Four Frugal Ways to Build Your Library

Last week, I shared a growing list of our favorite picture storybooks. Stories that are worth reading and re-reading. Stories that I think are worth owning.

Because I’m a frugal minimalist and terribly picky about what books I want to read aloud 157 times, I usually borrow books from a friend, check them out from the library, or take advantage of Amazon’s awesome preview feature before adding them to my wish list.

Once a book is on the wish list though, here are four frugal ways to add them to your personal collection.

Four frugal ways to build your family library

Paperback Swap

Paperback Swap is a huge, online book-trading hub. You list books you no longer want, or you have duplicates of, or you picked up at a yard sale but don’t need, etc…. When another member requests one of your books, mail it, and earn a credit for a book to be mailed to you.

Books we received include Make Way for Ducklings, Chanticleer & the Fox and hardback copies of the Winnie the Pooh series. (I’ve mailed out a lot of good ones too!)

Click here to joinOnce you list ten books to trade, you’ll receive two free book credits to start building your library immediately! (Plus, I’ll get a credit too, so we BOTH get to build our libraries. Win-win, right?) Thanks Bekah

Shop Yard Sales or Thrift Stores

You really never know the treasures you might uncover by glancing through the books when you’re at yard sales or thrift stores.

Even if you don’t find books you want personally, you can often pick up like-new books to list on Paperback Swap to trade for books you do want!

Shop Your Library’s Used Sales

My friend Abigail, who is a queen of children’s books, has scored many great finds at our local library’s bi-annual used sale. When the library receives duplicate books as donations or retires older copies from its system, they get put in the used library sale. The prices are great and the selection is often overwhelming.

Plus, many of the older classics (the books I want my children reading!) end up here.

Give Books as Gifts

As I find books I love, I add them to a running children’s book wish list for birthday and Christmas gift ideas for myself or grandparents. Normally we give each child at least one new book for each holiday. With multiple children, it’s a slow but sure way to build the stock of good books in the home.

What are your favorite ways to build your library? 

  May be linked up at Mama MomentsGrowing HomeHealthy 2Day ,Works for MeWalking RedeemedGraced SimplicityFabulously Frugal & Simple Lives

[Full disclosure: links to products in this post are my referral links.]

Our Backyard Flock

Last week the kids and I went to a local hatchery and became proud owners of six adorable baby chicks. Now the soft chirp of baby chicks mingles with the morning songs of the numerous wild birds that flit about our backyard. 

I haven’t owned a pet since I was ten, so the fact that we have pet chickens is taking a little while to sink in. But after months of the children begging us to get a pet (and ruling out a dog because I don’t want to train one and/or have one ruin my garden) we decided to buy baby chicks, raise them, and hope to have chickens that double as pets and egg-layers.

Joshua spent two Saturdays building the most adorable chicken coop ever. My in-laws and friend Elissa have graciously answered the dozens of questions I’ve pestered them with. All the chicks have survived so far [insert deep sigh of relief] and have provided many giggles already.

Isn’t the coop ADORABLE?! Two of Joshua’s brothers stayed up late working on it with him. Don’t you love the chicken cut-out Jay made? (Thanks Jay and Sam!)

When the chicks were just two days old, a moth made the misfortunate decision to fly in front of their brooder lamp. Instantly the chicks scrambled over their feeder and around the waterer trying to grasp a hold of it. Three times the silly moth escaped but flew right back into the chick’s home. Finally, one of the Barred Rocks grabbed it in her beak. 

Now the real struggle commenced. The moth tried frantically to escape her grip while the other chicks chased her around the pen trying to grab the moth from her. The Barred Rock raced with all her might while trying to swallow the poor moth and fend off the others with her tail feathers.

It was quite the spectacle. Finally the Barred Rock succeeded in swallowing her snack and the chicks settled peacefully down for the night.

Despite a bit of nervousness, given my lack of animal experience, I am so excited to have our own little chicken flock and have spent hours and hours researching how to care for and raise our backyard flock naturally and frugally. It’s going to be a fun adventure!

9 Reasons to Shop at Aldi (Besides Saving Money)

After four years of the nearest Aldi being almost an hour away, I couldn’t be more thrilled to have two Aldi stores within fifteen minutes of us. If I were a millionaire, I would still shop at Aldi. I much prefer shopping there than at other stores.

Shopping at Aldi saves money. Lots of money. But that’s only one of many reasons why I love shopping there. 

  1. Shopping at Aldi saves brain power. There’s only one brand of diced tomatoes and one choice of dried basil. Instead of staring at rows of canned tomatoes and trying to decipher the differences (or determine if there are any) between twenty varieties, there’s just one option. Take it or leave it and save your brain power for more important decisions.
  2. The store brand is generally good. There are a few items we don’t like, but for the most part we can’t tell a difference or like Aldi’s brand just as well as other brands. (Though most of what I buy is not processed.) Try the Aldi brand. You just might like it. If not…
  3. They offer a double-back guarantee on most food items. If a product is not satisfactory, they’ll replace it AND refund your money. You can’t really lose with a guarantee like that.
  4. Their produce sales are amazing. It’s hard to beat avocados for 19¢ a piece or a pound of mushrooms for 79¢! Apparently some Aldi stores regularly have sub-par produce, but I’ve been as happy with the produce from the Aldi near us as I have with other grocery stores (though of course it can’t compare to a farmer’s market or fresh from the garden!) You do have to check the produce and be selective, but I do that no matter what store I’m at. ( To help minimize pesticide consumption, I try to purchase items from the “Dirty Dozen” list organic or grow them myself.—on that note, our Aldi recently started carrying organic spinach. Yay!)
  5. Their “special-buy” items rock! Besides the regular food items, Aldi carries “special-buy” items that change regularly. In the spring it was garden goods. In late summer it was back-to-school items. I’ve been tickled with how often just the item I needed shows up in the “special-buy” aisle at Aldi. A few of my favorite finds include a garden spade (that was much nicer than the more expensive one from Lowes), a heavy-duty magnifying glass with an LED light (batteries included) for the same price as a cheap school kind, a cute white hamper, and beautiful trellises for the garden. Not only are the items a great deal, I’ve consistently been surprised by how good quality they are. (And, if they’re not good quality, returns are easy.)
  6. The store isn’t huge. I like walking, but prefer to get my exercise in the great outdoors. Thanks in large part to reason #1, you don’t have to walk a mile just to get your groceries. Of course this also means that Aldi doesn’t carry every single thing we need, but I can usually shop there weekly or every other week (if we get our milk locally) and then only go to Wal-mart or Target occasionally for the other items.
  7. The customers are friendlier. Maybe it’s because they’re saving so much money, maybe it’s because they don’t have to spend all their brain power wading through too many choices, but whatever the reason, customers at Aldi tend to be much more friendly…at least at the Aldi we go to.
  8. The cashiers are lightning fast. 
  9. Last, but certainly not least, EVERYONE puts away their cart. Not-putting-away-carts is a pet peeve of mine. Add a 25¢ incentive and voila! Problem solved. (I try not to believe that this says something rather sad about our country.)

Do you shop at Aldi? Why or why not?

 Linked up at Mama MomentsGrowing HomeEncourage One AnotherWalking RedeemedGraced Simplicity, & Proverbs 31 

8 Uses for an Old White Sheet

There’s something so fun about turning an item that was bound for the trashcan into something useful! We recently changed bed sizes so I had several non-necessary, good-quality, but somewhat stained white sheets to play with. Here’s a few ways to up-cycle an old white sheet.

  1. Plant coverings. Cut the sheet into various-sized plant covers. Use the covers to protect tender seedlings from an unexpected late frost.
  2. Plant shades. Did you know that even plants can get sunburnt? I didn’t let my little seedlings harden off quite long enough and learned this the hard way. Old white sheets make excellent plant shades until the seedling has adjusted to life in the sun.
  3. Cotton slip. This was by far my favorite use for an old white sheet. I passionately dislike polyester/silk slips, especially in the summer, but almost all of my summery skirts really need a slip. The solution: turn an old sheet into a cotton slip. Just cut a rectangular piece of material that’s a bit wider than you want it. Sew the side and hem the bottom. Fold over the top twice for a piece of elastic or ribbon and sew. So easy. This really is a “1-hour project” (or less).
  4. Lining for curtains, quilts, or other projects: sheet material is generally softer and better quality than the cheap lining fabric.
  5. Dress-up hats, aprons, etc.: I made Rose a vintage looking nurse outfit for her third birthday using an old white sheet to make her apron and nurse’s cap.
  6. White bedskirt: Sewing projects that involve straight lines are about all I have time or patience for these days. This simple bedskirt didn’t take much skill but cutting it took longer than I thought. It was fun to make something for the kids’ room, but probably only worth the time if since I happened to have a series of lectures I had to watch and wanted to do something while I listened—and the ironing happened to be caught up!
  7. Drop cloth: If you decide to paint with three little “helpers”, chances are you’ll have a spill! Even if you paint alone, a good drop cloth is very important.
  8. White curtains: straight lines again, yay!

Have you up-cycled any items lately? If so, please share!

 Linked up at Mama MomentsGrowing HomeEncourage One AnotherFrugal Days, Sustainable Ways,Works for MeWalking RedeemedGraced SimplicityProverbs 31 & Natural Living

Ebates Review (or Why Didn’t I Join Sooner?)

[Normally I shy away from posts encouraging you to sign up for this or that great deal because I don't want that to be the focus of this site. Occasionally though I get a deal that seems too good not to share with someone. Today, you are that someone! Lucky you, right?]

Have you heard about Ebates before? I’ve heard about online cashback sites like Ebates for a long time but honestly didn’t think they were worth the trouble.

Until today.

I had a fairly large online purchase I needed to make so I thought why not check out Ebates

photo credit

I clicked on Ebates and was greeted with one pleasant surprise after another.

First, if you’re new to Ebates, you get to choose a $10 giftcard to Wal-mart or several other major retailers OR a $5 giftcard to Ebates after you make your first $25 dollar purchase(How painless is that if you have to place an order anyway?!) 

To make the deal sweeter, Ebates offers 6% cashback on orders from Kohls where I had to make my purchase. 

It took all of 45 seconds to sign up, enter my address for them to ship my $10 Wal-mart giftcard to, and click on their Kohl’s link. No credit card information or profile information required. It’s simple, painless and fast. 

Ebates offers cash back on hundreds of online stores, usually ranging from 3-8%. Next time I make an online purchase all I have to do is sign in, click on the store I’m ordering from, and earn cash back! I’m guesstimating a 15 second time investment tops. 

3% to 8% may not be a ton, but it sure adds up, especially if you do a lot of your gift shopping online! It’s so painless I’m wondering why on earth I didn’t sign up with Ebates sooner!

Want to give it a try? Click here to get started and earn your $10 giftcard!

Then, if you find it as simple and worthwhile as I did, you can share it with your friends and earn $5 for each friend who signs up.

[Full disclosure: Links to products in this post are my referral links.]