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Thank you so much for this post, Grandma Donna! I tried to do some quick research on electricity rates and came up empty handed. But then at the end you has a suggestion for those who don't want to do the comparison math, and I think that I'm going to choose this option. I think this is a good method for people who are looking to have a depression era mindset. I already track every dollar in and every dollar out, both by categories and payees, and I do have our electricity and natural gas usage so I will be able to compare to 2022 and see the difference. Although in 2022 our oldest lived at university and was home on breaks for 16 weeks total and in 2023 he will graduate and move back home which will be 36 weeks living at home in 2023, so we will have increased food and utility usage. But I do think overall we will see our spending decrease dramatically with the near elimination of anything other than absolute necessities (as best I can manage since my family isn't actually joining in but will follow my guidance with the budget -- meaning I can't always say no but there is agreement to spend less).
Hi! You made me curious about my water usage compared to the 1000gallons the newspaper article mentioned. According to my last water bill, we used 3.5 units with each unit being 100 cubic feet (or 748 gallons)! ???????? Wow. That is a lot of water. I thought we were somewhat thrifty with water... I wonder what the average usage for my area is. The cost for water is pretty low so my bill didn’t make me think I was using that much.
As for figuring out how much electricity your appliances draw, you may be interested in investing in a “Kill A Watt” energy usage monitor, or an equivalent ( 30$ on Amazon). You plug it into your outlet and then plug the appliance into it and it displays how much energy is being used at any time- either at rest if you aren’t using it, or in use when you turn it on, or over a certain amount of time (just leave it plugged in for the time period you want to measure). I also found this chart of common appliance energy use (https://web.archive.org/web/20180326094629/http://www.siliconvalleypower.com/for-residents/save-energy/appliance-energy-use-chart ) as a starting point for rough calculations.
Last year I set a goal for kilowatt usage and beat it by so much that I was practically bragging about it to strangers. Then they raised the rates in Nov. We are now paying .14 per kilowatt. I am not planning to even look at the bill anymore. I will continue to find ways to cut usage, but if I think about the bill I just get mad. How do you get ahead if your hard work gets erased?
My initial goal is to track spending and buy only what we need, but I plan to update my goals monthly.
Stephanie G I am paying 29¢ per kWh in the first tier and 37¢ per kWh in the second tier, which we always go into since the baseline first tier is calculated assuming people aren't home during the day and aren't going to use air conditioning at all in an area where 33% days of the year see temperatures over 90°F and the average high temperature in August is 98°F. So like you, I tend to get mad when I see the bill, because we do everything we can to reduce usage and then the rates go up and we are paying more than ever.
Grandma Donna mentioned using 18 kWh per day before unplugging everything to lower it. We are averaging 18 kWh per day with four people at home (oldest is on break). Our home does have natural gas for the furnace and hot water heater, however, and is not pure electric. But my youngest is using electricity to heat her detached bedroom and I can see how much that adds in winter. We've done so much over the years to reduce usage: every lightbulb is LED except my string of twinkle lights in the dining room. The range is induction. All major appliances have the Energy Star rating. We have electronics plugged into power strips so we can turn off the phantom power draw. There really isn't much more we can do to reduce our usage, not in a way that doesn't cost more in a different area -- for example, it costs money to run the oven to bake bread, but it costs more money to buy bread.
So I did some quick searching and found that the average U.S. American uses 60 gallons/person/day https://www.watercalculator.org/footprint/indoor-water-use-at-home/and that Oregon residents use 113/person/day ( find your state herehttps://www.neefusa.org/weather-and-climate/weather/home-water-use-united-states ). Our 2 person household used (748gallons x 3.5)/ 30 days which is *only* 87.27/day or 46.64 gallons/person. So we are doing better than average but that still seems like a LOT of water. I would like to do better.
Stephanie G. , remember that your hard work wasn’t erased- think of how much you are saving compared to if you hadn’t made any changes!
My edits to my original post aren’t saving so I had to make a new post
Grandma Donna Wrote, Loxley B, I am sending a link to average water use in each state. The 1932 article from the local newspaper microfilms is where I got the information. Then I emailed the city water department questioning if they felt that could be correct and the answer came back yes.
It is very difficult for us to reach the mindset of just how little they used in the past. This was based on residents connected to city water. They came from times of hauling their water so they knew how to conserve. As we have moved through time we have become people that waste, not all but some great waste. I waste compared to the studies of the past and I will keep trying. Here is a link that can be used to find your state, I do not know your state and you do not have to tell but considering our time I feel you are doing good with water consumption. Here in Alabama this link says average Alabama resident Alabama uses 76 gallons per day.
Grandma Donna, you writing about how little water people truly used in the past reminds me of camping. We have a van and carry about 25 gallons of fresh water in the tank, plus 3 gallons of extra drinking water in a small Igloo container. In the van I can do all the the dishes from supper with a quart of water, using at most a pint to wash and the rest to rinse. We get creative, often sharing the same plate for our sandwiches, the same knife for butter, drinking from one cup all day. With only 25 gallons of water in the tank, showering happens infrequently and is "military" style with turning off the showerhead except to get wet and to rinse off. I honestly prefer to just do a sponge bath as it uses less water and I don't get as cold! I have waist length hair and I don't wash it when we camp, even if we're out for a week. You learn to do styles that work with less than clean hair and by the end of the week I'm in French braids and I just sleep in them and tidy them in the morning. We don't change our clothing daily or even every other day other than our underthings, and for the whole trip we'll use one dish cloth, one cloth for wiping the table (bar mop) and galley, one towel for drying dishes, one towel for drying hands, and two Turkish towels for drying ourselves after bathing. The dish cloth and wiping cloth stay fresh because they are washed with a small amount of water and hung to dry.
Of course, when we are in our homes there is laundry to wash and we water outside, which from what I understand is a large part of water usage. I don't want to live alone, but if I did it would be much easier to bring the habits of low water use from camping into the home. My family uses so many dish cloths, drying towels, and bar mops everyday! My oldest makes twice as much laundry each week as my husband and I make combined, which confounds me -- I don't even see how he does it unless he puts clean clothes on in the morning and then clean clothes on again each day after he trains on his bicycle. Whereas I went the same shirt and pants for three days straight!
We are also extremely frugal with energy when we camp in the van. So I think when water and energy are scarce, either because we don't have much or can't afford much, it truly changes our behaviors.
Grandma Donna wrote, Stephanie G & Kimberly F,
We are a society of people that have become dependent on all of these things we have today. You are, I am, we are. For the time we really are living (real time today) if we find what is average today, then try to get below that, then that would be a big change. I agree it does not seem fair to try so hard and only for them to raise the price. Many things we cannot control outside of our home but we can inside our home. :) We don't want to pack up and hit the road as they did in the Great Depression but actually some are already doing that today because they have to.
This research is making me realize how close we are to how it was back then. People just do not see it because they are not doing this study and reading the history. A suggesting is fine tuning our use at the stove and oven for those of us that are electric stove. Have a no cook day by cooking extra pasta or extra ingredients for another day. When we cook pasta for a meal, so we can cook extra pasta to make pasta salad or a cold pasta for another day. Bake like they did in the past and bake several things at the same time. Turn everything off in a room that we are not in that room or. Yes, everything in our home is electric, heating, cooling, hot water heater, stove and oven, everything but I will still get it down and will I feel the pain of it but then I will find a way to make it comfortable because we are keepers of the home and that is what we do.
We will find ways. Grandma Donna
Yes, I do batch cook and was just thinking that I will cook extra bacon tonight since the oven will be on. I'm cooking cabbage and bacon for supper which is an inexpensive dish since the bacon is just a small amount. The oven is on to bake our sourdough bread, and then I'll use it to the bake the bacon and potatoes, which is at a higher temperature. Cooking extra bacon will mean we can have BLT sandwiches as a meal without having to cook again.
However, this will leave us with only three packages of bacon in the freezer. Since I am diving into this 1932 history study, I won't be buying more bacon until all of our supply of frozen meat is gone, and even then it will depend on which meat is least expensive and offers the best value -- for example a whole chicken always costs less than bacon and provides more meals, including chicken stock. So most likely we will not buy anymore bacon in 2023 as we live like it's 1932. I'm trying to think like the persona I came up with based on my house. The Great Depression is a financial emergency. We came into it better off and better prepared than some people, but our circumstances are now changed. Maybe these people could have had bacon whenever they wanted, but they can't any longer.
I'm very interested in reducing our usage and spending to levels that were normal for most people back in 1932. Already I have reduced to a tub bath and hair washing 2-3 times per week but now I will aim for 1-2 times.
Thank you for the encouragement, Grandma Donna. What would I do without your example? Since posting that comment, I decided to use my anger for good and brainstorm some more ways to reduce use, so I looked over some of your past posts. We unplugged a few more things (like the dryer) and I showed my husband a YouTube video on how to make a thermal cooker. I decided to think from the position of not having anything and what things would be necessary, instead of having everything and thinking myself grand for cutting off a few. I'm considering retiring the big fridge and using the little one. The big fridge is Energy Star and the little one isn't, so I will compare usages first. One thing I like about having a garden is you don't need to refrigerate things. My carrots are still in the garden under some hay, and when I want one, I go outside to get one. :) They made it through the deep freeze we had recently. I could can the meat that is in my freezer if we switch fridges. Phone use could get cut, and computer use too, both of which I was going to reduce anyway, but maybe more now. No more staying up late to read. I can read in the daytime when the light is free. You are right. We will find a way. :)
Stephanie G, you have some good ideas to use less electricity! Perhaps we could have a thread where we gather and share our tips and ideas? It would be like the women of the community coming together, like at a social or even a work day. Then when people are wondering what they can do they will find a thread full of our ideas, colored by the lens of the 1932 history study.
For example, not only did people not have television, but I realized several years ago that I can see in our daily usage when we watch TV. It's not much (last night the hour we watched TV had a total of .7 kWh usage and that included everything that was on, including the Christmas tree and Christmas lights and whatever might have been charging, the appliances as they cycled on and off, etc. So it is very little, but it is still some. I will have to ask my husband about the power draw from a vintage radio versus the television setup, because it might be more with the tubes.
Without a doubt, this time of year the majority of our electricity usage comes from cooking, which is new for us because prior to 2021 I had a natural gas stove. I can see in the usage when I use the stovetop or oven. In the 5 o'clock hour yesterday I was cooking a soup on the stove top and baking focaccia in the oven, and we used 3 kWh in that hour! It is still less expensive to cook and bake from scratch than to buy convenience foods, so I will try some of Grandma Donna's ideas to group my cooking even more.
I'm also going to shift activities to when there is natural light. I can take a bath when there is daylight and not use the light in the bathroom. I can do sewing and hand crafts when there is natural light, although I can probably knit simple things in a room with one small shared light. I can even make a point to make sure house cleaning tasks are done during the day when there is natural light.
My utility company has usage data online. I can't see it in real time, but I can see beginning with the day before, and I can see hourly data. A few years ago I logged when I used electrical appliances and compared that to the hourly usage. That helped me see that running the ceiling fan overnight uses very little electricity, but using the Instant Pot uses more than I expected. Now I can see the impact of the electric oven/induction cooktop, which is considerable. However, my asthma is much improved since we stopped using the natural gas range.
Grandma Donna wrote, Stephanie G & Kimberly F, it sounds like you both went outside and shook your rugs out and came back different people. Lol You both have are really figuring it out now!
Lynne J, Yes, Kimberly F is right, some electric companies have a way online to sign in and get readings from your bill and meter information etc. We can actually go out to our meter on our house and read our numbers and we write them down each morning and do the math.
Thank you for providing this site of peace and stability in a crumbling society. I look forward to your articles.
This is in response to an entry in one of your 1932 expense journals. I'm 73 and grew up in Chattanooga TN. Kesses was a store downtown. Best I remember as a child, it was between a dime store and a department store.
I don't participate in the study, but I read all the posts and comments with a happy heart, as this kind of wholesome and simple life is something I enjoy (and practice). We have a bowl in every sink and a bigger container under the shower, and we use the collected water to flush the toilet. Also, keeping the faucet flow low will save water. I can ''squeeze'' our daily usage to 65 liters (around 17 gallons?) for 2 but that doesn't include laundry. Doing a load of laundry doubles it. This is something I worked on in 2022. Miriam in Finland
Many good points in this post. I remember a Kress department store in our town here. It seems that Kress went by the wayside around the 1980s. It was rather like a five and dime store, with a counter where you could buy lunch, and they sold various sundries like Woolworth's. I read somewhere that there were 4,275 different articles on sale in there in 1934. The buildings themselves were a community's pride; built that way to attract and retain customers; who were encouraged to linger there; especially in economic hard times.
I have a very simple method to save energy when cooking a big pot of almost anything. It's like an easier version of an old-fashioned haybox, or a cheaper version of modern thermal cookers.
I just take several spare blankets and spread them out on the floor, one atop another, with a thick cotton bath towel as the top/inner layer. Place the hot pot in the middle, then fold first the towel, then layer after layer of blankets up over it. My favorite food to cook this way is dry beans, because I only need to bring them just to a boil on the stovetop, and after four hours in the blanket cooker they are done to perfection. No stirring needed, no scorched beans, and no additional energy used.
Small pieces of meat and vegetables also work well when just brought to a boil, but for large pieces (things like whole potatoes, halved winter squash, or a venison shoulder on the bone) I like to boil it five to ten minutes before putting the pot in the blankets to finish cooking. Otherwise the large pieces might still be cold on the inside, and cool the broth before it had a chance to cook.
The only thing that does NOT cook well by this method, is rice. (Of things I've tried.)
Wow, Tea S. That's a really cheap way to do it. Better than building a box. How many layers would you say are between the outside and the pot? If it cooks dried beans, it's very efficient. Thanks for sharing that. It's more like I would imagine people in the Depression doing. They'd make do with what's at hand, and who didn't have towels and blankets?
I found it interesting to see the daily record keeping of expenses. My husband has kept track of our daily expenses since we got married in the late 60's. It's interesting to go back through the budget books that he has kept all those years and see what we paid for rent, utilities, clothing, food, misc. stuff 50 years ago.
We bought a new empty book every year and one year I went to the office supply place where we got them and they were out of the one that he had been using for several years. He particularly liked this one because it had entry areas for all of the categories that he kept track of and worked well for him. I asked the clerk if they were out and she said that no they longer carried that particular one. So then I asked if they could order them. She said, "Yes, we could but we'd have to order a dozen, couldn't get just one." And I said "Oh, that would be great-----we really like them." She give me a look that said, "Boy this is a strange person here."
But's really useful to track your spending, you know where your money is going, and if you have to cut back you know where to do the cutting. Makes sense to me.
Hello everyone. I just wanted to say I love reading all the comments. I've been reading G Donna's blog for a number of years and finally got up the gumption to say hi and thank you.
I live on a farm in rural Queensland Australia about half hours drive from the nearest town. It can get a bit lonely so I thoroughly enjoy my time reading about you all. It's like I have kindred spirits across the other side of the world.
Sometimes I feel like I live in the wrong time for me. Some of modern life I think is wonderful such as the internet (here I am saying hi to people in other countries and time zones) but other times I feel a bit lost as I don't understand the greed and haste of so many. I guess I just don't see the need for it.
Best wishes to you all and your endeavours for 2023. You all seem such lovely people.
The number of layers needed for blanket cooking depends on a lot of factors, including the type of blankets used (wool army blankets insulate better than fluffy comforters, which in turn insulate better than light cotton blankets), the size of the batch (bigger is better), and of course the room temperature (my kitchen is very cold in winter.)
I generally use seven or eight blankets plus the towel, with the innermost blanket (just outside the towel) being wool, and the rest just random old comforters and cotton throw blankets that aren't individually all that warm.
This ends up with more than seven or eight layers over the top and sides, though, because especially with the first few layers, I'm folding one edge of the blanket up over the pot, then the other edge up over that, then the ends (which are now 3 layers thick from the first two folds) get either folded over the top, or tucked in against the sides.
I encourage you to give it a try with whatever blankets you have available - the worst that can happen is they won't get quite done, and you'll have to finish them off on the stove, which would still save energy compared to doing all the cooking on the stove.
And just to note, I do soak the beans in baking soda water overnight first, same as I would if cooking them stovetop. Drain, replace soak water with plain water, bring to a boil, then place on blankets and begin folding.
Hope it works for you!
Grandma Donna wrote, Cindy O, please join in the conversation at any time. The study is not for just the United States but everyone. We would love to get more information about the 1930s from around the world. So anyone wherever they are, please join in with us. I am happy you are here reading along.
Victoria W, we have consistently journaled for only five years. Hit and miss the years before but I wish we had journaled all along. That is wonderful you have so many years to look back. :)
I realized when thinking about the electricity usage that there's things I can improve on such as batch baking bread instead of baking it a couple times a week, but then I'd need to freeze it, but the wax paper would still be cheaper than using the electricity those few hours. I also have to leave on a light when I know we're coming home after dark due to a cat that has anxiety if left in the dark, but then its nice too so you can see when coming in the house. Many of my friends leave to go shopping and when they do they leave everything on including the TV. There usage is very high. It is really hard to cut usage especially when they keep raising the rates. We're all electric here at our house, but when we lived in Oregon and Los Angeles not everything was electric. Our gas bill was extremely cheap and so was the electric bill. We have kept records since the first months we were married almost 19 years ago now. We are self employed and keep a very strict budget for that for the most part. Some of our jobs require more tools or metal we don't have on hand, but we're able to purchase those things and use them for the next job. I've learned being self employed for many years that most business owners have a LOT of debt. Our cpa said the best thing a business owner can do is avoid debt or pay it off quickly and most don't do either and when hard times hit they end up closing their doors. We all can learn from each other and I'm so thankful for that. Grandma Donna's blog is truly a blessing in our lives in so many ways.
There used to be a store called Kresses. Perhaps they paid $15 to Kresses for a radio?
I am so behind in reading. I'm trying to read in order so that I don't miss anything important. I'll keep trying to keep up!
Blessings from southern Missouri,
Harvest Lane Cottage
Laura of Harvest Lane Cottage
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