Sunday, August 20, 2017

Pantry Living weeks 7&8

Happy Summer everyone! These last two weeks were pretty relaxed here in Jersey. The hubby finished his summer program and we have gone to the beach, the pool, the movies, Sam’s, played legos, board games, ate too much food and are enjoying our time together with little stress. Our garden boomed with a huge bushel of tomatoes and several cucumbers. We shared those with our friends. We had another friend in need of some food so we shared 3 grocery bags from our pantry stores with them. The Lord has never let me starve so I can’t sit back and make excuses. “Because I have been given much I too must give.”

Pantry after week 8
Here are the stats:
Unopened boxes of cereal after week 6: 30
Unopened boxes of cereal after week 8: 23
Jars, cans opened: syrup, fruit snacks, cookies, peanut butter, jam, flour, spaghetti sauce, corn, salsa, pasta, box drinks, granola bars, nutella, croutons, goldfish, oil, chips, ziplock bags
Things we ran out of: chicken nuggets/strips, fish sticks,
Allowable purchases: fruit and veggies, bread, ricotta cheese, mozzarella, garlic bread,
Cash purchases: movies, popcorn, doughnuts, pizza, breadsticks, cookies, soda, reusable water bottles for the older 3 kids for school, new shirts for older two, athletic pants for me,ice cream, water ice, soda and beef jerky, plastic spoons, water
Gifts/gift card use: beans, avocado oil, pasta, cereal, cake mix, frosting. I used a gift card to buy myself an awesome North Face jacket, my mom paid for part of it as an early bday gift. Also my mom bought me a new watch. Ain’t she the best?!  I used a gift card to buy new shoes for myself and Lily at a crazy amazing deal. Short story: I saved over $90 with sales and a coupon and Lily’s shoes ended up being free and made my shoes cheaper. Totally screamin’ deal!
Cheats: I bought a few Christmas and bday gifts for amazing deals on Amazon. I had to use my credit card for that. So to make up for it I spent approximately the same amount on fruit and veggies and used cash for those when I could have used my card. Point is I think they cancel each other out so I claim I didn’t cheat :)
Garden: Check it out! This was a single day of harvest. Clearly I was having too much fun that week to pick each day. I usually get 2 tomatoes a day.

How is your summer going? Let me know if you’ve tried your own pantry living!!
Happy Summer!

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Shopping Savvy Tips

So I was recently asked how I do what I do. How can I buy so much for so many mouths and spend so little? I do use coupons but more often than not I take advantage of the sales. I try to spend close to $400 a month on groceries 10 months of the year. And for 12 weeks in the summer my goal is to spend $0. I allow myself to buy eggs, dairy, bread and produce with a credit card but I try hard to keep it to that. I decided to make a basic list to be shopping savvy.  These are the general rules I live by.

  • I am a loyal ShopRite mama. I live .2 miles from my childhood grocery store and I love it. I love it because I know where items are. I know many of the employees. I know the store policies on rain checks and price plus member deals, and mis-charged items. I am familiar with their prices and how to find the extra sales. My point is you probably have a store that you like to grocery shop at. Get familiar with that store. And be sure to get a loyalty card with them. That is where the real savings are at!
  • There is another method you may prefer. My dad on the other hand is not loyal to one store but will shop at 3 different stores each week depending upon the sales!!! (The shopping gene is strong in our family.) He checks out Acme, ShopRite, and Save A-Lot. He is retired and has the time to hit up these different stores and does really well shopping the sales. He specializes in meat and soda sales.
  • Grab your marker and your flyer and get to work! Each Friday we receive a free local paper and inside is my ShopRite ad. This ad lists the deals going on for the following week. I prefer my marker rather than making a separate list. I make large circles around all the items I want to purchase. I write my needed items that are not featured in the ad on the top of the front page. When I go shopping the next week I bring along my ad and am able to reference it when walking through the store. This is especially helpful when the deal involves “Buy 2 to receive discount” or only on specific varieties. It can also be taken to the customer service desk if an item is mismarked or scans incorrectly at checkout. They will always have one handy at the the desk but that way you have an easy reference.
  • Take advantage of coupons on top of sales. My favorite savings are when I have a coupon for $2 off an item and that week that item is specially marked down to $1.50. I end up making money on that order. They won’t give me money but the coupon will take the full $2 off of my order. I am not one to hunt down coupons but I do keep them in a small accordion file and organize them by placement in the store.  Be aware of when coupons expire and use your oldest coupons first. Coupons can be found online(check to see if your store accepts printed coupons, not all stores do), in the mail, in the local newspaper, inside the cereal box, attached to the front of a new item.
  • ShopRIte has online “digital coupons”. Be sure to get their app and “add” those coupons to your shopping cart in the app. The app is connected to your price plus loyalty card and will appear as a coupon when you check out. Their store flyer will make you aware of many of those added discounts. I prefer to add the coupons to my “cart” as I’m waiting in line to pay but you can do it ahead of time or while you are shopping through the store.
  • Shopping the sales is really the best way to go. The goal is that you never actually run out of items and are therefore never forced to pay full price for an item. When toilet bowl cleaner goes on sale for $1.99 buy 3 or 4. You know your family will continue to use the toilet and it will continue to require cleaning. There are usually coupons easily enough to find for Lysol products so that is a great time to double up on savings.
  • Know when bulk is a good buy. We are Sam’s club members. They have great Member’s Mark brand toilet paper. It occasionally goes on sale for $18 for 45 large rolls. That is a good deal. Unfortunately, Sam’s club is not a great place to buy cereal. You get a lot of cereal but the price per ounce isn’t great. It is better to buy smaller boxes when on sale and you have a coupon from the grocery store. Pay attention to the price per ounce section of the price tag. It will be a great help when you go to another store and you compare.
  • Peanut butter is always a better deal when you buy the big jars on sale. They frequently put the smaller jars on sale for $2. That seems like a good deal but not really when I can get the 2 pack of the huge ones on sale for $7. When they go on sale I buy several of the 2 packs.
  • Be aware of how quickly you consume certain foods and their expiration. Many expiration dates are guidelines and can be somewhat disregarded but some cannot. I do not ignore expiration dates on peanut butter. That will go rancid. I will ignore expiration dates on most cereals. Cake mixes are fine for another year after their date. And lots of canned goods are good for a year or two as it is. But don’t stock up on cans of tomatoes if you never actually cook with them. Be smart about your purchases. You are not saving yourself money if you are throwing food away.
  • Expensive food does not always mean healthier. Organic is great when you are concerned about chemicals but a fruit snack is still a fruit snack. Your child isn’t actually getting any nutritional value in them. (I am not judging….we always have fruit snacks on hand. I’m just making a point.) Be aware of the nutritional needs of your kids.
  • Name brand vs store brand. My kids don’t care if their marshmallow cereal has a leprechaun on it or a teddy bear wearing a sailor hat. We don’t mind the store brand cereals, but I don’t like the store brand cookies. My point is it doesn’t hurt to try the cheaper store brand knock off on your favorite foods. Sometimes we like them better than the originals. But if your family can really taste the difference it isn’t worth the “savings”. Again, if your family won’t eat it you are not saving money. But don’t be afraid to give the off brand a chance. Examples of store brand food we like: cereals, condensed soups, canned and frozen veggies, baking items, bread,chips and pretzels, jam. Examples of store brand food we don’t like: peanut butter, cookies, yogurt, cake mix, spaghetti sauce.
  • There are several saving apps that I am not great about but a friend of mine is. SavingStar is her favorite. You get rebates on things you already purchased. I need to be better at that one. Check it out and let me know what you think. There are lots of others but I can’t say much about them since I don’t utilize them yet.
  • Be sure to check out the quick sale items especially meat and bakery items. My store puts their meat that must be sold that day with a bright yellow sticker on it, usually marked down 50%. That is the only way I buy beef. I just can’t afford $4 or more a pound for a roast. But I can afford steaks when they cost me $2. I love these deals. Just be aware this meats needs to either be cooked that day or next or frozen. I prefer to place my meat in serving size freezer store brand ziplock bags and freeze them. The bakery puts their items from the day before on sale and my kids can usually talk me into a box of doughnuts or muffins for a treat.
  • I am a weirdo and get a huge thrill watching my total drop after checkout. When I get to the register they are always sure to ask for my price plus loyalty card. I tell them I will give it to them at the end of the transaction. So it rings up my entire order at full price. Then they scan my coupons and then I hand over my card. Instantly the number drops and my heart races. I love seeing all my savings so crystal clear. Many times the checkers are even surprised by the plunge. I have to be careful not to forget to give them my card and miss my extra deals but I’m usually too excited to forget.
  • At the bottom of my ShopRite receipt it tells me my Total Saving for that trip, along with my year to date savings. I love knowing that family has those extra THOUSANDS in the bank instead of in the pantry.

So have no fear and don’t be overwhelmed.
It really is easier than it looks.
Happy Savings!

Pantry Living Weeks 5 & 6

Two more weeks of Summer have flown by! We have more family in town and are having a blast as usual. I did very little shopping these weeks and my only cheat I consider an investment in my kids' fall lunches. It was a screamin' deal at Sam's Club. They were selling a large box of 30 individually packaged keebler m&m cookies for only $4.76, regularly almost $10!!! I could not resist so I bought 4 cases and have hid them away for Sept....and hopefully Oct, and Nov. Honestly, I would have paid cash for them but I was in a credit card only self check-out line. Oh and I guess my one other cheat was buying my older 2 children really nice soft shell water resistant jackets for school. They were each $12 and neither kid owns a rain jacket so it was necessary. (Same shopping trip so credit card had to be used.)

 Enough about my true confessions with a credit card. Let's get to the real business here:

Unopened boxes of cereal after week 4: 40
Unopened boxes of cereal after week 6: 30 (see gifts again)
Items opened from pantry: Italian dressing, Ranch dressing, Greek dressing, honey, flour, chocolate chips, chips, cookies, syrup, nutella, peanut butter, fruit snacks, ziplock bags, plastic cups, napkins, toilet paper, paper towels, dish washing soap, trash bags, brownie mix, cake mix, twizzlers, candy,
Items I ran out of: hot dogs, granola bars, paper towels,
Cash purchases: hot dog buns, hamburger buns, lunchables, back to school clothes for kids and niece and nephew(socks and hoodie for Max, 4 shirts for Lily, outfit for Katy, shorts and socks for nephew, hoodie and shirt for niece), candy, ice cream, McDonald's, soda,
Allowable Credit card purchases: gas, milk,
Cheats: 2 soft shell jackets ($12 each), a cute duster sweater for me($12 I have no good excuse other than it was cuteπŸ˜‰), 4 cases of cookie snacks for fall lunches, oops I forgot I bought a case of water too.
Gifts: milk from a friend, 2 boxes of cereal, and smores brownies and dressing from my dad, zucchini from my sister
CEREAL UPDATE: In 6 weeks we have gone through 37 boxes of cereal.

Pantry after week 6
Garden: lots of yummy tomatoes, a few funny shaped cucumbers and a few monster cucumbers. My green bean plants appear to be barren and what we thought might be a zucchini plant is just a weed and my last tomato plant has yet to ripen. Next year my original garden bed will need a lot of fresh soil. I think it has been over planted, hence my lack of veggies from it.

Working: My summer choreography job has finished and the check is in the bank. Dave's summer teaching program is almost finished. I predict with everyone home a lot we will still eat a mountain of food. My freezer is still in good shape but is definitely running thin on a few items.
I would love to hear what your garden is growing and how you are spending the summer!!
Happy Summer!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Pantry Living Weeks:1 - 4

So I spent my first 4 weeks of pantry living with a house full of guests. My sister and her six children came for a week at the same time as my other sister and hubby and their four children were staying with my parents. After my sister left my in-laws came that same night. It was a regular occurrence for me to serve meals to 21 people. That is why this post is combined for the first four weeks.

Reminder about my Pantry Living Rules:
  1. No grocery shopping.
  2. Cash only except for gas, dairy, bread, eggs, produce, and medical expenses.
That really is it.

Pantry after week 4
My results:
  • Unopened boxes of cereal before week 1: 55
  • Unopened boxes of cereal after week 4: 40 (see gifts)
  • Items opened from pantry: dog food, spaghetti sauce, pasta, mac and cheese, corn, green beans, trash bags, toilet paper, water bottles, napkins, paper towels, powdered sugar, syrup, peanuts, fruit snack, chips, pretzels, cake mix, frosting, brownies, spray butter, canola oil, olive oil, crackers, cookies, peanut butter, nutella, salad dressing, garlic, parm cheese, granola, ziplock bags, tin foil, granola bars, fruit roll ups, yellow rice, rice, dog food, salsa, light bulbs, shampoo, conditioner, body wash, tooth paste, wipes, graham crackers, marshmallows, chocolate bars, flour, (you get the picture.....we ate a lot!)
  • Items I ran out of: dryer sheets, cooking oil, fruit roll-ups, hot dogs, dog food
  • Gifts: milk, sandwiches, fruit cups, individual bowls of cereal, 2 boxes of cheerios, large box of goldfish, yogurt, (I know the nicest people!!)
  • Gifts part II: My sweet mother-in-law took me to the grocery store and offered to buy me a few things to help bulk up my pantry. She was so generous and asked me to make a list. I only had oil and dryer sheets on the list. She found many more things I should have including but not limited to: detergent, beef, pork chops, chicken legs, steak, pork roast, 8 boxes of cereal, chips, water, cheese, bread, yogurt, cookies, goldfish, pasta, onion rings, tater tots, watermelon, pizza, ice cream, eggs, new sandals for Max, stuffed animals for the kids, dinner at a fancy restaurant.
  • As far as cereal goes we were gifted 10 boxes of cereal. So in 4 weeks we actually went through 25 boxes of cereal. 
  • Meat from the freezer we used: ground pork, chicken legs, whole chicken, italian sausage, chicken breasts, pork roast, turkey bacon, breakfast sausage,
  • Garden goodies: my garden isn't doing all that great. My green beans didn't all come up so we only get a handful at a time and I have yet to cook them so they keep going bad on me. Today I picked 2 tomatoes and 2 cucumbers. 

  • Allowable credit card purchases: car repairs, oil change, gas, milk, bread, buns, strawberries, raspberries, bananas, medical bills, 
  • Cash purchases: McDonald's, Rainforest Cafe, pizza, lunch at Sam's, candy, chips, ice cream, soda, bread, produce, trip to the Science Center in Ithaca, NY, membership to the Franklin Institute, water ice, popsicles, chinese food, new pretty scarf, toys,
  • Cheats with a credit card: I tried really hard to be good. On 2 occasions I was checking out and had mostly allowable items with one or two exceptions. Hot dogs, candy, dog food, paper plates, plastic forks, 
We have had the best July! We went to the beach and boardwalk, went to a lake, and the Hill Cumorah pageant. We visited family in upstate New York. Family visited us here in South Jersey. We ate a lot of food, played a lot of board games and made a million memories. I hope your summer has been as much fun as ours so far. I would love to hear what you are up to!
Happy Summer!

Friday, June 23, 2017

Pantry Living 5th Year Running

 I hope you’re as excited as I am. I think my hubby is most excited for my credit card to collect dust. My amazing hubby shapes minds and behavior as a Special Education Self-Contained Behavior Teacher for 10 months of the year. He just completed his 6th year at this school, and this is our 5th Summer in our beautiful home. Since beginning this journey 5yrs ago we’ve added a 4th child and a dog. We are happy and healthy and blessed with enough. But summer’s are difficult because despite teaching a summer program the teacher’s salary is only a 10 month contract. His district does not offer a 12 month option. I started Pantry Living to help us through July and August. It can be tricky, but I think it is a fun challenge.

So here are my self imposed rules
  • Live off my pantry stores and my freezer
  • No grocery shopping
  • Allowable purchases with a credit card: Dairy, eggs, bread, produce
  • Any other purchases must be made with cash (I have a small stash I squirrelled away.)
  • Start Date: David’s 1st day of summer vacation
  • End Date: David’s 1st day of school in September (usually 12 weeks)

We begin our journey with
  • 55 boxes of unopened cereal
  • 16 boxes of pasta
  • 11 jars of spaghetti sauce
  • 8 bags of flour
  • 6 giant tubs of peanut butter
  • 63 rolls of toilet paper (this won’t be enough I predict)
Pantry on June 22nd!

I don’t stock up a ton in June. That would defeat the purpose. I try to space out my shopping all year, shop sales, and keep a good food supply as a just in case. When cereal is on a good sale I buy 6 boxes instead of 2. I buy meat in bulk on sale and then bag it and freeze it in our family serving size.  I inventoried our pantry, and our freezer, and our bathroom closet. My goal is to finish the summer without breaking my rules, without running out of cash, and to have fun!

My garden is growing! This year I’m growing cucumbers, volunteer zucchini, bush green beans, and two kinds of tomatoes. I’ve already successfully killed all my herbs. I had cilantro, basil and oregano.

Wish us luck!
Happy Summer!

Sunday, June 4, 2017

My son is a loser, and that's ok with me.

My son is 7yrs old and is one of the best humans ever. He is smart. He is funny. He makes friends easily and he enjoys playing soccer. In the fall season his soccer team had 15 players that regularly showed up. He would not usually start the game, but would sub in and play about half of the time. They had a winning record. He learned many basic skills and enjoyed practice.

Spring season rolled around and he asked to play again. At the first practice there were about 7 boys. At the first game there were 6. His second game came along and they had to forfeit because only 5 players showed up. The other team had 14 so they shared a few players and they enjoyed a scrimmage. This spring season has been tough to watch. A few games were lost by 7 goals. My son played goalie a few of those times. Baseball and Lacrosse are more popular in our town this season and that is ok. My son’s team has lost every game, and that is also ok.  Learning to lose gracefully will help him. I keep my son in soccer for him to learn.

My hope is my son learns to be a good loser. That he learns to love his body and wants to keep it healthy. My hope is my children understand different sports and learn to follow rules. That they figure out strategy and teamwork. What I want my son to learn is not how to win. I don’t care if he ever wins. I realized long ago my kids probably won’t be olympic athletes. My kids won’t be movie stars. My kids are pretty average and that is ok because most people won’t win a gold medal or an oscar award. But most people will be employed someday. Most people will be married and have children.

My son is technically a loser but he never shies away from attending his games or practices. After practice I ask what he learned and if he enjoyed it. After each loss my only question is “Did you play your best?” As long as he can honestly answer yes I’m happy. I’m the mom who thinks kids younger than high school should receive a participation award. It is hard work to win, but it is hard to show up when you know you’re likely to lose. Most will lose and that is ok when you’re 7. Let’s teach our kids that losing isn’t the end. Cheer for the kid who scored a goal even if it was your son that missed the save. It might be that kids’ first goal ever. Congratulate the other team on their hussle. And thank the coach and refs. Let’s teach our kids what sports are really about.

My son is amazing and works hard. My son loves to play soccer. My son feels disappointed when the other team scores, but my son plays his best and that is a win enough for me.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Emoji Party was πŸ˜€πŸ˜πŸ˜‹!

Happy 9th Birthday to my gorgeous girl!
She wanted an emoji party and that is what we had. I found a smiley face in the teacher section of the dollar store and printed her invite on the back.
 We started with simple yellow cups from the dollar store and the girls used emoji stickers and markers to decorate them when they arrived. They could easily keep track of their cups all evening because they loved the big raspberry lemonade drinking fountain we had. 

After they decorated their cups they colored these coloring pages I designed. I saw a few cute ideas on pinterest. I busted out my sharpies, a bowl and ruler and got to sketching. These were the 3 I created. The double face sheet was popular and I only found this pre-colored version to share. 
Next we sewed mini emojis with felt. They loved this activity! I used a small bowl and traced it on a folded yellow piece of felt and got 4 circles from the one piece of yellow. I used red and pink for a small tongue, a bow, lips and heart eyes. Black gave us eyes and sunglasses, white for small white circles for eyes, and blue tear drops.

They placed 6 small cotton balls in between the two yellow circles and did a simple loop stitch around the edges. Then they used tacky glue to attach their faces. They turned out so cute!!!

I found this free Emoji BINGO  and printed it on card stock. For some reason the title wouldn't print properly but the rest of the page printed beautifully. You get 8 different sheets and a master sheet. I cut out the master sheet and mounted each emoji with their corresponding number on blue card stock. The girls used pretzel goldfish for markers.
I recently bought the cutest emoji cookie cutters from Pampered Chef. I decided to be fun and make rainbow sugar cookies. Just a matter of separating the dough, adding food coloring and then layering it. Super cute!

The girls received their goodie bags early in the party so they could keep track of their crafts and candy winnings from BINGO. They also each had a Paparazzi bracelet and Emoji Lipbalm along with a few fancy lollipops.
The party was super fun! The girls played from freeze dance, ran around the back yard and had ice cream sundaes instead of cake! This gorgeous birthday girl declared it was a hit!
 Hooray for πŸ¨πŸŽ‰πŸ˜„πŸ˜›πŸ˜πŸŒˆ!