Penny Pinchers

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January Organizing on a Budget

By Julie Norman
Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Lots of us make resolutions every year to "get more organized" and "clean out the clutter." However, that idea can end up being daunting and expensive.  If you start walking around Bed Bath and Beyond looking for fancy baskets and containers to put things in you'll end up leaving dejected and empty-handed.  However, there are plenty of articles on the interwebs about Dollar Store organization.  It makese sense:  The Dollar Store is, by definition, inexpensive.  

For me, the easiest (and cheapest) place to start with organization is at home.  I take drawers out of my chest of drawers and sit down with them in the living room while watching tv.  I go through the socks, the undearwear, etc and get rid of anything old and tattered.  Then I fold and organize everything else.   

Another free organizational method is to go through your cookbooks, magazines, cds, etc and get rid of stuff! If your office has a "free" table like ours does, bring items there.  I dumped 6 cookbooks on our free table the other day!  There are other people who can use these items you're getting rid of...

Now, after cleaning out your spaces, if you still feel that you need some better storage options, the Dollar Store is a great place to start.  Why? 

Glass jars for a $1; ice cube trays for $1 (great for organizing office supplies, small hair ties and barettes, buttons and craft items...); plastic crates or canvas bins for super cheap (these are great for organizing clothes, toys, and magazines).  I use canvas boxes to hold my backpacking and ski gear.  You can find file boxes, shoe hangers (which hold way more than just shoes), baskets for organizing bath products or that clutter under the kitchen sink...and it's ALL SO INEXPENSIVE!


If you want more ideas, check out this link.


My Gift to you: Homemade Shake N Bake

By Julie Norman
Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Let's just be real for a minute and admit that every once in a while we still love to use Shake N Bake. It's ok. It's FINE.  Admit it.  Still, wouldn't it be nice to have a cheaper and healthier version?  I found this one the other day just by googling "Homemade Shake N Bake" and it's really good. It's the real deal.  I used 3 tbsp for the pork chops I was cooking and stored the rest in a mason jar in the fridge. You'll be happy to have this one! No more wasting money on Shake N Bake!


Menu Planning

By Julie Norman
Friday, December 18, 2015

If I'm going to continue this blog on a regular basis I suppose I'd better get busy blogging.  So I've decided Fridays will be menu days. I've gone back and forth on whether the menu planning actually saves money...that honestly depends on whether I try to think about what already is in the freezer and pantry or if I start looking through cookbooks. Cookbooks can be dangerous things.

So in an effort to get back to a more frugal grocery budget I've tried to look to recipes for inspirtation, but also start each menu planning with a list across the top of what I know I have in the freezer. Last week it looked something like this: pork chops (the organic ones were in the clearance bin!), chicken, green chiles, tomatoes, pulled pork, beans

The one thing the menu does is keep me out of the store during the week (except for yesterday when I had to stop in for Parmesan cheese).  Here's how the menu for this week turned out:

Sunday (returning from skiing): A pasta dish that I made up on the way home from skiing: spaghetti noodles, artichokes, pesto and tomato sauce and our side dish was raw broccoli and carrots (I had nothing to make an actual salad with)

Monday: Pulled pork sandwiches, roasted mixed potatoes (I had 1 sweet and 1 russet) and slaw for the sandwiches.

Tuesday: A soup I made up with chicken, tomatoes, cheese tortellini, zucchini, etc.  We had that with a green salad. 

Wednesday: Pintos and cornbread.  I used the crockpot to cook the beans and then just made cornbread when I got home.  Again, green salad. We have lots of green salads.

Thursday: Pizza night with roasted cauliflower.  Sometimes instead of salad we'll have either roasted broccoli or cauliflower with pizza. It makes a great and easy side dish and I can cook it and the pizza at the same time.

Friday: White chicken chili with, yes, salad and leftover cornbread. 

I usually make the menu and go shopping on Saturday, so who knows what tomorrow's meal will be? I've sort of already started a plan for burgers (Red Bird ground chicken was BOGO this week) and red beans and rice one night.  We always have ham at Christmas and that meal will probably last for 2 nights, so next Friday and Saturday are taken care of. Christmas Eve is always pizza night. The only question will be how to change up the pizza so it's not the same as this week's was. 

Anyway, yes.  The menu planning makes life much much much easier, I must say.  


Giving Back for the Holidays and other winter savings ideas

By Julie Norman
Monday, December 7, 2015

Being thrifty at Christmas can be hard.  I mean, it's so easy to just say, "Oh, surely he/she/they need this! It's only $20..." Then $20 turns into $40 and before you know it you've blown $100 on things no one really "needs."  Lots of people have posted ways to save at the holidays.  

There's the One thing to read, One thing to wear, One thing they want, One thing they need method.  This, I think, is a great idea for kids.  Let's face it.  They all end up (me included when I was a kid) with so much junk that they don't really need...and then six months later there you are hauling bags of stuff to Goodwill. There are so many great books out there for kids these days that they'll be just as happy with a book as they would be with yet another set of legos. (Ok, maybe not...but we can all hope!)

I like this article from Real Simple.  It has tips from real folks out there about ways they give back to others at the holidays.  I think donating wreaths for Veterans' graves in someone's name, giving to Mercy Corp or the Salvation Army and even just helping your mom/sister/friend with something they need like painting a room, babysitting, running errands, raking, counts as just as great a gift as a new coffee mug.  None of us need more coffee mugs!

Thinkstock photo

You could help a neighbor or relative with their Christmas decorations.  Imagine how grateful they'd be and how good you'd feel! Then you wouldn't have to bother getting Grandma another day calendar that she won't use. 

If you can't stop yourself from having something wrapped up under the tree, consider getting something for an experience - like tickets to a show, a season pass to state or national parks, or even a trip to an aquarium or museum.  These are great gifts that, while not cheap, definitely don't fall into the "I don't need it" category. Experiences are often much better than material things. 


Whatever you decide to do, don't put yourself in debt. No one wants to think that their present caused you months of interest and credit card payments. Stick to what you can afford, even if it means making Mason Jar gifts for everyone in your family.  I know very few people who will turn down a recipe for homemade hot chocolate or the makings for a Jack and Coke. (Yes, I've seen that idea on Pinterest).  People would rather have this and the time they got to spend with you than have the knowledge that you bought stuff you couldn't afford. 

Enjoy the holidays! 


Five Fall Frugal Things

By Julie Norman
Friday, November 6, 2015

1. One month ago I signed up for a free trial of The Daily Burn.  It's a workout Roku channel or app, depending on what device you are using it.  After 1 month the cost is only $15 a month.  I wrote down the last day of the free trial (today) so I wouldn't pay if I didn't want to.  It turns out though that Daily Burn is awesome! I love the workouts and for only $15 a month, it's way cheaper than a gym. 

2. Yesterday I bought an organic pork roast for $20.  That might sound pricey, but it's 3.5lbs.  We'll get 2 or 3 dinners out of it plus 2 lunches! So that's $4 a meal (5 meals).  When you look at it that way, it's pretty darn cheap.

3. The time change has made me just want to go home and curl up. I am not at all interested in cooking.  It's one of the few things I'm tasked with at home, so I'd feel guilty passing it off to the BF. The good news is that having a menu and a plan has really helped.  Knowing exactly what I'm going home to make means there's one less step.  I just say, "Just make the pizza dough..." or whatever.  Once I get started it's all good and dinner is tastier, healthier and cheaper than it would have been if we'd gone out.

4. Are commercials really so annoying that you'll pay extra to avoid them? Hulu has been trying to get us to upgrade to the "commercial free" version, but I'm just as happy to save a few bucks and use that commercial time as my water or bathroom break.

5. Thanksgiving and Christmas will be upon us soon. Don't blow your budget on booze. Have a "BYOB" plan or stick to some less-expensive but tasty options.  There are plenty of great wines for less than $20 and some for even less than $10! 

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