Category Archives: saving money

Fail

We failed. Well, sort of ?

We got an energy comparison thing from our electric company. We use 94% more power than people with comparable houses do, on average.

I will call them tomorrow, Monday, and ask them about how much that changes when folks work at home. We both work at home.  No commuting, no lunches in restaurants, no driving, no coffee at the coffee shop or other such.

There are a few things we could do, yes. Making sure we turn off lights would help. Turning off the computers when they won’t be used for more than 1 hour would probably also help. Getting a night light for the bathroom instead of leaving a light on at night would help. But aside from that? Most of our lights are LED, and we sleep, cook, eat, work, read, etc. in the same space day in and day out. We have an energy star fridge and washer/dryer. We have an on-demand water heater. [We wash dishes by hand, a dish washer might be more efficient?] We usually heat with wood and a fan, no furnace going day in and day out.

homelectricityuse

The lights, computers, dishwasher I’m sure would help. I think the phantom load we have because of the computers is probably a large part of it, but I’ll never get DH to shut everything off, unless we were starving. Of course, if it is the computers, then it should be fairly “normal” because most people will have that when they leave for work. Our difference, again, is that we work here. DH works regular hours and I work randomly, day or night, 7 days a week.

It will be interesting to see what they say about home office workers, two of us, both in the same house!


I called. I’m not disputing that we’ve used more energy than last year, but the 94% over “comparable” homes in my area seems suspect. We have a log home, which might make a difference as well as the fact that we both work at home.

They’re going to call us back, tomorrow probably. We’ll see what they say!

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Car Issues

Well, we bought a new-to-us wagon. Hurrah! And we managed to not go into further debt to do so, double hurrah!

Now, of course, I have TOO many cars. We will dispose of my old one, but it figures, this is me, I solve a problem and end up with excess stuff. A few years back we had 3 dead cars in the driveway, that got dealt with. This will too, and soon.

But that’s my news. I have an assortment of errands I haven’t been able to do which need doing; I’ll be busy today!

Using What You Have & What Works

We have a large lot with a lot of trees. The trees dump a lot of pine cones, acorns and oak leaves on the property. Clean up requires much work, and a large volume of space to gather the leaves, cones, acorns, and compost same or haul them to the town’s leaf  or brush pile.

Because I am on a “clean up” jag, I’ve been working on the yard. I have no panic attack issues (that I know of) with the garden.

We only have 2 plastic trash barrels. They’re too big to go into my car. I have a few smaller metal trash cans, but they too would likely have to be put on their sides, and would probably leak leaves, etc. into my car. The better idea seems to be to bag up the leaves and take them to the dump that way. The leaf paper bags work, but are expensive and wasteful.

Because I’m not all that tall, hauling trash barrels and/or full leaf bags gets to be comic for everyone other than me, as the bags are nearly my size. They’re difficult to deal with, full.

Accordingly, we went looking for easier ways to haul the assorted leaves, twigs, etc.  DH brought home one of these:large concrete tub

It’s a concrete mixing tub. After using it a while, it cracked on the corner, so he bought another. It also cracked on the corner, but both are still usable, so we use them, cracks and all!

Last fall, we bit the bullet and bought a package of reusuable plastic bags. These are also made for construction. They’re called “Demo Bags” and we bought them with the idea that we’d use them over & over, for yard waste. So far that works!

The bags fit over the ends of the tubs. It’s not a loose fit, but it’s do-able.

I can push the contents of the tub right into the bag. This was completely unexpected, and welcome — it makes the job much easier!

The bags are big enough for me, especially with my “iffy” elbow that I don’t fill them, but put 1-3 tubs of leaves in them, about 1/2 the bag’s worth. I can then lift them without a problem.

I have a place to put away the tubs, but don’t have one for the previously used bags, yet. That’s the only glitch about this “system”. I’m using what we already had (the tubs), getting the yard cleaned up fairly efficiently, and I’ve cut down the amount of money spent on single-use supplies.

Definitely a win!

(The used bags are being stored right next to where the tubs are stored when they’re empty. Hurrah!)

 

Soup!

Okay, we’re sick, both of us. I have these packages of chicken “soup bones” I buy from the co-op we belong to, so I decided to make chicken soup from scratch.

The package was 3 carcasses, cost $1.59/lb for natural chicken, not quite $5, or maybe just $5 when you add in sales tax. The package was 2.91 lbs.

I regret that I put the scale in lbs and oz instead of grams, now. This was much more difficult than it would have been!

However,

  • carcass 1 = 8.25 oz wasted bones
  • carcass 2 = 8.78 oz wasted bones
  • carcass 3 = 8.25 oz wasted bones.
  • I skimmed the broth twice. 1.25 oz and .75 oz or 2 oz scum.

In general you’d think there was 1.5 lbs of bones, right? It actually was 1 lb, 9.28 oz. (These are wet from having been boiled too. I have no idea how much weight was added by the water.)

The usable meat is 6.25 oz. And I’ll have about a gallon of soup when I’m done. The soup cost approx. $5, plus fuel, veggies, and seasoners. A gallon of no salt, natural chicken broth online (without shipping or tax) is $6.98. So, I think that the cost of shipping and the other ingredients mean that mine will be cheaper, because for about the same amount of $ I get broth and nothing else (less shipping) if I buy it mail order say. But you know? I really have no idea. It’s real close, either way.

All that said, there’s no heavy metals (like BPAs) leached into my broth from the can, although I guess they could from the plastic the chicken was wrapped in, if I was stupid enough to heat it in the plastic!

Also, I can season it as I like, not salt free or overly salty, which seem to be the only options with canned broth.

I really don’t know. I haven’t used canned broth for years. I use demiglace, something I first learned about from Williams Sonoma, although who the heck can afford to buy their food there? I sure can’t make soup with something which costs $10-$30 a jar! I use Better Than Bullion, although these days I see other products in my supermarket’s soup aisle, since I like what I use I haven’t tried others. I might –sometime, maybe.

Did you know that soup was possibly the first “fast food?” There was a form of soup made oh long ago by boiling and boiling and boiling soup down to make “pocket soup.” A traveller could take the pocket soup, add it to water and have yummy broth. (Wiki article here.)

I have to go check on the soup. It has chicken, onions, celery, parsnip and carrots in it. I need to add tomato (if we have any) and some chopped greens which will go in not long before it’s served. And, if I could taste anything, I might add some herbs. The house should smell like chicken. DH tells me it does —  I can’t tell!

I will probably add herbs anyway. But cooking without smell and taste is not easy!

 

What’s New?

A few things. DH decided that he couldn’t “make due” even with all the work he’d done on the wallboard in the niche, so he’s in the process of tearing out the not-square, straight, or supported correctly wallboard, and replacing it, so it’s square and adequately supported.

This house is a weird mix. The guy who built it bought top-notch materials, like solid-wood doors, then did really bad workmanship, if there was any, with them. Why bother? This means every time we try to upgrade or just replace something, it becomes a demo/replace because the apparent, initial problem is only an indicator of what’s lurking under the surface. This place looked great ….

The other thing is that I finally decided I had to make the living room rug. I won’t spend the $500+ for a rug I like. I can find cheaper rugs, but they’re plastic and we’ve spent a lot of time/money taking plastic out of here because I’m allergic or sensitive to much of it. So, I’m knitting (that’s a shock, remember this and that?) a rug in 5′ long panels from old tshirts. I’ve made rugs from tshirts before (see pics below). The biggest one, in the laundry was 4 x 6 . I never took a pic.

The little one (the colorful one below) which had been in the bathroom got taken apart when I discovered I couldn’t get it the stains out of it. I dismantled it, then washed the strips, still couldn’t get them clean; they were trashed. The black and white one was made for someone and given away. The laundry room rug got mildewed when our old washer developed a leak, and I couldn’t remove the stench from the pieces, so most of it went to the dump too.

I’ve started other rugs, but the strips got mixed with the mildewed strips, before I realized how bad the mildew was (I’d washed them of course!) and 95% of the tarn I had prepared got trashed.

This was so discouraging I quit working with tarn completely.

The new living room rug, will be 5 x 8 feet, knitted from tarn. If all  the pieces are the same size as the piece I’ve been working on, I need to 17 strips,5′ long. I don’t think it will take that many as I intend to do something in between the knitted pieces. If it works? I won’t have to make 17. I hope!

The first piece has 15 tshirts worth of material in it.  I need to make the 2nd piece (or part of it) and try my joining idea. If the joining works, then I’ll refigure how many knitted strips, and tshirts needed.

Conservatively? If I just make the 17 pieces, at a shirt rate of 15 per 5′ strip? It’s 204 shirts, that’s all! Making the tarn actually takes longer than the knitting, no surprise.

Rug #1

1st rug

Rug #2

sarah's rug.JPG

Herbal Zero Waste

I grow herbs and spices here: parsley, sage, mint, oregano, chives, etc. I dry some every year. I do this because if you look at the price per lb. of spices at your local market, you’ll discover that they are among the most expensive, if not THE most expensive foods by weight.

The way I dry them is mostly in lunch bags, plain old brown paper lunch bags. I write on the bottom: the herb, date, and source. (The CSA grows herbs/spices too!) and hang them with rubber bands around the bag’s neck and a peg rack.

After about 2 months, I have dried leaves of whatever: parsley, sage, oregano, basil, etc.

I took down all but the last two of these today.

The spices/herb leaves were added to the appropriate containers, the stems were added to the kindling box, and the rubber bands were returned to the appropriate container as well. The bags? The bags got filled with the “trash” that sits in the bottom of the wood or kindling box (leaves, small twigs, dirt from the logs, pieces of bark, etc.). The bag’s neck was retwisted and

Shazaam! 

You get instant, free, zero waste all-natural fire starters and a clean wood or kindling box!

It makes the messy business of cleaning the wood box kind of fun.

I felt the same years ago: we put corn out for squirrels and I used the dried cobs as fire starters. I thought that idea was original! My MIL told me that one of her jobs on the farm, when she was growing up, was to get the cookstove’s fire going, with dried corn cobs saved for that. [I didn’t grow up on a farm in the midwest, but in L.A.; it was new to me!]

This idea, of stuffing the kindling “trash” into lunch bags will probably also be old to many, but it was a new idea for me again. I’m glad I thought of it, whether it’s a new, or not.

Zero Waste Idea

On my long-term goal list is the idea of buying shelf-stable foods in bulk. I want to do this for several reason: to reduce trips to the market, reduce the waste we create (and thereby trips to the dump) and stress reduction too. I think I have a great resource for figuring out what to use other than plastic or the consumer packaging to store things in my home: my old housekeeping books.

One of the best for this is a book published in 1921. She has what she calls “marketing charts” which are mostly useless as they tell you to do things like buy “washed raisins,” but there’s a column of how to store foods too. Here’s the information I pulled (my comments are in italic).

Buckets or Cans: Whole Wheat Flour, Rye Flour

Cool, Dry Place: Buckwheat, Canned Goods, Chocolate, Salts (table, cooking & ice cream)Tea, Vinegar

Cool, not Too Dry Place: Nuts

Dry Place: Bar Soaps, Sugar

Tight Container: Cooking Fats (in cool place), Cornstarch (in dry place), Macaroni (pasta)Olive Oil (in dark, cool place), Soap Powder, Spices, Syrup

Jar: Shelled Almonds, Dried Cereal, Cream of Tartar, Currants & Raisins

Glass Jar, Covered or Stoppered: Bay Leaves, Citron, Cocoa, Coconut, Molasses

Rack 2″ from Floor: Flour, white & pastry (One assumes in a barrel or at least a cloth bag? Certainly NOT the paper bags flour comes in today!)

Tight Container: Dried Beans, Crackers, Extracts (in dark place)

Tin*: Baking Powder, Coffee, Cornmeal (covered), Matches

*Any foods stored in a tin I’ll put inside a food safe plastic bag or container which I will reuse.

 

barrel

Image from fixturescloseup.com via google images.

My other observation is that this isn’t likely to be very useful unless I start buying  shelf-stable foods in bulk. Many ideas here are reflected in supermarket packaging: extracts in brown glass and olive oil in green glass bottles, for example. But if you buy them in bulk? Extracts come in white plastic bottles (or at least the commercial packages I’ve seen) but you can purchase olive oil in any bottle you wish.

Now that I’ve created this list, I’m not sure how much I’ll use it? But the idea of it made me stop and think about what I’d need to store household consumables, purchased in bulk. I consider that valuable, even if I don’t actually use the chart!