Thursday, June 19, 2014

Summer Shopping on the Cheap(ish)

I love to shop, specifically for good deals. Stores like Nordstrom Rack are my playground. I can stay for hours! But, with this whole trying to save money business, those frequent Marshalls or Rack trips are gone.

I decided to allow myself $100 or less for some summer basics that are versatile, easy to mix and match. After taking stock of what's already in my closet, I made a very crude moodboard and got to ordering.

Old Navy T-Shirt Dress (Tall)

This dress has pretty good reviews, comes in tall sizes, and was under $20 with a promotion. I ordered a Tall medium and Tall large. The medium fit well but was fitted enough that it was a little sexy and required I be more mindful of my undergarment choice. I wanted something more casual, so I went with the large. After a couple hours of wear, it stretched out so much I was embarrassed to be wearing it in public. I hope it shrinks in the wash. (PS: There was also a bodycon version of the dress, but I'm not sure if it's still available)

Old Navy Linen Blend Shirt (Tall)
I got this because it looked comfortable for the hot summer and work appropriate. I always forget how long Old Navy shirts are in Tall. I'm 5'11" and most of my height comes from my legs, so most regular sizes are long enough in the torso for me. Sleeve length, dress/skirt length, and inseams are where I require tall sizes. Anyway, in a Tall medium the shirt was tunic length, which wasn't what I was looking for.

Array of Old Navy and Gap denim shorts
Oh, the shorts! I ordered six pairs of shorts, at least. I got different styles, washes, and sizes, but I had my heart set on the Gap boyfriend shorts. I was going for the 90s throwback light wash, a color that inspired a look of disgust from my husband. Turns out, I'm too curvy for boyfriend shorts. In my regular size, the thighs were tighter than I wanted, and when I went up a size, the shorts were just too big overall and made me look kind of huge.

I went with these Old Navy boyfriend shorts in my normal size, ultramarine wash. The inseam is a little short (3 1/2 inches, no clear difference between the Tall and regular sizes) and the thighs slightly fitted, but they got a thumbs up from the husband and are comfortable enough, especially for $20. 

Target Maxi Dresses

I started with the black and white dress, which I loved. However, I went with the black dress because it's easier to wear. It doesn't show off your body's imperfections as much and, like the large ON dress, has less specific undergarment requirements. It was $20 with an apparel coupon on the Cartwheel app. Both dresses are plenty long for wearing with flat sandals.

I also ordered some sandals and a pair of Keds from Nordstrom using a giftcard but they haven't arrived yet. Not to mention a J Crew order due to an untimely return of some work clothes I ordered in the Spring that left me with store credit instead of a refund.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

When 21 Days Becomes 26 Tasks: Crap Cleaning Challenge

So, the point of these challenges is to do one task per day, right? Well, I'm failing that part miserably. Do people quit their jobs and neglect their other responsibilities during these things??

I also have to break down some of the existing tasks, so this will probably be a 30 day challenge after all.

The update, broken out tasks in italic:

  1. Linen cabinet - top
  2. Linen cabinet - bottom 
  3. Craft cabinet
  4. Under kitchen sink
  5. Under bathroom sink
  6. Freezer 
  7. Refrigerator 
  8. Mail/Paperwork
  9. Mail counter
  10. Bedroom closet – clothes 
  11. Bedroom closet – drawers
  12. Bedroom closet - bookshelf
  13. Bedroom closet - shoe storage
  14. Bedroom closet - misc storage
  15. Utensil drawers 
  16. Baking and spice cabinets
  17. Dishware cabinet
  18. Pots and Pans
  19. Hall closet 
  20. Medicine cabinet/storage
  21. Media stand
  22. Under bed
  23. Handbag 
  24. Work bag
  25. Car 
  26. Balcony closet
 Who knows how long it will take me to do these 26 things? We shall see.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

How I'm Trimming My Grocery Bill

Before I started OperationGet Shit Together, I think I was spending around $500 a month on groceries, maybe more. We were also eating out a lot, either because I bought food all willy-nilly and couldn't actually make many meals out of it or because I didn't end up cooking, letting the food go to waste.

Now I'm spending about $400 a month and we are rarely eating out for lunch or dinner. We have probably spent that savings on date nights, but I am 100 percent okay with that.

I was feeling good about myself until i found bloggers who only spend $40 a week for 2 people or even $200 for a family of four. Impressive, until I noticed that people were achieving that kind of savings by getting all their toiletries at the dollar store, cutting out things like alcohol, cheese, and bacon and replacing butter with margerine. You gotta do what you gotta do to make ends meet, but things will have to be unimaginably grim before I allow margerine to pass through these doors.

If you want to trim your bill even just a little, a couple simple steps will help.

1. Meal plan based on what's on sale. Check weekly ads for your favorite stores, take stock of what's on hand at home, and plan meals accordingly. Pro tip: plan meals with like ingredients. Something call for 1/2 cup buttermilk? You will have a lot leftover. Make a salad/slaw dressing with it, buttermilk pancakes for breakfast for dinner, buttermilk chicken. Better yet, make your own buttermilk. You get the point.

2. Throw a coupon in when you can, and/or take advantage of double ad days if available. A lot of coupons are for crap I am not interested in, but organic brands sometimes offer them if you sign up for their newsletters, and my local natural food store has a monthly coupon booklet.

3. Cook what you buy! This might require meal prep days, depending on your schedule. Make friends with your slow cooker, whatever you need to do so it doesnt go to waste.

4. Eat leftovers for lunch.

5. Get some low cost recipes in your repetoire. Shredded meats are your friend. E.G. - pork shoulder on sale? get 2-3 pounds and cook it low and slow and use the meat for tacos, sandwiches, over mashed potatoes, on nachos, on homemade pizza.

6. Stock up when prices are way low. Get your freezer in on the action.

7. Cook from scratch as much as you can. jarred sauces, packaged cookies, and the like will quickly drive up your bill

Number 1 is the first step, I think. I check the ads, put together my meal plan, and make my list on Saturdays.

I still buy organic cheese, sour cream, yogurt, and high quality butter. We still have beer or wine in the fridge. I go organic with meat as often as I can or go to a local grocer whose meat is not technically organic but is raised in the area without antibiotics or hormones. I buy mostly organic fruits and vegetables. and so on. Point is, we eat in much the same way as we did before but still manage to save some money.

Eat well, enjoy your food, and save a buck.

Friday, May 23, 2014

21 Day Challenge: Crap That's Been Cleaned

Remember when I said I already cleaned out some of the items on my crap cleaning challenge list? Here is photographic proof, mostly in the form of before shots. So, photographic proof of what a shitstorm it was.

Above you will find my hall closet, looking so messy and gross, and the contents of my hall closet after I pulled everything out. 
That's what I threw out, plus some give-away stuff not pictured, and I had a stack of equal size or bigger that actually belonged in other areas of the house, like four handbags! I also cleaned out the handbags and scored 3 lipglosses and 8 hairties, at least.
From my bedroom closet, I cleared out a stack of clothes that I don't wear anymore but decided to keep anyway and a couple bags of give-away items. The clothes I'm keeping are nice quality that maybe I'll be able to fit again someday or might want to give to someone. (Every time I buy something on ebay, I think back to the clothes I used to have that I wish I'd kept.) Those clothes were put into an underbed storage container, which of course I had to clean out first.

Now to finish my challenge, make another one for actually organizing all the stuff, and then allow myself to even think about starting some of the other projects looming over my head.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

21 Day Crap Cleaning Challenge

Achieving results, y'all (via Forbes, who else)

I’m still doing a decent job of cooking regularly, planning meals and using coupons to save money where I can, and exercising more than I had been (which was not at all, so that’s like an easy A.)

Now I really have to get serious about organizing the apartment because even when it's clean, it still feels like a huge mess. I’m going to have to do this in phases and eventually totally reconfigure how we use our storage. 
I am getting serious, Jermaine!
First up, I have to get rid of all the extra crap. I thought one of those 21-day or some other number of days challenges would help, but I had to customize my own because nothing I found made sense for our space. For example, I don’t have a laundry room, or the luxury of devoting an entire cabinet to Tupperware.

Behold, my 21-day challenge crap cleaning challenge:
1.    Linen cabinet
2.    Craft cabinet
3.    Under kitchen sink
4.    Under bathroom sink
5.    Freezer
6.    Refrigerator
7.    Mail/Paperwork
8.    Bedroom closet – clothes
9.    Bedroom closet – drawers and shelves
10.  Utensil drawers
11.  Baking and spice cabinets
12.  Dishware cabinet
13.  Pots and Pans
14.  Hall closet
15.  Medicine cabinet/storage
16.  Media stand
17.  Under bed
18.  Handbag
19.  Work bag
20.  Car
21.  Balcony closet

Except I’ve already done four of these, so I guess it’s my 17-day crap cleaning challenge? And do I have to do this in order? I don’t want to. This is my customized challenge, so I say no!

After I clean everything out, I will devise a system for organizing what’s left. You know I’m already on my Pinterest game for this one.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Getting it Together: Baby Steps

If you don't know what this is, get out. Or google "Perfect Strangers"
Hey, strangers. How you been?

I'm not going to bother trying to explain why I disappeared or what I've been up to since then because it's not even that interesting. I'll just start from today. (Also not that interesting, but hey.)

What I'm trying to do now is get my shit together in, like, every facet of my life. There are a lot of things that don't come easily to me - like organization, tidiness, and general having-it-togetherness - but I am basically going to try to force myself to change that and become someone I'm not! Starting off with a healthy perspective is so important.

Here's what I'm trying to do:
  1. Get our expenses under control
  2. Cook more, eat out less
  3. Pack lunches
  4. Use what I have, waste less
  5. Keep the house clean
  6. Keep the house organized
  7. Exercise at least somewhat regularly
(Yes, at the age of 30, my goals essentially boil down to just living like an actual adult.) Some of those kind of go together, and several of them have sub-goals that fall underneath. For example, a sub-goal relating to numbers 1 and 7 is to stop driving to work, that way I won't have parking expenses, and I'll be doing some walking as part of my train commute.

Some of those can also work directly against each other on days when it feels like there just isn't enough time to do it all. If making time for exercise comes at the expense of cooking dinner, but we end up eating crappy fast food because it's cheap, what good is any of that? No good. So far I've done a pretty good job handling those kinds of roadblocks, but damn, it's hard.

What I do after a day of ass kicking and goal achieving
I'm doing pretty well with our expenses, cooking, packing lunches, and wasting less. (Except for Milkgate 2014, but that's a story for another time.) I'm doing alright with the exercise. The clear loser in this situation is the cleaning and organization. I want to get better at that and add some new goals into the mix eventually, like learning to sew, learning to take good pictures, talking with long-distance family and friends more often, planting a little balcony garden, and completing some lingering projects around the apartment. But let's not lose our minds here.

Baby steps.

Monday, October 1, 2012

From the Frontlines of the War on Crap Disguised as Food

I've already admitted to liking my fair share of crappy food. I eat junk food and go to McDonald's sometimes. Yeah, I said it! But I also try to incorporate organic products when possible and when (I think) it really matters. I follow the "Dirty Dozen" list, for example. Even when I don't buy organic, I at least prefer to get food that is actually food. These preferences can result in higher food costs. Higher than exclusive Whole Foods shoppers' bills? No, but definitely higher than my frugal boo would like.

Boo prefers shopping at places like Superior Grocers, a local chain with super low produce prices and several lines of crap, er, products that are also super low in price. In my opinion, some of these things are actually overpriced because they aren't really even food.
Superior Grocers: Purveyor of Fine Foods, like Sugar Water and Salt Covered Chemicals
Juice is the bloodiest battleground in my house. Sometimes my boo comes home boasting of the incredible deal he got on "juice" which is really just sugar water. I tell him I can make some sugar water for free, artificial color included, with what's in the pantry. Nevertheless, I decided to go to Superior on Monday to try to do the boo a solid and save us some money. That is when I found this:
Bottom center, look closely
CONTAINS NO JUICE. NONE. APPLE ARTIFICIALLY FLAVORED DRINK! Line your kids up, everybody! We've got apple flavored drink for sale!

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