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Oh, Sweet Honey Iced Tea
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Oh, Sweet Honey Iced Tea

Donnerstag, 23. Januar 2014

We're Moving to...

That's right! We're on orders to move from one gorgeous duty station to another. We'll be leaving behind our beloved Bavaria, Germany in six months, and heading to Fort Richardson, Alaska. We'll miss Germany for certain, but I have to tell you: we're definitely stoked to be moving to Alaska! So many new adventures to be had!

Time's going to fly between now and then. So much to do, so little time. And that includes a trip to Rome and Pompei. :) I love my Army life. I wouldn't trade it for anything.

Mittwoch, 22. Januar 2014

An Update to the Ear Situation

We've been dealing with an ear infection since before the new year. Read this post first, if you haven't already. 

I had two Lieutenant Colonels on the phone with me apologizing and assuring me actions were being taken within a few hours of filing that formal complaint. I was given my change of clinics immediately. And my daughter's referral to the ear-nose-throat doctor was rushed through the system. 

Not a moment too soon. 

On Monday, we saw the ENT, a local German doctor. German medicine is incredibly effective, straight-forward, and far more advanced than anything I've experienced state-side (so don't believe the US is medically superior, because we are very much not). I was happy to have my daughter seen by a competent specialist. He looked in her ears, asked her questions, and showed me the very large hole and scar tissue in her ear drum. 

Back up: Our "second opinion" told us that IF her eardrum had actually burst, he saw no evidence of it at all, and that was a week ago, and here I am, with my untrained eye, looking at my daughter's scar tissue and very much visible eardrum hole. That doctor is incompetent. 

Our German doctor expressed frustration at the lack of medication given to Kathryn by our health clinic, saying she never should have been given steroid drops as a growing child, and that antibiotics should have been the very first measure, given her dizziness, falling down, and extreme ear pain. That would have prevented the pus -- yes, pus, from entering her nerves and damaging her hearing. Had her eardrum not burst, the infection would have back-traveled into her bone, requiring surgery, and could have caused menengitis or worse. 

She was given a hearing test, and thankfully, it looks like there will be no major damage done there, but her ear will ring for quite some time, as this was a big, nasty infection, which, again, could have not become so had the clinic given us medication right away. 

Since sharing this story, many people I know who are seen by the same providers have shared horror stories with me about botched circumcision by the same doctor as our "second opinion," which means he screwed up a child's penis for crying out loud. I've heard people being called idiots behind their backs, being told that chest pain and heartburn are the "Bavarian crud" and told to go home... I encourage all of these people to file formal, written complaints, not with this terrible clinic, but higher than that, the head of Bavaria medicine, or even higher. This must not stand. We deserve adequate health care, and none of us are receiving it here. Shout it from the rooftops. Be your own advocate, because no one here is doing it for you. 

Kathryn's prognosis is good. We're taking a wait and see approach, since it's too late to administer antibiotics. We'll check back in two weeks. She never should have been put through all of this pain because two men couldn't see past their egos, and one of those couldn't see past his medical school training, because he's not had enough life experience to know better. The other, well, he's a complete ass with a god complex who does not belong in medicine, or in any field dealing with humans. 

Montag, 20. Januar 2014

Happy Birthday to Me!

I've been enjoying a fabulous birthday week. Last weekend, I threw myself (that's right) a party. I had six friends come over and everyone brought something tasty to share: we had tomato-olive tart, potato soup, Doritos casserole (that's a thing!), buffalo chicken dip, macadamia-caramel cheesecake (as delicious as it sounds), lemon cookie cups, noodle soup, and more. I made these tasty, fun Caesar Salad Crouton Cups and some birthday cupcakes (red velvet/cream cheese). We did crafts. One of my guests brought candle-making supplies and taught everyone to make their own candles. We all got to take home two highly-scented candles and a couple of tarts, too. I led another craft, which I'll share with you tomorrow. 

It was a fun party. There was laughter and chatting, and everyone got to take home some hand-made items. 

Presents! Aren't birthday presents fun? My husband bought me a new blender, the Ninja. It's fabulous! It can turn whole carrots and spinach into a milk shake when blended with some frozen fruit and milk or juice. I received some terrific presents from friends, too. One of them brought me a Polish pottery vase, which was such a perfect thing to receive, as I've been wanting some Polish pottery for a long time. Another friend brought me this adorable fish I can't kill. She and I went shopping together a couple of weeks ago and we spotted this ingenius setup. A vase, some aquarium rocks, and glass fish that bob around in the water. It's adorable and you can't kill the fish. Win-win. I love it! I received a bouquet of flowers, too, at my party, which are happily brightening up my kitchen table now. And finally, my mother bought me a set of hiking/Nordic walking poles, which I can't wait to start using. 

I haven't had a birthday celebration since I turned sixteen, and today, I turned thirty-five. A very happy birthday. I'm so thankful for wonderful family and friends to share this day with. This is going to be a terrific year. 

Look, even Google wished me a happy birthday!

Mittwoch, 15. Januar 2014

What We've Been Dealing with for a Month...

My daughter is sick. She's got a runny nose, an ear infection. You know: kid stuff. Only, it's been going on for a solid month. So, we've seen the doctor three times over it. She can't hear in her left ear. I'm really concerned about it.

I want to share this with you because I'm outraged at how we're being treated, and I want the world to know. I've redacted the names. Here's what I sent to the command unit:

I'm writing to discuss a complaint I have regarding the *** Health Clinic. I've already dealt with the providers, a SSG *** (who announced himself as a "sometimes" patient advocate), and LTC *** about this matter and I remain upset over the entire encounter.

Shortly before the Christmas holidays, my daughter, ***, came down with a productive cough. Since it was productive, and there was no fever, I didn't seek medical care at that time. I prefer to wait things out if possible, rather than rely on medical intervention.  Between Christmas and New Year's Day, her sinuses started to hurt. The day this started was a Saturday, so I couldn't make her an appointment. I gave her some acetaminophen and warm compresses, and that seemed to alleviate her pain. The weekend was gone, and so was her sinus pain. She still had a cough, but no fever, and the cough was productive, so I kept treating this at home.

On Sunday, January 5th, *** developed an earache in her left ear.  The next morning, I made her an appointment with CPT ***, her primary care provider.  I relayed every single detail to him that I've thus far shared with you. He examined her ear and said it was very red and her ear drum was bulging.  He said it was likely allergies, and prescribed Sudafed and Claritin. His prescription said to take 1-2 Sudafed every four hours. The pharmacist who filled her prescription said that was incorrect, that she couldn't take two because she was a child. The pharmacist noted that CPT *** is not a pediatrician, and that he often gets the dosage wrong. She corrected the dosage to one pill every four hours.

We went home and began treatment as directed by CPT ***. The next day, Tuesday, ***'s ear leaked some clear fluid, and the pain went away almost immediately. I thought that was great! She was feeling better! Her nose was still running so very much. I've never seen, in my fifteen years of parenting, so much snot come out of a kid in one cold. She would fill six to eight tissues -- fill, mind you, not just a little blow -- every time she blew her nose, and she was going through an entire box every day.

We called back on Thursday because ***'s ear was buzzing constantly and she was getting very dizzy and off-balance. She was also mumbling and having a hard time hearing in her left ear. She described it as hearing like she's holding her hand over her ear.  I, myself, have ear problems (Meniere's Disease), so I know that inner ear issues can cause balance issues. CPT *** wasn't in, and there were no appointments. I was advised to take *** to the emergency room, but I feel that E.R. visits should be used in emergencies, not backup plans because your health clinic doesn't have enough appointment slots. We kept *** pretty still through the weekend, offering Sudafed and Tylenol, lots of liquids, and plenty of rest. She was still blowing her nose all day long, and the mucous had turned from just a thick colorless to a yellow-green color, getting darker green the longer she blew.

Monday morning, I called the *** clinic again to see CPT ***. This would be our second visit to see him. I told him that the Sudafed wasn't helping dry her out, and neither was the Claritin. I questioned the allergy diagnosis, and again relayed everything I've relayed here. He tried to replicate her dizziness by having her lay down quickly and turn her head, but she wasn't getting dizzy in front of him, so he dismissed it. It really felt like he wasn't listening to me, and wasn't valuing what I was seeing at home. What a doctor sees in the five minutes he spends with a patient does not sum up what's going on with a patient. CPT *** looked in ***'s ear again and said it was still red and bulging, but the clear liquid probably meant her eardrum had ruptured. He told me that was the preferred way to deal with an ear infection, to have it rupture.  I thought that was weird.  He wasn't concerned with the hearing issue or the dizziness. He gave us a prescription for Zyrtec and some ear drops, and told us to call back in ten MORE days if her symptoms were still present.  That would mean *** would have been sick for over a month.

The next day (yesterday), I decided it would be prudent to see a different doctor to seek a new opinion on the hearing and dizziness. I was worried for permanent damage. I called the ***  Health Clinic and asked to see a different provider. The front desk told me they weren't authorized to get us an appointment with a different provider. So, I asked if there was a patient advocate on staff. I was transferred to SSG ***. I asked him if he was the patient advocate. He answered that he sometimes filled in for the patient advocate and asked how he could help me. I told him everything that happened, and told him I'd just like to see a different provider. He told me he's speak with the medical director, and that either the medical director or he would call me back. Within a few minutes, SSG *** called me back and said that the medical director said there were inconsistencies in my story and that the best they could do is tell me I was welcome to seek a second opinion. That's what I wanted anyway, so I asked how to do that. SSG *** said the front desk knew what was going on and they were told to let me make a second appointment. He told me he was unable to transfer he back to them, so I called the front desk and was able to make an appointment with a CPT *** the same day.

We hurried in to see CPT ***. AGAIN, I relayed every single detail of ***'s entire illness from mid-December through the present time. CPT *** approached *** and asked her to look into her light. *** asked why, and CPT *** abruptly said, "because I said so, because it's part of my exam." This was worrisome. He seemed angry we were there, and I immediately got the feeling that I'd angered the good ol' boys' club by seeking a second opinion. He quickly examined *** and sat down. He offered all sorts of treatment: antibiotics, ear drops, and other medications. Everything he offered, I asked about. *** has one kidney, and a history of problems associated with it, and I don't like to throw medicine at her unless it's going to help. Finally, CPT *** threw up his arms and asked me what I wanted them to do. He said to just tell him what it was I wanted because "we can't have you keep coming in here for the same problem." I felt myself flush. I was being scolded for seeking medical treatment for my daughter's hearing loss. WHO DOES THAT? CPT *** does. I told him that what I want is answers about why my daughter can't hear, and what we can do about it. He said, fine, let's just put in a referral for ENT. He told me I'd get a referral in my email in seven to ten days (so he wasn't even willing to call it an urgent referral -- to me, hearing loss is urgent). Then he left the room.
CPT *** treated us badly. There's no other way to look at it. He was angry that we were there for a second opinion and he made that crystal clear. I've never been treated this way at the *** Health Clinic before.
I started to drive away, but turned back around because how we were treated was completely unacceptable. I went to the front desk and asked who the OIC was, and if I could speak to them. I was sent back to see LTC ***.
LTC *** was very friendly. However, he defended CPT ***'s behavior as "just his style". He also said that "you wives can be difficult,, never mind, I'm not going to group you together. It's irrelevant." He also told me that this was why "65% of marriages end in divorce" and told me that unless ***'s mucous was white, it was normal. I left feeling less angry, because of the passage of time and LTC's pleasant demeanor, but I don't like those comments he made. He may be friendly, but he's quite unprofessional one-on-one.
Here we are,  five days short of a month since my daughter got sick. She still has dizziness, balance issues, and buzzing in her ear, and we've got to get her more tissues today. She still has poor hearing. And we still have no answers, and now I have poor opinions of two officers. CPT *** is wonderful -- I only sought a second opinion because I disagreed with one assessment. And it's my right to seek that second opinion without retribution. I certainly feel like CPT *** was angry about my seeking a second opinion. I do not appreciate the way CPT *** treated my child and me, and I do not appreciate the comments made by the commander of the health clinic.

Here's what I'd like to see happen: I would like to be transferred to the pediatrician at *** for ***'s needs for the remainder of our time in Bavaria. I no longer feel like I can trust the providers at ***. I know that seeing the *** pediatrician is a possibility, because a friend of mine has done it already. I'd also like to see ***'s referral made a priority. I'd like it to occur off post, or at another facility, not at ***. I am happy to discuss this further, though I am certainly growing weary of telling the same story, with NO inconsistencies, so many times. I will not tolerate such treatment from any provider, and nor should you. 

Montag, 13. Januar 2014

Twice a Month Cooking

The "once a month cooking" thing became wildly popular about ten years ago. Basically, you exhaust yourself cooking all the meals for your family for a month in one day, making a huge mess and filling a chest freezer in one fell swoop. The idea is that doing this once a month frees up the rest of the month for more amusing activities.

The problem I had with that plan is that if felt very much like eating leftovers all the time. I didn't see how cooking things all at once, and then recooking them again later, saved me any time or money.

I recently found a solution. Twice a month slow cooker prep. I stuff my freezer with slow cooker meals to last half a month. I don't slow cook all of my meals, but I do use my slow cooker at least four times a week, and usually even more than that.

Slow cooking no longer means enduring unidentifiable meats and overdone veggies. The slow cookers of our mothers' days cooked food into oblivion. Didn't everything from a slow cooker taste the same back then? And it was always something like pot roast, wasn't it?

I still make pot roast, but it has flavor and texture. But I make so much more with my slow cooker.

Using the once-a-month method, I do all the prep work at the same time: once in the beginning of the month, and once halfway through the month. Freezing the foods I buy as soon as I bring them home keeps them at optimum freshness until we eat them. No more tossing those green onions that wilt as soon as I buy them. No more soft carrots. No moldy cheese. Pre-freezer meals, I was throwing out too much waste. Those days are gone.

You can do this, too, and you don't even have to buy a chest freezer. Look at what I'm able to store in my standard, above-the-fridge freezer:

In my freezer right now:

2 bags of BBQ Beef Ribs
2 bags of Irish Beef Stew
Maple Dijon Chicken
Italian Beef Sandwiches
Creamy Salsa Chicken
Cranberry BBQ Chicken
French Dip
Black Bean Taco Soup
Black Bean, Corn, Salsa Chicken
Creamy Ranch Pork Chops & Potatoes
Creamy Beef Stew
4 pounds ground beef for cooking from scratch meals
1 pound of chicken breast for cooking from scratch meals
veggies (broccoli, cauliflower, spinach) and fruits (cherries, strawberries, blueberries, mango, pineapple)
pancake mix
pumpkin pancake mix
premade pumpkin pancakes
assembled but not baked ham & cheese baked sandwiches
a dozen packets of smoothie ingredients
ice cream
a dozen chicken burger patties

I write my biweekly dinner plan on the fridge in dry erase marker. It's easy to choose and erase the meal we have each day.

Clean up for prep day isn't too much worse than a standard cooking day:

I find it easiest to go one meal at a time, rather than chop all the veggies, then the meats, then the sauces. I just take it one bag at a time. It would probably cut my prep time down if I did it all in big steps, but I like simplicity better.

The meals I prepped can be found at Six Sisters' Stuff for the most part. I've linked them above.

Let me know if you give this a try. It's a great feeling knowing my family has fresh, from scratch meals each night and all the guess work's been taken care of.

Mittwoch, 8. Januar 2014

My First Major Coupon Victory of the Year

I think I could be an extreme couponer...someday. That day's not today. But I envision filling racks with deeply discounted toilet paper and shampoo, and of handing stacks of coupons over to the cashier.

Start small. That's what I say. And that's what I did. I needed to go to the store for some Puffs Plus Lotion for my sick kiddo with a throbbing nose. So, I took my coupons with me to try and score some great deals.

I did just that.

Special K Protein Bars reg. price $5.67, used $1.25 on 1 coupon
(2) Slim Fast Snack Bars reg. price $2.49, used $5 on 2 coupon for a 2¢ overage
(2) Slim Fast Meal Bars reg, price $3.49, used $5 on 2 coupon 
(2) Special K Protein Shakes reg. price $5.67, used $1.50 on 1 coupon and $1.00 on 1 coupon
(2) Progresso Soup reg. price $1.71, used $1 on 1 (2 of them)
(2) Grands Biscuits reg. price 99¢, used 50¢ on 1 (2 of them)
Fiber One Bars reg. price $2.82, used $1.25 on 1 coupon
Nature Valley granola bars reg. price $2.68, used $1.25 on 1 coupon
Dial for Men body wash reg. price $2.99, used $2 on 1 coupon
(2) Twix reg. price 57¢, used 50¢ on 2 coupon
(2) Milky Way reg. price 57¢, used 50¢ on 2 coupon
(2) Totinos Pizza Rolls reg. price $1.32, used $1.25 on 1 coupon (2 of them)

All of these coupons were printables I found online and printed from home. 

 I've never had such a big savings percentage! I'm thrilled!

After that, I stopped by another store that was having a clearance on their Christms snacks. I don't mind a little red and green if it means I'm going to save some green! Here's what I got for about $9.00:

Three Snickers Peanut Butter Santas
One kind size Reese's Trees
A big bag of Hershey's Kisses
Pepperidge Farm Milano Candy Cane flavor
Nestle Flipz in peppermint and gingerbread
Chessmen minis (4 bags)
Gingerbread Minis (3 bags)
Bubble Tape (2 packs)
8 cartons of Goldfish

Not to bad, right? I plan to keep this up throughout the year!

Sonntag, 5. Januar 2014

What's for Dinner Tonight?

Not sure what to make for dinner tonight? Here are some tried and true meal ideas from my house to yours. These are not my own recipes, but rather a selection of my favorite tried and true recipes from my Pinterest board.

First up: Irish Beef Stew. I don't know what makes it Irish, but I do know it's fabulous, creamy, beefy, comfort food.

Irish Beef Stew and Mashed Potatoes by Rags to Riches by Dori

Here's an amazing one-pot pasta dish that you can throw together while you're tidying up the kitchen. That's what I do. It's ready in less than half an hour. I like to serve some bread with it. Easy Parmesan Knots do the trick.

One Pot Wonder by Apron Strings

The next meal I want to share with you still makes my mouth water just thinking about it. This is not your average slow cooker pot roast recipe. The balsamic vinegar gives it a rich, melt-in-your-mouth flavor I've never imagined a pot roast could provide. Seriously, rush out and try this. It's fabulous. One note: I don't roast my veggies (except for the onion) in with the meat. I prefer to roast them by themselves in the oven.

Six Sisters' Stuff never disappoints. 

Keep your Crock Pot out for the next recipe, too. This simple soup is filling and rich and satisfying. It's also healthy. But you don't have to tell anyone that. Just let them nom it up.

By Caramel Potatoes

This is an all-around family favorite. I get asked regularly to make the chicken and dumplings with the "flat" dumplings. This is it. This is the best recipe for chicken and dumplings I've tried.

Homemade Chicken & Dumplings by Tasty Kitchen

If you're ready to try something different, try this soup. It's really quite tasty.

Creamy Peanut Soup by Bankrupt Vegan
Don't forget about dessert! Here are a few delicious tried and true dessert recipes we love. I hope they'll become new favorites in your home, too.

The cookies are easy to make and the presentation is fabulous. I love peanut butter and chocolate together.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Pillows by Post Punk Kitchen

Keeping with the chocolate and peanut butter flavors, here's a yummy bar recipe that recently made its way into our family favorites:

Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Cookie Frosting by Annies Eats

If you're craving something light and sweet, this meringue cookie bites recipe will fit the bill.

Meringe Cookie Bites by The Kitchn
And here's a pie that bakes its own "crust" right in the pan. We love this custard pie.

Magic Coconut Custard Pie by Land O Lakes

Bon Apetit!

Samstag, 4. Januar 2014

Life Changing Dog Hair Removal

Okay, so if you don't have a shedding dog, you're likely rolling your eyes at this blog post's title. You go on and roll those eyes. Come back and see me when your giant German Shepherd is leaving her legacy all over your house. 
PS Microfiber sofas love dog hair. 

Tumbleweeds. That's what we call those little balls of fur that fly all over the hardwood flooring. But the stuff that gets on the carpet..that's a different beast entirely. 

I have a Dyson. It doesn't get up all the dog hair. 

I have a Roomba. Wonderful contraption, does a great job. Still, it doesn't get up all the dog hair. 

I live life with a lint roller by the door so that I can quickly remove stray dog hairs from my outfit before I go. 

I bought a special comb for the dogs that says it greatly reduces shedding...the Furminator. Well, it does remove clumps of hair every single day, but it doesn't reduce shedding. It just gathers some of it up. 

I bought a hand-held vacuum whose selling point was dog hair removal. No. 

Then there was that rubber brush on a broom stick I bought. I had to scrape it across the carpet. It did remove some of the hair, but it was such a pain to use it. 

Clearly, when I find something that promises it will remove dog hair, I jump on it. I will buy anything that promises it removes dog hair. 

Dog hair is my nemesis. I want to conquer it. That's why I spend so much money on tools to rid my life of it. 

And then I heard murmurs of a simple, cheap way to get dog hair out of carpet. And you just know that I had to try it, right? Of course I had to try it. Because when your Dyson and your Roomba aren't cutting it, you do whatever. 

Even if whatever is squeegeeing your carpet. 

Oh, that's right. Squeegee. Carpet. 

Try it. 

It will change your life. 

Here's a particularly neglected stairwell. It leads to the basement. And no one likes going down there. Because maybe it feels a little haunted. So it gets neglected. That, and the stairs are open, so dog hair magically floats down there from the stairwells above it. 

These silly little carpet bits on my stairs really seem to collect the dog hair. And stairs are The Worst things to vacuum, aren't they? Usually we just sweep them and call it good, but the dog hair is just nearly impossible to keep up with. Here's a close-up of half a week's accumulation: 

And here's what the same step looks like after a quick once-over with the squeegee:

Quite a difference! This is just a basic squeegee, super inexpensive, and it does a great job. Just look at the glob of dog hair it took off this one step. Gross! I have three flights of stairs, and each flight has fourteen steps. They're such a pain to vacuum, and sweeping only gets a little bit of the hair. In under thirty seconds, I can squeegee one step and remove almost all of the dog hair. 

This simple trick has cleaned up our house nicely. If only I could find a way to repel dog hair from hardwood flooring...

Mittwoch, 1. Januar 2014

22 Ways to Save Money Now (that you may not have thought of already)

Is saving money on your list of New Year's resolutions? There are countless lists on the internet about saving money, but they all seem to say the same things. Here are twenty-two ways I save money that I don't often see on any of those other lists. I hope they'll help you save money too. And please, leave a comment with any other great money-saving tips you have. Let's help each other save some cash. 
  • If you know you're going to use it, pay for a membership a year at a time. It usually comes with a discount. For example, I've been subscribing to for several years, always paying month-by-month. I just got an email from Birchbox telling me that if I renew with the yearly plan, I'll get it at a $21 discount plus I'll get 99 bonus birchbox points good for shopping in their online store. It's an extra $30 in my pocket annually by paying up front. Same goes for my daughter's homeschool curriculum program. By paying up front, instead of using the convenient monthly billing program they offer, I'm saving substantially.
  • Women, consider making a single investment and switching to something like the Diva Cup or Lunette cup for your monthly needs. Not only is it cheaper in the long term, it's also, in my opinion, healthier for you all-around. Research it for yourself to decide if this is an option for you. I like that I'm not relying on bleached cotton/rayon with a wick that introduces all sorts of outside bacteria every month. For backup, consider cloth pads. Yes, there's an ick factor, but if you've given birth, been peed on by an infant, cleaned up explosive baby poo, wiped boogies, and all the other great things that go along with motherhood, I assume you'd be okay with your own vagina and its secretions. 
  • Keep the change. See if your bank offers a Keep the Change or a round-up feature which automatically rounds up your debit card purchases to the next dollar and transfers that amount into savings for you. It's mindless and it adds up quickly if you use debit cards. If the bank doesn't, or if you use cash, you can still apply the same principal by transferring the change yourself, or using a coin jar.
  • Bring your own bags. Okay, so this savings is minimal, usually five or ten cents, but think about it: Would you throw away ten cents on purpose? Bring reuseable shopping bags with you to the grocery store. You'll save a few cents, and you're doing the environment a favor. Don't worry about your "need" for plastic bags to reuse at home. Even here in Europe, where shopping bags are not free and everyone uses reuseables, those plastic bags still add up at home from other places.
  • Sign up for free samples and coupons...carefully. You have to use your head when you do this, but so many companies are dying to give you, yes, give you, free product to try. One site I check regularly when I live in the US is Arlana's Corner. Some of the "freebies" are spammy but they're fairly easy to detect. When I live stateside, I average four or five free samples per day, of anything from shampoo to pads to pens to dog treats. They're little, but they're free, and free things save money.
  • Get on your favorite stores' email subscibers list. They sometimes send out deal alerts that you wouldn't otherwise get. One of my favorite grocery stores is Earth Fare, and there are special deals they offer only for subscribers, like weekly free foods. Totally worth it.
  • Shop at consignment! Did you know they exist? Yep. One that I love is thredUP, and if you use this link, you'll get $10 to spend on your first order!
  • Ask for the doctor's office. If your doctor prescribes you a medication, and you have a copay at the pharmacy, ask if your doctor can give you some samples to get you started. I do this all the time. They don't always have samples, but many times, they do, and are willing to give you a month's worth of medication for no charge. The samples are provided by the pharmaceutical companies for the doctors' consideration. Take advantage of that.
  • If a home improvement project is on your to-do list, your first stop should be your local Habitat for Humanity ReStore. It's a thrift shop full of house stuff. Toilets, tubs, paint, wallpaper, carpet and padding, flooring, cabinets, doors, light fixtures, screws, nails, and more can all be found here. They're leftovers donated by companies which Habitat didn't use in their building projects, and you can get them for pennies on the dollar. We recarpeted and repainted a bedroom for under $100 total using Habitat for Humanity ReStore as our primary shopping spot.
  • Did you know that dental students, under the very, very close supervision of their dentist teachers, perform dental work for cheap? Next time you need work done, consider a dental school. Really, they do great work. You can find the school closest to you at the American Dental Association's website.
  • Along those same lines, beauty colleges provide full service for dirt cheap. Get a massage, a pedicure, a facial, a cut and color, or a keratin treatment for way less than you pay at your usual salon. Students are closely supervised and are ready to do the work they're doing. Don't be scared. Well, don't be any more scared than you usually are at the salon. I'm generally terrified anyway when someone comes at my hair with scissors. You can find a beauty college here.
  • Use half. It's a simple way to instantly cut your cost in half for anything you use. Cut your paper towel roll in half. Try using half a sheet and see if it'll do the job. Use half the recommended amount of laundry detergent. Use half the amount of sugar in your coffee you usually use. Other things that can be cut in half: dryer sheets, notebook paper (for lists and notes), the time you spend in the shower, the soda you drink, the errands you run. Cut them all in half.
  • Invest in a cooler. Get in the habit of packing it with snacks, drinks, and/or meals depending on how long you plan to be out of the house. You'll save money by avoiding the drive through and the convenience store. Bonus points: Buy the cooler at a thrift shop!
  • Go check out your local ethnic grocers. Don't be intimidated. The owners live in your town and will be thrilled to see you! I fell in love with Indian cuisine thanks to a tiny, dimly-lit Indian grocer in Columbus, Georgia. The family who ran the store always greeted me with big smiles, and were quick to help me and answer any of my questions. The prices were unbeatable. What big grocery stores see as an easy markup, you can get for reasonable, down-to-Earth costs at ethnic stores. Plus, you just might make a new friend.
  • Be on the lookout for hotel furniture sales. You can get super cheap furnishings. I got a Broyhill microfiber sofa in perfect condition for $5 a couple years ago. It's still going strong, though with our rough-and-tumble military life, it needs to be recovered. I'll be sharing that project with you soon. That $5 investment has really paid off!
  • Back to paint: If you want to paint something small, say a desk and chair, go buy just a paint sample from Lowe's or Home Depot. You don't need a gallon, so why buy a gallon?
  • If you have pets, check with your local animal care society for programs like free spay & neuter and low-cost annual vaccinations.
  • Have a car loan with a high interest rate? See if you can refinance it for a better rate. Then, with your much lower monthly payments, you can make double payments or better and pay it off early.
  • Tell companies what you think of their products or services. It doesn't happen every time, but usually, when I take the time to write a company and tell them what they're doing right (or wrong), they respond, and frequently, they include discounts or free product in return.
  • Before buying anything online, do a quick internet search for the store name + promo code. Example: Bed Bath & Beyond promo code. Chances are, there's an e-coupon out there somewhere in cyberland that will save you some money.
  • Enter giveaways. Someone has to win. It might as well be you. My kids say all the time that I win everything I enter. It's not true, but I do win things a lot. Why? Because I enter things a lot. It only takes a few seconds to enter a giveaway. Free stuff for a few seconds of my time? I'm down for that!
  • And finally: Ask for a discount. See if you qualify for a discount wherever you go. Student, senior citizen, military, AAA...the discounts are out there, but not always advertised. Ask. It never hurts to ask. 
Saving money is on my list of goals for 2014, so you can expect plenty of tips and tricks to be shared here. The twenty-two tips above all work for me. What other tips have worked for you?