Category Archives: home improvements

Stuck at Home? Ideas to Pass the Time and Baking Ingredient/Substitutions List

I live with an anxiety disorder, PTSD. One thing I’ve learned in dealing with anxiety my entire life (well, since I was 3) is that the easiest way to cope is to keep busy! So, here’s a few ideas to help you.

  1.  Read! I’m a book person, right? I want to get at least one book off my “to be read” pile. Even if you only have 5 minutes here or there because you’re not commuting to work, it’s “found” time!
  2. Cook (to reduce waste)! I have the end of a package of mushrooms which will become slime soon and onions which have started to sprout… And butter, yes, I have some butter, it’s in the freezer. (Hopefully, I can buy more.) Make something basic that can be used in future meals and also reduces your food waste: sauteed onions and duxelles are in my plans today, for just that very reason.
  3. Improve! Work on a home-improvement project if you have all the pieces, or have the pieces to start. We planned, after DH broke his leg, to be really conservative this year on home projects. Possible retirement was also a factor. So, we decided that we’d make use of the supplies and materials on hand rather than starting any new projects. One of those projects is painting the living room’s baseboards. I started that yesterday!
  4. Inventory! Do an inventory. Do you have 19 cans of chili and 2 of fruit cocktail? When availability/resources are limited, knowing exactly what you have (and don’t) enables you to shop for and store only the necessary, keeps down expenditures, and keeps products you could have overbought available for others.
  5. Cook (basics)! Don’t cook from scratch? Try. Fry an egg, make toast. The next time, add some sauteed onion or mushrooms, bell peppers, or what have you? Or, try boiling an egg instead. Or make biscuits from a can or . . . push your cooking towards the next level.
  6. Explore alternatives! Find and use alternatives if you can. Especially with baking there seem to be a lot:
    • Baking powder can be made up from cream of tartar and baking soda, here.
    • Brown sugar can be made up as needed from white sugar and molasses, here.
    • Applesauce can be used to substitute for fats in baking, here.
    • Soy flour can be substituted for eggs, here.

Goldilocks Dilemma: Supplies, part 2

Given what I know about supplies, how do I determine how much space is needed?


These factors affect supply storage: use rate, back stock needs, available space.


Once I know the use rate, I can determine reasonable back stock. For example, we use about 3/4 of a roll of paper towels a week, mostly to deal with pan grease. Having a 2 week supply seems reasonable. That means I need a back stock of 1 roll. But my usual source for these sells them in 4 roll (or bigger) packages.  I need to decide if having 3 rolls in storage makes sense? If it does, then the back stock amount/space for 1 roll won’t work, obviously.

It seems I need TWO types of back stock storage: immediate and a supply closet or shelf. Immediate storage near where the product is used, an extra bar of soap under the sink, for example. But if I buy a 6 bar bundle, most of those should go somewhere else, like a supply closet.

I don’t have a supply closet right now… soon! One planned summer improvement is for DH to build a broom closet. When he does, the wardrobe that’s our current broom closet will be empty. 

There’s space available elsewhere, I’ll use that until the wardrobe is empty.

My minimum for the shelf-stable supplies we use the most often? One complete refresh. I have that. It isn’t what I’d like because it isn’t the most frugal option, but given that I have nowhere to store a large back stock? It makes sense.


“When you keep an account of your stores, and the dates when they are bought, you can know exactly how fast they are used…”

Miss Beecher’s Domestic Receipt-Book, 3rd ed.,1856

Long-Term Storage Foods, Food Frugality, & Food Security

For a long while now, I’ve planned to make menus using more long-term storage foods. For one thing, long-term storage foods are usually available in bulk, or I can buy them in bulk, and the prices  aren’t as seasonally variable. I’m not talking about the canned goods available for preppers and Mormons. I’m talking about regular food available at the supermarket, although I may buy a caselot or large quantity! (Eventually, I might just buy those prepper or Mormon foods, although I never have.)

I’ve researched how long foods last and in what conditions. My plan has always been to take foods which are the most shelf-stable and incorporate those into our diet.

Very long-term storage foods, 2 years or more,  which don’t require any extra equipment to store include mostly unopened packages of: sugar,white rice, canned ham, canned coffee, chocolate syrup, instant tea,vanilla, vinegar, unpopped popcorn, condiment sauces: hot sauce, worcestershire, salsa, and hard liquor, according to one list.

Aside from the canned ham and possibly the popcorn, if you could grind it into cornmeal, there’s not much there that will sustain life.

Another list adds ground herbs & spices, whole spices, bottled water, bullion, canned meat & vegetables, and wheat berries to the long-term storage list.

Foods which can be stored for up to a year are more plentiful. Add corn meal, grits, whole grain pasta, nonfat dry milk, vegetable oil, dry soup mixes, canned fruits,  canned juices & tomatoes, dried peas and beans, unshelled nuts, canned coffee, and tea.

Various sources disagree about how long foods can be stored, so do your own research. The disagreements are why I haven’t included links.

However, with the wheat, rice, beans, and herbs, ah now I can make more than just canned ham. Off the top of my head you can make rice & beans, bean burgers,  wheatberry salad, etc.

Part of this is retirement planning too. I figure we won’t be able to afford premium foods, unless we buy and use them only as condiments. Using meats that way is something we’ve already changed. When the price of ground beef got over $4 a pound, I stopped buying meat at full price. We’ve been eating only what I can find on sale, about 1/2 off in most cases since. Sometimes that’s sausage, sometimes it’s steak, sometimes, we just eat salad. We’re not feeling deprived and we have sufficient calories and nutrients, I think, so I’m not worried about not having meat every day. If you were raised in the era I was, meat was something you were taught you had to have every night for dinner.

Also, we’ve been baking bread, eating oatmeal for breakfast instead of cold cereal, and we keep talking about learning to make our own crackers and such, as the price per pound for snackfood makes it almost obscene to buy anything, and we like munching just like everyone!

—————————————————————————————————————————————–

This post was started some time ago, as was the post “Life with Sugar” which I also published today. However, I haven’t changed my ideas. What has changed is that these days I would include more home-frozen foods.

Also, a neighbor has a successful root cellar. On my list today is to call her to see if I can go over and talk to her about how she stores veggies through winter. I can store beans, peas, flour, etc. but the veggies are more difficult!

Using the New Heating System

The first partial month, our usage and amount due to the electric company was the same as it had been the year prior, or all but. That was a partial month, so we were anxiously awaiting the Jan. bill.

The bill has about doubled for Jan., however, that said? It is about $100 a month less than we were paying for electricity + propane, when we were running the propane furnace. With this, at some point in the future, we CAN put up solar panels to power it and obviously reduce our consumption from the grid.

However, one swallow doesn’t make a summer and one month’s data isn’t really an accurate accounting!

Not included in here: we got our new, more efficient freezer last spring and removed the older, leaky, inefficient one. Also, last winter we were regularly running electric area heaters and we aren’t now.

Is it cheaper than heating only with wood? No. Is it easier? Heck yeah! This is an adaptation my aging body really likes. Hauling wood was hard!

 

How I Look at Things, Now

These days, when I pick up something here, there’s a series of questions which go through my mind:

  1. Am I using it?
  2. Am I likely to use it in the future?
  3. Is it heavy/awkward to use?
  4. Does it take a lot of maintenance?
  5. Can I get a lighter, easier to use or maintain version for the future?

Last night, I found a hanging, round, wire herb rack online. What I have used ’til now is a 2’+ pegged coat rack, which works fine. The problem with it is: I have to stand on a stepladder to access the hooks, 2x a year: to put the herbs up to dry and to remove them.

I’m trying to eliminate chores which require me to climb a stepladder, right? A rack I could hang lower, like our fruit basket, which is also hung, could be ideal. The one I found said in the not-quite fine print that it didn’t come with a hanging chain, which meant I’d have to find or make something.

Hm. Did a google search and discovered both Target & Williams Sonoma have  similar racks, which come with a hanging chain for $10 less. Great!

I like the rack I’ve used in the past, it may make its way into the out-of-season closets when we get that far, but right now it will stay put. If I remove it, I have to store it somewhere and remember where that is. Much easier, less work/less clutter to leave alone until we know where it’s going to be used or are sure we want to sell it.

The first flea market this year is in April. The cherry coffee table is slated to go, not sure what else, except some books and housewares. We should remove more furniture, but it depends on the weather, our health and money of course!

 

Progress Report

Although I haven’t been reporting here OR keeping track explicitly of my progress, I will say that yes, I’m getting quite a lot done!

The living room got cleared out for DH to live in a bed there, while that was necessary. That bed has been gone since Christmas Day. When he started sleeping in our bed again, the living room was put together a lot closer to what I really wanted it to be. Sometime in here, the table we’d loaned out was returned and we took the round table we’d been using to the swap shop along with the base of the glass-topped table DH had used to take the cover photo for the memoir.

Three days after Christmas, we took more furniture out of here: a chair/ottoman, a small bookcase, the wrought iron table with the marble top, and 2 metal end tables. We rearranged what was left.

A few weekends back, we rented a van and removed the baker’s table from the living room and moved in a low dresser we bought.

Last week, the hall and kitchen were cleaned and culled.

Today, the dining room got cleaned and culled. I had no idea how much I’d stashed around the edges of the dining room until I took it all out this morning. It was a lot!

The only piece of furniture in the dining room which wasn’t moved was the table. When I remove the pieces from the living room and hall and kitchen again, they’ll be sorted: going away now, going away at a flea market, keeps (maybe), keeps (for sure), I’ll have more room. But so far, since these are all boxes I’ve been through recently, there’s not much that’s immediately being culled. That means the stuff needs to be boxed up, labeled, and then, oh yes, I need to find a place to stash the new box.

It will be neater and tidier, but there will still be WAY too much stuff.

Nightmares? No, thankfully; I’m not having nightmares! The only bad night I’ve had recently was Saturday. I returned the edited ms. of the memoir and talked to my publisher. Anything to do with the memoir is usually followed with a bad night, lots of anxiety, etc.

I sat bolt upright around 2 a.m., with a piercing scream in my head which I managed to NOT do, but I woke DH up anyway, because I made a sort of a loud gulp and I’d probably pulled the covers off of him.

jian-xhin-y2yWnOkOUM0-unsplash

Photo by Jian Xhin on Unsplash

I keep doing what’s needed for the book, but I will be very glad when all the steps are something I’ve done.

 

New Living Room

The plan for this week is to finish the revamping of the living room. For one thing, someone is coming to work on the house next week and I’d like it done before that. For another, it seems like I can work on this without issues.

Part of this will require work in the kitchen/dining room too. There’s a new dresser (well, new to us) going in the living room. The table that is sitting where that’s supposed to go has to be emptied and moved. The only sane place to move it is the kitchen. There’s currently no room in the kitchen, sooooo…. you do the math, right?

That means this morning, although it seems contrary, what I will do is work on the kitchen/dining area to get the living room finished!

Move the empty hole around some more, and make it bigger I hope!

(No image this time, sorry. Went to find one, couldn’t find one with books that worked. The only thing close is tagged as a living room, but looks like a retail counter to me! I don’t live in a retail store anymore, or I’m trying mightily NOT to!)