Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Monday, February 3, 2014

Teach your children well

Anyone my age knows that line from a song popular during our misspent youth. Crosby, Stills, Nash and occasionally Young recorded it. If you're a young whipper-snapper and have never heard it, it's a toe tapper.  The older I get, the more this line makes sense.

My folks were moderately frugal. They tried to instill frugal habits, at least when it comes to basic living, where possible.  Most of these habits remain, 40+ years later. I'll tell you the top three for me.

First one is: Get a sweater. This is great for winter utility bills. If you have children 4 or older, they should have a sweater or sweatshirt (or other fleecy thing) they can wear inside if your chosen temp is too cool for them during the day. My folks usually had the daytime heat set around 65 (60 at night)in the winter, depending on the price for natural gas or electricity.

Next comes: Turn the light out if you're not in the room. Dad was career military, so we lived in military housing about half my childhood. Despite not paying for utilities when we lived on post, the training started.  We each got a weekly allowance for doing our chores. It was usually about enough to go to the movies (25 cents) , have a soda or snack (another 15 cents) and get a candy at the PX/BX. Usually around 50 cents, but it changed over time based on prices, age, etc.  This was to teach us about the expectation to work hard and earn.  We were also paid a modest amount (about 25 cents in elementary, $1 in Jr High and $5 in high school)for A's on our report card. A's were expected and rewarded. B's were not and we were expected to correct those the next report period. Fortunately, handwriting was not graded after 4th grade.  BUT I digress.  What does this have to do with the lights? Even when living on post, we were expected to conserve utilities. On post, it was to steward the tax-payer's money.  Off-post, it was to steward ours.  A light left on (and discovered by Dad or Mom) cost us a nickel (later due to inflation, 25 cents).  Even if you just ran to the bathroom and were coming right back: That will be 5 cents, please. We all got to be good about flipping the switch. It added up. Still does.

Last one for today is about TP: You don't need THAT much. I won't go to great lengths on this, but we didn't use hand-fulls, just a few squares. Finding the balance for clean heiney and clean hands isn't that difficult.  It not only saves money on the front end of purchasing the item, but also on the back end (pun intended) of not having an expensive or annoying clogged toilet.

Each of these habits can contribute to preparedness two ways. The first is obvious re: cash flow. Each occurrence may be inexpensive, but how many times each day do they occur in your household?  The second  use of such habits is during your local emergencies. Even younger children can understand how to put on more clothing to stay warm. If you have a backup generator or small solar set for light, frugality with the utility is an important habit to making your supplies last until the 'all clear'. Last of all, if you are using alternatives to your inside toilet, handfuls of TP waste resources and create extra work.

So if you have expensive habits in one of these areas, pick one and start to train yourself and your household.  For the TP thing, you can just ask your kid to show you how they do it, doesn't need to be audited in action!

Food for thought. 

Got a favorite? If so, please share with others.

Friday, January 3, 2014

20 pound limit

First, I'd like to say hello to any alphabet agencies monitoring this blog. It's just the harmless mullings of an old broad, so enjoy!

I just finished packing a box for my nephew who is deployed. Based on what I know about his specialty, I doubt he's in a warm bed every night. So what do you send someone who probably humps all he has for a couple weeks at a time, given the 20 lb limit of international priority mail?

There are a few sure bets: Mrs Field's cookies (individually wrapped), dental floss, Hall's cough drops, baby wipes, protein bars, new toothbrush.  What else, given that he probably has the very basics?

I know he's not in the tropics, so I found an alpaca watch cap at the local farmer's market. It's about the same color as I imagine the dirt to be over there, so it went in the box along with felted alpaca boot insoles and a pair of socks. I hope the cigars were OK, too.  That pushed the $$ limit, but the box had a little space and weight left.  I put the munchables in a couple of rodent-proof cookie tins, in case his FOB has a rodent problem.

Being a basic worrier, I also assembled a pocket EDC for him from a small black mesh bag with a zipper. It's about 4 X 6 inches, no real depth, to fit in a trouser pocket. It has 2 mylar blankets, a firesteel, a chapstick, a tool card (with knife, compass, magnifying glass, etc.), small carabiner flashlight (LED)  and small protein bar.

In a couple months, I'll send another box, max weight 20 lbs. Max budget is around $100.  Any ideas or suggestions from those of you with experience 'over there?' Box may get there as Spring begins, or a little before.  Thanks!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Useful Trash

This article has a good start on reuse of those pesky empty pill bottles. I find most of mine have about 10% of the space filled, the rest is air. I combine the left-overs of the same medication at month end and either reuse or recycle the bottles. Some of his ideas are new to me -- like a sewing kit. I'll work on one of those soon in lieu of the little hotel kit in my BoB.

Here are some of my favorite uses, most of which are for reducing clutter or adding a layer of water resistance to whatever is inside:

LIGHTERS: 3 of the BIC mini-lighters will fit in one, reducing the potential for accidental discharge of the butane.

CAN OPENERS: I carry 6 of the larger P51 can openers (3 for me, 3 to trade/give away) in one of these bottles in my BoB and another in my car kit.

FIRESTEEL: KMart has those caps that are child proof if used one way and not if turned upside down.  The Upside-down mode makes the bottle just long enough to fit a small firesteel.

MAGAZINES: A medium size bottle (usually for bigger pills) holds 3 magazines for my small pistol. There may be a size that will hold rounds or magazines for your small pistol. Obviously not your first source of a replacement mag in a pinch.

WATER Purification: See below

KMart (yes, I love my KMart Pharmacy) occasionally has colored tops. I usually ask for red or blue ones. RED (or pink) for anything related to fire (matches, lighter, firesteel) and BLUE for anything related to water purification (tablets, small vial of 10% iodine solution, wad of clean muslin or coffee filters). That makes these important provisions even easier to spot when your are cold or setting up for cooking.

So why these used bottles and not just some little ziplocks? The pill bottles are less likely to be crushed in a tight pack, or to be damaged by the content -- like the can openers punching holes and falling out of the bags. The caps are more reliable than a zip lock top, especially if your hands and the plastic bag are cold. The filled bottles are relatively small, but are large enough not to become part of the lint, dust and crud that collects in the bottom of your pack.

Needless to say, I don't recycle many of these pill bottles anymore.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Wishing you all a peaceful Christmas

From our family to you and yours, may your day be filled with joy and the love of  Christ at this Christmas.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Cuppa Joe

For some of us, it's a treat.  For the rest it's a necessity. Coffee.  Whether hot or cold, it serves a purpose.  Comfort, caffeine or confection, it's part of the American story. Studies are showing that it's for good reason, as well.  Yup, medicinal value just puts the frosting on the cup.

So how to cope when a cup may be hard to come by?  How about roasting your own stored green beans?  I looked for a 'deal' on canned beans for several years. The few places I found were no bargain, often $20 a pound or more.  Not very frugal, for sure.  But now, Costco has begun to carry the green beans at a great price. They sell them at $90 for a 22.5 pound case, delivered, here:

http://www.costco.com/Rainforest-Alliance-Green-Unroasted-Arabica-Coffee-6-x-3.75lb-Cans.product.100054969.html

In case you don't feel like doing the math, that's $4 a pound.

Why store green coffee?  Mostly because you need to really be on top of rotation for roasted coffee, even if not ground. Given your conditions, you may need to rotate every few months. Not so much with green coffee. The beans, especially canned, can last a decade.

The Costco beans are environmentally friendly and come with roasting directions on each can. We roasted some and the recipe works! I'd add that if you use a cast iron skillet like we did, keep the coffee 1 layer deep until you improve your expertise.  We'll try the old-fashioned popcorn popper next.

For grinding, we used a Kyocera ceramic hand grinder. It was great. In addition to being non-electric and adjustable, you can screw the grinder on to any regular size Mason or Ball jar.  If you break the nice jar it comes with, you are not out of business!.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Apologies

I'm not ignoring this blog, just out of gas for right now.  In the mean time, if you remember the cool walking stick from here, you can now order one from this great guy. They come in 3 heights, mostly based on how tall you are.