Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Cheap Crafts

 It won't be long (!) and summer will be winding down, giving way to falling leaves, pumpkins and cooler nights. Sights and sounds of changing seasons are inspiration for quieter and slower times. If you craft at all, now is the time to start looking for cheap or free crafting supplies and ideas. A few to get you started: 

Yarn is sometimes sold at thrift stores for a good price, although you'd be lucky to get enough of any one color or type to do more than a small project. Look at garage sales before they're over for the year. Then think about alternatives to yarn. Plarn (strips of plastic bags), "yarn" made from t-shirts cut in spirals and unusual thing like rope, twine and light weight wire make very interesting items. 

Cheapest crafting is done by using or reusing thing we already have. Historically, common folk made quilts from worn out clothing. You didn't buy material for it.  The middle layer was sometimes an old blanket or pieces of cloth sewn together. Backing was often patchwork just like the front. You used what you had.

Patchwork was also used to make curtains, tablecloths and even clothing. 

Another cheap craft made on the same order was rugs. Knitted, crocheted, latch hooked, woven or braided, rugs were made from rags - odds and ends of leftover clothing or household linens too small to use for anything else. Sewn together to make a continuous length, then worked into rugs, it's a truly frugal craft. 

Today you might supplement your own saved material for these by finding cheap items at garage sales or thrift stores. 

Then there is plastic canvas needlepoint. Plastic canvas is very inexpensive and you can use whatever yarn will suit your project. It takes small bits of yarn for the most part and you can make some neat things with it. 

Crafts that some people spend money on can be a lot cheaper if you can "think outside the box." Years ago, my husband made me a paper quilling tool from an old toothbrush handle. All you need is something to hold the paper. Take a look at the tools and you will see. As for the quilling paper? Magazine and catalog pages are much more interesting. If you want solid colors or something different, pay attention to your junk mail. 

There are more, but those are the ones I gravitate to. Cheap, frugal, whatever... I don't spend much money if any at all for them and I spend many happy hours creating some pretty cool things.

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Again... be prepared

 I think we'd better  hang on to our hats... shortages in food is coming fast. 

We are in serious drought conditions in the western USA. Ground water is drying up. The Great Salt Lake is at its lowest in recorded  history. Fires are burning for a second summer across the entire west. Reservoirs are shrinking; ranches are having to sell cattle because they don't have enough grazing or hay to feed them and can't buy it because no one else has it either. 

Some places are facing the other disaster. Floods, rain and more rain has destroyed crops. All crops are affected when there is too much water. Fields flood and roots die, too much rain brings disease and pests to feed on damaged and weak plants. 

Why is no one paying attention? Because your grocery store is stocked with soft drinks and frozen pizza, you see no problem? There are still eggs, right? And butter. And bread... and... for how long? 

Prices are going up and it's not all a matter of broken supply chains. The COVID crisis has passed and it's high time our system has recovered. It would have, except for other problems. Major producers have warned us that they are having to increase prices on certain goods.

People (workers) are paid to stay home instead of looking for work. They're paid more to stay at home than to work in some instances. I understand the human reason behind not working in that case, but it's destroying out economy. 

Weather, politics, economics... they're working against us. Be aware. There will be shortages soon, and possibly much more serious ones than we expect.

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Chickens are Shrinking

True confession: I sometimes buy rotisserie chicken from the grocery deli. They have been on sale, off and on, for $5, so that's not too bad. I have noticed that they are smaller than they used to be, but I thought that it was because they were trying to fill the gap caused by COVID by butchering them younger. 

The one I got last time might have been 6 weeks old, or it might have been younger. I still got several meals from it because I am single, frugal and don't eat a lot of meat due to health restrictions. But still.... it was small.

I nearly always boil the carcass and pick off all the meat to get my money's worth so when I started to get the pan to boil this one, I realized it would fit into my 2 quart pan. With room to spare. 

Ok, let's look at the frugal silver lining to this cloud. It took less water and less time (energy paid for) to boil it. That's about it.

I know that chicken, rotisserie or not, is not the only thing that's been shrinking. What was a 16 ounce package is now 14 or even 12. What was a twelve count is now a 10 count. Did you ever pay attention to how much detergent is (or rather, isn't) in those pods? 

We went through this a few years back, when a pound of coffee became 14 ounces and 5 pounds of sugar became 4 pounds. Chocolate bars shrank, gas prices soared.... it's sounding familiar, isn't it? 

I don't know if it's the same old merry go round or if this is something new, but the way forward is the same. Read the labels, do the math, pay closer attention now more than ever and get your money's worth. Well, as much as you can

That rotisserie chicken is going to go farther than ever as I use it in soup, salads, sandwiches and casseroles into the future. It has to because either the days of $5 chicken or the days of rotisserie chickens old enough to not be called chicks have to be coming to an end. 


Thursday, July 8, 2021

Accidentally Off Grid: Light Without Electricity

Self suffiency in this age seems like an outdated idea. Our next meal is often in our refrigerator, seldom farther away than the next restaurant or grocery store. "Smart" hubs turn the heat and/or AC off and on at appropriate times, if not, we do it ourselves.We flip a switch and lights come on.

We get so used to things being easy that it can be a shock when they aren't.

A little self sufficiency might not change those things but it can make life more liveable when things don't work right, and it can be a money saver. Besides that, it can make you feel good. Having back up plans for when the grid fails us, even for a few hours, can make things a lot easier.

A lot of the things our grandparents used are logical choices for today, but there are some new (or renewed) methods that we could use, too.

For instance, kerosene lamps or lanterns and candles can give you hours of light when the electricity goes off. So can a solar powered flashlight or stand alone light. There are light bulbs now that work on electricity but store it in batteries so when the power goes out, they continue to work for some time. There are flashlights that you crank to charge the battery.

It's a good idea to invest in more than one of these technologies. None of them are expensive. I have found kerosene lamps in thrift stores for almost nothing. Candles are often cheap, but be careful of what kind you buy. Some will hardly burn because of cheap wax.

To be very frugal, use kerosene instead of lamp oil. It's quite a bit cheaper and it stores just as well. It does smell like kerosene, but it's not all that unpleasant. Be sure of your candles. Beeswax or soy are best for air quality as well as light, but the wick has a lot to do with it, too. If you're not sure, try out a few before stocking up.

Solar or wind up flash lights are not expensive and handy to have anyway, but they may not be as bright as battery operated ones, so be prepared for that. If you use them, you don't have to buy batteries at all. Maybe a good compromise would be to have rechargeable batteries and a solar charger. You will need to keep the batteries well charged all the time, just in case. 

The new kid on the block, the light bulbs that work just like light bulbs during "normal" times, charge a battery while it's working, so when the electricity goes off, the light bulb will switch over to the battery and continue to shine. There is a time limit on the battery, so check that before deciding to rely on them.

Taking it a step further, you could make it a practice to rely on lighting without electricity. It won't take many evenings to discover the best practices for light. Your own home and preferences will make a difference.  

It's wise to try things out before it's necessary. That way, you will know what to do and what to expect and that makes everything easier. 

Saturday, June 5, 2021

You Can Eat Organic on a Budget

We probably all know that organic food is better for us, but being frugal, it's hard to let go of the money it takes to buy it. There are other ways to get healthy and organic food than paying full price at the grocery store, though.

One way is to look for coupons online. Coupons can usually be found for organic milk and other dairy products, and sometimes you will find a coupon for fresh produce at a particular store. Use a search engine to look for coupons for specific brand names and you'll surely find some.

Another way to save on any food is to buy meat and produce as close to the source as you can, but find a farmer or producer who grows things organically by looking on Local Harvest (http://www.localharvest.org) then go and talk to them. Organic eggs, meat, fresh vegetables and fruits can often be found this way that will cost less than what you will find in the grocery store.

Grow your own as much as you can. If you live in an apartment, you can still grow food organically by using grow lights or simply growing sprouts from organic seeds. Sprouts are superfoods and a little goes a long way. Although a pound of sprouting seed may seem expensive, it will produce far more than a pound of healthy, tasty food.

If you have room for a garden, you can grow a lot of your own food, of course. You might have a hard time finding plants ready to put into your garden, but if you need to, look for a plant nursery that advertises organic plants and avoid places like Walmart, Home Depot and Lowe's that all sell the same "conventional" (nonorganic) plants.

Unless you know someone who will share organic seed, you will have to buy it the first time, but if you buy heirloom or open pollinated produce, you can save the seed from your harvest and never have to buy it again.

Different types of vegetables take different methods of seed saving, so do some research before you try. A good book like Seed to Seed: Seed Saving and Growing Techniques for Vegetable Gardeners by Suzanne Ashworth can be invaluable and save you the price many times over.

There are seeds that are food that you can buy from an organic grocer or farmer to eat, then grow some of your own. Dry beans of various kinds, peas and whole grains (not polished or processed in any way), will grow in your garden. Garlic tends to diminish unless it's of good stock, but you can try planting the grocery store variety.

If you want to grow potatoes, you can try the grocery store variety as long as they're organic. Otherwise, they may not grow because they might have been irradiated to stop sprouting. Also, nonorganic potatoes may carry fungi which can infect your garden soil. Choose organic potatoes that are already trying to grow for the best results.

You can also regrow plants from much of the produce you buy. Celery, onions, lettuce and more will often grow again from the roots. When you buy, look for produce that still has some root left and don't cut all the way to the root when you use it. For celery, leave an inch or so, for onions, a half inch. You will soon know what to do if you try a few times. Put the root in a little water until it starts to grow, then carefully plant it and there you have another whatever you started with.

You can trade your own skills and products for organic food more easily than you can for "conventional" food because organic farmers are generally a little more "alternative" and willing to listen to your proposal. If you can provide a service or goods they can use, it's worth a try.

It's a good thing to eat organic! It might take a little work, but you can do it.

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Food You Might Be Throwing Away

Broccoli and cauliflower stems and hearts  can be eaten raw or in a stirfry of just cooked along with the rest of the vegetable. They're a great addition to a salad and a treat to eat out of hand. They're chock full of nutrients, so don't toss them! 

The leaves of both broccoli and cauliflower can be cooked just like any other green. You may not have enough to make a meal at one time, but you can blanch and freeze them and/or add them to other greens. 

If you can find beets with the greens still on them, grab them! Not only will they keep better, but the beet greens have a mild flavor that many will enjoy if they don't like the stronger flavored greens. Eat them with or without a little salt and that's all they really need, but some people like to put butter on them.

You may not realize that carrot tops are edible. They taste a little like carrots but with their own unique flavor, so sample some before deciding. Eat them cooked, in soups, stews or casseroles. You can dehydrate them for use later. 

Radish greens taste a little like a radish, but the texture can put you off if you eat them raw. Cook them like you would any other green and they're good, although you might not get enough from one bunch of radishes. You can blanch and freeze or dehydrate them. If you decide to eat them raw, chop them into small pieces in a salad to minimize the fuzzy texture. Try them anyway. 

Cabbage hearts are another treat somewhat like cauliflower and broccoli. They taste kind of like a mild turnip. I had always trimmed cabbage close to the heart, then cut the heart out of the remaining "stubble," then it occurred to me that even the stubble was edible. Cook it all together if you wish and you won't waste a thing. 

Candied orange peel, anyone? It's a rather expensive ingredient in fancy dishes around the holidays. You can candy them yourself by boiling them in a simple syrup. Dip them in melted chocolate to make a special treat. 

Wash your potatoes before you peel them and the potato peelings can be deep fried quickly to make a great snack. Add a touch of salt or your favorite spice. 

There are many other things we throw away that I won't list here for now. The next time you're preparing vegetables for a meal, think about the scraps that you usually throw away. The chances are they are edible and good food.


Sunday, May 16, 2021

Ten Extreme But Practical Frugal Tips

 Think you're as frugal as can be but you still can't save enough money? Nonsense. I've been "in the business" for years and I still find frugal tips I'd never thought of. You may find some of these tips extreme, but they're completely practical and totally frugal.

1. Use cloth "toilet paper." How's that for an extreme opening shocker? It's practical, though, especially for women. Cloth can be washed and reused many times over and that's frugal. Tip: You can make these from flannel or cotton. Cut a four or five inch square and sew two pieces together at the edges with a selvedge hem. Keep a container handy to put them in once they're used and wash them with underwear and handkerchiefs.

2. Yes, handkerchiefs. Those paper tissues are not practical or frugal, either in terms of money or the environment. Why buy something to throw away? Once you've used cloth handkerchiefs, you'll never go back to paper, no matter how plush (and expensive) it is. Extreme? Maybe. Practical? Absolutely.

3. Frugal gift wrapping tip: Never buy wrapping paper. That can be as expensive as the gift and that doesn't make frugal sense. Make your own or use newspaper or brown paper bags. A good tip: you can sometimes get roll ends of newsprint from you local newspaper. It's frugal and makes great wrapping paper which you can decorate according to the occasion. A container of water paints is cheap and will go a long ways to make your gift wrapping awesome.

4. This tip isn't extreme, but not many people do it: Make your own cream soups. A quick, frugal recipe: One cube of chicken bouillon, 1 TBS cornstarch, a cup of milk, a teaspoon of onion powder and pepper to taste. Mix cornstarch with cold milk, add the rest of the ingredients and cook over medium heat, stirring often, until thick. Add other ingredients: Mushrooms, chicken, asparagaus, tomatoes or whatever.

5. Here's a practical and frugal tip: Clean your bathroom with shampoo that you don't like. Soap is soap and shampoo is excellent for cleaning tubs, sinks, walls and floors. More extreme tip: You can use it mixed with water for a liquid hand soap.

6. Do you think it's extreme to use baking soda in place of scrubbing cleansers, antacids, deodorizers and laundry boosters? It's a lot more frugal and it's very practical, since it's safe, has no chemical smell and it works.

7. Use vinegar in place of window cleaner, meat tenderizer, hair rinse and a lightener for age spots, among other things. Tips for using vinegar frugally are all over the internet, but basically, it's an acid that eats away minerals (hard water deposits, bones...), a mild bleaching agent and a frugal but effective grease cutting cleaner.

8. Really extreme grocery tip: Don't buy water at a thousand times the cost. When you buy produce by the pound that's been sprayed with water, shake the water from it so you don't have to pay for it, too. Avoid meat that has water added. Another extreme tip: When you buy drinks or other liquids in clear containers, pay attention and choose the one that's the fullest.

9. Extreme tip for saving water: If you need to water gardens or houseplants, keep a container under the kitchen faucet. You'll be amazed at how much clean water otherwise goes down the drain. You can use it to clean or for pets, too.

10. Dishcloths and washcloths were once called dish rags and wash rags. Guess why? Made from discarded pieces of clothing, they were used to wash dishes, bodies and walls, floors or whatever else needed it. If you're frugal, you'll still use real, homemade, hemmed rags for cleaning. Tip: Don't use the same rag to wash dishes as you use for other cleaning! And don't buy rags. Go through the clothes you've set aside for donations or to throw away and make your own. Natural materials are usually better than manmade.

Frugal tips are extreme only if you don't feel confortable using them and that's okay. Everyone has their own idea of what's acceptable. If you're in a bind financially, though, rethink your limits. Practical frugality can make a big difference in your bottom line.

Friday, May 7, 2021

Why You Should Stock Up

 And pay attention. I said "stock up" not hoard. We know the difference even though we tend to split hairs and argue over it. Hoarding is bad for your mental health and bad for others who can't get what you have taken away from them. 

Stocking up is having enough to do you through problematic times, no matter what they are. 

Stocking up for disasters is usually the first thing that comes to mind. If you live in hurricane prone areas you stock up one way and if you live where blizzards could keep you home for days and days, you stock another way. If you "prep" or stock for other possibilities you will have another goal in mind. 

There are as many reasons for stocking up as there are for having different lifestyles, but the one basic thing is preparing for the unexpected. 

Job loss
Illness
Major storms
SHTF - a scene where everything falls apart (who knows?)
Peace of mind
Being able to help others

I'm sure there are other or expanded reasons many of you have. 

What started this post today was when I was asked to help a family who had fallen on hard times. With a couple of young children and little food until payday, they needed help. I was able to go to my pantry and fill three grocery bags with meals for them. 

It didn't leave much of a dent and there is only one thing I need to replace soon. If/when other things happen, I intend to be ready for them, too. I hope you are.

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Never Throw Away a Tshirt

 Why?

Because...

You can make excellent cleaning rags from them, no hemming required. They are especially good for dusting.

You can use them in place of tissues for colds and allergies. They wash well and again, no hemming required

They're great for braiding, knitting or  crocheting anything from floor rigs to bath mats to chair mats. 

They are ultimately washable and reusable. They are economic and planet saving when you reuse them. 

There are other ways:

Layer, quilt and make handbags, shopping bags or laundry bags.

They make excellent coveralls for kids when they are into messy projects like painting.

Cut the back out, put some yarn through the sleeves and you have an emergency tie on apron.

 If, after all this, you decide you really don't want to keep them, see if someone else wants them. You might want to give them this list of uses first or they will think you are trying to give away trash. ;)


Saturday, February 27, 2021

Don't Throw Out the Pickle Jar!

Uses for pickle jars: Make refrigerator pickles, save refrigerated leftovers, store grains, flours, sugars, etc., small ones can be used as drinking glasses, interesting ones (or not) can be flower vases, use one to hold buttons or craft supplies, make a candle in one, use one to hold gift goodies like homemade candy....

 Got a pickle jar? They're useful for so many things! One thing that might put you off though, is that pickle smell . The rubber gasket painted underneath the lid is the culprit. One way doesn't always work, so you may have to try several ways to remove the smell. 

The first thing to do is look for another lid. Maybe you'll be lucky and your jar will accept a used canning lid. You can sometimes put that inside the original lid and that does the trick. If that doesn't work, look for lids from other jars like peanut butter.

If that doesn't work , try wrapping the lid in newspaper and put it in a plastic bag for a day  or so. 

Or sprinkle it generously with baking soda and put it in a plastic bag. 

On a warm, sunny day, put the lid inside up so that the sun will strike it. Leave it there several hours. 

Again, time itself will remove the smell if you're patient enough. Leave the lid exposed to air in a safe place and forget about it for a week or so. 

Another thing that makes saving jars a problem is getting rid of the label. Some labels will soak off and some simply won't. That's because there are two kinds of glue. One is water soluble and one is fat soluble. Soaking a fat soluble glue wont do much other than take the top layer off. That will leave you with a sticky mess that won't wash off and makes a mess of any scrubber you try on it. 

The answer to that is to make sure the label is dry then apply fat or oil of any kind. The very best and fastest acting is lamp oil, or pure kerosene if you have it. Otherwise, try anything oily or fatty. Olive oil, vegetable oil, mineral oil and so on, will take a little while to absorb but once it does, you should be able to coax the label off. Be patient and let the oil do the work.