April 07, 2011

Tightwad Gazette II Reading - Day Two - April 7

Enjoy the review of these pages. This is one of my favorite sections as she goes into detail about calculating the cost of baking supplies. It is detailed and interesting.

My comments are underlined and I have used quotation marks on any direct quotes from the book. Let’s get to the review of this material.

PAGE 12 – CALCULATING YOUR C.P.M. (Cost per Muffin)

Amy had always wanted to sit down and try to figure out the cost of her homemade baked items such as muffins – hence C.P.M.

Here is the chart with the prices that she was paying in 1995. One cup has 16 tablespoons and a tablespoon equals 3 teaspoons. You can easily make up your own chart to calculate the cost of your home baked goods.

As a note Amy included the price of a cup of dry milk powder versus the price of liquid milk. Keep in mind that you need to reconstitute this 1 cup of powder to make more milk. Obviously the milk powder is cheaper to use in baking than the liquid milk.

I have gone to using powdered milk in my baked goods. It is definitely cheaper. I am able to get a box that will make 20 quarts of milk for only $11.00. 4 quarts equals 1 gallon of milk so that box will make 5 gallons of milk for a cost of $2.20 a gallon versus about $3.00 a gallon of liquid milk, on sale.


This is the number one thing I don’t miss about working in an office and that is having to wear panty hose every day!

When your panty hose is snagged, has lots of runs and has no useful wear left to it, don’t throw it out. Dissect it.

Segments of the panty hose can be cut out and used to tie off plants
that vine up a trellis. Cut into loops to make filler for stuffed animals. Put onions into one leg of clean panty hose. Tie a knot between each. Snip onions off as needed. I do this. I hang the panty hose in the basement from the ceiling with the onions in the leg. Of course, if you do this, warn your family members because it can kind of scare them when they see a leg of panty hose hanging from the ceiling with something in it.

Lengths of panty hose can be used to tie many things. Because they’re soft and elastic, they’re perfect for tying up tomato vines.

Cut in a spiral to make a thin strip that can be crocheted to make bracelets, headbands and even rope.

Put human hair (obtained in quantity from a barber shop) or dog hair into tied off sections and place them around your garden. The scent will keep deer away.


This article is outdated as she refers to re-inking ribbon type printer cartridges from years ago. If you have an ink jet printer you can order refill kits but you have to be careful as some of these refills can leak, smear and the quality may not be as good.

In our house we are always asking, do you really need to print something out? I would say that 75% of the time we don’t need a copy of something. When my son is printing off a report for school, I have told him not to print the draft until he has reviewed it on the screen and made any changes with grammar check and spell check. Also, I have him do a print preview so he can look at how it will look on a page before he prints it out.

In my opinion the biggest savings with printer ink, is avoiding printing something unless it is necessary.

We have a Dell printer and the black ink cartridges cost about $28.00 from Dell. The same ink cartridge costs $22.00 at Wal-Mart. I have noticed a local grocery store, Hy-Vee, is carrying ink cartridges that are compatible with our printer and the price is $20.00. So my answer is to do some research on the net and in your community to see where you can get the best deal on ink cartridges and then, get in the habit of only printing what is necessary.

Also, if you do print a draft of something out, print it on the back of computer paper that is being recycled. We keep a box of paper on top of the printer that has been printed on one side. I use this first when I need a draft of something as it saves on paper. Also, if I need a scrap piece of paper to write a grocery list or to do list, I have a nice stack on top of the printer.


Solar Cookers have been around for decades but they were expensive and needed constant attending. Back in 1976, Barbara Kerr, came up with a design that could be constructed in a couple of hours with household materials. You can read about Barbara Kerr here and see one of her solar cookers.

This new design can reach 275 degrees Fahrenheit, which will cook food hot enough to kill germs in water. Almost anything can be cooked in a solar cooker such as bread, roast chicken, stew, rice, beans, potatoes and other vegetables. The cooking time is about twice as long as using a conventional oven, but there is less labor as you don’t have to stir or baste.

Instead of typing the instructions that Amy has in the book, I found this video on You Tube which described the exact same type of Solar Cooker.

Here are some general tips about solar cooking:

1. Get the food in early and don’t worry about over cooking

2. Use covered pots with tight fitting lids, except of course for cakes and breads.

3. To keep foods hot after you lose the sun, add several bricks or large stones when you start cooking. These will help to hold the heat.

4. For baking breads or cakes, preheat the solar cooker for at least 30 minutes.


Although some store brands have their own packaging plants, many store brands are packaged by name brand manufacturers.

Amy shared the store that when her husband was a teenager he worked in a factory that canned pickles. They would fill the jars of pickles with a jar that had a name brand label on it. Then when those were filled they put jars on the line with a store brand label on it. Same pickles, different brand labels.

Name brand products are inflated because of advertising. Many of the store brands can be identical to the name brand, but not necessarily so. On the average store brands are about 15 percent less than name brands.

I buy numerous store brands and I just checked several different products that I have in my pantry. Most of those store brands have this printed on them “Satisfaction guaranteed or money refunded.” So, if this is the case and you want to try a store brand, buy one and try it. If you don’t like it, take it back.

For ease, you may want to go to your grocery store website and look at the process of returning a food product that you were disappointed in.

I remember back when generics were popular in the 1970’s and early1980’s. One grocery store I shopped at had all of their generics in one long aisle. As I recall it was an aisle of all white packaging with black letters. We were on a tight food budget when we were first married and I tried some generics. I remember trying sloppy joe sauce and finding out it tasted just like Manwich sauce. One time I bought some generic canned tomatoes and I opened it and one large tomato plopped into the kettle. That was the only time I felt I got cheated on a generic. There were some generics I wouldn’t buy, so I would buy a better quality store brand instead.

Then Aldi grocery stores moved to our town and I switched to Aldi brand products which I found to be of high quality. Unfortunately, we moved to where we are living now and as soon as the Super Wal-mart moved to town, Aldi closed. I miss Aldi. They made it easy if you didn’t like a product as they would easily and pleasantly refund your money.

25 years ago I had a friend that only bought name brand foods. She was married with 2 small children and she told me that she couldn’t make it on their $60 a week grocery budget. At the same time I was feeding our family of 3 on $37.50 per week on Aldi store brands. She may have had 1 smaller child in the family, but that child didn’t eat $22.50 more in food as compared to my food budget. I suggested store brands. I suggested Aldi. She refused.

One day she was at my house and I made lunch for everyone. Sandwiches were made with deli ham and cheese slices from Aldi and canned soup from Aldi. She enjoyed the meal and at the end I showed her the packaging. Even that meal didn’t sway her.

We were really good friends (she has since moved to Florida and I moved to another town in Iowa), so I never brought it up again.

It was a matter of survival in my family that I bought store brands and generics and make frugal meals in order for me to stay home for a couple of years when my son was born. For my friend, it wasn’t a matter of survival.


A reader wrote in that one day she read the directions on her box of dishwasher detergent. She was surprised to see that the recommendation was to use 1 tablespoon of the powder or what the manufacturer recommended. She had been filling the dispenser which was more than a tablespoon. She then started to measure out one tablespoon per load and was surprised that she got the same results as before.

I got a bargain on gel dishwasher tabs several months ago (32 pak for $1.19). I started using them last month and I decided to test the idea of using less. I clipped off one corner and squeezed half of the contents into my dishwasher dispenser. Then the next time, I put the remaining tab in the dispenser. The results have been the same as if I was using 1 full gel tab. However, I won’t be using the gel tabs again as the store brand liquid dishwasher detergent is far cheaper still.

I find that sometimes we think that more soap means cleaner dishes and laundry. This is not true and too much soap can actually leave residue on dishes and laundry. It pays to measure.

I bought measuring spoons and cups for my laundry room so that I can measure out detergent and softener to get more out of those products. I have measuring spoons and cups for my kitchen for measuring cleaners and such to make sure I am not just pouring in and guessing. I purchased these extra measuring spoons and cups at the dollar store and they don’t look anything like the pretty metal measuring spoons and cups I use for cooking.

I know I have saved money over time by measuring and not guessing.


Another reader wrote in to say that he is a trained landscaper. He came up with some inexpensive ideas for a beautiful landscape.

1. Use what you have. If you have too many rocks, edge with the larger ones, accent with the huge ones and pound the little ones into a garden path.

2. Use native plants if you can. They will likely grow regardless of what you do have.

3. Many plants are free. If you can learn to be patient, plant ground covers many times farther apart than the nursery suggests, then break off pieces as the plants grow and fill in between the older plants. Ask friends for “shoots” from their plants and start new plantings from them.

We removed some old cement steps from our backyard last year and they are behind are garage waiting to be hauled away. I think I will have my sons take a sledge hammer to those steps to get this broken down to be used in a path. Maybe I could put an ad in the paper for “free anger management class” and get some more people to help.

I know that there is information in Amy Dacyczyn’s books that some people won’t use or think is too frugal, but I don’t find that true for me. Anything I can do to reduce my expenses is a win situation. I really loved the section on Calculating your C.P.M. along with the article on store brands and gardening ideas.

There is advice for everyone in her books. Tomorrow we will review pages 20 – 28. Amy writes in these pages about ideas for framing pictures and art work along with a discussion on the cost of breakfast and more.


Lisa @Cents To Save said...

Thanks for the Solar Cooker Clip! Very Interesting~

Donna said...

Thanks for all the information. I Love Aldi's..best fruit and veggie prices. Our Aldi's sits at the edge of the parking lot of our Super Walmart(which I very very seldom shop at),and Aldi's is doing great,it is ashame your Aldi's ended up closing.