Five Frugal Things

by Katy on May 22, 2021 · 89 comments

  1. The “check engine light” blinked back on in my Prius, so I drove the dratted thing back to our trusty mechanic. I’m not clear on the specifics, but the issue was once again related to the catalytic converter, but it was still under warranty from last summer’s theft debacle so were able to get it replaced for free. Which incidentally reset the 12-month warranty.

  2. My husband turned 56, and we celebrated it with one of our traditional “Birthday Day of Adventures.” These traditions are getting harder to plan, as A) I try not to repeat activities, and B) the pandemic has decreased the number of things that are available and safe.

    However, I got the idea to treat my husband and son to a day trip to McMenamin’s Kalama Harbor Lodge Hotel/Brewpub, which is just an hour north of Portland. (Sadly, our daughter had to work that day.) Situated on the Columbia river, this hotel sits on a riverside walkway with picnic areas, sports grounds and magnificent totem poles.

    Although I’ve passed the lodge countless times, this was my first visit. I’ll definitely be returning, although I might choose to pack a picnic for future trips as our lunch bill was a bit shocking.

  3. My son turned 23 a few days later and I planned his “Birthday Day of Adventures” to be a bit more frugal. The two of us had recently visited the Crystal Springs Rhododendron Gardens and I’d noticed that he was interested in the public golf course across the lake. I checked their website and noted that $12.50 gets you a bucket of 100 balls, including the golf clubs. I called to confirm that they could be shared by multiple golfers and that no reservation was required. I learned that all four of us enjoyed hitting balls into the driving range. So much so that we forked over $12.50 for an extra 100 balls.

    We then drove over to Uwujimaya, (which is a huuge Japanese grocery store) where we indulged in delicious bowls of ramen soup and then browsed the store. My son picked out a Japanese mechanical pencil and the rest of us chose sweets.

    Dinner was homemade Mexican chicken soup, complete with fun toppings, (diced avocado, shredded cheese, cilantro, fried tortilla strips and sour cream) which was perfect as none of us were hungry for a heavy meal. Dessert was a Costco cheesecake, (my son’s favorite) which we shared with my mother and step father. We’re all fully vaccinated and are finally able to enjoy each other’s indoor company.

    Replacing “things” with “experiences” is no sacrifice, and we look forward to these days together. I plan them out as secrets which brings an extra element of fun, (I no longer share plans with my husband as he’s notorious for spoiling the surprise by blurting out “we’d better get on the road if we’re going to the beach!”) I love creating these family birthday celebrations and cherish the time together.

  4. I gave away a vintage apron through my Buy Nothing Group, I scrubbed down and then sold a Simple Human brand garbage can that a neighbor set out for free, I brought an embarrassingly large bag of spent batteries and light bulbs to Ikea for free proper disposal, my son and I hit the Rhododendron Garden during one of their free days, (Mondays and Tuesdays) and I cooked a thousand meals from scratch.

  5. I didn’t buy a Lear Jet.

Katy Wolk-Stanley    

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

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{ 89 comments… read them below or add one }

Roberta May 22, 2021 at 1:36 pm

We are all laughing at my husband right now, as he blurted out the surprise for my daughter’s birthday this month!
1. Went through the ordeal of joining our neighborhood garage sale. Two days of setting up, several hours of taking down, and $200 made. I’m taking some of the leftovers to a vintage shop, and I hope to make enough there to pay for dinner out across the street from the shop. Best of all, things are getting into the hands of people who want them, and not ending up in the landfill (I know that happens too often when I donate to the thrift shop).
2. Going to the neighbor kid’s birthday. Bringing a gift card to the ice cream shop, instead of stuff.
3. Eating leftovers, making food at home (most nights), and using up what we have.
4. Making dog food out of the neighbor’s freezer goods. Her freezer failed while my daughter is house sitting, and she told us to feed what we can to her dogs and ours, rather than let it go to waste. I’m trying to make freezer space for what we can store, as our dogs don’t mind if the texture goes strange after defrosting and refreezing. Everything is cold, just not frozen anymore.
5. Everything else is the same: wearing thrifted clothes to work, picking up leftovers from the food bank for the chickens, eating eggs, etc, etc.


Lisa M. May 22, 2021 at 1:43 pm

5+FF: Loving Spring

1. Starting to prep for annual multi-family garage sale. DF (friend) & I settled on tentative dates; starting a few repairs of items slated for sale; procured hangers and change.

2. Received refund check from car insurance company d/t rate change for DD when she turned 20. Savings=$18.15

3. Sent a birthday card to a friend that I chose as a monthly free card from the card shop & used complimentary seal & free stamp. Savings=$3.54

4. Supported a small, local vintage/antique/repurposing mall with multiple dealers that is open 4 days/month with a gift for my DS (sister) who is having a summer milestone birthday & received a free bonus. Savings=$4.00

5. Shopping wins for 2 weeks’ regular shopping & 1 dash-in to buy hangers: Went to regular grocer to capitalize on 3 holiday loss leaders; 2 brand name items @ Aldi < expensive than big box; Found 7 items on clearance racks & 1 item on clearance aisle, 8 items on clearance bakery racks, & clearance take & bake pizza from big box; Used electronic perk @ gas station. Savings=$30.61

6. Recent kitchen creations: Zucchini (on sale for 89 cents/#) Casserole; Creamy Potato Cheese Soup (salvaged part of a molding onion & used up limp celery, chicken broth from canned chicken & a glass of expired milk); Homemade Macaroni & Cheese; Beefy Taco Skillet; Deli Potato Salad; BLT Chicken Salad; & Indian Egg Salad. Temperatures rising which have caused me to switch from winter (oven) cooking to summer (non-oven) cooking.

7. Contacted food manufacturer after discovering a 12-item package that contained 11 individual servings but had an extra empty wrapper loose in the package. Received manufacturer coupons for future purchases. Savings=$10.55

8. Spent a lot of time researching new insurance plans as only id card provided was medical. Searched out site for dental & vision, reviewed coverages, checked network status of providers, printed cards, prompted DH to make 2 appts. & made 1 appt. for DD. Grateful for the coverage but a painful reminder of the difference between heavy lifting by Human Resources & DIY. DH has already had 1 appt. proving the point that it pays to strategically align preventive care for those of us with sporadic insurance coverage. Savings=$500. I can’t top that one.

9. The entertainment value for Netflix & Amazon keeps expanding. Recently watched series “Dirty John”; “The Serpent”; & “Tell Me Your Secrets”. Random but the 1st two are based on true stories of psychopaths & the 3rd was a fictional psychopath. Fascinating yet terrifying.


Kathy May 22, 2021 at 1:54 pm

1. Went to church rummage sale. Picked up 2 pairs of NWT pants for $4/pair. One is high end isn’t my size however I’ll list it.
2. At same rummage sale I snagged a calaphon sauté pan for $1. At home I discovered Teflon was peeling. However I contacted calaphon and they are replacing the pan for free
3. Wrote to talenti and gevaltia about their products and am getting coupons for sharing my thoughts.
4. Daughter in law gave me a gift certificate for a facial as she won’t be able to use it.
5. Redeemed coupon for free hallmark card and sent off to friend


Anne May 22, 2021 at 2:45 pm

I had never heard of a Simple Human garbage can so I clicked on your link and was stunned to see it was $160 for a can. What could that can possibly do that would justify that price? I have wracked my brain but can come up with nothing.


Katy May 22, 2021 at 2:52 pm

Fancy can for a fancy kitchen?


Stephanie May 22, 2021 at 3:40 pm

We have several of their garbage cans. They are easy to clean and don’t rust- ours are ancient and still look almost new.


susanna d May 23, 2021 at 12:02 pm

We have a Simple Human garbage can too – we’ve had it for a number of years and it still looks great. Zero rust, unlike some other things I’ve bought. I don’t remember paying anywhere near $160 for it – less than half that if I recall correctly. Mine is a cheaper model, I think. I used a 20% off coupon when I bought it, which brought the price down a bit more. Ours has a 10 year warranty, although I’m thinking we won’t have to use it.


Heidi Louise May 22, 2021 at 2:46 pm

1. Although the rhubarb doesn’t look so good, my spring perennial flowers were numerous and lovely due to cool and rainy weather, especially notable since I am not very good at watering.
2. Growing a pot of basil from seed from several years ago.
3. Found an electric fan at a yard sale for a dollar. I asked if it worked, and she said it was fine, just old. I can handle old. Someone must have taken it apart to clean it and broken the clasps, because the front is being held on with twist ties. I can ignore that easily.
4. Re-reading the Chet and Bernie mysteries, by Spencer Quinn, from the library. I haven’t ever had a pet, and reading the dog’s point of view, (Chet the dog narrates), is fascinating! Very creative writing.
5. Cruising the clearance racks whenever I am in a store for meal ingredients and snack items, and being careful to buy only what we will eat.


Mary in WA May 22, 2021 at 10:16 pm

If you like the Chet and Bernie books, you’ll love the audio books. Hearing Chet narrate the stories is even better than reading the books.


Shona May 22, 2021 at 3:57 pm

1) Garbage picked a Bona spray mop with nearly a full bottle of cleaner from the neighbor’s trash. I have been wanting one.

2) Mending clothes and darning socks

3) Not frugal, but kind of- dropped off 3 bags of give aways to a friend who was so excited she said it was as if it were her birthday! Gave a display to friends for their health foods store and they unexpectedly knocked off some $ from my purchase. Stuff out of the house!

4) Found more coins in parking lots and under a park bench.

5) As a result of our frugality we were able to give a friend $ to help her buy a car.


Jill A May 22, 2021 at 4:53 pm

The Kalama Lodge looks amazing. What a great birthday surprise. Was that the same one Laura Caldwell visited on her Vlog?


Katy May 22, 2021 at 7:03 pm

Yes, that’s the one!


Jill A May 22, 2021 at 5:19 pm

Nothing super interesting to report. My daughter just left after visiting for a month. We treated it like a staycation and so many meals eaten out or ordered in. Expensive but much appreciated after the past year of disappointments.

1. I made black bean burgers one night using The Prudent Homemakers recipe and they were a hit with most of the kids, those that didn’t like them ate them anyway…they’re all adults and can deal with it. My son-in-law is a pescetarian so this was a meal he could enjoy
2. My son-in-law and youngest daughter found some morel mushrooms while out walking the dogs. My daughter the cook made some mushroom risotto in the insta-pot for dinner and it was delicious. Another meal we could all enjoy.
3. We enjoyed watching and making fun of Army of the Dead on Netflix. We played Cards against Humanity one night and drank cheap wine and home made cocktails. My daughter’s boyfriend cleaned up the fire pit in the backyard and we enjoyed a bonfire onw night (more like the kids enjoyed it. I lasted about ten minutes before I headed for bed). We all read cheap garage sale and library books.
4. My daughter the cook continues to bring home free food on Friday’s instead of throwing it away. My refrigerator is full of pizza, salads and sushi among other things. I made french dips with what I thought was beef roast but was pork…it was okay. If I’d known it was korean pork I would have picked up stuff to make banh mi. I picked up veggie meatballs for my son in law to make a special sub for him.
5. We thrifted, and went to garage and estate sales…I found many things to sell on Ebay and my daughter (who also sells) found half a car load full of items to sell on Poshmark and Etsy. It was very entertaining and educational to see the items that she likes to sell and I think she enjoyed seeing what items sell for me on Ebay. We all appreciate vintage items and are entertained by the hunt.


Bee May 23, 2021 at 5:07 am

I am so glad you were able to go thrifting with your daughter. I miss mine terribly.
I just finished participating in a semi-annual vintage market. I love seeing what other resellers buy and what customers in different age groups purchase. People are fun and their interests are so varied.
I think it is interesting that demand for items varies greatly regionally too. I watch The Antique Nomad on YouTube. He sells in Florida, Kentucky and Seattle. Often he buys in one state and resells in a different place where that collectible commands a much higher price. Information is good for the online reseller.


Jill A May 23, 2021 at 10:13 am

Bee, I’m sorry you’re missing your daughter too. It’s hard when they live so far away. I’m interested in trying to sell at the vintage markets around here. I haven’t tried it before but it sounds like fun. It is fun to see what sells and what doesn’t. I’ll have to try The Antique Nomad…a woman I spoke to yesterday at a garage sale suggested Froggy Flips and also The Crazy Lamp Lady on YouTube. She’s a reseller also and does an antique fair in another town.


janine May 22, 2021 at 5:36 pm

1. Bumper crop of rhubarb this year – chopped and froze a gallon of the stuff with more to come. Family out of town for a few days but plan to make sauce, crisp and pie for their return. (adding strawberries to the pie) All ingredients on hand.
2. Invited over to a friend’s house for a late lunch/early dinner; we indulged in our favorite deli take out. She is recently widowed and I found her some beautiful flowers in the back of a grocery store display. The front bouquets were all focused on Memorial Day. These were better suited to her decorating scheme and turned out to be less expensive.
3. While DS and DH are out of town, I am staying home; lots of food plus multiple kinds of cheeses, pickles, olives etc. in the refrigerator to indulge in. Not forgetting a box of popsickles which are a guilty treat on these hot days!
4. Dog broke through the backyard fence yesterday and treated himself to a romp through the neighborhood including a cool rest in a mud puddle.. Kindly man helped me catch him, but in the meantime, he is confined to short jaunts on the leash until fence is fixed. Luckily not caught by animal control which would have netted me a fine even though he is licensed .
5. Like many pandemic survivors, everywhere I look I see needed/desired improvements around our house. Will take it slowly and try to think through what are needs and what fall into the “nice to have, but not necessary category”.


Amy May 22, 2021 at 6:00 pm

Janine — “pandemic survivor” is a term I had not heard before. I love this so much as a way to describe our collective experience in the time of Covid! 🙂


Marilyn May 22, 2021 at 6:35 pm

I know what you mean about now becoming aware of the needed improvements around the house. We had out-of-town visitors a couple weeks ago, I did a big house cleaning and I became hyper-aware of all the repairs and maintenance we have put off. Grrr…


Marilyn May 22, 2021 at 6:30 pm

1. Friends from out of state visited for a few days. We are all vaccinated and we were able to sit around the kitchen table and socialize just like the old pre-pandemic days. It was wonderful.
2. Made appointment for dental cleaning and checkup. No fun, of course, but I do force myself to keep up with dental work as I hope it will save me the pain (and the expense) of serious dental issues.
3. Our library is now open for limited browsing. Visits limited to 30 minutes, only a certain number of people allowed at a time, etc. I did manage a visit and found 2 magazines to check out as well as several books and a video.
4. Read two books this week, “I Am, I Am, I Am” by Maggie O’Farrell and “My Own Two Feet” by Beverly Clearly. I read a lot during the pandemic and hope to continue to do that.
5. I am wondering what will happen to all of the cloth masks people have collected during the pandemic. I hate to think that millions of them will end up in the trash once the pandemic finally ends. I read an article about a woman who makes skirts out of masks. They’re very pretty and colorful. I do admire her creativity. I am not a quilter, but I am wondering if people will make quilts out of them. I received 2 boxes of masks from my employer, 6 masks in each box. Unfortunately, they are plain white and not much use in an art project. I guess I will just have to keep them in case I have a use for a mask in the distant future.


Katy May 22, 2021 at 7:01 pm

I loved “My Own Two Feet,” so very interesting to read about Cleary’s young adult struggles.


Christine May 23, 2021 at 5:54 pm

I read “A Girl From Yamhill” followed by “My Own Two Feet”. I loved them too. I saw them recommended here on the NCA (I think by you Katy) and am happy I did. I have to say I did not know Beverly Cleary was still alive until somewhat recently. As a kid, I got a lot of pleasure reading her children’s books.


MB in MN May 22, 2021 at 7:03 pm

Marilyn: Re your #5. I share your concern and am happy to hear about the creative re-purposing of masks. I plan to keep my favorite masks (I have 5 or so on rotation) and use them during the winter and anytime I’m in tight quarters as they seemed to help hold colds/flu at bay as well. I also want to be prepared in case of – perish the thought – any potential variants or future pandemics.


Shona May 22, 2021 at 9:08 pm

I have wondered about all the masks too, however I agree, fully vaccinated, but not ready to ditch my masks just yet. My stash was made by a good friend whose early contribution to front line workers was to sew and give away free masks. I would drop off 6-packs of her favorite beer on her porch as a thank you since she refused any payment and was not venturing out.


Erika JS May 24, 2021 at 6:38 am

Re uses for masks: my husband had used one to mow the lawn since he always felt congested afterward from the stuff that blows around. This was a year before the pandemic! He feels so much better since doing this that he convinced me to use one when dusting for the same reason. Of course the masks practice came in handy during last year. Bonus—neither of us had a cold, sinus infection (I always have one in Winter) or flu all winter with the mask mandate. Don’t love wearing them but do like the results.


Bee May 23, 2021 at 4:51 am

I think that I will keep my mask for a while. I suspect that I’ll always where one when traveling now. Perhaps even during cold and flu season. I love people, but I hate being sick. I wish some of the habits picked up during the Covid crisis will become mainstream – stores thoroughly cleaning grocery carts, standing six feet away from people in line, servers and restaurant personnel wearing masks when preparing and serving food. Sadly, I’m sure all these things will become a thing of the past.


susanna d May 23, 2021 at 12:10 pm

My husband and I will each keep a couple of masks in our dresser for possible future use during flu season. The rest of them will be used as face protection for woodworking projects – we’d always used the disposable paper masks in the (distant) past. I like the idea of eliminating another disposable, single use product – as well as re-purposing the masks we would no longer use. I’m thinking that during high pollen count times, the masks could come in handy when working outdoors, too.


Mary May 25, 2021 at 8:52 pm

Maybe you could use the plain white mask fabric for making a party bunting with fabric paining or something on them fr scrap fabric like for 4th of July or Christmas. They should all mostly be the same size.


MB in MN May 22, 2021 at 6:49 pm

Love hearing about your Birthday Day of Adventures!

1. Brought two dozen jelly jars to the “jam lady” at the farmers’ market. She gives 25 cents for each jar that I then use to buy more jam from her.

2. Made graduation cards using cardstock and envelopes on hand. These were for an extra special niece and nephew so the checks inside were the opposite of frugal.

3. Received a Dairy Queen gift card from an organization where I volunteer. The card still had a $5 balance after our purchase so I handed it to the next person in line to enjoy using the rest of it.

4. Discovered an excellent use for dill pickle brine: So good! This will be on regular rotation at our house.

5. Hellman’s mayo was on sale so I stocked up. Used it in the potato salad above and for making our own Thousand Island dressing (just mayo, ketchup and pickle relish). We make all of our own salad dressings – tastier, easier and no extra packaging.


Bee May 24, 2021 at 5:32 am

I just read the recipe for dill pickle brine potato salad in the cookbook, Cooking with Scraps, and I wondered if it was worth a try. This now will be on my Memorial Day Weekend menu. Have you tried any others from the book?


MB in MN May 24, 2021 at 10:56 am

Bee: No, but the book inspired me to throw some used coffee grounds into chocolate chip cookie dough. Delish!


Marie May 24, 2021 at 2:40 pm

After many years of my mediocre potato salad, I found that if I chilled the potatoes first, the using half the amount of mayonnaise, and adding milk, it doesn’t get thick and icky.
And yes, pickle juice is always good!


MB in MN May 25, 2021 at 3:11 pm

Marie: Thank you for those helpful tips!

Lindsey May 26, 2021 at 10:18 am

I can’t wait to try your potato salad tips! If we don’t eat it right after I make it, it does get thick but I never thought to add milk. Thanks.

Mary May 25, 2021 at 8:53 pm

Love your Dairy Queen assembly line thinking


K D May 23, 2021 at 5:30 am

1. I have been finding a penny here and there recently (and my husband found a couple quarters) while walking the streets of our neighborhood. I guess people are out and about more.

2. Returned some weed block we bought last year and never used, for store credit, which we used for some needed items at Lowe’s

3. Warm/hot weather has arrived and I unearthed my clothes for the season. They are the same ones I have had for years. Some were passed along to me by my mother or daughter. Once I learned the environmental impact of clothing manufacturing I’m happy to wear whatever I have that looks okay.

4. Meals at home, meals at home, meals at home. A friend did buy me takeout lunch. He said it was to celebrate our joint birthday, last September. It was good to catch up with him while dining al fresco.

5. My social life continues to be non-spendy. Walking with friends (thank goodness for a wooded paved trail, sitting on patios catching up, meeting friends for charity knitting. It is great to be fully vaccinated but I’m okay with continuing many of the things we’ve done the past fourteen months.


cathy May 25, 2021 at 10:21 am

Ditto your #5. I was a homebody before the pandemic. I’m definitely not one of those people chomping at the bit to get out to bars/restaurants/malls, etc. Happy to hang out on the porch surrounded by my garden and the occasional friend.


ava May 23, 2021 at 5:43 am

1. Fount 5 pennies and a quarter, one at a time.
2. Mended a tee shirt.
3. After buying a thrift store top without trying it on, I discovered it was too short in both sleeves and body. I used a .50 tank top in a coordinating color to cut up and add to the sleeves and length. It fits fine and looks like it was meant to be that way.
4. Planted watermelon seeds in a sunny spot in the front yard.
5. Cancelled cable tv, something I have been thinking about for a long time.


Shona May 23, 2021 at 5:51 am

#5- GOOD FOR YOU! I cancelled cable tv in 2009 and never regretted it.


Iforonwy May 23, 2021 at 7:01 am

So glad you enjoyed Kalama! Our very, very best friends live there! We hope to go back there one day. Managed my first visit to a charity shop in almost a year this week that was great excitement. Busy eating from the freezer as it needs to be de-frosted. I was silly enough to leave the door open a tiny crack for a couple of hours. I think I was born a klutz!


Mary in Maryland May 23, 2021 at 7:04 am

1. The Mister got waaay too much gluten for his bread machine caper. So I tried a recipe for seitan, AKA wheat meat. It turned out delicious.
2. Part of creating seitan involves simmering it in broth for an hour. I used the broth to make soup a couple days later.
3. A friend gifted me some socks from her late father at least ten years ago. When we tried them on, we discovered that the cuffs were too tight to get over our heels. I wear socks to bed so my toenails don’t eat the sheets. I cut the cuffs off these odd socks and hemmed the raw edge. Perfect. I donated the other four pair as textile waste.
4. I continue to gift, donate, and sell things we don’t need. For example—the spare room has a double bed which is slept in five nights a year—max. So why did I have a second fitted sheet and four other flat sheets? Clearly the elastic n the fitted sheet would expire well before it was called into service.
5. Found a cleaning recipe that got the grease and dirt out of dishtowels and the Mister’s pillowcase.
6. Hand-washed all our winter woolies—hats, mittens, sweaters. I rigged a flat drying surface from 1x2s, C-clamps, an old sheet and binder clips.
7. Apt to fail frugally—I began my canning journey doing water bath canning in a tall skinny pressure cooker. Last summer I tried pressure canning which saved me a butt load of time and heat in the kitchen. Now I realize that the short, fat pressure canners would hold 7 qts at once, rather than five. At 70 I don’t need the All-American that will last a hundred years, but am sorely tempted by the Presto 16qt. I’m haunting freecycle, Craigslist, the thrift store, and eBay somewhat obsessively. And asking all my friends. But I waaant it. . .


Ecoteri May 23, 2021 at 10:16 pm

Hey Mary in Maryland – are you aware that your current 23 Quart presto will let you STACK pints? you will be able to get lots in – depending on the shape of the pints (widemouthed or standard) – you can get more than 7 on each level. I purchased a special metal tray for between the two layers, but some creative options are available. it just has to fit, have some holes in it, and be sturdy.
Also, I would be VERY interested in the recipe for your grease cleaning magical stuff. I have dishtowels that are in need (and remember the state of the pillowcases when I lived with my ex). Thanks!


Mary in Maryland May 24, 2021 at 9:47 am

Yes, I have stacked wide-mouthed pints–14 at once. I have two of the racklets. But it only fits five quarts, and I’ve switched to all quarts and all narrow mouthed to save on lids. For the laundry recipe, go to Less is Enough blog and search for “Sal suds”.


Bee May 23, 2021 at 8:02 am

As always, I love to hear about the Day of Adventures that you plan for your family members. There is little that I enjoy more than spending a day with my children.


Norma May 23, 2021 at 10:27 am

1. Found a quarter in an Aldi’s cart.
2. Husband is painting all our wicker furniture rather than pay to have it painted. It is about 20 years old and still going strong.
3. Washed all guest room bedding in cold water in preparation for my sons coming for Memorial Day weekend.
4. Reading books from the library,
5. This coming week is not going to be frugal but being frugal allows us to splurge when wanted. I have not seen my sons in person for 18 months. They are coming home for the weekend and I intend to buy/make all their “Mom dishes.” Yes, they are 38 and 39 but it is a Mom’s perogative to spoil them no matter their age.


susanna d May 23, 2021 at 11:38 am

Five frugal things, picnic table building edition:

1. Our six year old granddaughter wanted a small picnic table for a clearing in our woods. If you’ve priced lumber lately, you know the meaning of sticker shock! Talk about sky high prices! Fortunately, my husband hates to get rid of anything. Also fortunate is that we have four garages/outbuildings to store his stuff. Five years ago, he’d built a fort for our grandson. Since no one used the fort anymore, my husband and I dismantled it last year and stored the treated lumber in one of the garages. We had enough “free” wood to build the picnic table.

2. Our ten year old grandson helped with the construction of the picnic table, adding to his “builder” skills. Our granddaughter observed/supervised, which was fine – she is the most accident-prone kid I’ve seen since her father was a child, and I don’t think she’s ready for tool usage yet.

3. In the nine years since we lived here, we saved what little paint we had left from prior paint jobs (we have a mostly-cedar-everything house but we still did have to paint a few things in the past). Our granddaughter chose gray and green paint to alternate on the boards of her new picnic table.

4. Since there were fewer ways she could cause chaos by painting, she did most of the painting herself. To protect her clothes from this very messy child, she wore an old t-shirt of mine, which I then covered with an old swimsuit cover up that was headed for the rag bag. Lots of safety pins transformed my old clothing to something that more closely fit her.

5. We all had fun with the project, the kids learned or added to their skill sets, and our granddaughter is over the moon happy with her table. The cost was $0. She actually said “This was absolutely free! It didn’t cost anything! Why would anyone want a picnic table that they have to pay for?” I kindly did not point out that not every child has a pack rat for a grandfather. Her enthusiasm and joy over this project were priceless.


janine May 24, 2021 at 5:17 am

We have a stash of lumber from former projects in our back yard. Not stored in a garage, but used for fence replacement/repair – should look to see if there are any really good pieces for a project such as yours which sounds like such a great family time! (we’ve also got extra dabs of paint in our basement) It is true that new lumber and even plywood are expensive this year.


Lilypad May 23, 2021 at 3:32 pm

It’s too funny that you mentioned Uwujimaya, we were just talking about that earlier. My husband and I used to go to the Seattle (the original store) and Bellevue, WA stores when we were kids/teens and we realized our son (almost 20) has never been to one despite living his entire life within 40 minutes of either of them. He’s a huge fan of some wasabi tempura crisps we got at Costco last year and haven’t found there since, so we’re going to look at Uwujimaya. (They’re available on Amazon for an outrageous price but I offered to get some for his birthday next month and he turned me down, saying he didn’t want me to spend that much. It made this frugal mama so proud! 😉 Happy Birthday to your son, I love hearing about your birthday days of adventure.


Katy May 23, 2021 at 6:01 pm

Those sound delicious, now I want to find a bag!


Lilypad May 24, 2021 at 6:37 am

They’re called Maruesu Tempura Seaweed Crisps, Wasabi & Soy Sauce flavor. My son’s not normally a huge snacker but he and my husband went through about 5 bags last summer and then Costco didn’t have them any more. (Costco world HQ is about 15 minutes from my house, I should go down there and picket till they bring them back LOL!!) Hopefully your Uwujimaya has them! As soon as the three of us are all fully vaccinated (mid-June), we’ll check out our store.


Cindy in the South May 23, 2021 at 5:46 pm

1. My mustard greens are ready to eat and are delicious. 2. I am running no air, so far, although it will be in the 90’s next week so all bets are off then. 3. I am still picking mulberries from the tree although it looks like they are about to be done. I have frozen enough, I think, for the next year. 4. I walked at the river park and actually picked up a little green snake to help it out if the road. That was a first! I am not fond of snakes but knew this one was harmless. 5. I took a nap this weekend.


Bee May 24, 2021 at 5:46 am

I’m so glad you helped the little green snake. You are a hero in my book. We have lots and lots of snakes here in Florida. Most species are not poisonous. As people come here, they are killing snakes in large numbers. One of my neighbors killed a harmless grass snake just last week. Although I don’t love want a snake in my home or as a pet, , I hate to see this happen. They are an important part of the ecosystem and keep the rodent population at bay.


Christine May 24, 2021 at 11:09 am

I agree Bee. It breaks my heart when I hear about someone killing snakes. Like you, I don’t want one as a pet and I jump a little when I see one slither by but they are useful in gardens and yards as far as keeping the bug population down too. The less bugs and rodents in my yard, the better.


Christine May 23, 2021 at 6:15 pm

1. I’m keeping the invasive Bamboo behind my house down by spraying it with a mixture of 1 gallon 5% vinegar, two cups salt and 8 drops of dish washing liquid. I doubt it will ever die because the tubers and root system are too tough to kill. They grow down a steep hill which ends in a lake so I will not use any herbicide on it. My next door neighbor thought he had dug his all up last summer…this year it’s baaaaaack and then some. By spraying it “my” Bamboo is withered and yellow and about half the height of my neighbor’s.
2. My town’s library is now fully open although masks are still required. I walked around in there like a kid in a candy store. It felt like a free book store.
3. I planted seeds (4 pks. $1.00) in pots on the deck instead of buying any annuals this year. We’ll see what they do.
4. I finished a jigsaw puzzle a friend lent me. That’s it for the summer. I prefer to do them in the cold weather when I’m inside more.
5. We’ll live with the deck one more year as it is. The cost of lumber is just too much. The whole floor section really needs to be replaced. If any of the boards feel too spongy, we’ll replace them individually for safety’s sake but that’s it for now. Maybe next year the prices will lower.


Marie May 24, 2021 at 2:52 pm

Replacing deck boards was on our list too. Sadly that won t be happening. Our deck goes around 2 sides of the house, so I am strategically placing potted plants near the bad boards to discourage walking there. Most rotten ones are near the edges, so it won’t look odd!


Ecoteri May 23, 2021 at 10:30 pm

Lots of non-frugal things happening here, with future savings
1. solar array is getting there – the panels were delivered and are leaning on the fence, the ‘landing’ has been levelled and my workers are making retaining walls on several sides. The walls are frugal – there are lots of big huge rocks around the property and they are using pavers that are also spread around.
2. (frugal) my ‘workers’ (2 unpaid sons, and one paid son-of-a-friend) removed all of the furnace ducts in preparation for the upgrade from gas furnace to electric heat pump (not frugal but will be in longterm). I purchased those Disposable white suits, ventilator masks with disposable special filters, and 4 of us in our space garb got everything outside, where we wetted it down and peeled off all the asbestos tape. Got a 5 gallon bucket of asbestos to get rid of, and didn’t have to hire a haze-mat crew
3. I got three free loaves of bread at a thrift store last week – and didn’t find anything to purchase at the store. I froze two of them, but the third had a few more days. It was near best before date, so I dried all the slices in the oven and made a quart jar of breadcrumbs. I have been horrible about following through, but the processor was already out!
4. Trying Rhubarb bar recipes. we know the favourite but it is really time consuming, so I have now, officially, made 5 different bars. #2 son is pleased to assist in the tasting. the bar rated #3/5, which I was quite pleased with, was taken off the counter by the d%^&mn Dog (she flipped the entire 9 X 13 glass pan over, so she didn’t get any… but SHEESH). so we didn’t get to eat all of it. Still haven’t found the perfect ‘fast and totally delicious’ bar, but so willing to keep trying.
5. Our local Rotary was having an online auction, and I bid on a number of items that I got for very good prices (from $2 to 30). One was a professional photographer’s starter kit with camera, lenses, lights, etc etc (used but in great condition) worth well over $450. My #1 son is very excited to come visit and check it out.


Linda In UK May 23, 2021 at 11:48 pm

During the pandemic I have been doing more reading than usual, using our library’s Ordering Service and since then ordering a lot from their catalogue to collect rather than go into the library itself. Found two new (to me) authors which I discovered on blogs.
Jeanine Cummins and Kristin Hannah.


MommaL May 24, 2021 at 2:07 am

1. Reading some books my DIL loaned to me, urging me to read them. Good reads so far!
2. Used my care pass and extra bucks and BOGO to get 2 bottles of vitamins for about a dollar. sweet!
3. Went to an outdoor housewarming party. Gift was a plant we rooted, planted in a beautiful pot that I got off of our local Buy Nothing group.
4. Sending hand written notes to friends to cheer them up. Cost me the stamp, but the cards were gifted to be from the BN group.
5. Found a $20 off of $100 coupon, used it to start stocking up for my grandchildren’s visit soon.


Lindsay B May 24, 2021 at 7:13 am

1. At a thrift store in Scandinavia before flying home, I found a long-sleeved linen shirt that will work beautifully for a sun shirt. I’ve wanted a linen shirt for years!
2. Moved into our new place in Wisconsin. An old, tight staircase meant our box springs couldn’t fit up the stairs. Frugal: DH sold one on Craigslist for $20. Not frugal: we will have to figure out some other solution. I’m leaning towards a platform bed that doesn’t require a box spring (we didn’t have a bed frame before, and I want one).
3. Purchased a box fan at neighbor’s garage sale for $2, which we have already used to try to avoid using AC. Our new place doesn’t have any ceiling fans which boggles my mind.
4. Extended family generously gifted us a Chicago-style pizza as well as fresh salad, herbs, and peonies from their garden. And two jars of apple butter… one best by 2015, one by 2017 so we will see if they are actually edible, lol.
5. Will try to regift some miscellaneous food items that my mom passed along to me but that I don’t want.
6. Bonus! Joined the local Buy Nothing group and am excited to pass along things that way.


Ruby May 24, 2021 at 3:27 pm

Lindsey, we lived in a house with a tight staircase and fitted a pair of twin box springs and mattresses on a king-size frame. It’s topped with a thick mattress pad to minimize the seam down the center. We make it up with king-size bedding, and it’s so much easier to flip the mattresses for even wear.


Lindsay B May 25, 2021 at 1:31 pm

Hi Ruby, thanks for the suggestion! We may end up doing something like that.


LB May 24, 2021 at 9:53 am

1. Spent the weekend with my future SIL and her 3 year old to help out while her husband is traveling for work. Cleared her herb garden and made pesto for dinner Saturday night, saving takeout money and leaving her with leftovers (and a well kept herb garden!) for the week. She’s 38 weeks pregnant so we also picked up the house to keep her from having to pick stuff up off the floors (at least for a little while) and did some other random tasks to save her time. Being vaccinated to me means primarily being able to spend time with family and it was a really lovely, gratifying weekend.
2. Back home to a 100% empty fridge (no food waste is good, right?) This gives me the space to plan healthy meals for the next week and get us on schedule to be eating fresh, local produce.
3. Speaking of produce, I did not renew our farm share for this year. The food waste last summer was significant and the portion was incredibly small for what we were paying. Much better to go to a local market that sells produce grown within 25 miles and only buy what we will use.
4. Have been loving my youtube workout plan but am looking for a change. Found a 60 day program that is a bit more intense. Excited to have a plan for the summer that does not include paying a gym membership!
5. Scouring our buy nothing group for a storage solution for our bedroom. Trying to be discerning and patient to end up with a solution that will work long term and I’ll be happy with instead of paying for something that isn’t ideal.


janine May 24, 2021 at 3:32 pm

LB – we are also considering not renewing our farm share (CSA). We have been members of various CSAs off and on for years and I go back and forth about whether it is a good deal, or a feeling that we don’t always eat the food provided and feel guilty when it is not used.


LB May 25, 2021 at 10:49 am

Janine-exactly! one that was available to us in a previous city was fantastic. Affordable, good quality produce that we wanted to eat (lots of bell peppers, onions, corn, etc) and it lasted a long time. The one we found in our new neighborhood is grown on rooftops in the area making the carbon footprint very low. I was willing to pay extra for this option but the produce was limited and not good quality (would mold within 24 hours, even in the fridge). I was incredibly disappointed.


Ruby May 24, 2021 at 3:58 pm

1. Mended two items of clothing my husband and son and altered the neckline of two of my thrifted shirts to make them more modest. I hate necklines that slide too far off to one side. Used a button from my stash of salvaged buttons.
2. Turned leftovers from two meals into five lunch entrees for myself.
3. Badly curbed a front tire on my car, which took a divot out of the sidewall. My husband took the car to our local tire shop, expecting to replace the tire, but the techs found it to still be safe and suggested waiting until fall, when the car will need a new set of tires anyhow. They did not charge for this service, which was extra awesome of them.
4. Broke the lid on my favorite insulated water tumbler. My husband gave me one he used at work, back when he used to go to the office, so no money spent.
5. Today I wore a cute thrifted shirt, dress pants, jacket and sandals to work and felt like a million bucks. 😀


Momma L May 26, 2021 at 1:43 am

I alter necklines all the time. They are so deep, and I hate wearing tank tops under in the summer.
I learned a trick of putting a button on the necklines, it looks intentional and sometimes adds to the shirts.


t May 24, 2021 at 6:20 pm

All this last year + I have learned so much. From being stuck homeless in a lockdown to making a tiny place of cozy refuge. I learned how to install flooring, paint walls and furniture, create paintings for my walls that became windows of escape, fix all sorts of stuff with little of nothing. And now everything is opening up and I’m so comfortable I don’t want to go. And I like wearing masks when I do go out. I read there is an influx of people with covid like symptoms at hospitals and doctors offices, but they don’t have covid. Going maskless and squishing up with crowds has caused colds and other respiratory bugs to flourish. I’m keeping my masks. I’ve learned to live the cheapest I’ve ever lived…order anything I need online, take meetings on my phone, hardly use my car, cut my own hair, wear whatever I want. When I sit on my little deck and enjoy the beautiful green hills and sparkling water or the endless night sky I realize covid has made me learn to be content and thankful. for me, that’s a lot to learn.


Heidi Louise May 25, 2021 at 5:49 am

t – This is a great celebration of you, and contemplation of what is most important for any person! Congratulations!


MB in MN May 25, 2021 at 6:01 am

t: Well said! Through your words, I can feel the coziness and satisfaction that you have with your home and life. Beautiful.


Christine May 25, 2021 at 6:14 am

I picked a book off my daughter’s bookshelf to flip through while waiting for my granddaughter. The book itself was about introverts (can’t remember the exact name) but the part I read was about how a crisis will sometimes reveal our true nature, whatever that may be. Maybe Covid did that for a lot of us. I know that beside missing my kids and grandkids and being actively involved in their lives, I enjoyed the solitude and peace of staying in my home and in my yard. Knowing that I wasn’t adding to global warming as much as I had been by driving here and there was gratifying too.


Mary in Maryland May 25, 2021 at 9:55 am

The name of the book is “Quiet”.


Christine May 25, 2021 at 6:09 pm

Yes! That’s the one.


Mary in WA June 4, 2021 at 9:27 am

Kudos, t, for rising above your circumstances and flourishing! I have followed your posts with great interest over the last year and silently cheered you on. It’s about time I publicly acknowledged what you have accomplished! I hope you will continue to post how you are doing as an inspiration to all of us.


Jennifer May 25, 2021 at 2:52 am

We are still required to wear masks to work and I am more comfortable when I am going inside places so I will keep on for awhile.

Unfrugal – we had to replace our stove.

Unfrugal but finding frugal things in it –
We are having our dd do an Outward Bound program this summer. Ridiculously expensive yes – but we feel strongly about her needing this right now. To make it more affordable she is paying about half of it. And I can submit my receipt for the plane ticket to the group I volunteer with to pull that money out. (I work concessions for a non profit group at a MLB team). We also received a $500 scholarship.

Frugal –
1. Ds brought home a box of leftover pastries after his shift Sunday night. They don’t have anyone to pick up leftovers on Sundays. I salvaged a dozen bagels, a dozen cinnamon rolls, a handful of scones, muffins, cookies, and brownies. Many were frozen for later. Cinnamon rolls were shared at work.

2. Successfully fought a doctor bill that was submitted as a “Corns & Callouses” visit when it was actually a whole body skin check. Several messages back and forth with the dermatologist and she changed the coding. I should just have my $10 copay versus a $319 bill.

3. Blueberries were B1G2 free. I figured I would freeze them but with 1 pint devoured at dinner I think they will just get eaten.

4. I got my whole garden planted. 3 cukes, 8 cherry tomatoes, 1 large tomato in a planter, basil, peas, green beans and butternut squash. This will be frugal later when it starts producing.

5. I also opted out of the summer CSA program. it was very expensive last year and I only did it because I thought there might be issues with getting food. Yes there are issues still, but nothing I can’t work around with flexibility and creativity. $600 in my pocket still.


Avery June 1, 2021 at 6:07 pm

I am so impressed in the savings by closely monitoring your doctor’s bill!


auntiali June 8, 2021 at 7:59 am

I’m impressed with the Outward Bound trip for your daughter. I, myself, did an Outward Bound trip when I was 23. My daughter did one when she was 17 or 18. It is a fun, life changing opportunity. I did white water rafting even though I am terrified of water and my daughter did hiking.


rebecca May 25, 2021 at 11:28 am

1. Paid off all my credit cards. It is a great feeling!
2. I saved some zucchini from going bad while I was away. I chopped it up and froze it. It will be in a stir fry tonight.
3. My niece and her fiancee just moved into their house and the yard needs a lot of work. Instead of stuff, I gave them some $ as an engagement gift to use on their yard if they like.
4. Having a bbq here on Sunday. I already have hot dogs and burgers in the freezer and other items I need are on sale this week. Loss leaders are awesome!
5. I am teaching 2 classes and a seminar this summer. I am feeling burned out but I feel that when I am offered the classes I need to take them. Money is always a bit tight during the summer, because as an adjunct, I only get paid when I teach. I need to figure out some frugal downtime and revive my self…..I have a pass to the beach, I will resume water aerobics classes and just want to spend days reading. I hope it helps.


Katy May 25, 2021 at 1:48 pm

Paid off your credit cards?! Hooray!! Woo-hoo!!!


rebecca May 27, 2021 at 4:41 am

Thanks. It feels so freeing.


Mary in WA June 4, 2021 at 9:36 am

Yay on paying off your credit cards! Using cc is not a problem if you can pay them in full each month, but if you have to carry a balance, the interest charges can eat you alive. Back when I still had cc debt, thankfully a very long time ago, I would think to myself, “Would I be willing to spend 30% more for this item?” Most of the time, the answer was a resounding, “NO!” It really helped me keep from making impulse purchases that would be financed on a credit card, and it’s part of how I was able to eliminate cc debt. Could you please share some of the ways you were able to pay off yours? It might help others here who are trying to get out from under their own cc debt.


cj May 26, 2021 at 5:35 am

First time posting, but I love reading the posts, but needed to vent.
I had paid down all debt, no mortgage, credit cards, and just paid off husbands car.
Zero debt. Yeah me, until he went to dentist and was told he needed $30,000 in dental work. Yes, $30,000 between gum work, bone grafts, extractions, root canals, implants, crowns, etc. He is a terrible diabetic, non compliant and no matter how I previously discussed with him how it is a systemic disease, he just would not be compliant. I have great dental that I pay a lot for but this was depressing.


Lindsey May 26, 2021 at 10:27 am

You might want to consider getting a second opinion. I recently read an article on how many immoral dentists there are who subject people to unnecessary dental work, which is not only money but immunocompromised people have been known to get serious infections during dental work. $30,000 seems excessive and I live in Alaska, where the cost of dental work is very high.


MB in MN May 26, 2021 at 4:39 pm

cj: My heart goes out to you on this huge financial setback. Getting a second opinion is an excellent suggestion by Lindsey. I would also encourage you to see if there are any other options to having this work done for a lower price, such as by: 1) contacting your state or local health department as they may know of programs in your area that offer free or reduced-cost dental care, 2) contacting a dental school, or 3) seeing if someone further away could perform the procedures for less (savings would help offset higher travel costs). Good luck!


Christine May 26, 2021 at 5:49 pm

A couple of thoughts…I needed a root canal on a molar and the receptionist at my dentist office whispered to me that I should go to a dental school in Boston, about 45 minutes away. She said it would be much less expensive. I did but using a very high powered microscope at the dental school a crack in the tooth was discovered and they told me the root canal would fail. Extraction followed. The other thought is that we have friends who spend the winters in Florida and flew from there to Costa Rica and had extensive dental work done there for a small fraction of what it would cost in the US. So if you’re thinking of a vacation…


Betta from daVille May 27, 2021 at 6:11 am

My colleague always went to Croatia to have dental work done as it was so much more affordable, even with the travel expenses. AND, you would get to visit Croatia. Medical tourism might be a more affordable option, as crazy as that sounds.


Lisa M. May 27, 2021 at 6:40 am

cj – The previous posters all have great money-saving ideas. My question – did the dentist give you the $30,000 cost before or after dental insurance coverage? Agree with Lindsey that $30,000 seems excessive. As you say you have excellent coverage, could you request a treatment plan that includes a timeframe for each procedure with a breakdown of what insurance pays & what your actual out-of-pocket costs would be? I would request the specifics from each dentist seen including those for a 2nd opinion, dental schools, low-cost providers or even out-of-country. The more specific information you have, the easier it would be to consider alternatives & find the most economical & feasible option.


cj May 30, 2021 at 2:41 pm

thank you all for the great feedback. cj


Mary in WA June 4, 2021 at 9:44 am

I will second (3rd or 4th, lol) all of the above suggestions. I flew from Portland, OR, to Phoenix and drove to Nogales, walked across the border and had my dental work done for a fraction of the cost quoted to me locally. I got much better care there than at my local office (one of the few that will take state insurance) on procedures my insurance didn’t cover, got to spend some time basking in sunshine in the middle of winter, and even with the cost of airfare, rental car and hotel, still saved money. I’m not sure if the border closures still allow that option, but it’s worth looking into.


Avery June 1, 2021 at 6:04 pm

These past few months have been full of frugal fails, but even the small wins should be celebrated:

1.) I have been trying to sell some dresses via Facebook groups without much luck. Today, I took them to a consignment store, which of course, won’t be as much as I could sell them via Ebay or Facebook, but worth it for me for time saved.
2.) I have been “Marie Kondoing” recently in preparation for my fall move to Boston. I have 3 boxes for Goodwill, which can be used for tax deductions.
3.) I am pursuing a free therapy option tomorrow to see if it would be just as good as the Better Help I am using now.
4.) I almost impulse bought album merchandise a couple different times but waited long enough to not want it anymore.
5.) I didn’t buy a LearJet.


Mary in WA June 4, 2021 at 10:17 am

It seems like it’s getting harder to think of specific frugal things, since most of what I do is just habitually frugal! But, I’ll give it a try.

1. There is a glass shop in a nearly city that puts out pallets and used windows in a specific spot behind their shop, for anyone to take and use. I wish more businesses did that, as it’s a great way to keep things out of the landfill and is a savings on dump fees for them, as well. I was able to pick up 3 small windows there Wednesday. I’m planning to build a greenhouse, a sun room and a tiny house for guests, so I’m always happy to find windows there.
2. Although seeds have really shot up in price, like so many other things have, there are still bargains to be found out there. I was able to find pea, green bean and corn seeds at WM for a fairly decent price, and my daughter was able to buy them with her food stamps. Many people do not know that plants and seeds that produce food can be purchased with EBT food money. It’s a great way to turn a finite resource into a longterm ongoing food source.
3. We also worked on her math and shopping life skills by comparing the price per gram of difference sized seed packets to find the best option. Also, we looked at the price of produce at the store and figured out how much food each packet would need to produce to pay for itself. It won’t take much to beat supermarket prices!
4. I found another fabric mask on the ground and brought it home to wash/sanitize for future use. Masks are still required in stores here, and I intend to go on using masks and hand wipes during cold and flu season long after this pandemic is behind us. One of the masks I found on the ground early on is my daughter’s favorite mask. As she has texture and other sensitivities related to being on the spectrum, finding one she really likes is a win.
5. I’m continuing to combine errands to save gas costs and hitching a ride with neighbors whenever possible. Today, I hope to be able to combine a trip to town with fellow Honor Guard members for a veteran’s funeral with a quick stop at Wilco (local feed store chain) to pick up a few tomato plants. As long as no one else has any objection to the plan, I can get the 4 or 5 plants I want without any fuel costs, as it is literally only a block out of our way. I’ve tried to offer fuel $$ to our driver, a neighbor and dear friend, but he won’t take it! So I give him eggs, a window for the music room, and anything else that I can offer instead of cash. We do a lot of back and forth favors, so it all works out.

Frugal failure: Having to buy tomato plants at all is a fail on my part. I had everything set up for seed starting this Spring, and just never got around to putting seeds in the (already prepared) soil. I own enough tomato seeds to supply a small village with a lifetime of tomatoes, so spending $2/plant is such a waste!


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