Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Google+ Share on Reddit Share on Pinterest Share on Linkedin Share on Tumblr Where the Grocery Budget Challenge came from… My husband, Travis, and I have always had a jovial competitive spirit. Looking back at twenty plus years, I can’t even remember which of us spurred on the competitiveness. We would compete at everything we did, from games to the gas pump. We would stop for gas and look at where the gauge was on the tank from Full to Empty and then look at the gas price. We would say, “I think it will cost $X.XX to reach a full tank.” The person closest without going over would win. However, Travis would try to always go higher than me because he was the one pumping the gas and could sneak in an extra fifty cents worth if needed. I lead with this gas story so you can understand just how competitive we both were. We married at a very young age. I was twenty and he was twenty three. As a newly married couple, we wanted to enjoy athletics together. With our different interests in sports and the strength difference between a man and woman, we had to find something we could do at the same level or speed. We decided to purchase rollerblades and try something new to both of us. Our first two attempts rollerblading to and from the park were enjoyable leisure activities. Let’s be honest though, it didn’t really give us the workout we were looking for. I needed to think of a way to make this activity more challenging and difficult. Our first home was on a one-way street in a downtown area. We were at the bottom of a hill and a block down the road was the peak of the hill. Most people didn’t have driveways and they used the sides of the street to park vehicles. We set off one Sunday afternoon to rollerblade and I cleverly gave the challenge. “How would you like to rollerblade up to the top of that hill right there today instead of going to the park?” Travis never backs down from a challenge and he bit. “Let’s do it,” he said. We rollerbladed up the hill, which gave us a much better workout in the short amount of time it took us to get to the top than did an entire trip to the park and back. After arriving at the top, I quickly said, “Do you want to race back to the house?” Before either one of us could think through the challenge, I said, “GO!” I took off a moment before he could and felt the momentum building. I bet I was going at least 25-30 MPH and I knew I was in the lead because I couldn’t hear or feel him next to me. Within seconds, there was a car coming toward me up this hill that had, cars parked on both sides of the street and I was flying downhill completely out of control. I hadn’t considered how I was going to stop myself! I was certain I was going to be hit by the car coming at me if I didn’t find a way to stop myself. I thought that stopping myself on a parked car would be far less painful than on the moving car coming at me. When I stuck my hand out to try to stop myself, I immediately flew off the parked car backward into the street. I was lying on the road between the parked car and the oncoming car which zoomed by. I don’t think I mentioned how incredibly stubborn I am, but I pushed back the tears trying to surface because I was not going to be known as weak. I surely couldn’t let my competitive husband think I wasn’t strong, wasn’t up to a challenge or couldn’t take the pain. He helped me get across the street and back to the house so we could evaluate how bad the situation really was. I had a large scrape along my backside which looked as though I had slid feet first into home base at a softball game. My arm was also throbbing, but I wasn’t going to admit it. I told Travis I would be fine shortly. I hid my pain for the entire afternoon. When we went to bed that night, I couldn’t fall asleep because the pain continued to mount. He was snoring away when I tapped him awake at 2a.m. to let him know I was going to head to the hospital because I was 99% sure I had a broken arm. He, being the wonderful husband he was, wasn’t going to let me go to the hospital at 2a.m. by myself. He drove me to the hospital where they immediately wanted to take me in for x-rays. They instructed my husband to stay in the lobby for a few minutes while they took me back because the x-ray room which they explained was too small for extra visitors. Once they had me in the x-ray room, I was tagged-teamed with questions by three nurses in what I wouldn’t consider to be a small x-ray room. They wanted to know the real story of what had happened, certain that I had been a victim of domestic abuse, coming in scraped in the middle of the night with a broken arm. I assured the nurses I was fine and my injuries were from a rollerblading accident earlier that afternoon. I explained to them how we were new and inexperienced at rollerblading and how I couldn’t get myself stopped, so I made myself stop on a parked car. The story made no sense to them since they couldn’t imagine how someone could handle the pain of a broken arm for eleven hours prior to coming in to the ER. I told them about what a sweet guy my husband was, hoping to convince them. I’m sure to this day that they never believed me. Food Budgeting for the Whole Family One of my latest ventures is to be competitive with our meals. After years of coaching people who were losing assets (house, cars) to foreclosure or repossession, it still astounds me how so much could have been avoided if someone had made healthy financial choices in the household. As a financial counselor, I am always surprised to see how much people spend on buying breakfast and lunch meals at restaurants throughout the week along with, purchasing fancy coffee drinks and other food vices. I am by no means perfect in this area because some months we were going directly from work/school to sporting events and felt like we were living on the road. I wanted to put the same fervor of challenge, like in my rollerblading days, to this new task to see what could be done. I put my family on a strict challenge several months ago to see how much we could save monthly by eating every meal at home. Every week I worked to see how much the bare monthly minimum could be if we agreed, as a family, to eat breakfast at home. We brown bagged our lunches and had a meal planning schedule for dinner. I worked every angle as if it was a competitive game to be sure I didn’t waste any money. Good planning is the main tool to keep monthly meals affordable. Grocery Budget Challenge Accepted! Step 1: Prepare a monthly food calendar! This helps set the mix of foods for several easier meals each week as well as some which take more effort. In addition, have a standing monthly or weekly grocery list to make grocery shopping easy. Figure out a good pattern for purchasing your products. For example, I like to make a big bulk purchase the first week of the month at Sam’s Club or Costco. Then I like to use the other weeks for fresh fruits, milk, etc. Step 2: Make a minimum of five freezer meals monthly for the days when “things happen” and preparation is out. This ensures cheating won’t happen and a take-out meal is brought home. Step 3: Decide on the grocery store of choice, click through the e-coupons for that store and clip them prior to the cash register. Use the iBotta App to clip coupons and double up on the same or different items. iBotta gives money back and holds it until it is deposited to your bank account. It is fun and easy to use. Step 4: Open up Shopkick while in the store and scan items for more points which give free gift cards or a restaurant. The reward is a job well done on gaming. Step 5: Continue to master the game by changing up the meal calendar until it works for the family. To hear more of Lori’s stories and learn about other challenges, please visit the Financial Fitness Seminars Page for the full list of her free seminars.