Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Homemade Cleaners

Don't you just love it when you can be environmentally friendly and budget friendly at the same time? A lot of the green products that are available from light bulbs to all-purpose cleaners work quite well, but cost you a lot more green...which is bad for a mom on a budget. So in addition to recycling plastics 1 and 2, all aluminum cans and glass I also make my own cleaners. The secret to environmentally friendly and budget friendly cleaners are things you probably already have in your house: white vinegar, apple cider vinegar, baking soda, lemons, and peroxide. Before I go any further I want to go ahead and warn you that a lot of these products should never be mixed together so please do your research before you start mixing or don't mix them at all. (I thought about leaving these products on the counter so when my husband got home he would wonder what in the world I was doing, but I think he probably had a hard enough day bartending so I will leave him alone this time.....lol)

  • I use white vinegar every day as a general cleaner. You can use it straight from the bottle undiluted for a stronger disinfectant. I usually mix it in a spray bottle with half water and half white vinegar. In my opinion it works wonderful as a general cleaner, but I think it makes glass streak so I won't use it on windows or mirrors. It can also be added into the final rinse cycle of your laundry to help get soap residue and smells out of clothes. Speaking of smells, ironically, white vinegar is wonderful for getting smells out of things like your garbage disposal or maybe you had something rot in one of your pretty new canisters (oops!). You can pour white vinegar undiluted and soak for a while and the smell will most likely go away. This is ironic because a lot of people have trouble with the smell of white vinegar and won't use it to clean. For those of you who are nervous about the smell...jut be aware that the smell goes away once the vinegar is dry. It is also very safe (not toxic), I use it to clean the kids' toys all of the time. This budget friendly big jug pictured above only cost me $1.32, with or without diluting it that is a lot of cleaner. During my research I found a good resource for other uses of white vinegar, check out http://www.vinegartips.com/
  • Apple cider vinegar has been a total life saver for me! It's not in the picture above because I ran out, this is not something I like to be out of. If you have a husband like mine, who is prone to getting gasoline on his clothes, apple cider vinegar is a must have! I wish I would have known this sooner! When your husband is mowing the lawn and just so happens to spill gasoline on his shorts he may (like mine does) come in and hand them to you and walk away. Here is what you do and don't do: 1-do NOT put anything else in the washing machine with any articles of clothing that have gasoline on them, the gasoline will spread to all of the clothes and create a bigger problem; 2- wash clothes with detergent and a good amount of apple cider vinegar (depending on how much gasoline, I usually use half of a small bottle); 3- do NOT put the clothes in the drier...this could potentially start a fire; 4- once you are satisfied that the clothes now smell like stinky vinegar take them outside and hang them to dry, once dry they should smell normal again, if they don't repeat this process. My mother-in-law also believes that a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar will take away heart burn. I tested her theory and I believe that it may or may not work, but you probably won't know either way because the taste will over-power any heartburn or memories thereof.
  • Baking soda can be used for more things than I would ever have time to mention. I mix it with water and create a paste for cleaning tougher jobs. I also use it to clean my coffee pot, put it in my laundry to take out stains, and use it to remove odors. If you can find it, it has been proven that activated charcoal (NOT cooking outside charcoal) actually works better on removing odors. I have activated charcoal in the pill form to pull infection out of infected cuts, or to use in my garbage disposal. I have also used activated charcoal to brush my teeth and it works wonderfully. Baking soda can do all of these same things and it is much easier to find than charcoal. For a list of other things to do with baking soda check out http://www.armhammer.com/
  • Haven't you ever thrown a lemon into your garbage disposal to make your kitchen smell fresh? Lemon juice can also be mixed with baking soda or white vinegar to add an extra kick to your homemade cleaning products and a better smell. Lemons are acidic and will help break down things like soap scum or stains.
  • Hydrogen peroxide can be diluted 50/50 with water to be used as a cleaning agent. Be careful to not mix this with vinegar and you will also need to be aware that it will bleach fabrics. Many people use peroxide to clean a surface after using vinegar to get a very disinfected surface. This is fine to do, but make sure that the vinegar on the surface is completely dry before cleaning it with peroxide. I also like to use peroxide as a mouth wash and to clean my tooth brushes, just be sure to not swallow any of it.

I am currently working on the perfect mixture of homemade liquid laundry detergent and as soon as I master the recipe I will add it to this blog. Let me know if you know of any homemade cleaners that I didn't mention.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Dallas Museum of Art

Do you know where you can see paintings by Monet, Renoir, Rodin, Cezanne, Manet, Pissaro and many many others for free? The Dallas Museum of Art has a few specials that would make any mom on a budget happy. We all know the importance of teaching our children about art and history. Kids tend to learn better when they go experience these things for themselves. The Dallas Museum of Art is an invaluable asset to our community for the education of our children and you don't have to wait for them to have a school field trip to go.
Every Thursday night from 5:00pm - 9:00pm is FREE. During the month of July admission is FREE on Wednesdays (call to make sure this is still going on before you go). The museum also has a program targeted at younger children on the first Tuesday of every month. July 7, August 4, and September 1 from 11:00am - 2:00pm the museum has different kid oriented events with free admission for children and their adult companion.
Normal admission to the museum costs $10 per adult, $7 for senior citizens (over 65), students and military personnel with valid i.d.'s $5, children under 12 get in free. You can also buy tickets that get you into the Nasher Sculpture Center and the DMA which will cost you $16 per adult(save $4), $12 for senior citizens (save $2), $8 for students (save $2), and children under 12 get in free.
The Nasher also has free admission May through July on Thursday nights from 5:00pm-10:00pm.
  • You may have to pay to park, the DART also runs fairly close to the museum
  • Museum is closed Mondays
  • Hours: 11am-5pm Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday; Thursdays 11am-9pm
  • Address: 1717 N. Harwood St. Dallas 75201
  • Contact: (214) 922-1200
  • Web Site: http://dallasmuseumofart.org/

Friday, July 3, 2009

Arapaho Pool in Richardson

Richardson public pools are a good resource for a mom on a budget. Unlike the pricier Plano pools, Richardson pools are only $2 per person. We tried out the Arapaho Pool and the kids loved it! The large pool had slides and a huge swimming area. There is a separated splash playground for toddlers at the Arapaho Pool and the Glenville Pool. The other three pools have baby pools. The best part is that children under 4 years old get in free! The Arapaho Pool is closed on Wednesdays and the other pools all close once a week on a scheduled weekday. Check the web site to see which pools are open before you go check them out.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Boomerangs in Plano

Boomerangs in Plano is full of inflatable obstacles and bounce areas for kids under 14. What I like the most is that they have a toddler area. This makes it easier for those of us who have slightly
older kids and toddlers. There is always that pressing dilemma...the older kid wants to go do things that are not age appropriate for the younger one. At Boomerangs you can let your toddler play in the toddler area while keeping your older kid burns off some energy! I wish this place was around when I was a kid! They should have a parents night where we can go play too, it would so much fun!
During the day the admission is not so budget friendly $8.99 for ages 4-14 and $4.99 for ages 1-3. If you go after 4:00pm Monday through Friday they run a not advertised special $5 for 4-14 and $3 for ages 1-3. Parents get in free all of the time. We always go after 4:00 pm and let the kids wear themselves out before bed.
They also have free Wifi for parents who want to come and bring their lap tops and get some work done while the kids play. The only down side to Boomerangs is that you can't bring in your own food and drinks. They want you to buy their food which is understandable...they are a business after all. They do provide water for free.

  • Socks are required
  • Address: 6205 Coit Road Suite B Plano 75024
  • Hours: Monday-Friday 9am-7pm; Friday 7-11pm Parents Night Out;
    Saturday 9am-7pm; Sunday 11am-6pm
  • Contact: (214) 473-9995
  • Web Site: http://www.boomerangspartyandplay.com/

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


Rollerskating with strollers? I was totally confused when I first heard of this weekly event at Thunderbird Skate Center in Plano. Strollerskating is a ton of fun! It will take you right back to childhood. Moms put on their roller skates and push baby/toddlers in their strollers around the rink. Let me tell you it is invigorating and I discovered muscles that I forgot I had! The cost is only $4 per skater, you aren't charged for the baby in the stroller. It is also a great time to bring in a slightly older kid who is learning to skate for the first time. You can grab some girlfriends to go with you or just go with your kids...either way you are going to have a blast!

  • Location: 3200 Thunderbird Ln. Plano 75075
  • When? Every Thursday morning from 9-12
  • Contact: (972) 422-4447
  • Cost: $4 per skater
  • Web Site: www.thunderbirdskatecenter.com

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

La Michoacana

After receiving many inquiries about the food we served at our daughter's first birthday party I thought it was time to let you in on my little secret to throwing a party on a budget... La Michoacana Meat Market. Almost every time we have a party we serve fajitas and we buy everything from La Michoacana. The meat tastes amazing and it comes pre-marinated. The only thing you have to do cook it for a few minutes on the grill or however you like and it is done. We also buy our pico de gallo, salsa, limes and tortillas there.
Let's talk money. I went to La Michoacana again today to help a friend with a party and to pick up some meat for dinner. I bought marinated chicken fajita meat for $2.99 per pound. I bought 3 pounds of chicken for $9. It is a large bag of chicken and will last us for several days, especially when you plan on serving it on a tortilla with pico and salsa. I also got 2 pounds of marinated beef fajita meat at $4.59 per pound. They sell homemade pico de gallo for $1.99 per container. Their pico is amazingly fresh and very very spicy. They use fresh jalapenos in their pico. They also sell packs of about 100 corn tortillas for $2.50. If you go down the ailes and look on the shelves they have a La Sabrozita salsa which comes in a 35 oz. container for $1.
You can buy meat for a party based on how many people you expect or you can do what we do which is go in and buy a bunch of meat and freeze whatever you don't use. We also freeze our tortillas.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Healthy food on a budget

Back in the day...when we had a regular income, I used to cruise around the grocery store throwing whatever I wanted in my cart. I knew nothing about budget shopping and didn't think I needed to know anything about budget shopping. We all need to know about budget shopping. No matter your financial situation being smart about your grocery bill can help you save a ton of money.
What do I wish I would have known then that I know now? Buy Frozen! Frozen foods are cheaper and easier than non-frozen foods and I promise if you came to my house and sat at my dinner table you wouldn't know the difference. One of my absolute favorite products is Tyson 100% natural boneless skinless chicken breast which comes flash frozen in bags of 6 breasts per bag. We practically live on this chicken. You can cook it from frozen or put it in a pan in the fridge and let it thaw over night. It generally costs between $6 and $9 a bag. I never buy it at higher than $6 a bag. When I am at the store I always check to see how much it is going for and if it is on sale for $6 I buy as many bags as I can. This chicken has no artificial ingredients, no hormones administered and is recommended by the American Heart Association. The best part is that I cook it for my toddler and 6 year old with nothing on it and they love it!
Frozen fish is another one of my budget secrets. Most people think of frozen fish sticks when I say frozen fish...no this is about heatlthy food on a budget...we don't do fried fish in this house. I buy frozen tilapia filets. Fresh non-frozen fish costs a fortune and is far from being budget friendly. Different stores carry different brands, but all of the ones we have tried so far have been great. They come in bags individually wrapped with about 8 fillets per bag for about $7.75 per bag. I know you can find them at Walmart and Target, but you are probably going to have to look for them they aren't as advertised as other products. I am a huge supporter of fish, it is probably one of the all around healthiest meats you can eat. Not only do we eat fish when we can we also take fish oil pills and give fish oil pills to our dogs.
Now onto the sides. We eat a ton of veggies! Once again, unless there is a sale, we buy frozen. Walmart carries a brand called Great Value that is a good bargain. A 1 lb. bag of frozen veggies costs you $0.98 a bag. You can get frozen carrots, green beans, corn, peas, etc. To cook I throw the veggies in a tupperware container, pour 2 tablespoons of water over them and cook for 6-8 minutes. I usually don't season them because whatever is leftover after dinner will be lunch or a snack for our toddler the next day.
Instead of buying expensive snacks for the kids I buy a big bag of pretzels, animal crackers, goldfish or whatever and spend 5 minutes with Ziploc baggies and divide them up into snack bags. This is better than buying snack bags because you know how much your kids will eat better than the snack companies and it saves you a ton of money.
In order to not turn this post into a 20 page essay I am going to leave it short and write more about money saving shopping including making your own household cleaners in later posts. Let me know if you have any tips or ideas you would like me to share with my readers!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Dallas Zoo

Most people in the Dallas area have been to the Dallas Zoo at least once. I don't need to go into any lengthy explanation about the attractions, what I do want to tell you about is the little known budget friendly deal of zoo membership. General admission to the zoo is $10 per adult (ages 12-64) $7 per child (ages 3-11; children 2 and under are free) and $7 per senior (ages 65 and up). On top of that you have to pay $5 per car to park. To break it down, for me, my husband, my step-daughter and my toddler to go to the zoo we would pay $32 for one day! Ouch! That hurts the budget and makes the zoo a once a year experience! Now I do need to mention that you get a discount admission with same day DART pass: $7 admission per adult and $4 admission per child. A DART rail day pass is $3 per person per day. Therefore, after buying DART passes, it would cost my family $27 to get into the zoo. It's not a bad deal if you don't mind sitting on the DART with your kids for an hour or more. I am not too fond of trying to find a seat and keep my toddler still for an hour.
A Dallas Zoo family membership which includes 2 named adults from the same household and their children or grandchildren costs $79 per year. As a Dallas Zoo member you get free admission whenever you go as well as free parking and a 10% discount on all food and merchandise. $69 of the cost of your membership is a tax write off, I believe as a charitable donation. There are also member only events that you will receive invitations come and visit the zoo after normal zoo hours. The best part of the membership is that your membership is also good at 150 other zoos and aquariums through a reciprocal program. In Texas alone there are 12 other zoos that a Dallas zoo member will either get in free or get in at a discounted rate. This includes free admission to the Houston Zoo, Cameron Park Zoo, and 50% off your admission to Fossil Rim Wildlife Center. Next year you will also get into the Dallas Aquarium which is scheduled to re-open in 2010. My family used this discount when we took a vacation to Kansas City this summer and got 50% off our admission to the Kansas City Zoo.
Whether or not you decide to buy a membership I recommend that you check out the tiger exhibit. The tigers are in a very natural environment and this exhibit and the gorilla exhibit are like nothing I had ever seen before. You look down on the animals who are surrounded by trees and practically oblivious to the people around them. Also, if you have children the Lacerte Children's Zoo section is a blast! You may have to pry your kids away from the man-made creek designed for the kids to play in!

  • Web Site: www.dallaszoo.com
  • Address: 650 South R.L. Thorton Freeway (I-35E) Dallas 75203
  • Contact: (214) 943-2771
  • Stroller Rental: $6 for a wagon $9 for a Safari Jeep (seats 2)
  • You can bring in all of your own food, drinks, stroller, ice chest, etc.
  • Hours: 9am-5pm daily

Friday, June 26, 2009

Urban Crust in Plano

It is going to be very difficult to get a seat in this restaurant once the word gets out about this pizza. Urban Crust is the newest and hippest addition to downtown Plano. It features a wood-fire pizza oven and a chic rooftop bar. Already well-known the rooftop bar, 32 degrees, is an ice bar with liquor taps that pour Grey Goose, Patron Silver, and Jagermeister at -5 degrees. On the bottom floor, where the entrance is located, you can order your pizza and watch them make it or you can watch one of the HD TVs which seem to hang everywhere you turn. Each booth has it's own HD TV.
During our visit, co-owner and Master Chef Salvatore Gisellu actually stopped by our table during our visit to make sure we liked our pizza. It was so comforting to get such friendly service rather than the typical turn and burn that most restaurants emphasize. I would like to use this opportunity to mention that they have the best calamari I have ever had! I brought some home for my husband and he loved it too. They also serve a pita type bread before the meal with a tomato spread and an olive spread which are out if this world!
As a busy mom on a budget I recommend that you take your kids at lunch or an early dinner for a special occasion or a reward for good behavior. We spent about $16 for a 12-inch pizza and an appetizer of calamari. The prices are not the cheapest in town, but these are higher quality ingredients than your average pizza place.

Web site: www.urbancrust.com
Address: 1006 E. 15th Street Plano 75074
Phone: 972-509-1400

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Oak Point Recreation Center Pool/Spray Park in Plano

Oak Point Rec. Center Pool

  • Indoor and outdoor pools with slides and spray features
  • Indoor lap pool
  • Outdoor pool is open June, July and August
  • Must be at least 48 in. tall to use bigger slides, there is a smaller slide outside with no height requirement
Daily Admission Fee: Ages 3-16 $3 per day, Ages 17 and up $6 per day
Location: 6000 Jupiter Rd. Plano, TX
Contact: (972) 941-7540

This pool is a fantastic alternative to going to a larger more expensive water park for kids under 10 (kids over 10 may get bored more easily at a smaller water park like this one) . The large water parks like Hurricane Harbor charge $24.99 for adults and $19.99 for kids under 48 inches and you have to pay to park!
Oak Point has an indoor baby pool and a zero-depth beach entry to the outdoor pool. In addition to a large indoor slide and a large outdoor slide they have a slide like you would see at a park that is located in the middle of the pool and the kids land in the water. The outdoor pool is not a deep pool, which is great for kids who are still struggling with swimming. There are also 3 water mushrooms which pour down water.
This is not the cheapest pool/spray park out there, but it is one of the most fun. For me, our 6 year old and our 1 year old to get in we paid $9. It is not a bad deal for what you get. A big bonus is that you can bring in all of your own drinks and food. There are covered tables if you can grab one!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


Like every good book I suppose this blog needs an introduction. I am writing this blog because, like many of you out there, my husband lost his job. It happened 5 months ago and, as many people are, we were totally shocked. I always thought that people lost their jobs because they were lazy or incompetent or they disobeyed orders. My husband was the hardest most loyal worker I had ever seen, that was part of the reason I fell in love with him. Needless to say we have had our ups and downs in the past 5 months, but as of yet, he has yet to find steady work. Every day I see him fight for even the smallest jobs to make ends meet and I must say that I am more proud of him now than I have ever been.
What happens when life gives you lemons? Make lemonade....or just throw them at someone....whatever floats your boat. I have become extremely creative and resourceful with our current budget restrictions. I have started a notebook with my reviews on places based on how much fun they are and on how much they cost in relation to what they offer. I will also review restaurants based on cost, quality of food and family friendliness. Hopefully my reviews and research will give you some insight into some of the places in the Dallas area that are great for busy moms on a budget! Let me know if you have any questions or comments.