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.