Technology


I’ve written before about saving money at the grocery store by playing The Grocery Game as well as about ways to save with or without coupons.  I thought I’d share a few more tips I’ve picked up since then. I must be getting pretty good because I’ve averaged 48% savings over my past four shopping trips (one per week).  To quote one of my favorite original-Arkansan sayings, “I’m not braggin’.  I’m just tellin’ ’cause I’m proud.”

A $4 loaf of bakery bread for 75 cents

Oops, We Baked Too Much – This rack can be found in or near the bakery in most grocery stores.  In Kroger, it really is called the “Oops We Baked Too Much” rack.  It is filled with bakery items that are about to go past their sell-by date.  In most cases the markdowns are 50% or more.  I stop here first and ferret out the good bread, cookies, etc.  I freeze the bread until I need it.  My picky husband did not notice that he was eating previously frozen bread until I asked him to get a loaf out of the freezer one day. Generally the bread lasts 5 days after I buy it off of this rack.

Manager’s Specials on Meat – I’ve mentioned this in a previous post, but I just recently realized that the marked down meat is all moved to one area of the refrigerator case.  Makes it much easier to browse.

Clear-Out Corner – I’ve also found that most stores have a clearance corner where they throw random items in a last-ditch effort to get rid of them.  High discounts can be found, but you have to dig through a jumble of dry goods, personal care, and non-food-and-drug items.

A little helper searches the lower shelves for sales

Look High and Low – In every aisle, higher priced items are placed at eye level.  You’ll often find less expensive brands, off brands, and sale items placed on the lowest and highest shelves.

Ten cents off Gas at Shell – This tip is specific to Kroger card holders in Arkansas.  You can now use your Kroger card to save 10 cents per gallon at all Shell gas stations in the state.  You do have to have at least 100 points ($1 spent in groceries = 1 point) accumulated on your Kroger card to use this card benefit.

Store-Specific Digital Coupons – Many grocery chains are now featuring their own digital coupons on their websites. You register your store shopping card, click the coupons you want, and they are automatically loaded to your card.  When you swipe your card at the register, they are automatically deducted from your total.  Visit your store’s website to see if they have digital coupons, and go here for  Kroger e-coupons.  If you are a Target shopper and have a smart phone, you can sign up to have coupons sent directly to your phone.  At the register, you bring up an image of the coupon, and the cashier scans it.

Groupon.com – Groupon is not really grocery specific, but I think it deserves mention here as a great way to save money (as long as you only buy Groupons for things you normally use).  Sign up for a Groupon account, and they will email you a city-specific deal every day. You decide whether you want to buy it or not.  Savings are usually 50 to 65 percent and cover a wide range of goods and services: everything from car washes to trendy clothing boutiques have been featured here in Little Rock.

And finally, a little tip for my WLR tribe members.  It’s about saving time, not money.  But then, time is money…

Our new Marketplace Kroger (read: sort-of-Super-Kroger) is beautiful, but slightly overwhelming.  On my way out of there today, I noticed that they have store maps with a product index available.  They’re on the same stand as the weekly ad.  Grab one to take around with you, at least until we all learn the place.  You might think you’ll look a little silly carrying a map, but you also look a little silly doing three laps through the store, spending two hours finding everything you need. (I know this from experience.  I saw the sushi guys pointing and laughing at me today.)

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Our July One Small Change is probably the scariest one of the year: TV-free Tuesdays.  In the way of Meatless Mondays, this change is meant to decrease consumption of energy, but it also serves another, possibly more important, purpose.

Before I had kids, I had proposed to Craig that we get rid of our TV all together, or at least get rid of our cable service.  I had full intentions of not letting our children watch TV. Ever. Craig did not think ditching the tube was a good (or sane) idea, and so the tv remained.

TV Zombies

Now, two kids later, there is more tv watching going on in my house than I would have ever imagined, and it’s my fault.  With a two year old and a three year old underfoot, TV has become a tool.  My dad came to visit a few weeks ago.  “I don’t know how you get anything done during the day.  It seems like they both decide together when they’re going to misbehave or stop listening to you,” he said.  A couple hours later, both of the kids were parked in front of a DVD movie, motionless.  Dad had his camera out and was taking pictures of them.  “This,” I said, holding up the TV remote, “is how I get things done.”

The studies all show that TV is bad for kids, dropping IQ scores and upping body fat percentages.  I find comfort in the advice my Mom gave me when Carina was a toddler: “If you get to the end of the day, and you have things you need to get done, it’s ok to turn on the TV.”  The problem is that my kids are waking up with TV, twice a day.  It’s the first thing they ask for in the morning, and also after nap. Callen will even say, “Let me watch a show to make me feel better” if he is sad or hurt.

So, I’ve designated Tuesdays as our No TV days.  To be quite honest, I don’t know if I will be able to keep this one going.  I am cheating this month.  I didn’t just choose Tuesday because it sounds nice with “TV”.  We have a very busy schedule on Tuesdays this month, so if I make it through the hour and a half of at-home time in the morning with no TV, I’m pretty much safe. It will be a different story in August when all our extracurricular activities end and we’ll be left to entertain ourselves. Often the kids have no problems entertaining themselves, but when they are out of control or trashing the house, it is I who reaches for the remote.

Oh, yes, and then there’s that energy savings thing I mentioned, too.  Because when our TV is on, our Satellite box is on too, along with the amplifier, and speakers, and sometimes the DVD player too, and maybe even the v-smile video game.  So, skipping one day of TV a week probably won’t save enough electricity to be noticeable on our bill, but that’s why it’s called One SMALL Change, right?  Only this one doesn’t feel so small.

I don’t do a lot of product reviews on this blog, because, well, I don’t like that many products.  I did once consider doing ONLY negative product reviews, but decided even that would get old after a while.  Anyhow, here are some things that I have been impressed with as of late:

Book: The Green Parent by Jenn Savedge – I have given a couple presentations on “going green” this year, and in the process of doing research, I’ve decided that this is my favorite greening guide book.  Not to say that I’ve read all of them, but this one is great. It’s straight-forward, easy to understand, broken up into easily digested sections, and most of the information in it is relevant even if you aren’t a parent.  Added perk: I picked up the copy I read at the library. ; )

Music: Blink by Plumb – I happened upon Plumb via a post from another mom in a forum.  I immediately fell in love with her voice, which for me falls between Sarah McLaughlin and Enya on the “ethereal” chart. Plumb’s Blink album is completely inspired by motherhood.  It’s full of songs I could have written if I was a talented songwriter and that I would sing if I didn’t score a negative 8 on the ethereal chart.  Plumb is a contemporary Christian singer, which is not a genre I usually listen to, but I think this CD will be my new standard “new mommy” gift.  You can sample Blink on Amazon.

Home: Biokleen Spray & Wipe All-Purpose Cleaner – I have vowed to start making my own cleaners, but I’ll be keeping this one.  I love Biokleen’s All-Purpose Cleaner because it really is all-purpose and it is also a green cleaner.  It has gotten marker out of the rug, mystery stains off of the chairs, lifted milk and potty smell off of carpet and fabrics, taken red sharpie off the refrigerator, and tackled many other cleaning challenges that you probably don’t even want to know about.  And when Callen grabs it and squirts it at his sister for shniggles, I don’t have to worry.

Beauty: Neutrogena Healthy Skin Enhancer makeup – I don’t like to spend a lot of time getting ready to face the world.  Even if I didn’t have two kids.  So this makeup from Neutrogena, which is a 3 in 1 product, is great.  It contains retinol, SPF 20, and a tinted moisturizer.   It’s not thick like a sunscreen, but provides nice coverage.  The only problem I have with it is that it scores a 5 (moderate hazard) on EWG’s Cosmetic Safety Database.  If I can find a similar product with fewer chemicals in it, I’ll be madly in love.

Web: GoodReads.com – My friend Nicole turned me on to this, and I am hooked.  I love to read, but I don’t have time to keep track of what’s on the bestseller list, and I don’t have the mental capacity to remember the names of the books that people recommend to me.  That’s where GoodReads.com comes in – it’s like Facebook for people who read. In addition to creating your own virtual bookshelf sorted by to-read, currently reading, and read (with a 5 star rating system), you can also link up with your friends and see what they have on their shelves as well.  If you have a smartphone, it would be a great resource to pull up at the library or bookstore!

Leave a comment and let me know: What is floating your boat right now?

It seems that everything we do has an impact on the environment, and Blogging is not to be excluded. It makes sense when you think about it: a blogger needs a computer to publish from and a server to publish to, and both of these electronics eat up energy.  Consider this, from the website for 1 Blog, 1 Tree:

“According to a study by Alexander Wissner-Gross, PhD, physicist at Harvard University and environmental activist, an average website causes about 8 ounces of carbon dioxide for each visit. Assuming an average blog gets 15,000 visits a month, it has yearly carbon dioxide emissions of 8 pounds. This can mainly be tracked back to the immense energy usage from (mainframe) computers, servers, and their cooling systems.”

There are some ways to bring your blogging into the carbon-neutral zone.  First, you could plant a tree.  One tree per blog (as long as you have 15,000 hits or less per month) will cover it.  If you have more hits than that (impressive!) then more trees will be needed.

If you’re not much into dirt work, you can have a tree planted for you for free over at the 1 Blog, 1 Tree site.  I first heard about this program on the Krafty Kitten blog, and after some checking around, I’m fairly certain the program is legit.  I signed up for it, which means I get to display this pretty button on my site.

Another option is to check with your blog host.  Many hosting companies are offering green hosting options that at least make the server part of your blog carbon-neutral.  My MOMcation website is hosted through Just Host’s green program, which uses servers that run off of alternative energy.  You can check out a list of other green hosting options here.

As the realm of blogging continues to evolve, we’re seeing more emphasis on transparency, disclosure, and other ethical issues.  It only makes sense that our responsibility to respect our Earth should be addressed as well.

(to the tune of “Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah”)

Hello Mother,
Hello Father.
This Camp I’m at
Is like no other.

There are bloggers,
and there developers.
In order to learn CSS,
I’m going to need lots of helpers!

I need templates!
I need downloads!
I need something having to do
with smooshy marshmallows.

They’re all smart here
and I’m a dummy
they have ipads
and think my not-smart phone is so funny.

I can’t use analytics
or custom plugins
seems in  WordPress,
a self hosted blogs always wins.

But I met some ladies
who are also mommies
and write blog posts
about cooking, traveling, fitness, and potty.

At the technology,
they shake their heads.
So I’m not the only
blogger with SEO dread.

They don’t care about
vertical menus.
The just want to know
what kind of drinks will be at tonight’s venue!

So it’s time now
to get some dinner
then to the after party,
to see if I’m a swag winner.

Life is good now,
here at WordCamp.
And thanks to WordPress
I can send this note without having to use a stamp!

WordCamp, that is.  I’m all signed up and anxiously awaiting my trip to Fayetteville, Arkansas to attend WordCamp Fayetteville.  WordCamp is a small conference for people who use the WordPress platform to blog (and/or do other more techie stuff that I don’t understand). WordCamps are held all over the country, but this is the first one in Arkansas. Other than clues that the names of the conference sessions give me, I have no idea what to expect.  I won’t know anyone there. That really doesn’t bother me, except that I just hope I’m not the only one that doesn’t know how to code in HTML or why I get 20 hits a day on my blog for people searching for “fire ant”.  I also hope no one laughs when I ask about the “fire ant” search issue.

I’m really quite excited. I’m looking forward to learning more about blogging and WordPress, and for the prospect of connecting with other bloggers.  I am also pretty stoked about getting away for a couple days.  Hubby booked my hotel room for me, and got an upgrade to business class.  I don’t know what that means, but maybe I’ll get some free chocolate or something.  Either way, hopefully the end result is that I will come back from WordCamp Fayetteville with some new tricks up my sleeve to try out here on the blog.

In honor of Earth Day, my TWT posts will center on energy and “green” concepts this month.

kWh stands for Kilowatt Hour, which is the measure of energy used by your electric company to figure your bill.  A kilowatt hour is equivalent to using 1000 watts of electricity in one hour.

This lightbulb only uses 11 watts, compared to a normal 100 watt bulb.

You can figure how many kilowatt hours an electrical appliance uses by multiplying its wattage by the amount of time you are using it, and dividing by 1000. So, for example, (caution! english major doing math here!) if you have a 100 watt light bulb in your lamp, and you have the lamp on for one hour, you use 0.1 kWh of electricity.  If you keep that same lamp on for 10 hours, you’ve used 1 kWh.  You can use this simple equation to figure out the electrical usage of many of the small appliances in your home, which are usually labeled with their wattage rating.

(wattage   x   amount of time used)/1000 = kWh

Here in Central Arkansas, a kilowatt hour costs about 12 cents after taxes and fees.  You can figure out your cost per kWh by looking at your energy bill. Divide your total bill cost by the amount of kWh used, and you’ll have your per kWh cost.

microwave label with output of 1000 watts

So, you can save a substantial amount of  money by decreasing the number of kilowatt hours you are using in your home.  Do you know what the biggest energy user in your entire house is?  Your refrigerator!  Obviously you need to use your fridge, and it has to be plugged in all the time, but you can reduce energy use by turning the temperature up to a medium setting in your fridge.  If you have two refrigerators, and your last name is not Gosselin or Duggar, GET RID of ONE!  If you are looking to buy a new refrigerator, pay close attention to the energy use ratings.  Look for the Energy Star logo, and avoid the side-by-side models, which are the least efficient.

Unplug It!

The second biggest energy sucker? Your clothes dryer.  Now that the weather is getting nice, you can easily reduce your costs of drying clothes – the sun is free, and has many benefits that you can read about in my previous post, Ode to my Clothes Line.

And finally, don’t forget the little guys.  Even when they are not in use, small appliances like toasters, coffee makers, phone chargers, and hair dryers still pull wattage out of your electrical sockets. If you start unplugging five of these small appliances when you’re not using them, you’ll save enough money each week to buy yourself a latte.

What can you do in your house to decrease your watts?

Do you have questions about other energy or earth-friendly concepts?  Let me know and I will do my best to address them!

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