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Shopping Trip #1 While Playing The Grocery Game

Obviously today was a big day for me.

First, I took the English certification exam (previous post).  I knew that I would also have to make a trip to the grocery store.  Current sales end on Tuesdays, and I wanted to take advantage of them.

You’ll recall that last week I signed up for The Grocery Game.  It’s a free, four-week trial period…during which I am allowed to get lists of all of my local stores’ sales.

Let’s talk about the “lists.”  The lists are what your membership fee entitles you to.  The lists group sales into three price categories:

  1. Only if Needed (i.e. on sale but not rock-bottom)
  2. Rock-Bottom Prices
  3. Free

Each category is color-coded, and regular prices, sales prices, coupon dates, amounts, and sources are listed beside each item.  This makes it easy to hunt for the coupon you need, and you know exactly how much you’re paying for each item.  There’s even a column to check mark the items you plan to purchase.

Before printing the lists, you can sort them in different formats…all items, original sorting order, only the items you check-marked, and a host of others.

A word of caution.  The original sorting order lists items in the same way that your stores are laid out (i.e. produce, dairy, frozen) .  I always seem to do things the hard way.  I sorted my lists by color and printed them that way…a very bad thing as I looked for items on my list while I shopped today.

Argh!

Lesson learned for next time.

The lists become available by noon on Sundays.  My only complaint thus far is the timing.  Because sales ads run Wednesday through Tuesday, this leaves me only two and a half days to shop.  This is not good.  Especially since I try not to enter a grocery store on Sundays…it’s just too busy and I like to relax on the weekends.

On Sunday, I printed the lists as soon as they were posted and bought a newspaper from Walmart, where my friend told me they are sold for $.99.  My mission:  hunt down as many coupons as possible.

Being organized is key here.  The way this system works is that you need to keep coupons for when prices hit rock bottom.  Teri (The Grocery Game founder) likens it to a stock market…buy when prices are low and double up when you can.  I love any opportunity to “get organized,” so I pulled out some extra folders and designated them for SmartSource, Red Plum, and Miscellaneous coupon sources…thus streamlining the time it takes to find the right coupon…

I printed the entire list for Publix…thankfully…as I made reference to it many, many times.  I bought quite a few items I did not originally plan on buying simply because I needed them and figured I was saving money, even if I didn’t have the coupon listed.  There were a lot of buy one get one free (BOGOF) offers.

Here’s a picture of my Grocery Game list, coupons, and the tiny list of “wants” that Chicky wrote out for me.  I was ready to roll.

I can’t say that I stuck completely to the items listed.  I don’t have a stockpile of goodies to use for recipes and, quite honestly, there are items you just have to replenish week by week.

Speaking of stockpiling…this is something that the site advises games to do.  If you can get something for pennies, buy it if you know you’ll use it eventually.  You don’t know how much time will elapse before the item goes on sale again.  My thinking is that this would be a great way to collect a bag of items for your local food pantry.

While I was shopping, an interesting thing happened.  I noticed that another shopper was using coupons.  No biggie.  But then something else caught my attention.  She had lists — lists that looked familiar.

Taking a deep breath, I approached her and asked if she was doing The Grocery Game.

Yes, she sure was!  We talked for quite some time.  She’s been playing since March and had loads of advice.  She told me about two coupon sections located at the front of the store.

She also told me there was another coupon handout that the store didn’t have.  I’ll be calling customer service about this one.

She reminded me that you can stack coupons…i.e. you can use a store coupon AND a manufacturer coupon on the same item.  I knew this already, but it was a timely reminder.  She also told me that you can use two coupons on BOGOF’s…even if the second item rings up free.  Personally, I think this depends on the management, but I was able to do it today.

After speaking with her, I visited the front of the store, where I picked up the coupon supplements she had referred to.  I then spent another 30 minutes looking for some of the items in these handouts.  I wound up getting three items for free!

By taking the time to methodically make my way through the store, I was able to spy out a very good deal that had not appeared on the list…i.e. I got free Caprisun after taking advantage of a buy one get one free offer on cookies AND a $2.00 coupon.

I couldn’t wait for the cashier to ring me up.  Look at my receipt:

The Advertised Special Savings were the BOGOF and bigger savings on chicken breasts.  Advantage Buy Savings were the little ones, like the $.40 I saved on detergent (which I combined with a manufacturer’s coupon to save even more $$).  You can see how much I saved by clipping and stacking coupons.

Amazing, eh?

The Mr. was not so impressed, claiming that we would have saved money on the BOGOF anyhow.  I beg to differ.  Those are the items you really want to have coupons for.  I mean, you’re already saving 50%, but to make it even more of a savings by throwing in a coupon!  Oy, the joy!!

My experience today was overwhelming, to say the least.  Would I have felt this way if I had not risen at 4am?  To some extent, I think I would have.

Was it worth the effort?

You betcha!

The end result was a buggy of goodies…

Which translated into a car full of goodies…

Which translated into a happy shopper.

I will keep you posted about my savings.  I want to visit CVS..a store that my new friend said she has loads of success at.

An Early Drive

This is the view out of my car window shortly after I left at the dark hour of 4:45:

And no, nothing’s wrong with your eyes.  The picture is a little blurry.  My hand shook a bit.

Why was I up so early?

Because I’m dumb sometimes.  Ok.  I’m dumb a lot of the times.

I don’t know if you remember, but I’ve been studying for my English 6-12 certification exam.  Today was THE day.

The test is not administered in my city, and the closest location is two hours away.

Lucky me.

The first stupid thing I did was scheduling myself for the 8am slot.

Apparently I have some inner drive that leads me to believe that I must excel at everything I do, which includes poor planning, because the site I selected was in a different time zone.

Yes, folks, Florida does have two time zones.

What that meant is that I had to do everything an hour earlier…including waking up at the ridiculous hour of 4am.

I triple-checked my alarm and made the wise decision not to hit the snooze button.  And yes, I even managed to grab a shower before I left.  I made it with 15 minutes to spare.

The test was difficult.  I was grilled on teaching methodology as well as plain old literature and grammar.  Do you know how long it’s been since I’ve taken a literature course?  I had no idea which authors match up with various works.  I Christmas-treed a few of the answers, hoping for the best.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, I had to write an essay.

Now, I consider myself adept at writing, but when I took my practice exams at home, I quickly realized that I was in trouble.

I would be required to write about a piece of literature, explaining how the author used literary devices, rhyme, and rhythm to convey a message.

Oh

My

Goodness

Fear and dread set in.  The essay counts for 30% of the exam’s grade.

The practice tests I had taken put the essay at the end of the session.

A surprise was in store for me today, though.  The essay was the first component!  Ugh.

Here’s where God stepped in.

I read the first prompt.  It was a poem.  Oh boy.  That would not be easy.

I glanced at the second prompt.  It looked more like a regular passage from a book, so I investigated further.

Folks…it was an excerpt about a woman who loses a son and finds comfort from a blanket…and in doing so, remembers a time when her mother and grandmother dyed, spun, and wove their own yarn!!!!!

How FANTASTIC was this?!

It was something I could identify with and actually enjoy analyzing.

Don’t you just love when God does stuff like this?  It makes me feel as if He is personally reaching out to me, wiping away the worry lines, and giving me the hug I need.

All in all, I have no idea how I fared on the exam.  Unlike last year’s test, when I received my results immediately, I’ll have to wait for this one because the essay has to be graded by hand.  I should know within a few weeks.

I am not going to worry though.  It’s all in God’s hands.

Every Kid Should Have This Drug Problem

Forgive me for being lazy, but hey, we all have days like this, right?

A few days ago, one of my friends shared the following with me, and I thought it was too good to keep to myself.  You can find a link to the following here, but I’m copying and pasting so you don’t have to make the extra click.

Before you read it, let me add that I like to say I was drug-free when I was growing up, but according to the following, I wasn’t.  Back in my days, most of my friends had the same problem.

A Different Kind of Drug Problem
(Original Author Unknown)

The other day, someone at a store in our town read that a met amphetamine lab had been found in an old farm house in the adjoining county and he asked me a rhetorical question, ”Why didn’t we have a drug problem when you and I were growing up?”

I replied: ”But I did have a drug problem when I wuz a kid growing up on the farm.” I had a drug problem when I was young: I was drug to church on Sunday morning. I was drug to church for weddings and funerals. I was drug to family reunions and community socials no matter the weather.

I was drug by my ears when I was disrespectful to adults. I was also drug to the woodshed when I disobeyed my parents, told a lie, brought home a bad report card, did not speak with respect, spoke ill of the teacher or the preacher. Or if I didn’t put forth my best effort in everything that was asked of me. I was drug to the kitchen sink to have my mouth washed out with soap if I uttered a profane four letter word. I was drug out to pull weeds in mom’s garden and flower beds and cockleburs out of dad’s fields.

I was drug to the homes of family, friends, and neighbors to help out some poor soul who had no one to mow the yard, repair the clothesline or chop some fire wood. And if my mother had ever known that I took a single dime as a tip for this kindness, she would have drug me back to the wood shed.

Those drugs are still in my veins; and they affect my behavior in everything I do, say, and think. They are stronger than cocaine, crack, or heroin, and if today’s children had this kind of drug problem, America might be a better place today.

Timing is Everything

I think that God has a funny sense of humor (not to mention timing).

Look at what was in today’s paper:

Chicky looked at me and rolled her eyes.  I had to laugh.

An Open Letter to the Movie Industry

Dear Movie Industry,

I am writing this letter after what started to be a promising day.

I am the mother of teenagers.  It is rare for all of our schedules to mesh in such a way as we can actually spend time together as one unit.  Today was one such day.

We decided to go to the movies, in celebration of Mr. AuburnChick’s birthday.  The latest, most anticipated summer movie was Transformers.  We had seen the first one, loved it, and couldn’t wait to see the sequel.

We decided to see the matinee.  I am unemployed, and money is tight.  Chicky’s Guy Friend tagged along, making for a whopping total of $35+tax spent.

We didn’t mind.  As I stated previously, it would be a rare day spent together.

The movie started innocently enough…good transformers fighting bad ones.  We settled into our seats for even more action.  We had heard wonderful things about the movie.

It didn’t take long for my excitement to turn to disappointment.  The first clue that things were going south was when one of the female characters was shown from the rear wearing shorts that left nothing to the imagination.  Did the camera really have to linger there?

Next, the audience heard an earful of curse words and sexual innuendo…all coming from the mouths of the “parents.”  Animal sexual antics, followed by a “You’ll see more of this in college, Son,” caused me to grit my teeth in anger.

As the Transformers began to play a bigger role in the action, so did their mouths.  I was shocked to hear curse words spewing forth from them.  Not only curse words, but very crude phrases that were directed at females.

I crossed my arms and grew increasingly tense as each scene passed.  You see, my son used to play with Transformers.  As you know, kids imitate what they see.  Can you picture your son or daughter using some of the colorful language they’d just heard at the movie that Mommy and Daddy just took them to see?

Oh sure, the action scenes were fantastic.  I’ll give you that.  The special affects were superbly done.

But why, oh why, did you find it necessary to throw in so much sex?  Some of it was overt, and some it was behind the scenes.  An observant mom like me won’t miss those posters on the college dorm wall.  I know I may not be a famous Hollywood writer, but I fail to see how a girl sitting on a boy’s lap added substance to the storyline.

I debated.  Do I stay, or do I get up and walk out.

I fought my thoughts as the scenes continued.

At one point, we were treated to the sight of a man ripping off his pants to reveal that he was wearing thongs with something written on them.  I have no idea what they said because I turned my eyes away.  I heard shouts of surprise and a few of shock from some of the patrons.  Did you really have to leave that man’s butt on the huge screen for more than five seconds?

Point taken.  Crude.

The thing that pushed me over the edge was when a transformer saw fit to do a sexual number on the main female character, and she laughed.  I sat two seats away from my daughter and was mortified.  Sure, she’s 17, but do I really want her to think it’s okay to laugh off such sexual banter?  The way women were portrayed in this movie was appalling.  They are not sex objects or brainless.

My heart was beating hard as I grabbed my stuff and walked out.  I barely made it to the restroom…that’s how badly my body was shaking from anger.  At first, I felt guilty leaving the theater.  This was the first time I have ever walked out before a movie was over.  With each step, I grew more confident and proud.  And angry.

Folks…you knew very well that kids and adults would be seeing this movie.  Regardless of who the target audience was, why did you have to dirty it up this way?

I’m angry because I seem to be the only person who cared.  I did not see one other person walk out today, and I know I’m not the only person who holds my morals close to my heart.

I feel cheated.  I want my money back.  But giving me back my measly $7 won’t hurt you one little bit, will it?  This movie will make millions as crowds continue to pour in and sell out showings.

Oh sure, some might be surprised at the filth that the human and non-human characters shout out, but they’ll be distracted minutes later by action scenes.

You may have those people fooled, but not me.

Shame on you for allowing your industry to go to such lengths just to make a dollar.

Shame on me for continuing to waste money on this form of “entertainment.”

Maybe you haven’t heard, but money isn’t everything.  In fact, it’s worth nothing if it means giving up your integrity.  When is the last time you heard someone say, “I won’t go see that movie.  It doesn’t have any cussing in it?”

I’ll venture to guess you never have.  Neither have I.

You can be sure of this.  I may only be one voice, but it is one that will be vocal from here on out.

I implore you…please…make cleaner movies…movies that families can see together without being embarrassed.

That’s the sign of integrity.

Signed,

AuburnChick

AuburnChick Repairs the Oven

No, I’m not breaking things on purpose just to give me a reason to pull out my tools.  I promise.

Several days ago, while warming up the oven, I noticed a glow inside.  Upon opening the door, I saw that part of the heating element had gotten bright red and looked like it was burning.

I quickly turned off the oven, afraid that it was going to explode.

It’s electric, though.  I don’t think it could explode like a gas oven.

I had a batch of muffin mix all ready to be baked up, and I was determined to cook them, so I hesitantly turned the oven back on and watched it carefully.  This time, it heated properly without incident.  I figured the red I had seen was a splash of drippings from a previous cooking session.

My muffins baked up fine, and all was well…or so I thought.

The next night I baked another batch of muffins.  Later, I decided to wipe out the oven…making an interesting discovery in the process.  The heating element at the bottom was broken…in the spot where the “incident” had occurred the night before:

Oh boy.  This was just what I needed…a hefty repair bill.

I pulled out my oven manual but couldn’t find a list of parts.  I think I remember throwing it out when we moved into the house…never figuring I’d actually have to order a new piece.

So, I got on the internet and tried to find the part.  However, this was easier said than done.  I had no idea of the “official” name for the part.

Fortunately, it’s a Sears product, so I called the 800 number on the manual.

The representative was helpful, although she did give me some misinformation at the beginning of our conversation.  She tried to tell me it was the broiling element.  I scratched my head in confusion.

I realize that I’m not exactly an expert in kitchen know-how; however, I was always under the assumption that when you broiled something, you were cooking from the top of the oven.

Had I been wrong all those years?  Maybe that’s why my cooking stinks.

I asked her several times if she was sure, and she told me to hold while she pulled up a schematic of my oven.

When she returned, she had news for me.  Sure enough…it was the baking element, not the broiling element, that had broken.

Ok, so I can’t blame my mom for incorrectly teaching me about cooking.  My skills are lacking just because I’m me.  No problem.

I was given a delivery date of June 30th.

Wow.  It would be a while before I could bake muffins again.  Bummer.

To my surprise, my part arrived yesterday (the 26th), a mere three days after I ordered it!  Two thumbs up for Sears’ customer service!

This was where the fun began.  But first, I turned off the breaker at the circuit box.  Safety first!

I quickly figured out that I would need to remove the oven door.  Trying to squat, remove screws, and change out parts just wasn’t going to happen.  Thankfully, my owner’s manual had pictures to explain the process…

Using a screwdriver, pull down the hinge

Using a screwdriver, pull down the hinge

After repeating the process on the other side, I was able to lift the door off (it was heavy, so if you do this, be careful!).  That’s when I noticed how dirty my oven was…

The cleaning would have to wait until I got the broken element out.  First were the screws which were a little difficult to remove.  Having done that, I thought I was in the clear, but as you know, this is AuburnChick, and things are never easy for me.

As I pulled out the element, I realized that part of it was still connected.  Closer inspection revealed this:

Oh man.  Thankfully, I have an electric oven, but still.  I studied this thing…turned the element upside down to try to figure out how to undo the clamps.  I had no clue.

And then, a stroke of genius…

I grabbed a screwdriver that has a pointy end (it actually looks a bit like one of my knitting needles), inserted the tip into a hole I saw on the clamp thing, and, pulled the other end out.  It slid right off!  No unclamping necessary!  I did the same for the other connection.

With that done, I was free to clean the oven.  When the kids were at camp, I had attempted to clean it.  This time, I did it properly.  It’s a lot easier to do with the door off and everything out of there!

While my head was inside the oven, I noticed the light fixture was n-a-s-t-y, so I removed it for cleaning…

People, it’s nearly impossible to scrub six years’ worth of grease from an object.  I did the best I could, going through two SOS pads in the process.  It’s not perfect, but it will do…

Now I was ready install the new element.  The ends slid right on, and I screwed it to the back of the oven.  Look how shiny it is!

It was time to put the door back on, turn on the circuit, and test it out.

It worked!  Can you see how the heating element is pink?  Success!

Total spent:  $60.  Time allotted:  1 hour, 15 minutes.

Confidence:  1,000+

What About the “Ordinary” People

This has been an active week for the media, hasn’t it?  First, we learned about the break-up of Jon and Kate.  As the week progressed, we were saddened to hear about the passing of Ed McMahon, Farah Fawcett, and Michael Jackson.

The media coverage has been incredible…not at all unexpected, though.  This seems to be the norm.

Yes, I’m saddened by this week’s events.  My heart hurts for Jon and Kate, as it does for any couple going through a divorce (I ran into a friend this week who told me she and her husband were separated), and I can’t help but be concerned for the family and friends of those who passed away.

And yet, there’s a part of me that is frustrated.

This post means no disrespect to any person in particular…just to get that out of the way.  You know how I am.  I am a compassionate person.  I genuinely hurt when I hear of others’ trials.

However, I tend to be practical.

What I don’t understand is why we are infatuated with famous people.  Why do their ups and downs make the news…and stay in the news?  Entire broadcasts are devoted to such events, and the public watches.

I am concerned with the way the public elevates these people…even to the point of worship.

And yet, you don’t often hear about your average Joe or Sue.  Joe might not be famous, but maybe he spends one weekend a month making sandwiches for the homeless.  Maybe he is a simple man. living a quiet existence, helping out wherever he sees a need.

What about Sue, a woman who stays home, volunteers in her church and childrens’ schools and remains devoted to her husband throughout her life.  Maybe you know a Sue who struggles to balance the demands of a family and a job, or maybe Sue is a single, unemployed woman who does all she can just to get through each day.

Sure, these people may not do anything spectacular…according to the world’s standards.  They may not invent new dance moves, sing a song that people know word-for-word, or, basically, live their lives in front of the cameras.  But still, they make a difference to those around them.  Their lives touch other non-famous people’s lives.

How do we decide that certain people are more news-worthy and allow the ordinary people to remain obscure, scarcely getting mention when they stay married, separate, or pass on?

I guess I’m feeling a bit disillusioned.  I’ll admit…I’ve sometimes gotten caught up in the frenzy.  I remember when Princess Diana died.  My eyes were glued to the television for weeks, and an overwhelming sadness enveloped my heart.

But, even during that time, I wondered, as I did yesterday after hearing about MJ and FF’s passings…did they walk with God?

Am I the only person wondering this?  Am I the only person who, upon hearing about the passing of a person asks myself this question?

Because, people, this is the only thing that really matters in the end.

Does it really matter what famous and “ordinary” people do in their lives if, at the end, they didn’t have a relationship with the Lord?

As I watched the news this morning, I kept hearing about the “spirituality” of one of the people who passed away.

Ugh.  I cannot stand that word.  It can be all-encompassing and inclusive.  Ultimately, it is actually exclusive if it doesn’t refer to the One and Only God of the Universe.

I’m sorry.  I know I stepped onto my soapbox today.  I certainly haven’t meant to sound preachy.  I guess I just get frustrated because I think we tend to get our priorities way out of whack.  What the world considers important is not important to God.

Will I watch special tributes on TV?  Probably not, although I will remember Michael Jackson’s dance moves as I am a child of the 80’s and grew up trying to figure out how to do the moonwalk.

Frankly, I choose to quietly celebrate the lives of those I know…the mom who has a disabled child and defied the doctors’ advice to abort.  Her faith in God is strong, and she and her family live out this faith daily.  I will celebrate the life of a woman who followed God’s command to help those persecuted avoid detection…risking her own life in the process (this was Corrie ten Boom). After being miraculously freed from a concentration camp, Corrie ten Boom founded a home for others, like her, who had been held against their will and needed a place to heal.  She even had the opportunity to meet one of her tormentors face-to-face and forgave him on the spot.  What an inspiration to me!

In my opinion, these are the real celebrities.

My Experiment With The Grocery Game

A few days ago I was outside working in the yard.  One of my neighbors (the one who bought and planted the roses between our yards) came out, and we began to chat.

Who knows how one conversation led to another.  We might have been talking about bills, the economy, and whatnot.  Anyhow, she mentioned a web site called The Grocery Game.

I had never heard of it, so I listened in rapt attention.

The basic premise of this site is that it does the leg work for those of us who want to save money when we shop for groceries and miscellaneous items.

I don’t know about you, but over the years, I have gone back and forth in my efforts to save money.  I have spent hours upon hours at my kitchen table, comparing store ads, cutting coupons, and planning my store lists.

My life has gotten crazy, and to save time, I’ve paid “sticker price” for the stuff I buy…preferring to shop at one store.  Easy in, easy out.

My financial situation, though, is forcing me to make changes.

Hence, my curiosity about this site.

Now, I am always leery where it comes to sites that charge for such services; however, this site offers you a free, four-week trial.  You can sign up for any stores listed in your area, peruse store lists, and see how well you play the “game.”

I waffled.  Do I sign up or don’t I?

I finally took the plunge this morning.

I thought that as I play with the site, I would share my findings with you. I am, after all, your every-day person.  I’m not famous.  I don’t have much money.  I have picky, yet hungry children.  I need to save money.  I need to save time.

Will this site be a help to me?  Will I be able to train myself in this new method of shopping…which actually works on the premise of patiently waiting for things to go on sale and stockpiling?

Time will tell, as will I here on my blog.

Stay tuned for more…

Muffin Success!

I achieved apple muffin success last night!!

After licking my wounds from the previous night’s failure, I regrouped and did what any computer nerd does.

I googled…again.

And found this recipe for Apple Strudel Muffins.

I am finding that I really enjoy Allrecipes.com.  I love that people add their suggestions on how to tweak the recipes.

That’s just what I did for this one…doubling the apple (half chopped and half grated), adding cinnamon to the mixture, and dividing the sugar into 1/2 cup each of white and brown sugars.  I also melted the butter before mixing it for the topping.  Oh, and I added the juice from one freshly-squeezed orange.

Here’s what they looked before I slid them into the oven:

And when I pulled them out…

Oh man, oh man.  They are AMAZING!  Even better than the cinnamon muffins I made a few days ago!  The chopped apples give the muffins a wonderful texture.  They are moist and melt in your mouth.  Personally, I could envision adding a scoop of ice cream to these babies. Happy times, happy times!

Pele Gets a Shave

Thanks too all of you who wished a speedy recovery for my cut fingers.  As you can see, they are healing quite nicely thanks to some fancy new band aids that have the antibacterial ointment built in…

Poor Pele though.  He still had that horrible sticky area, and I was determined to get it off!  This time, I was not about to use scissors!  He may be 80 pounds, but he’s every bit a baby and prone to throw hissy fits.

Chicky and I took him to our smaller bathroom where Chicky squatted down and spoke calming words in his ear.  I grabbed Rooster’s hair clippers and shaved Pele’s rear.

I have no idea what he sat in, but it did a number on his skin…

It took a while, and he was one happy camper when we let him go.  The only time he looked at me was when I sat his food bowl down.

Although all wasn’t forgiven (he’s been eyeing me warily for the last two day), he did take the peace offering I handed out later…a nice big bone.

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