Where Did I Put That List?

Not interested in lists? I understand. I really do.

I like lists. I use lists. They keep me on track.

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One list I make every year is my holiday gift list. I have everyone that I plan on giving a gift listed and then I list what the gift will be. It’s not written in stone but, when I think of something good for someone, I jot it down on my list. I’m never stuck at the last-minute with the “What do I get so-and-so?” question. It also prevents good ideas from slipping away. They do that more often now.

I make many of the gifts I give and I’ve done that for decades. This takes time and I start early. My list helps me shop for supplies that I will need to complete projects efficiently and economically. I know what I’ll need so I wait for sales, I use discount coupons, and I shop carefully. Using my list faithfully helps me gather everything together so, when I start to make the item, I don’t have to stop because I’m short on one supply or another. I keep projects in zip storage bags. Everything I need is in the bag including any patterns or instructions, notions, fabrics, etc. As I acquire a needed component, I add it to the bag.

Because of my list, I’m nearly done with shopping for this year. I’ll pick up a few things along the way, but the big purchases are mostly done.

Making my list and getting started on holiday shopping early is key to a smooth season. Having my list saves my money and my sanity.

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Fall’s First Chore

We started on the first of our fall chores this weekend by tackling the windows. (See Cleaning up for Fall) It’s truly a chore because you just can’t wash the windows. You have to move any furniture, plants, and all other things that are placed in front of the windows on the inside. The screens need to be removed, cleaned and repaired if necessary. After all that, you can wash the windows. Of course, they are two-sided so the work is doubled.

I saw this formula several months ago and vowed to try it whenever we got around to the windows. It’s promise was to lessen the work, which I’m all for, and it did. The water sheeted off the windows and didn’t require wiping or the use of a squeegee. It’s important to hose off the windows prior to cleaning to remove as much dust and dirt as possible. Once the solution gets dirty, it doesn’t rinse off as well and leaves the windows smeared.

 

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Here is One Good Thing by Jillee’s original recipe. I made mine loosely based on this, but simplified it by adding 1/4 cup of everything to the 2 gallons of water. It worked. I’m sold.

Homemade Streak-Free Window Cleaner

1/2 bottle of Dishwasher Rinse Aid (the bottle I bought was just under 7 ounces so I measured out 3.5 ounces)
4 Tablespoons isopropyl alcohol (I used 70%)
1/4 cup ammonia
1 handful of powdered dishwasher detergent (which depending on the size of your hand could probably vary quite a bit! I used a “handful” which looked to me to be about 1/4 cup. Give or take.)
2 Gallons of hot water

Serendipitous Frugality

Our house had no window coverings when we bought it. I was OK with that. We’re out in the country with no close neighbors.

Also, our previous house was dark and I enjoyed the light coming in the windows here, and I didn’t want to block that. It always felt like living in a cave in that other house, but this one is light and bright.

I have managed to put minimal window treatments up in all the rooms except the kitchen. I didn’t know what I wanted there and I truly didn’t want to block the light.

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It’s interesting how things are presented to you when you look. At an estate sale, I found these lace curtain panels. They were $.25 each. I bought all 8 of them. With a little cutting and hemming, they will work well on my kitchen windows.

I call this serendipitous frugality. We were looking for other items at that estate sale, but these curtains were there waiting for me. The lesson of this little story is that opportunities present themselves when you are looking and, sometimes, it will only cost $2.00.

When You Don’t Have a Maple Tree Handy…

Homemade maple-flavored syrup. Who knew? I ran across this idea in my frugal travels around the internet. It just wasn’t one of the things in my experience database. I don’t remember what we used as a child because I think that pancakes were a rare thing in our house. I do know that, when I grew up, I liked jam on pancakes better than syrup.

My local store carried maple extract in the baking aisle, so I gave it a try. It’s nowhere near the real thing. It tastes fine, easily as good as any of the maple-flavored syrups from the store. (Maybe I’m not the best judge of that, though) It is, however, quick and easy to do and there’s a bit of cost savings, too.

I used brown sugar but if you want a lighter color, use regular white sugar. Most of the recipes I found online used white sugar. One used a combination of white sugar and brown sugar and one used corn syrup as the sweetener. I think any way you do it, it will be good stuff to pour on the pancakes.

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Quick Maple-Flavored Syrup

2 cups water
4 cups brown sugar
2 teaspoons maple extract

In a non-reactive pan, bring water to a rapid boil.
Mix in brown sugar all at once. Stir until it is completely dissolved.
Remove from heat and stir in maple extract.
Pour into a sterilized jar and allow to stand, at room temperature, for 24 hours.
Store in the refrigerator for up to 6 months.

Orange Cleaners Revisited

A little over three weeks ago, I started making orange cleaners. I did two types and you can find the recipes here. They are done, and now it’s time to test them. OK, I admit to procrastinating on this. These things were actually done after two weeks. I guess I’m just not in a hurry to clean.

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I used the vinegar-based cleaner first. I diluted it 1:1 with water and put it into a spray bottle. Next I tried it out on a few surfaces, which included the inside of the microwave, the glass door on the toaster over, a section of granite counter-top, and the glass-top range. It worked well but it wasn’t miraculous. I didn’t expect it to be really, but it did do what cleaners are supposed to do: it cleaned. The spatters inside the microwave wiped off easily, the counter-top shines, and even the glass looks good without streaks. The things I cleaned with it are clean! Isn’t that the goal?

It does smell better than plain vinegar, so that’s a bonus in itself. I know what’s in it. That’s a huge benefit. It works pretty well. That’s the goal.

Overall, this orange cleaner can find a place in my cleaning routine.

Cook Like No One is Watching

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Cooking at home is critical to a frugal lifestyle. There are few instances where purchasing something pre-made will be less expensive than making it at home. Perhaps more important than cost, is that there aren’t mystery ingredients in homemade food. You hold more control over what you and your family eats.

So, if you feel that you could use a boost in your kitchen skills, check out these sites. There are many tutorials to help learn a new skill or improve your techniques. I have found that I prefer my own cooking now, over a restaurant meal, since I started improving my cooking skills. I hope all of you can find the same.

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UK Cooking Expert Delia Smith

Arizona Central Offers Basic Lessons

Chef 2 Chef: Learn from Pros

Some Free Classes from Craftsy

Little Steps, Big Changes

Starting something new is overwhelming. Have you ever tried to read something that is a new subject and it seemed like it was written in Klingon? Only through systematic chipping, taking small bites, can you finally unravel the mystery.

Developing a new lifestyle is the same process. Take small steps and soon you’re changes are habit and not torture.

It’s fun to read how people live frugally. Some of their ideas are workable and will fit into my life easily. Some are a bit out there, to be kind. I draw the line at eliminating toilet paper from our home. The work involved in washing and drying doesn’t outweigh the convenience of TP. There’s also the yuck factor. Just not gonna do it.

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I’ve been in a financially tough time when paper towels were a luxury and not a part of my kitchen supplies. I could go back to that again, but I haven’t. I guess times just aren’t tough enough right now.

There are things that I do now which make me wonder why I didn’t do them all along. I spent some time yesterday making jam. My husband spent part of his day making jerky. (He makes it because he eats it. I don’t) Am I saving a bunch making my own jam? Not really, because I buy the fruit. If I could go out a pick fruit to use, then the savings would be obvious. The jerky, on the other hand, is a fraction of the price of anything we can buy.

Jars of Jam
The benefit of making things at home is that I know what’s in it. I don’t use anything I can’t pronounce. To me, that’s a big benefit. The other, especially with jam, is the reduction in waste. I reuse the jars. An empty jar from the store isn’t reusable, usually.

These are just two small steps in my overall frugal-living plan. I’ve already posted some of the recipes I use to make staples and cleaning supplies.

DIY Laundry Detergent
The Dreaded Dusting Chore
The Baking Mix Scoop
No, Really? No Poo
DIY Liquid Hand Soap
DIY Yogurt
DIY Disinfecting Wipes
5 Favorite From Scratch Recipes
Orange is the New Clean

There are dozens more that I haven’t yet tried. I’ve also abandoned some things that I tried and found they didn’t work well for me. One was my own dishwasher soap. I’ve tried a couple of formulas and I felt they didn’t do the job that a commercial product does, so I no longer make my own soap. Frugal living is not only a step-by-step process, it’s a trial and error one, too.

It’s all about the little efforts and you don’t have to learn Klingon.