Sunday, February 3, 2013

How to Save on Groceries Without Clipping Coupons

I was very committed to playing the coupon game for about two years.  After my first daughter was born, I was trying any and every way to make our life work on one budget.  It was a balancing act and still requires certain sacrifices.  Worthy, but nonetheless, difficult.

Well, I learned that there is only so much couponing I am willing to do.  I started to find my efforts were better spent in other areas.  Work smarter, not harder - right?

(My coupon binder is now collecting dust.)

1.  Meal Planning - For me, this is THE way to save on our food budget.  When I slack off in this area it inevitably means we will overspend.  Without some sort of plan for the week, I slip into the habit of running to the grocery store several times and spending more than I should.  I'm also tempted to buy more convenience food which is pricier and less healthy than homemade (usually).

Some bloggers have beautiful methods they use for meal planning.  Me?  I jot down a menu on the top of my weekly grocery shopping list.  It might get stuck on the fridge (if I remember) or it might just get lost in the abyss of my purse.  Nevertheless, it is a strong start to me saving on our bottom line.

2.  "Shopping" my pantry - I never used to be very good at this habit.  Things would get pushed back into the corners and new food items would get set up front.  So, I never really knew what I had and didn't have.  While making my meal plan now, I'll do a quick pantry/fridge purge to see what we have lurking about.  I usually have pieces for meals and then add what else is needed to my list.  This can be challenging, especially when I'm crunched for time or I am really craving a certain dish.

3.  Freezer Cooking - There is a TON of information online about this, and I have dabbled in it a few times.  I haven't committed to certain days during the month where I freezer cook, but I feel like that is a necessary step for success.  Choosing a few hours on a Saturday to prep my meals would make a huge difference.  I did another swap recently with a friend, and was surprised at how simple it was to crank out 4 family servings of 2 healthy dishes.

Pinterest does not disappoint with it's abundance of freezer cooking recipes and tips.  I loved how easy the Spinach Lasagna Rolls and Zucchini Turkey Burgers were to assemble and that my kitchen wasn't a complete disaster after ;). 

4.  KISS - Everyone knows this acronym, and it's a good one.  Our weekly meals have become very simplified.  Not boring, but nothing fancy.  We tend to stick to meals with less than 4-5 ingredients.  No really, it helps!  If something does require more prep, I save it for the weekend.  We eat meat-free meals about 1/2 the week as well.  This means sandwiches, soup, breakfast foods, smoothies, eggs, etc..  

What methods, besides coupons, have you used to save on your food budget?  Which got you the most bang for your buck?

Thursday, January 24, 2013

3 Cheap Beauty Tips for the Busy Mom

As mothers of young children we don't always take the best care of ourselves, right?  Not that we don't care about our appearance, but we're just too consumed with the intense needs of our babes that we fail to care for ourselves the way we'd like.  

When thinking about where I wanted to be in 2013, I made a resolution to make an attempt every day to do something for myself.  With a 5-month-old and 2-year-old I'm lucky to have a moment in the bathroom alone, forget any self-care or primping I might want to do.  It was to the point that I don't think I recognized myself with a coat of mascara on...ouch.  Add some lipgloss and I think my husband thought another woman was living in his house.  No bueno.  

So, I set about deciding how I could cheaply and effectively update my beauty routine while not feeling overwhelmed by all the choices available.  Turning 30 with changing skin needs didn't hurt my decision either.  It was time for a revival! Hallelujah... 

1.  Birchbox - I read about this last year on another blog and swooned.  A box of the latest skin and beauty samples delivered right to my door?! Santa listened to my gentle (i.e. pleading and begging) request and delivered.  I love that you can customize the samples to your skin needs and coloring so you can actually USE what you receive.  Plus, for only $10 a month (there are several subscription options) I feel pretty spoiled at that price.  My current favorites..

Frownies Rose Water Hydrator Spray - Refreshing and fights against dry Winter skin.

theBalm - Mary-Lou Manizer - This all over luminizer goes on smoothly and quickly.  

2.  "Like" it, "Pin" it, "Follow" it - Do you have a favorite moisturizer or lipstick brand?  If it's a must in your routine, go ahead and find the company page on Facebook.  "Like" the page so you can receive updates, inspiration, or even coupons.  You can utilize Pinterest as well and create a board to monitor the cheapest websites to order your products.  For example, I got my hubby his favorite shave cream from and I can monitor the deals they offer for free shipping and discounts when it needs to be restocked.  Also, pick one or two favorite beauty blogs that represents a style similar to your own.  Follow them view Twitter or Facebook and be inspired to get out of your yoga pants and into something that actually buttons.  Social Media is free - let it work for you.  

3.  Call a Friend - If your like me, there is at least one friend who seems to just know how to use make-up and can make awesome recommendations.  If you have similar skin or features to a stylish friend, co-worker, or family member - ask them their secret!  Besides feeling flattered, they'll probably spill everything you wanted to know and then some.  

 I think I might take 5 minutes for a quickie manicure today.  What will you do for yourself today?

Thursday, May 31, 2012

6 Ways to Save this Summer

I'm not sure about you, but I have the tendency to overspend during the warmer months.  I embrace the whole idea of Summer, and sometimes it can carry me over budget.  Maybe it's a combination of the heat, longer evenings and the promise of fun and carefree days ahead.  The teacher (and student) in me loves to celebrate this season.  I still have a strong to desire to throw a lesson plan out the window and run away to Disney World!  So, I thought it would be fun to create a short list of ways to save this Summer season.

1.  DIY Pedicure - Pretty soon I won't be able to reach my feet, let alone paint my toenails.  But, I did muster up the energy to paint them myself last week.  I love a good pedicure, but I remind myself that it is a rare treat.

2.  Eat Seasonally - This is always a way to save on your grocery budget, and it's even easier during the warm months.  Summer offers a medley of fabulous fruits and veggies, so it's not too pricey to stock up at the grocery store or local farmer's market.  Stock up and freeze fresh fruit and veggies for those long winter months ahead. We are enjoying our fruit CSA this year and this week we scored fresh peaches, blueberries and strawberries.  Yum!

3.  Have a Picnic - Anywhere.  Anytime.  Just throw a blanket on the ground, grab some snacks, and call it a picnic!  This seems to hold magical powers for children, and it's another great way to enjoy the warmer weather.  Even if you're inside on a rainy day - it's still fun :)

4.  Prioritize Trips/Treats - Have a wedding to attend or family vacation scheduled?  Choose what trip or special treats you want your family to enjoy before the season begins.  Loosely map out the next few months and decide what to spend money on.  If nothing seems worth it - save that money for something better around the corner.  You don't have to stay home every weekend, but you might want to weigh the pros and cons before the urge to be spontaneous hits you!

5.  Stay Local - Explore your neighborhood, town or city and see what fun, local and free activities are available.  Fireworks, festivals, parks and parades are all ways to get the family out without spending much (if anything).  Avoid the movie theatre and opt for an evening of catching fireflies instead!

6.  Make it Special - Let your kids stay up a bit later.  Bend the rules and let them know that Summer is special.  Indulge in ice cream cones, popsicles, and sticky faces!  They don't need an extravagent vacation to feel loved.  Make memories for them and for you.

Happy Summer!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Back on the Bandwagon - Saving with Cash

Being pregnant comes with it's challenges when trying to keep to a reasonable grocery budget.

Let's just say I fell off the bandwagon pretty fiercely earlier this year.  I stopped couponing and my meal planning was "Tonight, I feel like eating popcorn and steak..."

The truth is, we just don't have the luxury of living that lifestyle.  Maybe some day I will, but it will always pain me to know when I slip up and how much money I can waste when laziness/crankiness/hunger strikes.  It's just so easy to spend at the grocery store - right?  I'm a sucker for a good food display.

Why yes, I DO need soup.  Soup for all!

I'm preaching to the choir when I complain about the outrageous food prices.  Heaven forbid I want to eat healthy and feed my daughter...grapes!   I started swiping my debit card instead of sticking to our pay with cash principle and our food budget grew by at least 1/3.  We squeaked by for a couple of months without noticing (or hiding like an ostrich in the sand). But reality caught up pretty quickly. So, I stopped hormonally shopping, pulled up my big girl undies, and got organized.

We're back to using cash and already seeing a major difference.  I think we needed the reminder that Cash Speaks.  On paydays we take out our food/grocery budget and make a plan.  I'm doing some coupons again, but not with the fervor I once did.  But it's going better with easing myself back into it and shopping the sales at Harris Teeter.  I adore Souther Savers - do you use it too?

Have you had any good wake up calls when it comes to living on a budget?  What helps you stick to your food budget?

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Thrifty Thursdays: Pinterest Parties!

Pinterest has become a phenomenon that women (and even some men - yay!) are using daily for inspiration and education.  If you haven't started an account yet, you can learn more here.  I mainly troll Pinterest for recipes, cheap DIY, and overall inspiration for Life.

I've read some great Mommy articles as of late about how NOT to use Pinterest.  It shouldn't be a place where you constantly size yourself up against other women.  Just because you're not cutting your kid's snacks into adorable characters doesn't mean you can't benefit.

Source: via Sabine on Pinterest

There is a balance, and one that you have to keep in mind.  Despite your love for Bert and Ernie.

On the other hand, it's very motivating to have the instant gratification of clear directions, cheery pictures, and the Hope you could be *gasp* crafty.

My fabulous mother's group has been holding Pinterest Parties lately.  This includes drinks, dessert, and a fun and easy craft to work on.  Usually a very inexpensive craft where other moms can pool their resources to create something pretty and fun.  There is no pressure to run out to Michael's and buy a mess of new craft tools, because most likely another woman has what you might need.  Clever and thrifty.  Pinterest allows you to start group boards, so we take turns pinning clever craft ideas on the board.  Then the lovely hostess chooses a craft that everyone is excited to try.

So far we have made these...

 and these...

The photo coasters were a perfect birthday gift for my father-in-law.  No picture, since he is a Cupid baby and has been enjoying them since February :)

Here is a picture of the artwork I just finished for baby sister's room.  Half was done at my friend's Pinterest Party, which is where I actually decided on the colors for her nursery.  Tough decisions, people, tough.  Needs a couple more finishing touches and then done.  I'm pretty happy with how it turned out, and honestly I would not have tackled this without Pinterest or the fun night out.

Have you tried a Pin Party?  What crafts or DIY ventures would be easier with a group of friends?

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Blogger Who Never Blogs and the Family that Loves Her

This is awkward.

I feel like we haven't seen one another in an awfully long time.

I've been distant.  Apologies.

Let's move on to something SUPER exciting which might (maybe?) explain my brief hiatus.

This August, we will become a family of four!  Baby Girl #2 is healthy and kicking, and we are thrilled and blessed beyond belief :)

(That's not a beer belly.  Promise.)

After the First Trimester Sickies of Doom passed, I started reevaluating some of my priorities as a home economist, mother and wife.  I've loved the past two years as a SAHM, but I was feeling a bit overwhelmed with some of my endeavors and goals.  It was time to scale back and assess what I considered "successful".

One major thorn in my side was my feelings of inadequacy as a house keeper.  When I was under the weather and chasing a toddler, I felt like I slipped up even worse.  You know the sad internal monologue of...
"I'm a stay-at-home-mom...why can't I just DO the chores?"
"Clearly, I'm the laziest woman alive."
"I don't have time to do A, B, or C.  Because I must catch up on my Hulu shows and take a nap."
"I'll think about that tomorrow.  Hell, it worked for Scarlett O'Hara, right?"

I needed a solution that actually worked for me and the way I think.  There are LOTS of super organized women out there that write faaaabulous blog entries about home journals, chore charts, and the art of the to-do list.  Lots of free printables, examples, and pretty photos of their organized and sparkling homes.

As I've said before, I am NOT that woman.  If you are - congratulations.

If you're not, join the masses.

A friend and past co-worker mentioned to me what she had been using for years to help stay on top of the housework.  She promised me not to judge the site on first look, but just to try it.  Maybe it could work for me.  This is a friend who always has it together but not in an intimidating manner.  I was sure to take note.

Shortly after our conversation, I checked out Flylady and signed up for the daily emails.  I started slowly and hopped around her site a bit.  Okay, I technically cheated in the beginning, but I found a strategy that worked for me.  So, I'm considering that a win.  I've also maintained (more or less) my new routines and can see a real benefit to me and my family.  With the madness of a newborn in the house, I know I'll be very grateful in the months to come.

If my internal monologue starts up again, I fill it with...
"I can do anything for 15 minutes."
"It doesn't have to be perfect - just do a bit now and more later."
"Whatever - at least I'm dressed to shoes and my kitchen sink is shining!"
"Having a clean and uncluttered home blesses my family."
"Don't get sidetracked.  One job at a time!"

My control journal is still a messy notebook with penciled notes, and I really like it that way.  I've been purposefully resisting my urge to laminate, color code, and obsess about making the journal perfect.  This is how I know FlyLady has creeped into my psyche.

FlyLady does have a shop and lots of fantastic looking products.  However, she really preaches a sense of frugality when it comes to house cleaning.  You don't need the fancy gadgets or expensive cleaners to get the job done.  As she says, "Soap is soap!"

f you feel like you could use some help, I suggest trying it out for a month.  Start here and see how it goes. I'm still "fluttering" but I'm hoping to one day be "flying" :)

Saturday, December 31, 2011

How do you measure a year?

Source: via Judy on Pinterest

2011 Lessons Learned

  • The loftier the goal, sometimes, the harder the fall.  I'm terribly guilty of aiming too high sometimes.  I know that sounds self-depricating, but at least it's the truth.  I know my limitations, and I resist change more than I realized.  I'm not as go with the flow as I once thought.
  • What gives me joy and peace is not what gives others the same feeling.  I have my own definition of happiness, and I need to focus less on perfection and more on balance.  
  • My husband will do anything to serve my heart and make me feel secure.  I always knew this to be true, but his dedication in the past year has been an excellent reminder :)
  • I am blessed daily with old and new friends. Reminds me of the motto:  Make new friends and keep the old, one is silver and the other's gold.
  • Seeing yourself in your daughter is all at once thrilling and terrifying!
  • Starting the day with a clean kitchen sink will make any day brighter and calmer.
  • My twenties were for self-indulgency, my thirties will be for self-control.
  • God wants me to talk to him.  Every day.

I had plans of adding my goals for 2012 with this post, but honestly, I'm still working on them.  I'd like them to be measurable goals, and I'm limiting myself to only three.  This is difficult, because usually my goals read like this...

1.  Change the world.
2.  Be amazing at everything.
3.  Never surrender.
4.  Lose 5 pounds.
5.  Exercise 3 days a week.
6.  Eat 50% organic.

And so on.... You see my problem.

What about you?  What attainable goals are you setting for 2012? Anything learned from 2011? Please share :)