Penny Pinchers


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Yes! The holiday savings continue!

By Julie Norman
Monday, November 3, 2014

Last night, while the BF was at a work meeting, I had 2 hours to work on some Christmas presents.  The first was a calendar that I make every year using either Shutterfly or iPhoto.  This year I decided to stick with Shutterfly because it's much faster than my current iPhoto program.  I got SO lucky.  There was a Halloween sale going on: 30% off EVERYTHING until EOD on November 2.  So I got my act together and got that calendar finished within an hour.  I used the 30% off sale code and then remembered that there was also free shipping on orders of $39 or more.  Since I like to have one of these calendars for myself every year, I ordered 2 and used THAT special code too! Check out my savings:

Money spent so far towards the BF's Christmas? $24.

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Homemade Christmas

By Julie Norman
Thursday, October 23, 2014

Don't even start with me about it being "too early" to post Christmas-related posts! I have to ship presents to Georgia before my mother's birthday on Dec. 20th, so planning starts early, especially when homemade gifts are involved! This year we all agreed that expensive gifts were ridiculous and that we should all cut back.  To me that meant, "get busy making something!" The problem is that I"m not super crafty.  Someone else can pour layers of lentils and dried beans in a glass vase and it'll look gorgeous.  If I do it it looks like I poured beans in a vase.

SO I turned to anyone's source of thrifty craft ideas for the holidays: Pinterest!  Below is a screenshot of part of my Homemade Christmas board.

My mom's favorite drink is a cosmopolitan (too much Sex in the City watching!).  So I thought a cool gift "box" for her could include a few different cosmo mixes, some recipes on pretty cards, and that watercolor print in a frame (probably from Goodwill).  I might even throw in some chocolates to eat while she's sipping a drink - or a cool martini glass if I can find one!

My sister loves Citrus, so Citrus soaps, salt scrubs, etc are on her list.  I found some awesome tins on the Container Store website for a cheap price that I can order to store the scrub in.  She also has a dog whom she loves very much and little miss Luci the dog will get homemade dog treats for Christmas.

Anyway, my point is that there are lots of crafts and ideas on here that anyone can do.  Spice mixes might be a little more costly, but I think the key is to just be careful what types of rubs you're making.  Garlic and onion powders are very inexpensive, so you could put together several homemade ranch dressing mixes for people.  Or do a fancy sugar or fancy salt, like one I found for chili pepper salt. Those aren't quite as pricey and people will still love them!

Follow my pinterest board if you want for more ideas! http://www.pinterest.com/jewelsingjco/homemade-christmas/

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Online Consignment Shopping

By Julie Norman
Friday, October 17, 2014

You all know I love a good consignment store.  What do I love even more? Finding one online! Don't get me wrong, shopping local is GREAT and should be encouraged, but sometimes life just gets in the way and shopping gets put waaaaaaay on my back burner. Then I stare at my clothes thinking, "This is IT?" So I found this online site called thredup.com.

It's the largest online consignment and thrift store and has quite a few benefits: You can design your personal "store" so that you only see items in your sizes, price ranges, etc. You can join their "Thred Everyday" program and get FREE shipping on all of your orders, and you can also sign up for emails from them touting special deals, new clothes, etc.  They stock mostly designer and high-end brands: everything from J Crew and Gap to Juicy and DKNY.

I'd been poking around this site for a while.  I even went so far as to put some items in my cart.  Then I'd back out and just leave the stuff there...eventually ThredUp figured they needed a better way to entice me, so they sent a 25% off coupon! Consignments AND 25% off? So today I visited the site and purchased 3 items: a skirt, a sweater and a body wrap cardigan. Here's the confirmation email i got from them.  If the final cost of those three brand-name items doesn't get you, the SAVINGS based on their original in-store prices certainly will!

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Bargain Pot Luck Dish

By Julie Norman
Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Disclaimer: Everyone's bargain potluck dish will be different.

This weekend we were lucky enough to get to go to our friend's baby's FIRST birthday.  We've watched him grow, crawl and walk and we were super excited to get to see him taste his very first birthday cake.  Baby L's parents had planned a chili potluck: they provided the chili and the cupcakes/cake and we all brought side dishes.  My first thought was: tomatoes. We've had an abundance of them this year and so I knew whatever I made would involve those.  I also had plenty of basil growing in the backyard so I decided to make a caprese salad.  Because all I would need to buy was the fresh mozarella this would be a pretty cheap potluck dish! Keep in mind that the rule of thumb is that your potluck dish serve 8 people.

I ran into City Market on the way home and saw that the large packages of fresh mozarella were on sale for $5.  Score!  At home I pulled out a disposable aluminum pan and set about slicing tomatoes and cheese and washing basil.  In the end, I only used half of the fresh mozarella which means my potluck dish only cost me $2.50!

Now obviously if someone had to buy all of these ingredients it would cost way more than $2.50.  The point is to think about what you have and work from there.  Do you have a few too many over ripe avocados?  Guacamole!  A can of chickpeas and some tahini you thought you'd never use again? Hummus! Maybe all you have is a huge bag of apples you recently got at applefest.  Those apples are the start of plenty of great, simple salads OR the start of a lovely apple and cheese tray.  Gluten free folks will love you for that one.  So the next time you're invited to a potluck, look around.  You never know what you might already have on hand.  Starting with what's at home is one of the best ways to save money.

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5 mistakes people make when buying organic - and how to keep your budget in tact!

By Julie Norman
Friday, October 10, 2014

This article from the WallStCheatSheet provides a list of 5 mistakes people often make when it comes to buying organic foods at the grocery store.  It's easy to think that if one organic item is good then lots of organic items are better! BUT those items can add up to big bucks. My own rules these days, as I've mentioned before, are to stick to the Dirty Dozen list in the produce department.  Apples? Organic.  Broccoli? Not so much.  In other areas of the store I buy what's on sale.  If the regular Safeway brand of chicken broth is cheaper than the O Organics brand, I buy that.  Often times though the O Organics brand is the same price! This past week both options were 2 for $5 (32 oz containers) so I grabbed 2 of the O Organics ones. 

In the seafood and meat department I try my best to stick strictly to wild caught seafood (it's easy to find wild caught salmon or tuna 50% off in the clearance section.  I always sniff it first but I've yet to have a problem with it.) With meats I like to stick to Open Nature, O Organics, Boulder Brand sausage and Red Bird chicken.  There are a few instances when I'll resort to "regular" meats: whole chickens for roasting and pork roasts.  There are times when you can get an entire chicken for $5.  The organic version will often be twice as much.  Open Nature brand pork roasts are often $6/lb...that's a LOT.  The regular ones are more like $2/lb.  So I'll make exceptions.  If we're eating the "good" stuff the majority of the time then I figure it's ok.  PLUS sometimes I end up scoring a really good selection of organic brands on clearance.

Example: Last week I meandered over to the clearance beef section and found 4 top sirloins - Open Nature grass fed - for 50% off.  I snatched them all up.  I also regularly stock up on 50% off packages of Open Nature chicken thighs.  Right now we've got 3 leftover chicken thighs and a couple of packes of top sirloin in the freezer.  On Sunday I'm making a big mix of shredded chicken and beef tacos.  I'm throwing some top sirloin and the chicken thighs in the crock pot with cumin, chili powder, garlic, etc and letting them cook on low most of the day.  Then we'll shred it, have dinner, leftovers and probably some to freeze. So we'll get 6 meals out of that at least. It was all organic and on clearance! Two of my favorite words :)

Finally, the dairy section...I do buy organic milk because the difference in price between organic lactose free and regular lactose free is less than .50/cents usually. I do however buy plain old Safeway brand cheddar and mozarella cheese. Eggs depend on what's on sale. If I have a coupon for Land O Lakes "all natural" (NOT the same as organic at all) I'll buy those.  If the Open Nature eggs are the same price as the regular store brand eggs, I'll get the organic ones. What I really miss is having a friend at work who would bring me farm fresh eggs!

Anyway, that's enough about groceries for a while. Next up: Halloween!

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