Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Banana Box Sale Review

Last Saturday, a friend and I made the drive to downtown Indy to go to Under the Sun's Banana Box Sale. I first heard about this sale on a mom's group Facebook page that I am on and it's the first time they have done the sale since I heard about it.

Each person gets a banana box at the door, then you walk the warehouse filling your box like a live Tetris game, and as long as your top items are even with the top of the box you get everything in it for $30! This sale had an added bonus of completing a short survey for a 10% off coupon so I got my box for just $27!

The store's Facebook page often shows awesome deals on nut free and gluten free snacks and Plum Organics. I was mostly interested in finding these items. I went into the sale with kind of a mental list but I quickly realized that many of the items were well past their expiration dates. I changed my game plan and decided to just grab anything, not expired, that I thought we might eat. Then my plan was to edit at the end to make sure everything fit into my box.

Here is what I got for $27:

6 Bags of Popcorn (Specifically Annabeth's favorite!)
3 Boxes of Glutino Crackers
3 Cans of Fruit
2 Cans of Veggies
2 Cake Mixes
2 Fruit Teas
2 Family Size Boxes of Macaroni and Cheese
2 Boxes of Belvita Breakfast Cookies
2 Butterfinger Bars (One of Mark's favorites)
2 Jars of Pasta Sauce
2 Boxes of Barilla Gluten Free Pasta
2 Big Boxes of Granola Bars
1 Cookie Mix
1 Box of Jello (a rare treat in our house)
1 Box of Annie's Cheddar Shells
1 Box of Gluten AND nut free cookies
1 Box of Gluten Free Bread Crumbs
1 Large Container of Oats
1 2lb bag of Italian Pasta
1 Box of Belvita Breakfast Sandwiches
1 Box of Skinny Cow Chocolates with Caramel
1 Bag of Chocolate Covered Lays (my favorite)
1 Large bag of Milton Gluten Free Crackers

The Experience Overall:
To be honest, it was really overwhelming. We waited in line about 45 minutes before being able to go in to shop and then many more items were out of date than I was expecting. I quickly learned that every company puts their expiration date in a different place on their products and it got to the point where I couldn't remember if we were in the year 2016 or 2017. I tried to be very careful checking dates so I didn't waste space on expired items.

Biggest Disappointment:
I was most disappointed with how quickly the stock was moving. I had seen some brands in early morning shoppers Facebook posts that I really wanted and they weren't out when I was there. I was also disappointed that in order to have all in-date items I ended up with three cans of fruit, two cans of veggies, two jars of pasta sauce, and one box of jello. These are all items that will get eaten, probably within the next month, but they are also items I can always get for less than $1 at the grocery. I had really hoped to find more high dollar items like the kids' allergen free snacks. I definitely would have felt like I got more for my money if I had found more of those.

What I will do next time:
- I will not go in with any kind of list. There were far too many items being taken off the shelves by shoppers and added by stockers to go in with the hope of finding specific products.
- I will go later in the day again. I think we arrived around 11:30 or 11:45 and the line wasn't terribly long at that point.
- I will wear my reading glasses. My eyes were twitching and my head hurt from reading the tiny numbers!
- My friend Andrea suggested grabbing anything I might think we want and then sort later. That was great advice and I actually still had room in my box after my first go around! I made a second pass around and found the popcorn that Annabeth loves! I was glad to have reorganized my box and made room for as many bags as I could.

Overall, I calculated that my $27 box would have cost me around $125 at our local Kroger! That made the trip well worth it!

Sunday, April 23, 2017

The Stamp

Four years ago today, my Grandma Chico was called Home.

We had known that she was sick for just a short amount of time before her passing. Mark, Annabeth, and I were in the midst of listing our old house for sell, buying our current house, my best friend had her first child the day before, and the evening before Matt and Jenn announced they were leaving Indiana and moving 20 hours away to South Dakota. Our spring had been busy and I had been home as often as I could to see Grandma. I, thankfully, was able to have some good conversations with her and shared sweet moments with Annabeth and her. Even so, I was in no way prepared.

Annabeth and Grandma - June 2012 - Grand Rapids, MI

We had modified our holiday schedule and gone home for Easter a few weeks before. I had taken some time after that visit to write Grandma a letter but in the busyness of life it didn't get mail. The night Dad called to say she had passed, I saw the letter on my dresser.

We went home for the funeral and it was one of the loneliest and worst experiences of my life. I did not receive a single call, text, or note from a family member or friend. I remember, after the funeral, sitting at my grandparents kitchen table and going through the list of donations and flowers and realizing that I was the only family member who did not have a "thank you" to write.

I did receive two Facebook messages - both came from high school classmates that I had not spoken to since high school and neither one were girls that I had been particularly close to. Just two people.

When we got home from Evansville a week later, I saw the letter on my dresser. I took it out and read it. I realized that I had said everything in the letter to Grandma before and I prayed that she knew how much I loved her. I shredded the letter but kept the stamp.

I have kept this stamp for four years and it is my daily reminder to check in with people. To send the message, to make the time to send a birthday card, to write the sympathy card, to always write thank you notes. I keep the stamp to remind me to never let anyone else feel so alone.

Grandma Chico taught me so much - to love to read and learn, about baseball, about movies, about the pleasure in making things, about the joy in crafting, and about love. So much about love.

I share this today, on the anniversary of Grandma's death, because she always sent cards - birthdays, Christmas, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and even St. Patrick's Day. Grandma was a dedicated pen-pal and I was fortunate enough to get her stationary and card sets when we cleaned the house out. They are my gifts to give away to others now - to share the love she shared so freely with everyone. I am so thankful for the example that she was in my life and pray that I am carrying on her legacy in a way that is pleasing to her and to the Lord.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Frugal Friday 189

Happy Frugal Friday!

Here is how we saved money/spent money wisely/made extra money this week:

- Friday, while in Evansville, I ordered Owen's birthday cake. We used a Deaconess Spirit of Women card and saved 10%.

- Friday afternoon, my family and I took the kids to play at Willard Library. Annabeth really enjoyed looking at different books and seeing what kinds of puzzles they had. Owen loved running in the big yard out front. I loved seeing one of my best friends from high school who works there!

- My parents treated us to dinner at Mission BBQ - a restaurant that supports and thanks hometown heroes. Mark enjoyed his dessert, on the house, as a thanks for his service.

- Last Saturday we drove to Owensboro to visit my Momaw. She had Easter baskets ready for the kids and Annabeth loved hunting for eggs. We spent much of the day outside helping Momaw get her flowerbeds ready to be mulched this week. Momaw was very sick and in the hospital over Thanksgiving and it just reminded me to really treasure each and every moment we have together.

Celebrating Easter at Momaw's House

- Sunday, Easter, we enjoyed breakfast at Old North UMC as well as Easter services there. Then we headed back to my parents for an Easter egg hunt and lunch. Mama made all of our favorite foods and was kind enough to send many of the leftovers home with us. Dad made Easter baskets for each of us and the kids played with their new little toys on the way home. I am so thankful for my family!

The Riley Four
We took this in front of the chapel where we were married nearly 8 years ago.  

Grandpa, Annabeth, Grandmama-Mimi, and Owen Merit

- I shopped Zulily and found Annabeth a rainbow stripe dress to replace the one she has outgrown from last summer and also found Mark a new pair of New Balance tennis shoes for half the price of anywhere else! I shopped through Ebates and earned 1% cashback on my purchase!

- My friend Ann told me that the Stride Rite Outlet near us is closing. I went two days and found 7 pairs of shoes for under $90 OOP! The first day I took a $10 reward and bought Annabeth tennis shoes in the next size, Merrell water shoes in her current size, and tennis shoes in the next two sizes for Owen. The second day, I had another $10 reward in my e-mail so we went back and found Owen a pair of sandals as well as rainboots for Annabeth - both items had been on my list and we didn't find them the first day. That day I also found Annabeth tennis shoes in 2 sizes up from now. Overall I saved $20 with Stride Rite Rewards and I saved another $215 off retail prices!

- I ordered FREE prints from Shutterfly using their Easter code to get up to 101 free prints. I just had to pay shipping. Saved: $9.90

- Wednesday our washing machine broke down mid-load, our amazing friends the O'Neals let us come over to rewash that load. I am SO thankful for their kindness!

And because people often ask "Are you always frugal?" No...this week we had some MAJOR Frugal Fails:

- We were involved in a hit-and-run accident while out of town. We were uninjured but the car did suffer some damage and, of course, we needed to replace car seats after the accident. We did file a claim with our insurance and will have to pay our deductible. We also had some out of pocket costs on the car seats since our policy only covered $200 in personal items in the vehicle.

- Monday I noticed our washing machine was acting funny, I was able to do some trouble shooting and was able to get it to limp along Monday and Tuesday but by Wednesday it was totally broken. Our old washing machine went out in November which we found out during an $80 service call. The repair company applied that $80 towards the cost of our next machine if we bought from them. They came highly recommended and have great reviews so we went to their store. Their store only had refurbished machines in stock and after some debate and research we decided to go ahead and to buy one that way. The machine came with a 60 day warranty so for the first 60 days I ran every load I could think of - big, small, bulky, delicate, shoes, comforters, uniforms, etc and we did not have any issues. Then this Wednesday, the repairman came and told me that the machine was completely shot - it would be more to fix then we paid for it. He called the shop owner who would not give us any kind of break on the repair even though we just bought the machine from them. He did agree to give an unspecified discount on our next purchase from them. We decided to cut our losses and to not apply Wednesday's $70 charge towards a machine with them and to just go buy a new one. In the end, we paid hundreds and hundreds of dollars on service calls and a machine that we only used for 6 months. Lesson Learned.

Happy Savings to All!

Friday, April 14, 2017

Frugal Friday 188

Happy Frugal Friday!

Here is how we saved money/spent money wisely/made extra money this week:

- Last Friday, we met my sister in Bloomington for the day. We enjoyed lunch at Trojan Horse, walked Kirkwood St, and Aunt Lu spoiled the kids by buying each of them a special new book. Annabeth chose the complete George and Martha book and Owen chose a book with pictures of real babies - his favorite thing. Lu also brought me a bag of hand-me-downs - Thank you!

- I ordered Annabeth's 1st grade math and reading/phonics books from AOP. They always have everything 20% off in April so we buy during this month each year. I also added a friend's book to our order since our total qualified for free shipping and hers would not have. I saved $36 by shopping during April.

- Saturday morning Mark and Annabeth colored Easter eggs. We took the eggs to the Riley Easter celebration and also enjoyed boiled eggs at home this week.

- Saturday night Annabeth and I enjoyed a Premier Family Event at The Children's Museum of Indianapolis. We saved $10 on ticket prices because we are members but this event was still a bit pricey. That being said, it was well worth every penny! We were in a group of around 75 people and enjoyed a catered dinner, face painting, jugglers, circus games, a 40 minute show from the Peru (IN) Amateur Circus, and we had the whole The Circus Starring You exhibit and Chocolate Slide to ourselves. I will be checking the museum website for more special events as this was a great way to spend an evening with my Nanners Girl.

"Her life was a circus, so she decided to join the ride." - Queenisms

- I handmade invitations for an upcoming event. I printed the invites at home and then used a stencil we had to color a design on them. I always put a sticker on the back of all of the mail I send out and we happened to have perfectly themed stickers on hand so I used those. We had gotten them free in the mail. I LOVE making cards, invitations, and stationary - I wish we had an event every month so I could dream up things to create!

- I designed and ordered Owen's birthday shirt from one of my favorite Etsy shops - Kinsey Collection. I ordered three shirts (both kids' birthday shirts as well as a first birthday gift from a friend) from this shop last year and she kindly gave me a 10% discount on Owen's shirt this year!

- Mark worked a shift at his part-time job and some extra hours at his regular job.

- I received my latest PinchMe box. I had three free samples this month: green tea, after shave cream for Mark, and a toothpaste sample. Are you interested in free samples as well? Join me at PinchMe!

- PinchMe's new sample day was Tuesday. My profile did not match any samples so they offered me a free one year subscription to a magazine. I already get InStyle magazine for free so I added People's Stylewatch.

- Our sweet friend Cindy Campbell gave Annabeth a bag of crafts a few weeks ago. She spent part of Tuesday afternoon making cross magnets and chose to give to our neighbors as Easter gifts. I was so excited when she chose to make the crosses and to include the memory verse John 3:16 with them. Thank you Cindy for the fun project - it was a real blessing to our sweet neighbors!

- Wednesday morning I picked up coffee (for me) and cake pops (for the kids) for free thanks to a gift card from Christmas.

- We did not grocery shop this week. Our grocery budget has gone out the window the past few months and we have been spending WAY too much at the store! I used to always go 2x/month and would use up nearly everything that we had on hand before going again. We have gotten away from that and have been going even when we have plenty of food on hand. By not going this week, we used up a lot of items that needed to be eaten.

Happy Savings to All!
Even more importantly, Happy Easter to All! He is Risen!

Friday, April 7, 2017

Frugal Friday 187

Happy Frugal Friday!

Here is how we saved me money/spent money wisely/made extra money last week:

- Last Friday, we had movie night at our neighbors. Andrea and I both brought out left-overs from the week and we all enjoyed a mish-mash dinner while watching Moana. 

- Saturday morning Mark ran out and got donuts. We also bought a dozen for our friends and neighbors and left them as a surprise on their porch.

Owen eating his first donut.
He ate about half of it! 

- Saturday I hosted a LuLaRoe Party. I earned one FREE item and one item 50% off. I was able to get two new shirts for under $20! Thank you to everyone who came and shopped!

- Saturday afternoon, Annabeth and I had a bit of a Girls' Day! We shopped a 50% Day at a consignment store and scored 5 items for $5.35 - one leotard, one fleece sweatshirt, one sparkly tank, a Wonder Woman t-shirt, and a Note Dame shirt. Retail it would have been nearly $100 to buy them all new! We had a HUGE savings!

- Marked worked at his part time job.

- I cleaned out my closet and was able to share clothes with four different friends. I am working really hard to only keep the things that I love to wear.

- I mailed an envelope of Box Tops for Education to the Indiana Association of Home Educators. We have been able to donate $10 this year just through Box Tops. Thank you to my parents who save theirs for IAHE as well. If you collect box tops and would like to support homeschooling in Indiana, I would be happy to mail them for you or you can mail them to: IAHE, PO Box 217, Stilesville, IN 46180.

- Tuesday we cleaned out the schoolroom bookshelf and Annabeth selected two books to trade at the Free Little Library. Wednesday morning we traded books at the FLL and walked the Story Walk in Franklin. The kids love reading the books and running along the paths. It began to thunder during our first round so we drove down the street to the library to play and check out books. I love our library system!

- The kids have grown quite a bit in the past month or so. I was able to pack up a big box of hand-me-downs to return to their cousins. Jenn always gives us her kids' hand-me-downs and then I return them to her when we are done. She then either passes them on again or sells them. I think it is so fun to have my kids wearing outfits that their cousins wore too! :)

We had a good week this week and are so thankful for the beautiful weather! Spring has sprung!

Happy Savings to All!

Monday, April 3, 2017

Annabeth's First Bible

Over the years, Annabeth has been given quite a few "Baby's First" and "Toddler" Bibles. We have enjoyed reading through all of them many times. In the past year, we have read her Children's Bible cover to cover over and over. This year during school, we have been reading (and memorizing parts of) complete books of the Bible. Last Friday Annabeth said, "Mama I would like my own Bible. Then I can make my own highlights and underlines like you do in yours."

Today, we presented Annabeth with her very first complete Bible.
Today, her Bible is brand new - no bent pages, no markings, no bookmarks but I pray that it does not stay this way for long. I pray it quickly becomes worn and marked up by a little girl who is learning to love to read and obey God's Word. 

On the inside cover, I wrote her a note. I copied a note that I read weekly. My Grandpa Chico wrote the note in the front of a New Testament, which he gave to my Dad over thirty years ago. Sometime along the line, my Dad gave the copy to me. I cherish the sweet words, in Grandpa's handwriting. They are so special because I know that he truly believed them, that he lived by them. I pray that my desire to live by them is making Grandpa, Dad, and most of all the Lord so proud. I pray that Annabeth will run her fingers over those same words and take them to heart as well. "...a humble book containing all you need to know to become a success..."

I am positive there will be many moments of pride in my children. I am sure there will be many moments that I remember and treasure for a lifetime. But these moments, the moment my child asked for a Bible, the moment I gave her one, will be forever some of my most cherished. May all the glory and honor be His as He works in her heart and through her for His Good. 

Friday, March 31, 2017

Frugal Friday 186

Happy Frugal Friday!

Here is how we saved money/spent money wisely/made extra money this week:

- Annabeth helped me pick out a fun housewarming gift at one of our favorite stores in downtown Franklin Marshmallow Monkey. I try to shop small and locally as much as possible.

- Friday night we drove to Crawfordsville, for a birthday/housewarming party for Mark's college friend Joey. Their family has three kids and our kids loved running and playing with them. We don't get to see their family often enough but I always love to visit with them! One thing we noticed was that no one at the party had their phone out! A whole cook-out with dad's out in the yard playing with the kids, the ladies visiting, and no phones. It was wonderful.

- Saturday, Mark, Luke, and Cassidy took Annabeth out to the Campbell's for Annabeth's first shooting lesson. She shot twice before declaring it (even with earplugs and headphones) too loud. They also took a nice little hike and saw a waterfall.

- Monday the kids and I did some organizing in the garage. We took a trunk full of stuff to Goodwill and recycling.

- I tagged everything for the Spring Consignment Sale. I had enough cardstock, hangers, and safety pins on hand so I did not have to buy any supplies. I do not have as much I have had in the past so it will not be a high dollar sale but I am hoping to make enough to cover swim lessons and the rest of our Mother/Daughter Weekend at Lakeview.

- I cut Owen's hair at home, saving us the cost of a professional haircut. This was Owen's third hair cut and his best so far. The first time, Mark buzzed most of it which I felt like made him look to old, the second one was a crazy trim because I couldn't get him to sit very still for long. This time I had better luck keeping him still and my own skills are improving.

- I used a giftcard to help buy food that we will serve for company this weekend. I also found some items to donate for the Weekend Meal Bags that we help fill and was able to purchase them for $0 OOP.

- Wednesday I redid my shoe organization in my closet. When we moved in, about 3.5 years ago, I bought a cheapie shoe rack from Kmart and it has been on its last leg for quite a while. Annabeth loves to get in my closet and try shoes on and Owen loves to pull the racks down so he can whack everyone with the poles. I found a $5 (after coupon) organizer for behind the closet door. It has freed up almost 2 feet of closet space and it makes me so happy each time I get in there now!

- Annabeth has gotten taller and is between leotard sizes for dance.. I have ended up buying some shorts and shirts to wear for now until she grows some more. Her studio has a sale rack where students can sell their outgrown items, we found a cute black shirt with rhinestones on it and when I went to check the price shirt had been marked "free!" I am so thankful for the family who decided to donate it instead of sell it!

- I completed a super short survey from Huggies Diapers and earned a $3 off coupon. This was a great deal since the best coupon I usually find is just $2 off.

Last week Owen was sick and then I was sick Friday night through Tuesday so we have spent much of the past two weeks at home. We have really saved on gas by not going anywhere. We also haven't been tempted to spend any money as we haven't really been out of the house. I think we are all back to 100% and I am looking forward to getting out to do some fun things this weekend!

For Christmas, Owen got this PawPatrol couch and it has been
one of the best gifts ever given to us! They both love to snuggle on it.
Owen likes to throw his head over the back to lay like this while holding Annabeth's hand.

Happy Savings to All!