Monday, July 16, 2012

Saving Money on Utilities Food and Fun

One of the most important changes I have made is I turned down my gas water heater. I experimented and got the water to a temperature that was hot enough to clean the dishes without adding cold water to it and that is where I stopped. It is at the middle setting. Almost all of the time I do my laundry using cold water and dry on the permanent press setting. If you wash your jeans and towels together instead of washing them with shirts and lighter weight things, then you can dry them on a higher temperature setting and save because the rest of your laundry doesn't need to be set as high or run in the dryer for as long as they do.

When I do use the dryer I put a clean dry bath towel in the dryer, if I have lights in the dryer I put a light towel in there, darks, same thing.  It takes almost half the time to dry a load of laundry doing this.  That is a huge savings!!  I'm going to pick up a used towel just to keep by the dryer and I'm going to spray it with a scent I like so the laundry will come out smelling fresh.  I like using a combination of lavender and citronella vanilla.  I dilute this with a little rubbing alcohol and water.  I use this to freshen things up.  So I'm going to spray the dryer towel and use this in the dryer. 

Another thing I do that has saved me a lot of money is during the warm weather months I hang my laundry out to dry. I bought a roll of wire covered in plastic. I don't usually buy anything that is plastic but this was a decision I made based on the strength of the cord and because the squirrels kept eating through my laundry clothes line twine. Though that did last me a couple of years. I got a couple of small locks that look like half loops, like a bicycle lock. They had two holes where two screws went in and I could tighten and adjust the line when it stretched.

If you want to make sure you don't have an ant in your clean laundry wait until around 4pm. They tend to disappear by then. You can always throw your clothes in the dryer under air with a dryer sheet for five minutes and you are good to go. Add a few minutes more if you want to soften your towels.

Because I gave myself such a break on my gas bill I could keep up with it and even pay ahead on my electric bill, which was crucial for the summer months. I paid ahead on my gas bill so if the prices skyrocketed I'd be okay. And now I have paid enough ahead on my electric bill that I can get through the summer months too. I don't pay late fees. I pay my bills and divide up the rest and that's what I have left to live on.

I bought 40 Watt bulbs. And I got a different fixture for the dining room that has led lights and that too has made a difference. I'm not happy with the new lightbulbs that are supposed to last a long time and save money. They don't last a long time and they have mercury in them. When I read what I needed to go through to dispose of them I thought these are a bio-hazard. I use natural light during the day and only keep a light on in the room I'm in. I have one brighter light where I sew or read and I do need that. But the rest of the light bulbs did not to be bright. Only one in the kitchen, one in the living room and I use the three lights on one stand and use low watt bulbs on two of them and a 60 watt bulb to use for reading, writing, painting and fixing things.

I recycle all of my paper and whatever little plastic I get and glass and metal. I have cut way back on purchasing anything in plastic. I even went back to buying laundry soap in a box. I saved my glass jars and lids and kept certain ones for drinking things out of and other sizes for putting food away. I invested in an inexpensive bottle washer and after I've washed them I put them in the oven to dry out and then I put the tops on them, that I washed and put on the window sill to dry. I put them on a shelf and use those instead of plastic containers. If I am going somewhere I filled a glass jar with some ice and water, one for me and one for my service dog Coco. I wrap them in a towel and put them in a bag and I'm good to go. No chemical leaching from the plastic in my drinks or food and I can re-use those glass containers over and over again.

My next project is to make bags to take to the grocery store. I've decided to get a simple pattern for that because I've been having a hard time getting the folds right. I don't put veggies or fruits in separate plastic bags when I'm in the grocery store. If you have a permanent bag that you can through in the wash, you simple open it and put your fruits and veggies in it and then put them on the check out counter. Plastic is so bad for the environment and wasteful. Things packaged in plastic always cost more and processed foods always cost more.

I can only spend about $30 a week on groceries so I buy fruits and veggies and brown rice and tea and I do buy Amish eggs and a small milk for my decaf coffee. I buy Amish butter and honey and Greek Olive Oil because I don't want to support any company or country that is forcing GMO's into our bodies by neatly tucking it into our processed foods. I buy beans and soak them overnight with a teaspoon of baking soda and then I rinse them in a strainer in the morning and put them in my crockpot. I add veggies and seasonings and have bean soup then then after a couple of days I make humus with the rest in my blender. I eat oatmeal and dried raisins and cranberries and coconut and nuts and some times I add berries to it and that's what I have for breakfast. And that is pretty much it. I keep the butter for the rare times I use it, in the frig. I steam my veggies and season them with soy and sesame seeds and onions and garlic and maybe some lemon or a lime and I throw some homegrown herbs like cilantro, basil, garlic and onions and oregano and sage in my rice. Herbs are very easy to grow. I'll write about that another day. I can't afford meat or chicken or fish but maybe once every two weeks. And instead of buying juice, which I try to do once every two weeks, I buy an orange or bananas. I buy a no non-sense Greek yogurt and some times add just a little bit of Agave in it and mix some granola in it with some fresh fruit and I have a great dessert or healthy cool breakfast. I allow myself eggs for breakfast once on the weekend. And I put veggies sauteed veggies and seasonings in them.

Keeping veggies cut and cleaned and in a little water in your frig is a great thing to snack on and it is healthy and actually makes you feel full. Unlike the processed foods you might buy. I don't buy bread anymore but once a week I treat myself to some pizza dough and make my own pizza with veggies cut thin (zuccini or yellow squash and mushrooms) in a pretty design on top, like pepperoni, and then I add some minced fresh garlic and basil or oregano and a little bit of feta or mozarella and call it fun.

I make my own batch of tea, in a stew pot, about once a week and then after the water has little bubbles in it I throw a variety of tea bags in it. I take off the tags first. Then I add a tablespoon on honey and stir it up and put a lid on it. I let it sit on the stove until it is room temperature. Then I fill my glass jars with tea and put it in the frig. I have tea all week and I can add a little lemon or lime or berries when I want too. And it takes GREAT!!!! I don't buy any soda or water in plastic bottles, ever.

I rarely go to restaurants to eat. I can't afford it. I live a very quiet life. But that doesn't mean I don't have a social life.  I think that people who live near each other should socialize. Throw the pride away and everybody bring a dish to pass and something to drink and have fun. Play horseshoes or take a walk after dinner or meet and eat in a park and have a good time!! Take some time off from your worries and troubles and give yourself some permission to enjoy being around people you like or love. You've got to give your brain some time off to just enjoy the simple pleasures of a good story told and a good laugh had afterwards.

I remember my grandparents used to talk about the depression everyday. They passed down a lot of wisdom to me. And I also remember how much they laughed when they talked about how they made it through those tough times. And that stayed with me too. Having a good time and laughing and not being alone and isolated is important.

Oh, and I created a budget I could live with and that is what I bought gifts with. Some times I bought supplies and made something beautiful and some times I bought a good book or something the person would like or just made a card. But I kept it within my monthly budget. I'm not interested in putting on a pretense, people come and go. The only difference between the times when you have money and the times when you don't is the size of your parties. I couldn't be bothered.

I don't buy papertowels. I use old towels and cut them up and raggedy t-shirts when they have lived way beyond their worst day and I cut them up too. I keep them in a container in my closet and when I need to clean something up I do. Then I can wash it again. A washcloth works just fine and lasts so much longer than sponges do for cleaning your dishes. I get the green scouring pads and buy one small box of SOS pads and I keep a used one in the freezer for those rare times when I need to do some scrubbing. I have old stainless steel pots and pans and that's all I need.

Oh, and I got rid of my electric toaster oven and toaster and everything but my blender, which I love for making smoothies or humus and my hand mixer. Mostly everything I make I stir with a spoon or fork or cut with a knife. Using electricity to fix your meals adds so much to your electric bill. So I use the little bit I have sparingly. Those few times I may toast some bread for a guest I use the broiler and I stand right there and keep checking on it because sure as burnt toast, if you walk away from it - that's what you'll get.

So these are some things you can do to help cut your energy bills down. One day I'm hoping to get some motion detector solar lights for my driveway and for over my doors and call that great. Oh, and I put a handle on the inside of my garage, Now I open my garage door manually. The garage door opener broke and I couldn't afford to fix it. Then I thought, I can open and close this door. I wonder how much money I'm wasting on this? Because my garage is detached and I use my side door I didn't bother putting a handle on the outside of the door but its no big deal to screw on a handle and its some exercise. A neighbor adjusted the tension for me, which was just turning a screw a little bit. So the garage door would stay up when I opened it and it would be easy for me to pull down. It works fine.

I guess my advice boils down to this, look around. What do you use everyday? Does it add to your utility bills? Can you make an adjustment and still function by not using something? Or by ajusting the temperature? And then just do it.

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