Five Teeny Tiny Frugal Things

by Katy on October 26, 2023 · 40 comments

  1. My childhood best friend Carol had been wanting to get together and since I’m the exciting person that I am, I suggested we hit Costco together. She lives very close to the warehouse store, so the two of us were able to enjoy each other’s company while crossing an annoying task from our to-do lists.

    Buying cat litter and a rotisserie chicken has never been so much fun!

  2. They didn’t have the 2-pound bags of carrots that I normally buy at Winco, so I bought a 5-pound bag and gave some to my friend Lise. She and I frequently share when we have too much of certain foods, so it all balances out. Last month’s excess cilantro becomes this month’s carrots.

  3. Portland’s weather has taken a dip into Autumn temperatures, which means my sieve of a 109-year-old house is decidedly chilly. However, it’s just me at home, (my husband is still in Las Vegas for his baseball tournament) so I’m hesitant to turn on the furnace for my big ol’ house until I’ve employed a few actions.

    Here’s how I’m staying warm when the interior temps hit 58-60 degrees:

    • I wear either a sweater or hoodie sweatshirt to preserve my body heat. Cozy socks and shearling slippers warm my feet.
    • I plug in a heating pad for my lap, which I then cover with a pillow or blanket. Obviously, this is for when I’m seated on the couch. This really is pure luxury!
    • I open the curtains if the sun actually peeks out from behind her cloud cover.
    • Tea to warm my hands and tummy.
    • I sleep on flannel sheets and under a thick down duvet.

    I know nothing on this list is new or exciting information, but I still wanted to share how I’m choosing to preserve the natural gas that powers our furnace. Sure, it’s a I-hate-to-waste-money issue, but it’s also because the natural gas industry is nasty and a major contributor to climate change. If I can acclimate myself to cooler temperatures there’s really no downside.

  4. • I noticed that dried chives were $22.48/pound in the bulk section at Winco. This makes me extra pleased to have grown and dried my own chives.
    •  Safeway had another sale on Tillamook cheese, so I picked up two more 2-pound loaves of white cheddar cheese for $6.47 apiece. I also activated a $2-off-anything coupon in the “rewards” section of their app. This cheese is often twice this price, so I stock up whenever it’s on sale. Their expiration date is far into next year, so it’s no problem to stock up.

  5. I didn’t buy any teeny tiny Lear Jets.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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It’s been awhile since I’ve put together a Non-Consumer Advocate photo essay, so I thought I’d put a new one together for y’all. Specifically all about food.

Last night’s black bean chili, which featured a wealth of refrigerator tidbits such as leftover marinara sauce, the last of some BBQ sauce from my daughter’s birthday dinner and two teeny cups of taco cart hot sauce. It packed a wallop!

Oatmeal with brown sugar and a scoop of my “foraged blackberry” jam. Oatmeal is 70¢/pound at Winco, which makes it an easy choice.

Cheesy grits with eggs and scallions. The scallions grow in my kitchen window and I’ve been trimming away at them since the end of August.

It’s as simple as putting your grocery store scallions in a jar and then just setting them in a sunny spot. It’s not enough for a scallion-heavy recipe, but it’s always enough for a garnish. Worry not, as they grow quickly and don’t create an oniony smell. You can see that I’m also rooting rosemary and a couple random plants.

It’s no surprise that I like free food. So when I came across this soggy box of abandoned produce in the Winco parking lot, I had no choice but to investigate. Slightly bruised tomatoes, wan Italian parsley and a single red pepper. I suppose I should have brought the whole thing home to compost, but instead I just grabbed the red pepper. Mind you, this parking lot has a dangerous vibe and is always littered with cigarette butts and random garbage, so mystery food isn’t necessarily so appealing.

Here’s the perfectly good pepper.

I didn’t need a pepper, so I sliced it up to freeze. And yes, I scrubbed the hell out of it!

What would you have done? Would you have grabbed the box to go through at home? I kind of regret leaving it there, but I didn’t really process these thoughts until I got home.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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Five Tiny Frugal Things

by Katy on October 24, 2023 · 57 comments

  1. I have a pot of chives that I planted maybe twenty years ago. and they reemerge every year without fuss or bother, which is my kind of gardening! I snip bits throughout the summer and then forget about them until the following year.

    This year I realized that I should be preserving the unused chives instead of letting them go to waste. I went outside with my kitchen shears and was surprised by how much was still left. I looked up how to preserve chives and read that it’s as simple as cutting them up and just setting in a bowl to air dry. Just shuffle them around every day or so. They were taking a bit to dry as Portland’s been especially damp this week, so I set the bowl at the back of my stove to take full advantage of any oven heat.

    This action saved me maybe 50¢ as I buy my spices in bulk from Winco, but I’m sure my freshly dried chives will be tastier and certainly more satisfying!

  2. I got an email from LL Bean this morning to contact them about the ripped fitted sheet that I mailed back (at their expense) a couple weeks ago. They explained that although my 2-1/2 year-old sheet was outside the normal return period, they’d replace it anyway. It took a few minutes on their end as I’d bought it as part of a set, yet wanted just the single sheet replaced. It’s back ordered for a few weeks, but that’s no problem as I’m embracing dim rainy weather with flannel sheets at this point in the year.

    Their fitted sheet normally costs $69.95! So yeah . . . it should’ve lasted much longer.

  3. I stopped by the Franz Bakery Outlet on my home from visiting my father. (I had a completed punch card and carbs are my love language.) Normally I have to pick through the shelves to find what I want, but today they were overflowing with amazing choices.

    In the end I came home with two loaves of their Dave’s Killer Bread dupe, an eight-pack of pub rolls, a restaurant size loaf of whole grain bread and a loaf of sourdough black rye bread. I paid nothing and found a penny in a puddle outside the store.

  4. I picked out every single goddamned embroidered stitch on the hand towel that I bought at the pay-by-the-pound Goodwill Outlet last week. I completed this task over the course of two evenings and I would estimate I spent close to five hours on this task! However, it was while watching TV and I like to keep my hands busy as I zone out.

    Does it look great? Not exactly, as you can definitely see where the stitches used to be. But that doesn’t bother me and there aren’t a lot of new frugal “hacks” to add to my repertoire at this point in my journey and I like to challenge myself to find new ways to take my frugality that much further. Total cost was maybe 15¢.

    Here, see for yourself. Before:



5. I didn’t buy any tiny Lear Jets.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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Five Frugal Things

by Katy on October 23, 2023 · 44 comments

  1. My husband is spending a week in Las Vegas for a baseball tournament, and here’s how he’s staying on top of the finances:

    • He paid for the trip by working overtime shifts.
    • He’s sharing an AirBnb with two of his teammates.
    • Their rental is outside the city limits.
    • He’s sharing a rental car with one of those teammates.
    • His first stop after settling into the AirBnb was to grocery shop so the three of them can prepare their own meals.
    • He has no interest in gambling, so there’s zero chance of him losing our life savings.

    He did invite me to join him, but I went to Vegas once at the end of nursing school and let’s just say we didn’t bond. Hard pass. Ick.

  2. My mother turned 81 and we celebrated by shopping at the Goodwill pay-by-the-pound outlet, (her choice) followed by dinner at my house. We didn’t exchange gifts as she already has everything she wants and needs.

    I haven’t been thrifting much lately, but I did pick up a midcentury teak and enamel wall clock, a Reed and Barton silver plate bowl, a terrycloth hand towel, a Catan Jr. game, two pairs of cribbage pegs, a Coach brand leather belt and a sealed bag of Legos. My mother bought a mug, a scarf, a baby blanket and maybe something else. The grand total was $11.17. I paid for both of us, which can hardly be categaroized under “generosity” as everything at the bins is so crazy cheap!

    Dinner back at the house with the family was Asian-style marinated chicken thighs/drumsticks (the ones I picked up for 87¢/pound) rice and roasted cauliflower. Dessert was a certain box cake per my mother’s request. I chose the menu based on how much could be prepared ahead of time, which is a very specific goal. The entire meal set me back around $15!

    Happy birthday, mom!

  3. I got together with my next door neighbor for an hour or so of tea and cozy chatting. We both simply drink tea from our own homes, which can hardly be simpler or more frugal. We schedule these laughably cheap dates every month or so and they always hit the spot.

    I love getting together with friends and do so pretty frequently. Unlike fictional characters who indulge in pricey brunches and retail therapy, (I’m looking at you, Carrie Bradshaw!) we center our socializing on frugal activities such as going for walks, visiting in one another’s homes, thrifting or even just running dull errands together.

    Get yourself a friend who’s happy to grocery shop with you. It’s the best!

  4. • My son and I stopped at IKEA after dropping my husband at the airport and dropped batteries/lightbulbs for recycling and then filled our travel mugs with free coffee.
    • I listened to Jennifer Weiner’s The Breakaway audiobook through the library’s Libby app.
    • My husband and I went to dinner at a local British-style pub and shared an entree.
    • We watched a couple Paramount Plus episodes of the original Twilight Zone after my mother’s birthday dinner. I was halfway through cancelling this streaming service recently and was automatically offered three free months. Umm . . . yes, please!
    • I sold a $2 Ozzy Osbourne thrifted Halloween costume for $75 on eBay!

  5. I didn’t buy a Lear Jet, not even at the Goodwill Outlet.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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Five Tiny Frugal Things

by Katy on October 19, 2023 · 66 comments

  1. I hosted a family dinner for an out of town cousin last night, which took a bit of creative planning as:

    1) Two guests were vegetarian.
    2) One of those people was about to board an airplane, which removed “beans” as an option. This decision was a public service.

    I went ahead and served “bangers and mash” as it was simple to pull together and it’s just as easy to cook veggie sausages as it is to cook regular ones. Plus I had the last of a 10-pound bag of potatoes that needed to get used up. A bag of frozen peas, a free loaf of ciabatta bread and a homemade apple pie completed the menu.

    There were no complaints.

  2. I used free apples from the neighbor’s tree for last night’s apple pie. Free food somehow always tastes better.

  3. My scooped up my cousin for an afternoon of adventure during his stay here in Portland. His first choice was to visit the Portland Japanese Garden, but sadly it was Tuesday, the one and only day that they’re closed. Instead we drove up to Forest Park and hiked around for an hour or so, which ended up being a perfectly acceptable plan B. Plus it was free.

  4. • My daughter gave me a pound of butter, a bag of corn tortillas and the aforementioned loaf of ciabatta bread from her schwanky grocery store.
    • I refreshed the stale ciabatta bread by running it under water for a second, wrapping it in aluminum foil and then reheating it in the oven. This hack is amazing!
    • I smoothed out the aluminum foil and put it back for reuse.

  5. I didn’t buy a tiny Lear Jet.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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Five Frugal Things

by Katy on October 16, 2023 · 67 comments

  1. We celebrated my daughter’s 28th birthday at the house featuring a gluten-free box cake with homemade chocolate frosting. My mother and stepfather provided takeout from our favorite barbecue restaurant, which was much appreciated even though the restaurant forgot to include my entree. Luckily I had a Costco rotisserie chicken in the fridge, which hit the spot just fine once I added BBQ sauce to my portion. My stepdad called the restaurant for a refund, so it was actually a frugal event?

  2. I put the last of the rotisserie chicken in the Instant Pot and made two pots of chicken soup, (one with dumplings) plus enough broth to stock the freezer. This meal was perfectly timed as my son is nursing a nasty cold and Portland is finally enjoying some chillier weather. Soup and sweater season has finally arrived!

  3. • My friend Lise brought over a surplus bottle of rice wine vinegar she no longer wanted.
    • I also brought home more apples from the neighbor’s tree. They’d set out a big bag with “FREE” written on it, so I took enough to bake a pie.
    • My husband used a $25 Fetch Fred Meyer gift card to buy his work lunch supplies. It took forever to accumulate enough points to earn this card, but it was minimal effort so I’m happy to jump thorough a few hoops. I’ve been more consistent with tracking deals, which translates into earning points a little faster.
    • I picked up three tubes of toothpaste and two bottles of shampoo from Dollar Tree.

  4. I nabbed another Bonne Maman jar from my neighbor’s recycling bin. I utilize these jars for bulk spices, as well as bits of leftovers as I prefer cohesive storage and think their faceted sides and gingham lids are super cute. Being able to easily source them for free ain’t too shabby!

  5. I didn’t buy a Lear Jet, not even on Amazon Prime Day.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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Five Tiny Frugal Things

by Katy on October 11, 2023 · 68 comments

  1. I stopped by the Franz Bakery outlet store with a completed punch card that would normally be worth five loaves of bread. Unfortunately pickings were slim so I grabbed just a single $2 loaf of Seattle sourdough bread and brought it to the cashier. I explained that I had a full card but wouldn’t be using it since it was just the single loaf. She then gave me the bread for free and marked my card as such.

    Hooray for free food! This bread is excellent for grilled cheese sandwiches and we’ve already used it for tuna melts.

  2. My son’s iPhone 8+ got wet from a leaky water bottle which frustratingly  happened on a Saturday night. The repair place we like is closed on Sundays, so we took it to a different place that charged us $35 to let us know that the phone was unresponsive. I picked up the phone the next morning and brought it to the good repair place where they’re now subjecting it to a 48 hour intensive drying treatment. And unlike the other place, they don’t charge you anything if they can’t fix the phone.

    My son has plans to buy a second hand phone if this one has truly kicked the bucket. The over-manufacture of consumer goods, specifically electronic devices has led to an environmental crisis, so I’ll always at least attempt a repair.

    ** Update: The second repair shop was able to clean and dry the phone and even installed a new battery for just $50! Phone works fine now and we’ve avoided having to  buy a new phone!

  3. Having said that, I did buy a brand new set of LL Bean sheets in 2020, which were actually a gift from my mother as a house-ish warming gift. (I suppose it was technically a “bedroom warming” gift, but that term gives me the icks!) My husband and I had repaired a few things in our bedroom, repainted everything and invested in a new mattress to replace the one we’d gotten for free over a decade ago.

    The sheets were no bargain at $160, but I went with the NY Times’ Wirecutter recommendation and profusely thanked my mother for her generosity. (Thanks, mom!) Unfortunately, the fitted sheet split in an odd spot the other day, which quickly turned into a 24-inch long raggedy tear that was in no way easily mended. So I called their customer service and was told that the one-year warranty had ended, but I could mail it back for them to evaluate. I know this seems silly, but I feel like three years is too soon for sheets to fall apart at any price.

    I’ll drop them off at the UPS store tomorrow and keep you updated.

  4. I bought two bag bags of Hi-Chew packaged candies at Costco for just $6.99 apiece. (They were priced at $9.99, but had a $3-off instant rebate!) I’ll hand them out on Halloween and won’t even burden my neighbors with storing them, as I don’t find them even remotely tempting. However, they were a huge hit with the trick-or-treaters last year.

    I used to hoard Halloween candy coupons in order to not spend a fortune, but $13.98 is a bargain and so much easier than playing the coupon game.

  5. I didn’t buy a tiny Lear Jet.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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Five Frugal Things

by Katy on October 9, 2023 · 77 comments

  1. I laundered my living room curtains and washed the windows to brighten everything up a bit. These curtains aren’t really my favorite, but they’re neutrally acceptable and I already own them. I picked them up in 1999 from a friend’s garage sale for $1.50 per panel, which was my budget for anything not absolutely necessary at the time.

    Interior designers (and content creators) switch up their style every few years, as their careers would stall without the excitement of fun! new! decorating ideas. But I’m no decorator. I’ll replace the curtains at some point, likely when I find replacements through my Buy Nothing group or a free box. Until then they’re fresh and clean and absolutely inoffensive.

    I find that cleaning and organizing can scratch that itch when I’m tempted to replace my dull but otherwise perfectly fine belongings.

  2. I rewatched the PBS Frontier House documentary from 2001 on YouTube. This historical documentary reality series followed three family who spent five months attempting to recreate the lives of those who came to Montana to homestead in 1880.

    Utterly fascinating and informative, this show does not sugar coat the struggles these families faced. They made sure to educate on how this westward expansion displaced the Native Populations, as well as the plight of the Asian railroad workers. There’s a bit too much interpersonal drama, but I still really enjoyed watching it.

  3. My step mother is methodically decluttering the house my father’s been living in since 1969. She asked for me to come look through a couple of boxes to make sure there wasn’t anything I was unduly attached to. I grabbed a Camp Namanu mug that I bought in 1976, two Dundee Orange Marmalade crocks and four half-gallon canning jars for kitchen storage.

    The marmalade crocks now hold pens, the canning jars have been filled with bulk grains/beans and the Camp Namanu mug has been added to the excess of mugs I already own.

  4. • I made sure to swing by Safeway while their digital coupon for $5.97 Tillamook cheese was still valid. I bought two, which was the limit and chose the white cheddar as it normally costs $13.99! I may not officially be doing a grocery challenge like last month, but I’ll always grab that cheap Tillamook cheese!
    • I gave away a pair of Greek souvenir plates that no one in the family claimed to own. Thanks, Buy Nothing group!
    • I used a two month old sweet potato for a stacked sweet potato recipe I found online. They turned out a bit burnt, but it was nothing that a squirt of ketchup couldn’t fix. I won’t link the recipe as it wasn’t worth using up so much butter.
    • I planted the rooted cuttings that I brought back from my sister’s house in August. She rooted her plants from our aunt at least twenty years ago.
    • I set an awkwardly sized storage jar I no longer needed on the curb with a “free” sign.

  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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Five Tiny Frugal Things

by Katy on October 5, 2023 · 63 comments

  1. I saw an online tip to freeze fresh ginger and then just grate off the amount you need for a recipe. Although ginger is a small percentage of my overall grocery budget, I always feel bad when I inevitably waste that last dried out bit.

    I tried it out and it works, so my kitchen now functions a tiny bit more efficiently. It’s increasingly rare for me to find new frugal hacks at this point in my life, which makes this one extra exciting!

  2. I saw a bra that might work for me in an Instagram ad, so I opened my eBay app and found a used one in my size for 1/3 the price. I didn’t like the color of the one listed, (bright white) so I set an “alert” to get notified when they get listed in my size. I’ve spent my adult life fruitlessly searching for a comfortable bra that fits me properly. Like whatever the Jewish version of the holy grail is, but for big boobs.

  3. The friend who fostered our sweet kitten came by to visit with “Mama’s Little Meatball” and brought two opened boxes of cookies and half a bag of tortilla chips. She explained that she didn’t want the temptation of having them in her house, which was my gain. The odd part is that she has no idea that extreme frugality and the fight against food waste are my jam.

  4. I walked to the library to pick up my holds even though I was low energy and it was the last thing I felt like doing. (Stupid long Covid!) It’s one thing to venture out into the world when you’re feeling energetic, but it’s an entirely different accomplishment when your preferred activity is couch based.

    I gave myself three gold stars.

  5. I didn’t buy a tiny Lear Jet.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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September was the month for my husband and I to recalibrate our food spending. It’s not that we were out of control, but it doesn’t take much to spiral out of control. Food prices are all over the place and not in a good way and I wanted to see if it’s still possible to beat the system.

If I were completely in control of all food purchases I could’ve made this an insanely cheap month, but I’m just half of the adults in my household and I’m not interested in prioritizing a blog stunt over the wellness of my home life.

The main deterrent to keeping our food spending down is that my husband eats the same work lunches every day. Without an iota of variation. Ever. He doesn’t have access to a microwave to reheat leftovers and carries everything Tetris style in a small cooler. His shifts are 12-14 hours long, so it’s lunch, dinner and snacks. These lunches are non negotiable and they’re not based in frugality.

• A deli meat sandwich (roast beef or turkey) with avocado and havarti cheese on Dave’s Killer Bread.
• Fage Greek yogurt topped with frozen mixed berries and granola.
• One banana.

This. Always this. Exactly this. This.

Despite the lunches, I’m really proud of how we kept our food budget in check for the thirty days hath September. We spent:


Here are some stats:

I treated my neighbor to a thank you lunch for looking after our cat while we were in New York last month. I counted my $15 lunch, but not hers.
• My husband and I ate lunch at the IKEA cafeteria. He had the $8.49 meatball plate and I had the $1.15 veggie hotdog. Coffees were free.
• I made three apple crisps using windfall apples from my neighbor’s tree. This satisfied our sweet tooth.
• My daughter brought us the occasional random item from her schwanky grocery store. My favorite item was a fruit tart and my least favorite item was some stale sushi.
• My father brought me a loaf of his whole grain sourdough bread.
• I drove through McDonald’s for a 50¢ double cheeseburger on National Cheeseburger Day.
• I didn’t include household supply items like shampoo, toilet paper, etc. Last time I checked, this is not food.

We made 22 shopping trips which sounds insane and I suppose it is. Keep in mind that I live in a grocery oasis, so with the exception of Costco, these stores are all within a mile of the house.

We shopped at:

Safeway — Mostly for digital coupon loss leaders.
Fred Meyer — My husband buys his lunch meat and avocados here. I pick up occasional last minute items from here as they’re just a couple blocks from the house. I always hit up their produce clearance shelf!
Dollar Tree — For condiments and pickles.
Trader Joes — 19¢ bananas, bay-bee!
Winco — I shopped there for staples such as produce, dairy, chicken, bulk goods, cheese, tea, peanut butter, frozen veggies. This is where I do my big picture grocery shopping.
H Mart — I ran out of gluten-free soy sauce and they carry the inexpensive brand I like. I picked up two bottles as I like to have a backup.
Costco — My husband buys his frozen mixed berries, havarti cheese, plus our beloved Better Than Bullion concentrate there. He always gets a hotdog.

I could’ve kept the total number down had I only shopped for the precise month of September. This would be short sighted though as I stock up on sale items to keep spending down, which can inflate a single trip but is actually cheaper in the long run. In other words, I bought food that’ll transfer into the month of October and beyond.

It was hard to resist the siren song of Portland’s amazing restaurant culture. I began craving birria tacos (and bahn mi sandwiches) a couple weeks ago and know I’ll hit up a food cart before the week is over! Not too pricey, but they didn’t fit in September’s budget.

This spending challenge definitely effected my food choices as I didn’t have the luxury to be tempted by impulse items. We have a few recipes that include pricier ingredients and we simply didn’t prepare those meals. So when my husband offered to pick up salmon at Costco or make his signature spaghetti and meatballs, I asked him to put it off a month as the ground beef, bulk sausage and red peppers make it a expensive meal. Especially since he buys the ingredients at the aforementioned schwanky grocery store!

Now your turn. How are you dealing with food inflation, have you changed how you shop or what you eat? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below!

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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