Living Frugally, with Purpose and Style:
The New Conserver

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Living Frugally, with Purpose and Style: The New Conserver


Living Frugally, with Purpose and Style: the New Conserver

conserver book outline
Chapter 1:
Who is the New Conserver?

Chapter 2:
Finding your Inner Home Economist

Chapter 3:
What is ‘Exponential Growth’ and why bother mentioning it?

Chapter 4:
Managing Household Costs

Chapter 5:
The New Conserver in the Kitchen

Chapter 6:
Consumption and the New Conserver

Chapter 7:
Calculating Your Actual Rate of Pay

Chapter 8:
Key Principles Related to Generating Household Revenue

Chapter 9:
Democracy, Conservationism, and the Potential for Quiet Revolution

commentary by topic
Life in general
Ad busters
Home economy
Corporate feudalism

favorite website links
New York Times
Green Tomato Cake Recipe on
Leave Google Behind
Lisa's Kitchen - Healthy Vegetarian Recipes and Cooking Hints
Michigan Camping
Paula Burch's All About Hand Dyeing
WHFoods: The World's Healthiest Foods


From the book The New Conserver

Power to the Pedestrian - Stepping into 2015

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Presently I live in Chicago. If I had to chose again, would I chose here? Honestly, I am not sure – mostly due to the (in my opinion) very questionable viability of other, more appealing regions. So yes, I’d much rather be living in Denver or San Francisco, but I really love water and there is tons of it here. My answer would probably be ‘no way’ at this point because overall I like it here pretty good and I don’t want to move.

Water is my gasoline – my guilty pleasure. I try to savor my long baths now, just in case – you know – they might go away in a decade or two as water becomes increasingly scarce and subject to export demand between US regions, or even globally.

But perhaps I planned a little too far ahead and that is why I’d switch to Denver most probably if I got a redo – and because maybe there would be no great place left in the US anyway if climate changed happened super fast, but at least I’d have some shot of getting up into Northern Canada by bike from my current location…

Anyhow… back to my real reason for writing. My hugest pet peeve about Chicago is that it tends to harbor many car obsessed peoples. For instance, you could own a street illegal 9000 pound truck and the peoples will cry – ‘freedom to the truck owner! screw the light sleepers’ – on public radio no less – which really happened! And yes it was during the time I was one of lucky ones who gets to live next to such a truck owner and there was a definite correlation between getting artificially shook awake and my overall productivity and need for napping. (Go to bed earlier you say? Sure – great idea except my other neighbors’ barking dog is usually still out around 9 pm barking until about 10 pm and he is a cop, so there you go – that is the 7 hour window of sleep I’m allowed as a dumb b(**(&(* yuppie).

Luckily, one day the truck owner finally figured out – ‘wow, it is loud!’ and kindly changed up his habits. After getting my neighbor to agree to stop using such a big truck, or if absolutely needed, more subtly than letting it warm for 20-30 minutes about 25 feet from my bed at 5 am, my need to nap vanished! I lived with this for four years. And I was the one thought to be in the wrong generally speaking around the hood – you know – like a mean yuppie who thought the truck was visual low classness and that was my problem – seriously, I am not making this stuff up!

The streets have become more congested and public transit ridership has been mostly stagnate as a percentage of commuters, last I heard anyway… There was the addition of a CTA train and line and station improvements, but the system is still largely the same as a couple decades back. Still no outer loop train! Hard to understand why this is even possible in 2015 –

There is no time that the car bias is clearer than when it snows. Coming off this blizzard on day two, no one ‘official’ has thought to clear the city sidewalks in public areas around transit in this neighborhood – and won’t bother. We will be tripping back and forth through a great deal of deep snow for a good long while if historical track record means anything – which is why I decided to shovel a single foot path on a city block myself – it’s my way to the train afterall – and if I want to come home at 10 pm at night I sure don’t want to walk on a four-lane road. And I don’t want to feel trapped here either. So it was worth the small amount of my time it took to shovel. The thanks received were so lovely as well – a great bonus.

However, I did not enjoy getting yelled at by a city worker who told me what I was doing was pointless – ha! Bet he never had to trip through that block 10 pm at night through 1.5 feet of snow with groceries in each hand. Or at 9 am, or at 2 pm – or whenever. A block where there are gunshots sounding off not infrequently – and one would also like to be able to take off at a good run if necessary -lol

When I got back to my place, I simply broke down and had a good cry. I live in a major city in a neighborhood with a walkability index of 40 or so without a car. My neighbors think that I am crazy for doing so. Yet – I feel I am the one surrounded by a lot of walking zombies who are living in a happy, lazy haze of climate denial (from all the carbon monoxide poisoning they incur in their autos) and who seem to be completely unwilling to change habits.

Yet, the city absolutely fails to support good habits.

Yet, at the end of the day there are no excuses and no one to blame. We will all be in the same boat.

Speaking of boats, a couple years back is when I think we already hit the sort of mythical tipping point. We are sort of like the Titanic – surely headed for disaster, yet so very difficult to navigate away from the impending disaster.

The world of my youth is already gone. The peacefulness of nature. The joy of the open road. Gone. Now it’s just mostly congestion in lots of places. We can still save something of it – but how can I feel any hope when people just continue on as if it’s business as usual? But maybe we can still fix what we are breaking – I used the phrase ‘making sure people can walk so we can avoid environmental melt down’ today as one of my reasons for shoveling today with the city worker and thought I saw the appearance of what seemed like real fear in his eyes when I hit the phrase ‘environmental melt down.’ It sure is hard to keep living in denial with all the issues cropping up around again and again. But basically I have to go back there again today – to the place of denial – so I can complete my own work day ‘as usual.’

The Addiction Economy

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After five years on one smart phone that was increasingly malfunctioning, I basically had no choice but to seek a replacement unit. I am old enough to remember using rotary phones – those retrospectively rather beautiful units that actually functioned, more or less, unless the lines were down – and worked for years at times without need of replacement.

My phone cord for my smart phone was in shreds. The unit turns on and off by itself quite a bit.

However, my new phone is clearly a piece of crap meant to go obsolete sometime next year. Because I am a bit of a klutz, bought the phone cover. I see the quality of the phone cover decreased quite a bit. The tacky feeling is gone – now it’s smooth and seems like it will fall from my hand a lot easier. The new cord is only four feet, so I basically cannot use a low wall outlet and a normal height table because the cord is too short. It feels more like tinfoil and I can see it’s not meant to last more than a year or two – given the quality is about 50% of the old one. Basically, it’s not meant to travel. You can’t coil it without damaging it, since the inner material bends on itself easily. The plastic casing is easily damaged.

Worst of all, the phone is getting super hot now as I charge it. That is what my old phone did on its bad days and what seemed to lead to it’s demise. It would get hot and go haywire.

Also, why would I be so stupid as to fry my brain by having what feels like an 80 degree unit at my ear for any length of time? (It is definitely hot to the touch.)

Given my network quality and phone quality were so poor, I had already diverted back to a land line. Thank goodness for that. But I need these devices for my work.

When I was there, I was pushed the $700 model, of course. Maybe the benefit is a real cord, functional case models, and avoiding cell phone brain fry as the unit would not overheat for at least another year or two since they give you another year or two’s worth of phone for the price? I mean the corporate planners would be deciding this – as they make products with a planned obsolesce timeline. That is why it does not matter much if I tell you which phone or company I am even talking about. This is just acceptable business practice and the we vote ‘yes’ it is ‘okay’ because we keep participating when we buy crappy products and expect to buy new crappy products and even possibly look forward to it.

Mostly I am appallingly amazed that we buy this crap and accept that it is disposable. The cost is rather incredible also. And we happily jump on board with paying some corporate $25-30 a month for some device and happily do it (and then more for the service fees). As wages fall, what we do make is committed to ridiculous month-to-month technology service contracts. And these Wetiko corporations will happily drain our pockets as we daze off into our tiny youtube screen and dream our lives away while we gorge on addictive crappy unnecessary junk foods and tell ourselves we ‘deserve’ it and that somehow we also enjoy it.

Invitation to Join My Network

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Is it just me, or are the requirements and marketing demands getting stranger by the minute? I love to complain about Social Media and here I go again…

Case in point. Have to call the Obama quest for office the ‘cult of personality’ – in that, that is what carried him through to office. Meanwhile, Clinton was perceived as some kinda old dinosaur cause her use of social media was not outstanding.

Well, hate to say I was right, cause I really, really hoped I was wrong. But clearly there was no correlation between efficacy at social media and efficacy at presidency. It’s been a painful eight years or so to watch this slow mo disaster in the making. I hope we can collectively learn from this major blunder in trusting that social media savvy meant policy savvy, cause I sure do not see it. Clinton, on the other hand, rocks at policy – that to me is top notch, in terms of what we need moving forward.

Another real life case in point, in my local neighborhood – there is this restaurant where the food is pretty bland and oddly prepared at times. Yet, read Yelp! and you’d think you were in for a gourmet experience (even though it’s a burger joint with super expensive drinks (which happens to have a somewhat captive customer base, based on location)). Examples – they actually nuked regular cheese on my fries and called it cheese fries. Barely edible – in fact I left most of it behind. The grilled cheese went from like 6 tablespoons of butter to zero. That’s right – the bread is 100% dry. But something like 500 people give them top ratings. Weird…. So knowing this, I’ll be sticking to the Zagat.

This rant originates from my need to add about 100 acquaintances to my professional network profile to ensure my numbers look competitive. More like 350 if I am really honest with myself. I’d rather be working on a website, designing, coding, working on marketing issues for my clients, etc. As a small business of my type, I will likely have about 5 -17 clients at most, but in order to obtain new clients, I have to look like a mover and shaker and schmoozer – like I have 350 clients, while if I actually did, my business would be very different – much more focused on quantity, not quality. Somehow that ensures I’ll be great at strategy, design, marketing and coding, which are largely more introverted – not extroverted – pursuits. Go figure…

The Usefulness of Tiny Baking Pans

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A year or so back, I was the lucky recipient of a gift card. It’s not exactly easy to get to the particular physical location so I was keen to just use the value up.

Ended up with like eight of these small bread pans, thinking when I got home, hmmm, maybe that was silly.

It turns out that these little pans have been incredibly useful. I’ve taken to using them for storing single-serve frozen meals that I can easily stick in the freezer.

In this case, I do first take a layer of Saran Wrap to cover the food in order to help prevent freezer burn, followed by a top layer of tin foil. Not sure how long this keeps the food; generally I try not to leave these in the freezer too long, especially dishes with cheese, but so far I’ve been pretty pleased with the results all around. I used to store things in jars or tupperware, and then I’d end up throwing things out since I’d have to wait through a bit of defrosting time, then inevitably I seem to get distracted between taking the food out and actually heating it up. This just works a lot better for me – I think of it, I take it out, I put it in the oven – skipping the step of having to maneuver the frozen food from jar to pot.

Mops and Mopping

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I’ve definitely developed a pet peeve against mops over the years. I think I used to use one myself, but realize it just seems a lot more effective to run a towel or yes, paper towels (especially if I am in a hurry) over the floor on my hands and knees.

Once upon a time, I lived with a person who insisted on using a mop and tons of pinesol and inevitably, I would feel the need to reclean the floor, or at least the smelliest areas, by hand after he finished, on the sly.

So I thought it was excellent to learn via a news story one day on NPR that the mopping industry itself knows that mops don’t work – hence the birth of the Swiffer – or whatever that product is called where you put disposable sheets on a pole.

My recommendation is to find some old thin towels, and cut these into about one foot square pieces. Then use this collection of towel rags to clean your floor since they can be tossed in a machine for washing pretty easily afterward.

What is Wrong with the American Economy?

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This morning I came across a posted entitled, “Does it seem like you spend the majority of your time (or money!) on content creation?”

Reminded me again of a little pet peeve I have these days with the general state of marketing – suddenly, each of us is now responsible for keeping up on this site, the other site, tweets, Facebook, blog posts, etc., etc.

What kills me more is that rarely are my small business clients willing to pay me to do these things. In fact, the most successful professional I know of in SM does training, rather than agency type work. These services start to look cost prohibitive due to their ongoing nature.

And when it comes to intimate little posts about your business, can you really outsource this stuff? Maybe quality doesn’t matter anyway – if you are sitting around writing all day, do you think I’ll be nitting over your grammar on your old tweets? More likely I’ll be too busy looking for my 1000 new twitter friends to actually read 1000 sets of posts…

But back to my actual point, which I haven’t even brought up yet. Is this SM mentality doing anything for the economy? Does the gain from the stealth few offset the costs of having many creative productive people now spending some portion of their day digging around for anything to write, with much of the output simply being regurgitation of news stories?

Does this not create yet another barrier to the successful of ALL small businesses, if this is perceived as compulsory? Because if you are actually focusing on the full range of media, it is time consuming. Let’s say you spend two hours a day, week days only, on average futzing around on Facebook, about 480 hours per year, or 12 work weeks, or 3 productive months of your year. That is one big chunk of time!

So this leaves me inclined to believe we are all collectively wasting our time in a big way. Yes, there are exceptions, but overall – Facebook in and of itself is a huge drag on the economy. And more weirdly, we create all this content and who is going to benefit most? Big business. Facebook. Google. Because they are in control of this data once you put it in their hands. And they care about their business, not yours. And have you noticed how many businesses Google is in these days? Many, many folks. Google is now going into the phase of morphing itself into a giant ‘walled garden.’ They no longer even share key phrase search data with other entities. Surficially this is good for the individually user’s privacy. That is – if you had any to start with, which you don’t. What this is best for is Google and their new information monopoly which is carrying them across numerous online products.

Sort of like network TV. There is the megalomania notion of being everything to the user. So I think we are definitely now in the dark ages of Google. You might as well use Bing. Microsoft and Google are now probably about just equally good, equally evil. And a recent user test showed Bing’s results were preferred 2 to 1.

These days I’ve had to start doing the following:

search term -facebook -twitter -blog

when I actually want to get some quality, in-depth, useful search results on Google. So I’ve just stopped using it for Bing, which does seem much better – hurray!

But anyway…

What about getting back to real notions of value creation? Making and providing a service of value? And what does proficiency at such things have to do with proficiency at social media?

The Wonders of Crisco

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Recently came across a reference to Crisco while reading the book entitled The Help by Kathryn Stockett. My mama (okay, just mom – I grew up north) always kept it around, and I usually have a yellowing tub around that I occasionally use for baking.

Well, no more! I can see myself running through tubs of the stuff in the future. From the book, the character Minny lists the following uses:

- gets gum out of hair

- cure for diaper rash

- use for moisturizer

- softens tough foot skin

- add a wick and use as a candle

- as a grease for frying

That’s a pretty good list. I guess you can use it in any household lube type situation, like a squeaky hinge, stuck bits, etc.

I tried it as a moisturizer on my face. I’d say it is great as a cold cream. Went on a lot like one. It got all my make up off and I wiped it off with a dry cloth and it left my skin feeling great!

I did a little more research and came up with this recipe for ‘cream’ from the web:

1 part crisco
1 part petroleum jelly
scent if desired


I used a scented petroleum jelly (shea butter) and still added a little vanilla, which I love. I put it in a clear plastic tube with no sign of the Crisco label in sight (for aesthetics) and it works decently well.



Looking for more discussion on lifestyle simplification, plus tips on living frugally, without suffering?

The self-published book by Dolores Hark entitled, "Living Frugally with Purpose and Style: the New Conserver," is now available for download.

Dolores has a Master's Degree in Economics and in Sociology from a reknowned U.S. based university. She provides a serious look at how to better manage Household Economics.


  Living Frugally, with Purpose and Style: The New Conserver


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