Thursday, December 27, 2018

How to Save an Average of 75% on Clothing!

Purchasing clothing can be challenging while living under the median.  That's why I recommend creating and maintaining a separate area where you store clothing and shoes for future use.

 I have stacked Rubbermaid bins in my garage with the sizes clearly marked on the side. When the seasons change, we always have the next size up ready to unpack from the appropriate bin. I have a separate bin for shoes.

 Although much of what my children wear is in the form of hand-me-downs or thrift store purchases, occasionally I have to supplement with brand new items. If you plan to buy any clothing at retail, you need to practice thinking down the road about twelve months, shopping only after major holidays and seasons have passed.

  So, how do we avoid spending an arm and a leg? 

It's actually pretty easy and I'm going to show you exactly how to do it!
  •  We'll take a look at 2019 and I'll give you exact dates of when to begin searching local stores for rock bottom clearance prices. 
  • I give you tips on when and how to shop.
I have created an absolutely free downloadable 2019 Seasonal Clothing Shopping E-book! It's yours for free as my way of saying "Thank you" for being an Under the Median reader and fan! It's yours for FREE when you sign up to follow Under the Median by e-mail.

Let's Get Started!

Truly thrifty people understand that the power of your dollar goes up exponentially after a season or holiday has passed. That's right! Put your hard-earned dollar on that checkout lane when Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, Valentine's or any other major holiday is in your rear view mirror.

Here's how its done!

  Shop End-of-the-Season Sales

This is a really important concept to understand.  You should always be purchasing clothing for the season which has just passed. It's called shopping off-season. Buy summer clothing in September. Buy those new gloves and boots at the end of January. I recommend waiting about a week after the clearance sales have started to get the absolute best prices. In other words, don't head for the stores on December 26th, unless you want to save just 50%. Rather, wait about another 5 to 7 days. That's when you begin to see those glorious 75-90% off signs!

General Tips: 

These tips will make shopping easier and (hopefully) eliminate phone calls home to have your spouse or older children check your inventory of items. 

 Before you shop:

  • Create a list, which includes your children's current shirt, pant, and shoe sizes. Your cell phone is a great place to keep this handy and with you at all times. 
  • Create an inventory of your children's current clothing needs. For instance, if I have inventoried the boots and there is no size 7, I will write that down. 
  • Check your children's closets and take note of any items which are nearly worn out and will need to be replaced.  This is also a great way to find "gaps". If you have multiple children it is not uncommon to find that child #3 suddenly only has one or two pairs of pants, because the first two children wore holes in the knees long before they could be handed down.   

While Shopping: 

  • Don't buy items that you don't need. Decide ahead of time how many pairs of pants, shirts, and shoes each child needs and then stick to it! 
  • Be sure the items you are looking at are actually a discounted price. Some retailers are known to actually mark items up and then put sale tags on them (which actually represent the regular or just a slightly discounted price.) 
  • Create a special fund of money each year for clothing, gifts, and household items. We budget for these categories on January 1st and then deplete the money throughout the year.
  • It's a great idea to use cash. Statistically, you spend nearly 20% less when you plop down hard cash rather than swiping a debit card. 
  • Track every penny you spend, using either a paper or on-line budget tracker. That way you'll always know how much you have available to spend. 

 Seasonal Shopping in a nutshell:

Remember to download my free 2019 Clothing Seasonal Shopping e-book!  It's filled with easy-to-follow tips, a calendar of suggested shopping days, and more! It's my free gift to you when you sign up to follow Under the Median by e-mail!


 As soon as the Christmas clearance items have left the shelves, retailers begin discounting heavy cold weather clothing.  I have found the deepest discounts from mid to late January, although you'll find decent sale prices up to two weeks before that.  

Look for:

  • Boots
  • Hats
  • Mittens
  • Scarves
  • Heavy winter coats
  • Thermal underwear
  • Slippers
  • Sweaters
  • Long-sleeved shirts
  • Flannel items  
  • Christmas and New Year's formal wear 
  • Christmas themed clothing items
Special days to remember: 

  • January 1, 2019: New Year's Day
  • February 14, 2019: Valentine's Day
  • March 17, 2019: Saint Patrick's Da


The official start of the spring clearance generally comes right after Easter. In 2019, that date is April 21st.  So, by the end of April or first week of May, you will see the season's deepest discounts.  Here are some items to think about when shopping for the following spring. Always buy at least one size up with purchasing items for children. 

Look for:
  • Rain boots
  • Spring jackets
  • Easter outfits for the following year
  • Easter suits and accessories to wear to weddings and other special occasions in 2019
  • Short-sleeved shirts to pair with sweaters for extra wear into the cool autumn days
  • Spring sandals and colorful shoes 
  • Easter themed clothing 
Special Days to Remember:  
  •  April 21, 2019: Easter
  • May 12, 2019: Mother's Day


Back-to-school rules summer clearance prices. As soon as mid-August hits, retailers begin to swing into autumn and winter holiday mode.

Look for:

  • Swimsuits
  • Sandals
  • Sleeveless blouses and dresses
  • Shorts
  • Capris
  • Summer pajamas and sleepwear 
  • Prom formal wear
  • Bow ties and regular ties from Prom sales season
  • School uniform items
Special Days to Remember:  

  • June 16, 2019: Father's Day
  • July 4, 2019: Independence Day



 Mid to late October signals the "fall" of prices.  Yes, a pun - I couldn't resist!  Seriously though, retailers want that Christmas stuff on the shelves before Halloween is even on the horizon.  They are ditching the fall merchandise and clearing the way for winter.  

Look for: 
  • Autumn themed shirts and pants
  • Medium Weight Jackets
  • Sweatshirts
  • Homecoming formal wear
  • Bow ties and regular ties from homecoming season
  • Jeans (the new season inventory arrives in early October).
Special Day to Remember:

  • October 31, 2019: Halloween
  • November 28, 2019: Thanksgiving
  • December 25, 2019: Christmas Day  
Don't forget! Get your free copy of my 2019 Seasonal Clothing Shopping Guide when you sign up to follow Under the Median by e-mail. 
What did I miss?  Let me know in the comments section below.

I'd love some feedback on the e-book too! Did you enjoy it? Find it helpful? Would you like to see more Under the Median e-books?

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Do all to the glory of God, 


Saturday, December 22, 2018

Christmas: It's Not About the Toys, It's About the Box!

When our four sons were very young, our Christmas gift budget was just $25 per child. Since then, they've gotten older and no longer want toys. They want electronics! So, we've doubled our budget to $50. 

Every year, I carefully spend our small Christmas budget, trying to get as many items as I can. Over the years we have adopted a gift strategy.  Our children receive: 1 piece of clothing, 1 toy, and several second-hand books for Christmas. 

Inevitably, as my husband and I wrap the gifts we look at each diminutive pile and say, "Wow! This really isn't that much, is it?" I feel guilt for not giving them more.

However, then I remember something that happened twenty years ago, which made me realize that it's not about the gifts, it's about the box. 

A Story of True Thankfulness

Allow me to share this story with you as you get ready to spend Christmas with your loved ones. I trust that it will encourage you to remember as our children learn to trust that God will provide for their needs, they will be thankful for every gift which they receive. 

I will never forget when our oldest son was two and a half years old. He was outgrowing his clothes and we had very little money, certainly not enough for a whole new wardrobe. So, one day I was standing in the kitchen praying out loud for size 3T clothing. James toddled in and decided he would pray with me. A few days later someone whom I didn't know well, who had never offered us hand-me-down clothing before, called and brought over two big boxes of 3T's. 

As I unpacked the boxes I said, "James, look at all this lovely clothing that God supplied for you!" Putting one of the boxes sideways, he wedged his body inside the box. I heard his little voice enthusiastically reply, "Yes! And He gave me this cool box!!"

Once he heard his mother say, "God loves you so much!  When we pray, He takes care of every single need, "my son was satisfied.  He found great joy in the box that God had sent him. Oh, and the clothes were a nice bonus, which God had packed inside the wondrous big box.  

As you wrap your gifts and put them under the tree, remember that our children don't need a dozen gifts. They need to know that they are loved, that they are safe, that they are cherished gifts from God. Their thankful and grateful attitude will be a natural outgrowth of that knowledge.  

Tell Them Your Stories 


My husband and I find Christmas to be the perfect time to sit down and share with our children about all the blessings which God has bestowed on us throughout the years.  We tell them about all the times in 30 years of marriage that we prayed and God miraculously supplied for our needs. Believe me, there have been a LOT of these stories! Our children have their favorites, which they ask to hear again and again. 

When you share these stories, you are not only building up the faith of your children, you are also building up the faith of future generations of your family!  THESE are the stories that your children will repeat to their children and grandchildren!  

As you celebrate the Yuletide season with your family, I pray God's richest blessings on each of you! May you be blessed and filled with His peace! I look forward to sharing more joy and encouragement with you in 2019.

From Under the Median and the Ware family,

Have a Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 21, 2018

This Week's Best Buys: HyVee Knocks It Out of the Park!

For the second year in a row, my 14 year old sous chef and I have planned a four course candlelight Christmas Eve dinner.  This afternoon we hit the stores with a detailed list of ingredients that we needed to purchase.  HyVee was prominently displayed on our list, because they had some truly great deals this week! I actually squealed out loud in delight when I saw this week's sales flyer!

 I got all this for just $26.00!!

HyVee continues to impress me with their selection and prices! I'll walk you through each item and tell you what I paid.  Remember, you still have time to save! The sale prices I mention in this post are still good through Monday, December 24th!

Items On Sale This Week!

I told you a few months ago that HyVee puts their HyVee frozen vegetables on sale for a super low price about twice a year. Well, this is the week!  Select HyVee 12-16 oz. frozen vegetables are on sale for just $.59! I bought the last four packages of frozen corn on the shelf.

If you ever go to HyVee and they are out of a product which is offered at a really great price, don't panic. Ask for a rain check at the courtesy counter, so you can go back later and purchase more at the sale price. Remember that HyVee is happy to provide you with a complimentary rain check for any item which is sold out when you arrive at the store. Checks are good for 30 days from the date that they are issued.

Just in time for cake, pie, and cookie baking! Two pound bags of brown or powdered sugar for just $.77! I got two packages of brown sugar and wonder if I will later wish I had gotten more. I may head back for some powdered sugar. I never use pre-made or canned frosting! Whenever I bake a cake I make the frosting from scratch. So, I think a couple of packages of powdered sugar may hit my shopping cart between now and December 24th. 

Mandarin oranges for just $1.00 a pound! Yes!! These 3 pound bags of Sunkist mandarins are just $1.88 this week! My goal is to never pay more than $1.00 a pound for mandarins.  These are even less than that! I put them out in a bowl and my four boys eat them throughout the day whenever the munchies hit. I bought three bags. 

Look at these beauties!! How about red and Black grapes for $.77 a pound! What a fantastic price and they looked very fresh, big, and juicy! I bought three bags. Do you notice a pattern here? I bought three bags of mandarins and three bags of grapes. If you are having company over the holidays fruit is an easy, fantastic, healthy food to put out on the table and let guests graze on it throughout the afternoon.  I always keep a cut crystal bowl filled with fruit in the middle of my table.  It reminds the kids to ask for a piece of fruit rather than a piece of candy.  

Special Markdowns: 

When the 14 year old sous chef and I plan a formal or semi-formal dinner, we like to end our special evening in a very European fashion: with a selection of good cheeses and fruit for dessert.

That's why it's wise to remember to check the HyVee markdown cheese basket whenever you visit. All four of these nice-sized chunks were priced between $1.30 and $1.50 each! They will be perfect for our dessert tray on Monday night.

There are always a couple of special markdown carts of general merchandise at the front of the store. This combination shampoo and conditioner was marked down to $1.00.  That's a huge discount on this name brand shampoo!

Chickpeas are incredibly high in fiber and protein and we eat a boatload of them, purchasing them in 50# bags! So, apparently a company came up with the great idea of turning them into pasta! I have never seen or used this product. But, it's gluten free and was marked down to $1.00 for a pound! I'll let you know what we think. 

Remember: the best prices on holiday and special occasion goods generally occur after they have already passed! I have found incredible prices on celebratory napkins, decorations, and baking cups at HyVee.

Generally, the further you get from the holiday, the deeper the discounts! In this case, nearly a month has passed since Thanksgiving and I was actually both surprised and delighted to find these elegant napkins in the markdown baskets at the front of the store! These turkey napkins, in two sizes, were marked down to just $.25 per package! I got two of each size. I have a special place to store them so that I don't forget to use them next year.

What were you best grocery store buys this week?  We'd love to know!  Leave your comments below. 

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Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Eight Tasty, Affordable, Healthy Potato Recipes

This week Aldi put their 10# of potatoes on sale for just $1.49 each! When they offered the same sale price on Thanksgiving weekend,  as you may recall, I grabbed two bags, even though I had just bought 10 pounds the week before.

I am actually just now using up the last of my tater stash and this week I'm headed out to buy another 30#!  I would encourage you to take advantage of this terrific sale price and today I'm going to give you some fantastic, easy, and incredibly economical ideas for using up all those spuds! 

(This post contains affiliate links.  If you make a purchase I will receive a small commission at no extra charge to you. Thank you.) 

Here is a photo review!

(Don't worry, links to all the recipes are included!)

Recipe #1:  Scalloped Potatoes

These were divine!  Creamy, flavorful and yet, this recipe contains no dairy!  I sprinkled some garlic powder, onion powder, and no salt seasoning on the top before baking to make it look "pretty".  A little paprika would be nice too.  I added a bit of liquid smoke for additional flavor.

Recipe #2:  Baked Potatoes

Okay, I think we can all agree that I don't need to post a recipe link for baked potatoes.  But, I did want to tell you where I took them and give you a couple of tips.  

I needed a dish to share for Wednesday evening Bible study.  Generally, events like this spell major temptation, with food on lips and pounds on my hips!  So, I decided to be proactive and take something healthy.  Here are some tips for perfect potluck potatoes! 

  • Cut the spuds in half, place on parchment paper, and roast at 400 degrees for 45 minutes.
  • Wrap them in foil.  This makes it easier for folks to grab one from the crockpot.  
  • Take them out of the oven just before leaving and transport them in a crockpot. 
  • Place the unit on "warm" when you get to your event.
  • If you don't have a "warm" setting on your crockpot, just use "low".  
  • They will be toasty warm when it's time to serve. 
  • Take along a few toppings and they will be a party favorite!  

Recipe #3:  Winter Warming Creamy Potato Leek Soup


I had a few leftover baked potato halves from the church Bible study.  So, I began searching for a great baked potato soup.  Since I couldn't find what I wanted, my 14 year old sous chef and I created a new potato soup recipe just for you, my readers!  

Click on this link to see the recipe complete with lots of photos and a downloadable free PDF.  While you're there, check out all the amazing photos!  My 14 year old sous chef takes nearly all the photos for my blog!  

Recipe #4 -Shepherd's Pie

Comfort food at its best!  This shepherd's pie has a base of lentils and veggies in a flavorful tomato sauce.  It's all topped by fresh mashed potatoes!  

Recipe #5:  Oven Fries

Easy peasy!  Slice potatoes into a wedge shape -  like fries.  Place on parchment paper.  Top with herbs and spices.  I used garlic powder, onion powder, and salt-free seasoning.  No need to use oil!  Bake at 425 degrees for 35-45 minutes, flipping after 25 minutes.  

Recipe #6:  Healthy Potato Salad 

The 14 year old sous chef and I have been hankering for some good old-fashioned potato salad.  Here's a link to the version we used.  This delicious potato salad is both flavorful and healthy. We added some chopped red pepper, because everything is better with red pepper. 

Recipe #7:  Potato Croquettes


It had been so long since I'd made them, I'd forgotten all about these glorious bits of heaven.  These are like homemade tater tots.  Crisp on the outside and warm and soft on the inside, they remind you of your childhood, but without the excess oil, fat, and calories of the mass manufactured version!  Here's the link.  Yum! 

Recipe #8:  Latkes (Potato Pancakes) 

For our Jewish friends, these are a staple of Hanukkah!  My mother made these when I was growing up to stretch leftover baked or mashed potatoes to feed our family for a second meal.  This recipe uses raw, grated potatoes, but you could easily substitute leftover baked potatoes as the base for these lovely, golden pancakes.  I used egg substitute instead of whole eggs. 

I don't cook with oil.  So, I did a little experimenting. I threw half of them into a non-stick skillet and browned them on both sides on medium heat. The other half, I patted them into balls, rolled them in a little extra flour, and baked them in my air fryer for 14 minutes at 400 degrees. I turned them half way through the cooking time. They were both good. But, the air fried ones won the texture and taste contest.  

Here are some of the products I used:

This Power Air Fryer XL is just like the one that I use. I actually won it about two years ago when I put my name in a drawing at a local health fair! It is so easy to use and clean up is a breeze!  You can control the temperature and duration of cooking by pushing just a couple of simple buttons. The unit in the photo is an updated version of my unit. Here's a link.  The larger 5.3 quart is often on sale for less money than the smaller units!  So, be sure to check all the avilable sizes and models.  

Nordic Ware Aluminum Commercial Baker's Jelly Roll Baking Sheet
I have two of these pans and use them all the time! They hold up to long-term tough use! With over 5000 customer reviews on Amazon, it boasts and amazing 4.5 star rating! Check out this great value! 

Malacasa, 3-Piece (9.5" & 12" & 13.4") Porcelain Square Bakeware Pans, Ivory White

 This set is nearly identical to the one I have! I use all three sizes nearly every single week! They go seamlessly from oven to table and are incredibly elegant! 

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Monday, December 17, 2018

My Big Lots Coupon Super Saving Strategy!!

If you are a Big Lots Rewards club member, you should have received an e-mail blast a few days ago containing a special $5 off of a $15 purchase coupon. The Holiday coupon was sent to all Rewards Club members.

I have written several posts about my love affair with Big Lots. For additional tips, not covered in this coupon post, check out My Big Lots 20% off Weekend Deals. I give you all the important details on the Rewards Club and give you links to get signed up in this post on Big Lots Friends and Family

Tips for Planning Your Shopping Trip

The first thing you need to do when you get these special offers is click that link and head to the website. This way you can download the coupon, print it off, and keep it somewhere prominently displayed (like your fridge), so you won't forget to spend it.Take note of the expiration date. You only get a few days to take advantage of the offer. Highlight that expiration date with a yellow highlighter to help draw your eye to that all important date.

I try to plan my trip to coincide with the day of the week that my Big Lots does their markdowns. Once a week, Big Lots employees scour the shelves, looking for merchandise that is close to its expiration date. They mark these items down to half price and put them on a special end cap. If you don't know which day of the week this happens at your Big Lots either call and ask or check with an employee the next time you stop by.

My Strategy and What I Got

Big Lots allows you to use their coupons on any merchandise in the store, including items which are already on sale or clearanced! So, getting the best bang for your buck involves filling your cart with previously discounted items and getting that total as close as you can to exactly $15.  NOTE - You must spend $15 before the coupon is applied. So, take along a calculator and when you get to $15 then head to the checkout.

Stop #1 - Markdowns

The first place I always head is to the markdowns. For us, markdown day is around noon on Tuesday. However, I failed miserably at showing up anywhere near that day and time. I wound up going to Big Lots at 7pm on Saturday, the final day of the coupon savings. So, I found absolutely nothing on the half price markdown shelves.  Drat!

Stop #2 - Canned and Packaged Foods 

Big Lots is like any other grocery establishment: You have to look past a lot of processed food to find the real food gems. But, Big Lots is SO worth your time and effort to stop by periodically! They tend to get in high-quality, name-brand items. This includes organic items! But, you have to be patient and stop by once a week since their stock changes frequently. 


I found these cans of Hunts No Salt Added Tomato Sauce for just $.40 each before the discount.  The coupon brought the price down to just $.28 for each can!

 Big Lots features a very nice selection of ethnic foods. This bag of black beans for just $1.40 is a great example! I'll pair this bag of beans with some of that salt-free tomato sauce and some spices. Serve it over brown rice and you'll feed your family for at least two meals!

Here is one of the organic items currently in stock at my Big Lots. It's cold weather and hot tea is a staple at our house.  Each box was just $2.00 before the coupon was applied. The coupon reduced it to $1.40 each!

Stop #3 - Household Items



Big Lots has departments featuring items like: soap, detergent, shampoo, toilet paper, toothpaste, paper towels, and more!  Once again, most of these are name-brand products at fantastic prices!

These 28 oz. bottles of Palmolive dish detergent were just $2.00 each! After giving the check out employee my coupon, the price was reduced to $1.60! I got the original scent. Does anyone else remember "Madge" the Palmolive lady soaking people's fingers in Palmolive?  If you were born before 1970, you are sure to recognize this iconic commercial! I can never see a bottle of Palmolive without thinking of Madge!

My Total and Final Thoughts: 

Before the discounts, my pre-tax total was $15.40. After the $5/$15 coupon I paid just $10.72! 

Big Lots is a treasure trove of fantastic deals. You do have to sort through some junk foods and flimsy plastic. But, really, any store is like that. I find that Big Lots is a great way to supplement my pantry with top-quality products and prices which can't be beat elsewhere in town. 

Do you shop Big Lots?  

What are your favorite items?  Give us a shout out in the comments section.  We'd love to know!

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Easy and Inexpensive Edible Chocolate Christmas Trees

My 14 year old sous chef came up with this idea while looking a bowl of assorted colorful chocolates. He stacked them together and said, "Hey, Mom, we could make trees!"  So, this blog post was born and another project put on our calendar. 

These edible Chocolate Christmas trees make an easy and fun afternoon project for you and the kids.

Here's what you need:

Please note:  I have provided Amazon affiliate links for the chocolate, because I want you to know what to look for.  I found it on Amazon's.  In all good conscience I must tell you that you can probably get a better price by looking for sale prices locally.  However, the tacky glue link is for the three pack is a really good price! 

These are affiliate links. If you click on the links and purchase any items from Amazon once you navigate there through these links I will receive a small commission at no additional charge to you.  


  • NOTE - We found a variety pack with all of three kinds of chocolates included.  These often contain Christmas "bells" or other shapes too! 

 Time To Assemble Trees!


STEP 1: Lay out all your ingredients. You may want to sort them by color, making it easier for the children to find the specific colors they want for their trees. 

STEP 2: Use one Rolo for the stump for each Christmas tree.  

NOTE!  Don't throw the wrappers away! You can use them later to make "gifts" for under your trees!

 STEP 3: Add the body of your tree.  You can make your tree as tall as you'd like.  This is the peanut butter cup.  You are going to glue each layer together, but I wouldn't do this until you are certain that you have the arrangement that you desire. 

STEP 4: You can mix and match different color combinations for your trees.  You can create trees of various shapes and sizes.

STEP 5: Glue them together, using a bit of craft glue between each layer.  I would not recommend using hot glue on this project, as the residual heat of the glue may damage your candy.  Craft (tacky) glue is thick enough to do the job.

They can be grouped together to make a festive holiday table arrangement.

STEP 6: This is optional, but it makes a great addition for your miniature forest.  Spread out each wrapper and carefully fold into a present-sized bundle.  You can draw on a ribbon using black permanent market.  Place at the base of your Christmas trees.

These would be perfect party favors for your holiday guests! 

If you give this project a try, let me know how they turned out!  Leave your thoughts in the comments section. 

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