My Frugal Frugal Ways

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.

December 18, 2007, 12:24 pm
Filed under: exercise

80% of the people with gym memberships would actually be money ahead if they had opted to pay the day use fees instead. My church is holding their annual rummage sale and they asked that no one donate exercise equipment. Seems that all that equipment really does is give the UPS driver a good work out as he delivers and subsequently picks up the returns. Neither infrequently used gym memberships nor home exercise equipment that sees more service as a coat rack are typically frugal choices. That doesn’t mean that it doesn’t work for some. Obviously, 20% of those with health related memberships make good use of them. And I’m sure there is at least one person out there who uses his cross trainer religiously.

But companies make money selling you the latest and the greatest. They don’t want you to use the same exercise bike for 20 years. And you do have to renew your gym membership once per year so it’s really money spent with no tangible gain. What is a frugal person to do?

The first thing to decide what is realistic for you. If you’re shopping for exercise videos, lets you preview 743 different selections. I found that very helpful because, although exercising to salsa music sounded appealing, after previewing the video, I realized it wasn’t for me. That doesn’t mean it won’t be beneficial for others. It’s just not me. So shop around. Try various inexpensive methods of getting your exercise. I have a friend who has a piece of exercise equipment sitting in her house which she rarely uses. But she loves walking and gets lots of exercise doing it.

We have some pretty outrageous winter weather here so most of my exercise needs to happen inside the house. I bought a stability ball, a set of weights, a good pair of shoes, three exercise DVD’s and an inexpensive step aerobic thing which came with its own DVD. My favorite DVD includes 20 minutes of cardio, 20 minutes of strength, and 20 minutes of flexibility. If my time is limited, I do the cardio and 10 or so minutes of the strength. I rotate the four DVD’s so that I’m doing a pretty strenuous workout one day and one that is less taxing the next. Think I probably spent a total of $100 if you don’t include the shoes and I use it all. It’s made a huge difference in my energy level and, after three months, I’m quite a bit firmer. I can see that I’ll add to my collection from time to time to break the monotony but I don’t think anything will end up collecting dust or going to rummage sales.

December 17, 2007, 10:32 am
Filed under: diet | Tags: , ,

I just read an article about low cost meals to serve your family. The author acknowledged that they weren’t exactly healthy meals but then went on to say that they weren’t the health police so it didn’t matter. Yipes. Being unhealthy is about the least frugal choice a person can make. Not only is health care expensive, but existing with less than optimum health reduces energy and as well as productivity.

I recently underwent some medical tests which required about 48 hours of liquid only nourishment. Not the most enjoyable experience but, afterwards, I was able to reintroduce foods slowly so that I could determine how individual substances affected my body. Wow. As a result, I am now caffeine, gluten, and refined sugar free. I also know how to balance my meals and snacks so that I don’t end up binging or feeling listless.

I bought one of those 2.2 liter bottles so I can track my water consumption. I take it everywhere to make sure I’m consuming liquid regularly to stay hydrated. Confusing hunger with thirst used to be a big problem for me.

I no longer just grab an apple when I’m hungry. I always combine my fruit snacks with a bit of protein so the fructose doesn’t spike and then drain my blood sugar. I eat more vegetables and fewer fruits than I used to because most vegetables are lower on the glycemic index.

Three months after beginning this healthier way of eating, foods taste completely different. The other day I tried to sample a gluten free waffle with some real syrup on it. Yuck. The syrup tasted like molasses to me. Even baked potato chips are unappealing because of the high salt content. And I don’t go near chocolate. It honestly doesn’t taste good anymore.

Between my new eating habits and my exercise routine, I can actually eat my fill without gaining weight for the first time in my life. As an added bonus, my moods have leveled. I no longer have those moments when everything seems to irritate.

Healthy eating has definitely been a frugal choice.