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Category Archives: Saving while keeping kosher

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.

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

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

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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!)

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

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

FAVORITE CONTAINERS:

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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!)

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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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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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Making the most of the whole bird

Thanks for your patience with my lack of posts for the last few months. With being back to full-time teaching, I don’t seem to have time to blog much. But, I am not complaining with the economy the way it is and with teaching jobs so hard to get!

Recently my husband has found a new way to save us more money and time. He has been using our freezer to make our cooking very efficient and allow us to have meals we couldn’t afford otherwise (like boneless breast recipes).

Let’s start with chicken.

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When we get chicken for Shabbos, we do not always eat the whole thing and some parts get wasted (or eaten as a not-so-healthy snack for my husband). So instead, my husband has been using all the parts of the chicken very creatively. From two chickens, he puts aside:

  • one chicken breast for a meal later,
  • the wings for a meal later,
  • the necks, back of the breast, and wing tips are saved for making soup stock and then used for soup meat,
  • and one thigh for a meal later.
  • If we are having a roasted chicken, he saves the carcass for making soups, too.

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After several weeks or months, he has enough of each part to make:

  • a boneless chicken dish (from the breasts),
  • teriyaki or barbecue chicken wings (from the wings) – pictured above,
  • chicken soup stock and chicken soup (from the necks, backs, and wing tips),
  • and smoked chicken for seasoning or chicken pieces for a stir fry (from the thighs).

Cheese:

We buy large packs of shredded cheese from Costco. The pack contains more cheese than a single meal uses. So he packages the cheese into smaller servings as soon as we get home. These get frozen in freezer bags to use later as needed. For more ways to cut down on meal costs read Stretching your dinner dime… dollar.”

Refried beans:

My husband has created the best refried beans recipe. He makes a huge batch in our largest soup pot and packages it up in large Gladware containers. (We used to be able to use the soup and salad size, but our family eats more now!) One container or two small ones makes for a great meal of burritos. They are also good to pull out when we cook for a friend with a new baby or for another occasion.

Milk:

Sometimes we stock up on milk if it is a particularly good deal or we have been given milk that is close to expiring. If we freeze it and then thaw it later, we can get a few more days out of it than if we had used it right away. For more tips on how long various foods will last, check out my post “Shelf life of your food.”

Bread:

We recently found an Entenmann’s outlet that sells Arnold and Thomas bread products as well as Entenmann’s baked goods. They have store coupon as well as a punch card. We can spend $10 and leave with 5-7 items! We keep a few out and save the rest for later. Between this and our bread maker, we our saving a ton of money on bread. This has been a big help with all four of our boys in elementary school this year!

Challah:

We always make several challahs at once. What we don’t need for that Shabbos gets frozen for later Shabbosim. To see why making your own challah is worth it moneywise, read “Making your own challah.” We have also tried canning. Read more at First canning experiment: apple butter.”

Kugels and desserts:

This is not always possible, but we try to double kugel and dessert recipes when preparing for Shabbos so we have one to freeze for later. This depends on what ingredients we have available.

How do you use your freezer to its potential? Share your tips below!

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Making lunches – a matrix of choices!

healthy gluten-free school lunch

Many of your children have probably started back to school already. Mine do not start until next Wednesday. However, with this being the first year my little boys have gone to camp, we have been making lunches for the past four weeks. (Or should I say my husband has.) It has gotten me to thinking about how to make this chore easier and to provide the most variety for my children. My husband and I typically take leftovers to work, because we can heat things up or don’t mind eating something cold if we have to. The boys on the other hand…

I used to have a list on the refrigerator of lunch choices, but it has gotten a bit out of date. So I created a new one. It mostly includes dairy options because with keeping kosher meat is expensive. There are also only certain days the kids can bring meat to their Jewish day school.

Below is my matrix of lunch choices (in green). It will be a great tool for adding to our grocery list each week. Then each day when we pack lunches, we will choose one item from each column. This way our kids will get a variety of foods and it will make sure that all of one type of food doesn’t get eaten up in a week! (I just bought a lot of Chex Mix on sale last week at Walgreens and if I let them, my kids would have it every day!) Feel free to edit this document for your needs and your kids’ tastes.

Lunch choices 2013

Other tips for saving money on packing lunches:

∞ Use up your leftovers when you can. This may not work as well for the kids, but the grownups can eat them!

ziploc divided container∞ Use as little packaging as possible. We use reusable water bottles, lunch bags, and as many containers as we can instead of bags. I just bought these Ziploc divided containers for my kids’ lunches and today was their first day using them. I figured it would be a great way for them to know what was their lunch food and what should be saved for snacks. We also use cloth snack bags for some items when we can. For more details, see my post Switch over your disposables.”

∞ Buy cheap water bottles. I have learned from camp that my kids lose water bottles constantly. It does not pay to buy nice ones because I cannot count on them coming back! So the dollar Spot at Target and the dollar store are my favorite places to buy water bottles. See my posts on Why I love Target! and Are ‘dollar stores’ really a good deal?

∞ Stock up on nonperishable lunch items. When you spot something on sale (and even better have a coupon, too) get a few! I got granola bars on sale at Target yesterday and had a manufacturer’s coupon and a Target coupon. This is the best way to stock up – having all three conditions! I also buy in bulk when I can through Costco and Whole Foods. See my post on “Bulk discounts.”

∞ Make as much homemade as you can. We recently got a breadmaker and my husband is enjoying figuring out the best recipes to use. It smells so good when he has a batch ready to go in the morning, With all four boys in elementary school this year, we could easily go through a loaf of bread in a day! Our next project is to experiment with some homemade snacks. See Little House Living and my posts on (More) Make your own… and Don’t buy it, make it homemade – Part 3 for recipes.

∞ Look for outlet stores. We recently found a local outlet bread store (thanks, Lori!) that saves us a ton on bread, bagels, and sandwich thins. They even have store coupons!

∞ Use your price list. Make sure you are buying things at the best price you can get. Just because something is in a larger size of is on sale, doesn’t always mean it is the best deal! To learn more, check out my post “Keeping a price list.”

∞ Check out the sales at the end of this month. Pretty soon all the back-to-school items will go on sale, which means lunch bags, containers, and the like on sale for cheap prices (check out Target, Wal-Mart, drug stores, etc. for these deals). Last summer we got the boys their current lunch bags for $3 each! I love them because they have a zipper at the top and a space for their name on the back. I also got backpacks from Lands’ End at a very deep discount last summer! Be sure to stock up on those swimsuits and rash guards while you are at it, too!

Do you have any tips for packing lunches that you would like to share? Please add them in the Comments section! Thanks Rivka H. and Jessi L, for your ideas I incorporated into the matrix.

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Purim is coming too fast!

Last year I started preparing for Purim early and really worked hard not to leave everything to the last-minute. I was so happy not to be finishing my boys’ costumes right before the sueda! However, this year, with my new job, it has been hard to get started early. Now I am down to one week before Purim and so much to do: costumes to make, shaloch manos to assemble, and food to cook. Luckily we are not hosting a sueda, so that is one less large task.

Thankfully all of my past research and checklists will help me get through it all. Here is my Purim checklist that you can adapt for your needs: Purim prep.

We did our shopping today for our shaloch manos supplies (thank you Costco) and spent the afternoon making shaloch manos as part of a charity project we have done for the past 16 years. Now my goal is to get supplies for my kids’ costumes. I always have luck finding ideas at Family Fun or Parenting magazines’ websites, so I will check there again. Here are a few links to check out:

Here are my kids from last year — my oldest as a knight and my little ones as superheroes.

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If you are like me and are behind in your Purim preparations, here are a few of my older posts to help you:

 

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After-Christmas sales are great for everyone!

Since starting this blog, I have really started to think outside the box about ways to save money. Upon reading one of Kosher on a Budget’s posts, “Why I love (the day after) Halloween,” I realized that it is easy to save on regular items you use everyday even during a holiday sale (and one I don’t celebrate for that matter). Previously I would only buy things from an after-holiday sale that I might use for my classroom. Now my eyes have opened to many possibilities. See my post on “Shop those Easter sales today.”

This post-holiday, I did really well at Walgreens and Target, and found a few last-minute items at Dollar General and Schnucks (our local grocery store). Here is what I found (on Thursday for Target and Walgreens and Friday for Dollar General and Schnucks):

WALGREENS:

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∞ Holiday candy: Who cares if the candy is wrapped in red and green? Still tastes as good!

I got two bags of Hershey’s Kisses (regularly $3.49/bag, on sale 50% off, also had a $1.10 coupon off 2 bags) = $1.19/bag. I also got two bags of Nestle candy (regularly $3.49/bag, on sale 50% off, also had a $1 coupon off 2 bags) = $1.24/bag.

∞ Stocking stuffers: Great place to look for small toy items. You’d be surprised – not everything looks Christmasy or has to do with a holiday character.

I found some small figurines by a brand I had never heard of. They may not be Legos, but for $1 each (50% off $2), they are great for our prize box.

∞ Holiday cards: Why buy them for full price? Instead I stock up each year for the next.

I normally do a photo card to friends and family, but I never seem to get them out on time. So it is always nice to have some Christmas and Chanukah cards on hand to put with a gift, food item, or send to someone if I need to. I got two boxes of cards (15 ct) for $.99 a box (50% off $1.99). Can’t beat that!

∞ Decorative items: You never know what you might find that can have another use.

I found plastic cups with snowflakes on them that were 3 for $1. With the 50% discount they came to $.16/cup. I got 25 for my students for next year (no matter what age I end up teaching) for only $4! I can use them to put their holiday treats in! This price beats the four-pack that I have seen sometimes at the dollar store.

∞ Baking items: Last year I found a cookie decorating kit (normally $9.99) for $5! It came in handy for decorating the boys’ cupcakes for their last birthday. See my post “Superhero kids’ party on a budget.”

TARGET:

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Target is my favorite place to shop for after-holiday sales because they always have a pretty good selection after most holidays.

Holiday food items: The same rule applies here as before – color or decor doesn’t matter much to us if it tastes good. This is also a great time of year to find special flavors only available during the winter season. I found:

- Two seasonal Pringles flavors: Cinnamon Sugar and White Chocolate Peppermint (each 50% off $1.52, also had a coupon for $1 off 4 containers; bought one at full price because son wanted BBQ = $.51 for each of the seasonal flavors)

- Holiday cookies: At 50% off $2.99, I got a nice after-dinner treat for $1.49 a package. These cookies were $1 to $2 more at the grocery store, even on sale!

- Limited edition ginger cheesecake sandwich cookies: We had tried these a few weeks ago and almost everyone loved them. Now at $1.68 a box, they are an even better deal!

- Baking items (peppermint icing): We enjoyed this seasonal flavor on cake this past Shabbos. It was a nice change of pace. I really should have bought two because it seems like the parve icings don’t go on sale as much as the dairy ones! The icing was $.94 a can (50% off $1.89)!

- Holiday candy: I love the new mint m&m’s and except for during the winter holidays, they are only available as a small pack or the stand-up pack size. I always get a few when they go on sale at CVS. I didn’t have a coupon, but at $2.09 a bag (normally $2.99), it was still a good deal! (Target’s holiday candy was only 30% off.)

Decorative items:

- Foam shapes: I always love to get the seasonal craft kits and foam shapes when they go on sale. In fact, just a week ago, I bought one set for Chanukah during that post-holiday sale. These are great to hang onto for the coming year for crafting at home and school. This year my students made ornaments with a set I had bought on clearance last year! (They were 50% off $5 = $2.50 each.)

- Shower puffs: Again color is not important, but at $.99 each for a shower puff, I get a nicer puff than I could get at the dollar store! I found these last year as well.

DOLLAR GENERAL and SCHNUCKS:

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I found a few more items when shopping at these two stores. The holiday decorations are to use on my classroom window (50% off $1 = $.50 each) and the jello pudding was a pumpkin spice flavor. Sounded really good, especially for $.80. The Ghirardelli seasonal chocolate was 50% off $5 = $2.49 a package, and also included some interesting seasonal flavors like peppermint and pumpkin spice!

I had hoped to find some cake or cupcake mixes (for last-minute baking) or some holiday candy (for goodie bags for my students) this year, but no such luck. Chocolate was in abundance, but I worried about saving chocolate for a year!

I hope this post gives you some ideas on how you can save next year at the after-Christmas sales and maybe at some other post-holiday sales!

Happy New Year!

 

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Why I love Target!

English: Logo of Target, US-based retail chain

Tonight I had a very successful trip to Target. Some trips, particularly those when I take the kids, I leave exhausted and frustrated. However, there are those like tonight when I find so many good deals that I can’t wait to get home and share them all with my husband. For those of you who haven’t discovered Target’s finer points, or for those who just want to save more there, here are my reasons Target is one of my favorite stores:

1) Coupons:

Target has their own coupons you can print from their website. They can be stacked with manufacturer’s coupons, so you save even more. They have coupons on everything from name brands to their own brands to specific sections of the store. On most trips, I can save at least $20 in coupons! I even get coupons in the mail from Target. I think I get these from having a Target baby registry at one time and for making purchases online from their website.

2) Red Card:

You can get a Target Red Card: either debit or credit card, which gives you 5% back on each purchase. The discount is applied immediately – no waiting for rebates or reward cards. We do not have any credit cards, so I love that I can get these same rewards with the debit card. The money comes right out of my checking account as a regular debit card does. Tonight I saved an extra $10 from using my Red Card!

3) Bag discounts:

When you bring your own bags to use for your purchases, Target will give you $.05 back for each bag. This also comes right off your total purchase cost. Every little bit adds up. For more information on bag discounts, see my post “Reusable shopping bags = savings.”

4) Seasonal sales:

Target is a great place for getting great deals on seasonal items. No matter if you celebrate the holiday or not, the days after can provide some wonderful sales! See my post tomorrow for all the goodies I found during after Christmas sales! Target also has a great variety of items they only have available for different seasons and holidays and some that are only found at their store such as: home decor, organizational items, food, novelties, gift items, dining/cookware, and more. We have gotten several things during some of these seasonal sales that have lasted us years. See my related post on “Shop those Easter sales today!”

5) A fun shopping experience:

I love finding new items every time I go to Target. Maybe it is a new line of dishware. Maybe it is a new line of craft items. Or a new line of toys for that time of year. There is always something new to find and normally at great deals. The dollar aisle has also yielded some great gifts, toys, and teaching items for me and my family!

6) Sales on staple items:

I know that even if I don’t have a coupon, Target is going to have a sale on items I use often at some point. And for many items, even if I do not have a coupon and it is not on sale, their price still beats many competitors. I like not feeling so guilty if I have to make a purchase there without a sale or coupon! This is where my price list really comes in handy. See my post on “Keeping a price list.”

7) Good quality clothing for reasonable prices:

With my busy schedule, I do not get a lot of time to shop. I love that I can find clothing for everyone in the family at Target. I especially like that I can find staple items for good prices, whether or not they go on sale. I depend on Target for pajamas for the family, sweats for the kids and myself, socks and underwear for everyone, etc. Pajamas for my boys can get quite costly. At a department store, you can easily spend $10 or more for one set. At Target, I get the Carter’s First Year brand and spend $12-$13 for two sets together. They sometimes go on sale for a few bucks less, and then there are days like today where I found three sets of the same size for half price! They sell sets year-round tailored for each season and the designs change. They are comfortable and last. My boys love them!

Their clothes last and look good. My little boys wear many items that their older brother wore that I probably paid less than $5-$10 a piece for! I often find such good deals that I even buy sizes for later and then store them in the basement. Today I found hoodie jackets for $2.98. I also found sweatshirts and sweatpants for $2.08 in the boys’ department! I bought three hoodies for each size S – L (I could only find one XL)! They will be set for a few years! See my post “Staying on top of your kids’ clothing.”

8) Black Friday is a breeze!

I am not a diehard Black Friday shopper that will stand in line hours before a store opens or camps out the night before. My Black Friday shopping route in simple: CVS and Target and occasionally one or two other stores. For the past two years, Target has had some great Black Friday deals like cheap pajamas for the family, great toy deals, and cheap hat/glove sets for the kids. I have not had to go right when the store opened. I get there mid-morning, and for the most part all the items I have been looking for were still in stock! They don’t just provide a few each of their good deals, but plenty for many shoppers! I am not shopping high-priced items, but I still come out with some great deals and am quite happy!

9) A clean and usually well-stocked store:

I know I can find good deals, too, at Wal-Mart, but I found the clutter and disorganization to create more stress than success. I like that Target is always clean and orderly and I know where everything is. The order of the store makes sense and it is not so large that I am very exhausted when I finish a trip complete with groceries, too. Occasionally the dollar aisle is a mess, but overall the store is pretty well-kept!

10) Plenty of online deals as well:

Target often has a sale on something I need more than one of, but the store doesn’t have that many or the right size in stock. However, the website does. I recently got tennis shoes for my boys and paid a minimal amount for shipping! Shoe costs can add up, so we were all very excited! And compared to the Wal-Mart shoes I have purchased, these have lasted a lot longer! I have also gotten some great skirts from their daily deals as well as other items. See my post “Online shopping tips” to make the most of your Internet shopping.

11) Clearance sections:

It seems that so many stores have junk in their clearance sections. However, at Target, I find stuff all the time. I particularly love to shop the clothing clearances, as I mentioned before. I always find great deals on clothing for my kids. By putting those purchases and hand-me-downs aside for later, my kids love when they grow out of a size and I bring up boxes of great stuff for the new season. The boxes include new and used, but they don’t care. By thinking ahead, I rarely have to buy much for the new season!

Target also has clearance sections in other departments. The end caps of aisles are always full of surprises and there are always tons of items on clearance in the home department! Today I got two great toys to put aside in my gift drawer and gingerbread cheesecake cookies only available for a limited time and so yummy! See my post on “Preparing for gift-giving = savings.”

NOTE: To find the best deals for Target each week, check out “Kosher on a Budget” and “Totally Target,” two great blogs.

Happy shopping!

Please feel free to share why you love Target in the Comments section!

 

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