Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Cheap Crafts

 It won't be long (!) and summer will be winding down, giving way to falling leaves, pumpkins and cooler nights. Sights and sounds of changing seasons are inspiration for quieter and slower times. If you craft at all, now is the time to start looking for cheap or free crafting supplies and ideas. A few to get you started: 

Yarn is sometimes sold at thrift stores for a good price, although you'd be lucky to get enough of any one color or type to do more than a small project. Look at garage sales before they're over for the year. Then think about alternatives to yarn. Plarn (strips of plastic bags), "yarn" made from t-shirts cut in spirals and unusual thing like rope, twine and light weight wire make very interesting items. 

Cheapest crafting is done by using or reusing thing we already have. Historically, common folk made quilts from worn out clothing. You didn't buy material for it.  The middle layer was sometimes an old blanket or pieces of cloth sewn together. Backing was often patchwork just like the front. You used what you had.

Patchwork was also used to make curtains, tablecloths and even clothing. 

Another cheap craft made on the same order was rugs. Knitted, crocheted, latch hooked, woven or braided, rugs were made from rags - odds and ends of leftover clothing or household linens too small to use for anything else. Sewn together to make a continuous length, then worked into rugs, it's a truly frugal craft. 

Today you might supplement your own saved material for these by finding cheap items at garage sales or thrift stores. 

Then there is plastic canvas needlepoint. Plastic canvas is very inexpensive and you can use whatever yarn will suit your project. It takes small bits of yarn for the most part and you can make some neat things with it. 

Crafts that some people spend money on can be a lot cheaper if you can "think outside the box." Years ago, my husband made me a paper quilling tool from an old toothbrush handle. All you need is something to hold the paper. Take a look at the tools and you will see. As for the quilling paper? Magazine and catalog pages are much more interesting. If you want solid colors or something different, pay attention to your junk mail. 

There are more, but those are the ones I gravitate to. Cheap, frugal, whatever... I don't spend much money if any at all for them and I spend many happy hours creating some pretty cool things.

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Again... be prepared

 I think we'd better  hang on to our hats... shortages in food is coming fast. 

We are in serious drought conditions in the western USA. Ground water is drying up. The Great Salt Lake is at its lowest in recorded  history. Fires are burning for a second summer across the entire west. Reservoirs are shrinking; ranches are having to sell cattle because they don't have enough grazing or hay to feed them and can't buy it because no one else has it either. 

Some places are facing the other disaster. Floods, rain and more rain has destroyed crops. All crops are affected when there is too much water. Fields flood and roots die, too much rain brings disease and pests to feed on damaged and weak plants. 

Why is no one paying attention? Because your grocery store is stocked with soft drinks and frozen pizza, you see no problem? There are still eggs, right? And butter. And bread... and... for how long? 

Prices are going up and it's not all a matter of broken supply chains. The COVID crisis has passed and it's high time our system has recovered. It would have, except for other problems. Major producers have warned us that they are having to increase prices on certain goods.

People (workers) are paid to stay home instead of looking for work. They're paid more to stay at home than to work in some instances. I understand the human reason behind not working in that case, but it's destroying out economy. 

Weather, politics, economics... they're working against us. Be aware. There will be shortages soon, and possibly much more serious ones than we expect.

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Chickens are Shrinking

True confession: I sometimes buy rotisserie chicken from the grocery deli. They have been on sale, off and on, for $5, so that's not too bad. I have noticed that they are smaller than they used to be, but I thought that it was because they were trying to fill the gap caused by COVID by butchering them younger. 

The one I got last time might have been 6 weeks old, or it might have been younger. I still got several meals from it because I am single, frugal and don't eat a lot of meat due to health restrictions. But still.... it was small.

I nearly always boil the carcass and pick off all the meat to get my money's worth so when I started to get the pan to boil this one, I realized it would fit into my 2 quart pan. With room to spare. 

Ok, let's look at the frugal silver lining to this cloud. It took less water and less time (energy paid for) to boil it. That's about it.

I know that chicken, rotisserie or not, is not the only thing that's been shrinking. What was a 16 ounce package is now 14 or even 12. What was a twelve count is now a 10 count. Did you ever pay attention to how much detergent is (or rather, isn't) in those pods? 

We went through this a few years back, when a pound of coffee became 14 ounces and 5 pounds of sugar became 4 pounds. Chocolate bars shrank, gas prices soared.... it's sounding familiar, isn't it? 

I don't know if it's the same old merry go round or if this is something new, but the way forward is the same. Read the labels, do the math, pay closer attention now more than ever and get your money's worth. Well, as much as you can

That rotisserie chicken is going to go farther than ever as I use it in soup, salads, sandwiches and casseroles into the future. It has to because either the days of $5 chicken or the days of rotisserie chickens old enough to not be called chicks have to be coming to an end. 

Thursday, July 8, 2021

Accidentally Off Grid: Light Without Electricity

Self suffiency in this age seems like an outdated idea. Our next meal is often in our refrigerator, seldom farther away than the next restaurant or grocery store. "Smart" hubs turn the heat and/or AC off and on at appropriate times, if not, we do it ourselves.We flip a switch and lights come on.

We get so used to things being easy that it can be a shock when they aren't.

A little self sufficiency might not change those things but it can make life more liveable when things don't work right, and it can be a money saver. Besides that, it can make you feel good. Having back up plans for when the grid fails us, even for a few hours, can make things a lot easier.

A lot of the things our grandparents used are logical choices for today, but there are some new (or renewed) methods that we could use, too.

For instance, kerosene lamps or lanterns and candles can give you hours of light when the electricity goes off. So can a solar powered flashlight or stand alone light. There are light bulbs now that work on electricity but store it in batteries so when the power goes out, they continue to work for some time. There are flashlights that you crank to charge the battery.

It's a good idea to invest in more than one of these technologies. None of them are expensive. I have found kerosene lamps in thrift stores for almost nothing. Candles are often cheap, but be careful of what kind you buy. Some will hardly burn because of cheap wax.

To be very frugal, use kerosene instead of lamp oil. It's quite a bit cheaper and it stores just as well. It does smell like kerosene, but it's not all that unpleasant. Be sure of your candles. Beeswax or soy are best for air quality as well as light, but the wick has a lot to do with it, too. If you're not sure, try out a few before stocking up.

Solar or wind up flash lights are not expensive and handy to have anyway, but they may not be as bright as battery operated ones, so be prepared for that. If you use them, you don't have to buy batteries at all. Maybe a good compromise would be to have rechargeable batteries and a solar charger. You will need to keep the batteries well charged all the time, just in case. 

The new kid on the block, the light bulbs that work just like light bulbs during "normal" times, charge a battery while it's working, so when the electricity goes off, the light bulb will switch over to the battery and continue to shine. There is a time limit on the battery, so check that before deciding to rely on them.

Taking it a step further, you could make it a practice to rely on lighting without electricity. It won't take many evenings to discover the best practices for light. Your own home and preferences will make a difference.  

It's wise to try things out before it's necessary. That way, you will know what to do and what to expect and that makes everything easier.