Save the Celery!

We’ve all had that moment were we open the produce drawer only to be confronted by a wilted, accusatory vegetable.

“You wanted me! You drove all the way to the store, wandered the aisles for an hour, and selected me to come home with you. Then you just forgot me?!?!!”

“Look, I’m sorry, Celery. I just got busy-”

“Oh, please. You managed to cook the squash and the broccoli! You cook all the time!”

“I know, you’re right. Look, let me make it up to you.”

“I’m listening….”

“I’ll write a blog post all about how to use up celery in your condition, so that no celery ever gets wasted again.”

“And?”

“….And, I’ll give you a bunch of dialog, so you can yell at me all you want.”

“Deal!”

So here we are. As I said, I bought too much celery, only to find it limp and unappealing. What to do?

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If the celery is not too bad, just on the cusp of “Oh crap, I better use this up right now”, cut it up for snacks! I’m very fortunate in that I can hand almost any food item to Hubby, say “I made you a snack!” and he’ll eat it up. Much like Joey on Friends when their fridge broke. You can always count on me for current pop-culture references!

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When the celery is just a little wilty, cut some of the bottom off, then place it in a glass of water. It’s still a plant, and it will suck up water like a 3rd grader’s science experiment. If any of the leaves are gross, just throw them away, and clean the celery off. You can use the same trick with green onions.

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Chop it up and freeze it. You can either cut it up by itself, or with carrots and onions, as I’ve done here. The next time you’re making soup you can just throw your pre-chopped veggies in there, and pat yourself on the back for your frugalness! Go you!

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The only way to save money is not to spend it. One way to do that is to eat the food you already have, rather than buying new.

December 29, 2016. Tags: , , , , , , , , . Cooking, Thriftiness is Cool. 5 comments.

Everything Messy Play

My previous post made me realize just how much I know about messy play for toddlers. It’s really time consuming to stop random people on the street and share my wisdom, only to find out that they don’t even have kids, and I should “Go home and put on pants”. Whatever, I’ll just share my knowledge with you lovely minions who appreciate my pearls of wisdom.

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Messy play is one of my favorite things for so many reasons:

  1. It absorbs my toddler, Nacho, in a way few things can. That sentence makes it sounds like the Blob is ingesting him, but you get what I mean.
  2. Messy play is even entertaining for young babies. I know when Nacho was small, I was definitely at a loss for things to do with him. You can only coo at a wiggling burrito so much!
  3. It’s CHEAP. Having a kid is expensive, especially when yours eats like a linebacker after the big championship game (the Wonderbowl? The Supershow? You know, that sports thing that happens too often for some reason).  The most basic form of messy play is a mud pit, which is free! The other recipes I use are generally pretty cheap, which is always great.

There are lots of variations of messy play, and honestly, just a quick browse on pinterest will overwhelm you with options. Well, I have sorted through tons of those links, and picked out my favorites. I look for recipes that are cheap, easy to clean up, and allergen free (no wheat for my poor guy). Several of these are also taste safe for younger ones.

  1. Slime – You will need a fiber supplement with Psyllium as the active ingredient, food coloring, water, and a microwave safe bowl. I love this recipe because you only use 1 tablespoon of the fiber stuff and 1 cup of water. Whisk this together with a little food coloring, then microwave for 5 minutes. Here is the link to the original post I used that has lots of Q&A if you need more details.
  2. Oobleck – Mix 1 cup water, 2 cups cornstarch, and some food coloring. I like to make one big white batch, then separate it into small containers to add color. I usually don’t measure anything, and just kind of mix it around until I get a good consistency. Oobleck can be reused if you spread it thin, and let it dry thoroughly. Just add water again and remix it. I usually reuse it within a couple days, and just once. There are tons of variations on this basic recipe all over the magical internets, but I stick to the basic one.

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    Dried out oobleck

  3. Tub Paint – You can use shaving cream mixed with a tiny bit of food coloring, or this recipe (this is a tiny batch): 1 tbsp constarch, a couple squirts dish soap, and a tiny bit of food coloring. As with the oobleck, I make a big batch of white, then separate it to add colors. With the soap one, the tub turns into a Giganto-bubble bath after, which entertains Nacho for another good stretch of time.
  4.  Finger paint – When my son was younger, I made his from scratch so they would be taste safe. I used this recipe, and it worked great! We still have Nacho’s original artwork, and it looks great, 2 years later. Now, I tend to buy the store-bought ones when they’re on sale. I should probably get back to making them, though…
  5. Play dough – Since Nacho is allergic to wheat, and playtime shouldn’t lead to him covered in hives, I used rice flour instead of regular flour. That’s not as cheap as most recipes though, so I would use regular flour if you can. I have totally lost the original recipe I used, but there are infinite variations online. If you don’t have time to cook it, you can use cornstarch and hair conditioner, mixed with a bit of food coloring.
  6. Play foam – this is a huge hit in our house, and one we usually keep in the tub. I use a couple squirts of dish soap, a small drop of food coloring, and about 1/4 cup of water. You do need a mixer of some kind for this. I use my hand mixer with whisk attachment and it whips the mixture up into foam in no time. I actually keep my hand mixer in the bathroom now.
  7. Foam dough – This is cornstarch mixed with shaving cream. When I made it, it was somewhat brittle, but some kids will probably enjoy it. I’ll probably try it again with Nacho in the future.
  8. Mud – regular old mud is one of Nacho’s favorite things. I just make sure to hose him off outside before we head in for his bath.
  9. Play sand – Sand is really cheap at Home Depot, and stores like that. It is just insanely heavy. Again, a huge hit! We bought one bag last year, for I think $5, and his sand table (which I got for free!) is still pretty full. If you store it outside, put a cover over it when it’s not being used. We just store our play pool upside down on top as a giant lid!
  10. Jello – Yes, just regular old Jell-o. I buy the store brand, so it’s less than $0.50 per batch. Just follow the package instructions! Easy peasy. I usually make it after he goes to bed, so it’s ready the next day for play time.
  11. Play snow – This is literally baking soda mixed with water, and that’s all. I kind of just mix amounts until I have a consistency I like. (Man, this is a professional blog, will you look at this? Don’t get too jelly of my amazing, super-helpful writing.) One thing about play snow, you will see recipes all over that call for conditioner or other random ingredients, but seriously, all you need is baking soda and water. You can also play with this in the tub and dump vinegar on it to make crazy amounts of foam!
  12. Bean tray – Beans are so much fun for kids to play with, but man, they can get everywhere. I use pinto beans because they’re the cheapest of all the beans, and they’re large enough to be easy to find. No lentils for this activity! I have a big, cheap catering pan I store the beans in with a few scoops, so it’s all ready to go when I need a distraction.
  13. Water – I’m including this because you HAVE to take precautions with water. Not just safety, but holy potato can kids make a mess with it. We played mixing colored water in the tub, and I’m so glad I didn’t try it elsewhere. I also stop up the sink and fill it a little so Nacho can play Pond. Give him a few animals (or toys that desperately need a bath!), and he’s entertained for 20 minutes. Long enough for me to shower (in eyesight of him), or put laundry away.
  14. Bubbles – Nacho is obsessed with bubbles, whether in the bath or blown, so when I bring them out, we go through a million of them. If we use them indoors, I put towels down to prevent the floor getting slippery. We made bubble snakes outside, which was great until the dog began eating them. Okay, that was funny too, but then he got an upset stomach, so don’t let your dog eat bubbles. It’s not pretty. I used one of Nacho’s socks on the bubble maker instead of the wash cloth in the tutorial, and it worked great.
  15. Colored ice cubes – Just make colored water, and dump it into ice cube trays. You can use yogurt cups, or other containers to get weird shapes, but make sure the container is freezer safe. There’s a blue stain in my freezer for totally unrelated reasons. Totally. I usually let these warm up a little before handing them off to Nacho so I don’t have to worry about them sticking to his skin or tongue. I have a Batman ice cube tray (YOU CAN’T HAVE IT), and he loves to fit the bats back into the tray.

I wrote about how to reduce the clean up work the other day, so here’s the link if you missed it.

General Tips:

  1. I buy my food coloring on Amazon, and it’s far cheaper than the grocery store. If I find something even cheaper than that, I will update you all.
  2. To extend a kiddo’s interest in a particular mess, add fun things to it gradually. For example, if Nacho has play dough, he’ll start to lose interest after 20 or 30 minutes. I just hand him something additional to go with it, like dry pasta, and that adds a new level of interest. Googly eyes make an appearance later, then cookie cutters, etc.
  3. Save and wash yogurt cups for scooping, or to hold multiple colors of paints/slime/various goops.
  4. Look around at what you have available, and utilize your resources. Kids will find a way to play with almost anything. Do you have dozens of wine corks around for no particular reason? Not because you’re a parent, surely. Well let the kiddo play with them, and now you’re being resourceful!
  5. Don’t have a plan for HOW the kid will play with stuff. I mean, other than “Don’t throw it at the cat”. Just let them do whatever comes to mind rather than demonstrating how they “should” play with whatever it is. If they seem a little lost or hesitant, by all means get down there and play around, but otherwise let them at it.
  6. With my toddler, I don’t ask if he wants to play with something. That’s get a guaranteed “NO”. I just set stuff up and show it to him, then he digs in.
  7. Start buying industrial shipments of cornstarch. Why does it only come in tiny boxes at the store???
  8. I save random plastic containers and lids to use with all of these. Coffee can lids make great pretend plates, little segmented trays are great for paints or pouring activities. Ice cube trays are wonderfully versatile. Of course, if your kid is young enough to worry about choking on things, be very careful what you hand them.
  9. Random items to extend play: straws or chop sticks (for a more eco-friendly version), googly eyes, dried pasta, various plastic containers and trays, milk tops, large beads or buttons, toy dinosaurs, army men, bugs, animals, other figures that are washable, balls, cars (that are easy to clean), Mardi Gras beads, nature materials like pine cones, shells, sticks, acorns, etc, cutlery, like butter knives or spoons, baking pans, like muffin tins or bundt cake pans, cookie cutters, random craft supplies like gems or feathers, and weird kitchen tools, like a garlic press, potato masher, rolling pin, those odd gadgets that accumulate and you forget what they do.
  10. Above all, have fun! There’s a ton of info here, so just pick and choose a couple things to test out if this is new ground. If you’ve been doing messy play with the kiddos for awhile, hopefully there are some useful tips in here, and maybe you have some of your own! I would love to learn something new, so drop me a comment with your sage advice.

Wow, that is a lot of text. My brain feels so light and empty now! I mean, it usually feels that way until I have some coffee. And then also after I have coffee. And most of the time. You can see why I prefer play things that are simple to set up and clean up!

June 3, 2016. Tags: , , , , , , . Baby Stuff, Kid Stuff, Thriftiness is Cool. 2 comments.

DIY Onesie Extender

On my previous post about altering baby clothes, the most common comment I got was “You know there are these things called onesie extenders, right?” Yes, yes I do. Remember how I told you to keep your onesie scraps for a mystery project? Well here it is! DIY onesie extender!

 

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Take the scraps from your onesie-turned-t-shirt, and pin them together. Make sure you pin it so the snap parts are facing the right direction, and will actually snap onto a onesie.

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I simply trimmed off a little extra, folded the raw edges under, and sewed it together. It’s a little wide, and round, but it doesn’t really matter. I made another one later that came out much nicer, now I have two!

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As you can see, my son is now enjoying an outfit he’d grown out of! He looks terrified, but that’s because the camera makes crazy lights and noises he can’t understand, yet.

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So with these two tiny sewing projects, you gain another baby t-shirt, and a way to make several outfits last longer. Pretty damn clever, if I do say so myself!

October 5, 2014. Tags: , , , , , , . Arts and Crafts, Baby Stuff. 2 comments.

Altering Baby Clothes

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Kids have an annoying tendency to grow out of things before they wear them out. My sweet baby Nacho is no different. He had these two adorable pirate onesies:

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And of course he outgrew them. But they’re so cute! So we’re going to alter one of these into a t-shirt! I opted to use the longer one for this, so there’s enough fabric to roll up and hem.

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Cut the onesie as low as you can, as shown above. Retain the pieces for an upcoming mystery project! Now roll the extra fabric up as little as possible so you can hem it. You want to leave as much fabric as possible for the t-shirt, but you need to cover up that raw edge so it doesn’t unravel.

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Once you have everything pinned in place, just sew the hem down. I did it by hand since my sewing machine has forsaken me, and it didn’t take much time at all.

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And now your little rugrat can look awesome for another few weeks, until his next growth spurt!

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October 3, 2014. Tags: , , , , , , , , . Arts and Crafts, Baby Stuff, Thriftiness is Cool. 3 comments.

DIY Baby Food

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Making your own baby food is super cheap and easy. Before my son started eating solids, I started squirreling away food for him in the freezer. Basically you take a food, run it through a blender or food processor until it’s smooth, then store it until you feed it to a baby. It’s seriously that easy. I do have a few hints and tricks to make it even easier. I mean, of course I do. I couldn’t call myself That Clever Chick if I didn’t, could I? Well, not without shame.

Cooking:

To start off, you want to keep each food completely separate from everything else, meaning no apple banana blends until you make sure the kiddo doesn’t have a food sensitivity. I’m sure you’ve read all about this in your baby books, so I’m not going to go into exhaustive detail. So the first ingredients in your baby food will be just the food and probably some water.

I never peeled anything, like apples or pears, that I would normally eat the peel on. I did cook these things, rather than just blending them up raw, at least at first. Bananas don’t need to be cooked, but I think everything else should be. You can steam, boil, or bake your foods. For apples and pears, I cut them up into chunks and put them in a glass baking dish with some water. I put this in the oven at 350 until they were mushy. Wait until it cools to run it through the blender.

For first foods, whatever you’re making for the baby, you basically cook it until it’s mushy and will blend easily. So instead of steaming broccoli until it’s still crisp, let it keep going until it falls apart when you push on it. Once the baby gets a little older and is ready for more textured food, you can cook it a little less. Eventually you can just mash up what you’re having for dinner, and skip the blender altogether.

Tips:

Make extra of whatever you’re eating. Are you making broccoli for yourself? Make extra (without any spices or seasoning) for the baby.

Once you have the blender or food processor out, make several things at once. You can microwave a sweet potato, or just blend up some raw bananas if you don’t have anything else prepared for your little munchkin.

Rinse the container out in between batches until you’ve established what foods your baby is not allergic to. After that, run them through starting with safe foods, and ending with new foods. So you know your baby can have bananas just fine, but haven’t tried peas yet? Blend the bananas first, store them, and rinse the blender. Now when you run the peas through, if there’s a tiny bit of banana residue left behind, it’s no big deal.

Something too runny? Add a little baby cereal to thicken it up.

Too chunky? Try adding water, then blending it some more. Still not working? Run it through the microwave a bit to cook those stubborn bits.

Need ideas? Check out the baby foods at the store. They have quinoa and stuff in them! You bet I made some quinoa for my kiddo. I mix it in with fruit or veggies to add protein, and he loves it.

Storing:

I used normal ice cube trays to freeze the baby food into small, ~1 ounce portions. Once these were frozen, I popped them out and stored them in freezer bags. The food cubes fit into baby food jars, so you can just grab one, pop it into a jar, and then store it in the fridge or put it on the counter to thaw. They’re so small, they thaw pretty quickly. I got baby food jars from a friend who bought her baby food, but you could also buy your first few jars. You can also use Tupperware. Nothing says you have to feed your baby out of those classic glass jars.

Note: If you’re going to make baby prunes, soak them until they’re soft first. I destroyed my old food processor trying to blend them up too enthusiastically. Also, they DO NOT pop out of ice cube trays, so when making prunes, freeze them in small, individual containers. They stay sticky and never freeze solid. I haven’t tried other dried fruits, but I would take the same precautions with them.

 

I hope you’ll try this. It seems like there’s some special process Gerber goes through to make their baby food, but there really isn’t. Making your own is surprisingly easy, and cost effective. By my rough estimation, homemade costs half as much as store bought, if not less. Think of all the toys you can buy with the savings! Or something boring, like college savings.

September 29, 2014. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , . Baby Stuff, Cooking, Thriftiness is Cool. 2 comments.

Dog Toy Repair

Our corgi, Flapjack, has been a bit neglected since my son, Nacho, was born. Neglected as in “no longer receiving endless attention”. To remedy this, his Aunt Lis brought him a new toy! Star Wars themed, no less! Unfortunately, Boba Fett is strong enough to withstand the Great Pit of Carkoon, but not the Mighty Jaws of Corgi. But Flapjack still loved his busted bounty hunter, even bringing him up to bed each night. I had to perform some armor repair.

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You can see I very crudely wrapped denim around the torso, and sewed it shut. The denim is way tougher than the initial material, and has not lost a single thread yet. So maybe Boba Fett seems to be wearing a bath towel…and one arm is still attached a bit tenuously. Flapjack is happy, and Boba’s guts are protected.

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I basically wrapped the fabric around, tucked the raw edges under, and whip stitched the whole thing. I mean, this is going in my dog’s mouth. I love him, but not enough to hand him a work of art.

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See? He doesn’t care. He’s just happy to have Boba back where he belongs: begging for mercy from a giant beast.

September 24, 2014. Tags: , , , , , , , , . Arts and Crafts, Nerd Stuff, Thriftiness is Cool. Leave a comment.

I Hate the Moby Wrap

I know a lot of people out there love their Moby wraps, and if this is you, you better skip this post now. I apologize, but brace yourself for an epic rant.

A friend of mine was kind enough to lend me a Moby wrap when I had my baby, Nacho. If you aren’t familiar with these, they are basically 87,000 yards of fabric you’re supposed to wrap around yourself in a configuration more complicated than an Enigma Machine. Your baby then supposedly fits right into the fabric without falling out the bottom or smothering to death. You can now carry your baby around with your hands free!

Here’s the thing(s):

1) There is too much damn fabric. There has GOT to be a better way to carry your child than 9 million yards of stretchy fabric. Women in pre-industrial countries wear their babies all over the place, and I have yet to see one using enough fabric to clothe the nation of Lithuania.

2) It’s hot. I was using the thing in WINTER, and my son and I were both coated in sweat after 30 minutes. I guess it’s to be expected with 18 billion yards of fabric piled on you, but it was ridiculous.

3) It’s overly complicated. I watched several videos trying to figure out how to use this thing. I got Hubby to watch and help. I prayed to both the old gods and the new (that’s a reference to a TV show, Gram, don’t worry), and I was still unable to get the thing on me how it was supposed to go. If you don’t get the tension exactly right when you put it on, you have to take the whole thing off and start over again. Lifting a wriggling baby in and out of the wrap 3 or 4 times before you get it right will test anyone’s patience, and I have very little to begin with.

Those smiles are LIES.

Those smiles are LIES.

4) It’s not really “hands-free”. You can sit in a chair, or walk around without holding your baby, sure. But forget bending over to do dishes or laundry. My son didn’t have neck control yet when we were attempting to wrangle the 8 cubic miles of fabric, so if I leaned over at all I had to support his head. If I tried to tuck fabric around his head, I had to worry that he was smothering to death, or his head would slip out and suddenly flop backwards (which happened, and was the impetus for me throwing in the 8,000 mile long towel). If I have to keep one hand on the back of his head at all times, it’s not that useful.

5) Getting in and out of it is nigh impossible. So let’s assume you succeed in finally getting your infant into the wrap. And then s/he poops. You’re now trapped, tied to a fussy, squirming baby and a poop balloon, just waiting to explode. Have fun untangling you both from 67^10 acres of fabric in a timely manner. If your kid is anything like mine, s/he’ll choose the moment s/he’s almost free to kick you in the chest and launch him/herself into oblivion (or, hopefully, the pack-n-play). Forget trying to feed a baby you’ve been mummified with also. There’s no room to get a bottle in there, much less get a boob out.

6) They’re expensive. $50 for some fabric? Come on. I’m really glad I got to borrow one rather than drop that kind of cash on some fabric I hated.

I do know a few people that like their Moby wraps, and I have a theory. All of the women I know who enjoy them, and who are shown in the tutorial videos and websites have fairly straight waists. I, however, have an hourglass figure, with big hips, so all the fabric slides up and bunches around my waist. Without such an exaggerated anatomy, the fabric seems to stay put where it’s supposed to. That’s just my hypothesis, based on a very small sample of data.

Wearing your baby is really fun and wonderful, but the Moby Wrap is not necessarily the way to do that. I was lucky enough to trick Mi Madre into making me a ring sling. She found a tutorial and the rings online, and used fabric she had laying around the house. We’ve used it a ton, and plan to keep using it for awhile. A fellow mom-friend of mine found a baby-wearing meet-up group that rents out different baby carriers so you can try them. She tried several before finding one she loves. Search for something like that before making any purchases.

I love popping my son into his sling and going for a walk around the block when the weather is nice. He’s fallen asleep in it several times, and it’s very easy to slide him out into his crib, or just sit down and let him nap on me.

August 5, 2014. Tags: , , , , , , . Baby Stuff. 6 comments.

Better Coffee at Home

You’re trying to save money by avoiding coffee shops, but you miss the delicious caffeinated treasures they provided? Fear not! We can make better coffee at home and save you money!

First of all, good for you for trying to save money! It can be a challenge, but you can totally do it. You will be so proud of yourself!

Ok, now onto the coffee stuff. You’re trying to save money, so it’s possible your bought the cheapest coffee available. If it tastes ok, then good job! If it tastes terrible, that might be causing some discontent. There are several different ways to make your addiction cheaper:
1) Buy some really good coffee and some cheaper coffee, then blend the two together.
2) When buying coffee grounds at the grocery store, buy a small amount of the cheapest coffee. If you don’t like it, next time spend slightly more, until you hopefully find a brand you enjoy. Even buying Dunkin brand coffee at the grocery store is cheaper than buying a pre-made coffee at Dunkin Donuts. You don’t have to take the absolute cheapest option in every scenario, if it’s making saving too painful. The goal is to stop wasting money on silly things, not become a martyr.
3) You can reuse coffee grounds, but I would only do this if you’re drinking a few pots a day. Throw in a small scoop of fresh grounds on top, then add more water.
4) Train yourself to like cheap coffee – I did this from the very start. My friends and I used to hang out at IHOP and Denny’s and just endlessly drink their coffee, full of cream and sugar.
5) Speaking of cream and sugar, you can cover up the flavor of not-great coffee using some add-ins:

There are lots of possible add-ins to make cheap coffee more palatable, or actually coffee in general. Black coffee is abhorrent to me. I always have to add at least milk to it. For some flavor variety, you can add cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, chicory, or vanilla extract to the basket with the coffee grounds. You can add a bag of Chai tea to the carafe for that Chai latte flavor. Once it’s in the mug you can add chocolate milk, vanilla milk, cocoa powder, honey, or whipped cream to make it special and different. (Just don’t go overboard on the sugar). You can also google even more ideas. Some people suggest adding cayenne, which sounds nuts to me, but apparently some people like it. I guess it would wake you up in the morning. “The best part of waking up is A FIERY CUP OF PAIN”.

You can also mimic some of the fancy recipes direct from the coffee shops. Search for “homemade pumpkin latte“, or whatever specialty drink you’re craving. Get creative, make up your own and have fun in your kitchen. Here’s a recipe I came up with to mimic the mocha lattes I used to love:

1 cup coffee, 1 jar nutella, 2 cups pure lard, 1 cup heavy cream, 1 tablespoon chocolate, I’m kidding please don’t make this, I don’t want to be responsible for giving you diabetes

Keep in mind the roast you’re using makes a huge difference. I personally enjoy a really light roast, because it tends to be less bitter. Here are a couple additional tips I heard on NPR the other day:

1) Use cold water to brew your coffee (like from the tap, not refrigerated)
2) Let the water run for a few seconds before filling the pot
3) Never use distilled or softened water

All of these money saving tips are going to become more important. Drought and disease are reducing coffee production, so prices will be increasing in the future. Using these tips, we can all get our daily dose of caffeine without having to sell our first born child.

June 10, 2014. Tags: , , , , , . Thriftiness is Cool. 1 comment.

My Opinion on CostCo

My sister, Beans, has a CostCo membership, so she took me on a preview trip to see if it’s all it’s cracked up to be. Armed with my trusty price book, I set out for some serious comparison shopping.

On most items that I would normally buy, it looked like my neighborhood grocery store was cheaper. “Normally buy” is important here. It’s tempting to buy 8 pounds of seaweed salad, but it’s not a necessity. Stick to your normal list, because bulk impulse purchases add up QUICKLY.

The gas was also the same price as my usual store, though I’ve heard it’s usually significantly cheaper. The lines of cars waiting to fill up attest to that also.

The things that I found to be good deals were hummus, quinoa, dishwasher tabs, cheese, eggs, mushrooms, and cherry tomatoes. Some of the other produce were cheap, but not cheap enough to justify the risk that some of it might spoil before we got to it. They do have very high quality produce, which is nice.

I didn’t price compare on larger purchases, like tires, TVs, and appliances. If you plan to buy something like that, the savings might justify the membership cost. As always, just comparison shop.

On cheese, eggs, and dishwasher tabs alone I save about $19. An annual membership is $55, so I’d have to save this much 3 times per year to justify the cost. Honestly, seems like it would pay for itself pretty easily. Personally though, since the store right by my house is almost as cheap, I’d have to debate making the special effort. As you can tell I’m still on the fence.

Overall, it seems like the store brand, Kirkland, is usually cheaper than my normal grocery store. Unfortunately, it’s not available on all items. If name brands are important to you, or you buy lots of prepackaged foods, or what I consider “luxury foods” like goat cheese and smoked salmon, you will probably save a bundle at CostCo. If you’re more like me, and tend to buy staples like chicken and rice, it might not be worth it, especially if you succumb to impulse buys. That reminds me, anyone want some mayonnaise? I have a 14 gallon drum I need to use up.

April 9, 2014. Tags: , , , , . Thriftiness is Cool. 3 comments.

Money Basics Part 8: Value vs. Price

A friend recently had an issue arise on a work trip that illustrated the difference between value and price. Let’s call him Aloysius. Aloysius was booking the cheapest hotels he could find, without reading any reviews online. One of those said reviews literally had a photo of a rat in the swimming pool. Unfortunately he was booking for ALL the coworkers. My friend ended up with a roach in her room, and who knows what other horrors.

I don’t ever stay somewhere fancy like the Hilton. There’s just no point to me, but I don’t look for the cheapest place available. We live in an age of information, so do your research online, and find a decent place at a reasonable price. Aloysius was only looking at the bottom line, and not considering other factors. If he had put me in a roachy room, I would have come completely unglued, and rained curses on him and his descendants, for eight generations.

Let’s take a more concrete example. You want a new stereo (is that what the kids are buying these days?), so you comparison shop your heart out and buy the cheapest thing available. It breaks in six months, and of course there’s no warranty, and it’s too late to return it to the store. Well you might as well have thrown that money in the garbage, which is all you can do with your cheap stereo.

Part of being frugal is getting the most bang for your buck. You want the things you buy to last as long as possible. There are several different ways to judge value:

1) Larger quantity – this one is pretty basic. Buying in bulk can reap huge savings (always do your math and comparison shop, though). Besides, I take comfort in knowing I have enough toilet paper for the next 5 years stored away, and I got a good deal on it.  

2)Better quality – when you’re buying a car, for example, you want something that will last, hold its value, and not break down frequently. You could buy a really cheap clunker, and then spend thousands on repairs, insurance, and gas, or just buy a less junky car, and have something more reliable. Of course, as with any purchase, do your research, and if you’re a mechanic, you use the example of…buying a purse.

Or with the hotel room example, you won’t end up sleeping with the lights on, and bringing bed bugs home with you.

3) You like it more – let’s say you need a new belt. You’ve done all your comparison shopping, and it comes down to two choices, a brown snakeskin-style belt, and a normal brown leather belt. The snakeskin one is on sale, but it’s just not quite right. You prefer the smooth finish on the other belt that costs a few bucks more. Will you wear the smooth one more? If you buy the snakeskin, will you be right back here in a couple months because you hate it? Only you can decide that, and your preferences are obviously important. Just don’t use that as an excuse to go buy a Lexus instead of a Toyota (FYI: they’re both Toyotas; one just costs way more).

Keep in mind that just because something costs more does not mean it’s a better value. I know someone with a Mercedes the same year as my Honda, and he’s had just as many (and more expensive!) repairs on his vehicle. For big purchases especially, always do your research, and weigh the costs and benefits.

March 23, 2014. Tags: , , , , . Thriftiness is Cool. Leave a comment.

DIY Body Pillow Case

Back in college is when I really started getting crafty. I made my own purse, made some dorm decorations, and made my own body pillow cover. That body pillow cover finally gave out after lasting ten three years. My beautiful stitches stayed in place; the fabric itself gave out. I had hand sewn the whole thing, and Mi Madre thought I had machine sewn it, that’s how awesome I am.

I decided it was time to make a new cover, and in fact I made two, so one could go through the wash. I also made them using two different methods, because I’m awesome, and that’s the kind of crafting that keeps you on the edge of your seat! The first one is just plain old fabric sewn together. Maybe “plain” is not the right word for this fabric. It is faux quilt fabric from probably the 70’s that I found at a thrift store years ago. I have hoarded it, and used it periodically, but this is the biggest piece I’ve used so far. This piece is a yard wide, and I just laid the pillow down on top to get the length.

I then hemmed one of the short sides to be the open end of the pillow case.

Next, I folded the fabric in half, inside out, and pinned along the back end and long side, a couple inches from the pillow. You want the pillow case to be snug enough to stay on the pillow, but easy to slide on and off.   

I ran it through my magical sewing machine, and BAM! Look at that crazy fabric! It’s so amazing, and yet terrible!

So, pillow case #2 is MUCH tamer. For this, I’m using 2 normal pillow cases. This is a great way to do this, because you can easily match your existing bed sheets, if that’s a concern of yours. If you can see the picture above these words, and the one below, you can tell that is OBVIOUSLY not a priority of mine.

I decided to have the open ends of these pillow cases both facing outward. First, I used my trusty seam ripper to open up the short end of both pillow cases.

Now here’s the tricky part: I turned one inside out, and left the other rightside out, then stuffed one inside the other so that rightsides were against each other, and the insides were both showing. The one that is rightside out goes inside the inside-out one. lined up the long seams on the pillow cases first, then the open seams I had just made. I then pinned it to death.

This picture shows the two “right” sides of the fabric touching each other.

And this is after I had pinned it all the way around the circle.

I then did a running stitch, by hand, all the way around. After that, I turned the whole thing right-side out, to make sure everything had worked as I planned, then turned it inside out and sewed one end shut.

I then turned the whole thing back rightside-out, and put it on the pillow. Fabulous!

This is a great way to use extra pillow cases you might have, like I obviously did. The hand-sewn one took a little longer, maybe a total of 45 minutes, and the first one took maybe 30 minutes. These are both great projects for someone beginning to learn to sew, or learning a sewing machine for the first time.

 

May 3, 2012. Tags: , , , , , , , , , . Arts and Crafts. 2 comments.

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