Tag Archives: frugal living

A tribute, of sorts

WWII Poster for Victory Gardens

WWII Poster for Victory Gardens

My great-great-Uncle passed away this last weekend. He was my great-grandmother’s brother, and a charming man. I had not seen him since I was a young child, but we all heard updates about the former World War II pilot still flying his plane into his 90s. He was quite a character, and he will be missed very much by his family.

Uncle Dick’s death provides a good segue into something I’ve been thinking about for a while now. The World War II veterans are, sadly, leaving us. Along with their generation goes an entire generation of people who know what it means to sacrifice for one’s country while it is at war. I look around, as our country’s troups fight what seems to be an impossibly long war, to see an economy collapsing because of greed, to see Hummers and SUVs barreling down the road, to see restaurants full and credit cards used to the max.

I realize this is an unpopular war. I realize that feelings toward the admnistration are not, shall we say, all warm and fuzzy. But irregardless of that, we have our young men and women fighting for their lives, for our lives, and for what they feel is the best course of action. We should be supporting them better than what we have been doing. Ignoring the far-away war and not changing our own behaviors as the country goes bankrupt fighting it is abhorent.

I realize I’m oversimplifying a bit. But I’m ok with that. Point is, back in the day, when Uncle Dick was flying over the battlefields of World War II, people back at home were scrimping and saving and reusing everything so that our country would be stronger in the end. Women knitted clothing for themselves and the soldiers. Home-grown food was canned–at home. Metal was scrupulously reused and rationed. People didn’t consume, consume, consume. That was not their way of life. And, partly due to their efforts, our country was strong after the war.

What are our soldiers coming home to now? A country that prefers to pretend they don’t exist. Households that wouldn’t know what to do with a mason jar and purchase everything that is shiny and new. Households that have consumed their way into the collapse of our economy (and yes, I know it’s largely a part of Wall Street policies, but Wall Street had to have people willing to buy its policies). It makes me very sad.

I’m a pacifist; I hate war. But I still think we need to start doing our part to support the people that are out there fighting it and support our country. Clearly our government is not going to strengthen us, we have to do it from the ground up. And that means adopting some of the behaviors that our grandmothers and great-grandmothers perfected: using less, going without, and being grateful for the small pleasures in life that such sacrifices do allow. Let’s get back to a more frugal, balanced way of life. Let’s get back to the things that once made this country stronger and respected.

In honor of Uncle Dick and his generation, I plan on canning some food this weekend, and I’m making all of my Christmas gifts this year. Small changes, but hopefully that will make some difference, not the least to my checking account. What can you do?

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Disconnecting…

Yesterday I decided to get rid of cable. I called over to Big Cable Company, Inc. and told the person on the other end of the phone. There was an audible gasp. “But you have the lowest level of service for your area! It costs you a low, low price of less than $20 a month”! And then it began…that tango that is inevitable when trying to work with a big company.

You don’t watch any television at all?
No.
Not at all? Not even a teensy bit? You can get public television and local access! You have Fox Sports!
I can listen to the radio or use my computer. I don’t need to watch reruns of the high school symphony’s latest concert. And I can use the 20 bucks I save to buy a ticket to a game.
But what do you do with all your spare time?
I’m a librarian. Call me crazy, but I read stuff.
Well, perhaps you would like our phone service! It is the low, low price of less than 20 dollars a month?
Am I not speaking English? Is your connection broken? Please just disconnect my cable…

Okay, the last sentence didn’t go like that, but it may as well have. Anyways, it was taken care of. But then last night I had the strangest dream. In this dream I was watching TV show previews…a morbidly obese woman and her family (who only wear neon colors!) go through a divorce only to discover they want to remarry and start a Vaudville act! Watch this drama of fame, fortune, spandex, and bright clothing! and then there was Watch five ridiculously beautiful women cope with life in modern America. Meet Tish, the gal who makes witty party conversation! Brenda, the smart-aleck attorney… and so on and so on. Basically my brain was taking elements of every reality TV show, sitcom, and drama ever created and smashing them altogether. And the weird part of all this…

I woke up HAPPY about disconnecting it. Someday I’d like TV again, but for now, I’m not using it, and considering my TV options, I’m okay with that! – C

My coworkers are totally making fun of me

. . .And I’m ok with that.  I had to have a box delivered to myself at work, as the contents are perishable and I can’t have the money I spent being ruined as it patiently awaits my arrival home.  The contents of said box?  Cheese.

Mozzarella stretching curds, to be exact.  You see, I’m part Italian, a heritage that requires a constant infusion of olive oil, basil, tomatoes, and mozzarella (in various combinations) for me to remain stable.   I’ve recently planted some basil and tomatoes to sustain that need more cheaply.  Now the curd comes in–12 pounds of it, to be exact. 

Making your own mozzarella at home is super easy (it requires hot water and curds.  That’s really it, unless you feel like getting fancy.) and it saves a ton of money.  A small package of mozzarella at the supermarket costs around $8 (for the vacuum packed mozzarella balls, which is the only way to have any flavor from purchased mozzarella).  I paid $4-something/pound for the curds, and they’ll make about 24 of those little balls (maybe more . . . I haven’t been real scientific in my measurements).

I bought so much because I can freeze it and have fresh mozzarella whenever I need it.  Frugal . . . and fantastic.

(A post with pictures on making it at home is forthcoming, as soon as I remember to put batteries in the camera and take pictures)

~K

[Edited to add: They stopped making fun of me after I made some at work for them to try.  Ingrates. 😉 ]

How to Save Money on Lunches

Obviously, the cheapest lunches are those you bring from home. And by this I do not mean those you bring from home in a little cardboard box that you pulled out of the freezer.

When planning meals for the week**, it is always a good idea to plan things for most nights that are “leftover-able.” Typically, this includes meals that:

  • make more than one serving for each person (and by this I mean more than the person will eat in a given sitting, not more than the recipe claims it will serve). This is especially difficult, as Spouse tends to eat a lot.
  • make good leftovers. I refuse to eat reheated seafood. Salads also do not age well, unless you pack a separate container of lettuce and such before putting your dressing on. That said, usually by the next day I want something more substantial than a salad.
  • fit in with your own personal quirks about what you will and will not eat again (see above re: seafood and salads).

I try to plan for meals that are substantial and will make for good meals as long as possible. In the winter, this includes a lot of stews, chilis, and soups. In summer, it’s pasta salads, quiches, beans dressed up in various gourmet costumes, and other culinary delights that usually make the most of the fresh produce.

Another tip for saving money on lunches is to work in a place that is surrounded by vast fields of emptiness in every direction, for about 20 minutes. If my work were not near a Noodles & Co., Chipotle, Jimmy John’s, or myriad other problem places, I would save a lot more money myself.

**What, you don’t plan meals for the week? That is the subject of another blog post for later. Suffice it to say you should be doing this. Just know going in that for one or two of the carefully planned nights, you WILL call your husband/wife and tell him/her that you want Chipotle instead, budget be damned. That is ok. It’s the other nights that make up for it.

~K

Living across the street from a fire station . . .

. . . means that in the three years that Spouse and I have lived in our home, we’ve never lost power.  Never.  This is despite the best that Michigan has thrown at us.  We assume it has something to do with the fire station, but we could be wrong.  Working under that assumption, I say a little “thank you” every time I go by it.  You see, part of my frugal living strategies includes freezing a lot of food.  We purchase meat in bulk from local farmers, I buy flour in bulk whenever I can get my hot little hands on a sale, and leftovers or big meals go right into the freezer to be pulled out on a lazy night sometime in the future.  I’ve become inordinately fond of these food stores . . . I haven’t quite started referring to them as “my precious-es”, but sometimes I come perilously close.  If I were to lose power for a long time, it would be quite detrimental to both my mental state and stomach.  So if someday you find me in my garage dishevelled, sobbing, and with an armful of dripping, smelly food goods . . . you’ll know our luck finally ended.

~K