Thursday, January 31, 2013

100 More (Painless) Ways to Live Frugally

One of my most popular posts here on The Parsimonious Princess is "100 Painless Ways to Live Frugally". Being a girl who doesn't mind a challenge, I wanted to see if I could find a hundred more ways. Well, here it is: 100 more (painless) ways to save money and live frugally. Personally, I think this list is even better than the last one.

1.  Subscribe to The Parsimonious Princess via email or as a follower (either over there in the sidebar or of my Parsimonious Princess Pinterest board). That way, you won't miss a single post!

2. There is a difference between being frugal and being cheap. Knowing that difference can save you money. Read my post here to see what I mean.

3. Make your own hand soap - liquid or foaming. It's seriously easy and costs hardly anything to make.

4. Eat eggs. They're one of the best things nutritionally for you. Eggs happen to be a complete protein, containing all the essential amino acids your body needs daily. Eating eggs is great way to go meatless at least once a week. They're not just for breakfast -- some nights I'll make a frittata, a big omelette, or poached/scrambled eggs on toast. Simple, inexpensive, and delicious.

5. Buy white eggs. They're cheaper than the brown ones. Really. People think there's a difference between the ones with the white shells and the ones with the brown shells, but I'm here to tell you that the only difference is the breed of chicken that laid the egg. The reason why the brown eggs cost more than the white eggs is because the chickens that lay brown eggs are usually bigger breeds than the chickens who lay the white ones. This means that the bigger chickens cost more to feed and that extra cost is passed on to you, the consumer. We have chickens who lay brown-shelled eggs, we had a chicken who laid blue-shelled ones. They're all the same inside. If you're going to pay extra for eggs, buy the cage-free ones or organic ones or free-range ones -- that's when you'll notice a difference in quality. (Though, for the record, no egg from the store beats one from your backyard. Just sayin'.)

6. 1/2 cup washing soda + 1/2 cup hydrogen peroxide = homemade OxiClean.  Check out this link for the details.

7. Have you tried the green-onion-in-water trick? If you save the white ends of green onions, put them in water, and stick the jar somewhere sunny (mine are on my kitchen windowsill), the green onions will grow back. Forever. (Well, maybe that's a little hyperbolic, but seriously, they'll keep growing back). Be sure to change the water regularly and rinse the white ends occasionally so they don't get all slimy.

8. Reusable canning lids pay for themselves! You can use them over and over -- Tattler lids have a lifetime warranty (the rubber rings need will need replacing eventually, but the lids are guaranteed to last). I love my Tattler lids -- though, I have to admit, I do miss hearing that popping sound when they seal...

9. Packing a lunch for yourself or your kids is a great way to save money. One way to make it even more money-saving? Skip the disposable aspect of packing a lunch. Use lunch boxes or lunch bags instead of the brown paper sack; use a reusable water bottle or a thermos instead of juice boxes, bottled water, or milk cartons; use reusable bags or reusable containers (I love these ones -- my husband uses them all the time when he takes lunch to work) instead of plastic baggies.

10.  As I've mentioned a couple times on this blog, I love Tamar Adler's An Everlasting Meal. One suggestion she makes in the book is to take care of all your produce when you get home from buying it. Wash it, dry it, cook it, put it into containers. By doing this, you'll have everything ready to go when you need it. It will be visible and convenient in your fridge. This translates to less waste. I know that when I've taken the time to wash all the spinach and lettuce, for example, right away, I use it more because it's convenient. When I wash and store my herbs properly, they last so much longer. (Ms. Adler's book goes into depth on how to cook, store, and prep vegetables the best way.) Admittedly, I'm not perfect at this. Sometimes, after spending a bunch of time shopping with two kids, I barely have the energy to just put the groceries away let alone prep everything, but it's worth doing and I know you will waste less produce (read: less money) with this simple step alone. Watch this video of Ms. Adler's process. It's lovely.

How to Stride Ahead - Part Two from CJ Richter on Vimeo.

11. While we're on the subject of produce, if you want to buy organic produce but find it too costly (or if you are buying organically grown produce and are feeling the pinch in your wallet), a good trick is to pay attention to the Dirty Dozen list. The Dirty Dozen list tells which crops are most heavily sprayed and have the most pesticides. If a fruit or vegetable is on the Dirty Dozen list, then it's a good idea to go organic; if it's not on the Dirty Dozen list, then buy the cheaper conventionally-grown fruits and vegetables.

12.  A low-flow showerhead can save the average household $55 per person annually.  Low-flow showerheads have gotten a bad rap and for good reason. Most of them are terrible. That said, my husband and I have had a low-flow showerhead in our bathroom for the last couple years and we love it. It's made by High Sierra Showerheads and it's great! For more info about it, you can read my post here.

13. Keep a low-maintenance hair style and/or hair color. Less visits to the salon for trims and touch-ups will save money.

14.  Are you or your spouse in the military or a veteran? There are lots of discounts at stores, restaurants, hotels, and more out there for members of military, both active duty and retired. My dad is a retired army veteran and he gets discounts at lots of places by showing his military ID. Sometimes, you just have to ask.  For a list of 149 military discounts, check out this link.  There are also lots of discounts for teachers -- here's a link to 66 teacher discounts.

15. Don't buy extended warranties. They're a waste of money. I'd explain why, but Dave Ramsey does a better job here.

16. Chill out when you're behind the wheel; aggressive driving costs more money. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, aggressive driving will use 33% more gas on the highway and 5% more on roads around town. I read somewhere that you should pretend that there's an egg under the gas pedal -- don't ever push the gas pedal down so fast that you would crack the imaginary egg.

17. Learn to make homemade versions of pantry staples. My favorite guide for doing that: The Homemade Pantry: 101 Foods You Can Stop Buying and Start Making by Alana Chernila.  It's easier than you think, I promise.

18. If you're having a party or some other kind of get-together, make it a potluck. We do this every year for our Halloween party and it's always a hit because our guests come up with fun Halloween-themed dishes. We never know what people will bring and it adds to the fun. It's a pretty great way to feed a crowd and save money.

19. Use houseplants to purify the air in your home instead of an expensive air purifier. One book that I recommend is How to Grow Fresh Air: 50 Houseplants that Purify Your Home or Office by B.C. Wolverton. Mr. Wolverton is a NASA scientist who actually researched what plants would best create a breathable environment on the moon; this book details his findings in an easy-to-read yet informative guide. I'm willing to bet you'll be as surprised as I was when I found out how effective houseplants truly are at cleaning the air in the home.

20. Freshen the air in your home naturally, too. Simmering different things (cinnamon sticks, cloves, orange peels, essential oils, to name just a few) in water can go a long way in making your home smell nice and inviting.  Boiling orange peels is a cheap and easy way I freshen the air in my home.

21. If you have chickens (funny how I sort of joked about having them in my last 100 list...), save your kitchen scraps for them. This is definitely not a replacement for a balanced chicken feed, but kitchen scraps are a great supplement to their diet. My ladies eat the rest of the apples my kids don't finish, the outer layers of cabbage, wilted lettuce, leftover rice, oatmeal that doesn't get finished at breakfast, the pumpkin guts from our jack-o-lanterns, tops of tomatoes, the peels from batches of applesauce, and more. Not only do the nutrients in the scraps help my hens stay healthy and produce nutritious eggs for my family, but the ladies also make the scraps into great compost in the meantime. Plus, the treats make them happy and happy hens make the best eggs! For a good list of what scraps to feed (and what not to feed) to chickens, check out this helpful link.

22. Make your own laundry detergent. Thanks to Pinterest, it seems like making your own detergent has become more and more popular. For most recipes you just need a bar of soap, some washing soda, and borax. There are a bunch of recipes for homemade powder and liquid laundry detergent online; here's the powder one that I've used (along with some of my thoughts on the whole process) and you can find my super-easy recipe (it takes five minutes to make) for liquid detergent here.

23. Organize a baby-sitting co-op to save money. A group of women at my church have this system where they get a sort of credit for each hour they watch someone else's kid in their group. Each credit you get, you get an hour of baby-sitting by someone else in the group (they keep track with sticks -- each stick counts for an hour of free babysitting). So, say you watch your neighbor's two kids for an hour, you would get two hour-long baby-sitting credits to use with anyone else in the group. They have a Google calendar set up that shows when all of them are available to baby-sit -- just check the calendar, see who's available, redeem your credits, and, voila!, free babysitting. True confession time: I don't do this myself since I kind of hate watching other people's kids, but I can see how it could be really nice and convenient if you're more easy-going than I am.

24. Stop buying aerosol cooking spray and use a Misto, instead.

25. If possible, breastfeed. Baby food doesn't get cheaper than that. For my thoughts on the topic and some tips for success, read my post here.

26. Speaking of breastfeeding, one way to save money is to make your own nursing pads. They take very little sewing skill to make them. Besides, if you mess up, who's going to see them?

27. Also on the baby-feeding front, skip store-bought teething biscuits and make them yourself. They're so simple to make and your baby will love gnawing on them.

28.  Ant problem? Skip the poison spray and use ground cinnamon to deter ants. It's cheaper, non-toxic, and they hate the stuff. It doesn't kill them, but it definitely keeps them away.

29. Want to find the cheapest gas where you live? Find the best prices for gas with All you have to do is pick your state (or Canadian province) and enter your city or zip code. Brings up all the gas prices in your area. Easy peasy.

30. This may seem kind of obvious to some, but don't wash clothes until they need washing. Just because you've worn something, that doesn't necessarily mean it needs to go straight to the hamper. Not only does this save money by cutting back on the cost of energy and water, but it also will help your clothes last longer.

31. Don't use a new towel every time you shower. When you're done showering, hang it back up, let it dry, and it's ready to use again. One way to cut back on towel laundering: when I was a teenager, my three brothers and I went through tons of towels (mostly from leaving them on the floor). Mom was washing them all the time. Her solution? She bought each of us two towels in our favorite colors (I can still remember that mine were purple at the time) and those were our towels for the week. If we were sloppy and didn't hang them up when were done using them, we were out of luck. Mom's strategy totally worked.

32. Grow your own sprouts. It's really, really easy. You can find my complete instructions here.

33. Water down your dish soap. I have an olive oil dispenser I use for dish soap. I fill it up half-way with water and then fill the rest with dish soap. I've been doing this for a while with no problem.  It has definitely helped me cut back on how much dish soap I buy.

34. Switch to flannel sheets during the cold months of the year. We keep our thermostat set in the low 60s at night, so it can get pretty chilly in our house at night. One little thing that makes a big difference: flannel sheets. A few weeks ago, I was feeling pretty chilly despite wearing pajamas, socks, and having a couple blankets piled on me. Then I remembered that we were still using our thinner 100% cotton sheets. I switched them for our flannel sheets and they made all the difference. Nights have been much cozier, despite our subzero temperatures outside and our lower temperature inside.

35.  Don't buy breadcrumbs. They're just too easy to make from stale bread, old hamburger buns, and the ends of the bread loaf that most people don't like for sandwiches. Click here for how I make breadcrumbs; click on this link I just found (yay!) on how to make panko crumbs.

36. Same thing goes for croutons -- don't buy them, either. You can read about how I've made croutons from scratch since my teenage years here.

37.  Pinterest is your money-saving friend. There are so many good ideas, tricks, tips, and articles that can save you a bunch of money. If you're not pinning stuff yet, you're missing out. Just saying. (P.S. -- You can follow me here if you like.)

38.  Speaking of Pinterest, that's where I found my favorite homemade glass cleaning recipe: the Alvin Corn glass cleaner. It consists of isopropyl alcohol, vinegar, cornstarch, and water. Works just as well, if not better, than the store-bought stuff.

39. Rotate your tires. For a great post about the topic and even a how-to for doing it yourself, click here.

40. Use a laptop instead of a desktop computer. Laptops use 80% less energy than their desktop counterparts because it's powered by a battery.

41. If you do use a desktop computer regularly, be sure to set your computer so it automatically goes to sleep after 10 minutes of not being used. This will not only save money, but make your hard drive and monitor last longer.

42. If possible, refinance your mortgage.  Interest rates are so low right now, so, if you can, take advantage of them. We refinanced a little over a year ago from our 30-year mortgage to a 15-year mortgage. We cut our term in half, but, because of low interest rates, our payment only went up around $150 per month.

43. Cancel your gym membership if you're not using it more than a couple times a week.  I've had a tendency many times over the years to keep my gym membership in hopes that knowing that money is coming out of my account automatically will compel me to go to the gym. Not the best motivation, really.

44.  Learn to knit. I mean, with a couple needles and a ball of yarn, you can make stuff! It's a great skill to have and you can knit all sorts of neat, handmade things for the cost of a skein of yarn. Even better, if you have a Ravelry account (it's free), there are literally thousands of free and inexpensive patterns at your fingertips.  Of course, there's a caveat to this: knitting can get expensive. Like, really expensive. You know you have a problem when you think about buying a $20 skein of bulky baby alpaca wool yarn (ahem) and it doesn't seem that outrageous. Yarn stores can be dangerous. Consider yourself warned. One other benefit: there is evidence out there that says that knitting is as effective as Prozac in helping with depression. I can believe that.

45.  If you pre-rinse your dishes before putting them in the dishwasher, use cold water. Skip the heated dry cycles on your dishwasher, too.

46.  Ice cube trays are a great tool for saving and freezing small portions of food -- that last bit of tomato paste in the can, baby food purees, pesto, herbs, etc.

47.  When your mascara seems like it's running it out, it usually still has some left (I read somewhere that even a quarter of the tube is left!). An easy way to get everything out of your tube of mascara or to give a dried-out tube new life: give it a few drops of contact solution. Use the brush wand to mix it up and you get more mascara. I've done this and it totally works!

48. Get that last bit of make-up/toothpaste/ointment/finger-paint, etc. out of a tube by snipping off the end with a pair of scissors. You'll be surprised how much you might have wasted just because you couldn't squeeze it out before.

49.  Become a compulsive scraper like me and wield that rubber spatula with pride!

50. Keep birthday parties under control and bring back the old-school birthday party at home. You can find my post about how we did my son's birthday party on a budget here.

51. Don't buy frozen waffles. Make them yourself, freeze them, and pop in them in the toaster for breakfast.  You can find a couple of my family's favorite waffle recipes here and here.

52. Skip the ice melt and just use cheap water softener salt for icy driveways and walkways. I buy a 50-lb. bag of water softener salt at Costco for $3 and it works just as well as the pricier, specifically-for-melting-ice kind of salt.

53.  Have you heard of crystal deodorant? Crystal deodorant is a frugal choice because it lasts up to a year. It's basically a rock. You get it a little wet, glide it on, and it keeps you smelling fresh for 24 hours. Something about the minerals it leaves behind on your skin makes your underarms inhospitable for odor-causing bacteria. My husband uses it every day and I can testify that it works. It's especially good for him because of his sensitive skin -- most deodorants make him break out in a rash; this one hasn't done that at all.

54. Close your closets to save money on heating and air conditioning. Apparently, from what I've learned, closing your closet doors lowers the amount of square feet your furnace or A/C has to heat/cool. Plus, closing closets along exterior walls of your home actually helps insulate a little.

55. Sell clutter. Have a yard sale. Sell old DVDs and books on Amazon. Try online classifieds. Your clutter may be exactly what someone else is looking for.

56. Take care of your clothes before washing them to make them last longer. Before you put clothes in the washing machine, zip, button, fasten hooks, and turn clothes inside out.  Doing this prevents snags, minimizes wear and tear, helps prevent piling, and helps clothes fade less, allowing you to get the most wear out of your wardrobe.

57.  Bring your own bags to the grocery store -- some stores offer small discounts per bag you reuse. I know from experience that Whole Foods gives a discount per bag (the ones in my state discount 10 cents per bag). I've read that Target gives 5 cents per bag, as well as Kroger's and Trader Joe's. For a super-easy and super-cheap way to make a reusable bag, you can see how I changed an old t-shirt into a bag here.

58. Buy generic and store-brand medicine whenever possible. The FDA actually requires that these versions of medicine provide the same benefits as the name-brand counterparts. They have the same ingredients! The name-brand stuff just costs more because they've spent more money on research and marketing. Since the generics don't pay for that, the savings are passed on to you.

59. I'm new to the whole smartphone thing, but from what I understand, data plans usually allow anywhere from 300 MB to 10 GB in downloads per month. Be careful what you download onto your phone because you may be going over your data plan limit without even knowing it. One way to really push the limit is by streaming video. For some tips on how to not go over your limit, check out this link I found.

60. Also, while on the topic of technology, there are plenty of people who want to buy your old and even broken electronics and phones. For some tips on how to make some money on them, check out this article.

61. Save money on beans by buying them dry instead of canned. A one-pound bag of dried beans yields about as much as three cans yet it costs half as much to buy them dry.

62. Pay yourself first. Arrange to have a certain percentage of your paycheck automatically deposited into a retirement fund (like an IRA or 401k) and/or some other savings account. This is something I learned when I was first married and read The Automatic Millionaire. With each paycheck, we have a certain percentage put into our 401k before taxes. We also have our bank take out a set amount each paycheck and put into savings automatically for us. When it's automatic, you don't have to struggle with having the willpower to do it yourself.

63.  Reuse rainwater. This is something I have yet to try (especially since it used to be illegal in my state. Go figure.), but I'm totally intrigued. I live in a very dry state, but even a little can make a difference: I read that during an inch of rainfall, 900 gallons of water flows off a 30 x 50-foot roof! You can find more information from these articles I've pinned, here and here.

64. Avoid rush hour and save gas. By leaving just 30 minutes earlier or later than you normally do, you'll spend less time idling in traffic and wasting gas.

65. Stock up on office and art supplies during back-to-school time. That's when I buy ten boxes of crayons (when they're only a quarter for the 24-count boxes), packages of pencils for 50 cents, a handful of trays of Crayola watercolors for 75 cents a piece, notebooks for 15 cents, three-packs of glue sticks for a buck, and a myriad of other things (have I mentioned that buying school supplies makes me feel a little giddy in the fall?) that my family will use all year.

66.  If you choose to cloth diaper (yes this can be still be on a list of "painless ways to be frugal". Cloth diapering is not nearly as bad as everyone thinks it is.), the most frugal way to diaper your baby is with prefold cloth diapers. My favorite prefold diapers range in price from $2-4 each (it depends on whether or not you want regular or organic cotton and what size you get), which is much cheaper than the other kinds of cloth diapers (like pocket diapers and all-in-ones, which usually range anywhere from $10-25 each). Prefolds are my favorite way to diaper my baby -- for all my reasons why, check out this post about them.

67. If you do go the cloth diaper route (again, don't knock it until you try it), a diaper sprayer attached to the toilet makes cleaning those poopy diapers much, much easier. For around $30 and hardly any effort, you can make your own cloth diaper sprayer instead of forking out $50+ for a pre-made one. For the supply list and complete instructions, check out my post here.

68. Canned and frozen fish is a great and frugal way to buy seafood.  Unless you live on the coast (you lucky people you) or you're at a higher-end store, the fish at your grocery store's seafood counter has often been frozen already. I actually had a guy working at the seafood counter at a store tell me that the shrimp they sell in the case is just thawed shrimp from the bags in the freezer section (and it cost more to buy it at the counter. I wonder why he was being so honest...).  Frozen fish is cheaper and, in many cases, fresher than the fish on ice in the seafood case. In fact, lots of fishing boats have freezers on board and they flash-freeze it right away. Canned fish is a great alternative, too. Canned salmon works just as well in fish cakes or in a salad as fresh salmon does. We use canned tuna quite regularly (my husband and six-year-old son love to eat the kipper snacks and sardines. Not my bag, but I'm glad they like them -- it's a super-healthy snack) and I particularly like to buy wild salmon in vacuum-sealed packs.

69.  Have you gone paperless with your bills yet? If not, there are companies that will give you a discount for getting your bills via email instead of in the mail. Just ask. It worked for me with my insurance company just last month.

70. Pay bills on time and avoid late fees. It's a no-brainer, but something I think most people are guilty of, myself included.

71. Skip the store-bought costumes and bring back the good, old-fashioned homemade costume for Halloween. You don't need serious sewing skills to do it, I promise. For some ideas, check out my post all about it.

72. Unplug your stuff and avoid "vampire electronics". I always thought this was a silly suggestion (I mean, how much energy can a still plugged-in charger waste?), but the U.S. Department of energy estimates that 5% of all electricity used in the country is to power stuff not being used. Who knew?

73. Buy items at warehouse stores but do it wisely -- not everything there is a good deal. For a good guide on what's a good deal (and what's not) at stores like Costco and Sam's Club, check out this helpful list I found.

74. Make your own furniture dusting spray with olive oil, vinegar, lemon essential oil, and water.  For the recipe, click here.

75. To resurrect an old broom, put a rubber band (or more if your broom is really suffering) around the bristles at the bottom (a few inches from the base).  Leave the rubber band on for a day or so and when you take it off, your broom will work as a good as (almost) new.

76. Vacuum out your dryer's vent at least once a year. Not only is all that lint in there a fire hazard, but when it's cleared out, your dryer works much more efficiently. When we vacuumed out ours, I noticed a huge difference in how fast things dried, especially towels. For a complete step-by-step how-to, click here.

77.  'Selective squeamishness' can save you a lot of money. I first learned the term from The Tightwad Gazette.  Basically, selective squeamishness means that you move past the initial "ick!" reaction and realize something's not so bad after all. For example, this past fall my husband and I picked tons of apples from his parents' yard. Since they don't spray their trees (yay! free organic apples!), lots of the apples had holes where worms had bitten them. Some were unbitten but bruised. No big deal -- we just cut around the blemishes and made applesauce with them.

78. An easy way to save money: whenever you pay in cash, save the coins. Only use paper money to buy things.  Use a jar, can, or even a traditional piggy bank like mine to save all the coins you get. A few dimes here, a couple quarters there adds up. I can't wait to see how much we get out of our bank (it's half-full and it's already so heavy!).

79. Have a big family? Save money during the holidays by organizing a gift swap where everyone draws a name of someone in the family. You could even set a limit to how much everyone can spend. Both my family and my husband's family have been doing this for the last few years and it has worked out well.

80.  Make your toilet a water-saving one by putting a water-filled jar into the tank. The jar displaces some of the water and tank doesn't refill with as much.

81. Grow chives.

82. Drive your car like you would ride a bike. You don't see cyclists gunning uphill -- they take it slow and steady. They use momentum on hills to their advantage. Cyclists don't hit the brakes at the last minute -- they slow down and ease into stops. Most cyclists start slowly after a stop and gradually speed up. Driving like you're riding a bike won't only save gas, but it'll be easier on your car, too.

83. Stock up on kitchen staples when they go on sale. Whenever I go grocery shopping and I see something we eat a lot of on sale, I buy extras. Also, some things go on sale at certain times of year. One example: around the holidays, all the baking stuff goes on sale and that's when I stock up on butter, sugar, flour, etc.

84. If a product doesn't meet its promised standards, tell the company.  For example, I bought a frozen pizza once from the health food store from brand I liked (I know, I know, I wrote a post about making homemade pizza on here, but I was pregnant and barely had energy to go to the store, let alone make a pizza). When I got it home and I unwrapped it, I noticed a hair on it. UGH! (as if I weren't nauseated already). It was, like, baked into the cheese. It wasn't the store's fault, so I called the company's number on the box. I wasn't rude, I made an extra effort to be polite, and told them what I found. They were super apologetic and sent me TONS of coupons for free stuff. Now you'd think that I wouldn't want anything to do with this company, but everything I'd used of theirs before had been great; I knew this was just a fluke. I did the same thing with a yogurt brand I loved -- I opened a couple of mine and saw that there was mold growing in them. I called the company and they sent me a bunch of coupons for free yogurt. Most companies want your business and will make an effort to rectify any problems so you don't waste your money. But, please, be polite to those customer service people and don't make a mountain out of a molehill.

86.  Buy spices in bulk, by weight. 

87. Make meal plans. It helps you use what you have better, helps you keep your shopping list focused, and you don't have to have that "I-don't-know-what-to-make-for-dinner scramble" in the evenings. Here's a link to a meal planning printable I've been using.

88.  Do a plant swap with a family member, friend, or neighbor when you're dividing plants and flowers in your garden or if your plants have sent off some volunteers. My mom has a really pretty orange flower that goes nuts in her yard every year, so she digs them up, puts them in little cups or pots with some soil, gives them to me, and I plant them in my yard. I've given her some of the sage in my garden to plant in her yard, as well as some lamb's ear. One of my neighbors gave me a bunch of columbines she was digging up. Hooray for free flowers!

89. Don't turn your nose up at cheaper cuts of meat. Instead of boneless, skinless chicken breasts go for bone-in chicken thighs and drumsticks (those parts are more flavorful than the chicken breast anyway). Cheaper cuts of beef usually have the words "chuck", "round", or "flank" (you can always tenderize these cuts by marinating them). With pork, one of the cheapest cuts (but my favorite -- I love PW's recipe for spicy shredded pork) is usually the shoulder (also called the butt roast, which confused me for a while.I called my dad, who was a butcher at the time, while I was at the store, "Where's the shoulder? All I can see is butt roast!").  Also go for family packs of chicken and meat, divide it up yourself, and freeze it. You can also buy a whole chicken instead of buying by the piece and cut it up yourself (for my complete how-to for cutting up a whole chicken, click here).

90. When you're preparing a meal, save scraps for stock in the freezer. Save your carrot ends, the outer layers of onions (not the skins, though), stems from herbs (like parsley), celery leaves, empty pea pods, and anything else you'd use in a stock in a freezer bag.  Save the bones from your cheap cuts of beef or chicken (but in separate bags -- you don't want to make beef-chicken stock. Best to keep them separate.).  You can also save shells from shellfish like shrimp and lobster to make a seafood stock. Keep these bags in the freezer and when you have some time, whip up a batch of homemade stock -- it's better than the store-bought stuff, it's crazy cheap (you're using stuff you would have thrown away!), and really easy to make.

91. Lower your water heater temperature. I read that lowering your water heater temperature from 140 to 120 degrees (which works for most people) can reduce your hot water costs 6-10%.  Right now we don't have our temperature lowered because I like using really hot water to wash cloth diapers, but once we're done with that phase, we'll lower it again.

92.  Don't buy microwave popcorn.

93. I'm sharing this news like it's gospel -- start your own seeds with milk-jug greenhouses. Seed starting just doesn't get any easier than that.

94. Get acquainted with coconut oil. It's incredible how versatile this stuff is!

95. Replace your furnace filter monthly, even in the summer. I had a repairman tell me that when he came to fix my air conditioner (and I trust this guy -- he gave me an honest second opinion when another company said I needed to spend over a thousand dollars to fix a non-existent problem). When your filter is clogged with dust, your furnace has to work harder, it becomes less efficient, and it can damage the furnace after long enough. He also said you don't need to buy the expensive filters -- the cheapest ones are fine unless you have severe allergies and require a special filter.

96.  Use a push mower. Our gasoline-powered one was really starting to wear out and smoke more, so we got this push mower. I'm telling you now, with the utmost honesty, this mower isn't any harder to push than our gas-powered one. It's amazing.

97. Create a waiting period for yourself before you spend more than $50 on a single item. Give yourself a 24- or 48-hour waiting period to decide if you really want/need that item or if it's an impulse purchase.

98.  Keep an open mind. 

99. Don't buy stuff you cannot afford. 

100. And, finally, some practically perfect advice from Mary Poppins: "Enough is as a good as a feast."

UPDATE: For another 100 ways to live frugally (list 3 of 3), click HERE.

Note: Some of the links in the post above are "affiliate links." This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. 

{This post is linked up to Your Green Resource, Homestead Barn HopSimple Lives Thursday, Little House Fridayand Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways.}

Friday, January 18, 2013

"We're debt free!": Of Car Payments and Baby Step #2

I thought about calling Dave Ramsey today. Even more, I wish I could visit his studio in Tennessee, sign the wall, and chat with him on the special debt-free scream phone. If only. However, I doubt I'd be able to get a call even through onto Dave Ramsey's show, so that leaves me with this option: I'm going to do my debt free scream here (magically through my fingertips).  Here goes:


{Now I'll insert some inspirational/cheesy picture I found via a Google image search of the word "freedom".}

This week, the husband and I paid off our car. It was awesome, to say the least.

It was especially satisfying since, back in 2010, we were debt-free. We worked hard to pay off my student loan (nothing major -- just a couple thousand dollars from my sophomore year), some credit card debt, and the first car we purchased together. I remember walking into the Chase bank back in February of 2010, with three-year-old Max toddling along with me in his Oshkosh overalls, and giving the banker at the desk all that was owed on the car. I walked -- it felt a little more like floating -- back to the car, buckled Max into his carseat, sat down in the driver's seat, shouted, "We're debt free!"  For the rest of the week, I remember how  Max would just randomly stick both of his little arms up in the air and shout, "We debt feeeee!" (not a typo -- that's how he said it).  We had completed Dave Ramsey's second baby step and paid off all the debt except the house!

A couple months later, my husband's commuter car, a 1997 Subaru Legacy wagon we'd purchased from my parents, died. Seriously, it committed some kind of car suicide and various parts of it just died. Soon after, our first car together, another Subaru that was well over the 200,000 mile mark, started to struggle. After much thought, much debate, and prayer, we decided it was time to buy a new car.

Only we didn't have enough money saved to pay cash for one. We'd only been debt-free for 3-4 months. We considered buying a beater car, but with plans for adding to our family and my husband's commute, we decided to get something fairly new and with low mileage. That meant we'd have to finance. I remember driving out of the dealership in our beautiful and blue new Subaru (Yes, we're fans. You would be, too, if you lived where I do) and I just burst into tears. I missed being debt-free already.

Just barely over 2 1/2 years later, that car is paid off. Even just driving Max to school,  running errands in it, or getting it washed feels different. That car is ours. I can't think of a better's, well, awesome.

I'm not going to lie, I've been imagining all day what I would say to Dave if I called in. I probably would have told him all that stuff I just wrote. I imagine he'd ask how we did it. What would I say?  That there's no magic bullet or trick to getting out of debt. My husband has done a lot of freelance work to get us to this point -- it's like he's been working a second job, which hasn't been easy on either of us.

I would tell him that you just have to keep going and plugging along. The little things, the little actions I'm always mentioning on this blog, truly do add up. I can't say that I've ever been hanging laundry on the clothesline or rinsing out a poopy diaper over the toilet or spraying my kitchen counter with vinegar, saying all the while, "Take that, debt snowball!" But, you know, it was always somewhere in the back of my mind. It kept me going, it kept me focused when I knew what I was working toward and why.

Anyway, I just had to share.  Thank you for indulging me.

On to Baby Step #3...

Note: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have disclosed.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Off the Needles: Chunky Fingerless Gloves

I don't know if it's very cold where you are, but it is FREEZING here! This winter has been pretty intense in my neck of woods, with lots of snow and weeks where the high temperatures are in the teens. Honestly, I don't mind it most of the time, except when I have to get into a cold car or if I'm heading out to take care of the chickens when it's -2 degrees outside.

One upside to cold weather: knitted stuff! I learned how to knit just barely over a year ago and I was so ready to make a bunch of scarves, hats, mittens, and cowls for the cold weather. Then we had a super-wimpy, super-warm winter. The things I had knitted were hardly used at all. It was a total bummer.

This winter is making up for it. I've got more knitting requests from my family than I can keep up with!

Toward the end of the winter last year, in March, I knit up some fingerless gloves. I definitely didn't need them at all once they were finished, but I pulled them out a couple months ago.  They've since become a staple in my car. I keep them in the car for those mornings when I drive my son to school, when the temperature is hovering around zero, and the steering wheel feels like it's made of ice. I just put these babies on and my hands are feeling pretty toasty in no time.

One other thing I particularly like about fingerless gloves: you can wear them, be warm, and still enjoy the dexterity of your fingers (have you tried looking for anything in a diaper bag while wearing mittens?); if your fingers get too cold, you can curl your fingers inside (these gloves are roomy enough for you to do that).

I knitted these gloves from a pattern I picked up at my favorite local knitting store (it's actually the shop where I took my classes), but you can also download it via Ravelry for only $4. The pattern is so easy to follow -- easy enough for a beginner, for sure.

I used a single skein of Lion Brand Yarn's Wool-Ease Chunky (a Christmas gift from my brother and sister-in-law) -- nothing fancy, but it's warm! I used 16-inch US size 9 circular needles (I think they were 16-inch...).  I knit them in my spare time, here and there. This project was really quite simple, even though they were the first pair of gloves I'd ever knitted. (You can find my Ravelry notes for the project here.)

Really, I should have a nicer way to model and photograph these gloves. It'd be way cuter to show them on hands wrapped around a steaming mug of hot chocolate or something. Alas, I don't have the hands for modeling fingerless gloves, being the chronic nail-biter that I am.  My husband says I have Frodo nails (watch the movie -- whenever there's a close-up shot of Frodo holding the ring, you'll see that he has really low fingernails). They're not so feminine, I'll admit. Sigh.  So, yeah, this picture will have to do.

I love these gloves. They're easy to make and they're warm. I'm in the process of knitting a pair for the hubs right now (I've got a skein of local 100% alpaca wool I got on sale -- it will be perfect!).  These gloves are so versatile -- the pattern allows you to use a wide variety of needle sizes and yarn weights so you can make them as chunky or skinny as you like.

Knit a pair. That way, you'll have them ready for any cold snap that comes your way. Trust me, you'll be glad you did.

Note: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have disclosed.

{This post is linked up to Homestead Barn Hop, Simple Lives Thursday, Your Green Resource, Little House Fridayand Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways.}

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Peel Appeal: 7 Ways to Use Citrus Peels

Don't you find it interesting/awesome that citrus fruit comes in season when we need it most? These delicious fruits, packed full of Vitamin C, are at their best when the cold and flu season is at its worst.  Like I said, it's awesome.

What's even better is that citrus is at its cheapest right now. We've been especially stocking up on oranges (Cara Cara oranges are my favorite) and clementines.  And while the fruit is wonderful and nutritious, I think that one important aspect of citrus is often overlooked: the peel.

Here are seven ways you can make the most of your citrus:

1. Zest them.
The peel holds many of the oils that give citrus its wonderful flavor. Adding zest to foods gives it a nice lift, I think. I use lemon zest all the time when I'm cooking and baking (I use this grater whenever I need lemon or orange zest -- works better than any other fine grater I've tried).  The peel of citrus fruit is also healthy -- the limonene in the peel actually stimulates your body's antioxidant detoxification enzyme system, actually helping prevent cancer (I learned that from a book called Superfoods Rx).  It's a shame, really, that we throw this beneficial part of the fruit away!

2. Boil them.
Want to freshen the air in your home? Bring some water to a boil, add the peels (I sometimes add a little vanilla, too), let them boil for a little bit, then reduce the heat to low. Let the mixture simmer for as long as you want, but be sure to add more water as needed.

3. Scrub with them.
I found this great tutorial about how to use dried peels to make a homemade scouring scrub. She simply let some grapefruit peels (I'm sure you could use other kinds of peels) dry for a few days, then she ground them up in her food processor until they were a fine powder. Add some borax and baking soda and you've got a pretty great scouring scrub -- and the author of the post says that it smells "heavenly".

4. Clean your disposal with them.
Citrus peels are great for cleaning and deodorizing your sink's garbage disposal. Just stick them in there, turn it on, let them grind away for a few seconds with some water, and you've got a sink that doesn't stink.

5. Sweeten them.
I've never tried it, but you can candy orange peels. I saw this recipe last month and was intrigued. Have you ever made or eaten candied peels?

6. Burn them.
I wish I had a fireplace. I'll have to pass this tip from Apartment Therapy on to my parents. Dried peels apparently make really good kindling. The oils in the peels fuel the fire.  Not only will using dried peels make your home smell like roasting oranges, but they emit less creosote than paper thus keeping your chimney cleaner.

7. Soak them.
For the last couple months or so, I've been soaking some of our orange peels in vinegar. The result? Orange-infused vinegar.  It smells so nice! (a pro for people who want to clean with vinegar but don't like the smell. I'm not one of them, but I do prefer the smell of oranges to vinegar!) Plus, oils from the peels are antibacterial, so I figure it'll give the vinegar an extra little cleaning kick. I use orange-infused vinegar everywhere in my house -- it's a great all-purpose cleaner.

I also used this concoction to do my semi-annual serious scrub-down of our chickens' home. Not only did it help clean out all that chicken poo and make it smell really fresh, but the citrus helps deter insects from making a home in the henhouse (I learned that here - and I'm going to make her mint-lavender-vinegar refresher spray for the ladies' coop this summer).

To make citrus-infused vinegar, simply put the peels (you could use orange, lemon, grapefruit, any sort of citrus) in a jar (I've used both pint-sized canning jars and reused spaghetti sauce jars), fill with white vinegar, and let it sit for at least a couple weeks. Once the two weeks are up, strain the vinegar into a spray bottle. For hardly any effort, you get an effective all-purpose cleaner that smells great and costs only a few cents. It's one of those simple things that makes this frugal girl's heart happy.

Note: Some of the links in the post above are "affiliate links." This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. 

{This post is linked up to Homestead Barn Hop, Simple Lives Thursdayand Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways..}

Friday, January 4, 2013

Some Thoughts on Open-Mindedness & Frugality

A couple months ago, I was looking through some recent comments made on old posts. One comment, in particular, caught my attention.

Let me back up a bit and tell you what the post was about, first.

Back in August 2009, I wrote my second post ever on this blog: a book review for The Complete Tightwad Gazette. For those of you unfamiliar with it, it's a 900-page book full of frugal tips and ideas, a collection of articles from author Amy Dacyczyn's newsletter. I read this book years ago, in the days before I had kids, when I'd only been married for about a year, just barely graduated from college, back when things were especially tight financially for the husband and I.  While the book has lots of great information (though, since it was written in the early 1990s, it's a tad outdated), it also has some pretty out-there, albeit creative, ideas. For that reason, I didn't give it a glowing review.  Looking back, I may have been a little overly critical, maybe even a little snotty.

Back to the comment thing...

So I got a comment on that old post, almost exactly three years after I wrote it, from someone saying she was the author's daughter. I can't be entirely sure if it truly was written by Ms. Dacyczyn's daughter since the name the comment was left under was simply "Unknown."  In any case, the comment was polite in addressing my criticisms and pointed out a few inaccuracies on my part. This prompted me to re-read the post, one I'd sort of forgotten about.

It was more than a little embarrassing. Humble pie, anyone?

In the review, I specifically turned my nose up at the notion of people saving bread tabs, washing and reusing plastic zipper bags, reusing old and unmatched socks as rags, saving and reusing the mesh bags from onions, and finding uses for empty milk jugs. In the post I joked about wondering where she "stores all this garbage she collects." I even found her criticisms of using disposable diapers off-putting.

Um, I do all of those things now. What's more, I've written about all of them on this blog. Oops. {Insert facepalm here.} 

Thankfully, I've grown wiser in the 3 1/2 years since I wrote that post. Let's just say I've evolved in my frugal journey.   I mention all of this to demonstrate that one key, one main key, to living frugally is to keep an open mind. Living frugally often requires, to use a couple cliché terms, a paradigm shift and thinking outside of the box.

Take cloth diapering, for example. Even at the beginning of my pregnancy with my second child, if someone would have told me that I would do cloth diapers with him, I wouldn't have believed it. It seemed like too much work and much too, well, gross. Who uses cloth diapers these days, I would have asked. I only had memories of how my mom cloth diapered my little brothers back in the 1980s -- big prefolds, diaper pins, plastic covers -- and that wasn't appealing at all.

A few months into my pregnancy, I learned that that my husband's cousin, Nisha, was using cloth diapers. I was intrigued. She wrote a guest post on this blog and I was determined to look into the whole subject more. Before long, I decided to give it a try.  My baby is nearly two years old and we're still using cloth diapers on him. It hasn't been nearly as hard as I thought it would be. I'm just as used to them as I was with disposables with my first child. In fact, I prefer using cloth over disposables now. And, best of all, we've saved hundreds of dollars in the meantime. I love not having diapers on my shopping list.

Another example of a paradigm shift and open-mindedness is from my mom. Throughout my childhood, I can remember my mom cleaning everything with bleach. And why not? It was dependable. It was cheap. That bleachy smell let you know that the germs were dead and that things were clean. A few years ago, as I was trying out different eco-friendly, homemade options for cleaning, options that were also really cheap, my mom kept an open-mind. She didn't switch at once, but now she uses baking soda, vinegar, and castile soap for the bulk of her cleaning (though she still uses bleach now and then).  She saw that they worked, that "clean" didn't need to smell like bleach.

This has happened over and over to me -- there have been ideas I brushed off, only to try them later and realize that they actually work well . An old sock missing its match makes a great bathroom cleaning rag. A mesh onion bag wrapped around a dishrag makes a surprisingly good scrubber. Bread tabs save your spot on a roll of tape. Washing plastic zipper bags is really not that much of a bother. Reusing milk jugs changed how I'll garden every summer.

Sure, there are some ideas that still seem out-there when I come across them. There are some in The Tightwad Gazette that I still think are a little extreme and, frankly, weird. This time, though, I'm not going to say which. Who knows what I'll be trying in the future.

Note: Some of the links in the post above are "affiliate links." This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. 

{This post is linked up to Simple Lives Thursday, Little House Friday, Your Green Resource, Homestead Barn Hop, and Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways}
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