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 🙂

Spending Too Much Time Shopping for Food and Supplies

If you’ve read my last book or visited my website, you know that I’m a huge fan of keeping extra food, household supplies, and medicine in the house. (I call my stored supplies my stashes, and I think they’re invaluable to busy homeschooling moms.)

But once we decided to move, I started using up my food and supply stashes, figuring it made more sense to consume them than to pack, move and unpack them.

Using up what you have at home certainly makes for reduced bills. Not only do you not have to go shopping much, but staying out of the stores reduces impulse buys, so your bills are even lower than normal.

That’s the good news. The bad news is, now that we’ve moved, I not only have a hundred “moving in” things to do all at once (change addresses, banks, etc.), but I also have to go shopping for items I’d normally find at home in my stash.

To make it worse, no matter how many times I’ve run to the store since we moved in, I inevitably come home to hear someone say, “We’re also out of (fill in the blank).”

Sigh. I’ve moved “Restock the pantry and cabinets” to the top of my list.   :0

(Learn more about stashes HERE.)


We’ve spent the past week packing and now unpacking, and the result is that we’re eating lots of fast food and prepared meals from the grocery store.

This is not how we usually live. I’m frugal and prefer home cooking (i.e. meals made from scratch), so I’m accustomed to cooking all of our meals. Our transition from old house to new house may have given me a break from cooking, but it’s also shown me how much waste there is in eating this way.

First off, it’s a waste of money. For example, I spent $16 for breakfast for four at McDonald’s our first morning here. All we had was coffee or juice and Egg McMuffins. I could have made that much cheaper at home!

Then there’s the garbage that little breakfast created. Wrappers, paper napkins, plastic and paper cups and lids, cardboard cup holder….we had quite a little mountain of trash to pitch afterwards.

Once I found the paper plates, I did buy some prepared meals that I could just microwave or throw in the oven. They’re cheaper than eating out, but not by all that much. And again, there is waste in all the packaging involved that you then throw out. Tonight’s dinner of Stouffer’s Chicken Alfredo resulted in a large box and a large plastic pan being thrown out.

Finally, whether we eat in a restaurant or buy prepared food at the grocery, I know what we’re eating is not nearly as healthy as eating home-cooked meals. In some ways, it’s a waste of calories. Who knows what’s in the stuff we’ve been eating? At least when I cook, I know what’s in our meals: less fat, less salt, few preservatives……and more nutrition.

A Great Source for Homeschooling Supplies

Over the years I’ve spent a lot of money on new homeschooling books and curriculum, and it was worth it, no question. But I have to admit that I often found some of my best stuff while browsing at garage sales.

One year I saw an ad in the garage sale section of the newspaper classifieds that said, “Teacher retiring, many years’ worth of books and teaching supplies for sale.” I turned up in her driveway early the first day of the sale, and was it ever worth it! She had beautiful old textbooks, lots of children’s literature (mostly hardcover), and reproducible masters of worksheets from the 1960s that I couldn’t resist. I was like a kid in a candy store.

And how many times at other garage sales did I find unused workbooks, like-new boxes of flashcards and untouched educational games bought by well-meaning parents who planned to help their kids hone their skills over the summer or on weekends but never got around to it?

At garage sales, I’ve bought educational computer games, like-new art supplies and classic literature and movies (Moody science videos!) sold for pennies on the dollar. The beauty of all these purchases is that, once we were through with them, I resold them at my own garage sales.

These days, many support groups sponsor used curriculum sales, and I highly recommend them. But don’t forget to hit the garage sales, too. With money tight these days, finding something wonderful for a few bucks (or cents) can be very encouraging.

Little Luxuries

While cleaning off my desk today, I found an article I’d saved to blog about. It discusses the little luxuries that people like to enjoy in spite of cutting back on their expenses in a lousy economy.

In my early years as a SAHM, I occasionally bought little things to make myself feel good. I felt guilty about not bringing in an income, so I didn’t splurge. But I’d grab a quilt magazine at the grocery magazine rack and go home and enjoy it thoroughly. Or I might pick up a votive in a new scent and keep it burning at home until it was just a little blob of wax. (Usually, one of the kids or even my husband would come into the room and ask, “What stinks?”)

These days, I don’t seem to require little luxuries, at least not the ones that cost money. I’m happy to find a good book or DVD at the public library, or take a walk on the beach. (Although I did pony up $3.99 at the Goodwill store a few weeks ago for a hardback copy of an Elisabeth Elliot book I hadn’t read yet….I was thrilled to add it to my collection.)

But I like to have things around for my family to enjoy. So my little luxuries have become things like picking up a bucket of fried chicken at the grocery store deli when it’s on sale, or buying a box of peppermint hot chocolate mix at Sam’s Club for a whopping $1.81 for 28 packets. And when candy bars go on sale “buy one, get one free,” I buy some for everybody, not just me 🙂

So, are you finding that little luxuries make life a little easier these days? If so, what are your favorites?