Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The Grocery Budget: Part II The List

This is a series of posts about my personal least favorite household chore- grocery shopping and particularly, the grocery budget. I love to cook and bake and I love to plan new recipes. I mean, who doesn't have a pinterest board chock full of  recipes they've never tried?! Anyway, this is post number two in the series. If you missed post number one, it was on meal planning. You can read it here.

This post is about making a list and STICKING to it. The most obvious reason to make a grocery list is to keep you from making impulse buys and buying ingredients or products that are not on your list. I have a problem with this. Food is yummy, and if something looks good, it is almost always going in my shopping cart. This is even more of a problem if you shop with kiddos in tow or even your husband or significant other. I can never make it out of the grocery store without spending at least a few extra dollars on "extras" that we had to have. And, let's face it, most of the time, those extras are not healthy choices. :(

In my first post, I talked about an amazing meal planning site that allows you to save recipes, create a meal planning calendar by dragging and dropping recipes into it, and automatically creating a grocery list. There are a few flaws with the system. For example, if a recipe says "salt and pepper" and another recipes says "1/2 tsp of salt", it will not combine these together. Which, kinda makes sense because you have no idea what amount the one needs. So, for me, this is the most tedious part of getting my list ready, and in reality, this only takes about 5-10 minutes of my time. After creating the grocery list, I simply go through and combine ingredients or remove ingredients that I don't need to buy. Then, I hit print, and I'm ready to go! They now also have an app that allows you to use your phone as your list, instead of printing it. It is a great tool, but I'm a little old-fashioned and really like paper in hand with a pen to cross of items. I suppose one day I'll get there because I do love tech, but there is just something about a pen and paper for me. (Have you seen my bullet journal?)

But, what if you don't use a nifty online meal planning tool? The first tip I can give you is to organize your list by type of ingredient or by area of the store. Before I started using Plan to Eat, I would hand write my grocery list. I would start with a plain white sheet of paper, and fold it in half like a book. On one side, I would write out the meals for the week. On the other side, I would create my list, organized by area of the store. This kept me from forgetting items and wandering around the store like a mad woman. The key to grocery list making is to simply find a system that works for you and keeps you on track and not wandering around the store. The more organized you are when you get there, the more likely you are to avoid making impulse purchases. Focus on the list.

And lastly, I can offer one more key piece of advice when it comes to using a list and doing your shopping. GROCERY PICKUP. I know for a lot of people, there are few options available for ordering online and actually picking up your groceries, but it can be a huge time saver and it keeps you from making impulse buys. For me, I do a majority of my shopping at Aldi and I stick to the list. Since the store is so much smaller, I don't find myself wandering or looking for ingredients because I generally know what the store carries and where it will be located. Then, for whatever ingredients I am unable to purchase at Aldi, I order through Walmart's Grocery Pickup. Sometimes I use my phone or iPad to do this while laying in the bed, but other times I sit down at my computer. It just depends on how I'm feeling. But, the best part is, when it is time to pick them up, I simply drive to the store, go to the pick up area, and within minutes my entire grocery order is loaded into my car and I'm on my way home.

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Saturday, July 8, 2017

The Grocery Budget: Part I Meal Planning

A lot of my family and friends have asked me multiple times how I keep my grocery bill and budget so low for a family of 5 without couponing. This is a series of posts that I hope will help everyone learn to cut back without having to coupon.

The very first thing that comes to mind for saving money on the grocery bill is to meal plan. Seems so simple, but yet, so many of us just wing it (there are times I'm still guilty of this!). Which means multiple trips to the grocery store each week. This usually leads to a lot of impulse buying, which means you're going over your budget. Or worse, you just skip cooking at all and just eat out.

Some people like to paper plan, and if you follow me regularly, you will see that I love to bullet journal. However, I like meal planning to be quick and easy. So, instead of paper planning, I started using a program called "Plan to Eat" back in 2014. Simply put, Plan to Eat is a meal planning site. There are a lot of benefits to using Plan to Eat, but I'm not going to go into a huge amount of detail. Here are the key things that I like about it:

  • Only costs 3.99 a month or $39.00 a year. Also, on Black Friday, the yearly cost is only $19.50 (which is what I do). This means I pay about $1.63 a month for this service. 
  • They offer a 30 day free trial. It requires no credit card to sign up. You either keep using it or you don't. It's up to you. 
  • You can save recipes to your online cookbook in multiple ways. There is a tool called a "recipe clipper" that allows you to be on a page with a recipe and directly import it (my favorite). You can also import from a URL or you can just type the recipe in yourself by hand.  
  • You can "friend" others to share recipes. My username is LisaLangley.
  • They have started doing monthly "themed" recipes with giveaways and a Facebook group to share ideas. One month was a Make Ahead Meal Plan Challenge where we focused on making meals that could be frozen for later. Another was a grilling challenge and currently, they are doing one for the Instant Pot. I'm not always thrilled with the recipes because some use obscure ingredients that are very expensive, but I usually try most of them and it's fun to try new recipes.
  • Once you have some recipes saved, you can literally just drag and drop them in calendar format using the "Plan" section. It will take me about 5 minutes to plan two weeks worth of meals. 
  • After you have used the "Plan" section, you move onto the "Shop" section where you specify the dates you want to shop for, and your grocery list is formed from the recipes that you planned. 
  • It has always been mobile friendly through your browser, but they are rolling out an app that is pretty cool (I've had the pleasure of testing it!)
 You can see below a sample of what my menu looks like this week. 

There is a lot more to the site with many other cool options, but this is the general idea. The site has many video tutorials that are short and fun to watch to help you get started.

So, I challenge you to start meal planning this week. You don't have to use the same site I do. Before I used this site, I would often just a sticky note and hand write my grocery list. And it is important to remember that meal planning is not about some elaborate meal that takes hours in the kitchen. It is okay if you simply put "frozen pizza and salad" or even "Eat Out". As you can see above, both of those things are on my menu this week because I know we are going to eat out Friday and I'm not sure what our plans are Saturday, so I don't want to plan something that needs to be cooked. Be real with yourself and don't give yourself goals that are not going to get accomplished because you had a long day at work.

If you would like to try out Plan to Eat, I would love it if you used my affiliate link either in the PTE Logo above or by clicking this link https://www.plantoeat.com/ref/8cb96516db 



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Blog Update

This blog, when first started, was about saving money and couponing. I started it in February of 2011, almost 6.5 years ago. This was shortly after my hubs had been diagnosed with ESRD and had started dialysis. I also went back to college at that time in my life, so my family was struggling to make ends meet. Today, that has not changed much, but my reason for having a blog has. This fall, I will start my student teaching to finally finish my long college journey (you can read about this here). Over the years, I have stopped couponing in any real capacity. I simply have found that I literally do not have the time for it. I'm a mom to three kids, wife to a husband who has now had a kidney transplant, soccer team manager, college student, substitute teacher, and so much more. Instead, this blog is being updated to still be about saving money, but it will no longer be based on coupons. I have a lot of ideas floating around right now for some new blog posts, so I hope you stick around!

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Saturday, February 7, 2015

2015 Bullet Journal & My Pen Obsession

Green Moleskine for this year with my new Inkjoy pens!

Last year I came across something called a "Bullet Journal" and my planning, organizing, to do lists, and life was changed...


Okay, that might have been a little dramatic, but the point is, I rarely forget things now, and I just overall feel more on top of things like housework, my exercise, bills, kids' schedules, my schedule, and my coursework. This has been the best system for me, and the part I like the most- it's completely what YOU want out of it. You make it, you customize it, you change it- it's ALL about YOU.

If you would like to read the original post and the updated one halfway through the year, they are here and here.

So, this year I have started a new one, for a new year. I've made a few changes from the past two, and so far, I'm loving it! Instead of breaking it down into sections (to do lists, school planner, exercise planner) I've kept everything together. It seems to flow easier for me, and I don't have to be worried about not having left enough pages in one of the sections. Also, I was sent some pens from Smiley360 and Papermate Inkjoy to test and give my opinions on, so I thought this would be perfect for that! Matter of fact, I'm loving these pens so much, that I've started using them more often than the others I originally bought for this.

Key that I try to follow- though sometimes everything just gets marked as a "task" lol

2015 Page

Contents Page

Important Dates Page- This is where I put important birthdays, anniversaries, etc.

January Monthly Calendar- I used washi tape on the side to help me flip to it faster. Also, I decided to refrain from writing in pen on my calendar because too many things change. I still use my key (+ for medical appointments, etc), but no color.

February Monthly Calendar- Notice I switched up the washi tape color!

March Monthly Calendar- Since it isn't March yet, I haven't added the washi tape yet.
Future Planning- this will probably stay pretty empty until I get closer to the end of the year, but this will be helpful when we have medical appointments scheduled further out, weddings, baby  due dates, etc. Take note of the silver clip here- it's called a book dart and I will talk about it later.

What's Due Page is my bills. This helps me remember what is automatically getting drafted and when and what  I need to pay on about what day. I included the monthly at the bottom because things like car taxes, trash service, and subscriptions only get paid or renewed so often. The Cleaning Schedule Page is actually something I literally just finished putting together and implementing a few days ago. So far, it is working great! I just flip to this page when I'm mapping out the next day's list, and I add the tasks. It's helping keep my house in order.  And no, I didn't skip the kitchen- my husband does that, so I didn't include it on *my* list! ;)

Bookshelf- books I want to read...running out of room already! LOL
Movies and Tv Shows I want to watch...

I left a blank page, just in case I thought of something else...the back side of this is my monthly "to do" list for January. Notice that I coordinated the washi tape with the monthly calendar with the monthly to do list. Hoping it will make it easier when I'm looking for something.
Monthly To Do List- again notice that I coordinated the washi tape with my monthly calendar and my monthly to do list. I've also included a place where I write things that I don't want to forget to do in the Looking Ahead section. For instance, this is for a doctor appointment that I need to schedule for one of my kids, however the office was not that far ahead into scheduling yet, so I have to call back in a month or two. I also plan to include things like reminders about field trips, school events, etc.

This is an example of my Exercise Journal. I just start it on a new page wherever I am at in the journal. This is kinda personal for me, so I didn't really include any shots of exactly what I fill out, but you get the idea.
Daily To Do lists on the left- pretty self explanatory. This is before I started my cleaning schedule, so this is just everyday tasks that I was keeping up with. Also, on the right, I am doing a Currently List. Basically, its just a way for me to journal about myself and what's going on in my life and how I'm feeling once a month or whenever I feel like doing it. As you can see, I haven't even done February's yet. I just fit this in whenever I feel the need to do it, but I am trying to do it at least once a month.

Monthly To Do List for February on the left (nothing there yet!) and Daily To Do Lists on the Right for February. You can see where I started on the 4th with my cleaning schedule (and that's when I took these pics, lol)

And lastly, this is another page that just fits in wherever in the journal. It's my checklist for my class that I have every week. Because I'm doing all online school, I have to keep up and manage my time wisely or else I will get so far behind. So very far behind. So, I combat that issue with making a planner each week that focuses on what I need to get done for that week. Also, I want to point out the book dart here. It's a thin silver clip that bookmarks my pages that I use frequently. They are awesome because they add no bulk, but help to keep me from "loosing" my pages.
 So, that's the 2015 Bullet Journal. It's pretty simple, but it goes everywhere with me, and keeps me in order. I really do wonder how I managed to keep it all together before I started doing this!

Now, before I was using a combination of these cool pens by Stabilo and my black fine point Sharpie pen. I still love my black fine point Sharpie, I don't think I will find anything that will replace it. However, I really am loving the new Inkjoy pens I got from Smiley 360.  They  provided me with a gift card and a new pack of pens to review.

My Walmart's Selection
Decisions, decisons!
I already owned a pack of the Inkjoy 550 RT, so I chose to get another pack of the 300 RT (Smiley sent me one pack already) and a pack of the 700 RT. I also already have one purple 500 RT that I had as a sample from a while back. I gave my daughter one of the packs of the 300 RT pens because being in high school, we decided to help keep her on task to make her a bullet journal, so she wanted some cool pens, too!

As mentioned above, I already was a fan of the InkJoy pens before, however I had not really tried the 300RT pens. I guess I had assumed that the larger number meant "better", and I already had the 550RT series pens. But, when I started using the 300 RT series pens that I was sent, I remembered expressively *why* I love Paper Mate's InkJoy series. They write very smooth, have vibrant colors, and are easy on the hand. I know that sounds crazy, but sometimes, your hand is just not comfortable with a pen and it actually starts to hurt while you are writing with it. That doesn't happen with these pens! And as you can see above, the color is a great addition to my bullet journal and makes it more fun to look at and pretty to write in. I can't tell you how many compliments I get every time I pull this thing out!

 **Disclaimer: I received the Inkjoy pens for free to review and provide honest feedback from Smiley360. All of the opinions expressed here are my own.

And here's some Amazon links to purchase some of these items-
Moleskine in Green  
Inkjoy 300RT Series
Sharpie Fine Point in Black
Zebra Cadoozles Pencils
Washi Tape
Stabilo 88 Pen Set

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Saturday, January 31, 2015

Happy Underarms!

About a month ago, my husband had to be transferred by ambulance to a hospital two hours away. It was unexpected, and I had only grabbed a few things from the house when we left for the local hospital's ER. He is immunosuppressed related to a recent kidney transplant, and he had contracted a lovely cold. The cold that would've made you and me sneeze, cough, and maybe take some OTC meds, put him in the ICU for two days because he went septic less than 12 hours after showing symptoms. The whole experience lasted about 7 days and was extremely unpleasant, to say the least. We were stuck away from the kids with very little essentials, no vehicle, and in a stressful situation.

But, all is good now! :)

On to the point- "very little essentials". Y'all. Seriously. Not having clean underwear is probably one of the worst things....ever.


And having no deodorant.

Being in a situation like that was so stressful by itself, and not having those simple two things that we all take for granted just added to the nightmare of it all.

So, when I got home, there was a little package in my mailbox. And inside was deodorant. It made me smile the kind of smile that lights up your whole face. It was such a good smile. It makes me smile to think about that smile!

I belong to a sampling site called Influenster and I get to try new products and review them. So, in my mailbox was one of the new Unilever Dry Spray deodorants. Specifically, I received the Degree MotionSense DrySpray in Fresh Energy scent. After using the junk at the hospital for a week, I was thrilled to try something new under my arms.

Now, it's important to note that it is an antiperspirant. If you don't already know the difference between and antiperspirant and a deodorant, I'll tell you. The hospital had deodorant. All deodorant does is provide a nice refreshing scent for those pits. And that scent doesn't cover stress-related sweating stinky-ness when you are staying two hours away in the hospital with your husband having all kinds of craziness going on. Deodorant is for people that really just need perfume. Deodorant doesn't work.


Antiperspirant on the other hand, is just that- it is made to help stop you from sweating. So, always pick the antiperspirant, if you sweat. I really don't even know why they make deodorant that is only deodorant because it doesn't work.

Now, on to my review.

Using this product was different. I have never used a spray deodorant before, so the first thing I did was read the directions on how to apply on the back of the bottle. You need to shake well before every use.


How well is well? A minute, 10 seconds, 20 seconds...? Cause my arm got tired after like 30 seconds. So, I go with about 6 good shakes and it seems to work.

Next, you are to hold about 6 inches from the skin and spray on to the underarm. That was easy enough. It is a cold feeling, so make sure you are ready for it. It's not too unpleasant, but being that it is kinda chilly right now outside, it is a little startling first thing in the morning.

As for how it works, I haven't had any complaints. It works, and that's the most important thing. It has a nice, clean, refreshing scent. However, you do need to make sure when you are spraying it to hold your face away from the general area because it will make you feel like you are choking if you accidentally breathe it in. Again, please just trust me. Don't breathe it in. You will feel like your throat is on fire and you are suffocating.

The back of the bottle claims it will last up to 8 weeks. I'm thinking that's a pretty accurate measurement if you apply once a day, which is how I use it. It says it is a 48 hour anti-perspirant, but I have not found it to continue to last past the 24 hour marker. Or maybe I'm just stinky or something. Whatever.

I plan to keep buying the stuff. I like the fact that it doesn't get on my clothes, and it doesn't leave a buildup feeling under my arms. Plus, I don't know whether I've gotten old (GASP) or whether my skin is just getting more sensitive, but I have found that regular stick deodorant has been making my underarms break out a little. Which is weird. And I tried switching brands. Since using this, it has all cleared up. Which makes my underarms happy...

And happy underarms are the best! So, try some, and make your underarms happy! :)

**Disclaimer: I received this product for free to review and provide honest feedback. All of the opinions expressed here are my own.Pin It

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Updated Bullet Journal with Exercise Journal & Student Planner Inserts

This is my second week with University of Phoenix. My first course towards my Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education is what is called GEN 200. Basically, it's a college skills course. Which I took in 2010 with MTC. So....it's quite boring. However, I know that I need to focus on getting used to the classroom setup and how UOP works. So, I'm trying to look at the information with fresh eyes and be open minded. One of the first things that we talked about in the course was goal setting and time management. I am still using my bullet journal from this post. However, I've discovered over the last week during this course, that I needed a few more "tabs" in my journal- an exercise journal (I call it Healthy Me) and a Student Planner to help keep my to do lists separate.

The original post was written back in April of this year, so needless to say, I've incorporated quite a few things. So, I'm going to give you a brief overview of the changes. If you want to see the meat of the journal and the idea that sparked it, go here. I hope this helps you, and I can't imagine using any other system to keep myself organized. The moleskin has stayed gorgeous even with toting it around in my purse everyday and using it everyday. I would literally be lost without it. I've found that since using this, I rarely forget to do anything and I seem to actually get things done. My house is running smoother, my life is less stressed, and I feel more in control. All important things! :)

One more quick thing- I had someone ask when I write my daily to do lists. I try to do it every night before I go to bed for the next day, because it gets everything out of my brain and helps me fall asleep. If I wait till the next morning, I tend to think about all the things I might forget and it keeps me from sleeping!
I used to have two tabs- one for the Current Month to go along with my calendar in the front, and one for my current lists, which I choose to put on my monthly to do list and use my bookmark string on the moleskin for my daily to do lists. What's the difference, you ask? Monthly to do list is things I want to accomplish during that month, but aren't necessarily priority. Things I don't want to forget are happening or need to be done. For instance, car taxes needing to get paid that month, or making an appointment to go over our life insurance. Daily to do lists are just that- simple things that need to get done that day. Things like, grocery shopping, mop the kitchen, emails that need to be sent, phone calls that need to be made...and so on. Now, the two I added- Healthy Me & Student Planner.
This used to be my class schedule when I was going to a local college. Since, I graduated with my Associate in Science and moved to finishing at an online college, I no longer needed that space for that. Instead, I came up with a general housework and weekly schedule that works for me. These things are pretty much a standard for my daily to do lists. It needs tweaking, but for right now, it's working. And the goal here is to be better at getting things done, not overloading myself and feeling overwhelmed.  
The new "tab"- Healthy Me! This is my exercise log. The first page, I made about goal setting. The second page, was a very quick "get started" and I wasn't happy with how it turned out. So, I thought about it and...(see below)
This will be what the pages look like from here out in the Healthy Me section. It gives me a place to be accountable for what I did that day- walked, swam, aerobics, etc. Also, I want to keep up with how much water I'm drinking, because drinking any water is a struggle for me. I'm trying to take in at least 4 bottles equaling about 68 ounces a day, but right now, I've found it hard to do half of that. So, keeping a journal of it, will help me understand where I'm at. Also, I am struggling with sleep. I always seem to be tired, so I'm worried that maybe I sleep too much (ha!) and maybe that is actually causing me to be tired. So, I'm trying to sleep only 7-9 hours a night and keep a schedule. Hopefully, this helps. And lastly- I have a goal for the week and a motivational quote.
And lastly, the tab for my Student Planner. This is really personal to just me, because most student's take more than one course at a time. At UOP, we take one course for 5 weeks. So, I only need to plan for one day at a time. But, this allows me to get more in detail with what needs to be done each day for the class without mixing it into my daily to do lists.

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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Why Failing Was Good for Me

Failing is never something we want to admit. Failing hurts. It sucks the very life out of you and drains your soul and makes you want to stay in bed and never get up again. Especially when it is something you wanted. Something you were absorbed with.

And it's even worse when you took out loans for it.

I failed nursing school.

There. I said it. It's been almost 9 months now since I decided I couldn't do it. And it still gets to me. I am not someone that fails...I am not someone that gives up. I spent a good portion of 3 years to get a degree in nursing. And I truly wanted it. I almost finished it. And then, right there in the middle of clinicals....I discovered I couldn't do it. It wasn't the clinicals, or the patients, or the gross factor, or anything of the sort. I understood the concepts. I knew my medications. I knew my pathophysiology. I even could recite nursing diagnoses in my sleep. Well, maybe not sleep....because I didn't sleep in nursing school. I lived on caffeine. But, that's another story.

I could spend hours upon hours upon more hours studying, reading, making charts, reviewing, and reciting. Yet, I couldn't pass the tests. I gained weight. My face broke out. I was beyond stressed. I was never happy. I was always on edge. Sleep was not something that I could even find when I had time for it. I became such a disaster at exam time, that I literally would have horrible stomach pains and shook like a leaf. I started to not care anymore. I just wanted my life back. I wanted to be happy again. I wanted to be able to spend time with my family and not feel like I was doing something bad. So, I failed. I actually failed TWICE.  I failed the one class, and tried again. And gave it even more of myself. And failed again. One could definitely say that after that second time I could have been diagnosed with Failure to Thrive. I became a recluse. I didn't want to talk to people. I didn't want to leave my bed. I didn't want to get dressed. It was pretty bad. And I'm still recovering- 9 months later.

So, I'm sure you are wondering right now, why the heck I say that it was good for me.

As someone that really had never really failed, I needed to realize what it was like. I needed to see that I had let something consume me in a way that was seriously unhealthy. I'm not saying nursing school is unhealthy (lol), but for me, it was. Failing made me reevaluate who I am and what I want out of life. I realized that while I loved doing my clinicals, and I would probably make a great nurse, I had always wanted something else...I wanted to teach. I realized that my Plan A, was not really my Plan afterall.

I'm now in school for my BS in Elementary Education. And I'm happy. :)

I've grown as a person from my experiences with nursing school. I've realized how lucky it is to be healthy, and to be proactive with that health. It's amazing how quickly something can happen inside of us. I've learned I have a strength inside of me that I didn't know existed. I pulled myself up and brushed myself off, and now, I'm a better person for that.

I now know things that the average person doesn't when it comes to health care. Which is beneficial for me and my family due to my husband's health condition. Heck, it's beneficial just going to the pediatrician's office. I know what it means when my kids' chart reads NKA or says they have rhinorrhea. (NKA- no known allergies & rhinorrhea simply means a runny nose!)

And I'm not afraid of failure anymore.

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