Frugal Friday- January 24, 2014

With the extreme cold, I’ve found myself staying home more, cooking a lot, and making some minor changes in order to stay warm without having a $400 electric bill. Maybe one of these tips will help you reduce your energy costs and keep your home cozier too!

Monday: It was a  pleasant day but I knew the cold was returning that night so I washed the car at the quarter car wash then brought it home to vacuum it. I also spent time in the sunshine, soaking up Vitamin D while cutting back all the frozen and dead leaves from my kale plants and reinstalling the plastic covered hoops that had blown off in the last ‘Polar Vortex’ (which is why they froze to begin with!). My hope is that they will resprout once things begin to warm up again. Gardening is always a learning experience, and this is just part of that. Savings: $2.50 for the vacuum job, and if the kale resprouts, it will seem quite valuable indeed, coming back from the dead and all. At the very least, the knowledge I gain in growing food is always invaluable.

Tuesday: I fixed my own food dehydrator!!! It was no longer putting out any heat, even though the fan was blowing. I took the back of the dryer off, found a loose wire that seemed to lead to a sheared-off doohickey. I called the toll-free number for the manufacturer, where I spoke with their tech guy, who diagnosed it as  needing a new thermostat. After trying to find the part online at a cheaper price than the $35 that was quoted me, I bit the bullet and ordered it and was able to install the new part with very little trouble. High Five! The dehydrator now works even better than it did when new so I spent a very cold day drying a bunch of apples that were beginning to shrivel in storage. Now I have a 3 lb coffee can FULL of dried apple slices to use in my daily oatmeal. Dehydrating foods is a practical and easy way to preserve fresh foods for long term storage, and actually retains more vitamins that other preservation methods. They take up much less storage space and weigh a lot less than canned or frozen foods, and if, like me, you have limited storage space, that’s a big plus. Savings: 15 lbs of organic apples=$30. Feeling of self sufficiency and competence: pricelessIMG_0131

Wednesday: The cold sets in…Michael made bread, using bread flour bought in a 25 lb sack for less than $9, 2 teaspoons of yeast bought in one pound foil-packed bags for less than $5 and a tsp of salt. Total cost per loaf: about 25 cents. But wait! The savings continue…while the baking stones preheated, I decided to use that time to bake some white and sweet potatoes on them, along with a pan of Shepherd’s Pie and a tin of egg shells (yes, egg shells are saved year round and dried; after drying them I grind them up for adding to my tomato and pepper planting holes each spring-doing so adds calcium and helps prevent blossom end rot).  The Shepherd’s pie and one loaf of bread made 6 servings, which fed us, along with some unexpected overnight company.  Then we enjoyed the company, along with the baked potatoes and some chicken and veggie leftovers the next day, finishing the impromptu meal with some summer-canned peaches for dessert. Heating the oven once yielded two loaves of bread, and two large meals. I’m already considering what other things I can cook while next week’s loaves are baking. Spinach lasagne maybe, more potatoes and a pan of macaroni and cheese perhaps? With just a little advance planning, cooking multiple meals offers time and energy savings.


Thursday: The deep freeze continues…more time spent indoors, playing music, making soup, and dreaming of spring. I don my silk long johns underneath my clothes, and add more quilts to the bed. Heat pumps are notoriously ineffective in this kind of weather and we’ve found that by closing off unused rooms and dressing in layers we stay warmer. I stream free movies and hem pants while drinking herbal tea and staying by the gas stove.

Friday: Zero degrees overnight last night, and I’m feeling like I live in Antarctica instead of Tennessee. Michael dons his long johns. We bring in the old kerosene heater from the shed, and fill it with $4 a gallon fuel. Using it and the gas stove in the living room we stay toasty without having to use the heat pump much at all. Two weeks ago I went shopping for an electric space heater, but the cheapest I found was about $40. Instead, I bought one for six dollars at the thrift store. It’s running on low down in the cellar, keeping our water pipes from freezing.  I also installed some more foam insulators behind the wall switches and outlet plates, after buying a package of 14 for less than $2.  Savings: $34 on the heater and perhaps hundreds of dollars and much aggravation saved over NOT having frozen or burst water pipes. Feeling cozy: priceless.



11 Comments so far
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You are so smart, even when you use words like doohickey. We have doohickeys too, here in Siberia Pa. I haven’t had to let water drip overnight for 20 years, but it’s been quite a few night lately, and more to come. Spring can’t come soon enough. Stay well.

Comment by sarasinart

GEEZ! You live in Siberia??? I suspect I can’t begin to advise you on how to stay warm lol! but I hope you do. Aren’t you glad you’re retired now so you don’t have to get up and fight it early in the mornings? Oh, and lots of things have doohickeys. As well as thingamabobs and whatchacallits. 😀

Comment by simpleintn

We didn’t live in Siberia till about a week ago. We’re used to cold here, but this last cold spell has been ridiculous, and more most of next week. I am so glad I can choose whether to go out now when it’s a daytime high of 15, yea! Anything below 20 and I’m home! Nothing is that important. Stay warm! You sure aren’t used to the cold you’re having there either.

Comment by sarasinart

Cooking on stones? Tell me more.

Comment by Mary Brugh

Baking stones Mary. Big round baking stones for breads, pizzas, and as it turns out, potatoes too.You can see the potatoes on one of them in the picture.

Comment by simpleintn

…and then there’s all that HOT AIR when “Big Daddy Banjer” commences to pontificating! The coziness of making music ’round the fireplace with Good Friends–priceless. Signed, The Unexpected (REALLY?!?) Company

Comment by Rhodyjane Meadows

The baking stones can be purchased from Pampered Chef or at Bed Bath aand Beyond.

Comment by carvergardenfarie

Two cents worth here: #1 – In the winter if I use the oven (which is rare – like you I try to double-purpose it when I can), when I’m done baking I leave it open to let the heat drift into the house. No use wasting that last bit of warmth. #2 – When we dried veges and apples, we learned the hard way that, while it does a nice job of preserving the food, it doesn’t do anything to stop the persistent lifecycle of other beings – read: insects.

So even if your apples are now dried you might want to keep them downstairs in the cold or even in the freezer. Finding the dry husks of insect larvae on what you intended as human food is not at all appealing! While it’s apparently not a problem for our guts to eliminate the micro eggs that occur naturally on all food, it’s another thing to find Nature is offering to add more fully developed protein to our diet!

Comment by Sandy Westin

Sandy, both of those ideas are good advice indeed! I haven’t had any problems with buggies in my dried things. I always store them in sealed jars or plastic containers, along with some of those dessicant packs that come in new shoes, purses and sometimes certain foods. (Although that’s really to keep the dried foods from reabsorbing moisture from the air, it has nothing to do with keeping bugs at bay.) Speaking of bay… you can store dry bay leaves in your flour, meals and dry mixes to keep bugs away and you can freeze anything at zero degrees (so this leaves freezers that are on top of the refrigerator out) for a few days to kill any insect eggs that are present. If you do that, then store in airtight containers, there can be no bugs. Vacuum sealing also destroys bugs, they must have oxygen to survive. I currently have bags of corn and bean seeds sitting outside in a sealed bucket because I know these cold temps will destroy any insect eggs that are lurking in them. Planting time really will come again. Someday.

Comment by simpleintn

Here’s another related tidbit, since you mentioned zero degrees! I took a rug weaving class long ago with master weaver, Peter Collingwood of England. He reported one way to clean wool rugs was to sweep them with snow! Also, to pack and put them into a zero degree freezer for a couple of days to kill moth eggs in wool! Suspect that would work well for other moth prone woolens. 🙂

Comment by Ellie Hjemmet

Elllie, I’ve always heard that about cleaning wool rugs but I hadn’t thought about putting wool socks or sweaters in the freezer! It makes sense though, don’t you think? You could put them in a freezer bag and it would kill any moth eggs. Wow! I may just do that. Won’t Michael be surprised when he opens the freezer to get ice cream and finds socks instead. tee hee

Comment by simpleintn

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