Posts Tagged ‘frugal living’

If you’re like me, you cringe spending $5 on a bottle of cleaner when you can make something yourself that will work just as well, if not better.

Over the years, I’ve found several things that have saved us some cash, plus kept our house sparkling clean.


A friend found this in an old cookbook, and we couldn’t believe how well it worked!

Mix 1 tablespoon cornstarch with 1 quart of water (I normally use a bowl for this).  Stir well. Use a rag to wash whatever you’re cleaning, then a dry cloth to buff dry.  You will be amazed!


To disinfect and still be able to prounce the ingredients in the cleaner, plain ol’ white vinegar works great.  I keep a spray bottle mixed up at all times with half vinegar/half water.   Works on countertops, mirrors (I prefer the cornstarch method for mirrors, but vinegar will work if you’re in a hurry), stovetops, dining room tables, etc.

I use vinegar and water in a sprayer when mopping my kitchen floors.  I have one of those Swiffer wet jet thingys, but I’m too cheap to buy replacement pads/cleaner for it.  So – I bought some inexpensive jersey material at Wally World and sewed my own pads (which are washable) to mop floors with.  Just spray the floors with the vinegar mixture, then mop clean.  Throw the pad in the wash.  Voila!

Vinegar also works well to take hairspray residue off of lavatory sinks.  Ask me how I know.  😛


My equally frugal mother supplied this tip.

Fill a bowl with water (old whipped topping container works great for this), add some Dawn dishwashing liquid and a healthy splash or two of vinegar.  Stir well.  Soak a rag and wash shower door with mixture, then rinse clean.  I have not found any commercial cleaner that does as well as this!


We bought a power washer a few years ago which has been awesome for cleaning the outside of the house, lawn furniture, and our wooden decks.  However, over time, anything wooden will need something a little extra to power off the crud that has built up on it.  Bleach in a sprayer works great – just spray it on, let it sit for a few minutes, then power wash off.  It leaves the wood looking so much cleaner.  After it dries thoroughly, I normally put another yearly coat of water sealer on the deck.

Hope these tips will save you some money and a trip to the store!  🙂


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1 – recipe of my enchilada sauce
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 – 8oz container sour cream

Mix this well. Reserve about 2 cups for sauce – set aside. To the remaining mixture, add:

2 cups cooked, cubed chicken breast
1 cup shredded cheese (we like cheddar best) (you’ll need 2 cups of cheese total – see below)

Mix well. Spoon about 1/4 cup of mixture into 12 flour tortillas. Roll tortillas and place seam side down into a 9×13 pan. (Preheat oven to 350 degrees.)

To the reserved mixture, add 1/4 cup milk for sauce. Stir until smooth. Spoon sauce over the top of the enchiladas. Top with 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese. Cover pan with foil and bake for 30-35 minutes until hot and bubbly.

Makes 12 enchiladas. YUM! 😀

(Please note – this is an original recipe by me, and may not be posted elsewhere or sold in a collection. Copyrighted by me, 2008 to current.)

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My old GE 2lb horizontal loaf bread machine finally bit the dust after almost a decade of service.  Let’s have a moment of silence, shall we?   :o)   It was a true workhorse in the kitchen, and the heat-resistant o-rings finally disintegrated out of the bottom.  I have searched all over for a replacement and am about at my wit’s end.  I need your help!

I’m asking for your suggestions for a new bread machine.  I did buy a Breadman Ultimate and will be returning it shortly.  Maybe I’m spoiled from using the GE, but this Breadman is very poorly made.  The pan will not stay seated in the clips unless you stand over it and keep pushing it back down (and yes, I’ve tried bending the clips, tried putting the pan in differently, etc. – it does no good).  I am not an expert, but I am a seasoned cook and baker, and am familiar with bread machines.  This machine bakes the bread very well, it just knocks the cheap pan around way too much during the kneading.  Even hubby is complaining about the racket it makes.  I’m not keeping it.

Suggestions on a different brand?  I will not purchase another Breadman again, and GE no longer makes bread machines.  I have read that the Zojirushi is an excellent brand, but the thing is expensive.  I don’t buy store bread, so I know I’ll save a bundle in the long run, but would appreciate hearing some input from others.

Help!   :o)

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I have a few tips for things people don’t normally think of to use for food storage, plus you’re recycling items that would normally be thrown away.

Save #10 cans, wash and dry them very well, and either reuse the plastic lid that comes on some, or buy extra lids to use for this purpose (www.beprepared.com has them very cheaply).  It makes a great container to put either ziploc bags of food or vacuum sealed bags.  I label the outside of the can with masking tape for easy identification of the contents.

Save cardboard flats that cans come in or cut cardboard boxes to fit.  You can reuse the cardboard to stack #10 cans, or the canned food you buy at the store.  That way there is no wasted space on your shelves since you’re storing “upward”.  (Example:  cardboard, layer of canned food, cardboard, layer of canned food, etc.)  Utilize every inch of storage space you have.

Save 2 liter soda bottles,  wash and dry completely, then fill with rice, beans, sugar, etc. (use a funnel).  Add a bay leaf or two and seal the top with tape.  The only problem is the 2 liters don’t stack, but you can stick them almost anywhere (in a closet, under the bed, behind the couch – get creative!).

Save old peanut butter jars, spaghetti sauce jars, grape jelly jars, juice containers, etc. and use for food storage.  Look at every container before you throw it in the trash and try to think of another use for it.  You’ll be surprised how quickly your storage collection will grow.

Two-liter bottles and juice containers are large enough to store water extremely well.  Tap water will stay safe for use for literally years.  If safety is in question, you can always boil it first.  It does go “flat” after a while, so pour it back and forth between two containers to oxygenate it again – it will taste fresher.

Ice cream buckets are super for reuse and they stack very well.  I would seal whatever you’re going to put in them first just as an extra precaution, and throw in a few bay leaves.

5 or 6 gallon buckets are outstanding for storing flour, sugar, oats, rice, beans, etc.  For added protection, you can buy mylar liners for $2.50 each (again from beprepared.com), fill with food, then seal the top with a hot iron (use a piece of 2×4, scrap wood, or even a wooden ruler laid across the top of the bucket to have a firm surface on which to seal the mylar).  The mylar gets a bit sticky when it’s hot, but it will seal and firm up when it cools.  Fold the top of the mylar down and pound the lid on with a rubber mallet.

Be sure to label the outside of all containers with the contents and date.  You’ll be glad you did.  🙂

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I heard about this a few days ago, and thought it was an awesome idea.

What you need:

a Rubbermaid tote with a lid (or a 5/6 gallon bucket with lid)
toilet plunger with red rubber suction cup on end
laundry soap
dirty clothes

Cut a hole in the top of the lid big enough for the wooden handle of the plunger to go through.  A friend of mine suggested also drilling a few holes in the rubber part of the plunger to make the washing more efficient (haven’t tried this yet though).   Add water, detergent, and clothes.  “Plunge” the handle around 200 times (you don’t have to do this at a fast pace, and could even sit in a chair and plunge away!). Rinse the clothes, wring, and hang on a clothes line.

Be sure to stock up on extra clothes pins and clothes line. Also, something to use as a wringer (such as a mop bucket with wringer attached) would be helpful.

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Hot Cocoa Mix

This makes a BUNCH, so use a large container for mixing and storage.

5 cups powdered milk
5 – 6 cups powdered sugar (or Splenda) – may use more or less to taste
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup powdered non-dairy creamer

Mix all together and store in an air-tight container. Makes about 36 to 40 servings.

To serve, use 1/3 cup of mix with 3/4 cup hot water. Stir well to dissolve.

NOTE: You could also use flavored non-dairy creamer if you’d like, or add some vanilla to the cup when you serve.  Enjoy!

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In December 2000, our part of the world had one of the worst ice storms to hit in decades.  I was completely unprepared, and it was a life-changing event for me.  We had no backup heat, no large quantity of food in stock, laundry was still waiting to be washed, and my husband had no way to run his CPAP machine for his sleep apnea.  I realized at that time how extremely fragile our way of life is – what an illusion we live with daily when something such as an ice storm can completely debilitate a family.   The shock of realizing how spoiled we are and our dependence on modern conveniences was a real eye opener.

We were out of power for over a week, some people were out for several weeks.  Because we had no backup heat, we were forced to evacuate our home and stay with family.  Afterwards, it mobilized my husband and me to take a hard look at our lack of self-sufficiency.  I suspect most families are the same way – it takes a major event to spur you into action.

We wound up installing a free-standing natural gas heater that requires no electricity, and bought a gas-powered generator so that we could at least run a few “necessities”.  Within one week of installing the heater, our power was out again from yet another storm.  Thankfully this time, the power was only down for 24 hours, but we were prepared!  Since that time, we’ve had to drag the generator out at 2am so my husband could sleep, but at least it was available.  Because it is medically necessary for him to have an electrical source, we also recently bought a 200 watt Xantrex Powerpack which has paid for itself several times.  We keep it beside the bed so he can just reach over and plug his CPAP directly into it and go back to sleep til morning.

When the power goes out, and you realize laundry has not been done, dishes have not been washed, floors have not been vacuumed, and now you have no way to do this without “conveniences”, it really is a slap in the face.  Some of us have to learn the hard way, but once that lesson is learned – you never forget it!

Now with the economy in a mess, I feel like there’s a storm brewing that could send us all back into the economic stone ages.  Times are hard on almost everyone you talk to with no end in sight.  The government taking over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac is just a band-aid on the real problem – people are living beyond their means.  When you talk about downsizing to a smaller home (or already live in a smaller home by choice), folks look at you like you’ve lost your mind.  We would love to have a large brick home on several acres of land, but the reality is that we couldn’t pay for it.  We had a house in the Burbs in the early ’90s, and almost lost it when my husband’s hours were cut.  Without the overtime he had always worked, we almost lost everything we had because we had based all of our bills on it.  Huge mistake on our part, but again – another learning process.  We downsized our home, and have never regretted it.  There have been times it’s been hard just to pay for what we have now, but we’re so thankful for it, no matter what other people think.

I really believe we must all make preparations now and not wait until disaster strikes (whether economic or otherwise) and realize we were caught unaware.  If you have money, that’s great, but what will you do when the grocery stores have no food?  Money will not feed your family or keep your home warm in the winter in an emergency.  You, not the government, have the responsibility to take care of your family.  That responsibility includes being able to feed them, keep them safe and warm, and provide basic necessities.  There are a lot of things we all would like to have, but they are not integral to living.  Lord, help us to know the difference!

My sole purpose in life may just be to serve as a warning to others.  Learn from the mistakes I’ve made, and take the time to think about what you can do to be more self-sufficient.  Ask yourself what you would do if an emergency happened and grocery stores ran out of food?  What would you do if the power went out for a month?  What if it was in the dead of winter and the central heat went off?  What if the roads were bad enough you couldn’t get to extended family’s home?  Be prepared for the unexpected!

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