Category Archives: self-interest

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!

 

 

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.

 

Philosophy of Stuff: Keep, Cull, Replace?

For a long, long time I’ve been removing excess from here and elsewhere in my life. Fine.

This morning I read/heard these things:

  • A discussion about the realities associated with prepping. What are you prepping for? How much reliance on the grid/info structure do you include? How much food, etc. do you plan to raise? To store?
  • Do you have the skills and knowledge to do those things?
  • The only way to successfully survive, SHTF or not, is to plan on having less, being able to do less, buy less, be less healthy, over time. There’s planning and there’s reality. We all get older. We all eat the food. Buildings degrade. Income becomes less with retirement. Inflation happens.
  • What happens after SHTF?
  • An article on NPR about robots planting/harvesting/packaging “organic” food.

And I thought, again. I’m probably doing this wrong, or, more accurately, I’m not doing it right often enough.

I have ideas I try and use:

  1. “Plan for the worst. The best will take care of itself.”* The problem here is to do it reasonably. Saving food is fine, but you need to also use it. You need to know how to cook those dried hotdogs so you will eat them, before you need to. How much does that can hold? Will I actually eat it? How long will it keep?
  2. “Keep the best, pitch the rest.”* I  use this when culling books or other things where I have duplicates. But I also use it as a guiding principal when I don’t. If the function is duplicated, if its purpose is a needless “convenience.” A crepe pan, for example. If you know how to make crepes, a crepe pan is unneeded, a regular skillet works. I don’t have a sifter, for this reason, or buy brown sugar. A sieve works fine to sift flour and I make up brown sugar as needed. That said? I only do those things probably 6x a year or less. If I made cookies for resale or in bulk, regularly, I’d probably have a sifter and perhaps an electric one!
  3. Do I use it? Expect to use it? Have I used it in the past? It’s a wonderful framistat. I’ve never used it. Will I? Not likely — out it goes!
  4. With fewer, better things, you’ll have time to do something other than stuff maintenance. This is the main reason I’m moving towards minimalism. Has nothing to do with embracing Marie Kondo or Henry David Thoreau.
  5. Use lower-tech, lower-cost alternatives, when practical. Open the blinds first, rather than turning on the light — if all I want is a little more light in the room. Need to see much better so I don’t run into something? So I can work on a project? Turn on the light. With big backlit screens, I’ve found I don’t need a “reading” light to use a computer these days. Previously, that wasn’t true. Older flickering monitors were really hard on the eyes in a dark room!
  6. Only replace it when the replacement is guaranteed to be better. Of course, this is hard to know! But what I do is replace older, worn items with copies of the same thing, in better shape. My childhood home had 2 strainers, made to be used together. I loved them as a kid. When my dad died, it became mine. I use it all the time. The smaller sieve had been rusting through and degrading for a while. I finally found another copy, on Ebay last year and bought it. The old one got taken to the dump, immediately. I don’t know if someone grabbed it or not.

I’m really offended by the idea of a robot planting, maintaining, harvesting and packaging my food. Not sure why!


*(c) Judith K. Dial, 2005, unpublished manuscript.

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!

 

What I’ve Learned

Well, it’s different, you see. Not panicking in a clean space means that I can just clean it and leave it that way.

That is new and different, so although these points may be obvious to you, they weren’t to me!

The reasons behind my decluttering now are:

  1. With less stuff, it’s easier to use the space.
  2. With less floating clutter, it’s easier to clean the space.
  3. Also with less floating clutter, it’s easier to maintain the cleanliness.

This has nothing to do with sparking joy or minimalism, but is a pragmatic reality. Intellectually, of course I already knew this.

What’s different is the impatience I have with the assorted piles and boxes of stuff. Instead of being something to doggedly plow through which is uncomfortable at best and traumatic at its worst!

 

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.