Economizing Measures

18 Sep 2016

I have just moved all these posts over from a separate blog, please bear with me while I edit them to fit the words to the page, for some reason the only way I can make it work right is to re-type every thing. So bear with me please.

Cutting the Cost of Entertainment

One of the first and easiest ways to cut costs and save money each month 
is on entertainment. It falls into the 'want' category instead of the need 
category. My entertainment happens to be my satellite TV service, and 
quite honestly, I don't think I get $60 of entertain-ment out of it each month. 
Not saying I don't enjoy it, but it is usually something to watch/listen to while 
working on crafts in the evenings. As such it is definitely not a need.

So I called up DirecTV and had them turn it off, they will let you put your 
service on suspension for up to 6 months. You're still a customer, not breaking 
any contracts and you will have no bill for up to 6 months. This can be a 
great advantage to you to get past a hard time. Now I don't have one of those 
converter boxes for digital TV, but I haven't watched 'regular' TV stations in 
years so I am not missing anything.

What am I doing for entertainment you ask? Easy, I have boxes full of video 
tapes and DVDsI bought second hand through the years and some I taped off 
TV. Another perk is that I don't have to listen to commercials trying to sell me 
something I don't want or need or that just embarrasses me. You can pick up 
used movies at rental stores, thrift and resale shops, yard sales, freecycle
borrow from the library or even just borrow or trade with friends. Some folks
use Netflix which is a great deal and they also have those $1 movie rental 
boxes everywhere now. So either free or cheap works well here.

A note on charity or resale shops, you can usually get the better deals there 
versus the video stores used section and if you buy a stack, ask for a better 
price, you will usually get it. Don't forget the library either, it is free to check 
out books and movies and they may have more recent ones you want.

If the whole social part of going to the movie theater with friends is what you 
crave, how about having a movie night in at each other's homes and everyone 
bring a snack to share? You get the added benefit of pausing the movie when 
needed and you can be as loud as you want and no one cares.

(2016 update----I have found that YouTube is a great alternative to TV, 
Netflix, etc.  You can find your favorite old movies or TV shows, all kinds of 
music and entertainment as well as tons of 'how to' videos on every subject 
imaginable.  Check your local facebook selling groups for free or cheap items.)

The other part of entertainment is dining out. One way to cut costs when you do 
eat out is to go at lunch time if you can. You will get the same dinner at a lower 
cost. We have a local Mexican restaurant that serves great fajitas. $9.99 at 
dinner but just $7.25 at lunch. And it's the same amount of food! Also a single 
order feeds 2 people just fine or if you are solo, you get 2 meals by taking your leftovers 
home. Consider where you like to eat out and see if there is a compromise there 
that will work for you. Of course, not eating out or at least cutting way back will
save you money since eating at home is much cheaper if you are really cooking and 
not eating convenience foods.

Cheaper Means of Entertainment - Reading

Reading is a favorite pastime and if you have actually looked at the price of a 
paperback novel in the grocery or book store you have probably gasped as I have.  
I have not bought a book at regular price in many years, mainly because there are 
so many cheaper ways to purchase them.

First of all, if you are just going to read a book once, then the library is your best 

place to go. It's also a great place to check out a book you may want to purchase, 
such a reference book. And if they don't have what you want on the shelf, they will 
have it sent over from another branch.

Check out the used bookstores in your area, many will also buy books you may no 

longer want.  Less expensive sources are the thrift shops like Goodwill and any 
number of charity resale shops.

Yard sales are great especially at the end of the day when you may get a box full of 

books for a dollar or two, or even free.  You can always sell what you don't want or 
donate them.  

Reading books online is also a free source from Google and other places.  Some 
universities have ancient and extremely rare works available online and/or for download.

One last source for free reading material is to borrow from friends, but ALWAYS 

remember to return the book in the condition you received it and do it promptly.  You 
may keep a friendship this way.

Recycling - It CAN Make A Difference

One step at a time we can make a difference.  Recycling is one of the easiest
ways to do that so take a little time and think about how you can do it too. 
PAPER
Paper is one of the easiest items to recycle as almost every school and 
many businesses have specific dumpsters for paper and cardboard.  Many 
areas have special containers that get put out with the regular trash pickup.  
And if you have a garden you can shred or tear up your paper items to put 
in the compost pile.
Think about how much paper you throw away, receipts, cereal boxes, 
newspaper, note paper, junk mail, boxes, phone books and packaging of all 
kinds.
GLASS
Glass jars that food or drink comes in can be recycled, but usually needs to 
be separated by color.  But can you use that jar for something yourself and 
reduce the amount of containers you need to buy?   You can store buttons, 
beads, screws, herbs, pasta, beans and more in them.
PLASTIC
This one is a little harder unless your trash company or a recycler in your 
area will take the plastic.  Many places will all numbers while others will 
only take a couple of kinds.  However most plastics we use are numbers 
1 & 2 like soda bottles and food containers and they are the most easily 
recycled. Look on the bottom of the container for the number in the 
triangle. Lots of plastic items can be re-purposed.  Milk jugs can have the 
bottom cut off to make a cloche for the garden, other bottles can be made 
into scoops for animal food, gardening, etc.  Plastic grocery bags can be 
cut and braided to make a fairly strong rope or knitted or crocheted into 
things. Of course reducing the amount of plastic you have is always a 
good idea and the easiest is to carry re-usable totes when shopping.
ALUMINUM
With aluminum you can actually make some money while recycling.  If
your state does not give refunds on cans then take them to a metal 
recycler. I rinse out and crush the cans to save space and when I have
several bags I take them to my local recycler who pays me by weight.  
You could even start collecting the ones already crushed in the parking 
lot or if you are up for it, search out the trash cans at convenience 
stores and such. 
STEEL
Steel cans are what we call tin cans that food comes in. I rinse them, the 
label can go in the paper recycling bag although the metal recycler 
doesn't have to have it removed, and again I save them till I have a couple 
of bags full. I take them along with the aluminum cans to the recycler and 
make some extra money.
OTHER METAL
Most metal recyclers will take any metal you no longer need or want 
including brass and copper. Copper is being monitored greatly as there 
are some out there who will steal it to get the money at the recycler. Be 
warned they take this seriously. The only thing my recycler won't take 
is used ammo casings, probably because of the danger of gunpowder 
residue being left in it. Metal recycling may not make you rich, but it 
might buy you a nice lunch or some gas for the car.
ELECTRONIC EQUIPMENT
Things like computers, peripherals, TVs, radios, cell phones, ipods
gaming equipment, basically any electronic item that you may have. 
Some will pay you for the items as they can make money off the 
materials when separated. The main reason to recycle these items is 
the lead and mercury contamination that can occur when dumped in 
a landfill. Do we really want that in our water source?
BATTERIES
This may be a little harder to recycle. If you are talking about car, boat, 
ATV or golf cart batteries, I would suggest offering them on freecycle 
or craigslist as some folks use them to store wind or solar energy and 
they work fine even if they will no longer power your favorite vehicle.

This is by no means a complete list, but the most common items we 
can keep out of the landfill. And you can always list items on freecycle 
as someone may need spare parts from your old PC, or need those 
baby food jars to store nails in.

One last thought on this subject is to think about what you are going 
to do with the packaging once you use the product - before you make 
your purchase. Sometimes there are alternative brands that offer a 
better option on reusing or recycling the leftovers. Check online or 
your phone book to see what recycling options are in your area.

Saving Money on Groceries

I went grocery shopping this morning (June 2009) and spent $35 for what 
we needed for the next week - for 2 people. I could have easily spent more 
and just as easily could have spent less as I picked up a couple of things 
to stock in the pantry like tuna. Today I'd like to share some of my money 
saving strategies for stocking your pantry.

I think we all know about coupons, whether they are store or 
manufacturer coupons. Some folks are able to save hundreds using 
coupons and more power to them. I just don't have the kind of time it takes 
to put together everything to save like that. I do use store coupons if they 
are for things I will use. Today I got a free gallon of milk for buying at least 
$15 in groceries. I rarely use manufacturer coupons and here's why. I can 
get a better price buying the store brand which is quite often made by the 
same company than by using a coupon for the name brand. Also, most of 
the coupons in my mail are for packaged foods, snack foods and junk 
foods, which I keep to a minimum. They are not just unhealthy, they are 
much more expensive than cooking it from scratch. Convenience foods they 
may be but they will eat into your budget, no pun intended. You will need 
to decide what is right for you, but I challenge you to cook real food versus 
using convenience food and see if you don't feel better and save money too. 
Also check the store flyers you get in the mail to see what's on sale for the 
week.

I also shop at more than one store, not necessarily on the same day. Get to 
know your local stores and keep a list handy of who has the best prices on 
what. For instance, I know I can get the best price on canned vegetables at 
Kroger if I buy their store brand.
Juices, pet food, cleaning supplies, foil and sometimes coffee are cheaper at 
one of the several dollar stores. A grocery store 7 miles away has the best 
meat with the best prices as well as a great produce section with excellent 
prices. Walmart, of course, will win out on other items. Depending on 
where my errands take me decides which store I am shopping in that day. I 
have also found out on which days they mark down produce, meats and 
bakery items. I am not a baker, so I will buy french bread, rolls and such 
marked down because they are a day old. Some folks also ask about the 
vegetables they are throwing out and can often get them cheap or free, I 
have not done this, but I'm told it works for some. My guess is it will work 
better at a smaller store than one of the mega marts.

One reason I didn't need to spend a great deal today is that my freezer and 
pantry are pretty full of meat. I bought chicken when it was on sale and 
boiled it all, boned and skinned it, canned the chicken and the broth. You 
could also freeze it if you don't want to pressure can it. 1 pint of canned 
chicken is enough to make a casserole to last the 2 of us for 3 meals - 
yesterday I made King Ranch Chicken Casserole, we had lunch, dinner 
and lunch today, no left overs now.

In the freezer is sausage, bacon, hamburger, cubed steak, pork chops, 
bratwurst and more chicken in case I want to fry it. All this was 
purchased over time when items were on sale. I don't keep meat more than
3 months usually. Today I bought only 1 pack of chicken breasts on sale 
for 99 cents a pound as we already have so much canned in the pantry.

If you do home canning, buy the bulk containers of vegetables and such 
and can them in pints or quarts yourself. One of those huge cans of 
green beans is only about $3.50, much less than buying all the little cans. 
But check the price per ounce, have a calculator with you. For instance 
I found that buying the smallest jar of peanut butter was cheaper per ounce 
than buying the largest container of it. This will vary depending on the 
brand. I usually buy store brands, but some items I will still insist on name
brands because of the quality.

Save more by growing your own food, especially the more expensive fruit 
and vegetables. You can always grow a patio tomato plant and many 
other vegetables do not mind growing in a pot or tub. Those large 
plastic bins work very well if you cut or drill drainage holes.

Save by baking your own breads, cookies and cakes from scratch. They 
taste better too. Try making your own pasta or noodles, flour and eggs 
are cheap. When I have left over ham, especially with the bone, I make a 
big pot of beans and can it in pints. They are just the right size to add to 
a meal and a $1 bag of beans makes about 4-6 pints, which if you bought 
cans of beans would be about $4-$6. Make soups and can them for quick
meals or lunches, some can be frozen as well.

Keep a stocked pantry of staples, buy when they are on sale or you find 
a good deal. Canned food in tins lasts several years at least and food
you home can will last many years, but you'll probably eat it before very 
much time passes. I keep rice, beans, barley, noodles, pasta and ramen 
soups as well as canned food in my pantry.

Some people plan their menus and shop with that in mind to keep from 
buying things they don't need. I like to make sure I've already eaten 
before I go shopping or else everything looks good and I spend too 
much.  I also don't make menus as we a will eat what I bought on sale.

Shop the outside aisles for the real food, not packaged food. If you are 
buying cereal, check out the cereal in a bag rather than the box, many 
times it is much cheaper and check the price per ounce.

Cheap and Green Cleaning Supplies

About a year ago I got really tired of spending so much money on cleaning 
supplies. Toilet cleaner, counter top cleaner, glass cleaner, floor cleaner, etc. 
Then I read about 'green' cleaners. They are not so toxic but still cost plenty.
So I started reading some of my vintage household hint books. We're talking 
1890 to 1930. Some of their cleaners included items like turpentine, but for
the most part household cleaners were made using just a few inexpensive 
items. 

Vinegar and Baking Soda (Sometimes known as bicarbonate of soda). I use 
them for everything. The vinegar has anti-bacterial properties and the 
baking soda provides the scrubbing action. Just add vinegar to plain hot 
water to mop the floor, vinegar and water to clean your windows with news-
print for a sparkling shine, add vinegar to your rinse cycle in the washer to 
not have to buy those dryer sheets, put a little soda followed by vinegar 
down your drains to keep them fresh and clean and let vinegar sit in your 
toilet overnight and no more rust or calcium deposits as vinegar will clean 
coffee pots and any number of items with hard water buildup. Soak a rag 
in vinegar and wrap it around faucets to get rid of those buildups. Fill a 
vase with it and the lines of scum go away. Add it to a pan with stuck on, 
burnt on food and later it will lift away. There are a ton of uses for vinegar, 
just do a google search and you will see what I mean.
Baking soda is a great scrubbing powder for sinks, dirty dishes, toilets, 
etc. Add enough vinegar to make a paste or sprinkle it liberally onto a 
lemon cut in half. You could make lemonade the old fashioned way and 
save those lemon halves for your cleaning day, they whiten and brighten. 
Salt on lemon will also work at removing gunk from pots and pans
And how much cheaper can you get for cleaning supplies???? I got a 
gallon of store brand vinegar for $1.68 and a large box of baking soda for 
$1.23. It will last me a long time.

For specialty items like copper pans, use plain cheap ketchup.  Coat the 
item and let it sit for an hour or so, rinse off and your copper is shiny 
once again.  However this may take some hard work with baking soda 
if you have burnt on stuff on a copper bottomed pan.

And the icing on this cake is that you are not using harmful chemicals 
you can't pronounce! It's a win win situation.

Homemade Laundry Powder

I have decided to make my own laundry powder as it is cheaper than the 
ready made, has less chemicals and actually cleans our clothes much 
better. In fact the first load I washed, cleaned my washer of the some
what greasy ring around the top of the basket. YEAH! 

4 cups grated plain soap - I used Ivory soap but Zote works better
2 cups Borax - I used 20 Muleteam Brand
2 cups Washing Soda - I used Arm & Hammer Brand
Mix it all together and use just 2 tablespoons per load.
Yes, really, just 2 tablespoons!

Added notes: grate the soap with a large hole grater and be careful of 
your fingers and knuckles. This laundry soap does not foam or make 
bubbles, however if you are using only cold water to wash in, you will 
need to dissolve this in warm water or use a recipe for liquid.

The cheaper cost of the ingredients and the small amount needed to 
use make the savings on this pretty good. Another way to save is to 
add 1/2 cup of plain old white vinegar to the rinse cycle to avoid 
having to use fabric softener or dryer sheets, both of which cost more 
than vinegar.  Alternately you can wet a small cloth with vinegar and 
put it in the dryer with the clothes.

Frugality 1948 Style

I was perusing through one of my vintage household hint books, this one 
from 1948. There were some odd hints, but also some practical and frugal 
hints and I thought I would share them with you. These tips are ways to 
cut costs in your kitchen. The book says even back in 1948 that 
Americans wasted 20% of their food through spoilage and overgenerous 
portions that went uneaten. I'm sure that percent is larger now.

Uncooked smoked meats will stay fresh for a long time if you saturate a 
clean cloth with vinegar, wring out and wrap your bacon or ham with it, 
then wrap in waxed paper and store in the refrigerator. Same goes for 
cheeses as well.

To make meat go a long way combine it with rice, cracker or bread crumbs 
or cereals. This works well in meatballs, meatloaves, hamburgers and such. 
And don't forget casseroles with their addition of noodles or macaroni or 
vegetables.

Turn 1 pound of butter into 2: Bring your butter to room temperature and 
beat it till creamy. Add 2 cups evaporated milk a little at a time. Keep 
beating until all the milk is absorbed. Chill till solid.

If your milk has turned sour, use it in baking in place of buttermilk. 
Alternately you can add 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda to each cup and 
deduct 2 teaspoons of baking powder from the recipe. If milk is just 
starting to turn, restore it to sweetness by adding a pinch of baking 
soda. If a recipe calls for buttermilk and you don't have any, add 2 
tablespoons of vinegar to 1 cup of milk and stir.

If your soup is too thin add a little oatmeal to thicken it. I have also used 
instant mashed potatoes on occasion.

Save the liquid from canned vegetable to make soups and stews. You can 
also use leftover gravies. (I freeze mine till needed).

Save the liquid from canned fruits to make sauces to pour over cake or ice 
cream. All you need do is thicken them by heating and adding a little sugar 
and/or cornstarch mixed with water.

Save your cut off ends of vegetables and left over ends and bones of meat 
to boil down into broth. This can be canned or frozen till needed. Crack 
the bones if you can so you will get all the nutrition out of the marrow. 
Strain and use or freeze or can in jars.

Here's one of mine, we rarely eat the heels of bread but I save them in 
an extra bread bag in the freezer. When I need bread crumbs I thaw out 
how much I need and use the food processor to get the crumb size I 
want. If you toast the crumbs on a baking sheet in the oven til they 
re thoroughly dried out, you can store in an airtight container in the 
pantry for a long time. You can make your own croutons in much the 
same way, just cut the bread into squares and toast in the oven, you 
can add spices like garlic powder and basil on top, though I would 
not add olive oil if not using immediately.

I also save left over vegetables for soups in a container in the freezer. 
I keep adding till it is full then when I make the soup, it goes in near 
the end as those vegetables are already cooked.

Have lots of leftovers from a too large pot of chili, soup or beans? 
Can them in pint jars for quick and easy portions, better than store 
bought soups! Some will freeze well also. I have found that rice and 
noodles do not freeze well, they turn to mush.

A green note added to this: either compost or bury kitchen vegetable 
scraps, coffee grounds and egg shells to make richer soil for your 
garden or flower beds. Do not use meat scraps as that will attract 
mice or rats. Less in our landfills makes for cleaner air to breathe and 
it decomposes to enrich the soil. It does not do that in landfills as the 
ground area is sealed, it just makes methane gas.

More Frugal Tips from 1948

According to my 1948 book, and I'm pretty sure it still holds good today, If 
you use one higher wattage light bulb rather than several lower wattage 
bulbs you are saving more energy. 

The second tip is to make sure you dust the light bulb as well as the lamp
shade, apparently you can increase your light as much as 50%. Lighter 
lampshades give off more light so you need less wattage, more savings.

I will skip the entire section on getting more heat from less fuel as it is 
hopelessly outdated as are most of the fix it yourself tips. We just don't 
have the same types of furnaces, screens, flooring and so on. One really 
good tip was to fix any leaky faucets or toilets immediately because they 
will run your water bill up enormously and waste many gallons of water 
for which you pay twice, the water and the sewer charges.

Mileage stretchers and fuel savers for your car!
Start, drive and stop smoothly, don't race the engine, keep your tires 
inflated properly and keep up on the regular servicing. Turn off the 
engine if sitting for even 2 minutes. The best way to save gas is to drive 
between 55 and 60. If you follow an 18 wheeler with a 100 yard distance 
safely you can save around 11% on gas consumption as the big truck 
breaks the wind resistance for you. Plan your errands all for one day 
and try to make as few stops as possible or try to map out a circular 
route with mostly right turns. It saves gas and time. Try to avoid 
excessive driving on very hot days as it wears down the tread on the 
tires 5 times faster (not sure if that still holds true with today's tires, 
but it makes sense).

Refurbish Your Clothes Closet

We all need clothing, and we all need to replace it at some point. We all 
know how to shop a sale at the Mall but there are other ways to save 
money when shopping for clothing. These ideas will work better for 
some than others depending on the sizes you need and what type of 
clothing you need.

No matter whether you need a summer blouse, jeans, a suit for work or 
even a wedding or prom gown, I would recommend looking at second 
hand shops first. From consignment shops to charity shops like 
Goodwill and Salvation Army and a variety of resale shops, the choice 
is quite large. While it's true you will find 'old' clothes, you will also 
find brand new, worn once and only worn a few times clothes as well, 
all for pennies on the dollar. Pretty much all sizes will be available but 
you will have an abundant choice if you are the average size. And 
remember that if it is a bit too large or too long, it can be altered to fit 
at a minimal cost unless you can do it yourself, in which case it is no 
extra cost.

Also try yard sales, church rummage sales and freecycle.com to find 
what you need. On freecycle you can even post your want or need. 
Another free source of clothing is to have a clothing swap. This is 
quite popular now, simply call together a group of friends to bring to 
one location all their clothes and accessories they no longer want and 
trade with each other, and have a get-together at the same time.

There is usually a plethora of children's clothing at all the sources I've 
mentioned and most in good condition simply because children grow 
out of them so fast. Shoes too can be had for children and adults from 
all the same places.

Always check the clothes and accessories carefully before you buy 
and if you can, try them on so as not to waste the money you do 
spend. You are being frugal and green as you are saving clothes from 
the landfill by giving them a second life.

And for the green note for today, reuse what you have by mending, 
when it is too worn for work or school, wear it on off days, when it 
is too worn for that, use it as work clothes for cleaning and painting, 
after that use it for rags, quilt or craft pieces, save buttons for other 
uses. Every small amount kept out of our landfills really does help. 
Let's take a lesson from our grandparents and our other ancestors 
and use everything we can until there is nothing left of it. Then, if 
it is a natural fiber like cotton, linen, silk or wool, add it to the 
compost pile.

Grocery Store Savings

There's a grocery store I don't go to much as it is not as close to home, but 
being in the neighborhood I went in as they have great prices on their own 
fresh bratwurst. The name brands are usually $4.99 for a package of 5 links, 
this store makes their own and they are $1.99 for 5 links. Hence I like to 
stock up if I am near the store. I stopped in on Monday, the first day 
AFTER the holiday weekend (July 4th 2009). They had apparently over
stocked and didn't sell as many as they thought they would. I was able to 
pick up a total of 6 packages for $1.00 each. I am making a reminder to 
myself to check after a holiday weekend to see if meats usually grilled 
are marked down. I notice there are always holiday item marked down 
but never thought about regular food items before.

Stockpiling is one way to save lots on grocery bills. Buying in bulk at places 
like Sam's, buying like items when they go on sale and so on. It does need 
to be something you will actually eat, as it is wasted money if no one likes 
it. You also need to have room to store it. Stockpiling helps you to have 
plenty on hand for weeks you don't have a big enough income to buy much. 
As an example, I bought chicken breasts when they were on sale for 99¢ a 
pound, boiled and canned them for chicken salad, stir-fries, casseroles and 
such. They could also have been frozen but I don't have a large freezer and 
this way I still have food if another hurricane knocks out power for a week 
or two. Something to think about.

The Economical Soup Pot

I am in the cooking mode today and thought I would share what I like to put 
on my table at least once a week. SOUP!
Soup is one of the most economical meals you can make, and the food 
budget is quite often one of the largest expenses in the home. For those 
that garden, the produce you grow can save a lot on your food budget, but 
for those of us who cannot grow much due to space limitations or those 
who don't grow anything, we must buy everything we eat.
Most often I use no recipe for soup as I make a typical vegetable soup with 
left overs and add in anything else I may have on hand. Usually I start with 
left over meat and broth, it can be anything from pot roast, chicken, ham, 
sausage to even hamburger. Lots of people like fish also. I typically freeze 
leftover meat and broth if not using it immediately, just so we don't get tired 
of the same taste day after day. So in the pot goes the meat cut small and 
the broth or water with broth mix. Then I add any dried beans or peas that 
may need a longer cooking time. Next is any root vegetables like fresh 
carrots, potatoes, onions and such that will also need a little longer 
cooking. Closer to the end I add any left over cooked vegetables I may 
have in the refrigerator that need using up, canned vegetables, herbs and 
spices to taste.
Sometimes it is just a few ingredients, sometimes a lot. If I don't have much 
in the pot and need to fill it out, I'll add barley. If it needs thickening I'll add 
a little oatmeal and on occasion I have used instant potatoes. No broth? I 
have started soup with tomato juice and tomato sauce before. Works well 
if you are vegetarian as well.

This week's pot had beef, beef broth, onions, garlic, celery, carrots, lentils, 
barley, tomatoes and jalapenos. I like lentils as they cook faster than other 
legumes.
I have a huge pot and there is just me in the house this week so today I am 
canning the rest in pint jars for future use.

Soup - one of the easiest dishes to cook, one of the healthiest dishes to eat, 
one of the tastiest dishes to serve
Soup has been a basic food since time immemorial.

Our green note for today is to make your own vegetable broth out of all 
kinds of vegetable pieces you might normally throw out. To water, add carrot 
ends and peels, celery trimmings, onion ends, cabbage and spinach leaves, 
in short any vegetable matter that is clean but not what you want on your 
plate. Boil this and let it reduce, you can add herbs and spices near the end, 
garlic also. Then strain and freeze or can for later use. Either add the strained 
leavings to the compost pile or bury in the flower bed and it will add to the 
nutrients in the soil.

Making Changes to Save Money and be Green

Everyone knows what paper towels are. The question is, how many do you 
use per month? How many end up in the landfill? How much money are you 
literally throwing away each month?

OK, I admit I buy them too. But in my defense, I try to only use them to 
clean up really yucky stuff like cat puke. Sorry for the grossness here. We 
are a 2 person household with 1 indoor cat, I buy 1 roll of paper towels 
about every 2 months. For all the regular messes that need cleaning up I 
use rags. You know, those holey t-shirts, odd socks, threadbare towels 
cut up. I have a stash under my kitchen sink for cleaning, painting and 
dusting. Since the paper option is getting so expensive for the decent 
kind, about $2 a roll, I find the rag option to be a more economical one and 
greener too as it makes less trash and uses less trees. And we need trees 
to breathe.

How many of us have used the throw away paper napkins? I have a 
glove compartment full from drive thru meals. And at one time I bought 
paper napkins to use each day. But I got a stack of 12 cloth napkins at a 
resale shop for the same $2 it would have cost for a package of throw 
away ones and these are reusable. 

You can also make your own by hemming squares of fabric. Get creative 
with embroidery on them. I am able to reuse mine for a day or two before 
washing as we each have our own to use. Saves water and trees!

As a greener option to metal pot scrubbers try the plastic scrubbers, but 
you can always make your own with net bags like onions come in or any 
extra netting you may have in the sewing stash. Making your own 
scrunchy scrubbers is a good kid's project too, maybe they will even 
clean those pots for you! These will last longer than the rusty metal ones 
and you can use them gently on Teflon.

Keeping Your Cool

It has been exceedingly hot here in Houston, Texas for weeks now (July 
2009). Record highs over 105, high humidity and very little rain have 
made for a blistering summer that started in June and we are all trying to 
keep cool.

But how do we keep cool without emptying our bank account? There are 
several ways that will work. If you have central A/C, set your temp up 
higher. It might not be as comfortable but will save you money. If you 
have a programmable thermostat, use it and set the temp up to 90 degrees 
F when you will not be at home, why waste all that energy and money is
 no one is there to enjoy it?
The next thing you can do is utilize fans. They are vastly underrated in my 
opinion, I couldn't live without them, all year long. There are table top 
models, they come in a variety of sizes, are usually metal or plastic and 
they oscillate. Oscillating fans will help keep the air moving and moving 
air is what makes you feel cooler even if the temperature is high. This type 
of fan is also available in a pedestal form. Most types will have 2 or 3 
speeds and usually have a switch to keep them from oscillating if you prefer.

A box fan is my all time favorite kind of fan, I have 2 at the moment but at 
other times I have had as many as 5. Again, these will have 2-3 speeds and 
are usually made of a metal frame with plastic grids and blades. I also call 
them window fans as they fit nicely in a window to either draw in or push 
out the air depending on what you need. But be WARNED, do not leave 
them in the window if it is raining as it will kill the motor if it gets wet and 
could cause an electrical fire hazard. 

And then there are ceiling fans. Some people love them, others hate them, 
but they do cool the room and help keep it warmer in winter if you utilize 
the directional switch, clockwise for winter, counterclockwise for summer. 
These come with or without light kits ,some have remote controls or work 
on a wall switch. 5 bladed fans work better than 3 or 4 bladed ones and a 
30 degree tilt on the blade is excellent.

All fans will help to keep you cool and use a lot less energy than the A/C 
unit. You do however need to keep them clean. Most fans come apart 
easily for cleaning and make sure your pieces are dry before putting it 
back together and turning it on.

An old trick is to put a block of ice or a bowl of ice in front of the fan to 
cool the room. The same principal is used by the outdoor water mister 
fans. Another old trick is to sleep under a damp sheet or to dampen your 
clothing. This, of course, is for times you are home with just the family 
about. Cotton and other natural clothing in a light weight is the best as 
it breathes and absorbs sweat. Cool showers several times a day do 
wonders. I can attest to these as I have spent weeks without electricity 
in high heat and humidity after hurricanes have come through the area. 
I also lived for 9 years without any A/C, just fans. 

Use light blocking shades or film on your windows to keep out the hot 
sun. I have also seen where you can mist water and stick up bubble
wrap as an insulator, of course this may not be feasible if your neighbors 
complain or if you can't afford the bubble wrap.

I have read where window A/C units are much more efficient than 
central air. I have a small unit in the bedroom because last year we had 
some trouble with the central air and it took some time to get it repaired. 
Because of that experience I can say I believe the statement I read is 
true up to a point. If you are only cooling 1 or 2 rooms I think it is 
cheaper, but if you need to cool the entire house and the house is 
large then it is probably not. And don't forget to close off vents and 
rooms that are not being used to save a little more.

And when I lived those 9 years without A/C I had my own way to keep 
cool, use someone else's! I would spend time at the library or you 
could walk the mall, window shopping only,LOL. Visit friends who
can afford to run their A/C. Go outside and play in the sprinkler! Or 
play in your neighbor's sprinkler if you need to save water. Many 
communities have a pool available also at no charge.

Christmas in July

I know it is only July (2009) but it is time to start thinking about the gift giving time 
that comes in December. For most people it is the most expensive time of year, 
especially if there are children in the family. I am going to put forth some different 
options to the usual Christmas shopping that most folks do.
Now I'm a little odd in that I really don't do much in the way of Christmas presents 
any more. There are no children to consider and as my family and friends are all in 
the second half of their lives, none of us really needs more stuff.
But sometimes I do give gifts and I like giving handmade ones.
If you make soaps, they make lovely gifts especially when combined with a hand 
knitted or crocheted wash cloth. These are very nice for teacher and co-worker 
gifts or anyone you don't know all that well.

I also make bath salts and scrubs and they are also nice presents for the ladies 
in your life and are not hard to make, the internet has hundred of recipes, even 
children can make bath salts. I put mine in recycled jars like jelly jars and I 
decorate the lids. I also include a spoon picked up at the charity shop or a 
yard sale for pennies.

Maybe soaps and salts are not your thing but baking is. A vintage tin or a box
of homemade cookies, fudge or some other goodie that keeps well is always
a welcome gift. I put together a basket for my boss one year of homemade
canned pear butter, jelly and pickles and he really appreciated it. Baskets of
all kinds can be had for less than $1 at most charity shops and you may even 

have some hanging around in your closet. It they don't look spiffy enough, a 
little spray paint at $1.39 from Walmart will spruce things up.
If you sew, how about a garment, pillow, table cloth, quilt, etc.? I have given 
all of these at one time or another. I also gave a tablecloth and matching 
napkins as a wedding gift once. Buying the fabric and cutting and hemming 
them myself was quick, easy and much less expensive than buying a ready 
made set. And the fabric matched the colors they were using in their 
dining room.
Maybe you draw or paint or take great photos. They can easily be printed 
out on your computer printer in any size and framed using a frame you 
already have or one picked up at a charity shop or a dollar store. It's amazing 
what nice ones you can find for a low price. If you have some watercolor 
paper or pick some up at Walmart, print on that for a different texture and
it will give you the look of a painting. Play with the options in your photo 
program for more artistic looks and don't forget to sign your work of art.
Perhaps you cross stitch or do other embroidery, maybe you like to create 
items made of wood, put together great scrapbook pages, make gorgeous 
cards or jewelry, write and play music or act (think Cd's orDVDs). Do you 
write stories or poetry, are you a genealogist? You could put together a 
book on your computer of your work, make multiple copies for family 
members. Just share what you love doing, you are sharing a part of yourself 
and it will mean more to the recipient than a new sweater from the 
department store. All this goes for children too, they love making things 
and I remember making some of the neatest things in grade school for 
parents and grandparents and they were treasured for years.
If you feel you are not creative or crafty, then think about gift certificates 
of services you can do for your loved one, like babysitting, dog walking, 
lawn mowing, etc. Check out the charity and resale shops to see if there 
is a vintage something someone on your list would appreciate. These 
places are also great for finding items for children as there is usually a 
plethora of games, toys and stuffed animals which can easily be cleaned 
or books in decent condition. Check your local freecycle or craigslist and 
you may find what you want there either free or low cost.
Another option I have seen and done before is to either make a donation 
of money or better yet, volunteer time to a charity in the name of the 
giftee. This is a good lesson for children in helping the less fortunate be 
they human or animal and in showing the true reason for all the gift giving 
without buying into all the commercialism. These are presented as options 
and as always, you will need to decide what is right for you and your 
family. For me and mine, being together and sharing a special meal and a 
special day with thanks to God is enough, anything more is tinsel.

Saving Water, Saving Money

Water. We all need it, we all use it, our planet is 75% water. You would think water
would be cheap since there is so much of it. But ... most is in the ocean and is too
salty to use for drinking and other things. Also, the fresh water we have available is
polluted quite often and must be treated to be usable. Water treatment and sewage
disposal are expensive, hence our water bills sometimes get very high, especially in
areas where there is drought or low water tables.Here are some ideas for saving on
your water bill and for saving water in general which is good for the planet.

First, if you have any leaky faucets or toilets, repair them NOW! They can cost you
plenty, especially toilets, I can attest to that. My water bill with a toilet that kept
running even though we replaced the guts ran my $50 a month bill up to $97. A
second gut replacement fixed the problem. Don't skimp, buy the more expensive
parts, they are cheaper than the water bill will be.
It's a super hot and dry summer here in Texas and the plants in my garden are
suffering. In order to save on the water bill, water in the early morning when it's
cooler to stop evaporation, hand water plants with your hose rather than using a
sprinkler, use soaker hoses to get the water right where you need it - you can even
bury the hoses. You can also put in french wells. You can use any extra pot , clay
or plastic as long as it has a hole or holes for drainage. Bury it almost to the rim
between plants and fill with rocks, it works extremely well in vegetable gardens.
Then fill the pots with water so it goes straight to their roots. Use mulch like grass
clippings, bark, pine needles or newspaper to hold the moisture in as long as possible.
Use drought tolerant and native plants.
Put a brick or a sand or water filled soda bottle in the toilet tank to displace the water.
This is for the older tanks that use 3-5 gallons per flush. Save water in a bucket while
the shower heats up or scoop out of the tub and use that to flush the toilet - double
duty! Some folks don't flush all day unless it is #2. When replacing a toilet, try the new
ones with 1/2 and full flush options.
In the kitchen I put a pitcher under the faucet while waiting for the water to warm up
and use it in the cat's bowls or for watering plants or if I am going to need water for
cooking or drinking. When I hand wash dishes I use a bowl or dish pan and dump that
into my mop bucket for watering plants outside. The soap won't hurt them. If using
your dishwasher, make sure you fill it before you use it and air dry to save a little
more on electricity. You can install inexpensive aerators on kitchen and bathroom
faucets as well, and don't forget about the new low flow shower heads when it's time
to replace yours. This can save gallons per shower. 
If you have the option, you can divert the gray water from your washing machine to
a barrel outside or drain it into a wash tub sink in the laundry room. Again this can be
used to water plants outside if you are not using a water softening agent. Using cold
water to wash clothes will work just as well and you can save a little more here on the electric bill.
When washing your car start with the roof and work down, soaping from a bucket
first, then turn on the hose to rinse. Do it in sections so the soap doesn't dry. Try to
wash it on a grassy area so you don't have runoff into the street sewer and it will
also water your lawn.

How to Re-Decorate with Little or No Money


I have a large kitchen utensil collection and to display it all on the walls was just too
much stuff in the small kitchen.  A decorator friend said how about putting some of 
the kitchenware in a glass crock? Didn't have one, but I did have a gallon size jar 
from my grandmother's house that holds quite a few of the smaller pieces. No money
spent there!
I thought how about wire baskets? Didn't have any so I went shopping. None of the
charity shops had any, so I stopped at Hobby Lobby thinking maybe I could get at
least one. I was able to get 3 as all the garden stuff was marked 1/2 off and then
they took another 80% off of that! My kind of sale as I got 3 different wire baskets
for the same price I would have paid at a charity shop, $7 for all.
Next I wanted to change the wall color and paint the cabinets. Paint is cheap,
especially at Walmart. Paint techniques are fairly easy and give you a lot of wow
factor for not much money. And if you hate it just paint over it.  I have used paint
from the charity shops and cheap $5 gallons from Big Lots before with good results.
You don't always need $40 a gallon designer name paint.
Re-using what you have in a new way is another no cost way to re-decorate.
Sometimes it is fun to remove all small items and pictures from a room and make
yourself replace them with items from other rooms. This is especially fun in the bath
room.
The library can be helpful with books on paint techniques and decorating ideas as
can the internet. Do a blog search on your style or your project and you will find
lots of cool sites, most by others who did it themselves. All of the information for
free. I'm not knocking decorators, they do a great job, but when you have no money..
..time to try your own hand at it. You may discover a whole new talent and you will
surely gain more confidence and keep more money in your piggy bank.

Cooling Summer Drinks and Treats

Summer heat is upon us full force (July 2009) and keeping cool drinks around can
get expensive as well as add way too much sugar to your or your children's diet. I'd
like to offer some suggestions for cheaper and more healthful options. First of all,
plain old water! Cheap, good for you and we all need a lot of it especially in the
summer heat.
OK, so the kids want something for their sweet tooth. Instead of sodas and power
drinks, try fruit juices. Make sure you get real 100% fruit juice not the juice cocktails.
The juice cocktails have a lot of fructose or corn syrup in them. Real fruit juices can
be pricey even at Wally World. Try the local dollar stores. My Dollar General has the
big 2 liter for $2 of grape and cranberry juice, $1.50 for apple juice. You can mix them
for a fruit punch or add a cup to a 2 quarts of plain iced tea rather than adding sugar.
I like to add a glug or two to plain water for a more refreshing alternative.
If you grow your own fruit or get a good buy on them, whiz some up in the food
processor and add water for your own juice. If you grow mint, crush a sprig in your
hand and add to your glass for extra coolness.
If you are really broke there is always Koolaid, just don't add so much sugar, it really
doesn't need that much. I only use about 1/2 what they say but you'll need to taste it
and see what you like.
For refreshing frozen treats use any of the combinations above and freeze in plastic
cups or Dixie cups if you have them and make Popsicles. The sticks are available
where ever crafts are sold and are very cheap.

Save on Back to School Supplies

It's that time again (Aug 2009) to stock up on school supplies. Even with
the tax free weekend now including supplies it can get fairly pricey. If you
are on a budget and need some alternate solutions to shopping at your
local mega mart, stay with me.
Let's try free. FREE! OK, I probably have your attention now. Check over
the school supplies left from last year. Get crafty. Could the binders and
notebooks from last year do just fine with maybe a coat of paint or a new
cover? Decoupage paper, photos, fabric, stickers, just about anything to
an existing binder. If you don't have mod podge, try watered down white
glue. Have your children draw or color on paper bags, butcher paper or
any scrap paper and use that. Add glitter, sequins, etc., etc., etc.
Check your paper supply, you might still have some hidden away. Pens
and pencils can sometimes be gotten free at local businesses, just don't
grab a handful, play nice. Banks are a good place for pens, check yours.
Of course that means you need to go in not just do a drive thru trip.
You might also join freecycle.com for your local area and ask if anyone
has what you need.
After free, low cost is best. Check yard sales and thrift shops. One near
me always has a plethora of binders, file folders and other office type
stuff that will work just as well for school supplies. Don't pass by the
binders with printed business names, just get creative. If you don't see it,
ask. They may have pens and pencils, crayons and such where children
can't get to them and you can't see them. Sometimes you can get them for
free if you are in need.
These same places are a great place to look for school clothes too. And
if you are handy at sewing, try clothes a bit too large and alter them or
cut apart an adult item to remake for a child. This is probably easier for
girls' skirts than anything else. Shoes, backpacks and lunch coolers can
all be found at these places too.
You may not find everything you need for free or at the yard sales and
thrift shops but it never hurts to look and it could knock a chunk off
your bill at the local Wally World.

Finding Craft Supplies for Less

Most people have hobbies even if it is just watching their favorite TV program. Some hobbies can be quite expensive like scuba diving for instance, but most only get costly when you need to replenish your crafting supplies. If you have kids you may go through a lot of supplies. Here are some ways to save money and even get supplies for free.

Watch the papers and flyers for sales at your favorite craft stores, some have sign up lists and you'll get an email or a flyer in the mail. Hobby Lobby, Michael's and Joann's Fabrics are just a couple of these stores and when they have markdowns after a holiday I like to snatch up items that are up to 80% off. One thing to remember is to only buy items you know you will use otherwise you are wasting your hard earned money. Also check out the dollar type stores in your area, you may be surprised at what you will find.

Once again, remember to look through your local charity shops. Many times I have found sewing, embroidery and knitting supplies as well as glue, paint, Sculpey clay, glitter, wood, beads and so on. Check out the office supply area for paper, binders, acetate sheets and look over the frames with or without pictures or glass. Lots of folks will buy old paintings on canvas and gesso over them to paint what they want at a much reduced price from retail on a new canvas. See if the old wallpaper rolls will suit for a project other than your walls like scrapbooking, collage or decoupage. I remember my favorite coloring book as a child was an old wallpaper sample book, which you can still get for free from most wallpaper stores.

Making your own supplies. If you do a Google search you'll find articles on how to make your own Playdough, salt dough and so on. You can make clay items without buying anything if you live in an area that has natural clay. Mostly in the southern US you'll find red clay or gray colored 'gumbo clay'. Just dig some up, add water, knead it for a while and you can sculpt to your heart's content. Sun dry or bake in the oven and it will last for quite a while, it's how the Native Americans did it.
Go to yard sales, estate sales, auctions and resale stores. Try freecycle in your local area. I see lots of people offering all types of craft supplies and others asking for certain items. It never hurts to ask. Craigslist is another site to check out for free items.
*
Think outside the box. Before you put that cereal box in the recycling bin, could it be cut up and used for crafting? How about old magazines, newspapers, paper sacks, glass jars and so on? Look up tutorials on making yarn out of plastic grocery sacks, or fusing them into thicker plastic for other crafts. Braid bread bags to make rugs for the porch. So much of what we throw away can be reused for crafting purposes.
*
Check out these links for inspiration and tutorials:

Alternative to TV

(2009) I suspended the DirecTV. I don't have a converter box so I don't get local channels either. I have been watching the movies I own and picking up some at charity shops for $1 each. My machine plays both DVDs and VHS tapes so it works out well. I also splurged and signed up for Netflix which I think is a great deal.

What I have realized is that I really don't need to watch TV and after the first few weeks didn't even miss it. 

What I have discovered in the last couple of weeks is that talk radio can be very entertaining. If you like talk shows, you can listen to talk radio hosts rant about all kinds of stuff. That tends to wear me out though. If you are interested in christian programming, there are stations that have talk shows and preachers as well as music. There is even an old time drama show from Chicago on one of our local stations. There are kids shows reminiscent of the old Mickey Mouse Club features. Of course there are sports programs galore for all you sports nuts out there. A local classical station has some educational spots amongst the music and who could resist The Prairie Home Companion?

I am somewhat of a night owl and a program I have found fascinating and entertaining is Coast to Coast. If you have never heard it and even if you don't think you are interested in paranormal stuff, give it a listen. The other night they were discussing Einstein and his life and work. Sometimes it is aliens or crop circles, ghosts, time travel, past lives, esp, and so much more. You can learn about Bigfoot, the jersey devil and thunder birds.

So if you are in need of cheap--make that free--entertainment, take a lesson from Grandma, just turn your radio on!

Children's Birthday Parties

OK, it's not that I ignore the expenses associated with children, it's just that I don't think about it because I don't have children unless you count the 4-legged furry kind that go "meow". But I got to thinking about birthday parties and how they have changed over the last 40 years. Most people now plan a huge excursion to Chucky Cheese or some other horrendously expensive place or have an organized theme party at home in a perfectly landscaped yard with a petting zoo, magician or clown. They also feel they have to invite everyone in the school class, the Sunday school, neighbors and cousins. You just know the sky will fall if you forget someone that invited your child 2 years ago to his party.

All kidding aside, huge organized parties like that may be fun and memorable but are way over the top. The top of your budget. I suggest a change in plans that you may find just as fun and memorable, less stressful and definitely easier on the wallet.

First of all, have your party at home or a friend or relative's home if yours is too small. I would suggest the backyard if it is warm weather or the largest indoor room you have, perhaps even the garage.  You could also utilize a neighborhood park.

Tables and chairs. Children are not that picky, gather all you have, use pillows if need be, covered with extra pillow cases for easy clean up. Or how about blankets or sheets on the floor or ground like for a picnic? Be creative and think outside the box. Of course, if it is a small party maybe your dining room table will be just fine.

Decorations. Why spend all that money for decorations you will use once and throw away? You can still have a theme party if that's what your child wants, but look to your creative self again. What can you and your children make instead of buy? How about flag and pennant buntings? Use paper or fabric scraps, cut and glue or tape to a string. One lady used old wrapping paper she had and made paper fans and hung them the same way upside down for her daughter's party. Cut out shields and have your kids draw designs on them with crayons or markers. You could use cardboard or cut up cereal boxes even. How about coloring book images? Balloons are fairly cheap and lots of places will fill them with helium cheap. Of course there is the old fashioned crepe paper that's also inexpensive.

Make your decorations part of the food. For a medieval feast I helped organize many years ago, we made Viking boats out of watermelons and filled them with melon balls complete with a paper sail on a skewer. We made bread in simple animal shapes like turtles and bears. We also used pita bread as plates.
Food. Make easy, no mess, make ahead snack foods instead of the usual chips and dip. Add carrot and celery sticks. I ate my weight in carrot sticks at a birthday party I went to as a child because they were novel, I had never had them before. Cut cheese into cubes and maybe have some goldfish crackers for a pirate party. Check some recipe sites online for appetizers and go with non messy finger food. The cake and ice cream can both be homemade but store bought is OK too. Maybe Grandma wants to bake the cake for you? Instead of sodas, how about lemonade or Kool-aid or a fruit juice punch? There's lots of recipes out there.

Entertainment. Kids need to be involved, not just sit back and be entertained. How about old fashioned games like one that used to be called party line or telephone. The 1st child whispers a sentence to the next person and so on around the room. The last person repeats it aloud and it is usually very different from what it started as. Hot potato played with a ball is fun, we even played that with a hacky sack in a recent training I went through for work. The old pin the tail on the donkey, pictionary, charades and many more are all great fun and pretty much free.
Presents. Presents are for the birthday child, not the guests. I am not sure when guest presents or favors started being used but they seem silly to me. If you insist on them try to come up with something that won't just get thrown away and added to the landfill. Perhaps some cookie treats to take home or pictures of the group quickly printed off your computer if you have a digital camera. Or how about autograph books made from whatever paper you have, cut to the same size like 3" x 5" with 2 holes punched and a ribbon or yarn or string tying them together. Maybe the guests would enjoy making their own as a group project. Add some drawings to the front and let everyone sign each other's book. Now that's memorable!
If you truly feel you are not creative and just can't make your own stuff for the party, try freecycle.com in your local area. I see people offering and asking for party stuff all the time. Check your dollar stores as they may be cheaper than the party stores.
Most of all, have fun and enjoy the day. No one will care if your yard or house is not perfect, the kids just want to have fun and so should the grownups.

The 3 R's, or is it 4?

What I wanted to write about today was how you can save money from literally ending up in the trash as well as helping out good old Mother Earth. This is the only home we've got so we need to take care of her. Don't worry, I'm not about to get all smarmy on you. What I am talking about here is save yourself money by reducing your purchases of things that get thrown away because they can't be recycled - like paper towels and napkins, paper plates, styrofoam and so on. The amount of money some folks spend on these items in the home is atrocious. Try cloth napkins, rags for cleaning, real plates, cups, glasses and flatware and take your own reusable containers to the restaurant for leftovers. The amount of water you use washing them is much less than what you spent for the item and the trash man to haul it away. And speaking of trash, check out this chart

Decomposition Rates
Paper 2-4 weeks
Leaves 1-3 weeks
Orange Peels 6 months
Milk Carton (VOC) 5 years
Plastic Bag 10-20 years
Plastic Container 50-80 years
Aluminum Can 80 years
Tin Can 100 years
Plastic Soda Bottle 450 years
Glass Bottle 500 years
Styrofoam Never!  That's definitely something to think about. Below is a chart of the different numbers used for plastics.
1= Soda bottles, water bottles, vinegar bottles, medicine containers, backing for photography film
2= Containers for: laundry/dish detergent, fabric softeners, bleach, milk, juice, shampoo, conditioner, motor oil. Newer bullet proof vests, various toys, trash and shopping bags.
3= Pipes, shower curtains, meat wraps, cooking oil bottles, baby bottle nipples, shrink and cling wrap, clear medical tubing, vinyl dashboards and seat covers, coffee containers.
4= Wrapping films, frozen food bags, sandwich bags, squeezable bottles, flexible container lids.
5= Tupperware®, Reusable microwaveable ware, syrup bottles, yogurt and margarine tubs, microwaveable disposable take-away containers; disposable cups and plates.
6= Disposable cutlery and cups (clear and colored), bakery shells, CD cases, meat trays, "cheap" hubcaps, packing peanuts, Styrofoam insulation, Styrofoam cups and plates and egg cartons.
7= Products labeled as "other" are made of any combination of 1-6 or another, less commonly used plastic.

Be aware that not all recycling stations will take all numbers of plastic. In fact most will not touch numbers 6 or 7 and some only take 1 and 2.
Plastic is undeniably the biggest trash headache in the world, so think about what you buy and use and see if you can cut down on even a little of it. Cloth shopping bags are a great example and last for years and I find them much easier to handle than the plastic ones - they don't get holes poked in them! How about eggs in paper rather than Styrofoam cartons, reusable drink containers filled at home, take your own cloth or net bags when buying produce or bulk foods. Things like that are so easy and cost less.
And now for some good news, according to Wikipedia, the quantity of post-consumer plastics recycled has increased every year since at least 1990. In 2006 the amount of plastic bottles recycled reached a record high of 2.2 trillion pounds. So what else can you do? Buy products that can be recycled instead of thrown away if you can't replace it with a non-trash destined item. Buy products that contain recycled content including:
Paper products like notepads, tissues, paper towels, cardboard boxes, and printing and letter paper
Plastic products like trash bags, fleece jackets, and sleeping bags
Home Building and Repair products like recycled-content siding, recycled content-asphalt and aluminum roof shingles, and wooden doors and wallboard.
So put your hard earned money into things that will last buying quality, Reduce by buying second hand and using your own containers and bags, Reuse that cloth napkin or rag, set up a home Recycling area and have Respect for our old Mother Earth and each other.

Saving by De-Cluttering

This post will be a bit different as I want to write about something I'm doing that in the long run will save me money, but you wouldn't think that at first. What I have been doing is going through the house and decluttering. I can't have a yard sale where I live so it has all gone to the charity shops as donations. The short list of how it is going to save me money is:

1. I won't buy something a second or third time because I can't find it. ( I found 3 hole punchers!)

2. You reap what you sow and I have already benefited because of donating so much stuff. Freebies from the charity shop girls, etc.

3. Selling a few items on Etsy or EBay has netted me some extra gas money, technically not saving but I spent less than I would have.

4. Less clutter means less stress so I don't need to buy more St. John's Wort.

5. Less stuff in the house will make it cheaper to move one day.

6. I can see what I really have and make better use of it which keeps me from buying more stuff.

There are many sites on the net that will teach you about decluttering as well as several TV shows. I've seen them and read them and learned a lot. The one thing everyone says is how much lighter they feel after the purge. I feel it too. I can be a pack rat so here's how I looked at it in order to actually do it. I took William Morris' quote literally:

"Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe beautiful."

Add to that 'If I haven't worn or used it in the last 1 to 1 1/2 years I am not going to, so get rid of it.'

Those 2 quotes (the second one is mine) held me in good stead. I took one area or room at a time and filled grocery sacks which I hauled to the charity shops sometimes twice a week. The small bags make it easy to carry and you feel like you have done a lot when you fill one. Tackling a small area at a time helped so that I did not lose focus or get overwhelmed. Even if it is one drawer or one box, it IS progress. I am by no means done. I continue each week with organizing more things. Organizing is the flip side to decluttering. This helps everything have a place which helps everything stay in place. Not having a place for everything is a large part of how this house got in such a mess to begin with. 

One thing I did was to use a plastic tub or box to put things in that didn't go where I was cleaning. Then I had to figure out where they went and sometimes it was AWAY. Some things like craft supplies, tools and mailing supplies got a new home in a re-configured closet.  Just shelves but it made a world of difference. An unused area in the living room has become home to storage drawers for tools and craft supplies very near to my desk. I am also thinking about WHERE I put things. Will it be a convenient place near where I use it so that I WILL put it away? So far so good.

I have shifted not only where things used to go but also what they are stored in. Last weekend I patiently took apart all the 200+ music Cds and put the discs and booklets in one large notebook case that will fit on an empty shelf under the CD player instead of in 2 large wooden box holders and a shelf in 3 different rooms. Less to dust, gives me more shelf space, weighs less and is easy to use. I should have done this years ago. The plastic cases are difficult to recycle but some people use them for crafts, picture display or to replace broken ones so they are going on freecycle. I tool the time to remove the paper from the back of them and that went in the recycling box for paper. The notebook case weighs less than one of the wooden boxes and with a handle it can easily be carried anywhere. It was less than $20 at Walmart and I feel it was a good investment.

I did buy plastic drawer bins and 4 tubs at Wally World on sale but I also got 7 at one of the charity shops for $2 each. Again, a good investment as they will last for years. I'm not a huge fan of plastic but it's cheap, lightweight, gets the job done and won't be seen.

Here's a site on dealing with clutter I have found helpful, they even have free calendars you can download to motivate you daily. http://unclutterer.com/

I say do a little at a time and keep going, its working for me.

Saving your Clothes with Mending and Altering

This week I'd like to give a crash course in mending clothes because it will save you from buying more clothes and spending too much in having items repaired.  Most people either own or at least have seen little sewing kits like the one above.  They can be found in most stores, even grocery stores.  Handy to have, especially when traveling, but not the best for real mending.  The threads in these kits tends to be inferior and break easily.

There are minimal items needed: needles, thread, scissors, tape measure, pins and seam ripper. 
For needles, any sharp needle will do, I suggest ones with large eyes for ease of threading.  Most people wet the thread and poke it into the eye, I wet it, hold it tight between finger and thumb, the end barely showing, then slide the needle eye over it. 
For thread I suggest getting small spools of general sewing thread in white, black, brown, beige, blue and any other colors you normally wear.  I have a lot of teal and purple clothes so I keep those colors on hand.  There are 3 types of thread you will find in a fabric store; general sewing, quilting which is thicker and stronger and buttonhole twist which is even thicker and stronger.  If you sew a lot of buttons on you might want to consider the buttonhole twist in the color you use most.
For scissors I suggest the small embroidery scissors as you can use them to cut open seams or cut off old buttons.  A regular pair of sewing shears is very handy if you need to shorten hems quite often or need to cut pieces of fabric.  The #1 rule with these is to never ever, NEVER EVER use them for anything other than fabric or thread.  Paper, plastic and so on will dull them to the point they will need sharpening and it is very hard to find someone that does it and does a good job these days.
A tape measure is needed if you are going to be hemming slacks or skirts and dresses.  Most are a coated fabric for durability.
Pins are used to hold fabric in place and any kind will do.  I've even used safety pins when that was all I had to hand.
A seam ripper is the handiest to use for opening seams although you can use embroidery scissors if you are careful.
The sewing shears will be the most expensive item here and they are optional.  Most of these items are about $1-2 each.

Most everyone's grandma had a box or tin with these items and more than likely lots of odd buttons too.  I suggest that when an item is past wearing, to cut it up for rags and save the buttons for use on something else.  If you lose a button or 2 you may find enough in your stash to replace the whole lot on your shirt and give it a whole new look without buying any.  If you have ever looked at the price of buttons these days you will know its worth saving them.

Sewing on lost buttons is the easiest thing to do, simply go in and out the holes enough times to hold it on well.  It if is a shank button with a flat back and a loop sticking out the process is similar in that you are tacking down the loop part to the fabric.  It is best to take your first stitch not too tight and then to wrap the thread several times between the loop and the fabric before making more tacking stitches.  This strengthens the whole thing which you will need as mostly these kinds are used on coats and jackets.  Sewing snaps is pretty much the same as buttons. 

Most blouses and shirts come with extra buttons --I save mine in a decorative box in the bedroom-- If I don't have any extra but totally lose one,  I will often use a button from the bottom that gets tucked in a waist or from the top if I never button the collar as they will never be seen or missed.

The other main thing you will want to learn is to hem.  Pant legs, skirts, dresses and shirt sleeves are all hemmed the same.  It usually costs about $7 (in 2009) to get something hemmed, which isn't a lot but what if you can save that much and only use 30 minutes of time while watching TV? 

If you only need to turn the hem up once it is usually easier to  leave the old hem in place and fold it up and stitch, then press with your iron.  Keep your stitches about 1/4 ' apart and do not pull them tight or you'll get puckers.  Thread a needle with about 18", knot one end.  Pull through the old hem or the inside edge to secure it.  Move forward in either direction about 1/4' and catch 1-2 threads of the fabric which is the back side of the main body and then up through the hem edge on the inside.  Just keep repeating till its done and knot the end.

If you are short like me and need to remove several inches of fabric then you will want to measure the inseam (inside leg seam) of a pair of pants that is the right length - same with a skirt using the side measurement.  Alternately you can put them on inside out and have someone else pin them up in place for you.  Trim the extra off but leave 1 1/2 -2" for the hem.  Measure twice, cut once!  Moving around the hem turn the raw edge under at least 1/4" or more and pin it in place as you go.  Then you are ready to hem it.  You can make shorts from long pants, short sleeves from long sleeves this way and extend the life of the garment. 

These are the most needed alterations and they don't even require a sewing machine. 
One other thing you may need to do is repair a split open seam.  Match your thread color and just resew the seam with a running stitch -- up, down, up, down -- taking the smallest stitches you can.  I sometimes go back over it several times depending upon where the split is and how much strength it needs.  If you have a sewing machine it's even faster to mend.

From here you can go on to learn to put in gussets to give you a little more room, let seams in or out, replace zippers and so on.  About the only repairs I recommend taking to the professionals is if it needs re-weaving because of a hole or tear.  It is worth the money on a quality item.

Tobacco for Less

Let me preface this post by saying I don't smoke, never have.  But many of my friends do as well as my roommate.  Many of us are on tight budgets and need to save wherever we can.  Some folks would say stop smoking but some things are very hard to stop.  I do not judge people for smoking.  There are way too many other habits that are more destructive in my opinion, so please don't send me hate mail.

That said, here's some tips to save some money since our present US government has decided to tax it to death.  You could slow down on how many cigarettes you smoke.  You can buy by the carton instead of the pack.  If you are near an Indian Reservation, most sell tobacco cheaper than elsewhere.  You can purchase out of state or online but beware as you may receive a tax bill from the government as one lady I read about did.  It was exorbitant.  You have been warned.  Also you want it from a reputable source as you don't want to be smoking anything but tobacco.

My roommate rolls his own cigarettes using papers.  The loose tobacco is about half the cost of pre-made cigarettes.  Still, rolling your own is a very economical way to go if you really can't or don't want to quit.  Not sure you are dexterous enough?  Zig Zag makes a handy little roller that practically does it for you.
If you don't want people thinking you might be smoking a joint, or you prefer a filter, you can get tubes with the filter attached.  They come in menthol as well from several different makers.  For these you will need to buy the filling machine, a  plastic gizmo that fills it in a split second.

Where do I get this stuff you ask?  Any tobacco shop should have it all and you can purchase papers, tubes and the machines online from various places including Amazon and Ebay.  Just be careful of buying tobacco itself online for the reasons mentioned above.

Banish the Vampires!

No, not your favorite Twilight vampires....electricity vampires!

I just received my newest electricity bill (Oct 2009) and it was half what it was last year this same time, less than $70.  Why?   I can only put it down to the fact I am using less electricity in 3 areas.  One is I am not using the dryer as it is not heating.  How 3 loads of laundry a week can make that much of a difference I don't know.

The other things are I am putting the computer to sleep when not in use and since I turned off the DirecTV I only turn on the power strip for the DVD player and TV when I'm actually watching a movie, it doesn't stay on all the time. 

Here's your guide to things that suck electricity like vampires suck blood even when not in use.  If it has a light that stays on or a clock that stays lit up even if you don't have it turned on or if it is run by a remote.  In my house it is the TV, DirecTV box, DVD player, clock/radio which I need for the alarm, microwave, window a/c unit, stove, power strips and battery chargers for phone, camera and weedeater.

The DirecTV box, DVD player and TV are all on one power strip so it's easy to just switch it off when not in use.  The a/c unit will soon not be needed--I'm in TX remember, and I'm trying hard to remember to unplug chargers when they are done.  The stove and microwave are impossible to unplug and I use the clock on the microwave as the house clock. 

So if you want to save some bucks on the electric bill, turn off and unplug.  One of the easiest ways is to plug stuff into a power strip and then when you're done using the stuff, just flip the off switch.   I can't promise your bill will be cut in half, but if you put up a clothesline as well it just might!

Stockpile It!

Creating a stockpile of food is one of the best ways to save money and to be prepared in case of an emergency situation.  Some folks have a 2 week stockpile, others have 2 months or even 2 years worth of food.  The choice is yours.

The easiest way to do it is over time, a little at a time.  Buy extra when something goes on sale.  We are talking non-perishables here.  Filling your freezer with meat that is on sale is great until the electricity is out for a week, then whatever you haven't cooked and eaten is lost.  This is why I recommend learning to can foods using a pressure canner.  That way even meat will last indefinitely.  You can also buy food or condiments in the huge cans and can it in smaller jars, it saves a lot do that also.  But if you do not can your own food you can still purchase a little extra each trip.  If you can buy in bulk like at Sam's or Costco you can save money on your extras that way too.

Think about what foods you want to buy extra of.  Rice, beans, canned goods, cereals, flour, sugar, peanut butter, nuts, dried fruit, pet food, toilet paper, soap, etc.  Only buy items you like as there is no sense in stockpiling stuff you will never eat or use.  Some items like pastas, beans, cereals and flour you may want to put in the freezer for a week to kill off any potential pantry moths or weevils.  Transfer items to sealable containers, good plastic containers or empty jars with tight fitting lids of all kinds work well.  Clear containers work best for me as I can see at a glance what I have.  Check freecycle and thrift stores if you need to get some more containers.

Once you start stockpiling and your pantry is full, where do you put more?  Organize closets to give you more space or store things under the bed.  It's amazing how much stuff can be put under the bed and hidden by a bedskirt.  Some of those under bed storage bins are helpful.   How about under the sofa?  There are lots of unused spaces in our homes if we get creative.  Attics, sheds and garages are not good choices because of the temperature fluctuations.  Very short term only or for items like bottled water.  Those who live in hot climates sometimes build out cold rooms with insulation and a small A/C unit, some people have basements or root cellars which are excellent as long as they are not damp.

One thing you will want to do is to go through your stockpile and organize it as you use items and replace them.  Put new stock at the back just like the grocery store does.  You can use a marker to date the cans and boxes to make it easier.  Remember that the canned items are not bad just because the date on the can is past, as long as it is not bulging or rusty or leaking, it should be ok.  Cereals will not be at their best for more than a few months.  Most home canned and tin canned foods from the store will last years.  If you ever open anything and it smells bad, throw it out.  Older fruits and vegetables sometimes will not be at their best color or they may break down but are still fine to eat.
Some folks, especially those with a large stockpile, make a list of what they have and keep it up to date.  It's best to clean and organize at LEAST twice a year so you don't end up throwing food away because it is no longer good to eat.

The stockpile I started last fall when I was told I would be laid off in 5 months really saved me when I went on unemployment.  Groceries have not cost much and even though I am now employed again, I am keeping up my stockpiling as it saves money in the long run.

Soup to Save $

I have written about making soup before, about how time saving and money saving it is as well as how nutritious.  This week I tried something new I read about on another blog on cooking.  It was so very simple and delicious and saved uneaten food from being thrown out which is very wasteful, especially in the pocketbook.
 What you do is take all your leftover vegetables and whizz them in the food processor or blender with a bit of water or broth.  I had leftover potatoes and carrots from a roast pork dinner and we were tired of eating them, plus the pork roast was all gone.  So I whizzed up those while also sauteing some onions and garlic for a flavorful addition.  I whizzed those too.  Then I took some leftover smoked sausage and peeled off the casing, cut into chunks and whizzed that to add to the pot.  We had a bit of gravy left so in it went and of course water to thin things a bit. 
It was wonderful, a thick flavorful soup that we had for supper and lunches the next 2 days.  The lady who wrote the blog article says she uses anything left over and it always seems to come out good.  The one she had made was a green color from the green vegetables she used, mine was orangy from the carrots.  Make it as thick or thin as you want, it is wonderfully warm comfort food.
Excellent for someone not feeling well or who can't chew well and for babies too! 
Remember you can home can the leftovers!

Thrift Store Buying

I have written before about buying things you need from thrift shops like Goodwill, Salvation Army and a myriad of others you may have in your local area.  I thought I would bring up the subject again just as a reminder to those of you who don't usually shop these goldmines or have never thought of it.  I'd also like to clear up some confusion some folks have about these shops.

The items in charity thrift shops are usually donated by local people when they de-clutter or clear out after someone has passed away.  Sometimes local stores donate unsold items that are brand new with tags still on them.  A local motel donates used but very serviceable sheets to one of my nearby stores.  What I am trying to show is that it is not all junk no one wants or worn out clothes only fit for rags. 

Items I have gotten this year include 2 beautiful jackets nearly new for $17 that I am positive would have $75 or more each retail,  2 new corner shelves for my kitchen redo for $1 each, brand new books with the dust jacket in pristine condition for $1 each, peruvian wool yarn, enough to make a sweater for $5, a stack of about 20 or so cross stitch patterns to resell, some brand new, a box full of evenweave linen in various colors for cross-stitching, some still marked at $20-50 per piece and I paid $20 for the boxfull.  Several really nice shirts at $3 each and a vintage basket to keep my knitting in for $5.
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Think about what you need and before you go off to the local department store or big box store, check the thrift shops first.  You may not always find what you need but sometimes you do and always at a rock bottom price.
One blogger I like to read set out to not buy anything new for an entire year and they are still mostly living this lifestyle.  They have discovered the joy of the hunt, the mystery of what can I do with this?, the satisfaction that they are reusing something that might have ended up in the landfill and the blessings that come from giving your money to a charity that uses it to help other people or animals.
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Why not try your local charity shops this week.  You may be able to cut your Christmas present budget and not use that credit card, you can feel good about where the money went, you can even use it as a tax write off!

Saving On Heating Costs

All my bills have gone up in the last 6 months but the paycheck has not.  I did pretty well at saving on cooling costs this summer but winter is upon us (Nov 2012) and even here on the Gulf Coast it can get cold.
Most everyone knows to keep your thermostat set low, as low as you can stand it.  But how do you keep warm enough to not complain?

First you must dress for the weather.  Layering your clothes is a great way to go.  And make sure they are loose layers.  I'm usually ok in slacks, long sleeved shirt and slippers at home.  If it gets colder I add fuzzy socks and a sweater.  If it gets to freezing temps I can add sweat pants and sweat shirt over regular pants and shirt and a sweater on top of that.  

Second, decide what rooms you really use and only heat those.  Close off the vents and close the doors to unused rooms.  I have a bath and 2 bedrooms that are rarely used and they are off their own hallway.  All vents and doors are closed  and I put up a curtain at the end of the hallway that enter my living room.  That also saves on cooling those rooms in the summer.  Just a simple curtain will do, make it match your window curtains if you want.  A great Victorian idea we need to bring back!

Third, if you have ceiling fans you can set them to reverse at a slow speed to push the warm air back down to the area you are sitting in.  This means it will spin clockwise in winter.  A good way to remember is clockwise while we are on regular time and counter-clockwise while we are on daylight savings time.

Fourth, you can utilize space heaters to only heat the room you are in.  I have a small electric oscillating heater I bought at Dollar General for less than $20.  I only use it in the room I am currently in and it keeps me pretty toasty without using a lot of electricity.  Please be cautious as to what kind of space heater you use and make sure to use it properly with any required ventilation.  If you need to crack a window for ventilation then choose a south facing one to avoid the colder winds coming from the north.
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Fifth, use a quilt on your bed!  Grandma wasn't just saving money by making her own quilt and re-using those fabric scraps, they are much warmer than blankets.  You need it to be loose over you and not pulled tight, your body heat will fill the space between bed and quilt with warmth and you will be toasty all night.  I believe it has a lot to do with the insulation quality of the quilt which is made of fabric, batting and fabric.  Heavier is not always warmer.  If you have no quilt but you do have a sleeping bag, use that.  You can always sleep inside it even if you are in your bed.  Flannel sheets are much warmer feeling than cotton, check  your local thrift shops! 

Sixth, but maybe this should have been first, add insulation.  Check for drafts and insulate and caulk where you can and add weatherstripping if needed to doors and windows.  If you have no restrictions in your neighborhood then spritz your windows with water and cover them with cut to size bubble wrap for insulation.  You can often get bubble wrap for free from sites like craigslist or freecycle.  Alternatively you can pull down your shades at night to keep out drafts and raise them during the day to let in the sun's warmth.  Grandma used to swap out her light and lacy summer curtains for heavy and lined winter drapes for good reason and we can do the same.

Seventh, if you are going to be home, make it a day of cooking and baking.  That extra heat will be welcome on a cold day, especially if it came from a pot of homemade stew and homebaked bread or cookies.  When you are done baking leave the oven door open to utilize that heat as well.  I used to live in an apartment that had no heat source in the kitchen so I just turned on the gas burners.  No worries about ventilation, the place was 80 years old and very drafty, but do take care if you need to do this and never leave the room unoccupied with burners on, especially if you have children.  If you have an electric stove you could turn on the oven and leave the door open but I'm not sure how frugal that would be.  Also you can boil water in a pot to add humidity which makes you feel warmer - not much need for that here on the Gulf Coast - this one is quite frugal if you have a woodburning stove.

Eighth, if you have a pet like a dog or cat and they like to snuggle, indulge them.  A dog or cat's body temperature is much higher than a human's (100-102.5 degrees Fahrenheit) and they are portable heaters that cost very little.   I used to have one cat that would sleep under the covers with me so I stayed nicely warm all night and so did he.
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Ninth, try a heating pad to warm up your bed 30 minutes before you crawl in, just like a bed warming pan of hot coals like your great grandma used to use.  A hot water bottle at your feet works well too.  If you do use a heating pad, only use it for a short period of time, it is not meant to be slept with, would save you no money and could cause a fire. 

Tenth,  don't be afraid of looking silly wearing clothes to bed.  A sweatshirt and sweat pants are much warmer than a cotton gown.  Also wear your fuzzy socks to bed.  A knit cap on your head in frigid weather  works nicely too, we lose a lot of heat out the top of our heads and it's a good old idea we have lost sight of.  Remember the line from 'Twas the Night Before Christmas' about "Mother in her kerchief and I in my cap had just settled down for a long winter's nap."

Eleventh, some other ideas I have read about.  If you have radiators you can add a metal panel behind it to bounce that heat back into the room rather than letting the wall soak it up.  For fun put up a tent in the middle of the room and only heat that.  Think your house is cold? go outside for a bit and it will feel heavenly when you come back in.
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So there's 11 ways to stay warm while trying to save some money on heating, at least for those of us without a woodburning stove or fireplace.

How to Save Money on Groceries

I've always been careful when it comes to buying groceries.  I check the sale papers, the clearance sections and know that things like rice, potatoes and pasta can stretch one meal into 4.  I've also canned my own food for many years.   However I rarely use coupons because they are usually for items that are more expensive and for processed foods. 

In the last year (2012) I made a major change in the way I buy groceries and it has saved me a lot.  I started out by buying a bit extra if something was on sale, whether it was peanut butter, fruits & vegetables or meat, etc..  I would can or dehydrate the extra if it was called for.  Many items can be frozen too if you have the room in your freezer.  For example if you are buying one bag of rice because it's on sale, get a couple extra and store it in containers, food saver bags or those mylar bags you can find pretty cheap on Ebay.  

I have bought chicken breast when it went on sale for 99¢ a pound, boiled it and canned it and the broth.  Ready to eat meat in a jar for making sandwiches, casseroles, tacos, soups and more.  Recently I bought beef roast when Kroger had it on sale for $1.99 a pound.  I slow roasted it and canned it just like the chicken.  Last week I canned leftover turkey and broth.  When those large bags of frozen vegetables are on sale I pick up some extra and dehydrate them.  When I buy celery I chop up and dehydrate the stalks from the old bunch and store them in a jar.  

No matter what you are buying on sale, if you pick up one, why not pick up two or three.  You will soon have a little stockpile in your pantry and you can now go shopping right at home.  What happens after a while is that you are now pretty much only buying sale items, so the $100 a week you used to spend on 50 different things is now more like $50 on multiples of a few items that are on sale or clearance.  Because you have a nicely stocked pantry you can still put a balanced meal together.

You can do this with any item, canned veggies, flour & sugar, coffee, etc.  Even one extra will help you to save money in the future because prices will go up and you are buying at a discount today.  Don't be afraid to check out the dollar stores in your area.  I buy a lot of canned goods and fruit juices as well as cat food at Dollar General.  Many of the chain dollar stores take coupons too.  A 13 pound bag of cat food at $8.50 is already less than Walmart, take off the 75¢ coupon I had and I now have a great deal.

Though I rarely use coupons, I have gotten some on Ebay, like for the cat food.  I paid $1.75 for 20 coupons.  There are many sites online where you can print out coupons for items you like though some stores will limit how many you can use and some will not take them at all.

One last thing, you can save the most money by cooking at home rather than eating out.  I love eating out, but if I choose to eat good food and not fast food I have to limit how often I eat out, that means cooking at home most of the time and taking my lunch to work.  And I don't have to deal with lunch time traffic!

Save Money on Heat Costs

Want to save some money on heating costs?  Here's how I did it.

This is a ceramic heater, they usually cost about $20 to $25.  I got one at Dollar General last year and another at Big Lots this year.  Both of these oscillate.

Let me say first that I live near Houston, TX and winters here are not really winter like I grew up with in MI. However the high humidity makes it feel colder than it is and goes right to my old bones.
In December I used the central heat with the unused rooms shut off.  I did not use the central heat for January.  Instead I used the 2 ceramic heaters.

Both of mine have 3 settings, cool which seems pointless to me, warm and high.  Mostly warm is good as I am not trying to heat a huge area.  My bedroom is roughly 16' x 12" and one of these on high for 2 hours makes it toasty warm enough to either cut it back to warm or what I mostly did which was to turn it off and sleep under my quilt.  One heater I use in the dining area where my desk is.  This is where I hang out when I get home from work.  This one runs for about 5-6 hours an evening on warm.  The one in the bedroom for 1-2 hours and maybe 1/2 hour in the morning in the bathroom.

My electricity bill that covered December 2012 with the central heat set on 60 unless I was home and then it was 68, was $124.  My bill for January 2013 which had about the same amount of cold days and nights, using only the ceramic heaters, was $53.

I have similar results in the summer with the 2 window air conditioning units although the cost is greater due to increased use of the a/c in the bedroom.  All in all smaller units for limited areas of use work best to save me money year round.  It may not work for those with more people living in their home and probably not for those in colder climates but for a $25 investment you might see if one might work well for you.

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