Tennesseetransitions


Frugal Friday-June 16th,2016
June 17, 2016, 6:16 PM
Filed under: Frugality, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , ,

What a lucrative week it’s been for me! I haven’t felt too well so I’ve stayed pretty close to home, just working in the garden, playing music and napping mostly. Even without going out anywhere, the money came to me this week! 

Monday: I appealed a bill for my recent teeth cleaning…I had chosen the dental insurance company because their website claimed my chosen dentist was in their network but it turns out the website was incorrect…that’s not my dentist’s fault nor was it mine and by golly, they agreed and said they’d pay this claim! Savings: $129.00!

Tuesday:  The Community Garden held a  potluck this evening. I   always wash and save my plastic flatware (it seems to breed like rabbits in their designated bag even though I always try to keep a set of the environmentally  UNfriendly stuff in my purse and car so I won’t create any more inbreeding.)  I had more than enough for everyone at the table…

pot luck garden 1

I had bought a package of paper napkins on sale for 22 cents many moons ago and I had a stash of those ubiquitous red plastic cups from many many dinners, picnics, etc that get the clean and save treatment as well. So I offered to bring tableware for everyone, including paper plates. NO, I haven’t figured out a way yet to clean paper plates and reuse them so I bought a package of sturdy ones for this event for $3.00 and should have enough left to see me through the summer. There were about a dozen or so of us gardeners in attendance and you can see from the photo no one looks unhappy about the reused cups and forks, do they? I feel good that I saved a bunch of money AND avoided a bunch of stuff going to the landFULL because I brought the plastics home, washed them up again, and they’re waiting for the next event that requires them. The paper napkins went into the compost pile, but sadly, the plates had to be thrown away. Savings? priceless, because the gardeners are getting the message that it’s okay to reuse ‘disposables’. 

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By the way, Michael and I attended a great outdoor party last Saturday night and the hostess provided a basketful of cloth napkins made with pinking shears from scraps of mismatched fabrics. It was charming and I’ll start using my own scrap fabrics for a project like this. We always use cloth napkins for our home use but I’d never thought of doing that for a party or potluck. duh.

Wednesday: Today I ordered some badly needed beekeeping supplies and used my $50 gift card I’d gotten for Mother’s Day, leaving me with only $11.56 balance to pay out of pocket! Su-weet!

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Thursday: An unbelievable offer came our way today…a couple of months ago I’d applied, and was accepted, to serve as a congregational delegate to attend my church’s annual general assembly next week. The agenda is so jam packed with fun activities, workshops and sessions that Michael decided to go with me, making it affordable since we only had to pay for his registration of $350.00. The church had voted to send 3 delegates in all but one of the other two has decided NOT to attend so now the funds will go to reimburse Michael for his serving in her place. A cool fact: the assembly is being held in Columbus, Ohio this year, which is only 30 miles from where  two of my daughters and my grandkids live so we’ll attend the sessions during the day and then drive to their place to stay at night saving us a bundle in hotel fees and giving us some good ‘face time’ with our loved ones. For a week. Priceless, priceless, priceless! 

Friday: I received a check in the mail today for my portion of a class action lawsuit brought against Vibram Five Fingers shoes. They weren’t as advertised and the company was found guilty. My non-guilty pleasure was for $20.21!

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As always, I want to remind you that frugality is NOT the same as being cheap. It’s simply a matter of watching where all of our money goes, sticking to our long term, big-picture goals, which then allows us to live life to the fullest on very little money. Cheapness doesn’t give one that feeling of satisfaction that frugality does: Cheap and frugal people both love to save money, but frugal people will not do so at the expense of others. 

One other huge component of frugality for me is knowing that buying less stuff results in a healthier environment too. I’m happy knowing that my plastic forks and red cups aren’t going to end up floating in an ocean of trash somewhere. 



Bees and Peas and Worms- Oh My!

My days are once again revolving around the weather and the garden. I’d been waiting for the perfect night to relocate my growing bee colony to a more permanent place (from atop their temporary headquarters  on top of our camper!), and after several stings and some help from two strong women, the move seems to have been a success. Tuesday night was a full moon with no wind so it was as good as it gets.The little pollinators are now located in a private corner of my yard, surrounded by  copious amounts of blueberries, strawberries, blackberries and blooming butterfly weed with a picket fence to keep curious dogs or kids at bay. I love my bees and my neighbors are  in complete agreement with me having them, so all is well. Thank you again City Commissioners for realizing the importance of honeybees and making them legal within our city limits. Next bee hive: the community garden of course!

It’s also ‘pea-pickin’ time in Tennessee’ and I’ve already picked three pounds of sweet, organic sugar snaps from my 4’x5′ bed, with a couple more pounds to come. That little space makes tremendous use of a discarded and inverted umbrella-style clothes line pole that we string with twine for the peas to twist up and around on. After the peas are finished, the plants are cut off so the nitrogen-fixing roots can continue to nourish the soil, the lightweight pole is folded up and stored underneath my tool shed until the next viney crop needs it, and the bed will be planted to Longkeeper Tomatoes for fall and winter eating. Not bad for 20 square feet of soil!

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In addition to my tower of peas, I saw another neat idea downtown today for a ‘tower of power’. What a great way to grow strawberries or greens in a small amount of space! The perforated pipe you see in the center has a removable cap, allowing the pipe to be filled with compostables, which the worms promptly draw into the surrounding soil, making nourishing castings in the process. The owner of this growing tower bought one like it and realized how easily he could make one himself…I saw the ‘store bought’ one too and it really didn’t look much different at all except the planting pockets were a little wider and he’s growing full sized kale and other greens in them. So, if you’ve got an extra plastic rain barrel laying around…

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Speaking of worms…my new-to-me worm bin has four levels, with a spigot at the bottom for drawing off ‘worm tea’ which I then feed to nearby plants. It fits in this out-of-the-way corner of my patio and I love the idea that the worms are constantly and quietly working to help me grow food, just like the bees…

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OK, so what do honeybees, worms and homemade growing towers have to do with transitioning? They’re all good examples of closed loop systems. Anytime you can create a closed loop system-that is, a system that creates no waste, you will find yourself one step closer to sustainability, a common theme that runs through many of this blog’s posts and is a central tenant of living a lifestyle that is NOT based on constant energy input. These are but three examples of closed loop systems right here on my little urban lot. Using rainbarrels, planting and growing food using open pollinated seeds, building compost bins or even tending a flock of hens that are able to thrive on food that you grow for them or where they have access to wild foods are more examples of closed loop systems. Solar panels and wood stoves that are fed with managed woodlot cuttings or blow downs are yet more examples. I even consider the food that I grow and can sort of a closed loop system since I save many seeds and then reuse the same canning jars and reusable lids year after year, as well as the canning water itself. 

It’s all part of  a simpler way of life that I find more satisfying and creative than one based on consumerism. I love the sense of freedom I have when being in charge of my life-even if just a small part of it- and find the challenges this ‘good life’ presents are far more pleasant than those that require paying for solutions. I guess what I’m trying to say is that it’s the journey, as much or more than the destination, that feeds my soul. I hope this blog provides you with food for thought as you seek ways to pilot your own ship. 

 



Frugal Friday Feb. 19, 2016

This will be a quick post, just a ‘gentle reminder’ that it’s Friday again. If  you’re new to this blog, I like to reflect on the week just passed and then share some of the ways that I have found to keep money in my wallet. 

Monday: It’s seed-starting time so I bleached a bunch of our 4 pack cups saved over many years. Sterilizing them like this before each new use eliminates soil-borne bacteria or other disease transmitters to my new seedlings. Remnants remain of labels reminding me how old some of these carefully preserved cups are. Reusing over and over? Priceless!20160219_154347[1]

Tuesday: I caught a sale and was able to  buy three beautiful heads of cauliflower for 99 cents each. When life gives you cauliflower, USE IT! We enjoyed it once in Wild Rice Risotto with Butternut Squash and Cauliflower, and Red Pepper Kale from the garden on the side. We ate the second head in a Cheezy Cauliflower Soup that was delicious. I still have one head left that I plan to make a curry with tomorrow. Normal price: About $3.00 per head. Savings: about $6.00!

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Wednesday: I bought a book from Amazon that I’d read some time ago.  The library didn’t have it but it was one I wanted to keep to refer back to so I put it on my ‘wish list’ and waited for the price to drop. Did you know that if you put things there they’ll also let you know when the price has changed? It’s a hard back without a mark in it and with a nice dust cover for one cent plus $3.99 shipping, and the seller was in Tennessee, hopefully creating less of an environmental foot print than say, shipping from California or someplace ‘off’. I love buying used books but I won’t pay over $4 for them so sometimes I just have to be patient. Patience has rewarded me many times and is one of the key tenants to frugal living. Savings over original price: $9.00!

book

Thursday: Got the results back from my Radon test… the ‘safe limit’ is 4, our readings were only 1.7 so not having to pay for mitigation methods to remedy it saved us about $1,000. The test kit was Free.

Friday:  With today’s warm sunny weather I felt compelled to ‘get outside’ so I pruned my elderberry bushes before they break dormancy. I’m going to have to work harder at protecting the fruits from the birds this summer, and plan to try a reflective tape but would appreciate any other tips you know that work. Elderberry Wine and Syrup? Priceless!syrup

 



It Starts at Home

These mid-winter days offer me time to ponder the meaning of life, gaze lovingly at my navel, and cross long-carried-over-to-do-items off of my to-do-list. I’ve even cleared out my sewing basket which I think has been on the list for a year now!

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January was National Radon Awareness Month and since I have lung cancer I’ve been thinking a great deal about the dangers of RADON-a leading cause of lung cancer. So, I orRdered a free home test kit here:  https://tdec.tn.gov/Radon_Online/frmRADON_Online.aspx and I hung it for 6 days for testing, mailing it back to the state yesterday.

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It’s precise but simple, and did I mention it’s free? It also comes with a prepaid mailer to return it in! Now be aware…if you find  your home has radon, you’ll need to be prepared to remediate the problem if you plan to ever sell your home, or  you’ll have to at least disclose it should  you sell. But I would hope you wouldn’t wait to sell to alleviate the problem should  you show a high reading. I understand the average remedy costs about $1,000-$1,500 if someone else does the venting work necessary to move the radon out of  your living area. It could probably done much cheaper if you do it yourself. How hard can that be? haha don’t answer that, please.  I’ll let you know when I get my test results back..we’re hoping of course we don’t have any problems.

I’ve also been making lots of soups and canning soup stock, using frozen bags of onion and carrot tops, mushroom stems, celery tops and other trimmings that I save for just such purpose. Last week I made 10 qts of organic broth, and at today’s prices, that equates to at least $20. My time is certainly worth that, and on cold days it helps to warm the house and add humidity by simmering that stock for hours. The resulting golden goodness is good for making soups obviously, but also for cooking rice, pasta, potatoes or beans in too. 

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Speaking of good food and cooking from scratch… I’ve had so many readers ask me for vegan/vegetarian meal ideas that I’ve been writing down what we eat for supper each night, always making sure there’s enough left for lunches the following day. It’s an easy process once you get used to it. I’m sharing this oh-so-exciting information with you, my readers, because maybe you’re one of the ones that have asked for ideas. (If this bores you, just go to the next section.) So, for the first week of February, here was the Jones’ menu:

Week of February 1st,2016

Monday: Good Shepard’s Pie-potato topping made with soymilk and Smart Balance vegan spread-filling contained beans, broccoli, corn, kale, green peppers, tomatoes, carrots, onions, bay leaf, dried basil, and srirachi sauce. (This is called GOOD Shepard’s Pie because a GOOD shepard doesn’t eat his sheep.)

Tuesday: Fried Rice w/peas and carrots in peanut sauce, roasted brussels sprouts

Wednesday: Aloo Gobi over Jasmine Rice with Fusion Slaw and Rolls

Thursday: Bean and Potatoes Burritos w/Guacamole, leftover Asian Slaw

Friday: Kale, Mushrooms and Potato Bake w/Salads and Whole Grain Rolls, fresh pineapple chunks

Saturday: Grill Cheese Sandwiches w/canned soup, with pickles and fresh fruit (bananas, pineapple and red grapes)

Sunday: Pad Thai w/Naan and Salad

Looking at the lengthening days and the calendar I’m beginning to think about spring planting of course. We ate our last Longkeeper tomato last week…

20160206_170333[1]...so the goal is to grow more of them and get them in earlier than we did in 2015 so that hopefully we’ll be able to grow enough this year to last the whole winter next year!  When planning  your own garden, perhaps you can find space to plant a “ROW” for the “Rest of the World.” Because I live in the city, all I have to do to share that extra produce is to set it out on my front steps.

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If  you aren’t in a high walkability area you may need to load it up and take it to your nearest food pantry or church. Please consider this one little addition to your garden this year…it can make a big difference and won’t cost you much of anything to provide good food for someone who doesn’t have it.

I’ve long advocated that we use our homes as a place of productivity, not simply a center of consumption. There’s a LOT of trouble in this big world and so I feel compelled to do what I can personally to feed and clothe and keep my family as safe and healthy as I possibly can. I share this blog with you in the hopes that it may inspire you to become more self sufficient in any way you can too. It’s my unpaid job but more satisfying than any other position I’ve ever held. It helps me to feel as secure as I possibly can given the state of things. The stock market has crashed again (no surprise there) but since I’ve not been in good health we aren’t driving much (except to doctors’ appointments!) so we’re hardly spending anything on gasoline these days. I love that we can walk to almost every place we need to, giving me an extra layer of assurance that ‘all will be well’. I need that assurance in order to BE well.

In order to create resilient and prosperous households and neighborhoods, it starts at home with me, with you, and you. 



Frugal Friday- November 14, 2014

As the earth makes it slow tilt away from the sun, my life has begun to slow down. I love it. Perhaps now that Michael is beginning to feel better, and now that the garden is put to bed, I’ll be able to post more often. Because I love that too. I have had conversations with family and friends lately that indicate many of us struggle with day to day expenses, not to mention the big things-like cancer treatments, or… (feel free to fill in this blank with your own money sucker: ____________)

Personal finances are not something that our ‘polite’ society is accustomed to talking publicly about, at least not in the South it seems. So, never fear, I will, even though my parents and grandparents would roll in their graves if they knew I discussed money issues in public. We all depend on money. Whether it’s a weekly paycheck or a monthly disability check, it’s a common denominator for everyone. So, it we can discuss religion and politics, social issues and sex, relationship or health problems, why don’t we feel we’re able to openly discuss finances?

Let me begin this week’s fabulous assortment of thrifty and frugal activities by saying that if I didn’t apply the values of patience, simplicity and frugality to my spending habits, I simply wouldn’t be able to enjoy the “life well spent” that I do. I’m not ashamed to admit that we have a small income, while feeling quite content with the good life we have. I don’t ever feel like I”m sacrificing anything for this lifestyle. The sacrifice for me would be having to go to a job every day. Instead of working to earn money, I work to save money.  Just sayin’.

For example:

Monday: We went to a showing of a documentary at the local university, called “Good Ol’ Freda”. Freda is the woman that served as the Beatles personal secretary for ten years. The cool part was that afterwards she held a Q and A session with the audience, there was a really nice reception with heavy hor d’oeuvres, and I got to have my picture made with my friend while standing right there in front of the Beatles. sort of. Priceless fun, and free!

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Tuesday: I’ve thought for years that I’d like to have a steam juicer but wasn’t willing to pay $70 or more for one. My reasoning was that the payback period might prove to be too long. I can buy a lot of juice for that kind of money! But the wait is over now; I found the perfect steamer right after I completed a major planting of strawberries, blackberries and blueberries in my backyard  Serendipitous? Perhaps. Price? $3.49 at a thrift store- it appears to have never been used and came complete with the users guide. Patience pays off!

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Wednesday: Speaking of those berry beds…I was quite lucky to score a bunch of 4×4 fence posts from Freecycle  that had only been in the ground a year. They too were like new. (I’m still wondering why someone would replace a one year old fence…) Anyway, I’d been wanting to put in more fruit this fall and had hoped to find an attractive looking border with which to surround it. A friend had gladly let me dig blueberry slips that sprouted from his established berry plants, and I’d been babying them in pots in my backyard nursery since last spring. Yet another friend happily let me rake the pine straw from her front yard to use as mulch on the new beds. Win-win-win. No money was involved, but I’ll be able to repay my benefactors for their generosity eventually with fresh berries, jams, and now- JUICE!

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Thursday: We celebrated my grandson’s 16th birthday. We enjoyed a homemade cake with our ice cream, but the store didn’t have the ONE candle to go with the SIX candle. No worries, and lots of laughs! Savings: $2 on that ONE since we already had a box of the little candles…

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Tuesday thru Friday: We enjoyed an out of town guest for a couple of days this week. I took him on a walking tour of downtown to show him all the progress that’s been made since he was last here, we attended a wonderful art show of social and political artworks at the University gallery, and got to see the visiting Buddhist Monks that are here this week working on a sand mandala. What a unique and cultural treat that was!

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We also enjoyed an early Thanksgiving dinner with our guest and my brother. The turkey breast I bought was on sale and I saved $7 on that one item alone, since I also bought it on Tuesday, the day Krogers gives a senior discount. The meal included home canned green beans, mashed potatoes made from our stored tubers, fresh roasted brussels sprouts, and canned peaches with homemade vanilla yogurt for dessert. We all ate leftovers for lunch the next day, and today Michael and I enjoyed the last of the turkey for our lunch tucked into big fat sammiches topped with slices of red onions and tomatoes, both fresh from the garden. Now I have a small bag of bony parts, broth and turkey bits in the freezer that will make a great meal of turkey and noodles in the near future.

The last night he was with us, I made a large pot of Minestrone Soup for supper. I tried to price it out, but there were too many ingredients to make that possible. Suffice it to say that those bowls of goodness probably only cost just a few cents each since, once again, I was able to use the good food that we grew and put by this summer to add to it. After supper we stopped by two nearby coffee house/listening rooms, where we enjoyed beers and chai teas while listening to free music. The last comment the friend made before leaving was this: “I’m so envious of this peaceful and fun life you have here. I wish I could quit my job.”

Now I’m not advocating for anyone to just up and ‘quit their job’ but I do advocate for finding alternatives to consumerism. Creative use of our resources, whether cooking from scratch or taking advantage of your city’s resources benefit your wallet, the planet, and your connection to what really matters in life.

Consume Less

Now, why not share your frugal Friday moments with me in the comments below? I LOVE hearing from you! Have a great weekend friends.



Eating Humble Pie- June 27, 2014
June 27, 2014, 11:02 PM
Filed under: Frugality | Tags: , , , , , ,

I have simply been too busy during the day, and too tired at night, to post to my blog this week. That makes me kinda sad because I really enjoy the thinking, researching, picture-taking and writing that a decent post requires of me. Too bad THIS post isn’t one of those 😉 But in between the morning spent cutting grass and helping the ‘women in rehab’ in their community garden plot, and the preparing for friends-for-supper-and-drum-circle this evening, I’ll just write a quick, down-and-dirty Frugal Friday post. Regardless of how busy I get, how tired I am or what’s going on in my daily life, frugality isn’t one of those things that I need to research and think about. It’s simply something I do each day, like brushing my teeth. Because our garden is producing regularly now it’s requiring a fair amount of attention, but the pay-off of course is all the fresh organic food we’re harvesting every day. Of course THAT means cooking, preserving and eating it every day too. So, this week’s frugal focus was on food:

Monday: One of the community gardeners put up a unique plant support over the weekend and so I took a picture of his wire shelf turned on end. He is from Thailand. I have noticed over the years of communal gardening that those gardeners that hail from other countries like Russia, Africa, (and Thailand) are excellent scavengers, recyclers and repurposers (is that a word?). The lady from Russia brought her family’s heirloom Russian potato seeds with her when she came to this country and because her yard is too shady to grow there, she sought out a spot in the community garden to allow her to perpetuate her heritage and to grow things like fava beans and artichokes and other strange-to-me veggies. She uses styrofoam meat trays that she cuts into strips and writes on for plant markers, pallet wood for her paths between beds and fallen shrubby sticks for pea and bean supports. She grows bamboo in her shady yard and uses the as tomato stakes. The gardener from Africa several years ago had the prettiest garden you’ve ever laid eyes on, using similar ‘found’ props and techniques. The fellow that has propped up his squash with the wire shelf so it doesn’t get struck by the string trimmers, stops at Starbucks on his way home from work every night  to pick up a supply of spent coffee grounds that he adds to his beds and compost bins, and made unique flea beetle protectors for his eggplants out of plastic jugs that had the bottoms cut off and fine screening stapled to the top. Here’s his ‘trellis’:

plant support(1)

The point here is that those of us here in the United States use far more resources than any other country on Earth and whenever I’m feeling smug about being frugal all I have to do is look at the garden plots belonging to those ‘other countries’ to eat a slice of humble pie. I suspect I’ll be learning lots of lessons from these folks during their time in the community garden. Savings? PRICELESS!

Tuesday: Michael and I harvested our potatoes today, promptly adding home made compost and more of the free shredded leaves that our city delivers to us each fall back to the plot, before replanting it with more beans and squash. We grew 43 pounds of organic Yukon Golds in 40 square feet of soil. The moldy straw that was given to me free, and that we used to ‘hill’ around the ‘tater plants was then moved to the path to top off the cardboard we’d laid there for weed suppression. Using the straw for two purposes (actually three, since it will eventually end up as compost) makes me happy. 43 pounds of potatoes in my currently rat-free cellar make me even happier. I just called Earth Fare, my favorite, and closest, healthy food store to check on the price of their organic Yukons. 5 lb bags are selling for $6.99 and individual pounds are selling for $2.29 lb. I’ve done the math: With sales tax, my 43 lbs would’ve cost me $68.35 there. My seed potatoes cost me about $3, and a very pleasant hour planting them one spring morning back  in April. Savings: $65! 

 

taters,

 

Wednesday:  We went to a luncheon/meeting of our local Community Partnerships group this day. The catered meal was excellent and the plasticware we used to eat with was very high quality (ok, it was almost as nice as my everyday silverware!) so I wrapped up the six pieces that Michael and I had used, tucked them into my purse, and brought them home to wash. I added it to my ‘stash’ of used-just-once plastic ware that I keep with my emergency preps, along with a stack of paper plates and napkins. If the water is ever shut off because of overwhelmed city storm drains ( a real possibility in my town) I just use it and toss it rather than worrying about washing dishes in such a situation. We also take the stash camping and to potlucks too so even though it’s still wasteful to use a disposable ANYTHING, at least they get a second or third or tenth life. But, eating another slice of humble pie here, (I’m getting rather full of it actually) a young mother and daughter that sat at our table not only brought their own water filled bottles, passing up the ubiquitous red plastic cups and sweet tea and disposable bottles of water, they also shared one of the rather large paper plates AND PASSED UP THE DESSERT ENTIRELY! (Now that’s taking things a little too far 😉  ) Savings: No monetary savings since I wouldn’t buy the plasticware anyway. The humble pie was free too.

Thursday: I’m always learning from, and sharing with, the other community gardeners. This week alone we gardeners shared bamboo stakes, seeds, extra plants, tools, energy and friendship. We were also given free soil tests by the owner of Downtown Farming who taught us about our soil’s microbacterial action at our monthly gardener’s meeting. (Thanks again Yancy!)  Savings? Priceless! 

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Friday:  Today I harvested  enough zucchini to serve tonights’ dinner guests stuffed zucchini boats and we enjoyed them along with roasted rosemary/garlic potatoes and cabbage cooked with bacon drippings. I also harvested the first big red onion, the last of the spring planted kale, a huge bag of swiss chard, beets, carrots and enough collards to feed a horse! I also cooked a big pot of collards mixed with sautéed onions and garlic, diced potatoes, black-eyed peas, a jar of home-canned tomatoes and then splashed it all with hot sauce. It was so good that Michael even liked it-and he’s not a collards lover like I am! I didn’t take a picture but you don’t even need a recipe for this dish. I managed to use up a tiny part of what you see here on my kitchen counter:

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Tonight after supper we went to the drum circle in our town’s newest park. It was a lot of fun and it made me kinda misty-eyed being there with good friends, in a beautiful park within walking distance of my home, realizing how FULL my life (and my refrigerator!) are.  If we collectively plan and act early enough, we can create a way of living that’s significantly more connected, more vibrant and more fulfilling than the one we find ourselves in today. Now is the time to take stock and to start re-creating our future in ways that are not based on cheap, plentiful and polluting oil but on localized food, sustainable energy sources, resilient local economies and an enlivened sense of community well-being

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Frugal Friday- June 20, 2014
June 20, 2014, 10:04 PM
Filed under: Frugality | Tags: , , , , ,

It’s been a lucrative week in my household, showing once again that frugality, in some cases, can be a decent substitute for a paycheck. The idea that making sure that we aren’t spending more than we bring in isn’t  ‘a job’, but I do liken it to ‘a calling’. The first, and best, way to answer that calling is to track expenses. For 14 years, we have tried faithfully to track every single penny that comes into, and goes out of, our household. Doing this shows us exactly when we’re spending too much in one category or another and then allows us to make adjustments when needed. Food, gasoline, energy and entertainment are all examples of expense categories that allow for some flexibility and seeing what we’ve spent over the previous thirty days (or thirty months!) helps us make those adjustments with ease, both mentally and financially. The idea of tracking expenses came to us via “Your Money or Your Life”, a book we both happened to read at the beginning of our relationship. Both the tracking, and the relationship, have stood the test of time.

Monday: We needed a brighter bulb for a table lamp, and decided to pay a bit extra to get the better lighting quality of an LED bulb (instead of the ‘old’ compact fluorescent type we were replacing), so we bought one at Lowe’s while we were picking up some other home repair items we needed. Not a good shot, but here it is:

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Cost: $27.00

There were a few things on our shopping list that we couldn’t find at Lowe’s, so we went down the street to Home Depot. We found another bulb there with the same watts, lumens, and amperage as the  one we’d just bought from Lowe’s- for $20.00! Cree bulbs have the highest ratings available for residential LED lighting by the way. So, we returned the Lowe’s bulb. Savings: $7.00.  PS Save the receipts and package from these bulbs so that if they don’t meet the promised warranty period you can get a replacement.

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Just an aside: while at Lowe’s we had priced an outdoor flag holder for $9.95, and rejected it as too expensive. While at Home Depot, we found a completely acceptable one for $2.50!  Savings: $7.45. Has Lowe’s gone ‘upscale’ on us? It pays to shop around, whether it’s for lightbulbs or lawnmowers.

Tuesday: After months of eating ice cream during Michael’s chemo treatments, we’re trying to find healthier substitutes, so I’ve started making yogurt once again. Summer time is perfect for this since it produces very little heat in the kitchen and the availability of fresh fruits to add to it are at their peak. I like mine creamy and thick, with ‘real’ chunks of fruit, and local honey as a sweetener. A small container of Greek yogurt is about a dollar. I use powdered milk to make mine in a $10 yogurt maker I’ve had for many years. It holds 8 ‘cups’ and depending on the fruit I use, costs me about 50 cents a cup at most and is delicious. Savings: $4.00

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Just heat the milk to 190 degrees, then let cool to 120 degrees…

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      then add a few Tablespoons of plain yogurt as a starter, pour into cups, and let the magic happen!

Wednesday: My dentist, whom I trust completely, advised me to get the two ‘major’ repair jobs taken care of during this calendar year while I have dental insurance, then to drop the insurance at the end of the year. I take good care of my teeth, getting them cleaned by hygienist students at my local college for free, four times a year, and doing the recommended brushing and flossing daily. My new dental insurance paid for a full set of xrays and will pay 80% of the needed work, after which, I shouldn’t need any more expensive stuff done. (It doesn’t cover ‘false teeth’ should I need those in the future). So, I had the first procedure done this week and will have the next done next month, leaving me still with almost 6 months of coverage before I cancel. My annual premiums are $360, and since this is the first year in my life I’ve ever had dental insurance, maybe I’ll go the next 60 without it again! Savings: $360 a year

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Thursday: Our toilets began having trouble flushing completely. After much plunging, I heard the man next door out in his yard, and, knowing he owns a lot of property around town, went outside to ask him if he could recommend a decent plumber. Turns out, he was in the side yard with his plumber-guess what? His toilets weren’t flushing either, so he had called Roto Rooter to clear his clog. Amazingly, our two houses connect in the side yard, then run out to the city’s sewer lines at the street! So, we agreed we’d split the bill. Of course, Roto Rooter couldn’t open the blockage with their ‘normal’ equipment and said they’d return with their BIG guns. Estimated cost: $350. So, I told the neighbor I’d split the cost with him. Roto Rooter guys returned, and in less than 5 or 10 minutes they’d uncovered the problem, rather smugly announcing that the problem was “feminine products”. I rather smugly pointed to my gray hair and told them then it wasn’t my fault since I’m the only female in my house and I haven’t used “feminine products” in almost ten years! I offered to pay $100 towards the final bill and neighbor man quickly agreed to that deal. Savings: $75.00! just for speaking up!

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                    “Onion” may use feminine products…but I don’t!  Color me happy 🙂

Saturday: That’s right, I didn’t do a damn thing frugal today but I did take some herbal teas and crossword puzzle books to a friend in the hospital, cut my own grass, and bought one of those rotisserie chickens on sale for $3.99 from Krogers to have for supper (with enough leftovers for 2 more meals). But tomorrow I’ll take my cat to the annual vaccination clinic at the nearby high school, where I’ll be able to get his rabies shot then for $10. Savings: $20  Simon is not any happier that he’ll get it for a third of the normal price, but I sure am! (picture above applies to Saturday too)

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As always, frugality is not about being ‘cheap’ but smart. Living well on less keeps us long on time and lean on ‘stuff’, but absolutely FAT on all that matters! Please won’t you share your frugal matters too in the comments section below? I’m always inspired by what my readers are doing to stretch their incomes- hey, that means YOU!




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