Five Frugal Things

by Katy on March 11, 2015 · 40 comments

Free rocking chair

  1. I brought home this free curbside rocking chair last week, and plan to use it to ratchet up my upholstering game. Add in a how-to library book and I smell a project!
  2. My son checked out a TI-84 graphing calculator from his high school last year and then promptly misplaced it. (This especially irked me as he already owns this exact calculator which was handed down to him from his uncle.) I called the school to ask if we could replace the calculator with a used but functional one instead of paying the $100 charge. Luckily, they were very open to this option, and actually said they wished more parents would approach it this way. My plan had been to pick one up on Craigslist, but I never got around to it. Instead I sent my son to school with his handed-down calculator and his account is now clear. He’s done with math until the end of high school, so he won’t need another calculator until college, at which point we’ll source a cheap used one.
  3. You all know that I’ve been working to scrounge up large glass jars for my bulk purchased oatmeal. Luckily my friend Lise reads the blog and had two big jars for the taking. The downside was that they were the fancy gasket seal ones, but were completely disassembled and included a crazy number of extra parts. They were mine for the taking, but I had to figure out which parts went with which jars. They sat in a bag for a few days until I finally dumped it all out while watching Face Off with my son last night. (We love reality shows where the contestants have to demonstrate their skill and creativity.) It took awhile, but I was finally able to build two complete jars, which have been scrubbed out and will soon be filled with oatmeal. Side note — anyone interested in financing and helping to produce a reality TV show where I get weird random stuff for free and then fix or repurpose it for practical usage? What, no? Never mind then.
  4. I was driving around yesterday and realized that my gas tank was too low for comfort. I had plans to go to Costco later in the day, but didn’t want to gamble on whether I had enough gas to run a few errands and then actually drive the eleven miles out to Costco. Instead of filling up at the pricier station in my neighborhood, I went ahead and bought $5 of gasoline and then filled the rest of the tank with the cheaper Costco gas. The difference is usually at least 30¢ per gallon, so the 19 gallons I bought at Costco saved me around $5.70. Worth the effort in my book.
  5. While at Costco I was kind of hungry, but I just ate the samples which filled me up enough until I got home. I bought dried tortellini, which became our dinner once mixed with homemade kale pesto. (I crumbled in a couple pieces of Grocery Outlet bacon to amp up the deliciousness.) I also cooked up a batch of dried black beans in the crock pot yesterday, which will become part of our frugal burrito dinner for tonight’s dinner!

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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{ 40 comments… read them below or add one }

Kathy Blume March 11, 2015 at 10:23 am

I have almost that exact same rocking chair! Also got it curbside! Fabric was hideous, but the chair was solid. Now, many staples and much superglue later, it’s gorgeous.


Katy March 11, 2015 at 10:27 am

Cool, we’re chair twins!


Beth Anne March 11, 2015 at 10:28 am

Know what, Katy, if you DID get such a show I would never miss an episode! MUCH better than the Honey BooBoo/Kardashian/Duggars/etc. etc. that does no one any good!


Karen March 11, 2015 at 10:30 am

i love Face off! There are so many creative reality contest shows. Did you see the one with the body painting? OMG. Amazing talent.


Katy March 11, 2015 at 10:42 am

Yes, we DVR it and watch every episode. We only discovered the show last year, but I noticed that full seasons from every year are available on their website.


Karen March 11, 2015 at 10:51 am

I have this season DVRd but haven’t watched yet. I did see all of the other seasons and am awed every time.


kristen March 11, 2015 at 10:32 am

That will be an excellent upholstery project for a beginner. Got to Miss Mustard Seed blog for video tutorials on upholstery. The worst part is taking the old stuff off.


Katy March 11, 2015 at 10:42 am

Thanks for the tip! I would think that taking the stuff off would be the most enjoyable and satisfying job. But maybe that’s just me. 😀


Kelly in MA March 12, 2015 at 12:26 pm

Just make sure you wear a good dust mask. Last chair I recovered was sitting in my grandparents basement for a few years (like my whole life!) When I pulled off the old fabric there was a ton of dust, there was also a bit of mold and a few bug bodies. I was super happy I remembered to put on my mask!


Kc March 11, 2015 at 10:50 am

My husband has been using my ti-83 calculator I bought in high school more than 20 years ago while at the community college. He is going to the university next term. I am sorry you had to pay University health insurance for your son, Katy. Your recent post on this reminded me to fill out the waiver so we don’t have to pay it.


Katy March 11, 2015 at 11:01 am

I sacrificed for you. 😉


Betty Winslow March 11, 2015 at 11:06 am

I usually dislike reality shows (more show than reality, and featuring people I wouldn’t hang out with in real life) but I’d totally watch yours and never miss an episode!!

My five this week so far:
1. Found a big stack of plastic replacement VHS boxes in one of the cabinets at work when I was spring cleaning, and instead of tossing, I’m taking them home to use as jewelry project boxes, one labeled project per box, with a masterlist of what’s where. No more looking for something I know I bought, but can’t find becausee it’s not where it’s supposed to be!
2. Lunch both days – leftovers.
3. Dinner tomorrow – leftovers.
4. Reselling the Keurig/stand I bought a few weeks ago, after deciding it takes up too much of my sparce counter space (and I’m dubious about the fact you can never drain and dry out the inside once you start using it). And I’ll make $10 more than I paid, too!
5. Need some time with my little adopted granddaughter and her mom, so am meeting them at the school carnival Friday. Tickets are 25 cents, food court is cheap, Vera will have a blast, and I will get brownie points for attending a school event that I’m not required to be at!


Katy March 11, 2015 at 11:11 am

Normally I hate reality TV, but I like Project Runway, Face Off and So You Think You Can Dance. All very talented contestants who have worked for years on their craft, and they don’t play up false drama.


Kelly in MA March 12, 2015 at 12:28 pm

My requirements are the same for those shows. I want to see some hard honest work for a prize. Not back stabbing, double crossing stuff.


JD March 11, 2015 at 1:09 pm

Maybe your upholstery project will get me going on my chair project, only mine is a rocker missing the cane back and seat sections. Only thing is — I hate cane! It always breaks after a while. I’ve wondered about filling the sections with wood and somehow upholstering them….Keep us posted on your progress.
1. I’m looking today for a cheap pattern for a baby’s simple sundress. I’ve got some leftover fabric that would make a fun dress for a tiny girl. I have the thread to match it, too.
2. I am on such a roll with not wasting food! I looked last night and realized I have some stuff that has to get used, so I will use it tonight. I detest throwing out food. The more I have success with no food waste, the more it inspires me not to fail.
3. On that note, I shredded cabbage last night on my $1.00 yard sale shredder and started a big jar of sauerkraut. I hadn’t used it in cooking, so I took care of it before it had a chance to go bad.
4. I am still cutting back on my portions. It amazes me how much I eat although I don’t need that much. It also makes my pants get snug, and I have to buy so much more food.


Kelly in MA March 12, 2015 at 12:31 pm

Google Pillow case dresses. Super simple and a great way to show off some fabric you love!


Jill March 11, 2015 at 1:16 pm

If the rain will stop this weekend, our plan is to disassemble the garden bench that we rescued from the curb several years ago. We brought it home with the intention of fixing it up but never got around to it. Last year, I finally bought wood to completely replace the seat and back. This weekend, we will take the bench apart and cut pieces for the replacement seat and back. Then, all I will need to do is clean up the metal frame, spray paint frame and wood, replace the hardware, and reassemble. Hoping to have it done by summer. It’s one of those old-fashioned glider benches.

This is the only thing that we have ever rescued from the curb, as no one really throws out stuff in our neighborhood. They all have pick-ups and cart stuff away to the dump, I guess(?). Just this morning, I saw a loaded pickup with a chair that I total dug heading for somewhere – the way it was packed, I am guessing not somewhere good.


Kelly in MA March 12, 2015 at 12:33 pm

I’m a waver. Like I would have waved that guy down and asked if the chair was headed for somewhere I could rescue it from.

The dump in my parents old town has a small building called the Shack. People can drop off things they don’t want but still have good use left. Great finds inside!


Nathalie March 11, 2015 at 1:20 pm

I love the Amazing Race. That’s pretty much the only reality show I watch nowadays (although I have yet to get started on the new season). Face/Off for me conjures up the movie with Travolta and Nicolas Cage (I think it was Nicolas Cage?).

1) My husband had to go help his parents who live out of state, this past weekend. They are selling their RV so he is emptying it out and brought home a bunch of stuff that they didn’t want back. We inherited a small flat screen TV, a really nice chair with ottoman, a lamp, some foodstuff, kitchen dishes and silverware (we don’t need those but they’re nice so we’re keeping them, might pass them on to the kids later on), some books, 8 rolls of paper towels (that will last us probably a year since we rarely use those anymore), a toaster, and a cardboard cat scratcher that my cats have been lounging on non-stop ever since.

2) I went grocery shopping today and only spent about $31 after all rebates. Woohoo!

3) Today I found a dime on the floor at Dollar General 🙂

4) The CVS cashier last week messed up and ended up charging me $1 extra instead of deducting a $1 coupon and I didn’t realize it until I was home. Today I brought my receipt and explained to another cashier what had happened. I had to explain that they owed me TWO dollars (plus $0.14 in tax that somehow ended up being charged as well) and she and the manager agreed to refund me the $2 but weren’t going to give me the $0.14 in tax, claiming that I must have bought something that was taxable. I hadn’t but I wasn’t going to argue because she’s very nice and my favorite cashier. But when she went to check on something else for me and the manager came out to watch the register, I did mention that I didn’t understand why they wouldn’t refund me the $0.14 and pointed out that everything that I had bought was in fact non-taxable. He was super nice and most likely wanted to send me on my way so he got a quarter out of the register and told me that I was right, that every penny counted and to just take the quarter. I hadn’t been obnoxious about it, just a little persistent and we had a good laugh about it, actually. So I’m going to contact Corporate and compliment him and the cashier because they provided me with excellent customer service 🙂

5) I have a love/hate relationship with Kohl’s because their little promotional “gifts” and Kohl’s Cash always end up costing me money that I wasn’t planning on spending. I had yet another $5 promotional “gift” to use up and I had promised myself that I wasn’t going to set foot in the store unless I actually NEEDED something. I checked with my daughter to see if she might need some socks and lo and behold, for once, she did! So I stopped by Kohl’s while I was running errands today, found a pack of 6 pairs of socks in the colors that she likes on clearance for $7.20. After my $5 promotional gift and my 30% discount, I paid $1.67 for the 6 pairs… and asked her father to refund me half of it since we don’t do the child support thing. So in the end, 6 pairs of socks will have cost me $0.85.


Kate March 11, 2015 at 1:31 pm

My husband is a math professor and finds graphing calculators that are never claimed every year. He saves them to lend out during tests when students invariably forget theirs. Other schools might have different policies and might resell them. It might be worth a few calls to the math departments at nearby universities. It can’t hurt to ask!


Becky March 11, 2015 at 1:36 pm

Ha! I just had to post – dh and I watch one show on television right now. Face Off. It’s awesome! We’re so happy to see a MN gal on there, too!


Groovecatmom March 11, 2015 at 1:57 pm

We are going to repair our 17 year old washing machine ourselves, thanks to youtube and amazon. It needs new agitator feed dogs.

Also I got one of those announcements for a “free” gift with purchase from the department store cosmetics counter…I looked at it for several days, then I finally remembered that the last time I got one of these deals, I didn’t really like the free stuff, and didn’t need anything anyway. This is a big win because I am usually so tempted!

Eating leftovers for lunch every day.

I also am sorry about the student health insurance thing–and am hoping I remember to check on that when our boy goes to college in 3 years. Love the rocking chair! It would look fabulous painted white. I agree, that’s a great beginning project. Looking forward to hearing how it goes!


Betsey March 11, 2015 at 2:02 pm

One horrible waste of money: I bought curtains on sale that I knew I would hate. Today I went shopping and found perfect ones that I love. I wasted over $200. Even the best of us frugalistas can blow it once in awhile. To be sure I will sell the old ones at a rummage, but I would rather recoup some $$ than none.
On a lighter note, I found chicken on sale for $1.39 and loaded up.
I get to receive $300 a month more in my check since I found out that my state does not charge taxes on social security nor state funded pensions. Hurray!!
My old state did and I paid through the wallet.


Sharon H. March 11, 2015 at 2:12 pm

I’m experimenting with a recipe for a flourless chocolate cake made with garbanzo beans instead of . . . whatever it might be that isn’t flour. Wheat doesn’t like me, so this is a good potential option.

I bought the beans in a bag (our grocery doesn’t have bulk, sad to report), and soaked them overnight before pressure cooking them. Better nutrition for very little hands-on work time.

Finished removing stuff from my MIL’s apartment, and dropped off the office supplies to an after-school program for needy kids.

Took my watch to get the battery replaced at a local jeweler. I also took him three button batteries that I somehow came home with, but have no need for. He very kindly replaced my battery free of charge in exchange.


cathy March 12, 2015 at 8:20 am

Sharon, if you like the garbanzo-based cake, it’ll be a win for you. I’ve read quite a few comments, though, that people don’t like the flavor of beans or bean flours in sweet baked goods. But there are a lot of gluten-free flour blends out there that you can substitute 1-for-1 for wheat flour. We make our own blend because we have a kid who’s allergic to wheat. I’ve been baking this way for years now and, for the most part, you can’t tell the difference between the things baked w/ wheat flour and those that aren’t. To substitute for the stickiness of the gluten in wheat flour, try adding 1 Tablespoon potato flour (not potato starch) for every 2 cups of gluten-free flour. We think this is a healthier alternative to xanthan gum.


Diane March 11, 2015 at 3:01 pm

You know I am a bedbug freak. Keep it outside and after you take off the fabric and padding spray the wood inside all the crevices with alcohol. Never can be too careful!


Sharon March 11, 2015 at 4:16 pm

A friend just gave me a whole chicken and a crockpot pork roast that didn’t fit in her freezer… So, they are now crammed into mine! I will cook the roast on Saturday and the chicken by Tuesday. My freezer and tummy will be happy! The leftovers will be repurposed to a stir fry and soup.

My friend also gave me oats, yogurts, and rice. Time to break out the cookbooks for some new, fun recipes!

I would LOVE a reality show on real frugality. The cheapskate one and couponing one don’t do true frugality justice!


Katy March 11, 2015 at 7:09 pm

Those shows are so ridiculous and awful. Cringe-y.


Isabelle March 11, 2015 at 6:04 pm

* had lunch at my mom’s place. Nothing fancy, scrambled eggs with cheddar and toasts, but it’s still a free lunch. Plus she gave me a pack of 24 kraft cheese slices to bring home. I love free food!
*Sold 2 barbies on kijjiji for 5$.
* trying to sell my spinning bike too, and the toddler’s bed.
* went to bulk barn with a 3$ off 10$ purchase. Got 3 big bags of half priced organic corn chips, 1 box of half priced high quality cereals and 400 grams of sunflower seeds, all for 8$. Hubby and I are having a “date in” on friday and will be using some chips to make kick-ass nachos with leftovers (onions, peppers, salsa, cheese, chicken, black beans, etc… miam!). Plus, we received a coupon for a free movie, so we’ll use it Friday. Cheap date, yay!
* I received a coupon (for the second time) for 5 free helium filled balloons and took the one my mom received too (she does not use coupons), so I’m covered for 2 birthdays with this! And it’s totally free, just walk in there with the coupon and out with the ballons. Those are the best coupons.

Have a great frugal day!


Katy March 11, 2015 at 7:09 pm

I had to look up what kijjiji was. Craigslist for Canada!


Isabelle March 12, 2015 at 6:27 am

Yes, but we have Craiglist too (I don’t like it)


Bellen March 12, 2015 at 4:12 am

Your gas savings at Costco are amazing – our local Costco (30 mi. away), BJ’s (same distance) and Sam’s Club (8 mi. away) are never more than 5 cents lower.

Frugal: picked loads of loquats from our tree and the landscape trees at the apartment complex behind us; harvested about 2 pounds of lettuce and assorted asian greens for salads; picked the first tomato of the season (and I’m late); sold our battery electric mower as husband has severe arthritis in his knee and can’t do it anymore; sold our metal detector as new rules prevent using them most places in our area; started watching ‘New Tricks’ on Hulu – it’s 50 min. long and I use the treadmill when watching. Is that multi-tasking?


Nathalie March 12, 2015 at 4:32 am

You bet it’s multi-tasking! Good for you! I have a stationary recumbent bike and I clip my coupons and recipes from free magazines from the donation pile at the library while I watch shows on Netflix and I bike. It saves me loads of time and makes exercising a lot less tedious. I’m jealous of your loquats. I’ve been eyeing local trees for several years, never having the nerve to knock on people’s doors to ask them if they are going to harvest theirs (they never seem to, I think the tree are purely ornamental) and if they would mind if I did. I spied a tree in a strip mall parking lot last year, but it’s about 30 minutes from my house and I almost never go there…

I should just go ahead and plant a tree already… I read that they take 10 years to get fruit so if I had planted one back when I started with my obsession (the kids groan every time I exclaim “Oh! Look! A Japanese plum tree!”), I would be halfway through having loquats at home.


Bellen March 12, 2015 at 6:25 am

Natalie – I bought my loquat tree as a 6″ ‘tree’ for $1. 4 years ago. Kept in a pot for 1 year then transplanted it – it took off. Last year had blossoms but no fruit, this year it’s overloaded altho the fruits are not as large as they should be.

Started a second tree from a seed. Grew it in a pot for 6 months, transplanted it about 6 months ago and it is now almost 4′ tall and putting out all kinds of new growth.

Most people do not want to mess with loquats as they are mainly seeds. Ask if you can pick them, the worst they can say is No.

Have also started a sopadilla tree from seed, it should take another 4-5 years for fruit but it’s a nice looking tree. You should also try Moringa trees and Katuk trees – both have edible leaves. Have read that all parts of the Moringa are edible, it’s also known as the Horseradish tree because the roots can be used like horseradish. We only use the leaves.


Susanne g March 12, 2015 at 1:19 pm

Love “New Tricks.” Our library has them all!


Liz Lorenz March 12, 2015 at 5:54 am

Katy, I love your blog! I don’t know if I have commented before. I am a frugal non-consumer mom of 5.
I do the gas thing at Costco too, it is worth it. However, I probably buy more groceries at Costco :). 5 kiddos eat a lot.



Katy March 12, 2015 at 7:37 am

Yes, I’m sure your Costco trips fill those big carts!


Sister-Kaitlyn Redden March 13, 2015 at 11:00 am

Frugality! I love it! Isn’t it funny how you can fill up on just the samples in Cosco? I have done that several times with my family. I loved hearing about you making things stretch and talking old stuff like jars, cleaning them up, and making them work for what you are going to use it for. Makes me think of home and reminds me of my mom. She is big into doing that stuff and can make things go far. Plus I feel like there is this wholesome pleasure of fixing old furniture up and making it work for several more years, looking just as cute (if not cuter) than when it first came into the world. It is good wholesome work that is very satisfactory. I love it! Thank you for sharing, have you been thrifty all your life?


Katy March 13, 2015 at 11:04 am

I have been thrifty my whole life with breaks for eating out too much a few years here and there.


Sister-Kaitlyn Redden March 13, 2015 at 11:19 am

Oh crazy, no way! That is how my whole life as been as well! We used to make sandwiches or brings snacks when we were traveling so we wouldn’t have to stop and eat any where. Only on special occasions would we eat out…or if we forgot snacks or had no other means for eating. Also it depended on who we were with. But anyway, did you like growing up that way?


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