Showing posts with label Shopping. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Shopping. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

(Healthy) Grocery Shopping with Ease

It began with good intentions: your focus to eat right and move more for the new year/month/week. You had a goal, a plan to get there, and perhaps, the journey even started out promising. But then life/work/family obligations struck, and suddenly, going to the grocery store becomes a rushed task, and all attempts you made at better choices dwindles down to what is most time efficient not only to make, but to grab at the supermarket.

Man grocery shopping

The key to any healthier eating plan is consistency and planning, but what happens when the best laid plans fizzle in the face of life’s complications? It’s not as hopeless as it may seem. With some tweaking, you can design a healthy lifestyle, even under the toughest time crunches and demands.

Start with a simple (pre-assembled) grocery list. There are several smartphone apps that meet the criteria, if you love technology. You can create “favorite” lists, with your usual items listed each time you load it. From there, you can add in the items as you think of them. (Check out apps like AnyList and Grocery IQ.) If you prefer paper and pen, make a basic list with items you purchase each time, along with plenty of blanks to fill in, and make several copies. Hang them in a place where you and your family can jot down items for the list each week. If you have some recipes in mind, give them a quick glance and note the items you will need on your list.

Go grocery shopping with focus...and a time limit. When we start shopping with our health in mind, often new food choices can distract us. If you have time to browse, enjoy it! But when you are in a rush, the choices can be overwhelming. Instead, set aside the amount of time you have available and stick to your list. Avoid the temptation to wander down aisles with foods not on your list and stay on the perimeter of the store.

Keep things easy. When you have the time to make complicated recipes, take advantage of it. But when time is short and demands are intense, stick with tried and true recipes and easy combos. Try a slab of fresh fish and a green veggie, served over rice with lemon and butter. Grab some chicken thighs, wrap them with bacon, and bake, along with a baked sweet potato and a side salad. Frozen vegetables are fast, tasty side dish and retain most of their nutrients.

Don’t let best be the enemy of better. Every little change we make to eat and live healthier is a step in the right direction. Perhaps this week, you didn’t get to the store at all and ate out more than you wanted to. Or desire got the best of you and you finished the pan of brownies. Whatever it may be, keep moving forward and let the mistakes be what they are: momentary lapses. Embrace an 80/20 approach: 80% of what you buy is good food that your grandparents would recognize. And let 20% of your menu and life be the fun stuff that while not ideal, won’t hurt an overall healthy diet.

Changes in our lifestyle have to be sustainable for them to last! So rather than letting bumps along the path derail us, let’s embrace what we are changing, and let go of the rest. One step at a time, we will reclaim our health.

What are your top tips for grocery shopping when you don’t have much time? What are your favorite meals that are simple and quick to make?

Contributing Writer

Monday, December 9, 2013

Just Say No to Holiday Shopping Debt

The time of year has arrived. Where wishes turn into reality as we work to bring our loved ones their dearest hopes and desires. Often, it’s a joy to go holiday shopping, seeking out that one item for someone special or taking our children to shop for their favorite clothing. Sadly, come January, we often read the painful truth that we overspent in our rush to enjoy the season, and we are left with high interest rate credit card bills, lowered savings accounts, and at times, buyer’s remorse.

Holiday presents

Can you buy all the gifts you want to, without overspending? Yes, and no. It often depends on how well we’ve planned our year – and while that’s an easy statement to make, you are in good company if you are shaking your head right now. Try as I might to save money for holiday shopping, I often fall woefully short. So how can we afford holiday expenditures if we haven’t been the best saver all year long?

Sales, sales, sales. As it turns out, going out for Black Friday sales might not be as great a savings as we think. So how can we find that great deal? Check out the local newspaper or online ads for your favorite retailers. This time of year, everyone is running sales. And if you are a coupon-clipping maven, you might even be able to stack up your discounts. Retailers like Kohl’s, Old Navy, and Target run impressive, store-wide sales that can often be combined with coupons that you find on their websites or in the paper. Target also has an app which offers additional discounts to their weekly fliers and department sales. And just about any online retailer offers exceptional discounts and free shipping – so take a look around and see what’s out there.

Think outside the coupon. Remember sites like Groupon,, and Living Social have cut-rate deals on excellent services and restaurants. And if you can’t afford to get someone special a restaurant gift card, spend less than half as much at, and you’ll fund their night out with a sweetheart.

Shop local. Every year, I shop at my local farms and downtown art store. For neighbors who’ve been helpful throughout the year, I purchase reasonably priced steaks as a thank-you for the holidays, and the small art store offers locally crafted whimsies at low prices. You might also visit a flea market or farmer’s market, and discover artisanal jams and homemade fruitcake to thrill someone on your gift list.

Buy books. It sounds kind of odd to say, but often we overlook this wonderful source of joyous giving – and encouraging the imagination is of priceless value. Small bookstores offer deep discounts on their stock, and the big retailers do as well. If you are worried about getting someone a novel they might not like, ask for a gift receipt from the store, and tuck it in the dust jacket of the book.

Books in a bookstore

Make it yourself. If you find yourself out of funds, don’t hesitate to make gifts. Flavored crackers poured into a canning jar, a hot-glued gingham lid, and pretty ribbon make for lovely holiday cheer. If you are super-crafty, you could make candles or ornaments. For those with less time or creative-spirit, pop the dry ingredients for chocolate chip or oatmeal cookies into a glass container, wrap it with a big bow, and voil√†! You've got a gift to take to any holiday host.

Whatever the need, there are plenty of options to meet your gift-giving needs without going broke. And come January, you’ll be ready to celebrate the new year and live without the guilt of overspending.

Share with us your gifting ideas for the holidays. What is your favorite way to treat friends and family that isn't expensive?

Contributing Writer

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Warm Up Winter With Wardrobe Savings

With the cold weather just around the corner we need to make sure our kids have what they need to make it through the winter months. Since my family lives in Northern California we aren't hit with the big snow storms like many states, but we still need to make sure we have warm clothes for those 20 degree days and the slight chance of snow once or twice a year.

Winter clothing is always the most expensive, mainly because there is more to them and they are usually made of a high quality material to keep you warm. Layering is always a popular trend with younger kids so the more garments you have on the more money you will end up spending. Living in California definitely has its perks on the weather conditions and we usually don't have really cold weather until January. This helps out a lot on saving money because we are able to buy winter clothing for Christmas presents. So we are killing two birds with one stone. Getting our kids what they need plus using it as a present that they already want.  We have girls so they love clothing, boots, and scarves. Ed Abbott, the Website Repair Guy lists twelve helpful tips for choosing winter clothing that will keep you warm and not break your budget.  Here are a few tips that I've found to hopefully help you save money for the upcoming winter months.

Save Money & Shop Smart
saving money
Winter clothing can keep you in style

and help you save money
  • See if any of last year's clothes still fit and are in good shape. Then make a shopping list of only what you need.
  • Ask friends that have older kids if they have out grown any winter clothes. I am always giving away my girls' jackets and sweaters to help another family save money.
  • Keep an eye out for sales at the shopping mall.
  • At the end of the winter season shop for next winter. You will find huge savings on jackets and boots at this time. I usually buy a few sizes up for my kids knowing they will grow quite a bit over a year. This is also a good time to shop for snow gear in the all sports stores.
  • Go shopping but be patient. If you see something you really like wait for it to go on sale. You can usually find some good deals over the winter holidays. All the department stores will be having huge sales from now until Christmas.
  • Find coupons online. Almost every online store has coupons. I always check out Retailmenot to see what kind of discount I can get before I buy anything online.
  • Buy jackets, boots, and scarves that will stay in style. Stay with neutral colors that can be used for a few years rather than just one. Remember when shopping, if it's not in style, kids will not wear it. It's not saving money if it's just hanging in the closet.
  • Buy new scarves to change the look of an outfit. Buy a few over the year of various patterns and colors and by the time winter comes they will have quite a few and then they can make an old outfit look new plus stay warm.
If you have a child that loves expensive trends give them an allowance when it comes to winter clothing. Sometimes it is easier to compromise if you know they will wear it. Give them an amount they get for each winter accessory. For example if you have a $50 limit for a jacket than they can buy one jacket or maybe they will look a little and find two on sale for the same price. My kids took it as a challenge to see how much they could buy for that amount. They were also learning the value of a dollar and to appreciate what they have.

Marci Psalmonds
Contributing Writer

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Back to School Savings

clothing budget
Back to school shopping should be fun & not stressful.
If you have kids, you will be in the same boat as me this month; feeling like you have a hole in your pocket and wondering where all your money went after completing your back to school shopping.  According to The National Retail Federation back to school shopping is considered the second-largest spending event of the year behind Christmas.  They are expecting $83.3 billion to be spent this season.  That is just CRAZY!

However having two teenage girls that love clothes and school supplies, I know exactly how they get that figure.  Our youngest daughter Emily is big into organizing, which means school supplies that keep her on task.  She has OCD and if it isn't just right, we go back to the store. (This is called picking my battles because when she feels organized - life is a whole lot easier.)  Our oldest daughter Morgan likes fashion, but isn't into the name brands, which is nice.  Bottom line though - school shopping means bargain shopping for us.  We try and find the best in school savings by doing the following.

Ready, Set, Organize

  1. First things first in saving money...go through their closets and dressers to find out what clothes still fit and what they will still wear.  Hidden clothes in the back of the closet can sometimes find new life. 
  2. Next we do the oh so familiar hand me down drill.  My girls have different tastes so this doesn't always work out, but there are a few things Emily likes and will actually wear for the new school year.  
  3. Lastly, we go through all their old notebooks from last school year and see what we can salvage, including pens, pencils, erasers, etc....  Most of the time we can come up with a lot of the school supplies by having them look through their rooms.  I usually only have to buy paper and maybe a binder or two.

Clothing Budget Helps Save Money

Thinking Ahead - In our household we also give a clothing budget over the next three months for clothes.  Since we live in California it is still pretty warm when school starts so our kids are still wearing their summer clothes the first few months of school.  So, we give each girl a dollar limit at the beginning of each month to purchase clothes.  For example we give them $100.00 in August to buy whatever clothing they want - usually new shirts and shoes.  The next month they get another $100.00 for jeans and maybe more shirts.  Then another $100 the last month. This is when they buy some sweaters and maybe more pants.  This works well because 1) they always have new clothes and 2) we aren't buying things that they can't wear until the cooler weather hits.  It also prepares them for real life by learning to save and how to budget their money.

Best Places to Shop

Whether your child is going back to school this Fall for Kindergarten, 12th grade, or going off to college, you will need a list of supplies -- typically on the school's website or at the school.  If you are an online shopper, you can go to Staples and shop by the grade your child is entering.  There are always back to school savings with their back to school sales and it's convenient.  I found I get the biggest bang for my buck here!

If you are a Target shopper, another great place to shop for school supplies and finding back to school specials, not only can you buy supplies, you can also do school clothes shopping.  They even have a coupon page that has extra savings to print out.   Last year Emily bought her backpack for 50% off - a great deal for a very stylish backpack.

Another great place to save without all the hustle and bustle is CVS.  We go here quite often.  They always have sales, it isn't too big, and there is less to choose from.  This helps because too many choices can be frustrating and overwhelming.  Also, their Extra Care CVS Card provides extra savings.  Last month alone I saved over $360 and earned $24 in extra bucks, which I will use to buy school supplies this year.

back to school savings
New school clothes
always puts a smile on their faces.
The most expensive part about back to school is the clothes shopping.  It can be less painful if you know where to shop.  For example, outlet stores are a great choice if going for their deals. However, you may go in for one deal, but then end up buying other things that aren't on sale thus leaving with no real savings.

To be a bargain shopper for school clothing you need to go to more than just one store.  Research first.  Find out what sales are going on and don't impulse shop.  The local mall is always a great place around the new school year.  They all want you to buy their clothes so they are constantly competing with each other to have the better sale.

Here are a few stores that often have great deals on school clothes and shoes online or at the actual store:

  • Famous Footwear
  • Kohls (Great prices from shoes, to bags, to clothes - teenagers LOVE this store.)
  • JC Penney (The whole family will enjoy their styles and everyday is a sale.)
  • Aeropostale (Great fashion that teenagers love at low prices.)
  • Old Navy ( Teens aren't big shoppers here, but great for younger kids.)
  • Burlington Coat Factory (Great for name brands with half the price and a little more organized than Ross or Marshalls.)
  • PacSun (Great for teen name brands and jeans are usually buy one get one free.)
Even if your children wear uniforms, I wish I had that problem, there are good deals on cheap school uniforms.  Old Navy has great prices from $5.00 to $20.00 for shirts to pants.  JC Penney has a lot of the same as Old Navy just a little more variety on the style.  A little more in cost, but really cute skirts and other styles to spruce up the uniform a little.

Coupons, coupons, coupons...whenever I buy online or get ready to hit the mall I go on the web first to make sure I have every coupon available.  I use online sites like: Retail Me Not,  Printable Coupons, or Deal Catcher  for coupon savings! Just print and take them to the store.

One last tip for back to school savings with teens.  Instead of taking them shopping and letting them buy whatever they want, I would suggest giving them the money and making them manage it.  Negotiate on a set amount before you go and give it to them.  This will make them think about what they are buying and do the math on how much money they have left after each purchase.  They will be more prone to doing a little bargain shopping.  If they know they only have $200 to spend, they might think twice about buying those $100 jeans.  It gives them a sense of control, but also a sense of how much everything costs and that money doesn't grow on trees.

Proactive School Savings

All of these savings and back to school talks bring up a big topic...saving for college.  There are a lot of people out there that are unaware of how to save NOW for college costs in the FUTURE.   Getting an educational savings account is the first place to start. is a great site to learn about a 529 Plan or Coverdell college savings account plan.  These education savings plans help families set aside funds for future collegcosts.  Planning is an easier and less painful method for saving for school, than trying to come up with it at college time.  Plus these accounts provide special tax benefits.  Upromise  is another great college savings plan that allows you to build up a college savings account while you shop for those items your children need now!

Contributing Writer
Training Wheels Preschool Owner

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Savings at the Farmer's Market

Farmer's Market Stand
Ma & Pa produce stand that gets the job done.
I have to be honest with you that I am not a big Farmer's Market shopper.  Mainly because I live in a small rural community and we don't have the big demand for it and we only have a Farmer's Market every weekend.  I know, CRAZY!!!  Not to mention Safeway is only a 30 second drive and when I am in the mood for some good veggies and fruit I don't want to wait for the weekend.  What we do have are the Ma and Pa farms with fruit stands that you can go to and purchase all the fresh produce you want and also plenty of flowers and some nuts.  You can even purchase homemade salsa that will please your taste buds.

fruit produce
Fresh wholesale fruits are a great find.
When I started on my 40 minute trip to the local Farmer's Market to see what kind of money saving tips I could tell everyone, I really didn't know what to expect.  I was actually pleasantly surprised when I got there and saw all the variety of home grown and wholesale products that was offered to me.  When I think of a Farmer's Market I think of fruits and vegetables with maybe some flowers.  To my pleasant surprise it had everything I could think of.  From the typical farm produce you see at market stands to wine, cooking oil, eggs, jams, chocolates, and seaweed.  You name it they had it.  As for the prices, their farm fresh produce wasn't much different from the grocery store prices.  There were some things that were cheaper like my favorite zucchini (3 for $1), plums (.99 per pound), nuts ($1.99 per bag, awesome) and  the flowers (.10 per flower).  I also bought some nectarines for $1.99 per pound which I thought was a good deal since that is what I usually get it for at the grocery store when they are on sale.  I actually went to the store that same day to pick up some things and saw them on sale for .99 per pound.  So that ended up not being better but the Farmer's Market nectarines were locally grown and fresher so it wasn't a complete bust.

Farmers market Flowers
Money saving finds in fresh flowers, produce.
I did notice that there were some big price differences with the flowers, nuts, jams, local wines, and homemade products.  I think I would just go every weekend to purchase those products.  I am not a big flower person but when I saw all the different types, I think I became one.  You can do so many different arrangements on your own and save big bucks.  I purchased a bundle of flowers for $2.00, YES $2.00.  That same bouquet at the flower or grocery store would have been at least $20.00.  Just on that savings alone you can pay a little extra for your fruit and vegetables and do all your shopping in one place.  As for the local wines we live just North of Napa Valley so we are still considered wine territory and there are always good deals on the local wines.

Wines, Vinegars, Farmers Market
Great sauces, wines, and oils were
throughout the Farmer's Market with great prices!
The bottom line on saving at the Farmer's Market is that it all depends on what you buy.  If you are going there solely to buy produce you may not save much. If you are going there to just check things out and browse around and see what kind of deals you can get you will save. I personally just liked the atmosphere of the Farmer's Market and I would go just for that alone.  As for the fresh fruits and vegetables I would purchase what I could get for a good deal since my family isn't too picky and whatever I brought home they would eat without any complaints.

The Farmer's Market was very lively but quaint at the same time and not to mention smelled great.  When I left I felt healthier and more peaceful for some reason.  Call it coincidence or maybe since I knew I was buying healthier and giving back to my community I felt better about myself.  Just that alone will get me back to the Farmer's Market next week.

Contributing Writer