Ten Money Savers You Might Want To Try This Weekend

I’ve been collecting a bunch of interesting little money saving tips over the last few months. Here are ten worth looking into.

Buy a turkey and put it on ice

Turkeys sold in June are roughly half the price of turkeys sold in November. You can freeze a turkey forever, and after only six months, there’s virtually no degradation in the quality of the meat. So if you have a deep freezer, go buy your Thanksgiving turkey the first weekend in June. Others might think it odd, but you’ll laugh all the way to the bank.

Drink ten or so glasses of tap water both days

It’s summer. Drink more water. Not only is tap water absurdly cheap and very healthy, it also curbs hunger, which means that you’ll eat less for meals, which can directly save you some cash. Get hydrated with a big ol’ glass of water!

Plan your summer vacation – but not this year’s!

Right now is the time to plan next year’s summer vacation. Identify what you want to do now so that you can book things early, get exactly what you want, and save a ton of cash. The last time we went on a significant summer vacation (2006), we booked a campground site almost nine months in advance, paid a pittance for it by check, and had the most beautiful site for four days of memorable camping with my wife and my baby. We’re bandying about ideas for next summer’s vacation right now.

See if you have any missing money

The NAUPA (National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators, a collective of state agencies that handle unclaimed property) have set up a website where you can search by name and find out if any unclaimed property belongs to you. Check it out at http://www.missingmoney.com/. After only five minutes’ worth of searching, I found unclaimed property belonging to two different people I know – I sent them both emails letting them know about it.

Clean out your pantry/cupboards

Every time I do this, I end up saving a bunch of money. First of all, I usually discover several items pushed to the back that I’d completely forgotten about, which inspires meals. Second of all, it’s a good way to inventory the kitchen staples you have on hand. Third, it lets you get rid of stuff that has become outdated. Fourth, it lets you rotate stuff around so that things are easier to find (making home meal preparation easier). A pantry cleaning is an excellent little weekend project that can save you money in multiple ways.

Look for corn, lettuce, blueberries, and peaches at the grocery store

These vegetables are in season and will be pretty inexpensive on store shelves. Take a look at this list of cheapest fruits and vegetables month by month. Around here, lots of summer produce can be had very cheap in late July to late August when gardens and small sweet corn patches begin to produce. Also, don’t forget the humble cabbage – it can be very tasty when properly seasoned and boiled. Give it a try – you might be surprised.

Sharpen your kitchen knives

Many people get frustrated in the kitchen and give up on cooking at home because their blades are atrocious, making it difficult to cut anything up. If you’ve got a standard knife set (and there seems to be one of these in almost every American kitchen), you can take care of that “cheap knife that doesn’t cut” problem with the honing steel that’s likely included. Watch this video to see exactly how to do it (seeing it is much better than explaining it):

I sharpen all of our knives about once every three months, and I sharpen my chef’s knife about twice as often.

Start planning for homemade Christmas gifts

My wife and I are planning on giving homemade gift bundles to many people this Christmas. These gifts are much more gifts of time than money, and that means we have to start planning now for items like homemade soap, homemade beer, homemade wine, and so forth. I’ll write a detailed post on these kits in the future, but if you’re planning on making such items for gift giving, now’s the time to get started. Homemade gifts can be quite inexpensive, but they take some planning to execute well.

Go grocery shopping at midnight

Many large grocery stores with a meat counter and a bakery will price many of those fresh items left over from the day at huge discounts to sell overnight, because if they don’t sell by the morning, they’ll have to be tossed. Go about midnight, and you’ll often find baked goods and fresh meats with enormous discounts. Grab some and have cheap fresh doughnuts for breakfast and a very inexpensive steak for supper.

Use vinegar as your fabric softener

Instead of using expensive fabric softeners, just use two caps full of vinegar in your wash as a fabric softener. The vinegar will gently soften your clothes and the rinse water will wash away all of the vinegar, leaving your clothes soft on the cheap. Do NOT use vinegar if you’re using bleach, however; the two will produce a chlorine gas that you do NOT want to breathe and could possibly damage your washing machine, too.

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  1. Laura says:

    Great Post!! I love these tips!

  2. Michael says:

    I like that tip about shopping at midnight. I think our meat counters and bakeries close by 9:00. If yours do as well, do they put the discounted goods on nearby shelves?

  3. Evandro says:

    Hi from Brazil, Trent!
    Take care: one can’t freeze a turkey forever!!!
    It’s better take a look at the producer’s guidelines, first.

  4. Jules says:

    Heh…when it comes to cleaning out the pantry, which my counterpart does regularly, he just puts everything back in again, and usually in a place where I can’t find it…

  5. akb says:

    I find shopping at midnight actually increases spending. something about the unnaturalness of it, and the game of begin about in odd places at odd hours. on the other hand, i love my 24 hour stop and shop :)

  6. Allison says:

    my night job is at a grocery store, and we have a cooler by the service deli where all of the leftover salads and chinese food/deli food are placed at a discounted rate once the counters close down for the night.

    The bakery and Meat department usually package up their items in bundles, and those are stored in the regular meat/bakery cases, just with “$x.xx off your purchase now” coupons and such attached.

    regarding vinegar as fabric softener: does that cause your clothing to smell at all like vinegar? it’s such an unpleasant smell for me, even the slightest after-odor would make it not worthwhile for me.

  7. Frugal Dad says:

    I’m a big believer in midnight shopping – no crowds, good deals and plenty of time to stop and do some unit price comparisons without being in someone’s way.

    Thanks for the idea of using vinegar. Just yesterday I bought fabric softener (generic) and noticed the price had increased a bit since my last purchase. Time to find an alternative.

  8. Katy McKenna says:

    Last Christmas, we received our first bottles of homemade wine ever. I have to say I was skeptical, but I don’t know when we’ve ever enjoyed better wine.

    Besides midnight forays, shopping early in the morning is great, too. We planned a trip to Kohl’s for my husband’s Father’s Day gift of business clothes this morning at 8 am. I had a 30% off coupon, which began to be in effect at that hour. He is short, so we can’t wait until racks are picked over.

    We were literally alone in the store. And met with success!

  9. Andy says:

    Do you need to sharpen your knives that often? I’ve read once or twice per year is plenty, even with reasonably heavy use. I’ll have to get back to you on my source, I can’t remember at the moment.

  10. John says:

    Thanks for the Missing Money tip. Got one hit…Woohoo!

  11. Bill says:

    Honing (with a steel), and sharpening are two different things. Under normal use a sharp knife rolls into a sort of ‘J’ shape, and honing with the steel will unroll that back into a ‘|’ shape (well, a very pointy ‘V’ really). I have my knives professionally sharpened once or twice a year (it’s pretty cheap – they usually charge per inch of all the blades you take ‘em). I [try to] hone before every use, which keeps them in good shape much longer.

  12. Mac says:

    I’ve found that the supermarket nearest to where I live marks down meat at mid to late morning if it is getting close to its expiration date. One of the meat cutters told me that often employees buy some of this discounted meat on their way home for the day. It may be that any meat that is left gets marked down even further around midnight. My husband and I are “morning person” with no aptitude for being awake at that hour.

  13. KC says:

    Corn is quite expensive, even if it is in season now. It’s also starchy and not very good for you. Get more peaches and blueberries!!

  14. Jane says:

    I have to disagree with two of your tips. Around here, grocery store give away turkeys once you spend a certain amount ($75 last year). Even if you don’t hit that amount, they are sharply discounted (think $.08/lb) and that’s the time of year to stock up.

    Honing and sharpening a blade are not the same thing. Honing keeps a knife edge true and should be done quite frequently. I only trust actual sharpening to professionals with the right equipment who can achieve the correct angle on my blade, and I only need to sharpen my chef’s knife about once a year with my moderate usage.

  15. leslie says:

    I actually bought a turkey last thanksgiving when it was marked WAY down as one of the loss leaders at the grocery store. We weren’t going to use it for Thanksgiving (going to my parents who already had a turkey) so I put it in the deep freeze. We actually cooked it last week. Not only did we eat turkey for dinner that night but now I have enough turkey in the freezer for ATLEAST 5 more meals (probably double that with leftovers – it was a pretty big turkey). I cooked the turkey on a day when it was in the mid-70’s and I could open the windows so it didn’t get too hot in the house. And now I have already cooked food to pull out for those days (like today) when the heat index is over 100 and I don’t want to turn on the oven.

  16. @Allison, vinegar in the wash doesn’t leave a scent (at least if you use it sparingly).

    Avoiding bleach nearly always would do wonders for the environment this weekend.

    And as for fruits in season … depends if you’re eating *locally.* Here in Colorado, strawberries are in season; peaches, not till August.

  17. Daniel says:

    I tried out a great mix for home made fabric softener: http://theartofzenliving.com/2008/05/simple-laundry-soap-and-fabric-softener-too/

    You’ve got some great ideas here, I’m gonna give a few of them a try!

  18. Andy says:

    We found some AMAZING strawberries here in Nebraska as well. Thanks for the Vinegar tip. Vinegar is like your baking soda article: MANY MANY USES!!!

  19. Allison says:

    @ frugal dad:

    From cashiering at all different times of the day, I’ve found that the best time to shop at my store is actually sunday morning, when most of the world is either in church or still asleep. It’s so boring to be a cashier during the 9am-noon hours. Hardly any customers! On top of that, you don’t have all the pallets of merchandise blocking the aisles like you would at the midnight hour when they are stocking the whole store.

    …just an observation, not trying to tell you when to shop!

  20. Vered says:

    “I usually discover several items pushed to the back that I’d completely forgotten about, which inspires meals”. Ha. Happens to me all the time, but almost always when I discover foods they are already past their date. I am on it. :)

  21. story says:

    Great tips! I love the idea of planning your vacation a year in advance, but right now airline prices are so high that my next year’s vacation might need to be within 50 miles of home. :)

  22. Jessica says:

    Corn is in season…in South America. I have a hard time buying corn when I know the area’s fields have hardly just been sown. I’d rather wait until August for the local-grown corn.

  23. !wanda says:

    How do people end up with property they don’t know about??

  24. L says:

    Bill and Jane have already said it but there is a great difference between honing (with a steel or stone) and sharpening your knives.
    If you are honing (as per the video) you ought to do it way more frequently than every three months. Pretty much nobody does it every use, but aiming for every week or every other week is good.
    Professional sharpening once or twice a year- some butchers will do this for you which cuts out the need for a separate trip.

  25. Great tips for saving money. I’ve never heard of using Vinegar for fabric softner but I will certainly have to try it. Maybe not on my work clothes though…

  26. Jennifer says:

    Don’t forget about making jam in the summer for Christmas gifts! It’s cheap when you use whatever fruit is in season, and it’s just as easy to make 24 jars as it is to make 6.

  27. Bloggrrl says:

    I ended up finding money for my brother on missingmoney.com. Thanks for such great tips!

  28. As long as you don’t take your kids along at midnight! I hate when I see parents with their (little) kids at W-mart at 10 at night. Like that’s fun for anyone…

  29. 401k annuity says:

    I’m all about planning ahead for vacations. Great deals can be had when you are looking ahead and watching prices. Depending on where you want to go, you can often find an rss feed that will let you know about the latest deals.

  30. Chris says:

    What Bill, Jane, and L said regarding honing/sharpening… you should hone your knife as often as possible (ideally before every use), and have it sharpened once a year.

  31. Shanel Yang says:

    I didn’t know anyone still drank tap. Aren’t there harmful chemicals in it? Doesn’t it taste funny? I remember drinking tap when I was a kid in L.A. But, in the 80s, there was so much flack about the dangers of it that I finally switched to 100% bottled water or boiled tap for tea and coffee in the 90s. It would be great to know if it’s safe again b/c I’d love to stop spending on all that Arrowhead. All great tips! I “hone” (just learned that term from the comments) knives along the raised ridges on the back of ceramic plates. Now, that’s being thrifty!

  32. jan says:

    Concerning vinegar… I use it for both fabric softener and bleach in my dispenser and there is absolutely NO smell! It is cheap and effective.
    As for tap water, those of us who live in the country have the BEST water. None of the nasty chemicals and decent flavor (if you could call it that) and if you run it a bit it is icy cold from the bottom of the well.

  33. Sam H. says:

    Nthing the fact that vinegar doesn’t leave a smell. Surprising, but true. It also softens towels- we hang our towels to dry and by adding a little vinegar to the wash, they come out soft and don’t dry to board-like consistency.

  34. yvie says:

    @KC
    Corn not good for you? It’s whole, unprocessed plant food. Perhaps corn flour isn’t as good for you,because it may be overly processed, but real corn certainly is. Lots of fibre and vitamins and minerals.

    Starch isn’t necessarily unhealthy by the way. It’s only unhealthy if it’s overly processed.
    Yvie

  35. K says:

    I agree with yvie – fresh corn is very good for you, and when it is in season, you can find it anywhere for $3/doz. We plan on stocking up and freezing it for the winter because store bought corn just isn’t the same.

  36. Whipsaw says:

    I’m going fot the ‘booking next years vacation’ tactic. You’ve got to have something to look forward to in these times of credit crunches and rising inflation.

  37. F2O says:

    I saw fresh corn the other day at a local market for $0.10 an ear. (Eastern PA)

  38. Kim says:

    @ Shanel Yang

    Most bottled water comes from a tap, and they just process it more and shove it in a bottle. It’s not any better for you, and in some cases its worse (leeching of chemicals from the bottles, microbial growth, – some even have more lead and arsenic than regualr tap water).

    If you’re wondering about what the water analysis shows, inquire about where you can get that information. Testing should be done on the water on a regular basis, and if anything is wrong, it must be reported to the public (ie – for boil water advisories)
    Worth looking into …

  39. Tao Kuei says:

    Looking at this and remembering the post about baking soda, what other frugal uses does vinegar have?

  40. Lurker Carl says:

    Discounted turkeys are about the best food bargin out there. The biggest birds have the greatest value, you end up with more meat and less waste relative to the smaller turkeys. You can feed an army off a 30 lb bird and feed them again from the soup made after boiling the bones. Dozens of meals for only pennies a piece!

    We use a tabletop electric roaster to keep from heating up the house in the summer and it uses far less energy than an oven.

  41. m- says:

    Anyone have an Cabbage recipes that are quick and easy?

  42. Trent Trent says:

    “Anyone have an Cabbage recipes that are quick and easy?”

    This may sound foul to some, but I like to boil it with potatoes and leftover ham bone. Mix in a bit of salt, a lot of pepper, and let it boil for a few hours. Yum … and it costs just pennies.

  43. Allie says:

    Great tips, thanks!

    Keeping with the themes of fresh food and Christmas gifts, does anyone have any good recipes for homemade jams and jellies? I’d like to start soon as it is almost strawberry season here in NY.

  44. Pinyo says:

    Is that you in the video? :-P

    I know you love to cook.

  45. Jane says:

    Corn is in season or close to it down here in Georgia.

  46. You should hone your knives (that is, use a steel) after every one or two uses.

    Every couple of months you should sharpen them (there’s a big difference). Using a stone is a trick, but you can find instructions on the Web. I prefer to use a manual knife sharpener, which looks a little like but is MUCH cheaper than an electric knife sharpener. These work pretty well–not as well as a stone used by a skilled person, but good enough. And they don’t eat up your knives the way an electric sharpener does.

    Too many “professional” knife sharpening guys just run the knives through the same electric knife sharpener you can buy on Amazon.com or at Sur la Table. Those things destroy your knives. Ask, and watch the person at work, before handing over your good cutlery.

  47. Paul says:

    Thanks for the tip on missing money claims. I found one of my friends in the database.

  48. Grace says:

    Your Turkey Tip is all wrong. At least where I live (Pacific NW), November is the absolute cheapest time to buy turkeys–either 19 cents a pound or free if you spend over $50. I priced them yesterday, and the cheapest I found was $1.59 a pound.

    But the other tips were sound.

  49. Trekkie says:

    I don’t understand fabric softener. I have never used it and my clothes don’t feel stiff. They feel fine I just don’t get fabric softener. maybe just not using anything would be the most frugal.

  50. Nancy says:

    Thanks so much for the missing money tip. I was sure I wasn’t luck enough to have any missing money out there but found five hits for myslef (over $200), one for my husband, one for my father, and three for my best friend!!!

  51. Kelly says:

    Frugal Dad is correct. I always find reduced meat at one of the stores I frequent, after early “ELCA” service on Sunday morning. It’s a nice time to shop. But , late night shopping at other stores usually finds some good bargains .

    On a different note , I have a friend who grows his own hops for his beer . His beer is the best !!! I have another friend who makes strawberry bread every year for Christmas gifts. It’s not Christmas without her bread . When , I make my grandmother’s Peanut Butter Fudge everyone wants some . My brother in-law is a photographer. He uses his photos to make calendars for everyone . Take what your gift is and make it a tradition for your family and friends . I promise they will cherish it!

  52. Laura says:

    I was wondering about using vinegar in the rinse, plus bleach in the appropriate dispenser. I had never heard it makes chlorine gas, and I have been doing that for awhile. I know that mixing ammonia and bleach is toxic. But vinegar and bleach? Is it truly true? If so, I am appalled at what I’ve been doing. I will wait to use both in my whites until you reply (boy, do I hope it’s soon)!

  53. ep in san diego says:

    @m – not sure if you’re vegetarian, but if you’re not, here’s a GREAT soup recipe that uses cabbage:

    http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Kielbasa-Stew/Detail.aspx

    I made this recently when we got 3 (yes, three!!) heads of lettuce from our CSA. It disappeared fast!

  54. Char says:

    This is pretty pathetic but I found 2 accounts under my name in the missing money link AND I found property that was my deceased mother. I was a total flake in college and probably just walked away from bank accounts to move and live with my boyfriend across the country. I don’t know how much is there but I can’t wait to find out. The property my mother owns was probably a secret because it house a business that her brother owns. Ewww dirty little secrets…. Thanks for the link, if I get rich I will let you know

  55. Mysti says:

    I took a quick peek at missing money and found a small sum, under $100, that belonged to me from about 10 years ago! Thanks!

  56. Shanel Yang says:

    @ Kim

    Thanks for the info! I’m going to try drinking tap today and see how I feel. Appreciate it!

  57. Shanel Yang says:

    @ Kim

    Okay, I tried tap; and, I feel totally fine! No after taste either — which was a pleasant surprise. This little discovery is going to save me at least $100 a year. Thanks again!

  58. Kim says:

    Everyone should try the missing money website. I heard about it a couple of years ago on NPR and gave it a try – even though I just KNEW there was no unclaimed money from our household. Well, I was wrong. Almost $600 wrong!

  59. Strong One says:

    I LOOOOVE the Turkey idea.

  60. I love turkey, but I can’t say that I’ve been impressed by turkey prices recently. Maybe it’s just the rising food costs in general, but the price per pound is nearly 3 times what I paid the day after Thanksgiving last year. Who knows what it’ll cost this coming Thanksgiving, though.

    But what really surprised me is that, at least when my mom checked, chicken was much much cheaper than turkey. I would have thought otherwise. I’m going to check next time for sure.

  61. Kim says:

    Thanks so much for the missing money tip. I was sure I wasn’t luck enough to have any missing money out there but found one hit for myself in VA and one for my husband in FL. I have my daughter claim it from state website. I will give the money to my daughter.

  62. Michele says:

    We bought a ‘slim’ britta water filter with a coupon for $3 and make our own filtered water. Our water is very hard and taste pretty bleah, and since we were using 4 cases of 35 bottles of water we have saved at least $12 a month.
    We drink a ton of water-we don’t drink any soda at all. It also makes the coffee taste better too!

  63. donna says:

    another use for vinegar is it is a great window/glass cleaner. and the smell evaporates as soon as it dries.

  64. Tracy says:

    Can you freeze corn??? Gosh,I need a deep freezer! My local Hannaford had corn on sale 19 cents an ear. We bought 20 ears and took them up north to a friend’s house where we spent the weekend. I would have bought a ton more if I knew you could freeze it. We’re in NY and lately the cheapest I found corn for was 6 ears for $2.88.

  65. Jessica says:

    Another thank you fo rthe missing money tip! I found an old paycheck for my father (over 20 years old!). We’re not sure how much it is quite yet, but it is over $200 and I’ve been promised a finder’s fee. :o) This is such a great resource!

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