Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Save on Tween+ Clothing

My eleven-year-old-daughter (a.k.a. Bargain Huntress Jr.-in training) found some cute stuff at Kohl's.

The 7 For All Mankind denim shorts fit her perfectly.

She asked me not to put her face in the picture above, so I added this picture (don't tell her), because her face is beautiful. I can say so as her mother.

Let me get to the point, though. One of my favorite parenting ideas of late came to me after many frustrating episodes of buying clothing my kids begged for then having them never wear it. What a waste of money! Even if they were on sale...

So I solved this problem by figuring out what I spend on clothing for them in a year, dividing it by twelve, and including the money with their monthly allowance. Now they have a vested interest in buying items they love and will wear. In addition, it gives them an opportunity to develop money management skills.


  • Age 10 seems to be an appropriate age to implement this system.

  • Be consistent. My kids always want me to make exceptions, but I don't want them to learn that someone will bail them out. For instance, my son had spent all his money on Guitar Hero, but all of a sudden "needed" track shoes for the 110 hurdles. He begged me to buy them, but I declined and instead offered to help him find some used ones. He ended up solving the problem on his own without any additional money from me, and now he seems to keep a little more in reserve.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Bargain Huntress Faves: Costco

For all-around bargain hunting, Costco is my favorite place to go. I love to wander up and down the aisles looking for treasures. It's also conveniently located right across the street from my gym, so I'm there a LOT. Here's a blog post by my niece describing Costco-induced emotion.

And here are some of my favorite finds:

I regularly visited this red vase on the shelf at Costco until the price came down to Bargain Huntress level.

The HP G60 was originally priced by Costco at $699 (around $1000 at other stores offering comparable specs). When the price dropped to $649 at the same time Costco offered $100 off, I made my move.

Pretty much the same story as the red vase. I just waited until the price was right.

That's right! $1.50. I happened to get lucky today. This container, which is enough to feed my family of 7, was priced incorrectly at $4.56. It should have been around $14. On top of that, Costco issued a coupon for $3 off this dish.

Other items I regularly buy:
  • Milk, eggs, cheese are consistently cheaper than the grocery store.
  • Shampoo, conditioner, soap, toothpaste.
  • Diapers and wipes.


  • Know Costco's pricing. An item ending with .97 is on sale. One ending with .00 is a closeout. I once got cartons of 24 yoplait yogurts for $1.00 each. When they want something to go, they price it to fly off the shelf.
  • Don't wait too long, if you have to have it. It may never go on sale and Costco might not carry it again. It's part of Costco's marketing strategy to encourage the consumer to buy NOW.
  • I have nothing against Sam's. Costco just hooked me first. I'm sure Sam's is great, too.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Your Bargain Huntress: Britax Marathon Car Seat

Jamie writes:

"The question is....convertible car seats. Are Britax Marathons reallyworth the big bucks? I'd like to get a convertible one as Blake willprobably be too tall for his before he hits the one year mark.


Almost everyone that reviews the Britax Marathon (retails for $279), or any Britax, for that matter, seems to be hooked. They will only buy Britax ever after. Amazon reviewers rate the Britax Marathon at 4.7 out of 5 stars.

However ,the only things I can see that are better with the Britax are that the weight limit goes to 65 lbs (rather than 40), it has a versatile tether (a strap holding the top of the carseat stable that can be used for both rear-facing and forward-facing), and it has more foam padding.

No one claimed that it made babies happier in the car or smarter, or much safer, though.

WWBD: Buy a good carseat that fits a child from 5 to 40 pounds for $65 (such as the Evenflo Tribute). Then, if your state's law requires a booster seat after that (until 65 pounds, for example), you can buy a $20 one (try the Cosco Ambassador) from Wal-mart or Target. The two added together total less than 1/3 the cost of a Britax Marathon.

If you're dead set on the Britax, the cheapest one I could find was at HappyMothers.com for $231.74 (includes tax and shipping--enter 10percent when it asks for a coupon).

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Save on Dish Soap and Paper Plates

Here's what I found when I walked in the kitchen last night. My 10-year-old daughter made a beautiful, delicious custard that my 3-year-old proceeded to spill on (and eat off) the floor.

At about the same time I said, "Disgusting!", I had some sense to grab the camera.

  • Make sure your floor is clean! I use ammonia and water to clean my tile floors. I love the clean smell, and it's so cheap--a $1 container will last me for months.
  • Reassure yourself that a little dirt won't hurt.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Good Deal at Sprouts...again.

I wish all of you had a Sprouts near you, and I apologize for constantly bringing them up when not all of you have access. I'm not trying to rub it in...really.

However, I can't help sharing a great deal when I find one! The excitement just busts out of me. The only thing I can think to compare it to is when a woman finds out she's pregnant and is anxiously awaiting the announcement to her husband. (But not the kind of emotion she has when telling him she's pregnant...and has an IUD....)

Anyway, Sprouts has pineapples for $0.97 each and cluster tomatoes for $0.97 a pound starting tomorrow at our local store.

My Dad makes a divine Pineapple Upside Down Cake. Here's the recipe:

Pineapple Upside Down Cake

1 1/6 c. flour

2 eggs

1 1/2 t baking powder

1 c. sugardash salt

3 T. hot water

1 t. vanilla

Mix together and pour over pineapple rings arranged in 1/4 c. butter and 3/4 c. brown sugar melted in the bottom of an 8 X 8 pan. Bake at 325 for 50 minutes. Immediately loosen cake from sides and invert on a cake plate. Let sit until cake drops from the pan onto the plate.


  • Pick a good pineapple: it should smell fragrant and have fresh green leaves. Here's more info.
  • Pick tasty tomatoes: ones that are fresh, firm, and free of blemishes. Click here for more.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Printer Ink

It's time to replace my black ink cartridge (HP 92).

I normally buy a combo pack from the Costco warehouse, but this time I'm not satisfied that's the cheapest way to go. Perhaps I'm tired of shelling out so much money for ink (that my kids use to print an entire page of black).

Here are the options:

WWBD: I just placed a bid on ebay for a 6-pack, starting bid: $24.95 ($4.16 per cartridge). There are no bids and the auction is over in a few hours, so I feel pretty confident I will win. I set my highest bid as 29.50, so if someone outbids me, I can go back and get the other one I just listed above.


  • Don't outbid me!

  • Try a google search, ebay search, and an amazon search to find the best price for your particular print cartridge.

  • Save the planet. Ordering recycled print cartridges keeps them out of the landfills. (You know me, Ms. TreeHugger...) Refilling them yourselves is even cheaper, but pretty messy. I like the idea of having someone else refill them for me.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Discount Grocers

My friend, Heather, and I stopped by Town Talk (in Fort Worth, TX), a warehouse-type grocery store that sells closeouts, products from bankrupted grocers, etc. Here are some deals we found:

Continuous spray sunscreen averages about $10 at the grocery store. Discount: 80%

Sesame dressing: about $3 regularly. Discount: 90%

Regularly $0.95. Discount: 66%

$5 at the regular grocery store. Discount: 80%

Same-sized container at the grocery store: $7.50. Discount: 60%

Freshly bakes Tuscan boule: $4 at the grocer's bakery. Discount: over 90%

$10 at the grocery store. Discount: 80%

$9 at the grocery store. Discount: 50%

Here's a map and address for Town Talk.

  • Check expiration dates. Some items might be ok past the "best if used by" date.
  • Find specialty or organic items. You'll probably find more of these items heavily discounted.
  • Readers who are not local to the DFW area might find similar discount groceries at Closeout Central. Or try using terms such as "discount grocer" or "thrift grocery store" with Google.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Landscaping for free (or almost)

My #1 rule: Use perennials!!!

Ajuga: One plant ($2) spread and multiplied, and after a year I dug up a few starts and transplanted them to other spots in my yard. I chose this picture, because NOTHING will grow in this spot--except ajuga. I love you, ajuga...

If you plant annuals, let the dead blooms fall on the ground, or scatter them where you'd like them to grow next year. I planted these snapdragons 1 1/2 years ago. Check out the circled one in the top left corner that found its way to the rocks.

I know nothing about roses except that mine thrive on poor soil conditions and neglect. I pretty much ignore them except to cut some for a bouquet.

Spearmint: one small start from Home Depot set me back $2.

Sugar snap peas: one seed packet--$0.99. I expect some in my salad in a few weeks.

Lavender Cotton: 3 small starts--$2 each.

Lantana: one start from a friend--free. They attract butterflies and bloom during the HOT summer months.

English ivy: 2 small starts--$2 each.

California poppy: from a bag of wildflower seed--$4. These are my favorites! They are so bright and colorful, and they spread and multiply every year.

Wild blackberry: grew from the ditch outside our fence--free. We trained them along our side of the fence. They should be ripe around the beginning of June. Can't wait!

Vinca: one start--$2.

  • Be patient. Growing perennials and from transplanted starts takes longer than growing annuals, but it really pays off when your beautiful yard sustains itself with little management.
  • Start small. Buying smaller perennials from the nursery saves money, and they tend to adapt better.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

10 for $10 is Back at Sprouts

Pork ribs (per lb)
Whole chicken (per lb)
Chicken drums or thighs (per lb)
Sausage links
Shrimp skewers
Gourmet stuffed clams

Check your local ad.

If you buy the whole chicken, I have a great Gumbo recipe from a friend of mine, whose husband is Creole and from Louisiana.

1 C Tony Chachere's instant Roux mix (my local grocer carries it)
2 C water
10-12 C water
whole chicken
1 package turkey sausage
1 onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1 T minced garlic
1 bunch green onions, diced
Tony Chachere's Creole seasoning (This and the roux mix are key! This seasoning is so good you'll want to put it on everything.)
garlic powder
red pepper powder
8 - 10 eggs

Directions:Boil the 2 C water. Turn heat to low. Add roux mix. Stir until dissolved and thickened. Add 10-12 C water. Add chicken and cook for 20 min. When chicken is done, remove from water. Let cool slightly. Debone.

Meanwhile, saute onions, minced garlic, and green pepper in 1 T olive oil. Add all vegetables, turkey sausage, seasonings and chicken to roux. Let cook on low for 5 hours. (Can eat sooner, if desired...Katie said so.)

Boil eggs on side, and add when serving.

  • Invite people over. This recipe makes so much gumbo, it's plenty to feed a houseful and still have leftovers.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Bargain Huntress Faves: Groceries

1. Offering great prices on most everything, Costco is where most of our grocery budget goes. Buying in bulk works well for our family of 7 (on the cusp of feeding growing teenagers).

2. I still don't know how they do it, but they beat the competition hands down when it comes to produce. Since I think my kids are part rabbit, this keeps my grocery bill down as well. We eat through a basket full of fruits and vegetables weekly.

3. I can go to this website (a database of over 200,000 recipes from all over the world), do a search for a couple of food items in my fridge/pantry, and the website will almost always find me a recipe. This way I don't need to waste foods I already have in my fridge. (Illustrated below)

4. Their weekly sales generally include good prices on meat.

5. If I need unusual items that can't be found at the regular grocery store, this is where I go.

Here's how we did Easter dinner this year without blowing the budget:
Easter Dinner Menu:
Ham with Mango glaze
Maple Mustard sauce
Crock Pot Scalloped Potatoes
Cabbage and Green Bean Slaw
Rolls with Homemade Strawberry Jam (Thanks Chelsea!)
Strawberry Shortcake (thanks, Jamie!

Ham from Tom Thumb (on sale this week for $0.97/lb).
Mango Glaze recipe at fooddownunder.com. The actual recipe is for Apricot glaze, but I had mango jam in my fridge, so I used that instead. It was yummy!

The recipe for the glaze also includes the recipe for this Maple Mustard sauce.

I had green beans from Sprouts ($0.88/lb) already, but it wouldn't feed the 6 adults and 5 kids at our house for easter dinner. I had some cabbage, too, though (also bought at Sprouts for $0.33/lb) So, I went to Food Down Under, typed in "green bean and cabbage," and eventually decided on this recipe:


3 slices bacon
1/2 c. vinegar
1/4 c. sugar
3 tbsp. chopped onion
3 c. shredded cabbage
3/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 can green beans

Cook bacon and tear into 1 inch pieces. Remove bacon. Add vinegar, salt, sugar, onion, cabbage, and pepper to fat in skillet. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in drained green beans and cook for 5 minutes. Pour into serving dish and top with bacon pieces.
It received good reviews from my family. And since I used turkey bacon (from Costco), it was pretty healthy, too!

Similar story with the potatoes. I had some left over from a bag I bought at Sprouts (about $2.88 for 5 lb), but not enough to feed everyone. I found a recipe for Crockpot Creamy Scalloped Potatoes, then added carrots (from Costco) to it.

Here's the spread just before we sat down to eat:

This meal cost about $20.
  • Scan the local ads. It took me about 1 minute to look through the grocery store ads to decide that Tom Thumb was the best place to buy a ham this year.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

more from thriftyfun

Stretching Your Food Budget

Trying to make budget meals exciting can be a challenge these days. I use a three-pronged approach:

  1. To stretch meals, I use a metal meat tenderizer tool to pound the meat. It tenderizes the cheaper cuts of meat and makes the portions seem larger.

  2. To bring some excitement and color to meals I use diced colored bell peppers, parsley, red onions, canned mushrooms: whatever seems to be on hand and is colorful to bring some sparkle to the dish. These additions also help stretch the dish without too much added cost.

  3. Adding a little extra seasoning helps to fool my tongue into thinking I'm having a larger portion because the taste is intensified. A happy tongue means a happy tummy.

By Frazzled Leslie from New Orleans LA

Save Seeds From Store Bought Tomatoes

I bought a tomato at the store and squeezed the seeds onto a paper towel. After they dried, I cut the paper around the seed and planted them in good potting soil. Keep damp and you will have tomato plants in about a week. I tried planting seeds immediately after squeezing the tomato and they did not grow, so you must dry the seeds.

By Dajavooi from Independence, MO

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Do-It-Yourself Custom Framing

Once upon a time, the Bargain Huntress browsed a thrift store and happened upon this framed picture.

Fortunately, she only had to pay $8 for the frame. Unfortunately, the picture in the frame was forgettable. Fortunately, the $8 frame matched this frame (below) that the Bargain Huntress already had hanging at home.

Unfortunately, she had no art to put in the frame. Fortunately, in their basement the Bargain Huntress' parents found her grandmother's charcoal drawing.

Unfortunately, custom framers wanted too much money to frame it for her. Fortunately, she could purchase the supplies to do it herself. (Please forgive the sideways picture. I couldn't get it to turn the right way.)

Unfortunately, the custom framers discouraged her from doing it herself. Fortunately, she didn't let them intimidate her. Unfortunately, she was a little nervous to make the first cut.

But fortunately, things went well, and fortunately it turned out great, because fortunately she is the Bargain Huntress.

Total cost: $32

(including the mat cutter that I can use in the future on other projects)

  • Practice beforehand. Find some scrap pieces of matboard to practice on before cutting the real thing.
  • Don't let the pro's intimidate you. Of course they don't want you to think it's possible to do it yourself, because they want more of your money!
  • If you like my story, you might like "Fortunately" by Remy Charlip.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Remove Unwanted Hair for Less

Thick, dark hair works great on my head...

but NOT under my arms or in my bikini area. Shaving leaves bumps and ingrown hairs, and it NEVER looks cleanly shaven. This is a huge quality of life issue for me.

Here are my options for taking care of unwanted hair in "Step-down" fashion:
  • Laser hair removal: A rough estimate for underarm and bikini totals about $1000. The upside--potentially never having to shave again. The downside--no guarantee that it works/lasts forever.

  • Professional waxing: The local salon I visit charges $70 for underarm and bikini. Upside--lasts 6 weeks or more. Downside--ouch!

  • At home waxing: $8 and includes enough supplies for about 5 or 6 rounds of waxing. Upside--low cost and lasts 6 weeks or more. Downside--again, ouch!

  • Shaving: $7.50 for a 3-pack of my favorite razor, Gillette Venus. Upside--convenient. Downside--requires daily maintenance at times (summertime and gym visits) and never looks completely smooth.

  • Go European: Free. Upside--low cost, low maintenance. Downside--unattractive! (That's the nicest way I could put it.)

WWBD: I wax at home. I seriously considered laser hair removal, but the price and the reports that it doesn't last forever steered me away.


  • Find a helper for at-home waxing. I happen to have a live-in helper (my husband) who's excellent. He does it quickly and when I'm not expecting it, so I only jump around and yelp minimally.
  • Please don't go European! Unless you're in Europe...

Monday, April 6, 2009

Elle Decor Reproduction: April 2009

Elle Decor, April 2009 issue

I love this room, because of its simple lines, soothing color scheme, and dramatic art.

You can have this room for under $300:

1. Do-it-yourself king-sized upholstered headboard. Bejane.com has instructions for making a headboard yourself.
  • 1/2" Plywood: $10
  • 2" Foam: $11 (after using a 40% off coupon at Joann's)
  • Batting: $0 (I can use the batting out of an old comforter that we're not using.)
  • Fabric: 3 yards @ $5/yard (found in the "Red Tag" fabrics at Joann's)

Total for headboard: $36.

2. Floral wall art.

I took a few snapshots of flowers in my house, chose the best ones to convert to sepia, then pasted them (in photoshop) over a leather background that I found on the internet. Glue the print onto a stretched canvas, paint the sides of the canvas to match the print, then glaze it.
  • 16" x 20" print from Costco.com: $9.99
  • 16" x 20" stretched canvas from Michael's: $3
  • Brown paint for sides of stretched canvas: $1
  • Spray glue: $0 (in my cabinet)
  • Glaze: $2

    Three of them would cost $48.

3. Nightstand

$45 on craigslist.com; pint of paint (see color below) for $10.

4. Bedding

From ebay.com

King-sized sheets from big lots in white or ivory.

Pillow from Costco. (I bought this for my living room in cream, but I would buy it in brown for the bed.)

5. Accessories

Lamp from google shopping.

Gold frame for the nightstand from google shopping.

Total: $270

  • Make it your own. It's great to get inspiration from a magazine, but add some touches that make it personal and meaningful, like the floral art.