When is it Worth it to Stock Up?

by Katy on August 28, 2015 · 13 comments

 

The following is a reprint of a previously published post. Enjoy!

One of the basic tenets of frugality is to stock up on needed items when they’re on sale/cheap and then shop from your stash, instead of needing to run out to pay full price.

But this is not always practical or advisable. If your money is being spent stocking up on household supplies, then it’s not available for immediate needs such as paying bills, backup emergency funds or charitable giving. Plus, it takes up a lot of space to store all this stuff.

I am not someone who keeps a huge stash of sale items filling up my pantry. A) I have no pantry, and B) that’s just not my personality. But there are ways that I do stock up.

Items that I stock up on are those that have a long shelf life and are at a rock bottom price. Examples would be 2-pound blocks of Tillamook cheese for $3.99 or $1 jars of jam. Essentially though, it needs to be a loss leader or close to it for me to bother with buying much extras. I will not buy something just because it’s cheap or free. It has to be something I would normally buy. So no weird products, and minimal packaged food. Even if I have a coupon.

One method to efficiently stock up on groceries that I don’t take advantage of is to use a freezer. Yes, I have my above-the fridge freezer, but there’s only so much food that can fit in there. I try to simply not use it as frozen food storage, and it’s usually filled with extra loaves of bread, individually frozen chicken breasts and bits of this and that.

Another time that I stock up on food or household goods, is when the item is bought in a speciality store that I only visit infrequently. This can be the rice wine vinegar from the Asian market, or the three-packs of soap that I buy at the Dollar Tree store. Buying these items away from the traditional grocery store saves me a lot of money, so it’s worth it to stock up. Plus, it’s a pain in the tuchus to run out of these items, so I like knowing that I’m set for awhile.

Are you the type of shopper that keeps a deep stash of pantry staples, or do you buy food and other household items as you run out? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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Planting My Income Crops

by Katy on August 26, 2015 · 22 comments

I work as a hospital based labor and delivery nurse, which I do between one and two days per week. It pays well, but it’s unbelievably stressful and eats up a good 14 hours per day, which means I’m completely unavailable to run my household or be available as a parent or daughter. We only have another year before both my sons are in college, (*sob*) so I’m prioritizing time with them. I’ve worked more in years past, like when my husband was in school and the year that we were working on our house and paid rent plus a mortgage. (Shudder . . . that was no fun!)

However, I’ve got a lot of irons in the fire which means that I’m constantly bringing in additional income. Sometimes it’s fast and easy, but oftentimes it takes awhile to pay off. Take Craigslist as an example. It takes between five and ten minutes to put together an online listing, and occasionally items sell immediately, but usually I need to renew the listing three or four times, sometimes more. This is because I’m not selling my finds for pennies on the dollar, I’m trying to bring in as much money as possible. However, it only takes around twenty seconds to renew a listing, so it’s no big to be patient. Plant the seed and then wait.

Today I went in for an in-person consumer survey panel, which was scheduled to pay $125 and take an hour-and-a-half from my day. And since it started at 8:30, I’d be home before my sons even woke up. (Teenagers . . .  ya’ know!) But an amazing, wonderful, stupendous, spectacular and splendiferous thing happened, which was that they’d overbooked the session and didn’t need me. But they still paid me $125, simply because I’d jumped through the hoops to qualify for the survey and I’d actually shown up! Plus, while I was sitting drinking my free coffee and munching on a free granola bar, I received a Craigslist e-mail from someone who wants to buy a cute curbside chair that I swear I’ve relisted at least a dozen times.

That chair buyer is now coming on Friday morning. To hand me money. For stuff I found for free.

None of this would have happened if I hadn’t planted my income seeds around town. A little here and a little there, which I then get to sit back and harvest at my leisure.

I work tomorrow, which keeps the paychecks coming, (and my 403b funded!) but I’ll always have my crops.

Just call me the frugal gentlewoman farmer.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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Five Frugal Things

by Katy on August 25, 2015 · 34 comments

glued-on pennies

  1. I’m continuing to help my older sister go through her stuff from our father’s basement. It’s a mix of childhood and adult items, and I’m working hard to not bring her bring excessive stuff into my house. (Not so surprisingly, she’s in a very giving mood.) So far I’ve accepted a wall hook, a McCoy vase, a McCoy planter and a preschool-era art project. Why the preschool project? Because it had pennies glued onto it. Hello . . . five cents!
  2. My husband’s soccer team had their annual potluck picnic at a gorgeous area winery on Sunday. I mixed up a large batch of peanut butter oatmeal cookies and baked 96 of them. All the ingredients were things I already had in my larder, and they set me back maybe a couple of dollars. Of course, they were delicious.
  3. I’m taking my niece to see the movie Pitch Perfect 2 this afternoon. We’re both obsessed with the original movie, and have the choreographed dance moves to prove it. I found a nearby second run theater playing the movie, which will set me back a grand total of $5.50 for the two of us! Why yes, I am the best aunt! Cheap, but loving.
  4. I left for work in a hurry yesterday and wasn’t able to pack a lunch. Instead of buying food in the hospital cafeteria, I simply ate some graham crackers and peanut butter. Not the best lunch, but it kept money in my bank account. Hey . . .  it’s $7 that’s still available to pay my son’s college tuition!
  5. I didn’t buy a Lear Jet.

Now your turn. What frugal things have you been up to?

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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Yesterday and Today I Am . . .

by Katy on August 23, 2015 · 19 comments

Cricket magazines

Yesterday and today I am . . . 

Working with my older sister who’s visiting from New York to conquer the Mount Kilimanjaro of boxes she’d been storing in our father’s basement.

We spent nine hours sorting through her stuff yesterday and we even snuck in a few hours this morning. We still have a lot to do, but thankfully the task has shifted from mountainous to hill-like. (Four mini-vans loads of Goodwill donations helped to winnow down the task.)

Just call me the sherpa of decluttering.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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Five Frugal Things

by Katy on August 20, 2015 · 51 comments

$50

  1. The weather’s been really hot here, so I walked to Fred Meyer after dinner for some ice cream. I’d planned on buying Tillamook brand since I had a $1-off coupon, but I checked the store circular and found a coupon for $2.50 half-gallons of Dreyers brand. I switched my purchase to the lesser brand and walked home to a happy family. Plus, I bought nothing else, which was the true savings.
  2. I sold a curbside-picked dresser on Craiglist for $25, and then sold the $8 Goodwill bike for $25. That’s $42 for my son’s college fund! I also signed up for hospital work shifts through mid-October.
  3. I’ve hung laundry every day. Using a clothesline forces me to not let laundry pile up as Oregon evaporation cannot be hurried.
  4. Despite the hot weather I’ve been getting by with tap water and sun tea, plus hot tea in the mornings. I prefer to not drink my dollars away, alcoholic or otherwise.
  5. I cleaned out the basement the other day, and my husband just told me he was able to actually find everything he needed for a project instead of re-buying what he already owns! (My husband has many great qualities, but keeping his stuff organized is not one of them. This is despite being impressively-organized at work.)

Now your turn. What frugal things have you been up to?

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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This Week in Zero Waste

by Katy on August 18, 2015 · 82 comments

Parking garage towel

Although I don’t strive for a 100% zero waste lifestyle, much of how my family lives falls under that category. We buy used, (zero packaging) mend instead of replace and choose reusable items whenever possible. This past week was no more a Zero Waste Week than any other week, but it still included many zero waste components.

  • I brought home a towel from the floor of my hospital’s parking garage. I’d noticed it when I came into work in the morning, and saw that it was still there when I finished my shift. I noted that a different car was now parked next to my Prius, so I brought it home. I needed two towels for my son to take to college, so this was a perfect find for me. And as a bonus, I noticed that it had the texture of a brand new towel. Score!
  • I brought my own lunch to work yesterday which included leftovers in Pyrex, a cloth napkin and a spoon from home. As always, my thrifted ceramic travel mug came to work with me as well.
  • I mended my husband’s insulated lunch bag, which was becoming frayed.
  • My sister broke my bought-it-on-Craiglist rug shampooer, but was able to source the replacement part to repair it. This appliance has brought countless thrift store rugs back to life, which I was then able to resell for a profit. Rugs that would otherwise have been landfill bound. Not to mention that it keeps my home looking fresh and clean, so I never have a need to replace worn out looking furniture. I lend it out frequently.
  • I washed out my son’s fabric toiletry kit, as the inside was smeared with toothpaste. I bought this zipper-case at the Sampsonite outlet store back in college, and it’s large enough that there’s no need to buy wasteful travel-size toiletries. Perfect for car vacations.
  • I’m keeping a running and detailed list of things my son will need when he moves into his college dorm next month.  The school has an annual Fred Meyer night, where students are bussed from the campus to the Fred Meyer store to buy all their dorm and school essentials. My goal is to make sure my son already has everything he needs from home. No reason to wastefully buy brand new stuff that already exists in our home. (Of course that list includes things such a reusable water bottle and a travel mug!)
  • A blog follower read that I was keeping an eye out for twin XL sheets and mailed her unused set to me. (Thank you, Lauren!) I still need to source a second set, but that should be a fairly easy thrift hunt, as barely anyone has a need for this size once their college days are over.
  • I cleaned one of my mother’s guest cottages and brought home half a bottle of white wine, six eggs, half a large container of Greek yogurt, five Bud Light tall boys and two-and-a-half sticks of Tillamook butter.
  • I brought home a pink pony tail holder from the entrance of the SOU dining hall.

None of these zero waste activities were part of a special blog stunt, just components of our daily lives. Living thoughtfully with an eye towards waste avoidance.

Do you try and work zero waste into your life? Please share your stories in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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Leftovers in Jell-O? No Thank-O!

by Katy on August 16, 2015 · 22 comments

The following is as reprint of a previously published post. Enjoy!

It is no secret that I have a PhD in leftovers wizardry. Bread ends become bread crumbs, dried up cooked rice goes into soup and the last bits of stale cereal find their way into muffins.

But an entire week devoted to throwing leftovers into a Jell-O salad? Yes, I grew up with a midwestern mother who had no qualms about throwing cottage cheese and mandarin oranges into a Jell-O-mold. And yes, I admit that I ate it. But in the 16 years of working in a hospital, I have never munched down on the available Jell-O. (I have however served it thousands upon thousands of times.)

But I am here to say that cheese cubes, peas, onions, and holy hell, is that meat? are very, very bad ideas when mixed into a fruity gelatinous medium.

So please, keep your leftover tidbits confined to soups, frittatas, stir-fries and casseroles. But in the name of all that is innocent and pure, keep them out of the Jell-O!

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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Five Frugal Things

by Katy on August 16, 2015 · 34 comments

Bike for sale!

  1. I ran errands on foot yesterday. I dropped off plastics recycling, picked up a free RedBox movie (Insurgent, it was completely dreadful!) and intended to pick up hamburger buns at Fred Meyer, but spaced it out. Instead I used the two buns we had on hand, and then cut circles from regular bread which I then lightly toasted. Dinner was black bean burgers from beans I’d prepared in the slow cooker.
  2. I hung two loads of laundry on the clothesline, one of which stayed out overnight as there was no forecast of rain.
  3. I completely reorganized my kitchen, as certain counters had become overcrowded and difficult to keep clean. (No reason to have two bottles of Asian fish sauce at arm’s reach at all times!) The kitchen now looks spacious and massively less cluttered. A deliberately arranged and decluttered living room looks magazine ready, which turns out to be true in the kitchen as well.
  4. I hit the drop-in financial aid booth not once but twice during my son’s college orientation. The poor financial aid officer probably needed a nap after I was done picking her brain, but we were able to figure out some great ideas of how to cash flow his freshman year of college. For example, it only costs $15 extra per quarter to pay in three installments instead of forking over the entirety of tuition, plus room and board on October 9th. This will allow us to earn tuition money as the year progresses. I also took full advantage of opportunities to talk to the directors of different departments such as career services and housing. I also picked the brain of the housing director about how my son can increase his chances of being chosen as a resident assistant.
  5. The bike I’d bought to resell on Craigslist has generated no interest, so I decided to lock it up in front of the house with a “For Sale” sign, which should help as it’s a darling, yet high quality bicycle. I also reposted all my other Craigslist listings.

Now your turn. What frugal things have you been up to?

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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Ashland Goodwill

My older son and I just got back from his two day college orientation, which meant three days away from home since the orientation began at 10 A.M., inconveniently five-and-a-half hours away from home! (Didn’t exactly relish leaving home at 4 A.M. to get there on time.)

I bought a fat loaf of French bread the morning that we left, and assembled a big ol’ turkey sandwich, which I then cut into fourths. I threw some 6/$1 Grocery Outlet yogurts into a cooler, as well as a bag of mini carrots, I then tossed together some rotini and kale pesto. I filled reusable water bottles and poured a cup of coffee into my thrifted ceramic travel mug. Reusable stainless steel spoons and forks also made their way into the cooler.

Thus fortified, we were able to get from point A to point B without buying any food or drinks. We refilled the water bottles at rest stop water fountains.

My son’s dorm room accommodation was included in the free orientation, (Ha, not really free at all!) but I needed to book a motel room. Southern Oregon University is located in the beautiful town of Ashland, home to the world famous Oregon Shakespeare Festival, which is great, but the downside is that finding a cheap place to stay is never going to happen. I pored through Airbnb and HomeAway listings, but they were more expensive than a cheapo motel. I ended up staying at the locally owned Timbers Motel, which looked decent, was relatively inexpensive and was literally across the street from the school.  I clicked through eBates and Priceline to get cash back and a better deal, which brought the price down to $191 for two nights minus whatever I get back from eBates. It included a continental breakfast, which was a plus. It wasn’t amazing, but it did the trick. And the room? Pretty much perfect.

After dropping our stuff in the room, we went into town for pizza slices. Ashland is full of pricey dining options, but we’d discovered Martolli’s pizza last year and made a beeline for it. Fifteen dollars stuffed the two of us, which included the tip. This ended up being the only money we spent on food.

travel mug

Luckily, the orientation included a dining hall swipe card for both of us. This included a breakfast, lunch and dinner! Plus, there was free coffee, tea, soda and ice water available throughout. I brought my ceramic travel mug to every event and was able to avoid single use cups. There was a tea which included cookies and cut up fruit, and I chose to eat the fruit on a paper plate with my fingers rather than take a plastic fork. Yeah, I got a little sticky, but all that free coffee made me very familiar with bathroom locations, so there was frequent hand washing. We could have easily spent money on food between meals, but we didn’t.

The University bookstore is run by Barnes and Noble, and includes a large section for logo gear. But I knew there was a Goodwill in town, which would be my first choice. I follow The Compact and choose to only buy used, which I rarely stray from. Not surprisingly, Goodwill had a myriad of choices, and my son picked out two $2.99 SOU T-shirts. (The T-shirts were categorized by color, which I’m usually not a fan of, but helped in this case.) He allowed to me snap one quick photo of him in front of the shop, even though the sun was directly in his eyes.

We needed to leave the motel yesterday morning, as we’d be at orientation until after the 11 A.M. check out time. But I chatted with the manager, who let me store the last half of our turkey sandwich in their refrigerator. (Didn’t relish leaving the sandwiches in a hot car all day, even in a cooler.) I also talked to him about how I’d reserved through Priceline, but would rather book directly for future trips as they’re a small business. He told me to call the motel after checking Priceline, and that they’d match the price. Cool. Money for a small business owner instead of William Shatner. (Priceline spokesman.)

The trip home saw us eating the last of the sandwich, plus finishing the carrots. We refreshed our water bottles at an Arby’s connected to a gas station. We may have bought two Payday candy bars, as they were buy-one-get-one-for-a-dime at the gas station.

We were hungry by the time we hit home, but I threw together a quicky dinner of macaroni-and-cheese with kale pesto, as well as some pierogi’s from the freezer, which also got the kale pesto treatment. Mmm . . . kale pesto . . . .

In all we spent:

  • $191 for the motel.
  • $12.50 for pizza.
  • $5.98 for two T-shirts
  • $9.50 for tips, (pizza, school barista and the motel housekeeper.)
  • Around $25 for gasoline. Thank you, Prius and your 50 MPG abilities!
  • $1.48 for two candy bars.

Traveling can be both expensive and wasteful, but with a bit of forethought that doesn’t have to be the case. Being thoughtful and deliberate can save a huge amount of money, plus keep waste to a minimum. College is a huge money suck, but I refuse to wholly give in.

P.S. This trip saw me pick up a dime, a nickel and three pennies from the ground.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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Today I Am . . .

by Katy on August 12, 2015 · 38 comments

Pizza!

Today I Am . . . (Okay, it’s really was not is, since I’m writing a nighttime blog post.)

  • Driving down to Ashland, Oregon for my son’s college orientation. School doesn’t start until next month, but this two day event will help for him to figure out college life and meet a few people.
  • Eating food at rest stops that I packed from home for the 5-1/2 hour drive down from Portland. Of course we drank water from reusable bottles.
  • Listening to a library audiobook in the car of Anne Rice’s Interview With a Vampire.
  • Getting almost 50 miles-per-gallon in my Toyota Prius.
  • Enjoying delicious yet frugal pizza slices as a reward for packing our own food. (Note the ice water.)
  • Wishing Ashland was a cheaper town to book a motel room. ($191 for the two nights, even with Priceline!)
  • Happy that our motel has a continental breakfast, although I think it’s a super minimal one.
  • Happy that our motel is close enough to campus to walk everywhere.
  • Thinking about the hawk my son and I spied that was flying above the freeway and carrying a huge rat.
  • Relaxing in our motel room and thinking I’d better look over where it is we need to be tomorrow morning.

Now your turn what did you do today?

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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