Archive for January, 2005

Price Books 101

Sunday, January 23rd, 2005

Several months ago, I thought I knew it all on how to save money when grocery shopping.  I have found, however, that there is always more to learn as months later I am beginning to address this topic again.  I know I am not the only one who thinks that we are playing a game when we go to the grocery store.  Educated consumers walk away with loads of goodies for minimal money and others of us fork over the big bucks for the same exact thing. What sets one shopper apart from another? How do you beat the grocery game?  Is it really all about coupons and rebates?

Let’s begin by discussing the fliers that you receive in your mailbox each week which outline the stores deals and steals for that week’s particular campaign.  These items are called the store’s loss leaders. Loss leader simply means that the store is losing money by offering these items to you at a lower price in hopes that you are going to do the rest of your grocery shopping with them.  Will you, an educated consumer, necessarily put all of your money down into one store? Absolutely not! An educated consumer walks away with the loss leaders and adds nothing more to her basket unless the prices are unbeatable elsewhere. How does this educated consumer know that these prices cannot be beaten? They know this because they keep a price book.

A price book will make you the smartest consumer in the store because you will actually know whether or not an item really is on sale or not.  Begin by setting your price book up in a way that makes it easy for you to use.  There are two common ways that price books are set up- alphabetically or categorically. I find my price book is easier to use when it is set up by category because it is easier for me to locate milk under the category of dairy rather then the letter M.

Each page in your price book should contain the date, name of your grocery store (use a code that is easy for you to remember), the brand of the item, the size of the item, the price of the item, and then the unit price of the item. The unit price can be discovered by dividing- size/price. The unit price can also usually be found on the actual grocery sticker below the item which can save you some time in the math department.

Here is a sample of what a price book entry would look like for Peanut Butter:

Unit Price
Store Brand
18 oz/.99
.88 lb

The first couple of months of filling your price book is very tedious, but after you have logged this information in for awhile the best deals will emerge and you will also see a pattern in the store’s timing of these sales. For example, you will know that John Doe’s Supermarket runs their special on pasta at 25 cents a box every July and January.

Begin filling your price book by writing in all of the items that appear in your local fliers and the unit prices on them. After filling in these, you can then begin logging in all of the receipts that you have from your past visits to the grocery store. Doing this the first time was rather sickening when I wrote all of it in for our family because this is when I realized my steal of a deal was actually a dud. Don’t kick yourself when discovering this; pat yourself on the back instead because you know you will be saving money from this moment on.

Write in your price book items that you purchase on a regular basis: bread, milk, eggs, cheese, etc… Your job this month will be to fill this price book with this information on your next grocery trip.

One good strategy that I found when reading The Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyczyn was to shop at different stores each week of the first month so that within a thirty day cycle you can hit all of the stores and begin filling your price book with each of the store’s information. By the end of the thirty days you will have a clearer picture on the great sales each of the stores run.

As time goes on your entries will slow down and your price book will now be a great reference to you.  The real question is what do you do with this information and how do you make it work to your advantage? I find that the best thing you can do is that when you see a particular item on sale at a great price then stock up! And up and up and up! The last thing you want to do is have to buy that item when you run out of it because chances are there will be no sale in site and you will be stuck paying full price for that peanut butter that you are now scraping the bottom of. Buy as much as your budget allows, but be smart about how much you buy and how much you can use between now and the next sale. The last thing you want to do is to stock up on bologna and then end up throwing half of it out because it has gone bad before you could eat it.  I tend to stock up the most on items that I can freeze, staples, and pantry items.

I hope that this month you can make it your goal to discover the best deals in your local market. There is definitely something empowering about having your own price book.  More empowering though is knowing that your wallet is just a little bit fatter then it would have been had you not been armed with this information.

Top 3 Lessons Learned from an Expectant Mom

Thursday, January 20th, 2005

Getting pregnant today means being overwhelmed with warnings from family, friends, strangers, the Internet, books, and a number of other sources. These sources can become so domineering that they can begin to take over, making an expectant mother feel inadequate even before the new bundle arrives. In the third trimester of my first pregnancy I would like to offer the top three things I’ve learned to other expectant mothers – not about how to mother, but about how to cope in this age of fearful pregnancy.

First, don’t let everyone else dictate what’s important to you and your family. You may want to listen politely but don’t feel obligated to take the advice you’ll hear. Stick to your guns if something is important to and your partner. I never wanted to find out the sex of our baby – a rarity these days – but my husband was almost pushed into it. When we broke the sad news that we wouldn’t, in fact, be able to find out whether my sister gets the nephew she so desperately wants or my mother-in-law gets the granddaughter she intends to spoil, our families were shocked. Devastated! How could they plan for this child without knowing its sex!?!

Still, it is important not to give in to everyone else’s ideas about how you should treat your pregnancy. Some decisions – most of them, in fact – are between you and your partner and really should be firm decisions the two of you make together without your parents or siblings or friends interfering. Everyone in the world, from your co-worker to complete strangers in the bookstore, will try to tell you about why you should breastfeed or have cameras in the delivery room. It is wise to make decisions independently of this “advice,” no matter how well intentioned.

Second, beware of what you read. I went out and faithfully purchased a pregnancy journal, a baby name book, and What to Expect When You’re Expecting shortly after I found out we were having a baby. The journal has come in handy; I must admit. As a writer, I want to record this journey to look back on fondly and to give my child an idea of what Mommy was like before he or she entered the world. The baby name book is quite a distraction. With 30,000 names, definitions, and origins at our disposal, we’ve still returned to the few names we came up with on our own before the baby name book entered our lives.

What to Expect, the anointed Bible of pregnancy, has some helpful information. I’ve found the answers to questions I didn’t want to ask my doctor or ones I asked but didn’t get answered. Still, the book is part of a culture of fear surrounding pregnancy today. I cannot count the number of times I’ve thought, “Didn’t women have babies for millennia before they knew this?” Granted, I’m glad we know that milk and other calcium-rich products are necessary for a healthy baby. I want to know that my doctor can order an ultrasound to tell if there are problems in my pregnancy. Reading all of the information out there, though, is impossible given the short time-span in which a pregnancy occurs. Trying to sift through that information is even more daunting a task, and forget about making sure you get just enough zinc but not too much magnesium in your diet. A pregnant woman could drive herself crazy thinking about all of the admonitions she hears during what should be a joyous time.

Finally, savor the moment. With baby due in 10 weeks, I actually feel relaxed. We have some of the décor for the nursery but not all of it. We are spending a weekend painting and rearranging – okay, I’m mainly supervising – to get everything ready for our little miracle. My husband and I are probably the only expectant parents who laugh hysterically when we visit baby stores. We’re shocked at the material possessions our baby needs to be a happy child. A compulsive list-maker, I have a list of all of the people my husband will need to call once the baby’s born. I have a list of what I’m packing for us to take, and I even know the date I will lug the suitcases out and pack them. Of course, I’m hoping our little one does not plan on an early arrival, but even in that event, I have my list handy. I picked out a place to order food to pick up for our first night home.

I am pretty organized about this pregnancy, but it is important to do it in a relaxed manner. I love sitting back and watching my tummy contort with the baby’s movements, and I’ve enjoyed spending quiet time with my husband in our last months before parenthood. It is key not to feel caught up in the whirlwind of modern parenting, buying everything out there for your child and forgetting to put emphasis on the most precious cargo – the baby.

How to Potty Train a Toddler in Two Days

Saturday, January 8th, 2005

Ah, potty training!

Go to a local bookseller and you will find dozens of books on the subject. Search the Net and there are thousands of websites with information on how to do it stress free. There are even people who are capitalizing on a parent’s frustration with potty training by offering to do it for you, for a hefty sum! I honestly can’t imagine anything more unseemly than paying someone to teach my child to “go”.


I have successfully potty trained two out of 3 kids so far, baby number 3 is only 14 months so she is off the hook for a few months at least!

I seem to be the envy of the playgroups when other Moms see that my 3 year old son has been in whitey tighties for over a year. My oldest was also 2 when he potty learned.

For me, potty training starts with a newborn. Now don’t get me wrong…I do diaper my babes (unlike the native African mothers who wear their babies on their backs and who, to avoid being soiled on, learn to read their babies’ cues so well that they know when their newborn needs to be held over a bush…no, I’m not kidding!) but I have always used cloth diapers, which encourages babies to train early. I’m not a longhaired, barefoot, off-the-grid hippie (not that there’s anything wrong with that, but you’re more likely to find me in Doc Martens than Birkenstocks!) but I have been cloth diapering since the beginning.

It has saved me hundreds and hundreds of dollars, but I also like the fact that my babies begin to make the association with the uncomfortable wet feeling and the knowledge that they can prevent it. Most babies will wake up dry in the morning at several months of age, demonstrating that they are physically able to “hold it”. In my opinion, Pull Ups are evil and yet another invention that some clever businessman came up with that parents now think is a necessity. Along with formula, baby swings, and the like. Pull Ups just enable a 5 year old to keep soiling himself. Research has shown that cloth diapered babies potty learn several months earlier than disposable diapered babies.

So here’s Grandma’s recipe (and I do owe it to my Mother, like most of the good stuff I know about parenting) for easy potty training, even if you choose not to cloth diaper.

Let your baby come into the bathroom when you go. That way, they know what’s going on in there. You don’t have to get graphic, just talk to them about what toilets are for. If you are a woman at home all day with boy children, encourage Daddy to show ’em how it’s done. You don’t want them thinking that if they go on the toilet their equipment will fall off, like Mum’s obviously did. Strange, but true…some tots will come to this conclusion.

Buy 3 or 4 of those cheap little molded plastic potties and put them around the house. At least, one in each bathroom and one in the kitchen or the room where you spend the most time with your child. Stick a towel underneath for the sake of your carpet if said child is a boy. Speaking of boys…you can take advantage of nature here by keeping an open mind. I know at least one boy who was trained when his Mom let him go off the side of the deck.

The summer that your child is closest to two, take two days and don’t leave the house. Let your child run around naked from the waist down, with a big tee shirt on top so that private parts stay private.

Every 10 minutes, place the child matter-of-factly on the pot. DO NOT ASK inane questions like “Do you need to go potty sweetie pie!?” We are talking about dealing with a two year old here! Just do it like it’s the thing to do, and don’t ask permission. Don’t force it, and if he/she wants to get up right away, let him or her.

If you have a resistant child, set a timer to go off every 10 minutes. It’s amazing what a child will do when the power dynamic is taken away. When the “potty timer” goes off, it’s time to sit on the pot!

Use praise but don’t go overboard. Act like this is the expected thing. Be cool. Say “You put peepee in the potty, just like Mommy and Daddy (and big brother, and your older play group friend…3rd parties are gold here!!) do.

Don’t make a big deal out of what’s happening. Don’t spend hours reading potty training books or videos to the child. Again, be cool. If you make it into a big deal, your child will be more likely to dig in and resist.

Have some “big boy shorts” or “big girl panties” that you know your child will like, perhaps that you have picked out together, ready for the end of the two days. Your child will be less likely to have accidents if s/he is going to mess up their new undies.

When the inevitible accidents happen, don’t scold. Be patient and gracious. This is part of the job. Remember that even if you decide to spring for carpet cleaning, you will still come out ahead if you don’t have to buy diapers for another year or two!