Economizing Measures

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.

Economizing Measures ~ Mend & Alter Clothes

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