Archives for January 2011

Tax Time: Hurry Up and Wait!

By now, you should be receiving your W-2s, 1099s, and other paperwork needed to complete your tax returns. I always start mine right away, because we usually get a refund, and I want that money as soon as possible! This year, however, there’s a blip that means I won’t get that money as soon as I did last year. From the IRS:

If your federal income tax return includes:

  • itemized deductions–such as mortgage loan interest (Schedule A)
  • higher education tuition and fees deduction (Form 8917)
  • educator expenses deduction

then your return will be delayed because of the tax laws passed in December 2010. The IRS will begin processing your return on February 14th. If you’re using a commercial tax preparer (like TurboTax or H&R Block Online), you can submit your return and it will be electronically submitted on that day. If you’re using a human, you’ll need to verify that you return is processed at that time.

Disclosure: I am not a financial advisor or CPA and am not offering advice as such. My tax posts are informational and contain links for reference and verification.

Image courtesy of Horia Varlan

Meal Plan Monday: What day is it?

We’re on our sixth of seven days of no school due to snow, ice, and teacher in-services. I love my children, of course I do, but seriously. The lack of routine is driving us all nuts, and it’s complicated by my bad sinus infection, one of the girls being too sick to go out, etc. I’d had big plans to do some outings, get out of the house, but it hasn’t happened.

I love routines. I thrive on them, as does my son. That’s why I stick to the meal plan thing. Even so–I didn’t all the meals listed last week because I was so sick, so you’ll see a couple of repeats. Here’s what we’re eating this week:

Monday–Lazy crockpot chicken (just chicken with spaghetti sauce), gluten-free spaghetti, broccoli
Tuesday–Slow Cooker Sausage & Vegetable Medley, leftover GF corn muffins
Wednesday–Broiled Chicken, Homemade Fries, green beans
Thursday–Slow Cooker Corn Chowder, salad
Rosemary Chicken Stew (from Relish!), salad, gluten-free biscuits (still haven’t tried this!)
Saturday–Italian Spinach Pie, gluten-free corn muffins

Another note–last week’s Lemon Garlic Tilapia was soooo good. It’s always nice to get a new way to cook something we eat a lot. We also loved the crockpot Chow Mein.

Get more recipe ideas and look at other meal plans at OrgJunkie’s big linky.

More Amazon Diaper Coupons in Feb. Magazines

Over the past few months, many of you have taken advantage of the savings on diapers, wipes, and more through Amazon Mom, where you get 30% off when you use the Subscribe & Save option (which you can then cancel). Magazines such as Parents and American Baby then upped the discount by offering 20% off coupons in their January issues, which you can stack, making the discount 50% off. Here’s my latest order for diapers (for my sister), where I bought a box of 192 diapers for $15.32, which came out to only 8 cents per diaper!

Angie from BabyCheapskate shared where you can find coupons in February–look for them in these four magazines:

You’ll find either a 20% off diapers coupon OR a coupon for $10 off your purchase at Amazon Mom. If you’re not currently subscribed to these magazines, and you’re a diaper shopper, you may want to consider it! Here are the best deals out there:

  • Today and tomorrow (Sunday), get a 1-yr subscription to Parenting the Early Years for $5 (or less with the $2 sign up credit for new members) at Eversave.
  • Sign up for a FREE 6-month subscription to American Baby magazine.
  • You can also get a FREE 1-yr subscription to Baby Talk magazine.
  • You can still buy a 1-yr subscription to Parents Magazine for $5 (or free with the sign-up credit for new members) at Mamapedia. There’s no coupon in the February issue, but there have been in several previous issues.

When you subscribe now, you may not get the February issue in time to use the coupon, so you may want to ask around in your Moms Club or other groups to see if someone has a coupon they’re not planning to use. Let me know if you find more coupons (they’re neon green) so I can share the news.

This post is linked to Homebody’s Mondays Tips & Tricks.

**Update: Amazon Diaper coupons have been spotted in the March issues of Parents Magazine and Babytalk Magazine so far. I’ll let you know when I hear of more!

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thanks for supporting MoneywiseMoms at no cost to you!

Free Rental at Blockbuster Express

It’s another FREE one-night rental from Blockbuster Express! Just use code 28CHD4X through Thursday, February 3rd. These codes work once per account, once per credit card, and you must return the movie by 9:00pm the next day or you’ll be charged $1.00. I’ve found it helpful to reserve the movie we want online before heading to the kiosk–then it’s there waiting for me. Find a kiosk near you.

Consider having a Family Movie Night at your house; it’s a great way to have Frugal Fun with your kids!

"Real" Macaroni & Cheese

I love a hot lunch. With two still at home during the day, it gives me a reason to cook a hot meal, and this is one of their favorites. We call it “Real” Macaroni and Cheese, and while they love the flavor, they still pine for the orange boxed kind. Sigh.

I’ve put the regular recipe below, but this can easily be made gluten-free by substituting GF flour and GF pasta (any shape will do). Tastes great either way!

“Real” Macaroni & Cheese

1/2 box elbow macaroni (I use Barilla Plus for extra protein)
1 cup frozen broccoli florets or chopped broccoli
1 1/2 cups milk
1 Tbsp mustard
2 Tbsp flour
2 Tbsp Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Cook the macaroni as directed, and just before al dente, add the frozen broccoli to the water. When broccoli is soft, strain all in a colander. Set aside until sauce is prepared.

In a large saucepan, warm the milk over medium heat. Wisking constantly, add the flour and mustard and cook until the sauce thickens (make sure there are no big blobs of flour). Once the sauce is thick, turn off the heat and stir in both cheeses. Stir continuously until melted, then add the drained pasta/broccoli to the pot. Stir to coat the pasta.

Printable Grocery List

I usually serve this with crunchy apples as a nice complement to cheddar cheese, but a salad or raw veggies (carrots, celery, etc.) works too.

This recipe is linked up to Beauty & Bedlam’s Tasty Tuesday, 22 Shades of Green’s Tasty Tuesdays, Home Sweet Farm’s Delectable Tuesdays, Midnight Maniac’s Meatless Mondays, My Sweet and Savory’s My Meatless Mondays, Tasty Traditions at Coupon Cookin’ and MomTrends Recipe Linky, and Prairie Story’s Recipe Swap Thursday.

Parents Magazine for $5 or FREE

Through Tuesday, February 1st, at Mamapedia (another daily deal site), you can get a 1-year subscription to Parents Magazine for $5 or a 2-year subscription for $8. If you’re a new member to Mamapedia, you’ll get a $5 credit for signing up, which you should be able to apply to get your subscription for FREE. You can also try using the coupon code FATWALLET to take $4 off your order, but I haven’t had any luck combining a credit with a coupon code.

Last December, Parents Magazine had a 20% off Diapers coupon for, which allows you to get 50% through Amazon Mom. While the January & February issues don’t have that coupon, hopefully it will recur again this year.

Disclosure: I get a $10 credit to Mamapedia when you make a purchase there, and I’m planning to use those credits to buy giveaway prizes for my blog readers!

Free Theme Park Admission for Military Families–2011

Military moms–as you’re planning out your 2011, remember the benefit of Anheuser-Busch’s Here’s to the Heroes program, which runs through December 31, 2011.

Active duty military from all five service branches, active members of a Reserve or National Guard Unit, and up to 3 direct dependents receive one-day complimentary admission to all of the following parks, once each park each year:

One mom I know particularly enjoyed one of the perks at Sesame Place—there was a separate Hero Salute entrance. Their family did not have to wait in line to enter the park, which can take almost an hour on busy days. To register your military family, go to And thank you for your service to our country and your support of spouses who serve!

Snow Day!

We’re having a snow day here in DC today–although there’s only about a 1/2 inch on the ground right now–it’s how they do things here. They anticipate the weather being bad, so we all stay home. The real snow is supposed to come in tonight, so we’ll probably be home tomorrow, too. My kids are so so excited as they’ve been hoping for another Snowmageddon like last year. Me, not so much.

With lots of hours to fill, I go back to some of my favorite activities:

  • Recycled Puzzles: My preschoolers can practice their scissor skills by cutting pictures out of magazines, gluing them to cardboard, and cutting out puzzle pieces. Here’s my tutorial.
  • Drawing on Big Paper: We have a roll of poster paper, and whenever I take out a BIG piece, it inspires the kids to work together on a mural, pirate treasure map, or something creative. It’s a great open-ended activity. You can also use it to encourage healthy eating.
  • Toy Switcheroo: Long days like these are one of the reasons I keep a bin of toys hidden in the basement (the other reason is to stay decluttered). When I pull out a bin, the kids act as if they’ve never seen the toys before, and they play for hours. The same works for books; if I pull out the “baby” board books today, my 4-year-olds will sit and read on their own happily.
  • Board Games: We’re big board game people over here, and with the 6 new ones we got over the holidays, I owe you another review post.
  • Free-Crafting: I keep a big container of recyclables–yogurt containers, egg cartons, etc. and let the kids get creative with glue, pipe cleaners, googly eyes, and whatever else we’ve collected. Last snow day, they built robots. Today, we’ll see…

Hope these ideas help you on your snow days, too!

Disclosure: This post contains Amazon links. Thanks for supporting MoneywiseMoms at no cost to you!

Highlighting Five Fabulous Bloggers

Thanks to Trop 50 for sponsoring my writing about fabulous bloggers. This year Trop50 is granting 50 fabulous wishes. Click here to enter for a chance to win $1,000 to help grant a friend’s wish!

When I was asked to name 5 Fabulous Bloggers, my first thought was–how to narrow it down to five? I ended up picking five diverse ladies I think you’ll love as much as I do. These are the blogs I read every day, even when my Google Reader is full, because they give me inspiration, laughter, and great information. That’s what FABULOUS means to me.

The Meanest Mom
Jana is a mom of four (including twins) whose blogging style is like a power-punch of humor every day. I really admire how succinctly she can tell a story, and I love her sense of humor about her kids and her life. After reading The Meanest Mom, I often re-read posts out loud to my husband, and then we’re both laughing. This past summer, her house-hunting adventures were a must read, and I love how she balances the insanity with the sweet.

I only know Erin online, which is silly since she only lives 30 miles away from me in Northern Virginia! I count on Erin and her blog, CouponCravings, for the most thorough coverage of grocery/drugstore weekly deals, freebies and great shopping deals. Before I go shopping at Target or CVS, I always check her site to see what I might pick up free with coupons. Erin is the ultimate work-at-home-mom, having created a hugely successful blog while raising her 4 children, and she’s used her blog’s influence to raise $13,500 to combat childhood cancer (and that number is still growing).

Thrifty Decor Chick
This was one of the first decorating blogs I ever read, and it’s the one I like the most. Sarah is silly and not afraid to share it, and she makes me smile along with being inspired to redo my home on a budget. I love how she does detailed tutorials and gives nitpicky details like the name of the spray paint or tool she’s using, for people like me who don’t know anything about it. I love this Hidden Memo Board and it’s on my to-do list for 2011, among other projects!

Dollar Store Crafts
Who knew? I was slowly becoming a fan of my local Dollar Tree when I came across Dollar Store Crafts, a blog devoted to creativity through dollar store “treasures.” It is truly amazing what people can make, everything from jewelry to kids’ clothing to home decor. Heather is a busy mom of three who has recently expanded the blog to include a “team” since she’s so successful (I love seeing work-at-home-moms succeed!). I rely on Heather for fabulous party ideas and holiday goodies. For example, since I always like a non-candy Valentine for the kids to take to school, I’m copying her Bubble Valentinesthis year.

Baby Cheapskate
Whether you’re pregnant or already have a baby/toddler in the house, you need to read Baby Cheapskate. I wish I’d known about it when I first had my twins! Every week Angie lists the best prices on diapers and wipes. She has readers providing diaper reviews (including cloth!) so you can compare store brands to the big names. I really appreciate how she lists the daily deal site sales every day, so you can see at-a-glance if there’s anything worth purchasing. Angie provides general advice on shopping smart for baby, and also shares great deals when they pop up, like the big-name strollers and carseat sales. So much good stuff!

Don’t forget to enter the 50 Fabulous Wishes contest for a chance to win $1,000 to support a friend’s wish. I was selected for this Tropicana Trop50 sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective, which endorses Blog With Integrity, as I do. I received compensation to use and facilitate my post.