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saving money

5 Tips For Hosting Thanksgiving Dinner On A Budget

by Tara Kuczykowski on October 29, 2014 · 0 comments

Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays. I mean, what’s not to love? A special day filled with day with friends and family and, of course, lots of delicious food… I can't think of a better way to spend a day.

On the flip side, Thanksgiving dinner can also put a serious dent in your budget if you're not careful. But never fear, I've got some great tips for how you can have a fabulous and delicious Thanksgiving meal -- without breaking the bank!

5 Tips For Hosting Thanksgiving Dinner On A Budget

Though my family has never had to forgo Thanksgiving dinner completely, there were definitely years when a scaled down dinner was a necessity due to budget constraints. But truthfully, I doubt that our guests even noticed, because I was a careful shopper and pulled items from all around the house to save on setting an inviting table. And you can do the same with these five simple tips:

1Set a budget. It's important to set your limit before you start shopping! Once you hit the store, it's all too easy to get caught up in tossing those little extras in your cart. I mean, there's a reason all of those cute holiday decor items are on every end cap. Having a firm spending limit in place, will prevent you from emptying your wallet. Still worried about blowing your budget? Leave the credit and debit cards at home and shop with cash -- you can't spend more than you have with you!

2Stick to the classics. Planning a traditional Thanksgiving dinner means that, not only will you be able to find all of your ingredients easily, but these are also the items that grocery stores most heavily discount this time of year. Plus you really can't go wrong with the basics, like a turkey, green beans, mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry salad, crescent rolls, and of course, pumpkin pie. These are simple, no-fail recipes that all of your guests are sure to love.

3Clip coupons and watch the sales. As I mentioned, the ingredients for classic Thanksgiving recipes are heavily promoted and discounted this time of year, starting as early as November 1st. Manufacturers often offer coupons for these same items that will allow you to save even more, so be sure to search the coupon database for printable coupons for your favorite brands before you shop. Pair them with a good sale and you've got a quick and easy way to save a little extra cash! Plus when you start picking up nonperishable items early in the month, it helps you spread your budget out so you're not spending a ton all at once.

4Don't forget about those turkey promotions. The turkey will likely eat up about 40% of your budget, so the free turkey promotions that many grocery stores offer can really pay off! If a store in your area is offering this deal, you should definitely consider doing all of your grocery and Thanksgiving meal shopping there to meet the minimum requirement. Another alternative for saving on the turkey is to buy just a turkey breast instead of a whole turkey. This option works particularly well for small gatherings and/or guests that prefer the white meat only.

5Shop the dollar store, craft stores, and/or discount stores for decor. Decor doesn't have to be a budget breaker -- or even an afterthought these days. With so many wonderful and inexpensive ideas on Pinterest, you can create a beautiful table setting on a dime. Discounted table runners, centerpieces, and garlands abound at these stores, and when they're packed carefully away after your gathering, they can be reused for many years. Another great way to add ambience (when there aren't a lot of little ones running around) is with lots and lots of simple white candles in all shapes and sizes.

While my family has much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving, I know that there are 49 million Americans that struggle to put a meal on their table on a daily basis, let alone on Thanksgiving. So I’m thrilled to support the J.M. Smucker Company in their efforts to provide up to six million meals to Feeding America in support of local member food banks. Food banks rely heavily on donations like these to serve the community, so this is an amazing blessing that J.M. Smucker Company is providing.

How can you help needy families this Thanksgiving?

Look for special coupons for savings on Crisco and Pillsbury products in national newspapers on November 2nd that will help you share the goodness this season and make every meal matter! For every Crisco and Pillsbury coupon redeemed, The J.M. Smucker Company will donate the equivalent of three meals to Feeding America, with a minimum donation of 4.5 million meals (a $450,000 donation) and up to six million meals ($600,000 donation). And you get to save some cash on your holiday dinner, a win for everyone!

This post is brought to you by The J.M. Smucker Company and Feeding America. All opinions are 100% mine.

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The ultra-low prices, the oversize carts, the free samples... Warehouse clubs are innately designed to get you to part with your hard-earned money. Can you really save money by buying in bulk at your local Sam's Club, Costco or BJ's???

The truth is, yes, shopping warehouse clubs can be a great way to save money, BUT you're going to have to do some smart shopping and have some serious willpower. So before you ever step foot in your local Costco, et al, learn these rules for shopping and take them to heart.

7 Rules for Shopping at Warehouse Clubs

Start with a list.
Wandering aimlessly through a warehouse club is a surefire way to empty your wallet. Even if your list isn't super specific (I know at first you may not be familiar with exactly what products they carry), at least having a general plan of attack will help you keep more cash in your wallet. At the very least, you should have a firm spending limit in mind before you walk through the door.

Know your limits.
Sure, those huge bulk packages can save you a lot of money, but if you can't use the quantity before the items spoils, you're probably wasting more money than you saved. If you're doing a large freezer cooking session, sure, you can probably use up that massive bag of onions. If not, well, you should probably skip that purchase -- or consider going in with a friend to split the bounty while still saving.

Compare prices.
Price out your grocery bulk buys per item and compare the unit price to your local grocery store to ensure that you're really saving. The larger packaging can make the unit price very deceiving, so keeping a calculator handy is a must. If you keep a price book, you already have a head start on this, but if not, grab a small memo pad and just jot down the items you buy most frequently along with the prices every so often to verify that you're really getting the most for your money. The same goes for big ticket items -- always do a price check for the exact make and model to ensure that you're really getting a stellar price.

Avoid the middle of the store.
While I usually avoid the middle of the store at grocery stores because I'm trying to steer clear of processed foods, I also avoid them at warehouse stores -- but for a different reason. Warehouse clubs typically stock the middle of the store with their biggest impulse buys, so if you're lacking in willpower, just avoid that section all together.

Don't forget your coupons.
While only BJ's accepts manufacturer's coupons, both Sam's Club and Costco offer store coupons. If you're not using them, you're missing out on additional savings that could turn a so-so price into a stellar deal!

Understand the pricing.
Merchandise moves fast at warehouse clubs, and it's a roll of the dice as to whether a particular item will be available on your next visit. Luckily, these insider tips can help you make an educated guess. At Costco, prices that end in a 7 indicate a clearance item. Also, an asterisk on a sign means that the item is limited to the stock in the store and won't be reordered (a good indicator whether or not that tempting buy will be available on your next trip). Sam's Club's clearance prices end in a penny (ex. $7.91) and/or the signs are marked with a "C". Sales prices at BJ's are clearly marked.

Gift cards are the hidden gems. Though the brands turn over frequently, you can frequent purchase top-tier gift cards for less than face value at warehouse clubs. The catch is you often have to spend upwards of $50 to get the savings, but with the savings often being close to 20%, you can save a bundle if they're establishments visit often.

I realize that many of these strategies are comparable to those that we use in our everyday grocery shopping, but they can also help you shop wisely at warehouse clubs!

Do you have a warehouse club membership, and if so, what are favorite items to purchase there? Share in the comments and you could win a Huggies prize package valued at $50!

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Today, one lucky Deal Seeking Mom reader will win his or her choice of $50 in Huggies products!!! Follow the instructions in the widget below to be entered to win...



Be sure to check out the Pick Up The Values website for more valuable printable coupons, including savings on Huggies products!

This post is brought to you by Kimberly-Clark. All opinions are 100% mine.

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How To Start A Gift Closet + $50 GoodNites Giveaway!

by Tara Kuczykowski on October 22, 2014 · 46 comments

Gifts on short notice can be a total budget buster, and it's something that happens frequently around here. Last minute birthday party invites, dinner invitations and baby showers seem to pop up at the most inconvenient times, but with a little planning, unexpected gifting no longer needs to be a source of anxiety.

Okay, so you might be wondering how exactly you can plan for the unexpected... Well, my friends, that's the beauty of a gift closet!

How To Start A Gift Closet

By creating a stockpile of gifts, you can simply "shop at home" when you need a gift at a moment's notice -- or even when you have adequate notice. A well-stocked gift closet will save you both time and money.

Do I really need a whole closet?
First things first, a gift closet doesn't necessarily have to be a closet dedicated only to gifts. It's anywhere in your home where you can store pre-purchased gifts while still being easily accessible. Get creative -- you can store them under a bed, in the front of the basement crawl space, or a high shelf in a bedroom closet. We've even been known to tuck gifts away in our suitcases when we know we won't be traveling anytime soon to keep them away from little eyes and hands.

How do I remember what I have on hand?
You'll definite want to keep a running list of gift items you've purchased. For those of you that are digitally-minded (like myself), keeping a list on your smartphone is ideal. You can add and delete items as necessary. However, a spreadsheet on your computer, or even a simple pencil and paper work just as well, so go with whatever you're most comfortable with.

What kind of items should I keep in my gift closet?
The items you stockpile in your gift closet will look a bit different for each of us. It greatly depends on the stage of life we're in. If you have little ones that are constantly getting birthday party invites, then you'll want to keep an eye out for age appropriate toys, games, puzzles and/or art supplies. If you get invited to a lot of dinner parties, you may want to keep a few bottles of red and white wine, pretty towels, and/or scented candles on hand. If you know a lot of expectant moms, you might keep your eyes peeled for baby toys and layettes in gender neutral colors.

How do I save money with a gift closet?
As I've already mentioned, a gift closet will save you both time and money. By picking up a few items each month, you can stockpile gifts without crimping your budget, especially when you shop the clearance aisles. After holiday and end of season events are also ideal times to find gifts. When you find a really great item, don't be afraid to buy multiples! And while you're at it, be sure to stock up on wrapping paper, gift bags, and blank cards so you have everything you need for the perfect last-minute gift on hand.

What are your thoughts on regifting?
My oldest daughter is the queen of regifting. Shortly before Christmas a few years back, I thought I was losing my mind, as I kept losing small items around the house. So imagine my surprise on Christmas Eve when my daughter presented me with an array of carefully wrapped gifts. As I opened each box, I "found" all of those missing items. It's one of my favorite memories, but while I adore her giving spirit and ingenuity, I don't typically recommend regifting used items. But unused or unopened items? I say they're totally fair game as long as you don't accidentally gift them back to the original giver -- and that's where a little note on your tracking list comes in really handy.

Using a gift closet strategy has saved me SO many headaches over the years. While I won't say that I always have the perfect occasion-appropriate gift on hand, most of the time I do, and that makes it more than worth the minimal time I've invested.

Do you have a gift closet, and if so, what are some of the items in it right now? Share in the comments and you could win a GoodNites prize package valued at $50!

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Today, one lucky Deal Seeking Mom reader will win his or her choice of $50 in GoodNites products!!! Follow the instructions in the widget below to be entered to win...



Be sure to check out the Pick Up The Values website for more valuable printable coupons, including savings on GoodNites products!

This post is brought to you by Kimberly-Clark. All opinions are 100% mine.

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I've touted the time-saving benefits of freezer cooking many times. It's a great way to simplify the age-old "What's for dinner???" question on busy weeknights. Sometimes referred to as "once a month cooking," freezer cooking will also help you save money, as well.

Saving Money with Freezer Cooking

Save by buying in bulk.
While shopping at warehouse clubs isn't an issue for my larger-than-average family, those of you with fewer or younger children might find that the huge packages you take home from a Sam's Club or Costco are simply too much to use up before the item spoils. Planning a large freezer cooking session will allow you to use up these large packages in one fell swoop, allowing you to enjoy that savings that buying in bulk provides.

Save by grocery shopping less.
I don't know about you, but even when I go to the grocery store with a list, I often end up coming home with items that weren't on the list -- especially when shopping at superstores like Walmart or Target. When you have a month's worth of ready-made meals waiting in your freezer, you may only need to pick up milk and some fresh produce each week. Shopping less frequently helps you to avoid the temptation to grab unnecessary items altogether.

Save by limiting eating out.
It's just a no brainer that cooking at home is going to save money over ordering takeout or eating out on any given night. My family enjoys eating out together, and sometimes it's a necessity when we're traveling for sports, but balancing those splurges with eating at home as often as possible the rest of the time helps us stay within our budget.

How To Freeze Cookie Dough



I know freezer cooking might seem a little overwhelming to some of you, and that's okay. You know how they say there's more than one way to skin a cat? Well, there's more than one way to do freezer cooking. Maybe you're ambitious and want to do a weekend spree to cook for an entire month -- good for you! If you have less time, try a smaller 4-5 hour session.

Or if you're really pinched for time (and this is my favorite method), simply double whatever you're preparing for dinner on a given night. Finish one batch for dinner, and pop the other into the freezer for later.

And who says freezer cooking has to be limited to dinners? I love to make a double batch of cookie dough and freeze half to bake a few here and there. You can find instructions on how to freezer cookie dough on Unsophisticook.

Some other recipes that I often prepare for my freezer are:

:: Recommended Resources

If you're thinking about trying freezer cooking yourself, I wholeheartedly endorse the following resources. They'll guide you through the process step by step, from creating a meal plan, shopping and prepping, to tips for keeping your meals as fresh as possible!

What is your favorite meal or recipe to keep in the freezer? Share in the comments and you could win a Scott Towels prize package valued at $50!

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Today, one lucky Deal Seeking Mom reader will win his or her choice of $50 in Scott Towels products!!! Follow the instructions in the widget below to be entered to win...



Be sure to check out the Pick Up The Values website for more valuable printable coupons, including savings on Scott Towels products!

This post is brought to you by Kimberly-Clark. All opinions are 100% mine.

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We're getting down to the wire for holiday shopping now! I don't know about you, but we're pretty much done with our major shopping and just need to pick up a few small odds and ends for our kids' stockings.

I know that Staples might not be your first thought for stocking stuffers, but I found a ton of cute and relatively inexpensive items on a recent shopping trip. Here are my top five faves:

I was thrilled to see these Targus styluses available in a huge rainbow of colors! To prevent arguing over items such as this, we tend to purchase five different colors for our kids to help keep everything straight -- typically pink and purple for the girls and red, blue and green for our boys. These are really nice quality, and will be useful for the drawing apps and more on our kids' tech devices!

I fell in love with these adorable USB drives featuring some of my favorite cartoon characters and more. Again, I always appreciate variety in these items so that we don't have to purchase duplicates. These are great for older students that need to transport digital documents back and forth between school and home!

Earbuds just don't seem to last long in our house. Either they seem to walk off on their own, or they get horribly tangled and break. These colorful pairs from Skullcandy are very affordable at just $9.99 per pair and sound great! There were also several other colors available not pictured.

This one is maybe not so appropriate for kids, but I would love to find one of these adorable Cosmo tape dispensers in my stocking to brighten up my office during these cold winter months. Hope my hubby was taking notes!

Another item in our household that seems to grow legs are all of our USB charging cables. We plan to pick one up in each color so that everyone knows which is theirs, hopefully putting an end to this frustration for good!

Staples also carries a huge variety of tech cases, cute pens, pencils and notebooks, flash cards, and many more items that would make fabulous stocking stuffers. They even have adorable gifts for the family dog -- wouldn't want to leave him or her out!

If you're curious about some of the larger items that have great deals right now, check out this quick video that I put together after shopping last week. I even ended up purchasing myself a little gift, so I know I'm getting at least one thing that I want for Christmas -- yay!

For deals on all the hot tech and fun toys, keep following my blog each week. Be sure to follow me on Twitter too, @Dealseekingmom; I’ll be tweeting out daily deals!

And, while you’re looking for great, personalized gifts BEYOND the holidays, take a look at Create.Staples.Com where you can make personalized phone, tablet cases, mugs and more for you or your loved ones! Just upload your photo and choose your design and message! (Hint, hint to my husband, I’d love the personalized iPhone case for Valentines day….) It’s affordable, easy and a really cute gift idea for any holiday.

I'm thrilled to be on the Staples Holiday Council this holiday season, bringing you fantastic deals to assist you in finding the perfect gift for every person on your list. Staples will be offering great deals (including exclusive offers!) throughout the holiday season, helping you get more for less! For more holiday tips be sure to check out the Staples Holiday Center.

This post is brought to you by Staples. All opinions are 100% mine.

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