December 2009 - Posts - Surviving on Shoestrings by Donna Miller
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Surviving on Shoestrings by Donna Miller

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December 2009 - Posts

  • Money Saving Kitchen Quirks...I mean...Tips

    There are times that my brain just really thinks so far out of the 'box' that I am in my own world and think its normal. Yet inevitably some one sees me do something that I think everyone does and they say, "I have never thought of that!" It's those 'light-bulb' moments (for me and for them) that make me think it would be good to share some of my 'odd quirks' with others who may also find it interesting.

    So, here are just some (of the non-food) things that I do in my kitchen to save money:

    Dishwasher Detergent Deception: Did you know those little dispenser cups do not have to be filled completely to get a clean load of dishes? Play with a tablespoon at a time and try it that way to see if the dishes come just as clean. Try a tablespoon of detergent and a tablespoon of baking soda. This is what works for me.

    Pew! The Garbage Disposal!: No need to spend money on those little yellow 'balls' to plunk in the disposal. When we eat citrus fruits (grapefruits, oranges, lemons) we save the peels and quarters of anything not eaten (like when you juice an orange) and cut them into about 2 inch squares. Then freeze them storing them in a baggie in the freezer. Use one to freshen the disposal and sharpen the blades every so often.

    Foiled Again: Aluminum foil is easily washed and folded for storage if not used on raw meat.

    Freezer Bag Free-cycle: Okay originally I just did this with the gallon size then had an epiphany of my own. If we buy the pint and quart size freezer bags, we can wash them too! This is making the best use of a sandwich size (pint) freezer bag and using it over and over and over again for lunches. Turn the bags wrong side out and wash in soapy water, rinse and hand or stand to dry.

    Paper or Plastic? Neither - Cloth! We have switched to cloth napkins and towels exclusively. I found that the cost of two sets of daily cloth napkins is about the same as two packs of 500 napkins. But I don't have to re-buy them each month like we did the paper napkins. The same goes for a pack of good cloth dish towels vs. paper towels. These take up minimal space in the laundry that is already being washed.

    This also goes for taking the cloth tote to the grocer and using it instead of store bags whenever possible!

    Plastic Store Bag Detox: Inevitably, plastic store bags make their way into the home. We try not to toss them, but either take them back to be recycled or re-use them ourselves to save money. Here are some ways we re-use store bags - bathroom trash can liners, cat box liners, between two pairs of socks when the ground is still wet for chores (or playing in the snow), catching fruit flies, car trash 'can' and many more options to avoid throwing them away unused or spending money on items we could use these freebies for.

    I hope you enjoy and use some of these tips. For me, they are but a few of the many habits that have become little quirks that I don't even think about, but just do them as part of a regular frugal kitchen operation. For more ideas, including food ideas – you can come SEE what I do at

    Best Blessings!

    Donna Miller

    Donna Miller is an author, teacher and entrepreneur. Her favorite roles are that of wife and mother to three home-school graduates. Living with a Homesteading Mindset in the country, the city and suburbs has been an adventure! The Millers own and operate Millers Grain House which offers Organic and Chemical-free Whole Grains, Bosch Mixers, the NutriMill, instructional tutorials, recipes and more.

  • Tips to keeping warm while saving cold, hard cash.

    The change of seasons is something I missed out on growing up in Florida. The bright colors of spring and fall, the winter grays and snowy white are all the changes I look forward to each year, now. Admittedly I love summer. It's the Floridian in me, I suppose, but fall and spring run a close second if only because they don't last as long as the summers here.

    Winter has a life and lifestyle all its own for me. Keeping warm is a vital key to my winter enjoyment. I love the snow and even the gray days once in a while, just please let me be able to GET warm when - Baby, it's cold outside!

    Over the years of being on a shoe-string budget, I have come up with a way of keeping warm while saving our cold hard cash.  Here are a few tips that cost very little and even save money over more conventional methods.

    Around the house:

    Insulate even if it's cheap insulation. I don't mean going into the attic and doing that kind, but windows, vents, underneath doors can all be sealed with very little expense. A roll of shiny metallic insulation can be purchased at a home improvement store and will cut to cover every vent (even the one in the hood of the stovetop) to keep drafts out.  An old stained towel can be stuffed with dryer sheets and sewn into a tube to block draft from under the doors.

    Use the fireplace if you have it. Keeping a fire, small or large, going keeps the home toasty with little expense to the utility bill. If you are blessed to have a wood stove, use it as well.

    Open those drapes on sunny days and close them at night. This might seem odd but it really will warm up your house if you open the drapes WIDE open when the sun is shining.  This way they can be pulled open far away to expose the most window pane for maximum sunlight. It also makes it appear you have those nice expensive, large picture windows! Also if you have thick drapes or shades, pull them closed at night to keep draft and cooler glass behind them.  One trick is to hang your drapes further out than your window.

    In and around the kitchen:

    Do canning in the winter. We harvest our grapes and some other fruits in the summer and immediately put them in the freezer for winter canning. There is no need to heat up our kitchen in the hot summer when we can use this heat in the winter. Plus it's a great project for when it's too cold to get into the garden. The smells bring spring and harvest to mind and help the gray days pass faster.

    Use a dehydrator to heat.  If you don't have the money to invest in a top of the line dehydrator , then look into getting a budget one and using it for double duty. I have one in my office with sliced apples (that were about to go bad) right at this very moment as I type. It is keeping my feet nice and toasty while the rest of the house is about 60 degrees.

    Soups, hot cocoa and fresh baked bread are staples.  Soups are easy to make and filling, plus the crock pot radiates a bit of heat all day in the kitchen. Dessert is usually home-made hot cocoa because it's cheap, healthy and warm. Freshly baked bread is, well, my year-round mainstay, but it takes on a double duty in the winter by warming the home.

    Personal space and body:

    Keep moving to keep warm. Not being much of a 'sit-still' kind of gal, I like to keep at least my hands moving. I find that this keeps me warmer than reading or watching television. So even if I watch a show, I tend to stand and do a task that keeps me mobile. Some choices are: folding clothes, ironing (heat from that), sorting socks (I hate that), sorting through mail or paper clutter and others that I choose to leave the room during commercials to keep moving, warm and accomplished.

    Sitting down means cover up. On the occasions that sitting still is a 'must', I like to toss an afghan over myself. It seems that the cold can settle on top of a person when we sit still for too long. We keep a big covered basket of afghans in the den, one afghan for each of us and spares for company.

    Socks are your friend. I'm a barefoot hippy at heart, but socks in the winter are becoming my new best friends! Moisturizing feet just before putting them on also helps with the winter foot freeze and dryness. My girls got me some super fuzzy socks in bright colors to wear in the winter. They are fun, cheap and keep my feet warm on the tile floors.


    There are more tips to this trick of keeping warm that shouldn't have us shelling out our cold hard cash on the heat bill. Please share your budget friendly tricks and let's help warm each other's hearts and homes!

    Best Blessings!

    Donna Miller

    Donna Miller is an author, teacher and entrepreneur. Her favorite roles are that of wife and mother to three home-school graduates. Living with a Homesteading Mindset in the country, the city and suburbs has been an adventure! The Millers own and operate Millers Grain House which offers Organic and Chemical-free Whole Grains, Bosch Mixers, the NutriMill, instructional tutorials, recipes and more.

    Go here to get her FREE RECIPES each month.



  • Comical Conundrum Quotes

    I thought I'd take a look at the comedy behind some of the most puzzling things I have either heard (or said) in terms of how money is spent and resources are used around the house. They make sense when they come forth from the mouth, you just know they do - but upon further examination, uhm, not so much.

    These quotes are simply conundrums that make you pause and say: "Hmmmmm, wait? what? Is that supposed to be smart?"

    1. "Let's eat all the junk food out of the house tonight and start the diet tomorrow."  So...somehow...putting it all into my body NOW versus over a longer period of time is less wasteful and will magically not appear on my waist?
    2. "The gas station across town is cheaper so we'll take the long way home." Huh?
    3. "We can eat cheaper by eating out." Sorry, but by the time the tip, and gas are spent, or no left-over ingredients are available to use in another meal, I'd have to disagree.
    4. "If I buy the whole package, I get the free gift. It's a bonus!" But, what if all I needed was one item of what's in that whole package?
    5. "I don't have money to buy a scale, so I just get larger pants."  Okay, this one doesn't really need explaining, it really does make me scratch my head though.

    The fact that these statements exist is actually comical to me.  At first, they may seem like wisdom or an 'ah-ha' moment, but really they are just funny when you think over them a few more times.

    There are more, I know, because I've personally SAID more of them and then caught myself sounding philosophically stupid!

    Care to share any of your own 'pearls of wisdom' with the readers?

    Best Blessings!


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