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Viewing the 'Food Costs and Healthy Eating' Category

One PotatOH, two PotatOH...

July 8th, 2006 at 03:27 pm

Yesterday a mysterious package arrived on our porch, a UPS 2nd day air box, from Colorado, filled with something heavy. I couldn't imagine what it could be... Here, the Express PotatOH! people had actually sent me 4 of their microwavable baking potatoes to replace the 2 moldy ones I'd complained about.

I feel kind of bad that they went to the expense of sending out a 4 lb package of potatoes. (Maybe someone should tell them about free item coupons?) But I'm glad to essentially get double my money back on them. They look fine, nice and fresh.

Smuckers' response was excellent, too. I'd written them about their sugar-free preserves, which I didn't like the taste of. They sent me two free-product coupons to replace the two jars I couldn't face eating. The really impressive thing was, within 24 hours of my email they actually called me on the phone to ask some questions (such as the product codes on my jars). Within the week, the coupons were here.

It really only takes a few minutes to email a company about a problem (especially with the aid of Flash's contact list), and very satisfying when you get a response.

The Tea Solution

July 6th, 2006 at 05:02 pm

Thanks for all the comments from those who shared my disbelief over the teakettle that couldn't boil water. It definitely was a kettle, not a teapot--there was a whistle, and everything. This is the dumb thing, here:

www.target.com/gp/detail.html/sr=1-4/qid=1152204615/ref=sr_1...

I notice they haven't posted my bad review yet. Wink I did manage to get my money back without having the box, although I had to dig in my heels a bit.

Kudos to the Lipton tea people, though. They do still make the unsweetened tea! I was googling around and came across their online store. If I couldn't find it locally, I could order it online direct from them.

But even better, they had a "store finder" feature that's better than any I've seen. You can actually search for a store that carries the specific product you are looking for, instead of getting a list of stores who happen to carry the brand.

I found out only one grocery chain in my area carries this specific stuff, Acme. I never go there, hence I never see the product. So I made a special trip today and am drinking some as I type. Smile It's funny how little comforts like this can make your day, even when more important stuff is going on.

Whew, I can stop teakettle shopping, too!

Grrr... Product Rant

July 5th, 2006 at 04:37 pm

I didn't really want to buy a tea kettle in the first place, but...

I used to be able to get powdered instant tea by Nestea or Lipton, in a glass jar, with no sweetener or lemon flavor. Just plain, dehydrated tea. You even had a choice of regular or decaf. Now all I can find is sweetened, whether with sugar or artificial sweetener.

OK, so I'll make my own iced tea. But I got tired of spilling water or tea every time I tried to pour it from a regular pan. So when I was at Target, I picked up a tea kettle for $9.99. I didn't really want to spend the money, and I don't really have the storage space for it, but it seems like a necessity at this point.

So I go to wash it out and use it, and find the use and care instructions. In large, bold letters it says you can't use it on high heat!!! On either a gas or electric stove!!! How the heck do you get the water to the boiling point on medium heat? I gave up after half an hour.

I've written a one star review on Target's website, and I'm seriously thinking of writing a letter to Copco. I used to think that was a decent brand, and most of Target's stuff is decent quality. This was a total let-down; a completely useless product. I just hope Target will take it back, being I already discarded the box.

At this point, I still don't have an easy way to make myself some plain iced tea. Grrr.

Joys of a half-empty fridge

June 17th, 2006 at 11:52 am

Our fridge is looking emptier and emptier lately, as a result of a slower shopping pace. If anyone looked in it day before yesterday, they'd think we were flat broke.

Yesterday morning I thought I'd get a head start on dinner and make up my salmon patty mixture. It was a pleasure to be able to actually fit the bowl in the fridge. There was still more room, and I still had time. So I made chocolate pudding and mixed up a pitcher of diet lemonade. Also hard-boiled the end of the eggs.

I like the idea of cooking from scratch and making things ahead, but rarely do it. And now I'm aware of one reason why. Trying to find ingredients in an over-stuffed fridge is hard. Trying to fit prepared foods into same is also hard. So I don't do it.

I'm going to make a conscious effort to get used to the look of a fridge with plenty of open space.

Latest experiment seems to be working

June 10th, 2006 at 11:48 pm

Just finished my first full week of the new month, where I'm trying to spend more slowly by limiting myself to $15 a day. I've ended up right on target, having spent $105 this week (including one take-out dinner of cheese steaks). We've had to do without a couple of things for a day or two, but it hasn't been awful. There always seem to be substitutes, if we look around at home.

Here's a comparison of how I've been spending during the first week of each month:

May $187
April $198
March $167
February $212
January $254

Obviously, the pace IS much slower and there should be a lot more money left toward the end of the month. So I will keep going with it for now.



$15 a day - First Day

June 4th, 2006 at 04:36 pm

Thanks to some good sales, I was able to get quite a bit for less than $15.

IGA, one day sale on deli ham and cheese (1/2 pound each), plus a large carton of fat-free half and half, $5.27

Stop and Shop, Kraft buy 5 get $5 off promotion, used some coupons, and I got:
bread, a tomato, cottage cheese, cheese crumbles, two bars of 2% fat Cracker Barrel, soft light cream cheese with chives, a large bag of chips, and chow mein noodles for $8.58. The receipt says I saved $14.84.

Total, $13.85. The only thing we are missing is something dessert-y. I might make some peanut butter cookies this afternoon. Other than that, we have plenty of food to hold us for the next few days.

NJ on $15 a day

May 31st, 2006 at 12:20 pm

It's that time again--almost to the end of my 4-week "month" of May (ending June 3). Again, not happy with how I've managed my Everyday Expenses budget.

So I've come up with a money game to try in June: Each day I have $15 to spend, and can only go over if there's a surplus left from previous days.

My natural tendency is to stock up at the beginning of the month, when there's finally a new batch of money to spend. I'm just not very good at estimating a month ahead what we're really going to need or what's going to happen. Work schedules change, people get sick, cars break down-- and then I wish I had cash on hand for pizza, instead of a freezer full of pork chops.

Also, when sales are too good to pass up, I can't pass them up, and end up having too much money tied up in toilet paper or something.

This way I'll be forced to pace myself through the month, not go overboard on sales, and I'll always have the option of using part of the day's $15 for take-out or some forgotten item, if necessary.








An investment that pays 400%

May 23rd, 2006 at 01:29 pm

Try paying for coupons. (Actually, the sellers all specify you are paying for the service of having the coupons clipped rather than for the coupons themselves. Legal issue, I guess.) I'm so pleased with how this has been going for me lately, I figured I'd post about it.

I set up a lot of saved searches on Ebay, and each morning I get an email with links to auctions that match the search. (I also have searches set up for gift cards and other products I'm looking for.)

This morning I saw a lot of (6) $1 coupons for cat food our cat likes. I snapped them up immediately for $1.19. If I'm figuring this right, I'll be saving $4.81 by spending the $1.19, which means I've increased my purchasing power by 404%.

I've learned to be careful about getting more than I can use before the expiration date. I've seen lots of 20 of this same coupon, but passed on them because I'd never use them in time. 6, I will use.

I also use a non-Ebay clipping service, where you can choose individual coupons in the specific quantities you need. I'm using www.cnfcentral.com (formerly Dab's Forms) because you don't have to get multiples of each coupon you choose. If I only get Worcestershire sauce once a year, I don't want to be forced into buying 5 coupons for it. But if you want multiples anyway, there are many other sources. A good discussion on them is here: www.dealagogo.com/showthread.php?t=31959

Since I'm getting so much at Aldi now, there are only a limited number of name brand items I can use coupons for. This targeted approach gives me a quick way to find the specific ones I can use.

TOPS, and Weight Loss Plan B

April 27th, 2006 at 08:33 pm

Sorry so many posts in one day!

As I posted before, I was going to try TOPS (Take Off Pounds Sensibly) as it was about the lowest cost weight loss organization I could find. My plan was to visit the local chapters my schedule would allow, and then settle on one to attend every week. The cost was supposed to be $24 a year, and $1 a week to the local chapter.

Yes, the dues are $1 a week but more is expected to be put out, if you're going to go along with the group and fit in.

The smaller, laid-back group played bingo regularly and other little contests that cost money. It would have been a minimum of $3 a week even there. Not much, but they told me flat out they only had "fun" programs, as they'd all been trying to lose weight for a long time and knew what to do. It was just a matter of doing it. I didn't see much chance for support and inspiration there.

The larger, more active group had raffles and 50-50 drawings. Plus they were very enthused about attending the state level events every year. Which can involve fees, special shirts so everyone matches, renting a hotel room, etc. I could see there would always be pressure to spend more than I wanted to, if I wasn't always going to be the odd bird. For the amount of money I'd end up spending with them, I might as well be going to Weight Watchers or rejoining the gym.

So, I'm going online only.

4-week report

April 8th, 2006 at 10:44 pm

Total cc debt as of 4/8 - $3537, ($3906 on 3/11), down by $369

Emergency fund as of 4/8 - $511, ($441 on 3/11), up by $70

We aren't quite caught up to where we were as of February 11, but we're moving in the right direction again.

Everyday expenses 4 weeks ending 4/8, $506, which is fine. Anything around $545 or under, I feel pretty good about.


I think it was a very good month, especially considering--

It was quarterly utilities month, about $190 for water and two sewer bills (one municipal and one county)
It was time to put money on the Virgin Mobile phones, about $111
It was our nephew's birthday, which required a gift, $20
I did quite a bit of discretionary spending on clothes, about $115
Joined TOPS, $24
Bought that beer! $18

I did charge quite a bit of this for convenience and the rewards, but paid it off right away. It helped that I worked some extra hours, and we didn't have to pay an electric bill this month.

Today's money-generating task was calling Discover card, and trying to cancel. I really was ready to cancel, as there isn't much reason for me to keep it. But I figured if they made me an offer I couldn't refuse, I'd keep it awhile longer. Wink They did--a $20 rebate when I make a purchase within 30 days. Smile

Cost per pound lost

April 6th, 2006 at 01:35 pm

Thought I'd post some interesting stuff I found online, about the cost to lose a pound using different weight loss programs. It really reinforces my decision to try TOPS. I may not be successful in getting and keeping much weight off, but at least I won't bankrupt myself in trying:

From http://www.naafa.org/press_room/rush.html

(costs per pound lost)

"Medically supervised, very low calorie diets
HMR $7.94
Medifast $6.85
Optifast $9.88
United Weight Control $11.56

Balanced low calorie diets run by dietitians or non-medical personnel
Diet Center $4.08
Jenny Craig $10.43
Nutrisystems $8.62
Registered Dietitian $5.80
Weight Watchers $1.10

Volunteer-staffed or self-health support groups
TOPS (Take Off Pounds Sensibly) $0.03
Overeaters Anonymous $0.00
Source: Journal of the American College of Nutrition"



From http://www.guideline.gov/summary/summary.aspx?ss=15&doc_id=3...

"COST ANALYSIS
It is not known whether weight-loss interventions are cost effective or cost beneficial, given that weight loss is generally not sustained. Studies suggest that a sustained 10% weight loss is expected to extend life expectancy by 27 months and to reduce expected lifetime medical care costs of chronic medical conditions (diabetes, hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, coronary artery disease, and stroke) by $2200$5300. One study suggests that surgical intervention may be more cost effective in the long run than medical treatments because of persistent weight reduction after surgery. However, in that study the average cost per pound of weight loss was approximately $250."

(Makes you wonder if it's worthwhile to deprive yourself for years, to extend your life only 2 months and save only $2200!)


From http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A45499-2005Jan...

"Price is likely to put many of the programs beyond reach of those trying to achieve a healthy weight, the study found. The medically supervised programs, which also provided food, cost the most, ranging from $840 to $2,100 for three months, or "about $50 per pound lost," Wadden said.

Jenny Craig cost $1,249 for three months, including all daily food. Both Weight Watchers and L.A. Weight Loss cost about $170 for three months, while Ediets.com was $65, TOPS $26 and OA had no charge."

Car inspection, and gift cards

April 4th, 2006 at 01:51 pm

These are my little money tasks for the day.

I haven't posted about this before, but I'm doing something different with the the PNC account I opened awhile back. I found out I could split the direct deposit of my paycheck, so I now have $140 a week going into the PNC account. That's just enough to cover the Everyday Expenses budget, the newspaper subscription and Netflix.

My current Everyday Expenses cycle is over on April 8, and there isn't much left in the budget. But there IS money left in the PNC account, because part of the spending was from Petsmart gift cards. So I'm using part of the extra cash to buy more discounted gift cards, which will help even more cash build up in the account. Kind of a snowball effect.

It's car inspection month for me, and I think I'll get it done this morning. I'm anxious to do the Netbank checking account offer for $75, but they want you to keep a $500 balance for at least a month. Before I tie up that money, I want to know how much I might have to spend to get the car up to snuff.

Weight, again

March 27th, 2006 at 02:45 pm

OK. The last time I wrote about trying to lose weight was back in January, and I've gained 4 pounds since then. Right now (at 231 lbs) I'm only 7 pounds lighter than my absolute worst weight. As you know, I'm overdue for a doctor's appointment, and I fully expect a lecture and an increase in my bp medication. Oddly enough, the more pressure I've put on myself to lose weight before my next appointment, the more food I've been shoveling in. It has to stop.

I know I can lose weight, and I know that having an official program to follow, and some kind of support group, really helps--because I've done it before. The problem is, I think I need something that I can stick with for the rest of my life. And the cost of such a thing is a huge factor.

Over the years I've signed up for Weight Watchers (several times), Jenny Craig, and various gyms. You always reach a point where things aren't going well. Your weight hits a plateau. Something happens in your life that makes it hard to get to meetings or to the gym. It's hard enough to stick out the plateau, or get back in the swing of the program. If money is tight as well, it's awfully hard to keep shelling out money for something that doesn't seem to be working, or you don't have time for at the moment.

I can just see someone in one of those places wagging their finger at me, saying if I was really committed to lose weight, I'd spend the money to keep up my membership, or to buy the latest gadget the company is trying to sell. That kind of guilt-inducing salesmanship makes you feel like even more of a failure. You leave feeling not like someone who's making a good budget decision, but a fat, undisciplined loser.

So I've signed up for TOPS (Take Off Pounds Sensibly). It's a nonprofit group, which I'm hoping makes a difference. There's a yearly fee of $24, which includes a magazine. I found the basic guidebook on Ebay for $7.50 shipped. If you go to actual in-person meetings, there are local chapter dues (very small, from what I've read), and you might have to pay a 50-cent fine on a week when you gain weight. But you can do it completely online if you need to, and save on the chapter dues. I think that money-wise, it's something I can stick with over the long haul. Wish me luck!

Great day at Entenmann's Outlet :)

March 20th, 2006 at 03:45 pm

I had an early errand to run, and since I had some extra time and was near the Entenmann's Outlet, I figured I'd stop in.

A long while back I stopped counting on them as my main source of bread and rolls. Too often I'd go in and they'd be completely wiped out of regular bread. But if you hit them on a good day, it can be worthwhile.

Today I got all this for $5.03--hot cross buns, crumb cake, 16 hot dog rolls, multigrain bread, and onion rolls. All of them with expiration dates almost a week away. They were running a buy 2 get one free deal on the bread and rolls. I got the crumb cake free because I'd filled up my frequent-buyer card. And I think they plain forgot to charge me for one item.

The full retail value if I'd paid full price at the supermarket would have been over $17. This is going to stock the freezer for awhile. Smile

Neat Aldi Menus

March 16th, 2006 at 04:51 pm

I was googling around this morning, trying to get some new inspiration for thrifty food shopping. I stumbled upon a neat website where someone has put together sets of fall/winter and spring/summer menus using only items that can be bought at Aldi's.

This is the page for the fall/winter menus.

http://www.momadvice.com/food/aldi_meal_plan_fall1.asp

Go to page 2 for the shopping list, then the menus and recipes start. There's a link to the spring/summer menus in the first paragraph of page 1.

I found a few recipes I'd actually try, plus some good general ideas. Like cooking frozen ravioli in the crockpot right with the sauce. No more waiting for water to boil. Smile

Also, on another site, someone was talking about price books and said they base theirs on Aldi prices. Because it's not worth running to a sale unless a price is lower than you could get at Aldi's every day. Sounds like a good idea to me.

Easing back in

March 6th, 2006 at 03:28 pm

DMom's computer is set up and at her house. I'm finally feeling back to normal after being sick. The snow is gone. And I'm finally starting to feel caught up with paperwork and household stuff. So it's time to come back.

I knew I was going to be over budget for this 4-week Everyday Expenses cycle, but I just ran a report this morning that showed me how bad it is. So far I'm well over $600 with nearly a week to go. By the time I get gas one more time and go to Petsmart, it could reach $700.

I know it was because I was short on time, what with extra projects, being sick, and dealing with the snow. But things like this happen all the time, and I can't be running over budget every time they do. So I looked things over to see if I could figure it out.

The main thing I noticed was, if I get to Aldi's once or twice in a month, I'm within my budget. If I don't get there, and especially if I'm going to Stop and Shop instead, I'm way over budget. So the key seems to be MAKE TIME FOR ALDI's, no matter what else is going on in my life. And try to stay out of Stop and Shop.

Weight still on my mind

January 23rd, 2006 at 12:57 am

I've spent a lot of the past few days trying to figure out how to approach my own weight loss, on a budget. I'm 4 pounds over my highest weight last year, and due to check back with the dr soon about my blood pressure. I've got to do something, but I'm going to try and solve the problem with my wits, rather than just throwing money at it. No Weight Watchers, no magic $27 diet4idiots.com, no expensive gym membership.

I've kind of settled on these approaches:

--Keep a food diary in a notebook, like I did last year. I'm not counting calories right now, just keeping honest.

--Do some kind of advance food prep each and every day so I always have some healthy food ready to eat. When I'm hungry I want to eat NOW and grab whatever's handy, or stop for take-out. I forget who all have been cooking up a storm, but people have mentioned making pancakes ahead, freezing lasagna and so forth. That's been quite inspirational; glad you posted about it.

--Portion control. Have come across some novel approaches. I've put in an ILL for a book called the New American Plate, where they have you divide your plate into 3/4 plant based foods, 1/4 meat. Also read about The Pocket Diet, where your meal can be anything that fits into a 6-inch pita pocket! Not surprisingly, invented by a pita manufacturer. Wink

--Exercise. (I finally managed my planned 2x a week, the end of last week).

--Keep to the same grocery budget I've stuck to the past 8 weeks. Produce and cottage cheese really aren't that expensive if I get them at Aldi's. And if I'm eating a bit less, you'd think that would balance out buying slightly more expensive items. We shall see.

I've been doing a lot of reading online, and found several interesting studies where they're trying to explain why lower income=obesity. People living in dangerous neighborhoods go outside less and hence get less exercise. A group of low-income people in Great Britain were given access to cheaper, more plentiful produce on the assumption they weren't eating it because of the price. But their eating habits didn't actually change. Finally, while 10 or 20 years ago there was a strong correlation between low income and obesity, currently the rate is about 30% of the population in all income groups. Things that make you say hmmm...

Weight and Wealth

January 19th, 2006 at 01:36 pm

I came across a documentary the other day, being played on one of our public tv stations. It was called When Ends Don't Meet, and followed several families who'd be called the working poor--except for one couple where the husband wanted to work but couldn't, or his cancer-striken wife would lose her Medicaid coverage.

One thing that struck me was how most of the adults in the families were overweight. I can think of one mother who looked in good shape, and two husbands who only had small bellies. The rest seemed to be really obese. It struck me as odd, because when I think of poverty the picture in my mind is of starving, skinny folks during the Great Depression or in third world countries.

Since I've always had both weight and money management difficulties myself, it got me thinking about about common denominators. These folks didn't appear to be particularly lazy or inactive. If you are on your feet every day waitressing, and are raising 5 or 6 kids, you probably get a good workout. Wink Eating junky, fattening foods because they are filling and cheaper than healthier ones? Also eating them for pleasure because it's cheaper than other forms of recreation? Actual changes in your metabolism because of being under stress for long periods of time? A slight brain dysfunction where you have trouble keeping track of income and outgo, in terms of calories as well as money? Or just being so consumed by trying to make ends meet that you just don't pay attention to diet and exercise?

I know in my case I do seem to gain weight when we've had a long stretch of money worries, but I still can't say for sure why that is.

It got me curious enough to go ahead and order a book on Amazon that I've had on my wishlist a long time. It's called The Weight and Wealth Factors, by Angie Hollerich. For $1.12 plus shipping, using a discounted gift certificate, I figured I'd go for it. If I get any great insights from it, I'll report back. In the meantime, would be curious if anybody else has thoughts on the subject.

Four-week report

January 15th, 2006 at 08:55 pm

Thanks for the encouraging comments, guys, it helps. Some days I just reach my limit, and I guess Friday was that kind of day...

OK, raise or not, insurance problem or not, the 4 weeks ending yesterday did not go badly at all.

Once again, my grocery spending was $287, same as the last time. I'm hoping this means I've gotten into some sort of groove, with knowing how much food we really need and how much I should try to stock up and do rebates.

Overall Everyday Expenses totaled $502. For comparison, here's how it's been going over past 4-week periods:

July--743
August--499
September--742
October--547
November--652
December--546

So, it was the second best since I started keeping track.

Credit card debt went from $4016 to $3829, down $187
Emergency savings went from $166 to $272, up $106

I'm pretty satisfied with that, considering I paid two yearly vet visits in cash, bought quite a few household items, got through Christmas, and had a car repair.

I wanted to track how many "deals" I did. There were 11:
0% cc deal with HSBC
$25 Mazda test drive
Filtrete rebate
Credit Protector rebate
5 regular grocery rebates
Emailed Campbell Soup with a complaint (due to receive coupons, but haven't arrived yet)
Emailed Birds Eye with a compliment (received 5 coupons)

Still reading up a storm, and not exercising much. Frown

DH and I are getting ready to go out for a steak dinner. I have a $10 coupon for my birthday, and we haven't been out alone since well before the holidays. It's still nice getting out with DMom, but it's just not the same as a date. Wink

Goals for next four weeks (thru Dec. 17)

November 20th, 2005 at 01:15 pm

My debt reduction goals are to get the Discover down to $2124 and the Sony down to $1505. The Citi gets paid off each month anyway, so what the balance happens to be on a certain date doesn't have much meaning.

I want to read 2 books a week, for a total of 8.

I want to do aerobic exercise at least 2x a week, for a total of 8x.

I'd like to try and keep the Groceries part of my Everday Expenses down to $230, based on the USDA Thrifty Plan. Not to say we won't spend money on take-out, but I'd like to see if I can keep the food Must Haves to that basic level. I don't really expect to succeed--but it's a goal to shoot for.

Speaking of food costs, there's a cookbook I'd like to get hold of again--my public library had a copy years ago, but weeded it. Frown It's called Good Recipes for Hard Times, by Louise Newton. I've searched online, and there are only a few copies available, ranging from about $35 to nearly $100. (I know price on used books is largely based on rarity, but gee--if the book is geared toward people having hard times, how much are they going to be able to pay for it?) She has shopping lists and menus designed to keep you fed for *less* than the cheapest USDA food plan. There are some interesting blog entries about the book here: http://mungooftheshire.blogspot.com/2005_06_01_mungooftheshire_archive.html and here: http://mungooftheshire.blogspot.com/2005/06/grocery-bills-redux.html

I guess another goal in the back of my mind is to get my hands on that book. I wonder if any booksellers who have it would take another valuable old book or two in trade...

Little bits and pieces

October 18th, 2005 at 12:21 pm

Yesterday went well, especially considering it was a Monday. It's my longest day out of the house, and the morning is usually spent trying to catch up on the weekend mess. Usually I run out of the house late, having left things undone and feeling behind. This week I actually got to work early, and had lots of stuff ready to take to the post office on my dinner hour. I got a lot done at work, too. So I treated myself to a caramel-flavored coffee for $1.05 on the way back from dinner--positive reinforcement. Smile

What I got into the mail were: 2 rebate offers, 1 prescription reimbursement form, 1 package of awful correction pens (they're supposed to send me a new, better product), and a book that sold on Amazon. All little bits and pieces that will help us keep in the black.

I wonder if anyone else has had this experience--on the prescription reimbursement form, they asked for the prescribing doctor's DEA number. All the other info they wanted was on my receipt, except this. I called my doctor's office and they wouldn't give it to me--they put me on hold a long time, and passed me from person to person. What it came down to was, they said don't give that information out to patients because it could be used fraudulently. They kind of made me feel like a drug-addicted criminal, just for asking! And I'm sure the number is on the prescription forms they hand out every day, anyway. All this hassle just to get $7 back from Blue Cross for blood pressure medicine. What I ended up doing was putting on the form, doctor's office will not provide, please call them at xxx-xxx-xxxx. We'll see what happens.

There were booksales at two libraries this past weekend, but DH and I each had our own reasons for skipping them. DH ran short of cash last week, when he overdid it at the last booksale we went to. I felt very behind after spending so much time on the car repairs last week, and just wanted to stay home and catch up. I'm sure we won't have long to wait for another sale to go to, though. Like they stay about streetcars and men, another one is always just around the corner. Wink

I was supposed to be cutting back on groceries and such this month and next, to catch up on overspending in September. But now it's turkey time at all the supermarkets, where if you spend a certain amount you get the free turkey or ham or a % off your next shopping trip. And, there are a lot of sales going on at Pathmark for things we'll need over the next few months anyway. So I'm continuing to spend, and stocking up. Beyond getting a deal, it just feels good to see a full pantry and know that in the next snowstorm all I'll need to do is walk up to Eckerd's on the corner for milk. One thing I'm trying to do is make one rebate purchase a week at Pathmark. The purchase goes toward the free whatever, but it's not actually money spent because of the rebate.

Am almost caught up on watching all the Monarch of the Glen episodes that are on DVD. They play it on public tv around here, but I'd missed some episodes so I've been borrowing it from the library. There is something very satisfying about watching upper-crusty people, living in a castle, having to learn to cut down and pinch pennies...

Rethinking take-out

October 8th, 2005 at 05:29 pm

No, I'm not going to try and cut it out. Take-out dinners once or twice a week help save my sanity. And frankly, DH would like to live on burgers, cheesesteaks, hoagies and pizza if I'd let him, anyway. It's a part of our life and I just have to keep the costs under control.

It's been pretty easy the past few months because of a pizzeria we discovered recently. I was counting on their $6 pizzas every Tuesday, plus cheesesteak/fries combos they had good coupons out for. The problem is, they seem to have gone out of business already! Frown I guess they couldn't make money selling the food so cheaply. It's a shame, because the food was good.

So now I have to get creative, and be more attentive to other deals that are out there.

I'll definitely be buying more Wendy's and maybe Burger King gift certificates through Passport To Fun.

I went through the Entertainment Book that expires Nov 1, to see what restaurants let you use the coupons for take-out. There are a lot that sound like regular restaurants, but don't say "dine in only," so they look like a possibility. (It's like pulling teeth to get DH out to a restaurant, so we might as well use them for take-out.) I found a post here about a free trial for the Entertainment Book which lets you print out 3 online coupons without buying the new book. And I called AAA to find out what their price was for the new books. ($5 off and no shipping because you pick it up at the AAA office.)

The only other thing I can think of right now is remembering to order Chinese food at work before 3 p.m., so we get it at the lunchtime price. The only difference is, you get a can of soda instead of an egg roll. Usually I don't think to do it til the end of the day; I'll just have to plan better.

Crazy Eights Sale

October 2nd, 2005 at 10:28 am

I feel like I've made up for lots of mistakes through a great sale at Stop and Shop.

I could see from the circular that their Crazy Eights sale was a good deal. You bought 8 items from a particular group of products, and got an $8 coupon to use later. Since many of the items were only $1, you basically got them for free. What they didn't say in the circular, that I only found out from a message board, was that you could do this over and over again. You could even take the first $8 coupon and use it to buy the 2nd group of 8 products, and so forth, so you hardly had to put out any actual money. I didn't know about this til late in the week, but I still managed to go 4 times!

I used 2 of the coupons and still have 2 to use this week--on things like B1G1F chicken, and Ragu on sale for which I also have coupons. Because of all the stocking up I've been able to do for practically nothing, it's not going to be hard at all to keep to my reduced food budget this month. Whew! Thank goodness for: Stop & Shop's sale, the info I can get on the internet, working part-time, and storage space.

Also, our property tax rebate of $350 arrived in our bank account yesterday, instead of October 15 as I expected. Saturday was a good day. Smile

Yikes! September numbers

September 30th, 2005 at 11:21 am

Yesterday I caught up on recording my spending, and was finally able to run my September Everyday Expenses report in Quicken. (My September ran through September 24.) It was painful to see--I was $281 over what I'd planned.

OK, maybe the gas and food expenses for our day trip to the shore shouldn't be in there. Subtract $50. Maybe the money I spent on haircolor for the P&G rebate shouldn't be counted under groceries. Subtract $10. And maybe subtract the amount of money I'll be getting back on all the rebates I did, $68. That still leaves me $158 over budget. Not good.

Looking back, I know exactly why it happened. It's the same old reason--responding to marketing ploys that appeal to my bargain-hunter side.

I won that $100 in groceries, which sounds great. But I usually spend no more than $25 a week at that store because that's all the good deals I can usually find. I was forced to use the money in no more than two trips--they don't use plastic gift cards that get swiped, they'd have to rewrite a gift certificate each time you used a little. So I ended up buying things we didn't need yet, and things that weren't that great a deal, just to get the money spent. So I spent more than I normally would have.

Same problem with Stop and Shop. I had these $5 off $50 coupons--too good to pass up, right? But what if you have to stretch to find things that add up to that $50. I know I spent more there than I really needed to.

Rebates. If I ever mention doing rebates again, please somebody reach through the computer screen and give me a virtual whack on the head. It's just not worth the effort, compared to something like staying home and opening a bank account to get a bonus. Plus it makes me spend money on things I don't need yet, or things that aren't a great price, just to complete the rebate.

Entertainment Book coupons. They run out November 1, so I've been trying to get use out of them. But it's made me spent more money on take-out that I normally would have.

I'm revising my next two months' budgets to be $140 lower, to make up for the $280. It shouldn't be too bad considering what all we already have on hand.

Balancing life a little better

September 22nd, 2005 at 01:17 am

I've been focusing on money now for almost 5 months straight. I wouldn't change what I've been doing--it had to be done. But on top of not building enough fun into my life, I haven't been exercising like I'm supposed to, and the house isn't looking very good. It takes a lot of time to play with the budget, make changes to things like cable service, and track rebates and bonus offers from banks, so other things just haven't gotten done.

There aren't a whole lot of big decisions or projects I can do right now; I'm kind of moving into maintenance mode for awhile. I don't have the extra cash to invest in more than the rebates I've already started, or more discounted gift cards, or new bank accounts. It seems like a good time to try and juggle life generally a little better, until some bills get paid off and I have more financial options.

So. This week I've exercised twice so far. I'm starting to go around the house, decluttering and reorganizing. I need to do some plain old cleaning, which frankly I hate. I like the results, but doing it--yuck!

On an email list I subscribe to, about working on goals, they suggest thinking of something to reward ourselves with as we accomplish various things. I know it might help me slog through the cleaning if I had a reward waiting at the end, but it's hard to think of rewards that are 1) free or cheap and 2) low in calories. Maybe looking for freebies and coupons online should be my reward--no internet on cleaning day until I'm done. Wink

An August goal met

August 27th, 2005 at 09:23 pm

Geez, two posts in a day. But this is what I really meant to post about, to begin with.

For the first time since I started recording everything in Quicken again, I was pretty much within my monthly (4-week) budget for Everyday Expenses (groceries, take-out, pet food and gas). Here's what that means in dollars--May was $653, June was $687, July was $676, and August was down to $505, only $1.60 over where I wanted to be. And the month's ending comfortably. There's gas in the car, a fair stockpile of groceries and I was able to pick up some cheesesteaks for an easy dinner tonight.

I'm not even sure exactly how I managed it. Wink Here are my theories--

I'm kind of learning to budget for gas first, then seeing how much I have left to spend on the other things each week. If it means bologna instead of turkey breast, or more cooking and less take-out one week, that's what happens.

I'm reining in my bargain-hunting compulsion a bit, because it actually tends to make me overspend. I'm trying to buy no more than 2 items at a time when I see a good deal, unless the sale specifices something like "must buy 4."

I finally got around to trying two new stores, the Pepperidge Farm outlet and a produce stand. Both had some great deals. For example, I got a 3-lb bag of green peppers for $1.50, which is often what I have to pay for one pound elsewhere. I'm also watching where I buy milk, since we use about 10 gallons a month and the price can really vary from store to store. I haven't bought seltzer water or diet soda all month, and DH has agreed to one family pack box of TastyKakes a week, instead of two boxes.

I think we're eating less meat, and cheaper meat. (I tried some frozen steaks from Aldi, with so-so results.) DH won't eat beans, but he doesn't mind eggs for dinner once in a while. Also BLT's as long as we have something with them like soup, french fries or corn on the cob.

The $6 pizzas I can get on Tuesdays are a big help with the take-out budget.

I am trying to drive a bit less to save on gas. But right now, it's still worthwhile to drive around for bargains, even with gas prices the way they are. I'll keep doing it until it doesn't make financial sense anymore.


Less time online = more pounds

August 19th, 2005 at 01:06 pm

I check in with the doctor in about 3 weeks, so the other day I thought I'd better get on the scale. Horrors! Not only did I gain back all I'd lost earlier in the year during my health kick--I even regained some pounds I'd lost last summer!

The only thing I can seem to pin it on is being online less. It's the only lifestyle change I've made over the past couple of months, when the weight went up. All I can figure is, when I'm online I'm upstairs (away from the kitchen), my mind is occupied and my hands are busy. I usually take up something to drink, but 99% of the time it's calorie-free, like black coffee.

With this cheap-o plan I'm on, my online time is cut roughly in half. I'm often roaming around downstairs, bored, thinking of what I could be getting done online, and looking for something else to do. I'm probably nibbling as I go, out of boredom and frustration--although I haven't even been aware of it. Also, I've read the more TV you watch, the more you're apt to have a weight problem. I know I've been watching more TV as a substitute (if you can count watching lots of movies).

This is the last straw. For $2 more a month, I can get back to a "normal" amount of online time. There have been times I've been mad at myself for wasting time online, and I was also trying to go the cheapest route possible for ISP expenses. But I know I'd make up the $2 and more, just from having the time to print out a few more grocery coupons. Not to mention the surveys and focus groups I've seen listed on Craigs List and haven't had the online time to pursue.

In any case, it's worth every penny and every minute if it keeps me from pigging out!

My year now has 13 months

August 6th, 2005 at 12:24 pm

Hi, back again. I've taken some time off from thinking about money (and other things) so much. I've read lots of books, watched lots of videos, got to a park by a river, and planted some flowers. Our budget situation is still in limbo, but I'm not so tied up in knots about it now. Keeping busy to keep my mind occupied seems to be working, just like you might try to keep busy while waiting for news about a job or medical test results. I just wish I could remember that and start in sooner each time a situation like this comes up, before my mood starts to slip. Thanks for your kind comments last week.

Now about my 13 month year. I'm tired of situations like last weekend. It was the end of July, and I had enough grocery money left in the budget to pick up a few things like bread and milk. I would have succeeded in making it through the end of July on budget, but to keep strictly to it I'd have to wait til August 1, a Monday, to do a normal weekly shopping. But that would have been darned inconvenient because of my work schedule on Mondays.

It felt like a lose-lose situation. If I did a week's worth of shopping on Saturday, I'd have done something wrong because I went over budget for July. But if I didn't, I'd have done something wrong because I messed up my schedule and menus for the coming week.

I'm tired of trying to stretch the same amount of money during 31-day months as 28-day months. I'm tired of having to refigure my gas money because I have to buy it 5 times instead of 4. I'm tired of having to figure out if it's a month I need to go to Petsmart 3 times instead of 2. Then there's our take-out budget. We get pizzas on Tuesdays because they're only $6 that day. What if there are 5 Tuesdays in a month? It's driving me bonkers!

So from now on, I'm going to figure my Everyday Expenses budget for a 4-week "month" no matter what the calendar says. It will always start on a Sunday and end on a Saturday. So my "August" is running from July 31 to August 27. 52 weeks in a year, divided into 4-week segments--and Voila! there are 13 "months." That way I'll be able to do my main shopping on the same day each week, and have the same amount to spend each and every week and "month." I really want more predictability and routine in my financial life, and I think this will help.

End of the month stretch

July 22nd, 2005 at 02:20 pm

This is the first full month on my cheap-o 30 hours a month internet service. I'm down to about 4 1/2 hours, and there are 9 more days in the month, which means I have to be very careful and only stay online about half an hour a day. Thank goodness I can do a little extra surfing at work, on breaks or if I get in early. A month ago I was routinely online about 2 hours a day at home, and it took awhile to adjust downward--so I used up too many minutes early in the month. But I think I'll make it. It's still budgeting, whether it's time or money, which means it doesn't come naturally, for me anyway.

Money-wise, I'm doing better than I was last month at this point. But I'm still down to $55 in my "everyday expenses" category to last 9 more days. It's time to get more pet food, and I wanted to use a bunch of pet food coupons that expire July 31. But if I do a big stocking up to take advantage of the coupons, it won't leave me enough for regular groceries and more gas in the car. As usual, we're stocked up too far ahead on some things, and getting short on money for other things. I don't want to make it any worse. I think today I'll put the extra coupons in the exchange basket at work, so I'm not tempted to use them.

Figuring out how to cut down on food spending

July 5th, 2005 at 01:20 pm

I thought I'd look at the past week's grocery shopping to see where that extra $10 or so is going every week. My theory was that I'm spending too much on groceries, and DH and I are overweight, so therefore I must be spending too much on junk food. But when I looked through my receipts, that didn't seem to be the main problem--at least for this past week.

Here's some stuff I think I could save on, without too much extra work.

--Buying ground beef in bulk, maybe even at Aldi's, instead of $1 a burger for preformed 80% lean burgers at Pathmark's meat counter. (The cheap frozen ones haven't worked out for us because it's hard to pry just 2 burgers off at a time.)

--Buying Aldi's vegetable soup again for 1/5 the regular price of Campbell's Chunky. (Maybe get Campbell's as a treat when it's on sale and I have a coupon.)

--Buying Aldi or Save A Lot packaged cold cuts instead of Oscar Mayer bologna for $2.89. I need something on hand for when the fresh-sliced deli stuff runs out, but it could be a lot cheaper. I can't imagine the OM bologna is any healthier than the store-brand stuff, especially something like turkey.

In other words, I've got to work on buying cheaper alternatives to basically the same thing. At least that's my lession from this past week.






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