Category Archives: workarounds

Found Time

It occurred to me that one thing I’m doing to be more efficient is using all those “little blocks” of time, while waiting for something:

  • Waiting for the toaster to pop.
  • Warming myself in front of the wood stove.
  • Waiting for the microwave.
  • In the bathroom.

I have started washing the few hand-wash items on the kitchen window sill, while I wait for the micro. What gets put on the window sill are items which will be ruined if washed with the other dishes: the wine glasses would break, the wood dough scraper would get soaked and ruined, the thermometer would get soaked and its electronics ruined. After use, they’re put on the window sill. And frequently, although I don’t mean to, I forget about them. These things are getting washed and put away, regularly now. Yay! One less set of FLOATING CLUTTER!

I don’t have a set thing to do while waiting for the toaster, yet. I tend to do whatever I see that I can do quickly. But it occurs to me that maybe I should use it as a time to wipe out the micro! The micro gets cleaned now on an as-needed basis. I’d like to be more regular and proactive than that. Cleaning it while the toaster works seems like a good plan.

Warming myself at the wood stove and in the bathroom I use the time for the same thing these days, that is, I grab a handful of papers which need sorting and go through them. This is slowly but surely, getting us through the boxes and boxes of papers we’ve had stored.

Do you use these little blocks of “found time” to clean or cull? What do you do?

 

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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!

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.

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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!

Extreme Food Planning: Part 2

Other things I can do:
  • Look at the bulk price per lb for turkey parts at the co-op. I don’t like the taste of turkey as well as chicken, but turkey pound for pound, with bone in, is usually a better deal — there are fewer bones.
  • Get the coupon file up to date, haven’t done this since April.
  • Make food from recipes I have using foods I almost always have, first.
  • Figure out how many potatoes and onions I’m likely to need over the winter. (Garlic is < 1 full braid, so are chilis. Carrots approx. 6 dozen.) Onions and potatoes were all used or tossed a month or more ago. After I have a number, I can explore purchasing enough to make it through winter, my goal.
  • Develop a basic stew/soup veg recipe and conversion recipes, so I’m not putting food aside to toss the following spring. Found something to try, a veggie soup recipe that has 2 distinct parts, the first pretty generic!
  • Make more “stewed” tomatoes this year so I don’t run out in Feb. again.
  • Try the celery thing.
  • Make a sourdough starter and USE it.
  • See if you can find unpasturized wine so you can make your own vinegar?

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Photo by LoboStudio Hamburg on Unsplash

Note:

  • 17 heads of garlic still on braid, one in basket.
  • Cayenne ristra jarred. Old pepper flakes discarded. 5/16/19

Extreme Food Planning: Part 1

Most Americans spend < 10% of their income on food. However, unlike mortgage interest, credit card minimum payments, utility costs, etc. it is one expense we all control.

Some of this is certainly dictated by location and available income. You can’t afford to buy $50 worth of bulk soap if you need to feed 3 people for $60 a week and you have a hard time doing that.

That said? I’m fortunate enough to be in the pool of people that can afford to use food planning to reduce our expenditures, at least for now.

So, along that line, I decided to do a category food plan. I’m not doing menu planning. When I did detailed menu planning, I hated cooking, it became a chore I had to get through, like scrubbing a toilet, just another chore. My idea here is to make a loose framework, not a menu plan.

There are two or three things going into this:
  1. I have to empty the freezer by the end of this month to be ready for the summer flood of veggies.
  2. I want to save every nickel I can.
  3. I want to use the above two items as a goad to both finally organize my cooking information and eliminate excess stuff.

What to do?

Convertible meals. One meal that becomes 2 or 3. Right now I have 2 lbs of cooked chicken and consommé in the fridge. That is easily 2 meals. I also have some cooked rice. Okay. Chicken and rice soup is one meal.

The others? The meat pulled off the bone can be made into chicken salad for lunch or dinner or lemon chicken. I have lemons and we’ve both been fighting colds for more than a month. I could add the chicken to the end of the salsa and we could have tacos, which would use up some of the tortillas, or….

Getting 3 meals from 2 lbs of chicken isn’t hard. I think I have 1 more lb of chicken, divided, in the freezer.

I also have a small pork roast, and some bacon. (I wanted pork while I still trusted it.)

I guess that’s another thing I can add to my learn-to-do-this list: learn to make a sausage substitute from chicken and grains…. it’s my observation that self-regulation never works. There are historical reasons why food regulations are so cumbersome. Go back and look at an old cookbook which talks about testing for chalk in flour, etc. before you buy it. I have those books, I have no desire to go back to arsenic in eye drops, chalk in flour, etc.

In my opinion? People are going to die and/or get very sick and then things will start the other way again. That’s a few years in the future yet… in the meantime, I can stop buying so much processed food and do more diy. I also sent a question to my local organic food organization asking about organic pork processing and how it differs from conventional?

Categories.
  • Egg. One egg meal per week. Quiche or omelette or just breakfast. Eggs, unless they get too warm are hard to adulterate and usually cheap protein.
  • Soup/Salad/Veg. Salad or soup or just a veggie plate night, maybe with hummus or other dip. Use up those bits & pieces!
  • Double Meals. One or more double meal nights or converted food nights. Any large piece of meat, large veg, casserole, etc.
  • Sandwich. Self-explanatory.
M -Veg enough for 2 meals
Tu -Soup or salad, using the uneaten and no plan for it bits and pieces
W – LO veg
Th – Egg
F – Meat meal enough for 2 meals
Sa – Sandwich
Su – LO meat

That should work. It’s broad enough that I probably won’t get bored. It also doesn’t give us meat 7 days a week, has a built-in left over day, and uses eggs to drastically lower food costs, as eggs are, after dried beans, almost the cheapest high protein source available. I’m not cooking complicated meals on the weekends, when DH and I tend to do home improvements.

Editing

In an effort to store less, I’m seriously considering a major reduction of my cookbook collection. I of course have too many.

My trunk novel’s protagonist was someone responsible for feeding an entire community through winter, in an unindustrialized culture. So, I have a lot of cookbooks related to that: Colonial American cooking, Medieval cooking, butchering, root cellaring, etc.

This came about in part because a gent I’d met had a character in his novel, a tavern owner, doing a marketing survey before industrialization, which simply wouldn’t have happened. Starvation was no joke in those days! Marketing surveys as such didn’t exist accordingly. The result is that I have a slug of premodern era cookbooks. Those are an easy cull, fascinating though I find them.

We also really only eat meat as a condiment these days, 3 times a week or maybe 4 at the most. So meat-centric cookbooks are probably another easy cull. (When I learned to cook, the way you started meal planning was determining the meat first, then the rest of meal around that.)

Along with those, I’d actually like to reduct the ENTIRE collection. The way to do that would be to copy the recipes I think I’ll use most into some type of house notebook or card file, and then eliminate the books.

I have a designed card, based on a commercial one. (I tried a cut/paste, it didn’t work.) The top of the first side is divided into 3 columns: measure, manipulate, and areas. This is directly related to the self-cleaning cooking posts. The bottom 1/2 of the card is the precooking actions

I have  “weird” symbols on many of my recipes. The on-going self-sufficiency index. I wrote a post about that here. That’s represented by 3 numbers, separated by slashes: 3/8/29, for example.

Another is something which shows up looking like a ratio, as this: 5:3, which is how many ingredients are used to create how many precooking pieces. I started doing this when I was working. I would do things like saute onions in the morning before I went to work and then come home to finish making dinner.

There is a type of food indicator: E S or D (entree, side or dessert).

And a list of month numbers, 1-12, so that I know when the ingredients are at their freshest.

Lastly there’s the source of the recipe and the page number.


This sounds really complicated, it isn’t in practice. Much harder to describe than use!

The other side of the card is divided into 4 columns: Qty, Unit, Ingredient, Procedures.

The bottom edge of the card has the name of the recipe spelled out again, for filing.

These are set up as 4  x 6 cards. The reason I haven’t made the cards is that I really need to change the format that it can fit on 3 x 5s. I have a 4 drawer file box I can use for those, but not for bigger cards.


Maybe make the cards hold less, linked by a recipe numbers maybe?

Recipe 1, Tools (card 1 front) Preprep (card 1 back), Cooking Instructions (card 2, front & back), Misc. Info, (card 3, front and back).


If I can get the cards printed by a computer, that should work.

I’ll have to talk to DH about it. Much of the work I had done for this is in a program I’d we don’t have running. I’ll research the upgrade and put it into the budget queue. Then retrieve the data I’ve already got.

In the meantime, I can go through the cookbooks I use now which I didn’t have, then, and get the data and do the obvious culls.

So, I’m off!

I’m not well, but for the first time in almost 2 weeks, I’m not hacking, wheezing or sneezing. I actually feel pretty good. And by comparison with yesterday? I feel terrific.

I am throughly tired of being sick and tired!