Sometimes we get a great tip in the mail that reminds us of some other clever folks we've met since we started writing On The Cheap.
We got such a tip recently from Virginia Wetzel in Orefield.
"I read your column faithfully," Virginia said. "Whenever I buy Snyder's pretzel rods, they come in a nice plastic bucket which I reuse for storing pasta, rice or any snacks."
The first thing we thought when we read this tip was, does she salvage the salt in the bottom of the pretzel bucket, too, like Ed Wanamaker in Emerald? Ed was our first-ever King of Cheap in 2008.
The second person we thought of was Pat Bowersock in Springtown. Pat saves the containers wonton soup is packaged in at Chinese restaurants and reuses them for food storage. He's found them to be quite durable and long lasting.
Virginia's pretzel buckets are quite a bit larger than the wonton soup containers. And they stack easily in her cupboard. Beyond saving money, this tip can save you time and energy cleaning up messes.
Think of all of the foods that are packaged in plastic bags or boxes that can be tricky to store once opened. Have you ever spilled a bag of rice or popcorn kernels on the kitchen floor while rummaging for something else? Not likely to happen if you use Virginia's idea.
We made a video you can see at http://www.mcall.com/onthecheap that displays Virginia's food-storage idea.
A comparable plastic food storage container can cost about $8, and it doesn't come packed with pretzels. That's a lot of money when you consider that most of us cycle through these things, forgetting them at parties, losing lids or dropping and cracking them.
We did some number crunching in the On The Cheap lab and figure Virginia's tip would save you $320 over 20 years. That would buy a lot of pretzels.
Now for a little feedback from some do-gooders we highlighted a few months ago. They wanted the community to know how much they appreciated its support and the positive results.
The first note came from Kim Carrell-Smith, who helps coordinate the Great Southside Sale featuring goods donated by Lehigh University students and staff.
"The Great Southside Sale raised $16,000 ... for South Bethlehem homework clubs that are run by Lehigh University's Community Service Office," Kim said. "It was an incredibly hot and humid day, but the crowd was still pretty big at opening and was fairly steady throughout the day … . We are so proud of our many volunteers for braving the heat and working so hard to make all of this happen."
We also heard from Susan Haytmanek, who helps coordinate the annual Boutique at the Rink rummage sale in Bethlehem, which raises money for charities that serve people with cancer and their families. They grossed $205,000, and after paying expenses, were able to send $60,000 each to Cancer Support Community, St. Luke's Cancer Center and St. Luke's Hospice.
"Isn't this amazing," Susan said. "We accomplished this by the utter dedication and passion of our volunteers, who endure cold, rainy and hot, sweltering weather at an outdoor ice rink, fighting cancer with style. Since our event is entirely volunteer driven, these hardworking folks get my applause. They raised a lot of money selling gently used clothing and household items."
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Cheapster: Virginia Wetzel
Tip: Use empty pretzel buckets as food containers
Estimated savings: $320 over 20 years