Monday, February 14, 2011

More ways to save money

And hopefully the list will keep going on and on, right?

Instead of buying those cedar blocks to hang in your closets, pick up a cedar fence board at the lumberyard.  First, sand the rough parts off the board. Then count all your closets, cut the board to that many pieces and drill a hole in the top of each one.  Sand off any rough edges.  Hang a chunk of the board on each closet rod with heavy wire (fashioned like the top of a clothes hanger), loose wire tie (zip tie), heavy string or cord, etc.  Every few years, hit it with some coarse grit sandpaper to bring the scent back again.

Use vinegar in the Jet Dry do-hicky of your auto dishwasher instead of Jet Dry.  There's a rinse or two after it's dispensed, so you won't smell any vinegar at all.  The dishes come out sparkly-clean and it keeps any soap crud out of the dishwasher plumbing parts.  Don't buy that auto dishwasher cleaner as the vinegar will take care of any funky odors that suddenly appeared and hard water deposits.

Now that you're using vinegar in the dishwasher, set the timer so you know when to beat a path to the kitchen and open the dishwasher door.  My newer dishwasher's heated dry cycle wouldn't come on unless there was something in the Jet Dry do-hicky.  Twice I tried to listen for when it sounded like it was finished washing, and twice I missed it.  I timed it this morning and it took a whopping 1 hour and 15 minutes!!  Back to hand washing, I think.  I think you have to use the dishwasher once in a while to keep the seals wet and working right.  Otherwise, you end up with an expensive dish drainer.

Love those flavored coffee creamers?  You can make your own powdered flavored creamers at your convenience with just a few basic items -
1 cup instant dry milk powder
1/2 cup powdered coffee creamer
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 to 1/3 cup (about half the package) of instant pudding mix, your choice of flavor.  I like French Vanilla the best.
Blend it all together and put it in a resealable container.  I put the dry milk and sugar in my Magic Bullet (blender thing) to make it really fine, then add the rest of the ingredients.  Use 1 to 2 TBSP per cup of coffee, or to taste.  Agh, and here I told myself that this wasn't going to be a blog of recipes!

Got a neighbor that recycles, too?  You might be able to strike a deal with them to share the cost of the trash service, then take turns going to the recycle center.

If you know you're going to have to repaint a room sometime in the future, start looking at the markdown paint area at your local home improvement store.  I got most of the paint for an entire house for $5 a gallon, but lately I don't see it that cheap anymore (usually $10 a gallon).  There's probably 40 different shades of white, but if you mix three different shades in a big 5 gallon bucket, you still have white.  Mixing colors comes pretty easily to me, so I have a hard time trying to explain it to someone who struggles with that.  The best thing to do would be to stick to basic colors that you like.  Then if you don't think you'll have enough paint, add a can of white to it for a lighter shade.  Of course, if you're mixing paint like this, you have to make sure that you have enough to do your entire project.

Need a 5 gallon bucket?  Ask at the deli in your grocery store.  Most of the time they are getting something in 5 gallon food grade buckets that have lids.  Perfect for storing food and for mixing up paint!  You just can't use it for food after you mix your paint in there, ya know?

Get to thinking about creative leftovers.  Repeat after me, "there is no such thing as food going into the trash".  Any leftover corn, green beans or peas can go into a container in the freezer.  Pour the juice in there as well.  Then when you make a pot of soup, use those veggies.  I love leftover spaghetti sauce in beef or hamburger soups.  I'm not too sure that leftover cooked broccoli would make the cut in this area, so eat it up.  Or make chicken Alfredo the next night and put the chopped up broccoli in it right before you eat.  You get the drift.

Defrost or thaw frozen food in the refrigerator instead of on the counter.  Takes longer, but it's probably safer (not that I ever poisoned anyone, but ya never know) and it might help keep your frig a bit colder so it doesn't kick on as often.

Don't compare yourself to others.  There will always be people that have more money, a bigger house, the latest fashions, the newest computer, etc.  Focus on your own goals, your own situation and look for ways for improvement.

Grow some of your own food.  You don't have to live in the country to do some gardening.  Did I mention this before?  Anyway, container gardening can be cheap if you scrounge for containers like 5 gallon buckets from the deli or bakery, etc.

Buy smaller trees or bushes instead of the bigger ones and be willing to wait a year or so longer for them to get full size.  Cheaper yet would be if you could get a start from another gardener or grow something from seed.  I have three peach trees in my yard now that were grown from seed.  Will they have wonderful peaches?  I don't know.  I think the peaches that they came from were grown on a tree started from seed, so I'll probably have the same results.  But I was after shade more than I wanted peaches.  They're a bonus.

Buy seeds over plants for your garden.  I'm always surprised to hear that people will pay $2 for a couple little cucumber plants.  I could get a packet of cucumber seeds for $0.15 for a lot of years.  Now that I'm buying strictly Non GMO seed, that packet ran me close to $2.  The difference is that this year I'm planting a realistic number of seeds instead of the plethora that I planted a couple years ago.  Looked like a jungle of cucumber vines...sigh.  Picking 70 cucumbers in one day was, well...tiring.  The hens even got tired of them.  So this year, it's four hills and the rest of the cucumber seeds are stored in a zipper bag in the freezer for next year.  This year I'm going to try to save seed that can grow chow next year, too.  And they'll be free.

If you left your clothes in the dryer and now they're all wrinkled, you don't have to crank on the dryer again or buy that wrinkle release stuff.  Hang up the shirts and give them a spritz of water from a spray bottle and let them air dry.  Jeans will usually smooth out on their own after you put them on. When I was traveling, I'd hang my dress in the bathroom while I showered, then move it outside of the bathroom while I did makeup, hair, etc.  Usually it was dry and wrinkle free by the time I put it on.

When you buy socks, get the same brand, color and style.  Then there's no sorting socks on laundry day.  If one ends up in the rag bag, you still have a mate for it unless you go through all of them in between wash days.  I just stack them up instead of pairing them.

Whenever possible, use what Nature gives you.  We had to cut down several elm trees that were severely storm damaged.  With some work, we got some lousy firewood that will do fine in our wood burning stove when it's not freezing cold, but we still need some heat.  The smaller branches were hauled to the back to be used as kindling when it's time to burn.  Instead of buying shredded bark, we used the bark from the trees.  They're big pieces now, but they will break down in time.  Some of the sawdust was raked into deep depressions made by falling logs.  It too, will break down and support plant growth.  At our place, it's whatever wild grass seed blows into it.

Right now, vow to never throw leftover food away!  Well, unless it's really crappy or burned.  If you aren't going to eat it in a couple of days, make little entrees or tv dinners, label and pop into the freezer.  That half a cup of green beans can go in the freezer.  Add more veggies to it when ever there's leftovers you won't eat.  Later, make a pot of soup.  Even the soup can be frozen if you have a couple servings left over.  I don't know how many times you can keep cooking and freezing this stuff before you have some major quality control issues, so plan on eating it, k?

Clean the dust bunnies from anything that has a fan.  That includes your blow dryer, refrigerator, freezer, furnace, computer equipment, etc.

Learn new skills.  About any skill.  It's either DIY or PAY.  If you're reading this, you have a computer.  Get to typing in the search bar.  There are some things that shouldn't be messed with other than by someone who really knows what they're doing, but there are many things that YOU can do if you take the time to search online for instructions, tips, trouble shooting, hints.  We have friends that paid someone $80 to come out and change the battery backup in their CO2 monitor.  He wasn't happy about it, either.  Had he taken the time to get on the computer, he probably would have read what the beeping was all about.

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