Posts Tagged ‘Frugality’

On Thursday, we’ll indulge in the great American celebration of excess that is Thanksgiving. It’s a strange week to be thinking about thrift and frugality.

On the other hand, we’re already well into the annual assault on our senses that is the holiday advertising season, when we learn how desperately we need a lot of shit that we don’t need, not to mention how buying it is the only way to prove to your family and friends that you love them. It’s particularly grating in my family, as my husband is a choral musician, and there’s nothing like a holiday ad for mangling great works of choral literature.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Although it celebrates consumption and indulgence, a big part of that indulgence is the immersion in family, in thankfulness, in tradition, in things made, and not just things consumed.

So many of the best family memories focus on Thanksgiving. My friend Terry’s amazement that I whipped my potatoes by hand. It never occurred to me to use a beater, and I still don’t like to. I think it makes the potatoes gluey. Watching the kids slowly turn their focus from childish to adult, as one by one, they stopped leaving the adult conversation after the meal. My annual fight with everyone else in the family over canned cranberry sauce which we never ever ever (ever) had until about 4 years ago, and which everyone now insists is a “tradition.” Did I mention that we NEVER had this before? Ever. I must have been having Thanksgiving in some alternate universe, because I’m pretty sure I was making this cranberry sauce every damn year for decades.

World’s Best Cranberry Chutney (From the old Sphere magazine)
1 lb cranberries (these used to come in 16 oz bags, now they’ve reduced bag size to 12 oz, so just deal)
1 cup white sugar*
1/2 c. packed brown sugar*
1/2 c. golden raisins
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground clove
1/4 tsp allspice
1 cup water
1 c. chopped onion
1 c. chopped apple (Granny Smiths)
1/2 c. chopped celery

Simmer cranberries, sugar, raisins and spices in 1 cup water, uncovered, in a saucepan over medium heat, just until the cranberries release their juice (about 15 minutes). Keep heat low, and stir in remaining ingredients. Simmer until it thickens, about 15 minutes. Can be served warm or cold. I think it’s best when made the day before and stored in the fridge, then served at room temperature for the actual meal.

* if you don’t want to use sugar, substitute 1 cup honey and 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda. You’ll need to simmer it a little longer due to the excess liquid.


Indulgence can be a profane act of excess for the sake of excess, or it can be a sacred meal, shared with the ones you love most. You can consume for consumption’s sake, or in celebration of life’s sweetness.  Consumption can be extraction, leaving you sick and unhappy, or creation, which transports you.

How will you balance the profane and the holy this week?

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apple swirl

Having recently prepared apple cider and frozen apple slices, it occurred to me that I should give brewing cider vinegar a whirl. After all, I’ve brewed plenty of wine and soda pop and both could unintentionally turn into vinegar… why not do it on purpose?

Cider vinegar has been touted for its health benefits. Years ago, I recall my great-uncle consuming it every day to help with his cancer therapy. My father-in-law takes a capful each morning to help with his IBS. It’s claimed that cider vinegar can help with everything from acne to yeast infections. It helps make hair shiny, it can be used as a cleanser, and it adds a great tang to salads.

So I looked into multiple recipes. Some called for adding sugar, others yeast. Wanting to keep my vinegar as organic, natural, and healthful as possible, I avoided those recipes and combined two recipes to suit my needs. The originals can be found at wikibooks.org and at Ultimate Money Blog. So you may ask why did I change the recipes? For simplicity and for eating “nose to tail” so to speak. I’ve had so many apple scraps that are happily going to my compost pile (and in turn into my chickens’ bellies as they scavenge) but I’d rather make a better use of them for immediate consumption. Also, Autumn apples have plenty of sugar to spare. Finally, I want to capture a “wild yeast” instead of using a winemaking or bread baking yeast in order to keep it as beneficial as possible. So this is what I came up with:

apple scraps


Apple Cider Vinegar

  • Apple scraps: peels, cores and flesh – cleaned and removed of dirt and bruised areas.
  • Chlorine-free water to cover fruit, preferably filtered or boiled.
  • Food-grade plastic, stainless steel, or glass containers. Vinegar can corrode some metals.
  • Campden tablet (optional)
  1. Put fruit scraps into your containers and just cover with water. Add a campden tablet if desired to kill any bacteria or yeast that could interfere with your desired wild yeast. Leave plenty of air space to encourage circulation and give room for bubbling. Cover with some cheesecloth or another fine cloth to keep fruit flies out, yet allow fresh oxygen (and wild yeast!) to enter. Keep your container out of sunlight and in room temperature (about 65F to 70F).
  2. Encourage the fruit to break down and fermentation to work its magic by mixing the solution every day for two weeks. After two weeks, remove the fruit scraps.
  3. Allow fermentation to continue. Once the bubbling slows down siphon the solution into a clean container, avoiding the sediment and foam. This may need to happen the day after you remove the fruit scraps depending on how quickly the process is working for your individual solution. Don’t do it the same day as removing the fruit scraps will stir up any sediment – give it a day to settle.
  4. Let this second container do its work for another 2-3 months. It should develop a white film on top – the vinegar mother. You want to keep this mother so you can continue to brew vinegar year round! You can now remove up to two-thirds of your vinegar for use. Refresh your mother with fresh, clear cider and you will have another batch of vinegar ready in about two to three months.

Please note that unless you can verify the acid levels (5% acetic acid) you should not use this vinegar for preservation, especially in canning. Canning goods requires a specific acid level in order to keep out harmful bacteria and keep food fresh.

Over the next couple of months I’ll update my progress with my first batch of vinegar. Have you ever made vinegar before whether intentionally or not?

You can also find Jennifer at Unearthing This Life where she blargs about living in rural Tennessee.

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Bartering: exchange of goods or services without involving money

Bartering is as old as mankind itself.  Before our money based economy, barter was the way a person would get good and services that they could not grow or make or do themselves.

There is a wave of new bartering sweeping our nation thanks to internet bartering.  Even Craig’s List has a bartering section.

But as new-fangled as this may be for the modern day city dwellers it is a practice that has always been out here in the country.

These apples came from a neighbors tree.  They are yellow transparent apples which make simply incredible sauce.

I loaned her husband a small power tool that cuts concrete siding in exchange for the privilege of picking as many apples as I wanted.  I got organic apples for sauce and her husband got use of a tool that made his siding job much easier.

Each year we have our pastures hayed.  Instead of investing in the equipment to cut and bale we have a neighbor do it.  He keeps most of the hay minus the small amount I need over the winter.   Free hay for his cattle in exchange for cutting our fields!

Bartering at its simplest and purest form.

We have unlimited use of a jet ski this summer because my hubby helped one of his co-workers with some electrical issues at his house.

Honey is another bartering currency we use in exchange for things.  So are tomatoes, homemade jams, loans of equipment and even use of our cabin!

If you are interested in bartering over the internet here are a few free sites.


Trash Bank

People Trading Services

This is not a bartering site but a site full of free things!


So next time you reach for your checkbook to buy something with money consider what you might barter with your neighbors for.  Or reach out to someone in cyperspace and see if you can find something in exchange for something you have.

It is cheap, it is easy, and it is a great way to spend the afternoon visiting with your neighbor as you pick apples together!


Kim can also be found at the inadvertent farmer where she digs and dishes the dirt on living an authentic country life!

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Buying secondhand items is a great way to save money and have a little fun, not to mention save something from the landfill. It becomes almost a game, the hunt is often the part that brings the most fun and excitement. There are so many places to find an item you need that don’t involve a trip to the nearest megamart.

Mr Chiots and I enjoy going to auctions when we can to find secondhand treasures. It’s so much fun to walk around and look at all the interesting old stuff, but kind of sad at the same time. It’s sad that you’re buying stuff that someone else valued enough to save, but then it’s hopeful as well because you know someone is there to buy it and give the item a second lease on life.

This past year Mr Chiots took up hunting and wanted to buy an old wool hunting jacket instead of one of the new expensive manmade material ones. His first stop was Ebay, to search for that perfect wool jacket and pant set. He ended up buying two, both came with pants and he spent less on both sets than he would have on one jacket. One of them is old, very old. So old, I joked that Theodore Roosevelt probably wore it on one of his hunting trips (seriously, it’s that old!). They’re both still in great shape and still super warm. A few little mends here and there and they’ll last for another 100 years or more. He loves them and wears them all the time now, not just for hunting.

One of the best places to find a used item is ask family and friends. It’s amazing what you can get for free, or next to nothing from people you know (of course I often give a gift of canned items or baked goods when they won’t accept some cash for the item). When I decided to start canning, my mom gave me a lot of my grandmother’s old canning jars and a nice waterbath canner and a pressure canner, I only had to buy a few lids to get started.

This summer when we needed a pump for our water barrel system. Mr Chiots mentioned to his grandpa (who’s an avid secondhand buyer) to watch for one at the auctions. His grandpa had 2 in the garage and gave one to us, for free! Mr Chiots hooked it up and it works like a champ! We would have spent over $100 for the same pump new, and about $50 to get it used. Thanks to the generosity of family we didn’t pay a dime, just the expense of a few parts for the installation.

One of the things I love about getting secondhand items is that they have a history. We got an old reel mower from my parents when we wanted one, this is the very same one I mowed with as a kid.

Of course there are endless resources for finding used items when you start searching. Garage sales are a good place to look I’ve heard, although we don’t usually go to them (we work weekends so it’s difficult). Secondhand stores are common in most communities with Goodwill being the most common I think.

Are you a secondhand consumer, if so what’s your favorite resource for finding that needed item?

I can also be found at Chiot’s Run where I blog daily about gardening, cooking, local eating, beekeeping, and all kinds of stuff. You can also find me at Simple, Green, Frugal, Co-op, and you can follow me on Twitter.

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Here are Chiot’s Run we don’t buy manufactured food. Our pantry is filled with dry goods, home canned items, and spices. We make our own pasta, butter, cheese, bread, granola bars, salad dressings and try to stay away from food that contain long ingredient lists, preservatives, artificial colors and flavors, and any weird unpronounceable ingredients.

We occasionally buy pretzels, those big sourdough niblets that have a short ingredient list; the same things I would use to make them myself (we do make soft pretzles at home, but haven’t mastered the art of crunchy ones yet). Other than this however, our pantry is devoid of boxes and bags of items made in a factory somewhere far far away.

If you’re trying to eat healthfully and avoid preservatives it’s much much cheaper to make things at home than buy them at the health food store. It does take some time to learn to make all the different things you enjoy. Sometimes it takes a palate adjustment to learn to like and prefer a homemade version of a store-bought item (like ketchup).

This is something you probably don’t want to do all at once. A great place to start is by replacing items in your pantry with homemade versions when you run out. This way you don’t waste food you’ve already purchased, and you aren’t overwhelmed by trying to learn to make everything homemade at once. Once you learn and make something a few times it becomes much easier. Start with something simple as well, like homemade salad dressing or made from scratch pancakes, muffins or a cake.

Pretty soon you’ll wonder why you ever bought mixed and pre-made items from the store, especially since you’ll notice the homemade version taste so much better. Not to mention all that extra cash in your wallet!

How much of what you eat is made from scratch at home?

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Making Do or Do Without

I have always loved this quote:

What fabulous rules to live by. If you follow this advice you’ll save tons of money and not end up with a house full of stuff you don’t need. Mr Chiots and I try to live by this rule. When we first got married we didn’t have a dining room table for several years, we simply ate on the sofa or floor. We had hand-me down furniture and a really old TV someone gave us. We have replaced most of these items over the course of the 12 years we’ve been married, but we’ve always waited until things have died before replacing them. Using things up can be difficult in our society that emphasizes hip, shiny, new and trendy. We look at magazines and watch TV shows and then notice that our old hand-me down sofa looks dated, old and doesn’t match the curtains. We start to feel inadequate because our stuff looks shabby. I’ll admit, we went through a phase where we bought some shiny new items, but that phase is over. Now when we think we need something we usually try to figure out something we have that will do the job. If we can’t do that we try to find it secondhand or used. We only purchase new as a last resort (except in certain areas, like cordless tools, certain appliances and some business equipment).

We’ve saved a lot of money in our garden by using native rocks gathered from the woods surrounding our property to build our retaining walls, edge our flowerbeds and to use as stepping stones. Since we live on a very sloped lot, we need small retaining walls to help with erosion (don’t want to lose all that hard work amending the soil). We could have easily bought stepping stones and retaining wall stones, but that would have cost us a small fortune. We invested some sweat equity gathering all these rocks (Mr Chiots bearing the brunt of that work). I think these look much better than the ones make of man-made stones. They’re beautiful and FREE!

Using items you already have, instead of purchasing is kind of like a scavenger hunt. It’s fun trying to think of things in a less conventional way to fulfill a need that you have. I have to laugh every time I make tea because we don’t have a proper teapot, even though we’ve avid tea drinkers. Our teapot is a 2-cup pyrex measuring cup that gets used for cooking and as a teapot several times a day.

There are times when making do is a little more work than buying new. When we built and installed our rain barrel system we wanted it to be high so we’d have some water pressure and so we could store things underneath the barrels. We didn’t want to go out and buy wood for the platform, so we tore out half of our deck and used that lumber. We didn’t like the dimensions of our deck anyways and it wasn’t build very well, so we killed two birds with one stone so to speak. Sure it took a lot longer and was a lot more work than a trip to the lumber yard, but we ended up with a studier smaller deck and a free rain barrel platform.

Wear it out – gardeners know about this rule. The garden is usually the final stop for those clothes that are no longer fit to be seen in public. Do I really need to say anything about these? This photo was take a year and half ago and these jeans are still in service, but barely. I’m sure they’ll end up as something else in their second life after they can no longer be worn.

Do you have any great examples of living by this quote?

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We decided that the weekend after Thanksgiving is usually a time to think about shopping.  Black Friday, the alarm going off at 4:30 am, early morning doorbusters, the mall, the crowds…the mayhem!

Since we like to swim against the current around here we are sharing photos of  ‘being frugal’ .  Now this we do admit was a bit of a challenge, but it was fun…much more so than fighting the crowds to get to the 50% off socks!


For a couple dollars in seeds I grew well over $100 of pumpkin if I had bought it canned.  Roasted, pureed, and frozen for use all winter…no pumpkin shortage here!

We do our own remodeling…it takes longer but saves tons of money.  Besides the satisfaction of a job you know is well done.  All of our older boys now know how to frame, wire, plumb, sheet rock, tile, and side a house.  You can’t put a price on that kind of knowledge!

Purchased 18 years ago this month.  Chevy Astro Van, 8 passenger extended length with towing package…hauls hay, sports teams, bags of leaves, groceries, lumber, widows, a dog and a goat!  Yes that is 264,750.7 miles on it!  I’m hoping to get at least 20 years out of this van…more if I’m lucky!

Baking my own organic whole grain bread 2x weekly.  Grinding my own grains purchased in bulk saves me 100’s of dollars from my yearly grocery bill…although I do it for the nutrition and taste more than the money savings…though that is nice also!

Lastly is skipping the monthly fee of cable or satellite tv or even the latest movie in the theaters to sit on the porch swing and watch God’s sky show!  Its free and oh so much better for your soul!

So what interesting or unique ways are you being frugal?

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