June 29, 2012

How to Save Water While Watering Your Lawn and Garden

It’s almost July and it’s really hot outside! Some areas are lacking rain which can kill your lawn and garden. So how is a person supposed to keep their lawn and garden alive during times of summer heat and water restrictions?  There are ways to use less water, save money, and not break those restrictions.

1.  Use grey water to water your plants.

Grey water is simply the water that comes from washing your clothes, dishes, and taking a bath.

It is hot here in the south. There have been several summers that we have had water restrictions. During one of those times we had just planted some bushes in our flower beds. I didn’t want my bushes to die so whenever I gave my kids a bath, I wouldn’t drain the tub.  I would scoop the water with buckets and carry it outside.  Each bush got a full bucket of water each night which soaked the plant.  It wasn’t as convenient as turning on the hose, but it kept my plants from dying.  You might want to avoid using water with harsh detergents on fruit and vegetable plants.

2.  Get a rain barrel. 

You might be skeptical and think that you won’t get enough rain to fill up a rain barrel, but rain barrels can collect hundreds of gallons from one rain shower.

One year I had planted a new tree and along came another drought with water restrictions. I didn’t want my new expensive tree to die.  Sometimes hot summers bring storms.  I didn’t have a rain barrel, but I did have a big 55 gallon trash can. When I knew the storm was coming, I took the end spout off of my gutter and put my big trash can under the spout. I filled up the trash can, some buckets, and other trash cans I had around the house.  I kept those barrels and cans under my carport to use for watering.  (As always, use caution. You should not go outside and do this when it is lightning.)

A rain barrel continuously collects rain. You can attach a water hose to your rain barrel so that you can easily water your plants.  If you are handy, you might consider watching Youtube videos or reading tutorials online for information on making your own rain barrel.

3.  Place mulch, compost, or grass clippings around plants to keep the soil moist. 

Don’t throw away your grass clippings.  Use a bagger on your lawn mower and put those clippings in your garden.  Mulch, compost, pine needles, and grass clippings keep the soil from drying out.  It’s probably too late to make compost for this year’s garden, but you can begin this now for future use.

4.  Water your plants and lawn in the evenings.

If you water your lawn and garden during the hottest times of the day the water will evaporate from the ground too quickly.  To be more efficient with your watering, water during cooler times of the day.  Watering at night will allow the water to soak into the ground and be useful to the plants before it evaporates.

5.  Think of other nonconventional ways to collect water.

Several drought situations have caused me to really think about the liquid I was tossing down the sink.

Each day when I came home from work I would save the water I didn’t drink from my water jug.  Save those few ounces of coffee from the coffee pot rather than pouring them out. Plants actually like coffee.  Save the water from where you have boiled potatoes or pasta.  Put a bucket in your shower while you are waiting for your shower water to warm up.  Keep the water from your dehumidifier tank. If you stop and think about for a few minutes, we waste a lot of water each day.

This is a good start but certainly doesn’t cover all of the ways to save water on your lawn and garden. Please add your tips in the comments section below. Thanks!

image by lespowell


April 9, 2012

A Thrifty Use for Old Jeans

Each year when it turns warm we have a few problems.  My kids have outgrown a lot of their pants and it’s hard to find shorts that are long enough for girls.  What is up with the shorty shorts anyway?

My daughter usually has such cute jeans with embroidery, flowers, and jewels on them.  It’s a shame to let go of good pants just because they are too short.

A few years ago I decided that I would take a pair of worn out jeans and make them into shorts.  As you can see in the picture, these jeans were worn out in the knees.

I cut the jeans right above the spot where she had worn out the knees. I was just going to roll them up but then I decided they might fray and unravel so I had my mom put a stitch at the bottom.

Now we have cute shorts that are long enough and they didn’t cost us any money. Reusing old pants is a great way to save money on your summer wardrobe.


April 25, 2011

25 Easy and Inexpensive Ways to Help the Environment

The green movement has been around for a few years but I have found that some of us need a bit of encouragement in this area.    Helping the environment doesn’t have to cost a lot of money.  There are easy and inexpensive ways to make a difference.

1.  Recycle. You would think that this tip would be a given but I can’t tell you the number of plastic bottles, paper, and other items that I pull out of the trash.  Check with your local area to see which items they recycle.

2.  Bring your own reusable bags to the store.  I began using cloth bags a few years ago.  In the beginning I received lots of sighs and eye rolls from grocery baggers but now these are well accepted in stores.  The cloth bags hold more, don’t hurt your hands when you’re carrying them, and you don’t have annoying plastic bags all around your home.

3.  Find a use for the plastic bags. I take reusable bags into the store but on occasion there is a day when I forget.  Rather than tossing those bags, find a use for them.  I take plastic bags to work to use in my classroom in case someone has an accident.  Line your bathroom trash can with them, take them to the pool for wet clothes, put your scooped cat litter in them.  There are many uses.

4.  Go paperless. Many companies have gone paper free.  You can opt to sign up to have your bills emailed to you.  Also, pay your bills online or on the phone.  I think I only have one or two bills that I still have to mail in.  It’s a time saver too.

5.  Shop used. Shop consignment sales and garage sales.  I have found some very nice clothing and toys at second hand sales.  You can also save a lot of money.

6.  Consider all expenses before buying or renting. Some people may choose one apartment over another because the rent is $50 cheaper each month.  Rent isn’t the only thing to consider.  Gas and electric expenses also need to be considered.  If the home is further from your work you may spend that $50 (or more) on extra gasoline.

7.  Limit the days you drive. Combine errands and try to limit the amount of driving that you do.  You may want to make a list so that you can avoid extra trips.

8.  Use cold water whenever possible. Some washing machines (like mine) automatically use the warm water option.  I have to adjust it to cold.  Cold water usually works just fine for everyday wear.  Save the hot and warm water for bedding and soiled clothing.

9.  Recycle your water. Use gray water for watering your plants and garden.  You can use your bath or cooking water.  I have been wanting a rain barrel for several years.  I saw them for less than $100 and am really considering making this purchase.

10.  Use cleaning rags instead of paper towels. I have always used cleaning rags but became more conscientious about it a few years ago.  I have a big stack under my kitchen sink now.

11.  Use vinegar to clean. I made the switch to vinegar about five years ago and it is definitely my favorite cleaner.  It’s cheap and safe.

12.  Teach your children to conserve. It takes some effort but now my kids know which items they can recycle.  I have also taught them to turn off lights when they leave them room, not to run the water when they are brushing their teeth, and to close doors quickly when they are going outside.

13.  Reuse jars. Each time I have a peanut butter, mayonnaise, or Nutella jar I wash it and save it.  I use them for beads, noodles, and all sorts of small items. Here are other ideas for the jars.

14.  Try to avoid prepackaged foods. Prepackaged cookies, crackers, and other snacks are higher priced and use a lot of excess packaging.

15.  Don’t use paper plates. I have visited some homes where paper plates are an everyday item.  I use them a few times a year when I have a lot of people at my house but that’s about it.  To be honest, I don’t see what the big deal is about putting a plate into the dishwasher.

16.  Air dry your clothes. I confess that I am guilty of using the clothes dryer whenever possible.  When I had a clothes line I used it.  Clothes dryers use a lot of electricity.

17.  Use your dishwasher. Some of you may be shocked by this, but Consumer Reports did a study that showed that hand washing uses more water than the dishwasher.

18.  Filter your own water. I can’t begin to imagine how many water bottles are in landfills.  Most public water is safe to drink.  You could purchase a filtering system to take out the chlorine.  If you have well water be sure to have your water tested.

19.  Install a programmable thermostat for your home. We have ours set to go up a few degrees when we’re away from home and to gradually lower at night while we’re sleeping.

20.  Switch to cloth napkins. Our family did this a few years ago and I have never regretted that decision.

21.  Take showers instead of baths. Showers use less water than baths.  If you don’t believe it then use the drain stop when you’re taking a shower and see how much water is in the tub when you’re done with your shower.

22.  Bring your own coffee cup. Rather than grabbing the disposable paper cups at work, bring your own.  I have two insulated cups that I alternate using each day.  The coffee also stays hotter longer and avoids spills.

23.  Recycle old cell phones. Cell phones certainly don’t last as long as home phones.  Sell, recycle, or donate your phone.

24.  Reduce junk mail. Millions of pieces of junk mail are sent each year.  There are sites online that promise to cut your junk mail by 90%.  Some of these services cost $19-36 per year.  Eco-cycle has some tips for doing this yourself.

25.  Use rechargable batteries. It requires an initial expense in batteries and a charger but it should pay off very quickly.

This list only scratches the service of inexpensive ways to help the environment.  Can you add to this list?

image sxc.hu


August 28, 2010

Reusable Gifts Bags Might Be a Frugal Choice

One of the newest products in green living are reusable gift bags.  These bags are durable and as you can see from the picture, they are attractive as well.

There are some pros and cons of reusable bags to consider.


  1. The gift bags are reusable.
  2. They come in many attractive designs and colors.
  3. You could use them for other purposes such as a tote bag or lunch bag.

Cons or things to consider:

  1. You can also reuse paper gift bags that others give to you and wouldn’t need to buy any.
  2. Since these bags are new on the market, you probably won’t find them on clearance.  You can find regular paper gift bags on clearance.
  3. Would you hang on to the bag and use it again and again, or would it just become more useless clutter?

I’m not saying that these reusable bags are the wrong choice.  I actually like the idea.  The thing is, I have a whole under-the-bed box full of other paper gift bags so it’s unlikely that I’ll be buying any of the reusable bags soon.  Also, at $2.99 each, I probably wouldn’t purchase them.  Some people may pay $3-5 for a gift bag, but that’s not my kind of thing.  I’m sure there are other places to purchase the bags for a more affordable price.  Who knows, maybe the Dollar Tree will start carrying them soon.

What are your thoughts on the reusable gift bags?

image (c) Karen Weideman


June 22, 2010

30+ Ways to Clean with Vinegar

A few years ago I decided to make a big change in my life.  I had used all sorts of cleaners. Many of them had caused me to break out, inflamed my eczema, and given me headaches.  I knew the stuff wasn’t good for me and with two small children in the home I wanted to do something different.  I began using white vinegar and water to mop my floors.  It wasn’t long before I was hooked on the natural and safe cleaner and began to clean the majority of my home with it.

Now I keep a spray bottle under my kitchen sink that has equal parts of vinegar and water.  I use it to clean just about everything.

Before I get started on this list, you should know that some folks don’t like the smell of vinegar.  If that’s you, feel free to add a tiny bit of lemon oil or some other fragrance to your vinegar.

Here are some uses for cleaning with vinegar:

Kitchen and Dining Room

  • Use vinegar to mop your floors.  I keep a spray bottle with equal parts vinegar and water.  Just spray on your floors and mop.  Or you add 1 cup of vinegar to your mop bucket. I think the spray method uses less vinegar though.
  • Refill your Swiffer mop cleaner bottle with vinegar and water.  My hubby used some plyers to pull the lid off the bottle so that we could refill it.
  • Spray vinegar in your sink and on your counters to kill germs.
  • Wash your windows.
  • Boil some vinegar and water to take away unpleasant smells.
  • Clean your kitchen table, chairs, and highchair. The vinegar will kill germs without being harmful to foods or your children.
  • Soak or simmer stuck-on food in 2 cups of water and 1/2 cup of vinegar.  The food will soften and lift off in a few minutes.
  • Deodorize your sink drains: Pour a cup down your drain, let stand about thirty minutes, then run cold water.
  • Appliances sparkle if cleaned with a vinegar and borax cleaner.  Mix 1 teaspoon borax, 1/4 cup vinegar, and 2 cups hot water and put it into a spray bottle.  Spray it on greasy smears and wipe off with a cloth or sponge.
  • To loosen food grime and clean the microwave, place a microwave-safe bowl with 2 cups water, 1/2 cup vinegar inside the microwave and microwave on full power for 3-4 minutes (it needs to boil). Keep your microwave closed for a few minutes to allow the steam to loosen the grime, then open your microwave, carefully remove the bowl, and wipe clean.
  • To remove grease from kitchen walls, put straight vinegar on a dishcloth to wipe grease off kitchen walls, or the stovetop.
  • Fill your water reservoir halfway with vinegar to clean your coffee pot.  Follow up by running 1-2 pots of clean water through to remove the vinegar.
  • If you have fruit flies, put some vinegar in a jar on your counter.
  • Adding a cup of vinegar to a dishwashing cycle will help clean your dishwasher and will also help prevent spots from forming on your glasses.
  • Use vinegar to clean your garbage disposal.  Run a tray of ice cubes with 1/2 cup vinegar poured over them.


  • Use vinegar to clean the outside of your toilet.  Simply use your diluted vinegar spray bottle and use as you would a regular cleaner.
  • Add full strength vinegar to the inside of the toilet bowl.  Allow to sit for a few minutes and then clean.
  • Spray the shower curtain to help get rid of mildew.
  • Spray to kill germs in the shower inbetween regular cleanings.  (I prefer to use Soft Scrub, Scrubbing Bubbles, or something like that to clean the shower. Vinegar helps for those inbetween cleanings.)
  • Clean your mirror.
  • Mop the floor.

Laundry room

  • Add vinegar to your whites to help whiten the load.
  • Add vinegar to your rinse cycle or softener dispenser instead of fabric softener.  Vinegar prevents your clothes from getting that waxy build up on them.  Vinegar is suggested for using to rinse cloth diapers to keep them absorbent.
  • Add vinegar to your wash to kill athlete’s feet bacteria.
  • Soak smelly clothes in vinegar and water. The vinegar will help to get rid of smells.
  • Soak stained clothes in vinegar and water. The vinegar helps to lift the stain.
  • Remove ink stains from clothes by soaking them in milk for 1 hour.  Then cover the stain with a paste of vinegar and cornstarch.  When the paste dries, wash the garment as usual.  Do not heat dry the fabric until you know the stain is removed.
  • After washing your whites with bleach, run another rinse cycle with vinegar.  The vinegar will help to remove the bleach smell.


  • Clean vaporizers and humifiers by soaking unit in vinegar.  Soak base of unit in a shallow bowl of vinegar and then run water through it.  I got this tip from the actual directions that came with my vaporizer, but it really does help to remove the deposits and also to sanitize.
  • If your puppy (or child) has an accident on the carpet, apply full-strength plain white vinegar for about 10 minutes and then blot dry. I have never had any problems with the vinegar fading carpet, but you may want to test an inconspicuous spot first.
  • Use vinegar and water to clean your baby and children’s toys.  You don’t have to worry about harmful chemicals this way.
  • For laminate floors, mix 1/3 part white vinegar, 1/3 part rubbing alcohol, 1/3 part water, and 3 drops diswashing liquid.  Mix this into a (recycled) spray bottle and you have the equivalent of the Pergo floor cleaner. Just spray and mop.  Laminate floors are better off when water doesn’t sit on it too long; the alcohol is added to make it dry faster.
  • When rinsing your reusable filters, spray them with vinegar first to kill mold and bacteria.

I know that this only covers a portion of ways to clean with vinegar. What are some ways that you clean with vinegar?


April 22, 2010

10 Ways to Reuse Jars

Although I have never considered myself a tree hugger, I try to do my part to help out and make this a better place for everyone.  If you think about it, being thrifty and green living go hand-in-hand.  Thrifty living and environmentally friendly living both involve being conservative, using less, and repurposing and reusing products. 

Within the past few years, I have begun reusing plastic jars. I used to throw them into the recycling bin and then I realized that they weren’t hard at all to clean.  We go through a lot of peanut butter in our house and so I have found all kinds of uses for the jars. 

To clean the jars, fill them with hot soapy water and let them sit overnight.  The next morning dump out the water and rinse them with hot water. The peanut butter that was in the jars will loosen overnight and rinse out fairly easily.  If the peanut butter is still a little stubborn, rinse out the jar, and soak it again with soapy water. 

Here are a few uses for the jars.  Of course, you can use glass jars for some of these ideas too.

1.  Store crayons, markers, and other art supplies. The small peanut butter jars are good for crayons and the large mayonnaise jars work well for markers.

2.  Store dry foods such as rice and beans.

3.  Store nails and screws in your garage.  Those boxes that nails and screws come in are very flimsy.  They break and soon you have the sizes and types of nails mixed. The jars can help keep them all separated in an easy to use and easy to see location.

4.  Store small toys.  My son has a jar with some of his favorite rocks and another jar with his tiny dinosaurs.  My kids know that we reuse the jars and so I sometimes hear, “Mom, when that jar is empty, can I have it?”.

5.  Make a letter sorting activity. Write a letter on each jar and have children sort small items into the correct jar.

6.  Collect your treasures.  Use them to store seashells, rocks, and other bits of nature.  Make a beach in a jar.

7.  Store your beads, buttons, or other craft items.

8.  Use jars as paint containers. This would work well for craft projects or to have some wall touch up paint at easy access.

9.  Collect money.  Use them as banks.  Everyone needs an easy place to collect money.

10.  Use them to store grease and oil. On the rare occasion that I fry food, I need a place to store the used oil. I don’t want to dump it down the drain or pour it into the trash so I pour it into a plastic container and toss it once it’s full.

What are some ways that you reuse jars?