Sometimes I write a post where there’s overlap and I am not entirely sure which blog it belongs in. So I wrote about the great deal gardeners and composters can get at Starbucks on my local town blog Camp Verde Life.
This is a real win-win for those who are green and frugal - Used Coffee Grounds Free at Starbucks. You can pretty much just keep going back and getting as much grounds for your soil amendment purposes as you need. And this keeps potentially thousands of pounds of grounds daily out of the landfills. They go through a lot of coffee.
And if that wasn’t enough caffeinated good news - all Starbucks now offer free WIFI.Filed under Frugal Living, Self-Reliance, green living | Comments (3)
Summertime is berry time in much of the northern world. The blackberries, at least here in the state of Washington, are plump by July and ready for eating all summer long. You can plan an entire afternoon collecting berries, eating some for a picnic, and taking the rest home for some elegant, healthy treats.
The best way to pick blackberries: head to any park, hiking trail or cycling greenbelt flanked with the twisty, thorny bushes, and start picking. Blackberry bushes make thick, impenetrable thickets in boggy lowlands and low grassy areas close to bodies of water. The purple berries are the ones to pick and they should come right off the vine with the slightest tug.
If you are foraging for berries to take home, make sure you are ready with a sturdy container to hold them. I like a wide-mouthed Nalgene bottle for simple afternoon pickings, or a sturdy, large basket for serious collecting. Using a baggie is less satisfying to the soul, and can also result in squished berries and a sticky, leaky bag.
If you are using a bugspray while picking, make sure you have none on your hands. You don’t want toxins to get on your food, and into your body.
Other blackberry picking gear includes thick cotton pants (denim or Carharts work well) for wading into thorn territory, closed-toed shoes for the same reason, and possibly a set of garden gloves. I prefer to use my hands, so as not to bruise the berries, and to improve my hand-eye coordination - a pricked finger learns quickly what not to pluck!
Take only the blackest, most plump blackberries, from the branch. Leave the red and pink berries to continue to develop (for the next people happening by, and for the birds and other creatures that depend on berries for survival). If you only select the berries that are ready to fall anyway, you will not be denuding the branches! Be sure to ask landowner’s permission if you are berry-picking on private land.
Once you have your blackberries at home, give them a good, gentle rinsing under cold water. Use a large collander, and spread berries out on paper towels to dry. I actually have a large, clean mesh screen that I use for my berry rinsing and drying. I found this screen for 69 cents at Goodwill, but you can easily make one of your own, of of window screen mesh, stapled to four strips of wood.
Set aside berries for immediate use. Freeze or dehydrate the rest. Or make your own jam preserves with the bounty.
You can use fresh or frozen berries over ice cream, in smoothies, in Blackberry Margeritas (Use berry vodka and a rim of sugar crystals), in pies, cobblers and tarts, and, of course, in the raw for a snack.
Dehydrated berries are great in trail mixes, tossed into fresh green salads with a vinegar-type dressing, or rehydrated for more traditional uses. You can use dehydrated blackberries in potpourri and for other crafting ideas.
Pickled blackberries are another gourmet option to consider experimenting with. Or make your own blackberry wine and blackberry vinegars!
Mouthwatering Berry RecipesFiled under Frugal Living | Comment (0)
I love finding a cozy, clean, quality blanket or comforter to take home for snuggling. You can find some excellent used ones if you keep your eyes open.
The best prices for used comforters are at garage sales, where you can usually snag one for under $5. At the thrift shops, prices usually start at $7, and are more often found between $10-20 for the better ones.
When I shop the colored tag sale days at Goodwill, the Salvation Army or Savers, I always head right to the blankets. If you are persistant, you can find gorgeous down comforters, handmade quilts, colorful afghans and soft, thick blankets for a song.
Always start by using your fingers to feel the ‘hand’ - the heft and texture - of the cloth. Does the blanet feel good to the touch? Look for the tag - you want to see high or all cotton fabrics. Cotton wears well and won’t be scratchy or pill (like polyester and some wool/acrylic blends do).
Next, smell the fabric. It should smell laundered, or, at least, have no smell at all. If you are satisfied on these counts, then take the blanket off the hanger or shelf, unfold, and examine both sides. Don’t be afraid to spread it all out right where you are. How else are you going to see the whole thing?
You are looking for rips and stains. Don’t buy stained or ripped bedding unless you are A. sure you can get the stain out, or B. willing to fix a ripped seam or mend a tiny hole.
I feel there are so many nice blankets to hunt for and find that I don’t need one needing any extra cleaning or sewing…unless you LOVE the blanket in question. In that case, you can usually talk the price down by showing the stain or rip to the seller, and asking if they can come down on the price. Always be very courteous when asking. No one HAS to give you a better price, although it might be in everyone’s best interests to do so.
Once you are home, you can clean your ‘new’ used bedding, and spread your nice finds in your guest or master bedroom!Filed under Frugal Living, Uncategorized, green living | Comments (3)
If you are like me, you get a thrill from discovering used luxury-level bedding and linens. I have a whole linen closet bursting with Egyptian cotton sheets, combed Pima cotton pillowcases, and the like. They feel luxurious with their superior cotton blends and higher thread counts.
And while they don’t match exactly, they each have that look of faded roses that intermingles so well on my bed. I love looking at and touching each and every sheet, sham, duvet and pillowcase I find.
Of course, buying used linens comes with its own set of potential hazards. While you can outfit your bed on a bare-bones budget, you want to make sure the new-to-you linens are clean.
First, in the thrift store, or at the yard sale, give the sheets (or whatever) the Sniff Test. Do the sheets smell bad? Do they smell like urine? You don’t want anything offensive for YOUR bed, but be aware a simple dirty sheet can be washed.
Then open the sheets and eyeball them. Are there any stains? Dirt or food stains can come right out, but you won’t want to buy anything used with blood stains on them, for sanitary reasons.
Once bought, take a good look at your finds. A good cold soak and subsequent cold wash will remove any chance of setting a stain from biological components like urine, vomit or blood. Presoak with laundry detergent before running the cycle. Use a tiny bit of bleach in your cold wash (remember, these are used sheets, and a small amount of bleach isn’t going to harm them).
If you are worried about getting the sheets really clean, then follow up your cold wash with a good hot wash. The cold wash will help remove protein stains and the hot wash will assist with removing various forms of dirt and body oils that sheets can pick up. Hot washes make your bedding as sanitary as they can get.
If the sheets have a very high thread count, like 280 or over, you can decrease the amount of agitation they will undergo by using a delicate cycle option, and drying the sheets with low or no heat. This will prolong their life.
If you have run the sheets through both washes, you will end up with really clean luxury bedding that you do not have to fear to use.Filed under Frugal Living, green living | Comment (0)
I have the best linens. The best sheets, nicest pillowcases. Great weaves, wonderful hand, a luxury to touch and sleep on. And I got them all used. You can too.
When you buy used, you can afford to be a linen snob, buying only the best for your bed.
Thread count is all the rage these days, and you can buy new sheets for absurdly high thread counts, for absurdly high fees. And while a high thread count does ensure a good feel (if finer cottons are used), you won’t make a long-term bargain out of the expense. The higher thread counts rip very easily and don’t have the washable longevity of the mid-range thread counts.
A thread count over 180 is called percale, and used to be THE luxury bedding. It’s still a good thread count for all-cotton sheets, especially for combed cotton. Any used sheets in the 200s-300s for thread count is a steal. Most sheets will not bother listing thread counts, but they will tell you about the cotton type if it’s worth mentioning. And that’s the main secret to picking up luxury linens for pennies.
The key to the best bedding is locating the best cotton. I always pick up sheets that read Pima Cotton, Supima Cotton, and most especially the desirable Egyptian Cotton. A 100% Combed Cotton is also worth grabbing - combed cotton has such a soft hand and luxurious feel.
I seldom buy cotton/polyester blends. Polyester pills, and usually imparts a scratchy, plastic-like feel to the bedding.
I would consider picking up a blend for children’s beds, or for dressing day beds that see occassional use. I would still look for a quality blend, with a high cotton content - at least 60%. Any blend made by Ralph Lauren, Martha Stewart Everyday or JC Penney will be a good buy, with great colors and classy patterns.
I also pick up muslin sheets when I find them - the older, more vintage ones will have a wonderful feel from decades of use and washings…and good muslin lasts and lasts. I don’t think you can even find new muslin sheets any more.
I frequent the Goodwills, mostly, although you can also grab fine linens for a song at garage sales. Everyone else is so busy hunting down collectibles that sheets and pillowcases are mostly passed over. I can tell a fine cotton just by feeling the sheets - eventually, you will develop a touch for this as well.
Keep in mind that you will have a hard time finding matching sheet and pillowcase sets. This never bothers me - with today’s unique styles you can mix and match.
My mixed style of choice is the Shabby Chic look of gently fading red and pink roses. The mixed prints on my pillows and sheets looks delicious!
Other styles that lend themselves to mixing:
1. solids and stripes that match your rooms main colors and accents
2. all-white…mixing eggshell, navajo and taupe looks nice
3. blue-on-white, pink-on-white or toile-type patterns
4. anything with a country design, or ginghams
While I like roses exclusively for my bed, I also see many pillowcases with other floral themes for you to collect - tulips, daisies, mums and mixed bouquets.
Make sure you give your “new” linens a good, hot washing before you use them to sanitize.Filed under Frugal Living, green living | Comment (0)
Through the kind donation of Charleen Larson at JCEarrings.com, Faramir (the mom), and her little boys William (grey) and John (orange) are on their way to healthy, long lives at their forever home with the HippyGeek!
Thank You, Charleen!Filed under All About Me, Doing Good Deeds, Frugal Living | Comments (2)
Okay, here is my breakdown of selling recyclables in the Prescott area of Arizona, trip number two:
- 100 lbs steel - Called Tin and White Goods - $7.70 (all kinds of neat stuff - horseshoes, a vintage metal tennis racket, old garden implements, random steel bricks, rebar, wire hangers, nails/screws/washers, steel cans, car parts, pulleys)
- 16 lbs Aluminum Cans - $8.80
- 2 lbs Painted Aluminum - .95 (this was a washing machine door i found on the side of the highway)
- 4 lbs Aluminum Breakage - .75 (aluminum window screen panes)
- 1 lbs Insulated Copper - $1.02 (this was old cords/wiring found on the side of the road)
- 5 lbs Yellow Brass - $7.98 (fittings found in an old lot, under the duff under some bushes)
- 4 lbs Tin and White Goods - .31 (small random steel objects i didn’t unload from the first weighing - this was mainly bottle caps I’ve been picking up along the roads)
So my total was $27.51 in cash that I received from Yavapai Metal Recycling in Dewey, AZ. I had another coupon for an additional 10%, so the total would have been less without that coupon (which came in the mail).
I have a birthday coming soon and I asked DH for a metal detector. Let’s see if I get one! I would love that. Not only could it help me collect small metals (and hopefully more brass and copper), I might find gold and silver jewelry, or old coins.
Along these lines - when you constantly scan the ground for metal, you also find a lot of coins. Not just pennies! Yesterday I found a quarter and a penny, and another day I found several dollars worth of nickels, dimes and pennies. In this dirt/gravel driveway alone I usually find a penny or dime around every other day (the rains keep stirring things up).
I have a jar I keep just for found money. When it gets full, I roll the coins up and bring them to my bank. Finding even a penny makes me feel happy!Filed under All About Me, Frugal Living, Self-Reliance, green living | Comments (4)
I felt both hopeful and appalled by a visit yesterday to my local Refuse Transit Station, the place where trash waits to be brought to its final resting place in an Arizona landfill.
Basically, I wanted to see what people throw away.
I try to recycle, compost and donate everything possible. My personal goal is No Net Trash. An unrealistic standard to be true: even native cultures had midden heaps. I figure with a high standard for myself, the end results should be pretty good. I felt inspired to see what ends up going to the landfill in my community.
First I spoke to the employee taking in the trash. I asked him where this stuff goes (to the landfill). I asked if anything gets recycled (some things yes, some no). I asked if people could come to the transit station and buy/bring useful salvage home (the answer is a firm no).
Okay. I looked around the various heaps. A hill of tires gets recycled into components of asphalt. Car batteries and motor oil are recycled. Scrap metal is sold to junk recyclers. All good so far.
Sad limp mattresses piled high to the sky: landfill-bound. Pallets and carpets and construction debris - landfill. Household castoffs - landfill. And a HUGE mountain range of landscape waste - sadly, all to be buried in a landfill.
When I asked why the county doesn’t mulch the green waste, the employee told me that was a really good question and to ask the county supervisor. When I asked about salvage of usable items he repeated his request. I thought that was a pretty good answer, actually. He gave me a list of prices, of what the costs are for bringing our trash to the transit station, so I could be armed with the facts if I ever followed through to speak with the county.
Then I wandered over to the metal heap to actually eyeball what gets tossed. It was interesting and enlightening. This small mountain contained many useful items that could have been brought to a thrift store. While a large bulk of items were large appliances like fridges, stoves, dishwashers and laundry machines, I also saw nice bicycles, a ton of outdoor lounge chairs in great shape, perfectly fine upscale baby strollers, outdoor BBQs, folding camping chairs, metal shelving and wheel barrows.
Some of these things needed a small amount of fixing to be usable, like the bicycles. And some were in great shape and ready for another lifetime of use.
Since this pile was the metal heap, slated for recycling, I couldn’t feel too sad about all these useful items: at least they were not destined for the landfill. Their metal parts would be stripped and recycled.
And I was pleased the tires were to be chipped and reused by the county in our roads. A local resident told me this was a new thing - that only in the last year were tires diverted from the landfill. So a very positive step.
Yet the green wastes really bothered me. I’ve lived in cities that mulch up their yard waste and let people take the nutritious bits for their gardens and landscaping needs. In the high desert, tossing such a source of ground nutrients into aerobically dead landfills is more than a waste. It’s almost a sin.
The useable, salvageable goods are another missed opportunity. Why not let people buy some of these things? We live in a horribly depressed area of the West. There are some very nice items that don’t belong in a landfill. Why not set usables aside for possible purchase? Or arrange for a tax break by letting charitable thrift stores pick them up each week?
It’s probably a matter of looking into the system. Of talking to the county and seeing if there are plans for these kinds of enlightened changes. Maybe such changes are already coming down the pike? Or maybe I can influence my local government into creating a committee, a long term plan, for diverting non-waste from landfills?Filed under Frugal Living, Self-Reliance, green living | Comments (7)
I just read a wonderful book on essays from people who do extreme recycling and dumpster diving.
So here is my question: have you ever taken anything out of a dumpster? How would you feel if you got ‘caught’?
I will start: sometimes I grab recyclables from dumpsters and recycle them. Like if a ton of cardboard boxes are in there, or a bag of cans. Usually there is a recycling bin right there and all I have to do is take a second to move things a bit.
Sometimes I see actual goodies in there, which makes me feel confused. Like once I saw FOUR whole unopened bags of Wee Wee pads. Those things, for dogs, are not cheap. I looked around to see if anyone saw me and reached in and grabbed two of them. I figured I would grab the other two as I walked by next time, since i needed a stick to grab those.
Unfortunately, when I came back the other two bags were totally buried by a whole dump load of landscape waste. I still feel badly about this. If I had not let me pride get ahead of me I would have had two more bags of expensive wee wee pads, and also kept something useful out of the waste stream.
It is much easier to take things when people kindly leave them outside the dumpster (like RV lawn chairs - I have gotten about six really nice ones that way and many other useful things). But I feel embarrassed to actually reach in and root around.
I don’t want to have to feel that way. I want to feel pleased to be helping the planet. Yet there is a stigma.
What do others do when you see nice things in and around dumpsters?Filed under Frugal Living, Self-Reliance, green living | Comments (15)
Are there things you pay for each month that are not actually necessary? Depending on how frugal you need to be, there are plenty of things that can be worked around.
For example, having a land lone phone isn’t as important as it was not long ago. DH and I get along pretty well with cell phones. And we are staring to think that even cell phones are not crucial, since Skype is so cheap.
We don’t have cable for TV since we can watch just about everything online. We download older series’ and we use hulu mostly for new programs.
We don’t pay for trash service; I take care of recycling on my own, compost what i can, reduce my waste as much as possible, and trash what is left in various dumpsters or in friend’s trash bins. This saves us $18 a month, which does add up. It makes me feel happy to be more self-reliant, and it’s a fun game to see how little waste my household can produce.
We’ve changed over all our regular, wasteful lightbulbs to compact florescent bulbs from the dollar store. This will save us hundreds of dollars each year on our electric bills! I’m not off the grid yet, but someday I dream we will power our home completely from solar sources.
We buy used for most of our clothes, shoes, outdoor gear, gardening tools, home decor and books. There are thrift stores, garage sales, craigslist, ebay, etc.
We work out at home and outside rather than having a gym membership, using home equipment, walking and hiking shoes, yoga mats, fitness DVS and a pullup bar. (no, i can’t do a pullup, but dan can. I just hang from it)
Since we work at home, we really only use the one car. We’ve lived in many places where we only have one vehicle, halving all kinds of associated fees.
What ways do others find to keep their budget items low and eliminate costs entirely?Filed under Family Life, Frugal Living, Organization, Self-Reliance | Comments (2)