April 30, 2008

WFMW: Aldi's

Call me simple-minded---un-American even--but here it is..I desire fewer choices in life, not more. I don't need a choice of 18 types of paper towels...any will work just fine. Some will argue there's a real difference in paper towels and this deserves careful consideration. But guess what--they all end up in the trash at some point anyway. I don't need to devote a second more of my time to what brand and color of dish soap will match my kitchen decor the best. (Be assured that NOTHING in my kitchen matches!) I strive to save my time and brain energy for decision-making when it really counts.

Enter ALDI's to rescue me from the world of too many decisions! ALDI is a grocery chain that is only 5 isles long--you heard right--only 5 isles. But where will I find my most favorite double chocolate cherry chip ice cream, you ask? You may not find it at ALDI...but then again you might...but there will only be one brand, not the 7-10 that you might find in a traditional grocery store. This is what is so appealing to me...if I want Saltines...I find Saltines. There's only one kind (no decision-making on brand involved) and they are cheap, Cheap, CHEAP! (Saltines were 89 cents when I went last.) I get a financial reward for my lack of decision-making! When in life does that EVER happen?! This is my kind of place!

ALDI also appeals to me for the ingenious way they modify the behaviour of their customers. In order to use a cart, you must insert a quarter for the cart to release from the line. The quarter stays stuck until you replace the cart. It's your money to begin with, it's stuck in your cart staring at you the whole time you shop, and the line of other carts is so close...the need to retrieve that precious quarter takes hold of the shopper and magically all the carts are put away! There are no...and quote me on this...NO stray carts in the ALDI parking lot! It is amazing how a borrowed quarter can cause shoppers to be conscientious in returning their carts at the end of their shopping! Gotta love the power of 25 cents!

Another way they train their customers costs only 5 cents. ALDI does not provide bags or bagger staff to pack your groceries at the end of your trip. But for a mere nickel per bag, you may purchase bags to do it yourself. Again, the thought of actually having to pay extra for bags...even at only 5 cents each...is so detestable to most shoppers that they either do without altogether, or they have learned to bring their own reusable bags. (The former makes for a fun car ride home, I am sure!) I bring my own bags...I keep a stash of them in my car at all times.

Who can't resist that type of passive control...all for cents on the dollar...brilliant!

While both my lack of decision making and amusement with passive behaviour modification are important, they certainly wouldn't cause me to drive 40 minutes from my house to shop at the closest ALDI's store. It all comes back to the mighty dollar...ALDI's is SO cheap!!! (I hope to post a price comparison from a recent trip...Aldi versus SuperFresh...stay tuned!) Even factoring in the cost of gas (roughly $14), I still come out ahead by making the trip.

Since I am currently on a coupon break, ALDI is the best way for me to get great prices without having to invest the time into comparing multiple sale ads with coupons and hitting multiple stores on shopping day.

It's Wednesday, and it Works for Me!

April 28, 2008

Crazy for Coupons or Just Plain Crazy

Since the beginning of the year, I have gone Hook, Line & Sinker into couponing. I love the strategy game of matching coupons with sales, hitting each store at the right time, and the immediate reward of getting something for nothing...or very close to it. I prefer to do things I am good at right away, and this fit the bill...a combination of strategy and shopping, how am I to resist? ...and who can pass up a good bargain, right?

Recently though, it has occurred to me, that I allow myself to spend an incredible amount of time on my fascination with coupons and getting deals. In a typical week I spend probably 4 hours a week preparing to go grocery shopping. I plan my menus, write my list, scour grocery ads like it's going out of style, and gather my coupons to match them up with what's on sale for the week. On shopping day I hit at least two grocery stores and CVS in one trip. The actual shopping takes me about 3 hours. Did you do the math? That's 7 hours of my precious life every week devoted to the grocery store. We don't spend that much time at the dinner table as a family on an average week! It's a new take on the old time vs. money thing...do I spend the time to save the money, or do I spend the money and save the time? Where's the balance? Something is seriously off-kilter in my priorities!

Also, my skill at the couponing game has caused me to become a bit overwhelmed in stuff. I used to think that was a sign of my success. I did a great job, and ended up with more stuff...but let me be clear...the last thing my house needs is more stuff. Why then can't I resist yet another free tube of toothpaste? Is a 2-year supply of the stuff not enough? When my husband can't open the linen closet because 30 rolls of paper towels come spilling out, you'd think I would get the hint...nope...clueless. My bargains have crossed the threshold of meeting a need or stocking a pantry (i.e. only one replacement item per item in use) to being just plain clutter. While I am trying to restore a neat house on one hand, the other hand is full of toothpaste and paper towels!

But with couponing. boy, oh boy, can I save some cash! There's not a better feeling in the world than walking out of a store with a boatload full of groceries and looking at the bottom of the receipt to find you saved 67% due to sales and coupons. But where is all that savings going? We don't have a budget...we haven't needed to pay that close of attention to our spending in years. We could afford to pay full price if we had to. Why spend the time on searching out deals when the savings has little meaning at all because it's not being put toward a tangible goal? I would love to be disciplined enough to look at my receipts and transfer the amount equivalent to what I save into a dedicated account for a specific purpose, be it something practical like a home improvement project, or something fun like a special vacation.

While I sort out my mixed emotions toward couponing, I am officially taking a break...what that means exactly, I am not sure. All I know is that I need to more wisely choose how to spend my time and money. Check in with me tomorrow as I review a great food store that just may be the answer to my couponing conundrum!

April 25, 2008

Menu Plan Monday: April 28-May 4

There was a bit of a disaster in the Stanley kitchen this past week. Part of the preparation of the potato leek soup I made on Wedenesday required some puree-ing (not sure if that's really even a word!). With no stick blender to be had, I thought it wise to pour the boiling soup into the regular blender. Also, seeking to conserve time, I was just sure I could puree all the soup at once. I could barely get the lid on, but it fit so away I went. Big. Huge. Mistake. Soup was EVERYWHERE!!!

Enter my cooking tip of the week: If the recipe calls for the use of a stick blender, there must be a good reason--use it!

On to this week's menu:


Macaroni & Cheese
Turkey Sandwhiches
Grilled Cheese
Meatball Subs
Leftovers (Lasagna, Potato Leek Soup)

Fruit (Apples, Oranges)
Monday--Spaghetti & Meatballs
Tuesday--Chicken Tenders, Rice, Sweet Potato Patties
Wedenesday--Grilled Brats w/Peppers & Onions, Baked Beans, Potato Salad
Thursday--Salmon, Salad, Baked Potatoes
Friday--Leftovers or Pizza
Saturday--Dinner w/Mom at her house
Sunday--Breaded Fried Pork Chops, Green Beans, Stuffing

April 24, 2008

Happy Birthday, Debbie!

I met Debbie in graduate school and she quickly became one of my dearest friends. In fact, Scott and I love her so much that we asked her to be Sara's Godmother. She adores both of my children like they were her own. (That earns extra special bonus points in my book!) Debbie celebrated her birthday this past week and several of us took her out to lunch to a Greek restaurant with outdoor seating. The weather was wonderful but the company of such a fine group of friends was even better!

From Left to Right: Zinnia, Linda, Sabrina, Laura, Debbie, Me

April 21, 2008

Rachael is 7 months old today!

Happy 7-month birthday, my dear sweet Rachael!

You are a special addition to our family...so full of joy! Your eyes just dance when you smile. You laugh with your whole body. You look with such admiration at your big sister Sara. She is so loving and kind to you and you just eat it up! Soon enough you will be crawling after her and she will be in her glory! My beautiful baby, Mamma and Daddy love you so much and we are blessed every single day by the gift of your life. May God bless you now and always!

April 18, 2008

100 Things about Me

  1. I have a motorcycle license
  2. I met my husband in a burning building
  3. My family vacations annually in the Outer Banks, NC
  4. I have been to Russia and Italy
  5. I am an only child
  6. I work for the Federal Government
  7. I have a Master's degree from Johns Hopkins
  8. I am afraid of being alone
  9. Sunflowers are my favorite
  10. I have worn glasses since middle school
  11. I have never had braces
  12. My husband is a firefighter
  13. I was raised Methodist but am now attending a Catholic church
  14. I have donated my hair to "Wigs for Kids" twice
  15. I teach my babies sign language
  16. I love planning themed parties
  17. I have never dyed my hair
  18. Depression runs in my family
  19. I love my iPod
  20. I was on a competitive jump rope team as a kid
  21. I was in Girl Scouts for 13 years
  22. I don't like birds as pets, though I enjoy the ones that come to our feeders
  23. I am working on becoming a more patient person
  24. I used to see the world as only black & white; now it's not so clear
  25. I would like to go back to school for a degree in Social Work
  26. I am an introvert
  27. INTJ--need I say more?!
  28. One summer, I spent every day but two at the community pool
  29. My marriage is forever
  30. Couponing is a great game for me
  31. I love children's museums
  32. I wish I was a better gardener
  33. I have two precious daughters
  34. I have my ears pierced three times in each ear
  35. I walked to school from 6th to 12th grade
  36. My birthstone is Peridot and I have never seen any attractive jewelry using that stone
  37. I love lists
  38. My middle name is Lynn
  39. I have a German Shepard named Harley
  40. I am generally afraid to try new things because I won't be good enough the first time
  41. I have a 45 minute commute to work
  42. I took country line dancing lessons in college
  43. Subway was my first job
  44. I am an intense person
  45. We have watched "Finding Nemo" so many times in my house the DVD actually broke
  46. I sacrifice tidiness for spending time with my kids
  47. I love watching professional football
  48. I played soccer in high school
  49. I could spend hours in the library
  50. The best birthday present I ever got was when my husband took me to a favorite store and let me browse forever and bought me whatever I picked out
  51. I hope to be as good of a Mommy as my Mother was
  52. I am a pretty good knitter
  53. Teaching my sister-in-law how to sew still makes me laugh just thinking about it
  54. I have sold things on eBay in the past
  55. Two of my cousins went to the same college as me
  56. With enough coffee, anything's possible
  57. I have a sister-in-law that also blogs and is the one who got me interested in starting my own
  58. I grew up in a very suburban area and now I live in a small rural town
  59. I usually listen to Country music
  60. I collect Longaberger baskets
  61. I buy most of the clothing for my family at Goodwill
  62. I my dreams, I have a housekeeper
  63. I am financially conservative--frugal but definitely not stingy
  64. My goal in life as a kid was to live in a house with more than one floor--a true sign of success--we do
  65. I am so proud to have my very own yard to mow
  66. I like to play the CVS shopping game
  67. I currently have enough toothpaste to last me probably three years
  68. My mother is fluent in Sign Language, as is my brother-in-law's mother
  69. I pray often for my children and my husband
  70. I am left-handed
  71. Everyone thinks my mother and I are sisters
  72. I struggle with really listening to people
  73. Fruit salad is one of my favorite foods
  74. One of the best things about having little girls is being able to dress them alike
  75. The last book I read was a Memoir
  76. My least favorite household chore is doing dishes
  77. The hosts on QVC fascinate me for their ability to chatter endlessly about nothing
  78. Easter is my favorite holiday
  79. Water chestnuts give me the chills
  80. I just don't get the appeal for kids with Dr. Seuss books
  81. My name is Angela and I have never liked being called Angie
  82. My best days are when I feel the most taken care of
  83. There is a difference between tolerance and acceptance
  84. I wish we would have named our first daughter after someone
  85. While I do enjoy my career, my true work in life is being a Mom
  86. I have set a goal to walk the C&O Canal Trail before I have another baby
  87. I have never had surgery of any kind
  88. Going shopping makes me happy, even if I don't buy anything
  89. I love Regular Coke
  90. In elementary school, I went to summer school for an older age group just for fun
  91. My most recent Amazon purchase was this toilet seat where the child's potty seat is recessed into the lid...what an awesome invention!
  92. I prefer summer over winter
  93. My children have reddish hair and blue eyes; neither my husband or I have these characteristics
  94. I often misplace things and my husband is usually the one who has the patience to go find them for me
  95. I graduated college Magna Cum Laude
  96. I once grew 96 cloves of garlic in my 4' x 8' raised garden bed
  97. My brother-in-law and I have Sudoku races to see who can finish first
  98. I have no particular attachment to the cars I drive; the cheapest, most reliable will do just fine
  99. I can't pretend
  100. I don't like the smell of microwave popcorn

SHARE Program

In an effort to reduce our grocery bill, I have discovered the SHARE Food Network in my area. SHARE purchases quality food at a discount and in bulk, repackages it and distributes it to area pick-up sites. The food is then sold to SHARE participants for $18 per package. (The retail value of the food you get each month is estimated at $40-$45!) This is not a need based program, and only requires that participants contribute a minimum of two hours of community service per month.

There's no need to make a grocery list...you get what you are given. The challange then becomes finding interesting recipes to make to use all items in the SHARE package. Call me crazy, but I actually find this very appealing!

I was hoping to post a picture but my camera seems to be on the fritz. Maybe next month!
Here's what the April SHARE package contains:

  • Bone-in Center Cut Pork Chops
  • Breaded Chicken
  • Fully-Cooked Shrimp Alfredo
  • Ground Turkey
  • Slicked Turkey Breast Deli Meat
  • Hunts Snack Gel Cups
  • Frozen Sweet Potato Patties
  • Produce (Potatoes, Onions, Apples, Oranges, Lettuce, Green Peppers, Carrots)

Menu Plan Monday: April 21-27, 2008

I have always liked the idea of menu planning just so I don't have to think about the inevitable "What's for dinner?" question that's bound to get asked just as I am walking collapsing in the door from work. I am also trying to cut our grocery bill by being more organized and actually eating everything we buy. (I tend to grocery shop each week out of habit, rather than out of need. Not only do I not usually need what I buy, but I would much rather have the time and money for doing something else!)

Here are the meals we have on schedule for the coming week. (Given our multiple evening activities for this week that include dinner, I am getting off easy!)

Toast w/Jam

Fruit (Oranges, Apples, Bananas)
Cheese sticks
Crackers & Peanut butter
Carrot Sticks
Cottage Cheese

Turkey & Cheese Sandwiches
Grilled Cheese
Tuna on Crackers
Pigs in a Blanket

Monday--Church function w/dinner buffet
Tuesday--Lasagna, salad, garlic bread
Wednesday--Potato-leek soup, cheddar biscuits
Thursday--Shrimp Alfredo, TX toast
Friday--Rehersal Dinner for Wedding Saturday
Saturday--Wedding Reception
Sunday--Tilapia marinated in honey/lime/garlic, corn, scalloped potatoes

Here I am...

I hesitantly enter the Blogging world...and I am concerned. Will people read my Blog? Do I want people reading my blog? I'm not a writing person...I prefer just the facts, not flowery descriptions. Can I really do this?? Do I have anything remotely interesting to say?? You be the judge...