Category Archives: Family ideas

My 20 favorite tips (that have saved us the most money!)

my logoI go through spurts of time where I am too busy to clip coupons or find new ways to save (and to blog!). However, there are some tried and true tips that have become part of our regular routines and daily life that help us save a lot of money!

Check out my favorites! How many do you do?

1) Keeping a price list – This is probably my favorite resource. I update it frequently and keep it in my purse to refer to when shopping. It helps me know when a price is right!

2) Rewards for shopping – With OfficeMax rewards we have saved hundreds of dollars! They have great clearance and sale items and coupons, too. It is one of my favorite stores!

3) My favorite find – swapping books – It used to be that you could make some money selling your used books on Amazon. One year I made a few hundred dollars selling old books. Now the market is saturated and books go for pennies. However, this site allows me to create a wish list of books I want and trade books I am done with. I have gotten many great books for my family and for teaching!

4) Preparing for gift giving = savings – My gift drawer has come in handy many times for birthday parties and teacher gifts! I always stock up on things when I spot a good deal.

5) Making your own challah – Since we got a bread machine this has gotten even easier. My husband also makes pizza crust and loaf bread in it. Between that and shopping at our local bread outlet, we spend so little on bread products!

6) Menu planning – We often get too busy to do this, but when we do, it helps so much! We make less trips to the store and eat better. Our family loves homemade meals better than pinch hit dinners like eggs and toast!

7) Brighter savings – I cannot remember the last time we had to buy light bulbs. Using fluorescent bulbs saves us a lot of money and we have to replace them so infrequently!

8) Staying on top of your kids’ clothing – We are so fortunate to have generous friends who give us their hand-me-down clothes when they are done with them. I love to go shopping in my basement for the next size clothes when my boys’ need it! I rarely have to buy things for them except for socks, underwear, and a few other items!

9) Become a member – Our zoo and science center memberships have more than paid off and give us other things to do at each place that we normally could not afford! I just wish they both weren’t up for renewal around the same time!

10) SodaStream soda makers! – I admit that I love soda, even though it is bad for me! However, SodaStream uses healthy artificial sweeteners and is much cheaper than canned and bottled sodas. It also makes a nice treat for Shabbos guests that we would normally not be able to afford!

11) The advantage of buying paper goods online – I try to limit our use of paper goods, but around the holidays (especially Pesach), they really come in handy. Buying them in the store (even Sam’s) can be so expensive. See my reasons for why shopping online is better!

12) Recycle your ink – earn money – OfficeMax offers $2 back now on each ink cartridge you recycle with them. It just gets added to your rewards. Simple way to earn a few bucks!

13) School Supply Shopping Strategy – With school supplies already out on the shelves, my shopping tips really help us spend very little on supplies each year. And with four kids, it can add up quickly!

14) Are “dollar stores” really a good deal? – I love Dollar Tree and frankly probably shop there too much! But, I find so many great deals there – teaching items, kitchen tools, containers, and more!

15) Why I love Target! – Target has so many ways for you to stack your savings – manufacturer’s coupons, Target printable coupons, Cartwheel mobile app, your Target Red Card, and gift card rewards. I always come out with a feeling of accomplishment and save at least $20 or more this way!

16) Printer ink can cost a fortune – I print a lot from home for teaching, so my tips for buying affordable ink are crucial! We also changed to a Brother printer, which has been much better than our HP printer.

17) Making the most of the whole bird My husband is a master at using as much of a chicken as possible. We let very little go to waste and end up with several meals from one chicken!

18) Follow-up on ditching cable – we love our Roku!This change has made the biggest difference in our monthly expenses. It was hard to do at first, but I cannot imagine going back and am so glad we are not wasting our money anymore!

19) Post-Christmas shopping successI love after-holiday sales. I can always find good deals on special treats, snacks, items for my gift drawer, and more. You don’t have to celebrate the holiday to save from the special seasonal items!

20) Saving on Black Friday without spending much money! I do not stand in line for hours, but I still save a ton each Black Friday. A little planning and knowing the right stores to go to make the difference!

Thanks for reading and please let me know what you think of my favorite tips and other posts!

Hope you are enjoying your summer!


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Inspiration for Purim costumes and shaloch manos

This year I am not feeling nearly as crazed as usual, but it certainly helps that my boys chose easy costumes. I normally make their costumes and I take pride that they still wear most of their past costumes to play dress up. However, this year with working two jobs and being sick most of last week, I was feeling so behind. I am finally caught up, except for this – blogging! The following are costume and shaloch manos ideas from last year.


Here is what my boys dressed up as last year – a rocker, Bat Dog, Robin and Batman.

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One of my sons chose to be a rocker. All that required was a borrowed wig (thanks Michelle!), favorite pants with hole in the knee, and a favorite jammy shirt. The easiest of the bunch!

Another wanted to be Bat Dog, which I had never heard of. We looked up ideas on Pinterest and found what he looks like. We used:

  • brown sweatshirt and sweatpants
  • a homemade collar made of felt and velcro (sewed on) and decorated with permanent marker
  • homemade ears made of felt and a headband
  • a black mask (found at Michaels)

The last triplet wanted to be Robin. His costume was made from:

  • red short-sleeved shirt (Michaels or Walmart)
  • green long-sleeved polo shirt
  • red pajama pants
  • felt accents for the shirt and belt, glued with felt glue, velcro sewed on to secure belt, and decorated with permanent marker
  • another black mask (from Michaels)

My oldest wanted to be Batman. His costume was made from:

  • grey sweatpants and sweatshirt
  • a black cape I made from black fabric, an elastic black ribbon for the neck and fabric glue, and decorated with permanent marker
  • felt accents for the shirt and belt, glued with felt glue
  • another black mask (from Michaels)

Shaloch manos:

Our own shaloch manos last year were made to be inexpensive, with a bit of creativity. With job struggles for us both, we needed to keep our costs down. So we went with an apple theme – red gift bag (from Party City), green leaves made from scrapbooking paper, labels printed on the computer, green ribbon, apples, apple laffy taffy and apple cereal bars (from Aldi). Simple, but cute.

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Here are more ideas from shaloch manos we received last year that were creative, yummy and/or useful!

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Pirate treasure theme – cardboard treasure box, goodies inside, scroll with poem on top

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Italian delicacy theme – Pellegrino drink, dakkah spread, olive oil, and Italian bread. Such a special yummy treat and a beautiful, elegant presentation! (Great idea Tammy & Mark!)

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Beach theme – pail and shovel, cute poem with food to match (Great idea Amy and Joshua!)

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Shoe theme – The sisterhood of one of the local shuls always does beautiful, elaborate shaloch manos as a fundraiser. They come up with wonderful themes each year. Last year’s was shoes. The container was a shoebox of course, and inside were a shoe cookie cutter, a shoe-shaped cake knife, shoe luggage tag, a shoe notepad, shoestring potatoes, fruit by the foot, a shoe-shaped cookie, and more. They even put it all in a canvas bag from Famous Footwear!

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Superhero theme – family initial superhero logo, blue paper bag, poem with foods to match – Powerade, Go Bars, celery, Popchips and Gushers. (Great idea Jessi and Arik!)


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Spring themed box – loved this one and it can be used for anything! I love reusable containers!

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Mexican fiesta theme – this family always chooses a theme with matching container and costumes. They include a photo of the family dressed in costume on their container. They are amazing! The food matches, too! (Thanks Bella and Yosef!)

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Posted by on March 2, 2015 in Family ideas, Holidays


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St. Louis Jewish Orthodox Community – Purim Megillah Readings 2015

purim artPurim is only a few days away and we have been very busy getting everything ready. But as we all know, Purim has four important mitzvos. Thankfully, the only prep for hearing megillah is deciding where to go. To make it easier for my St. Louis Orthodox friends, here is my annual list of readings in the community.

I update this post often as new information comes to me and if there are any corrections. Please check back if there is not a time that suits you and your family.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

5:35 p.m.         Mincha followed by 6:30 Ma’ariv, Megillah reading at 6:40 p.m. by Rabbi Shaya Mintz,
x                     Nusach Hari B’nai Zion

5:45 p.m.         Nusach Hari B’nai Zion KidZone Kids will make groggers and fill Hamantashen in the
x                     Feigenbaum-Pepose Learning Center, then – between Mincha and Ma’ariv ~ before the
x                     reading of the Megillah ~ they will show off their costumes as they parade around the shul.

6:00 p.m.         Young Israel, Kids’ Costume Parade

6:15 p.m.         Ma’ariv, followed by Megillah Reading at 6:30 p.m., Bais Abraham Congregation

6:25 p.m.         Ma’ariv, followed by Megillah reading at Agudas Israel

6:30 p.m.         Ma’ariv, followed by Megillah reading at U City shul

6:30 p.m.         Ma’ariv led by Beit Shira Hazzan Howard Shalowitz followed by Megillah reading by Rabbi
x                     Yaakov Gertzulin, The Cedars, 13190 S. Outer Forty Rd, Town and Country, MO 63017.

6:30 p.m.         Ma’ariv, followed by Megillah read by Rabbi Rovinsky and Max Gornish, Special youth program
x                     for children from 1st grade and under with JoJo the Clown, Young Israel

7:00 p.m.         Tpheris Israel Chevra Kadisha

8:15 p.m.         Young Israel, reading by Dr. Danny Wachsstock

8:30 p.m.         Torah Prep Boys School

9:15 p.m.         Chabad on Campus, 7018 Forsyth Blvd., St. Louis, MO 63105, contact

9:15 p.m.         Young Israel “Lotts of Fun”-Purim Bingo with food and prizes

Thursday, March 5, 2015

6:15 a.m.         Early minyan – Shacharis, followed by Megillah reading, Agudas Israel

6:30 a.m.         Shacharis, followed by 7:00 a.m. reading by Rabbi Rovinsky, Nusach Hari B’nai Zion

6:30 a.m.         Shacharis, followed by Megillah reading at 7:00 a.m., Bais Abraham Congregation

6:30 a.m.         Shacharis, followed by 7:10 a.m. reading by Dr. Hillel Frankenthal, Young Israel

7:30 a.m.         Shacharis, followed by Megillah Reading, Agudas Israel

7:40 a.m.         U City Shul

7:40 a.m.         Tpheris Israel Chevra Kadisha

8:30 a.m.         Shacharis, followed by 9:15 a.m. Family Friendly Megillah In 4 Voices with Rabbi Shulman,
Young Israel

9:00 a.m.         Shacharis led by Beit Shira Hazzan Howard Shalowitz followed by Megillah reading by Rabbi
x                     Yaakov Gertzulin, The Cedars, 13190 S. Outer Forty Rd, Town and Country, MO 63017.

9:30 a.m.         St. Louis Women’s Megillah Reading, at the home of Bonnie & Mickey Goldmeier, 219 Topton
x                     Way, Clayton

10:00 a.m.       Agudas Israel

12:05 p.m.       Chabad on Campus, in the DUC room 232, Washington University’s “Danforth Campus,” contact

1:00 p.m.         Young Israel reading by Max Gornish

2:00 p.m.         Grand Purim Reenactment Parade, begins at corner of Gay and Cornell, 1 hour

5:00 p.m.         Annual Bais Abraham-Torah MiTzion Festive Purim Seudah Meal, Adults: $20 at the door, Kids
x                     3-12: $15 at the door, Kids under 3: FREE

5:10 p.m.         Chabad on Campus, 7018 Forsyth Blvd., St. Louis, MO 63105, contact

*Please note that the main part of your seudah should be completed before sunset at 6:00 p.m., according to the Young Israel schedule.

** Other seudas are not listed because they required in advance reservations that have passed.

Related fliers:

Women’s Megillah flyer 2015

Young Israel Purim 2015

Bais Abe purim flyer (2)

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Posted by on March 1, 2015 in Family ideas, Holidays


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Camp Mommy 2014 – Summer Fun Bingo

summer bigLast year was our first year of Camp Mommy, where I wasn’t working and the kids were therefore home with me. This year we are doing it again, but since we did so much last summer, I was feeling a bit unexcited to go to the same places, So to freshen things up, I have created a new version of my Camp Mommy Summer Bucket List.

To see last year’s version, where we drew slips of paper from different cups each day, see my post “Summer Bucket List (aka Camp Mommy).”

This year I created a Bingo board with many choices! There are so many places to go that we definitely won’t cover the whole board! Again it includes places at a variety of price points and time commitments. I try to do as many free or inexpensive choices most days. I thought it would be fun for my boys to close their eyes and each day one boy points to a bingo square to decide what we do for that day. We normally go somewhere 3-4 days a week (the park and the library are often several days a week and are great for afternoons). I try to leave Fridays for work around the house and getting ready for Shabbos.

I also made a new schedule for the day. I found a great resource to make a schedule to display on the refrigerator. I plan to mount it on cardstock and laminate it so I can use it from year to year. If you want to get your own, check out the post “Printable Summer Schedule.”

Summer-Schedule-Printables-print-out-and-put-on-refrigerator-to-help-organize-your-summer-days--500x708Here is our schedule for the day (which of course varies if we have specific plans):

7 – 8 a.m. – Play, breakfast
8 – 9 a,m, – Outside play
9 – 9:15 a.m. – Clean up
9:15 – 10:15 a.m. – Television time
10:15 – 10:30 a.m. – Snack, get ready to leave
Outing or if home – art, games, activities, schoolwork
1 – 3 p.m. – Nap for youngest three, computer time for oldest
3 – 3:30 p.m. – Outside play
3:30 – 4 p.m. – Make fun snack or do an art project
4 – 4:30 p.m. – Schoolwork to review for upcoming year
4:30 – 5 p.m. – Rotation of computer time between younger three boys
5 – 6 p.m. – Television time while we get dinner ready

* The times after lunch may vary some based on what time we get home from our outing and if we plan to go somewhere in the afternoon.

The Bingo board is available in two versions:

Summer Bingo 2014

Summer Bingo 2014 StL version

I left a bit of space on each square so you can put stickers on each as you complete an activity. If you see any mistakes, let me know! I did not include prices this year since things change so quickly!

What are you doing with your time this summer? Please leave a comment or feedback below!

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Posted by on June 30, 2014 in Family ideas, Forms for everything


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Need last-minute shaloch manos ideas?

I am a bit behind this year with blogging and Purim preparations with juggling my family, teaching, freelance writing, and household tasks. I am sure many of you can relate. Some years I start early and don’t have to wait until the last minute to do everything. At least I still have a week to go!

In case you are behind and want some ideas, I have a few tips for shaloch manos from those we received and made last year. Take a look!

Shaloch manos:

Last year, we made shaloch manos inspired by a teacher appreciation gift I saw somewhere.  I found the instructions by Googling “teacher appreciation water bottle gift.” I unfortunately cannot find the site I used, but if you look on Pinterest there are many similar ideas. They each vary in complexity and difficulty. I chose an easy idea that did not use brads or lots of different layers of paper. It was cute, but the holders did keep sliding off during delivery (even though they were tied on).

I used a variety of scrapbook papers, scrapbooking stickers, small labels (for the message), and my tape runner (to adhere the pocket). We inserted a Crystal Light drink mix packet and attached a granola bar to the back. A bow and tape secured it all together.




Some other FAVORITE SHALOCH MANOS we received last year are shown below:


Movie theme – popcorn box, chocolate bar, microwave popcorn, Coca Cola, and hamantashen. (Great idea Larry & Lori!)



Pizza theme – a whole meal in a pizza box: hamantashen pizzas, peppers, Bissli, chocolate bar, chocolate drink and a few other goodies. (Thank you Michelle and Ephraim!)



Red, White and Blue theme – Red licorice, white Airheads, Oreos (blue package), and hamantashen. (Thanks Wende and Don!)


Berry theme – all foods with a berry flavor! (Thanks Shari and Rabbi!)



Nautical theme – this family always chooses a container and costume themes to match. They include a photo of the family on their shaloch manos container or label. They are amazing! (Thanks Bella and Yosef!)


Decorative box – I loved this box so much that I use it in my classroom for treats! (Thanks Tammy and Mark!)

For more inspiration, check out my friend Mara’s (from Kosher on a Budget) awesome Shaloch Manos ideas:

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St. Louis Jewish Orthodox Community – Purim Megillah Readings 2014


It is time for my annual post sharing the Orthodox Megillah readings here in St. Louis. (I apologize to my non-St. Louis readers that this post will not apply to you. However, you may skip down to the bottom for other Purim-related posts.) This is particularly helpful for moms with young children who are not old enough to stay up (or be quiet) during Megillah readings. It is also helpful for those having to work around their “work” schedules.

Here is my current list as of 3:30 p.m. on Friday, March 7. If you see any errors or have any additions, let me know and I will update the post.

Saturday, March 15:

8:00 p.m.        Beit Shira, at The Cedars, 13190 S. Outer 40, Town and Country, MO 63017

8:15 p.m.        Tpheris Israel Chevra Kadisha
xx                  Agudas Israel
xx                  U City Shul (formerly Beth Hamedrosh Hagadol Sha’arei Chesed)
xx                  Bais Abraham
xx                  Young Israel
xx                  Congregation Bais Menachem

8:30 p.m.        Nusach Hari B’nai Zion

9:45 p.m.        Torah Prep Boys School, reading for women

10:00 p.m.      Young Israel, Beit Medrash

Sunday, March 16:

6:30 a.m.        Young Israel Shacharis in Beit Medrash, followed by Megillah, 7:10 a.m.

7:45 a.m.        Agudas Israel Shacharis followed by Megillah

8:00 a.m.        U City Shul Shacharis followed by Megillah
xx                  Bais Abraham Shacharis followed by Megillah, 8:30 a.m.
xx                  Young Israel, followed by Megillah, 8:35 a.m.
xx                  Nusach Hari B’nai Zion, followed by Megillah, 8:30 a.m.

8:30 a.m.        Congregation Bais Menachem Shacharis, followed by Megillah, 9:00 a.m.
xx                  Beit Shira with the Block Yeshiva boys, at The Cedars, 13190 S. Outer 40, Town and Country

8:40 a.m.        Tpheris Israel Chevra Kadisha

9:30 a.m.       Women’s Megillah Reading, home of the Goldmeiers, 219 Topton Way, Clayton

10:15 a.m.     Agudas Israel, reading for women
xx                 Aish HaTorah, Purim celebration including an “original” megillah reading
xx                    brunch afterwards (cost $8 adult, $5 child (ages 5 – 11), free pony rides for kids 11:30 – 12:30

11:00 a.m.      Young Israel, by Levy Zimand for his bar mitzvah

11:30 a.m.      Epstein Hebrew Academy

5:00 p.m.       Congregation Bais Menachem

Related fliers:

Agudas Israel: Agudah.Purim.Schedule.2014

Bais Abraham: Bais Abe Purim flyer 2014

* For more information on any of the shuls, please contact them individually. Here is a link to all of the congregations here in St. Louis.

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Posted by on March 7, 2014 in Family ideas, Holidays


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Post-Christmas shopping success!

I love after-holiday sales, even for holidays I don’t celebrate. I have gotten good at finding great deals after Valentine’s Day, Easter, Halloween, Christmas, etc.! The key is to not think about whether you celebrate that holiday or not, but to think about things that might be on sale that you could use. There are many seasonal products that anyone can use regardless of religious or holiday observances. For example, read here to find out what you can get at Easter time: Shop those Easter sales today!

Here is my wrap-up from the post-Christmas sales I hit yesterday.

My regular post-holiday trips are to Target, Michaels, CVS and Walgreens. I also look for any deals at Aldi and Schnucks on any seasonal food items, but those are normally my husband’s errands. This year the Michaels’ holiday items were already on sale when I was there Christmas Eve. I like to look for holiday craft kits that I can hang onto for the following year for my students. Here is what I got this year:

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At Michaels I found:

  • foam stickers of several types
  • an ornament craft kit for the kids’ photos (I used a wreath one this year and the kids loved it.)
  • some foam gingerbread men
  • some pencil-top holiday erasers I will give with my holiday gifts to my students next year.

Walgreens did not have anything I needed this year, but in the past I have gotten holiday cards, decorated holiday cups for my students, chocolate, stickers, and a cake decorating kit. See my post from last year: After-Christmas sales are great for everyone!

This year, CVS also did not have anything I wanted, although I could have gotten some chocolate, but passed this time! We did, however, find something my son had been wanting on his holiday wish list. He even had some holiday money to spend. He got a radio-controlled car for $6.50 (half off $12.99). They had lots of them and we even went back today to get one for the gift drawer!

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We were tremendously successful at Target. I guess I can add it to my list of Why I love Target! I found items not only in the Christmas section, but in the Home section and household aisles. Food items were 30% off and Home items were 50% off. Here is what we found:

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The food section is always full of holiday deals: (they were only 30% off now, but still a great deal)

  • holiday flavors of m&m’s (peppermint white chocolate and mint dark chocolate, two of my favorites),
  • icing (Who cares if my Shabbos dessert has peppermint icing or tree sprinkles?)
  • mint chocolate chip cookie mix
  • seasonal soft cookies (For $1.74 this makes a nice little treat for my boys.)
  • small packaged seasonal cookies (A treat is a treat no matter what shape; we can eat reindeer, too.)

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We found the following in the Home section and Stocking Stuffer aisle:

  • a Deluxe Board Game set (regularly $20, got for $10; includes 7 games)
  • a surround-sound speaker (regularly $10, got for $5; great for our iPods)
  • two bath puffs (We always need to replace these and these may hold up a bit better than the dollar store ones. For items you should get at the dollar store, see my post Are “dollar stores” really a good deal?)

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As for holiday items you might think are only for Christmas, I found:

  • an outdoor extension cord (We needed one for lawn care and Sukkos.)
  • mini lights (great for the Sukkah)
  • a winter scene craft kit (Last year I found a Superhero scene craft kit during their summer sales and my boys loved it. It made for a great family activity one night.)

This is also the time to look for light and plug timers and any type of extension cords for around the house (good for a variety of purposes). They were all 50% off!

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They also had tons of these seasonally-labeled storage bins, expecting that people will need them to store their holiday decorations and supplies. We use them for kids’ clothing and other supplies in our basement. At $6, this normally $7.99 tub was a great deal. I did not get the green and red ones, though!

I was very pleased with all my purchases and may go back next week to see if any other items are marked down even further!

Share your holiday finds in the Comments section. This will help other people think of great ideas for what to do with holiday items!

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