Monday, July 7, 2008

A Day in the Life of a Frugal Housewife

Yesterday was a fairly typical day in my frugal life. I get up and tend to our four laying hens first thing every day. While I was out there, I poked around a bit in our large vegetable garden, just to keep an eye on things. I ripped out several handfuls of purslane, an edible groundcover that has volunteered enthusiastically in our garden. I fed that to the chickens as part of their daily dose of green things. (Purslane, as it turns out, contains a higher concentration of omega-3 fatty acids than any other land-based source. All that good stuff passes through our chickens and right in to their eggs, which makes them extra good for us.) Then I came inside for breakfast, which yesterday was a Spanish tortilla of leftover baked potatoes, some spicy garlic-chili sauce, and eggs from our hens. I washed it down with some sun tea, made up in a big batch about once a week. Instead of using a paper napkin, I used one of our cloth napkins that we've had for years. My total cost for this breakfast was probably less than 50 cents.

Then I baked a sheet of focaccia from dough I mixed the day before. It was topped with fresh herbs from our garden. There was a possibility of selling half of it later in the day, but that fell through. If I had sold half the sheet, I would have more than recouped the total cost for all the ingredients, including the herb plants I bought at the farmers' market.

I cleaned up the kitchen and included washing a few ziploc bags as part of the cleanup. I throw out any bag that has held raw meat, but I'll keep the ones that held things like fully cooked hot dogs or cured lunch meats that were in another opened bag inside the ziploc. The to-be-washed bag pile is unending in our home. I only have so many places in the kitchen where they can drip dry, so it's a chore I need to stay on top of.

The sliding glass doors that lead to our porch had been looking kinda grimy. So I cleaned them using a 50-50 mixture of tap water and distilled white vinegar. (I buy the store-brand stuff by the gallon - very cheap.) I used the squeegee that we keep in our shower, and pages torn out of last year's phone book. The pages are just the right size for this chore, and they leave no streaks. Nor do they leave any little paper fibers behind, the way some paper towels will. When I was done with the doors, I cleaned my windshield wipers with the same solution. Then I poured the vinegar and water mixture on our brick walkway where some weeds push up through the gaps. The acidity will kill some of them (non-toxically) and make it harder for others to grow.

After my cleaning chores, I went next door, where my husband had seen someone dumping aluminum cans in a dumpster a few days ago. I spent about 5-10 minutes fishing out about three dozen cans from the mostly empty dumpster. The neighbor won't mind. No one lives there and the owner simply uses the dumpster for scraps from his small construction jobs. He has to pay to have everything hauled away anyway. The aluminum will probably bring me a dollar when I next take aluminum cans to the scrap metal dealer.

I put in a load of laundry to wash with my homemade laundry detergent. Later in the afternoon, I hung the wet clothes to dry slowly on my indoor laundry lines and a wooden drying rack. Total savings over store-bought detergent and using a dryer probably comes to more than $1.

Lunch was a simple sandwich of garden lettuce and aged goat cheese on the focaccia. After lunch I took a break and did some reading on a frugal topic: solar cooking. I thought about some simple things I might try cooking in the parabolic solar cooker I made, the next time we have some reasonably clear weather.

In the afternoon I did some weeding and garden work, mounding up more dirt around the leeks to make them produce a longer white section, and around the potato plants to encourage production of more potatoes. Then I harvested a large batch of lacinato kale for blanching and storing. This was a fairly labor intensive process, but it means clean and healthy green vegetables for us this winter.

After that hot work, I took a shower. I used soap, shampoo, and conditioner picked up by my husband in hotels during his business travel. Since I didn't have to appear especially presentable for the rest of the day, I let my hair air dry instead of styling it. My wet hair helped keep me cool on a warm day too.

For dinner I went to the garden once again. I picked some zucchini blossoms, lettuce, and herbs for our appetizers, and cabbage leaves for our main course. The zucchini flowers were cleaned, stuffed with a mixture of cheese, egg, bread crumbs, garlic and herbs, then dredged in beaten egg and flour and pan-fried. Served on a few lettuce leaves, they looked pretty and tasted great. The shredded cabbage leaves went into a simple risotto, which we enjoyed with glasses of cheap three-buck Chuck Shiraz. Dessert was a small serving of day-old bread pudding made with my homemade bread, powdered milk, and eggs from our hens.

After dinner, it was time to tuck in the girls to keep them safe overnight from predators. They were back in their coop, which I secured tightly.

My last frugal duty of the day is dental hygiene; flossing and brushing thoroughly keep my mouth healthy and help me avoid those avoidable, expensive and painful dental treatments. Health is the first wealth, and looking after one's health is always a frugal pursuit. My ablutions done, I indulged in some escapist reading with a library book.

-So there's a snapshot of my frugal life. There's a good mixture of active, passive, and preventative frugality packed in there. My active frugality included making my own meals, gardening, fishing out those aluminum cans, putting up some frozen vegetables for the winter, and hanging my laundry up to dry. Passive frugality was represented too: I didn't drive anywhere, partly by choosing to prepare meals from what was available rather than dreaming up a dish that would have required going to the store. I didn't doll myself up after my shower as there was no need to. And I avoided using store-bought paper towels or napkins with simple alternatives. Reading library books is also a passive sort of frugality when the alternative would be to pay for books or some other paid form of entertainment. Cleaning my windshield wipers, protecting our hens, and taking care of my health falls under the category of preventative frugality. Killing a few weeds with vinegar could also be considered "frugal" in the sense that it may save me a little weeding time and effort down the line, without much invested effort at all right now.

How do you practice frugality throughout your day?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

thanks, I really enjoy learning how others live. I look very lazy in comparison, though I did make cookies, a cucumber/onion salad & corn pudding today (in between watching Netflix online). well, it is the weekend.