Sunday, May 31, 2015

And another frugal thing....

So happy to see our power bill down over $30 compared to this time last year.  I was a little worried because we had a stretch of hot days and the Heat pump was on a lot.  Part of the reason, I believe, for the drop is lack of use.  Both Rubic and Einstein are in school right now.  While that was somewhat a factor last year as well, it is more so this year with both of them being in school.  However, I don't believe that is the only reason for the down shift.  In addition to their being in school, we moved the "Man cave" and "Gym" around which enabled us to keep the thermostat set much higher and still be comfortable to hang out in the new living room.  I've also been trying to be extra vigilant and make sure everything is turned off before we leave in the morning.  I do believe these things are making an impact.  I am looking forward to being home where I can make an even bigger impact on our power bill.  Things I'm planning to do:

1.  Start back hanging clothes on the line-  Once dry, these can be tossed in the dryer for about 5 minutes to "fluff" and they will be as if dried fully in the dryer.  Much less power usage.  Now once winter rolls around, it's in my best interest to dry inside because the payoff of helping to heat the house will more than compensate for the dryer use.  However, during the summer months the dryer heats the house and that causes the AC to work harder.  In our house the thermostat is in the laundry room.  This is great during winter, not so great in summer.

2.  Timing my baking to my advantage-  In summer months I will be able to bake/cook in the cooler hours which in turn will keep the AC from working too hard.  In the winter, I will time my baking to add to the heat in the house to keep the heat pump from working to hard.

3-  Unplug EVERYTHING not in  use.  I can't tell you the number of times I come across a cell phone charger or MP3 charger left plugged into the wall with nothing attached.  In addition, I will be able to unplug other items not in use during the hours no one but me is home.  Before everyone gets home, I can plug in what will be used be the rest of the family.  Items not in use, not even on, can still draw power.  It's called "Vampire Power" Mwahahahaha.  Sorry, waxed Boris Karloffian there for a minute.  Vampire power is power pulled from the circuit and sent out to nothingness.  I still pay for it.

My plan is to be ever vigilant in trying to find new ways to save a penny.  Like I've stated before, we're taxed on money we make, but not money we save.  These three tasks are a start, but definitely not the end.  So any other tips or tricks out there I am not aware of?  I'm all ears.  Post away.  I can use all the help I can get.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Rambling....just Rambling

Normally lately, I have awakened myself to the pleasant thoughts of what I will be doing once I'm home full time, or a count down of days until that time comes.  It's a great way to start the day; a good motivator if you will.

This morning was different, probably because I'm off today, but different.  I awoke from a really good nights sleep and my first thought was "well there isn't much to do  in the garden".  As if to answer myself, that thought was followed by "well I do need to harvest that Mint....and I need to place that last structure....and pull the suckers off the rest of the tomatoes.....Oh yea, I need to dig up that cherry tomato plant for my friend at work....I also need to dig up that other volunteer tomato plant (Roma) and find a place for it (that will give me 140 in my garden!)....."

You get the drift.  Before long I had a list a mile long to do today and I was supposed to be baking today!

Lets face it.  This time of year I will find any excuse to be outside.  I'm sure if everything was caught up in the garden, I would have thought of something else to work on (like my flower beds).  I really can't blame insanity for this one.  Well I could but you wouldn't believe me.  I'm sure everyone feels the call of outdoors after a long or seemingly long winter and rainy spring.  So this time of year house work bores me.  I want to be outside!  I'm sure my mom and dad are getting a chuckle out of this statement because I used to agree to housework in order to get out of going to the garden.   And my mom will tell you the housework was more often than not less than stellar.  Now in my defense their garden was GINORMOUS!  So anyway, Baking day has been moved to tomorrow after church and today is a work outside as long as I can day.  I have to be at church tonight for a Praise Team practice so this works out better.

Now, so your whole reading of my blog today won't bea total loss, I will share with your something frugal I discovered this morning.  I'm sure I ama not the first person to try this,  but maybe the first in my small readership.  I ran out of dish washing soap, not the kind for the dishwasher, the hand wash type.  Anyway, dishes were mounting.  After a week of always having to be somewhere, and knowing I needed to be somewhere tonight, I was loath to get in the car again and break my going outside motivation.  What to do, what to do.  Enter liquid laundry soap.  The Aldi brand.  Why not?  Soap is soap right?  So, filling the sink with hot water, I added about the same amount of laundry soap as dish soap.  Well I can report the laundry soap work as good if not better!  No residue on the dishes.  They positively gleamed! In addition to that it smelled wonderful!  So grabbing an empty liquid soap bottle, I refilled it with the laundry soap and it is currently sitting on my sink ready for the next load of dishes.  This is great too because I'm out of grocery money until next week.  In addition, it is cheaper.  64 oz of laundry soap is $1.99 and 24 oz of dish soap is $1.89.  Savings and Get to stay on budget!  WOOHOO!

So what about you?  Any frugal discoveries on your homestead?

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Well Hello again!

Nothing earth shattering to share this go round.  Just a few updates.  I have some takers for a good many of my tomato plants.  This is in addition to the ones I dug up for folks in my previous post.  To the tune of another 86 plants.  I also added another 6 tomato plants to my garden bringing my total to 135.  I hope we like tomato sauce.  I moved 5 more volunteer mystery squash plants.  Watch I will end up with either 10 watermelon plants or 10 cucumber plants.  I can do some damage to the number of watermelons 10 plants will bring, but cucumbers?  O Boy we will be in a pickle!  (Groan)

I pulled up the struggling pepper plants and have planted more from seed.  I got out my trusty shovel, cause our tiller is on the fritz, and started turning the bed under.  I was thinking the soil was maybe compacted or something.  As I began to turn under the soil I was surprised to see how loamy and soft it was.  It wasn't dry or caked.  It was beautiful.  To my eyes I saw nothing wrong with it, but on a microscopic level there could be a problem.  Who knows.  So when these new pepper plants come up they will go in a new spot.  Until then, after turning under the bed, I planted speckled Lima beans.  I watered them in and covered the bed with pine straw.  We will see how they do.  I figure the bed could use the nitrogen boost the beans will give it.  Not to mention the fact that a volunteer pole bean plant is growing out from under the bed frame.  I have left it alone and it is huge and blooming.  Go figure.  So I figure the bed is alright for beans.

Not all of the corn I planted has made an appearance.  So I'm consolidating rows that did emerge.  I should have 5 rows when finished.  Once they are moved into place, I will replant the empty area with more corn seeds.  Then in the Words of The Knights who say Ni!

 "You must place it here beside this shrubbery (insert the word corn here), only slightly higher so you get the two-level effect with a little path running down the middle".

As an aside, I am not responsible for those of you who haven't ever seen Monty Pythons Holy Grail.

So as I said, not much to report, but here tis.  I can't wait to post the final pic of this years garden.  In the mean time off I go to do more work in said garden.   Have a great day!

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Garden 2015 update and the difference a room makes

Missed my post date this last week, but with mothers day and re arranging two rooms, I didn't get a chance to get the pics.  I really wanted pics this time.  So here it finally is.

Well the bad news is there will be no peaches this year either.  What the late freeze didn't get, the fruit moths claimed.  This is after spraying.  I'm going to research this more and see if there are alternative products for pest control.  It's so frustrating to have two gorgeous trees and no fruit.  The good news is I planted asparagus for the first time this year.  I have four plants showing now.  No harvest this year.  You harvest in fall and for us that will mean next fall, as in fall of 2016.  DH is a big fan of asparagus, but it is too costly to buy on a regular basis. I'm so glad to be able to have this for him.

All berries are present and accounted for.  In other words I have blueberries and the black berry bushes are in bloom.

 Everything planted so far seems to be coming up. What I have coming up gangbusters is tomatoes.  Volunteers from last year.  Lots....uh hundreds......Looks like grass from far away. Yes those are my volunteers.

 I moved 40 volunteer plants into a permanent home.  I took all 40 from about an 4x8 bed covered in them.  I also potted 24 for some co-workers, and another 13 into seed pots for later planting, There are still all the rest of the volunteer tomatoes from the two 4x8 beds.  I'm gonna hate to do it,  but unless I can find other homes for them, they will need to be treated as weeds and dug up.  I hate to do it.  Breaks my heart, but I am out of options.  Takers?  Hmm?  Right now in my garden 129 tomato plants have a permanent home.  I have at least twice that in volunteers left to deal with.

I'm getting snow peas.  In fact we had a salad last night containing said snow peas with dinner.  Just a few, but they are good. Then of course lettuce and Spinach are still coming along.

My bell peppers seem to be struggling and I can't figure out why.  The soil seems loose and they are watered.  Not all seem to struggle, but at least half are.  Not sure what I will do about that.  I still have peppers frozen from last year to use in recipes, but I really wanted some fresh for salsa and salads.

Herbs are thriving.  So far I have harvested Oregano, Lemon Balm,  and Mint. The Parsley, Sage, and Basil that I started form seeds seem happy; some in pots on the back deck, and some in the garden.  The Sage and Parsley are in the garden.  Yes that huge bush in the back of the bed is Mint!  The oregano is closer to the front of the picture.  It is hard to see the sage because it is only a few inches high.

On the room front, this past weekend I noticed the temp in our "gym" (really is a living room, but we use it as a gym) was 6 degrees cooler then the "man cave" aka Den.  So this past Saturday we had a major room arrangement.  We flipped the rooms.  The logic being the gym is used primarily in the morning when it is cooler and the Man cave is used more after work.  So this works out perfectly.  It was a long hard day of rearranging furniture and cleaning as we went, but by the end of the day it was all done.  It has been about a week since the move and we have discovered something.  We love it!  We are pretty sure the room arrangements are permanent.  We are in the market for 2 recliners for the new gym/ man cave so that during football season DH can watch his games in the "man cave".   When I say we are in the market, I mean the thrift store, yard sale market.  Anyway,  since the move it really is his man cave because he uses the gym more than I do.  I prefer to walk outside when I have a chance.  The new living room area is kind of my room now.  It is a perfect fit.  So excited about the change.  And to make things even better, today Dh is putting up ceiling fans in the living room and the master bedroom.  I have wanted ceiling fans for years.  From the move to the fans, there is a method to the madness.  You see all of this will allow us to cut back on power use.  The thermostat for our heat pump is in the laundry room which is adjacent to the gym / man cave.  When the thermostat says it is 78 degrees, the side of the house with the living room is 72 degrees.  Since the move, we will be able to keep the thermostat set way higher and still be comfortable in the rest of the house.  Toss in some ceiling fans and we are good to go.  Here is a pic of the Gym / Man Cave.  The living room is coming later

On the truck front; we have the truck in the shop being repaired.  WE SHOULD HAVE IT BACK BY WED!!!!!!! HAZAA!  And it was about $900 cheaper than we estimated!  Since the repair was less, we have instructed the mechanic to go over the truck once it is running and let us know what needs fixing.  We budgeted a certain amount for the truck and so we want to make sure it is a good running truck.  Had this mechanic not come highly recommended, I probably would be Leary to do this, but he has been highly recommended by someone we trust.  We won't go over our budgeted amount though.  Ahhh it will be so nice to have the second vehicle again.

So it took me 2 weeks to update you on things from the homestead. What can I say but I will try to do better next time.  But at least there are pics!  Have a great day!

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Why I don't use coupons (GASP!)

Years ago I was the veritable coupon queen.  I was that crazy lady in the store with a trapper keeper open in the front of my cart, with baseball card sleeves filled with coupons.  My husband said coupons were my crystal meth.  There were times I would get the deals.  I once left a Publix store with 3 apple juice, 3 apple sauce, and $1.20 in my pocket.  In other words Publix paid me to take those items.  It was sweet.  I was in love with coupons.  My pantry shelves were stocked with boxes of cake mix, cookie mix, cereal, toothpaste, hamburger helpers, instant potatoes, etc.  Then I started to buy Sunday papers and the coupon inserts were missing.  I would purchase at another store only to find them missing there too.  Returning the papers for a refund was a headache, but I did it for a while.  Calling the newspaper distributor was useless because once I finally received the inserts, a sale was missed.  I suppose I should thank the individual who was stealing inserts out of the papers.  That person allowed me time to open my eyes about real savings at the grocery store.  What follows are the reasons for my epiphany.

1)  Look at the above list of items I was getting cheap.  These are highly processed foods, filled with additives, and preservatives.  Rubic is allergic to High Frustose Corn Syrup.  Really he is allergic to all corn products, but HFCS was the worst reaction and quickest.  He would break out in hives.  This allergy diagnosis was my start to mainly scratch baking.  Scratch baking was the best way to keep that stuff away from him.

2)  Storage space at  our house is limited.  I started to notice that even though I had 16 boxes of cookie mix that I bought for .25 each (totaling $4), in that same space I could place 6 5lb bags of flour (totaling then $6).  I can get many more cookies (48 batches for that matter)with that flour than I would with those boxed cookie mixes ( for less than .25).  Ever notice even with the mix you still have to add the oil or butter, egg, and water?  Are there really steps save then?  I would rather have the space.

3) Ever notice that the deals you get with coupons are the same deals alllllll the time. I ended up with all these boxes of cake mix, cereal, etc because that was what was on sale each time.  Not a lot of variety.  Only during the holidays would you find coupons for baking items.  Then I was thrilled, but those deals were short lived and many times were for items I still rejected for the store brand or the Sam's brand.

4)  I too used to read the articles about women that went to the store and bought $500 worth of groceries for $0.32.  Those shopping trips are rare and take a while to plan.  Many of the deals those women get come from coupons directly from the manufacturer as a refund or to replace a defective item.  They don't come from the Sunday paper.   And though she walked away with only paying $0.32, she invested a lot of time and money to acquire those coupons,  That investment is never factored in the final grocery tally.

5)  Coupons aren't what they used to be.  They are worth less, expire sooner, and are more complicated to use.

Don't get me wrong, couponing is fun.  The feeling of "sticking it to the grocery man" is sweet, but just remember, they aren't losing money on those transactions.  And I'm not saying don't use coupons.  I only sharing why I don't.  If I get a coupon at the store or on a receipt,and i'm buying that item anyway, I will use it.  I won't, however, buy an item just because I have the coupon.  And I won't purchase a coupon in either a paper or online in order to use it.  I do better buying the basics for items we consume, i.e flour, sugar, oil, etc.  It takes the same amount of time to prepare the recipes with the basics as with the pre-made items.  I believe I save more money doing it this way, and my family eats better.  My grocery list no longer requires a degree in higher math.  My grocery list remains the same every month because all I need are basics.  When they go on sale I stock up.  Removing coupon use from my grocery list has removed any drama associated with their use.  I have never looked back.