Frugality May Days – The Challenge

Live-Below-the-Line-2015-The-Hunger-Project_livebelowthelineHave you heard of the Live Below the Line Project? I first heard about it on It’s a 5-day fundraising project in the UK where you live on 1 British pound a day for 5 days to raise awareness for people around the world who go to bed hungry. If you want to know more, click the banner to the left. While I don’t have the discipline to try this project myself, it did get me thinking about my grocery budget and how I can tweak that in order to fatten up my savings account.

The Hubs and I live a pretty simple life most of the time. With the economy being how it is, however, and our rent having gone up $71 a month last month and a raise for me currently off the table, we’re needing to find more creative ways to save money. I often clean using baking soda or vinegar, because those things actually work really well and are dirt cheap, and we’ve cut back on purchasing gallons of drinking water because we realized we were spending hundreds of dollars a year on something we paying far less for from our tap. (I still purchase 2.5 gallon jugs of water for drinking at work, since a lot of chemicals get washed down our only sink, but it’s far less than we used to buy.) I already shop for clothes almost exclusively at thrift stores, with the exception of underwear, socks and shoes. We rarely go out to eat, I use coupons when I can, and try to eat vegetarian a couple times a week to save money. But I’ve been slacking a bit and buying myself muffins and coffee some mornings, and coffee I can make at home or work. Muffins I COULD make at home, but they’re also bad for my calorie budget, so I should just avoid them altogether! I thought it might be fun to see where I can scrimp and save to maybe put a large deposit in my savings account at the end of the month. Here’s my plan:


  • Work the pantry/freezer. I’ve got a lot of things taking up space in my cabinets and freezers that’s staple food. Nothing like a good spring clean out so I can refill it with fresh food next month!
  • Limit spending on convenience foods (coffee, muffins, bubble tea, frogurt, etc.) to $20 for the month.
  • Eliminate eating out with two exceptions: my Walking Meetup Group is meeting for lunch on May 3rd, and my birthday is May 19th, and I want to go out to dinner, dang it!
  • Make 2 meals a week vegetarian to save money on meat.
  • Expand my grocery shopping to more stores if necessary to get better deals. (For example, I happened to check Acme’s flyer and could get bone in skin on chicken thighs for just $1 a pound!)
  • I’m going to be trying out several apps for my phone for coupons and rebates on groceries. I already use the Walmart Savings Catcher App, and have $11.67 in there. Apps I will be trying: iBotta, Checkout51, Shopmium, Extreme Coupon Finder. Websites I will be trying:,
  • Try to convince The Hubs to hang some of our clothes on a line to save the $1.50 in dryer costs.

I will be keeping detailed track of the grocery receipts and coupon usage, and will update each week with my savings. Right now I have a $450 a month grocery budget, which doesn’t include produce I buy at Produce Junction, but does include some toiletries and aluminum foil and such. I’m going to attempt to shave $100 a month off that at minimum this month, and include the Produce Junction purchases in that total. I’m also starting with a detailed list of what I have on hand, and will be keeping a running pantry list in the future I hope. (I have a habit of sticking leftovers in the freezer and then forgetting about them!)

Here are links to the items I’m starting with:


You’ll notice that I haven’t included a list of my dry spices. This is because that list is EXTENSIVE. I also did not list the standard pantry ingredients for baking like sugar, flour, etc. They are assumed. I will be recapping each week the following Monday, including plans for the following week, so my next post on this topic will cover Week 1 and will be on May 11th, with one following each week until June 1st. The menu planning will cover May 3 through May 30th, or 4 weeks.

I hope you enjoy my experiment!

A Losers Guide to Clothes Shopping

I’m talking about people that are actively losing weight, you meanie! How could you think I thought you were a loser?!tumblr_n2sy77z9Kg1s8derso1_500

Losing weight is complicated enough without worrying about what you’re going to wear. If you’re like I was, I had a closet full of plus sized clothes that were rapidly becoming too large to wear. Sure, tops can be worn for quite a while even if they’re oversized, but pants? And if you work in a corporate environment, you can’t walk around in baggy business suits or risk your skirt falling down at the wrong moment. You want to look good, you want to feel good, but you know you won’t be in that size for long (especially if you have more than 100 lbs to lose like I did), so what’s a girl or guy to do? Before I answer, you need to know something first: clothing sizes DON’T MATTER. “But Andrea, if clothing sizes don’t matter, why do we have them at all?!” I’m going to summarize the introduction of clothing size “standards” in one sentence:

Back in the day, wealthy women ordered all of their clothes custom made, and standardized sizing was introduced to provide off-the-rack clothing for less wealthy women, however, the standardizing was based only off of white women with an hourglass figure.
Hey look, women come in SHAPES! (I am a rectangle, in case you were curious.) [Image courtesy of
Want more information? Check out this Slate article, A Size 2 is a Size 2 is a Size 8.  Plus, since the “standard” was introduced, women’s bodies have changed. (And uh, also? ONLY 8% OF WOMEN ARE HOURGLASS SHAPED.) Need more evidence that size doesn’t matter? Check out this article that comes with some handy visual aids like the one below.

[Image courtesy of]
[Image courtesy of
Do you see how standardized sizing could be fatally flawed? A few years back the following series of videos popped up around the internet. I watched them all, and I was amazed. She was SO RIGHT. (Seriously, watch all five videos before you go shopping, it will make you feel so much better about yourself when things don’t fit.)

After watching these videos, my concept of shopping for clothes has totally changed. Yes, I have an idea of what my size is. If asked, I would say I’m a medium. I own mostly mediums. But I have pants from size 6 to size 10 that fit. Tops are an even wider spread: I have an XL tank top that fits more snugly than an XS tank top. I own small tops, medium tops, large tops and extra large tops that all look good and fit well. I’ve realized that if a piece of clothing looks good on me, it really doesn’t matter what size it is. Besides, who besides you looks at the size of your clothes?! NO ONE! They just look at you and say stuff in their heads like “that is a really put together outfit” or “look at how great her butt looks in those jeans”. *wink*

So how do you look good, feel good and not drain your savings in the process? Three words: Thrifting, Consignment and Clearance!

Thrift stores are not created equal. Some are charitable organizations, some owned by religious organizations and some are for-profit. My favorite thrift store in my area (of which there are dozens) is a for-profit place about the size of a K-Mart. Two days a week on Sundays and Mondays (which just so happen to be my days off) they have certain colored tags that are 30-50% off. Their regular prices for jeans are between $6-10, so you can get jeans for $3-5 on sale days. And yes, you do have to sort through a few aisles worth of jeans to find the nice ones, but I’ve found some really nice pairs for a steal! Check out my latest find, Tommy Hilfiger boot cuts in a size 6. These jeans retail for $69, but I got them for $7.95 and that was “full price”.

Last winter I picked up a pair that retailed for more than $100 for $3.95 on a sale day, and they looked like they’d never been worn. I’ve gotten dresses with the tags still on for less than $10. I wear them until they’re too big, and then I either resell them, give them to a friend or donate them to another thrift store.

Consignment stores work for people who need nicer clothes. Many specialize in higher end clothing and business attire, which is great for people who work in a corporate environment (something I’m grateful I don’t have to do). A consignment store sells clothes for other people, so when you’re done with the clothes you can take them back to the consignment store, and if they can sell them to someone new, you’ll get a bit of money back for the item!

Now clearance? Clearance is my jam. My days off do not coincide with The Hubs’ days off, unfortunately, so I have a lot of lonely spare time on my weekends. Sometimes I hit up Target to see if they have any Perfect Fit tees for less than $5, but my favorite places to bargain hunt? Kohls and Burlington Coat Factory. I could spend a couple of hours sorting through just the clearance section of these stores. Here’s how I shop:

These size 6 pants look AWFUL, unlike the size 6 jeans, which not only are not as tight, but look FAR better.
These size 6 pants look AWFUL, unlike the size 6 jeans, which not only are not as tight, but look FAR better.

1. If I like the way it looks, I pull it from the rack. I check the tags for price. If it’s less than $10, I’m willing to try it on. I check the size not by the tag, but by holding it up to my body. The tag is just a guide. Remember: materials, cut and brand all make a difference in size. If it looks like it might fit, it goes in the cart! I don’t limit myself to quantity at this point, because who knows what will or won’t fit?

2. I TRY IT ON. I used to hate dressing rooms. Trying stuff on when you’re plus sized is awful, especially if you’re not well-endowed. A lot of companies assume that plus sized women always have large breasts. THIS IS NOT TRUE. Also? Have fun in the dressing room! Just because something looks awful on you does NOT mean your body is awful, it means the CLOTHES are awful! I tried on 2 pairs of size 6 pants at Kohl’s a couple of months ago, and they were AWFUL pants! How do I know it’s the pants and not my legs? I LOOK GOOD IN OTHER PANTS. (Uhm, yes, it IS that simple!)

3. If I like how it looks, and it’s a reasonable price, I will buy it. It’s that simple. Because like I said before, what difference does it make what size it is if it makes you look good?

The point is, you need to try stuff on, and you need to try on things that you think might not fit, because you could be surprised. And if things don’t fit? There’s no need to beat yourself up over it. There are a lot of really awful clothes out there, especially in ready to wear stores. (I’m looking at you, Target.) There isn’t one item that will work for all people, and there isn’t one person that will look good in all things. Those models you see in magazines? Those celebs who always look perfect? Can you say custom tailoring and GIANT CLIPS?


So what’s your favorite way to bargain shop for clothes? Share any tips or tricks in the comments!

How to Lose 100 Lbs Without Losing Your Mind or Breaking the Bank: Part IV – Move More

In Part I, Part II and Part III of this series, I’ve addressed knowing what you consume, drinking more water, and cutting back on your calories. But one of the weight loss mantras is “eat less, move more”, right? Depending on your weight and level of fitness, you may not want to jump right into hardcore exercise. I certainly didn’t. I hated exercise. The word exercise sent shivers down my spine! My favorite activities were sedentary: reading, writing, playing video games, going to the movies and watching television. My job was also largely sedentary. If you’re at all familiar with Sir Isaac Newton and his notorious First Law of Motion, you’ll know that bodies in motion tend to stay in motion and bodies at rest tend to stay at rest. (Proof that amazing hair and brilliance go hand in hand!)

Dayum, gurl, you been usin’ Pantene?

So if you’re like me, unwilling to spend money you don’t have on a gym membership, you need to come up with solutions to move more while spending as little as possible. As is always the case with me, I started small. When I used to visit my family doctor, I would take the elevator. To the SECOND FLOOR. I started taking the stairs. Instead of using the escalator when I go to the mall, I now go out of my way to take the stairs. I park farther away from the store when I go shopping as well, sometimes even on the opposite end of the mall. I walk from where I parked, across the entire mall, get what I need, then walk back. My doctor even suggested I go to a Super Walmart and do laps around the store in the winter months. The possibilities are almost endless: a quick Google search for free exercises lead me to this fabulous entry from Broke and Healthy – 100 Free or Cheap Ways to Exercise.

Early on, I did cardio exercise videos in front of my computer, or jogged in place while I watched television at night. In the warmer months, I found a training program for a 5K, and trained for that. There are even apps that can help you train for a 5K, like the Couch-to-5k App. I have a desk job for the most part, but things have changed at work, too. I now walk the packages to mail out to the pick-up spot in the front of the store instead of asking someone to do it for me. I bring my dog to work and walk him at least twice around the block during the day. At times, I even do 5-minute Tabata breaks (this works better in the summer when I’m not wearing snow boots). When I’m asked to go something at the bank, I walk. It’s only ⅓ of a mile each way. When I get coffee, I walk. When I go to the post office, I walk. Seeing a trend? MOVE MORE. It doesn’t have to feel like exercise to be helpful.

As I lost weight and felt better, I tried new exercise videos. Amazon had a sale: Jillian Michaels’ 30 Day Shred for only $5 on digital video. I could watch it on my PS3, and all I needed were hand weights! I had heard Jillian was a tough trainer, but to be honest, I hadn’t a CLUE how tough that workout would be. I modified at first, then finally
She still terrifies me. *shudder*

made it through stage 1. I did the workout, but soon found myself DREADING it. Jillian is no joke. I forced myself to continue the 30 Day Shred every other day, but it was just that: forced. Soon, my decision was made for me. One day, while doing the video, I stood up from the ab section to switch to jumping jacks, and I got tunnel vision and felt like I was going to throw up. I sat down on the couch and checked my blood pressure. It was 90/69. I was on water pills (hydrochlorothiazide) to manage pre-hypertension, but suddenly my blood pressure was LOW. With my doctor’s approval, I quit the water pills AND Jillian Michaels for good.

I continued to try various workout videos, but the only thing I really loved doing was walking outside. So the summer of 2012 was spent doing just that: enjoying the summertime, the trees, and nature. The cardio you get from brisk walking is great, and cardio is very important for shedding fat. I dabbled in weight training with hand weights but it bored me. It wasn’t until after I hit my goal weight in August 2014, that I found my exercise true love, kettlebells. Since I started working out with kettlebells in early September 2014, I haven’t missed a single workout. I do kettlebells three times a week without fail, because I love them.

So, seriously, you know what I’m going to say, don’t you? Find what you love to do, and DO IT. Move more, get out in the sunshine, and feel good! 

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