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Category Archives: Thrifty Tips


Thrifty-Tip Thursday: It’s Yard Sale Season!

The sun is out and the days are (sometimes) warm. It’s yard sale season. For the “Thrifty-Tip Thursday” revival, here are my yard-sale shopping tips:

1 – Make a List:  I have started a list of things I need/want for the house, yard or children.  These are all things I don’t mind buying used. I’m not going to add “underwear for the boys” to the list.  This helps me think through what I would like to look for when I’m out, and even if I impulsively follow a yard sale sign when I’m without my list, I have it in my mind because I took the time to write it down.

2 – Timing: I have two favorite times to hit yard sales: Friday morning and Saturday afternoon. On Friday morning the atmosphere is casual and pleasant. Those who run the yard sales are usually still in a good mood and are likely to budge some on their prices with those who are friendly.  The selection is also at its peak on Friday morning. On Saturday afternoon the sellers are done and generally just want to get rid of things. This is when you can get the best bargains. The draw-back is most of the “good stuff” is already gone.

3 – Engage the Sellers: First, making conversation with the sellers is just more fun.  But also, to reveal an ulterior motive, when I have been pleasantly engaging the seller while I browse, they are a lot more likely to negotiate on prices.

4 – Know Your Prices:  When I look at my list of items created in step 1, I always have in mind a price I am willing to pay for a used item. I will not pay for a used item within even a few dollars of what I can get it for new on a good sale.  For example, I will not spend more than $2 on clothing for the kids, and it needs to be in pretty good condition if I’m going to pay that (I usually try to stay under a dollar).  I am a bargain shopper and I know I can find new clothing on the sales rack at Old Navy, Target or Children’s Place under $5, so I won’t pay much for a used article of clothing.

5 – Know What You’ll Use it For:  Don‘t buy anything at a yard sale unless you know exactly what you are going to do with it.  If I buy something because I think it is cute and might be able to find a place for it, chances are it is going to wind up in my yard sale next spring.

6 – Ask for a Lower Price: Most sellers expect to negotiate, so I almost always make a reasonable offer. The worst that can happen is he or she will say no and then I’ll decide whether it’s worthwhile to pay the sticker price. The important thing is to be friendly about it. A pushy offer will almost always be rejected.

If you have your own yard sales tips, let me know!  I’d love to hone my skill. 🙂

My New Chalkboard Wall & A Thrifty Thursday Tip

I shared last week that we were moving the school room downstairs.  This is how the old school room looked.

It was nothing special.  I had inherited a couple desks from my grandmother which the two school-aged boys used, then slapped a couple maps on the wall.  The reason for the change is two-fold.  Reason one is that the school room was upstairs and everything else is downstairs.  It made it tricky for me to multi-task during our school day.  The second reason is that son number three is starting Kindergarten this year and needs a space of his own.  We didn’t have room for another behemoth desk and I wanted something a little more uniform.  On our way back from visiting family in California this summer we stopped at the IKEA in Sacramento (Oh, how I wish we had one here in Idaho!), and found four very inexpensive and simple table desks for our new room.  I found a new home for our old desks (just next door so I can still visit them), and put the new one’s downstairs.

I have so many ideas for the school room (see my inspiration post here), and this week my hubby helped me create my very own chalkboard wall!  I’m so excited about how it turned out!  We have textured walls which aren’t really conducive to chalkboard paint, so I did some digging around online to see what other’s have done to remedy the situation.  Thanks to Weathered Treasure, I found a solution.

We started by measuring and marking our space for the chalkboard wall.  Then we used Joint Compound and slathered the walls with it.  We laid it on pretty thick, then used a large spackling tool to get it as smooth as possible.

We let this set for a good 24 hours, then sanded out the rough spots with a 150-grit sanding block.  It left a layer of dust on the wall, so I used a wet sponge to clean this up and let it dry once more.  Then we added black chalkboard paint.  We bought pre-made chalkboard paint, but if you want to know how to make your own, check out the above “Weathered Treasure” link.  Next, my handy honey added molding around the edges and a 4-inch board to the bottom for a little shelf.  Here is the final result.  We have one more step on the chalkboard wall to complete.  Before using the chalkboard, instructions say to rub the side of a piece of chalk all over the board, then wipe off with a barely-wet cloth or sponge.  I just need to get some chalk!

Here is the our school room at this point with the IKEA desks and the chalkboard wall.

It’s still rather plain.  I have a few more projects in mind, but I’m very happy with our start.

On another note, this week’s thrifty tip comes as a result of a mini-gardening crisis.  My garden is doing quite well at this point, except for my zucchini.  I’ve noticed the leaves looking very sad and realized upon closer inspection that it was covered with aphids.

I called my friend from Kate’s Kitchen Garden for some help.  She gave me thrifty recipe for a natural bug-killer using soap, water and vegetable oil.  She has posted the recipe on her blog here.  Let’s just hope my zucchini isn’t too far gone!

Thrifty Tip Thursday – Use What You Have . . . And Some Pantry Progress (finally)!

My project for the last month or so has been my pantry.  So much for one project per week . . . that’s life! 🙂 I am pleased to announce that I have finally made some progress on that pantry. Huzzah! Here is my terrible, awful, no-good before picture.

Yesterday, I pulled everything out on the food side and sorted according to zones I wished to create in my pantry (as per this Better Homes and Gardens article/slide-show).  I came up with the following zones for my pantry: Baking Supplies, Dry Goods, Snacks, Breakfast Foods, Lunch Foods, Instant Meals/Sides, Condiments, Canned Vegetables, Soup, Small Canned Goods, Other Canned Goods.  I then decided where to place each zone according to use and accessibility.  For example, I wanted the breakfast foods and healthy snacks (cereal, oatmeal, granola bars) to be at a height and location my kids can easily reach, the baking supplies where I can quickly reach, and the junk food snacks as high as possible so my kids cannot easily get to them.  I then used the Better Homes and Gardens printable labels to label shelves and containers, and placed everything back.  I’m not done tweaking things. I have already found two shelf areas I need to switch because of accessibility.  I also need to work on the non-food side of my pantry.  If all goes well, I will accomplish that tonight.  Here is the part-way-through picture.

This brings me to my thrifty tip.  Whenever I begin an organizing project, I start by looking at a multitude of pictures to see what others have done, taking note of ideas I want to incorporate. I’ll be honest, I usually want to go out and buy all kinds of pretty baskets and containers to emulate those magazine-layout-perfect pictures. However, I have committed to being a good steward of our finances and to stick to our budget.  Therefore, I do the next best thing (which sometimes is pretty far from the “best thing”, but worth it in the end) and shop at home.  If you are like me, you have a lot that can be put to use in your own closets and pantries.  For example, I had this little shelf just sitting in a closet not being used:

Now it holds small canned goods.

The basket below was used to hold waaaaaayyyyy too many coloring books. I went through the coloring books, recycled a lot, and placed the others in another basket that was holding just color crayons.

Add a label and it is the perfect home for holding my soups.

I needed a couple small containers for holding my running gels and seasoning packets.

Adding labels to a couple Ziploc containers worked perfectly.

I also re-purposed some Costco pretzel containers for some of my dry goods.

Maybe it’s not magazine perfect, but it’s on the way to being organized and it didn’t cost me a dime!

Thrifty Tip Thursday – Re-used Plastic-ware

I’m sure a lot of you use today’s thrifty tip, but just in case . . .

The market is flooded with plastic-ware for storing left-overs like this:

The advantages are that they are transparent so you can see what is inside, and that if you like things uniform, you can stack them nicely (as long as you buy all one brand).  The disadvantage is that they do cost money.  The above was part of a box of “Snapware” I purchased at Costco some time ago for about $18.00.  It has been nice, but, like everything else, eventually they break.  My thrifty alternative is to re-use what I have in my refrigerator.  I wash and re-use containers that once held Cool Whip, sour cream, margarine or butter, and yogurt. This morning the kids and I finished off this container of yogurt.

I find you can wash these in the top rack of the dishwasher (I don’t wash anything by hand unless I absolutely have to).  We then use and re-use for left-overs and even freezer jams until broken, then recycle.  They also work very well for bringing meals to people. I like to place food in containers that the recipient of my meal will not have to wash and return.  I know some hyper-organized types may not like the lack of uniformity, but I’m “easy-going”, so as long as my plastic-ware is in one place and stacks neatly, I’m good. And it’s free (sort-of). 🙂

On another note, happy anniversary to my honey-man (if he’s reading). Today we celebrate fourteen years of Paul making me laugh!

Thrifty Tip Thursday – A Borrowed Pantry Tip


Burlap and Denim re-used Costco popcorn containers to store grains and snacks. The result is a very organized pantry without the extra expense of containers.  I’m collecting my large plastic containers to use similarly. Click the link to view the rest of a very organized pantry.

Thrifty Tip Thursday (on Friday) – Part 2

The vinegar seemed to work. If you read my last post, you know that I am trying to remove the stench from my running clothes. The moisture-wicking fabric seems to really lock it in. Yesterday the baking soda failed and I was soaking them again in vinegar.  I poured 2 cups of white vinegar in my washer with the clothes, allowed the washer to fill and soaked for about 3 hours. Then I ran them through the short cycle to rinse off the vinegar, added laundry detergent and washed again. My running clothes are much better!

Thrifty Tip Thursday – Failure!

No name baking soda

No name baking soda (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I run, I sweat. When I sweat, I stink. . . there’s no way around it.  Unfortunately, even though I wash my clothes after each run, some have a lingering odor that is just not pleasant. For my thrifty tip, I had intended to find a way to take care of that odor without buying expensive, specialty laundry detergent. After scouring the web, I decided to try a baking soda method. According to one source, soaking your running clothes in a mixture of 1 cup baking soda and water, then washing as usual would amend the problem. Maybe I am sweatier than the average girl, but said method failed. The odor still lingers. I am not giving up yet . . . I will find a thrifty way to take care of this! I currently have my running clothes soaking in a mixture of 1 cup white vinegar and water.  I’ll let you know tomorrow how that turns out. Any other ideas?

Thrifty-tip Thursday – Easy Drawer Freshener

There was a time when people would place herb and flower-scented satchels in their drawers to keep it fresh and smelling nice.  I don’t know if people still do it or not, but I’m bringing it back. I like a nice-smelling drawer when I go to find my favorite t-shirt or a pair of socks. You can buy satchels at specialty stores or dry your own flowers and herbs to make at home. . . or you can do it the super thrifty (and possibly even lazy) way.

You know all those pull-out perfume samples sent to your door via advertisements, magazines, and newspapers?


Thanks to my mom’s creative genius (she’s the true thrifty one in the family), I pull out the ones I like and use them to scent my drawers . . . easy and FREE!

Thrifty-tip Thursday – Left-over Oatmeal Muffins

I hate wasting food. I usually save food and we eat left-overs, as most people do. But the other morning when I made too much oatmeal for breakfast, I wasn’t sure what to do. I just couldn’t get myself to throw that much food in the garbage, but who is going to eat left-over oatmeal? Maybe we are food-snobs, but left-over oatmeal is just gross. I decided to see if there was anything appetizing to do with left-over oatmeal, and “Google-d” it. There are a lot of recipes out there using left-over oatmeal!  I modified a muffin recipe from and it was a hit.

Left-over Oatmeal Muffins


1 cup flour (I used wheat)

1 cup packed brown sugar

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

1/2 cup melted butter

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1 cup leftover cooked oatmeal

1 cup raisins (optional – I left these out because the kids aren’t big fans)

1 tsp. vanilla

(I added 1 tsp. ground cinnamon)


1. In a large bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, baking powder and baking soda.

2. In another bowl, mix together melted butter, eggs, oatmeal, raisins and vanilla.

3. Add to dry ingredients and stir just until moistened – the batter will seem thick.

4. Spoon batter into 12 greased muffin cups (I used un-greased re-usable muffin cups — they worked wonderfully!)

5. Bake at 350 degrees for 18 minutes, or until the muffin centers are slightly firm.

They didn’t look pretty, but they were tasty! And part of being thrifty is not wasting.  This was a great way to get a second breakfast out of our oatmeal.

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Thrifty-Tip Thursday

Do you hate it when your glue looks like this?

I found this beauty today shoved in a box in our pantry (thanks sweetie :-)). Here’s a thrifty solution.

Use a binder clip to keep the empty portion rolled up. . .  and you can easily hang it if you’re so inclined. It works for toothpaste too, but you might want to find a cuter binder clip to match your bathroom decor (unless your bathroom theme is office-supply-chic). Merry organizing!