The Thrifty Librarian

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My Thrifty Secret Weapon

Post date: Monday, June 4, 2012 - 3:28pm

Lately I’ve been thinking about all the things I do to save money. Homemade glass cleaner? Covered. Checking out books from the library instead of buying them? Covered. Making my own liquid soap? Covered. Refurbishing thrift store furniture? Covered. What haven’t we talked about yet? Oh yeah! The single biggest change to running my kitchen I’ve ever made.

Mason jars. Humble, cheap mason jars. I bought about 3 dozen mason jars a year ago and I’m still finding new uses for them. I use them as drinking glasses, vases, spice holders, and for food storage. I use them in the pantry to keep my dry goods organized — it’s so much easier to keep track of food neatly arranged in glass jars than to find plastic bags that flop over and hide themselves in the depths of the cabinet.

There are some fabulous recipes out there for mason jars that encourage buying in bulk and making several meals at once. My favorite breakfast right now is the summer porridge from a blog called The Yummy Life. I also make the Super Simple Creamy Chicken Curry from The Big Red Kitchen. I portion all my food into jars because it’s easier to keep organized in my small kitchen and once the food is in the jar, it looks so pretty!

Why does it matter that the food is pretty? Why should I care? If the food I have at home is not visually appealing, I simply won’t eat it. I have wasted so much money letting fruit rot and meat spoil because it doesn’t just doesn’t look nice. I’ll waste money by eating at restaurants or even hitting a drive-thru at a fast food joint if I don’t like the looks of the fridge. Preparing food in advance and storing it in mason jars helps keep my budget on track.

Finding the Right EReader

Post date: Tuesday, April 10, 2012 - 8:34am

We’ve been getting a lot of questions about eReaders at the library lately. Which one is the best? Which one should I buy? Why are they so expensive?

Before you spend a lot of money on features you don’t really need, take a look at this chart from Paid Content comparing eReaders from major companies. Whether you decide on a Kindle, Nook, iPad or any other device, you can download eBooks from the libary here. If you have any questions about downloading eBooks, or you still can’t decide on the right eReader for you, let me know! Send me an email at wkgnref [at] waukeganpl [dot] info or call the library at 847-623-2041. Happy reading!

Estate Sales

Post date: Monday, April 9, 2012 - 12:52pm

I have a few preferred ways to shop, and all of them involve paying less than retail. The most unpredictable (and most fun!) is going to estate sales. I’ve been to sales where the house is packed to the rafters with crystal, china and fine antiques. I’ve also been to sales where I’d had to pry what I wanted from the ground or off the doors (doorknobs and plants).

The best way to find out about estate sales in the area is to sign up for enewsletters from The Balderdash Collection, a local business that runs estate sales. You can also search Craigslist for the phrase “estate sale”. Happy hunting!

Best Glass Cleaner Ever

Post date: Monday, March 19, 2012 - 2:41pm

It was so beautiful over the weekend, I decided to start my spring cleaning. I dusted shelves, washed cabinets, scrubbed the bathtub and — most dreaded chore of all — I washed the windows. The last time I washed the windows, I used an expensive green cleaner and it left the windows all streaky. This time, I made my own glass cleaner. It worked terrific! And it was super-cheap. Here’s the recipe:

 ¼ C white vinegar
¼ C rubbing alcohol
 2 T cornstarch
2 C warm tap water

 Combine all ingredients in a clean spray bottle and shake well. This glass cleaner worked better than any storebought cleaner I’ve ever used, and I could spray it around my cat without worrying about the chemicals he was breathing. This recipe came from Crunchy Betty, a site loaded with make-it-at-home recipes to replace storebought cleaners, processed foods, and beauty products. Check it out!

Thrifty Books, Part Quatre

Post date: Monday, March 12, 2012 - 5:57pm

I can’t give you a list of books that have saved me money without including books that actually help me save — you know, save money in a bank account instead of spending it on fun crafts or decorating projects. Today’s list is on budgeting and home finance. Check it out!*

Women’s guide to financial self-defense by June Mays
The tightwad gazette by Amy Dacyczyn
Shattering the two-income myth by Andy Dappen
The money book for the young, fabulous & broke by Suze Orman

*This is an old library pun. It means both “Take a look at this” and also, “Check these books out from the library!” It makes me laugh every time.

Thrifty Books, Part Trois

Post date: Sunday, March 11, 2012 - 12:54pm

Collectively, we spend millions upon millions of dollars on trendy fashion, beauty concoctions and magic diet fixes. What if we didn’t have to spend so much to look great? What if we could keep it simple, natural, and CHEAP?

Below is today’s list of thrifty books, all about health and beauty. Each one is available here at the library — you can place a title on hold or come in to the library to grab it from the shelf and find your next great read.

Wear This, Toss That by Amy Goodman
Oh No She Didn’t by Clinton Kelly
You, being beautiful by Michael Roizen
20,000 secrets of tea by Victoria Zak
Home remedies from a country doctor by Jay Heinrichs

Thrifty Books, Part Deux

Post date: Saturday, March 10, 2012 - 4:00pm

Today’s theme for books that have saved me money is “Home Decorating” and it’s my favorite! Below is a list of the best books in our collection — in my opinion, of course.

You can do it! Small spaces by Christopher Lowell*
The shabby chic home by Rachel Ashwell
Use what you have decorating by Lauri Ward
Recycled home by Mark & Sally Bailey
Flea market decorating by Better Homes & Gardens
750 great ideas for decorating on a budget by Country Living
Tattered treasures by Lauren Powell

Each book has given me a different gift. Christopher Lowell’s book taught me to fill my home only with things that make me happy (thrifty because it keeps me from buying things I don’t really need or want). Flea Market Decorating taught me how to polish up and repair the diamonds in the rough I pluck from thrift shops (or curbsides!). Tattered Treasures is full of beautiful photos of items salvaged from dumps and garbage heaps.

*Yes, this book was on the first list. But it’s so good! You should really check it out.

Thrifty Books

Post date: Tuesday, March 6, 2012 - 11:27am

I’ve used information from lots of library books to help me save my money and spend it wisely. I want to share the wealth of knowledge I’ve gained with you, so every day this week I’ll post a list of books that I’ve found useful. Today’s theme is cleaning and organization.


Clutter Busting by Brooks Palmer
Organic Housekeeping by Ellen Sandbeck
You can do it! Small spaces by Christopher Lowell
Talking dirty with the queen of clean by Linda Cobb


When you click a title, you’ll be able to read each book’s full description and place a hold on it. My favorite book on today’s list is Christopher Lowell’s you can do it! small spaces. Check it out and you’ll see why!

Delicious, Affordable Meals

Post date: Friday, March 2, 2012 - 1:17pm

Once upon a time, I lived in Boston and earned my living as a barista. In those lean days, my grocery money came from the tip jar that we employees divvied up once a week (by the way, tip your baristas generously!). I made this chili almost every week because it is tasty, nutritious and CHEAP. Times have changed for me but this chili is still a staple in my house.

4 green peppers, diced
1 bunch celery, diced
4 yellow onions, diced
8 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb ground beef
4 cans diced tomatoes, drained
8 T chili powder
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
¼ tsp white pepper
I tsp salt
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp oregano
4 cans kidney beans, drained and rinsed

Pull out your biggest stock pot and coat the bottom in olive oil. Heat at medium-high heat, then add green peppers, celery, onions and garlic. Cook until fork-tender, stirring frequently. Next, add ground beef and cook until browned. Once brown, drain the excess liquid. Next, add diced tomatoes and all spices. Stir until combined, then reduce heat to low and cover. Let cook for one hour, stirring twice. In the last five minutes of cooking, add beans. Serves 12.

This is a recipe I adapted from the Vegetable Beef Chili recipe found in the book Mr. Food Cooks Like Mama, but Easier by Art Ginsburg. I stretch the chili by serving it over brown rice or with cornbread.

Your Library Card: The Biggest Money-Saver in Your Wallet

Post date: Friday, March 2, 2012 - 9:47am

Have you seen the new Value of Library Services page on the library website? You can enter the number of books, DVDs, etc. you’ve checked out and learn how much money you saved by borrowing items instead of purchasing them. In the 2 1/2 years I’ve had my library card, I’ve borrowed 546 items from the library. Based on the mix of books, movies, and music I’ve borrowed, I saved more than $10,000 by using my library card.

If you’d like to know how many items you’ve checked out over the lifetime of your library card, send an email to me at wkgnref [at] waukeganpl [dot] info with your name and library barcode. Happy saving!