Thursday, August 22, 2013

Grocery Gadget

I am probably one of the worst grocery shoppers. Even when I actually make and remember  to bring my list, I still manage to walk out without stuff on it. I am easily swayed by sales or coupons and end up spending money on something I won't eat or use, justifying it by saying, "But I saved 50 cents!"

Now that I am grocery shopping for more than just myself and I live at least 20 minutes from the nearest grocery store, I have to get better. And when J and I have tried to plan a budget and think about what this year will be like financially, I realize I have no idea how much I spend on groceries every week or month. I also shop at several different stores but have no idea how the prices compare. Sometimes one feels cheaper, but I've never tracked it closely enough to know if it's true. I'm not trying to be a crazy coupon lady, but I'd like to make smarter decisions in my weekly shopping.

In the age of the iPhone, I figured there must be an app that would help me do that. I asked for suggestions on social media, and just got one tip. I didn't really like that option, but by reading the reviews, I found Grocery Gadget. I'm still getting used to it, and it is taking time to build the database of what I buy. But overall, I think it will help.

I am able to create a weekly grocery list using a list of products or by adding new ones. Then I can get on before I shop specify quantities of stuff I need to buy and leave off stuff I don't without eliminating it from the master list. When I shop, I can scan barcodes to add specific item information to the database and put in the price of each item. The first time I used it, I added that info as I shop. It helped at checkout because I knew how much stuff was supposed to be. But I can also add the info when I unload groceries if I'm crunched for time at the store. I can add prices for items at each store I shop at, so I will actually know if I got it cheaper somewhere else or if I'm getting a good deal and should buy more at the cheaper price.

On the website, it tracks my spending by month, so I can actually account for what I spend on groceries and maybe I'll even start to see a difference. I'm also using it to track buying gas and even those 3 or 4 item trips to the store since those add up after a while.

We'll see if I can keep up the work required to continue to track it.

Monday, August 19, 2013

A new blog

Today marks the first day of a new chapter in my life. I'm starting graduate school full time at Mizzou. Thanks to J, I'll be able to dedicate the next year to school to finish my masters, which will give me more opportunities in my field. It's exciting but also pretty intimidating since I've been out of school for eight years.

I've decided to create a blog dedicated to my school/professional life and let this one continue to be a personal blog. I'm not sure how much either will get updated, but I needed a professional presence on the web (and also tie it to my new name).You can find it at: You'll find that at the moment it's backdated posts from this blog republished there. But soon it will be more about my graduate school experience.

Don't feel obligated to follow the new one (or either), I just wanted to let everyone know that it is out there and might be updated more frequently than this one.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Fitbit and the power of competition

The university has a deal on Fitbits — a pedometer — for employees. You buy it at a discounted rate, and once you reach 1 million steps, they refund your money. A couple of my coworkers got them and decide to start a newsroom competition.

I was curious about how many steps I take and needed some motivation to get back to the gym now that the wedding is over. So I decided to get a Fitbit and join the competition.

Here's something you should know about me. I played competitive soccer until I was 15. Yes, my dad (also my coach for many years) always said all that mattered was having fun, but I was competitive and liked to win. Pretty much any physical activity, I could make competitive. I always wanted to be the leader on hikes or family walks. I can get into board games and such, but I never got that competitive with them (mostly because I'm not that great at them). But physical activity was always a competition.

It has been a long time since I've been in a true physical competition, but it all came back to me when I started this competition. The Fitbit app lets you see where your friends are, and you can see weekly rankings. 

And it changed my habits. I was going back to the gym and finding excuses to walk across campus or downtown. When I don't go out for lunch, I walk the quad. I park farther away when I am out running errands. I stop at the trail on my way home from work on cooler days. 

We also got a bike for J, and biking has become our new hobby. We live near a biking/walking trail that goes across the state. We've been biking various sections of it, increasing our mileage. (I get to wear the Fitbit while biking. I only got six miles of steps for riding 24 miles on Saturday.)  So that's my other activity to gain steps, and it's something we can do together (well, kind of, J rides much faster and challenges himself to ride farther than me and catch up).

I'm only a month in to the competition, but I have to say it's been good for both of us. Some really nice weather has helped us as well. Just need to keep up the momentum.