The Ibotta App–Is it worth your time?

A friend recently introduced me to the Ibotta app and I gave it a try.  Here’s what you need to know:

It’s easy to download the free app, unlock coupons and then verify them by scanning your receipt and your product upc from the packaging after you get home from shopping. Do it right away before you lose anything or eat the food and recycle the packages.

The products are mostly name brands that are trying to increase their reach or to announce a new product release…like Post Cinnamon Rice Pebbles cereal.  But there are some unbranded coupons available, like “any bread” “any milk” “eggs” or “bananas.”  There is a large amount of coupons for alcohol–which doesn’t feel very classy, but it was easy enough to scroll past them for the real food.

The same coupons work at multiple stores, but are usually limited to 1 or 2 of the same item at any 1 location.  If you use a coupon at Wal-mart, it will disappear from your options for that store for the week, but you might be able to unlock the same coupon for another store.

Not all the coupons are for food.  Jo-Ann crafts and a handful of clothing stores are participating too.  When I first started there was only 1 coupon at JoAnn, but there are a more available now.

Once you earn $20 or more in rebates, you can request the cash sent to you via paypal or though gift cards.  In a little over 3 weeks, I earned about $38. Since I have a business paypal account with fees taken out of it, I opted for an Amazon gift card.

You can earn additional money by sharing a link with friends who don’t already us the app. They’ll give you $5 credit when a new friend joins through your link and redeems their first coupon.

Most of the foods are rare treat type foods and not our every day staples, but I’ve still found several things that I could use each week.

What about you? Have you ever used Ibotta before?  Do you use any other coupon/rebate apps?

When we’re on the same page

I took a trip last week for business training, and when I was making my plans, my husband offered to go with me.  At first all I could think about what how much it was going to cost to not be able to share a hotel room with a bunch of girls and to buy the extra convention ticket–plus his vacation time, and finding someone to watch all the kids.  But we did it anyway, and it was the best decision.  Him being on the same page with me has helped motivate me to make better decisions with how I spend my time and boost how I build my business.

With both of us going, we drove the 18 hours straight through, trading off when the driver became too tired. It saved us $600 on airfare.  Then we skipped the hotel and rented a loft apartment from Airbnb.  It cost less than splitting a room with girls, plus we had a full kitchen and separate living area.  That allowed us to run to Wal-mart and get groceries for breakfast and lunch, which saved us another $100 over restaurants.

It had a round bed that was very comfy.

If you’d like to try Airbnb for the first time, use my link to save $40 off your first stay.  It’s a much better solution for me, especially when traveling with my whole family, since we’d normally need 2 hotel rooms and with airbnb can stay all together more affordably.

Driving the 18 hours home, we had a lot of time to talk and plan and we both came to the same realization–Netflix had to go.  I dreaded telling my kids about it, but my decision was made.  They surprised me by being supportive.  I canceled right away when we were all still in our family meeting and thought the kids would be relieved to learn that they had 14 days left that we had already paid for before the service would be discontinued.  They all said, “no matter, we’re done too. ” and then they deleted the app off their devices!!!!

If you’d like more details about why we did it and what we plan to do instead, you can check out my facebook live here.  I started the conversation by explaining what our business goals were and how Netflix was getting in our way.  We showed them pictures of a vacation we’d like to take together before Heidi leaves home, and also talked about the types of values we wanted to lay before our eyes.  This helped set the stage for the words, “We’re going to cancel Netflix.”

Two nights ago, we had been Netflix free for a few days and actually got to bed early.  So I said, “Hey, is there a Bull on tonight?” Thinking we would just go to CBS.com instead and Darren said, “The TV has robbed us from all our life goals–I NEVER want to watch it again.” I just said, “Whoa, now that’s the power of both of us having the same goal!”  On my own, I would have just started watching shows another way, but his encouragement and dedication was really powerful to me.

In other news, you might have missed the Facebook Live where I explained what Fit Mama is. Our next challenge starts Monday!!!! If you are already a Grocery Shrink member it’s free to join the challenge. If you aren’t a member…well, why not? You can take care of that here.

When My Life Changed in 4 Weeks

There’s something about an organized, fresh, and well styled room that changes my whole mood.  It wasn’t long ago that my room was so horrible–dirty, disorganized, and with 40 year old paint and carpet.  It was the first thing I saw every morning and the last thing I saw every night.  It felt like a project too big to handle on my own and I was hopeless and depressed. Then someone stepped in and changed my life.  Myquillin Smith’s Cozy Minimalist course broke down the process into manageable steps and helped me take my bedroom from this…

to this…

in 4 weeks, on a tiny budget.  I paid $80 for the course and would do it again in a heartbeat.     I’m excited to announce that you don’t have to.  The Cozy Minimalist course is one of the 106 courses and resources included in the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle.  You can get the whole package plus 18 bonuses for jus $29.97.  Crazy! If just 1 or 2 of the resources are what you need right now, it’s a good value. Click any of the pictures below to see all it includes:












Changing my environment was life-changing.

 

 

$6 Left

Last weekend I finally ventured to Costco for the month and when I was done, I had $6 left for food in April.  It’s been awhile since I ran out of money this early in the month and I know exactly what happened.   Marshmallows and All Beef Hot Dogs several times a week add up. Plus they taste really good with chips and soda…also expensive and not healthy.

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Our new fire pit is so much fun, but I didn’t know what else to cook out there at first.  We’ve since broadened our horizons.   Marinated chicken and homemade whole wheat bread dough will roast on a hot dog fork.  And oh man!!! They are delicious.  You can also fork roast vegetables (like zucchini, mushrooms, peppers, and onions) and fruits like apples.

But really that’s not the point.  I broke one of my own rules this week and it didn’t end well.

Necessities FIRST! Rare treats after.  

I can have roasted marshmallows once in a while (but 4 bags a week might be overdoing it.)  I just should have made sure that I had enough money for all the essential foods first.

Necessities are any affordable foods that promote health:  In season fruits and vegetables, whole grains like oats, brown rice and 100% whole wheat bread or flour, unprocessed meats, nuts, beans, and some dairy items like milk, butter and cheese.

Rare treats are processed foods like crackers, chips, lunch meats, desserts, sodas, juices, and other beverages. They also might include higher priced healthy foods like steak or fresh raspberries. I’m not saying never buy these, just make sure of the necessities first.

We’ll be ok on $6 this week.  It’s enough to buy a couple of gallons of milk and my pantry is well stocked with enough stuff that we’ll eat just fine.  It’s a good chance to practice my creative pantry cooking skills, but I’ll be doing things differently in May.

The Weather Worn Feather

One of my favorite parts of running a fitness challenge is gathering up the prizes! The grand prize for the Spring Challenge is this hand painted sign from the Weather Worn Feather.

The Weather Worn Feather is run by husband and wife team Melissa and Jake Lair.  They have 2 small children and started this business using their artistic gifts for their Dave Ramsey debt snowball.

In addition to running their own etsy shop their items are available at the Pink Daisy boutique in the West Market in Kansas City.  There, they also have refinished furniture pieces available for local pickup.

Check out this video showing how they hand make each piece.

We start a brand new fitness challenge in just a few weeks.  Fit Mama includes protein rich meal plans that you can prep ahead for the full week in an afternoon and daily accountability from women just like you.  When life happens, you need the right food ready to grab.

Makeover Your Grocery Budget in 5 Easy Steps

Thank you to everyone who weighed in on the survey.  If you missed it, you can still add your opinion.  I’ll be checking the final answers next Tuesday and working to meet the needs expressed there.

It’s no surprise that most of you are here to shrink your grocery budgets!  I love that, because food is usually the single biggest budget item in any household budget.  For most families it’s even bigger than their mortgage!  Unlike a mortgage bill that’s set in stone, the grocery budget is flexible.

As a busy mom of 6, I know how easy it is for grocery spending to get out of control. The grocery budget is the largest flexible expense in my home. I can run around the house turning off lights and unplugging appliances but won’t save nearly as much on electricity for my efforts as I do when I manage my food spending well. Currently our food budget for our family of 8 is $630 a month. This is just food—not cleaning supplies or shampoo. Our food budget includes $30 for my husband to buy lunch making ingredients to keep at work. With 31 days in the month we average $2.50 per person per day or $.63 a meal.  When our kids were in private school, our food budget was $400 a month.  We have 3 teens (and 3 younger kids.) It wasn’t easy, but it was possible.  It’s ok to make your budget reflect your current income and bill situation and then increase or lower it as the situation changes.

 

I’ve been helping families reduce food spending for the last 8 years and have found the average family overspends on food enough to buy a cruise ticket every month. Some could buy 2. Let that sink in for a minute.

 

Real food with plenty of produce is important to me. I just shop for it differently than most. Awhile ago I went to a freezer-cooking day with friends. We all had the same recipes, same shopping list and went home with the same amount of food. The others spent between $200-$350, I spent $85. We made multiple meals of Bacon Butternut Squash Casserole; Creamy Spaghetti Squash; Pesto Stuffed Chicken Breasts; and homemade meatballs and marinara. One family shopped at a local chain grocery store, another at Sprouts, a third at Costco, and I shopped primarily at Aldi supplemented with a few items from my home pantry.

When I’m shopping, I spend a few seconds on every item looking for the best value without compromising health. For the freezer cooking day, I made a few substitutions that didn’t change the final outcome of the recipes. For example a pound of bacon was $3, a bag of real bacon crumbles was $1.50. Prepared Pesto sauce was $1.50, the ingredients to make my own pesto were more than $10. Before choosing to buy prepared pesto I made sure there weren’t any preservatives or questionable ingredients. One of the recipes called for a block of provolone cheese. Aldi only carried provolone slices, but they were half the price of buying a block of cheese anywhere else. I bought the slices and tore them into pieces instead of grating cheese from a block. My final recipes turned out just as delicious as the others.

Here are the basics to our low budget.

  1. Use Cash. We put our grocery money in an envelope and when the money is gone, I’m done for the month. I like to save a bit in a separate envelope for the last week of the month. Just to make sure we can still buy milk and eggs.


2. Know what things Cost. Is that “sale” actually a good price? I have a head for numbers and pay attention to food prices. If I didn’t I’d write them down in a pocket notebook. Then when prices drop significantly I recognize the deal.

3. Stock up when the prices are at their lowest. When I see that good deal, I buy enough that I won’t have to buy until the next sale.

4. Meal plan with the food I already have on hand. I call it reverse meal planning. Instead of shopping from a list of recipes, I shop for the best deals I can find, then meal plan around those foods.

5. Buy necessities first, rare treats after. Everyone likes a treat now and then, but it’s easy to spend too much on cookies, chips and soda and not have enough money for healthy foods. I buy the essential foods first. Then if I have money left, a treat or two is ok.

Once we get used to thinking about grocery shopping in a new way, it becomes second nature to spend less without sacrificing nutrition.   If you’d like to find out more, I hosted a whole month of learning to reduce food costs here.

 

Makeover Monday Jenna’s Living Room

Happy Monday! I met Jenna in the Cozy Minimalist facebook support group and she offered to let me use her living room pictures for a post here.  They are getting new wood flooring installed soon and she was excited to get a different perspective for her space.

I love her fireplace and that the brick is already white! The window you see peeking on the left is a pass through to the kitchen.

You can see it more clearly here.

The opposite side has a beautiful glass slider to her outdoor living space.

There’s a nice blank wall to the back of the room.

Jenna didn’t give me much direction for the room, except that she wanted it to be light and bright.  That’s my favorite kind of room :). First off I gave everything a coat of fresh paint in Benjamin Moore’s Decorator’s White.  It is very light with a slight gray/green undertone.

To keep it from feeling too cold or plain, I added texture and warmth with wood pieces, linens, and colored sofas.  With a neutral sofa base and added color with fitted slip covers, she can enjoy the splash of color without committing long term on an expensive piece.

I moved her TV above the fireplace so she could add more seating. I recommend using a Pull-Down TV Wall Mountso it can still be viewed at eye level and pushed back and covered with the barn door sliders when company is over.  The sliders have magnolia wreaths for a touch of green.

I added a thicker mantle from distressed wood to better balance the size of her beautiful fireplace. Here’s a tutorial to do it on the cheap.  another similar tutorial And filled her fireplace with decorative birch logs.  If birch isn’t plentiful in her area, she can mimic the look by dry brushing white chalk paint onto regular logs.

I used curtains on the doors to add softness to the room.  Hanging them high and wide gives the illusion of taller ceilings.  It also covers blank  wall so Jenna won’t need as much art work.   Throw pillows turn the hearth into additional seating, perfect for gatherings with lots of kids.  And the ottoman can be used as a coffee table with the addition of a wooden tray to stabilize beverages or pulled to the side for even more seating.  I’ve seen ottomans this style with a lift up top for blanket storage inside.

Here you can see the impact of the curtains on the doors a little better.  They are hung all the way to the side, so they don’t interfere with door access.  I had trouble finding a blue sofa at just the right angle, but I recommend she pull it closer than she had her sofa before.  Just to the edge of the door area, for easier conversation and better TV viewing.

Since pulling the sofa closer will leave her blank wall with a gap (I’m guessing there will be 3-4 feet behind the sofa.)  She will have room to install bookcases floor to ceiling with classic crown molding. This explodes her storage potential while still giving room for someone to walk behind the sofa and select a book for reading.  Bookcase photo and tutorial from Centsational Girl.

Finding the right angle of sofa in the right colors was a big challenge. That’s why all the blues are a little different, but you get the idea.  I like having one in a lighter shade of blue than the other, to keep the space from feeling too matched.  With the curtains, sliders, and bookcase, there’s only one place for artwork left.  I think Jenna should make it ONE big piece that she loves.  I put this watercolor piece in for an example, but she could do anything, even paint something abstract herself.

I noticed Jenna had a nice bold green in her kitchen, so wanted to show her what it would look like if she decided to go with Green instead of blue.  (She’d have to pick out different curtains.)

Just for giggles, here are some side by side photos for you.

Additional Sources:

Would you like your room photoshopped and featured on Makeover Monday?  Send a few photos from your space to angela@groceryshrink.com and tell me your hopes and dreams for the room.  It’s free 🙂 

Get a full service virtual makeover complete with 3D room layout plan, 2 photoshop views, step by step work list, and source list–all in your budget. Find out more.

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Learn how to use Photoshop your own designs with the Room Makeover class.

Post contains affiliate links.

Makeover Monday: Grace’s Kitchen

Grace was a camper in my cabin many years ago when I was a counselor at Jr. High camp.  She has always been tender hearted and giving, a true beauty inside and out.  They recently expanded their family of 6 to a family of 8 with the addition of two foster children, and their 3 bedroom, 1 bath house felt a lot smaller.

The doorway to the left of the stove is where the old dining room door was.  Now that it’s walled off, her fridge can go there.

This winter they sold their home and moved to a fixer upper just a few streets over from me.  The whole family pitched in together to wall in the dining room to make another bedroom. They also added another bedroom to the one already finished in the basement.

The wall straight ahead needs to come down.  It’s a load bearing wall, with ductwork and electrical in it, so it’s not a simple job.

Grace hosted a youth activity at her home a few weeks ago and invited my kids to join in the fun.  When I dropped them off, I was super excited to peek at the new digs.  She had two living rooms side by side. They turned one into the new dining room since the existing dining room was now a bedroom.  She mentioned her dream of taking down the wall between that room and the kitchen and adding an island for a more open feel and more workspace, and I offered to show her what it might look like in photoshop.

For her kitchen I removed the scalloped window trim and painted her upper cabinets white and the lowers navy blue.  And gave her copper drawer pulls, faucet, and mixer to warm up the space. The navy runner is from Dash and Albert.  The new fridge is tucked next to the stove, giving her room to blow the wall out to the left.

Here’s a side by side view.

In the dining room, I rebuilt her built in cabinets to be symmetrical, then gave them the same navy/white combo as her cabinets to make it feel like one big room.  I used a chunky beam to support the house with the wall gone and moved her duct work to the east wall. The electrical outlet can go right on her island between the two rooms.  Her fireplace got an update with white paint and a chunkier mantle.  Her original dining room table is already the perfect style and size to pop right back into the room, and with the table in place, she can put in a signature light fixture over the table.

Her original ceiling is tile, but since the wall is coming down anyway, I suggested they put drywall up instead.  I replaced her mini blinds with bamboo shades and simple white Ikea curtains.  I love her original floors, but with the wall down and the kitchen floor not matching, I showed them what it would look like to use vinyl click floor instead.  It looks like wood but it’s 100% waterproof and less prone to scratches than wood floors.  That’s a good combination with a lot of young kids around.

Would you like your room photoshopped and featured on Makeover Monday?  Send a few photos from your space to angela@groceryshrink.com and tell me your hopes and dreams for the room.  

Get a full service virtual makeover complete with 3D room layout plan, 2 photoshop views, step by step work list, and source list–all in your budget. Find out more.

room-makeover-short-banner

Learn how to use Photoshop your own designs with the Room Makeover class.

Makeover Monday: Peggy’s House

Peggy has a nice open floor plan with a kitchen, hearth room, and dining room all connected.  It has beautiful built ins and lots of windows, but it still felt dark to her.

She asked for advice in the Cozy Minimalist community for the hearth room only, wishing she could paint the built in cabinets and fireplace white, but afraid it wouldn’t look right with the black cabinets.

We were all distracted by her upper kitchen cabinet blocking the line of sight.  She had made it a lot better by removing both sides of the doors to allow some light through. She stores bowls in it that she uses frequently and was not excited to give up the storage.  I made a little photo for her so she could envision what it might look like all opened up with the white she was craving.

I removed the hanging cabinet and painted her remaining upper cabinet white. Matching crown molding around it would tie it all together even better.  Then added a floor to ceiling built in cabinet, a simple box made from plywood with doors and crown moulding, where her shorter bookcase was before.  Build it with free plans here. This would give her back the storage she lost without taking up any more space.  Just for giggles I added matching doors on her existing bookcases with the white mantle and mirror.  I also switched out her light fixtures for a modern farmhouse look.   I used her existing mirror over the fireplace, but I think a big round mirror would look even better.   Here’s the before and after side by side.

Peggy was concerned about the expense of refinishing the ceiling under the cabinet, but her ceilings are perfectly smooth.  In this situation, the ceiling is usually finished underneath and all she would need to do is fill in the screw holes with some quick dry spackle and touch up the paint.  I didn’t change her paint color in the new picture, but all the white accents make it look darker than when it was by the black.

Would you like your room photoshopped and featured on Makeover Monday?  Send a few photos from your space to angela@groceryshrink.com and tell me your hopes and dreams for the room.  

Get a full service virtual makeover complete with 3D room layout plan, 2 photoshop views, step by step work list, and within your budget source list. Find out more.

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Learn how to use Photoshop for your own designs with the Room Makeover class.

Little Chocolate Pots

This recipe has changed my week.  It’s one of the rare “health” foods that my kids are crazy about. I tested it for next week’s FitMama meal plan and thought I had double what I needed.  But my oldest daughter is singing a solo at district contest for the first time today and Monday she walked in the door a complete emotional wreck.  When I handed her a little chocolate pot, words were no longer necessary.  I loved knowing it was a tiny bowl of superfood to nourish her adrenals and her brain.  It wasn’t a false stab at comfort food that would fill her body with garbage and drag her down further.

The tiny little bowls were from Big Lots.  At $2 each they were an affordable splurge.  I love the texture in the stoneware on the outside and the crackle glaze inside.

The only unusual ingredient in this recipe is Xylosweet.It’s a sugar free sweetener derived from probiotics+corn that I feel ok about using.  It tastes like sugar without messing with your blood sugar. You can use any sweetener you prefer or have on hand.  Another good choice is Monk Fruit In The Raw.  You can also use Truvia, but if you find it bitter, pick one of the other two.

Superfoods:

Coconut Oil: thermogenic to boost metabolism; nourishes the brain and helps memory; reduces inflammation and boosts the immune system; nourishes skin, teeth and hair; anti-fungal and anti-microbial

Unsweetened Cocoa Powder:  Rich in fiber, protein, and anti-oxidants; boosts metabolism

Collagen:  Builds strong hair, skin, and nails; soothes the lining of the intestines and helps with digestions

Eggs:  Full of protein, vitamin A, Vitamin B and zinc.  Good for your eyes, brain and heart and reduce the risk of metabolic syndrome.

Cinnamon: Boost metabolism, helps regulate blood sugar, good for the heart and aids in circulation

Little Chocolate Pots

½ cup refined coconut oil, melted*

¼ cup ground xylitol**

Pinch salt

¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

¼ cup collagen

2 large eggs, room temperature***

½ cup hot water with ¼ tsp cinnamon****

1.Add all but the eggs and hot coffee to a blender and blend well.

2.Add eggs and blend well, one at a time. (If your eggs are too cold, the coconut oil will solidify too soon.)

3.Slowly drizzle in hot coffee while blending. Blend well. The hot coffee will “cook” the eggs.

4.Pour into 6 small ramekins. Cover with plastic wrap and chill at least 2 hours or until firm.

6 servings: 242 calories; 21g fat; 9 net carbs ; 7g protein

*Refined coconut oil does not have coconut flavor. If you LOVE the taste of coconut, you can use unrefined pressed coconut oil. MCT oil won’t work, because you need it to harden when cooled.

**You can use any no calorie sweetener you prefer. I grind my xylitol in a little coffee grinder. It helps it dissolve better. If you are subbing all the sweeteners with honey, this is not the meal plan for you. The fat burning process with these specific ingredients rely on no sugars

***The temp of the eggs is super important here. I didn’t remember to take mine out ahead of time, so I ran some really hot water in a mug for each egg and dropped them in. They stayed in there for 3-5 minutes and were warm enough for this recipe.

****You can change the flavor by subbing hot coffee or mint tea

If you are looking for a weight loss plan that works with your busy schedule.  Check out FitMama. The food is prepped ahead so it’s ready to heat up and eat whenever you need it.  Healthy food could soon be as easy for you as grabbing a bag of chips.

Here’s the meals for the first day for the March 12th Fit Mama Plan.  We have a private facebook group too, so if you need help with ingredient substitutes for preferences we’re on it :).

Breakfast: Guacamole Eggs

Snack: Little Chocolate Pots

Lunch: Salmon Chef’s Salad

Snack:  Giant Frozen Eggnog

Dinner: Grilled Steak with Asparagus and Whipped Cauliflower

Snack: Hot Creamy Peppermint Sipper

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