March 31, 2011

Tightwad Gazette I Refresher - Day 28 - March 31st

Of all the things that I wish I would have done when my kids were younger, it’s that I didn’t go to garage sales to buy their clothes and that I didn’t buy their clothes years in advance and store the clothing like Amy did.

Amy Dacyczyn is a wonder. The advice in her books is priceless and you easily recoup the price you paid for these books. While our economy has brought us challenges, Amy gives us the tools to work through these tough times and beyond. Yes, beyond. We shouldn’t just read these books and put Amy’s advice into practice for these times only, but we need to make life long changes.

Three years ago I can guarantee you that there were people who were wishing that they had more money in the bank and less debt in order to deal with a job loss. Perhaps we should constantly remind ourselves that happiness and security is defined as no debt and money in the bank.

These ideas are from Amy Dacyczyn's book the Tightwad Gazette I.  I have underlined my comments. Now on to our reading for today.


Except for sneakers, socks and some underwear, Amy has never purchased new clothing for any of her children. Remember that Amy has 6 children at the time of the writing of this book, so she has about 30 same sized boxes in her attic that have clothes stored in them.

The boxes are marked with the age of the child and the sex. So using her system 5YG – means 5 year old girl; 12YB – 12 year old boy; Trainage – obviously these are the potty training pants and underwear.

Amy collects clothes from relatives that are years older than her oldest child and she stores them away. She is given a lot of hand me downs, so she sorts them by age and sex for future use. When she buys yard sale clothes she will buy only a couple years older than the oldest child. She doesn’t buy too far in advanced because free hand me downs might come along in the meantime.

Also, she doesn’t wait to shop for clothes 6 months before she needs them as she might not be able to find what she needs.

Amy stores the clothes in same size boxes so she can gauge the amount of clothes she has. Amy’s goal is not to have too many clothes for one size, but a “just good enough amount.” Amy never turns down hand me downs from anyone. She sorts through them and keeps everything, just in case she will need them all. Amy doesn’t go through to repair or remove stains at this time as she may be given some clothes in the same size in better shape sometime in the future.

Amy will buy things very far in advance if she is at a yard sale and they have brand new shoes or a new coat on sale. She also tries to choose items that will be in style for a few years.

Amy has 30 boxes stored in her attic and each of them is marked with her code for sex and year. The boys boxes are on one side of the chimney and the girls boxes are on the other side of the chimney. She can easily go up to her attic and retrieve an article of clothing at any time.

I wish with all my heart I had gone to garage sales and yard sales for my kids’ clothing especially when they were young. I know I would have saved a lot of money.


This recipe came from a woman that ran a used clothing store for children.

Add 1 cup each of powdered Cascade and Clorox II to five gallons of the hottest water to come out of your faucet. Soak articles overnight and launder as usual.

This will remove about 90% of the stains. Do not use this for delicate fabrics or fabrics that were not color fast. This is good for removing food stains.

I was given some maternity clothes years ago when I was pregnant with my oldest son. These were some really pretty t-shirts but a few of them had stains right on the front. With nothing to lose and everything to gain, I used this solution and it worked. Those shirts came out free of stains and I was able to wear them throughout my pregnancy.


This article is about writing manufacturers about defective items you have purchased. Now instead of trying to find an address to write to, you can simply find the manufacturer’s website and send an e-mail to customer service.


One reader wrote in to say that after wallpapering the rooms in her house she had a lot of wallpaper left over. She uses it to wrap gifts. One time my mom used wallpaper to make the outside covers of little program booklets for a mother daughter banquet at our church. It was clever and she finally was able to use up some of that wallpaper she had on hand. She was a professional wall paper hanger so we always had half or quarter rolls of leftover wallpaper in our house.

This same reader bought beautiful decorative vases at yard sales. She would clean them up and go to a florist and ask them to fill it with $5 of flowers. This is a good idea and if you go to Wal-mart you will find that you can get a nice bouquet for $10.


In the summer that is, to do your Christmas shopping at yard sales. Look for toys that are in great condition for kids and collectibles, puzzles or books for adults.

I remember going to a few garage sales when my oldest son was about 1 years old. I found a Little Tikes football toy chest for a couple of dollars along with some great Fisher Price toys. These items were in almost new condition. We lived in a large City at the time so we had a lot of garage sales we could go to with some great deals.


Amy received a brochure from their electric company which showed a breakdown of the average costs of using most household appliances. When she looked over the brochure she saw that some of her appliances were not the same wattage as the examples. So she did some math.

If you use 1,000 watts for 1 hour you’ve used 1 kilowatt hour (or KWH). If you pay 10 cents per KWH you can run a 1,000 watt appliance for 60 minutes for 10 cents. A 100 watt light bulb costs 1 cent per hour to run.

Appliances have the wattage marked on the bottom. They don’t all have nice easy numbers, so you need the equation:

Watts x Hours

  1,000               = KWH

Example: a 1,400 watt hair dryer used for 2 hours a month:

1,400 x 2

  1,000               = 2.8 KWH

It is hard to calculate energy usage on appliances that go on and off such as an oven, water heater or freezer. Also, when you use an oven, you use different temperatures depending on what you are baking, so again, energy usage is harder to determine.

You can save money when you cook small amounts of food in smaller appliances such as a toaster oven, slow cooker or microwave. The microwave tends to be the most energy efficient. The only problem is that you can’t cook everything properly in a microwave oven.

Amy did recommend that if you need to warm something on your stove and the oven is on, put that item on the surface unit that has the oven vent. The escaping heat will help warm the food. I have a gas oven and I do this all the time especially if I want to warm rolls. I place them in a bowl and put them towards the back of the stove where the oven vents. Works great and is better than the microwave.

To save energy on your dryer turn it to air during the last 15 minutes as it will still use the hot air that has built up in the dryer. In cold weather vent your electric dryer into your basement to make good use of the heat. If you brew a pot of coffee in the morning, pour it into a thermos to keep warm instead of keeping the warming unit on.

Set the water heater temperature to a lower degree of 125 degrees. Install a low flow shower head in your shower. Set a timer for the shower to save on water. That sounds great to me. The person who is in the shower the longest in our household is our 18 year old son.

Finally check with your electric company to see when the off peak hours are for the cheapest usage of electricity. I have got to do this. I have heard that if you wait until after 9:00 do your laundry, you can save money on energy. But if I waited until then I would only be able to do 1 load of laundry at a time so I would have to do a load every day of the week. If this was a significant savings, I would do this during the winter as in the summer I hang the clothes up outside.

Tomorrow we will read page 278 through 284. We are coming close to the end of this first book. It has been fun re-reading this book. I hope you have gained some new tips and have also enjoyed reading this as much as I have.

March 30, 2011

Tightwad Gazette I Refresher - Day 27 - March 30

Tonight my husband asked me why I was washing out the milk jug with soap and water and letting it dry in the dish drainer. I told him that “I have an idea on how to reuse it.” He said a slow, “okay.” It does seem that everyday I think about what I have just read in the Tightwad Gazette and I find a way to implement something new into my life. Being a tightwad or living frugally (sounds prettier) to me means that you are trying to become less dependent on buying stuff and you are becoming more independent or self sufficient.

Just think about it. Why go out and buy containers to store stuff in, when you probably have something you can use around the house. One of the greatest storage items are pails that ice cream comes in. I love storing things such as popcorn and dry beans in spaghetti sauce glass jars.

This month I am becoming more aware that although I have been living frugally, I still have a ways to go. Getting my Amy D. fix each day is working.

Let’s get to today’s reading of page 262 through page 269.  I have underlined my comments.


In the book April drew what her refrigerator looks like. The book is filled with her drawings and sketches so this book isn’t just words, but there are sketches on nearly every page.

Here are the contents of the Tightwad Refrigerator.
1. Three reused apple juice jugs containing grape juice from concentrate, dry milk that has been mixed and saved vegetable broth for use in soups.

2. Reused margarine tubs containing leftovers.

3. A month’s supply of eggs.

4. Homemade refrigerator dough.

5. A reused baggie of thawing pumpkin puree.

6. Cheap fruit like bagged apples and oranges .

7. Homemade salad dressing and BBQ sauce in reused bottles.

8. An Apple with one bite missing.

9. Cheap veggies like carrots, celery, and cabbage.

10. Stacks of bulk purchased sale stick margarine.

11. A child’s glass of juice with 1/2 inch remaining.

12. Bulk purchased yeast costing a fraction of the type sold by the packets.

13. Leftover corn chowder for husband’s lunch at work.

14. Bottle of homemade pancake syrup with 1/8 inch remaining.

15. Canning jars of green beans, pickles, spaghetti sauce, etc.


This recipe equals 20 store packets at 25% of the price.

4 cups flour
4 cups cracker meal (or ground inexpensive crackers)
4 Tablespoons salt
2 Tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons onion powder
3 Tablespoons paprika
1/4 cup vegetable oil

Mix well and store indefinitely in the refrigerator in a covered container.

The first time I made this, I increased the garlic powder and the onion powder as I felt it needed more flavor. Even so it is still cheap as I buy the 5th Season brand of spices at Wal-mart for only 50 cents.


Amy gives a detailed description of how she patches a pair of jeans. Basically what she does is that when there is a whole in a knee, she rips out the seams on either side of the knee to about 4 inches, or 2 inches above the tear and 2 inches below the tear. She makes a new patch out of denim fabric that matches the jeans (or from an old pair of jeans). To do this she cuts out a patch that is wider than the pant leg and is 5 inches high. Sew the top and bottom edge of the patch under 1/2 inch and then topstitch the patch over the tear. Then tuck the edges of the patch into the seams of the jeans and topstitch to close the seam.

When my oldest son was young, he wore sweat pants all the time. But, as little boys do, they tend to crawl around and fall down, so it wasn’t long before there would be a hole in the knee. I would take another pair of sweat pants in the same color that was also in bad shape and I would cut out a square of fabric that was twice as large as the knees (I would patch both knees so they matched). Then I would fold this fabric over and stitch it on 2 of the three open sides. On the third side I would stitch a seam half way and then turn the patch inside out. I would then pin it to the knee and I would topstitch this to the knee, tucking under the open seam as I sewed. Then I would sew an ‘X’ across the patch for added strength.

The result was a double patched knee with an X that looked almost quilted. Some mothers at his pre-school wanted to know where I got his “reinforced knee” sweatpants. These patched knee pants worked so well, that he outgrew them before they wore out.


How do you have a good yard sale? Think about all the yard sales you have been to and the ones that you have disliked and do not repeat their mistakes.

1. Hold a yard sale in a populated area and an area where yard sales flourish. If you live in a hard to find place, see if you can have your sale at a friend’s house that is located in a more populated area.

2. The first sunny spring weekend is your best bet for a great time for a yard sale.

3. An ad will not be needed if you have your sale in a great location. You can post signs around and then if it rains and you want to cancel, you can just go out and take down the signs.

4. Make your signs noticeable. Use red lettering and balloons to get the attention of a possible consumer.

5. Placement of your signs is critical. Place on all the intersections near your home as far as the main road.

6. Begin gathering stuff early. Have a designated carton to put your yard sale items in it throughout the year. If your quantity of items seems lean, buddy up with a friend.

7. No one likes to see knick knacks and huge piles of clothing. Organize these items. Put the big items out front for people to see as they drive by. Hang up as much of the clothing as possible and get it organized. Lay out children’s clothing according to size.

8. When considering pricing, remember that your primary objective is to get rid of stuff, and not make money. Generally sell things for 10% to 50% of a comparable new item.

9. Expect to negotiate. Hold firm if you think the item is already cheap enough.

I know people who buy stuff at yard sales and then fix it up and sell it on e-bay.


Actually this article tells the value of basic math problems. Amy said that she is a mathematical midget versus her husband who is a math whiz. She uses common examples of why you need to be able to do math problems in your head. One example was comparing the prices of cereal to see which is cheaper by the ounce. Well, unfortunately or fortunately, we have cell phones that also have calculators built in. I pull out my cell phone all the time and use the calculator on it to do price comparison.


Amy had several readers send her recipes for baby wipes made with paper towels and a solution of baby oil and baby shampoo. Amy didn’t like the idea of throwing all those paper towels away so she used the old fashioned version - wash cloths designated for baby’s bottom. Also the commercial baby wipes have alcohol, fragrances and other things that aren’t good for baby’s skin.

I purchased a 12 pack of white wash cloths for this purpose. I would wet the wash cloth and then I would wipe it across a bar of ivory soap. Then with this in hand I would pick up the baby, head to the changing table and wipe the baby’s bottom with the wash cloth. After I had changed the diaper, I would toss the wash cloth and diaper into the diaper pail. I washed a load of these every day. Again, we had a tight budget and it was either buy diapers and baby wipes or buy groceries. We only had $37.50 per week to feed us (back in 1986) so I couldn’t afford the luxury of diapers and wipes.

Amy noted that many daycare centers require baby wipes so you can always try the paper towel recipe as follows:

1 roll of Bounty paper towels
2 1/4 cups water
2 Tablespoons baby shampoo or baby bath
1 Tablespoon baby oil

Cut the roll of paper towels in half and remove the cardboard center. Mix the water, shampoo or baby bath and oil in a plastic container. Place half a roll in a container (perhaps an old baby wipe container), put the lid on and turn upside down to let the towels thoroughly soak. When ready to use, pull the towels from the center of the roll.

Tomorrow we will look at page 270 through page 277. Part of the discussion will include how to organize clothing that has been stored away for later use, Amy’s stain recipe for getting out a multitude of laundry stains and looking at electrical usage in the home.

Dinner Tonight - March 30th and Painting

Today after doing laundry, running errands, getting my nails done (yea) and helping out with the after school program at church, my husband took me out to Subway for supper.  We're really trying not to spend any extra money but I really needed a break from cooking and he noticed.  Our son went to his youth group at church where they supply a meal, so it was just the two of us eating out. 

We took our Subway discount card with us and saved $1.00 Wasn't much but it was still a dollar saved.  I don't think a sub ever tasted so good as the one I ate for supper.  We got foot long subs along with pop and chips.  I ate half and the other half will be my lunch tomorrow.  Didn't think it was too bad for $15.00. 

I suggested we just pick up the subs and bring them home.  My husband told me that would defeat the purpose of eating out since I was so tired.  I know I am making a big deal out of a fast food restaurant.  However I feel Subway is one of the healthiest restaurants you can eat at and it is my favorite.

Here is what a portion of my living room looked like yesterday after I painted two coats of the base coat. It is a dark olive green/gold and it is so beautiful next to the furniture and the rug. I am totally thrilled and ready to get this finished.  (I just have the panels up for privacy.  I took down the valance until I am done.)

Our living room was two parlors when the house was first built. Somewhere about 30 years ago, the previous owners took out the wall and pocket doors that divided the parlors and made one open room. As I am painting I am working on one end of the room at a time. There are definite dividing points of the rooms with the wood work so painting it in two phases will work without any noticeable difference.


Note the masking tape on the woodwork at the top right corner of the window. That marks where the picture rail is located under the paint.  It is a long piece of wood that is placed towards the top of the ceiling where you put in a nail and hang a picture on a cord from that nail.  You can see that rail in the picture below.  I have marked it as I plan on hanging my pictures by putting a nail into this board.  Anyone who has plaster walls can tell you it is very hard to put a nail into a plaster wall without the plaster crumbling a little.


Here is the rug, with my dog's foot in the picture.  The wall color
matches this rug perfectly and when I am done faux painting it will look even better.

Tomorrow it will be back to painting in the living room. But taking the day off and giving my back a rest and not having to cook dinner has totally refreshed me.

Yellow Cake Mix Recipe

Thank you to April who e-mailed me today with this link to Chickens in the Road.  I will be giving this a try.  The site looks very interesting and as April said, "She uses only ingredients on hand, and it is very simple to make.  I have made several of her recipes and have never been disappointed"  

That's good enough for me.  I will be baking two cakes this weekend for a church dinner so I will be trying this recipe.  Thanks again, April. 

My Day Off and Recipe Needed

Today I am not painting and I am not going to Curves to work out.  My back needs a break and so do I.  Today I have laundry to do (or should I say the washer has laundry to do), an article to write for a news site, a nail appointment (yea!) and I will be helping at our last after school children's time of the year at our church.

Do you ever have a "need to research list"?  I do.  I buy a few convenience foods but as I have used these up, I am researching homemade versions.  One of these foods is yellow cake.  I cannot make a homemade version that is as moist as the version that comes from a box.  I don't want to make a homemade batter and have to add a pudding mix, instead I am searching for a yellow cake that has perhaps the ingredients for pudding in it. 

You know that my family is going to enjoy tasting different recipes of yellow cake over the next few weeks. So, if you have a great yellow cake recipe and would like to share it, please leave a comment.

March 29, 2011

TIghtwad Gazette I Refresher - Day 26 - March 29

I’m tired, but I am what they would call happy tired. I put a second coat on 1 of the walls in my living room. In Amy’s own words, I find happiness in doing some home renovations on my own. Yes, towards the end of our reading today she talks about what makes a tightwad happy.

Let’s get started.


Amy notes that they had a mortgage payment of $758 per month. They had lived in their home for 19 months when they sat down and calculated that they had made total payments of $14,402 and of that amount only $1,804 went to principal. But, they knew this was going to be the case.

Many times the only mortgage that individuals can afford is the 30 year mortgage. House buying is hard and usually the 30 year mortgage makes it easier to afford the purchase of a home. Amy noted that you should get a mortgage that doesn’t penalize you for pre-paying.

Over the past 10 years with the onset of the subprime mortgage market, people were able to get mortgages a lot easier. Unfortunately, many could not really afford even these mortgages and when the rates adjusted, they had to let the bank foreclose. Even so there are mortgages out there that don’t require the usual 20% down payment so you do have more mortgage options than they had 20 years ago.

Here is a direct quote from Amy: “One of the common misconceptions about the mortgage is that you shouldn’t pay off your mortgage because you need the tax write-off. However, if you are in the 15% tax bracket you only save about $1.00 on income tax for every $6.66 you lost in interest.”

Amy uses the example of a $75,000 mortgage financed over 30 years at the rate of 10% (Remember this is 1992). The monthly mortgage payment is $658.18 a month and if the family rounded their payment up to $700.00 a month, the 30 year mortgage would get paid off in 22 1/2 years and would save $47,944.32 in interest.

If they committed to paying off the mortgage in 15 years they would need to pay $147.77 more per month and would save $91,872.63 on interest.

This is an example of how a little extra money (such as rounding up your mortgage payment) can cut the life of a mortgage and save a lot of money on interest. If you are curious there are many online mortgage calculators that you can play with to see what a few more dollars a month would do to paying off your mortgage early. It is an eye opener.


Even tightwads make mistakes.

1. Amy and her husband put their savings into a mutual fund account. Because of a lack of attention and knowledge, namely buying and selling their shares at the wrong time, they ended up losing $1,500.

2. They had their “nest egg” diversified in long term CDs and half a dozen funds. On the advice of a broker they bought into a fund that was tied to the stock market. Within 60 days the market crashed (Oct. 1988). The fund did not recover so they liquidated it. This cost them $800.

3. They bought two new vehicles and negotiated 20% off the price. They read a Reader’s Digest article after the fact that stated you could easily negotiate 25% off the price of a new car. This mistake cost them $1,500.

4. They bought a new set of bunk beds for their children after shopping for a second hand set for months. Within a matter of months the new beds were trashed to the condition of most of the used ones. This mistake cost them $200.

5. When they placed an offer on a house, they hired a building inspector. The inspector found problems that they should have seen – such as one part of the house had no foundation. After that, they inspected the properties themselves before hiring an inspector. This mistake cost them $275.

6. Before they were married they had a combined 20 years in the work force and had assets only valued at $1,500 between the two of them. They will never know how much this mistake cost them.


Milk jugs can be recycled or they can be made into some other useful item. This benefits the environment because an object fabricated from a milk jug replaces another object that would be otherwise manufactured.

1. Cut off the top to make a container to hold children’s toys such as Legos.

2. Punch holes in the bottom to make an irrigation jug. Set into the ground near plants to be watered.

3. Cut off the bottom at an angle and it becomes a pooper scooper. Or in my case a scooper I keep in my bin of bird seed.

4. Cut the top and handle off to make a toilet brush holder.

5. Cut off the bottom to make miniature greenhouses. Remove the cap during the day. Or use to cover plants when frost threatens.

6. Fill with water and put in the toilet tank for a water saver. Or fill with water and put in the freezer to fill the empty spaces (and improves the energy efficiency.

7. Cut large holes in the sides to make nonaesthetic but functional bird feeders.


COMMENT: A Reader wrote to Amy to say that her husband is very mechanical and can do repairs along with making furniture and fixing lots of things. She in turn has the knowledge of gardening, sewing and creative cooking, organization and cleaning. They both help each other out by having specific gifts that benefit both of them. This reader said “Teamwork yields some good ideas and saves us money. We can do about anything we need to.”

Amy agreed that this is why she and her husband are good at saving money because their talents complement each other.

QUESTION: A reader wrote in “How do you get your own house cheaply if you are financially responsible, but don’t have a big credit history? We’ve promptly paid thousands in student loans but have been told these don’t count. We pay cash, and make our money go much farther than the general public does, but from what we hear banks would rather lend money to people who live beyond their means.”

A. Several methods exist to obtain housing cheaper, such as a state subsidized loan for low-income families (perhaps a Federal Loan such as Rural Development), or buying a two family house and renting half.

B. The second part of her question deals with establishing credit which can be hard for tightwads since they pay cash for everything. Here are 3 basic strategies for establishing credit from someone she consulted with:

1. Get a co-signer on a loan to help establish credit. This could be either family or friends. I strongly and I mean strongly disagree with this as I have seen what happens when a person defaults on a loan and then the lender goes after the co-signer. It is not a good situation and breaks friendships and causes strife in a family. The only time I would say that this would be okay would be if a parent co-signs on a student loan knowing that they are willing to pay the loan anyway.

2. Get a secured credit card. Secured means that you have a deposit equal to the credit you want. I’m not sure if they still have these or not. I disagree and say that you should just get a credit card and use it, pay it off at the end of the month or to establish the fact that you can make payments pay it off over 3 months. Even if you pay a little interest, you are showing that you can make payments on time and pay the debt off. If you are a tightwad and are always careful with your money, you won’t be tempted to make unnecessary charges.

When our oldest son was a junior in college we had him apply for a credit card. The credit limit was $500. We told him to charge all of his normal expenses on the card and to pay it off each month. Then we told him to go ahead and carry the balance for a month or two and the pay it off. Now, we trusted our son as he is very financially responsible. He did this and was able to establish credit. It was the best thing we could have ever done for him. Last year he and his wife bought their first home and I know that they were able to do so because they have a great credit history and FICO score. It all started with that credit card in college that got him on the way to a great credit history.

3. Borrow money from a bank and put it into a secured savings account in the same bank. Pay back the loan with other cash. This costs you interest, but you also earn some interest on the savings account.

If you are a saver, then put away those large sums into a bank account. Those funds are part of your assets that bank loan officers look at when you are applying for a loan. If you have plenty of money in the bank, it will impress bank loan officers. Also if you maintain that balance in the bank and keep it increasing, that is even better. Lenders look at bank balances over a period of time to see what type of spender and saver you are.

Here are my ideas for establishing credit. Don’t pay cash for anything while you are establishing credit. Use a check, debit card or credit card to track your spending and payments. Pay your bills not only on time, but a little before they are due. A late payment can screw up your FICO score. You may have to pay interest on credit cards for a short period of time while you are establishing credit, but look at this as a cost of establishing credit. Also build that savings account.

If you are renting, be a great renter. Keep the property inside and outside clean and neat so that when you leave, you will get your deposit back. Always pay your rent on time. Your landlord will be asked to give a reference when you go to get a loan from the bank to buy a house.

Also, check your credit report often to make sure that there aren’t any mistakes on it. It’s easy to deal with mistakes on your credit report that have just been made versus ones that have been on the credit report for a long time.


Amy reviews the book “More with Less Cookbook” that I have profiled in my blog here. Amy likes the book as it does have simple recipes and shows you how to tailor recipes to your own pantry and ways to use up leftovers.

This book also has many recipes that contain white sugar, white flour and red meat. However the message is not abstinence but rather a strong suggestion that we attempt to limit these items and substitute more dried beans, whole grains and fresh or home preserved fruits and vegetables.


1. Be more organized. Purchasing a marked down toy in January for a birthday in May requires the same amount of time as paying full price at the last minute. Planning meals a day in advance avoids trying to defrost meat in the microwave at the last minute.

2. Scale down. Expect to do, have or spend less. Eliminate the non-essentials. Eat out less. Make something last longer or buy something secondhand instead.

3. Do those time consuming thrifty things. Focus on using the time you do have on the ways to save that will give you the largest return for time spent. For me this would be grocery shopping. The time I spend looking at sales, reviewing coupons and making up a list along with a menu saves me the most money of anything I do.


A relative told Amy one day “We worry that you and Jim aren’t having enough fun.” Amy responded with “Yes, we do have fun, but it is different than the fun we had when we were single.” Somewhere their sense of fun transitioned to being centered on conserving funds and working towards a goal.

Amy and her husband enjoy scrounging trash piles for “treasures,” beating the grocery store at their own game by challenging themselves to bring home the largest amount of food on a small amount of money, going to free festivals and concerts, gardening, repairing, renovating and refinishing furniture.

I can totally identify with Amy. I love to beat the grocery store at their own game too and along the way I love to go to free museums and concerts and right now I am enjoying painting my living room. Best of all I love doing all of this surrounded by my family.

Tomorrow we will read page 262 through page 269. Highlights from the reading are what is in the Tightwad Refrigerator, a recipe for Homemade Shake and Bake, holding a yard sale and more. See you then.

Dinner Tonight - March 29th and Writing for a News Website

Tonight we had leftover turkey casserole from last night.  I think it tasted even better tonight and everyone enjoyed it.  I still have two servings left so I will freeze those leftovers for when I am the only one home for dinner.  I did add a fruit salad and since we polished off the broccoli last night we had some green beans.

I write for a News Website that covers the local and state news in our area.  I have a column that is called Living on Less and I really enjoy writing for it.  Lately I have been posting an article about every 3 weeks but I need to post at least every other week.  The problem is, writer's block.  I couldn't think of what to write, until last night when I was working on the Tightwad post.  It came to me. 

I'm going to write a series of articles about the process of deciding if a woman can afford to stay home and the steps that need to be taken in that decision making process.  Since I am a woman and I have gone through this, I can only speak to women and I hope that no one thinks I am being sexist.  It only makes sense to write from what I have experienced. 

Last night and this morning I started to make a list of the decisions that need to be made and the process that is involved in this important decision.  There are many questions a couple needs to ask themselves prior to the wife staying home full time.

Also, if it isn't possible for the wife to quit her job, then I will talk about finding happiness in your work.  I had hoped to have it posted by tonight, but it is evolving into a series that will require more of my time.  When it is posted, I will put up a link to the site. 

March 28, 2011

Nate Berkus Show for March 28 - Couponing

Today on the Nate Berkus Show there was a segment on couponing with the Krazy Coupon Lady.  Here is the link to that episode and you can pick and choose which video you would like to view.  It was interesting.

Tightwad Gazette I Refresher - Day 25 - March 28

Tightwad, Missouri
We are getting close to the end of our Tightwad Gazette I Refresher reading. I hope that you have gained something from these posts during March. It has been fun for me to go through this book 18 years after I first read it. Amy Dacyczyn is the one I turn to if I need to find a way to do something cheaper or from scratch.

Let me know if you want to study Amy’s second book, the Tightwad Gazette II next or take a break for while. Either leave a comment or e-mail me.

Let’s get on to today’s refresher reading.


This article starts out with a dinner scene in which cornmeal biscuits are served with a “leftover bean soup and random freezer finds.” The kids have come in from playing outside and they gobble down the meal without question. Amy’s husband tells her the meal tastes very good.

Basically, Amy sits there and takes stock of her life and she is extremely satisfied and happy. They eat humble food, live below their means, buy used clothes and other items, scrounge for free items left to be picked up by the trash hauler (they found a table saw that they overhauled), and she is as happy as can be.

Every time I bake loaves of homemade bread, I feel better than I ever did from receiving a raise or bonus at work. I feel the same way about hanging clothes on the line. There is something about the simple frugal things that I do now that bring me an immense amount of satisfaction.

Amy thinks back to 10 years earlier when she enjoyed prime rib at the Ritz Carlton and purchased toys for nieces and nephews from F.A.O. Schwartz. They enjoy being frugal. ”This attitude reversal lies at the heart of why we have never felt deprived while sustaining our lifestyle for so many years. The feeling of deprivation will undermine any effort to pursue long-term disciplines.”

To overcome feeling deprived, consider the following:

1. “Recognize that you are engaging in the discipline out of choice. You decide to give up something so that you can have something else.” In my life we give up dinners out, new clothes and hiring work to be done on our house so that I can be home, which means we all enjoy a more satisfying and peaceful life. The money saved is well worth it. I never realized how much chaos my job brought to our family. The money was great, but the time constraints in trying to get everything done on a weekend was too much.

2. “As you cut back, give up expenses in the order of the ones that provide the least value for dollars spent. The order of elimination will differ from tightwad to tightwad.” I do not enjoy eating out as much as I did years ago. I would much rather eat at home as it is more comfortable. Every now and then we enjoy a meal out as a family, but it is rare. This one was easy to give up. For others, eating out is too valuable for them to give up, but you may save money by only going out to eat half the amount of time you have been eating out.

Constantly ask yourself if you are getting good value for the money you spent. Going out to a movie is nice but it is also very expensive. I have found that I can easily wait until the movie comes out on d.v.d. Spending $6.00 per ticket and then another $8.00 or more for pop and popcorn for my DH (he insists) is over $20.00. That is not a good value for me and I would rather rent the movie from Netflix and watch it at home.

I will not highlight my own hair and I value having it done by a professional. The cost is only $50 every 3 months and I consider this affordable and a good value.

You need to view giving up extras as transferring funds from one area of your life to another.

I love the example Amy gives. “It costs $20.00 to take the kids to a fast food joint. You could prepare the same meal at home for $2.00. Is the experience of the fast food meal 10 times better than the home cooked meal? Is convenience worth $18.00?”

Amy says that real deprivation is not being able to afford the things that are high on your priority list. “Think about the trade-offs and redefine deprivation. Instead of being a matter of eating more leftovers or wearing used clothes; maybe deprivation is having to work a second job you hate, or stress from massive debt or not being able to afford another child.”

3. Do not compare your economic situation to those of others. You just waste emotional energy when you are constantly comparing yourself to others. “Feeling empowered by recognizing you are choosing to scale down to reach a goal, eliminating expenses in order of least value received, and accepting the givens in your personal economic situation are aspects of beginner tightwaddery.

The one thing that I have learned in the past few years is that the people that I envied that had a new house, new cars, dinners out and great vacations are the people who were carrying massive amounts of consumer debt in order to live the “big life.” When the economy was tumbling down around them, they were in a heap of trouble. I’ll take my life any time over anybody else. I’m satisfied the majority of the time. Yeah, I have set backs, but I work it out.


I cut my husband’s hair and I have cut our son’s hair until he decided that he would prefer to go to a stylist to have it done. This is fine with me. He is a teenager and if he wants a style that I can’t do, I see no problem in going to a professional. After all I see a professional to cut my hair.

My husband is very happy with the way I cut his hair and more importantly he doesn’t need an appointment. He just tells me that his hair needs to be cut and about 15 minutes later, he is good to go.

Amy goes into detail to explain how to cut boy’s hair using the comb and scissors method and she describes how to cut bangs. There are several illustrations and I couldn’t do justice by trying to give a synopsis of what she said.

Here is what I did when I was learning to cut my husband’s hair, I went to Youtube and watched several videos on cutting hair. I also had watched him get his hair cut before, so I had an idea of how to cut it. The biggest help to me was that he wanted me to cut his hair and that he was willing to have me experiment on him as long as I did so by leaving it a little longer than normal. Then he could have it fixed if necessary. Well, it was not necessary.

Youtube is a wealth of information on how to do so many things. I wished that I would have had the courage to cut my sons’ hair when they were younger and to then also cut my husband’s hair. We would have saved a lot of money over the years if I would have just given it a try.


A business man wrote in to say that he buys his socks 30 or 40 at a time. He buys the same identical socks. The reasoning is that if one gets lost or wears out; he can just reach in the drawer to get another one. It isn’t a big deal and the socks have lasted him for about 10 years.


Use the soap until it’s about ¼ inch thick or slightly thinner. Next time you take a shower, break out a new bar. Use both bars to lather up and then press the small bar on top of the new bar. They will bond together. Then as these bonded bars get down to ¼ inch, repeat by bonding another new bar to it.


Eggs are sorted by weight. Jumbo eggs are 30 ounces per dozen, Extra Large are 27 ounces, Large are 24 ounces, Medium are 21 ounces, Small are 18 ounces. The weight can exceed but can never go under these amounts.

Amy came up with a chart that she advises you should keep in your purse. This shows you how many cents per ounce you would pay at the common egg prices. I’m not sure what the common egg prices are these days. They are up and down so much that I have no idea from one week to the next what I will have to pay.

In looking at Amy’s chart, you will pay 4.4 cents per ounce for small eggs that are priced at 79 cents a dozen. If you were able to pay only 79 cents for a dozen of large eggs; they would only be 3.3 cents per ounce which is a better deal.

                            .79      .89     .99     1.09     1.19     1.29     1.39

Small                  4.4     4.9     5.5       6.1       6.6       7.2       7.7
Medium             3.8     4.2     4.7       5.2       5.7       6.1       6.6
Large                  3.3     3.7     4.1       4.5       5.0       5.4       5.8
Extra Large       2.9     3.3     3.7       4.0       4.4       4.8       5.1
Jumbo                2.6     3.0     3.3       3.6       4.0       4.3       4.6


The philosopher Diogenes was eating bread and lentils for supper. He was seen by the philosopher Aristippus, who lived comfortably by flattering the king. Said Aristippus, “If you would learn to be subservient to the king you would not have to live on lentils.”

Said Diogenes, “Learn to live on lentils and you will not have to be subservient to the king.” From the Song of the Bird by Anthony de Mello.


Homemade Bubble Solution

9 parts water
1 part joy dishwashing liquid
1/2 part Glycerin (can be purchased at drug stores)

The longer you store this solution, the better it works. Amy advises to mix it up and store it weeks in advance of a special event.


Amy acknowledges that new cars are more complex and it is increasingly harder for “home” mechanics to work on them. That was in 1992 and I’m sure that today cars are more complex.

Readers wrote in to say that they bought older model cars that they could repair themselves. They recommended not buying cheap oil and replacing the oil every 3,000 to 4,000 miles for older cars and every 5,000 miles for new cars.

While my DH is not a mechanic, he can do some repairs on our vehicles. He has replaced the bulbs in the lights; put a new tailgate latch on his pickup truck along with a cable on the tailgate. He has replaced a battery and done some other “light” work on our vehicles.

He tuned up our bikes two weeks ago and he found out how to do it by going on line and looking at the instructions. That is what he has done with our vehicles. But, we leave oil changes and everything else up to qualified mechanics and we never put off repairs or oil changes. That is why our cars last so long and we get a good price when we sell them.


A reader wrote in and said that two goals of minimizing cost per mile and beating inflation can be achieved by buying a good quality car new, maintaining it carefully, and driving it for at least 10 years,

Don’t wait until your old car dies and have to rush out and buy something. Do your research and take your time. When you find a good deal, pay cash. Immediately after purchasing your new car, to an auto body for undercoating and then go to a tire dealer and buy a set of top grade tires.

Get the oil changed regularly and have the fluids checked. After 7 to 8 years have the car repainted to give you good payback when you sell.

Tomorrow read page 241 through 251. Our reading tomorrow is on such topics as Vegetarianism, Tightwad peeves and a wonderful success story from a reader about how she has become frugal, along with some great tips.

Dinner Tonight - March 28th, and Living Room Paint Project

Time to get back to my Dinner Tonight posts.  Posting what we are having for dinner each night might be boring but I found that it has kept me to accountability to using up leftovers and to actually plan ahead.  Planning is always a good thing but it is especially important to me now as I need to use up what is in my freezer in order to stay within my grocery budget.  The other reason is that I am busy working on my livingroom walls.  More about that at the end of my post.

Tonight we are having turkey casserole.  I pulled the following from my freezer that is above the fridge and it is thawing out right now.

1 pkg. sliced turkey - enough for 3 people for one meal
1 pkg. of cubed turkey - 3 cups total
1 pkg. of 1/2 can of cream of chicken soup (I had a recipe that I only used half a can so I froze the rest to use in a casserole)
1/4 of a pkg. of Pepperidge Farm Stuffing Mix
1 pkg. of celery (1/2 cup)

I took a jar of Heinz Chicken gravy out of the pantry.

The turkey is from Thanksgiving and I am going to make a casserole out of it.  3 cups would not be enough and I need about another cup and a half so I took out the sliced turkey.  I will only use half of the sliced turkey so the rest will be for sandwiches for lunch tomorrow.

Usually I add a little sour cream to some cream soup for a sauce for a turkey casserole.  I don't have sour cream and going out to buy some defeats the purpose of using up what I have on hand.  Besides sour cream would take a chunk out of my grocery budget.  So I will mix the gravy and the cream soup together, will add a little milk and heat it on the stove to make sure it is mixed thoroughly together.  Then I will taste it.  If I feel it needs a little something, I will add half a slice of American cheese.  This will turn it more into a Turkey Divan casserole.  I have to be careful as my husband does not like cheese so I add only enough to change the flavor slightly.

The bottom layer of the casserole will be the turkey and then I will pour the soup/gravy mixture on top.  I have more Pepperidge Farm stuffing in the pantry so I will mix up enough stuffing using some water with chicken bouillon, the celery and a little butter.  This will go on top of the casserole.

This is how I use up leftovers.  I look at what I have and then I see what I can make out of it.  The trick is to make something that you know you're family will like.  Sometimes it can be hard as every meal cannot me a "gourmet treat."  I do try to make meals that my family will eat and enjoy.

So tonight we are having turkey casserole, broccoli, and apple salad.  We have ice cream in the freezer if anyone feels they need dessert.

And here is what my living room looks like as of this morning.

Notice the white walls in this picture from the primer.  It looks like  a hospital room - very sterile.  Also that old t.v. set of ours is so big but it works great. 

This is on the opposite side of the room.  I 'm working my way around in that direction.

Here is one coat of the base coat.  As I told my husband, "trust me. It will look beautiful with the faux painting I will be doing."  When I put the second coat on, it will then look more olive green and less like "baby's dirty diaper" as my son referred to it.

I know it is hard to see from this small sample, and in a picture no less, but this is the faux painting that I will be doing in my livingroom.  When you put this next to my rug, it looks georgeous and the same with the furniture.  I experimented with stamping a "fleur di lis" and I liked it and may do this about two feet down from my high ceilings.  The dark gold doesn't show, but the light gold looks regal.

I have been priming walls on one side of the room and then I will be painting two coats of the base color.  As I paint the base coats on the wall, I am also painting the ceiling about 1 foot out from the edges with it's base color.  Normally I would paint the ceiling first, but this room is so hard to paint with the furniture in the room.  It was easier to paint the walls and a portion of the ceiling as I go along.  When I am done with the faux painting on the walls, then I can push all of the furniture back and I will tackle the ceiling.

It is a big project and with my sore back I can only work about 3 to 4 hours a day on it.  I want to get this done.  I wanted to get it done by the end of March but I was delayed. 

Oh and since I live in an old house, and since I am painting almost a retro look to the living room, to get myself in the mood and because I love "old" music, this is the kind of music I have been listening to while I work.

My son graduates from High School on May 22 and his graduation party will be at our house on May 20th.  I wanted to not only have the entryway and living room done by then, but also his room.  The only problem with this is that I need to make up a scrapbook for him to display at his party and this will take a considerable amount of time. 

My DIL has volunteered to help me with the scrapbook.  While I enjoy looking at other people's scrapbooks, I "suck" for lack of a better word at putting my own creations onto a scrapbook page.  I did a scrapbook for my oldest son when he graduated and I kept it simple.  I will go with simple again.  That works for me. 

March 27, 2011

Grocery Spending for week of March 21 - March 27 - Final spend

Tomorrow I start week 3 on a grocery budget of $25 a week. Here is the balance of what I spent on groceries for week 2. I posted on March 24th the first half of my spending that left me with $17.67 in the budget for the balance of the week.

Here is what I purchased

$2.10 - Bananas
$1.66 - Diet 7 up
$1.79 - Store brand Cheese Puffs - $1.79
$3.00 - two packages Kraft Cheese slices 2 @ $1.50
$1.50 - Kraft 8 oz. Block Cheese
$1.57 - Half gallon milk
$1.29 - 2 lbs. carrots
$1.69 - Red Bell Pepper
$0.99 - Lettuce
$1.97 - Pink Lady Apples

$17.56 - Total Spent

I have 11 cents to carry over to my grocery budget beginning tomorrow.  Yes, I would have more if I wouldn't have bought the cheese puffs or the pop.  The pop was a special deal and I decided to splurge.  As to the cheese puffs, my son wanted them for his lunches instead of popcorn this week.  I still stayed under budget. 

If you're new to following my blog, I have a freezer full of meat and lots of food in my pantry.  It is my goal to deplete both of these and to only spend $25 a week on produce and dairy products.  I am baking my own bread to save money also.  

Tightwad Gazette I Refresher - Day 24 - March 27

Today Amy touches on a few interesting topics. One of my favorites is the question of ethics and tightwaddery. Sometimes in our quest to get a good deal or a lot of one good deal, we may cross a line. Amy addresses that issue.

These ideas are not my own.  They are from Amy Dacyczyn's book the Tightwad Gazette I.  I have underlined my comments.  As always your comments, criticisms and all, are appreciated.  Let’s get started.


Amy discusses the sure found truth that thrift and taking care of the environment go together. To save money on gas, she has ridden a bike. When their first child was born, he slept in a crib they purchased at the Salvation Army. When that same child became allergic to disposable diapers, they switched to cloth.

When the Navy transferred them to Norfolk, Virginia they started to shop at yard sales and began to regret the new purchases from years past.

Along the way they started to buy things in larger quantities. They didn’t air condition their entire house. They hung laundry on the lines. Amy washed dishes in half a sink of water.

When they were moved by the Navy again to Maine, she lived near a public laundry and went there often. She scoured the shelves for “How To” books.

Their efforts to save more on purchases naturally resulted in less consumption of goods. Eating few convenience foods meant less trash. Because they had used less gasoline and had monitored the thermostat in their house, they were using less energy.

And as Amy says “I recognized that economy and ecology are like two circles that overlap 90% of the time. The remaining 10% is the area where doing the right thing for the environment costs more.

As they had met their financial goals, and with the prosperous business that they had started with the Tightwad Gazette, they did not have to be tightwads anymore. The surplus money gives them the economic room to reexamine some of the areas within the 10%.

“The understanding of the relationship between thrift and the environment has given me the assurance that efforts to reuse and conserve could not be too extreme.”

Perhaps instead of saying that we are living frugally, we should say that we are going green.


Making your own homemade popsicles does save money. I have made homemade chocolate pudding pops that my DH loves, so popsicles are not just for kids.

Be resourceful and raid your cupboards or fridge for possibilities. Here are a few:

Homemade yogurt that didn’t set up well – mixed with some homemade jam;

Leftover Jell-O that didn’t set up well or Jell-O that you make for this purpose from a store brand.

Juice or syrup left over from canned fruit.

Juice that has been in the fridge and needs to be used up.

Kool-Aid or lemonade mixes bought on sale.


Amy received an invitation to be on the “To Tell the Truth” game show. (Okay, this will date me but we used to watch this t.v. show.) She accepted the invite and was flown to Los Angeles. Amy knew that she had been selected on the basis of her unusual profession rather than the merits of “her message.”

Amy was gone four days that added up to two days travel time, one day in the studio and a day to herself. On her free day she was tired from jet lag and since her hotel was not within walking distance of anywhere, she stayed in.

Amy received $80 for food during her stay. She had vowed to bring as much back as she could. She ate on the plane (Remember those days?). A breakfast buffet was included with the hotel. At the breakfast buffet she smuggled a muffin out in her purse to eat later on.

For her other meals Amy ate out and chose simple foods such as a turkey club sandwich. Actually, she ate healthy by not succumbing to the fancy sauces and such that a lot of people eat while dining out.

The maids replaced all the soaps and shampoos daily so Amy of course brought all of the extras home. Amy also noted that the bargain shampoo that she had been using cleaned just as well as the expensive shampoos the hotel provided.

The contestants all guessed that she was the true tightwad and she received the minimum award of $334 plus another $40 meal allowance.

So she accomplished her task of coming home with money left from her eating expense and with some prize money.


Amy was called to accountability on putting a muffin in her purse from the breakfast buffet. She admitted that she shouldn’t have done that. And with that said, Amy addressed some letters that she had received from people telling her of their tightwad ways. Here are a few:

1. A woman bought a suit that she needed for a business meeting. She wore it once and then returned it to the store.

2. Phoning their mother in law when they knew she wasn’t home, leaving a message on her machine so that she has to call them back and pay for the long distance call.

3. A man didn’t want to pay for his trash pickup, so he took his trash to a nearby community that didn’t charge for picking up trash.

Yes these people wrote to her with pride as to their money saving ways, but it would seem that they had crossed a line of ethics. So, how do you sort all of it out?

According to Amy, “The relationship between ethics and thrift can be summed up in one sentence. It is wrong to save money at the expense of others. Period.”

Amy goes on to say “small, seemingly insignificant acts such as pilfering, swiping sugar packets and steaming postage stamps, and fudging income taxes and insurance claims merely pass along your costs to other consumers.”

I whole heartedly agree with Amy and I go further to say that I have been places where they are handing out free samples with coupons. I take one. I don’t try to go back and get more. Also, when there is a great deal such as the 80 cent a lb. hamburger that I purchased back in February, I didn’t clean out the whole lot of it. I left plenty for others. In my mind it goes to the golden rule of doing unto others as you would have them do unto you. You don’t want people to cheat you, so don’t cheat others.

Amy does see the importance of generosity or consideration for someone else especially when their income is less than Amy’s. She believes in paying a decent tip at a restaurant, while dickering at a yard sale. She will pay full price to buy something from a child or someone who appears to be raising cash due to lean times.

Don’t bring frugality or tightwaddery into a bad light by being unethical.


A reader sent in a frugal recipe for rice and beans that is also prepared in an energy saving method.

“In a large pan that fits inside a pressure cooker, bring 1 cup beans to a boil, pour off water and add 2 cups fresh water plus 2 tablespoons oil. Place large pan into pressure cooker with 1 1/2 cups water in the bottom of pressure cooker. Place smaller pan down in the bean and water mixture with 1 cup short grain brown rice and a 1 1/2 cups water. Cover both pans with foil. Close pressure cooker and cook 30 minutes after the doodad starts rocking. Then drop pressure under running water and serve.”

Flavor the meal however you like. Suggestions are cumin and chili powder with pinto or kidney beans for a Mexican direction. Curry powder with lentils. Sage, basil and bay with split peas or any other beans. Tomato paste or sauce and Italian herbs with pinto, pink or kidney beans.

I love rice and beans, but that is me. You could easily add a small amount of meat to any one of the variations for those who prefer some meat.

Lately I have been eating a salad for lunch that along with chopped vegetables and a little cheese I have topped with some kidney beans. I also enjoy a soft tortilla with some shredded cheese. I put this in the microwave and melt it, and then I add kidney beans with some veggies and picante sauce.

If your family does not like the idea of eating rice and beans, then start with a casserole made of rice and beans with plenty of meat. Season it well and then as time goes on, slowly reduce the amount of the meat. The key in my mind to serving such a simple meal is to season and flavor it.

Perhaps you could start serving a modest meal of beans and rice once a month and your family could donate what you would have spent on a more expensive meal to charities that work to feed those who are hungry.


At the time (1992), Amy said that these homemade salad dressings only cost between 45 cents and $1.45 per 16 oz.

Thousand Island Dressing

3/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon sweet pickle relish or finely chopped sweet pickle
2 tablespoons chili sauce or ketchup
2 tablespoons finely chopped green bell pepper
2 tablespoons finely chopped onion
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 hard cooked egg, chopped

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl except the egg. Stir in chopped egg last. Refrigerate. Makes 1 1/3 cups

Ranch Salad Dressing

1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons finely chopped green onions, tops only
1/4 teaspoons onion powder
2 teaspoons minced parsley
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder or ½ to 1 garlic clove, finely minced
1/4 teaspoons paprika
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Refrigerate. Makes 2 cups.

Sweet Tomato French (Similar to Catalina dressing)

2/3 cup ketchup
1/2 cup sugar (or to taste)
2/3 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
Salt to taste
1 to 2 cloves garlic (or 1 to 2 teaspoons)
2 tablespoons finely minced onion

Combine all ingredients in a jar with a tight fitting lid and shake. This can also be mixed in a blender, although the color becomes creamier rather than translucent. If preparing in a blender, mix all ingredients except onion. Stir in finely mixed onion by hand. Refrigerate. Makes 2 cups.

Cucumber Buttermilk

1 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup grated cucumber
2 tablespoons minced green onions, white and green parts
1 tablespoon Dijon-style mustard
2 teaspoons minced fresh parsley
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/4 teaspoons dried dill
1/4 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl with a tight lid. Stir or shake well. Refrigerate. Makes 1 ¼ cups

Italian Vinaigrette

1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1 1/2 cups olive oil or vegetable oil or a combination
2 large cloves of garlic, crushed
3/4 teaspoons salt
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoons black pepper
1 tablespoon minced parsley
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon dried basil or oregano

Combine ingredients in a large jar with a tight fitting lid. Shake well. The cost comparison is based on vegetable oil. Makes 1 quart

Blue Cheese

This recipe makes a large quantity and is very strong. For die-hard blue cheese lovers only.

1 qt. (4 cups) mayonnaise
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup small curd cottage cheese
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1 teaspoon salt
4 oz. Roquefort or blue cheese, crumbled

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl except crumbled cheese. Mix with electric mixer. Stir in crumbled cheese with a fork. Refrigerate. Makes 1 1/2 quarts.

Tomorrow we will discuss page 230 through 240. Amy talks about how to avoid feeling deprived. That is something that many of us can relate to. She also touches on home haircuts and how to compare egg prices.

New Blog Background Update

Okay, rule number one, don't play around with your blog design and color when you should be heading out the door to church.

I've changed the background back and will change the text colors and such when I get home this afternoon.  I didn't like the new background so I am going back to what I had, and loved, and will play with the background and colors when I have more time.

What was I thinking?  That suddenly on a Sunday morning, 10 minutes before leaving for church that I would come up with some cool design that usually takes me 30 minutes to play with?

New Blog Background

I changed my background and text colors as I had a few comments saying that it was hard to read with the old background and white text.  So, let me know if you like this.  I'm not sure if I like the text color combinations but I was trying to come up with something that was easy on the eyes.  I also have enlarged the font.

Let me know what you think.  It's okay to be critical.

March 26, 2011

Tightwad Gazette I Refresher - Day 23 - March 26

I have been busy today priming the walls in my living room and getting ready for a coat of the base color. I worked for as long as my back would allow. The entire time I was painting I was looking forward to settling down and reading the Tightwad Gazette. We’re beginning the last section of the book and soon we will be finished.

Have you learned anything new that you are incorporating into your life? I hope so.

Well, let’s start our reading today with gardening.

Page 206 - Container Gardening

If you don’t have the space that Amy has in the country, she advises that you can do container gardening on a rooftop, fire escape, balcony or patio that is sheltered and sunny.

Containers can be moved. Most gardens need a minimum of 6 hours per day. Amy stated that you can plant most any kind of vegetable in a container.

“Containers can include redwood tubs, stone planters, terracotta pots and half barrels. However, since this is the Tightwad Gazette I encourage you to look for less expensive alternatives, such as apple boxes, bushel baskets or laundry baskets with trash bag liner. The best inexpensive solution is the 5 gallon bucket. Plastic containers will heat up more and tend to dry out the soil so extra care must be taken.

Container gardens need more drainage than regular gardens.

I know very little about gardening and although we have a regular sized backyard and I could put in a small garden, it would be futile since we own a black lab that likes to dig.

But last summer I did grow some herbs and such in a window box on my deck. I grew basil, chives, thyme, marjoram and garlic chives. When I needed basil, I just walked outside and snipped some leaves. I am definitely going to do this again this year.


Amy has taken a lot of abuse about using dry milk and she is ready for the abuse to end. This article examines the attributes of milk.

Before we get to the article, my parents used dry milk all the time. My dad would mix up 1/2 gallon of the dry milk and then he would mix it with 1/2 gallon of regular milk. Back then we drank whole milk so I wonder if the reason we didn’t notice the difference is due to the fact that whole milk has more fat and is creamier. Or perhaps the reason is that we were always served milk this way so there was no way to compare. It did save my parents a lot of money. We were given government surplus dry milk when my dad was laid off from his job.

So here is how Amy examines dry milk.

1. Taste – She would lose if she tried to tell you that you wouldn’t be able to taste the difference. It is an acquired taste. Many foods such as coffee or diet cola were an acquired taste. You probably didn’t like them the first time that you tried them.

Dry milk tastes best when chilled overnight and consumed with a meal. Amy said that they used to mix dry milk with store milk, but they ran out one time. They served dry milk for dinner and their kids didn’t notice the difference at all, so that was when they changed totally. In fact, there children made the comment that they love milk.

2. Economy – At the time Amy said that one gallon of store bought milk ranged between $2.19 and $2.59 a gallon. Dry milk costs them $1.40 per gallon. They consumed about a gallon of milk per day, saving them $30 a month.

3. Health – Dry milk is 100% fat free. Whole milk has 4% fat so when mixed half and half, you will end up with 2% Milk.

4. Versatility – By mixing with half the amount of water you can make a mock cream that can be substituted for expensive creams in pies, quiches and sauces. When a soup recipe calls for cream or milk, mix the dry milk with saved vegetable broth. You can make your own hot cocoa mix.

5. Convenience – Think of dry milk as a staple as it does not go bad. They never have to make last minute trips when they run out of milk as they always have this on hand.

Amy does say that this is one of those tips that she leaves up to each family. It’s not for everyone, BUT, you should at least use dry milk in cooking.

I totally agree about everyone must decide. I really believe the reason my mom and dad were using dry milk, was due to the fact that they were given a lot of dry milk when my dad was out of work. Anything that they were given from the government surplus food program, they used.

My family would not drink reconstituted dry milk but I do use dry milk in baking and that saves money.


Readers were always writing to Amy for inexpensive recipes. She said that you just have to choose recipes with inexpensive ingredients, but you can also take an expensive recipe and make it less expensive.

Here is a recipe for a Seafood Casserole that Amy took and made it with less expensive ingredients. The original recipe at the time cost about $8.00 to make. Amy’s version costs $1.81. Prepared without white wine would save another 40 cents.

Seafood Casserole

4 to 5 oz. pasta
1/2 cup mayonnaise or salad dressing
1/2 cup milk or dry white wine
1 can condensed cream soup (mushroom or celery)
1 cup shredded American Cheese (4 oz.)
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard or dill
6 to 8 oz. drained canned seafood (shrimp, crab, tuna or salmon)
1 recipe crunchy topping

Cook pasta or noodles according to package directions; drain and set aside. Combine mayonnaise with milk or white wine. Stir in soup, cheese and seasonings. Gently stir in cooked pasta or noodles and drained fish or seafood. Pour into a 1 1/2 quart casserole. Cover and bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes. Uncover and sprinkle with Crunch Topping. Bake 5 minutes more. Makes 6 servings

Crunchy Topping: Combine 1 cup soft bread crumbs and 2 tablespoons melted butter or use 1 cup of either crushed potato chips, chow mein noodles or French-fried onions or ½ cup slivered almonds.

Remember – these are 1992 prices.

Pasta – Amy is able to get pasta for 33 cents a lb. She increases the amount by 2 oz. as the casserole was a little too saucy.

Mayonnaise or Salad Dressing – Buy store brand @ 99 cents per quart.

Milk or Dry Wine – Wine is more expensive, but Amy likes the flavor.

Condensed Soup – She makes a mock cream of celery soup – melt 2 tablespoons of margarine in a saucepan. Sauté 2 tablespoons chopped celery. Blend in 2 tablespoons flour. Add 1/3 cup dry milk powder and 2/3 cup vegetable broth. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cook until smooth.

Cheese – Use any mild cheese that is purchased on sale. Shreds are usually more expensive than block cheese, so you can shred your own. I think you could probably cut back on the amount of cheese you sprinkle on the casserole. Try 3/4 of a cup to see if this will be enough.

Seafood – Tuna is the obvious choice. They stock up when it goes on sale.

I love tuna casserole. However, my family hates it. I like my tuna casserole made from a homemade white sauce that has about 1 slice of American cheese melted into it. Then I stir in cooked pasta, drained tuna and some frozen peas. Pour into a casserole dish and top with seasoned bread crumbs. When Weight Watchers entrees are on sale at a low price, I will buy a couple of the tuna casserole kind so that I can have my tuna casserole fix.


Amy interviewed a doctor of veterinary medicine and a board certified veterinary internist. She also received input from two licensed animal health technicians. Here is what she came up with.

1. Major pet food companies have done a great deal of research into animal nutrition. It would be very hard to come up with a home pet food that duplicates the combination of protein, fats and nutrients found in commercial pet food. Amy went on to say “While your pet might seem to do well, in the long run it might suffer from a nutrition deficiency, obesity, and/or have a shortened life span.

Remember the pet food poisonings of a few years ago? Several pets died from bad pet food and at the time there were numerous internet sites showing you how to make your own pet food. If this is of a concern to you, I would say that you definitely need to talk to your veterinarian about making your own pet food. Veterinarians are your best friend when it comes to caring for your pet. It may not be cheaper to make your own pet food, but if you are worried about the quality of commercial pet food or the safety of feeding your pet commercial pet food, talk to your veterinarian first.

2. The veterinarian that she interviewed said that you didn’t need to buy a super-premium dog food. “Some of the companies that have put a long term effort into developing good food are Purina, Pedigree Expert, Alpo and Ken-L Ration.”

We feed our dog Iam’s dry dog food and our cat is fed Royal Canin cat food that we purchase at the Vet. I am able to get the Iam’s on sale for $16.00 for a 17.5 lb. bag of food. It generally lasts us 3 weeks. The cat food costs $13.00 for a 4 lb. bag and it lasts us for 1 month. Our dog is 11 years old and our cat is 14 years old so we feed them the food that the vet recommends for older pets. We take them for checkups once a year and the vet always tells us that they are very healthy, especially for their ages.

3. Stick with name brands. Generics or store brands may contain hooves and tails as a protein source which is hard for dogs to digest.

4. Don’t over feed your pet. Follow the directions on the bag.

5. A good dry food is generally nutritionally equivalent to a good canned food. Dry food is cheaper.

6. Don’t buy more pet food than your pet can eat in a month. Once opened, the vitamins in the food start to degrade. Also, store it in a cool dark place such as a garbage can. When I open the bag of cat food, I pour out half of it and put it in the freezer to keep it fresh. If you do this, make sure you tell your family members that there is cat food in the freezer and that it is not a new snack.

7. Pets do not need variety in their diet so don’t switch their food unless it is necessary.

8. Dogs can tolerate an occasional homemade snack. I make homemade dog biscuits for our dog.

PAGE 212 – WHAT TO DO WITH . . . .

Broccoli Rubber Bands – cut in half to make two usable rubber bands.

Watermelon Seeds – dry and save to mix with bird seed.

Cereal Boxes – Make magazine holders for the publications you save.

Bread Bags – Cut in half and use the bottom half as an alternative to expensive sandwich bags. Use the original tie to close.

Mesh Onion Bags – Make into scouring pads. Just twist and secure with a rubber band.

Butter Wrappers – Save and store in the butter compartment in your fridge. Use when buttering the tops of hot homemade bread fresh from the oven.


Amy and her husband both brought a library load of books to their marriage. She has made a list of the books that she recommends for your library.

1. A Dictionary and Thesaurus

2. A Family Medical Guide

3. Cookbooks containing basic recipes

4. A basic home maintenance book

5. Books covering your special area of interest.

Take advantage of borrowing books from the library. Well, numbers 1 through 4 can be found on the internet, so you don’t need to buy or borrow these books. As to number 5, if you want to own these books, you can easily purchase these half price or less online.

Last year my in laws bought me a Kindle. I love books and over the years I have purchased many. I haven’t been able to read a lot lately, but I am hoping that come this summer I will have the time. I do love owning a Kindle as I am able to get free books or books for 99 cents. Also, when we were driving to New York last year to visit my mom, I would read a book on my Kindle and when it was done, I could simply download another and would be able to start reading it within two minutes.

As to whether a Kindle is a Tightwad gadget, it is if it is a gift – that’s for sure.

For tomorrow, read page 219 through 229. Discussion tomorrow will be on thrift and the environment, tightwad ethics , a frugal meal and homemade salad dressings.