The Frugal Goddess Goes LIVE with a Workshop on Food Waste!

Careful Planning is the Key!

The Frugal Goddess will give her first live workshop—Stop Food Waste Now with the fugal Goddess, in Santa Rosa CA on October 15, 2012.

The workshop will cover how we make bad choices that lead to food waste, how to plan a week’s meals that will really be eaten without waste, how to store what you buy so it lasts, and how to handle special problems with the flow of food through your household and your life.

If you regularly dump your money into the waste bin through wasted food, if you have great intentions on shopping day that lead to nothing but expensive compost, if you have “science experiments in you vegetable bin instead of edible veggies, this might be for you!

The first Frugal Goddess book on the same subject is in the works. There will be an announcement on this blog when it comes out.

If you live in the bay area please go to this link for tickets: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/258266 and here is a link to the original post that started the whole project: http://www.thefrugalgoddess.com/2011/03/10/food-waste-why-we-do-it-and-how-we-can-stop/

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Frugal Furniture-Don’t Buy It When You Can Find It!

Get Your Furniture Free of Charge

If you live in a decent sized city, you have a frugal decorating tool in your belt that you country cousin doesn’t. If you need furniture, try scrounging first. I am not saying that this sort of gift NEVER happens in the country, just that the quality is a lot more likely to be compromised when something has been left by the roadside for quite some time. In the country you get people’s “outdoor” couch left sitting by a back road in the rain. In the city there are more finds, and of higher quality.

But—if you see something good, be prepared to get hang out with your find until you can get help moving it. If you leave it you likely lose it. There is also more competition in the city.

There are also things you should pass on, no matter how tasty a deal you think it is. Things like mattresses, pillows, or other bedding. With chairs and couches check for fleas or other undesirable qualities. Also pass on bloodstains or anything nasty like that, not that I need to tell you that. But lesser stains can be dealt with. As for tables, chairs, bookcases, and other “hard” items, there is no downside.

If you see something that has the right profile (size, etc.) but is a hideous color or has a few holes or some other defect, grab it anyhow. You can refinish or paint wooden items, and reupholster fabric furniture. Or just throw a colorful sheet or blanket over it.

For more helpful information:

http://www.thefrugalgoddess.com/2011/09/19/frugal-home-decorating-how-to-make-your-home-comfortable-and-beautiful-without-breaking-the-bank/

Spring Cleaning is Frugal and Fun

It's Spring! Time for a Clean Sweep!

Today is the first day of spring! So what does spring cleaning have to do with frugality, and how can it possibly be fun?

Frugality is all about old-fashioned values, and requires that we maintain what we have. A little over a half century ago we were all much more affected by the natural changes that came with the seasons. Spring was a time to open up the house and sweep out all the mustiness that came with being stuck indoors all winter. Now we have advanced ways to make the indoors comfortable all year round. We control our environments with technology. We can almost ignore the seasons. But there is a natural exuberance to the spring that it would be a shame to ignore.

Our stuff may not need to be “aired out”, but it does still need to be maintained. Starting the new season by deep cleaning will prolong the life of our interiors and furniture, and create a sense of order necessary for a frugal life. Spring cleaning means knocking down the cob-webs on the outside which then knocks out the internal cob-webs.

But how can this be fun? Some of the actual work may be a pain in the neck. That is why we only do it a couple of times a year. But if you do it as a family it is a team-building, self-esteem building activity. And when you are done it is fun to see the results. So go ahead, order a pizza and get out the cleaning rags.

Here are a few things you may want to include:

  • The windows, at least the insides. Save the outsides for later if you expect more foul weather.
  • The kitchen cupboards should be emptied and wiped down. This is a good opportunity to reorganize as well.
  • The stove and refrigerator should be cleaned inside and out.
  • The furniture should be pulled back from the walls so you can clean under and behind where it usually is.
  • All rooms should be cobwebbed and dusted.
  • The carpets and drapes should be cleaned.
  • As you clean make a list of anything broken so it can be repaired.
  • The laundry room should be cleared out and scrubbed down.
  • Any other obvious messes should be cleaned up.
  • The winter things should be put away, and the summer things taken out and repaired as needed.
Just try it and see how great it feels. Happy spring, my frugalistas!!

Here is a link on frugal and green cleaning to help you get the job done: http://www.thefrugalgoddess.com/2010/09/30/clean-it-up-cheap-and-green/

Frugal Home Decorating-How to Make Your Home Comfortable and Beautiful without Breaking the Bank

Home Sweet Home!

To have a good life it is necessary to have a comfortable and inviting living space. Even travelers have to come home sooner or later. But the things that make a home into a haven can be expensive if you aren’t willing to invest the time. This is one of those things where the tradeoff of time and effort for money is most apparent. If you are willing to do the work of figuring out exactly what you want and then take the time to find alternatives to throwing money at the project, you will wake up one morning in love with your home.

Interior decoration, like fashion, is a place to really let your personality and spirit shine through. But, unlike clothes choices that are a relatively small expense and change with the seasons, your choice of home décor will stay with you for a long time. So take the time to really learn what you like. Go to the library and look at a bunch of magazines to see if your tastes run more to the antique, the modern, or something else. Take out a decorating book or two while you are there. Peruse the online home furnishing sites. You aren’t going to actually buy from these sources; that would be way too expensive. This is just to learn about your own tastes.

Once you get an idea what really makes your heart sing, it is time to start looking—in second hand stores, discount outlets, on Craigslist, even in the odd antique store for something really special. If there are built-in elements to the design you are looking for, such as cabinets, try a local cabinet maker. Sometimes they are really reasonable, and most would be happy to have your business. The same goes for all the fabric elements. If you fall in love with the comfort and style of an older chair, see about having it re-upholstered. A seamstress can also make window treatments, throw pillows, and much more. You may be able to trade with a skillful friend or join a time bank and trade that way. Of course if you are handy at either carpentry or sewing you could certainly do it yourself.

Paint is another really inexpensive way to add style to a room. Don’t be afraid of a little color. You would be amazed at how the right shade can change your mood. If you can paint at all do it yourself, otherwise have a paint party and buy everyone pizza.

By the time you have all the fabric and wooden elements created and installed you should have a stash of nice pieces from your second hand shopping expeditions. Try to get the bread and butter pieces for as little as possible to have some left over for a couple of really special things where it counts. Every room should have a focal point. You may want to save your splurge for that, or, if you can create an effect with something relatively inexpensive like paint, or if you can use something already in the room like a fireplace as your focal point that will free you up to get that great lamp or slightly pricy desk.

All of these ideas can be adjusted up or down to suit your budget. If you are voluntarily frugal and your environment is an important value don’t be afraid to spend a bit to get what you want. This is one area where spending is not wasting as long as you think it through.

If you are forcibly frugal, don’t give up hope. As long as you have a home at all you will be able to slowly improve it, as long as you keep focusing and looking for the things you need. You might have to rely on friends with too much stuff, curbside foraging, Craigslist freebies and freecycle.com. But if you persist you will eventually be able to create tranquility, functionality, and beauty in your home no matter what you circumstances.

Bring Frugal Beauty into Your Home with a Cutting Garden

 

Beauty

Being frugal does not mean giving up beauty or a gracious life. It simply means finding better ways to fulfill these needs. One of the things that creates a lovely atmosphere at home is the presence of beautiful flowers. But the flowers that are available in stores and at your local florist are very expensive. Not only in cost to you but also to the environment through factory farming and 8000 mile supply lines. Luckily there is a simple solution. A cutting garden can be as simple as a few flowering bushes. Even if all you have is a little side yard or patio you can have flowers.

The first step is to visit your local library and do some research on the flowers that grow well in your locale. While doing so you can also get an idea about what you like. Decide whether you are more concerned with visual appearance or fragrance. I like both myself.

Once you have a bit of a plan it’s off to your local plant nursery to chat up the owner and get your supplies. The people that work in nurseries can be a fount of wisdom for new gardeners. I would suggest buying starts instead of seeds if you are just starting out. They are much easier to handle, and you can collect your first bouquet sooner.

If you absolutely can’t grow anything, try foraging. Go walking in an area where there are wildflowers and remember to bring clippers. Just not your neighbor’s yard, please, unless you have permission. Maybe you can barter with a friend with a green thumb.

The selection may be a little sparse if you live in an area of heavy winters. Then you might expand your definition to include holly berries and pussy willow, or other less glamorous shrubbery. This is the time to get creative.

Once you have the flowers, all you need is a nice vase to place them in. If you don’t have a “real” vase, try a mason jar. Put the flowers in the water, and then play with them a bit. Pull some up a bit. Change the position of others. Flower arranging is a fine old art. You can learn much from books, articles, and the internet.

Finally, remember to keep your flowers fresh. Change the water, and throw them out and replace them when they start looking shabby. The reason you brought them in to your home was for the incomparable charm and feeling of prosperity that they bring. If they are half dead it is time for a fresh bunch.

Here are some links:

http://www.gardeners.com/Cutting-Garden/5011,default,pg.html Some ideas for what flowers to grow

http://www.perfectentertaining.com/article1100.html Flower arrangement tips

Frugal Food-Should You Buy in Bulk?

Bulk buying is a question that nearly everyone seems to have an opinion on. There are a lot of frugalistas that swear by it, but there are many others that believe that the quantities required create more waste than they do savings. So who is right? When it comes to non-food items, bulk buying is clearly the better choice. Toilet paper is something we all need every day, it doesn’t go bad, and one roll is pretty much like the other. So buy as much as you can store, and at the best possible price.

Bulk Produce- Think Carefully Before you Invest

But this post is about food, and that is where things get way more complicated. Getting to the bottom of this question is going to take a lot of self-observation, and some work. No matter what the size of your household or your eating habits, there are some things that are clearly a bargain in bulk. Canned and jarred items and things with a long shelf life, such as the pantry staples (sugars, flours, grains, beans, etc.) should be bought in the largest unit that you will use before they go bad. In most cases they are in the same category as the non-food items. Get as much as you can store easily. Buying in bulk for these items saves money not only on the unit price of the items themselves, but also on the weekly fuel expense for your car. And you will never have to run back to the store to get that important ingredient that you should have had in your pantry.
Where the non-bulk crowd has a point is with true perishables. This is where the self-observation comes in. What you must do is watch carefully what you eat on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. Make note of how long these items stay good. Learn exactly how they should be stored. For instance, meat is only good for about three days if left uncooked in the refrigerator, but that shelf-life can be extended three to six months with the help of a freezer. This makes the sale on chicken at your local market a lot more user friendly even if you live alone.
There will likely be a core set of perishables that you use so little of that you can’t by them in bulk without waste. Or they must be used to quickly and can’t be frozen. For those items, buy just what you will use from the bulk bins. In most stores you can still get a good unit price, and there will be no waste.
In the dairy department your homework will really pay off. For instance, if you have been buying milk twice a week in a small size, you can save quite a bit by knowing what you can use in a two week period, about the shelf-life of fresh milk. In my two-person household, we used to buy one quart at a time for $1.39. But, if we go up to the half gallon it costs only 40 cents for the second quart, and it lasts exactly two weeks. Watch carefully and you will never lose expensive cheese to mold again.
One of the most frustrating ingredients in that category is fresh herbs. There is no way to get a good deal on fresh herbs at a market, because unless you are cooking for fifty you will waste half at least. And they are expensive. The one thing that works is to grow them yourself. A kitchen garden can be as simple as a little container on your window sill. Snip just what you need and you will never run out.
This post just scratches the surface on the never-ending battle to eat without breaking the bank.

 

Water-Too Important to Waste

This is Blog Action Day, and the topic is water. Considering the facts that water is second only to air as a basic need, and that half the world’s population have no access to clean potable water, wasting it would be wrong even if it weren’t so expensive. The Frugal Goddess will leave the politics to others and deal with ways of conserving and saving our precious water resources.

The Water Planet

The first thing to do is a water audit on your house. Are there any leaks in the plumbing system? How about outside faucets? These need to be fixed as soon as possible. Then think about ways in which you run water unnecessarily. Think about all the uses of water in your house. If your appliances are old they use more water than the new greener models. Find out about yours. By doing a little arithmetic you will soon see whether hand-washing your dishes is better than the machine. And remember to always fill your machine (dishwasher or clothes washer) to capacity. When it comes to car washing, do it less often, and go to a public wash. It may cost a couple of dollars, but the facility is regulated by law to keep the chemicals in the soap out of the watershed. And the actual water used is less then what would come out of your hose at home.

Then there is the bath versus shower controversy. Common wisdom says that the five minute shower is the most efficient use of water. But, if you prefer a bath, just run the water for five minutes from the low flow shower head, and step in. You haven’t used any more water that way, so don’t worry about it. Remember to turn the water off while you are brushing your teeth or washing your hair.

One area that needs discussion is toilet flushing. Depending on the circumstances you might not need to do it every time. This may be offensive to some, and if it is to you, just move on. But before you do, consider this: even a low-flow toilet uses about three gallons of clean water, an amount that for many of the world’s people is their total allotment for the day for a whole family. Yet in America we foul that amount and flush it without thinking multiple times in one day.

When it comes to drinking water, the whole western culture has been seduced by the lure of the plastic bottle. This comes at a huge expense to the environment. Plastic pollution is a very real problem, but the financial cost is enough to make tap water the better choice. If you are concerned about the quality of your tap water get a filter.

When using water for gardening and landscaping there are many ways to save. If you must have a lawn, make it a small one, surrounded by drought resistant plants and natives. For the food garden get a drip system installed, and consider rain water harvesting. The initial expense will be recovered quickly.

The most important tool at your disposal is knowledge. What is the name of your watershed? Where does your wastewater go once it is down the drain? What is in the water coming out of your tap and where does it come from? What is your personal and household water “footprint”? Frugality is more than just saving money. It is a principle of wasting as little as possible and being a good steward of the Earth’s resources.

Here are some links that may help:

http://environment.nationalgeographic.com/environment/freshwater/water-footprint-calculator/

http://www.h2oconserve.org/home.php?pd=index two water footprint calculators

http://www.wateruseitwisely.com/100-ways-to-conserve/indoor-tips/water-saving-products-indoor.php products to help you save water

http://www.epa.gov/WaterSense/ the US government helps you save water

http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/water/bottled/ important information about bottled vs. tap

http://www.earthcrafthouse.com/documents/factsheets/27_rainwater-recovery-v2.pdf info on rainwater harvesting

http://www.harvesth2o.com/ a little more technical, but if you are serious about this technique it has good info.

http://cfpub.epa.gov/surf/locate/index.cfm find your watershed

http://ga.water.usgs.gov/edu/watershed.html what is a watershed? Find out here.

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