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The photo is my son and myself. Now days you can get a photo made to look old like this one. This photo was taken when this was the new look.

Harry S Truman was president when I was born and world war II had ended. I grew up in a time when lunch was put in a brown paper bag and a sandwich was wrapped with wax paper. There was no such thing as pantyhose, we wore stockings that attached to the rubbery clippy things that attached to the girdle. Convenience stores were not common and when we took a trip we packed a picnic basket because many places did not have fast food. Highways had places to pull over and stop, some with picnic tables. Read more ....

Living Like The Past With The Help Of The Present

November 6, 2013



In the United States most people are connected to electricity and running water. Not all but most and many areas actually have laws that make it mandatory that we are attached to the grid. I have another article called Before Electricity that discusses our generations before us but this article is for those of us that must be attached to the grid. Once attached it is up to us how much we use. To use minimal electricity and water requires quite a bit of effort and a plan on how to control the flow.

We all need food, water, shelter and a place for a toilet of some type. We need a place to lay down and rest our bodies, we need a way to cook and or prepare our food. We must be reasonable responsible for ourselves and our family. There are those that want to throw in the towel and just set off on foot and sleep in the woods and wander the country but even they still need food, water, occasional shelter and use some type of toilet.
We have learned that it feels good to conserve and it really makes you happy when you see your utility bills decrease.

Canning food requires a bit of work and I still can some of our food because we enjoy the taste of some of those special jams, relishes, pickles and vegetables that we remember eating when we were children. This is a water bath canner and then there is a pressure canner that we must use to preserve vegetables, meats and other foods. Why am I discussing canning food? I choose to use the grid to help me get the tough jobs done. Blanching and freezing is another way to preserve your food and is much easier but it requires the use of electricity to power a freezer. If you have an extended power outage you could lose everything you put away.

In the past people helped each other and today many of us find ourselves more isolated and without the tools that were used by our past generations. It takes strength and determination to be frugal in this day and time and if you find yourself with little time or little strength then do not feel bad if you need to use the support of more modern appliances. Just remember that the more support you use the more it will cost.

Water is very heavy to carry and our generations before us hauled a lot of water. When you have to tote it for a distance you get pretty good at conserving and not wasting that water. One of my family member made a slide to make it easier to get large containers of water into the house.

When I was young it was common to see my grandmother washing dishes in a dish pan then tossing that water over some potted plants or garden plants. Our generations did not waste as we do now. Leftover bread was made into bread pudding and food scraps were fed to the dogs and chickens. Today many of us do not have chickens and pets do not eat table scraps but we can still compost most of our scraps. Meat and oils should not be composted but the answer to that is to cook only what you will eat.

Toilets were not as we know them now because people used outhouses, chamber pots and other ways that required no water. People simply used less water.
Flushing toilets with pure drinking water is something that I have a problem with and much interest in composting toilets or at the least flushing with re-purposed water.

This is a wash tub with legs that I put in my bathtub to hand wash clothes. There is a drain in the bottom and I place a bucket under to catch the water for flushing toilets.
When we are attached to the grid there is a charge even if we do not use the power and water. In our area we are charged for a minimum of 2,000 gallons of water per month so we might as well use that 2,000 gallons since we are going to pay for it anyway. Even being conservative it is difficult to stay under 2,000 gallons. It sounds like a lot of water but if we are living in a typical house, flushing toilets, taking showers, washing clothes, washing dishes, water for cooking and drinking, bathing our pets,water for garden plants and water for cleaning, We normally use more than this minimum usage. To keep it under the 2,000 we need to use no more than 63 gallons per day for 31 days. Now comes in the fact that they read our meter at different times. Sometimes it will be for 20 something days and sometimes it will be over 31 days. You have to either physically see them reading out your meter or call and find out when they are going to read it. Again, being frugal takes a good bit of effort.

We are charged a sewer fee so what we use coming in we also pay going out. Saving that rinse water to flush toilets just makes $ense. To flush the toilet you are charged with the water to flush and for the water to go out the sewer and if you save the rinse water from your laundry and use it to flush the toilet then there is no charge to flush the toilet. Then there is the composting toilet to consider but that is another article.

Our electric has a service charge then fees per kilowatts. This is where it matters if you use that washer and dryer, lights, cooling, heating, stove, hair dryers, lights, fans, computers, televisions and all the extras.

This is my empty dryer and I like to see it empty.
As I get older I rely more on the air conditioning because it seems much hotter now in the summer than ever before. In the winter I normally wear sweaters around the house and keep the heat down low. I use my washer to wash the heavy items but to compensate for the use of the air conditioner I try to not use my clothes dryer and I can hand wash most of the clothes. It is a matter of choice to pay for the use of things such as turning on the television. At least use it minimally. I can let my hair dry naturally, I can turn the lights off or not let the water run.

Right now I am typing this article so I am using my computer. I washed some clothes this morning and due to the high humidity I have them hanging on an inside line. I have a small fan running and pointed towards the hanging clothes to help them to dry. I enjoy seeing them blowing in the breeze and the fan does not cost very much to run.

In this day and time most people turn appliances on and off giving it no thought how much that is going to cost. Many feel this is just the way it is done and I feel that our generations before us would be very unhappy to see how much we consume.


I have a small pole in my kitchen that I use to hang cleaning cloths and kitchen dish cloths.

We installed two window air conditioning units in our house even though we have central cooling. When we have company we can turn on the central or at night to cool the whole house down. Or we can use just the bedroom unit to cool our bedroom at night. During the day I have been using the unit in the kitchen and keeping only one side of the house cool because that is where I spend most of my indoor time during the day. There are many ways to use less.

When electricity is running all through the house and it is only a matter of flipping a switch to use something it becomes very convenient but with a cost. When water is right there at the sink, tub, shower, toilet, and washing machine it is very convenient but many times very wasteful. A lot of good quality drinking water is used to flush the toilets, and we waste so much water by simply letting it run down the drain while waiting for hot water. We can measure our use by reading our outside meters but that is after the use.
To conserve the most on water the best thing to do is collect the water in a container and use it from that container. On one of my frugal pages I show what we use to take a bucket bath. We would not waste nearly as much if we use it from a measured container.

This picture is showing you how you can take a gallon jug to use to measure water. If you want to put 2 gallons in this 5 gallon pail just fill this jug twice and pour into the pail. Then mark the pail with a scratch or marker so next time you can just turn on the faucet and fill to the 2 gallon mark.

We went an entire year without a hot water heater and not because it was broken but because we turned it off. We heated our water in a kettle for washing dishes and bathing.
We also only used a tiny refrigerator during that year. It is a small dorm type. When our year ended and we went back to electric hot water heater and larger refrigerator I felt sad. We had actually gotten use to our bucket baths and little fridge. We have thought about turning it off again and if we should need to we know we will do just fine without it.


Another way to capture grey water. If you are hand washing in the sink, let the soapy water drain out then squeeze out the items and put them in a bucket to rinse. Remove them from the rinse water and you can use the leftover water to flush the toilet. I normally let the soapy water go down the drain because I would have too much grey water if I saved all of it. Grey water should be used within 24 hours or it can become stagnant.

As far as electricity, it is a matter of breaking bad habits. As I said before, it is very difficult to not use something that is available to us. Not having it at all we have no choice but to have it and not use it is willpower. I do use my clothes dryer at times but to save on drying time I do a wash before bedtime and hang the clothes on a line in my dining room to dry overnight. Sometimes they are completely dry by morning and if it is damp outside I will put them in the dryer to finish drying and it normally only takes about 10 minutes. A real savings on drying and it helps to re-shape the clothes.

When I iron I make sure to turn it off as soon as I am finished because an iron will pull a lot of electricity.

Sheets will dry on an inside line and you might be surprised how quickly they dry if you turn on a small fan and point it towards them.

There are many ways to dry clothes.

We have a lot of trees in our backyard so this is not the greatest place to hang clothes. But being a little creative will help you figure out a place to hang them. This is also helpful if you get an unexpected rain.

Our best place is right out on our back porch. The reason I am showing you so many ways to dry clothes is because it really does cost a lot to run a clothes dryer.

Learning to live using less power and water is a good thing to help during times the power is out. At our house we can continue to do most everything because we practice what to do without power.
If it were very hot I would probably have to sit with my feet in a pan of water to stay cool.
The next four pictures I took to show you the difference in using an oil lamp and an electric light. Here the electric light.

Here the oil lamp. The camera has not moved.

Here the oil lamp.

Here the electric light. Again the camera has not moved.

Just a tip. Keep matches in something dry and with a lid or a plastic bag because over time matches can get where they will not strike if not stored in very dry conditions.

Many times I just go back to my old ways and roll my hair and let it air dry.

Depending on the size of your family or your needs and especially if you are a caregiver then a washing machine is very useful. This is the older type and it is my understanding the new ones use less water but they look too complicated for me. I stick with hand washing light things and using the washer for heavy items.

I really like this feature on our window air conditioner.It will come on and sensor the air and if it needs cooling then it will run for awhile then turn off when the temperature reaches the desired setting. It will come back on when the temperature changes. If you notice it has settings so we can set it to come on at a certain time and turn off at a certain time. Anything to keep the electric bill down is a good thing.

There are many ways to keep your utility bill down and it is all a matter of how much you use and how much you are willing to do without.

Many household electric gadgets and electronics come with little lights and features that continue to pull electricity when it is turned off. If you put these items on a power strip you can turn off the strip and then it will really be off.

Once we are accustom to running many things all day long and then we suddenly stop using most everything we may have a feeling of being deprived or a sense of loss. It might be best to take baby steps unless you have just gotten a very large electric bill and you are in utility bill shock!

Using the oven in the summer will add extra heat to your house so planning lighter meals such as salads and pasta dishes would be helpful. I make our bread so using the oven very early in the morning is better than the middle of the day.

It is good to not be totally dependent on the grid, there are situations that can cause great discomfort if we have not ever practiced living without it or at least using it minimally.

I hope this has helped to give you some ideas on how to keep your electric and water bill down to a minimum. We are always trying and sometimes we don't do as good as other times but when the bill comes in that is a reminder to do better.

Take care, Grandma Donna
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