Friday, December 19, 2008

Off until January

No more posts until after the holidays! Merry Christmas, Happy New Year. Happy Hanukkah, Kwaanza or whatever you celebrate. Onward to 2009!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

That auto industry bailout

First the banks, now the auto manufacturers. If we bail them out, everything will be all better... right? Isn't that what they're saying? If we don't bail them out, it will hurt the economy?

Shhh... don't tell anyone, but our economy is already hurting. We gave the banks the money they wanted and it didn't help anything. So we give the auto industry the money they want... and what will that do?

It will:

Give the government part ownership of the auto industry.
Open the gates to other industries wanting their share (hear the rumblings about the credit card corporations?).
Cause class rift by taking from the poor (us) and giving to the rich (them). (Think the people won't resent that?)

And will it cure any ills? Well, if we believe them, some workers will get to keep their jobs.

Friday, December 12, 2008

What we can do

I know you're all busy, but take just a moment to watch this short video.

Spirit of service

What can you do?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Here's a start

It takes a lot of time! A lot more because I'm kind of rusty at this, but I did get a few pages up: Christmas!

I wanted to hurry these, but the rest will come a little more slowly. It's fun. Hope to see you there!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Making cleaning brushes

I have a duster on a long handle, with a turn at the bottom so it looks like a hockey stick. The end is covered with lambswool and it was a good duster in its day. Now, bits of lambswool come off in the dust bunnies when I use it. I love it, because it's shaped so I can get under the piano and around the couch legs.

I took a close look at it with the intention of finding a way to fix it, but in the end I found a way to recreate it. I am going to remove what little lambswool is still on it, then tear strips from cotton rags and tie them onto the form. I'll spray them with Endust or something similar and it should work just fine.

I have a little wool yarn left from a knitting project that should work well, too.

But why stop there? You know those brushes they sell to clean the dryer vents? Make your own with a wire hanger and some short rag strips. Or make a brush for very narrow spaces - you know, the ones you can see but can't get to?

I have some after Christmas projects lined up!

P.S. I'm working on the idea. Thanks for your encouragement!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Question for you

I haven't posted here for over a week. With Thanksgiving and now Christmas and some other thoughts on my mind, I just haven't got around to it.

I have a web site - - and I've been thinking of publishing some articles to it. Some will be from the old About site, others will be new and not all will be about frugal living. I haven't decided yet. It will take a lot of time to get it ready.

So... what do you think? Would it be worth the work? Does anyone want to read it? I'll leave it up to you.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Thanksgiving decorating

Finding a way to decorate frugally for a Thanksgiving dinner can be a challenge, especially after buying the turkey and "all the trimmings." But like the saying goes... the best things in life are free. You can decorate your home practically for free.

Did you rake up all your leaves yet? I hope not! If you don't have any, put some plastic bags in your pocket and take a stroll through a wooded park, down a country lane, or maybe just down your street, watching for the brightest and prettiest leaves and the perkiest dried weeds and plants. Gather them all carefully so they don't get crushed or broken.

Once at home fill baskets or glass bowls or any interesting container with the leaves and put a bright candle in the midst of them. Make bouquets from the plants, tall ones and short ones and in between ones, and put them into a variety of glassware - anything from canning jars to water glasses. Group them in a Thanksgiving centerpiece for the table. If you have a platter or tray that will fit, group them on that, then scatter leaves to camouflage it. Putting it on a platter or tray helps define the decoration and makes for an easy clean up.

Decorate with food: If you live where you can get nuts inexpensively, they're decorative as well as a healthy snack. Forget about using a nut bowl, and put them in a different container - a basket, a small bucket, an interesting bowl, or even a large soup mug. Put the nutcracker upright in the nuts and set it where it's handy. Apples are plentiful this time of year and a simple bowl of bright apples is warm and inviting.

Incorporate childrens' drawings or craftwork into your Thanksgiving celebration. Do it with flair. Decorate a window by stringing cut out turkeys, etc., across it. Cover a wall with art work. If you cut sticky strips from post-it type notepads, it will hold for a day and come off easily without damage to either wall or art.

Weave paper placemats. Use these instructions, but use two or three layers of newspaper instead of construction paper. Decorate by painting or coloring them in Thanksgiving colors, or use the newspaper just the way it comes.

You can decorate without spending much (or ANY!) money and that's part of the fun of Thanksgiving or any holiday.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Welfare 101

The economy seems to be in the news and on everyone's mind for good reason. There have been income losses for many and I know it's frightening to find yourself without enough money to live the way you've always done.

I've been appalled, though, at what seems to be the prevailing attitude: Get a handout. Go to the government and get help. Become a welfare recipient without bothering to think about other options.

While there's nothing wrong with getting help when you really, really need it, I see a real problem developing. The government is not Santa Claus, neither is it a parent with unlimited funds.

The money our government has is yours and mine. Governments don't make money, they take it.

The money our government has comes from the taxes it takes from us. When it begins to pay out more money, as in more welfare recipients, the money has to come from... guess where?

All this to say that we've become so dependent that we forget to think for ourselves. We forget that there are things we can do to help ourselves and that we can tighten the belt, get creative, and at least try to meet the challenge.

If you find yourself in this position, do everything you can for yourself first. Cut expenses, then cut again. Learn better, cheaper ways to do things. Find ways to make some money, even if it's just a few dollars. Spend them wisely. Read everything you can about living frugally, and put all of it into practice that you possibly can.

Hang in there. When it gets too tough and you can't hang on any longer, then get help.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Now that the excitement of Halloween and the elections are over, the rest of the winter holidays looms ahead of us. Thanksgiving comes first, and that's where we should put our frugal thinking to work first.

To begin with, turkeys usually go on sale just before Thanksgiving. If you like turkey, why not buy one or two (or more) more? There's more about turkeys here: Best Time of Year to Buy Turkeys. I'm just hoping they have sales this year like they've had in the past.

Food is always first, isn't it??? :) Then comes decorating:
Natural and Free Thanksgiving Decorations
, and then another look at food, this time with history - and savings - in mind. The First Thanksgiving Menu - It Wasn't Your Grandma's Thanksgiving Menu!

What else about Thanksgiving? The leftovers... coming right up.

Thanksgiving wouldn't be Thanksgiving at my house without a lot of leftover turkey. I always buy one much bigger than we need for the meal, because I want to send some home with everyone and I want plenty for myself, too!

Maybe it's because I'm a lazy cook, but I figure that after all that cooking and preparing, I need a break and I'm happy to eat turkey sandwiches, turkey soup, turkey casserole and plain old turkey for days afterwards. Then I boil the carcass, take off any remaining meat and freeze the broth and meat, part of it together, part of it separately, for those times when the snow flies and I need a little comfort. One of my favorite recipes is turkey and homemade noodles.

The noodles:

3 1/2 cups sifted flour
1 TBS oil
5 medium eggs
1 tsp salt.

Beat eggs and salt together and pour into flour, mixing a little at a time. Work and knead until smooth, then cover with a damp cloth and let it rest 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat a cup or so of leftover turkey meat in a couple of cups of salted broth. Add enough water to make at least two quarts.

Roll out the noodle dough on floured board, dust lightly with flour (it will be stiff) and cute into 1/2 inch wide noodles. I cut the noodles into about 4 inch pieces but you can leave them long if you want to.

Bring the turkey and broth to a boil and drop in the noodles, separating them as you go. Boil until tender, about 20 to 30 minutes.

I serve this with peas and a spoon! The broth is so good.

Oh, almost forgot. There's a new forum at Dollar Stretcher Community, called "Holidays and Birthdays." Kind of a catch all for gifts, decorating and entertaining. Come and share and pick up some pointers for your own holidays.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Pssst! Wanna win a hundred bucks?

All you have to do is help us make 100,000 posts before December 31. Well, you have to write a good, informative and intelligent post, too. And if you're not the winner of a hundred dollars, you have more chances of winning twenty five dollars. And even more of winning a Dollar Stretcher Tote Bag.

Just a couple of rules:

You have to be a member of Dollar Stretcher Community Forums and you have to post! Becoming a member is quite easy. Just click on the "Join" link in the upper right hand corner and fill out the information and you're in. Posting is easy, too. :)

Here's the official scoop:
100,000 Post Challenge

See you there.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Surviving on credit

I don't know about you, but I was surprised - no, the word is shocked - when I read that without credit (aka debt), many, many businesses would fail. That many small businesses depended on getting regular loans to meet their payroll.

Is this the way America does business? I guess so... in my apparently way out of touch, feeble old mind, if you can't afford to pay your help, you don't hire them. If you have to borrow money to meet basic expenses (materials, workers, etc.) you're not a success. You're a failure.

I can't help but wonder how many failing businesses have been parading around as successes? Maybe we'll find out.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Who's playing games with grocery prices?

Just stating the facts:

A few months ago at my favorite grocery store, I noticed that the price of cheese had jumped two dollars for a three pound package - all but Swiss cheese. I decided to buy Swiss rather than the intended cheddar and save a couple of dollars.

The next time I went in, Swiss cheese had jumped two dollars... but cheddar had dropped back to its original price. I bought cheddar.

The next time, it was all priced the two dollars higher. I didn't buy any. Cheese is not a basic need, as much as I like it.

This time? It's all one dollar higher than the original price. I bought a package grudgingly. I will stretch it as far as I can. I won't buy any more until I really, really feel a need for it.

Will the price come back down? Serious doubts here. At least we have a pretty good idea that others reacted to the price changes the same way I did.

Oh, the games they play to find out just how much we'll pay. Sooner or later, we'll feel as if the new, higher price is old hat, and they'll raise it again, maybe just a little next time. Well, we can hope, can't we?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

"It's the economy, stupid!"

Yeah, it really is this time. Many of us haven't had a real change to the way we live that just a little tightening up can't handle, but retirement accounts and other stock and bond accounts got hit pretty hard.

What is that to real life? Nothing at this point for most of us. If your retirement plan lost money, it doesn't stop you from eating this week. In all probability, it won't stop you from eating any time in the future, either.

What might cause a real problem is if many of us panic and start selling off stocks or closing out retirement accounts altogether. That was a key problem at the beginning of the "Great Depression," and it's what caused the big drop in the market just a few days ago. Not that "we" sold, but the big players did. When they panic, the market stumbles. That should give you an idea of what happens when people all across the nation try to do the same.

Remember the mantra, "Don't be a part of the problem; be a part of the solution"?

The solution, regardless of our personal beliefs about who is at fault or what to do about it, is to hang in there. Wait.

If it's going to happen, it's going to affect all of us, and it won't matter how much money is stuffed under your mattress, you're going to suffer, too.

There are checks and balances in force right now that weren't there when the Great Depression came along. Hopefully, we've learned from the past so that we're not doomed to repeat it.

Disclaimer: I am NOT making a prediction.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Random and fun facts for all you frugal carrot eaters out there

Carrots are of the parsley family, so if you want to be super frugal, you can eat carrot tops the same way you would parsley, although the flavor is somewhat different. Use them in stews and soups, or chop them finely to give a unique, carrot-like flavor to salads.

If you buy carrots with the tops still on, cut them off before storing. Not only will the fresh tops go limp, they'll pull moisture from the roots and cause them to wilt, too.

Carrot puddings, carrot pies and carrot cookies, as well as the Jewish New Year traditional sweet carrot stew "tzimmes," were in use long before the carrot cake came into the limelight - mainly because of the carrot's natural sweetness.

There is such a thing as carrot syrup, but it won't crystallize, so no one has found a good commercial use for it.

Today, we eat more carrots than ever; almost 10 and a half pounds per person in the US. That's good news for a people of fast "food," sodas and ice cream.

Cooking breaks down a carrot's fiber, making the beta carotene and sugars easier to digest. A cooked carrot, contrary to most other vegetables, is more nutritious than its raw counterpart.

Carrots were the first vegetable to be canned commercially.

Fresh carrots soaked in hot water to which various flavors have been added (usually salt and spices) soak up the flavor along with the water, making an interesting snack.

If you eat too many carrots, you'll turn orange. That's a fact, not something to scare your kids with (or maybe it is, if you want them to eat carrots). It's called caratoderma, and, while it's not proven, it may tax the body's ability to convert high concentrations of beta carotene to Vitamin A.

Other nutrients that carrots provide in abundance are Vitamin C, Vitamin K, fiber and potassium.

Carrots have been shown to help in lowering blood pressure if eaten regularly.

Pound for pound, carrots are in the same cost versus nutrition category as cabbage, potatoes and pumpkins. That means you get a lot of food and a lot of nutrition for your money. That's frugal!

Almost forgot... more about carrots here: Carrots in the Frugal Food Plan. Purple carrots, baby carrots, how to buy the best carrots...

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Social lament

I apologize in advance for posting yet another time about things nonfrugal. This was brought on by Gary Foreman's post to his blog "Scary!!!" so we can blame him. (This time.)

There used to be a small farm nearby where the man, his wife and kids did the harvest by themselves, mostly by hand. It was so cool to drive by and see them all out working together, but so sad to realize how unusual it was.

How often do families work together to ensure their own future? In this age of convenience, we've forgotten that a fulfilling life is not one of indolent laziness but one of interaction and relationships with those we care about.

Our society is becoming more fragmented all the time. No one can change that but us.

Saturday, October 4, 2008


I wanted to thank everyone for their behind the scenes support in my "not political" post. I wish Blogger allowed us to see email addresses, but we can't, so I can't reply to the many comments I promised not to publish. You know who you are, and I thank you.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Up the Poudre

This is an autumn garden planted by God - no human intervention at all. It's a rest stop just off the highway.

We took an afternoon drive up the mountain valley of the Poudre River to see the colors. Cost: about $16 worth of gas and $5 for snacks. Not bad for a once in awhile outing.

The real value is priceless, though.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

I'm not going to say anything...

About the "bailout" facing Congress and the US. And I'm not going to make any political comments one way or another, except for the little McCain graphic up there on the left. Don't bother me with comments or emails or anything else. End of story.

What I will talk about is your own responsibility toward your own finances. Whether you sink or swim is your responsibility. Not Uncle Sam's or the Welfare office or even your good Aunt Emma or whoever.

It's time that consumers in America - and I'm speaking of consumers of lipstick and houses; of potato chips and bonds; of movies and gargantuan tractors - all these consumers need to grow up. Quit playing the blame game. Quit waiting for someone else to bail you out. Quit being angry that someone else gets the money and you don't. There's no such thing as a free ride, no such thing as getting something for nothing, or even something substantial for just a little.

It all costs. It costs in taxes, in higher prices, in the loss of human dignity, in real opportunities to make something of oneself without being pampered and fed government handouts.

If that's political, then so be it. I believe in the American spirit and that spirit is not one of welfare and programs to salve the consciences of those who would sell our freedoms for their own gain.

No comments will be approved for this post. I will move on... frugality reigns.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Time to get serious

If you've paid attention at all, you know that our economy is reeling from many blows. I'd love to be able to write encouragingly, but I can't. We're in trouble and that's all there is to it.

How many times have I said it? Get out of debt. Position yourself to need very little income to survive. If you haven't done it, do it as quickly as you can now.

We don't know - nobody knows for sure - but it could be that the government will able to patch it up this time.

But what about next time?

Monday, September 22, 2008

It's almost pumpkin time again

I've got pumpkin in the freezer from last year, so I need to use it before this year's trip to the Pumpkin Patch. One pumpkin goes a long way, but I never can get by with buying only one pumpkin. (They're better in threes...)

Anyway, I've got this pumpkin in the freezer. I've made pumpkin pies, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin bread and pumpkin soup over the past year. My favorite was the muffins but I might just make pumpkin custard to use up these last three packages.

Pumpkins are wonderful food, nutritious, delicious and easy to cook with, too. It's easy to take a fresh one and turn it into a year's worth of good food. It's a lot cheaper than buying that canned stuff (and it tastes better, too!).

If you have a blender and a stove, turning a pumpkin from a seasonal decoration to good eating is simple. You can bake it or boil it, then puree it and package it for the freezer.

I like to bake it whole, then scoop out the seeds and scrape out the stringy stuff. You can scoop out the meat or peel off the rind, whichever you prefer. Puree it and package in one or two cup containers, depending on how you're likely to use it.

Save the seeds for snacks. Make them the same way you make sunflower seeds. There are several methods, but what I do is soak them overnight in salt water, then drain and roast slowly until they're very slightly browned. You can toast them in butter in a skillet on top of the stove, too, and/or use dry ranch dressing to coat them.

I can't emphasize enough the difference in quality and price between fresh pumpkin and canned pumpkin. Once you taste a pie made from fresh, canned pumpkin pie will never taste right again.

Go ahead and save yourself some money and treat your family to something special at the same time.

More on pumpkins: Have Your Halloween Jack O'Lantern and Eat It Too!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Thank you

Thanks to all of you who have expressed sympathy for my mother's death. It's never easy, but it helps to know there are those who care.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Thanks, Mom

As my Mom lies on her deathbed today, the life lessons she taught us keep running through my head. One of them is a love of nature, just like it is. No manicured, sterile lawns, no bordered rose gardens. Her garden was the world where she took us as children on afternoon strolls. We learned how to climb over fallen tree trunks without scraping our knees, how to pick wild rose hips and where the fish were the friskiest.

Another thing she taught us is that death is part of living. We were born to die and there's no getting out of it.

She also taught us that life is too short to hold grudges or to complain about minor things. People are fallible. Accept that and accept them as they are because you can't change them.

She is strong... what can I say about a shell of a woman who lies, waiting for the last of her family to gather before saying good bye?

Life will go on without her, just as everyone else's has who has lost a Mother. Our worlds shrink and gray, then begin to bloom again. She taught us that, too.

Thanks, Mom.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Winter time's a comin'

The garden is winding down, with the cool nights we've been having. Locusts are quiet now and I think some of the birds have gone already. It's a different world outside my back door. Fall colors are already tinging the leaves and grasses!

It's early, isn't it? Please tell me that it is. Time goes so fast that I can't keep up with it anyway, but this is really pushing it.

I wouldn't mind at all (I'm not a hot weather person), but the thought of heating bills looms in the very near future if it keeps this up. And... the Farmer's Almanac says we're in for a colder, harder winter than usual!

I've done just about everything to this house that I can to keep it from leaking warm air when the temperatures fall. For almost every house,windows are the biggest problem. They're like having big holes in the wall and even the smallest window is still a big hole!

Even with caulking, storm windows or double paned glass, triple glazed glass or whatever you can do to upgrade your windows, they still, by their very nature, let in cold air.

Heavy draperies help if you keep them closed when it's cold, but open them when the sun shines in to take advantage of free solar warmth. My curtains are not heavy, so last year I bought fleece blankets at Big Lots for $3 each and cut them to fit behind the curtains. I tried several methods, but finally used straight pins to pin them to the backs of the curtains.

It seems like only so many things can be said about getting ready for winter and I've said them all at one time or another and I said a lot of it in this article:

It's Time to Winterize Your Home

Do what you can to seal off cracks or holes. Take a candle and go around every corner and joining wall, every window and door. Use caulking and weather stripping wherever it's needed. Decide how you're going to cover the windows, make sure you have plenty of blankets will keep you warm when you turn down the heat at night.

This year, maybe more than any other year in the past, it's important from a financial viewpoint, to prepare for cold weather. Prices on everything are going higher, and heating fuel will go up, too. People have less money to spend. If we really do have a longer and/or colder winter than usual, many can be in real trouble.

Don't be one of them; get ready now, while it's still warm.

Monday, September 8, 2008

A savings challenge

We in Frugal Land talk about a lot of things that are important to being more frugal and living better because of it, but one of the two most important things you can do to get ahead is to put money into a savings account or other safe place. (The other thing is to get out of debt.)

I don't care how many plastic bags you wash out or how many pennies you pick up from the sidewalk or how many lattes you forego, if you don't save the money you save, it's all pointless. I mean physically save money. Put it in an account, put it in a piggy bank, in a cookie jar, under your mattress, but put it somewhere away from your daily finances.

The problem is in funding that account in the first place, even if we're actively frugal and save every where we can. We often save in such small amounts (although many times over) that the money just get lost in the bigger picture. We tend to let a lot of loose change slip away just because we don't actually see the savings. How do you get the money saved from a fifteen cent coupon to a savings account? Or how do you figure the savings when you opted to NOT buy a new outfit for work? The key is one word: Tracking.

Now don't get me wrong, if you don't track and you save fifteen cents by using a coupon, you have fifteen cents more than you would have otherwise. It will eventually add up and you should notice a difference in what's leftover each month if you save wherever you can. You can just put that in your savings account, but the chances are that you've lost some to the wind along the way.

Tracking is something that a lot of people don't like to do and I'm one of them, so I can sympathize. It's the best way to control your money, though.

You'll need to write down your savings every time, no matter what the amount. If you want to really save the money you saved from not buying that outfit, record the cost of it as savings. There may be some times when you won't record a "savings" because you didn't have the money in the first place and were only dreaming when you wanted something. Record only the savings you made when you seriously considered buying something then changed your mind for frugal reasons.

A far as real cash flow goes, put real savings pennies and dollars in the bank. You can add in the pennies you find on the sidewalk and the change found in the washer, if you like. If you go to the grocery store and save $1.43 by using coupons, either write that amount down to be added to other funds for the savings account, or physically take that amount of money out of your cash and put it away. Add to it as time goes by and you'll soon have enough to make a deposit into your checking account. Be as faithful as you can to track every bit.

I know that sounds petty and a lot of trouble for some of you, but it works. If you're not convinced that you should or that you even want to, I challenge you to try it for a month. Give it a fair chance and see what happens.

At the end of the month, add it all up and multiply by 12, then ask yourself if you don't mind wasting that amount of money every year. And if you do mind, put it in the bank and go for another month... and another one.

Saving this way will soon become second nature and not nearly the chore it once seemed to be. Your savings account will thank you with its own rewards. How can you lose?

P.S. They're discussing this very thing over at Dollar Stretcher Community forums: "Small Change" Tricks

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Is anyone else ready for autumn?

The locusts are singing more quietly now, the nights are cooling down to where I can use a blanket at night, the beans are turning yellow, the winter squash is ripening...

My daughter brought me three kitchen towels in autumn themes yesterday. Her boyfriend thought she was nuts, but we knew better. :)

I can hardly wait until I can put out the scarecrows and the pumpkins and the fall bouquets. I don't do Halloween, but I do love to decorate for the fall season.

Now and then I might even spend a little money on fall decorating, but not much. The scarecrows I've had for quite awhile - acquired one at a time. I made one, one was a gift and so on.

I wait for the grasses to turn colors and the fall flowers to go to seed, then I make (free) bouquets to decorate with. I was into plastic canvas needlepoint for awhile (a cheap craft!) so I have some decorations left from that.

This year, I'm thinking of gathering the corn stalks left standing in the garden and making a (free) corn shock for the front yard.

Do I sound like a cheapskate? Maybe I am, but I believe that I enjoy my decorations as much if not more, than someone who runs to the store and picks up "a few things" to decorate with.

Mine are not only cheap or free, they're satisfying in a personal way. When you create something all your own, there is no comparison to anything that's mass produced. That's a level of enjoyment that can't be bought at any price.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The economy, again

Are we really in for a bad time? Or will the economy steady itself (with a little help) and get back to "normal"? The fact is that nobody knows, so it makes frugal sense to be sure we're prepared.

It's always wise to get our financial houses in order and now even more so. Pretend that you woke up
this morning and were without a job. Think about the things you wish you'd done to prepare for it, then do those things now.

Recessions are not caused by people who don't spend enough money. They're not caused by people who have savings accounts and do careful shopping. They're not caused by being frugal. They're caused by people who don't know when to quit spending. They're caused by people who are so far in debt to the credit card company, to the bank, to the store on the corner, that they're living hand to mouth, and just making payments.

Advertisers pour money into advertising to people like that; the people respond by buying what they can't afford. Sooner or later, it happens. When those people can no longer buy beyond their means,
and can't make those payments any longer because of other hidden and not so hidden factors in the economy, the businesses who have catered to them suffer.

When the accounts due aren't paid and the people aren't buying, those businesses don't have enough cash or credit to pay for more advertising or inventory and so they lay off workers to try to make up the difference. Those workers can't pay their bills or buy more goods... and the merry go round
speeds up.

It's perverted logic to say that if we only go deeper in debt, things will get better. Spending money you don't have will catch up with you, sooner or later, and it doesn't matter who you are.

My frugal friends, don't let anyone fool you, and don't let anyone make you feel guilty. Frugal rules.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Oops, there went another one...

More rain.

These sunflowers were obviously not deeply rooted. This ground is very poor, with a shallow layer of topsoil over clay subsoil, so it's hard for annuals to get a good toehold.

On the other side, shorter oil type sunflowers weathered the storms much better.

In case you hadn't figured it out, I finally got a new digital camera. It's a Samsung, , and with careful saving of other Amazon gift certificates and a good daughter (another gift certificate for my birthday), it didn't cost me anything.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Not necessarily frugal, but...

We got four inches of rain in an hour. The sunflower on the right was actually slightly taller than the one that was protected by the back wall of the garage.

My backyard is on a slope so there was a little mud flowing along with the water. We needed the rain, but all at one time??

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

T-shirts and frugal braided rugs

I decided to make a braided rug for my living room out of old t-shirts. The problem is that I'm not really a t-shirt person. Most of my t-shirts are polo style or at least have a collar, and there are very few of even those.

I dug through the rag bag and I asked my youngest daughter to save any she might throw out (that was a long shot - she never throws anything out).

So... I slowly started sorting out some old ones that I have worn and enjoyed over the years. By "years" I mean 8 or 10 - maybe 12. They really are getting a little worn, but they're still good. I mean, they're all in one piece, no holes at all.

It's kind of strange, but old clothes sometimes seem like old friends (or enemies). I remember when I found this one at a garage sale and I remember wearing that one to that Christmas party... I remember someone's comments on that one.

I'm NOT sentimental. Memories wouldn't keep my from cutting up a shirt. What stops me is... well, I hate to destroy something perfectly good. I keep thinking that I could do this or that to them. Embroider a little flower on this one, dye this one, split the front and add some buttons to that one.

I keep weighing the desire to have a neat braided rug for the living room against my natural frugal (ok, cheap) nature and I'm still not sure how it balances!

As soon as I get some old, free t-shirts, I'll start on my rug. If they're not good enough to wear, I mean.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Don't Worry... Be Happy

It's a lot more frugal than paying doctors and buying prescriptions.

It's not very frugal to put ourselves in the position to have to go to doctors and fill prescriptions, and yet that seems to be the modern way of life - frugal or not. Fortunately, we often do it to ourselves. I say "fortunately" because we then have the choice to not do it to ourselves. Avoiding medical expenses is frugal.

The most prescribed drugs in America today are of the mood altering type - to deal with depression. With all of the successes in this nation - material wealth, education within the grasp of nearly everyone, advanced medical knowledge and care, and the freedom to be and do what we like, Americans are in trouble. Fast paced lives, money worries (including keeping up with "the Joneses"), finding more and more demands to use our time and opportunities... all these things put emotional as well as physical and mental stress upon us.

Supermoms, superdads and superkids abound in our ideals. Being busy is the equivalent of being happy, or good, or whatever it is we strive to be. Over scheduling seems to take the place of the more frugal and sensible action of having a full pantry at the end of the harvest. Never slowing down means never having to stop and take responsibility for our own homes, our own kids, our own selves - we're "too busy."

Why do we keep wanting more and more - more stuff, more busyness, more and bigger this and that? It's a compulsion; it's a devil that rides our shoulders and whips us ever onward in a perverted version of the Puritan work ethic. Work harder, work longer, work smarter, but work!

Until it begins to crumble around us and depression sets in.

Women, especially, are prone to depression and simple "blues," but they're not alone by a long shot. Men have their share of the struggle.

While some depression is "clinical" - that is, physically induced and needs to be controlled by medication, the every day variety of blues that many of us face can be controlled frugally by us, without the cost of a doctor's visit or prescription medicine.

What we eat has a huge part in how we feel. It's proven that some foods make us feel better and that's good to know, but good all around nutrition will do better in the long run. Quick fixes are possible though: Butter beans, chocolate and high carbohydrate foods make you feel better quickly. The explanation is too long for this article, but if you're interested, look here: Why some foods make you feel good...

Besides eating well, there are things - very frugal things - that will help you stay on an even keel.

Exercise is free. Walk, run, skip. Work in the garden, wash the windows, play ball with the kids. Physical exercise tires us in a good way, which relaxes us.

Choose your friends wisely. Choose to be around people who make you laugh. Choose to be around people who are interesting and uplifting.

Take time - real time - to rest. Sleep is a great healer, not only of physical stresses, but of mental ones. There's nothing wrong with sleeping. You don't have to get up early every day of your life and you can allow yourself the luxury of a nap. We've so programmed ourselves against even looking "lazy" (more of that misused Puritan ideal) that we are afraid to be caught dozing. Human beings need sleep.

If you pray, pray. Or meditate, or just take time for your own thoughts. A good fifteen minutes of focused time alone can be a life saver in a stress producing environment.

If overwork is stressing you, limit yourself to half hour bursts of activity. Use at least part of the first half hour to organize and list the chores that face you. Work as hard as you can for your half hour of time, but as soon as time is up, (use a timer!) stop and do something different for five minutes. Then go back and notice how much you accomplished in that half hour. The chances are that you'll impress yourself and be ready for the next round of activity.

Busyness is activity with little or no substantial result. Check yourself: Are you being busy to avoid something else? Being busy for the sake of being busy is unproductive, except in terms of running away from reality. Frugal bottom line: Examine your life and get rid of activity that's not in line with your life. (Needs, integrity and personal morality.)

Don't forget about recreation. Watching TV is NOT recreation. Doing something you really enjoy is. Crafting, reading, canoing or hang gliding - whatever rows your boat, find time for it. Even if it costs you a little money, it's more frugal than a visit to the doctor and a lifetime of prescription drugs.

Those are just a few things; I won't make a longer list because we know better. Getting back to the basics of life really is possible in this day and age and if it seems like you can't do it, maybe it's time to take a long look at your lifestyle and make some changes. Your quality of life depends on it, and it's not too late. As the saying goes, "Today is the first day of the rest of your life."

Make it a frugal success.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Back to School


You may not be sending the kids back to school today or tomorrow, but it's coming soon (where did the summer go?) and the sales are popping up all over, so take advantage of them.

A thread called "Shopping Challenge: School Supplies is a good place to start finding the best sales.

But besides supplies, clothing takes a big bite out of the budget if your child goes to public school. Here are a few ideas to help cut that cost:

Go through the closet and drawers, making note of what needs to be replaced. While you're at it, check the coat closet. Make a master list - not of everything you have to rush downtown and buy tomorrow, but of things that are needed that you can keep an eye out for. Make note of colors and styles that need to be matched.

Don't go shopping all at once for those things, but watch for sales and shop garage sales for some things. Your kids can only wear one set of clothes at a time anyway, so don't go whole hog in buying an entire wardrobe at one time. A real money saving strategy is to wait until after school starts and all the hoopla dies down to shop for clothes. Overstocked items will be on sale then.

Buying very high quality underwear for growing children is a waste of money, since they will soon grow out of them and underwear is one thing most people won't buy or don't want second hand. Don't go too cheap though... underwear needs to be comfortable!

Buy socks all the same color. When a sock gets lost or wears out, you won't have one sock left that can't be worn with anything else. (If you notice that socks are wearing on the toe or heel, darn them. It's not so hard and it will extend the life of the sock.)

A good rule of thumb is to spend more money on the lower half of the body - pants and skirts - than the upper shirts and tops. Solid good quality color pants or skirts can be mixed or matched with less expensive tops. Jeans, if allowable, wear well and "go with" just about any shirt from t-shirts to button downs.

Most importantly, make lists and stick to the lists. You may have to revise them, but at least you won't be revising your budget to accommodate high back to school expenses.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Frugal is a state of mind

The other day, after a meal with a friend, we were still sitting, lazily gathering dishes and putting lids on things in preparation for cleaning up. I had used a spoon to get some salad dressing from the container and the spoon still had a glob of dressing on it. My friend put the spoon on her plate along with other silverware. I silently protested. That half teaspoon of dressing should have been put back in the container for use at another time. I'll know better next time and not allow her to waste it. I'll get a spatula and clean out the spoon myself.

Frugal is a state of mind. Most people go through life wasting a half teaspoon of dressing and never even noticing. How many half teaspoons until you've wasted an entire bottle of dressing? How many pennies until you've wasted a dollar, and how many dollars until you've wasted enough to... get out of debt, pay off the house, buy a new car...

There are bigger things you can do, of course, and they should be done. Don't buy more insurance than you need, don't pay high interest rates and so on... but the little things add up, too, and it's in the little things that we develop and exercise a state of mind that we can put on auto pilot to save the pennies and the dollars and the hundreds of dollars.

Can't beat that for an easy way to save.

Monday, July 14, 2008

The working of a frugal mind

Last night I cut broccoli from the garden and got it ready for the freezer. Since I was using cottage cheese containers (I'll take out the individual portions and put them in a large freezer bag later), I had just a few pieces of broccoli left over, which I put in the refrigerator.

So today I had to buy a few groceries and as I was walking past the frozen dinners section, I happened to see a container of broccoli, rice, chicken and cheese. It looked so good that I was really tempted to buy it... then I remembered: I had broccoli at home.

There was also leftover chicken... and there is nearly always cheese. There was a serving of rice in the freezer.

It was almost a free meal, since most of it was leftovers and there wasn't a lot of any one thing. It sure was good, though.

It isn't always easy to make your mind go from "just buy it," to "just make it," but it's worth the discipline. I saved almost four dollars on one meal. Multiply that times the three times I go grocery shopping each month, times a year: $144.

That will buy a month's worth of food, plus. A "free" month's worth of food is OK with me!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Save money with passive solar energy

It's free, so why not? Why do we think that just because it doesn't cost us, or doesn't take a special appliance, it somehow isn't worthy of our consideration?

If it's free, and it works, use it! You'll save money, guaranteed.

Sure, you can spend a lot of money on solar panels and entire systems and eventually, you can save money. But if you can't afford that, or don't want to get that deeply into it, why not save money right now, doing the things you already do, just in a different way?

Try these out:

Need to heat some food? Before building or buying a solar oven, try opening a can and setting it in your car in the sun. It will warm to eating temperature faster than you think, even when the weather is cool. A solar oven will expand your options here, and allow you to cook food thoroughly.

Dehydrate fruit and vegetables by putting them in a single layer in the sun. Use the roof or a table covered with a clean cloth. Got a window screen lying around? Put it under the cloth for air circulation. Or use a tray from an electric dehydrator. Cover the food with cheesecloth or netting of some kind - old nylon curtains work well - and set it in the sun. You may have to move it a time or two to keep it in the sun so a small table is easier to handle.

Everybody knows about sun tea, don't they? Just put your tea in water in a glass jar and set it in the sun. Use the same method to make herbal tea. Warm lemons in the sun, then roll on a flat surface and you'll get more lemon juice for lemonade.

Dry your clothes with a solar powered clothes dryer, of course.

And if you do want to put a little money in it, there are many, many small and large products which either operate entirely from solar energy or uses it for a backup. Everything from electric fence chargers to automobiles use solar rechargeable batteries.

Solar power rocks... especially the free kind.
More ideas here: Solar Power for Fun and Savings

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Christmas in July

Do you realize that from the first week in July it's only 24 weeks until Christmas? Did that startle you? It did me!

I know some of you start the day after Christmas and are already stocked up on gifts and decorations. Some of you might even be done with it, but for those of us who aren't, July is the time to start!

Christmas can be the hardest time of all for a frugal pocketbook, since most of us want to make the holiday a happy and fulfilling one, but with the stores and newspapers and magazines filled with goodies and tempting displays of gifts, it's hard for even the most experienced tightwad shopper to keep from overdoing the budget.

If you start now, there's still plenty of time to look, sort and sift, until you find that perfect and gorgeous gift. Unique, better-than-new presents and decorations are out there just waiting for you, and they're not at the mall, and you don't have to wait until Christmas to find them!

Garage sales are the number one place to look this time of the year for that elusive super holiday bargain, but second-hand stores and special sales all count. Real antiques do hide in the dusty corners of garage sale boxes and classic (and classy) items are still found in thrift stores or second-hand shops.

Some things to look for: True vintage clothing, a special hand tool, an original recording of a favorite musician, depression glass, an antique - looking ornate photo frame (put your own photo in it), costume jewelry with a special theme, or anything that will conjure up fond memories for the giftee.

Don't forget about gifts you can make from your finds. Interesting jars, bowls, or glasses, filled with dried soup mixes, special baking mixes, potpourri, bath salts, or teas (herbal or otherwise) can make a very special gift.

If you do crafts or needlework, the possibilities are nearly endless. Knitted crocheted and sewn are probably the most commonly given hand made gifts, but if you don't do those, don't let that stop you. Whatever you can do, put it to good use.

When you have the time to think and be picky about what you find or make instead of feeling under pressure to just get it done, shopping for gifts and decorations and getting ready for Christmas really can be as much fun as it should be.

(They're talking about this very thing in the Dollar Stretcher Community forums: Christmas Club.)

Friday, June 27, 2008

Using it up

"Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without," is an old saying that fits very well with the frugal lifestyle. That's what most of us try to do, at least to an extent. Sometimes we have to stretch it a little to use up what we have in a way that makes sense and/or saves money.

Some of the things I've tackled before: plastic bags, coffee grounds, newspapers... and now? How about old panty hose? (Do you have something to add to that list for old panty hose?)

I'm also contemplating those poor socks that get orphaned in the laundry. I'll let you know when I get it figured out. (Not where they go, but how to "use them up"!)

Throwing anything into the trash just because it's served its original purpose is not a frugal attitude. Think twice, think three times, wait a bit and think again...

Monday, June 23, 2008

What it all boils down to... how much money you want to save. Whether you're paying down debt, building a retirement fund, saving for a new car or house or whatever other goal you have, how fast you do it depends on how frugal you get.

My other blog, Extremely Frugal, is nothing but frugal tips. Some people call them extreme, so that's what I called it, but for some, they're just every day common sense. If you put even part of them into practice, you will save money.

Not everyone wants to make their own napkins or wash out plastic bags and that's fine. We must all find our own level of frugality.

BUT... if you want to meet a goal sooner rather than later, you may have to give up some things. You may have to make do or do without.

It all depends on you. There's only one rule: If you refuse to give up something that's costing you unnecessarily, you can't complain that you're not getting anywhere.

How hard you tackle it is in direct proportion to how quickly you meet your goal.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Gloves in a Bottle

OK, so when I saw a request for bloggers to review this product, I bit.

Most women have their hands in water a lot around the house. Some of us have them in water more than others... I'm one of those. I wash dishes by hand, garden without gloves which requires serious washing up, mop with an old fashioned rag mop which requires me to wring it out by hand, and sometimes wash clothes by hand, among other things.

My hands really do take a beating and I keep hand lotion around all the time. Add to that the fact that I am NOT impressed with much of today's products that encourage over consumption... so when this opportunity came along, I couldn't resist. Another lotion? Another product spin? Cool, do I get to bash another useless product? Another marketing ploy I didn't believe would pan out.

The first and second day, I thought I was right. It didn't seem to be doing anything much, although I used it faithfully as per directions. The third morning, though (and you might think this is silly, but it happened just this way) I woke up and started to get out of bed when I noticed that the skin on my hands seemed... smooth and not dry at all. Even silky.

I was honestly surprised and now I can honestly recommend Gloves in a Bottle to you.

You can get a sample at the web site, but it may not be enough to realize the full benefit. Try it and see, though.

OK, now do I get to make a commercial and make a lot of money from this?

I'm kidding. I really do like this stuff. I'm no shill, as you know if you've read my blog very long - I'm not even into consumerism.

Frugal note: The price is in line with or a little less than some top of the line lotions, but it doesn't take nearly as much of it, so it's a good buy. A bottle will last a good long time.

(Disclaimer: I did not get paid to say this!)

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Free gift certificates

Yes, some of them are scams. Yes, some of them take a lot of work. But, yes... free gift cards are worth a few minutes now and then. They're legitimate ways to get free merchandise or food or... whatever. You can usually choose which store you want them for and you can usually stockpile them for greater savings. They're great for gifts or to round out your own shopping budget. They can take the edge off higher prices of groceries, gas and clothing.

Free gift certificates are one of the better things that has happened to the internet.

How do you get them?

Shopping, clicking, reading, doing surveys... even playing games or writing short reviews.

There are sites that give you "points," or measure your credit in real dollars and cents (mostly cents) until you rack up enough, then you ask, and they issue a gift card (usually a reloadable shopping card) in whatever amount you qualify for.

You can rack up these points or pennies by shopping through special links to favorite shopping sites on the internet, or by clicking links in emails sent to you and visiting advertised sites. Some sites give you points for playing games and visiting sites.

One of my favorites is MyPoints (no, that's not a referral link), but there are many others.

You can also buy gift certificates for less than the face value at eBay, which isn't as good as free, but better than paying retail!

Whether you use them yourself or give them as gifts, you'll be saving money - and that's the name of the game.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Other ways to save gas

Don't park your car on the street if you can help it, unless you have a locking gas cap! That's one way to save gasoline. No, I didn't learn the hard way, but with prices the way they are, gas thievery is a potential problem no matter where you live, city or country.

A locking gas cap is money well spent, but even then, if you can possibly park in a garage or enclosed area, don't leave your car on the street. You may never know how much gas you saved that way.

On Lehman's blog: About those gas prices...

What did I miss? Let me know here or there, so we can all benefit from it. With gas prices the way they are, we need to use every trick there is to lengthen the time between fill ups.

Monday, June 9, 2008

More about saving on food, again

Haven't seen the price of food coming down yet, have you? Even with summertime coming on and produce being more available, those prices just keep creeping up.

I don't know about you, but summertime means more activity around here. Working outside, doing things and going places that are reserved for warm weather wears me out sometimes. Cooking is the last thing I want to do when I'm tired, and I'm tempted to run to the closest hamburger joint, but with the price of food going up even there, staying home is a frugal (and cool!) option.

So, thinking about that, I wrote an article for Associated Content about making your own fast food:

Beat the High Cost of Food: Do it Yourself Fast Food

When I started researching, it was surprising to me how simple their tricks are. Maybe you knew that (and I feel as if I should have known it!) or maybe you know more about the tricks they use, but it was enough to make me stay home.

Other articles in the series are

Beat the High Cost of Food: Shop the Sales

Beat the High Cost of Food: Get it Free

Beat the High Cost of Food: Eat the Leftovers!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Keep your home cooler this summer

At least some of you are having warm weather! It's cold and rainy here today, with a high of 59 predicted. We'll be in the upper 80's by the weekend, though. Good ol' Colorado.

If you're blessed with high temperatures, you might be looking for some ways to keep your home cooler this summer. Think about these things:

Awnings may look old fashioned, but they do help keep the direct sun out.

If you live where it cools off more than just a few degrees at night, turn off the AC, open the windows wide and put some fans to work. This can cool the house thoroughly. If you live where you can, leave the house open overnight then shut everything tight before the temperature rises in the morning.

Use window film where it's appropriate, but remember that it will cut daylight, so if you're using it to keep the hot sun out then have to use artificial lighting, you're defeating yourself. Also, house plants won't thrive when you have window film.

Plant trees and bushes so they shade the house. That can lower the temperature as much as 10 degrees. If you can't plant permanently, use annual vines like morning glories in front of a window to shade it.

Use cool lighting. Incandescent bulbs give off quite a bit of heat. The new energy saving cool bulbs are good, but any kind of fluorescent lighting is cooler than incandescent.

Eat lightly. Avoid heavy meats and go for the salads. For protein, opt for fish, peanut butter, eggs or cheese. Fruit is abundant, so serve it cold. Drink lots of liquids, but avoid caffeine as it can dehydrate you.

Concentrate on keeping yourself and your children, etc., cool, by wearing light weight clothing, avoiding heavy activity during the hottest part of the day, and spritzing your face and neck with water (not cold water, just cool). If you do get overheated, run cool water over the inside of your wrists and ankles, or use a cloth soaked in cool water. This will cool you quickly.

You probably won't be able to use all of them, but use what you can and it will help save on your cooling bill and keep your home cooler this summer.

Friday, May 30, 2008

The Price of Gas

To add to all the other reasons (we're told) that the price of gas has gone sky high, oil refineries perform maintenance in the spring, which traditionally lowers the immediate availability of gasoline and pushes prices slightly up. By the end of May, maintenance is over and normal amounts of gas are again available. While it could it be that the price of gas will stabilize at least for awhile, it isn't going to go down any great amount. It looks like we're stuck paying higher and higher prices.

The question is, what can we do about the price of gas?

Here's a multiple choice answer. (The more choices you make the more gas and money you'll save.)

1. Use alternative transportation whenever you can. Ride a bicycle, a motorcycle, a bus or a train. Or walk. Feet were made before wheels.

2. Carpool, share rides, or - the ultimate in ride sharing - share automobiles. While it may not save directly on fuel, it will save on transportation costs like insurance and maintenance (share them). You could very well save on gas because you'll be forced to better plan your outings.

3. Stay home. Novel idea, isn't it? I know... you have to go to work. You have to go to the grocery store. The post office. The bank. The library, the hardware store, the gym, the doctor, your mother's... but if you made it a point to do all your errands on the same day, and planned a route to cover the least amount of miles, you'll save gas. If you drive to work, do errands as you can on the way home or to work. Stay home the rest of the time.

4. Take some time and trouble to learn driving methods and maintenance schedules that will allow your vehicle to get the best gas mileage possible.

Question number two: Which one will you do first?

Even though the price of gas is high, and predictions of even higher prices is frightening, it will never get so high that we don't have some control over how much we use.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Plastic Bags

I hear they're trying to outlaw plastic shopping bags in California - and the rest of the nation will probably follow California. It may be all well and good for the environment, but what will we use for trash bags? And what will we haul wet swimsuits in?

They do have a lot of uses, you have to admit that. You can knit or crochet or make sturdy and pretty braided rugs by cutting strips from them and you can tie them onto your knees to keep your pants clean when you have to kneel to change a tire or pull weeds. And you can gather up things to take home or send away and you can... well, there are a lot of uses for them.

A discussion on the Dollar Stretcher forums called "Recycling Plastic Bags" spawned yet another one called "Plastic bags - continuing the discussion" has a lot more ideas.

So what are we going to substitute if we no longer get them?

Monday, May 19, 2008

Beat the high cost of food, again

There's a new article in the series: Beat the High Cost of Food: Eat the Leftovers!

What I didn't include in it?

If you have picky eaters, freeze the leftovers until they've forgotten about them, then serve them in a new form. No one will ever know.

Friday, May 16, 2008

What's wrong with handkerchiefs?

We're so deceived into thinking that we need paper products (what did your great grandparents do??) that the thought of using cloth seems gross. Sears and Roebuck catalog pages aside, "facial tissue" is one of those things we never used to have to have.

Handkerchiefs can still be bought, but they can be made, too, from material from worn out clothing or household linens. Use thin cloth for comfort and hem them any way you like, although a tiny rolled hem is traditional. If you've got a knack for handiwork, embroider pretty little flowers or designs for women or initials or masculine designs for men. Then use them.

Gross to wash? Laundry is so hard nowadays... I mean, we have to actually pick up dirty laundry and dump it in a machine, then we have to turn a dial and/or punch a button. Nasty job, isn't it?

Not at all like the women of a seventy five or hundred years ago (or less) who scrubbed everything by hand on a scrub board.

Not only will you save money, you can save the environment. No more pasteboard boxes, no more chemically treated tissue paper, no more trucking it all over the place.

What other paper products can you do without? Napkins and paper towels for starters. Yes, you can go farther: feminine products and toilet tissue are new "inventions," too.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Farmer's Market

Our seasonal farmer's market opens this weekend! They probably won't have much food, but they'll surely have plants and breakfasts and crafts. I usually don't buy crafts because I'm 1)cheap and 2)always think I can make it myself. I don't, but I think I can. I have never bought breakfast or snack food there, but the plants often call my name.

Anyway, Good Lord willing and the rivers don't rise, I'm going to go take in the atmosphere and follow my own advice:

To save money, only take as much cash as I feel comfortable spending and I won't take my checkbook. Vendors are not normally set up to accept credit cards, but some of them will take checks.

Farmer's markets are plain fun to walk around in. The smells and sights of food and other offerings, customers picking and prodding, vendors arranging and dealing... considering that you get to bring home the goodies too, it's pretty cheap entertainment.

Don't know if you have a local farmer's market? Find out here: Local Farmer's Markets.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

More about saving on food

I just published an article titled "Beat the High Cost of Food: Get it Free" on Associated Content.

There are some things I didn't mention there, though... one is that it takes planning and work to get free food, so that it isn't really free. We have to work at anything, whether we work for money and turn that money into goods, or work directly for goods (or food).

It's often more fun or more satisfying to work directly for goods or food, especially if the method is a little out of the ordinary for you. For instance, it might not seem to be much fun for a farmer to glean a field by hand, but for those who sit at a desk all week, an hour or so in the sun and dirt can be might satisfying.

That's just one way of getting "free" food. Pick and choose yours, or use all methods possible.

Just another way to beat the ever increasing cost of food.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Ways to Save on Food

We can cry and whine all we want about higher food prices, but it won't make a bit of difference. The only thing that we can control is how we handle this budget breaker. There are several ways that I tackle it; maybe they'll help you.

First, I shop only sales as much as possible. Rather than go into a long explanation of how my system works, I'll direct you here: Beat the High Cost of Food: Shop the Sales.

Secondly, I garden as much as I can. You may only have a window ledge in an apartment. Use it! You can grow lettuce, spinach, radishes, etc., and many herbs on a windowsill. When the weather permits, open the window so they get direct sunshine, or set them outside if you have a small place.

If you have a yard, this is the year to make a garden of it. If you already have a garden, make it bigger. Grow the things you eat.

That leads to the next thing: I can, freeze, dehydrate... whatever and however I can figure a way to save summer produce keeps my grocery bills lower the next winter. You can also use pickling and cold storage. Get some books from the library and read up on whatever you're not familiar with.

Fourth: Stick to the basics. Sure, it's nice to eat "high on the hog," but it's expensive, too, and not always healthy. Keep basics on hand - rice, beans, cabbage, carrots and more - and keep those expensive foods for special occasions. It's nice to have something special now and then, but special doesn't seem special if you have it whenever you want it, anyway.

"Waste not, want not" is a good thought to live by. Getting food is only half the battle. I make it a point to use leftovers. If I get tired of them the way they are, I disguise them in something else. Vegetables get pureed and added to meatloaf or frozen for stew or soup. Meat scraps get saved until there's enough for a mystery stew or made into sandwich spread. Fruits are made into sauces or ices. I don't use jelly or jam, but that's an alternative for those of you who do.

If you waste food you've worked hard for, what good did it do to get it for free or cheap? There are a lot of ways use it up in creative ways.

I very seldom just open a few cans and packages for dinner. I cook from scratch as much as I can. Cheap recipes don't mean cheap tasting food - far from it. You'll be surprised at the good things you can make when you start at the beginning.

There are more ways, like shopping alone, milling your own flour, buying at the source, etc., and I'm sure you have tips and ideas to add. The key is to not let the high price of food at the grocery store dictate what you can eat. There are other ways to get food and ways to stretch what you do buy at the store.

I think it's time to put on our thinking caps and figure it out.

Friday, April 25, 2008

What's more frugal than free?

A part of being frugal is finding other ways of getting the things we need and want. Bartering, gleaning and dumpster diving are a few ways to go about obtaining items. Another way and one that you appreciate if you do much on your computer, is getting freebies.

Some freebies, like food and personal care items, are listed on many free sites. You just have to go looking. However, free software is ignored by many, maybe because "free" sounds like it could be dangerous or poor quality (else why would they be giving it away?). I confess to having had the same thoughts, and it's smart to question. The internet is full of immature criminals who want to get into your computer any way they can, or who enjoy hurting other people's computers.

There are some software programs that are free and good, too. A couple come to mind immediately. One is the CoffeeCup Free FTP and assorted Coffee Cup applications.

The other is Open Office - a full suite of office programs that will open and write most Windows Office files.

There's no need to spend hundreds of dollars on software when free versions will do.

Of Supply and Rice

When Costco and Sam's Club "rationed" rice, there came upon some of us a vague sense of panic. Food was being rationed! We were going to have to do without! Buy it now, while you can, there isn't any more!

No, no, and no again. How many 20 pound bags of rice do you need? We've been told that the reason rice sales have been limited is that restaurants were buying against future prices, as the rice crop has failed in parts of the world. That make sense. If I were a restaurant owner, I'd be doing the same thing. But I'm not a restaurant owner, and neither are most of you. So what's the problem?

The problem is that if we all begin to hoard food - buying more than we need at regular prices - we're causing a problem. What might have been a normal week in rice sales went whacko because some large buyers increased their purchases, thus leaving the remaining suppplies low. We, collectively, can cause the same thing.

Hoarding is not nice. It leaves your neighbors and your friends without or paying even higher prices.

So how does this fit with the stocking up I'm always preaching? This way: When we stock up, we buy sales items - food at a lower price than usual, not food at the normal price. Food that's on sale is abundant, otherwise it wouldn't be on sale. It might not be abundant in the future; we can't know that and that's not the point. The only reason to stock up is to take advantage of sales and below normal prices.

In other words, let this be a lesson. Don't hoard. It only hurts us all in the long run.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Earth Day and busy times

Yikes, it's been a whole week since I've posted! It's been busy around here, with spring yard work and gardening. Last weekend, we put up a lattice on the south of the patio to help shade it. I have to decide what vine or plants to put there now.

Tomorrow's Earth Day and I've been thinking of how much being frugal saves the earth. Not buying junk and gadgets all the time, recycling to save money, reusing, remaking... all those things are frugal and also green. I hope all the earthlings appreciate what we do.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Current Economy and Associated Content

Well, prices are still on the rise. What news, huh? Not only grocery and energy prices, but it seems like everything has gone up. As someone who's always been conscious of every penny spent (almost!), the current economy is of peculiar concern.

How do we continue to live comfortably and deal with rising prices, investment disappointments and stuck incomes? I have several articles on Associated Content that could help:

Designing a Budget that Works

How to Save on Food

Save Electricity at Home

Wanna Trade? Barter Yourself to Financial Freedom

Energy Alternatives

There's more here: Pat Veretto's Content

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Going green

The buzz word these days is "green," in case you didn't know. "Green" used to be the color of money or spring or leprechauns, but not any more. I'm just discovering that frugal is green. We've been doing it for years, but we thought we were just saving our money.

Not so any more. Yes, you can be frugal and green, but you can be green and be anything but frugal.

I picked up a new magazine that promised to show us how to live "more lightly on the land." In it was a couple of pages of recycled goods made from a variety of throw away things like newspaper and plastic.

There was some nice stuff and some things that I thought I would like to have... but the price! Yikes. Maybe I'm just too frugal, but I wasn't enticed any further.

Now there's nothing wrong with a rug made from recycled soft drink bottles, but what's wrong with wool? The last time I saw a sheep, I really thought that wool was a renewable product and I'm pretty sure it's cheaper than the rugs I saw made with recycled plastic!

Small baskets made of recycled newspaper for fifty bucks? I don't think so.

I have no problem paying for quality products, but just because they're made of something recycled doesn't make them quality.

This is just my rant, but doesn't recycling itself take resources? And why not go for raw, renewable materials (wool, wood, cotton) and not have to replace the product every year or so? That seems "green" to me and it puts money in the pockets of tradesmen and crafters, not in some faceless corporation's green machine.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Bread: Frugal staff of life

Some people are bread people; some aren't, just like some people love chickens or horses or fast cars and others are just not impressed.

I'm a bread person. I love to experiment with bread, and with the prices still going up (will it ever stop??), baking your own bread can be a money saver.

I said can be, but it isn't necessarily so if you use a bread machine, a bread machine mix or buy expensive flour and yeast. I have never used "bread flour," and I've never bought expensive specialty flour, either. I mill my own flour and my bread is always well received - and even asked for.

I use this basic recipe most of the time:

1 tablespoon (or one package) yeast
1 tablespoon sugar, or brown sugar, or maple syrup, honey, etc.
1 teaspoon salt or sea salt or flavored salt such as garlic or onion
2 scant tablespoons of fat: butter, shortening, lard, vegetable oil, olive oil, etc.
1 cup of liquid: milk, water, half water and half milk, potato water or even part cream.
Flour as needed, usually 3 - 4 cups per loaf, with extra for kneading.

Put the salt, sugar and yeast in a large bowl and mix together.

Warm the liquid with the fat in it until it's slightly warmer than is comfortable to put your finger deep into it.

Add to the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly. Let it set 5 or 10 minutes for the yeast to start working.

Add flour, a cup at a time at first, then less until you have a fairly stiff dough. Turn it out onto a floured board and knead for 3 to 5 minutes, until it's smooth and not sticky, adding flour as necessary.

Let it rise once or twice, then form it into loaves and put it in loaf pans. Let it rise once more, then bake at 400 for 10 minutes. Turn the oven down and finish baking at 350 for 30 to 40 minutes more.

If you mill your own wheat, it makes a heavy whole wheat loaf. Bread is supposed to be heavy. Real bread is the staff of life, not a piece of fluff that you surround your meat and cheese with. Bread was originally (and can still be!) the major part of a meal.

Bread should be nutritionally important, not just white fluff. Leave the fluffy air for cake and other nonessentials and you'll fill your tummy for less - and be happy doing it.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Beat the high cost of food

These soaring grocery prices are enough to make any frugalite nervous and finding every way we can to cut costs there is important - BUT... just buying food at the lowest cost is only half the battle. No matter how much you coupon, shop the sales, grow your own, barter, etc., if you waste the food once you have it in your kitchen, you've lost the war.

There are so many ways we waste food without even thinking about it. I challenge you. Next time you prepare a meal, think of what you would do if the food you were preparing was the only food you would have for the next three days. Don't go adding more food... just use what you would normally for a meal. Could you find ways to stretch it or to use more of it?

How about chopping up those celery leaves into the salad or soup? Cooking beet and radish greens? Scrubbing potatoes before you peel them so you can use the skins in another dish?

Or how about those leftovers? They can make another appearance in an entirely different costume. Example: Leftover turkey from the freezer (Thanksgiving!), plus a cup or so of vegetables leftover from Easter and a few tablespoons of Ham gravy that I made from the pan drippings from the Easter ham (didn't have it for Easter dinner), and I made a turkey pot pie. Good, too, I must say. All leftovers except for the flour and salt. The fat was saved and rendered from the said ham.

Don't throw out perfectly good food because you've never saved it before. Get creative and use everything you have and your grocery costs will go down. Guaranteed.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The economy

Good news this morning!

US bank news lifts world shares. Good ol' JP Morgan, huh?

And so the roller coaster pummels on. Up and down and around and up and down again. Will stocks "rally"? Will housing regain its footing? Will we survive after all? Or will it all come crashing down tomorrow morning?

Nobody has the answer, don't let them fool you. There are "educated guesses," sure, but they're still guesses.

No one wants a serious recession. Or do they?

The media has got hold of this like a hungry stray with a meaty bone and they're not going to let it go that easily. The more they can fan the flame of sensationalism, the happier they are. After all, that pays their bills.

I'm not really sure I have a point to make. I do believe that if we could possibly let the economy "do its thing," it would slowly stabilize itself. It's kind of like one of those wobbly dolls. If you leave it alone long enough, it will eventually stop wobbling and stand upright. If you poke at it or slap it a little, it will wobble wildly for a long time.

Serious thoughts this morning, but let's face it. We have lives to carry on. Whether the price of flour doubles or not, we have to eat. Whether gasoline flows like pure gold or not, we have to get to work. We'll weather it somehow, media or not, big players or not. The common man is where the buck stops.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Mike Killian

The somewhat elusive Mike Killian has an interesting web site called "Learning Credit and Debt Management. So who's Mike Killian? He's the former Credit/Debt Guide at and he's still writing and still giving great advice. Mike and I traded traffic at About because our topics worked together so well. They still do, and I'm glad to see his material is still available.

For instance, Senior Debt: A Growing Problem tackles the sad circumstances many senior citizens face on a limited income.

Credit Card's Dirty Little Secrets is written in Mike's inimitable style and a must read if you have any dealings at all with credit cards.

In these times of economic uncertainty, it's critical to know how to handle credit and debt efficiently. Mike does know and he's willing to share.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Old Towels and Terrycloth

A couple of threads on the Dollar Stretcher forums, Save those towels and Rugs reminded me of a short list I put together some time ago about what to do with old towels or terrycloth from garments. You'll need to hem any terrycloth unless it's to be completely covered by another cloth, as it would be in padding for a potholder.

All of this assumes that you cut away the part that's worn too much, leaving just the good part.

  • Use old towels for padding to make footstools from those big popcorn tins. Cut circles to fit the top of the tin with a couple of inches to spare. Glue these onto the top of the lid and tie the edges down firmly, but leave it where you can open and close the lid easily. Cover the whole thing with material, leather or plastic.
  • They make great pet bedding as they can be washed easily.
  • Cut insoles from old towels to help keep your feet warm in boots or shoes. Make them several thicknesses and sew the edges together.
  • Several towels, sewn together to make one larger piece, makes a lightweight filler for hand made quilts.
  • Make houseslippers, using instructions for moccasins. There are good instructions on eHow - just use old towels instead of leather and a needle and thread or your sewing machine instead of lacing and lacing needle. (Skip the awl, too.) If you add an extra sole to the outside of the slipper, you can take it off when it becomes worn and replace it without having to make another pair.
  • I used an old towel duct taped to the edge of my desk as a wrist rest for quite some time until I found a freebie one.
  • Besides padding for potholders, make mats to set hot pots and pans on the same way.
  • Hemmed terrycloth makes excellent dishcloths.
  • On the same note, make washcloths from them. You can use a close zigzag stitch to edge them, or just make a narrow hem.
  • Make a patchwork tablecloth, throw or robe from them.
  • Cut a piece about the size of a washcloth and hem it, then dampen it with liquid fabric softener and throw in the dryer with your clothes. Use this instead of dryer sheets and you'll save money.
  • Make a rice or wheat heat pad by sewing an old hand towel up three sides, filling it with wheat or rice and then sew the fourth side. Microwave to heat and use as you would a hot water bottle or electric heating pad. The texture of terrycloth makes it soothing, but if you like, you can cover it with another cloth to keep the terrycloth clean.
  • Make a dust mitt to get around those odd corners and spaces. Draw around your hand on a piece of newspaper, adding a three to four inch cuff, then draw and cut the pattern about an inch to an inch and a half larger. Fold an old towel over, and using the newspaper pattern, cut both sides of the mitt at once. Hem the cuff end, then sew around the mitt.

I'm sure there are other frugal uses I haven't thought about. If you know of one, post it to one of the threads on the forums so others can benefit!

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Container gardening

I've been asked about container gardening, so I'll try to give a little advice about it. I'm not the world's guru on it by any means, but I've had a little experience, frugal wise.

First, the containers. You can use anything from a beer keg to a mop bucket, but you probably want something that doesn't look too awful if you're going to have it where you'll (and your neighbors and company) will see it all summer. Think of containers you already have. Beer kegs may go in your yard very well! Five gallon buckets can be painted so they look a little classier. Large flower pots, storage containers, toy boxes or even the old bathtub will work, so make your choice. The only thing you need to remember is that a container needs drainage. If you don't poke holes in it (A bathtub has a drain hole that works fine), water will collect on the bottom and create problems for your plants. Fungi grows well in that condition and may kill the roots.

Put a layer of small rocks or crockery fragments, broken cement, etc., in the bottom of a container, then fill it with good soil mixed with compost. You can buy potting soil, but that becomes expensive, especially if you're using large pots.

A list of plants to grow in containers can be almost endless. For larger plants like tomatoes, the smaller varieties seem to do better. Almost any vegetable can be found in a compact size plant - look for those when you buy your seed or plants. Squash is hard to grow in containers, but even then, it can be done.

Things like lettuce, spinach and radishes grow very well in containers. (They'll even grow inside with enough light.)

One very good reason to container garden, besides not having enough yard space for a traditional garden, is that you can move your plants to take advantage of better locations that may change over the season, or even over a day in very hot or wet weather.

Large containers can be heavy, so think about putting the largest ones on wheels! Set them on a child's wagon or any set of old wheels you may have around.

You'll need to water much more often, probably once a day for most things, and you'll need to fertilize often, too. Natural fertilizers are much preferred in container gardening, especially. Add compost, well rotted manure, coffee grounds, etc., to the top layer of soil now and then and mix in an inch or two if you can without disturbing the plant. Remember that the plant's resources are limited by the container size and be prepared to make up for that.

Above all, experiment! Find unique containers, plant seeds you've never tried before. Keep records of what you do and learn from them for next year!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Broken digital camera

I dropped my camera and the shutter button quit working. That's why I haven't posted any pictures here lately. I haven't found anyone to fix it yet and don't know how much it will cost. Penny pinching means it can sometimes take awhile to get things fixed.

I'm not going to just drop it off at any shop that claims to be able to fix digital cameras. You know why.

Anyway, camera or not, I saw finches at the bird feeder a couple of days ago. That means spring is springing in Colorado - it's early for house finches here.

That means it's time to get busy starting seeds and getting the gardens ready for another year. If I don't have a camera, you'll just have to imagine my wonderful, enormous crops of succulent, fresh vegetables... just like I am right now. ;)

Who knows? Maybe I will have an abundant and delicious harvest!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Prepare for a tighter economy

It's hardly news that prices keep going up and up and up... Food prices have continued to rise over the last few months, and gasoline to fuel vehicles and natural gas to fuel home heating systems share in higher prices.

As the prices on other products rise along with them, we may find ourselves in a money crunch. The cost of just living is going up...

One thing feeds on another in a free economy. When it costs more to transport goods, that cost is passed on so the goods cost more. When they cost more, fewer sales are made. When fewer sales are made, there is less demand for production. When there is less demand, some workers will lose their jobs. They will have less money to buy products. And the wheel keeps turning.

It's such a huge wheel that individuals or even groups can't do much to slow it down. The best defense is to find ways to protect ourselves.

Just how to do that is the problem. Gardening and finding other ways to provide food for ourselves, insulating and developing methods of saving on heating, lighting and cooking fuels, being more selective in buying or making clothing and household linens all help.

I'm going to repeat myself: Get out of debt. Now. That's the number one thing you can do to prepare for the "future" economy - which is upon us at this moment.

Friday, February 22, 2008

The price of food

Ack! Arghh... oh, my... and all that. I've been trying to get a new laptop with a new to me operating system in shape so I can actually use it! And I'm getting behind on everything else!

Anyway, today I used the last of a Christmas gift card and bought a few things at the grocer's... my goodness, the prices are still going up. That means we have to be even wiser about the way we spend our money on food.

A few quick tips that have helped me:
Don't go hungry
Don't go without a list
Don't go with someone else

Do watch closely for sales and be ready to adjust your list when you find them.
Keep an eye out for mark downs - ready to expire, dented cans or just tired products. Only grab them if you'll use them, though.

It could be the single most money saving move of all: Don't waste food. Make use of all leftovers one way or another. Don't serve more than your family will eat. If you make the plates, cut back on serving size. They can always come back for more, but if they have too much and leave it on their plate, it's wasted food.

Hang tight... I don't think this thing is over yet.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Perfect Couple: Baking Soda and Vinegar

Baking soda and vinegar are the two cleaners I keep on hand all the time. Besides being cheap, they're a lot safer to use than commercial cleaners and can be used for a lot of different things.

As an example, I clean the bathroom sink with baking soda, then rinse and spray vinegar/water mixture over it to leave a gorgeous shine. The vinegar removes water spots from the faucet, too. I use the same vinegar mix to wash the vanity mirror and clean the floor, using baking soda if there are scuff marks. I put baking soda in the bottom of the trash can to eliminate odors and I pour vinegar into the toilet bowl at night to deodorize, clean and disinfect - it also loosens buildup in the pipes. Baking soda cleans the tub, too, and vinegar keeps the shower walls free from soap scum and water deposits.

And that's just the bathroom.

I would hate to have to buy and store all of the commercial products necessary to do that.

Thursday, February 14, 2008


Sorting through some old files, I came across a small ebook I'd downloaded from the Gutenberg Project called "The Simple Life" by Charles Wagner. Skimming through it, this phrase caught my eye: "It is not the woman with one dress who asks most insistently how she shall be clothed, nor is it those reduced to the strictly necessary who make most question of what they shall eat to-morrow."

Food for thought, isn't it?

If you want to download Gutenberg Project's books, it's fast to do in text form - you don't need a reader or a browser. If you can't read it all at one setting in a text editor, make your own bookmark simply by typing a few characters that you'll remember, then finding them next time by using the built in find function. I use ?!? because it's quick, easy to type and you hardly ever find it in the text of a book otherwise.

There are other free sources of books online - notably the Internet Public Library. IPL has links to some very good reading, well organized so you can find your interests quickly.

While reading on a monitor can be tiresome, it's the next best thing to a trip to the library. If you haven't looked for free books online, you'l be pleasantly surprised at the quantity and variety available.

You just can't get much more frugal than free.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Shop when you're happy?

I first saw this notion at: Wallet Pop and followed the link to Fox Business .

I wasn't sure about the idea because personally I tend to not shop when I'm feeling down but when I have to, I get what I need and get out of there.

Maybe it has to do with some basic feelings toward shopping and "things" in general?

This also brings up another question. Are Americans that unhappy?? Because it seems like there's always a whole lotta shopping going on!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

When a list is more than a list

How much is enough? It always seems to be just a little bit more than we have, doesn't it?

That's been bugging me for awhile. At the beginning of each year, I make a list of things I want to do, things I want to make and things I want to buy or otherwise obtain during the year. It's meant to keep me on track, to remind me that a dollar or two here and there is that much less I'll have for the things I really want.

This year, as it has in the past, the list is growing instead of shrinking, although I'm plugging away at marking things off.

Why is that, do you suppose?

I think it's because I see a "can have" list instead of a "need" or "want this year" list. It's a peculiar twist of the human mind.

Once, long ago, I set up a budget for the first time. The only mistake I made was telling my husband and then teenage daughter. As soon as I mentioned that we had X amount of dollars in the clothing category, both immediately came up with things they "needed" that cost just about that much!

Lesson learned? Maybe not.