Penny Pinchers

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Two very different ways to save

By Julie Norman
Friday, January 31, 2014

Brittany found this post from the Passionate Penny Pincher this week about standard prices for basic grocery items.  Keep in mind that the Passionate Penny Pincher is a couponer and so she's found ways to get a lot of items for free or very little.  Still, it's a good plan to at least have a roudabout idea of what you're willing to spend or what you think is a good price for items.

Do you have certain prices that you're willing to pay for particular grocery items?

My article this week is a link to that savings plan everyone has been talking about recently - the 52 week plan?  I'm sure you've heard of it.  It's the one where you save $1 the first week, $2 the second, etc. 

While on the one hand it's cool to see how much you could save, especially if you currently DON'T save, on the other hand this means that in December, that month of Christmas giving, you're putting $200 in your savings account.  I find it hard to think that people will have that much extra cash at the end of the year.   Here's the link to a blog post about it by Survival Mom:

For me an easier way to save has been to just set up automatic transfers from my checking to my savings acct for every time I get paid. That way I don't even think about it, the money just goes where it needs to.  What are your best ways for saving?


Bulk Up

By Brittany Dale
Thursday, January 30, 2014

Forgive me for missing Tuesday's post. I picked up a lovely stomach flu or something similar. I'll spare you the details but my brain was unable to produce a thought beyond breathe in, breathe out and don't go too far from the bathroom. While I'm not in tip top shape, I'm going to attempt coherent thought anyway!

Bulk stores! 8 gallons of dishwasher soap, what?! Buying food and other items at large quantities and highly discounted prices seems like a great deal. When thoughtfully considered; is it really?

I am often in conflict with myself whether or not it's actually a good deal to buy in large quantities or not. Are the savings really worth finding space for that 187oz jar of marinara sauce? 

From the price comparison and the blog strolling I have done, it seems that some items are a bargain and worth the trip, and others can be a rip off. There are other factors that could make or break your desire to make the extra trip and become a member.

Membership Fees: We are lucky in my household because we share a membership with my boyfriend's parents. By “share” I do mean, mooch off of and not pay anything for because they are gracious, loving people. We have decided that we wouldn't pay the membership price if we didn't already have one because we shop there so infrequently. Each family will be different of course. The membership dues may pay for themselves in one trip for some.

Family Size: My tiny family of two (plus dog food) has a small grocery need. We don't use a lot of paper goods like toilet paper or paper towels and we don't have to buy things like diapers. We also couldn't eat 10 pounds of bananas if you paid us. If you have children or multiple children, 200 bananas may actually be on your shopping list which makes a trip to Sam's worth any fees or trips.

Food preference: The foods that you buy most often may be cheaper at bulk stores. Dairy is a consistent money saver at bulk stores but my family barely gets through one quart of milk per week so buying 2 gallons at a time just would do us any good. Below are two links to posts about what to buy and what not to buy at bulk stores. If your favorite foods are on the buy list, then shopping at Sam's would be worth it, and vice versa.

Passionate Penny Pincher – What Should You Buy at Sam's Club?
Frugal Wife = Wealthy Life – What to Buy at Sam's or Costco (Carole)

Clearly I'm not the only penny pincher thinking about this subject.

The strategy that works best for my family is to stay away from anything not on my list; just like the regular grocery store. The $10 bags of mixed candies just behind the registers and the packaged foods they have in the middle of the store are huge money wasters for us. When it's on the list we do buy bags of M&Ms but I have to remind myself that we don't need any of the other stuff. I buy only what I know we will use and I do keep in mind what good prices for items are just to know I'm not getting ripped off.

The bottom line that I keep coming back to is everyone is different. The staples in my home may not be the same in yours. The only way to truly know the best place to buy groceries for your family is to understand what you buy and use consistently and the prices that you normally pay for them.

What's your vote: Yay or Nay for bulk buying? 


Eating it all…

By Julie Norman
Wednesday, January 29, 2014

As I write this I'm eating the last of some leftover potato soup from home.  I topped it with the last bits of some blue cheese crumbles that I splurged on for a pizza party last week.  This is typical of our household's lunches; eat everything!  The link Brittany posted last Friday was one I could easily relate to.  I am a huge believer in not wasting food, if at all possible. We eat or freeze leftovers and though I don't always make a permanent menu for the week, I do make sure to have a plan for all the fresh veggies that I purchase. 

Today before I went to the store our crisper drawer and the spot on the counter where non-refrigerated produce goes were bare.  Really.  There was a half a bunch of cilantro and about a cup's worth of shredded cabbage in the crisper drawers.  That's how I knew I couldn't wait one more day to go to the store: there were no fresh veggies! Now there's: a head of romaine lettuce, a bunch of fresh spinach, a bag of carrots, some celery, a cucumber, a head of cauliflower, 2 lbs of apples (Gala because they were on sale), a bunch of bananas, a large container of white mushrooms, 2 onions, potatoes, and a spaghetti squash.  By my next trip to the store, it will all be gone.  Yes, I spend quite a hefty portion of my grocery bill on fresh produce; I'm ok with that because we use it all up and it's good for us.  Frozen veggies and canned varieties are fine too.  We always keep canned beans on hand for quick meals, and I always have a few bags of frozen vegetables in the freezer; you never know when you might need them!

Still, as Brittany said with lotions, shampoos, soaps, etc, one easy way to save is to use what you have and use it ALL!  Here's an example:  For Christmas I made homemade macaroni and cheese.  After several days there was still some left so I froze it.  It was enough for 2 people.  Last night as I was grabbing some chicken breasts from my awesome chest freezer I saw the mac and cheese.  Ah ha!  Forget potatoes, we're having mac and cheese tonight, I thought to myself.  Potatoes will keep for a while and can be used for almost anything.  I wasn't sure how long the mac and cheese would be tasty if kept in the freezer.  So I thawed it out, caramelized the last of an onion, threw in the last of my spinach and added a little milk and chicken broth thickened with corn starch and mozarella cheese.  It was great!  We used up things from our freezer and crisper and had a great meal too.

The next time you're thinking of throwing out that last bit of salad, save it for a sandwich (really great in a pita).  Coleslaw?  Top a turkey sandwich with that and some melted cheese.  Leftover grated cheese from taco night?  Keep that for ... well just about anything!  Any cans that you open of sauces?  Freeze the extra if you don't think you'll use it.  I've frozen tomato paste, chipotle chilis in adobo sauce, enchilada sauce, pesto, etc.  It's way better to freeze it and use it later than to just end up throwing it out. 

What's in your fridge right now that needs to be used up?  Email me at and I bet I can help you find a way to use it.


Looking beyond the price

By Julie Norman
Monday, January 27, 2014

The battle of the grocery budget is not won by looking at prices alone.  I've learned from reading lots of blog posts, articles, etc that you have to look beyond the total price.  First, you've got to look at the price per ounce, or the unit price.  That price will tell you quite a bit.  For instance, 18 eggs are cheaper per dozen than one dozen eggs.  While the total price might be a little higher, you're getting a better deal overall; if you eat a lot of eggs you might as well pay the extra .60/cents for an extra half dozen eggs.  Take this mozarella cheese:

This is an 8 oz block for $2.99.  The yellow circle on the tag shows the per ounce price:  37.4 cents/ounce.  Now, check out this block of cheese:

It's $7.99 for 32 ounces.  That's 4x the size of the 8 ounce block.  Look at the per once price though:  It's only 25 cents per ounce!  If you bought 4 blocks of the 8 ounce cheese, at the $2.99 price, you'd pay right at $12.  This block is only $8. If you've got the extra $$$ in your budget, you should go ahead and get the larger block of cheese and freeze half of it.  That way it won't go bad before you use it all up and you'll have saved money in the long run.

Another way to find savings in the grocery store is by looking at the top and bottom shelves.  The eye-level shelves are where grocers place items that they know people will buy most.  They know you mostly look at what's right in front of you and you choose from that.  BUT if you take a minute to look down below or up high, you can often find surprising savings.

Here we see 2 18 oz Strawberry jam/preserves each $2.99.  At this point you might think, "Well hey, I can get the name brand jam for the same price as the store brand!  I'll get that."  Instead, look down to the very bottom shelf. Here's what I found there:

This is a 32 oz jar of Strawberry preserves for the SAME PRICE as the 18 oz jar!  It's on sale for the same price as a jar almost half its size.  Because it's on the bottom shelf the grocery folks probably feel it's a risk worth taking because most people aren't going to notice it anyway. 

Take some time to really look around at unit prices and on the not-so-noticeable shelves the next time you're in the grocery store.  You might be surprised at what you'll find.



Hi-Tech and Low-Tech Ways to Save

By Julie Norman
Friday, January 24, 2014

This week's Frugal Friday articles today focus on vastly different ways to save.

photo from

If you're looking for new apps to help you budget on the go, check out Our Freaking Budget's list of the Best Personal Finance Apps of 2014

These are great if you are really into numbers, graphs and other cool things to help you see where your money is going each month.

If you prefer low-tech old fashioned ways to save, MSN has a great article with 9 easy ways to save $100 or more a month.

Most of the things mentioned in that second article are easy to do. We eat leftovers for lunch most days of the week and don't have gym memberships.  We dropped our cable last year and signed up for Hulu Plus and Netflix (which we'd had for a while).  Between that and the new antennae we bought we haven't missed cable at all!  I thought I was going to miss out on the X-Games this year until I heard that Fox was broadcasting it!  Getting rid of cable was a very easy way to save.  We've still seen most of the Broncos games, our favorite network shows, and have discovered some pretty great original series on Netflix and Hulu.

What unique ways have you found to save money each month?

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