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.



Just Three Things

It’s that time again when I’ve got a few things I want to share with you, none of which are enough to write a whole post about. But here’s proof that good news comes in three’s:

Our one year old hot water tank quit working recently. I wanted a tankless, on- demand water heater to replace it. The good news is, the company that made the old heater is a LOCAL MANUFACTURER!  American Water Heaters are made right here in good old Johnson City and are sold nationwide at places like Lowe’s and Sears. They agreed that it must be their defect so they replaced it. With the exact same model. They don’t make tankless heaters 😦   That was also the ‘bad’ news, because they wouldn’t give us a credit or refund, only an even exchange. So, we installed the next.best.thing. to a tankless -a $42 water heater timer. We set it to come on at 8 AM and go off at 8 PM but of course,  you’d set yours for whatever works best for your lifestyle, since there are 14 possible settings on them. It’s a well-known fact that water heating is the single largest energy user in American homes, and installing the timer has reduced our electric bill quite a bit. Even though it goes off at 8 PM there’s always plenty of pretty hot water at 8 AM the next morning too! That tells me none of us need to be heating our water 24 hours a day, it’s merely a convenience we’ve all come to rely on as a result of decades of cheap energy. A timer like this is a completely painless way to reduce your household energy needs and make your life a lee-ttle bit more resilient in the process. Now granted, it’s no solar panel, but then again, it didn’t require a second mortgage either. I also found out that if we’d had to trash the old heater, the metal in it had some monetary value and could’ve been recycled; we had 4 people stop by and ask for it in the couple of days it laid in the yard waiting to be picked up by the company! Just sayin’…


If you have an adult bicycle you no longer use, I know of three places that could use it. First is the local Family Promise organization; they help homeless families transition to homes of their own. Sometimes those families have no transportation and a bike can certainly make their lives easier. They can be reached Mon-Fri by calling Aaron at 202-7805. Next is the ETSU Yellow Bike program that fixes up donated bikes, paints ’em red yellow, then  ‘rents’ bikes to students for free to help them get around campus more easily. Contact them about your donation at bucbikes@mail.etsu.edu.

yellow bike

And last, but not least, if your old bike is in pieces, those pieces can all be used by the nonprofit Little City Bike Collective, which rebuilds and repairs bicycles for FREE. Their shop is located at 209 E Unaka Ave in JC.  Here’s the link to their Facebook page. Make some space in  your garage this spring, and make someone’s life easier by donating to one of these fine causes. And if you’re reading this and don’t live in Johnson City, I bet these same types of organizations in your community could use your old bikes too.  Just sayin’…

After recently experiencing ‘Blackberry Winter’ here in Appalachia,we’re finally moving into a season of daily gardening now, and I hope to share tips with you over the summer that will help make your food growing more successful. I sure hope you’ll do the same and share any tips you’ve found that work for you in the comments section below. We started long ago saving our eggshells all year long, drying them, then grinding them in a little mini food processor-a mortar and pestle works well too, as long as the shells are good and dry. Then we add a handful to the planting holes of peppers and tomatoes which provides them with calcium and prevents blossom end rot, something we rarely experience any more. We also add a Tablespoon of Epsom Salts to those holes to provide magnesium as well. What better way to use your egg shells, eh? We finish by adding some compost to the hole, then fertilize with some ‘worm tea’ and stand back! Just sayin’…


This ‘n That
June 3, 2012, 9:17 PM
Filed under: Frugality, Uncategorized | Tags: ,

It’s time once again for a little of this and a little of that. I do this because sometimes I think I’d like to share something with you but it’s just a little tip or idea and certainly not enough to write a whole blog about. So when I get a ‘blog’s worth’ of those ideas, I roll ’em all into one post. Here’s this week’s:

SAVE THOSE EGG SHELLS! I keep mine in an old tin pie pan that I keep in the oven. When it gets way full, I run the unwashed, dried shells  through my little mini food processor and then store them in a covered container. When we plant our tomatoes, peppers and eggplants, we mix about a half cup or so of ground eggshells in the bottom of each planting hole, and it provides the plant roots with a slow release calcium source during the whole growing season. Blossom end rot on these fruits occurs when the plants are low on calcium and since we’ve been doing this, we hardly EVER have that problem anymore!



One more thought: The reason I keep my pie pan in the oven is because after I’ve used the oven to bake something, putting the shells in there helps them dry without my having to actually use extra fossil fuel energy to do so. Residual heat is free and dries them well and they crush a lot better if they’re dried first. If you’re a flockster like me, you can also feed crushed shells to your chickens-just spread ’em on the ground or in the coop bedding. The ground shells will also provide your girls with calcium that will make their shells harder and is far more sustainable than buying oyster shell for them. Since I don’t have enough shells with just me eating eggs through the year to use them both in the garden AND in the chicken yard, I’m not able to do this. But if you’ve got a family’s worth of eggshells you should have enough to do both! Or ask your neighbor to save their eggshells for you if they’re just throwing them away. Eggshells compost easily too. Just sayin…

$SAVING MONEY$  We save our coins throughout the year, or until our crock gets full. In the past, we’d then take the coins to a Coin Star machine to ‘cash them in’. The machine is slow and keeps 10% of the total. Last week we took our stash of pennies, dimes, nickels and quarters to our local bank and they counted them out using their machine in only a minute or two AND didn’t charge us to do so. We saved $22.60 doing it this way! The only requirement is that you have the money directly deposited into your bank account. Not all banks have the machines so you’d need to check with yours first before hauling YOUR crock ‘o money all over town.

WALK SCORE.COM     Walk Score is a large-scale, public access walkability index that assigns a numerical walkability score to any address in Australia, Canada, the United States. I plugged in the address of our current home and got a walk score of zero-out of 100 possible points. I then entered the address of our new home we’re moving into in a few weeks, and it got a walk score of 87! From ‘Car Dependent’ to ‘Very Walkable’ makes us sure we’ve found the right place to live a more sustainable and healthier lifestyle. Check it out. It will even show you nearby amenities such as restaurants, shopping, doctors offices, and so forth. The site has even started a ‘Bike Score’ and a ‘Public Transit Score’.

I hope you gardeners and farmer’s market shoppers are enjoying all the season has to offer. This cooler weather has prolonged our harvests of greens, lettuces and peas. We’re eating the kale and collards fresh as fast as we can, but today I dried a BUNCH of the kale to add to soups and other dishes next winter. Here’s today’s pickins’…

That’s it for this edition of little things. Remember, little things add up!

%d bloggers like this: