Printing Online Coupons!

Hey Guys!

Today I decided to write a blog about printing online coupons!  Now that we’re in the later parts of the winter, our canned food from the garden is starting to run low, so we’re always looking for good deals to fill the gaps!

In my opinion, one of the greatest frugal creations of the past decade or so was the creation of online coupon printing services!  These are a win for everybody.  Consumers save money on products, affiliates make a few cents for advertising, and manufacturers have reduced expenditures because they don’t have to print five million coupons in order to place them in a major magazine.

Another benefit to printing online coupons is that many of them are for a full dollar or more off of one item!  Each week,  I can’t count the number of times that I’ve used printable coupons at Wal-Mart and ended up with a nearly free item.  It’s a great deal!

I’ve noticed over the past few years that some people are skeptical of printing online coupons because they feel that the stores may think they are copies.  Others don’t like to print them because the coupon printers sometimes require the consumer to install a browser add-on or other similar software.

The simple fact is that the vast majority of the online coupon printing services are legitimate.  Stores that accept online coupons know which ones are valid due to simple serialization and verification technology built into the coupon barcodes.  Online coupons are accepted at most major retailers.  Some examples include Wal-Mart, Target, K-Mart, Walgreens, Safeway, and many others.

Some of the larger coupon sites such as Coupons.com and Smartsource, use small applications or scripts to print the coupons.  These generally require your confirmation to run or install them before it will let you print the coupons.  These are legitimate, and needed in order to allow the software to print unique coupons each time you use it, and to also limit the number consumers can print.  Just remember, when you are installing these, always make sure you “uncheck” the coupons “toolbar” if you don’t want it added to your browser!

The process is simple, and the benefits go on and on as many new coupons are published every week.  This is hands down one of the simplest ways you can save money!

Here are some of the current coupons from Coupons.com.  You can print these directly from this blog!

Happy Savings! :)

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Still harvesting in winter 2012!!

Hey Everybody!  Well, we’re a full week into February and have had an exceptionally mild winter this year in much of the southern plains!  With spring just around the corner, we’re still harvesting healthy crops from last fall’s garden! 

The past few weeks we have seen temperatures with lows right around freezing, and highs frequently up around 60.  Early this winter, we had a few days in the lower 20′s, but overall, it has been a very mild winter.  In Northwest Arkansas, we have yet to see snow accumulation worth mentioning!  In comparison, last winter we had two feet of overnight snowfall, and lows that frequently dipped below 20.  A few nights even dipped down to -14 degrees!

This weekend, we picked some turnips that I used to make some awesome homemade soup.  Here’s a picture of Mrs. Patriot_RAM picking some turnips out in the garden:

Still picking turnips in February!

With spring just around the corner, we’ll be planting some spring crops in our new raised beds.  Last year we had some great cabbage, so I’m sure we’ll do that again.  We’re also going to try some new crops this year that we’re really excited about!  We’re looking forward to some Kohlrabi, Kale, and some new varieties of lettuce and spinach.

Oh, and do you remember those paper mache flavored tomatoes that they sell at Wal-Mart over the winter?  After eating those things for nearly five months now, I can’t wait for some garden fresh tomatoes this summer!

Just a reminder — It’s time to get those seeds ordered!

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Smith & Wesson LED Tactical Flashlight Review

Frugal Homesteaders Product Review

S&W Luxeon Rebel LED Tactical Flashlight
by Smith & Wesson

 

Frugal Homesteaders Rating:    4.5 of 5 stars

Our purchase recommendation: The Smith & Wesson Luxeon Rebel flashlight is not a cheap flashlight, but is certainly a frugal alternative to the other premium brands. If you want a cheap LED flashlight, Harbor Freight sells them all day long for a buck or two. This light has proven to be durable, sturdy, extremely bright with a decent runtime, compatible with rechargeable batteries, and much brighter than many competing products. If you’re looking for a frugal buy on a very nice “AA” cell flashlight, this is a GREAT product.

This S&W flashlight has a List Price of $49.99, but can be purchased for $29.54 (today) from Amazon and is eligible for free shipping with Amazon Prime. Here is a link to purchase one of these from Amazon: 

Smith and Wesson Luxeon Rebel Tactical Flashlight

Pros:

  • Fine crafted, good quality, sturdy flashlight
  • Extremelybright at 100 Lumens
  • Switch has On, Off, and Momentary positions
  • Includes removable wrist strap and pocket clip
  • Includes a padded nylon holster that also holds two extra batteries
  • Compatible with both 1.2v rechargeable, and 1.5v alkaline AA batteries (save $$ on rechargeables!)
  • Light output is consistent through most of the battery life.
  • Water resistant

Cons: 

  • Turning off requires partially unscrewing the battery cover
  • S&W advertises consistent light output through entire battery life. Our test showed that the last 45 minutes of the 3 hour and 50 minute runtime was significantly dimmer.
  • Holster flap can accidently press the power button to engage the Momentary light switch, resulting in dead batteries when you need it. Can be remedied by unscrewing battery cover about half way.
  • Made in China (but quality seems to be fine)

Review Details:

At first glance, this flashlight immediately strikes me as a quality light. It sports a 5 watt LED that puts out 100 lumens. This is brighter than almost all other lights that we have seen in this size and price range. The total length is just under six inches long. The case is made of 100% black anodized aluminum. The pouch is nylon and seems very durable as well.

After our testing, we were able to make a very simple determination. If your intention is to get a great deal on a small, but very bright light that you can depend on for a long time, we recommend this light.

Using quality Alkaline AA batteries, this light is extremely bright for three hours. With many of the smaller lights, you also need to carry a larger light with you if you’re hiking, camping, etc. Not with this one – it illuminates extremely well for its size, even at a fair distance. This is a very bright light. I wrote this review while on a hotel stay. The following two pictures show a couple examples of the light output:


From five feet away, the light beam is easily spotted on the ceiling
next to an incandescent light. Note: The room was lighter than the photo
dictates.

Inside the hotel rest room when it was completely dark. The room is adequately illuminated by the flashlight. There is no other source of light. Photo was taken with my iPhone 4 with the flash turned OFF.

This light has three modes. They are twist-on, twist-off, and push-button momentary. When in the “off” position, the button at the end of the light can be used as a momentary switch when signaling, or if constant light is not required. The on-off motion seems a little cumbersome, but is almost not worth noting as a concern. The switch components seem to be very high quality.

This light is water resistant. I certainly wouldn’t hesitate to use it in the rain if needed. Keep in mind that water resistant does NOT mean that it is submersible! Some of the consumer reviews on Amazon were concerned that the twist-off to turn the light off required them to partially unscrew the battery cover to turn the light off. They questioned the water resistance with it partially unscrewed. The seal does not rely on a washer in the cap like may of the cheap lights do. The Rebel uses an o-ring, closer to the cap threads, which keep water out, even when the light is in the “off” position. I performed a simple test under running water to confirm that it does just fine keeping water out.

The Rebel comes with a holster, lanyard, and a clip to help make it easy to carry on your person. The holster holds the light securely and is easily attached to your belt. Is has the capacity for holding two extra batteries as well.

A concern that I have with the holster is that the light fits tightly in it. When you close the flap over the top of the light, there is a possibility of the pressure pushing the momentary switch on the end of the light, thus unknowingly illuminating it in the pouch, resulting in dead batteries. You can simply turn the end cap farther to the off direction to eliminate the possibility of this. The lanyard is very functional, although, I would prefer to see a more robust tether to the device. The clip on the device seems strong, and holds the light securely in place when I tested it in my pocket.

Power and Runtime:

The Rebel requires two AA style batteries, either alkaline or rechargeable. Using a good rechargeable battery could prove to be a great money saver. Many of the other flashlights this size require the much more expensive CR123 batteries.

The DC/DC regulator technology helps maintain a consistently bright light through most of the battery life.

We tested this light with both alkaline and rechargeable AA batteries. Here are the test results:

 
Battery: Duracell Procell 1.5v Alkaline Batteries
Continuous Runtime: 3 Hours, 50 Minutes
Notes: During this test, the light was very bright for three hours and five minutes. The last 45 minutes, the light became somewhat dim, but still functioned. The advertised runtime with alkaline batteries is two hours, so no complaints here.
 
Battery: Sanyo Eneloop 1.2v Rechargeable Batteries
Continuous Runtime: 1 Hour, 20 minutes
Notes: This test had less favorable results. The continuous runtime was shorter, and the light began to dim after 45 minutes. After 1 hour and 20 minutes, the light was still illuminated, but would not be usable for most tasks. Based on the results with the Duracell batteries, I am going to place initial fault on the Sanyo batteries possibly not maintaining a 1.2v output. I will re-test this with a different brand of rechargeable batteries in the future to confirm.
 

General Comparison

This light is the best alternative that I have seen to some of the $200+ Surefire tactical lights. It is very bright, functional, and well-built. This is clearly a frugal buy in comparison. This light is much brighter than any incandescent light that I have seen. Thinking back to the incandescent MAG Lights that I owned in the past, I’m almost certain this light is as bright or brighter. If you love the Harbor Freight LED lights that cost a buck or two – They’re a good buy for what they are, but this is a much better long-term solution when considering light output, cost, battery life, and durability.

If you would like to purchase a Smith & Wesson flashlight like this, help support our site by ordering using the links below!

If you would like to purchase a Smith & Wesson Rebel flashlight like this, please use our link below:
If you would like to purchase the Duracell Procell batteries, here is a link for those as well:

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WAGAN Power Dome EX

Frugal Homesteaders Product Review

Power DomeTM EX

by WAGAN TECH

WAGAN Power Dome EX

WAGAN Power Dome EX

Frugal Homesteaders Rating:   1.5 of 5 stars

My purchase recommendation:Purchase it locally or from an online retailer offering free return shipping. Typically priced between $100 and $160, the Power Dome EX is a frugal buy when considering the features that it has. I originally planned to purchase one of these for each of our three vehicles, but am still unsure if I will purchase the other two units.  The only reason I say this is because my unit had several DOA features straight from the factory and WAGAN TECH did not back the product as well as I feel they should have. If you buy this, and get a working unit, this is a good buy. If not, make sure you purchase it from a retailer that you would not have to pay out of your pocket in order to return it.

Update:The second time I attempted to use the compressor, two days after my initial test for this review, the compressor pump has completely failed. I can hear the motor run, however, the pump does not make the normal compressor sound and it does not inflate even a bicycle tire.

     

Pros:

  • Very heat tolerant – left it in a dark colored closed vehicle for 14 days with the windows up.  The daily high was 98 or higher every day, with the highest outside temp reaching 106 degrees.  The unit still worked fine after this, and the battery retained 95% of its charge.
  • With its integrated light, radio, USB, 12v & 110v outlets, air compressor, and jumper cables, it will certainly get you out of a number of bad situations.
  • Compressor & inverter have ample run time on the internal battery
  • Will alert you if you hook the jumper cables up to the battery terminals backwards
  • A lot of features in a small package

Cons:

  • Three items were DOA on my unit
  • Even though it was factory defective, the warranty requires me to pay $50 return shipping.  I have grave concerns about a company that doesn’t back the quality straight out of the factory.  This was the primary factor in me not giving this unit 4 or 4.5 stars.
  • Entire radio assembly seems cheap, antenna likely to get broken
  • The plastic used to make the jumper cable clamps and knobs on the unit seems cheap
  • The “powerful light” functionality did not meet my expectations
  • Made in China

Review Details:

The Wagan Tech Power Dome EX is a useful, versatile product sporting many useful utility and emergency features.  The product does have some great features, however; the quality and warranty policy have room for improvement.

When I received the Power Dome EX, I was very excited and looking forward to using it in the car, in the storm shelter, on the lake, and even while on picnics.  Before you can use the product, it must charge for between 40 to 48 hours.

I was disappointed to find several of the features of my Power Dome EX were dead on arrival.  The USB port does not provide power to devices.  The volume knob on the radio is shorted.  As a result, it has only two options – all the way down, or all the way up. The AM/FM switch does not work.  When I switch it to AM, it remains on AM, even after moving the switch back to the FM position.  When I received the Power Dome EX, the WAGAN TECH company emblem on top was partially peeled off and would not stick to the unit.  The unit I purchased was new.  I contacted WAGAN TECH to express my concerns.  They issued an RMA, but said I would have to pay to ship the product back to them.  Considering I paid just over $100 for the unit, and the cost for return shipping was $50 for ground service, I opted not to send it in for repair.  Even though most companies get huge shipping and return shipping discounts to the tune of 80% off, WAGAN TECH would not pay for return shipping of the defective product, even though it was factory defective and never worked.

Following, is a list of each feature of the Power Dome EX, and my comments about each:

  • Auto Jump Starter – The 600 cranking amp auto jump starter seems adequate for starting small passenger cars.  I tested this on a 1991 Pontiac with a 3.1l v6 engine and it was able to start the engine.  When testing this fully charged on a Ford v8 5.4l engine, it was able to turn the engine slowly, but it was enough to start it.  The Powerdome EX, like most self contained jump starters, is not capable of starting vehicles with two batteries such as diesel pickup trucks.  (tested on 2004 Dodge RAM with a Cummins, and a 2000 Ford Excursion with a 7.3 liter diesel engine).  These results met my expectations. I consider this a great tool that you can carry with you that will certainly get you out of a bind if you accidently kill your car or truck battery.
  • Air Compressor – The PowerDome EX has a built-in air compressor.  WAGAN TECH states that it is a 260 PSI high power motor air compressor that can inflate a 16 inch tire in only 5-10 minutes.  Because of the on-board battery, this air compressor does not require a separate 12v power source.  This is a great feature if you have a long vehicle such as a crew cab pickup truck with an eight foot bed where many conventional tire inflators will not reach.  My only complaint about the compressor is that the hose is too short.  It will not reach to the top of my wheels if the valve stem is rotated to the top.  I had to drive a few feet to get it down to the bottom so the hose would reach.  I tested the unit fully charged on a heavy duty oversized light truck tire to see what it would do.  The 10 ply tire size was 35×12.50R17 and was on a Dodge RAM 2500 weighing in at about 9,500 pounds as it sat during the test.  To my absolute astonishment, the Power Dome EX inflated the tire to 65psi under its own power.  Total time:  57 minutes.  Be careful after use!  The air hose becomes extremely hot!  The compressor on the Power Dome EX exceeded my expectations. (Updated Note:I attempted to use the compressor two days after I documented it, and the pump has now failed after one use.)
    As you can see, the heavy duty oversize tire was completely flat.

    The PowerDomeEX made inflating the tire easy, and it was able to inflate it to full pressure.
  • AC Power Inverter – The AC power inverter is rated at 400 watt continuous, and 800 watt surge.  I tested the function of the inverter and it seems to provide stable, clean power.  Since this is not a true sine wave inverter, some things won’t work on it – but it’s great for most things you would ever need!  Any time the AC inverter is turned on, the cooling fan runs.  A more efficient use of power is to only turn the cooling fan on when it is under a load that requires the cooling.  Overall, great job on the self contained inverter!
  • USB Power Port – This product has one 5v DC charging port for USB devices.  The 5v DC USB charging port on my Power Dome was broken from the factory.  I attempted to use it to power several devices, individually.  It fails to provide power, even when the power switch is turned to either of the two “ON” positions.  I opted to use a 12v USB adapter to charge my devices rather than spending $50 in return shipping to repair a DOA product.
  • DC Power Source – The Power Dome EX has a standard 12v DC outlet.  The 12v outlet provides a good power connection and stable power.  Many 12v outlets are built cheap and often allow the plug to back out, or lose its connection.  That is not a problem with the Power Dome EX.  It works great for powering 12volt devices.
  • High Intensity 5 LED Worklight – With the minimal battery draw from LEDs, and the large size of the Power Dome EX batter, I was extremely disappointed in the small amount of light output.  The LED flashlight that I received freefrom Harbor Freight using a coupon from the newspaper seems about twice as bright as the Power Dome EX.  If the free Harbor Freight lights can run for a few hours on three AAA batteries, and are brighter, I would expect much more light from the Power Dome.  The light certainly does work, but in my opinion is far from meeting the expectations of a “powerful light”.
  • Radio – The radio is an AM/FM radio with a built-in antenna.  The antenna, on top, is slightly recessed, but not held in place by a guide like most portable radios.  Considering the ruggedness, weight and other functions of this product, I do not expect the antenna to survive.  The AM/FM switch on my Power Dome EX does not work properly.  Once on AM, you can return the switch to the FM position, but it is very difficult to move it just right as to get the FM stations back.  The volume switch was shorted when we received the unit.  It will turn the volume all the way up, or all the way down – but there is nothing in between.  Because of this, the radio is not usable.  The reception is also poor compared to other radios I own.  There are transmitter towers less than 15 miles from our home.  The Power Dome had problems picking up those stations.  They are easily picked up by car 70 miles from the transmitter.  My other battery operated radios pick these stations up clearly when locked up in our tornado shelter that has 8 inch thick steel reinforced concrete walls.  The Power Dome has almost no reception in our shelter.  I did not test the audio input jack.  The radio did not meet my expectations on any level.

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Best Easy Cheesy Seafood Chowder, Kids love it!!

Today I decided to post another recipe.  This is a very simple and easy to make Seafood Chowder that puts most of the others to shame!

When I think about making any type of fish for dinner, the first thought through my mind is that there’s no way all six of the kids are going to eat it without putting up a good argument!  Well, this  chowder has such a great compliment of flavors, every one of them begs for more.  This is another one of our favorites, and the kids just eat it up! 

PLEASE!!!  Do yourself a favor and give this one a shot!!  I look forward to reading your comments.  :) 

 

Here is a small bowl of the finished chowder. Yummy!

Ingredients

1 lb Tilapia fillets, diced into 1 inch cubes
12 oz medium raw, peeled shrimp (remove tails!!)
12 oz medium scallops
1 lb Frozen veggies – I use a broccoli, cauliflower, & carrot medley
1 1/2 lbs Velveeta cheese, sliced or cubed
1 medium onion, chopped
1 package of sliced mushrooms
1 cup water
3 cups organic whole milk
3 Tbsp corn starch
4 Tbsp organic unsalted butter
White Pepper to taste

Directions

Prep:  Before you begin, you may want to prep your fish and seafood by thawing, cleaning, and dicing up the tilapia.

 

Now it’s time to cook!!

  1. In a medium stock pot, add one cup of water and the frozen veggies.  I always use filtered water since you never know what’s in the well and city water!  Cook the veggies on medium heat until they are hot and begin to soften.  Be careful not to cook them completely since you will be cooking them further as you make the soup. 
  2. Put the chopped onions in a small sauce pan and saute in 1 Tbsp of butter until they begin to soften. Add the mushrooms and saute a couple more minutes until the onions just begin to caramelize.
  3. While the onions & veggies are cooking, in a small bowl, slowly add the organic whole milk to the corn starch, whisking well as you pour.
  4. Once the veggies are hot and have begun to soften, add the milk mixture to the stock pot.  Add the onions and mushrooms.  Stirring frequently, bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  The soup will begin to thicken.
  5. Add the diced tilapia fillets and return the pot to a boil while stirring constantly.  Once at a boil, add the scallops, shrimp, and Velveeta cheese.  Cook until the shrimp and scallops are done (watch for the shrimp to turn pink throughout).  Reduce heat, and simmer for five minutes while stirring constantly.
  6. Additional salt should not be necessary with this recipe!  Add a little bit of white pepper to taste. Serve piping hot and enjoy!

The part of this meal that the kids like the most is that it doesn’t have a fishy taste!  Yumm!  If you decide to try this recipe out, please take a few minutes to comment and let me know what you think!

 

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Homemade Crock Pot Yogurt is Easy!!

Today I decided to write a blog to show you just how simple it is to make homemade crock pot yogurt!  Making your own yogurt will not only allow you to use organic milk, but it will save you money and is fun to do with the kids!  One of the best things about it is that you can add any flavor to it.

This is a simple recipe that requires a little forethough about timing, but other than that, there is very little work at all!  I usually start mine at about 4:30 while I’m cooking supper  because the timing then works out to where it’s ready to refrigerate by the following morning.  (more on that later….)

Here is the list of supplies and ingredients that you’ll need to make the homemade yogurt:

Ingredients

  • Milk
  • Plain Yogurt
    Yes, that’s all you need!!

Supplies

  • Crock Pot
  • Whisk
  • Measuring Cup
  • 6 cup bowl
  • Large bath sheet or two large towels

We have eight people in our family, so I usually make a one gallon batch.  If you want to make less, just use less milk and slightly reduce the cook time.  I begin step 1 just before preparing supper so the timing works out well.

On to the recipe!

  1. The first step is to pour a gallon of whole milk into the crock pot.  Cover with the lid and turn the crock pot on low. 

    Adding milk to the slow cooker

  2. You need to heat the milk until it reaches a temperature of 185 degrees.  Reaching this temperature is important, but don’t go hotter.  If you don’t have a thermometer, don’t worry.  185 degrees is the temperature that milk starts to froth, so you can simply keep an eye on it.  This step usually takes my crock pot two to 2 1/2 hours.
  3. Once the milk temp has reached 185 degrees, turn the crock pot off, unplug it, and let it sit until the milk cools down to 110 degrees.  This usually takes three hours, so I complete the next two steps just before I go to bed.
  4. Remove the lid, and measure out 1 cup of milk from the crock pot and place it in a bowl.  Add 1 cup of plain yogurt and whisk until it is well mixed.  Pour the mixture back into the crock pot and wisk until it is mixed well.  Replace the lid.
    Note:  If you don’t want to use a bowl to mix this, it seems to work fine to mix 1 cup of yogurt directly into the milk in the crock pot.  Ensure it is mixed well!
  5. Now, you need to keep your crock pot from cooling too slowly!  Wrap your crock pot in an extra large bath sheet, or two large bath towels.  You want to wrap all sides at least once, and preferibly two layers thick.  This begins the incubation process, which takes between 8 and 10 hours to complete.

    This is what your homemade yogurt will look like when the incubation is complete!

When you wake up in the morning, your yogurt is ready!  The final step is to place the finished product into jars, and refrigerate!  I always save 1 cup of the yogurt and freeze it as a starter for the next batch.

The yogurt is ready to store in the refrigerator!

My kids love homemade yogurt.  We try to change up the way we serve it so it’s not always plain.  There are a lot of different ways you can serve homemade yogurt.

One simple way is to add diced up fruit and honey.  This is one of the easiest ways to enjoy a sweeter treat.  If you’re more adventurous, you can run some fruit such as blueberries, strawberries, or peaches in the food processor and then mix it with the yogurt.  If you’re into the whole granola thing, it makes a great topper for this recipe!

I hope you enjoy your homemade yogurt!  Please subscribe to our blog to receive e-mail notifications when we post new blog entries!  Thank you!

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Preparing your Home for the Winter Season

With winter here, and the cold weather, ice, and snow just around the corner, many people haven’t even began to prepare their home for the winter months!!  When winter is approaching, people often lost focus on preparations around the home, and tend to focus on a few “select” thing such as new coats, boots, and making sure their cars are ready to endure the harshest season of the year.

Earlier this week, I posted a blog about Preparing your Car and Truck for Winter Weather.  Hopefully, you took at least part of that advice to make sure your car and family are safe, wherever your travels may take you this winter.

Today, I’m going to focus on two area.  The first is simply preparing your “house” for the winter cold.  This will include tips to make sure your water doesn’t freeze, tips to keep your heating system happy, and more.  The second part of the blog will be more about the things that you need to do to be ready, and what you need to have on-hand for the winter months.

General Winter Preparations for your House:

One of the most important winter preps you can do is PROTECT YOUR WATER PIPES!!  Many of the newer, properly built homes have many precautions built-in that will prevent plumbing from freezing in most cases.  Some things include frost-free outdoor faucets, under-slab plumbing, heated garages / utility closets, and a three foot deep water main into the home.  But, most of you should read on anyway!

Protect your Water Pipes:

  • Disconnect and Store your Hoses - If you leave a hose connected, especially if it’s turned on with a closed spray nozzle attached, water will be present in the spigot and will freeze and cause the pipe inside the wall to burst.  If you have frost-free faucets, disconnect your hoses and store them in the garage.  If you have the old style faucets, precautions must be taken to keep them warm, or turn the water off that feeds them from inside or under the home.
  • Keep your Crawl Space Pipes Warm – If you have pipes under the house, keep them warm!  This is the most common place for plumbing to freeze.  Most importantly, make sure there are no open crawl space vents or doors.  This will keep the cold air out.  Second, on the coldest nights, you should place a heater in the crawl space to keep the temperature above freezing.
  • Leave your Water Running – On the coldest nights, especially when the temps drop to sub-zero, anything can go wrong!  One of the oldest tricks in the book is to leave a couple of faucets running slowly.  It’s best to run both the hot and cold water, but only slightly.  This will keep water flowing through the pipes.  Flowing water doesn’t freeze as easily, and the “new” water flowing into your house from the water main is above freezing temperatures as well.
  • Remember to Shut your Garage Door! - If you have any plumbing in the garage or running through the garage, or if your utility closet is in the garage, accidentally leaving the garage door open overnight can be disastrous.  Pipes, valves, and fittings are more than likely going to freeze.
  • Keep your Thermostat Up - If it’s 30 below zero outside overnight, don’t be afraid to turn your thermostat above 70 degrees!  This will help keep the plumbing inside your walls warm.  Open up cabinets near plumbing — such as under kitchen and bathroom sinks.
  • Heated Pipe Tape / Cable - If you’re in a mobile home with skirting around it, a heater in the crawlspace doesn’t always work on the coldest nights.  You can combine a heater with pipe insulation or pipe heating cable to keep your pipes nice and warm.
  • If you Lose Heat - Do your best to keep your pipes warm by blocking off bedrooms, runs propane or wood fireplaces, open cabinets under sinks, and leave some water running a little bit.  Plumbing repairs can be costly.
  • Protecting Plumbing in a House for Sale - If you have a house for sale and need to protect the plumbing from the cold, leaving the heat turned on to 55 degrees will usually suffice.  If that isn’t an option, or you don’t have power at the home, you can have a professional winterize the house by putting anti-freeze in the water system.

After you have taken care of prepping your plumbing system for the winter, the next step is to make sure your heating system is ready to be used heavily through the winter months.

Preparing your Heating System:

  • Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarms – Regardless of the type of heat you use, always replace batteries and test all of your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors.  Safety is critical!!
  • Heat Pumps & Furnaces – Making sure your filters are changed is the primary things you can do yourself.  Next on the list is to put fresh batteries in your thermostats if they are the battery operated type.  Heat pumps and furnaces require other maintenance, cleaning, etc, but that is best left to a professional.  The best time of the year to do an inspection and service is late fall.
  • Unblock & Open Registers – If you have any type of forced air system, make sure you don’t have anything blocking the registers.  Also check the damper in each register to make sure it’s open to allow the proper amount of heated air into each room.
  • Wood Stoves & Fireplaces – If you have a fireplace or a wood stove, you’ll want to clean out the chimney flue.  If you’re not comfortable getting on the roof to do this, call a professional!!  Don’t overlook this, many people have lost their homes, lives, and family due to chimney flue fires!!
  • Check your Fuel – Nothing is more frustrating than waking up to a foot of new snow on the ground and a cold house, only to realize that overnight you ran out of heating oil, propane, or wood and nobody can get there to deliver any for two or three days.

General Winter Preparations for your Homestead & You:

  • Generator - If you have a generator, make sure it has fresh fuel, a fresh oil change, and make sure the fluid levels are all correct.  If it has coolant, make sure it’s good to the lowest temps expected in your area.
  • Snow Blower - Most of us in the south don’t have a snow blower, but if you do, you need to prep it for winter.  Make sure you change the oil and grease any grease zerks.  If your auger is chain driven, inspect the chain for cracks and proper tension, and give it a thin coat of grease to lubricate and protect it.  If your auger is belt driven, inspect your belt for any excessive cracks, wear, or damage.  With the auger engaged (and motor off), check and adjust the tension of the drive belt.
  • Tractor -For those of you with a tractor, make sure you do proper fluid, belt, and coolant maintenance, and grease all zerks as well.

Emergency Preparations:

  • First Aid Kit Always have a basic first aid kit.  If it’s in the middle of an Iowa blizzard, you’re not getting to the Emergency Room any time soon!  Make sure you have at least a few weeks worth of any prescription medications.
  • Salt & Sand – This can be used for melting ice, and traction on ice.
  • Snow Shovel – Have you ever tried shoveling snow with a digging shovel?  Personally, I found it to be exhausting and difficult!
  • Emergency Heat Source – Always have some type of backup heat source.  Even something as simple as a space heater or an electric blanket.  (Ideally, have a small generator to run those if the power goes out!)  Some other common sources of alternate heat are a fireplace, wood stove, or kerosene heater.
  • AM / FM / Weather Radio with Batteries – If you lose power, you’ll appreciate knowing what’s going on, and whether or not any more severe weather or blizzards are heading your way.

Food & Water:

  • Drinking Water – During the ice storm of 2009, there were many homes that lost water due to extended power losses at treatment facilities, pump stations, and personal wells.  It is critical to have some water stored for emergency use.  You can go a week or two without bathing — if you need to.  The simple fact remains that you must drink water.  There’s also somewhat of a psychological factor going on if you don’t brush your teeth in a week, but that’s another story.  lol
  • Alternative Water Source – For many, this may be considered overkill.  If you’re on a well, however, it may not be.  The Ice Storm left some Arkansans without power for over a month.  In our case, we have a Berkey water filtration system that can filter thousands of gallons of river, lake, or pond water into safe drinking water. In our case, we are only a couple hundred yards from a major lake.
  • Non-Perishable Foods – FEMA recommends that you store two weeks worth of non-perishable food in case of an emergency such as an earthquake or hurricane.  Again, using our ice storm as an example, two weeks isn’t enough for many cases.  The LDS Church recommends storing a year worth of food.  To many, that seems excessive.  So, let’s go for at least 30 days here.  That’s a pretty safe number for the vast majority of disasters.  Remember to keep in mind that you may not have an easy way to cook the foods you have!
  • Non-Perishable Baby Food – If you have a baby, or are expecting one soon, make sure you don’t forget to keep several weeks of baby food on-hand!  With any non-perishable stored food, it’s best to use a rotation system so you use the food on a “First In, First Out” system.
  • Don’t Forget the Pets! – Keep a month supply or more for your Cat, Dog, Rabbits, etc.
  • Consumables – People often store up enough food for a few weeks, but forget the other consumables!  Can you imaging being stuck at home with no diapers, paper towels, toilet paper, cat litter, or kitchen cleaner??

Look forward to the winter months, and find comfort in knowing that when a blizzard is moving in, you will be watching your neighbors frantically running to the store to stock up on food, bottled water, and blankets, hoping they have everything they need to get through the worst of the storm!

Please leave your comments!!  Thank for reading!

Patriot_RAM

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Preparing your Car and Truck for Winter Weather

Folks up north have probably already got everything ready for winter, but we’re just now starting to see sub-freezing temps here in the south!  Several people have asked me what they should do to make sure their cars & trucks are ready for winter.  This Blog will offer some basic tips to getting your vehicle ready for winter use.  Keep in mind, that we recommend keeping some non-perishable food, extra water, maps, a whistle, a reflective vest, and other basic preparedness items in your car or truck at all times.  These normal items are excluded from this list.

  • Sub-Freezing Windshield Washer Fluid — Normal windshield washer fluid will freeze near 32 degrees.  Use up all of your existing washer fluid and then install washer fluid that protects and de-ices to at least -20 degrees.
  • Keep the Fuel Tank Full — This will help reduce the formation of ice and condensation in the tank.  It’s also helpful to always have over half a tank in case you slide off the road and need to run the car to keep warm.  If you have a diesel vehicle, make sure you’re running #2 Diesel fuel, as it contains additives to prevent the fuel from gelling in cold weather.
  • Windshield Wipers – Wipers take a beating any time you use them with snow or ice.  Make sure they’re in top shape before it’s too late!  If you’re not sure if you need to replace them, purchase a spare set and carry them with you!
  • Ice Scraper – This one is common sense, but it seems like most of the people that I know personally forget to put one in the car until after the first ice.
  • Heater & Defroster Operation – Both of these are critical to winter driving.  Make sure the defroster is working properly to keep you safe by keeping your windshield clear.  The heater blows out of the floor for a reason — it keeps your feet warm and heat rises.  Check for proper operation of both.
  • Your Battery — If you have an average battery and it’s five or more years old, consider replacing it.  Most auto parts stores will check the battery fluid level and test it under a load for free.  The expansion and contraction of the internal components of the battery, slower moving engine parts due to thick, cold oil, and potential for low batteries to freeze in the harsh winter weather is one of the number one reasons for winter break downs.
  • Check Belts & Hoses – It’s one thing to be broken down on the side of the road during the spring or fall, but check those belts and hoses before winter time!  If you break down for a broken belt or dry rotted hose in the winter, remember; you can’t run the car engine to keep you warm.  Now is the time to check the condition!
  • Check Coolant – Check to see how well your coolant is protecting you.  Any automobile service department or oil change facility can do this.  You can also purchase your own antifreeze tester for only a few dollars.  If the temp is out of spec, or corrosion is present in the system, its time to flush your coolant system and replace the coolant.
  • Check Spare Tire — Make sure it is in good condition and properly inflated.
  • Change Oil & Other Fluids – Basic vehicle maintenance is always important, but changing to a good, quality, synthetic oil before the winter months also reduces the wear on moving parts.  You can run a quality 0W-20 or 0W-30 synthetic in many vehicles during the winter to increase cold weather lubrication and help easy starting the motor.  We use AMSOIL in our vehicles.
  • Check tires – If you have old, dry rotted tires, consider replacing them.  Having to change a tire in a snowbank isn’t fun.  Rough, icy, and sanded roads are especially hard on car tires during the winter months.  If you will be driving on roads that are unmaintained, make sure you’re running the right type of snow and/or ice tires and that they have good tread.  Also check the operation of your AWD or 4WD, and condition of tire chains if you own them.
  • Remove Stored Water on Cold Nights – Many people store water in their vehicles in case of an emergency.  Any time the vehicle will be turned off for more than an hour or two in sub-freezing temperatures, you should remove the water so it doesn’t freeze.  Don’t forget to put the water back in the vehicle when you drive it again!
  • Flashlight – It’s always important to carry a light, but when the weather is harsh, if you need to check something on the vehicle, under the hood, or signal somebody, time is critical due to exposure, and other vehicles driving by on slippery roads.  Make sure you keep a flashlight with fresh batteries in your car.
  • Winter Weather Emergency Kit — Some ideas include a good LED flashlight, spare batteries, a cell phone charger, tow rope, jumper cables, some sand, a small shovel, warm blankets, gloves, some road flares, and some spare wool socks & waterproof winter boots.

Here’s a photo I took during the 2009 ice storm in Northwest Arkansas.  It’s just another reminder why you need to have your car ready!!

Later this week, I will be posting a blog about preparing your house for the winter months.  Please comment !!

 

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Frugal vs. Cheap

Frugal versus Cheap.  What’s the difference?

People sometimes ask me how I view certain things as being “Frugal”.  A recent example is the product review I wrote about my $36 “Rebel” LED flashlight that I carry  with me.  I have had quite a few people ask me why I posted this flashlight on a “Frugal” website, when it was $36.  Some argue that you can purchase an LED flashlight for five bucks.

This leads me to the topic of the day:  Frugal versus Cheap

To me, this is a very simple comparison.  Here is how I view cheap, and frugal:

Cheap:  A cheap buy is something that is low cost, all around.  More times than not, the cheapest price item conincides with cheap quality.  I stay away from most cheap products, because they are simply a waste of money.

Frugal:  A frugal buy is something that you pay a fair price for, and in return, you receive a good quality product.  Buying the best product available typically is not a frugal choice unless it’s on clearance.  Think of frugal as getting the most for a fair price.

I’ll use the flashlight example to illustrate a comparison.  I can go to Harbor Freight, or any number of department or discount stores and pick up an LED flashlight for less than five dollars.  These lights sure do light up, and they generally last a while on a set of batteries.  The downside is almost always lack of durability, reliability, and lens quality.

A flashlight is an important tool, where quality should be considered.  When shopping for a light, I’m going to look for a good deal on a light that will do a GOOD job.  The discount LED lights are not very durable.  There are a lot of cheap pieces and parts that can break and fall off — especially when changing the batteries or adjusting the lens.  Most even allow moisture inside, even in only a light rain.

The Smith & Wesson “Rebel” light that I reviewed is rugged, well-built, and keeps water out.

The discount light is good for lighting up an area up to about 20 feet from me, and it will be marginal brightness at best.  Often, I’m using a flashlight to find something, to perform an important task, or to chase down an escaped animal.  The Smith & Wesson flashlight, running on only two AA batteries, and has a MUCH brighter bream than the cheap competition.  The beam is on par with some of the medium sized MAG lights, but in a much smaller package.  There is really no comparison!

Many of the quality tactical two-”AA” cell lights are $100+, with several ranging upwards of $150.  The Smith & Wesson Rebel comes in at $36 with very similar quality and features to the $150 lights.  Clearly, the S&W Rebel is a Frugal Buy that I can expect to last for years to come!

Hopefully this will help clear up the difference between cheap and frugal.  They are not the same thing, and honestly have little in common.  If you have any comments, or other good examples, please share!

Have a great Thanksgiving!

Patriot_RAM

 

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Working Out on a Frugal Budget, and Staying Motivated!

If you’re anything like me, you come up with all kinds of reasons to argue with yourself about why you shouldn’t exercise, even when you know that you need to.  The most common reasons people don’t exercise are the cost of a gym membership, not having the time, no place for the kids to go, it’s a lot of hard work, and finally, the difficulty of learning to cook healthy meals.  After all, if you exercise, it doesn’t do a lot of good if you have a heart attack!

Here are some EASY ways to combat some of the most common obstacles!!

Cost of a gym membership
This one is a no-brainer.  If you’re living on a frugal budget, money matters.  The cost of a membership, especially when you’re starting out, can simply be avoided.  If you’re out of shape like I am, it’s best to start out slow in the first place, so you don’t overdo it.  There are MANY simple exercises that you can do at home.  I’ll go into more detail on this later in the blog!

No time?
Not having time to exercise or work out is no excuse.  Chances are, you’ll live a happier, longer life if you’re in shape in the first place.  Considering this, you don’t have time to NOT work out!  You’ll be amazed with the gains you can make with just a few minutes each day.

Child Care
Many gyms offer free child care as a membership benefit.  But, the more frugal option is to simply start at home!  My kids love to exercise with me.  They run together, race each other, do jumping jacks, sit-ups, push-ups, and so on.  They have a lot of fun with it!  Nothing like a little friendly competition while teaching your kids healthy habits!

Eating Healthier!
Often, when somebody decides to start living a healthier life, they go to the store and in lieu of the pre-packaged meals, they buy a bunch of fresh fruits, veggies and meats.  Sounds great!  But there’s a glaring problem with this in many cases.  When they get home, they don’t have a clue what to do with it!!  They end up spending way too much time looking up recipes and trying to learn how to cook healthier meals, and quickly get discouraged (as they eat their cheese covered, butter slathered broccoli!  Before they know it they realize they bought way too many fresh things at once that will undoubtedly go bad before they can use them.  This is a VERY easy way to get discouraged.

Just like the exercise, the solution is simple — Start small!  I recommend planning two or three healthy meals per week until you get comfortable with shopping for and preparing healthy meals from scratch. Plan them ahead, and make sure you have all of the ingredients on-hand. This will help you ease into a more comfortable pattern as you learn to make this awesome change.

Exercise is a lot of work!
If you’re out of shape, there’s no question that it’s a lot more challenging to start an exercise program.  Everything you do takes more work.  If you try to hit the ground running (no pun intended here…), you’ll end up so sore you don’t want to see the word “exercise” ever again!  The key is in setting the right goals.  You don’t want your first goal to see strength gains and weight losses.  You want your first goal to be something simple, like being able to do 5 pushups and 5 sit-ups!  For some of you, your first goal may be to work your way up to a single pushup – starting on your knees if you must.

By setting goals like this, you will start to attain them, and will feel good about your success!  Once you reach your first goal, maintain that same goal for a few days, and then set the next reasonable goal.  The sense of accomplishment will keep you motivated!
I have to reiterate:  S t a r t  S m a l l — I cannot stress that enough.  If you haven’t run in the past 15 years, don’t start today.  Walk first.  After you’re comfortable walking some distance, start mixing in a little power walking, or even some jogging.  Over time, these will become easier for you as you get into shape.  When they do, that is the time to go for a jog, or a run!

Here are some simple, free, home exercise ideas to start with:

Tailor these to fit your needs, and change them as you progress.  Keep in mind that you can do a LOT of exercise simply using your own body weight.  Those methods, although slightly more rigorous, are how most gymnasts train!

 Walk – Walking gets your metabolism up.  That’s the first step to feeling better, burning a few calories, and building endurance.  As you progress, you can add power walking, jogging, or running!

 Walk up and down the stairs – This builds on taking a walk.  Walking  up and down stairs works more muscle groups in your legs and lower back.  It also gets your metabolism up even higher.  As you progress, and if you feel adventurous, you can run up and down the stairs!

 Crunches or Sit-ups – Everybody knows what these are, but there are MANY people who don’t do them correctly!  Always make sure your hands are behind your head, and your knees up!!  Anything else falls short!  That being said, as you’re working your way into a workout routine, if you have trouble getting off the ground, you can certainly place your arms and hands alongside you until you are able to use the correct form!  Crunches and Sit-ups are a great workout for your core.

• Push-ups – Push-ups are one of the simplest, and best exercises for strengthening your arms and shoulders.  SO many people leave these out because they are difficult if you aren’t in shape.  Again, I stress – Start SLOW!  If you can’t do any pushups, don’t give up!!  Do a few on your knees.  Start there and work your way up to one pushup a day!  Do that for a week, and then work your way on to two, three, and so on!  Eventually, if you stick with the program, you will be amazed how easy these become.

• Triceps Dip – This is another GREAT workout for your arms and upper body.  This one is more difficult as a starter, but you’ll get there!  For a triceps dip, you simply support your upper body using your hands, behind you – on the front edge of a chair.  You assume the “sitting” position, but not in the chair, you will be in front of it, supporting yourself using your hands.  Slowly lower yourself toward the floor using only your arms – Then raise yourself back up, again using only your arms.  Repeat until you reach your goal!

• Jump Rope – This one can be challenging for even the fittest people!  I’m just simply not coordinated enough.  But – If you jumped rope as a kid, it should come back pretty quickly, whether you’re in shape or not!  This is another GREAT exercise to get your metabolism up in the morning!  This one is a lot of fun as the kids laugh at the amount of effort you put into trying to do this!

• Wall Squats – This one is another wonderful exercise to help strengthen your legs.  This is best to do in a carpeted area so you don’t slip.  Assume a sitting position with your back against a wall and hold it for a period of time (your goal).  You can perform several reps as it starts to get easier.  Use your legs to support you.  To be most effective, you need to make sure you lower yourself far enough that you’re in the same position as if you were sitting in a chair.  Again, if you can’t pull this one off, don’t lower yourself as far until you are able to!

• Wide Leg Squats – You’ve seen guys from the local football team doing squats in a gym, and are probably left with the feeling that you will NEVER do one of those!  Wide Leg Squats work most of the same muscle groups, but only use your own body weight.  Stand with your legs spread apart so your feet are farther apart than the width of your shoulders.  Slowly squat as low as you can, and slowly raise back up.  Keep your feet apart and do these slow for the most effective workout.  If you need help on this one, start with your feet closer together and work your way out an inch or two each week!  Once you’re proficient, carry something heavy while you do this exercise.

• Shoulder Raises – Ideally, you would perform this with a weight in each hand, but substitute whatever you have handy.  Stand straight up, arms by your side, with a weighted object in each hand.  Slowly raise your arms until they are straight out in front of you, parallel to the ground.  Slowly lower them back down to your side.  Repeat!!  Make sure you don’t bend your elbows!  If you need to, you can start this exercise without the addition of weights.

I hope that this blog helps encourage you by showing you how simply you can start a workout routine, even if it’s small.  Anything is better than nothing!!  Almost everybody gets stuck on wanting to see results yesterday.  Remember – increasing what you are able to do is the most important result to start with.

As we all get older, and trust me, we all do, everything you do will slowly get more difficult.  Having extra weight to haul around amplifies the difficulty and will catch up with you before you realize it.  Using these simple ideas, you can meet your goals by spending only a few minutes each day, at your own leisure, building endurance, strength, and eventually dropping the fat, all while feeling great about it!  And the best part – It doesn’t cost a time!  This is ideal for working out on a small budget!

If you like this blog, please post a comment!

 

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