saving money & time
17 January 2014, by gj
It is wonderful every year to get things just a little more organized and free up some wasted time that is better spent gardening.
Here are a few ideas we have found to help:
The garden notebook keeps growing.
- A garden notebook can keep a lot of the information from previous years as well as what is collected throughout the year for the upcoming season. Include a flash-drive for what you find online.
- Likewise a clipboard can not only keep you planting maps handy, it is an easy way to hold seed packets that are slated to go out to the garden for planting. Just use the clip to keep them safe from spilling or blowing away.
- A potting table allows for an area to organize your supply of soils, amendments and fertilizers.
Right at our fingertips.
- We use a free seed rack from the local farm & garden store to keep seeds organized. This year the stash has been reduced from 3 racks to one, to further simplify garden planning and seed ordering.
Oh… there you are!
One thing that eludes us is keeping track of tools.
It is as if the small ones intentionally hide, and the larger ones are like chameleons blending into their surroundings.
- Here is a solution we are going to use this upcoming spring: Use duct tape, now also called ‘duck’ tape or paint to brightly color the handles on your tools, making them easier to find. We have in the past used the wonderful idea of adding an old mailbox to your garden area to hold tools.
We did learn to be careful it is mounted level or pointing towards the ground, otherwise rain water can get in.
Some lessons are always learned the hard way.
What tips do you have for staying organized?
Categories: gardening, jonesen', saving money & time, techniques
27 December 2013, by gj
Happy little ones.
This blog is foremost about gardening; but the less money you spend in other areas, the more you will have to put into the garden.
That’s my logic, and I’m sticking with it.
So there are many simple things you can do to bring your energy bills down by cutting usage.
1. Sunlight is Free
It never ceases to amaze me when I see new homes with windows elaborately covered in drapes, and lights on all over the room.
Nature’s gift of sunlight can help in so many ways.
By opening those drapes you not only cut down on the use of light bulbs, it can lower your need for heat. Cover the windows as the sun goes down to likewise conserve the warmth.
If you use A/C in the summer, do the opposite.
Of course, if you have older windows the drapes may be more effective on saving energy in the long run. Consider adding to that by using bubble wrap, moistened and stuck to the glass, to keep the heat indoors.
A sunny window can also cut down on the light source needed when starting seeds.
See, this is a gardening post after all.
We turn our overhead seed starting lights off when there is good sun coming through the window, then back on when it is not enough.
When we compared our bills from this and full overhead lights only, supplementing with sunlight saved us a fair amount.
And the plants didn’t seem to notice.
We also start our seedlings near a heat source, rather than pay to heat another area.
Send that heat back down.
2. Remember Heat Rises
If you have ceiling fans, set them to blow downward in the winter months. This will draw the heat down from the ceiling and back to where you need it.
Be sure to insulate the flooring for second and third floors and attics.
My grandparents and many of that generation used old newspapers under rugs as insulation on the upper floors. They lived ‘green’ and ‘upcycled’ long before there were terms for it.
Likewise, take advantage of the cooler areas of your home and even the outdoors if you can. We built a Green Closet in our laundry room, saving energy by letting the cold temperatures from outdoors in to keep our cool loving veggies happy all winter.
Timing is everything.
3. Live Simpler
Things that heat up are the main energy users, but electronics left on also add up fast.
You can simplify energy use for making food by using a toaster oven, microwave and/or crock pot, if they are available to you.
Avoid heating a full oven for just a small amount. Consider making more than one meal, and freezing some that you can just nuke another time. When you do use your oven, take advantage of the heat lost through the vent burner by simmering a dish on it or heating up a kettle for tea or cocoa.
Think about a clothesline if you can have one where you live, or even just a clothes ‘rack’ placed in your bathtub. When you do use a regular dryer, gently shake your washed items before placing inside. By loosening them up a bit, they dry faster and that uses less energy.
Also, wash on cold.
Pretty much all the time.
A real energy saver is to place a timer on your water heater. These wonderful little devices give you the opportunity to decide when you will need hot water the most. They are inexpensive and pay for themselves in a short period of time.
You are most likely bathing at the same time each day already.
You can also save some money by turning your electronics off when not in use. A small investment in a power strip can not only help prevent power surge damage to your electronic devices, it can make it easy for you to cut their power when they will not be in use.
Well, that’s it for now.
With all that saved money I can go ahead and place a seed order.
Categories: living green, preparedness, saving money & time
23 November 2013, by gj
Yes this is primarily a gardening blog, but it is very difficult to grow everything you eat.
For the rest, take advantage of sales.
We looked at this recently, but this week is a good time to be a tad more specific.
Grab the opportunity.
1. Turkeys for 49 cents per pound? Or better yet, free?
Around the holidays grocery stores will sell some items at or below cost. They figure that if they can get you in the door, you will buy a lot more things than just a turkey, so it is worth it to them.
Back in our restaurant days, Mandolin would roast off a few turkeys and carve them. He used portions of turkey slices to line the inside of soup cups. That was then filled with prepared bread stuffing, wrapped with plastic and frozen.
Whenever someone ordered a turkey dinner from the menu, he would grab a soup cup and microwave it until it was hot.
You can do the same thing using any freezer-to-microwave container. Right now, stuffing mixes are also on sale. Win-win.
Of course be sure to save the bones for making soup stock.
2. Whole cranberries can be grown at home if you live in a cooler region like we do, but even then it takes a few years to get a good crop.
We take advantage of them being on sale this week, and make our own cranberry sauce and can it. It is seriously easy to do, just use 2 parts berries to one part sugar, and one part or less water. Add some fresh lemon or orange zest if you like, and boil until the berries burst.
Water-bath can like you would jelly.
3. Sweet potatoes, not yams, are also on sale in our area. We grow our own, but if you don’t you can get them at a good price now. These need to be pressure canned or can be frozen after cooking.
Both homegrown and purchased.
4. Winter Squash is in season now, and also on sale at our local markets. Again, if you don’t grow your own now is a good time to stock up. We love squash soup, and simply cook off a few butternuts, remove the flesh and freeze it in portions. It is our version of a soup mix. You can also dehydrate it and grind into a powder, or pressure can. Squash also lasts a long time in cold holding.
5. The sides. Pre-canned items like green beans and pumpkin also go on sale this time of year. We prefer our own homegrown, but if you don’t have that opportunity go ahead and stock up. Check the expiration dates and be sure to use them in time. Most canned foods have a long shelf life.
6. Non-food items, like aluminum foil, are often on sale during the holidays. Check out stores for the best price.
Just remember to never go to the store hungry, stick to your list made using the store flyer, and keep those blinders on- they are betting you will buy things that aren’t on sale, and they use many marketing ploys to make that happen.
Stay strong, save money.
Categories: saving money & time
17 November 2013, by gj
Between Mandolin and I, we have been temporarily unemployed, underemployed and self-employed.
We have learned to stretch a dollar till it yells “Uncle!”, okay not literally.
But even living paycheck to paycheck, and especially then, we found ways to stock up the shelves and always have food on hand.
Enough in fact that both of my daughters have said that if ever anything catastrophic happens, like a Zombie Apocalypse, they are moving back in with us.
Some of the home canned and dehydrated foods from the garden.
Of course growing as much of your own food, and learning how to preserve it, is key.
I’m guessing by the fact that you are reading this you are already doing that, or getting ready to.
Good for you!
But what else can you do to fill those shelves up when money is tight and food costs are soaring?
Here are some ideas:
1. BOGO: At first you need to start small. If you find a buy one get one sale on a non-perishable item, put one away. If you have to, hide it so it does not get used. Do take note of the expiration date.
2. Buy ingredients. Instead of buying bread, buy flour and yeast. Learn to make it by hand or eventually get a bread machine. Trust me, they pay for themselves in pizza alone.
Don’t hand out money for pancake mix, when making it yourself is simple. Likewise other mixes. There are tons of recipes online to do just that.
We make up a bunch of bread mixes, label what we need to add, and place them on the shelf. It’s faster to make bread than to go to the store and buy it, and a whole lot better tasting, too.
Likewise we have our own cake mix on the shelf. As the holidays approach, cookie mixes will be added.
Here’s some of what we do.
3. Buy in bulk. It may be a while before you can do this, but it saves money in the long run. Mandolin LOVES Jasmin-scented rice. At the local market, it’s very pricey. Instead we get it in 25 pound bags from an area Asian food supply store.
4. Use coupons, but don’t get trapped. Never buy something just because you have a coupon, unless you are getting it for free. Also don’t buy a name brand with a coupon if the store brand is less expensive.
You can be more creative with your coupons than you might realize. For example, your store may be selling an item as Buy 2, get one free with coupon. The coupon is for the free one, not the other two. So if you have two 50 cents off coupons, you can use them as well. If your store doubles the coupons, you now have 3 items for $2 less than it normally costs for 2. Pretty good, right?
Purchased with savings at the forefront.
5. Buy seasonally. Items go on sale at different times of year, due to holidays, growing times, etc. This is a good time to grab the chance to stock up. Keep in mind you can put up fresh produce, even meat, that you get from the market when it is on sale.
6. Make the most of what you buy. If you need a fresh orange or lemon, don’t toss out the skin. Grate it, let it sit overnight to dry, and now you have lemon or orange zest. Have you seen how much that is in the stores?
Instead of buying boneless chicken, buy the whole thing and cut it up yourself, using the carcass to make soup. You can preserve that as well.
Go to the market early if you can, and check out any older produce they may have on sale. If they have tomatoes and peppers, for example, bring them home and make soup or sauce.
When it comes to food, like many things, time really is money.
But with just a few simple tricks, you can save on both.
Categories: preparedness, saving money & time
20 September 2013, by gj
Earlier in the summer a friend of mine was telling me how she makes her own vanilla extract every year. It came up when I mentioned I was making Raspberry Infused Vodka.
“It started when I was given a kit. It was just a glass bottle with vanilla beans in it. It said to fill the bottle with vodka, and let it sit for three weeks. Then strain.”
So I looked in our baking cabinet to see what extracts I had. Okay, so Rum won’t work.
But mint will, and raspberry definitely will. In fact, I still have some raspberries in the freezer.
I also picked some lemon balm to make a nice lemon extract.
Mint, raspberry and lemon.
Simply chop the herbs to get the oils out, add to a jar and add vodka.
For berries you can just wash and put them in the jar.
Let them sit in a dark place. After about 3 weeks, check to see how strong the flavor is; extracts should be pretty intense.
We found the berries flavored the fastest. The lemon is taking its time, so I’m going to add some lemon grass to the jar.
When you like the flavor, strain and store either in an amber jar or in a dark place.
Now I can’t wait until the almond tree starts producing.
Mmmm…. That should make some outstanding Irish Cream Liquor.
Categories: other, saving money & time
31 August 2013, by gj
As the summer comes to a close, many seed companies begin placing their remaining inventory on sale. This is a good opportunity to stock up and save.
We don’t know of any seed that will not still be viable for at least two years, and have heard of some sprouting even after almost 20 years.
The legumes are said to lose their viability faster than other seeds. If this is so it is probably because they are self pollinating. We have not experienced this first hand, we generally use all our bean and pea seeds within two years. Even still, all you would need to do is plant a little more.
You can check the website of your favorite seed suppliers and see if they are offering reduced prices yet. If you get on their email list they will likely notify you.
These seeds are from Renee’s Garden, via their website, and were all 40% off. Since they have a low shipping fee, it was a pretty good deal. And what a nice way to head into the off season, with a handful of plans ready to go.
Oh and one more way to save on seeds, all year- you can join the Seeds of the Month Club via averagepersongardening.com or buy into their leftover seeds mailing for a one time fee. Check them out, its a wonderful way to stay garden happy even as the snow flies.
Categories: all about seeds, saving money & time
9 June 2013, by gj
Making your own flavored vinegars not only saves money, but it gives you the control over the flavor combinations and uses.
Pretty much anything edible can be used, but the most common additions are herbs and fruits. Chive blossom vinegar, pictured here, gives a wonderful light taste to a white vinegar.
Here’s what to do:
1. Use clean, food safe jars.
2. Use clean, fresh, unbruised herbs and fruit. You can also use fruit peels and edible flowers.
3. Heat the vinegar if you like, or just add to the jar and place in the sun. Our general rule is if it can mold, like fruits, we heat it first.
4. Let cool, or remove from sunlight when it is warm. Refrigerate fruit vinegars, place herb infusions in a cool, dark place.
5. The longer it sits, the stronger the flavor gets. Generally give them a few weeks.
6. Strain and keep in a cool place. You can also water bath can if you are making a big batch.
Use as you would any vinegar. This picture is of a vinegar with fresh orange peels, it can be used in cooking or as a cleanser.
Mandolin and I were discussing other ways to enjoy them earlier this morning.
“The chive vinegar would be good for poached eggs” he said.
“How about jalapeno vinegar for poached eggs?” asked I.
“Ooh, yeah, that would be good too. That would be really good in lentil soup,” he continued, “It would help bind all the flavors together.”
I love it when he talks cooking like that.
“How are you going to use the fruit vinegars,” he asked, “other than on salads?”
“I think I’ll make a simple syrup and use them as a glaze. Maybe a raspberry glaze on a pear dish.”
“That sounds really good” he said, and smiled.
Maybe we both like talking about cooking.
Categories: Recipes, saving money & time
7 April 2013, by gj
If you look at your garden as if it were your only access to food, it may change how and what you plant. Think about how each veggie can be stored to feed your family beyond the growing season.
Cold storage closet.
Five ways to hold food are freezing, canning, dehydrating, lacto-fermentation, and cold storage. It is possible you may not be able to have a freezer, so try to grow more of what can be stored fresh or processed. Fresh items, whether in a root cellar or basement, or in our case, a cold storage closet, would include potatoes, carrots, celery, rutabagas, the cole crops and winter squashes. These items will keep fresh for months when stored properly.
Learn to can, really its easy and a pressure canner is nothing to be afraid of. Food stored this way has a shelf life, according to the USDA of 2 years. That being said, it can last longer. An additional benefit to canning is that the food is ready to eat. Sure, soup tastes better when it’s hot, but if you’re hungry enough, right out of the jar works too.
Putting up food is easy.
Lacto-fermentation is a very old method of storing food, using salt and the veggies own juices. It requires no refrigeration and can keep food fresh a long time. We make a veggie slaw and pickles this way, but there are numerous other recipes on the internet. This is actually a very healthy way to eat.
The way to hold food the longest is by dehydrating. When you remove the water, bacteria and mold don’t have what they need to grow. Dehydrating food may not look as good as frozen, but that’s not really a consideration at this point. Pretty much any veggie can be dehydrated. The down side of dehydrating is that it will need liquid to be rehydrated, in most cases. You can purchase a dehydrator or DIY a solar one. I’ve even heard of people placing cut veggies on a tray and leaving it their car on a hot day. See, this doesn’t have to be expensive!
A word about protein, if you can have chickens in your backyard that’s great. Really though, you do not need eggs or meat to have enough protein, and in fact those who consume little or no animal products are just as healthy and often healthier than those who do. For more on this, watch the documentary Forks Over Knives. Most veggies contain protein as well, some more than others. Dry beans for example, are simple to grow and very high in protein. They dry on the plant so require no preparation other than to remove them and store. Leftover beans can then be planted the following year.
Extending the season.
So consider planning your garden with food storage in mind. And unless you live in a year-round warm climate, or have unlimited growing space, consider using inter-cropping, succession planting, season extenders, and vertical gardening to get the best harvest possible. Of course, you should know how to save seeds.
Learn to start your own.
Look to the list of links to your right- there is much more information here on everything I’ve mentioned. You can also use the search bar at the top right to find more.
What we have changed this year is we have added more perennial fruits and veggies, are growing more things vertically, are using cloches and the mini greenhouse, and intend to dehydrate more.
Just in case.
Categories: preparedness, saving money & time
6 April 2013, by gj
How things will play out down the line is best left to the experts to try to predict, though I think they would all agree on one thing: the cost of goods will continue to rise.
Most of what we have read predicts a slow change to our economy rather than, or at least before, a dramatic crash. We have seen some examples of economic problems happening in Europe. It’s a good idea to pay attention to what happens there.
When Hurricane Sandy hit the east coast, we saw numerous pictures of stores with empty shelves. It wasn’t long before there was no longer any alcohol to be found, and there were lines of people at the gas pumps. This was a different circumstance, a natural disaster that we knew was coming.
Still we might be seeing similar results at some point, so its best to be prepared.
There are numerous websites and Facebook pages that look at many details on how to go about it. A simple search using the terms ‘prepper’ ‘survivalist’ or ‘off the grid” aka “OTG” will take you to all the information you could possibly want. I also added a link at the end of this post that has some interesting thoughts on the subject, take a minute to read it.
The main things of course that you need to consider are food, shelter, and water.
Shelter is not only your house, but how you run it. Do you have more than one heating source? A backup generator? Would you be able to close down rooms to conserve fuel in cold weather? Do you get sufficient sunlight to help heat your home? Do you have enough blankets and warm clothing to keep your family warm indoors?
Under shelter I would also include needs for daily living, such as first aid and medicines, personal hygiene, eating utensils and so forth.
Take a walk through your house, open cupboards and closets, bring a pad and pencil. Make notes of what you might want to stock up on. Also look at what you can get rid of to make space.
Learn to make things yourself. It takes less room and money, for example, to stock up on the supplies to make soap, than to stock up on soap.
Here are some How-To’s on Pinterest.
Free water source.
We use a lot more water on a daily basis than most of us realize. I read once you should have 3 gallons of water per person per day. This would include water for flushing, cooking, and cleaning as well as drinking; and is a conservative estimate. Even if you cut this back to 1 gallon per, it would still be 28 gallons per week for a family of 4. That’s a lot of water!
If you are using municipal water, this may or may not become a problem. For those of us running a well on electricity it’s a different issue. Either way you should always have a supply of water on hand, and look into ways to collect if either from precipitation or a nearby waterway. There are a lot of good DIY videos and sites that could help you to build a rain collector.
I don’t want to inundate you with too much information here. It’s Saturday. It’s spring! Go play in the garden.
So in Part 3 tomorrow we’ll look more specifically at what you can do as a gardener.
When you do take a break, take a quick look at this post.
Categories: preparedness, saving money & time
26 March 2013, by gj
The winter that won’t leave.
Technically it is spring, but only technically.
I will not complain though, Dear Journal, but rather look on the bright side of things.
Although I’m not playing in the dirt yet, I can count my blessings:
Ready when the weather is.
Seeds: $10 donated to a non-profit, the rest were exchanged or saved.
Solo Cups: recycled
Jiffy Pots: $5
Potting Soil $15
Free Sweet Potatoes.
Sweet Potatoes were started from last year’s crop, the pot is recycled as well.
Likewise the potatoes, though the pot was purchased new. $10
All together the cost this year is $40. Not bad when you consider I spent that much on heirloom tomato plants alone last year.
Taters also free.
And growing something indoors while the snow flies?
Yeah… you got that right.
Categories: dear journal, gardening people, places & things, saving money & time