Economizing Measures

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 

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 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 
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
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 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 

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 

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 out
side 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 some
thing 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 
If you truly feel you are not creative and just can't make your 
own stuff for the party, try 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 
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 1.5 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 took 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 

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

Saving your Clothes with Mending and Altering

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 
ven 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 what
ever 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 some
thing 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 left
over 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.
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 some
thing 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.
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.
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.
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 home
baked 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.
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.
So there's 11 ways to stay warm while trying to save some 
money on heating, at least for those of us without a wood
burning 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
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
imited 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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