Penny Pinchers

Page 11 of 31

Combating the Grocery Budget…still

By Julie Norman
Thursday, August 14, 2014

This is like a never-ending topic! Today on my lunch break I was re-reading some posts from the 100daysofrealfood website.  After the basic 100 Days of Real Food challenge they did 100 Days of Real Food on a budget. On Day 3 the author says, "Since everyone obviously knows the pros of “budgeting” I thought I would share some of the cons I have observed so far…

You can’t stock up or buy things on an impulse (just in case you might need them) without going over budget, which means you have to go to the store more often.
You may end up with a lot less variety in your diet since you have to stick to the cheap stuff (like the lovely banana pictured above).
You might be forced to become a vegetarian."  (

She's exactly right and this is where I fail every time!  (Though I just added up everything for July and it turns out I only spent an average of $105 a week!).  It's definitely hard, if you have a budget, to take advantage of sales on 32 oz blocks of mozarella cheese.  You know by looking at the unit price that it's cheaper overall, but you also know it's going to kill that $100 budget for the week.  Usually I just remind myself that in the long run I'm still saving money even if during this particular week it doesn't seem like it. 

It's the same with the clearance bins.  If I find tuna steaks, alaskan salmon or any kind of scallops (farm raised scallops are ok in case you didn't know) for 50% off, I'm buying them. I'm BUYING THEM. Fish is great for you and really you can't beat that price. I take these home (along with 50% or 30% off organic chicken tenders, breasts, thighs, etc) and put them in the freezer.

But back to the budget.  Last month I managed one week where I only spent $85 and that's what saved me for the month.  If anything saves me this month it'll be that my zucchini, tomatoes and such are all coming in in the backyard.  I may not need to buy much produce! (That's the other place I spend all the money). 

So what ways do you have of working on your grocery budget?  What things are non-negotiable and what could you do without?


No-Cook Picnics on the cheap

By Julie Norman
Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Tomorrow night we're going to the Riverfront Concert series with some friends.  While we're disappointed that the Subdudes had to cancel, we understand that the loss of a band member is more important than entertaining some folks in Fruita! Anyway, Michael Martin Murphy will be great and so will our picnic! That's right: we're pic-a-nicking it.  While you can't take any beverages into the concert area you can take food, which is great because otherwise I'd pig out on pizza and ice cream and spend way too much.

SO since we're bringing shareables to have with another couple, I decided to see if I could make my life super easy and also not spend a fortune.  I headed to my trusty Safeway because I had some coupons I thought would be useful.  Here's what I picked up:

Pita Chips (I had a coupon for Stacy's PLUS they were on sale.)

Hummus (edemame hummus is great!)

Grapes (on sale for $1.99/lb)

Chicken tenders from the deli


M&Ms (because who doesn't love those)

We're also having carrot sticks from home (free)

I picked up 2 "shareable" size bags of M&Ms at the check-out counter.  They're  a great way to have a sweet treat without eating a giant cookie or bowl of ice cream.

When I added up the amounts of these products that I thought we'd use tomorrow (about half of the grapes, 8 oz of cheese, etc) the total per person came to $5.60!   I think that's pretty great! Not only will we each get a nice serving of fruits and veggies, we get fun stuff like chicken tenders and candy and I didn't break the bank to do it. 

I probably could have gone even cheaper by making a black bean dip and a pasta salad with ingredients I had at home, but we're in the midst of several after-work activities/plans and so time was of the essence.  Still, I'll take $5.60 a person for a fancy picnic any day!


I take it back

By Julie Norman
Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Yesterday I was all set to figure out my "service engine soon" issue on my own.  Well, I DID check the gas cap; it was fine.  I also checked all the fluids in the car and made sure nothing was leaking. All that was fine too.  What I DIDN'T do was drive out to an auto parts store to get a diagnostic test.  Honestly, I reasoned that even if I did, I probably wasn't going to be changing any O2 sensors or air filters myself.  I decided this morning to just take it to the car repair place I trust the most. They're within walking distance of work and really, at some point, I have to just trust someone to fix my car. I can't do it.  In the end, the cost was really not much more than a car payment and ONE car payment is a lot less painful than financing $15,000 or something for a "newer" car.

So while I might not have done all I could to pinch pennies in this situation, I did what I knew would work out best for me.  After all, car repairs are why I have a savings account.


Service Engine Soon Light…WAIT!

By Julie Norman
Monday, August 11, 2014

Today while driving back to work that stupid useless "service engine soon light" came on on my dashboard.  I was sitting a red light so I turned off the A/C, turned down the radio and listened...everything sounded fine.  The car was driving ok and there wasn't steam or anything pouring out of it.  I didn't smell anythign odd either.  So I drove on back to work and googled, "Why did my service engine soon light come on?"

I found this great article from Life Hacker .com that listed the 5 most common reasons that that light would come on.  I just had a new air filter put on the last time I got my oil changed so I know that's not it.  My catalytic converter has not failed after 65,000 miles and I think I'd have noticed something if it were the spark plugs.  SO before I leave work today I'm going to check the gas cap and then when I get home see if I can find any info about the oxygen sensor.

My point in posting all this is that I'm doing all of these things before I take it to the shop.  We know they'll just run a diagnostic and charge us money for that and then probably replace an oxygen sensor. I can go by the auto parts store tomorrow if I need to to get a diagnostic test done for way cheaper.

DON'T just rush to the auto shop if you don't need to.  Sometimes, yes, it's necessary.  Maybe this time it isn't!


5 Thursday Frugal Thoughts

By Julie Norman
Thursday, August 7, 2014

1. Have you seen this site? 

I am not at all handy with a sewing machine, but I can hold my own with hem tape and thread.  She goes way beyond what I've ever done with hand-me-downs or goodwill items, but it's definitely easier than you think to shorten a dress, add a sash, or shorten the sleeves.  It's a great way to take something that was super inexpensive and yet "blah" and turn it into something awesome! Click around there for a while. You'll find lots of good tips for dresses, purses and more.

2. Dinner doesn't always have to be magical. I've been paying more attention to the Frugal Girl's menus when she posts them and they're always fairly simple.  A main dish and a small side like strawberry salad, cut up fruit, etc. Last night I made white chicken chili.  It's pretty inexpensive and very quick to make.  With it we had small salads with just some lettuce, fresh tomatoes from the garden, and carrots. I dug some corn muffins out of the freezer for crumbling on top of the chili. Still, it wasn't an expensive "fancy" dinner; it was just a good, filling and comfortable meal.  Here's the recipe.

Normally it's "whiter" than this, but I was out of cumin.  I know.  WHO runs out of cumin?  I wasn't going back to the store though, so this batch got seasoned with good ole chile powder, garlic powder and some paprika.  It was still tasty.

3. A lot of money is wasted on gas. Lately I've been trying to either bike to work or not leave work on my lunch break in the car.  Tuesday I walked to Main Street to run an errand.  Wednesday I walked the Riverfront trail. Today I walked to Pablo's for lunch with a friend.  The car just sits in the parking lot.  Tomorrow I'm biking. Each time I don't drive I save a few cents in gas.

4. If you don't have the money to buy something right now, just wait...unless it's an essential item like a stove.  For that maybe you dip into savings.  STOP wasting your money buying random things like an extra pair of shoes or that great new kitchen gadget. It's not necessary.

5. Find more inexpensive ways to spend time with friends.  Have a summer appetizer pot luck in the backyard instead of meeting at the bar.  Plan a hike/bike ride and cookout at the trailhead for afterwards.  Go on a wildflower drive over the Mesa and pack beer and lunch for that too!  If you still want to support your local bar, just stop by there and get a growler of your favorite brew to take on your outing.

Page 11 of 31


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