Penny Pinchers

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Lots of things

By Julie Norman
Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Here's a new rambling list of frugal thoughts and ideas for you...

1. We went to Park City for a week over Labor Day and stayed in a lovely VRBO condo at Canyons Resort. If you've never used VRBO I highly recommend it! First of all, you can find reasonably priced accomodations for anywhere from 2 to 8 or more people.  That makes it easy to split costs if you are going with another couple or family.  Second, you now have the freedom to cook! Ok, maybe you hate to cook, but I don't.  I'm happy, even on vacation, to whip up pizza or pasta in the kitchen while some nice music plays in the background.  We save a ton of money this way too.  We will sometimes go out for lunch after a bike ride, but lunch is still significantly cheaper to buy than dinner.  Our condo was $89/night ("late" season because the ski lifts that take you up for hikes or bike rides shut down after Labor Day) and it can sleep up to 4.  It also has a lovely view of the golf course, though you can't really tell it from this picture:

2. Gardens are wonderful things.  Ours has produced enough spaghetti squash to last us a while. We ate quite a few of them and I've frozen several bags too.  We've also made 3 batches of salsa to freeze, and frozen many bags of roasted tomatoes for pizza and spaghetti sauces.  A packet of seeds and some tender loving care is (almost) all it takes!

3. I bought a $4 chai latte from Starbucks the other day.  Good grief! That was for a 12oz too! The next day I just made myself an afternoon cup of tea instead. $4 for a chai...

4. Sometimes, it pays to go back and ask.  We bought a new mattress this weekend and the store said they had a price match policy.  I assumed that was just for other local stores. When we got home, the BF found the mattress was $100 cheaper on the mattress brand's website.  He went back to the store the next day and lo and behold, we got $100 back! 

5. Free cash is nice.  We have a wellness program here at work through Virgin Wellness.  The other day a coworker was checking her "rewards" and discovered we could actually use the points we'd earned by walking, tracking healthy habits, etc for real money! The company offers a variety of gift cards and I chose a basic Visa Gift Card. I plan to use it to buy new pants for winter.  I hate pants!


An inexpensive meadow garden

By Julie Norman
Wednesday, August 26, 2015

We have a section of backyard that I fondly refer to as "the meadow garden". In it exist irises, other spring bulbs, a gnarled lilac tree, and a redbud tree. The rest of the area (and it's pretty big) is filled during various times of the year with Bachelor Buttons and Lupine. However, there are bare spots and this time of year it begins to look particularly awful.  I have spent money to add a big pot with Prarie Coneflower in it.  I also bought a Russian Sage last year.  Those things thrive anywhere!

Still, the meadow garden needs work, but I don't want to put much money into it. So we bought some mulch.  Mulch can be pretty inexpensive if you just need a few bags. I'm thinking of adding a walking path at the back of the meadow garden and mulch plus some old shingles we found in our shed will work perfectly.

We also bought a huge bag of wildflower seed. In the spring we can loosen the soil, spread the seed down, and water it. Hopefully we'll have so many wildflowers that they'll beat back the bindweed that threatens to overtake the area.   Every year I look at this area and think I should do something more with it...but I really want it to be the opposite of the rest of the yard. The rest of the yard is very ordered. There are flowering shrubs, irises, a tree...a bit of lawn...and then some serious xeriscaping. This meadow garden is supposed to be the wild part of the yard, but I'm having trouble  letting it be that.  I'm really hoping that adding some inexpensive seed ($6 for a BIG bag) and mulch ($3 per bag) will turn it into an area that is pretty and welcoming for bees from Spring through Fall.

Here's a picture of a portion of the meadow garden earlier in the season. 


Random thoughts on frugalness

By Julie Norman
Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Here are 10 random thoughts/facts/bits of info about my penny pinching / frugal life.

1. Today's quote on my quote board is, "Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful." ~ William Morris.  I think this quote helps to embody the idea of frugality quite nicely. You don't need lots of "things" in your life. You need things that are useful and things that are beautiful or make you feel good. We have framed pictures, a few tiny trinkets from trips, like my Ouray Tommyknocker symbol, and books. These things, to me, are beautiful and they have meaning.  

2. You can tell it's harvest season here...I've been making salsa and freezing roasted tomatoes, freezing cooked spaghetti squash, and keeping an eye on my broccoli seedlings. I'm filling up the freezer for winter!

3. Speaking of the freezer, I've gotten back to my clearance meat shopping too. Since switching to only organic meats it's more important than ever to find stuff on sale. Last week I scored 2 packages of boneless, skinless chicken thighs and a whole chicken on clearance! Yesterday I got two small salmon fillets on clearance.

4. I'm trying to get back on track with my grocery budget as well. After looking over this USDA report   I definitely feel better about what I'm spending, but I still am trying to keep things in check as much as possible. Just because it's cheaper per ounce to buy a large box of mushrooms, if I don't NEED that many mushrooms for the week, is it worth it?  

5. I can't remember the last time I went clothes shopping. 

6. I have 2 REI gift cards in my purse. I haven't thought of anything I need yet, so there they sit...waiting.

7. We just got back from a great backpacking trip. Backpacking is not a cheap activity to get into, what with needing a backpack, small tent, stove, etc., but once you have the gear, a trip can be pretty frugal.  Mac and Cheese is a great backpacking dinner and by keeping an eye out, I can always find Annie's or other organic brands 2 for 1.

8. I still don't understand people who buy $5 lattes from Starbucks everyday.  Those expenses should be a treat, not an everyday occurence!

9. We are totally rockin' the food waste challenge at our house. I've absolutely gotten into a mode of using it up or freezing it. 

10. Next time, before you purchase that next purse or pair of shoes, ask yourself if they're necessary. Are you shopping because you're bored, or because you really need new shoes?  It takes 5 seconds to ask yourself that and a lot longer to return the shoes the next day.


John Oliver on Food Waste

By Julie Norman
Tuesday, July 21, 2015

My concerns about writing too much about food waste have been assuaged! Like him or not, John Oliver makes some very good points about food waste in this recent episode of "Last Week Tonight." Click the image to watch.



Using the coconut oil

By Julie Norman
Tuesday, July 7, 2015

You may remember that back at Christmas I made coconut hand and foot scrubs for people. Well, that jar of coconut oil has been sitting in my cabinet ever since...I keep staring at it thinking, "don't waste it!" And yet...I never use it.  BUT! A few weeks ago when it was so hot, the coconut oil liquified! It's amazing how much more likely I am to use it now that I've noticed this.  I've used it for cooking 2 nights in a row and plan to use it again tonight. FINALLY! I'm not wasting it!

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