Wednesday, June 30, 2010

How does your wild garden grow?

This is proving to be an interesting year! Already, some of the "weeds" in my back yard are going to seed. Lambsquarter and amaranth will start over if I allow the seeds to fall (IF we don't have an early fall), and purslane is edible even after it's gone to seed, but it's still disturbing. Do they know something we don't?

The dandelions are doing very well this year under the plum tree. I never have it mowed back there so that I can dig the roots for dandelion coffee. This year I intend to eat some of the roots as vegetables. I haven't done that yet because I wanted enough to make coffee.

It looks like I'll have enough to do both this year!

Semi-wild: Jerusalem artichokes. If you've never tried this, and you have a little spot you can give them, do it. They're so good in the fall and winter when other things aren't so fresh or crispy and they do spread on their own. I have a good stand of them and I know there were areas that I dug all of them out (I thought, anyway!).

I put some peelings from them in the compost and guess what's growing there now? Yep... "almost" weeds. :)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Smart Tips to Shop Frugally

Guest post by Jack Reed

The need for being innovative and coming up with new ideas to save your hard earned cash has hit an all time high today. With a large number of Americans resorting to debt settlement to settle their debt woes, many are realizing the importance of frugal living and taking advantage of the money-saving opportunities in life. Spending less than you earn helps you to meet all your financial goals and what’s more, it keeps you away from debts!

Perhaps the greatest urge to spend money develops when one goes for shopping. With credit cards in wide use today, the impulse to splurge money while shopping is on the rise. Therefore, keeping some smart tips in mind while you go out to shop can help you save your hard earned dollars. Keep the following points in mind the next time you step out to shop:

1)Plan: This is very important. Decide what you really need to buy. Often, you go to a departmental store and end up purchasing things that you do not really require. Say you just go for an outing to a mall with your friends where a $200 jean strikes your fancy and you end up buying it. Thus chalking out a plan of what you really need to buy can save you a lot of money.

2)Control impulse purchases: Since impulse purchases can cause you to spend much, give time to yourself. You might come across an item which you ‘think’ you need. The best way then is to give time to yourself. Often after a day or two, you give up the idea of buying that item. It means you never really required it, thus this can be a good way to control your unnecessary expenses.

3)Make use of coupons: Coupon inserts can be found in most Sunday newspapers. Start collecting coupons; it really begins to pay off after a month or so. At the end of one month, a couponer should be able to take advantage of several excellent deals at multiple stores every week.

4)Use secondhand items: Look out for thrift stores and consignment shops. You can save hundreds of dollars over the years by purchasing used items such as different kinds of furniture, books etc. from such stores.

5)Buying online: You can google and find out where in the local market you can find the products you are looking for. Local markets and online auction sites are a good source where you can get things at a cheaper rate. The internet is also an easy way to learn and compare prices before you decide to spend your money.

6)Avoid brands: You do not want to pay for the brand but for the item that you require. Why pay a high price for something when you can get the same thing at a much cheaper rate by going generic? Don’t be brand conscious. This can really help you get steep discounts in your purchases.

7)Stop keeping up with the Joneses: Many people try to purchase brands even if they cannot afford it. This provides them an ego boost. If your neighbor is well off financially, you might go buy something expensive to escape feeling inferior! You should get rid of this mindset right away. Finding ways to cut your expenses is a sign of financial wisdom and paves your path for a better tomorrow.

8)Do not carry credit cards: This is a complete no-no! Carrying credit cards while shopping can tempt you for impulse buys. Often, the feel of a credit card is as if it is not real money. That feeling makes it easy to spend too much, as the credit card company pays for your purchases.

It is unwise to consider frugal living as a financial handcuff. Frugal shopping is not about making sacrifices or feeling deprived. On the contrary, it is smart shopping! When you plan to weed out unnecessary expenditure, you develop a sense of financial discipline. So get geared up and start to paint a better financial picture of yourself!

Jack Reed is a financial writer with Oak View Law Group. He offers advice to people on various debt related issues. He can be contacted at jackrd3[@]gmail(dot)com

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Frugal cooking tips I thought everybody knew

But maybe they don't.

To get the most juice from a lemon, heat it first, then roll it on the counter with a little pressure from the palm of your hand. Cut it over a bowl because juice will squirt as soon as you make the first cut.

Make gravy from pan drippings to keep from wasting them. Add thickener in the form of flour, corn starch or arrowroot, then add liquid in the form of milk, water or potato water.

To add flour to a hot dish or pan, put it in a small jar with a tight fitting lid. Add enough cold water to cover, then shake hard. Don't use hot water as it will clump.

When a recipe calls for a cup of sugar, measure it out then take out a generous tablespoon and put it back. The recipe will be just as good and you'll save a little sugar for next time.

When a milk carton is empty, put a couple of tablespoons of water in it, shake it around and pour out the last of the milk. Milk clings to the sides of the carton and a quick rinse will let you use all of it.

Use a dish pan to wash dishes in, and another one to rinse in. It will save you a lot of water and dish soap and does a better job than washing under a running stream of water.

Even if you have an ice maker in your refrigerator, keep a couple of ice cube trays on hand. Use them to freeze concentrated juice, or small amounts of sauces or gravies, or leftover juice, fruit drinks or soft drinks for a "popsicle" treat. Put a saved popsicle stick or short straw in it to use for a handle.

By way of measurement, a cube frozen in a regular ice cube tray is about two tablespoons.

If your garbage disposal smells foul, a dollop of vinegar of any kind will remedy that. More frugal: use leftover pickle "juice." It's diluted vinegar with spices.

Use that leftover pickle liquid to pickle your own cucumbers, carrots, broccoli, onions or whatever vegetables you have on hand, especially if they're getting old. Commercial pickle liquid can be used one more time before it loses it's strength, but no more. Your own homemade varies, so taste it to be sure it's acidic enough first.

That's enough for now, but by no means all the frugal kitchen tips there are. Share yours!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Keeping the house cool

How's your weather? Getting hot? It's heading that way here! I hate to run the air conditioner, so I find ways to avoid it as long as possible. Unless we're having a really hot spell, I can wait until afternoon to turn it on. That's because the back of the house has high windows that don't let in direct sunshine in the summer and because there is a very large evergreen tree at the southeast corner that shades most of the house until the sun gets into the western portion.

Using just those two things can make a difference in the temperature of a home. Did you know that there can be as much as 20 degrees difference in the shade of a tree and in the sun? That's a lot! If you could drop the inside temperature from 90 to 70,(or from 100 to 80) you could do without an air conditioner altogether.

There is a tree - well, two trees - growing on the west side of the house where the hot sun shines in the afternoon, but they're not nearly as big or as thick as the one in back. It will be awhile before they'll do serious shading, so I am careful to keep the curtains closed against the sun and to avoid any dark colored furnishings where they could absorb the heat.

Other ideas I've used:

Fans for air circulation. Just air moving will make it seem cooler.
Stay hydrated. Water, water, water. Avoid alcohol.
Open the house at night and close it tight during the hot hours of the day. I watch the thermometer to know when to open and close the house.
Eat light foods. Avoid heavy meats and sauces and stick with salads and other light foods.
Daydream. Think about cool places or times.

I use many other ways to stay cool as long as I can. That keeps money in my pocket just a little bit longer!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Do you rent?

If you do, have you ever negotiated for a lower price?

Chris Thorman, who blogs about rental property software asked me to link to his (very interesting) article titled How To Negotiate Your Rent in 2010 | A 10-Step Guide - well he asked me to link to the poll on that page because he wants to get a lot of responses to it!

Whether you have or haven't, take the time to click an answer on the poll. And if you do rent and you haven't negotiated for the price, read his article carefully. It has some very good information.