Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Strategic Shopping Update

Well, it was windy enough to fly our kite today, and I got some good photos and video of the kids doing just that. I will post them sometime when our media computer is free.

However, I am here to report the final results of our March strategic shopping experiment. Remember that our average grocery bill from a sample of three random months last year was about $850. That included household items that we bought at Target (since I couldn't separate those out from my data). Here are the results:

Week 1............$213.66
Week 2............$163.00
Week 3............$165.00
Week 4............$138.81
Week 5............$    3.57

That's about $167 below our average. That includes about $36.79 in coupon savings. (That's a conservative estimate, since some of the coupons don't show up on the store receipts.)

All in all, not bad -- but not as good as I had hoped, especially given the amount of time I have invested in this. I'd like to see a $250 monthly savings -- as well as a decrease in the amount of time I am investing in it.

Since I am still on a learning curve with this, I'm going to try it for one more month. I'll report back at the end of April.

Mudpuppy Spouts the Summa Theologiae

Starling here. A university colleague of mine and parishioner at St. Mary's, Sr. Margaret, came up to me at church Sunday and said "My, that little [Mudpuppy]! Looks like your raising a St. Thomas Aquinas there!" (???) No, he hasn't been spouting off with phrases like "sed contra" or "tantum ergo sacramentum"--in fact, no words at all--but I guess he does bear a certain resemblence (big, solid, and mostly bald). He also drools a lot these days, but I don't think that is related to St. Thomas.

In unrelated news, I went out with Jaybird this afternoon for a "date" (I'm doing that with each of the three older kids this week). She wanted to "pinky swear" that we would love each other forever, no matter what. So we did. :)

Monday, March 22, 2010

Kid Quotes: "I'm getting older faster than you think!"

This afternoon, Bear (our nine-year-old) was gently (and appropriately!) pushing back on some of the limitations we put on him. "I think I'm ready for more responsibility and privilege. Like I think I could be doing more to help around here. And then you could give me an allowance of $42."

When I laughed at that, he said: "Hey, I'm getting older faster than you think!" So true, so true.

And Jaybird has been REALLY enjoying the tagalong that we got from a friend. (This is a bike wheel and seat that you attach to an adult bike.) After being really quite scared during the first minute or two on it, she relaxed a little and said, "Hey, I think I'm beginning to really enjoy this thing! This is fun!" She wants to go bike riding with dad every day.

Scooting backwards

Sorry this video is so dark -- it was one of those cloudy, overcast mornings. As Starling noted, Mudpuppy has also rolled over from tummy to his back a couple times, and he's sitting up as well.

Lazy Saturday morning

Nothin' like a lazy Saturday morning!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Fun with Mudpuppy

Starling here--just a couple of quick notes on Mudpuppy, now 5 months old.

We sat him up on the diaper changing table today, careful to "spot" him, took our hands away, and voila! He sits! He looked so...happy, mildly surprised, and mature (for a baby)!

Moon has the honor of convincing Mudpup to do his first roll over (from tummy to back). She was thrilled. We were thrilled. Mudpup was worried ("what'd I do?").

And earlier this week, he woke up one morning, and I leaned over and rubbed his cheeks, smiling and saying "Good morning!" And he smiled, reached up with his hands, and touched my cheeks. Awwwwwwwww.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Bear playing the violin

Bear has been learning to play the violin since October. Here is a sample of his playing:

Spring is here

It's hard to believe that just a little over two weeks ago, the kids were ice skating in full winter gear -- snow pants, coats, mittens, hats, etc. And today, they were playing on the shores of that very lake in short sleeves and shorts! In fact, EVERYONE was outside today. Call it our Minnesota Mardi Gras: instead of dressing up funny and partying all night, everyone goes outside all at once to soak up the sun. The paths around the lake were congested worse than a Manhattan rush hour -- we even passed a guy in an electric wheelchair. "Ain't this fine?" he asked as we passed.

Bear and Jaybird in shorts and short sleeves checking out the snow and ice on the lake.

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March grocery challenge: Update 2

Well, this week's grocery and household supplies total is $163 -- better than last week's total of $214, but not great. So far, we're on track to spend $829 for the month, just $30 less than our average month's spending. Not too brilliant, considering how much work is going into this! We did have a ink printer cartridge thrown in there, along with a birthday gift -- but there's always something going on, so I'm including it in the total anyway.

This past week was kind of a lousy sales week -- although I did pick up 3 "big" 12-roll packs of bathroom tissue for $6, two bottles of olive oil for $4 each, and string cheese for $2.50 (normally $3.49). So far, the coming week looks better. Target is selling four boxes of Kellogg's cereal for $1.25 each (after the free $5 gift card) -- which ends up actually being closer to $1 each if you throw in one of the many coupons for Kellogg's cereal. And you can actually make $1 by buying Colgate Total toothpaste at Walgreen's; they're offering a coupon for $3.99 off your next shopping order, making the toothpaste essentially free -- but if you apply the $1 off coupon from last week's paper to that purchase, you actually come out ahead.

My sister in Milwaukee reports doing quite well with her strategic shopping efforts -- she called to say that she spent less than $200 on her last shopping trip. Not bad for a family of eight!

Saturday, March 06, 2010

March grocery challenge - update 1

This month, I'm trying to beat our average monthly grocery bill of $850 through "strategic shopping." I said I would keep you posted, so here's the first report.

This week we spent $213.66 on groceries and household items; according to our receipts, we saved $16.12 using coupons. (That savings doesn't include what we saved buying stuff on sale.)

At first I was pretty disappointed with that result, since obviously it's on track to hit our average monthly grocery bill. But then Starling pointed out that we do have a lot more food in the house -- probably a good two weeks' worth, as opposed to just a week. So we will see whether things even out down the road.

I know that we've been getting some good deals on stuff we use regularly:
  • 24 cents for a 4 oz tube of Colgate toothpaste (reg. 2.99)
  • $3.49 for a bottle of olive oil (reg $5.99)
  • chicken quarters (leg and thigh) for 49 cents a pound; bone-in chicken breasts for 99 cents a pound
  • peanut butter for $1.29 (stocked up - regularly at least $2.09)
  • $1.50 on a couple boxes of Post cereal
  • 8 lbs of oranges for 50 cents a pound
  • 10 lbs of potatoes at 20 cents a pound

And I've continued to record all our prices in our price book. Seeing the wide variation in prices on so many items has been eye-opening -- a 50 percent variation is not unusual. We'll check in again next week.

Spring, at last

You can tell it is spring in Minnesota because....

a) All the snow has melted
b) The first dandelion is up
c) The robins are back
d) Everyone is outside acting like it's the middle of summer

Yes, the correct answer would be (d). We still have quite a lot of snow, any robins that may have wandered back are surely doomed, and we're months away from the first dandelion. But let it breach 40 and everyone comes pouring out of their houses to work on their cars or jog around the lake in shorts or (in the case of our kids) ride their bikes on the front sidewalk. That strong February sun does feel good, though.
After Mouse and Bear came back from confession, Mouse helped Jaybird learn how to ride a big kid's two-wheeler (with training wheels). I didn't get any video of her helping her little sister, but she was an excellent teacher -- patient, encouraging, supportive. Unfortunately, since Jaybird was up late last night (8:30) as a result of her "at home sleepover" (since Mouse was sleeping over at a friend's), things ended in a very nasty tantrum. But you can see her beginning to get the hang of it in this video:

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Back in school again

Jaybird started back at preschool again this week, thanks to a nice-sized tax rebate.... We were somewhat hesitant about sending her back, because she didn't really enjoy it too much last time around. In fact, she was pretty insistent about not going back this fall. But a couple weeks ago we visited her old classroom, and once she realized that all her old friends were there, she changed her mind about school. (She's super-shy, so transitioning into the classroom was always hard for her-- having familiar faces around has made it feel "safer," I think.)

She's going Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and so far, she absolutely loves it. I took a short clip after school on Wednesday:

She was even more excited and animated right after I picked her up. We'll say a little prayer that it continues to go well for her.