Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Leftover Christmas Candy

If you have Christmas candy left over, save it for the next holiday! There are a lot of things you can do with candy canes, for instance. Face them toward each other, tie a pretty ribbon around the hooks and make a heart from them. Give them to your valentine.Or crush them and serve them over ice cream any time.

Chocolate candy can be melted down and reformed to suit the occasion. Got chocolate Santas? Make chocolate something else with it. Melt it down, add some peanuts and let it harden again. Or use candy molds or anything to shape it into something else.

Hard candy will keep indefinitely if kept in a more or less cool place that's dry. Just save it until next Christmas and you will save yourself some money.

Friday, December 26, 2014

'Twas the day after Christmas and all through the house
Every creature was busy; yes, even that mouse.
The stockings were strung from the tree to the stair
As proof that Saint Nicholas had surely been there.

And Mom in the kitchen, amid pots and pans
Was muttering recipes for leftover ham.
The turkey was still in its foil covered tent
While pots full of turkey soup made hardly a dent.

Turkey sandwiches and soups and casserole, pies,
Turkey salad and quiches and pudding - oh, my!

Mom was getting just a bit carried away
So Dad stole her cookbook and she says to this day
That the day after Christmas was the best day of all
Because we went to eat out and she didn't cook at all!

Here's hoping the day after Christmas is a good one for you. If you like turkey pudding, let me know and I'll give you mine. And remember that beans on New Year's Day means a prosperous New Year, so don't forget that cooking at home is the most frugal and prosperous way. Unless, of course, you get carried away.

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Plan Ahead for After Christmas Dinner

  • Plan leftovers ahead of time and have containers ready for the freezer.
  • Save all that delicious ham gravy or pan drippings to flavor bean or other dishes later on. (Freeze enough in different batches for a meal.)
  • Save the turkey gravy to use in rice or vegetable dishes.
  • Leftover black olives can be frozen. It never dawned on me to do this, until I realized frozen pizzas sometimes have black olives on them.
  • Put away the wrapped candy canes and hard candy as soon as everyone gets tired of them. They will keep indefinitely (Until next year, anyway!)
  • Ditto the nuts, shelled or not. They have a long life in the freezer.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Christmas Uses for Cardboard Boxes

If you shop online at all, you probably have quite a stash of cardboard boxes. Besides sending gifts to loved ones far away, they can be used to make some frugal and cool things.

Try your hand at a shadow box. You can put in an old fashioned scene, a "Nativity Scene," a mountain covered with snow or let your imagination roam. Use pictures from old Christmas cards, advertisements, catalogs or whatever strikes you as interesting.

You can use small boxes in lieu of Christmas stockings or baskets, filling them for specific individuals, or making more generic, frugal last minute gifts out of them. Cover them inside and out with wrapping paper or foil.

Fill a few with candy, cookies, notepads, etc., wrap and have them ready for those "Oh, no, I need another gift!" times. If you don't use them all, give them away to the postman, a retirement home or charity.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Last Year's Christmas Cards

Did you save them? Do you have a use for them?

How about using them for frugal but creative postcard greetings this year by cutting off the front and sizing it properly?
Or cut appropriate pieces from the fronts (and insides!) to use for gift tags.
Cut pictures from them to decorate your Christmas tree.
Or glue small cut outs from them around the bottom of a pillar candle.
Or make a frugal holiday collage from them.
Or glue them onto paper and cover with white glue mixed with water (half and half), and use them for throwaway Christmas table mats.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014


Gleaning is a term that may not bring up fond memories for you, since not many people have gleaned fields.

It was common until more recently, when "poor folks" began to be looked down on, especially those who tried their best to do what they could what they had. Okay, strike that as a political comment.

The truth is that gleaning is still alive in organizations like Second Harvest, where people go out and glean the harvested fields then donate what they have picked up.

There is so much waste in the fields! I don't know the statistics, but from what I can see, I would say that at least 20% and maybe more, of all produce grown is left in the fields. Picking it up and putting it to good use only makes sense, even if you have the money to buy it otherwise. Wastefulness is not a sign of good sense, no matter what the circumstance.

Besides what is left in the fields, produce like onions, carrots and sugar beets roll off the trucks as they're being taken to the sorting facility. Then at that facility, some are tossed aside because they're not the right size or, in the case of carrots, they're misshapen.

Modern machinery requires certain sizes and shapes to fit and modern consumers require more or less perfectly shaped and colored produce. Between the two, there is probably another 20% or more good produce thrown out. 

If you can get your hands on it, this produce is perfectly good and fresher than you will find in the grocery store.

The onions you see were picked up by me last weekend as we came back from a trip to the Pumpkin Patch. They were split from falling off a truck, but otherwise wonderful, just as if I'd pulled them from my own garden.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The TIme of Year for Digging Dandelions

It's time to dig dandelion roots again! I wrote about it here: Dandelion Coffee fourteen years ago! Since then, it's become
The Annual Dandelion Coffee Dig. 

With the price of dandelion root coffee or tea, whatever you want to call it, I figure I've saved quite a bit. It's around $5 for 20 teabags. I can dig, clean and roast enough to make probably 200 teabags in one afternoon.

If my math is right, that's about $50 worth of dandelion tea. Maybe not killer wages but not too bad, either, and I don't have to worry about what else is in the dandelion root.

I don't poison or use artificial fertilizer on my backyard, so the dandelion roots there are safe.  We had a mild summer with quite a bit of rain, so I'm looking forward to a big harvest this year.

If you've never tried it, give it a chance. The two links above explain the process.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Things to do before cold weather gets here

1. Check insulation in your home and caulk around windows and wherever it's needed.

2. Get your car serviced to make sure the antifreeze and tires are up to par, especially. Get a tune up if needed.

3. Check the coat closet to make sure everyone has enough cold weather gear. Jackets, coats, snow shoes, mittens and hats need to be in good condition.

4. Have your furnace checked or your chimney cleaned or whatever you use to heat your home, serviced and ready to go. This includes filters and thermostats.

5. Bring in plants that need to winter over in the house. Mulch over other plants that need it and clean up the garden.

Enjoy the weather right now! It will soon enough be cold!

Monday, September 8, 2014

My Personal Favorite Frugal Resources

True frugality ranges all the way from quick actions that save a few pennies to more complex activities that save dollars and to even more complex concepts that help us use/keep/invest/grow those pennies and dollars saved.

The first one is Amy Dacycyzn's "Tightwad Gazette." That series is the backbone of saving pennies every day and in many different ways. They add up; she proved that. If you don't know, read her story.

Another good classic is "Miserly Moms" by Jonni McCoy. She tells her story and shares what she discovered about saving as much as she was making in a career.

Beyond that, The Simple Dollar is a blog about money, frugality and common sense that has gone beyond just being a blog. Trent has taken it to a whole new level.

Dave Ramsey's book "The Total Money Makeover" has changed many people's financial lives completely. It's definitely worth reading for anyone.

If you're looking for inspiration, for specific tips or for a good overall look at the frugal lifestyle, these four resources will help!

Monday, September 1, 2014

The Loss of Natural Resources

I'm not talking about clean water, clean air or original stands of forest. I'm talking about resources that frugal and crafty folks rely on to save money, to make things for the home and for gifts and to keep the kids occupied.

I can see the handwriting on the wall. Plastic grocery bags have been under attack for some time now, and every so often, we hear a warning that "next year" all of those freebie garbage bags, wet clothing bags and barf bags will be gone.

Another resource that's under attack is those cardboard tubes they put in toilet tissue. What will we use to corral electric cords or start seeds in?

We better start hoarding junk mail and cardboard boxes. I'm serious. Kind of, anyway. ;)

Thursday, August 28, 2014

It's Zucchini Season!

You know what I mean. You planted two zucchinis, just in case one of them didn't make it. Of course, they both did and now you can't give them away fast enough. Or your neighbor did that and keeps leaving sacks of them on your doorstep when you're not home.

It's a shame to waste good food, of course, but there are only so many ways to use zucchini! Maybe you haven't heard about all the ways, though. Here are some ideas that could help:

Make pickles from them, just like you would with cucumbers. Use the same spices and the same method, but don't try to ferment them like old fashioned pickles. Use the very young ones, around 4 to 5 inches long. You can make refrigerator pickles or can them, just like cucumber pickles.

Zucchini chips are a great snack any time. Slice them thinly, sprinkle a little salt on them and dehydrate until they're crispy. That's all you have to do, but be careful to not overdo the salt! (Make a few without salt and save them to use in soup and stew when the weather gets cold.)

Make a pie that tastes and looks like apple pie, but is made with zucchini. Even the larger ones work find if you take out the more mature seeds. Peel and cut them in half, then slice into 1/4 inch slices and just follow your favorite apple pie recipe. You can freeze these before they're cooked, so make a few for winter eating
Chunk zucchini and add chopped onions, cooked, crumbled sausage, diced or grated cheese and toss. Make up a bowl of cornbread batter and pour it over this. Bake at 400 for about a half hour.

Got some big ones? Split them in half and remove the seeds, then stuff with a cooked meatball mixture or chicken and rice mix. You can also use rice, mushrooms, onions and tomato sauce for a meatless dish. Bake at 350 until the squash is tender. Let your imagination roam with this one.

Do you have any zucchini recipes to share?? Please do in the comment section.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

How Can I Make a Lot of Money Quickly?

Here's a quote from an email I received: "We are in debt bad. Not like a poor person or anything like that but no kind of debt is good either. Please email me some good ideas of making big bucks in a short period of time for a long period of time. I will forever be thankful of your services if you would help us find something that will work." 

First of all, I'm not a proponent of making "big bucks" quickly. The internet and the mail are both full of scams that say they will do just that. They are only scams though, and will not bring you fast money (although you may lose money quickly to them), as good as they sound.

Then there are other ways of making a lot of money quickly, but they're not legal... so on to the real solution:

It's never how much money you make or how fast you make it, but it's how you use the money you make that makes the difference. If your family is in debt, no amount of money will help unless the basic attitude that got you in debt is changed. If that doesn't change, any greater amount of money will simply be eaten up with things and more things and can even put you in deeper debt.

The answer to your quandary is not making a lot of money quickly as much as it is controlling the money you already have. It's entirely possible to get out of "normal" debt and have money in savings on ANY income. Money problems are never resolved by how much we have, but how we handle what we have.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Are You Really Frugal?

Do you save water from the shower or in a pan in the kitchen sink to water houseplants, the garden, clean the floor, etc.?
Do you water down shampoo and liquid hand soap? (Some of it actually works better that way.)
Do you make your own plastic scrubbies from vegetable net bags?
Do you borrow books and DVDs rather than buy them? Shop at thrift stores and on sales racks exclusively?  Refinish furniture rather than buy something new (or second hand)?
What about transportation? Do you drive a car until it really needs to be replaced (rather than just when you get "tired" of it).

Just checking.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Rain, rain, go away...

That's for those of you who are threatened with floods or just sick and tired of all the rain. Not so here. We've had a more or less steady rain for two days now and I'm loving it. The "poor man's fertilizer" in liquid form suits me just fine.

It makes good sleeping weather and I won't have to water the lawn or garden for days and days. We've needed a good soaking rain for a long time, so this is the answer to prayer. Things will turn green overnight as soon as the sun comes out, which it's supposed to do tomorrow.

This is Colorado at its best; the way it was when we moved to the area nearly 30 years ago. Green, not too hot, not too cold. Perfect farming and gardening climate with soil that could be amended with not too much trouble.

The last few years - maybe a decade - has been hard to garden and I know I'm not the only one rejoicing in this return to normal, even if it's temporary. Is there "normal" any more? I doubt it.

But for now, my frugal soul is happy. Bring on the fresh vegetables!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Who Are the Frugal People?

Note: This was originally published May 17, 1999, when I was the Frugal Living Guide for About.com Other sites have since picked it up and published it, but I own the rights to it. I am not complaining; on the contrary, it's a compliment when people think what I have written is worth repeating - as long as they attribute the work to me.

Frugal people are familiar with things like self-sufficiency, homeschooling, midwifery, simple living, alternative energy, dumpster diving and wild food foraging. We are also familiar with budgets, bank rates, and personal finance.

We live in every circumstance and situation imaginable, from past the end-of-the-road rural cabins, to highrise apartments. Some of us are passionate about the natural world around us, others feel as if allowing our hair to grow an extra inch is going natural. For some, "back to basics" means cooking a meal instead of eating out, for others, it means sawing the winter's wood with a crosscut saw.

Just as we are a diverse, broad ray in the spectrum of lifestyles, we are also perceived in many opposing ways.

"Frugality" can conjure up visions of continual black bean soup and shoes with cardboard insoles. "Mean" and "stingy" are the synonyms that come quickly to mind. Doing without, deprivation, and poor, are other words used to describe a state of being that's a threat rather than a blessing; a thing to be avoided rather than sought after.

But frugality (synonyms: economical, money-wise, canny) can also mean creatively making the available money do as many things as possible, down to creating and maintaining a comfortable savings account and living debt-free.

What and who are we, really? Most of us will find ourselves on neither end of this seesaw -- and seesaw it is. Nothing ever stays balanced exactly, so there is always a little adjustment to be made here, a little tuck to be taken there. Probably the only thing that can be said of frugal people is that they are determined to get the most and the best from the resources they have.

Most of us simply continue trying to be more and more frugal in various ways, but there are those who have the courage to completely sell out. Voluntary simplicity, they call it. A simpler, more frugal life isn't limited to those who have already made it, and changed their minds, either.

In the final test, living frugally is all about choices... yours and mine. When we begin to make conscious choices about how, when, and if we use your resources, we are immediately more in control. And when we're in control, the responsibility is ours -- for a more frugal tomorrow, personally and globally.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Old Tshirts

Besides using old tshirt and tshirt material for "yarn" to make rugs, bags and the like, the material can be used in a lot of different ways!

  • Cut the front and back out, then fold them in fourths and sew them together at the edges. Sew an "X" or other design all the way across it to hold the layers together: Hot pad made!
  • Cut two or three inch squares and use them for disposable makeup or nail polish removal.
  • Use them for padding in potholders.
  • Snip them in small pieces and use as stuffing in toys, throw pillows or door draft stoppers.
  • Cut the neckline bigger (no need to hem as it will curl), sew the bottom together and put it on a hanger on the wall to hold rags, plastic bags, sewing projects, etc.
  • The sleeves and any leftover pieces make great dust cloths.                                                                                      
  • Of course, they make good rags for almost any use. They're absorbent, lint free for the most part and need no hemming!

Other ideas? I'm sure we all have a few old tshirts around!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Hot Days Ahead! Cool and Frugal Drinks to the Rescue

Cold drinks are so welcome during the heat of summer! It can be expensive to try to keep up with the demand, but don't whip out the credit card just yet. There are some things you can do to quench thirst without that.

Plain old fashioned powdered fruit ade drinks are still inexpensive. Add your own sugar to save money. You can sometimes find packets of lemonade or other flavors on sale; stock up if you can because it also makes excellent snowcone types of treats. To do that, mix it with half the water it calls for and all the sugar. Crush ice or, if you have a powerful blender, make snowcone consistency, then pour the ade over the ice.

Real lemonade is not expensive, if you start with fresh lemons. Heat them, then roll them against the counter while they are still hot and you will get the maximum amount of juice. Pick out the seeds if there are any, and add water and sweetener to taste. A little lemon juice will go a long way, so don't overdo it. A couple of lemons will make several glasses of lemonade.

Tea is always a good choice, but if you don't want the caffeine, buy decaffeinated tea. Loose leaf tea makes the best iced tea, but it's hard to find so make it with teabags made for hot tea. You can buy a box of 48 teabags for around $3.00 and that's pretty frugal.

It will take one teabag per glass. Heat a cup or two of water to boiling and pour over the teabags in a cup or other heat safe container, let it steep for at least five minutes, then remove the teabags and add water to equal as many cups as there were teabags. Add sweetener if you want it and pour over ice.

If you still want sodas, think about getting a Sodastream. No, it's not frugal, by the time you buy their syrups, but there are ways around that. Those inexpensive packets of fruit ade come in a great variety of flavors. If you make a syrup and add the flavors to it, you can use that to make a carbonated beverage with a SodaStream. After the initial cost, you can get some pretty cheap sodas.

Even if you buy the syrups to make special flavors like root beer and cola, it can be cheaper. Use it to make root beer floats or "coke floats." Remember those? They cost a pretty penny now, but you can have those treats a lot cheaper.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

How to Save on Hair Care Products

Just taking care of our hair can get pretty pricey, but there are ways around that and your hair won't suffer at all.

First, most of us shampoo the life right out of our hair. An every day shampoo strips natural oils and makes the hair shaft rough and hard to manage. A simple first step is to quit shampooing every day. Go to every other day and eventually every third day. Your scalp will adjust to the longer time eventually and you can move on to every third day. Hair does not get dirty in one or two days, unless we go out and play in a dust storm or rub mud into it.

Secondly, when you shampoo, add water to the product. Shampoo is made thick so that it takes a lot to distribute over your scalp and hair. When you thin it down, it's easier to distribute and it cleans just as well. If you don't believe me, put one teaspoon of shampoo in a jar or bowl and add one teaspoon of water. Mix them thoroughly, then put it on your wet hair and see if it doesn't go farther than two teaspoons of thick shampoo.

Thirdly, do not repeat. You don't have to shampoo and repeat, even if your shampoo is watered down and you're on your third day. One good lather and a super good rinse is all it takes after your hair and scalp have adjusted.

If you need a clarifying shampoo, don't buy it. Just use vinegar as your hair rinse and you will remove shampoo and conditioner buildup, which is what clarifying shampoo does.

As a matter of fact, if you want shiny, soft hair, a vinegar rinse will do it every time. Use a quarter cup of apple cider vinegar to 3/4 cup of warm water and pour it over your hair. You can rinse it off if you like, but you don't have to. The smell disappears in a few minutes.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Brand Name Mania

image courtesy morguefile.com
It doesn't do much good to keep the heat turned down, walk to work and scrounge coupons for groceries if we blow what we save on name brands. I hear you... some brands are worth it. I know that and there are a few that I will probably always use because they are quality products.

There are others that I have changed my mind about over time. I no longer buy brand name potato chips (and I do eat them sometimes and I don't always make them!). I don't buy brand name toilet tissue, having done the math. There's a store brand that works well for me and actually costs less per week. I have returned to a cheap brand of shampoo that I used to use long ago and my hair seems the same as when I used the more expensive kind.

Those are just a few things that I changed as I continue to pare down my spending.

Brand names don't necessarily equal quality, nor do they always mean value. Even if they seem to deliver a bit more, that little bit isn't always worth the extra money. Why should I pay for a gracefully shaped shampoo bottle with silver or gold lettering when a plain, square necked bottle holds shampoo just as well? The content is what I'm interested in, not the presentation, yet the price of a brand name shampoo includes the design and production of a fancy container. I just don't want to subsidize someone else's idea of beauty. If the plain jane bottle of generic shampoo bothers me that much, I can buy a pretty container and put the generic shampoo in it.

The fact is that when you buy a brand name product, you're not just buying the product. You're paying for the container design, the marketing and probably the CEO's yacht.

Something to think about. 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Five More Things You Never Need to Buy

Quart sized freezer bags. You probably throw them away every week if you buy frozen vegetables. Those bags are freezer bags. They wouldn't sell them in those bags if they weren't capable of keeping the vegetables fresh and frost free. Cut them carefully across the top when you open them and use a twist'em tie or rubber band to close them securely when you fill them.

Refrigerator containers. Cottage cheese, sour cream, yogurt and more come in resealable plastic containers that can be used over and over again. Get some cheap masking tape to label the contents. A bonus is that they're ultimately stackable and hold more than they look.

Canisters. Storage jars are free. Really. Check your local restaurants to see if they will save you a few gallon jars. They buy them with everthing from pickles to boiled eggs in them. Most come with sealing lids so your flour and sugar will be safe. You can also use them for beans, pasta and other food products.

Compost. Make your own, of course. That's a no-brainer, but sometimes it's hard to accomplish, especially if you have limited space or it isn't conveniently located. Invest in a bowl with a lid to hold your compostable kitchen scraps and simply dig a hole in an out of the way place in your yard and dump the goods in there. Cover them with dirt and that's it. It will take longer to make if you don't turn it now and then and if it's dry, but it will eventually make good compost. Hurry it by turning and keeping it moist.

House slippers. If you have a warm sweater or one that is felted accidentally or otherwise, simply make a pattern by standing on a newspaper and drawing around your foot. Cut two pieces to match this pattern, then measure along the side from toe all the way around and back to the toe and cut a strip about two to three inches wide this long. Sew the strip. starting at the toe, to the sole so it's the side, then gather the edges of this strip with a piece of sturdy yarn in a needle, weaving back and forth. Draw the yarn up so that the shoe fits your foot and tie a knot, then a bow. Done.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Five Things You Never Need to Buy

Paper towels. Use rags cut from old clothing, linens or towels. Cut and hem them and they will last a very long time, wash after wash. You will no doubt wind up with clothing or other material that isn't absorbent or won't wash well. Cut those up and save them for nasty jobs so you can throw them away like you would paper towels.

Paper napkins. A very simple solution is to cut some squares of cotton or other absorbent material and hem it. Voila! Instant cloth napkins. Some people buy washcloths in special colors to use as napkins, but making your own is cheaper; your choice. Wash them with the other kitchen items like dishcloths and teatowels. Also, it doesn't hurt to use the same one a couple or three times if everyone has their own color or design (unless it's a messy meal!)

Trash bags. For the smaller trash cans, use plastic grocery bags. They're a sturdy or sturdier than bags you buy and you have them already! They even have handles. For larger trash cans, save bags that dog food, bird seed, mulch, compost or other garden amendments come in. Anything that comes in a large enough bag works. I have used the large plastic bags from Goodwill or other thrift stores (or even retail stores!).

Pots for starting seeds. Use any small container that you can poke a hole in for drainage. Some people use egg cartons, putting soil and a seed into each egg compartments. This is enough to get started, but plants will need to be transplanted soon because there is little room for roots to grow. Think: Soft drink bottles, cut down, yogurt containers, cottage cheese and sour cream containers or any plastic container that you can cut down to size.

Bulletin boards. Need a place to pin up pictures, notes or lists? Get a piece of cardboard from a cardboard box that is the right size for your space and cover it with piece of solid color cloth. Better if the cloth comes from an old sheet or tablecloth that you were going to use for rags! Wrap the cloth around the cardboard and tape it down with duct tape. You can either poke holes in it to hang from or attach a string from each corner to hang it. A few pins or thumbtacks and you're in business.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Spring Bouquets: Get Them Cheap, Keep Them Longer

'Tis the season to bring those spring flowers inside to enjoy! If you don't have any of your own growing, you might be able to beg a few from someone who does, or finding some in a dumpster, but barring those things, go to the flower shop at your grocery store. Flowers and plants are much cheaper there than anywhere else.

Choose carefully so your bouquet will last as long as possible. Look at the flowers closely and get the freshest you can find and get the longest stems there are. Getting longer stems makes it possible make fresh cuts to allow the stems to take up more water and of course, the freshest blossoms will stay fresh longer.

When you get them home, immediately put them in water to wait until you have found your vase and whatever else you need. Use a solution of 2 tablespoons of sugar, 2 tablespoons of vinegar and a quart of tepid water. Make sure the sugar is dissolved, then trim the flowers and arrange in your vase.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Start Indoor Seedlings Cheaper

My south windows (well, all windows in this house) have very narrow ledges, so it's difficult to use them for anything. Earlier this year, I decided to sprout some sunflowers and found that I could use very small square containers set on a styrofoam meat tray, balanced on the narrow ledge. The pots get sunlight all day long and the sprouts grew well.

Silly me. I finally decided to use that method to start some seedlings for the garden. i am experimenting now and if it works, I will save a little on the electricity it takes to run a second grow light.

Yesterday, I planted 8 radishes, a pinch of marigold seed and a few onion seeds that might be too old to sprout. I am saving the good seed for a little later.