Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Take care of the Pennies and the Dollars Take Care of Themselves

A young woman came to me yesterday very upset.  Her husband was being shifted to another site in his job which means she won't be able to work her night shifts. 

I've been trying to think of a way to help her.  I thought if she is having trouble with the changing environment perhaps other young people are as well.  I thought that everyone has been reached during these last few years of economic upheaval, but I may not be on the right track.

In hope to reach young people I'd like to do a series on budgeting and tightening up the household money flow.  Some of these things you may do, others may be new to you.  Either way I'll write about them in an effort to reach those who are not aware.

The first area that you can look at is grocery shopping.  We all know about coupons and sales.  Stockpiling supplies has also been discussed through the media in detail, so most people know about that.  I have a friend who is a wiz at setting up scenarios  to save big money on her groceries.  I mean big money.  She was laid off and focused on making money in other ways.  Looking at the whole set up in an opposite light.  Not concentrating on what she brought in in terms of cash, but what she keeps in. ( She has not been able to find a job. in over two years.)   Last time she told me her savings (she keeps records) it was well over $11000 for the year.  That was just on groceries and house hold items.
Needless to say, I look up to her.  Not only for her efforts, but her research and pulling together the scenarios.  I'll cover more of this in a later post.

Today I'd like to talk about waste. Ask yourself this:  When you go to the grocery do you purchase more than you use?  Are you always throwing out food because there's more in the refrigerator than your family could eat before shopping again.  This may seem simple, but I found out about six years ago that I was buying more of an item than we could eat before it went bad.  I could have kicked myself for going through all those years without seeing my error.  How much money did I throw out in a year? 

I think in terms of annual savings, rather than day to day.  As an example,  Peaches are .50 cents each.  They look good so I buy 4 for the week.  We eat 2 and 2 waste.  For that week I wasted $1.00.  If I did that every week I would throw out $52.00 a year.  On just one item.  Put that together with other foods gone bad and you would be shocked at the amount of money that was wasted in a year's time.  That money could be going to paying off debt.

Household cleaners are another area where we bleed money.  I don't even know how much they cost anymore, but for ease of explanation let's choose $3.00 an item.  I don't think I'm far off.  Most likely under the cost of some items.  I'll choose three items that most households use.

Toilet bowl cleaner, $3.00
Kitchen surface cleaner, $3.00
Kitchen trash bags, $3.00

Toilets are cleaned once a week, or more.  Most homes have three toilets so the cleaner may last about a month.  In a year the cost is $36.00.   This amount appears to be minimal, and on it's own, it is.  I use a few drops of bleach, let it sit a few minutes, and brush the bowl.  Cost is minimal.  Around $1.00 a year.  Savings: $35.00.  Add that to the $52.00 in wasted peaches and you now have $88.00 wasted.

Kitchen surfaces are cleaned every day, at least once.  This item is purchased twice a month.  The yearly cost is $72.00.  I make orange cleaner out of citrus peels (I keep them in the freezer until I have enough.) and white vinegar. (recipe below)  A gallon of vinegar in my area is $2.89.  I use one cup of that.  There are sixteen cups in a gallon.  The vinegar cost is 14.12 cents a cup.  Let's say it gets used up in the same two weeks.  The cost is 3.20 annually.  A savings of  $68.80.  Added to the previous savings the annual savings is now $156.80.

Most kitchen trash cans hold the thirteen gallon size bags.  I'll go with the $3.00 price for a box of 10. (I'm not sure about the amount that comes in a small box.)  Most people throw out the trash every day, whether it's full or not.  So in ten days you've spent 3.00.  That's thirty six boxes a year which brings the total cost to $108.00 plus tax  annually.  I use grocery bags in the smaller can I have for the kitchen.  I pitch the trash every day with no cash leaving my pocket. The savings of $108.00 added to the above total comes to $264.80 annually.  With just four (of the many items a household uses)  the savings adds up to a car payment or a credit card payment.

The challenge today is:  Take time to check into your use habits.  Can store bough items be dropped for a few minutes of time invested? 

Other ways to save:

1.Use dryer balls or vinegar in the rinse cycle in place of dryer sheets or softener.

2. Have a candle light dinner once a week.

3.  Learn how to sew buttons on a shirt or skirt or pants.

4.  Reduce meal portions by one tablespoon per person.  You may have enough left over for a lunch the next day.

5.  Reuse glass jars from olives and sauce (and other items) to freeze single portion soups in.  This provides a quick dinner or lunch for each or your family members.  Just remember not to fill the jar to the top because the food will expand when frozen.

Does all of the research take time?  How about making the citrus cleaner?  Yes.  But, there's an old saying; Take care of the pennies and the dollars take care of themselves.

What frugal things do you do or know about?  It would be so helpful for all of us if we shared our experiences in the comment section.  I have an average of eighty readers a day.  That's quite a nice community that can help each other.  Good luck on your new adventure.

Citrus Cleaner

Fill a glass jar with citrus peel.  Add enough vinegar to cover the peels.  Put the lid on and set in a cool dark place for two weeks. (I use a cupboard)  Transfer to a large spray bottle (The $ store has them) and add an equal amount of water.

Dryer Balls

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Simple Life, Peace of Heart, and Economics

I have been simplifying life since I first read about fabric softener being a by product of petroleum.  That was in 2006.  That simple article led me down a path I knew I would be comfortable in.  I dragged my husband - sometimes kicking and screaming - down the path with me.

It's not that I didn't enjoy the simple life in the past.  We lived in the country when our eldest was born.  That's when I learned how to can and budget and cook from what appeared to be nothing.  But, when my husband got a great job, we packed up and moved thinking we were advancing in our economic life.  What a mistake that was.  We lived on that premise for years until illness took over our lives and I was thankful that blackberries grew on our land.  I stopped spending money on paper towels and anything fancy dancey.  I was on the path at that time, I just wasn't aware of it.  I was so busy being a care giver, I only fell into bed at night thanking God for another day with my family.

One thing I should clear up is I have always been frugal and kept a balanced budget.  So I think I had a good head start, without realizing it.

Realization set in when I read the fabric softener article.  Then the long road of a simple life style began.  Simple, meaning I had to look at every aspect of life.  Every detail of every move we made each day.  But, one thing I'm confident about is when I make up my mind, I just do it.  Simple was different from frugal.  Simple included thinking about what I thought I needed.  Did I need two closets of clothes?  Even though all of them were bought on sale.  Did I need kitchen appliances I used once or twice a year cluttering up my cupboards?  I didn't think so.

 In 2007 I relieved my cupboards of all things unneeded.  Since I was in a forced retirement, I took a lot of nice work clothes to a thrift shop.  That's when another light bulb went off.  If I take my nice clothes to the thrift shop, others must too.  And, this  began my thrift shop adventures for my clothes.  I needed casual clothes, not too many though.  My first find was a pair of Loft jeans.  I was hooked!  To this day I refuse to cram my closet with clothes that may never see the light of day.  Yet, I'm more content now than when I was making quite a bit of money on a government contract and had multiple choices in my closets.  I'm content because I have traveled down the simple life road.

The two words, content and simple, when put together have great meaning.  Together they make the words 'peace of heart'

Stay safe.

Monday, July 21, 2014

An Italian Feast or Eat, Angie, Eat

Tomorrow will be another busy day.  My daughter received some pickling cucumbers from a friend.  Twenty five of them, so enough for a six jar batch of pickles.  I first thought I would get the spices I needed to make bread and butter pickles.  But, I have enough of the veggies needed for dills left over from last week's batch.  So dill it is.

Today I spent time in the kitchen making home made tomato sauce.  The tomatoes came from my daughter's garden, with only one bag left over from my last year's harvest.  The garlic came from my garden and the cheese (sheep's cheese) came in the mail as a gift from a friend.  I have to say it is so delicious.  I soaked a piece of Italian bread in the sauce to test it.  The best.  Thank you, Gramma D for the old world recipe.

The tomatoes were wizzed in the processor, skins and all.  The veggies and sausage was added along with spices.

Here it is, almost completely cooked.  Tomorrow I will make meatballs and add them to the sauce.  Whenever all of the family members are available, we'll munch down on a fine meal.  I think adding  green beans, cucumbers, and tomato salad from the garden and a loaf of home made bread will round out the feast. 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

A Bargain Threw Itself in My Face the Other Day

I don't consider myself a big shopper.  When it's time to grab groceries, I hesitate, finding a million other things that take priority.  Of course, they don't.  I only tell myself that. 

The same goes for any other type of shopping.  But, get me out the door and I am all for finding a bargain for something I have wanted, but wouldn't pay a high price for.  One of those items came to me as I was in a local home improvement store with my daughter.  She found it.  There in her hands was a door mat for my small porch.  The perfect size and the perfect design.  Made out of cocoa shreds and embellished with a fancy letter 'D' that represents my last name.

My heart jumped!  I had been looking for one for more years than I can remember.  And, get this, not 30.00 or 40.00, but 6.96.  6.96!!!!  Woohoo!  I hit pay dirt. 

On top of that it is the same one I saw in a Frontgate catalog just this spring.  You know, the catalog that thinks it's attractive to charge 10000 times what an item sells for on the open market.  I don't know why they feel I would be interested in parting with my money for their bottom line.  Just stop sending me the catalog.  Maybe not.  I get to see the difference in their prices and the real world outlet prices.  Come to think of it, that works for me.

The porch is small so I needed a smaller mat.  The flowers were a gift from a friend of my daughter's.  The debris is a gift from the last rain storm we had.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Fried Green Tomatoes, Angie's Way

I wasn't too hungry this morning so I just had a bowl of cereal.  I got a bit distracted so the milk was all soaked up with cereal when I went back to it.  Here doggy, doggy.  I tried eating the rest of it, but had a difficult time.  So Marley had a small treat.

By lunchtime I was hungry as a bear.  What to eat?  Hmm.  Ah, my daughter brought me 2 green tomatoes from her garden.  I had strict instructions that I wouldn't get a green one until at least one tomato turned red and she ate it.  Her tomatoes began to turn red, but I think the dog ate the first one!  The dog thought the tomatoes were her own personal supply of play balls.  She 'picked' a green one and got chastised for grabbing the red one.  To my daughter's surprise the dog sat and ate the red one.

So lunch today was fried green tomatoes and a glass of milk.

I only ate my first one last summer.  I was experimenting with my tomatoes and thought I had been stubborn enough for long enough.  I didn't like the sound of the name, so I would never try them.  I will say I have been cheating myself for years.  They are delicious.  Sweet and warm.  Salted just right, they are a delight.  It took me moving to the South and hearing everyone talking about them to try them.  Did I say how good and delicious they are?

I'm not sure if I make them correctly because I just made up the recipe.  I am satisfied with the outcome.  Maybe you will be, too.

Fried Green Tomatoes, Angie's Way

1 medium green tomato, thinly sliced
1/2 C bread crumbs
2 T flour
1 large egg
2 T milk
Salt. pepper, parsley to taste
Oil for frying (I use only enough to cover the bottom of the pan.  Olive oil is not a good choice as it has a low burn rate. (Ask me how I know.  Let's just say the fire department was very helpful.)

Grab two plates and one bowl.  In the bowl beat the egg and milk until mixed well.  On one plate put the flour.  On the other mix the bread crumbs and spices together.

Heat the oil until a speck of water splashed in it sizzles.  (Just a speck.)  Coat the slices on both sides in the flour, then the egg, and finally the bread crumbs.  Place in hot oil.  Cook on one side about 2 to 3 minutes, then turn.  Place on a paper towel or brown paper bag to remove excess oil.  Splash a bit of salt on the surface and enjoy.  A small amount of jam on top is also yummy good.

Let me know if you've tried them and what you think.  It would be interesting to hear about the different experiences.

The finished product.  Total time spent cooking and preparing was less than 10 minutes.

I forgot to put the flour in the picture.  I think you get the idea, though.