Pin #26: How to Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half

Reduce grocery bill

Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half from Living Well Spending Less.

In the last few months, the hubs and I have committed to reducing our expenses so that we can become financially independent, thus giving our family the flexibility to travel and take on new adventures (you can read about our journey to financial independence on hubs’ blog), so to support that endeavor we’ve been looking at all of our spending. And man, we spend a LOT of money on groceries!

We’ve started buying in bulk at Costco, but when I saw this pin from Ruth at Living Well Spending Less, I was intrigued. We’ve had some success with coupons in the past, but Ruth gives 5 tips about ways to cut your grocery bill — and only one of those tips refers to coupons. Here’s the Cliff’s Notes version of her post

  1. It’s Not About the Coupons… “Always, always, always buy food when it is on sale. And by this I mean really on sale, as in 30-50% off the regular price”
  2. Stockpile, Stockpile, Stockpile… “Most items go on sale every 6-8 weeks, which means you need to buy enough to last your family that long… because you are shopping the sales each week, you will be buying a larger quantity of a smaller variety of items, which means your overall grocery bill will still go down. The goal is to build up your own mini-grocery store in your pantry which you can then use to plan your family’s meals.”
  3. Eat Less Meat… “Meat costs usually account for a significant portion of people’s grocery bills, so cutting out even a little will make a big difference over time.”
  4. Change the Way You Meal Plan… “Instead of running to the store for your dinner supplies you’ll be able to run to your stockpile–a ready-made grocery store right in your own home.”
  5. Learn to Match Coupons to Store Sales… “Coupons can and do save you a ton of money on your grocery bill, but only if you follow these other steps first.”
reducing grocery bill

How I felt grocery shopping with no list.

So the last couple of weeks I’ve tried out Ruth’s method. The first week was kind of half-assed – I used my pre-planned list (we’re a “plan the week’s meals out on Sunday afternoon” kind of family), I didn’t really stockpile but I did luck out and stumbled upon some great sales. The next week I decided to go in full-on Ruth mode and didn’t take a list to the store with me.

And let me tell you… THAT WAS AWKWARD. Like I said, I’m a LIST kinda girl when it comes to the grocery runs. Walking around the grocery store trying to figure out what the good sales were and just stockpiling sale items because they were there – I felt like I was walking around with my undies showing and everyone else knew except me. BUT, I did rake up some big savings – $23 the first time, $35 the second and $6 on the third quick trip. Granted, I no longer know what I’m making for dinner every night, but I’m starting to see how Ruth’s approach can help save a lot of money.

I’m going to continue this approach for the next month or so – I’ll be sure to update this post when I’ve got a few more insights on how well this starts working for us in the long run!

Cutting-Grocery-Bill-In-Half

Pinterest In Real Life: Savings are seriously starting to add up.

What about you? What do you think of Ruth’s recommendations? Share your favorite tips for saving at the grocery store in the comments section!

Also, I submitted this post as part of the very fun and very cool Pin Tester Movement. Be sure to check out pins that other folks have tried… And next round submit your own!

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Pin #24: How to Clean Your Top Loading Washer Tutorial

How to Clean Your Top Loading Washer

How to Clean Your Top Loading Washer from
One Good Thing By Jillie

Until the advent of Pinterest there were all sorts of things that I didn’t know that you could clean… that I didn’t even know needed to be cleaned. Pins like dishwasher cleaning and this clean your washing machine pin. But now I realize there’s some very gunky stuff going on in places that are supposed to be reserved for making things fresh again.

This includes our washing machine, which in 10+ operating years has never been cleaned. Adding insult to injury, it’s been taking a good beating the last 7 months since we started using cloth diapers. Peering in to the abyss of the washer, I realized that some pretty nasty buildup had accumulated on the agitator (the big spinny thing in the middle). Eek. So I decided to give Jillie’s How to Clean Your Top Loading Washer tutorial a try.

The tutorial is pretty easy – Round 1: fill you washer with hot water, add 1 quart bleach, let it agitate for 1 minute then allow it to soak for an hour before letting it complete the cycle. Round 2: do the same thing except this time with a quart of distilled white vinegar.

THE RESULTS

So how’d it work out? Well, the pics tell the tale pretty accurately. While the washer in Jillie’s tutorial came out nice and shiny, mine was still awfully grimy. Looking closely at the after pic, you can see that it’s about 20% cleaner than when we started but honestly I didn’t notice that difference until lining the pictures up side-by-side.

Pinterest In Real Life: How to Clean a Top Loading Washer Results

Pinterest In Real Life: How to Clean a Top Loading Washer Results… not much difference.

My results could be due to the fact that there was 10+ years of gunk to clean versus Jillie’s washing machine which was only 6 months old. Also, I did let about an hour lapse between when the bleach cycle finished up and when I started the vinegar process. However, I don’t feel like that could make too much of a difference. In fact, I ran the vinegar cycle twice in hopes that I’d see better results. No dice.

It wasn’t a total wasted effort, though. Since I had the cleaning supplies out already, I spent about 10 minutes scrubbing the agitator to clean off the remaining residue and the fabric softener container in the middle. NOW I feel like my washing machine finally clean!

Pinterest in Real Life: Washer clean after a final round of hand scrubbing.

Pinterest in Real Life: Washer clean after a final round of hand scrubbing.

Have you tried this tutorial? I’d love to hear how it worked out for others. Leave your responses in the comments below!

Pin #23: DIY Faux Roman Shades

DIY Faux Roman Shades from Kristen Davis Designs

DIY Faux Roman Shades
from Kristen Davis Designs

This week’s pinning experiment comes from the one and only Sarae Hope who tried out the DIY Faux Roman Shades tutorial from Kristen Davis Designs.  Sarae’s pretty clever with crafty things – like when she helped me figure out how to make these awesome DIY Camping Style Party Signs for our wedding a couple of years ago – so I was excited to see how this project turned out.

After going through a major kitchen renovation (where she installed some great new Pinterest-inspired shelving), she felt like there was one thing missing — her window felt… naked.  Sarae decided it was highly unlikely that she would ever pull a shade all the way down, but loved the idea of a Roman shade.  So, when she found Kristen’s tutorial, she pulled out her sewing machine and got to work.

Here’s how it worked out for her…

  1. It’s easy. Once Sarae got the fabric, it took her less than an hour to make and “install” her new window shade. In the tutorial, Kristen uses glue to put everything together, but Sarae wanted something that was a little more sturdy. She used her sewing machine to simply sew a pocket seam for the tension rod to go through at the top and sewed the seams on the remaining sides.
  2. It’s cheap. Roman shades can get pricey fast, but using this process all Sarae had to buy was one yard of fabric. With a leftover tension rod from the attic, one yard of nice $15 fabric, she was done.
  3. She loves it. I think this turned out great, but more importantly, Sarae loves it. The one change that she would make is to make each of the folds a little longer (like in the pic of Kristen’s shades above) to give more of a “hanging” effect, but overall she’s one pleased pinner.

See for yourself…

Pinterest In Real Life: DIY Faux Roman Shades

Pinterest In Real Life: DIY Faux Roman Shades

DIY Faux Roman Shades

DIY Faux Roman Shades

Pin #22 – DIY Nursery Room Decor

DIY Kid's Room Wall Art TutorialWhen we found out Little Man E was on the way last year, the obsession with creating the nursery began to take over.  I found myself on Pinterest for hours and hours trying to imagine what his first room would look like.  Eventually we settled on a jungle adventure theme and I began researching (read: pinning!) ideas. That’s when I found this pin from Dalloway Kids on Etsy – I loved the simplicity and great splash of color. However, I wasn’t keen on paying $43 + shipping for a couple of cutouts on scrapbook paper.

That’s when I visited my local Michael’s store and got busy. (Random question… How much do you think Michael’s or Hobby Lobby’s business has increased since the advent of Pinterest? I know they’ve gotten my money…).  The end product turned out different from the original inspiration, but I’m really diggin’ on the different dimensions and sense of motion that I wound up with in these pieces.  That’s the glory of DIY, right?!

DIY Nursery Room Decor Tutorial

Children's Room Wall Art from

Inspiration: Nursery Room Wall Art
from Dalloway Kids.

Here’s how I did it…

  1. Gather Supplies. First I picked up several sheets of scrapbook paper – 3 patterned sheets and 3 solid, textured sheets of scrapbook paper. Pick a color combo that best fits your room and style — I chose textured paper for the silhouettes because I wanted them to have a little bit more dimension.  I also grabbed some spray adhesive, exacto knife and 3 picture frames with matting (8.5″ x 11″) .
  2. Find Silohuettes. Next I scoured the Internet for jungle animal silhouettes that I liked. I wanted them to have a sense of motion (much like the giraffe in the Dalloway print) but also the have a bit of playfulness – I didn’t want it to seem like these beasts were gonna attack my babe! To avoid having to pay for these but still not rip anyone off, I used Google’s Advanced Image Search and selected the “free to use or share” option under the Usage Rights filter.

    Use Google's Advanced Image Search to find free images to use - select "free to use or share."

    Use Google’s Advanced Image Search to find free images to use – select “free to use or share.”

  3. Print & Cut. I used basic image sizing software to get the silhouettes to the right size, about 8″ wide (heights varied by animal) then printed the silhouettes directly on to the solid colored paper. From there, I simply cut out the silhouettes with the exacto knife and a cutting board.
  4. Arrange & Glue. Once everything was cut out, I taped the patterned scrapbook paper to the back of the matting and played around with how I wanted the animal silhouettes to sit on the matting – I liked having a few of their legs tucked behind the matting so it gave a slight 3D effect to the picture. Next, I lightly sprayed the silhouettes with the spray adhesive then laid them on the on the scrapbook paper and matting, tucking in the legs as I had determined earlier.

    Place legs on the on top and behind the matting to create dimension.

    Place legs on the on top and behind the matting to create dimension.

  5. Wait.. then Hang! With the silhouettes glued to the background, I covered them with the glass from the frame and sat a couple of books on them to ensure it would dry flat.I let the pictures dry overnight then placed them in the frames. Next, I grabbed the hammer and nails and hung them in Little E’s room.

I love the final product. This project was quick, easy and affordable — I spent about $18 on this with the bulk of that cost coming from the picture frames.  I saved over $25 and got a final product that I like better than the original inspiration!

Pinterest In Real Life: DIY Safari Wall Art

Pinterest In Real Life: DIY Safari Wall Art

DIY Nursery Safari Decor... Adorable baby not included :)

DIY Nursery Safari Decor… Adorable baby not included.

Note: If you like the original pin concept, you could make this DIY even easier by printing the silhouette directly on to the scrapbook paper – totally eliminating the cutting & gluing process. 

Pin #5 – Pot & Pan Organizer

Rev-a-Shelf Pot & Pan Organizer

Rev-a-Shelf Pot & Pan Organizer

Thanks to some very generous friends and family, we were able to use gift cards and money from our wedding to finally get a nice set of pots and pans. The problem that we didn’t expect when we got our 11 piece cookware set was how were were store everything. Then I happened upon this gem while scrolling through Pinterest… a pot & pan organizer system.

Rev-a-Shelf in real life – not as pretty, but just as functional

I did a few searches for it online to find a better price – at almost $300 on the Rev-a-Shelf site that was an expensive pill to swallow to get organized… but since we finally had a nice set of pots and pans, we knew we needed something that would help take care of them better and be easier to access everything. Eventually I found the 21″, 2-tier Rev-a-Shelf on Amazon for under $175, so we got it!

It’s been one of the best investments we’ve made to help organize the mass of pots, pans & lids.