Thursday, August 20, 2009

Reducing Utilitiy Usage

We hear rumblings from Washington that would cause our Utility Bills to double or even triple. That’s the last thing my household needs or can even withstand. They are already 50% higher than two years ago, so I’m making plans of my own right now concerning electricity in general, lighting, temperature control, hot water, and laundry.


#1 – Unplug.

If it produces heat, it’s using electricity even when turned off: computers, televisions, chargers, etc.

#2 – Lights.

Determine one or two work areas in your home: one for adult activities and only one for child activities. The dining table is a good place for children to gather for their studies. In these areas, provide substantially adequate, low-glare light. In all other areas of the house, make drastic changes. Where possible, reduce lighting to one single bulb per room and reduce the bulb wattage. It may be dim but it won’t be dark. Tickle the kids, tell them it’s romantic and you love them and move on. Put sensor night lights in the bathroom(s) and kitchen so that they are never totally dark and avoid using the more powerful lights as much as possible.

#3 – Temperature Control.

A programmable thermostat is useful and will save electricity but you can achieve the same effect if you will: A) Adjust the thermostat to be 5⁰ less than ideal as you go to bed and 10⁰ less comfortable as you leave the house for more than an hour. B) Keep an outdoor thermometer outside a north-facing window. When the air outdoors approaches an acceptable temperature, turn your system off and open the windows. You will even be healthier for the fresh air. C) Get in the habit of wearing sweaters or sweats and slippers in the house in the winter and using fans to cool and circulate the air in summer. D) A wet towel clothes pinned to the front of a fan will help cool dry, hot air. E) Search your memory for movie images from the 1930’s and 40’s. Doorways, especially broad, expansive openings between rooms were most often flanked by heavy draperies. This was more than a decorating trend. Unused rooms were most often closed off from the active areas of the home. Consider closing heat and a/c vents in and doors to rooms that are seldom in use. Formal living rooms and dining rooms can be tastefully closed off using the drapery techniques of days gone by. F) Windows, even thermal pane windows fight against your temperature control efforts in both summer and winter. Heavy or thermal-lined drapes are a necessity if you live in an area of temperature extremes and they will make a difference in your utility usage. Fortunately, flat panel drapes are very much in style and nothing could be easier to make or to hang. Inexpensive white fabric, even used, white, flat sheets can be used as liners so that the drapery fabric is protected from sun-fade. They also provide a uniform ‘look’ to your windows when viewed from outside your home. And when using the clip-ring method of hanging, they don’t even need to be sewn to the drapery fabric. The liners can simply be clipped together with the drapes and easily removed from each other for separate washing.


We think of it as a necessity. It isn't. My parents thought of it as a luxury. How did they manage?! They told tales of the wash tub in the kitchen warmed with pots of boiling water from the stove and of the children taking turns starting with the least dirty. Extreme? You bet but not impossible. Am I advocating this? Of course not but take heart, you could do it if you had to and even make a game of it. But, in the meantime, here are a few more practical ideas.

HEATER BLANKET - Spending money to save money - not necessary, can wrap your hot water heater. Insulating blankets are available at home improvement stores.

TIMER - Install a timer on your hot water heater so that it will not be reheating water continuously even when you are sleeping or at work.

BREAKER - Flip the switch. Your electric panel box has a breaker designated especially for the hot water heater. Keep it turned off for 20-22 hours out of every 24. Give your tank 1 hour to heat up and your family 1 or 2 hours for usage. Determine to get all household members bathed, shampooed and ready to face the world in one or two hours each day. Inconvenient? Yes. Impossible? No.

DISHES - Washing dishes without hot water? No, but without using the hot water heater. Here's how it's done: (For starters, forget using the dishwasher except as a rack for air drying.) Scrape the dishes, rinse in cold water and stack. Partially fill a sink or dishpan with cold water and add boiling water from a pot on the stove and add detergent. Fill a second sink or dishpan with cold water for rinsing. Cold water actually removes soap better than hot water. Wash glasses and cups first, plates and bowls second, silverware and pots and pans last. As each item is washed, give it a pass through the cold water rinse and set to drain. Towel dry or leave items to air dry.

BATHING - Bathing used to be a family affair. children were tumbled into a single tub, scrubbed by an apron-wearing mother and rinsed while standing as Mother poured a pitcher of warm water over their heads. Husbands were usually assisted by their wives and the wives were pretty much left to fend for themselves. (In case the thought of wearing an apron, triggered something in you, HERE is a link to aprons and apron patterns available online.)

The labor intensive full-body bath was most often a Saturday evening affair ensuring a squeaky-clean and sweet-smelling family attendance at church on Sunday morning.

Cleanliness over the remaining six days of the week was achieved primarily through cold water rinses of the hair, frequent soap and water washings of the face and hands, foot baths in a small wash tub before toddling off to bed and a mid-week sponge-bath, with which we are all familiar.

In my recollection, it wasn't until the 1970's that the weekly routine of shampooing ones hair began to change into a daily task. Coincidentally or not, it was during that same time period that commercial hair products hit their heyday. Salon formulations of products became available in retail stores and hair, as the crowning glory of one's person, became a social obsession. The population preference of he bath began to give way to a rising preference for the shower. For the man, a shower was quick. For a woman, it provided the perfect environment for the ritual shampoo even though water consumption was greater, it took longer, eliminated the relaxing properties of the "soak" and presented the challenge of shaving while standing on one leg.

Whether you hold to your habit of showering and adjust only your timing so that it fits into the hours you've chosen to have hot water available or opt for an entirely new approach to bathing - a great deal of money will be saved when the high cost of hot water is conquered.


WASHING - Simple solution: wash everything in cold water. If you feel you absolutely must do an occasional load in warm water, try this: After the last bath or shower, turn the hot water heater off by flipping the breaker. Then fill your washing machine using the 'hot' setting. that will make use of all the hot water remaining in the tank ant the water will simply run cold once the hot water is all used.

Click HERE to access a U-Tube video with recipe and instructions for making your own Laundry Soap for 40 cents a gallon.

THE DRYER - The clothes dryer is a huge consumer of electricity. Make sure your lint filter is always clean and clean lint from every area that you can access.

DRYING - the best way to conserve electricity (or gas) is not to use the dryer at all. Proper hanging methods will be covered in a later post. In the meantime, make a point to hang all heavy items like jeans and sweats. When using the dryer, dry items of similar weight fabrics together. If your dryer doesn't have a moisture censor, set the timer and check the load every 20 minutes. Soon you will determine the necessary drying times for different weight fabrics in your particular dryer.

IRONING - If you are in the habit of ironing items as they are needed, try to change the habit and set aside a weekly ironing time. Your iron uses more electricity in the time it is heating up than it does in the same amount of time once it reaches temperature. If you can plan ironing on laundry day, you can save drying time, whether on the line or in the dryer, by ironing tiems while they are still slightly damp.

CLOTHING - Reduce the amount of laundry you do by limiting needless changes of clothing. Just a couple decades ago, we owned far fewer clothes. School clothes were removed and hung immediately upon arrival home and would be worn again several days later. Play clothes were then put on, to be removed at bath/bed time and folded for the next afternoons use. Unless they were particularly soiled, they were expected to last a couple of days before going in the laundry. Underwear was changed daily. Socks were required to be rolled into pairs as they went into the hamper. Yes, that meant they had to be unrolled as they went into the washer but it ensurred that there were no unmated socks.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Reader Response to "Find Cash in Your Kitchen"

I'm a Stay at home mom. Well, I was until I decided to go back to school because being a military wife gives my resume' more holes than Swiss cheese. But how was I going to do it? Things were already tight financially with three people living on one income (less than 30K). How was I going to afford the extra expenses of child care, gas, tuition, books, uniforms. Thank God I was able to apply for scholarships to go to school but that still
didn't cover the extra $335.00 a month for child care or the extra gas I would be using. But with the extra help of your book, I was able to cut my grocery bill by HUNDREDS every month!
My usual grocery list consisted of a hungry, busy, stressed, and broke mom trying to remember all the things I needed to buy for a weekly family menu. So I travel up and down all the isles getting all the things I "need" including meats that I have no recipes for, veggies that usually go bad, and snacks (because I'm starving by this point!).
So my mom gives me your book and I am so tired of running around like a chicken with my head cut off but getting nothing done that I'm willing to try anything. I dive right in. I want to know how to shop, what to get, how to prepare everything, and save time doing it.
First I write my list based on the recipes I'm going to make when I get home, a few more meals I will prepare later, and the essentials (milk, bread, etc). Second, I need a crock pot. It's payday so I take my "half" of the money that's left over after bills and buy a crock pot. And I'm thinking I better use this thing because those pink stilettos have been eying me since last week and if it weren't for this crock pot they could be mine! Third, I go shopping and get ONLY what is on the list. I don't go down the snack isle because there is nothing there on my list. No chips, no sodas, no cookies, just what i need. I check out and I'm about to faint. My grocery cart is loaded with fresh foods but my grocery bill is $50 less than usual. And I'm thinking "But there's so much more than usual, how is it less?" And the savings were enough to cover the cost of the crock pot!!!
SHUT-UP!!!!! : )
I hurry home and I'm ready. I had cleaned my kitchen before I got home so "it's on"! I don't bother putting away the unrefrigerated things. I get straight to work on the meats. I pull out the new crock-pot and put in my onions, 2 whole (washed) chickens and set the timer. I've never used a crock pot so I'm worried. But practice makes perfect right? Next I'm browning ground beef and making spaghetti sauce. I'm working on 4 meals and it's only been 5min!!! OMG!!!
The sauce is done so what am I going to do with it. Lasagna with 1/2, and freeze the other for spaghetti. I've got the oven going and I make the lasagna. Well I've got an extra pound of uncooked ground beef I had gotten, so I save a little time (and electricity) and make a meat loaf. The lasagna comes out, meat loaf goes in. Once these have cooked and cooled they go in the fridge so they can set and I cut them into smaller portions and freeze for meals on the go or a 5 minute home cooked meal!!!!
I check on the chickens a while later, de-bone, split the broth, chicken and dumplings with one half, chicken salad with the other and I've got extra homemade broth to make soups or use in other recipes.
Thanks to your book, FIND CASH IN YOUR KITCHEN, after 4 years, I feel like I can really do my part to help the financial stability of my family and still be able to do things I want to do like going back to school. I may not be working, but I can stretch that dollar twice as far as my husband can, which means we can save more.

Thank you Cia!!!!
Mallory - a proud USArmy wife

Friday, August 14, 2009

A Follower's Suggestions for Cost Cutting

I came up with an idea for your next blog (or one in the future). How about
"Stop using Consumables when non-consumables will work"
Here's the idea...
1- Emery boards cost money and you use them up. A metal file does the same job and lasts forever.
2- Exfoliating creams and lotions have to be replaced. A good loofa or buff puff does the same job.
3- Paper towels cost money (although good for SOME stuff). A drawer full of rags (made from cut up old towels) can be rinsed and reused over and over for quick spills as well as scrubbing needs. Toss them in the wash.
4- Cloth diapers used even one day a week, can cut down on disposables by a considerable sum over the course of the diaper-years......Etc.
I'm sure you can come up with TONS more suggestions. These are just some of the ones I came up with. In addition, the loofa used prior to shaving, can get a MUCH closer shave and prevent the "chicken skin" problem. You can end with something funny like "Toothbrushes need replacing every 6 months, but a good wire brush is forever!" Hee hee! - Cindy

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

BUDGET SHOWER - Baby or Bridal

I’m sure it’s possible to host a shower with virtually no cost at all. Those on the guest list who are family and close friends can participate in bringing different elements of the party – assorted decorations, food, drinks etc. and yard sale goodies can provide delightful favors and game prizes.


For those occasions when something less casual is desired, a LITTLE inspiration can replace a LOT of cash.

My total cost for this shower with 12 guests was $51.10.

$15.10 Invitations and all Decorations

$19.00 Snacks, Food, Drinks, Cake and Favors

$17.00 Games & Prizes and Grandmother Gifts

Here are the components and how they came about:

THEME – Because I wanted to demonstrate versatility, I chose a ‘color only’ theme; this one is blue (because it’s a boy) and white. A bride’s color selection can easily be substituted. And, just as easily, a new mother’s theme of teddy bears or trains & planes or little princess, etc. can be simplified and incorporated using stencils or rubber stamps or homemade sponge stamps.

INVITATIONS – My computer graphics capabilities are non-existent so I had to rely on personalization and the old cut and paste method.

WELCOME – Since we live in a rural location and some of the invited guests had never been to our home, I wanted to give them the assurance that they were at the right place before they actually knocked on the door. Additionally, the borrowed umbrella, toddler toys and 50 cent streamers helped set the mood upon arrival.

DECORATIONSTable Cloth is simply a length of fabric which will be washed and later sewn into crib sheets. Placemats and Napkins were diapers, a gift from the maternal Grandmother. A blue punch was served in Glass baby bottles, also a Grandmother gift, and the bottles were wrapped in $2 worth of bulk washcloths for koozies and tied with blue ribbon. The cake and games prizes provided centerpieces and my white everyday dishes were topped with 50 cent clearance cocktail napkins and homemade Mint or Nut Cups.

FOOD – The diaper shaped mint or nut cups were filled with a really good trail mix topped with a couple of Jordan almonds. We found blue Hawaiian Punch and mixed it half and half with 7-UP and it was actually acceptable. The mid-afternoon main offering was a Baked Shrimp-Crab Salad, one of my favorite Paula Deen recipes, served on a bed of field greens tossed with grape seed oil and balsamic vinegar, fresh ground black pepper and sea salt and accompanied with whole grain rustic crackers. We chose cupcakes over a layer cake for convenience sake...(and click HERE if you want some real cupcake inspiration.) The small carrot cakes, the expectant mothers favorite, were topped with premixed cream cheese icing into which a full block of cream cheese had been whipped. They were decorated with the standard Lifesaver and Jellybean pacifiers and wrapped with theme-painted, homemade cupcake wrappers. The cupcakes were served with fruit cups.

GAMES – Our games were outstanding. We played four.

First Game: the guests were greeted at the door with bracelets of cord strung with 10 decorative, plastic diaper pins and pacifiers. At that point, the word “Baby” was banned from conversation. Penalty for getting caught saying “baby” was to relinquish one of your pins or pacifiers to the person who ‘caught’ you. This was a marvelous ice breaker and the source of a great deal of laughter. The winner was the person who accumulated the most.

Second Game: Charades. The Place Cards were folded in half and held closed by sandwiching them between the fork and spoon in the napkin bundle. Inside each place card was a word or phrase pertaining to mothers’ activities with new babies. (For the duration of this game, the ban against saying the word “baby” was suspended.) Phrases included things like ‘singing a lullaby’, ‘a stinky diaper’ and ‘tickling baby’. We started with the expectant mother and circled the table in such a way that the guests who were least familiar with the majority of the guests would be last, so that they would feel most at ease. Each player, in turn, was to act out her phrase. The person who guessed the correct phrase first was awarded the actors’ place card. The player who ended up with the most place cards at the end of the game was the winner.

Third Game: I had printed columns of alphabets on cardstock and cut them into strips. We set a timer for four minutes and each player wrote down a baby-related word that started with each letter of the alphabet. After the timer went off, we went around the table for each letter, with each player announcing their word. When two or more players had come up with the same word, they were eliminated from play for that letter only. Of the remaining players’ words, the expectant mother had to choose which word she liked best. Each player kept count of how many times they had submitted the winning word. The player with the most winning words won the game.

Game Four: Bingo. I was thrilled to find this site. It provided me with these adorable printable Bingo Cards. In addition, it is filled with ideas and even a “Shower Etiquette” listing of the proper ‘order’ of activities.

GAME PRIZES -- Were self-indulgent, token gifts, a candle, body butter, etc., placed in blue and white plastic take out containers, loosely tied with sheer ribbon and were actually left with the mother-to-be.

GUEST FAVORS – were not as time intensive as they appear. My homemade Praline Pecans are elegant and deceptively easy and fool-proof using this old family recipe. The organza bags were purchased in the bridal crafts section of a discount store. The tiny tags are just a page of cut & paste on the computer, printed on cardstock. The over-wrappers continue the super-simple blue brushstroke theme and I was able to cut two at 11” long from a single sheet of cardstock.

ADDL. IDEA – Because my kitchen is open to the dining area, a blue table cloth was used as a drape which provided a backdrop for suspending two framed photographs of the parents-to-be. They were presented to the two expectant Grandmothers.

Click on the following links for instructions:


Diaper Shaped Mint/Nut Cups

Wrapers for Favors

Praline Pecans Recipe

Life Saver & Jellybean Pacifiers

Also, Check This Site for Cupcake Inspiration