Dipping Into the Dumpster

The Learning Channel has a show called Extreme Cheapskates which showcases how people save money and live cheaply. It’s intriguing how many ways people employ to save money. My objection to this show is that it is done in a way that pokes fun at them. Maybe some go to real extremes and do things that most of us wouldn’t do, but that doesn’t suggest that there is anything to laugh about. I guess these people are freaks to the producers of the show. Saving money is nothing to be ashamed about nor is it freaky. Earning money while saving money is a double whammy!trash

Trash picking has been around for a long time. I’m sure most of us have, at one time or another, picked up something that was left as trash. There are some who take dumpster diving very seriously and use their finds to furnish their homes, supplement their incomes and put supper on their tables. I hope to never have to search out tonight’s dinner at the bottom of a dumpster. That’s taking trash picking to a level I’m not willing to explore.

A lengthy article on Wired, “The Pro Dumpster Diver Who’s Making Thousands Off America’s Biggest Retailers,” showcases one person who found the benefits of dumpster diving by accident and turned it into a lucrative sideline. At first, he used the items he found for himself and later discovered there was a market for many of his finds. According to the Wired article, Americans dumped 251 tons of trash in 2012. There’s no reason to believe that the amount has decreased in subsequent years. So, is picking trash a possibility for supplementing retirement income?

Being an extreme tightwad isn’t on my radar but maybe I could be persuaded to take a peek into a dumpster. Wikihow has a complete How-to get me started.

Yes, But Is It Art?

“A house is just a place to keep your stuff while you go out and get more stuff.”
-George Carlin-

 

This collection of old kitchen tools has been stored in a box for many years. They once belonged to my mother and grandmother and were long past their usefulness in the kitchen, even if I could get through all the rust. Keeping things like this always presents a dilemma. There is some sentimental value here even if there is little practical value.

kitchentools1

I don’t know where I first saw the idea of hanging a frame around 3D objects,  so I can’t credit anyone. I’m grateful to that person. It’s the perfect answer for what to do with my vintage finds.

toolsontable

I laid out the tools on my table, grouping and regrouping them, until I had a pleasing arrangement. Next, I measured the groupings for length and width, so that I would know the inside dimension of the frame I would need. The nearest second-hand store had plenty of frames to choose from. I took a tape measure with me so that I could measure the opening of each frame.

I tossed the frame contents, saved the glass for another use (which is still unknown at this time), and with a little acrylic paint, I made them a set.

Now, those tools grace the wall in my kitchen. They no longer have to hide in a box and I don’t have to wonder if I should keep them at all.  I still don’t know if it’s art.

framedtools

No, Really? No Poo

Homemade products can be described in many ways:

Wishful thinking
Suitable or adequate
Cheaper in most circumstances
Controllable
Able to address specific problems

I can’t believe this one worked! On January 7, 2015, I washed my hair with baking soda, rinsed with diluted vinegar, and my hair felt great. I was totally amazed. My hair was squeaky clean and, after using the diluted vinegar rinse, not difficult to comb out. I wonder how much shampoo and conditioner I’ve used over the decades. It’s not something I tracked. I just always had shampoo to use, and when the bottle was empty, I bought more without question. It’s just what we do.

There are detractors online who predict dire outcomes from using baking soda, an alkaline product, on your hair. Everything from dry hair to hair loss is covered. What I found, though, is that the people writing posts like this always had a “natural” alternative to shampoo that was promoted, so no one would do the unthinkable and use baking soda. Hmmmm

I don’t disagree that baking soda is alkaline. It is. I do disagree about the damage it will cause with use. Maybe it’s long-term use that causes all that chaos but so far, I have not seen any adverse affects. I was seeing quite a bit of drying with the last shampoo I was using-the one that claimed on the label that it would do just the opposite of that. Even with a conditioner, the ends of my hair were starting to resemble straw.

Use caution. Baking soda can be harsh. After a stab at making deodorant, I found I am a bit sensitive to baking soda. My underarms were red and itchy after using the DIY deodorant. Once I stopped, all problems cleared up quickly. I haven’t done it yet, but I intend to try homemade deodorant again using less or no baking soda. Stay tuned.

The same sensitivity occurred on my scalp. After washing my hair with baking soda, I had a bit of itchiness. So, what did I do? I made sure to get some of the diluted vinegar on my scalp as well as my hair. Problem solved. No more itch.

nopoo

There are, of course, many posts online singing baking soda’s praises as a shampoo. The mixes range from a mild solution to those that call for making a paste of the baking soda with just a bit of water. The first one I found used 1 tablespoon of baking soda in 1 cup of water. This works for my hair. The cost of this is so small, that I really didn’t bother to figure it out.

The vinegar rinse is much the same. I use 1 tablespoon of vinegar to 1 cup of water. After you rinse your hair, no vinegar smell will remain.

The bottom line on this is that you may have to experiment with your own hair to see what works. It may not work for you and, like some DIY products, this method may only be wishful thinking.

The Baking Mix Scoop

There’s no doubt that a baking mix in the pantry can help you put something on the table quickly. There’s also little doubt that baking mix recipes don’t always taste very good. My mission: to change that.bakingmix

There are dozens of recipes online for baking mixes and I’m certain that any one of them would produce a good mix. I used one created by Sandra Lee on Foodnetwork. It didn’t make a huge batch like many of the other recipes.

Cost savings wasn’t a big issue in this pursuit. I don’t use baking mix all that often. (Maybe I would if stuff tasted better.)A 40 ounce box of Bisquick at my local Walmart sells for $3.28. That’s $.082 per ounce. The mix I used makes about 35 ounces for $.036 per ounce, less than half of the national brand.

Now to the cooking. The first recipe I tried was for Blueberry Muffins. They were awful. I’m still working on that one and I’ll get back to you later.

Next I tried the classic Streusel Coffee Cake. In the Fanny Farmer cookbook, there is a recipe that is surprisingly similar to the Bisquick recipe. The big difference I found was in the amount of fat and sugar. I boosted each to the levels listed in the Fanny Farmer recipe and the cake was delicious.

Adding a couple of extra things doesn’t negate the convenience of a baking mix. Comparing my alteration to the original recipe, the only extra ingredient I used was 2 tablespoons of oil. Sugar is already a part of the original recipe, I just increased the amount to 1 cup instead of 2 tablespoons. The flavor and texture was much improved by these simple changes.

Here’s the recipe I adapted from the original Bisquick cake:

Streusel Coffee Cake

  • Servings: 8-10
  • Print

Cinnamon Streusel
1/3 cup baking mix
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
2 tablespoons firm butter

Coffee Cake
2 cups baking mix
2/3 cup milk
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 egg

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 9 inch round pan.

In a small bowl, thoroughly mix the streusel ingredients. Set aside. (A food processor makes this step quick and easy)

In another bowl, mix together the cake ingredients until well blended. Pour into prepared pan.

Sprinkle streusel topping over cake.

Bake 30-35 minutes or until golden brown.

The Dreaded Dusting Chore

Do you ever wonder what’s in dust? Do you care? I looked it up and common, household dust contains more than just dirt. I really don’t want to know any more details about the  dander, fibers and meteorite particles covering my furniture.

Tools have been conceived for the express purpose of moving dust around and, if we’re lucky, actually picking some of it up. I once had a feather duster. It was the perfect device to cause an accumulation on the furniture to become airborne. Swell.

My mother used dusting rags. She would spray them and dust the furniture. They were kept specifically for the purpose of dusting and were stored on the same shelf as her can of dusting spray. Periodically, she washed them and put them back on the shelf. I did that, too until I discovered dusters. Once I crossed over to dusters, I couldn’t go back.

I’m not here to bash dusters. They’re great, but there are some drawbacks to their use:

  • They can’t be cleaned because they are meant to be tossed after use.
  • They cost quite a bit to replace. My last box of 10 dusters cost $7.97. That’s nearly $.80 each. If you use one duster per week, you’ll spend over $40.00 each year on dusters.

The replacement cost prompted me to search for another solution. There are some clever people online who have designed DIY dusters that work very well. I followed this tutorial with some minor adjustments that made the dusters fit my handle better. Here is a similar duster.

duster1

When I made my dusters, I used a piece of fleece that was left over from another project. This act alone helps solve two problems in my house: the need for a frugal solution for dusters and a reduction in the overwhelming amount of fabric filling my closet. (I don’t know how I managed to collect so much fabric.)  It’s just a small piece of fabric, but I view it as another step on my journey to an organized sewing room. I do realize that I may never reach that destination.

duster2

Of course, dry dusting just moves the stuff around and scatters it in the air to settle in another place, or go up your nose and into your eyes.  A damp duster picks the mess up much better than a dry one, so spraying it lightly is good. I’ve found this recipe for dusting spray on several blogs, so I don’t know who to credit for it.

DIY Dusting Spray

1 cup water
1/4 cup vinegar
2 teaspoons olive oil
10-15 drops lemon essential oil
Spray bottle

Combine the ingredients in the spray bottle. Shake well.

The oil will separate as the mixture sits, so remember to shake before each use.

Happy dusting!

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