Garanimals Blog

Archive for the ‘Tips and Tricks’ Category

November 17th, 2014 at 10:24 am

Online Shopping Tips

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Online shopping has become a popular way to handle the purchase of holiday gifts. It’s an easier and quicker way for busy people to shop. If you are new to online shopping, here are some tips to help you become a savvy online shopper!

  • Companies often offer sales online that they don’t offer in store. Coupled with coupons you might be able to use, you can not only save time, but money as well, by shopping on their website.
  • Create an account on sites you shop the most. This makes purchasing easier because your information (shipping, billing, order history, etc.) will be securely stored in the account. Additionally, you’ll be able to check your order/shipping status, facilitate returns, and sometimes even contact customer service through live chat or a direct account function.
  • Sign up to get emails from companies you frequently purchase from. They will send you exclusive emails with sales and coupons to use for future purchases. It can make a big difference when you have a significant percentage off your total!
  • Don’t throw away packaging and receipts once your item arrives. Most companies allow you to send the item back in it’s original packaging for a full refund with free postage. Sometimes you decide the item isn’t exactly what you wanted, sometimes there’s an issue with the item itself, or sometimes it doesn’t fit or work the way you need it to. Don’t get stuck keeping an item you don’t want or need.
  • Early Black Friday sales are already being posted, and even more appear on Black Friday itself. The best day to shop online is Cyber Monday, the Monday after Thanksgiving. It is a good day to find significant sales of up to 40% or 50% off!

Also, you can earn cash back from your online holiday purchases (and any other time of year as well) by signing up with Ebates.com. Ebates is paid by a number of popular online retailers to drive sales on their online platforms. Each retailer offers a different percentage of cash back, some on certain items or type of purchases, some on your total purchase of any items. Walmart is one of the major participants, so you can earn cash back from buying Garanimals!

Some great sites to monitor for online sale information are:

Brad’s Deals

Penny Pinching Mom

Saving with Shellie

Passion for Savings

I plan on getting A LOT of shopping done this way for Christmas! How about you?

 

 

 

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September 19th, 2014 at 9:00 am

Making Money Through Consignment Sales

consignment

As kids grow up, you end up with a lot of extra clothing and items you won’t use anymore, but are still in excellent shape. One way to make some money to put towards new things is by selling your gently used clothing and other items at a consignment sale.  The ones I have participated in run in the fall and spring. I want to share a few tips to help prepare you for selling used items.

Hangers

Most sales ask you to provide hangers for your items. They do not typically return these, so you need to collect them throughout the year. I have a tote where I store hangers from when I purchase items. If I need other types or sizes, I recruit family and friends to save them also.

Collecting Clothing

I have two totes that are labeled Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter. I collect clothing each time I clean out the boys closets. As I put these items away, I make sure they are in good condition, with no stains, rips, or holes. I fold them neatly and store them until I am ready to sell. This also gives you time to make any repairs like loose buttons, frayed hems, etc.

Non-Clothing Items

Depending on the type of consignment sale, you can sell gently used toys, home decor, small appliances, bedding, etc. Everything should be in good working condition, clean, and show little to no wear. Make sure all pieces are kept together and are packaged efficiently if necessary.

Tagging and Pricing

Each consignment sale has different rules on how to tag and attach pricing to your items. Make sure to use enough details in your tag descriptions so that items and tags can be matched up if they are separated. A good rule for setting pricing is by determining what is approximately 25-50% of what the item originally retailed for. Be sure to get all the details on any pricing requirements or suggestions from the person who handles the sale coordination.

A Good Set of Tools

Here are a few things that help me in my preparations:

  • Good Scissors
  • Masking Tape
  • Decent Pen
  • Black Sharpie
  • Batteries (Everything that runs on batteries needs fresh batteries or it won’t be accepted)
  • Screwdrivers
  • Cleaning Wipes
  • Goo Gone
  • Baggies (in various sizes)

Donate What You Can’t Sell

It’s a nice gesture to donate what you don’t end up selling, and you will keep house clutter to a minimum, allowing for more storage for new items you may need.

Happy selling!

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August 18th, 2014 at 3:37 pm

Online Recipe Storage & Organization

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I am a recipe hoarder. I have cookbooks, printed recipes, written recipes, and tons of bookmarked recipes stored in so many places on the Internet and on my computer.  I am in the process of trying to consolidate all these recipes in two places…on paper and online. My tried and true recipes that I make regularly are stored in a binder. These are printed and slipped in plastic sheet covers so they are easy to refer to and don’t get messy while i’m cooking.

Everything else is stored online. I also store my tried and true online so I can refer to them when out and about. Sometimes when you are grocery shopping you decide you really need to make that one favorite recipe for dinner. Here are a couple of ways you can organize your recipes online for safekeeping.

Evernote

I am currently making my household as paperless as I can with Evernote, and a desktop scanner. I bookmark my online recipes to Evernote, and scan my paper recipes and save them to the app as well. I love that i’m able to add tags so the recipes are easily searchable, and if I save my scanned documents right, the handwriting or typing becomes searchable too. I use the app Evernote Food on my phone and iPad to help search for the perfect recipes and view them when i’m on-the-go.

Paprika

This app can be used on mobile or desktop and is strictly for recipes. There is a nice built-in browser which helps you import recipes easily. One of the best parts is the grocery list, which adds up all your recipes and make a list from all the ingredients you need.

Pinterest

This is a great way to access recipes through imagery. Make different boards for food categories and save each recipe link cataloged there by picture and description. You can even add your own descriptions.

Online Storage Service (Dropbox, iCloud, or Google Drive)

Save each recipe as a file and organize by folders. This is a great way to access recipes from many different locations.

How do you organize your recipes?

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July 25th, 2014 at 12:42 pm

Labeling Your School Supplies

With 32 days left of summer vacation, my family needs to start thinking about school and getting school supplies. Buying the supplies are the fun part, but the labeling of them can take forever! You can go the simple way of labeling with initials or first name using a pen or marker, but I wanted to share some fun ways to label your supplies without all the hassle.

Print some labels like in the picture above. I love these little labels to print names and attach to items. They can also be found in neon colors. I have found that you sometimes need to cover with tape when labeling crayons and markers and others things that are curved.’

Check out these Property of stickers. These would be great for books, folders, and other large items.

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Your child can really add personality to their labels when you print these personalized labels.

 

Mabel’s Labels offers labels for school supplies, lunch boxes, and even clothing and shoes. These offer a great alternative to the printed labels because they are made with labeling items as a sole purpose.

If you have the ability to cut vinyl lettering you can label things like this. This would take a bit of work but makes a big statement. Check out how they labeled pencils with vinyl.

Once you decide what option you are going to use stick a good movie on the tv and go to town! It’s a tedious task, but once you see all those labeled items you will feel like you really accomplished something!

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July 21st, 2014 at 10:44 am

Making Homemade Decorations for Your Home

Taking the time to add decor to your home can elevate it to a new level. The hard part is that decorations can be costly and decorating a room can become expensive fast. I like to take less expensive items and make them into something else! One of my favorite homemade items is my Elevated Glass Vase.

vase

To make each of these it cost $2 plus the cost of a little glue. There are many different types of glue you can use, so pick out your favorite brand for this.

This project started with a tall straight vase. Get creative. Vary colors, styles, and heights of vases. Then you need two shorter candle holders as shown here.

vase needs

You simply glue the candle holder to the bottle of the vase. I like to put the vase upside down and apply the candle holder that way.  Let dry and fill. I have filled with shells, christmas ornaments, marbles and more. This is a great way to add color through decor.

finished vase

I have also taken candle holders and attached to plates to make a cake plate or an item to display or serve on.

 

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July 11th, 2014 at 2:32 pm

Everyday Homemaking Hacks

I am a huge fan of things that make my life easier. In my home there are things I have adapted that I would love to share with you.

My charging cord doesn’t quite reach the corner of my couch, and my iPhone is always running out of battery when I sit down to relax for the evening. I use one of these hooks to keep my cord easy to grab when it is needed.

charger

 

With two boys, there is always a need for a garbage can in our van. I took a simple cereal container and velcroed it to our center console. It easy to reach so we don’t have garbage all over the car.

garbage

 

Our school collects labels, box tops, and milk caps. An easy way to collect them is by taping a sandwich bag inside the cabinet. It’s easy to store away and out of plain sight, and I always know where they are.

box tops

 

We cannot have enough of these in our home. They collect my papers, photos, the boys stuff and more.

magnetboard

 

We recently remodeled our house and barely had to pound a nail in the wall because we hung all of our pictures with sticky velcro. It is easy to remove for dusting or changing of the photos, but is securely fastened to the wall.

hangphoto

What are some of your favorite tips or tricks to make life a little easier?

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June 23rd, 2014 at 10:50 am

Bike Safety for Kids

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Just this weekend while my son was riding his bike, he wiped out and got some bad scrapes on his elbow. Of course, I found this out after I cleaned off the mud from the huge puddle he fell into. My first tip is for parents (one I need to follow myself) – ALWAYS make sure your first aid supplies are stocked and on hand. You can never have enough bandaids (in every size), antibiotic cream or antibacterial/alcohol wipes. It’s summer and kids (especially boys) are prone to injuries, so be ready!

Accidents happen, but there are safety measures that can be taken to help prevent or lessen the degree of injuries. One of the most important areas to protect is your child’s head. Helmets provide protection for your face, head, and brain…I don’t think I need to mention why this is crucial!

Make sure your child’s bike is the right size for them. All too often, children ride bikes that are too big or too small for them, which increases the likelihood of accidents. If your child stands straddling the bike, there should be 1-3 inches of space between them and the top bar. If not, its time to move up to the next bike size.

Make sure wheels, handlebars and seats are tightly fastened to the bike. Add air to the tires if they need more. Check the chain and oil it regularly. Also check that the brakes are working correctly.

If your child is riding with you on the street or sidewalk, make sure they have bright clothing on, even in daylight. Also make sure shoes are tied and clothing isn’t too loose that it would get caught on anything. Sneakers are the best to wear when bike riding because the treads grip the pedals.

Define what area around your neighborhood is appropriate for your child to ride. This can change as your child gets older. Go over safety rules and make sure your child checks for cars backing out of driveways, and is mindful of road signs. Also teach them about obstacles like sticks, puddles, rocks, and other children! Discourage them from doing “tricks” with their bikes like jumping obstacles, bumping friends’ tires with their own, or racing down steep hills.

With these guidelines, children can be a little safer on their bicycles!

 

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June 6th, 2014 at 12:26 pm

Bad Weather Safety

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Weather can be very scary for children this time of year.  It is important to prepare your children for bad weather such as thunderstorms, tornados, and hurricanes, depending on where you live.

One thing that is great to do is to create an emergency kit with your children. Purchase a plastic tote to keep under your stairs or another safe place in case of a disaster. In it you can include water (a gallon per person for a few days is recommended), canned foods and an opener, a first aid kit, emergency medications, blankets, towels, a flashlight with extra batteries, and a whistle or horn to signal for help.

Thunderstorms with Lightening
These can be very scary for children. A neat way to ease a child’s fear is to count from the flash of lightening until you see the BOOM of thunder. Once you have your number of seconds, divide that number by five. For instance if you count 30 seconds divided by five, the thunderstorm is six miles away.

Safety Tips 

  • If they see or hear a thunderstorm, they should come inside right away.
  • Stay away from metal objects when a thunderstorm is going on.
  • If they cannot get inside, they should stay away from anything tall and crouch down on their knees, protecting their head with their arms.

Tornadoes
Tornadoes are very dangerous for communities. It is good to discuss with your children things to look out for when a large thunderstorm is approaching. This would include coming inside before a thunderstorm hits, the sights and sounds of a tornado, what the warnings mean on the news, and ways to safely secure themselves should a tornado hit.

Tornadoes often sound like a train or airplane. If they hear a siren or these sounds, they should take cover right away. When bad weather is approaching the news or a radio should be monitored constantly.

Safety Tips 

  • Go to a basement, or if there is no basement go under something sturdy, such as a staircase, or in a closet in the center of the house. This should be the lowest lying area in your home as well.
  • Stay away from windows or doors.
  • If you are in a car, get out and go to a sturdy building or the lowest lying area of ground you can find, such as a ditch.
  • Keep your face covered with your arms protecting your head.

Hurricanes
Talk to your children how hurricanes are formed. These storms are able to be tracked and form over the ocean so there is typically more time to prepare for these than other storms. Talk about the different effects of hurricane on coastlines and watch for warning alerts that occur with hurricanes.

Safety Tips 

  • If you live in a mobile home, near the water, or in a high-rise building, seek shelter in a safer area.
  • If you must stay in your home, go to a basement, safety shelter or the most secure area.
  • Stay away from windows and doors.

Floods 
If you live in an area where flooding can occur, go over safety information. Be sure to stress that playing with water is fun, but floods are dangerous and can be harmful.

Safety Tips 

  • Get to the highest point in your home.
  • Do not drive through rushing waters during a flood.
  • If you are caught in flooding waters get to a tree, higher ground, or grab ahold of anything that is floating in the water to climb on.
  • If you are in a car, get out ASAP.

Here are some fun resources to explore the weather:

NOAA’s Play time for kids – http://www.nws.noaa.gov/om/reachout/kidspage.shtml

Interactive Weather Maker – http://www.scholastic.com/kids/weather/

Weather Wiz Kids - http://www.weatherwizkids.com/index.htm

 

Most importantly, make sure your kids know that you will do everything in your power to keep them safe!!

 

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May 20th, 2014 at 7:58 am

Saving and Sharing Family Memories

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We love our kids’ art. Somewhere in my attic is an artist’s portfolio folder filled to the brim with all of the preschool and kindergarten artwork of my first child. There isn’t one for my second child. Yep, the novelty had worn off by child number 2. Sorry sweetie pie!

Even so, I still have plenty of creations from both of them from their school years. I just can’t bring myself to throw them away. I finally did throw away my daughter’s dinosaur diorama from third grade. She’s 19….

Here are a few apps that let you archive the memories without having to keep the originals.

ArtKive is an lets you take photos of your artwork (or any other items of interest), tag them, upload them, and print photo memory books. The app is free, but the books run $25 for 20 pages.

ArtMyKidMade (free) is similar but links with Dropbox, Evernote or Facebook for storing and sharing.  Anything you share on the Art My Kid Made blog could be featured in their Artist of the Day pick.

Another option is Keepy. This site lets you upload photos, artwork, and other mementos to the site, make recordings that tell the story, and share it all with friends and loved ones, who can also reply or comment with text, voice recordings or videos.

Keepy is free for the first 31 items but also offers premium and ultimate plan options for $1.99/month for 101 images and $2.99/month for unlimited.

So get out those folders, baskets and boxes of fabulous art and get clicking. You now have permission to throw away the originals without guilt. Well, maybe save a few.

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May 19th, 2014 at 8:36 am

Creating On-The-Go Meals

sandwich

If your life is anything like mine, in late spring and summer you are always on the go! My biggest struggle with this is trying to create healthy meals  instead of running through the drive-thru of the nearest fast food restaurant. Here are some of my favorite  ways to make dinner fast or even carry it along while on the run.

Sandwiches
Sandwiches are a great go-to for dinner or lunch! I make up a batch of chicken or tuna salad and fill pocket bread or pitas to eat on the run. You don’t even have to make a sandwich necessarily…skip the bread and eat it alone with a fork, or just put the salads in a container and carry along some pretzels or crackers to scoop it up. Sandwiches can be paired with fruits, veggies, crackers or baked chips. Think of different options that your kids may like. Even some cheese on bread makes a good option for picky eaters.

Sometimes for lunch in between activities, a good option is cheese, crackers, and a simple meat (turkey slices, pepperoni, even sausage pieces). Cut up a bunch at the beginning of the week and this makes a fun snack to have in the car.

My kids also love the lunch packs that can be bought at the store. Recreate them for less expensive on-the-go alternatives.

Crock Pot Meals
When I am busy, making a meal in the crock pot is the best way to make a good meal for the evening. Plus, the crockpot won’t warm up the house as much as regular stovetop or oven cooking! Even something as simple as throwing chicken breasts in the crock pot with some cream of celery soup makes some good filling  on a bun. Try this with beef or pork also. Once it has cooked, pull it apart with a fork and make it into sandwiches or with a pre-made side dish.

Freezer Meals
Grab a meal out of the freezer you can cook without preparation, making dinner a little easier. Sometimes a frozen pizza or other frozen meal from the grocery store is okay. Time can slip away when you have a home, family, a job, etc., so don’t beat yourself up if you can’t make a healthy dinner every single night! Consider it a “treat” night for the family.

 

Check out these great ideas to organize eating in the car! I will definitely be trying these out…

Cereal Box Meal Tray

Sectioned Muffin Tin

Basket Meal

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