Tip: Saving Money Eating Out

I had no idea Dairy Queen’s did this. Nor do I know why, or for how long, or if only certain stores participate… So pardon the lack of details and information…

But…

The DQ near us, for several months, hosted 1/2 off lunches from 11a-2p on Wednesdays.

Half off EVERYTHING. I mean EVERYTHING: ice cream cakes, pop, Blizzards, sandwiches, sides, kids meals… The only things not included were the $5 and $6 meal deals. But everything else was fair game.

When I went last time, I filled the bellies of myself and six of my kids for just over $20! It was unreal. I couldn’t believe it! That never happens eating out!

I found out on Facebook that TODAY is the last day my local DQ will be participating in this program. 😦 Don’t know the reason why.
But someone mentioned in the comments that their DQ in Ohio was just starting up the 1/2 off lunches thing.
So that leads me to believe that other DQ’s around the US are participating in the same program.

So, check with your local or neighboring DQ’s to see if they participate in 1/2 off lunches. You never know! You just might be able to get those Hot Eats, Cool Treats for super cheap!

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Where’d All The Toothpaste Go?

Not too long ago, I found us going through a LOT of toothpaste. I’d buy a tube and not long after, sure enough, a child would come to me saying they’re out (cuz kids, for some reason, can’t report when something’s getting low— they wait and share only when something’s OUT– go fig– *insert eye roll*).

Couldn’t figure out why we kept running out. Are they squirting it into the trash or toilet? Dumping it down the drain? WHAT?!

Then one day I was actually in the bathroom when my kids were brushing their teeth. Found out what was happening. Caught them in the act. All (6) of my kids were using WAY too much toothpaste!!!

Here’s a pic of the amount all my kids WERE using! Two times a day!!!

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Here are the proper amounts of toothpaste to use depending on age:

Children under 2, about a grain of rice amount.
Children 3-5, about a pea sized.

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Children 5+ to adults:

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Using any more than said above amounts prob doesn’t offer any more brushing benefit.

Now that all of our kids know how much to use, toothpaste around here lasts much longer. Yea.

So I know this isn’t a huge thing, but with a large family, every little thing like this adds up. We try to save everywhere we can.

 

 

 

Bag, Bag, Bag!

We save money by reusing bags. All kinds of bags. Like…

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Baggies.

Be it snack, sandwich, quart, or gallon baggies, often times you can reuse them.

Now, if I’m storing something greasy or slimy (like pepperoni or a hotdog)… or something super fragrant (like an onion or garlic toast)… or something sticky (like prunes)… I most likely won’t reuse bags.

But if I was storing something benign like crackers, Cheerios, peanuts, M & M’s, candy, etc., I will most definitely reuse the bag. Why waste and throw away? Either shake out crumbs (if there is any)… maybe do a quick rinse if necessary (and set out to air dry)… and reuse it for later.

Reuse for food, of course.

But I’ll also reuse old bags for getting rid of stinky stuff: like poopy diapers or rotten leftovers. Seals in the smell. PU

Or if I’m throwing away something liquid-y but chunky (like a soup that died in the fridge), something I don’t want to run down the drain, I’ll dump it in an old baggie and then thrown away in the regular kitchen trash.

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Who else keeps a “bag of bags”? Come on, show of hands.

Well, we sure do. Those bags are SO dang useful. (Thanks Walmart & Kroger!) We seriously use them all.the.time.

Biggest most consistent use for us is as bathroom trash can liners. They fit perfectly. I know, not terribly classy, but they work and it saves us money. I’ll often leave a bag or two at the bottom of the trash for ease of emptying out the trash the next time.

We also will use them for poopy diapers. Thankfully Miss Little Lamb is still exclusively breastfed and so her poo’s don’t smell too bad. But man, when they start eating solids, HELLO. This isn’t quite as effective at trapping in smells as a seal-able baggie, but these do work well enough to at least get it out to alley trash without dying.

But for storing, carrying, and all around every day usage, can’t beat these bags!

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And weekly grocery shopping.

We’ve used these bags for SO long. Yeah, some of those are Windows 7 bags. That’s dating them. But they are so useful. Since we do 90% of our shopping at Aldi, it saves us $$ each week, that we don’t have to purchase bags to take our groceries home in. I know it’s only pocket change, but it adds up. Especially if you’re purchasing weekly groceries for a family of 9!

 

There’s a monetary gain to reusing bags… but yeah, it’s also better on the environment as well.

So reuse those bags! 🙂

A Whole Day Out, Didn’t Spend a Dime on Food

Yesterday was a BUSY day for us. Unusually busy. Like, we’re rarely that busy.

  1. I had to go out of town (40 min drive) to get some blood labs done.
  2. I had to nurse the baby before we left for home. So while I fed the baby, and since we had gorgeous weather (high 60’s in mid Nov!), the kids got their wiggles out at this super cool park:

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    SO fun!

  3. Ran into Aldi to get some pecans for a Thanksgiving recipe.
  4. Rushed home to meet my husband. We had to take our son to the Children’s Hospital for an outpatient appointment. He had an accident/head injury in October and needs to have a couple check-ups.
  5. And the long drive home through a crazy thunderstorm.

Basically, we were in the car all.day.long.

It would have been SO EASY to buy food and snacks for everyone while we were out.

But, with proper planning, we didn’t spend a dime on food while we were out.

 

What we did yesterday:

  1. Ate breakfast at home before leaving to get my labs taken.
  2. Packed several canteens of water and water bottles for everyone for our AM outing.
  3. During that quick stop at home for lunch, we:
    1) packed several non-messy food items for lunch & snacks: peanut butter sandwiches (no jelly), deli ham, swiss cheese, peanuts, raisins, chips, protein bars, and apples.
    2) Literally threw in the crockpot a fryer chicken, some water, and some herbs/spices.
    3) Got the rice cooker going (it automatically turns off when done).
    4) Refilled canteens and water bottles.
    5) Hubby and I grabbed a pop each, just for us.

We had plenty of food and drinks for the car ride. And when we came home from the hospital, dinner was 80% ready. I simply threw some frozen veggies on the stove, and voila, dinner was served in a jiffy.

I’m not gonna lie, that quick trip home at lunchtime was a tad crazy. But I assigned everyone with a job and we were able to get stuff done in an organized, very fast fashion.

When I menu-planned for this week, I took into account this crazy day. I knew we were going to be gone most of the day. So I specifically made sure we had quick and easy food items on hand so we could just GO.

I had the fryer chicken previously thawed and waiting in the fridge, because I looked ahead at Friday’s activities the day prior.

With proper planning, trips out do NOT need to be costly.

Sure, it would have been EASY to run through McDonald’s and buy food for everyone. But I’m telling you, with a family of 9 (well, 8, because the baby is nursing), we could easily spend $40-$50 at McDonald’s. Convenience has a price.

But with proper planning, looking ahead, and some prep work, you can save money by not eating out on those super busy days. Especially if you KNOW those super busy days are coming.

Sometimes the unexpected occurs and you can’t plan ahead and you do have to eat out. I get that.

But if you know, just be prepared. Save yourself a wad of cash. $$$

Get Inexpensive Medical Tests Done!

Here’s how our family saves a decent amount of money on medical matters! This may help you and your family save some cash as well!

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Have any of you ever heard of www.RequestATest.com.

A few years ago, I was needing some blood labs drawn for my mild hypothyroid condition. At the doctor’s office, a basic routine thyroid lab costs over $100 (and that was a few years ago- I have no idea what it costs today). When talking to my girlfriend, who also has thyroid issues (and who regularly gets labs drawn), she suggested I check out Request A Test.

It’s SO easy and inexpensive to get labs through them… WITHOUT needing the doctor to call them in. YOU can call them in.

If you know what specific test(s) you need (or have a general idea)- be it blood, urine, stool, etc- you can easily search for them on their website. They have just a TON of labs available- common ones, uncommon, and everything in-between. Heart health, hormones (male/female), celiac, autoimmune, cancer, STDs, Lyme, heavy metals, etc. If you don’t see what you need, they have “additional testing available”. Simply call them at (888-732-2348) to inquire. They could probably hook you up with whatever you are needing.

So, you pick which lab(s) you want (either “ala carte” or in a “package” deal), put them in your shopping cart, and go to checkout. There’s usually a “special of the month” promo code- check it out on their home page and see if it applies to what you’re ordering. Prices per individual test/package are easily seen. Sometimes there’s even a price slash or sale available.

At checkout, they have you search for a local lab near you by address, town/state, or zip code. Just click on the lab you want to go to.

Once you hit the finalize button, you will receive 2 emails… one is the receipt and the other is the actual order confirmation. These are basically just for your records. You do NOT need to bring these with you when you visit the lab. An order will also be sent (from Request A Test) to the lab that you requested.

At the lab that I go to (LabCorp), it’s not imperative that I make an appointment, although I could make one either by phone or online. Maybe some lab offices request that you make an appointment. But I’ve never had to.

Be sure and look at the requirements for your test! If you clink on test “info”, it will tell you what the requirements are, if any. It also appears on your receipt and order confirmation. Some labs request that you fast several hours prior to getting your lab done. Glad I looked for myself today because I ordered my tests this morning and was ready to go to the lab. But then I saw that for the CMP I needed to have fasted for 9-12 hrs. I’d already eaten breakfast at this point. :-/ So… I’ll go tomorrow morning. Be sure and look!

Just an FYI, the receipt will come to your email inbox right away. The order confirmation may take some time to come though. Mine comes in fairly quickly, 5-10 min. But depending on circumstances, it could take longer. Do NOT go to the lab until you have received that second email, the order confirmation. When you get that confirmation, you now know the lab has your order in. THEN you can go to the lab.

So anyway… that basically how it goes: search/find, order, pay, find a lab, and get your test(s) done! Easy-peasy.

Results come back fairly quickly. They can either be sent directly to you doctor or you can have them sent to you via email or you can view them online (securely).

Today I ordered a Comprehensive Blood Count (CBC), a Comprehensive Metabolic Panel (CMP), and a Thyroid Basic Panel w/ TSH (T4, T3 uptake, Free Thyroxine Index, & TSH) for a grand total of: $107!              (CBC– $29, CMP– $29, Thyroid– $49 = $107)

Un-real! No joke!

So seriously, if you’re needing labs, check out Request A Test!!!

Let me know if you catch yourself a deal and save some money doing this!!!

This is a fabulous way to get labs done if you don’t have insurance, are self-pay, your insurance doesn’t cover certain tests, have highly sensitive tests you want/need to take but want confidentiality, need results fast, are monitoring your own health for personal info, don’t want to have to go (or pay) for a doctor’s visit every time you need a routine test done, etc. No hidden fees or pricing. Super easy to use website. Great customer service.

I highly recommend Request A Test!

 

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I’ve FINALLY found my focus!

As many of you have probably noticed, I haven’t updated this blog since the birth of our seventh child, a beautiful little girl: Ivy Jean (aka Miss Little Lamb). Be still my heart, she is the sweetest little surprise gift from God EVER!!! Difficult pregnancy, difficult labor and delivery, difficult start to breastfeeding, difficult getting her to sleep through the night…

BUT, I freakin’ wouldn’t change it for the world!!! She is AMAZING!!! You could offer me a trillion dollars for her and I’d never take it, I’d never let her go! I thank the Lord almighty above every day that I have her! What a blessed gift!

Even her brothers and sisters adore her. Since they’re all older now, they finally have the privilege of enjoying having a little baby in the home. We all, together: laugh with her, take turns holding her, change her diapers, give her baths, take pics and videos of her, make her smile and giggle, rejoice over her developmental milestones, burp her, rock her to sleep, cuddle with her, breathe in her sweetness… She’s precious and everyone is absolutely in love!

She was four months old, as of November 1st. *sigh*
Four months already?! Unbelievable! Going too fast!

Time, please slow down!!!

Many a time I’ve wanted to post here on the blog. But every time I would sit down to write, there was nothing there. My mind went blank. What should I say? What should I write about?

Blank-ness. (Is that a word?)

Fast-forward to just yesterday. I had a revelation in the shower. (Why is it that deep thoughts seem to happen in the bathroom. *snicker*) No but seriously, I had a line of thought run through my head absolutely out of nowhere:

Living on a dime with a part of nine!

Living on a dime with a party of nine? Hmmm… like, write about how we (a large family) live and thrive on a modest income? How we make the dollar stretch? How we save and scrimp? How we make food and possessions last? How we are frugal?

I have like a bazillion tricks up my sleeve (beyond just coupon usage and Amazon deals) on how we make things last over here. That’s something I’m very knowledgeable about, something I’ve learned very well these past 14 years, something I’m still learning, something that I could probably endlessly talk about.

When people come to me for help and advice, oftentimes it’s about how we do “it”, that is, survive life, survive in this economy, with 9 people and actually make it work.

So, I believe the Lord is leading me to make this the focus of my blog. I think my readers could benefit from taking a peek into the ins and outs of how we do things over here. Perhaps there’s something we do that would benefit someone else.

I certainly haven’t arrived. Nor am I (or will I) be the best blogger on the block about this topic. But I do believe I have something to share with people that might help them in their own lives. Maybe there’s other large (or small/medium) families out there that are struggling to make ends meet and could benefit from some of my tips? Maybe if someone could see how we do it, it would spur them on to stretch money? Maybe there’s other mom’s out there that don’t have the time to pick up a part time job to help ends meet, but they could do a thing or two to tighten the purse strings, things they’ve never thought of, that would help stretch their husband’s income?

We all bring something unique to the table. I think this is a knowledge that I’ve been blessed to learn. I believe it’s something I could bless others with.

So, if you’d like to learn how a family of nine lives on a dime (and thrives), stay tuned!!!

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How to Wash a Pack-n-Play

We have (2) Pack-n-Plays over here… one, we’ve had since 2003 and the other is slightly newer, just over 3 years old. Our *old* PnP stays stored in the basement for travel and guests. The *newer* PnP was being used by our youngest child for FAR too long. Yeah, we actually JUST recently purchased her a toddler bed and we’ve discovered she LOVES to sprawl! Poor thing. Can’t believe we never thought to get her a big-girl bed all this time. With Baby I being due in 4 weeks, we needed that PnP from her. It’s all good. We got the newer PnP all ready for Baby… and Miss Pebbles got her big girl bed. Everyone’s happy.

Well before I went and got the bassinet and everything attached to the *newer* PnP, I decided I better clean the thing first. I found online a loooooong time ago a recipe and instructions for just how to do such a project. I think I originally found it here at Mommy and the Minister.

Before I went and washed my newer PnP, I decided to experiment with my older one from the basement first, ya know… just in case I ruined it. LOL. If it got ruined, I’d be upset, but not devastated. If I ruined my newer one, now THAT would be upsetting.

So here’s the recipe:

Pack-n-Play Cleaner
1 scoop Dreft (or comparable brand gentle detergent)
splash of white vingar
1/4 C baking soda
Fill a bathtub with the hottest water possible from the tap. Once filled at least half way, add the Cleaner ingredients. No need to stir. Place PnP pieces in the tub. If it’s not completely submerged, keep adding water. Leave for 30 min. Flip pieces. Leave for another 30 min. Take outside to rinse well with a hose. Allow to stand outside to completely air dry.

Now… I believe *all* GRACO Brand PnP’s have a particle board type filler in the mattress to make it hard. Other brands may be made with plastic. Of course I have GRACO’s so I was *not* able to submerge my mattresses. GRRRR. That was the part I REALLY wanted to clean super good. I even called to company to confirm the materials in the mattress. Yep… particle board. So frustrating. If you have a different brand of PnP, it could very well be made of plastic– if so, you are in grand luck. CHECK YOUR OWNERS MANUAL or the TAGS on your product JUST TO BE SURE before you submerge. If you submerge particle board, you will totally warp the mattress material and it’ll be ruined.

What I did was make up a smaller batch of the Cleaner and put it in the sink. I then used a wash cloth to spot scrub the mattresses. It still worked well… but man alive, if only I could have dunked it, it’d probably have had an even better cleaning success.

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Old PnP- dirty

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Old PnP- dirty

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Old PnP- dirty

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Old PnP- dirty

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Old PnP- dirty

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Cleaner ingredients

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Going in

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After 30 min soak

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Made a smaller batch of Cleaner in the sink for spot washing the mattresses.

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Spot washing the old mattress.

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Getting ready to spot wash the newer mattress.

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After 1 hour soak.

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Pulled it out and laid it on some towels to carry it downstairs without it dripping on the floor.

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The water after the soak. YUCK.

 

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Newer PnP going in for a soak.

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Close up of grime.

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Old PnP after being hosed down. Air drying.

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Both mattresses, post hose down, drying outside. They look SO much better.

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The water after 1 hr with newer PnP. Not nearly as bad as the old one.

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Old mattress, after cleaning.

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After cleaning.

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After cleaning.

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After cleaning.

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Bassinet pieces of newer PnP after cleaning.

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The stain on the warning label came right off.

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Newer PnP all cleaned and dried and almost ready for baby.

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The mattress, after cleaning & drying.

Since I wasn’t able to submerge my mattresses and get a super deep clean, I will be sure and buy some mattress sheets. Probably would be a good idea anyway, what with spit up and diaper leaks that will for sure occur.

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This cleaning process worked SO well. I am QUITE impressed.

So impressed, in fact, that I decided to use this same recipe on some cloth folding chairs we owned.

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Filling up the tub.

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30 min soak.

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After 1 hr. Truly nasty!

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Out to air dry after a good hose-down!

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They look SO MUCH better!!!

I think I may do another soak on these chairs as there are still a few lingering spots. This time, though, instead of leaving to “soak” I will actually try scrubbing them.

If you try your hand at washing your Pack-n-Play using this method, be sure and let me know how it turns out. Hope you have as much success as we did!!!