Category Archives: minimalism

Finding the Cheat

See the previous post if you’re not sure what I’m talking about!

Here’s how I found all those “cheats” to use fewer supplies, whether they be lightbulbs, potting soil, toothpaste or frozen food.

What do you do automatically? If you become more aware of those choices, then you can try and change them. My frugal strategies apply:

  • Find a cheaper substitute.
  • Spend less for the same product.
  • Do without.

Figure out what you do automatically: How much oil or fat do you put in a pan — can you use less? Can you use a cheaper oil and have it work as well? Substituting margarine for butter in baked goods doesn’t work in my opinion. For me, it seems to be how much the fat determines the taste of the dish. YMMV!  How do you decide how much TP to use at once? Try delaminating 2-ply and see if it won’t cause you to use less? Worked for me! Pizza toppings: If you love a certain frozen pizza, but hate one topping (or your kid does) and automatically toss it? Can you find a way to use the tossed food? I’m not talking about allergies, of course you shouldn’t keep foods you or yours are allergic to, but preferences. You could use frozen bits of onion or peppers in soups or meatloaf, for example. Sausage pieces could be used in scrambled eggs.

Pay attention to your automatic behavior and the waste it causes. Then try to use what you’ve wasted before.

Use the internet or other resources to help: Try different routes on googlemaps is there a shorter route? Use gasbuddy to find the cheapest gas locally. Find new ways to use up leftovers. Try to make your own foods: bake bread, grow herbs, make gravy.

“If I was broke, what would I do differently?” Many times this shows me what I’m wasting or suggests ideas. I made sauted greens last night for dinner. I took the stems off because DH hates “stringy” greens. Instead of tossing them, I put them in the freezer for smoothies or to be added to soup.

Ask a pro! People who do things for work quickly find the easiest and fastest way to do things. They frequently know the cheapest way too. I found out about the shampoo concentrates at beauty supply shops by asking a hair stylist where the salon bought their shampoo? Another example: my dad, when looking for a new home refrigerator went to the biology department at the college where he worked and asked which refrigerator they’d recommend?

If this works with one thing in 5, it still counts! The idea that it has to save dollars right away or it doesn’t count is EXPENSIVE!

Every little cost-savings idea you use counts.

Each dollar is

100 pennies after all!

 

 

The 3 Strategies to Save Money: #3 Doing Without (& the Cheat for Supplies)

Remember my rant about saving money, here? I use my 3 money-saving strategies all the time. The third strategy is: do without.

Except, that there is a cheat for this strategy: you can use less instead. So, reusing coffee grounds fits if you do 1/2 reused and 1/2 new. I use the cheat a lot with many supplies:

  • With creme rinse (used as a detangler) a bottle lasts 2-3 years!
  • With our dinner napkins. We use linen ones I inherited as our everyday. If they aren’t stained, rather than washing them after every  meal, we use them twice and then wash them.
  • We feed our cats dry food during the day and only give them canned food at dinner. With the small cans, I was splitting it between the two cats. Then I started buying bigger cans so each cat gets 1/4 can. I store fewer cans, the cost per meal is less, and we generate less waste — all good!
  • I use my powered toothbrushes longer than the 90 days specified.
  • I drink coffee with about 1/2 a cup of milk. Milk is cheaper than coffee most of the time. I get my 3 cups of “coffee” and actually ingest a lot less caffeine and spend less too!
  • We mix expensive types cat litters with cheap ones.
  • We used to go to the dump 2-3 times a week, now we go only once. We use fewer trash bags, less gas and wear and tear on the car.
  • We figured out how to use the twigs the trees drop as kindling. Cheaper than fatwood or splitting firewood as it’s free.
  • I use the lunch bags and stems from drying herbs as fire starters. I also have used old newspapers and TP or paper towel cores.
  • I open the blinds in our bathroom and living room first thing in the morning instead of turning on lights. The sunlight is bright enough that I can see where I’m going. Want to read or do something needing more light? Turn on a light.
  • I use cold water to soap dishes or my hands while waiting for warm water. Then, rinse with warm or hot water as needed.
  • My window washing spray isn’t in a spray bottle! I use a combination of dish soap, water, and a little ammonia. I use two rags and a lot less cleaner than I was originally taught.
  • I use about 1/4″ toothpaste and a tiny amount of mouthwash. The rest of the time I’m brushing? I use water.
  • I wash my hair once weekly, instead of daily, like I used to. If we still lived in Florida or the desert, as we did, this wouldn’t have changed, probably. YMMV!
  • I use as many solid  or dry soaps, etc. as possible, esp. if I’m going to use them WITH water: shampoo, creme rinse, laundry detergent, etc.
  • I cut bar soap into pieces before I use it and allow it to air dry as long as  possible, so that it’s as dry as it can be.
  • I’ve been known to delaminate 2-ply toilet paper. I discovered long ago that the amount I want I judge by hand. Delaminating it uses less because my hand feels “full” sooner.
  • I’ve used cornmeal for facial scrub (get it damp with water to a paste, spread it over your face. Stand over a large bowl of clean water and rinse. The cornmeal wants to clog up drains, so do it outside or over a bowl.
  • If you don’t mind perfumes (I’m allergic.) or “aromatherapy,” buy shampoo concentrates instead of diluted shampoo and mix your own. The concentrates are available at beauty supply shops, usually in gallon containers.
  • Buy unscented products and share with your partner rather than having products for each of you.
  • Put a square of chamois next to your bathroom sink and shine the chrome as you go. No fancy cleaners needed.

Goldilocks Dilemma: Clothing

Remember the French Dressing post, here? I decided I was going to reduce my clothing to a capsule wardrobe of 10 items per season, not counting underwear and outerwear.

It occurred to me the other day that I basically have reduced my day-to-day clothing use to a capsule, without thinking about it!

I have a basket which lives in our bathroom on a shelf. It contains the set of clothes I’m not wearing. At home, without company, I wear pj pants and a long-sleeved shirt, cheap plastic socks. When I go out I wear a tank top, a long-sleeved shirt, long johns or leggings (when it’s cold), jeans, and washable wool socks.  During summer I’ll wear the leggings or the jeans but not both.

(I also wear sweaters.)

Company/going out rotation:

  • ? long-sleeved shirts
  • ? tank tops
  • 1 long john top
  •  2 long john pants
  • 3 pairs of jeans
  • 4 pairs of leggings
  • ? washable wool socks.

No company/staying home rotation:

  • ? long-sleeved shirts
  • ? tank tops
  • 1 long john top
  •  2 long john pants
  • 3 pairs of PJ pants
  • 4 pairs o leggings
  • 6 pairs of cozy socks.

When I get home I undress in the bathroom, examining clothes as I remove them. If they can be reused? They’re rolled up and put into the bathroom basket. If dirty, they go into the laundry. I then put on the clothes in the basket and supplement, as needed, from dresser and closet.

This means that the only day-to-day clothes in my closet should be: the unworn long-sleeved shirts, sweaters, and out of season/special event clothing. The clothes in my drawers should be unworn tank tops, leggings/long johns, and pants.


Given this, culling my clothes should be simple! I really like the feel and “flow” of this system. It evolved over time and works for me. YMMV.


Six shirts culled! 10:54 a.m. 3 more 11:12 a.m. 1 more 11:32

 

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

Goldilocks Dilemma: Durable Goods (Spreadsheet)

The questions of Just Right? Not Enough? Too Much? for Durable Goods is easier than that for supplies. (Not sure why I said that? See here.)

From an hour’s worth of work, I concluded that storage limits are a major determinate for me — every item I considered it was an issue.

  • So, imposing a SPACE BUDGET should always be my first step when considering an item to keep, cull or purchase. The next consideration is whether or not what I’m considering is a durable item or a supply item?

(A SPACE BUDGET is a given amount of space allocated for a certain item.)

Here’s the spreadsheet I created for Durable Goods;

Storage Limits?

Used all at once?

Perishable?

Lifecycle/ use rate?

Costly?

Fixable?

Used inside, outside, car?

Special storage?

Dry?

Semi- liquid?

Liquid?

Artwork: wall

yes

yes

no

3 years or more

can be

maybe

inside

no

y

n

n

Artwork: sculpture 

yes

yes

no

3 years or more

can be

maybe

inside

no

y

n

n

Artwork:  other

yes

yes

not likely

unknown

can be

maybe

depends on piece

likely not

?

?

?

Books

yes

yes

no

3 years or more

can be

maybe

inside

no

y

n

n

Clothing

yes, closets for those hung

yes

no

1 year or more

no

yes

inside

no

y

n

n

yes, dressers for those folded

yes

no

1 year or more

no

yes

inside

no

y

n

n

Computers

yes

yes

no

3 years or mroe

can be

maybe

inside most often

no

y

n

n

Dishes

yes

yes

no

3 years or more

can be

maybe

inside

no

y

n

n

Furniture

yes, piece must fit in the room it’s for

yes

no

5 years or more

can be

yes

inside

no

y

n

n

Linens

yes

yes

no

3 years or more

can be

yes

inside

no

y

n

n

Pots & Pans

yes

yes

no

3 years or more

can be

maybe

inside

no

y

n

n

Phones

yes

yes

no

3 years?

can be

maybe

inside most often

case

y

n

n

Obviously, this isn’t complete, but you get the idea!

The Goldilocks Dilemma: Supplies

For me, there are two types of things stored in my home: durable goods & supplies.

  • Durable goods – anything made to be used and reused repeatedly: clothing, furniture, rugs, buildings, automobiles, linens, dishes, pots & pans, etc.
  • Supplies – anything made to be used once and used up or changed in some way where it can’t be reused: paint, food, firewood, cleaning products, etc.

Figuring out how much is enough or too much with durable goods is less complicated than trying to determine the same for supplies.

For one thing, most supplies require specialized storage. And some, like frozen foods, requires VERY specialized storage. Others don’t require anything so specific: cat litter for one. But supplies do need storage which prevents them from becoming unusable.


Considerations: Storage Needed

The question is, is the supply .  .  .

highly flammable? fuels, firewood, firestarters, matches, kindling, waxes, polishes, etc.

heat sensitive? frozen foods, foods needing refrigeration, seeds, wax candles, etc.

light sensitive? photography supplies, some fabrics, etc.

Or:

Should it be in a waterproof/water resistant environment? This covers many of the remaining supplies: soaps, fabrics, toilet paper, thread, etc.


Considerations: Supply Form

Is it dry, semi-dry, or a liquid? 

  • Dry supplies are usually the most stable: dried spices, cat litter, toilet paper, powdered soaps, etc.
  • Semi-dry supplies usually things which require a bit more care than dry supplies. Items like paste shoe polish, some waxes, bar soaps, vegetable shortening, demiglace, etc.
  • Liquid supplies require a waterproof container. Many are cold sensitive, if they freeze their bottle will burst. These include: shampoos, liquid laundry soaps, olive oil and other cooking oils, vinegars, etc.
  • Food supplies obviously require storage which will help keep them fresh, if possible. This is true whether the food is dry, semi-dry or a liquid.

Considerations: Designated Use

Supplies are normally made to be used for a specific purpose. Food is made to eat, thread to use on fabric, compost on the garden, etc. The easiest way to divide this again is to separate it by locale: inside, outside, or for a car?


Supplies are complicated: there are many factors to consider when determining where and how much to store!

 

 

 

Just Right? Not Enough? Too Much? a/k/a The Goldilocks Dilemma

If you’ve followed along here for any period of time, you’d notice that I keep trying to find “rules.” That is, I keep trying to find set answers to recurring problems.

  • Can I cook in such a way that the kitchen cleans itself while I’m doing it? (See self-cleaning tab above.)
  • The three ways to save $ is another.

Here’s my latest:

I’m trying to figure out exactly what to keep, toss, or buy, and have been for a long time. I decided to try and “formalize” the decision-making process because I keep revisiting the issue.

I posed the problem in a forum where I participate. The answers I got and my reactions to them got me to create a spreadsheet.

From an hour’s worth of work, I came to these conclusions: storage limits are a major determinate for me — every item I considered it was a potential issue.

  • So, imposing a SPACE BUDGET should always be my first step when considering an item to keep, cull or purchase. The next consideration is whether or not what I’m considering is a durable item or a supply item?

(A SPACE BUDGET is a given amount of space allocated for a certain item.)


I discovered that I need to treat supplies differently than durable goods. Supplies tend to be things that are not used all at once. And they are things which are meant to be consumed entirely. So, for a bag of cat litter, space allocation needs to be big enough to hold the full bag, even when it isn’t.


So, this can be approached in two ways, from either the amount desired or the space needed.

  • How much of a given supply do I want to have on hand at the most? — How much space would it need?
  • Or, How much space do I have to allocate for this supply? — How much of the supply can be stored in the available space?

Some supplies require specialized storage, which of course makes it even more complicated.