Friday, December 31, 2010



About four years ago I became addicted to scrapbooking. Actually I’ve been doing some form of scrapbooking all my life. Whether it was just a few souvenirs glued in an old photo album or intricate pages with hidden journaling, I’ve scrapped, long before we worried about acid free items. We of course should have, but who knew?

As the spoiled, pampered princess my husband had made me I was given just about anything I wanted for my new “hobby” including a Cricut cutting machine, a Xyron adhesive machine and all the papers, stickers and tools I wanted. I played and had a great time.

I was just really getting into using all this equipment, learning the ins and out of it, along with learning Sure Cuts a Lot, and Inkscape. I had BIG scrapbooking plans. Then as you well know life changed drastically.

Oh I packed up my scrapbooking stuff and it traveled all over with us for 18 months, but I never seemed to have the time to scrap. We were either busy working or enjoying all the free sites we could visit. I just never seemed to drag that heavy black bag out of the camper closet.

Well the first week in October I drug that black bag out of the camper and back into the house where my son moved it back upstairs to what had previously been my scrapbooking room.

The reason I say previously a scrapbooking room is because now it has evolved back into an office, as it was when we first moved in. The business has changed, and so has the room. All the scrapbooking stuff is being set back up because it is now part of the business.

On the various lists I have mentioned repeatedly how we were working hard on a business plan, figuring out concepts, domain names, logos and everything else. I’ve kept to myself what the business is. Basically because I wanted to research to see if there was even a niche market for it. I like building small businesses to fill in the areas that some how have been overlooked by others. Especially when it works around something I like to do.

So what is the business you ask? The name of our new business is WEBFOOT TUB DESIGNS. Huh? You might say. A little background here. Many of you from the lists over the years have read many of my animal stories. I have been often encouraged to turn them into children’s books. So we are. Buddy the Bathroom Duck has evolved into Buddy the Bathtub Duck. Thus the Webfoot Tub (see logo photo at the left—designed and scrapped by my son). As time goes on our website will have Buddy and friends in a series of cartoons, drawn by Sean. We plan on self publishing the Buddy and other animal stories as well. But the children’s stories are only a tiny fraction of the business.

The main component will be greeting cards and specialty scrapbooking pages for sale. I know, I know there are hundreds of hobbyists out there selling greeting cards and such and they are not big money makers. We’ve researched the numbers, but we’ve also researched those webpages and that is where the niche comes in.

While we will, of course, make and hopefully sell all the normal greeting cards, birthday, Christmas, etc we are also going to try and provide a great variety of those hard to find cards that we all look for at one time or another.

One of our first “niche” cards will be adoption related cards. It has been brought to our attention (thanks Chrissey) that there is a shortage of cards not only to announce adoptions, but to celebrate Gotcha (the day the adoption became final) cards. We will also include cards for those who want to thank the birth parents for loving the child enough to give it up.

We plan on this and numerous other niche areas being highlighted as time goes on. So if you have a special card or scrapbook page you would love to see made available for sale please speak up.

We plan on covering ALL holidays for all religions and groups, not just the main few, as well as cards for hobbyists, sports enthusiasts and much more.

We will also be having a group of Buddy cards and merchandise as time goes on.

While some of our cards will be your basic folded cards we will also have shaped, pop-up, slider and other unique cards.

While all three of us love to scrapbook and create we realize not everyone has the time or the inclination to make their own. So we’ll create them for you. Our scrapbook pages will be made where all you’ll need to do is add your photos for those special moments in your life, as well as just day to day events.

This will be a family business, my husband Gary is the main IT person, plus he’ll help with design aspects. Sean is our artist. He can take even my roughest design sketches and turn them into gorgeous items. Me well I’m the budget keeper, one of the three designers, Buddy author, public relations and all other niche filler.

We are aware that a family business can be tough, we’ve had a few before. We are also aware that Dave Ramsey says stay away from partnerships. So we are working hard to make sure everything is, as recommended down in black and white, and no one person is making all the decisions. As for the last two years everything is done by family vote here. Please wish us luck,

The first few photo cards are now up on the website:

One more thing: HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!

Jan whose family is working together once again to move forward in life in OK

Sunday, December 26, 2010


December 26, 2010

As a roast simmers on the stove and the air fills with the delightful smell of bread in the bread machine my thoughts turn to what I consider “the cooking season”. The weather outside is below freezing, so what better way to warm up the house than to cook?

Only cooking can be the biggest part of any household budget, beyond your house payment. It is also the easiest one to go over budget on, therefore special attention needs to be paid here.

There are numerous ways to cut grocery costs and there is absolutely no way I could even begin to list all the ways to cut those costs, but I can list several. It is my hope that you will add more cost cutting measures to what I’m listing.

So let’s get started:

LOSS LEADERS, as I explained in the previous post on the blog loss leaders are an incentive to get you into the store. It is also one of the best ways to cut your grocery costs.

The best way to use them is to first learn what day your local grocery puts out there weekly sales ads. In some cities it’s Sunday’s others it’s Wednesday, your town may be entirely different. It is important to know how long a sale will last, it could be very frustrating to go to a store on a Sunday and find out the ad you planned your shopping around ended at midnight the night before.

I personally do not subscribe to a newspaper, and I live rurally so I seldom if ever get sales flyers in my mail, especially since I have registered our address on the no junk mail website. So I must be a little more creative about getting my ads. It’s a simple tool called “the internet”. Yep, just about every store known to man has a website with their weekly sales flyer on it.

Once I’ve located where these ads will be for the stores I’m doing cost comparison at I bookmark the site and/or subscribe to their email ads. I do this not only for grocery ads, but for hobby stores, and my husband gets notices and fuel coupons from Murphy fuel stations in his email on a regular basis.

Once you get the sales ads take time to sit down and really look at them. Just because it’s in a sales flyer does not mean it is on sale. Read the ads closely. Even better get out your PRICE BOOK (more on this in a moment) and do some serious comparison of not just price, but sizes.

Now make a list of the things that your family will truly eat that is truly on sale. Store by store, it’s always better to compare various stores loss leaders. Here’s one trick you may not know. Many major stores like Wal-Mart, Target and others (not just grocery stores) will do price match for IDENTICAL items. So if your local grocery has say a name brand frozen food on sale that you want, but it’s not worth the drive to pick up just that one item, take the ad to one of the price matching stores and get it for the same price there. Not only do you get the item for a lower price, but you don’t burn extra fuel or time to pick up the item.

Once you get the list made, you can possibly plan a menu for the week around these loss leaders. You can also consider stocking up to help cut your food costs for future meals. Ideally this is what you want to do if you are trying to meet the $1 a day challenge. Some stores will limit you on how many of what item per person per purchase you can get.

There are, of course, ways around this limit. Shop more than one time, more than one store, or take a shopping buddy with you. If the store is out of an item request a RAIN CHECK. This can be a true help in cutting costs. Because it allows you to spread out the cost of those more popular items. It is simply a coupon to purchase X amount of that item at the loss leader price when the store once again has it in stock.

Now about that PRICE BOOK. What you put in a price book is entirely up to you. My personal one is a spread sheet. The rows are the items ie: Chicken, leg quarters per pound; chicken, boneless skinless breasts per pound; Green Giant green beans 14 oz can. Being who I am it’s alphabetized for speed in locating an item.

The columns are the stores ie: Wal-Mart; Target, Dollar General, Aldis etc.

Then I start filling in the columns with the non-sale (every day) prices for each store. This can be quite time consuming at first. I recommend using grocery receipts you have at home to start out doing this, you can gather a lot of information and fill in the spreadsheet as you watch tv. Then each time you go to a grocery gather a little information while you are there. Just spend five minutes or so on a single aisle making notes and after a while you will have all the stores done with little effort.

Another way to save money is couponing. I am a former coupon/rebate queen. In the 80’s I was like those ladies you read about. I did not pay for groceries, in fact a grocery store once paid me because they doubled the free food coupons I had. Back then I ate only name brands, worked hard at rebating and our stores doubled and sometimes even tripled.

Those days are gone for me. I use very few ready made mixes or convenience foods. I clean with basic cleaners and like I said I do not purchase newspapers or magazines any longer. What I do have is a large box of non-expiring coupons from those days on basic items. So as the loss leaders pop up I will use those coupons until they are gone.

You can also download coupons from the internet, but be aware many stores will not take internet coupons, so before you waste the time, ink and paper check with the stores you will be shopping at.

There are also several individuals who will, for a fee, send you sets of coupons via the mail. I personally have not used any of these services, so I have no idea if they are cost affective or not.

Remember, a coupon is only good if it is an item you will truly use normally and it brings the price down below similar items that are equally as good. Ideally you want to match your coupons to the loss leader sale ad for the best deal. Also if you shop at places like CVS they have special store credits they hand out for certain purchases that can be used to bring your prices even lower.

If you are blessed enough to live in an area that still doubles coupons, by all means read their rules closely and then take advantage of it.

STORE BRANDS. Quite often a store brand is produced at the exact same factory as a name brand. It is in fact the same item, just a different label. But not always. Know what your family will and won’t eat. It’s not a good deal if your family won’t eat it.

Example: My family will eat the store brand instant oatmeal just as well as they will eat the Quaker of the same flavor. The store brand is of course much cheaper (but not as cheap as making your own instant oatmeal—a recipe to post at another time). However, we find the store brand raisin bran cereal tough and unpalatable, so we stick with our favorite name brand.

BULK COOKING. I’ve already wrote volumes on this in the past, simply do a search in my blog using the search feature at the left using key words/phrases like bulk cooking, Once a Month Cooking, OAMC , OMC and you should be able to pull up the posts on it.

GARDENING. I’ve done a few posts on this in the past and as spring approaches I will be doing more. Anyone can garden, no matter where they live. Many a garden is grown in window boxes and flower pots. Remember even one tomato plant gives you garden fresh tomatoes year round (yes they are a perennial) even in the coldest climates if you bring the plant inside when the weather turns nippy.

PORTION CONTROL. My last post had a lot on this, but it needs to be pointed out again. Control the portions, control the cost.

PLANNED LEFTOVERS. Instead of trying to figure out what to do with a leftover after the fact, plan for it before you even cook. Then once the cooking is finished set that leftover aside before serving up the meal. I’ll do a post in the future on the numerous ways you can use leftovers you may never even have thought of.

This has ran on too long, so I’ll close for now.

Jan who is looking forward to your suggestions on cutting grocery costs in OK

Friday, December 24, 2010


When Ashley first mentioned her challenge to herself I never dreamed how it would snowball. Why I don’t know, I mean everyone is wanting and needing to save money these days so I shouldn’t have been surprised. But I was.

Of course a lot of people had a lot of questions, which is a good thing. It helps us sort through our planning process as well. So in this addition to my ongoing blogging I’ll try to answer a few of those questions.

The number one question asked was

Q: Is that $1 per day period, $1 per meal or $1 per person.

A: Ideally it would be $1 per day per person in your family. I say ideally because costs on various items differ in different parts of the country. Plus each of us has different likes and dislikes, AND allergies or sensitivities so you may have to go slightly higher.

Q: What is a “loss leader?”

A: A loss leader is a sales ad item the grocery store will run to entice you into their store in hopes that while you will pick up that on sale item you will also pick up several more things that are more expensive. It is ran at below their actual cost for a limited time only. Often there will be limitations on how many you can purchase as a result. It’s a sales gimmick, but you can make it work to your advantage if you resist that urge.

Q: Besides loss leaders how can you get food items down to a more manageable cost?

A. There are numerous ways, including coupons, price matching, rebates, gardening, raising your own animals and bartering. I’ll expound on this more on another post.

Q: If you raise animals either for their meat or their eggs, or you garden are you going to include those expenses in your $1 per day?

A. There are currently four of us doing the blogs and many more who have accepted the challenge and we are each answering this one in our own way. I myself am not including those, nor am I including the cost of food storage or cooking because I’d be doing those things anyway. I have a budget for animal feed for my birds, they are our pets plus they are great organic pest control and supply fertilizer for the garden. I also have a gardening budget because we garden normally as well. Others consider the animals are being raised for food and therefore must be included in the overall cost. So you will have to make that decision for yourself. I personally would never eat Magellan and the gang, but I will eat Mama Sarah’s eggs, they are a bonus of having some great characters to write about.  The cost of those eggs will be listed as $0 in my cost portion of menus as a result.

Q: How do you calculate the cost of per serving/meal?

A. That is going to be a blog all unto itself, because it will require a long explanation. I will post it soon I promise.

Q: How about nutrition and eating healthy?

A. Some people think you cannot eat healthily while eating cheaply, but actually you can. It has to do with proper portioning and good choices. I’ll go into more detail on that now.

Eating healthy while eating cheaply can be a challenge, but it can be done. The first step is to realize what eating healthy truly means. Let’s start with the Food Pyramid.

When you really look at this it seems surprising that it actually suggests you eat more breads and grains daily than other things. Breads and grains are generally some of your cheapest groceries. Ideally you would want those to be whole grain items.

Moving on up the pyramid you have fruits and vegetables, followed by proteins, dairy and lastly fats and sweets. Unfortunately we as a nation tend to have those fats and sweets down with the breads and grains proportionally.

But say you do follow the pyramid to some extent and do eat the foods in that order, what size are your portions? Ahh therein lies the rub. When you go out to eat if your plate at the restaurant is not full you feel cheated. After all you are paying for a full meal right? Who doesn’t love an all you can eat buffet?

I know when we visit Walt Disney World on vacation Gary and I usually will split the meals and still have excess on our plates.

At home you are told to “fill your plate”. Plus we tend to comfort food eat.

However, if you look at the food pyramid you will see the portions are far smaller than you think. Heavens there are even commercials that tell you that you can’t eat as many fruits and vegetables in a day as needed so it’s better to “take a pill”, but they are wrong.

For a vegetable it is suggested you eat 3-5 servings per day. Wow! That sounds like a lot doesn’t it. Until you realize that a serving is:

1 cup of raw LEAFY vegetables (seriously who eats just a cup of salad?)

½ cup of all other raw vegetables. Which all cooks will tell you will cook down to about ¼ cup in size

Or ¾ c vegetable juice.

Spread that over 3 meals and 2 snacks (as recommended for your daily food consumption) and it’s not a lot. That’s ¼ of hash browns for breakfast, a SMALL salad for lunch and a small V-8 to drink during the day.

On to fruits now.

1 medium apple, banana or orange

½ cup of chopped, canned or cooked fruit

¾ fruit juice.

Again over the day that’s a fruit juice for breakfast, an banana with our lunch or for a snack and ½ cup of applesauce with dinner.

If you study the pyramid you will see that the portions in each section are actually pretty small. You spread those portions out over your day and you can eat healthily at a reasonable price. Again it’s all in the way you go about it.

If you don’t hit the food pyramid perfectly each and every day you will not die. We are all living proof of that already, but if you do try and get reasonably close you will be better off for it.

I know my family for one would lose weight (remember we like our sweets and fat). So in my section of the challenge I am going to try to find a balance between following the food pyramid faithfully and keeping my family happy with the down home cooking they so dearly love.

BTW, as of this morning there are now four of us blogging on this challenge. Angela has joined, Ashley, Alyeen and me in the challenge and will be blogging from another part of the country.

Here’s the location of the other three blogs:




Please join us as we work on this challenge during the next year.

Jan who is off to make Pecan Pie Bars (w protein servings—nuts and egg, too much sweets and fats, one grain--or more) for tonight’s dessert in OK

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


December 22, 2010

I’ve previously posted about how I am on the email list. Recently a discussion was brought up by Ashley that she would like to try working her food budget and meals for the year, while laying in a year’s supply of non-perishables based entirely on loss leaders.

I asked if she would like a partner in this challenge. She thought it a great idea not only because things go better if you have a partner, but because we live on the opposite sides of the US and each has a family of 3 to feed. While living in two different areas with different stores to deal with and different economic basis to work with in our areas.

We have agreed to write about our journey through 2011 in building our one year’s worth of food storage by purchasing loss leaders as they become available, while maintaining a very, very strict budget.

Ashley posted her first blog entry this morning, with her challenges to herself at:

This, of course, is my first entry on this challenge. With the cost of groceries going up the $1 a day may be a mite stringent for us, but I am definitely going to do all I can to try and meet her challenge.

The first thing to do, as Ashley pointed out, is to educate yourself. I too am reading various blogs by people who have done this. I’m also checking online information for all types of good basic information to aid me in the challenge.

My first stop on the information train was:

This website lists month by month what items are normally on sale, not just food, but various things. Of course for the task at hand the food items are what I am most interested in. Knowing ahead of time what “loss leaders” will be coming can be a real help in planning the menu.

Meeting the challenge at $1 a day with two meat and potato men in my household is going to be a HUGE challenge. I can get them to eat meatless occasionally, but not all the time. My husband, is NOT a huge fan of vegetables.

Doing so healthily is another challenge, especially when you include my son’s allergies to deal with and our true love of food.

So the first menu planning basic step for me was figuring out the entrées and dealing with them while also maintaining my busy schedule as a merchandiser and mystery shopper. All too often it is too tempting to eat out.

This means not only do I need to plan my meals on the $1 a day budget, but I need to plan on refilling my freezer with homemade “convenience” meals. Knowing we have foods in the freezer we could quickly thaw and eat will eliminate the temptation to stop and grab a calorie laden fast food item or six.

So following Ashley’s theme here is what I want to accomplish this next year:

1. Bring our food budget down to as low as it can possibly go.

2. Lay in one year’s supply of non-perishable food

3. Make up ALL of my Master Mixes, this in itself is a HUGE challenge.

4. Fill the freezer with homemade “convenience” foods

5. Raise a large organic garden and go to year round gardening.

Going back to the entrées listings. I started out trying to figure out an exact order of what types of entrees I’d serve and in what order for a month alternating meatless meals and leftovers in as often as I thought I could get away with it. That became hugely complicated and failed miserably.

So then I tried to do it for every two weeks, same results, I wasn’t getting the rotation I wanted. Plus when you do a very set in stone menu plan it does not allow for spontaneity and this family doesn’t do well with that. We want the foods we want when we want them.

So I finally decided on the following seven categories:

1. Beef

2. Chicken

3. Pork

4. Variety meats (hot dogs, smoked sausage etc)

5. Meatless

6. Leftovers

7. Fish

Gee look at that seven days worth of entrées with one meatless and one leftovers day built in simple, simple.

So I now can plan a week’s worth of meals with those items as the main ingredients, prepare what I can ahead of time and we can eat them in the order we want each week. One week must be completed BEFORE we start the rotation for the next week. That way if we score a free meal out with the mystery shopping (read free meals—great for the budget) then I still have a meal in the roatation to eat before moving on to the next rotation.

So then I started making a list of the various family favorites for each of those seven. An example of this is below.


1. Biscuits and gravy

2. Vegetable soups (I have a bunch of recipes for these)

3. Pancake suppers

4. Salad suppers

5. Macaroni and cheese

6. Cheese and/or veggie pizzas

7. Bean meals

My list included a lot more than this, but you get the idea. I did this for each of the seven categories. Guess what I came up with a year’s worth of meals without duplication quite simply.

Using the same example of the meatless meals I can also prepare a lot of this ahead of time.

1. Biscuits and gravy

a. Make up biscuit Master Mix (recipe is listed in my search engine on the left) while flour is on sale this month. Then for a quick dinner I only need to add oil and water and bake.

b. Make up gravy butter balls ahead of time and freeze. I’ll post this recipe when I do this.

2. If we do well in the garden the fresh produce will be used for this as it grows and the dried produce will be used when it is out of season.

3. Pancake suppers

a. Pancake Master Mix (recipe is listed in the search engine at the left as well), add oil, our home grown eggs and water as needed.

4. Salad suppers can be the green leafy type, or made with homemade pasta, or a combination of the two.

a. Make up pastas ahead of time

b. Homemade salad dressing Master Mixes (which will be added to the blog as time goes on)

5. Macaroni and Cheese

a. Homemade pasta

b. Freezer cheese sauce mix, recipe will be added at a later date

6. Cheese and/or veggie pizzas

a. Pizza dough Master Mix (recipe to be added later)

b. In season veggies from the garden, frozen or dried veggies from the garden off season

c. Loss leader cheese (April purchase according to link listed above) purchased and frozen.

7. Bean Meals

a. I have a bean cookbook, and there are numerous recipes for beans of all sorts on the web. Beans freeze tremendously well. So this is an item that will be cooked in bulk and frozen for quick meals as time goes on.

Add to these entrées loss leader fruits and vegetables, and keeping portions at a reasonable size should enable us to eat cheaply and healthy. Homemade breads will also add to the meals.

I’m now in the process of listing those various meal ideas on color coded 3X5 cards. Ie: pink for beef, white for chicken, green for meatless etc. This will allow me to mix and match menus each week without having to figure it out each week.

The 3 x 5 cards will also list the ingredients for that entrée so I can watch closely for the loss leaders for it. As I lay in a supply of the loss leaders I will then mark each one as I have it in inventory.

Having the menus all figured out in this manner will also let me see how much of what I need to lay in a supply of.

Can I do it on $1 a day like Ashley, in truth it seems pretty hard, but I’m going to do it as closely as I possibly can. Even if I spend slightly over that, I am definitely going to come out the financial winner on the grocery budget.

So will you join us to eat our way to a better state of health both physically and financially?

Jan who thinks the plan will work in OK