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Monday Q&A | Kids and Shopping Requests, Knife Recommendations, and Cereal Bag Reuse

Every Monday, I answer a few of the questions that my readers send me. If you have a question you’d like me to answer in a future Q&A post, just leave me a comment here or email me (thefrugalgirl [at] gmail [dot] com) and put Q&A in the subject line. I look forward to hearing from you!

I wanted to ask you about your approach to the strategic placement of things in grocery stores or department stores that are meant to appeal to young kids. My daughter is eleven months old, but already I am anticipating the time when she will see the candy/gadgets/toys in the stores that are unnecessary, unhealthy, cheap junk, etc. How do you deal with this? Do you simply try not to take your kids shopping with you if you can avoid it? How have you taught them that these things are just extraneous junk, and how do you deal with the inevitable occasional “Mommy, can I have that?”

When my kids were young, it was never very practical for me to avoid taking my kids shopping with me, and besides, I’d have hated to feel constrained like that. Children can indeed be taught that they can’t have everything they want in stores.

It’s great that you’re thinking about this now, because you can make this a whole lot easier on yourself by never getting your daughter into the habit of expecting extra things at the store. When I go shopping, my kids know that we’ll be buying what we set out to buy and that “extras” are generally not going to be purchased, and because of this, they tend not to ask.

(We do occasionally buy something fun or extra when we’re out, but because it’s not expected and isn’t a regular occurrence, it’s more delightful for everyone when it does happen.)

As with so many parenting situations, consistency is key here. Your daughter needs to know that if you say no to a request, you mean no. If she has any inkling that you’ll give in and say yes if she keeps asking, she will almost surely keep trying.

Our kids also know that if they want something, they can feel free to spend their own money on it. When they’re spending their own money instead of mine, it makes them think about the purchase a whole lot harder.

I do try to help them make wise purchasing decisions with their money, but I also think that it’s important for them to find out what it feels like to buy something that’s a piece of junk. So sometimes, if they insist that they really, really want to buy something that’s sort of a dumb purchase, I say yes. For instance, one of my girls wanted to spend her money on one of those vending machine sticky hand toys, and she got a rude awakening when she realized how tiny and junky the sticky hand was.

So, to sum up, don’t start a precedent, be consistent about saying no, and when she gets older, let her make some dumb purchases with her own money to help her learn some money lessons.

What kind of knives would you recommend? I know you can easily buy cheap sets of knives at Walmart, but those wear out so quickly, and easily also spend upwards of $2000-4000 on a high end set of knives. We had a Cutco demonstration in our home recently and really liked their product, which seems quality and reasonable when compared to other high-end knife sets.

As we want to make a good investment in the future, and you are excellent at choosing lasting products of good quality materially and financially, I though I’d ask your opinion!


I think it’s awesome that you’re looking to buy well-made knives instead of a cheap set. Yay!

Cook’s Illustrated, my favorite source for kitchen recommendations, suggests putting together an a la carte knife set rather than buying a packaged set. That way you can buy only the knives you actually will use.

They’ve put together two a la carte knife sets, one that’s more pricey, and one that’s more budget-minded.

Because these recommendations are available to subscribers, I don’t feel quite right sharing all of knife set lists here, but I can tell you that the budget minded set is made up almost entirely of Victorinox knives. The more expensive set is a combo of Victorinox and Wusthof knives, so based on that, I’d recommend looking for those two brands.

The Victorinox Swiss Army 8-Inch Fibrox Straight Edge Chef’s Knife, which I own, is the recommended chef’s knife for both the expensive and budget-minded sets. I also own a bread knife that’s very similar to this one, by Victorinox. (Here are some photos of my bread knife.)

I’m not really very happy with any of my paring knives, so now I’m eyeing the Wusthof paring knife. Could it really be worth $39.95? Should I spend my birthday money to find out?

Decisions, decisions.

I am getting paid exactly $0 to say this, but if you need help finding kitchen items that will last, I strongly recommend subscribing to Cook’s Illustrated’s website. With your membership, you get access not only to all of their magazine recipes but also to every single equipment review they’ve ever done, and I cannot recommend this highly enough. Cook’s is always my first stop when I’m looking to replace some type of kitchen equipment. It costs $35 a year, which is totally worth it if they save you from even a few unwise kitchen purchases.

Just the other day, as I was throwing out the 1 millionth wax cereal bag, I wondered how it compares to “real” waxed paper? Can it go in the microwave? Be used to line baking pans? Is it even really “waxed”?


Generally speaking, cereal bags these days are made of plastic, not waxed paper (though waxed paper cereal bags are a definitely childhood memory for me!) So, I wouldn’t recommend microwaving or baking with the bags.

There are several ways you can reuse them, though.

With the addition of a rubber band, I use them in place of plastic wrap


I also use them to freeze food on a short-term basis. I just fold the open end over several times and use clothespins or chip clips to keep them shut. You wouldn’t want to store food like this for months, since the seal isn’t as airtight as what you’d get with a zippered plastic bag, but it works for a couple of weeks.

When I need to make graham cracker crumbs and don’t feel like hauling out the food processor, I put the graham crackers in a cereal bag and crush them with a rolling pin. The cereal bags actually handle this type of pressure a lot better than regular plastic bags do.


Readers, it’s your turn! Feel free to share your thoughts on any of today’s questions.

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Friday 7th of June 2013

Ooh! I crush eggshells to put in my worm composting box, and I bet the cereal bags would work great for that, too. Those little shell shards can really rip up a gallon freezer bag.


Sunday 19th of May 2013

Yes, Kristen, buy the Wusthof. It's worth every single dime. Maybe more.


Saturday 18th of May 2013

We have my husband's grandparents Cutco knifes that they used on the farm. We love them and have been very pleased with them. They even replaced one, when we sent it to them to be sharpened, because it didn't live up to their current standards.


Tuesday 14th of May 2013

And... my final comment.

It's generally not worth buying an expensive serrated knife. Each serration needs to be sharpened separately, which makes maintenance insanely expensive. I buy $10 bread knives and replace them every few years.

Diane C

Wednesday 15th of May 2013

Another opinion, William B. (And frankly, I'm shocked! I always love reading your comments and virtually always agree with you.) My professional knife shapener only charges $2-$3 extra for my serrated knife. Since most of what it's used to cut are softer items such as bread and tomatoes, it holds a sharp edge for at least twice as long as my other knives. I absolutely love my high-quality serrated knife! This sounds nuts, but I give it a mental smile every time I reach for it.


Tuesday 14th of May 2013

Liesl - good knives are definitely worth the investment with one caveat. Good knives get sharper than bad knives, but they need maintenance to stay that way. The maintenance is using a sharpening steel[1] frequently, and sharpened occasionally.[2] If you're not going to do this, then don't get good knives.

You can get by with two good knives: a chef's knife and a paring knife. At a fancy-dancy store they might cost you up to $200 together and will last you literally a lifetime. You can get a better price if you wait for a sale, look for them online, and so on. Chef's knives are usually 6", 8" or 10". Paring knives 3.5" or 4".

The classic good knives are Wustoff Trident and Henkel's Four Star. Wustoff and Henkel's make other types of knives, btw. I have both and find the biggest difference is the handle. I just bought a Global chef's knife. I cuts fantstically but I can't opine on handle comfort, durability, or ability to hold an edge.

If you get good knives and use them, you should consider investing in an electric knife sharpener. Chef's Choice makes the best. Cook's Illustrated recommends the Chef's Choice 130, which retails for $160; followed by the Chef's Choice 120, which retails for $120. Sharpening a knife costs $5-10 per knife, you should do it at least twice a year per knife, and you have to go to the store for drop off and pick up. So the CC 120 will pay for itself in 6 years or less, not including time and gas.

Both Sur La Table and Williams-Sonoma will let you try knives in their stores.

[1] The name is a misnomer, btw, it doesn't actually sharpen. It's quick and easy to do - best way to learn is a youtube video. Doing this means less actual sharpening needed. [2] How often depends on how much you use your knife. A professional chef will sharpen his knives at least once a week, a sushi chef might do it once a day. [3] I have no commerical affiliation with Sur La Table. I just happened to see this sale online, while I was checking some details about good knives.


Tuesday 14th of May 2013

Great sale alert!

I see that Sur La Table has great set at a fantastic price. If you want good knives, take advantage of my experience and buy this set.[3] It's Henkel's Four Star: 8" chef's knife, a 4" paring knife, and a 5" utility knife (a short serrated knife). Free shipping, too.

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