Love Story

Monday, August 29, 2011

5 years ago today...


I still remember waking up super early that morning to meet my OB at the hospital to be induced. I was full of anticipation and nerves as the fears of what labor would hold loomed over my head. But mostly I was excited to see your little face and hold you in my arms for the first time. 14 hours later I laid eyes on you and was hooked. They placed you on my chest and you just stared into my eyes and gripped my thumb with your little fingers. I didn't know much but I knew you were mine and that I was head over heels in love. Over the next few hours fear creeped back in when I realized I was taking you home and you were all mine to care for. How scary! It wasn't all easy and I had a lot to learn as a new mom but with a lot of help from daddy and those who loved us we made it.

I love you for all the things that make you who you are. I don't know if it is the first born child in you or the pieces of your personality that come from me but you are Mr. Routine. You love a schedule and you love to know what's coming next. Surprises kind of drive you nuts. But where you are orderly in the everyday stuff you are fearless in everything else. You love the water and I can already tell you are going to be my roller coaster buddy. You are smart. Like crazy smart. And I would love to take credit for that but you are a naturally inquisitive little boy and so much of what you know you learned out of curiosity and asking lots of questions. You are super stoked for school and I know you will do amazingly well. Already writing and reading and counting past 100 but I know you will have so much more to learn. You are an awesome big brother and Jordan and Isaiah are so lucky to have you.

I hope on this day and every other day that you feel loved and special because you are. Dream big my son because I know that whatever you set your mind to you will do. Happy 5th Birthday Nathan!


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Is it worth it?

Lately I have been hearing a lot of comments about couponing and other means of frugal shopping being a waste of time or that people just don't think they have the time to do it. It made me wonder how much time I really spend on couponing, ad matching, and meal planning and if it is worth it when I compare it to the money I save. I figured the only way to know would be to keep track so that is just what I have done for the past two weeks.

Monday 8/8:
  *20 minutes cutting 4 MDA coupon booklets from Safeway
  *10 minutes planning a Walgreens run (matching sales ads to coupons)
  *10 minutes cutting 2 Smart Source inserts
Tuesday 8/9:
  *Walgreens: Spent $3.76, Saved $13.55, got back $4 in Register Rewards
Wednesday 8/10:
  *16 minutes cutting 2 Red Plum inserts and 1 Smart Source insert
  *10 minutes planning Walgreens run
  *25 minutes planning Albertsons run
  *13 minutes planning Safeway run
  *15 minutes meal planning for 7 days
  *5 minutes adding store coupons to my card through Just4U
Thursday 8/11:
  *Walgreens: Spent $10.11, Saved $25.24
  *Safeway: Spent $166.70, Saved $92.21
  *Albertsons: Spent $38.87, Saved $41.12, Got back $10 towards next trip
Sunday 8/14:
  *10 minutes cutting coupons from the Smart Source and Red Plum inserts
  *20 minutes planning Safeway and Albertsons run
Monday 8/15:
   *Safeway: Spent $12.12, Saved $12.02
   *Albertsons: Spent $1.02, Saved $17.52
Wednesday 8/17:
  *15 minutes planning a Safeway and Albertsons run
  *Safeway: Spent $14.30, Saved $19.00
  *Albertsons: Spent $7.73, Saved $9.72

-169 minutes or 2.82 hours spent cutting and putting away coupons, ad matching and meal planning
-$231.08 saved
  **That comes out to $81.94/hour when you compare hours spent to money saved**

As you can see I don't sit down for 3 hours at a time cutting coupons and planning shopping trips. It is broken up over several days usually for 10 or 20 minutes at a time while my youngest is napping or the kids are in bed. I would think a majority of people would be able to commit to 10 minutes a day. Especially if that 10 minutes is worth something like $13.66...that's more than you make in an hour at a minimum wage job!

For those of you thinking, how do I do that or how do I even get started let me share what I do. The very first thing you need to do is start collecting coupons. I recommend getting a subscription to your local newspaper. It usually comes out cheaper then buying a paper each week and it is delivered right to your door. I like to get the Wednesday paper for all of the grocery store ads and the Sunday paper for the coupon inserts and other store ads. There are also lots of places on the internet to get coupons, whether it be from company's themselves or from sites that allow you to download coupons right onto your store card. I recommend following a coupon blog that will give you constant updates on printable coupons and other great deals (I follow several on my Facebook page so they are all in one place).

Now that you have these coupons you need to find a way to organize them so you can maximize their use. There are dozens of ways people organize their coupons. If you are just starting out a simple accordion wallet size holder will do just fine. As time goes on you may find yourself upgrading to a binder or a shoe box or some other system that works for you. Play with it, there is no right way to keep your coupons. I organize mine by categories like canned goods, dairy, toiletries (this can get big so you probably want to break that down even further) and so on. As I sit down and cut out coupons each week I immediately tuck them all away in the proper place which saves me time in the long run. It is going to take you at least a month to get a stock of coupons going that will make a dent in your savings so don't get discouraged the first week when there isn't much you can use. The key is to store them up and use them when a good sale hits.

This brings me to ad matching. When I say that I just mean that I sit down and scan ads for sales and match them with coupons I already have. My 3 main shopping stores are Walgreens, Albertsons and Safeway. Mostly because that is what is closest to me. What I am looking for first are items that I can stock up on for cheap or free and items that I need for snacks and meals. The best way to stretch my coupon is to pair it with a sale. So if I see that canned veggies are marked down to $.59 a can and I have a $1/4 coupon for the same veggies I take advantage of that deal and end up paying $1.36 for 4 cans. I also look for deals that will give me money for my next shopping through Catalinas (the coupons that print out at the check stand).

I then take the list of groceries I have compiled so far and start to plan meals based on those items and what I already have on hand. I usually plan a weeks worth of meals at a time and write them on a menu planner like this:
If you want to see how I made this, click on the picture
I then add to my list any additional items needed to complete my meals or any staples like cat food, milk, diapers, etc that weren't already on the list.

We also try to stretch our dollar when it comes to produce and meat. In the summer months we are hitting the Farmer's Market to get locally grown in season produce at a great price. This not only saves us money on the produce itself but we count it as part of our weekly entertainment and family time. There are always fun people to meet, interesting stuff to look at and new things to try and our kids have a blast. In the other months we use Bountiful Baskets for our fresh low-priced produce.We don't typically buy our meat at the grocery store because we go in a cow with my in-laws and buy our chicken 40lbs at a time through Zaycon Foods. I occasionally buy ground turkey when it is buy 1 get 1 or on sale and we do buy most of our pork products at the grocery store, again usually when there are sales and coupons to match.

There you have it. That is the gist of how I use couponing, ad matching, and meal planning to stretch our dollar. Yes it does take some time and thought to execute it all. And some weeks are more fruitful then others. But for our family it is totally worth it. I am blessed to have the ability to stay home with my kids and tend to our home and so I take that job seriously. Part of my job is stretching the money my husband makes as much as possible and I have found the best way to do that is through saving on groceries. I would love to answer any further questions you have and have you weigh in on whether or not it is worth it in your house so feel free to leave comments with your questions or opinions.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


Did you catch the Shrek reference in the title? Maybe it's the former cheerleader in me or simply a reflection of the fact that I am a mom of young kids and there is a constant loop of annoying catchy songs playing in my head at any given moment. Either way 9 times out of 10 when I hear a certain word or phrase I can be caught busting into song or cheer. Annoying...yes. Ever gonna change...probably not! I digress.

I have often said that you can tell a lot about what is going on in my life at any given time based on my blog. That's kind of what I love about it...I can look back and see a reflection of what was going on at different moments. Like a virtual scrapbook!

I can tell you that in the next few weeks and months you will once again see my posts reflect the upcoming changes in our lives. Over the next 5 weeks we have 3 birthdays in our house so you can expect to see party posts and projects revolved around robots and bugs (the chosen themes of my soon to be 5 and 4 year old). Since one of the birthdays is my second 29th you may see some freak-outs/attempts to make peace with the fact that I am soon going to be officially "old", in my mind at least.

As if all of that wasn't enough to keep us busy my oldest is also starting full-day kindergarten the day after my birthday. That brings on a whole new set of things for me to fret over and become nostalgic about. I promise to keep most of those thoughts to myself but some of are bound to seep out here and there. In the midst of all of that there will also be some getting ready for school posts that hopefully some of you will find useful. As a first-time mom of a school aged kid I am sure these posts will change over the years especially as more of my kids enter that phase. Again, it will one day be fun for me to peek back and see how it all looked at this moment in time.

I have never had a consistent theme here other than life as it looks to me and I don't anticipate that changing. I feel like the day I stop doing this for myself it will totally lose all meaning and consequently it won't be enjoyable anymore. While I liken my blog to a virtual scrapbook at times it is also my therapy. I process best by getting things out so this gives me a place to do that. Creatively, emotionally, spiritually. That being said I hope that in the midst of all of it you are able to find posts that you can relate to or learn from or that can cause you to reflect. I know that I have learned so much from all of you in this process.

So hold on for the ride. It is bound to be a mix of fun, family, feelings and a slew of other f words (this site is G-rated so not THAT f word;). Hope you are all up for joining me!

Monday, August 22, 2011 GIVEAWAY, a leading socially responsible online printing, marketing and technology firm, has established itself as a major player in the industry with its distinct vision and clear approach to helping small businesses grow. It serves thousands of on-demand business printing and graphic printing orders online daily, using high-quality press printing and a robust yet simple and easy-to-use online ordering system, resulting in high-end printing services and reliable color printing at discount printing costs.

I am excited about because they offer affordable label printing as well as label templates to make designing your own custom labels a breeze. If you’re looking for an online printing service that provides high-quality and eco-friendly printing, UPrinting is the right place to be!

You know what I am even more excited about? That I have the opportunity to giveaway some of their product to one of you! Want to know what you are going to win?

Prize Details:
250 Print Labels for One (1) Winner
2" x 3.5"
70lb Label Matte, Front Only Printing, 4 Business Days Turnaround

In case you are wondering that is a $40 value!! How cool is that? How do you win? Use the entry form below and "like" on Facebook. That's the only mandatory entry. If you would like an additional entry you can also "like" Chrystal's Corner on Facebook. Comments on my blog will not get you an entry, you have to use the Rafflecopter entry form below. You have until Friday August 26th at 12:01am EST.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Organizer made from Formula Cans

Yup, I have finally used up all those formula cans! Remember this post on making a centerpiece from a formula can? Well, a friend of mine remembered it too and when she saw a picture of an organizer made from these very same "leftovers" on Pinterest, she was kind enough to send it my way. I finally found a project that would let me use up a bunch at once! This is great because we are done with formula in our house so I can check that off my list of useless clutter future projects in the making.

Now at the same time as one friend was showing me this fun idea, another friend was in need of organizing her school room at home (she has 5 kids and home about an excuse to be slightly unorganized!). She instantly came to mind when I began to think about bringing this project to life.

Here is the basic idea:
I wiped down my cans first. If you are using something that is actually metal you can wash it but these formula cans are cardboard so I just wiped them out.
I peeled the labels next. This step is probably unnecessary so take it or leave it:)
You'll see I had 5 formula cans and one Nesquik which was a little taller. You really can use any size!
Next I Mod Podged the paper onto the cans. On 3 of them I used wrapping paper and the other 3 I used construction paper. The wrapping paper is much more likely to crinkle or tear so I recommend sticking with sturdier papers.
All wrapped
I then used hot glue to attach all of the cans in a pyramid shape with the tallest can in the center of the bottom row.
Look at all that storage space! Perfect for school supplies, craft supplies, or any other thing you can think up:)
 Now the version I made is pretty plain. I just used paper to cover the cans but there are endless decorating possibilities. I figure since my friend is artistic in all kinds of ways that I am not, she can jazz it up to her liking when it is finally in her possession. I also stuck with a basic pyramid design but there are all different ways to do this. I have even thought about adding smaller cans (think soup cans maybe) to attach in an upright manner so that you could hold things that way as well. Or painting paper towel rolls to match and gluing those on the outside for open ended storage options.The possibilities are pretty limitless so I hope you take this idea and run with it. And of course, come back and share if you do!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Pretty Pasta

This last weekend our internet was out for 48 hours which ended up being a total blessing. I am well aware that too much of my "down time" is spent on the internet but having absolutely no access to it reminded me just how much time it can steal in my day. The blessing in it all was that I took full advantage of my time and did things like prep food for the upcoming week, tackle some projects I had been meaning to get around to, as well as creating some fun crafts with my kids.

I had recently snagged a free subscription to FamilyFun magazine which is put out by Disney. If you have the opportunity to get this, you should! I wasn't sure what to expect but when my first issue came I was instantly hooked. There are lots of great craft ideas for kids that are easy, inexpensive and totally fun.

One of the craft projects we did this last weekend was from the August issue and it was called Pretty Pasta. It involved dyeing pasta and then using it to make colorful necklaces. My oldest son helped my dye the noodles while my middle son napped and when he woke they were dry and ready to be strung on necklaces. It was lots of fun and they are already asking if we can do it again and create new colors. I think next time we are going to glue the pasta together to make animal sculptures.

Here is what you need:
dried pasta (I used rigatoni, it would be fun to use different shapes and sizes)
food coloring

That's it! For each color you want to create use a Ziploc bag to mix 2 tsps vinegar with 10-12 drops of food coloring. Then add 1/2 cup of pasta and shake to cover. Let these sit for 5 minutes, shaking occasionally.
We tried green, blue, and red
Adding the pasta
All shook up
This is what it looks like during the 5 minutes. Don't worry, it gets brighter when it drys.
Next you want to remove the pasta from the bags and let them dry on paper towels. After 15 minutes, turn the pieces over and leave them until completely dry.
Once they are dry you are ready to string them. Take your first piece of pasta and tie it onto one end of the string and then let your little one string the rest on in any order they please. This is such great work for little hands and older kids will have fun playing with different shapes and colors to make patterns.
See how bright the colors got once they dried?

The finished product - don't mind the outfit, we had a pajama day (but the shirt does match the necklace!)
I am excited because my September issue of the magazine arrived today so I am sure there will be more kids crafts in our near future. What kinds of crafty projects have you been doing with your kids lately?

Saturday, August 6, 2011

How Now Brown Cow...

In other words, Happy National Root Beer Float day!!

Okay, while not an official holiday I can completely get behind a day devoted to root beer floats. Here are some interesting facts about root beer floats (thanks to

-The root beer and ice cream concoction was originally dubbed The Brown Cow
-The Brown Cow was first put together at the Cripple Creek Brewing in Cripple Creek, Colorado back in 1893 by a man named Frank J. Wisner
-The inspiration for the root beer float was said to come from the snow caps on top of Cow Mountain
-Today floats have evolved to include every flavor of carbonated beverage along with various add-ins

Let me just say, the kids are so excited that we have an actual reason to make root beer floats at home! All day long they were talking about "Root beer Float Day!" Don't they look so excited?:

We chose to partake in this holiday with a traditional root beer and vanilla ice cream combination. How do you like your floats? If you are looking for some inspiration for a unique creation, Tillamook's Test Kitchen tried out a handful of recipes here:

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Amazon Subscribe and Save AND Earning Amazon Cards

Let me start by saying that this post is not sponsored by Amazon and I am receiving nothing in exchange for writing it. I actually use and love Amazon Subscribe and Save and want to share with those I love!

I posted a picture earlier today on my blog's Facebook page, of my most recent Amazon Subscribe and Save purchase. Actually, it was two separate purchases but they came the same week and are both great deals so I am lumping them together. Here I have 280 Huggies diapers and 12 11oz CoffeeMate creamers all for only $30.40.
How did I do that you ask? I would love to share with you! First, read up here to learn about Amazon Subscribe and Save. When you find items that offer the Subscribe and Save option you automatically get a discount. The great part about that is if you find a product you love you can have it delivered to your house at regular intervals. Or, if you are just wanting it that one time at the discounted price, you can easily cancel your subscription as soon as the first shipment arrives. Now to really score a deal you want to also pair that up with items that are either exceptionally marked down (which was the case for the diapers I bought) or that have additional savings through a promo code (which is the case for the creamer). When you can stack the Subscribe and Save discount with an additional 5-40% off through a promo code you can score some cheap stuff. I have gotten everything from cereal and coffee to diapers and wipes. A bonus to the subscribe and save feature is that you automatically get free shipping as well. Score!

Now all of this information alone will save you some money. But had I just used the Subscribe and Save with the promo code I would have paid $60.40 for the stuff pictured above...still a great deal of course. But I maximized my savings by using $30 worth of Amazon gift cards that I earned through various online sites. Let me emphasize that I do not pay for my Amazon cards, I earn them. How do I do that?

The most consistent way that I earn amazon cards is through Swagbucks which started as a search engine and has morphed into something more. When you use Swagbucks to do your searching you randomly earn "bucks" that you save up to cash in for things. I always use mine for Amazon gift cards because you can buy almost anything on Amazon. Besides searching to earn bucks you can also take polls, surveys, play games, print coupons and do a number of other things to earn. It really is easy and you CAN earn just by doing your regular searching.

I also recently joined Crowdtap which is a fun site that allows you to perform "quick hits" that are mostly multiple choice polls to earn points. As you earn points you earn different ranks and when you reach a certain rank you are eligible to take part in discussions that can earn you cash. In the first two weeks of joining I had already earned $20 just for talking about Old Navy clothes and the 4th of July. I got to cash that out in the form of an Amazon card (and a percentage of everything I earn on that site goes to a charity of my choice, which is a bonus). You also are given different opportunities through companies like Old Navy to receive free product for yourself and your friends. I have been very pleased with the payout on this site and everything I have participated in has been fun as well.

The one survey only sight I take part of at the moment is Synovate Global Opinion Panels. It took me only a handful of surveys to earn my first $5 and you have the choice of whether or not to have your money sent in a check or to be used at any number of participating vendors. I usually choose Amazon cards because I can stack them with all the other ones I earn.

Finally, I have been a member of SheSpeaks for sometime. It is a great place to share your opinion and learn about new products and ideas that effect women. In the past I have received some great items to review as well as tons of freebies and coupons. Most recently I was asked to share a video about a woman leader who inspired me and it earned me a $10 Amazon card. Want to see the video I entered? Kind of embarrassing but here you go.

Wow...I realize that was a LOT of information. Let me know if you want specific information on anything I covered, I would be happy to share what I know. I have talked before about the reason I work hard on couponing and bargain shopping and that is because I love to make my husband's hard earned money stretch as far as possible. By earning Amazon cards through very little effort on my part, I feel like I have found one more way to contribute. It is actually a thrill when I make scores like the one above! And my husband always gets excited with me which makes it even more worthwhile.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...