Saturday, March 29, 2008

Keeping a Firm Hand on the Food Budget

We've been renovating the kitchen since March 7th. Just over three weeks now. Without a kitchen, cooking has been, let's say, interesting. Before starting the project, I loaded up our upright freezer with 35 $1 (on sale) Banquet frozen dinners, hoping that would get us through. When the project expanded, of course, we had to re-stock. Since frankly with the Banquet dinners, you get what you pay for, I decided to go a bit more upscale with our next batch. I hit a local bargain haven, the Grocery Outlet where you can find great deals on such brands as Amy's Organic, Seeds of Change, Stouffer's, etc. I went up a bit more on the price point, paying as much as $1.99 each. Most were still in the $1.49-$1.79 range though. I bought $40 worth; a week later, as the project had expanded even more to include countertops, I had to head back to the Grocery Outlet and stocked up on 40 frozen meals. The Seeds of Change ones are especially tasty--they taste like real food, not a frozen dinner.

Other than lunches here and there, and Friday Pizza Night, we haven't gone out to eat. Until this morning, we hadn't even hit our favourite breakfast place! We've thus been able to stick fairly closely to our usual food budget, despite the lack of a kitchen.

I really miss cooking! I miss the smell of sauteing garlic and olive oil, the rich scent of baking sweet potatoes, the caramel smell of bar-b-que pork in the Crock-Pot. (Yes, I know I could still do Crock-Pot meals, but frankly, it's just too much to handle right now.)

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

If you can do it, do it yourself!

My goal with this kitchen makeover originally was to do everything I could myself except for the floor refinishing (I have no interest in learning to use a floor sander!) That changed when we added the countertop project of course.

We did know that some plumbing was needed. The previous previous owners did a poor job of retro-fitting the plumbing when they added a dishwasher. We needed to remove the old pipe it's improperly placed junction and put in new pipe with a properly located junction for drainage of sink and dishwasher. We'd called a plumber, heard back once, but not to our reply message asking about price and scheduling. So, off to the plumbing supply store!

DH always thought he could do it, but we didn't have a pipe wrench. Turns out they cost about $13 and our neighbor (Mr. Tool) had one as well. Good, since we needed two as it turned out.

The cost of the supplies? Just about $50 including the wrench which can be used on other projects.

Monday, March 24, 2008

The Project Creeps Even More!

So, well, the kitchen counter is off. It's been delivered to our friend who has ordered the new sink (from a buddy who is a plumber and can get a trade discount) and the Formica (ditto on the discount I hope!). Turned out that there were some reason to use a new undersurface for the countertop rather than just re-doing the Formica on top of the old plywood, so that's the current plan.

The kitchen looks...naked. !

(oh, the odd icky picture up there? It's the inside of the kitchen sink drain pipe. Serious gunk builds up in there! It'll be replaced with new, possibly PVC.)

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Happy Easter!

I hope the Easter Bunny paid you a visit. Easter Blessings, Peace be with You!

Saturday, March 22, 2008


Finally found the right dishwasher via Craigslist. We were all out and about today, took the kids to a (free) Easter Egg Hunt at the local community center. Then, off to check the Sears Scratch & Dent outlet (no gems found). We did take down a few model numbers and did some quick online research on them out in the parking lot. DH has internet via his TMobile phone USB interface, so hooked up the laptop and off to Epinions etc. Found zip zilch about the few models in the right colour that the outlet had, but, I also checked Craigslist and found just what I wanted in a new ad. Sent a quick email with our offer and phone number and got a quick call back! Sure enough, it turned out to be just the dishwasher for us and our offer of $125 was accepted. It's now in our garage, awaiting installation once the counters are finished.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Walgreen's Update

I used up my last Register Rewards from my first Walgreen's Deal. They expired on the 18th, so I didn't want to lose them. I ended up buying my painting gloves (I use gloves when I paint, always, as I hate getting paint on my hands, so I go through a lot of latex gloves!) and some ice cream (Haagen Daaz was on sale, and the kids wanted Root Beer Floats:-). I won't be doing any more Walgreen's shopping until I get my gift card from the rebates. Then, I'll do the free-after-rebate items only for next month.

Cost Creep

Well, there's been progress on the kitchen project. I've bought the refridgerator, got 2% back via EBates and an extra $10 from a coupon code I found just before I checked out. It's the biggest expense so far. I also bought paint for the walls and cabinet, $100 for a gallon of wall colour and 3 quarts of trim and cabinet paint. I prefer Benjamin Moore and the paint store guys are always helpful and friendly over at Seattle Paint Supply. I had some ceiling paint left over from the last paint job I did, and I'll use that for the kitchen ceiling.

But here's what happened today. We had a friend over, a contractor, who has been suggesting strongly that we consider replacing the countertops and sink. I'd been resisting, because, well, gee whiz, I can't do that myself! All the other aspects of the project were things I could do or DH could do (like the plumbing/electrical). Countertops are strange and mysterious. I didn't want to open that can of worms. But contractor friend has offered to help, so, well, take a look.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Cost of a Kitchen Makeover

I'm trying to do my makeover on a realistic, but small budget. I'm not moving any plumbing, removing any walls or even putting in new counters. It's supposed to be a small-scale refresh of the existing space.

Well, let me tell you. That can be done. But don't ever try to strip paint on a small project like this. I've spent almost $100 on stripper (less thanks to a 20% off Entertainment Book coupon) and countless hours scraping and brushing. Had I merely scraped the bits that were truly failing and decided to forgive the rest, I'd be done priming by now. As it is, I'm working on the third coat of stripper, and am close to fully demoralized.

Now, I'll have to do some plaster patching as well. It's called project creep and it sucks.

That said, it's really not so bad. I've got about another day of stripping, then some washing, plaster patching and a bit of sanding. I am still hoping to be able to start priming by Friday or Saturday.

So far, I haven't spent much, but again, more than I wanted to. I've bought: primer (2 gallons for $9, special at Home Depot and a poorly worded sign:-); stripper, brushes, scrapers, drop cloths, latex gloves, paint tray liners, wood filler and paint remover.

I've got my eye on three new appliances: fridge (Vestfrost compact $1000); dishwasher (Kemore Ultra-Wash--price will depend on whether we buy it new or used); range (gas of some sort, again, price will depend on whether we buy it new or used). I've been scouring Craigs'List for appliances.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Kitchen Makeover Part 1

I finally did it--I packed up the kitchen and started the makeover! Here are a few before pics just so you can see what I've been wanting to change.

Now, I'm trying to do this on a budget, but frankly, I've gotten a little discouraged as I browse the Internet and the home makeover magazines. I keep seeing articles on budget remodels that include countertops, painting, and even an appliance or two for less than $2000! I have no idea how they're doing that, unless they already have a lot of the materials and equipment. I've spent close to $100 so far just on prep materials: paint stripper, scrapers, drop cloths, primer, wood putty to fill holes in the trim. I've budgeted $1000 for a refridgerator because I want this one, and $500 for a dishwasher (but I'm willing to pay less for a used one; I want a Kenmore Elite Ultrawash). A new range is needed too, and we're switching to gas. We've got the venting and the gas line already. Again, I'm willing to go used for that, but haven't yet found the right one.

The floor, which had vinyl tiles, will either be refinished ($1000, since that's the minimun at the refinishers and it's a small space) or replaced (probably with click-in bamboo, such as this). We'll find out on Monday if it's refinishable.

So far, I've cleared out the space, moved the refridgerator, and started the stripping process. Why strip? So much of the old paint is failing--flaking or cracking--that I know from experience that new won't adhere properly. Also, I am changing to a lighter colour and don't want that old green to show through. I'm going to strip the cabinets and the trim and parts of the walls. Then, at least one coat of primer. Haven't yet finalized paint colours, but right now, it's looking like it'll be white trim and cabinet fronts, with a bolder colour for at least one accent wall. All the new appliances will be white, so the kitchen will seem airier and cleaner.

I'll write about the emotional aspect of this on my Decluttering Blog.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Walgreen's Experiment #1: Part 2

So, later that day...
I went to the Walgreen's closer to my house to see if they had the Mach 3 disposable razor. I had a coupon for $3 off and Walgreen's was offering a free can of Mach 3 shaving gel with purchase, a $3.29 value. They DID have it, and I also found a paperback book for .34! Yes, a random find on a clearance end-cap. The total with razor, free gel and bargain book was $4.98. I paid with a $5.00 Register Rewards certificate earned earlier in the day, and got back $.02.

I'm going to send in my rebates tomorrow. There are a couple of other rebateable items that we use, but frankly, the sooner it's in the mail, the less chance that I'll forget to mail it. You can submit only ONE per household per month, so for some, it would make sense to keep loading it up throughout the month and send it in at the end.

Another thing...the Register Rewards expire about three weeks from the date they are earned. Not as good a deal as I was hoping, but still, it's a deal. I plan on using them to stock up on butter (on sale now for 2/$4), milk and other staples that have gotten so expensive at the grocery store.

Soon, a special edition that will appear here and on my Decluttering Blog: Kitchen Makeover!

Drugstore Deals: Walgreen's Experiment #1: Part 1

Today, I started a Walgreen's Experiment. Money Saving Mom is, as far as I can tell, THE Walgreen's (and CVS, Rite-Aid, etc) guru. Using her beginner's guide, I decided to give it a try.

First, I went through the circular and the Easy Save Coupon and Rebate booklet looking for deals (that we would actually use!). I found several including Pantene shampoo/conditioner, women's and men's razors, Kleenex, Garnier moisturizer and a couple of others. I'll post the full list soon, promise! I wrote down the deals, including which I had a manufacturer coupon for, which I had a store coupon for, which gave a Register Reward and which were rebate items.

I was able to find most of the items on my list. Some, like a Noxema razor (there's a rebate going on from Noxema and I had a coupon), could not be found. They may just not carry them.

Before going up to pay, I totaled rougly what my items should cost and what I should get right then and there in $ off from coupons and in Register Rewards. It all worked out just as planned, and although I did spend $63 out of pocket, I got $21 in Register Rewards and will get almost $21 back in the form of rebates. MSM suggests taking the gift card option for the rebate. You get an extra 10% back, and then you just use your gift card to pay for future purchases. The idea is that with the gift card, and with Register Rewards, you'll spend very little out of pocket and be able to stock up on all your drugstore needs.

Trying out the Walgreens Deals

One of my fave frugal bloggers, Money Saving Mom, is a big fan of the drugstore deals. CVS (which we don't have here in the NW), Walgreens, Rite-Aid. They all have weekly circulars, rebates, etc. MSM is an expert at getting the most for her money from these stores, and, bless her, she has a tutorial on Walgreens so you too can learn how to do the deals.

Now for me, someone who has hoarding tendencies (see my Decluttering Blog for more on that:-)I've avoided even looking closely at those deals. But, I did spot a coupon this Sunday for a Venus razor and for the Mach 3, which the husband likes. And I remembered seeing something about those on MSM's site. I decided to risk a Walgreens deal and give it a try.

I'll report back on the results! In the meantime, why not pop over to MSM and take a look at her tips?