My take on articles and ideas presented on Dollar Stretcher.
Probably the single redecorating or home improvement item that makes the biggest impact is paint. A new, bold color or a new, sedate one will make all the difference in the world to your home. Your patio is no exception. Don't live with a drab, boring patio because you can't afford to buy new furniture or redo the floor. Just paint.
Paint anything that's paintable, and that includes some floors, wood, plastic or metal furniture, plant pots and other decorations. Half walls and lattice can be painted, too. Choose your color and get a few paint brushes and some rags and you're on your way to a brand new patio!
Then if you really feel the need to do more, you can still decorate it frugally by finding furniture and other items second hand. A little elbow grease and maybe some paint? It's the frugal way!
Sometimes just a good cleaning spree can do wonders for a patio, too, but patio furniture might be a challenge to clean. If it simply won't clean up... paint it!
No matter where you live, you can grow some of your own food. You may not be able to grow everything you eat, but you can grow some of it and every little bit helps in the food budget, in your health and in plain old enjoyment.
How can I say this without knowing your situation? I can because you can grow something, no matter where you are.
So you live in a apartment with two windows and they're on the north side, where it gets shaded from the building next door? You can still grow spinach, radishes, beets and salad greens in containers inside. The light from the window will be enough, plus some lighting that you already use. Just be sure the plants are close to the lighting in the room. They don't need a lot of light, but they do need some.
Okay. So you live in the desert, where the normal summer temperatures run over a hundred degrees and there is no soil, only sand? Containers to the rescue again. Buy potting soil and some compost or good fertilzer and you're all set. Put the containers on wheels and you can move them in and out as the weather dictates. (No, don't go and buy a fancy dolly to put under them; use a child's wagon or whatever you have handy.)
Container Gardening can make growing food possible no matter where you are.
Do you belong to Pinterest? Pin your favorites from the cleaning section of the TDS library and you could win a $50 Amazon gift certificate.
Details here: http://www.stretcher.com/stories/14/14apr07p.cfm
Those woven Easter baskets are cheap to buy, but the cheapest ones don't last for more than one Easter. A frugal parent knows that you should put away the Easter baskets to be reused, but if they have fallen apart since last year, then what?
Instead of buying yet another cheap basket, or worse, plopping down good money for more quality, why not make your own?
If you do any kind of crafting at all, you can probably find patterns or ideas to make baskets inexpensively, but even if you don't have a craft to fall back on, there are ideas that you can use.
Those large magarine or cottage cheese tubs can be decorated with paint or glued on paper or cloth. You can punch holes in them and run ribbon or lace through them in various patterns or glue more boyish pictures to them.
Sand pails and shovels are still good substitutes, so why not make your own for a little one? Again, take a large plastic food tub and paint or decorate it. Punch two opposing holes near the upper edge an insert a piece of small rope or heavy twine for a handle and knot the ends firmly. For the shovel, use a scoop from the laundry detergent or an unwanted spoon.
If you knit, sew, braid rugs, do plastic canvas needlepoint or weave, it's not too hard to figure out how to make a basket.
Thrift stores have Easter baskets, so if you don't want to make one, you can find one fairly cheap right now. Put in some homemade grass (from your paper shredder) and some homemade goodies. The Easter Bunny will be proud of you.
Easter will soon be upon us, so it's time to plan! There are a lot more inexpensive Easter ideas here:
Frugal Easter Basket Ideas
Spring is finally springing! After a long, cold and snowy winter, most of the nation is beginning to see peeps of spring time here and there. The lawn is looking greener, early flowers are blooming or thinking about it, garden centers are coming alive and we are waking up from our winter hibernation. It's time to get back on track, get some real rest, some good exercise, and lose a few pounds if you need to. No weight loss club bills though, and no special dinners. Forget the saunas and the fancy jogging suits and the membership to the health club.
Getting in shape doesn't have to cost you anything, and that's pretty frugal. Like everything else, getting in shape has become big business. We're sold diet food, vitamin pills, mineral tablets, exercise equipment, exercise clothing, and snake oil. (Well, it's not called snake oil anymore, but it's probably the same stuff.)
You can't buy your way to good health! Good health is an attitude more than anything else, and frugal people already have a running start on that attitude. A few simple rules and you'll see what I mean:
Don't overdo anything, including eating, relaxing and exercise.
Exercise? Yes! Exercise to the point that it stretches your abilities a little, but don't overdo it to the point that you're in pain or exhausted. The reason is that you'll avoid that exercise in the future, or what's even worse, it will hurt you to the point that you can't do it.
Remember how to play.
When was the last time you played ball with the kids? Or ran and jumped to catch a twig from a tree? Or skipped just for the sheer joy of it? Laughing is good medicine, too, so play and have fun! You can do it alone, but if you're afraid of people looking at you as if you're nuts, find a friend who will go to the park to play with you.
You don't need a new treadmill to walk when the whole world is waiting outside, and you don't need a sweatband and a ten dollar water bottle if you never break a sweat or leave your yard. Be realistic in what you actually will need.
Eat good food.
Healthy, sensible foods are usually the cheapest anyway, so why buy special frozen dinners that don't even taste very good for three times the price? Stick with grains and vegetables and fruits and take it easy on the meat and sugary, fat laden snacks and desserts.
Use your brain.
A five pound bag of sugar weighs exactly the same as any five pound weight, and plain old 'goofing around fun' burns calories, relieves stress and lifts your mood. Water is still the best drink and your mother was right when she told you to get enough sleep.
Then take a look at this. We're giving away a Gaiam Balance Ball Chair !
Top 10 Weight Loss and Fitness Myths
The Health-Wealth Connection
When my daughter lived in an apartment, she had a nice balcony where she gardened in containers. Since she loves tomatoes, of course she had to plant a couple. The biggest problem was that her balcony faced due west and here it gets blazing hot in the afternoon on a west facing balcony!
Tomatoes are hot weather plants, but even they don't care for temperatures much above 90. As a matter of fact, they won't set fruit well if the temperature is over 90, so she didn't get the best crop. Still, it was fun for her and it definitely spruced up her balcony!
If you can rig up enough shade, you might do better on a west balcony. Natural shade is best, so placing taller or wider plants so they shade the tomatoes at the hottest time of the day would help keep them cool. In lieu of that, shade cloth rigged to protect them is better than nothing.
You don't want to shade the tomatoes all day, though, so choose a day when you're home all day and watch the slant of the sun to get it just right.
Tomatoes don't like wet feet, so don't overdo the watering, but remember that containers dry out faster than the ground. Containers made of unfinished clay wick away the water much quicker, so you will need to water more often. Test the soil by sticking your finger in it. It should look damp an inch or so down. If it doesn't, it's time to water.
Other containers can be used, of course. Buckets, lined baskets or boxes or whatever you can find. How about an old boot? Or a plastic bottle? Just be sure the containers have drainage. Poke holes an inch or so from the bottom to allow excess water to drain away.
If you want to know more, our readers have some unique and encouraging ideas on how to grow tomatoes in an apartment.
image courtesy morguefile.com
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I used to think of sprouts as "health food." You know, that stuff that nutty people make themselves eat because it's supposed to be healthy whether it tastes good or not.
Not any more; not since I actually tried sprouting for myself. If you've never done it, you might be pleasantly surprised at how easy it is and how good the results taste. You're probably familiar with alfalfa and mung bean sprouts, but such a glorious variety of seeds can be sprouted that those two are poor examples. I don't know why most stores only sell those two, but if you're ready to go beyond the grocery store experience, try something different.
Brassicas, like broccoli, brussels sprouts and cauliflower. Add in kale, mustard and radishes for a tangy treat.
If you want something even different, try buckwheat, chives, clover or fenugreek.
Wheat and other grains like barley and rye.
Lentils, yes, and peas and beans of any kind.
Don't forget the sunflower seed sprouts. Any kind of sunflower sprouts are edible.
Peas, beans, lentils and grains should be cooked once they're sprouted, so they're not good for fresh salads or sandwiches. But almost everything else is.
Why sprout seeds? They're more nutritious than the grown plant because everything is concentrated in them. They're very frugal, especially if you save your own seed. Even if you buy it, you get a lot of bang for your buck. The third reason is that they satisfy the urge to grow something for gardeners, even when it's below zero with a foot of snow on the ground.
You may not like them all, but you will probably discover a new and truly healthy food that you really enjoy.
More about how to do it:
Grow Your Own Edible Sprouts
Here's a great argument for sprouting:
Sprout Seeds for Cheap Nutrition!
And a discussion on personal experiences:
An easy way to trim your grocery bill is to buy less meat. That's a no-brainer, right? But you've got a meat-and-potatoes husband or you love meat yourself? How can you spend less on meat, yet eat enough of it to be satisfied? By using a combination of ways, you can eat your meat and have it, too.... or something like that.
- When you make stew, use barley and/or mushrooms and cut back a third of the meat you usually put in it. You won't miss it.
- Mushrooms will make a casserole seem like it has more meat than it does. Cut back on beef or chicken and add a small can of mushrooms. The only difference will be in your grocery bill.
- Use meat flavored bouillon cubes to bring out the flavor of a reduced amount of meat in stews, soups, casseroles and meatloaves.
- Making chili? A few more beans, a little less ground beef - and add a little cinnamon to it.
- Beans and ham will taste like it has more ham in it if you add a little smoke flavoring.
- Instead of using whole strips of bacon for recipes, cut the bacon strips into narrower pieces.
- Just gotta have a hunk of meat? Buy a cheaper cut for a roast and roast it in a slow cooker or in your oven on low heat. Pour a little vinegar over it, then a cup of strong coffee, then add salt and/or spices. Keep it covered and cook for several hours. It will be tender, moist and very flavorful.
- Opt for dishes that call for little meat, like stirfry, stew and casseroles.
- Even cheap meat like bologna can be camouflaged. Fried bologna aside, try cutting it up for chef salads or adding green olives to it in a sandwich. (That's what "olive loaf" is.)
Of course, the rest of the food wisdom stands, too: Don't waste meat of any kind. Freeze bits and pieces until you have enough to use for a meal. Buy only on sale, then stock up.
Most of us eat too much protein for our good health, so cutting back will benefit you in more ways than one.
Ground beef can be stretched and stretched some more and still be satisfying.
Cheap cuts of meat can be just as good as the more expensive kind but you have to know how to cook it.
And getting cheap meat anywhere seems like it's harder and harder to do!
To eat meat or not to eat meat? You might even want to go a step further!
Walking through the parking lot to the store, I saw a crumpled soft drink can. It was at the far end of a parking space and I wanted to pick it up, but... well, it would be awkward to walk into the space just to pick up the can, then walk all the way back to the car (four or five spaces) to stow it.
So I didn't.
Yes, it was only a can and it was worth about a penny; it was also a tiny bit of a natural resource that is lost every day, but I still kicked myself later (figuratively!) for not taking a few seconds to pick it up.
How often do we do things like that? Maybe not aluminum cans, but maybe buying a mix for cornbread, when cornmeal, milk and baking powder are already on hand, or not bothering to turn off the water when we're brushing our teeth.
Things that seem very small add up quickly. Sometimes the reason they seem very small is that the time it takes to do them is very small. If the aluminum can had taken 10 seconds to pick up, that adds up to about 6 cents a minute, which adds up to $3.60 an hour. That's hardly a living wage, but I wouldn't complain if $3.60 was added to every hour I spend doing anything.
What I'm saying is that it's not like we have to make great or sustained efforts to create these bits and pieces of monetary enrichment, so why not? Why "leave money on the table" when we don't have to?
If you're fixated on aluminum cans now, read How to Pick Up Cans for Fun and Profit. It will encourage you!
Several years ago, I had an onion that was starting to grow. The bulb was getting mushy on the outside and fresh, greenish lances were growing vigorously from the top. The bulb wasn't much good to use as a fresh onion and the tops had a flavor that was too mild for cooking, so I planted it.
It was in the spring and the garden was begging (or maybe it was me begging) for something green. I dug a hole and stuck the onion into it, covering up the bulb about two thirds of the way and then I watered it. The weather was still pretty cool, so I thought the green might be short lived, but within three or four days I noticed the color beginning to deepen. Then the lances grew taller and sturdier.
As time moved from early spring to late spring then into early summer, a woodier stem appeared in the center of the lances and grew straight up, strong and tall. I cut a few of them for salad, but let most of them to grow.
Eventually, a bud head formed and almost immediately, it seemed to burst into a bloom of faintest purple/lavendar delicate flowers. The ball of flowers lasted awhile, then began to fade and dry, leaving a cluster of seed pods that was almost as pretty as the flowers.
So far, so good.
I put a paper sack over the seeds and cut the stem, trying to save all the seed I could. I had free onion seed, if you consider that the original onion was ruined.
That's not the only thing you can do with spoiled or leftover bits and pieces of produce that you might throw away. A celery plant on your windowsill? Why not? Look for celery that has a healthy bottom, hopefully with a small, stray root or two, then cut the stalks off (to eat) about an inch from the bottom. Keep the root end in water and it will grow new stalks up from the center.
Those are only two ways to grow food from food garbage, but you can grow interesting plants just to look at, too! Susan Gately explains how in this article: Houseplants from Garbage
And if you don't want to plant them? Dont throw them out. Much of what we call "garbage" is good food.
If growing your own seed intrigues you, make sure you have heirloom vegetables and grow your own every year.
Image is mine, of a celery plant I grew from a root.
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