The Price Of Convenience

Filed under: Money — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:27 am on Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Most of us know that when you choose convenience in the grocery story–the food that has been sliced, diced, and pre-prepared for you–you pay for the privilege, but a recent article in ShopSmart, a magazine put out by ConsumerReports, demonstrated just how much.

The magazine sent their staffers to grocery stores in New York to compare the prices of “convenience” groceries such as pre-sliced apples or crumbled cheese to their whole counterparts. They found that sometimes you are paying a whopping 60% more for products that have been precut for you. Here’s the breakdown of what they found:

Baby carrots cost 63% more than whole carrots, at $3.99/lb. vs $1.49/lb. Since most baby carrots are whole carrots that have been sculpted down, that’s a pretty big savings. Switch to carrot sticks?

Broccoli florets cost 63% more than whole broccoli
, at $3.99/lb vs. $1.49/lb. It takes approximately 30 seconds to cut a whole broccoli into florets.

Crumbled feta cheese costs 63% more than whole feta cheese, at $8.65/8 oz. vs. $3.23/8 oz. I didn’t know this one, but I did know that crumbled cheese molds faster than whole cheese.

Sliced granny smith apples cost 50% more than whole apples, at $3.97/lb. vs. $1.99/lb. Like the broccoli, that’s a lot to pay for a few minutes of work.

Ground beef patties cost 33% more than regular ground meat
, at $5.99/lb. vs. $3.99/lb. You still have to handle the meat either way, right?

Cut-up chicken costs 25% more than whole chicken, at $1.99/lb vs. $1.49/lb. I can understand not wanting to cut up a whole chicken, but if you eat a lot of it, that’s a savings that’s hard to ignore.

The moral here? It sounds like you can passively add savings to your shopping cart just by opting for the more labor-intensive product. Convenience costs a lot.

And while we knew that, it’s still nice to see the numbers.

Homemade Vs Delivered Pizza

Filed under: Money — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:52 am on Wednesday, March 26, 2014

I eat a lot of pizza. As such, I have carefully analyzed the cheapest way I can purchase a good pizza. And by good, I mean a pizza with real cheese and a nice dough–not those paper-dough cheese-food pizzas you can get at fast food chains. Here’s my options for purchasing a large sausage pizza, from the cheapest option to the most expensive:

Homemade using my own dough: Dough: $.25, Cheese: $2, Sauce: $.10 (using tomatoes from the garden), Sausage: $.25, total: $2.65

The problem here is you have to think ahead and give the dough time to rise, so this option is not good on spontaneous “Let’s get pizza!” nights.

Homemade using the local pizzeria’s dough: Dough: $2, Cheese: $2, Sauce: $.10, Sausage: $.25, total: $4.35

When we are feeling lazy, we go for this option. We get a bag of the uncooked dough from a local pizza place and then use our own ingredients from there. (Trader Joes also sells uncooked dough for $1.30 a bag. It’s not the world’s greatest dough, but it’s passable.)

Take N Bake from local grocery store, on sale: $6

I’m not a fan of grocery pizza because they skimp on cheese. However, on sale this can be a reasonable way to get pizza.

Take N Bake from local pizza place, on sale: $6-$10

I used to use Papa Murphy’s when they first came out in the 1990s, but now their prices are so high, I don’t see the point of their pizza. If you have a coupon or get them on sale, they can be worth it, but not on sale, they are around $12-$15. At that price, you might as well just get a cooked pizza. (Costco also has a Take N Bake pizza for around $10. It’s pretty good.)

A pizza from my favorite pizza place: $15

Bricks has great pizza and we go there a lot. I have no complaints about Bricks, frankly. I love that place.

A pizza from local delivery place, take out, with coupon: $18

The local pizza delivery places have good pizza. Sometimes I take advantage and order a pizza, using the coupons I get in the mail and picking the pizza up. Without the coupon, the pizza costs between $21-$22.

A pizza from local delivery place, delivered, no coupon: $25

This is a hell of a lot to spend on pizza.

If you compare the most expensive way to get a pizza–delivered with no coupon–to the least expensive way–homemade with your own dough–you’re talking a savings of $22.35 a pizza. When you’re buying about four pizzas a month, like I do, that’s about $90 a month in savings. This is precisely why I almost always make my own pizzas. And if I do go pay for one, it’s usually to Bricks.

Here’s a recipe for making that sausage pizza at the top of the entry, courtesy of Eggs on Sunday.

Eat For A Week For Under $8.50

Filed under: Money — Savvy Housekeeper at 8:00 am on Monday, March 24, 2014

savvyhousekeeping

Last week my food budget felt tight, so I roasted a chicken. One whole chicken is enough for my husband and I to eat on for the entire week. That’s right, I get a week worth of dinners out of one chicken. And the best part is that chicken is so versatile, it doesn’t feel like you are eating the same thing over and over again.

I buy whole chickens when they are one sale. This one was $.79 a pound, which added up to $4.22. I used every part of the chicken, even the bones and the gizzard, as well the ends of all the vegetables I encountered during the week. In the end, I got six meals out of the chicken, if you count the chicken broth. The total cost? $8.48.

Here is how I did it:

Monday Night: Roast Chicken with Potatoes and Steamed Broccoli: $5.41

    Chicken: $4.22
    Butter: $.10
    Oil: $.05
    Herbs: Free from the garden
    1 Lemon: Free from the garden
    2 Potatoes: $.69
    Half of a bunch of broccoli: $.35

After the chicken came out of the oven, I cut some slices off the breast and served them with lightly salted steamed broccoli and a baked potato.

Tuesday Night: Chicken Salad with Oil/Vinegar Dressing: $.65

Chicken breasts plus:

    Lettuce: $.45
    1 Carrot: $.05
    2 Radishes: $.05
    Croutons: free
    Oil/Vinegar/Salt/Pepper: $.10

I cut up the lettuce, added the other vegetables, and mixed them with the oil and vinegar/salt and pepper. Then I put the croûtons and the rest of the chicken breast on top.

Wednesday Night: Chicken Burritos: $1.25

Chicken legs/wing meat plus:

    2 Tortillas: $.40
    Cheese: $.30
    Tomatoes: free from the garden
    1 Jalapeno: free from the garden
    Taco Seasoning: free
    1 Onion: $.05
    Beans: $.10
    Oil: $.05
    Half an Avocado: $.35

In a frying pan, I cooked the onions, tomatoes, beans, and chicken in oil with the taco seasoning. I added this mixture and cheese to the tortillas, rolled them, and cooked them in the oven for 15 minutes. I served it with mashed avocado.

Thursday AND Friday: Chicken Pot Pie: $1.07

The remaining chicken meat plus:

    Remaining Broccoli: $.25
    1 Onion: $.05
    1 Carrot: $.05
    Pie Crust: $.45
    Milk: $.10
    Butter: $.10
    Flour: $.02
    Oil: $.05

I made the crust in a pie pan. Then I cooked an onion, carrot, and the rest of the broccoli in oil. Then I made a cream sauce with butter, flour, and milk. When that was done, I combined the sauce, the rest of the chicken, and vegetables in the crust, finished the pie, and cooked it in the oven until the crust was done and the sauce was bubbling. The resulting pie makes enough for two dinners.

Saturday: Chicken Broth (In reality I didn’t really eat this on Saturday—we went out to dinner. But you could.): $.10

Chicken bones/gizzard/neck plus:

    The ends of the Onions/Carrots/Broccoli: free
    Water: free
    Spices: $.10

I boiled all the above in water until it turned into broth. If I had wanted to, I could have made soup out of it, but I chose to freeze it for future use.

Total spent on all the dinners: $8.48

If I were doing this in the summer, that number would be even lower because the carrots, potatoes, onion, lettuce, and radishes would be from the garden. (That would make the total cost: $7.09)

So there you have it. Chicken = the most frugal food ever.

Prolonging the Life of Simple Syrup

Filed under: Money — Savvy Housekeeper at 12:00 pm on Wednesday, March 19, 2014

savvyhousekeeping strawberry syrup
Strawberry syrup

I need simple syrup all the time for cocktails, Italian sodas, and desserts. The thing is, I have a problem with it going bad. Simple syrup is a combination of sugar and water that has been boiled until the sugar is dissolved. I usually do a 1:1 ratio–1 cup of sugar for a cup of water. This is a perfect environment for mold to grow in. It seems that no matter how tightly I put on the lid of the jar, mold appears within a week or two.

Yesterday a friend sent me this experiment. Camper English of Alcademics heard that “rich simple syrup,” which uses a 2:1 ratio, lasts longer in the fridge. He decided to find out if that’s true by making the different kinds of syrup and seeing when they spoiled. He also added vodka into the mix, which he had heard prolongs syrup. In the end, he had four bottles of syrup, as follows:

* 1:1 simple syrup
* 1:1 simple syrup plus one tablespoon vodka
* 2:1 rich simple syrup
* 2:1 rich simple syrup plus one tablespoon vodka

The results?

* 1:1 simple syrup lasted One Month
* 1:1 simple syrup plus one tablespoon vodka lasted Three Months
* 2:1 rich simple syrup lasted Six Months
* 2:1 rich simple syrup plus one tablespoon vodka lasted more than six months

Good to know.

Read the full experiment here.

The Safety Razor

Filed under: Money — Savvy Housekeeper at 12:00 pm on Wednesday, March 12, 2014

This is my safety razor. It’s from the 1940s. I use it to shave my legs.

I originally got the razor from an antique store. I properly cleaned it, of course. The reason they are called “safety razors” is because they were the next design up from a straight razor. They cut you less than the straight razor, thus the name.

I didn’t always use a safety razor. Until recently, I used a Gillette Mach 3. Before that, I used the disposables you get in plastic bags for $5. Then my husband got obsessed with old-fashioned shaving, and I learned that safety razors are a drastically cheaper option for shaving your legs.

Put it this way: A Mach 3 razor blade is about $13 for 4 blades. That is a staggering $3.25 per blade. If you get 6 shaves out of it, that $.54 per shave.

Compare that to the safety razor. We purchased 100 razor blades for $10, or $.10 per blade. If you use that blade 6 times, that’s less than two cents a shave.

That’s a savings of $3.15 per blade, or $.52 per shave.

Why is the price so different? It gets down to the proprietary nature of branded razors. Take Gillette–they have created a razor that takes specific blades so that no competitor can come along, make the same blade, and undercut them in price. If you buy a Gillette razor, you’re stuck with their blades.

By contrast, safety razors use common standard razor blades. Everyone makes them–you can get them at your corner drugstore–so they cost what a piece of sharp metal should cost, i.e. next to nothing.

I have also noticed that I get almost no razor rash or ingrown hairs with the safety razor. While the Mach 3 actually pulls the hair from under your skin to cut below the skin surface, the safety razor simply cuts along the hair follicle, thus making ingrown hairs unlikely. And because you’re dealing with one blade instead of three, you have to go slower with the safety razor, which is less stressful to the skin overall. This is especially useful for sensitive areas.

Of course nothing is perfect. It is supposed to be easier to cut yourself with a safety razor, although I haven’t experienced this. Also, it takes more time to shave, so it’s not great when you’re in a hurry. I keep some disposables around for when I’m in a rush and can’t be bothered to fuss with the safety razor.

Here’s a rundown of the safety razor:

Pros:

    MUCH cheaper
    Less stressful to the skin–no razor rash or ingrown hairs
    A closer, cleaner shave
    Sticking it to man, er, corporate razor companies


Cons:

    Easier to cut yourself
    Slower shaving time

Want to learn more? Here’s a whole forum of guys who can teach you about the safety razor.

5 Household Skills That Save Money

Filed under: Money — Savvy Housekeeper at 9:30 am on Tuesday, February 18, 2014

There are skills like sewing that may or may not save you money, depending on what you sew and how much you pay for fabric. Then there are skills that save you money every time you use them.

For example, plumbing.

Last week our water heater broke. Mr. Savvy took the water heater apart, tracked down the problem, and fixed it. If he didn’t know how to plumb (or wasn’t capable of figuring it out), we would have had to call in a plumber or maybe even buy a whole new water heater. Mr. Savvy’s plumbing skills saved us at least $500.

The thing about learning new skills is that the more you do it, the more confidence you gain, not just in your ability to do the skill at hand but also in your ability to tackle the unknown.

You think, hey I managed to fix that leak under the sink, maybe I can patch that hole in the wall too.

Or you think, hey I can make beer now. What other food am I buying that I can make for much less?

The next thing you know, you’re a Do-It-Yourself-Er and liking it… plus socking away money in the bank to boot.

HERE ARE FIVE HOUSEHOLD SKILLS THAT SAVE MONEY:

savvyhousekeeping 5 household skills that save money

VEGETABLE GARDENING—Growing your own food, especially from seed, can save you hundreds of dollars a year, plus has the added benefit of forcing you to eat more vegetables. Last year I grew $1,300 of vegetables in my garden.

PLUMBING–This skill seems like it would be hard to learn, but it’s not. And while it’s inconvenient to climb under the house and track down a leak or clog, every time you do it instead of calling a plumber, you’re saving hundreds of dollars.



COOKING FROM SCRATCH
–Cooking from basic ingredients is almost always cheaper than buying packaged and processed food, or restaurant food. Here are some things I regularly make from scratch:

BEEF BROTH
VEGETABLE BROTH
TURKEY BROTH
BEER
APPLE CIDER
LIMONCELLO
FRUIT CHIPS
VINEGAR
PICKLES
PANCAKE SYRUP
BACON
SAUSAGE
ICE CREAM
RICOTTA CHEESE
COTTAGE CHEESE
MASCARPONE CHEESE
FREEZER PIZZA DOUGH
PIE CRUST

savvyhousekeeping 5 household skills that save money

BUDGETING–It’s funny but true: money management is a skill just like the others on this list. Learning to live within your means and save money takes a bit of practice, but it’s worth it in the long run.

CAR MAINTENANCE–The more you can do on your own car, the less you have to pay a mechanic. Changing the oil instead of going to an oil stop can save you $20-$40 a pop. Plus doing it yourself is a way to keep strangers from messing up your engine. (I’ve got some stories, let me tell you.)

What household skills save you money?

17 Supermarket Tips

Filed under: Money — Savvy Housekeeper at 8:59 am on Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Consumerist has an article on 17 Supermarket Tricks, Tips And Insider Secrets You’re Probably Clueless About. Here are some I liked:


1. Shopping carts are getting bigger so you’ll put more in them:
“We doubled their size as a test, and customers bought 19% more,” explained Martin Lindstrom, marketing consultant and author of Brandwashed: Tricks Companies Use to Manipulate Our Minds and Persuade Us to Buy.

5. Because grocery stores can’t compete with Walmart on price, they’re classing things up to bring you in: To compete with the low prices elsewhere, many stores are bringing in butchers who are skilled with the knife and produce managers who are pros on fruits and vegetables, along with dietitians who give seminars on healthy eating habits, according to Jeff Weidauer, a former supermarket executive and vice president of marketing for Vestcom, a retail services company.

And probably raising prices to match these classy environments, too…

9. Ask and ye shall receive: “The butcher will tenderize meat for you, the baker will slice a loaf of bread, and the florist will usually give you free greenery to go with your loose flowers,” says Teri Gault, grocery savings expert and CEO of thegrocerygame.com. “At some stores owned by Kroger, the seafood department worker will even coat your fish in flour or Cajun seasoning and fry it up for free.”

11. We’re all fools for the ten-for$10 promotion: “We’ll take an 89-cent can of tuna and mark it ‘ten for $10,’ 
and instead of buying six cans for 89 cents, people will buy ten for $10,” explains Weidauer. Who else feels like a sucker?

Not me! I ignore deals like that, since they almost always end up being more expensive.

Read the rest of the tips here.

The Best Time to Buy Anything During the Year

Filed under: Money — Savvy Housekeeper at 8:57 am on Wednesday, January 15, 2014

LifeHacker has a handy guide for The Best Time to Buy Anything During the Year. Good to know!

Click for a larger version.

Cut Your Dryer Bill With This Simple Trick

Filed under: Money — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:29 am on Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Here’s a trick that’s supposed to cut how long it takes to dry your clothes, at least according to eHow: add a dry towel to the load. The towel is supposed to pull some of the moisture out of the wet laundry and speed up the drying process.

If you make a habit of this, it can cut the amount of time your dryer is working, and thus cut your energy bill.

I’m going to try it!

ETA: So I tried it and I’m not convinced this worked. I tried drying a load on a lower heat with the towels in the dryer and saw no difference. However, this is a good trick for drying towels that are only a little damp from a shower instead of letting them hang to dry.

What do you think? Did this trick work for you?

8 Tips For Saving Money

Filed under: Money — Savvy Housekeeper at 9:45 am on Thursday, January 2, 2014

This savings plan is floating around the Internet. I like it because it showed how incremental savings can add up.

When my son was born in 2012, I started saving $300 a month for his college fund, adding it to a small savings account we had previously used for travel. The money didn’t seem like much, but it was better than nothing. And I figured we could increase the amount later on. After all, he’s just a baby.

Today, my son isn’t even 2 years old and he already has enough for his first semester of college.

I’m shocked how quickly that $300 a month added up. If we keep this up, he should have plenty of money for college when he graduates. And since I save the money as soon as we get paid, we never feel the $300 going out.

For most of us, it doesn’t work is to be too ambitious with savings goals. Last year, my resolution was to save 40% of our income every month. Of course we didn’t get anywhere close to that number. It was too big of a goal.

So this year, I’m dialing it back. My plan is to save a regular, doable amount every month. I would still like to save 40%, but I need to work up to that number. Slow and steady wins the race sometimes.

8 Tips For Saving Money

Pick A Small Amount To Save Every Month. A good rule of thumb is 10% of your income. If that’s too much, pick a regular amount–$300 a month is better than nothing. Heck, $50 is better than nothing. The trick is to save that amount, no matter what.

Pay Yourself First. It really does work to take the savings off the top of your paycheck before you deal with anything else. You won’t miss the money if you don’t know it’s there. You can even set up an account to automatically save the money for you.

Don’t Touch Your Savings Account.
This should go without sayings but: unless it’s an emergency, like you’re going to lose your house if you don’t, make it a rule to never take money out of savings.

Put Extra Paychecks Directly Into Savings. Whenever we end up with extra money, like a big tax return or freelance work, it goes into savings and not the checking account. This is a great way to beef up the savings account without even noticing it.

Cut Your Bills And Put Extra Into Savings. Say you call your cable company and decide to go from $150/month satellite service to a pared down $60/month cable plan. That extra $85 now goes into savings every month. Do this with all your bills and see how big the number can get.

Sell Extra Stuff. Put that stuff cluttering your house on Craigslist, Ebay, or Amazon, or hold a yard sale. Put the money into savings.

Track Your Spending. Keep a price book for a month or two and track all your spending. Look for places you can cut back. Do so. Save!

Don’t Beat Yourself Up. I’m not crying in my soup over not making my 40%-of-income goal. I simply adjusted my expectations and moved on. The point is to keep trying. It all adds up in the end.

Want more?


Here’s to a much bigger savings account at the end of 2014!

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