anchorhockingjar

Anchor Hocking Jar, 1 Gallon for $7.44 (Great for Pantry Storage, Frugal Decor!)

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These beautiful 1 gallon Anchor Hocking 1-Gallon Heritage Hill Jars have dropped back in price to $7.44 right now on Amazon! They have an average 4.5-star rating after 200+ reviews. These would ship for FREE with your Amazon Prime account or total order of $35 or more.

I don’t know about you, but I LOVE beautiful glass jars like these… there are so many uses!

  • Store your own homemade dry laundry detergent
  • Store your bulk food purchases in your pantry
  • Display holiday-themed or seasonal objects
  • Use as a candy or cookie jar
  • Store fruit for decor or kitchen use

Here’s my favorite use for over-sized jars like this… I have a rock and shell collection! I actually have a rock in there from the first time I went out with my husband 13 years ago (we were hiking with some of his friends at Deception Pass). I also have shells from around the sound, and sand friends have brought back from tropical locations. I think this makes for fun and beautiful decor without having to spend a lot of money! In this photo, I have them on my bedroom dresser, but I also think they look great in the bathroom.

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I’d love to know any additional ideas you can think of! As you probably already know, prices on Amazon can change quickly and without warning.


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Zulily: Stylish Curtains $40 and under

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If you are in need of curtains, get thee to Zulily! Right now, they have a curtain sale with very deep discounts! If you’ve never shopped Zulily before, you will need to set up an account (this just requires an email address and a password you create).

Check out some of the deals I spotted just now:

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Blue & Chocolate Bridgette Thermal Curtain Panel – Set of Two: $24.99 (reg. $150!)

  • Includes two panels
  • 40” W x 84” H
  • 100% polyester
  • Machine wash
  • Imported

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Gray Behrakis Chevron Curtain – Set of Two: $29.99 (reg. $200!)

  • Includes two curtains
  • 80” W x 84” H
  • Polyester
  • Imported

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Silver Southport Diamond Thermal Curtain Panel – Set of Two: $27.99 (reg. $150!)

  • Includes two panels
  • 40” W x 84” H
  • 100% polyester
  • Machine wash
  • Imported

These are just a few of the many styles you’ll find. I found several other thermal-type blackout curtains as well as curtains as low as $14.99. This is actually quite timely for me as I have a couple rooms in need of curtains!

Head to Zulily to check out the curtain sale.

Thanks, Frugal Coupon Living!


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declutter

Organized Simplicity: My FAVORITE book about Living Simply & Decluttering!

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OrganizedSimplicity

Now that Christmas is over, perhaps you’re a little like me… looking at the aftermath that is your house! I currently have decorations and wrappings strewn about, a serious lack of empty floor and kitchen counter space, and a very sad excuse for a laundry room.

If you’re looking for some inspiration, can I recommend a fabulous book? It’s called Organized Simplicity and it is the best book hands down I’ve ever read for how to live simply. It also includes one of the most helpful step-by-step (or should I say, room by room?) instructions for how to declutter your home.  I appreciate that the author (Tsh of Simple Mom) starts by helping you define your family’s values and lifestyle. This will then inform how you keep your home, versus imposing “systems” or “methods” you’ll only fight.

I actually followed the methods with GREAT success a couple years ago. Below is a photo of how my kitchen looked just after decluttering, thanks to the methods outlined in this book. I think I need to tack this photo to my fridge and get started today!

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Organized Simplicity is currently $15.07 on Amazon for hardcover or $9.99 for Kindle (please note, prices subject to change at any time). I assure you it’s worth every penny and is not some of the “fluff” you’ll find in other similar books. I also love that the decluttering plan is doable enough to tackle in a week, unlike a site like FlyLady (which I found was way too much for me.) It’s a book I’ve read through at least a couple times now and will probably pick up and read again as I approach 2014. Warning: once you get started reading it, I doubt you’ll be able to put it down!

Incidentally, Simple Mom was also the one to develop the Daily Docket download which I’ve written about before and found to be THE best daily “to do” list I’ve found yet.

I’d love to hear your thoughts if you own or have read this book. I’d also love to hear if anyone out there has a plan for decluttering their house? 


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homemadechristmas

Homemade Christmas Gift Ideas

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Homemade Christmas Gift IdeasOver the course of my blog, I’ve shared a few tutorials and recipes that would lend themselves well for Christmas and holiday gifts! Here are some of my favorites:

Homemade Sugar Coffee Scrub.  Easy and quick to make. Would make a nice gift for a hostess or teacher.

Homemade Spa Gifts in Jars. Additional ideas on the homemade bath salts and scrubs. Easy to customize and very simple to make.

Candied Fruit Tutorial.  I’ve candied ginger, pommelo, and citron (Buddha’s hand). While they all turned out great, citron is my absolute favorite!

Mommy & Me Aprons. Requires basic sewing ability and equipment.

NOEL Boxes. Cute decor for your home or creative gift wrap idea!

Brownie Mix in a Jar. Easy and inexpensive to make. Another good option for a teacher’s gift when paired with box of cocoa!

Peg Doll Nativity Set. Beautiful homemade gift idea!

Christmas Almond Bark. A nice treat to bring to a holiday party.

Homemade Coffee Liqueur Recipe. For the person that has everything.

Fruitcake Recipe. Because what would Christmas gift giving be without a fruitcake? Warning: this recipe takes at least a couple weeks to make and requires copious doses of brandy. Not frugal. Not quick. But, delicious!

Miniature Mince Pies. These things … are amazing. If you’ve never thought of making this traditional recipe, or you think mincemeat just sounds wrong, you need to take a second look. STAT.

Figgy Pudding. Another forgotten about, brandy-laced dessert from Christmas Past. It’s time to bring it back, baby!

Soup Mixes in Jars. An easy, inexpensive food gift idea that doesn’t involve sugar or butter.

Candles in Baby Food Jars. Simple way to repurpose old baby food jars. Easy.

Vintage Snowglobes. Adorable snowglobes using old jars. A fun one to do with the kids. Warning: these might turn out a little *too* cute and you might not want to part with them. (Speaking from experience here.)

Pear Vanilla Bread. Deliciously different sweet bread! Would make a nice gift for a teacher, hostess, coworker, or friend.

snowglobeWill you be making your own gifts this holiday season?


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lifenotebeook

Save $5 on Household Management Downloads, Inspirational Prints & More!

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My pal Kelly is super talented. Not only does she come up with easy ways to organize your meals, she also has a fabulous Etsy store!

You might recall me mentioning the Life Notebook she designed before. The concept is simple: one place to store all that important information you need to manage your household and life. Right now, the Life Notebook is selling for $55 on Kelly’s site:

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(You might want to visit her blog, Bringing Crafty Back, to learn more about the Life Notebook.)

Kelly has also informed me that she now has all the downloads of the Life Notebook available for $25. The benefit here is that you can just print off the sheets you need, when you need them.

I personally own a Life Notebook and I can tell you, they are very cute!

Make sure to check out the other items at Kelly’s store. I love this print, in particular (Dave Ramsey fans should know what’s up with this one!):

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Coupon Project users can use coupon code TCP5OFF TCPOCT5 to save $5 off ANY purchase at Kelly’s store through October 25th!


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Anchor Hocking Penny Jar

Anchor Hocking Penny Jar: $5.96 (Free shipping for Prime members)

Anchor Hocking Penny Jar

Anchor Hocking Penny Jar

 

These Anchor Hocking Penny Candy Jars, 1 gallon size with lids, are currently selling at $5.96 on Amazon!  These would be perfect for storing bulk food goods in your pantry or homemaked cookies on the counter. I also wonder if you couldn’t remove the lid and create a terrarium or other centerpiece.

These have received an average 4.5 stars after 16 reviews.

I also wanted to remind you that the Anchor Hocking Jars with Glass Lids I shared with you last night are also still selling for $7.44!

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Either of these styles ships FREE with your Amazon Prime membership or total order of $25 or more on Amazon.

If you’ve not signed up for Amazon Prime before, you can try it for FREE for 30-days and take advantage of free 2-day shipping on most items, a wide variety of movies and TV shoes through Amazon Instant Video, and more.

Thanks, Thrifty NW Mom!


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How I’m Organizing My Bills

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About a month ago, I sent out a cry for help regarding my bills. I was ashamed to admit that whenever it was bill paying time, I was having to fish bills out from my car, office, counters, and various other places. Not good.

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Clearly I needed something more than just a folder, so I asked you for suggestions. Many of you were kind enough to comment on that post and some of you even emailed me privately. Thank you so much to everyone who responded!

After reading through everything you sent and considering the kind of mail I receive, I recognized I was in need of two systems:

  • Something for sorting mail quickly & painlessly
  • Something for organizing bill paying

I decided to be honest with myself: I don’t like carrying mail/paperwork up to the office every day. I am far more likely to set the mail on the kitchen counter. Given that this is my natural inclination, I decided to put my mail sorters in the kitchen.

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I checked the office section of Fred Meyer, but honestly all they had were the office-style mail organizers and I wasn’t wowed by the price. So I decided to take a spin down one of my favorite aisles at Fred Meyer. It’s the basket aisle in Housewares and they always have some sort of clearance section at the end of this aisle. Sure enough I found these cute blue-gray lined wicker baskets for 50% off clearance. They were $6 each, but after the clearance + sale, just $2.78 each!

DSCN1646 (800x600)I purchased two: one for stuff that needs to get filed (think insurance paperwork, benefits paperwork, retirement statements, etc.) and bills/action (think stuff that needs to get paid or addressed in some way). Everything else? Get recycled.

I’ve had this going for a couple weeks now, and I have to say, it seems to be working! Mail has a place to go now.

Here’s what I have going for bills:

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Reader Ari had emailed me a great post on a way to organize bills via a binder system. At first I was like, really? Another binder system? But as I read through the post and stopped and considered, I realized this method makes a ton of sense for my head. (I did tweak some of how that blogger does things though.)

Once a week (or whenever I have an opportunity), I shuffle the bills from my bill bin into the binder. I have folders for various bills: utility, debts, medical, other. I also created a tab for a calendar. I made sure to get the tabs with the folders in them, so when the bills need to be paid, they go into the folder. Once they are paid, I put a check mark on them with the date, and hole punch them in. My thought is that at the end of the year, I’ll remove everything, and start afresh.

I printed out a blank calendar and jotted down my bills on the date they were due that month. This was a really helpful visual! I’m also thinking of creating a checklist that I could print out for each month to include in the binder.

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Some of you suggested keeping everything handy with the bills: this was such an excellent tip, and another reason I’m glad I went with the binder system! As you can see from the picture above, I have highlighters and pens in my binder, along with a $0.19 Fred Meyer notebook just as a scratch pad.

DSCN1649 (600x800)I also fished out the stamps from a junk drawer and a small calculator. I feel I’m forever misplacing these things, too! You can’t tell from the pictures, but there’s also an expanding file folder in the binder. I’m not sure yet how I may use it – I suspect possibly for storing tax documents.

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There’s even a nice pouch in the back that’s big enough to store my Roadtrip folder, too!

I did spend $15 on this binder at Fred Meyer, so it wasn’t super cheap, but I do think it was worth it. I love all the built in organizers and I really love how the whole thing zips up and has a handle. I think in the end I will save a lot of time and stress because everything I need is right at hand. Yesterday my kids had swim lessons and I was able to bring this with and note what bills we had and when they were coming due. This might sound really corny, but this was the first time in a long time it was almost fun to figure out the bills. (I know, I’m a dork!)

If you’ve been feeling really disorganized about your paperwork – whether it’s bills, taxes, business-related stuff, or mail – this would be an excellent time of year to consider updating your method because so many office supplies are at the lowest prices they’ll be all year thanks to back to school. All told, I bet I spent about $25 on the baskets, binder, new pens, notebook, highlighters, and folders.

Thanks again to everyone who took the time out to share what has worked for them! I hope I’ve encouraged a few of you to get better organized with your important papers, too!


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Nine Kitchen Appliances I Own & Love

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I thought today I’d share with you some of the kitchen appliances I own and how I use them! I don’t have every gadget in the book, so the ones I give valuable cabinet space to I try to make sure get real use.

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#1 – Slow Cooker

How I use it: for reheating freezer meals, making my own vegetable broth, and making my own soups and chilis.
How often I use it: about once weekly, sometimes more.
Tips for scoring a deal: wait for October (also known as “Crocktober” for deals and rebates both in stores and on Amazon. Fred Meyer had some particularly HOT deals. I’ve had my same slow cooker for 10+ years, but I’d love to upgrade to a better one, such as the Hamilton Beach pictured above!)
Pictured above: Hamilton Beach Programmable Slow Cooker is currently selling for $49.99. We’ve seen this drop closer to the $30 range before.

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#2 – Electric Griddle

How I use it: for making pancakes, burgers, bacon, and sliders.
How often I use it: about once every other week.
Tips for scoring a deal: watch around the holidays – this is one of those items that department stores like to feature in Black Friday and other holiday sales. Sometimes you’ll find rebates for. I would consider $19.99 or less a solid deal! I had a reader suggest last week to check Grocery Outlet. She found one there for $19.99 fairly recently.
Pictured above: Presto 22″ Griddle with Removable Handles is currently selling for $24.99. This definitely looks like a nicer model than I have.
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#3 – Mandolin Slicer

How I use it: to make even, thin slices of vegetables for salads and garnishes or for my son’s bento lunches. It would also be perfect if you are a raw foodist or like to make beautiful salads or coleslaws.
How often I use it: honestly, probably only once a month or so, but whenever I pull it out, I’m always delighted by the result and think to myself, man. I need to use this thing more!
Tips for scoring a deal: I want to say I ended up paying about $20 for mine on Amazon (and I did buy the one pictured above). Also watch Groupon Goods – I believe I’ve seen these there before. While you might be tempted to go really cheap on this gadget, I’d discourage you from doing that. You want a unit that sits solidly on your counter and has a sharp blade.
Pictured above: Progressive Folding Mandolin is currently $16.72 on Amazon + free shipping for Prime members. It comes with a storage case and a number of attachments. I do consider that a pretty nice deal for the quality!

vitamix#4 – Vitamix

How I use it: primarily for making green smoothies, because this thing blends like nobody’s business! Previously I did have a $20 cheapie blender and it just did NOT pulverize the greens properly. About once a month I’ll use it to puree up hot soups or other foods. Less occasionally, I’ve made stuff like homemade almond milk, pesto, and salad dressings (it will emulsify oil & vinegar together perfectly). I also do not own a food processor, so I will use my Vitamix in place of that at times.
How often I use it: about 3-5 times per week, sometimes oftener. It’s easily the most used kitchen appliance I own.
Tips for scoring a deal: a lot of people have sticker shock when they realize a Vitamix will run you about $400. I knew I wanted one for quite some time because my mom has had a Vitamix in her house since before I was born and swears by them. I watched her use them daily (and sometimes multiple times per day) for years and saw how they held up. She also sung the praises of their customer service, so I was willing to save up to buy one. Admittedly, saving on one is a bit of a tricky business, but I do have some thoughts in a separate post entitled Saving Money on a Vitamix.
Pictured above: Vitamix 1782 TurboBlend, 2 Speed for $361.88 shipped.

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#5 – Dehydrator

How I use it: to dry my garden-grown herbs, making no-sugar added fruit rolls, dried fruit, dried teas, and potpourri.
How often I use it: I’ve probably used it 10 times in the last year since I’ve owned it, and loaned it out to friends about 3 times. I would consider a dehydrator a good appliance to have around if you grow a garden and/or are into making your own herbs, spices, and healthy snacks.
Tips for scoring a deal: watch Amazon – and possibly, Groupon Goods. The dehydrator pictured above is the one I personally own and paid $60 for, but it dropped to as low as $50 on Amazon a few months back. I’ll definitely report a price drop like that again!
Pictured above: Nesco 600-Watt Food Dehydrator is currently $59.88 shipped on Amazon. It’s been at this price for quite some time and I definitely feel it’s worth that cost. It’s a real workhorse! I do store it out in my garage as it’s a bit on the bulky side. It’s also one of those items you could consider buying jointly with a friend or your mom and share as it doesn’t tend to get used every day.

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#6 – Boiling Water Canner

How I use it: to can high-acid foods such as jam, fruit, and tomatoes. (Note: you CANNOT use this to can up low-acid foods safely such as meat and vegetables - for that you’d definitely need a pressure canner.)
How often I use it: probably 10-12 times in the last year since I’ve had it, particularly around late summer and early fall when many items are harvested. Given the infrequent use and size of this beast, I also keep it stored out in my garage (next to the dehydrator!).
Tips for scoring a deal: I think the canner pictured above currently IS a deal for $19.95 on Amazon. It’s also the one I own! You can also read my post on How to Save on Canning Supplies and Jars for more targeted advice. If you’re new to canning, I also encourage you to read my post on How to Learn to Can Safely. Starting with boiling water canning is less intimidating and less expensive than pressure canning, in my humble opinino.
Pictured above: Granite Ware 0707-1 21-1/2-Quart Steel/Porcelain Water-Bath Canner with Rack for $19.97 + free shipping with Prime on Amazon.

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#7 – Ice Cream Maker

How I use it: to make homemade ice cream. You can also make dairy-free ice cream or sorbet, but I’ve not tried this yet.
How often I use it: I’ve only used it twice to date, but plan on using it more in the near future. If you follow a dairy-free diet and love ice cream, you should consider buying one of these puppies given the high price of store-bought dairy-free ice cream!
Tips for scoring a deal: watch for end of summer clearance or holiday clearance at department stores, particularly JC Penney.
Pictured above: Cuisinart ICE-21 Frozen Yogurt-Ice Cream & Sorbet Maker, White is currently $53.99 shipped on Amazon. This is the one I own and it’s easy to use and clean up. I recommend it.

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#8 – Coffee Bean Grinder

How I use it: to grind coffee beans (duh), but I also use mine to grind nuts, make breadcrumbs, or grind whole spices. While sometimes the manufacturers warn you this dulls the blade, I am happy to take the risk of just replacing the thing out every couple years so I can grind small amounts of whole foods quickly.
How often I use it: maybe once a month or more.
Tips for scoring a deal: watch department stores around the holidays. I’d also check out a store like Grocery Outlet. They usually carry stuff like this on their kitchen aisle and I bet you could snag one there for about $8-10.
Pictured above: Mr. Coffee IDS57-4 Coffee Grinder, Black for $17.99

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#9 – Kitchenaid Mixer

How I use it: for baked goods, primarily – such as my banana bread recipe, chocolate chip cookies, or any batter that’s really “heavy” to mix by hand. There’s no way I could’ve hand mixed this fruitcake recipe, for instance, without a major hand/arm cramp! I also love to use it to make my own whipped cream for desserts using heavy cream + vanilla + powdered sugar.
How often I use it: probably once or twice a month, more during holiday baking season.
Tips for scoring a deal: Kitchenaid Mixers are a HOT item come holiday shopping season. Consider following my blog more closely during this time if you’re looking for a deal. I reported several last year, with the most notable deals happening at Kohl’s. Kitchenaid seems to put out rebate around that time and Kohl’s was offering coupons and cash back offers that resulted in some crazy low discounts on Kitchenaid Mixers. I’ve also spotted strong deals on Amazon and Groupon Goods.
Pictured above: KitchenAid KSM75WH Classic Plus Tilt-Head 4-1/2-Quart Stand Mixer, White is currently selling for $249.99 + $10 shipping on Amazon.

Gadgets I don’t own, but maybe I’d like sometime in the future (and I’d LOVE your thoughts on if you think they are helpful or not!):

  • Bread Machine
  • Rice Cooker
  • Food Processor
  • Food Saver

What would you say are your essential kitchen appliances – the ones you couldn’t live without? And how do you like to use them?


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safecanning

My Advice for Learning how to can Safely

safecanning

safecanning

Last night I decided to set up a Pinterest board on all things food preserving, as it’s a topic that’s near and dear to my heart. (You can follow my board there if you wish!) There are no shortage of fantastic blogs out there that post on canning, freezing, and other methods of food preservation and I’m having fun exploring them.

However, in going through some posts and watching some Facebook pages, I’ve sometimes observed something that’s bothered me. I should caveat this heavily by saying I’m not a canning expert – just someone who has read, re-read, and triple read the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving and Blue Book Guide to Preserving (both of those are Amazon links, but both books can readily be found at your local library as well).

To cut to the chase – sometimes I’m seeing canning methods that don’t look safe, or recipes a blogger has “come up with.” On one such post last night, I found the following comment, buried in the thread:

I am a Cooperative Extension Agent for Food Safety and this recipe/process is NOT safe! It contains low acid foods and therefore MUST be pressure canned to destroy deadly C. botulinum spores. This is not an approved and tested USDA recipe and it also contains thickeners which slow down the process. For correct processing PLEASE refer to http://www.uga.edu/nchfp and see their guidelines…

Um, yikes.

Botulism spores, as the comment refers to, can grow in improperly canned foods. The results? Can sometimes be deadly. Perhaps you read about the California man last week who took some shortcuts canning elk and ended up with double vision a couple days later. Thankfully, the doctors caught the botulism poisoning before it was too late.

Botulism poisoning is definitely rare – in 2011, 145 cases were reported and only 15% of those were foodborne (so about 22 cases total). You are three times more likely to die by lightning. But nonetheless, botulism poisoning is a risk you take when you decide to not follow trusty recipes or experiment with ingredients (particularly low acid ones) or processing methods. (For more reading on this topic, I encourage you to check out NW Edible’s most excellent post & infographic entitled: How to Not Die from Botulism.)

So where am I going with all of this? What’s a newbie canner to do?

  • Learn to can from a reliable source. Start by learning how to can from either one/both of the books mentioned above, from an Extension Food Safety specialist, or even through Ball’s website. (Basically, use good common sense where you learn!)
  • Remember that anybody can start a blog. I think it can be easy to read a blog and accept that information as fact. You don’t have to play Devil’s Advocate about every last blog post you read, but you can remain a critical thinker and come to your own conclusions, too.
  • Beware of anecdotal evidence. I don’t know about you, but I get really wary anytime I hear someone explain away their questionable canning methods with “my grandma/mom/dad/etc always did it this way and we’re still alive” or “I canned celery in a boiling water canner last year and ate it all and I felt good.” Folks, that’s not good enough.
  • Don’t forget common sense & good judgment. Like most things in life, they’ll serve you well.

I have shared several canning posts on my blog, and I want you to know, I’m always going to include a disclosure. Following a canning post on a blog is not the same as following a cake or meatloaf recipe. There are some best practices that are involved to keep everyone safe.

My goal today is not to scare you away from canning if you’ve been on the fence. I definitely think it’s worth the effort to learn this important life skill and it’s hard to describe the pride you’ll feel seeing a row of beautiful jams you’ve “put up” by yourself. (Even more so if you grew or foraged all that produce yourself!) I just want to encourage you to be smart and safe and arm you with information you need to be successful.

With that, I’d like to end today’s post with some solid references for learning how to can. Any of these will help break things down for you. Provided you follow the instructions, you should be just fine!

You might also wish to read some of the other canning posts I’ve written on my own blog:

I’d love to hear from you. If you’re new, what about canning intimidates you? If you’re an old pro, I’m curious to hear you weigh in to. Do you feel I’m being overly cautious in my post today, or have you seen things that bother you too?


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HELP ME! I need a better system for this.

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I know I have a ton of savvy and well-organized folks out there, so I thought – why not ask you for some help?

Here’s the deal:

DSCN0655 (642x800) (2)This file? Is currently where I’m storing bills that need to get paid, bills that have gotten paid, and general mail and stuff that needs to get filed. Clearly, this isn’t working. I feel like I constantly have mail and papers in various stacks in my car and kitchen counters. This is a bad, bad habit and it needs to stop. However, I’ve got to believe I’m not the only one who battles paper clutter!

If you have a good system for keeping your mail and bills organized, I would love to hear about it! Feel free to leave a comment on this post, or if you’re so inclined – send me some pictures and details to angela @ thecouponproject dot com. In the next week or so, I’d love to implement a better routine and share some of the best tips I receive here at the blog.

Here’s what you should know about my current system and organizational needs:

  • I do have an office with a pretty good long-term filing solution. I have a place to store important records like insurance paperwork, paystubs, and licenses. My main struggle is the day-to-day paperwork. 
  • I can be pretty lazy. I don’t want to have to take my papers upstairs and file them away in the office everyday. I’d love something that I can quickly shuffle mail into right when I walk in the door. I’m OK with filing away perhaps once a week.
  • I get a decent amount of mail. I receive both personal and business related mail at my house. If I do nothing with my mail for a few days, it really starts to pile up.

Do you think you can help me? Please leave a comment or email me at  angela @ thecouponproject dot com with your system!


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teachingkidsclean

Teaching Kids to Clean: FREE Ebook (today only 6/19)

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Today only, you can download the ebook Teaching Kids to Clean, for FREE. It also includes printables! This is written by Dana White, blogger at A Slob Comes Clean. If you’ve not checked her blog about before, you really should! Her blog is honest, refreshing, and encouraging – particularly if you struggle with a less than perfectly clean house!

If you don’t have a Kindle, remember you can still take advantage of this offer by downloading free reader software to your phone, computer, or mobile device.


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Picking Strawberries and Making your own Strawberry Jam

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Canning Strawberry Jam

Last weekend, the kids and I hit up Picha Farms in Puyallup, Washington, for some strawberry picking. They are currently offering u-pick strawberries for $1.50 a pound and the strawberries are just beautiful! (Make sure to follow their Facebook page for updates on availability if you’re interested).

DSCN0366 (800x600)At first, the kids were a bit skeptical about strawberry picking. My son’s biggest concern is that we’d be home in time to set up the lemonade stand I’d been promising to let them do for a few weeks now. He had decided awhile ago it *needed* to start at 11am, so I said we’d do our best.

DSCN0367 (800x600)I don’t think this grumpy face was intentional on her part – but it does pretty much sum up my daughter’s feeling about produce. So yes, lest you think my kids go out to my garden and are content to eat raw kale for lunch, let’s keep it real a moment. I have one picky eater. Yes, I do. However, I’ve not given up on her yet and I will make a plant eater out of her! Instead of treating food like a punishment, my approach has been to drag her to the farmer’s market, include her in our gardening adventures, and take her to farms. While she may look rather pissed off holding this strawberry, the truth is she can identify many vegetables and herbs both in the ground and in the produce section. We’ll get there.

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Picking the strawberries is actually quite easy. They assigned us our own “row” to pick from. When we were finished, we put a flag in the ground to indicate where we’d stop and where the next pickers could be begin.

DSCN0371 (600x800)After about 15 minutes or so, my kids started to get into it. They discovered if you parted the bushes, you’d find the ripened berries underneath!

Strawberry Picking

We picked for about an hour, and managed to pick…

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Just over 20 pounds! I was so surprised we picked that amount so quickly! So word to the wise…when you go strawberry picking? Bring some helpers!

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Now what to do with all those berries? Of course there are lots of things you could, the simplest of which would be to simply freeze them. But I did want to can up some pretty strawberry jam to put up!

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I decided to check out one of my favorite blogs, Food in Jars, for some inspiration. I found it with this Strawberry Vanilla jam. You let the macerated strawberries sit overnight with a split vanilla bean and 2 cups of sugar. I double batched this and made another small bowl for Strawberry Shortcake for Father’s Day (it was delicious, by the way!).

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This jam is just heavenly! My son begged to try some while it was still warm, so I drizzled it over a small bowl of vanilla ice cream. I had to sample some myself later on a few crackers. Beautiful!

DSCN0399 (800x604)This morning, I tested the jars for proper seal. Here’s the final result: 9 half-pint jars and 4 pint jars. I’m thinking the prettier pint-size jars in the front will be gifts. We probably used about 10-11 pounds of the berries to yield this amount, too! The remaining strawberries need to get processed today so I’m thinking of throwing a good mess of them into the dehydrator, and freezing some for green smoothies. My son wants me to make homemade strawberry ice cream, and I’m thinking homemade strawberry liqueur sounds divine, too!

If you want to repeat this recipe, please head to Food in Jars for step-by-step instructions.

DSCN0401 (800x668)Are you going strawberry picking this time of year? What are your favorite strawberry recipes?

Related reading:


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How We’re Getting Organized for the Summer

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Tomorrow is my son’s last day of first grade. It doesn’t seem too long ago I was snapping this picture…

100_4795 (630x800)For real, can someone please tell me what the heck happened to this year? Also, can someone tell me why *I* feel like I have a major case of senioritis when I have a first grader and there are no major projects to complete or finals to sit on my kid to study for? Well at least Jen Hatmaker knows what I’m feeling. (Seriously, if you’ve not read her post entitled Worst End of School Year Mom Ever, do yourself a favor and read it!).

As you might imagine, I’ve been thinking quite a bit about summer these days. I’ve also found myself saying over and over “we’ll do that this summer” or “this summer, we’ll…” etc etc etc. So yesterday I decided I should actually map out my summer, because I was feeling that my plans and ideas were in la la land, and not anywhere concrete where I could see them!

Now, I’m not a smartphone user; I’m pretty old school. So yesterday I went to my Outlook – Calendar view – and print off blank months June, July, August, and September – and grabbed a pen. Is there an app for that? I’m pretty sure there is. But I enjoy pen and paper. And judging from the sheer volume of printables on Pinterest, I’m going to go on a limb and say there are others out there that share my love for writing stuff down.

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My goal with this wasn’t to micromanage our days or weeks, but to simply jot down important dates. Here’s what’s important to us this summer:

  • Swim lessons. My kids both started swim this year and are making great progress. I want to fit in as many swim lessons as we can before soccer starts. (And no, I have no intention of doing soccer and swim at the same time thankyouverymuch.)
  • Vacation Bible School. We love VBS around here! Not only does it give the kids something fun to do, it gives Mommy a much needed little break in the middle of summer. We’ll be doing two this year. If you’ve never done this but are interested, many Vacation Bible Schools are free. Sounds Fun Mom has a great list of Puget Sound area Vacation Bible Schools. (And no, you usually do not have to be an attending member of any of these churches to have your kidlets participate.)
  • Road Trip. A couple nights ago we mapped out the route for what will be one crazy family road trip this summer. We plan on hitting up Idaho, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Arizona, and New Mexico. Bring on the Dramamine, it’s going to be a long drive kids!!

I know it sounds really simple, but I could not believe how good I felt after taking an hour to write out our family calendar for the summer. I’ve also had my son write down an extensive list of things to do so the kids avoid getting bored. Some things that went on that list include…

  • Going to the library and doing a summer reading program.
  • Running a lemonade stand. (My son is saving up for Legos, my daughter is saving up to go to Taco Bell. No lie.)
  • Visit the zoo.
  • Watch TV or movies.
  • Play outside.
  • Take a long nap. (OK, that might be my addition…)
  • Go bowling for free.
  • Watch old TV episodes on YouTube. Currently my kids are working through Small Wonder. (Anyone remember that sitcom from the ’80s about the girl robot?)

There are some other great resources out there for planning your summer, and I’d be silly to not share them with you!

What things are on your family’s agenda for the summer? Any tips for staying sane and organized? I’d love to hear ‘em!


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How to Can Pineapple

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Canning is a little like painting a room. You’re initially excited about the process and you may even start with gusto, but at some point you realize there’s a bit of monotony involved. But at the end you stand back and admire your work and decide it was all worth it. And then you plan your next project. Such was my second go of canning pineapple today!

A few things about canning, if you’re new to the process:

  • Make sure to thoroughly acquaint yourself with the steps involved. Today’s post is a quick and dirty “how to” tutorial, but if you’re brand new to canning, get thee a book such as Ball Book of Canning (currently $9.45 on Amazon) and read through everything carefully first. 
  • Gather all your supplies ahead of time. Before you start, make sure you have everything handy from the ingredients, tools, canning supplies, and jars. I recommend you read and re-read your recipe twice. You don’t want to be halfway through and realize you need something vital.
  • Start this project when you have a solid chunk of time. If you have to pick up your kid in an hour, don’t start a canning project. I try to give myself at least three hours’ time for even the simplest of canning projects.

I’m canning pineapple today mostly because they were on sale at Fred Meyer for $1 last week and I bought 8 of ‘em.

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I started by prepping my jars. I decided to go with 8 pint-sized jars. To start, I washed each of the jars and rims in hot, soapy water. I did the same with the lids, and left them in a bowl of hot water. After this, I filled up the jars about 2/3 of the way with hot water and set them in the bottom of my boiling water canner, also filled with hot water. One of the keys to canning successfully is keeping all your elements hot!

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Just keep the jars hot – you do not need to boil them or the lids. At this point, I turned my attention to the pineapple.

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Start by decapitating your pineapple. To do this, just twist of the top. It’s really easy.

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Next, make a thin slice on each end of the remaining fruit. This will allow it to stand upright on a cutting board.

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From here, I strip down the pineapple scales until its nekked.

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I slice the pineapple in half, and then half again. (So basically, quarters). With each quarter, I slice out the core, then chop it in half yet again and cut 1/2″ size tidbits.

DSCN0219 (800x600)It took me about a half an hour to process 7 pineapples and the result filled a rather large pot! Now the recipe I’m using – which comes from the Ball Home Preserving cookbook(~$17 on Amazon) says to use 12 lbs of pineapple and that will result in about 8 pint-sized jars. Well, I don’t know about weight, but I will say roughly 6 of them filled 8 pint-sized jars – so yes, I had lots of pineapple leftover! (Hang tight, I’ll show you what I did with the leftovers!).

DSCN0220 (800x600)Make a simple syrup solution to pack in your pineapple. I sprung for an extra light syrup because pineapple is naturally very sweet! To do this, I mixed 1 1/4 cup sugar with 5 1/2 cup water and brought to a boil. I then quickly brought the temperature to simmer at medium low. You don’t want the syrup to reduce.

DSCN0221 (800x600)Now you’re going to heat the pineapple up in single layers in the syrup. You don’t need to cook it, just warm it. My recipe says this should take about 1 minute per layer.

DSCN0222 (600x800)At this point, remove the jars one at a time from the boiling-water canner and empty them. As they are going to be filled with hot liquids, there is no need to dry them. Using a slotted spoon, pack in the hot pineapple leaving 1/2″ headspace. I find using this ball funnel very handy and highly recommend it!

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Next, ladle in the hot syrup so you have 1/2″ headspace. Make sure to remove the air bubbles! This tool came with the funnel in the Ball Canning accessory kit (currently ~$10 on Amazon) I picked up last year. Very handy.

DSCN0225 (800x600)Here’s what 1/2″ headspace looks like, incidentally.

DSCN0224 (800x600)Add the lid and screw on the band until just tight (but not too tight). The magnetic lid grabber pictured above also comes in that accessory kit. (I hate to convince you to buy stuff for the sake of it – but seriously, get yourself that accessory kit. I promise you’ll use all four items in there on every canning project you do!)

DSCN0226 (800x600)Now you are ready to process the jars! Close the lid and wait for a rolling boil. Note that the processing time starts from when a rolling boil is achieved! For pint-sized jars, this will be 15 minutes. After this point, turn off the heat and remove the lid. Wait for five minutes. Then using tongs, gently remove the jars.

DSCN0228 (800x582)I like to set my jars on a wire rack to allow air flow all around the jars. Make sure they are not touching one another. Please take care as they will be extremely hot! Let them sit, undisturbed for 24 hours. You might hear “popping” sounds as the jars begin to cool off. This is normal – it’s good even! It means that the lids are sealing properly.

DSCN0230 (800x600)The next morning, press on the top of each lid. If it does not pop back up at you, it means that the lid has sealed properly and is ready to store! You can remove the bands at this point and store in a cool, dark location for up to 12 months. That’s it!

As for my leftovers?

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I am dehydrating two trays’ worth in my Nesco Food Dehydrator! I think this is one fantastic appliance, but you could also opt to dehydrate them in your oven, too.

Supplies mentioned today (that I own and recommend!):

Want to read more posts I’ve written on canning? Here you go!

Disclaimer: Canning isn’t difficult, but it does require some basic food safety know how and best practices. While I hope my post today has inspired you to get out there and can, I do want you to make sure you’re doing so safely! Please take the time to read through a book like the Blue Book of Canning or read the step-by-step instructions on FreshPreserving.com (Ball’s website). Then, make sure to stick to approved recipes and follow them exactly. Happy canning!


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mealplanbanner

How to Plan and Prep your Meals for the Week

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Easy Weekly Meal Planning Prep | The Coupon ProjectI’m always looking for ways to save time and money, so when my pal Kelly shared with me what she was doing, I knew I had to post it here at the blog!

She told me that she had a problem of purchasing food for her weekly menu only to have food purchased for a particular meal get eaten ahead of time. Not good. So she came up with the idea of meal planning and then placing all the meals in corresponding bins in her fridge.

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She says she puts in all the ingredients she’ll need for the meal, “all the way down to the sour cream!”

Incidentally, she is also doing this for her smoothies:

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I particularly heart that idea! Love the nice green spinach you’re throwing in there, Kelly! YUM!

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She tells me she also preps lunches and snacks this way, and that it’s helping her keep her calorie count in check too. So you save money, save time, and you stick to your diet because it’s all prepped and ready to go? Sounds like a lot of WIN to me!

Thanks so much, Kelly, for allowing me to share what you’re doing! I’d love to know if anyone else does something similar? Or other ways to stay on task with your meal plan for the week? Please share!

Did you like this post? Make sure to check out these other “best of” posts here at The Coupon Project:


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Northwest Blogger Spring Cleaning Bash: Laundry & Craft Room

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This month I’m participating in a Northwest Blogger Spring Cleaning Bash. You can view previous posts over at the Spring Cleaning Bash page. Additionally, you might be interested to follow our joint Frugal Spring Cleaning Pinterest board.

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Today is the final post in our series and Thrifty and Thriving is tackling her laundry room, which also serves as a craft storage area. She came up with some really cute solutions for the craft storage in particular that you won’t want to miss!

Head on over to Thrifty and Thriving for the full post.


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Northwest Blogger Spring Cleaning Bash: Kids’ Rooms (Thrifty NW Mom)

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This month I’m participating in a Northwest Blogger Spring Cleaning Bash. As the month progresses, you can keep an eye for subsequent posts over at the Spring Cleaning Bash page. Additionally, you might be interested to follow our joint Frugal Spring Cleaning Pinterest board.

thriftynwmombeforeToday, Jen at Thrifty NW Mom is giving her girls’ room (pictured above), a new, fresh look. I have to say, Jen, the “before” looks pretty neat and tidy to me! However, once you see the “after” you’ll see how she really did bring additional order to the room. Her post also has a few simple “DIY” and organizational ideas you’ll definitely want to check out.

Head on over to Thrifty NW Mom for the full post. You might also wish to check out Centsible in Seattle’s post for additional Kids’ Rooms ideas.


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Northwest Blogger Spring Cleaning Bash: Kids’ Rooms (Centsible in Seattle)

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For the month of March, I am participating in a special Northwest Blogger Spring Cleaning Bash. As the month progresses, you can keep an eye for subsequent posts over at the Spring Cleaning Bash page. Additionally, you might be interested to follow our joint Frugal Spring Cleaning Pinterest board.

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Prepare to be “wow”ed by what Centsible in Seattle does to transform her girls’ room! You’ll be BLOWN AWAY by her DIY princess bed – and she does it on a budget too.

I would share more pictures, but that’d be giving it away. Just head on over to Centsible in Seattle and check it out for yourself.


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Northwest Blogger Spring Cleaning Bash: Kitchen DIY Solutions (Sweet Deals 4 Mom)

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For the month of March, I am participating in a special Northwest Blogger Spring Cleaning Bash. As the month progresses, you can keep an eye for subsequent posts over at the Spring Cleaning Bash page. Additionally, you might be interested to follow our joint Frugal Spring Cleaning Pinterest board.

kitchendiyFor today’s post, Sweet Deals 4 Mom is tackling some of the messiest, grimiest jobs in the kitchen – by making her own non-toxic kitchen cleaning solutions. She shows that you don’t need a lot of harsh chemicals to get your kitchen sparkling. I am inspired by her post!

Check it out at Sweet Deals 4 Mom.


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Northwest Blogger Spring Cleaning Bash: Garage (Coupon Savvy)

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This month I announced that I would be participating in a special Northwest Blogger Spring Cleaning Bash. As the month progresses, you can keep an eye for subsequent posts over at the Spring Cleaning Bash page. Additionally, you might be interested to follow our joint Frugal Spring Cleaning Pinterest board.

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Today, head on over to Coupon Savvy in Cowlitz County as she tackles what is sure to be one of the most daunting rooms in the house: the garage! We actually cleaned and organized ours last summer and it was no mean feat! I’m guessing we’re going to have to spruce it up again really soon, too. 

Make sure to check out Coupon Savvy’s post to see how she does!


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Northwest Blogger Spring Cleaning Bash: Pantry (This Beautiful Frugal Life)

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Last week, I announced that I would be participating in a special Northwest Blogger Spring Cleaning Bash. As the month progresses, you can keep an eye for subsequent posts over at the Spring Cleaning Bash page. Additionally, you might be interested to follow our joint Frugal Spring Cleaning Pinterest board.

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Today, head on over to This Beautiful Frugal Life as she tackles straightening up her pantry! I actually took care of this task last weekend myself and let me say, it’s really inspiring to actually see what you have in your pantry, fridge, and freezer. I also was able to stick to ONE grocery store trip this week, which is always my goal.

I hope you’ll stop by This Beautiful Frugal Life’s post to check out what she did step by step.

Then, head back over to the Northwest Blogger Spring Cleaning Bash page to get inspired to clean all the rooms in your house!


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Northwest Blogger Spring Cleaning Bash: Home Office (Grays Harbor Deals)

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This month I announced that I would be participating in a special Northwest Blogger Spring Cleaning Bash. As the month progresses, you can keep an eye for subsequent posts over at the Spring Cleaning Bash page. Additionally, you might be interested to follow our joint Frugal Spring Cleaning Pinterest board.

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Today, head on over to Grays Harbor Deals as she tackles cleaning the office and paperwork piles pictured above.

As I read her post I was thinking it’s about high time I tackle my own too! It’s gotten a bit out of hand in the last couple weeks. Since we recently filed our taxes, too, I’d love to prep our files for next year.

How often do you clean your office?


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Northwest Blogger Spring Cleaning Bash: Yard & Garden (Happy Money Saver)

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Last week, I announced that I would be participating in a special Northwest Blogger Spring Cleaning Bash. As the month progresses, you can keep an eye for subsequent posts over at the Spring Cleaning Bash page. Additionally, you might be interested to follow our joint Frugal Spring Cleaning Pinterest board.

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Today, head on over to Happy Money Saver as she tackles sprucing up her yard & garden for spring! This has me inspired because we’ve just started getting the spring-ish weather over here and gardening is very much on my mind.

Make sure to check out her post!


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Spring Cleaning Bash: Master Closet

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Last Wednesday, I announced that I would be participating in a special Northwest Blogger Spring Cleaning Bash. As the month progresses, you can keep an eye for subsequent posts over at the Spring Cleaning Bash page. Additionally, you might be interested to follow our joint Frugal Spring Cleaning Pinterest board.

I’m excited to be going first and tackling the Master Closet. This seems like a good place to start because for most of us, it’s where we start the day: picking out something to wear. I don’t know about you, but this sort of thing can make me very grumpy indeed:

100_7249 (600x800)I came up with a new saying a couple days ago: Messy is Stressy. And nothing is stressy-ier than walking over all this stuff just to get to my clothes:

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There really isn’t a magic solution to cleaning this crap. Basically, you’re going to chug down a cup or two of coffee, crank up the music, put on your game face and get to work and stop making excuses. In my case, I pretty much HAD to start with clearing off the floor because I couldn’t get to anything else without taking care of that step first! What was on the floor, you wonder? Here are a few nuggets:

  • Random socks. (There were a few happy moments when I realized singleton socks could now be reunited with their missing partner.)
  • Easter eggs, some broken, some intact. (Don’t ask.)
  • A tube of half-shredded gift wrap. (Not sure how this got in my closet.)
  • Hangers. All kinds.
  • Workout clothes.
  • Other miscellaneous stuffs. 

So small vent. Ever notice how when you go to “clean” stuff ends up getting messier in the process? So “yay” I cleaned up my closet floor, but then for awhile this was my bathroom:

100_7260 (800x742)Once I had the floor cleaned, I decided I really needed to have my workout clothes more accessible in the closet. Having them in a bin in the back of the closet has resulted in me basically “tossing” clean piles of workout clothes in a heap back there because I couldn’t walk over all the stuff to get to said bin. Plus, I’m working out a lot more these days and it’s an important goal of mine to stay fit. So, let’s make sweats, shorts, and running shirts easier to find! This was also a good opportunity to go through all those workout clothes I don’t wear anymore. I had a few shorts where the elastic was all crumbly. Time to say buh-bye.

100_7257 (599x800)Next, time to look at the shoes. I have so many that I never wear and that were dust covered! Some of them I paid good money for back in the day I worked in an office, but don’t get worn at all anymore. I laid them all out so I could see what I had and decide what to keep.

100_7264 (731x800)Then I cleaned off my shoe rack and thoughtfully put the pairs back on I had plans to wear. The others went in the donate pile.

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Now that I had everything up off the floor, I could get to the back of my closet, which is where I keep my toiletries stockpile. That includes shampoos, soap, tooth care, deodorant, and the like. I carefully went through everything and put together a nice bag’s worth of excess that I’ll be donating. I prefer to keep this stuff neat and tidy – there is no reason to have 600 things of toothpaste!

I also went through all my purses, and cleaned them out. In the process, I found checkbooks, stamps, coins, and other random useful stuff. I also organized my scarves. Here’s what the back of my closet looks like now:

100_7263 (600x800)One thing I’ve been thinking about a lot recently is how I’m dressing. I feel I’m more apt to throw on a t-shirt and jeans, but I’d love to step it up a bit! So once everything was cleaned out, I went through all of my clothes and put together a huge donate pile of the stuff I no longer wear (or no longer should wear). I realized in this process I’m a bit of a clothes hoarder! I found a couple dresses from high school as well as t-shirts that were pushing 15 years old. Yikes!

After all my sorting was done, I decided to put my “cutest” clothing options front and center. I also worked on putting the “cute for spring” options most prominently. After all – I’m spending all this time working out, so I should dress nice, right? What’s the point of getting fit if you’re just going to throw yourself in baggy jeans and a sweatshirt?

100_7269 (677x800)I would say the whole project took me less than two hours start to finish and I was left inspired to put outfits together! The only thing I’d like to put in there now is maybe a nice smelly air freshener to keep the air sweet in there.

Here’s a view of the cleaned closet:

100_7270 (600x800)And one more view:

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There’s one last part of this post I’m excited to share with you. See, I had some nicer clothing, shoes, and handbags I wanted to donate.

100_7267 (800x603)I wanted to be able to pass these onto someone who could really use some nicer clothing. Immediately I thought of my friends at WWEE (Washington Women’s Employment & Education). WWEE is one of my most favorite non-profit organizations in the Puget Sound! Here’s what they do:

WWEE empowers women and men to create better lives for themselves and their families.  We accomplish this by teaching them the skills to find – and keep – jobs that provide a genuine living wage.  On the work front, WWEE teaches job-readiness, computer and workplace skills training.  On the home front, we help with housing assistance and support services to low-income residents of Pierce and King Counties

WWEE has this great closet of professional clothes for their participants to choose from so they look nice for job interviews, internships, etc. What better place to donate my clothing to? Here’s a look in their closet:

WWEEIf you are cleaning out your closet and have some items that are more suitable for a work environment, please consider bringing it by WWEE! In speaking to Janie, the Development Director, this week, women’s sizes 18-24 and women’s shoes 10-11 are in particular demand. They also accept men’s clothing!

Janine shared with me this photo of one of the WWEE participants “before:”

wwee2And “after” selecting some clothes from the WWEE closet:

wwee3Talk about a win-win, right? I get a clean closet and I get to help folks out in the process, too. If you are interested to learn more about WWEE or make your own clothing donation, please visit WWEE’s website. Their life-changing program was also featured on Kiro 7 News back in December.

So there you have it! One clean closet! Now, I wish I could say the rest about my house, but one room/space at a time, right? Make sure to follow along with the rest of the Northwest Bloggers Spring Cleaning Bash through March!


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Announcing March Northwest Blogger Spring Cleaning Series

springcleanI have a love/hate relationship with Spring Cleaning.

I love a clean home – the smell of freshly cleaned linens, open windows letting in the spring air, fluffed pillows and bare counters. However, it’s getting to that clean space that can be well…not so fun. So what could I do to make the process more fun? Well, everything with friends is more fun right? So I invited some of my Northwest blogging buds to do a Spring Cleaning Bash!

Here’s how it’s going to work: throughout March, each of us will be tackling a different room or space in the house. I’ll be sharing these posts with you in hopes you’ll be inspired to join us. And, because we are all frugal living bloggers, you can count on this series to offer up inexpensive ways to clean your house. So you won’t find any $300 trips to the container store, but you will find creative ideas to rearrange spaces, DIY and tutorials, and simple solutions to getting the job done.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, will be to work on your house one room at a time! Here is the Cleaning Bash schedule:

March 1 (Friday): Master Closet (with The Coupon Project)

March 4 (Monday): Yard & Garden (with Happy Money Saver)

March 8 (Friday): Bathroom (with Because More is More)

March 11 (Monday): Office & Paperwork (with Grays Harbor Deals)

March 15 (Friday): Pantry (with This Beautiful Frugal Life)

March 18 (Monday): Garage (with Coupon Savvy in Cowlitz County)

March 22 (Friday): Kitchen DIY Cleaning Solutions (with Sweet Deals 4 Moms)

March 25 (Monday): Kids Rooms (with Centsible in Seattle)

March 27 (Wednesday): Kids Rooms (with Thrifty NW Mom)

March 29 (Friday): Laundry & Craft Room (with Thrifty & Thriving)

Want some more inspiration? Or should I say, “pin” spiration? We’ve started a join Frugal Spring Cleaning pin board that we’ll be adding to as the month goes on. Make sure to follow us there!

So…are you in? What is the current state of your home? What do you hope to tackle in doing a Spring Clean?


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DisciplinedLife

21 Days to a More Disciplined Life (Crystal Paine): $0.99 on Amazon

DisciplinedLife

For a limited time only, you can snag Crystal Paine’s (AKA Money Saving Mom) ebook 21 Days to a More Disciplined Life on Amazon for just $0.99.

This one’s been on my to-read list for awhile now and it looks like it’s got great reviews. Here’s a brief description, from Amazon:

What You Can Expect to Learn From This Book:

  • How to prioritize and name your goals so that you can accomplish them faster than ever.
  • How to expose the obstacles that will come up, and then make a plan to conquer them.
  • How to break up a goal that feels insurmountable into bite-sized pieces.
  • How to stop making excuses and get the job done now — and then enjoy the rest of your day!
  • How to put accountability in place to help you stay on task and motivated.

Purchasing this ebook also gives you access to printable worksheets to make the process even easier!

Remember, you can always take advantage of these ebooks without a Kindle – download the FREE software to your PC, Mac, iPad, or phone.


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BrotherSewAdvance

Brother Sewing Machines Discounted at Amazon

BrotherSewAdvance

Is learning to sew one of your goals for 2012? If “sew,” you might want to check out Amazon right now as they are running a sale on Brother Sewing Machines.

This one seems like a best bet to me:

Brother XL2600I Sew Advance Sew Affordable 25-Stitch Free-Arm Sewing Machine for $72.49 shipped. The next lowest price I’m finding online is $83, with the price averaging $90 on this model.

Here’s a description, from Amazon:

The Brother XL2600i is perfect even for beginner sewers, with features that are easy to learn and use, a lightweight compact style and an instruction manual that helps take you through everything from basic setup to custom-sized buttonholes. This versatile sewing machine is perfect for so many home sewing projects such as altering and creating clothing, crafting, quilting, home decor and more. Loaded with features, the Brother XL2600i offers 25 built-in utility, decorative and heirloom stitches, and a built-in free arm that allows you to easily sew hems on pants or shirt sleeves. It comes with built-in convenience features such as a 1-step auto-size buttonholer, easy needle threader and drop-in bobbin, all designed to make your everyday sewing quick, easy, and fun. Includes bilingual English/Spanish instruction manual, 25-year limited warranty, and free phone support for the life of the product.

This product was rated a solid 4.5 stars after 470 customer reviews.

Here are a couple other models that were competitively priced:

Brother LS2125I Easy-To-Use Lightweight Basic 10-Stitch Sewing Machine for $66.49.

Brother XL2610 Free-Arm Sewing Machine with 25 Built-In Stitches and 59 Stitch Functions for $99.99.

See more machines at the Brother Sewing Machine sale on Amazon.

Incidentally, this year I really stepped it up and sewed a scrunchy. All my myself. It was awesome.


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tellyourtime

Free ebook: Tell Your Time by Amy Lynn Andrews

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I’m super excited that Amy Lynn Andrews (of Blogging with Amy) has her ebook, Tell Your Time, for FREE today on Amazon! Here’s a description, from Amazon:

Tell Your Time is a very short, practical ebook outlining a straightforward yet effective approach to time management. A book about time management shouldn’t take long to read and implement. There shouldn’t be a lot of fluff and filler. This one is specifically designed to help you identify what’s most important in your life, set meaningful goals and develop a workable schedule so nothing of value falls through the cracks…all within a few hours.
I find Amy’s writing to be straightforward and practical. I just downloaded mine – I think it would be great to read before the New Year!

Remember if you don’t own a Kindle, you can still take advantage of this freebie by downloading the FREE Kindle Reading app for your phone, iPad, or computer.

Thanks, Money Saving Mom!


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FPU

Year-end Organizational Tasks & My Favorite New Year’s Resources

FPU

I’m hoping to spend much of today cleaning and organizing. Here are some of the tasks I hope to do:

  • Get a new family calendar for our pantry door. Yes, it’s old school dry erase but it works perfect for our family! I love having something we can quickly and easily eyeball to manage our busy family schedule. We’ve done this for two years now and I LOVE it.
  • Put away the Christmas stuff. We have pretty simple decorations that should take less than an hour tops to put away. I personally don’t like Christmas decorations up much past December 25th.
  • Go through the kids’ toys and clothes. We did a huge purge last year, but it’s truly time for another one! Last year I involved my kids and am so glad I did. I think it’s important to encourage them to make decisions about what they use, and what they don’t and learn to keep things tidy.
  • Clean out the fridge. You know it’s bad when you feel all proud of yourself for finding space to jam one more thing in there and being able to close the door. Um, not good.
  • Set financial goals & budget. My husband and I made some very strong progress on our financial goals in 2012, I’d like to continue that for 2013.
  • Start taxes (maybe). This is if I’m feeling super ambitious after everything mentioned above! I do feel more organized and prepared going into tax season this year. If I can’t get to this today, I may start Friday.
  • File paperwork, create new files (Friday). I’m earmarking this task for Friday when my mom is going to take the kids. Might be a good project to do when I have some time to work quietly for awhile. Also a good chance to catch up on any paperwork tasks I’ve been procrastinating on.

Yeah, I know that’s a pretty hefty order, but I also have decided to spend less time worrying about the blog this week too which will make things a bit more manageable. I also plan on getting my kids involved (and I might see if I can butter my husband up to head out for the calendar!).

My Favorite New Years Helps

I wanted to share a few of my favorite resources if getting organized or creating resolutions is on your mind.

Simple Mom’s Daily Docket

I wrote about this daily docket checklist back in the fall. When I was using it every day it was so helpful! (And I need to get back to it!) Not only is it a place to record your “to dos,” it’s a place to note your most important to-dos, any appointments, and notes for the day. You can also track your exercise and water intake.

My Fitness Pal 

My Fitness Pal is an amazing FREE online calorie counting tool. (It’s also an app, for phone users.) I highly recommend it if you’re looking to lose weight in the new year. You enter what you’re eating and what exercises you’re doing and it will tell you your calorie input/output. You can create goals and it will tell you how much you’d need to eat and for how long to get there. Additionally, there are helpful forums where you can interact with other users.

Organized Simplicity

THE best book I’ve ever read on simplifying your life. (It’s currently about $11 on Amazon – prices subject to change.) Great material to gnaw on as well as practical step-by-step advice for decluttering your entire home in 7 weeks. I read it twice in 2012 and am threatening to read it again!

Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University

My husband and I went through this course last year through our church and it was amazing. If you have financial goals in 2013, I definitely encourage you to consider this course as part of that! You can head to Dave Ramsey’s website to find a class near you or register online. There are also some free financial tools on his site you might find helpful too.

Microsoft Office Templates

There are all kinds of FREE downloads you can take advantage over at Microsoft’s Office Templates pages including calendars, budget sheets, organizational checklists and more. Whenever I’m in need of something form-y, I head here first. Chances are, there’s something that will do the trick or close to it I can customize.

I’d love to know what some of your annual year-end tasks are. Anything that’s really worked for you the last few years? What will you be tackling before 2012′s out?


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Five misconceptions I had about canning

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One of my goals this year was to turn my gardening hobby into something more. While it’s definitely fun to grow your own edibles, it’s even more fun to find ways to store those edibles to last you well past summer.

Last year, I bought a couple canning books on Amazon with good intentions, but was quickly overwhelmed and intimidated by all the steps and warnings. Maybe canning just wasn’t for me, I thought, so I tucked the books in the back of my cookbook shelf. In the spring, I ran a series called Adventures in Homesteading and I decided I simply could not run the series without a post on canning. It was time to get over my fears. Not only have I conquered my fear of canning this year, I’ve found I enjoy it. REALLY enjoy it.

Today I wanted to share with you what some of my misconceptions of canning were in hopes that if you’ve been on the fence, you’ll get off and join me!

Misconception #1: It’s too Expensive to Get Started.

I had this notion in my head that canning equipment was really, really expensive. The truth is, some canning equipment may be expensive, but what you need to get started is surprisingly inexpensive!

If you plan on canning items like jams, jellies, and fruits (think high acid products), a boiling-water canner like the one pictured above is suitable. I paid about $20 for mine at Bed, Bath & Beyond. If you already have a big pot like this? Great! All you need is a metal rack you can insert into the pot. (Here’s one on Amazon for about $13.)

I did buy the above utensil kit for about $10 as well, and am glad I did. I regularly use each of the four items included: a jar lifter, spatula for removing air bubbles, magnetic lid lifter and funnel. You could perhaps make due with similar items you already have in your kitchen or home.

All told, I spent about $30 on my canning equipment! Now there are ways you can save on the pressure canners, too, which are necessary for canning low-acid foods such as beans, corn, and meat. Fred Meyer, for instance, has these on clearance right now for 50%, plus you can use extra bonus coupons they have in their ad. This is a good time to watch for additional clearance sales as many stores are looking to move out canning supplies to make way for holiday displays.

As far as jars go, you will end up spending a bit more if you buy new, but you can also look for used jars on sites such as Craiglist or at garage sales and just buy the lids (which are just a couple bucks at the grocery store – and NOTE, you CANNOT reuse lids, so you will need these). I started small, just buying a case of quart-sized and a case of pint-sized jars. This is another way you can help watch your costs. (Refer to my post on Saving on Canning Supplies & Jars for more thoughts on this topic.)

If you’re not sure canning is for you? Chances are you have a friend or family member who has a boiling-water canner you could borrow and give it a try!

Misconception #2: Canning is too tricky

The truth is if you can follow a recipe, you can can!

It’s important to follow each of the steps in a trusty recipe (such as found in this Ball Book of Preserving) to the “t.” However, none of the steps are that tricky. It’s just making sure to do each of them! I’ve found I like to read a recipe, then read it a second time, then start.

The first few times it took me awhile to work through each step, but after you’ve gotten used to the process of prepping your canner and jars and you know how to heat the lids and remove the air bubbles, you’ll find these extra steps to the recipe aren’t very difficult or time consuming.

Misconception #3: Canning is only for people with very large gardens

Another idea I had is that canning was really only for people who had acres and acres of stuff growing or orchards of fruit trees. Guess what? Here again I was wrong!

Canning is an excellent way to preserve produce that may be found at a good sale at the store. Here are some $1 pineapples I canned a couple weeks ago:

I also canned plenty of blackberry jam from FREE wild blackberries I found in my neighborhood over the summer!

I was also surprised that my ONE garden tomato plant made up a batch of 5 quarts of tomatoes recently, too!

Cooking in small batches like this has helped me get the hang of the process involved. There’s no need to start by buying 200 pounds of tomatoes or 12 boxes of apples. Starting small has also helped me determine what we’ll actually use and like to eat – a good thing before you make tons of pear sauce only to discover no one likes it.

Misconception #4: Canning will take a lot of time

Sure, it could take a lot of time! But I’ve preferred to work in small batches (as mentioned above) on simple recipes that I can easily accomplish in the space of an evening or Saturday morning.

Canning tomatoes probably took me about a couple hours, and about the same for most of my jams. A good portion of this time was spent processing the jars in the water bath, too.

I do think it would be fun once I’ve really got this down to spend a weekend with girlfriends canning quarts and quarts of good food, but for right now, I really just enjoy spending a couple hours here and there on a single recipe. It does not have to be a huge time zapper.

Misconception #5: Canning doesn’t offer much benefit over buying at the store

From a cost standpoint, you could probably save money by buying cans of veggies and fruits in the store on sale and with coupons. But what took me completely by surprise?

The pride I feel when I look at all the lovely food I’ve canned this year! My husband got this awesome sturdy, storage unit for FREE recently and let me use it out in the garage to keep some of my stockpile. I decided it would be perfect to store (and display!) my canned food as well as keep some of my produce cold. (I keep my garden-grown onions out in a box on top, too.)

I love knowing the quality of the produce that’s in these jars. See those tomatoes? I bought that plant, cared for it all summer, didn’t use any chemicals, let the tomatoes ripen on the vine, and canned them within hours of being picked. I don’t have to worry about BPA, either, which I know is a growing concern for some. There’s value to that.

If you’re looking to get started? Here are a few items I’d recommend (please note these are Amazon links and prices & selection there may change at any time):

And here are a few related posts you might want to read:

I’d love to hear your thoughts whether you’re an old pro at canning or a newbie like myself! What excites you about canning your own food? Or, do you think this activity is not worth the time and effort involved? Sound off.  


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