Thursday, November 21, 2013

Thrifty Packing

So, as noted in the previous post, I pack so that I have ONLY a carry-on.   This saves baggage fees and the hassle of hanging out at the airport waiting for bags.  I don't want to pay extra fees and I want to get the most vacation for my flight dollar.

This trip, as with most, I packed in an ancient day pack I used through much of grad school (so purchased sometime before 1997...I might be a lookalike that's only a decade old but I think it's closer to 20 years old).   It has one main compartment and one outside front pocket, 2 shoulder straps.  That's it.   I have an alternate bag for trips where I need a bit more or expect to bring back a bit more, but we'll stick with this bag for now.

We knew we had a washer and dryer in the apartment we'd rented (more on the apartment at a later date) so we knew we could do laundry easily.  Even without a washer/dryer, I find I can wash everything but jeans in a gallon ziplock bag. 

Here's the total of what I brought, clotheswise, including the outfit I wore on the plane:

2 pairs of jeans
2 turtlenecks
1 silk thermal undershirt
1 shortsleeve t-shirt (for jammies)
2 longsleeve t-shirt
1 button down overshirt
1 nice sweater
5 undies
3 pairs of wool socks, various weights
1 pair of light hiking boots
1 pair sturdy walking shoes
2 bras
1 leather coat
1 color coordinated scarf

All clothes are in one color range and yes, I pretty much looked the same every day since I ended up wearing the button down shirt as a jacket.  Oh well.  I wasn't in DC to impress people with my fashion sense (of which I have none).

I could have left the coat home and just worn a thick thermal undershirt.  I don't have a decent light jacket at the moment and the weather forecast indicated some chilly temperatures...which didn't really appear.  I never took the coat out of the apartment once I'd arrived.

To get all this, and my toiletries and sundries, in the pack, it's important to pack tight and be willing to carry the weight.
Wear the heaviest things even if you'll be a bit too warm on the trip.  Once you wear it onto the plane, you can stuff it under the seat in front of you, or roll it up for a lumbar support in those CRAP airline seats.   So, the boots, coat, a turtleneck, button down, scarf, socks, undies, bra and jeans were the outfit of the day.
The rest went in the bag.  First, I put the undies in a thin, and clean, veggie bag left over from a grocery trip, then stuff them in a shoe.  There was room left over for a rolled pair of socks.  The other shoe got more socks, a bra, and the silk undershirt.  I also packed an extra pillow case as I had recently put henna in my hair and didn't want to dye anything at the apartment.  This pillow case was an old one so if I needed to lighten the load, I could leave it behind.   One pair of undies was beyond the pale and was chucked rather than brought home.  1 t-shirt and 1 turtleneck were also potential donations if there wasn't room on the way home.

So, the stuffed shoes went into the bottom of the bag for rigidity.  Then the jeans.  Fill in around the edges with rolled or tightly folded shirts.  The pillowcase was folded to the size needed to make a layer across the entire bag and the packing thus far, then the sweater and the rest were layered on.  I had about 4 inches of space left in the top for my neti-pot and sea salt and threw in a cloth handkerchief for good measure.  Also in the top were the phone charger, ipod charger, etc.  The toiletries bag goes in the small outside pocket along with the travel journal.

I have an expandable, but still very small, travel purse that I can take on the plane as well.  It was purchased because with the expando-zipper around the bottom open, it will hold a water bottle upright.  The purse had the water bottle (filled at a drinking fountain after passing security...saves on those stupid expensive bottles of water at the airport), a bag of almonds and craisins, a pencil, tiny earbud type headphones, and the like.  

The combined weight of pack and purse was maybe 10 lbs.   That didn't include the clothes I was wearing.

Packing tight like this, also makes for easier travel on public transportation.  I took the Metro from the airport to the apartment and it was no problem.   On the Metro back to the airport at the end of the trip, the only problem was when I set my backpack on a bench to wait for a train...then got on the train without it.  I immediately noticed and was able to jump back off and grab the pack and get back on.   Thank goodness!   In DC, and at the Arlington Cemetery stop, that bag would have been taken by security and possibly blown up had I left it behind. 

Arlington Cemetery stop you ask...Why yes.   We (Mom and I) stopped at Arlington to watch the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on the way to the airport.  Since we'd packed light, we just took our bags along.  I wouldn't choose to hike that far everyday with a pack, but it meant we could make the most of our final day in the city.  Nice.

Mom also packed VERY light.  She did put a few things in a clothing donation bin before we departed.   I had plenty of room so went ahead and brought my potential-donation clothes home to take on the next trip.

A final note:  I did not take along any toothpaste, shampoo or etc.  I don't use them anyway.  I took a small jar of sea salt (fits in the neti pot) which I use for tooth brushing.  I wash my hair with baking soda and rinse with dilute vinegar and figure I can get that at pretty much any store.  The apartment was well stocked and had both on hand.   The apartment also had plenty of lotions, potions, soaps and shampoos so that if you do use such things, you wouldn't have needed to bring any.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Thrifty Travel

OK, the THRIFTIEST travel is to stay home but that's not really what I'm about.  So, I'm going to do a little series on thrifty travel based on my recent trip with Mom (Hi Mom!) and Pam (Hi Pam) to DC for 10 days.   It was a blast and pretty dang thrifty.

Topics to be covered:
Packing:  ONLY a carry-on and keep that small enough to go under the seat in front of you. 
Choosing a place to stay:  we used to find a nice place, good price and with a washer/dryer (helps with the packing bit)
Sights, museums, eating, entertainment: Get the most bang for your buck
Souvenirs:  Do you need them?  (probably)
Getting there: This can be the toughest place to really make deep cuts in the travel budget without sacrificing time and enjoyment so balance may be a key consideration.

And there might be more.

The 10 days in DC were amazing and a pretty darn thrifty for the three of us.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Using What I Have...or Attempting to Use What I Have

So, I generally stock up on food and whatnot in the fall (like a squirrel).  The goal is to have enough to get through spring  without having to do a big grocery shop.   The issue has been lack of organization in planning and storing this so that it was the right amount and I actually used it.    When you don't know where things are, you don't use them up.  By "you" I mean "me."

A couple of weeks ago I spent a couple of hours gathering together everything I had that was canned (home canned) or dried and stored.   There were a few things from 2008  and a few that had lost their integrity (broken seals) and some that it was now clear that I won't use up (too many dried plums).  Those jars were emptied into the compost to grow again in a new form next year.

The rest, including this year's canning and drying products, were grouped by type on the living room floor.  It was all in jars so no carpets were harmed in the process.

Then, I counted and catalogued the whole she-bam.  

I took a day to think about how long this stuff could last me.   Prices for fruit and veg are highest in the late winter/ early spring so I figured it would be most frugal to eat the most canned/dried/stored stuff from January through April. 

Then I assessed my total amounts.  It looked like it would break up into 7 groups fairly evenly and any extra good would go into the January through April groups.

Finally, I found 7 sturdy boxes.  They are fairly uniform in size, fruit boxes, but not entirely so the biggest ones were for the January through April months.   I labeled the ends and lined them up in a semi-circle around the goods.

A bit more math...and I knew how much would go in each box.   Then the divy-ing began.  I started with canned and dried tomatoes since I had the most of those and they are a real staple item in my cooking.  This ensures a pretty steady stream of good tomatoes for soup, stew, chili and salsa all winter, with extra in the usual months.
The few odds and ends, like 2 small jars of dried onions, were put in those late winter month boxes too.
I made sure there were 2 or more jars of apple butter or other sweet treat in each box, with 3 in the late winter boxes when there will be less cheap fresh and local fruit available.

You get the picture.

Once everything was divided up, I of course ran across one last box of perfectly usable canned and dried goods that I'd missed!  Darn it!  But a jar of dried hot or medium peppers got to go into each month's box, which will make for much better chili.

The 7 boxes were then lined up under my bed in order...of course I didn't plan all that well as getting to the "November" box this afternoon will require me to move 2 other boxes.  I will reverse the line-up order next year so that the "November" box is the easiest to get to.

There are other stored items I'll need to remember.  The potatoes, onions and squash are all in the front bedroom/root cellar.  The bedroom isn't exactly warm (about 51-55 degrees) but the temperature fluxuates all the way up into the 60s on a sunny winter day and I don't want to do that to the stored vegies.   Those will stay in the north bedroom in cold storage.  I love potatoes and onions so I don't think I'll forget them.   I haven't devised a system for how many per month I can consume, but given that they also tend to go soft at variable rates, I'll just try to stay ahead of the rot.
I didn't get many squash, only about 5 or so, this year due to scheduling problems (couldn't get to the final day of farmers market when they are cheap) so I'll have to see what can be done with other things.

I also have quite a bit stuffed in the freezer.  It's just the freezer above the fridge, but I must have 30lbs of meat in there (chicken, lamb, pork and beef) along with frozen fruit mush from making shrubs (more on that in another post) and various other fruit/vegie things.   I tried to do a better job of labeling and packaging this year.  Meats were divided into single servings where possible (don't really want to do that with a roast), well wrapped and labeled.  The fruit/vegies were similarly divided and labeled.

I left basic condiments, dried beans, grains, flours, and my stock of zevia brand pop in the cupboard and on the kitchen shelves.  I may move the Zevia to the monthly boxes so I don't drink it all at once.  I don't usually buy a case at at time but will write a blog on why I did this time.

Now the plan is to get out a box on the first of each month and try to use it up before I get the next one out.  This should cut down on my waste as well as keep me from eating out as much in the winter.  I can't decide if I should put the food on the kitchen shelf unit, or put the box on the kitchen table like a center piece so I can remember to use it up.  Probably the latter this year.  That way I can track what does and doesn't get used, what I had too much or not enough of, etc.