Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Fifty Cent Thrift Day Post - October 22, 2014

Yesterday was the monthly day that one of the local thrift stores clears out its older merchandise for 50 cents a piece. The selection was picked over - the woman working claimed it was because the store had sold so much the month prior, which is possible, but there also were many more shoppers this time around and they had gotten there before me and had armfuls of clothing.

I still found 10 things but one (which I will still put in the pictures) had a hole in it, so I have already thrown it away (DISAPPOINTING). And I am not sure about two other pieces, but for 50 cents I figured I could sell or redonate or give away or whatever.

I could lovingly Photoshop these pictures but today I just don't feel like it.

I went back and forth on these, but they are Ann Taylor Loft wool pants, and they fit, and they were only 50 cents, so I bought them. The legs are really, really, REALLY wide though and I don't know if that works for me. Still, such nice pants...

Tommy Hilfiger shirt! It's so cute and it fits really well except the sleeves are perhaps a smidge too short. I can roll them up though. I like this a lot.

Boring squishy not necessarily flattering Old Navy shirt. I liked the sleeves.

Cute stripey shirt.

Purple Old Navy shirt that I think will match some of my many skirts.

I cannot resist a black waffle/thermal shirt.

THE SHIRT WITH THE HOLE. Sure it was just 50 cents and was just a basic Target shirt. I liked it. I liked the neck and the fit. And it had not just a tiny hole but a spiderweb of tiny holes at the bottom. I thought I looked carefully but not carefully enough, it seems. I trashed it.

Ann Taylor Loft top. It's see-through but with a camisole under it, it will be darling. It fits so well!

Shirt for the kid. I'm undecided and it may not fit her but the kid section was so sparse and I just wanted to get her something.

On the other hand, I love this other shirt I found for her. It's hysterical and will totally fit her.
So, $5 total (plus tax) and I absolutely positively will wear at least 75% of what I bought. Not bad. Not bad at all.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Review and #Contest - Purex Crystals Aromatherapy

As a Purex Insider, I am often given the opportunity to test out products for free. The products are provided to me by Purex but I am under no obligation to do anything, as far as I'm concerned - I don't have to say nice things and I don't have to write a review at all if I don't feel like it.

This time around, I jumped at the chance to try Purex Crystals Aromatherapy - because I misunderstood what the product was. Wait, stop. I'm not saying I didn't like the product (I did, you'll see), but I am saying I didn't realize that this was not Purex Crystals fabric softener. The fabric softener aspect of the Crystals seems to have been removed completely and all that remains is dryer sheets under the "Crystals" label. And I am very, very disappointed at this - I liked the fabric softener crystals because they smelled nice, had reasonable ingredients, and actually worked - even on my workout clothes. But now it's just a fragrance booster, which is...whoopdedoo?

Purex Crystals Aromatherapy - not to be confused with fabric softener
 I mean, I've noted this before here in reviews - I do like pleasantly scented things, but I don't necessarily want my everyday clothing to smell like anything. I gravitate toward free and clear detergents in part because of this. I like to wear BPAL fragrance oils, for example, and I don't want them competing with my clothing. To me, "scent" doesn't equal "clean."

HOWEVER, on the other hand, I do like my towels to have a light scent - and sometimes my sheets too. So when I get a scented product like this to try, I use it on my towels and I judge it just on how well it works on my towels.

Purex Crystals Aromatherapy works just fine. I was sent the "Energy" scent, which is citrusy (more orange than lemon, I'd say), and it made my towels smell nice. I can't really say much more than that - they weren't softer and they weren't cleaner. They just smelled nice. It wasn't overpowering and it has lasted a few days (which also makes my linen closet smell nice, a little bonus). It's not a product I'd necessarily seek out in the future, but I am curious about the other scents. (I think I'd prefer "Serenity," which supposedly is calming and smells like water lilies, to "Energy.")

I was also sent two coupons to give away to two readers of A Place to Write Things who might like to try Purex Crystals Aromatherapy. Judge for yourself. If you like to add scent to your clothes, this will do that. Also it's absolutely fun to try new things. So check out the Rafflecopter widget, do the tasks honestly (I'll disqualify you if you cheat), and enter. US residents only. Contest runs from October 15, 2014, to October 22, 2014.

Thanks for reading!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Mini Thrifting Trip - October 1, 2014

This trip was mini in a few ways.

I don't really need more clothing right now, my closet is bursting and needs to be emptied not filled.
My kid does need more clothing so I had to buy small things. (MINI getitgetit?)

My phone's camera hates me and so the pictures are not the best. But I found some cute things for both me and the kid all at the two stores we hit. (Three if you count Goodwill - I bought a copy of 13 Going on 30 for $3 there because I gave in - I watch that movie every time it is on random TV so I figured, might as well just own it. It's so damn cute...)

The save-the-animals store!

Really, this was the best thing I bought all day:



Yes, that is two boxes of little plastic lobster gems. It was $1 for the two (they seem to have originally been from the Target Dollar Spot) and I LOVE THEM. They're just so cute and...lobstery. Every time I send a package, someone's getting a lobster, I think.

As for the rest, I did buy things for me. I couldn't resist. But you should have seen all the things I put back! So clothes in my kid's size are 50 cents, clothes in bigger sizes for kids are $1, the skirts were $1.50 each, the owl shirt for me was $1.50 too, I think, though I'm not actually sure.

My kid probably will never wear this poncho (I put it on her when we got home, she took it right off) but LOOK. PONCHO. For 50 cents. Had to have.

I love Halloween, I love cheap clothes, I love this shirt that I got her for 50 cents. Also she's a fan of the peace sign. I call it a win.

Just a cute little sweater. NBD.
This Gymboree shirt looks like it was never worn. It was "specially priced" so it was $2 instead of $1. That's fine. It's so cute.
Hello and goodbye, cute pants. These are destined for resale at the upcoming consignment store. For $1 each, I took a risk.
Plain black skirt for me.

Ridiculous, almost-too-small Banana Republic skirt for me. BUT SO CUTE. I just...lost my mind and bought it. I'm hoping it will work with the sweater I bought (see next pic) and some brown tights.

TERRIBLE picture of amazing deep green sweater with boat neck. Just trust me. I think this might've been $2? I also think it does sort of match the skirt. We'll see.

I shouldn't have bought this and yet OWLS and PUNS and HALLOWEEN - of course I should have... $1.50.
Then we went to Value Village. Not anything particularly exciting this time around (although I do like VV's new tag system - bar coded and much more clearly color coded as well).

This sweater was so cute and also a half-price color. 75 cents.

HELLO KITTY. I couldn't resist. $1.50.

$1.50. I think it will fit her next year.

Limited Too sweater that I hope will fit her. Half-price, $1.25.
And my other favorite find:

This was $3.50. It's a Nino Bossi purse and I guess that means it was expensive at one point? I can't find a thing about this style (looks like a sweater/knit) anywhere so if you've seen it before, holler. I bought it because it was a) cute and b) fancy. Also I needed a new wintery purse.
And that's it!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

How I Save Money on Produce - September 21, 2014

The first thing most people say when I tell them I like to use coupons is that "coupons are only for processed food." Which implies that I only buy processed food for my family, and that's not very nice - and most definitely not true. I'm a broken record but this is the fact: many coupons are for processed food but not all. You just have to dig a bit.

So someone asked me how I save money on produce and I figured I'd just blog about it really quick so I'd have a reference source to send people instead of just answering over and over.

But I have to say first, I am lucky enough to live near YDFM, so I have easy access to inexpensive fresh produce (organic and conventional). To be honest, that is the short answer of it - when I shop at YDFM, I spend less than I spend at regular grocery stores and my cart is full of ingredients, not finished products. If you can find a place like this near you, that's what I'll say to do - don't fuss with coupons or sales, just buy the cheapest you can find.

Around here (in the greater Atlanta area), there are also so-called "ethnic" grocery stores and they almost always have super cheap produce (and produce I can't find anywhere else) - Super H-Mart, Cherian's International Groceries, Patel Brothers, the Buford Highway Farmers Market, etc. (Plus, if you have a Super H-Mart near you and if you sign up for a shopper card, they also send you coupon books every few months with produce deals galore in them.)

Also, I haven't bought the paper in months and I almost never use the coupons from those circulars. I rely on printables, apps, and other deals instead.

Other ways to save money on produce with coupons:

Look for the marked-down stuff in the back of the store! Here, my local Kroger stores do this regularly. I've bought barely browning bananas for pennies and frozen them to make smoothies and "ice cream." I always see bruised fruit or veggies that are on their way to mush but still edible. If my budget was even tighter than it is now, I'd buy from there constantly.

Buy in season! Out-of-season fresh produce = more expensive. Find out what's in season in your area and buy that to get the best prices.

Frozen frozen frozen! Many studies have shown that frozen veggies are as good as - sometimes better than - fresh. Plus it lasts longer (how many times have you bought fresh stuff and had it go bad? Just me? I doubt it...). I can get a big bag of frozen spinach for 99 cents and I put that in everything. Frozen peas are awesome. Frozen broccoli rules. I buy a lot of frozen produce. Store brand, mostly. But there are almost always coupons for the national brands and this is particularly awesome when you can combine it with a sale.

Apps! Ibotta (referral link!), Savingstar, Checkout 51, Snap from Groupon (also a referral link!). All almost always have rebate deals on fresh produce - Savingstar has a weekly 20% deal, Checkout 51 has given me money off of bananas, oranges, and salad mix, to name a few. Ibotta has deals all the time. There are downsides to this strategy - you have to save your receipt (hi, husband who never remembers to do this), take a picture of it within the app (and scan the bar codes of things you bought - that takes 1 second though), upload it, and wait to be credited. It's an extra step to save money but for me it's worth it. Then all of these apps have a minimum threshold for cashing out, so this is not fast. But it's money back for produce, and I'll take it. Also check out Shopmium (referral code - please use it! - GMMKKUWC, and you'll get a free Lindt chocolate bar when you do, which is LIKE a vegetable...), which kicks back your savings to you without a minimum, and BerryCart, which is all organic/healthy products, including produce.

Target! Target will text you coupons if you sign up for them, and I have seen fresh (and frozen) produce deals almost every week.

Digital coupons! Kroger has digital coupons for fresh stuff often (usually its house-brand organics).

Printables! Especially the printables from Mambo Sprouts (all organic/healthy stuff), but poke around on coupons.com, smartsource.com, redplum.com, and also coupons.target.com (some are Target store coupons - and some stores consider Target a competitor and take 'em too - and some are manufacturer).

Overage! Sometimes you have to buy something you don't want/need (DONATE IT) because it's not only free but your coupons/savings give you more back than the item costs - and then you can apply that extra to your produce. Rare these days, but it does happen. How do you find out about these deals? Well...

Bloggers! Find the bloggers covering your area/your local stores and follow them! They do all the legwork for you. I don't know what I'd do without Michelle from iheartpublix and iheartkroger. (I also like Southern Savers.) MoneySavingMom and CouponMom also cover grocery stores across the country. Let them tell you what's on sale and how to maximize that sale! They often highlight produce deals so watch for those in particular - and scroll by what you won't buy/use/eat.

Go to the brands themselves! Find Facebook or webpages for produce "brands" and sign up for whatever you can. Check packages too - some brands of strawberries, for example, or packaged lettuce blends, definitely offer printables and bonuses and deals. Basically, look for any spot where you might be able to get a discount and sign up for it.

And finally, yes, there are circular coupons for produce. Usually it's for frozen/name brands (Birds Eye, Green Giant, etc.), but sometimes it's for fresh (I've seen coupons for oranges, pomegranates, lettuce....). Also sometimes they come in the form of "Buy this one thing, get this produce thing for a discount/free." If you're buying the first thing anyway (like...buy cereal, get strawberries), this can work out well for you.

Then stretch what you get. Buy in bulk if you find a great deal and freeze (I did this with fresh organic strawberries when they were at their peak - cheapest and sweetest - a few months ago, and I plan to use them in January when it's dark and cold). Make a soup (and freeze it). Sneak everything into pasta sauce. Etc etc etc. I also adore BudgetBytes for recipes that are inexpensive and full of veggies.

I will update this post if I think of more tips, and I welcome your comments on how you save money on fruits and vegetables because nom nom nom!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Current Favorite Recipes and Getting Out of a Rut

The only way to get out of a writing rut is to crawl my way to the edge and up and out, I suppose.

In an effort to save money and to stop going to the amazing, beautiful, fabulous restaurants that surround me where I live, I've started actively cooking again. Before this "I'm cooking, look at me go!" moment, my husband mostly was the family cook. He is amazing for doing this, first of all. Second, his skill is opening a pantry of ingredients and throwing things together - often within a short period of time - to produce a dinner that the entire family will eat. That way of cooking impacts how we grocery shop to a large degree - we buy ingredients without thinking exactly of how they'll fit together. They just will.

Plus I am a Lifetime Weight Watchers member. I don't track anymore (oh I have the best of intentions some mornings - and by midday I've given up again) but I have maintained my weight for well over two years and don't want to screw that up. I am very mindful of ingredients, portions, calories, and so on. I don't skimp, necessarily, but I am careful. And I like to eat as little processed foods as possible and there are some ingredients that I avoid as much as I possibly can.

What we usually have for dinner when he cooks: A grain (whole wheat pasta, quinoa, brown rice), a protein (we keep a vegetarian house even though now my husband is not vegetarian and my daughter is not when she's out and about - he's not a fan of tofu but I am, we also use seitan, beans/chickpeas, and the occasional faux meat - usually Gardein, sometimes other brands depending on what's on sale). Vegetables of all kinds - usually fresh but sometimes frozen, almost always organic but sometimes not. A sauce - he's a big fan of all kinds of sauces and spices and will make/mix/create with them. And we almost always have a "salad," whether that's a bag of greens rinsed and put into bowls or something fancier. (I used to eat my salad first but now he's taught me to have it after my main course. It's just what we do.)

But sometimes I am just tired of that combination of things. Of course all I want to do is say "let's go out to eat!" but our financial situation is, as a household of two freelancers at the moment, precarious on a good day. Our local restaurants are just amazing. Just....amazing. But we cut back to maybe once or twice a month, and we order carefully.

Cut to me realizing I need to cook more. I've always loved to cook, I even did cook every so often, but it's easier to just let my husband take over. My way of cooking is more often than not to find a recipe I like (blogs, friends' recommendations, cookbooks...) and follow it as closely as I possibly can. When I realized "Hey, I need to cook more because that produces the more complex kinds of dinners I like - the ones I'm craving in restaurants," I started seeking out recipes that could become part of a routine.

I am lucky to be friends with a woman who plans her meals very, very carefully and who already had this sort of stable of recipes established for her family. They eat very little meat, so most of her favorites are either already vegetarian or easily adapted. She recommended a few blogs to me, and I added them to my repertoire.

So here is a list of recipes that I make on the regular for my family. Most are from Budget Bytes and Skinny Taste. My daughter eats the things on this list sometimes. I will make notes as to how I modify them for her. This list, this entire post, is just to climb out of the rut. Sorrynotsorry if it's not complete or exciting or helpful. It just is what it is.

http://www.budgetbytes.com/2012/05/mediterranean-quesadillas/ - When I make this, I make 8-10 at once and freeze most of them, each individually wrapped in foil and placed into a large plastic bag. They cook from frozen beautifully and I love that I have many lunches already made ahead of time. But I save a plain tortilla for my kid and I make her a quesadilla with cheese, black beans, and spinach instead.

http://www.budgetbytes.com/2013/05/italian-wonderpot/ - Fast and easy and the kid eats it with no modifications except that I give her Parmesan instead of feta.

http://www.budgetbytes.com/2014/03/portobello-polenta-bowls/ - I make these for my lunch all. the. time. I make a batch of polenta ahead of time and just scoop some out every day and cook up some fast mushrooms/spinach and throw on the feta and sauce. Divine.

http://www.cooks.com/recipe/b93hx9nf/easy-homemade-flour-tortillas.html - I have learned how to make tortillas, but I haven't learned how to make them round. Suggestions on this problem are welcome. I halve this recipe and use a blend of 1 cup of whole wheat pastry flour and 1/2 cup of regular flour. (I also like to use Trader Joe's whole wheat tortillas because they don't have any crazy ingredients and are inexpensive. I have yet to find a regular grocery store brand of tortillas that has such a short ingredient list.) (Next up: Try to make corn tortillas.)

http://www.skinnytaste.com/2013/06/quinoa-and-spinach-patties.html - These feel like they take forever to make/cook but they are delicious and are excellent hot or cold the next day too. The kid eats these though she whines while doing so.

http://www.skinnytaste.com/2012/10/spaghetti-with-creamy-butternut-leek.html - The kid eats this and really that's the end of that. It's so easy.

Two pickle recipes that I've made:
http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2014/07/easiest-fridge-dill-pickles/ - I love staring at Smitten Kitchen's recipes a lot but have yet to make anything beyond this.

http://www.laaloosh.com/2014/06/17/spicy-cucumber-salad-recipe - I ate this daily for all of June and much of July. 

http://www.laaloosh.com/2014/01/15/kidney-bean-salad-recipe/ - Super easy and absolutely gorgeous.

http://mydarlingvegan.com/2013/09/baked-apple-cider-donuts -  It's fall! It's time to make these apple cider donuts over and over and over...

http://www.snack-girl.com/snack/homemade-donut-recipe/ - More donuts!

Also I have been making pizza once a week using premade dough from either YDFM (usually) or Trader Joe's. I'm learning new ways to make that better but have yet to leap to a pizza stone and peel. I know, I know. I use a Dollar Tree pan. It works. I have my eye on this simple dough recipe but haven't done it yet - premade dough is only $1.20 or so: http://moneysavingmom.com/2009/02/homemade-pizza-in-less-than-30-minutes.html Last night I actually made pizza using TJs dough and I tried making it on the *back* of the Dollar Tree pan and...that worked very well.

So there are some of my latest tricks. I have a clipboard hanging on the wall onto which I clip any recipes that I've printed out, so I have sort of a makeshift and ever-growing cookbook there. I probably should use my actual cookbooks more often. Maybe that's a post for another day.

Monday, August 4, 2014

#contest! Dial Coconut Water Refreshing Mango Body Wash: Review and Giveaway

The Dial brand provided me with a sample of Dial Coconut Water Refreshing Mango body wash plus coupons in exchange for a product review. Everything you see here is my own personal opinion and was not influenced by the freebies or anything else.

This is what Dial Coconut Water Refreshing Mango body wash looks like. See? See.
When I signed up to try out Dial Coconut Water Refreshing Mango Hydrating Body Wash (say THAT five times fast), I hadn't gotten stuck in the "thrifting post" rut. And now I'm trying to get my head around telling you nice things about body wash. This one is good though. It feels moisturizing, it smells good, it made me feel clean. I think that the idea of coconut water - drinking it, washing in it - is a bit overhyped (the New York Times agrees with me - and also mentions this Dial product line of all things), but it does make for a nice product, and Dial won't break the bank. Trendy ingredients, good smells, fruity stuff, and you can grab it at your local grocery store for cheap? Sure! I recommend it.

I have two free product coupons available to give away. I'll keep this contest simple - but do note that I am a small enough blogger who gets few enough entries that I have time to vet every single one. If you type random words or don't answer my questions in the Rafflecopter widget, I will delete every entry and you won't win this fabulous prize. This really happened to me in my last contest and it was disheartening. Just jump through my hoops, OK?

Contest runs August 4-10, 2014. United States addresses only, please.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Sorry Not Sorry: The Thrifting Posts Continue! - July 22, 2014

First: A SHOUT OUT to my new friends. You know who you are. Whee! SHOUTY!

So I thought for sure that 50 cent day was last week, but no. The store's calendar said yes, but the staff said that it was this week. Last week I bought one thing - some dividers for drawers from the Container Store for $2. This week I bought....many things.

(Not shown: I bought two cardboard storage boxes with handles to corral more of the overwhelming paper mess in my house. I'm going to cover them with cute paper. Probably. Maybe.)

All the clothing cost 50 cents per piece. (The store does a monthly clean out where anything that has been in the store longer than...it seems about 2 months...gets marked down. This is my happy happy place.)

Oh, sorry, were you napping? Didn't mean to wake you...

Brown sleeveless Merona top.

Suuuuper cute Ann Taylor Loft skirt. The ribbon belt is adorable. It's greener in person.

Stripey button down shirt because I need button down shirts again. AT Loft.

This innocuous, squishy, foldy bit of fabric is in fact a yoga-pants-material squishy skirt. It's Merona and it kind of reminds me of a maternity skirt I loved to pieces - except not maternity.

Dockers dress! (So classy that I left the doorknob in there.) This one has a story - I've been eyeing this dress for a while now but I wasn't interested in paying $8 for it. The last time I hit 50 cent day, I was pretty sure this dress would be on those special racks, but the staff hadn't had time to look at the dresses at all. I skipped last month's 50 cent day. Today I saw that it was still on the rack and I was POSITIVE this should be marked down - so I grabbed it and asked, noting the magic number on the tag. "Oh, yes! Definitely." Yeehaw. It's cute on too.

Some sort of plain gray shirt.

Again with the jeans. I know, I know. Abercrombie though. And next to them, that thing is a long black stretchy skirt, just trust me.

Really cute AT Loft shirt. More button downs, see?


This shirt is good but not great, but it's American A*parel (yes, I starred it - I don't want this to come up in search because that company is problematic - but they do make cute, soft shirts).

This is the robot portion of the post. ROBOTS. Does this shirt fit me? I have no idea, I didn't try it on. Will it fit my kid? Maybe. BUT ROBOTS. So I bought it.

ROBOTS. ALL THE ROBOTS. Same story as above.

SERIOUSLY, MORE ROBOTS. Same story. ROBOTS.

I went back and forth on this shirt (what does it mean?) but it fit well and it's a Bella shirt (nice, soft) so eh 50 cents, sure.

Shorts for the kid!

A sister shirt to the other Snoopy shirt I bought recently!

Talbots skirt. Fits well, flares out in a nice A line. Love.
ALSO:

Old-style Candyland for a dollar. The cards are possibly not all there and some are bent, but the board is perfect - we can use it with the spinner from the (weird, overwhelming, sensory-overloading) newer version we have.
Tadaaaaaa. Thrifting!