Monday, December 7, 2015

Frugal Finds Fall 2015 - Get the Most out of Thrift Shopping

I have a confession to make. As much as I am all for living simply and saving money, I have a serious obsession with shopping. I even immensely enjoy grocery shopping and I'm pretty sure it's just because I get to buy stuff. Thankfully, for the sake of our budget and my sanity, God created thrift stores and even then, I have to control myself.

While you can still find some pretty awesome deals on the clearance racks at regular stores, nothing beats the good old Salvation Army. I love the fact that I can get 5 used but new looking, good quality items for the price of one brand new one. I often even find things at the Thrift Store that still have the tags on and clearly haven't been worn.

I know some people find the idea of thrift shopping kind of gross or a little sketchy and while they can be, most really aren't. The places I typically go, like Salvation Army and Value Village are kept tidy and well maintained. Also, the clothing is well washed before being put out. I know because anytime I try something on at the Salvation Army I am nearly chocked to death by the powerful smell of whatever detergent they use... When I get home from second hand shopping I always just throw the items straight into the washer and we've never had any problem.

Today I wanted to post some my favorite items I picked up this fall and how much I paid for them.

Childrens' clothing, name brands are Carters, Mexx, The Childrens Place and Nevada. Everything in good condition for $2. 

Sweaters, all of which I can wear even over my big pregnant belly. None of these are great name brands but all were $2 and I wear the black one once a week... if not more now that most of my maternity clothes don't fit anymore! 

Pretty maternity shirt, $3. Super comfy long sleeve from Forever 21, $3 and a pair of American Eagle pants for my husband, $5. 

Clothing isn't the only good find at Thrift Stores either. I had really been wanting a nice solid coloured tea pot, similar to this one from Davids Tea, for a while but couldn't spend $30 on it. Also, I needed some good quality winter boots that weren't totally hideous, that I could bear to wear in public, that actually kept my feet warm and dry but didn't cost $100+. So, I kept my eyes open on my thrift shop visits over the last few months and.. voila, I now have both! And I am happy with the total amount spent. The tea pot was only $3.99 at Value Village and the boots were $15, usually retailing for $60+. 

Thrift Shop Tips

Here are my tips for getting the most out of thrift shopping:

1.) Keep a running list of things you need/want to buy that way you can go straight into the the store and know what aisles you need to look down. This keeps you from getting distracted, taking longer or spending on things you don't actually need and forgetting the things you do need. 

2.) Know what name brands you like and how much they cost regularly. Some thrift stores have a common price for a certain item. Example, all ladies tops are $5. This is a great deal if you love and find some dress shirts from H&M which are usually $15-$45 but not so great if the top you grab is from Wal Mart and usually retails for only $7.50 anyways.

3.) Thrift stores have sales! A lot of people don't know that thrift stores actually often have sale days or sales items. For example, a store may want to clear out their sweaters after winter and have them all for $2 in the spring. Our Salvation Army has 50% off and $2 sales all the time, if you're not sure whether they have sales or not, just call and ask. 

4.) Try things on. Always. Even if the dress is a stretchy material and the boots are definitely in your size. Defects in clothing are often hard to spot even if you look closely at the item, until you try it on. That dress may be the perfect size for you but turns out there's a hole in the armpit and the zipper gets stuck halfway up. Maybe the boots fit great but the lining is coming out on the inside and it's too uncomfortable to wear! 

5.) Make a Donation. When you make a donation at most thrift stores, you get can get something in return. At the Salvation Army here you tell them when you are dropping off a bag or box and they will give you a $10 off $25 purchase coupon, quite a bit considering it's already a thrift store! Value Village gives you a stamp card and once you make a certain amount of donations, you receive a discount on your purchase. 

6.) Take your time. You may not want to spend hours at the store, but make sure you slow down and look at the items as you shop. You don't want to skip over something you may love or miss seeing that the $5 name brand dress shirt still has the $35 price tag on the inside and your brother would love it for his birthday. 

The shirt below is probably my favourite deal from my trips this fall. 

Gorgeous Forever21 dress shirt, $40 tag still on, paid $7!

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Freezer Food Part #2

If you read my Freezer Food Part #1 post then you know I've really been hoping to stock the freezer full of some simple, healthy, quick foods for after Baby Larochelle comes. Since my almost fully pregnant body isn't exactly up to a huge 12 hour long cooking session I decided to break it down into a few different cooking days and finally got to my first one last week! I am super excited to be building up a stockpile of food, it helps take away some of the stress and anticipation of birth and having a newborn baby in the house. In fact, I'm thinking of making it a more regular part of our lives, pregnant or not!

Since I wanted to keep it simple this time around, I chose 4 easy foods with similar ingredients which meant less stuff to buy, less items to cut up and less chance of cross contamination. The items I made this time were:

Lunch Burritos
Ravioli and Tortellini Pasta Packs

The first thing I did was cut up all my vegetables which, in this case, was only peppers and onions. Having a big bowl of each cut up and ready to go made throwing everything together so much easier.

Next I browned all the beef, except for about 2lbs which I set aside for meatballs. I did half the beef in one pan to use for the burritos and pasta and the rest in a huge pot for my chili.With the meat I tossed peppers and onions into both pans, just setting aside enough onions for the meatballs later on.

While that cooked, I set out my awesome freezer containers I picked up at the wholesale store and filled them with Ravioli and Tortellini. I then added a big spoonful of Classico pasta sauce, either Alfredo or Italian to each container. I usually don't buy these but they were on sale and saved me a ton of time over making the sauces myself.

Then I opened cans and added my beans, spices and tomato sauces to the chili pot. Since I let the chili simmer for a long time, I was able to just stir occasionally while I worked on other things.

Now that my ground beef, pepper, onion mix was ready I moved to pasta packs and burritos. The only thing left for the pasta was adding the beef mixture to the top and putting the lids on. I also put the containers into large freezer bags as an extra measure against freezer burn. 

Next, I laid tortillas all over the counter for my burritos. I started by just adding a scoop of canned baked beans, re-fried beans are better but I just had these available. Then I added a scoop of beef mixture, some cheese and rolled them up. So quick and easy. I wrapped the burritos in a layer of aluminum foil before placing them in freezer bags.

Since my chili was basically ready at this point, I just let it to cool before putting into freezer bags and moved to my meatballs. I don't really follow anything for meatballs but any basic meatball recipe should work good. Just make sure you cook the meatballs and then freeze them without adding any sauce. Once they were done I portioned out my meatballs and chili, placed everything into labelled freezer bags and put them in the deep freezer!

I am definitely impressed with the end result. It only took about 3 hours and I now have lots of good food in the freezer and the whole process produced surprisingly less dishes than anticipated, yay!

Here is how I plan to use the foods, just in case you are curious.

- Pasta packs and burritos will most likely be used as quick, microwavable lunches for my husband and I, hopefully we will throw a few fresh vegetable or fruit slices on the side. If we are being completely honest, I've already broken into these when I was too lazy... I mean too busy to make lunch and they are amazing.

- We will have big bowls of chili for dinner a few different nights, probably with buns or salad, and then use leftovers for things like chili cheese dogs or chili fries.

- Meatballs will probably be eaten once as topping to a big pot of spaghetti and then the rest will be cooked using my favourite, super simple glaze recipe from I Heart Naptime.

Next I hope to take an afternoon and work on some of the breakfasts and snack foods I had on my original freezer meal planning list. While I may not get around to everything, I really want to do muffins, waffles and homemade granola bars.I better get moving since there are only 26 days, 2 hours and 3 minutes until the due date.... and I have a feeling he may come early!