The Grocery Shrink

Hey there!

We’re broadcastin’ live from a lovely location on top of a mountain in North Carolina today. We’re here photographing a super cool cottage for Cottages & Bungalows magazine, and if everything goes according to plan, the issue they’ll show up in will hit newsstands sometime next Fall. (We’ll keep ya posted on the actual release date as soon as we know what it is!)

In the meantime, we wanna introduce you to one of our Sponsors. Her name is Angela and she’s a Grocery Shrink.  She’s gonna help us get our food budget under control so that we get the adoption ball rollin! ( Yep! We’re selecting an agency right now, and we hope to adopt a little one sometime within the next year and a half!)

To learn more about how we’re gonna start cutting back in the ol’ vittles department, check out Angela’s Guest Post below. Her story is inspiring and we’re definitely motivated to follow in her frugal footsteps!



I’m so excited to be guest posting at the Lettered Cottage today! I’ve been a long time fan of Layla’s and Kevin’s and it is quite an honor to speak to their audience.

My subject today is close to all of us.  Take a minute and think of 3 things you’d like to do before you die. I bet they have one thing in common necessary to do them….money.

The average American has their income spoken for before it even hits their bank account. Student loans, car payments, mortgage payments, and credit card debt take away the freedom to spend money the way we choose.  My husband and I were no different.  We had most of the above, plus an extra mortgage from rental property, a family loan, and furniture debt.  When we added it all up it totalled $87,000!  I was a stay at home mom with 3 children under 4 and my husband made $40,000 a year. To keep living the way we were would be disastrous so we drew a line in the sand and stepped over.

We heard a radio show giving baby steps to get out of debt. At the time, they were also sponsoring a contest and the top 10 families would win an all expense paid trip to the Bahamas!

All we had to do was take 6 months and pay off the most debt and save the most cash as a percentage of our income. I figured if I gave it my best shot and lost the contest, I’d still be a winner financially. I also figured that I could do anything for 6 months. What I didn’t figure is how much our change in lifestyle would improve the rest of our lives. My husband took charge of our bank accounts and I took charge of the household expenses. We wrote a monthly budget telling our money where to go before we got it. In that budget we slashed our grocery bill from $400 to $185 a month. I had about $20 for clothing for the 5 of us, about $20 for gifts and little else to work with so we could pour our money on the debt. Another big change was cutting up our credit cards. We switched to cash in an envelope for each budget category. I could see in an instant whether I had the money to pay for things or not. There was no idea too drastic for us to consider if it meant getting out of debt. We cashed our meager savings except for a baby $1,000 emergency fund and put it toward our debts. We sold our rental property and had garage sales, ate wild edibles from the yard, shut off our heat and burned wood in the fireplace.

I sewed the kid’s clothes from adult cast-offs, handmade gifts or bought them at garage sales, and traded singing lessons for milk. We used cloth diapers, cloth wipes, cloth paper towels, and cloth napkins.

It might have been extreme, but we knew it was temporary, and it was working!  By the end of the contest we were completely debt free!

We had also saved about $30,000 for a down payment on a new home (partly from the rental equity and partly from saving our income that used to go for debt), which we managed to grow to $40,000 4 months after that. When we took back our income from the slavery of debt, we found we had choices again. (To get the whole story, check out my free newsletter at

While we were in the Bahamas visiting with the radio host, I mentioned that I wanted to start a home business. He interrupted me and said, I should start a home business teaching other women to live frugally. I’d never thought about that before, but when I got home I started writing everything that I did to cut grocery and household costs into a book and now I sell it as an instant download for just $10.

We are now expecting our 6th child, and although our income is bigger, we still live the same way we did when we were digging out of debt because we promised each other we’d NEVER go into debt again. We would rather save our money for vacations, home improvement projects, retirement, and college funds, than blow it on toys or other convenience items. And by using some of what we save by living frugally, we are taking our 3 oldest children on a tropical cruise this winter.

Come join me at the Grocery Shrink and learn how to shop and cook with a plan and purpose!


PS- I’m having a huge sale right now! You can get all 3 of my e-books for just $12. That’s an $8 savings off the regular price of $20. You can also sign up to win a free set here: E-book Giveaway. Good luck!

Tobacco Barn Antiques in Asheville, North Carolina
Traditional Style Dining Room Inspiration for the Brights, AND Beth!

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  1. C. E. says

    The subject of this post was a (good) surprise! Many of us get caught up in the next project etc. and make that our priority when we should really be making living debt-free a priority. That will give us a rush that lasts longer than any DIY project can. Thanks for sharing your inspiring story. I have been a Dave Ramsey fan for 5 years now and since then starting living debt free (just mortgage). It feels so good and liberating to live this way! Hope this inspires many readers and CONGRATS on making a business out of your experiene from wanting to get debt-free…double blessing!

  2. says

    That’s so awesome you guys are planning on adopting. :) It will forever change your lives. Good luck, and we’ll be praying for you!

  3. Jennifer says

    Layla & Kevin,

    I am so excited that you have chosen to adopt a child. It is the most amazing experience in the world! Our two oldest daughters are adopted and our sweet baby is a foster daughter. I wouldn’t change our lives for anything. If you ever need a little “hang in there” encouragement, let me know. :)

  4. Trista says

    Dave Ramsey? Love him. You’ve just given me some major encouragement to start working on my New Years’ resolution early. My husband and I are debt free, but when I look back at my bank statement and $100+ a week are spent on eating lunch and dinner at restaurants, I know we still have a long way to go.

  5. Anita says

    SO exciting that you are adopting!!! We have an adorable adopted daughter, and adoption has been a HUGE blessing! We’re just starting the process to adopt a sibling for her!

  6. says

    Hi Layla!
    My husband & I just finished filling out the initial application for our first adoption. We are so excited to finally be growing our little family. If you’d like to check out a couple of great adoption blogs, look for ‘the r house blog’ and also ‘Que & Brittany’s Doption blog’ (You can just copy them and google, I don’t want my comment being taken for spam thanks to links!)
    BTW, LOVE Grocery Shrink! She’s the reason we were able to put together our adoption fund so quickly!

  7. says

    First of all – I’m so excited that you are working on a little one. You two will be AWESOME parents.

    And second – thanks for introducing me to the Grocery Shrink. I am looking forward to getting to know more about her!

    Love your blog – look forward to checking it out every day :)

  8. Karrie Gee says

    Love Grocery Shrink!!! I started making my own baby wipes 9with 2 little ones around) after reading Angela’s blog. Saves alot, if you really think about it!

    Good luck to you and Kevin on the adoption process and in the hills of North Carolina!

  9. says

    I know that I have heard her story before, but it really touched home today. Thank you for sharing, and I am soooooooo excited for you guys in this next step!! So happy for you!


  10. Sandy B says

    Congradulations on deciding to adopt. I am sooooo happy for both of you!! You deserve it. You will be in my prayers. My son and daughter-in-law weren’t able to have children. I know how expensive it can be. Maybe if they had read this article from the Grocery Shrink, they too could have experienced parenthood. Have a blessed Thanksgiving. Love you guys, Sandy

  11. says

    Yay and congratulations for your decision to start the adoption process!! We were blessed with our fourth child last year through adoption. Buckle up! It is going to be one awesome ride! Please keep us posted!

  12. Cass says

    Congratulations are in order regarding the adoption news. This is a very exciting time for you; I’ll keep you both in my prayers. Good Luck!

    Oh and thanks for the awesome guest post. I can’t wait to hop over and see how I can slash our grocery bill and maybe pay off some debt or just save a bit of cash. :)

  13. beth says

    Congrats on beginning your adoption journey! I wish you both the best as you get rolling :) So much to be excited about!!!

  14. says

    While i havent read Grocery Shrink, the ideas inside are sure to be helpful in saving money! There are fundamental reasons though, why that family went into such debt to begin with and most of it points to how we are raised here in America. None of us middle income earners are ever taught finances in school, therefore we have no “financial intelligence”. Usually what we know, we learn from our parents, who also worked paycheck to paycheck to feed all of us. Financial knowledge needs to be taught from an early age, and Im not talking about how to use a credit card :) and not those financial “geniuses” who helped bankrupt our country either.

    One example, Monopoly is a simple monetary teaching game. Yet, look at the new Monopoly game. It uses a credit scanner and everyone is issued credit cards instead of cash that you can easily count. Can you afford that property? If you have cash you know the answer when you land on the property, but with credit you dont know whats there and its easy to lose track. And so it is in real life.

    Im slowly starting to cover how to save money on my blog. I’m going to really get into the problems and the solutions. Firs though, I might just buy me a copy of Grocery Shrink! Looks good.

  15. Jody says

    Congratulations on beginning the adoption process !

    Congrats too on your latest photo shoot!

    And thanks for the info on Grocery Shrink, I’m heading over to their site now.

  16. says

    Congratulations on starting the adoption process. We’ve been waiting for 1 year and 10 months so far and while the wait is draaaaaaging (we went the international route) it’s still very exciting!

    It’s also really fun finding out that other people are interested in or planning to adopt, too. The adoption community is a strong one!


  17. Sarah Teske says


    Congratulations on your steps toward adoption. I will remember you in my prayers. Blessings, blessings, blessings to you! Some little child (or children?!?!) are going to be so blessed by your love (and many talents).

    Second — Thank you for the introduction to the grocery shrink! I will add her to my blog list. My husband and I took the Dave Ramsey class last winter and are working on our baby steps now. We wish we would have taken his class 11 years ago…when we got married. We are on baby step 3 — 3 to 6 months savings account now. Hubby brings home about 45,000 and I stay home with our 3 year old and baby, so I am so excited to see my favorite designer talkin’ budget. :) Gives me hope!

    So there’s your next blog:
    Parenting & Home Improvement with a budget. (But, of course, a better name.) You blog audience will only expand.

    You’re the best!

  18. says

    Adoption, that is great. Get all those little projects finished because babies take a lot of time, but they are wonderful. We have our 14 year old son and then God gave us our 21-month-old Aidan. No time for painting, many projects left unfinished, but well worth it when you see their littlefaces.

  19. Melinda Ke says

    I’m so happy for you guys that you have decided to adopt! Adopting a child is one of my goals in the next 5-6 years, and being single I will need to penny pinch as much as I can to make it happen. I’m already a fan of Grocery Shrink’s blog and I’m looking forward to seeing how you guys go about the saving process.

  20. KK says

    Can’t wait to hear about all your new adventures; North Carolina, Budgeting, Adoption & otherwise! I hope you’ll share it all. I’d love to hear more about the budgeting as this is an area I’m sure everyone could use a little tweaking in! Safe travels.

  21. says

    Thanks for introducing me to the grocery shrink….we spend WAY too much money on groceries. I have trouble because we have so many people that eat in our home. (Our regular family of 5, plus my brother, son’s girlfriends and company….never enough food around here!) I look forward to learning how to cut my budget…I was thinking of this very thing this morning! I already make my own detergent and that cut back a LOT…something like $30.00 a MONTH! woo hoo!
    Can’t wait to hear how the adoption process goes…you know I’m your biggest supporter in the adoption area. :)
    Hope you guys have a blessed week!
    Love ya!

  22. Martha says

    So glad you guys are pursuing adoption!
    We adopted our 2 children in Oregon in 1986 and 1990 (yes, I am as old as dirt) thru Open Adoption and Family Services. We had to provide bios, photos, etc and of course go thru an intense screening process. But from the first meeting to the first birth it was only 7 months. There were a few hiccups but it worked out well. That was our son who will be 25 next year.

    Our second try did not work out well, the 15 year old birth mother changed her mind after giving birth. But shortly after that we were chosen by a young woman and our beautiful daughter is now 20. Her birthmom even wanted me at the birth in order to hold and bond with the baby right away. Awesome experience I will NEVER forget. She was born in an old Victorian home in an antique bed with the help of a mid-wife. Since no medication was involved, the birthmom was able to sign the adoption papers right away and we spent our daughter’s first night in a Hilton hotel.
    Good luck with your adoption experience! My sister went a different route and has 2 daughters adopted from Korea. So many options…so worth it.

    One thing I heard along the way…a child “was” adopted, not “is” adopted. It’s a process, not a condition. I like that one.

  23. Holly says

    I’m SO excited for you guys!!! Congrats, and hope everything goes well with the adoption plans :)

  24. says

    Very exciting!! You guys are going to be great parents!! I will keep you guys in my prayers for a quick and easy adoption process.

  25. says

    Your news just made my day. I am so happy for you guys!!!!!! You will make wonderful parents. I wish I knew you were coming to NC. I would have loved to have come to meet you. I wonder where you were in the mountains of NC? How exciting to have your work featured in the magazine. Keep us posted about it. Have a great weekend. Love & blessings from NC!

  26. says

    Ya’ll will be awesome parents!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! CONGRATS.

    PS. Uh, did anyone else notice the SHARKS????????????? Total phobia for me! Had trouble reading after seeing the photo! 😛

  27. Lacey says

    By just looking at photos of the you two together I can see how much you love eachother! You both will be awesome parents! Congrats and good luck! Any child will be so lucky and blessed to have you two.

  28. Lauren says

    Hi Layla!

    Love your blog, had to post on this..

    First, congrats on deciding to adopt! Such an amazing choice.

    Second, definitely check out Dave Ramsey. My husband and I are currently taking his Financial Peace University class and it is ah-may-zing! We are currently working on our debt snowball, but its really working! It’s nice to see my student loans being paid down so quickly! His website is full of worksheets to help you, although I’m not sure if you have to actually be enrolled in the class to have access to them Definitely something to check out though! Haven’t heard of the grocery shrink, I’ll have to check that out too. Anything to help be debt free! :)

    Congrats again!

  29. Erica says

    I just wanted to wish you the very best of luck with your plans to adopt! That is wonderful. After many years of struggling with infertility, and all of the heartache that accompanies it, my husband and I are looking into adopting. It is such a hard road, but I know it will be worth it. You and Kevin will make absolutely wonderful parents.

  30. says

    Thank you for this encouraging post about being frugal! Also, we are so happy for you guys!!…We’ll be praying that your adoption process goes smoothly.

  31. Jill says

    Congratulations on you decision to adopt! I am so excited for you both. Both of our kids were adopted as infants. They are now 8 and 6 years old, how did that happen so quickly?! They are terrific kids who have enriched our lives in so many ways. I wouldn’t trade the experience of adoption for anything in the world. All the best to you!

  32. Michele says

    Sooo happy you guys are going to adopt!! How beautiful. I have been following your blog for a couple years and am a big fan. I hope your decision inspires many others to do adoption, too. I have considered it but haven’t really looked into it–perhaps I thought it would be too expensive or would take too much time so I hope you guys will share how you do it on your blog. Just goes to show that when there’s a will, there’s a way, and that with God all things are possible. You guys are so dedicated and supportive of each other and you will make the most awesome parents. Congrats on your decision and I hope the road to your adoptive child is quick and smooth!

  33. says

    congratulations!!!! we are starting the adoption process as well and we are using Gladney. We have many friends who have adopted through gladney and have given rave reviews.

    so happy for you!

  34. says

    I just stumbled up on your blog…and just wanted to say congratulations on your decision to adopt! My husband and leave THIS week to pick up our baby boy! We’re really excited…and obviously thrilled when we find others who want to join us on this AMAZING journey. You’ll be in my thoughts….can’t wait to see how it goes! Let me know if you need anything!

  35. says

    When my husband and I married 7 years ago, we were determined to never live in debt. The funny thing about that is that we only made @ $30k per year and had a small stack of credit cards to pay off. We decided to live like no one else we knew – we passed on eating out with friends, going to movies – all the things we really enjoyed. We have now been debt free for the past 2 years and it’s the most amazing feeling. We live on a meager Army paycheck, but we have no monetary stress like so many others that we know. Congrats to you on an awesome feat!

  36. Carol says

    I’m impressed! I don’t know how anyone can live on $40,000 a month.

    My husband and I have always been debt free. We raised two children and put them through elite universities by ALWAYS living below our means. We pay ourselves first from every paycheck. We do use our credit card, but we pay it in full every month. We are fortunate to have high paying careers that allow us to live a good lifestyle, but we know many people with far more money than us who are mired in debt.