Penny Pinchers

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Leave the car at home

By Julie Norman
Thursday, June 26, 2014

Even though there are often Letters to the Editor or You Said It entries of drivers criticizing road bikers, or entries from road bikers criticizing drivers, Grand Junction is actually a pretty easy place to bike around, if you know where to go.  I started biking to work a few days a week several years ago and have thoroughly enjoyed it.  Not only do I save on gas and wear and tear on my car, I get some exercise too!

I live in town, so I use side streets like 3rd, 5th and 10th (North to South) and Colorado, Gunnison and Walnut (East to West) to get around.  Most of these streets have bike lanes, and even others, like 7th, do in places. Main Street has a bike lane too. Between these and the Riverfront trail, most people actually have way easier access to town via bike than they think.  Riding from Palisade is easy and riding from Fruita is getting even easier.  You can stay on the Riverfront trail almost the entire way!

Just yesterday I was leaving the Sentinel and not one but TWO trains were on the tracks.  Knowing one of them would have to stop eventually and sit there for a while, I turned around and headed for the Riverfront trail. I knew I could take it all the way to Grand/Hwy 340, go under the bridge and come up on the North(?) side of the road where the pedestrian/bike paths are along side the bridge and overpass.  I took this all the way back into town with NO problems at all! It's so easy to follow the path, hit the "walk/don't walk" buttons at the intersections and just move on my way without worrying about traffic.

In fact, I had such a nice ride going that way that I stopped and took this photo between the bridge over the river and the train overpass:

So the next time you're headed to work, to the store for one or two small items, or even to dinner, think about your options: Can you just ride your bike instead? You might be surprised at how much you like it!


NO Waste! Kale in the freezer

By Julie Norman
Tuesday, June 24, 2014

My friend Richie brought me a whole safeway bag full of kale a few weeks ago.  It's held up amazingly well in the fridge; it's limp, but still useable.  So last night I finally decided it was time to make sure the kale did not get wasted.  I have to sneak it into dishes, so I never use a whole lot at one time, but I definitely wanted to use it all up!

I took the rest of the kale, ripped it off the stems and washed it.  Then I just tossed it all in a big pot with some oil and sauteed it.

Once it had wilted down and cooked a bit, I added some kosher salt and then tossed it into 2 freezer bags.  Small amounts in each, but it'll be perfect for adding to soup or stir fries.

Yay!  No kale will be wasted in our house.  The "no food waste" challenge continues.


Frugal Friday Links: Camping!

By Julie Norman
Friday, June 20, 2014

Tis the season for camping!  Let's face it, you COULD plan a trip to Disney World or a week at an all-inclusive resort in Cancun, but camping is way cheaper and, in the end, probably way less stressful.  This weekend for a friend's birthday, instead of planning a fancy trip somewhere we decided to do what we all love: go camping!  For $18 we can rent a site in Ridgway that is secluded and roomy enough for 2 tents.  We can hike, visit the Wiesbaden vapor caves and enjoy an evening of yummy campfire drinks and snacks without worrying too much about our wallets.  Really isn't the point to spend time with your friends and family without the stress of work?  We're planning to take our lunch on Saturday and snacks for hiking on Sunday, and then enjoy dinner out Saturday and breakfast out Sunday.  Why not?  We just saved a ton of money by choosing to camp in the first place! Now we can splurge on dinner for our friend!

photo from

The best thing about camping is that many campgrounds in Colorado and around the country allow you to make reservations.  You can look at pictures of the sites, see maps of the campground and find the site that works best for you (secluded, close to the bathroom, away from RVs, whatever)

For information on reserving campsites, you can visit or


“Fancy” dinners on the cheap

By Julie Norman
Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The pesto below was just part of a "fancy" seeming meal I made for dinner the other night.  I discovered, while making it, that yet again those meals that seem expensive can actually be made quite cheaply at home.  For the whole rundown, click the image.


Saving money at festivals

By Julie Norman
Tuesday, June 17, 2014

We spent most of our Saturday out in Palisade at the Bluegrass Festival.  It was a great day for it; the temps were cool, there was some cloud cover, and there was only a brief period where it seemed to be raining cotton.  We love this festival and have been fortunate to get discounted or complimentary tickets each year, which helps to defray costs considerably!  Still, this year we really overspent on food at the festival.  If we'd been thinking, we would have brought more of our own snacks, etc.  So, for next year we've decided to plan a little better and save ourselves some extra money at the festival.  How do we plan to do that?

  • We already take water bottles because the festival provides a huge container of drinking water.  You simply walk over, fill up your bottle, and go on with your day. Free!
  • Check the festival's rules on what can and cannot be brought in.  At the Palisade Bluegrass Festival, the only thing not allowed in is alcohol.  There is plenty of that for sale inside.  BUT there are no restrictions on food! 

So for us, the easiest thing to do next year will be to bring a small cooler with some substantial snacks, etc in it so we won't be tempted by all the good smells wafting from the food carts.  Sure it tastes good, but it's not good for me or my wallet!  We can bring in even fancy snacks like speciality cheeses or hummus, deli meats like salami or pastrami and good rye bread.  Who needs a Nathan's 1/4 lb hotdog when I've got an entire antipasto platter right in my cooler?

Sure, we'll still splurge on drinks, because who can say no to a yummy beverage from the Palisade Distillery? But on food?  No. We're done with that. It'll be the same for us at the Riverfront Concerts this summer too.  We'll take in our own food and then spend a few bucks on a beer or two.  That way we get the best of both worlds! 

So how can you apply this to your own festivals or even to theme parks?

  • Check to see what is allowed inside. Can you take a cooler? An empty water bottle? Some festivals might say "no coolers" but even that doesn't really restrict you from bringing in other snacks and such that don't need to be refrigerated.
  • Can you leave the festival or park once you enter?  If so, and if you're parked close by, you could leave your cooler in the car, along with some chairs, and just head back there when it's time for lunch. This way you get a break from the festival/park atmosphere and you still don't have to pay exorbitant prices for food.
  • Are there cheaper eating places close by?  I know people who visit Stoker Stadium for events but then walk over to Arby's or McDonald's to buy food because it's cheaper.  So maybe that's an option as well.

The most important thing is just to check first with what's allowed and what's not.  Then you can make a plan of action.  Perhaps if you have to eat in the park you can plan to just have a light lunch and then eat a big dinner after you leave.  Even that will save a little money.  Plan ahead and you'll be able to enjoy a great festival without gritting your teeth over food costs.

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