Exercises in Frugality

R2D2, aka DAK

R2D2, aka DAK

Frugality, one of my favorite topics, continues to increase in popularity as the economy negatively affects more and more families.

Some people apparently take frugal tips pretty seriously; note a couple of cranky commenters at this post. Two thought the blogger’s tips were too common, and one misguided soul suggested the blogger stop homeschooling, put her kids in school and start an in-home daycare.

Instead of complaining that someone’s frugal tips are too basic, most commenters helped by sharing their own tips. I think I’ll do the same for the next few posts.

Bread machines

My beloved Oster bread machine died several months ago after about ten years of use. The unit still worked but the pan began leaking oil (or something similar) into the bread because the seal was shot. A perusal of eBay introduced me to a few people* who would love to sell me a replacement pan for $20 plus $10 shipping.

Not interested. Instead, I hit the local Goodwill and bought a replacement, a Regal for $9. It made so-so dough and baked bread that resembled a doorstop in shape and heft.

I waited patiently while watching Goodwill for a new bread machine but kept seeing the same type as the Regal. A blogging friend suggested I buy a Zojirushi BBCCX20 Home Bakery Supreme Bread Machine as she’d had great luck with it. I checked it out on Amazon: $200+, and some (though definitely not most) people had trouble with it.

I know how ticked I’d be if I spent $200 on anything and it didn’t work right. So I decided to keep being patient and checking Goodwill. But then I saw a Sunbeam breadmaker at Walmart for $50. It had pretty decent online reviews, so I decided to use my birthday gift money to buy one, but when I went back, they’d cleared out that model and replaced it with another, whose model number came up empty on a Google search. Not a good sign!

Not long after this, I stopped by Goodwill and found four bread machines. Three were Regals or looked like them. The fourth was so funny looking that I didn’t realize it was a bread machine at first. But it came with recipes, and at $5 it seemed worth the gamble.

Turns out it’s old (1990) and works great! It has quite a fan club, and I can see why. I thought I was being so clever calling it R2D2 until I found out that many people call it that.

Anyway, it makes great bread and dough, it was $50 cheaper than the bread machine I saw at Walmart, and $200 cheaper than the Zojirushi. Definitely worth waiting for!

* Sounds like a profitable racket, so I gave my old Oster and the Regal to my eBay seller daughter, hoping she can make some money off the parts, paddles and manuals 🙂

Grandma’s Cooking

Isn’t she just the cutest thing? And this is just one of several short films made by her grandson, a filmmaker who wanted to preserve his memories of her.

Grandma is 93-year-old Clara Cannucciari; her 30-year-old grandson Chris is the filmmaker. When Chris posted his films to YouTube, neither of them had any idea that a turbulent economy would make their series on Depression-era cooking a smash hit on the Internet.

Clara has had an interesting life, as this article describes. Watching her in the kitchen brings back my own “grandma memories”….maybe it will do the same for you  🙂

Here’s the link for the entire series of films, so you don’t miss out on any. Enjoy!

When I Don’t Buy Based on Price

Amish Farms Holmes Co, Ohio by David M. Dennis
Amish Farms Holmes Co, Ohio

I usually try to get the lowest price on everything. This works fine for most things, but it occasionally backfires.

Take chicken, for instance. I always bought large quantities of it and froze it when the price was right. I didn’t care what brand it was, I just went by price.

Then I started to see Amish chickens for sale in the grocery several years back, and I thought, what a rip off! Why should I pay several dollars a pound for chicken when I can get it for 89 cents a pound? Who buys that stuff anyway?

Before long, I started seeing articles about the chicken sold in groceries and how it contains all sorts of antibiotics that are reducing our immunities, and hormones that are making little girls mature too early. And I got to thinking, maybe I should be watching what kind of chicken I buy…. 

One week the local Piggly Wiggly put the Amish chicken on sale and I splurged on some (even the sale price was higher than what I usually paid for chicken). When I baked it, the whole house soon smelled wonderful! And when we ate it, well, all I could think was that this was like I remember chicken tasting when I was a child in the 1960s.

I thought it was all in my head, but the next time we had chicken, it was my usual sale-priced store brand, and it tasted like nothing compared to that darned Amish chicken.

Since then, I’ve gotten hooked. I try to stock up when Amish chicken is on sale. Sometimes I run out before it goes on sale again, so I’m stuck with the regular stuff, which I still buy, but I don’t like nearly as well.

I’ve noticed a few name brands are now offering “all-natural, no hormones, no antibiotic” chicken, and the price is better than the Amish chicken. But you can’t match the taste. There is nothing better than Amish chicken, I’ve decided. So I buy it when it’s on sale, and I pine for it once I’ve used it all up…….

What to Do When The Economy Stinks….

The bad news about the economic instability of our economy as well as those of other countries continues. Scary stuff, and it can make you feel pretty helpless. But there are things you can do.

First off, stop spending money on things you don’t absolutely need and try to save money wherever you can. I know many people believe that in times like these, you should spend today’s dollars because they’ll be worth less tomorrow. Beans! There’s nothing like the feeling of having money set aside for a rainy day.

Here are a few ways to save right now:

Pay for necessities with cash and put the change in a jar.
Take the amount you save by using coupons and put that in a jar.
Brown-bag it and put the money you would have spent for drive-up fast food in a jar.
Skip the Starbucks and put that money in a jar.

Pretty soon you should have a nice, full jar. Now, start with a new jar. In the past, I would have suggested you take that full jar to the bank and deposit it. But I’m thinking it’s a good idea to have some cash on hand at home. There are some shaky banks out there (check yours here), and it sure wouldn’t hurt to keep some of your money nearby….like in your house.

Today at the grocery I made a major killing. I spent $25 and my receipt showed I saved $28. Of course, that’s money saved off of full price, which I almost never pay. But it’s still savings. Shopping the sales combined with using coupons is always wise.

Buying in quantity when on sale is another no-brainer. I now have three 32-oz. jars of Miracle Whip Light in the house. At 99 cents each, they were a great deal. They’ll keep for a while, so I don’t mind having a few extra. I use them for homemade potato, tuna or egg salads, which are far cheaper homemade than what they cost at the grocery store deli counter.

Homemade….that’s another thing you can do in these unstable times. Make your own meals! You pay so much more for take-out, and plenty just for prepared foods and mixes. Case in point: the guy ahead of me in line at the grocery was buying a dinky container of seafood salad (surimi and pasta with dressing). The little one-pound container had a deli label on it that said $5.94. Good grief! You can easily make a huge batch of that stuff for less than $5, especially when you’ve got the items waiting for you in your pantry and fridge since you bought them on sale. A box of pasta for 69 cents, some ranch dressing mixed with mayo (maybe $1 worth) and a package of Crab Delights on sale for $1.50 (and even cheaper if you buy the store brand), plus a little diced celery….what does that total, maybe $3.50? And you’ll have enough to feed eight people.

Yet another thing you can do to save money: Don’t put anything on your credit card unless you can absolutely, definitely pay it off at the end of the month (credit card interest is a tax on spendthrifts!) Why even bother buying things on sale if you’re going to put that 14-25% tax on it? Ditto for buying furniture on time….no payments until 2010! Big deal…that’s how they rope you in, and later on you learn the interest has been piling up all that time, waiting for that first payment two years down the road. Don’t do it! If you must have furniture, if it’s a real need (not a want!), buy it used. Better yet, put out the word among family and friends that you need a new table or sofa, and maybe you’ll get a freebie. This is no time to be dropping hundreds or thousands of dollars on new stuff.

If you’re like me and you live a no debt/cash only lifestyle, be patient. Before long, overextended people will put their plasma tv’s and leather sofas on Craig’s List for next to nothing, because it’s going to be the only way they can raise cash. Their credit is tapped out and they need some money. The signs are already there. I’ve been looking at fifth wheel RV’s and there are some great deals out there!

Those are just a few areas where you can save money. There are many more. Go to the library and find yourself some books on saving money. If nothing else, use interlibrary loan to snag some of the classics written during the recession of the early 1980s, or one of Amy Dacyczyn’s books of the 90s (they all have “Tightwad Gazette” in their titles.)*

The more techniques you learn for saving money, the more empowered you’ll be, and the bad financial news we’re hearing on a daily basis these days won’t be quite so scary. This is not the time to sit in the corner and whimper. It’s time to take action!

* In case your library can’t get them for you, here’s Amy’s wonderful book plus some more that will help you: