Monday, September 30, 2013

Stretch that softener

Remember how I said that stockpiling is an excellent shopping strategy, but there really is such a thing as too much of a good thing? Well, a couple of years ago my husband strolled into a store and found fabric softeners at an excellent price. A really, really great deal. 

He came home triumphant, and I beheld several dozen bottles of fabirc softener. I was just researching how to make my own, but instantly dropped that project and addressed a more pressing concern: how to store all these bottles. Finally, with a healthy dose of creativity I managed to find space for all these colorful rows of softener and... you guessed right, I still haven't used it all up.

The problem is, though the fabric softener works as well as ever, with time (this specific brand, at least) very gradually becomes thicker, until this morning I tried to pour some out and just couldn't, because it had finally gotten too gooey to pretend it's a liquid. It had this beautiful pudding-like consistency. Which brings me back to my original point - even though it may be very tempting to come home with a large store of something and think, "now I won't have to buy this again for years!", even non-perishables can develop some flaws over time. Anyway... 

A quick consultation with my husband ("should I throw these away? Such a pity... my favorite scents...") and a search of the web resulted in a simple and sensible solution. I took a spare bottle, forced some congealed softener into it (using a spoon) and shook it up with some water until reaching desired consistency. Hopefully I will be able to use it easily now, perhaps in a rather larger quantity, as it is now less concentrated.

You are very welcome to share your own frugal tip of the day. 

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Use it up

I can hardly believe it, but the holidays really are over. It felt genuinely strange to pack my husband's breakfast and lunch this morning and send him off to work. Now we are slowly getting back into our routine, with a temporary additional burden of a little cold and sniffles on the girls' part. I brewed some herb tea and we all had a cup of it, with honey, and hopefully tomorrow we will all be good as new. 

I would like to go on with the line of frugal living posts I have had here lately, and present my frugal tip for the day: Use It Up. "It" can be anything - an old item of clothing, a jar of canned tomatoes you don't know how to use, some strange brand of shampoo you have been reluctant to try... obviously, if you have to choose between chucking it away or giving it to someone else, definitely go for the latter, but generally, when you use up something you save money and shelf space, which ultimately saves you money too, because your home is more organized and you know better what you have and don't have. 

I have been trying to do this lately. For instance, I have a bag of environmental-friendly laundry soap flakes I have been simply too lazy to use, just because you have to mix them with hot water before pouring them into washing machine - it's just so much easier to simply grab laundry liquid when one is in a hurry. But I've noticed that the soap flakes just sit on my shelf and I keep moving them from place to place irritably. No more, I said; I am going to use them. The little effort will be worthwhile.

I also did a revision of my wardrone and pulled out some half-forgotten, hardly used items which supposedly didn't match with anything. After doing some thinking, I realized I can actually make some creative combinations and use what I thought I might as well toss away (the holidays prompted me to do that; there weren't so many opportunities to catch up on laundry, and I couldn't wear the same things over and over again!)

Another thing - we stockpile, and many of you probably do too, and that's a good thing which enables one to take advantage of good deals and reduce frequency of shopping. But there are a few catches as well. First, don't stock up on things you don't normally use. And know your pantry! Even if an item has a very long shelf life, it can still go bad if you forget about it for many months. Right now, after a month of no substantial shopping and intense cooking for many guests, our stockpile is dwindling, and I'm actually glad about it. It will be refreshing to have it all rearranged and stocked anew. 

I would love to hear your frugal tips on Using It Up, too. 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Recycled salmon

This is how a leftover baked salmon filet nobody wanted turned into salmon fritters which were an instant hit:

I took what was left of the filet and mashed it with a fork (it yielded abour 2 cups of salmon chunks)
- 3 eggs
- 1 grated zucchini
- some matzo flour (you can use bread crumbs)
- some dried parsley
- salt and pepper to taste

Fry on both sides until golden-brown 
Tell everyone to get their hands away from the hot frying pan... 
Serve breakfast!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Saving money on groceries

Just unearthed this great article about how to save money on groceries. It offers some very handy tips (most of which we already follow); however, there are certain things on which I thought I might offer my own opinion.

"Leave your kids at home" - while I know that it is much, much easier to do your shopping with no kids in tow, and while, in fact, my husband does most of our shopping alone, we see a visit to the grocery store as a valuable learning opportunity, and sometimes we all go together just so the girls can learn, from a very young age, how to compare prices and products. Also, and I'm not saying this to be boastful, for our girls the words "this does not belong to us" work like magic - whenever we say this, they drop whatever they are holding like a hot potato, whether it is an item in a grocery store, a toy in a toy store, or a toy/game in someone else's home they were not permitted to handle. 

"Shop at larger stores" - the thing is, many times folks who do frugal are also those who want organic, local, small business, etc. So... cheap or organic? Cheap or local? A large store with fabulous prices, or a small local grocery store you want to support? These questions don't always have a clear-cut answers. Within the scope of our local businesses, we (I'm opening my inward umbrella against the rotten tomatoes and eggs that will be flung in my direction...) support those stores which prefer to hire Jewish employees. Yes, yes, we are bigoted racists, but we also live in Israel and things are a bit tense here, so we feel perfectly justified in preferring to give our cash to our own people. 

"Own an extra freezer or fridge" - we do, and it's certainly very convenient to be able to stock up, but I'm not at all convinced this is really a good deal, taking into account the cost of electricity involved in running a second refrigerator. Also, ours is placed outside (we simply don't have room in the house for another fridge), and while it's very handy to stock it with cold drinks for guests who hang out on the front porch, naturally it takes even more electricity to keep cold, while it's so hot outside. We do get some good deals  on stuff (chicken, ground beef, fish) which we freeze in bulk, but does what we save cover the constant running of the second fridge and freezer? It's hard to tell, because the deals and the cost of the frozen items vary constantly. 

Overall, living frugally is a question of mindset. If you aim to buy as much as possible for as little money as possible, that is still consumer mentality. If, on the other hand, you aim to buy just what you need for as little as possible, to free up your time and space for other things, you are on the right track! 

Monday, September 16, 2013

Holidays, full steam ahead!

In case you are wondering, I am still recovering from my post-Rosh-HaShana cold, but we are already past Yom Kippur (which was the most difficult fast I've ever done in my life, including the times when I was pregnant and/or nursing), and going full steam ahead to Sukkot. We spent a busy morning in the kitchen today, making challah for the holiday, and by and by I also got the soup going for today's dinner. The day is sunshiny and breezy, there is washing on the line, and the cooking schedule is full. Tomorrow I plan to make pot-roast chicken legs with plenty of veggies, peppers stuffed with rice and meat, and our perennial eggplant dip. 

And, just because this is my biased and unprofessional blog, on which I can write whatever, whenever and however I want, I will take advantage of that and just voice a few thoughts that have popped into my head lately.

* People (at least in my country) are more shocked by other people choosing to educate their children at home, than by same-sex relationships (marriages?.. unions?.. I truly don't know how to define it...). Don't you think there is something disturbing about this fact?

* A mother who chooses to stay home with her children is either pitied or thought to be incapable of anything "better", but someone who chooses not to have a family and focus on her career until it's nearly too late (and in some cases it is too late), is praised for her determination.

* Many people think of how to earn more, while forgetting how to spend less - in fact, saving is better than earning, because you don't pay taxes for money you don't spend!

I will leave you with these random thoughts and head back to the kitchen to check on the soup, fold the laundry, give the chickens their afternoon meal, etc. I hope you are all passing smoothly into autumn (spring, in the southern hemisphere), and enjoying every bit of seasonal delights it brings. I hope to be able to catch up, at some point in the near future, with all my emails and blogs I long to visit, but simply didn't have time to do so lately. 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Some frugal "I wish"es

If we're already in the frugal living train this week, allow me to voice some not-very-connected thoughts I've been having (just as, no doubt, many who are considering how they can do more on less). 

I wish I could be the one who does the shopping. I'm the one who writes the shopping list around here, but as you well know, there's a world of difference between writing a shopping list and actually going into the store and loading the cart. Every time my husband comes back from the store with the week's hoard, I'm having these nerdy health-freak frugal fantasies about how different our freezer and pantry shelves would have looked under my supervision. We would never, of course, have soft drinks of breakfast cereal in the house, we would forget how a tub of ice-cream looks, and we'd improve our shopping cart so much, both health and budget-wise. 

I wish we didn't have to keep a dog. I know this will sound awfully coarse to all the dog-lovers out there, but we only keep ours for safety reasons. We do like our dog, of course, but not enough to forget she's a constant financial drain, in terms of food, vaccines, flea shampoo, tick collars, etc. We've toyed with the possibility of installing a good alarm system instead, but the area is just teeming with large animals such as wild boar and deer, and they pass right below our verandah. The alarm would be constantly set off. 

I wish we lived at a time and place where a person could walk through an empty area, pick a piece of land, and build a house there without worrying about permits, building regulations, or paying off a mortgage. So many people could do very well if they were just given a plot of land and a pair of hands. Sometimes I watch historical films with adorable huts in the middle of a forest, for instance, and think to myself, "these people might have had no plumbing - but they had no mortgage to pay off, either!"

On a totally unrelated note, here is a photo of our white Silkie, held on Shira's lap, and doted on. 

I wish all my Jewish readers a health-safe, spiritually productive Yom Kippur. 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The air conditioner challenge

The first summer after we were married, we lived in a house without an air conditioning. I don't know how we survived it, but the fact is, we are both still alive and well. Not that long ago, many people lived without air conditioning, and some older folks still do.

This summer, we have been a bit lax about using the air conditioner. Quite simply, we pressed the button of the remote control whenever we felt a little hot - even my children learned to do that - and, oh joy! A heavenly blast of cool air in our faces, and how nice and comfortable we all felt. And, of course, all this coolness and comfort manifested itself in the electricity bill. 

It might seem a little late for changing our ways, this season anyway, but remember that in Israel, heat can last well into October and even until the end of it. Right now, in September, it's still very, very hot, and the only improvement I can feel, compared to the peak of summer, is in the shortening days - here in the hills it becomes pleasantly cool as soon as the sun leans low. 

So, I have challenged myself not to use the air conditioner, unless there's an absolute emergency, until the winter (when this challenge might have to be re-set, taking into consideration the new circumstance of cold). Today is the third day I've been following this practice and so far, so good. It really does make a big difference in our case, because the girls and I are generally at home, so we are speaking about giving up many hours of air-conditioning each day. 

So... what alternative ways have I found to cope with the heat? 

* I dress more lightly. Generally, for modesty's sake, I wear two layers - typically a longer-sleeved undershirt, and a short-sleeve or sleeveless top over it. But now, when I'm home and feel too hot, I take off the top, as well as my hair covering. 

* I slow down when I feel too hot. Often, after I've been outside, or after doing some frazzled activity (like very vigorous cleaning), I just collapse on the couch, turn on the air conditioner, and fan myself in the face saying, "It's so hot!" Well, now I do the same, minus the air conditioner. I sit down, grab a cool drink, fan myself in the face, and usually after two or three minutes I no longer feel as if I'm going to pass out from the heat.

* We spend afternoons outside. The house where we currently live doesn't have good insulation, and there just isn't much I can do about it. There are windows everywhere; I love the light but hate the heat. And by afternoon, all the accumulated heat just radiates off the walls. In contrast, outside it's very pleasant just as the sun is about to set, and that's when we usually take our walk, or I just sit outside with my crochet project or a book while the girls play in the sandbox.

Of course, these tips can be reversed for winter use: that is, dress more warmly, do some healthy exercise, and go outside when the sun shines!

There are also other things that help to alleviate the heat, such as mopping the floor with cool water, taking a cool shower, or having an all-natural popsicle

Monday, September 9, 2013

In between holidays

Rosh HaShana is over, and I'm back online... for a while, anyway. The autumn holidays aren't near their end just yet. We still have Yom Kippur, Sukkot, and Simchat Torah ahead of us. 

We were away from home during Rosh HaShana, but up until the last minute I couldn't believe we were actually going to do this; I don't remember the last time we spent 3 nights away from home. I had this vague fear that the kind neighbour whom we cornered into who volunteered to take care of our animals would misunderstand the instructions, and instead of feeding the chickens and the dog, would feed the chickens to the dog, or something to that effect. I'm glad to say no such thing happened; once we were back, I made a head count and not a single chicken was missing. 

So, we spent 3 days with The Clan, and it was a very merry time. I sometimes got my vision blurred because of toddlers and tots running before my eyes so fast (there were 6 children under 5 years of age). We made our contribution to everyone's entertainment by fetching along a box of Silkie chicks which we couldn't foist off on any neighbour absolutely couldn't part with. I also took Tehilla's birthday cake with me, and we enjoyed it in a family circle. 

The downside of all the air conditioners working extra hours, the closed windows, and the many people cooped up inside during the hotter time of the day, was me coming down with a bad sore throat on the last day. On Sunday I might have been mistaken for someone with severe speech impairment, if someone had seen the hand gestures and unintelligible grunts I used to communicate with my children. 

And so... we are home again... getting into our usual stride - unpacking, doing laundry, cleaning, cooking, washing up, taking care of the critters - all in slow motion, because I'm still under the weather and Shira is sniffling as well, which makes me suspect the cold is going to take rounds and get us all in turn. But I'm prepared; the herb garden survived three days without watering, and I'm making lots of healing teas with honey. 

Sage is said to have amazing healing properties
And so is rosemary.

I hope everyone are having a great week! 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

A last hello before Rosh Ha-Shana

The Jewish holidays are about to begin - tomorrow evening, we will sit at the Rosh Ha-Shana table, and it will also be our Tehilla's third birthday. How well I remember the evening when she was born, as if it were yesterday; and how thankful we are for this dear child, who had brought so much joy into this world with her.

I hope all my Jewish readers will have a nice and pleasant holiday season, and as for the rest of you, dear friends, I wish you a lovely fall/spring, wherever you are. I am looking forward to catching up with you all again soon.

With friendship,

Mrs. T

Photo taken from here