nivo total station teodolit hiperaktivite The Non-Consumer Advocate Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without. Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without. Page 3

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

There is one category of budgeting that can make a huge difference in your spending, and that (no surprise here) is food.

Of course, food is not simply an expenditure. Food physically fuels us and is also one of life’s greatest pleasures. From preparation to consumption to clean up, food defines our days and nourishes our souls.

But that doesn’t mean we should just eat whatever we want whenever we want. Not only would that method clog our arteries, but it would also drain our bank accounts. But does a commitment to cheap eating relegate us to nothing but bland lentils and oatmeal? (Not to malign lentils, as one of my favorite dishes is red lentil soup!)

So is there a sweet spot of spending less on money on food without sacrificing the joys of food? I say yes, and here’s how.

How to eat cheaply:

  • Cook at home. I cannot emphasize this enough, as a single meal in an expensive restaurant can pay for entire week of groceries.
  • If you are eating out, save it for a special occasion. Also, drink the water and forgo the appetizers and dessert. Restaurant servings are usually plenty big enough.
  • Save eating out for food you don’t know how to prepare at home. So forget eating hamburgers at Applebee’s, and instead head for ethnic restaurants like Indian, Thai and Japanese.
  • Eat seasonally. This means strawberries in summer, asparagus in spring and pears in the autumn. Not only will you take advantage of sales, but the produce is most likely fresher.
  • Keep a few frozen meals stashed aside for those inevitable crazy evenings. This will save you from pizza delivery and MSG-laden takeout Chinese.
  • Buy your spices in bulk. And if it’s something you use irregularly, just buy a small amount.
  • Buy in bulk, but only if it’s food you eat regularly and can use up before it goes bad. A 50 pound bag of oatmeal is only a bargain if you eat it up before the moths do.
  • Teach yourself to cook. The internet has made it possible for anyone, anywhere to research recipes without the necessity of a cookbook library. Want to make chicken enchiladas for dinner? Great, just look it up on Allrecipes.com or a similar site.
  • Allow that not every meal has to be a Julia Child masterpiece. Nothing wrong with omelets for dinner, a homemade salad and store brand ice cream for dessert.
  • Don’t pay other people to chop your lettuce, peel your carrots and mix your salad dressing. These convenience foods cost more, add chemicals and age your food. It only takes a few minutes to wash and chop a head of lettuce, and your product is superior in the end.
  • Don’t overbuy to the point where you end up wasting food. Be realistic about how your family eats and shop accordingly . Yes, spinach is good for you, but if it always ends up as slime, switch over to what your family actually eats.
  • Grow your own food. If you have soil and sun, you can grow some of your own food. Even if it’s just a tomato plant in a 5-gallon bucket, you can still play farmer.
  • Store your leftovers in clear containers. This one is huge for me. If I can’t see it, I forget it’s there. Invest in a set of Pyrex lidded containers and actually see the treasures that lie within your refrigerator.
  • Pack your own school and work lunches. Not only will you save money, but it’s a perfect way to use up small amounts of leftovers and your lunch hour will no longer be spent buying food. (More time for reading blogs!)
  • Talk to your friends and families about their go-to frugal recipes. Everyone has their own favorite cheap meals, and is usually happy to share.
  • Replace expensive ingredients with cheaper options.
  • Tuck leftover bits of perishables into soups, pasta salad, fritattas and salad.
  • Eat less. Easier said than done, but always a admirable goal.
  • Either work with a meal plan or practice the pantry principle. Either way, you’re able to pull dinner together without drawing a blank at 5 P.M.
  • Keep inexpensive snacks on hand both for both kids and adults.

I’m sure there are methods for cheap eating that didn’t make it into the list, so it’s now your turn. What do you do to keep control of the food budget? Please share your ideas (or even a recipe!) in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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It’s time for another one of my Non-Consumer Photo Essays, where you get a glimpse into the death defying exciting acceptable visuals from my world.

Remember my $6.99 5-pound bag of bleu cheese crumbles from The Grocery Outlet? Well I finally divvied it into canning jars for the freezer. I can now pull out normal size amounts to put on salads for the foreseeable future. And that green topped jar? The lid is from a container of parmesan cheese and fits perfectly on standard size canning jars.

Bleu cheese

I recently came across, (but didn’t buy) this vintage Chuck and Di tea tin. The pained expressions on their faces are so supremely uncomfortable. Such a difference from the happy and confident Kate Middleton.

Chuck and Di

My sons are both very talented artists, but it’s my older son’s art that cracks me up. This card is what he came up with when I told him that his grandmother was coming over and he needed to make her a Mother’s Day card.

Aww . . . such a loving sewer rat mama.

Happy Mother's day!

My parents has always snapped up vintage samplers and embroidery pieces. This one has been hanging in my family home since I don’t know when. I love the sentiment to “Cook Without a Book.”

Cook without a book

Remember the kiwi vines I planted back in April? (As in stuck some sticks into a flower pot?)

Kiwi vines

Three out of four of them survived, and are growing like crazy now. I don’t think I’ll be eating much fruit this year, but I am looking forward to lots of delicious and healthy kiwis starting next year!

Kiwi

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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This giveaway has ended. Congratulations to Karyn and Gwen whose comments were randomly chosen as winners. Thank you to everyone who took the time to comment in the blog.

I’m not a traditional food shopper, as I shop all around town to meet my family’s food and household needs. Costco for olive oil, yeast and yogurt; Trader Joe’s for Dishwasher detergent and toilet paper, Fred Meyer and Safeway for loss leader sales and  The Grocery Outlet Bargain Market for gourmet goodies and whatever amazing bargains I happen to come across that day.

See? Here I am at the gourmet cheese station, my go-to spot for whenever I have guests over for sophisticated drinks and nibbles. Or vacations. Or when I’m craving fancy cheese. Or Sunday through Saturday.

High end deliciousness without high end prices.

Katy & Cheese

This giveaway was prompted by an earlier purchase of an entire shelf of Columbus brand smoked pastrami. I recognized this brand, as it’s sold at both Trader Joe’s and New Season, (our locally owned Whole Foods-y chain.) My husband brings deli meat sandwiches to work, and it gets pricey. He doesn’t want to eat nasty processed meat, so I knew this was a must-buy situation.

I first bought a couple of packs to try them out, and then returned to the store and cleared the entire freaking shelf! Twice in the past I’ve picked up amazing deals at The Grocery Outlet and returned for more only to find that it was all gone (Bonne Maman jam and Pomi tomatoes.) So yes, I snapped them all up!

I recommend that if you find an amazing bargain on something, that you stock up right then and there.

I Tweeted about my amazing deal, and The Grocery Outlet reached out to me about doing a blog giveaway.

Ummm . . . heck, yes! And when I floated the idea to the Facebook group, the response was a resounding “Yes, I love The Grocery Outlet!”

For those who may not be familiar with The Grocery Outlet, they are individually owned franchises that stock their shelves with extra food, beer and wine, plants and dry goods, selling the extra merchandise that traditional stores were not able to buy. They do not stock expired food, and as a result of their non-traditional business model they’re able to price their items for much, much less than other stores. They also put out circulars that feature specific deals.

Pastrami

I was given a $50 gift card to spend for review, and I got to work straightaway. Camera in hand, I creeped around the store documenting some of great deals that caught my eye like these pretty bottles of dried parsley. It’s hard to tell in the photo, but these are big bottles! I like the chem-lab style graphics.

parsley

I snapped up a big-ole bundle of asparagus for the low price of $1.79. Not $1.79 per pound, but for the entire bundle! (Needless to say, they were perfection.)

Asparagus

I don’t know what’s going on with lime prices lately, but I knew that that 50¢ apiece was a great deal, so these too went into my cart.

Limes

I ventured into the non-food aisles as well, and had my eye drawn by this inexpensive bar of olive oil soap. Partially because the original price was $9.95, (who spends that?!) and also because it’s “Antioche Zeytinyagi.” My husband and I both went to Antioch College in Ohio, and let me tell ya’, the student population would have benefitted from some extra soap.

Antioch Soap

Unlike other food outlet shops I’ve visited through the years, The Grocery Outlet stocks a ton of organic, vegan and gluten-free items; which are normally a pricey part of a food budget.

Vegan/organic:

Mushroom broth

Gluten-free/organic:

Gluten free organic flour

I ended up having to make two separate shopping trips to spend my entire $50 gift card, but my favorite bargain that came home with me was this $6.99 5-pound bag of bleu cheese crumbles. Considering that bleu cheese normally costs $10 per pound and up, this was a screaming good deal! (We put bleu cheese in our daily dinner salads.) I’ll be freezing the cheese in small portions, and enjoying the year (or so) of crossing this expensive item from my family’s shopping list.

Bleu cheese monster

Luckily, the fine folks at The Grocery Outlet sent me two $50 gift cards to give away to lucky readers.

Gift cards

To enter to win one of the gift cards, simply write your name in the comments section below. One entry per person, please. I will randomly choose two winners, Friday June 6th at 9 P.M. PST.

Good luck, and happy bargain hunting!

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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{ 238 comments }

Five Frugal Things

by Katy on May 29, 2014 · 34 comments


  1. I went to a meeting last night for my son’s upcoming trip to Japan. One of the parents brought a case of tofu from his cousin’s factory, and I accepted two free packs. Tofu isn’t on my regular rotation, so I asked Non-Consumer Advocate Facebook Group members for ideas, and I now have at least a couple dozen ideas to incorporate the tofu into our family’s meals. (I’m already guessing that the tofu brownies idea will garner the most family votes.)
  2. Someone gave me a $10 gift card to Uwajimaya, (a huge Japanese grocery store) a couple of years ago. My mother was recently in the hospital for a scheduled surgery, which was unfortunately very far from the house. Luckily, the store was on the way home, so I stopped in to pick up snacks for my son’s 16th birthday sleepover. I bought ten assorted bags of 99¢ shrimp chips and then gave the card to the woman in line behind me, (as I wanted to make sure the remaining 10¢ would get used.) All the credit got spent, I paid nothing out of pocket, some of the party snacks ended up being free and I didn’t end up having to spend $5 in gas to save $10!
  3. My husband normally has a very hard time sticking with a shopping list when he goes to Costco, and he just returned and happily announced that the only extra thing he’d bought was a container of blueberries. This, dear readers is a huge victory! (BTW, the list included olive oil, chicken, bagels and yogurt.)
  4. My younger son and I had an hour to kill yesterday between school and the aforementioned meeting. At first we were going hit up Starbucks, (so he could redeem his free birthday drink) but it wasn’t showing up on his account. Instead we went to my father house, where we visited with family and I enjoyed a lovely cup of tea.
  5. I didn’t buy a Lear Jet.

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

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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{ 34 comments }


I hate paying money to fix problems. I rarely, if ever throw money at a problem, instead I try to figure out a solution from what I already own or can get for free. (Hello . . . my mother’s basement!)

I have a hedge-row of arborvitae in my backyard that we planted back in the day when our neighbor kept abused pit bulls behind his house. (There are regulations about how high a fence you can build, but zero regulations about how high a hedge can grow. So yes, we planted arborvitae, much closer than was recommended.) These tall thin evergreen tress have shot up to 15-20 feet, but a few of the branches were drooping down from being weighed down with snow. I’ve tied them to the fence with yarn in years past, but that trick only lasted a year or so, so I decided to make use of some zip-ties we already owned.

Zip-ties

Look at the drooped down branches:

Droopy branches

Enter a chain or two made from zip-ties:

Zip chain

And now the hedge is nice and vertical again:

Hedge-after

And the cost of this landscaping project? Zero-point-zero dollars since I already owned the zip-ties. The cheapest and most important component to any project will always be your own ingenuity.

And those pit bulls? Thankfully long gone.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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{ 11 comments }


Although we are two weeks past the completion of Screen Free Week, I am still trying to be mindful about how much time I spend in front of a screen, be it television, computer or my soul time-sucking smart phone. As a blogger and administrator of the blog’s Facebook Group, it’s easy to get sucked in approving new members, addressing needless controversy or scrolling through my Facebook feed in a way that can easily eat up a couple of hours per day.

It’s not how I want to spend my time on planet earth.

It would be hard to not notice the cultural shift towards staring down at our mobile devices instead of being present in our surroundings. The scenery, the people in front of us and the experiences that are happening right in front of our eyes is better (and more personally relevant) than anything onYoutube. And before you start blaming the millennials, this is an issue for every generation. There’s always interesting stuff to click on, but there’s no reason why we need to see every clever video, funny photo or inspiring Pinterest-baiting e-card.

I’m not proposing a world where we don’t take advantage of all the great TV programming on TV (Mad Men, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Call The Midwife, Star Trek, Star Trek, Star Trek!) or the incredible resources that the internet affords; but I am suggesting that we do so with a mindfulness of purpose.

I recently came across this online photo:

No we don't have wi-fi

Yes, I see the irony of coming across it online, but it’s a good reminder that we do not need to live a plugged-in life. And yes, I also see the irony of a blogger who advocates for people to turn off their devices in order to experience their own lives.

So next time you find yourself mindlessly scrolling through the internet while at the dinner table, or channel surfing instead of arranging a face-to-face get together, try instead to be present in the moment and an observer of real life with real interactions.

It’s the next big thing.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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{ 10 comments }


One thing I like about going to Goodwill is that you just never know what or who you’re going to run into.

For example, you might come across our Commander in Chief catching a wave:

Obama

Or Señor y Señora Maraca. ¡Hola! (Cómo se dice “googly eyes” en Español?)

Senor y Senora

But sometimes you simply come across the “World’s Greatest Mom.”

World's greatest mom

 

Of course, there are exceptions to the suburban PTA meeting types. For example, a certain Mr. Trapper Jim:

Trapper Jim

Need more detail? Here ya’ go!

Trapper Jim detail

Of course, not everyone at Goodwill fits the creepy survivalist mold. Mr Dumpty is anything but frightening. Well, except for his tendency towards self-harm.

Humpty Dumpty

There are so many famous people, you might want to bring your autograph book! Did you know Rosie O’Donnell was a “Friend of Barbie?” Must be some kind of euphemism I’ve never heard of.

Rosie O'Donnell

At this point you may be worried that all bearded men are to be feared, but such is not the case. Just check out this friendly fellow.

Hello, sir. Would you happen to have any Grey Poupon a match I could borrow?

Bubba

And you all know that wherever Barack Obama is, Bill Clinton is sure to follow.

Bill Clinton

Wow, you just met up with a lot of people at Goodwill. You’ll definitely need a nap about now. Here’s a pretty image to send  you off to dreamland.

Just try not to think about the brown stuff splattered all over the front of the photo.

Trapper Jim detail

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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The “Ewww” Factor

by Katy on May 22, 2014 · 62 comments


An interesting post came up the other day over at The Non-Consumer Advocate Facebook Group about buying used sheets.

Here’s what Susan wrote:

“I just purchased (at a great price) 3 sets of sheets at a thrift store which will become the sheets we take to our rented beach house each year. My husband will balk at used sheets. You guys buy used linens, right? I’m not crazy, correct? They are all in great shape. Just not our normal style, but it’s week a year. Who cares? Also my thriftiness is how we afford the beach house. Sorry. Venting. Used sheets are a yes, yes??”

The member response (84 of them so far) was 100% in favor of used sheets being just dandy, with many pointing out that hotels and hospitals use their sheets over and over again.

I’m personally totally fine with used sheets, with my very favorite fitted sheet being a Ralph Lauren burgundy/brown cotton sheet I picked up at a Seattle Goodwill a few years ago. I pretty much wash it and then put it right back onto the bed the same day. It’s so soft and smooth!

But it got me thinking about how everyone has a completely different line in the sand for what’s too gross to be buying (or garbage picking) used for their home. For example, I’m totally fine with picking up dropped elastic hair bands for my personal use. I simply wash and completely dry them first. And since my older son has lately been sporting a ponytail, I actually picked up a few extra while walking around the soccer track last night. I do buy new underwear and bras, but that’s pretty much it. And if I were to find a used bra in my, ahem . . . voluptuous size I’d actually have no problem buying it. I buy used shoes, (although only ones that look brand new) as do my teenage sons.

But everyone’s used-stuff comfort level is different.

What do you consider too disgusting to be buying used? And has your experience with non-consumerism challenged your previous level of used-stuff comfort?

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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{ 62 comments }


Katy-Wolk-Stanley-300x272

I started writing the blog on May 20th, 2008 with a post titled Welcome to The Non-Consumer Advocate. Explaining that:

“Anyone knows how to live well in good times – lots of delicious dinners out, sumptuous presents for all, great clothes and furnishings. The art is to know how to live well whether your income is up or down. And live well we do. A nice big house in Portland, Oregon, classic comfy antique furniture, cool kids, really – the ‘American Dream.’ “

Over the past five years my writing has hopefully gotten a lot better. (Malcolm Galdwell writes that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert in your field, and I feel like I’ve spent close to that on blogging!)

I’ve written 1845 blog posts, received 44,272 reader comments, given countless interviews and turned down a bijillion scammy advertising and sponsored post offers.

A few of my favorite posts, in no particular order (and likely leaving out the obvious) have been:

But my favorite part of blogging has been the interaction with you guys, the readers. I’ve found amazing inspiration and ingenious ideas from all of you, and have surprised myself with what a true community The Non-Consumer Advocate has become. (The Facebook group for the blog has over 5,000 extremely active members!)

I’ve made wonderful friends through the blog and although my life would be simpler and easier without the almost daily writing task, I don’t see myself stepping down anytime soon.

Thank you, thank you, thank you for being part of my world, dear readers! You make me laugh, give me ideas and inspiration and keep me in check.

Stay frugal, my friends.

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

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My younger son turned sixteen today, but since his birthday fell on a Monday, we celebrated yesterday. A few years ago, I started a new family tradition where the four of us spend the day together going from one activity to another. I call it a “Birthday Day of Adventures,” and it involves planning out a day where we participate in the activities that the birthday person likes to do, and eating the food they like to eat. I have the activities be out of our normal routine, as well as a complete surprise and is thus very exciting.

I also try to have the day not break the bank. Activities we’ve done over the past few years include:

  • Roller skating, (I had a coupon.)
  • Laser tag, (I brought the kids’ report cards, as each “A” earns a free session.)
  • Underground day-glo pirate theme mini-golf, (I had a coupon.)
  • Japanese super huge grocery store.
  • Conveyer belt sushi.
  • Movies, (I had coupons for a free movie.)

My initial plan for yesterday was to go to the Oregon coast for the day, but a certain someone forgot it was supposed to be a surprise and was talking freely about it in front of the kids. So I completely switched everything up on Saturday night.

Here’s what we did for celebrate my son’s 16th birthday:

My son loves falafel, so I searched through Yelp to find the city’s best falafel, which turned out to be the Wolf and Bear’s food cart not too far from the house. Yes, the falafel were $9.25 apiece, but they were truly tasty. This was a bit of a splurge.

Here’s my son patiently waiting for his lunch.

Waiting for food

We then drove over to a Regal Cinema to watch the new Spiderman movie. Why Regal? Because the Oregon Nurses Association sent me two free tickets for Nurses’ Week. And since we chose a 12:35 P.M. matinee, the cost for the four of us was only $16. We got there a bit too early, but the guys kept themselves entertained on their phones.

Waiting for Spiderman

Our next stop was to the Ground Kontrol “classic arcade” in Old Town, which ate up $25 of our quarters in short order. (I played two games of Pac-Man, although I did find three quarters on the ground, so I came out ahead. ;-) My 18-year-old son mostly played pinball, while my younger son spent his time on the actual video games:

Pac-Man!

My two sons are as different from one another as is humanly possible.

Star Trek pinball

The last two stops were sadly undocumented, but included:

At stop at Starbucks, where my husband used his free birthday drink to buy an enormous caramel Frappucino, which they nicely split into two cups.

A take-out dinner from KFC, which included a bucket of chicken, two sides, biscuits and a cake for $22.99! My son has eaten KFC once (once!) in his life during a car trip, and has been talking about it ever since. I knew that this indulgence would be an enormous hit, and it was. (Poor guy. It’s hard to have a mom who doesn’t buy fast food.)

Although my husband did buy a our son a Liverpool soccer jersey, the main birthday gift was the Day of Adventures. This kid doesn’t need anything, and the memory of any stuff would soon fade away. (Quick, name what you received for Christmas in 2013!)

Research shows that experiences make us happier than stuff, and by including others in the fun of our birthdays, we spread the happiness to all of us.

It’s just so much fun!

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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{ 18 comments }

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