Tuesday, September 9, 2014

BORN FREE has changed to THE BUSY BUDGETER You will be automatically redirected in 5 seconds.

BORN FREE HAS MOVED AND IS NOW:

 

The Busy Budgeter

 

Located at: BusyBudgeter.com



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If you are not automatically redirected, click the link above for all the same great Tips, Tricks and Money Saving Ideas with a new look!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Goodbye and Hello! Born Free Grows Up!




I'm so excited to announce that just as we hit 3 million pageviews, Born Free Northern Virginia is finally growing up into a big girl blog. :) I'm officially moving to my own private domain website. This gives me tons of exciting opportunities and is long overdue.

I originally started this blog during the pregnancy of my first son as a way to keep busy while resting. I expected my Mom to be my one and only fan. What it became is much larger than I ever could have expected and writing grew to mean a lot to me. You guys grew to mean a lot to me. I found friends locally who love the same things that I do, that I never would have discovered without this outlet. I found out that I'm not alone in my love of all things budgeting.

When I move this weekend, Born Free Northern Virginia will take on a new identity as it grows up.
The Busy Budgeter struck me as the perfect name because while I give tips and tricks on living a simple life, decluttering, organizing, budgeting, and easy recipes, everything is written from the perspective of budgeting. I'm a fan of the bottom line, what will this cost you?, what will you save?, and is it worth it?. We all have way too many things on our plates right now, and we need inside information to save money easily.

Starting this weekend, you can find us at http://www.busybudgeter.com/. Because of the way that these emails are set up through the free blogger site, I won't be able to take you all with me. You'll be able to head to the new site this Sunday, September 7th 2014 at 6pm and you can subscribe to my email list there. You'll still be able to go to http://www.bornfreenorthernvirginia.com and it will redirect you to the new site.

Thank you so much for all your support over the years, and I can't wait to start the next leg of this journey!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

I pay $41.00/month for my iPhone Plan! Ting Review.


I pay $41/month (an average of $32/month!) for my iPhone and use it all the time through Ting! Between me and my husband this saves us over $1,000/year! It's available everywhere that Sprint is and the service is great!


One of the few luxuries we have is our iPhones. It's such a useful tool that's fully integrated in my life. I can blog on my iPhone (Blogger), keep our family calendar up to date (COZI), track my calories (Myfitnesspal), my pregnancy (What to expect), my work outs, my weight, my steps and sleep quality (Fitbit) , handle task lists (Reminders), get directions based on my current location (Maps), do my banking (Mint), upload memories for my son to his life book (Moment Garden), play free music (Amazon Music), find out how close my husband is using his gps coordinates to get dinner ready on time (Find iPhone), and plan my meals for the week then create a shopping list in ten minutes (MealBoard). Needless to say, the iPhone is almost a necessity for me.


The downside to the iPhone is the monthly bills! Two years ago, we were paying $202 for two iPhones through ATT with unlimited everything. Last year, we switched to Sprint and paid $170 for the same. The service is not as great with sprint as ATT, for instance you can't surf the internet or use data while you're talking on the phone but the few minor hiccups were well worth $30/month to me


Then I found out about Ting. 


Benefits of Ting:

1. There's no contract! Try it for a month. If you hate it, just cancel!

2. You can bring any phone with you from Sprint at no cost.

3. You'll use the Sprint Network and won't notice a difference in service if you already use Sprint.

4. It's so cheap! My bill is always under $41, my husbands averages $57.00, both with heavy use.

5. You can check what your bill will be before you sign up! I entered 12 months of text, data and voice usage from past bills for both my husband and I before I made the switch. It generates the average bill amount for me. I already knew what I would be paying before I signed on.(click here for their website to use this feature)

6. Everything on wifi is free, which includes iMessage to other iPhone users (including photo texts!)

7. Ting roams to the Verizon Network at no additional cost to you for voice and text. This ensures that you can get a signal wherever you are!

8. They run bad ass promotions that show they know you won't leave if you sign up (see the last paragraph).

9. It's free to tether! They even encourage it! You can run your laptop or your iPad off of your iPhone's data.

10. Very transparent charges. You don't have to worry about hidden anything. (See the chart at the bottom of this post).

11. You can save $25 on your first bill by signing up using this link!


My Last Bill With Ting. 

When I heard about Ting, I was intrigued but figured the service was horrible, or that there was hidden fees. I waited 6 months until my contract with Sprint was up before I tried Ting! I could have saved $600 if I had just done it then! It was easy to transfer service, I never had to bring my phone anywhere, and my phone was only out of order for about 15 minutes during the change over. I haven't noticed any difference in the service and they have an awesome app that let's you know what you've used and based on that, what your estimated bill would be.


If you don't have sprint and don't have a sprint phone, you'll have to get a Ting capable phone (just like your ATT phone wouldn't work with the Sprint Network). You can go to the Ting website here, and they'll assist you in selling your phone and buying a capable device. It's a bit like eBay, so as long as you're buying and selling a similar device, the costs should be nominal. They also have warranted refurbished phones for purchase although they would be more expensive. 


I haven't found any drawbacks with Ting, as long as you use the estimated savings calculator before you switch. Just to make sure you aren't one of the 2% of users that wouldn't save money by switching. 


If you have questions, I'd love to answer them. There's very few companies that get brand loyalty from me (Wegmans and USAA), but Ting has officially made the list.



Promotions:

Use this link for a $ 25.00 credit when you sign up!
Early Termination Fee: They'll pay 25% of your early termination fee up to $75.00. (Click here)
iPhone and Samsung: They'll pay any difference in price for buying and selling the same model phone if you don't have a sprint compatible device.(Click here)
Small businesses: if you have 6 or more devices for your business, send them your last few bills. If you won't save money switching to Ting, they'll send you a foosball table! (Click here)

Monday, September 1, 2014

22 Free and Cheap Date Nights in Northern Virginia! Prince William, Fairfax, Loudoun, Arlington, Alexandria, and DC included.


FDR Memorial at Sunset: Washington, D.C.


Let's face it... Northern Virginia is not a cheap place to live. Friends from out of state gasp at how much we paid for a 900 square foot townhouse. If you commute to work (which is likely to be a half hour or more!), you're going to spend a fortune in gas from the constant braking/ accelerating thanks to the traffic on our lovely Interstate system. But there's a beauty here too. I love this place. I love the access that I have to so many amazing places. If you look out of the ordinary there is so much for this area to offer you, especially in the name of cheap love! (That didn't sound right did it?)


Whether it's your first date (Don't be boring and do the dinner thing!), or you're 7th anniversary and you have 6 kids, Try out a few of my favorite date nights in Northern Virginia!


1. Blueberry picking at Great Country Farms (Loudoun County): 

         There's plenty of other pick your own farms in Northern Virginia but Loudon definitely has the most diverse. Great Country Farms is my favorite because they have blueberries! Pick a ton, freeze them and you'll be eating blueberry pancakes to commemorate your date for a while! Pack a picnic to bring with you. Click here to head to Great Country Farms and then click here for a full listing of Loudon county pick your own farms.



2. Cosmic bowling at Bowl America:

           Is it a little lame? Sure. Are the shoes pretty goofy? Yup. But it's also an absolute blast! Cosmic bowling is when the lights come down and the glow in the dark features come out. They even have glow in the dark balls! Games and shoe rental can get more expensive than I like (I have mentioned I'm cheap right?), but look on the website for Bowl America (who has a heavy presence in NoVa), right now they have a 25 cents per game and 25 cents per hotdog promotion going on all weekend! Click here for the bowl America website.


3. Potomac Nationals ball game:

          I'm not a sports fan, I barely know anything about sports at all. But I love heading to P-nats games. They have dollar nights for every Monday night home game (click here for their website), where hotdogs and tickets are each a dollar. Parking is $5.00, but it's well worth it. I was so excited about this date, I wrote a full write up on it... Click here for that.


4. FDR Memorial at Sunset:

         Quite possibly my favorite place in the world. It's beautiful and meaningful, and if you pack a picnic, it'll be the best date of your life. Click here for more info. 


5. Manassas Airport:

          We did this not too long ago. Pack up a picnic, beach chairs or camp chairs and take them out to the airport. It's a small airport but fairly busy. Set yourself up in the grass before sunset and pack a blanket to keep warm. You can watch the planes take off well into the dark and it's always one of my favorite places. If you have particularly cool friends, have them meet you with the same. We did that and had a blast. Click here for the airport website. 


6. Planetarium:

          Air and Space Museum's Saturday Star Parties- click here for the link. Meet up in Sky Meadows State Park on assigned nights (click the link to check the schedule) to look at the night sky with both amateur astronomers and astronomers from the observatory. And of course... Pack a picnic!


7. Potomac River Waterfront Park at sunset:

          While we usually avoid the Woodrow Wilson Bridge like the plague, there's a good reason to head over there. There's a beautiful park on top of the bridge on the Maryland side. The views from there are stunning (and occasionally of accidents on I-495) and both sunset and sunrise will take your breath away.Click here for more info.


8. Geocaching:

         You don't have to be in NoVa to try this out, but thanks to our zillion people living in close quarters, it makes it a great place to get into it. Geocaching is the epitome of frugal entertainment. You and your date register for free at this website, then type in the zip code you want to head to. You'll enter a real life treasure hunt where you follow the instructions that will lead you to the treasure. The treasure might be anything from a log book to an Xbox. I should mention that geocaching rules state you must leave something of equal or greater value if you take the treasure.


9. Hiking at Prince William Forest Park:

          There's an entrance fee per car to enter the park, about $7.00 but I would pay the 20 per year if you live close for unlimited access. You can click here for updated information. It's absolutely serene and beautiful. You'll have no idea that you're in the middle of Northern Virginia. They have ponds and deep woods and the bathrooms are all clean (am I the only one that thinks about these things?) This is also several beautiful spots for a picnic. 


10. IKEA:

         Head to Ikea to plan your dream home then stay for hotdogs! IKEA is like my vacation home. Seriously, I'm there that often. Besides the $.50 hotdogs, we love the showroom. We love walking through and planning what our future house (you know, the house we'll have once our babies learn not to destroy things and we have enough saved that we feel comfortable spending money on decorating) will look like. If you have kids, they also have free child care for a bit in smaaland.  You can find their website here


11. Biking/Walking the Mount Vernon Trail:

           This trail winds along the Potomac River and offers breathtaking views and tons of greenery. There's no fee, and it's one of my top picnic spots. Click here to head to their website for more info.


12. Free Yoga at National Harbor or Lorton Workhouse Arts Center:

          Are you a yogi? Head over to the sites for Lorton Work House Arts Center and the National Harbor to check for updated information about their free yoga days. Both are done outside during nice weather and would be a great date!


13. Free outdoor movies at (tons of places! Stonebridge Towne Center in Woodbridge and National Harbor are my favorites):

         Outdoor movies are amazing for so many reasons! You can bring a picnic or your own snacks, you can bring the kids (this is perfect for a toddlers first movie!). These are typically only available in the summer, so plan accordingly and follow the facebook page of National Harbor (found here) and Stonebridge (found here) for updates. If you live in Prince William County, save yourself all of that trouble and just follow Prince William County Moms page (found here), she'll list events for any Prince William area outdoor movies.


14. Gravelly Point on the Mount Vernon Trail:

         You can walk the Mount Vernon Trail in Arlington, or you can head right here for a memorable picnic. If you spread out your blanket and lay down, the planes fly directly over your head (closer than you would think! I swear I could see duct tape on the door of an overhead plane once). You can get some really cool photos with he planes overhead as well. This park is right on the shores of the potomac and offers beautiful views of the DC monuments. Click here for directions- The link goes to the yelp page for the park, which has both directions and the reviews. The reviews say it all.


15. Screw the traffic, stay in and have a cooking date night:

          Tough week at work? Sick of traffic? Drop the kids off at the babysitters house and stay in. You can plan an amazing meal right into your grocery budget. Make it something that's a little time consuming but well worth it. My dream cooking date night meal would be sweet and sour pork with vegetable eggs rolls, fried rice, fortune cookies and pistachio ice cream. All done by hand:) You can do some of the food prep work ahead of time if it helps. Cooking together is fun, sensual  and builds team work skills (which really, team work skills is pretty much essential to a good marriage). 


16. Washington National baseball games- 

          If you're a huge baseball fan and would get more out of the Major League game than the Potomac Nationals, they do have dollar nights! If you take the Metro up (just a few dollars) and take the nosebleed seats, you can go to a game very cheaply. If your not really into baseball, I would stick to the P-Nats which are amazing and fun. Click here for their website. 

17. Ingham family Mystery Challenge:

If you have a bit to spend and want to splurge (a little!), try the Ingham Family Mystery Gift Challenge. Each of you is given an envelope with the exact same amount of cash. It can be anything from $3.00 to $50.00, hit a mall (Potomac mills is kind of big for this!) and coordinate your cell phone clocks. You have 1 hour to spend exactly that amount of money on your partner in gifts. Read the full instructions here but to date, this has been my favorite date night ever! 

18. Pinterest project date night: 

All of those amazing projects you would love to do on pinterest, but take some sort of skill that you don't have (woodworking is my achilles heel). This develops the same team building skills as the cooking date night and gives you something in addition to just your memories for your money. You can build a new kitchen table, create a family mission statement, or any project that you're both excited about! 

19. Arlington National Cemetery: 

This is both a powerful and awe inspiring place that will make you really appreciate one another. We're very blessed to live so close to it. Besides walking through the tombstones of soldiers that gave the ultimate sacrifice to their country, you can see JFK's tombstone and the changing of the guard ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. I'm incredibly proud to say that my husband served in the changing of the guard ceremony for the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and you won't be disappointed by the dedication of the men that serve there. Click here for more information. 

20. Dollar Night at Arlington Cinema and Draft House: 

This is a full movie theater that has tables at every seat and offers $2.00 movie nights (usually on Mondays and Tuesdays), you can order full meals, elaborate snacks (nachos are amazing!) or draft beer! Click here for their movie schedule.

21. Cherry Blossoms in DC!

If you plan to head up to see the cherry blossoms, take a good camera (or at least an iPhone) and check out some of the free monuments. The weather is normally beautiful this time of year (March/April) and it's the perfect time to play tourist. You can use the metro and pop on and off to see what interests you most. Try out Bens Chili Bowl if you plan to stay for lunch (only pack a lunch if you have a backpack cooler- you won't want to lug a traditional cooler around). Click here for cherry blossom info. Click here for Ben's Chili Bowl information including menu and prices (the photos are mouth watering).  

22. The National Zoo: 

This amazing place is completely free if you do it right! Pack a picnic (take the stroller if you must, sans baby to stash your stuff in- no one will be the wiser), take metro up (parking is $25 if you'd rather do that but they run out of parking right after they open) and print off a zoo map from the website online (they charge for copies there). The absolute best time to go is off season (we went on an unusually warm day in February and had the time of our lives. It can get really hot and crowded there in the summer.

Click here to follow my local NOVA boards on Pinterest!

Gravelly Point: Arlington, Virginia courtesy of www.dcnaturephotography.blogspot.com

Friday, August 29, 2014

Cheap Eats Menu Plan. 7 days, 21 meals, 3-6 people. $100.




Fair warning... I'm just entering into my second trimester of pregnancy and am having a tough time eating. Bagels and cream cheese seem to be the only thing I can keep down in the am so they're here to stay for a few weeks. I also have aversions to chicken, oatmeal, black beans, and meatballs which makes life a little difficult some days. Let's just say we'll have some interesting meals for the next few weeks.

Click on the meal name for a recipe. We use MealBoard which stores all your recipes, generates your shopping list, organizes by aisle in the grocery store and gives you a total price for your list. I round my prices up, so it's usually a little lower. You can find out more about MealBoard here.

If you love these ideas, feel free to put your email address in the box to the right and I'll email you our menu plan every friday morning. 

We have a freezer and pantry stocked with veggies, and we always get extra lettuce since we both love salad. We also have a club pack of vanilla yogurt from Wegmans that we can add to breakfasts or snacks. (I adore pineapple in yogurt!)

*Just click the link to pull up recipes



AUG 23 - SATURDAY
breakfastLight and Fluffy Pancakes
breakfastApple Pie Filling
lunchLeftovers From Last Night
dinnerSlow Cooker Salisbury Steak
AUG 24 - SUNDAY
breakfastSarah's Applesauce
breakfastAwesome Breakfast Casserole
lunchEasy Chili-Cheese Dog
dinnerCampbell's Kitchen Easy Beef Enchiladas
AUG 25 - MONDAY
breakfastBagel And Cream Cheese With Pineapple Slices
lunchLeftovers From Last Night
dinnerEasy Italian Pasta Casserole 2
AUG 26 - TUESDAY
breakfastCereals
lunchLeftovers From Last Night
dinnerSloppy Joes Spark:)
AUG 27 - WEDNESDAY
breakfastBagel And Cream Cheese With Pineapple Slices
lunchLeftovers From Last Night
dinnerTater Tot Casserole
AUG 28 - THURSDAY
breakfastCereals
lunchLeftovers From Last Night
dinnerPepperoni or Sausage Pizza
AUG 29 - FRIDAY
breakfastBagel And Cream Cheese With Pineapple Slices
lunchLeftovers From Last Night
dinnerMacaroni And Cheese, Squash And Green Beans







Adjusted shopping list for pantry items


Produce
apples, 18 cups for Apple Pie Filling
banana, 2 per person for Cereals
Bread and Bakery
bagels soft, 9 for Bagel And Cream Cheese With Pineapple Slices
hamburger buns, for Sloppy Joes Spark:)
hot dog buns, 6 for Easy Chili-Cheese Dog
pizza crust, 1 for Pepperoni or Sausage Pizza
Meat
OSCAR MAYER Selects Uncured Angus Beef Franks, 6 for Easy Chili-Cheese Dog
package Jimmy Dean 50 % less fat Pork Sausage, 1 12 oz for Awesome Breakfast Casserole
Baking Goods
brown sugar
chocolate chips
cornstarch
Dairy
butter
Cheddar cheese, 2 packages for Campbell's Kitchen Easy Beef Enchiladas
cream cheese, 2 packages for Bagel And Cream Cheese With Pineapple Slices
eggs, 4 for Awesome Breakfast Casserole
flour tortillas, 12 for Campbell's Kitchen Easy Beef Enchiladas
KRAFT 2 % Milk Shredded Mozzarella Cheese, 2 packages for Easy Italian Pasta Casserole 2
milk- whole, 3 cups for Macaroni And Cheese, Squash Ad Green Beans
sausage or Pepperoni, 1/2 package for Pepperoni or Sausage Pizza
Breakfast Foods
cereals, 2 serving for Cereals
Canned/Jar Goods
tomato paste
Oils & Dressings
Extra-virgin olive oil
Pasta/Rice/Beans
regular long-grain white rice, 1 cup for Campbell's Kitchen Easy Beef Enchiladas
whole wheat penne pasta, 3 cups for Easy Italian Pasta Casserole 2
Snacks
almonds
Frozen Foods
servings baked tater tots, 4 for Tater Tot Casserole
International
prepared enchilada sauce, 1 1/2 cups for Campbell's Kitchen Easy Beef Enchiladas
refried beans, 1 can for Campbell's Kitchen Easy Beef Enchiladas
In Cart
2 oz cups

Full shopping list


Produce
apples, 18 cups for Apple Pie Filling
apples - peeled, 4 for Sarah's Applesauce
apples as a side, 2 for Krusteaz Light and Fluffy Pancakes
banana, 2 per person for Cereals
dry onion soup mix, 1 (1 ounce) envelope for Slow Cooker Salisbury Steak
lemon juice, 3 tablespoons for Apple Pie Filling
onion, 2 for multiple recipes
onions, 1/3 cup for Easy Chili-Cheese Dog
Bread and Bakery
bagels soft, 9 for Bagel And Cream Cheese With Pineapple Slices
hamburger buns, for Sloppy Joes Spark:)
hot dog buns, 6 for Easy Chili-Cheese Dog
Italian seasoned bread crumbs, 1/2 cup for Slow Cooker Salisbury Steak
pizza crust, 1 for Pepperoni or Sausage Pizza
Meat
condensed cream of chicken soup, 2 (10.75 ounce) cans for Slow Cooker Salisbury Steak
extra lean beef, 1 pound for Tater Tot Casserole
extra-lean ground beef, 1 lb for Easy Italian Pasta Casserole 2
ground beef, 1 pound for Campbell's Kitchen Easy Beef Enchiladas
ground round, 1 lbs for Sloppy Joes Spark:)
lean ground beef, 2 pounds for Slow Cooker Salisbury Steak
OSCAR MAYER Selects Uncured Angus Beef Franks, 6 for Easy Chili-Cheese Dog
package Jimmy Dean 50 % less fat Pork Sausage, 1 12 oz for Awesome Breakfast Casserole
Baking Goods
all-purpose flour, 1/4 cup for Slow Cooker Salisbury Steak
all-purpose flour, 6 tablespoons for Macaroni And Cheese, Squash Ad Green Beans
cornstarch, 1 cup for Apple Pie Filling
Heart Smart Bisquick mix, 1 cup for Awesome Breakfast Casserole
krusteaz Pancake Mix, 2 cups for Krusteaz Light and Fluffy Pancakes
sugar, 1.33 tablespoons for Sloppy Joes Spark:)
white sugar, 4 3/4 cup for multiple recipes
Dairy
Cheddar cheese, for Campbell's Kitchen Easy Beef Enchiladas
cream cheese, 9 tablespoons for Bagel And Cream Cheese With Pineapple Slices
eggs, 4 for Awesome Breakfast Casserole
flour tortillas, 12 for Campbell's Kitchen Easy Beef Enchiladas
KRAFT 2 % Milk Shredded Mozzarella Cheese, 1-1/2 cups for Easy Italian Pasta Casserole 2
KRAFT Grated Parmesan Cheese, 1/3 cup for Easy Italian Pasta Casserole 2
low-fat shredded cheese, 2 cups for Tater Tot Casserole
milk, 1/4 cup for Slow Cooker Salisbury Steak
milk- whole, 3 cups for Macaroni And Cheese, Squash Ad Green Beans
mozzarella cheese shredded, 2 cups for Pepperoni or Sausage Pizza
sausage or Pepperoni, 1/2 package for Pepperoni or Sausage Pizza
skim milk, 2 cups for Awesome Breakfast Casserole
Breakfast Foods
cereals, 2 serving for Cereals
Canned/Jar Goods
Campbell's® Condensed Cheddar Cheese Soup, 1 can for Campbell's Kitchen Easy Beef Enchiladas
cream of mushroom soup, 2 cans for Tater Tot Casserole
green beans, 1 can for Macaroni And Cheese, Squash Ad Green Beans
pineapple slices, 3 can for Bagel And Cream Cheese With Pineapple Slices
Oils & Dressings
mustard, 1.33 tablespoons for Sloppy Joes Spark:)
vinegar, 1.33 tablespoons for Sloppy Joes Spark:)
Pasta/Rice/Beans
elbow macaroni, 1 box for Macaroni And Cheese, Squash Ad Green Beans
regular long-grain white rice, 1 cup for Campbell's Kitchen Easy Beef Enchiladas
whole wheat penne pasta, 3 cups for Easy Italian Pasta Casserole 2
Sauces & Spices
catsup, 1/2 cup for Sloppy Joes Spark:)
chili, 1 can for Easy Chili-Cheese Dog
ground cinnamon, 2 1/2 teaspoon for multiple recipes
ground nutmeg, 1/4 teaspoon for Apple Pie Filling
pancake syrup (or honey or berries), 1/2 cup for Krusteaz Light and Fluffy Pancakes
pepper, 1/2 tsp for Awesome Breakfast Casserole
pizza sauce or tomato sauce, 1 can for Pepperoni or Sausage Pizza
spaghetti sauce, 1 jar for Easy Italian Pasta Casserole 2
taco seasoning mix or burrito seasoning mix, 1 package for Campbell's Kitchen Easy Beef Enchiladas
Worcestershire sauce, 1.33 tablespoons for Sloppy Joes Spark:)
Frozen Foods
servings baked tater tots, 4 for Tater Tot Casserole
International
prepared enchilada sauce, 1 1/2 cups for Campbell's Kitchen Easy Beef Enchiladas
refried beans, 1 can for Campbell's Kitchen Easy Beef Enchiladas
Uncategorized
dry au jus mix dry au jus mix, 1 (1 ounce) packet for Slow Cooker Salisbury Steak
KRAFT Shredded Cheddar Cheese, 1/3 cup for Easy Chili-Cheese Dog

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

What You're Missing at The Dollar Tree: Best Teaching Products!

Classroom tools for only $1 at The Dollar Tree


I've always loved the dollar store. I love picking up storage containers and stationary there. When I quit my job last year to open up my own home daycare, I realized the true value of a dollar store. The local Dollar Tree has amazing resources for learning, all for $1.00! Crayons, stickers, workbooks (I love the Pre-K ones!), learning posters, reward stickers, chore charts, kids books, coloring books, calendars, clocks, hall passes, you name it!

Here's a few of my favorites from the Dollar Tree in August (their stock rotates with seasons but they always have a teacher aisle). 

1. Educational Wall Posters


Dollar Tree Classroom Wall Posters

 Not only do they usually have the adorable kitty posters with the "Hang in There!" motivational phrases, but they have lots of educational posters. The alphabet, fractions, counting, the periodic table, etc. They do a great job of including most subjects and all ages. For $1.00, you actually get two posters, since each poster has a different one printed on each side (usually in the same subject and always in the same age range). These posters are impressively large as well, and come wrapped in cellophane so you can keep them undamaged until you're ready to hang. 






2. Hall passes, Stickers, Rewards and Awards


Dollar Tree Stickers and Rewards

Hall passes, awards, coupons, and fun handouts. If you need recognition items, they have it! They not only have tons of stickers, but they have popular character stickers too (Sophia the First, Jake and the Pirates, Mickey Mouse). Pencils, pencil toppers, you name it, they have it.




3. Flash Cards


Dollar Tree Flashcards

They have flash cards in several different categories. From first words, to numbers, colors and shapes, to easy matching games for pre-k. They also have a good selection of flashcards for older grades, like multiplication, division, and grammar flashcards.  



4. Calendars, Charts and Learning Clocks


Dollar Tree Chore Charts, Tables, and Clocks

This is my favorite category! They have huge blank wall charts. You can make them into chore charts, potty training charts, subject completion charts, homeschooling charts, anything you can list! The calendars are huge, (as large as the posters), and each one has two sides so you can choose the colors that work best for your space. 



5. Work Books

Dollar Tree Workbooks

I'm always really impressed with the quality of the work books here, I use the Pre-K ones with my two year old. They have a huge assortment of popular characters, subjects and age ranges. They go up to about 5th and 6th grades. For $1.00 each, you can buy several topics that meet your age range and work through them one at a time. Thats what we do. He grabs the book he likes, and we can do it together. 






6. Classroom Decoration, Wall Decor


Dollar Tree Wall Decor/ Classroom Decorations

Dollar Tree has tons of options for sprucing up your classroom walls. They have matching die cut outs, like government, the alphabet, ketchup and mustard, dogs and cats, animals, signs to label parts of a classroom (Reading Center, Art Center, Music Center etc.), cowboy and wild west, etc. They come in packets with tons of items so you can fill a whole wall. A few months ago, I went in and bought die cut stars and put all the kids names on them and taped them to the wall. 


Bonus!


Dollar Tree Papers and Dry Erase Calendars

While you're there, check out the other offers they have. They regularly stock dry erase boards,  dry erase calendars, papers, art pads, construction paper, glue, scissors, crayons, etc. Don't forget to go find my personal dollar store favorites... stationary and Betty Crocker kitchen utensils. Click below to read about my favorite buys at the dollar store for your home.

Organizing using containers from the Dollar Tree



The Best Quality Kitchen Utensils are at The Dollar Tree!

Happy Shopping! Did I miss any of your favorites?

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Monday, August 25, 2014

DIY Project - Kid Proofing Your Dining Chairs in 30 min, for $4.00


Recently, while visiting friends, we noticed that they had an immaculate house despite having 3 kids under the age of 4. How is that even possible? We had long given in to the idea of not having nice things until our youngest is about 7.

One of the dirtiest parts of the house is our kitchen chairs. At 2, our little Squishy is old enough to sit on his own and eat, but man does he make a mess! (Okay, part of this is our fault for having dining chairs with white cloth bottoms). Our friends have absolutely beautiful dining chairs that they covered the bottoms of in clear vinyl. When the kids are old enough, just remove the vinyl. 

This project took us about 20 minutes for 4 chairs and cost about $8.00 (you shouldn't spend more than $4 though!) buy your clear vinyl from either the walmart fabric department or at Joanne's using the 50% off coupon they send out every month. This was a last minute idea for us and we rushed out to get the vinyl without price checking. 

The vinyl wipes off so easily! Even if you forget to wipe the chair right after the meal and the food dries. 
If your fabric chairs are already gross, remove the fabric and wash. Then cover with vinyl. Worst case scenario is that the fabric won't come clean in which case you spend another $4.00 on new fabric.

Needed Items:

Screwdriver
Vinyl - about 1 yard for 4 chairs
Staple Gun - not absolutely necessary but it will make this really easy.


This is so easy, it barely needs a tutorial. Just flip your chair upside down and see how the fabric seat is attached. In this case (and all Ikea chairs) there are 4 screws that connect the seat to the chair. Unscrew those and remove the seat. The fabric is attached by an elastic string. If you want to wash it, peel it off and throw it in the wash. If it's still new and clean, grab your vinyl (we didn't even measure, just eyeballed it- 1 yard of vinyl did 4 chairs with quite a bit extra left over) and fold it around the seat, stapling the edges to the wooden back of the seat.



Then screw the seat back onto the chair and you're all set! It was super easy. It took us less than 30 minutes to do all 4 chairs (most of that was time was trying to hunt down the staple gun). They look great and stains wipe right off. Now if only there was a way to protect the wooden chair back from Squishy's maple syrup covered hands.



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Thursday, August 21, 2014

This weeks menu of cheap, easy meals. Less than $100/week. Week ending 8-22-13





We're aiming to have a restorative and relaxing week after all the traveling and last minute preparations for Jon's new business venture. There's nothing quite like gathering everyone around the table for a home cooked meal. Watching my two year old throw peas on the wall while my husband and I play rock-paper-scissors to see who has to do the dishes. It's a beautiful thing.

Fair warning... I'm just entering into my second trimester of pregnancy and am having a tough time eating. Bagels and cream cheese seem to be the only thing I can keep down in the am so they're here to stay for a few weeks. I also have aversions to chicken, oatmeal, black beans, and meatballs which makes life a little difficult some days. Let's just say we'll have some interesting meals for the next few weeks.

Click on the meal name for a recipe. We use MealBoard which stores all your recipes, generates your shopping list, organizes by aisle in the grocery store and gives you a total price for your list. I round my prices up, so it's usually a little lower. You can find out more about MealBoard here.

If you love these ideas, feel free to put your email address in the box to the right and I'll email you our menu plan every friday morning. 

We're heading to an investor dinner on Saturday night (for Potomac Ale Works, Prince William County's first brewery!), so we're good for that night. I snagged a 10 pound bag of potatoes at the Price Rite (similar to Aldi Grocery) for $3.00 last week, so there's a lot of potato dishes! 

We have a freezer and pantry stocked with veggies, and we always get extra lettuce since we both love salad. We also have a club pack of vanilla yogurt from Wegmans that we can add to breakfasts or snacks. (I adore pineapple in yogurt!)

*Just click the link to pull up recipes


AUG 16 - SATURDAY
breakfastHungry Man's Hash Browns W/ Scrambled Egg
lunch$5 Dinner Mom Mac N Cheese
dinnerDine Out
AUG 17 - SUNDAY
breakfastBreakfast Burritos
lunchLeftovers From Last Night
dinnerHomemade Italian Sausage Sandwiches Recipe
AUG 18 - MONDAY
breakfastBagel And Cream Cheese With Pineapple Slices
lunchLeftovers From Last Night
dinnerImpossibly Easy Cheeseburger Pie
AUG 19 - TUESDAY
breakfastCereals
lunchLeftovers From Last Night
dinnerSlow Cooker Salisbury Steak
AUG 20 - WEDNESDAY
breakfastBagel And Cream Cheese With Pineapple Slices
lunchLeftovers From Last Night
dinnerTortellini With Peas And Cheese
AUG 21 - THURSDAY
breakfastCereals
lunchLeftovers From Last Night
dinnerHam and Pineapple Dinner
AUG 22 - FRIDAY
breakfastBagel And Cream Cheese With Pineapple Slices
lunchLeftovers From Last Night
dinnerSlow Cooker Cream of Broccoli Soup
dinnerScalloped Potatoes 'n' Ham Casserole Recipe
dinnerBest Brownies


Our Shopping List (not including staples, duplicates and unnecessary items)

Produce
banana, 2 per person for Cereals
cream of celery soup, 2 (10.75 ounce) cans for Slow Cooker Cream of Broccoli Soup
dry onion soup mix, 1 (1 ounce) envelope for Slow Cooker Salisbury Steak
fresh tomato, 1/2 cup for Homemade Italian Sausage Sandwiches Recipe
green onions, 2 for Ham and Pineapple Dinner
green pepper, 1 for Hungry Man's Hash Browns W/ Scrambled Egg
onion, 6 for Impossibly Easy Cheeseburger Pie
Bread and Bakery
bagels soft, 9 for Bagel And Cream Cheese With Pineapple Slices
brat buns, 6 for Homemade Italian Sausage Sandwiches Recipe
Meat
banquet sausage, for Breakfast Burritos
condensed cream of chicken soup, 2 (10.75 ounce) cans for Slow Cooker Salisbury Steak
lean ground beef, 3 lbs for Impossibly Easy Cheeseburger Pie
Deli
fully cooked ham large, 2 cups (plus leftovers!) for Scalloped Potatoes 'n' Ham Casserole Recipe
Italian sausage links, 6 for Homemade Italian Sausage Sandwiches Recipe
Baking Goods
Original Bisquick™ mix, 1/2 cup for Impossibly Easy Cheeseburger Pie
Dairy
(4 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese, 3 cup for multiple recipes
butter, 2 stick for multiple recipes
chedar cheese, for Breakfast Burritos
cream cheese, 9 tablespoons for Bagel And Cream Cheese With Pineapple Slices
milk, 1 1/4 cup for multiple recipes
powdered nondairy creamer, 3/4 cup for Scalloped Potatoes 'n' Ham Casserole Recipe
provolone cheese, 6 slices for Homemade Italian Sausage Sandwiches Recipe
torilla wrap, 5 for Breakfast Burritos
Breakfast Foods
cereals, 2 serving for Cereals
Canned/Jar Goods
condensed cream of mushroom soup, 1 (10.75 ounce) can for Slow Cooker Cream of Broccoli Soup
pineapple chunks, 1 cup for Ham and Pineapple Dinner
Sauces & Spices
green pepper, 2 cups for Homemade Italian Sausage Sandwiches Recipe
Frozen Foods
frozen peas, for Tortellini With Peas And Cheese
Uncategorized
dry au jus mix dry au jus mix, 1 (1 ounce) packet for Slow Cooker Salisbury Steak
tortellini, 1 bag for Tortellini With Peas And Cheese







Full Shopping List (Unedited, including staples, duplicates and unnecessary items)

Produce
banana, 2 per person for Cereals
chunks of peeled potatoes, 10 cups for Hungry Man's Hash Browns W/ Scrambled Egg
cream of celery soup, 2 (10.75 ounce) cans for Slow Cooker Cream of Broccoli Soup
dried minced onion, 2 tablespoons for Scalloped Potatoes 'n' Ham Casserole Recipe
dry onion soup mix, 1 (1 ounce) envelope for Slow Cooker Salisbury Steak
fresh tomato, 1/2 cup for Homemade Italian Sausage Sandwiches Recipe
frozen chopped broccoli, 2 (10 ounce) packages for Slow Cooker Cream of Broccoli Soup
garlic, 2 teaspoons for Homemade Italian Sausage Sandwiches Recipe
green onions, 2 for Ham and Pineapple Dinner
green pepper, 1 for Hungry Man's Hash Browns W/ Scrambled Egg
large potatoes, 6 for Scalloped Potatoes 'n' Ham Casserole Recipe
onion, 1 for Impossibly Easy Cheeseburger Pie
onion, 1 cup for Homemade Italian Sausage Sandwiches Recipe
onions yellow or white, 3 for Hungry Man's Hash Browns W/ Scrambled Egg
small onion, 1 for Slow Cooker Cream of Broccoli Soup
Bread and Bakery
bagels soft, 9 for Bagel And Cream Cheese With Pineapple Slices
brat buns, 6 for Homemade Italian Sausage Sandwiches Recipe
Italian seasoned bread crumbs, 1/2 cup for Slow Cooker Salisbury Steak
Meat
banquet sausage, for Breakfast Burritos
condensed cream of chicken soup, 2 (10.75 ounce) cans for Slow Cooker Salisbury Steak
lean ground beef, 1 lb for Impossibly Easy Cheeseburger Pie
lean ground beef, 2 pounds for Slow Cooker Salisbury Steak
Deli
and cubed ham, 2 1/2 cups for Ham and Pineapple Dinner
bacon, 8 slices for Hungry Man's Hash Browns W/ Scrambled Egg
fully cooked ham, 2 cups for Scalloped Potatoes 'n' Ham Casserole Recipe
Italian sausage links, 6 for Homemade Italian Sausage Sandwiches Recipe
Baking Goods
all-purpose flour, for $5 Dinner Mom Mac N Cheese
all-purpose flour, 3/4 cup for multiple recipes
all-purpose flour, 3 tablespoons for Scalloped Potatoes 'n' Ham Casserole Recipe
baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon for Best Brownies
brown sugar, 2 tablespoons for Ham and Pineapple Dinner
confectioners' sugar, 1 cup for Best Brownies
cornstarch, 2 tablespoons for Ham and Pineapple Dinner
Original Bisquick™ mix, 1/2 cup for Impossibly Easy Cheeseburger Pie
unsweetened cocoa powder, 1/3 cup for Best Brownies
unsweetened cocoa powder, 3 tablespoons for Best Brownies
white sugar, 1 cup for Best Brownies
Dairy
(4 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese, 3 cup for multiple recipes
American cheese, 1 cup for Slow Cooker Cream of Broccoli Soup
butter, 1/2 cup for Best Brownies
butter, 2 stick for multiple recipes
butter, 8 tablespoons for multiple recipes
chedar cheese, for Breakfast Burritos
cream cheese, 9 tablespoons for Bagel And Cream Cheese With Pineapple Slices
eggs, 12 for multiple recipes
milk, 2 (10.75 ounce) cans for Slow Cooker Cream of Broccoli Soup
milk, 1 1/4 cup for multiple recipes
powdered nondairy creamer, 3/4 cup for Scalloped Potatoes 'n' Ham Casserole Recipe
provolone cheese, 6 slices for Homemade Italian Sausage Sandwiches Recipe
torilla wrap, 5 for Breakfast Burritos
whole milk, 1 cup for $5 Dinner Mom Mac N Cheese
Peanut Butter Jelly Aisle
honey, 1 tablespoon for Best Brownies
Breakfast Foods
cereals, 2 serving for Cereals
Canned/Jar Goods
condensed cream of mushroom soup, 1 (10.75 ounce) can for Slow Cooker Cream of Broccoli Soup
pineapple chunks, 1 cup for Ham and Pineapple Dinner
pineapple juice, 1 1/3 cups for Ham and Pineapple Dinner
pineapple slices, 3 can for Bagel And Cream Cheese With Pineapple Slices
Oils & Dressings
cider vinegar, 4 teaspoons for Ham and Pineapple Dinner
prepared mustard, 2 teaspoons for Ham and Pineapple Dinner
Pasta/Rice/Beans
elbow macaroni, 1 box for $5 Dinner Mom Mac N Cheese
Sauces & Spices
julienned green peppers, 2 cups for Homemade Italian Sausage Sandwiches Recipe
paprika, 3/4 teaspoon for Scalloped Potatoes 'n' Ham Casserole Recipe
pepper, 1/2 teaspoon for Homemade Italian Sausage Sandwiches Recipe
Snacks
salsa, 1 jar for Breakfast Burritos
Beverages
dark beer or nonalcoholic beer, 1 bottle for Homemade Italian Sausage Sandwiches Recipe
Frozen Foods
frozen peas, for Tortellini With Peas And Cheese
Uncategorized
dry au jus mix dry au jus mix, 1 (1 ounce) packet for Slow Cooker Salisbury Steak
parmesean cheese, for Tortellini With Peas And Cheese
tortellini, 1 bag for Tortellini With Peas And Cheese