Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Keeping That Grocery Budget Down

When you have a larger than average family and a smaller than average grocery budget it can be a challenge to keep your family in food, toiletries, and household products.   My current budget is $120 a week for a family of 6, and this includes food, toiletries, and household products, but also keeps in mind certain preferences.  If hubby's the one who work so hard to provide the least I can do is keep him in his favorite cookies and beverages when he requests them.

I have a lot of tips for eating on the cheap (and healthy, too) and keeping the toiletry and household product spending low, but for this blog post, I'm going to share the easiest and least lifestyle-changing tips.  And these tips are for those in the Continental USA.

1.  Join Krazy Koupon Lady!  You can find her at www.krazycouponlady.com or download her app.  Serioulsy, this is where I find my greatest deals matching coupons and rebates.  I get stuff for free.  I even get paid to buy things!  Today, I got razors for just a few cents.  I got paid to buy gluten-free crackers!  Last week I got two packages of top brand feminine products for free!

2.  Clip Coupons.  You can typically find coupons in your Sunday paper, but you can also find coupons at various websites.  Krazy Coupon Lady tells you in her posts where to find printables.  There are also coupon apps like Savings Star and Coupons.com you can download.

***As a side note, there are health-food coupons and rebate apps you can download, too.

3. REBATE APPS!  Seriously, this is where the rubber meets the road with savings.  I'll list them below:

       FETCH:  Fetch is probably the easiest app to use.  All you have to do is download it, sign up, and start scanning your receipts.  You earn points you can redeem for gift cards and such.  To join Fetch, download it onto your smartphone.  To download it and automatically get 2,000 points to start, go to www.fetchrewards.com and enter referral code: A9BTP

      IBOTTA:  Ibotta is my favorite rebate app.  It is easy to use and has so many great products even a stickler like me uses.  Plus, pairing it with Krazy Coupon Lady and coupons this is where I hit up my biggest savings.  I have $144.25 in my Ibotta account right now!  I'm saving all my rebates for Christmas spending.  You can also click through Ibotta to shop online and earn percentages back.  I just bought something on ebay through Ibotta and got 1.5% back!  To sign up and get a $10 bonus go to https://ibotta.com/r/elhjevd

     CHECKOUT 51:  This is another rebate app similar to Ibotta.  You choose your rebates, make your purchases, scan your receipts, and rack up the savings!

    SHOPKICK:  This app is kind of like a game.  If you shop with children it can be fun to include them.  Basically, the app lists products to scan.  You scan the products and earn points to be redeemed for gift cards.  If you purchase those products you get even more points.  This is great if the products are matched with coupons, sales or other rebate apps - more bang for your buck.  You also earn points just for walking into stores.  To join go to https://getsk.co/win999787

4.  Store Loyalty:  Sure those cards can be a pain to carry around, but so many stores offer loyalty through the convenience of the smart phone.  While grocery stores differ from place to place, other box stores are all across the USA such as:

     WALMART:  download the Walmart app and after shopping scan the QR code at the bottom of the receipt into the Savings Catcher in the app.  Walmart will automatically look for lower prices offered through their competitors in the area and give you the difference.  Also, Walmart.com often has lower prices on certain items than the in-store prices.  You can order online and have it shipped to the store for free.

     TARGET:  Download the Target App into your smartphone and join cartwheel.  Cartwheel can save you so much money!  Combine it with coupons and rebate apps for some big savings.  Plus, Target stores price match their lower website prices right there in store.  I've gotten lipstick for pennies by showing the cashier the lower online price and combining with a coupon and cartwheel.  Also, if you sign up for the Target debit card you get 5% off every purchase.

     WALGREENS:  Krazy Coupon Lady finds a LOT of great deals at Walgreens (and CVS and Riteaid).  These stores require signing up for their loyalty programs to get the big deals, but it can certainly be worth it!

5.  Shop Sales and plan your menu around the sales.

6.  Buy products that do double or triple duty.  For example, many grocery stores offer rotisserie chickens...already cooked and ready to go for LESS than buying a whole uncooked chicken.  Eat the chicken on day 1.  Then, boil down the carcass and pick off the leftover meat to make good bone broth.  Turn that into chicken, biscuits, and gravy for another meals.  That makes a lot of gravy when that meal is done, add some water and stew vegetables and make chicken soup or stew for yet another meal.

Think of how foods can do double duty.  Think of how you can use leftovers.  I even save the water out of tuna and salmon cans to make chowder later on.

7.  Most Americans eat too much, anyway.  You can save money by reducing your food intake to a more reasonable level.  I don't even use a dinner plate.  I use the dessert plate at mealtimes.  Snacks should be kept to a minimum.

8.  You don't need fancy meals all the time.   Nor are convenience foods that much faster to cook.  Learn to cook from scratch.  Learn good old fashioned simple meals like chili and corn bread, biscuits and gravy, stroganoff, etc.  I can make homemade macaroni and cheese almost as fast as the boxed junk.  Eggs go far for many meals.  Oatmeal is a more than adequate breakfast fare.

9.  Learn when food is really bad.  You don't have to throw away milk just because it tastes sour.  Use it for pancakes or baked goods.  Got a little mold a cheese?  Scrape the mold off and use the cheese to make a quiche or homemade mac and cheese.  A bruise or rotten bit on fruit?  Just cut around it and use the fruit in oatmeal.

10.  You can make your own yogurt easily in the crockpot.  You can find the recipe here:

11.  Look for clearance, day old, dent and scratch, cheese ends, or other discounted products.  Many times products near their expiration date are marked down.  Remember, expiration date is just a suggestion, a guideline.  Food doesn't automatically go bad just because it hit that magical number.

12.  Bulk doesn't always equal savings.  Keep and eye on the price to weight or price to volume ratio.

13.  Get your family used to drinking water.

14.  Bread and butter is a decent snack.  Your kids don't need fancy packaged snack junk foods.

15.  Keep treats as treats.  We aren't meant to have ice cream and chips every single week.  They are party foods, celebratory foods.

16.  If your faith has feast days, fast days, and ordinary days, keep it as such.  Feast days are great for pulling out the stops.  Fast days should be treated as such.  For example, if you are Catholic and have to go meatless on Fridays, then don't spend even more money on meatless meals.  Keep it simple.  Pancakes are fine!!  Ordinary days should be basic, healthful meals.  Protein, carb, and fruit or vegetable side is enough.

17.  If you buy free range or organic or vegetarian fed or cage free eggs, just stop right now.  You're blowing your money on eggs that aren't much better than the cheap ones.  They are still factory birds and chickens are omnivores, not vegetarians.  And vegetarian fed means they get corn and soy.  Instead, find locals who sell eggs.  Around where I live, backyard chickens are treated like pets, often get to free-range, and are the healthiest birds and their eggs are about $2.50 per dozen.

18.  If you live near farm country ask around for deals.  Perhaps an orchard will let you pick up apples on the ground.  Or maybe they have seconds they'll sell for cheap.  I used to be able to get 50 lbs of smaller red potatoes for $10!!

19.  Alternative meats may be an option.  Organ meats tend to be cheaper.  If you are making meatloaf, substitute a portion with ground liver.  Heart is amazing!  It is cheap, tastes great, and doesn't have the weird texture that tongue or liver does.  Know a hunter?  Shop their freezers!

20.  Use washables where you can.  Cloths instead of paper towels.  Washable diapers and wipes instead of disposable.   Cloth maxi pads or menstrual cups like Diva are great for saving $.

Hopefully, these tips help you!

Monday, September 04, 2017

Simplicity in Assurance

One of my biggest difficulties and stress-makers in my life is that when I believe something or decide something, I feel like I need to convince everyone of my standing and get them on my side.

Knowing that others oppose me or have formed negative opinions of my beliefs or decisions hurts me very much.

I begin to doubt myself.
Question myself.
And, yes, even wonder if I am loved.

One thing that motherhood has taught me for sure, especially motherhood in this social media age, is that we MUST have ASSURANCE!

I used to waste hours arguing with people online.  Surely, if they would just read my words they would know that I am right and stop name-calling and pointing fingers.
I lost countless nights of sleep.


Being a grown woman of God, a woman of maturity, a mother of growing minds and bodies, we absolutely must have assurance.

We must put on our big girl britches and own our choices, decisions, and beliefs.

As Christians, we gain wisdom from reading the Word and praying.
Blessed Assurance!

I am now both a homeschooling mother and a public school mother.
I belong the the local homeschooling group, and I will likely join the PTA.
I get a lot of side-eye and opinions from both sides!!

The worst right now is that because I exclusively public schooled last year, some question my ability to homeschool this year.
Thankfully, instead of giving in to their opinions of me and doubting myself and arguing with them to get them to see my side of it, I actually find their opinions useless and bothersome.

So, I take a boundary and, like Taylor Swift, shake it off.

I am a mature, grown woman of God, wife of one man, and mother of 4 beautiful and very different children.

I know my children.  I know myself.  I know that I am the only one who agonizes over each child, for what is best for them as individuals.
I am the one who researches late into the night.
I am the one who holds them and listens to their fears and their joys.
I am the one who felt their bodies and personalities grown within me.
I am the one God has given, through His Holy Spirit, the wisdom and understanding to be their mother.

Do I get it right every time?
And I own that, too.

So, mothers, rest assured in your choices for motherhood.
You don't need to waste a single moment on facebook arguing why you are still breastfeeding your 2 year old.
You don't owe anyone outside of the immediate authorities that be why you enrolled a child in public school.
You don't need to explain to anyone ad nauseum why you chose to homeschool again.
It is so much more simple to set a boundary and not try to persuade anyone whose business it isn't.

Because I'm the mother and that is what I decided.
With your head held high.
With true grit.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Simplicity in Trying

Trying something new can be anything but simple.
Sometimes it takes everything we've got to try something.
But, there is a way to simplify trying.
Let go of the idea of failure.

I don't know where I picked this up from or how I got this in my head, but since childhood, I felt that if I wasn't good at something, I was a failure and somehow lost value, worthiness, or ability.
Consequently, I only really tried things I knew I where I could succeed.
Maybe it was because I preferred praise much more than the taunts of peers.

Trying something and finding out it isn't for you, it isn't what you thought it would be, it doesn't bring you the joy you hoped, it isn't a good fit for your life right now, or you really just aren't good at it and it is frustrating doesn't mean you failed.

You've actually moved forward!

I wanted to try raising goats.
A friend of mine kindly offered for me to care for two of her champion goats to try it out.  She even had goats lined up for me to purchase when I was ready.
I tried it, and decided it wasn't going to work out.
My health has been troubled.
My kids refused to drink the milk (which was a main reason I wanted them).
Sleeping in on the weekends is very important to me.
I felt like I failed, not only at goating, but I felt like I failed my friend who was so kind.
She reassured me that I didn't.
I felt like a failure before my husband, who wasn't too keen on me getting the goats, but agreed anyway so long as I did the work.
He never said, "I told you so."
I didn't fail.
I just found out it isn't a good fit for me now.

But, I learned new things.
I did the leg work to get the barn delivered.
I built the fencing, the milking station, the dividers.
I taught myself how to milk the goats.

I am better off now having tried than I was if I just didn't bother trying.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Simplicity in Hair

I will be heading to the hair salon, soon.
It is ready for a cut.

I keep it simple, though.
For fall and winter I like layers
By spring and summer the layers have grown out and are ready for easy up-dos.
August has me wearing a bun or a braid every day.
Simple, but done and nice.

Thankfully, a bun suits me.  Always has.

I do dye my hair now.
I keep that simple, too.
No expensive salon jobs.
Just boxes.

I stick to shades within my natural range so my roots aren't horrible.
In fall and winter I like a darker brown.
In spring, I go a little lighter.
By summer, I am a medium or dark strawberry blond.
It gives me variety without the expense, hassle, and upkeep.
Although, I prefer the darker brown.

Sometimes it is fun to experiment and sometimes I get a hold of some neat products for my hair to set and curl it, to try fancy things.
But, when simplicity is needed, which is most of the time, I can just sweep it up into a bun and look just as put together.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Simplicity in Shopping

Coupons, Ads, Apps, Rebates, Gift Cards, Sales
It was practically another job to figure out how to get as many groceries as possible for the lowest price.
It was fun for a while, but then it just became more complicated, stressful, and literally took up hours upon hours to get organized.
I may do it again, because sometimes the bargain hunt is fun.
But, for now I prefer simplicity.

My grandmother never worried about coupons.  Apps weren't even around and even today she doesn't use them.
She has her preferred brands and her weekly list.  She has her favorite stores, and her budget.

Now that my children are out of baby and toddler items and we've all settled into what our preferred foods and brands are, shopping is more simple.
Many times I can just run into Aldi and get what I need for the week.
To be honest, I was mostly disappointed when I did all the couponing and bargain match-ups.  Half the time the items were out, or the coupons weren't accepted, or the store had limits.  Many times I just ended up with items I didn't like, need, or use.  I just donated two bottles of shampoo because I got three for the price of one and I tried one bottle and hated it.  I have boxes of crackers I got cheap sitting in my cupboard uneaten because weren't not really a cracker-eating family.  Worst of all, I ended up blowing my budget every week!

I also simply don't have room for stock piles in my house.

So, I stick with what we know and love.
In doing so, little gets wasted, and I have even managed to stay below budget some weeks.

Monday, August 21, 2017

The Simplicity of Happiness

Isn't she beautiful?!

It seems almost everyone has it or has experienced it.
I acknowledge, hesitantly, that I struggle with it.
So many of us Westerners do.

But, why?

Studies point to so many things, and indeed many are suffering from chemical/hormonal issues, just as I did during my Post Partum Depression.

However, I think now, mine is more situational.

Again:  But, why?

Once again I look to my grandmother.  I won't say she never suffered from depression, but she does radiate and joy and peace in her life.
Because she is content.
She FINDS contentment.

She sees the beautiful day.
Her home is practically wallpapered with photographs of grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
(I MUST get professional updated photos of my children, if not for any other reason than to give them to her.)
She smiles at her memories, and cherishes them.
She is happy have visitors and laughs at the antics of my children, while I turn red with embarrassment and try to scold them as nicely as possible in front of her.
She finds joy in her routine.
She finds joy in her Bible.
She finds joy in her prayer life.
She finds joy even in her sorrow for the loss of her beloved husband.
She finds joy in the morning.
She finds joy at night.
She finds joy in others' triumphs and accomplishments rather than envy and feelings of loss.
She finds joy in the good in others.
She finds joy in Christ Jesus.
She finds joy in her living and joy in her death.
"I'm ready to go," she chuckles, but is happy to remain her on earth while she must.  She's ready to go, but in no rush, either.
Because, she has joy.

I have gotten caught up in my own expectations.
I have allowed the over-sharing on social media to rob me of my joy and replace it with envy.
I have compared myself to others and found myself at a deficit.
I have given in to the pressures of the cultures around me, even within the church.

Therein lies the root of my depression.
The chaos of me.
When happiness is really just so simple.

Why do we Westerners with the ease of first world living at our fingertips scowl and frown when people in the third world countries smile for our cameras, beautiful, toothless, wrinkled, gaunt smiles of their hard lives etched deep into their bodies, yet JOY pours from their countenances.

We are a spoiled people and it is robbing us of our happiness.
Our wealth and expectations of wealth is our poverty.
I, for one, will no longer be that kind of poor.

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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Simplicity in Small Living

Being a woman is difficult, especially in today's world.
I feel it shouldn't be, but the expectations on women today are so very many!
We have choices and voices today, which is good, but we also have so much on our shoulders.

My facebook feed is plastered with other women and their 24-hour lives.
Many of them are happy with it, and I laud them for it.
But, I can't keep up.

I can't do motherhood, homeschooling, career, side hustle, fitness, lessons, vacations, PTO, church ministry, etc etc etc....

As my head spins just writing that list, I look to the side and see my grandmother.
She kept her life simple.
She happily cared for home and family, went to church on Sunday, and didn't bog her days down with activity after activity.

Her home wasn't filled with stuff.
Holidays weren't grand affairs, one right after another.
Once the grandchildren came, she did Christmas Eve and Easter.
Everything else was off her plate.

She gave herself time to rest.
To sit still and enjoy the day.
To look out the window.
Or place a phone call to someone without feeling rushed to get off to do the next thing.
She had time to take long walks to stay healthy.
She had order to her life.
Simple, basic order.
She still does in her golden years.

That is what I am seeking.
And when I establish that simplicity and smallness in my life, I will see how I am doing and whether or not I can add something to it.

I may never do a paint and sip.
But, perhaps I can invite someone over for tea.