Frugal Boot Camp: More Than Enough
As part of my frugal boot camp I read back through archives of the old Penny Ann Poundwise newsletter and this article stood out as a good reminder of things I might do yet to trim and cut our costs. We no longer make instant coffee, so the tip on the coffeemaker isn't good but we have cut our coffee consumption this past week. I still run the dishwasher and washing machine on short cycles unless things are heavily soiled, which is very seldom.
Penny Ann Poundwise
August 5, 2005
More for the Money
How Much Is Enough?
Several years ago, when I first started writing this newsletter, I
wrote a column titled same as this one. I've had occasion to ask
myself the same question again this week.
A dear friend related in an email to her group that she had used
half the detergent called for by the manufacturer of her washer.
She ended with the question "But we all do this, don't we?" Later
in the same day, I read an article from a dentist in Dollar
Stretcher who stated the amount of toothpaste we see used onTV ads
( a very generous 1 inch stripe) was completely misleading. He said
all that was needed was the amount it took to just barely coat the
bristles of the toothbrush! That means that even the pea sized
amount I've been using is still too much.
So of course, the idea of 'enough' has been on my mind, once again.
I've changed my diet considerably since I first began writing these
newsletters. In that time I've learned to read the label on many
foods to see what constitutes a serving. Two tablespoons of salad
dressing, 1 tablespoon of jam (though I find a teaspoon is more than
sufficient for a single piece of toast) or peanut butter, 1 slice of
bread... Do you realize how many of us overeat by not following
the portions guidelines? I've learned to offset the tendency to
overeat by measuring my portions and by dividing prepared foods into
serving portions before we sit down to eat.
There are three of us. The average recipe serves four. I put a
portion of food away in the fridge or freezer for someone's lunch
later in the week before we ever sit down to eat. When we used to
buy chips, I often used to divide chips or cookies into servings and
then place portions into separate baggies. The children could have
one bag of each for their lunch and I didn't wonder why all the
cookies were gone next day when there were enough for the week.
Measuring is so important if you truly want to save money. I
remember an example a weight loss instructor gave us one day. She
set out a box of cereal and a bowl, as well as a measuring cup.
She asked several of us to come up front and pour out a serving of
cereal. Not one of us had a proper serving! When she measured the
cereal poured most measured 1 1/2 to 2 cups, nearly double the
serving size recommended of 1 cup.
(John) usually does laundry in our home. He considers that job
his 'chore' and is very adamant that no one else perform this task.
One day he watched me load the clothes, put in soap (I used half a
scoop) and turn the knob. He then pointed out to me two things I'd
never thought about. Number one, the halfway mark on the scoop is
actually what the soap company says we should use. He's been
washing out clothes with just 1/4 scoop. Our clothes are washed
more for odor and light dust and not because they are deeply
The second thing he pointed out was the length of the wash cycle I'd
chosen. My dials are marked for a normal wash as 10, 8, 6, 4. He
suggested that starting the machine at 4 was enough for our
clothing. "Why use all that extra electricity washing clothes that
aren't deeply dirty?", he asked. What he said made perfect sense
and I corrected the start of the wash cycle by moving the dial.
And it made me think the next time I started the dishwasher. I
usually run a load of dishes only every other day, sometimes every
third day. Because I know the dishes will sit a day or more in the
washer, I rinse them well before putting them in the dishwasher.
Why waste water and electricity running them on the heavy wash cycle
( for dishes that need a longer soaking time) when a short wash
would sanitize and clean them just as well?
It was a short jump from the dishwasher to the sink. I seldom wash
more than a handful of things at a time, usually the odd pot that is
over sized for the dishwasher or the acrylic glasses we're so fond
of. Why was I filling the sink brimful each time I needed to wash a
few items? I began filling the sink only 1/3 as full. My dishes
are every bit as clean as before and there's far less water being
Another area where we wasted water and energy consistently was our
coffee pot. Now that it's very warm outside we seldom have more
than a cup each morning and after dinner each evening. Yet we were
filling the pot full and letting it sit on the burner all day long.
Now I run a full pot in the morning. When we've each had a cup, I
use the hot water to fill a quart sized pitcher in which I put a tea
bag to steep. From one pot of water we've had coffee and tea for the
day. Then I cut off the coffeemaker. Evenings I run just enough
water through to make two cups coffee.
I no longer buy very many cleaners. I do like pine scented oil for
mopping floors and a certain brand of powdered cleanser for sinks
and tubs. By simply reading directions I've found the pine floor
cleaner lasts me nearly three times as long as it did before. I
need add only 1/4 cup to a gallon of water, not 1/4 of the bottle as
I'd been doing. I don't even pretend I can eyeball it either. I
have a measuring cup I use specifically for that product.
The powdered cleanser remedy was a bit simpler. My product has holes
punched in the top of the can. You remove a sticky piece of tape to
uncover the holes. I just move the tape over, exposing two or three
holes and stick the tape back down over the remaining holes. It's
hard to get overzealous with the product when there's limited space
to pour it out of.
There's a great deal to be said for pump bottles of soap, shampoo
and hand lotion. It's much easier to let one pump do the job than
it is to pour out a handful of product. A dime sized portion of
most shampoos, soaps and lotions is all you need.
My most recent foray is to discover how much electricity we really
need to use. Does the TV need to run from sunup until the later
hours when we go to bed? Is incessant noise necessary? Can we
cut off the air conditioner for a portion of each night and morning
and survive? (The answer is yes, we can. I am often up in the wee
hours of the morning. I cut off our AC on all but the most torrid
nights and leave it off until 9 or 10am the following morning. No
one's sleep is disturbed and the house remains cool.) Do we really
need to turn on three lights to read? Why not up the wattage of the
bulb and use only one lamp? Or better yet, take advantage of
natural daylight to read?
I assure you I could go on and on with my observations this week,
but you've got the general idea now. Don't be surprised if you find
yourself asking "How much is enough?" as you go about your weekend!