Monday, July 30, 2007

Baking Soda

Baking soda is a cheap fix for a lot of things. Here are some of the most frugal uses of it, from tips readers sent in:

Carpet deodorizer - sprinkle on carpet, and leave overnight, then vacuum in the morning. Offending odors will be gone.

Put a generous amount of baking soda in a dish. After using steel
wool, wring out, and store it in the dish of baking soda. Cuts down
on rust, and is ready to scour away!

This reader says: I add a little baking soda to my facial cleanser instead of using facial scrubs. The little grains are round and tiny, so are very gentle. It's wonderful!

Add 1 T. of baking soda to 1 gal. of homemade organic rose/garden spray. Works
as an excellent fungicide. (Works on lawns, too.)

Make a box of baking soda do double duty by using it first to deodorize the refrigerator, under sink or wherever you need it, then use it to clean and polish with.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Way Things Really Are

I drive an old car. Is that a surprise? :) It's 11 years old, with almost 83,000 miles on it. Not bad, considering that I bought it 7 years ago and it had 62,000 on it then. I don't drive much, but I do need a car, so this is the perfect answer. Occasionally, I'll get the New Car Envy, but that's a different post.

Anyway, I had some work done to the car this week, and since it was going to be an almost all day job and I couldn't get a ride otherwise, the owner of the garage gave me a ride home.

It was an interesting conversation when he started out with the comment that people complained about $3 a gallon for gas on their way to a $7 cup of coffee! Yeah... kind of silly, isn't it? Smart mechanic.

My thought: When people stop silly overspending, that's when we'll know that gas prices are really starting to hurt.

We get so used to the "way things are" that sometimes we don't see things the way they really are.

Plums, sugar beets and other good things

A good year for plums! This is the first year my little plum tree has really borne a lot of fruit but I think it's making up for lost time. I'm so looking forward to making plum butter!

As a matter of fact, I'm looking forward to all sorts of autumn things. Winter squash, cool nights, school buses, farm trucks wallowing along under their loads of onions and carrots and the first sugar beets.

I made sugar beet molasses one year that was fun. I wouldn't do it now with nothing but an electric stove, but at the time I used a wood burning stove so it didn't cost much at all to keep it going for hours. To do it right, you need a fire outdoors. (In case you want to know, just chunk up the sugar beet after a good scrub and cook it in water until it becomes soft, then remove it and continue cooking the liquid until it thickens. Chickens and pigs love the cooked beets.)

One thing I discovered was that grated and dried sugar beet tastes just like dry coconut - the kind you buy in plastic bags.

But back to the plums... aren't they pretty, hanging there? Every time it clouds up I pray we don't have hail!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Internet Connection Troubles

Do you have any experience with ISPs, cable, wireless? Terre Parker, over at the Frugal, Single Mom blog has computer troubles! Or rather, internet troubles.

If you think you can help (or just want to be sympathetic) the blog post is Frugal home computing As you can see, it needs to be a frugal fix.

I remember when we first got cable internet. We'd been using dial-up for years (since that's the only thing that's available in the country) so the change was mind-blowing. Downloads seemed to be at lightning speed and I could travel all over the internet, two, three or more pages at a time without timing out.

Technology is a wonderful thing... until it doesn't work the way we need it to.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Extremely Frugal, #2

Here are some interesting tips from my "Extremely Frugal" list.

  • You won't have to make crumbs for toppings and fillings if you save the bread crumbs from the bottom of the bread bag. Empty the bag onto a clean counter, and put the crumbs into a freezer container. It won't take long to have enough to top a casserole or use in a meat loaf or dressing. Cracker crumbs take longer to accumulate this way, but why throw them out?
  • Instead of buying plastic wrap or bowl covers to keep food fresh in the refrigerator, split a bread sack down one seam, leaving the bottom intact. This will slip over most bowls and pans, even glass cake pans. Twist the other end and slip it under the bowl or pan to keep it closed.
  • Water in which you've cooked potatoes can be used in place of milk in many recipes, especially breads and white gravies. Be sure to drain it from the potatoes before you add margarine or salt, though. My advice: Don't keep it in the refrigerator for over a week before using for either one.
  • When you use cornmeal or flour mixtures to coat fish, chicken or vegetables, instead of throwing it out when you're through, put it in the freezer, labelled plainly, and use it again the next time. It will stay fresh, and any small pieces of food left in it won't spoil, being frozen. Just be sure to use it for the same thing each time.
  • 'Soup bones' that you find at the grocer any more don't have much food value at all, but you can boil them and crack them to get the marrow, if you can find them cheaply enough. Mix the marrow into the boiling liquid and use this a base for soups. If you add barley or wheat to your soup along with the marrow, it will taste like a meat stew.

What do you think? Are they too extreme?

Monday, July 23, 2007


Ok, so it doesn't take much to thrill me. I went to the Goodwill store the other day and found a rubber spatula, the old fashioned kind, made of real rubber, not plastic. It was only 79 cents, too. Then I found a really cute little teakettle. It holds about 3 cups and fits perfectly on one of the small burners on the stove. That means that it doesn't waste energy while heating up.

Super finds, huh? :)

I know... some people (maybe even you) wonder how in the world I can crow about something like that. Well, pennies being pennies, I saved a few. Why not? A few pennies can turn into a few nickels, then a few dimes, then a few quarters and a few dollars and so it goes.

My pennies (and by default, my dollars) are put into a savings account with a good rate of interest ( and there they stay, ready for me to do whatever I want with them. They add up faster than you'd think.

The next time you save a penny, don't just drop it back in your pocket. Put it somewhere so it can grow and you'll be surprised at what happens.

Friday, July 20, 2007

I couldn't have said it better myself...

Fun with frugality is anything but frivolous fun. It's a serious look at what consumerism is doing to our world.

Or at what we're doing to it, rather, and why? The question needs an answer.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Raised Bed Gardens

The circled plant in the foreground is a green onion from a bunch I bought at the grocery store. I planted it because I couldn't eat all of them before they went bad. The rest of the first row is beans, with a few lentils planted at the end. Both beans and lentils came from grocery store packages.

In the back bed are a couple of tomato plants (bought; sorry), a small stand of lettuce and one lonely pepper plant. That's a volunteer amaranth circled - one my daughter planted a few years back called "Dragon's Tears." I suppose you could eat the seeds as well as the leaves on this variety, but I haven't tried it.

At the end, spilling onto the walkway, is a patch of purslane, which is a very good wild vegetable. There's some of it in the beans, too. I let it grow, they do well together.

You see clearly that my garden and yard are not the perfectly trimmed kind that looks like everyone else's. ;)

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Rice Milk, the Frugal Way

Have you ever priced rice milk? Bought it, even? The price is ridiculous! You can make rice milk for much, much less and it's not even hard to do. Here's how:

1/2 cup of rice, white or brown
8 cups of water
Flavoring to taste. (Vanilla is good, or try almond.)

All you do is cook the living daylights out of the rice, then puree it along with the water it was cooked in, add flavorings and that's it. Really, that's all there is to it.

Don't boil it hard because the water will boil away. Simmer it with a lid on (it takes two to three hours) or cook it overnight in your crockpot, which is cheaper and easier. Keep it refrigerated just like you'd do with the expensive kind.

You can use rice milk in place of cow's milk in most recipes if you use a minimum of sweetener. I use about 4 tablespoons of white sugar for 8 cups of milk, but try brown sugar, honey, molasses or stevia. You might like those better.

If a recipe calls specifically for whole milk, add a teaspoon of butter per quart of rice milk. That's a quarter teaspoon per cup.

Easy enough?

Monday, July 16, 2007

Bits and Pieces

Someone told me about Berate My Blog, a blog that does reviews of other blogs, so I went to look. Being duly impressed, I asked them to review this blog, which they graciously did.

Read the review and let me know what you think. I don't want to rename the blog because I don't know how to keep from losing the content that's here now, but I might look into it.

On another note, I had to do some grocery shopping over the weekend and had sticker shock all over again. It doesn't make sense. The price of gas is high, yes. We've had some weather problems, yes. I know that it costs more to truck food when fuel prices are high, but that much more?? It's summertime, for heaven's sake. We always have weather that affects crops.

I have a suspicion that someone, somewhere, has taken this opportunity to line their pockets at our expense (pun intended).

The only way to fight back is to clamp down even more on spending money. Oh, they say... that's hard on the economy. Like the economy isn't hard on us? And if by our spending we could keep the econony going strong, we'd have the strongest economy in the world. Stroll through a mall any Saturday afternoon and you'll see what I mean.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Semi Retired? I'm working on it

Semi-retired?? Ha. I just can't quit, it seems. I keep getting up and walking away from the computer, then I come right back. Surely I can do this... later.

New content on Associated Content: Used Coffee Grounds - This is a rewrite, update, retake on a popular topic from "back when." Don't throw out your used coffee grounds!

Another one: Frugal Summer Food - Have Your Summer Cookouts and Save Money - Three "recipes" that can make your cookout memorable for very little money. (More on AC here.)

Coming up soon on Country Life is a piece about buying and growing watermelon - my favorite summertime treat. (Growing them in Colorado is a challenge!)

And then there's the Community at Dollar Stretcher - yep, that keeps me busy, but it's all good.

If I go into full retirement, maybe I'll have time to write a book...

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Cooking during hot weather

I don't like hot weather. but I probably don't need to say that again! One of the reasons (of many) is that cooking heats up the kitchen so that we need to limit the time spent with the stove on in any way we can.

Gas stoves are better for summer cooking because they stop producing heat as soon as the flame is turned off. Electric stoves, by contrast, retain heat for long moments after being turned off. If you have an electric stove, you probably won't want to replace it with gas just for that reason!

Here are some tips on how to reduce the excess heat when you cook.

1. Use thinner pots and pans. Heavy cast iron or club aluminum hold heat much longer than thin stainless steel or enamel pans. That's a good thing when you're trying to save electricity in the winter because you can turn the stove off and food will continue to cook for a time, but in the summer, having a hot pan on the stove, radiating heat is the last thing you need.

You'll have to watch and stir a thin walled pan a lot more than a heavy one, but it won't retain the heat to heat up the air around it.

2. Make food that cooks faster. For instance, if you like chicken breasts, cut them into smaller pieces and stir fry. Stir fried foods developed because of a shortage of fuel. Use a thin skillet over medium high heat and cook smaller pieces of any kind of meat or vegetable this way. A small amount of oil in the pan will keep it from sticking.

3. Make full use of alternative ways to get food done. Use the outdoor grill or solar cooker whenever you can. If you can only get food partially done, then finish it (or start it) on the stove, you're ahead of the game.

When you use your stove as usual during hot weather, you're costing yourself in more ways than one. First, the obvious: cost of gas or electricity. Next, you're probably paying for the electricity to cool the air you just paid to heat.

That doesn't make much frugal sense, does it? :)

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Save the Internet

This may not be a good place to take a political stand, but then again, maybe it is. From the Save the Internet web site:

"The nation's largest telephone and cable companies — including AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and Time Warner — want to be Internet gatekeepers, deciding which Web sites go fast or slow and which won't load at all.

They want to tax content providers to guarantee speedy delivery of their data. They want to discriminate in favor of their own search engines, Internet phone services, and streaming video — while slowing down or blocking their competitors."

Isn't this taking things a little too far? What happened to free enterprise? Worse, what happens to freedom for you and me?

Save the Internet: Click here

Does this have anything to do with being frugal? You bet it does. If the free flow of information is stopped or slowed to a crawl, there won't be any small frugal web sites or communities or blogs... but wait. We have some pretty powerful allies. I can't see Google or Yahoo standing for it. Why should they have to pay fees to do the same thing they're doing now? Is this for real? Can it really happen or even be vaguely possible?

I don't know. All I know is that if something like this does occur, the internet and the world will be a much poorer place. I will be shocked if it does, but I've been shocked by this world before.

Saturday, July 7, 2007


Did you ever grow radishes that turned woody before you could eat them? Or that didn't form good roots and went to waste? Growing radishes in hot weather is taking a chance that they won't be edible at all. Without enough water, they become hot and tough.

Even then, they're salvageable, so don't throw them on the compost heap or the trash. Scrub the woody roots, cut the larger ones in two and cook them gently for a few minutes. They taste like... well, like a very mild radish. If you boil them for a minute and freeze them for later, they make great additions to stews and soups. If you have a lot of them, just serve them as a vegetable side dish with a little salt if you like. You might enjoy them with butter and salt, mashed like potatoes.

Radish tops can be cooked like any other "green." Wash thoroughly, chop and cook in enough water to barely cover until they're tender. They cook down like spinach or turnip greens, so it takes a lot, but you can do them in small batches and freeze them to include in other greens.

Radish tops can be eaten raw but they have a funky texture. If you want to serve them in salad, chop them fine and the texture isn't noticeable. They add a little tang to the salad.

Did they go to see while you weren't looking? Great! Use the seeds in salads or breads, or, if the seed pods are still green, eat them just like they are. Seed pods make a good addition to salad, too.

Now... guess whose little radish plot went wild?

Expensive water

This time of year, finding ways to save on the water bill seems to take priority, but water is still cheap - at least when you get it from the tap. When you buy it in spray bottles or plastic jugs mixed with other ingredients, it can be very expensive.

(Ok, I can hear you thinking out there. I haven't flipped my lid. Not yet, anyway.)

Here's the deal:

Instead of buying water that way, get it from the tap, then mix your own ingredients to create your own product. It's a lot cheaper.

Do it this way:

Put about a quarter cup of sudsing ammonia in a spray or squirt bottle. Empty dish soap bottles are perfect for this. Use scented ammonia to make the smell more pleasant.

Add a teaspoon of good liquid dish soap.

Add a cup and a half of (cheap) water.

Stir with a long handled spoon or a butter knife. (Don't shake to mix because this is a high sudsing product.)

Use it to clean the kitchen sink, the bathroom sink, the bathtub, woodwork, floors, walls, outdoor furniture, whitewall tires, toys and whatever else needs cleaning. It even works as a spot cleaner for carpeting or upholstery.

See? No more expensive water in spray bottles.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Skills we may need

A very long thread on the Dollar Stretcher Community brought out the fact that so many don't feel the need to learn skills that will stand them in good stead, should we, individually or collectively, face a severe economic downturn.

Not everyone thinks that anything like that is in our future so it isn't suprising that they don't think it's important to be prepared, but life changes for us all and it's not always for the better. Those who have only known a time of prosperity are at a disadvantage compared to those who have lived through personal or general bad times... but there I go, opinionizing again.

Some of the skills I can think of that can help ease a bad situtation:

  • Know what weeds and flowers are edible for your area.
  • Know what plants in your area can be used medicinally and/or have a well stocked medicine cabinet.
  • Be able to wash and dry clothes without electricity.
  • Know how or have the means to purify water.
  • Have some basic skills in cooking without a gas or electric stove.
  • Know how to make things like soap, candles and blankets/quilts without having to buy anything for them.
  • Have some sewing and mending skills.
  • Own nonelectric appliances and tools.

There are more, but that's something to start with.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Happy 4th of July!

I mistakenly held the Shift key when I typed in "4th" so it looked like "$th". Something about that... anyway, I hope you don't overspend and you don't get sunburned and you don't wear yourself out so it's hard to finish the rest of the week, but I DO hope you have a great 4th of July. (That day is also known as Independence Day, for those of you who are not from the USA.)

If you haven't yet, stock up on hotdogs and ground beef and BBQ sauce and picnic supplies. They're traditionally on sale right about now. Both hotdogs and ground beef keep well in the freezer, so take full advantage of those sales.

Have some free fun, too! July 4th can be a frugalista's heaven. This day offers free parades, free fireworks, cheap meals and lots of outdoor activity.

It can be costly if you opt for the carnival which many cities have this time of year. Take only what money you can afford to do without, because the chances are that you'll come out with nothing left. Eat before you go, drink lots of water so those expensive soft drinks don't appeal right away.

You don't need to spend a lot of money to have a lot of fun.

In all that fun, don't forget what the day is all about. This is still a great country, regardless of our problems and fears. There isn't a nation in the world like it. Celebrate that.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Water, water, everywhere...

As a reader commented, I've been pretty slack about posting here lately! I apologize and promise to do better.

To start off my new promise, here's my weekend story, but a rather unfrugal one.

My sprinkler system sprung a leak sometime last week and I couldn't get anyone to turn off the water. (I tried, but couldn't reach it.) I'm estimating the water ran full force for about three days. I'm not looking forward to paying the water bill.

I had a man lined up to come on Saturday to dig it out and make the repair, but he wound up in jail (long story), so my brother in law and nephew came and did it for me.

Not a good weekend. So, I've been thinking of even more ways to save water and try to make up a little for the waste. Here's what I've come up with so far.

1. Even shorter showers!
2. Handwater the garden and skip the lawn at least once a week. (We have to water three times a week here.)
3. Be more consistent about saving rain water to use on the garden or anywhere I can use it.
4. When I'm cooking, I'm using a small bowl of water to rinse off my hands instead of turning on the water every time. I put a dipper in the water to use instead, so it won't get murky.
5. I'm a lot more conscientious about not leaving the water running while I brush my teeth, scrub my hands, etc.

I think that just being more aware of the cost of water is helping me to find ways to save it. I already do quite a few things to save water (How to Save Water), but if you can think up something more, let me know!