Monthly Archives: May 2017

Speaking Up – Part of Frugality

From the children’s book “Electric Ben: The Amazing Life and Times of Ben Franklin”

One aspect of frugality is determining whether I am getting value for my money.  When a product falls short, I honor my finances by speaking up about it.  Today, it is easier than ever to reach out to companies.

Last week we had a bag of baked chips, and something was not right with them.  Some of the chips were extremely hard – in a break your tooth kind of way (thank goodness no one did!)  Perhaps the “dough” for the chips was rolled too thick, but it certainly delivered a sensation of ‘what’s in my mouth?!’  I wrote to the company using their website contact form and included all pertinent information from the package so they could pinpoint which factory these came from.  They will be mailing me a few free product coupons.

Solving a Mystery

Many years ago we used to purchase Silk soy milk in the shelf stable packaging.  We bought it frequently and starting having problems with it being gloppy.  It wasn’t expired, and it is shelf stable so refrigeration wasn’t a factor.  I wrote to the company.  They were concerned and wanted all of the information they could get.  Of course they also sent coupons for free product.  Some time went by and I received a letter from the company founder, Steve Demos!  He explained they had pinpointed and solved the problem, which had to do with how the package was being affected in shipping.  There were more coupons, and even a $10.00 bill from Mr. Demos’ own pocket!  I thought it was pretty neat that they took a real interest and responded in such a personal way.

Being Fair

I am normally an easy-going person who doesn’t like to make waves, but I know that when I use our money  to purchase something that is completely not acceptable, I honor the effort it takes to earn money by speaking up.  On the flip side, I honor other people’s work by not complaining just to get free stuff.  The consumer always pays in the end, so complaining that your Lucky Charms cereal didn’t have enough “purple hearts and yellow stars” costs us all.

Do you have any great stories about dealing with an unsatisfactory product?

Saving and Homemaking 5/20

Hello frugal friends.  The photo above is a nod to my friend Becky’s blog, who featured almost the same photo this week.  Great minds and all!

Saving

  • A local grocer had 20% off all fresh and packaged meat, sausages, bacon etc.  I don’t buy a lot of meat, but I did get some items for upcoming cookouts and ground turkey for spaghetti which I cooked and froze for a later date.
  • Got a free bag of candy from my grocery store’s item of the week and redeemed a coupon the store mailed me for a free bag of chocolate chips.
  • Received a coupon from Walgreens for 20X points on in their Balance Rewards program.  Used that on some of the good deals at Walgreens this past week including free M&Ms, canned almonds — 2 cans for 3.00 after coupon, and flour 1.99.  I am close to earning a $10.00 reward from Walgreens.
  • Received free Taste of Home magazines from my local village’s Nextdoor private online community. I hope my daughter and I can make some recipes from them this summer.

I have about 40 new to me magazines!

Cooking

  • Daughter baked Toll House cookie bars for her Dad to take as a birthday treat to work. His office is large and bringing a treat from a store gets expensive.  People asked for the recipe!  I had to “LOL” because it’s just the recipe on the back of the chocolate chips.
  • We ate at home most nights but also took advantage of a BOGO at Noodles and a birthday coupon for a date night dinner out.

    Trillium

Free Fun

  • Went hiking at a nature preserve for birthday/Mother’s Day.  We were treated to seeing thousands of trillium in bloom.  In many states and provinces it is illegal to damage trillium because they do not recover if damaged.  We have a few trillium in our back lot, but I have never seen them in this quantity.
  • The whole family volunteered at our church’s service day.  It was an early morning but we enjoyed coffee and snacks before starting. DD and I worked on the Operation Christmas Child initiative while my husband worked a plant sale to raise money for Tanzanian scholarships at the university level.

Hope your week was nice and you are recharging for the week ahead!

 

 

 

 

 

Broke my Bling

A few months ago while I was unloading the dishwasher I felt something go wrong with my engagement ring, and found that the diamond had come out of the setting and the prongs were bent and broken.

Thankfully I found the diamond, and I put the ring and diamond in a Ziploc until I could deal with it. I couldn’t fault the ring… it is over 25 years old and has withstood countless dings and mishaps; however, I knew it was going to be an expensive repair, and I wasn’t looking forward to spending the money.  Then again, keeping a loose diamond in a lunch baggie isn’t a wise decision either.

I don’t have a “jeweler.”  These days my main jewels are from Charming Charlie, averaging about $7.00!  I broke down last week, though, and took the ring to a small business jeweler.  The gold prongs had to be rebuilt… $200!

Purchases like this can be hard for me.  It’s a lot of money and not an urgent purchase.  I consoled myself with the fact that if I lost the diamond or tossed the Ziploc bag out, I would really be upset.  I also reminded myself that a $200 tune up on an engagement ring is nothing compared to the cost of a divorce.

I have my ring back, and it looks amazing because they also buffed out the dings in the band.  I think I have mentally recovered from the $200 expenditure.  Do you have areas where you find it hard to spend money?

Side note: back when we got engaged the ring cost $900 and we had to take out a payment plan for it.  Some people upgrade their rings, but I like this memory of being poor young people just starting out.

 

 

Saving and Homemaking 5/13

Happy Mother’s Day to the terrific Moms, Aunties, and Grandmothers out there.  Our week was a little crazy.  My husband and I were both sick, and the week was jam-packed with school events.  We got through, but it was one of those weeks where you are just making do until you can do better.

Saving

  • At my daughter’s band concert I had an opportunity to reclaim unused school supplies from her locker.  I returned them to my plastic storage container for school supplies.  On another school visit, I took back the massive stock of glue sticks.  How many glue sticks does a middle schooler need?!
  • I went to CVS with a 2.00 ECB they mailed me in a Mother’s Day promotion which expired 5/13.  Used it just in time.  Bought the 3 L’Oreal Shampoo in last weeks’ advertisement plus 1 Colgate 360 toothbrush and paid 4.77 and got 3.00 in ECB.
  • Used a free Starbucks birthday drink coupon (DH birthday) and we brought home a Venti and split it.
  • Used a coupon for a free Papa Murphy’s pizza (Teacher Appreciation) and it was very appreciated on a ballet night!
  • DH went to a discount grocer and checked their online ad before leaving.  He scored a BIC grill lighter for .49 after coupon.  I always need one of those for the summer.  Other good prices were had there as well.
  • Used a Walgreens’ photo 30% off coupon to make a photo collage for DH’s birthday with pictures of fun things we have done the past 6 mo or so.  It turned out nice and he will enjoy that in his office.

Minimizing

  • I returned 2 kitchen towels to Sur la Table that were attached to a Teacher Appreciation Gift.  They were very cute but I knew I wouldn’t have a use for this type of towel.  I exchanged them for items I can “use up” — pretty cake sprinkles and pre-cut parchment circles for cakes.  I will be grateful to have those every time I bake because my cake circles are always a sorry affair.

Cooking

  • Humble fare this week due to illnesses and school events.  Pumpkin pancakes, hot dogs and pea soup, etc.  I will make a pumpkin bread for the freezer with the leftover canned pumpkin.
  • DD made a gorgeous chocolate malted birthday cake.  It turned out a tad dry as chocolate cakes can be when they have melted chocolate instead of cocoa powder in them.  We found it much tastier with a teaspoon of coffee drizzled on top of the cake slices.  Many bakeries do soak cakes to keep them moist.

Cleaning

  • got the hats and mittens stored away and washed daughter’s winter coat.  Hopefully we can put that away?
  • hoping with better health this week I can get to the bathroom blinds and some detailed dusting.

What’s new in your home and garden? Any great coupon deals this past week?

 

 

 

 

 

Too Busy to Bother?

Stock-Images-Vintage-Plate-GraphicsFairy-blu2I am reading a new young adult fiction book called “American Street” about a girl named Fabiola from Haiti who comes to visit relatives in urban Detroit. Her plans do not include returning to Haiti.

One aspect of the book (no spoilers I promise) that greatly affected me is the contrast between the sense of home and gracious hospitality in Haiti and the utter lack thereof at her relatives’ house in Detroit.

There is no celebration for my arrival; no meal is cooked, no neighbors are invited to welcome me . . .  I open the fridge to find bottles of soda and ketchup and hot sauce and mayonnaise. . . . In the freezer are boxes of pizza and waffles and frozen meat wrapped in plastic. . . .  I grab a slice of orange cheese wrapped in plastic. . .  . I can’t believe this is the first thing I eat in America.  It tastes like a mix of glue, chalk, and salt.

This may be a work of fiction, but the scenario doesn’t feel all that fictitious to me.  I recognize the cultural trend in America that says, I’m too busy to host– I don’t want to deal with the stress– or – We’ll just grab a pizza.  Trust me, the reason this the theme spoke to me is because I have thought, and said, all of those things myself!

When I think about my own childhood, though, so many of the happy memories of family celebrations are centered around the special meals people took time to make.  My Grandma’s ever present Nesco roaster .  . . My mom’s fantastic Thanksgiving meals, including homemade cranberry sherbet . . . my Aunt’s rosettes (a fiddly Scandinavian cookie).

Sometimes I think Martha Stewart just wrecked us all.  The standards are so high that if you aren’t weaving your own tablecloth you might as well just buy your Christmas dinner at Boston Market and call it a day.

For me, the vision portrayed in “American Street” solidifies the importance of hospitality for friends and family.  These gestures say “You’re special” and have long reaching effects that most of us won’t ever realize.  I don’t have to weave my own tablecloth for a fancy dinner; a simple recipe prepared at home or flowers from the garden are ways to share love and create memories.

What are your thoughts on the state of hospitality in western life?  What are some ways you like to show you care even though it seems like “a bother”?

Saving and Homemaking 5/7

IMG_2208Planting

DH ordered a huge pile of mulch and has been spreading that in all of our garden beds.  We are still having frost and even freeze warnings at night, so we haven’t even gotten the peas planted yet.  We keep saying, ‘Maybe this coming week . . .’  Meanwhile, the lawn is growing like mad despite the cold temps.

Saving

This week was Teacher Appreciation Week and I won a gift certificate to Sur la Table and also a cutting board and knives.  I am very appreciative for the gift and the nice snacks and meals the parents provided for us.

DH happened upon a 50% off haircut at our local walk-in salon.

I used $ 4.00 in Extra Cash at CVS to purchase two jars of peanut butter.  The Extra Cash was just about to expire.  It’s maddening when an ECB escapes only to be found after expiring.  #Cvsproblems  I also took advantage of the extra cash given for Colgate toothbrushes and Kleenex.  Generally I only play “the CVS game” when it is an item we will use and the price is a good deal.

IMG_4055-private_fotorCooking

I found a nice size bag of frozen broccoli florets for 1.98 at Trader Joes.  This should hold us until fresh prices come back down.  Speaking of produce prices, garlic is also in short supply right now.  The produce report said, “Concerning Chinese imports, in February US Customs placed a hefty import duty ($4.71/Kg) on one of the few Chinese shippers who historically had little to no duty. The 2016 Chinese crop was already less than normal. This additional factor has further lessened the amount of Chinese product available in the US market.”  California garlic is a few months away from being ready.

We have been pretty diligent with eating meals at home for the last few weeks, so much so it feels like I have made every meal so recently.  I look forward to summer to have time to try some new recipes.  For the week ahead, we are going to have to roll with it because suddenly so much is going on with ballet, school concerts, and the like.  On Sunday I made some hard boiled eggs which can always work into a salad meal or to accompany tuna salad.

Cleaning

Better than anticipated!  I moved a few couches to vacuum, moved an end table to wash under it, and detail dusted some accent tables that are usually ignored.  My lofty goals for the week include putting away the mittens and hats and detail dusting the bathroom blinds.

Reading

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“American Street” by Ibi Zoboi, about a young Haitian immigrant.  I’m having many thoughts about this book related to the state of American homelife, which I will share in a separate post.

I hope your week was good and that if you are busy with soccer, baseball, recitals, and spring concerts, know that quieter days are ahead and enjoy the madness while you can.