Category Archives: recommendations

More Culling, Electronic & Otherwise

Have to declutter. Along this line, I have been looking at my pins on pinterest.

I just looked at one and deleted it. Why? Because the link to the content I wanted got a 404 error on the website where the pin originated! If you’re so lazy that you can’t fix internal references, either on pinterest or on your own website, why would I want to read anything you had to say about organization?

That stuff counts people!

I also deleted a post where in order to read any content you either had to sign up for their emails or pay for it. If it’s not free, say so up front! I wouldn’t have pinned the front page if I’d known that to start with. Don’t waste my time! Also, I do NOT need more email coming into my inbox! If I read your content and it seems worthwhile, then maybe, I might sign up for your emails. Maybe.


What this reminded me was that I need to set goals with the decluttering and cleaning. I’d forgotten about that idea, but it really helps.


I have slowly but surely been doing a little of the seasonal/spring cleaning. I haven’t finished cleaning the doors/walls in the hall, but I have cleaned the bottom shelf and window in the laundry room, the shower curtains have been washed and reversed to their summer positions.

(Yes, there had been a photo here of a closet. But until I had a reason to scroll up from the bottom, I hadn’t noticed the naked female torso,crotch to neck, under the closet!) So much for images from upsplash. You folks will have to make do without images again for a while until I can find another source.

I took the salt and handwarmers out of the entry and discussed with DH how we need a “seasonal” shelf: insect repellant, sunscreen, hand warmers, pathway salt all need to be stored in one place. Whatever you need you grab.

I know where I’d like it to be: the coat closet shelf. Or maybe a decorative, lidded basket near the entry? (The salt container will be the determinate there; it’s the biggest piece.) Maybe under the entry bench?

DH took over the coat closet a few  years back with motorcycle gear. And although I’ve removed about 1/2 of it into 2 other locations, there still isn’t enough room to actually use it for something like this. Not to mention that the closet door frequently gets blocked with items going into/out of my office, sigh.

I suppose if I’m going to start decluttering, now. The first place I should start is that hallway. I will get access to the closet door, the last door I need to spring clean, so that job will be finished. And I can look at the closet for general house use vs. motorcycle stuff, again.


DH’s lunch project is to hang the laundry rack. We bought a few years ago a rack  you can raise and lower from the ceiling to dry clothes. This is another way to save $, make use of what we already have, etc.

We also had a discussion about whether it’s too soon to put away the wood burning materials for the season. DH reminded me we were building fires still in June last year, so nothing got put away.


I worked in my office some this morning. Took out the 3 covered enamel pots I store stacked one atop the other. I’d had yarn, etc. in them. That collection got culled. Some of it went in the trash, some of it is going to the swap shop, some of it is going to the flea market, and some of it is going back into my office!

I also pulled a metal file box out, filled with paperwork. I reused the file box to house the “this needs to go into the filing cabinet” papers and the receipts, etc. which it held are getting put into the new system for that.

Fewer pieces. Less stuff! More organization! Fewer expenses (laundry rack).

All good (except that image; THAT made me MAD)! I’m not against nudes, or even think the image was ugly or in particularly bad taste, but I feel broadsided by the fact that I should have vetted the image more. Even needing a more detailed vetting doesn’t bother me, it was the shock of NEEDING to do that which upset me!

So, I apologize if you got this post with the image and it offends you. It was completely unintentional!

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More Frugality

Because the thing I want to save the $ for is a heating/energy unit, I went looking at our electric company’s website. So they kept referencing apparently an old, Obama-era site, which of course is no longer active, but there’s no other referral.

I am, can you tell, really impressed with our local electric company. Wonder why? See here for more info.

In their defense, I will say that the 3rd time they sent us the “You’re using more energy than your more energy efficient neighbors” letter, they did at least make some reference to what they were comparing us to, a typical home in our zip code. Of course, they never actually said what that was, so it was still meaningless, but less so than previously.

DH is set on getting at least one minisplit  this year and maybe another next year. Okay. The chimney cap we’re replacing this year is the last piece of the chimney/wood stove replacement project. The only piece other than that on the chimney which hasn’t been replaced is the veneer over the pipe, a box around it. I’d love to replace the box, but it’s mostly cosmetic, not structural.

If I win the lottery, we’re going to get the minisplits, solar panels AND a new fake riverrock box around the chimney pipe with a mantel to match. Just sayin’!

Barring that? We’re getting a new chimney cap and at least one minisplit.

My husband said to me, empathically emphatically this morning, that he didn’t want to haul wood or load it into the stove another year.

Okay!

I just have to find a way to make this happen! Squeeze those dollars!


Plant and landscaping frugality: A 1 gallon potted perennial is $35 at Lowes, about $32 with a discount. If you buy them at garden club sales, they’re around $10-$20. Cheaper yet? Layer a 2nd one from one you’ve got, or plant the seeds, or divide it? — Free!

Mulch frugality: Garden centers at big box stores typically sell opened bags of mulch, etc. for 1/2 price. Cheaper yet? Use the pine needles, pine bark, leaves, what have you that you have in your yard already as mulch. Free!

The Celery Thing: I’ve run into this a couple of times, people talking about planting celery plants in their yard. I did this last fall, and the plants are gone this spring, again.

sole-d-alessandro-516633-unsplash.jpg

Photo by Sole D’Alessandro on Unsplash

I went looking for more information. The best I found is a woman who’s been using the same 7 celery plants for years. She lifts them in the fall and makes them houseplants during the winter (and uses them). You can find her write up about this here. (The site is full of interesting ideas too: choosingvoluntarysimplicity.com .)


Gawd I love spring.

And I hate it; I’m always overwhelmed with things to do, ideas to explore, etc. Too much!


Despite still being sick, I managed to spread one of the remaining bags of mulch this morning on the bulb bed. I also transplanted two daffs AND moved some rock, sand, etc. I was wiped out after about an hour, which is typical these days.


On Saturday: the plant sales were a success and not as cheap as I’d hoped. The library/town sale where I’d bought a 1 gallon pot for $10 last year, they were $15. (I got 2.)

The other plant sale where I stopped I got 2 6″ perennials for $5 each.

Sunday? Our next door neighbor took out 90% of a forsythia bush (what the 1 gallon pots held)  and gave me a branch which should get us the last two plants I think I need, for free. I wish I’d known the neighbor was going to whack up his 15 year old plant 1 day earlier, could have saved us $30!

Useful & Unusual

I have a list of useful and unusual gifts that I know people have given and that I give.

Housewarming: This is mine. It is not the housewarming gift, but how I pack it, with new rolls of toilet paper. Why? Because everyone needs it, it’s not high on the priority list when everything you own is in boxes, and TP actually makes great packing material, if you’re shipping something fragile, and it’s cheap. But you know the frazzled mom who needs it will say thank you!

Newlywed or First Home: This was my Dad’s standard gift: TV trays. Why? Because it used to be, especially if you were just starting out, you didn’t have a dining table and the trays can be used in almost every room, even if you do have a dining table!

The second was a friend of DH’s. His standard wedding gift was a fire extinguisher. No one buys them for themselves right off the bat, but like TP, when you need it you DO!


I have had people laugh when they opened my housewarming gift, but later tell me they were grateful.

Do you have a standard gift you give for a certain occasion? What is it? I’d love to have a LOT more of these!

J

 

My New Thing

Well, it’s related to many of my old things. It’s food waste. Did you know that Americans on average throw out 40% of their food? Easy way to save $ eh? Just throw out less.

To that end, and because I believe that public libraries should be both paid for and used, I found a listing for a book which looked interesting:

The Kitchen Ecosystem – by Eugenia Bone.

I got a copy via inter-library loan to look at, so I wouldn’t just buy another book. (Also different than years past. I would have bought it with the least amount of provocation!)

And, because I am who I am, I was pleased to see on the title page two stamps: the top one reads: “Library of Congress, surplus duplicate” and the 2nd is the ownership stamp of the library where my library got it. Made me smile. I guess the publisher donated an extra copy to the LoC and it wound up in a small town’s library in rural New England. Must be the used bookseller in me, but I love books where you can trace their history!

Anyway, the book is sorted by ingredients, from Apples to Zucchini and each ingredient has a sort of flow chart.

  • Top level is the ingredient used fresh, and recipes listed which do that.
  • Preserve some: take whatever excess and put it aside in something.
  • Use the preserves.
  • Use the scraps.
  • Sometimes, there is a 5th level: Make more. Which I guess is what you do if the preserves and scraps still don’t use it all up!

Over the years, I have collected all sorts of left over cookbooks. Also have a small batch preserving book.  And of course other cook books.

That said? This is the only time I’ve ever seen anyone who, like me, talks about flowing ingredients from one dish to the next. It isn’t left overs or planned overs. It’s splitting the original ingredient into pieces which can be used in completely different recipes. Sometimes, I use all of something (especially with meat) in which case I will cook the bulk of it as plainly as possible so that it can be used for something entirely different down the road.

To that end? This week we had a potato “one pot” for dinner. I used a HM package of chopped onion, part of a HM package of chopped bell pepper, ditto celery leaves, 1/2 of an individual HM meat loaf, and about 2/3 of a commercial bag of thick cut hash browns.  Also used the end of a bar of cheddar.

I sauted the vegetables, crumbled the meat and added it. When that was hot, I turned off the heat, added the hash browns and some chunks of cheese. This mixture went into a Pyrex rectanglular pan and into a hot oven. I kept stirring it to brown the potatoes on all sides. When it was good and hot, I sprinkled some more cheese on top, grated this time, and broiled it until the cheese was light gold.

It was yummy, A one-pot meal, used what we had and essentially was free, or nearly so. The meatloaf, celery leaves, and bits and pieces of pepper would probably have been pitched. The cheese was an end I used up. The chopped onion was a whole onion, chopped because either I simply had too many for the pantry or it looked like it might go bad soon. The only “new” thing in the dish was the partial bag of potatoes. Everything else was the end of something bigger.

No recipe. No meal plan. I looked in the pantry, fridge and freezer and figured out what I needed to use up, and did. I do this or some variation of it almost every night. I use recipes for baked goods and preserving foods. I use other recipes usually as a guide, not instructions, if I use them at all.

There’s a quote in the book I might cross-stitch for my kitchen, I like it that much! Certainly it reflects my experience: “… while gizmos of cooking are very useful, I can tell you from experience that good cooking is not the result of stuff. It’s the result of practice.” (page 5)

No surprise  — I ordered the book! (And that’s a story, for another day.)

Self-Cleaning Cooking — Put It To Use (or Try)

Also available on the self-cleaning cooking page, see the menu, above, for a link to the page, all of these posts are there!

  1. Use up ingredients! This generates less clean up: you don’t have to deal with storing what’s left. (It generates less waste and happily is frugal too.)
  2. Use the smallest quantity of cooking utensils & tools as practical (and safe)! Each tool or utensil generates two clean up tasks — it has to be washed and put away.
  3. Limit cooking areas! Each cooking area generates one clean up task: cleaning the area after it’s used.
  4. Make your own prefab or partial ingredients! Partially prepared foods may be the best way to cook from scratch, with fresh foods, and limit clean up tasks.
  5. Try using commercial prefab ingredients! These can also save many clean up tasks, but you sacrifice knowing exactly what’s in the food and how it was prepared.

So! Given those, what can I do?


  • Use up ingredients!

For us, that means that I will try and do more bulk cooking. I do this with meats already, that is, when I open a package of 1 lb of chicken thighs, these days I always cook all of it. However, I don’t do this with vegetables say. Items which will store well, I do: cooked rice as an example. But what to do with fresh veggies to handle/store them as little as possible is the challenge here, and I don’t have an answer.

  • Use the smallest quantity of cooking utensils & tools as practical (and safe)!

I think with measuring tools, I already do this. I’ll measure dry ingredients before wet. I’ll use the smallest spoon measure and use a graduated cup measure for items.

Cooking tools? Hm, not so much.

Pans: if items need to be dry roasted (like dry roasted cumin, in a soup recipe I use a lot) and then another ingredient needs to be sauted, wiping the pan out with a paper towel (or not, depending on the ingredient) between makes sense. Using the pan you roasted meat in to make gravy might make sense, but it would usually generate another dish to hold the food taken from the roasting pan.

I have two sets of divided pans: small, almost triangular pans made to fit inside a bigger one and be cooked that way. I wonder if using those more often could help? It might not lessen the quantity of items to be cleaned, but it certainly would lessen the square inches of surfaces needing to be cleaned. There’s only two of us and often I’m only using the bottom inch of a pan . Hmm…..

Cooking utensils: I automatically just reach for tool x or y or z as I’m cooking. I think I need to become more aware of what I’m doing and see if I can just not use the wooden spatula I’ve used for years to saute items, and then need a spoon instead. Why couldn’t I saute foods with the spoon? No reason; I’m just used to doing things a certain way. As I said, this one will require some work on my part!

  • Limit cooking areas! 

This is the same as cooking cools/utensils: I automatically use this cutting board, that knife, the peeler, etc. I will have to *think* before I cook to find ways to lessen cooking areas. (The horror!)

  • Make your own prefab or partial ingredients! 

As I said, I often make a quart jar of sauted onions.

At the end of the summer last year, I made up something which also worked: I made up bags of tomatoes, onion, green pepper, all chopped and ready to go, for marinara for me (no red tomatoes) or my husband (with red tomatoes). I also made up bags of salsa verde for me (no red tomatoes again) or regular salsa for my husband.

I’ve discussed this earlier, I think to limit the number of recipes: I’ll make a red tomato stewed tomato recipe and a nonred tomato stewed tomato recipe. I’ll probably also make salsa verde. Tomatillos, which I love and can eat, are readily available at the farm late summer. A jar of salsa verde is about $3 (or more)! I love Mexican food and use a lot of salsa.

stack of dirty pots & pans

  • Try using commercial prefab ingredients!

Of course, I have done this and do. But I have limited storage and money. In the summer I toss a huge amount of the farm food unnecessarily. Especially since I’m losing my big freezer this summer, finding new ways to use the farm food, rather than buying more prefab food is my mandate.

 

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

New Ideas About Cleaning

Aside from the PTSD, bad habits and panic attacks, as if that wasn’t enough, I’ve had one other major problem about cleaning up the house. No one ever taught me how! This means that no one ever showed me the “right” order to do things. I was taught at boarding school how to make a bed, clean a toilet or trash can, but not how to make a schedule or plan to cover the basics, regularly.

And, I admit, that doing anything regularly wouldn’t have happened anyway, because of the panic attacks. Cleaning is like writing a novel or any other longer piece, you have to keep slogging away at it I’ve found. Difficult for me, if not impossible for much of my life.

That said, I have discovered a few things:

  1. Always clean more than you have to. That is, if the dishes are done and you have 1 item in the sink, find a candlestick or decorative something to clean too. This also applies to sweeping the kitchen, putting clothes away, whatever. Especially if the chores aren’t involved or big, add something minor. Cleaning the bath counter? Wipe down the box on the shelf, etc. etc. etc.
  2. Hard surfaces, impervious to water are the easiest to clean; where soft surfaces, which absorb water are the hardest.
  3. Clean the areas used the most more than others.
  4. Clean the most obvious areas first. (I have [had?] a tendency to clean closets and drawers when the urge to clean hit me. Before I realized the clutter was what I needed to feel safe, it was dumbfounding to me that I could spend a whole day cleaning and you couldn’t tell. This is, of course, backwards from the way most people work. And that’s the reason why those “toss this” lists really didn’t work for me.
  5. Find whatever works for you and run with it. I spent DECADES trying to use flylady or other cleaning plans, and couldn’t.  This caused more of the internal I’m stupid, flawed, and just screwed up mantra.  I figured “Of course this doesn’t work for me and it does for Mary or Jo. It’s me after all.” I finally accepted that I couldn’t adopt someone else’s plans, I had to come up with my own — in my 60s!