Mary Beth Writes

Mindful Chickens i.e., being frugal and living by our values instead of by blithering consumerism is how this blog started. Yet I seldom post lists anymore about choices Len and I make that hit that marker because I can tell from who follows me that this is not why most of you are here.

But today I have a lot of things I want to accomplish. Preparing the Light Posts takes me a long time so I am not going to do one – I do plan to be back at it Monday.

Light Posts take hours to assemble, although the time flies when I work on them. I look up, another 45 minutes just vamoosed. One afternoon Len PUT A COOKIE NEXT TO ME and I didn’t notice it! Leaving time and space; going to that place we go when we concentrate – this is, I think, is one of the primary goals we should aim at in our life. Not riches, not fame, not mindless power for the sake of power – but pursuing the thing that makes us forget ourselves.

Most of us can’t make our living from that activity. So be it. We get jobs and earn paychecks and feed the kids. That’s okay.

But the activities that disassemble the clock in one’s brain? Honor that thing.

So back to choices that facilitate living less expensively so we can live more expansively.

I’m only going to list kinda unusual things; you all know how to do without or shop on sale.

1. Library books. Yeah, very simple but our library informs one of the $ total of books one has borrowed– and both Len and I have tallies close to $3000 in 2020! This includes lots of picture books for facetime reading to our granddaughter. I’ve read 35 novels this year and I only bought one of them new. (After avidly reading library copies of William Kent Krueger’s Cork O’Connor 17-book series, I thought I ought to buy one of his books. I now own This Tender Land, which I think is meh.) Also, have you read Raymond Chandler? Amazing writer. It’s dated because he was writing in the 50’s and 60’s, but his brilliance comes through.

I think the trickiest part about using the library -- is knowing what one wants to order. Few libraries (any?) are allowing patrons in to browswe, so you have to get a system. I have a note app on my phone, when I hear of a good book, I notate it. The Natiopnal Book Award books have been awesome. 

2. I bought many books at the Racine AAUW Book Sale. Say what? You can contact them through their website, they facilitate private sales for not more than five shoppers at a time, if and when volunteers are shelving donations. This is not a promise, but a suggestion. Proceeds go to college scholarships for women.

3. Len fixed things.

  • The printer. Len looked at online guides, decided it was a part that would cost $150. He ordered it and fixed it. A new printer would have cost $400.
  • My iPhone’s memory was too full to use. The Apple guy told us how to uninstall everything and reinstall it clean. The phone works again.
  • Len replaced the car’s headlight and a sideview mirror. There were, ahem, some equal opportunity loss of sideview mirrors when backing the car out of the garage incidents.

Len is mechanically curious and inclined. Not everyone is. He often knows what to do, other times he looks on the Internet/YouTube to see what could be wrong. Not everyone has a Len, but if you or someone close to you is patient and curious, most of what we need to know is out there. I often ask YouTube questions about how to do particular maneuvers in Microsoft Word, Excel, or Zoom.

4. Son put me on his Spotify account when they were having a deal. Costs him $7/month.

5. We wanted to buy a particular picture book for our granddaughter – it was $17 at an independent bookstore, $23 on Amazon, and $4 on eBay. Shopping eBay for books can be a very good deal and the $ goes to small bookstores or individuals and the shipping is generally USPS.

6. I generally hang the wet laundry on clotheslines in the basement. This adds humidity to the house, saves us money (the dryer is electric). Mostly though, it’s a way of respecting about the world my grandkids will inherit.  

7. We go through a lot of cottage cheese and big-sized yogurts. Then we wash the containers and stack them on a shelf until they no longer fit, and after which one is allowed to rinse and recycle. 7.5. Len made and froze 13 of these containers of turkey broth after Thanksgiving. He pulled off the meat and put it into the broth.

8. I make three meals-worth of soup in our crockpot. This week it was turkey, beans, and sweet potato chili. I buy jalapenos one or two at a time, mince them, freeze on a cookie sheet, then put those frozen nibs into a bag tucked in the freezer door (so I can find them when I cook). Eating beans three nights in a row increases the need for loud Spotify music. 

9. Our adopted, new-to-us, 13-year-old sister cats were FREE! Free cats! Such a bargain! We donated to the Human Society anyway. Their food is about $40 a month. Their first check-ups were certainly not free. I bought them a $35 covered cat littler box which they do not like, so there was that. They are not interested in toys; they have one toy fish with a feather tail which one of them will bring upstairs each evening, to our room, while caterwauling as if they caught a mouse. Free wifely terror every night. They don’t play with it; they just bring it to us. Right now, Len is trying to work on my website while Weijia is determined to sit on his keyboard. The humor is priceless.

10. Zoom is easy, and they offer free 40-minute sessions. If you are intimidated, ask YouTube how to open and do zoom.

11. We have a credit card that pays cash back which we use for everything, including our monthly health insurance premiums.

12. I don’t know. Do you have hacks or strategies you’ve used this crazy year to decrease $ outgo and increase your energy to do things you care about?



Just read that aloud to my husband and we both laughed. It is an oxymoron. Our new-to- us cat came from the dtr of a church friend. I spent about $100 for first week getting her settled. ( the cat, not the friend’s dtr). She goes for shots in about 10 days. We do most of what you do. Those yogurt tubs really add up, don’t they? Years past, I used my Discover rewards to buy for the families our church sponsored. This year I bought so much on line that I “ cashed in” a couple of times already. I still had enough to help folks out. It is going to be a rough go for quite a few folks this year and next so if we all can stick to our frugal ways we will be able to help others. Peace


I, for one, enjoy everything that you write. Mindful chickens, thoughtful essays, travel and nature anecdotes, etc. It's all good!

I totally agree with Melissa. I enjoy everything you write and look forward to reading it.

I really like posts about frugality! I don’t remember how I heard about your blog, but I enjoy reading whatever you write.

I started reading your blog through "the mindful chickens" series, keep coming back for everything else you write. A kindred spirit, you are! Thank you. Patricia/Fl Side note, I noticed Frank hasn't been commenting. Hope all is well, Frank!
Mary Beth's picture

I'll text to Franc to tell him he is missed! He's been preoccupied taking care of his frail old pal and talking a lot with his not-frail new pal. He's well though. He was riding his bike crazy amounts for several months.

Mindful Chickens is the reason I started reading your posts! I've missed it of late. Hoping for more.
Mary Beth's picture

Hey, Thank you!

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Frugal? Road Trip to New Mexico

If our finances were stretched we wouldn’t have gone to New Mexico. We are doing fine despite the advice that says one ought to retire with a million dollars in the bank. Imagine that.

1. We and, at this point, about half the nation, have had our Covid vaccines so we felt safe and ready to see something new. However, we traveled to a place where they had worked WITH the effort to fight this pandemic. This limited our choices and is the #1 reason we didn’t go to the Badlands. How we spend $ is our power.

The Mindful Chickens are Wordy Today

Other people call them “frugal things I did lately”. I call them Mindful Chickens because they are about:

  • Being Cheap (cheap, cheep).
  • Being thoughtful about how choices affect our community and our earth.
  • Paying attention to the constant tumble of dollars and choices.

This is my collection of wise choices and dastardly schemes from the last two months.

ONE: Our electric toothbrush/water pick would no longer hold a charge but a new one costs more than $100. Len took it to the battery store where they replaced it for $15.

Mindful Chickens - Plastic & Hunger 12/20/2020

I went for a walk on Wednesday and saw this mitten on a sidewalk. When I was at the same spot on Friday, it was still there, so I brought it home because it is a hand-knitted kid mitten, ya know? Any knitters out there interested in making it a mate, so that we could give it to a kid in my community or your? It's 7" from top to ribbed bottom. 


The point of “Mindful Chickens” is to spend less money while being mindful of the environment and our human values. We can try, right?

Holy Mackerel! Mindful Chickens 12/12/2020

Yamiche and Weijia licking out the mackerel bowl this morning.


I said I would write “mindful things” we did this week. The agenda of “Mindful Chickens” is to spend less money plus be mindful of the environment and our other values at the same time. Sometimes, one of those purposes wins over the other, but we can think before we spend, right?

1. I cut my hair. This is not a particular skill of mine, but I can do it well enough to not look like the Pittsburgh Paint Dutch boy.

7-6-2020 Mindful QUARANTINED Chickens

(Thanks, KJR, for the funny fluffy chicken photo!) 

Other people call them “frugal things I did lately”. I call them Mindful Chickens because they are about:

Making (a little) Sense of Medicare by Len Lamberg

Friends learned recently that they are facing imminent retirement with the accompanying medicare and insurance decisions - that have to be made now and made right. They asked how we figured out what to do. I asked Len if he could write up what he knows in plain English - and thought this would take him 20 minutes.

This took Len several hours over several days.

Our friends say this makes more sense than anything else they have read so far.

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