Wednesday, July 11, 2018

How to Really Save on Laundry Detergent

Far beyond the "buy on sale using a coupon" advice, there are several ways to save money on laundry detergent. One is to simply use less - way less. If you've cut back on using full scoops, that's the first step, but try this: Take a small item fresh from the washing machine and put it in a bowl of clear water. Swish it around a few times. Is the water still clear? If not, the chances are that you're using too much detergent. That excess detergent traps dirt and odors and can irritant your skin as well as cost you real money.

What to do? It's not cost effective, but you can do a double rinse each time, or you can cut back on detergent, or both. Being frugal, I prefer to cut back on detergent even more instead of wasting water rinsing out something that apparently isn't necessary to have in there. 

Another solution (or an additional step) is to do a load now and then with no detergent at all. If your laundry is like most, there is enough detergent to do the job in the laundry itself plus some trapped in the washing machine. Try a load and you will see. It may seem all kinds of wrong to do that (I won't tell anyone if you do), but you might be amazed that your clothes seem to be just as clean as if you'd loaded the machine with detergent.

Of course, you can't wsah every time without detergent, but a load now and then won't hurt at all.

Another thing you can do, especially for dark clothes, is to wash them with a squirt of cheap dish washing liquid. A small squirt, mind you (about a tablespoon's worth), you don't want the laundry room flooded with suds. Dish washing detergent leaves fabrics soft and it cleans oils and surface dirt well.

I have made laundry detergent from the few "recipes" you can find online and I've used very generic detergent with more filler than detergent but using much less detergent to begin with and simply washing a load without detergent at all every third or fourth time, makes saving on detergent simple and easy.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Uses for Plastic Gallon Jugs

If you have milk or water jugs stashed (or know someone who does), use them! Here are a few ways, but you can probably think of more. If you do, let us know.

  1. Cut off the top an inch or two below the handle, turn it upside down and use it as a funnel. 
  2. Cut the bottom off and use it to hold nasty water when you're doing some deep cleaning. If it gets too dirty, throw it out. 
  3. Cut the bottom off, poke holes in the bottom for drainage and use it to start seeds. 
  4. Cut the bottom off, paint the outside or decorate it with Contact paper. Poke holes for drainage and use it for a plant pot. 
  5. Heat an ice pick or nail firmly held with pliers by passing it through a candle flame. Use it to melt more or less uniform holes around the top front of the jug on the side opposite the handle. Fill it with water up to the holes, put on the lid and you have a one gallon watering can. 
  6. Fill the jug to within about three inches of the top and freeze then put it in your cooler to keep foods cold without the mess of loose or plastic bagged ice. 
  7. Use a funnel to fill one with rice, popcorn or other grains for storage. It will keep them dry and safe from pests.  
Now it's your turn. How can we save money by using gallon plastic jugs?

Monday, February 12, 2018

How to Make an Awesome Lunch With Ramen Noodles

Known as a cheap meal, ramen noodles sometimes get a bum rap because of their salt content and maybe just because they're cheap.

While it's true that the bouillon flavoring that comes with ramen noodles has a lot of salt, so does any kind of bouillon, unless you opt for the pricier, low salt version. I still don't know how omitting an ingredient makes a product more expensive, but I digress.

Ramen noodles can make the basis of a really good and really quick lunch.

Use two packages of noodles for a family. Bring a pot of water to boil, using about half what the noodles call for.

Other than that, you will need:

2 eggs, beaten
A double handful of chopped raw greens of your choice: spinach, collards, dandelion greens or other wild greens.
1 cup of frozen mixed vegetables
1 cup of chopped, cooked meat or crumbles like ground beef. Meat can be anything you have: Poultry, ham, beef, etc. Leftovers are great and a combination is fine.

Put the frozen vegetables in first because they take the longest to cook. Chop the greens and meat and beat the eggs while the vegetables are cooking. Add noodles and greens at the same time, wait a minute or two, then drizzle the beaten egg into the boiling soup, stirring gently as you do. Add the meat last and cook just enough to heat through.

Serve with crusty bread and condiments like pickled beets or other vegetables and/or cheese slices.

There you go. There's a hearty, almost healthy and entirely cheap meal.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Frugal Crafting

Do you enjoy crafts, but hesitate to buy craft supplies that seem so expensive? They're not always necessary. I have been browsing through some craft blogs and while most of them have great ideas, so many of them list materials that seem unnecesarily expensive. Jars, paint, posterboard, all kinds of paper punches and cutters, beads and so on. There's a better (frugal) way!

Here are a few substitutions:

For posterboard, try cardboard, pasteboard (from shoeboxes, tablet backs, shirt forms, etc.) cardstock if you already have it. Glue two sheets together if you need to.
For beads, check your jewelry for something ready to sacrifice, or your button box, Some buttons are beautiful and can be made to fit the situation. Learn how to make paper beads and you'll never have to buy them.
Mason jars - this is an easy one. Save any unique jars that you come across. Labels will peel or soak off and if the lid labels won't come off, you can paint over them.
For paint, first look around for what you might have. Small jars of leftover acrylic paint is great, but wall paint or even house paint, works too. Don't forget that nail polish is basically paint. If you just need a tiny bit, a bottle of cheap nail polish will save you money on small projects, and look at all those colors!
Special paper or foil for crafts: Check your gift wrap supply. And don't forget the alumimun foil, wax paper and freezer paper. Of course, it helps if you save odds and ends of foil or pretty paper throughout the year.

I keep a craft stash that includes odds and ends of ribbon and lace from old clothing, elastic from the same source, very inexpensive floral wire, odds and ends of paper, cloth and other materials. I have saved, at one time or another, a few empty food cans of various sizes, shoeboxes, facial tissue boxes and old plastic table cloths.

They all came in handy. For instance, I had a black plastic lid that just fit a small glass bowl that I wanted to use for refrigerator storage. The lid had the logo of something or other on it, and to make it more presentable, I cut a circle from an old tablecloth which had a pumpkin on it and glued it to the lid. It looked like it belonged there, honest!

Crafting doesn't have to be an expensive hobby. Paying a lot of money to make something kind of defeats the purpose, as far as I am concerned. Look around at what you already have and use it.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Thank you!

I was surprised and humbled by the number of warm and encouraging responses to my last blog post, and I thank you all very much.

One of the most asked for posts was regarding food. I started a blog called Basic Food Saving Ideas awhile back but just couldn't get it going or keep it going, so I might close that one down and transfer some of those posts here so that more of you can find them. I have a lot more ideas and recipes to share, too!

Basic tips were called for, too, and in that I will no doubt repeat myself. Frugal living covers all aspects of life, from food to insurance to crafts to anything else you can think of and I have written on much of it, but there is always something else to think about.

How to reach young people and families also seems to be a concern. That will take some work, but I will tackle it. Every generation has its challenges and since I am of the older one, I sometimes have trouble relating to the younger. Thank heavens I have children and grandchildren who can guide me in some areas!

All told, it looks like the blog will be active and I will do my best to address the concerns and questions you have. Feel free to email me any time.

And thank you again!

Monday, January 29, 2018

I need your help and thank you. :)

I need your help. This is an old blog, dating from about 2009, I think, and I have written about a lot of frugal things on it. Before that I wrote about a lot of frugal things for About.com.

The truth is that it seems like every time I have an idea, I have already written about it. I know that people who are new to saving money come along all the time, so some of those topics can be revisited, but times have changed so some of those things are obsolete.

My question: What do you want to know? What interests you about living frugally? I am not saying that I know it all, but I know some of it, anyway.

I was raised on a ranch and lived a good portion of my life in the country, but I've lived in town, too. I know what it's like to go out on a cold, snowy morning and milk the cow but I know what it's like to run a business and raise a family. More than that, I know what it's like to pinch pennies and to figure out how to make them do what I needed them to.

My email address is in my profile, so email me and let me know what you are looking for or what you think I should concentrate on. I will take everything into consideration and if it looks like that's what makes the most sense, I will close this blog.

It's up to you! And thanks :)

Monday, January 22, 2018

Staying at Home


Are two incomes really necessary for a family to survive?

I am not talking about career moms or dual income, no kids or others who choose to work because they want to.

Let's just address those who would prefer to or at least be comfortable with, being at home - for their kids and for their spouses.

Is it necessary that you work outside the home? Short answer: Probably not. Except in circumstances where one partner is limited in earning income for some reason (disability, few local options, etc.)

How can that be, you may be asking. First, let's take a closer look at your income and expenses.

Unless you are in a career that you have trained for that pays well, the chances are that you are barely (or not at all) making enough money to cover your working expenses.

There are several things to take into account:

Taxes. How much do you pay on your income, and does it put you in a higher tax bracket so that you pay higher taxes on your partner's income, too?
Transportation. It's okay to have a second car, but if you're not driving to work every day, you save gas, maintenance, wear and tear and even insurance. Ask your insurance company what the rate would be if you only drove 3.000 miles a year instead of 12,000.
Clothing. You don't need to dress in rags to stay at home, but neither do you need an expensive wardrobe. Take the things you have learned in creating a wardrobe and cut the expense and the volume at least in half. Sell your excess.
Child Care. This is a big one. It's very expensive to pay for child care. If you stay home and take care of your own kids you save all of that money.
Medical expenses. This one might surprise you, but kids who stay home as opposed to going to day care, have fewer illnesses. The chances are that you may be healthier, too.
Food. How many times do working parents who are responsible for the evening meal stop and grab something from a fast food place or get take out? Or order pizza or other food delivered, just because they are too tired or overwhelmed to cook a meal?
On the same note, calling in your order to the grocery store will cost you. If you have time and energy, it literally pays to go to the store yourself. Besides that, you can often find deals and sales that would otherwise be missed. Not having to buy precooked food, deli, canned or frozen, from the store counts, too.

Okay, second step.

I am not criticizing or even suggesting, but here are some questions you may want to think about.

How much could you save if you hung laundry, even part of it, up to dry instead of using a dryer?

Could you repair clothing instead of buying new? Do you know how to use a sewing machine to at least make simple household items like curtains and potholders?

Do you know how to cook from scratch? Did you know that you can save money by doing so?

Can you clean the house completely without help? The advent of window washers and house cleaners has come about because no one is at home to do it.

How much does your makeup cost? Would you wear it daily if you were at home?

Be honest and think it through. You may find that you will actually make money by staying at home.

Friday, January 5, 2018

About That Frugal Laundry Detergent

Making your own laundry detergent has probably brought about more questions than any other frugal ploy since this site began.

Is it hard to do? Does it work? What is washing soda? Where can I find the ingredients? How much can I save?

I'll attempt to answer those questions and give you a better idea of how to go about it and what to expect. You can post your further discoveries or questions to the Frugal Living Forum and expect a good answer.

Washing soda

Washing soda should be in the laundry section of your grocery store. It comes in a yellow box, made by Arm & Hammer, but it's NOT baking soda. If you're interested, washing soda is Sodium Carbonate (Na2CO3), baking soda is Sodium Bicarbonate (NaHCO3), and borax is Sodium Tetraborate Decahydrate (Na2B4O7*10H2O), all different chemical compounds.

If you can't find it locally, call this number: 1-800-524-1328. It's the Arm & Hammer number and they should be able to tell you where the closest place is that you can find it. There are places on the internet where you can order it, but shipping costs will eat up a portion of your savings, so that would be a last resort.

Borax

Some recipes call for borax, which comes in green box. The most popular brand is called 20 Mule Team Borax. This has been around as a cleaning aid for many years and is also known as an inorganic pesticide and herbicide. Borax is a naturally occuring substance used for cleaning and whitens and lightens clothing.

The "20 Mule Team" comes from the fact that borax was mined in Death Valley in the 1800's and hauled out of the desert by 18 mules and 2 horses at a time.  Two wagons loaded with borax and a wagon carrying 500 gallons of water traveled over 165 miles of desert in 10 days. That's probably more than you wanted to know, but it was quite an enterprise at the time.

Bar soap

You can use any bar soap you like to make it, but what is probably the original recipe used Fels Naptha, a old stand by - the yellow soap your grandmother grated into her wringer washing machine. They still make it and it's still good:
Fels Naptha The one and only, yes!

How to do it

Some people shave the bar of soap into a pan of hot water and stir until it's dissolved, but there is a lazy way to do it. Break or cut up the bar soap and put it in a pan of warm water one night. Let it set over night, then stir until it's dissolved. Heat it if it's stubborn, but it won't take nearly as much time or stirring this way.

For those of you who are outside the US, put about 10 - 12 litres of hot water in a bucket and, after adding the dissolved soap bar, add 250 ml washing soda, and half that of borax (if you use it).
After the soap is dissolved, put about three gallons of hot water into a large container. Add the soap, stir in well, then add a cup of washing soda, stirring until dissolved. If you want to use borax, now is the time to add a half cup or so.

Set the whole thing aside until it cools, when you'll discover a gelatinous mass, vaguely of the same color as the bar soap you used. Depending on the strength of your soap and how much water you used, you'll need 1/2 to 2 cups of this laundry soap for each laundry load.

How much it will cost

It's easy to figure how much you'll save this way. Add up the cost of the bar of soap, divide the cost of washing soda by six (that's about how many cups are in a regular size box), add that, then figure the cost of borax the same way. (There are about eight cups in a regular size box of borax.) Now divide that figure by 48 which is how many cups are in three gallons.

Example:

One bar of Fels Naptha soap -      .79
1/6 of $1.99 box of washing soda - .33
1/16 of $2.49 box of borax -        .16
TOTAL                             1.28

(Note: Prices were from a few years ago and have probably changed, but so have "regular" laundry detergent prices. You can get a good idea of prices by looking for the product on the internet.)

Divided by 48 = .0266 or less than 3 pennies a cup.
Does it save you money? How many cups are in the box of detergent that you normally use? Yes, you'll have to measure them yourself. Just pour it, cup by cup, into a measuring cup and then into a large container, counting the cups. When you know how many, divide what you paid for it by that much. Ouch, huh?

The only thing left to figure is that if you use half the recommended amount, halve the cost per cup and that's how much a load of laundry costs you with your present detergent.

I will bet that it costs more than 3 cents.


Wednesday, January 3, 2018

How not to waste food

Waste not, want not. That's an old saying and it's just as true today as it was years ago, especially when it comes to food. It may very well save you as much or more money to not waste the food you buy, than it does to coupon and buy on sale and mark downs. No matter how careful you are with saving money when buying food, if you waste it after it's bought, it's money down the drain.

Eat all your lefovers. Never let leftovers get pushed to the back of the refrigerator. Pull them forward and eat them at the next meal. If you can't, or don't want to, eat them at the meal after that. If that doesn't work, freeze, dehydrate or can the food. Most foods freeze well, but low fat dairy and a few others don't, like mayonnaize. While cheese crumbles after being frozen and thawed, it's perfectly good for cooking. Eggs can be scrambled then frozen, gravies and sauces may separate but can be whipped back easily.

Use all of a food. When you buy green onions, do you use all of the tops? How about radishes? If you don't eat them, you're wasting food. Green onion tops can be chopped and frozen or dehydrated and used in soups and sauces. Radish greens are greens, healthy and tasty, although the texture puts some people off. Mince to add to salads or freeze of dehydrate them to add to soup or stew. If you save them over time, you can have dish of cooked greens. It takes a lot, like spinach.

Again, use it all. If you peel apples for any reason, wash the apple first, then save the peels and cores until you have a good batch and make apple jelly with it. Apples have enough pectin to jell without adding anything but a minimum of sugar. Potato peelings can be tossed with oil, salted and baked until crispy for a treat.

Clean out your refrigerator and freezer on a regular basis and make it a point to use up odd bits or things you're not quite sure what to do with. The internet is a huge resource for things like that and a search engine is your friend. Someone, somewhere, knows what to do with a half cup of leftover stuffing, two black olives and a tablespoon of cranberry sauce.