November 26, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!—Tips, Tricks and Recipes

turkey Thanksgiving is almost here, and I thought I would post some of the links for related blog posts that I’ve written over the years. 

For a general post on ways to save for Thanksgiving, go here.  You might want to read this post on holiday stress busters to begin stress management now.

If you are traveling, look at this post for tips on saving money on gasoline.  (When I wrote this, I was amazed to see gas prices going above $3.  Now I’m glad to see them at $3!)  Check out this one for keeping your sanity while traveling with kiddos.

For some of my favorite Thanksgiving recipes:

  • Yum, Yum Sweet Potato Casserole—a Southern favorite.  Might as well be on the dessert table!  Be sure to read my post on sweet potatoes, here.
  • Squash casserole—see the recipe in my mother’s handwriting.  Love this one! 
  • Sausage Dressing—While I love oyster dressing, mirliton dressing, and crab dressing, this is much less expensive with easier to find ingredients. 
  • Serving a soup course?  This is Butternut Squash Soup is a seasonal favorite of ours.
  • Buttermilk Chess Pie—another Southern delicacy.  I am salivating thinking of it.
  • Make up a pot of this Cinnamon Coffee to serve with your desserts.  It will be a crowd pleaser!

If you are daring to go Black Friday shopping (or on Thanksgiving, since apparently nothing is sacred anymore), you might want to make a shopping survival kit.  Below are some ideas to pack with you that I gleaned from a friend who shops the Black Friday sales every year:

  • Waters and drinks
  • Snacks such as granola or protein bars
  • Coupons for area restaurants and stores and any shopper loyalty cards or discount cards like AAA
  • Baby wipes and hand sanitizer
  • Wear comfy shoes and bring an extra pair to stash in the car
  • Cloth bags so that you don’t have to use plastic. 
  • A map of the area so that you can bi-pass high trafficked areas
  • Sunglasses
  • Lotion and chapstick to reduce the affects of cold winds or dry heated air
  • Wear layered clothing and bring a coat, gloves and hat.  My friend said that she starts shopping at 2:30am (if you start at midnight you’ll be stuck in all sorts of traffic and lines), and the temperature at that time is very cold.  Mid-day, though, you might be ready to strip off a few layers.
  • First aid kit—you never know when you’ll be needing band-aids or pain reliever
  • Caffeine—bring your reusable cup so that you can pack a drink with you after leaving a restaurant
  • The newspaper—you might be surprised at how many sales ads include coupons and other discounts
  • Your Christmas list and budget—keep track of what you spend and on whom so that you don’t overspend or overbuy.  It is easy to get caught up in the thrill of the hunt and spend more than you’ve budgeted. 
  • A few candy-canes and a good mood.  I saw a shopper pass out candy-canes to others in line at Gymboree years ago at a Black Friday sale.  I was so impressed.  Bring the spirit of Christmas with you and share it with others.  Since you know you’ll be waiting in line, why not boost others up instead of passing on a grumpy mood?  Be especially kind to the sales clerks—by the time you reach them, they’ve probably dealt with all sorts of rudeness.  Be sure to say, “Merry Christmas!” or “Happy Holidays!” or even just a “Please” and “Thank you” will do.

Starting to plan your Christmas get togethers? Check out this post for some frugal entertaining ideas.

I hope you have safe travels, yummy meals, drama free time with your families, and grab some good deals when shopping!  Gobble, Gobble!

June 25, 2013

Five Frugal Tips My Father Taught Me—Part 5

Today is the last day of the series.

Frugality Tip #5

My father taught me to give freely.  Yes, I guess that probably sounds funny as a frugality tip. However, my father taught me that giving to and helping others and sharing what you have is sort of the point of being on this earth.  One of the best parts about couponing for me is that I’m able to give so much to our church food pantry.  One of the most fun parts of getting a good deal on something is being able to buy an extra and giving it to someone who would like it. 

In my experience some of the most giving people are also the most thrifty.  Note that there is a very big difference in being frugal or thrifty and in being a miser or cheap.  Frugal people realize the value in things and know that stuff is just stuff. 

Take away--

  • The next time you see a matchup with a free or cheap item on the list buy extras and give them away to someone who might need them.
  • Clean out your stockpile and donate extras to your local food pantry, senior center or homeless shelter.
  • Share the bounty of your garden with friends, relatives or neighbors.

These five frugality lessons are only a fraction of what my father taught me throughout my lifetime.  He was one of the best people I have ever known, and I will always miss him.  If even one tip that I’ve provided here inspires you to try something new or pass on a learning to someone else, I am proud because it means that in some way he lives on. 

Thanks for reading!

June 24, 2013

Five Frugal Tips My Father Taught Me—Part 4

Today is Part 4 in the series.

Frugality Tip #4

My father taught me to not be scared of hard work.  While Daddy enjoyed leisure and fun, he also knew how to work.  He once told me that he could push himself to do just about anything that was necessary for him to do.  Sometimes I think of that when I’m faced with a job that seems insurmountable.  I can accomplish it.  I can do it—he taught me that I was capable and that a little hard work never hurt anyone. 

I think that my dad learned not to be afraid of work from his father and his father’s family.  When I go to the family reunion and look around, the older generation isn’t sitting around—they are doing.  No one seems put out or frustrated to be engaged in work.  These are ways that they show love and care, by doing for others. 

When I learned more about the Montessori method of teaching when our oldest daughter was young, I liked the idea of work as being a way to bring purpose and meaning to a person.  Work is a way of being involved in the family unit, to build self esteem, and to learn about the world around you. 

Being willing to work, can not only earn you a salary, but it can also save you money.  I can pay someone else to clean our house (and goodness knows I sometimes want to!!), but it is much more economical for us to do it.  I can pay someone to paint a wall that needs it, but it is a lot cheaper to do it myself.  When I think of the idea of work, I often reflect on Proverbs 31—that lady doesn’t have a lazy bone in her body!  

Take away--

  • If you are in debt or need to reduce your family expenses, look at services that you have hired out.  Try to make an effort to do those tasks yourself.  You can include dining out in this category, too!
  • One thing that I have noticed with retirees, in particular men, is that there can sometimes be a reduced sense of purpose when leaving the work force.  Try volunteering or mentoring as a stopgap.
  • Make a game out of work.  One of the fondest memories I have is of baling hay with my father, sister, and friends.  It was very hard work, but somehow we enjoyed it.  Instead of mumbling and complaining about things you have to do, try and find ways to make them more enjoyable.  Crank up some music you like or reward yourself with something small when you have done a job. 
  • Have a job you need done but aren’t able to accomplish?  Barter or swap out jobs with a friend.

June 23, 2013

Five Frugal Tips My Father Taught Me—Part 3

Today I continue the series about lessons learned from my dad on being thrifty.

Frugality Tip #3

My father taught me basic life skills and then some.  I’m not sure if it was because he was left to be both father and mother and he wanted to prepare us in the event that were to ever happen to us, or perhaps he was simply teaching us what we knew.  Or, it could just be because he was an excellent father—whatever the reason, Daddy taught my sister and me how to do a lot of different kinds of things.  He knew a lot about building and fixing things, and he tried to pass on that knowledge to us.  One day we might be installing new toilets, another we might be with him on a job site talking about blueprints, another we might be repairing the lawn mower.  Whatever he was doing, he tried to involve us.  I joke that I know how to bat my eyelashes at someone else and coax them into changing a flat tire for me, but thanks to my father, I am perfectly capable of doing so myself if the need ever arises. 

When he couldn’t teach us something himself, he would enlist the help of others.  Because we have such a large family, there was always an aunt, uncle or cousin who could help with instruction.  I have memories of my Aunt Sibyl teaching me to crochet, my Aunt Elma teaching me to smock, my Aunt Bessie teaching me to shoot hoops. 

My dad loved to learn, and he didn’t “dumb down” to us.  On family vacations we would be forced encouraged to do complex math problems in our heads.  Sunday lunch conversation often involved discussions about world history and current events.  We watched more documentaries than we did sitcoms.  When I would come home and talk about what I had learned in school, he would make sure I knew the rest of the story—what the history books didn’t cover and the complexities behind why things worked the way that they did. 

Because he gave me the gift of loving to learn, I not only have some fancy book learning and a nice masters degree on the wall, but I also have something more important--an interest in the world around me.  This has spawned my love of gardening (one of the best money saving hobbies around) and food preservation.  It has also given me the blessing of a career in which I am able to make money for our family while helping others. 

Take away--

  • Don’t ever stop learning.  Read.  Take a class.  Ask a friend to teach you something that he or she knows.  Knowledge is power. 
  • Teach.  Share your skills with others.
  • Don’t dumb down your kids.  Children are much more capable than we make them out to be.  Use big words around them.  Talk to them about concepts and ideas.  Make everyday experiences opportunities for growth and development.  Don’t just teach the boys “boy things” and the girls “girl things”.  It is just as important to know how to prepare a meal as it is to turn a screwdriver. 

June 22, 2013

Five Frugal Tips My Father Taught Me—Part 2

If you read the blog yesterday, you know that I’m publishing a series about frugal tips I learned from my dad.  I hope that you are able to use some of the information to help your family.  If even a small piece helps someone, it will mean that his memory lives on.

Frugal Tip #2

My father taught me how to shop.  Being the oldest of two daughters with my mother deceased, I filled in as the homemaker of the family.  My father taught me how to go to the grocery store and make our dollars stretch.  He taught me to buy foods in season, to watch the price per unit, and to compare quality vs quantity.  When shopping for shoes, he would raise an eyebrow if I chose shoes that were plastic or poorly made.  Just like his father’s generation would talk about walking to school uphill both ways in the snow, he would talk about having shoes older than me and note that you sometimes get what you pay for. 

When I was a teenager, we had some lean times financially.  It was then that I really started learning how to be thrifty, and I learned about these amazing things called coupons.  Having had a time in my life when we were scraping by helped me to realize that stuff is just that—stuff.  My dad told me just a few weeks before he died that he was talking to a relative and reminded him that “money isn’t everything”.  He knew that.  Sure, he liked to have a little money in his pockets and nice things, but he knew that relationships and time with those you love were much more important.

Take away—

  • If you haven’t already started, try coupons.  My father never really got into the whole couponing thing, but God love him, he tried.  He liked that I used coupons, and whenever he received any in the paper or mail, he would save them for me. Coupon with your family, and ask family and friends to save coupons that they are not using for you.  Share your bounty with them.  Daddy loved the time that I filled his pantry full of free pasta, saying, “Gabrielle, what on earth am I going to do with all of this pasta?  We’ll have to start cooking!” 
  • Review my “Saving Money with or without Coupons” section of the blog for other shopping tips.
  • Shop with your children.  Yes, I know it is harder.  Yes, I know sometimes you want to pull your hair out by the end of the trip.  Yes, I know that people without kids sometimes give snide looks at people with who are trying to wrangle theirs into a cart…but, do it anyway.  Pick a time of day and week that tends to be easier and shop.  Give older children tasks—making the list, picking a vegetable for the meal, executing a supper for the week, etc.  Give younger children games to play—“I spy something yellow”, “Find something that begins with a B”, “Draw a picture of what you would like for supper for me.”

June 21, 2013

Five Frugal Tips My Father Taught Me—Part 1

As many of you who follow on Facebook know, my father passed away late last month.  The hole he left is enormous, and I miss him terribly. 

When I was young, my mother passed away, and my dad took over parenting full time.  He served as both a mother and a father, but not only that, he was my friend.  He taught me most of what I know, and a lot of what I have shared on the blog came from lessons I learned from him.  As a way of honoring him, I’d like to share five of the best tips on frugality he taught me.  I’ll be dividing this up into parts that will be published over the next few days.

Frugality Tip #1

The first and probably the most important frugality lesson that my father taught me was how to cook.  Learning all you can about food combinations, cooking techniques, spices and herbs, and preservation and storage will give you an upper hand in making a delicious, low cost meal for your family. 

Daddy loved to talk about food, and I guess I take that from him.  Before he passed, if I hadn’t seen him, I would call him each day to check and make sure he was all right.  Inevitably, we would talk about what we had cooked or eaten that day.  He liked to tell me about a new recipe he had tried or a different way of cooking something he had made for years.  He taught me how to “taste” a recipe in my mind.  You know how when you are reading a book how you can see the imagery from the book in your mind’s eye?  He taught me how to do the same thing with my taste palette when reading a recipe, and for the life of me I have no idea how to explain how to do that to anyone else.  I think that part of what he taught me was to know and recognize the tastes of ingredients—to try and pick them out in a dish we had eaten and to appreciate the combinations and how they would marry together. 

At an early age, my father had me in the kitchen cooking everything from Sauce Picante to Split Pea Soup.  We loved to share food with others and for that reason I only know how to make gumbo in a batch that will feed about 20.  As a child we would have friends and relatives over often to enjoy good food and fellowship.

Take away—

  • If you don’t already know how to cook, check your local newspaper or agricultural agency for cooking and technique classes.  Locally, many of our farmers markets offer free demonstrations.  Williams-Sonoma stores regularly offer short demos.  Many senior centers have cooking classes for low costs. 
  • Get out your spices and herbs and get to tasting.  Knowing what curry powder, rosemary, and cinnamon actually taste like will help you to know how to use them in recipes. 
  • Learn from a family member.  Older relatives in particular can be experts at taking low cost ingredients and making them taste wonderful.  The added bonus is that a little time in the kitchen with a relative will help to make memories for you and your children.
  • If you already know how to cook, teach your children.  Start young and don’t stop. 

April 29, 2013

Kroger Instant Win Game—I won $50!!

banner_logo_header I'm so excited!  I just won $50 in Kroger’s newest instant win game.  Sign in and give it a try, and be sure to let me know if you win.

April 24, 2013

Tip of the day--want a discount?

Want a discount? Check with your employer. Hubby and I have gotten discounts on things like campsite rental, theme park admission, local business purchases, and even gym membership because of our employers. If you work with a larger organization, call your human resource office to see what perks you might be eligible to receive. You might be surprised at how many are available to you.

February 13, 2013

"An Affair to Remember”—Fun Night for Knoxville

Final Draft with Ruffles (1) I saw this poster at Renaissance Terrace, a local assisted living, and thought some of you local folks might be interested.  It sounds like a fun night!

Did you get to go to the prom with your spouse, or significant other? Would you like to create that experience for memories to come? Well this is the event for you! This is a formal event with men wearing tuxedos or suits and the ladies wearing formal dresses or prom dresses. The tickets are $75.00 a couple and $40.00 for an individual. This will include all food, non-alcohol drinks, and entertainment. A photographer and other drinks will be available at an additional charge.
If you have additional questions or if you would like to attend please call 865-523-2920.

February 3, 2013

Lasagna

P1250114(Photo—Lasagna shown near the top of the photo.  Not super pretty, but it is yum!)

I’m a little like Garfield in that my favorite dish is lasagna.  When family members were in town for a recent funeral, I made a big batch of lasagna to have for people visiting from out of town. 

This isn’t exactly a low cal casserole.  Consider using lean ground beef and whole wheat lasagna to help make it a little healthier. 

There are lots of options on this recipe with the amount of seasoning, addition of olives, and types and amounts of herbs that you use.  Feel free to adjust according to your taste buds and what you have on hand. 

Ingredients

1 lb ground beef
1 onion (if you like onion, chop a large one, if you don’t, go with a smaller one)
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
Cooking spray or oil
1/4 c-1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley (again, add more if you like it and less if you don’t)
Tony’s seasoning, salt and pepper to taste
2 small containers (6 oz) tomato paste
2 c. water
1/2 c-1 c. chopped and drained black olives (this is completely optional.  I didn’t add them to the batch I recently made because I wasn’t sure if people would like olives or not)
Dried or fresh oregano and basil (to taste, again optional).  I added approximately 1/2 t.dried of each
1 large bay leaf or 2 small ones
Lasagna noodles, cooked by package directions
10 oz cottage cheese or ricotta
1 small package of frozen spinach, thawed and drained/squeezed to remove most of the liquid
2 eggs
Mozzarella cheese (at least a 4 cup package but more if you like it really cheesy)
1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese (not the powdered stuff)

Directions--

1.  Cook the ground beef with the onion and garlic in a bit of oil or cooking spray.  Drain completely.

2.  Add the parsley, tomato paste, water, olives (if using), and bay leaf, and stir together.  Begin adding your seasonings and dried herbs, tasting as you add a little to get the mixture right for your liking.  Let simmer 1 hour or longer. Remove bay leaves.  You can always stop at this point and either refrigerate or freeze the sauce to be used at another time if you choose. 

3.  Mix the cottage cheese or ricotta with the drained frozen spinach and egg. 

4.  Cook lasagna to al dente according to package directions.  There are many people who choose to use their pasta raw, but I never find that the texture is right when it is completed. 

5.  To a deep casserole dish that has been oiled or sprayed with cooking spray, add about 1/2 cups of the sauce as the base layer.  Then top with lasagna noodles and layer with the spinach mixture, mozzarella cheese, more sauce and another layer of noodles.  When you get near the top, finish the layers with lasagna noodles, sauce, mozzarella cheese, and Parmesan cheese. 

6.  If desired, cover well and freeze for another time.  Be sure to pull out the night before you need it so that it thaws before cooking.  Otherwise spray some foil with cooking spray to prevent the cheese from sticking and loosely cover the casserole.  Bake in a 350 degree oven for 45min-1 hour (depending on the size of the dish).  In the last 10 minutes of baking, remove the foil so that the cheese is allowed to become a nice golden color.  Enjoy!

February 2, 2013

Focaccia

 P1250114(Photo—a slice of focaccia is shown on the bottom right.  I’ll post the lasagna recipe soon!  We took this photo in haste, right before devouring the meal with family and out of town guests.  Sorry it isn’t a better shot for y’all.)

One of the easiest breads to make is focaccia.  It pairs perfectly with almost any Italian dish, and it always seems to impress guests.  Start to finish, it takes a little less than an hour, and it is well worth the little effort you will need to put into it.  I also find it to be cost effective—compared to store bought Italian bread at about $2 a loaf, you’ll cut your bill more than in half if you opt to make this bread instead, especially if you use coupons. 

Ingredients

1 pack dried active yeast
1 t. white sugar
1/3 c. warm water (110-115 degrees)—you’ll need more as you start to mix the flour into the yeast mixture
2 c. all purpose flour

Topping—good quality olive oil, fresh rosemary, and freshly milled or flaked salt or Italian seasoning

Directions

1.  Mix the yeast, sugar, and 1/3 c. water together and let sit about 10 minutes.  The mixture will foam a bit. 

2.  Mix the yeast mixture into the flour and then slowly start to add warm water until the flour is no longer raggy-looking, thoroughly wet but without being super sticky. 

Note—mixing the right amount of water and flour together when making bread takes a little practice.  If in doubt, err on the side of making it a little wet.  When you knead the mixture (next step), you can add more flour back in to get it right.  It is difficult to say how much water to add because so much depends on how humid your home is when you are making the dough. 

3.  Knead the dough on a floured surface for 1-3 minutes.  This step helps to start the gluten working. 

4.  Place the dough in an oiled bowl, flip over so that both sides are covered in a bit of oil, cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm part of your kitchen.  Let sit for about 30 minutes or until the dough has doubled.

5.  Punch out dough and knead on a floured surface for about 5 minutes.  Roll to about 1 1/2 inches-2 inches thick and place on a greased jelly roll pan.  You can make it into an oval, rectangle or simply loosely form it on the pan.  Take your fingertips and press them into the surface of the dough to dimple it.

6.  Brush or drizzle olive oil on the surface and don’t be super stingy.  You want there to be nice little pools of oil in the dimples without it being so runny that you have a mess all over your pan.  Use a salt mill to sprinkle the surface with salt.  If you do not have a salt mill, try using flaked sea salt or an Italian seasoning.  While you can use regular salt, the effect isn’t the same.  If you like, add little sprigs of rosemary to the top by gently pushing the tips of the leaves into the dough.

7.  Bake at 475 degrees for 10-15 minutes, or until your desired crunchiness.  You’ll want the bread to be a golden color and no longer spongy.  Some people like their focaccia to be almost like a cracker and others like it to keep the bread texture.  You be the judge.

8.  Serve plain or with olive oil and freshly cracked pepper as a dipping sauce.  This is also really nice with Caprese salad or an antipasto platter.

January 30, 2013

Knoxville Community--The Mobile Meals Program Needs Your Help!


I received the following from a social worker friend and thought that those of you living in the Knoxville community might want to help:

Dear Knoxville Community,
In a recent visit Barbara Monty at the CAC/Office on Aging she revealed that there is presently a WAITING LIST for Mobile Meals.
This means there are homebound elders in our community who are hungry and in need of our help.
I have always believed that supporting the Mobile Meals Program provides a huge “BANG” for your buck, as 100% of monies donated go directly to providing meals for folks. No fluff, no parties, no t-shirts, no mega salaries or hoards of employees.
Just basic food. Delivered by an army of dedicated volunteers.
So many in our network focus on long term care in assisted living and nursing home facilities, and may forget about the huge population of elders who are NOT receiving care in such facilities. They depend on Mobile Meals in order to remain at home. Please help.

Just $65 provides Mobile Meals
(Monday through Friday)
for one senior citizen in Knoxville or Knox County for an entire month.
When you give $780, you provide Mobile Meals for a year! 

One hundred percent !
of every dollar
you give goes directly to providing
meals for Knox County seniors!!!!!

Give a lil…give a lot!
EVERY SINGLE DOLLAR HELPS.
Honor a loved one, or a boss, an employee or a friend! Honor a business! A pet!
Why not Make a donation for a truly loving valentine “statement”?
Knoxville-Knox County CAC Office on Aging Mobile Meals Program
Mailing address: P.O. Box 51650-1650
Street address: 2247 Western Avenue, Knoxville TN 37921
fax: (865) 546-0832, e-mail: Alison Taylor; Alison.Taylor@knoxseniors.org
PH: (865) 524-2786
_________________________________________________________________________________
Thank you in advance for supporting this very worthwhile program!
Susie Stiles, LCSW

Perfection?

Food inflation © Tetra Images/Corbis “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”~Voltaire

Recently I’ve been reading more about clean foods, our nation’s crazy food supply, agribusiness, and balancing family budgets with the goal of eating healthy foods.  I don’t think that I’m alone in the sense of desperation when it comes to wanting to feed my family healthy, wholesome foods.  Not only must I look at the grocery budget, but I’m also faced with the external pressures of media and marketing that make it seem so much easier to just pick up packaged foods.  (99cts a box taquitos and frozen pizzas at $3.50, anyone?)  At school our daughter eats limited foods because she doesn’t want to be made fun of—even what I consider to be foods that are somewhat mainstream now compared to when I was a child, like sushi and hummus, she won’t eat if I send them for fear of ridicule.  Peer pressure abounds, no matter what age.  Then, there are the demands of daily life to balance.  Almost nine months pregnant now, I’m more fatigued at the end of the day when I would normally be preparing meals for our family.  I have a flexible work schedule, which is the saving grace on most days that allows me time to squeeze in a little meal prep and shopping here and there.  Then there are all of the labels.  We can’t trust the word “natural” on a product to mean something from nature.  GMOs are creeping into most of the foods that aren’t organic.  The basics are no longer basics—sour cream might have 5 or 6 ingredients and fillers in it.  Food fraud is becoming a hot topic with companies using other ingredients to keep their costs down—olive oil might also contain canola oil, pomegranate juice might be mostly grape. 

Just when I found myself ready to rip out my hair and run screaming for the hills, I came across this quote by Voltaire, “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”  I consider myself to be a fairly well read person, but I had never come across this quote before now.  It was the splash of cold water in my face that brought me back to reality and calmed my nerves.  Yes, all those problems I mentioned above exist.  Yes, we live in an age where it is more difficult than ever to feed our family wholesome foods.  However, if I strive for good instead of perfection, it takes away a lot of pressure. 

So what does “the good” look like?  I think that it is a work in progress.  It involves incorporating more fruits and vegetables into our diet so that we eat less junk.  It involves choosing local and organic whenever possible to make our foods cleaner.  It involves doubling recipes and freezing extras so that we don’t rely on packaged foods.  For a girl who likes to go “all in”, it involves finding some peace of mind in seeking balance instead of perfection. 

What about you?  One of the main complaints I hear from couponers is that the packaged and less healthy options are such bargains that they find themselves eating differently than they once did.  What do you do to keep healthier choices on the dinner table? 

January 28, 2013

Ways to Save on Maternity Clothes

As many of you know, we are expecting our second child in early March.  We were thrilled when we learned that we were pregnant, and of course as things usually go, it was right after we had given away, sold, and consigned almost all of the baby and maternity gear that we had from our first daughter.  I wasn’t exactly starting from scratch, though.  I had learned a great deal from our first pregnancy on what to buy and how to save money on purchases: 

1.  Buy discriminately.  The first tip is to not rush out and buy a bunch of maternity clothes in your first trimester.  When you do decide to make purchases, think about clothes that will mix and match well, are basic colors that can be easily accessorized, and will work for the seasons of the year when you will be later in your pregnancy.  This might seem surprising, but I have only bought the following new—1 pair black dress pants, 1 pair gray dress pants, 1 pair dark navy jeans, 2 maternity shirts.  I had been given a gift card by my dad and have only spent about $20 out of pocket on maternity clothes for this pregnancy. 

2.  Don’t be afraid to ask.  My birthday fell right after we told people about the pregnancy.  When people would ask me what I wanted for my birthday, I wasn’t too shy to tell them that a gift card or some maternity clothes would be greatly appreciated.  I was given a few more maternity shirts, a pair of blue jeans, and a belly band.  The belly band is a handy-dandy little strip of fabric that looks a little like a big belt.  It helps to extend the wear of your non-maternity shirts by covering your lower belly.  They sell at Target for a little less than $20 and are well worth the expense.  I’ve heard that some people wear them post birth to hide a muffin top or to keep from showing their tushie when bending down and wearing low cut jeans. 

3.  Don’t be too good for hand-me-downs.  We love hand-me-downs in our family.  Our daughter gets more of a kick out of wearing something that her super cool older cousins or friends from church gave her than something brand new.  Like her, I really appreciated friends and family who shared their maternity clothes with me.  While some sizes didn’t work and some were a different season, the pieces that I was able to add to my wardrobe really helped to expand it.  If someone offers, accept graciously, and then do the same for someone else after you give birth. 

4.  Consider what you already have.  Use little tricks to make your existing wardrobe work for you while pregnant.  Dress jackets, cardigans, and button up shirts look great when paired with a stretchy t-shirt that fits over your belly.  Stretchy waistbands on skirts and pants you already have may work for you for the duration of your pregnancy.   Don’t forget that belly band I mentioned earlier—it helps to make your non-maternity tops work throughout your pregnancy.  Wear longer shirts—my friend Honor always looked so elegant in long Indian style tunics that a friend had given to her.  They weren’t maternity, but they looked good over her growing belly with a pair of leggings, jeans, or slacks.  Don’t forget to accessorize to make the same clothes look a little different week after week.  Use a rubber band to help you extend the wear on your regular pants and skirts.

5.  Plus sizes and pulling from your partner’s wardrobe.  During my first pregnancy, I found that there were a few plus sized options at Target that had options of extending the waistbands.  These worked better for me than many of the traditional maternity clothes because I could expand them as I needed and they sort of grew with me.  When I need something to work outside in the yard, I have pulled from Hubby’s pile of work clothes instead of risking ruining my maternity clothes with stains or grime. 

6.  Shop garage sales, thrift stores and consignment sales.  Probably the most cost effective option will be to shop garage sales and thrift stores.  Watch for the words “maternity clothes” in advertisements or shop bigger group sales that might be at churches.  Don’t shy away from consignment shops and sales, though.  Bargains can be had, especially on the 50% off days.

7.  Use coupons and shop sales wisely.  There have been some great Target coupons for maternity clothes lately, and if you pair them with sales, you can snag a deal.  At the same time, I warn you not to be solely driven by price.  If it is an item you might only be able to wear for a few more weeks before the weather shifts into a new season, it isn’t worth making the purchase.  Also, if it doesn’t look great on you and it doesn’t make you feel good, DON’T buy it!  Many pregnant women, myself included, feel a little self conscious about their girth.  If you are wearing something that makes you look more like you are wearing a tent than wearing clothing or if the color doesn’t work with your complexion or if the pattern is something you wouldn’t dare wear if not pregnant, don’t waste your money. 

8.  Treat stains quickly.  I’m a clumsy person; I always have been.  I tend to spill things on myself when eating, but now that I have a large belly bumping up against things, I am even more prone to making messes.  The worst thing about this tendency is realizing that I might have ruined one of the few pieces of clothing that fits on my body right now.  Play both defense and offense when it comes to stains.  Use an apron when cooking and wear the apron when eating if you are just with your family.  Always put a napkin in your lap.  Don’t eat in the car.  Use splatter guards and lids when making messy sauces.  Then, if you do spill something on yourself, treat it as quickly as possible. 

9.  Shoes.  I so enjoy a beautiful high heel.  There is something that feels elegant about a nice dress shoe, something so feminine about a gorgeous pair of heels.  While there are plenty of women who are able to wear swanky shoes while pregnant, I am not one of them.  I found myself coming home early in the second trimester after a day of being in heels almost cringing as I took each step.   If you are anything like me, switch to a basic pair or two of flats that match most of your wardrobe at least mid-way through your pregnancy.  I invested in a pair of black ballet flats that were so comfortable and matched everything that I very literally wore them out.  If you are pregnant in the summer months, this should be fairly easy for you since sandals, low sling-backs, and flip flops are in season. 

10.  Underclothes.  Watch in the lingerie aisles for bra extenders that will help to lengthen the amount of time you can wear your pre-pregnancy bras.  Later in pregnancy, many women switch over to wearing nursing bras without an underwire.  Yes, they make plenty of nursing bras with good support that do not have underwire so if you have a bigger bust size speak with someone at a maternity shop about fitting you.  While maternity underwear are fine to have, they aren’t necessary.  If you have bikinis or brief undies, you will probably find that you can wear them during most of your pregnancy.  I wouldn’t, however, recommend thongs—maybe there are some folks who can pull that off, but…well, I’ll not comment further.

I hope that you find these tips helpful when shopping for maternity clothes.  As always, if you have any additional tips or tricks under this category, please include them in the comments section so that all might benefit. 

Happy Babying!