Tag Archive | doing things for cheap

How We Make Sauerkraut

We don’t make sauerkraut every year but this year we had to because of all the cabbages that decided to grow.

For this process we have a ceramic crock that Ernie’s mom used. It is a large high – sided pot really, that was made in Medicine Hat Alberta, Canada. Ernie’s parents were given this crock in 1967 by neighbours but we really don’t know how old it is.

For things like that I just call them “vintage”.

This year we used 18 heads of cabbage for sauerkraut. We also used some of our own onions and of course, coarse salt.

Sauerkraut is so simple. And so tasty. And good for you. So we have decided to make more of an effort to use what we make. Often we forget that we have it, and it gets left over from year to year. This year though I think we have run out so our crock full will definitely get eaten.

Many of you already make this food but I will go over it again anyway because you can do it with almost any container, just on you counter.

Chop or coarsely grate (we grate) the cabbage into the container to about 2 inches or 5 centimetres. Add some onion and the appropriate amount of pickling salt. For us it was 2 tablespoons per layer of cabbage.

Then we filled the container about 3/4 full. As  he went along, Ernie would squish the cabbage in his hands to get the juices out.

Once done filling the crock a clean pail full of water was used to weigh down the cabbage to stay underneath the liquid. Ernie cut two pieces of pine board to fit on top of the cabbage inside the crock that the pail sits on.

Check out my video below to see all the steps.

In the past, Ernie’s mom used to use a board similar to what we use, only she weighed it down with a big rock that they had found here in the yard. I opted for the pail although I’m sure there are many things that could be used to do this job.

Ernie kept tasting the cabbage to check it for sourness over the next two weeks or so. Once it reached what he figured was ready, he squeezed the liquid out by hand and packaged it for freezing.

Not difficult to do at all, and so very good for you.

 

Redecorating Without Spending

I redecorate regularly by spending no money.

This is actually something that I have been doing since I was in elementary school in my childhood home.

My parents had little money, and certainly nothing to spend on decorating. For some reason, redecorating the house came naturally to me, and I did it regularly for almost two decades. I would simply move furniture around, and find things in boxes or closets that hadn’t been used. Occasionally, we bought things are yard sales – which didn’t cost much anyway – but most of the time it was what we already had.

When I got a little older, I started growing flowers in the yard, cutting them and drying them for the house. I also dried wildflowers from the ditch that I picked up when we were on holidays and used them in the house too.

Now my obsession continues.

Currently we have no more room for any new things in the house. I like to keep things to a minimum, such as it is. What I am using for decorating is what was already here or what I had before I moved here. Also, I am not repainting or staining anything. It has to look good just on it’s own without any adjustments.

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There are a few important rules that I follow when redecorating with no money.

Use what you have. There is an unbelievable force in our society that tells people to buy new things and if you don’t you’re not good enough and you may end up feeling guilty for not doing it. We actually don’t need to do that unless there is a real need for something like a vacuum cleaner, a new shower head, or a large appliance. Most other things we buy we can do without, especially if they are from stores that sell cheap things in large quantities. You know the ones I’m talking about.

There are so many things that can be bought nowadays that break right away, look cheap and provide you with no unique qualities for decorating. I avoid these things as much as possible. Unless I already have them, I don’t include them in your redecorating. Mass produced cheap knick knacks and even household items often have no real thought behind their production other than to make a quick dollar.

Your best bet for decorating is to use what you already have. I can pretty much guarantee that you have stuff in storage that you can use, no matter what it is: fabric, craft items, yard sale finds, old stuff, new stuff, almost anything.

To reuse things you have, you can follow some basic principles for no money re-decorating:

Don’t always leave out something or get rid of something you dislike. Often, there will be an item that you dislike or that doesn’t seem to fit anywhere in your house. Don’t necessarily get rid of it.  Obviously if you REALLY don’t like looking at something maybe don’t include it in your display, but sometimes things you may really hate can look different among certain other things. It really just depends. My suggestion is to try it first before discounting it. I find that it is better to wait a while and see if an object or placement of an object grows on you. Sometimes even a few days is needed to make a final decision.

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An example of something I disliked was the white (yellow) pot on the right. It looked kind of yucky but because it is vintage, I just couldn’t get rid of it. Then I paired it with it’s green friend on top of the stereo speakers and it worked!

I don’t try to match things. Matching colours or sizes of items is boring to me. I don’t go nuts with using bright colours or anything like that but new stuff and older stuff  can often work together or different fabrics and material can give neat contrasts. Just go with whatever you like and that usually will be right. Below you can see a small display I have on the top of my work desk. All items are finds, the green candle holder from a thrift shop, the glass holder and plant pot were already mine. They look good where I put them together even though they are completely different objects and unlikely partners.

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Moving things just slightly can make a big difference. I find I don’t always have to move EVERYTHING around to different places. Sometimes there will be an item that just doesn’t work and it’s removal or a change in position will fix it. Just offsetting one thing can also work wonders.

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In the picture above, you can see that the wall hangings are not quite in the right position – at least for me. This is a personal preference. Put or arrange things so that they are pleasing to your own eye. When I put these up, I used the nails that were already in the wall without moving them. If I want to fix them, I would move the  painting down a small amount. that would be all I have to adjust to make it look better.

I make sure to dust. Yeah right! Well, the intention is there. Dusting really makes things look better and makes you FEEL better about your house. Just regularly dusting some things can make a huge difference and gives the illusion of redecorating! It’s magic.

And there you have it. My simple but effective, (I think), ideas for redecorating without spending money. Everyone has a different style and preferences. Make sure to use yours when you are working on your house and it will always work out well for you.

Freezing In-Season Fruit

At this time of year to save some money, we buy fruit, which is sometimes on sale, wash and freeze it for the winter. We do this instead of buying frozen from the grocery store in the winter. By doing this we know exactly where the fruit is grown and how it was processed (by us).

We do this with blueberries, Saskatoon berries (otherwise known as serviceberries) and sometimes strawberries if we can get them locally. To freeze them we use plastic honey containers as you can see in the photos. We feel this packaging method is acceptable since the berries do not contact too much of the plastic. Not as much as the honey that originally comes in them anyway.

This is what we are currently doing on the homestead right now as boring as it may seem.

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We usually buy about two dozen packages of blueberries and about the same in strawberries. The Saskatoons have to be picked, which we do locally. And then we stuff ourselves with fresh berries for a few days! That’s it!

Plywood Bathroom Sink Stand

Our bathroom has been in pieces for 2 years. It has taken us that long to dismantle, design, choose, and buy the stuff we needed to finish the project.

Actually, I am not really complaining. Our favourite thing when doing a project is to do it slowly. And that we did. We did that because we didn’t want to make any mistakes.

In the picture below, Ernie is varnishing the sink stand. He made it out of Maple plywood. We stained it with dark stain and then varnished it with water soluble varnish.

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The next picture is the bathroom mostly done. The sink was purchased at a hardware store and was really the only choice we had and it was in stock in the store. If we had to do it again, I would either order one that we knew was eco-friendly – if such a thing exists, or we would make our own out of something recycled. The plumbing is not done in the picture, that is why there is a rag hanging out of the wall. Obviously the sink tap is not cheap. We have found that often you get what you pay for so we spent some money on that.

The ceramic wall tiles were left overs at the store and they had enough for this surround. Ernie bought pine panelling for the wall behind the sink and a small section on the other end of the bathtub. This will be varnished with the water-soluble varnish as well. Just as an aside, the mirror in the picture was salvaged and Ernie made the frame from scrap wood. I varnished it.

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So from a homesteading perspective, I feel we did the best we could on the recycling/reusing side and the not spending too much side. Ernie did all the work himself and did it at a relaxed pace, not stressing himself out at all. It took several weeks but was worth the wait.

Eating Well On Little Money Part 1

Last year I started a project in which I was trying to figure out, if you start with NOTHING, and spend only $10 a day (and you live in the city and don’t have a garden) can you eat well?

In the documentary “Food Inc” there was a family that believed they couldn’t eat well because good food was too expensive, yet they went to a fast food restaurant for supper. They spent time at the grocery store lamenting how expensive everything was, but yet had money to buy ONE meal for each person in the family. I would think that taking $15 or $20 that they spent on fast food for the family ($5 per person) and putting it towards actual food would be more productive and cheaper in the long run.

This is what I am trying to show with my experiment: to demonstrate that it can be done, that two adults CAN eat well on $10 a day, and likely even less.

How To Start

I used the local Co-op food store and their sales flyer each week for 4 weeks. The food at the co-op here is more expensive than larger grocery chains in the big city, but my point is to be able to shop where you are and still eat well. The food had to be non-processed (food that has multiple ingredients but could be canned or frozen if it only has one ingredient.), and thus good food. Some was on sale and some wasn’t.

The daily food purchases for Day One and Day Two are as follows:

Day 1: Eggs, Butter, Pasta (made from white flour, not great but that is what we used for now), Salt.

From this you could eat for the day and if you did have some condiments left over from previous purchases of food (ketchup, mustard, oregano, basil, garlic, etc) you could use those to spruce things up.

At our food store, this all cost $9.54 cents. At other stores you could get it for less, I’m sure, but that is not part of the project. The point is use what is available. The belief is often that you can’t eat well and cheap, locally.

Day 2: Carrots, Bananas, Potatoes, Onion, Barley. Cost: $10.00

With the ingredients from these two days, I made a vegetable soup that was unbelieveably good. I expect that some people don’t know how to make soup from scratch, and therefore think that they have to buy canned and therefore can’t eat well. We figured out that our soup cost us 38 cents a serving while a store brand, canned, cream of mushroom soup cost about 24 cents. However the nutritional content of the canned soup is clearly lower.

One may wonder how this food can sustain you for days but what actually happens is that you build up your stock of food over the week and then weeks, and you are able to continue eating well day after day. Maybe the first day or two isn’t ideal, but when you are considering eating nothing as opposed to this, it looks ok. And fast food always costs more.

So the point of all this is to, again, show that you can eat well for little money IF you can use your creativity and figure out how to use the food that is available to purchase. I figure it is often the lack of knowledge in how to cook real food that contributes to eating poorly. Just my thoughts.

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DIY Dog Groomer Home Workspace

My 4 HP High Velocity dog dryer is outrageously loud. I bought it when that was all you could get. In fact, they now make HV dryers that hardly make any noise at all – at a nice high price. I am not going to throw this dryer out and buy a new one. The noise however is unbearable and in the winter I can’t put it outside to dampen the sound.

So Ernie and I came up with a way to save the dryer. He cut a hole in the drywall that separates the workshop from the dog room and put the dryer hose through the hole. The dryer now sits outside the dog room and only the hose comes through.

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Imagine having to have a motorcycle or snowmobile revving its engine in the same small room as you. This is what it was like before this change.

Ernie found some old vacuum hose at the dump and that’s what is used to go through the wall and attach to the original dryer hose. The dryer and hose is now out of sight and in a contained area so it is not an eyesore.

We used electrical tape to secure the hose to the hooks on the wall but I will be covering that with something a bit more appealing to the eye.

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Finally the hose is long enough now that I can use it properly. The pic below shows it hanging from the ceiling onto the grooming table.

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So, all of this is just really the start of changing over to a more eco-friendly business and way of living. Some may think it looks cheap and crappy but I believe it is a state of mind. We take our time to finish projects and eventually it will look better. If we expect everything to be new and cookie cutter, then old buildings will be torn down and good stuff will be shown in the garbage. Not here anymore.

How To Make Your Own Unique, Eco-Friendly Christmas Tree

I decided to make our own Christmas tree so that we have a unique looking tree as well as be able to celebrate the beauty of nature in our home all year round. Yes, green trees are beautiful too, but this one lasts for years and is also super earth friendly.

It also cost nothing to make.

I found the branch on our 2 acre property which was deadfall from an old wild plum tree. Ernie made the stand out of scrap wood, 1X2’s and 3/4 inch plywood. You don’t have to be a woodworker to make this base or one like it. He used Philips head screws to attach the wood braces to the tree and the base. The important part is that the wood is quite light so it doesn’t need much in the way of strength for braces. Obviously, a live tree will be much heavier in weight and will also not last more than one season.

This was our main reason for choosing this type of tree – it is totally eco-friendly.

I covered the base with fabric that we already had. You could use anything that goes with your decor and I’ll bet you already have something in your house for this. Be creative.

This tree could even be made with a small branches from any tree that has fallen onto the ground. You can likely find branches like this anywhere, even in the city.

In fact I think a tiny tree made in this way could look extra cool for an apartment.

We keep our tree in the house year round and leave small lights on it for fun.

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Make Pasta at Home

Eating well – or eating poorly is a matter of educating yourself on how to do this, not on how much you make.

Real pasta has has TWO ingredients – flour and water. I actually learned this method from a Lydia Bastianich, the famous Italian-American celebrity chef. I was shocked to see her do this in one of her TV shows and have been making it every since.

How To Make It

Take some water – about 1 cup – and add flour until you have a dough. You can mix it in a bowl by hand or use a food processor. Once the dough is fully mixed, cut a smallish chunk of it and remove from the bowl. Don’t take too much off at once if this is your first time trying this method. You will have a limited amount of space (likely) to roll this out and starting with a small amount is best.

Roll out the section and cut into long, thin pieces or use a hand crank pasta machine if you have one or can find one at a yard sale or auction. The key to making it easily is to use enough flour when you are rolling out the dough so that it does not stick to everything. You must shake the flour off the pasta somewhat before you cook it.

Here are some lasagna noodles that I made.

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It takes a little more time to make your pasta this way, but not really.  The pasta tastes better and is something you can do yourself without relying on anyone to make it for you. .