We’re “starting fresh” this January, completing 22 mini-challenges in 22 days for a cleaner, fresher and healthier kitchen and grocery budget. Just joining us? Read about the what’s and why’s on the mini-challenges, as well as the previous days tasks, and jump right on in!
The SCREAMING good deal on “Better Than a Box” ends today at 8am! Do you have your copy yet? If you don’t, stop what you’re doing and go buy it – right now. You absolutely will not regret this purchase… unless you don’t do it, and wish you had at 8:02am when the price goes up to $17 ! (But even at that price, it would STILL be worth every penny!)
Nothing screams “save money” better than “broken vacuum.”
I don’t vacuum my floor every day. Shoot, it’s not even every other day. I aim for twice a week most of the time, but to be quite frank, some weeks go by with only one, quick, mediocre run of the vacuum cleaner contained solely within the main area of the house.
And that’s right before company arrives.
About a week ago, the crumbs under the kids seats at kitchen table seemed to have accumulated quite nicely. I pulled out our trusty, nearly seven-year-old vacuum cleaner that was a wedding present from two of our good friends (*waves* Hi Shari & Angie!) . This trusty machine has been through MANY moves, including one cross-country, and has kept on sucking.
Sure it gradually got louder over time, but we simply attributed it to age. The vacuum picked up well enough, so we just sucked it up for a few minutes (pun not intended ), pretended to be at an overly loud rock concert and cleaned the floor. (Insert one-time-a-week cleaning session here.)
Miraculously, one day it got quieter! I’m not sure what happened, but the change was welcome. We rewarded the vacuum by using it more often. (Insert twice-a-week cleaning session here.)
And then last week it got REALLY loud. Like, ohmygoodnessIthinkmyearsaregoingtobleed kinda loud. And it smelled like burning. Not a good sign.
This happened THE MOMENT I turned it on. You know it’s bad when your 3-going-on-30-year-old daughter says, “Uh-oh Mommy. That’s not good.”
No my dear, that is not.
After MANY hours of abusing Google in an attempt to figure out what in the world was wrong (Broken belt? Jammed filter? Canister full?), I stumbled across the bad news that the noise and smell were caused by one of two things:
1) broken motor
2) broken motor bearings
In either case, the outlook was grim. Either part would cost about $60 plus labor (according to a January 2008 estimate) but the problem lies in the fact that the part was difficult to obtain… and this was back in 2009!
Mr. Crumbs and I sat on the issue for a couple days… as if thinking about a broken vacuum cleaner would somehow make the crumbs (who seemed to have been fruitful and multiplied) be less noticeable.
Finally we caved and started searching for a new vacuum.
I only wished someone had warned us about sticker shock before we started shopping.
How in the world could a low-end vacuum cost more than a week’s worth of groceries?
Breathe in… breathe out…
At the advice of my husband’s co-worker, we did not get the cheapest model at Walmart.
We got the second cheapest instead.
We brought it home, assembled it, took it for a spin and everything seemed fine and dandy.
A couple days later I took it for another spin, testing it out on the entryway where my kids seemed to have brought home half the sand from the park via their shoes.
And then it hit me. Literally. The sand that was on the floor, currently being sucked up by the vacuum cleaner, was getting thrown out the back, hitting my legs.
Oh no. This wasn’t going to work.
I returned the vacuum and got the third least expensive model. I’ve vacuumed three times since bringing it home two days ago (a record, I’m sure) and I’m 90% sure it’s a keeper.
Whew. Shopping for vacuum cleaners sucks! (pun intended )
So what is a sap story about a broken vacuum cleaner doing on a frugal real foodie blog?
Because it’s all boils down to today’s challenge.
Day 18 – Save Money
There are so many different ways to save money, it would be silly of me to try to list them here. Besides, we’ve already implemented a few of them in our past challenges. Creating a grocery budget, eating simple meals, baking bread, planning meals, using food twice, making something from scratch… they all are simple steps towards saving money.
Today I’m challenging you to find OTHER ways to save money and I’ve got some ideas to get you started. Being frugal in the kitchen should spill over somewhat to other areas of our life. I mean, if we’re not willing to pay for overpriced chicken, why pay more than we have to for a vacuum cleaner? Some are straightforward, some are not. But they all lead in the same direction – a more full pocketbook!
1. Use Coupons.
When used ONLY on items you will in fact eat and use (i.e. whole grain pasta, brown rice, toilet paper, razors etc.), they can be a useful tool and add up to significant savings over time.
2. Shop Sales.
Tri-tip is a very common (and DELICIOUS) cut of meat in California. We can typically find tri-tip on sale for $2.99-$3.99 per pound, and this happens every 2-3 weeks or so. When not on sale, this hunk of meat rings up at $6.99/lb. Obviously the smart thing to do would be to buy it when it’s on sale.
3. Don’t Shop.
This is one of my favorite tactics. When I’m feeling the pinch towards the end of the month, it’s easier to save money by simply not shopping. Perhaps the inevitable is delayed only a day or two, but sometimes we can go nearly a week without a trip to the store. There have been cases where that item we just “had to have” wasn’t so integral to the meal after all. My stubbornness has also led us to impromptu pantry challenges, which turns the goal of saving money into a double bonus!
4. Buy in Bulk.
One can of Cento tomatoes for our homemade pizza costs $4.45 at the only store in town that carries them. Paying that much for one can made us kinda stingy on pizza night. Now we buy them a case (12) at a time off Amazon and they’re only $2.17 each. Pizza night is now one of our signature company meals!
5. Try New Stores.
It’s old “couponer” advice to not be store loyal if you want to save money, but “be open to new stores” should be thrown out there as well. Now that we eat more beans, I’m constantly looking for a better price per pound. It wasn’t until Mr. Crumbs treated us to tacos for lunch that I was introduced to a new (to me) Mexican grocery store in the area. Every variety of bean was 50¢ cheaper per pound, and since it’s just down the street from church, it’s not out of the way!
6. Buy Used.
This is a non-food category, but all of our budgeted money (regardless of the category) comes out of one paycheck, right? Before running out to buy something brand new, consider buying it used first. While shopping for the new vacuum cleaner last week, Mr. Crumbs browsed the video game section in search of one particular game for The Boy (and Daddy). They didn’t have it, but somehow my husband had managed to stack two different games and the associated equipment “required” to play the games on top of the vacuum cleaner. He had wonderful intentions, but I gently asked him if this was something we could find used on Craigslist… perhaps from someone who had outgrown the game. It’s so easy to want to buy something new, especially if you just so happen to be at the store. Make every purchase a conscious one, and see if it’s worth buying used first.
7. Shop Ebates
Ebates is like Swagbucks, but you’re rewarded with cash back for shopping instead of Swagbucks for searching. Before you buy ANYTHING online, go to Ebates.com first. Type in the store you want to buy from and see if they’re offering cash back. Sometimes it’s high – Groupon and Kohls are showing 6% cash back. Sometimes it’s low – Walmart is only 1%. But the cash back from little purchases add up over time. Plus Ebates is offering a $10 gift card when you sign up and make a purchase within a certain time frame. Of course don’t buy anything you don’t need, but if you had a purchase in mind anyway, why not make some money off of it? I’ve been a member since 2010 and have received $184.41 back to date. Not too shabby, eh? It especially makes a big difference when shopping during the holiday season when the cash back percentages seem to increase across the board!
Prefer to shop locally? Check to see if your store offers free shipping to the store. Walmart does and most items are available that day for pick-up. Shop through Ebates first, choose site-to-store and then pick it up later that day. You get the bonus of having it in-hand, AND cash back from the purchase!
8. Double Dip
Double dipping means taking advantage of two programs at the same time. For example, Ebates does not prohibit two people living in the same house to each have their own account. The last time we made a purchase online, I referred my husband from my own account. He logged in, made the purchase, was awarded his $10 gift card and my account was rewarded for his successful referral. We won’t be able to do that again, but we essentially saved $35 on that purchase.
Day 17 Update
Having a back-up plan is not my strong suit. I like eating everything we have before replenishing stock. But then that contradicts the whole point of having something ready, just in case.
My back-up plan for family meals is essentially grilled cheese (or peanut butter and jelly if the cheese is gone) and spaghetti. I nearly always have pasta and sauce in the pantry.
For company though, I obviously struggle. I do have a plan though! My goal is for each bi-weekly menu plan (coming February!) to include one dish that I can make extras of and freeze. Because of the “in 20 minutes or less” requirement, it couldn’t be a casserole or the roasted vegetable baked penne pictured above – that took over an hour last time we baked it straight from the freezer. Instead I’d tailor the meals so that it can be thawed and served over rice or pasta. I’m thinking of enchiladas (the filling) over rice and frozen soup with mini-pastas as a starting point.
What creative ways do you employ to save money?
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you register for Ebates I will earn a small referral bonus, and if you register for Swagbucks I’ll earn some of those too, but that’s not why I’m recommending them. They’re both excellent programs and honest (and easy) ways to save a little bit of money!