Category Archives: Frugal Living

Decorating Decisions

I am looking at Christmas decorations from the viewpoints of going local, going green, and going frugal. My husband and I also feel the pressure of wanting to fit into the neighborhood, which seems to be of the electric decoration persuasion. Giant light displays are in my genes. Dad always outlined the entire house and yard, except during the energy crisis in the 1970’s when that was forbidden. Even now, he hires one of the grandkids to come do the ladder climbing. That’s dad’s side of the family. Mom’s side of the family, all of the cousins in Roy, Oregon, suddenly when Christmas extravaganza nuts for several years in the 80’s and 90’s. They strung lights all along their farm properties and composed moving light sculptures using farm equipment. It became a real holiday attraction.

But our new house is of a design where you would need a crane (or a very tall ladder) to put lights up on the front. Our neighbors with the same design have been content to outline their garage doors and front window and to put lights around their front yards. But we are averse to using cup hooks or staples to attach the lights, which would be necessary as there isn’t any lip to attach light clamps to around those areas. I decided it was best to go as “green” (as in non-electrified) as possible.

Taking a cue from another neighbor, I bought large red felt bows at Michaels to place beneath the carriage lights on each side of the garage. Then I went to Shorty’s Garden Center for a fresh wreath for the door. I was taken aback at the $59 price tag for the wreaths I liked best and settled for a $19.95 wreath, deciding to add my own bow and other decorations to it.

I bought a wreath hanger for the door that says NOEL in red letters. My plan is to shop the after-Christmas sales and buy any further decorations at half price or less. I would like to get a silk wreath so that I wouldn’t need to buy a new one and recycle it each year. That would save both money and space in the recycling. I had such a wreath 10 years ago that I bought at a craft fair. But my husband tossed it in the trash without considering that it was supposed to be used year after year. I’ll have to coach him better.

I bought a large poinsettia for the Great Room and a small one for the dining table. Those are my other two recyclable items. I wish they grew here like they do in Los Angeles. Houses in my mother-in-laws neighborhood have giant, gorgeous poinsettias growing in the yard.

I put up my artificial tree, enjoying the ease of it all. But I am thinking that I should look into replacing it with one with LED lights, if I can find one at the after-Christmas sale. The little tree lights do give off plenty of heat, a sign of wasted energy. It’s fun to decorate the new house as we have more surfaces that can be used to hold my nativity set, etc. But my plan is to take it slow and steady, looking for items after Christmas such as and advent candle holder and a nice artificial garland for the mantle.

I would like to buy locally crafted items, but for some reason I have missed announcements for holiday craft fairs. I’ve done some web searches but haven’t come up with any conveniently located. I shall continue to keep my eye out for those.

The Turkey Keeps on Giving

Tom Turkey at Maysara WineryI roasted a 24-pound monster bird for just the two of us. That might seem excessive, but for $5.22 I am getting a lot of value:

Turkey, stuffing, potatoes and gravy with cranberry sauce for two days

Turkey sandwiches for lunch for three days.

I froze half of the turkey breast for later use.

I cooked the neck, gizzard, organs and then added them to the crockpot with the lower half of the turkey carcass, wine and water to make turkey broth. I froze the first batch of 6 cups of broth.

I added more water and wine after draining the first batch of broth and cooked again through the day. I used this broth to make gravy for turkey and noodles – it was delicious. I also braised some beet greens to go with them.

Today, I’ll make more broth from the top half of the carcass and plan to make more stuffing using the broth, plus turkey and dumplings for dinner.
Photo © Wendy Bumgardner

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Cost vs. Locavore Ethics?

I’m quaking in my boots after listening to a couple of weeks’ worth of NPR’s Planet Money. Maybe we aren’t headed for a new Great Depression, but we are very likely to have a year or more of deep recession. I have been saving a lot of money by cooking at home and basing meals around the produce from my CSA subscription and farmers markets. It is a whole new lifestyle where I’m not stopping at the grocery store or restaurant every night to pick up something for dinner. While the items I buy at the farmers market cost more than similar items in a discount grocery, the overall savings have been huge.

Tom Turkey at Maysara WineryBut what to do about the turkey? I priced locally grown, organically fed turkey at Fred Meyer. It was over $3 a pound, so my bird would have been $45. For that, you basically get the same turkey that has been genetically engineered for decades, but fed stuff that might be more ethically acceptable. These are not true wild, free-range turkeys. Barbara Kingsolver covered that well in “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.” Today’s turkeys have even forgotten how to breed or hatch their own eggs. I suppose the right answer would be to have something different for Thanksgiving, like a true free-grazing local chicken.
Here is an actual pastured turkey grazing at Maysara Winery. Photo © Wendy Bumgardner.

But once a year, I want our own turkey and stuffing. I went to Winco, a local discount grocery store chain, to stock up on basics. It had been at least two months since I had driven there, mostly I’ve been walking the mile there and back and just buying a couple of carryable items. The fresh robo-turkeys were 98 cents a pound. But the big deal was with the frozen turkeys – they were only 22 cents a pound if you bought $50 or more. A 20-pound turkey would be under $5. My decision was made. $45 or $5. Unless I truly believed that non-organic feed was going to kill me, it’s not a contest. I think a 20-pound tofurkey would cost a lot more than $5.

I left Winco with a cart load of basic items that will allow me to cook for the next two months. Chicken broth, frozen and canned vegetables, etc. The total cost was under $100. Yesterday, I spent $32 on handmade pasta at the farmers market that will last 5 meals but could have cost me $5 or less. I pick and choose my local food expenses. I really believe the handmade pasta tastes better, and that is the big difference.