Five Tiny Frugal Things

by Katy on May 25, 2024 · 59 comments

  1. My husband was gifted a $100 gift card to Cabela’s, which was interesting as he isn’t a rugged outdoor sportsman-type dude. (No hunting or fishing.) However, he pored through their website and found a collapsible wagon cart for $99.99 that he’d been wanting for his baseball gear. Plus I got to go along in tourist mode to gape at all the elaborate taxidermy dioramas, which was not on my bingo card!

    Very happy to spend the precise amount of the card, as 61% of people overspend beyond the value of the card and the average people spends an additional $31.75! Click HERE for the source of these statistics.

  2. My friend Lise invited me to join her on a trip to Trader Joe’s and I accepted even though A) I’m trying to avoid shopping there due their union busting; and B) I didn’t really need anything. I bought spinach, Mediterranean hummus and a single enormous 23¢ banana. Walking out of Trader Joe’s with such inexpensive and practical food items is a win. Also, we hadn’t seen each other in a week or so and needed to catch up!

  3.  My husband and I split a big fancy coffee on our way home from Cabela’s, as my husband is always rich with Starbucks gift cards.

  4. I found a penny on the sidewalk near our house and dime on the floor at the DMV.

  5. My legal debts don’t top half a billion dollars.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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{ 59 comments… read them below or add one }

Kara May 25, 2024 at 12:27 pm

1. I attended a free talk on seed saving which was inspiring. I don’t buy seeds because there is a wonderful free local seed bank, but the talk did give me some ideas.
2. I attended a potluck where I took a free loaf of sourdough bread, spread with butter and warmed in solar oven. I came home with part of the loaf of bread and 2 meals worth of leftovers for my husband. Also a lot of baked goods. And a plate of melon.
3. I baked a GF rhubarb (from my garden) apple crumble in the solar oven. Our high that day was 72° but the solar oven reached almost 300°.
4. Picked strawberries and raspberries from my garden.
5. Sold an item on eBay and walked it to the post office.


Katy May 25, 2024 at 12:58 pm

I love all your delicious humble food!


Kara May 25, 2024 at 2:56 pm

Thank you! I have a big illness and my life can be small. But food is a place that I feel I can make a difference. I’m not a fancy cook but I can make some delicious meals out of very plain things. It helps that my husband grew up on a farm in Northern England and he will eat anything.


christina May 26, 2024 at 8:46 am

I love the way you framed that” I have a big illness and my life can be small” . Back in 2005 when I was forst diagnosed with cancer and went the radiation, chemo, and the an autoSCT, that’s EXACTLY how my life was. I marveled at people just doing ordinary things like going to the grocery store. My world was very small and limiting. I’ve been in and out of chemo/remission lots of times since and I still feel the smallness of my life.


Kara May 26, 2024 at 1:02 pm

My best wishes to you. Thank you for replying, it is so helpful to not feel so alone.

Liz B. May 25, 2024 at 5:09 pm

Kara, I’m fascinated by your solar oven. Is this something you built yourself, or bought?


Kara May 25, 2024 at 5:34 pm

Here is a link to one very similar to mine.
I would have bought this brand if I was buying new, but I found one very similar on FB marketplace for $70. It has exceeded my expectations. I get a thrill out of bypassing our extortionate electricity company plus it is so easy to use. I put food in there and walk away. Occasionally (if I remember) I go out and turn the oven slightly to catch the sun better as the sun moves through the sky. Chicken cooked in a cast iron pot in the solar oven is the tenderest chicken I’ve ever eaten.


Liz B. May 26, 2024 at 5:54 am

Thank you! Our back yard gets constant direct sun in the afternoon in the late spring and summer (when it’s not overcast, that is). I’m thinking hubs and I need to look into this!


mary in maryland May 26, 2024 at 11:39 am

I bought my sun oven about 12 years ago. (Actually, I asked for it for my B-Day.) It worked very well, but is so heavy that I had to get the Mister to carry it out and in. I recently bought a Haines 2.0 solar oven. It’s much lighter –maybe two pounds–and seems to get nearly as hot. At least things cook in the same amount of time as the heavier oven.

Liz B. May 27, 2024 at 5:06 am

mary in maryland,

Good to know about the weight of various ovens. That would certainly be an issue for me! Thanks so much.

Fru-gal Lisa May 26, 2024 at 5:19 pm

Liz B.
If you have a Tightwad Gazette book lying around, the Frugal Zealot aka Amy Daczyczn had a write-up about solar ovens with directions for one. Not sure if it’s in Vol. 1, 2 or 3 but it’ll certainly be in the Complete TG.
I imagine a lot of scouting handbooks would also have instructions.


Liz B. May 27, 2024 at 5:04 am

I do have The Tightwad Gazette (the Complete TG), so will look for that, thanks! My son used to be a Scout, so I’ll check some of his manuals as well. Thanks!


Ruby May 25, 2024 at 1:45 pm

Great job on your husband’s part with spending his gift card.

Frugal stuff around our house included my son helping me clipper cut our long-haired cat’s belly and chest to keep it from matting. She’s a ticklish cat and also very large so it was a two-person job. Professional cat grooming starts at $90 around here.

I also chopped up and froze carrots, onions and peppers to make Future Me very happy and not have any food waste. Mended more dog toys. Bought a shirt at Goodwill that had the half-price color on the tag. I was being very picky about the style and was pleased to find it, especially for $2.49. Used some gifted wildly overscented body wash to clean the toilet.


Katy May 26, 2024 at 8:02 am

So . . . spa day for the toilet?

I love doing favors for Future Me as well, as it reframes a dull task in a new light.


Ruby May 26, 2024 at 8:54 am

My sweet relative who keeps giving me that body wash does not realize that it lingers powerfully on the skin, so much so that it makes my nose run. But it does a fine job of cleaning the toilet and lightly perfuming the bathroom. 😀

I will admit readily to being hard to buy for because I don’t use scented things and don’t collect knickknacks.


Katy May 26, 2024 at 4:45 pm

I hate scented things and would prefer to not receive knick knacks as well, so many we should start a club!


Q May 27, 2024 at 7:52 am

Can I joint that club?

Kathy May 25, 2024 at 3:48 pm

The last 6 weeks have not been frugal
1. I’ve had 7 doctor’s visits
2. 3 lab draws
3. An ultra sound, echocardiogram, mammogram and an upcoming MRI and angiogram
4. $600 vet bills, $551 plumbing bill and $2000 tree removal bill
5. Reduced hours at work
I did receive $323 class action lawsuit check


Coral Clarke May 25, 2024 at 4:32 pm

I’m in Brisbane, Australia, and I’m wishing you lovely surprises, affordable health solutions, and effective interventions!


Kara May 25, 2024 at 5:29 pm

Wishing you strength!


Katy May 26, 2024 at 8:04 am

Yikes, yikes and triple yikes — may the spirit of frugality shine down upon you for at least three months!


A. Marie May 26, 2024 at 8:47 am

Kathy, I add my good wishes for better health and many fewer major bills to everyone else’s.


Lindsey May 26, 2024 at 11:01 am

That’s a lot to cope with! I hope you find some joys to help. As Kara said, wishing you strength.


Alexandra May 27, 2024 at 5:58 am

I am so sorry you are going through this. Health issues are more than enough but the compounding with bills makes it harder. Wishing you strength and peace and good health!


Q May 27, 2024 at 8:18 am

I’m rooting for you! You have had a tough 6 weeks, and I hope the next 6 are much, much better.


Cindy in the South May 25, 2024 at 4:26 pm

I have never been in that store and was not aware of the stuffed dead animals! Stuffed animals give me nightmares. I actually almost went in one when traveling a week ago. Thanks for the heads up!
Yeah, I buy about $30 worth of stuff at Aldi only because they significantly have the lowest prices on milk, orange juice, ground beef, hot dogs, mushrooms, onions, cheese, cream cheese, and bagels around. I hate how Aldi treats their employees and have been noticing how overworked the employees appear to be. I feel like I am now contributing to worker mistreatment every time I go in there and the one cashier is having to do all the self check and checking lane. I use these products but it really bugs me to shop there now.
Their orange juice is a full dollar cheaper than anywhere else, as are their mushrooms and ground beef. I may just have to suck it up and go
somewhere else.


Bee May 26, 2024 at 5:29 am

You and Katy can rest easy. 99% of Cabella’s taxidermy are not real.


Katy May 26, 2024 at 8:06 am

Really? A lot of them had the hunter’s name and date on them. They really looked real.


Bee May 26, 2024 at 10:37 am

They look very real. They do have some taxidermy mounts mixed in, but many are replicas. It costs a great deal of money to taxidermy a large mammal like an elk. Most state’s have stringent guidelines on what can be hunted, when and by whom. I think supply – which sounds completely gross — is a problem. The number of authentic taxidermy animals could vary from store to store. I do believe the first stores used real taxidermy. I think a good bit though is brought to us through the illusion of marketing.


Katy May 26, 2024 at 4:43 pm

I’m perfectly A-Ok with them being fake!

Jean C May 26, 2024 at 12:31 pm

I do not (with rare exceptions) shop at Aldi because of the way they treat their workers (based on a family member’s experiences there). It is a sweatshop. I am willing to pay a little more at a grocery that treats their employees well.


Christine May 25, 2024 at 4:34 pm

Your #5…and if you did, you wouldn’t have a large political party’s pool of money to pay it for you.
1. I have a friend who resides in a nursing home here in my town. She loves sweets but since the nursing home diet is a healthy one, she doesn’t often get them. CVS had Hershey Kisses (her favorite) on sale, buy one package get one for a penny. I gave her one and kept the other for my house. Chocoholic here.
2. Just picked up Crying in H Mart at the library. My favorite genre lately…memoirs. I’m starting it as soon as I finish Horse which I’m reading for my book club.
3. DH and I are invited to a cookout on Memorial Day at a friend’s house. She asked me to bring Potato Salad which I will make.
4. I painted 5 rocks to hide on the trails I walk. On each one, I wrote a positive word in (attempted) calligraphy.
5. Still sharing one vehicle with DH, hanging all laundry outside, used a $40 gift card and only spent $2.19 over ( I was happy to see I went over by just a tiny fraction of the average…thanks for this info Katy!), bought a pair of black dress pants for $3.50 at the Salvation Army Store for calling hours next week, topping off my gas tank with cheap gas whenever I see it.


Liz B. May 25, 2024 at 5:14 pm

I, too, love memoirs, and loved Crying in H Mart (read via my Libby app awhile ago).


Christine May 26, 2024 at 10:08 am

Between you and Katy both endorsing it, I’m so looking forward to reading it!


Katy May 26, 2024 at 4:43 pm



Bee May 26, 2024 at 5:20 am

Are you enjoying Horse? I just added it to my reading list.


Christine May 26, 2024 at 10:12 am

Horse is beautifully written. The prose and descriptions of people and events are wonderful. It is rich in history too. My one complaint is that it jumps around a lot from character to character, century to century, decade to decade. Besides that, it’s wonderful and I am learning so much from it.


Liz B. May 27, 2024 at 5:13 am

I just added it to my Libby requests!


Katy May 26, 2024 at 8:14 am

I absolutely loved Crying in H Mart and wish I could read it again for the first time!

And hooray for using your gift card without going too much over!

Another part of the Forbes article that I linked in my blog post is that “consumers are 2.5 times more likely to pay full price when using a gift card,” which I found to be interesting, but makes sense. It feels like free money, you you’re not trying to stretch it like you would if it was coming out of your bank account. This is a win only for retailers.


BettafromdaVille May 25, 2024 at 9:03 pm

It is my mom’s 80-weekend birthday, decidedly not frugal…. but…
1. For the family dinner, I offered to make Mexican corn salad (seriouseats has a fantastic recipe) and scanned all of the grocery circulars to fine the cheapest: .20 per ear of corn + mayo that I got for less than $1 a jar + green onions free from the backyard. I also offered Hawaiian rolls, free from mystery shop.
2. I also received a text from FlashFood app for $5 off $10, and was able to find 2.75 pounds of ground pork, a loaf of cinnamon swirl bread, and an entire bag of bell peppers, and the total came to just over $10.00. I also had $3 left from a referral bonus, so all of that was less than $3.00
3. Long drive to my parents’ house so I ate a free lunch (grilled salmon with veg) at work before leaving.
4. My parents and I also went out to dinner on Friday, but we went to a Mexican joint and only chose from the $6 food happy hour and $4 beer list.
5. While I’m here, I’ll snag some free rhubarb from my mom’s lush plant that has been going strong for decades.


Katy May 26, 2024 at 8:15 am

I would be eating that free work lunch every day!

Happy birthday to your mom!


Bee May 26, 2024 at 5:18 am

I asked for and received a price adjustment after something I recently purchased went on sale the day after I bought it. This was a savings of $20. I endured 20 minutes of online chat for this… Grr

I watched a short documentary on YouTube about Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpiece, “Cabin on the Rocks” in Carmel, California. This particular house I have seen in person many times. It is extraordinary, and It’s my dream view!

I have been reading The Last Train to Key West which I borrowed from my local library. It is a historical novel set during the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 which destroyed the Florida Keys and killed hundreds of people. As a Floridian, I grew up knowing this story and fearing that all storms would be like this one.

We made a unusual, mid month trip to Costco. I went to a different store than usual earlier in the month, and they did not have the dog food or kitty litter that I normally buy — both necessities. While there, I did buy a chicken and filled up with gas.

Frugal fail – I bought a old, silver tone photograph of a man in the old growth Redwood Forest at an estate sale. It was in a battered old redwood frame with a foxed mat and filthy glass. I took everything apart to clean and conserve, but a new mat is needed. I found one at a thrift store that I brought home. Unfortunately, it’s the right color, but wrong size. Since the photo is old, it has odd dimensions. I may need to get a mat specially cut. I hate to waste money in this way. However, this is not a total loss, the thrift store supports the local food pantry.

Wishing everyone peace, good health and prosperity,


Katy May 26, 2024 at 8:20 am

I’ve repainted picture frame mats before with great success, super easy and looks great.

That book sounds very interesting, I think I’ll see about putting it on hold at my library, thanks!


Q May 27, 2024 at 8:29 am

I have also spray painted old mats before and they were fine.


Christine May 26, 2024 at 5:41 pm

I admire your outlook on items purchased at that thrift shop. I agree with your thought that it somehow mitigates things when we know the money spent is going towards helping others. It really does sound like a very cool old photograph!


Liz B. May 26, 2024 at 6:06 am

Adding that book to my Libby list. That photo sounds awesome! I hope you can get the proper sized mat, and anything that helps support a food pantry is money well spent.
FYI, I’ve started reading a book about the man who built the Coral Castle in Florida. From what I gather, it’s south of Miami? I’m not very far into the book yet, but apparently, this man built it using books of coral, fitting the blocks so closely that no mortar was required to join the blocks (they liken it to the Egyptian pyramids’ construction). No one knows how he did it by himself, and he never revealed how he accomplished it before he passed away. Fascinating stuff!


Bee May 26, 2024 at 7:56 am

I have never seen the Coral castle in person. Lots of legend and metaphysical mystery surrounding it. I am sure that is an interesting read,


Mary Ann May 26, 2024 at 7:38 am

The real frugal win this week was realizing how much I save by having intentionally created an nearly automatic frugal lifestyle on a day to day basis.
1. I drink instant coffee.
2. I shop Sam’s club scanning with my phone specific things so I never go down aisle by aisle which could lead to overspending.
3. I MAYBE eat fast food a handful of times a year.
4. I shop Poshmark before anything else.
5. My EveryDollar app tracks all my spending.

The big realization came yesterday when I did a bunch of things I never do. I stopped at Panera Bread on a girl’s trip. I didn’t buy anything but a coffee and brought my own mug: 3.49? What????? On a pee break on the way home we stopped at McDonald’s. I looked at the menu. 7.00 for a double cheeseburger. I can get a pound of ground round for that at home. Did not buy it. I did not gamble at a $10 black jack table or even hit the penny slots. I did not buy a $10 well drink. I did not go into the mall that is the exact same mall which has the exact same stuff across all 50 states.

What did I spend money on?
1. A great shag haircut from a buddy and I gave her an extra tip because she doesn’t charge enough.
2. A huge rusted metal butterfly garden art that will go with the huge rusted metal sunflower that came with the River House renovation project. I bought it at a beautifully curated, small antique shop off the main highway.
3. Sushi with my son and husband – the last meal but son flies back to finishb college.
4. 2 new “hiking tights” from Kari Traa. Well made leggings/pants with pockets that I use both in the gardening and hiking AND just running around in. Love her stuff and her small batch story.

So yeah!! God Bless America on this Memorial Day weekend for all the choices I have as a consumer. It is not a luxury many in the world have. I am very grateful.


A. Marie May 26, 2024 at 8:46 am

Huzzah for your last paragraph, Mary Ann. Although it seems as if the US is turning into more of a freak show every day (from whatever POV you consider it), things could still be much worse. Back in my working days, I copyedited two books in my publishing company’s world geography series that continue to remind me of what an easy ride we have in this country–one titled A World of Difference, and another titled Africa South of the Sahara.


Dee from AZ May 27, 2024 at 6:46 am

A. Marie, do you mind sharing the authors of the books you mentioned? A search for the first title results in several different books with that title. tia


ST May 26, 2024 at 9:01 am

I really liked how you wrote this….what you didn’t spend money on and what you did spend money on. I live in a similar way. The daily financial sacrifices that I make allow me to do things that I really enjoy. For example…work less hours, spend more time relaxing, go on experiences, cook most of my meals at home, enjoy more of life in a slower pace, etc.


Liz B. May 27, 2024 at 5:31 am

Mary Ann,
I feel the same way about the things you skipped on your girls trip. To those that enjoy those things, go for it. I realized the other day that I haven’t shopped in a mall in, literally, years. The last time I went to a mall was to drop off our eclipse glasses at Warby Parker for recycling…..which I did, then left.


Katy May 26, 2024 at 8:24 am

Yeah, $7 for a McDonald’s burger is not worth it. It sounds like you were very smart with your spending while on your trip, good job!


Fru-gal Lisa May 26, 2024 at 5:46 pm

1. Substitute teaching last week of school. Ran out of cans and individual bottles of soda pop to put in my lunch bag. Teacher’s lounge sells soda for $1 a can, more expensive than where I usually buy it. Instead of using the vending machine, I scrounged up a large paper cup and took advantage of their free ice and iced tea. Twice.
2. I have a double front door so I have to put up 2 wreaths or 2 door decorations. As you may imagine, this can be costly. After July 4 last year, I bought 2 red, white and blue stars (door decorations) on clearance at a dollar store. They are made with pompoms placed against a wood star covered in felt. Got them out for the front porch. Only then did I read the tag: “For indoor use only.” Drat! But I had an inspired idea, and it worked: I reversed the door hangers so that I could hang something on the inside of the doors. I hung the stars so that the decorative side faces out. You can see them through the windows, and they look just fine. I have curtains on the door windows, so you can’t see the ugly side of the stars from the living room. Now, I’m all set for Memorial Day, Flag Day and Independence Day.
3. Remembered to get freebie shaker that comes with powdered drink mix at health food store. Used $3 coupon with it, also.
4. Bought some loppers for cutting tree branches from a thrift store. It cost me $5, and a volunteer sharpened them for me as well.
5. I’m working my summer/weekend retail job. Wanted some hot dog buns. Store had some — $1.79 for eight buns, and that was the smallest quantity you could get. I live alone, as does one of my coworkers, who also wanted to make hot dogs for Memorial Day; she was complaining she could never eat all 8 buns before half of them went bad, and she hated to waste food. We decided to split the cost of one package and each of us take home 4 buns. She gave me a dollar bill and told me to keep the change.


Katy May 26, 2024 at 8:11 pm

That is indeed a friend in need!


texasilver May 26, 2024 at 7:29 pm

1. I met my neighbor at the dealership so she could drop off her car. The employee told her the oil leak would be covered under the Hyundai warranty. I also gave her permission to use my car if her car was kept at the dealership longer than anticipated. She does many things for me, so I am glad to help her.
2. Same neighbor is gone to Ireland for 2 weeks. She gave me a huge salad & a bag of tangerines & veggies before she left.
3. I am eating out of the freezer & have bought very little food.
4. I have made several trips to a neighborhood that has multiple mango trees. I have gleaned mangos from the curb & street. I shared some with a neighbor. I am enjoying the free delicious fruit. I may freeze some also.
5. I found a large straw hat on one of my evening walks.


Katy May 26, 2024 at 8:10 pm

This Oregonian is so entranced that mangos grow freely where you live. It’s almost make believe!


A. Marie May 27, 2024 at 6:53 am

Cueing Rodgers and Hammerstein: “We got sunlight on the sand, we got moonlight on the sea/We got mangoes and bananas you can pick right off a tree…” (“There Is Nothing Like a Dame,” from South Pacific). I certainly don’t have these in Central NY, but I’m glad texasilver does!


Julia May 27, 2024 at 1:08 pm

I love me a good musical!


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