Category Archives: Frugality

My Shiny Old Tea Kettle

Chances are if you’ve been around my blog for any length of time,  you’ve seen this tea kettle.   It is the first thing my husband and I bought together for our kitchen.  I suppose we’ve had it for fourteen years, or so now.   We use it every day.

It had started to get a little dingy over the last few years. It  wasn’t whistling properly any longer and it was taking forever to heat water. One day, back in early November, I noticed that my tea tasted funny that morning and I really inspected the tea kettle.   I realized that a lot of gunk had built up on the bottom while I was ignoring it.   I thought about throwing it away and getting myself one of those fancy electric tea kettles.   I actually had it sitting in the Goodwill pile and had a fancy new kettle in my Amazon cart.

But you know,  I thought about watching it spit and sputter in a vain attempt to whistle and  I felt some compassion for it.  Odd isn’t it,  to feel compassion for something that is failing you?   Having been a broken thing once in my life, I get it.

I looked at it closely and I was pretty sure I could make it work again.   More importantly, I really love my  tea kettle. It has been there for me every groggy morning for a very long time now;  I have  pretty much built my morning routine around the amount of time it takes to whistle.  It has helped me nurse sick little children and make ice tea for special visitors.

The kettle definitely needed some work.  I took a little screwdriver to it and fixed the whistle.  I cleaned it and got some fine steel wool and polished until it was shiny, again.  Every week since then, I’ve been boiling white vinegar in it- cleaning out the gunk that had built up the bottom.

Today, as I was making my morning brew,  I realized that the little kettle is looking pretty shiny and new.   It’s been heating water a lot faster and it tastes better, too.  That’s not to say that there isn’t still some gunk to clean out,  but I love that I was able to make it work again, when others would have given up on it.

Some of my friends accuse me of being afraid of change, or putting too much effort into reclaiming things that are old and broken. I find it ironic, sometimes, that these are the same people who value me for my loyalty.  I am not without common sense, though.  If it quits working again, I will have to replace it.

Today, though,  I am just happy to watch my shiny old  tea kettle whistle.


Managing Food Dollars – Revisited

Buying spices in bulk seems to encourage you to use them more frequently.

Buying spices in bulk seems to encourage you to use them more frequently.

Today,  I will speak of a household topic that I am currently trying to get back under control.   Occupying everyday made for sloppy household management.

Historically, one of the reasons we’ve been able to eat pretty well on one income is because I am pretty darn good at managing household dollars, when I am on my game. I  take the “make-your-own” to a new level of obsession which I am sure can be irritating to some people. I don’t expect everyone to make their own soap. I just like to do it, okay?

Food, on the other hand, is one of those things I don’t feel you can compromise on. It is just too hard to control what is in food prepared in a factory. I blogged about this years ago, but now it seems a reminder might be in order.  So many of the recipes on the other blog are really old and I’ve tweaked them over the years, so I feel like revising everything here. Also, since I feel like we’ve been slipping lately and this will all be a good reminder for me.

Here are a few of my food management guidelines:

1. Make food from scratch. This is the single best thing you can do to make sure there is no crap in your food  and to save yourself money. This does not mean you cannot use mixes and prepared items. It is, however, far more economical and healthier to make them yourself.  You can make your own baking mixes, soup mixes, seasoning packets and many other dry items. You can also make sauces and syrups ahead of time and can them or freeze them. I am sort of a purist about broth. I like to make it fresh and use it quickly, but you can process or freeze a broth for use when you are in a hurry.

f4fc0-z1418213692. Buy food in bulk, but only if you are going to use it. We belong to a UNFI buying club and I buy 25 pound bags of rice, flours, sugar, legumes and other dried goods. I am feeding six people so we are able to run through these items fairly quickly. I love that these staples come in paper bags that can be thrown in the compost, which minimizes waste we send to the recycling center or landfill. We have a pretty good idea of what we use enough of to order in this quantity, but smaller families can always order ten pound bags instead.

1. Plan menus and stick to the menus. We plan two weeks worth of menus at a time and go shopping on payday.  I try to plan around food we have in the pantry or growing in the garden.  Be flexible; switch two meals around if you are busy but use the food you have in the house. Running short on time is a menu killer. When you have time to cook, make large batches of food to freeze some for later.   This way you have to veer from the menu, at least you aren’t running for take-out.

2. Manage your leftovers. We try to never let food go to waste. Steve takes a lot of our leftovers for lunches, but if food doesn’t get eaten the next day, I freeze it. No amount is too small to save. We freeze a lot in individual freezer containers to be heated up for lunches. That seems to solve the problem of people getting bored with leftovers. We can each have something different for lunch as the mood suits us.  If a pot of tea isn’t finished, I dump it into the pitcher of ice tea that I keep in the fridge.

3. Pay attention to how long food has been around. Use stuff up while it is fresh. My kids can 3b0a5-z141821372tell when something has been around for awhile. If a loaf of bread is getting stale, I turn it into  bread pudding or croutons. If those don’t get eaten, I grind them into bread crumbs. If I have an jar of applesauce that has been open for awhile, it is time for a baking day. We use applesauce as a fat substitute in quick breads. Nut butters get baked into recipes if they have been around for awhile.

5. Find copy cat recipes for your favorite prepared foods. I make some very convincing “Starbucks” drinks. Steve has perfected most of our favorite Mexican restaurant foods. In fact, the other day we ate at Carlos O’Kelleys for a going away dinner a friend hosted and I realized I like his version better than theirs now.

6. Eliminate reasons to stop at convenience stores. My husband always takes his lunch. He also took coffee from home before they pitched in for an office coffee maker. I found the cutest design for a tea wallet that I am thinking of making for myself to tuck in my purse. Take kids snacks and water bottles with you when you are out. Try to make it something special though. It is no fun for kids to eat carrot sticks when everyone around them is eating pudding packs and pop tarts.


Window Blankets

Here are a couple of the window blankets that I made for the kids’ rooms.  Aren’t they cute?  I think it would be easy to burn out on living the way we do if I didn’t really enjoy my projects.  Making these was fun though and I am sure we will continue to use them even after our chimney is fixed.   It certainly seems to have cut down on how often our furnace is kicking in.

ETA:   Here is where I found the instructions for making the blankets!  I love the blog at Lehman’s.  I don’t have the fancy ribbons to tie mine up yet because I didn’t have any kicking around and I wasn’t thinking outside the box.   My husband


looked at the picture last night and asked me why I could just make ties out of the leftover fabric from the sheets?  Duh!