Friday, April 30, 2010

What the ....? People waste tons of money and it bugs me

SO, on this online "thrifty" thing there was an article about how to set up a kitchen for only 220$ on sale and have everything you need.
You can see the article and the video here:
But don't bother.

SERIOUSLY! They recommend buying a set of 10 items for the low low price of 220$.
I was thinking "Yeah, you can get a fridge and stove for about 100 each and 90 for all the silverware dishes, and pots-n-pans sounds about right" but NO. That is just for a measuring cup, a couple of pans, a few bowls, a wooden spoon and the like. They assume you already have a kitchen full of appliances.

How in the hell could you spend 290$ AND think it was a deal? That's an average of 22$ per item.

Here's how to set up a kitchen for a truly frugal price:

Step 1: Figure out what you actually cook on a regular basis and what you need to do that (not "want"..."need").
Step 2: Figure out what you have that will help in you cook 90% of the time. For example when I got the current rental trailer it didn't come with appliances but the landlords decided to let me have their old beer fridge and a cheap stove. Most of the problem was solved (later, the fridge died and I got a smaller more efficient one at the scratch-n-dent room of an appliance store).

Step 3: Look at the list of needs again and cross off what you don't really need. (For example if you wrote "set of silverware for 8...if you live alone you really only NEED a fork, knife and spoon to get started).

Step 4: Check with older relatives who've had houses going for years. Take what they offer even if it isn't exactly what you need. And say thank you.

Step 5: Look at the list one more time. You can probably cross off most stuff. If you needed a cast iron frying pan but got a stainless steel one, call it good and cross that off. You can get a cast iron one some other day and then give away or sell the stainless steal one.

Step 6: Go to yardsales and thrift stores. You'll get most of what you need and often find out in the interim that you don't need other items.

Somewhere in those steps, also remember to ask for these items for holidays and birthdays.

Some tips:

For appliances, watch for people moving out of houses. They may be happy to get rid of a fridge rather than move it three states away (and they will have a truck sitting there).
Then try just asking around work if anyone is upgrading a kitchen.
Remember that you can get by with a toaster oven and an electric fry pan...or just the fry pan.
An electric hotpot can be used to make many things including steamed vegetables if you put a collander on the top.
Your neighbors have appliances and might let you borrow them for the occasional event (need to make cookies for an event and have no oven? Make one extra pan for the neighbor who let you use their stove). There is no reason everyone on the block needs a fondu pot. No one uses one of those every day. Just share.

You do not need the best stainless steel bowls and pyrex measuring cups. Any bowl will work and that set of 4 cups for 25cents at the yard sale will measure just as well.
You do not need a professional stew pot for making your own chicken stock because you have never cooked a whole chicken and had bones for stock anyway.

Who the hell would think "I'm poor so I better spend 290$ for 10 kitchen items"...
If you are that poor call me. I'll get you all the items they listed and more, pack them and ship them and you still won't be out 50$.

Perhaps I need to give up the internet as well as the TV. It seems to be making me angry.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Santa Fe and stuff

We had a very groovy time in Santa Fe! The house (which is for sale...) was a hoot. Not the decor I would pick, but lovely all the same. I especially liked the tiny kiva style fireplace in the kitchen. It was high enough that the kitchen table could be pushed up in front of it. It was also small enough that the fire burned out quickly. A fire over breakfast is now a priority for the house I'll build someday.

Three bedrooms and two bathrooms worked out pretty well. Pam and I did not have an outside window which was sort of odd. The porch the window used to open onto had been enclosed so our window opened onto that room rather than actual out of doors.

The Iowa troop had plane issues on the way and ended up arriving late. Pam apparently fell directly into bed (we shared a room). In the morning I was already up and about before she came back to life. She apparently thought that there were TWO windows onto the sunroom so when I came through the one that is really a door she said "what the hell!" thinking I'd walked through a wall. That was funny.

We did several days in Santa Fe. A day at Marcie's in Cochiti Lake (Jerry regaled us with the funniest story anyone had heard in recent years) where we enjoyed a salad so good we had it 2 more times before we left.

A day in Taos was lovely with excellent food and shoppery. We also spotted the "Wagner Casita"! A holiday rental home. I checked it out on line and it is really 3 little houses in a compound. All are too small and too expensive for us. Oh well. It would have been amusing. Perhaps we'll see the "Brown House" or the "Sperry Arms" or, best of all "The Baskerville Inn" for the next reunion. Hilch thinks we should do it again in 2 years.

And, and update: I decided to take a week off from technology for "Earth Day" (it was the 40th anniversay of Earth Day). It was odd. I did well for 3 days and obviously couldn't avoid technology at work. It was nice to come home and not just turn on some distraction so I hope to keep taking a day off here and there on some regular basis. On Friday I added 20square feet to my garden for a total raised bed of 36 square feet (4X9). I used scrap wood that was lying around the yard and had roughly the right dimensions. I only had to cut one board. It doesn't look too bad considering it's free. I've got 2 pots and 2 buckets of potatoes going on the shabbier end to cover things up (though camouflaging a tatty garden edge with mismatched pots and 5gallon buckets is probably not the direction that most people would go). I did spend about 50$ for good organic container mix soil to fill the new part of the garden. If I want to get a whole parking space sized garden going this year I don't have nearly enough dirt. I'll need more for the containers too.

My attempt at sprouting and starting my own plants when no where since I forgot about the sprouts and they molded in their plastic bags. Oh well. I bought a parsley plant and 4 sweet pea plants today (yes...I know peas don't transplant well) which were on sale (yes, probably because they are crap) just to get something green going in the garden. I can't wait for tomatoes to be available. I'll probably get some radishes and greens and beets going this week. I think carrots can go in too.

The bad news...I can't find my garden notebook where I had a plan drawn. Oh well. I'll make one online or start a new notebook. Once it's too late to bother I'm sure I'll find the one I lost.

That is all.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Food on the Table Conference Redux

about 10 days ago I got to go to the "Food on the Table" conference/workshop in Moscow. It was quite lovely. VERY good cake and you know I like a bit of cake.

Anyway, it was about local food, food security, and how to help people produce their own (not all of it, but some). Quite interesting things were pointed out.
Like almost every county in Idaho and Washington in the 1940s had at least one dairy and at least one food cannery or other commercial food processing plant that dealt with locally or regionally produced food. Now, there are just a handful of dairies and canneries or food-processing factories in these states.

There used to be over 100 different fruits and vegetables produced for the market in Idaho. Now, just a few. Sometime between 1940 and now it became unsexy to produce food for people in the area. This is true pretty much across the country. There are a few producers who market directly but no more vegetable canneries working with that local produce. There's a dairy in Spokane. That's about it. They estimated that in Latah County (Moscow's area where the conference was) there could be 140+ permanent jobs if people spent just 25% of their food money on locally produced goods and that demand was met locally. It's not huge, but it's a start.

We had a local baker bring the bread. It was awesome. He uses locally produced flour. We also heard from one of the flour producers. It's actually odd that we no longer know the people who make our food. People used to. When did it change?
When did the farm and lawn gardens become rare?
Fred and Sher still have theirs but they are throwbacks or freaks or something. Most people don't grow food. I get a bit, not much.

In other news...there are some land plots for sale that are pretty promising! It would be nice to find the right one. There are two on a good road. A bit more expensive than I hoped for but I'm going to look at them a few more times before I give up.

Salad Dressing Undoing

I just threw out too many bottles of half finished dressing. I haven't bought any in ages but mostly it went to rot. I found a recipe of just the ratios of oil, sour (vinegar/lemon juice/whatever), sweet (sugar, honey, whatever), salt, and spices to make my own infinite variety of vinaigrettes. So far so good. I've wasted a little of 2 attempts, but haven't had to chuck 3$ worth of the purchased stuff. And I don't have the wasted packaging anymore. That's nice.

So far a favorite is made with toasted sesame oil, sugar, lemon juice, a bit of sea salt and some thyme. Quite nice on a salad of romaine and walnuts.

And now, I must finish making dessert for the next community food security evening here. It's not for a couple of weeks, but I'm terrified of not having enough dessert like last time. This time I'll cook for 75 and we'll get 15. Still, that's better than last time when I cooked for about 15 and we had 70+.