Here are a few belt-tightening culinary tips from the new book The Cheapskate Next Door by Jeff Yeager:

-Order only tap water with your meal when you go out to eat. Beverages are typically marked up 300 to 600 percent. Ordering water only will save you about $800 a year.

-Put box-wine into premium label bottles and no one will know the difference. Check AccidentalWine.com for for up to a 40% discount on premium bottles with cosmetic packaging imperfections.

-If you use a crock-pot once a week for eight hours, it will only use 30 cents of electricity a month, making cheap, tough cuts of meat fork-tender.

-Choose to host brunch, giving everyone their own quart-size ziplock bag and a serving tray of tasteful omelet ingredients.  Add a couple of eggs and boil all for fourteen minutes for perfect custom omelets, saving you $100 over a sit down dinner.

CouponMom.com proposes “cutting your grocery bill in half” with downloadable coupons and a state-by-state grocery coupon database. Owner Stephanie Nelson estimates her regular site users save $2,000 per year.

One man’s junk…can still be that dude’s junk.  But oh, it can be repurposed into something functional and amazing!

-As of June 2008, there have been more than 1 billion personal computers distributed worldwide.
-The average American goes through a cell phone every 12 to 18 months, leaving 700 million sitting in desk drawers for a rainy day.

Those are just the appliances you’ve used recently.  How about your rotary phone, external modem, parallel port scanner, etc?

Enter the new book 62 Projects to Make with a Dead Computer (and Other Discarded Electronics) by Randy Sarafan and you can construct an iMac terrarium, RAM money clip,  and a scanner compost bin among many useful inventions.  I mean, what else were you planning to do with that stuff?

Library patrons don’t often get a chance to see how the dollars and quarters accrue in their favor.  Spend a couple minutes plunking in values on this Library Value Calculator assembled by several libraries across the country to get an accurate representation of the kind of value you as a consumer have reaped.

For example, if you have used the library to answer two reference questions, borrow two books, check out two movies, and use the internet for two hours, count yourself a savvy spender friend.  You’ve just saved 114 dollars.  Before you call these figures inflated and self-serving, go to a doctor, lawyer or body shop and see how quickly their services tally up.

Being a library cardholder is not just good citizenship, it is smart money.

frugallibrarianThe constant struggle to find the best deals keeps the Frugal Librarian indoors, as does a general disdain of people.   The perfect solution…online shopping.  Woot has focused on single deals for some time. Launched just a couple days ago, however, is a companion site, deals.woot.com.  If you want a product in general, such as an iPod Nano, type it in and count on the fact the returns are input by the thousands of ravenous altruistic online dealhounds out there as opposed to a computerized best guess.  They’re kind of like cataloging librarians solely focused on the categorization and classification of retail savings.  And if you take it for a spin, you’ll see they are really good at it.

Focus on deals.woot.com as a pretty good site to fill out your list.  You’ll get the cream of the crop from all the online deal sites in one condensed, easy to use, accurate package.  You’ll beat your fellow shopper using competitive intelligence, and the mailman will like the business from delivering your packages.  And you don’t even have to brush your teeth or put on shoes.

frugallibrarianThis is not a health blog.  Check here for the endless amounts of oatmeal benefits.

It’s funny how I used to view A.M. food as competition for coffee space.  Now I wouldn’t know what to do without a trough of it on the passenger side floormat.

Steel cut oats have a whole slew of advantages, the most important of which, they taste absolutely nothing like the stuff that comes in the cardboard tube with the old man on it. They’re actually…awesome.

Here’s the frugal part.  If you’re willing to pay what everyone else forks over, the lowest you’ll find in town is $3.20 a pound for a 24 oz. bag of Bob’s Red Mill.  This is America, and middle America at that.  We should be able to buy it by slow-moving-vehicle.  After much Internet scouring,  I feel foolish to admit the final stop was the QC’s own Greatest Grains store.  For maximum chagrin, say the business name slower.

If you’re willing to buy them in silo-sized amounts, they knock the already attractive $1.49 down to $1.19 per pound.  Use that savings to find yourself some big tupperware containers.  With 25 pounds of “organic” horse feed in your closet, you’ll need it.

2207162644_bf88558cb2Those two cups nobody wanted from this morning have lost their aroma and flavor as a straight beverage. They’re not good for anything except tomorrow’s 6AM supercharge, with the characteristic post-slurp wince.

This neat tip from the May 2009 Consumer Reports’ Shop Smart magazine: “Coffee is a great flavoring, says chef Steve Petusevsky, of Roundy’s Supermarkets.”

-Freeze leftovers in ice-cube trays and add to iced coffee. This trick keeps your iced coffee from getting watery as the cubes melt.

-Substitute coffee for the water in brownie or chocolate cake mixes. It imbues a richer flavor.

-Replace part of the liquid in stews or barbecue sauce with strong coffee. Again, the coffee adds to the flavor, and you can save your wine for drinking!

-Substitute coffee for water in your favorite baked-beans recipe or add a litle when heating canned baked beans.

-Use coffee as a meat marinade. it imparts a subtle flavor, its acidity helps break down tougher cuts of beef or pork, and it adds a nice earthy flavor to poultry.

frugallibrarianOn a non-librarian note, why do children’s book romanticize the innocence of the ilde days of youth spent blowing apart the tops of dandelions? They don’t need any help!  These sinister cold-blooded pests are designed in a sadistic laboratory as the most pure mechanism of mass-dispersal and reproduction since Captain Kirk played a Barry White record for the Tribbles.   Let us all hope a James Bond supervillain does not harness any of the design specs of the dandelion for biowarfare.

That being said, we have weapons to combat the “yellow menace.” Rather than put 12 bucks on my Menards card again, next time I’ll tap into a very pervasive organic weedkiller recipe I’ve discovered on the Internet.  Vinegar, sometimes salt, and a little bit of dishsoap seem to be the common elements…that comes to about three dollars by my estimation.  Just don’t get it on any plants you care about.

frugallibrarianWhile the Frugal Librarian, or as we affectionately call him, “Froogs”, is psyched about the release of Window’s Vista’s successor, Windows 7, later this year, there is a very good and super-affordable alternative called Ubuntu to tide you over.  You may have heard words like “open-source” and “Linux” get tossed about by your bespectacled acquaintances.  The benevolent nerds of the world in the spirit of competition put together very sophisticated quality pieces of software that benefit you for absolutely no cost.  Sometimes they rival packages that cost hundreds.  Though the 2010 census may prove me wrong, there are more Homo Sapien Nerdicuses in the world than there are Microsoft employees.   Ubuntu is such an innovation.

Ubuntu is an operating system that you can install on your computer instead of a release of Windows.  ESPECIALLY Windows Vista.  You’ll find it outperforms its competitors, is user friendly, and most hacker attacks are pretty much jokes, since they’re designed to affect everyone except you.  There are dozens of such Linux operating systems, but Ubuntu is considered the easiest to adopt.

If you’ve got a computer lying around, install it on there just for kicks.  If you use the internet, check email, and print like the vast majority of people, you are going to be fine, save a hundred bucks, and not wrestle with license keys.

We’ve got several books at the library on how to navigate this transition.  They’re circulating more than they used to.  If you can’t download the install disc, some of these books at the library have an install CD in the back flap.  Ideally you’ll want to download this week’s latest release of Version 9.04 “Jaunty Jackalope” to compare notes at the water cooler with your newfound friends.  If you do, don’t be surprised if you’re invited to join their Warcraft guild.

dollardayYou say you want to make your money go further, but how much conviction do you have to go through with it?  Doubtfully not as much as these people.

In case you hadn’t heard, these two dietary extremists decided a few months ago to get by for thirty days on $1 worth of food per day. They used the power of bulk buying and have the math and recipes to prove it. The fellow lost a bunch of weight, they were weak and tired all the time, and they had to blow what little surplus they had on Tang to avoid scurvy.

All of this to illuminate the fact millions of people subsist on this food budget around the world.

There are some ingredient ideas, however, that you could work into your own routine to relax your waistline and wallet.

For their hardship the two are semi-famous world travelers and have a book deal in the works.  A nice trade off don’t you think?

frugallibrarianWhat’s more frugal than economy of thought?

Think of the minutes I’m now able to idle away with mundane mental patter and take credit for someone else’s idea. Kidding.

I believe I originally saw it in the Argus, and numerous other online sources…10 uses for coffee filters.  Great ideas are great ideas, and I’d be remiss to not pass this one along.

I remember waiting in the return aisle of a certain globe-punishing international conglomerate forever just to return a sub-$2 pack of filters because they were the wrong size.   Never again.  Contain the explosion from microwaved hotdogs and wash it down with wine from which you’ve strained the cork bits=two filters down.

You’re welcome.