My grandmother was a very frugal woman who often told me “if you will mind your pennies your dollars will mind themselves.” I hope to share here some of her wisdom and the wisdom of others I have learned over the years

Saturday, October 19, 2013

FALL INTO HEATING UP FOR WINTER

Maybe my household could be considered a little backward, and perhaps we are, but we don’t do a major spring cleaning around here we do a fall/winter deep clean instead. 

I know tradition says to get a clean start in the spring, but think about your life in the spring.  The garden needs put in, the flower beds tended, kids have baseball, soccer, graduation, lots of spring babies both four legged and two legged to tend to and the list goes on and on.  Who has time to spring clean?  Who wants to spring clean when the weather is so warm and inviting? Not my family for certain. Speaking of warm, cleaning is a lot of HOT work and who wants to heat up the house cleaning it when it’s already 80 degrees and climbing outside.

So we deep clean in the fall and winter months instead, I also do a lot of my canning, freezer filling, food drying and such during those months as well.  Not only because I generally have more time, but for the HEAT!

So as the cooler days and nights are starting to show up more and more here in OK I am finding myself more and more in a deep cleaning mood.  First thing we did was shut off the air conditioner and throw open all the windows any time it was warm enough outside to do so.  This helps pump fresh air into the house and remove the musty smells before winter sets in.  It’s free, and unless you are super allergic to fresh air it’s a good remedy for what ails your house. Definitely cheaper than purchasing a “smells like fresh air” room deodorizer.

Next my husband switched the dryer vent from outside to inside the house.  Why blow all that wonderful hot air outside when we need it inside for the winter?  It won’t “heat” the house, but it will add some warm moisture to what can sometimes be a very dry heat in our wood heated home.   It also adds that “freshly laundered linen scent” again without the cost of a room deodorizer.

Then we start on one room/area of the house and work our way through.  Vacuuming, dusting and culling out unneeded items as we go. 

The culling of unneeded items is a great way to save money on heating and cooling as well as helping you keep the home tidier during your busier seasons.

One book I read (It may have been one of Amy Dacycyzn’s Tightwad Gazette books) referred as the objects in our homes as other living beings that needed to be attended to.

The author of the book pointed out that everything in your home must be heated, cooled, cleaned, moved around at one point or another, insured and just generally be tended to.  By removing the excess from your home you eliminate all these actions.

While I’m not suggesting you be like Jeff “Professor Dumpster” Wilson and get rid of everything you own except what will fit in a backpack and live in a dumpster for a year  to cut down your cost of living I am suggesting that you do not need 50 t-shirts and 30 pairs of jeans—especially the ones that don’t fit in your life per person in your household. 

All those things take a lot of work, and money to maintain.  This is the theory we’ve been working on with the Princess Plan and we are finding that less is truly more as a result. More time in our lives, more cleanliness in our home, more money in our pocket—hey cleaning is expensive if you aren’t careful!

While I do not have my home completely culled yet—will I or anyone ever have it completely done?  My family has made huge progress in doing so and more importantly because we have culled so much during the cooler months of the last few years we’ve found we are able to maintain those areas much easier in the hot months and it takes far less to cool the house as a result.

But cleaning and culling are not the only changes we make this time of year to help cut our heating bills during the cold months.  As I’ve already mentioned we turn the dryer heat inside.

Because we mainly use wood heat we also generally have at least one pan of spices simmering on the wood stove top to help keep moisture and a wonderful fragrance in the air.

Our combination is usually a citrus peel of some sort, whole cloves, and cinnamon sticks.  I purchase the spices in bulk off of amazon, at big box stores and sometimes through co-ops and generally only have to add more to the pan about every 2-3 weeks or when we notice the scent has started to fade.  Far cheaper than running some fake over powering air freshener in the months ahead.

I also take advantage of the winter months to do a lot of bulk cooking to can and freeze.  My dehydrator runs a lot more during the winter months too.  I know that sounds strange to those of you who are just now finishing off a food preserving season, but who wants to do all those things when the weather is 100+ degrees? 

While I do preserve food year round I do the majority of it in the winter months.  I have more time and the heat is a welcome addition to our home.  It cuts down the need for firewood for us (or a power source for you) to heat, and the availability of many items we wouldn’t normally have is outstanding. 

While things like tomatoes aren’t in season citrus fruits, apples, nuts, fall potatoes, cabbage, squash and their brother the pumpkins are coming full on now.  These are the things I’m looking at preserving. 

The beauty of these items also is they are not short term store items either.  You can buy them on sale now (or bring them in from your garden) and store them in a cool dark place—be careful what you put apples and onions near as they put off a gas that can cause some foods to ripen faster, and then come January you can freeze, can and dehydrate like crazy while heating your home with the heat such work generates. Far better than heating the house up in the summer and making your air conditioner work double time to keep you comfortable. 

You don’t have a root cellar you say.  You don’t need one.  There are a lot of ways to “root cellar” foods without having a basement.

An excellent book for this is “Root Cellaring: Natural Cold Storage of Fruits and Vegetables” by Mike and Nancy Bubel. If you click on the hyperlink you can read more about this wonderful book on Outside a Dog, my media review blog.

Anyway, I purchase these items on sale now, store them in the root cellar until I have time for them and then make jams, jellies, preserves, dried fruits and vegetables, can and freeze to have all these great items in the summer months.  Trust me, lemonade made from home dried lemons in August is divine.

This is also the time of year I pull the tomatoes and other fruits and vegetables I didn’t have the time or inclination to deal with in the heat of the summer out of the freezer and can or dry them.

Bulk cooking becomes a big part of my winter months as well. I tend to have my crockpots going daily or a pan of something simmering on the big Ashley stove in the sunroom.  Because of our limited freezer space I tend to can up jars of slow simmered applesauce, pasta sauce, stew, chili, beans, cooked meats and fill my food storage as I go.

 

Websites that include new to me recipes for beans and similar other low cost foods are haunted heavily by me in the winter months.  One I just became familiar with is http://www.pulsecanada.com/food-health/what-is-a-pulse

Not only does it cut down on my grocery bill year round to do this, but many of the needed ingredients are going on sale during the fall months as fall butchering and harvesting begins.  Come spring the cost of meats will be up and we will go back to living off our food storage until the meat sales begin again.  

In another week or so turkeys will be on sale.  While only two in my household eat turkey I will be purchasing several large ones while they are on sale.  These will be roasted or smoked and then either dried or canned so I don’t have to heat the kitchen up come summer for turkey for the two of us.  I will also be making a lot of turkey jerky as a treat for our dogs. Which is far healthier and cheaper for them than anything commercially available.  We all benefit from the heat now of the cooking and the ease of just quickly heating it or turning it into cold salads come summer.

The added heat from the preserving of these foods is a welcome addition to any household in the cooler fall and winter months.  Not to mention the wonderful smells it produces.  Again why buy pumpkin pie spice air freshners when you could be making pumpkin pie filling?

If home food preserving is not your cuppa then consider using your crockpots on a daily basis.  Yes it can be done and done so cheaply.  In fact Stephanie O Dea made a New Year’s Resolution back in 2008 to do just that.  She used her crockpots every day for a full year, guess what she’s still doing it now five years later.  You can read about her and get her recipes at: http://crockpot365.blogspot.com/2009/01/2008-flashback-entire-year-in-order.html or check out her feedburner feed at: http://feeds.feedburner.com/AYearOfCrockpotting

Crockpot cooking is easy, and generally uses less energy than traditional cooking.  Not to mention it requires so little attention being paid to it than every day cooking.  Who couldn't use less work in the kitchen in their daily schedule?

I do a lot more bread making in the fall and winter for all the same reasons.  Sourdough starter, Amish Friendship Bread Starter, Refrigerator Potato Bread Dough and Artisan bread starters reappear on my cabinet top and in my spare refrigerator.  

Which leads to another way we add “free heat” to the home.  As soon as I am finished with the oven, dishwasher or other similar appliance I prop the door/lid open and let that heat escape into the room around it.  While it is just a little extra heat, why waste it?

Drag out your sweaters and snug sacks Add draft dodgers to the bottoms of doors, window quilts to your windows, especially the north ones.  Don’t forget to caulk all your leaky windows and similar things are all best done this time of year. 

I also tend to burn more candles during the winter months, but with six cats we do stay very close to the candles while they are lit.  It’s not money savings if the house burns down.

So while most folks are looking forward to the slowing down of the summer months with a slight pick up in things to do around the holidays I am headed into my busy time of the year to save on energy.

Jan who says she may be a little backward, but then it works for her in OK

Thursday, October 17, 2013

DODGING DRAFTS AND QUILTING WINDOWS


Baby it’s getting cold outside, but there is no reason to be cold inside when you can recycle items you already have to really make a difference in how much heat escapes your home or stop cold from seeping in.

Two simple old fashioned ideas will go a long way to helping cut down drafts in your home.  You can use either new materials to make them or recycle things you have on hand. 

Those two items are Draft Dodgers and Window Quilts. 

On one group I’m on I recently did the informational post on a simple way to make a draft dodger for little to no money. 

Basically it read that to make a Draft Dodger all you needed was a tube of fabric the length of the bottom of the door you want to stop the draft from coming through.  You want the tube to be large enough that it will go from the floor up over the gap at the bottom of the door.  An old blue jean leg will work fine, or a tube made out of an old t-shirt, new fabric whatever works best for your budget.

When you make the tube seal one end of it.  I then generally line the tube with a recycled plastic bag I can seal, this helps to keep moisture out, just in case.

You fill that bag with bulk purchased, beans, rice, peas, sand, aquarium gravel or something similar with weight and density to it. Use whatever is cheapest or you have on hand.

You then seal the other end of the tube and you have a basic Draft Dodger to place against the bottom of all doors that leak cold air. 

You can have more fun with the project decorating it to a theme.  I’ve seen them done to look like dachshund, a ballerina doing the splits, a lanky cat and many other cute ideas. 

One thing I do when I make them is to make them where the bag of beans, rice, or other materials used can be removed and then the outer shell can be thrown into the washing machine periodically. 

I’ve given these as gifts over the years to folks too, think about the holidays coming up.

Equally as easy to make is a window quilt.  All you need is a blanket, quilt or fabric big enough to cover the desired window.

Basically you measure your window, then add a little all the way around to allow the window quilt overlap the edges enough to seal the draft out.  Also allow enough space to make a rod pocket at the top to put a hanging rod through.

Then either by machine, hand or heck even a stapler if you are desperate  you connect a minimum of two layers of fabric of that size together.  Ideally you would like an outer layer, a liner and a back layer for optimal warmth. 

The easiest way is to yarn tack the layers together.  We’ve all seen the old quilts where the layers are hooked together by yarn being poked through them to be have both ends of the piece of yarn tied together on the front of the quilt top.  It’s fast and easy to do. 

Ideally you would actually make a quilt, but many people do not have the time or expertise to do this.  The simplest way is of course just throw a spare blanket over the window, but if you want a little classier look make a quilt to co-ordinate with your room d├ęcor.

The final steps require you to have a folded over area at the top of the quilt that a hanging rod can go through. It, of course, will need to be stitched or safety pinned down so that the weight of the quilt will not pull the quilt off the rod. If you have regular curtain rods on that window then you can use those to hang the quilt.  No rod?  In the past we’ve used a dowel rod supported by two J hooks that have been screwed into the wall stud to hang quilts. 

Again this project can be as plain or as elegant as you want to make it.  You can use new or recycled materials.  The choice is yours.  

Jan who is wishing you a warm and comfortable winter in OK