Category Archives: Shopping

Water, Water Everywhere and Not A Drop to Drink

“It’s easier to get free wi-fi than it is to get free water and people act like there’s nothing wrong with the world”. – Fidel Littlelight
Homeless - bottle of wather
Rick Wood gives food and water to a homeless man near his tent under an overpass near downtown Birmingham, Saturday, March 29, 2014. (abc3340.com)

Water has turned into a huge commodity. As a former retailer I can tell you that water is one of the most profit bearing items in a store.  I used to be able to get cases of water for less than $2 each (making the cost of each bottle roughly 9¢ a piece) and the suggested retail price was 99¢.  That’s a heck of a margin huh?  

In fact, have you seen a water fountain recently? Probably not.  Usually only in schools and hospitals anymore, with an occasional sighting at an office building (leftovers from days gone by).  They’re getting harder to find, aren’t they? Now imagine you’re homeless.  Where do you get a drink of water?

I understand that even if it’s within your means, many people are not comfortable handing cash to the person with the sign at the intersection and I don’t disagree.  Sadly there are scammers out there and there is no way to determine who is legit and who just figure it’s a great way to make a buck.

Shortly after I stopped living in a shelter I was back living with my parents.  My mom needed to go for a therapy appointment due to an injury, so I dropped her off and used her truck to go grocery shopping.  When I got back, there was a man in the parking lot begging for money from everyone he could find talking about how he, his wife and child were now living on the streets and hungry.  When he approached me, I let him know that I had no money but that I had just gotten done grocery shopping and walked him to the back of the truck asking if he had the means to cook and started pulling out groceries for him.  He thanked me and turned down my offering of food, then proceeded to go skittering off to the fast food drive thru next door to return to his quest for cash.

Please do not take what I’ve said as a reason to never help someone with a sign.  There are many, many needy people who need our help and cities and municipalities are really aiming to put the homeless population out of sight and out of mind.  If you haven’t had the opportunity to read my piece on the homelessness – Insights into the Dark  – I would ask you to check it out when you have a chance.

16-oz-water

 

I’d like to take this opportunity to challenge everyone who reads this to buy a case of bottled water. It doesn’t have to be expensive, just whatever you can find at the best price, and keep it in a cooler with a little ice. As you’re driving around town doing errands and you see someone with a sign, sleeping on a piece of cardboard or a park bench or under an overpass – offer them a bottle of water.  It’s a small kindness that goes an incredibly long way.

I think a case of water at Wal-Mart is around $3.50 and at CVS you can catch it on sale for $2.  While you may not be willing to hand someone cash, offering them a bottle of water that cost you 9¢-15¢, that would cost them a dollar or more at the nearest shop is a huge help.  Can you think of any other way to help that many people for under four dollars? 

It’s a frugal way to help and it’s a great way to help your fellow-man.  Thanks for listening.  

{{{hugs}}}

Maggie

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Water, Water Everywhere and Not A Drop to Drink

“It’s easier to get free wi-fi than it is to get free water and people act like there’s nothing wrong with the world”. – Fidel Littlelight
Homeless - bottle of wather
Rick Wood gives food and water to a homeless man near his tent under an overpass near downtown Birmingham, Saturday, March 29, 2014. (abc3340.com)

Water has turned into a huge commodity. As a former retailer I can tell you that water is one of the most profit bearing items in a store.  I used to be able to get cases of water for less than $2 each (making the cost of each bottle roughly 9¢ a piece) and the suggested retail price was 99¢.  That’s a heck of a margin huh?  

In fact, have you seen a water fountain recently? Probably not.  Usually only in schools and hospitals anymore, with an occasional sighting at an office building (leftovers from days gone by).  They’re getting harder to find, aren’t they? Now imagine you’re homeless.  Where do you get a drink of water?

I understand that even if it’s within your means, many people are not comfortable handing cash to the person with the sign at the intersection and I don’t disagree.  Sadly there are scammers out there and there is no way to determine who is legit and who just figure it’s a great way to make a buck.

Shortly after I stopped living in a shelter I was back living with my parents.  My mom needed to go for a therapy appointment due to an injury, so I dropped her off and used her truck to go grocery shopping.  When I got back, there was a man in the parking lot begging for money from everyone he could find talking about how he, his wife and child were now living on the streets and hungry.  When he approached me, I let him know that I had no money but that I had just gotten done grocery shopping and walked him to the back of the truck asking if he had the means to cook and started pulling out groceries for him.  He thanked me and turned down my offering of food, then proceeded to go skittering off to the fast food drive thru next door to return to his quest for cash.

Please do not take what I’ve said as a reason to never help someone with a sign.  There are many, many needy people who need our help and cities and municipalities are really aiming to put the homeless population out of sight and out of mind.  If you haven’t had the opportunity to read my piece on the homelessness – Insights into the Dark  – I would ask you to check it out when you have a chance.

16-oz-water

 

I’d like to take this opportunity to challenge everyone who reads this to buy a case of bottled water. It doesn’t have to be expensive, just whatever you can find at the best price, and keep it in a cooler with a little ice. As you’re driving around town doing errands and you see someone with a sign, sleeping on a piece of cardboard or a park bench or under an overpass – offer them a bottle of water.  It’s a small kindness that goes an incredibly long way.

I think a case of water at Wal-Mart is around $3.50 and at CVS you can catch it on sale for $2.  While you may not be willing to hand someone cash, offering them a bottle of water that cost you 9¢-15¢, that would cost them a dollar or more at the nearest shop is a huge help.  Can you think of any other way to help that many people for under four dollars? 

It’s a frugal way to help and it’s a great way to help your fellow-man.  Thanks for listening.  

{{{hugs}}}

Maggie

Expensive Coffee Can Be Frugal

So Bestie and I were having a conversation about coffee this morning.  Her and Handy Husband are avid coffee drinkers, either making a pot or individual K-cups.  I used to be a heavy coffee drinker but I got away from it, I just have some when the mood strikes.

pumpkin-spice-latte

 

Handy Husband bought this beautiful coffee maker, that allows us to brew by the pot, by the cup with grounds or using K-cups.  It’s really perfect for all of our needs.  They can make a pot in the morning, or fix a single cup if they’re running late or when I’m in the mood.

41knV47q1VL

Now as discussed, I’m an avid frugalite but sometimes I get caught up in the initial savings and have to do the math to see the bigger picture.  The conversation we were having was ground coffee versus K-cups.  I admit, I have a hard time paying the price for K-cups because they go against my frugal nature in general.

The lowest I’ve seen a box of K-cups is $5.99 at Dollar General and they go up from there.  Bestie works at Tim Hortons (LOVE their coffee) and they sell their coffee for home-brew in K-Cups; a box is $8.99 (14 cups in the store/12 cups online), which is a really good deal as far as K-cups go.

For home use we buy store brand generally, dark roast which is 28.8oz or French roast which is 31.5oz per can, both we pick up for $6.99.  I measured out what we use for a single serving.  That works out to 96 or 105 servings respectively and calculates to +/-07¢ per serving.

Doing the math on the K-Cups, I’m finding the cost per cup averages anywhere from .49¢ -.89¢ per serving.  Now sure, that’s a whole lot more than the can of store brand coffee, but when you compare it to stopping through your favorite drive through coffee shop?  Wow that is a frugal option!  If you’re a person like me who only drinks a cup or two of coffee a week, don’t you deserve a treat? I know I do.

If you’re the person who hits the drive thru 5 days a week on your way to work, just using Tim Hortons as an example (only because I have their prices handy) you’d be saving .95¢ per day or $247 per year!  Even taking in the cost of a K-cup maker, you’re still coming out ahead.

When I used to drink coffee around the clock or “in volume” as I used to call it, I bought economical coffee, cheap non-dairy creamers, etc.  Now that I drink it on occasion, I splurge on flavored ground coffees and creamers.  It’s still cheaper than hitting a drive through, so I’m getting what I want when the mood strikes and not feeling guilty either!

My guilty pleasure is blueberry coffee with cinnamon vanilla coffee mate liquid creamer.  What’s yours?

{{{hugs}}}
Maggie

Best Tool for the Job Can Save You Money

I am a kitchen gadget fanatic and I’m not ashamed to say it.

Having the right tools in hand can allow you to do many different things.  It’s not enough just to have them though, knowing how to use them properly can make you more efficient and do more tasks that can save you money.  Most people have one of these beauties on their counter these days, more often than not people use it for show and just grab the first thing their hand lands on.

Knife block

Knives are designed with a specific purpose in mind, the blade, the grip, etc are all with your hand in mind while you’re doing the task at hand while giving the right cutting surface for what you’re working on.  For example, a filet knife is thin and flexible for bending so that it can get as close to the fish skin as possible without leaving meat on the skin.  A chef’s knife is a great all-purpose knife with a sharp edge – perfect from slicing the most delicate tomato to chopping carrots.  A great test to check the sharp edge on a knife is to cut a tomato, it should take no pressure at all to pierce the skin.  If you have to saw back & forth it’s time to sharpen your knife.

A bread knife always has a serrated (or toothed edge) blade so it can dig into the crustiest of breads without having to press down or flatten the bread.  A smooth blade can slide across a denser crust forcing you to press down on the knife to begin the cutting.  On the rare occasion I go to a sandwich shop I’m always regretting not bringing a knife and a handy video to demonstrate this.  It never fails, they pull out this beautiful loaf from the oven and then mash it down when they cut it.  It kills me every time.

 

Knife ID

 

I have 5 knives that I use almost daily: a Chef’s knife, a vegetable cleaver/Chinese Chopper, a bread knife, a carving knife (it was my Mom’s and it’s amazingly sharp) and a paring knife.  That’s it.  I have my blade sharpener and I’m ready to go.

If you’re new in the kitchen or just want to see how your skills compare, here’s a video on basic knife skills.

If you watch the cooking shows, you’ll see a lot of great techniques in action.  I’m a huge fan of the ones that explain and educate the audience as they go.  You never know when you’ll pick up something new.  I learned a much better way to remove an avocado pit from Bobby Flay a while back (thanks Bobby!) by giving it a solid whack with my chef’s knife then turning it as if the knife was a screwdriver and the pit is a screw.  Comes right out, every time.

I know, I said about saving money and you’re wondering how, right?

If you’re unfamiliar or just normally don’t shop for these due to the cost, check out the prices of boneless pork chops the next time you go to your grocery store.  They’re sometimes called “America’s Cut” pork chops.

GetImage
“America’s Cut” pork chops

In my area those pork chops average around $5 a pound and rarely if ever go on sale.  Ever wonder where they come from?  Look for whole or half pork tenderloin.  Not those dinky, overpriced little pieces of marinated meat, but the ones that are the size of a baby to a toddler.  Literally.  If you’re unsure, ask the person at the meat counter to show you.  They’ll show you where they live in the meat case or bring one out from the back.

Here’s mine…

2014-05-19 16.53.30

 

Now, look what I paid for it…

2014-05-19 16.57.54

If you have a Sam’s Club membership, they almost always have full tenderloin around this price per pound.  I’ve never seen them higher than $2.23 a pound.  They’re generally as long as your leg and worth every penny.  Great for stocking your freezer at a great price.

2014-05-19 17.01.50

Out of this tenderloin, I cut 12 hearty 1/2-inch thick chops.  As you can see on the chops in the upper left corner, there is a bit more marbling at the end.  I saved the end, about 3/4 pound, which I’m going to mince up and use for fried rice later on.

2014-05-19 17.07.31

Because it is boneless you can do what you want… chops, roasts, fajita strips.  And you can cut your chops as thin or thick as you prefer or even butterfly them for stuffing.  I will usually alternate between chops and roasts so I have a good rotation of both.  Then put it in Ziploc freezer bags, date & freeze!  If you prefer, you can put marinade right in the bag with the meat saving you time later on (really awesome for fajitas).

Good quality meat, cheaper than what you’d pay for bone in chops and no waste.  This is a frugal win saving $3 per pound on meat and all for the low, low cost of 5 minutes of my time and a sharp knife.  You’re going to eat well and save hundreds of dollars on your annual grocery bill.

{{{hugs}}}
Maggie

Garlic Got Easier!

garlic

I just found this video and had to share!  I buy fresh garlic by the bag at my local produce market all the time but am not thrilled cleaning it.  While I prefer to stay frugal so I can spend my money on other things, believe me buying pre-peeled garlic has its appeal.  I don’t like the pre-chopped stuff in the jar because it tends to be bitter and if you need to mince it finer it doesn’t like to cooperate.

When I do separate a head of garlic, I do clean it all at once and keep the cloves in an open mason jar so they’re easy to get to.

No gizmos, no gadgets.  I love it!

This just made my day!  Enjoy!

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle… What about Repair?

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.  It’s a great mantra.  We keep hearing this, but some days it seems like an uphill battle doesn’t it?  

I must say, I’m a visual person and for that reason I absolutely love Pinterest.  I love the ideas.  I find myself saying “Why didn’t I think of that?” a lot as I scroll through pictures.  It really does help to get the creative juices flowing.  I don’t always see the second purpose until I have a need and see where I could use something “else” that would work.

 Tools

Then there’s the missing “R”, which is “Repair”. 

Why isn’t repair in the mantra?  I suppose it could be included under the header of reuse, but to me reuse implies use something more than once.

Most products aren’t designed by manufacturers to be repaired.  If it can be repaired then you have to find parts which can be located in the same aisle with the Holy Grail, the no-calorie ice cream and the self cleaning children.  It seems like the only way to find parts is if you have another matching item that you can pull parts off of.  How many people have a pair of items and when one breaks you hold on to the other one “just in case”.  Yep, that’s the beginning of a hording episode and yes I’ve been there.  I was raised by a licensed packrat.

Then in comes the nagging question of how to repair it.  I know I’m not the only one either.  Back in the day we had repair shops on every corner… for TV’s, sewing machines, appliances, shoes, upholstery… you name it.  You didn’t need to know how to repair it because of the shop on the corner.  Now you’re lucky to find a computer repair shop that will actually fix a pc instead of just reformatting the hard drive and starting over (because they don’t know how to fix it and neither do you).  So you’re left at their mercy if you don’t want to just buy a new computer unless you’re lucky enough to have that one friend that’s good with computers…(or cars, don’t get me started on that one).

I just read a great story about a couple who started a repair shop in their own neighborhood to deal with this very issue.  I think it’s amazing.  Check out the story – http://www.onearth.org/articles/2013/09/why-do-we-throw-our-stuff-away-instead-of-fixing-it.  I would love to see a repair shop like this in most urban areas.  Get a couple of handy people together, a few tools and a store front and you’re good to go!

However, until that happens, if you’re a marginally handy person like me you need a bit of help.

…but I don’t know how to fix it.

As my homeschooling mentor told me, you don’t have to know all the answers, you just have to know how to look them up.  So here are a few things to get you started.

First, there’s Google.  Who doesn’t love Google?  Type in a model number, a product or even a question and it will have answers for you.  Now, it may not have the answers you’re looking for, so be prepared to search a few different ways.  Just by changing a word or two you can greatly change the outcome of your search.  Most manufacturers are online now, allowing you to find product manuals, parts, places to buy parts or even message boards of people having the same problem you are who reached out for help from other people.  Even consider starting your search with phrases like “what’s wrong with my” or “how do I fix a” to get you going in the right direction.

Second, there’s YouTube.com.  YouTube is more than just music and funny videos of cats.  Use the same search phrases and you’ll be amazed on what you’ll find.  There are people on there that are dying to show you the skills and information they have.  Thanks to YouTube I was able to learn how to do a factory reset on my husband’s smart phone which saved us $400 on a new phone.

Another resource is eBay.  Believe it or not, there are a lot of people who sell broken stuff on eBay.  Sounds crazy maybe, but if you need parts for something you have, it’s a great resource.  Just typing in the words “for parts only” into the search area will net you just under 25,000 results.  Now imagine getting specific!

One of my favorites is Freecycle.org.  I’ve been a fan of Freecycle for many years.  I’ve gotten and given a lot of stuff through there.  I’ve gotten everything from Lego blocks to cell phones to furniture and have given away things I didn’t need any more… everything from fish tanks, to a stove and a couple of cars.  The free-to-join group of members are people who would rather give things away to people who can use them rather than putting them in landfills or scrap yards.  If you’re a people watcher by nature, you may enjoy just watching the lists of things offered and asked for.

AppliancePartsPros.com, Inc.
Appliance Parts Pros are a great company for finding appliance parts online at a great price, they’ll even walk you through repairs. They’re your pro to go!

The better you get at repairs, the more options that are available to you like DIY projects, thrift store and garage sale buys… not to mention frugal bonuses like decorating and home improvements!

Practical Prepping: Building A Pantry

Pantry canning jars

I was raised by parents whose own parents lived through the depression.  As such, we learned to prep.  Not for zombies or nuclear war, but for hard times, snow storms and power outages.

I remember quite vividly the blizzard of ’78.  (If you don’t remember it or weren’t here yet, check out those pics.) My parents had just bought our first house in Northern Illinois, just 8 miles south of the Wisconsin border.  Being from NYC and then Chicago, it was a huge thing to have a house and yard, but to find out we lived on an emergency snowmobile route was truly amazing!  My Grandma came for a visit (the fun one), and because of airports being snowed in, she wound up staying much longer than she was supposed to.  Not everyone had as much fun as we did though.

Why Prep?

There are many reasons to prep…

  • short paycheck (or several)
  • no paycheck (or several)
  • medical emergency,
  • natural disasters
    • hurricanes (the names Sandy, Ike, Katrina, Andrew, Isabel and Hugo come to mind)
    • blizzards
    • wildfires
    • tornadoes
    • earthquakes (Haiti)
    • tsunamis (Indonesia, Japan)

I was taught to be a pantry shopper.  I don’t meal plan, I’ll be honest it clashes with my ADD.   I have a grocery budget, I buy what’s on sale… meat, produce, canned goods.  I meal plan from what I have on sale.  Sure there are times that I deviate because I’m in the mood to make something different, but this is how I build my pantry.   Needless to say, if I can get $100 worth of groceries for $75, I’m still going to spend the entire $100 that I budgeted to make sure I have back up.

When my husband and I first started living together, there was a bit of an adjustment.  He was taught to buy what you need when you need it.  When I came home with a case of boxes of macaroni & cheese from a redeemed rain check, he was beside himself.  Why would I possibly buy so much for a family of 3?  He felt it was excessive.  I showed him the receipt.  They were on sale for 10 cents when they normally cost 55 cents each.  Why should we pay full price in the future.  We were still going to eat it in the future but they wouldn’t honor the sale price on our schedule.  I spent $3.60 instead of $19.80 for something we were going to be eating anyway.  In the meantime the money that we just saved could now be used for other items.

Whether it’s buying extra canned goods or canning produce from your garden to last for the winter, it’s best to have extras on hand… just in case.  Utilize sales, coupons, buy one/get one offers as well as farmers markets deals and your garden.  Everything you grow you don’t have to buy!

You’ll find you save money in the long run by buying things when they’re on sale rather than when you need them.  You will also eat better without boxes of chemical helper.

The best part is that in an emergency, you’ll have better choices than just cans of tuna, cream of chemical soup, ramen noodles and saltines.

Maggie

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