Saturday, December 13, 2014

Christmas Uses for Cardboard Boxes

If you shop online at all, you probably have quite a stash of cardboard boxes. Besides sending gifts to loved ones far away, they can be used to make some frugal and cool things.

Try your hand at a shadow box. You can put in an old fashioned scene, a "Nativity Scene," a mountain covered with snow or let your imagination roam. Use pictures from old Christmas cards, advertisements, catalogs or whatever strikes you as interesting.

You can use small boxes in lieu of Christmas stockings or baskets, filling them for specific individuals, or making more generic, frugal last minute gifts out of them. Cover them inside and out with wrapping paper or foil.

Fill a few with candy, cookies, notepads, etc., wrap and have them ready for those "Oh, no, I need another gift!" times. If you don't use them all, give them away to the postman, a retirement home or charity.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Last Year's Christmas Cards

Did you save them? Do you have a use for them?

How about using them for frugal but creative postcard greetings this year by cutting off the front and sizing it properly?
Or cut appropriate pieces from the fronts (and insides!) to use for gift tags.
Cut pictures from them to decorate your Christmas tree.
Or glue small cut outs from them around the bottom of a pillar candle.
Or make a frugal holiday collage from them.
Or glue them onto paper and cover with white glue mixed with water (half and half), and use them for throwaway Christmas table mats.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014


Gleaning is a term that may not bring up fond memories for you, since not many people have gleaned fields.

It was common until more recently, when "poor folks" began to be looked down on, especially those who tried their best to do what they could what they had. Okay, strike that as a political comment.

The truth is that gleaning is still alive in organizations like Second Harvest, where people go out and glean the harvested fields then donate what they have picked up.

There is so much waste in the fields! I don't know the statistics, but from what I can see, I would say that at least 20% and maybe more, of all produce grown is left in the fields. Picking it up and putting it to good use only makes sense, even if you have the money to buy it otherwise. Wastefulness is not a sign of good sense, no matter what the circumstance.

Besides what is left in the fields, produce like onions, carrots and sugar beets roll off the trucks as they're being taken to the sorting facility. Then at that facility, some are tossed aside because they're not the right size or, in the case of carrots, they're misshapen.

Modern machinery requires certain sizes and shapes to fit and modern consumers require more or less perfectly shaped and colored produce. Between the two, there is probably another 20% or more good produce thrown out. 

If you can get your hands on it, this produce is perfectly good and fresher than you will find in the grocery store.

The onions you see were picked up by me last weekend as we came back from a trip to the Pumpkin Patch. They were split from falling off a truck, but otherwise wonderful, just as if I'd pulled them from my own garden.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The TIme of Year for Digging Dandelions

It's time to dig dandelion roots again! I wrote about it here: Dandelion Coffee fourteen years ago! Since then, it's become
The Annual Dandelion Coffee Dig. 

With the price of dandelion root coffee or tea, whatever you want to call it, I figure I've saved quite a bit. It's around $5 for 20 teabags. I can dig, clean and roast enough to make probably 200 teabags in one afternoon.

If my math is right, that's about $50 worth of dandelion tea. Maybe not killer wages but not too bad, either, and I don't have to worry about what else is in the dandelion root.

I don't poison or use artificial fertilizer on my backyard, so the dandelion roots there are safe.  We had a mild summer with quite a bit of rain, so I'm looking forward to a big harvest this year.

If you've never tried it, give it a chance. The two links above explain the process.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Things to do before cold weather gets here

1. Check insulation in your home and caulk around windows and wherever it's needed.

2. Get your car serviced to make sure the antifreeze and tires are up to par, especially. Get a tune up if needed.

3. Check the coat closet to make sure everyone has enough cold weather gear. Jackets, coats, snow shoes, mittens and hats need to be in good condition.

4. Have your furnace checked or your chimney cleaned or whatever you use to heat your home, serviced and ready to go. This includes filters and thermostats.

5. Bring in plants that need to winter over in the house. Mulch over other plants that need it and clean up the garden.

Enjoy the weather right now! It will soon enough be cold!

Monday, September 8, 2014

My Personal Favorite Frugal Resources

True frugality ranges all the way from quick actions that save a few pennies to more complex activities that save dollars and to even more complex concepts that help us use/keep/invest/grow those pennies and dollars saved.

The first one is Amy Dacycyzn's "Tightwad Gazette." That series is the backbone of saving pennies every day and in many different ways. They add up; she proved that. If you don't know, read her story.

Another good classic is "Miserly Moms" by Jonni McCoy. She tells her story and shares what she discovered about saving as much as she was making in a career.

Beyond that, The Simple Dollar is a blog about money, frugality and common sense that has gone beyond just being a blog. Trent has taken it to a whole new level.

Dave Ramsey's book "The Total Money Makeover" has changed many people's financial lives completely. It's definitely worth reading for anyone.

If you're looking for inspiration, for specific tips or for a good overall look at the frugal lifestyle, these four resources will help!

Monday, September 1, 2014

The Loss of Natural Resources

I'm not talking about clean water, clean air or original stands of forest. I'm talking about resources that frugal and crafty folks rely on to save money, to make things for the home and for gifts and to keep the kids occupied.

I can see the handwriting on the wall. Plastic grocery bags have been under attack for some time now, and every so often, we hear a warning that "next year" all of those freebie garbage bags, wet clothing bags and barf bags will be gone.

Another resource that's under attack is those cardboard tubes they put in toilet tissue. What will we use to corral electric cords or start seeds in?

We better start hoarding junk mail and cardboard boxes. I'm serious. Kind of, anyway. ;)

Thursday, August 28, 2014

It's Zucchini Season!

You know what I mean. You planted two zucchinis, just in case one of them didn't make it. Of course, they both did and now you can't give them away fast enough. Or your neighbor did that and keeps leaving sacks of them on your doorstep when you're not home.

It's a shame to waste good food, of course, but there are only so many ways to use zucchini! Maybe you haven't heard about all the ways, though. Here are some ideas that could help:

Make pickles from them, just like you would with cucumbers. Use the same spices and the same method, but don't try to ferment them like old fashioned pickles. Use the very young ones, around 4 to 5 inches long. You can make refrigerator pickles or can them, just like cucumber pickles.

Zucchini chips are a great snack any time. Slice them thinly, sprinkle a little salt on them and dehydrate until they're crispy. That's all you have to do, but be careful to not overdo the salt! (Make a few without salt and save them to use in soup and stew when the weather gets cold.)

Make a pie that tastes and looks like apple pie, but is made with zucchini. Even the larger ones work find if you take out the more mature seeds. Peel and cut them in half, then slice into 1/4 inch slices and just follow your favorite apple pie recipe. You can freeze these before they're cooked, so make a few for winter eating
Chunk zucchini and add chopped onions, cooked, crumbled sausage, diced or grated cheese and toss. Make up a bowl of cornbread batter and pour it over this. Bake at 400 for about a half hour.

Got some big ones? Split them in half and remove the seeds, then stuff with a cooked meatball mixture or chicken and rice mix. You can also use rice, mushrooms, onions and tomato sauce for a meatless dish. Bake at 350 until the squash is tender. Let your imagination roam with this one.

Do you have any zucchini recipes to share?? Please do in the comment section.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

How Can I Make a Lot of Money Quickly?

Here's a quote from an email I received: "We are in debt bad. Not like a poor person or anything like that but no kind of debt is good either. Please email me some good ideas of making big bucks in a short period of time for a long period of time. I will forever be thankful of your services if you would help us find something that will work." 

First of all, I'm not a proponent of making "big bucks" quickly. The internet and the mail are both full of scams that say they will do just that. They are only scams though, and will not bring you fast money (although you may lose money quickly to them), as good as they sound.

Then there are other ways of making a lot of money quickly, but they're not legal... so on to the real solution:

It's never how much money you make or how fast you make it, but it's how you use the money you make that makes the difference. If your family is in debt, no amount of money will help unless the basic attitude that got you in debt is changed. If that doesn't change, any greater amount of money will simply be eaten up with things and more things and can even put you in deeper debt.

The answer to your quandary is not making a lot of money quickly as much as it is controlling the money you already have. It's entirely possible to get out of "normal" debt and have money in savings on ANY income. Money problems are never resolved by how much we have, but how we handle what we have.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Are You Really Frugal?

Do you save water from the shower or in a pan in the kitchen sink to water houseplants, the garden, clean the floor, etc.?
Do you water down shampoo and liquid hand soap? (Some of it actually works better that way.)
Do you make your own plastic scrubbies from vegetable net bags?
Do you borrow books and DVDs rather than buy them? Shop at thrift stores and on sales racks exclusively?  Refinish furniture rather than buy something new (or second hand)?
What about transportation? Do you drive a car until it really needs to be replaced (rather than just when you get "tired" of it).

These are some of the ways that frugal people save their money and their sanity for more important things.