Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The New Year

Whew... back to the grindstone. Christmas is over, company's gone and the house seems very quiet. I've sorted through the bows and ribbons, thrown out some paper that was too far gone and cleaned up my bedroom (almost!).

Now comes the time to reminisce a little, philosophize about last year and make plans for next year. Like most of you, I want to do more with less. I want to put more money into savings, put less food in my mouth. I want to put more muscle on my body, put less stress on my mind. Put more thought into every day savings opportunities, put less emphasize on what others think about how I do it.

The top three New Year's Resolutions involve money, weight and exercise, in that order. More money, less weight, more exercise. And every year, we resolve the same thing. Hmm...

Maybe it's time to resolve to actually work on our resolutions?

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas!

And thank you to all who read and follow this blog. You've given me a great year and I hope that I've given you at least a few ideas on how to make your money go farther.

I hope you all have a wonderful and fulfilling Christmas.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Christmas is for giving

Ever had a conversation about the best gift you've ever received? How about the best gift you've ever given?

The best and most frugal gift I ever gave was many years ago. It was a pencil sketch of my brother.

I'm not an artist, by any stretch of the imagination, but I was flat broke that year and needed a gift from the heart for my parents.

My brother had been killed in Viet Nam the year before. I had a picture of him in his uniform with his helmet on, so I got a piece of paper and a pencil and worked and worked on a pencil sketch of that picture. I bought a cheap frame and put it in it, but the frame meant nothing...

My mom cried when she opened her gift and I felt satisfied that I had given something more special than I could ever have bought.

You don't have to spend money to give the perfect gift. Sometimes not having money is a gift in itself. It makes us reach within ourselves and really, truly give.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Joining challenges

Have you ever thought about challenging yourself to not spending anything for a week? Or to using up certain things in your pantry before shopping again? Just those two challenges can save quite a bit of money, if you take them seriously.

Think about it... and keep yourself on track by joining the threads on the Dollar Stretcher forums:

No Spend* December 13 - 19th

Clean out for Xmas Pantry Challenge! Dec 8th to 15th,2009

Monday, December 7, 2009

Mug rugs and quick gifts

I was inspired by a post on the Dollar Stretcher forums about DIY stocking stuffers to make a few "mug rugs" for Christmas, then got a little carried away. The upshoot of it was this heart mug rug, published by

Cute Heart Mug Rug

Which brings me to the point of this post: Making quick gifts and stocking stuffers for Christmas. Knitting, crocheting or sewing are all pretty quick and can use salvaged or second hand materials, even when making gifts. It's really hard to tell whether a yarn or piece of material has been used for something else before or has been stuck in the back of someone's closet for ages.

How to get that material or yarn? Check thrift stores, of course, but if you don't see skeins of yarn for a low price, look at the sweaters on the racks. The yarn in hand made sweaters can be ripped out, washed and used again. Wash it by hand and wind it into a loop, then weight it and let it hang to dry.

No material for sale there? Look at their sheets! If you can find a good quality sheet, there is a lot of material in it. Don't overlook full skirts, bedspreads or anything else that has a lot of material.

Wash material and use a vinegar rinse to help ease old fold or pleat lines. If that doesn't do it, iron the piece, misting with a tablespoon of vinegar in a cup of water. The smell will disappear quickly.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Real trees are cheaper?

Here's a story I don't understand:

Fake trees lose appeal for frugal Christmas shoppers

It's been a long time since I've bought a live tree for Christmas, but aren't they kind of expensive? And don't you have to buy them every year? Wouldn't it make more sense, money-wise, to buy an artificial tree and NOT buy one next year?

I've seen artificial trees as low as $19... granted, they're not huge and they're not beautiful at that price, but that's what ornaments are for. I know you can pay well over a hundred dollars for an artificial tree, but you can do that for a live tree, too.

It just doesn't make sense to me to buy a live tree because of money. If you get one because you love the fragrance or the look and feel of one, that's different... but to save money??

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Got turkey?

Are you down to the last bit of turkey yet? Don't toss the carcass. Break it up and put it in a large pot and boil it until the tiny bits of meat start falling off. Remove the bones and strain the broth, then pick out the meat and freeze it for later. Cover some of it with the broth and you'll have a soup almost ready to go - just add rice and/or vegetables. Freeze some by itself, too. It's good for salads and sandwiches.

Boiling it is the only way to get it all, so if you haven't done this in the past, you may be surprised at how much more meat you can get - and how many very, very frugal meals you can make of it.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Thanksgiving thoughts

How far we've come from the first Thanksgiving! Men, women and children were thankful for simply surviving in the new world. The feast was a true feast. Food had been scarce and many had gone to bed hungry more than once. With this awesome bounty of harvest from field, forest and stream, came a heartfelt thanksgiving - one only those who have been without can truly give.

Today most of us sit in our warm kitchens, eating food bought from the supermarket, later watching football on tv, or visiting with friends and family. Sure, we say we're thankful, and we are, at least to a degree. Often it's a shallow and diluted thanksgiving, though, simply because we don't really know what it would be like to do without those things for which we so glibly give thanks.

There are those on America's streets who do know.

The homeless population is growing, still hurting. Children and families are the fastest growing group. Children just like your children and your grandchildren and your nieces and nephews, are without basic shelter and food, never mind the dental care and the hamburgers and the new shoes.

During this time when you think of those things for which you're thankful, take a moment and see what you can do to make a difference for these children, and for their parents whose hearts surely break a dozen times a day.

I'm partial to local charities - the food bank, the local Salvation Army, the churches and organizations that do what they can to ease the burden of not having a place to be.

Look around in your own community or town and see the need. You don't have to give to a charity if you find or know someone personally who could use the help.

Do what you can. Life is so unpredictable. It's possible that someone you know or someone you love or even you, will find themselves without a home. Pay it forward... just in case.

And do it with a thankful heart.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Friday, November 20, 2009

I know it's not Christmas yet...

But you gotta get a head start on these things! Here's what I've been up to the last few days:


Let me know what you think... you're my editors and critics at large. ;)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Got your Christmas shopping done?

Waiting until the last minute, whether it's shopping for Christmas or a vacation on the beach will usually cost more. I hate to put it off, because I won't have time to shop for bargains, to compare prices, to wait it out to see if I can find something better (cheaper, better quality, bigger...).

If you're waiting on a pay check or something else prevents you from starting yet, don't just sit on your hands. Look around, decide what you want to buy and find best prices while you're waiting. Then when the money comes, you'll know where to go and how much it's going to cost.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Fresh pumpkin soup

I finally baked the pumpkin my daughter got for me today! I don't know why anyone would buy canned pumpkin when they can get fresh pumpkin. I have enough in the freezer for pies for both Thanksgiving and Christmas and plenty for pumpkin bread and cookies and even pumpkin soup, all for about two dollars. Ten cups of fresh pumpkin!

There was a little over a half cup left when I'd portioned it out for the freezer, so I made pumpkin soup for supper. I read a couple of recipes then I winged it because I didn't have everything they called for and I didn't have enough pumpkin anyway.

I made a cup of chicken bouillon, added about a teaspoon of dehydrated onion and a couple of shakes of powdered garlic. I cooked that, then thickened it with flour (mixed in cold water), then I put in the pumpkin, some salt and pepper, a strip of bacon that had been cooked and crumbled and a good dollop of plain yogurt.

Wow, was that good! The problem was that I can never duplicate the exact flavor because I didn't write any of it down and most of it wasn't measured to begin with. I'll try again, though, because this is going to become a stock recipe in my kitchen!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Heating tricks (Caution: extremely frugal tips ahead)

Winter time is coming on! If you haven't had a spell of cold weather yet, you probably will soon. Here are some extremely frugal tips to help you through.

Wait until you're ready to relax to put something in to bake. Heat from the oven will help heat your house and you, while you're not moving around.

While you're baking, put several stones in the oven to heat up, too. When they're hot, remove them (remember, they'll be hot) and put them in a heat resistant container where they can help heat a room. You'll be surprised how much radiant heat you can get from them.

Not baking? Stones or other solid objects soak in heat from the sun, so if you use them wisely, you can use this stored heat to raise temperatures somewhat. Put stones, cast iron or other solid objects where they will be in direct sunlight. When they get very warm, put them in your cold room or area and they will slowly radiate stored heat. The more you use, the more heat will be radiated.

Water will hold and radiate heat, too. Put barrels or other containers (metal or glass) of water in windows where they will be heated by the sun until you draw the curtains - then it will radiate its stored heat.

Don't run hot water down the drain. Let it set, even in a glass or cup, until it's radiated all of its heat into the room.

To warm yourself or family members, sun or oven heated stones (wrap in cloth if they're too hot), and bottles, jugs or cans of hot water, capped tightly, make great foot or hand warmers.

Use passive solar heating as much as possible, by opening windows to the sunlight - but close them as soon as the sun goes down or behind clouds.

Keep windows on the north covered with drapes, thermal blinds, or - new idea - bubble wrap.

Take advantage of small things, like heat from candles. Group several together in an area that doesn't get a lot of air flow and the area will be warmer.

Place lamps as low as you can, so heat from lightbulbs warm the air closest to you first instead going straight to the ceiling.

There are other ways to stay warm than turning up the thermostat.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Holiday articles

I'm going to send you away from the blog today, to a few articles I've written that are appropriate for this time of year.

First, are you wondering what to do with all that Halloween candy? Read this:
The Many Uses for Excess Holiday Candy

Then, if you're thinking about decorating for Thanksgiving, do it frugally:
Natural and Free Thanksgiving Decorations

And finally, cooking a Thanksgiving dinner can be ultra traditional and save you a lot of money:
The First Thanksgiving Menu - It Wasn't Your Grandma's Menu!

Enjoy. Or complain, commment, whatever. I feel like saying "Welcome to the holidays!"

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Organic and frugal skin care

I do what I can to use organic products, but I don't feel as if I can afford all of it. I haven't come across any organic skin care products that I could afford regularly and none locally, but I haven't given up looking. One thing I have looked into is using naturally occurring products.

I use yogurt for a facial now and then and plain organic yogurt is good for minor fungal infections as it has the "good bacteria" that fights yeast and other fungi. It's as good for us on the outside as it is on the inside!

Honey is antibacterial, soothing, and promotes healing of scratches, cuts and even larger wounds. It keeps wounds moist, but safe from bacteria so they heal faster. Honey used to be used a lot more before antibiotics were discovered. Since it's a completely natural substance with no chemicals added, it has to be safer than antibacterial ointments.

Olive oil makes a good moisturizer if you put it on while your skin is still wet from the shower. It's also good to comb through dry hair. Soak your nails in it, then wipe and buff and they'll look and feel great.

Then there's vinegar. That can be used in so many ways I hate to even start here. Hair rinse, face peel, sunburn soother, diet aid and denture soak for starters.

Those are very frugal substitutes compared to over the counter medications, even if we buy the organic version of them.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Gardening into the winter

It seems to me that it's getting cold early this year. I've been hobbling about with an infected toe and haven't been able to finish digging dandelion roots and I haven't even touched the Jerusalem artichokes or the horseradish root. Who can dig when you can't even wear a shoe?

I was glad, in a strange way, to see the first frost of the year; maybe because it was such a strange summer that the garden seemed like a battle. Even with that feeling, it was with a tinge of regret that the garden tools, the hoses, the snips and the rakes and hoes, have all been put back in their places to stay for months and months.

I'm definitely missing the taste and convenience of fresh produce already. There is no grocery store in the nation that sells a cucumber that tastes as good as one fresh off the vine, or a handful of baby yellow crookneck so fresh that they taste like squash blossoms themselves.

I'm not going down without a fight, though. This year I will grow leaf lettuce and radishes and maybe some spinach or wild spinach (lambsquarter) on my windowsill. If I can come up with a deep but narrow container, maybe I'll grow some dandelion greens, too.

And some green onions! I have onion seeds saved from a couple of onions this summer.

Maybe I need a wider shelf under the window...

Friday, October 23, 2009

Speaking of tea bags...

Whatever you do, don't throw them away once they're used. If they're the kind with strings, pull the strings off and use them to tie things together, hang decorations in a window (with a thumbtack) or put a couple dozen together, tie in the middle, trim and you have a cotton pompom. Tea bag strings can be dyed easily with generic kool aide, tea or coffee. Don't make up a packet of kool aide for that purpose, but when you're making it anyway, take out a tablespoon or two before you add sugar and dye the cotton string with that.

Oh, and if you soak the tea bag strings in borax and salt dissolved in water then let them dry for a few days, they make good candle wicks for short candles.

I'm not through yet. Use the tea and the bags themselves to compost, or dry them completely and throw them in the fireplace or wood stove. Put them on your houseplants before you water them.

Just because tea bags are used, doesn't mean they're not still useful. Now, go apply that to everything you can think of.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A new furnace, "quality controlled"

I bought a new furnace last fall to replace the one that was installed when this house was built in the mid 50's. Yeah, it was that old and yeah, it still worked. I replaced it "just in case," and to save on natural gas. (With higher price of gas last year, I couldn't tell the difference!). The new furnace is nice. It's smaller and uses electronic ignition rather than a pilot light. The fan is stronger so the house is more evenly heated. But... it only has a 10 year warranty.

I'm still not sure if it was the wisest thing to replace the furnace that ran without trouble for 60 years with one that's guaranteed to do so for only 10 years.

Is that what they call quality controlled? Controlled to last a much shorter period of time than it could and should last?

Your refrigerator, your kitchen range, your slow cooker, your TV, your iron... they're all designed to fail within a certain period of time.

It used to be a matter of pride to manufacture a furnace or a washing machine that didn't need repairs. Pride? What's that? Now it comes when the company turns a profit, meaning they sold a lot of products. The more the better, so they manufacture them to become obsolete or to break down irreparably within a few years so people will have to buy new ones.

Such is "progress."

Monday, October 19, 2009

Cheapskates and tightwads

Did you ever wonder how a word came to be? I do, all the time, so I looked up these two words. According to, cheapskate comes from " 'miserly person,' 1896, from cheap (q.v.), second element perhaps from Amer.Eng. slang skate 'worn-out horse' (1894), of uncertain origin."

Worn out horse? Well... ok. What about tightwad?

Again, quoting"'parsimonious person,; 1900, from tight in the sense of 'close-fisted' (1805) + wad. The notions of stringency and avarice also combine in Mod.Gk. sphiktos 'greedy,' lit. 'tight.'"

Greed? Stingency? Avarice?

I like the word "frugal" better, but all these are all used to mean the same thing, at least in certain circles. Let me put it this way: Sometimes I can be a definite tightwad in the sense of close-fisted. The rest doesn't apply. I'm not sure about the cheapskate.

Are you miserly? Do you grasp and hoard and try, even with a little avarice, to "get things"? I didn't think so.

Frugal, I am and I'm not ashamed to admit that. The rest... well, I'll leave that to others.

frugal: "1598, from M.Fr. frugal, from L. frugalis, from undeclined adj. frugi 'economical, useful, proper,' originally dat. of frux (pl. fruges) 'fruit, profit, value,' related to fructus (see fruit). Sense evolved in L. from 'useful' to 'profitable' to 'economical.'"

(Also from I'll let you look it up yourself.)

Monday, October 12, 2009

Batten down the hatches!

Winter is upon us already here, it seems. It will probably warm up again (somewhat) but the damage is done. Ugh! Not a pretty sight.

But all is not lost... not yet, anyway.

On a brighter note, the horseradish is through growing for the year, so I can dig that. No great loss without some small gain. Laura's mother said that in "Little House on the Prairie" books. She was one wise woman. I am counting my gains today.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Saving seeds

If you garden and you're frugal, surely you've saved at least a few varieties of seeds from year to year. If you haven't, you're wasting money. The seed companies get theirs the exact same way you can get yours, so why pay them to do it?

I keep reading that hybrids won't breed true if you save the seeds from your own crops and that's true of some things, but not all. I have saved seed from hybrid lettuce, radishes and acorn squash, among other things, and they grew true to themselves the next year. It's worth a try, especially if you come across something you really like, or something that grows very well in your garden.

Heirlooms are best for seed saving, though. Think of it this way. Every time you toss out the seeds from an heirloom tomato or a summer squash, you're throwing away a perfectly good package of seeds or in most cases, several packages of seeds.

Nature is extremely generous when it comes to making seed and she will give them to you for free. Why buy them next year?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Christmas beans

Christmas beans are large lima type beans that have reddish splotches and marks on them. I had some left over from a package I'd bought at the farmer's market three years ago. Last year, I planted a few of them and they didn't do very well, but I got a little crop from them. This year, I picked out 10 beans from last year's crop and planted them.

Out of the ten Christmas beans I planted, only three came up. Of those, one died right away, leaving two healthy, stout bean vines. They grew all summer, filling a 5 X 5 trellis behind them.

Now, I don't usually count beans or anything else like that, but I was curious as to what kind of return they gave, so as the harvest came in, I counted the beans. (I know, I know...) There are still a few out there, but the frost is threatening closer and closer each night, so I'm not counting on them (no pun intended!). If they hold out a few more days, I'll pick them green and let them dry inside.

Anyway, back to bean counting. At this point, I have 140 Christmas beans. If you figure the 10 beans that I planted originally, that's an increase of 14 times, which isn't bad. God only promised a 10 fold increase (to Jacob). If you figure the actual two beans that grew, however, it's an increase of 70 times!

It seems like there should be a lesson in that.

If we try and try and try again, the reward will come. If you have cut costs, then found yourself spending more again... try again. And again if you have to. If one thing doesn't work (or grow, like my beans), another will. Sooner or later, you'll realize an amazing result.

Plant your Christmas beans, dream your dreams, set your goals and you'll see the results come in, in due time.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Facial tissue boxes

Warning: extremely frugal tip ahead.

When you buy facial tissue, look for a pretty box that matches your office or kitchen colors. When the box is empty, cut off the top and use the bottom to store things. I have a facial tissue box with red apples and roses on a green background which holds my stash of pens, pencils and markers on the back of the office desk.

Use the cut off top and cut bookmarks from it. Bookmarks are usually 5 to 6 inches long so you can get two from one box top.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Almost frosted!

With a low of 33, it was close. I picked the last two zucchinis, a dozen and a half little yellow squash and the last cucumber. I decided to leave the cherry tomatoes to their fate... and this morning they're still blooming.

In a way, I'm glad the summer is over because I love the fall season. But my frugal nature just hates to let go of the source of such wonderful, free (or at least dirt cheap!) food.

Yes, I've canned and dehydrated and frozen... but it isn't quite the same as going out to pick a salad for dinner or a few squash to sautee for breakfast. Maybe I'll go look at my shelves of canned food again and remember that this winter I'll be eating some really good food for a really good price.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The annual dandelion coffee dig

It took awhile for me to get hooked on dandelion coffee. First, I read about it and thought about it for awhile, then one day I dug up a dandelion root and tried to roast it. It was just one root and it was too early in the year, so it barely made enough for one cup. It didn't taste too bad, but seemed like a lot of trouble, so when I came across Traditional Medicinal's Dandelion Tea (same thing), I bought a box of it. By the time I'd finished that box, I was hooked.

Determined not to spend money on something I can do myself, I dug a few more, then read up some more. Finally realizing that fall was the best time to dig them (d'uh... it's the best time to dig most roots because they've been storing food all summer), I dug a whole pan full of dandelion roots, washed, scrubbed, trimmed and roasted them.

Still... it seemed like a lot of work. Until I realized that I didn't have to scrape off all the hair roots and I didn't have to clean them under running water and that a vegetable scrub brush worked great to get the dirt off.

Three changes of water, but a lot faster than the first few times, I now have a pan of dandelion roots roasting in the oven. I will dig more tomorrow or the next day, until the little area I let "go to the weeds" is cleared of dandelions - for this year, anyway.

If you want to dig dandelion roots and try it, wet the soil thoroughly before you begin and give it an hour or so to soak in. The first reason is to make digging easier, but secondly, to keep the roots from breaking off so short. Dandelions grow a very, very long taproot and that's what you're after, but you won't get it all, not when it can grow several feet into the ground. That's what makes dandelions so hard to kill permanently.

Don't tell anyone, but I'm glad of that. If it could have been poisoned or dug out of this area, it would have been long before I got here. I let it grow for three years before trying to use it, to minimize the possibility of poisons.

I use a stove top percolator to make my dandelion coffee in, and since I only drink one cup or two at the most, each day, I have been thinking of making a full pot and freezing it in one cup portions. It seems to make more sense, but I'll have to see.

If you haven't tried it, think of it this way. It's free; it stores well, and it's good... that is, if you like it. Try it. Maybe you can cut the cost of coffee by having dandelion coffee part of the time. Oh - no caffeine and it has lots of minerals. It's good for your liver, gall bladder and will help overcome jaundice. It's a gentle diuretic, but won't deplete your body of potassium, like pharmaceutical diuretics do.

Best of all, it's an enjoyable drink with a deep, robust flavor that fairly sings of autumn!

In Cheap We Trust

I'm almost through with this book (the weekend was too short!) so I wanted to tell you about it. I was asked to read and review it and I'm glad I did.

I can't quite put it in a category, but it would have to be somewhere in the history/economics/frugal/good reading. Lauren Weber has done excellent research and put it all together in a very readable and interesting book.

You've probably already guessed that I recommend it. It will give you a historical perspective of our frugal natures and possibly give you insight into why you are the way you are. It also gives a very good picture of how the American economy works and the condition it's in now, and why.

Even if you're not frugal, you'll enjoy the story of America's historical relationship with money. First, we were frugal, then we were not. Then we were, then we were not. Why and how is a fascinating read, but there's more to it than that.

All the way from Benjamin Franklin to Keynes to women taking part in the financial world are topics that are covered in such a manner that it drew me into the ideas, ideals, mindsets and philosophies of America as we have changed from a new world to the nation that we have now.

You may not find it in libraries yet, since it's new, but look around.

Title: In Cheap We Trust
Author: Lauren Weber
ISBN: 978-0-316-03028-1

Let me know what you think about it!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Warm clothing, warm bodies

Every year I go to the local Goodwill store and get two or three pairs of long underwear.

What a statement to start a blog post with, right? But it's the truth. With warm clothing, I can face the coming winter feeling just a little better about the heating bills.

I know there are places where it hasn't cooled down much yet, but just coming out of a cold spell here, winter time is on my mind for sure. I had to turn the heat up - with temperatures in the 40s and 50s for several days, my old bones just couldn't stand it. Now I know my gas bill will be up slightly over the summer, so it's time to start doing things to keep me warm.

I look for warm sweaters and flannel sheets at the Goodwill too, and I knit warm house shoes which are worn indoors almost all the time.

It's one thing to get the house ready for cold weather and yet another to get ourselves ready. Remember, the thing we're trying to keep warm is ourselves and individuals in our families - not so much the house as the people in the house.

There is a difference

Monday, September 21, 2009

Extremely frugal second nature

You may or may not have noticed, but I've suspended posting to my Extremely Frugal blog, for now, anyway. I can't keep up with this one, let alone another one! Anyway, I'll post "extremely frugal" tips here as they occur to me or as I come across them.

It isn't that I don't do extremely frugal things or don't have a lot of ideas and tips. It's that many of them are so automatic that I don't think of them as out of the ordinary or that other people may not do them or even think of them.

When things are second nature, they're hard to see and I know that some of you know exactly what I mean.

On the other hand, there are those things that I have hesitated to share for fear that you'd all think I had gone completely off my rocker. I will no doubt post some of those, too. :)

Monday, September 14, 2009

When times are tough

I don't know whether it's a hard concept to grasp or whether it's just a hard concept to put into practice. When things get tough, cut to the bone.

That's simple enough, isn't it?

It means that if you don't have money to pay your bills, don't buy ice cream. Don't go window shopping, or any other kind of shopping except for the bare necessities.

Maybe the problem is that we don't know what the "bare necessities" are any more. Here's a checklist to remind you of a few things that aren't necessary:

  • Cable TV
  • Vacations anywhere other than home
  • Store bought snacks and treats: Ice cream, candy, chips...
  • Shoes in seventeen different colors
  • Ditto, watchbands, hair clasps, and jewelry
  • Going to the movies
  • Eating out

And so on.

What is necessary? Think about it. Really think about it.

Then figure out how to tighten your own belt and get by until good times roll again. But when they do, don't forget the lessons you've learned. Just as surely as the sun rises and sets each day, tough times will come again for someone, somewhere. As a wise person once said, you can be the answer, not the problem.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Just because it's free...

I had made a list on a sheet from a notepad that I got for free, and had finished with it. As I stood in line to check out, I folded the paper inside out and put it back in my purse. A woman standing nearby beckoned toward a trash can and I realized she was showing me that I couold throw the paper in the trash.

Not likely. I'd used one side of it - half of it. The other half was perfectly clean. So what if it hadn't cost me anything to begin with? It would cost something to replace.

That's the bottom line: How much will it cost to replace... whatever? Even if you got it free, take care not to waste it. A shampoo sample can give you more than one shampoo and sometimes more than two or even three. I once got a sample bar soap and used it for two weeks in the shower. That was two weeks I didn't have to buy another bar of soap.

Streettcchhh it. Make those freebies really count!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Really... what's more frugal than free?

Not much!

I know I'm not the only one who looks at something new in the store and am reluctant to turn loose of the money to buy it without knowing whether I like it. Besides that, samples of food and personal care products (and other products) can really stretch a budget.

I used to go to several sites to check out what was new, but finally signed up for a newsletter from Shop 4 Freebies that reminds me each day to check their site for free samples - and they have them all, so I don't have to go to this one or that one looking for things I'm interested in.

I don't know... maybe I'm getting lazy in my old age. Or maybe I'm getting smarter... :) Either way, this site shaves a few minutes off the time it takes to round up some cool freebies and that makes frugal sense to me!

Friday, August 28, 2009

What to do between now and cold weather

For some of you, "cold weather" is little more than a nice dream while you're still having searing temperatures. For others, it really never left this year! Either way, cool or colder weather is coming and we need to prepare for it. It may seem early to be thinking about it, but better a little early than a little late.

Here's my list:

  • Have furnaces checked and change the filter.
  • Clean out coat closets. Check sizes, wear and so on, to see what needs to be replaced before cold weather.
  • Have the car tuned up and ready for cold weather driving. Make sure the tires are ok for ice and/or snow.
  • Tend the harvest. Can, dehydrate and freeze produce that is cheap (or free, from the garden) right now for frugal winter eating.
  • Take a look at window casings and doors and make any repairs that are needed. Replace caulking, tighten hinges, install weather stripping.
  • Take advantage of sales on garden tools, paper, pens, pencils and fresh root vegetables.
  • Look to nature to provide decorations and inspiration for the house. Everything from river rock to dramatic "weeds" can be, and has been, used creatively.

    There's a lot more than can be added to that, but that covers the basics for me and I'm tired just looking at it!

    Every season has its changes and challenges and we do well to meet them ahead of time to avoid last minute purchases and actions that may or may not be frugal. This year seems to be even more intense in its "get ready!" feeling. It may just be me... but it may not be. Don't let the winter catch you unprepared.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Cash for Clunkers?

Let me say right off the bat that I don't agree with this program. First, a car that's still worth $4500 isn't a clunker. A clunker is a car that looks bad, runs bad, and costs more to maintain than making payments on a new car.

Secondly, I would never recommend that anyone buy a brand new car. A good part of the value is lost the moment you drive it off the car lot. If you buy a car for $30,000 and it loses 10% of its value in the first 30 days, there goes a third of your "cash for clunkers..."

Most people will have to finance a new car. If you do, DON'T think that you're paying the sticker price for the car. Multiply the amount of the payment times the number of months you have to pay and that's your real price.

There's another reason. If these "clunkers" are destroyed, what do people who need to drive older used cars find to buy? Bus tickets? That may be great in Washington D.C., but it isn't very practical if you live out in the country, or your city doesn't have good public transportation, which pretty much covers the rest of the nation.

Monday, August 17, 2009

No AC and a ramble

We haven't needed air conditioning for a few days now... thank heavens, no heater, either! Although I did put a blanket on the bed tonight. I love this weather, and not just because it's frugal, although that's a great part of it. We'll probably have more hot days, but the nights are getting cool enough that the house can cool down at night, and the days are short enough that it doesn't heat up again much.

Besides that, we don't need much if any, extra watering, with a few rain showers and cooler temperatures. Even the garden seems at peace for the first time this summer. The tomatoes are ripening slowly, but there won't be much of a crop since they've all but quit blooming. Things are slowly coming to an end as autumn slowly creeps in.

I know it's not that way for all of you. Some of you have longer growing seasons and some of you have had a hot and dry summer. There are advantages to everything, though, even if we have to think hard to find them.

Hail tore little green cherry tomatoes from the vine and as I was picking them up, I remembered what Laura's mother said in Little House on the Prairie when the crows got all their corn. "No great loss without some small gain." So, in the spirit of eating the crows that ate their corn, I gathered the green tomatoes and made green tomato salsa. It was pretty good!

Be aware of your options at all times. That should be our frugal motto... or something like, "Do the best you can with what you have."

It works.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Stocking up: Hard times ahead?

Do you remember a year that seems so bad, garden-wise? All across the nation, gardeners are having trouble with failed or late crops. Too wet, too dry, too hot, too cold... bugs, fungi, bacterial and viral diseases... it doesn't take a genius to see that food prices are going up again.

What troubles the backyard gardener troubles agribusiness, too. National food stores are at a low right now and with low yields, increasing those stores may be impossible.

This means higher prices. Not only will there be less from the farmers, there will be more demand as those who would otherwise depend on their own produce, have to buy more store bought food.

Some people are stocking up more this year than ever, as this thread from the Dollar Stretcher forums shows. My advice? Follow their lead. Stock up, put up. Can, dehydrate, freeze, find a cool place to store winter squash, cabbages and potatoes when or if you can find them for a good price.

I'm not trying to scare you... well, maybe I am. I'm not trying to paint a doomsday picture, but all of us need to see the implications of a bad year almost everywhere in the nation. It's just practical good sense to do what you can to hedge against higher prices.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Paying for a car

I'd rather encourage others to try to save enough to pay cash than to give them excuses to go into debt, no matter what it's for.

That just about sums up all I have to say on the subject. If you have to have a car (and more times than we like to admit, we don't have to have one) and time is short, then by all means, go into debt for one. But don't go into debt for a car that's more than you need.

It's easy enough to get carried away with all that shiny paint and leather and "new car" smell... (dealerships put that perfumey stuff in old cars, too). Don't let it take over your good senses.

The first car I owned, I paid $50 for. I drove it all summer, then sold it for what I paid for it. The next car, I went into debt for... and the next one and the next one. I didn't think I could ever get ahead enough to buy one outright... why, saving several thousand dollars just seemed impossible.

Then, somehow it happened. I had enough in savings to pay cash for a used car, and I've never looked back. Making payments ahead of time beats making them after by a long ways! First, I got to keep the interest instead of paying the bank for the privilege of borrowing money from them. Then, I could watch the balance in my savings account go up, instead of watching the balance on a loan go down, and I'm pretty sure the savings went up faster than a loan would have gone down. The reason is that I was a lot more motivated to pay extra to a savings account than I would have been to a loan account.

When it was time to get rid of that car, I had more than I needed in savings to buy the next one.

It's like starting off on the wrong foot when you borrow that first time. It's a lot harder to get in step than if you'd started on the right foot to begin with.

If you have teenagers or if you are one (or a young adult) looking to buy your first car, take this advice to heart. Pay for it first, upfront. Even if you have to buy a clunker and keep saving for the next one, you'll be 'way ahead next time.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Giants in the garden

That's a six foot fence in the background. The corn has tasseled out and a few ears are forming. The plant in front is a yellow crook neck squash. It looks like it's out in front, but really, it's planted four rows into the corn.

What looks like the end of the raised bed is the back bed, empty now. I am sheet composting it in preparation for next year. I thought about planting fall crops in it, but decided the soil needed a rest.

Beets from it are canned; onions are hanging and curing. Green beans are in the freezer, greens (beets, lambsquarter and dandelion) have been canned. So you can see what I've been up to!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Back to school???

Time goes fast, but that fast? Didn't the kids just get out of school? I see "back to school" signs and sales all over the place! And we wonder why everyone is stressed.

It's been awhile since my kids were of school age and longer yet that they went to public school, but I remember those days of harried excitement. New clothes, new shoes, pencils, tablets, notebooks, crayons, scissors, glue... and trying to keep it all together and make sure we didn't miss anything.

If you have kids to get ready for school, the biggest expense and probably the biggest hassle, is buying clothing.

It's not quite so hard to cover it all if you start early (like now!) and don't mind doing a little second hand shopping. While garage sales are still in full swing is a great time to look for those really good buys on clothes that look and sometimes are, new. Be picky while you have the time.

Don't forget to watch for backpacks, socks and jackets while you're out and about. Get a head start on saving money, since this is an expense that you know is coming.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A penny plus a penny plus a penny...

And soon you have a dime. Do that ten times and you have a dollar and do THAT ten times... it adds up.

Never think that an opportunity for savings is too minor to fool with. It adds up. Just like a little charge on that credit card, or a little splurge at the store... just a little. You know how that adds up.

Savings adds up the same way. It's the same math. 1 + 1 = 2. Every time.

I don't know why that's so hard for us to understand.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Good times

Knee high by the Fourth of July? Maybe to an elephant! This corn is growing fast. I just hope I can beat the squirrels to it when it's time. That's a two foot tall raised bed the corn is in. The plant in the middle is a yellow squash. It's growing straight up to get to the sun!

My favorite part of the 4th of July parade!

So that's what I've been doing instead of updating this blog. I've been thinking, though. The good part of life isn't expensive. The Fourth of July parade was free; we stopped and got food at the grocery store. Seed for the corn came from what I bought to decorate last fall.

There's been very little money out over the last few weeks, yet it's been a good time. Priorities, priorities...

Monday, June 22, 2009

Looking forward to harvest

I'm still in the gardening mode, but now I'm looking forward to harvest. I even went so far as to count my canning jars, lids and rings and make a list (very short!) of what I will need this year.

A couple of years ago I looked for lids and rings and had a hard time finding them, but this year, I see them everywhere. Maybe more people are interested? "The economy" is to blame for a lot of things, so if they're all sold out before I get out there and stock up, I'll blame it for that, too.

Stocking up on freezer bags and glass jars for dehydrated food is on my mind, too. I usually have enough of both, since I reuse as much as possible, but maybe a few more will be needed this year.

I will definitely need more if my ambition and energy keep pace! I can just see it now... all those jars of canned and dehydrated food lining the shelves of my newly renovated store room in the basement... well, everyone has to dream! :)

Monday, June 15, 2009

Old recipes: prepared mustard

Yesterday was an almost rainy, quiet Sunday afternoon and I found myself going through some old recipes. I hate to throw recipes out, even though I've had them for years and have never (yet!) got around to trying them... be that as it may, I rediscovered a few that I really, really should have tried a long time ago. They would have saved me some money and been fun, too.

One of them is how to make prepared mustard (for your hotdogs and hamburgers):

1 1/2 ounces mustard seed or powdered mustard (If you grow mustard greens, let some go to seed and use it, or you can use wild mustard seed, pennycress or even part radish seed)
2 ounces of water
4 ounces of vinegar (1/2 cup) - the recipe doesn't say, but I would use apple cider vinegar
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp turmeric - probably optional; it gives mustard its color
1/4 tsp celery seed
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar - this seems like a lot of sugar to me, so I'll taste it before adding it all.

Blend all ingredients and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until thick and smooth. Again, the recipe doesn't say so, but I would mill the seed first (use your blender on high), then add the rest.

If you try it, let me know how it works for you!

Friday, June 12, 2009

New rhubarb, old beans... and Jerusalem artichokes

This is a rhubarb plant I set out just before all the rain began to hit (about a month ago and counting). I wasn't at all sure it was going to make it; it seemed so little when I put it in this great bare spot.

And this is the result of some old red beans I planted last year; about six of them. It was one of those things I kept intending to throw away but never did, so come planting time I got one of those inspired moments and soaked them and planted them around some corn. They didn't grow all that well, but they did produce several long, tender pods. I left them to mature and gathered the dry beans to use as seed this year. They're looking good, in spite of a hail storm a few days ago.

It isn't a big crop, but there should be enough for a canner load of green beans and some for seed again next year.

And this is the result of 2 pounds of Jerusalem artichokes. Not a cheap bargain, but hopefully I'll get a good crop and enough 'chokes to replant for next year, too, so over the long run, I'll get my money's worth.

I hope.

Gardening can seem like betting on a roulette wheel sometimes. This year's weather has made some of it iffy, but keeping my fingers crossed and praying a little now and then, too, maybe it will turn out fine after all.

Sunday, June 7, 2009


I finally took some pictures! The first one is a climbing rose that was here when I moved it. It perks things up when it blooms, and it blooms all summer and sometimes very late into the winter.

This is the east raised bed. Onions in the foreground with beets in the background. They're both doing well with all our rain and cool weather.

And this is the west raised bed. Corn, beans and squash are all crowded in here. You can see the walls are beginning to bow out some on both beds. I should have reinforced them this year but didn't think of it until I'd already planted. That will be a fall project after the harvest.

More pictues later!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

A hundred years ago...

If people living a hundred years ago suddenly could see the "things" even the poorest of us have now, their eyes would pop out!

I'm not just talking about technology, although that's mind boggling, but every day, "normal" kinds of things. People weren't consciously frugal, that was just the way life was.

Take clothes. Most people used to only own two or maybe three changes of clothing. Go ahead, count how many changes you have. Granted, they wore them for a week before washing them, but do you have more than a week's worth? I do and I know I'm not alone in the frugal community!

Shoes? They used to have two pair. One for "every day," and one for Sunday.

Rooms in their homes: Most houses only had a kitchen, a living room and bedrooms and some had less than that. Even adding a bathroom when it became available, entire homes a hundred years ago would fit on some people's patios.

Besides patios, we have dens and dining rooms and decks and "master" bedrooms with attached personal baths. Only kings lived like that a hundred years ago, but now most of the most frugal among us have more than one bathroom and more than three rooms in their homes.

But remember... gout was a "rich man's disease." The only overweight people were the rich ones. Heart attacks were few and far between. Something's wrong here....

Thursday, May 28, 2009

All purpose cleaner (I thought I posted this... )

I couldn't find it, so maybe I put it somewhere else... anyway, this is the all purpose cleaner I use most of the time. It sometimes takes a stronger version, but this one does almost everything and it's a lot cheaper than commercial cleaners.

1/4 cup of ammonia (lemon scented makes it smell nice)
1 teaspoon of good liquid dish detergent
3/4 of a pint of water.

Mix with a spoon - don't shake to mix because it will suds a lot. I keep mine in a spray bottle.

And if you find it already posted on this blog, let me know!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Electric traditions revisited

If you read the post, "Electric traditions," did you join us in making an enviromental statement a frugal one?

If you did, how's it going? Once a week? More? Once a month? Less?

To be honest, I forgot to do it on a regular basis. I sometimes do it just because. It's on my calendar now, once a week. Maybe more.

Not only does turning off the electricity make us aware of the times we waste it, it makes us appreciate it when we need it. Turning it off for an hour will save a dollar or so on the electric bill in most households and that's more than vacuuming the refrigerator coils. Four times a month times 12 months... do the math, then increase or decrease it to suit yourself.

It's an easy way to save a buck and it can be an opportunity to teach your kids, create a family time and relax and reflect.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Egg drop soup

I have no idea of why, but I got one of those sudden urges for egg drop soup! I looked up a few recipes for it to be sure I remembered what was in it, and discovered that there are many variations. Now if that isn't an open door to experiment, I don't know what is and I've never been one to shut the door on something like that, so...

First, I put in a couple of tablespoons of rice, three cups of water and a couple of chicken bouillon cubes. While that was cooking, I went to the back yard and got a fistful of dandelion leaves, lambsquarter, salsify leaves and a few stalks of chives. Once the rice was cooked, the greens went into the soup and cooked briefly while I beat an egg, the dropped it a little at time into the boiling water.

And that's all there was to it. With a slice of homemade bread it made a surprisingly filling meal. I haven't calculated the exact cost, but with the price of eggs now, it was very cheap - potentially less than a dime a serving.

I know not everyone can step outside their back door and pick wild greens (or even domesticated greens), but you can use whatever you happen to have. Spinach, radish tops, mustard or turnip greens or even cabbage will do.

It may not be genuine Chinese egg drop soup, but it's a very good Americanized substitute!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Garden ramble

My mind has been on the garden and the weather for the last few weeks. I have everything out: tomatoes, peppers, squash, corn, beans, onions, beets, lettuce, radishes, cucumbers, spinach, peas and a few potatoes. I also started rhubarb and Jerusalem artichokes. Growing from before is horseradish and strawberries.

Hopefully this year I'll be canning tomatoes, zucchini with tomatoes, green beans and beets. I'll have onions to braid and hang, and a few meals' worth of potatoes. If I'm lucky, there will be a few peas left to freeze, corn to freeze as well as make cornmeal from, peppers to dehydrate and tomato sauce and tomato juice to freeze.

Not bad for a city backyard, but I'd like to grow more. With prices still going up and up and up, anything you can grow yourself will save money. Even if it's a few herbs in pots, if you don't have to buy them, you save.

The more you can grow, the more you save, of course, but don't not garden because your soil is like fired brick or beach sand.

Compost, compost, compost. Spring, summer and fall are the times to compost, so now's the time to start. It doesn't take much of anything and you don't need a fancy composter. Just designate a piece of dirt (or a container of dirt) and start putting in used tea leaves, a few coffee grounds, chopped raw vegetables, cooked vegetables if they don't have salt or butter, a few grass clippings, leaves, shredded paper... keep it damp but not wet and turn it now and then, whenever you think of it. Soon it will turn into rich soil.

Mix it into your garden area and make more. And more. Nature is bountiful. Not only does it create new, wonderful dirt from what we call trash, it grows wonderful, healthy food from the same dirt. Trash to food. Can't beat that. That's the original recycling plan and it works.

What a miracle of life, to watch and be a part of the entire cycle.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Happy Mother's Day, Mom

Those of you who follow this blog know that my Mother died last September, after a battle with Alzheimer's. The last two years of her life were painful for her as well as her children. Before that, Mom was still Mom and as Mother's Day comes around again, I find myself remembering the good years and letting the bad years slip through my memory with little impact.

Mom was a wise woman. When we had trouble with relationships, she had the answer, although she never gave advice until we asked. When we didn't know what to do when life pounded us as it will now and then, she set our attitudes back on track. She was calm, logical and loving in all her wisdom.

She raised 8 kids on a ranch hand's salary, but she never complained about that. Instead, she rose to the challenge with dignity and energy. Wild food, shopping skills and knowing what was important and what wasn't, allowed us to live high on the hog when we didn't have one. Everything we had was used to the utmost.

Being poor, people gave us things. Clothes, mostly, and often clothes that no one, including us, wanted. Mom was gracious in accepting them and then she made them into something we did want and need. Sweater sleeves were made into mittens, rags into rugs, skirts into aprons.

Mom was shy all of her life. She never went places she didn't have to go, but the school Christmas program was a have-to. I always thought she was so pretty, sitting there alongside Daddy with a small smile on her face.

After I grew up and got married, I still turned to her, as all her kids did, for grounding in reality. She never once spoke against any of our spousal choices. Her daughters in law called her "Mom."

Everyone respected her. I'm not sure how that happened; I can't isolate any one thing she did to cause it. Daddy told us one time, "Your Momma's a lady. Don't you ever forget that." And she was.

I'm not the only one of the kids who turn to the phone to call her when life gets the best of me before I realize she's not there at the other end any more. She is still "there" in my mind, though. There are some things death cannot take away from you.

So, on this first Mother's Day after you've passed over, Mom, I know you're waiting for us. I just want to say Happy Mother's Day. I love you.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Eating logically

In America, we've become accustomed to a great variety of food from around the world. While that's great for a treat, eating it as a matter of course takes the pleasure from it and adds a lot to the food bill.

It used to be that eating locally was the normal thing. People didn't have cranberry sauce in areas where cranberries didn't grow, except for holiday meals. Olives were the same... only at special meals.

At home we seldom had dessert except for Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter and when we did, it was gooseberry pie or chokecherry jelly on toast. On very rare occasion we'd have ice cream or cookies - never both.

We had candy once a month, when Mom bought groceries; soft drinks were the same. Mom was a good cook and we ate a variety of food, but much of it was homegrown. Of course at the time, deer were plentiful and my brothers liked to hunt so we had good meat, too.

Is eating locally healthier? Probably so. Is it cheaper? Definitely. Frugal living looks at every aspect of every part of living. Look at your total food bill... and see if eating a little closer to home will decrease it.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Having a garage sale?

It's been a couple of years since I had a garage sale, so it's been on my mind. I'm not sure I'm up to it, but... if you've ever had one garage sale, you probably look forward to the next with a mixture of dread and excitement, so you know what I mean.

You can get tired, cold or hot according to the weather, hungry, thirsty and impatient in the space of a few hours... then the hours, which seemed perfectly acceptable when you wrote the ad, can drag on and on and on...

So the first rule of order is to make yourself comfortable. Cook ahead of time or plan on having sandwiches. Plan on sharing time "on the floor" with someone else. Never have a garage sale alone. You'll need someone else to take over while you eat or answer the phone or change into warmer or cooler clothing, but you will also need to take breaks without having to do anything.

Wear comfortable clothing and comfortable shoes, have your favorite drink on hand and get a good book going for those times when no one is around but you can't leave. Turn off the cellphone and minimize interruptions when there are people around. Pay attention to your buyers, but don't follow them around or make comments about what they are looking at unless asked and don't make them feel as if they're being watched. Make it your goal to make them feel comfortable. Small talk is great, but don't talk so much that you detract from the business at hand. Give them room and time to browse.

If you want a successful garage sale, timing seems to be more important than anything. Watch your area to see what day of the week most garage sales are held and plan on having it near the first of the month when a lot of people have more money to spend. Fridays seem to be good for that reason, too.

Ten cents on the dollar is the going rate in most places, but adjust that according to the amount of wear, popularity and style of the item. Consider whether it can be a collector's item. Watch for store hawks - people who buy at garage sales for the purpose of reselling in a second hand or antique shop. If you want to sell to them, it's ok, but be cautious in cutting deals for them as they usually really know how to get a good bargain - at your expense. Be extra cautious early in the day when you still have opportunity to sell at a better price.

Don't be afraid to haggle, but know your limits. If you're in it to just get rid of things, you might as well haul it all down to the Salvation Army, but if you get too greedy, you won't sell anything at all.

Advertise your most interesting items, put up plenty of signs, make sure your sale is easy to see once the shopper gets close. Relax and smile. Smile and relax. You'll sell a lot more with the right attitude than with all the planning you can do.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

My frugal Sunday

Let's start with Saturday. I was hungry for a hamburger. Just a hamburger, with lettuce and tomatoes and onion and cheese. Mustard on a bun...

I thought (briefly) about slipping over to a fast food place a few blocks from here, but I was tired and didn't want to go out. I got the best of that temptation.

I determined that I'd go to the grocery store Sunday and get hamburger buns, lettuce and tomatoes; I had everything else. Then... I remembered that Gayla from Dollar Stretcher forums had posted a recipe for homemade hamburger buns and decided to try it (sans bread machine).

They turned out looking good. I put four of the six buns it made in the freezer and put two out for Sunday - one for lunch and one for dinner.

Sunday I got up and after a busy morning, I sat down, tired and wanting to rest... still hungry for a hamburger, though.

Then... I remembered that I had some dehydrated tomatoes in the pantry and wondered if they would taste ok on a hamburger if I put them in cold water long enough to cook the meat. And the spring dandelions were growing like crazy after a couple of days of rain. (They make a good lettuce substitute.)

About 1:30 on Sunday afternoon I sat down to one of the best hamburgers I've ever had and I didn't go to the store at all.

If I'd gone to the store and only got what was needed for the hamburgers, it would have cost at least five dollars, but probably more. I might have picked up some chips and a soft drink to go with them. Or... who knows? Ten dollars. Maybe more.

So how much did you save today?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

What to do with leftover boiled eggs

If you celebrate Easter traditionally, you'll have boiled, colored eggs all over the place. If you can't use them up for Easter dinner, don't despair and don't throw them out. They're still good food and you can use them eventually. They'll keep in the refrigerator for at least a week as long as they're still in the shell.

I've kept them longer with no ill effects, but it depends on how fresh the eggs are to begin with. There's no way to really tell if you buy them from a grocery store, so let the one week rule be your guide. They'll even keep for a few hours out of the refrigerator, but don't leave them out overnight.

What to do with them over the next few days?

* Use them to stretch a meal: Boiled eggs can be mixed into a lettuce and tomato type of salad to stretch it.
* If you like mayonnaise you might enjoy this. Chop boiled eggs finely, add salted sunflower seeds and enough mayonnaise to hold it together. Makes a great side to simple meat and salad dinners.
* Add an extra boiled egg or two to tuna salad to make it go farther.
* Mash a few boiled eggs and put them in meatloaf. They're cheaper than ground beef.
* Use them as a main course by making white gravy and slicing boiled eggs into it. Serve over crispy toast or biscuits for breakfast or a quick lunch or supper.
* Boiled egg salad makes good sandwiches, too. Add chopped onion, dill pickles, grated or cubed cheese of your choice and mayonnaise or salad dressing. Mix well and use as sandwich filling.
* Make a thin white sauce, then add sliced boiled eggs, chopped ham or bacon, cheese and chives or onions. Put in a greased casserole dish and heat in a medium oven until the top just begins to brown.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Hoarding for frugal reasons

Question: What do people do who don't save at least a few newspaper rubber bands or a generic plastic bag or a pretty piece of paper now and then?

Answer: They go out and buy them or their equivalent when they need them.


I remember my Mom talking about my sister in law who came to her for rubber bands and plastic bags because she threw hers out (over and over and over).

If you save all those things you think about, you'll never lack for something to fasten things together, something to put things in, something to mix a little something in, something to decorate something with...

If you're going to hoard, do it in an organized way by having a particular place for each item or type of item. Boxes, both large and small, come in handy for this, as do drawers and less frugal organizers and you can find what you need faster.

And a word of advice: If you're not going to hoard... get to be good friends with someone who does. Who knows when you're going to need a cone shaped piece of cardboard (that cotton yarn came on)?

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Electric traditions

Turn off the lights! At least for an hour tonight, at 8:30 P.M. wherever you are. Sure, it's about global warming, but let's use it for ourselves. Why not? An hour without electricity is like a dollar saved. More or less. It depends on how much electricity you use on the average and what your rates are, but turning everything off for an hour can't do anything but save you money, so why not?

As a matter of fact, this might be a good tradition to start. An hour a week without TV, radio, computer, electric lights, dishwashers, clothes washers, dryers, blenders, microwaves, electric stoves... if that sounds restful to you, why not do it? Make it educational for the kids or romantic for the spouse or just a quiet time for yourself.

After awhile, you may want to increase it to an hour and a half, or do it twice a week, or only once a month. Make it work for you and your family so it's just a tiny bit challenging but not too much.

Why not?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The ever present credit card

I was recently asked if I thought credit cards should be banned. Wow... I never even thought of it.

What good would banning credit cards do? The problem isn't the availability of credit, it's the lack of self discipline and responsibility that allows abuse of a credit card.

And who would ban them? Should the government be responsible for parenting the entire population of the US??

Some people just have trouble controlling their spending and if they don't have credit cards, what are they going to do? I'll tell you what they do. They overdraw their checking accounts. They borrow money from family and friends. They get advances on their paychecks.

So maybe the government should require basic financial responsibility courses in high school. D'ya think it would ever fly??

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Double Duty

I once knew a well-to-do woman who did laundry in a wringer washer, then used the soapy water to mop her porch and kitchen floors. She also washed her hair brushes and combs, tied in a cloth bag, with a load of white clothes. A washing machine to her was a machine to wash anything that would go in it, and left a container of soapy water that could be used for whatever cleaning was needed.

If we look at everything from that viewpoint, we can find a lot of ways that will save us time and money.

For instance, vacuum cleaners are first "vacuums," then secondly "cleaners." A vacuum can be useful for several things, like sucking air out of storage bags to save space, or catching and trapping insects. Turn the vacuum around and use the blower side to blow lightweight trash from garage floors and sidewalks. Many manufacturers make inflatable furniture and pool toys, etc., with openings that accommodate a vacuum cleaner hose.

Heat from a cookstove is welcome when the weather is cold, but have you thought of using the same heat for other things while you're cooking and/or baking and warming the house? A suspended rack or hook will dry herbs and a plate on a shelf above the stove will dehydrate just as well as an electric dehydrator. It's not very frugal to use the stove for this purpose when you're not cooking or baking, but when you do, why waste the heat? When you finish cooking, move the foods back to the dehydrator. You can make the heat work three times!

We can learn to see appliances and other tools for what they are instead of just what we use them for traditionally.

Because a fan cools us, doesn't mean it can't warm us. A fan can also be used to dry clothes on a rack with less cost than using a dryer. Besides moving dry air into moist areas (wet clothes), a fan can move moist air into dryer areas to keep a bathroom or kitchen safer from mold or mildew. With a fan you can also winnow seeds and grains, dry your hair and remove smells and smoke. Cars have fans; so do air conditioners, heaters, clothes dryers, hair dryers...

Refrigerators just cool food, of course... but they also have level (outside) tops, which makes them good for storing or even displaying things. Why not use the top to keep your coupons? Traditionally, a magnet on the door holds the shopping list and another one holds notes to other family members.

And on and on...

Monday, March 2, 2009

The way it was

I started to answer a question in the Dollar Stretcher forum "What They Did When Times Were Hard, but this is probably not the answer she wanted, so I changed my mind and decided to post here instead:

I can't remember a period when things were tougher than usual. Daddy worked on a ranch so we had the house and utilities free, but he made $300 a month (this was 50 years ago) and raised 8 kids. A 10 person household can eat a lot, but we never did without. Mom baked bread, gardened, picked wild food, canned, made butter and cottage cheese (we got real milk). We ate a lot of beans and potatoes, but they were good. A bowl of pinto beans, a pan of hot cornbread, homemade cottage cheese and wild greens is the best kind of meal.

One thing our family did, and many others did whether they "needed to" or not - and one that you very seldom see any more - is that we kids worked. Not only did we do our chores, which meant we carried in wood and water, fed the chickens, gathered eggs, helped with the garden, took care of the younger ones, we found ways to make money. By the time any of us graduated 8th grade (it used to go from 8th to high school at 9th grade), we were buying our own clothes and helping whenever it was needed. We felt a responsibility toward the family because we were it. Kids don't get to do that any more.

Mom was never a seamstress, but she could patch and make aprons, potholders, mittens from old sweater sleeves, rugs from rags and on and on. Not because it was a fun crafty thing to do, but because we needed those things and the money was not there to buy them. If it had been, she would have used it for something more important.

Daddy did all of his own mechanic work, of course, like everyone else we knew. Anyone would have been the laughingstock of the community if he took his car in to have an oil change and a lube job, or even to tune it up. It's harder to do some things like that now with computers in everything, but it saves when you can.

We didn't have a closetful of clothes. We had enough and no more. It really doesn't take 15 pairs of pants, a couple dozen shirts and a dozen pairs of shoes. We had three pairs of good jeans, five shirts and a pair of shoes. We wore the jeans twice and sometimes three times, the shirts twice. My sister and I had a couple of dresses, but since we didn't wear them often, that was plenty.

Mom washed with a washboard, and later on a wringer washer. We didn't have a water bill, but washing like that takes much less water and detergent that automatic wasters. Washers, I mean. She never owned a dryer, didn't need one. She hung clothes outside to dry, winter or summer and this was in Wyoming where they know what cold is. At one point, she had lines in the unheated second floor, but that was after most of the kids moved out, because that's where we slept.

Every morning, we'd put a large rock on top of the living room heater and every night Mom would wrap it with a rag so it wouldn't be too hot. We'd put it in bed before we crawled in... sheer luxury to put cold toes against a toasty rock, or to pull it up to huddle against until the sheets warmed up.

So what did we do when times were hard? We never noticed.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Gardening fever

Today, I'm going to order some Jerusalem artichokes to plant and I'm sure that won't be the only thing. I have saved a lot of seed from last year, but there's always something else to try.

Every year my enthusiasm runs ahead of energy and time, and this year is no different I suppose... but this year, I'll get out there a little every day and keep up with it. This year, I'll get a few more canning jars and spend a few days just canning. This year... will probably be a rerun of last year and the year before.

Good intentions.

The results are usually pretty fair and there is garden produce enough to give away, but still. If I'd stay in control of the garden (or of myself, in reality), just think of the garden I could have!

Anyway... for today, I dream. My list gets longer and longer and I know very well that there isn't room for everything and some of it will hardly grow here. The list will have to be pared down again and again until I'm left with the basics: tomatoes, lettuce. Onions and squashes, beans, peppers...

Why don't I just start with those and call it good? Now, what would be the fun in that?

Thursday, February 19, 2009


I hate to start everything I write with "in this economy," but what else can I do? So... "In this economy" we need to use all the tactics we can find to get the things we need without spending money. One way to do this is to barter.

Now, you don't need a bad economy to barter, but you may find others more willing to make deals if they're short on cash or if you have something they would like to have.

What that "something" is, can be a skill or technique or experience, or it can be food or "durable goods," or a service. That's just a way of saying that everything can be traded, given the right circumstances and people.

I have heard of people trading home canned goods for dental work; snow removal for fresh eggs, canning jars for hand knitted socks. We all have something that's valuable to someone else. Babysitting, dog walking, window washing, teaching skills and on and on... someone, somewhere needs it.

It may take a few tries to get started, but don't let that discourage you. I won't repeat everything I've written about it elsewhere, but I'll direct you to a couple of articles:

Wanna Trade? Barter Yourself to Financial Freedom

Seniors: Instead of Money, Barter

In the Community at Dollar Stretcher, there are a few threads about bartering that may open your eyes to the possibilities:

Bartering for Goods and Services

Gone to Bartering Yet?

If you haven't done it, there's no better time than right now.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Mom's pie safe

Mom gave me her pie safe several years ago, but I never got it until she died because she was using it. My brothers brought it down a couple of weeks ago and I decided to put it in my kitchen. My kitchen is kind of small, so there wasn't room to get a picture of the whole thing in one shot.

I spent the better part of the weekend cleaning and repainting the inside. I will leave the outside, scars and all, to remind me of Mom. All of the corners were reinforced by Daddy to keep out the mice.

Most pie safes I've seen have had either punched tin doors or sides or vents covered with screen or punched tin. This one has had screen tacked over side holes.

The bottom shelves are for other storage, so don't have vents.

Since I don't bake nine pies at a time (which this would easily hold), I will use it for storing other kitchen essentials.

The frugal story... when I first thought of using it in the kitchen, I knew I'd have to do a lot of cleaning. I was at a Dollar Store and looked for Fantastik, which is my favorite heavy duty cleaner (I know... not green and not frugal!). They didn't have it, but they had another brand, so I bought it, thinking that it would work as well. It didn't. Not by a long shot.

So I went to the Fantastik web site (S.C. Johnson) and found a "contact us" link and emailed them. Well... they sent me a coupon for a free bottle!

And then, I wanted to paint the inside to make it more useable and first thought I would have to go and buy a quart of white paint, but I got to digging around and found a gallon of paint leftover from... at least 15 years ago. It was latex, so I put a little water in it, stirred and stirred and stirred some more and saved another few dollars on paint.

All in all, I spent a little over $3 for a bottle of cleaner - that didn't work!

P.S. The left drawer front is held on by duct tape along with some brass tacks. The drawer is long gone. I hope I can find someone to recreate it, but the challenge will be finding the right size wood. They plane wood different now than when this was made.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Kitchen machines

I was lazy today and made pudding from an instant mix instead of cooking it from scratch. Scratch is a little cheaper (although generic mix is pretty cheap!), but it's a lot better, and I suspect it's better for you. Well, not as bad, anyway.

I poured in the milk and added the mix, then reached for my handy dandy, sooper dooper, hand cranked old fashioned egg beater. They're not easy to find any more, but they're one of the best tools ever created for a kitchen. A good egg beater barely whines when you turn the handle. It's a finely tuned machine, perfectly balanced and intricately designed. Since it's manual, I can use it anywhere instead of reaching for an electric receptacle. It doesn't cost one penny to operate and what little exercise I got from it was good for me.

Multiply that times however many electric machines and makers you use and subtract the total. If you did the math right, you got less than nothing in exchange for using electricity and not using your own muscles.

Many kitchens have 5 or more electrical outlets for all the coffee makers, rice machines, electric knives, blenders, food processors, mixers, can openers, bread machines, electric teapots, toasters, toaster ovens, slow cookers, popcorn poppers, electric skillets, juicers... not to mention electric griddles and grills, electric woks, electric fondue pots, electric steamers and egg cookers and timers, hotplates, deep fryers, warming trays...

And then we wonder why our electric bills are so high.

(I realize there are those who are disabled who cannot do things otherwise and for those, I am glad electrical machines are available.)

Monday, February 2, 2009

Random thoughts on the economy

(I've been amiss in posting again... another bout with some health issues, but I'm here now!)

As the economy tightens (we're told) money is scarcer and harder to hold on to. Just a few things I've noticed lately: cost of natural gas has gone up, higher prices on some things in the grocery store, the price of gasoline is rising again. I don't have to tell you about the merry go round of people losing jobs, buying less, hurting businesses which lay off people or go out of business, causing job loss... and around it goes.

I don't know where it stops - or in the worst scenario, if it will stop this time. I do know that now, more than ever, all the little things we've learned over the last few years will help us get by. When pennies count for you, the entire economy takes a back seat to your own personal economy.

This may get a little political, but it's not intended to offend anyone. It's just common sense to me.

The fact is that capitalism works when people work and when there is a demand for goods, jobs are created, people are able to buy more and better goods, houses, cars, insurance and so on and a better merry go round experience is created.

Our infrastructure needs help, but why doesn't the government give a little slack so private business can do the work? Why do we have this problem in the first place? Because of government red tape, rules, regulations and laws. Hello? What is wrong with curing the problem instead of bandaiding the symptom?

Ok, enough of a rant for today. Gotta take my meds...

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Telephones and power outages

We haven't had any power outages here (yet!) but there have been many around the country this winter. One of the necessities of modern living is being able to reach people via the telephone.

To be on the safe side, keep a corded phone around to use when the electricity goes out. The tiny trickle of electricity they use is supplied by the phone line itself, so as long as that's working, you have communication.

If you don't have a landline phone, be sure you have a charger that will work from your vehicle. Even if your phone is charged up when the power goes off, it may need another boost before the power comes back on.

Is a traditional landline phone or a cellphone better in a power outage? That depends on the storm or conditions that brought the outage.

Earthquakes, accidentally cut power lines and extreme flooding can cause landlines to fail, but high winds, hard rains and blizzards can cause cellphone signals and towers to fail.

Of course, to be safest, you can use both a landline and a cellphone and many people do that. It's an expensive option, but only you can decide whether it's worth the extra expense.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Healthy Eating on a Budget

Was one of your New Year's resolutions to eat healthier? Organic foods are expensive, but you can save money and eat healthier, too.

There are four ways that I can think of that will help cut the cost a little:

1 Grow your own whenever possible. You can container garden even in an apartment.

2. Buy in season only. Fresh foods are always cheaper when they're in season. No watermelon in December and no apples in July . They don't taste good then, anyway.

3. Buy locally. Get as close to the source as you can. I know you can't buy everything straight from the farmer (baking powder doesn't grow on farms!) but buy meat in bulk from a local grower and you'll get better quality: buy fresh produce from the producer and it's bettr quality and often less money, too.

4. "Naturally grown" means something different to the small local producer than it does to the big compaines. Guess which one is closer to the truth? Organic is good but if you can't afford organic, shoot for naturally grown.

Friday, January 9, 2009

While you're looking at paperwork...

Now's the time to check for leaking pennies! Go over your bank statements, phone bills and insurance statements to see if you're being charged for services you don't need. For instance, if you don't use long distance on a land line phone, you can have the access taken off and save about $5 a month. Why not?

Bank savings accounts often charge a service fee if your balance falls below a certain amount. See what it is and decide whether it's worth keeping the account. You may be better off to put the money in a checking account and not be charged for it.

Double check home owner's insurance to be sure you're not paying for something you no longer have. Home values are lower now, so take that into account. Vehicle insurance sometimes duplicates other insurance coverage, like medical. Look at all of your insurance accounts and make sure you're not paying for double coverage.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

I'm back! And a Happy New Year to all of you!

I don't know what it is about this time of year that seems to make me want to declutter and clean out things but I know I'm not alone. Where did all this "stuff" come from?

Ask yourself that and answer as honestly as possible. Maybe some of it was given to you and not your style or size or color... maybe some of it you bought yourself and was not your style or size or color.

It's possible that you bought things you thought you wanted/needed and later changed your mind, or that you got carried away "stocking up," then decided you didn't like the product. Can anyone say "wasted money"??

You'd think we would learn, but maybe we haven't thought it through very well. This year, this time, I am listing the approximate cost of this "stuff" as I go. Ouch. How much did you waste this year?

Might as well go ahead and give it away or stash it for a garage sale later in the year if you have room. If you give it to charities, be sure to take a tax deduction for next year.

Or you can Freecycle almost anything and save yourself a trip to unload. Don't forget about trading with someone if you're looking for goods or services. Craigslist is great for that if you can't find anyone among your friends or family.

Whatever you do with your "stuff," remember it throughout the year when you're tempted to buy anything!