Substitute For Pizza

I’m trying to eat better. Recent wait gain has me in an undeniable position (can feel it in my clothing). But, also, the fact that our paychecks are less than they were – well, no, more is being taken out of the paychecks of State workers here in Wisconsin. The take-home pay is less. Anyway, I’m trying to eat better and save money.

Hence, the new coupon page up there, and my increased use of them. But that’s a whole ‘nother post.

Today, we talk pizza.

Frank’s working an overtime today. Unfortunately, it is a Friday. I’d much rather have him at home, out back with me by the fire. But I’d also like to be able to pay bills. Trade off. I’ve been very good lately, relying less on McDonald’s coffee in a pinch, and more on my handy insulated coffee mug (filling it at home first). I didn’t stop for coffee ONCE this week. Pretty good, if you ask me! Even when I was running late, even when I was tired. I. Held. Strong.

Tonight though when thinking of dinner, I immediately imagined pizza. Ordered. Delivered. Easy. Effortless. Thankfully, though, I have a stack of frozen pizzas (thanks to couponing and sales). I also have hungry children who popped one in the oven before I could even get my fingers on the phone to order anything. With two kids at home sharing a frozen pizza and two kids at a friend’s house hanging out, it seemed like an enormous waste and lack of effort for me to order a pizza.

Instead, I went for a walk. I chugged a glass of water and took Wheezy for a walk.

Then I came home and made my own “pizza” without spending an extra dime. Cheese and tomatoes from Costco, “Italian” bread on sale.

Lonely bread.

Not so lonely anymore. A wipe of butter, dash of garlic pepper and basil. Topped with cheese…

…and tomatoes.

Broiled and toasted in the toaster oven.

A sprinkle of salt and Parmesan, glass of wine (OK, coffee mug of wine). Yum. No, it wasn’t take-out. But it was good. And easy. And yummy. And I’m happy that I didn’t spend $30 on pizza – I can pocket that for another time!

Sarcasm and Couponing

… just a dash of sarcasm.

Well at least my washer waited until I had the majority of my wash done before it completely broke down.

Thank goodness for 3-day weekends. Even more time to spend hunting down deals, making up shopping lists.


I’m trying not to be bitter, angry, sad or whiny. It doesn’t always work that way. I don’t know if it really is true that when it rains it pours, or if when it is pouring out you just take more notice of each, fat drop.

Lots of fat drops going on right now. Good, bad, normal… it’s all a part of life. Sometimes it just gets more difficult to cope with it when it continues to hit.

Yesterday I said “goodbye” to my parents. Not that I won’t be seeing them again, but we just won’t be living in adjoining zip codes. My father retired from being a pastor; my mother retired from a lifetime of lab work at the hospital. Somehow I thought it would happen around the same time, but not literally within the same week. Since my father was a pastor living in a parsonage (the church’s house), they moved. Not to another time zone, but another area code, hours away. A sad, but still somewhat exciting adjustment. Emotions.

My boss, a pastor, was recently assigned to a different church. 6-weeks notice, and her “going away” day was the same as my father’s retirement party. Again, sad, but exciting. A new boss means new experiences, and hopefully ones I can learn a lot from. Emotions.

My oldest son is taking off on a trip a couple states away for a camp. Quite an honor and exciting adventure. Teenaged angst and personality. Emotions.

My daughter, almost 20, continues to make life choices that are difficult to stomach. Emotions.

Searching for something predictable, I have found some joy in couponing (again). Not stockpiling like a freak whose stash will expire before making a visible dent. Not like that. But… like, going to Walgreens with a plan (researching a few sites– probably too many, printed coupons), saving money on items and walking away with a load of good stuff and not a bunch of money spent. My second trip (yeah I said it) was the best because I totally stacked coupons and got some stuff for cheap-o cheap (4 body washes for the boys who use them like crazy, pantiliners, a few other goodies). I like to know I’m getting a deal on things and am stocked up. I can see how some people go insane with it. Eh.. sort of.

My mother was a couponer. She had a tin recipe-card holder with her coupons filed in it. She was a SENSIBLE COUPONER long before there were shows about people with Coupon OCD. I guess I learned from her. That makes me smile. My ability to scrape together a meal from what seems like nothing, and my coupon skills are both from mom. And I’m adopted. Monkey see, monkey do.

So anyway, I also made out of Target saving more than I spent (go to and scroll to the bottom, click on the “coupons” link). That is a cool feeling. Contact lens cleaner, Colgate toothpaste, Crackerful crackers, 2 Dove deodorants, pens (for .02!!!), more pens, travel-size Tide, more pens… all for $10. The contact lens cleaner itself was $8 originally. I felt like a bandit. They let you stack coupons. So, for example: Contact cleaner $7.99 originally, Target has $2/off coupon, I also have a $1/off manufacture coupon — I get to use both for $3/off. I purchased everything by stacking. It does take time, but for me time is money and this is money worth working for.




Franks working overtime tonight. As much as I don’t like him to be gone, I do like the impact it makes on the paycheck. Years ago, when the kids were little, the difficulty of him being gone for 16 hours outweighed the fatter check. With the twins and a toddler, plus two more – my job as a SAHM was no cake walk. Some days, now, it is still difficult when he is gone for days on end. But I’m getting used to it. Bill-pay time is not as stressful when there’s a couple OTs on the check.

Right now we’re really working on getting our finances in better order. Big picture is overwhelming, but taking small bites of the debt pie here and there is manageable. One thing I need to do is renegotiate one of our credit cards, or refinance somewhere else. The card is $8000, and I don’t think the balance is even moving with the minimum payment each month. Craziness. For a long time life was so crazy (not just in Toddlerhood, but more recently) that we were in survival mode. The goal was to survive, attention was not given to these small details. This year, though, as my hours were cut from work, I used some of that time to do a better job of house management, and the benefits are overwhelming.

If anyone has any tips about paying down credit card debt, I’m all ears.

Happy Thanksgiving

Last night I made the mashed potatoes and cranberries. Today comes roasting the turkey, sweet potatoes and heating up the mashed potatoes. Oh, and stuffing. And then we take off out of town to a water resort hotel, the whole family. And, by the way things roll, my Monthly Visitor has come to brighten the day.


Still, I am greatful for the day, blessed by family, health, and warmed in spirit. This is the first “vacation” we’ve taken that I haven’t used our credit card for. I purchased it months ago with cash and am taking cash with. I hope that is a preview of our finances to come – increased responsibility with our money, and the ability to live without being indebted to anyone. It is a big goal, but I don’t feel as if it is unreasonable.

The house is filled with delicious smells, sounds, and the excitement of a change, a ruffle in the regular mechanics of day-to-day life. It is pleasing, and I am filled with gratitude.

Reusable Grocery Bags

Another day in the land of Grocery Shopping…

Last week I buckled down and did some BIG shopping at the store I specifically use for BIG shopping. Frank was working overtime and we were in desperate need of some groceries. I had to be done. I didn’t have all the elements set for a large shopping adventure (missing: meal plan and list – and husband or helper to push 2nd cart), but I had time, some money and the kids were all in school. That counts for something.

I grabbed every reusable bag I could find in my van (missed 2 actually) and headed in the store. Woodmans doesn’t have the best paper bags (no handles), and when you’re loading oodles of bags in the car and carrying them into your home, handles are nice. ‘Can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a Woodman’s bag rip in my arms as I lug it into my house.

I tried to keep a mental note of what I wanted, what I needed and what I could stand to stock up on. I took my time, which was an indulgence I don’t always have. I could spend 5 minutes comparing prices on toilet paper, if it tickled my fancy. Lucky me. Normally I’ve got at least a couple kids and a husband in tow. Between the Can I get _______ and Hey look at this!! I get very little done and always end up spending more than intended and having not a whole lot to show for it.

About 3/4 through the store, about the time when I hit the meat and dairy isles, my cart was about to explode. I tried to balance the 2 jugs of vinegar, 2 bags of rice and 4 gallons of milk in precarious places, but had to move the cart so slowly it was ridiculous. Even at the slow pace I lost an item every 10 feet. A man walked by me as I picked up my milk and said, Why you need 2 carts. I laughed and blathered something about my husband being the 2nd cart pusher and hewasatwork, blabla, laugh laugh, curse under breath.

And then I gave in and made the turtle-walk to the other end of the store to grab my second cart. I needed it if I were to:

1.) Make it out of the store without killing a gallon or two of milk
2.) Finish my shopping, getting what I needed

I transferred some items from Cart 1 to Cart 2 and finished out my trip in the frozen foods and bottle drinks section, then made my way to the checkout line. I wondered if I’d have enough bags, and then for a split second, wondered if I’d have enough money. I wanted to stay under $400, and it was looking close. Usually I can guess within $10 of the total, but my mind was to weary to even try that day.

I checked the total after the first cart and it was low enough that I was safe to continue on my second cart. I was fearing the big “$400” but hoped for a lower amount. Total? $300. Score. $300 was just dandy. And I only went over my wonderful reusable bag limit by 2 bags.

“Drive up?” They ask.

“Nope.” Momma likes a challenge.

Wouldn’t you know when I got to the car, there were 2 more reusable bags that I had missed? Perfect!! I double-bagged my handle-less paper bags into the reusable ones, emptied 2 carts full of groceries into my van and headed home, hoping Lootie would be there to meet (and help me carry the groceries in) me. Sure enough he was. God love the kid, he’s a workhorse (not to mention he’s happy to see groceries come into our house). He helped carry them up for me with no complaints.

Some of our groceries:

Deflated bags:

I finally got to use my Earthbound Farms bag. I had a couple Bratfest bags thrown in there as well. But I have to say, as far as reusable grocery bags go, the Whole Foods bags are my favorite. I use them before any others. They’re only $1 each, too, when many I’ve seen sell for 3x that (or more). I love my reusable bags. Only drawback of using the recyclable bags is the lack of paper bags to put our household recyclables in.

Grocery Shopping

I’ve spent way too much money on groceries the past couple days. With 3 main stores I shop at (a local “warehouse” superstore Woodmans, Sam’s and Copps). Each have their own advantages. The local store’s produce is not great, but the dried goods are well priced. It is a good “stock up” store and carries a good selection of ethnic foods, organic foods and has the best selection of all stores. Sam’s is nice for bulk shopping, but I have to be careful there because bulk is not always cheaper. Copps is a chain store that has weekly advertised sales, decent meat and decent produce. Some of the Copps stores are better than others. Copps isn’t as large as the superstore, but it has many incentives to shop (free gas, money back, etc.)

I’d say I do most of my shopping at Copps, then Woodmans, then Sam’s (with random stops at Whole Foods and even rarer adventures to Aldi’s). If I had to choose one, I’d choose Copps, although sometimes I cringe when I know an item would be cheaper at Woodmans. My ultimate shopping adventure would be to get certain items at Copps, bulk up at Woodmans, and pick up some extras at Sam’s. But, I’m rarely mentally and physically prepared to do that. I could probably save myself a nice chunk of change, though, if I did.

At the Bratfest this year, I picked up 3 of their reusable shopping totes. I wish I had picked up more; they’re great.


Mission Tortilla Chips
. Mmm. We eat a lot of chips and salsa, chips and guacamole…


Below is part of my haul from Sam’s. We usually get our big bag of Pistachios there, some meats, shrimp, cheese, frozen blueberries. Today I have some feta cheese, asiago, sliced cheddar, pluots, Emeril sausages (can stretch those for a couple meals, will mix with rice tonight), yogurt, and a jell-O from yesterday’s shopping trip. They had some wonderful organic instant oatmeal once, but it was a special buy and they no longer stock it. I did find some at Woodman’s though. The kids love oatmeal and I like the ease of the instant kind, but Quaker puts too much sugar and fillers in theirs.


With summer coming, the costs of food rise in our house. Since they’re home for lunch instead of school, it is one more meal to make sure to stock up for. With me at work during part of the day, the kids tend to eat through the food with slightly more abandon than if I were home. So I really need to be more diligent about meal-planning, making a shopping list, cooking ahead, etc. It is amazing what I can shave off our monthly grocery bill just by doing that. But on the other hand, $150 goes a lot longer at the grocery store than it does at a restaraunt. $150 is barely 2 meals out for our entire family at a place worth eating out at.


What it costs to fill up our tank.

Picture on Picasa

Are you brave enough to take a picture of the pump after you fuel up? I’d like to see it. If you do, leave your link here for me.

I know most people are sharing in the misery of paying for high-priced gasoline. The dent it makes in our budget is becoming more and more… tangible. We have a BIG van for our BIG family. Our van has a 30-gallon tank. Whenever I fill that sucker up, I feel the attendant’s eyes burning into my back, waiting for me to speed off without paying. I hear that’s been happening more and more.

Our little car has a 10-gallon tank and the price just to fill that little bugger up is nearly as much as the 30-gallon was (in what seems like) not that long ago.

So of coarse, the question is – What do YOU do to cut down on the impact of high fuel prices?

Some ideas to ease the blow?


  1. Take less trips; plan more when we do. A gallon of milk costs $7 if I have to run out late at night to get it instead of planning ahead, or doing without until I can combine a trip.
  2. Ride-sharing. Especially when it comes to the kids and practices (mainly the older ones). Think of it as “free” gas (gas you would normally be using, but found out a way not to). That helps me remember how important being creative about saving a bit on the gas bill is.
  3. Combining errands (similar to the first tip, but if I’m simply driving somewhere, school, practice, etc. Think about where am I going, what (other stores) will I be driving by and do I really need to take this trip? If I know I have to drive D out to practice (which isn’t close, mind you), there’s a grocery store on the way. If I have my act together I can shop while he’s at practice. It is like getting “free” gas.
  4. Figuring out the cost to certain destinations. Weigh the cost against the benefit of going. This helps me put it into perspective. I figured it costs me about the same amount of money to drive to work as it would to take the bus. I was contemplating taking the bus, but since there’s no real savings (on money), and there is on time, I opted for driving.
  5. Teach your older kids to to be savvy bus riders. We are fortunate enough to have very good public transportation. Our kids can use their semester bus pass to board the buses, even when they aren’t going to school. We take advantage of that when we can. The bus that goes by our house goes right by my parent’s house as well. If Beaner’s visiting gramma, she can often take the bus. Again, it’s like free gas!!

Rice Shortage

Have you heard about the rising concern of a rice shortage?

There are no shortage of articles (The Daily Tribune,, about it.

Another point of view:

Because when hoarding occurs, when even, say, 10 percent of your customers suddenly buy 10 times the amount of a single product than they normally would buy, the product is quickly exhausted and the supply chain will have trouble immediately providing the product… So there is not a physical shortage of rice; there is a problem with the supply chain because hoarding has stressed the system. –

If you haven’t noticed, it isn’t just America dealing with the high cost of gas prices, costs of food, and living. It is really kind of scary. We’re feeling the pinch more than ever. Gas is high, wages aren’t keeping up, and now rice, a “filler” food is on the rise, too. What next, beans?

New Post, New Year

Well hello again. Last time I posted it was 2007. New year, new post, new focus. I plan to update and re-arrange things around As I change my personal focus, the site may see some changes as well.

Christmas is over. It went well. Gifts exchanged, family-time spent and an inch increase of the waistline (I’m guessing, I have no evidence to back that up, nor do I really want to face the scale right now).

It is only five days in to the new year, and though I don’t like new year’s resolutions, I do like to remind myself of what is important, where I may have went off track, how I would like to change things. I used to keep a personal planner. For years I did. A couple years ago I stopped. And, honestly, I can see the difference. So this year I am starting it up again. Writing in my appointments, deadlines and keeping lists. Financial planning is high on the list for me. Keeping (much better) records of where money is spent, so I can see where the leaks are. The credit card bill hit a max over the past month, going over and surprising us with a $40 late fee. Not good. We had that paid off. Paid off. Yes, I said it. Spend on it once, and… well.

So I’m going to whittle that down as much as possible. Pay it off with taxes (again), and then freeze the thing in a block of ice. Unfortunately, for emergencies, we need it. Until we can build up a savings.

Student loans I have ignored and denied. I need to face up to them. And I will.

I hope 2008 brings you renewed determination as well.

Negative Nothing

My finances are a hot mess. I’ll admit it. With some family crisis going on as of recent, all I could think about was getting through the day. I never thought about balancing the checkbook. And now I’m definitely paying for it.

As much as it sucks to be so low on funds that you have to cash in your little piggy jar stash to pay for your fat cat’s urinary track testing and medicine, it sure was nice to have that jar available. With the $80 that was in it, we were able to get some gas, have a lunch date (I’ll admit, a bit frivolous, but husband and I needed that), pay for the meds and have a couple bucks leftover. But literally, when those dollars were gone, we had NADA. Nothing.

That’s not a good feeling. And as I pondered how we literally had nothing, I thought more about how much we owed. Credit cards, student loans (who I’ve been fighting off for years),  home equity loan… I realized that we had less than nothing. Negative nothing, if that’s possible. I had to own up to it a bit. Suck it up, eat some crow. Stop burying my head in the sand. Stop making excuses, be more responsible.

I’ve been flirting with being financially responsible. Hopping on that wagon. Reading. Dipping my big toe in there, but not committing. But I need to. I’m groused out by the fact that I’m thirty-fricken’-four and I’m no better off than I was at twenty-four. A wee bit more responsible, but not credit card free (I was for a few months there), and not with savings on hand (had it for a bit).

This week I’m looking at my Overspending Triggers (feel free to hop in on that thread and list your own), seeing as it is Thanksgiving week and I’m hosting and I KNOW I tend to overspend when hosting. But I’m not going to worry about that right now. Today I need to cash my check. I need to think about where and how I’m going to spend it. I’ll report back.