May 04, 2011

Tightwad Gazette II - Day 17 - May 4th

It’s almost 11:00 p.m. and I’m tired from painting today so let’s just get right to the Tightwad Gazette II reading for today. All of this information comes from the Tightwad Gazette II written by Amy Dacyczyn. I have underlined my comments.


Amy talks about how you use up all that you have canned and frozen from your garden but make what you have last until next year’s harvest? You want to make it last, but you don’t want to have a surplus from last year still on the shelf as you are canning this year’s produce.

Home canned goods can last a couple of years on the shelf, but frozen vegetables tend to taste like the freezer after one year.

Usually gardeners will end up in the spring with 10 cans of 1 item and 2 of another so then the family eats a lot of one item while they are out of almost everything else. No one wants to eat corn 4 times a week.

Amy said that if she did use the garden produce evenly throughout the year, her food bill would fluctuate greatly. So she created her own system for keeping track of home processed foods. Since in her area of the country vegetables are harvested from June to October, she would schedule vegetables accordingly. She also wanted a system that would schedule canned and frozen food consumption together as opposed to a notebook by her freezer and another notebook in the canned goods area of her cellar.

The first thing Amy did was take inventory of everything in her freezer and on her canning shelves. Then she made up a timeline calendar. On the left side she would list vertically the items in her freezer and on her canning shelves. Examples are applesauce, green beans, black berries, pears, spinach and so on. Then across the top she would write vertically the Months. 

                                   April           May           June

Green Beans            X X X          X X            X X X

Noting the projected date of the harvest, she divided the number of items by the number of remaining months. For example if she had 20 packages of spinach to consume in four months, she would need to use up 5 packages in each of those four months. She marks these in X’s on the chart.

Months of light consumption should be used in the summer months when you will be eating fresh produce from the garden. If you have a small garden, you might want to use the winter months to use the bulk of your home processed foods as that is when those items are most expensive at the grocery store.

When Amy uses something she places a circle around the X.

Amy ends this article with “This garden schedule illustrates a larger point. If you lack control over any area of your life, be it time, money, or other resources – design a system to manage it. Order will save you stress as well as money.”

I love her system and I think I will integrate this into the one I already have. I don’t garden, but I have a stockpile of food that I am constantly keeping track of. For example, I am diligent about using up canned goods before their expiration dates. I review my list to see what needs to be used up each month so that there are no surprises.

After I am done with the graduation party and graduation this month, I am going to do some major decluttering in my house so that I can be more organized. I am looking forward to it.


“A dilemma that faces gardeners each year is whether to buy new seeds or take a chance on seeds left over from last year. Many gardeners, believing that seeds become much less viable each year, toss out all of the leftovers and buy a new batch just to be sure.”

According to “The Year Round Gardener” only onion seeds need to be purchased fresh each year. Here is the average storage limit of seeds:

One to Two years – corn, lettuce, parsley and parsnips

Three to Five years – asparagus, beans, cabbage, carrots, celery, chicory, endive, okra, peas, peppers, radishes and spinach.

Five or more years – beets, cucumbers and tomatoes

It is recommended that you store seeds in airtight containers in a refrigerator. If you don’t have the space in a refrigerator, store them in a cool, dry place.

If you aren’t sure about the seeds, you can do your own germination test a few weeks before planting. Sandwich ten seeds in a paper towel and keep it moist. If at least seven sprout, your seeds are as viable as new ones.


Amy believes that every family should have a basic budget plan, but that plan should be extremely simple and flexible. Filling out a lot of forms each day, week or month can be a little tedious.

1. Figure out your average monthly fixed expenses. Any bills that occurred annually were divided by 12 so that they could set aside the money each month.

2. Figure out your average monthly non-fixed expenses.

At this point they had accounted for every expense they could anticipate. If your monthly income fluctuates wildly, base it on last year’s income divided by 12, and put a huge amount into savings in case your income goes down next year.

After Amy and her husband had worked out their expenses and income, they figured that they had about $500 a month surplus or 20% of her husband’s income. If this amount would have been 10% or less, they would have done some refiguring of the nonfixed expenses so that they had at least a 20% monthly surplus.

It may be difficult to do, but in order to cut back and have more of a surplus, you need to cut back on those nonfixed expenses such as food, eating out, entertainment, gasoline, haircuts and more.

Amy and her husband wrote down everything they spent so that they could be sure to stay on track and not overspend. Amy sees a budget as a beginning point. Instead of looking at what you can spend, look at what you can reduce to save. She recommends lowering each budget area until you reach a point where it no longer feels comfortable, and then spend slightly more.

Amy and her husband kept a base sum of $1,000 in their checking account. Because they sought to spend as little as possible, the checking account grew. When the account reached $1,500, they would transfer $500 into savings. When their savings grew to $3,500 they would transfer $1,000 into an investment or pay off a debt.

One question that Amy was asked all the time was how they handled emergencies. She plans her budget to include any emergencies you can anticipate. If you drive an old car, plan on spending $1,000 or more with today’s prices, on repairs.

“By deliberately living beneath our means we have always, I repeat, always, had enough money in savings for unexpected expenses. And because we always worked to save more than we had budgeted, even with emergencies, we saved an average of 21 percent of our income for seven years.”

Amy ends the article by saying that this is the system that has worked for them but everyone is different when it comes to money. “For those with low incomes or little discipline, a more complicated and tedious system may be essential.”


Amy read a book about dumpster diving and did some research. She profiled one dumpster diver who dives for everything including his food. For food he chooses to look in dumpsters at grocery stores and bakeries. About 50% of the food he eats comes from dumpsters.

I remember watching a documentary about two months ago in which a woman gets all of her food from dumpsters. She lives in New York City and she takes people on dumpster tours to find food. When they went in one dumpster there were wrapped packages of produce, meat, cheese, bagels and more. I remember that she knew when the grocery stores or restaurants tossed things out so she could get to the dumpster shortly after. She was living the Freegan lifestyle.

The man that Amy profiled found a lot of things in dumpsters such as manila envelopes, clothing, clothes hangers, furnishings, boxes, houseplants, Christmas decorations, toiletry items, books, magazines and more.

Wear old clothes when you go dumpster diving, but do try to stay out of the dumpster all together. Use a broom handle or something similar to pick around the contents of the dumpster.

I have never dumpster dived, but I have driven by grocery stores late at night to see them throwing out loaves of bread and things. I never think about getting the items out of that dumpster, but I think about why they don’t donate those items to the food bank.

If anything, the contents of dumpsters or our garbage cans tell us how much we throw out. If we don’t have a use, out it goes. Instead we should try to give things away or donate them to someone who could use them. And as for food, we need to plan for those leftovers so we aren’t throwing out so much food.

For tomorrow, read pages 147 through 156.

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