Sunday, January 30, 2011

Super Cook!

As we prepare to make the big move (we hope to close on the house somewhere between February 22-25), it is time to start eating up food rather than moving it.  Ben gave us a huge head start by dropping the sugar container yesterday, checking several pounds of the sweet stuff off our list. :)

I started out making a list of everything in our cupboards, with possible meal ideas, and stuck it to the fridge.  The plan was to cross off items as we use them. 


I discovered Super Cook- this awesome web resource where you put in all your food, and they spit out a list of recipes in various categories using only those ingredients. Genius!  As food items are used up, I can delete them from my list.  Right now I have 2000+ recipes available-  and here I thought there was nothing to make!  I wonder how many options I'll have come February 21...

Check out Super Cook

Monday, January 17, 2011

Selling on Ebay

A couple months ago, inspired by the blog My Dear Trash, I decided to try Ebay selling.  It has been a great fit- I love the excitement of the hunt at Savers' dollar day.  I already make multiple weekly trips to the post office with Sorella Bella, so combined with my love of shopping- Ebay selling makes sense.

Here is my experience for those of you thinking of selling on Ebay.   In the first 60 days I made, net, about $1000.  The first few weeks you don't make much and posting items seems to take forever.  As time goes on, you learn to be selective about items to post for sale, and you learn tricks to post more quickly.  My goal is to get up to $250/ week.

1. Buy a postal scale.  I got the Escali for $20.00 on Amazon (certain colors are less expensive).   It has paid for itself multiple times.    When an item is paid for, I find it and weigh it.  If it is 13 oz or less, I package it in a poly bag and send it first class.  If it is over, I try my hardest to stuff it into a flat rate envelope ($4.75).  

2. When you want to put a bulky item into a flat rate envelope, it helps to prepare the envelope by using your fist to flatten the bottom. 

3. Always ship through Ebay.  You save a little on postal costs, but the real plum is the free or (for first class) discounted delivery confirmation.  In the 2 months I have been doing this, I have had 2 buyers claim to not receive packages.  One was an expensive BCBG Maxazria suit I had paid more than $1 for... plus the shipping!  Lesson learned- always ship online through Ebay, and you never have that problem.  Delivery confirmation is always applied and Ebay automatically gets the tracking number.

4. The reason I didn't use Ebay shipping at first is because I thought it would be complicated.  It's not!  You just need a scale (for first class or parcels, not flat rate envelopes), and a printer.

5. I purchased 2/sheet labels from an ebay seller- 200 for $10.40.  They are ok, but you still need to trim them and put tape over the edges and address.  In the future, I will just print on paper and use a handy dandy tape gun.

6. Like they say at My Dear Trash, price the item at what you want to get for it (using completed listings for reference). Oftentimes, you only get one bid.  If that doesn't sell (but had several watchers), I'll list it at the same price for a second week.  If it STILL doesn't sell, I'll lower the price a bit.  The fourth week I lower even more- to as low as $2.99.  I charge 6.95 shipping, 14.95 International.

7. Get to know brands.  If it sells at a middle or lower range department store, avoid.  You want brands that have followings.  My top sellers so far have been anything BCBG Maxazria or J.Jill, and NWT Ralph Lauren and Jones New York items.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Keeping Track

I really love couponing because it helps us eat well and build food storage on a budget.  Our food budget is $135/month and includes newspaper subscription (coupons), pet supplies, paper goods, and, of course, food.  If you add in health & beauty products the budget is $155.  This is for our family of 2, but since we are filling a store room on this budget, I don't imagine it will go up significantly with the addition of mini-Martineaus.

The Coupon Project has kindly made available a wonderful Savings Tracker for free!  I do my grocery shopping on Mondays.  When I get home I take the receipts and input all the information.  Simple, and it is pretty neat to watch the savings.  Ben appreciates how it keeps me honest about sticking to the budget!

Download the tracker for yourself here:

PS- I have a second copy of the file I use to track my mystery shopping.  I change 'Shelf Cost' to 'Spent', "Coupons" to "Reimbursed", and 'Rebate' to 'Payment'.  So far for January, we have gotten $129 worth of free food and entertainment, and we have made $70.  These amounts are a little higher than normal.  So far in January we've been able to sign up for some great shops- a Fun Zone ($75), Cheesecake Factory ($40), Dollar Theater ($12) and several fast food assignments. 

Read other posts on: mystery shopping.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Special Project

With a set date on moving our entire almost exactly 7 miles south, we have started looking at our possessions in a different light.  Value, usefulness, or beauty has transformed into bulk, awkward shape, and weight.  Due to this altered way of thinking, Ben has made a request.  "Can you put a hold on Ebay selling until we get in the new house?"  

As I look at the mountains piles of neatly-folded clothing that have overtaken our dining room, I have to admit he has a point.  Keeping track of boxes of clothing and shipping simply won't be an option in the middle of a move.  Thus, with my extra hours of time I am embarking on a new project.

I served as a missionary on Temple Square for 18 months and, in that time, met and learned to love hundreds of fellow missionaries.  It has been nearly four years since that experience, but I still miss those friends and our daily interactions.  The sisters come from all over the world, and part of the experience of Temple Square was enjoying all the represented cultures and languages. 

My idea is to put together a recipe book with submissions, mission stories, and photos from the sisters serving during the years I was.  Copies will be available for download on a website, or to purchase hard copy versions at cost of printing and shipping.  I may also likely add T-shirts and other items for sale at cost.  I feel it would be a fun service, and a good way to remember and connect with friends.  

I think the largest challenge will be collecting the recipes.  Compiling the book will take time, but I'm sure I can figure it out.  Building the website will force me to obtain some skills I, at present, only dream of holding.  I am excited for this new venture and hope I am up to the task! 

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Writer's Block?

Coming up for intelligent, content-rich, unique posts is a lot more challenging than I imagined it would be when I made the leap into blogging.  Sometimes it is a real stretch to come up with a post idea.  Fleshing out those forced ideas into a well-written post can be incredibly painful.
Recently, I made a discovery.  When suffering from writer's block I usually switch in to reader mode- flipping through other people's blogs, posting dozens of well-thought-out comments.  This is a great distraction, but typically doesn't help the issue.

So, instead, here is what you do.  Get off the computer.  Go wash your face, or shine your sink.  Paint your nails or take a shower.  The ideas may just start flowing.  Its worked for me!

PS- Be prepared in case it works extra well and you have multiple ideas.  While you run back to the computer and begin a post on the first idea, the others will fly away.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Great News!

Today we learned that our short sale offer has officially been accepted by the Bank of America.  The proposed close date is February 28, but we are working to move it up if possible.  For those who are looking a purchasing a short sale home, it took almost 4 months for the acceptance and will likely be a little over 5 at the close.  The process definitely stretched our patience, and during the wait we saw interest rates rise .75%, but in the end to get such a fabulous house at an amazing price (the original owners mortgage is at $265k and we are closing at 135k), it was worth the wait.

Now begins the preparation for the big move.  I made up a list of everything we have in the fridge, freezer, and cupboards.  We aren't moving very far away, but better to eat it than move it, right?  We have the home inspection on Friday, I am calling around getting rate quotes on home insurance.  Any advice?

Friday, January 7, 2011

Closet "Organization"

We have submitted a counter offer to the bank, and while we anxiously await the favorable conclusion of negotiations, I've prematurely begun packing.  We could be moving as early as February 18th.  As a result, though I love the task, organizing doesn't seem to be the best use of my time.  I did, however, make an hour to rearrange our closet. 
A common theme to organized closets seems to be matching hangers.  We don't have the $$ to upgrade to wood just yet, but why not match what we have?  I switched all my clothes to the clear plastic and all of Ben's to the white plastic.  I wish I would have taken a before picture- here is what is left in one section where I ran out- 

Your usual college-days mix-mash of hangers.

After reorganizing to a uniform set (and sorting by color)-

A quick fix that, relative to how it was before, makes things looked more organized and a little nicer.