc bags. Now I cut the roll into 6 pieces instead of 5. We get at least one more meal out of the roll and when mixed into soups or casseroles, we never miss the extra meat!

Another way to stretch the meat is to add a spoonful or two of browned ground beef to a freezer container every time you cook some. After a couple of weeks, you will have enough for another recipe.

These are just little ways that I'm able to stretch our grocery dollars a little further!

Thanks to Crystal at Biblical Womanhood for graciously hosting Frugal Fridays! Be sure to check out her blog for links to more frugal tips. You are also invited to join in the fun!