Thursday, April 22, 2010

Happy Anniversary, Mother Earth!

Today is the fortieth anniversary of Earth Day. I propose a toast! While you sip your champagne, why don't you look over my annual list of green tips and see if there are some ideas in there that will work for you?

1.Take shorter showers (or shower with a friend!)

2. Switch to washable dish cloths. They can be used a lot more times than sponges before they need to be discarded.

3. Buy as many things second-hand as possible.

4. Use a reusable coffee filter or tea ball rather than paper filters or teabags.

5. Raise the thermostat a few degrees in summer, and lower it a few in winter.

6. Reuse towels many times before washing (make sure you hang to dry thoroughly in between uses!)

7. Use junk mail and computer misprints for scratch paper (use both sides!)

8. Save veggie and pasta cooking water to water plants (make sure to cool it first!)

9. Reuse "trash" around the house (ripped pantyhose to tie up plants, pill bottles to store buttons, screws, etc., plastic knives written on with Sharpie as plant markers).

10. Send e-cards rather than paper greeting cards.

11. Buy more food locally and in season.

12. Bring packing peanuts and air pillows to your local UPS store for reuse.

Hope this list has given you some new things to try. See you next Earth Day for the next installment!

Monday, April 19, 2010

No Owe 'Em Poem

In honor of National Poetry month, I have penned a little acrostic poem on the subject of saving money. I hope you enjoy it!

Pay down those credit cards
Eat meals at home
Never pay full price
Negotiate a discount
Yard sale shop

Purchase staples in bulk
Invest your money wisely
Need something? Check freecycle
Clip those coupons
Hold stocks long-term
Interest rates vary-shop around!
Negotiate a raise
Get a rain check

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Frugality - A Foreign Concept?

With the state of the economy, frugality is very popular in America right now. Despite our newfound thrift, we are not the only country to value saving money. Whether by necessity or by choice, other nations have been pinching pennies all along. I started researching frugal traditions in other countries to see what we could learn from them.

In Germany, the waste management department in some towns runs a place called the Sperrmull where unwanted items such as furniture are stored. People in need of furniture or appliances can go and look through the inventory, and take what they need, free of charge. Some American cities have a "big trash night" when you can put large items out for disposal, and I have seen people out picking these items up. The problem is, whatever is not picked up ends up in the landfill the next morning. I am not aware of any American cities that use a system similar to the Germans. We should approach our local waste management authorities and request such programs be developed.

In wintertime, rather than turning up the heat, the Japanese have traditionally warmed their beds with a Yutanpo. The Yutanpo is a hot water bottle traditionally made from metal or ceramic. Some modern versions are made from rubber with cute prints or pictures of animals on them. Although Americans sometimes use hot water bottles, it is more to alleviate aches and pains than to save on heating costs. This would be a cheaper alternative to the electric blanket!

Another smart Japanese tradition is to build storage compartments in under the floor, with a cover that can simply be lifted off. This allows Japanese citizens to live more efficiently and inexpensively in a smaller space.

Chinese commuters often walk, bike or take the subway, saving on the cost of owning a car. It also allows them to incorporate more exercise into their routine. There is also a Chinese tradition of exercising at scheduled intervals throughout the workday, leading to better health and lower health care costs for all.

A Nigerian invention, the Zeer Pot, allows people in the developing world to keep food cool without electricity. A small clay pot with a lid is placed inside a larger clay pot. The space in between is filled with sand, creating insulation. Water is added to the sand twice a day to keep it damp. Food is kept cool by evaporative cooling. Colin Beavan tried to use this type of cooler during his No Impact project. He didn't have a lot of success with it, but from what I've read, this type of cooler doesn't work well in high-humidity environments, which New York in the summertime definitely is!

The Dabbawala is an old Indian tradition that is currently enjoying a resurgence in popularity. For about $6 a month, Dabbawalas pick up hot lunches from office workers' homes and deliver them to their offices. Wives, daughters and sisters traditionally remain home and prepare the meals in the course of their daily chores. During the recent economic boom, workers began to eat out more in fancy restaurants. After the economic meltdown, Indians have turned back to frugal ways. The lunches are packed in tall lunch pails called tiffins. Dabbawalas balance as many as 50 of these pails on long boards balanced on their heads and rush through traffic. Special train cars are reserved for the Dabbawalas on the subway so that they will not be delayed. A new variant of the tradition has sprung up delivering healthy snacks to students and office workers working evening overtime hours.

What are some frugal foreign traditions you've heard of? I always find it fascinating to hear how people in other parts of the world live, and it often gives me ideas about how I can change my own daily routine to be more efficient and economical.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Eggcellent Uses For Easter Eggcess

So Easter is over, and you have bowls full of colored hard-boiled eggs, or Tupperware full of uncooked eggs from blowing eggs out to decorate them. What can you do with this embarrassment of riches?

Uncooked eggs can be stored covered for 2-3 days in the refrigerator before use. Some recipes which use a lot of eggs include omelets, french toast, flan or custard, homemade mayonnaise, quiche and souffle. Cakes made from scratch also use a lot of eggs. You may be wondering how you measure out a specific number of eggs when they are all cracked together in the bowl. One large egg is about 1/4 cup, or 4 TBSP, so you would mix the eggs up thoroughly and then measure.

Hard-boiled eggs are equally versatile. Although it is not safe to store them at room temperature for more than two hours, they can be stored up to a week in the refrigerator. If you are not going to use them within a week, you can chop them and freeze them in freezer bags. After thawing in the fridge, they are fine to use in egg salad or as a salad topping. I usually make egg salad or deviled eggs out of my leftovers, or slice them on a salad. Some people like to pickle them. There is even an Indian recipe for curried eggs !

Now that you have a few ideas for using up all those eggs, what about the shells? Egg shells can be composted, or if you don't have a compost pile, you can simply crush them and sprinkle them around the base of plants to keep slugs and snails away. When left relatively whole, they make good tiny starter pots for seeds. Just plant the whole thing once it sprouts! Another use for them is to clear drains. Crush them as finely as possible and let them sit in the sink drain basket. Every time you run the water, a few will go down the drain. They act as an abrasive, and over time will keep your drains running smoothly. They are also good for removing tea stains from tea pots or thermoses. Leave crushed shells overnight in a dampened pot. The next day, add water, swirl and rinse. Your stains will have disappeared! I have even seen pretty mosaics pictures made out of the colored shells!

What are your favorite use-'em-up tips for eggs? I'm always looking for some fresh ideas!