Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Christmas Feastivals

Alternate Title: Why I'd Fail at Being a Vegetarian


Our Christmas Eve Dinner menu:

Blue cheese crusted fillet mignon w/ carmelized vidalia onions
Red wine/balsamic reduction sauce
Parmesan risotto
Creamed spinach
Mixed greens salad w/ pecans, blue cheese crumbles, craisins, diced apple
Homemade honey dijon dressing
crescent rolls


Then it was time for church.



After Emily went to sleep, we happily devoured Santa's plate of cookies before going to bed ourselves.

In the morning presents were opened, cinnamon rolls were consumed, and 1,000 pictures were taken and posted online for the grandparents.


Christmas Day Dinner Menu:

Roasted turkey (making up for not cooking on Thanksgiving this year)
Yukon Gold smashed potatoes
Gravy
Roasted Brussels Sprouts w/ dried apricots
Another mixed green salad w/ the same toppings
Homemade french bread


Oh the carnage
And we had a white Christmas in Atlanta! Unbelievable and so pretty.


Snow is awesome when I have no where else to be. M returned to work on Sunday, but his flight was delayed for hours because of the weather. He called to let me know, and we got to have another round of holiday eats. This time picnic style at the the airport. I heated everything at home and then packed it up in an insulated carrier. We met in the atrium food court and got to spend a little extra time together. Best meal I ever ate in an airport.




With bellies that are about to burst, now it's time to go back on our diets return to our regular lifestyle. I hope your Christmas was as bountiful as ours.

Was there anything special you treated yourself to over the holiday?

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Tagged!

I’ve been tagged by fellow runner Stephanie. You'll find her running around the Mitten State in hot pursuit of a BQ marathon this year, and if you’ve been following her blog you know she’s thisclose. Just read her recap from this year’s Chicago Marathon and you’ll know she’s one tough cookie. No pit stops allowed when every second counts!

Here are the 5 questions I was tagged with:

1)What are you most fond of accomplishing in 2010?

All the races I was able to run with Emily. Being able to combine two things I really love has been pretty awesome.


I'm especially fond of the most recent Christmas one. It's the first race I've repeated with her. It was fun to look back and compare how much we’ve both changed in the past year.

2) What are your running goals for 2011?

Break 1:40 for a half-marathon, then see how low I can go from there. I’d also like to break 20 minutes for a 5k, but I say that every year. Maybe being able to finish in under 21 minutes again would be more reasonable.

3) What is your favorite race?

Hmm, that’s a toughie. I’d say the Philadelphia Marathon. Over the years, I’ve run thousands of miles through the streets of that city. I love the familiarity and energy of a hometown race. It’s where I got both of my BQ times, in years when I wasn’t expecting to even come close.

The Camp Pendelton Mud Run for it’s uniqueness, and of course the Boston Marathon come in as close seconds.

4) What is your favorite holiday guilty pleasure?

All the sweets, but especially chocolates. They just go down so easy.


5) What was your most embarrassing running moment?

The soapy shorts incident.

During the Silver Comet half marathon in 2009, it became apparent the rinse cycle on our washing machine wasn’t quite doing the job. It was raining that day, and around mile four I noticed some white fuzz on my capris. It looked like shaving cream. I wiped it off with my hand, but it came back even thicker. WTH? My pants were washing themselves. I wasn’t the only one who noticed because I got cat-calls from spectators that my pants were foaming!

Lesson learned: Use less detergent and always select the second rinse cycle when washing tech fabrics.

I won’t put my running pals on the spot, but I’d love to hear some of your responses to these questions too. And to add, what race would you never want to run again?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas everyone! From our house to yours, we wish you a safe and happy holiday.

Picture at Tallulah Falls

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Real Joys of Christmas

A trip to see Santa.


FAIL

Better luck next year.

I took my mom to the mall to help her finish her shopping, and she helped me tame the little monkey while I got some shopping done myself. She's going on week 5 of her recovery, and was so happy to be out of the house.


It really doesn't matter what we bought, it was spending time together that made it special.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Right on Target

It was 35 degrees this afternoon, sunny, and no wind. My kind of weather!


My parents kept an eye on Emily while she napped, so I could go for a run. I did 10 miles in 1:15 and change, and felt terrific. If I can feel good maintaining that pace on a regular training run, I'd expect to bang out at least the last 5k in under 7:32/mile in a race environment. That would bring me under my goal time of 1:40. Looks like I'm on right on target. I really hope it stays cold for the race. I feel so much better in it.


Later on I while I was out, I picked up one of these. Have you tried it? I remember watching the challenge to create a new Snapple flavor on the finale of the Celebrity Apprentice last season, but this is the first time I've seen it in a store.


It's mango flavored ice tea with a spicy cinnamon finish. There's some other fruit in there too, but it's the mango that's predominant. Doesn't sound like things that would go together, but somehow it works.

I can't remember the last time I had rum (or even a Snapple for that matter), but as I sipped I kept thinking it good it would be mixed a little. Hmmm, is my subconcious trying to tell me something?

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Jerseying it Up This Weekend

Just landed and had to stop and get two of my favorites.

You Philly metro girls know what I'm talking 'bout.

A soft pretzel and decaf hazelnut coffee.


I'm here with Emily to surprise my family since my poor mom still can't travel. We have lots of christmas festivities to cram in before we head back on Tuesday!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Running Like A Mother

EmmyKay left a comment asking how I got back into running after having a baby. I couldn't be more excited for her. She and her husband Frank are expecting TWINS (!) this spring, so lots of changes are coming her way.

That's a great question Em. Before I answer, let me make this disclaimer:

I am no Paula Radcliff, nor will I ever be. I came to terms with my mid-packer status a long time ago. Also, I've only done this whole child-bearing thing once. I'm no expert by any means. This is just the story of one woman with one kid. Take want what you want from my ramblings.


So here's how it went:

I was still bringing the belly to the gym right up until my due date, but took about a week off after my daughter was born. You know, we were busy with snuggling with our little bundle of joy and entertaining the endless flow of visitors. The following week I had more energy and time, so I went jogging around the neighborhood. My speed wasn’t there quite yet, but I made it a few miles. I added more time to each run and did my first post-partum marathon with my Dr’s blessing about 8 weeks later.

In my dreams.

No, I was not one of those super-hero running mommies that laced up her sneakers about 3 seconds after giving birth.

I went back to re-read some of my old posts to see what I was thinking at the time. Honestly, I never thought I was going to be a runner again after Emily was born. I had an unplanned c-section, so my first attempt to formally exercise at the gym wasn’t until 6 weeks later. I had the courage to go for my first run outdoors (and not feel like my insides were falling out) another 2 weeks after that.

Part of the slow recovery was due to fact that I turned over my membership card to the "Runner’s Club" before I even got pregnant. Being a card carrying member for 15+ years, I often used it as my alternate form of ID. It was hard to give up.

Since high-mileage was part of my HA, my R.E. had me scale back running to a conversational 10-15 miles a week during treatments. Compared to the 50-60+ miles/week I was used to doing, that was like sitting on the couch eating bon-bons. But if that’s what it was going to take, I was going to do it.

Once I had that little babe growing inside me, every little cramp, twitch, and ache made me paranoid. The intense hang-over feeling from weeks 8-14 didn’t help either. For the remainder of the 2nd and 3rd trimesters, I hit the gym 3-4 times a week, but only used the elliptical and recumbent bike. I pushed just hard enough to lightly glisten.

Now that I have a frame of reference for what’s normal and what’s not, I plan to continue running if/when I get pregnant again.


My first “run” outside (meaning slog) after having Emily was 1 minute on, 3 minutes off. I repeated the cycle for 20 minutes. And was absolutely spent. In an overly dramatic, ball o’ hormones way, I walked into the house and burst into tears over it. Surely there was no coming back again.

But you know what. I did the same thing again the next day (sans tears), and the next day, and the next day. I added one more walk/run segment every few days. Over time the run portions became longer and the walk portions became shorter. It was hard work, and of course I did a lot of comparing to my old-self. I thought back to when an hour long run was easy-peasy. That was the toughest part.

Once I accepted the idea of a “new normal” things got better. I used to work out 6 days a week, and got down on myself for any less. With a kid, a full-time job, and a husband on the go, getting in 4 workouts a week suddenly seems decadent.

I can’t speak for every woman, but here’s what helped me get my groove back:

1) Focusing on quality, not quantity- more speedwork and threshold type runs
2) Pushing the jogging stroller…… it ain’t for sissies
3) Purchasing home gym equipment (I know, not do-able for everyone. It took some begging and pleading)- I have no excuse. It’s there during nap-time and at 4:30 am.


I ran a half marathon at 9 months pp, and had no expectations for myself other than to not walk, and I finished better than I thought possible in 1:46. I was happy just to be part of the "Runner’s Club" again.

Not long after Emily’s first birthday I finished a second half-marathon in 1:40, breaking my old PR by over 3 minutes.
I considered that a big deal since I was training much less than I was pre-baby.

So new mommas listen up. Don’t set yourself up to fail with unrealistic expectations. Take it slow and steady. Accept your “new normal”. And remember you are STRONG and that is beautiful.

Now for your words of wisdom....

Moms of 2+, give it to me straight. What was it like coming back the next time round?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

That's a Wrap

Saturday's race was a nice way to wrap-up the 2010 racing calendar.

The "race" was more like a 35 runners gathering for a frigid Saturday morning group workout. Nice and low key, it was something different. Aside from doing the Camp Pendelton Mud Run a few years ago, I think this was the closest thing to a cross country race I've done since high school.

M was home, so I told him I'd be back before he even woke up. I rolled out of bed and drove 5 minutes down the road to where it was taking place- a historic farm that was once of site of a major Civil War battle.


We ran through fields and trails, over ditches, and through icy cold mud. It was 5k-ish in length. My Garmin said I ran 3.32 miles in 23:21. In this instance that's as official as it's going to get, so just go with me on this one. *wink, wink*



Ironically, I think I left there with the best swag of the year. The registration bag had 2 vouchers for free Chick-Fil-A and PowerBar Bites.

For finishing 1st I got a gift certificate for a new Road ID, and another gift certificate for 1 hour photo session donated by the local photographer who was there taking pictures. I'm really excited about that one. We'll get a high-res CD of the images. Twenty minutes of running was totally worth it for some nice family photos.

What are some of the best freebies you've ever gotten at a race?



I stopped at Starbucks on my way home, then embarked on an epic christmas shopping adventure with the fam.

We're almost half-way through December. How's everyone holding up?

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Elf on the Loose

Last seen decorating Christmas trees somewhere in Northern Georgia.

Be on the lookout. Approach with caution, she is fast and may be armed with a loaded diaper.




(We opt for a real tree, albeit harvested from the Lowe's garden section.)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Let Me Get Something Off My Chest

Happy Thursday everyone!


Something’s been bugging me. I thought this notion’s been dispelled, but apparently not because I keep seeing it pop up on blogs and message boards. Just because your Garmin says you ran further than the advertised race distance, THE COURSE WAS NOT LONG.

If a course is USATF or RRCA certified you can be assured it is at least the stated distance. An extra 1/100 of a mile is added to prevent a short course, which is about 5 meters. The reason your Garmin says the course was long was because YOU ran long. It is nearly impossible for you to run the exact tangents (i.e. shortest possible distance) that they used to measure the course.

You can read more about the methodology here.

Got it? Ok, glad we could clear the air.

I know I've been throwing a bunch of race reports at you with not much in between. I can't remember the last time I did so many this close together. I've enjoyed the past few months doing all the local fun runs, but they're winding down now for the winter. I’ve got one more on tap for Saturday.

My workout schedule has been a hodgepodge that looks something like this:

Monday: 6 miles easy (8:10 pace)
Tuesday:: off
Wednesday: tempo-ish 6 mile run (5@ 7:30 pace)
Thursday:: off
Friday: 4 miles easy (8:05 pace)
Saturday: race or 8 miles w/jogging stroller (8:15 pace)
Sunday: 1 mile warmup, 30 mins stuff* on treadmill, 30 mins elliptical (or the jogging stroller run if I raced the day before)

* Randomly mixing up the pace between 7.0 and 9.0 mph, and incline between 1% and 5%. Doing everything I can to break up the boredom.

So what's next? I'm shifting my focus back to the half marathon for the upcoming months. My goal is to break my current PR of 1:40 at the Calloway Gardens Half at the end of January, and go sub 1:38 at the Publix Georgia Half at the end of March.

Time to ramp up the mileage. I'm not going to kid myself by laying out a formal training plan because I know I won't stick to it. Per the usual, I'll take what I'm doing now and simply commit to doing "more" of it.

For a person who likes structure, I can never commit to a formal plan. Anyone else with me here?

Saturday, December 4, 2010

'Tis the Season (5k Race Report)

We got the Turkey Trots out of the way last week, time for Jingle Bell Run season to start!

So how was your week? Mine was pretty low key in terms of workouts. I chose to forgo a couple sessions to do some Christmas shopping after work. Braving the crowds at the mall counts as a workout of sorts in my book.

I woke up this morning and wasn't all that excited to race today. M has Saturdays off this month and we had about 100 1,000 different things to get done. We spent the morning raking leaves and hanging Christmas lights. That combo doesn't sound right does it? Still not quite as strange as hanging Christmas lights on palm trees when we lived in Ft. Lauderdale.

The race started at 3:00, and it broke up the good flow we had going. I was almost ready to skip it.


But I knew I'd get in the spirit once we got there. I ran this race with Emily last year, and it stands out in my memory as one of our first real mother/daughter outings. After finishing the race, we went Christmas shopping and had dinner together at that fine dining establishment known as Cracker Barrel. Just us girls.

Last year

Even though we had the daddy with us this year, I still wanted to run the race pushing Emily to see if by how much we could beat our time from last year.

You know I really love y'all when I start posting scary close-ups without any make-up on. Yeah, I know I need to go back to blonde hair too.


Wow, she has grown.

Emily had a good time with the bells and Santa hats they passed out at registration. Weather conditions were similar to last year, chilly and very windy, as was pretty much everything else. The MC said there were over 600 runners at the start; up from the 400 last year.

Still no chip timing, so I wasn't compensated for my slow start all the way in the back of the pack. After the timing chip debacles at my last two races, old school timing was sounded pretty good anyway.




My official time was listed as 22:34, beating last year's time by almost two and a half minutes, and a new stroller pushing PR. Yay for progress! I am definitely a cold weather runner.

Good enough for 3 place overall female, 1st place in my age group.


Ok, raise your hand (or leave a comment) if you did a jingle bell/santa/elf/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa run this weekend or have one coming up this month.

Stats:
Time: 22:34
Pace: 7:15/mi
Overall: 33/600ish
Gender: 3/?
A/G: 1/?

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

T-Day Race Results Are In

Didn't y’all realize this post was actually a cry for help? I was hoping I’d get an overwhelming response to make things easy and not run either race, just sleep in.

Just Kidding :)

Yes, I ended up running both. I was holding out on posting the race report since I didn’t have all the details. I knew I finished in the top few women for each race, but that was it.

You could say this race was a victim of its own success. Last year was the inaugural year and they had 1,200 runners. Organizers anticipated a turnout of 3,000 this year, and instead had about 4,500 show up. There wasn’t enough of anything…porta-potties, water/food, and volunteers to keep things running smoothly.

There were some timing system issues again, and they just posted the final results for the top finishers on their website today. Me and timing chips have not been getting along well lately.

I was second overall female in the 5K and third overall in the 10K, with times of 21:03 and 47:42 respectively. I didn’t bother taking my camera or phone out of the car this time since no one would be there to hold them once the race started, so the rest of this post is pretty boring.
From the pro photog's website

Here's the nitty-gritty.

I gave M a reprieve and told him to enjoy sleeping in. I left for the race about an hour before it was set to start and checked in with no problem.

I went back to the car to listen to the radio and surf the web to kill some time. After about 15 minutes, the radio suddenly went dead. Yep, I killed the car battery. No so much as a wrrr, wrrr when I turned the key. I sent M a text letting him know he’d be coming to the race after all to jump start my car, and told him I’d call him after I was finished running.

The 5k was 45 minutes late getting started. While waiting, and waiting, and waiting around the starting area the woman standing next to me struck up a conversation. She was like, “Hey, weren’t you the bee at that Halloween race a few weeks ago?” And I was like “Yeah, and you were the pirate weren’t you?” We chatted for awhile and she offered to wait around to help me jump start my car later. Very kind, but I couldn't make her wait until I finished the 10K too. I had two other ladies come up to me later asking where my daughter was, they usually see me with the stroller at races. It’s cool that I’m starting to recognize familiar faces at races. It's like another root planting me here in Atlanta.

We finally got going, and I really enjoyed the course. It was flat for the most part with just one mondo hill in the last half mile. I’ve learned it’s pretty rare to have such flat races here.

I never wear my Garmin for 5 and 10K’s, I just rely on the mile markers to loosely gauge my pace (shouldn’t you be running at a PRE of 8-10 the whole time anyway?). In a stroke of luck, I couldn’t find my Polar sportswatch that morning and ended up wearing my Garmin instead. There were NO mile markers on the course and it would have been very frustrating not knowing how far I was into the race.

5K finish (source)

I enjoyed the 10K course too. I thought it was going to be 2 loops of the 5K course, so I was pleasantly surprised when it veered off onto dirt and gravel roads. It was pretty flat as well, with just that same big hill towards the end. The 10k was added to the line-up this year, and the field was much smaller than the 5K.

My plan was to just cruise through the 10K to earn myself an extra little pie after dinner. Around mile 5 I heard someone say I was in third place for the women. It was game on then. I was too far behind the lead women, heck I couldn’t even see them, but I pushed myself through the last mile since I didn’t want to give up third.

When I finished the 10K I saw both my babies waiting for me. M said he was there in time to see me finish the 5k too, but couldn’t get my attention before I bolted off to line up for the 10K.

It was a real bummer they didn’t have the awards ceremony on-site. They kept us milling around for almost another 45 minutes, then took our names and said they would mail us our awards. Hrrrumph.

M got my car started and we headed back home…around noon. So glad I didn’t have a turkey to roast this year! If you were wondering, we ended up going out to dinner. We invited another crew scheduling widow (her husband got stuck flying Thanksgiving day) so she wouldn't be alone too.

This race has great potential. There’s no running event this large on the south side of town. I really hope the organizers get it together for next year and people give it a second chance. Overall I felt my 5K was pretty solid, and running the 10K afterwards made me feel a little more accomplished for the day.

5k Stats:
Time: 21:03
Pace: 6:46/mi
Overall: ?
Gender: 2/?
A/G: 2/?

10K Stats:
Time: 47:42
Pace: 7:40/mi
Overall: ?
Gender: 3/?
A/G: 1/?

Monday, November 29, 2010

'Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving

And I was out shopping with all the other nutsos.


Ah, I remember back in the day I would have been out at the bars with my hometown friends on Thanksgiving Eve. So long ago in the year 2007. This is what I do for kicks now. Sigh.

Not like the Blondie Family was in desperate need of any of this stuff, it was the thrill of the hunt that brought me out. This couponing thing is like my new little game to play. I hit our local 24-hour CVS at 11:15, so I could fill-up my cart to check out at 12:01 and get their early Black Friday specials. There was another lady who arrived there after me with her boyfriend in tow. He was filming her deal seeking mission on his iPhone for posting on her blog.

I'm still one shade away from that color of crazy. I think.

I used Laurie's deal scenario, then while cruising the aisles I noticed the Renpure shampoos and conditioners had "try me free" mail-in rebate hangtags, along with $4.99 back in Extra Care bucks. I added one of those to my order, and used the additional ECB's to buy the toys which were BOGO. They'll be added to my office's Operation Santa donations.

In total, I spent $14.42 including tax on the 29 items pictured here.


I was most interested in getting the 40 Duracell AA batteries. M's aviation head set chews through them like crazy. M was excited to see that much candy in the house at one time.

Another thing I swore I'd never do, I also woke up at 3 am to shop on Black Friday. However, that's another story for another time.


Black Friday shopping, yay or nay? If you went out did you get any good deals?

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Put Away the Turkey, It's Time to Start the Christmas Cards

In that extra 2 minutes I have between putting Emily to bed, straightening up the house, and falling into bed myself, I have to take care of our family's Christmas cards too. Thank goodness Shutterfly makes the job easy.

Shutterfly never deletes the photos you upload to your account. This is fabulous because you know we have 1,247,121 photos of Emily on our digital camera. When the memory stick gets full we transfer them to our Shutterfly account for safe keeping. They are always on hand when we need a gift, or when grandma wants this week's latest photos for her desk.

We've sent many a mug with her mug on it. My parents could serve brunch for 12 with the Emily "Mug of the Month" from her first year.




Even if you have a case of the Mondays, how could this not cheer you up.

Personalized calendars


This year's christmas card design is still under wraps. You'll just have to wait until you get yours in the mail.

Do we go folded or flat? Decisions, decisions


Since Shutterfly loves Bloggers you can get yours here too. Bloggers get 50 free holiday cards http://bit.ly/sfly2010

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving Quickie

Life is good. Damn good. Not going to hold back :) I have so much to be thankful for, of course the wonderful hubs and daughter top it all.

I have great reports from the raceS this morning to share. Until then I hope you're spending the day surrounded by your dearest loved ones.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

I Need Your Help Y'all

I was planning to run a 10k on Thursday. I'm feeling pretty good about a new PR. I think I've got more room for improvement here than the 5k.

But today I see this. I'm all conflicted. What's a Type A person to do?



(Edit: They are 2 seperate races. The 5k is at 8:00, the 10K starts at 8:30.)

Monday, November 22, 2010

Coupons & Healthy Living

Speaking of frugal, let's talk coupons. Who doesn't like saving a little money, right?

I used to think coupons were great, if you wanted to save $.55 on a box of Toaster Strudel or .$30 on a can of Hormel Chili. Big whoop.

But coupons and healthy living are not mutually exclusive. You can eat well and still save big at the same time.

Step 1: Know your store's coupon policies.

If you live in the southeast, Publix and Kroger are probably the most prevalent chains in your area. The majority of Targets and Walmarts are of the "super" variety as well, meaning they basically contain a full grocery store with fresh produce, meat, and bakery items.

Points to know:

  • All these stores accept manufacturer coupons

  • Publix and Kroger will automatically double manufacturer coupons ≤ $.50 in face value.

  • Publix, Kroger, and Super Target also issue their own store coupons (on their websites & in-store)

  • They will allow you to combine one store coupon with one manufacturer coupon per item

  • Publix (at least in the ATL metro) will also accept competitors' store coupons (e.g. Super Target & Kroger)

  • Kroger lets you stack e-coupons (that you load on you club card via kroger.com, cellfire.com, and shortcuts.com) with paper coupons


  • Publix and Kroger run Buy One, Get One Free (BOGO) sales on a long list of items each week. You don't have to buy 2. This just means each item will ring up as 50% off at the register. Combine a BOGO item (50% off) with a manufacturer's coupon AND a store coupon; now you're talking big savings.

    (Note: If you live in Florida, BOGO is just that. The first item rings up at full price, the second one rings up as free...whether you actually take it or not. So your out of pocket totals will always be a little higher.)

    Use drug stores deals to nab toiletries and diapers for free or close to free. Rite Aid, CVS, and Walgreens will combine store coupons and manufactuer coupons as well. They also issue register rewards ("Up Rewards" at Rite Aid, "Extra Care Bucks" at CVS, "Register Rewards" at Walgreens) when you purchase certain items each week. These "rewards" print out on your receipt and act like gift cards that you can use towards anything on your next purchase. Make separate transactions at the register to "roll" these rebates towards the next item, and walk away spending very little out of pocket.

    Be sure to sign-up for your store's member loyalty cards, and scan them every time to get all the advertised discounts.

    Step 2: Know where to find coupons

    I always buy two Sunday newspapers, so when I find good deals I can get at least two of them. But there are many more resources for coupons then just the newspaper.

    Knowing where to find coupons for the things you like to buy is key. You’re not likely to find coupons for organic products in your Sunday newspapers. You can almost always get coupons by going directly to the company's website or facebook page. Some of my favorite organic sites include:

    www.stonyfieldfarms.com
    www.cascadianfarms.com
    www.horizondairies.com
    www.mambosprouts.com

    My go-to sites to get manufacturer coupons on everything else are:

    www.coupons.com
    www.smartsource.com
    www.redplum
    www.allyou.com
    www.cellfire.com
    www.shortcuts.com

    Step 3: Let other people do the work for you.

    Subscribe to couponing and deal spotting blogs. They will constantly update you on new coupons that are available and how to pair them up with weekly sales.

    My favorites:

    Money Saving Mom
    Passionate Penny Pincher
    Southern Savers
    Saving Money Living Life

    There are many more tips and nuances to couponing. The Coupon Mom’s book is a comprehensive place to get started. Also do a google search to find couponing workshops in your area.

    I’ve seen my monthly "stuff" bill (grocery/toiletry/diapers/cleaning products, etc) go from over $600 down to $325 a month since I started couponing seriously in September. No more buying generics and shopping exclusively at Wally World. It’s all name brand stuff from regular stores now.

    And don't forget, tis the season to help others. There are a lot of good sales and coupons out now for the holidays. It's a good time to stock up on toiletries, non perishables and baking items for donating charity.

    Here are some samples of my recent shopping trips:

    Sorry this was taken with my old cell phone. I was so excited with my bargains I had to email a picture to M when I got home. He replied ecstatically with "Ok, cool."



    To decipher the picture for you, included here are things like two huge containers of organic baby spinach, organic milk and eggs, greek yogurt, organic pasta sauce, organic tofu, Kashi bars…not exactly the cheapest items at the grocery store.

    By combining Kroger specials and coupons my total went from 69.64 to 36.68 (including tax). A 47% savings.


    And my biggest deal to date. I purchased everything on this table for $2.42 out of pocket...including the prescription and tax.


    I filled a generic prescription that cost $5, and used a coupon to get the $25 gift card they were offering for transferring it from another pharmacy. I bought the diapers using coupons and the gift card, and paid nothing out of pocket. Then I the used the register rewards they were offering on the diapers that week, along with more coupons, to pay for everything else pictured in a second transaction.