Mary Beth Writes

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.

TWO: For the past year, my glasses have slipped down or off my face when I wear a mask. Had them tightened twice but it didn’t fix the problem. #1 Put small rubber bands over bows where they rest behind my ears and this worked much better.

Then #2 – I found my penultimate spectacles (the ones before last pair). “Wonder of wonder, miracle of miracle” they don’t fall off at all and I like them better. The only person who noticed I was wearing different glasses is my 4-year-old grandkid. Little kids notice a lot.

THREE: I had dregs of honey that wouldn’t come out of its jar and dregs of crystallized homemade pancake syrup that wouldn’t completely drip out of the Log Cabin bottle it was in. Poured a little boiling water in each container. Used the honey water to make limeade. Used the syrup water to boil sweet potatoes. Full disclosure: used the left-after-boiling sweet potato water (with milk but not much more sugar) and a cup of mushy sweet potatoes to make a pint of sweet potato ice cream.

FOUR: After our Up North trip, our car was encrusted with dirt and road salt. We took the time to vacuum and wash it inside and out. This is not a frugal tip that will amaze anyone, but we have a hose, and outside water spigot, and the room and time to do this chore. Sometimes it really is about elbow grease. It was a sunny day, which helped. So did the IPA.

FIVE: Len helped his sister with her taxes and to thank him she gave him two pounds of smoked pork. Boy, she knows her brother. We’ve had pork barbecue sandwiches several times week plus there’s enough left to make above-average black beans. Another grateful friend for whom Len did taxes brought us Panera soups.

If Len did Tax Prep for income, he could earn actual money. But, he says, like another avocation we could mention  - he started doing this for those he loves (family). Then he started doing it for friends. He doesn't want to do it for money because he's not that kind of a tax preparer. 

SIX: I bought bowls at Goodwill in which to bring dinners to a friend. Cheaper than disposable containers.

SEVEN: I’m (optimistically) taking the winterizing-plastic off windows. I’m cutting the plastic out (leaving the taped rim) then folding the big sheets. Then peeling off the tape and tossing it. My hope is to use the plastic to somehow discourage squirrels from eating the tomatoes. They bit into more than HALF of our crop last year. Anyone have any ideas? Those Darn Squirrels.

Anyways, if you just pull the winterizing plastic off, the sticky edges make the plastic unusable. Cutting it out provides plastic sheeting one might be able to use for other purposes.

EIGHT: I borrowed 14 picture books from the library yesterday, in order to get books that feature black and brown kids. (I facetime read to 3rd graders in the neighborhood school each week.)  I am stunned and highly recommend the picture books of Jacqueline Woodson.  

The subjects of the books I borrowed are 1. A child misses her mother who moved far away to get a good job to support her child, 2. foster care, and 3. kindness. These books are not for toddlers. They are for kids who know from hardship and adults who care about them.

NINE: “Added” 9 square feet to our house by recycling saved articles from the past 40 years. If you don’t communicate your love to each other by printing out or cutting out articles and essays – you might not have a couple hundred yellowed-with-age articles explaining political issues of the 70’s-90’s or weird this and that about, My God, just about everything. I kept some and put the rest in a file for Len to go through. After all that, there was enough gained room in our file cabinet for three manuscripts piled on a shelf. I thought I had written two books but, Wowsers, there are three! What kind of woman forgets that extra romance novel she wrote in the early 90’s?

Now I have time to read those two never-published romance novels to see if I will leave them for my grandkids to be astonished by or if I will ditch them while I still can.

NINE ½: My YA novel, Becoming Esther, is online and although the details are dated (there were few cellphones when I wrote it) I am still proud of it. The story is about a 14-year-old girl who is aware her big brother is falling into drug addiction, although their parents don’t see it. I’m forever interested in how families deal with crises, especially younger siblings who seldom receive the support they need.

You can read it online at Amazon, and it's free (if you subscribe to "Kindle Unlimited"). It’s a good book. 

Technically, it's free with a 30-day trial subscription, so that's still pretty frugal, isn't it?










It may not be too practical, but the trick to keeping squirrels out of tomatoes is to have something for them nearby that they like more. The squirrels here don’t bother my tomatoes much because I also have walnut trees which they much prefer. Maybe they’d like some peanuts in a feeder?
Mary Beth's picture

That makes sense to me, since I would much rather eat walnuts than tomatoes. I suspect I will have a hard time keeping enough peanuts going so that they ignore the tomatoes, but I will try this.

I, too, have lost many,many precious tomatoes to squirrels. It is especially painful because I save seed from tomatoes I've grown, or even bought in the store, raise the seedlings, nurture them along, and then to lose them to the squirrels as they blithely eat half a tomato here, half a tomato there - well, I've had some pretty dark thoughts toward the squirrels. I have tried various methods of using cayenne pepper, peppermint oil, and tea tree oil to deter them with varying degrees of success. What seemed to work pretty well was urine. My dog would contribute and I sprinkle it around the garden area, especially around the tomato plants; but . . . I also have used my own urine (this is the slightly embarrassing confessional), and with diligence in reapplying all of these methods, it did seem to save more tomatoes. Another annoyance with squirrels is they want to dig up freshly planted flowers or veggies. They seem to be really attracted to the freshly dug soil. It has worked for me to put coffee grounds around the plants when I put them into the ground to dissuade the little stinkers.
Mary Beth's picture

Ooh, there are very helpful ideas in here! And we already save coffee grounds. We could do that. Too. Thanks!

I also had a lot of sugar crystals appear in my honey. I decided to try to get them dissolved in the remaining honey with a gentle heating. So, I started heating some water in a flat bottomed casserole dish. I didn’t want to get the temperature all the way up to boiling (didn’t want too much heat to get the plastic bottle out of shape, or release some of those plastic components that are estrogen memetics) so I heated the water up to only about 130 deg F. I shut off the flame and let the honey container sit in the warm water for about 20-30 min. That got most of the crystals back in solution. After a couple of weeks, the crystals had started to appear again. So, I decided to make a teaching moment out of it for my 16 yr old granddaughter, Kelsie, when she came over for a snack (I have better snacks than Mom and Dad have). I showed her the bottle with the crystals and asked her how I could get the crystals back in solution. She answered, “By heating.” I answered, “Good, you know your chemistry.” I then repeated the little demonstration.
Mary Beth's picture

When one's grandpa has a Ph.D. in biochemistry and ALSO has the best snacks, there's a kid who will have some really fun memories...

Reusing latex gloves. I wear them every time I go into a grocery store to pick stuff off the shelf and push a cart around. When I get back to the car I take them off and throw them on the floor. After a half dozen or more have been used, I wash them out for reuse. I put them in a basin of soapy water, and make sure that water has gotten into each finger (I check by lifting the gloves out off the water and taking a look; also, if there are any pinhole leaks, I can then see the soapy water squirting out). I then put the gloves back in the basin and make sure that each has gotten fully submerged. After letting them sit for 20-30m minutes, I let the soapy water drain out and hold up the gloves to let them drain out. I then repeat the process with two cycles of rinsing with water. Drying them out can be a bit tricky. I usually drape them over a clothes drying rack overnight. Then it’s time to get some air into the inside to dry out the last of the rinse water; I usually blow into the glove so it starts to swell (Okay, I know I’m getting my germs in there, but they are my germs, and I am the only one who’s going to be reusing the gloves). I then push one end of the cardboard core of a paper towel roll into the gloves and set the cardboard core on its other end. It can then take another 1-2 days for all the water to dry out. So, I am averaging more than one use out of each glove from my carton. I am sure most folks don’t bother with washing out their used gloves; and some folks just throw them on the parking lot, after they’ve come out of the store. Now, if only I could figure out where to recycle those gloves with pinholes in them. I am sure that there are tons of plastic gloves that are being throwing out in the trash every day.
Mary Beth's picture

I have never once thought about drying gloves or mittens on paper towel rolls, but that would work. I've read of people who pick up abandoned cloth masks from the ground, carry them home to wash to wear or donate. I see SO MANY abandoned masks but I just leave them, because I guess that's the kind of person I am.

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"It's Good for You" Pizza

The Best Pizza Ever is in Madison 

Click here for their info:   “It’s Good For You”   

Last weekend, while out of town, we decided to stop for a pizza at the place where our son works one night per week. If you know my kid, you know he was manager of an artisanal pizza place for years. He doesn’t miss managing an entire restaurant. Apparently, he DOES miss making spectacular pies and then baking them at temps high enough to burn the hair off his arms.

What’s Scary & What’s Not Scary


Happy Halloween! I think because this is mostly a kid’s holiday, it tends to evoke a lot of sweet and funny memories from our childhoods and then of our kids.

Remember when we (who are now antique kids) collected candy in paper grocery bags that we had decorated with crayons? And then it would rain and one would have to carry the bag in both arms and run between houses while drenched and noisy and not even caring?

Obviously I remember that.

Frugality Hacks or how I saved $64,000,000, so far.

I read the ‘frugal things I did’ letters in other people’s huge and interesting frugality blogs. I figured I could list some of the ways I saved some money this week (this life). I’m pleased to say I saved about 64 Million.

Quarantine Diary #645 - Granola

Two recent tweets : Someone named Kate Harding tweeted; “What haunts me is that I am not just smart enough for so many people to be this much stupider than me.”

And from Di, Obstinate Hoper; “I’m starting to think of pandemic caution like labor: buckle down during peaks, relax a little between them. Hang in there, folks. It’s a damn long labor.”

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.

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?

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