Category Archives: frugality

New?

My email provider has been bugging me to increase the size of my email file. I don’t want to, as the bulk of what I’ve kept are unread promo emails. So, I started culling email last night. I used to have I think it was 80,000 unread emails. These days that’s down to 28,000.

This morning I was standing in front of the wood stove, something I do in the winter a fair amount. I’ve discovered that the most productive thing I can do while standing there is sort papers. This morning it was going through the last of the yesterday’s ads and coupons. That’s done. Sometime later this morning, I’ll grab a slug of papers out of a box and start on those.  Or, I’ll go through the coupon folder and make sure I know what expires this week.

Sorting paper while standing in front of the wood stove is remarkably productive and gets a job done which isn’t my fave (how I got all the papers to start with).

We didn’t make it to the dump yesterday and when we went Saturday, we just took 2 bags of books. I’ve generated another small bag and DH has it and will donate those today.

Are you seeing a pattern here?

This is exactly like the frugal food idea, that is, have a method in place (a recipe) to deal with the excess and use it, regularly. It’s new for me.

I have cookbooks for using left-overs, but I hadn’t, until recently, made up a list of what to do with specific items.

sunrise

(Image not mine, don’t know where I got it, sorry!)

I didn’t have a plan, for email or for food stuffs, until recently. The paperwork I’ve been doing for a while, especially going through the Sunday papers before we acquire a new set, but not necessarily the going through the file/toss papers — receipts, bills, etc.

So, less stuff: unwanted electronic data, paperwork, books, and less food waste. It’s all good!

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Frugal Food, New Ideas

Two or three things.

  • Because of the government craziness, I decided I would buy $10 (on non paycheck weeks) or $20 (on paycheck weeks) of shelf-stable food and donate it to our food pantry. Even with food stamps still being given out, there’s about 50,000+ new people and their families who might need those resources. There’s no way the system can just absorb that much without extraordinary help. This is what I came up with that I can do.
  • Because of that, I’ve been working hard at trying to figure how I can use what we already have, in new ways:

I went through the entire list of veggies, etc. available from the farm in 2018 and figured out what I’d do with all of them. This has been an on-going issue. I end up with green slime in my fridge every year and tossed  veggies and I hate that!

The answer? Use/designate what you want to use fresh for a week. Have a plan in place to deal with the overage of any extra and deal with it, so you start fresh each week. I have done some of that previously, but hadn’t done it EVERY WEEK, which is my new idea. I did it with greens at the beginning of last season, so I started winter with a jar of dried “savory” greens.

I also tried to make piecrust, with the typical result, that is, that it didn’t work as planned. What do you do with this ball of dough with a stick of butter in it? DH came up with an answer for that one, he made a loaf of brioche. Worked fine! (I will try pie crust again, sometime.)

Last week I bought some fresh flat-leaf parsley and thyme. I used most of the thyme in a chicken dish last night, yummy and no left overs. But there was extra thyme. It got dried this morning and will be added to the spice bottle.

Because I have no recipes which actually use my dried greens — I have a pot of soup:  dried greens, potato, celery, leek, and stock simmering for lunch. (I’ve been just sprinkling a little in soups or stews and always had to toss about 1/2 a jar or more in the spring.)

veggies

(Not sure where this image came from, but it is NOT mine. It’s an image I’ve used before here, but I am not laying claim to it.)

I generated a list, by week of products from the farm, and how to put  any extras aside. This is ingredients rather than finished meals, like OAMC.

  1. Greens
  2. Herbs & Spices
  3. Stew/Soup Veggies and Greens
  4. Stewed Tomatoes
  5. A few dried Veggies
  6. At least one herbal tea mix

I’ve done this before, but not consistently. I don’t think I’ll put aside enough to get us through winter, but that’s the idea. And, of course, in the spring, there will be hardly anything left.

I’m out of farm greens, onions and celery. I have 2 more leeks. The carrots I’d put in the fridge are gone. That’s week 3 of 12.

Anyway, that’s my new idea. Have a plan in place to deal with any unused food, and get that done.

What do you do to avoid feeding your trashcan?

 

Ironing the Driveway & Other Skills You Never Knew You’d Need…

The result of the traumas related to knitting etc. caused me to lose much of my enthusiasm about making things. I’m not all that good at knitting or crocheting anyway, but I have a few pieces I’m proud of. I had crotched a hat of Malabrigo wool, and have two scarves, one for DH one for me, of Eco Yarn which I knitted.

malabrigo wool

(Malabrigo wool, image via images.google.com, NOT mine!)

The hat disappeared about a week ago. Last weekend I gave up and bought a hat, which is far too big for me, but it was better than having a cold head.

I got home yesterday from the storage where I’d worked on the transfer from one unit to a smaller one. I went back outside, opened the tailgate to get the first box of books I intended to deal with and there was my hat, on the ground  — frozen solid on the dirt driveway. So, we tried various ideas to get it unstuck: heated bottles of water and put on top of the hat, a hair dryer, chipping around the edges with a screwdriver, and finally? A travel iron, which created much steam, but I got the hat thawed enough to pull it from the driveway.

I put a shovel or two of snow where I’d been heating the drive, just in case. I wasn’t very worried, it was 23 degrees outside!

Kneeling in the driveway, running an iron on something which couldn’t be seen from the road? I was just waiting for someone to ask WTF I was doing?

But that didn’t happen. It’s not a skill I’d list in a resume, but it certainly is something new to me, and one I never knew I’d need!

I’ll probably take it apart and make a new hat, after I wash the wool.

frozen driveway.jpeg

(Image via images.google.com, it is NOT mine!)

Action Items

I’ve been whacking away at the various piles of boxes in the bedroom. I’ve created some clear floor space and stuffed our swap shop/recycling bins. Today is a dump day —

Hurrah!

Another thing we’ve been doing for some time is replacing and upgrading what we can, as we can. This is prepatory to either selling this place or retiring here. We probably won’t have money to replace the roof, upgrade windows, etc. when DH retires, and so the updates need to be done beforehand. We’ve been doing a big item every few years, and little stuff between. We pay off one big item, then do the next. We started this years ago.

We found some LED lighting on sale just before Christmas, and DH has been busy installing them. Our favorite type of upgrade: it replaces the badly done, dead cheap, marginal stuff which came in the house with something we can 1) afford 2) is cheaper to operate 3) will function more productively and 4) looks better than what we’ve lived with for years.

What we got when we bought this place were shop lights, hidden with cheap plastic grids. They looked awful, didn’t light the room well, and the plastic grids disintegrated all over the counters — just what you want in your food: bits of oxidizing plastic!

(We took down those grids right after we moved in.)

Shop lights are not my idea of attractive kitchen lighting. Picky, I know.

Especially when they’re on the ceiling of a post/beam room. The available lights were in a hole, the light was blocked by the beams, right? So the fixtures looked awful, didn’t function well and have been on our “Replace This” list nearly since the day we moved in!

The new lights are suspended from the beams, no blocked light! Also, light where it’s needed. What a pleasure!

 

Christmas Bread and Dear Bosch

Every year on Christmas Eve we bake bread for the neighbors. It gets involved. We all but sterilize the kitchen first, for one thing.

Last night we self-cleaned the oven. Today I’ve cleaned all the counters around the stove and sink, sterilized them and the sink. DH, as I write this is scrubbing oven racks, the dishwasher is going, as is the washing machine with a large wadge of dishwashing flannel (I gave up on sponges this year.), dish towels and counter rags (I use washcloths).

This year we’re baking 12 loaves, we’ve done up to 16. We give 2 to families with kids and 1 to those without.

We started this years ago when DH was out of work. We just couldn’t come up with the $ to bake cookies or do more elaborate gifts. It’s a single-rise bread, which is the only way we can start this production on Christmas Eve morning and be done before dinner!

After 25+ years now, it’s a tradition, and so we’ve continued it.

But we’re using a lot of our appliances, of course, and that reminded me I keep wanting to write a letter to Bosch.

Dear Bosch,

We love your products. We have various Bosch bits in our cars, a water heater, tools, a dishwasher, range, etc. As I said, we love your products. They’re made with the usual German precision, except when they aren’t, and then they’re a PITA!

  • Why wouldn’t you make oven racks which actually fit in the oven without fussing?
  • The manual for the range says you offer dehydration racks. When we asked Bosch USA about them, quoting the manual? They said there never were such things. (?)
  • Why didn’t you make your “buttonless” controls easier to actually start the machines they’re on?

 

Bosch, obviously, we don’t mind waiting while we save for products we think are well made and will last. I like what you make, and have for decades now, but sometimes….

Remember the Energy Report?

Yes, this one. The one which said we use 94% more energy than other people in similar houses.

We just got another one of those reports! This one says we use 53% more energy than other people in similar houses. So, we’re doing 41% better than six months ago.

Still same idiotic recommendations: set your thermostat at 68*, we don’t use the thermostat; we heat almost entirely with wood.

There’s a tip. “Make an energy savings plan for the new year. Maintain momentum all year by celebrating achievements large and small.”

Hello? According to you, we used approx. 200% (93% more than others, rounded) more energy than others in May.

Now we’re using approx. 150% (43% more than others, rounded) more as of Oct. THAT means we’ve cut our usage 25% in the past 6 months.

And there is, this time, a statement: “This is based on 75 similar homes within an average distance of 2 miles.” I don’t think there are 75 other log homes within 10 miles of here, much less 2. But I don’t think our home’s construction is the real issue, although I’m sure it matters.

I think the reason we’re over is because we’re here, working and living 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. And nowhere is that talked about.

This time there does seem to be a number where I can talk directly to someone about this. I wonder if I have the patience to try again? I never did get an answer to the letter I sent, this one.

Update: 11/8/18 I tried to call to talk to someone at 1:23 p.m. That’s a Thursday, right? Said they were closed for the week. Hello? Going that extra mile to impress me again, aren’t you?

The Primal Shift

Yesterday was pepper day! I made salsa, put peppers on a ristra, made stuffed peppers for dinner and the freezer, and roasted red peppers for future batches of my version of “tomato” soup.


This morning I’ve been dealing with dried herbs. The farm has PYO herbs and they bunch them occasionally. I use a LOT of parsley, thyme, mixed basils, and rosemary. I make a winter tea from spearmint/lemon balm. Today I went through all the herbs/spices:

  • I have enough/too much thyme. I’ll offer some to friends.
  • I need more parsley.
  • I need more lemon balm/spearmint for tea.

The rest of it I left alone.

If I don’t do this at this time of year, what happens is that around Feb.  I run out of parsley and tea. I object to paying retail for parsley, (Remember this?) so….


This reminded me that I also need a “cube” of pine shavings for the root cellar crates. I’ve tried sand (too heavy) and newspaper (too messy) so this year I’ll try wood shavings. I need to sterilize the crates. They’ve been empty all summer, but weren’t sterilized, as I knew it’d be months before they were put back to use.


There’s also the annual replacing older foods to make room. The last 3C or so of my 2017 winter tea mix is in the compost bucket, for example. The current bottle of thyme will join it soon.

Part of this is having enough parsley, winter tea, thyme, tarragon, etc. Where previously I would have kept all of anything, whether it was likely I’d ever use it, or not? These days I send a email to friends & neighbors asking if they want the extras. If I get no takers, the compost heap gets another donation.

pantry storage

It’s also time to beef up the canned goods. I’m pleased to say that we used all the canned and dried meats I had set aside and the canned veggie shelf has 2 cans of butter beans (used for bean soup), a can of garbonzos (hummus) and 3 cans of chopped chilis. That’s it! Getting to where the flow of pantry items made sense was one goal I had a couple of years ago. We had things we’d stored for years and hadn’t used. We had stuff neither of us liked, because it had been cheap. After three years of work, I’m pleased to say that my pantry at the end of summer has very little in it! More pasta than anything else, and not a huge amount of that. Previously, I had so much food that it was in the attic, under the sink, etc. and wasted mostly!

Still, there is something about the process of getting ready for winter I love. Much of it I hate because I loathe the idea of winter itself. But when I know I have a little food set aside to use midwinter it’s pleasing. It appeals to the frugalista in me, but it also hits a much deeper level.