Kelly says: Jennifer, a regular reader, left the most amazing comment on the post about making do with what you’ve got. I didn’t want her comment to disappear into the bowels of the internet, never again to see the light of day, so I asked her permission to publish her comment as a post. She agreed and I hope you’ll appreciate her words of wisdom!
I have a vegetable garden each summer, growing tomatoes, onions, peppers and various other items I know I will eat. I recycled a bunch of 2 qt jars from a aunt who passed away(I kept the containers out of the landfill. I use the tomatoes, onions and peppers to make and can home made spaghetti sauce. I can enough sauce to have a spaghetti dinner each week for the entire year. It costs about $15.00 for the plants and will yield about 60- 2quart jars of sauce. This is a savings of about $200.00. (60 jars of sauce at $4.00 each=$240.00-$15.00 for the plants is about $225.00. You have healthy home made pasta sauce, with no artificial fillers or chemicals. With the leftover peppers and onions I cut them in strips, freeze them on cookie sheets and place in a ziplock bag. There are so many times that you need cut up peppers and onions for something. A little cutting and freezing will save you a lot of time and money throughout the year. We often purchase chicken breasts when they are on sale. We cut the breasts (frozen) into strips, freeze individually and then put into a Ziplock bag. When we don’t know what to have for dinner, we pull out the chicken, peppers and onions. Add fajita spices, sour cream, salsa and tortilla’s and you have fajitas in 15 minutes.
When I make lasagna, I make 2 pans and freeze one. When one of our Wisconsin snow storms hits, I don’t have to worry about what is for dinner.
Mulch in the garden- I use newspapers instead of expensive landscape fabric for my flower beds. It’s biodegradable, recycling and good for the earth…and it’s free!
Use your crockpot to cook beans. A bag of dry beans costs less than $1.00. Place your dry beans in your slow cooker or crock pot on low. You can also cook rice in your slow cooker. We will make home made black bean soup (using leftover ham) with the black beans for about $2.00. We will freeze the leftovers in individual size servings. You have lunch for the day.
Using those beans you just cooked in your slow cooker…make home made baked beans (recipes on the internet or most cookbooks)…take to a picnic. Total cost- less than $5.00 for a nice dish to pass.
I will take a chicken carcass, cover with water, add a bag of dry, white northern beans…and let it cook. Remove the bones when the beans are done cooking, add chunks of chicken, green chilis cumin, salt, pepper, oregano, and milk….you have white chili…freeze it in those square ziplock containers you have been talking about and you have dinner on demand. Total cost is about $3.00 for 1 gallon of white chili.
What to do with your ham leftovers…cut the leftover ham into bite size chunks. Cook some black beans(in your slow cooker). Combine frozen southern style hash browns, corn, cut up onions and peppers (from your stash listed above), black beans, green chilis. Freeze this mixture on cookie sheets and place in ziplock bags when frozen. Heat oil in a frying pan, add mixture, and brown. Scramble several eggs and mix the eggs in with the potato mixture. For added flavor we may top with cheese. Sometimes we make breakfast burritos with this, and serve with sour cream, salsa and toast. If you use leftover ham, a one gallon bag of this mixture costs approximately $4.00. This will make approximately 15 meals for 2 people. We usually make extra so we have leftovers for breakfast burrito dinners on those nights when we both ask…what’s for dinner.
Clear jelly/baby food jars make great storage containers for screws, nuts, bolts, buttons, and all of those small things you seem to lose. I keep a jar for buttons in my sewing space.
I recycle coffee grounds by using them as mulch.
Learn how to knit or crochet. I live in Wisconsin. During the winter we often don’t want to go outside. My mom taught me how to crochet (you can puchase books or learn online through you tube). I watch sales and purchase a pound of yarn for less than $10.00. I crochet baby blankets during the winter and set them aside for the “next” baby shower. For less than $10.00 you have a very nice baby shower gift that is sure to please the new mom…people don’t make home made gifts any more. I have also crochetted afghans for Christmas, wedding, anniversary, birthday gifts. I can watch my tv shows or movies, make a gift for someone that won’t cost a lot of money, and it keeps my hands busy so I am not eating out of boredom….and besides it keeps you warm in the winter when it’s cold…so you can set your thermostat down while you stay warm and cozy underneath your own work.
I dilute my shampoo and conditioner with water. I have a tendency to use too much shampoo or conditioner (I have long hair.). I am stretching my hair care productions, not wasting them, and saving money.
Save all of those condiments you receive with your fast food. Store them in a container in your pantry. They come in handy when you want to go on a picnic, car trip, etc.
Use vinegar, baking soda for cleaning. We don’t purchase paper towels anymore. We use newspapers or old towels(rags) to clean everything. (It’s good for the environment.)
I wash dishes in a dishpan. (A trick learned from reading about the Great Depression.) When I have finished the dishes I throw the water on my outdoor plants. It seems that the plants nearest the door benefit from this the most, and are two to three times the size of those further from the door. You are recycling the water, watering and fertilizing your plants at the same time.
Save your Christmas cards. Cut them into gift tags…you can embellish with leftover glitter and glue, punch a hole in each tag, and string with a piece of twine or a small piece of ribbbon. Recycling, inexpensive, and pretty tags for your next gift.
We save all of our grass clippings and use for mulch on our vegetable gardens. This saves us from having to do extensive weeding in the garden. The grass provides nutrients to the garden, keeps the clippings out of the landfills, reduces the need for watering, and it’s biodegradable.
Stop purchasing carpet cleaner, use shaving cream instead. It’s inexpensive, and does a good job…and you are not using unnecessary chemicals in your home. Save money, be healthier.
The next time you go to get your hair cut ask for the clippings. Put them in the garden and the rabbits won’t eat your tender vegetables.
We travel. We take all of the soaps, shampoos and conditioners home with us. We haven’t purchases soap or shampoo for years.
Each year as the holidays approach my husband looks for gift ideas for me. Instead of asking purchased gifts I ask him to make things for me. This year, he made stackable jewelry trays that fit into my dresser drawers. I lined each tray with thick felt. I can store my jewelry neatly, and know exactly where everything is.s
Save the twist ties on your bread bags. They come in handy for keeping extension cords neatly organized. I also use them to stake up climbing plants.
The next time you need a bridal shower gift…watch garage sales or the resale shops. Look for a small photo album. Assemble a cookbook full of your favorite recipes and organize in a small photo album.
In the fall, when you trim your bushes and trees back save all of the clippings and cut into small pieces. This makes great kindling for starting fires in your outdoor fire pit.
Purchase and use cloth handkerchiefs. They are pretty, and save money.. no need to purchase kleenex anymore.
Start your garden from seeds…this will save you quite a bit of money.
Start or join a neighborhood plant swap. You will introduce new plants into your garden while sharing your extras…and maybe gain a friend in the process.
Periodically, wipe your stainless steel appliances with olive oil. You will be surprised how your appliances will shine, and you won’t have to purchase expensive stainless steel cleaner. You will also minimize your use of chemicals.
Save your toilet paper tubes. When your next party approaches, cover your toilet paper tubes with colored paper, stickers, stamped images or fancy paper, etc, fill with treats, tie the ends with yarn or leftover ribbon…you have an original and unique party favor. I use these for Halloween treats. The kids love them! You could also use this idea as a wedding party favor. They are pretty, and inexpensive.
In the fall, save your pumpkin seeds. You can either toast and salt them, you have a healthy treat. Or save them and participate in a seed swap.. your pumpkin repopulates itself each year.
My mom sews. I ask her for the leftover scraps of fabric from her projects and quilts. I make potholders out of the scraps and sell at a craft show. It costs me nothing, and I can make a profit…I use the proceeds to make a charitable donation to a worthy cause each year. I am keeping these things out of a landfill, making a unique product that everyone needs, and helping someone in the process. A win win!
Seed propogation. I save the plastic containers that deli meat come in. I turn the container in it’s lid, line with wet paper towels put my seeds on the paper towel, place the container on the lid and keep in the kitchen. I have had good luck starting seeds using this mechanism. I don’t have to worry about my seeds blowing away outside.