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!
Mary Beth's picture

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.
Mary Beth's picture

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 - 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.

Who Let the Chickens Out?

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.

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.

Mindful Chickens - Clucking at the Stock Market

I started this a month ago. Time flies…

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 values and values.

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