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/

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

A Wealth of Summer Produce

Ripening Blackberries

 

Here in the USA we have a true bounty of summer produce that makes eating frugally simple and fun. Despite the harsh weather conditions in many regions the summer culinary adventure continues. Whether you are shopping at a supermarket, a farmer’s market, or growing it yourself there are more choices than you could possibly use.

Where I live and in many other places as well, three of the most beloved items on the summer menu are squash, tomatoes, and blackberries. Tomatoes are very versatile, and you could just eat them plain with a little salt, or have a tomato sandwich.  Or, you could go all out and make homemade catsup.

When it comes to squash (most notably zucchini) the crop may be so good you can’t give it away. Try to get your squash on the small and tender side. Simple steaming with a little butter and salt is a great way to enjoy this summer treat. But-if a zucchini “gets away from you” by hiding under the leaves, you will need to find a recipe to deal with the tougher flesh.  As for blackberries, you should be able to find a patch and get more than you need right of the bush.

Here are three recipes to deal with the overflow:

Zucchini Bread

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

2 eggs

1/2 cup neutral oil

1 cup white sugar or date sugar (or any other granulated sweetener)

1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup grated zucchini

2/3 cup chopped walnuts

Directions: Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Put pastry paper in an 8×4 pan.

Mix flour, salt, baking powder, and soda together in a small bowl.

Beat eggs, oil, vanilla, and sugar together in a larger bowl. Add dry ingredients to the wet mixture, and beat well. Stir in zucchini and nuts until well combined. Pour batter into prepared pans.

Bake for 40 to 60 minutes, or until tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan on rack for 20 minutes. Remove the bread from pan, and completely cool before cutting. Recipe may be doubled.

A Blackberry Crisp:

Take a quart of blackberries and put them in a 9X13 pan. Dust with one third cup sugar combined with two tablespoons cornstarch, arrowroot powder, or tapioca powder. Put in a 400 degree oven and bake about fifteen minutes, till bubbling slightly. In the meantime, mix 1 cup rolled oats, one cup flour, three quarters of a cup sugar, one cup walnuts cut into small pieces, and one stick butter (one half cup), cut into small pieces. Take out the fruit and cool it slightly, then spread the oat mixture on top. Put it back in the oven and bake for about twenty minutes, until the top is golden brown and the fruit is bubbling. Cool a bit and serve with vanilla ice-cream if you have it.

Frugal Gardening—Seed Saving Saves Money and is Good for the Planet

Seeds from this Year's Harvest

Now that spring is officially here it is time to really get moving on those gardening projects. As every frugalista knows, gardening combined with cooking at home is the most frugal, healthiest and most fun way to deal with the problem of feeding ourselves and our families. So, how do you do it? Unfortunately, as a culture we have lost many of the basic living skills that our ancestors took for granted. This is a huge loss, but there is a great movement to regain that lost knowledge.

The basic method of growing plant starts from a package of seeds is to put them in small biodegradable pots indoors on a sunny table. The little plants are very delicate at first and need to be protected from too much wind or sun. They generally need to be kept wet. But, if you are buying packets, there are directions. Just follow them carefully. If this is the first time you’ve tried this that may be the way to go. But—if you want to support the seed saving movement you need to find a seed bank unless you have friends that are seed savers already. A seed bank is a repository of seeds that other gardeners have contributed. You can make a withdraawel and plant the seeds that you receive.

There are is a large seed bank in the mid-west, and many regions now have small local banks. To find a local organization, try doing an online search for seed bank followed by the name of your region. Most seed saving groups have regular meetings and very helpful members.

When you graduate to actually saving seed it gets trickier. The best thing is to contact your local seed bank and get advice from them. If you have received seed from a seed-bank, it is also good to offer some seed back. The seed saving movement is a great example of the gif economy at work. It is very interactive—with the natural elements, with the plants and the soil, and with the people in the seed saving community.

If you want to give it a try, check out these links:

http://www.seedsavers.org/ go here first

http://www.seedsave.org/

http://www.vegetablegardener.com/item/10380/seed-banks-and-seed-lending-libraries

 

Tired of Your Wardrobe? Why Not Hold a Clothing Exchange!

At the time of this writing there are millions of people in America that are forcibly frugal. The forcibly frugal often have no budget for clothes at all, but sometimes they still need to fill a gap in their wardrobes. Luckily there is a solution. Get together as many people as you can and hold a clothing exchange.

A clothing exchange is part of the gift economy. It starts when a person with some organizational skills decides to do it. They must call at several members of their extended community and get them to involve themselves. Someone should arrange a space to hold the exchange. It can be a private home, or a public building. Sometimes a congregation will allow a clothing exchange to be held in their church. Use your imagination. Just make sure it is big enough. And it is nice if there is space to change and a mirror, but that can be worked around.

If any of the organizers have clothing racks or other retail display equipment they should bring it. If not, try to get your hands on some as soon as possible if you intend to do this regularly. The more people that attend, the more successful the exchange will be. Try to invite people of many different sizes and shapes. That way no one will feel left out and the choices will be more interesting.

The rules are simple. Bring what you no longer want or need. Take what you do. If someone touches an item it is theirs till they relinquish it. Very simple. Don’t worry if you only have a small contribution. This is not barter. When the exchange is over the remains go to the goodwill. Of course sometimes, if another exchange is coming up and there is a storage space available, the clothes are kept to seed the next exchange.

There is no rule that the exchange must be limited to clothing. How about house wares, or books? Though many exchanges focus on women’s clothing, there are more co-ed exchanges happening every day, and more exchanges that feature other items as well as clothes.

It may not be Macy’s, but clothing exchanges are FUN. They are also much more community oriented then another alienating trip to the mall. You can find some wonderful things at an exchange. I once was at an exchange where a woman was looking for a suit for a job interview. This size two woman found a conservatively cut name brand blue suit that fit her perfectly. That has the mall beat in my book.

Here are some other takes on the exchange process. No doubt your community will form its own traditions.

http://www.ehow.com/how_4551469_host-clothing-exchange-party.html

http://www.suite101.com/content/how-to-host-a-clothing-exchange-party-a235869

http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/2073707/throwing_a_clothing_exchange_party.html

 

The Gardener in Winter

Not as Barren as it Looks

This is the first time The Frugal Goddess has discussed gardening. It may seem odd to bring it up in the dead of winter, at least in the northern hemisphere. But, as any good gardener knows, there is much activity beneath the barren surface. Now is the time to plan, and having planned, to prepare. Are there fences or gopher control systems that need repairing? Soil that needs attention? Is the potting shed in good order? And, most importantly, have the seed catalogs come in?

Sitting by a fire on a cold winter evening with a nice cup of tea (or glass of Zinfandel) and a pile of seed catalogs is a great pleasure. That is one of the wonders of gardening. Each year we can invent ourselves anew. But let us not stop with catalogs. In many places there are seed banks that rely on community participation. In this tough economy we rely more upon our neighbors, and seed sharing is a terrific way to be neighborly. But it goes even deeper than that. By sharing seeds you are part of a long lineage of people who have carefully preserved the food-wealth of our species. This is perhaps the greatest wealth we have. So, as you plan this year’s garden, take a minute and imagine all the tillers of soil that have gone before you down the long years of our history. And may your garden grow in great abundance.

 

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