Waste Not

Ice, Ice, Baby

A couple of days before Hurricane Matthew got here I took my largest food storage containers, filled them with water, and put them in the freezer. On Friday, the power was out for thirteen hours. Because of the large ice blocks, the temperature never went below thirty degrees and I didn’t lose any food.




Marie Brack is the author of Frugal Living for the 21st Century: Adventures in Using Your Money Wisely. It’s available on Amazon.com in both Kindle and paperback versions.

Kindle preview: https://read.amazon.com/kp/embed?asin=B00HQKOQBG&asin=B00HQKOQBG&preview=newtab&linkCode=kpe&ref_=cm_sw_r_kb_dp_gITAxbZWT7SRJ

Paperback: https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_2?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=marie+brack


52 Weeks: Water – Laundry

In the summer of 2012, many areas in the U.S. and Australia had a severe drought. People posted on message boards about using less water. They also reused water that used to go down the drain.

Some folks in very parched areas are saving the rinse water from the washing machine. They pour it back in to the washer to be the wash water for the next load. In a drought situation, whether a drought of water or of money, there are ways to do less laundry.

Outer clothes that are not actually dirty can be hung up, either indoors or out in the fresh air, to air out before wearing again. Sheets can be aired instead of washed, perhaps every other time. You can reuse towels more times if you hang them up so they dry instead of souring. If your washer has settings for different levels, only use as much water as you need for the load.

52 Weeks – CFL Bulbs, Is It True?

In 2013 I put a CFL bulb in my reading light in the living room. Fourteen watts vs. sixty, and I think I can see even better. They burn much cooler too, so that will save a little on the a/c.

I had it in my head that CFL bulbs cost a lot, but the prices have gone down since I formed that idea. I saw them on www.walmart.com at less than $2 a bulb. They are said to last as much as ten times as long as traditional incandescent bulbs, and use 50% to 80% less electricity.

On the other hand, when I went to buy some, I read the reviews on amazon.com. It seems that in real life the cheaper bulbs may not last very long at all! I learned from the reviews that their claimed ten year life might actually be less than a year in practice. So I searched on “complaints CFL bulbs.”

  • I learned that you’ll have better luck if you buy Energy Starrated name brand bulbs.
  • They do better in places where they will stay on for long periods.
  • It’s better not to use them in a recessed or enclosed fixture.
  • They don’t do as well where there is vibration, such as a ceiling fan or garage door opener.
  • You need special bulbs for fixtures on a dimmer switch, even if you don’t use the dimmer feature.
  • An ordinary light that stays on for hours is the best place to use them.
  • The used bulbs must be disposed of as hazardous waste because they contain a small amount of mercury. Home improvement stores like Lowe’s have collection centers for them.

After two years, the CFL bulbs in fixtures that stay on for long periods are still going strong. The ones in the bathroom light burned out.

Several people told me that it costs more to turn a florescent or CFL light on every time you enter the room than to just leave it on. I looked into it. This is old news from the ‘70s. The old style ballasts used a lot of energy. Modern fluorescent lights use only a tiny bit of extra energy on startup, compared to the energy used to leave it burning.

Frequent turning on and off can shorten the life of a bulb. But again, for modern bulbs this effect is very, very minor. According to Scientific American and http://www.consumerenergycenter.org, a rule of thumb for modern fluorescents, including CFLs, is to leave it on if you will be out of the room for less than five minutes.

Fix It Up: Vertical Blinds

My condo came with vertical blinds throughout. Decades of heat, sun, and use have made some of the vanes brittle. The small piece above the hole that the clip goes in to hold it broke off on some of them.

I was going to Lowe’s to buy vanes. I Googled a bit to get an idea what they cost. Some of the results were for little tabs to repair broken vanes, so I looked into it. They cost a fraction of what a new vane does and are far less bulky to bring home.

Clean the top of the vane. Pop out the holes in the repair tab. Remove the paper backing from the self-adhesive side. Bend in half and stick on the vane where the hole is. Easy. Once they are back in place you can’t tell they’ve been repaired.

(The pic shows an unbroken one because I didn’t think to take it before repairing them.)

My Printer Tells Lies

“Low on ink” “Out of ink”

Is not.

I used to believe it, and put a new cartridge in. Then I thought, ‘Is it true?”

I went right on printing despite the warning. It printed sixty more pages before it really was out of ink.


The more I ask “Is it true?”, the more things turn out to be not quite true, a misunderstanding of terms, or just plain false. Test it.



Marie Brack is the author of Frugal Living for the 21st Century: Adventures in Using Your Money Wisely. It’s available on Amazon.com in both Kindle and paperback versions.


Clothes – When They Aren’t Clothes Any More

Clothes that can no longer be fixed or altered can still be useful. Absorbent items such as T-shirts, towels, and socks can enjoy a second life as cleaning cloths or shop rags.

You can make a dusting mitt from the sleeve of a sweatshirt. The fuzzy inside will be the outside of the duster. Allow enough length so that when you reach your hand into the sleeve from the end, the cuff of the sleeve is around your wrist. Leave enough material beyond the tips of the fingers of your outstretched hand to allow you to hem it closed.

A sock rubber-banded to the handle of a broom will let you reach dust and cobwebs in high places.

The leg of a pair of slacks can become a tube pillow for your neck. Stuff it and either tie or sew it shut on each end.

A square pocket can become an inner pocket for your purse or tote bag. Cut it out, leaving an inch of material all the way around. Turn all the edges under ¼ inch and then another ¼ inch, and sew it into your purse or tote.

If an adult garment has large sections of sound cloth, the good areas can be used as fabric to make clothes for babies or dolls.

Ruined panty hose can do many things. If you run them through the sleeves of a shirt or sweater, you can hang it to dry without getting clothespin marks on the garment. Put a section of it over the end of the vacuum hose to trap small objects you want to find, like earrings or contact lenses. They make a nice outer casing for things like patio umbrellas or small tents–the material will breathe, reducing the risk of mildew.

Socks with worn out feet? Cut off the tops and sew a top on to a mid-calf sock to make it into a knee-high sock. Or sew two tops together to make a leg warmer. Sock tops can also make mittens longer, so they go up into your sleeve instead of leaving a gap between mitten and jacket.

If you have long hair, you can use a sock to make a large bun. It’s too hard to explain here, but go to YouTube.com and search on “sock bun” to see it.

Buying a large quantity of socks in the same color and style can save money and effort over time. You will never have an unmatched sock. If one wears out or gets lost, the other still matches all the other socks. I have a dozen tan socks that I wear with nearly everything. A man could do this with black dress socks, an athlete with white tube socks.

If you get a run in one leg of a pair of pantyhose, you can cut that leg off and wear it with another one-legged pair. If they are both the same leg, turn one of them inside out. If you catch a run when it’s just starting, you can stop it by painting both ends of the run with clear nail polish.

The sound part of worn out denim clothes can be used for many things. Make children’s jeans last longer by sewing a large piece of denim inside each knee area in advance. Denim is also handy for making potholders and purses. It makes a relatively masculine quilt or couch throw. For directions, use any Internet search engine to look for “make a denim purse” (or potholders or whatever).



Marie Brack is the author of Frugal Living for the 21st Century: Adventures in Using Your Money Wisely. It’s available on Amazon.com in both Kindle and paperback versions.


Less Expensive Herbs and Spices

For years I heard about saving on seasonings by buying from bulk bins. I thought it meant buying in quantity, and I didn’t need quantity, so I ignored it. Turns out, it means buying as much or as little as I want, from a bulk bin at the health food or ethnic food store.

Parsley cost me half as much from the bulk bin at the health food store as it does in a container from the grocery store. Whole cloves cost over four dollars at Walmart for .61 of an ounce. From the bulk bin the same amount was just thirty two cents, 92% less! If there’s something I’m only going to use once, I can buy a tiny bit and have little or nothing go to waste.

The way it works at my store is, I take the bulk jar up to the checkout and they measure out the amount I ask for into a ziploc bag. I save my empty spice jars and refill them from the baggies. An easy way to do that is to get the jar ready, then cut a hole in a bottom corner of the baggie, a little smaller than the opening of the jar. Put the corner of the baggie in the opening of the jar and encourage the contents to fall into the jar.

Seasonings not only make our meals tastier and more interesting, they contain important micronutrients as well. Cooking with fresh or dried herbs and spices can be a rewarding hobby and great for your health. You don’t even have to cook from scratch – many prepared dishes can benefit from added seasonings. Fresh oregano adds depth to macaroni and cheese, or to any pasta-based dish. Fresh dill is good on a ready-made fish dish.

The produce department of many grocery stores carries fresh herb plants. I transplant mine into pots on my balcony, so I always have fresh basil and oregano. Pay once for the plant, and as long as I can keep it alive, it keeps giving me more herbs. Fresh herbs are less intense than dried, so you use more of the fresh leaves. They also have a livelier taste and smell, adding a grace note to the experience of cooking a meal.