My Frugal Frugal Ways

December 29, 2007, 11:39 am
Filed under: The Environment

Saving the environment benefits everyone. One step is to concentrate on reducing the amount of garbage your family produces.

Buy from bulk bins as much as possible to reduce packaging. 33 percent of what we throw away consists of product packaging.

I use plastic containers to store leftover food instead of foil and cling wrap. I take my own lunch to work and use a thermal lunch bag and those plastic sandwich containers which I can take home, wash, and reuse.

Use canvas bags when you shop or take the plastic bags back to recycle or reuse. We like to find at least one additional use for items that we throw away so, when we do end up with plastic grocery bags, we use them to pick up after our dogs while out on walks.

Compost fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, egg shells, etc… We shred our bills and other scraps of paper and compost that as well. Just make sure it doesn’t contain any hazardous inks.

Buy fruits and vegetables in bulk in season and freeze rather than relying on canned items.

Recycle your paper by making paper out of it. has some great directions. It’s a bit time consuming but a fun craft for family.

Read news on the internet instead of buying a newspaper.

Recycle clothing by giving the good stuff to a charitable organization and finding another use for the stuff that’s too worn to give away. Old shirts and towels make great rags. Cut up some old clothes and use them to stuff the dog bed. You get the idea.


December 27, 2007, 11:05 am
Filed under: Gardening

Landscaping can add curb appeal and resale value to your home.  Buying plants can be expensive but propagating and filling in with seeded perennials can help.

I can spend $1 or more for each perennial or get a packet of seeds, make a sterile seed starting mix, and grow my own. Nasturtiums are easy to grow and it’s easy to harvest seeds for the next year. I also do gazanias but I buy those seeds each year. Each seed packet yields the equivalent of a $12 perennial flat or so. I grow some vegetables and herbs as well, always choosing those that are easy to grow in my area. I can usually fill my freezer with zucchini and enjoy it all year long. My favorite seed starting recipe is 1 part perlite, 1 part peatmoss, and 1 part ground or milled sphagnum moss. The seed packets will explain how deep to plant each variety.

Division is a great way to expand irises, hostas, daylilies, and some grasses.

I increase my bush collection with propagation. Hydrangeas are extremely easy to propagate. Take a hydrangea cutting early in the summer, remove the bottom couple of leaves, cut the largest leaves down to half their size, dip in rooting hormone, place in a good sterile starting medium (damp vermiculite works well), place a couple of stakes in the pot to hold up the plastic bag cover, and place in a spot out of direct sunlight. Don’t over water. You’ll have a rooted cutting in a few weeks.

Water consumption can be very high in the garden. In order to reduce it, I grow plants that are indigenous to my area and I use mulch. There are many ways to mulch but I prefer living mulch known as ground cover. It’s a bit pricey to begin with but does reduce the total amount spent in the long run and is much easier to deal with, in my opinion, than the traditional bark and bark dust which must be replaced periodically.

It’s never too early to start planning for spring garden additions.

White Distilled Vinegar is My Friend
December 24, 2007, 11:46 am
Filed under: Cleaning

Use to clean and disinfect counter tops.

Make some ice cubes out of vinegar and then run them down the garbage disposal to clean and deodorize.

Clean the microwave by putting some vinegar and water in a microwave safe dish, cook until it boils up and splatters the side. Wipe out and you have a clean and odor free microwave.

Clean any greasy kitchen area with straight white vinegar.

Of course, we all know it’s great for cleaning those coffee makers. Regularly run the vinegar through the coffee machine and then run it two or three times with plain water.

Clean plastic containers with straight vinegar if they are stained or have an odor.

Salt and vinegar mixed together makes a dandy cleaner for brass, copper, and pewter.

Soak a rag or paper towel in vinegar, wrap around faucet or wherever you have calcium deposits, let it soak for a few hours, wipe clean.

Clean grout with white vinegar and a toothbrush.

Use it for cleaning your shower door or shower curtain.

Vinegar is also a germ killer so use it to wipe surfaces such as door knobs and light switches.

Try it as a stain remover in the laundry room.  As always, test on an inconspicuous part of the clothing first.

It makes a pretty good weed killer and is environmentally healthy.

Pour it on anthills.

One part vinegar and one part water sprayed on slugs will kill them and is a bit safer for your garden than the old  ammonia trick.

December 22, 2007, 10:50 am
Filed under: Travel

Travel during the off-season. That might vary from area to area so check ahead of time. In our town, we have a weekend event in the middle of winter during which hotels all charge top dollar. People who are traveling during that time and are totally unaware of it end up paying a premium when fatigue overcomes their desire for a less expensive alternative 45 miles down the road. You can always call hotels and ask if there are any special events occurring during the time you wish to visit their towns.

Many hotels, if less than half full or so, have negotiable rates. Check some of the online reservation services for prices before traveling and then stop by a few of the hotels to see if they’ll price match. Please, don’t go to an ocean front hotel and attempt to get the rate you were just quoted for the local flea bag. Be reasonable and you’ll find that most front desk clerks will work with you.

If you are going to be traveling during peak season, reserve your rooms as early as possible. For some hotels, rates go up as projected occupancy increases. If you book several months ahead of time, you can often get a rate that is less than the “walk in” price will be.

There are times when checking in early in the day will get you a better rate than if you wait until 10:00 p.m. Large hotels have more rooms to fill so, if it’s early in the day and they are still unsure of how many people they will get walking in, they will often offer a discounted rate. If you notice the hotel parking lots filling up, you may have waited too long to get the best bargain. But, if traffic is light, wait until later in the day because they’d rather have you in at a discounted price than leave the room empty and, at those times, they get more desperate about filling the rooms later in the day.

Be nice to the front desk clerk. Rudeness will get you nowhere.

Go camping. We got away almost every weekend during the summer when our children were young. We met lots of nice people in the campgrounds. And, by sleeping in a tent and cooking our own meals, it was very affordable. It’s also a good opportunity to explore the state in which you live. In many areas you won’t even need a tent if you book far enough in advance because more and more campgrounds are acquiring yurts.

Take day trips. When I was a child, money was very tight. But we always had enough to throw a chicken in the cooler and go up to the mountains for the day. Depending on where you live, you can explore and explore the closer parts of your state without every running out of new opportunities.

Baking Soda is My Friend
December 21, 2007, 11:40 am
Filed under: Cleaning

I buy baking soda by the ten pound bag at the local restaurant supply store.

It makes a great presoak for diapers.

Add 1/2 cup to a washer load for better cleaning.

Use it as a wash for fruits and vegetables.

It’s a great cleaner for formica counter tops and fiberglass bathtubs.

Sprinkle some in the bottom of your dishwasher occasionally to keep it clean and smelling sweet.

Sprinkle on a pan that’s hard to clean.  Add just enough water to moisten.  Leave overnight.

Once per week, put 1/2 cup of baking soda down your drains and flush with hot water.

It makes a great toothpaste.  I brush my teeth as normal with a small amount of toothpaste.  Then I dab some baking soda on my toothbrush and give my teeth another brush.  The last time I went for a cleaning, it was over very quickly because I didn’t have much tartar at all.

Add a small amount to legumes as they are cooking to reduce their gas producing properties.

Equal parts borax and baking soda can be used as a dishwasher detergent.

If you’re doing dishes or pots and pans in the sink, add some to your dishwater for better cleaning.

Bugs stuck on your chrome bumper?  Yep, gentle clean with baking soda paste.

Deodorize your carpet by sprinkling with baking soda 1/2 hour before vacuuming.

Use it to clean your toilet.  You can also add it to the tank before going to bed and flushing in the morning to clean tank and bowl.

I add a dab to my shampoo to help clean the hairspray build up out of my hair.

December 20, 2007, 11:31 am
Filed under: Cleaning

There are lots of ways to save in the laundry room. We’ll start with laundry detergent which costs, on average, $.09 per load. There are homemade laundry soap recipes out there which boast a $.03 price tag. I can’t find washing soda in my town so I’ve chosen a low cost laundry detergent which costs $.05 per load. I do let the laundry soak for 30 minutes before beginning agitation.

My washer has lots of water level settings so I can adjust for any load size without wasting water. All outer garments get washed in cold water. It’s better for the clothes and saves electricity. 85 percent of the cost of washing is heating water so washing in cold after soaking saves quite a bit.

My fabric softener consists of filling half the dispenser with vinegar. Another good recipe is 1 cup baking soda, 1 cup vinegar, and 2 cups water. Be careful when mixing. I dissolve the baking soda in the water before adding the vinegar. You can pretreat stains with inexpensive shampoo or Ivory bar soap.

Use the dryer minimally. I do dry my towels and sheets. Some clothes like jeans I start in the dryer for 10 minutes and then finish by hanging them on one of those wooden laundry racks. The rest of the clothes don’t even see the inside of the dryer. This not only saves electricity but it’s better for the fabric. An added bonus is that the dryer has a lot less wear and tear.

Cleaning Supplies
December 19, 2007, 11:10 am
Filed under: Cleaning

Diluted white vinegar is great for cleaning windows and mirrors. I buy it in the gallon jugs.

Use baking soda to clean sinks, counters, and bathtubs. I buy it in bulk at the restaurant supply store. Once per week (don’t worry, I clean my shower more often but this I do once per week) I sprinkle some baking soda on the shower floor, take a wet sponge and keep dipping it in, and gently scrub all the walls and floor of the shower/bathtub. Then I take my morning shower which rinses away the residue. That is followed by my normal daily spray and wipe of the area.

Diluted vinegar makes a great air freshener.

For furniture polish, I mix 1/2 lemon oil with 1/2 white vinegar, put in spray bottle, shake well, and spray a soft cloth.

To clean linoleum, diluted white vinegar works well.

Can you tell I love my white vinegar?

Using homemade cleaners has the added benefit of leaving a healthier environment than chemical cleaners.