Will Sam’s Club Save You Money?

Sam's club

This past week I visited Sam’s Club with my daughter-in-law. We had a guest pass to try out their store, which is membership-based. I had explored this discount grocery store years ago and was not impressed, but figured it was worth a second look. Before going, I wrote down food items that I regularly use, and the Aldi price for each one.  Since most items at Sam’s Club are sold in multi-packs, I had to calculate out the cost per unit to see if it was any cheaper than Aldi’s.  Here’s a sampling of what I found:

tub of slow-cook oats                           Sam: $3.75                Aldi: $2.39
coffee                                                       Sam: .20 oz              Aldi: .30 oz
brown sugar                                           Sam: $1.07 lb           Aldi: .65 lb
broth carton                                           Sam: $2.50                Aldi: $1.79
cheerios/toasted oats                            Sam: $2.94                Aldi: 1.39
frosted wheat square cereal               Sam: $3.63                Aldi: 1.79
granola cereal                                        Sam: $3.64                 Aldi: $2.39
beef hot dogs (8 count)                         Sam: $2.39                 Aldi: $2.49
kleenex                                                    Sam: $1.49                Aldi: .89
frozen veggies                                        Sam: $1.49                 Aldi: .95
eggs – dozen large                                  Sam: $1.32                 Aldi: .69
milk 2%                                                    Sam: $2.09                 Aldi: $1.99
half & half quart                                     Sam: $2.22                 Aldi: $1.69
bananas                                                    Sam: .46 lb                 Aldi: .44 lb
sour cream                                               Sam: $1.05                 Aldi: .99
butter                                                         Sam: $2.75                 Aldi: $2.55
fresh pears                                                Sam: $1.10 lb            Aldi: .96 lb
apples                                                         Sam: $1.07 lb            Aldi: .96 lb

Comparison was made difficult by the odd quantities and sizes Sam’s Club carries. I’m sure this is a marketing technique designed to make it hard to do side-by-side calculations. I also noticed that there was very little selection of some items, like jams and jellies. At Walmart you have at least a dozen flavors, at Aldi’s five or six flavors; at Sam’s you are stuck with only grape and strawberry.  As for spaghetti sauce, you had only one choice at Sam’s. Walmart offers half a dozen choices, and even Aldi has a few different types.

I did not buy anything, as all the items I was interested in were either more expensive or in a quantity too large for our family. My daughter-in-law found four items, but when we arrived at checkout, the one-time guess pass didn’t work. The cashier shrugged indifferently and said we would have to sign up for a membership to purchase the items.

This brings me to the final point about Sam’s Club: to shop at their store, you need to allow a fair amount of your personal data to be stored in their computer system: They input the information on your driver’s license/state ID – name, address, date of birth, and your picture! Why do they need that information? If you have cash or a valid credit card, that should be ALL they need. There have been so many database breaches in the last few years that we should all be leery of anyone asking for information that they don’t need.

So the daughter-in-law and I walked out of the store with nothing but our common sense. We will stick with the other grocery stores in our area that offer reasonable prices and less privacy invasion.



What Kind Of LED Lightbulb?

2018-02-03 indoor outdoor LED bulbs a

Last year we switched all the light-bulbs in the house to LEDs. We were very satisfied with the brightness, and how little electricity they use. But in the last month 4 of them burned out on us, and another one dimmed considerably. What  was going on? They’re supposed to last 5-10 years!

We noticed that the bulbs that burned out were in the bathroom above the mirror, and in the kitchen ceiling near the stove. After a bit of checking online, I got the answer: dampness and steam drastically shorten the life of most LED bulbs. So off I went to the nearest hardware store. There were dozens of different varieties of LEDs. I looked at all of them, and found one that said “Indoor Outdoor” on it. That sounded like a good possibility, since the great outdoors tends to be damp quite a bit of the time. I flagged down a clerk, who confirmed my choice. He pointed out that the box also said on the back: “Suitable for damp locations”.

2018-02-03 indoor outdoor LED bulbs b

So I bought a box of four, and took them home. My son replaced two bulbs in the kitchen, and I replaced the one in the bathroom. The garage got one too as an experiment. I dated the box and wrote which bulbs were replaced. We’ll see how long these last. LED lights are a great value, but only if they actually last as long as advertised.


Save Those Pancakes!

pancaakes 2

The week before school started, the grand-kids were over and I decided to fry up some pancakes for them. But not just any pancakes – chocolate chip pancakes! I stirred up the pancake mix and dropped 4 small blobs of it into the large frying pan (about 1/4 cup for each). I quickly sprinkled chocolate chips into the batter.

pancakes 1

When the edges of the pancakes turned brown and air bubbles rose all over the pancakes, I flipped them over and cooked the other side. Then onto the plates went the piping hot pancakes, with syrup on the side for dipping. (These pancakes are so rich you don’t want to pour syrup over them.)

There was some left-over batter, so I just made up some more chocolate chip pancakes. After they cooled, I put pairs of them in sandwich baggies with folded wax paper between them to prevent them from sticking together. Today I pulled out one of the baggies and popped the frozen pair into the toaster. Just like pop-tarts, they were ready in under a minute. Instant breakfast at a fraction of the cost!

Handbag Make-Over

handbag conversion 1

What do you do with a handbag that isn’t quite right? Instead of letting it languish in a closet or tossing it in the trash, try modifying it to suit you. Like the one above. On the back side of it, there is a roomy compartment.

handbag conversion 2

It looks to be just the right size for my Kindle Fire. But when you open up the compartment, this is what you see:

handbag conversion 3

Just a lot of useless sub-compartments. A zippered pouch for cosmetics (I take care of that at home, thank you). Slots for about a dozen credit cards (no one should be carrying around that many credit cards!). A space for a pack of cigarettes (nope, don’t use the smelly things). A slot with a clear window, presumably for a cell phone? And lastly, a place for a check book. Really – a check book? I haven’t toted around checks in years!

handbag conversion 4

If you don’t own a seam-ripper (the red-handled device in above picture), pick one up at Walmart; they are extremely handy. I carefully picked away at the stitches holding all those extra pouches in place, until it looked like this:

handbag conversion 5

After wiping away all the broken threads, I put my Kindle (which is covered by a very battered, wornout-looking cover), in the the pouch. Perfect fit!

handbag conversion 6

The next time you’re tempted to toss something out because it’s not quite right, consider giving it a re-do instead.


Potpourri Stew

2017-07-08 letting the stew stew for a while

The thing I love most about stew is that you don’t have to follow a recipe. Recipes often ask you to buy ingredients that you don’t normally use. You use a tiny bit, then the rest of it sits in your cupboard for years unused. At least this is how it tends to go for me.

The potpourri way is so much better.

1: Start heating up broth on the stove. It can be the dehydrated kind or the kind in a carton. Swanson makes some that is almost entirely salt-free, but still tastes good.

2017-07-08 Stew broth

2. Chop up some meat and throw it into the broth to simmer for a couple hours if it’s raw. If it’s last night’s leftover meat, just put it in at the same time as the veggies. Chicken, pork, and chuck-eye roast meat all work well. (Tip: don’t buy it already cut up, it’ll cost you way more.) Any kind of meat, any amount, depending on your taste – or none at all if you’re vegetarian.

3. Chop up any veggies you find languishing in your refrigerator and throw them in the stew pot. You can use any kind of vegetable. Today I used cabbage, carrots, spinach leaves, and a tomato.

2017-07-08 stew veggies

4. About an hour before supper, I usually throw in one more thing – a cup of barley, a little rice, or a can of Bush’s baked beans – to give it that finished taste.

That’s all there is to it. It’s simple and frugal, and helps clear out your refrigerator.




Getting Enough Groceries?

2017-06-02 week of groceries c

Over the years, I’ve had a variety of grocery-shopping styles. In the years with plenty of income, it was: no grocery list, just go to the store and throw into the cart whatever looked good. A lot of frozen prepared foods. Pizza delivery once a week for us and the kids. And dinner at a restaurant after church on Sunday. Looking back, I cringe at how much we spent on food.

Then came the lean years, when our income was quite limited. Feeding the family changed drastically. No eating out or pizza delivery, checking grocery store ads, re-discovering coupons, buying the least expensive foods, just eating less overall.

One of the most useful things I’ve learned about grocery-shopping over the years is this: buy enough groceries in one shot to last all week. It does no good to pat yourself on the back for how little you spent at the grocery story on Saturday if you have to make a second run a few days later, or if you go out to eat because you don’t have enough to prepare a full meal.

Consider the picture above, a snapshot of our grocery trip purchases a few weeks ago. Combined with what is in our cupboards and fridge, this is enough for a full week. We have what we need for every food category – meat, fruit, veggies, starches, dairy, desert – plus some non-food items (a graduation card, paper towels, band-aids, toothpaste, oxi-clean, and Drano for a slow sink). What did this cost me? $123.98 for the food items, and $13.20 for the non-food items, for a total bill of $137.18.

Yes, I could have spent less, but if you get too chintzy with grocery-shopping, you find yourself feeling deprived and end up splurging at Starbucks or an ice cream shop. Instead, I got our feel-good desert at the store, on sale. So there you have it – not too little and not too much, just the right amount of groceries!

For more tips on keeping your food expenses down, check out some of my previous posts:




Tapestry and Nail Polish

2017-05-29 footrest and pillow

About a month ago, I found this sweet little footrest for $20 in one of my favorite thrift stores. As a bonus, there was a piece of extra tapestry fabric that came with it. Ah, I thought, just right for making a matching pillow. Then I put the fabric in the closet and forgot about it.

When I cleaned out the closet last weekend, there was the piece of tapestry, beckoning me to transform it into a pillow. So I fired up the sewing machine, and proceeded to sew the edges. Hmm, it was fraying badly. Even reinforcing the edge with a zigzag stitch was not going to keep it from coming apart, as you can see:

2017-05-29 badly frayed fabric for pillow

Then inspiration struck: if clear fingernail polish could stop runs in pantyhose years ago, couldn’t it stop cloth from fraying? I brought the cloth out to the deck, applied the clear polish to the edges of the tapestry, and let it dry.

2017-05-29 fabric and clear nail polish on deck

After it had thoroughly dried and the funny smell had dissipated, I turned the fabric right side out, put stuffing in it, and sewed the last side shut. Now we have a great little pillow that can either be put behind the back or on top of the footrest for extra softness. I love it when something is so easily fixed. Now if only all life’s problems were that easy to solve…