Category Archives: Saving money

2015 Day 29: Food for the Road

If you have read any of my previous posts, you are aware that I was a teacher for many years.  I loved working with children!  I also worked with some pretty fantastic teachers.  We talked all at the same time and could finish one another’s sentences.  It was great! We were also a little crazy.  By that, I mean we thought it was FUN to take eighth grade students out of town overnight.  Actually we took them out of town for three nights.  You are now saying-“Yep, she’s crazy.”    I am and so were they!

We had a big environmental unit that we taught.  One of the ending activities was to spend several days at an environmental center for students.  We had a great time exploring ocean topics and the environmental issues.  Kids wanted to be on our team and parents wanted them with us, too. In order to take 60 students out of town for several days, we had to have some plans that kept everyone busy and at the same time, made the trip affordable.  Since the first and last day involved 7 plus hours on a school bus, we had to have plans for food.  Cheap food.

Going down was easy.  Everyone brought a snack and a lunch and we had a big cooler.  No problem.  Coming back was harder because there were no Moms to pack that lunch.  The first year we decided to let the camp provide us with box lunches.  Big mistake.  The food was good but geared more to older students-not middle school ones.  The next year we had a better plan for coming home on the interstate food.  McDonald’s????  NO.  Burger King???? NO.

With a fist full of coupons, we stopped at a local grocery store.  We had made major math calculations prior to the trip.  We filled two grocery buggies with loaves of bread, peanut butter (because NO ONE was allergic in those days), jelly, bologna (yes we ate that, too), cheese, individual potato chip bags, huge jars of pickles, canned drinks (I know, I know you are shocked), and enough LIttle Debbie snack pies to keep all of us on a sugar high.

Did we stop at a roadside park and have a leisurely picnic? Nope.  Stopping to let 60 people have a pit stop took forever. So we didn’t stop to eat.  We put the coolers that were filled with food in the back of the bus on the floor.  The longest one we put on the back seat and formed a work table.  Two of us made sandwiches on that table, wrapped it in a paper towel and passed it to a child.  If you wanted that kind-you kept it.  If you didn’t, you passed it to the child in front of you.  Easy peasy.  In no time everyone had a sandwich.  We had poured out the liquid in the pickle jars and passed them up the seats ,too.  If you wanted a pickle, you got one out.  Otherwise, pass it forward.  The chips were easy and handled the same way.  A teacher in front passed out canned sodas.  In no time, everyone was eating.  When they finished, they shouted out a request for a new sandwich and we made it and passed it up the seats.  We then did the Little Debbie pies.  We covered a lot of miles in the silence of eighth graders eating.  Was it fancy? No but everyone ate every single thing we had.  Our road food was a success!

Every year after that, we did this same food prep and distribution.  It’s amazing how many sandwiches you can make while riding in a bus on the interstate!

2015 Day 24: Do It Yourself Folks!

I come from a long line of DIYers.  My grandfather and his siblings came to the United State in the 1800’s because they were carpenters.  There were actually advertisements for carpenters in European countries.  So he came here.  My Dad was a mechanical engineer who loved to get his hands dirty.  He did two additions to the house where we lived. He mixed and poured his own concrete.  He knew how to do block work for foundations.  And he had excellent woodworking skills.  There was a period of time when he built redwood picnic tables on the side to make extra money.  It was a lot harder to have good carpentry skills in the 1950’s and 1960’s.  He did not have those radial arm saws or a flooring nailer that was run by the air compressor.  When he laid flooring, he sat on the floor and nailed each board by hand.  When you missed, you hit your thumb.  For months, Dad had a blue thumb.  It was a hazard of the job.

I am not a fabulous carpenter but my Dad taught me the basics.  When I was a child, you helped out with chores. And if that meant being the “holder” while Dad cut wood, you did it.  I can measure twice and use a variety of tools.  I DO have one of those radial arm saws in my garage right now.  I cut some trim yesterday.  I can use a drill, a circular saw and so on.  My husband has some carpentry skills, too.  So when we built our house, we did some of the work ourselves.  Let me tell you right now that there is a huge difference in cutting some trim and putting it up AND building a house.   A HUGE difference.  We had a builder but we could save a bunch by doing some work ourselves.  Boy- that sounds like one of those programs on television right now.   The hardest thing we did was to roof our house.

My Dad was excited that we were building a house.  So he said he would help us out on the weekends.  Great! Somehow that translated to roofing the house.  Well, the shingles were delivered and a friend used his tractor to lift them to the roof for us.  Whew! That would have been hard alone.  Those things are heavy! So then all Dad, my husband, our 5th grade daughter, our 7th grade son and I had to do now was to get busy.  We put down the tar paper and started on the shingles.  One side of our house was two stories.  It looked a long way down.  Dad just sat down and started on the shingles and so did we.  After a few hours, we had a lot down.  I was just glad we were away from the edge.  I just scooted along on my sitter and nailed between my legs.  I made sure that my sitter had contact with the roof at all times.  I don’t think I ever got the tar stains out of the seat of those jeans!

We-yes, all of us-ran wiring, put in insulation, and put up sheetrock. We did plumbing.  Every weekend was an experience in what seemed like the longest house build ever.  I will say one thing about this experience.  It was tiring but one of the most fulfilling things we have done as a family.  We all learned a lot.  We laughed at our mistakes and sometimes we grumped around our mistakes.  But we did it TOGETHER.  And we were stronger for it.


2015 Day 23: The Paper Drive

I have been a recycler all my life.  My Mom and my Nannie were recyclers, too.  They taught me everything they knew and that was what got me started.  Then I taught science for a long time and I always taught about recycling.  I used cloth grocery  bags before most people even realized there was such a thing.

My Mom and my Nannie saved aluminum foil. I know that sounds crazy but it is true.  Whenever they used a piece of aluminum foil to cover something, they would carefully wash and dry it.  Then they would let it air dry.  Finally they would carefully fold it up and put it away for another day of use, covering something else.  They lived through the Depression and WW2.  They knew what it was like to do without something.  So they reused everything they could-including foil. They didn’t call it recycling.  They said they were frugal.  You are probably thinking “yuck” regarding reusing foil.  Well, I am in my late 60’s and it never damaged me, I never got sick from food covered with the reused foil.  So—–it must have been ok.

Glass jars were reused, too.  You could can vegetables in them or store leftover foods in them in the refrigerator.  We never threw away glass jars. NEVER.  BTW, we did not have plastic storage containers at my house-either. The sodas we drank came in glass bottles.  We had to return them to the store to get our deposit back.  There was NO aluminum cans when I was growing up.  Listen carefully again.  We had NO aluminum cans.  We had NO plastic bottles.  Milk was delivered to your house in a glass bottle.  Ah-the good old days.

And newspapers? Well, they were saved, too.  Every year our elementary school had a big paper drive.  Yep! You heard me right.  A paper drive.  The front of the school had a covered walkway and there would be a sign with each teacher’s name on it.  For one week, we would collect every newspaper that we could find.  We would tie them in bundles and put them in the stack for our class.  By Thursday, the stacks of newspaper would be taller than our heads. The entire walkway would be covered with stacks of newspaper.  On Friday afternoon, a  truck would come and collect the stacks.  The school would get a check that they could use for programs in the school.  And the winning class? Well they got a prize, too! The paper drive was the B.I.G. fundraiser for the school.  As soon as it was over, people started collecting their papers for the next year.  They stacked them in their garages and on their porches.  It was a BIG deal.

So that is what started me in recycling.  Thanks Mom and Nannie for making me more careful with this earth that God has given us!


Day 27: Sometimes You Don’t DIY!

Many years ago, in a small North Georgia town lived a family with two small children. Dad was a telephone engineer and mom was a stay-at-home Mom. In order for them to make ends meet, they sometimes did projects at home themselves. They sometimes didn’t agree on what and how to do things, but they agreed that they enjoyed saving the money. Some projects were small and some were large. They painted their home-inside and out. That was ok. They replaced the carpet in the living room and hallway. That was ok even though they were pretty paralyzed the next day from crawling around so much on their knees. They planted a garden in their backyard even though the mom had never raised veggies. She had read Organic Gardening all winter and had a few ideas about what to do. Of course, their neighbor HA-Hawed a lot when they planted the garden. He pretty much so said they were nuts and would not harvest a thing. Although the mom had a few moments of anxiety from his comments, she went blindly ahead and grew a lot of veggies that summer. Another successful DIY project was completed and they were able to cut their grocery budget and have marvelous veggies, too. Yay!

Feeling confident when Fall arrived, they decided to try another kind of DIY to save a little money. The other projects had gone well-so why not? Well, the couple was us-big surprise there. And the new project was frosting the mom’s waist length hair! Why not? The ads said it was nice and easy. And lots CHEAPER. We bought the frosting kit at the local drugstore. We read the instructions several times and gathered all the materials. When the kids went to bed that night, the wife and husband put the tight rubber cap on the wife’s hair and began to pull the individual hair through the cap holes using a crochet hook. The wife finally went to sleep with her head resting on his knee. Let me tell you, it took hours! About midnight, they finished and her hair looked great. And they saved a bunch of money. Mission accomplished!

As spring approached, the mom needed a touch-up. So off she went to the local drugstore to purchase the frosting kit again. Before beginning, they talked about what shade and how much hair to pull through that rubber cap. Well, it was Spring. We would be outside a lot. Why not make it a tad blonder? Seemed to make sense to us. Just full of our previous accomplishments, we went ahead with the blonder tone which meant we left the dye/color on longer-a lot longer. The timer went off and we headed to the kitchen to pull of the cap and look at my gorgeous newly frosted hair. The cap was off. We put on the toner. We washed. We conditioned. My husband put a towel over my head and I turned around. I was smiling and couldn’t wait to go look in the mirror. Then I noticed my husband’s face. It was not exactly happy. It had a puzzled look and he said,” It’s a little brighter than the picture.” What exactly is a little brighter???? I went to the bathroom and flicked on the light. My hair was brighter. In fact, it was almost bright enough to stop a school bus! I looked like Bozo the Clown with bright orange hair!!

Since this happened on a Saturday night, I had the rest of the weekend to look at my orange hair! Then on Monday, I found a professional hairdresser who laughed at my story, cut my long hair, and colored the remainder of the hair on my head. Every time I thought about self-frosting my hair, my husband strongly encouraged me to seek a true professional. Sometimes it isn’t about the expense, it is about finding a true professional!