Saturday, June 18, 2011

Weekly groceries-06/18/2011

A good week, only $38.95. For the most part, we're pretty well stocked up, so this is a "payoff" week. 

Of this total, $6.97 was for dairy, a whopping $21.58 for produce, $6.47 for bread and grains, $1.43 for eggs (no other meat), and $2.50 for odds and ends.

As I said, we're stocked up right now on almost everything, particularly frozen meat. We're taking advantage of the good prices to indulge in a lot of fresh produce. I also bought a few canned vegetables that were on sale for my storage foods, the one thing I'm a little short on. And a 10 pound bag of white rice. We didn't strictly need the rice yet, but it was on sale at $.45 a pound, and we're going through it pretty quickly now with the rice steamer.

Our best "buy" was probably 2 quarts of strawberries for $1.88 a quart. Our worst buy was probably the eggs, at $1.43 for a dozen.

By the time this posts tonight, I should have shredded zucchini and carrots and chopped up the green bell pepper and some spinach, and packaged them for stir fries. I also got a pint of pre-chopped fresh onions on sale ($.79) to use for those as well. Sadly, asparagus and ripe peppers were expensive this week. I also plan to wash and cap the strawberries and wash and cut up a couple of cucumbers and some of the carrots to make snack sticks for work day lunches. The berries won't stay on sale much longer, but some other fruits and vegetables should start dropping soon. I can't wait for fresh tomatoes and cucumber for salads and riatas...

Friday, June 17, 2011

Reducing consumption 3

Continued from yesterday...

  • Only water lawns as really necessary
  • Consider replace a grass lawn with appropriate low-maintenance-and-low-water-use landscaping (well done, this also looks a lot more attractive than a grass lawn)
  • Water efficiently
  • Take showers instead of baths
  • Take short showers (I'm guilty of losing myself in the shower)
  • With caution, consider a space heater in one or two key rooms and turn down the thermostat for the rest of the house
  • Don't drink a glass of water and put the glass into the dirty dishes. Use a single glass for the day
  • Don't spend money on bottled water. The dirty secret of that industry is that it's not only LESS regulated than the water from the tap, it often IS water from public sources. Buy a filter system if you don't trust your local water system
  • If you have house plants, wash vegetables and drain rinse water from rice and beans and cooking water from pasta into a dishpan, then use that water to water the house plants. You get a second use from the water, and the plants can often make use of the nutrients in the water   
There are lots of other ideas, of course, these are just the ones I could come up with in a single, quick brainstorming session. My last post on this particular topic will be in two or three days...

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Reducing consumption 2

Continued from yesterday...

  • Turn off TVs, stereos, computers, etc. when not in use.
  • Consider putting all the electronics in the entertainment center in a single accessible strip with a power switch, and turn it off when you leave the house or go to bed. This unfortunately resets digital clocks, but saves the trickle use of power to all these items.
  • Do the same with small appliances in the kitchen and with computer workstations.
  • Turn off your computer monitor if you're stepping away for more than a minute or two. They warm back up very quickly, and monitors are not only a big energy drain, they generate heat.
  • Turn off the computer or put to sleep if you're leaving it for more than 5 minutes.
  • Don't let water run unnecessarily
  • Use a clothes line, if practical, at least for some things (sheets that air dry smell great)
  • Keep the freezer close to full.
  • Use the oven efficiently by fixing several items in it at once, especially during the summer, and limit or avoid using it during really hot weather.
  • Make efficient use of an electric stove's burners. Keep in mind that the burners take time to warm up AND cool down. This means, for some items, you can turn the burner off before the food is entirely done, and it will keep cooking for a minute or two longer. 
  • Another way I take advantage of this is using the same burner in succession. I heat the water for my coffee in the morning while I prep whatever I'm going to cook. When the water boils, I have the fry pan or sauce pan ready to go on the same burner. Since the burner is already hot, the pan is ready to cook as quickly as on a gas stove.
Continued tomorrow...

    Reducing consumption 1

    One way to cut on your bills is to reduce consumption. Start by looking at utilities. As with anything else, small changes can add up to more than you might think. Most of these are commonly known, but listing them together can help think of new things.
      • Turn off lights when you aren't in the room
      • Replace incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescents wherever possible
      • Turn the thermostat for the AC up a couple of degrees or the heat down a couple of degrees when you're going to be out of the house for more than a couple of hours. I'm not always good about this with the AC because our unit can struggle to bring the temperature back down
      • Turn the thermostat up or down more when going out of town for a day or two
      • Take advantage of natural light in rooms. 
      • Mirrors can reflect light and make a dark room brighter (any other fans of the Mummy movies?)
      • Reduce the cost of outdoor lighting by installing solar path lights
      • Put heavy drapes on windows to keep heat in or out (depending on the climate and time of year)
      • If you can't afford to replace weather stripping, make draught extruders (basically a tube filled with some insulating material that you put against the bottom of the door).
      • Change the air filter on central heating and cooling units
      • Clean the outside unit for central heating and cooling units, especially after mowing
    Continued tomorrow...

    Wednesday, June 15, 2011

    Make it last 2

    Routine household maintenance has stayed the same in some things, but there are some new things to try to remember that can save you money on repairs or early replacements. One of the biggest is to clean a computer regularly, at least once or twice a year. The frequency probably depends on the amount of dust, pet hair, and smoke in your home. If you dust regularly, but knock it down onto the computer or stir it up into the air, you probably need to clean the computer more regularly too.

    Keep in mind, I'm not a computer expert. On the other hand, I do speak English most of the time when talking about computers. So, why clean the dust out of the computer? It can cause overheating, particularly if it clogs up a cooling fan, slowing it down. That can cause the computer to run more slowly or parts to burn out entirely, which can be a very expensive repair if the motherboard goes.

    You need a can of compressed air and a screwdriver. Turn off the computer and unplug it. I'd recommend giving it a few minutes to cool off first, and some people do this outside so they don't spray dust all over the place. Remove the cover (that's why you need a screwdriver). Use short bursts to blow the dust out. Most computer cases have a grill at the back, so that can be a good direction to aim so the dust leaves the computer.

    If your computer was particularly dusty or had a lot of pet hair in it, you probably want to plan to dust more often. Me, I aim for at least once every 3 months.

    Tuesday, June 14, 2011

    Convenient and cheap

    My oldest daughter uses an approach I like to make sure their work night meals are cheap but easy and nutritious. On their weekend, she chops up whatever fresh vegetables and meat they buy on sale for stir fries and packages them up (meat and vegetables separately) in single meal proportions. Any that won't be used in the next couple of days get frozen. 

    When they're ready for supper, she puts the rice to cook, turns on the burner and puts oil in the wok, getting out her bags of meat and vegetables (left to thaw in the refrigerator if they were frozen) while the wok heats. As soon as it's ready, she adds the meat to the oil. When the meat is about half cooked (which doesn't take long in a wok), she adds the bag of vegetables, then whatever sauce or seasonings they're adding. With a little practice, you can probably time the stir fry and rice to be done at almost exactly the same time.

    They often work overtime, plus weird hours, and this quick approach helps them resist going out for more expensive and much less healthy fast food. I plan to try this myself for next week...I hope asparagus and peppers are on sale. 

    Monday, June 13, 2011

    Frugality-make it last

    One area of frugality that people often don't "get" is maintenance---make it last. And I find that men and women often have a great deal of trouble communicating about.

    Men often don't get ordinary household cleaning as "maintenance," though a large minority do understand it. I find this a little amusing because the same man often is meticulous about his car---washing it, waxing it, detailing it, taking it in for every possible bit of preventive maintenance. And he'll tell you that this work makes the car last and retain its value better, which is true, though it's just as much about pride in owning the car as anything else. If you have a partner who's like this about his car but sees vaccuming, picking up, washing windows, etc. in the house as "fussing", use the car analogy to help him see that it's the same thing. If you vaccuum carpet regularly, it'll look nice and last longer before you have to replace it (not to mention avoiding health problems). That'll save you money. And so on.

    And for women, even though a car is less durable, think of regular maintenance and cleaning of a car in the same way you would view housecleaning (for male readers, use the house analogy to get a women who doesn't "get" maintenance on a car). If you change the oil regularly and have tune ups and other preventative maintenance done, the car will last longer. You'll also feel more pride in it.

    I admit, I'm kind of middle of the road. I like my home clean, but I don't try for spotless. I take care of preventive maintenance on my car and keep it reasonably clean, but I don't worry about a weekly car wash and waxing either. Partly, this is making people in my life more important than things. I try to make my things last, but as an elderly friend told me when my children were very small "the dust will be there when the kids are grown."