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Category: Living Simply

Slow Day: Week 2

Welcome to my weekly Slow Day post, inspired by Monica from The Homespun Heart. My Word for 2018 is Slow and, in the spirit of that word, I’m taking one day each week (Wednesday) off — I’ll be unplugged and offline and plan to move at a slower pace, take time to do things that refresh me, and just really focus on being present and savoring the moment.

Each Saturday, I’ll be sharing a photographic peek into my Slow Day — and I’ll let the pictures almost 100% speak for themselves, instead of giving many explanations. Enjoy a little peek into our lives!

(It looks like I really need to clean the cover of my Discipleship Group curriculum — yikes!!)

Shown in the Pictures:

Why It Pays to Pay Attention at the Checkout Lane

Do you pay attention to the screen as your groceries are being rung up in the checkout lane? If not, you could be regularly being over-charged — and not even know it!

Case in point: See those bags of apples? They were in the Reduced Produce section at our Kroger store. And everything in the reduced produce section is just $0.99 per bag of produce.

Well, when I went to checkout at Kroger, the kind man who was ringing up my groceries didn’t know this and he punched in the code on one of the apples and charged me by weight — which was $3 more per bag of apples than it was supposed to be!

I caught it immediately because I was watching the screen and I asked him if he could fix it, which he did.

But it was a reminder of how important it is that we pay attention to what we are being charged, know what the prices are on items we are buying, and ask for something to be corrected if it’s not accurate.

These simple actions could save us hundreds of dollars every year!

My #1 Tip for Getting Dinner on the Table Every Night

Get dinner on the table every single night with this ONE super easy tip! It makes weekday family dinners SO much simpler!

Do you struggle to get dinner on the table every night? Do you feel like you’re constantly waiting until the last minute to figure out dinner and then sort of going into panic mode when 5 p.m. rolls around and the people in your home are hungry?

(I know. What is it about people wanting to eat every single night?? I always say that if we didn’t have to eat, sleep, or wear clothes, it would save us so much time and effort! I mean, no laundry, we could use all 24 hours in our day, and we wouldn’t ever have to make food or clean up dishes!! ;))

If making dinner every night is a challenge, here’s my #1 tip for getting dinner on the table every night:

My #1 Tip: Plan & Prep Your Dinner in the Morning

Don’t wait until 5 p.m. to think about what you are going to eat for dinner. Don’t even wait until 5 p.m. to start making dinner. Get into the habit of planning and prepping your dinner before breakfast or right after breakfast.

I know that you have a lot to do in the morning. I know you might just feel like, “I gotta get out the door! I don’t have time to think about dinner in the morning!”

But trust me on this: you will be SO glad you planned and prepped ahead later on in the day.

I’ve been experimenting with using my Slow Cooker almost exclusively the past month and I’ve been challenging myself to make dinner and have it in the Crock-Pot before 11 a.m. (Yes, that’s not really breakfast time, but I’m all about giving myself some grace! ;))

You guys! I cannot believe the difference that this makes! When I get dinner made in the mornings, I go throughout the rest of my day feeling like I’m so on top of things (even if I am kind of a hot mess the rest of the day) because dinner is DONE!

In addition, it encourages our family to eat healthier since we aren’t tempted to grab quick food or take out, it saves money because we are eating at home, and it encourages our family to be more consistent about eating dinner together. Plus, it just makes me really happy to be making yummy food for my family and having them love what I’m cooking!

3 Resources to Help You Get Dinner Done Early

  1. Follow Me on Facebook — At least 3-4 mornings every week, I’m doing a live video on Facebook in the mornings as I’m making dinner. This is not only public accountability for me, but I’ve heard from my followers that this morning video reminds them to get dinner prepped and gives them some great ideas of very simple recipes they can make. Follow me on Facebook here.
  2. Join the Eat at Home Challenge Facebook Group — Need more encouragement to get dinner on the table every night? Join the Eat at Home Challenge Facebook Group. It’s a group full of women who share what they are making every night for dinner. It’s filled with great ideas and inspiration! Go here to request to join the Eat at Home Challenge Facebook Group.
  3. Sign up for the Eat at Home Menu Plan — I cannot sing the praises of this menu plan enough! We’ve been using it for our family for the past month and just love, love, love it! The recipes are so simple, so yummy, and have been a hit at our house. Plus, it’s only a few dollars per week and you get three different menu plans for every week — which is so worth it if it saves you a lot of time, money, and stress! (We use the Slow Cooker menu plan and highly recommend it.) Find out more about the Eat at Home Menu Plan service here.

What tips and advice do you have for getting dinner on the table every night? I’d love to hear!


When It Feels Like You’ll Never Get Out of Debt

 Feel like you'll never get out of debt? Read this inspiring post full of hope and practical tips!

We are trying to get out of debt and after going over numbers again today it never seems like it’s gonna happen, and after spending time crying today, I just need to get up and make it happen one step at a time. -Amber

Amber left this comment on my Instagram back in December and it’s one of those comments I’ve thought about a lot since reading it. I think many of you can probably relate.

Maybe it feels like you’re working so hard to make progress on paying off debt and for all your hard work, you have little or nothing to show for it.

You’re tired.

 

You’re worn out.

You’re sick of having to say no to extras in the budget.

You’re exhausted from working extra hours or having a spouse who is working extra hours.

Maybe you just got one credit card paid off and then you had a medical emergency and now you have the same amount of debt — or more! — to pay off.

It feels like you are fighting a losing battle.

You just can’t ever seem to really get ahead.

You’re frustrated that your husband didn’t get that raise he thought he was going to.

You’re tired of living in a less-than-desirable apartment that is too small for your family.

You’re overwhelmed by all the bills coming in, the rising costs of living, and just trying to make ends meet.

You just want to give up and give in… and maybe go shopping without having a bud

get, for once.

Can I just encourage you today? You are not alone.

There are many, many others out there who get what you are feeling. I read their comments and emails every week. And my heart hurts for you and the financial struggles that so many of you are going through.

Here’s what I want to encourage you with: Don’t give up. Don’t throw up your hands and give up on your budget.

You might feel like you are stuck, like there’s not a lot that you can do to fix or change your situation. But there is always something you can do!

What You CAN Do

  • You can choose to make the most of today, exactly where you are. (“Bloom where you are planted!”)
  • You can choose to look for the blessings and be grateful for them. (The more you look for something, the more you’ll usually see it!)
  • You can choose to approach saving money as a game or a challenge. (“Let’s see how little we can live on today! Let’s see how far we can stretch this meat to last this week. Let’s see how creative we can be with what we have in our pantry!”)
  • You can choose to celebrate any win, no matter how small. Because a win is a win! (You stayed within your small grocery budget this week? Totally a win! You put $5 extra toward your debt? Absolutely a win! You found a way to make do with what you had? 100% a win!)
  • You can choose to focus on the next right thing you need to do — instead of being overwhelmed by everything you need to do, want to do, or feel like you should do. (When you start feeling completely overwhelmed, ask yourself: “What’s the next right thing for me to do?” And then just focus on doing that.)
  • You can choose to set small goals — for today, for this week, for this month. (Stop focusing on big picture of how much debt you still have to pay off. Just focus on paying off the debt you can this week and this month.)
  • You can choose to make the right decisions to help you make progress today. (How do you replace bad habits with good habits? By making one right decision at a time! You can do this!)

Take baby steps. Live fully present today. Do the next right thing. Don’t give up!

What encouragement do you have for Amber or others in her situation? Share in the comments!

photo credit

5 Simple Ways to Cut Your Grocery Bill Today

Cut your grocery bill with these 5 simple tips -- no coupons required! Easy ways to reign in the grocery budget!!

Looking for some quick and easy ways to cut your grocery bill? Here are five ideas…

I wrote a post a few weeks back with 10 simple ways to cut your grocery bill by $50 this week. I had so much fun putting that together, but I didn’t have room to share all of my ideas. So here are five more simple way to cut your grocery bill today:

1. Plan a Menu

Do you dread 5 p.m. because it’s when you have to try to pull something together for dinner or feel guilty about ordering takeout yet again? Do you often find yourself running to the store at the last-minute in a frazzled state rushing through the aisles and throwing random things into your cart in hopes it will magically create a five-course dinner?

The truth is, you could throw away the 5 p.m. dread and almost completely eradicate the frazzled last-minute grocery store trips if you sat down at the beginning of the week and made a menu plan.

I can’t even begin to calculate how much we’ve saved over the years through the simple act of menu planning. By planning ahead and buying all the groceries we’ll need for the week in one shopping trip, we save numerous trips to the store throughout the week. In addition, when you have a plan in place for what you’re supposed to be eating each meal and you’ve already purchased the ingredients for those recipes, it’s a lot harder to justify chucking the plan for takeout.

Need some help getting started with menu-planning? Check out my post here. Also, read this post: How to Plan a Weekly Menu in Less Than 10 Minutes.

2. Go to More Than One Store

When I mention how I save a lot of money by shopping at more than one store, I’m often met with resistance:

“But I don’t have time to go to more than one store! I can barely make it into Walmart once a week.”

“That’s not saving money! You’re wasting all sorts of time and gas running around to fifteen different stores in one day. Wouldn’t it be more cost-effective and efficient to just do all your shopping at one store each week?”

“I’m glad that works for you, but I don’t have near the patience or organization to even attempt something like that!”

Let me be clear: I am not advocating going to 15 different stores that are 45 minutes away from your home in order to save $2 at each store. That’s not saving money, in my definition. Instead, that’s wasting enormous amounts of time and effort and producing little to show for it but wear and tear on your vehicle and an exorbitant gas bill.

What I am advocating is taking a little bit of time to scout at your nearby stores each week and pick a few which have the best sales and deals. Then base your grocery trip planning on shopping only at those stores.

Want to learn more about saving money by shopping at more than one store? Read my post here.

3. Shop the Markdowns

The very first thing I do when I walk into a grocery store is to go around the perimeter of the store and look for the orange markdown stickers on items. I hit the produce section first. Then the meat, dairy, and bread items.

By starting with looking for markdowns, I then can rework my grocery list if I hit on a great deal. For example, if I was planning to buy carrots and cucumbers to use as raw veggies during the week, but I found a big bag of marked-down colored peppers and a marked-down head of cauliflower, if they were less expensive than the carrots and cucumbers I was planning to buy, I’d likely swap them and save a dollar or two.

My favorite thing about buying markdowns is that they add some variety to our menu. While I might not pay full price for a roast or salmon, I’ll snatch it up if it’s marked down by 50%.

I often receive the question, “How do you find out when a store marks down groceries?” I wish I had some super-secret answer to tell you so that you could just magically find markdowns at your store. However, each store is different and often the policies vary widely even in the same store chain in the same town. Sometimes, a store doesn’t even have policies for markdowns and it is based upon whatever mood the produce manager is in as to what kind of deals you’ll find.

Some store chains have a policy against marking items down. The best way to find out is to just ask. Usually, the produce manager is the person to start with.

Inquire what they do with produce that is going bad or milk that is almost to its expiration date and see if they have a policy on marking these items down. If they don’t, ask if you could get a discount if you found a gallon of milk which was expiring in a few days or produce which was going bad.

Find out more of my tips for saving money by shopping the markdowns at this post here.

4. Buy in Bulk

You can save at least 20% off the price of many staple products by buying them in bulk. If you’re going to be using the bulk amount of something over the course of a year and it can be stored for a long period of time, you might as well purchase it in quantity at a discount, right?

I save around $27 per year by buying yeast from Sam’s Club instead of at the grocery store. However, I don’t find it is worth it to pay for the membership. Instead, I just go in on the get in free days that they have a few times per year.

Be aware that not all warehouse packages are a good deal. In fact, many times, you’ll pay more per ounce for buying the large package than you’d pay if you bought multiple smaller packages when they are on a great sale at the grocery store.

You can often purchase large quantities of produce seconds for great prices from local farms (check LocalHarvest.org to see if there are farms near you that sell to the public). And if you like high-quality meat, you’re almost always going to save at least $1 per pound by buying it in bulk.

If you don’t have freezer space for large amounts of meat or products, consider splitting a bulk order with a few friends. That way, you all get the discount, but none of you have to buy a new freezer to store it in!

If you grind your own wheat or eat a lot of oats, rice, beans, or other staple ingredients, check into the prices of nearby health food co-ops or Azure Standard.

If don’t find great sources for buying in bulk from health food co-ops and Azure Standard doesn’t deliver to your area, check and see if your health food stores or grocery stores would give you a discount for buying in bulk. It never hurts to ask!

You might also just buy in bulk by practicing the Buy Ahead principle — buying multiples of items at your grocery store when they are at their rock-bottom prices!

For more tips and ideas for how to save by buying in bulk, read my post here.

5. Use Cashback Apps

You can earn cash back for purchasing groceries through apps like iBotta, Checkout 51, Yaarlo, and Mobisave. This is a great way to save money on groceries and more — without clipping coupons!

Each app works a little differently, but the cool thing is that you can use all of them at one time! Here’s the basic gist: Scan your grocery receipts every time you shop and then request cashback for any items you bought that qualify.

These apps often have offers for milk, bread, eggs, fruit, and so on. Even if you only earn $0.50 each week for taking a minute to scan your receipt, that adds up over time!

Also, if you shop at Walmart regularly, you’ll want to check out their Savings Catcher Program. Here’s how it works:

  1. Enter or scan your Walmart receipt. You can either enter your receipt number on the Walmart Savings Catcher website, or scan the receipt’s barcode with the Walmart App. Your purchase must have been made within the last 7 days.
  2. Walmart compares prices for you. Walmart will match the price of any local competitor’s printed ad for an identical product.
  3. You get refunded the difference. If the Savings Catcher finds a lower advertised price, you get the difference.

To learn all about my favorite cash back apps, sign up for my free 5-day series on how to make and save money with your smartphone.

Do you want to take better control of your grocery budget? If so, you’ll want to read my newest eBook, 5 Days to a Better Grocery Budget!

This eBook will give you all the tips, tricks, and practical advice you need to create a grocery budget tailored to your family’s needs that you can actually STICK to (because that’s the key!)

In this eBook, you’ll learn:

  1. How to create a grocery budget that fits your family’s needs and your finances!
  2. New systems to help you keep track of what you spend at the store!
  3. How to actually stick with your new budget and save money for years to come!
  4. Ways to save up to $50 off your grocery bill THIS WEEK by using the 10 simple strategies outlined in this eBook!

Read to get started? Just use the form below to sign up!

Need to overhaul your grocery budget?
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I want to help! Join my email list and get FREE ACCESS to my new eBook, 5 Days to a Better Grocery Budget. Sign up now!