Thursday, February 12, 2009

Tiny Tip: Make the Most of Old Man Winter

Winter is a tough time for frugalites. We're cooped up inside a lot. We pay to warm our houses and there's not much opportunity for most of us to garden or take advantage of other outdoor money-saving activities. Still, there are a few ways we can take advantage of winter's chill.

My first suggestion has to do with your freezer, particularly if you have a chest freezer. I've already posted about winter being a good time to defrost your freezer, since your frozen food is less likely to thaw while you tackle the defrosting. But here's another suggestion. If you're like us, your freezer stores are probably dwindling about now, as you eat through food produced during the warm months. That means extra room in your freezer. If you leave those empty spaces, your freezer will end up working a little harder to cool itself after every time you open it. Why not fill the space with free ice?

Containers of ice can take up the extra space in your freezer to act as cold storage. And while the temperatures are below freezing, you can produce ice essentially for free. Just fill some empty plastic bottles or jugs with water, leaving a decent gap at the top for the water to expand as it freezes. Put the bottles outside in freezing weather, with the caps off or only on loosely. When the water freezes, put the bottles in your chest freezer or kitchen freezer.

Over the summer, as you need the space in your freezer for storing more food, just remove the bottles to make room. If you move them into your refrigerator, that appliance will need less electricity to keep the food in there cool for a few days. Set the bottles of ice on the top shelf for most effective cooling of the entire compartment. The frozen bottles can also be used in coolers to keep food chilled for a picnic. Set the bottles aside to be refrozen and re-used come winter.

My second suggestion runs along very similar lines. When you make a nice hearty, warming dinner for yourself, use the cold outdoors to chill the leftovers before you put them in the fridge. Since the outdoors is frequently colder than a refrigerator in winter, this will cool your food faster, ensuring better food safety. It will also prevent your refrigerator from heating up and having to work harder, and the food in the fridge from warming up and spoiling more quickly. Be sure you cover your food well before chilling it outside. And exercise caution if your leftover food will tempt wild animals into undesirable behaviors.

These tiny tips will save you small amounts of electricity. Every little bit helps, especially in this economy!

More tiny tips: More Sunlight in Your Garden, Parboil Your Pasta, Repurpose Your Credit Card, Broccoli Stalk, Scallions


shanna said...

Great tips. I like the one about putting the frozen bottles in the refrigerator to help it cool. I hadn't thought of that. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Great Tips! I'm renting for the moment and I have a circa 1975 fridge with one of those ever-shrinking-space ice boxes inside - frustrating! But one day soon I'll be purchasing a chest freezer, and I'm going to keep your bottle tips in mind.

FrugalNYC said...

Those are some very good winter tips! Thanks for sharing your ideas!

Cowgirl in the City said...

Great ideas about the frozen bottles! I'll try it!

I just posted yesterday a blog post about saving money by not hiring a landscape designer, and using a free trial of a software program to design and plan your garden, check it out, I'd love to have your opinion on my "frugalness"!

Thanks for your post, Cowgirl in the City

Anonymous said...

Cool tips - sorry :).

It's surprising how much the little things really add up. Though I think our kitchen is currently colder than outside so we don't need to leave anything out there to cool down!

Joanne said...

Great ideas- they almost make me wish we had snow and ice here in winter...almost.

Kristianna said...

This "ice tip" is exactly what we do and we also take it one step further...we use the ice for our coolers when we take the kiddos camping in the summer.

I truly enjoy your blog.

Thank you!


Kate said...

Shanna, Rain, FNYC, MrsDB, and Joanna, thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.

Cowgirl, it looks like an interesting program. It's not really my style to design a garden on a computer, but I'm glad you've found something that works for you and is free. Great frugal practice on the way to a frugal lifestyle.

Kristianna, they're also good for putting in the cooler if you need to drive a long way to the grocery store and are buying meat or dairy during the warm months.