Help beat the budget cuts
|Published: 24th October 2010 14:44|
Tough times are ahead, and for most of us, every little bit will help. Here are some tips you can try to make your pounds last longer or to help yourself when you're suddenly stuck and don't know which way to turn.
Some of them may sound quite silly or condescending, and I am very aware of that, but I don't know a way around it, so that's why I am posting this anonymously. I just want to help, and this is about you, not about me. Feel free to add your own tips as comments, comment on these tips if you have much better ideas, or start a list of your own.
1. Toilet paper. If you're like me, you have a tendency to grab a lot of paper every time. I found that when I do this grabbing a bit more consciously, my toilet paper rolls last a lot longer. Amazing, the difference that makes. I bet I save at least two or three trees per year now.
2. Toilet paper. Do you really need that nice kind, or would a simpler, cheaper kind do just as well? (Some of it doesn't last as long, so try several kinds.)
3. Quantities. Do not buy more fresh food than you need, and if you do have leftovers, prepare them right away if not prepared yet, and freeze them.
On the other hand, when they're on sale or when you're flush, try to stock up on supplies that last. That way, when you suddenly find yourself short because of unexpected expenses, you may find to your surprise that you still have some tins of this, some packages of that or even a new mascara roller right just when you thought you'd run out.
4. Cooking. Try to save on take-out. If possible, cook a lot of food on Saturday or Sunday, and freeze meals for every day of the week. Take what you need out of the freezer the night before, and save by not defrosting it in the microwave.
5. Vegetables. If you have salad leaves, spinach etc that are no longer as fresh as you'd like them to be, stir-fry them! Stir-fry them well. If you're a little bit doubtful about this, add some hot chilli pepper or cayenne pepper to it as foodborne pathogens (=bacteria in food that can make you sick) do not like hot peppers (see bottom). Add some brown rice, for example. Brown rice is much healthier and fills bellies better than white rice. (Does take longer, but the heat helps keep your kitchen warm.)
I have experimented with this and have even fried potato wedges that were very clearly way past their date and smelly and yucky. I stir-fried them to death and didn't get any stomach upset whatsoever. I certainly do not recommend that, but I know my stomach well, and was just too ticked off that these wedges were that bad. Don't try anything risky on your kids, the elderly or anyone else whose health might be a bit vulnerable.
6. Sardines! Extremely healthy and handy, not too expensive, and blimey, environmentally friendly too as it's much more sustainable and better for dolphins and other creatures than tuna (also healthier than tuna). Add to pasta, rice, salads, fried potatoes, eat on bread, etc. With or without tomato sauce. Herring and mackerel are just as good, but are a different kettle of fish. Most kids love sardines.
(Don't buy them at the same supermarket all the time and vary what you buy. I have a hunch that when people buy certain cheap foods more, the prices of those products go up.)
7. Nuts and legumes. Add some hazelnuts or beans to your dishes from time to time, if you like them. They provide a bit of extra crunch and offer you more variation. Both are a source of proteins too (though eggs and milk are better protein sources).
Don't worry too much about gas after you've eaten beans - except when you have a job interview - because the soluble fibres that cause the gas also help rid your body of cholesterol. Nuts are good for snacking too, but more expensive than when you just add a few to your dishes. Legumes are not that expensive.
Speaking of gas, if you have a lot of it, you may be eating too many veggies and the like (carbohydrates) and not getting enough protein. Soy chunks as found in health food shops are cheaper than meat and don't go bad because you have to add water to them first and soak them before you can eat them.They are quite boring, but you can add just a few to have more proteins in your food.
Oh, and tomato puree is also pretty good stuff. Healthy and tasty.
8. Forage in the wild, if you're that kind of person. I sometimes do because I really like the idea and some of the stuff out there is quite healthy and tasty, too. Search online for more information, but don't take any unnecessary risks by eating something you're not sure of.
9. Smile! Smiles are free! They help you stay healthy. Chuckling is good too. Bellowing is even better.
10. Cat litter. If you have a shredder, you can use the shredded paper as cat litter. That means you can't recycle it as paper or cat litter and it's not as good a real cat litter. Some cats may even refuse to use it. But if your cat does use it, you can bet that nobody will want to sort through your shredded paper to steal your ID. You may be able to mix it with your regular cat litter.
11. Start an iqqub with your best friends or your neighbours or both. An iqqub is an Ethiopian solution to money problems. Have a weekly meeting at which everyone donates some money. Then draw straws or pick a winner some other way. The winner gets the money that time, but is no longer in the draw from then on. Pick a suitable weekly amount, agree on it, and also keep a register. Anyone who does not keep up with the payments will get fined when t's their turn to cash in. You can come up with your own variations and solutions for this.
You can also do this with a group of small businesses. It works at all levels, whether you want to buy a bread, a computer or a van.
12. Don't do what I often do... Don't allow your pasta or rice to burn. Using an old-fashioned kitchen timer may help.
13. Engage your kids. You now may have to save up for things your kids were used to getting regularly. Do your kids know how much those things cost? Maybe you can stick a sheet on your kitchen cabinet, with the amount you need as a goal and let your kids add the tick marks, cross off the days, anything that takes you toward the goal, and helps visualize it and helps your kids understand it better.
Maybe you can tell them that the crisps or cookies or ice cream or video game they are not getting this week means they will be able to get the trainers, wii or gameboy they want later. Write down how much each of these things cost and show kids that the money you are not spending now will add up to something else in the future. Kids aren't stupid. (Think back to when you were a kid.)
14. Don't be too proud to ask for help when you need it, and when it's available. Stuff happens. It's not your fault, but you can choose your own attitude. You can't get access to the food bank if you're not "in the system", for instance. Ask the council if they can help you when you're really stuck. Not asking always gets you a "no".
Try to ignore comments from people who don't know any better. After all, they're just plain silly, right? ;-) Yes, I had to say that! But most people do mean well, even if they don't know any better. And in some cases, the reason why people say about other people's trouble or misfortune that it is their own fault is that they simply want to reassure themselves that it can therefore never happen to them. (But they are usually not aware of that at all.)
15. Use and contribute to Portsmouth Freecycle on http://www.freecycle.org/
16. Look around you, see other people's troubles and ask yourself how you might be able to help or what you would do if you were them. It makes it easier to deal with your own troubles.
17. If you only have a bath, consider not letting it drain and using a bucket to flush your toilet with the used bath water and save on the water bill that way.
18. Ready meals. I love 'm! I just pop them into the microwave and presto! They're perfect for me. But they're bloody expensive when you add it all up and I've stopped buying them. I buy one every few months now, as a treat, and not more than once a month.
They are time-savers, however, and if you can use the time you save to make more money, then they can help you.
19. Senior cat food, in tins or foils. That one has me stumped. The prices have gone up tremendously and I haven't found a shortcut for it yet.
20. Hair dye. Look into whether you might be able to use a henna or a mix of hennas instead of "chemical" hair dye. You may find that you can now colour your hair for a lot less money per go, and in the process support companies that are good for the environment, and good for their staff. You may have to keep the henna in your hair overnight, but there are worse things.
21. Look into prepaid credit cards and seriously consider getting one instead of using cards that charge interest.
22. If you are about to go to the Portsmouth Citizens Advice Bureau and your informatiion says that it's located in Dugald Drummond Street, then you can save yourself some time. It moved to 1-3A London Road in North End in May 2008, but even its own web site currently still says it's on Dugald Drummond Street, in the footer, and so may certain court papers, if you happen to receive any. The Portsmouth CAB's new location is a 25-minute walk from its old location.
23. In a country in which many people were already hovering at the poverty line, or well below it, the budget cuts inevitable are going to hit very hard. No amount of complaining or waffling - not from me either - is going to do anything about the undeniable fact that we're in for some rough weather.
I don't know much about politics, but the UK's economy is in very bad shape and at least the government shows guts by making such impopular decisions, setting ambitious goals and avoiding half measures. Now we must make sure that those in government, including the city council, implement those cuts in ways that do the least damage. Firing people, for instance, comes with the obligation to ensure that all services are maintained as well as possible by making processes optimally efficient.
Society, that is each of us, not "them". It is up to us to let politicians know about it whenever we have suggestions for how they can do things or do them better. Contact your MP or a councillor if you think you can contribute, and don't forget to let them know too whenever they're doing something good.
24. Of course, I am not liable for any results of any of the above. If you try any of these tips, you do so at your own risk. (I had to say that, certainly with regard to stir-frying older vegetables.)
25. Again, sorry for undoubtedly sounding very condescending, but I don't know how to avoid that. (Don't blame Haley for it either. She knows who I am, and I am not Haley.)
For example, extracts of habanero, serrano and pimiento morrón peppers were found to inhibit Listeria monocytogenes, Staphylococcus aureus, Salmonella typhimurium and Bacillus cereus in research published in this article in the International Journal of Food Microbiology, Volume 57, Issues 1-2, 10 June 2000, pages 125-128.