Saturday, October 20, 2018

Pumpkins Yet Again

Pumpkins, to me anyway, are one of the greatest things about fall. Not only do I like to grow them, I like to look at them and I like to eat them. What porch or step doesn't look better in the fall with a pumpkin sitting on it??

(Disclaimer: The squirrels eat them if I put them out, so I don't. I woulr rather eat them myself!)

Anyway, I like pumpkins so much that I've written about them - a lot. Here are some links to what I have to say:

Time for Pumpkin!

It's Almost Pumpkin Time Again

Fresh Pumpkin Soup

Updated 2018


Wednesday, October 17, 2018

More Cheap Crafts

When I start looking at craft ideas, I nearly always find myself saying "I can make that cheaper!"

I have even thought about doing a series of frugal - really frugal - crafts, but I am lazy when it comes to writing instructions and taking pictures of projects as I go. Okay, I will be honest here. I forget to take photos until it's finished.

So... rather than bore you with craft after craft that's made cheaper than most anyone else, let me just list some substitutes that may help you do your craft projects cheaper, or at least give you some ideas you can work from.

Here we go:

If you cut a circle out of an old cardboard box then cut the center out of that, you have a wreath form that you can pin or glue things to. If you need one that isn't flat, add some stuffing under fabric to the front, or put a few more circles on it, in smaller sizes.

Bits of leftover yarn is great for doll hair, angel hair, and stuffing small objects, among other things. For fluffy angel hair, fasten the yarn then comb it with an old comb to separate and fluff it.

Use yarn instead of ribbon to dress up a package.

Instead of a styrofoam cone to make a Christmas tree, make one from paper. I just use a plain rectangle, put the edges together until it's cone shaped, then cut off the excess. Card stock works best... no cardstock? Use the sturdy front of a catalog or magazine.

If you get packages with those long strips of brown or offwhite packing paper, save it, iron it and use it. For what? Wrapping paper, paper to make patterns on, paper to draw or paint on and anything you'd use brown kraft paper for.

Also, save some cereal boxes. The pasteboard is useful for many things. Paint it for signs, cut and fold it for miniature furniture, make notebook covers from it, among other things. 

Picture frames are easy to make from cardboard or pasteboard and you can decorate them so they look expensive. Cut the back and front the same size, then cut out the center of the front piece for the frame. Attach both pieces together except for the top, where you will insert the photo or artwork. Decorate the frame with cloth, paint, yarn or any combination. For instance, soak cloth in white glue/water combination, then attach to frame, add yarn in swirls or whatever shape you like. When it's all dry, paint it.

Don't run out and buy special craft paints if you have leftover latex paint at home. Use that. If you have food coloring you can tint the latex whatever color you like. You can paint cardboard, paper and cloth, so let your imagination flow.

Save odd shaped bottles or jars to make vases or to use for gifts. If you need to camouflage the screw top, paint it and/or tie ribbon or yarn around it.

I don't even remember where this bottle came from, but the grasses came from my backyard. Frugal enough?

There are many, many ways to save when it comes to crafting. The bottom line is to think of what to subsitute before going out and buying supplies.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Food You Throw Away

The numbers are anywhere from 40 to 50 % of food in the USA is wasted, thrown away before it gets to the consumer or after the consumer buys it.

Not only do we waste food by letting it go bad, we are picky about the shape and size and blemishes of food.

Besides that? We don't even know what is edible. We limit ourselves to only part of the food we buy.

The entire radish is edible, from the root to the leaves to the flowers and even the green seed pods. Save the mature ones for sprouts in the winter when produce is expensive.

Pumpkins are versatile, too. Not only the flesh of the pumpkin is edible, but the seeds are good roasted and the leaves are edible and nutritious.

Broccoli stems and leaves are often thrown out, but they're good food, raw or cooked, just like broccoli.

Cauliflower is the same. Peel tough stems.

If you grow a garden, you have probably tossed a ton of dried bean pods. They make a good nutritious tea.

Okra seeds can be dried and cooked just like beans.

Corn silk makes a great tea.

Winter squash like butternut, acorn and spaghetti squash, have seeds that are great when toasted like pumpkin seeds.

Scrub potatoes before peeling, toss the peels with olive oil and a little salt and bake them to a crisp. They taste kind of like potato chips but better.

If you make pies, don't throw out the leftover bits of pie crust. Roll it out, spread a little butter on it and sprinkle cinnamon and sugar. Bake at 350 until lightly browned, just a few minutes.

Put back bread scraps and crumbs to make bread pudding or use in stuffings and so on. They will keep in the freezer until you need them. As each bread sack is emptied, I put the crumbs in a container in the freezer and it's amazing how fast they add up.

There are more. People didn't used to have such an abundance of food that they could toss what they didn't want. We should be so wise.


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.