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No-spend February, Week 2: Lots and lots of Tater Tots.

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This week reminded me, once again, that retailers are ultra-skilled at coaxing us to spend on stuff we hadn’t expected to buy.

Yep, I backslid.

But since it was all in the food/healthcare category, I’m going to give myself a pass rather than regret the dollars that flowed from my wallet – or the chopped, formed and extruded potato scraps that landed in our freezer. (More on that later.)

After all, one of the points of the no-spend month is that each person gets to determine what “essential” and “non-essential” spending means. What’s vital to you might be a pffftttt…are you KIDDING me? to someone else.

For example, some people consider coffee an urgent need (DF calls it “God’s blood” – and he’s religious) while others can take it or leave it. The first group will therefore deem a replacement bag of grounds, or daily cups from their favorite java joints, as essential.

The second group will shrug and say, “Not in the budget right now” and either stick to water or bring coffee from home. Which brings me to the mad frugal skillz of a reader named Kate.


In the past week she had to take her husband in for an outpatient medical procedure. The medical center’s lobby has a Starbucks. Kate sat down, pulled out a book – and a Thermos of coffee that she’d brought from home.

She gets bonus frugal points in my book, because taking a loved one in even for standard care is a little bit nerve-wracking. Rather than give in to a venti soy whatever with no foam, plus maybe a scone or a heart-shaped cookie, our kool customer Kate stuck with the no-spend plan.

So here’s a great big saaa-LUTE! to you, Kate, and to everyone else who’s participating in the no-spend month. I am loving the stories.



Readers rock the no-spend


Kate wasn’t the only reader who kicked frugal patoot in the past week. A few examples:

Jenzer reports that “no candy bars, chips or bottles of pop came home with me this week” – also a particularly big win, since these indulgences tend to follow rough days. Instead, Jenzer went with stuff already in the cupboards, such as Nutella on graham crackers and home-popped popcorn.

Bethany D. achieved the heroic feat of sticking strictly to the monthly Costco shopping list, which included one treat item per person. Her own treat was a big bag of cocoa powder, part of which will be used to make hot chocolate mix for the kids: “Cheaper and way less garbage than the little packets.” She also baked gluten-free bread and muffins to freeze. Wow.

To keep from overdoing it at the supermarket, RoInRocketCityAL ordered her groceries from Walmart online, then picked them up: “That keeps me out of the stores, shopping for essentials only and sticking to my list.” She did spring for a hair appointment and had one lunch out, but again, we get to determine “essentials” on our own.

Ro also found some free entertainment: a cheese-making class, admission one free home-baked cake. Sounds like a good deal to me, because she learned an interesting new skill and knew there’d be at least one thing on the refreshments table that she wanted to eat.

Speaking of treats: Not only did a reader named Ann skip her usual coffee-and-sweets run after church, she saved a big buncha bucks by repairing her vacuum cleaner. The old one (and it was old) stopped working and Ann was about to go buy a new one. Instead, she found a YouTube video on vacuum cleaner repair and took apart the appliance. Now it runs like a charm.

“I figure that saved a chunk, and it was actually fulfilling to fix it,” she reports.



How my own week went


My previously scheduled haircut and color went well. Although I wasn’t able to find a discounted gift card, I did have a coupon good for 20 percent off. Some people frugal-hack their heads by at least dyeing their own hair, if not cutting it themselves. (DF, for example, has been using a Flowbee for years. Bless his heart.)



Not me. I will cook my own food, clean my own house, bake my own pies from scratch, even make some birthday and holiday gifts. But some things I leave to the professionals.

I bought six more gallons of that distilled water from Walgreens, because it was still priced at two gallons for $2 (or $1.39 each). The stuff normally costs as much as $2.79 per gallon up here, so I bought the last six gallons on the shelf. Since I used using some of my Walgreens Balance Rewards points, it wound up costing me a buck. #frugalwin

The Kroger “Free Friday Download” program (in our case, that’s Fred Meyer) delivered two items: a small envelope of super-healthy peanut butter (which I’d neglected to pick up the previous week) and a package of Sweet ’N’ Chewy Ropes, an embarrassingly good candy that adults should never be seen eating. The nut butter will go to the food pantry at DF’s church and the candy will wind up in a nephew’s Easter basket.

During that visit I wanted to price a new variety of green beans, given that there was a 50-cents-off coupon (limit five). The brand was not in stock, so a store manager cited Fred Meyer’s “Make It Right” policy and offered me 50 cents off any brand of canned vegetable. Naturally I chose the Fred Meyer brand, and wound up with five cans of green beans for 29 cents apiece. Costco couldn’t come close to that price.

Did we need five cans right now? Nope. But for me it was essential because that was a really good price and the coupon expired the next day.


About those Tater Tots


A couple of months back Fred Meyer had a special deal on Tater Tots; if I recall correctly, it was $1.49 per one-pound bag. Given that my great-nephews and I have enjoyed “Smash Tots” at the Smashburger restaurant, I thought I’d treat them to some prefab spud nuggets the next time they came to visit.

However, I made the mistake of baking up a few for myself and tossing them with olive oil and rosemary, a la Smashburger, and…Well, dang, they were just as tasty at home. Also good when cooked in a bacon-greased black iron skillet in a very hot oven, and flipped over halfway through the cooking time so that they’re evenly browned and crunchy.

Figured my tattie-chunks obsession would be over once the bag was empty. And then.

Last week, Fred Meyer offered two-pound bags of Tater Tots for $2.49. I weighed (as it were) the amount of potatoes vs. cost and realized that $1.25 per pound is not at all frugal. And then.

I walked out of the store with five bags of the things. Five! Because I decided that hey, I bought hardly any groceries due to the fact that we usually buy in bulk. And because it was a special treat, for us and for my great-nephews and for DF’s granddaughters.

And because I can. After all, isn’t my frugal mantra “I save where I can so I can spend where I want”?

Yet I still felt a little weird about it, especially since it was a textbook case of FOMO: If I don’t take advantage of this coupon today or tomorrow, the sale will be over and I will have missed my chance!

I should know better, but I caved.

Incidentally, I never ate these things as a kid, because my mom would never buy something like that. Now and then she’d buy bags of frozen French fries, but mostly our spuds came into the house in 20-pound sacks, and we peeled and mashed (or baked, or fried) them ourselves.

Curious to find out when they were invented, I looked for info on the product. Tater Tots, created in 1953, are a great example of American ingenuity. A pair of farming brothers realized that the way of the future was frozen veggies, and started producing frozen fries for home consumption. Dismayed by the bits and pieces left over after the spuds were sliced, they ground up the leftovers, added flour and seasonings, and formed little nuggets.

Tater Tots are now the Ore-Ida company’s most recognized brand. And they really are fun to eat. When I offered some to DF’s older granddaughter, describing them as “nuggets of potato,” her six-year-old brain went berserk

“Like moose nuggets?!?” she crowed, and went into helpless fits of laughter.

Moose nuggets are moose turds. And yes, they’re kinda-sorta shaped like Tater Tots. They can be made into jewelry and sold to tourists. But there’s hardly ever a coupon for them.

Keepin’ it classy in Alasky


So, everybody: How did the week go for you? Hits, misses, break-evens?

The post No-spend February, Week 2: Lots and lots of Tater Tots. appeared first on Surviving and Thriving.

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