Categories
Finances Food Frugality Organization

The Difference Between Stockpiling and Hoarding

“I’ve got coupons for the crackers!” Katie dug through her coupon holder as we entered the cracker aisle. “How much should we get?”

I checked the expiration date upon the boxes, holding one up to show my daughter. “How many boxes do you think we’ll go through by this date?”

Katie frowned. “Not a lot,” she muttered.

There is a difference between stockpiling and hoarding. It’s easy to forget that in the middle of a pandemic while facing an erratic supply chain. When we see something we use in stock, we instinctively want to buy it all because we honestly don’t know when it will be available again.

I struggle with this personally.

My life could be described as a financial feast or famine situation. I’ve had times of plenty and times of having not near enough. When I figured that out, I began to balance things a bit. During times of plenty I would stock up on bargains in order to survive the times of want.

For instance, a few years back I came across a back-to-school sale that had composition notebooks for an incredibly low price. Katie thought I was crazy as I hauled whole cases of notebooks home. I worried that I’d overdone things as storage and privacy concerns found me shifting my journaling habit to the computer instead of using notebooks but since those notebooks cost nothing for me to store I kept them.

And it paid off. My grandkids have used quite a few of them for school and play. I’ve used a bunch of them to make lists and take notes. My Katie is now working on the last batch, using them in college. Because they have been used, that purchase can be considered a stockpile.

Several years previous I faced an entirely different situation. I worked at a food plant for a while. They primarily made cereal and crackers. They kept a bin of the discards (imperfect boxes, wrong weight, etc.) that the workers were free to take home. I knew I would not have that job forever (I was a temporary worker) so I stocked up. I filled my pantry with those items.

A lot of it went bad before we could finish it. I felt like a fool for hoarding the stuff.

But how can you tell the difference? How can one know if they are simply stockpiling or if they are hoarding? Here are three general rules that I follow.

Can I Afford It?

This might sound silly at first but it is easy to blow your budget when you find a good deal on something you want to stock up on. I have done this more times than I can count over the years. I would see a stockpile of fabric in a thrift shop, arrange to buy the entire lot for cheap, only to realize that, while it was an excellent bargain that I spent all of my excess cash on the acquisition. While the fabric was used over time, I still remember my mistakes. I have adjusted my purchasing habits accordingly after that experience and others.

Sometimes it is better to pass up a deal, no matter how good due to budget constraints. While you can always save up a bit of money to have on hand with which to take advantage of good deals, depending upon when you stumble upon a bargain, your money stash might be a bit low to comfortably make the purchase. Bills and food must always come first. Remember that.

Will I Use It Before It Expires?

Many items like food and medicine have expiration dates. While the dates are just an estimate of how long the item will remain safely usable, those dates can be used as a guideline. When stocking up, check those dates. Estimate how much of the item you will use before the date on the container. Remind yourself that if the item isn’t used up by that date that you may not feel safe trusting it and limit the amount you purchase accordingly.

When it comes to items that expire, less is better in the stockpiling arena. It is better to use it up and purchase more than it is to invest in a stockpile that will go bad before you finish it.

BONUS TIP: Rotate your stock! The restaurant industry has a term for this: FIFO. It means “first in, first out.” Always use your old items first. This will ensure that nothing goes bad before you use it.

Do I Have Enough Room to Store It?

The catch to having a stockpile is that external storage is NOT cheap. Even worse, if you store your stockpile off site, you might forget that you have it and purchase even more. Look around the space in your home before you decide to stock up. If you can reserve a space that will allow you to access the items with little difficulty you are in good shape. If you find that area beginning to overflow, know that you need to stop for a bit and use up what you already have.

I recently had to do that with my book collection. It had outgrown the shelf I had assigned to it by at least a factor of two. Instead of being able to keep the books neatly organized I had them stacked in layers upon that shelf, to the point where it would take several minutes of hunting to retrieve a single book. In fact, when I thinned down my collection I discovered that I’d inadvertently collected duplicates of some titles. I’d collected so many that I’d forgotten what I had.

I will have a similar situation with clothing in the near future. Both of my daughters happen to adore clothes; whenever they thin down they bring their discards to me. Since the local clothing pantry is shut down due to the pandemic I will have to devise a solution. Since I now have a sewing machine, I will probably cut up the ones I can’t wear to either store in my fabric bin or recycle them into cleaning and family cloths. That will keep the storage space to a minimum and allow me to recycle them naturally. I may end up making a lot of patchwork items until the clothing pantry reopens but that’s okay – at least the items will be put to use.

Remember: if you find yourself beginning to trip over your stockpile, you’ve reached a danger point. While it is okay to stock up, it is painfully easy to start hoarding. If you cannot organize and keep track, you’ll find yourself with a problem.

~

While there are a range of other questions you can ask yourself, those are the three primary ones that I personally use. Do you have any questions that you ask yourself that I missed? Maybe you can teach me how to stock up more efficiently. Thank you!

~#~

If you happen to find this post helpful, would you consider sharing it with a friend or on social media?  Thanks!


I’ve written a lot of books sharing my odd view of life in hopes of helping others. My most notorious book is titled The Shoestring Girl: How I Live on Practically Nothing and You Can Too, but The Minimalist Cleaning Method is pretty popular as well. You can find them at the following places:

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Apple iBooks
Smashwords (non-DRM)

Thank you for your support!

Categories
Economy Finances Food Frugality Minimalism

Supply Chain Concerns

Okay, folks. At last count these are the situations we are dealing with in addition to the COVID-19 outbreak:

On top of that, there also happens to be a Swine Flu outbreak that I’m watching that will affect our food chain as well as the fact that the United States Postal Service is having its own financial issues.

Are you beginning to understand why I am urging you to grow at least some of your own food now? Because I didn’t link to all of the news reports I have found on this stuff; there’s actually more out there than I listed.

If you look back in history (which I did when I researched the Stock Market these past couple years, you will notice an astounding similarity to the Great Depression. While the exact details are different, the similarities I am noting are highly concerning.

When it comes down to it, however, our primary needs are food and shelter. As long as we have a roof over our heads, clothes on our backs, and food in our bellies, we will be okay. That’s why I’m not going into too much detail about other areas at the moment. If you resist the urge to toss your excess at the moment, a bit of creativity will get you through this.

Everett Bogue’s concerns about a potential housing crisis continue to bother me. There are calls for rent strikes in major cities where the cost of living is extremely high. I had trouble sleeping last night due to those concerns. While they shouldn’t affect me (I live on less than many do), there is still a chance that it might affect others. If Coronavirus continues to run rampant to the point where state and local governments are motivated to keep us in place we should be safe for the most part, but I am beginning to find the stories our governor are sharing in my state to be concerning. Landlords are apparently attempting to bully people into paying up or moving out; while our governor here is making an effort to shut that down, I worry about what will happen in the states where the governors don’t care who lives or dies. We still have a few governors who have refused to take the steps needed to flatten the pandemic curve; those states might very well allow people to be evicted if they cannot afford to pay their rent.

I am torn about this situation. I’ve always been a firm believer in keeping essential recurring expenses as low as they can go; I’ve learned through hard experience that it is easier to come up with $200 than it is to come up with $2,000. Unfortunately, I know that not all of you have followed suit. You’ve either rented or financed a place that is more than you can realistically afford now that you’re unemployed or you live in a city that has sky-high rents.

You need to have a place where you can stay home and stay safe for the duration of this pandemic. With state parks being shut down, I’m worried about how the van-dwellers and full-time RVers are faring. I’ve not even had time to look, so if you have any news please share it with me. I do need the information in order to best advise you.

That said, I am going to go out on a limb based upon my current information. If, and this is a big if COVID-19 eases up with warm weather, there is a chance that governments will reduce restrictions on movement and allow evictions and foreclosures to resume. Depending upon which way Trump jumps with his plan to re-open the economy next month, some of you who are struggling to pay your rent may have a problem.

Even if Trump backs down on the May thing, we might have a problem depending on what COVID-19 does in warmer weather.

Once the scientists develop and deploy a vaccine we will have the economic fallout to deal with. At least one person is calling for the US Government to allow Capitalism to work the way it was designed this time around but based upon what I have seen in the past with the bailouts of the auto and finance industry combined with Washington’s determination to continue that pattern, I am skeptical that Capitalism will be allowed to follow its natural course this time either.

If they don’t allow Capitalism to work naturally, the US government will continue to throw fortunes at these businesses to prop them up, not realizing that 1) the money will not “trickle down” to those of us at the bottom of the financial food chain and 2) helping those businesses stay afloat won’t do a bit of good if the general populace cannot afford to buy their stuff. The failure of a number of businesses is inevitable because of that, regardless of governmental intentions.

If the pandemic eases a bit with summer to the point where restrictions are eased, you may want to consider locating a cheaper place to stay in order to best weather the financial fallout, especially if you are currently struggling to pay your rent right now. I don’t care where it’s located or what it looks like, this is something you might want to consider but only if the pandemic eases with warmer weather.

It will do you no good to escape a sky-high rent bill if you catch Coronavirus and die in the midst of a move. If your choice is between avoiding Coronavirus and paying your rent, I hope you will prefer to avoid catching Coronavirus. It seems to be killing people in all age ranges.

Should you choose to remain where you are (which I honestly believe is best if you can afford to do so), you do need to minimize your recurring expenses regardless. The experts are already beginning to call this a Recession. While the stock market is up a bit due to the bargain hunters scooping up shares, that will change as companies release their quarterly earnings reports and revise their projected earnings downward. It will continue as smart businesses cut or eliminate dividends in order to weather the economic fallout.

Economists won’t make the call until it’s already under way, but once they utter the term “Economic Depression” I suspect that the stock market will really begin to slide. They are already growing concerned at the signs.

I believe that the chances are high that we will face an economic depression. I’m not saying this to frighten you but I am urging you to prepare for that possible eventuality. Cut your expenses. Grow a bit of food. There is only one way through this and all I have to guide you are the stories from my parents and grandparents because the Great Depression happened before I was born.

While I doubt you will be forced to go barefoot and shove your single set of clothes into the cracks of your walls in hopes of keeping the snow from covering your quilt each morning (yes, my father had to do that), I do believe that we will learn hard and fast what is truly important in the grand scheme of things.

Just remember: food and shelter are your primary needs. Unless you’ve decided to toss all of your clothing here recently, you should have enough excess in your wardrobe to get you by. Since more and more US-based clothing factories are switching over to the manufacture of PPE, you might want to keep the clothes you currently have, despite any temptation you have to thin your wardrobe down. Clothes do not last forever, and modern mass-produced clothing does not tend to last near as long as most believe it will.

I learned that the hard way when I moved here with a week’s worth of clothing. The items I selected wore out so fast it made my head spin, leaving me in a lurch because I spent so much replacing the appliances I foolishly left behind that I struggled to replace my ratty clothes.

It is not fun to walk around with holes in the crotch of your only pair of pants, so keep your clothing, folks. Depending upon how bad things get, that extra may come in handy. If anything, you may end up needing to recycle that stuff for rags if you cannot afford bathroom tissue and paper towels – or even diaposeable diapers. Middle Daughter is already struggling to keep her youngest in diapers due to this crap.

I’m running on about four hours of sleep, so I am going to conclude this post before I repeat myself further. I’ve been doing this for days as I hustle to not only make masks for those I love but because I want to get the sewing caught up before I start the garden, whose time is fast approaching. The sooner I can get this done, the sooner I can take a couple of days off to catch up on my sleep.

I am seriously looking forward to some sleep. I am exhausted.

Stay safe. Think about what I’ve written here. I beg you to begin making preparations now while there’s still a bit of time. As for me, I’ve got to get back to work. These masks won’t sew themselves and I’ve a purse to make for a lady as soon as they’re finished.

~#~

If you happen to find this post helpful, would you consider sharing it with a friend or on social media?  Thanks!


I’ve written a lot of books sharing my odd view of life in hopes of helping others. My most notorious book is titled The Shoestring Girl: How I Live on Practically Nothing and You Can Too, but The Minimalist Cleaning Method is pretty popular as well. You can find them at the following places:

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Apple iBooks
Smashwords (non-DRM)

Thank you for your support!

Categories
Food Frugality Minimalism Simplicity

Blast From the Past

“Is it done yet?” Middle Daughter bounced in her toddler chair as she watched me sewing her latest dress.

“Not yet, honey,” I repeated patiently. “It takes time to make a dress.”

“Okay.”

“Is it done yet NOW?” she asked a few minutes later.

“If you don’t quit asking, I’m gonna quit!” I’d eventually warn her in frustration.

The death of my mother in 1992 left me with her sewing machine and several boxes of patterns and supplies. At first I stored them away in my “retreat” – a tiny extra bedroom that I would hide in when my husband’s movie and video game habit got on my nerves.

Every time I saw that machine I felt guilty. It was a piece of my mother. She loved to sew quilts as she aged. As a child, she had even sewn me a few outfits. My family had little money and I had no skills. That machine could fix that…if I only knew how to work it. I could do what my mother did and craft the things my children needed.

My first project was an unmitigated disaster. I knew nothing about needle size, thread tension, or any of the other myriad settings and procedures needed to turn fabric into something worthy of use. I burned that first dress in the backyard in shame.

But then I became angry. I was angry because my mother had refused to teach me how to sew and angry at myself because I didn’t learn the skill by osmosis. I began lurking in the fabric sections of stores as I worked through my rage.

That was when I stumbled upon my first sewing book.

With every book I managed to acquire my sewing skills improved. My kids loved the outfits I made them. They even started putting in requests when they saw patterns that they liked. My middle daughter was especially persistent. She would sit beside me as I worked, playing with her toys as she encouraged me to “hurry up.”

Friends began to give me money to make clothes for them as well. When I started making quilts, the demand grew even higher. I didn’t make a fortune but the money I earned allowed me to buy supplies that I used to make things for my family.

But times changed. It became cheaper to buy things off the rack or at thrift stores than it was to purchase material. Wearing particular brands became popular. People didn’t want to buy something designed to last, they began to look at items like clothing, quilts, and curtains as disposable. Use it a season, toss it, then redecorate with new became the trend.

As my children lost interest in my homemade clothing I began to sew less and less. The demand for homemade quilts faded when mass-manufactured imports emerged on the market for far less than I could acquire the material to construct them. The quality was inferior (in my opinion) but those who were fond of the items didn’t care. They didn’t want to keep the quilts forever – just a season or two until they changed their color scheme.

By the time I began to explore minimalism I rarely sewed. Aside from the occasional quilt, my tools sat unused. Clothing was so plentiful that I rarely needed to buy any; people were happy to give me their discards since they bought so much more than they could use and store. Clothes shopping had become a hobby, and quickly fading trends made them disposable.

I didn’t see that ever changing so in time I gave away my sewing equipment and supplies. Save for a sewing box my daughters had gifted me with on Mother’s Day one year, everything was eliminated.

But then Coronavirus happened. Medical workers needed masks. Cashiers needed masks. Everyone seemed to need something that they could not obtain in a store, so people started asking me to start sewing again.

As I began to hand-stitch my daughter’s first mask, she emerged from her bedroom with a surprise: her dad had gifted her with a sewing machine he had found in a yard sale several years previous when she’d mentioned to him that she would like to learn but she’d never gotten around to even opening the case. Would the machine make sewing the masks even faster? she asked.

Oh yes!

After a bit of tinkering I fired up that machine and set to work. The kids got masks, some friends got masks, and the requests increased. I started using the rotary paper cutter my kid had to make the process a bit faster.

My kid noticed. For my birthday she replaced my cutting mat, ruler, and rotary cutter. Both daughters (middle and younger) had remembered the tools I’d owned in the past so both began to hustle to replace the things I’d eliminated.

Cutting mat and ruler.

That was when Katie found a pattern for a handbag that she liked.

“If I get the stuff, will you make this for me? I’m tired of my purses falling apart,” she explained.

“Of course!” I replied.

She was so excited that I set the current batch of masks aside to get started. She even helped me pin the pattern to the fabric.

Help from Katie.

When my daughters realized that I was going through quite a few spools of thread, they remembered how I would buy cones in days past. Middle daughter located the largest spool of black thread she could find in one store; Katie actually managed to locate some cones.

Coned thread feeds from the top as opposed to the side. To use cones with a standard machine, one typically spends $10-$15 on the special stand. As I did years ago, I refused to spend the money; I took a wire clothes hanger, some cardboard, and a bit of tape to construct one myself. I had to explain to Katie that she’d gotten the right thread; I just refused to buy the gadget that consumerism demands.

She laughed after she saw my solution.

DIY thread cone stand.

I finished the purse in a day, reinforcing it because the pattern was not designed for the abuse I knew my daughter would give it. She keeps everything in her purse; at times she’s used it for a overnight bag when she’s taken trips to visit her fiancee (now husband). I’ve even seen her stuff her laptop in her previous bags so I took extra care to ensure that if it failed, it would not be because of my stitching.

Before I could take a photo of the finished purse she tossed her gear in it and went to work. I do have a photo of the pattern however:

The pattern for Katie’s purse.

EDIT: Katie came home from work as I was finishing this post so I managed to snap a couple of photos of the completed project.

Katie’s new purse.
Another photo of Katie’s new purse.

While I intend to take most of today off from sewing, I’ll have to work up some more masks starting this evening. Here are some photos of the ones I’ve made so far.

Grandson wearing his mask.
Middle Daughter and her mask
Granddaughter’s masks.
Right after completion of one of Granddaughter’s masks. Middle daughter was impatient to see so I snapped her a quick photo.
One of my latest mask creations.
Backside of mask. I make them reversible.

It took several days of research to come up with the final design. I knew from previous experience that elastic (especially the thin elastic most use) won’t hold up with repeated washing and use, so I crafted straps that would hold up for an extended amount of time. This allows people to fit them to their face properly and position the straps based upon their needs.

When I consulted with nurses, they informed me that the standard CDC and NIH guidelines weren’t sufficient so I also followed their advice and used a heavy non-woven interfacing instead of the fabric liner those agencies recommended. When I make something, I want it to be as effective as possible, last as long as possible, and look nice as well.

Based upon the feedback I’ve received I suspect I will be crafting these things for quite a while. I also suspect that both of my daughters will keep me busy sewing other items as well. Middle daughter plans for me to make matching Princess dresses for her daughters as soon as her youngest gets a bit older, and Katie is already shopping for pattern lots featuring clothing that she likes.

Based upon the messages Katie has sent me just today about how her friends have been drooling over the purse I made her, I suspect I will stay rather busy.

Even more importantly, I learned a valuable lesson from this experience. Just because an old skill goes out of fashion, one should never eliminate the equipment and supplies one uses to make or repair things. You never know when times will change and those skills will be necessary once more.

For the record, however, I am still dreading that garden. If I didn’t believe so firmly that the food would be needed, I would say “forget it.” I am so very thankful that I know how to make one, however. I suspect we will need one for this year at the least. Depending upon how this mess sorts itself out, I might have to raise one next year as well. Thanks to the old skills I have been teased for over my lifetime, our family is in a lot better shape than many out there.

I am immensely thankful for that blessing.

What are you thankful for today? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Categories
Finances Food Frugality Minimalism

The Perception of Minimalism and Thoughts About the Economy

Everett Bogue sent me an email the other day. We email each other on occasion and he’d stumbled upon an article he thought I would find interesting.

I had to read the article twice. Then I had to ponder the article for a couple of days because I could not believe what I was reading.

Why? Because based upon that article, despite the fact that I was one of the top Minimalist writers of the Great Recession, I’m apparently neither the proper gender nor a member of the appropriate socio-economic class to be considered a minimalist. Colin Wright made it though; I was surprised he even got a mention.

One of the aspects of the high-handed article that I found so hilarious that Everett himself, the central voice in the Minimalism movement and the very person who encouraged me to apply minimalism as I struggled after having my telecommuting job moved to another nation, wasn’t even mentioned in the article. He was the person who privately explained to me that I could achieve my dream of being a stay-at-home single mother. Despite the fact that it was Everett’s personal experience and voice who jump-started the Minimalist Movement of the Great Recession, he was written out of the history of the Minimalist Movement.

Even more hilarious, the very impetus of the Minimalist Movement, the Great Recession itself, wasn’t even discussed despite the fact that many of us were driven to live on less because we had to. A lot of us lost our jobs during that time, including myself. The author decided to delve into the art scene instead, which has absolutely nothing to do with our lifestyle.

Leo Babauta wasn’t even mentioned. None of us old guard were named in the article except for Colin, and they didn’t even deign to link to his website, which is infuriating. Instead, they discussed the pseudo-minimalists who jumped on the bandwagon well after it left the gate, the wealthy folk who decided that Minimalism was cool and had the money to do what those of us who started this movement never could and definitely never would:

Throw money away on super-expensive, impossible to maintain furniture, appliances, and gadgets that the true Minimalists would have never deigned to bother with.

Minimalism is the art of eliminating the unwanted/unnecessary in order to have more time/money/energy to focus on the wanted and the necessary. A true Minimalist would know that it is stupid to spend $1,000 on a high-end special hotplate when you could walk down to your local thrift shop or box store and pick up a hotplate that serves the exact same purpose for $20 – or free in my case. My hotplate was given to me by a neighbor.

Minimalism isn’t about spending $1,000 on a high-end washer/dryer combo. A true minimalist would reduce their laundry and either wash their clothes in the sink (as I have in the past), go to a laundromat, or invest in a portable washer, hanging their laundry up to dry in order to minimize their impact upon the environment.

But since the elites hijacked the Minimalism movement in order to hawk their wares (you know who I’m aiming that dig at) and give fancy speeches to those who have so much money they can’t figure out where to spend it, the rest of us who started this movement, the ones of us who became minimalists due to our frustration at the economic climate at that time have apparently been written out of the history.

So I have one thing to say to the authors of that article: kiss my ancient female ass. I was a minimalist before you were probably out of short pants and I don’t give two shits whether or not I fit your paradigm.

I personally embraced minimalism because what I had been taught about life wasn’t working. The only way I could afford to feed my kids was to learn how to live on less money. The only way to live on less money was to reduce the amount I purchased. And as I reduced the amount I purchased, I realized that there were advantages to living on less that I’d not conceived. Not only was I able to become a stay-at-home single mother (which I’ve been told is still physically impossible), but I freed up the time that allowed me to write a number of books designed to teach others how to do the same if they wanted.

That said, I never imagined I would experience the time when minimalism, particularly my version of financial minimalism, would be desperately needed. I’ve already written a number of books on the subject; if you want to survive what’s coming I suggest you find one and start reading. I’m not about to repeat myself in a new book when my old books say the exact same thing and provide the advice you need to get through this.

Which brings me to the other subject I would like to discuss.

One of the things Everett pointed out in his email and bogcast shortly after was that, during the Great Recession, a housing crisis caused quite a few people to become homeless.

While I do believe that the housing sector is about to undergo a massive change, there is something different happening now. The Federal Government has suspended evictions and foreclosures. States are slowly following suit. They don’t want us to be homeless now. In fact, they are busting their butts in several states (including mine) to provide housing to the homeless, which is something I never imagined I would see in my lifetime. The governor in my state actually called out some landlords who were trying to quietly evict people just the other day, calling that a major no-no.

I suspect that the Federal Government is so determined to prevent the spread of Covid-19 that they might end up subsidizing or even purchasing the properties of tenants and mortgage holders in danger of being evicted. It’s either that or have the landlord class rise up in protest. Since Trump is rather fond of the landlord class (he happens to be one of them), I suspect he’ll act to serve his own personal interests and apply the method he devises to save his own butt across the board in some way.

So for now, while this stuff is running rampant, I don’t think any of us need to worry too much about being homeless. While a housing crisis is pretty much inevitable since so many of us can’t afford to pay rent, I see too many signs that indicate that the Federal and State governments won’t allow that to happen. The landlord class is at the top of the house of cards that describes our current economy; the Federal Government seems determined to throw whatever they can at those top layers, to the point that they are all but ignoring the cracks that are appearing at at the foundation. Because of that, they will do what they can to keep the landlord class somewhat content so we can remain in our homes. While I don’t know how they will do that exactly, for now I believe we’re safe.

So keep your stuff. Stay home. Plant a garden if you have a yard or scavenge some buckets to start a container garden. I heard of one lady who bought a bunch of $1 trash cans to start her garden in since she didn’t own any buckets, so that might be an idea you can use. While only time will tell how things will pan out in the housing arena, for now I believe we’re safe from being evicted.

I will keep an eye on the news and warn you if I see any indications of trouble. If you happen to stumble upon something in your area, let me know. This is definitely something I want to stay on top of.

While you’re at it, ignore the advice of frugalists who think living on thousands of dollars a month is living cheap. They have no fucking clue what we’re about to deal with. If you don’t like the advice I give, find someone else who practices what they preach. Find someone who lives on very little money like I do and follow their advice. Just as with the Minimalist Movement, the frugal living movement is filled with charlatans who have no idea how to truly live on less.

You’re not going to coast through this by living the status quo, folks. Prices are already starting to rise nationwide. They will continue to rise. Most of the stuff we take for granted (including quite a bit of our food) originates from nations that are being hit hard with this virus, and it will take a while for the production in our nation to compensate. That’s the real reason it’s hard to locate bathroom tissue and diapers in the stores. Worldwide production is down. While factories in this nation are working hard to compensate, they actually do try to pay somewhat of a living wage so prices will go higher.

But if the strikes over PPE, sanitation concerns, and hazard pay continue, we will have a rocky road ahead of us as they sort things out.

Minimalism, folks. You need it. While you don’t need the “toss all of your stuff” brand of minimalism that many propose right now, you do need to embrace the financial minimalism that my grandparents, my parents, and myself embraced as a way of life.

Water jugs and butter bowls can become bowls and planters to grow food. Plants can be grown to provide food instead of decorative greenery. Vegetables make pretty flowers too so don’t worry – they’re still pretty, just in a different way. If you can’t afford potting soil, make or grab a spade and a bag and dig some out of the yard. Find and “borrow” some if you have to. Do whatever you have to do to use what you have and locate what you don’t to start growing a bit of food. Some farmers are having to let their food rot in the field because they have contracts that won’t allow them to sell to the average person, so the cost of food will go up until that gets sorted.

If you happen to know a farmer, make that person your friend on Facebook. You can’t exactly meander out to their farm with the current restrictions, but if you can figure out a way to befriend them, they may allow you to quietly liberate some of the food they’ve got rotting in the field. If they have a heart (and dislike wasting food) they may be willing to turn a blind eye if some of that produce disappears into your belly.

Ask your friends if they happen to know a farmer who raises eggs and meat. I know some in urban areas who raise chickens and ducks. There is very little difference between chicken, duck, and goose eggs so don’t be picky. And if your kid happens to have a BB or pellet gun, clean it well and start target practicing. While I really hope it doesn’t get as bad as that, you can kill small game with a BB or pellet gun, and you don’t need a gun permit to own one in most areas.

If you really want to learn more about growing and quietly raising food, read Dolly Freed. I’m reviewing her book myself.

As for that surplus of clothes in your closet, you might want to keep them even if they don’t fit. Dolly Parton’s “coat of many colors” is a real thing. You can repurpose old clothes into rags (which will come in handy if you can’t afford paper towels, napkins, diapers, or bathroom tissue in the future). You can sew patches on your pants with the fabric, or even extend the legs on children’s clothing. You can piece them together to make quilts and other needed items. Hell, you can burn them in a stove in the winter if you get cold along with that stack of books you never got around to reading. It might not be the most eco-friendly thing to do but at least it will keep you warm.

I would rather have you over-prepared than under-prepared for this situation. Since we do not know what is going to happen, it is best to prepare for even the situations we cannot conceive of. I find it personally hard to even imagine that there will come a time when I cannot acquire food. I’ve not helped slaughter an animal since I was a kid but you know what?

That won’t stop me if my grandbabies get hungry. I hope it won’t stop you either.

So let the fools who think this is going to blow over in a few weeks do their thing. The so-called minimalists who are using their time off work to toss their stuff will learn the truth soon enough when their 401(k)s start plummeting to nothing. Everyone who has placed their faith in the stock market will learn a harsh lesson about life before this is over.

DISCLOSURE: I sold out of almost all of my stocks as I saw this coming. While one medical company I’d invested in went belly-up before I could catch it, the only companies I’ve still got an investment in are an entertainment company (since the demand for entertainment will increase for the duration) and a finance company that is essentially a “check into cash” place for the corporations. They make sure that they get their money first in the event that any company they provide financing to goes belly up, so they rode out the Great Recession pretty well. I kinda like the thought of someone charging corporations usurious interest rates the way so many of us are charged because we are poor, so even if I lose every penny I will receive immense satisfaction at the thought that those fat-cat CEOs are getting a bit of comeuppance.

I’m using the money from the companies I sold out of to help get through this. This girl is putting survival first.

I believe we will all learn some hard lessons about life before this is over, truth be told. We may have to learn and do things we never imagined to get through this.

But you know what? We’re going to be stronger in the end. So don’t be scared; just do what you can to prepare. While it could get rough, we are smart. We are creative. We will do whatever it takes to get through this mess. Just don’t waste your time casting blame, because at this point the reasons do not matter. What matters is that we survive this.

And we will survive this. I will share everything I possibly think of to help you through this. I’ve went through times when I had to feed a family of five on $25 a month. I’ve went through times when I lived on the scraps my kids left on their dinner plates. I’ve slept in stairwells. I’ve snuck into garages and huddled under mountains of scratchy curtains to sleep during the winter. I’ve even lived in my van in the past, so if anyone has the skills to figure out how to get through this mess it’s me.

Because I’ve been there. I know what it’s like. And I will share every tip I possibly can to help you through it too.

But if you’re going to make it through this, you need to start preparing now. It is best to over-prepare than under-prepare. Hoard your cash. Cut your expenses to the bone. I’m even going through my expenses and doing the same as I wait for the danger of frost to pass so I can start digging.

For the record, I’m seriously dreading the digging. I’ve not had a garden in ages and all I’ve got is a spade to work with. If I’m lucky, Middle Daughter will find that hoe she thought she saw in her shed the other day. We’re combining our forces to grow a garden.

It will be a cold day in hell before I risk my babies going hungry.

And thank you for your email, Everett. I appreciate you more than you will ever know.

All you old-guard Minimalists who are still out there, who understand what minimalism is truly about, you need to get off your duffs and start writing again. Seriously, these fools that are popular now are not helping matters. I don’t care how you do it, you have a duty to help people learn how to live on less so they can survive this. Send me links and I’ll get the word out that you’re back.

We are all going to have to band together for what’s coming.

~#~

If you happen to find this post helpful, would you consider sharing it with a friend or on social media?  Thanks!


I’ve written a lot of books sharing my odd view of life in hopes of helping others. My most notorious book is titled The Shoestring Girl: How I Live on Practically Nothing and You Can Too, but The Minimalist Cleaning Method is pretty popular as well. You can find them at the following places:

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Apple iBooks
Smashwords (non-DRM)

Thank you for your support!

Categories
Food

Coronavirus Concerns

The disparity between the news reports I am reading about the Coronavirus outbreak are concerning. Despite the fact that documents have been leaked from China that reveal the official numbers have been under-reported, despite the fact that these people, who have been raised in a culture of compliance are risking prison if they share reports on social media, there are far too many taking that risk for us not to pay attention.

Yet the official news is ignoring that fact and taking the official reports at face value.

While I understand that the official totals for the US are low, I’m also well-aware of the fact that they aren’t testing a lot of people. A woman in Californa wasn’t tested for a bit too long because of the criteria that one must meet to qualify for the testing. My middle daughter and I have visited the UK Medical Center multiple times since her newborn daughter was transferred there shortly after her birth. Middle daughter’s eldest was diagnosed with the flu, pneumonia, and diarrhea during this time. His fever remained high for several days but he wasn’t hospitalized. The medical professionals questioned my daughter thoroughly about any contact her or my grandson have had with people outside of this area. She couldn’t think of any (she didn’t think about the international nature of the UK Medical Center) so he was not tested for this new strain of Coronavirus. He is slowly recovering.

There are several people at my youngest daughter’s work who have been diagnosed with similar issues. She became ill but had to keep working. I came into contact with people at the UK Medical Center, my Middle Daughter, my grandchildren, and my youngest, and I ended up falling ill with those same nasty symptoms. My fever finally broke so I am recovering.

I suspect that there are people being diagnosed with the same thing my grandson had who may have the Coronavirus who, like my grandson, are not being tested at present. As a result, they could recover or not depending upon the degree of their symptoms but the chances of them getting tested for this new thing are low so if they were infected, those numbers would not show up on the official totals.

This means that there is a slight possibility that the virus is spreading in our communities but not being officially diagnosed.

Whether it is or it isn’t, I have realized that the potential is there. No nation wants to panic their citizens so all of them are going to keep the official numbers as low as possible. However, if, and only if an outbreak is truly bad, by the time we as citizens will be notified that outbreak will be well under way. We are already seeing disruptions in our supply chains on a small scale today, but in the case of a panic, we could see our store shelves empty if we are all ordered to quarantine ourselves.

Due to this possibility, my youngest and I have decided to stockpile a bit of food. We’ve filled our pantry and intend to fill our freezer just in case. If it is nothing, we won’t have to purchase food for quite a while. If it does end up being serious, then we will be prepared. Several of my friends have started to do the same.

While I am not advising people to panic, the disparity between the official reports and my personal experiences of late have given me cause to be watchful and concerned. I may not be an expert in the medical field but it will cause no harm for people to stock up a bit on food just in case.

Pureed jalapenos used as a dip or on sandwiches works wonders for a variety of ailments. I have been living on a diet of that along with cayenne pepper and local honey for several days just to stay on my feet. Should you decide to stock up, grab a jar or two of jalapenos, dump them in a blender, puree well, and add it to your diet. Moisten ground cayenne pepper, mold into a ball, coat liberally with local honey, and swallow whole to help your throat and immune system as well.

Aside from that, keep your hands well-washed, keep your clothing well-laundered. Add a disinfectant to your wash to help with germs. Microfiber cloths and warm water will help remove germs from hard surfaces in your home. Wash them separately and disinfect them well before you return them to use. If you want to be super-cautious, supplement with disinfecting wipes or spray.

I’ve collected a small stockpile of both since several in my family have fallen ill.

Please look out for the elderly in your area. They seem to be the hardest hit.

And if you do fall ill from anything suspicious, try not to infect others. Go to bed, get some rest, and, if you can afford it or feel safe doing so, get checked out by a doctor.

Above all, be safe and cautious. I suspect that this batch of sickness may be worse than the official news is reporting.

Categories
Food Frugality

How to Handle Leftovers

It is important to minimize waste to not only conserve money but to reduce that amount that we spend. This becomes even more important in circumstances where we are forced to purchase items from corporations whose actions we disagree with. We may be forced to give them money but we can at least limit the amount we give them.

This was in the forefront of my mind when my daughter brought home a rotisserie chicken the other day. The animal had been raised on a factory farm, no doubt, and the place she purchased it isn’t exactly known for how they treat their workers.

We devoured the animal on the first day. By the second, all that remained was a small pile of bones. The bits of meat were far too small to pick off individually yet there was enough remaining that I felt guilty about discarding it. That animal sacrificed its life to provide us with food; the least I could do is honor that sacrifice by using it up completely.

I placed the remains in a pot, filling it with water. I gave thanks to the animal as I set the pot to boil. Once the meat had separated from the bone, I sifted through it, preserving as much as I could. A little while later and we had a small pot of chicken and dumplings, light on the meat.

Those actions managed to extend my daughter’s gift for two more days. Those were days that we did not have to purchase more food. Our bellies were full, our wallets were spared, and there was no waste to dishonor the animal’s sacrifice.

It breaks my heart to see good food tossed in the trash because someone prepared too much. I find it disheartening when I see perfectly usable things discarded in the trash without thought. This is something we can fix, however.

If we place a bit of forethought into the meals we prepare we can estimate how much we will eat before we begin cooking. If we normally prepare a number of sides, we can limit the amount of sides we cook to minimize waste. Just because our mothers insisted on several sides with every meal doesn’t mean that we have to follow that pattern. We live in an age where food can be quite expensive so it pays to conserve where we can.

This applies even if we have the means to grow our own food. It takes time and money to cultivate a garden and raise animals for slaughter. Even more importantly, it is a tragedy when we waste.

Even the smallest scraps of food can be saved. Meats and vegetables of all types can be made into soups that will last for several days. When we begin to practice this conservation, we will find our grocery expense dwindling.

If anything, the thought of reduced sales at the mega-corporations can enhance our enjoyment of the feast.

As I write this I am enjoying the leftovers of another meal. I won’t cook again until it is gone. There is no point. Besides, I feel better using up the things I currently have than I do when I discard those things to buy new.

Don’t you?

How do you feel about leftovers? What do you do to use them up? If you don’t like leftovers, what steps do you take to prevent waste from occurring? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.


It is hypocritical to run a website about buying and living on less while begging your readers to buy your crap so I refuse to do it. That said, I live on the money I receive from book sales, so if you can find it in your heart to pitch in I would be immensely grateful.

I’ve written a lot of books sharing my odd view of life in hopes of helping others. My most notorious book is titled The Shoestring Girl: How I Live on Practically Nothing and You Can Too, but The Minimalist Cleaning Method is pretty popular as well. You can find them at the following places:

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Apple iBooks
Smashwords (non-DRM)

Thank you for your support!

Categories
Food Health

Are You Picky About Your Pots?

I have owned my current set of pots and pans for longer than Katie has been alive. I am quite proud of these pots; it took quite a while to arrange for their purchase since they were far from cheap. I located them in one of those “seconds” stores that they have in malls occasionally; it is a place where major brands sell things at a discount that they haven’t sold through their normal channels.

The particular set of stainless steel pots that I own are made of heavy stainless steel with thick bottoms, designed to handle everything that I can throw at them. I no longer own the skillet however; I traded that away in exchange for a cast-iron one many years ago.

I am very particular about the pots and pans that I use on the occasions when I do cook. I read somewhere ages ago that aluminum buildup in the brain may be one of the causes of dementia. Given the propensity of metals to leech into food while cooking, I decided to be cautious.

I stopped using teflon pots and pans decades ago for the same reason. No matter how hard I tried, the teflon coating always seemed to deterioriate so I became concerned about that stuff leaching unhealthy things into our food as well.

I may not cook much, but I am thoughtful about the utensils I use.

Do you ever think about the pots you use when you cook? What reasons do you have for selecting the pots and pans that you have? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.


It is hypocritical to run a website about buying and living on less while begging your readers to buy your crap so I refuse to do it. That said, I live on the money I receive from book sales, so if you can find it in your heart to pitch in I would be immensely grateful.

I’ve written a lot of books sharing my odd view of life in hopes of helping others. My most notorious book is titled The Shoestring Girl: How I Live on Practically Nothing and You Can Too, but The Minimalist Cleaning Method is pretty popular as well. You can find them at the following places:

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Apple iBooks
Smashwords (non-DRM)

Thank you for your support!

Categories
Food Happiness Holidays

The First Step to Happiness

There is an epidemic of unhappiness in this world. We don’t want to talk about it since unhappiness is now called “depression.” Depression is a bad word because it now means that we’re crazy and we need to go talk to a psychiatrist or take some drugs.

The stigma surrounding unhappiness makes it hard to discuss openly. Our current social climate makes it almost dangerous to discuss. So what do we do when we feel the darkness encroaching?

I believe that the things that have been programmed into us by society are the major triggers of unhappiness. We’ve been taught from birth that we have to look a certain way, act a certain way, earn a certain amount of money (more is better), and own a certain type of stuff. It is almost as if they want us to feel bad about ourselves to drive us towards impossible goals or simple insanity.

But we can step off of that hamster wheel. We can begin to change the programming. Maybe if enough of us do it we will even begin to change society as well.

The first step to happiness is related to that.

Honesty.

We have to start being honest with ourselves. We have to admit that there are things that we don’t like, don’t enjoy, or simply can’t afford.

In order to begin making changes to the world we need to be open with our honesty. I’ll begin.

Confession

I have an issue with cooking.

When I would get hungry as a child, there were times when I wanted to fix something on the stove to eat. My mother would be busy taking a nap or watching a television show, so I wouldn’t want to disturb her. I just wanted to toast a cheese sandwich on the stove or whatever.

Whenever I would begin, my mother would attack me. I was going to burn the house down. I was going to dirty the kitchen. I was wasting food. The litany was so horrible that I eventually quit trying.

As a result of that, aside from a few simple dishes my father taught me, I didn’t learn how to cook.

And when I reached adulthood, it showed.

I’ve set the stove on fire. I have burned things beyond recognition. When I tried to correct that, I prepared food that wasn’t near done enough on the inside.

I’ve watched people quietly spit my food out in distaste. I’ve seen them sneak it to the animals or scrape it in the trash. I’ve had people vomit after one of my meals. I even shattered one of my teeth after a particularly desperate attempt.

My lack of cooking skills quickly became legend. I’ve suffered from teasing for decades from people who would try to teach me and fail in the attempt.

While I have gotten to the point where I can make some simple dishes, I cringe at the thought of trying to prepare something new. It appears that I am stuck with the limited repertiore of dishes that my dad taught me as a child.

I am almost fifty years old. If you watch television, that means I should be able to cook like a madwoman, taking almost anything in a pantry to whip up something wholesome and delicious.

Nothing could be farther from the truth.

This is why I very rarely share recipes on this website or in my books. I am an atrocious cook and I know it.

So it is time to be honest now.

I cannot cook. I’ve reached the point in my life where I don’t even have the desire to try. I am content with eating meals out of a can or a box, supplementing with the simple stuff my dad taught me how to prepare. If I want something more substantial I’ll visit a friend’s house to bum a meal or go to a local restaurant.

I am the woman who can tear your computer apart, fix what’s broken, and put it back together. I am the woman who can change the oil in your car without breaking a sweat. I am even the woman who can take wood scraps and build a sturdy porch.

But I am not the woman who knows how to cook.

According to our society, that makes me a failure. Even worse, in the frugality arena where I roam, that makes me a spendthrift since I spend more on eating out than I do on groceries because I happen to like food–I just can’t cook it.

My first step at achieving happiness is to not only be honest about that fact but to share it with the intention of giving the middle finger to a society determined to shove my round peg into the square hole called “cooking.” I no longer enjoy even attempting to cook and I am okay with that. I am who I am; if someone doesn’t like it they can keep out of my life.

This Christmas my daughter will be preparing dinner. I will contribute with a batch of deviled eggs (dad taught me how to make them) but otherwise I will stay out of the kitchen so she can work her culinary magic.

I accept that part of myself so society can kiss my ass. It’s safer for myself and those around me if I leave the cooking to the experts so I intend to do just that.

I have other things I can be honest about as well. I don’t really care what color my walls are or if my decorations all match. I don’t care if my yard is perfectly manicured or my house is spotless. I have many interests in my life but those are not among them.

If society wants to judge me for that, let them. The clock is ticking on my life so I have decided to no longer care. If someone wants to criticize me for my limitations I will drop my pants and show them where they can kiss. Heaven knows I’ve got the real estate back there.

What do you want to be honest about with this coming decade? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

And if you happen to know of someone who doesn’t know how to cook either, instead of criticizing them, why not send them this link so they know that they are not alone? Even better, why not gift them with a visit to their favorite restaurant or cook them a meal? Once they realize that you aren’t making fun of them they will appreciate it immensely.

Categories
Finances Food Investments

Income Tax Refund Report

I spent $296 at the grocery store the day before my birthday. The kid seemed nervous at our barren pantry so I sorted it.

I’ll not have her skipping meals because she’s worried that I can’t afford it. Just because she can’t chip in towards the grocery expense right now doesn’t mean that I’ll let her starve.

The food should last us for quite a while; more than enough time for her to get back on her feet and find a job. In the meantime I’ll have a bit less to invest but I can deal with that.

Food comes first. I may not spend much on extras like eating out but I’ll not have us starving.

I allotted the grocery money from our income tax refund. Along with food I purchased toner for our printers (we were on our last cartridges), some file folders and assorted office supplies, a paper shredder to keep on track with office upgrades, washable puppy pads, and leakproof panties. The last two were purchased to eliminate the need to buy two particular consumables: puppy pads and pantiliners. Now that I have a washing machine I can eliminate that expense.

I paid my annual hosting fee on this website, set the money aside to purchase new eyeglasses, and sent the remainder of my refund to my brokerage account.

Even with helping the kid through her current challenge, I am still making progress towards my goals.

I am content with that.

How did you spend your income tax refund? Did you choose to save or invest any of it? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Categories
Empty Nest Food Personal

The Miracle of Water

It was close to midnight. I padded into the kitchen to quench my thirst and picked up the water pitcher.

I blinked at the heft. Huh? I raised it up to examine the water level. It was full.

My water pitcher is never full. The only way I can ever get a drink of water out of it is to fill it up, let it drip through the filter and then immediately pour a glass. This has gone on for so long that I’d become convinced that the Household Gods were determined that I die of dehydration.

“Hmph!” I filled my glass, topped off the pitcher, and returned to bed. It had to be a fluke.

The next morning I headed to the coffeepot. I paused, staring in shock.

The water pitcher was still full.

“Hokay, that’s strange,” I mumbled as I poured myself a cuppa Joe. Twice in a row? My Household Gods must be on vacation!

Before I left for work I filled a water bottle, topped off the pitcher once more, and headed out.

It was full when I got home!

Maybe, just maybe, the Household Gods that always seemed to drink my water or mess up my house, maybe they went on more than a simple vacation.

Maybe they went off to the Navy.

Hmmm.

I can have some fun with this!

Categories
Finances Food Frugality

Resisting Temptation

It was early evening. I was on my way home from work, hungry after my shift because I’d not eaten since the day before. The aroma from a local pizza place called to me, enticing me with its flavorful aroma.

My nose went on high alert. My stomach started growling. My eyes drifted to the restaurant as I began to pass and my whole body began to get involved.

They were advertising $5 pizzas.

Five dollars isn’t much. I had the money in my pocket. I could grab a pizza, my mind supplied as Hunger spoke. I could definitely afford to splurge on a simple $5 pizza!

Before I realized it, my feet had carried me off of my path and into the parking lot of the pizza place.

I forced myself to stop in my tracks.

I had food at home. I generally only eat once a day, so my hunger was normal for that time of the evening. I’d already planned what I’d intended to eat when I got home.

I did not need to spend $5 on a pizza.

Oh but how I wanted to! My mouth was watering, my stomach was howling, and I couldn’t take my eyes off of the sign. Five dollars. Just five dollars. I can afford five dollars.

I closed my eyes, took a few deep breaths, and walked away.

Temptation can strike in many different ways. It can be that new gadget you’ve seen advertised, the ones your friends are all showing off. It can be the beautiful vehicle in the used auto lot when you’re walking in the rain. It can be a pack of cigarettes when you’ve resolved to no longer buy them.

Or it can be a billboard advertising cheap food at a restaurant when you’re hungry.

Five dollars isn’t much. It’s not even an hour’s wage, but spending that five dollars resulted in a choice. If I had spent that five dollars, I would have told myself that a whim in my now was worth more than my security in the future.

As I quickened my pace to escape the enticing aroma I reminded myself of what that five dollars represented. It was over a half-hour of my life before taxes; a half-hour that I could invest in my future. Thoughtfully placed, that five dollars could provide another fifty cents worth of passive income for the remainder of my life.

It is far more important to me to secure my financial freedom than to enjoy a stupid pizza.

I went home, reheated my leftovers for dinner, and gave thanks. Temptation had lost another battle and I was a bit closer to my goal as a result of my decision.

What temptation have you faced lately? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Categories
Food

Beans and Cornbread

Katie and I have been rather busy as we settle into this new year. While my daughter typically picks up something to eat while she’s at work or out with friends I usually don’t have time to even think about food until I arrive home from work in the evenings.

By then I’m so tired I don’t even want to think about preparing food, much less eating.

I’ve been experimenting with simple comfort foods as a result. It’s not healthy to survive on the occasional cracker and I need to keep my energy up to maintain my health levels.

The other evening I decided to return to my roots. I fished out some lentils from the cupboard, added some pinto beans and quinoa, and tossed it all in the crock pot with some chili seasoning. No meat–for some reason we won’t eat beans if I add meat to it.

I allowed that concoction to cook overnight, prepared a batch of cornbread, and dug in.

It was delicious.

We’ve been eating heavily on the batch for three days now. It’s starting to get low, so I plan to pick up a bag of Great Northern beans at work this evening and add them to the pot at bedtime.

It is comforting to know that a filling meal is ready and waiting whenever I walk in the door at night. It’s reassuring to be able to toss a bit of healthy food into a container and take it to work. It’s an incredibly good feeling to sit down on my break at work and eat something filling…

…And it warms my frugal soul that the privilege only costs a few pennies each day.

I don’t care if it’s bland. I don’t care if it’s repetitive. It’s a lot easier and cheaper than the sandwiches and microwave stuff I tend to grab at work when I get hungry.

It is the perfect comfort food for the extremely busy. Just toss it in the crock pot and go.

That said, I hope to experiment with other perpetual meals. I’m in search of a variety of recipes that I can toss into the crock pot and eat on for days.

If you have any ideas to help out this culinary, time-stretched old biddy, please share them in the comments. Thanks!

Categories
Food Frugality

Living Large on a Shoestring

I might live cheap but I do live well. I like to take advantage of sales in order to enjoy life as much as possible. One of the major ways I do this is on food.

I am a huge fan of quality meat. I enjoy a nice steak as much as the next person but I rarely treat myself to them.

Unless I catch them on sale, that is.

The other day my store offered T-bone steaks at $3.99 a pound. In the year I’ve worked there I’ve never seen such a bargain. Normally the steaks cost around $9 a pound though occasionally they offer them on sale for $4.99 a pound.

After work I looked over the selections so we could have a treat. I purchased two thick steaks and carried them home to surprise my daughter.

It was a simple meal. We marinated the steaks and served them with mashed potatoes. We even had enough for leftovers the next day and the mutts got some bones to chew on. Life is really good.

Have you scored any serious bargains lately? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Categories
Finances Food Frugality

Bargain Food

One of the ways I stretch my dollars is by taking advantage of the fact that I work in a grocery store. Every single shift I look around for good deals and take advantage when I can. For instance, when my employer issued coupons for a free 24-pack of bottled water with a purchase a while back, I bought some groceries and squirreled away the water in our assigned area so I would have something to drink on my breaks–completely free.

One major way I save money is on milk. I wait until we mark down the ones that are nearing the expiration date to buy as much as possible. Since a gallon of milk costs $2.49 here that saves us quite a bit! I keep our refrigerator on the coldest setting so that the milk doesn’t spoil before we use it.

We do the same with eggs and other items. 

This is one reason why I am very thankful that my daughter and I work in grocery stores. We both do this routinely in order to save money. While I’ve not calculated exactly how much we save doing this, I’ve no doubt that we manage to pare down our expenses by a couple hour’s wage at the least. Over time that adds up.

Does your current situation allow you to save money on things you need and use? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Categories
Finances Food Frugality

Grocery Savings

One of the things I have never done is factor the cost of food into my budget. Our spending varies too much based on bargains, bulk buying, and available finances for us to set aside a certain amount every month.

While some months we barely buy the basics like milk, other months we come across good deals to take advantage of or we use our available cash to stock up on staples. Our grocery store jobs have really benefited us in this area.

For instance, the grocery I work at had several cases of Manwich that were marked down to ten cents a can in order to liquidate their stock before the expiration date last year. Since I am well aware of the fact that canned goods can last for years, I bought a case of 24. I spent $2.40 as opposed to the $24.00 or more I would have normally paid (I can’t recall their everyday price but I know it was over a dollar a can the last time I purchased it).

My chest freezer has a tidy supply of Hawaiian Sweet Rolls–a treat in our house–that I purchased for a quarter apiece along with a nice stockpile of meat that was placed on clearance or on sale.

My most recent purchase was a case of Mac and Cheese. They were nearing their expiration date but since that stuff will last for ages past that I snagged it without hesitation. Katie loves the stuff so I routinely use it as a base to make other dishes when we have it available.

I paid $4.99 for a case of 24 boxes, which equals up to twenty cents a box. The current price for the stuff is 39 cents a box, meaning that I purchased it for roughly half-price. It will take us several months to use up this supply; I expect it to last us for most of the year. Even better I managed to save most of an hour’s wage by buying in bulk when I discovered the bargain.

Do you purchase food in bulk when you run across a good deal? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Categories
Food Frugality

Magic Bullet

The other day my daughter saved one of those Magic Bullet mixer kits from being tossed. She brought it home and announced that we would once again be able to make smoothies.

I had an even better idea. One of our favorite treats in the summer just happens to be milkshakes but due to the price we are rarely able to treat ourselves to one. I suggested that we go to the store and grab some ice cream so that we could make our own.

A few scoops of ice cream, some milk, and a spoonful of caramel later Katie had a delicious caramel milkshake. Some ice cream and coffee later I had a coffee-flavored milkshake. We even grabbed some inexpensive whipped topping to put on top.

Since a half gallon of cheap ice cream costs slightly over $2 in our area, we are now able to make several large milkshakes for half the price as a single small one in a restaurant.

We’re quite proud.

How have you saved money lately? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Categories
Food Simplicity

Simple Indoor Hobbies for Everyday Happiness

Written by Zak Andrews. 

 

Living a simpler life means you have to see the beauty in everyday things and activities. But in the midst of a hectic lifestyle, it’s sometimes hard to have spare time to sit back and relax. People are so busy with work and some even have extra jobs on the side. Others have businesses that require almost 24/7 attention. While being productive is great and necessary in the long term, there are times people forget the simpler things they have that can also bring them joy.

Verywell.com emphasized the importance of hobbies. They not only serve as outlets to relieve stress; they also provide small pleasures and happiness. Here are some simple hobbies you can do in your home to have your everyday dose of happiness and relaxation.

Learn a craft or two

Photo: Pixabay

Picking up a craft or two will not only increase your knowledge, it will also give you a sense of fulfillment after each project you have completed. At times, the creations you make may even give you an extra source of income.

Immersing yourself in DIY tasks is an excellent hobby, due to the fact that you can choose any type of object you like to create. As such, you will be happy with what you are doing. There are furniture, decorations, gardening projects, etc. Blankets, cushions, vases and storage boxes are some of the daily house items which are easy to make.

Watch shows and play games

Photo: Pixabay

There are thousands of great TV shows out there. Shows like The Good Wife or The Walking Dead, which was conceptualized with our little town in mind, will appeal to audiences who want a dose of drama or suspense.

Meanwhile, the acclaimed fantasy title Game of Thrones may have paused after Season 6, but nevertheless lots of people are anticipating the next arc in the story and fans are temporarily getting their GoT fix through related media inspired by the sensational series. Video games based on the medieval show now attract global attention as well, thanks to the popularity of the show. The famous Telltale Games which created a version for The Walking Dead also has their own take on Game of Thrones as a decision-driven narrative game; while the popular slots game platform Spin Genie collaborated with the show to bring titles like Game of Thrones 15 Lines to GoT fans worldwide. Either way, whether watching an episode of your favorite TV series or playing its game iteration, the effect is the same: it can help you unwind after a hard day’s work.

This is not just a baseless claim either, given that the stress-reducing capabilities of these visual hobbies are backed up by science. For example, research shared by Men’s Health tackled interactive games in particular, which were found to “evoke a stronger sense of relaxation”. There’s an abundance of studies that correlate watching TV or playing video games with relaxation.

Indulge in cooking

Photo: Pixabay

Cooking is one of best hobbies you can partake in. Indulging in food is among the guilty pleasures we all succumb to from time to time. Considering that there are innumerable cuisines from various cultures, you will never run out of things to try out, not to mention that you can acquire kitchen techniques which are highly useful. In our Food section, we’ve shared topics like bread making and meat tenderizing, both of which can be utilized in everyday living.

Of course, it’s also recommended to balance the kinds of food you eat to maintain a healthy body and lifestyle. Aside from regular meals and dishes, you can also check out healthier alternatives such as gluten-free recipes.

To sum it up, happiness is all around, even in the simple things that people have or do in their homes. What’s needed is to just appreciate everything around you and make the best of what you have. Don’t worry, be happy!

Categories
Food

The Meditative Properties of Bread Making

Here’s a treat from way back during my Associated Content days. Enjoy!

It’s there.

Waiting in the darkness. When you turn out the light it comes.

Whispering, worrying, tormenting.

You toss, you turn – sleep eludes as you continue to be tortured by the thoughts swirling within your mind.

Oozing, shrieking, pulling at you, dragging you inexorably toward an abyss of fear.

Finally, you can’t take it anymore. This demon, this fear, this worry, this concern – you must purge it to have peace.

Walking to the kitchen, you pull out your tools. Two cups of flour, a package of yeast – stirred and set aside.

You take care of the liquids – 2 cups of milk, perhaps one cup milk with water for the rest instead. Perhaps all water, save the milk for the kids. A tablespoon of butter or shortening, two teaspoons of sugar, few shakes of salt, warmed on the stove just so – the butter hasn’t fully melted, but the mix is warm like a baby’s bottle.

Perfect.

Combining this with your flour and yeast, you mix with your wooden spoon, mixing, thinking, adding flour one splash at a time, working as much in as you can before sprinkling the table and kneading the dough.

Knead, press, work, strain. Imagine your tormentor is in the dough as you beat and pull and knead it into submission. You breathe softly, regularly. Your worries and fears come under your control like the dough beneath your hands.

Feel the life beneath your fingers. Know you are participating in an ancient life-giving ritual. Think about your ancestors, standing, kneading just as you are at this very moment. Recall the peace they must have felt as they too worked their worries into the bread.

Finally you step back and give it a poke, smiling when the indentation disappears. It is ready.

You place it in your greased bowl, flipping it once to make sure it is evenly coated, inspecting it lovingly. Covering it with a cloth, you treat yourself to a gentle relaxing bath. Life is truly good.

Enjoy the heat; enjoy the warmth. Consider the life blossoming in the other room, rising as a result of your care. By the time you are finished, rest assured in the knowledge your loaf will be waiting for you.

Dress, dry your hair, and check upon your masterpiece. Perfect, beautiful, mounding within the bowl. Ancient, perfect peace.

Taking your fist, you gently punch it down. That air escaping is your problems, hissing away into the atmosphere. You are free!

Split your dough in half, shape and place in your pans. Or perhaps in your relief you wish to play, and braid your loaves instead? You are free now from your tormentors, enjoy yourself! Relax while you watch your life-giving creation rise again, breathing, just breathing in the knowledge that you are safe, and all is well

As your loaves bake, think about how delighted your family will be to awaken to the aroma of fresh-baked bread, as you stretch out on the couch with your favorite book, calmly glancing at the clock.

Pull the loaves out to cool, covering with a cloth, and go back to bed, knowing you have worked away your demons and can now truly rest, knowing that your family will have not only a fresh healthy treat in the morning, but knowing that everything is going to be okay.

It really is.

Categories
Food

Don’t Throw Your Pickle Juice Away

Pickle juice is one thing in this house that never gets thrown away. In fact, we occasionally run out of pickle juice before we empty the pickles from the jar (we have to eat fast then!).

One of our main uses for pickle juice is to drink it as a dietary supplement. It helps with digestion and stomach upsets much better than the stuff you find in the store marketed for this purpose. Also, pickle juice provides potassium, which can help with muscle spasms and other things.

Did you know that pickles were used back in the Wild West days to help prevent scurvy? It contains Vitamin C; the lack of which causes this ailment.

In my experience, dill pickle juice works best. We try to always purchase the kosher versions because we believe it to be healthier. I’m not sure about that fact, however – it is simply a personal belief.

On the rare occasions we find ourselves with a surplus of pickle juice, we toss some hard boiled eggs into the brine to make pickled eggs. My dad taught me how to do this as a child. We always had pickled eggs in our refrigerator as a snack.

Because of the many uses of pickle juice I urge you to reconsider before you pour it down the drain. You can find some great uses for your leftover pickle juice on this site. It has some good tips.

Categories
Food Frugality

How to Tenderize Meat Without a Gadget

This is one of the earlier posts that has been salvaged.  It was originally posted on September 24, 2009.

Meat tenderizer

If you have ever dealt with a tough piece of meat, you know it can be frustrating. The temptation is high to buy that hammer especially designed to tenderize that piece.

You don’t have to. In fact, you already have something in your kitchen that will tenderize that cut of meat just as well as a mallet. It’s called a plate.

Yes, the average run-of-the-mill ceramic plate. Turn it on it’s side and it becomes the perfect weapon against meat toughness!

I sprinkle my meat with a bit of tenderizer on each side before tapping it multiple times with the side of one of my plates. In the picture I use a saucer cause it’s smaller and easier for me to manage, but any type of plate or saucer will do, provided it’s solid and not plastic or paper. Then again, some of the more solid plastic plates may work as well!

Just whack on that tough piece of meat with the edge of a plate until you think it is good and tender all over. I enjoy taking out any frustrations so mine get beat up pretty bad, flipping mine over a couple of times just to make sure I’m done!

Remember whenever you think you need a new gadget – you may have something already at home that will already do the job, sometimes even better than that shiny new thingy at the store. One less thing cluttering up your drawers, and a bit more money in your pocket!

Enjoy!