Monthly Archives: August 2009

Free Samples

Awhile back I requested some free samples, something I almost NEVER do.  I don’t even remember what all I requested.  I got my free candy bar coupon…that was cool and is tucked in my purse for a treat while shopping.  I got some baby wipes that I tucked into the stroller for our library hour outings.  And this week I got a little box of Fiber One samples.  I love Fiber One bars so that was cool. And I will use at least half the coupons on things that I would buy anyway.

So what, right?  You don’t really care what I got for free do you?

Here’s the thing.  I like the little high of getting something for nothing.  And real mail is one of my absolute favorite things.  But I always have some mixed feelings about these little packages.

One qualm is the packaging.  It really is a waste.  I am not uber-green by any means, but I do try to cut out waste where I can.  I also cook from scratch so much that I really don’t buy much of anything on a regular basis that is prepackaged, so this packaging stands out more I think.

But really I think my hesitation comes from the attitude behind these free samples.  They are, after all, advertising for that company.  If I get the samples as a means to save money…what if I like this new name-brand prepackaged little treasure?  Then do I feel a little deprived when I can’t fit the regular version into my budget? Don’t I deserve to have what I like?

Many of us frugal folks have little ways we save a little.  Yes, it all adds up.  But I think some of these tiny money savers are just a good way to keep our attitude in the right place.  Evaluating what is important to us when we make those budgets, then sticking to it is the foundation of responsible, often frugal, living.

Opening the door to little free delights can have the opposite effect.  It freely offers to sway our decision making.  Can’t that make it harder to stick to the plan?  Aren’t we inviting these companies to tell us that what we have is not quite good enough…but lucky you!  Here’s something better!  It’s just what you’ve been missing!

Also, feeling the need to pick up all free things we are offered can lead to a feeling of desperation.  If we think we need these things to make it, do we start to think that we aren’t doing an adequate job of taking care of ourselves?  Can we “go without” as easily?  I have learned many wonderful lessons by going without something, or prolonging a purchase.

I think there are some legitimate reasons to get free samples out there.  If it’s time to make a purchase and you can check out a free sample first, great.  If it is a coupon for something you already use, great.   An occasional free sample is not a big deal…everything in moderation, right?

And that is probably really my point in this: everything in moderation!  Free samples often scream MORE!  On many levels.  Be careful what you let into your head…these are advertisements after all.

And me?  I’ll be curious to see if any thing else pops up in my mailbox.  I know I did all this free sample requesting on one night.  I just don’t know if I have anything else coming.  But if another opportunity for a free candy bar comes along?  I’ll take it!

So now you tell me – am I way off base?  Do you get dozens of free samples and never want some brand you can’t really afford?  Do you ever get free samples?  What are your favorite type?


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Filed under Attitude, Doing Without

Frenzied Friday

There were two infants here this morning, both under 4 months old.  Ten children in all.  My son is leaving for a party soon and my girl is out with friends this afternoon.  Happy baby went home before lunch and I just fed not-so-happy baby.  That is no small task.  Now she is resting and I get 10 minutes to unwind before the next activities start.

It seems like sometimes when things get crazy I can actually find more to enjoy.  A bit of cleaned off counter top and the hum of the dishwasher is more satisfying.  I think that is because I lower my standards.  When I’m simply shooting to get through the day in one piece and  with a sense of humor,  I quit shooting for perfection. And I’m a little happier.

So during this frenzied Friday fun I am looking forward to a weekend without anything scheduled.  I have plenty I want to do…but I’ve been reminded today that maybe perfection isn’t the goal.  I’ll write at the top of the list that something is better than nothing.

Happy Friday!  I hope you enjoy your weekend!

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Filed under Just Me, Lists, Simplify

Crockpot Chicken

Last weekend my sister and her kids were here to visit.  We planned to spend all day Saturday at a state park not too far from us.  I knew there weren’t really any places, other than fast food, to eat supper and we were already packing lunch and snacks in a cooler to eat at the park.

My solution for a quick supper when you know you won’t have any real prep time?  Shredded chicken.

It is easy and adaptable.  And if you end up not eating it all, the leftover possibilities are endless.

Really this is it:

  • Dump 3 or 4 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken breasts (I’ve used thighs too) into a crock pot. These can be somewhat frozen too.
  • Add a cup or so of chicken broth.
  • Season with stuff your family likes. I sprinkle on some garlic salt and lemon pepper, cuz that’s what we like.
  • Set it to low and let it go!  9-10 hours later it is ready to shred up and serve. (don’t have that long?  put it on high & check after 5 hours)
  • We usually serve ours on little softies type buns with BBQ sauce on the side for those who want it.

If I’m serving this for lunch I’ll start it before I go to bed.  It really is fool-proof.  The leftovers can easily be used for tacos, pizza, chicken salad, chicken casseroles and chicken noodle soup.

We got home from the state park at 8pm.  Needless to say, no one wanted to be cooking.  We served up sandwiches, bananas and some baked beans we heated up quick.  Making the main part of our meal meant we didn’t have to scramble later.

Don’t you just love it when you can make it ahead!  Check out some other ideas over at The Great Recipe Swap hosted at Life as Mom.

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Filed under In the Kitchen

WFMW: Rubbing Alcohol


A while back one of my children fell asleep playing with NEON ORANGE silly putty.  Obviously I didn’t know they were playing with it in BED!  The next morning the poor child sheepishly told me they had a mess.  Boy was it a mess.  That silly putty was on everything.  Flannel sheets.  A favorite stuffed animal.  Blankets.  Did I mention it was NEON ORANGE??

Google quickly gave me thousands of possible sites with answers to “silly putty on sheets” but I was afraid I wouldn’t have the supplies needed. These are the times where being stuck at home all day is not to my advantage.  Fortunately rubbing alcohol seemed to be a recurring solution.  I HAD THAT!  In a minty scent.  Leftover from a craft project.

I learned that day that with plenty of time and patience, rubbing alcohol would dissolve silly putty.  I got out virtually all the silly putty, although a little of the orange coloring remained.  Really, what could I expect?  NEON ORANGE!

Happily I’m here to tell you that where silly putty is concerned, rubbing alcohol works for me!

Need other answers to questions you didn’t even realize you needed to ask?  Check out all the great Works-for-me-Wednesday posts over at We are THAT Family!


Filed under Adventure, Kids, You Don't Have to Like It


I like to sew.  I’m not particularly good at it, but I do alright.  I mostly sew straight lines so that helps.  Someday I’d love to make beautiful quilts and fun, fancy things.  For now I make things like pajama bottoms for the kids and wonderfully soft burp cloths.  I can sew a straight valance or mend a little.  I’ve sewn Christmas stockings for our family and my sister’s family.  Aprons.  Basic stuff.

But someday.  Someday I’ll really learn to sew.

How about you?  Do you know how to sew?  If you do, where did you learn?

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Filed under Just Me

Menu Plan Monday: August 24


Now that my vacations are behind me and company has come and gone for awhile, I hope to get back into some good menu planning.  I know what I want to serve this week but haven’t figured out quite which day will have what…so here’s a simple list of the various dishes that will grace our table this week.

Breakfasts will be an assortment of bagels, cereal and oatmeal, all served with fruit and milk.


  • bean & cheese burritos with corn & cantaloupe
  • English muffin pizzas with salad & apples
  • pancakes, sausage, strawberries & bananas
  • ham, potatoes, green beans, applesauce & ranch biscuits
  • chicken noodle soup, bananas and  cheese & crackers


  • three cheese manicotti and green beans
  • ham, potatoes, applesauce and bread&butter
  • fish burritos (with coleslaw on tortillas) & melon
  • leftovers
  • and something quick and easy on Friday before joining our son at a party he’ll be at

Afternoon Snack:

  • chocolate graham crackers & milk
  • string cheese & juice
  • bread sticks with marinara sauce
  • crackers and peanut butter
  • fruit & yogurt

There is always a huge helping of inspiration over at I’m an Organizing Junkie…check it out!

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Filed under In the Kitchen, Lists, Uncategorized

Small Town

After a trip east with my mom, which I loved, and a trip to HomeTown that was really fun, I’m ready to be in SmallTown for a bit.  This month marks 4 years since the moving truck delivered all our stuff to our new home.  It’s been a wild ride but I find myself more settled here.

It gets harder and harder to want to spend the hours in the car to visit family around the state.  We’ve carved out a place for ourselves here and really enjoy just living the ordinary life of small town folk.

My sister and her kids are here visiting this weekend.  Tomorrow we’ll take a drive to Itasca State Park for some hiking and a picnic.  By the time we get back here my niece and nephew will be able to say they walked across the Mighty Mississippi River.  I’m looking forward to a relaxing day with family.  I’ll cross the river on those slippery rocks too, hoping not to fall in again.

Life is good.

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Filed under Adventure, Family