I have always been fascinated by other peoples’ domestic practices. So much so that I thought I would take my interest to the next level and have a sit down with a few people to see what they do in their homes. How do they handle housekeeping, money, children, spouses, food prep and home improvement? Here is my first “Domestic Discussion.” Hope you enjoy!
Melanie Cifelli is one of my favorite people to talk to because she makes me smile. Melanie, her husband Scott and their three boys, Caleb, Ethan, and Joey along with their 3 cats and 2 dogs, all occupy a rural country home that together, they have been renovating for the past 13 years.
Besides renovations, which I will discuss in a bit, Melanie’s life revolves around teenage boys, school sports like soccer and basketball, her home business, on-the-go meals, and her avid couponing which she learned at the height of the coupon craze and still practices on her weekly trips to the grocery store.
A little background on Melanie: To start with Melanie was born in the UK but grew up in Australia. She married her husband Scott who was an American citizen and after having the three boys they moved back to the US. In 2003 they purchased their current home.
At first Melanie didn’t really know if she was domestic enough to do a Domestic Discussions interview with me. “I am not what you call a Domestic Goddess.” she said to me in her Aussie accent. I assured her that everyone has some sort of domesticness (if that is even a word) in them.
First we discussed couponing. In Australia, she said they don’t have coupons or rewards cards. When she moved to the US she didn’t know how to use a coupon and was a little scared to try. It wasn’t until the extreme couponing craze and multiple television shows about the subject that got her confident enough to try couponing. She started with one, she told me, and it worked, so she tried more. When she first started she didn’t know if she should just hand them all to the cashier or lay them on top of each individual item she had a coupon for. I kind of chuckled remembering my mother laying them on each item on the conveyor belt.
Melanie says some weeks her shopping receipts are cut almost in half by using coupons. If there is a week that the newspaper coupon ads are particularly good she will buy more than one set of newspapers just for the coupons. I asked her which newspaper she liked the best and she said she rarely bought the Democrat and Chronicle, sometimes the Daily News, but most often the Buffalo News. It had the coupons she wanted and it was 50 cents cheaper.
In asking which stores she frequented the most, Tops supermarket was at the top of the list with their bonus card and $1 coupon doubler coupons that come out every few months. She also frequents Save-A-Lot and Dollar General which also take coupons. Aldi is another store she visits but they do not accept coupons.
I asked her if she used Amazon’s Subscribe and Save or Big Box stores like Sam’s, BJ’s or Costco. Yep both Amazon and Costco were favorites of her’s she said.
One of the things I learned from Melanie after our couponing discussion was that Tops let’s you use more than 4 of the $1 Coupon Doubler coupons. I was under the impression you got 4 per bonus card. Nope you can use more but not in the same transaction. Interesting!
Our discussion turned to family next. Her three boys are very active teenagers with sports, jobs, and school. She said most days meals are on the go due to differing schedules but she tries to make them as healthy as possible. Her crock-pot gets used a lot she says. She tries to make extra so there are leftovers and if they are on the road for a game Subway is a healthy alternative to fast food.
Melanie is a stay at-home mom but on the side she sells on Ebay, Etsy and occasionally Craigslist for extra income. The former co-owner of Amelia’s Antiques in Batavia sells antiques as well as crafts online from home after her shop closed a few years ago. She loves to restore antique and vintage items and from the view sitting at her kitchen table I would say she is very good at it.
One major thing that has consumed her life the past decade is the renovation of her home which they have owned for 13 years. Generally her husband is a do-it-yourself kind of guy which can make for some pretty funny stories. She told me about a particularly funny story about when Scott decided to rip out the toilet without quite having everything ready to put another one in right away. “Nine days without a toilet” she grins telling me. Although I am sure she wasn’t smiling at the time it happened. “We were foster parents to two other children at the time so we had 5 children under the age of 7 living in this house and we didn’t have a toilet for 9 days.” Luckily she said they did have a functioning, albeit a not so great to look at toilet in the back of the garage but traipsing out there in the middle of night wasn’t the greatest fun. I told her she should write a book about all of these funny stories.
I finished this Domestic Discussion by asking Melanie what her hobbies were, what she would like to do in the future, and if there is anything she wished she had paid more attention to learning when she was younger.
She said she likes to write and wished she did more, adult coloring books are a new hobby, she has also been teaching herself guitar by watching you-tube videos, and of course her antiques and vintage items are a great inspiration to her. She said as far as what she would like to do in the future going back to school is something she was thinking about and she has always wanted to learn to speak Italian. She finished with she wished she had paid more attention to sewing when she was younger. Her mother who lives in Australia, can sew anything and is a wonderful seamstress. I agreed with her. I wished I had paid more attention when my mother tried to teach me to sew too.
I would like to thank Melanie for being my first interviewee for this Domestic Discussions series. It was so much fun getting to know her even more. -MM