A Survivor's Perspective

Saving Money On Groceries

Keeping the Cash Out of Your Cart
Follow link to see Category Rationale Finance

It seems like every time I go to the grocery store lately, it is costing me more and more. Most of us are habit shoppers. We tend to buy the same things over and over again, but the prices are going up anyway. I have a few helpful hints, to try to stem the outflow of our hard earned cash.

Never Shop For Groceries When You Are Hungry

This is kind of an intuitive knowledge, but life gets in the way. Many of us shop on our way home from work, when we are most hungry, tired and vulnerable. We grab what is close, colorful and quick, usually without even looking at the cost. Think about it a little, we are in a hurry so we rush up and down aisles barely looking; just grabbing things off the shelf, usually at eye level and arms length. Color attracts us, especially when we are a little tired; bright colors are easy to spot. We also want the convenience of pre-made or close to pre-made so what we are having for dinner will be done quickly. So keep in mind when shopping

Close + Colorful + Quick = Costly

If at all possible, change your schedule so you can shop at a time when impulse buying is less likely and buy plan-ahead items. Incorporate cooking all meals one day a week into your schedule and freeze so you always have something nutritious on hand.

Shop From A List.

I suffer from what I call mustard memory loss. I get to the store in the condiment aisle and say, do I HAVE mustard or do I NEED mustard. I can’t remember which, so I err on the side of caution and buy the mustard. I now have five jars of mustard in my cupboard. (Good news is, mustard doesn’t spoil. Fortunately I don’t have milk memory loss). Shopping from a list also cuts down on the close, colorful and quick method in step 1.

Pre-read the weekly flyers, this will give you ideas of what is on special so you can plan your menus and lists accordingly. Don’t get scared off by the preplanning and using coupons. I know this can be extremely cumbersome for some of us. Hang in there, it does get easier (Maybe I will have some helpful hints in upcoming organizing posts on this subject). PS If you have a super Walmart, they honor all stores weekly specials

Double Check Everything

We have so many things on the market today and a lot of it looks the same. I think they must have twenty different Cranberry Juice items now. Cranberry mixed with other flavors (unless the flavor is vodka, I’m not really interested in these), regular Cranberry, Light Cranberry, Anti-oxidant Cranberry. In “hungry after work mode”, I grab a couple of bottles that are next to each other and get home only to find I have one regular and one flavored Cranberry — and I haven’t gotten the vodka flavored yet — which means I either have to take the item back, drink something I don’t like, or dump it down the sink. Cranberry juice was the one think I could think of off the top of my head, but you know you have done the same thing with other items.

Supermarkets are charging more for fruits, vegetables, meat and fish produced in the US and/or certified organic. The fact that they are charging more is ok, if it is true. But don’t trust store signs, the signs don’t always correspond with the food close at hand. Check the labels directly on the food items for countries of origin and organic certification by OTCO (Oregon Tilth and non-profit organic certification organization) or USDA Organic.

Also, double check the unit pricing. I have been finding lately that the larger items are not necessarily the less expensive by unit price.

Sales and Specials

Everybody likes sales and to think they are getting a bargain, but bargains are not always what they seem. Many times stores will give volume discounts on items; i.e.; 10 for ten dollars. First find out if you can purchase individual units for a dollar, instead of buying all ten. Next, and this is important, CHECK THE EXPIRATION DATES. I’ve been caught more than once buying 10 bottles of marinades or salad dressings to discover that, short of bathing in them, I won’t be able to use half of them prior to expiration.

Don’t buy an item just because it is on sale or you have a coupon. When I first started using coupons, I would buy anything I had a coupon for. (Lucky for me my neighbor had a cat). If you don’t really like Rice Crispies, but they’re on sale and they’re “ok” sometimes, DON”T BUY THEM. Almost guaranteed at least half a box will end up in the trash.

Stay Away from Ready Made

Everything comes ready made now, even pudding, and ready made costs money. When did we stop chopping our own vegetables, cutting our own cheese and baking our own brownies; or more importantly, why? I remember doing this stuff when I was a kid; and it was fun. Pre-cut, pre-packaged and pre-sliced is much more expensive. Yeah, yeah nobody has time for this kind of thing anymore and, after all, time is money. WAKE-UP CALL, time is only money if you are using that time for something that is producing money. Most of us are just watching TV with it. Time is truly a precious commodity so incorporate these functions into family time. Young children would love to help you with some of these chores, it is a great time to talk about daily activities and the house smells great when baking your own cookies. Or, give yourself some alone time. I find it very relaxing cutting up fruit for fruit salad and it gives me a sense of accomplishment when I’m finished.

Buddy Up

Buddying up can mean different things for different circumstances. If you have a young family, buddy-up with a friend. Let her watch your kids while you, SHOP ALONE and do the same favor for her. Your shopping time and frustration level will be cut in half and you won’t have all that fun food that mysteriously shows up in your cart at checkout.

If you are single, or a family of two or three, or seniors, buddy up with another “little” family. My neighbor and I share celery, onions, garlic and other fresh produce. We also split buy in bulk and multi-item sales merchandise.

Checking Out

Leave all the yummy candy bars and pretty pictures on magazines right on their racks. These are extremely high profit items for the store and will add significantly to the cost of your groceries. But you already knew that. Now having said this, you may, just this once, want to grab one those chocolate bars, you may need it. (Oh, Suze Orman is going to love me for this one!)

The Best Way to save money at the grocery store is to PAY IN CASH!
(Yikes!, I can’t believe I just said that)

Sadly it is true. And, why, you ask? Because you are forced to stick to a list, a budget or a plan.

You may say, “but I don’t use a credit card, I use a debit card and that’s just the same as cash”. But I beg to differ with you. If you go up to the register and you are over by twenty bucks using a debit card, no big deal. If you have cash and go over by twenty bucks, you have to decide what to put back, while everybody in line behind you is making a face and emoting loud sighing noises.

So now, let’s see what this cash thing can save you. If we spend an average of $100 per week, going over your limit by twenty percent, or a mere $20, using your debit card (and trust me you will) will cost you $1,044 dollars per year.

Using a credit card and making minimum payments, at 21% interest rate will cost you the $20 extra impulse buying plus an additional $39.20 in interest and take you 2.8 years to pay. So a year’s worth of this extravagance will cost you an additional $3090.20. (No wonder we keep getting caught in the credit card trap)

I know in this economy, we sometimes don’t have a choice and have to use credit cards, but please keep this added cost in mind and trim your list back accordingly and don’t forget to add in the sales tax.

Saving on groceries can take a little time and some effort, but like everything in life, with practice you improve. Try making a game of it – How much did I save this week? What creative things can I make? Am I using more of what I buy and wasting less? In no time, it will become second nature to you.

If this article made you smile a little, you’re still doing ok – so please donate a little to your local food bank and help a neighbor out.


How Can I Make It Better

QUEST FOR EUTOPIA (Or, a journey toward a specific goal to discover a positive utopia)
Follow link to see Category Rationale Eutopia

We all look at Utopia differently. We all want a great life, with great stuff. Sometimes it’s fame or fortune; sometimes it’s having a big house or great car; maybe a yacht. Maybe clothes or jewelry is your thing.

But can we please look at Eutopia — by looking outside of ourselves. Let us help others, help animals, help the planet, or whatever it takes to make this big ball a better place. If we take only a few minutes a day to look outside of ourselves, we have the ability to make substantial changes on this planet.

A few days ago I posted a quote from Ben Stein: “The first step to getting the things you want out of life is this: Decide what you want.”

Let’s extend that a little further, “The first step to helping others is to decide how we best can serve.”

If you have great wealth, your ability to help others is endless. If you have a lot of time, your efforts can be immeasurable. But if you are an average, everyday person, what can you do?

Let me give some helpful hints:

I used to work with a woman who took one week of the family vacation and dedicated it to “Habitat for Humanity.” Every year the entire family, including her seven year old daughter would help build new houses for people in need. What a great thing to do and a great way to teach future generations how to give back.

My wonderful Grandmother delivered Meals-On-Wheels to her “old ladies.” (most of whom were younger than she.) My mother and sister carried on the tradition.

Now let’s take a look at what we can do, with limited resources or limited time (There is always a way to help). Take a look at this list:

  • Volunteering at a Soup Kitchen or Youth Center
  • Delivering Meals to shut-ins
  • Donating Clothing to “Dress For Success”
  • Bringing blankets or food to an animal shelter
  • Calling shut-ins, just to say Hi!
  • Sending a thank-you card to a GI or a Veteran
  • Taking a stressed-out coworker out for coffee (well maybe not COFFEE)

The best thing about giving is that the most benefit received is by the giver. Helping others always helps you. So do me a favor and make someone smile today.


How Is Technology Making Us Fat

I’m Not A Doctor, Nor Do I Play One On TV
Follow link to see Category Rationale Health

Don’t get me wrong, I love new technology. I don’t know how I ever got along without my DVR and I’ve only had it six months. But there are hidden pitfalls with technology and one of them is — Its Making Us Fat.

According to the Center for Disease Control, “on average, both men and women gained more than 24 pounds between the early 1960s and 2002.” www.cdc.gov. Now don’t go thinking ’24 pounds, that’s not so bad’ then go out for a banana split. Twenty four pounds is the increase in averages, which means that we are trending upward in weight and rather quickly.

I have been searching the internet for some kind of chart that would compare the calorie burn for simple household tasks from the 1950’s to now, but have not been able to find one. I know there is someone in internet land that will be able to calculate the differences. I would love it, if they would do so.

For now, we can only look at the differences of how life has changed:

BACK THEN, we were scrubbing floors on hand and knees, NOW we are lightly mopping;
BACK THEN, we used wringer washing machins, NOW we have multi-cycle washers;
BACK THEN, we hung our clothes out to dry, NOW we have automatic dryers;
BACK THEN, we hand-polished our wood furniture with oil, NOW we have Swifters;
BACK THEN, we had to iron everything, NOW we sometimes press;
BACK THEN, we hand drove screws and nails, NOW we have power tools;
BACK THEN, we pushed lawn mowers, NOW we have Rider Mowers;
BACK THEN, we swept carpets or used heavy vacuums, NOW we have Roomba:
BACK THEN, we scrubbed pots and pans, NOW we have Electric Dishwashers;
BACK THEN, we got up to change channels & volume, NOW we have remote controls.

It’s so easy to see how technology has made some aspects of our lives better, but has hindered us in others.

Do I think we should give up on technology? Heck no! Do I think that we are smart enough to come up with alternatives to offset the pitfalls? Heck yes!

When using the remote control, the only muscles working are your thumb muscles. When you get out of your chair to change the channel, you are using your leg muscles, your hip muscles, and your back muscles. During commercials, get up and do some squats, this will use the muscles that have become dormant.

Start ironing again. Ok, its not so strenuous as it used to be, but you will be burning some calories, you clothes will look better and it is a great stress reliever.

Dance!! If you have little ones, they will love to dance with you. If not, dance alone. Put on the radio and dance with you mop, broom, or vacuum. It will not only get you moving, but it is also a stress reliever.

Get back to basics. There is nothing wrong with pushing a shovel or a lawn mower (with Dr. permission). Doing so will not only help get you in shape, it will also help by not polluting the environment. (FYI: gas powered lawn mowers and snow blowers are some of the biggest contributors to pollution.)

I know you get my drift on this. Let’s all start working together to overcome these hidden pitfalls of technology and make our lives happier and healthier, not just easier.


Who Likes Housework?

Organize Me, I Dare You
Follow link to see Category Rationale Organize

As I have previously stated, being organized is a challenge for me. With the help of a great friend and great organizer, I am able to pass great information on to you. I am trying desperately to practice what I preach, so I will also be giving you a progress update on how certain methods are working for me. Please let me know how these tips are working for you.

The article below is being reprinted with the gracious permission of Brenda Prinzavalli, founder and owner of Balanced Organizing Solutions, LLC. www.balorg.com.

Who likes housework? Dusting, washing, vacuuming, and putting things away. Cutting down the time to do it or the amount you pay someone else to do it are easily within reach. Here are the staggering numbers: Getting rid of clutter eliminates 40% of the housework in an average household. That means 40% less time! Significant enough that it’s worth your time to eliminate some clutter!
Joyfully,
Brenda

Pick one area in your environment and reduce the clutter in that space.

You know the space you need to pick. It’s the one you dread cleaning, the one that takes you the longest or the one that never gets done because it seems like too much! Suggestions

  1. If the items in a space simply need to return to their home, first return them. Then determine why they tend to collect in that space and create a different solution for those items.
  2. It might be time to assess how many knickknacks you have around your environment. If you have a lot, it likely takes time to dust each one. It goes something like this; first move them all off the surface. Clean the surface. Then, one by one, dust them and return them to the location. Imagine if that surface only had 3 items on it and how much LESS time it would take.
  3. The above can also apply if you are a collections person. See if you can still have the collection, but spend less time cleaning it.
  4. The extra clutter can come from casually laying down a coat, a book, a flier from the store, or the item you need to return to the store. Be more purposeful in where you place things. It saves in two ways; first is that you don’t have to touch it a second time to put it in its proper home and second is that you don’t have to move it to clean.

Wishing you 40% less time cleaning or paying someone to clean! You have more important and fun things to do with your time and your money!
© Balanced Organizing Solutions, LLC

Barbara’s Note: I am an item 1 and 4 person. It takes a concerted effort for me not to just put something down. I will make a concerted effort to find homes for all items and put things away as I use them. I’ll let you know my progress on next weeks post.


What Colors Are You Eating???

Do I Really Have To Eat That
Follow link to see Category Rationale Nutrition

Have you every noticed that when eating not so healthy foods, the colors on your plate (or usually your take out box) are about the same color. A hamburger bun, French fries, fried chicken, fish and chips are all a pretty boring beige color – and smothering in ketchup doesn’t count.

A great way to start eating a little healthier is to put a little color on your plate. Fresh fruits and vegetables come in a variety of colors, each color contributing something a little different in your diet.

RED Fruits and Vegetables contain lycopene and other nutrients. These nutrients help reduce the risk of prostate and breast cancers, lower blood pressure and LDL levels, scavenge harmful free-radicals, and support joint tissue in arthritis cases.

ORANGE and YELLOW Fruits and Vegetables contain alpha- and beta-carotene, potassium, vitamin C, zeaxanthin, flavonoids, and lycopene. Most of us know that eating carrots keeps our eyes healthy, but by converting the carotenes to vitamin A, these nutrients also helps our bones and immune system.

GREEN Fruits and Vegetables (yes there are green fruits – apples, grapes, pears) are best known for their fiber, but did you know they are also a great source of calcium. Great information for those of us who can’t drink milk. Because of the great variety of the green group it contains various health benefits. The nutrients found in this group help to reduce cancer risks, lower blood pressure and LDL cholesterol levels, normalize digestion time, support retinal health and vision, fight harmful free-radicals, and boost immune system activity.

BLUE and PURPLE Fruits and Vegetables are known for their antioxidents. They contain many of the nutrients of the above colors and help with the various health benefits of the other colors. Blue and Purple also help boost the immune system.

So you can see, not only does eating color improve the appearance of your meal; it also improves your health. Good eating to all.

I would like to thank the Disabled-World website for helping me with the facts on this post. For a list of the foods contained in the food group colors, please visit www.disabled-world.com

Great Recipe Link that fits this category:http://gotnomilk.wordpress.com/2008/03/10/israeli-salad Cheaper to make in season. Some prep time, but well worth it.


Save on Insurance

Where Has All The Money Gone
Follow link to see Category Rationale Finance

As mentioned on the About Me page, I will be using SME’s (subject matter experts) to help me give you advice. I am very fortunate to have friends and colleague’s who are willing to give me a hand. One these wonderful people is Gina Russo of Trenchant Insurance. Please check out her website at www.quoteroad.com

Gina sent me the following info:

“Yes, it is possible to save money! You may have been through it before, a company raising your rate when you have been with them for years and you have no tickets or accidents. Or maybe you do have blemishes on your record – regardless, we all desire affordable insurance. Affordable insurance exists without sacrificing the crucial protection you need if the unthinkable were to happen. ”

10 Ways to Reduce your Auto Insurance Premium without Sacrificing Coverage:

  1. Increase your deductibles. The higher the deductible the lower the premium you pay. Choosing a higher deductible means you are willing to pay for small claims out of your own pocket. This also allows you to purchase higher liability limits. You may be willing to pay a few more dollars now for tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars of more coverage later.
  2. Make sure the number of miles driven per year is correct. The more you drive, the higher your insurance premium.
  3. If you have a young driver take advantage of the good student discount (given to full time students with a grade point average of 3.0 or higher and drivers training discount – given to drivers who complete a drivers training course).
  4. Make sure your vehicle usage is classified correctly: pleasure use, driving to and from work or driving for business purposes.
  5. If you are over 55, you can take a driver safety course that provides a discount on your policy.
  6. Watch the fees when you pay your insurance premiums in installments. Some companies charge $10 per month which really adds up over time. Automatic deduction has lower fees and many companies offer a discount if you pay your policy in full.
  7. Check to see that the drivers on the policy are listed on the correct vehicle. If mom and dad share a sporty convertible, make sure the teenage driver is not listed as the primary driver of that vehicle.
  8. Education – tell your agent your level of education, some companies give you a cheaper rate for higher education.
  9. Good driving record – of course! The less tickets or accidents the better the rates!
  10. Insurance history – it is similar to credit history – the longer you have had consistent insurance, the better your rate. Do not let your policy cancel. Not only does it affect your insurance rates but you can be fined by the your states DMV for having a registered vehicle without current and active insurance.

3 Ways to Reduce your Home Insurance Premium without Sacrificing Coverage:

  1. Ensure your policy has the correct dwelling amount, which is the cost estimated to rebuild your home. Take the time to thoroughly review this with your agent. Your home may be overinsured.
  2. Increase your deductible- again the higher the deductible, the lower the premium. You may not want to submit a claim to your insurance company under $1000 so increase your deductible and save the money.
  3. Burglar and Fire Prevention – tell your agent about smoke detectors, dead bolts, fire extinguishers, central reporting fire and burglar alarms, indoor sprinklers and if you are in a gated community.

THANKS, GINA


*77

I have recently been inundated with a berage of calls from automated systems.  The kind of calls that if you are not the first to answer you get dead air.  My caller id was showing “Unknown Caller”  so I could not even call back to tell them to stop calling.  Becoming increasingly frustrated and annoyed, I called my telecommunciations provider (In my case, Embarq) and asked if there were a solution to this dilemma.   I expected them to tell me nothing could be down or that I would have to document the problem for weeks before I could get a trace.  To my surprise and delight, I got an immediate answer.  DID YOU KNOW… that if you hit *77 you will stop”blocked” calls from coming through to you.  All you have to do–once you get a dial tone–is hit *77, you will get a notice that blocked calls will no longer be sent to your telephone–then you hang up.  It is that simple.  I was amazed.  The party did call me again, using a legitmate line.  I was then able to call them back.  It turns out, they didn’t even want me, they were calling the wrong person.   The best thing is that I learned something new today–maybe after a lot of frustration, but I did learn something today.

(I’m not sure if all telecommunications carriers use *77 for this feature, check your local carrier for the correct access to blocking unwanted calls)

Follow link to see Category Rational Jeopardy


The Economides

For most of us, times are tough and it doesn’t look like they will be getting easier any time soon. To tackle some of the financial issues we are facing, Dr. Phil had a great show on the other day entitled, “Money Saving Tips: How to Live on Less in All Areas of Your Life” (03/02/09). Featured on the show was the Economides family (no kidding, this is their real name), aka America’s Cheapest Family. Authors of the book America’s Cheapest Family Gets You Right On the Money, the Economides created a finance book that is purported to be easy to read, understand and apply.. This book first tackles money saving concepts then goes on to detail how to put real money saving tips into practice.

I have not yet read the book, so I cannot give you a first hand accounting, but I did check out their website www.americascheapestfamily.com..

Their site is full of resources, tips and money saving offers. Saving money takes diligence, patience and organizational skills that some of us don’t posses. Please don’t be discouraged. If you can put just a couple of money saving practices into play you will be further ahead. Visit the website, take advantage of some of the tips and always remember “A Penny Saved, Is A Penny Earned.”


Awards

HAIRS OFF TO YOU!!

What better first recipient of my HAIRS OFF TO YOU award could there be than Barack Obama!  I know that he has been getting all the awards lately, is on the cover of every magazine and is being named Man of the Year by almost everyone, but my award is not politically motivated.  Whether you agree with the man’s politics or not, whether you are happy he won the election or not, is irrelevant to his winning this award.

Barack Obama, you came from a modest background, yet you were able to follow the courage of your convictions and go up against one of the most powerful politicians of today.  The fact that you were able to win your parties nomination and go on to defeat a seasoned and well respected opponent is, in my opinion, just icing on the cake.  It is the hope that you have given to so many that is important to me.  It is the respect and admiration that I see in the eyes of your wife, your children and countless people that you will probably never, ever know, that makes you a champion.

HAIRS OFF TO YOU BARACK OBAMA for following your dream and through your example, giving us the encouragement to follow ours.