Buying Household Supplies In The Time Of A Pandemic

Cucumber thief runs wild through July garden

We’ve started ordering all of our household supplies online to limit our exposure to stores. Unfortunately, this seems to be more expensive due to the lack of generic options online. In non-pandemic times, we buy the generic Walmart brand of almost all household supplies, but the generics aren’t always (or ever) available online, so we’ve had to buy name brand laundry detergent, baby wash, floss, hand soap, shampoo, etc. Bummer, but we feel the expense is worth avoiding stores.

We’ve also been buying A LOT more craft supplies for the kids to support our “homeschool” (HAH) efforts, which involve throwing paper and paints on the table and letting them go wild. Yes, they paint each other’s bodies. No, I do not care.

I will say that this lack-of-generic-options provides me an (unwelcome) opportunity to test my theory that generic stuff is THE SAME as name-brand stuff. Having now (unwillingly) used name-brand laundry detergent, hand soap, baby wash, and more, I can say WITH CONFIDENCE that it’s the same as the generics. As a matter of actual frugal fact, I PREFER some of the generic options to the name brand.

Folks, if you’ve been laboring under the delusion that Tide is better than the generic, I am here to tell you that it’s not. This has been your official generic versus name brand testing report. Look through your pantry, cleaning supplies, and bathrooms: for every name-brand item you see, there’s a cheaper generic out there just waiting for you to save more money. Switching to generic is one of the easiest ways to permanently reduce your monthly spending–you still get the same products, you probably don’t even have to change the store you shop at, and you save money every month, forever! Of course, there are exceptions…

Never Buy Generic Washable Markers. Ever. Don’t Even THINK About It.

Our black raspberries: not fans of generic markers

To prove I’m unbiased in my generic vs. name brand analysis, I will tell you there’s one thing I will NEVER buy the generic version of EVER again: washable children’s markers. With regular, name brand markers, any color cap fits onto any color marker. Ideal when a two-year-old and four-year-old are in charge of cleaning up the markers.

Let me tell you right now: the cruel person who invented the Walmart generic washable markers made it so that each marker cap will ONLY fit onto the marker of the same color. Untold hours of my life have been lost to parsing the difference between lavender and violet-hued generic markers. Resolve with me to never forget and never let this happen to anyone ever again.

Tell your friends and raise the alarm about this scourge threatening the safety and sanity of parents everywhere. Our children deserve better. And tell them to buy everything else generic while you’re at it.

Price Alerts: They Are Your Friend

Mr. FW sporting The Shirt

My husband loves this work shirt. He’s tried other shirts and they’re nowhere near as warm, insulated, or durable. This shirt (pictured at right) has pockets, is fleece-lined, is not $1M, and is attractive (affiliate links). Before July, he owned one of these shirts, which he wore every day during the winter and which I had to steal away to launder.

He’s wanted another one, but was unwilling to pay full price and so, last winter, he set up an Amazon price alert for the shirt. Lo and behold, July was the month they went on sale. Makes sense that a deep winter shirt would be cheapest in deep summer and so (at my behest) he bought two. When you know you want something, but don’t need it immediately, set up a price alert and bide your time.

Price alerts also provide you the opportunity to cycle through the frugal guide to buying new:

  • Follow the 72 hour rule (whereby you wait three days before buying something new). Take that time to ask yourself:
    • Can I get this used?
    • Can I borrow it from a friend?
    • Do I own something similar that’ll suffice?
    • Do I really need it or do I just want it?
    • NEW ADDITION –> Can I set up a price alert and wait for a sale?

We set up our price alerts through a service called Camel Camel Camel, which rest assured, will not result in a triad of dromedaries being delivered to your doorstep.

Large Foam Roller: Bought New

Lest you be thinking I always buy used or always wait for price alert sales or always find substitutes or always buy generic, allow me to introduce you to my new, name brand BFF: Large Foam Roller. For years I’ve known I needed a foam roller. I have, in fact, borrowed one from a friend (thank you, Rosie), tried to find one at a garage sale (apparently people don’t re-sell these things?), and tried more substitutions than I care to admit (yoga mat, towels, broom handle–listen, desperate times, ok?).

Very happy about Large Foam Roller am I

Finally, finally, the pandemic wore me down and I bought a name-brand, brand new roller. I bought the roller my doctor recommends because I have muscle pain (thanks to pregnancy and childbirth and child carrying and outdoor work and age… ) and I needed a way to address this pain more effectively at home.

Large Foam Roller has only been in our household for a week but already, she’s earning her keep. I had debilitating sciatica pain earlier this week (I can thank my pregnancy with Littlewoods for that) and I did my PT exercises, used my foam roller, and stood up pain free! Miraculous? Maybe not. Awesome? Definitely.

The challenge now is keeping Large Foam Roller safe. My children view Large Foam Roller as a horse/pony/weapon and so it’s currently residing in the guest bedroom closet in the hopes of remaining undiscovered and subsequently ridden on (links to Large Foam Roller are affiliate links).

Small Engines: Unite and Fail

Our wood splitter, splitting in style

As so often seems happen here on the Frugalwoods homestead of woebegone subpar farmers of last resort, two small engines colluded while in the storage shed and decided to peace out at the same time.

Our wood splitter and trimmer both experienced spectacular failures and Mr. FW’s been in diagnostic mode. He ordered a few replacement parts for the splitter that he plans to install this weekend and fingers crossed those’ll do the trick.

The trimmer (purchased from a garage sale a few years ago) should be a more straightforward fix. The gas tank has deteriorated around the rubber seal, causing it to spray gas (not ideal), so he’s going to install a new gas tank, which should remedy the problem.

This is a rather large inconvenience because he’s deep in wood harvesting mode–both for house firewood and sugar wood for maple syrup making–and the wood splitter, as you might guess, is integral to the process. Yes, he can split by hand and yes, he split by hand for a year before buying the splitter, but the time savings of splitter vs. manual is magnificent.

Credits Cards: How We Buy Everything

Mr. Frugalwoods and I purchase everything we possibly can with credit cards because:

  1. It’s easier to track expenses. No guesswork over where a random $20 bill went; it all shows up in our monthly expense report from Personal Capital. I spend less money because I KNOW I’m going to see every expense listed at the end of each month. Here’s a more detailed explanation of how I use Personal Capital for my expense tracking (and other stuff too).
  2. We get rewards. Credit card rewards are a simple way to get something for nothing. Through the cards we use, Mr. FW and I get cash back as well as hotel and airline points just for buying stuff we were going to buy anyway.
  3. We build our credit. Since Mr. FW and I don’t carry debt other than our mortgages, having several credit cards open for many years helps our credit scores. By the way, it’s a dirty myth that carrying a balance on your credit card helps your credit score–IT DOES NOT. Paying your cards off IN FULL every month and keeping them open for many years does help your score.
Hello and welcome to my garden. Let me show you which plants we can stomp on.

For more on my credit card strategy, check out The Frugalwoods Guide to a Simple, Yet Rewarding, Credit Card Experience. I also wrote this guide on how to find the best credit card for you.

If you want a simple cash back credit card, here are a few good options that don’t have annual fees:

1. The TD Cash Visa® Credit Card:

  • This card gives you 3% cash back on dining, 2% cash back at grocery stores, and 1% cash back on all other eligible purchases.
  • Plus, if you spend $500 within 90 days of opening an account, you’ll get $150 back.
  • And, there’s no annual fee!

2. The Citi® Double Cash Card:

  • Gives you a total of 2% cash back (1% at the time of purchase and 1% when you pay your credit card bill).
  • This is a really good cash back percentage and it means that if you spent, for example, $2,000 on this card in a month, you’d get $40 back, just for using the card! Not bad.
  • I also like this card because there are no categories for purchases–anything you buy with the card is eligible for the 2% cash back, which makes is super simple to use.

3. The Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi:

  • If you already have a Costco membership, this card is a pretty good deal.
  • You get 4% cash back on eligible gas for the first $7,000 per year and then 1% thereafter.
  • You also get 3% cash back on restaurants and eligible travel purchases and 2% cash back on all other purchases from Costco and
  • And finally, 1% cash back on all other purchases.
  • This is a lot of categories to keep track of, but, those are some really high cash back percentages, so might be worth it if you’re a Costco member (side note: this makes me miss our Costco!!!!).
  • There’s no annual fee if you’re a Costco member.
Tiniest berry picker

If you’re more interested in travel rewards, a lot of people love the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

The best way to find a credit card that’ll work for you is to search for it yourself; I have a guide to help you do just that: The Best Credit Cards (and Credit Card Rewards)!

Huge caveat to credit card usage: you MUST pay your credit card bills in full every single month, with no exceptions. If you’re concerned about your ability to do this, or think using credit cards might prompt you to spend more, then stick with a debit card or cash. But if you have no problem paying that bill in full every month? I recommend you credit card away, my friend! (note: the credit card links are affiliate links).

Cash Back Earned This Month: $26.96

The silver lining to our spending is our cash back credit card. We earn 2% cash back on every purchase made with our Fidelity Rewards Visa and this month, we spent $1,347.97 on that card, which netted us $26.96

Not a lot of money, perhaps, but it’s money we earned for buying stuff we were going to buy anyway! This is why I love cash back credit card rewards–they’re the simplest way to earn something for nothing.

Personal Capital: How We Organize Our Expen$e$

Mr. Frugalwoods and I use a free, online service called Personal Capital to keep track of our money.

The Big Garden in July, fenced for its own protection

Tracking expenses is one of the best–and easiest–ways to get a handle on your finances. You absolutely, positively cannot make informed decisions about your money if you don’t know how you’re spending it. If you’d like to know more about how Personal Capital works, check out my full write-up.

Without a holistic picture of how much you spend every month, there’s no way to set savings, debt repayment, or investment goals. It’s a must, folks. No excuses. Personal Capital (which is free to use) is a great way for us to systematize our financial overviews since it links all of our accounts together and provides a comprehensive picture of our net worth.

If you’re not tracking your expenses in an organized fashion, you might consider trying Personal CapitalHere’s a more detailed explanation of how I use Personal Capital (note: these Personal Capital links are affiliate links). 

Yes, We Only Paid $22.57 for Cell Phone Service (for two phones)

Our cell phone service line item is not a typ0 (although that certainly is). We really and truly only paid $22.57 for both of our phones (that’s $11.28 per person for those of you into division). How is such trickery possible?!? We use the MVNO Ting (affiliate link). What’s an MVNO? Glad you asked because I was going to tell you anyway: It’s a cell phone service re-seller.

MVNOs are basically the TJ Maxx of the cell phone service world–it’s the same service, but A LOT cheaper. If you’re not already using an MVNO, switching to one is easy, slam-dunk, do-it-right-away to save money every single month of every single year forever and ever amen. More here: My Frugal Cell Phone Service Trick: How I Pay $10.65 A Month*

*the amount we pay fluctuates every month because it’s calibrated on what we use. Imagine that! We only pay for what we use! Will wonders ever cease.

Where’s Your Money?

A rare indoor moment in July

One of the easiest ways to optimize your money is to use a high-interest savings account. A high-interest savings account gives you money for nothing. With these accounts, interest works in YOUR favor (as opposed to the interest rates on debt, which work against you). Having money in a no (or low) interest savings account is a waste of resources–your money is just sitting there doing nothing. Don’t let your money be lazy! Make it work for you! And now, enjoy some explanatory math:

Let’s say you have $5,000 in a savings account that earns 0% interest. In a year’s time, your $5,000 will still be… $5,000.

Let’s say you instead put that $5,000 into an American Express Personal Savings account that–as of this writing–earns 1.00% in interest. In one year, your $5,000 will have increased to $5,050. That means you earned $50 just by having your money in a high-interest account.

And you didn’t have to do anything! I’m a big fan of earning money while doing nothing. I mean, is anybody not a fan of that? Apparently so, because anyone who uses a low (or no) interest savings account is NOT making money while doing nothing. Don’t be that person.

Be the person who earns money while sleeping. More about high-interest savings accounts, as well as the ones I recommend, here: The Best High Interest Rate Online Savings Accounts.

Expense Report FAQs

  • Want to know how we manage the rest of our money? Check out How We Manage Our Money: Behind The Scenes of The Frugalwoods Family Accounts. We also own a rental property in Cambridge, MA, which I discuss here.
  • Why do I share our expenses? To give you a sense of how we spend our money in a values-based manner. Your spending will differ from ours and there’s no “one right way” to spend and no “perfect” budget.
  • Are we the most frugal frugal people on earth? Absolutely not. My hope is that by being transparent about our spending, you might gain insights into your own spending and be inspired to take proactive control of your money.
  • Wondering where to start with managing your money? Take my free, 31-day Uber Frugal Month Challenge. If you’re interested in other things I love, check out Frugalwoods Recommends.

But Mrs. Frugalwoods, Don’t You Pay For X, Y, Or Even Z????

raised beds: looking raised in July

Wondering about common expenses you don’t see listed below?

If you’re wondering about anything else, feel free to ask in the comments section!

Alright you frugal money voyeurs, feast your eyes on every dollar we spent in July:

Item Amount Notes
VT Mortgage $1,392.86
Groceries $334.33 We’ve continued our pandemic routine of having Mr. FW go to the grocery store roughly once every six weeks or so. This seems to be working well for us, mostly because we have ample fresh veggies from our garden right now.
Wood chips (9 yards) $300 9 yards of wood chips (delivered by dump truck) for the completion of our two newest garden areas: the raised beds and the pumpkin/cherry tree zones. Read all the details here.
Household, craft, and kid supplies $298.66 See above notes…
30 lbs of local beef $220 30lbs of organic, pasture-raised, grass-fed beef from our neighbor the cow farmer (they live so close we can hear the cows moo!). Beef doesn’t get any better than this.
Car insurance for both vehicles (for six months) $212.67 Six months of car insurance through Geico for our 2010 Toyota Prius and 2010 Toyota Tundra. This is low because:

  • We shopped around
  • We’re both accident and ticket-free
  • We live in a rural area and don’t have daily commutes
  • Most importantly: we don’t carry comprehensive insurance because we could easily replace both of our cars (in full with cash) if we needed to.
  • We carry the maximum in liability coverage because we feel that, with healthcare costs as they are, the risk of a large liability claim is one we don’t want to self-insure against.

More about our approach here.

Pandemic priorities $124.77 Wine, liquor, and a flat of tonic water (listen, buying in bulk works for many things).
Two winter work shirts $89.98 Two of these shirts for Mr. Frugalwoods (affiliate link).
Necessities $81.30 Beer, marshmallows, and graham crackers (listen, we’re getting a lot of use out of our fire pit… )
Internet $72 Love our fiber internet!
Books for Mrs. FW $63.79 Oh the books! I remain obsessed with this series and required an influx of more books. Don’t start with me–I borrowed some from a friend and can’t find the others at the library and I need me some mindless historical fiction!!! Also, it’s a series and so I cant stop reading…(affiliate link).
Replacement parts for the wood splitter $62.52 Hydraulic oil, filter, and other parts for the wood splitter
Mandatory purchase $59.45 Local craft beer
Mrs. FW’s new BFF $52.99 Large Foam Roller (affiliate link).
Gasoline for cars $44.50
Gifts $41.77 Birthday gifts for family members. Everyone in my family (except for me!) was born in the summer.
Replacement gas tank for trimmer $29.21
Cell phone service for two phones $22.57 This is so cheap because we use an MVNO called Ting (affiliate link). MVNOs resell wireless service at discounted rates (but it’s the same service).

MVNOs are basically the TJ Maxx of cell phone service. If you’re not using an MVNOcheck out this post to see if you can make the switch. The savings are tremendous.

Utilities: Electricity $18.89 We have solar (which I detail here); this is our monthly base price for remaining grid tied.
Local flour $10.50 There’s a local flour mill that grinds wheat, so we’re trying out this hyper local flour for all our baking endeavors.
Prescription medication co-pay $10 Finally figured out how to have our prescriptions delivered…
Local eggs $4 Eggs from our neighbor (or, more specifically, from their chickens)
Total: $3,546.76
Minus Mortgage: $2,153.90

How was your July?

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  1. You should try Blueland for your cleaning products. Instead of selling cleaning supplies in liquid form, they sell tablets that you drop into a spray bottle full of water. The tablet dissolves and voila! Cleaning product is made. Each refill is $2 or less, depending on how many you buy, which makes it a highly competitive price (at least in my neck of the woods). The products are also non-toxic and you drastically reduce your plastic consumption because you only ever buy the refill tabs rather than brand new plastic bottles. They work well too! The company also has dish soap, hand soap, and laundry detergent, but I’ve never used those.

    1. I just ordered the cleaning set, and am anxiously awaiting them to come in so I can see how they work. I also got a pack of these reusable cloths to replace our paper towels after reading an Apartment Therapy review… hoping to continue to reduce my reliance on disposables and plastics 🙂

      (non-affiliate link)

      1. Oh! I have a couple white ones I paid a fortune for at a local store. Never knew there was a colorful 10 pack. They work well, although I can’t claim to have dumped paper towels entirely.

    2. I second the Blueland recommendation. I have been using their products for a while now and am very happy with them. As a matter of fact I am getting my first delivery of their new Laundry tablets today.

    3. We are big fans of Blueland and like their new powered dish soap too! I’ve also gotten into shampoo and conditioner bars recently, though still looking for a cheap way to source those (my favorite ones are like $15 a bar and the bars only last a few months tops).

      1. Vinegar is my #1 go-to cleaning product! I mix it with water to clean mirrors and glass, and with Dawn dish liquid as a good general, all-purpose cleaner for kitchen counters, bathrooms, shower/soap scum, etc. It is also a great deodorizer and fabric softener when used for laundry.

  2. You might have covered this in a previous post, but does Mr. Frugalwoods mow your lawn himself? Assuming he does! Was just boggling my mind with how much time that must take him, looking at this month’s beautiful landscape photos.

    1. He does mow it himself and it’s a pretty major job! We have a push behind mower, so he gets a really good workout in the process.

      1. How much does he have to mow? Assuming it is a lot. We have 27 acres, mostly wooded, but my husband keeps about 4 acres mowed. We did have a zero-turn mower but it died abut a month ago so now he uses the tractor. I’m impressed that Mr. Frugalwoods uses a push mower…..

        1. He only mows about 2 acres worth with the push mower. Everything else is either brush-hogged with the tractor or just left to woods :). What attachment does your husband use with the tractor?

          1. We have a Kubota tractor with a mowing deck and front end loader. I haven’t tried driving it yet, though I did take the zero-turn out for a spin a time or two!

  3. I have never been able to get into ebooks after looking at a computer screen all day but I have been embracing audiobooks in the pandemic. See if your library offers Overdrive and you likely can find books that the library doesn’t carry hard copies of. My favorite part is not having to pick them up from the library or return them. Listening to audiobooks is great for when you are doing some other mundane task you wish you were done with already.

  4. Looks like you guys are keeping the expenses pretty low despite the lack of generics! 😉

    Glad to hear that the name brands, as expected, weren’t something you could differentiate from the generics. We’ve had the same experience except in very rare circumstances. While we haven’t tested washable markers, it is noticeable in a few staples like beans. For whatever reason, our store brand (Kroger) beans just don’t meet the standards of the name brand. Especially with black beans, which come out as rather brown and less snappy with the generic. But, for just about everything else… we’ve had no issues with the generic version. And they’re a lot cheaper except in cases of special sales, promos, Ibotta rebate stacking, etc.

    To your point, it’s probably worth ordering as much as possible online to avoid the number of exposure/touchpoints you have. Though, I see you all are doing well in the northeast with COVID case counts these days. Stay safe, stay healthy. Thanks for sharing, as always.

  5. I absolutely love the pictures of your girls getting dirty in the gardens/woods, wearing what they want and with smiles on their faces. It reminds me of simpler times when my Mom used to send us out in the front yard to “paint” the sidewalk with a can of water and a paintbrush. The sun would evaporate our “paint” and we would have to do it again. Your girls will have developed their creative and curiosity muscles for sure. While lots of hard work, I hope you all continue to enjoy your small piece of heaven!

  6. Okay, so I’ve had back pain foreeever and had thought I’d tried it all–PT, chiropractor, MRI, medication, massage…but you know, I’ve never tried a foam roller! I’ve never even thought to try it! So it sounds like you went to a physical therapist, who gave you the exercises to do with it? This really might be worth my checking it out!

    I don’t know what it is about these pictures, but your girls are looking so grown up all of a sudden!

    1. Most of us have a love-hate relationship with our foam rollers. But they WORK! I’m a runner, cyclist, etc and am constantly rolling out my hip/butt/leg area and it’s a palpable difference between when I use vs not. Get ya one!

    2. Also check out something called Alexander Technique! It’s a way for you to relieve pain yourself by learning to do “nothing”. It’s kind of like the physical version of meditation. A lot of our chronic pain comes from an involuntary clenching of muscles and habits in the way we move or hold our bodies. I had back pain for decades and this was finally the thing that helped me get rid of it and other pains (including pelvic pain after childbirth and arm/hand pain from constant computer use). It’s really amazing! It takes a good teacher initially, but then you can do it at home by yourself.

  7. I read Lady of the Rivers a couple weeks ago and Kingmaker’s Daughter earlier in the pandemic to finish out the series. I loved them as well! Learning a little something about history while being entertained is a pretty perfect summer/quarantine pastime in my world.

    I recommend the BBC’s White Queen mini-series if you haven’t already seen it. It combines three of the books.

  8. I’ve never had good luck with generic laundry soap. The best cheap alternatives I’ve found are Arm & Hammer and Purex. Your mileage may vary.

  9. Large Foam Roller is also a staple in our house. The kids like to use it as an incredibly unsturdy stool, a megaphone, and a tunnel for driving cars though. Because we spend so much time at home now, the kids have managed to get into every room, closet and cabinet. I have given up on hiding it away and now leave Large Foam Roller in the family room.

      1. My foam roller is so necessary to decreasing my sciatica (especially while flying/long car trips) that I cut mine in half and I bring it with me. Ps. I can’t wait to ready your blog. I drop what I am doing and enjoy it quickly.

    1. Wow that is high. I live in Ontario and pay $800 a year for a 2020 Rav 4. Check out group insurance because of where you work, where you went to college etc. Mine is because I worked for a hospital.

      1. Elizabeth, may I ask what insurance company your hospital uses? I’m also from Ontario, but pay a lot more for my RAV, and I have a perfect driving record. Thx

    2. Me, too! Super jealous. I pay $183 a month for a policy for me, my husband, and our teenage son. We have four vehicles, all older ( the newest is a 2012). And this is even with some discounts, including the “Good Student” discount. I think car insurance tends to cost more in Ky., though, because apparently we are a very accident-prone bunch. Sigh…..

  10. Bwahaha! Mandatory Purchase= Local Craft Beer. I LOVE it! Thanks for a great laugh and, as always, for your authentic worldview and embracing who and what you (and your kids) really are in this crazy world! I get so much joy from reading your articles.

    1. We are mostly lactose intolerant, so we don’t buy milk! My older daughter is especially allergic and our pediatrician said that we get enough calcium from other sources. So, we’re milk free.

    2. Yes, I wondered too. Milk is the reason I go every two weeks (I make yoghurt with all the milk, so can keep two weeks).

      1. One option is that you can freeze milk–that’s what my mom used to do. As I recall, it defrosts just fine. There’s also powdered milk, which is what I use for the occasional recipe that calls for milk.

        1. It never fails to surprise me how many people do not know and are very sceptical of the notion that you can freeze milk! I realise your family uses very little, but we use loads and buy as much as we have storage for at a time / when it’s cheap and defrost as needed. Bread, same thing.

          People are often completely astonished when I tell them this.

          1. Haha, yeah, I freeze pretty much everything! I should do a “Can You Believe You Can Freeze This?” post 😉

          2. Would love to see a did you know you can freeze this post! I learned the hard way frittata is not one of them though! It was the first time I was living alone and I got sick of eating after three meals so froze the rest tried to defrost and and for dinner weeks later and it was an emergency freezer pizza dinner after that!

        2. Yay for freezing milk! We do it all the time. As a matter of fact, I have a gallon thawing out in the fridge right now….

  11. Have you tried the St Mary’s series by Jodi Taylor? They’re set in an alternative world and they “investigate historical incidences in contemporary time – just don’t call it time travel”. Jodi does huge amounts of research and they’re great fun as well as informative. You do need to start with the first one “Just One Damned Thing After Another”.
    Just don’t blame me for your addiction….

  12. Wait did Walmart switch away from their store brands and go generic?? I thought their stuff is Great Value, Marketside, etc. I haven’t shopped there in years though- good for them. Great Value name and branding always seems outdated to me anyway.

  13. If they’re in your neck of the woods, I’ve had a lot of success getting stuff at Play it Again sports. Snowboards, pull-up bars, weights, fútbol socks… the list goes on (I’ve seen many a foam roller too!) My latest obsession is workout clothes – at mine it’s flat pricing, so no matter how fancy the brand it’s $5-10 a piece. Great way to stock up for yourself & the kiddos too.

  14. I used to work at a place that made plastic sandwich bags. The machines ran non-stop 24/7. The bags just kept coming no matter what. When we switched orders from Walmart brand to name brand all that changed was the carton. The bags are exactly the same thing.

    1. I know! I assisted in buying for a major grocery chain. I would 1 railcar of name brand dressing and 3 railcars of generic dressing. The product was all from the same manufacturer, just different bottles.

  15. I have to say, the one thing I’ve never found an acceptable generic version of is toilet paper. Kroger double ply is just two layers that come apart as soon as you start the roll. The only thing I always buy brand name.

  16. I place an online order at our Walmart here in NC and they will do no contact curbside pick-up. Open your trunk and they put the bags inside! Maybe that’s not available everywhere though? If something is not in stock they will either replace or you can choose to delete the item. I love this service even in non pandemic times!

  17. To be picky with language (which I think you’ll take in good part!), I think you’re worried about self funding for liability rather than self insuring (I have this pointed out to me at work 🙂).

    Not sure if you can watch them in the US but you might like the history programmes by Lucy Worsley. She’s chief curator at Historic Royal Palaces, which includes Hampton Court, and she makes fun programmes to get people into history.

    1. Anything Lucy Worsley is presenting is fantastic! I’ve been following her for years. She makes history come alive.

  18. I can’t believe you aren’t making your own tonic water with your seltzer machine! That’s what I mainly use mine for, no bottles to return and I never run out!

  19. I meant to add that your children are adorable and I love reading your posts and seeing their sweet faces 🙂
    and their seems to be quite a few generic choices available for curbside pick up at my walmart but maybe not so much for food? I use Walmart mostly for household items.

  20. I’m curious about that series. Thanks for the recommendation! No judgment for that splurge. You gotta do what you gotta do. I picked up copies of The Diary of Anne Frank for my niece and me at Barnes & Noble because I can’t go to the library yet. Plus, she’s unwilling to read e-books (odd for a kid who’s usually connected to her phone). But I usually feel like books are worth the investment. Happy reading!

  21. Now I’m wondering whether a foam roller would be a good purchase! seems expensive. Meanwhile, perhaps make some hobby horses with old broomsticks or something for girls? I love how dirty they get

  22. Thank you for sharing the books!
    Have you read the Mantlemass series by Barbara Willard yet? I read them at 14 (they are ‘officially’ children’s books) and I still like re reading them now. They offer a lot for adults too, in my modest opinion. I also loved Monica Furlong’s ‘a year and a day’ and ‘wisechild’. Thankfully I have children, so I ‘was obliged’ to collect all my favourite books over the last couple of years 😉

  23. I love, love how dirty your girls are!! That used to be my sister and I growing up even though we were in the suburbs. My dad used to look behind our ears and jokingly say that we could grown five rows of corn back there and to take a bath! Ah memories!

  24. It’s totally worth not buying off brand kids art supplies. They work better ( less frustrated kids) and last longer. Stock up now when they are on sale for back to school.

  25. I am 74 and remember well that generic markers don’t do the trick. Funny…to read about that now.
    Enjoy your blog very much!

  26. Thanks for the reminder to pull my foam roller out of the closet (where since it’s hidden away from my toddler, I’ve forgotten about it)! I have been experiencing lots of shoulder and neck pain (likely from carrying the toddler) and have been scheduling monthly massages, but this should be a much quicker and free way to accomplish the same.

    I’m also not sure if you’ve heard of bookbub – you can subscribe to daily emails for books you like, and they alert you to deals. I tend to scan the emails daily for free books and download them for later.

  27. Would you be willing to share your PT moves or what you do with the foam roller that helps your siatica? I’ve had no luck finding “do at home” things to help. Much love to the Fridays frugalwoods pack!

  28. No MA mortgage this month?! 🔎 busy toddler and tinkergarten have tons of free kid fun available right now!

  29. I used to be like you in regards to laundry detergent, but I have noticed that either Tide or Persil does a lot better job than store brand generics at getting out stains in clothing. I can go without pretreating stains with that stuff, while I would be disappointed with grease stains staying in my clothes after using Costco’s or Aldi’s generic laundry detergent (we also hand dry clothes to ensure stains don’t get set-in) And as a larger woman, I can’t depend on thrift store clothing to be super accessible/affordable so I gotta keep what I have looking decent. From my understanding, there is actually unique enzymes and chemistry at play in brand name detergent that are not always replicated in some store-bought brands of laundry soap. Since laundry is often done by a spouse who just throws everything in without checking for stains first, we had to stick with the Persil (my preference now). But we wait to buy on sale at BJ’s when it’s on coupon. Also, we don’t use a lot of detergent (we have a front loader). Just to the 1-2 on the cups (depending on dirt level/load-size) so the detergent does last.

    Also, I have noticed for dishwasher detergent, that some generic brands lead our detergent door to “stick” so it doesn’t open when it’s supposed to in the cycle. Something about the larger granularity in the cheaper dishwasher detergent that causes the sticking. (we have a Bosch, so I don’t know if they’re more prone to this issue).

    But for most things, I’m definitely in the generic bandwagon. I love how Lidl even sells generic candies, like generic mini snickers, twix bars, and reese’s cups in individual wrappers so less likely to go crazy. These are cheap enough I buy for our office (I’m essential, so still working in-person) and I can do so affordably with this stuff. And as others have said, generic TP at Aldi or Lidl is nearly the same quality as the brand-name counterpart (although this pandemic has made me partial to Viva papertowels which I would buy a generic equivalent if there was one that had same texture/strength). and I SWORE by either Costco or Aldi baby formula and it was a HUGE cost saver when I needed to switch to formula for my son.

    Regarding cheap supplies, have you looked at Quill? can you order them yourself online? they have a GREAT generic brand and at my last job, when we ordered all our supplies from them, I was a fanatic for Quill’s generic. The only thing I learned sucked was their sticky pads (definitely not as good at sticking as real post-its). I think consumers can order from them so it might be worth a try. (they’re owned by Staples now I think).

  30. Also, you will have to bite the bullet and get Starz if even for a 7 day trial and watch White Queen/White Princess/Spanish Princess. White Princess was my favorite. Probably watched it 3x. All from Philipa Greogory books! Outlander definitely is well worth it too!

  31. All Diana Gabaldon fans, check out Sara Donati’s Endless Forest series!
    I feel these two writers need to write a lot more books! Love that both of them consistently have strong female characters who are very relatable.

  32. I love, love, love the photos of your girls in the woods. They look so carefree and happy- the perfect remedy for what’s going on in the world. I love how you buy as much locally as possible. It’s something we need to keep working on.

  33. My 68-year-old husband stills splits ALL of our wood by hand! I have suggested several times that perhaps a splitter would make life easier, but he insists that the hand splitting is fine. He pretty much ends up working on wood all year round, though. But it’s his hobby!

    Anyhow, I would suggest that if someone can’t afford a splitter, and is in good health, it is possible to survive without one. But of course, to do that, one must own a good mail and wedges.

  34. Sounds dreamy to have a local flour mill, farmers and fresh eggs! I’m sorry about everything else name brand being so pricey:/ I have tried to switch from Tide and thought I was getting away with it. My husband has sensitive skin and works in the heat of Texas all day. His skin broke out because I was using a generic. I said, “ but i am not even using the “sensitive” Tide.” For some odd reason his skin can take the original Tide and but not generic. He did okay on homemade but our clothes became worn faster. Idk so I’ve quit playing cheap when it comes to his mystery skin and just pay the price (On sale of course). I’ve learned to use the cheapest stuff on kitchen towels and rags. Maybe when I’m out of arm and hammer I will switch to homemade Detergent for the kitchen and rags.
    I really enjoy reading about your life in Vermont and find your toddler humor to be quite hilarious. I know some days you might not but from your writing it does seem you would be the heroine in the book that laughs when things get crazy! Ya know the one in kids books when they believe they will be in trouble but the Mom or headmistress will laugh into hysterics? Her. Haha Hope you have an amazing August! Cheers from TX!

  35. We absolutely love our tide laundry detergent. Makes our clothes smell good and gets them clean. I buy the large jugs on dollars off offers at sams club. I used cheaper gain or other cheap stuff in towels and dish towels. I, too, loved outlander. Cannot wait for next season of it. I wait with baited breath for each episode. I have to be well rested with my glass of wine and we put the tv on the hearing impaired so I get to hear and read what is spoken as those Highlander’s thick brogue is difficult to understand. I, too, love the Victorian type romances with the dukes and earls, etc. Glad I did not live then as women were used like pawns and her money automatically became her husband’s money but I do love reading those kindle books. Pride and prejudice and also sense and sensibility are two older movies that are similar and really good. I have watched them both several times. Love your pictures of home, kids and gardens. Thanks

  36. Your mandatory expenses of wine, beer and marshmallows are spot on! I’d say that “pandemic-related critical expenses” were an underlying theme for us, as well!

    When you’re done with your book series, “My Dear Hamilton,” about Eliza Hamilton is pretty great too!

  37. I’m not sure where you’re ordering your household supplies from, but I use Amazon. They carry all of the store brands and also have their own brand.

  38. Your posts are truly a labor of love! I’ve been enjoying them for years now and I love seeing the pics of your “littles” growing up. Thank you so much for sharing. Stay safe and may all be well with you and yours!

  39. Another option for household basics is Their online prices are the same as their in store prices and many of the store brands are available for shipping. Plus, if you have their Red Card you save an extra 5%.

  40. Splitters! I was enamoured at first site when I watched ours take a wood round and go thru it like butter!
    Ours also stopped working this spring and our problem was the hydraulic fluid. It still isn’t working because of my husband’s cancer and chemo, (he’s pooped a good deal of the time) but we are starting to get nervous because as you said it’s wood harvesting time! He has Windows of time Where He feels almost normal and the splitter repair is on the to do list.

    Also, I noticed that you don’t grow a lot of root vegetables. Is not a ground temperature thing? Carrots, beets, potatoes, onions, etc store for long periods of time. I was just curious

  41. You have to buy those books. Once you start, those are the rules. (Clearly, I am a fan and have reread them, they are so good!) I do it all on the Kindle, so it’s a bit cheaper.

    Just found your site recently from a reader/commenter on The two of you are a balm for my soul during these trying times.

    Planning to put many techniques into plan in 2 weeks, when our only child returns to college and it’s just the two of us.

    Your children are just beautiful.

  42. Team Generic! FYI try generic tortilla chips (when regular buying resumes). We had a party in January a friend brought some store brand tortilla chips and then we didn’t even open the bag. A little while later my family used them with dinner and I had this epiphany, Why was I buying a brand name on this! I guess I never even really thought to search out the generic of this beloved snack item. Now we have a fully stock chip selection. Bring on the salsa.

  43. Since our closest grocery store closed permanently last year, we have been venturing to shop at the other 4 grocery stores nearby. Grocery Outlet Bargain Market (or “Gross Out” as my adult kids affectionately call it) has great deals on wine. Most of their white and rose wines are priced at $4-6 per bottle. I use the Vivino app to look up each wine while I am at the store. Be a bit more careful on the red wines, but we have found some great reds for $9-10 per bottle. It would not surprise me if some of these wines are re-labeled wines from major wineries, to get rid of inventory in an incognito fashion. Others are simply discounted wines that sell for $15-20+ at other stores. It’s crazy! There are no stores in Vermont—sorry—but you can check the Store Locator on their website.

    1. I feel like you must live near my boyfriend. I’m currently at his place in SE Portland (I live in Beaverton) and was your closest store the Fred Meyer that closed last year? And now you go to G.O. on 72nd? I know this could have happened elsewhere in Portland, but it seems likely you live near the area I’m currently in. The wine sale is AMAZING and you never know what awesome stuff you’re going to find at Grocery Outlet. I work at a hoity-toity grocery store (New Seasons) and it’s just amazing the difference in price between the two…

      1. I live in the Garden Home area of SW Portland, and our Lamb’s Thriftway closed recently! So……there is a Grocery Outlet on SW Hall near Washington Square Mall. I love New Seasons, but my bank account does not! Fred Meyer is a really nice compromise.

  44. When reading the Tightwad Gazette years ago, I read this comment — sometimes store brands might taste different from the name brand, but if your family never eats the name brand, they’ll think the store brand is the normal taste. As exhibit A, I always bought the store brand mac and cheese when my kids were young. They loved it. When they tried that famous “blue box” mac and cheese at someone else’s house, they didn’t care much for it, because the store brand was their normal. Not every store brand item is going to be a great substitute, as pointed out, but many times, it isn’t that the name brand is better, it’s just that the name brand is considered the norm, so all else is considered just not as good. Although markers with non-interchangeable caps is not only not as good, it’s insane. Who dreamed that up?

    We have curbside pickup here in our little town’s Walmart, but the store was clearly not prepared for the increase in curbside business, and never has really got the hang of it. I had to wait an hour and forty-five minutes at the store’s parking lot, after having gotten an email at my house saying my order was ready. That 1.75 hours doesn’t even include my drive time to the store after getting the email. That’s when I gave up on curbside pick up.

    It’s wonderful that you are getting so much from your garden. The kids are obviously having fun in the dirt. Life will be even better if you can get the splitter working! Good luck!

  45. Always interesting to read other peoples expenses. After having our adult kids visiting last month-and buying more specialty food (they like to cook), we are back in frugal eating mode now. We eat to survive. Husband is gearing up for distance teaching (high school math). I’m pretty busy sewing special order Happy Birthday buntings. They are fun to make.
    I just set a price alert for a paint sprayer. We are painting the exterior of our house. Roller and brushes are ok for the walls, but the under the eaves takes forever!

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