Don’t laugh. I have actually made all my kids share a fork before. If only to give them something good to complain about me when they get older.
Today I had to feign shock and embarrassment. Thanks to my slightly nutty ways, this happens more than you’d think – usually when I do something I think is brilliant but is in actuality only good if other people don’t discover what I’ve done. And thanks to kids, nothing ever stays a secret, ever. See, here’s my problem: Since the Big Move several months ago, Jelly Bean has backslid in her potty training. Specifically she went from being fully trained for over a year to crapping her pants so regularly that one of my sons christened her the “poonicorn” (as in poop unicorn, her fave animal). To help mitigate all the stinky streakiness in her wee Hello Kitty panties, I’ve taken to sticking a maxi pad in there. It stops the poop stains, it’s cheaper (and kinder) than sticking her back in diapers and she thinks she’s a big girl that gets to be like mommy!
Win, win… until preschool pickup today. The teacher motioned me aside to tell me that Jelly Bean had been enthusiastically showing her “pad” to all her buddies. Clearly the teacher thought that Jelly Bean had sneaked one of my maxi pads and stuck it precociously in her own undies. We shared a wink and a giggle over how little kids just want to be grown up and I pretended to be embarrassed that she’d found my stash. (Which is actually not true – I use the Diva Cup, miracle that it is, and so haven’t needed pads for years. Those maxis really are hers. They’re in her room and everything.)
This little incident reminded me of another time that frugally using a maxi pad for an unintended purpose got me into trouble. A couple of years ago, in a mad rush to get to the gym (ah, fond memories!), I’d tried to dry-shave my legs so I wouldn’t be all Sasquatch in my Sauconys. Of course I cut myself. And it was a fairly large gash down my ankle – think one of those rolling cheese knives and you’re 90% of the way there. A regular band-aid wouldn’t do and those big band-aids are pricey so I (brilliantly, I thought) grabbed a pantyliner and taped it around my ankle. Absorbing copious amounts of blood – that’s what they DO! Unfortunately – and I’m sure you can see what’s coming – the tape didn’t stick well to my sweaty leg and halfway through my workout the *$%&# pantyliner came sliding out of my pants like it was starring in the Broadway production of Newsies. I swear it even did a little soft-shoe.
There it was, little white sticky thing on the floor. It might have passed for a random piece of paper except, you know, IT WAS COVERED IN BLOOD. “Um…” my friend said, looking pointedly at the floor. As I rushed to grab it, I considered explaining that I’d really just used it for a band-aid because I cut myself shaving and didn’t want to use a real band-aid and… who would believe that ridiculous story? So I had to feign shock and embarrassment. Although that time the embarrassment was pretty real.
Sometimes my frugality ends up making things way worse. There are some things in life you should just shell out the dough for – like extra large band-aids. Or extra strong duct tape for the maxi pads. Anyhow. There ARE other times when my cheapskate ways pay off big in the health and fitness area!
Here are some of my fave ways to save:
1. Fruit sauce. Got random apples, pears, bananas or other fruit just sitting around with only a bite or two eaten? (If you have kids then I’m sure your answer is yes. If you don’t have kids and don’t live with rats you’re probably wondering how this ever happens.) Anyhow, don’t chuck that produce! Cut it all up and throw it in a crock pot or sauce pan on low with a little water, cinnamon and vanilla and make your own apple (or fruit) sauce! Even if you don’t like eating fruit sauce, it’s great to use in muffin, pancake and banana bread recipes!
2. Buy race souvenirs online. If a race is big enough, you’ll find a lot of the swag online in the days after you ran it. Rather than pay a premium for that sweet 2013 Turkey Trot beanie at the “race expo”, get it for a fraction of the price either on ebay or Craigslist or even from the race organizer – they don’t need a bunch of last year’s gear cluttering up their warehouse and are often eager to get rid of it. And who cares if you have to wait like a week after the race to wear it?
3. Buy in bulk. Sure you knew you could get whole grain flour, coconut oil and even chia seeds at bulk stores now but did you also know you can get big jars of protein powder (the actual protein isolate, not cut with anything so it’s super cheap!), nutritional yeast, sprouted almonds, creatine powder, branched-chain amino acids and all the other weirdo health food your heart desires? Some health food stores have it but I’ve found that websites like PureBulk.com and even Amazon have it for way cheaper!
4. Grovel. I am definitely not the first grown-up to realize that ordering off the kids’ menu is cheaper and has built-in portion control. (Which is still pretty big at most restaurants!) Some restaurants limit it to kids 12 and under but I’ve found that asking really nicely often gets me a kids meal anyhow. You just have to pick a place that has classier options than mac-n-cheese and mini corndogs. My other favorite restaurant hack is to order off the appetizer menu or combine a soup and salad. You still get the yummies but at a fraction of the cost.
5. Use BPA-free plastic or glass reusable containers instead of baggies for lunches. Not only does it save $$ but it’s also better for your health and the environment.
6. Swap fitness equipment with friends. Everyone has something laying around collecting dust in their basement! And while you probably don’t want to own a Tony Little Gazelle it would sure make your workouts entertaining for a month or so. I recently (temporarily) traded my TRX for some funky resistance bands and have been enjoying the heck out of my new-to-me rubber tubing.
7. Trade talents! Have a friend who is a Pilates instructor? Try trading lessons for homemade frozen dinners. Or personal training for website design. Or nutritional counseling for babysitting. Other than an investment of your time, it’s freeeee. You get the idea!
8. Coupon apps. I used to hate couponing. So much work for so little reward and what was I going to do with 70 boxes of Hamburger Helper? Even if it was free, we still don’t eat it. But these days many stores have mobile apps which can get you some pretty sweet deals with no more effort than holding up your phone and letting them scan it. I have the apps for Target and the local grocery store on my phone now and I also love RetailMeNot’s app. I literally check it while I’m walking in the front doors to see if there’s anything I can use that day and by checkout it’s ready to go. Also, lots of gyms offer “2 weeks free” or “free personal training” or other coupons. If you don’t get the mailer, just ask at the front desk.
9. Use washcloths or tea towels for napkins. Whoever started the paper napkin thing really has a racket going. But when you think “cloth napkin” do you immediately think of those stiff, decorative and completely nonabsorbent polyester nightmares your mom dragged out at holidays? Yeah, me too. Just use clean washcloths. They clean dirty fingers and spills way better than cloth, they’re super easy to throw in the wash, they’re cheap and, if you’re lucky, they’ll make you look like a hipster (but only if you use them with mason jars and handmade paper straws on a table made out of chalkboard paint, an industrial spool and a thousand tears from a sparrow).
Anyone else ever had a frugal idea go totally bust on them? (I swear maxi pads are out to get me.) Do you have a great weirdo tip to add to my list??