Thursday, September 29, 2011

Building a Children's Library on a Budget

One of the things Peanut simply loves is her books. She will sit down and go through the pages, intensely studying the pictures and interacting with the different elements on the page. We have made it a nightly ritual to begin reading 2 or 3 books to her before she goes to bed, and she loves walking over to her bookshelf and picking out which book to read. She tends to want to read the same books over and over, and although it does get a bit repetitive, it is so wonderful to watch her enjoyment over it that we continue to read them to her.

From the beginning, it has been important to us to have plenty of children's books on hand to provide opportunity for learning as well as to help cultivate the love of reading in our children. However, collecting a large assortment of children's books can be quite pricey. Have you ever gone inside a bookstore and looked for a cheap children's book? Unless you dig hard in the bargain bin, you likely won't find one for less than $5-8. Baby board books cost even more due to the durable construction.

The following places are wonderful sources of discounted or cheap children's books that we always take advantage of:

Library Book Sales
This is perhaps the best place to find children's books for next to nothing! While I was pregnant with Peanut, we went to a local library book sale. We were able to fill a grocery bag full of books for just $4. Although they might have some wear, a lot of them are still in great condition or can be mended with a little elbow grease. Some of Peanut's favorite books came from this sale, and I love that because we did not pay much for them there is no worry over the terrible abuse they have and will continue to experience in the hands of a busy toddler.

Garage Sales
This is the second best place to find children's books. During garage sale season, keep your eyes open for board books in particular, as they can be hard to find. Baby and toddler books are not as common either, so just be on the lookout and you will likely find some great deals. Collecting books for when children are older is a great thing to begin as well. Usually, books at garage sales run anywhere from 10 to 50 cents. I have never seen a children's book priced any higher than that!

Family and Friends
Another great source of children's books is family and friends. Ask around and there are bound to be plenty of people willing to pass on books no longer read or in use. For birthdays and holidays, consider asking for books instead of toys. This is a wonderful way to get quality new books for your child too.

Although we do enjoy building our own children's library, nothing beats the real library for fresh, new books when those you own have been read to death. Be warned, however, not to let them become overdue, or you will quickly defeat the purpose of reading for free. We try not to check out more than 3 children's books at a time so that they are not as likely to become lost and are easier to keep track of. Renewing favorite books online is a great way to get more use out of them as well. Do take care to ensure these books do not get damaged as well, since they do not belong to you and you will be charged if they become severely ripped or abused. I try to only get board books for playtime and then the paper-paged books are kept out of reach until I can read them with my daughter.

Do you have a favorite place to buy children's books? Share in the comments below!

Monday, September 26, 2011

October Menu Plan

It's that time of the month again! A new month means a new menu! The theme for this month is hearty soups, stews and roasts to keep us warm while we wait to turn on the heat. Oh, and all are budget friendly of course, with the average dinner providing leftovers for lunch! For breakfast, baked oatmeal, pumpkin and apple muffins will appear and for dessert, we'll have fresh pumpkin pie and other seasonal treats.
Click here to view our October Dinner Menu.
This is the 3rd month we have begun using monthly menu plans, and I am amazed at how well it is working for us! I would definitely not be able to keep our grocery budget as low as it is without a menu plan. Planning out meals for the entire month allows me to take advantage of sales I otherwise would have overlooked. Although we are still working out the kinks with our lowered grocery budget, I know that the number one way to succeed with it is by using monthly menu plans. I have tried weekly and biweekly menu-planning, but nothing has worked as well as monthly plans have.
This month I will also be working on continuing to freeze meals and foods in preparation for the new baby. I also would like to try my hand at canning some grape jelly since grapes are so cheap right now. 
What foods are you looking forward to cooking/baking in October? Share in the comments below!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Weekly CVS and Walgreens Savings

Today I went to Walgreens and CVS to pick up a few of their sale items and also to use my RR and rain-check. Below is what I got (apologies for the bad photo- I used my phone!):

1 Carefree Liner @ $1.00, -0.50/1 coupon
1 Skintimate Shave Gel @ $1.99, -1.50/1 coupon
1 Schick Razor w/ 16 AA batteries (clearance) $3.25
= $4.68
Earned $1.00 ECB

3 Nice Tomato Sauces @ $0.25 each
1 Domino Sugar @ $2.49 -0.50/1 coupon
1 Finish Gel Pack @ $3.99, -0.75/1 coupon
-$5 RR
=$1.76 (I forgot to use my domino sugar coupon- and no, I can't believe it!)
Earned $1.50 RR

I spent just over $6 for all those items, and I got $2.50 back to use for next week. I really didn't even know I had the $5 RR, so that was like free money to me! And the battery find was too good to pass up, especially since we are out of AAs.

Have you found any good deals lately?