Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Today was World Vegetarian day...

And we missed it!  Vegetarianism is a great way to save money.  For us omnivores, money spent on meat is a large portion of our grocery budget.  If you've never gone vegetarian for a week, give it a try!  You will save a bunch of money if you do.

Check out Serious Eats for some great vegetarian meal ideas.
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Frugal Outreach

This post's title may be a little confusing--but it's meant to be. I want to make sure that, firstly, that Kathy and I are reaching out to our readers, because if we're not, then this blog is really just a writing exercise, instead of sharing our experiences in personal finance and greenosity. We're definitely going to be trying to be more aware of our international readers (UK, Australia, and India to name a few), so we'd love to hear from them topics of interest. I've been so motivated to manage my own finances and actions in a more responsible way because of this blog and hopefully the Femmes will be writing for a long time!

Now, to a more personal experience that I wanted to share: how to use your frugal skills to help others. Recently I was made aware of a food drive in my area that was looking for donations for their food pantry. With rising numbers of people living  below the poverty line, I thought that this was a very worthy cause. I ended up donating 9 SoyJoy bars (which I got for free at CVS w/2 $3off/5bars) and a can of organic Muir Glen tomato sauce that I got for free at Shoprite w/a printable $1/1. I'd be really interested to hear people's opinions or experiences on food donation. Is quantity more important than quality?

I'd also like to take a moment to promote this wonderful (non-denominational) organization, Angel Food Ministries. All across the United States (almost) they are helping families, regardless of income, to buy groceries at a reduced price. Of course, it is geared towards people who are stuggling financially, so think of it as a temporary safety net during difficult times. Their website is and I recommend that everyone check to see if there is a distribution center in their area.

Finally, sharing the frugal spirit with people who haven't found their inner financer yet is not only fun, but exciting! I have a cousin who is away at school for her first year and I am so happy that after all of my couponing I will be able to send to her this week: a Bic Soliel razor, 3 SoyJoy bars, dental floss, toothpaste, Gold Bond Ultimate Healing body lotion, and other nice treats! I'm also saving on postage by sending it to her via my aunt who is visiting her for Parents Weekend.

Until next time,

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Saturday, September 27, 2008

Free Food -- It's out there people!

...And I'm going to tell you where/how to get it! Kathy suggested this idea when I first told her about some freebies I get and even if this isn't available to you in you area, maybe you can take some of the ideas and put them into action.

The first place is church--oh yeah! Now, I'm Christian and I go to a Baptist church, but this will apply to any religious group that gathers regularly. I get most of my breakfast right after/during morning bible study! Coffee, pastries, etc. Yum! After the church service, its time to go downstairs again for a light lunch (they usually have cheese slices, bagels, and fruit) and also to get some very important freebies. My church has a deal with our local Panera bread store that someone from our church will come in on Friday and pick up a huge crate of leftover bread. Then on Sunday this crate is put out during fellowship and people are invited to take bags of the bread, rolls, bagels, and other goodies. This has really helped my family save money and live more frugally in these difficult economic times. I am so grateful that someone thought of this idea.

Next freebie place: work. I work in an office and coincidentally (or not) I am a serious coffee AND tea drinker. This takes care of me all day, which means, not only do I not have to transport my own beverage from home, but I'm not tempted to buy one from the dining room when I'm tired of plain water. Besides this offering, I recently found out that my company allows employees to take one piece of handfruit (ie a banana, apple, or other) from the dining hall every morning for free! I usually bring this fruit home or have it at lunch since I've already eaten breakfast in the morning.

Other things I always keep an eye out for are special events at restaurants and other retail places. It's always fun to go out and also get a special treat!

Let us know where you find your free food!

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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Frugal Update!

Hi All!

So unfortunately, the reason I haven't updated is because there hasn't really been anything to update about... last Sunday, the coupons were so tragic that I didn't even clip any.

However, I have had a turn around of luck, which I'd like to share with all of you.  I'll be doing some couponing tomorrow and things to look forward to are: free SoyJoy bars ($.50each at CVS, buy either 5 or 6 for free w/ $3 off 5 printable online), free blockbuster movie rental (Bird's Eye Voila! Moms promotion--submit a paragraph and picture of your mom, receive a printable coupon via email about 1 month later), and hopefully 25 free picture prints at RiteAid!

Also, free ice cream social to benefit the "Make A Wish" foundation, tonight from 5pm to 8pm at Coldstone Creamery.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Fun, Frugal, and Retro Recipes!

Now, when I say retro, I don't exactly mean what everyone else does...I go way back. Think 1924 ala Fannie Farmer! For those of you who don't know, she was the legendary founder of the Boston Cooking school and author of several versions of her own cookbook. I found a totally free, online version at:

See? You're saving money already--I saved you from buying a cookbook! My favorite recipes in here are the simplest. Pancakes, biscuts, and potato recipes are great for beginners. She just states everything so clearly. Well, except baking instructions...since she was working on a woodstove/oven you're going to have to guess.

Being frugal starts with being simple to me. That doesn't necessarily mean protein, potatoes, and veg every night! Being creative is important too. I just try not to get to bogged down in details.

My new motto: simple fun, simple finances, simple food.


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Monday, September 15, 2008

Frugal Lessons: Don't buy what you don't need

On Saturday I went to Stop and Shop. Now, that in itself was a mistake, because shopping on the weekends is pretty much hell, but what can you do.  Anyway, the best deals I saw in the flyer were for lean cuisine (half price), Prince Pasta (I have so much pasta already), Thomas' English Muffins (I'm all set on breakfast food for months), etc.  Basically, instead of shopping we grabbed the few things we needed: Ground Beef, Pork Chops, Paper Napkins, Eggs, and Coconut Milk.  Now, the meat was on sale, so it was as good a deal as you can get at Stop and Shop, but we could have gotten a better deal on Napkins and Coconut Milk.  On the other hand, we didn't notice we were out of napkins until we were out, so we really needed them, and we use coconut milk so infrequently that buying it when we don't explicitly need it isn't the best idea.  I think the only thing we got that wasn't on our list was Cambell's tomato soup, but it was on sale and we had thought about buying it anyway.

I could have gotten more free pasta-roni, but I haven't eaten all the rest of the pasta-roni I got for free.  I could have gotten some relatively cheap pasta but I still have a ton from when it went on sale at Shaws.  I could have grabbed some English Muffins, which I love, but If I don't drastically reduce the number of cereal boxes in the top of our coat closet my roommate might kill me.  Sometimes the best thing to do is not to buy it, even if its a great deal.

What really good deals have you resisted lately?

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Friday, September 12, 2008

Frugal Shopping Makes a Comeback!

Yes! After a seriously long vacation from shopping due to work related issues, I have been long overdue for a shopping trip. The first stop was Xpect Discounts. If anyone lives in Connecticut or Massachusetts, you know this store can be difficult when it comes to coupons. They don't accept coupons printed from online, so that is extremely limiting. Fortunately, they redeemed themselves this time with trial-size products! I found De-Frizz Sunsilk shampoo and conditioner in that size for $0.99 each. And, since I had 3 $1off coupons, that translated to two conditioners and one shampoo. I plan to send one set to my cousin who is starting her first year at college in Vermont. Anyone who's recently out of college or has a child in college knows that somehow within the first month things kept in the bathroom either disappear or are used up unexpectedly.

This mildly successful couponing trip, I headed over to Shop Rite. Now this is one of my favorite grocery stores. They take all coupons that you have and have the best variety of all the grocery stores in my area. For me, today, this translated into a bill that would have been $15.84 being only $5.23! Now that's what I call a good shopping trip. It broke down to this:

1 jar CoffeeMate, $4.39, Free with coupon
3 cans Muir Glen Organic Tomato Sauce, $0.99each, Free w/3 $1off coupons
1 Zone Perfect Meal Bar, $1.20, $0.20 w/$1off coupon
1 Half Gallon Silk Soy Milk, $3, $0.75 w/$2.25off coupon
1 5lb bag Gold Medal unbleached flour, $2.79
1 2lb bag ShopRite powdered sugar, $1.49

Total: $5.23

This is just the start everyone! I'm really excited that they're going to be putting in an Aldi's in my area, which should lead to some really good deals to be shared.


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Thursday, September 11, 2008

Frugal Credit!

Over the past few months, Kathy and I have touched on a lot of subjects—food, fun, fashion, finance, etc. But here’s an important subject of living frugally that we have not touched on: credit. Now, I’ve definitely heard about how a credit card is basically an all-expense not-paid trip to Debt-ney Land and tantamount to letting you wallet grow legs and walk around on its own. But luckily, this does not prove true for many frugal femmes! I’m going to get Kathy to weigh in with her experiences with credit cards later, but for now I’m excited to share with you all a great website that I came across that may hopefully help you if you’re trying to make a decision about credit cards.
I will never advocate doing anything that will change your green, financial, or life situation without you doing all the research you can. Speaking to friends and hearing about their experiences is a great way to start. But, once you’ve done that, you may want some supporting facts. To do that, I’d recommend that you start at When I found out about this site, I got so excited! It’s well organized, straight-forward, and so informative. No matter what place in life you’re at, student, rebuilding bad credit, or starting a business, this website can help direct you to some of the best options available. I, as a freebie-junkie, really liked that they had links to card rewards/perks/benefits. Credit Card Flyers also provides lists of low-interest credit cards and cards that offer instant approval for those who may be in a bind. I would definitely advise you to take a look at the credit card tips. I found that the article “Maximizing Credit Card Use” was very much in line with what I believe about credit cards. So take some time to check out this website!
I can’t tell you how often I’ve been told that building good credit is important. Having good credit can open doors for you, so please don’t dismiss credit as an option!

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Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Frugal Menus: An Alison Example

There seems to be a significant issue in menu-planning, so to expand on this I'd like to share with you all an example of a one week menu (scroll down). Now, I'm only including three main meals--of course, there are little additions, such as snacks (homemade goodies, fruits, etc.). Please feel free to ask questions, and since this is a work in progress for me, I welcome all constructive criticism!

    1. Cereal, fruit, and coffee
    2. Cheese/onion/lettuce sandwich, chips, and juice
    3. Pasta w/tomato sauce, spinach, and milk
    1. Muffin, scrambled tofu, and coffee
    2. Pasta salad, yogurt, and juice
    3. Hot dogs w/saurkraut on whole wheat bread, baked beans, and milk

    1. Muffin, yogurt, and coffee
    2. Chips and baby carrots w/hummus, milk and cookies
    3. Rice, Chinese veggies, chickenless nuggets, and seltzer
    1. Cereal, pineapple, and coffee
    2. Hummus sandwiches w/lettuce, onion and tomato and iced tea
    3. Ziti and cannolini bean sauce, mixed vegetables, and milk
    1. Muffin, scrambled tofu, and coffee
    2. Cheese/onion/lettuce/tomato toasted sandwich and juice
    3. Nachos w/beans, cheese, salsa, guacamole, sour cream and milk
    1. Cereal, fruit, and coffee
    2. Tofu salad sandwich and iced tea
    3. Spaghetti w/tomato sauce, crumbles, and milk
    1. Muffin, yogurt, and coffee
    2. Hummus sandwich w/lettuce, onion and tomato and juice
    3. Burgers, mashed potatoes w/gravy, broccoli, and milk

Happy Frugal-ing!

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Monday, September 8, 2008

Frugal Food Help: Menus, Katharine-Style!

My menu planning for the week is significantly different than Alison's, and for good reason.

  • Alison lives at home with her parents, who have last say.  I live with my roommate, L, and we make our menu together.
  • Alison's family is vegetarian, so their options are a bit more limited.  Now, I don't eat fish or shellfish of any kind, so I'm not exactly free as a bird over here, but we are mostly limited by my likes and dislikes... with notable the exception of L's dislike of snow peas... I mean of all things to not like..
Here is how L and I plan our menu for the week.
  1. First, we use what we already have. We look in the fridge for things that have to be used in the next week.  We think of meals that incorporate those items.  We try to make a whole week's menu on what we already have in our fridge/freezer.
  2. If we can't do that, we try to think of meals that won't require us to buy much.  An example would be...  If we have ground beef that has to be used, are we going to make tacos or hamburgers?  Well, do we have rolls or tortillas in the freezer?  Would we have to buy things for an appropriate side dish?
  3. The next thing we do is throw in a meal that is 'vegetarian'.  And by this I don't actually mean, not containing any meat, but more, a meal where the focus of the dish is not meat.  Pasta with sauce is a good example.  Whether the sauce contains meat or not, its significantly cheaper than having steak for dinner.
  4. If we have to shop, we make a list.  Now, we don't necessarily stick exactly to the list, but we are close.  Sometimes we pick up fruit juice in addition to the list, or another treat, but we limit is as much as possible.
  5. When we go shopping, we go full.  We try to go right after lunch, before normal people are out of work.  Being a student has distinct advantages sometimes.  When we go to the farmer's market, we go right after breakfast.  We walk there, I'd say its about three miles, do our shopping, and treat ourselves to a slice of pizza for $1.25.  Then we take the T (that would be the subway system in Boston) back to our apartment.
  6. We make sure to eat things that might spoil first.  Usually, this means things that have been hanging around in our fridge a while.  Heavy cream for making pasta sauces or vegetables that are getting questionable.
We keep our menu plan on our fridge, so that we know what we are supposed to be making for dinners.  We  sometimes switch meals around, but try to do it only for what won't spoil, and usually based on time constraints.

How do you plan your weekly meals?

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Friday, September 5, 2008

Frugal Quickie: Make your own Playdough!

The Hillbilly Housewife just had a great article about how to make your own playdough!  When I was a kid we never made our own playdough, but we did make our own Goo-ey Flarp-like thing.  We just mixed corn starch, water, and food coloring until it was a consistency we wanted to play with.

Homemade playdough is a great project to do with kids, and its great for the environment!  You eliminate all the chemicals and carbon costs of making and packaging playdough, and you don't have to worry (too much) about the kids eating it.

I might just make some myself...
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Frugal Food Help: Menus!

So, from time to time I've chimed in with little ideas or recipes meant to make the worry of providing for yourself and/or your family less stressful on you and your wallet. Lately, a project I've been working on for myself has been menu planning, which I share with my mom, who cooks for herself, my dad, and sister.
Probably my number one reason for having menu plans does not apply to many of you (unless you're a young twenty-something/college student on your own)--if I don't have a plan, I could frugal myself to death. A terrifying thought, but basically what I've been known to do is eat very small portions of food to stretch my budget. Thus, menus!

I'm going to recommend planning your menus on a weekly basis. Having two such menus is optimal. I, personally, do this in order to mix and match daily menus according to what I've bought and what my schedule is like. Lunch also generally derives from dinner of the previous night. Yay for time saving! Let me give an example:
Yesterday for breakfast I had a corn muffin, yogurt, and pineapple. My pineapple was the IGA deal (16oz pineapple for $0.50), the corn muffin was homemade, and I used a coupon on the yogurt ($2.79-0.50=$2.29/2lb Columbo yogurt). Lunch was ziti w/cheese sauce (cheese sauce from the night before, ziti from the day before) and salad. Then, dinner was with my family and my mom served homemade pizza with mushrooms and onions!

As you can see, I try to have protein, starch, and fruit/veg at every meal. It just helps me feel full longer and I think its generally healthier. If anyone would be interested I'd be happy to post full weekly menus and more recipes. I think you'd be surprised with some of the info--I love retro things, so I have recipes and menus from the 1920s-1960s. Lots of fun and new (sort of!) ideas puts a different spin on cooking. Also, I'm currently looking for a lentil soup recipe with a tomato base, so if I find a good one, I'll share it here (free Muir Glen tomato products + lentil--good source of cheap veg. protein = great meal!).

Happy weekend!

P.S. - Check back on Monday for coupon deals and steals of the weekend!
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Monday, September 1, 2008

Another Frugal Failure

Having spent the last 2 weeks at my parents house, I cam back to my apartment on Saturday afternoon.  Having no wish to immediately go shopping, I missed my chance to go to Haymarket (the farmer's market in Boston) this week.  Instead I just got back from a run to Stop and Shop, where I had to go to buy produce this week.

Item                          S&S      Haymarket
Romaine Lettuce       $1.79     $1.00
1lb Strawberries        $2.88     $1.00
1 Sweet Onion          $1.08     $0.20 (maybe)
Bananas                    $1.50     $1.00
Total                         $7.25     $3.20

Now, a difference of $4.05 may not be large amount, but the cost of my produce is more than double at Stop and Shop! Next week maybe I'll get off my lazy bum and go to Haymarket...

See you later!

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Frugal Quickie!

Hi everyone,

Yesterday in the P&G flyer there was a BOGO coupon for Cover Girl lip color. And, conviently, CVS is offering BOGO on most Cover Girl products! You following me? Because if you haven't gotten the picture, what I say next should clear it up: I went yesterday and got 2 Outlast Cover Girl lip colors (9.99x2=19.98+tax) for $0.60!! This is probably the best deal I've ever gotten my hands on--and will make for great Christmas present for my Mom and sister!

On that topic: Christmas is less than 4 months away! Haha, I know...but seriously, start shopping for gifts now! Money for me is really tight right now and couponing is a life saver. So far I've spent $2 each on my mom and sister, but I've gotten them $25 worth of presents. Granted, most of these are not that exciting (hair conditioner, razors, chocolates, and lip color), but I kind of like giving practical gifts and since money is as tight with them both as it is for me, they'll definitely appreciate them.

Also, I've gotten my dad chocolates and a book that he'll like, but I'm pretty much stumped on what to add to his pile. Any ideas? Unfortunately, it seems that most couponers are women and so they mostly coupon for themselves or kids...has anyone found anything good for fathers lately? I'd like to keep his presents around $2 also.

Happy couponing,

P.S.-The $2.25 off Silk Milk coupon is back! Print yours now! Its organic, vegan, and delicious (try the chocolate flavor if you're not a soy milk drinker)!

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Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Femme Frugal Strikes Back!

I'm back! Yes, I know its been a very long time and I'm so sorry about that. It's been very hectic time for me ever since I returned from Toronto a few weeks ago...Actually that very week that I got back, I had four job interviews, which three of which resulted in job offers! Of course, being the dope that I am, I turned down one (which was 25hrs a week @ $10.50 an hour) that I thought didn't hold much promise for me (and definitely didn't spark my interest) and instead took a part time job as a polling interviewer at Quinnipiac University. The payrate is worse and the hours are less, but the schedule is such that I can work this part-time job in addition to a full-time job when I find one (hopefully soon). The other job offer came from a human resources group, which has been great, finding me temp jobs, while still helping me to look for full-time work. Starting next week I will be a working girl (in the best sense, lol)!

So besides the amazing blessing of having found work in such a terrible job market, I've also been having some great luck with my bargin shopping! Would you like to hear about it?...I thought so...

Well, in the first week of August I was very happy to take up the Walgreens deal on Hershey Bliss candy. This great treat, which I am turning into a useful stocking stuffer, was actually a money maker! I used EasySaver coupons and manufacturer's coupons to get each bag for $1 each and then having bought 4 bags, got a $5 rebate from Walgreens. That same week I picked up 3 boxes of Total cereal for $0.33each using two coupons ($1/1 and $1/2). Next week I stocked up on Bic Soliel razors and extra blades, spending $0.99 on each purchase! These are also destined to be great stocking stuffers. Finally, this past week I used coupons from the 8/24 SS to buy 16oz jars of Dole pineapple at Adams/IGA for only $0.50each! Usually you can't even buy a 12oz can of store brand pineapple for $1, so I stocked up as much as I could. I topped it off by shopping with Kathy on Wednesday and picking up a VivePro Shampoo/Conditioner at RiteAid, both free! (If anyone missed out on this deal, but has the BOGO coupon, and lives in CT, Xpect is also running a BOGO offer until 9/8!)

I promise to post more often, and trust me, there will be plenty of opportunities (especially as the drive to my part-time job takes me right past a Walgreens--yay!). I've got some other exciting frugal conversion news, so stayed tuned!


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Friday, August 22, 2008

Frugal Failure: Weekly Frugal Goals

Alison mentioned in her last post about how I've never told you guys anything regarding my goals on this blog.  Which, I was surprised to note, is completely true!  So I'm going to try and outline them for you guys here today
  1. Don't eat out.  To me this means: eating breakfast before I leave my apartment, packing (and eating) a lunch, preferably of leftovers, and going home for dinner.  I don't think going out for a meal with friends falls into this category, but I try to do it less than once a week (which usually isn't overly difficult).  Now, for a disclaimer:  I failed at this abysmally this semester!  Part of it was that my roommate was away, so I had no one to tell me I was bad for eating Dunkin Donuts and Wendy's five times a week, partially it was the insane amount of work that had to be done for one of my classes, and part of it was just sheer laziness.
  2. Watch for sales/coupons.  This just means looking at the flyer before I go grocery shopping.  Looking at the red plum, and seeing what coupons there are, matching coupons with sales, and saving myself a ton of money easily.  I'd like it to mean stockpiling like a lot of the Mommy blogs do, but in a small apartment with just myself and my roommate, this really isn't feasible.  On top of that, my roommate seems to be morally opposed to the idea of stockpiling, for some unknown reason, which makes it hard to do as we split groceries evenly :)
  3. Know whats in my fridge/cupboards.  This is a big one.  If I have 10 boxes of Kix, which only I eat, and Kix go on sale again, I shouldn't buy more, unless I can get them for an amazing price!  What's an amazing price?  See goal #5!
  4. If you don't need anything, don't shop.  This is a big one for me.  I would go to the store every week, without fail, and pick up whatever meats were on sale.  It never occured to me that if I didn't buy chicken, I wouldn't eat chicken untili the next time it was on sale, I would go buy it anyway!  I also wouldn't take into account the amount of food already in my fridge/freezer.  It just wasn't a good strategy.
  5. Keep a Grocery Price Book.  I haven't actually started this resolution yet, but I feel its a really important one to have!  See the article here at GRS, and here at NCN.  I'm sure there are some other great articles about Grocery Price Books... Have you written one?
  6. Walk.  This is a big one for me.  Since I moved off-campus, I have been taking the bus instead of walking, even though it is a 10 minute walk to campus.  This is ridiculous, as it costs me about $1 each way, that I don't need to spend.
Those are my main goals.  I realize they mostly involve grocery shopping or eating, but I do very little else that costs money!  I infrequently go to the movies, or go out dancing or drinking.  Most of my hobbys require little maintenance cost, and the initial costs have long been spent.

So what do you think?


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Monday, August 11, 2008

Frugal Failure: Part Deux

Note from Katharine: Sorry it has been so quiet around here lately... the summer semester has been murder, and with Alison away, there was no one to stop me from neglecting the blog.  Hopefully posting should go back to normal in a week or two!

Maybe my goals are kind of crazy, I don't know. Maybe Kathy has the right idea about not telling you all her definite goals. But I think that doing that, being accountable to our readers, and sharing my stuggles helps me stay on track, so I can deal with a little humiliation...

I few weeks ago I attempted at the $20/week budget. Since I'm not actually paying any expenses (I gave up my car, I'm living at home, etc.), I thought that this would be completely doable. But I guess the title of this entry tipped you off to how my experiment turned out. Within four days my budget was blown!

It started out innocently, $0.50 for a pinch of organic black chai tea leaves on Friday. That turned into $2 for a pound of stawberries for the waffle brunch that Kathy and I shared. It then escalated exponentially to $12 for lunch at an Indian buffet in New Haven (generally the place is a good deal, but definitely not on Sunday!). Returning home that night with only $5 in my wallet, I devoutly affirmed my commitment to the $20 Way of Life. Little did I know that as I approached the seemingly innocent and frugal public library a fine of $2.50 awaited me! Alas, $3 seemed just too lonely in my pocket, so that night I met up with my friend DJ and went to ice cream with him. Broke in 4 DAYS! Unbelievable... My only redeeming quality was my ability to go completely cold turkey for Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.

Here's how I wanted it to go: $5 for couponing, $5 to take a family member out to coffee (quality time), $5 for necessary expenses, $3 to save, and $2 to donate to charity. It sounded so reasonable, but now you and I will have to wait to find out how my next attempt goes, seeing as spending a week in Toronto will not be workable on $20 or anything close.

Stay frugal!


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Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Homemade goodies--a double money-saver!

Alright--I'll admit it: the homemade spaghetti sauce totally did not deserve two posts...I'm sure anyone who makes their own sauce already as well as those who may have tried to gather some free ingredients must have been thinking "Come ON, already"

But, in case it hasn't come across yet, I love being in the kitchen. As weird as it might sound to those of you who know me, I LOVE food! I love baking treats (so much that I've even let my sister claim credit for my cookies when she gave them as a gift to her boyfriend!) and making full meals for my family from scratch. Yes, I'm clumsy and so I make a mess, but its fun! Which is why, to me, cooking is a double money-saver. Firstly, it prevents me from buying silly, over-priced junkfood that is full of unhealthy preservatives and covered in layers of destined-to-be-landfill-filling wrappers. And, secondly, its something to do! This is a biggie for me lately, because I've been doing the post-college/pre-gradschool jobhunt (one of the hardest things of my life...), and cooking definitely provides a much needed break from that.

This past weekend, I harvested the produce of my sole basil plant! I had grown it from seed, carefully tended and watered it in the spring, and then moved it outside after returning home from college. My reward? Pesto!!! Delicious, fresh, garlicky pesto! Not only was it rewarding for me as a reprive from the curse of my mother's black thumb, but it was frugal and semi-healthy. Ok, so pesto does include a comparatively great deal of olive oil and parmesan cheese and pinenuts, but these are healthy fats, with protein! So far, my family has enjoyed it on sandwiches and pasta. Also this past week, I've been experimenting with freezing cookie dough. After mixing everything together, I use my fantastic cookie scoop ($5.95 at Walmart!) to make perfect little balls of dough, which store perfectly in a tupperware in my freezer. Consequently, almost every night for the past week, my evening has ended with freshly baked cookies! I totally recommend this method for
everyone who loves cookies: moms with little kids who always want to 'help mommy', moms whose teenagers have to fend for themselves after school, young adults too busy to bake very often, and they make a great gift for anyone who may be baking-challenged! Voila! A bountiful supply of budget-friendly bites!

Look for more updates coming soon!


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Friday, August 1, 2008

Frugal Lessons: Grocery Shopping

I went to the store last night, because I had about 2000 coupons which were going to expire...  And I learned a hard lesson: restraint.  It was difficult for me to stick to the on sale and have a coupon plan I've been using lately, especially since I hadn't shopped in a few weeks.  In fact, I pretty much destroyed it completely... FAIL

I bought a couple things that were on sale, and a couple that I had a coupon for, and most of it was things I needed, but I could have done better.  I didn't need to buy a pound of bacon to have for breakfast, or a steak to have for dinner, but I was craving it!  I didn't need orange juice, but I hadn't had any in weeks, and I had a coupon! I didn't need peanut butter, but we were out of it, and I had a coupon!  I certainly didn't need perogies, but they are a nice treat, and I had a coupon!  I didn't need green beans, but it is really iffy buying them from the farmer's market, and if they didn't have any I would have to go back to the store! I did need toilet paper.  Really, that's all I actually needed at the store.

On the other hand, I had a nice steak dinner last night, with perogies and green beans.  And this morning I had bacon, eggs, and toast, with a nice tall glass of orange juice.  Those 2 meals just kind of cost me $44 though.  Ouch.

How do I kind of justify it?  Well, I cut the steak into small pieces, vacuum sealed them, and have about 4 steak dinners left.  I did the same with the bacon, divided it into sections of about 4 slices and vacuum sealed them to have some other weekend.  The green beans should last me a week or two, and the perogies should last a month or so, they are a sometimes-treat.

Honestly though, its not really justifiable.  I should be going to the store every week!  What if steak had been on sale last week? Then I would have already had some and wouldn't have gone shopping with a craving in mind...  Some of those coupons may have been put to better use in previous weeks, if only I had gone shopping!

How do you deal with being too busy or too lazy to go shopping? Do you have a shopping day? Do you avoid scheduling things on that day? What if something crops up? How do you make yourself go?  Living by myself as I currently do, I could live on whats in my apartment for weeks...


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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Frugal Living in the Pioneer Valley (Part II)

Alright, so in the first part I fed you, exhausted you, and probably got you drunk. This time around I'm going to hit on a few more ::ahem:: cultured and low-key options, which I'm sure will be much appreciated as you deal with any food-induced/head-banging headache that I may or may not be partially responsible for.

Scenery / Outdoorsy
Once again, let's start at my Alma Mater: Smith College. For those of you outdoorsy types, direct your attention to Paradise Pond. Directly behind the Admissions office there is a lovely pond with an island in the middle. By the edge, there is a dock, which makes a lovely place to picnic and tumble around. Also think about going for a hike or a jog around the nature trail that circles the pond and goes into the woods. If you made it to the pond, at this point you're tantilizingly close to the Smith College Lyman Plant House, home to a fantastic indoor garden. This botanical oasis was a favorite escape of mine and is open all year round.

Also, if you're bookish at all, make sure to check out some of the libraries. I used to work in the Sophia Smith and College Archives in the Alumnae Gym--if you've ever wanted to see an Oscar statue, a gold album, or other great stuff, thats the place to go! Hitting the Mortimer Rare Book Room is a must if you want to do the most educational thing possible. The curators there are amazing and will let you touch/look at pretty much any historical book you want. When I brought my family there we all got to handle Cuniform tablets, a Rennaisance prayer book, and rare original children's books!

Artsy types, the Pioneer Valley is your place! The Smith College Art Museum is free to all on the second Friday of the month, 4:00 - 8:00 pm. Check the websites of the Mead Art Museum at Amherst College (, Mount Holyoke (, and Hampshire ( to find free times for their art museums. These museums are fantastic because they are constantly showing new exhibits since students are taking courses!

Finally, a bit of history. Northampton Historical Society is absolutely adorable, fun, and nearby. Venture a little further out and find the Emily Dickinson House in Amherst, Historic Deerfield, and the Pratt Museum of Natural History. Really, don't be afraid to go exploring! You'll come across so many neat things--also, Springfield, MA is nearby; stop there for the Basketball Hall of Fame and Volleyball Hall of Fame.

Hopefully this part will make you a little more curious about the area if my last article didn't sit too well with you. And always remember to take plenty of breaks at coffee shops: Haymarket, Starbucks (for you sellouts), the Woodstar Cafe, and the Yellow Couch!

Happy travels!
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Monday, July 28, 2008

Frugal Living in the Pioneer Valley (Part I)

Kathy asked me to do a couple of articles on the topics of being frugal and green while having fun in the various places that I've lived and we'll all expect her to repay the favor. As you may have noticed, I'm a graduate of Smith College and after spending 4 years in the Northampton area (including summers!), hopefully I'll be able to offer some tips that visitors or even residents will find useful. This post is for the Money Life Network's "Frugal Things To Do In..." series.

Frugal Eating
Well, as a college student I guess I should start with the things that college students do best: eat and party. If you've been to one of the Pioneer Valley towns, you probably noticed that almost 50% of the retail area is populated by restaurants. So many different options and so many of them are budget-friendly! There is an amazing selection: two tacos at La Veracruzana, $3.95; a huge falafel sandwich at Amanouz, $5, an amazing lunch at Taipei and Tokyo complete with soup or egg roll, rice, and entree, only $5. Add to that, the amazing number of street fairs, sampling opportunities, and special events in town and at Smith College open to the public and you will have an amazing time at my home away from home. My best food freebie: the Hotel Northampton on your birthday! Your entree is completely free--any entree. There are a couple of amazing vegetarian choices, like the ravioli, yum, and also so many other non-veggie choices. Fillet mignon on your birthday? Free! The only downside is that the staff doesn't typically sing "Happy Birthday", but according to my experience with a little encouragement it can be done!

Frugal Partying
Partying is also something that Northampton does better than most small cities. Clubs and music venues like Bishops and Divas feature amazing local music for free or a small cover charge ($5 for 21+). This little area tends to attract a lot of big names from the music industry and the Iron Horse music hall is definitely the place to find all of them and get tickets for as little as $15 each! Try to time your trip to take advantage. Also, plug for Smith again, you can find so many musical events on one of the 5 College campuses. This spring Smith brought Fiest to campus and tickets were sold for $10 to the public. Also, Jason Lavasseur is performing Sept. 28th in a free concert at the campus center (he's a really amazing indie-rock type musician/singer).

Frugal Shopping
Besides these youth-oriented activities, there are so many other options! So much shopping, little boutiques, consignment stores, and so much more. Favorite stores of mine are Urban Exchange (consignment store for designer clothes), any store in Thorne's marketplace, and of course, Deals and Steals. Deals and Steals is a super amazing discount organic food store where I have found terrific deals on chai concentrate, gourmet chocolates, etc. and they always have out some samples that you can snack on as you shop! When I go back to the Valley in Auguest that will be one of my first stops. To get around the Valley, I recommend the PVTA--takes you anywhere you could want to go and only costs $1/ride! Sometimes so much easier than driving and a much needed break from walking.

Ok, since I didn't hit on nearly half of the great things to do in the Valley let's consider this Part One. Tune in for Part Two where I'll fill you in on more frugal activities and family fun!

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Friday, July 25, 2008

Frugal Fun in Toronto!

Exciting news! On Thursday I will be leaving for Toronto!! As you can tell from my use of exclamation marks, I am so very excited about this. However, I am also a little nervous. I'll be staying with a friend who is, let's say, a little more financially secure than I am and also a LOT less frugal. Needless to say, if anyone is from the Toronto area/familiar with it, I would love love love any suggestions of free, frugal, and fun activities!

So far we've planned to visit the University of Toronto (I'll hopefully be meeting with someone from the Museum Studies Program), the Parliament building, and an art museum that my friend told me is free at a certain time. I love museums, parks, and historic things in general, so suggestions of that nature would amazing. Also, any food freebies/cheap eats--I would much rather spend my money on fun than food.

My plan for travel is, I think, quite excellent and frugal. I will be taking a Greyhound bus from New Haven to Toronto. Roundtrip I am paying a total of $88! I feel that this is a pretty good deal, especially since it would have been $97, but because I registered for greyhound Road Rewards I'm getting an extra 10% off. At this point, I unfortunately have to discourage any excitement about the new Greyhound Neon busline from Penn Station in NYC to Toronto. They advertise low-fares, even 1 seat per bus that is sold for $1, but my advice is to not get on the Neon bandwagon. Sure, it sounds great, but you will never find the $1 seat and the customer service people will definitely not help you (even if you offer them a special review on your blog)...Take the regular Greyhound line, its cheaper in almost every senario and without the disappointment of not getting the dream fare.

Also, since the busride is 14+ hours, I will be trying to entertain myself. Sleep sounds most promising, new downloads from will take up a lot of room on my MP3 player, and I will be carrying a bag full of meals and snacks (any advice on meals that travel well without a lunch box/cooler?).

Happy Travels!

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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Frugal Living: The Where, Why and How of Couponing

Ok, so I've been hearing a lot of methods about couponing: where to get them, when to cut them, how to store them, etc. Now for little, old me to weigh in (**announcer voice: 'at 105lbs...Alison 'The Femme' Frugal!! crowd: cheers**).

The Where: Everywhere--duh! I cannot tell you how many deals I would have missed out on if I had not been cutting coupons from the Smart Source and Red Plum circulars on weekends AND searching the internet! Obviously the paper route is a great way to find deals that might not be online, but I like it mostly because I can cut out coupons that I wouldn't bother printing. You know, those coupons...the "well, I don't really use that brand/never tried this, but its a great deal" kind? Like take last weekend, when I found a B1G1 L'Oreal Pro Vive Hydra Gloss coupon in the Smart Source ad. Now normally, that is a product I would never think of buying, its expensive, brand-namey (which I totally rebel against by nature), etc. But since CVS is doing a B1G1 event on that same product this week, I'm totally getting my two free shampoos! On the other side are the internet coupons. Sites like, and others are great to find an assortment of coupons really quickly and scan through to find what you need. Online is also my best bet to check the websites of products that I use regularly, like Silk Soy Milk. For a while this spring, they were offering a coupon for $2.25off any 32oz or larger carton of their product. This translated to 9quarts of free, shelf-stable vanilla soymilk for me (which goes great on my free kashi cereal--$2off coupons at, often onsale for $2 at Walmart). Bottom line: paper = browse, online = don't waste the energy.

The When: Now, I actually do have a definite opinion about this. Katharine was telling me about this popular method where you don't cut out the coupons immediately, but instead mark the page somehow and then cut it out right before you go to the store, so you don't have a bunch of coupons floating around you house/apartment or something like that. At this point I would like those of you who are infinitely more politically-correct than I am to skip to the next line--ready? That is absolutely RETARDED!
Why don't I just thumb through the study the day before I have to give a report on it and then read it in detail 30 minutes before class? Oh yeah, because I would FAIL! Same basic idea here: prepare as best you can, as early as you can, to avoid pain later.

The How: Fun time! Well, its not totally unique, but I am sort of proud of my coupon storing method. Using an empty CD case with lots of pockets, I store my coupons pretty logically, according to what they are, how the stores in my area are generally arranged (cereals together in the front, frozen foods last, and so on), and coupons for specific stores. Before I go out for a shopping trip, I go through my coupon-holder and put the coupons I plan to use in their own compartment, so that I can find them easily. Also, the CD case is awesome: totally didn't cost me a thing and it is designed to keep CDs from going anywhere, and is therefore more than sturdy enough for little bits of paper!
Enjoy your Friday and keep clipping!

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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Free Sample Roundup, Coupons, Amazon, and a new Frugal Service!

Free Samples
Free sample of MultiGrain Cheerios from Walmart here.  This isn't new, but a re-stock and I was able to sign up again.
Free Kotex sample courtesy of Sam's Club here.
Free sample of Oatmeal Crisp cereal from Walmart here.
Free sample of Stayfree products here.  This is another one that isn't new, but I was able to sign up again.
Free sample of Health ToGo drink mixes here.
Free sample of Airborne Power Pixies here.
Free sample of Yappy Treats dog treats here.
Free sample of dog's health food here.
Free sample of Gillete High Performance Shampoo from Walmart here.

Frugal Articles and Other Stuff!
Coupon round-up via Money Saving Mom here.
To get $10 off any purchase if you have never been an Amazon Prime member, see the details at Blueprint for Financial Prosperity here.
Deal Seeking Mom has a great article about Frucall, a service that lets you check online prices form anywhere!  See the details here.

Get any good samples lately?

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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Sample Roundup and Some Great Frugal Articles

Free Samples!
  • Free sample of GLAD ForceFlex here
  • Free Obama '08 sticker for those inclined here
  • Free Obama button here
  • Free sample of Tide TotalCare here
  • Free sample of Kotex here from WalMart
  • Get a coupon booklet worth $27 here
  • Get a free sample of BeneFiber here from WalMart
  • Free sample of Mosturizing Renewal Creme here
  • Get an Orajel coupon here
  • Free sample of Neutrel Heartburn Relief bar here
  • Get Free Coffee and Tea here
  • Free sample of earplugs from E-A-R here
  • Join the Zoe's foods Consumer Advisory Panel for coupons and a free sample of Zoe's Granola here
  • Get a free Chocolate Explosion Recipe book here
  • Speaking of Recipe books, there are a whole bunch more over at Coupon Cravings here
  • Free American Indian themed notecards here
  • This website is broken on my PC - but supposedly they have a free sample here
  • You can get a free sample of Montreal Steak Seasoning here - Newsletter registration required for free sample.
  • Deal Seeking Mom has a good roundup of free magazine subscriptions here!
  • Free sample of Earthblend Super Premium Dog Food for new customers only here
  • Free T-shirt for signing up for publication here
  • Free sample of VetBalance sample with brochure here - If you select the free shipping option, you do not have to supply a credit card.
  • Free sample of Trojan condoms here
  • Free sample of Dove ProAge here
Frugal Articles and Other Stuff! :)
  • Mommy Making Money has a great roundup of free or cheap summer movie options here
  • I went to a matinee of The Dark Knight with Alison on Saturday, we only paid $6 each :) There was a trailer for the Watchmen, which is celebrated as like, the best graphic novel ever! Get a free copy of the Watchmen Motion Comics on iTunes until August 1st here!
  • A great way to save money is to only buy Fruits and veggies when they are in season... Wise bread has a great list here - of Fruits and Veggies in season by month!
  • Money Saving Mom has a post about Free Passes to indoor water parks! I live in Boston, and my folks live near Waterbury, and I have never heard of this place, but I'll have to go looking now :) See here for details.
  • Money Saving Mom also has a coupon for a free American Greeting card at CVS here
  • Cheesecake is only $1.50 at The Cheesecake Factory on 7/30/08 via Consumerist here
  • Hooray for Free-bates! has a post about Sales Tax holidays here - Massachusetts doesn't have one, but I'll have to remind Alison and my parents that they Connecticut one is coming up fast!
  • My Good Cents has a post about a great Survey Site here - I haven't personally used this one, but I'll be signing up!
That's a lot of stuff to sign up for!


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Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Benefits of Frugal Living

Katharine here.  Just wanted to introduce our first guest poster, Miranda from!
One of the personal finance trends gaining popularity right now (especially with the current economy) is frugal living. Frugal living is a lifestyle in which you spend much less than you earn, and take steps to avoid excessive consumerism. And, increasingly, frugal living is becoming tied to green living. While it may seem that frugal living is a recipe for denying yourself, the truth is that there are plenty of benefits involved in frugal living.
Benefits of frugal living
Frugal living includes a variety of benefits that can help you change your thinking. Once you start looking at frugal living as a way to benefit, you'll be surprised at how much more appealing it is.
  1. Save more money. This is probably the benefit that comes most often to mind when you think of frugal living. With frugal living, you take the time to get the best value for your dollar, helping your budget stretch further. Additionally, frugal living includes a lifestyle of fewer consumer purchases, so you spend less money buying things you don't really need anyway.
  2. Enjoy better health. In many ways, frugal living can help you enjoy better health. If you are buying your produce at the farmer's market to avoid pesticides and chemicals, you are keeping harmful chemicals from your body. Consider this: Walking, public transportation and riding your bike all require more exercise than driving your car. And you don't have to spend money on gas. And, if you plan to prepare and eat more meals at home to save money, you will have less processed food and fewer "filler" calories that do little beyond contribute to weight gain.
  3. Help the environment. Many frugal living practices are now being applied to the environment. Conserving energy, driving less, buying local when possible and reducing consumer waste are all things that help the environment while saving you money.
  4. Less stress. A consumer-based lifestyle is stressful. Having debt is stressful. Trying to figure out where to put all your stuff (and taking care of it) is stressful. Frugal living can help you reduce the stress you feel in your life, and it can reduce stress that you might feel in your relationships with others. Plus, frugal living means that you have room to build up your emergency fund, creating a safety net in case something unexpected happens.

Frugal living is a lifestyle choice. And it is one that can result in benefits for you that move beyond the financial. The choice to live frugally can also affect your health, your relations and even the environment.
Miranda Marquit edits information on debt consolidation for

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Frugal Cooking: Practicing What We Preach

Part of what we've been addressing in this blog is how going green and being frugal can go together. Its a great experiment that, I think, so many people are getting interested in because of the environment and the economy. Not to mention the average person's hectic life, where its hard enough to make time to eat food, let alone make it. So really, what we are suggesting is a win-win: cook once, eat twice.

Now that may not really sound too appetizing. "Eating leftovers every other day? EVERY day?" This challenge is something all of us go through. We want the ease of a quick fix, without the pain of having to cook a meal from scratch. My advice is more of a compromise: cook a staple food and use that as a base for more than one meal. Voila!

Using myself as an example, let me tell you about the past two days for me. Last night I made my quick-fix marinara sauce--lovely chunky tomatoes, plenty of herbs, and layered flavors. Once again, all tomato products were free, the herbs were a gift, and the rest of the ingredients are quality, but inexpensive. That over spaghetti was my meal last night and there was some leftover sauce for another meal. But the important leftover was the spaghetti. Today, I had plans to go on a beach picnic and needed to pack a dinner. So, within about twenty minutes this afternoon, I pan-fried a slice of tofu and assembled a peanut-noodle dish using: left-over spaghetti! Simple and totally different. This wonderful dish is great cold and goes well with the wakame seaweed salad that I made as well.

This is a skill that I honed when I was living abroad in Scotland. Totally changing directions with a staple food becomes easier the more daring you're willing to be. Rice, for instance, provides limitless options almost and can easily be made in great quantities, to be refrigerated and saved for later. I once cooked a huge quantity and went from a Chinese side dish to Mexican to cold rice salad and finally to fried rice. Give yourself a chance and you'll be surprised with what you come up with! Cook once, eat multiple times!


More Technical Difficulties

Unfortunately, my internet is down again. Apparently it is not an outage this time, but a problem with my connection. I should be up and running again tomorrow, but may not post again until Friday.

Stay frugal!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Frugal Shopping: Shaws and Stop & Shop

Shaws has Rice-a-roni and Pasta-roni on sale this week for $1 a box.  There is a printable at Smartsource.  When I clicked on the food category, it was at the bottom of the first page.  Since Shaws doubles your $.50 off coupon, you get them free!  Stop and Shop also has Rice-a-roni on sale for $1 a box this week.  Does anyone know if they double?

Other good deals are Wishbone Bountifuls on sale for $2 each.  There are a few $1 off coupons, try here.  I also had one from a flyer, but I am not sure which flyer I got it from.

I also had a coupon for Wishbone salad dressing for $1 off two, and the 16oz vinaigrettes were on sale for $2, so I picked up 2 of those too.

I also grabbed a bottle of Hunt's ketchup since I have a free-bate for it, from here.

What did you guys pick up this week?