Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Waste Not, Want Not

(warning: Preachy Post!)

Crabby over at Cranky Fitness wrote a post yesterday about staying fit in these hard economic times. Some of you have probably figured out by now that the Bag Lady isn't exactly a fitness guru (hehehehe), but she does try to live a simple, economical life, so she has decided to share a few tips she has learned for stretching your dollar.

The first thing you have to ask yourself is do you really NEED that Ipod/new outfit/couch/DVD/whatever, or do you simply WANT it? Is shopping a form of recreation for you, or do you shop for specific items and ignore all the "deals" on display? In the past few years of rampant consumerism, the Bag Lady has been astounded at the sight of people lined up for hours, waiting for a store to open in order to buy the newest computer game/electronic gadget/whatever. She wonders if, due to this new economic reality, those will be the same people lined up waiting for the soup kitchens to open?

Oh, wait, she was going to give you some tips for pinching pennies. Sorry, she got sidetracked!

Most of her tips involve food, because that is an area she knows well. Some of you who have been reading her blog for awhile are probably aware that she likes food. She likes to cook and create new dishes, and she loves to eat! Which is really obvious to anyone who has seen her picture!

Meal planning is an important part of staying within your budget. With a little planning, you can create simple, nutritious meals for far less money than you would spend on one meal out in a fancy restaurant. For example, buy a less expensive cut of meat with a bone in it. Roast it for supper on Sunday, then boil the bone and any leftover meat and vegetables for soup for later in the week.

As some of you are aware, the Bag Lady cooked a big meal this past Thanksgiving weekend for a large family gathering. From the leftover turkey, she will make hot turkey sandwiches, cold turkey sandwiches, turkey pot pie, a few TV dinners, and she has boiled the carcass for soup. She also has leftover ham, which will be used for omelettes and sandwiches, and that bone has also been boiled for soup.
The TV dinners and the soups will go into the deep freeze for later. So from that one big dinner, she will have enough leftovers for roughly 10 meals. Nothing will go to waste, if she can help it. Her dog will eat fairly well, too!

Don't eat meat? Try making vegetable soup. Use those leafy bits off the celery, some potatoes and the less-than-pretty parts of the carrots and onions, throw in some dried beans or lentils, herbs and spices (don't forget the bay leaf, and don't forget to remove it before you serve the soup!) and let it cook.

Think you don't have time to make soup? If you have time to do laundry and clean your house, you have time to make soup. Ten minutes of cutting up the ingredients, leaving it to simmer on the back of the stove while you go about your other tasks, giving it a stir occasionally when you walk past. If you divide it into serving sizes, put it into glass jars, let it cool and then freeze it, you'll have a ready supply of easy meals. (You ask why glass jars? They can be washed and re-used over and over, and don't release the toxins that plastic sometimes does!)

Do you use a lot of paper towel in your kitchen (something the Bag Lady is guilty of)? Try hanging a hand towel over the handle of your oven door and using it to dry your hands. It can be washed and re-used countless times.

Don't waste money buying bottled water. The tap water in most cities is probably better for you. Buy a refillable bottle and fill it at home. You'd be surprised at the money you'll save.

The Bag Lady is afraid that there are going to be hard economic times ahead for many people, and they are going to have to relearn some of the tricks that their grandparents knew. In the last couple of decades of prosperity, the Bag Lady thinks we have become a throw-away society. The movement toward recycling is, in reality, a step back to our grandparents time when they knew how to be self-sufficient and to get by with less. Nothing was wasted on the farm because there wasn't any money to buy new. They turned frayed collars, replaced sleeve cuffs, patched and altered their clothing. Table scraps fed the dogs, chickens or pigs. You made do, or did without. This is a lesson that may have to be re-learned in the coming days.

What's your favourite tip for saving money?


Hilary said...

Great post, Baggie. We do indeed live a disposable lifestyle - which can't do anybody or anything any good. I never actually thought about storing soup in jars for freezing. We generally just keep at the pot until it's gone but I like your way better. Next batch for sure!

Anonymous said...

*great* post BL.

and Im a prime example of one who had a LOT of arenas in which to cut back...and has.
the individual packs (toddler friendly) paper plates, paper towels, not shopping the sales/planning meal around sales (grocery).

in a way it has been a gift (power of positive thinking :)) that I lead such a reckless lifestyle (and knew it) as there have been a NUMBER OF THINGS I could do to tighten the beltbuckles around here...


Crabby McSlacker said...

We've gotten lazy about a lot of things--going out to eat too often; paying for yard work we could do ourselves, etc.

There's often a time/money tradeoff and when money is scarcer, it becomes a lot more important to find time!

Alas, I spend a lot of it on the internet...

Missicat said...

Great advice! I haven't been to the mall in months and months. My old winter clothes should last at least another season (I hope).

Penny said...

Amazing post! I eat meat but the Boy doesn't, so I can see we may be making a few lentil stews in the months to come. We will have very smelly bottoms this winter - hey that could save on heating bills!

I am definitely guilty of using shopping as recreation. I don't do it very often now though because of the mortgage and my physio bills. Instead I am trying to do my Christmas shopping really early this year so I still get my retail fix (but even better - I love buying presents the most!). It's costing me money at the moment, but when I'm skint in December it will mean that I'll be forced to cut back money from other places (food, going out) and everybody will get their gifts!

Ah, it's logical in my mind anyway...

TA x

the Bag Lady said...

Hilary - I add lots and lots of water to my soup, then lots and lots of veggies to stretch it. And the glass jars just recently occurred to me after reading about the toxins that are released from the plastic even in the freezer!

Miz - I'm guilty of the paper towel thing a lot! I am trying to force myself to change. There are probably other areas, too, where I could change. If I think of them, you can expect another preachy post.

Crabby - going out to eat isn't very common around here, and if I don't do the yard work, it doesn't get done!
And, like you, I spend too much time at the computer. But that will change in the next couple weeks because I have a craft sale coming up I need to get ready for!

Missicat - I can't even remember the last time I was to the mall! (I'm not mentioning that WalMart isn't in the mall.....)

TA - when I lived in town, I loved to shop, too! It's become far less convenient, and I don't miss it much!
Sounds to me as though you are very well organized to be shopping for Christmas this early! I may end up making a lot of gifts this year. Dragging out the sewing machine or something.

Leah J. Utas said...

We'll done, df Bag Lady. I'm luckless when it comes to freezing stuff properly in glass jars. What's the trick?
I do a lot of soups here, especially in winter, and am looking forward to it. Beans and lentils are good, filling, and very healthy.
If anyone doesn't like tapwater, filters such as Brita are a great help.

Unknown said...

I go even further with the water thing and ask for cups of water at coffee shops/the movies etc rather than buying a bottle. I'm cheap:)

I wish we had had a bigger turkey for Thanksgiving so that we'd have lots more leftovers. But my mum taught me how to make soup out of all the bones and grisly bits this year (remember soup from a stone?), so that will be some tasty soup!

the Bag Lady said...

dfLeah - What exactly goes wrong when you freeze things in glass jars?

Sagan - hmmm, soup from a stone?
I've never heard of that......
I must have been living under a rock...

Leah J. Utas said...

dfBag Lady, the jars break.

the Bag Lady said...

dfLeah - do you cool them completely? Put them in the fridge first. Leave expansion space? (an inch at the top of the jar)

Anonymous said...

I've always hated to shop (except for books!) so I put off buying even things I need, even on the internet where it hardly hurts at all.
I grew up with people (not just family) who were frugal whether they needed to save money or not because Waste Is Just Wrong. Until I was seven we had no trash collection, and by the time I was four I was allowed to strike the match when my mother and I took the garbage down to the pit to burn it, so I knew from observation that things don't just evaporate when you're through with them.
I'm the only person I know who darns socks, even counting my parents' generation. I have two pairs of knee socks that I've been wearing every winter since my aunt gave them to me for Christmas 1965. They're not just old enough to vote, they're almost old enough to run for President.
Mary Anne in Kentucky

the Bag Lady said...

Mary Anne - I too grew up in a frugal household, but fell into some bad habits when I lived in town and was working full time. Now that I'm on the ranch, I've re-learned a few things.
Still not very good at darning socks, though. ~~sigh~~

Unknown said...


You've never heard of soup from a stone?

Goodness. It's one of the best childrens books of all time. Right up there with Where The Wild Things Are.

Here you go: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stone_soup

Terrie Farley Moran said...

df Bag Lady,

I have given up bottled water. I avoided buying it for years and then the bottles just took over my life. Recently I decided that I am not going to waste anymore money on plastic that clogs the landfill so that I have a convenient way to carry water that probably came from someone else's tap.

Thanks for these tips

the Bag Lady said...

Thanks, Sagan! I had never heard that particular fable before - or, if I had, I had forgotten it!

the Bag Lady said...

dfTerrie - I have a bottle that I refill with regular tap water.
A penny saved is a penny earned, and all that stuff..... :)

Anonymous said...

I think for me the simple act of cooking from scratch, bringing lunches (so not eating out much) and not buying coffee every day made a big difference.
It's the little things that eat away at money when you don't notice.
That and not buying things on credit unless I have to. I'd rather do without than worry about loving what I have because I can't really afford it in the first place. Being a super broke student for a long time really teaches you how to get by with a little. I do splurge now, mostly on food, but I try and keep it all in check.
I want to live, not live for my stuff...
Great post :)

Anonymous said...

Not loving...losing.

Ann (bunnygirl) said...

I think the biggest reason people don't cook is because they think it takes a long time. It doesn't, really. Okay, the first time one makes a new dish, it can take a few extra minutes, but that's just learning curve stuff.

I've been very successful in cooking a week's worth of meals every Sunday afternoon. It takes about three hours start to finish. The trick is to plan ahead so you have all the right ingredients, then plan the prep so that while one thing is cooking you can be working on another.

A rice cooker, crock pot and veggie steamer are great time-savers. I'll probably ask for a bread maker for Christmas, too. I'm all for any appliance where you can toss in your ingredients, walk away for a few hours and come back to find food ready to eat.

One of my big cost-savers is thrift and consignment shopping. It's just amazing the variety of second-hand stores out there, from the truly trashy (good for buying clothes to paint the house in) to the high-end designer resales where you can get Bergdorf-Goodman dresses for only a fraction of their retail cost. If you have a good eye for fashion and a little patience, you can get some terrific bargains.

You can also get things for the home at the thrifts. You can be sure I didn't pay retail price for my Revereware or Corningware. If you have pets, you can get sheets and towels for only a dollar or two. Wash them and put them where the pets like to sleep so as to protect the furniture.

As a society, we throw so much away that it's scary. We should be very judicious in what we choose to buy new. In many cases, someone else's gently-used cast-off will serve just as well. Heck a lot of times things go to the thrifts with store tags still attached. Now THAT says a lot about our society, and it's not necessarily good.

the Bag Lady said...

Geo - I think that for most of the bloggers who hang around here, this post was a little redundant. We all seem pretty sensible, thrifty folks!

BG - I, too, shop at thrift stores - because I don't go out a great deal, and the cows don't care what I wear when I feed them, it seems a waste to spend a lot of money on clothes. I have a few "good" outfits for when I need to dress up a little, but most of my clothes are "gently-used".
And a lot of you know how I feel about people who throw perfectly good furniture away at the dump!! :)

Reb said...

Sis, this was a great post! I would add that library's are a great place for books AND movies, cd's and internet access.

Have your condo/apartment complex put up a book exchange library in the lobby or by the mailboxes.

Bread makers to make your own for much less than store bought & sliced. You can make buns and pizza and so many other things with them. Freeze the dough, then cook only what you need if you are single or not a big bread eater.

You can not only take water with you, but soda or juice, just remember to recycle the big bottles too.

Gee, maybe I should do a post too ;)

Scrumpy said...

Wonderful post, BL!

One thing that has helped me to put my spending in perspective is to look at how much it is over time. Say I like to get my Diet Coke every day at the local fast food joint. Now, $2.04 on a daily basis doesn't seem like much. But over a year, that's almost 750 bucks! That's nearly three months' worth of car payments.

I avoid going to the places I know I'm bound to be tempted to buy little stuff I don't need, namely Target.

Much like when I'm tempted by a piece of cheesecake, I'll ask myself before buying "How will I feel about this tomorrow?" Normally, I realize the high of buying something new will be gone within 24 hours and that helps me to put whatever it is down.

And don't forget about the amazing work a crockpot can do!

Dawn said...

I buy much of my clothing from thrift shops - they seem to have nicer things, I think. Did buy some new things for the book tour last year but they don't get much of an outing now.

Food scraps get divided up between the dogs and the hens. Usually one or tother of them will enjoy.

Grow lots of our veges and do some bottling (not as much as the Bag Lady!)

Am trying to convince myself that mowing the lawn is just like subscribing to a gym!

Conny said...

Mary Anne from Kentucky, could you direct me to a book or resource for learning to darn socks? I haven't tried a Google search yet though. Over the years I've asked my mother to teach me and she just keeps telling me its cheaper to buy new socks. I still want to learn how.

the Bag Lady said...

Reb - good ideas, all of them. We can all find little ways to save money if we put our minds to it.

SB - that's so true! Oftentimes I'll pick something up and put it in my cart, only to turn around an aisle later and go put it back because I don't really NEED it!

Dawn - I have myself convinced that gardening is just as effective and far cheaper (to say nothing of more productive!) than going to the gym! (I've just spent the last 2 hours digging up potatoes - quite a workout!)

Conny - I hope Mary Anne can help us all out with instructions for darning socks. My mother taught me years ago, but I was never very good at it!

Anonymous said...

Conny, I have no idea how I learned to darn socks. I know my mother described the process, but she never showed me. The most important thing is a good darning egg. If you don't have any plastic easter eggs, a lightbulb will do. Stretch the hole over the egg. With thread as similar in weight to the sock as you've got, run a line of running stitch around the edge of the hole (like cutting in the corners when you paint a room) and then make a warp from side to side to side of the hole going one way. Then weave through those threads going ninety degrees from the first way. There! You have created cloth! Let it pull tighter than the hole starts out, as long as it doesn't pucker into a knot. Practice on a sock you don't care about first.
Your mother is wrong about it being cheaper to buy new socks unless you get paid an awful lot an hour. The average time it takes me from picking up a sock and going to get the sewing basket to cutting the thread is about ten minutes.
And of course it isn't all about money--it's about extending the useful life of things you love.
I can't remember if Newnes' Complete Needlecraft (Newnes' is part of the title) which I don't own because it was out of print when I first discovered it at the library has anything on darning socks, but although it's mostly about embroidery it has a chapter about mending. That's where I learned to cut the frayed edges off of terry cloth towels and machine hem them, which is why I'm still using a hand towel that I know my parents had before 1959.

Mary Anne in Kentucky

Anonymous said...

P.S. The sock method works for darning sweaters, too, if you aren't one of the people who can create fake knit stitches with a crochet hook in the middle of the fabric. I can't--I can knit and I can crochet, but I can't combine the two.

Mary Anne in Kentucky

the Bag Lady said...

Mary Anne - thanks for describing the process. That is how I remember my mom teaching me to do it, too, but somehow I never end up with a nice-looking mend. ~~sigh~~ I think it's because I'm too impatient to weave the thread through properly.

I do the towel trick, though, and do a lot of mending of hubby's clothes. (Of course, my own clothes are tattered and torn, but that doesn't matter....)

Anonymous said...

I don't care if the darn is nice-looking if it's inside the shoe. What really matters is that it feels comfortable! I have gotten good enough that the sweaters i've mended holes right in the center of the front only show if you look hard.

Mary Anne in Kentucky

Hilary said...

A little over a year ago, I kept saying "Baggie, you need to start a blog" and of course I was right. Now I think it's time that Mary Anne in Kentucky starts a blog. Methinks she's a wealth of information.

Anonymous said...

Hilary, I was thinking, as I scrolled down the comments, that I might start a blog After The Move, to record how living in a partially solar-heated house works. I've already promised my architect to keep records for him. So your comment was quite timely. The problem will be how to keep my (I hope to have some) clients from identifying me so I don't have to be discreet.

Mary Anne in (somewhere rural) Kentucky

the Bag Lady said...

Mary Anne - if Hilary agrees with me, it must be a good idea!!
And it's quite easy to (sorta/kinda) disguise your identity. As long as you don't give in to the desire to post a photo of yourself.

Hilary said...

Great to hear that, Mary Anne. I'm sure you'll figure out the perfect way to keep your blog life and work life separately. You're clearly resourceful. Looking forward to it. :)