A Resource Free for the Asking

Vintage Photo of The Library of Congress

The Library of Congress was established in 1800 and is the oldest cultural institution in the United States. It is also the largest library in the world, containing more than 160 million items. This massive collection requires 838 miles of shelf space. Things aren’t static at the Library. Approximately 12,000 items are added daily.

Our local library can’t boast such a huge collection. It’s really very small, but they do provide computers and WiFi for no charge to any library patron.

I have a computer and an internet connection at home. I use them both daily. However, I live beyond any cable company reach so my choices for internet connection are limited and expensive. It’s one of the sacrifices that we make to live in our beautiful forest.

Texas Forest

When I want to do some research, which might require a couple of hours online to do, I head out to my local library. I can chew through my limited monthly allotment of data quickly when I spend that kind of time online. And, forget about watching videos. I’d be over the limit before I could get started.

It’s one of the resources available that requires no additional fees and it’s an important part of stretching our retirement resources. We’re not alone. In a report published in January of this year, done by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, there were 271,146 public access computers in libraries across the US, and those computers were engaged for 340.5 million sessions.

The survey also found that 62% of the responding libraries provided the only free computers and internet access in the community. While I’m thankful for the internet service we have, it is expensive and likely beyond the budget of many in our area. I’ll admit that I envy those who have unlimited, fast internet access and I hope that I will have that in the near future.

For now, it’s a blend of our service at home and that of the library. It works and it saves money. In other words, it’s a frugal choice.

What’s for Dinner?

Menu

Monday:
Sweet Chicken/Bacon Wraps
Green salad

Tuesday:
Stuffed Peppers
Cucumber slices

Wednesday:
Enchiladas
Refried beans

Thursday:
Sausage and Peppers
Hard rolls

Friday:
Chef Salad

Saturday:
Oven-baked Chicken
Mixed vegetable hash

Sunday:
Salisbury Steak
Rice
Seasoned vegetables

I have found, over the years, that it’s much easier to get dinner on the table when I know what to cook each day. It was necessary when I was working. I never wanted to come home and stare at the kitchen, wondering what I could fix. With a plan, I just look at my written, weekly menu and problem solved. My list is so much a part of my routine that without one, even with a full pantry and freezer, I become the deer in the headlights when the “what’s for dinner” question comes up.

Before I go to the grocery store, I plan a week’s worth of dinners. If I want to switch them around, no problem. I did that last week. When I first planned the Chef Salad, it was for the weekend. On Friday, I didn’t feel like cooking, so I made the salad instead. The plan is top secret. No one knows what’s on it but me so changing it doesn’t cause ripples in family unity.

There’s also the opportunity to try new recipes each week and not just fall back on my tried and true meals. For me, that’s the fun part of planning. I’ll sit down with a cookbook and look over all the tantalizing recipes. OK, some aren’t that tantalizing. I skip those. I should mark the recipes in the cookbooks that I want to try, but I’m not that organized. Maybe it’s because I really do like to thumb through cookbooks.

Menu plans help you use up what you have on hand. When I’m planning, I take a quick inventory of the refrigerator and pantry. If there are things that need to be used, like produce before it goes bad, I can add that to my menu. It helps me prevent food waste which saves us some money. I can’t say that I always get to the produce before it’s spoiled. Menu planning makes me look into the refrigerator with a critical eye and I’m more likely to rescue produce on the edge of rotten.

Menu planning is one habit that’s actually good for me. Too bad I can’t say that about other things I do, but that’s for another blog post.

Why, Of Course! DIY Disinfecting Wipes

Does anyone like cleaning the bathroom? We all know that doing a little each day makes the chore easier especially if there is a quick and easy way to do it. Disinfectant wipes are convenient, easy to use, but expensive. Naturally, DIY wipes are the way to go

I searched the Internet for what others were doing for homemade wipes. I found a lot of formulas. The assorted ingredients included vinegar, coconut oil, a multitude of essential oils, and pine cleaner.

Many years ago, in a Microbiology class in college, we tested some common household items for their germ-killing capabilities. A petri dish was prepared with three different bacteria. (I don’t remember what they were.) We all brought in different things to try. My lab partner brought Woolite. I brought pine cleaner. Two out the three areas on her dish were clear of bacteria after applying her Woolite. My pine cleaner killed NONE of the bacteria. So, it may not come as any surprise that I don’t use pine cleaner.

Knowing what I do about pine cleaner, I skipped any formulas that called for it. I wanted a disinfecting wipe and I have scientific evidence that this stuff wouldn’t disinfect its way out of a paper bag.

tshirt

The cloth to use for the wipes is a no-brainer. I’ve got several old T-shirts with stains that nothing on the planet will remove. They remain in the drawer until I make cleaning rags out of them. It was time to press one of those shirts into service.

Some folks used paper towels. Not only did they suggest using paper towels, they suggested sawing the roll in half. No. Not doing that.

So, in my search for a recipe, I landed on the Living on a Dime site. Unlike many of the other recipes, this one includes alcohol. It’s one thing that we know will disinfect; the jury is still out on many of the others.

WipesIngredients

Homemade Disinfecting Wipes

1 cup water
1/4 cup rubbing alcohol
2 tablespoons Dawn dish soap
2 tablespoons ammonia (optional)

Mix the ingredients together. Pour over rags until sufficiently dampened.

Frugal? That’s Funny

When did being careful with money become the fodder for jokes? How did frugality become defined as cheap? Aren’t we doing ourselves a disservice?

Too many people view being frugal as being a cheapskate. Television programs that showcase people who take the idea to the extreme reinforce that notion. The difference between frugal and cheap couldn’t be more clear. To be cheap is to focus solely on the cost of something. To be frugal is to focus on the value of what is being purchased. Sometimes the least expensive option also provides value, but not always.

I was speaking to a friend about an event that was held in another state and why I decided not to attend. When I added up the costs-the fees, hotel, meals, and airfare-I didn’t see enough value to be derived from attendance. She listened to my reasoning and determined that the reason I didn’t attend was that I couldn’t afford it. That wasn’t true, but she didn’t understand the difference between not having the money and not seeing it as a valuable expenditure.

Determining value is at the heart of frugality. Of course, we do things that save money but that’s only on the surface. I save money by making my own laundry detergent. I’ve also eliminated lingering fragrance on my clothes and I’ve reduced the amount of trash I generate by reducing the packaging that I toss out. For anyone who has to pay by the number of bags of trash they put out each week (luckily, that’s not us), this is a double whammy of savings. There is more value to homemade laundry soap than just saving on the cost of washing and that’s at the heart of frugality.

Returning to my original premise, why is actively saving money not a revered practice?caution

“Economy is the art of making the most of life.”
–George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)–

You would think that those of us who are retired, or close to retirement, would heartily embrace frugality. Alas, it is not always the case.

Baby Boomers are ill-prepared for retirement. According to TD Ameritrade, in their 2012 study Boomers and Retirement, 74% of Boomers are $500k short in their retirement savings accounts. Those who think Social Security will make the difference may be surprised to learn that the average benefit check is slightly more than $1200 per month. No one is going to live large on that. Couple that lack of savings with consumer debt and the picture is even more grim.

Can we blame it all on poor planning? A study done by National Center for Policy Analysis found that 59% of Boomers are providing financial support to their adult children, including providing living expenses, covering medical bills and paying off loans. The stars that lined up to create an economy that made this so prevalent are still being debated, but it is certainly a drain on resources in a time when Boomers need all that they can get.offspring

Many Boomers had parents and grandparents who lived through the depression. There seems to be some idea that we don’t have to employ the lessons in economy that those folks learned. Maybe that explains some of the dismal economic circumstances surrounding our generation. Thrift is a way of life and shouldn’t be reserved only for hard times. It makes those hard times easier to live through and we’ll all be better off.

Perhaps we should be quietly thrifty. Use frugal ways to get out of debt, supplement savings, acquire the money for luxury purchases, become a stay-at-home parent, or retire well. When those who would ridicule frugality notice, let them laugh. Bet they won’t, though. They’ll be asking how you did it.

Pork Chops for Two

Another effort to combat the problem of leftovers is to repackage items that you buy into smaller sizes. In this case, I wrapped pork chops from a larger package individually. When it’s time to cook, I can take out what I need.

This is an easy, inexpensive recipe for two that is quick to prepare.
porkchops

Pork Chops for Two

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 pork chops
Salt and pepper to taste
1 green pepper, sliced
1 small onion, sliced
1 teaspoon dry basil

Heat oil in a small skillet over medium high heat. Season pork on both sides with salt and pepper. Cook pork chops until browned on both sides.
Top chops with green pepper, onion and basil. Cover skillet, reduce heat and cook until vegetables are tender and pork is cooked through.

Nary a Chocolate Bunny Was Found

marshmallows

This year’s Easter basket was filled with homemade marshmallows. No chocolate bunnies. No jelly beans. Just marshmallows.

It isn’t that I don’t like chocolate bunnies and jelly beans. I do but, like everything else at the store, the cost of candy is pretty steep and I thought I could save a little money by doing my own.

I’m not new to making candy. I’ve made peanut brittle every Christmas for more years than I can remember. I have also made caramels, peppermint bark, fudge, gum drops and more to round out the candy tray.

Most people bake for the holidays. Baking has never been my thing. I make too much of a mess because something always happens to the flour. Some mysterious force always flips the measuring cup over or poufs it out of the mixer bowl all over me. It isn’t IF I’m going to make a mess while baking, it’s WHEN.

Candy is a bit neater because there is no flour involved. It is, however, easier to burn and I’ve done that too often. Nothing smells quite like burnt sugar in the morning.

Making candy doesn’t need to be limited to the holidays. Someone somewhere has developed a recipe for just about any kind of candy you can think of. I used this recipe for peanut butter cups, substituting candy melts for the chocolate bar. They’re good.

peanutbuttercups

Some other interesting candies I intend to try soon:

Copycat Snickers® bars
Copycat Three Musketeers® bars
Copycat Heath® bars
Copycat Almond Joy® bars

I’ve never made a candy bar but I’m up for the challenge. What could possibly go wrong? There’s no flour.

DIY Liquid Hand Soap

handsoap2

I thought I had a big bottle of liquid soap to refill my dispensers. I knew just where it was, only it wasn’t there. Its location remains a mystery.

So, rather than buy another bottle, I decided to make some liquid soap. It really couldn’t be easier.

Liquid Hand Soap

4 ounces bar soap, grated
8 cups distilled water
1 tablespoon glycerin

Bring water to boil in a large, non-reactive pan. Remove from heat and add grated soap. Stir until soap is dissolved. Allow to cool for several hours or over-night. The mixture will have the consistency of slime.
When completely cool, mix in glycerin. Using an electric mixer makes this easier. Pour into pump dispensers.

Makes 1/2 gallon.

Next time, I’ll add a little fragrance into the mix. The scent from the bar soap is still discernible but it is diluted. Though, with 1/2 gallon on hand, it may be some time before I need to make any more.

Cooking Like a Copycat

A few years ago, we decided that eating at most restaurants wasn’t really worth the money. Yes, it was nice not to cook. Yes, it was nice to go out, but the food wasn’t the central focus of the event. Of course, restaurant meals are no way to cut the food budget and, if it isn’t good, why bother.

Copycat recipes can replace the food that is missed by cooking at home instead of eating out. Last week, I tried one of my husband’s favorites–Jack-in-the-Box tacos. I tried to follow this recipe, but I didn’t have everything listed. I had to make refried beans and, of course, they don’t taste like those from a can. I didn’t have the specific taco sauce called for in the recipe, so I used what I had on hand. I’ve never had a Jack-in-the-Box taco, but I thought they tasted fine. The expert, my spouse, said they tasted fine but were nowhere near the real thing. I guess I’ll have to go out for a taco dinner to know for sure.

Buddy

If you miss some of your favorites, there is a recipe for just about any restaurant dish:

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.

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