Saturday, November 24, 2007

Make Your Own Cleaning Supplies

Here's some recipes I have collected over the years for homemade cleaning supplies...

Homemade Glass Cleaner

1 cup rubbing alcohol
1 cup water
2 tablespoons vinegar

Mix together in a spray bottle and use the same way you would use Windex.

Homemade Furniture Polish

2 cups olive oil
1 cup lemon juice

Shake up in a bottle. To use, just pour a little on a cleaning rage, and spread evenly over the surface you want to clean. Use a dry rag to "polish."

Mold Killer

1 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup salt

Mix together and apply to moldy areas in bathroom. Wait for about an hour, then wipe clean using water to rinse. I've never tried this one, so I don't know how well it works. I always applied straight bleach to mold--but if you try this, make sure the area is very well ventilated as the mold has a very toxic reaction with the mold. I've also heard hydrogen peroxide works on mold, too.

Homemade Soft Scrub

1 cup baking soda
1 tbsp. water
Enough lemon juice to make a thick paste

Mix together and use just as you would the commercial product.

Laundry Stain Pre-treater

1/4 cup baking soda
1/2 cup ammonia
1/2 cup white vinegar
2 Tbs liquid soap
1 cup water

Mix together and put in a spray bottle. Spray stains, let set a few minutes, and wash clothes as usual.

Also, a few natural bug killers:

If you want to avoid ants on your picnic table next summer, wipe it down with straight vinegar just before you serve the meal. The vinegar burns them and they stay away

Borax is a good roach killer. Sprinkle it into corners, cracks and crevices. I've also heard of people using it to mop their floors and to wipe down the walls in their house if they have a roach problem.

So...what kinds of homemade cleaners do you use?

Bank CEO's Make Out Like Bandits While Americans Lose Homes

While millions of Americans feel the crunch of the subprime housing crisis, the people responsible for causing the mess in the first place--namely, the CEO's running the banks responsible for the large number of subprime loans--get to keep their multi-million dollar paychecks.

Sure, some of them have been ousted from their jobs--but what does that matter when you earned as much as $48 million just last year alone? Those guys are set for life, while many of the people who were bilked into accepting the usurious loans offered by their banks are now facing bankruptcy, poverty, and possible homelessness.

It just goes to show that the overriding principal in our society is greed--the idea that anything goes, as long as it makes a buck.

If a doctor misdiagnoses a patient, and as a result, that person dies, he or she will likely be held accountable for their actions. If a car salesman tells you he's selling you a car with 5,000 miles on it, when in reality it has 100,000, he could be in big trouble if he gets caught. So why aren't these CEO's held accountable for the damage they have done?

Starting A "Buyer's Club" With Your Friends, Family, And Neighbors

One thing that can save an enormous amount of money on groceries is to buy in bulk, at wholesale if possible. The problem, though, is that many people can't afford to spend hundreds of dollars all at one shot--not to mention the fact that they might lack the space necessary to store all of it.

One way of getting around these problems is to start a buyer's club with some of the people you know--in this way, costs can be split, and it's not necessary to attempt to store as much stuff all at once.

Here's a few ideas for ways a buyer's club can help save money:

...Buy certain kinds of produce directly from local farmers in lots consisting of several bushels at a time--such as corn, tomatoes, green beans, etc. and split the cost with the members of your group. Often, you can talk farmers into giving you a slightly better price if you buy a lot at once. You can freeze, dry, or can anything you can't use up right away.

...The same thing goes for meat. Go to a livestock auction, and buy a whole hog or cow, and have a local meat packing plant cut it up it for you. You can save hundreds of dollars on the retail price by doing it this way.

...Buy stuff by the case from wholesalers. Note, however, that you will have to be able to make a minimum order of at least $300 or more with most of them. In addition, most of them require that you have a tax I.D. before they will sell to you. The ones that market to dollar stores are not the cheapest, but they are easiest to work with. Note that these products are often "off-brands" and much of what these places sell probably comes from China. In addition, shipping charges may make some of these items cheaper to buy at local stores--in my experience, anything that costs more than 65 cents per piece probably isn't worth it. Here are a few links to dollar store merchandisers who have relatively low minimum orders:

Dollar Item Direct
Kole Imports

Global Warming Challenging Farmers

According to an article on the Madison Commons website based in Wisconsin, farmers in that area are facing increasing challenges such as drought, severe storms, and insect infestations as bugs native to more southerly areas head north.

Dairy farmers are also feeling the pinch, since crops that produce feedstuffs have also been affected.

As a result, farmers may have to turn to crops that grow better in warmer weather over the next decade, pushing the production of some foodstuffs north into Canada. With the massive increases we are seeing in the price of oil, this does not bode well for American consumers.

I'm a big advocate of organic gardening--I strongly suggest that readers who have the means of growing at least some of their own food plan for a garden next year.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Thanksgiving Leftovers

Here's a few ways to deal with those Thanksgiving leftovers. Waste not, want not!

Beans and Wieners

About 3 or 4 cups baked beans
1 package of hot dogs, sliced up

Combine the beans and hot dogs in a casserole dish, and top with some ketchup. Bake at about 350 degrees until thoroughly warm.

Potato Cakes

2 cups leftover mashed potatoes
3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 egg
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients. Roll potato mixture into 2 inch balls, and smash into flat patties about 1/2 inch thick. Heat a little oil in a skillet, and fry the patties over medium-high heat, turning occasionally, until well browned on both sides. Drain on paper towels.

Turkey Wraps

Leftover turkey
Flour tortillas
Chopped lettuce
Chopped tomatoes
Other chopped or sliced veggies, if desired, like green pepper, onions, or cucumber
Shredded cheese
Salad dressing of choice

Simply stuff each wrap with leftover turkey, your choice of veggies, and top with dressing and cheese. Fold and enjoy.

Turkey Noodle Soup

Turkey carcass
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 cup sliced carrots
2 chicken bouillon cubes
1 cup egg noodles

Place the turkey carcass in a large kettle and add enough water to cover by about one inch. Simmer, covered, for maybe an hour. Drain liquid through a colander into a large bowl, and remove carcass. Pour hot liquid back into kettle, and drop in bouillon cubes. Pick the meat off the bones and add into kettle, and if needed, add a little more turkey meat from your leftovers. Add rest of ingredients except egg noodles, and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer until carrots and celery are done, adding a little extra water if needed. Add egg noodles and cook until tender.

Salmon Bake

1 can salmon, drained and picked free of bones
3 cups leftover stuffing, crumbled (I make mine with celery, onion, sage etc.)
1 egg

Combine all ingredients, kneading together until thoroughly combined. Put in a casserole dish and bake at 350 degrees for about 45, or till heated through.

You can also freeze many of your leftovers if you know there's no way you will use them all before they spoil.

So...what do you do with your Thanksgiving leftovers?

Raising Corn For Ethanol--A Bad Idea

An article in Mother Jones points out--with a nifty, simple diagram, why raising corn in order to make ethanol for cars might cause more problems than it will solve.

First of all, using corn to make biofuels means the cost of feed for animals will go up--meaning meat prices will be higher. In addition, since the farmers will grow more corn and fewer other crops, it also means the cost of other foods will go up as well.

The whole corn industry is reliant upon government subsidies in order to turn a profit, anyway. This is just a way for big, corporate producers to game the market in their advantage.

There are other, more efficient means of making ethanol--like using sugar beets or switch grass. About any plant matter can be used to make ethanol--it's just a matter of getting it to break down properly.

Tried And True Tricks That Save Money On Groceries

Here's a list of old--but good--tips on saving money at the grocery store.

1. Do the bulk of your shopping at a deep discount store--like Aldi's or Sav-a-Lot, and shop the sales at higher priced supermarkets like Kroger--but don't drive 10 mies out of your way to take advantage of a sale if it will cost you more in gas to get there than what you will save on groceries.

2. Set up a "household inventory list" which will include all of the food, cleaning supplies, and personal care items that you buy on a regular basis. Think about how long each of the items on your list will keep without spoiling--some items--like dairy products or fresh vegaetables--may have a shelf life of only a few days, while other items--like trash bags--will keep forever. Once you have done this, set up a monthly budget--and stick to it. When deciding what you will buy each week, replenish the items on your household inventory list that you have run out of first--then, if you have extra money left in your budget, you can choose to either stock up on some of the items on your list (especially if they are on sale) or buy a special item that you don't regularly keep in stock. The nice thing about having a list set up is that it helps you better formulate strategies that will save you money, and it will help you avoid some of those dashes to the store many of us make because we forgot something important!

3. Don't shop while you're hungry--you'll be more tempted to splurge on convienience foods or expensive take-out from the deli.

4. Set up a certain time each week that you devote to grocery shopping, and try to avoid going to the store at any other time.

5. Buy the store brand whenever possible, as opposed to the name brand. When buying the name brand, you pay more because you are also paying for the advertising that goes into promoting it. Often times, the store brands are made in the same factory, using exactly the same recipe and processes as the name-brand item.

6. Use coupons wisely. When deciding whether or not you will use a coupon to save money on an item, determine whether or not you will be paying less for the item than you normally pay for the brand you normally purchase. Also, many stores offer double coupon days. Learn which stores in your area do it, what days they do it, and what their policies are.

7. If you have the space, get a freezer--even if it's just a small one. This will allow you to take full advantage of sales on meat and frozen items--which tend to take the biggest bite out of most people's budgets.

8. And speaking of meat...try some vegetarian dishes. Many of these dishes can save you a bundle of money, and they are often good for you, too.

9. Try to cook more home-cooked meals, as opposed to convenience foods. If you are strapped for time through the work week, try cooking some meals ahead, and put them in the freezer until you're ready to use them.

10. Avoid eating out--save it for special occasions--and pack a lunch to take to work instead of buying junk out of the company's vending machines or ordering lunch from a restaurant. If you regularly find yourself needing a snack during the work day, bring some stuff from home, and keep it in your desk, locker, or in your car.

These are a few of the tricks I use myself--what tips do you have? Share your ideas in the comments below.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Economy Is Slipping...What Will We Do?

I started this little blog because, according to many news reports out there, it sure seems like times are getting hard--and they only stand to get worse. People are going to need to figure out how to make it in a new economic and environmental climate, and hopefully I can explore these topics here.

I'll start out with ways to save money on food, covering everything from ways to save money on groceries to figuring out low cost methods of utilizing green energy, plus whatever else I manage to dig up.

I hope this site will be useful.