Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Pregnancy Update

As you can see I had my first appointment in the twins clinic this morning and we got to have our first in depth ultrasound! Below is baby A waving at you :) and over on the left is baby B's butt! Lol, hopefully at my 20 week ultrasound they will give me some pictures of BOTH babies :) The Dr could only find one placenta so they are IDENTICAL and one baby was kind enough to let us see her "hoohaa" and they are GIRLS! I am over the moon right now! I was REALLY hoping for 2 little girls and I got my wish. Hubby and mother-in-law are not so thrilled but happy none the less, they were both hoping for boys. Both twins are the same size with the same amount of amniotic fluid (really important when dealing with identical twins) and are both healthy :) They are a little concerned about my blood pressure being high so I have to record it at home for a week and then go back in on Wednesday for a follow up appointment. Other than that we are as healthy as can be and the little ones are growing well! And here is my 16 week belly pic.....

Monday, August 3, 2009

Hubby got a new job!

For those of you who know my family I thought I would pass on the news that my Hubby got a new job in the Air Force, he is now the Commanders Assistant. He is still a Com/Nav specialist and will continue to be one in the future this is just a temporary position until our next PCS. I love it because he is at a desk all day now and very easy to find if I need him (very important when you are pregnant with twins and terrified of pre-term labor) he loves it because it is a change from the same thing he has been doing day after day for 5 years. Just thought I would share :)

What to do with all those bulk items?

I wondered this very thing when I was wandering down the huge isles at the bulk store. Where would I put all those tomatoes? How in the world was I going to find room for that huge container of ziploc bags? After all we live in military housing and the room available for storage is very limited especially in the kitchen. At the time I told myself well it is to good of a deal to pass on I will figure it out when I get home. Yeah, that can of 100oz of tomatoes doesn't get any smaller once you get it home! Now we use a lot of tomatoes but there was no way I could use this much tomato product in the 5 days it would take it to go bad once opened. My solution? To freeze it of course....but how?

I needed an option that wasn't going to use all my Tupperware and that wasn't going to take up my whole freezer. Plus I had all those Ziploc bags just sitting there....OK you know where I am going with this. I put one cup of tomato's in a sandwich bag and then layer the sandwich bags into a freezer bag lay flat in the freezer for 24hours till set and then "file" them standing up in the back of my freezer. Takes up very little space, the sandwich bags were really cheap and I can reuse the more expensive freezer bag as many times as I need to.

All well and good but what about all of those Ziploc bags, the 25lbs of flour, the huge container of animal crackers....the list goes on and on. There really wasn't any room in my pantry for all of these items but I needed them close to the kitchen for the ease of cooking or refilling containers. My solution was to buy a freestanding garage shelving unit and install it in my laundry room in an unused nook that was intended for a free standing freezer....Great vertical usage of space and since it is free standing I can take it with us every time we move with little drama.

Starting a Price Book

I have been toying with the idea of starting a price book over the last few days. Although it wasn't till a friend commented on my last entry about how hard it was to know what the prices of items where at 2 different stores that I really started thinking about how to put one together. A price book for those who don't haunt the frugal websites like I do is a book in which the normal prices of an item as well as the units are listed for all suppliers.

Take that can of green beans for example say it is normally $0.50 a can and I have this listed in my little book, then one day I see it has gone down to $0.40 but I don't buy because I know from my little book that the prices always go down even further at Thanksgiving and sure enough I am able to buy that can for $0.20! Now that is quite a savings that I wouldn't have gotten if I didn't have a price comparison book,

The same philosophy holds true for comparing competing stores prices, although it gets trickier when dealing with very different sizes of containers. Say I know that a can of diced tomatoes is $0.99 for 14.5oz at one store but $2.78 for 102oz at another store. Now just doing the rough math on this one it is clear where the better deal lays but what about those items that are right on the line? Say a 5lb bag of flour for $1.99 or the 25lb bag for $8.73. That one is a little harder to do in your head. Although if I had the normal prices of each type of flour recorded in my little book there could also be a cutoff column. A column that shows when the price of the 25lb bag is too high versus the 5lb bag. Say that 25lb bag of flour went up to $9.99 and the 5lb bag stayed the same? Well then I would know that it is not a good deal and time to walk away from that particular bulk purchase.

All of this gets very confusing and I am in no way saying it is fool proof, there are times when you know you are going to goof and spend a little more because you though you had a good deal. Luckily though I am talking goofs in the $0.72 range like the lemonade from the last post and not $5.00 goofs like I would have if I tried to buy my produce or dairy at a bulk store. Those things I have done some comparison shopping on in the past and know that the commissary is always cheaper on those items. The commissary in my opinion is almost always cheaper except in the situation of the HUGE containers of items that would normally have to be pared down into the smaller containers. In this case you are saving money only because the company selling them has to spend a lot less to package and handle the large containers over the smaller ones. It is only these products that I will even consider buying at a large box store such as Sam's.

Another example on the commissary versus Sam's.....The other day while at Sam's I took a look at their laundry soap. Amazingly it was the exact same size and brand that I buy on base except it was marked $20. while I am able to buy it on base for $11. Now that is why you have to know the base prices at each store!

Another great resource if shopping on base is once you register for the site you can see ALL the sales current sales at your local commissary without ever leaving your house! So if you know the base price of an item at the bulk store and the base price at the commissary but see that the commissary price is cheaper that week (again before you leave for your shopping trip) you can compare and see if the bulk purchase is still cheaper! Very cool! There is also a option for the commissary specials that are only on sale for a certain time frame, such as the buy 5 for $5 and such, again another great resource.

All of this takes a great deal of patience to work through and even more to keep it going. After all wouldn't it just be so much easier just to go to one store and get everything you need and say that was the best price you were able to get? Well yeah that is easier and I have been doing that for years, the problem is that my grocery bill was getting out of control. I am talking $1,000 a month! That is outrageous! Now with checking the prices and doing one bulk shopping trip a month I am down to $500 a month. That is a huge savings but I still think I could be doing better after all I hear many a tail of a family of 14 living off of $400 a month! Now I may not be THAT frugal or be that inventive when it comes to the shopping trips but I certainly think that if they can do it for 14 I should be able to spend the same amount with 4 people! Especially important since we have twins on the way and money is getting ready to become even tighter, better to tighten my belt now and put the extra money into savings than have to figure all this out with 2 newborns and no money!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Sam's Club vs Commisary...where is the biggest savings?

I have read countless books and websites about how to cut your grocery budget and in many of these books they say that box stores like Sam's Club are a good buy for some things but to watch out because at times the price per unit is cheaper at a regular grocery store. Being the ever "quirky" wife that I am (Hubby's words not mine) I decided to actually sit down and do a unit per unit comparison on the things I normally buy at Sam's versus the prices at the Commissary. Now when I am walking down the isles at Sam's I do a rough comparison in my head at the prices and "knew"I was getting a good deal on these items but having never done the actual math I was a little nervous at seeing the actual numbers.

Today's trip to Sam's I bought:

102oz of Whole tomatoes
111oz of Canned Kidney beans
34qt of powdered Lemonade
192oz of Apple Juice
102.5oz of diced tomatoes
12lbs of Baking Soda
25lb of Bread Flour

Not everything I bought but those are the things on the list that I chose to do a comparison on. So after my trip to Sam's I went to the commissary to continue my shopping as I usually do but this time I wrote down the units and the cost of these items if bought there. Then using simple math I was able to calculate the savings/loss per item at Sam's Club.

Whole Tomatoes: $3.68 Saved
Canned Kidney Beans: $1.97 Saved
Powdered Lemonade: $0.72 LOST
Apple Juice: $0.83 Saved
Diced Tomatoes: $4.21 Saved
Baking Soda: $1.70 Saved
Bread Flour: $1.22 Saved

Now as you can see the cost per unit of the tomato products was a HUGE savings while some things like the apple juice were only so-so....and then there was the lemonade that was actually a loss. The lemonade actually surprised me quite a bit I really thought I was getting a deal there, just goes to show you that you really do have to read the units based on the prices. All in all this trip to Sam's saved me $12.89. Will I be shopping there again in the future you bet your bottom I will especially for the tomato products, though I think I will leave the lemonade to the lovely people over at the commissary!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

How resourceful are you?

We all like to think that we are resourceful but it isn't always that way our lives turn out. For many of us in this "disposable society" it is just simpler to throw something away than to try and fix it or to reuse it in some way.

Take for example the dresser that was bought for our oldest daughter when she was a baby. Way back then we were poor....I am talking can't afford to buy groceries and pay the bills in the same month type of poor. But here we were expecting a baby what were we to do? Run to momma of course what would you do! My mother was generous enough to buy my little one an entire bedroom set, but even for her money was an impediment and we got the cheapest set the store carried. Little did we know the dresser and the crib would be in use for so many years to come :) Now almost 6 years later that dresser is still in is falling apart but it is still in use. It is made of MDF, pressed wood chips formed to make a "wood" sheet, and after lots of use you can imagine it is in a pretty bad state. We do have a wonderful (and expensive) dresser that we bought for our oldest when she moved up to a big girl bedroom set but when we moved the two girls in together there just wasn't room for it in the room so we reverted back to the "baby" dresser until they got a bigger room. We will be moving in a few months and the nice dresser will be moved back into their room and the baby dresser will again be a dresser for baby clothes, at least for a few more years. Now every 6 mths I go into the room armed with a hammer, screwdriver, and wood glue and I put the dresser back together again. And every 6 mths I think to myself why oh why don't I just go out and buy a new dresser? Why? Because I am resourceful enough to know that I can keep that dresser together for another few years and the only thing it will cost me is a wrenched back (every time never fail... you would think I would learn!). I could go out and buy another dresser but why? Because it will look better? Because it will cost me only money and not my time? I would like to think that I am teaching my daughters a lesson with that dresser, just because you can buy something new doesn't mean that it is necessarily the best option.

My next example is my bathroom is missing a rug. I *could* just go out and buy a new one but where is the resourcefulness in that? Instead it has been a year and a half and my floor is still bare. Not because I am lazy and don't want to spend the money or the time needed to fix the problem but because I am collecting old shirts and sheets to make a new rag rug for the floor. I know that it would be simpler and SO much faster to just buy one but where is the fun in that? Once the rug is finally completed and I place it on the floor there will be a sense of accomplishment that couldn't be felt with a store bought rug. Every time I see that rug I will know it may have taken me years to complete it but that I did in the end get it finished and there will be pride and love attached to that rug.

Some times the easy and the simple way is not always the best way. Sometimes it takes some time and some patience but in the end you do get a finished product that you can be proud of.

*Oh and if anyone has any old shirts they are going to throw away feel free to send them to me I need all the help I can get ;P

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