Reduce, reuse and recycle (Part Seven)

This is my last post on this topic since it’s the end of the month. Tomorrow, I’ll go back to being extravagant and wasteful! (sarcasm)

I live in military housing. Currently at this post, we do not pay for our electricity. It’s free! There is talk, and some posts have begun the process, of implementing a system whereby our electrical consumption would be monitored, a baseline would be established, and those who exceeded the baseline would have to pay for their excesses (those who went under the baseline would get a cash reward as well). This sounds reasonable, but change is never welcomed by the masses, and the protests (including legal ones) have been slowing the changeover.

This is my first experience ever with military housing. Two years ago, I lived in a house I owned in the real world. I had gas heat. I had no central air (just two window units). I paid for electricity, gas, water, and sewer. I dressed lightly (and still sweated) in the summer, and dressed warmly (and still shivered) in the winter. We turned off lights. We used blankets. We went to other people’s houses on really hot days!

I must confess that this past summer (and the summer before), I reveled in the cool of my air conditioned house, and I didn’t care how much energy it took to keep it at a reasonably refreshing temperature. Why should I? It’s free!

Well, that’s not entirely true. I did try to be responsible. If I wasn’t going to be home for a few hours, I would turn the A/C off (or set it at a higher temp). I would try to open the windows, especially in the spring and fall when the night temps dipped low enough to cool the house. Frequently, I have lain in bed at night with my windows wide open to the sound of the crickets…and the sound of all my neighbors’ A/C units kicking on.

One warm day a few weeks ago, I had a nice breeze coming in the open windows, and I heard my neighbor’s A/C unit kick on. It was the middle of the day. The temperature was around 70 degrees. There was nobody home next door (between work and school).

It really ticks me off. And it’s why I’m in full support of the whole baseline electrical consumption thing. There is no other way to get people to conserve energy (short of a gun to the head!). Even I, who don’t like to waste energy (it’s been ingrained in me from my youth to turn off lights, close the door (we’re not heating the backyard, you know!), and pay attention to how I use electricity), can easily get lazy about it. I forget to turn the heat down before going to bed…I’m only going to be gone for an hour, so there’s no point in checking the whole house to see if all the lights are off…oh, the kids accidentally turned that outside light on; I’ll get it next time I’m in the garage.

According to most people, I should be in opposition to this plan. I stay at home. I homeschool. I have a big family. We use a lot of electricity.

I think we’ll be fine. I don’t expect to get any money back. But it might be fun trying!

These new houses have programmable thermostats. I had one of those in my last house, and they’re great. I couldn’t figure this one out, though, so for months, it’s been unused. Last night, I was at a neighbor’s house, and I saw the directions to her thermostat still tucked behind it on the wall (ours came like that too, but I loaned them out to someone else and never got them back – and then they moved away!). I borrowed it, and finally was able to program my thermostat! Hooray!

Reduce, reuse and recycle (Part Six)

Three or four years ago, I was visiting my parents at their home in Ohio. I went for a walk through the back alleys that cut between the rural town’s houses and gave access to backyards and detached garages. And there I beheld a sight that I am convinced could only be seen in Ohio: freshly laundered and hanging on the clothesline to dry were about a dozen zip-lock sandwich bags.

Even my own mother, frugal diva that she is, doesn’t do that! First off, my mom doesn’t buy the zip-lock bags because they cost too much. She buys the generic brand fold-over sandwich bags. Sometimes she buys gallon size freezer bags that are zip-lock (generic brand always), and she might re-use a bag that held a dry food like bread for the same item. But I’ve never seen her wash and dry ziplock bags. That is true dedication to the reduce and reuse mantra!

I do buy ziplock sandwich bags, but they are not often used for sandwiches. My kids don’t pack a daily lunch for school, and when we as a family pack a lunch for a day trip, I tend to use snap-lid reusable containers. So, this month I looked at exactly what I did with those sandwich bags.

The number one use I made for them was to store half an onion or half a tomato that was leftover after I made a salad or some other recipe. Easy enough to eliminate that usage, I have switched to using a snap-lid container for that need.

The second most common use for the sandwich bags was an on-the-go snack holder for the littler children. Snap-lids are not as effective, since Petey can’t open them and if he could, like Jenny, the spilled and wasted Cheerios or whatever would completely negate any benefit to using a container in the first place. The foldover bags won’t keep Cheerios from going stale and aren’t as easy to manipulate (for a baby). I’ll keep using these bags for that purpose, but I’ll be a bit more judicious in when it’s necessary.

And the third biggest use for ziplock sandwich bags? As storage for game pieces: Pop-Up Pirate daggers, Chutes and Ladders playing pieces, Sorry men and the deck of cards. Fortunately, one bag lasts a long time for this use.

This line of thinking extends to other disposable kitchen storage things like plastic wrap and aluminum foil. I’ve read in several places that using clear plastic wrap is the best way to store food in the fridge so that you can easily see what you have and use it before it gets old. But if you’re storing food for a family of seven, this suggestion is completely impractical because plastic wrap renders most containers unstackable and every blessed corner of my fridge is usually filled. Snap-lid containers work much better and you can see well enough into them to distinguish leftover stew from leftover chicken.

Aluminum foil, though…aluminum foil is sturdy and washable too. Perhaps I’ll get a clothesline and hang my washed foil out to dry…

Halloween Party fun

We went to Halloween party last night.
I was Medusa. Medusa had pink, green and blue snakes in her hair, because those were the only colors Athena had available.

Bill was Perseus. Dig those flip flops.

The hostess was a Twister board. Her son was Pooh.

The man in the picture is another guest dressed as Smee (his son was Captain Hook, daughter was Tinker Bell, and wife was Wendy).

This picture of the girls was taken the other week for our neighborhood party. They dressed the same last night, but I didn’t have time to do their hair.

Here is one of Jenny last night. I really thought the purple socks were a great touch.

For food, I took a big bowl of baby carrots and orange pepper slices and some veggie dip. My sister suggested a cheese ball made to look like a jack o lantern. We used the stem from one of the bell peppers on top, and Bill used American cheese to cut out eyes, nose and a mouth. Cute.

Reduce, reuse and recycle (Part Five)

Just yesterday, we got a delivery of new clothes for Jenny. Hanna Anderson? Lands End? One of Angoraknitter‘s handmade beauties? Oh, goodness no. I wish…

These are mostly summer clothing that is too big for her now, but will likely fit her next summer. Was I scouring eBay for great deals? Shopping online clearance racks for end-of-season sales? Nope.

A neighbor of mine has just finished her fall clothing swap out, and is weeding out the clothing her youngest daughter won’t fit into next year. It was hard for her to part with some of the dresses especially, since they were worn by all three of her girls. She gave them to me, because she likes my girls and it makes her feel good to think that they would be wearing these dresses. Most of these clothes are really nice, and I’m happy that people like her are so generous with me. It really keeps my kids’ clothing budget way down. Now I just need to find someone to give ME hand-me-downs…

There is a thrift store here on post. They only have one Saturday a month that they open, and it’s always packed. Another neighbor of mine says she goes regularly during the week, though, to check out the new arrivals. I will have to ask her to look for things for me, especially if I lose any more weight.

In August, when I did my own kids’ clothing swap, I asked for advice on how many outfits a (potty-trained) kid needed. I had scoffed at my husband’s suggestion of 6 outfits because I thought it was too few. My friend, Rachel (the one who remembered her camera for the field trips), recently told me she only keeps FOUR outfits for her kids. She said the transition was tough, and other items creep in (via gifts or whatever), but she says laundry is a breeze and she can always find her kids’ soccer socks.

It’s a sure-win formula:

Reduce the number of outfits we own.
Recycle and Reuse clothing worn by other children (within my own family and sharing and receiving from others).

Recipe ideas, anyone?

Tomorrow night I’m going to a Halloween party. If I get lucky at the Dollar Store and find some plastic toy snakes, then I will be Medusa, and Bill will be Perseus. Nice, huh? Otherwise, I’ll just be some plain ordinary Greco-Roman noble woman, and Bill will just be some plain ordinary Greco-Roman soldier. It amuses me that my soldier is going as a soldier.

We are instructed to bring a “spooky” dish. Any ideas? I don’t want to work too hard for this. On a scale of 1 to 5 with 1 being store-bought chips and salsa and 5 being homemade apple pie with a lattice top crust, I’d prefer to keep things under a 3.