Keep the Cold Out and the Warm In this Winter

Why Do I Have Icicles On My House?

Icicles often give a pretty wintery feel to houses along roof-lines and windows. Why do houses get icicles? Rather than a Currier and Ives holiday picture, icicles on your house mean that your home is losing heat. Icicles form when heat escapes from your roof or around your windows.

Remember the saying “Close the door! We’re not heating the outdoors!”? If you have icicles, that’s just what you’ve been doing. Heating the outdoors.

What Can I Do To Keep My House From Losing Heat In Winter – Long Term Solutions

  • Have a professional energy audit done on your home. While a professional audit can cost thousands of dollars initially, you can save the amount of your energy audit over only one or two winters if you follow the advice the auditor gives you along with the results.
  • Check for Government grants and rebates in your area for home renovations. I know here in Canada there are several thousand dollars in grant money available to homeowners who get an energy audit and make improvements to their homes to make them more energy efficient. These grants can cover much of the cost of improvements such as new energy efficient roof, windows, insulation, siding, furnaces and more. Do a little research to find out what grants or rebates your national and state governments are offering home owners.

By completing a home energy audit and the renovations required to your home to cut heat loss and energy consumption you can easily save enough to pay for that investment over the next 5 years. If you can find Government grants and rebates in your area you could see enough savings to pay for the initial investment in renovations and improvements to your home in as little as a year. A bonus is that your house will increase in value as a result of your investment as well.

What Can I Do To Keep My House From Losing Heat in Winter – Short Term and DIY Solutions

We know now that investing a few thousand dollars on an energy audit and home improvements can end up paying for itself in energy savings over only a few years but what if you just don’t have the money to get started?

  • Let the sun in. During the day keep the blinds and drapes wide open during those few brief hours of daylight. Sunshine, which is basically solar energy, can heat your home up by several degrees. So let it shine, let it shine, let it shine!
  • Turn down the thermostat. Especially when you’re not at home or you’re snug as a bug under your blankets at night. By turning the temperature back by 10-15 degrees for 10 hours per day can save you 10% on your energy bill. Programmable thermostats work best – you can set different temperatures for day while you’re working, at night while you’re sleeping and even for weekends when you’re home. For as little as $25 you pick up a programmable thermostat at your local hardware store and get started. Of course you can always manually turn the temperature lower and higher if you don’t have a programmable one.
  • Use your ceiling fans. Most, if not all, ceiling fans have a switch on the base of the fan to reverse their rotation. In the winter, by reversing or resetting your fan, you’ll be pushing the heat near the ceiling down toward the floor.
  • Use caulking or weather stripping around exterior windows and doors. When I was a kid I remember my parents taking a light candle and slowly moving it along the frames of the windows and doors to find drafts. The areas where the candle flickered crazily were the areas that got a bead of caulking or weather stripping applied.
  • Close off unused areas of your house. Close the door and shut off the heat to any room you don’t use daily, such as a spare room or enclosed sun room. Close and cover the ducts/vents and if the room has it’s own temperature control turn it off. If you need the room again you can always turn the heat back on and it will be warm in an hour or two.
  • Wrap your pipes. Pipes that carry water need to be insulated from below-freezing temperatures. If you have a crawl space under your home or a basement that’s not insulated, wrap your pipes with fiberglass insulation or use pre-molded foam rubber sleeves that you can pick up at most home improvement stores.
  • Bundle up! Wear a comfy sweater, some cozy thick socks, slippers, and curl up under an afghan. By bundling up a little more and keeping the temperature set even 5 degrees lower than your “comfort” level when you’re home you can save up to 5% of your heating bill. There’s something very cozy about curling up in a sweater, wrapped in a throw or afghan while sipping cocoa with your loved ones.

These are just a few ways to keep things warm this winter, and save a little money in the process. A trip to your local hardware store or big box home improvement center can help you get started and the staff at those stores will be on top of the newest products to help you keep your home energy efficient and warm. Home improvement and hardware stores often schedule free “how to” seminars so check with your local stores for dates and times.

A List of Resources to Help Keep the Warm In this Winter:

This post is part of the 301st Festival of Frugality hosted by Funny About Money on October 7, 2011.

Frugal & Green: Make Your Own Reusable Shopping Bags

On June 1, 2009 the city of Toronto passed a law meaning that all stores (including restaurants) must charge a minimum of 5 cents for each plastic bag that customers take. The idea it to reduce the amount of plastic bags going into our waste. I’m sure more and more communities will begin this practice and I know many large retailers are now charging for bags even without the by-law.

Mountain of Plastic Bags

Mountain of Plastic Bags

I’ve gathered up a bunch of links for free shopping bag patterns located around the web. There are patterns for sewing, knitting, crocheting and there’s even a macrame pattern.  I hope some of these patterns inspire you to make your own bags. I’d love to see them!

Frugal & Green: Make Your Own Reusable Washclothes

One of the easiest ways to live a little more frugally and a little greener at the same time is to stop using paper towels and start using washable cloths instead. Knit or crochet cloths are easy to make and are a great replacement for those paper towels. They’re absorbant, durable, washable, soft enough to wipe or clean even the most delicate surfaces yet the fabric texture has great scrubbing abilities.

They can be used as dishcloths, facecloths, washcloths, and cleaning rags and can be tossed in the wash.  They’re a great way to use up those little odds and ends of yarn leftover from other projects too.

Dishclothes Galore!

Dishclothes Galore!

Whether you are an experienced knitter or crocheter or someone who has never attempted to knit or crochet before the patterns below are simple and quick to make up and the clothes will last for years. I do recommend though you pick different colours for different uses if you’re planning to make both dishcloths or scrubbing clothes as well as facecloths.

If you’ve never knit or crocheted before here are a couple of tutorials. Washcloths are a great way to learn to knit or crochet as the patterns are pretty simple and even if the first few don’t turn out perfect – they’ll still be great scrubbing rags.

Earth Day Coupons & Freebies

Happy Earth Day! I’ve gathered together some great coupons and freebies from around the web. Some are valid today only, others are offered for several days. Enjoy!

In Canada:


Green Your Shopping Canada! Free President’s Choice Green Bin!

President's Choice Green Bin We all know by now that using reusable shopping bags instead of plastic bags reduces environmental waste signifcantly. Here in Canada, President’s Choice, a line of products offered by many grocery stores operated by Loblaws, has some great green options to replace your shopping bags.

My favourite, the PC Green Bin, is a plastic bin that fits easily into shopping carts, has sturdy handles, and holds the equivelent of 3 to 5 plastic bags worth of groceries. It’s super easy to load from cart to car to house and the bins are inexpensive to buy at around $4.99 each.

As part of it’s efforts to promote the use of reusable bins, Loblaws grocery stores in Canada are offering  a coupon for a free PC Green bin with a purchase of $60 or more from April 22 to April 30. Please see coupon for details of which grocery chains are particpating.

PC Reusable BagThis week Fortino’s grocery stores in Ontario have been offering the President’s Choice reusable shopping bags for half price. Made with 85% post-consumer recycled plastic, our revolutionary shopping bag is twice the size of a standard plastic grocery bag and strong enough to withstand 50 trips to the store (about 1 full year).

With weekly use of just one bag, each person can divert approximately 100 plastic bags from ending up in landfill sites each year.

President's Choice Green CartNew from President’s Choice is their new PC Green cart. With the same capacity as three standard plastic grocery bags, this handy shopping bag on wheels does more than just carry a lot of groceries; it actually helps you do your part to protect the environment. The material used to make the fabric for this the bag comes from 100 % post-consumer recycled plastic.

By using this bag on wheels on a weekly basis, you will need approximately 300 fewer plastic bags per year – that’s less clutter in your cupboard and less plastic for you to throw out. The PC Green Cart will be available in stores beginning May 11, 2009 and is just one of the new Green shopping options that will be available on May 11th from President’s Choice.

For more information about these items and others offered by the President’s Choice brand in Canada take a look at the President’s Choice Green Insider’s Report.

And don’t forget to get your coupon for a FREE President’s Choice Green bin!

And you’ll want to enter to win the Earth Day Gift Package I’m giving away.  Contest is open until April 29, 2009 and anyone living in Canada and the United States is eligible (subject to contest rules). Good luck!

Win an Earth Day Gift Package!

Tomorrow is Earth Day but that doesn’t mean you can’t observe Earth Day every day and Frugal Family Life and Walmart ElevenMoms have an Earth Day Gift Package to help get  one of you started on the right foot. Worth an estimated $130 retail the package includes a selection of Clorox “Green Works” cleaning supplies, White Cloud “Green Earth” paper products, and Tide Coldwater laundry liquid, a Brita water filtration pitcher and a Bissell Little Green carpet and upholstery cleaner.

The Green Works cleanering products are 99% plant and mineral based but can take on tough cleaning jobs with ease, they smell great, and are less harmful to the environment.

Tide Coldwater laundry liquid was designed to allow you to get all of your laundry clean without wasting energy using hot water. Depending on what statics you look at 70 to 90% of the energy used to wash a load of laundry is spent on heating the water. By washing everything in cold water you save energy and save money.

The White Cloud “Green Earth” toilet paper and paper towels are made from 100% recycled fibre but feels soft and cushiony like regular premuim paper products do. In the words of my teenage son “finally you got toilet paper that doesn’t feel like sandpaper!”

The Brita pitcher is something we’ve used in my home for years. Instead of buying cases of bottled water we use the Brita water filtration pitcher to filter tap water for drinking water. This saves us money (we estimate over $200 in yearly savings over buying bottled water) and it means a lot fewer plastic bottles that need to be recycled or worse, that would end up in a landfill.

Used with a portable stainless steel reusable drinking bottle (we have several sized from 500ml to 1 litre) we always have fresh filtered water on hand to drink at home or to take with us. The pitcher itself is dishwasher safe (top rack) and fits easily into the refrigerator without taking up a lot of space.

Last and certainly not least is the Bissell Little Green carpet and upholstery cleaner. The Bissell Little Green is made with PVC free tanks and hose, parts manufactured from 100% post consumer recycled materials  and the carton contains a minimum of 75% recycled materials. The cleaning formulas contain no heavy metals or optical brighteners and are phosphate and dye free.

Part of living Earth Day every day is taking care of the things you own so they’ll last longer. Using a product like Bissell’s Little Green to clean spots and spills from carpets, rugs and upholstery is a great way to do that. We’ve used older versions of the Bissell carpet and upholstery cleaners over the years and consider them a must in any home that has pets, children or clumsy people like me who are constanty spilling coffee!

So now to the good part – the giveaway! One lucky Frugal Family Life reader will get a chance to win this Earth Day Gift Package. The contest is open to residents of Canada and the United States and you have until April 29th to enter. The rules are simple:

  1. You must be subscribed to the Frugal Family Life newsletter with a valid email address. The sign up form is on the top right of this page.
  2. You must follow me, @merlene, on
  3. Tweet the following on twitter: Win an Earth Day Gift Package – Including Bissell Little Green carpet/upholstery cleaner & much more #11momsgreen
  4. You must comment on this post with a way you live Earth Day every day. Please make sure to let me know your twitter name and the name you signed up for the newsletter with so I can validate your entry. That’s it! Good luck!

This giveaway is sponsored by Walmart and the various manufacterers listed above and is subject to Frugal Family Life’s disclosure and giveaway policy. Some of the other ElevenMoms are running Earth Day giveaways too. Check out each of their blogs for more chances to win!

Update: The contest is now closed. The winner will be selected through and will be notified by email. Winner will be announced on May 1, 2009.

Cutting Out Caffeine

Coffee Love

Coffee Love

I love coffee. I mean I LOVE coffee. Really. Beginning my freshman year of high school I have been a die-hard fan and total addict to the Goddess of Caffeine.

The smell.

The warmth in your hand as you clutch the cup.

The rich, strong flavour of a cup of strong black coffee. Mmm….

And yet…

I know that it’s not the best thing for me. Oh sure there are reports and studies that say caffeine is good for you. And there are studies and reports that say caffeine is bad for you. Either way, it’s time to break the chains of addiction once and for all.

I’ve become, over the years, a slave to addiction. I got to the point where I was making my coffee really strong, drinking it black, an average of two full pots per day. I was using coffee (and have been for 20 years) as a substitute for food, water, nutrition. It was nothing for me to be awake for the first 10-12 hours of my day existing on nothing but cup after cup of strong black coffee. I’d eat my first (and often only) meal of the day at supper time with the kids. My body has been in a constant state of famine as a result and I don’t eat much and when I do it’s not usually anything healthy.

Oh and you don’t want to be the man, woman, child or cat that stood between me and my and coffee. Trust me on that. Hell hath no fury like a woman who’s not had her coffee! Except…

Well, I’m the one coming between me and my beloved coffee. Once and for all.

So how does a twenty year, two pot a day, “jet fuel” strong coffee addict let go? Slowly. Carefully. And with a plan.

I can’t do the “cut out a cup a day” sort of thing. When you drink 2 pots a day you never really pay attention to how many cups you drink… just whether your cup is empty or full.  So here you have it…

Merlene’s Caffeine Addiction Solution:

  1. Start gradually cutting back your “allowed” hours for caffeine. Today maybe say.. No caffeine after 8pm. Tomorrow will be … No caffeine after 7pm. And so on. Get it so that you stop your caffeine intake one hour earlier each day until you are within 2 hours of your usual first cup of coffee. Once you’ve reached your quitting hour switch to water for the rest of the day. Every time you have an urge to pour yourself a coffee (or a Coke or whatever caffeine beverage is your downfall) replace it with a glass of water.
  2. Now you can take note of how many cups of coffee you have your first hour or two of the day. At this point you are going to cut back half a cup a day.  Until you reach the half cup per day point.
  3. If you’re anything like me… that “cup” you’re drinking from is HUGE. Now you’re going to move to a smaller cup. And half a cup of that.
  4. The next day you should finally just quit once and for all. If you think you need one more day  fine… but you’re at 1/4 cup today. That’s 1/4 of the small cup, kiddo… not the huge mug you’ve been used to.
  5. That’s it. You’re done with daily coffee. With daily caffeine.

Once you’ve been caffeine free for a week or two you can start having it again in very limited quantities. Consider it a reward. Have a cappuccino with friends on the weekend once in a while. Have an espresso and biscotti after Sunday brunch. Just don’t’ fall back into those old habits of daily caffeine. Keep substituting water for you daily caffeine and you’ll be healthier and happier in the long run.

And don’t ever suggest I switch to decaf. I might have to stab you in the throat with a stir stick. Just kidding. Sorta.
(Up until last week I was averaging a can of ground coffee or a pound of coffee beans per week. This is also a frugal post – I’m going to save at least $20/month on coffee and filters!)

How Green Are You?



Earth Day is April 22 and I’ll be featuring some ideas on how to live a more frugal, more environmentally friendly life. Sometimes it’s the small actions that can make the biggest difference.

  • Turn if off. Is your TV turned off? Guess again. Even when turned off most electronics use power. To save energy (and money!) unplug electronics when not in use or plug into a power bar and turn the bar off.
  • Adust the temperature on your thermostat. Adjusting the temperature just 4 degrees will save you money and reduce wasted energy. Adjust as you leave the house for the day or better yet install a programmable thermostat to adjust the temperature automatically based on the time of day.
  • Recycle aluminum cans. Recycling cans only uses 5% of the energy needed to manufacture an aluminum can from scratch!
  • Wash clothing with cold water. About 90% of the energy used to wash clothes goes to heating the water. Look for laundry detergents designed for cold water washes.
  • Hang your clothes to dry. For those of you, like me, who can’t hang laundry on a line to dry (I live in an apartment building) you can still use drying racks or hang clothes on hangers on the shower rod. I take most of our clothing out of the washer, hang on hangers and hang them on the shower rod and the clothes are dry within hours. Just be careful not to overcrowd them. Works like a charm :)
  • Say No! to bottled water. Invest $30 and buy a Brita filter water pitcher. Not only will you save money on bottled water purchases but you’ll stop hundreds of plastic bottles from hitting landfills and reduce the energy used recycling plastic – not to mention the toxis released.

These are just a few of the quick and easy small ways we can reduce our environmental impact while saving some money along the way. Makes cents to me.

What small actions have you taken to be a little greener?