Latest update: September 10th, 2012
For some of us trying to cut corners is not just something we do to save a few cents, it is practically an obsession. While we may have our little tricks designed to shave a few dollars off our grocery bill and squeeze a penny so tight that it screams for mercy, we each have our own little indulgences, the things we absolutely refuse to do just to save a few pennies. Let’s hope that none of my immediate family members read this column because I am about to share some of my personal secrets and they just might disown me.
I don’t throw out food, even leftover cholent: We spend so much time and money on our food. Why are we so quick to throw out anything that doesn’t get eaten immediately? With some foresight and lots of creativity, there is no reason leftovers can’t be refreshed and served again, although obviously you don’t want to serve the same foods ad nauseum. Try making your cholent in a smaller pot to minimize leftovers and if your family won’t eat it for supper one night during the week, find some hungry yeshiva bochurim who will happily polish it off for you. Turn leftover challah into bread crumbs, croutons or challah kugel, or if it wasn’t on the table with meat, resurrect it as French toast, a Panini or grilled cheese. Don’t just reheat that roast chicken. Dice it and turn it into a stir-fry or follow my husband’s lead by sautéing it with onions, mushrooms and a very generous dose of shwarma seasoning. Leftover cold cuts make great deli roll (which freezes really well) or can be diced and tossed with salad or pasta. If you find yourself with an overabundance of matza after Pesach, don’t toss it! Take out your food processor and turn it into matza meal.
I return deposit bottles: Deposit bottles are particularly annoying where I live, because all bottles have to be recycled by law, so it galls me to have to pay the extra five cents on each bottle when it is going to be recycled anyway. Does it really pay to save all those bottles and lug them back to the supermarket? Probably not, but I still do it. I also try to buy my beverages in New Jersey, where they don’t charge a bottle deposit, whenever possible.
I reuse plastic containers: How often has it happened – you buy these cute little containers to pack school lunches for your kids and more often than not, the kids come home but the containers do not. Save your empty cream cheese, cottage cheese, yogurt and other containers for packing school lunches. Not only won’t your kids have to remember to bring them home, but you won’t get stuck washing smelly containers. Empty containers are also great vehicle for discarding leftover sauces and gravies that you don’t want to pour down the drain.
I write my shopping lists on envelope backs: Be it extra envelopes from your most recent simcha or credit card offers that come in the mail, chances are good that you have access to plenty of envelopes that don’t cost a penny. Stash them in a convenient location because they are perfect for writing shopping lists and as an added bonus, you can tuck your coupons inside the envelope so they are easily accessible when you checkout.
I reuse water bottles: Have you ever stopped to weigh a case of two-dozen water bottles? I have. It weighs approximately twenty-five pounds and quite frankly, I don’t enjoy schlepping them in and out of both the shopping cart and my car and have no interest in paying to have them delivered. So while water bottles are great for traveling, trips, sending to camp with the kids and other occasions, around here they aren’t for everyday use and I encourage my kids to grab an empty water bottle and refill it whenever it isn’t too inconvenient.
I flatten and stack my garbage: Not only do I compact my boxes, containers and foil pans before they go in my garbage but when we use disposable plates or cups I stack them up before I throw them out so that they take up a fraction of the space. It’s not that I am really worried about the cost of an extra trash bag or two. It’s just that I don’t want to have to take out the garbage twice as often.
I don’t do overdue library books: I keep track of our library visits and each child takes out the same number of books on each trip, so I always know exactly how many books have to be returned to the library at any given time. Each of my children would take out three books at each visit, which meant more frequent library trips, but to date, we have never had to deal with lost or missing books.
I don’t do $1 rebates: By the time you figure in the cost of postage, is it really worth the time and effort to fill out the form and submit the required proofs of purchase for fifty-three cents?
I don’t keep used plastic cups on my counters: I know that many people keep used cups in the kitchen because family members keep coming back for drinks, but I hate having plastic cups floating all over. Instead, each family member has their own water bottle in the refrigerator, which they are responsible for refilling. Not only does it keep my counter clutter free, but it means that I never take out my water pitcher for a meal only to discover that it is practically empty.
There are times when I splurge on name brands: Ketchup is Heinz. Mayonnaise is Hellmann’s. Cola is Coke. Tissues are Kleenex or Puffs. Paper towels are Bounty or Viva. Crayons and markers are Crayola. I won’t buy off brand gasoline and when I buy electronics, particularly anything music related, I only buy from a major company. You get what you pay for and sometimes it is worth paying a few cents more.
I won’t water things down to get them out of the bottle: Ketchup. Shampoo. Conditioner. Dishwashing Soap. You know how hard it is to get the last few drops of certain items out of the bottle – but watering them down changes the consistency which just doesn’t work for me. I confess to turning bottles upside down in an attempt to get out every last drop, but if there is still a sixteenth of an ounce left inside, I won’t go crazy trying to get it out.
I don’t bring my own bags to the grocery store: I know, I probably should. But if I use an average of a dozen bags on a shopping trip, we are talking about a savings of sixty cents if I bring my own fabric bags. For that amount of money, it hardly seems worth having to make sure I always have an inventory of bags in my car.
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