Archive for August, 2009

Link Roundup – Week of 8/24

This week’s frugal roundup

Steel cut oats in the crock potThe greenest dollar has a great article on making steel cut oats in the crock pot. Since I am working alot of mornings now, and don’t have the same kind of time off anymore, I needed a way to get my oat on, without watching the pot for half an hour. I have not tried this yet, but I will be putting my oats on the pot in about an hour. I’ll let you know how they go!

Even better yet, he uses a kill-a-watt to measure the power consumption in cooking the oats. No spoilers here, go read the article.

What is TimeBanking – This was sent over to me by jillian. This is is a great idea. The gist is, you do something for someone (paint their fence, fix their computer, etc.) and in return, someone does an hour of work for you. I would TOTALLY do this! This is the best!

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Save a Bundle on Baby Formula


Do a Little Homework

Today’s tip will require you to do a little homework before your little one arrives, and it will require you to spend a little time each week keeping an eye on things, and paying it forward. Although there is a little work required, you are guaranteed to save a bundle on baby formula.

As soon as you find out that you will be expecting your bundle, sign up with EVERY baby supply vendor (it sounds so business like, I know) you can find. Tell them it’s okay for them to send you things in the mail and email. You might even want to start another email address for this, so in the coming years, if it gets killed with spam, you can drop it. For now, go sign up. Here are some examples:

Feel free to search around for any other companies offering free memberships, and join.

Make sure you do this as soon as possible. In a few weeks, you should start to be inundated with free samples and coupons. These free samples and coupons will continue to fill your mailbox for the next few months. Save each and every one of them. File them, organize them, whatever you have to do, just make sure you know where they all are.

Is Generic Formula Okay?

When baby arrives and it’s time to decide on a formula brand (this is assuming that you will be feeding formula at some point), you will be faced with the very personal choice of which brand to feed baby. While I am all for substituting generic brands for some things in my kitchen, I made the conscious decision not to buy generic baby formula. After seeing so many news stories of tainted baby formula, I thought this would probably be a wise choice. The idea of rat poison or surplus WWI ammunition in my baby’s formula was a risk I didn’t want to deal with.

A few years ago, I also made the conscious choice to refrain from shopping at a certain chain that rhymes with Ball Bart, so part of this solution relies on shopping around a little bit.

Step One – Gather your Coupons

Now that you have made a decision on which formula to feed baby, gather all the coupons you have for that brand. Whatever you do, do not throw out the other coupons. We will need those in an upcoming step.

Sort the coupons for your brand by denomination and possibly expiration date. This is the order you want to use them in.

One more thing I should mention. Without even doing the math, I decided to go with powdered formula. I knew it be would really expensive to pay someone else to process, package, and ship water. If anyone wants to see the math, we can do it, but my guess is that it’s a waste of money. Plus, you have to throw all those bottles in the trash.

Step Two – Scan Your Circulars

Since I made the choice to refrain from giving my money to the store that rhymes with Ball Bart, I started paying much closer attention to my spending and seeking out bargains. Over the years, I discovered the magic of CVS and its extra bucks system. What I learned was that every week, something that I needed on a daily basis was on special.

While I could write a whole article on taking advantage of CVS’s weekly specials (and maybe I will in the next few months) I found that not only was I saving a fortune on my regular household needs, I was racking up a significant fortune in Extra Bucks. Extra Bucks are just currency that you can use only at CVS. You gain them buy buying certain items, and sometimes, the cash register just gives them to you (my wife and I call this “jackpotting.”) You can also get random $5 off on $15 purchase bucks, too.

Without spending all day gushing about CVS, suffice it to say that we always saved our extra bucks. Then, we would sit. Sit and wait. Wait for our forumula (Enfamil) to go on sale. My gut feeling says that it went on sale once every three weeks. Then, we’d pounce. Here’s How it would go down:

25.7 Ounce Baby Formula$26.99
CVS Sale Price- $3
MFG Coupon from Step 1-$7
Extra Bucks-$5
Total Cost$11.99

Okay, we have cut fifteen bucks a can off the cost of baby formula. But wait, there’s more. This will cost a little bit of time, but it will pay back, and forward.

Step Three – Share the Wealth

Now, we can take the above ideas, and blow them through the roof. Everyone who signs up for the offers I mentioned in the beginning will receive and endless stream of coupons and samples. Once you dial in your brand, you will not have any use for the other brands’ coupons and samples. BUT! Someone else will.

If you are not familiar with Freecycle, you should head over there after you read this and get familiar. The gist is, if you have something that still has some use in it, and rather than try to make a buck off it, you would rather just give it away, you post your listing there. If you see an offering you would like, you can email that person, claim it, and go pick it up.

There is an unlimited supply of curios on freecycle, but one of the best uses for you and baby is to post your unneeded coupons and samples to the list. Since you saved all your coupons from step one, you can post them to the list. When you see your brand come up, you can claim it.

Here are some of the things I have claimed:

  • Several 25.7 ounce samples of Enfamil. Each is worth $26.
  • Several formula coupons, each worth between $5 and $15. In many cases, with my extra bucks, I ended up getting my baby formula for free. In retrospect, I never paid more than $12 for a $26 can of formula. In LOTS of cases, I ended up getting my can of formula for free.
  • Coupons for other people who were using other brands of formula but weren’t on freecycle.

Final Words

Your freecycle group may not have a very active baby coupon trading group yet. If it isn’t very active yet, I urge you to start posting your coupons and samples now. Post a link to this article. Do whatever you need to do (tastefully) to raise interest.

Also keep in mind that many mothers out there don’t have the free time or the computer time participate in trading coupons and samples on freecycle. If you know any of these mothers, find out what kind of formula they use, and what coupons they have and help them out a little bit. I am sure they wouldn’t mind saving at least $15 a week for their babies.

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Movie Theater Popcorn on the Cheap

What does this have to do with frugality?

I love going to the movies. I love horror movies. I love the whole experience of it (minus waiting in the line to pee after the film). These days, I need to save my dollars, and going to the movies with my family (which can easily be a one hundred dollar affair, including dinner) is not an option. When I really thought about what I loved about the movies, it has always been the popcorn.

Although I always cringed at the idea of spending six bucks on a bucket of popcorn (sometimes twelve bucks, if I had to buy two!), I never thought there was a way around it.

For several years, I have tried to figure out what it was about movie popcorn that made it so good. I slaved in my kitchen with pots and pans, air poppers, and the like. The results were “sorta kinda but not really” at best. Never did I even come close to something that would make watching a movie at home become a reasonable experience. Then, finally, the perfect storm.

How to actually do it

It turns out that there is nothing to it. Best of fall, it’s CHEAP! One year, my buddy Douggie bought me a Whirley-Pop Popcorn Popper. This was the first piece that was actually missing from my arsenal. The trick with the whirley pop is that it continuously (well, you do, actually) stirs the popcorn while it cooks. This keeps the popcorn from scorching, and keeps it evenly heated.

The other trick is that it has ventilators on top. This is very important as the reason why your popcorn is getting mushy is most likely that your popper is retaining moisture. The reason corn pops is that the kernels are full of water. When this water explodes, the popcorn pops. That explosion of steam needs to go somewhere. The whirley popper throws the steam into the air.

The next part of the trick is the oil. I have used several types of oil, and found that the best oil to use is coconut oil. Yeah, it sounds exotic, but you can probably find it in your grocery store near the popcorn supplies. It will set you back about two and a half bucks, but it will last forever. I have found it in my local bulk food store but if you MUST order it online, you can try here but the pricing and the shipping could be prohibitive. Your best bet would be to ask around, or keep your eyes open on your local shopping expeditions.

The last, and more important thing, is the flavoring. After having found a ton of different flavorings claiming to taste like movie popcorn, I stumbled across one that actually made sense. It was sold at a store that sells these sorts of things to movie theaters. The stuff is called Flavacol. While you can order it online, I found it at my local GFS for less than two dollars. I have had this carton for months, and I have not really made a dent in it. While you can find it online, try to search your local stores for it, and you’ll save a wad on shipping.

So, that leaves the last part of the equation. The popcorn. I have tried all the gourmet popcorns, the pricey Orville Redenbacher popcorn, and while popping corn in a big pot or in an air popper showed a difference in these brands, the whirley pop does such a good job, the the differences are imperceptible. This means that you can buy a 99 cent bag of jolly time or a 99 sack of popcorn that the bulk food store and end up with great movie popcorn.

Advanced Methods

Once you have gotten your groove on, there is one more thing you can do to make your movie theater popcorn experience that much better. When you put your oil in your whirley pop, put in about 3/4 of a teaspoon of flavacol with with the oil. The popcorn will be PERFECT, but the cleanup will be a little worse.

You can also use the whirley pop to make fun stuff like caramel corn and kettle corn. The popper comes with a booklet of various ways to make your popper a sticky mess, but have alot of fun at the same time.

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