Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Extreme Couponing for Dummies

2 hours of inventory, meal planning, and list making (not to mention getting the kids fed and ready.)
3 grocery stores
4 hours later (nearly) and I'm upset.
I don't know what I'm doing wrong! I still can't fix our grocery bill!
I comparison shop, buy sale items, store brand, coupon match, and buy in bulk. I'm so fed up with this! And I don't know how to fix it. Ramen noodles every night? Is it inflation? Is it farmers? Is it me?
Someone please come take me by the hand and show me how to grocery shop, because according to those coupon shows, I'm not doing it right. For goodness sakes, even Honey BooBoo's mom knows how to do it! Although I'm concerned about her meal planning skills: Sketti = Ketchup + Country Crock Butter.
I ran into two super couponers the other day. I waited while one cleared the entire shelf of Marie's salad dressing. The other smiled at me as assisted in cramming the shopping cart full of salad dressing. I smiled back at her as I waited for her to move. She sweetly said, "oh I hope you didn't want any, I'm going to make $2.00 on this!" I didn't. I reached for a head of lettuce under a completely empty shelf and resisted rolling my eyes. I couldn't help but think, okay, so you're going to feed your family salad dressing until the apocalypse? Yeah, good luck with that.
After a few minutes of speaking with them, they were actually really nice. They invited me to a couponing class. I've already been to one, and honestly it was like an infomercial for the local newspaper. "If you subscribe to 8 newspapers a week, its an average savings of $75 in groceries!" I declined the subscription. Spending money to save money doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me.
The extreme couponers don't really make a lot of sense to me either. I can never look in their carts and see a complete meal. To impress me: show me savings on meat, fresh fruit or vegetables, or a gallon of milk for crying out loud! Milk is currently $4.05 at my local grocery. I'm considering buying a cow.
We eat what average US households eat. Or at least I imagine. Hamburger meat and cereal are staples. As are Ritz crackers and Kool-Aide. It's not like I'm buying steaks every night for dinner. Actually, I can't remember the last time we had steak for dinner. It's just too expensive.
We are a household of 4, plus 2 animals. I count animal food and needs (litter, shampoo, treats) in with the groceries. I also count food storage (zip lock, freezer paper), household cleaning supplies,  and personal care items (pull ups, toilet paper, razors, tooth paste) in with the groceries too. In a good month, we average $3.41 per person (not animals) for food and keeping. Bad months are nearly double that. It's very expensive! And honestly,  breaking the bank! Eating out is out of the question, but it inevitably happens because of poor planning (or exhaustion) on my part.
Maybe that is where I'm going wrong. That's where I'm going to start anyway. You can follow along on my Pinterest boards, while I research helpful hints and tips to cut the grocery bill down!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

An Upper for a Downer Day

I have so much to write about. Nearly everyday my heart is broken. Nearly everyday I witness a small success. There's drama, action, runny noses, and chaos every single day. I work in public education, but I am not a teacher. I'm the first person to greet new families to our school, and the last to say goodbye. I'm a registrar.

My primary responsibility is to enroll and withdrawal children from school, maintain students' records, issue reports, etc. But I'm also the webmaster, tour guide, temporary nurse, hall monitor, and occasional traffic cone. There is never a dull moment. There are so many sad, funny, heartwarming stories about the students and faculty that I wish that I could share. But I'm also a secret keeper, so all of those stories will go untold. Something that I can share is what my Principal encourages us to keep, "The Upper File."

The Upper File contains exceptional notes from faculty, parents, and drawings from children. Anything and everything specifically about you that prompted a word of acknowledgement of your skills, abilities, or a job well done. Anything that speaks to your character. Anything that makes you feel happy about yourself.

When my husband was in the Army, they called them "The I Love Me Books." They would joke about them as a source of vanity instead of pride. Soldiers, in my limited knowledge, are truly humble. The books contained items like accomplishments, recommendations, and awards. They would present the book to The Board to be reviewed for promotions and such. My husband's book is pretty darn thick. - He will hate that I said that. But I don't care. I think he's amazing.

My Upper File, is pretty darn thin. But I've just started. And after today, I understand why my Principal suggested we keep one. However, I think they could apply to everyone, no matter what line of work you're in. Even if you're a stay-at-home-mom, which the equivalent of never leaving work. You should definitely have one. Keep your children's drawings, love notes, or conduct grades in there. Heck, take a picture of your clean house and save it in there. And don't worry, I don't remember the last time mine was clean either.

The point is, everyone needs a pat on the back. More so on the Downer-Days.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

1 Hour

It's 8 pm and I’ve just plopped down on the couch. I want to write. The kids are finally in bed. Not sleeping, but they are quiet. The dinner plates are still on the table, and somehow K tracked spaghetti onto the couch.

I can't clean up the spaghetti because it’s dark in the living room. The genius architects who designed our townhouse over 30 years ago, no doubt didn't think you'd need over head lighting. I reach to turn on the lamp, only to remember that I knocked it over with the mop this morning and the filament has detached.

I head to the kitchen to retrieve another light bulb. Halfway there, I meet Chunky (full name: Chunky the Death Cat) who is pathetically looking at her bowl. The dog had, seizing its opportunity, cleaned it out while I was tucking the kids in. I refill her bowl, then set out to clean up the litter that she'd kicked everywhere in protest. Outcome the dust pan and the broom. I finish cleaning the litter and return to the living room, without the light bulb.

Back to the kitchen. Then I realize I neglected to put away the Chicken Fettuccini Angel Hair Alfredo we had for dinner. I had accidentally tossed the wrong pasta in while I was settling an argument earlier. Dinosaurs vs. pirates - it got pretty heated. (Pirates won.)

While I put it away, I worried if my husband would like it. The noodles could hardly stand up to the sauce. I'm a terrible Italian. He won't get home from class until late tonight. He's amazing. I peeked in one of his recent textbooks. The diagrams look like Doc's wiring blue prints for the flux capacitor. He could easily CLEP his way to a PhD in American History. But he's following his passion, which means classes like aerospace physics. The math alone makes me feel ill. Kind of like the pile of clean clothes that have yet to be folded, and are shoved, at least 3 loads deep, into two laundry baskets next to the couch in the playroom. At least they're clean.

I'm jarred from my thoughts when Chunky starts attacking the garbage can. I go to investigate. It sounds like something is trying to crawl out. I stare at Chubby and she commences licking herself. I guess I’ll handle this one. I tediously approach. Expecting something awful. Like the time at work when a roach slopped out of a bottle of newly opened coffee creamer into my coffee cup. I screamed and embarrassed myself because the Principal thought something actually terrible had happened. I haven't bought that brand since. The garbage shifts again. Gritty noises come from the garbage can as I lift the lid. It’s the kitty litter settling. I shake the garbage can and the noises cease.

Triumphant, and relieved, I look around the kitchen. What was I doing? Oh, light bulb. Crap. It’s our last light bulb, the incandescent kind. I guess the $1 off coupon inside isn't going to help with the government's decision to switch to CFL’s. I wonder who made a buck from that deal and when they stared putting lighting facts (like nutritional information) on light bulbs? Seems odd. Who calculates how much it will cost $5.33 to run a light bulb for .9 of a year? I carefully throw the packaging away into the suspicious garbage and eye the dog on the way to the living room. She has been approaching the cat's food bowl again.

I feel historic as I replace the light bulb. Like the blown glass light bulbs, that are now eclectic design elements, will my grandchildren look at these and laugh? Like we do about A-Track's? I clean up the spaghetti and collect my phone from the charger back in the kitchen. I want to finish my ironic post about being an effective parent, and how I broke the outlet cover in the hall with a baby gate. But my notes are gone. And like a ghost station, I can’t seem to remember my clever wording. I forgot to save them in the midst of conversation about Sky Landers, and Disney, and holding a sweet girl who asked for cuddles.

Then I recount my mistakes. The number of times I raised my voice. How I should have played with them. How I should have engaged them more, and pinned less educational crafts that I will likely never get around to doing. More of them, less of me. It all just goes so fast. C calls me Mom now. What happened to Mommy?

I have to get busy folding the clothes, packing lunches, and prepping for tomorrow morning. I drag an overstuffed laundry basket into the living room and pass a mirror. My hair looks awful. My husband will be home soon. Poor guy, this is what he's got to look forward to. I try to smooth down my frizzy locks, but it’s futile. Maybe I should cut it short again? Bangs maybe? My sister will likely berate me if I do. Oh my sister. I have to call about reserving the clubhouse for her baby shower. I hope she’s not still snowed in. I go to text her, but as usual, my phone is telling me I’m roaming, when actually, I’m standing in the living room.

I plop down on the couch. Its 9 pm.

Chunky jumps into my lap and curls up. She begins to purr and tap her tail. I pet her head and she burrows into my leg.

Maybe I'll write tomorrow.