Money Saving Techniques: Selling Steamed Bread, Farm Care-Taking and Using Coupons

Learn how John Minton sells steamed bread, Lorrie Fassi lives rent free by farm care-taking and Sara Sanders saves money on mail-in refunds and couponing.
By the MOTHER EARTH NEWS editors
July/August 1977
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Here are some easy ways to save money around the homestead. 
PHOTO: ZIMMYTWS/FOTOLIA


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John Minton from Fairhope, Ala.:

As soon as I saw Ruth Ross's recipes in the MOTHER EARTH NEWS article "You Can Bake Steamed Breads ... Right on Your Stove Top!", I knew I was onto a fail-safe cash project. And what made it so great was that I'd recently bought some large enameled pots ... perfect for stovetop steaming!

I knew instinctively that two of the breads in particular would be real moneymakers, because — just reading their names — I couldn't wait to taste them!

Within minutes, I was buying a supply of dates, raisins, and walnuts, and that evening three of us enjoyed Ruth's Boston Brown Bread and Steamed Date and Honey Bread ... with cream cheese, homemade fig preserves, and assorted other toppings (they were delicious even plain).

As we ate, I thought about ways to sell this good stuff, and that same night I made up a batch of both breads and even tried my own variation: Orange Date Nut Bread. While the goodies steamed, I hand-printed half a dozen posters, and next morning — armed with my ads and with dishes of the breads cut into small, tantalizing samples — made the rounds of my neighborhood.

By noon, I'd tacked up my posters at the Laundromat, the local hospital, two small grocery stores, a drugstore, and a cafe. At the hospital, I passed around samples and took orders on the spot. Everywhere else, I just left the bite-sized persuaders ... then raced home to catch the telephone orders.

It was that simple. And, though I've now taken down my posters, the orders are still coming in as fast as 1 can handle them. I sell my loaves for $1, $2, or $3 ... according to whether they're made in 1, 1 1/2-, or 2-pound coffee cans, I clear about $350 for 40 hours of work (my profit on a $1 loaf is between 65 and 70 cents and it runs proportionally more for the larger loaves). And, with my large kettle and rack arrangement, I can steam 14 to 16 small loaves at a time.

Folks, modesty fails me: Those breads are absolutely lipsmacking good! And a less painful way to make good money at home I have yet to come across.

Lorrie Fassi from Glencoe, Mo.:

My man and I have always loved the land and wanted to live close to it, but we haven't yet saved enough money to buy our own homestead.

That's why it was an important moment for us last year, while traveling in the Pacific Northwest, when we took our first peek at THE MOTHER EARTH NEWS. Inspired by Dale and Sandy Deraps' article "Caretake a Farm (and Live Rent Free)," and by a friend who'd tried caretaking in Canada, we soon thought of little else but finding a place of our own to tenant.

What's more, Jorge felt that his talent for leatherwork could take us closer to our dream, but we knew he'd need a roomy and semi-permanent workshop ... still another reason to seek a position as custodians.

Like the Deraps, we placed a newspaper ad in an area we found appealing (in our case, the region surrounding Missoula, Montana). But — before the ad had stopped running — we realized that our chosen locale just didn't seem right for us.

Suddenly I said, "Why don't we go to an area that we know, and feel comfortable in ... a place where we have good references?"

"For instance?" Jorge asked.

"Why, St. Louis," I replied. "It's my hometown, and — after all — it's the very place where the Deraps had such good luck!"

So off we set, on a thousand-mile journey back to Missouri.

And now, sure enough, here we are about 30 miles west of St. Louis ... with a nice-sized farmhouse, some horses and a stable to care for, and a barn converted to a quaint, country tack and leather shop. We already have our garden going and our chickens clucking!

At last we have a means to our end, thanks to Dale and Sandy and MOTHER. Our "work" (it's hard to see it as that) as country caretakers suits us just perfectly ... and it looks like it's going to make our dream come true.

Sara Sanders from Troy ,Ohio:

When my husband and I were expecting our first child, I started looking for ways to augment our income without too much initial cash outlay. And — since a baby needs a lot of attention — I knew I should choose an occupation that wouldn't take up a lot of time. When I came across the article "Recycled Refunds," I realized that refunding could be just what I was looking for.

So I set out to collect the basic necessities: mail-in coupons (readily available from grocery stores and women's magazines), product labels (from my own shelves and those of relatives and friends, and from the city dump), envelopes (from the discount store), stamps, and a good refund bulletin (a little newsletter that lists current refunds, tips, and ads offering coupon sources. Or you can swap a book of trading stamps for a six-month subscription. But you might try several different newsletters until you find the one that most benefits you.)

My starting-out costs were: 50 cents for 100 envelopes, $10 for 100 stamps, and a book of trading stamps (worth $2.50) for a six-month JayBee's subscription. I saved, salvaged, and begged labels and box tops as best I could, so that my total investment was only $13. Most refunds are for amounts from 25 cents to $2, and my receipts from those first 100 envelopes came to $105.60. Minus the $13, my net income was $92.60.

In the beginning, I spent a lot of hours getting organized — collecting forms, sorting labels, etc. — but I now average about an hour a day ... addressing envelopes and enclosing the appropriate coupons and labels. I try to send out 20 to 25 offer responses each week, and my returns come back in four to six weeks. The postage increase hasn't hurt my profits, since most companies have increased their repayment amounts to compensate.

My net tax-free income for the first year was $595 in cash and merchandise ... not bad for an hour's work per day!

Refunds are Big Business's way of enticing us consumers to buy. I don't know how many millions are made in increased sales, but I do know that my refunding enterprise is a reliable help to us in making ends meet.


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