Save with Sarah — Kroger Rx Savings Club

Here at the homestead, tax time means that it’s time to take a hard look at the finances.  In doing that, I can usually flesh out some new and interesting ways to save money.  This year has been no different.  In fact, by spending $72 on a Kroger Rx Savings Club membership, I expect to save around $475 this year on prescription medications.

What is the Kroger Rx Savings Club?

The Kroger Rx Savings Club is a discount program powered by GoodRx.  For an annual fee ($36 for an individual and $72 for a family), you get access to significant discounts on hundreds of medications.  Some commonly prescribed medications are even free!

The program is NOT a replacement for insurance, however, in most cases, you can use it alongside your prescription drug coverage to save even more money.  Currently, Fred and I have a high deductible health insurance plan.  We don’t have drug copays; we simply pay the negotiated price to the pharmacy when we get our medications.  With this program though, we were able to pay even less on our meds.  Two of them are now free! Who can argue with free?

The family membership covers up to six members, and interestingly enough, pets are covered too.  I imagine that if I’d had access to something like this last year for my dog, Layla, when she had a horrible bladder infection, the cost of her treatment would have been a lot less.

This program appears to be pretty new.  I don’t have long-term experience with it, so my perspective may change as the year goes on, but so far, I’m a really happy girl, and I think this is going to be another great tool in the toolkit.

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Going Keto: Update for 02/08/19

I’m still here, although I bet some of you were wondering.  I’m not going to lie.  I’ve been struggling recently.  I’m still plugging along though, and the fact that I haven’t given up is something that delights me.

  • High Weight: 290.2lb (May 2017)
  • Current Weight: 246.6lb
  • First Goal: 233.6lb (to get lower than I was in October 2018)

Yesterday marked one month since recommitting to keto, and to be totally honest, I broke a lot of promises to myself in that time.  I promised NOPE (no off-plan eating), and that didn’t happen exclusively.  I promised to work on meal prep instead of grazing, and that didn’t really happen either.  Aside from losing five pounds in that month, and aside from not giving up entirely, I don’t feel like I have too many positive things to say.

All that being said, folks who know me know that I’m not one who gives up.  I might tread water for a bit.  I might backtrack some.  I never give up entirely though.  And typically, even as I’m struggling, I’m still looking for strategies to keep me moving in a positive direction.  And that’s where you all find me this week.

It all started, I suppose, with an episode of The Survival Podcast (as things often do for me) where Jack interviewed chiropractor, Dr. Stephen Lewis from Green Wisdom Health.  Dr. Lewis has been on Jack’s show before, but for some reason, this episode really struck a chord with me.  The funny part about it though is that I almost didn’t listen to the episode.

As some of my readers know, last year was a real struggle for me.  I found myself pondering whether or not I’d be able to find someone who could help me figure out the missing pieces to the puzzle that is me and my journey.  While my doctor’s practice is awesome, they haven’t really been bringing anything new to the table, and after a disastrous consult with a rheumatologist last fall, I was feeling a little defeated.  Listening to Dr. Lewis brought some new enthusiasm to the table for me though, and I plan to consult with him.  I’m really excited about that.

After making that decision to head down that road, I also found it easier to focus on my food as well.  Watching an episode of My 600-lb Life also helped to solidify my resolve.  After all, if those folks could succeed with no prior low-carb or keto experience, what the heck is my excuse?

Lastly, finding the support of an online community that I didn’t even know existed has sealed the deal for me.  I’ve participated in online low-carb/keto communities before, but most of them are filled with folks who’re looking for someone to fix them without taking any personal responsibility.  I’m the only one who can fix me, but having the support of other like-minded individuals goes a long way toward helping there.  I’m really excited!

In the end, I’m not giving up, guys! I’m here for the long haul, and I’m happy to share it, warts and all.  What we do matters!

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Reverse Osmosis Water Filtration at Home

While listening to an episode of The Survival Podcast, it occurred to me that I should write a blog post about the pros and cons of reverse osmosis (RO) water filtration at home.  In this article, I’ll share our decision-making process that led to the purchase of our system back in 2006, and hopefully, I’ll de-mystify the concept of using RO for your daily water needs.

Before 2006, we had used all sorts of filtered water options.  We used pitchers, we used faucet-mounted filters, and we even subscribed to a bottled water service for a period of time.  All of these options provided us with tasty water, but they were rather expensive, and some of the options weren’t very convenient.  I know it sounds snooty, but I wasn’t willing to drink municipal tap water, so we started looking for a different option.

It wasn’t long before my husband suggested that we purchase and install a reverse osmosis system at the rental that we called home, but I had questions, of course.  First, I wanted to know how complicated the install was.  Second, I wanted to know if we’d be able to take it with us when we moved.  And third, I wanted to know if it was going to be cheaper than the options we’d been using since there were still media filters that required changing and some servicing of the system that was required over time.

In the end, we decided to pay approximately $150 for a 5-stage RO system from Sam’s Club.  Had we purchased that system in a home improvement store, we would have easily paid nearly $300, so we understood why folks were reluctant to make the initial investment.

We were fortunate because the kitchen sink at the home we were renting had a knock-out plate for the RO faucet.  That meant that we didn’t have to modify property that was ours in any way, and we uninstalled the system and took it with us when we moved to our own home in 2009.

Before I talk about the pros and cons of our setup, I thought it important to mention that we didn’t know about things like the Berkey when we bought our system, and I’m fairly certain that even if we did, we still would ahve gotten an RO system for daily use.

After 13 years of using our system, here are the pros and cons we’ve discovered up to this point.

Pros

  • Convenience — I don’t have to remember to fill a bucket or pitcher, nor do I have to fiddle with ice cube trays or containers of water in the fridge.  Our setup is plumbed to our fridge, so we don’t have to worry about replacing fridge filters either.  And when I want to cook with RO water, I just turn on the faucet.
  • Footprint — Our RO setup does use space under the kitchen sink.  The pressure tank and all the filter components are down there.  As far as space use topside goes though, we have a small faucet that’s mounted in the right-hand corner of the sink and that’s it!
  • Taste — Because everything is filtered out of our water, the taste is as pure as it gets.  Because my kids have grown up drinking it, they turn their noses up when they have to drink water that’s full of grit, chlorine, and other assorted nasties.
  • Fluoride and Minerals — I love the fact that my RO system removes fluoride from our drinking water.  And since the minerals as removed as well, appliances like my hot pot, my steamer, and my coffee maker last a lot longer and don’t need to be de-scaled.  Some folks see the lack of minerals in the water as a con, but there are remineralization polishing filters that you can use between the pressure tank and the faucet if you’re so inclined.

Cons

  • RO systems require utility line pressure to function.  In an emergency situation, you’re not going to get water from your swimming pool, dump it into your RO setup, and end up with filtered water at the faucet.  For this reason, we store water, and we might consider something like a Berkey after we’ve addressed some of our other goals.
  • RO systems use water to back-flush the RO membrane, so they do “waste” water.  Some folks choose to divert that water into storage while others opt to use “low waste” kits that can reclaim some of that wasted water.  We’ve never noticed excessive use from our setup, so we haven’t worried about it.
  • You do need a bit of plumbing knowledge to install one of these setups.  If plumbing isn’t your thing, you might need someone to help you with the install, but most of the maintenance is no more complicated than what you’d expect with a pitcher, whole house setup, or Berkey.

In the interests of full disclosure, some of the components that came with the original system have not lasted the 13 years that we’ve had our setup.  Last year, we replaced the faucet, and a year or two before that, we replaced the pressure tank.  It wasn’t until we set out to replace it that we learned those weren’t supposed to last more than 5 years anyway, so we lucked out.

We also replaced the RO membrane to a model that was rated for more gallons per day.  The old membrane still worked, but the upgrade was a personal choice more than anything.

I feel so blessed to have access to delicious, safe drinking water, and I doubt I’ll ever use anything else as my primary source of water for drinking and cooking.  That’s just what works for us though.  As always, your mileage may vary.

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Going Keto: Update for 01/22/19

After another week of on-plan eating, things are going pretty well.  I dropped another 2.8lb last week, so I’m definitely making progress toward my first goal of getting under 233.8lb.

  • High Weight: 290.2lb in May of 2017
  • Current Weight: 244.6lb
  • First Goal: 233.6lb

I am still having to work proactively at eating on plan.  Yesterday, my son wanted to bake a cake, and I had to tell him that I wasn’t ready for that.  I wasn’t certain that I’d be able to stay out of it if it were here, and honestly, the rest of the family doesn’t need a cake either.  It was an accomplishment to assert my needs though, and I have to keep doing that to get where I need to be.

I’m still struggling with well-rounded meals, but a lot of that has to do with this darned cold that I’ve had since last week.  I’m really done with it, but it doesn’t appear to be done with me.  One of my kids asked me for a hearty vegetable beef stew though, so I made that yesterday, and I had to hide a second serving for today’s lunch because the rest of the family wanted to devour it.  I guess there’s something to be said for that.

This week, I’m continuing to focus on the good choices that keep my eating on plan, and I’m improving meal prep as much as I can while still dealing with my cold.  Slowly but surely, good things are coming of my efforts because what I do matters.

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Friday Follow-Up: Keto, De-Cluttering, Budget

While this week hasn’t been as productive as I’d hoped, I haven’t been treading water.  I’ve been making steady progress on my current priorities despite the fact that one of my children has tried to share his plague with me.

Keto

I’m continuing to eat on plan, and the weight is slowly coming off, but the fact that I’m under the weather has impacted my meal prep.  I’ve been grazing rather than eating complete meals, and that’s something that’s never sustainable for me.  Perhaps I need a nice vegetable stew of some sort.  That usually hits the spot when I’m not feeling well.

De-Cluttering

My kitchen progress has mostly been maintained, but the dishes are starting to get out of hand again, and I haven’t really made any additional progress since last week.  Again, with me not feeling well, I haven’t really had it in me to get in there and knock out more chores in there.  We’re supposed to have some bad weather this weekend though, so it might be the perfect excuse we need to work on furthering kitchen efficiency.  That’d also make meal prep easier for me even when I’m not really feeling up to it.

Budget

This is the line item on which I’ve been pretty fixated this week.  I’ve been trying to come up with a strategy to get us where we want to be with our financial health, and it’s going to take discipline and creativity, but it’ll be so worth it!

My Zello friends have been such a huge help! They’re a great sounding board off which I can bounce all kinds of strategies.  Some of the ideas we flesh out are pretty ridiculous and others are downright brilliant.

While I wasn’t able to cut my internet bill like I’d hoped, we figured out a strategy that’ll save me $35 per month on dog food.  That might not be a big deal for a lot of folks, but to me, it’s huge! I’ve also decided that if I can find a student alto saxophone for less than $400, I can save almost $600 on a rent-to-own contract and knock out another $56 per month that’s leaving the house.  Now, I’m just waiting for all my tax documents so I can put some plans in motion and get this snowball rolling!

Winter Weather

We had a storm here last weekend, and now that we’re finally recovered from it, we’re supposed to get more snow and ice tomorrow.  They keep changing their minds about the storm’s impact for us, but no matter how it goes, I’d rather stay in if I can.

Facebook Discussion Group

The Claiming Liberty Discussion Group on Facebook has gained a few members, but I’d love to see it grow.  If you haven’t already, don’t forget to come join the conversation.  I’d love to hear your feedback about my blog posts and the ways that you all are increasing your liberty each day.  Remember, what we do matters!

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Life Design Using Goals Instead of Dreams

My husband and I had the start of a really great conversation on the way home from an errand earlier this week.  He said something like, “If we ever win the lottery…”, and then he listed some things he wanted to do.  Now, we play the lottery maybe two or three times a year, so it’s possible that we could win.  It’s also fun to dream.

Something occurred to me though as we continued to talk.  The difference between dreams and goals is timeline.  What does that mean for us exactly? Well, to me, it means that we can have our dreams if we turn them into goals with a timeline and a solid plan.  The key to my previous statement though is “we”.  Fred and I are the only ones that can make our life what we want it to be, and while that responsibility might be scary to some, I find it exciting.  It means that Fred and I hold the power; we don’t have to wait on someone else or depend on some other passive something or other to move our lives in a positive, fulfilling direction.

Like I said though, the “we” part is probably the most crucial element in the discussion.  If we’re not working together, if we’re not on the same page, we aren’t getting anywhere productive.  For example, I was talking with Fred this morning about how our eating on plan has already made noticeable improvements for the two of us, and he agreed saying, “But it’s hard for me to eat on plan when you’re not.”

I told him, “Of course it is, just like it’s hard for me when you consider foods ‘on plan’ that I don’t.  I get it.”

Our life design is no different.  It’ll require us to be on the same page, and it’ll require us to stay focused and not run the other person off the rails.  I’m certain we can do it, and for the first time in a while, I’m actually really excited about the prospect.  While sitting around and dreaming can be fun, it doesn’t really solve the issue of plan and direction.

Long story short, and my husband doesn’t know this yet, but we’re going to stop dreaming and start planning and goal-setting.  It’ll involve several conversations, I’m sure, but that’s OK.  Planning the rest of our lives so that they’re the lives we want them to be seems like a pretty healthy thing to do in a relationship.  As Fred and I approach our 19th anniversary, I just can’t help but think that the next 19 years will be even better, and he and I are the only ones that can make that happen.

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Going Keto: Update for 01/14/19

My first week back on plan went relatively well.  There were two snags, but I still ended up dropping six pounds this week.  Better yet, my two choices to eat off plan (potatoes both times) didn’t result in my giving up and throwing in the towel, so there’s something positive to be said for that.

In general, last week went the way I had expected it to go.  At first, I struggled with obsessions of foods that wouldn’t further my goals, and then the cravings for salt started.  By Friday, I was feeling pretty settled about my eating choices, but we had to run an errand that involved getting food on the road.  I opted out of fast food when my husband and father-in-law ate because I’d had a late lunch and didn’t like the choices at that particular restaurant.  By the time we got to Chili’s to pick up my daughter from work though, I was really hungry.  Fred ordered dessert since he’d had his supper, and I ordered a bacon burger without the bun and a side salad.  I didn’t skip the fries though, and I justified it to myself by saying, “At least I wasn’t eating grain or dessert,”, but it was really just an excuse.  I wanted to eat off plan, so I did.  I think I could have planned better, but the choice to eat fries was totally mine and I owned it.

Then on Saturday night, I was planning to go home and fix a ribeye for myself.  Fred snagged a shepherd’s pie from Aldi though, and by the time I was hungry, it was starting to call my name.  I should have fixed the steak and called it good, but the rest of Fred’s food was sitting on the counter calling to me, so I decided to eat that instead of the steak.  Again, it was “just potatoes”, but potatoes aren’t a part of my food plan, and I’m really susceptible to the slippery slope of bad food choices.

Overall though, I’m happy with the way that my first week wrapped up.  I still have a lot of good habits to re-establish, but I’m confident that I have this in hand.

  • High Weight: 290.2lb in May 2017
  • Current Weight: 247.4lb on 1/14/19
  • First Goal: 233.6lb
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Join the Claiming Liberty Discussion Group on Facebook

About three years ago, I created a discussion group on Facebook for the blog.  I had hoped to interact with readers of my blog, but more importantly, I hoped to build community and bring folks together who shared my interests.  Since nobody other than my family and my best friend joined the group though, it really didn’t go anywhere, and since I didn’t develop the community with intention, it never took off.

Now that I’m producing more regular blog content in an attempt to expand the blog, I thought it’d be a great time to develop the group as well.  I love community.  I love to support others as they try to improve their own lives and increase liberty for themselves and their families, and a discussion group makes all of that possible.

If you’d like to join the conversation, join us over at the Claiming Liberty Discussion Group on Facebook.  I imagine we’ll end up discussing all sorts of things related to homesteading, personal liberty, healthy living, cooking and recipes, and anything else that comes up.  The only rule is, “Be great!” While I appreciate freedom of speech, I don’t tolerate bullies, but I don’t expect that we’ll have any troubles with that.  I can’t wait to see what you all have to say over there!

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Clutter and Anxiety

Over the last few months, I’ve had this recurring dream where I’ve moved out of our home to get away from the “stuff”.  Sometimes, it’s a small apartment.  Other times, it’s a perfectly designed house with smart storage.  At the heart of it though is a desire to live a less cluttered life.

I know some folks, including a few family members, who don’t seem to be bothered by clutter and disorder.  If we’re being completely honest though, clutter and disorder impacts productivity, but more importantly, it can provoke anxiety that isn’t fun for anyone.

As most of my readers know, I’m legally blind.  This presents me with some interesting challenges in life, most of which I’ve worked around nicely, but mess is one of those things that really causes problems for me.  In navigating my home, I rely on muscle memory.  I know just how many steps it takes to get from one place to another.  I know just when to zig or zag for furniture placement or design elements in my home, and I usually do a pretty good job at making the whole process seem painless.  Add a new element to the mix though and things can go sideways fast!

A few years ago, I was tidying up my kitchen.  I started loading my dishwasher, and something called me away from my task.  When I came back into the kitchen, I had forgotten that the dishwasher was open, and I smacked my shin hard enough to require a trip to the ER.  I was the one who left the dishwasher open, but since I had been distracted, my muscle memory hadn’t accounted for the obstacle.

If I could cause that kind of drama for myself with a momentary lapse of concentration, imagine the chaos that can be caused by the rest of my crew.  It’s something that we’ve been working to improve around here, and my family are definitely making progress.  I’ve decided though that it’s something that has to be a priority not only for my physical well-being, but for the whole family’s mental health.

Tripping over things provokes anxiety for me.  Bumping into things frustrates me.  Not being able to find the things I need to finish a given task annoys me.  Other family members are starting to experience the same feelings, so I’ve decided that I’m going to facilitate some decluttering and healthy habits to help the entire family succeed.

I suspect that my feelings aren’t unique.  And with the start of a new year, I’d imagine that others are trying to declutter and establish healthier habits as well.  That’s why I thought I’d share a little of my perspective here.  I’ll tell you folks what I plan to do, and I’ll share my progress along the way with the hope that I can inspire others to get their own poop in a group and start living more effectively.

For me, the key to handling the clutter and managing the anxiety that’s caused by said clutter involves baby steps.  After Thanksgiving, we removed everything from the dining room that didn’t belong, and for the most part, we’ve maintained the space.  Yes, we just up and moved everything that didn’t belong there into a different room, but that’s one of the strategies that works really well for me.  By moving everything that didn’t belong out of my dining room, I could see some immediate progress.  Also, by getting everything out of there that didn’t belong, it made it easier to keep up with things like vacuuming and the other weekly chores that go along with keeping a house cleaner and neater.

Eventually, I’ll have to deal with everything that’s been moved to our family room, but my strategy for that will be quite simple.  I’ll deal with things one box, bag, or item at a time, and I’ll make certain that everything has a place whether it’s another part of the house, a donate/sell pile, or the trash.

By starting with rooms that I spend the most time in, I feel the effects immediately, and it encourages me to keep going, both with the decluttering and the maintenance of the spaces that I’ve considered “done”.  For that reason, my kitchen is next on the “high impact” list.  Because our family is focused on healthy eating, I’m spending a lot more time in my kitchen, and I need to be effective and productive there.

I’m actually very blessed in the kitchen department.  It’s laid out well with lots of cabinet and counter space.  I need to do a purge though so I can use the space efficiently instead of wastefully.  I’m not sure I’d know what to do if the majority of my countertops weren’t cluttered with one thing or another.  Obviously, there are certain things that stay on the counters all the time.  My stand mixer, coffee maker, coffee grinder, toaster, and electric kettle need homes on the countertops, but I can arrange those items in a more workable way, I think.

Because of everything that’s involved, the kitchen won’t be a quick or simple project.  I’m probably more excited about that room than any other room though, and I’ll be happy to share my progress with my readers.

If you take nothing else from my ramblings here, consider this.  Take baby steps, maintain what you’ve already accomplished, and before you know it, you’ll have your house and your life in order too.

 

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N.O.P.E. — No Off-Plan Eating

My keto journey went seriously sideways last fall after my housemate and dear friend was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer.  Our lives changed so much in the blink of an eye, and I felt like I was barely managing to keep it together as we tried to get used to life without Sue.  There were financial changes, emotional changes, and lifestyle changes that had to get woven into a new life plan, and getting my food back on track was the least of my worries as we navigated the grieving process.

If I’d gone into that challenging situation with my keto feet underneath me, things likely would have gone differently.  The fact is though that I decided to prioritize other aspects of my life above sticking to a keto meal plan, and I was completely willing to accept the consequences of that choice.  I knew there’d be weight gain.  I knew I’d struggle with meal planning and habitual meal prep.  And lastly, I knew there’d be some health struggles.

So here I am on January 7, 2019, and I’m ready to get my poop in a group! I’m in a place where I’m not setting myself up for failure, and I’m ready to take back the ground that I’ve lost.  There are a lot of strategies I can use to support that plan, but the biggest one is NOPE — no off-plan eating.

I coined the term NOPE sometime last year when I needed to remind myself every day to stay on track.  I posted it on social media, I wrote it in my diary, and I shared it with my friends who were supporting me.  It’s such a simple concept to grasp; it isn’t necessarily an easy concept to implement though, especially when NOPE isn’t yet a habit.  I’m up to the challenge though.  I’ve done it before and I can do it again.  I’m worth it.  My family is worth it.  What I do matters!

  • High weight: 290.2lb in May 2017
  • Current weight: 253.4lb on 1/7/19
  • First Goal: 233.6lb to get under my lowest weight since recommitting to keto in September of 2017

Of course, I’ll keep everyone posted!

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