Frugal Friday: Teen Car Edition

FirstCar

This week was a big one for one of our teens.  After a couple years of working and saving, he was able to buy his first car.  He found this 1995 Cadillac for the princely sum of $1100.  Of course that didn’t include the new battery and oil change it immediately needed, or the price of that first tank of gas. He’s feeling pretty broke right now. But we are pretty proud of our boy for saving and working to buy this car on his own.

How did frugality go at your house this week?  I’d love to hear some of the ways you’re teaching your kids about wise spending.

Frugal Friday

Some of our campers

It’s Friday again. How did your week go? I can’t believe how fast the summer is flying by, with driving kids to work, weeding the garden, swimming, and just living.  The short story with me and frugality this week is that I guess you can’t win them all.  Here are the details.

  • We went camping over the weekend, and somehow managed to leave our lunch in the fridge at home.  So that meant a stop at the grocery store on the way to the mountains to buy bread and lunch meat to replace that lunch.  The bonus was that we had an easy sandwich meal already made when we got home.
  • We had to replace two tires on the minivan and one tire on John’s car, so that was a ding to the budget.  Thankfully the flat tire on the wood trailer was free to fix at Les Schwab.
  • One victory over temptation: I went frugal this week with my Stitch Fix package.  I really like 4 out of the 5 items, but I only had credits for 2.  So I chose #2 the striped dress and #3 the striped tank top, for a grand total of zero money out of pocket.  My family has a running joke that all Stitch Fix has to do is send me something in stripes and I will buy it.  I kinda think they’re right.
  • This week I made a dozen jars of apricot jam. The apricots on our tree are just getting ripe, so there will probably be more. This past year we ran out of jam before early spring, so this summer I am trying to make enough this summer so that won’t happen again next year.  Some of the apricots were mushy or had bugs in them.  But those went to the chickens to peck at, so nothing was wasted.
  • John planted flowers in a side flowerbed that he’d grown from seed himself.  He even planted a basil plant for me that I’m hoping will thrive.  We have the new flowers in a flower bed under the swamp cooler, which drains water all day long.  So the plants should stay good and wet without us having to remember to water them–a bonus in dry Idaho in July.
  • Speaking of the swamp cooler, these days that’s what we’re using instead of the air conditioner.  It is able to keep the house a good 20 degrees cooler than the outdoors.  So by late afternoon on 100 degree days, it still feels kinda warm in the house, but it is much cheaper to run than our A/C, and also seems much less likely to need repairs.
  • We still have two steers, which is a bit more than our two acres of pasture can easily feed in the heat of July.  We do have three pasture rotations to move them through, giving a chance for pastures to grow.  But basically in July and August they eat two sections before the third section has a chance to grow up. A week or two ago we decided to start feeding them our lawnmower clippings, something we hadn’t done in the past because we’ve heard that feeding them large piles of grass sporadically can make them sick, especially if the piles ferment.  So we decided to mow about 20 minutes every day, and feeding them just those clippings freshly cut clippings each day. Since we’re mowing about an acre, that’s plenty big enough to mow a little a day.  It looks a little odd to have only part of the back yard mowed at a time, but the clippings delight the cows.  They’re looking fat, and they now are trained to come mooing up to the fence whenever someone turns on a lawn mower.
  • A minor frugal fail this week came on Thursday.  I was having some people over for lunch, and thought I’d have enough time to do soup and bread, or something homemade anyway.  But then a doctor’s appointment for one of my kids went long, and I ended up getting chicken at Albertson’s to serve instead of actually cooking.  It was a perfectly fine lunch and not a huge deal in the grand scheme of things.  But I’d wanted to fuss over my guests a bit more than that, and was disappointed that a long appointment plus not planning ahead left me at the deli counter.
  • Another money guzzler this week was opting to drive our largest vehicle on errands, simply because it is the only one with A/C.  But hey, in 100-degree heat, I figure momma’s comfort is worth a little extra gas.  At least that’s how I’m rationalizing it.  I did try to minimize my outings, though, and combined errands to use gas most wisely.

One plan that we have for August is not frugal, but needed.  The boys’ bathroom shower has a leak in the wall that John temporarily patched with duct tape and a shower curtain several months ago. (So pretty!  ;) )  While we’re replacing the shower stall, we’re also planning to bump out a bathroom wall to enlarge the bathroom and possibly fit a full tub up there too.  I think it will be a nice improvement, and if we do most of the work ourselves, it shouldn’t be terrifically spendy.  (I know, famous last words, right?)  I’ll keep you posted.

How’d your week go?

Splash

Frugal Friday

berriesOver a couple days time we picked 5 pounds of raspberries and 4 pounds of plums, so on Monday I made more jam. The berries are looking really nice this year. It was a nice wet spring, and we also did a good job pulling out dead canes. I am hoping to make plum jam later this afternoon, because the ones I picked Monday are now nice and ripe. They’re small plums and will need a bit of sugar, but they should be good for jam. And by now, there are also probably more berries, so I might ask kids to pick again and do a plum/raspberry mix.

On Tuesday I took the kids to the local water park with freebie passes that they earned by doing a reading program this spring. Well, kinda free. If we’d gone last week they literally would have been free tickets, but June was crazy busy, and I decided to wait til July to use them. Since we used them late, they were buy one, get one free passes (as the kids’ teacher I earned one too) which worked out to be $15/person for admission for all our kids who were interested in going. Not bad!

Wednesday we had a quiet day at home — so boring to some of my teens who would prefer to be perpetual motion machines.  But we had some down time anyway.  I did run to the bank when I drove kids to work, and that’s when I discovered that there’s a branch of our bank RIGHT across the street from where my son works.  Our bank recently merged with another, and that bank was totally not on my radar. But it will be such a time saver, especially with kids earning money and always needing to go to the bank.  Hooray for clumping errands in close proximity with each other. Speaking of clumping, I’ve also been shopping a lot at the grocery store near my kids’ work.  I do try to only grab what’s well-priced, but I figure even the occasional higher-priced items still balances out in gas and time savings.

On Thursday after having friends over for a swim day (fun!) I SO did not want to cook. Almost went out for Chinese food for dinner, but instead grabbed pasta and green onions and made these sesame noodles at home. Yay, me!  Sometimes it is SO hard to make myself cook, but I do feel glad when I get moving.  And this recipe was quite good.

Today is a busy day, with dr’s appointments and a run to Boise to babysit grandbabies while my daughter gets her hair cut.  But again I will be clumping errands (dropping a teen off to shop someplace he’s been wanting to go) and also using a coupon for a free loaf of bread right across from the store where I’m bringing my son.

How did your week go?  Did you have some frugal wins that you felt good about?

t-shirt makeover

the starting point
Recently in a bag of hand-me-downs I spotted a ladies top whose fabric I really liked but the style of which did not appeal to any of the girls in the family. That set me to wondering how I could remake the shirt into something that someone would enjoy. The fabric was soft and stretchy and reminded me a lot of the maxi skirts I’ve been wearing a lot lately. So I decided to remake the shirt into a skirt for my youngest daughter.

I began by laying out the top as smoothly as possible on my cutting board and cutting off both sleeves right where they attached to the body of the top. It might be a good idea to turn the garment inside out before beginning to cut, but that idea didn’t occur to me til later.Step 1: Cut off the sleeves

 

 

Next I cut off the neckline of the shirt in a straight line just below the lowest point of the neckline.  I also trimmed away the sides of the top in a (kinda) straight line, angled just a little inward toward the top, which was now going to be the waist of my skirt.  I left the bottom of the shirt alone, as that was going to be the bottom edge of my skirt.  (Yay- the hemming was already done!)

Step 2: Trim away the top and sides

Next I turned the skirt inside out and sewed up the side seams of the skirt, doing my best to make a smooth transition from the existing stitching to the new stitching where I’d trimmed away fabric.

Step 3: Sew the side seams

Next I sewed the ‘tunnel’ at the top of the skirt into which I could thread elastic for a waistband. I happened to have elastic that was about 3/4 inch thick, so I folded over about 1-1/4 inches of fabric, tucking about a 1/4 inch under again before sewing, so that no raw edges would be exposed on the waistband.

Step 4: Sew the waistband

Once I’d sewn my waistband, leaving a 1-inch opening into which to thread my elastic, I put a safety pin into the end of my elastic and threaded it through the ‘tunnel’ of the waistband.  Once that was done, all that was left was to sew the two ends of the elastic together!  Here’s the final product.

Completed skirtMy sweet little model

 

And here it is on my little girl.  It ended up being too short to be a true maxi skirt for her, but it’s still really cute, I think.  I think I’ll keep an eye out for a large-sized striped shirt so that I can try this technique again and make another one that is actually long enough to be a maxi skirt for her one of these days.

This project was a lot of fun and took me only half an hour. I was amazed at how fast it came together. Have you ever remade a garment into something else?  How did it go?

 

how to turn a shirt into a skirt

Frugal successes, frugal fails

Frugal (640x220)

  • Success:  This week I had several days where I didn’t go anywhere. When you’re trying to be careful with your money, just staying out of the stores can be a big thing.
  • Fail:  When my husband needed to replace a water timer  (to water our garden while we’re gone) I suggested he try a different brand than the one that needed to be replaced.  This other brand was available on amazon and had two day shipping and cost half of what the other brand did.  Got it home and it did not work one bit.  So back to amazon it went, and off to the store my husband went.  Ah well.  On the bright side I was delighted with Amazon’s UPS return shipping.  I printed out a label, requested that UPS pick up my package, and the UPS man showed up at my door 15 hours later.  Then– just as surprising– the refund for the item was credited to our account by the end of the day.  Hooray!
  • Success: I found bananas for 25 cents a pound at Walmart and bought lots– enough finally to make a batch of my favorite gluten free banana bread.   I added chocolate chips– yum!
  • Success:  One of our married daughters brought some clothes to share with her younger sisters, most of which were absolutely perfect for my fast-growing just-turned-12-year old.  And she actually liked them!
  • Success:  I found several just-right birthday gifts for that same birthday girl that I’d stashed away weeks earlier, making her birthday much easier to prepare for.  One was this LOVELY coloring book.  If you have an artist in need of a project this summer, click on the photo and check it out. (affiliate link)
  • Fail: When I went to the store with my son to exchange a few things, I found a couple things for myself as well.  I probably should have resisted the $25 shorts, but they actually looked nice.  I also found a pair of black capris for $14.  Was rather pleased with that find. And most likely I will wear both lots this summer.  So maybe not a total fail.
  • Success: I cooked several meals even when I wasn’t in the mood to cook, and did a good job using/repurposing most leftovers.
  • Fail:  I forgot about some bacon in the fridge and lost it to mold.  Bah.  I hardly ever do that, especially with meat.  I blame vacation-brain.

How did your week go?  Successes?  Fails?

Frugal Friday

Blooming

You know, at first I was feeling like I didn’t have a lot to say about frugality this week.  After all, we just got back from a week at the beach where we stayed in a lovely house right on the water.  Bliss, but not the most frugal of adventures.  Except– and I think this is such an important thing to remember in the discussions about frugality— that’s exactly why live carefully the rest of the year.  Trips with our children are important to us, something we want to be part of our family’s collective memory.

Other people’s reasons for frugality may be different.  Maybe you’re working to afford gymnastics for your daughter, or you want to be home with your kids, or you are saving for a new car, or you’re paying off credit cards.  Whatever your goals are, it helps to keep them high in your mind.  They are what gives you the oomph to keep making wise money choices day after day, especially in those moments when frankly it would be a lot easier to order take-out than to cook dinner.

So for us, last week was our least frugal week of the year.  But you can’t take the frugal out of us that easily– we still kept an eye on expenses.  Here are some of the ways we did it.

  • necklacesDuring our week of vacation we ate all but three meals at the house, to keep our food costs down.  We ate sandwiches for several meals while driving places, and at the house served affordable things like clam chowder, chili, tacos, and potato soup. Everyone took turns cooking and doing dishes.  My mom was a huge help in the kitchen, and it was really fun to cook together. My grown daughters also helped for several meals, and various kids helped with smaller cooking tasks all week long.  Many hands make light work.
  • We walked to the store multiple times during that week.  It was only a mile away, and we all enjoyed being close enough to the store that a drive wasn’t required.  It ALMOST makes me wish we didn’t live so far out in the country in ‘real’ life.  :)
  • The very last day of our trip we made a conscious effort to serve ALL of the leftovers from the week.  We did such a good job that that fridge was practically bare the morning we headed home.  And yet we fed people well all week.  That last night we had meatloaf, salad, fried rice, and chicken enchiladas to choose from, topped off by fresh brownies for dessert. (Never underestimate the ability of fresh brownies to make a meal of leftovers still feel like something wonderful.)
  • We went thrifting at Goodwill one of the days on the coast to help satisfy kids’ wish to shop.  We went to a farmer’s market and a roadside farm stand where we got good prices on fresh green beans, tomatoes, and avocados.  The farmer’s market is where I found these sweet glass-bead necklaces that I got as souvenirs for the girls in our group.  They were $4 each when bought in groups of 5, which I thought was a very reasonably-priced little memento of our trip.  (Erika, the orange one is yours  :)   )

Less-frugal happenings that week: my daughter forgot to pack her tennis shoes and my son forgot his soccer ball, so both items were re-bought on the trip.  But my daughter was outgrowing her old shoes anyway and we found her a nice pair for 40% off.  And my son bought the soccer ball himself.  So it was all good in the end.

How did your week go?  What were some of your frugal victories?  Did you have any fails?

Frugal friday– and ways to save at the store

a typical grocery trip

Whew! It’s frugal Friday again, and somehow I’ve taken a blogging vacation this week. Except, instead of FEELING like a vacation, it felt like driving and more driving. To job interviews and shopping and doctor appointments and more shopping and more appointments. The good news is that both of my soon-to-be-driving sons now have summer jobs– a huge blessing since they both hope to buy cars soon! And I did have at least some success in keeping an eye on the money going out.

  • Early in the week I bought some marked-down chicken thighs that were about 80 cents a pound.  I bought about 10 pounds, and wished there was money in the budget to buy a few more packages.
  • I also found already-cubed ham marked down. I used some in a batch of split pea soup on Tuesday.  I always try to look for marked-down meat at whichever grocery store I visit.
  • I combined a bunch of errands into one day when I needed to bring two kids to two different things.  It meant for a long time out and about, but I really made the most of that gas money.

 

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In other frugality-related notes, while prepping for last night’s e-class   –great fun!–  I went through a few of my notes about food shopping, and thought I’d share some of the most helpful ones here, for those of you who were not able to attend the class.

1. MAJOR IN ONE-INGREDIENT ITEMS

Choose items with the fewest ingredients possible: pinto beans instead of canned chili, raw chicken instead of chicken nuggets, head lettuce instead of salad mix and dressing packets.  Look into your cart before you enter the check stand. The more single-ingredient items you have in that grocery cart, the more likely it is that you’re making frugal choices.

2. FOCUS ON AFFORDABLE PRODUCE

Spend your produce dollars on the most affordable fruits and veggies: apples, oranges, bananas, potatoes, cabbage, onions, carrots, and whatever’s in season in your area.

3.SCAN THE SHELVES

Check unit prices on each item, and remember to look lower and higher on the shelf.  Sometimes the most affordable package is larger or smaller or a different brand, and it can vary from week to week.  It pays to be non-brand-loyal.

4.  ALLOW ONE SPLURGE

If you try to do everything perfectly, you’ll burn out.  It’s fine to have a meal of fish sticks every couple weeks, or a particular brand of cheese you adore.  But to keep your grocery spending down, limit yourself to ONE such splurge per shopping trip.

5. PREP MEAT AS SOON AS YOU GET HOME

Cook that chicken.  Brown that ground beef.  Then freeze in meal-size portions, and you’re 20 minutes closer to dinner, just like that.  A huge psychological advantage on busy days when cooking feels like a lot of effort.

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How did you do in your frugal efforts this week?  I really enjoy hearing from you!

(not so) frugal Friday

Our graduatesOh, I’ve had a busy week!  This weekend Jared graduates from college (computer science major), and next weekend Lidya graduates from high school.  So we’re planning a party for both of them along with some friends who are also graduating.  We’re also finishing our school year and trying to get in the groove of a summer schedule.  The teens are complaining bitterly about having to get up at 10 during the week.  Nevermind that it’s 3 hours later than during the school year, and that they can sleep later on Saturdays. Sigh.

So. frugality.  This week was far from a roaring success.  In fact, I think I have more fails than successes to report.  I find that the busier I am, the less success I have at saving money.

  • We packed lunches to eat in the park with our homeschool group, but then stopped for chocolate shakes to augment the picnic.
  • I bought cheese and meat for the party trays this weekend at the lowest prices I could find, and I’m putting together the trays myself, so that will save on party costs.  But when the kids and I were decorating at church over lunch, we got hungry and grabbed Panda Express.
  • We resisted the urge to install the swamp cooler in the living room even though it was warm this week, but soon we will need to break down and do it.  It is warm!
  • We are scraping up the last of the hay on the floor of the hay barn to feed the cows, to help give our pastures more time to grow up.  (We have three different pastures that we rotate the cows through, but this year we are feeding 2 full-grown cows, so the 1.5 acres of grass is going down quick.) Thankfully there’s been a lot of rain so the pastures are growing pretty well.
  • John turned a small patch of grass alongside our garage into more pasture, which gave them a few more days of eating, and a 4th pasture to rotate through.  But the fence for that project was $80.
  • I did some shopping at Cash ‘n Carry which I don’t always take the time to do.  But they have some decent prices, including hamburger for $2.39/lb (in 10 lb rolls) which is about as good as I’ve seen lately.

What about you?  How did your week go?

 

Frugal Friday

Frugal Friday

I’m so glad you’ve been sharing your frugal successes with me every Friday! There are soooo many opportunities in a week to spend money.  Knowing that I’ll be telling on myself really helps me avoid overspending!  Speaking of which, I’ll start with my frugal fails.  I spent way too much on lemons and avocados late last night after picking up our son from work. It wasn’t a good time to go to a less expensive store, and I was in the mood for guacamole.  Now.   :)    I did have a good bit of success this week too, though.

  • For Sunday supper, I combined Friday’s leftover taco meat and Saturday’s cooked pinto beans with the leftover corn from Sunday lunch to make an easy taco soup.  I often serve taco soup with tortilla chips, but since I didn’t have any, I chose instead to cut flour tortillas into strips, toast them briefly in a bit of oil, and serve them atop the soup.
  • When I saw an interesting book on a blog this week, I requested it at my local library.  My son also asked me to put a book on hold at the library.  There’s two fewer books that we’ll be tempted to buy.
  • That same son spotted a coupon for a local indoor laser tag place that will decrease the admission for him and a couple friends (a birthday treat) by $5.  I’m thrilled to have kids already on the lookout for such things.
  • I cut a little bit of chard out of the greenhouse to go in a salad, and John’s tomato seedlings are growing!  Garden season is on the way.
  • I grabbed 50-cent boxes of cocoa out of a clearance bin at the grocery store.  They’ll make good treats on cool mornings while camping this summer.
  • I made a weekly menu (photo below) using mostly ingredients that we already have.  We need a few things like milk, cheese, fruit, and potatoes, but the list should be fairly short.
  • I’m planning to make bread again, as well as yogurt, and fruit crisp with some of the canned fruit that I still have in my pantry.

MENU

And speaking of frugality and money saving, I wanted to mention that I’ve been asked by the Mom and Dad Academy to teach an e-class called Introduction to Family Kitchen Management and you can attend right on your computer!  I’ll be sharing how to save $100 a month or more on your grocery bill, get in and out of the kitchen efficiently, and involve your kids in the cooking adventure.  If that topic sounds interesting, come join us on May 22nd at 6:30 PM Mountain Time, 8:30 Eastern.  You’ll need to register ahead of time right here.

 

 

Reviving tired cabinets with gel stain

The stain I usedWe built our house in 1993, and a couple decades with our big clan has left many things looking well worn, including all the cabinets in the house.  In 2012, I gave two bathrooms a $40 makeover. I’ve been wondering about doing a similar makeover in our worn kitchen.  But I was leery of making our kitchen that dark, and I really wanted to still see the grain in the wood. So when I finally got brave enough to try some stain, instead of ‘java’, I selected a lighter tone called brown mahogany, which was brown with red undertones.  I wasn’t quite sure how it would look on my worn honey oak cabinets, but I figured it could only look better.  Here’s my kitchen pre-makeover.

 Kitchen - before

 

And here’s a closeup of some of the drawers, showing how much of the finish was worn off.

Drawers- before

I began by taking all the cabinet drawers off and washing them well several times.  This step might go more quickly if you used a degreaser.  And this whole job was simplified by the fact that none of my drawers and cabinets had any handles or upraised panels on them.  They are very plain jane cabinets.

Reviving old cabinets with stainTo get a feel for the way the stain would lay down on the cabinets, and to decide how thick I wanted it to go on, I experimented on the insides of several cabinet doors. My tools included rubber gloves for my hands, and old tube socks with which to lay on the stain.  Though the stain definitely dries faster outdoors where there’s a little air movement, I recommend working in the shade, so that your surface doesn’t get tacky too quickly.

Begin with a moderate amount of stain on your sock-clad, gloved hand. Take long smooth strokes from end to end, going with the grain.  It’s wise to practice on the backs of your cabinet doors first, so that you can decide how thickly to lay on the stain, and to get a feel for how to lay on the stain most smoothly.

If you are overly cautious and use only a tiny bit of stain, the stain will begin to get tacky very quickly, making the work blobby and bumpy.   I found it worked better to load my sock with a generous amount of stain, and make 4 or 5 quick thick stripes down the length of a door, as shown in the photo below.  Make the next 5 or 6 strokes in between your original strokes, to fill the whole door in with color.  Then finish with another dozen or fewer strokes, working quickly, until the whole surface is smooth and even.

Spreading stain on

Here’s a photo showing the before of one of my doors and the after of another.  If you end up not liking the effect, no worries.  This stain, while fresh, washes off very easily with paint thinner, allowing you another try.  And you will gradually get better. Do you biggest, most visible surfaces last of all, to take advantage of your growing skill.  And if this project, done in the kitchen, sounds way too daunting, you might want to start in the laundry room, where mistakes are likely to bother you less.

I was lazy and did not remove the hinge components from my doors, which made it harder to make the backs of the doors around the hinges look smooth.  If you’re more of a perfectionist than I am, you probably ought to take the time to remove all hardware.  Remember also to label doors and drawers somehow, so that you don’t get things mixed up.

Doors- before and after

I worked through the kitchen a section at a time, so that at any given time only one portion of the kitchen was wet. One day I did half of the lower cabinets.  The second day I did the rest of the lowers.  The third day I did all of the upper cabinets.  I don’t have many uppers, or it probably would have required a 4th day.  I HIGHLY recommend blockading the wet places of the lower cabinetry with chairs and/or signs.  I can’t tell you how many times kids forgot things were wet and came rubbing against cabinet edges.  Depending on how thickly you lay down stain, and how good your ventilation is, some surfaces may feel tacky and be prone to rub marks for up to two days.

In each section, first I did the backs of each door, and the faces of the drawers for that part of the kitchen, outside in the shade, moving them to a sunny place to finish drying as I finished each surface. Then while those surfaces were drying, I came inside and stained the cabinet faces.

Usually by the time the indoor staining of a section was done (a few hours) the door backs that I’d set in the sun were dry enough to carefully turn over.  Then I could stain the door faces, leaving them to dry overnight, moving on to the next section the next day.

And here are some shots of my finished project.  Hooray!  They are still very simple cabinets, but the deeper stain really brought out the lovely grain of the oak, grain that we didn’t really see when the wood was lighter.  My expert woodworker/hubby says that the honey oak looks very much the color of mahogany with this stain.

After

One really fun thing about this project was that back in 2012 when I did the bathrooms, I bought drawer pulls for the kitchen as well.  So after all the staining was done, John came through the kitchen and installed my new drawer pulls.  I’m amazed at how much better they make my old cabinets look.  Here’s the before and after shot of that section of drawers I showed you above.  Don’t the drawer pulls look lovely?

Drawers- beforeDrawers- after

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another fun thing that we did was cut back the microwave shelf just a little bit. The shelf had been designed for a much bigger microwave, and the depth of it really decreased the usefulness of the counter space below it, especially given the fact that our coffee pot opens upward.  Four inches cut off the back of that shelf makes that counter feel much more open.

 After- by fridge

One funny note:  back when I bought those drawer pulls, I really, really thought I also bought cabinet door handles.  But for the life of him, my husband could not find any door knobs in his shop. And who knows, maybe I only thought I bought them. So for now the doors do not have knobs.  If they don’t show up, I’m thinking of buying ones that look like this. But with or without door handles, I love the fresh look that this project gave my kitchen.  And the cost of that stain?  $16.  That’s what I call an affordable fix!

After - sink area

Kitchen- after