Reduce-Reuse-Recycle: The Art of Repurposing

Today’s post is on the second item in the Holy Grail of sustainability—reusing. For many Americans the default action for fulfilling needs has been “buy it new”. For some, it has been look for it used, which is an improvement. But—it may be unnecessary to buy anything at all. Why not look around at what you already have and repurpose something?

In the home it may be using empty jars for food storage, a rock as a doorstop, or a wheelbarrow as a planter.

In clothing it could be cutting a dress in half and making a skirt, or using a big scarf as a beach cover-up. There are things all around us everyday that could be used for something else if the need arises. All it takes is some ingenuity and a desire to live frugal and green. What have you repurposed? How did you get the idea? Share your stories here!

As inspiration I suggest the following links:



A First-timer’s Garden—Post 2: Everything Growing but I am Not Done Planting Yet

The First Squash Blossom of Summer

This seems so simple. It makes me wonder why I didn’t do it much sooner. It also makes me worry if I am doing something wrong. Are the plants too close together? Will the tall beans block the sun for the shorter melons and cucumbers?

I thought I got at least one zucchini from the plant sale but both of the squash from there are just marked “summer squash”. Then I tried to get someone else to get me a zucchini when they were at the nursery and they came back with YELLOW zucchini. Of course we planted it, but I still want a GREEN one. We are going to be in trouble this August, I can tell. I have known folks who have grown more than one zucchini. They haunt their friends with giant “gifts”, in the end resorting to dropping them on doorsteps after dark and then running…

We started with three barrels and a box, plus a yard and a half of dirt. We are up to ten barrels and counting, plus about four yards of dirt. And I am not done yet. I still need some kitchen herbs, and maybe some other stuff. Does gardening qualify as a process addiction like gambling or computer solitaire? We shall see.

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:

Gray and Gorgeous—Frugal and Green Hair Care for Boomers


Gray Hair is Fabulous!

Gray hair has always gotten a bad rap. Women especially are led to believe that they need to spend a good deal of time and money covering it up. I know I did, until I went out to check out a band one night at a local club and met an absolutely stunning fifty something woman with an amazing gray mane. I asked her about it and she said she stopped coloring five years ago and never looked back. This made me envious, and got me thinking. A quick trip to ask mr. google told me that gray is the new black—for hair. The great fashion capitals of the world are seeing a huge spike in women going natural. And they ROCK!!

Besides being more natural and probably healthier, going gray is certainly the frugal choice. Colored hair needs to be retouched every six weeks or so, and each visit may run up to a hundred dollars or more. The only reason for this expense is misplaced aesthetics.

I have started down the path and am thrilled with the results. If you would like to do the same follow these steps:

  • Assess they hair you have. What percentage is gray? How much is showing? Is the shade to your liking? All gray hair is not the same color. It comes in many shades of silver, pewter, and steel. If you still have plenty of your original color you will be “salt and pepper” at least for awhile. If you have very short hair it will be pretty easy to make the switch. Just go a little shorter and keep trimming often. But if you just colored and you have long hair you want to keep, you need an exit strategy.
  • Consult your hairdresser if you need an interim strategy. She might have some suggestions to ease the transition. Maybe lowlights for blending. This sort of things needs the attention of a professional.
  • Take very good care of your beautiful, frugal, natural hair. Gray hair tends to be drier and may have a different texture from your “first” hair. Without proper care it can be dull. Look for products specially formulated to keep your gray hair soft and shiny. A clarifying shampoo and deep conditioner should do the trick.
  • Re-think your hairstyle. Gray hair looks best when combined with a meticulous style. You may want to go for something shorter and edgier. If you want to keep it long get a real style, not back in a bun.

Follow these steps and you to will soon be one of the most stylish women on the block. Be authentic and go gray today! And to inspire you, a link to some truly fabulous gray haired ladies:

And another helpful link:


How to Ride the Bus–A Public Transportation Primer

Union Station, Chicago

Using public transportation sounds easy enough—after all, how hard can it be to ride a bus? But this assumption of ease just doesn’t play out in the real world in many places. These systems were generally not designed all at once as a cohesive system, but in most cases have been patched together in an attempt to keep up with the eternal sprawl of cities as they grow. And this leaves some of the places that need public transportation the most, such as rural areas and large suburbs, entirely car dependent. Yet, leaving aside the environmental aspect and just looking at the economic side, it still makes sense to take public transportation when you can. On a recent visit to LA I found that it would cost twenty dollars to take a cab to my hostel, but the bus took only forty minutes and cost a dollar. I only had to ask six people to find the stop the first time…

So how do you cut through the complexity of the system and get where you need to go? In the area where I live, north of San Francisco, public transportation is a mess. There was once a great passenger train system here, but the tracks were partially torn out years ago at the height of our unrequited love affair with the automobile. There is a good bus line running in and out of San Francisco but politics keeps this company from operating efficiently in my county. There is a county system that will get a person to any town in the county—eventually…

Then there is the bus system in the county’s biggest city, Santa Rosa. This may be the most workable of the three systems, though it misses some areas completely.  Where I live, supposedly in Santa Rosa, I must walk for an hour to nearby Sebastopol to catch a county bus. I keep three bus websites on my desk-top. None of the schedules sync with the others and it takes up to three hours to get where a car could go in 20 minutes. All of these buses except the San Francisco bus stop running at around 7 or 8 PM, making it impossible to go out at night without a ride home.

I am pretty sure the scenario I just described it at the extreme when it comes to dysfunctional public transportation systems. This does not make other systems, even the best ones in the country, any less daunting Riding a bus is not rocket science, but it has been made as complicated as programming your own remote. Anyone who finds themselves in Manhattan for the first time can attest to that. So—if you are in an unfamiliar city and want to learn to get around fast, what can you do? I suggest going to a phone book and looking under the transportation authority of the city you are in. Or better yet go online. There may be more than one authority if it is a big area. Detroit has two systems. LA has at least two. But all of them have a number that you can call for information, and many have online schedules and fare charts.

It may take some time to get a live person on the phone. When you do get someone, ask about the best way to get where you want to go. Confirm the fare, the boarding location, and even the schedule if it is not clear that your route is well serviced. Ask about discount passes, even if you are just visiting. But don’t stop there. Get your questions answered even if you think they are dumb. You are a paying customer and you are not the one who made this so complicated.

Another trick is to type in the address of where you want to get to and pull up the Google map. Click on “get directions” and then click on the bus icon. Make sure the origin and destination addresses are correct and hit search. It should give you the bus stop locations, times, transfer points, and route numbers of the bus or busses you need to take.

Once you know how to get where you want to go remember to dress in layers, carry a book and some snacks, and hit the bathroom before you head out. Once you get the hang of it you will come to enjoy the reading instead of driving and the freedom of not being chained to a car and having to park it. Happy Trails!

Here are some links to transportation information for some major cities:   New York City  Chicago San Francisco Boston Seattle Los Angeles Minneapolis New Orleans Atlanta Detroit Denver Las Vegas Phoenix St. Louis

If your city is not on the list just Google it!

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