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Back to school: Jewish learning resources

Normally at this time of year, I am starting to get things ready for the school year and setting up my classroom. However, this will be my second year working for the Child Abuse Prevention Program at Jewish Family & Children’s Service. I don’t need to get my own classroom ready, but it is always great to find good resources for my own children. It is so helpful to have websites to go to for accessing holiday ideas, projects, information sheets, etc. for different things my children are studying.

For this post, I wanted to provide Jewish resources that you could use whether you are a parent, homeschooler, or teacher. You might even find them helpful for your own reference if you have no children at all! While this post will not save you money, it will sure save you time and energy when you want to find an activity or idea!

Chinuch.org

This is one of my favorite Jewish resources. I used it a lot when I taught preschool as well as third grade. I also found some great additions and activities for our family seder last year. You can search for materials based on age (early childhood, elementary, middle school, high school, special education, administration, or kiruv) or by topic (which includes Torah, Hebrew language, Interactive classroom, Yamim Tovim, Halacha/Dinim, Arts and Crafts, and more). This site, which is sponsored by Torah Mesorah and the Avi Chai Foundation, allows educators to upload and share a variety of resources with other educators and parents. The resources often include not just instructions, but typed resources (or pdfs) ready to copy or change as needed. Many include photos as well. Additional resources include clip art, forums, audio/video, Olomeinu archives, and more. Their database grows daily!

Organized Jewish Home

I have mentioned this blog before, as it has some great resources and articles. The author is a homeschooling Orthodox mom who writes about many topics of interest to frum families: menu planning, holiday preparations, activities for kids, organization, recipes, and more. She posts resources for each parsha that are particularly helpful if you homeschool or if your children attend a public school and you want to supplement their Jewish learning. She also has a “Shalom Bayit Book” that is somewhat similar to my Family Control Journal. See my post on “Starting a Family Control Journal.” Check it out and let her know I sent you!

Central Agency for Jewish Education, St. Louis (CAJE)

This is the website for our local Jewish education agency. They have a section for Teacher Resources that is helpful for families as well. It includes Beginning of the Year materials, board games, Shabbat materials, holiday materials, Hebrew letter review materials, Hebrew prayer materials, links to other teacher resources, and early childhood resources. I can’t wait to use some of the Hebrew ideas and board games with my own children!

Related posts:

Do you know of any other great Jewish education resources? Please share them in the Comments section!

 
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Posted by on August 9, 2012 in Email and online tips, Family ideas

 

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Coupon “re”-organization

For the past many years I have organized my coupons in small vertical photo albums that hold three photos on each side (see my post “Organizing coupons” for details). This worked great because I could just slide my coupons in the slots and I could see six sections at once. I didn’t need to fold many (except the Target coupons which are a bit bigger) and I could see the whole coupon. I could open them in the basket of the shopping cart and they were lightweight. I was using more coupons and could easily compare deals while in the store, versus how hard it was to find what I needed when I used an expandable small coupon holder. My husband and I often got compliments at stores on what a great idea they were.

However, we needed three of these such albums to hold all of our coupons: one for groceries, one for toiletries/supplies/household items, and one for store coupons and amusement. It was a pain switching between albums while at Target and sometimes they wouldn’t stay open in the cart basket. The pockets were also ripping a bit and it was sometimes hard to get a small coupon out, since you could only reach inside the pockets sideways.

So I decided to make a leap to try the cloth zipper binder method that so many couponers use. I decided against the decorative coupon holder/bags, because I am sure my husband would not want to carry something that looks like a lady’s purse! I bought a 3″ 3-ring Case-it zipper binder from OfficeMax, not as cheap as they later went on sale for at Target; but my husband couldn’t find any at our local Target.

I then researched page protectors/coupon holders and decided that I liked the three slot holders best because it would be similar to what I was used to. I found a great deal from Hobbies Depot for a pack of 100 for less than $20 (and no shipping charge).

They arrived the other day and much to my dismay and surprise, they were one-sided! I had no idea they were like that. My friend and fellow couponer, Jessi, assured me that I had not bought the wrong thing; they all were one-sided.

Thus, my dilemma – how to maximize my storage capabilities and still have a system similar to what I was used to (6 sections to see at once).

In comes my patient, helpful, and intelligent husband, who obliged by listening to my problem. Then he came up with a brilliant solution! Adhere the page protectors back-to-back so that we had slots on both sides! I found some double-sided removable Scotch tape in my office supply stash, and applied 5 small strips to the back of one protector and attached it to the back of another protector, so that each had the pockets facing out and the tops the right way.

Perfect!

The only downside is that our “coupon” albums had a white backing behind the pockets so that you didn’t see through to the other side. We thought about maybe putting a piece of paper between the two page protectors, but this would have made a lot of extra work (with needing to tape twice for each set of pages) and more weight for the whole binder. We will just have to get used to it!I did steal a few ideas from Laurie at Passionate Penny Pincher, thanks to her video tutorial on her coupon organizing. I used a few plastic sleeves that have diagonal or horizontal slits in them. You can get them with or without divider tabs. These I used to hold coupons that I don’t need to necessarily see laid out at a store like automotive, amusement, home repair, medical, etc.

I am so excited to use my new binder! I love that it has a pocket for the coupons I have pulled for the checkout and dividers to hold sale fliers, etc. I even plan to put a copy of my price list in the front. I normally keep it in my purse, so that even if I am shopping without coupons, I have it handy. With the price list in the binder, my husband can use it, too, and it will be easier to flip pages.

* For more information on couponing, see my posts “Coupon websites – updated!” and “Don’t throw out your expired coupons!” My friend and fellow blogger, Mara, at Kosher on a Budget, has lots of great information on couponing in her series Couponing Basics.

Let me know what your coupon organizing style is and how you have made yours work!

 

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Scheduling visits and meals for others made easier!

Freezer Meals

One of the biggest timesavers for me when my dad was in the hospital was to create a CarePages website for him. I was able to post updates on how he was doing and then send them to anyone who wanted information. It was much easier than making a million phone calls a day, especially since I had other things to take care of for my father. The site would send an update email to anyone on my invite list and they could then logon to see the update. I have friends who have set up this type of website either for themselves or for friends suffering from a serious illness.

I particularly like this site because people can also send you messages and you can add photos. When I was pregnant with my triplets, this site was invaluable for letting people know how the babies and I were doing. It was also fun to post pictures of me growing!

CarePages, as well as many similar care coordination websites, has different settings to set up privacy settings. You can set your page up so that only those you invite can participate and logon, your page can be public, or you can choose something in-between. You can also connect with other people going through similar issues.

Another aspect of helping those dealing with illness, pregnancy, etc. is lining up meals, volunteers, errands, etc. One of my friends used Lotsa Helping Hands for a friend of hers who was battling cancer. I also set up a page on there for my father, so that we could make sure he would have visitors when he began rehab. I like that this website lets you set up a variety of tasks that people can help with, not just bringing meals. It also sends reminders to anyone who signs up to do a task/job. Like CarePages, you can also post announcements/updates and photos. This is a feature that I was not aware of, otherwise I would have used just this site alone to post everything for my father!

Other similar websites include:

All of these care coordination websites are great because they:

  • Are free.
  • Allow you to get in touch with many people in a short-time. They saves everyone time (no matter if you are the subject of the site or the person coordinating care, visits, meals, etc.). This can be a big help if you are a coordinator of meals for your temple or church.
  • Work for births, illness or injuries, bereavement, etc.
  • Allow family, loved ones, friends, and others to send support and encouragement to the person in need.
  • Often can direct you to support groups, information, and other pages set up by people with similar needs.
  • Link with Facebook and other social networking programs.

Related posts on doing good for others:

If you have used any of these sites and have reviews or tips, please share in the Comments section!

 

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Are “dollar stores” really a good deal?

A few weeks ago I went to my local Dollar Tree for water bottles for camp. It seems we always lose a few right away and I like having a backup for everyone. I took a little extra time in my browsing to write down what items are good deals at a dollar store. You do have to be careful because for some items, you get what you pay for. Like those water bottles. This year’s selection held up only one use before the sip top broke and the handles broke, too, Last year’s lasted a bit longer! Remember to bring your price list with you, so you can really determine if something is a good deal (for instance aluminum foil and plastic bags were not cheaper than the Ziploc brand at Sam’s Club). See my post on “Keeping a price list” for how to create your own.

Here are some items that ARE a good buy at your local dollar store:

Plastic containers: I love to find plastic baskets for organizing my classroom or toys at home, for gifts (like Shaloch Manos – Purim gift baskets), and more.

Dish scrubbers: Our sponges seem to get so disgusting even with frequent washing and microwave cleanings. So we instead love to use the handled dish scrubbers with nylon bristles.

Certain toys: There are some good deals on toys such as large bubble wands and other seasonal toys, mini figures (I found superheroes and Toy Story figures), silly straws (a great cheap prize for my kids), bug kits for outdoor discoveries, and stickers.

Teacher supplies: You often can find stickers, dice, playing cards, notepads, accents, and more for your classroom.

Party/gift supplies: Tissue paper, party bags, goodie bags, and thank you cards are super cheap here. Helium balloons are a great deal as well.

Craft supplies: The quantities are not big, but you can find a variety of craft supplies good for home or school.

Cheap ponchos: I would love to buy a bunch of these and donate them to our shul for emergency rain showers!

Shower puffs: Why pay more for a fancier shower puff when these work just as well!

Tea lights: At 16 for $1.00, this is the cheapest place I have found for tea lights. I use these in emergencies when I am out of Shabbos candles. They also work well for guests who need to light Shabbos candles at your home.

Food items: I have not priced out the food items yet or looked to see what is kosher, but friends tell me Goya beans are a good deal. I also like to get the Mrs. Freshley’s baked items like nutty bars. Cheap sinful treat!

Related articles:

* Do you have any favorite items you go to the dollar store for? Please share in the comments section!

 

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School Supply Shopping Strategy

Crayons (1)I can’t believe that in just over a month, school starts again. That means the school supplies are on the store displays! Last year I developed a strategy for shopping wisely for all my son’s needs without paying a fortune. Here is what I did and am doing again this year:

The List:

I retype or rewrite my son’s school supply list into one list with the total of each item I needed. Our school’s list is broken up by Judaic and General Studies, so that you bring separate supplies for each classroom. However, when I am at the store, I need the total amount of each item (4 erasers versus 2 erasers for General Studies and 2 for Judaics).

The Plan:

To start, I go to my overflow box from the basement and pull out any supplies I had gotten on sale last year (and didn’t get used) that my son needs for the coming year. I then put any supplies that coincide with my son’s current list in a bag or box (items will be labeled later when I have everything).

Then, each week I check the sale fliers from Target and OfficeMax. I identify which items seem like a really good deal. These are the items for less than $1 or with large discounts. Even if an item is not on my son’s list, I may still add it to my shopping list because he may need it another year or we may need it at home or for my own classroom.

The Trip:

I then go to those stores EARLY in the week and buy only those items. I do not get suckered into buying other items, even if my son needs them, if they were not on my list for that week.

The Unloading:

When I get home, I mark off any items that I was able to get from my son’s list. Those items get put in my “For This Year” bag or box, as I mentioned before. The others go into my overflow box.

Repeat:

I do this each week until the last week before school starts. Then I take stock of what I have purchased and still need to get. Those last items become my final shopping list. I do still take advantage of those last few sales at the end of August and early September and those items also go into my overflow box.

Last fall I even got four backpacks for less than $7 each from Land’s End (on clearance) to have on hand for the coming year if my kids need them!

So far this year I have gotten 5 composition notebooks ($.25 each), 1 box of 12 fine point sharpies ($1), 1 pack of 5 thin dry erase markers ($1), two 1” binders ($1 each) and 10 folders (free) from OfficeMax= all for less than $5!

For weekly shopping lists and tips, check out “Kosher on a Budget.” She features the school supply sales at Walgreens, CVS, Target, OfficeMax, Office Depot, and Staples.

Related articles:

 
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Posted by on July 12, 2012 in Family ideas, Other savings tips

 

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Clever trick: Replacement closet doors

From the day we moved into our house, our older son’s closet doors have not worked right. The doors hit each other in such a way that the handle/knob on one side was bent back. We could never get to the middle part of the closet directly because the doors overlapped. Then the doors came off track and we couldn’t fix them.

Luckily, my neighbor and good friend, Bella, had a great solution. She hung curtains in place of the doors. Her daughter picked out a color to match her bedroom decor and voilà, perfect solution.

Well, when the door came literally off its track and hinges, we had no choice but to do something. We couldn’t afford new doors and installation and certainly didn’t want the same doors put back. So we opted for this great trick.

We went to Lowe’s and picked out some dark, all-purpose curtains that would stand up to a child pulling on them. We got the hardware and rod to hang them on. It ended up taking my husband only 15-30 minutes to put the whole thing up. Here are the results:

Now we can easily get to everything in the closet and it looks nice!

Do you have any tricks you have used to cheaply fix a home décor problem in your home? Please share in the Comments section. If you want to send a picture and description to me, please email me!

Related posts on organization and home décor:

 
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Posted by on June 21, 2012 in Family ideas, Other savings tips

 

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Getting ready for baby – the registry

A barcode hand scanner (scanner de mão para có...

My youngest boys are four, so I often forget to cover baby-related items on my blog. To make up for that, I am starting a series of posts related to savings on getting ready for baby. Today I want to focus on creating a smart and sensible baby registry.

It can be very easy to get caught up in the excitement of all the great baby products at the baby superstores. However, it is better to be realistic about what you might need and want and what you will actually get. For instance, don’t register for only expensive or larger items, so that there is nothing for your friends and coworkers to pick.

Tips for creating a smart registry:

Is it a good deal?

Keep in mind that not every product is a good deal at the baby stores. it may be cheaper to buy them somewhere else or online. For example, toiletry products and diapers are not always a good deal, unless you have a coupon or they are on sale. Instead of registering for every medical product and toiletry, maybe pick out a gift basket or set that you would like to try out.

Safety first!

There are many items sold for babies that are NOT SAFE for babies. Crib bumpers, comforters, pillows, sleep positioners, and stuffed animals are not safe for young children. You also shouldn’t use car seat positioners that were not made for that particular car seat. They have not been tested for use with that product. Don’t waste your money. Check out this article about Shop Smart’s advice on dangerous baby products.

Do your homework.

Read reviews on products before going to the store to create your registry. Talk to friends about products they like. Browse blogs, websites, and magazines for advice. This way you can take your time to figure out which products best suit your needs, your space, and your budget.

Register at several places.

Don’t forget about other places to register like Target (they have more selection of their larger items online) and Amazon. You can find great deals and a great selection at both! Once you register at Target, you will also receive baby product coupons in the mail.

Accept hand-me-downs.

As long as a product has not been recalled (check out the CPSC website to be sure), accepting items from friends and family can save you a lot of money. Especially if you are having multiples or you are expecting a second or third child, it may be hard to get all the bigger items on your registry. We were so fortunate to have friends that gave us cribs, clothes, bottles, blankets, sheets, and more.

Check out superstore promotions.

Babies ‘R Us has offered a trade-in event for the past few years, where you can trade in larger, recalled items in exchange for a discount on a newer item of the same or similar type. They also offer a multiples discount if you are purchasing more than one of the same item (like car seats, cribs, strollers, etc.) Ask at your local store for information. This year’s event is not currently listed on their website. 

 

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