Your questions answered: TV, coupons, gardening, FoodSaver bags... plus a family update!

I've got a bunch of questions to answer, plus it's been way too long since I've done a real family update-type of post! So, here is all of that... plus the first pregnancy picture of myself with #5 (thanks to my cameraman Yehoshua)! :)

Having fun in an indoor tent...
Moshe (2), Ruth (4), Yehoshua (7) and Eliyahu (6)

I was wondering if you could tell us what you do for entertainment without TV and netflix. I know its possible but just curious.

As far as "screen" entertainment, we have an Xbox360. We use it to watch DVDs, and we have a small selection of our own DVDs. Some are educational (like Planet Earth or Matthew) and some are just for fun (like Up). :) We do let the boys play video games on the weekends (usually not on school days).

Pretty much any day of the week they are allowed to play games that use the Xbox Kinect (camera) because those are indoor exercise games (Fruit Ninja, Kinect Sports, etc.). With the weather being rainy so often, it's really nice to have an indoor exercise option for the kids (and me...) that is FUN! :)

And aside from that, we do things like board or card games, puzzles, books, drawing, play dough, building blocks, Legos, coloring books, Duplos, making tents with blankets, all that good stuff. :)

Tammy, do you ever use coupons? You can really save money on personal items like deodorant, shampoo, any vitamins or medicines.

I do coupons occasionally. We honestly don't purchase a lot of personal care items, but when we do (like for toothpaste -- since I'm partial to Crest Original) I usually have a $0.50 coupon which does help. And I try my best to wait for the Costco coupons to help lower our grocery budget for things we'd be purchasing anyway! :)

One thing I found for us personally was that since we don't use most of the items, even if it was free-after-rebate or coupon, we still pay 9.5% tax on the pre-coupon pre-rebate prices here in Washington and it just wasn't worth my time and gas to make a stop for items that we might end up needing (or might not use at all before they expired!).

I used to regularly do Rite Aid's single check rebate program and get some good deals on toothbrushes, toothpaste, etc. but they've changed that program and I wasn't finding good enough deals to warrant going often enough to use the "rewards" before they would expire.

I'm also a homebody, we just have 1 vehicle (so any errands have to be done at the busiest traffic times of the day/week -- and take away from our family time), I have 4 young children, and we eat a lot of plain "ingredients" like milk, butter, cheese, veggies, beans, etc... The store sales here usually are within pennies of what I can pay at Costco, and I admit I really like Costco. ;)

So... that's what has shaped my grocery shopping method for this season of our lives. :)

Have you considered teaching beginning music to a few outside kids for some extra spending money?

Yes, I have! I haven't advertised for any music students in recent years, though. I love teaching but don't feel that it's a good time for me to pursue it as a business.

Also, do you garden? Even a small vegetable garden can make a huge difference in your grocery bill.

I had some herbs in pots last summer, and hope to grow more herbs and some lettuce this year! We don't get a lot of direct sunlight at our house/yard due to all the trees nearby, and our summers can stay on the cool side (highs of 65-70 degrees) so that can make it tricky if you live in a shaded area. ;)

I also have a food saver and I LOVE it, but I find the bags to be pricey and felt guilty about throwing them away.... I now wash and re-use them repeatedly!! I write on the edge just like you do so when I cut them open to use nothing is written on the useful part of the bag. I have been doing this for more then a year now and find the bags work fine used repeatedly. I was wondering if you did the same thing?

Yes! I definitely re-use my FoodSaver bags, because they are really expensive. I bought my last box at Costco with a coupon, but it was still expensive! It's worth it to me that we *love* our freezer meals/food, though, and don't have to "endure" them. ;)

Even better than washing the Food Saver bags: if I've just frozen a casserole and then vacuum-sealed it, the FoodSaver bag doesn't get very dirty at all (since the food is already frozen when it goes in). When I take the food out, still frozen, and put it into a baking dish, I put the empty nearly-clean FoodSaver bag back in the freezer without washing it, to save it for later use.

This seems to put even less wear on the bags than washing them... and makes me a lot more comfortable with the amount of bag it takes to FoodSave a casserole. ;)


Yehoshua is 7 1/2 and is in second grade. He does part of his homeschooling with my mom on the phone each weekday. It's a big help to me and gives him some extra accountability, too. :) Yehoshua loves Legos, math, art, RC cars, sports, science, and video games.

He's a great big brother and shows such kindness to the younger children (in-between the moments of rough-housing!). Some of Yehoshua's chores are folding laundry, vacuuming, clearing and washing the table, dishes, picking up, and yard work. :)


Eliyahu just turned 6! He's a big boy (nearly the same size as Yehoshua) and is constantly melting my heart with the cute things he says. Eliyahu is in kindergarten (homeschooled) and loves drawing,, puzzles, games, cooking, riding his bicycle, Legos/Duplos and RC cars. His chores are the same as Yehoshua's. :)


Ruth just turned 4 and is our sweet smiley sunshine girl. Ruth loves doing preschool work (at home), dolls, coloring, stuffed animals, Boggle Jr., babies, the color pink, Hello Kitty, her quilt, organizing things, and anything "baby" or miniature. Ruth's chores are sweeping, cleaning her room, setting the table, and putting away laundry. :)


Moshe just turned 2 years old. He's a cuddly little guy who runs around the house getting into mischief or joining in whatever everyone else is doing. Moshe is starting to talk and his little uh-huhs and thank-yous are heartwarming. He loves his stuffed tiger and orangutan and usually takes a good nap every day.

Moshe is also my early riser, usually by 5am daily! His "chores" are helping to clean up whatever mess he's just made. ;) Moshe loves hanging out with dad, even if it means sitting quietly on dad's lap while reading the news.

Baby...??? :)

And the new baby! We're all getting excited to meet him or her. Late March is the estimated due date, so I've got a good 8 weeks left... which doesn't feel like very long when I start thinking about all the things I'd like to get done before then. :) of which is to be as much help to Joshua as possible! He is recovering well from his first surgery (a brain/nerve surgery for Trigeminal Neuralgia) and getting lots of rest. He still has a headache (surgery was 9 days ago) but the doctors are impressed at his recovery so far. We're so thankful there haven't been any complications at all!

In 2 weeks, Joshua will have a second surgery (involving the inner ear and brain, but for an unrelated condition). So, we'll be having a long stretch here of keeping the house calm/quiet and making sure Joshua gets as much rest as possible. :)

I had no idea Joshua would be off work for 4 months! Is there anything you guys need? Prayers to you all. And you are doing awesome. --Katie

Barring unforeseen complications, Joshua should be able to return to work after 10-12 weeks. We've been blessed with help from family and friends -- and I'm thankful that (despite feeling like a whale much of the time!) I still feel pretty good and am able to keep things running smoothly while Joshua gets better. :)

And, since we've known for a while that these surgeries could become necessary, we've been putting aside anything "extra" to get us through Joshua's time off work. I'm just so thankful that we have insurance and that Joshua can get the medical care he needs! :)

Homemade cloth baby wipes

One of my projects recently: making cloth baby wipes! I pulled out my hand-me-down sewing machine and some hand-me-down fabric and made some really affordable baby wipes (I bought thread only!).

I'm not an experienced seamstress by any means, but baby wipes are simple and fun and something I am constantly using... now I have some soft new ones for the new baby. ;)

What kind or brand of covers do you use for your CD prefolds?

I really like the Dappi brand nylon pull-on covers. (That link is to the best price I've found for them. I've ordered a couple times.) They're affordable, last a long time, are soft and comfy, and are quick to pull on. :)

I also have a few knitted wool soakers, which I LOVE, but only use when my baby is "predictable" enough to not need to wash them. ;) They're great for overnight wet diapers... SO nice!

And, I have a few miscellaneous covers (Thirsties, Bummis, and Flip) that were given to me. They all work well; Bummis are probably my favorite brand for wrap-style covers (that I've tried).

I like having wrap-style covers for younger babies; at Moshe's age now (2), the pull-on Dappis are my favorite. :) Actually -- I just really like having some variety, because sometimes different things work best depending on the baby/age! :)


You look great!!! How has been homeschooling in WA? How does he do his school on the phone? Does your mom have similar books?

Aww, thank you. :) After Yehoshua took a picture I realized that I don't look nearly as big as I feel... ;)

Homeschooling in WA has been peachy so far. :)

My mom doesn't have similar books; she doesn't really teach him new things (I do that), but he does math and workbook pages with her. He'll read the problem and then solve it out loud and she helps him if he's doing it wrong. I think for the multiplication, sometimes she writes down the problem to solve it too... because they've gotten kind big. :O :)

They're usually on the phone for 30-60 minutes (longer if Yehoshua gets sidetracked -- he's a talker!!), and then we do 30-60 minutes of sit-down stuff together, too. :)

Tammy, you just look adorable! I know it's hard at this stage to feel beautiful, but you are inside and out! Hope Joshua's surgery goes well and I'll be praying for you all.

Oh, thank you so much. :)

I love hearing about how things are going. You do look great. The children look so sweet. I hope things continue to go well.You sound like one busy lady! I will keep you all in my prayers!
Mary louise

Thank you, Mary Louise! :)

Thanks for the update! You are such a beautiful pregnant woman right now! Makes me want to have a 4th one.
I wish the best for you and your family during this tough time.

Aww, thank you. :)

Hard to believe I've been following your blog since a little before Ruth was born!! The kids are getting so big!

I'm glad Joshua is doing better. I've been praying for you all.

Thanks for the update! Blessings to you and your family!

Jules, I know!! :) I still have the girl baby clothes you sent for Ruth... think we'll get to use them again?? ;)

Awwww glad to hear that. That's so special you kept them. I do wonder if you will. But all those boys will be great protectors of Ruth if not!

Happy pregnancy! And a speedy recovery for Joshua, and for prayers another uncomplicated surgery. Make sure you get some rest too.

that last reply was from me,forgot to sign in :-(.

They are all getting so big! I've been following your blog since before Moshe was born and now he's 2! Crazy! All so adorable though. Love hearing their chores, I need more ideas for my kiddos.

This is my first year of hsing in WA, but I find their laws simple to comply with, fortunately. Though I do have to file my letter of intent in about a year, not sure what that's all going to take...

Thanks, Noah. :)

We filed the letter of intent this year for the first time, since Yehoshua will be 8 in April. Super easy! :) I am leaning towards a teacher evaluation rather than the standardized testing at the end of the year; either way, if I understand the law correctly no results need to be submitted to the state -- they are just for our own benefit. :D

Hi Tammy,

Just stopping in to say your kids are so precious and you are an inspiring mom! You're looking good with Little #5! Wow, y'all are busy there, and I haven't been able to keep up so well since I quit blogging and started homeschooling. I didn't realize Joshua was dealing with the health situations, but I will keep you all in my prayers. What a blessing to read he is quickly on the mend. . .

I will have to get another blog one day and blog about my first year perspective on homeschooling. I can say I totally prefer it over public school. . . : )

I love the homeschool-over-the-phone idea. Never thought of that! ( Learning, speaking & listening, clear communication, building a great rapport with grandmother, and knowing how to use the phone well. Good stuff!)

Emily (from the old pearlibuttons blog on livejournal)

Emily, good to hear from you!! :)

We started the "phone-schooling" (haha) about a year ago when Yehoshua was still struggling with reading. He started reading 1 short story every day to my mom on the phone for extra practice (and variety). After a while it escalated into more than just read-aloud practice. :) It's the next best thing to getting to spend time with Grandma in person! :)

I'm glad you're loving homeschooling! I miss your journaling.......

Your wipes are so cute! :-) I love cloth wipes....I love butt fluff too. I have a Flip cover and love it, but wool and Blueberry are my two favorite.

~Stacy from Stacy Makes Cents

Thanks, Stacy! :)

Never heard of Blueberry (cute name)! :)

Thankyou for the update. Will be keeping you in my thoughts and prayers during the coming weeks. Your family is beautiful and you make a very cute preggie momma.


Oh, thank you Susanne! :)

I havent been by your blog in a long time but when I saw you put up a personal update I just had to!!:) Huge congrats on baby!!!! So special! And oh my goodness those surgeries sound major! You're taking it so well! So encouraging! Your children have grown and are adorable...ruth is a sweetie as are the boys. So precious!

Thank you, Tereza! :)

Hello Tammy,
When you use the dappi cover,or any cover,do you still pin the cloth diaper closed? Or do you just fold it closed and put the cover on?

I prefer to fasten the diaper under the cover (and it's necessary with the Dappi covers since they are looser). I preferred plain old diaper pins for YEARS but finally got into Snappis when I got some (not-homemade) diapers that it worked well with. :) Now, I usually use a Snappi because it is faster. :)

For a very young baby, I've had good results just laying the diaper in the cover (for wrap-style covers) but once the baby is mobile, the wrap wasn't enough to hold the diaper securely... plus the baby might undo the cover and then everything just falls off -- had a couple close calls before realizing that wasn't a good idea. ;)

I think it depends on the age and child and stuff like that though! :)

I've been using the wipes you sent me! They are so nice and soft compared to ones I've been using since William was a baby. ;) Plus, I like that they are pink. :) You look great! I hope Joshua recovers well and that his second surgery is as easy on him as possible.

All the kids are so cute and getting so big!

~Elizabeth in Alaska

Oh, good! :) Yes, I too was amazed at how hard and scratchy my older baby wipes had gotten. Now I hope to find time to make enough new ones that the old ones can all go to the rag bag. :) They were just old thrift-store baby bath towels that I cut and hemmed, so nothing special. :)

Moshe looks so different from the other boys. He has the same eyes, but he does not look as much alike as the other boys do. You look GREAT!!! You don't look very big at all. Reuben and Mariel stopped by last night to get baking soda for diapers and ended up walking in about the same time as we sat down to eat. I didn't give them much of a choice after they said they didn't eat. I just made a quick salad for them and got an extra chair. Mariel looks really GREAT too! She looks a little tired, but not too bad. I really enjoy the updates of your family on here. It is great to see how big they are. So glad everything with Joshua went so smooth. Your mom kept me posted on the day of surgery and after. Prayers the headache leaves soon.


Thanks, Teresa! :)

I love the Dappi nylon covers. They've work well for my last 5 children, so much better than the cheap pull-on vinyl ones! We use them from about 2 months right up through potty-training with cloth training underwear.

You're getting close!

Heather (married Aug '00, mom to 6, ages 10 and under, baby #7 due in June)

Heather, I know! Every pregnancy goes "faster" than the last one... don't you think?! :) It's so sweet seeing how excited the other kids are about a new baby...

hi :) i still follow your blog. i just love everything that you posted tammy and i am so excited for you for your next child to arrive. we now have 5 grandbabies and are fixing to have the 6th. my one daugther still homeschools and loves it:) my other daughter will be homeschooling also.
i have been praying for joshua and hope that the 2nd surgery goes well:) i will be thinking of you all.
diana in oklahoma

Good to hear from you, Diana! :) Yay for grandbabies!! My parents get 3 new ones this year!! I'm glad I'm not the only one having babies in our family anymore. ;)

I've been considering a Foodsaver for quite awhile now (about 5 years ago I even bought one at Target but ended up returning it) but hesistated because I wasn't sure about resusing the bags. Thanks for convincing me!

Now I need to get off my butt and check out Sam's Club. Costco is 20+ miles away which doesn't seem worth it. After paying almost $500 this year for glasses and contacts, and that's after insurance, I've been considering a Sam's club membership since they have an optical department. I bet they're the best place for Foodsaver and bags too.

How is Joshua's pain? My husband had 4 brain surgeries in 2010 (That was me with the epilepsy surgery comment) and pain management was A Big Deal. Go figure, after they drill into your skull. The doctor had in on Fioracet (sp?) for awhile then suggested Tylenol which only kind of worked. He couldn't take ibuprofen because he was on blood thinners (they found a blood clot in his brain that was either from the second surgery or the grand mal seizure he had a few weeks prior to the first surgery). Anyway, it's also tough managing that kind of recovery with small children in the house. All the best to you and your family.

Oh, the bags are definitely re-usable (up to several times, and can be washed in between) especially if you treat them gently. :) They are still expensive (but, I guess Freezer Ziplocks are expensive too) but I like that the food takes up less space in the freezer (especially pre-cooked meats) and doesn't get freezer burn. :)

Ouch, 4 brain surgeries? :| Joshua's pain has been manageable for the most part. Tylenol has helped his headache (which has never really left since the surgery 2 weeks ago...) and that's all he's still taking. He was feeling really well until (ironically) the day I wrote the above post, his headache worsened and he spent 2 days in bed taking extra meds and following the nurse's instructions on what to try eating/doing. He's doing better now and back to just Tylenol and has been up doing light things so that's encouraging (and nice). :)

We cleaned our bedroom and tried to get it set up as comfortably as possible for his recovery -- extra pillows, blankets, a space heater, and tried to sound-proof the door a little more (using some foam tape stuff) PLUS a fan to help mask noise if he's trying to nap during the day -- so it's been smooth enough with all the kids in the house. I'm glad we're not in the apartment still! :)

I'm glad to hear he's doing okay. My husband had constant headaches for awhile.

Epilepsy surgery is two surgeries. The first to implant electrodes to the part of the brain that's seizing. Then they wait for you to have a seizure (the piece of skull they remove stays in a freezer) and do another surgery to cut out the exact part of the brain. My husband ended up having a third surgery because the skull piece became infected three weeks after the second surgery. For some reason infections with epilepsy surgery happen late. The fourth surgery was several months later to implant a prosthetic piece of skull.

It was not fun, to say the least. The good thing was he had brain surgery to remove a tumor in 2000 (the cause of the seizures to begin with) so he at least knew what to expect.

Answers, I just love answers!! thanks friend! :->

Cheryl B.
The Bz House That Love Built

Feel like a Great-Aunt reading this! I've been here since your blog started! I hope your husband has disability insurance to cover his salary or at least a good chunk of it. That's a long time to be off!! Your kids are adorable!

Lisa @

Thanks, Lisa! :)

No, we don't have short-term disability insurance... I guess it's a good thing we have (had, haha!) an emergency fund! ;)

You look great!!! I can't wait for your little one to get here. I've been reading your blog since before Ruth was born. My how time flies. I can't believe Moshe is 2 already!!! Praying for you guys and that Joshua's next surgery goes well and that the healing process is speedy. (((HUGS)))


Thanks, Katie. :)

Totally off topic but I was wondering if you have ever experienced postpartum hair-loss? With my 2 girls I lost nothing but with my boy(1/08/2010) I literally lost half my hair in the first year. I was just wondering if other women have had the same thing happen.

I always have post-partum hair loss, but not to that extreme. I would say the amount of hair in my hair brush or shower is probably 10+ times as much after the birth as it is during pregnancy. (Less than normal during pregnancy, and much MORE than normal after!) I like to go outside (if it's not too cold) to brush my hair when it's the worst, because so much hair falls out everywhere!! :)

Hi Tammy,

Am French and I love your blog ! I regularly stop by to read your recipes and your family's adventures ! So I was really happy to see n°5 was on the way ! You are very brave and it's a pity am so far away as I would love to get to know you better.
I am fascinated by the frugal way you run your family. I have two kids, one daughter of 14 and a boy of 11 and they bring joy to me everyday. I also know we spend far too much on food or other not necessary things !
In France we do not get all the same ingredients as you, so it's a bit difficult to reproduce your recipes, so I invent !
Please send my best wishes to your husband ! I hope he will get much better soon !
Take care !

Thank you so much, Sophie! :)

I love these posts!
Your blog was one of the first ones I started reading . Way back in 2007!
Can't wait to see your new baby and hear your birth story!
Also, I made a new to us recipe of Red Beans and Rice last night, that reminded me of something you would like.
So simple and filling. And delicious, too!
I will send it to you!
Good luck with rest of your pregnancy, and well wishes for a healthy and speedy recovery for Joshua.
Love, Kristin

Thanks, Kristin! And I would love to have that recipe! I just got some dried red beans last week, actually. :D

I have been reading since before Ruth was born, too. I found your blog thorough Crystal's old blog (before Money Saving Mom). Your blog is my first go-to for a recipe, whether I'm just looking for a specific recipe or one to use a specific ingredient. Sometimes I adapt them, too. We ordered our Berkey water filter on your recommendation of the brand and used your link! I love reading food posts, frugality posts and homeschooling ones. It is so encouraging to me how you take care of your little ones and are committed to staying home.

I've been praying for you and Joshua as he is having surgeries and during the recovery. I will continue to pray for this next one, especially as the house needs to be quiet (!) and he will need strength to help you during your next delivery and recovery.

I know all your readers will be looking forward to hearing how the next surgery goes and hearing about your new little one!


Thank you, Melinda! :)

I think it's cool that you don't watch TV. A lot of people wonder how some families get by without one. It really isn't that hard. It's not like they've been around forever. ;) We haven't had a TV here in three years now, and we get by finding things to do just fine. I think more people should try it. :)

You are adorable!! What a precious family you have.

I wanted to ask you about personal care items. I think it's great you try to avoid most of them. Do you have a favorite soap and shampoo? I saw where you love Crest and we do too. Do you still make and use your handmade deodorant?

I went to Walmart today and was looking around all the personal care items and thought of you and it gave me will power to walk on by. Gosh, it's so hard seeing all that stuff and all the great smells and not buying them.
Goes the same for cleaning supplies and such.

Do you have a favorite cleaner? Sorry for so many questions.
Blessings to you,

I have been a lurker since Moshe, and I wanted to register to tell you that you have such a beautiful family. Congrats on baby #5!

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