Operation “Frugalight” Update – switching to Dominion.com on July 8th! Monday, Jul 5 2010 

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Hey guys! Hope you had a fantastic holiday weekend!

Okay, quick update regarding July’s Frugalight Challenge. The official switchover to Dominion (as the electric supplier) is going to be July 8th. After that point, we should be saving 15% on our electric bill. Great stuff. If the numbers prove true, it’ll be a huge help in reversing the financial whammy of our recent 30% rate increase by PP&L, as well as a big help in hitting Operation Frugalight’s Goal: to get the next bill down to a lower number than July of last year.

I’m also using power strips on the computers. If what I’m hearing is true, I’m going to want to stab myself for all the money I’ve wasted over the years leaving my computer on when I’m asleep/out of the house. Serious ding in the Frugalista Badge on that one. My bad.

Also, the weather. Hello. Freaking hot. Emphasis on freaking. The upside to this is that laundry on the clothesline goes from soaking wet to bone dry in about 14 minutes. Okay, not that fast, but much faster than say, a cool day in March. That’s the good news. The bad flip side to this is that it’s going to about 100 degrees today, and thou shalt not deny me my air conditioning. Another serious ding in the Frugalista Badge, I’m well aware, and yet, I’m willing to take the hit.

Okay, so good stuff is that Dominion will be throwing me a serious bone in the electric bill starting July 8, power strips are running on the computers, and I have absolutely NO need for my clothes drier, considering the temperature in my backyard would suggest I live about 2 miles from the surface of the Sun. Downside is the air conditioning required to keep The Frugalista cool and uncranky.

How are you guys beating the heat? I’ve got our air conditioning set in the mid-70’s – what do you set yours at? If you aren’t connected with PP&L, who is your electric supplier, and what do you think of their service / rates? Send any and all advice on beating the heat, especially if you’ve got kids in the house. Do you hit an airconditioned mall once a week? Perhaps a bookstore or the library? Would love to hear your ideas!

Stay cool, everybody! K

July’s Challenge: OPERATION FRUGALIGHT! Saturday, Jul 3 2010 

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Hey guys – Happy 4th of July weekend!

Thank you, thank you and thank you again for the amazing notes & messages during & after the June “Frugalista Diet” Challenge. WOW! You are all fantastic, and your ideas, humor & words of encouragement were VERY appreciated!

Okay, I’ve had two days to recoup, as well as enjoy my first piece of post-diet pizza. Power is back up & running after the late-June monster storm, and I’ve started to get the major points together for our July Challenge.

First, some history. Last July, we had an electric bill of $217.57. Not bad, but could be much better. Since then, PP&L has raised rates 30%. Granted, their rates were very reasonable to begin with, AND they hadn’t raised rates in years. I’m not going to begrudge any company making a decent living. That all said, the timing completely reeks. Unemployment is up, raises are pretty much non-existent, personal savings are being dipped into just to stay afloat already, so a spike in rates right at this point in time is rather breathtakingly crummy timing.

Ah well, boo hoo. Deep cleansing breath. Pity party over. Electronic kavetching via blogging isn’t going to put a penny in our pocket. (Trust me, I’ve tried. A lot.) What WILL work is thinking a bit outside the box, using some tried & true tricks, and perhaps incorporating some new & improved ones.

Therefore, your Frugalista Heroine’s seemingly-impossible goal here is to keep this month’s electric bill BELOW last year’s bill. When the month is done, I need an electric bill of $217.56 or LESS to succeed. Yes, again, this despite a 30% increase in rates. If I use energy this July like I did LAST July, the bill will be around $300. Unacceptable. Therefore, my goal, nay, my quest, is to find ways to lower my household’s power usage by at least 31%, without sacrificing quality in my utterly spoiled, appliance-addicted, energy-dependent life.

Here’s the four-pronged, electric cattle-prod approach to making this happen:

(1) Research alternative energy providers. Until now, when it came to energy providers, we went with the one automatically provided by PP&L. Since the rate hike, I’ve been BOMBARDED with mailers with info on alternative providers. One that seemed a good fit was Dominion. Their website is at http://www.dom.com. They’re currently running an offer in which – if you switch to them for your energy provider – you have a guaranteed savings of 15% over your current rates. They work with customers in the Midwest, Mid-Atlantic & Northeast regions of the U.S., where approximately 40% of the country’s energy is consumed. If you reside in these areas, take a look at their website. Could be a good fit!

(2) Reducing electric dryer dependence to almost nothing. It’s July, somewhat famous for the heat, lending itself nicely to drying clothes on the line in record time. Those of you familiar with my blog already know I’ve been drying my clothes, the kids’ clothes, sheets, towels, etc on our clothesline since last September, and it’s taken down costs fabulously. Should be helpful again this month. To create even bigger savings this month, I’m going to try to talk Victor into letting me do more of his towels on the clothesline. Yes, I’m the first to admit there is a marked difference in air-dried vs. dryer-dried towels. That being said, towels are an energy HOG to dry in the dryer. Wish me luck.

(3) No more dishwasher use. Again, I’ve had this strategy in play since last September, to great success. Energy costs definitely came down. At this point, I’m using my dishwasher strictly as a drying rack, and running it once a week on low settings just to keep it in good shape. I’ll keep doing that, it will no doubt help.

(4) Turning into the Power Nazi. At night, and when we leave the house during the day, the computer goes OFF. When it’s a bright, summertime day, there’s no need to turn on ANY lights, unless complicated surgery is being performed in same room. If I’m cooking on the stove, I cover pots & turn the heat down to simmer. If I’m baking like a crazy woman (kids are muffin hounds & I’m usually on cake detail for some celebration or another), I use only one of the ovens in my (yes, ultra-spoiled) top/bottom convection wall unit (purchased when I was part of a “Dual Income, No Kids” household. Ahem). If I’ve got a lot of different things to bake, I’ll now keep it to one oven, alternate pans on different racks & switch it up halfway thru the baking time.

(5) Give me ideas! What has worked for you? What has failed miserably? What strategies of yours have fallen somewhere in between! No idea is too small, too silly, too ridiculous. Bring it ON.

As I have updates, fresh ideas, etc, I’ll blog to elaborate. I figure I’ll be throwing a few blog entries here every week – can’t wait to see how this works out!

Have a fantastic holiday weekend, everybody! K

Brilliant Frugal Living’s “Frugalista Diet”! FINAL RESULTS! Cost of Day 30: $0.86, Total Cost: $21.94! Wednesday, Jun 30 2010 

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Hey guys! The miracle has occurred! It’s June 30th! In FAR bigger news, six days after we got SPANKED by Mother Nature, the house now has working power, electric, running water, internet, cable & phone. I almost made out with the Comcast Cable guy just now. And my sincere apologies to Comcast-Guy-Craig for my uncalled for, over-the-top affection. That was the HBO talking. Bad influence.

Okay, so when last we blogged, we were on Day 27 of the Frugalista Challenge. All went well that day, As well as Day 28 & 29. Standard menus, a delish daily combo of the usual Chef Boyardee, jello, hard boiled egg & Scharffen Bergers. The usual Frugalista dietary blur. Day 28 total cost .79, Day 29 cost .68. Pretty basic stuff. It’s worth mentioning that I’m completely tapped out on canned fruit, and I’m now reduced to working with the huge honkin can of Dole Pineapple juice. Considering we’re at the end of the challenge, it’s workable. At 12:01A tonight (July 1) however, it’s highly likely that I’m doing a half-gaynor into the organic apples in the fridge.

Today, Day 30, a.k.a. FINAL day of the Challenge, and our final menu was as follows:
Breakfast – coffee, two hard boiled eggs
Cost = .23

Lunch – an awesome super simple combo of wonderful brown rice, beans and a touch of corn, spiced with garlic, oregano, basil, S&P, drizzle of olive oil & a touch of parmesan cheese. I honestly think this is my favorite dish on the challenge. Really filling & healthy to boot.
Cost = .15

Daytime Snack – Watermelon-flavored jello. No fruit added. Important note, also had a glass of Dole Pineapple juice (roughly equivalent to 1/5 the can, therefore cost is 0.01.
Cost = .11

Dinner – Organic whole wheat rotini, topped with 1/5 jar of sauce & a touch of parmesan cheese.
Cost = .12

Nighttime (blogging) snack – It’s ALWAYS a good reason to down a Scharffen Berger bar. Tonight, we’re celebrating having ALL systems back up & running in the house. Sweet. Yes, I’m a spoiled brat.
Cost = 0.25

Total cost of food for today: $0.86.

Well, gang, we did it! Our goal was to spend no more than $25 for the month. Final cost of food: $21.94! Thirty days, many cans of Chef Boyardee, 100+ individual cravings for pizza, fresh fruit, chef salads and many other unmentionables, a dozen or so revelations about spending, eating, stockpiling & rationing later, and I’m delighted at the results. Not to mention the 3.5 pounds total lost on the plan – a completely unexpected & adored side effect. WOO HOO! Thanks to the hundreds of bloggers & Facebook friends who sent in their support, hysterical thoughts & ideas over the course of the month. It was very appreciated!

Now, on to July! At this point, the best idea (by far) for a July Challenge is to take the utility bill LOWER than it was last July; this despite the fact that rates were raised 30% over last year. I’m really looking forward to pushing the edges of sanity on this one – would love to hear your ideas on how to save money AND stay cool in the process!

Have a great night, everybody!

Brilliant Frugal Living’s “Frugalista Diet” update: THREE days left, Day 27 Menu attached! Sunday, Jun 27 2010 

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Hey hey hey! It’s a beautiful day! Know why? THE POWER IS BACK ON! WOO HOO! Lesser-yet-not-quite-“bad’ news: No cable/internet or phone at the house yet. Guess what? I’ll deal. Significant other is somewhat crushed at having to miss the HBO Entourage premiere tonight, but is placated by the fact that we now have lights, electric and running water. Priorities…

So, doing final blog from my from my folks’ house, with huge thanks and monster gratitude to them for letting me crash with the kids. This truly felt like a mini-vacation. Katie thanks you for the non-stop M&M routine, and Robbie wholeheartedly thanks you for toy trains in every room. Personally, I adore the working phone line, with computer access running a close second place. You guys just rock!

Menu for today!

Breakfast – coffee, two eggs, scrambled this time. Livin’ the life. (Thanks again Mom & Dad!)
Cost = .23

Lunch – working power means I’m back in the arms of my Personal Chef, Mr. Boyardee. I’m thinking ravioli.
Cost = .05

Daytime Snack – Lemon jello, made at Mom & Dad’s, soon to be transported home. yum.
Cost = .10

Dinner – Leftover rice & beans, easy to reheat (now that I have power to the microwave…), and cost can’t be beat.
Cost = .00

Nighttime (blogging) snack – just because we have power doesn’t mean I’m scaling down chocolate consumption. Scharffen Berger bar it is!
Cost = 0.25

Total cost of food for today: $0.63, barring any multiple personalities taking over my frugalista body yet again & forcing me into another Wawa convenience store for coffee. Keep your fingers crossed.

Thanks to much to those who sent in all of the power outage jokes, and dieting ideas involving killing animals in the backyard & roasting them over an open campfire. Special note to Becca in particular: you’re sick, as well as hysterically funny. Seek help. 🙂 🙂 🙂 Keep sending in your thoughts, ideas & suggestions, everybody!

Frugalista Diet Update! Day 26 Total: $2.12! (WHA!) Total for June: $18.98! Saturday, Jun 26 2010 

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Hello to all! For those of you who have electricity, internet & cable access in your homes, I despise you. Okay, “despise” is a strong word…as in “I DESPISE PP&L employees who jerk me around with estimates on when my electric will be back up & running”…
Latest estimate is that we’ll have power back at the house at 9:30P. That could work. If it’s true. As off right now, mooching electric with complete abandon and without shame in my parents’ house. Thanks Mom & Dad!

Also, a major cave-in for the diet. In my electricity-denied state, I crumbled and bought a cup of coffee at Wawa today. They had air conditioning and everything. I was seduced in moments. They had me at “hello…”. My shame at this budget-blowing purchase knows no bounds, kind of like the how the desperation of my caffeine-denied brain knew no bounds. Blew $1.29 on a coffee, and never looked back. I am shallow, I am addicted, I am ashamed. And as I drank my Wawa Columbian coffee this morning, I was reborn. WOO HOO!

Menu for today!

Breakfast – coffee, two hard boiled eggs (Thanks Mom & Dad!)
Cost = .23

Lunch – organic, low-sodium chicken broth, and a can of mixed veggies.
Cost = .10

Daytime Snack – Strawberry jello, courtesy of Mom & Dad’s refrigerator.
Cost = .10

And here, in the lowly hours of the afternoon, sleep-deprived & on the road trying to get to my folks’ house in one piece so I could mooch their electricity, I did it. I caved. The siren’s song of the Wawa Convenience Store called to me as if in a dream. I walked in, saw the dozen individual burners all smelling like different rooms in heaven (here’s the room in Heaven that smells like French Roast, here’s the room in Heaven that smells like Columbian…). Grabbed my Regular, dumped in half & half & two Splendas, and shelled out enough money to pay for almost two days of food. Truthfully, I’m trying to sound sorry for it, but I’m honestly still on a rush right about now. Let’s see what my mood (remorseful? Not remorseful?) is like tomorrow.
Cost: $1.29

Dinner – did rice & beans at my parents’ house. Lots of leftovers. Awesome.
Cost = .15

Nighttime (blogging) snack – And yes, in my continued financial abandon, even despite my horrific slip up with convenience store coffee, I’m doing the monster Scharffen Berger Bar. And he who tries to take it from me shall draw back a stump. Enjoy the visual.
Cost = 0.25

Total cost of food for today: $2.12. yes, I should be tazered by the frugalista police.

Keep sending in your thoughts, ideas & suggestions. Here’s praying the power’s back on by this time tomorrow! 🙂

Brilliant Frugal Living’s “Frugalista Diet” – Menu for Day 26! Saturday, Jun 26 2010 

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Hey all! Yup, power still out. This sucks. Sorry for the late morning entry, had to head back to my parents’ house to hog just about every electric appliance they possess (washer, dryer, freezer, television, computer, and of course, COFFEE MAKER). Now that I’ve got all of the above humming away, all is right with my world. Aaahhhhh…back in my happy place. Note: I’d make a crappy Amish person.

Menu for today!

Breakfast – coffee, two hard boiled eggs (Thanks Mom & Dad!)
Cost = .23

Lunch – really not hungry, going with some chicken broth & a can of veggies.
Cost = .10

Daytime Snack – Strawberry jello, courtesy of Mom & Dad’s refrigerator.
Cost = .10

Dinner – putting together some more rice & beans at my folks’ house, can always bring it home to eat cold later on. 2 oz rice, one can beans, minced garlic, touch of olive oil, oregano, S&P
Cost = .15

Nighttime (blogging) snack – For the duration of the blackout, I shall be shamelessly treating myself to the larger Scharffen Berger bars. It’s my personal narcotic of choice, and full of antioxidants, so hey, we’re going super size.
Cost = 0.25

Total cost of food for today: $0.83. yes, higher than i’d like, but cheaper than prozac.

Keep sending in your thoughts, ideas & suggestions. Hope you’re having a fantastic weekend, everybody! K

Frugalista Diet Update! Day 25 Total: $0.68! Friday, Jun 25 2010 

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Hey gang! Sorry I’ve been AWOL the last day, we got SPANKED by this East Coast storm! Power was THRASHED out of existence yesterday at 2:30P, is STILL out at home as I type this. Lost three huge trees in the yard, one of which threw themselves Hollywood style across the driveway AND the road. Very dramatic. Family coming out for the weekend had to bail (no electricity? Later, alligator…). Spent last night with no power – the kids were SUCH sports. And after spending today in the airconditioner-less heat I finally threw myself on the mercy of my parents, who live an hour away but were spared the brunt of the storm and kept power, and who are now treating the kids to dinner & giving us some time online before we head back home tonight. According to PP&L, power is supposed to be back up & running around 2:00A. Keep your fingers crossed! In the meantime, we got the car back, so that’s cool.

On a positive note, going into me-caveman-me-have-no-electric mode put a fabulous squash on my appetite, as well as my ability to heat food out of a can. Therefore, we’re staying beautifully on budget. Kept to budget yesterday at the .70 mark (including cold leftover rice & beans for dinner last night. Not bad, all things considered).

Menu for Today was super simple & ultra cheap.

Breakfast – coffee, two hard boiled eggs
Cost = .23

Lunch – remember, no ability to heat food, so we went super simple, with a can of fruit salad.
Cost = .05

Daytime Snack – Lemon jello, no fruit (made it the day before & it set up well even without power)
Cost = .10

Dinner – In the interest of keeping the Frugalista Challenge in play (even while out of the house), I brought some Chef Boyardee with me & heated it up at my folks’ house.
Cost = .05

Nighttime (blogging) snack – Having managed an entire 24 hours with NO electricity and a minimum of whimpering, I hereby decree that I should be rewarded with a BIG Scharffen Berger bar.
Cost = 0.25

Total cost of food for today: $0.68. Good stuff!

Keep sending in your thoughts, ideas & suggestions. Have a great weekend, everybody! And if you’re digging out from this storm, viva electricity!

Brilliant Frugal Living’s “Frugalista Diet” – Menu for Day 24! (Cost of food for today: $0.70!) Thursday, Jun 24 2010 

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Hey everybody – one more day until the weekend! Great news, but also the type of thing to inspire me to SERIOUSLY get myself in gear, as fabulous family will be here in 24 hours. Also, doesn’t look like I’m getting the car back today (tonight, perhaps), so even better circumstances to keep me at home prepping for weekend guests AND connecting with blogging buddies & facebook friends on all topics large & small. For instance, keep the great ideas about a July Challenge coming at me, I am loving them all!

Menu for Today!

Breakfast – coffee, two hard boiled eggs
Cost = .23

Lunch – Let’s hit the corned beef hash again. Super easy to microwave, and yes, a bit of a sodium hit, but we’ll just have half the can & save the leftovers as a great “zero-cost” meal in a day or so.
Cost = .05

Daytime Snack – Watermelon flavored jello with a half can of fruit
Cost = .13

Dinner – Leftover rice & beans from last night – SO good. Really hit the spot & super filling. Loved it.
Cost = .00

Nighttime (blogging) snack – Getting a zero-cost meal for dinner can only mean one thing – BIG chocolate bar for blogging tonight! WOO HOO! Forget that dinky Dagoba bar…tonight, I’m hitting the Scarffen Berger, baby.
Cost = .25

Total cost of food for today: $0.70. Good stuff!

Keep sending in your thoughts, ideas & suggestions. Have a fantastic Thursday, everybody!

Frugalista Diet Update! Day 23 Total: $0.73, Total for June: $15.48! Wednesday, Jun 23 2010 

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Hey all! Hope you had a fantastic day. Here, got loads of things planned & completed to get ready for Mom In Law’s weekend visit. Gorgeous day too, took a terrific walk with the kids & connected with incredibly funny & insightful bloggers, reporters & facebook buddies, AND I think I’m getting my car back a day early, it could be done as early as tomorrow evening. Life is good! WOOT WOOT!

Here’s how I did for today!

Breakfast – coffee, two hard boiled eggs
Cost = .23

Lunch – Tuna & corn. Yup, and it worked really, really well. If I was into any kind of cooking at lunch, the textures looked as tho they could work themselves nicely into some kind of chowder. Am I crazy?
Cost = .10

Daytime Snack – Cherry jello (no fruit)
Cost = .10

Dinner – Absolutely fantastic dish of rice & beans. I boiled 2 oz of rice, added with a can of pinto beans, some oregano, basil, S&P, a touch of garlic, a tsp of olive oil & the smallest, smallest splash of hot sauce. FANTASTIC!
Cost = .15

Nighttime (blogging) snack – Dagoba bar. FAB.
Cost = .15

Total cost of food for today: $0.73.

Keep sending in your thoughts, ideas & suggestions. Halfway thru the week, folks. Hang in there, Friday’s right around the corner!

Brilliant Frugal Living’s “Frugalista Diet”! Entire Menu for today costs $0.73! Wednesday, Jun 23 2010 

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Good morning all! Hope your week is going great. Here on this happy, money-saving Hump Day, 7 days left on our Frugalista Challenge, I’m prepping for my Mom-In-Law to come for the weekend. Hoping the weather will cooperate. Also just found a FABULOUS (outdoor) area rug Monday afternoon that pairs perfectly with the wicker furniture on the front porch. Got it as I drove by the tail end of a garage sale when the previous owners stacked it, and bunch of furniture, books & housewares on the back of a flatbed with a big “FREE” sign on it. You can imagine the bedlam. Only downside, it was covered with enough dirt to have me think some sort of desert military training took place on it. Dragged it home, got it to the porch, and an hour with the vacuum revealed a gorgeous rug – WOO HOO! If I get the car back by Friday afternoon, I’ve got to get some hanging plants for the porch too. Prices are next to nothing on those now!

Menu for today!

Breakfast – coffee, two hard boiled eggs
Cost = .23

Lunch – Tuna. Love it. No spinach tho, as I’d rather be dragged by a truck. Going with a side of corn. Tuna and corn? Why not.
Cost = .10

Daytime Snack – Cherry jello (no fruit)
Cost = .10

Dinner – Trying some rice & beans! I’ve been dying to try it, so many bloggers recommended it as a great, inexpensive, healthy meal, and I’m FINALLY getting my act together and doing it. It’s incredible, when you get a 16 oz bag of organic brown rice for .40 (B&B Discount Grocery, of course), it’s amazing how a single serving costs next to nothing. Trying 2 oz of that, along with a can of beans, some spices, a touch of garlic, maybe a drizzle of olive oil.
Cost = .15 (.05 for rice, .05 for beans, and I’m calling the oil & spices at .05 – I get them all for next to nothing at the discount grocery)

Nighttime (blogging) snack – Definitely going with the smaller Dagoba bar tonight, costs are running a bit high.
Cost = .15

Total cost of food for today: $0.73.

Keep sending in your thoughts, ideas & suggestions. Have a fantastic Hump Day, everybody!

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