Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Make a Plan; Forget New Year's Resolutions

In the coming year, self discipline may be needed more than ever. It literally pays to make plans and stick to them. New Year Resolutions don't usually last much beyond the first week or two, but a yearly plan will keep you going all year.

A yearly plan could go something like this:

January: Finish paying off the credit card; get the tires rotated and check to see if you can lower your insurance premium.

February: Get all the taxes in order; stock up on chocolate (for baking) after Valentine's Day.

March: Buy extra corned beef; find new recipes for cabbage since it's cheap just before St Patrick's Day; start watching for sales on winter things you'll need next year.

And so on. Make your own to suit your situation, then put it where you will see it often. Make copies of it so you won't lose it. Stick to it. It only takes a few things each month to make your money go further all year.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Homemade cold cereal

Cereal grains are cooked as a general rule, so if you want a cold cereal you must cook it ahead of time. You'll have a hard time imitating "flakes" or sugar coated shapes, but you can make tasty cold cereal at home. And who's to say you can't add miniature marshmallows or chocolate chips?

If you need reasons to make your own cold cereal, how about taste? Health? Cost?

The easiest ingredient for homemade cold cereal is toasted oats. Just spread oats - any kind from steel cut to instant - on a cookie sheet and toast in a slow oven until they're very lightly browned. This can take a couple of hours. Alternately, toast them on the top of the stove in a heavy skillet over medium heat. You'll have to stir them often but they toast much faster.

Puff or pop whole grains by adding a few to a hot skillet and shaking it around or stirring until the grains pop. If grains are old or too dry, they won't pop, but most will. Grains to pop are amaranth, wheat, spelt, barley and brown rice. Sort through the grains first and remove any broken or malformed grains as these won't pop. Popping grains is an art rather than a science!

I've tried other things with various results. Some might work better for you.

Soak wheat or spelt in water over night, then blend it (adding more water if necessary) until you have a pulp. Cook this pulp until it's smooth, then spread very thinly on a cookie sheet or dehydrator trays and let dry. I didn't use heat to dehydrate it, but that might work well. Once it's dry, break it into small pieces for cereal.

Store your cereal in air tight containers so they're handy when you want them.

Once you have a good assortment of cold cereal ready to eat, you may never go back to the over priced, over sugared, over treated chemical concoctions they call breakfast food.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Adult Christmas Stockings

How many of you fill Christmas stockings for your kids? Or get them from your parents? I thought so! Getting or giving a Christmas stocking filled with small gifts is a grand tradition, but it can get as expensive as larger gifts if we're not careful.

Keeping an eye open year 'round for inexpensive stocking stuffers is a good way to cut costs, but if you haven't done that? The next best things to do:

  • Handmade bookmarks (crocheted, needlepoint, rubber stamped, cut from tissue boxes!)
  • A small, hand made notepad. Cut blank pages and "stitch" with an old, empty needle on your sewing machine a half inch from the top to make perforated lines. Staple the pages together above the perforation.
  • Small containers of home made bath salts
  • Knitted or crocheted cotton wash cloth
  • Handwritten poem or note
  • Personal "Gift Certificate" good for whatever you can do - shovel snow, bake bread, watch the kids...
  • Food! Home made is best, but packaged soup mixes or specialty pasta is good, too.
  • One special cookie, wrapped and tied with a bow
  • Print out stationary, recipe cards or grocery lists from the internet or your own design
  • Samples of fragrances, soaps, lotions, etc.
  • Special family recipe, hand written or typed.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Beans, Beans, the Wonderful Fruit...

Really. If you don't believe me, look at this recipe:

Pinto Bean Pie

And there's one out there for Pinto Bean Fudge.

It's for real, too.

And why am I concerned about making fudge and pie from beans?

1. Beans are cheap
2. Beans are good for you
3. The recipes are novel
4. Beans are a lot easier to keep on hand than, say, peaches.

Or good chocolate.

This is the time of year to buy beans. Stock up on them; they keep very well. They will keep for years, but each year they get drier and take a little longer to cook.

If you can, buy them directly from a farmer, a roadside stand or a farmer's market so you'll know they're fresh to begin with.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Uses for 2 Liter Soda Bottles

Even if you don't drink soda from 2 liter bottles, you probably know someone who does. Don't let all those containers go to the landfill! There are so many uses for them that you may never throw one out again.

Food storage. They're food safe, airtight and easily stored. Use them for dry foods like grains (barley, rice, etc.) or for flour and cornmeal. Small pastas or beans and peas store easily in them, too. An oxygen absorber packet will help keep grains fresh for longer term storage. A funnel will help fill them.

Plant waterer. You can buy those spikes to screw on to the top of them, but why not just poke a three or four small holes in the bottom of a bottle, bury it beside your plant and fill it from the top? Leave a couple of inches sticking up and put the lid back on loosely to allow for air to replace the dripped water but keep insects and dirt out of it.

The tops make excellent funnels for shop and garage uses and can be tossed after using, or saved for reuse. They also fit perfectly into the top of gallon milk or water jugs.

Bottoms can be used to grow plants on a windowsill or to start plants for the garden.

Cut the bottom off in the correct shape and use it as a scoop for pet food, outdoor bird seed and so on.

Cut a bottle in two in the center, fill the bottom with soil and add plants. Take the top and make four short cuts at even intervals, then water the soil and place the top on, squeezing gently to get it to fit down into the bottom part. This is a perfect little greenhouse that almost eliminates the need for water. Be careful about putting it in the sun, though, because the temperature will soar.

I even came across an ambitious project involving building a full size greenhouse from plastic soda bottles.

And then there's this bright idea: How to light a home with a plastic soda bottle and bleach

Makes me wish I'd saved more of those from former days!

Friday, August 24, 2012

I Love Sunflowers

I love sunflowers, ask anyone. I grow them whenever and wherever I can. This year, I'm saving as much seed as I can to eat as snacks and to plant again next year. With food prices going up, I may be eating sunflowers for breakfast, lunch and dinner!

Not sunflower seeds, but sunflowers. They make good food in a variety of ways. Don't tell anyone, though. We may be relying on these flowers as well as the "weedy" variety - wild ones.

How to Eat a Sunflower tells how. If you decide to try some, now is the time in most areas. Get to them before they go to seed (or not, if that's what you're after). Try them in all those ways, then if you really like them or think it would be worth having a frugal trick up your sleeve, save some seed and plant them next year!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Gardening with "Waste" Water

With the drought still gripping a huge portion of the United States, we'd be wise to look to our home gardens. If you've put one in and are now looking at some sky high water bills, start thinking about ways to use water that otherwise would go to waste. Here are a few ideas I've come up with, but if you have more, I'd love to hear about them.

You'll need a watering can and at least one bucket. Set the bucket in a handy place and use it to gather water from the household. When it's full, pour it into the watering can and go water the garden!

To tell if a certain area needs water, poke your finger in the soil. If you can see dry dirt for more than an inch, it needs water. If you see damp soil, leave that area alone and concentrate on an area where it needs it more. Make a route that you follow so that you don't forget a part of the garden.
  • Put a bowl or bucket under the kitchen faucet to catch those little drips you don't even think about. You'll also catch the water you run while it's cooling down or heating up.
  • Save water from cooked vegetables. Don't salt them until they're on the plate and the water will be good for watering plants.
  • Save leftover tea and coffee to water with.
  • If or when you hand wash dishes, save the rinse water to use on the garden.
  • Put a bucket or two in the shower to catch water. One set farthest away from you will catch only clean water and you can use that for food. Put one between you and the drain and that water can be used for flowers or lawns (because it will have soap, etc. in it).
  • Add leftover or spoiled milk to the water you've saved and pour it on the garden. It adds calcium to the soil.
  • Grab glasses with a bit of ice in them and put that in your garden water.
  • Rinse dishes over a pan and pour that water out on the garden. Think about it each time you use water for anything. Don't waste it.
Save every drop of water in any form. You might be surprised at how much of your garden you can keep watered that way.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Living the Frugal Life: Up From the Ashes

The story goes that the Phoenix, or fire bird, lives many years, then builds a nest and goes up in ashes. What is left is an egg which produces a new phoenix - or a reborn phoenix, if you will, since it's from the ashes of the former.

I'm not sure I had to say all of that, but I do have to say a few things about living the frugal life that haven't been said before and since I already have this blog...well, why start over again?

Living the frugal life style is more likely to allow people to make choices that others cannot make. Many people still think that living a frugal life style is only done by those who don't have much money. While that is true of some of us, others do have plenty of money but they still know how to control it and make it do what they want it to do.

For those people, this economy can be very good. Savings made in more affluent times can be used to buy houses at low cost, to buy goods at distress sales and to pick up automobiles and other items at low prices.

But if you don't have money sitting around in savings accounts? It can still be good. Lower income all over means lower prices, at least on the second hand market. This is because there is a glut of items that were purchased during good times and now cannot be paid for.

Home foreclosures, vehicle auctions and consignment shops all offer bargains. Why would you pay full price for anything when you don't have to?