Penny Pinchers

Page 13 of 33

When Quality Matters

By Julie Norman
Thursday, August 21, 2014

It might seem like I'm always looking for the best bargain or the "cheapest" version of something.  That's not entirely true.  There are certain areas in which I'm ok either forgoing something or buying a version of lesser quality, but in some instances I know that buying the highest-quality version I can afford is best.

An example of this is my raincoat.  A raincoat? Yes. For just walking around town having a super high quality rain coat might not seem necessary, and it probably isn't.  But for backpacking having a great high-quality rain coat is absolutely a must!

This is my new Arcteryx rain coat.  It wa actually given to me as a present, so I didn't really have to spend the money on it.  I WOULD HAVE though.  Why is a rain coat so important?  In the backcountry rain means cold and cold can mean hypothermia in a brief amount of time if you get soaked and chilled.  A rain coat should not only keep you dry, it should also keep you from sweating.  It's important to find a high quality rain coat that is also breathable.  Cheaper quality coats get wet quicker, meaning water might soak through.  They also often don't have vents for breathability meaning even though you aren't getting rained on, you're sweating and causing your own condensation within the coat! 

My point is, there are some things in life that are worth the price.  A good tent, a good sleeping bag, a rain coat, cookware...we all have those items that we're willing to pay for.  And honestly, isn't that why we all pinch pennies in the first place? So when we need to purchase a higher-quality item, we can?


Sometimes second is best!

By Julie Norman
Tuesday, August 19, 2014

This is my beautiful box of "seconds" that I got today from the Palisade Produce truck in front of Rite Aid.  There are 20 lbs of peaches in there.  Guess how much I paid? .65/lb!  $13! That's ALL.  If you buy peaches in the store, the nice, pretty ones, they're $1.99/lb and granted, the ones these folks were selling were probably that much for the "pretty" ones.  BUT this box of beat up peaches will be just fine for cobblers and ice cream and freezer jam.  I care nothing for the prettiness of a peach when it comes to desserts like that.

My point is, if you're mostly going to use fruits for baking or other endeavors where looks aren't important, consider a box of seconds. They're much cheaper and, honestly, these peaches need love too :)


5 “Use What You Have” tips

By Julie Norman
Monday, August 18, 2014

Sometimes just using what's available at home is the best way to save money. 

1. You can clean your oven with a baking soda paste.  Simply make a paste of baking soda and water and rub it all over the inside of your oven (not on the coils).  Leave it for a while, come back and wipe it clean.  It works pretty well though the wiping it clean part does take some time.

2. Make cloth napkins or dish rags out of old t-shirts.  Whenever I purge the t-shirt drawer we always just cut them up for rags; it saves me from having to buy paper towels!  I've been thinking though, that you could easily use a sewing machine or hem tape and an iron to hem the edges and create a neat little stack of cloth napkins.

3. Try using whatever vegetables you have on hand to go with dinner.  No buying anything! You could...have baked onions cooked in foil with a little melted butter on top; baked potatoes, roasted carrots, cabbage or really any vegetable; a caesar salad; a panzanella (tomato and stale bread) salad, a vegetable saute with all the random ones you have (pepper, mushroom, bit of this, bit of that)...

4. Save the seeds from your Farmer's Market cucumbers, zucchini and heirloom tomatoes.  Plant them next year.

5. Use those old coffee grounds for fertilizer in your garden.


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!

Page 13 of 33


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