Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Frugal Boot Camp: The I Hate to Housekeep Book by Peg Bracken

The I Hate to Housekeep Book by Peg Bracken, written circa 1960 or so, is available on Amazon, Ebay, and at Alibris and even on Etsy.  Prices range from $1.22 (Alibris) to $44 (Etsy for a signed first edition copy).  There is no shortage of this book;  it's available just every where online and likely no shortage at any good thrift store either.  I purchased my own copy at a thrift store for under $1.

Though written in a very tongue in cheek sort of way, make no mistake, Peg Bracken knows her stuff.  She starts right away in Chapter One with absolutely practical advice:  Don't cover things up!  As she points out we have tile in our kitchen so that we can easily clean spills...so why are we tossing a rug down in front of the stove and sink?  That one made me stop and think a moment.  I realized I do it because I like the softness it adds to an otherwise hard room that tends to echo sounds.  I always buy the sort that I can toss in the washer though.  That's just the tip of the ice berg of practical home cleaning advice. 

She goes on to suggest these things in Chapter one:
Keep pots and pans out of sight.  Hanging pots and pans adds to visual clutter...and you'll be obligated to keep them super spic and span otherwise they are an eyesore.

Each time you give the house a good deep cleaning start in a different room.  She surmises (rightly!) that we often run out of steam before we are done and if we start at a different point each time we're bound to eventually get the whole house clean.

Act immediately on housewifely impulses.  Soap, water and a sponge now accomplishes more than putting off a task until you have a special cleanser or tool meant just for that task.  How right she is on this one!  Soap, water and a sponge did more for the railings of the front porch than waiting two years for paint could ever do!

In Chapter Two she does her own version of the ABCs...She suggests that A:  You ask everyone questions from the butcher to the baker.  Get their advice on how best to cook meat, reheat buns when to buy end of day goods, etc.  I recall a butcher who when asked about cubed steaks that he always cubed sirloin steak for his family and ran it through the machine TWICE which made it super tender and netted his family a less expensive bit of cubed steak.   You'd have it done when buying a whole sirloin tip and had a of it portion cut into steaks by the way... 

B: Burn ointment should be kept in the kitchen as so few burns ever happen in the bathroom (obviously she'd never used a curling iron, but truth more burns do occur in the kitchen).

She suggests for E: Equipment should be borrowed from someone who already has what you think you might like to have (Ice cream maker, pressure cooker, steamer, rice cooker) and then determine if it's truly something you'd find worthwhile to purchase.  Gracious what a lot of money could be saved if we borrowed a treadmill and watched it sit in the corner unused as opposed to purchasing one to watch.

F:  Sift flour from bag into the canister then use it right from there saving the need to sift when baking. 

L:  Buy one luxury item each grocery day so that you don't have a huge budget overage and yet you stockpile little luxuries.  Balsamic vinegar, smoked oysters...

A little further in the book, in Chapter 6  (How to be Tight Fisted without Showing It), she uses he word 'mingy' to describe being economical in a way that doesn't look stingy.  She says it's a Scottish word but the only definition I can find is online and it says "Mean and stingy"...I don't think that's what was meant.  Anyway, in this chapter she touts the basic household cleansers needed and there are none of the highly advertised specially formulated new and improved cleansers from the market included on the list.    Nope it's all that good stuff we keep seeing that the young housekeepers  tell us are environmentally friendly: vinegar, baking soda, salt, bleach, ammonia...All right from our great great grandmother's time and still being put to good use.

In Chapter 8, Mrs. Bracken mentions knowing what you're being charged for a kilowatt hour.  I confess that while I know more or less what it costs me per kilowatt hour I am at a loss to figure out how it all adds up.  I tend to keep my eye on the billing and notice if we use a lot more or a lot less than we did the month before and then figure out why.  Reading GDonna's blog this weekend, she said that she and her husband read both the water and electric meter every day at the same time in order to best track their usage and be immediately aware if something is wrong right  away.  I confess that doesn't sound like a bad idea.  It's a lot easier to catch a hot water leak early than to pay to have floors redone and a huge electric bill besides at the end of the month...That said don't count on your energy audit people to find the hot water leak.  Ask me how I know.

This is by no mean's the last chapter of Mrs. Bracken's book but it's as far as I made notes since the final chapters were really just a miscellaneous gathering of tips.  While you might well think it's a fun book meant for comic relief it IS fun, but it's just jam full of practical advice, too. 


Lana said...

I have read this book and it is quite entertaining. Do consider going to microfiber cloths for cleaning. You do not need cleaners at all and they are so simple to use since I just wet, wring out and clean. My glass doors have never looked as good with any other method.

Wendi said...

Your treadmill comment made me laugh out load. We once had one that hubby declared "the world's most expensive clothes hanger."

susie @ persimmon moon cottage said...

Thanks for your review of this book. I'm trying to keep from buying so many books. I'm going to see if it is available at our library (probably not), and if it is not, it seems like a worthwhile one to have on my shelf permanently.

I got a chuckle out of your treadmill comment, too. Thank goodness we never bought one. There is a weight lifting bench and multiple weights down in our basement. The bench is pretty handy for setting stuff on down there.

Sew Blessed Maw [Judy] said...

This book sounds really interesting. I think I might buy it. thanks for sharing.

Kathy said...

Sounds like a good and funny book. Thanks for the tips.

Mim Pepper said...

Sounds like a great book to find. Lots of good tips. Thanks,
Mim Pepper

Janell said...

A year or so ago, Georgia Power installed all new meters. We had the one with the disc that turned and numbers that clicked by like an old odometer. We now have one with a digital readout. When the fuy installed ours I commented to him to make sure it was the correct serial number for my house. He looked at me like I was crazy (okay, I am). The reason I had him check was because my brother had been paying his neighbor's water bill for over a year. He stayed on his family about lights, the a/c, TV, etc. His bill continued to be high. The neighbors had a larger house AND a swimming pool he had been paying for.

Deanna said...

Our library has this book (or at least used to). I read it years ago and recall it being a fun read.