My take on articles and ideas presented on Dollar Stretcher.
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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.
One of the ongoing expenses our "modern conveniences" bring us is fabric softener. We think that we can't dry a load of laundry in a dryer without softener.
A dryer softens clothes very well all on its own. It beats them nearly to death, as a matter of fact. It breaks fibers and pummels the fabric into being soft. So why do we need fabric softener?
We don't. We need antistatic products. That's what "fabric softeners" do, besides coat your clothing and household linens and make them less absorbent. Oh, and it coats the dryer vent, too, so you should scrub it with soap and water now and then.
Ok, on to the frugal part. Find a piece of aluminum foil that's been used and washed. Crumple it and roll it into a ball and the next time you dry clothes in the dryer, toss the aluminum ball in with them instead of fabric softener.
I promise, your clothes will not have static electricity. No more socks lost in trousers or sweaters that grab you when you open the dryer door.
The aluminum foil ball will last through several dryer loads. Get a new one when you notice a little static.
More tips and tricks on saving money on laundry:
Softening Your Clothes
Spending Less on Laundry
We all get tired of things at times. By "things" I mean the way we live, the clothes we wear, our jobs, our neighbors, our problems. We get tired of trying to save money, too. Even if we do all the right things and have a great attitude, we just plain get tired of always having to think about how much something costs, or finding ways around expenses. It's life; it's being human.
When being frugal starts to get to you, try this. Take at least a day (maybe a weekend) and keep your mind occupied on something else. Do things that don't cost a lot of money but still give you a break from the daily grind.
Get up early enough to watch the sun rise.
Take a walk before breakfast.
Wear something nice that you don't wear often just because it's nice.
Count your blessings from A to Z or see how long a list you can make of them.
Sit down, put your feet up and daydream intentionally. That is, think about your goals and imagine yourself grasping them and how awesome it will be. Don't think about getting there, think about being there.
Take a long bath, of course, with candles if that's what you like.
You'll probably have other ideas that will give you a change of pace. At least sometimes, when we think we're tired of trying this or that, we're really just tired. We want a break, a vacation, a time to not worry.
That kind of break doesn't have to cost a penny, but if your idea does cost a little, will it cost you your goal? Will it ruin your retirement? Will it mean your child can't go to college? Or that you will never get the couch recovered?
More about the subject here: Frugal Fatigue
Image courtesy moguefile.com
Most of you probably buy cleaning supplies where you buy your groceries, and sometimes even lump them with the grocery money. When you do this, it's hard to tell if or when your spending is too much.
If you want to be convinced that you are, take a few grocery receipts and separate the cleaning items from the food. Add the totals for three or four full grocery bills (no fair adding in the quick stop for ice cream and cake!)
If you buy everything at the grocery store, the chances are you're spending twenty to as much as fifty percent on nonfood items, most of which goes to clean your home.
There are special tub cleaners and 'mop and wax' solutions for your floor. And soaps for dishes and special spray cleaners for appliances. And something to clean the iron and something to clean the sink and something to clean the woodwork and something... and something.
What is that elusive something they keep trying to sell, anyway? It's clean. That's what they're all promising. Shiny, fresh smelling, clean, clean, clean... and you're the one paying for it.
Clean doesn't have to be so expensive and, believe me, your home can look and smell fresh and... well, clean without twenty bottles of specialized chemicals.
Natural, Non-Hazardous Cleaning
I love this. Maybe I'm just old fashioned (you think??), but cooking the "real" way, sans microwaves and instant mixes seems to have a soul that just can't be found any other way.
I do use the microwave. As a matter of fact, I use it often, because it saves time and it saves energy, used the right way. I'm just one person, though, so "baking" one potato in the microwave is more efficient than using any oven, unless the oven is in a woodburning stove.
But... when I want something to feed my soul as well as something to fill my belly, I cook on the stove, the "old fashioned" way. It makes sense and it takes less effort and it seems that it takes less of my time to do it that way.
This article says it better than I can:
Meals in 30 Minutes or Less
She means easy meals, and good meals.
Experts all have their ideas of how much money you should be saving (or have already saved) and how to handle it to get the most out of it, but one thing that isn't usually covered completely is how to control your expenses after retirement.
There is one thing that can make a world of difference in whether you retire comfortably or not, no matter how much you have in a retirement fund and that's debt.
If you go into retirement with credit card debt, owing on your car and carrying a mortgage, you will need a lot more than if you own your home outright, have your car paid off and refuse to carry a balance on a credit card.
It's that simple. Don't think that other expenses will stop because you're retired. You will still have to replace the refrigerator and buy new tires and shop for clothes. It will be much harder to do those things if you're making debt payments.
Clear the deck. Pay off everything before you retire and start with a clean slate. If you're years from retirement, start now. Make living debt free a habit and it will serve you well.
Rolling with retirement punches
Our Failing Retirement System
"Retirement" on Dollar Stretcher
"Debt" on Dollar Stretcher
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