Category Archives: domestic economy

Feeling Virtuous, but. . .

I probably shouldn’t.

I got 2 crates into the pantry on the pull out shelf today. The crates I’d used previously were too big to use with the pull out hardware. Without the hardware, however, the crates with sanitized sand and carrots were too heavy for me to move easily, so…

We had these other crates. Putting them in the pantry dislodged what had been there since we took out the other crates: an Elfa basket with gallon bottles and a few other things.

I have to go to the hardware store and buy 2 bags of sanitized sand (sold for sand boxes) and find one of the rolls of hardware cloth, to make “lids.” Finally, I have label holders I’ll add to one side of each crate, so I can remember when I put the veggies in.

I removed a small, round plastic bucket which had salted herbs in it. Used one of the available rectangular plastic bins. The bucket will go to the dump, tomorrow. I also removed the 2 dog biscuit canisters I’d been using for canning jar lids. The canisters will go away. The lids have a new home, in a Euro canning jar I also already owned.

(Seeing a pattern here?)

The result is that the hole where the shelf goes was cleaned, the shelf was cleaned, two cleaned crates are on the shelf, empty, with the step stool, and 3 rectangular bins, one has salted herbs in it, the others empty.

The water filters (which had also been on this shelf) are set aside to be put into the attic. I have no idea what to do with the Elfa basket, or the gallon jars, but I’ll figure it out.

So, 3 pieces out, 3 pieces to attic, 3 pieces pulled, nowhere to go, 2 containers used, and a lot less chaos in the pantry. All good!

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Wall of Shame

Another company we will no longer do business with: Swing A Way Can Openers. Why?

My Dad bought our first Swing A Way in the 1970s, as far as I know, it’s still working fine in the house where I grew up.

So, when DH and I got married in the 1980s, I bought one for us, the first one was in a box which disappeared in the move. I bought another, about 1985, it survived moving from  FL to New England and two households here, about 10 years or so, then it suddenly didn’t cut correctly. I kept thinking I just had to clean it, and did, and then I got tired of that, and got a new one in a fit of “self-care” about 5 years ago. Seeing a trend here?

Yep. They moved their operations to China a few years back, and the cheap cr*p can opener I bought last has just been replaced.

Note to marketers: Selling me cheap crap isn’t a sustainable business model. I remember your name and I WILL do the research to find whatever new names you adopt.

In the meantime? I will add Swing A Way’s name to the others on my “Do not buy” list.

J

I Do This — Do You?

I buy used durable goods, like blankets.  We have quite a few blankets, almost none of which were bought new. A few were, one’s an heirloom, but more were bought used, especially the wool ones. I love wool blankets, and even used they’re rarely cheap!

So, buying a blanket with moth holes, or missing its binding, is not new for me. I’d rather pile them on the bed and just enjoy the warmth, than be bent out of shape because I can’t find the perfect piece.

I was thinking about this because I’d just looked at a few sites pushing the idea of buying something only once. That by buying quality items, then the inevitable replacement isn’t necessary. I like the idea, and as I was going through the blankets today I was thinking about it:

  • Two of the blankets I bought new in 1984. They were replacements of two blankets I’d bought the year before and had taken to the dry cleaners, which burned down before I got them back. The plastic carrier for one of them has split and was put into the trash today. I can store both of them in the other carrier when I put them away next spring.
  • Two LL Bean Polartec blankets we bought shortly after we got here. They’re over 20 years old. The used-to-be-feral kitty loves Polartec, all happy claw kneading and deafening purrs, so whichever one we aren’t using is her current bed.
  • We have a hand-quilted matelese piece which is literally falling apart. This is one of those supremely comfortable pieces you fight the guy to get rid of. We got it at auction about 10 years ago.
  • We have another hand-quilted blanket which DH’s grandmother made. (She made enough quilts for all the grandchildren.) It’s starting to wear, but we’ve had it 30+ years now.
  • There are 3 wool blankets, (white, pink, green) with moth holes. I got these at a church sale on the seacoast 6 years ago. I intend to actually felt these this year, somehow that just hasn’t gotten done.
  • Finally, there’s a plaid wool blanket I got last year from an antique store. It’s nearly the same colors as the 3 wool blankets from the church sale. I felted it right after I got it. Works fine.

The first blankets weren’t cheap, but we’ve had them 30 years, so how much is that? I don’t remember how much the Polartec blankets were, but they’re weren’t cheap either. The others were all cheaper and bought second hand.

Buying used stuff makes it harder to get matchy-matchy if that’s what you want (not my thing).

I have 4 duvet covers, which is quite a lot for just one bed, ‘eh?

We bought one this year and it wasn’t cheap, but we’ve been looking at buying linen sheets. We want to stop buying sheets for at least 5 years. [Buying used sheets is a crapshoot. You get something wonderful which lasts every now and then, or you get a sheet you put your feet through the second time you use it.]

Sheets are insanely expensive for what they are. Okay. If I’m going to have to spend premium money, I want premium goods which won’t need to be replaced in two years! So, we got a duvet with linen content, as a test. Without a quilt in it, we used it as a top sheet this summer to see if we hated the feel of the fabric (No.) We plan to use it as a regular duvet cover this winter.

Two of the duvet covers are home made (not by me) from sheets. I got these used, somewhere, don’t know when. I don’t use them as duvet covers, but heavy pieces of cloth over veggies in the car on the way back from the farm, to haul laundry, etc.

The last duvet cover is a fancy Umbra one we got at BB& B, on last markdown, about 9 years ago. It’s spring green and I break it out mid-winter when I’m completely sick of white, mud brown, black, gray, drab and other grim wintery colors. Combating those winter blues!

So I buy a few premium new pieces and keep them for decades, or buy good used things — and keep them for decades. I’d love to have the $ to just go out and buy premium stuff if I wanted to, but I’d miss the hunt and satisfaction I get from knowing I’ve paid little for something which will help me be a happy non-consumer.

One reason I went through the linen collection this week was to determine WHEN I need to start worrying about buying sheets? When we do, I’ll go looking for linen content, but in the meantime, what we have should last another year or more. The same is true of duvet covers and blankets.

We have one bedspread. I will probably sell it. The duvet covers work just fine.

 

Drowning in Food

This is the mid to end of summer glut: peppers, tomatoes, potatoes, kale, greens, onions, carrots, etc. all at once.

I got up at 5 a.m. to start dealing with my overflowing counter. In the past 4 hours I’ve roasted red peppers and chopped some for the freezer, dried a little, set aside tomatoes for salad/fresh use, made roasted tomato sauce, put the latest batch of potatoes away, etc.

veggies

I have a flea market tomorrow, so need to pack the car for that, involves a trip to the storage during the day (no access at night to the new space), my tables and most of the flea market merchandise is in storage, although of course I have some here. I have other steps to do for this as well, before 5 this evening.

If it wasn’t raining, again, I’d be outside as well today, putting Rustoleum on the wrought iron tables which we’ve stored for the past few years. We intend to use them on the porch. Great, but they’ve gotten rusty and so need to be wire brushed and then painted beforehand. Without the rain, I could do some or all of that or painting clapboards when I got to where I wanted to pitch tomatoes across the room rather than deal with them. (It happens. Not that I pitch them — but that I get where I want to!)

So — I’ve been up about 4 hours, had 1 cup of coffee and dealt with 10 lbs of food or more. How’s your day going???

J

New To Do List 8/14/17

to do list 1

 

Get at least one piece of one item off of the long-term list!

SHORT TERM:

  • Replace the north/south doors. (They’ve been ordered, will be delivered tomorrow.)
  • Work on the websites.
  • Prime & paint the removed clapboards from the laundry wall where the new door will be installed. (Priming has been in process since last Friday.)
  • Get the nailers up so the guys can finish up the trim. Monday
  • Get the clapboards painted? Started Monday
  • Paint the rest of the exterior of the house next to the porch.
  • Get the clapboards reinstalled.
  • Finish filling in the holes caused by the construction. Wednesday
  • Finish edging the “rain garden”.
  • Fill the bagster
  • Order gravel.
  • Order wood.

MEDIUM TERM: (in the next 2-3 weeks)

  • Empty the old coffee table full o’ stuff in the hallway.
  • Resolve the “too many” coffee tables dilemma.
  • Remove the “island” of boxes of stuff from the attic. Sell, donate, or trash enough that the floor can stay cleared.
  • Put food away for winter.
  • The fridge freezer needs to be organized and purged. Started Monday
  • Clean the fridge’s shelves.
  • Paint the laundry room, inside and out.
  • Paint the bathroom.
  • Get the new shower curtain liner painted and installed.
  • Get through more of the accounting backlog.
  • Get last year’s unfinished clean up done in the entry/living room/hall.
  • Get the marble table out of the kitchen and to the antique booth. [Called the person who had indicated he’d help me get it to the shop.]

LONG TERM & ONGOING:

  • Get a job.
  • Pay off the equity line.
  • Continue to use up the stored foods: grains, beans, pasta, etc. (The canned goods purge the end of last year beginning of this year worked.)
  • Rebuild the winter pantry.
  • Writing Projects: Memoir, 1st 3rd of retype complete 8/30
  • Writing Projects: Article
  • Writing Projects: Kitchen Book
  • Writing Projects: Novel

REAL Zero Waste

Because it’s summer, we’ve been using our freezers a lot. We have a small, non-defrosting freezer we bought as a back up when the fridge was dying/not dying the second time. The long-term plan has always been to get rid of it, probably next year.

That said, one way we work to keep it more energy efficient (and less of a PITA) is that we keep an ice scraper in it and when the door is opened, we scrape off some of the extra “snow.”

I debated what to do with this and found a solution. I toss it on the ground, push it around and use is as a sweeping compound. It picks up the dirt, leaves a very slight skim of water on the wood floor and when it’s dirty gets tossed into the garden. Water + dirt, and that’s it. No soap, no extra cost, no extra power used, nada.

I had used snow as a sweeping compound on the concrete floor of the bookstore, but it never occurred to me that I could partially defrost the freezer AND do this mid-summer!

I wish I could find 100 things like this, but 1 counts ‘eh?

J

10+ Ideas for Saving Money

We bought some garden supplies yesterday. A while back I discovered how and where to get the supplies cheaper than I had before. The regular retail price of what we bought was $12. I paid $4. The $8 difference isn’t huge, but do that 5 or 10 times a year? Yep, it’s significant.

frugality image

These  are my “secrets” although none of them are secret.

  1. Be willing to buy something that isn’t in pristine shape, frequently you can get it cheaper, maybe a lot cheaper. We’ve done this with all sorts of goods: luggage at the L.L. Bean outlet with the wrong initials on them, used diner dishes from a thrift shop, etc. I buy clothes, china/glass at thrift shops. I go to my local salvage (scratch & dent) market before I go to the supermarket. (See #2 below.)
  2. Go through sale items before you shop elsewhere in a store. True at L. L. Bean’s outlet, the supermarket, the salvage store, a consignment shop, thrift shops, etc. Most stores have a regular sale corner or shelf. If you learn where that is, or where the markdowns go and go through them first, you avoid buying 4 new rolls of paper towels instead of 3 and one with a rip in the plastic cover for 1/2 off.
  3. Don’t buy things just because they’re on sale. I wanted 2 things yesterday: cloth paint tarps and the garden materials. Got everything for just under $20. I know I can find the garden materials on sale, it’s just locating them, so if I hadn’t found them on sale, I would have passed. The paint tarps (not on sale, but usually smaller and cheaper than other tarps) are to put over the ever-larger leaf piles, so leaves aren’t blown back into the yard and to speed up composting.
  4. Be willing to walk away or have an alternate plan if what you want isn’t on sale. First time I looked for the garden materials this year I couldn’t find them on sale. The alternate plan for this is a lot of weeding. or using a home-grown substitute for what I bought, but it’s messier and doesn’t work as well.
  5. Be willing to do some work to get the bargain. I had to go look though the store for my bargain yesterday, then find someone to talk to. Needed help from the cashier too. If you’re always in a hurry, this will probably keep you from getting those bargains.
  6. Don’t damage items or try and bargain with the retailer, unless you know they’re okay with it. I had a retail store for years. I hated people who would pick up a $5 book and ask me to sell it to them for $3. Asking for a break at the end of the season is one thing. Or, if you truly need to buy a lot of something, talk to them beforehand. Don’t ask for extra discounts during sales.
  7. Buy in or out of season. In season for perishable items, like produce. Out of season for nonperishable items, like winter coats. The bargains in nonperishable items usually start as the seasons change, and get larger (with less selection) as time goes on.
  8. Know what customary retail is on an item before you go bargain hunting. If you’re paring down your food bill, frequently people make a “price book.” No one (or very few people) seem to do the same thing for durable goods they’re interested in: sofas, tires, prom dresses, etc.
  9. Find websites which will help you save time/money. I will tell you as a person who has spent a lot of time finding these, there are too many to review in any kind of timely way. If you want food coupons, there’s some really outstanding ones. If you want info re organization, same goes. If you want to save money in general, there’s a bunch of those too. If you go looking for general “save money” websites, you can quickly be overwhelmed. Be specific what you want help with before you go looking.
  10. Learn about cheaper substitutes: chicken thighs instead of breasts, for example.
  11. Limit what you’ll buy. For us, that’s six month’s worth of something which isn’t perishable, if I have the room. I bought shampoo a while back. I had coupons good for $2 off 2 and it was on sale as well. I had 3 coupons. I got 6 bottles. Normally, I’ll only buy 3 extra, max., but the shampoo won’t go bad, and my coupons were about to expire. Also, I’d just cleaned out the space where I’d store these, so I knew I had room.
  12. Be willing to comparison shop by phone if you’re buying either a large quantity or something that’s expensive. I just read an article by someone in the business who recommended this for caskets, etc. dealing with the death of a loved one. I’d never considered that, but why not? If it’s true of caskets, it’s certainly true about 4 dozen azalea plants or 1 tonne of gravel or 3 cases of tomatoes or 25 lbs of ground round. (See Jill Bond’s Mega Cooking if  you’re interested in strategies re food bulk buying.)