Archive | February, 2011

4 1/2 monthes to a BRAND NEW, BIKINI READY ME!!

17 Feb

So lately I have been not feeling the best about myself. You see, when I had my son in November of 06′ everyone was always saying “Oh my gosh, how did you lose the weight so fast?”. Well the truth was, I didn’t do anything, it just fell off. I have never been a lazy person, but I have also never been the type of person to count calories or exercise. I just took it for granted that I didn’t gain weight no matter what I ate. Now part of this was because when I was struggling with drug addiction I never weighed more than 100 lbs to begin with, and honestly I hated it. At first it was great because I went from a size 5/7 to a size 00 in no time at all. Obviously this was because of the amount of drugs I was consuming, and it was not healthy, I even stopped getting my period eventually because my body weight had dropped to such an unhealthy level. I hated the way I look just as much as if I had been obese. My bones jutted out of my body and my cheeks were sunken and sallow looking. So when I got pregnant for my second child, my daughter, I made a vow to get healthy again and back to a normal weight for my body (I am only 5’2, however, before I ever used drugs, I ALWAYS had a tiny waste and bigger hips, thighs and a “ghetto-booty”, a la J-LO…Most of the time I loved it because it caught the attention of the boys. So when I found out I was pregnant for my daughter in january 2009, I was put on the Methadone Program, which a whole other story that you can read by clicking “Confessions of a Junkie” at the top of the page.  So I was drug free throughout my pregnancy, and still am to this day, which has been just amazing. I feel so much better and wake up looking forward to every day. I am a better person and a better mother. There is only ONE thing that I want to change. You see, one of the effects of quitting drugs and being on methadone is weight gain. Combine that with the birth of my second child, and needless to say, I have put on more than a few extra pounds. I am currently at my heaviest ever. Now don’t get me wrong, I LOVE my body and I am happy that I gained back some weight, however, I am NOT happy with the love handles and the extra tummy bulge I now carry around. I am now wearing a size 9 to 11 pants. So I have decided that it is time to do something about it.
I recently mentioned to my hubs that I wanted to start working out and eating better, to try to shed some extra inches and pounds. He surprised me with some workout gear, he gave me a resistance band, walking weights, ankle and wrist weights and a cute workout outfit. Now I know most of you would kill your man if he randomly bought you weight loss products, however, I repeatedly bugged for them, so that is why he got them for me. So now I am geared up for weight loss. My hubby also wants to get into shape, and he recently purchased a wight set, so I will be borrowing those too.  So now that I have a live-in workout buddy, the next step was to do some research and develop a fitness and diet plan that would work for ME. After browsing MANY website, many of which required a credit card, I finally stumbled upon one that I think is going to really help keep me motivated and assist me in reaching my fitness goals. I joined www.SparkPeople.com, a FREE (Seriously, no catch) website that allows you to develop a customized fitness and diet plan that is tailored to you, it is 100% personalized by you. They provide so many awesome tools, including a fitness page that tracks your exercise routine, goals, calories burned, allows you to add/remove exercises/cardio, watch fitness videos and much more. Then there is a Nutrition page..This page allows you to create and track your meal plan, by choosing and logging the foods you eat from their VAST database (Seriously, EVERY food is there, right down to specific brands…I even found my guilty pleasure Post Honeycomb Cereal!! “, It tracks your calories eaten, carbs, fat and you can also set it to track other nutrients…It has a fruit/veggie and glass of water counter, it tracks your daily and weekly progress, and lets you post notes and print your meal plan and grocery list. On top of those amazing tools there are countless other tools to help you stay on track and get motivated, including groups to join, challenges, trophies to earn when you reach different goals (i e: 30 minutes of cardio per day streaks, lbs lost, pant sizes dropped, and tons more trophies). There are tons and tons of articles and videos to browse through including workout/exercise and fitness, motivational, inspirational and many more topics. It also allows you to add friends, create a blog or Vlog of your journey, add friends, update your status and other interactive tools. You can also browse through tons of success stories and before/after photos, along with a page to track personal appointments, keep a journal, track other personal goals, and so much more. Also be sure to check out the huge SparkRecipe database, the Health Condition database and the huge, the Healthy Lifestyle section, and the friendly and oh-so-inspirational Spark Community. And don’t forget to check out the SparkStore for workout gear, books and much more!I am pumped up and determined to stick with this and generate REAL RESULTS.

So here is an overview of my fitness goals and plans. My main fitness goal is to lose 20 lbs by June 1st/2011, in time for bikini season of course. I also have other smaller goals such as:

Drink 8 glasses of water per day.

– Stop the nighttime overeating of unhealthy foods when I am bored, lonely, etc.

– Get at least 8 hours of sleep per night (No more late night WordPress)

– Cut  back and Eventually QUIT smoking cigarettes, however that is a long term goal, as I dont want to put to much pressure on myself.

– Get at least a half hour of fresh air outside per day.

So in order to achieve these goals I have chosen to follow a fitness regime that includes:

-30 minutes of exercise 3 days per week, including light strength training (3lb weights) and use of a resistance band and exercise ball (Mon, Wed, and Fri)

-30 minutes of cardio three days per week (Mon, Wed, and Fri) including walking briskly, hiphop dancing, Spark Kickboxing, and whatever other cardio I can squeeze in.

As for my nutrition/diet plan, I am not following a set in stone diet, instead I am shooting to eat healthy balanced meals that included lots of fresh fruit and veggies and lean protein. I am aiming to stay within 1200-1500 calories per day, 130-250 of that being carbs and under 50 grams of fat per day. I am starting small because my eating habits are truly horrible so my main goal is to find a diet plan that works for me, gives me enough energy to chase my children and keep up my exercise yet keeps my satisfied and not deprived.  I also aim to cut down on all junk food and trans fats and drink lots of water. I also aim to try to get proper 8 hrs of sleep a night too, as I am on a nocturnal sleep schedule.

So in order to keep myself motivated and hopefully motivate some other people I am going to track my progress not only on SparkPeople but also here on my blog. I also challenge anyone who reads this to check out it out and reevaluate your OWN fitness goals. It is the perfect time to get in shape for summer.  Subscribe to my blog now to follow me on my journey to a new me and join me on SparkPeople to change your body too!!

PS- I WILL BE POSTING BEFORE PICS AND MEASUREMENTS IN THE NEXT FEW WEEKS.

Join me at: SparkPeople.com

Join the Web’s Only Nutrition & Fitness Program Just For Teens! Diet

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Coupon Barcode Decoding: Savvy Shopping or Stealing?

10 Feb

Every time a manufacturer develops a new safeguard against fraud, savvy bargain hunters discover a new way to get around it. Since the show Extreme Couponers aired on TLC there has been much talk of the great savings to be had through the use of coupons. Each days dozens more couponing sites and forums pop up all over the web. While surfing these pages trying to learn more about couponing I stumbled across something called “barcode decoding.” Needless to say, I was intrigued. I click on the link and up pop a how to guide to “decode” coupon barcode. The general idea is that you can save extra money and get products that are not listed on the coupon by reading the barcode, as opposed to following the wording on a coupon. Every coupon has a barcode, which is a series of numbers with the information on what product, the value of the coupons and manufacturer’s info encoded within it. The cash register “reads” the barcode and verifies that the correct product is being purchased, the correct value is discounted and that the coupon is not expired.. The picture below shows a diagram of your common barcode and the breakdown of the numbers.

People have discovered that if you learn to “decode” the barcode it allows you to find out whether you can use that coupon on additional products and achieve even better savings then if you simply used the coupon as the wording says. It enables you to see if the coupon will work on a different products within the same family or even any product from said manufacturer. For example lets say you have a coupon for Huggie’s Diapers with a barcode of 5 22222 33344 8. The wording on the coupon states: “5$ off any HUGGIE’S Natural Care diapers, 100 count or higher”. The first digit-5– is the coupon’s Number System Character or NCS. Coupons with a NCS of 5 will automatically double, whereas a 9 will not double, although it can be doubled manually. The next five numbers-22222– are the Manufacturer’s number. This ensures that the coupon is used on only products from the manufacturer that printed the coupon. The next three numbers-333– are the family code. Manufacturers assign family codes to groups of products within the same family. This is part of the coupon that can be decoded to help determine if it can in fact be used on different products. In a family code the number 0 is like a wild card. If you have a family code of 220, then that coupon will work on any product with a family code of 220-229 so it would probably work on any Huggie’s Natural Care diapers regardless of size, etc. A family code of 200 will work on products with a family code of 200-299, so it would probably work on any Huggie’s Natural Care product, not just the diapers. And a family code of 000 will work on any product from that manufacturer, therefore it would work on ANY Huggie’s product, even if it isnt in the Natural Care line. The next two numbers after the family code-44-are the value code, which determines the value of the coupon. Coupons with a 00 or 01(free product code) will almost always be flagged at the store for cashier intervention. You can find tables of all the value codes on various websites. Here is a list of value codes to help you understand better http://www.barcode-us.com/coupon/couponValueChart.html. You may also notice that value codes are never coded for more then 4 items so coupons for buy ten get $$ off will usually work even if you only buy 3 or 4 products. The final number-8-is simply a check number which is a computer generated number that is assigned when the UPC number is purchased for use in their coupon. it is used to help prevent coupon fraud. There are many other “tricks” to decoding a barcode that I am not going to post here simply because I do not want to condone it.
So, with a wealth of information on coupon decoding and respected couponers offering lessons on it in their workshops and how to guides, it brings forth the question of whether or not barcode decoding is breaking the law or if it is acceptable to do. Many well established great coupon sites are all for barcode reading, even posting tutorials and how to guides. Some even have a “coupon decoder” on the website where you can enter the coupons barcode and other information and it will tell you whether it can be used on additional products and if so which ones will work. Many people will argue that the company knows that it can be done and should simply make the bar codes more specific. It is not that easy, however. Manufacturer’s cannot always code the coupon for specific products. People like coupons that allow some flexibility and in order for the manufacturer to provide coupons available for more then one specific product in one size of a specific type they must trust that people will rely on the terms written on the coupon. A barcode can only fit so much information, it cannot fit a compete sentence or paragraph, which is why that is written on the coupon. The words are basically the terms of a contract between you, the coupon user and the company providing the coupon. Mistakes are made, even by huge manufacturers, when a coupon you are using “beeps” because it was coded incorrectly you want them to call the manager and argue that they should take it anyways. Well, a mistake is a mistake and it doesn’t make it OK just because it favors you! .Another common argument is that if it wasn’t alright to do then the coupon would not scan through or the cashier would not put it through anyways after it beeps. Well just because you can do something doesn’t mean that it is right. Once again the manufacturers trust you to abide by the written policy. Many store rely on fast checkouts for customer satisfaction and don’t take the time to read over every single coupon. What you are essentially doing is playing the system to your advantage. Many people claim that they called the company and were told it was okay. The store made coupons for one product 10$ off and another 50cents of for a reason. Also, just because the manufacturer may not necessarily be to concerned about it, the store definitely will when the do not get reimbursed.
The bottom line is that barcode decoding is FRAUD. When people take advantage of something like this is eventually ruins a good thing for everyone. There are plenty of savings to be had with coupons without gaming the system even further. Just because something is possible, do not make it right. It is because of these things that stores are giving us, the consumers who ARE using our coupons correctly, a hard time. We freak out when a store refuses a coupon, but with people so desperate to make an extra buck these days, who can blame them. Cashier’s have been forced to pay for these people’s indecencies and could even lose their jobs over it. Also, manufacturers put coupons out to help promote new products and to give their consumers that use their products a deal. They do not HAVE to put coupons out at all. We think it is okay because we don’t see the consequences. We see it as a huge company with all the money in the world, what is an extra dollar to them. Well it is simple mathematics. What if one million people all scammed that company out of just one dollar. You see? People need to understand that this is not acceptable. Especially newbies like myself who read about it on a respectable couponing site and aren’t experienced enough to question it. There are more then enough ways to get things for free, why mess up a good thing? It only takes one a few people to ruin something for everyone. All these sites suggest going to the U-Scan where you scan it yourself to use the coupons they have “decoded”, do you really want to risk the embarrassment when it beeps and the cashier comes over to check and realizes you are committing fraud? For fifty cents, no less? Are you that desperate to save a couple bucks that you are willing to risk being arrested and banned from your favorite store? Fraud is fraud, whether it is for one dollar or one million dollars. The charge is the same, it is a criminal offense that you will be prosecuted for, and it is not taken lightly in the court of law.
At the end of the day, only you can decide what you are what yu are comfortable with and what level of dishonesty you are willing to accept. I personally take coupon ethics very seriously because I am grateful for the companies and stores that allow us all these amazing deals and I don’t want to screw that up. I have provided you with the information you need to make a more informed choice on whether or not coupon decoding is acceptable. It is up to you to decide how much your integrity is worth. I know mine is worth more then a few dollars.

My competitive Side!

8 Feb

What are you competitive about?

I am competitive about getting good deals! I am a couponer and I am always trying to get the best deal on any given item. I even compete with myself! I am always trying to beat the last price I payed on an item. I am also competitive with having the best stockpile. Eventually I want to have a whole bedroom devoted to my stockpile so that I NEVER have to go to the grocery store and pay full price for things… Full price is for suckers!! EEEK!

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Dinner Forever?!

5 Feb

If you could eat only breakfast, lunch or dinner for the rest of your life what would you choose? Why?

If I had to pick just one meal to eat for the rest of my life it would have to be dinner because it is the meal that has the most options. You can eat so many different things for dinner, including foods from different cultures. Chinese, mexican, italian, mediterranian… Pastas, soups, meats, pizza, stirfry, tacos…the list goes on! I have also been known to make breakfast foods for dinner so it's a win-win situation:) It is also the biggest meal of the day!! Is dessert included? What meal would you pick to eat forever? Why?

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Burger King-Have it your way?

4 Feb

I am not sure if I simply failed to notice this the million other times I ate at Burger King, or maybe I did but just chose to ignore it because I was starving. Maybe it only bothered me so much this time because the employee had long greasy hair down to her rear end and equally long fingernails. Either way, I found it absolutely appalling, because not only do I have to eat the food, but I also have to spend the whole time wondering where her hands were prior to making it. Why would these thoughts be drifting around my mind you may ask? This is because at good ol’ Burger King they do not feel that it should be required that their employees sport hairnets or gloves. Now, I am not a very picky person, and I am pretty low key when it comes to my fast food. I am not the type to bring something back ten times because they forgot to put extra ketchup or whatever.  Some people might think it is fine for restaurant employees to not wear gloves and/or a hairnet. But, I am not one of those people. I mean seriously, we all do things absentmindedly like scratch an itch, bite our fingernails, or even pick our nose. And that is fine with me. Unless you are about to make me a hamburger three minutes later. You cannot tell me these people go all day without doing any of these things. It is impossible! So why in the hell do they not have gloves on if they are going to be handling food?!?!

       I decided to investigate this BK blunder further, because I know a big story when I see one..So I did what any respectable, well-established journalist would do…I Googled it. As soon as I hit the Enter button, BOO-YAH! I was instantly bombarded with declarations of Burger Kings less-than-stellar service. I knew that I couldn’t be the only one concerned with this recent development. I mean there are pages and pages and pages of complaints about BK. From customers to ex employee’s, there is something for everyone! Most of the complaints are the usual: non-existent customer service, screwing up orders, no gloves or hairnets (See? It isn’t just me!), stuff like that with a few extra nasty complaints thrown in. You know the kind where you aren’t really sure if the person is just making it up as they go along or it really happened to them. Anyways, back to the problem at hand.  I understand that when you are paying two bucks for a burger you cant expect a fine dining experience, but come on. Even the managers don’t seem to give two shits about anything. I waited a good 15-20 minutes for my food, and most of the time the four employees, one being a manager, were standing around chatting. I also noticed that the manager kept snapping at the younger employees. I’m telling you it took everything I had not to give that manager a piece of my mind. If you want to know how not to run a restaurant, go to Burger King. It’s like during their staff meeting the manager says “Okay, today we are going to aim to be as unhelpful as possible…Oh and feel free to manhandle the burgers sans gloves, just make sure you scratch your ass first..And if there are more then five customers in a line, be sure to shuffle around aimlessly behind the counter, while staying as far away from the actual cash register as possible.” Seriously.

        Well, I just finished shooting off a rather strong-worded email to the upper echelons of BK. I do not expect that my one email will spark a change. I suspect that they get more complaints then compliments. I sent it more for my own sake then anything. So at least I can say I didn’t just lie down and succumb to their shittiness. Well, actually, now that I think of it, that is exactly what I did. If i had any balls at all I should have slammed that meal back down on the dirty counter, reamed them out for their lack of sterility, and asked-no DEMANDED- that my money be returned. But is that what I did? No. I waited the twenty-something minutes while a woman with hair that was greasier than the fries thoroughly molested my hamburger and mauled my fries. Then I took the meal, mumbled a pathetic thank you, and went home, where I ate my cold whopper and soggy fries. They weren’t even that bad considering…as long as didn’t think about the meal prep…Hey, what can I say? Sometimes you gotta pick your battles…

Oh, one more thing…While we are on the topic of fast food I thought I would also share something that I came across online. This is a list of popular fast food joint’s secret menus…Yes, I said “Secret Menu’s”. The tasty extras that aren’t on the menu and they don’t want you to know about. Click the link for the scoop…In the meantime, I think I will head over on over to Rotten Ronnie’s for a “Monster Mac.” And they best be wearing F’in gloves!

Secret Menu’s: http://www.couponsherpa.com/ask-coupon-sherpa/secret-restaurant-menus-revealed/

Burger King-Have it your way? Really?