Five Frugal Things

by Katy on September 18, 2023 · 65 comments

  1. We’ve passed the September halfway point to Recalibrate Our Food Spending, which means it’s time to share my numbers. (Mind you, I didn’t set a specific numerical goal as I didn’t want to set myself up for failure.) I’m shopping pretty normally, which means stocking up on sale items, shopping for the pantry instead of specific meals, hitting different stores for different items and making sure I have a general plan for meals so we don’t succumb to impulsivity.

    It would be easy to cook increasingly odd meals from my pantry, but I’m not interested in a stunt. I know I could succeed at one of those “$100 grocery challenges,” but it would be cruel to not take my husband’s quality of life into consideration.

    We spent $165.87 by September 15th, which didn’t include cleaning supplies, toilet paper, shampoo or other random grocery store items. Here are a few highlights:

    • I made jam from the 6 pounds of strawberries that bought for 50¢/pound, which meant I used up all our granulated sugar. I’ve been putting powdered sugar in my tea, which isn’t that noticeably different. (I’ve held off on replacing the sugar until I could get back to Winco which is the cheapest option for staples.) I gave away a couple jars to neighbors and friends.
    • My husband and I dined at IKEA for lunch, which meant a $1.15 veggie hotdog for me, a $8.49 plate of meatballs/mashed potatoes with gravy/peas and free coffees for the two of us.
    • One trip to Winco when I did buy a grocery cart of staples such as fruit and veggies, grains, chicken, dairy, tortillas, canned goods, spices and treats.
    • A couple forays into Trader Joe’s for their 19¢ bananas.
    • My father gifted me a loaf of his sourdough bread.
    • I had my daughter pick up four jars of assorted jams from her schwanky grocery store, as her 30% employee discount on top of the 50%-off sale made for a mighty fine deal! This may seem odd since I’m flush with homemade blackberry and strawberry jam, but I can now add lemon curd, blood orange marmalade, blueberry jam and mango preserves to my arsenal.
    • I swung by Safeway since their 18-packs of eggs were priced at $1.47 apiece.

    This may sound insane to shop at so many different stores, but I’m lucky enough to live in a “grocery oasis” with multiple stores within a mile or so from the house. The inflationary prices on standard grocery store goods are insane right now, so it’s very satisfying (and necessary) to work my magic.

  2. I’m making a concerted effort to up my reading game. I love reading, but fall too easily into screen time hypnotism. (Those Instagram reels are physically addictive!) So I’ve invented a “chain reading” rule for myself.

    Think of “chain reading” like chain smoking, but instead of using the end of one cigarette to light another, you read just the tiniest bit of a new book as soon as you finish the last. Maybe just part of the first chapter or the prologue. Enough to pique your interest in the next book to avoid losing momentum.

    Here are the library books that I chain read this week:

    Pineapple Street, by Jenny Jackson.
    Sisterland, by Curtis Sittenfeld.

  3. My son finally brought his kitten home from her foster family, so we’re temporarily a two cat family. (He’s moving into a new apartment in January and will take the kitten with him at that point.) We turned his old bedroom into a kitten friendly space and are keeping the two cats apart while they get used to each other. She’s a tortoiseshell kitty and almost impossible to photograph as she’s either asleep in a dark spot or in constant motion.

    The expenses are all his.

  4. • I brought home a free homegrown tomato from someone’s free box.
    • Both the books I read were from the library.
    • I took my next door neighbor out to lunch to thank her for watching over our cat while we were in New York for two weeks. She would never accept payment, but was happy to accept a meal.
    • I brought home the leftovers from my $15 lunch, (I’m not including her lunch as part of our monthly food spending) and added extra rice noodles which expanded it into two more meals.
    • The mylar helium balloons appear to have driven away the pigeons and my neighbors are having the same success since adding balloons to their own house.
    • I’m bringing packages off a different neighbor’s porch while they’re out of town.
    • I made a couple small sales on eBay and Facebook Marketplace. A ladybug costume through Facebook; plus my son’s old toy and some University of Oregon football stickers through eBay. I haven’t been thrifting or listing lately, which is reflected in my sales.

  5. I didn’t buy a Lear Jet, even though they were on sale.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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Five Tiny Frugal Things

by Katy on September 14, 2023 · 43 comments

  1. My husband and I paired gassing up at Costco, (the least expensive choice) with treating ourselves to a meal at IKEA. Me being me, (the cheapest lady in Cheaptown) I chose a $1.15 veggie hotdog and my husband ordered a plate of their $8.49 meatballs. We also enjoyed a cup of their free coffee and called it good. There isn’t an option to tip, which keeps the bill under control.

  2. Our bread stores had gotten low, so I stopped by the Franz Bakery Outlet store and picked out $10 of bread items. Why ten dollars? Because you get to choose an extra free item when you hit that amount, plus you get your card punched towards future free bread.

    I bought:
    • A 10-pack of English muffins.
    • A dozen brioche hamburger buns.
    • A loaf of thick cut bread for French toast.
    • A loaf of Seattle sourdough round sandwich bread.
    • Two sleeves of bagels.
    • A loaf of Seattle garlic French bread.
    • A package of peanut butter chocolate chunk cookies.

    We have a basement freezer, so these bread items will last us for a couple of months.

  3. My son’s been complaining about his 2018 iPhone’s battery and overall slowness lately. I told him he could either buy himself a new/used phone or I would pay to get the battery replaced. He chose to at least try getting the battery replaced.

    The locally owned shop replaced the battery, threw in a free screen protector and then suggested a couple of ideas (update the settings, etc.) to deal with the phone’s sluggishness. Total cost was $45.

    The constant replacing of perfectly good electronics, specifically cell phones is an environmental travesty and I’m happy to shell out a few bucks to keep my family’s phones in operation.

  4. I took the cheap frozen chopped strawberries from last week and cooked up a batch of jam. The strawberries were just 50¢/pound, the clearance priced pectin was 25¢, the lemon juice was maybe another 25¢ and the sugar was . . . however much sugar costs at Winco. I chose to not bother with a water bath and official canning jars as I had room in the refrigerator to store the jam and would likely be gifting a couple of the jars anyway.

    Easy, cheap, yum!

  5. • My friend Lise and I went to our neighborhood movie theater to see the Barbie movie. We paid full price, but stayed away from concessions and walked from home. We live in an extremely walkable neighborhood, which saves us both countless hours of driving.
    • My husband and son went to The Pixies at an outdoor concert space and borrowed a pair of low folding chairs from our next door neighbors. They placed them on beach towels to keep them clean and then returned them the next day along with a jar of jam.
    • My neighbors down the block put three Bonne Maman jars in their recyling bin, which I brought home, washed and then filled with fresh jam.

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 September 11, 2023 · 77 comments

  1. I calculated our food spending for the month of September and we’re up to $135.82 so far. I don’t have an official number that I’m trying to stay under, but secretly I’m trying to spend less than $400. Super secretly I’d like to have it be much less, but we’ll see how the month goes.

    Although on paper our household is just me and my husband, our son does stop by for dinner most nights. I know he’ll get further into his adult life and we’ll have to schedule these meals, so they’re special for now.

  2. My husband had fallen into the habit of drinking flavored canned seltzers. He started with La Croix, which morphed into the gateway drug that is Spindrift sparkling water. These pseudo-sodas are expensive, especially when you start taking them for granted and mindlessly down multiples of them per day.

    I’ve put a stop to this canned water addiction. So if you run into my husband, please be kind to him as he’s going through the painful process of enjoying tap water all over again. He’s also probably dehydrated.

  3. I looped a smattering of errands to minimize my driving.

    • I returned an remote control that I’d bought for my sister’s air conditioner unit. It turned out to be the wrong model, so I initiated a return on the app and dropped it off at the UPS store for free.
    • I returned an armload of overdue library books and checked out two new ones.
    • I bought two more helium balloons at Dollar Tree to deepen my anti-pigeon campaign.
    • I walked the couple blocks from Dollar Tree to Trader Joe’s to buy two bunches of 19¢ bananas and nothing else. Of course I nabbed a Mandarin Orange Chicken sample.

  4. • I scrubbed out my daughter’s Mr. Coffee coffee maker left behind by her old roommate. It was revoltingly filthy and I actually considered binning it at a couple points. Instead, I ran it with vinegar a couple times over, twice with soapy water and then probably a dozen times over with plain water.
    • My neighbor across the street gave us two pieces of her homemade lemon blueberry cheesecake.
    • I stopped at Safeway for milk and eggs and glanced over at the yogurt aisle and noticed that some of the 37¢ ones were an additional 50% off! I bought six and then checked my Ibotta app (referral link) and uploaded my receipt to get an additional 50¢ rebate. The math worked out to be 9.6¢ per yogurt.

  5. I didn’t buy a sparkling Lear Jet.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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Five Tiny Frugal Things

by Katy on September 7, 2023 · 55 comments

  1. I made a point of scoping out Fred Meyer’s clearance shelf and lucked out on three two-pound bins of strawberries for a buck apiece. A few were too far gone to salvage, but the rest just super ripe but otherwise fine. I didn’t have the bandwidth to make jam, so I sliced and froze them on cookie sheets for now.

  2. My slumlord neighbor actively ignores the pigeons that gleefully reproduce in his broken down eaves, so now we have a pigeon that sits and poops off the tallest corbel in front of our house. (I know his tenants and other neighbors have complained, so he’s fully aware of the issue.) We’ve lived in this house since 1996 and never had issues until now. It’s gotten to the point where I’ve added “clean off pigeon feces” to my daily to-do list.

    The problem is that that top corbel is inaccessible without risk of death, so I did a little Googling and came up with the idea to draw scary eyes on a helium balloon from Dollar Tree and just fly it out our bedroom window. I see there are products that serve the same purpose, but I’ll always start with the cheap/simple route. I know it’s not a permanent solution, but it is a $1.50 solution.

    I only set up the deterrent balloon a few hours ago, but so far it seems to be working. The pigeon flew away when I set it up and then acted super freaked out when it tried to return, which I consider to be worth at least a buck-fifty! Hopefully it’ll stay away and my porch steps can return to normal. Sans feces.

    * Update — It’s been 24 hours and the pigeon has yet to return!

  3. My daughter brought me a bouquet of flowers that her schwanky grocery store was throwing away. I snipped off any browning leaves and trimmed the bottoms of the stems and they look fantastic!

  4. • I got another free Doritos Locos Taco from Taco Bell using the app and a “Taco Tuesday” promo code.
    • I made sure to return a couple items to Goodwill before it was too late and/or I lost the receipt.

  5. I didn’t grab the $1 Lear Jet from the clearance shelf.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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A Month to Recalibrate Our Food Spending

by Katy on September 5, 2023 · 28 comments

August was a discombobulated month. Due both to our two week trip to the East coast, but also thanks to that damned Covid! Our trip was both more and less expensive than we’d planned, but mostly it was a bit of a bummer. Yes, it was great to spend extra time visiting with my sister, but I kinda wish we weren’t responsible for her first case of Covid.

We splurged on takeout, groceries and restaurant meals and picked up the tab whenever possible, which had been our plan all along. I don’t need to run the numbers to know that it wasn’t a sustainable amount.

September is a fresh start. I’m still post-Covid, which means I lose steam easily and have to pace myself. However I still have goals and am setting September to be a month to recalibrate our food spending.

My main goal is to mostly cook from scratch and see if I can reign the grocery budget back in. Food prices are all over the place, but I have almost endless tricks up my sleeve. Simple meals, buying in season, using what we already have — you know . . . the basics! Doesn’t mean we’ll be slopping our plates with unseasoned gruel, as cheap food can be amazingly delicious. I made that blackberry Dutch baby pancake using free almost expired milk from my daughter’s schwanky grocery store and a handful of foraged blackberries. Hardly a sacrifice.

I considered setting a monetary goal for the month, but instead I’m going to just track our food spending with an eye to keeping it as low as possible. I’ll keep you posted.

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 September 4, 2023 · 64 comments

  1. I had to take the Prius into Costco tire this week as the passenger side rear tire had a gouge on it and was slowly leaking air. Taking it in was a pain in the tuchus, as my son drives this car to his office outside of Portland but isn’t able to slip away long enough to run errands.

    I was concerned that the car wasn’t safe to drive, so I drove our minivan down to his office and swapped out the cars and still made it to Costco by my 10 A.M. appointment. (He’s nervous about driving an unfamiliar car on the freeway, so I offered up this solution.) I came prepared with a library book and a plan to park myself on whatever couch was up for sale that day. It ended up taking at least an hour and although I did get up to stretch my legs at one point, I didn’t succumb to any impulse purchases, unless you count cat litter as impulsive. I ate two samples.

    The transaction took a weird turn when I received a phone call from the tire center manager scolding me about how I was essentially abusing the “road hazard warranty” and that they weren’t going to be able to continue replacing our tires after this one. However, it felt more bizarro world than upsetting as I’m a competent 55-year-old woman and can’t remember the last time someone scolded me. Not in the workplace, not from a family member and definitely not from a retail interaction.  Maybe . . . high school?

    I left the store wondering if he thought I was deliberately damaging my tires as some kind of warped Munchausen by Proxy syndrome? That I enjoy the attention I get from tire center employees? Whatever it was, I’m glad to be done with it. Weird.

  2. That library book I brought with me to Costco? I finished it by the end of the day, which is very much not usual for me. The book was Romantic Comedy, by Curtis Sittenfeld and don’t let the schmaltzy title fool you, it was whip smart and full of amazing details and perfectly fleshed out characters.

    I don’t want to give too much away, but it follows a woman who’s a TV writer for a fictional SNL-like show who bucks the trend of dorky writers marrying rich and famous women. (Think Colin Jost and Scarlett Johansson.) The author fully did her research on how a weekly late night sketch comedy show is produced, which is almost as good as the plot itself. I’ve probably given away too much, so just suffice it to say that I’m giving it an A+.

  3. I’m still tired from Covid and get wiped out pretty easily, so I’ve been trying to pace myself and keep my days pretty simple. Staying close to home is frugal.

  4. • Our daughter gave us an angel food cake and a loaf of artisan French bread from her schwanky grocery store.
    • My husband was able to fix the Prius when the power steering suddenly went out. Yeah, when it rains it pours . . .
    • My neighbor handed me a can of Dr. Brown’s cream soda when she heard about our Covid-tastic dud of a vacation.
    • I used a coupon for a free pint of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream at Fred Meyer.
    • We continue to enjoy blackberry everything from my foraging last month. As jam, on yogurt and added to pancakes. I might swing by my secret spot one last time and see if they’re still ripe. Free food is my favorite food!

  5. I didn’t scam Costco for a replacement Lear Jet.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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Five Tiny Frugal Things

by Katy on August 30, 2023 · 69 comments

I’m finally testing negative for Covid and am slowing regaining my normal level of energy. Not a lot, but enough to run a couple errands and look at something besides the four walls of my house. It’s not impressive, but it’s certainly frugal.

Here are my “tiny frugal things:”

  1. I got a free Doritos Locos Taco through the Taco Bell app on Tuesday and I even have some leftover hot sauce packets to use at a later date. There’s one last free Taco Tuesday deal next week and the promo code will be 04TACOTUESDAY.

  2. I ate my free taco while sitting in the Goodwill parking lot. I thrifted a new in package 2004 Ozzy Osbourne Halloween costume, (wig and glasses) for $2, as well as a dress and some earrings that I’m actually going to return later in the week. I’ve already listed the costume on eBay for $75, although who knows if it’ll find a buyer at that price. Can’t hurt to try!

  3. I stopped by Trader Joes on my way home from Goodwill and picked up five 19¢ bananas and nothing else. No snacks, no dessert, no frozen meals, no booze. The store was on my route and required no extra driving. A total frugal win!

  4. • I sold a garbage picked box of World of Warcraft trading cards through Facebook Marketplace for $20.
    • I polished the headlight covers on both of our cars with a microfiber cloth and some extraordinarily spicy toothpaste that no one in my family liked. The mildly abrasive quality of toothpaste does an A-Okay job on foggy headlights and the price is right.
    • Someone on our flight back from NYC gave me his public transportation Metro Card as it still had $6+ on it. I’ll mail it to my sister.

  5. I didn’t pick up a 19¢ Lear Jet.

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 28, 2023 · 46 comments

  1. I loosely followed a Instagram recipe for Cherry Tomato Pasta as we were inundated with tomatoes and it was simply one of those “Hey, I have all the ingredients to make that!” situations. I forgot the red pepper flakes, (which was a crime) but I did add in a scoop of homemade pesto which brought the flavor up a notch.

    The meal was especially cheap due to me having one last box of 25¢ clearance price linguine, plus my ever producing $3.99 Trader Joe’s pesto plant that I transplanted into a bigger pot at the beginning of the summer.

  2. I garbage picked a patio chair while visiting friends in Brooklyn and brought it back to my sister’s house in The Bronx. (It helped that we had a rental car!) It cleaned up like new and was the perfect find as my sister’s new house has a big deck but barely any backyard furniture.

    Click HERE to watch the Instagram reel that showed the process.

  3. • Our son went to visit the kitten he’s adopting and the fostering family sent him home with a grocery bag filled with homegrown tomatoes, basil and cucumbers; as well as a dozen eggs from their chickens! He brought everything here as he shares a minuscule kitchen with three roommates.
    • Our daughter gave us a half gallon of milk, a package of cupcakes, a sleeve of bagels and a pound of plant based “buttery sticks” that she got for free from her schwanky grocery store.
    • I whirled up a batch of pesto using a combination of my backyard basil and the gifted basil. Luckily I’d snagged a few bags of “shaved parmesan” cheese at Safeway last month when they was on sale for under a buck apiece. I rarely add nuts when I make pesto as it’s so much cheaper without them.
    • I gave away a coffee pot that had been sitting unused in the basement through my Buy Nothing group.

  4. My husband and I have been using the forced quarantining time to clean and organize the basement. I know we’re supposed to be “taking it easy,” but he’s felt almost completely normal even while testing positive for Covid. My initial goal was to just clear out the “Harry Potter” closet under the basement stairs, but the project kind of exploded from there. This has been my dream project for a vey long time, but I needed my husband to find his own inspiration as the decisions were almost all his.

    We ended up taking a minivan load of miscellaneous stuff to the dump, which made my heart sing as you know that “crap out of the house” is my love language. In case you’re wondering how long it’s been since out basement has received a full clean and organize, we found a diaper pail in the back of Harry’s closet.

    We spent no money on the project other than the $47 dumping fees. My husband did create a couple of wall shelves out of scrap lumber, which serve to hold . . . scrap lumber.

  5. I didn’t garbage pick a Lear Jet.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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Vacation Covid Update

by Katy on August 24, 2023 · 39 comments

My husband and I are finally back at home in Portland. And yes, we’re positive for Covid again after completing our five day cycle of Paxlovid.

We flew home, but only after consulting with the NYC public health doctor who told us it would be safe to fly as long as we wore masks throughout the entire direct flight. We took it seriously and it was a looong day! Somehow the ticketed person who’d booked the third seat in our row didn’t show up, which was an amazing gift from the Alaska Airlines gods. I didn’t want to smoosh up against a stranger and potentially expose them to Covid.

We even spent an hour or two planning an alternate trip home, going so far as switching out our rental car plan to drop it off in Portland instead of JFK airport. But the doctor convinced us that it was fine to fly as we were fully vaccinated, had completed our round of Paxlovid and were 11 days out from our initial Covid tests.

This trip was not what we’d planned for our 30th anniversary, but it also wasn’t as dreadful as it sounds, as it was nice to just chill out with my sister in her new house. She had a couple tasks she’d wanted to my husband to tackle and he ended up doing every damned thing on that list. (And then some!)

Here’s what he did:

• Hung our great-grandmother’s ginormous heavy Venetian antique mirror, which is now part of the house’s structure.
• Replaced all eight of her smoke/carbon monoxide detectors.
• Replaced her dumb thermostat with a smart one, which was greatly discounted through her electric company.
• Pulled out and cleaned all her air conditioner filters, which apparently wasn’t a priority for the previous owners. So much dust and gunk!
• We installed the classic Portland address tiles on her house, which was my hostess gift.
• Replaced her kinked dryer vent and removed the back of the dryer to scrape out all the errant lint.
• Installed some bathroom accessories that she’d already bought and set aside. (Toilet paper holder, towel racks, etc.)
• Took a torn window screen to her local hardware store, where the owner replaced the screen for just ten bucks!
• Took down and cleaned a few ceiling lights, which was easy as we already had the ladder out.

My sister was over the moon grateful.

We did have two days at the beginning of the trip before we tested positive, as well as two days after the Paxlovid when we felt great and were testing negative and we got to cram in hanging out with various NYC friends. Luckily we didn’t get any said friends sick, which I consider a huge win.

We did get my sister sick. Sorry.

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 14, 2023 · 39 comments

My husband and I are still visiting my sister in New York, although we’re quarantining at home instead of engaging in anything that New York has to offer. However, we did have a couple of Covid-free days before our self-imposed lockdown began.

  1. We went to dinner on our actual 30th anniversary, but chose an Italian restaurant that was walking distance from my sister’s house and it was perfect. The portions were comically large and I had enough leftover linguine with clam sauce for another entire meal.

  2. My sister got us into The American Museum of Natural History for free using her employee pass. We then got pizza slices at Famous Original Ray’s Pizza close to the museum and lastly grabbed a couple things from Zabar’s.

    I wore my mask both at the museum and at Zabar’s and we didn’t sit close to anyone at Ray’s. Not because I had any inkling that I was Covid positive, but because it’s what I’ve been doing since the beginning of the pandemic. I’m guessing this practice is why it’s taken me until now to come down with my very first case.

  3. We then drove our rental car out of the museum parking lot, (only $12 for employees!) to Jackson Heights, Queens to meet up with our friend Greta for dinner. She chose the Jackson Diner for an Indian food, which was unsurprisingly the best Indian food I’ve ever had the privilege to eat. Lots of leftovers, which were even better the next day!

    Afterwards we hung out in her backyard courtyard and then up to her apartment for a thorough catch up session before heading back to my sister’s house.

  4. My sister had a backlog of free unopened Covid-19 tests for when my husband said “My throat is kind of sore, maybe I should take Covid test just to be careful” and the 15 seconds later when the brightest bold red line showed up on his test. Ironically, I’m the sickest but my line was faint and took the full fifteen minutes to appear.

  5. I didn’t test positive for a Lear Jet.

I’m still feeling cruddy, with an extreme sore throat and generalized lack of energy and I’m missing my comfort items something special. You know . . . like my own bed, my perfectly positioned bedside table, the coffee table that’s big enough to play solitaire without having to be cleared of all other stuff. Essentially, my home.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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