Thursday, December 26, 2013

After Christmas

I always get a rush of ambition after Christmas. Maybe it's the new "stuff" or taking down the tree and decorations (and realizing just how dusty they got!), or maybe it's the very slightly longer days that call to my soul, but I always want to clean out cabinets and closets and organize things and repair things and do things like paint and get new curtains.

Of course, I don't actually do it all, but I want to.

Today, I got the last of the dirty pots and pans washed, and peeled the scotch tape from the floor. I located a lost bowling pin and a stocking, among other things. Just things that needed to be done and all the while, my mind was on sorting through a box of used wrapping paper to see what could be salvaged and wondering if some of the ribbon could be ironed.

I need to check last year's tax forms to find the medical payments that I think the hospital is trying to bill me for again, the pile of mending on the sewing machine has my attention and I really want to upend the old red chair to see what's the problem with it.

My list grows and the New Year looms. I'm not sure what my New Year's resolution should be. Maybe to be more content?

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Frugal Gifts for Kids

Still need a few gifts for the kids? From stocking stuffers to "big" gifts, saving money while making the little ones happy is a challenge. Here are a few ideas to help:

If you have elastic thread, thread some pretty buttons or beads if you have them, for a necklace and/or bracelet for a little girl.

Boxes, boxes, boxes... all kids love boxes. To make them gift-worthy, cover them with cloth or paint. Be sure you start with something sturdy. If you can come up with some sizes that nest, so much the better. Make designs on them if you're crafty and put some homemade cookies in one.

Got wood blocks from a building project? They don't have to be painted or have numbers or letters on them for the kids to have fun with them. Do sand down the rough or splintered areas.

Art sets don't have to be fancy or from a store. Paper? How about that packing paper? Iron it and cut to size. You probably have a new pencil or two around. Pick up some dollar store crayons and plastic scissors and add a few stickers. Done.

More here:

Quick and Frugal Gifts for Kids

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Frugal Food Gifts

Large tins of gourmet popcorn and small tins of special (or not so special) cookies, fancy wrapped cheese logs and pretty containers of candies seem to be popular Christmas gifts. You can really spend a ton of money on them, though! Just go to a search engine and type in "food gifts" and you'll see what I mean.
Ouch. Talk about breaking the budget! How about if we do it ourselves and make food gifts just as special, or even more special, in our own kitchens for much less?
We can present our own food gifts just as nicely as any catalog, and homemade can taste much better, too.
A homemade food gift should be dressed up to present itself as something very unique. Look at the "higher quality" food gifts and mimic their presentation. Ribbons, elegant colors and decorated boxes make you feel as if you're the recipient of something really special.
To present your own food gifts, choose a theme - wrap a loaf of homemade bread in a piece of rough linen cloth and tie with a string, or cover a wax wrapped cheese log along with homemade crackers in a silk scarf and complete the effect with gold ribbon.
Wrap a cheese food box, or empty oatmeal container or anything similar, in wrapping paper inside and out and present your food gift in that.
Wrap individual candy pieces in foil or plastic wrap and put them in a unique container - teacup, dessert bowl, wine glass, flower vase, small serving dish, cloth bag or toy truck - use your imagination to suit the recipient.
Present fancy nuts the same way.
If you're giving cookies, line the container with tissue and fold a piece over every other cookie. Put a simple gift card inside the container, too.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Happy Frugal Thanksgiving!

Got the turkey that was on sale and the fresh pumpkin you froze from Halloween? You're all set for a frugal Thanksgiving. Holidays seem to decree that we spend more money than ever, but it doesn't have to be that way. A frugal mindset can make even the most extensive meal cost mere pennies per dish.

Turkey is the most frugal meat when it's on sale right before Thanksgiving. If you can, grab an extra one or maybe two for later in the year. Turkey sandwiches taste good any time of year!

Don't let the other special sales get past you, either. Things like flour and sugar, olives and cranberry sauce can sometimes be found for a good price. Grab them, especially if you're going to need them for Christmas anyway.

Frugal shopping is more critical than ever in this economy, so don't let Thanksgiving sales slip past you without taking advantage of them.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Ways to Make Extra Money for the Holidays

With the holidays upon us yet again, and the economy still not so good, it may be time to look for ways to make some extra money. The Buck List is an awesome resource when it comes to doing that! I have used it myself to nudge my brain into finding ways to create extra income.

Another great list, not so much about where and how to make money as it is about how to make... well, look for yourself: Seth Godin

And I had to chime in: How to Make Money Without a Job

All of these posts aside, why not try your hand at baking Christmas cookies to sell, cleaning a house for a holiday party (either before or after!) or catering or just serving at a party?

There must be a jillion ways to make holiday cash. We just have to get our heads to working, then do it!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

How to Make Apple Tea

If you eat apples in any form, you have probably thrown away some apple peel. Even if you eat the peeling, as you should, there is a little left over at the top and bottom of the core, and if you make apple pie from fresh apples, well... there are the peelings.

Keep them. Put them in a plastic bag in the freezer until you have enough, then make apple tea.

How much is "enough"? About a cup of apple peel will make a cup of tea.

Why should you go to the trouble of making tea from apple peeling? It's detoxifying and it tastes really good. You can drink it iced or hot, it's safe for kids, it's all around healthy for anyone, and it's free.

How do you make it? I thought you'd never ask.

Put the cup (or however much you want to make) of apple peel in a jar or glass pitcher and add one cup of water. Put the container in the oven and heat it to the lowest temperature, around 150 - 175. You can also just set it in the sun for awhile if it's not freezing outside - any way to warm it. Stir it once or twice while it's warming, then after it's warmed completely, set it on the counter and let it cool. Strain the peels out and add a few (very few) grains of salt to help bring out the flavor. Add sweetener at this point if you want it, then all you have to do is decide whether to add ice or heat it up to drink.

(Frugal note: Make apple peel tea when you're baking and take advantage of your stove's oven vent, usually a back burner. You might want to use a stainless steel container, just in case, if you put it on a burner.)

image source

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Frugal Homemade Dormant Spray for Fruit Trees

If you have fruit trees, you know what a pain it can be to keep the fruit bug free. Dormant oil spray is expensive, but often has to be used. Here is a homemade Dormant spray that doesn't contain oil of any kind, but it's effective:

A gallon of water
2 TBS baking soda
5 TBS hydrogen peroxide
2 TBS liquid castile soap (like Dr. Bronner's)

Mix it all together and spray your fruit trees or bushes after they've gone dormant this fall and again in the spring before they wake up.

Image is my own; the apple is from my first apple harvest, noted here:  The relativity of an apple harvest

Friday, October 25, 2013

Frugal Breakfasts for Frosty Mornings

Some of us have already awakened to freezing temperatures and killing frosts this year. Even if you haven't, the cooler temperatures make warming breakfasts appealing. Oatmeal is probably the most popular hot cereal and store brand oats are a frugal choice over brand name oats, since they're generally of good quality.

Most of us don't want to eat oats every morning, though. Another hot cereal is good old fashioned Malt-O-Meal®. The three original varieties - Original, Chocolate and Maple and Brown Sugar - are still available and still very inexpensive per serving. They're quick and easy to make and most kids love them.

Another good cold weather breakfast is pancakes. They're so simple to make from scratch that I wonder how they ever started selling pancake mixes in the first place. There is one that may be cheaper to buy than to make pancakes from scratch and that is Krusteaz® pancake mixes. All you do is add water.

And then there are biscuits with gravy or butter or peanut butter or just biscuits.

Any of these breakfasts will cost you just pennies per serving.

Disclaimer: I'm not paid for mentioning either Malt-O-Meal® or Krusteaz®, although that would be nice. They are products that are inexpensive and good quality. Products like that help us keep our costs down and eat well, too.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Fireplaces and Attics Can Waste Your Money

Heat rises! You know it does. Places like attics and fireplaces when not in use, allow the air that you pay to keep warm  float right out the roof.

Enough insulation in your attic will make a big difference in your heating bill, but if your attic door is leaking warm air up and out, you still will be paying more than you need to. There are special bats that cover attic doors, or you can cut one to fit the door. You'll need to tape it on to keep it in place when you close the door. Weatherize the edges, too, with strips they make for doors, or make your own from felted wool. Just cut strips and use white glue to attach them.

Fireplaces are great for cold weather, but they don't heat well unless they're equipped with a "heatilator," which are pipes going through the masonry and opening into the room, carrying the heat that would otherwise escape up the chimney. Some fireplaces work better than others due to their mass and the way it's arranged.

More than losing heat through the chimney when it's burning, a fireplace loses heat through an open damper when it's not burning. You can't reach in to the chimney to close it until the fireplace fire is out and fairly cold, so there is a lot of hot air going right up and out. Close it as soon as you can, but don't forget to open it before building the next fire!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Save Money by Not Heating These

Do you heat your pantry, closets and empty guest rooms? Do you heat hobby rooms or bedrooms all day long when no one is in them?

You're wasting home heating energy and money if you do.

It's a simple thing to close vents and keep the doors closed to unused rooms. Go a step further and make or buy draft stoppers if there is a gap under the door. Weatherstrip the inside of pantries and closets and wherever else it may be appropriate.

The idea is to seal these rooms away from the rooms you want to heat. Less space to heat = less money to heat it.

Note: It would be very unusual for food in a pantry to freeze unless it's on an outside wall and your house gets really, really cold, but keep potatoes and other fresh foods toward the inside wall for the best flavor. 

Friday, October 11, 2013

The Rule of Three

Are you in the market for an appliance or other "big ticket" item? You can save money by following the rule of three. It goes like this:

1. Go to the store or site of your choice and choose the exact one you want, or decide on a type that you want, with brand, size, etc., negotiable. Make detailed notes.

2. Go to another store or site and compare what they have with what you saw at the other store. Make sure each item is comparable. If you find a size or type that the other store didn't have and you like it better, make  note of it.

3. Go to yet another store. Follow the same procedure. Check the exact item if you're sure that's what you want, or look through the types, sizes and so on, to make up your mind. Make notes.

That's it. Go home. Wait three days.

1. Sit down with your notes.
2. Decide which one is the best deal.
3. Go and buy it.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Time for pumpkin!

Whether you buy or grow pumpkins it's easy to find yourself with an excess of it this time of year. It only takes one to have too much if you just want to make a pie, but it freezes very well, so that's an option. Right now, though, try it in pancakes in place of part of the milk or put it in soups.

It can be eaten just like winter squash (which it really is) with butter and salt or whatever your favorite seasonings are. Another way to try it is to slice it thin, salt it and roast it in a slow oven until it's dry. It's a real taste treat! Of course, you could always make another pumpkin pie.

There are many recipes for pumpkin bread, pumpkin cookies and the like, so even if you're pumpkin'd out right now, bake these goodies and keep them in the freezer until you're ready for a treat.

Pumpkins are good, nutritious and cheap, so don't let this once a year gem slip by you!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Ready Your Home for Chilly Weather Ahead!

For most of us, it's time to start winterizing our home. I know it's still fall and I know that ultra cold and snow are still in the future, but NOW is the time to get ready - not when there's a blizzard going on and you suddenly realize that the drapes are billowing with the wind and the furnace seems to be working very hard and not making much progress.

Start outside the house. Drain hoses and make sure outside faucets are ready for the first freeze, then check around the foundation of the house to make sure there are no new cracks or gaps that need to be filled.

Gutters need to be cleaned of leaves as autumn progresses, and chimneys and vents need to be checked for leaks.

Cover and/or store your outdoor furniture and make sure all the garden and lawn tools are brought in, cleaned and stored.

Look around the windows and do any needed caulking. Even newer windows may have cracks around the outside frames.

If you have plants that need special care before winter, now is the time to do it, or at least plan for dividing, mulching and cutting back.

Doing these things is much more pleasant when the skies are blue, the grass is still growing and the air is warm.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

5 Ways to Save at the Grocery Store

1. Never shop hungry. When you're hungry, everything looks good and you'll bring home a lot of snacks and items you wouldn't have bought otherwise.

2. Look up; look down. Grocery stores put the highest price items at eye level. Stoop over and see what's on the bottom shelf, then stand on your tiptoes and check out the top shelf.

3. Shop alone. The more, the merrier and the higher the grocery bill, as children or spouses add their favorites and things they want to try to the cart.

4. Shop the sales. Never go to the grocery store without looking at the current sales ads. If you don't take a newspaper, most stores have their ads online. Plan your meals around sales items and stock up a little if you can.

5. Ditch the brand name "must haves." Try store brand cereals, bread, dairy and meat. Most of the time, they're just as good as the brand that you pay the advertising for.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Frugal Reasons for Walking

1. It saves gas if you can walk where you'd otherwise drive.

2. It's good exercise and can keep you in good health, and that's frugal.

3. Walking is good for your mood and helps us live more intentionally.
Nature is calming and uplifting.

4. You can discover things you'd never see in a car: coins on the ground and plants you can take cuttings from (ask first!) for two.

5. A new pair of shoes is cheaper than a set of new tires.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Three Main Ways to Save on Insurance

What You Drive Matters

Don't drive a sporty vehicle that can go from zero to 50 in two seconds. Cars that look and act like race cars are in more accidents than others and will cost you more in insurance even if you are a very safe driver. Don't drive an expensive vehicle either, with all the doodads and gadgets you can get. These are prime targets for thieves and carry a higher insurance cost because of it. Besides that, they're more expensive to repair if you get into an accident.

Take All the Discounts You Can

Make sure you get all the discounts you're entitled to. Ask your agent if you're not sure, but read your insurance policy first to see if you already have some discounts. You could be eligible for discounts for being a good student, having certain safety equipment, being in the military, keeping a low annual mileage or having multiple vehicles insured or other multiple policies with the same insurance companies. There are other discounts your insurance may offer and your agent will know about them, but may not offer them unless you ask.

The Impact of a Stable Lifestyle

Someone who changes jobs every year, moves often, has traffic tickets, is in accidents even though they're minor, gets deeply in debt early or even takes out bankruptcy, is not a good candidate for low automobile insurance. It's easy to see why, when all the factors are put together. An unstable lifestyle speaks of a person who is not settled or responsible in mamy areas of life and insurance companies consider that this will spill over into the person's driving style and attitude.

If this is you, you can't change your record overnight, but you can begin working right now to stabilize your lifestyle. Keep that job another year, don't move unless you really have to and keep up on all your bills. Better, get out of debt. Drive carefully and take a defensive drivers's course, both for the discount and to help you be a better driver.

More Than Insurance Savings

All of these things together guarantees that you will have lower car insurance premiums with the same or better protection than you have now. Many of these things will cost you less in other ways, too. Driving less means less gas and wear on your tires. Moving less often saves you money on the move itself (even if you move yourself) and on deposits. Driving a less showy car means that you pay less for it to begin with. Doesn't that make dollars and sense?

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Frost advisory and tomatoes

I just brought in the last of the tomatoes that are big enough to ripen indoors, the peppermint plant and the geranium (which should have been brought in sooner). I'm a diehard gardener; I put an old sheet across the tomato plants. If they make it through these next two nights, maybe some of the smaller tomatoes will grow big enough to use.

It wasn't much of a year for a garden for me, due to health issues, but I will make the most of it.

There are pureed tomatoes in the freezer, waiting to be turned into sauce, a dab of wild greens picked earlier in the season and a bag of green beans that was given to me. Now I need to do some canning, since the weather is cooler and the extra heat will be welcome.

The newer breeds of tomatoes don't have enough acid in them to safely can in a boiling water bath, so, since part of the tomatoes in the freezer came from a friend who grows that kind, I will have to remember to add vinegar to each batch. My own few tomatoes are the heirloom kind, so I wouldn't have to worry about that, except that I mixed them together when I froze them.

Home canned tomato sauce is the greatest to make spaghetti sauce or to use in soup, meatloaf or in macaroni. It never gets as thick as the commercial kind, but it doesn't have to. The flavor is much more intense so it doesn't take as much to let you know it's there.

It's sounding better all the time. Maybe I will can tomato sauce tomorrow!

Keeping the Food Bill Down, #1

I've been eating out of the freezer. A small container of rice, a stash of bits of vegetables and a piece of leftover chicken from... I don't know when. Added together with a bit of salt and a little water, it made a filling and tasty soup!

For supper there will be potato soup made with leftover tuna bits and liquid that I have saved over the summer's worth of tuna salad sandwiches and some leftover cornbread.

I went to the store yesterday and I don't know how much I spent. Bad? Yeah... what happened was that two six packs of Zevia Cola rang up as two cans, so I have to go back and pay them and for the life of me, I can't remember what the six packs cost. I went to Natural Grocers, a store limited to Colorado, where the Cola is cheaper than anywhere else and I used a coupon, in case you were wondering.

Other than that, I spent a little over $12 on potatoes, flour and graham crackers, etc. The graham crackers are for my granddaughter who thinks that's why she comes to Grandma's (to eat graham crackers).

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Monday, September 23, 2013

Tightening the Grocery Budget

I used to buy groceries for around a hundred dollars a month, but as prices crept up and up, that rose to $110 to $125 and lately, it's been more than that! As a frugal person, and one who shoots off her mouth now and then, it's kind of embarrassing.

So I'm going to go on a fiscal diet and not spend more than $100 each month on groceries for the rest of the year. I will NOT include extras for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners, but I will try to hold it to a minimum. Also, I don't eat out very often, but if I should, that will be a part of the food budget.

Okay. Hold me to it. It starts this Wednesday, when I get paid and start my month over, for practicality's sake.

I have food in the house that I have avoided using. Don't we all do that? Things stuffed away in the freezer that I will use "sometime." That sometime is now, so I might have some strange meals. Then again, maybe not. I have canned food and dry food and a good variety, too.

I'll try to remember and report, although I may not be too specific about it (crunching numbers and listing prices doesn't sound like fun). I'll try to post at least the totals of my food expenditures and maybe a few interesting recipes!

Wish me luck.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Fall Decorating on the Cheap

I can't help it; I'm ready for the bright colors of fall and I'm done with the heat! Here are a few things I've come up with to brighten up the house while waiting for the weather to settle into a fall pattern.

Take pages of bright, autumn colors from magazines or catalogs and cut leaves from them. First make a few patterns from plain paper (recycle that junk mail!) then use the patterns to avoid the temptation to try to fit in certain lines or patterns from the page. Cut out quite a few, then scatter them on a solid color plate or platter. Add a candle and you've created a one of a kind centerpiece or coffee table display.

Candles always make good displays. If yours is so-so, jazz them up with any or all of these items, warmed then pressed into the wax:
Stray pieces of jewelry or buttons
String, dipped in melted wax and wound in pattern, random or not.
Ribbon tied up in a pretty bow and placed low.
Themed candies like candy corn.

Make a fall bouquet with dried grasses and weeds. Since they're free, you can make them as big and extravagant as you want!  

If you have a garden, you may have things you can use from there. Winter squash, miniature pumpkins, sunflowers and other autumn flowers and leaves all bring fall indoors.

Leave the fake stuff in the store and go get the real stuff. A drive or a walk will yield things you may never have thought of. A spray of seeds or a few bright leaves might set off your imagination to create the most beautiful centerpiece or table top decoration ever. All for free.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

How Can We Save on Electricity?

I don't use much electricity. According to some figures I see from here and there, my electric bill is very low. I know that I have better opportunities to save than some people. For instance, I don't use a hair dryer because I don't wash my hair every day and I can plan most activities around it so that I don't have to go anywhere until it dries. Some women have to go to work every day, so washing their hair means using a hair dryer before they go.

There are other things, though, that I do that most others can do to save electricity.

  • Use a manual instead of electric can opener
  • Use extra blankets instead of an electric blanket
  • Microwave things that take a long time in an electric oven or stove top
  • If you have a laptop, run it on the battery until it needs to be charged, then unplug it as soon as it's charged.
  • Turn off the lights! It's been said so many times that we become numb to it, but it really does matter.
  • Keep your freezer full. If you can't keep it full of food, put bottles of water to freeze to fill up the empty spaces.
  • Keep the refrigerator door closed, the coils and gasket clean.
  • Put the TV, computer and other electronics on power strips, then turn them off when they're not being used.

Those are just a few possibilities and it may not seem like you'd save much, but added together these things can make an impact on your bill.

Some other things I do that not everyone may be able to do:

  • Wash dishes by hand rather than paying for electricity for dishwasher
  • Sweep my (hardwood) floors with a broom rather than vacuum
  • Use fans instead of the air conditioner whenever possible
  • Make bread by hand instead of using an electric bread maker
  • Use natural light as long as possible to avoid turning on electric lights
  • Shower, wash dishes and other activities during the daylight hours to avoid using more lights.
  • Use a minimum of electric kitchen appliances like food processors. There are many manual versions available.

If you save electricity in other ways, I'd love to hear about it!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Frugal Crafting: Weaving

This was written a few years ago for a now defunct little magazine called "Homewords."

I have been thinking of how crafting has grown naturally out of our needs, as our mothers and grandmothers found ways to create solutions for the problems they had before mass production made those things cheap and easily accessible.
Today, most of us have the option to buy items already made that fill our needs but crafting still satisfies a basic desire to create. Even more satisfaction comes when we can create something useful and beautiful from materials that would otherwise be ignored or thrown out.

Weaving is one of those crafts that uses these kinds of material. Now, before we get started, let me say that I am NOT a weaver! There may be those out there who are, and we would certainly appreciate any information you'd be willing to give.
Weaving at its most basic, is fun and productive. Almost anyone can weave a mat of sorts without a pattern, simply by understanding what weaving is, an 'under/over' 'in-and-out' process.
You might want to practice with paper first, but soon you will want to try cloth or natural materials. Buying those materials can be very expensive, though, and take the joy out of crafting.

"Bulrush is a very light material and there are approximately 60 rushes in one half pound.  Price per half pound is $9.00."
Willow, starting at about seven dollars a much is a pound of willow, anyway? Can I get a whole place mat out of 60 rushes? Is 9 dollars a place mat too much to pay?? Will a pound of willow make a clothes basket?

To get around these kind of questions, look first at what you can find naturally. For instance, wheat weavers use a special, hard to grow wheat that bends easily when wet, and holds its shape when dry, but any kind of wheat or wheat-like plant will substitute when you are learning this craft.

Any kind of long stemmed grass, or slender pliable branch will substitute for bulrush and willow, respectively. If you are experimenting (isn't all crafting without a pattern experimenting?) almost any material will give you an idea of what happens when you do this or that.

One year we had quite a bit of a slender, very tall grass that grew along the ditches in abundance. Its always been there, but this particular year, its abundance caught my attention, and I cut some of it and put it to dry in bundles. When it dried, it became brittle, so I soaked it overnight, and the next day I began to braid a strip, winding into a coil as I went. It was easy to work with, and surprisingly sturdy.

As you poke around looking for things to use, remember that plants act differently when dry than when green. Allow for shrinkage as well as loss of pliability.

If you'd like to try to make a circular mat, first gather several bundles of any long grass like blades, the longer the better. You can use it green, but you might want to put some away to dry and work with later.

To begin, cross six blades at the center, and, using another one, fasten them together. This is much easier said than done, so be patient and wind the grass around several times in different ways. Once this is completed, you should have what looks like a wagon wheel without the other words, spokes. Using a seventh blade, attach it at the center by pushing it into the grass knot you created. You'll need an uneven number of spokes to weave on.

Begin weaving your blades from the center out, being careful to keep the strands close together. When you come near the end of one blade, insert a new one between it and the next 'spoke', and weave with both a few times, until the ends are hidden.

As you work, the area between spokes will become too wide, so at more or less even intervals, insert another one simply by pushing a blade into the mat a few rounds deep. Don't trim the ends exactly until you are through.

A project like this will take some time with narrow blades, so think about it as you look and gather. You might want to look for the widest blades you can find.

Another weaving product is cloth, and I'm sure you've all seen the potholder looms that come with jersey loops. A loom of this type is simple to make from a flat piece of board or an old picture frame. Whichever you use, it needs to be the same size as the piece you want to create. Simply line up small tacks along each edge, then begin by tying yarn or string on one corner tack, and looping it back and forth from one side to the other, around each tack. When you are finished in one direction, go the other direction. Weave under one strand and over the next, pushing each strand firmly against the last one.

Of course, this can be adjusted many different ways. One idea is to make a loom large enough for a floor mat, using nails instead of tacks, and cloth strips instead of yarn. At the other extreme, use a small soft wood board and gently tack in straight pins, then use thread to create a fine piece of cloth, which could be used for a small needlepoint picture, or a special pocket or collar.

The applications of weaving are endless, it seems. No matter what your tastes, you can find something to weave, and make something special out of nothing at all, as our mothers and grandmothers did.

Image courtesy

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Three Frugal Steps to Get Rid of Ants

1. Ants create and follow scent trails. That's why when you see one ant, you see many ants. If you disrupt or remove this trail, the rest of the ants can't follow it. You can do that by washing the area with soap and water or putting something on it that will interfere with the scent or the physical properties of it. Successfully used are: cinnamon, black pepper, baby powder and salt.

2. Remove anything that attracts them. Sugar and other sweets, grease and fat of any kind will attract them. A lid on the sugar bowl won't stop them as you probably know. Close everything up in air tight containers and immediately was greasy pans and dishes.

3. Go on the attack by finding the hills outside. Pour boiling water down them to kill the larvae. You may have to do this two or three more times, but they will give up and move away if you don't destroy the colony altogether.,

Monday, August 19, 2013

Getting Ready for Next Year's Garden!

Planning ahead can make the road seem a little smoother in a lot of ways because making the most of what we have now can help us save money in the future! For instance, saving seed from this year's garden for next. If you have grown heirloom or open pollinated vegetables or flowers, you can save the seeds and not have to buy any next year. That can save quite a bit.

Save seed from mature squash (let a summer squash mature on the vine), tomatoes, cucumbers (treat like squash), pumpkins, melons,
beans, and more. Most seed saving is just common sense. Let beans dry on the vine - that's seed. Pick a ripe tomato and put it in a dish and let Mother Nature take it's course. It will ferment and smell bad, but when it's rinsed off and dried - that's seed for next year.

Look up how to save seeds for what you grow. Some seeds must be refrigerated for a few weeks to produce the dormant stage, some can go straight from the garden to storage as long as they're dry.

Why buy seed next year when you already have it for free this year?

Image courtesy of

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Time Marches On

Summer is on its way out! For some of us, it seems like we haven't had much summer yet, but it's nearly over in many places.

The kids are going back to school and nature is making changes as the earth turns away from the sun again. Nights are cooler in most places, although we're far from hot weather!

These sunflowers are in that full urgency that comes with the last hurrah of summer. Some have seeded out and the finches and sparrows are having a feast, but there are many buds left.

Harvest is coming in everywhere and not just in the flowers. Farmer's markets are filled to bursting with good food right now so if you didn't have a big enough garden or no garden at all, take advantage of this bountiful summer season before it's too late.

The more you can put up by canning, dehydrating or freezing, is that much less that you will have to buy this winter. With the prices rising and rising, it's time to take control as much as possible. Don't forget the wild food, either. Sunflower seeds, lambsquarter greens and seeds, purslane and dandelion are all ready for the picking. When it gets a little colder (after the first frost) dig dandelion roots for food and a healthy hot drink.

The more you do, the more you save. 

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Extremely Frugal

So I followed some links to "extreme" frugality and was a little disappointed. Some people think that being extremely frugal means you clip coupons or cook at home. That's not extreme; as a matter of fact, it's barely frugal. It's more like common sense, in my opinion. Now, I don't want to offend anyone and you may not be ready for what follows. If you're not into a frugal lifestyle, some of these things might shock you. Proceed at your own risk.

Extremely frugal options can save a few dollars - or maybe a penny. Take them all with a grain of salt. (But just one grain. You don't want to waste the salt.)

1. Barter. Trade, swap, whatever you want to call it. If you have something and you need something, see if someone has what you need and wants what you have. That includes doctors, dentists, farmers or anyone else. Ask around. All they can say is no but they might very well say yes. Choose an item and refuse (in your mind) to pay cash for it. Sooner or later, you'll find it.

2. Dumpster dive. Not "dive" as in jumping in, but "dive" as in getting with it. The concept includes sidewalk shopping, where you check out the trash set out for pickup. Some dumpsters are closed and sealed. Don't mess with them. There are still dumpsters that you can get to. Be inconspicuous and have an answer ready should anyone question you. Looking for cardboard boxes is a good excuse.

3. Family cloth. I can already hear the "ewww"s and the "yuck!" out there, or I will as soon as you figure out what I'm talking about. Toilet paper is a new invention, believe it or not. People did not always have the luxury of four ply, deeply soft sheets of special paper to clean themselves. It wastes resources and it costs money. Go ahead, look up "family cloth." If you can't accept it whole heartedly, go half way, just for women, just to dry.

And  there's a lot more, like boiling up used meat bones, making broth from peelings and tops, utility sewing, sharing subscriptions to newspapers and magazines and sharing rides to the store or to work.

If you want more really frugal ideas, check out my other blog, which is truly "Extremely Frugal"!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Just In Time and Why You Should Be Prepared

You know, people talk about "being prepared" as something new. People used to be prepared all the time. We have always had storms and weather problems. Have you ever heard of the Blizzard of '49? Or the Great Blizzard of 1888? How about the the deadly hurricane that leveled Galveston, Texas in 1900? Those are just in the United States so I'm familiar with them, but there were other devastating storms in other places.

Those were major storms, but there have been many, many smaller but dangerous storms over just the last century. The biggest problem we have today is that most people are living so close to having nothing on hand all the time. If a person can't get to the store within a week, there is nothing to eat. No milk, no frozen entrees, no bread... and if something happens that sends everyone to the store to stock up, the shelves empty fast. If you're not fast enough, you might be the one to go without.

That's because grocery stores (and other kinds of stores) work on a "just in time" basis where products are shipped to them twice each week or even daily, and they keep very little, if any, stock on hand.

That should be a very good incentive to keep at least a little extra on hand. Not just an extra loaf of bread, but two or three in the freezer, and not just a little extra milk, but perhaps a package of dry or a few cans of canned or milk. Maybe a few cans of soup some extra crackers and canned meat. Or more. And don't forget the water.

With all the strange weather we've been having, it only makes sense to be prepared.

Image courtesy of

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Send Me Your Plastic Bags!

I'm kidding. I have plenty of my own. Well, at least I had plenty.  That was before I got on this kick of using plarn. In case you hadn't heard, plarn is "plastic yarn," more specifically, yarn made from plain old plastic grocery bag type of bags.

I tried the plarn ideas around the internet, but they all turn out a fine plarn that's more suitable for table cloths or baby bibs, maybe. I tried knitting with it, but it's not very yielding and my old hands began to hurt after a little while.

It took awhile, but I figured out what to do. If you make the plastic bag strips much wider - about four to five inches instead of one - the plarn will be fatter. Okay, so that didn't take a lot of brains to figure out, but if you've tried using the one or two inch strips like the youtube videos show and found them hard to work with, try again with much wider strips.

It will take more bags, but isn't that the idea, anyway?

Don't stop with plastic grocery bags, though. Plastic bread bags, produce bags and any other clean plastic bag will do. Thinner plastic just needs wider strips.

Why not use plarn to knit or crochet? It's free. 

Saturday, July 20, 2013

A is for Apple

Isn't that the way the alphabet is still taught? Then let's start there.

Apples are good food, but they're the best when they're in season, which is in the very late summer and early fall. If you buy apples throughout the winter, they're still pretty good, but they've been in storage for awhile. If you buy them in the spring and summer before the new crop, you're buying from somewhere far away or you're buying old apples.

Old apples are not good apples. Much of their nutrition is lost after months of storage and they're usually soft and often have bruises.

Apples from far away are not so great, either. First, they're expensive, having been trucked or flown thousands of miles. Secondly, the "country of origin" may allow pesticides and herbicides and other poisons that are not safe. Even if you're not into organic food, eating extra poisons doesn't make sense.

Leave the apples in the store and wait for the new crops to come in this fall. They'll be cheaper, more nutritious, taste better and you'll get your money's worth.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Coupons as Part of Frugal Living

To be honest, I don't use many coupons. It's not because I don't think they save money; they do. The reason I don't use many is because I don't buy most of the products there are coupons for.

I went so far as to go to a coupon page - you know, the ones that list coupons for your area. You tick the ones you want then print them off. I went through five pages and found one coupon that I might use.

What don't I use? Pet food, frozen dinners, high priced toilet paper, paper napkins, paper towels, cold cereal, disposable diapers, refrigerated biscuits, air freshener, bottled tea... well, lots of things.

Most of those things have been created in the last few decades. I'm of the old school, I guess. I didn't need them 40 years ago and I don't need them now.

Now if they had coupons for flour (store brand), sugar, baking powder, loose leaf tea, vinegar and so on, I'd use them.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Water, water, water....

The weather seems lopsided for the US this year. Parts of the nation are dealing with far too much water and parts of it are dealing with none at all. We're lucky so far in that it's been hot, but not as hot as some places, and it's been dry but not as dry as some places.
If you're in a severe drought, getting water to the lawn or flower bed may not be number one on your list of priorities. A vegetable garden might be on the list, but if it's hard to get enough water to it, you may still be able to save it.

First, mulch everywhere you can immediately after watering. Use whatever you have on hand: Newspaper, cardboard, grass clippings, weeds, sheets of plastic. That will trap and hold moisture right away, then you can concentrate on finding ways to get water to the garden without having to run the hose or sprinklers.

Using gray water is illegal in some areas, so not all of these ideas may work well for you. Whether it's illegal or not, use gray water with caution on food plants. Some is fine, like rinse water from dishes; some may not be, like bath water. Whenever you use gray water, use it immediately. It becomes "black water" quickly as pathogens multiply under ideal situations. Once it's on and in the ground, it doesn't deteriorate.

Save rinse water from your washer. There are many different set ups in laundries, so it may be difficult for you to save it, but try to figure a way to do it. Some people can pump water out onto the lawn straight from the washing machine. Mine goes into one of those huge granite sinks and I just put the plug in it when the wash water drains. (More often, I use the wringer washer and that makes it simple.)

Save rinse water from washing dishes. I don't know how hard it would be to do that with an automatic dishwasher. I wash dishes by hand. Rinse water from dishes is good for the soil.

When it rains, get a bucket or a bowl or whatever you can find and catch the water from your gutters. (In some states, catching rain water is illegal, too, so be sure to check first.)

Keep a bowl under the kitchen faucet to catch drips and drops and water run to cool off or warm up. It's not gray water, so anyone can use it.

I put a pitcher on the back of the cabinet and dump bits of leftover water and ice cubes into it. When it fills up, it waters a couple of plants.

Put a bucket under the faucet in the shower to catch water while it warms up. This isn't gray water either, but if you also put a plug in the tub and catch the shower water, it is.

As you work on it, other water saving ideas will occur. Don't ignore them, no matter how outlandish they may be.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

I'm Still Learning: Plumbing Lesson

New Plumber in the House is a post I wrote after (successfully!) fixing a toilet valve that wouldn't shut off. I'm not much of a plumber and don't intend to be at this stage of life, but I did feel good about that.

I don't know about teaching old dogs new tricks, but if you're an... um... older person like me, you can learn new things, too. As a matter of fact, the more new things we learn, the younger our brain stays, they say.

I guess I wouldn't want too young of a brain, butI doubt there's much danger in that.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Natural resource: cardboard boxes

One of those "natural resources" of  modern living is cardboard. Cardboard boxes are so common that we often don't even notice them. Almost every product we buy - even some groceries - come in cardboard boxes.

What do we do with them? Many of them are thrown away with no other use at all. What CAN we do with them? A lot. Here are a few ideas:

As a receptacle for branches, grass, weeds and other spring clean up trash. Cardboard boxes don't develop holes or stretch too far like plastic bags do and they're biodegradable and they're free if you save them from other things.

Use cardboard boxes as containers, of course, because that's what they are. Store things in them for the garage or closet, but if you need a container that needs to look good, too, a cardboard box can be painted or covered with cloth or paper (check your Christmas paper stash). From Christmas ornaments to yarn storage, cardboard boxes are perfect.

Table, anyone? If you need a side table, find a cardboard box the right size, turn it up and put a cloth over it to cover. Or paint it and put a scarf or other cloth over the top to camouflage it. Or make a play table or dining table for tots by turning a large cardboard box upside down and cutting the sides out about half way up. (Great for those family get togethers!)

You probably already use at least some of these:

  • Shoe boxes to hold tax receipts or other papers
  • Odd shaped boxes to hold gifts
  • Small boxes as drawer organizers
  • Small to medium boxes as desk top organizers
  • Toy boxes for small pieces or collections
  • Clothes basket (line with plastic bag)
There you go. You knew there was some reason you were saving those cardboard boxes, didn't you?

Friday, March 15, 2013

Water Savings

With the drought continuing in many places, using fresh, treated water from the tap for everything is beginning to seem very wasteful. If you want to save water and save money, too, there are a lot of ways to do it.

For instance, at any given time you walk into my kitchen, there will be a glass or glasses set back on the counter with varying levels of water in them. I fill each one as water becomes available from leftover drinking water and melted ice from drinks. It's then used to water the house plants or to dump on the floor for a quick mop up.

There is at times a bucket just outside the back door that holds rinse water from doing dishes or water that's run to heat up or cool down, or water that I've rinsed my hands in. I use it to water outside plants or sometimes to mop the floor.  I've washed the car with it and even washed windows with it. It's plenty clean enough for things like that.

Water that has been used to rinse dishes with is sometimes recycled in the bathroom to wash the sink or toilet - and again, the floor.

There's always the shower water which can be used to flush the toilet, pour out on plants or lawn, scrub the floor or wash the car.

When I'm cooking, I leave a pan of water in the kitchen sink to rinse my hands between tasks. When I stopped to pay attention, I was amazed at how many times I turned on the water for that.

Leftover tea or coffee waters plants, too. Put the sugared drinks on outdoors plants to avoid attracting insects into the house.

Go to Extremely Frugal and search for water. There are many, many ways to reduce the amount of water we use.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Here Comes Peter Cottontail! It's Nearly Easter

Hopping down the bunny trail...
Hippety, hoppety, Easter's on its way!

And so it is. Easter is early this year, so if you'd like to do something a little different, it's time to get started. I'm making Easter baskets and remembering those nights before Easter when the kids were little when we used to color eggs. What a mess it made! It was fun, though. I didn't realize at the time how much more fun dying eggs with natural foods could be. 

If you want to try dying Easter eggs without having to buy the dye, here is what I finally figured out. First, you have to start now to save the various foodstuffs in time.

  • Get your Easter eggs ready to dye by washing in mild soap and warm water to remove any 'sealer' or residue.
    Longer boiling or soaking will make the color deeper.
  • Eggs keep better the longer they're boiled, anyway, and a half hour won't hurt them, texture or taste wise.
  • Use a teaspoon of vinegar to help set the dye in these. Add it at the same time you add the egg.
  • Make designs on eggs with plain crayons before coloring. You don't need a special clear wax crayon to decorate Easter eggs.
Easter egg colors and how to get them:
  • Light green - Save the water from canned or fresh cooked spinach and boil eggs in it, or pick a few dandelion leaves to boil them in.
  • Pale Yellow - Add carrot tops, celery seed or orange peel to water for boiling eggs.
  • Deep Yellow - Put ground turmeric in the water with boiling eggs, or use yellow onion skins to dye them a deep yellow.
  • Orange - Yellow onion skins, at least two cups full. Boil them for a half hour, then add eggs and boil until the eggs are done. If you don't have many, boil what you have in a small pan, with just enough water to cover an egg.
  • Tan - Coffee or tea.
  • Blue - Red cabbage leaves will dye eggs blue. Boil leaves in water, then use the cool liquid to dye boiled eggs. Or let the eggs set in juice drained from canned blueberries.
  • Pink - Use the liquid from canned or pickled beets, or boil along with a fresh beet, or chopped rhubarb stalks, red onion skins. Beets make an especially pretty Easter color.
  • Lavendar - Purple grape juice makes a good dye for a pretty Easter color.
  • Red - Red onion skins. This takes at least three cups full to a quart of water and you have to soak the eggs in it for a half hour or so after boiling. Red is a hard color to create with natural dyes.
  • Bright Yellow - Inner bark of apple tree bark. Scrape the bark into a pot of water and boil for a half hour or so. Don't use vinegar in this, but add a half teaspoon of alum to each quart when cool, to bring out the color. 

Experiment and have fun. As long as it's a food or food safe product, you don't have to worry about it hurting the Easter egg or the eater thereof!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Teach Others to Yearn For What You Have

"If you want to build a ship, don't drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea."
- Antoine St Exupery 

There is wisdom in this quote. We can put it to good frugal use if we think just a little bit. Is there someone you know who could benefit from learning to save money or controlling expenses? Don't try to teach them how to do it. Instead, teach them to want to be debt free or to be able to live in comfort and even with some excitement while staying within their income. 

In other words, don't talk so much about what it takes to do it. Talk about what it's like after you've done it. Did you wait a year while saving money to take the vacation of a lifetime? Don't harp on that. Instead, tell them how nice it was to not have to worry about paying it all off when you got home. Talk about how relaxed you were for weeks afterward. Spark in them the desire to do the same; make them envious of your lifestyle. 

And if they call it good fortune or good luck, then you can tell them how you make your own good luck! 


Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Heaters for the Frugal

Probably the cheapest way to stay warm when it's cold is with a wood stove... IF you can get out and get your own wood. Buying it may be cheaper than buying gas or oil, but again, it may not.

You can get wood for free or cheap but you have to work at it. Some places (newspapers, notably) get deliveries on wood pallets which they sometimes give away. It's cheaper to do that than to ship them back where they came from and they're there for the asking.

Besides that, keep an eye on your local Freecycle or Craigslist for trees that need to be removed or other free firewood for the picking/cleaning up. You might even have some in your own backyard.

Besides wood stoves? Kerosene can be inexpensive if you live in a small house, but there are dangers to using kerosene heaters indoors. Look for one that's made specifically for indoor heating and don't use lamp oil in it. Go to a gas station or farm supply store and ask for plain old fashioned kerosene. It will smell, yes. If you can't stand the smell, you can get kerosene that's been deodorized, but it will cost more.

Electric heaters can inexpensively heat a small space like one room of your house while you turn down the heat in the rest of it. Figure the cost by finding the cost per kilowatt hour on your electric bill, then multiplying times 1 1/2, which is 1500 watts, the maximum allowed by law. Multiply that by how many hours you use the heater to get the cost.

How else can you stay warm? Warm yourself and not the house.
Or go for some extremely frugal warming up tips.
Or see how I stayed warm when the power went out!

Don't let conventionality make you pay more in heating bills than you need to. If your  bills are too high, look around, make some adjustments and do what you can to stay warm and keep as much of your money as you can.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Eat Your Garbage

I am not kidding. What many consider to be garbage - the portions of food that we throw away - are perfectly edible, good and nutritious parts of the food we pay for!

I'm not talking about leftovers, (although leftovers are sometimes treated like garbage) but I'm talking about things like those green leaves left on the radish bunches, and the center core of a cabbage. No. I am NOT kidding. Those are not only edible, they're good and they're good for you to eat, cooked or raw.

Radish leaves are loaded with minerals and vitamins, just like any other dark green leafy vegetable. They're tangy, and although sometimes a little fuzzy, they add zing to your salads. You can also cook them, but it takes a lot to make a serving, so if you don't want to put them in a salad, add them to spinach or other greens when you cook them. You can dehydrate or freeze them, too, if you want to stockpile them until you have enough to eat as a separate dish. Just don't throw them into the garbage; you bought them. Because they tend to go bad faster than the radishes, it's a good idea to eat or process them otherwise within a day or two of bringing them home.

Cabbage cores? Delicious raw! Slice or dice them into salads or stir frys. Or eat them just like they are, with a little salt if you like. This was always a treat for whichever kid was in the kitchen when Mom used the last of the cabbage. (She was kind enough to share!)

Sure, there's more:
Any time you peel vegetables like carrots or potatoes, or trim vegetables like celery or onions, scrub them first, then freeze the peelings and trimmings until you have a gallon or so. Put it all in a pot of water and cook until everything is done, then strain the solids (then you can put them in the garbage, but the compost pile is better) and use the remaining broth for a soup base. It's excellent also for a hot drink when you have a cold or don't feel well otherwise. Add a little salt to bring out the flavor and serve hot.

It's no secret that you can eat broccoli stems, and you'll even find them in the grocery store in the form of "broccoslaw." It might be a secret, though, that you can add the small, tender leaves found on the stems as well as those on cauliflower. You can eat cauliflower stems as well. Peel stems from both vegetables to remove the tough outer covering. You can eat all of this raw or cooked. A really good soup can be made by cooking peeled, sliced stems and young leaves of both plants, then adding some diced ham and enough cheese added to make the water opaque. No garbage here - it's an elegant soup.

Do you like sunflower or pumpkin seeds? Then you'll enjoy squash seeds, too. You can eat the seeds of any winter squash. Toast them just like you would pumpkin seeds. Wash, soak in salt water overnight and toast in a slow oven until dry and very lightly browned. Or melt butter and mix into the raw, clean seed, sprinkle a little salt and toast them slowly in a skillet on the stove top.

Apple or fruit jelly can be made from the peelings and cores that you throw away! Just use this garbage the same way you would whole fruit. Cut away any bruised or bad areas and cook in water until tender. Strain, and use the juice in any jelly recipe to finish. (Be sure to wash the fruit well first if you intend to use the peels.)

And now for the super frugal tip: Wash empty egg shells thoroughly and drop into a half cup of vinegar. Let it set until the shells are completely dissolved, then use the vinegar however you normally would. Egg shells are mainly calcium, so you get a nutritional boost.

Garbage? No way. It's good nutrition and frugal good sense to eat what others throw away!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Frugal remedies for minor health problems

What happens when you get heartburn? Or a headache? Or a sore muscle? Do you reach for the medicine you bought? Or do you reach for a natural and cheap remedy that you have in your pantry or kitchen cupboard?

Frugal remedies for minor health problems can save you a ton of money over time and keep you healthier over all, too.

For instance, many headaches come from tension. What to do? Remove the tension. A self massage can do wonders at times. Zero in on back and neck muscles and massage any that are painful. Lie down on your back and concentrate on relaxing those areas. (Hint: Tense a set of muscles and hold it for a count of seven, then relax while counting to seven.)

Other headaches are caused by sinus pressure. Try breathing steam for a few minutes and then use camphor or  eucalyptus to continue opening the sinus cavities.

Vinegar does wonders for a headache!

And then there are tummy aches. Indigestion and heart burn are among the most common complaints and if retail sales are any indication, we buy more antacids than any other OTC medicine. Skip them and use these five top indigestion remedies.

Sore muscles can be relieved by a vinegar or epsom salts soak. Or use a hot pad on them. Sleep can relieve aches and pains, so take a nap.

See? They're all frugal and safe. And they work.