Category: Reducing bills

My Disney tips

Well we went to Disney last year thanks to a great tax return- taxes the state owed us from 2 years previous and my picking up extra shifts along the way. I used half of the money to pay back the $1000 loan I’d taken from wegot1000 – and just needed a break for our family after my dad’s illness and death last year. we stayed inside the park in the cheapest hotels ( all stars ) my Mom came along and we had joint rooms. we had a small fridge- we flew ( we are in NJ) i probably could have done a bit better getting the airfare myself rather than with the travel agent do it but planning a trip for 7 people – i didn’t want to have any problems i couldn’t throw to someone else to fix (and since out flight was canceled due to a hurricane warning i am glad i did as she got us a new flight once the warning was over when the airlines themselves said they couldn’t ) we got hopper passes for the 6 nights 7 days we were there that meant we could goto whatever park as many times as we wanted and that worked out well- we had free transportation with in the parks areas so that was nice too (with a 2 yo and my Mom and kids of different age ranges from 11 down i figured if one got too tired cranky we could take a bus back and leave the others with dh etc) we took our own stroller

I took plastic ponchos from the $ store so i didn’t have to buy them – i bought souvenir autograph books at the dollar store too rather than pay $5 for them -since everyone on the flight could take their own suitcase and i had the girls share a suitcase and the boys share a suitcase- i filled a hard-shell American tourister suitcase i got at the thrift store for $4 with cereals- snacks – ramon noodles etc etc – cool aid powder to mix with water in the room for a treat we always ate in the room for breakfast and bedtime snack – we were in the parks all day and ate lunch and dinner out – it can be done cheaper but as this is a once in a lifetime thing for us we did it – we ate some character meals for the kids- kind of pricey but my kids eat a lot so the buffet was great for them – they had 2nds and thirds LOL!! we did take a diaper bag/backpack that had snacks water bottles in them – as much as i didn’t mind paying 9$ for my kids to have a healthy sit down dinner and entertainment I did mind paying $3 for a soft pretzel !!!

i refroze water bottles during the night in the tiny freezer section of the fridge or in a trashcan – we filled with ice and sat in the bathtub- we refilled them at fountains only had a soda / other drink with meals- i shopped at yard sales before we went for souvenirs and shoved some stuffed animals etc. in my suitcase – i gave each older child $50 in Disney $ to spend before we left to stop the “i wants ” ( my Mom paid for 25$ of it ) the younger two got $25 – the kids were really careful about what they bought as they knew that was it !! when my older Ds got a Mickey sorcerer and my younger Ds wanted a stuffed Mickey – I pulled a Mickey identical to one that cost 22.99 in the gift shop from my suitcase that I had paid $2 for at a yard sale-DD 3 got a dumbo I got at a yard sale for 50c – and if you look around some of the Disney stores even had red ticketed clearance stuff in them !!!

really would like to go back some day – if we ever do we will probably drive – possibly stay outside the park or in the cheaper places again- would probably pack more food and pack lunches to eat and only eat dinner or eat lunch and have ramon noodles or sandwiches for dinner back in the room – we definitely could have been more frugal with our trip = but when i tell people about it they seem to think I was really frugal LOL!! Plus it was our first vacation in 13 years (since our honeymoon ) and I wanted to enjoy myself – we used no credit- went into no debt and even came home with $100 of the money we had taken with us – so I think we did pretty good !!

Returned from Orlando

We just got back from a trip to Orlando on Tuesday of this week. AND, what a trip it was. We had planned for a long time and set aside a good amount of money, but I don’t think anything really prepares you for vacation costs. I think all in all we did really well. We got our tickets some time ago for $212.00 round trip from WA state. That was really good. Our lodging was in a condo by Aaron’s Accommodations – three bedrooms, two baths 1400 sq feet., laundry, kitchen. Only about 15 minutes from Universal and less than a half hour from Disney.

We paid $125.00 or thereabouts for three adults, three kids for six nights. (My parents were there the first week – family reunion, and they picked up the hotel costs the first week.) Near the end, we moved to another hotel, as the one we were in was not handicapped accessible, and was becoming very difficult on my husband. But even that was nice, it was Hawthorn Suites near the airport (which proved helpful, when we had to be to the airport at 5:30 a.m. the day we left). It was only $89.00 and was a full kitchen, and a living room with fold out couch and a big bedroom with two double beds – certainly adequate. We did eat at least one big meal out each day, and that averaged $55.00. I did take snacks and drinks into the parks, and we drank a lot of water.

But yes, we did buy ice cream a couple of times from the vendors and a few other snacks and such. The big killer was souvenirs. My husband, dear as he is, wanted to be able to buy souvenirs without worrying about cost. He would not hear of buying them in advance at garage sales or whatever, so we spent more than $300 on that. And our rental van was pricey, but that is because it had to accommodate a motorized wheelchair. It actually was a God-send to find the place that had those available. But – it was $75.00 per day. We have lots of wonderful memories, and that is what it is all about, right!! Oh, we bought our amusement tickets ahead of time, through the military, five days of Disney and three of Universal for three adults and two kids (one still young enough to be free) was $1,252.00.

Occasionally you can buy online for ten percent off or such. Wendy – about shades of green, I called there when we were going to move and they said that they could only accommodate four in a room, even though we were a family of five, with an extra adult. So, please check on that, so you don’t get a surprise at the end!. AANNDD – the baby rooms at the Disney parks are awesome. Magic Kingdom, Epcot and Animal Kingdom had places with videos for the older kids if you just needed a break. Plus there were quiet areas for nursing moms, and changing tables and (pricey) diapers, and baby food, if you absolutely needed to buy some.

They were really accommodating. MGM had a place also, just not quite as nice and roomy as the others. So, that was a real bonus. If you think of any specific questions, I would be happy to try to answer them. Most of all, go and enjoy. For us, it was most likely a once in a lifetime opportunity, and we did enjoy. (But it was hot!!)

Reducing the grocery bill

Here are the things I do for reducing the grocery bill:

  • try not to take anyone with you to the store.
  • identify several of the cheapest meals that my family likes, and serve them more often. For our family, this is potato soup, scalloped potatoes (with ham, cheese, or plain); stir fry; various pasta dishes; homemade pizzas (store-bought pizza bases); tuna/macaroni salad, tuna casserole; veggie lasagna.
  • make some things myself. I use a lot of the recipes that Amy Dacyczyn features. I make my own dried onion soup mix, hot cocoa mix, cream soup mix, breadcrumbs, croutons, chicken coating mix, fudgsicles, pancake syrup, teriyaki sauce, and chocolate sauce. On occasion I make homemade salsa, spaghetti sauce, bbq sauce, and salad dressings.
  • pop our own popcorn.
  • use ‘bowl bonnets’ to cover food bowls with in the fridge. You can get 6 for $1 or so (they look like shower caps), and this saves on the yards of plastic wrap I used to use.
  • use meat more as a condiment rather than the feature of the meal. I serve meat as a feature item.
  • I serve meals for 2 or 3 days and then declare ‘nuke night’ where folks zap leftovers in the microwave. I might make a salad or heat up some canned soup to go with it. This saves me from having a bunch of little odds and ends growing fur in the fridge, like I used to have.
  • Look in the fridge every day! Know what’s in there growing old.
  • I learned to use my freezer – bulk cooking, also freezing items that I never did before. I now buy cheese on sale or in huge economical chunks and then cut it into smaller pieces and stick in the freezer. I also chop bacon into bits and freeze small packs to use in flavoring casseroles; I freeze fresh ginger, overripe bananas, ends of bread (until I make breadcrumbs or stuffing).
  • I’ve learned to use powdered milk. Not for drinking but for cooking. I just make it up in the measuring cup when I need it. Easy and cheap.
  • I try like heck not to go to the grocery store between weekly trips. I modify recipes or make something else if I need to.
  • I made a price book. Now I am quite aware of what a good sale price is (versus a fake sale price!) and know when to stock up.
  • I freeze chicken breasts individually so that I only take out what I need and not more.

These days, I am trying to take my food budget to the next level – more freezer cooking, new frugal recipes, maybe even learn to bake with yeast. I’m having a ball doing all of this stuff and see it as an immense challenge. Good luck to you. Lise