23
Sep

Frugal Friday – Paying Old Debt

by Tiffany in Frugal Green

frugal fridayFrugal Wins:

  • Made an offer on an old debt and settled it for 50% off! Yay! This old debt stems from changing cell phone carriers. We had a two year contract and mistakenly changed carriers a measly one week early. They would not budge on the early termination fees for three phones (over $300 each) so I decided not to budge on paying them. This did not have much of an effect on our credit score or our ability to buy our house but it still nagged me. It will nag me no more.
  • Used a $10 mobile coupon on a $50 purchase at Tractor Supply to stock up on feed for our homestead rabbits. This resulted in a nearly free bag of feed. We just got another in the mail for 10% off our total purchase so it might be time to buy supplies for the quail and chickens we hope to add soon.
  • On a related note, I happened across a comment in a homesteaders group about rabbits loving to eat sweet potato vines. Well, we have TONS of sweet potato vines in the garden so we have been supplementing heavily with those as well as the rest of our carrots. Free pet food and we get to eat the sweet potatoes.
  • Looked up online coupons for our local drivers education center and found one for $60 off. That brought the total cost down to $340. This is a mandatory requirement for license holders under age 18 in the state of Ohio and our oldest just turned 16.
  • Made $20 selling something on Craigslist.
  • Earned 2% cashback via Giving Assistant on a purchase made through Etsy.

Frugal Fails:

  • Bought a Cuisinart ice cream maker at Bed, Bath and Beyond on a whim. I had just thrown away a 20% off coupon because I almost never shop there and I failed to look on Amazon to compare prices. I overpaid by $20. Ugh.
  • Ate out at restaurants way to much this month. This is summer and fall in a nutshell for us. We are working more and running around more which means more meals on the go.
22
Sep

The Most Eco-Friendly Ways to Cut Utility Bills

by Tiffany in Frugal Green

Ways to Cut Utility BillsBeing eco-friendly is more about changing the way your family uses energy than buying new things to reduce usage. Remember, every item we buy requires energy to manufacture, package and ship. Even though a product helps you save water or electricity, energy is expended to create it.

If you want to make your home a greener place to live, there are easy ways to reduce energy use without making a single purchase.

Choose Utility Providers Wisely

Who supplies your energy and where the energy comes from can have a profound impact on your eco-footprint – and your monthly bill. In deregulated energy areas, people can choose from numerous providers and dozens of plans. Some of those plans are now powered by renewable energy.

Simply taking the time to compare providers, rates, and plans can lower your monthly expenses and reduce carbon emissions. Companies like the one found at this link are helping consumers compare electric rates and find providers that offer green energy plans.

Here are a few more tips related to utility providers:

  • Look for providers that offer rebates for green updates so when you do make a purchase you can offset the price.
  • Use account features that show your daily and weekly electricity usage. Some providers will even show you what’s using the most energy in your home.
  • Sign up with a provider that’s invested in renewable energy. Research their involvement in green energy, investments they are making and what they’re doing to support more efficient infrastructure.
  • Ask if the provider offers time-of-use plans. These plans charge slightly different rates depending on the season and time of day. If you use energy mostly at night when demand is lower you could end up saving money.

Heating and Cooling

Heating and cooling is the biggest chunk of the electric bill for most Americans. It’s easy to push a few buttons on the thermostat to make your house warmer or cooler, but it’s not very energy efficient. There are plenty of ways you can cool off without air conditioning and warm up without a heater.

These good habits can also help you become less dependent on the HVAC.

  • Use the programmable thermostat if you have one. It can save you up to 10% on electric bills.
  • Put the thermostat at the most efficient settings. In the summer keep the temperature around 78 degrees and bump it up a little when no one is home. During the winter keep the temperature setting at 68 degrees or as low as 60 degrees when you’re away.
  • Change or clean the air filters every two months.
  • Clean the vents and make sure nothing is blocking the airflow.
  • Close the vents in rooms that are rarely used.
  • Use fans instead of decreasing the temperature. It can create a wind chill effect that makes the room feel up to four degrees cooler.
  • Make sure the fan is turning counter clockwise in the summer so the air pushes straight down.
  • Have the HVAC system serviced annually. It will cost a little money up front but professional servicing can help the system run more efficiently and increase its lifespan.

In the Kitchen

More energy is consumed in the kitchen than just about anywhere else in the house. Between the power-hungry appliances and cooking kilowatt-hours add up fast. Make these small adjustments and you’ll see a big change in your bill.

  • Check the refrigerator and freezer temperature settings. The refrigerator can be set at 40 degrees Fahrenheit without any concern of bacteria growth. Freezers should be set to 0 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Keep the refrigerator and freezer as full as possible so it takes less energy to cool.
  • Clear frost out of refrigerators and freezers so they run more efficiently.
  • Clean the vents at the bottom of the fridge for maximum efficiency.
  • Wait until the dishwasher is fully loaded before washing dishes.
  • Skip the heat dry setting on the dishwasher.
  • Don’t preheat the oven unless a recipe specifically says to do so.
  • Use the microwave, toaster oven or a crockpot instead of the oven whenever possible.

In the Laundry Room

Another place where a disproportionate amount of energy and water is used is the laundry room. Dryers, in particular, require a significant amount of energy each time they’re run. With the tips below you can keep using your washer and dryer while reducing energy usage.

  • Only wash and dry full loads of laundry.
  • Line dry as many items as possible.
  • Wash clothes in cool or cold water to reduce energy usage by as much as 90%.
  • Only use the sanitary washing cycle if necessary.
  • Use the high spin or extended spin setting on the washer.
  • Use high efficiency detergent when possible.
  • Dry loads of laundry back-to-back so there’s no cool down period.
  • Use the moisture sensor to cut down on drying time.
  • Put a towel in with lighter fabrics to reduce the time needed to dry clothes.
  • Clean the lint filter before using the dryer.
19
Sep

Anti-Aging Basil Face Cream with Essential Oils

by Tiffany in Beauty, Essential Oils

anti-aging-basil-face-cream-with-essential-oils

Who needs expensive beauty counter anti aging lotions and potions? This anti-aging face cream can be made at home using natural ingredients such as basil and avocado oil. It is soothing and hydrating and it uses non oily avocado oil, though you can use any carrier oil of your choosing. If you have problem skin pick one that has a low comedogenic rating (see this chart for ratings). It also provides the option of the three different essential oils. All are great for your skin and anti-aging in general but you can pick the one you have on hand.

Ingredients:

1/3 cup fresh basil leaves and stems
1/3 cup witch hazel
water
1 tsp. avocado oil (or your favorite carrier oil)
2 tsp. Shea Butter (or your favorite butter)
1.5 tsp Emulsifying Wax
7-10 drops frankincense, rosehip, or geranium essential oils

anti aging face cream ingredients

Directions:

Using a food processor combine witch hazel and basil leaves and witch hazel and blend well. Strain the now-green witch hazel into a half-pint canning jar, until you have ¼ cup of basil liquid. If you don’t have enough liquid add a little water to reach the ¼ cup.

basil and witch hazelshea butter for anti aging cream

In a microwavable bowl add Shea butter, Almond oil and emulsifying wax. Heat in 30-second increments until melted and smooth.

Almond oil and emulsifying wax and basil

Add basil mix to the butter mix and slowly stir and allow it to cool and thicken. Once fully thickened add 7-10 drops of your desired essential oil. If your skin is dry add 10. Once fully thickened and cooled pour into half pint storage jars and seal. Keeps well in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Enjoy!

anti-aging-basil-face-cream-with-essential-oils-pin

14
Sep

So What’s in Your Pillow?

by Tiffany in A Green Home

pillow fill types

So what’s in your pillow? For a better night’s sleep you may want to try a pillow with a natural fill. The synthetics like polyester that you find in conventional pillows draw on non-renewable resources and can be more hospitable to allergens. The chemicals can also lead to headaches. So try a natural fill and even organic if possible.

A quality pillow can cost anywhere from $40.00 to $250.00 but if you take care of it…it can last a decade. Here are some of your options:

Goose Down – This is one of the softest fills available and is optimal for people who sleep on their stomach. You can care for this pillow by exposing it to fresh air and sunlight several hours a month. You can also usually machine wash on a gentle cycle and tumble dry along with a towel on low heat.

Organic Cotton – Cotton is a good option but it does tend to compress over time. Machine wash on gentle in cold water. Tumble dry with cool air and throw in a dryer ball or tennis ball to break up clumps. Because cotton is easy to clean it is less prone to mildew and bacteria.

Organic Wool – This fiber offers firm support and it is also a natural insulator and helps regulate body temperature. Throw it in the dryer for a few minutes with a dryer ball or tennis ball to renew the loft. Freshen in direct sunlight and open air for several hours a month and use a vinegar/water solution to spot clean.

Natural Latex Foam – Natural latex pillows are molded and they conform to the contours of your body. Dust mites find it inhospitable and mildew cannot thrive in it. It is a healthy alternative for many allergy and asthma sufferers. Hand wash with warm water and a mild soap. Press with a towel to dry and keep out of direct sunlight.

Hulls – Sleeping on buckwheat hulls can help relieve muscle tension but it can take some time getting used to. Since hulls are irregularly shaped, air circulates around them and dust mites and microbes have a hard time taking root. Look for a “triple cleaned” label to ensure that dust mites and mold have been removed. To clean, remove the hulls from the pillow and rinse in a tub of cool water. Lay out to dry. Machine wash the empty case in hot water twice a month.

No pillow – There is some scientific evidence to suggest that no pillow at all is better for our health and well being. Per the recommendations from the comments section Katy Bowman’s books are a great resource if you want to know the reasoning behind it.

After you select your perfect natural pillow make sure to cover it with a zippered protector made from tightly woven organic cotton. When placed under your pillow case it blocks allergens as effectively as vinyl alternatives without exposing you to toxic chemicals.

Sweet dreams!

Wednesday, September 14th, 2016

2 Comments on So What’s in Your Pillow?

5
Sep

Taro Coconut Ice Cream

by Tiffany in Recipes

taro ice creamI came across delicious taro for the first time in an Asian market where I ordered taro bubble tea. I ordered it because the of the lovely purple color but quickly fell in love with the flavor. Afterwards I would often buy taro buns or taro popsicles from this same market as occasional treats. Last week I noticed that the thai market had several boxes of taro root for sale and I bought some to make homemade ice cream. The recipe is super simple (only 3 ingredients!) and the finished product is quite yummy.

Ingredients:

1 large taro root (1 cup)
1 can coconut milk
3/4 sugar (thai coconut sugar works well)

Directions:

Skin the taro root and chop into one inch chunks. Steam or boil until soft. Add to one cup coconut milk in a small saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring as needed. Allow to cool for 20 minutes and then add to a food processor or vita-mix to puree. Refrigerate until completely cool and then add to your ice cream maker. We used a Cuisinart ice cream maker and it was done in about 25 minutes.

The texture is slightly grainy due to the potato texture of the taro. If this bothers you then I suggest using grassfed cream instead of coconut milk. Coconut milk is the traditional Thai ingredient but cream gives it silkiness. Either way, this ice cream is not super sweet and it makes enough for five small servings. Enjoy!

Monday, September 5th, 2016

7 Comments on Taro Coconut Ice Cream