Mary Beth Writes

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

1. Being Cheap (cheap, cheep).

2. Being thoughtful about how choices affect our community and our earth.

3. Paying attention to the constant tumble of dollars and choices.

Well, that was damn cold, wasn’t it?  Last week the windchill was -40 as I sat here at my desk, watching Arctic winds whip snow down the street. Now it melting, then icing, then melting! (sound effect) 

80 degrees of temperature change in one week is hard on people and infrastructure. But don’t worry about us, all that wetness out there freezes at night.  Actually… Be careful out there. (sound effect) 

So here are some ways we paid attention and saved money last week.

1 and 2 are interesting if you are considering light fixtures and bulbs.

1. The light fixture over our kitchen sink was a fluorescent light fixture set INTO the ceiling behind the trim that edged the soffit – kind of an inverted shoebox. When we moved here, we bought new bulbs that fit it and then I bought translucent placemats that Len attached over the “hole” area.  One rarely saw this jerry-rigged situation unless they were standing right there and looked up. 

Not long ago that light went dim, as happens to fluorescent lights when the ballast wears out.

Len measured it and then went to box store to look around. For $40 he bought a new system to fit into that same space – but this fixture uses LED bulbs. He pulled the old stuff out, installed the new, and we now have LED lights that will probably last longer than we do. 

However, there’s this. When buying LED lights, one chooses between cool (whitish/bluish) or warm hues. Most people would choose warm for a home interior, but they cost a lot more than whitish/bluish. So Len bought the cheaper ones, then used yellow-tinted tape over a plastic piece that fits over the bulbs. So we have bright, warm light for no more money than the cheaper bluish lights.

Then, because there isn’t a bon-a-fide cover for this system, Len carefully sawed the plastic cover from an old fluorescent fixture (see story #2) and attached that over the light.

We are not trying to be ultra-cheap here: but to replace this system would mean tearing out the soffit which we don’t want to do. This not flammable system is producing lots of light and we don’t have to remodel the kitchen to make it work – thus saving $30,000…

2. While we’re talking fluorescent lights – we have a storage area in the back of our basement and the fluorescent light in there was almost kaput.  Len bought a new fluorescent light fixture for that area for less than $20.  He has quite a few fluorescent bulbs bought on sale over the years. He can use those bulbs in that seldom-used area for years to come.

So this is the Get Lit frugality strategy.  

LED light are coming on the market and they are WAY cheaper to use than fluorescent or incandescent bulbs. They use minimal electricity plus they last years. Everyone will eventually be switching to them.  Which means right now fluorescent fixtures and bulbs tend to be on sale.  

For the kitchen light which we use all the time, Len popped for LED. For the seldom-used basement area, he bought the older cheaper technology.

3. Danish friends called a few weeks ago to arrange to visit with us when they are in the US. Cool! I’ve known Carsten since I was 16!

Carsten likes motorcycles so we arranged to meet on Friday afternoon at the Harley museum in Milwaukee; we would eat at a restaurant after the museum.  Except their plane was delayed. We suggested they come straight to our house, which they were happy to do ... they’d been traveling close to 12 hours at that point. We already had a dessert (what, you think I’m going to have DANES in my house without fussing a little?). Len drove out fast to buy hamburger and buns and proceeded to make burgers on our grill (snow doesn’t come between Len and his grill).

We talked for hours and somewhere in there Len and I mentioned how much we like to hike in the state parks near here. Their eyes lit up.

Next morning, instead of going to the museum, we hiked. 

We hadn’t set out to be frugal, but it happened anyways.

4. We have a window-enclosed south-facing front porch. The windows are from the 1970’s and are NOT high-tech. Yet last Wednesday when the temperature was a -20 but there was no wind …it was so warm out there we opened the front door to the porch and Lulu napped in the sunshine.   

5. Probably my best frugal skill. I went to a store to buy new pillows and all I bought was pillows.

Of course, having saved $30,000 last week, I shopped Goodwill yesterday. Bought this Lucky Brand vintage jacket for way too little.  It is a Medium and I am not, so I’m not sure where it will go other than it won’t go to a landfill or be turned into mush. 


Love those porches that face south! No need to mention how much I like resale shopping!

I don't know why your comment squished up there, but we will get Mighty Len to do his wizardry - when he can. Thanks and I DO know that you are mysteriously beautifully wardrobed all the time. Also.

You make me strive to be more frugal and to think about it. Also, love that sweater.

It's an appliqued hoodie, not knit but sweatshirt material, fully lined. Kind of amazing! I like "frugal" websites, because they are active, alive, on-going places where people are asking questions about how to get the things they value most from their everyday lives. I don't always agree, but I think the question-asking is spectacular.

I love accidental frugality! I've given up paying for a monthly tv-watching subscription (Netflix, Hulu, etc) but we get online TV (already) with our cable provider that we need for internet access. Problem is, we have to watch commercials--something I've managed to keep the boys from so far!! My re-frame is that we get to analyze & discuss mainstream media norms. The little one, especially, is obsessed with pointing out sexism. Wonder where he gets it from???

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Mindful Chickens - the "It's been a while" edition

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

1. Being Cheap (cheap, cheep).

2. Being thoughtful about how choices affect our community and our earth.

3. Paying attention to the constant tumble of dollars and choices.


Mindful Chickens in Canada

In case you don't already know... My husband and I did a 15-day road trip to eastern Canada.  Kurt Vonnegut wrote “Unexpected travel is like dancing lessons from God.”  The plan was to visit Nova Scotia and Newfoundland – but then Hurricane Dorian changed that. Stories and photos at my website.

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

How Big IS Grandma? Do You Need More Space?

Our internet service had been goofy all that day; the house alarm system sent a random beep to my phone at 3AM. Waking from deep sleep to “Is there a bad guy coming up the steps right now?” turned into the kind of insomnia that requires … decluttering videos. My heart stopped racing as I watched a mild woman talk about the closet in her laundry room.

How I saved Tens of Thousands of Dollars Lately and also got a New Kazoo

Just in case you thought I stopped paying attention to how to live cheap and well. 

1. For several months we have composted veg and fruit scraps - our weekly garbage reduced by half! We collect detritus through the day in a bowl on the counter, carry it out to a steel garbage can we brought from our last house. I’ve dug some of this collapsed organic stuff into the garden.

Less Lemming, More Living

Last week I posted an essay railing against our North American/western maniacal consumerism. We are so deep into climate crisis and into destabilizing world poverty caused by the oligarchy of the few.  Something has to give. Plus this: If we are living on $50,000 a year or more, we are already earth’s top 1%. Isn’t this nuts? It really is up to us to turn back this crazy lemmings’ march to the sea.

Mindful Chickens/ The "Before its Too Late" Edition 5-14-2019

Mindful Chickens   5/14/2019

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

1. Being Cheap (cheap, cheep).

2. Being thoughtful about how choices affect our community and our earth.

3. Paying attention to the constant tumble of dollars and choices.

These are things we have thought, attempted, and done in the past month to live more lightly and frugally on our City Plot of Planet Earth.

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