Nine new things I learned in 2014 … that I’ll never forget

I thought I was pretty good at this stuff, but I am always learning. It’s an effort to make adjustments, admit defeat, change a habit, or shift your thinking. Doing things the same way you’ve always done them, whether or not that gets you the desired result, is usually easier. This year, I learned nine specific things that will be added to my repertoire from now on.

1. Consider the usefulness of gimmicks.
Being interested in marketing, I know that a company uses gimmicks for their own benefit. Simply because it is for THEIR own benefit, does not mutually exclude that it might be for YOUR benefit as well. A company gimmick can be anything from a cute mascot (designed to get your attention, make the company memorable, or signify their alliance with a particular belief) to a one-time big discount like Groupon or Living Social. For some reason, up until this year, I ignored the gimmicky deals because I felt somehow that I’d be manipulated if I fell for them, as if somehow they’d get one over on me. However, I actually found some great deals this year at local stores at Amazon Local, Groupon, and Living Social. You have to resist the urge to buy more than you budget, but getting half off or better worked out great at some places. I tried a local European market and a few other specialty shops at 50% or better off. That put their prices in line with what I would normally spend on those types of products. I now check those daily deals regularly.

2. Be open-minded to alternative sources.
Believe it or not, I could buy steak, ham, bacon, and seafood cheaper online than in the grocery store. You know what’s been happening to meat prices lately. However, places like Omaha Steaks and some other mail-order companies are fairly stable in their pricing and they also offer frequent deals and discounts. I particularly check Omaha Steaks often because they have a loyalty program – you earn points for what you buy, which you can periodically turn in for free stuff. They also offer free shipping and other bonuses several times a year. They aren’t the only one I shop online, but I do shop them most often. My freezer has way more Omaha Steaks meat than Publix meat right now.

3. Stop couponing once in a while.
Sometimes, for just a couple of weeks at a time, I’d throw out all the circulars, plunder my pantry and freezer, upend everything, explore the cookbooks, and just stop shopping for a little while. I save enough at couponing to consider it a part-time job, so a vacation every three or four months gives my brain a jumpstart and I’m ready to dive back in after abandoning it for a little while. During the times I stop couponing, I only buy fresh items and non-branded items, and I still look for in-store coupons, BOGO, and fuel perks to stack up. I just put zero effort into it ahead of time. Deals and combinations be darned, I just ignore it for a couple of weeks and then I feel renewed and ready to start over after I’ve put a serious dent in our larder.

4. Understand the layers of intricacy in food labels.
Holy crap. I thought I knew what I was looking at, but I was fooling myself. I try to cut down on wheat, soy, and sugar products, but apparently so do a lot of other folks, so companies have become more sophisticated in their labeling. It would not take you long to find over 40 different names for wheat products, soy products, and sugar products. I thought I was being diligent, but now I don’t know who to trust. I buy almost nothing now that’s canned or boxed unless the label is really clear and in plain English words.

5. Believe the hype.
Sometimes, something is popular or mentioned often because it really IS good. Explore.

6. Don’t believe the hype.
Sometimes, something is popular or mentioned often because of lobbyists, marketing budget, or idiots on Facebook. Be careful. Research, or find someone’s research that you trust.

7. Allow indulgences.
I buy my mustard from a Polish deli. I have a squeeze bottle of French’s in my refrigerator, but on sandwiches, I use the $6 Polish mustard instead. I enjoy the sandwich more, I use every bit of it, and it’s still within my budget. These types of planned, useful indulgences can be allowed.

8. Understand, implement, and adjust if needed, your own “unbreakable” rules.
Ask yourself “why” if you always or never do a particular thing. If you understand the reasoning behind it, so much will make sense to you. Understanding the spirit and method behind your own rules will help ease your stress as you encounter dilemmas.

9. Know who you are and where you stand.
I’ll give you an example. I’ve been a subscriber to a particular food blog for at least a year, it is run by an individual that I think contributes to cook books or a test kitchen, I can’t remember for sure. Once a week or more often she would put out a recipe as well as details about it – substitutions, tweaks, who may or may not like it, etc. I enjoyed the extra information. Just about a month ago, she didn’t put out a recipe for her post, but instead a ranting blog post about a political issue. I won’t mention which side she was on and which side I was on, in fact, I agreed with her. I still unsubscribed because it matters to me to separate that part of my life. When I’m planning things for my home life, cooking meals for my family, and enjoying my time spent researching food and nutrition, I absolutely will not involve myself with political rants or people who use my attention to forward their own political agenda. I’m not going to let her drag me into that and I’m not going to listen if she wants to deceive her followers that way. Hey, it’s a blog, it was free, wasn’t like I was paying her for the recipes or anything. So, it’s her right. And, it’s mine to never give her my time or attention again.

I would say that these are the biggest new lessons, and changes, that I’ve made to this part of my life this past year. What were yours?

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