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.