Friday, January 29, 2010

Make It New Weekend

Looking around my home I have some great things that I never use or wear anymore. They need to be fixed. Make this a FOR You weekend and Fix Or Repair the things you already have and love.

Check out your closet. Do you need to sew on a button? Here is a video from to show you how

This is the weekend to finally change the burnt out light bulb in your closet. Set out that step stool and get to it. Consider using a CFL bulb to save energy in the long run and to keep from having to do the job again soon as these have a longer life. In a tight space consider using a compact CFL. there are even great options for fancier dining room lights, check them out at the local home improvement store. Here is a link to coupons to get you started from GE.

Give yourself the freedom to move the sofa. We know that it is only in that odd spot to cover up a stain in the carpet. The folks at RealSimple have some ideas on how to rid of them. Give it a try you might like the sofa in a spot where you can actually see the TV.

When all of this is done enjoy the wealth of your weekend and the new-old things that you can enjoy. Let me know what you want to Fix Or Repair next time.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Consider Your Perishables

I had a very informative conversation with the meat manager of my local grocery store today. I am rethinking the way I purchase some of my perishables as a result. This was off the cuff and fairly early in the day. The store was almost empty and the parking lot was lightly covered in snow.

Tim was a wealth of knowledge about the grocery industry in the Denver area mostly due to his buddies from the weekly poker game. I tell you this so that you can gauge his comments for yourself. He noted that in his store the 80% ground beef is made from the trimmings from the meats cut there in the store. It can be a combination of trims from sirloin to chuck. My guess is that on weeks where the higher grades of meat are on sale, that it might be a great week to stock up on the 80% ground beef. I noted that I have a difficulty digesting a lot of ground beef products and he said that the higher grades of ground come from the company meat plant and they are repackaged on site. I wondered just how many cows might be represented in on of those big packs of ground meat.

We went on to speak of other meat counters and produce venues in other stores. Hands down the best meat in the area is at Whole Foods especially when you are looking are grass fed organic. We agreed that the price reflected that as well.

Some of the smaller chains in town and those that are becoming smaller as I write do not have local warehouses. Much of the stock for the Denver market comes from Phoenix. As reality it is in the stores two days after leaving the warehouse. I guess for a box of cereal that would not matter, but meat and produce could be a bit trickier for freshness. It would make me think twice about shopping at those spots on weekends since they do not get shipments those days. Although it may be difficult to see the freshness at the meat counter do check the expiration dates on the labels and look over at the produce and maybe the status of tomatoes and grapes will tell you something. I will be looking much more closely for the produced in Colorado labels for a fresher product.

I tend to like shopping the sales of meat and produce where turnover of product is important. I avoid the first day of the sale since sometimes the same items they could not sell last week are still there on sale day. Usually I like to shop early on Fridays as the stores tend to stock well for the weekend and the trucks have often just been in from the warehouse. For sales by the same measure I will look at the meat coming off the sale week for bargains that have not been there very long.

Where you shop makes a big difference too. The grocers in the higher income area have a bigger turnover of higher priced product. I go out of my way to buy the holiday sale roasts to where the best selection and turnover of product is. When whole organic chicken is on sale I head for the other shops as I have been told how few chickens will get allocated to my local store. Do get rain checks as the other stores in the chain will usually honor them. Yes I do recognize that I have not confronted the issue of how long something may be in the warehouse before delivery.

Take some time in the next few weeks to talk to the employees at the meat counter, stocking the produce bins and the dairy case. they are a wealth of information. I have found that management likes seeing them interact with the customer. The information I have learned has taught me everything from how to pick great Eggplant to the best preparations for Ham. Leave me a comment and let me know what you have learned at the grocery store.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Organizing to Save Money

The last time you cleaned out the refrigerator, did you find food that you remember putting in there but had not thought of since? The leftovers from last week that you looked forward to having for lunch that are now an odd color and not so appetizing. Yes you kick yourself as you toss the plastic boxed contents in the garbage.

Do similar situations happen all over the house? Maybe they do not need the trash can but you duplicated efforts needlessly. It is likely that you have bought a paperback, magazine or CD more than once because you forgot you already had it, or figured it must be gone for some reason. Then there is the set of bed linens you were gifted that have hidden themselves away in the dark recesses of the closet. Hidden until you bring home a new set from the White Sale at which point they seem to fall out at your feet.

Inventory is the answer although you may not like the answers that it gives you. Last fall I found I have over 12 dozen candles put away for the blinding snow storm that takes the power down for several days. We are going to start using cloth napkins someday, I have 30+ of them. The family need not worry, I have enough cold and flu medicine to last well into the summer for all of us.

The current project, as I attempt to organize and purge from my stashes of stuff, is to inventory as well. Ideally, I will get the inventory into my iTouch so that I will know if that bargain I see is worth it to me or just going to take up precious space in my home. The project should not only save money but time in the long run. I will not need to cut coupons for things I have an abundance of and I should be able to locate needed items faster as well. Besides this is going to assist in getting ready for the biggest garage sale I have ever done.

I will keep you posted on how this is going and how adapting this mindset is helping the pocketbook. Besides with the treasures I find, it may end up being like Christmas everyday!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Whole Foods

One of my favorite Grocery Stores is Whole Foods. I often have noted how important it is to me to know what is in my foods and they specialize in organically produced foods. They have had fewer problems with food recalls which makes me have more faith in the contents of my pantry. Unlike the other Denver grocers they do not change out their sale prices weekly with Wednesday's ads. They do have sales and they are worth keeping track of.

The Top Sirloin Steak noted above is a Wednesday January 13, 2010 sale only. There are more items sale till January 19, 2010. The Cara Cara Oranges at $1 a pound are a great deal and they have been wonderful. The Diestel Honey Turkey Breast at $8.99 is a big hit in my home. Find your favorites here Whole Foods.

I may not be able to do all of my shopping here but I try make room in the budget.

Monday, January 11, 2010

My Own Food

A little over four months go I decided that I would work hard to make as as possible from scratch to feed my family. Already Art and I have heavily invested in gardening. We enjoyed fresh salads and veggies most of the summer. These were supplemented by occasional visits to the Farmer's Markets. We canned and froze fruits and veggies from these sources for the winter as well. I know that we do not have enough until next harvest but it is a start.

Four months ago I decided that the bakery aisle was not a market destination and I began baking up a storm. Baking at 5500 foot altitude can be a challenge but I am learning. In this time there has been a mountain of goodies that have marched out of the oven and my bread machine. At times I used to look at baking as a really big production. It need not be. Planning is the key element. Plan by both the ingredients and where you are putting the freshly baked goods as well. Since there are a limited number of cookies left cooling on the counter there are actually some for lunches. I figured out how many to make to be sure that I have a weeks' worth.

The bread machine has been getting quite a work out. I even broke one and now have the Cuisinart Convection bread machine. It is wonderful. keeping ingredients available here is important as well. I have invested in large bags of bread flour and yeast. The restaurant service supply store was a source for containers for them. The biggest trick is making sure that there is enough bread for sandwiches. If I fail to cut the needed slices off of a loaf ready for dinner I am sunk for the next day. There are times that there are two loaves made in a day and all are happy since the house smells heavenly.

The reasoning behind making more edibles from scratch as come from all of the recall notices that seem to march across the newscasts on a regular basis. I know that I cannot get away from all of them this way but I am trying. My best method seem to be, to attempt to buy local.

As the day's bread is baking I am thinking of the garden to come and the security I am feeling envelop me.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Your Paycheck

I remember the day my sister brought home her first paycheck. It was not a check. It was cold hard cash in a tan bank envelope. On the outside listed her gross pay and all of the deductions taken. She proudly poured the contents of the envelope out on the table. I was stunned at how much was there, but then again I was about 8 at the time. Sis proceeded to take a few dollars out for her wallet and the rest went in her little Lane Hope Chest that she kept on her shelf. It was nestled there with the cash she earned from babysitting. My sister has always been a wonderful saver. She learned early to pay herself first.

I fast forward to an evening before Thanksgiving 2009. My son arrives home with a debit card. It holds his paycheck. Somewhere in his email is the pay stub listing the gross pay and deductions. There was no ability to place a few dollars in his wallet and put the rest in savings. There is not box on his shelf carefully crafted in Scouts that holds cash from lawn mowing. All of his earned money has been given to him in the form of plastic or checks. Money does not have the same impact on him as it does on me.

I have never liked paying for little things with a piece of plastic and it is way too much bother to write a check for a cup of coffee. I have cash in my wallet, not a lot, but I helps me keep track of the fact that I am spending it on little things. If it is the day before payday I am not spending my last $10 on lunch. I am shopping from my fridge and finding lunch there.

Cash has value if only to show you what you have. How long did it take you to earn the money to buy the Latte you had this morning...more time than it took you to drink it? We tend to only get sensitive to that when making big purchases, the 30% decrease in value when you drive your newly purchased car off the lot, for instance. You need to be alert to it in other areas as well. If it takes you two gallons of gas to commute to and from a minimum wage job, that just spent the first half hour of labor on the job.

Twelve or sixty easy payments does not decrease the cost of the item. You already know that it increases it with interest payments. Another $50 a month out of pocket may not seem like much until you have a number of those easy payments. Consider saving for the purchase. There may be several ways that it becomes less cash out of your pocket. As an older model the item may be marked down and there are no interest payments on it when you wait to buy it with cash. Then again, you may decide not to buy the item at all.

Use your paycheck as a ruler to measure not just your needs but your wants.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Coupons Are Your Friends

Sunday morning is like Christmas almost every week for me. This week was great there were five coupon inserts in the Denver Post. They were worth enough for me, that I purchased a second paper. The paper had a wrap on it that included coupons for Safeway that sold me eggs and milk for less than $1 each.

It only took be about a half hour to put my grocery list together and pull coupons as well. I have a box that I keep up on a regular basis (another half hour a week usually). The benefits are measurable on the bottom of my receipt. The surprise I received was at check out with the reaction of the cashier and the two customers behind me in line.

I leave the house with coupons in hand they have been checked for expiration dates and all are sorted according to my list. When I put an item in the cart the coupon goes in my pocket or when I have company at the store that person gets to hold the coupons. My coupons are presented to the cashier at the beginning of the check out. I do not waste other people's time at the register fussing with coupons. That is both annoying and assures that you will not have all the coupons you should at hand. The customers behind me want to know how I had the time to use coupons. Well the answer comes in that my grocery bill was $170.83, but I wrote a check for $69.53. Saving over $100 made my day. It could make yours too.

Coupons are easy to use if you do keep a system up. I cut them weekly and sort by item type: beverages, baking, refrigerated, frozen, canned goods, condiments, pasta and potatoes, health and beauty, cleaning, paper goods and pet food. The only sort within the categories I do is to put each weeks worth in the back of each category. I find that most companies replace their coupons when their prior ones expire so usually there is not much need to sort within a grouping.

Return envelopes from junk mail make great places to write grocery lists and the coupons are handy inside. I use one for each store I plan to visit. Always be sure to check the coupons in the store fliers. Often you can use a manufacturer's coupons with a store one to increase your savings. Check your stores for which ones offer double or triple coupons. The little Safeway I use doubles coupons all the time since they are right across the street from a big King Soopers.

Additional places to squeak a few extra pennies out at the store include looking at the damage goods rack, the near to expiration items and the holiday markdowns. (White candles priced at 12 cents burn just as nicely as the ones marked $1.) Produce and cheese holiday markdowns are hot right now, look for veggie trays and soon the cheeses that we usually only splurge on at holiday time. Bring your own bags it can put an extra few nickles in your pocket too.

I see you at the grocery store. I will know you buy the coupons in your hands.