Penny Pinchers

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Wal-Mart didn’t save me any money

By Julie Norman
Monday, April 11, 2016

So after reading a post from the 100 Days of Real Food blogger about Wal-Mart's improved selection of organic goods, I decided to head over there on Saturday for my weekly grocery shopping trip.  My bill at my usual store seems to just be growing and growing, and I thought maybe I could get a good deal at Wal-Mart on some things and actually save money.  I did not. My bill was still $112! So there goes that theory.  I'm glad in a way because I like the selection of produce and other items that City Market has, including the Horizon Organic Lactose Free milk. Yes, it's pricey, but I desperately need the lactose free milk and I like Horizon's.  So that's one thing I'm willing to pay for. 

At least I tried.  Now I'm going to have to come up with other ideas on how to save at the grocery store...

Oh! We do have a tendancy to go through Kroger brand diet lemon lime soda and lemon lime seltzer on a regular basis.  Lately I've found several cans of flat soda - with BOTH types.  I finally emaild Kroger about it and they gave me a $3 credit on my loyalty card!  So that's something.  I was pleasantly surprised.  It never hurts to email a grocery store or any store to let them know if you're unhappy with something!


Getting back on track

By Julie Norman
Friday, February 19, 2016

You'd think a new year would be the perfect time to "get back on track" with budgeting and organizing, but alas...I fell off the wagon.  Well, at least I did with posting anything about budgeting or organizing.  So I'm going to take a stab at remedying that here and now with a take on the Frugal Girl's Five Frugal Things.  She does such a great job with it and always have photos...I have no photos.  BUT I do have frugal things! Really! Let's see...


1. I made a NYTimes Mushroom and Spinach soup the other night.  It called for a mix of mushrooms and I got lucky and found a "gourmet blend" on clearance at City Market.  The soup was good and inexpensive even before I added the clearance mushrooms. (Note: clearance mushrooms should probably be used that same day).  Here's the recipe if you're interested.

2. We had a baby shower this weekend for a friend of ours and it had a bee theme.  (Honeybees).  I was in charge of plates, cups, etc and found it all at The Dollar Tree in the appropriate colors of yellow and black.  Plates, forks, napkins...all for $1! I walked out $13 later with plenty of everything. 

3. Last year when I was still writing for I got to review (for free) a pair of Chaco hiking shoes.  At first I wasn't so crazy about them, so they spent a lot of time sitting on the floor of the closet.  This winter though I've started using them as my walking shoes on breaks at work.  It's been icy out and these shoes have great traction and are water proof, so they're warmer.  I'm glad I gave them a second chance because 1. they're free and 2. now I really like them and won't have to buy new hiking shoes to replace a favorite pair that is currently falling apart.

4.  We're taking a ski trip this weekend and once again saving money by taking our own breakfasts instead of stopping at McDonald's.  We're also taking snacks to have on the mountain while we're skiing AND we opted to stay the first night in a cheaper place than staying 2 nights in the pricier, but closer, place.  

5. I'm still sticking to my "bring your own drinks to work" rule and avoiding stopping at any of the several coffee shops I pass on my way to work each morning.  This has got to be one of the biggest money savers ever. 


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.  

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