Organizing Groceries & Saving Money!

This year, I have decided to work on my organizational skills when it comes to groceries and shopping.  I think I do really well keeping our grocery budget (just food) at $60 per week for our family of four but I really wanted to plan better.  Yes, I stayed at or under the budget each week but sometimes I would have to “borrow” from the next week’s budget to get something I forgot for this week, etc.  Sometimes I was making 3-4 trips a week to get groceries and just like a lot of you folks, I just don’t have time to do all that!

I decided to pick a month and do my menu planning and grocery shopping before the month began.  Yes, I am a wimp so I picked February because it was the shortest month… 🙂  It was to be an exercise in self discipline, planning ahead with menus and only making one trip to the grocery store (be it a LONG, overwhelming trip). I began this process last week by sitting down and organizing my menu planning and taking an inventory of my freezer, fridge and stockpile.  One of the things you have to be careful with when you stockpile is making sure you actually use the stuff you purchase.  So I developed my February menu by using most of the foods I already have on hand and then I made a list of what I would need to complete the month.  My biggest challenge has been planning for the fresh fruits and vegetables.  At the beginning of the month (the first 10 days or so), it’s easy to plan bananas, apples, salads, etc. but what do you do the rest of the month?  I decided to depend on canned fruits and vegetables (store-bought and self-canned at home from our garden) and dehydrated fruits and veggies for later in the month.  As for milk, our church buys milk and orange juice each Sunday for the breakfast they serve before Sunday School.  Our family has been blessed to be given the leftovers each week so we rarely have to buy milk or orange juice.

So today, I gathered the grocery coupons I have been accumulating, my sales ad (Kroger), my reusable bags and my two children and headed to Kroger.  Not long after walking in the door did I realize I had left my grocery list at home!!!  What a way to start this commitment to organization, huh??!!  ugh….

Once I entered Kroger, I began my regular routine – I stopped by the Manager’s Special section first and ran up on some really good buys.  Then I circled around to the bakery Ooops! cart where they put marked down breads and finally, we stopped at the produce overripe section.  I found a box of 8 organic kiwi (normally priced around 2/$1) for .49!  I bought 3 boxes.  Yes, they will need to be used very soon but they will dry very nicely in my dehydrator for the end of this month’s snacks.

With the help of The Krazy Coupon Lady (absolutely amazing free couponing website), I knew which items were on sale and matched them with good coupons to get some great deals.  Surprisingly, it only took me an hour and 30 minutes, start to finish.  I ended up with two carts filled to the brim!  At the checkout, my total was $301.03 before the sales and coupons.  My total after discounts was $145.31.  (And as an added bonus, I had a $100 gift card as a gift from our church that helped bring our total out of pocket to $45.31.)

And for those naysayers who complain that people who stockpile are silly (putting it nicely), let me share this story.  A family came by our church last Sunday night after Bible study and needed food.  Our church’s food bank has been dwindling since there is so much need in our community right now (as in most communities).  They specifically asked for children’s drinks and a bag of sugar.  My husband (who is a minister) called me and asked if we had anything to give to them.  Praise God our stockpile was there.

It has been a challenge preparing for this month but I will let you know how it’s going as the month goes.  For those of you who are interested, here are some photographs of my menu plans for the month.  (The third week of the month, we will be at JBC for homecoming so I didn’t plan many cooked foods for that week.)  You may notice I only plan 3 lunches and 3 dinners for our family.  The rest of the time, we eat leftovers or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, whatever is around that’s convenient.

By the way, I’m teaching a class on how to do this on Saturday, February 25th.  Here’s the link for more information or to sign up!  http://ibloom.co/events/savemoney

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It ain’t over, yet…

It ain’t over, yet…  🙂

Last year at this time, I was miserable.  I had so much extra weight on me.  My self esteem was suffering and I didn’t want to go through “another year” of setting the same old resolution only to get off track by mid-January and lose hope AGAIN.

This year, I was miserable because of health issues.  I’ve had a shoulder injury which has caused some excruciating pain at times and ended me up in the Emergency Room.  I’ve been sedentary since the Wednesday before Christmas and on lots of pain pills and muscle relaxers.  For about a week, I could not even wash dishes, vacuum, lift anything heavier than a fork or do laundry.  (Oh, darn, right??)  I’m realizing what a true gift my health really is.

So, here we are on New Year’s Eve, 2011.  No, I have not hit my initial goal of losing 50 pounds, in fact, over the holidays, I gained about 5 pounds and just in the past week (since the ER visit with my back) I have gained an additional 3.  I’m weighing in somewhere around 164.  So, I have a decision to make.  Do I let it get me down that I’ve gained 8-10 pounds back or do I use that as a springboard to motivate me to keep going forward with more energy and determination?  I choose the springboard.  I found this photo posted on facebook:

This is my motivation.  I haven’t made it to my goal yet but I’m not as far from it as I was this time last year.  My journey began January 18th, 2011.  It does not have an ending point, a destination of sorts.  It will be a lifelong journey for me so I’ve settled in for the long haul.  It’s not a diet.  It’s a mindset.  A lifestyle.  I know at this time of year, there’s the big fitness push, all the TV commercials, all the books on the shelves, all the talk is about getting fit and healthy, getting organized, getting out of debt, etc.  If you do choose to try and live healthier this year, I challenge you, don’t let it be a fad – do it for real this year.

 

I’m starting somewhere around 164 this year, last year I was 204.8.  Some resources I have found useful over the past year:

 

The book GOALS by Tommy Lanham – to step by step this book really helped  me set small attainable goals with a purpose… ones I can actually accomplish!  I can’t tell you what a difference this book has made in my personal journey.  It’s a short, easy read that has the potential to change your life if you let it.

 

A life coach – I have worked with a life coach through most of this journey.  It really helps me stay on track when I know that each week, I have someone asking me, “How’d you do this week?”  “Did you do your 5 workouts?”  “What do you feel you need to do this week?”  My life coach has helped me focus on what’s important and the REASONS I have to lose weight.

 

A sponsor – I have a dear friend of mine who has lost so much weight.  She understands it – she “gets it.”  She didn’t have surgery, do fad diets or starve herself.  She understands how much of an addiction this can be and howhard it is.  I can call her in the middle of Kroger with 2 boxes of HoHo’s in my cart and she will tell me to walk away… ask me how I know!!  🙂  She will be 100% honest and even though she’s 10 hours away, she will kick my butt if I don’t stick to the plan.

 

www.MyFitnessPal.com – this is a website I have been using to track my food intake, count calories and connect with others who have the same goals I have.

 

I have not been doing my devotions and reading my Bible like I should over the past few weeks.  The hustle and bustle of the holidays has gotten me off track spiritually and I really do believe that when I’m off spiritually, every other aspect of my life suffers, including the weight issue.  I’m starting off tomorrow with 3 new books.  Made to Crave, the Made to Crave devotional and The Maker’s Diet.

I’ll keep you posted on my opinion of these books.  I do want to encourage you to read, educate yourself and challenge yourself.  If you immerse yourself in information about health & wellness, you’re much more likely to stick to losing the weight and making healthier choices.

 

Brian Tracy says “You are what you think about most of the time.”  If you think about how much you miss those doughnuts or those sweets, that’s what you will focus on.  Instead, think about health, read about it, start your own blog about it, talk about it with your spouse, family members, friends.  Surround yourself with information and health and it will be a great start to this journey.

So, there you have it.  My renewed commitment to my health, my God and my blog.  🙂  If you want to receive a notification when I post a new blog (typically 2-3 times per month) then click on “Yep, I’m in, sign me up!”   Let me know if you’re on the same journey and let’s cheer each other on!  God bless you this new year!

 

202 Sticks of Butter!

Most of you know I started this weight loss journey back on January 18, 2011 when trying on clothes in a Lane Bryant dressing room, my daughter very innocently says to me “Mommy, your legs are fat.”  That was my point – the point you’ve heard me talk about.  That point when I was miserable, I dreaded trying to lose weight A-GAIN and was at my rope’s end.

I came home that day and cried, felt like hitting a brick wall with my fist and wanted to collapse in the floor with a big box of chocolates.  That would’ve really helped the situation, right?  I decided to make some changes, a little at a time.  In the past, I thought I just didn’t have enough will power.  I had tried all the diets, all the trendy tricks.  But this time, something made me look at my eating habits as an addiction (for me, it was), a disease I needed to fight.  I studied the Alcoholics Anonymous model and put some of the practices to work in my situation.  I immediately contacted a life coach to meet with on a weekly basis to set small, attainable goals and to hold me accountable.  I also found a sponsor – a woman who had gone through the struggles I was about to go through and came out on the other side.  I literally called her in the middle of Kroger one day because a recipe I was making called for 2 boxes of Ho-Ho’s and I knew there would be leftovers.  I wasn’t sure I could handle that.  In fact, I was trembling.  God bless Terri – she kicked my butt and helped me decide to not even make that recipe.  “Walk away from the Ho-Ho’s!”  🙂  It’s been amazing what a difference of having partners through this has made.  I know that if I screw up, my coach and my sponsor will come after me and make me explain my actions.

You have no idea what an accomplishment for me this is – to have lost 50 pounds!  The most I’ve ever lost my adult life is 7 pounds and that was before my wedding.  If you’re sitting at your computer thinking “I’m so proud of her but I couldn’t do that…” then you won’t be able to do it.  “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re usually right.”  -Zig Ziglar.  I’ve had to change my thinking before anything else started to change.  I’ve had to rely on God for a lot of strength.  On weeks I don’t do my devotions as regularly or stay focused on my time with Him, I don’t do well on the scale.  I know it sounds crazy.  I don’t care what you think.  I know my strength comes from the Lord almighty and I give him all the glory for this weight loss.  Cheesy as it may sound…

So, I stand before you today having made some lifestyle changes, a little at a time over the last 10 months.  It hasn’t been easy, I’ve worked for every ounce lost.  I haven’t taken any diet pills, I’ve not had surgery, I’ve not joined a gym, I’ve not joined Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig.  I’ve made small changes to become more active and I’ve educated myself on what I eat.  Did you know that one, ONE whole wheat Pillsbury Grand’s biscuit is equal to 14 slices of whole wheat toast WITH JELLY?  Just learning stuff like this helps me make better choices.

I weighed in this morning at 153.8 pounds.  I began 10 months ago at 204.4 wearing size 20/22.  I’ve lost 50.6 pounds, the equivalent of 202 sticks of butter.  I’ve still got some sticks I’d like to lose but all in all, I’m ecstatic with this loss.  Just think where I would be if I were still at miserable and at my rope’s end.  I’m so glad God gave me the strength to make the changes and take the steps to get here.  It was a journey well worth it.  I look forward to continuing this journey.  Follow along by clicking “Yep, I’m in!  Sign me up!” if you want to get email alerts when a new blog post goes up (usually about once per week or less).  I’d love to get your feedback and hear your stories.

It was legal… I promise…

So here goes… I know a lot of you think I’m a little nuts.  Well, here’s proof that I’m a LOT nuts.  I’ve been learning more & more about how the couponing thing can really help your budget and the more serious you get about it, the more you can save.  I went last week and saved a LOT of money, walked out with an overflowing cart for $5.79.  This got me to wondering & researching and in my research, I came across The Krazy Coupon Lady’s website.  She’s been on TLC’s Extreme Couponing.  You think I’m crazy?  Check her out!

Anyway, I’ve been getting most of my coupons online, from friends or sometimes, out of the Sunday Newspaper.  When you combine your coupons with advertised sales, you can get things at a very, very low price.  The Ronzoni pasta is on sale at Kroger this week for .49 and I had several coupons for $1 off of 2 boxes (making them FREE) and ended up with almost 30 boxes of free pasta!  Coupons are all online for this one!  Anyway, I decided to start my search for more coupons.  The Sunday paper is expensive, here.  Almost $2 per week and one lady I found on youtube spends $50 a month buying multiple copies of the Sunday paper to get her coupons.  Well…..  you know I hate to spend money on stuff like that so………  here goes……  (I hope you don’t think bad of me)… I went dumpster diving for coupons!  I found a recycling drop off location near our home, took a step stool and gloves and dove in. 

Told you, I’m a little nuts.  Yes, it is legal – for those of you wondering!  As long as I don’t trespass on private property to get the trash, it’s public domain.  The recycling bin I went to was amazingly clean – nothing but paper products in it and no smells whatsoever.  When I opened up the door, the first thing I saw was a stack of coupon inserts from Sunday’s paper!  Now, THAT was motivation!  I climbed my little step stool and started digging.  I ended up getting 47 Sunday paper inserts (red plum and smart source) – that’s roughly the equivalent to 25 Sunday paper’s worth of coupons!  I found half a dozen of the Kroger coupon booklets of coupons they mail out and even found one JC penney $10 off a $10 purchase!!  Why in the world would somebody throw this money away!!

I asked my husband to take some pics or video and he said “No way, I want to look, too!”  I don’t know when I’ve ever found my husband more appealing to me!!  🙂  At that moment, I could kiss his feet!  I’m thinking most husbands wouldn’t even go and if they did, they would be hiding in the car or ducking to make sure no one saw them… not mine! 

So there it is – my crazy, outrageous act for the week!  Subscribe to this blog (to the right in the “Yep, sign me up!” box) and hear more crazy antics and follow my weight loss journey as well.  Have a fantastic week and try doing something outside of YOUR comfort zone this week!

This is what coupons can do for you!

As part of my weight loss strategy, I’m trying to buy more healthy foods and I would really like to buy more organic foods.  In order to do this, I need to save money because let’s face it… have you seen the prices at the Whole Foods stores?  Tonight, after some research, I headed to Kroger with my 3-ring binder of coupons.  I bought 18 boxes of pasta, 3 boxes of ORGANIC macaroni and cheese, 24 bottles of water, a bag of Lays Potato Chips, a 2 liter of Sprite zero, 6 family size bottles of shampoo and conditioner, sanitary napkins and 2 bars of organic olive oil soap.  My total before coupons was $62.02.  I paid a whopping $5.79 for these items! 

Kroger had a $5 off when you buy 10 participating items and I had great coupons on those items.  The Ronzoni pasta was .49 when you saved $5 and I had $1/2 boxes = final price was FREE!  The 24 pack of Nestle Pure Life water was $3.79, sale for $2.79 and I had a $1 coupon = final price, $1.79 (the price of 1 bottle at a gas station).  The Annie’s Organic Mac and Cheese was .49 (no coupon) after the $5 off of 10 items was applied  I did good!   I had to ring things in 3 separate transactions.  The receipt pictured here was one of three but my total savings was 99%!  A new personal record!

Now, for those of you who want to save some $ at the grocery store (because let’s face it, it’s nearly impossible to save money in other areas of your budget – the insurance stays the same each month, the phone bill, cell bill, internet bill, house payment… it all stays the same… except for the gasoline bill – that one is continuously rising these days).  Groceries are one big area in your budget where you can really save some big money.  Too much work… takes too much time???  I’ve heard it all before… gosh, quit making excuses and get online, do a little research and quit whining!  Sorry… don’t mean to sound so brash but if I can do it, you certainly can do it!  The amount of money you will save will more than compensate you for your time and research.  I can feed my family of 4 on about $60 per week (includes personal care items like shampoo, soap, deoderant, etc.).  And we don’t just eat beans and rice!  Sign up to follow this blog and I’ll post everytime I find amazing deals – that’ll help you get started.  You’ll also get a notice every Tuesday when I weigh in for the week so just be aware you’ll also get an earful of my weight loss journey!  🙂  So quit wishing you could find more money in your budget & DO something about it!  Hurry up… sign up to follow this blog now!  😉

Grocery Trip

Today’s grocery trip was not a full grocery trip – it’s more of a fill in the gaps until the next big grocery trip kind of day.  I spent $78 on everything you see here.  Mind you that little light bulb in the lower lefthand corner was $4 , the candle lamp shade was on clearance for $2.75 and the yarn was $10 so there’s really about $60 in food.  Bananas were on sale – they’ll be put in the dehydrator and we’ll have banana chips to snack on.  The breads are all on sale and I really stocked up on bread this time.  The 2 bigger loaves will be put in the fridge for use next week.  Those orange stickers indicate a managers special and they’re on just about everything purchased at Kroger.  (Some of these items came from WalMart).  Notice a lot of the items are organic (so you CAN still stay under budget and eat healthy).  I do not have to buy milk or much meat this week (the package in the front is sandwich meat) so my costs are a little less.  I didn’t have very many coupons (4 total) this week so this trip is mostly just looking for the sales.  The oat bran box was squished and marked down from $2.19 to $1.09.  The chocolates were marked down from $2.99 to .90 and I had a .75 off coupon.  Just wanted to share what a regular grocery trip entails for me. 

And I purchased the oats and granola for a homemade chewy granola bar recipe I just got this week.