Saturday, November 8, 2008

Clearance Rack and Thrift Store Shopping: Christmas Edition

So many of you expressed interest in knowing what I do to score the deals that I get. As Fox 8 is playing a Call for Action report on holiday shopping, I'll give you my advice for some saving of the green for this upcoming holiday season.

1. I go to to research the Day After Thanksgiving Day ads. I make notes, make plans, compare ads and make a final shopping list. This year, I'm looking for dealie poo's for K-, as she has been inundated with ads of the Pottying Dolly and the "Waterproof" Dog-- things that she thinks that she cannot possibly live without. Little does she know that Santa has a limit of 50.00 per person in our house. With that kind of limit this year, I'm trying to max as much as I can. (Edited to add- The dolly in question is the Little Mommy doll and is 59.99. Uh, no. I never did find the Water Puppy, but did score BOGO on Polly Pocket's at Toys R Us.)
2. Our gifts don't have to be new. I know that this is going to freak a few people out, but when it comes to items such as movies, CD's, and video games we're good with it. In fact, my husband went with my daughter last year to the 50 cent Monday Sale at our local Village Discount Outlet and bought me a beautiful sweater for 50 cents. He laundered, boxed and wrapped it. GREAT! It's toasty and I don't care that I didn't cut the tag off. I'm proud of the man for going and finding a rockin' good deal! Also, one of my best friends gifted a pre-owned Strawberry Shortcake board game to K- last year. It was in perfect condition with everything included. She paid 90 cents for it at the thrift store. K- was thrilled with it and we weren't put out in the slightest!
3. I start shopping the day after Christmas the year previous to when the gifts are due. Between nieces, nephews, my daughter's siblings (she has an open relationship with several siblings), and friend's children we have 27 children to buy for. My limit is $5.00-6.00 per child. Target runs FANTASTIC sales! I'll hit them after Christmas. I'm armed with a pen and a list. So that I keep things straight, I'll write right on the clearance tags the name of the recipient while I'm standing in the aisle. I have a shelf in the basement that I keep all of my gift stock on. I'll take and label the item with a name and date in Sharpie on an index card. (Ethan S C8 = Ethan Smith, Christmas 2008) I'll peel the clearance tag off and place it on the back of the index card. I then tape that to the gift, so that I can glance at the shelf and plainly see who has been purchased for and what I spent. Occasionally, I'll score things for 70-90% off. If it's a rockin' item for way cheap, sometimes I'll only spend $2.00-3.00 on a kid. It doesn't matter. I'm buying them good stuff and they could care less what I spend! Our local grocery also clearances their toy stock right before or right after the holidays. They generally get a few promotional displays of some really great name brand toys. I'll hit their racks, too as I shop for food.
4. I have a friend who has a $25.00 gift limit period. She doesn't care if she got it on sale. She always feels as if that is what she has to spend. Take advantage of those clearance racks and use them to save money, not to just acquire more to add to your gift. Again, no one knows that you spent. Even if they do, they might be impressed with your thriftiness!
5. Discounters. We have Marc's in our area. They are part grocery, part closeouts. We've been able to find absolutely wonderful deals there. It's not always a complete lock on a gift, but sometimes you can find a true gem. The Big Lots in our area have gotten a little funky, but we used to get some occasional decent deals there, too.
6. Homemade matters. My siblings and I are all experiencing tight budgets. A few years ago, we all decided that homemade is the way to go. I can jelly and pearsauce for everyone and box up a variety of homemade Christmas cookies. I box the cookies in the boxes that I get from invoices at work. My siblings return the jars each year so that they can be refilled, so I don't have a terribly large amount of money in packaging of Christmas goodies.
7. The freebie table at work. I work at an art gallery with a sister gift store attached. Once a year, our lunchroom table becomes the freebie clearance area of items not claimed for return to manufacturers. There are many beautiful items that need a little tweak, have a minor flaws that most people wouldn't see, or need a stitch or two. I have gifted many things off of the freebie table. People don't know. They're just thrilled to be receiving something!

Remember that it is the thought that counts, not the price tag. I'm hoping that some of my shopping tricks will help to make your holiday season a little easier. Do you have any groovy money saving tricks for holiday shopping?

Friday, November 7, 2008

Happy Birthday, Grandma!

My grandma is 91 today. In her 91 years, she has had a lot of life experiences, but has been having the effects of Stage 4 Small Cell Lymphoma creep up on her. She's still toodling around, though. She loves her chocolate (gee, where do I get it from?), the color red, the love of her Lord and Savior and family. K- and I visit weekly (unless we're hauling some flu or cold.) We love visiting with Grandma and Aunt Donna. We were able to visit yesterday. My mom came with us and brought a homemade applesauce cake. We scored some really cute balloons at the Dollar Tree, and Grandma thought she was in heaven!

Grandma, have a good ole hunk of cake today! You deserve it! Happy Birthday!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Chicken Corn Chowder-licious

The first time that I had Chicken Corn Chowder was at a motorcycle club sponsored Easter egg hunt for economically disadvantaged children. My sister was due with her first child and I flew into BWI to come help her get things in order. We made a pitstop on the way to her house to help out with the Easter egg hunt. I tell you that I definitely did not look like I fit in. I can also tell you that these folks who knew nothing about me, welcomed me with open arms and let me sling food and Easter eggs along with the rest of them. Then they fed me the most delicious soup I ever had in my entire life. Chicken Corn Chowder. They had the authentic, Pennsylvania Dutch version, but I've made my own. It's so stinkin' close, that my memory from 7 1/2 years ago says that it tastes the same to me!
I present to you, my version of Chicken Corn Chowder:
Since it was my own altered version, I'll share with you the recipe (and a record for myself so that I can do it again.) To quote my friend Cj, "YUMBO!"

Chicken Corn Chowder

2 skinless chicken breasts, boiled with 3 boullion cubes and sliced/cubed/shredded
Stock from boiled chicken breasts
1 stalk of celery, chopped fine
A handful of short cut carrots, chopped
1 medium onion, sliced
Handful of dried parsley leaves
1 bay leaf
2 cups diced potatoes, skin on
3 cups frozen corn
2 cups cooked ABC noodles (you use what you have, people)
1 cup heavy cream
Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste.

Place everything in the crock pot EXCEPT for the heavy cream and noodles. Cook on high for 6 hours. An hour before serving, add heavy cream and noodles. YUMMY!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Works for Me Wednesday: Toys Worth Buying Edition

We purchased the Fisher Price Twin Time Dollhouse for our daughter last year for Christmas.

Her birthday is December 20, so she gets a lot of miscellaneous things as it is. After several years of a Hannukah style Christmas (she literally shut down on opening and wouldn't open anymore, thus leaving us with a gift a day to open for the next several), we opted to purchase one big gift with the items to go with. Can I say, she has loved it! In fact, she is looking forward to Santa bringing the wedding couple to her. Still a year later, she loves it and that makes a mama's heart happy.
I had the house out of the box and wrapped in a sheet. (Klassy, I know.) We had the rooms bundle wrapped, so there were 3 - 4 boxes together. She was thrilled! It took a bit of time to cut the parts out of the boxes. The house and parts can seem a little more expensive, but Toys R Us runs them BOGO at the holidays, so it isn't too bad. I ended up purchasing mine early in the season last year and returned it several times until I ended up with the house, all the rooms available at the time (and yard items) for $100.00. The mega box that they offer is a nice idea, but you can save more money if you do some price comparisons. I initially purchased early, because we knew that's what we wanted for K- and were afraid that we wouldn't be able to find it.
In the end, we're pleased to announce that in our house, it was a hit!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


I'm a voting purist. I have decided to stick to going to the voting booth on VOTING DAY. Call it too many hanging and pregnant chads, uncounted votes and whatnot. I'm just not of the mind that it should have begun on such a large scale election. I also like the feeling of going to the polls vote on Election Day. I do understand, however, that this is not always a feasible option to all.
I know who I'm voting for, but don't believe that it is my place to use this blog as a voting forum.

Please vote.
Here are some tips to help you make sure Election Day in Ohio goes smoothly:
Polls will be open from 6.30 a.m. to 7.30 p.m. Even if you're in line at 7:30 p.m., you still have the right to vote.
You will be asked to show an approved form of ID when you arrive at the polls. Valid forms of ID include a current Ohio Driver's License, Ohio State Photo ID, military ID, current utility bill, government check, paycheck, and bank statement.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Betty Crocker is in the House

Pumpkin pie. From scratch. You know, not drop out of the box and bake. Take real pumpkin and make it into something and bake. I will now put that into the category that the 7 course meal has fallen into. A great idea, but never again. (At least it is my current thought.) I now know why they sell cans of the stuff in the store.

I was tired before I started. Now I'm really tired. Here is photographic proof of the venture. Hubs said that it is the "best pumpkin pie he's ever had." My daughter scarfed it down. My piece was mighty tasty, too!

The recipe can be found at I also had Chicken Corn Chowder in the crockpot, with the plan that we'll eat on it for a few days. (I'm posting about that on Thursday.) I'm looking at an extremely long week. Sunday is choir practice and a leadership meeting. Then I'll be working far too many hours Monday -Wednesday as I prepare my end of the gallery for the Christmas Open House on Saturday.

In the meantime, enjoy my Betty Crockerness. Both the pie and soup were out of this world, so they were well worth the 1/2 day it took to prepare them!