Category Archives: saving money

Figuring It Out

I think I know what I want to do for our new bedroom curtains. I’m going to make them. I knew that, curtains are too expensive to buy otherwise, unless you use sheets. However, I had no idea what I’d do, but think I do now. I will buy enough to do a double window. If that works? I’ll buy about the same amount again, to do the 2 single windows.

Then we’ll see!

The living room has the same window configuration, almost exactly, so if it works in the bedroom, it should in the living room too. Cost per room? About $50, if I have it figured correctly.

Could be I’ll hate the fabric when I get it. Could be. We’ll see!muslin

10+ Ideas for Saving Money

We bought some garden supplies yesterday. A while back I discovered how and where to get the supplies cheaper than I had before. The regular retail price of what we bought was $12. I paid $4. The $8 difference isn’t huge, but do that 5 or 10 times a year? Yep, it’s significant.

frugality image

These  are my “secrets” although none of them are secret.

  1. Be willing to buy something that isn’t in pristine shape, frequently you can get it cheaper, maybe a lot cheaper. We’ve done this with all sorts of goods: luggage at the L.L. Bean outlet with the wrong initials on them, used diner dishes from a thrift shop, etc. I buy clothes, china/glass at thrift shops. I go to my local salvage (scratch & dent) market before I go to the supermarket. (See #2 below.)
  2. Go through sale items before you shop elsewhere in a store. True at L. L. Bean’s outlet, the supermarket, the salvage store, a consignment shop, thrift shops, etc. Most stores have a regular sale corner or shelf. If you learn where that is, or where the markdowns go and go through them first, you avoid buying 4 new rolls of paper towels instead of 3 and one with a rip in the plastic cover for 1/2 off.
  3. Don’t buy things just because they’re on sale. I wanted 2 things yesterday: cloth paint tarps and the garden materials. Got everything for just under $20. I know I can find the garden materials on sale, it’s just locating them, so if I hadn’t found them on sale, I would have passed. The paint tarps (not on sale, but usually smaller and cheaper than other tarps) are to put over the ever-larger leaf piles, so leaves aren’t blown back into the yard and to speed up composting.
  4. Be willing to walk away or have an alternate plan if what you want isn’t on sale. First time I looked for the garden materials this year I couldn’t find them on sale. The alternate plan for this is a lot of weeding. or using a home-grown substitute for what I bought, but it’s messier and doesn’t work as well.
  5. Be willing to do some work to get the bargain. I had to go look though the store for my bargain yesterday, then find someone to talk to. Needed help from the cashier too. If you’re always in a hurry, this will probably keep you from getting those bargains.
  6. Don’t damage items or try and bargain with the retailer, unless you know they’re okay with it. I had a retail store for years. I hated people who would pick up a $5 book and ask me to sell it to them for $3. Asking for a break at the end of the season is one thing. Or, if you truly need to buy a lot of something, talk to them beforehand. Don’t ask for extra discounts during sales.
  7. Buy in or out of season. In season for perishable items, like produce. Out of season for nonperishable items, like winter coats. The bargains in nonperishable items usually start as the seasons change, and get larger (with less selection) as time goes on.
  8. Know what customary retail is on an item before you go bargain hunting. If you’re paring down your food bill, frequently people make a “price book.” No one (or very few people) seem to do the same thing for durable goods they’re interested in: sofas, tires, prom dresses, etc.
  9. Find websites which will help you save time/money. I will tell you as a person who has spent a lot of time finding these, there are too many to review in any kind of timely way. If you want food coupons, there’s some really outstanding ones. If you want info re organization, same goes. If you want to save money in general, there’s a bunch of those too. If you go looking for general “save money” websites, you can quickly be overwhelmed. Be specific what you want help with before you go looking.
  10. Learn about cheaper substitutes: chicken thighs instead of breasts, for example.
  11. Limit what you’ll buy. For us, that’s six month’s worth of something which isn’t perishable, if I have the room. I bought shampoo a while back. I had coupons good for $2 off 2 and it was on sale as well. I had 3 coupons. I got 6 bottles. Normally, I’ll only buy 3 extra, max., but the shampoo won’t go bad, and my coupons were about to expire. Also, I’d just cleaned out the space where I’d store these, so I knew I had room.
  12. Be willing to comparison shop by phone if you’re buying either a large quantity or something that’s expensive. I just read an article by someone in the business who recommended this for caskets, etc. dealing with the death of a loved one. I’d never considered that, but why not? If it’s true of caskets, it’s certainly true about 4 dozen azalea plants or 1 tonne of gravel or 3 cases of tomatoes or 25 lbs of ground round. (See Jill Bond’s Mega Cooking if  you’re interested in strategies re food bulk buying.)

 

Today

DH is working on upgrading the electrical system on his motorcycle. He helped me with some of the leaf moving (rake, then relocate). Later today, we’re off to the storage to work on that.

There are probably more books here ready to be gotten rid of. I gave one  to a neighbor. Have another to ask a second neighbor about and the yard is tidier than it was. All good.

The fertilizer I used up (we’d had it for 2 years, why?) was rained on for the next two days. A lot of it went into the bulb beds, and the daffs. and other bulbs are shooting up green sprouts all over the place. Partly because it’s time, but partly because they got fertilized just as they were starting their spring push. The rain was a blessing for them.

So we need to buy more mulch for the bulb bed to keep out the weeds (grass), but the bulbs should spread out quite a bit this year because of the timely fertilizer and rain.

I’ve been working on the spring/summer food/garden plans,  Between the farm we belong to and the garden I grow (sometimes, didn’t last year) we are usually drowning in green stuff by June. I want a better plan for what comes in/when and what I intend to do with it this year! I’m about 25% done with this piece. Finished the initial data gather yesterday. Pulling it together.  There are 2 or so more data gathering steps before I can make an actual plan, but it should get there.

Off to the storage — ho!!!!

J

We took a file box full of books and a few besides to the market which has the book bin. Gone! I have gone through one box since we got home and have started the 2nd. There’s about 10 more books in a bag to be donated, wherever it is we go next that will take them.

Zero Waste?

We have always recycled. That is for nearly 40 years now. Before you get on me about recycling and its virtues: in college my husband (then roommate) and I recycled our glass bottles at our college’s glass blowing program, had the local boy scouts cued in that whenever they had a paper drive we’d contribute, etc. Later we drove to the base recycling, because it was the only one available to us, it wasn’t the town’s dump. So, okay? I believe in recycling and have always practiced it, for for 39+ years now.

So, zero waste as a concept isn’t new to me. The “movement” I see is new. I agree with it, but I think the ludicrous “posts” I see of a family of 4 having only a quart jar of waste a year to be a cheat. Why? Because if you read these blogs, etc. a lot of what you see is what you’d expect: use vinegar, home-made cleaners, permanent cleaning tools rather than paper towels, etc. But you also see things like the cheat (well, I consider it a cheat) I found which turned me off of all such blogs.

The cheat? The person bought a pair of shoes and left the shoe box with the store. That ISN’T zero waste, it’s just being nasty, giving someone else your garbage. You might just as easily take all your other waste in a plastic bag and stuff it in a municipal trash can.

recycling process

Yes, there are things you can do to lower your waste. You can deliberately find a use for something you might otherwise discard. You can buy big packages of supplies (food and otherwise) and make smaller, more convenient collections of those things yourself (preferably in something other than disposable bags). You can use rags instead of paper towels. You can not buy things with pieces which are trashed every time they’re used. You can pay attention to what you buy and what winds up in the trash. How many bags of garbage does your household generate? Can you do better? (We use 1 a week, plus recycling.)

You can also save money and avoid a huge amount of waste if you just use more of your food. Or learn how to cook, right? Prefab food generates container and packaging you don’t have if you cook yourself. Think about it: when I buy a package of ground meat at my local green market, it’s wrapped in 2 pieces of paper. [I admit, if I’d remembered, I could take a lidded, freezer-safe container with me and use that. I didn’t last time, hopefully I will next time.] Anyway, because we make our own bread, the packaging for us to get hamburgers on the table is the wrapping around the meat. Everything else comes in a big package (like a head of lettuce or bottle of catsup) and is used multiple times. Contrast that with the paper napkins, wrappers, receipt, salt, pepper, catsup packets and bag which make up a bag of 2 hamburgers from your local Mac’s. Is it cheaper? No. Is it faster? Well, my local Mac’s is 25+ minutes away, so yes it is.

food waste

But don’t tell me you’re zero waste and go to a store, buy a pair of shoes and leave the packaging. Get your shoes repaired rather than buying a new pair. Buy a used pair? Donate TWO pairs to a charity when you buy that new pair? Try making it a policy to have minimal shoes. For me that’s 5 pairs: daily shoes, snow boots, fancy shoes, sandals, house shoes. My fancy shoes, if I have them, (I don’t at the moment.) are usually either solid white or black. My daily shoes are shoes I wear when I’m going out, they tend to be walking shoes. The house shoes are slippers or slip ons I use in the house, sometimes I use socks. Honestly? If I wasn’t in a snowy climate, I could manage without the boots and could use the sandals as house shoes and for the fancy shoes too, I have previously. That would leave me with daily shoes and sandals.

For restaurant take out, you can do what a friend of mine has done for decades: put a picnic basket in your car with real plates, cloth napkins, food containers, etc. in it and ask the restaurant to package your food that way. Some fast foods may not be able to cope with that, but some can. Pay attention, do what you can, and keep looking for new ways to lower your impact on the world.

I’m not zero waste, but I admit what I do and don’t foist my garbage off on others as if that somehow makes it “vanish.” It doesn’t. The idea that the things we discard don’t count or will vanish is a lot of the reason we got where we are. So, don’t tell me you’re zero waste and foist your garbage off on someone else. If it comes with the goods you buy, it’s yours. Deal (and be honest).

What To Do?

I got the runners I’d intended to use for the stairs, yesterday. The pieces visible thru the clear plastic they were shipped in didn’t resemble what I thought I’d ordered. Looked like stripes instead of checks. I opened one.

The jute in at least one place was dark and unattractive, but the piece was sound, and striped. DH and I talked about it. It was cheap. What to do? We decided to return it. If the image had resembled what’s here, I never would have ordered it. I cannot imagine using striped anything on a staircase, good way to set yourself up to fall. I do NOT want an optical illusion on my staircase or anything which might confuse us about where the edges are.

During the talk with their customer service person I said it wasn’t defective, it isn’t, it’s whole and sound. Looks like hell, but it’s sound. They wanted $33+ (on a $60 order) to return the 3 pieces. I arranged, finally, to pay to ship the things back to them, without them charging me 1/2 of the cost in a shipping charge. (Shipping had been free.)

So, after all of this, I am feeling rather like I’ve just been ripped off. The image, although it’s the right colors and materials and says it’s the right line, only vaguely looks like what arrived. Because of the conversation about the  insane shipping return fee, I went looking for reviews.

What has happened to me has happened to others. Apparently, they are a thinly veiled bait & switch company. They buy up goods from other companies, sell the best stuff, and the worst they don’t change the image, and make it difficult/impossible to return.

When I got up this  morning, I had all but resolved not to return the stuff, as I can probably get about 1/3- 1/2 of my $ back selling them thru the booth. But I have since decided against that too. Even if they charge me for the package I opened with the dark jute (arrived that way, as I said, I had the package open < 1 hour before I asked for a return authorization), it’s $20. If they try to charge me for the 2 packages I never opened? The easy answer for that is to take pictures, lots of pictures, before I ship the return, today.

Is it worth it? At this point, the way I feel is that either:1) they’re a legit company and they’ll do it right or 2)they’re creeps and even if I only get $20 back, I do, and it will cost them more to process it and deal with me and 3)Whether I get all my $ back or none of it, I will tell my friends, however it works out. I know how retail and mail order work and are supposed to work. I ran a mail order business for 10 years. I will make noise, a lot of it, file a complaint with the BBB, etc.

They sent me a customer service survey right after I talked to whoever to get the authorization. I won’t fill it out until I find out what they’re going to do.

First time I’ve really regretted closing my FB account. Having 500 “friends” online to post about this might just have guaranteed my getting all the $ back.

We’ll see. Continue reading

Menu Planning That Isn’t

I discovered that one of my war-time books has a chart with how much food should be used, how often, and what that corresponds to for stored foods (canned, brined, frozen or dried).

Yes, I know the nutritional amounts are likely off, but the last information I found like this was how many row feet of each veggie you needed to grow, per person, per year.

That’s great, if you grow most of your food,  in feet rows; I don’t. I have a few garden beds and get food from markets and a CSA. Also, I don’t regularly buy things like 25 lb bags of wheat berries from Honeyville or other such suppliers.

What I had/could find made it hard to have any idea how much food I’d need to store. Do I have room? Do I really want to do this? (Probably not.) But it was an impossible question to answer before I found this chart.

I believe in the pantry principal, as a money saver, and have for years. (See Barbara Salsbury’s Cut Your Grocery Bills in Half.) But again, how much is sane? What is ridiculous? Where will it just be too much and wasted?

I’ve been working on it. The CSA runs 6 months a year. The plan has always been to not only use the fresh stuff while it runs, but set aside enough to use the rest of the year. Otherwise, it isn’t worth it as it increases our food budget 25% for the year. But if we can buy less during the other 6 months, then it means that I suddenly can afford to feed us organic, fresh or home-preserved food.

I haven’t managed this yet. Two reasons: year one I had no idea how much food I was going to get. Last year (year two) our fridge broke then worked then broke — and we tossed a huge amount of produce accordingly.

But now I know what I SHOULD have!

On the “I’m trying to empty the pantry and freezer by June 30” quest. . . I had one large loin pork chop in the freezer. We had it baked over sweet potatoes, onion, a small amount of raisins, and water. I made gravy from the drippings. Turned out exactly the way I planned, yummy. Today we ate the other 1/2 of this, I diluted the gravy for stock, added some more Better Than Bullion (chicken), chopped the meat added some thyme and made cornbread of a sort. Great lunch. One $3 piece of meat, 4 meals. (It was on sale.)

Not only did I use the pork chop from the freezer, but sweet potatoes and onion from the pantry as well as raisins, BTB, thyme and the fixin’s for cornbread. No recipe for the entrees, no preplanning, just the seat of my pants. I did use a recipe for the bread.

Tonight we should do meatless, but I have a partially picked chicken in the fridge to deal with . . . we’ll see!

One of my other discoveries from the WWII booklet is that I probably should feed us more elaborate meals, I usually do 2  items a veg and entree, sometimes salad. When you’re trying to stretch things the plate gets a bit empty sometimes, more items would help that and also with the empty the stores project too.

Frugality, New Ways

I’ve been working hard at wasting less food. Also been working at frugality. We needed oranges (used every day) and bought organic ones. I made marmalade again this morning. Five small oranges + 2.5C water +2C sugar+ time/energy = 2 ten oz jelly jars of marmalade. This will last 2-4 weeks. [Why oranges instead of orange juice, frozen or otherwise?  (Would probably be even cheaper!) Fresh-squeezed oranges have compounds which in a study seemed to stave off cancer. Family history of cancer, so, fresh oranges, not bottled, boxed, or frozen OJ.]

I can buy jams/jellies at the local discount/big box type store for $2-$3, not organic. But that doesn’t use the peels from the oranges I buy anyway. If I don’t have the inclination to make marmalade when we’re juicing oranges, I freeze the shells, then chop them and make marmalade, or chop them first — whatever. I’m not using extra resources until I make the marmalade and that’s water, sugar and power to heat the water (for the jars/lids) and cook the fruit. Can be made with complete oranges (less seeds and stem end) or just what remains after juicing, both work.

Lately, I’ve been trying to reduce our trash. For several reasons. Having to go to the dump less frequently is better for our budget, our cars and the environment. Less stuff to store and then discard. The paper shreds being burned in the woodstove are part of this.

I’ve been lotting up things for the antique store, almost everything in the lot is < $1 so if the lot is 6 items, it’s $5, for example. I hope this works because I’d really like to move the various items. But if it doesn’t work, I have a plan B.

A semi-local auction house has box lot sales once a week. Wooden crates almost always go for a fair amount in the box lot sales and I have 5 crates for sale at a friend’s shop. I could take the crates back and put in the unsold lot merchandise and sell both the crates and stuff, for perhaps more than I could otherwise. Hopefully I won’t have to retrieve the crates at all and I sell the lots. But if not. . . I have a plan!

Our old dining table is for sale at the antique store where I have a booth. Someone there offered to take it to the 2nd shop where he works and thinks it will sell there. I told him this week if that doesn’t work I’ll take it back. (And crate/ship it to the relative who wanted it if it didn’t sell.) Sold!

My car is going to the shop for critical repairs. After that, I can drive things around, as needed, but not now. Right now, I’m housebound or have to borrow DH’s car.

Bread is freshly baked and filling the house with wonderful smells. A winter pleasure is warm bread with HM marmalade or jam. Yum!

Found a simple recipe for vanilla ice cream. Not as complicated or extensive as the recipe I have used before. (I make fresh strawberry ice cream in summer.)  DH loves ice cream, year ’round. I will try the new recipe when he’s eaten up what we have. If he likes the new ice cream? I’ll make it for him, if the ingredients cost less than the market product.

For a time, I was making granola for us. Then I figured the cost was about equal to buying it, around $10/lb. So I only make it on occasion (I like mine better than commercial stuff.) and I gave up the idea that I could save money making granola.

The same yardstick applies to the ice cream. If it isn’t actually cheaper, I’m not going to do it routinely. If it is? Of course I will!

The difference between the ice cream/granola and marmalade is simple. The marmalade makes use of food we’re getting anyway AND DISCARDING! The granola and/or ice cream is replacing something we buy (sometimes in the case of granola) with home-made.