Sunday, July 31, 2011

It's August!

I've been MIA for the last week and a half because we were on vacation in Mississippi. I didn't want to leave the blog without posting anything for that length of time, so I typed up some posts ahead of time and planned to schedule them to post during the week we were gone. Well, somewhere around 14,000 feet I realized that those  neatly typed posts were sitting on my computer, in their own little Word document... not scheduled to be posted at all. So much for planning ahead.

Because it is the end of July, here is my company contact list. All 31 names, as promised. The list is diverse and includes a wide variety of products and services. Some I haven't tried but would like to, some I use often and love, and some I've used but with less than satisfactory results.

  1.              Continental Airlines
    2.       Cetaphil (face wash)
    3.       Pepsi
    4.       Boudreaux’s Butt Paste
    5.       Angel Soft
    6.       Magnum Ice Cream bars
    7.       Lysol
    8.       Burt’s Bees
    9.       Gerber
    10.   Avent (the brand that makes my breast pump)
    11.   St. Ives
    12.   Airborne
    13.   Huggies
    14.   L’Oreal
    15.   Kashi
    16.   m&ms
    17.   Aquafresh
    18.   Emergen-C
    19.   Tyson
    20.   Pilot (pens)
    21.   Tillamook
    22.   Earth’s Best
    23.   Red Robin
    24.   Soyjoy
    25.   Johnson and Johnson
    26.   Formula 409
    27.   Lucerne
    28.   Foster Farms
    29.   Barilla Pasta
    30.   Dole (bagged salad and banana chips)
    31.   Cheerios

The first on the list, Continental, is a company I actually contacted yesterday. I figured that, because I'm still simmering over our awful customer service experience, I'll count it for August 1. I'll keep the list updated as I hear back from each company. Feel free to leave your list and keep me updated on your progress! For best results, leave the list in the comments of this post, instead of on Facebook, so it's easy to keep track of.

If you need a little help getting started, you can find a few tips for contacting manufacturers here. Good luck!

$5 Pizza

I'll blog later about why I've been MIA for so long, but I wanted to get this deal up this morning.

Right now, Safeway has their own deli pizzas on sale for $5. If you've never had their pizza, it's worth a try. J and I like it better than the pizza places here in town, and at $5 for a 16 inch, it's a better value than DiGiorno or Freschetta.

This sale ends today, so hurry down to Safeway and stock up on frozen pizza!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Share Your Opinion

If you've been hanging around here for a while, you might have read about my experiences with getting coupons just by telling a manufacturer that I like their product, like the posts here and here. Thanks to the internet, it takes only a minute to find a company's website and give them your feedback.

I've decided that, during the month of August, I'm going to contact one company each day. I'll choose companies that make products we use frequently at our house. I won't contact them with complaints or criticisms (unless I have a valid one); instead, I'll just let them know that we appreciate the product and would gladly accept any coupons they have to offer.

In order to accomplish this, I'll need a list of 31 products/companies. I've started compiling that list in my head (a dangerous place for it, I know). When it's complete, I'll post the list here and keep it updated as I hear back from companies. I invite all of you to provide suggestions for companies to contact, and to join me in the process. All of our lists will look different, since we all use different brands and products, so I look forward to seeing who you plan to contact!

Monday, July 18, 2011

DIY Cleaning Products

I'm curious to know if any of y'all have attempted to make your own cleaning products, or know someone who has. Laundry soap, dishwasher detergent, all-purpose cleaners; I'd like to know what you've tried, what has worked, and what hasn't worked. Please share your experiences!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Making Extra Cash on eBay Part Two

A few days ago, I posted about making extra money by selling things on eBay, and I promised to follow up that post with a second installment, discussing more tips for selling, as well as some ideas for after the sale. Wait no more, my friends, because this is that post.

1. Provide a Photo
Of course, if your selling something like clothing or sports equipment, this is a no-brainer. But I would take it one step further. Even if you're selling a book or DVD, and eBay provides a stock photo for you, I still suggest posting your own. I've received good feedback from doing this; buyers appreciate seeming the actual item they're buying.

If you're selling something with details, consider posting multiple photos. For instance, I recently sold a shirt that had ruffles on the front. I took a photo of the entire blouse, but I also included one of the ruffled detail. There is a small fee, usually $.15, for additional photos, but it's more than worth it if they help you make a sale.

2. Don't Pay for Special Supplies
When mailing items that aren't fragile, like DVDs, video games, books, or pieces of clothing, don't spend extra money buying boxes or padded envelopes. I package all of those things using materials we have around the house: wrapping paper (turn the paper backwards, so the white side faces out), sheets of newspaper, packing and/or scotch tape. If you require padded envelopes, they can often be purchased inexpensively from Walgreens using an in-ad coupon.

3. Be Prompt
Again, this one probably seems obvious, but don't underestimate the power of fast shipping. Last week I sold an item on a Sunday night, I mailed it first thing Monday morning, and the buyer received it on Wednesday. The buyer left me great feedback for the sale. Quick turnaround like that will attract the attention of potential buyers.

One way I ensure that I'm able to mail things quickly is by having them prepackaged. When something I've listed for sale receives a bid, and I know it will sell, I package it up and write what the item is on the back. Then, when the auction ends, all I have to do is fill in the buyer's name and address and deliver it to the post office.

If you've had any success (or failure) making extra money on eBay, I'd love for you to share your story in the comments!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Cheating Fries

Sometimes, I just don't want to cook. Okay, honestly, that happens at least once a week. Since there isn't room in our eating out budget to accommodate my lazy evenings, I'm forced to be creative. Enter: cheating fries. 

Cheating fries are my cure for I-don't-want-to-cook-but-I-don't-want-to-eat-dry-dull-frozen-french-fries-itis. Or maybe I'm the only one who suffers from this? Regardless, I've found a way to elevate frozen potatoes to the perfect level: high enough that they actually taste good, but low enough so that I still feel like I got away with not cooking.

This is what I do:
I use whatever brand and variety of fries is cheapest. We prefer steak fries, but for some reason I picked up crinkle cut last time I was at Walmart. I don't think this "recipe" will be winning any culinary awards any time soon, so feel free to improvise with what you have on hand.
In a medium mixing bowl, or right on the cookie sheet, toss fries with olive oil and seasoning. You can try to use utensils for this, but it's easier and faster if you use your hands. Yes, the fries are cold, but it's a small price to pay. This is where you can get creative. The seasoning in the picture is salt, pepper, and garlic powder, but you can use seasoned salt, Italian seasoning, or anything else. One of my favorite ways to make these is with garlic (diced or in powder form) and Parmesan cheese. 
Bake according to the instructions on the bag. Because of the olive oil, expect to need to bake them a little longer than the directions call for. You're family will think you put way more effort into these than you actually did!

Need an equally easy something to serve them with? I recommend our cheating sandwich. Just take your favorite sandwich (tuna with diced onions, dill relish, and diced red peppers for me; ham and cheese for Jonathan) and slather butter or margarine on the outside of both pieces of bread. Grill until each side is dark and toasted. My husband never fails to rave about this meal. Okay, that's probably because the man could eat ham and cheese sandwiches and some form of potatoes for eternity (in fact, he did just that every day of high school).

As you can tell from this recipe, we aren't very high brow around here. I realize frozen fries aren't even in a lot of peoples' freezers. But for those of you who, like me, enjoy the potato in any of it's many forms, cheating fries might be just the ticket to a quick, lazy suppertime meal.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Making Extra Cash on eBay

My mission lately has been to cut down on the amount of stuff we have around our house. Maybe I’ve started seeing our home through the eyes of a mother to a soon-to-be mobile little boy. Maybe all this talk about saving money has me thinking about money that we’ve wasted in the past. Whatever the reason, I’ve spent the last few weeks on an eBay selling spree.

I've sold a video game console, clothes, DVDs, an mp3 player, and more. While my recent sales experience by no means qualifies me as an expert, I do have some tips to share with anyone considering turning to eBay to make a little cash. This will be a two-part series, with this first installment focusing on pricing.

1. Decide What Your Time is Worth
Don’t forget to pay yourself. By the time you list your item, package it after it sells, and take it to the post office, you’ll likely have invested a good amount of time. Remember to take that into account when you set the price.

I value my time at next to nothing. It takes just a few minutes for me to package and address a DVD, and the post office is less than a block from where I work, so mailing something doesn't require a special out-of-the-way trip. If either of those things require significant effort on your part, you should pay yourself accordingly.

2. Offer Free Shipping
Many experienced sellers would probably disagree with this one, but it seems to work for me. I've sold enough things online to know approximately how much an item will cost to mail, so I take that into account when setting a price. Buyers are happy to see that little “Free Shipping” icon next to the item; they appreciate knowing that the price they see is all they’ll be paying.

3. Be Confident With Your Price
Price your item at an amount that you’re happy with. If it sells immediately at your Buy It Now price, you don’t want to be stuck wondering if you could have made more money. On the flip side, if you don’t want to price so high that the item doesn’t sell.

Really evaluate what the item is worth to you. Is it a movie you never even opened and wouldn’t be the least bit sad to say goodbye to? If so, you might be satisfied making only a dollar or two from the sale, just to get the item out of your house. Is it a wedding gift that’s sentimental to you, but you know you’ll never use? Perhaps you’ll set the price a little bit higher. Choose a price that you’re comfortable with and don’t second guess yourself.

Next time we'll discuss what happens after the sale, including inexpensive ways to package items and how to make sure the buyer is 100% happy.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Where I've Been

I'm sure my legions of dedicated followers have noticed that I haven't posted in more than a week. Between not feeling well, a camping trip, and everyday life getting in the way, I just haven't had the time. But I'm back, and boy have I been thinking.

I know that the majority of my blog posts discuss ways to save money, specifically by using coupons. If we go way back, to my first post, you'll see that wasn't by goal at all. Don't get me wrong; using coupons is a big part of my life, and I want to share that. It just isn't what I envisioned being the focus of this blog.

So what do I see as the focus? For that, I have to refer to the title of the blog: Mom on a Mission. My mission is to make my family, our house, and the world around us the best I can for my son and for the (hopefully many) children we'll have in the future. Right now I'm looking to simplify our lives to allow us to save more, give more, and have more time together.

Be on the lookout for a few changes around here. My money saving posts aren't going anywhere; saving money will always be a passion of mine. And in the end, I think it leads back to the same place. I want to save money because it's all about being the best steward I can of the gifts I've been given: finances, children, a home, my husband. This blog is all about that journey, so you can expect more posts about all of that in the future. Sounds fun, right?

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Including Perishables in Your Stockpile

If you look in my cabinets, you'll see that my stockpile includes eight bottles of salad dressing, nine boxes of pasta, seven bottles of body wash, and seven sticks of deodorant. There's more, of course, but do you see the pattern? All of that stuff is nonperishable.

The concept of building a stockpile is fairly easy when you limit your thinking only to products that have months-long, or even years-long, shelf lives; the tricky part is stocking up on items that spoil within a few days or weeks. Fruit, vegetables, bread, milk, eggs, cheese, meat- these are all things that make a serious dent in anyone's grocery budget. It might seem like having to make weekly grocery store visits just for fresh food is negating the savings you get from stockpiling, but there are ways to help.

Here are some of my tips for adding perishable items to your stockpile:

1. Dairy (cheese, milk, eggs, etc.)
As you keep reading this post, you'll notice that I'll talk a lot about freezing things; dairy products are no exception.

Cheese, including cream cheese, can be frozen. When freezing cream cheese, simply freeze the entire unopened package. If freezing a brick of cheese, it works best to freeze it already shredded. The taste and texture won't be the same as unfrozen cheese, so I would recommend using previously frozen shredded cheese in something that's going to be cooked or baked: casseroles, biscuits, sauces, etc. For added convenience, freeze shredded cheese in half cup or one cup measurements. Then simply pull from the freezer the amount you need for your recipe.

Milk can also be frozen. Simply pour it into an airtight container, leaving room at the top for the milk to expand when it freezes. As with cheese, I wouldn't suggest drinking milk that has been frozen, just for taste reasons, but it can be used in sauces, pancakes or waffles, quiches, and more.

Eggs are something I didn't know could be frozen, until recently. The process is simple: just break the eggs into a bowl and scramble. Pour into an airtight container, freezer bag, or ice cube tray (if you use an ice cube tray, you'll want to transfer the cubes to a freezer bag after they've completely frozen). Again, I wouldn't use frozen eggs in a dish where they'll be eaten by themselves; instead, use them to bake.

Yogurt is simply frozen in it's original, unopened container. I don't know how the taste holds up to freezing, so unless you do a lot of baking with yogurt, you might want to try freezing just one container first to see how it goes. Of course, you can always eat the yogurt while it's still mostly frozen, and you'll have frozen yogurt!

2. Meat and Poultry
Most meat and poultry can be frozen.

Unopened lunch meat, pork, chicken, and beef can be frozen by simply putting the package in the freezer. Depending on the size of your family and how you plan your meals, it might be wise to open the packages and portion the meat into sizes that make sense for the meals you usually cook. Be sure to label what you're freezing with the date and portion size.

Precooked meats, like chicken breast, whole roasted chicken, taco meat, and more are frozen by placing in airtight containers or freezer bags and then freezing. If you're freezing a whole roasted chicken, just cut it into smaller pieces or pick the meat off before freezing.

**The items listed above will give you the best taste, quality, and baking results if you use them within 2-3 months of freezing. I suggest making a detailed list of the foods you have frozen in your freezer. Keep it in your recipe box or on the front of your refrigerator- somewhere you'll see it often and be reminded to include those ingredients in your meals.**

Tuesday's post will be all about stockpiling fruits, vegetables, and bread. You know you don't want to miss it!

Saturday, July 2, 2011


In case you don't know...

Coupon inserts are usually not included in Sunday newspapers that follow or precede a holiday, so tomorrow's paper will not include any SmartSource or Red Plum inserts. However, it will include the monthly P & G coupons. At our house, we also received a P & G insert in the mail on Wednesday, with our grocery store sale fliers. If you received one on Wednesday, too, and you can get a few more from friends or family, you may not need to purchase a paper on Sunday!

Come back tomorrow, when I'll be talking about how to include perishable items in your stockpile!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Target Highlights

Yesterday morning, I dragged myself out of bed early to go to Target before work. I so didn't want to, but I had some great coupons that were about to expire. That would be why, at 7:30 am, armed with a detailed shopping list and my coupon binder, I headed to Albany. I bought a good bit of stuff, but here are some of my favorite deals:
Playtex sippy cups two-pack: originally $5.14 per package. I bought two and used two $2/1 manufacturer coupons (there might be more if you sign up here) and one $1/1 Target coupon. I paid $5.28 total, or $2.64 per package- $1.32 per cup.
Kotex liners, 16-count: $.94 each. I used two $1.50/2 manufacturer coupons that I got here. I paid $.76 total, or $.19 each.
Nexcare bandages, two boxes: originally $2.09. I used two $1/1 Target coupons (still available here) and one $1.50/2 manufacturer coupon (no longer available). I paid $.68 total, or $.34 each.

Obviously, I bought more than what is pictured. Have you had any great steals lately? Please share!