Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Shopping the Dollar Stores

Live Off the Dollar Store for a Week on a $50 Budget

By Tahirah Blanding,

College, unemployment, or an unexpected change in your life situation can mean learning to live off the dollar store. These are times when a major cut in spending is required as you plan how to survive from week to week. We found that it's possible to take care of the essentials, with a dollop of comfort thrown in, for less than $50 a week by shopping at the local dollar store.

Sure, the dollar store is a pit stop for cheap snacks, cooking supplies, toys, and other small items, but it's also a source for food at one very low price. And yes, there may be a stigma attached to dollar store shopping for all your needs, but it's time to get over it.

These super-discount chains can sell items cheaply because they follow a strategy that involves buying non-brand items that aren't backed by enormous advertising budgets, stocking items in smaller sizes, and buying products in bulk from companies that are going out of business. Most goods sold in dollar stores are perfectly fine, and you'll often find reputable brands such as Minute Maid, Del Monte, and Suave. Do shop wisely, however: Some items, such as electrical products, may be knock-offs that don't meet quality standards. A few dollar stores now sell meat, so be sure to carefully inspect the packages, just as the Ohio Department of Agriculture suggests.

Dollar store product generally come in smaller sizes than items sold at retail grocery stores, but the small servings still suffice for the average person (most dollar store food items serve at least one). Dollar store cereal, for example, typically comes in boxes that serve at least four; oatmeal in individual packs of six; small bags or boxes of pancake mix that serve up to 11; instant coffee that can make up to 50 servings. About 30 products used in various combinations for breakfast, lunch, and dinner (with a snack here and there) would cost less than $50 and keep you going for a week -- and then some.

A dollar can go a long way.

Breakfast for seven days would cost about $10 using combinations of coffee, apple juice, oatmeal, bread, eggs, milk, cereal, pancake mix and syrup. Outlays for lunch and dinner foods would total slightly more than $30 and involve mixing and matching tuna, pasta, frozen meat, premade pizza crust and sauce, canned soup and vegetables, etc. Our suggested menus and shopping list presume you have some staples on hand, such as mayonnaise and condiments like pickles.

Below are a suggested dollar store grocery list and menu for a week. Most of these items are sold in-store, but inventory varies at every dollar store.

Day 1: Bowl of oatmeal, coffee
Day 2: Pancakes, coffee
Day 3: Bowl of cereal
Day 4: Toast with jelly or peanut butter, scrambled eggs
Day 5: Waffles, coffee
Day 6: Bowl of cereal
Day 7: Bowl of oatmeal, cup of apple juice

Lunch (accompanied by water or iced tea)
Day 1: Tuna salad, potato chips
Day 2: Soup, crackers
Day 3: Hamburger Helper, canned vegetables
Day 4: Pizza
Day 5: Tuna pasta salad
Day 6: PB&J sandwich, granola bar
Day 7: Soup, crackers

Dinner (accompanied by water or iced tea)
Day 1: Spaghetti, canned vegetables
Day 2: Mashed potatoes, barbecue chicken, canned vegetables
Day 3: New Orleans-style rice, beans
Day 4: Tuna pasta salad, canned vegetables
Day 5: Pizza
Day 6: Hamburger Helper, meat
Day 7: Tuna pot pie

Granola bar, toast or crackers with peanut butter, jelly
1 box cereal - $1.00
1 6-ct pack oatmeal - $1.00
1 bag coffee - $1.00
1 loaf bread - $1.00
1 box pancake mix - $1.00
1 bottle imitation maple syrup - $1.00
1 jar jelly - $1.00
1 jar peanut butter - $1.00
1 12-ct. carton eggs - $1.00
1/2 gallon shelf-stable milk/1 gallon fresh milk - $1.00
1 32-oz. jar apple juice - $1.00
1 2-ct. pack premade pizza crusts - $1.00
1 jar pizza sauce - $1.00
1 container grated parmesan cheese - $1.00
2 boxes Hamburger Helper - $2.00
1 bag pasta - $1.00
2 cans meat sauce - $2.00
5 5-oz. cans tuna - $5.00
1 box instant oatmeal - $1.00
3 1-lb. cans soup - $3.00
4 10-oz. cans vegetables - $4.00
1 box crackers - $1.00
1 pastry crust - $1.00
1 box New Orleans-style rice - $1.00
1 can beans - $1.00
1 bag potato chips - $1.00
1 6-ct box granola bars - $1.00
1 bottle barbecue sauce - $1.00 Total: $43

Save money by following these tips.
Plan out meals, rather than snacks, and purchase items that can be used in at least two different meal settings; bread and eggs work for breakfast and lunch, for example, and tuna and soup do double duty for lunch and dinner. Some dollar stores contain a frozen foods section (the Dollar Tree, for one, recently began installing freezers) stocked with items such as meat and TV dinners, and some have a refrigerated section filled with dairy products. Canned and boxed goods dominate dollar store shelves, however, so fresh fruit and vegetables will have to be put on hold.

Living off the dollar store requires careful planning and discipline. Make a list of your needs (and commit to sticking to it) before setting foot inside. Avoid the non-food aisles. All too often a quick browse down the wrong aisle can lead to an impulsive choice of something that seems essential but under the circumstances just isn't. After purchasing all the necessary food stuffs, you may have a few dollars left over for a 6-pack of tissue or a stick of deodorant. Some dollar stores accept manufacturer's coupons, so don't be shy about checking the store's policy. Saving a few extra cents here and there adds up to dollars that can be allocated towards other expenses, such as bills or transportation.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Self-Help Postings

I will list all my self-help postings here so you can access them easier. Just click on a link.

Cutting firewood for heat 

Splitting Firewood safely

Building a Cheap Woodshed from Pallets

Replace a Tire Valve (one hour for two)

Build a Small Cold Frame

Dressing Metal Tools

Replacing a Tool Handle

Making Jelly

Composting - My Results

Fast or slow composting Part-1

Fast or slow composting Part-2

Fast or slow composting Part-3

Replacing a Tire's Valve Stem

This is another of the "How To's" to help you save money and learn how to be more self-sufficient. If you have been reading my blog for the past couple years then you know that I am an organic gardener and that I use the material from my property to produce compost and also to put my garden to bed each fall.  So Saturday, three days ago, I was planning to cut my grass and at the same time vacuum up the fallen leaves and pine needles with my DR Lawn Vac system. When I hooked up and pulled it out of my equipment shed I noticed that the tires were flat. So I towed it to my garage to pump up the tires. I filled one tire and went around to fill the other. By the time I returned to the first tire it was flat already. I refilled the tire and put my ear close and heard air hissing out the valve stem. 

So I pulled the tire off and pushed the valve stem with my finger and it snapped off. Apparently it had dry-rotted. What to do what to do? My first inclination was to take both tires over to Walmart and have them fix it. Taking a look on-line I found I could expect to pay $5.00 to $10.00 per tire on the low side and up to $20.00 per tire on the high side. Wow, too much for me. So I thought I would give it a try myself.

I drove over to the local AutoZone and not surprisingly found that there are several sizes of valve stems. Luckily I brought the broken off section and could match it up with the right size. This pair only cost $2.99 and the instructions are right on the back.

The first thing to do then is to deflate the tire if it isn't already, not an issue here since the valve stem broke off. Then you have to break the bead. The bead is what seals the tubeless tire onto the rim. I used a pry bar turned at an angle and then my weight (200 lbs) to break the bead seal. Once any section comes loose, the whole thing sort of peels off the rim. It took me some time to get the broken-off inner part of the stem out of the tire.

Once the old stem is out you can place the new stem in the hole from the inside of the rim. 

I lubricated the stem with a little saliva and with one hand I pushed from the rear and with the other I pulled and wiggled it back and worth until the flanged seal popped through. It was not too hard at all. I made sure the valve was seated evenly and fully sealed all around the base of the stem and then inflated the tire. Everything sealed up properly.

Once it was done I remounted it on the Lawn Vac and then did the other side, which wasn't leaking but why not do both at once? 

This was a simple enough job that saved me somewhere between $10 and $40 had I taken it to a garage. It took me no more than an hour to complete, not too bad for a first time.