Saturday, October 31, 2009

Thank you candy corn, thank you Mike and Ike . . .

Thank you, THANK YOU Smarties!

And thank you, Amanda, for finding this so I could. (She grabbed the audio off of this a couple years back, and I totally listened to this on my iPod while I was on the elliptical the other day.) Enjoy!

"Mama this is happy Halloween, to you . . . "

Friday, October 30, 2009

With a hip hip, and a clippity clop…

Anna Marie and I watched Ichabod and Mr. Toad last week, and I forgot how much I loved those old Disney cartoons. But that is totally not what this blog post is about.

First, let me explain how the car lines works at our school.

We pull up to a covered, curved walkway in front of the school, and there are four or five ladies on the sidewalk, which is on the passenger side. A group of cars stops, and the ladies go down the line, each opening the doors of two or three cars before that group pulls away and another several pull up.

Now, on to what happened this morning:

The truck in front of me had stopped, and one "crossing guard" (that's what they're called, even though no one is crossing anything) opened the door. Anna Marie was getting out at the same time, so I was half paying attention, when the other crossing guard screamed.

Apparently, someone in the truck was wearing a mask, and she was startled - which brought back some elementary school Halloween memories for me that I hadn't thought of in YEARS.

For me, in elementary and middle school, it got to the point where eventually my mom let me stay home on Halloween. Between the boys scaring the bejeezus out of me with their ugly masks, and the librarians telling ghost stories in the library (WHO'S GOT MY GOLDEN ARM?), I didn't sleep well for weeks.

I hope Anna Marie was having a better time of it today, and I suppose she would - she's not as easily frightened when I was her age.

Case in point: when we were watching the movie last week, and Ichabod Crane was trying to get over the bridge and get home. Every time Ichabod would get scared by something, she'd say, "Dude. It's just a tree." Or, "Dude, it's just a frog." Or, "Dude, it's just some plants beating on a log."

No joke.

So this weekend, as you're eating more chocolate than the law allows (and believe me, I've gotten a head start on you) don't be scared. Just remember: Dude. It's just the wind.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Kroger shakedown!

I've decided to start posting my Kroger Shakedown here each week.

For one, it'll motivate me to save as much as possible, much like my old-school weigh- ins did.

For another, it'll give me a reason to blog AT LEAST once a week.

I am a sad, sad blogger.

Anyhow, I didn't take a picture like some do - and now, we've eaten some of the stuff, so it's a bit late for all that. Mostly, I don't take pictures of my shopping trips because I don't have a space to do so.

(Yes, I have a dining room table. But that would mean I'd have to clean it off, and that isn't happening anytime soon.)


So, here's my list:

2 boxes of Post Shredded Wheat
2 boxes of Fiber One Bars
2 boxes of Nature Valley Granola Bars
1 box of Chex Mix Bars
1 bag of Natures Valley Nut Clusters (these actually MADE me 50 cents!)

Editor's note: I realize there are lots of granola products at my house right now. Jason eats the bars for breakfast, and we snack on them, and the ones I buy ARE better than candy bars.

1 can of Bush's Chili Magic
1 can of Kroger black beans
1 can of Lysol
2 bags of Kroger 2% shredded cheddar
2 packages of Bic Soliel disposable razors (for 19 cents each!)
4 bags of Hershey's candy (for school parties, and one of these was free!)
1 bottle of Sunny D Smoothie
1 package of Dole diced peaches
A bunch of bananas
1 bag of navel oranges

Total before sales/coupons: $83.40 (Folks, that is CRAZY!)
Total savings with sales/coupons: $53.78
Total out of pocket: $29.62
Total savings: 66%

It was pretty awesome to hear that cashier say that my total (after sale prices, but before coupons) was $66, and hand him over $30 worth of coupons. I LOVE seeing that total drop, drop, and drop some more. I also feel that what I paid was more "in line" with what I think the food was worth. No way did I have $84 worth of food in my cart, but $29 sounds a lot more reasonable to me.

I realize that a lot of other "coupon-ers" save much more than I do, but I think it's proportional: I don't have but three mouths to feed, and we don't eat lunch at home every day (but, thanks to a development I'll be announcing in the next couple of days, PINKY PROMISE, we probably will be). I don't have to buy diapers or formula. And I haven't had to buy much meat in the last couple of weeks, because I usually buy it when it goes on sale at a grocery store here in town (which is not known for great sales, but does have pretty good sales on meat occasionally.) If I had a grocery budget of $150 a week, I obviously could do more, proportionally speaking.

Also, our Kroger stores don't ever triple coupons, like some stores do, so I miss out on that. And, Red Plum doesn't insert into our Sunday papers here anymore. They do send their inserts in the mail, but not in my town - I have to rely on my sister, who lives in Memphis, getting them and remembering to bring them to me when I see her every week or two, so I miss those coupons as well.

Well, like I said a minute ago, I've got some pretty great news up in here, so stay tuned!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The beauty of a stockpile

(What? Are you KIDDING? Of course this isn't my pantry. I don't really have a pantry, just a small-ish cabinet in my small-ish kitchen, that I can only use the bottom two shelves in with any regularity, because I am MAD SHORT, yo!)

So anyway, back to my post title: THE BEAUTY OF A STOCKPILE.

Have you tried The Grocery Game yet? No? Then you totally should. And then you TOTALLY should tell them that I sent you, because if enough of you guys do that, then I get something free (I think it's a free month or some such).

One of the major tenets of The Grocery Game is stockpiling. That means, when something is on your "list" (a.k.a., its at the lowest sale price for that cycle, and there's a coupon or other special promotion) that you get as many of that something as you can. Eventually, you get to "cherry picking," which means that your stockpile is so well stocked that you don't need to spend very much at the store at all.

For instance: on Monday night, Jason got called to my dad's house unexpectedly because there was someone over there to help him fix the door on his van (which hasn't closed completely in about a month.) It was close to dinner time, and Anna Marie was spending the night over there anyway, so I told him not to hold up going on my account. I had plenty of stuff to eat at home, and he could eat over there. I didn't have to spend money to go out to eat - I had a Lean Cuisine pizza in my freezer, that had cost me $1.30 apiece!

Earlier that afternoon, my mom had called at lunch to say that she wasn't feeling well, and could I bring her some chicken noodle soup? Why, yes I could - I had gotten four cans of Campbell's Soup the week prior, at a cost of about $0.30 a can. I didn't have to stop at the store and pay God-knows-what. It cost me less than 1/3 of $1 to help someone who needed it.

Last night, it was cold and rainy and we were all tired. Perfect chili weather! I reached into my cupboard, pulled out three cans (one can of Bush's Chili Magic, one can of black beans, and one can of Hunt's Petite Diced Tomatoes) and in just a few minutes, viola! Dinner was served - low fat, low cost, and pretty dang delicious - complete with a bag of shredded 2% milk cheese (on sale) and two different kinds of hot sauce (either free or $0.50 a bottle, depending on the kind).

Anna Marie has been tearing up some Quaker Instant Grits, which I purchased for $1.50 for a 12-pack.

See where I'm going with this?

The same applies with our health and beauty goods. Jason uses a particular brand of aftershave, which normally costs about $6 or $7 a bottle. I got two bottles for $9 at Walgreens a couple of weeks ago, and they gave me four of my dollars back as Register Rewards! Sweet! Now, when he runs out, he can reach into the cabinet for a $2.50 bottle instead of sending me to the store to spend $7.

When I run out of shampoo and conditioner (which will probably be in the next week) I have two bottles of Suave in my bathroom cabinet waiting on me, which cost me $0.50 each.

I don't pay over $2 for a box of brand name cereal - even my beloved Fiber One, which normally sells for nearly $4 a box. I paid $1.25 for the last four boxes I bought, about six weeks ago, and I just now opened the last box this morning. I might buy four or six boxes at a time, instead of one each week, but the savings are well worth it.

I find that I'm keeping more ingredients in my kitchen, which means that I'm trying different recipes that I'd normally avoid (because I HATE buying something just to try a recipe.)

When you stockpile, you don't buy everything, every week. You spend your money on one thing one week, and another thing another week, until you have a supply that will last a while.

Some weeks, I just get milk and bread, and fresh produce at the store. And if something happens and I can't get to the store on my regular shopping day, we have food to last us - where in the past, it would mean another time to dine out.

Jason loves it, because I am SO much more organized at the store now. It saves us time, and money, and helps me be better at planning our meals around what I've got and what's on sale. If I had more money (and/or more space) I could probably do more stockpiling, but hey - it's just the three of us. I don't usually buy stuff we wouldn't eat, but I do occasionally for something to take to our small group meetings.

So, if and when you can, I highly advise starting a stockpile of your own. Because having cans in your cabinet (and veggies in your freezer, and free toothpaste in your bathroom) is like having money in the bank.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Dear Anna Marie,

Eight years ago, I was awakened in the middle of the night with an impossible amount of pain.

After trying, in vain, to get back to sleep, I went to the couch to see how quickly that pain was recurring. After all, I was a whole week past due, and I was scheduled to be at the hospital in a few hours to have my labor induced.

(That means they were going to give me some medicine to make me have you, by the way.)

However, you had decided, on your own, that you were coming. NOW. Not sometime later in the morning. NOW.

As I lay on the couch, I picked up a piece of paper and a pen, and my watch. I timed the pain as I watched QVC, and wished like heck it was really the real deal this time, because I sure was ready for it to be.

(What? Of COURSE I was watching QVC at 3 a.m. It was a fashion show - Susan Grave Style maybe? It was October, and I was looking forward to new fall fashions!)

After about an hour, I tried to get your dad to get out of bed and take me to the hospital. Showing an COMPLETE lack of understanding of the situation, he advised me to go back to sleep - it would make me feel better.


When I finally convinced him to drive me (the threat that I'd drive myself if he didn't probably played into his decision) we put your carseat into the van and went into the dark South Carolina night - we figured we were leaving a family of two, and we'd return a family of three.

I didn't even bother waking up your Gramma or Aunt Manda, just in case.

After getting stopped by the train which ran outside of the hospital - a scenario which we'd joked about many times en route to my doctor's appointments - we were put in a room just as the sun was rising.

Many hours, and much pain (and not very much medication AT ALL) later, there you were - the spitting image of your dad, Gramma's little Pea Snap, nothing like me at all except for your blue eyes - which your Nanny was convinced were only temporary.

What Dr. Middlebrooks said about you after he met you for the first time - that you were the "brightest baby in the nursery" has proven to be truer than we could've imagined. From the beginning, you were inquisitive, strong willed - and always afraid you'd miss something if you allowed yourself to fall asleep.

Being your mother has been more challenging, and more rewarding, than I could've imagined then either. I shudder to think of all of the lessons from God that I would have missed had you not come into my life.

Happy birthday, Little One. I hope that eight turns out to be as great as you thought it would be. I am excited to see how you'll grow - and how I'll grow - over this next year.

Love, your mom (who would have been HAPPY to be called "mama" for a few more years, except you decided on your fifth birthday that you were too big to do so. Not true!)