Penny Pinchers

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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.


VRBO for Penny Pinchers

By Julie Norman
Monday, August 4, 2014

Here's the morning view from the condo we rented at the Steamboat Springs ski area this past week.  For four days it was ours; we enjoyed margaritas on the balcony, hot showers after bike rides, and even peanut butter pancakes! There were three of us: my spouse and I stayed in the master bedroom and our friend slept on the quite comfortable pull-out sofa in the living room.  Because of that, we split the cost 3 ways and only had to spend $93 EACH for our room.  That's not per night.  That's TOTAL! Any hotel room we might have found would have been at least $75 a night and probably more...and we couldn't have all shared one.  This way we were able to not only save on room costs, but also save on food and drink costs by having "happy hour" at our condo instead of at a bar somewhere and having breakfast there too.

We did go out for dinners, but really only splurged one night.  That night was worth it, believe me! Our only other "big" cost was buying lift tickets for one day of resort downhill riding.  The other three days we just powered our way up steep climbs and enjoyed the rewards of the downhills.

No one says you have to save on every single aspect of your vacation, but finding ways to save on part of it sure is worth it.  Check out the next time you're looking for a place to stay.  You can find great alternatives to typical hotel rooms, sometimes at a fraction of the cost!


“Penny Pinching” an expensive recipe

By Julie Norman
Tuesday, July 29, 2014

My sister got me a subscription to "Cooking Light" magazine a few years ago and renews it for me every year at Christmas.  I really enjoy it and especially love their variety of recipes: vegetarian, grilled, beef, chicken, fish, pricey, cheap, fast, slow...whatever you want, it's probably there.  I came across this recipe for crab and heirloom tomato salad in the most recent edition and really wanted to try it.  However, both of those title items are really expensive. Here's the ingredient list:

1/3 cup fresh cilantro leaves
4 mini sweet bell peppers, thinly diagonally sliced
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
1 jalapeño pepper, thinly diagonally sliced
12 ounces jumbo lump crabmeat, shell pieces removed
2 1/2 tablespoons canola mayonnaise
1 teaspoon grated lime rind
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
2 pounds heirloom tomatoes, sliced
1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup small fresh basil leaves

Here's the prep:  Combine the first 5 ingredients in a large bowl. Combine mayonnaise, rind, and juice in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add mayonnaise mixture to crab mixture; toss gently to coat. Arrange tomatoes on a serving platter; drizzle with oil. Sprinkle tomatoes with salt and pepper. Mound crab mixture over tomatoes. Sprinkle with basil leaves.  ~ Julianna Grimes, Cooking Light AUGUST 2014


I looked at the lump crab meat (the recipe calls for 12 oz).  It was $8 for 8 oz!  But what was two feet away from the lump crab meat? The seafood clearance bin.  What was in the seafood clearance bin? Almost a pound of scallops for 50% off! I remembered that I had a little over half a pound of raw, ez peel shrimp at home that had also been 50% off, so I decided to change the recipe from crab salad to seafood salad.  I got the scallops for around $4.50. 

Heirloom tomatoes are always pricier than the regular ones, so I didn't even bother looking.  I had plenty of tomatoes at home from my own garden and my neighbor's.  I knew those would taste just as great as any I'd buy in the store.  I also had some leftover artichoke hearts from a pizza I made a few nights before (artichokes were on sale!) so I added those to my salad as well.  I had most of the remaining ingredients at home already.  I was growing basil and sweet peppers in the backyard, I had a lime and cilantro that definitely neeeded to be used, and I just used some thinly sliced sweet onion instead of shallot.

 I assembled the "tomato" part of the recipe first and set it aside.  Those sorts of things just get better the longer they sit (and yes, I do have the leftovers as part of my lunch today).  Here it is before I stirred it all together:

I thawed the scallops and shrimp and started some water with lemon heating on the stove.  When it boiled I threw all the seafood in and let it cook until the shrimp were pink.  Then I put the seafood on ice to cool while I assembled everything else. This salad was SO good!  The scallops added some sweetness to it and the subtle heat from the jalapenos was a nice addition.  I'll definitely be making this again with whatever combos I can find in the clearance bin: scallops and "krab" meat, shrimp, sometimes you can even find crab legs there...So don't look at recipes with expensive ingredients as being out of your price range; look at them as a challenge to make a Penny Pincher version!

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