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Savings Catcher

I don’t know if Walmart’s “Savings Catcher” ads are airing nationally since it’s only being tested in large markets right now, but they’re on all the time here.

They call it an app, so I thought it was something I could download onto my phone. I seem to recall seeing a woman in the commercial scan her receipt with her phone… Then again, maybe not. I usually tune commercials out after seeing them a time or two. After searching through the App Store and finding nothing, I went online to look.

You have to sign up for an account on Walmart’s website, then input your receipt number and date of purchase. Within 72 hours, Walmart will check their prices against all other competitors’ prices within a certain radius and email you with a response. If other prices are lower, Walmart will refund you the extra amount they charged. This amount will then be put onto a Walmart egift card that you can use at a later date.

I set up an account, entered my receipt info, and ended up getting a $2.30 credit toward my account! What a nice reward for my curiosity!

There are certain restrictions. Store brand items don’t count. Butcher shop items don’t either. Some produce doesn’t count if it’s not a brand name (say, Dole products). I also think they don’t honor gimmicks like Brookshire’s 1-cent sales. Still, it’s a good deal.

I know of someone locally who compares the sale ads each week and prepares a list, available for a fee, so that shoppers can go to Walmart and get the best deals. I used her free trial service but opted not to subscribe since it’s something I can do myself. I did it for a little while, using a 99-cent app that pulls together all the sale ads in my area (or whatever area I choose). It turned out to be more time-consuming than it’s worth. Now I don’t have to pay for her service or make a list myself. I can just let Walmart do all the work for me for free.

Or I can continue shopping at ALDI, where the prices are lower anyway. And where I can get all my shopping done in 45 minutes or less – on a big trip. Of course, ALDI doesn’t carry certain items or brands I prefer or am loyal to, so I’ll continue to buy those things at Walmart. I’ll just be sure to enter my receipts and get my cash back on the good deals.

Sidelined

You know that crinkly-crunchy sound elastic makes when it’s worn out? Well, my swimsuit made that sound this morning when I attempted to put it on. Today was going to be my first time in the pool this summer, but it was not to be. I can’t swim right now anyway because I have fluid in my inner ears and I don’t know what that would do for it, but it would’ve been nice to have gotten in the water to keep cool. At least the shade was nice. I was able to stand it for an hour and a half. Then again, the temps were only in the low 90’s.

I don’t know if I’ll be able to find another swimsuit this late in the summer. I’m pretty picky. It must be a black tank, which seems simple enough, but not just any tank will do.

I may be on the sidelines at our junior high pool party in a few weeks if I can’t find one before then.

Fall Garden Update

Catchy title, right? It’s been a while since I’ve blogged and I’ve missed it! We’ve just been so busy I haven’t had the time to write. Now that January is well under way, I seem to be finding my groove again…

On to the garden… My last post was about how pitiful our fall garden looked. It was sad. Really. My father-in-law suggested covering the garden with a sheet. Genious! I took an old sheet and clipped it to the garden cage with some clothes pins. It was perfect for keeping the hot sun off the plants. The ones that looked like they were about to die seemed to make a comeback. Of course, I had to check frequently. Where we live, there’s a lot of wind. A lot. (In fact, one of our trees is forever bent toward the northeast because of the near constant wind.) Every half hour or so, I’d have to go back out and replace the sheet because the wind would have caught it and blown it out from under the clothes pins. Some days the wind was light and I didn’t have to do much replacing, but on really windy days I had to forget it altogether. Once our weather finally cooled down, I was able to do away with the sheet. By then, the plants had gotten strong enough to withstand any hot days.

We planted broccoli, cauliflower, mustard greens, spinach, turnips, and garlic in late September, right at the end of the recommended fall planting season. Nothing ever came of the mustard, spinach, turnips, or garlic. I don’t know if the seeds, which I purchased from a local nursery, were bad or if we didn’t do something right (which is probably more likely the case).

By late October, some of the broccoli and cauliflower plants looked big and strong and I was hoping they’d start producing soon…

By late November, one of the broccoli plants had grown a small stalk.

By mid-December, I could see it from the dining room window! You wouldn’t believe my excitement! As for the other plants, nothing was happening.

After Christmas, I went out to see how the broccoli had fared since we had been out of town. It was going strong. I decided to peek inside the center of the cauliflower plants and was surprised to see one of them had a small head growing!

I did some research to see when I needed to cut the broccoli and decided it could stay on the plant a little longer. I put off researching the cauliflower because the head looked so small and I thought I had more time…

Last week When I went out to check the broccoli, I noticed the florets were starting to open. Oops! I almost waited too long! I cut off the stalk and hoped I’d get around to cooking it before it went totally bad on me. (We’ve been so busy with basketball and church activities, I haven’t been home to cook. Sandwiches are getting old…) I peeked in at the cauliflower and was so disappointed to see it had turned brown. I never did read to find out if when I should have harvested it. I need to do that so I’ll know in the future – even though none of the other plants are making.

Last night I made broccoli cheese soup – with our broccoli and a larger, fresher stalk I got from co-op. It was tasty, but you could see the difference between our broccoli and the co-op broccoli. Our florets were larger, on the verge of opening. One lesson learned. It’s time to learn about cauliflower.

Looking Pitiful

We worked on our fall garden Monday and Tuesday evenings. The plants we transplanted looked great. Until the full sun hit them, which is the sunlight exposure the info that came with them said they should get. They look like they’re about to die! Of course, I was told that if I planted them from seeds now, they wouldn’t produce anything before the frost kills them off. It’s like a catch-22. I guess all I can do is make sure they get plenty of water and hope for the best…

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A Fall Garden

I’ve wanted a fall garden for two years. Last year, I started looking into it too late. In the fall. I wasn’t thinking about the fact that to have a fall garden, you have to plant in late summer…

This year, I looked into things earlier and found that for our area, prime planting time is August 15-September 15. We are right there! Only this year, I didn’t realize that some things need to be planted during the early days while others can wait until later. It’s a continual learning experience!

The boys and I made a list of the fall garden plants we want to grow: spinach, mustard greens, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and garlic. On Labor Day we went to buy our seeds. It wasn’t that easy. Lowe’s didn’t have much of a selection; a local nursery was closed for the holiday; and Tractor Supply only carries a Burpee’s display when the seed company sets one up. We struck out!

Billy suggested I look online and order what I wanted, so I looked at Burpee’s and Ferry-Morse’s websites. Then I compared those to what I could find on Amazon. All the seed packets were more expensive than what Lowe’s charges for them, and I’d have to pay tax and shipping.

I realized it might be cheaper to try the local nursery again, so Jacob and I went by the next day to see what they had. Boy, was that ever a great idea! The lady who helped us gave me a list of fall garden plants with the suggested planting dates for our area. Turns out I should have planted broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts about a month earlier. She recommended I try a larger nursery in town for transplants of those.

After looking over the list and seeing what was still timely to plant, I decided on spinach, mustard greens, and turnips. I’m not a fan of turnips, but Billy likes them. I like the greens, and I’m willing to try turnips again since the last time I ate them was probably when I was in elementary school. I told the lady what I wanted and she put a few scoops of each kind of seed in little pouches for me. The seed packets were heavy, and I was wondering how much it was going to cost me after remembering what the online prices were. My total cost came to $3 plus tax! I will definitely do my seed shopping there from now on!

A few days later I called the other nursery to see if they had the transplants I was wanting. They did, and they cost $1.99 each. Not bad. We went by Friday afternoon while we were running errands. I found the broccoli and the cauliflower, but there were no Brussels sprouts to be found. We picked out three of each of the others and went to wait at the counter to be checked out. I asked the lady helping us if they happened to have any more Brussels sprouts transplants, but she said she had sold the last two that morning. Too late again!

Our goal was to pull out the old garden plants, add some nutrients, mix the soil, and plant our new things on Saturday evening. I started supper later than I had wanted to, and things ended up taking longer than I had planned, so we had to plan for another evening. Sunday night was out because we would be at church for the AWANA kick-off. Time is ticking, and our transplants will only last so long in their little containers. Tonight is the night. We will do it. We will not be late!

Firsts Day!

Today is a day full of firsts! The first first was that I cooked breakfast (for one) at 6:30 this morning. I rarely cook breakfast, and when I do it’s usually for supper. But it’s Caleb’s first day of (not home) school, and they don’t get a snack break. They get to eat when it’s time for lunch, and I know my teenage bottomless pit of a boy will be starving by then. He needed something more than a bowl of cereal or a Pop-Tart, so I toasted him a waffle and fried an egg to go on top. It’s something he loves to eat, but he’s not yet in the habit of eating breakfast quite so early. He did well to eat 2/3 of it. I hope that’ll hold him! At least he got some protein for the morning.

It’s also Jacob’s first day of school – at home by himself. He has always had Caleb around, so it’ll be quite a change for him to be doing this “alone”. I’m hoping he’ll grow and mature over the course of the next year or two. He really acts like a totally different kid when Caleb’s not around. It’s going to be an interesting year!

And it’s the first day of our new produce co-op rotation. We took a hiatus over the summer, with the exception of one shop day in late July. Let me tell you, I have really been missing my fresh fruits and veggies! I’m sitting here now, waiting for our Facebook group’s notification that it’s time to pick up. I can’t wait to see what we get and what my menu plan for the next week or so will look like!

And I can’t wait for Caleb to get home and tell me all about what his first day was like…!

Mindless Eating

20130824-101827.jpg I just finished listening to the audiobook Mindless Eating by Brian Wansink. It’s an excellent book! It’s one I’m seriously considering purchasing for my own bookshelf. (I’d like to actually read the book since I’m a visual learner and likely missed or forgot some of the information after just hearing it…)

I was in the market for a weight-loss book that wouldn’t just give me strategies for weight loss but would also touch on the why’s of my behavior. Instead of being preachy, this book did that in a fun and entertaining way. Wansink describes in detail the various experiments and research strategies he and his team used to uncover the mysteries behind mindless eating. Since I enjoy the learning about the psychology behind certain behaviors, this was right up my alley.

He pegged me in several instances. One that stands out is the fact that when I eat, I always save my favorite food for last. According to his studies, that’s typical of only children (which I was for eight years) and people who come from small families. It boils down to the fact that I didn’t have to worry about my favorite thing being eaten up by others. (People who eat their favorite food first are among those who are the younger siblings in their families and likely came from larger families where food was stretched a little more.) It also boils down to the fact that I’m more likely to overeat. Because I don’t want my favorite food (or any food for that matter) to go to waste, I’ll clean my plate.

I also liked the points he made about dieting. It doesn’t work, especially if you deprive yourself of the things you love. Deprivation leads to frustration and binging, which leads to guilt, which starts the cycle all over again. Who needs that?!?

I didn’t agree with all the points Wansink made. He looks at leftovers in a different light where overeating is concerned. He sees it as evidence that too much food was prepared, thus indicating a natural bent toward overeating. I see it as an opportunity to save money and time by not having to cook at least one night a week. We save up the leftovers for a few days, then have a leftover buffet one night. Very little goes to waste that way.

All my life I’ve been a mindless eater. I just never paid that much attention to what or how much I was eating. When I was younger I never had to worry about it, but now it’s come back to bite me in my ever-enlarging butt. Bad habits left to run free in younger years lead to continued bad habits that are hard to get rid of when you’re older. Not impossible, but very difficult. That’s why I’m trying to teach my boys good eating habits now while they’re young. I hope they are able to appreciate this and follow through when they’re older so they won’t have the same weight struggles their dad and I have…

That’s not to say I never pay attention to what or how much I’m eating now. Often I do. Sometimes I really work to be diligent in not overeating. Other times I just don’t care. Until I step on the scale again and see the damage I’ve done…

When I came across this title in my library’s ebook collection, I snatched it up. The timing was perfect. I had been okay with controlling my eating, paying better attention to things – then I went with several family members on a vacation to Florida. We didn’t eat out much. Instead we cooked our meals in our condo. And boy, were they great meals! That in itself wouldn’t have been so bad, but there were also tons of sweets – both prepackaged and freshly baked. That, plus the road trip snacks we ate on the way there and back sent me back into the deep end of mindless snacking.

Now that I’m leaning back toward more mindful eating, I’m going to follow Wansink’s recommendation to set three guidelines to follow to make my mindful eating more of a habit than eating mindlessly. He made several suggestions throughout the book, but he acknowledged that everything won’t work for everyone. How true! What works for one person won’t always work for me. What motivates another person doesn’t necessarily motivate me. I have to pick and choose my own battles.

So what three guidelines am I setting for myself?
1. Drink a full glass of water at the beginning of every meal. (This helped me before, but then I quit doing it… I intend to be more mindful of it now.)
2. Do not snack straight out of the box/bag. Put a portion in a small bowl and eat only that amount.
3. No second helpings at meals. And no increasing first helpings because of it! ;) I guess that also includes finishing off what my boys leave on their plates… Thankfully that’s not too frequent! Seriously, it pains me to have to throw food out.

These small strategies – as long as I’m mindful to follow them – should help me start losing weight without having to go on a diet or exercise ferociously. As Wansink says, “The best diet is the one you’re not on.”

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