Why do you buy presents?

Yesterday I got a call from my mother. She was moody, grumpy, and basically annoyed with the world. The reason for her call — to get Christmas gift ideas for the kids. She had spent the entire day before out shopping, looking for things, anything, and still hadn’t spent what she had budgeted for them. In fact, she hadn’t found anything for them other than the one gift idea I gave her for each of them nearly a month ago.

As patiently as I could, I tried telling her that one gift was more than enough and the kids would be grateful for that. She wouldn’t hear of it. She got more and more agitated as we talked and by the end of our conversation, when I had no other gift ideas for her, she was angry. I kept reiterating to her that the dollar amount she spent or how many gifts she had for them really wasn’t the point, but all she managed to scream at me was, “I know it’s not about the gifts, but I need more ideas for what to buy!”

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Okay, so her logic is definitely lost on me, but at the same time, I know I have taken some of her beliefs and lessons that her and my father have instilled in me about Christmas gift giving and been guilty of practicing them over the years. Even this year I found myself stressing about buying gifts for people, wondering if I’d bought enough, wondering if I should buy more, rethinking my decision not to buy presents for my parents because they neither need anything nor appreciate it. Rather than buying gifts, I chose to make them cookies, take them to a concert (not proclaiming however that it was a Christmas gift), and spending time with them. Based on my mother’s materialistic view of gifts, I know she and my father will be hurt and disappointed when they have no gifts to open this year.

After my conversation with my mother, after she flatly hung up on me when I could not supply her with any more “ideas,” I began to scour the stores for gifts for her and my father. Once again I had been sucked into the Christmas gift merry-go-round that is neither fun, nor what I want this season to reflect or be about.

When I buy a gift for someone, I want it to be because I know it is something they are going to love or at least hope they will. I don’t want to go out and arbitrarily buy gifts just so I have something to give someone in return for a gift they are buying me. I don’t want to check off a list that is handed to me and then watch as the recipient checks off their list in their head as they open gifts.

I’m not against buying someone what they want, but I am against being chained to a list. Some of the most wonderful gifts I have received are ones that I never knew I wanted. My good friend Suzanne has especially surprised me with many wonderful gifts, thoughtful gifts, gifts I know that she put a part of herself into and she has truly inspired me to try to do the same with gifts I buy or make.

This phone call from my mother, however, tainted my perspective once again and gave me reason to doubt myself and my gift giving choices. I hate that. My mother has an uncanny way of bringing the worst out in me. It’s not like this holiday season hasn’t already had enough glitches in it with me being sick at the beginning and again now, being too busy or too exhausted to do many of the things that I wanted, forgetting what is truly important during the season, not doing any entertaining, and baking only a few holiday treats to date — why not throw in a little gift-giving guilt to round out the season?!!

So, this morning I sat down and began to write. Now I used to write a lot of poetry when I was younger, but as of late, not so much. I love to write rhyming poems, but a lot of time they seem to turn out childish and don’t stay on point. Today, however, the words flowed, and with few bumps along the way, I managed to put my feelings on paper about gift giving and touch on the holidays in general. If you’re interested, I put it in a separate post titled “The Christmas Lesson.”

Remember, this is the season of compassion, so bear with my poetic attempt.

Anyway, Merry Christmas to you all and I hope your holidays are filled with love and joy and the gifts that you wanted as well as those you didn’t know you did. The holidays are upon us, today and everyday in your heart if you let them, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

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Garage Sales Galore!

Always trying to save money, I often buy clothing for my kids from the garage sales. Recently, I purchased a new shirt from JC Penny for my 6-year-old and was wondering why she was reluctant to wear it the next day. After asking her she responded, “Oh, the store has their own washing machine… that’s why we don’t have to wash it first?!”  From:  undefined | Great Clean Jokes

Garage saling became a necessity when the kids were very little.  It was where I bought a good portion of their clothes and even some of their toys.  As they got older, however, their interest in wearing garage sale clothing waned.  I have always enjoyed going to garage sales and finding a bargain and have a hard time resisting those signs advertising “Everything Must Go!”  Recently the kids have gotten a renewed interest in exploring the offerings of garage sales.  When you have unlimited wants but limited funds, necessity dictates.  Plus, very often you can find brand new or slightly used items at garage sales for pennies on the dollar.

The past three days, in every moment that I could spare, I have been enjoying our subdivision garage sale. I’m not exactly sure how many homes are having sales, but with 1,200 homes in our subdivision, even if only 5% were having sales, that’s quite a few to hit.

With my list memorized and money in my pocket, I headed out on Thursday and finally today I can say that I think I’ve hit every single open sale in our sub. Meeting the neighbors, catching up on the latest gossip, seeing how the neighborhood kids have grown, and finding treasures among another man’s trash has made this a pretty good weekend. One of the best parts is that I was able to find some great things we really needed for a fraction of the cost they would have been at retail.

Here are just a few of the things I got:

A brand new bike helmet - $1.00 for Zeb and slightly used backpack - $1.00.

A brand new bike helmet – $1.00 for Zeb and slightly used backpack – $1.00.

A cute bushel-style basket to store my onions in - $.75.

A cute bushel-style basket to store my onions in – $.75.

A fan for hubby's office - $.50.

A fan for hubby’s office – $.50.

Scaves and gloves - all for  $4.00.

Scarves and gloves – all for $4.00.

Brand New rolls of paper towel and packages of napkins - $.10 each and dish soap - $.50 each.

Brand New rolls of paper towel and packages of napkins – $.10 each and dish soap – $.50 each.

Brand New boxes of Kleenex - $.25 each.

Brand New boxes of Kleenex – $.25 each.

Brand New caulk with gun - All for $5.00.

Brand New caulk with gun – All for $5.00.

In addition to those pictured, I also bought one case of quart canning jars – $3.00, one case of pint canning jars – $3.00, one case of brand new jelly jars $2.00, a vintage half-apron with a towel attached to it (homemade) $1.00, 5 DVD movies for the kids – $1.00 each, 5 Perry Ellis shirts for Zeb – $1.00 each, and probably the best deal of all was a bike rack for our car that originally cost $110 for only $10 and the man even showed me how to put it on my car. Whew! What a haul!

Getting a great deal is wonderful, but going to the sales with a good friend on Thursday, Zeb, Grace, and even hubby during the next two days was a nice way to spend some time away from the house and the constant demands of being a housewife. Whoever invented the garage sale had an excellent idea that day, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Canning For Mother’s Day

A bargain is something you can’t use at a price you can’t resist. ~ Franklin Jones

Spent a couple of hours this morning at my favorite produce market and came home with a carload of produce, plants, and top soil. Once again my eyes seemed bigger than my gumption once I got home because I was a bit overwhelmed, but I’m sure tomorrow, after a good night’s sleep, I’ll be up for all the canning and planting I’ve got ahead of me.

The best finds at the market today were two boxes of California peaches and one box of nectarines for a total of $5.00. My daughter, Grace recently discovered my canned peaches in the basement (I’ve been canning these for a couple of years, but she never noticed I guess) and in the past week she has eaten two quarts of them. Finding the peaches was perfect. I can make a peach crumble for Mother’s Day dessert tomorrow and can the rest. As for the nectarines, I’ve never canned them, but am anxious to try this. I don’t have to peel them, so it should be a quick process.

Bell checking out the cases of peaches.

Bell checking out the cases of peaches.

 

Nectarines - No Peeling Required!

Nectarines – No Peeling Required!

After stashing the boxes of peaches and nectarines on my cart, I headed over to the discount table and found more than 15 boxes of mini cucumbers. No, I did not buy them all. In fact, I wasn’t sure what I could do with them. I’ve made pickles with pickling cucumbers, but never these mini cucumbers. Still, I couldn’t pass them up — they were calling to me. So, I bought one case for $1.50 and am hoping for the best.

Mini Cucumbers - Hopefully they'l make good pickles.

Mini Cucumbers – Hopefully they’ll make good pickles.

Next, I walked around the market a few more times and when I came to the tomato table a worker offered me a box of tomatoes he had just sorted off the table. For $2.00 I got a good size box of tomatoes and will can these chopped for salsa. They are not the reddest yet, but give them a day or two on the counter, and they’ll be good to go.

A case of tomatoes for $2.00 - how could I say no.

A case of tomatoes for $2.00 – how could I say no.

Heading to the checkout I hit the discount rack and found two bags of peppers, one orange and one yellow, for $1.00. I’ll freeze these for a variety of dishes. I like freezing peppers. All I have to do is clean them, slice them, and freeze. No blanching involved.

A dozen peppers for $1.00 - definitely going on the menu for next week.

A dozen peppers for $1.00 – definitely going on the menu for next week.

It was a good day at the produce market and now I’ve got my Mother’s Day planned — canning, canning, and more canning. Oh yeah, I also picked up some pepper plants, a couple of Roma tomato plants, some pickling cucumber plants, and marigolds to plant tomorrow. It should be a full day, hopefully the weather will hold. At any rate, the family will all be home and I’ll be spending it with the people I love, doing my favorite things, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Such A Deal!

Buying something on sale is a special feeling. In fact, the less I pay for something, the more it’s worth to me. I have a dress that I paid so little for that I am afraid to wear it. I could spill something on it and then how would I replace it for that amount of money?
~ Rita Rudner

 

Whether finding something on sale or getting a great deal at a yard sale or on Craig’s List, I get the same type of rush.  My biggest problem when it comes to these “great deals” is knowing when to say no.  This is especially a problem when it comes to canning jars and food that I can put up.  Regardless of how much applesauce I have in the pantry, if I find a box of apples on the clearance table at Randazzo’s ( a large box for $2.00), I can’t pass it up.  Same goes for mushrooms, lemons, strawberries, or anything that might be canned.

Canning jars are even harder to resist.  Recently there was an ad on Craig’s List for 250 canning jars for $50.00.  I called immediately. The man selling them told me he would hold them for me until morning, when I could talk to my husband and see if he agreed this was a good buy.  Although $50.00 was an excellent price ($.20 each for quarts and pints), my husband pointed out that I would have to drive more than an hour and fifteen minutes one-way to get them.  I’d be paying in gas what I’d be saving in canning jars.  Maybe not quite, but it’d be close.  Plus, I already have more than 250 jars in the garage waiting to be filled.  My belief that “you can never have too many canning jars” can only go so far.  I had to pass on the deal.

I emailed the seller and he was glad I’d let him know.  He had three other people who wanted them.  I was jealous, but knew I’d made the right decision.

Great deals are what keep my pantry full and has made my canning obsession possible.  If I had to pay full-price for canning jars or food to preserve, I doubt we’d have half of what’s in there.  And for this, I am Simply Grateful.

Clearance Produce Rack Joy

This morning I spent over an hour at my favorite produce market scavenging for discount produce and came home elated with my finds.  I have read on some websites and in some books on canning that buying produce from these racks is not advised because the quality of the product might not be as good.  This has not been my experience.  I try to be discerning in my choices and not make impulse buys just because the produce might be dirt cheap.  Today I would consider my best day ever as far as finding the best in quantity, quality, and variety.

My first stop was the discount corner.  There you’ll find a large make-shift table out of empty produce boxes topped with 1/2-full to 3/4-full flats of produce pulled from the floor stock that is no longer considered first-rate.  Each box is $2.00 regardless how full it is.  Most of the time when I get there I’ll find a box or two with some unrecognizable vegetable that is wilting and brown.  Occasionally though I come at just the right moment and might find a box of apples or oranges.

This morning I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw several flats of strawberries on the table.  Each flat held eight 1-pound containers.  There were several people clustered around the table, so I pushed my cart to the side and waited until they were done.  Unbelievably only one of the people took a flat, leaving three complete flats on the table for me to look at.  Quickly glancing at the contents of the plastic clam-shells I noticed a few moldy strawberries, but for the most part everything looked good.  I put two flats on the bottom of my cart.

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Next, across from the discount table there’s a metal discount rack.  Items on this rack are $1.00 a bag or $.69 a quart.  The rack was empty except for four honeydew melons.  A man picked up one of the melons and put it in his cart leaving three for me to think about.  They were $1 each.  Not sure exactly what I’d make with them I thought, “For $3.00 it’s worth taking them.”  So into my cart they went.

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When I arrive at the market in the morning, the staff can be found sorting through large bins of fresh fruit, throwing bruised fruit into boxes in their carts and tidying up the remaining salable fruit.  I watch them as they fill their boxes while I stroll around the store in search of great sales.  Today I didn’t really need anything other than what I could find discounted, so for 30 minutes I walked around carefully eyeing what was being pulled.

In watching the process of fruit being pulled, I noticed that several people were going right up to the men pulling the fruit and asking for the boxes.  The men would give them the box and then grab another box from the floor and start filling that one.  Seeing these boxes disappear into carts with no chance of seeing them in the discount corner, I decided to take a shot at getting my own box.

Near the front of the store there was a large bin of lemons marked 2 for $1.00.  There a man was patiently picking through the fruit, squeezing each lemon to see if it was firm, tossing soft ones into a box, and filling the bins on the table with the good fruit.  I made several passes with my cart trying to get up my nerve to ask for a box but was beat to it by an older man.  Figuring I’d better suck it up or leave I walked over and struck up a conversation with the worker.  I asked him if I was able to ask for a box of discarded fruit or how I would go about getting one.  He told me that he would gladly give me the next box he pulled.  For 30 minutes I stood and talked to him as he pulled lemons from the table and put them in what was soon to be my box.  In the end, I had more than 20 lemons, all for $2.00.  I thanked him profusely and headed to the cashier.

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On my way out, I decided to give the discount table and rack one more pass, and found two quarts of jalapeno peppers, two quarts of okra, and two quarts of mushrooms.  Also, I passed the strawberry table where a worker was pulling more strawberry boxes for the discount table.  Seeing that one was full, I asked if I could have it.  Gratefully I put it in my cart.

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How awesome is that!  I ended up with 24 pounds of strawberries for $6.00, a box of lemons for $2.00, 3 melons for $3.00, and 6 quarts of various vegetables for $4.20.  What a haul!  Now the work begins.  Strawberry-lemonade concentrate, strawberry-kiwi lemonade concentrate, pickled jalapeno, frozen okra, dried mushrooms, and maybe some honeydew jelly, jam, or syrup.  I am without a doubt — Simply Grateful.

How Much Per Pound?!

Am I proving how old I really am when I say, “I can remember when I could buy hamburger for $0.99 per pound.”  Well I can and in my mind it doesn’t seem all that long ago.  Granted my kids were babies then, but that too doesn’t seem so long ago.

Nowadays, finding hamburger for $2.39 per pound on special is probably the best I can do.  Of course there are those rare occasions when I happen upon a package or two that might be $1.99 per pound, and you can be sure that I snap those up without hesitation.  I have even gone so far as to discuss this with the butcher at my local Meijer’s store and after sharing a trip down memory lane and agreeing that $0.99 a pound will probably never be seen again, he did tell me that a few times a year he does put hamburger on sale for $1.99 per pound.

I remember this!  Last year around Memorial Day and then again around the Fourth of July I was able to get hamburger for $1.99 per pound on sale, and for joy, for joy — even found several packages in the clearance section for $1.59 per pound.  I just love those red clearance stickers.  In fact, my basket typically will only have meat in it if it has those red clearance stickers on it these days.  Since I am going to bring the meat home and freeze it anyway, I could care less if it expires the day I buy it.  It will be eaten long before freezer burn even takes hold, so no worries.

This morning, before dropping my daughter off at college we stopped off to pick up four things from Meijer’s.  A half-full shopping cart later, I had three packages of $2.39 per pound hamburger, two packages of $0.79 per pound chicken leg quarters, and three packages of $2.29 per pound brat sausage, along with Duncan Hines cake mixes and brownie mixes 10 for $10 with the 11th item free. Yes I did manage to remember the original four items I specifically went shopping for, but what a great morning for bargains!

 

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I can think of no better way (okay this is a bit of an exaggeration, but it is still a pretty great way) to kick off a Monday morning.  I am definitely Simply Grateful for this!