Frugal

Thrifty Thursday: Not paying for convenience

I needed to take 2 dresses to the cleaners last week. We happen to have a dry cleaners within walking distance and, since it was a beautiful day, B and I went for a walk.

The dry cleaner hardly looked at the dresses I presented but spent longer than I felt was necessary clicking through his screen before printing me out a receipt. He is the owner and I assumed he knew where “dress” was in his system. If there were more detailed options on dresses to select, he didn’t know them about my dresses because he didn’t bother to look at them.

He handed me my receipt and we turned to go. As I walked out of the shop, I looked down at the receipt and was shocked to see $26.58. I don’t know how he came to that price, but it was more than I wanted to pay. I went back in and asked for my dresses back because I thought the price to clean them was too high. He handed them back without a word.

I had no idea what the going rate was. The hubs usually takes care of the dry cleaning. But I’ve heard rumors that women pay more than men for dry cleaning and I was willing to try some other place(s) out. We headed back home but, the weather was so nice, we decided to just walk around, instead. We had a lovely conversation so I don’t regret going to the cleaner. It cost me nothing!

When we got back home I remembered hearing a commercial about Zips Dry Cleaners. Went to their website, saw there was one in the next town over so we went.

The woman who waited on me was lovely. She asked if I’d been there before and, when I said no, she explained my options and set me up an account. By providing my email address, I receive a notification as soon as my clothes are ready. They clean right on site instead of shipping the cleaning elsewhere. I chose to get a key tag for quick pickup. If your total is under $10, they only accept cash; credit is accepted over $10. If you drop off by 9am you can pick up the same day after 5pm and they clean comforters for only $19.99.

Now, I could have paid $26.58 for the convenience of walking to the dry cleaners or the exterm elf short drive there. However, I chose a 10-mile round trip twice (once to drop off the dresses and once to go back and get them) because Zips charged me $4.58! I get 23 miles to the gallon in my car and had just gotten gas the day before for $1.79/gal. The drive on a beautiful day, with the windows down and great conversation with my son, might be less “convenient” than a closer cleaner or one who delivers, but it wasn’t inconvenient to travel a little farther and I saved $20.21!

I don’t like to pay for the convenience of having dinner delivered  to me, either. It costs more because of tipping (and those drivers deserve a good tip!) but more importantly, or takes longer and the food isn’t hot anymore. I’d rather drive 10 minutes each way to pick up a fresh, hot pizza and be eating it in 20-30 minutes than have a warm to cold pizza delivered in 45-75 minutes, depending on the time and day of the week. In this instance, getting it myself is not inconvenient, the waiting longer for delivery and tipping is.

My opinion about choosing pickup over delivery is because it fits in with my lifestyle: I have a car to go get it, great pizza close by, my son is old enough to leave at home while I get the pizza or, if I want him to come with me, it’s quite effortless to get him in the car. I have certainly taken advantage of delivery when we were without a working car, sick, exhausted from up all nights with a young child, bundling up a young child against the elements would have taken just as long as the delivery driver, etc. 😉

So, the next time you’re about to pay extra for an offered convenience, stop and ask yourself, “Is it really more convenient?”

Thrifty Thursday: FoodSaver

My FoodSaver

My parents gave me this TOTALLY AWESOME FoodSaver for Christmas!!!! It came from Costco and included reusable zipper-top bags and a roll of make-your-own bags (shown in the picture, above) as well as a small container for quickly infusing foods with marinades. They also bought me an extra box of bags & rolls, which I’ve broken into since I used up the roll that came with the FoodSaver already!

I wanted one of these for SO LONG, but truly worried how soon, or even if, I’d make back my investment in saving food. Do I really have that much food waste? Yes. Yes, I do. And I’m going to show you how I’ve prevented throwing bad food out and kept foods fresher longer in the 5 weeks since I started using it.

My husband is a hunter and we have the meat from 2 deer in our freezers. All the meat comes back from the processor, broken down into roasts, steaks, ground, etc., wrapped solely in butcher paper. That is not enough to protect it from freezer burn. And I have tried several different brands of zipper-top freezer bags and none of them have been able to protect my foods completely nor for any period of time more than a month or two. I have lost foods that I bought in bulk when they’ve gone on sale at stores because a freezer bag could not protect my foods. Look at this beautiful venison roast, completely sealed up with no air inside the plastic with it. I was thawing it in order make a delicious stew.

Photo Feb 17, 10 07 20 AM

Something really strange happens with lunch meat in my house. If I buy 1/4 lb or 1/2 lb of lunch meat at the store, it is devoured in 24 hours and the beasts howl and pound their chests until I go back and get more. If I buy 1 lb of lunch meat, it will sit in the fridge for weeks until it starts to smell! *sigh* I haven’t thrown out any lunch meat since I started using my FoodSaver and their zipper-top bags. I bought 5 different kinds of lunch meats and 3 kinds of cheeses and sealed them up in the bags. When someone opens the bag to get out lunch meat, I simply use my attachment to reseal the bag before putting it back in the fridge. Yes, I have to reseal after each times a bag is opened, but it’s better than throwing away bad meat I paid for and going to the store for more.

Photo Feb 17, 10 07 01 AM

I made a loaf of French bread in my bread machine last month and we only used half of it. Being homemade without preservatives, it won’t last long, so I sliced it up and sealed it in a bag that I custom cut from the roll. I also made a batch of pumpkin spice muffins for snacks. We ate half and I wanted to preserve the rest for another time. I know what you’re thinking: if the food saver sucks hard enough to remove all air out of a bag, won’t it crush your baked goods? Nope, because my FoodSaver came with a Pulse Vac option! I select Pulse Vac, slide the end of the bag in and then I use the Pulse Vac button to slowly remove the amount of air I want to. I can suck out most of the air, get the bag to a point where it’s hugging my baked goods but not crushing them, and then seal the bag. The next pix is of my first lot of sealing: chicken thighs I bought in bulk, the French bread and the muffins.

Photo Feb 17, 10 07 37 AM

Besides lunch meat, another item that is wasted a lot in this house are bagged snacks, such as chips and pretzels. Even on those rare occasions when my guys do close a bag up with a clip, it’s still not sealed and they will never taste as crisp and fresh as they did when the bag was first opened. My FoodSaver has solved this problem for me with the Pulse Vac option! I can suck as much air out of a chip bag and I want, starting and stopping to check how close the bag is coming to the chips, and then seal it up until we’re ready to eat chips again. We haven’t lost a single chip nor pretzel stick! You can see in the picture, below, that plenty of air has been removed from the chip bag, but there is still room around the chips. This Pulse Vac option alone is so worth pulling the FoodSaver out onto the counter to use (we have very little counter space, so I don’t leave it out all the time).

Photo Feb 11, 5 04 20 PM

And I’m still not done! This machine has 2 other things it can do to save money or add convenience. Remember that green & black attachment in the lunch meat picture, above? I pull that out and set it on a particular spot on the zipper-top bags to seal them. However, I can also pull the top off of it and, along with a reusable bottle stopper, reseal a bottle of wine! I don’t drink wine, but the hubs does. He won’t drink a whole bottle by himself and sometimes we’ll just open a bottle and use a little wine in a recipe. Yes, you can stick the cork back in and keep the wine in the fridge for another day or two, but the quality & taste of the wine suffers. My FoodSaver attachment will suck out the air and seal that bottle back up for when I’m ready to use the rest.

Photo Feb 17, 11 36 05 AM

I mentioned in the beginning of this post that my FoodSaver included a small container. You can store fragile items in it and seal them up, like my lunch meat in the picture below, or fresh berries that tend to start dissolving as soon as you bring them home from the store or farm. But you can also quickly marinate food in it! Were you looking forward to having a specific dish for dinner, only to come home in the evening and find you forgot to get your meat or veggies in the marinade before leaving the house in the morning? No problem! Put your marinade and food in one of FoodSaver’s containers, snap on the lid, pull out the attachment, place it directly on the gray oval in the lid and press the Marinate button on the FoodSaver. Once’s it’s sealed on there, you can let go of the attachment. It will cycle through a bunch of sucks and releases (for lack of a better description) for 10 minutes, infusing your marinade into your food.

Photo Feb 17, 11 44 17 AM

So there you have it: all the reasons I love my FoodSaver and am so glad my parents gave us one for Christmas! I am not associated with FoodSaver in anyway, nor did they ask me to review their product. I just like to share products I love. If you have been thinking of getting one, and you’re a Costco member, why not go for it? Costco has THE BEST return policy and you can just bring it back if you don’t like it or don’t use it enough. Part of me wishes we’d gotten one sooner, but I’m so glad we waited. These extra functions and accessories offered currently make my life easier and my wallet thicker.

Thrifty Thursday: Creating Costumes from the Thrift Store

I know, I know! I’ve done a Thrifty Thursday post about the thrift store before. However, I recently was put in the position to make 3 Star Wars costumes for my son, and I couldn’t have done it without my favorite thrift store. Plus, I’m really proud of how well I did under pressure. So, bear with me.

My son was in a Star Wars performance in December. His troupe performed three scenes from Episode IV: A New Hope: the trash compactor, Luke & Leah escaping Stormtroopers by swinging over an abyss, and fighting their way to the Millennium Falcon to escape the Death Star while watching Darth Vader kill Ben Kenobi. B had the rolls of Han Solo (my favorite character out of all 7 movies), a stormtrooper and Ben Kenobi.

After the first meeting when he told me he had 3 parts, I said, “I was prepared to come up with one costume, but three? OK, we’ve got time to try and put these together.” B assured me that the teacher had all the costumes and we didn’t have to provide anything. “Are you sure,” I asked, to which he emphatically said, “Yes.”

Several weeks go by and the day before B’s performance was payday – my run errands, fill the gas tanks and buy groceries day. By mid-afternoon, I had a nagging feeling about the costumes.

Me: “Are you sure that your teacher will be providing everything you need for all 3 of your costumes?”
B: “OH! I forgot to tell you after class last week! Yeah, he thought he had costumes for me but he doesn’t.”
Me (*Blink. Blink, blink. deep breath*): So, you’re telling me that I have to come up with costumes for Han Solo, a stormtrooper and Ben Kenobi with robe, with 21 hours left until your performance?!”
B (Eyes slowly getting as big as saucers as that reality sinks in.): No. No, Ma. It’s my fault. You don’t have to come up with anything! I’ll figure something out. Don’t worry.
Me: No. I can do this! Get in the car!

And off to my favorite thrift store we went! I bought 2 things – a white, mens, long-sleeved shirt and a brown, decorative, womens sweater. Total: $3. (I also found a Ralph Lauren blazer in B’s size, excellent condition, on the $1 rack! I had to buy it.) I found nothing that would work for Ben Kenobi’s hooded robe, but I did find white “Joey Buttafuoco” pants that were white with a black elastic waistband and black trim on the pockets. The white shirt would work as a top for both Han Solo and a stormtrooper and the pants were a little too big for B, so they’d be easy to take on and off over his jeans to switch between the 2 characters. After looking disgustedly at the white pants, however, B decided he didn’t think there’d be enough time for such a “complicated” wardrobe change and would stick to his jeans. ;o)

The white shirt just needed to be washed. I cut the arms off the womens decorative brown sweater, turned it inside out and had Han Solo’s vest. An old cap gun holster was dug out of a toy bin in the bowels of the basement. Han Solo done!

Photo Jan 21, 9 45 40 PM

 

 

Party City was all out of Stormtrooper masks, but I found a free printable online and printed it out on card stock. I cut it out, cut out the eye holes and used clear packaging tape to attach the mask to B’s favorite sunglasses: they are white and wrap-around. Stormtrooper done!

Photo Jan 21, 9 47 31 PM

I walked around the house, looking for something to make Ben Kenobi’s robe and my eyes fell on the heavy, room-darkening curtain we hang at the back door. It’s very drafty at that door and the curtain keeps the cold air out and the heat in. Perfect! I went down to the basement and got the other curtain (bought them as a pair) and draped it over B to get inspiration. I realized I needed something to pinch off the hood of the robe, but the small rubber bands we had would likely break when he put the robe on. So, I used Hickies, these really cool fasteners that B has on his sneakers. Two of them were hooked together about a quarter of the way down. In addition to the robe, I offered to make B one of the felt Jedi uniforms to go under it, like I made for his Jedi Training Academy Birthday Party, but he declined, once again siting time constraints on costume changes. (Evidently Han Solo & Ben Kenobi were in the same scene!). He got one of his lightsabers from the garage and…Ben Kenobi done!

Photo Jan 21, 8 39 31 PM

Even if PartyCity had mens Star Wars costumes in stock (or if I’d known weeks earlier that I needed them and ordered them online), I would have spent $39.99 on the Han Solo costume, $4.99 for a stormtrooper mask (or $49.99 for the whole costume) and $19.99 for a robe. But I spent $3 at the thrift store. THAT, plus the fact I did it all in less than 2 hours, is what makes this a great Thrifty Thursday post. ;o)

Thrifty Thursday: Saving of Keurig K-Cups

No matter what brand nor type of pod you use for your Keurig coffeemaker, the costs can really add up! I received this money-saving tip from my father-in-law; it’s how he and my mother-in-law make their coffee at home and now, so do we.

We use each K-cup twice! The hubs likes a bold roast and I prefer a weaker blend. Instead of buying two different kinds of pods, we just buy the bold roast he likes. He makes his coffee with a new K-cup and then I’ll reuse it for a weaker brew that suits my palate.

I don’t drink as much coffee as the hubs. However, if I drank a cup per day like he does, we’d save 50% on the cost of K-cups!

Thrifty Thursday: Buying Costco Gasoline Even If You Aren’t a Member

I don’t know about where y’all live, but where I live, the least expensive gasoline is at the wholesale clubs: Costco, Sam’s Club and BJ’s. And with traffic and commutes increasing every year, we could all use some gas-saving ideas!

This may be hard to believe for some of y’all, but not everyone who lIves near a wholesale club actually belongs to one. 😱  Not everyone can, or desires to, buy in bulk or store bulk items. Some just won’t buy enough to justify the cost of the membership. But that’s OK, because if you know a Costco member, and they’re willing to help a friend, you can still buy gas there!

Did you know that if you are using a Costco Cash Card to pay for gas, you don’t need a membership card? It’s true! Usually when you get gas at Costco, you must first swipe your active membership card and then your debit or credit card. However, you can pull up to the pump, insert a Costco Cash Card, and pump your gas. 😃

So, reach out to your Costco member friends, give them some cash, and ask them to pick you up a Costco Cash Card next time they happen to be shopping. It’s easy-peasy to do! When your friend is checking out with a cashier (not self-checkout) they let the cashier know they’d like a cash card for $XX and the cashiers keep the cards right in their registers.

Don’t forget to do a little somethin’ special for your Costco friend on their birthday or at Christmas time as a thank you.

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Thrifty Thursday: Onion Dip

I’m so sorry I didn’t post this past Thursday, the 3rd Thursday of the month, when my Thrifty Thursday posts are supposed to appear! I was at the beach with my boy, enjoying a few days off.

Love dipping your chips in onion dip but hate the strong taste in your mouth hours later? Here’s a tip to save your palate and save you money!

Your typical dry, onion soup mix says to mix one envelope with 16 oz of sour cream. Instead, mix it with a 24 oz container of sour cream. It cuts the onion flavor, so you aren’t brushing your teeth several times that day, and you have more dip!

Thrifty Thursday: How to see first run movies in the theater on the cheap

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I was in the thrift store last week, marveling at all the wonderful things you can get there, and had an idea: I should right a blog post about this! Lots of people know that you can get clothes on the cheap at the thrift store, but there are so many other things you can get there, too, to save you lots of money. Then I thought about how I am always looking for ways to save the most money or make my money stretch further, so I could share my ideas in a regular feature. So, I have declared the third Thursday of every month to be THRIFTY THURSDAY (DAY, DAY, day…). hehehe

I was going to start with my thirst store post, however I decided to do movies instead for 2 reasons:

  1. We still have half of Summer left and parents are always looking for something fun and cheap to do as a family, and
  2. No matter how many times I’ve shared this great way to see movies on the cheap on my Facebook page, I still have friends who don’t know about it. So I’m spreading the word!

My favorite movie theaters to go to are Regal Theaters. They have locations in 36 of the 50 United States and 1 US territory and they have a loyalty program called the Regal Crown Club (RCC). Having the RCC card is just like the tag on your keychain for the local grocery store: you show it when purchasing tickets and items at the concession stand and you can even type it in when buying tickets online from Fandango. You earn points for ever purchase and these points get you free small popcorns, free small drinks and free tickets. You can “upsize” the small popcorn & drink to medium or large for a little money; so much better than full price! But wait; it gets better!

*Participating Regal theaters have Value Days and sell tickets at a discounted rate. Days and prices vary by theater. For example, theaters in my area sell tickets for **$6 on Tuesdays, the Regal Jack London in California sells tickets for $6 every Sunday & Tuesday and the UA Wekiva Riverwalk in Florida sells tickets for $5.69 every Sunday. See what Value Day special is going on at a Regal Theater near you, here. But wait; it get’s better still!

We only see movies on Value Day at a participating theater and instead of paying the Value price of $6 a ticket in our area, we only pay $5 a ticket by showing our RCC card at the box office. Every Tuesday at Regal Theaters, RCC cardholders get small popcorns for $2 each and you can upsize them to a medium ($1 in my area) or a large ($2 in my area). Seeing a movie with a large family or group of friends? Than paying $4 for a large tub of popcorn on a Tuesday is a great deal, because you can get a free refill on that tub of popcorn. And not just on Tuesdays! No matter what the day, you get a free refill on large popcorns and large drinks! You can even get free, small disposable containers from the concession stand so everyone gets their own popcorn container instead of passing the large bucket of popcorn around. We actually bring our own plastic containers with lids to share popcorn. That way, no one spills their own popcorn, everyone can add the exact amount of butter or seasoning they want, put the lid on and shake it up for even distribution. :o)

Recently, B and I saw 2 movies back-to-back on a Tuesday, with popcorn and drink, for $25. The full-price tickets alone would have cost us $39! We had earned a free movie ticket with our RCC card so I used that for my ticket to the first movie. We paid $5 for each of the remaining tickets ($15 for tickets total). Since it was $2 small popcorn day, we upsized it to a large ($4) and bought a large drink ($6). After the first movie, we dumped what was left of our popcorn, got a fresh refill on it and the drink and then headed into the second movie. The remaining popcorn we took home to the hubs because popcorn is his afterwork snack of choice, and movie popcorn tastes better than microwave. :o) B & I didn’t eat lunch, and only needed a snack instead of dinner because of all that popcorn!

Now, that was a special treat for us. Usually, we just buy our $5 tickets for 1 movie and the $2 popcorn for B and then drink water from the water fountain. But if it weren’t for Regal Theaters Value Day and their Royal Crown Club, going to a movie theater would only be a once or twice a year occurrence; we’d get most movies out of the Redox, instead. And we only have a family of 3! Some of my friends with large families haven’t seen a movie in years because of the cost, but sharing this $5 ticket & $2 popcorn deal allows them the luxury to see a movie in the theater occasionally. I hope you live in an area with a Regal Theater near by, but if you don’t, ask at your local theater if they have a loyalty program.

Disclosure: Regal Theaters did not ask me to blog about them, nor are they even ware that I chose to do so. They have not provided me with any free nor discounted stuff for blogging about them. 

*The closest Regal Theater to me that has those nice recliner seats does not participate in this special, but the regular seat theaters do.

**Additional fees for 3D, RPX and IMAX but we don’t see movies with those added features.

Movies on the Cheap

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