March 03, 2011

Tightwad Gazette I Refresher - Day Three - March 3rd

We begin today’s reading with talking about how to reduce your postage expense, but since we now have the internet banking and e-mail, this is outdated. As a reminder, I have underlined my own comments within the post.

Pg. 25 - Amy gives her recipe for granola and she said that if you don’t add nuts and dates, for example, it is a very inexpensive granola recipe.

Homemade Granola

¾ cups brown sugar
1/3 cup vegetable oil
5 cups oatmeal
½ cup dry milk
¾ teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch of salt
½ cup raisins

Mix brown sugar, oil and honey in a saucepan. Heat til the sugar is dissolved. Combine dry ingredients (except the raisins) in a large cake pan. Pour the sugar mixture over the dry mixture and mix well. Bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes. Let cool in pan. Add the raisins after the mixture has cooled. Store in an airtight container.

Optional: add nuts, wheat germ, coconut, dates, etc.

TIP ONE: Toilet Paper I always get a little happy when I see this tip as it came from someone from my hometown of Jamestown, New York. This lady talked about how when her grandchildren came to visit, they would go through a lot of rolls of toilet paper. The kids would just grab miles and miles of toilet paper. Her solution? She stood on the roll of toilet paper – lengthwise and it creased the roll. Now when used it would turn three times and tear off easily. I do this and it works!!

The Scrounged Halloween Costume and creating something from nothing.

She compares making a costume from stuff on hand as making a gourmet meal from leftovers. This is the tightwad way. Her son wanted to be a robot for Halloween. Amy and her husband made his costume.

There is a picture in the book, but I will describe it as follows:

She took a milk jug and made a mask and painted it silver. The top of the mask had a spark plug in the middle and a coil from a calendar that was bent over the spark plug.

The chest was made from corrugated cardboard; three layers bolted and glued and painted silver. There were all sorts of buttons on the front for looks – they were actually old insulators, burned out fuses and dials from an old stereo.

He wore a gray sweater and pants. They took old sneakers and painted them silver and took old dryer duct to put over the sneakers and it covered his legs up to his knees.

This costume made me think of the robot from the old t.v. series Lost in Space.

Yes this was work, but her son won the Most Creative Costume award at a community Halloween Party. The key here is to get your kids to select what they want to be for Halloween a couple of weeks before the date. Then start working on the costume.

The Puree Pumpkin

Amy advises to carve your pumpkin for Halloween on October 30th. On November 1st cut it up and discard the peels and any black spots. Cook in a pot with 2 inches of water. Cover and boil until soft. Drain water and process in blender. Freeze in 1 or 2 cup portions in Ziploc bags for pumpkin recipes. I thought you had to use a “pie pumpkin” for pumpkin puree and you couldn’t use a regular “jack o lantern” pumpkin. Any thoughts on this?

TIP TWO – Paint Rollers

When you need to reuse the same paint roller (and the same paint), cover with a plastic bag, squish out the air and tie with a twist tie. Put in the freezer overnight. Just thaw to reuse. I do this all the time. It is a real time saver.

TIP THREE – Air Freshener

Instead of using highly perfumed air fresheners, get rid of unpleasant odors by simply light a match.

TIP FOUR - Stain Remedy

For really tough stains, make a paste of Barkeeper’s Friend cleanser on a stain for about five minutes and it removes a lot of stains.

Getting a Bargain Every Time

Amy talks about how many people decide they need something one day and they go out the next day, buy it and put it on a credit card. First Amy recommends having foresight.

They anticipate any purchases well in advance of needing them, as much as that is possible. For her it isn’t unreasonable to spend a considerable amount of time looking for a house (almost 3 years), a car (around 6 months) or for a specific carpentry tool.

During the time of the search, she does research to see if an inexpensive model will serve her needs or perhaps a used item. Then she spends some time in thrift shops, flea markets and at yard sales to determine the going price. Only after doing extensive research will you be certain when you have found bargain. Of course while doing research, save up the money.

As I was reading this, I discovered that I really need to do this. After all, the majority of the big ticket items that we need, we know about long ahead of time. I’ve been doing it backwards. We save up the money and go buy the item. I need to be more patient and research and search around for a better bargain.

Second, Amy stresses that you must be patient. Don’t even consider paying full price when you are looking around.

Third, Amy recognizes the fact that you may have to improvise if you are not able to find a bargain before the need comes due. She gave an example of needing sleeping bags for a weekend camping trip. Perhaps you could borrow sleeping bags or just use bedrolls.

It does happen that certain items never go on sale or turn up at a yard sale. If this happens at least you know that you have done your very best to search for a good deal and you will then pay full price knowing that you are certain that you have exhausted all possibilities.

An Urban Excursion

Amy advises that if you travel to an area other than where you regularly shop, she recommended checking other stores for bargains and prices that you can write in your price book. With the price of gasoline, I would go one step further by saying that if you have to travel to perhaps another town, coordinate the trip with other friends so you can share the gasoline and you and your friends can go try out some other discount or thrift stores.

The Price Book

When I first read this book, it was the first time I was ever introduced to the idea of a Price Book.

Amy realized that she needed to keep track of prices in order to know where to shop to find the best deals. She started out by writing down prices on sale flyers and from her grocery receipts. She also made a few trips to compare prices of specific items.

Amy used a small loose leaf binder. Each page contained prices for one item such as peanut butter. She would start with writing down the store name, then the brand, the size and the price, and finally she would write down the price per lb. or ounce in order to do price comparison.

Obviously she realized before long this was a valuable tool as it helped her to know when a sale was a sale and when she should stock up. Amy stated that for the first time she had a feeling of control over her food budget.

I use a price book and I too find it valuable. The only problem I am having lately, is one that all of you are probably having. Prices are going up and now I am buying boneless chuck roast @ $2.88 lb. instead of at $1.99 lb. I am back to tracking prices and starting over – but again, it is a valuable tool.

How to buy Food in Bulk

Amy talks about how we have fallen into a pattern of grocery shopping every week, probably due to the sale flyers coming out every week. Bulk buying or stocking up saves you money.

Her first step is to know your prices. Hence you need to start using a price book to track prices. Never assume that one store has the lowest price on every item.

Second you must investigate the food sources in your area. Here in our community we have two grocery stores, two dollar stores, one Super Wal-mart and we also have local farmers and during good weather we have the Farmer’s Market. Let’s not forget about possible internet options.

I’m not sure if this is true today, buy Amy stated that the loss leader sale items generally appear on the cover and back of sale flyers. Again a price book would help you decide if a sale item is really a good deal.

Amy recommends buying enough of something to get you through to the next sale. I do this. Now when I buy things on sale, I may never see that price again due to high food prices, so I really stock up a lot.

Amy also discussed shopping at food coops. How I wish we had a food coop in our area. I know I could save a lot of money if we had one. Well, Amy addressed this issue. She talked about forming a small group of friends, who buy similar foods and agreeing to buy from a food coop or other bulk supplier. Then the group would purchase in large sizes, such as 50 lbs. of oatmeal, and they come together and split the oatmeal into smaller sizes. I think this is a very good idea. About 45 minutes from where my in-laws live, is a great bulk store. They sell everything from flour to cookie decorations to molasses. I am thinking that the next time we go to see my in laws on a Saturday, perhaps my mother in law and I could travel that extra 45 minutes and really stock up on some great deals. I could take a list of items from friends here. I am going to do some researching on this and I can call the store ahead of time to check a few prices to make sure it is still a source of good deals. With the price of gasoline and food prices, I do believe that co-oping with others to buy things is an old fashioned/ new way of purchasing food.

Finally Amy addresses where to store that bulk food. Here are some suggestions. First of all she said to re-think the spaces in your home. She used the example of if you could get an extra $50 a month (remember this would be 1992 prices) to rent out some space in your home, you would then find the space.  So if buying in bulk and using a price book saves you $50 a month, you will definitely find a place to put the bulk food.
Her suggestions for places to store the bulk food are: canned goods can go under your bed, a closet can be converted into a pantry. Another area I have found, when we lived in an apartment, was behind the couch in the living room. I covered the items with a tablecloth.

Amy recommends that in order to buy in bulk most effectively you should get a freezer. When we rented an apartment in the basement of a house, the landlords allowed us to use the freezer in the garage. What a God send. They make smaller chest freezers that would fit in small spaces. I think of our first, tiny, tiny apartment and I could have put a small chest freezer in the tiny kitchen and moved the kitchen table to a section of the small living room. I have a 15 cubic foot freezer now and I love it.

Next Amy tackles the problem of coming up with money, beyond your normal grocery budget, in order to buy more food in bulk. She suggests starting out by eating more meatless meals and eliminating buying some non-essential grocery items. Use the surplus money to begin buying in bulk. I started out by freeing up money from other budget categories and by also taking what food we had on hand and using it up and buying only what I needed to supplement meals for a week or two in order to stash some money for bulk buying. The savings from bulk buying will provide more spare cash to reinvest.

If you have spent your bulk budget money and you find an unbelievable deal (for example my deal last month on ground beef @ 80 cents a lb.), by all means buy it. Don’t miss a great sale. “As you begin to buy in bulk your food bill will be high the first month, but eventually the average will drop to a new low as you gradually eat a larger percentage of foods purchased at the lowest possible prices.” This is so true. Spending a little extra money up front when I was first home, then consistently buying food in bulk and on sale has reduced my food bill a lot over the past almost two years.

This is the third day of our refresher reading of this book, and I must say that reading and taking notes has given me the incentive to really take heart to Amy’s advice. I am enjoying re-reading the Tightwad Gazette at this time. It has been helpful and I am gaining new insight.

Again, post your comments and share any extra advice you may have.

For March 4th, our assignment is page 36 thru 45 – we will leave the Topic of Baggie Basics on page 45 to our March 5th reading.


The Headstrong Housewife! said...

I have a friend who says she uses all kinds of pumpkins to make her puree, and has never had an issue with it!

Maureen said...

I spent a large part of yesterday going through the supermarket flyers for the best and cheapest deals. For anything not in the flyers I went into the websites of the supermarket chains I use and compared prices from there.
today is Grocery day for me, but before buying whats now on my list, i will have a look at small butchers and fruit and Veg shops, just to be sure that i am geting the best deals on my list.
Yes this takes longer but like yourself i think it,s worth spending some time every week doing it.
Now if only coffee was on special this week as we are about to run out.

Spendwisemom said...

I enjoyed reading the tightwad gazette. She has good ideas if you are not into couponing. Back when she wrote the book, it wasn't as easy to find good deals through the internet. I do like the way she tries to cook from scratch, etc. Most of our grandparents lived lifestyles like that.