Archive for November, 2008


Value for money in legumes

November 30, 2008

Following up on Stephen’s post on the musical fruit, I thought I’d weight up my options on chickpeas, one of my favoured legumes.

Chickpeas are blimmin great, they’re moister than most legumes, they make dishes like hummus (one of everybody’s favourites), and spicy pumpkin and chickpea soup.

The question you have to ask yourself is, is it better to buy dried or tined beans? From an environmental point of view you’re going to go for dried. Other than the cost of heating the water to cook the legumes, the only other cost is transportation of said legume to the market in which you the consumer purchase it. Tinned things on the other hand are heavy, using more fossil fuels, and need additional products like tins to be manufactured.

So no real competition there.

But. And there’s always a but. Are they easier on the back pocket?

100g of dried chickpeas from the local New World costs $0.99, and that seems like a pretty good deal right? Even with the cost of cooking them added in, they’re still going to come in cheap (incidentally, if anyone knows the kw/h used by a typical household stovetop, I’d love to hear it. The interweb has been useless in this instance).

I took my 100g of chickpeas, soaked and cooked them, and ended up with ~230g of ready to eat peas.

In the tinned variety, you can buy 415g of cooked chickpeas from the Pams range for $1.55. That’s almost twice as many peas for only $0.56 more, right?! Wrong. Once you tip off the brine they use to preserve the peas after cooking them for you, you end up with ~245g of peas.

My shonky maths stands to be corrected, so lets run through this carefully.

  • Dried chickpeas are $0.99 for ~230g ready to eat, making them $4.30 per kg.
  • Tinned chickpeas are $1.55 for ~245g ready to eat, making them $6.33 per kg.

What this tells me is that the manufacturer has added 68% more value to their product by cooking them for you, which is lovely for them but not so lovely for you – or the environment.

And this is why frugality is so important to me. By getting it together to cook my own chickpeas I’m not only saving myself money, I’m preventing communal resources being squandered on useless commercial activity. Worse, supermarkets are full of this type of crap. Instant pasta sauce? I’m looking at you, buddy…

UPDATE: There’s an “Turkic” store of some kind in Newtown that sells pulses. Their chickpeas are $5 a kilo. This would add up to $2.15 per kilo cooked. I’d say you’re hard-pressed to find a better bargain than that.

The place is on the corner of Constable/Riddiford St, heading towards New World. Which I was.


There is no spoon

November 28, 2008

On the weekend I put a new tyre on my bike. I had to. The old one was so worn that patches of the red underlayer were showing through the black rubber. There is no such thing as a second-hand bicycle tyre, and it is not frugal to endanger your health by skidding off your bike, so a new one was quite justified.

It is customary to use a special tool to pry the tyre off a bicycle wheel. In our last move, I must have misplaced mine. I ransacked likely areas of the house, but I just couldn’t find them.

Suddenly I remembered what Dad used to do when I was kid: he used old teaspoons. So I did too. Worked a treat, problem solved, spoons went back in the cutlery drawer.

I think one underlying frugality principle is illustrated here: using things you already have for a new purpose. Hence the common pattern in tips “you can use an X to make a handy Y.”

I get a big kick out of this kind of thing these days. I have a feeling we’ve been brainwashed by marketers into believing that every activity requires its own special, purpose-built product. This is why I feel almost naughty when I find a new use for something, and why other people can be unreasonable and turn their nose up at a perfectly good solution.

Done anything smart recently?


Plastic bag reuse

November 25, 2008

Old shopping bags become bin liners. We do not ever buy bin liners.

Smaller plastic bags from the supermarket or greengrocer wrap vegetables in the refrigerator, but also serve in place of gladwrap to cover food before serving.

More sturdy bags are used to gather the recycling. They are also handy for packing clothes on a car trip. Suitcases are hard to stuff in the boot, while plastic bags squish happily. Small carry bags make ideal rubbish receptacles, and I try to have a few small plastic bags in the car for emergency use.

On longer trips with a suitcase, plastic bags segregate dirty clothes from clean.

Ziplock bags from the bulk food section of the supermarket are washed. Then we reuse them in lunchboxes, to seal small opened packets, or (my newest discovery) to marinade or brine meat in (you use a lot less marinade that way).

Of course where we can we use a tough bag of our own, eg at the market, or at Pak’N’Save. So we don’t get as many plastic grocery bags as we might, but enough pile up through incidental purchase that we still have quite a collection (stored in another plastic bag, naturally).

I cannot recall paying actual money for a bag for quite some time.

How do you reuse plastic bags?


Review – Newtown People’s Market

November 24, 2008

Well, Stephen and I got the word the other day rom Mr. Tiso, and seen as I love me some markets I bundled the heavily pregnant partner onto a bus and off to Newtown we set.

Actually that’s a lie. Her dad dropped us off in the car, and we caught the bus home. I mention this because he mentioned how much Newtown has changed over the past few years. Where once there was nothing but unpainted concrete, we now have colour and trees.

This struck a cord because as little as 15 years ago the place was still pretty much a slum. So what’s great about markets like this one is that it helps to foster a sense of community. And community means more civic pride, which means a better neighbourhood, something we should all get behind.

We arrived pretty early, but the place was humming already. There was music being set up outside, and people milling about and around the stalls. Then once we got inside it really started to get busy.

The fare on offer had a fairly wide variety of home-crafted goods, trades, and recycled consumables. The latter of those is something I’m all in favour o, if not only because it reminded me of a jumble-sale! Just with less blue hair…

In the fresh food section there was the Upper Hutt baker guy who also attends the Waitangi Park markets. I had a chat to him on Sunday morning, and it turns out he put in an 18-hour day Saturday. But, there he was up front on Sunday too.

Now that’s some hard work.

There was also a range of fresh seasonal veges. The girls selling these were good sorts, and even set aside my veges while I went out to find change for them… Note to self, do not take a twenty to Newtown.

We ended up buying tomatoes, lettuce, and onions. Yum.

All in all, a good market. Decent people getting out on a decent day.


Practical product expiry

November 24, 2008

Shortly after Christmas last year, Kathy bought me a small Christmas Pudding on sale at the Supermarket. It lurked in the cupboard because she doesn’t like the stuff. It expired months ago.

Well, I ate it last night. It was still good. Good enough that I ate too much and have severe sugar rush.

So you know what to do. Once Christmas is over, wait for the cheap pud, and stockpile.

What else is worth waiting for after Dec 25th?


Household horticulture tip

November 23, 2008

Don’t pay $$$ for a 10 litre plant pot, when you can buy a 10 litre bucket for less than $2 and knock some holes in the bottom.

Current bucket inhabitants: 2 x potatoes, 1 large thyme bush, a cactus, a coffee tree, and some impatiens. Future bucket inhabitants: dwarf peas, lettuce, and stubby carrots.


Bruce Sterling on Viridian

November 21, 2008

Frugal reader Julian pointed me at this today. It gratifies both my nerdy AND my frugal faculties.

Sample para:

You will need to divide your current possessions into four major categories.

  1. Beautiful things.
  2. Emotionally important things.
  3. Tools, devices, and appliances that efficiently perform a useful function.
  4. Everything else.

Food for thought.



November 18, 2008

It is clearly a sign. Yesterday artandmylife mentioned Freecycle, and today, someone on a mailing list I subscribe to suggested it.

I had vaguely heard about Freecycle, but more or less forgot again, assuming it was one of those North American interwob things that would never get traction here. Wrong! There is a Wellington Freecyle group, and it seems to be quite active. I have just joined, because I have a bunch of things cluttering up the place that need good homes. And who doesn’t like freebies?

The Wellington Freecycle(TM) Network is open to all who want to “recycle” that special something rather than throw it away. Whether it’s a chair, a fax machine, piano or an old door, feel free to post it. Or maybe you’re looking to acquire something yourself! Nonprofit groups are also welcome to participate too!

One constraint: everything posted must be free.

Wellington Freecycle Group


Making do with what someone else had

November 17, 2008

My own philosophy of frugality is to not make do with what you can buy in the stores. Purchasing things brand new might give some people a buzz, and good on them, but to me it means paying too much money for stuff that has probably already been manufactured and is sitting on a shelf somewhere. This is wasteful, inefficient, and therefore not green.

I’m therefore happy to buy stuff second-hand, and love snooping about in recycled-object stores for useful junk. It means that old objects are given a lease of life, I get a bargain on a product I would otherwise be paying a premium for, and something doesn’t end up costing ratepayers to go into a landfill.

And here’s a great example.

These cups are great for soup. “Regular” soup bowls are difficult to use if you’re sitting on the floor next to the heater in the winter, they’re difficult to eat out of when you’re in bed with a cold, and they’re broader across the top so the meal cools down too quickly.

These cups also good for cereal, if you’re a cereal kinda guy.

Costing us $2 each at St. Vincents De Paul, these little beauties now take pride of place next to the other 4 we bought in Dargaville a year or two back…


Remember!! – Coming attractions

November 14, 2008

Practicing frugalist and loyal reader Giovanni Tiso writes to let us know about the Newtown People’s Market:

“For good quality affordable produce”

Sat. 22nd Nov. 2008
St. Anne’s Church Hall
bottom of Emmett Street

From 3.00 till 7.00 pm

Fair trading: buy / sell / swap goods and services

For info contact: Maria 383 4993

I must say I am enthusiastic about any market that takes place in the afternoon. The Sunday morning markets are at the worst possible time on the worst possible day for me to make it before the good stuff goes.