A Homemade Cold Remedy, Affordable Camping, Better Early Tomatoes and More Country Lore

Learn DIY mirror repair tips, how to make homemade bouillon cubes and how to put together a family bank for groceries.
By the MOTHER EARTH NEWS editors
February/March 1992
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You can save money on groceries by creating your own family bank! Take out "loans" and search for sales on your favorite items.
PHOTO: ISTOCKPHOTO/MPHILLIPS007


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Build a Better Baffle

Because we live up on a cold, windy hill in the country, we found that we needed some kind of windbreak baffle in our ventilation windows — something to break the force of the air coming into the house on chilly nights while we slept. Finding nothing on the market like this for comfortable sleep ventilation, we went to our bedroom and measured the inside width of the lower part of the window just inside the screen.

Using this same window width minus 1 ½ inches for length, we sawed out a piece of thin, 1/8-inch panel board 8 inches wide. Then we divided this panel into four equal parts and marked three right-angle lines across it in pencil at the division points.

By boring four equally spaced ¾ -inch holes on these three lines, we had a windbreak baffle ventilator that admitted air even when the window is barely cracked open.

We also made one of these same baffles for the window in our adjoining room. When that window is left open at night, along with the bedroom and adjoining-room doors, we get plenty of circulating fresh air for good, healthy, night-sleeping ventilation.

—George and Alice Lynch
Asheville, North Carolina
 

Mirror Repair

Scraps of contact paper can be used to save old mirrors, which tend to lose their silvering on the back (and thus their reflective quality), especially around the edges. Cut strips of contact paper into a nice border or design and press onto the damaged areas of the mirror. The light adhesive backing holds it in place with no fuss, and the plastic-coated paper can be cleaned with the rest of the mirror.

—Mikki Smith
Lexington, Michigan
 

A Homemade Cold Remedy

Here's an ideal recipe for the world's most effective cough syrup — nature's answer to the chest cold. Mince an onion extremely fine. Place in the center well of any kitchen saucer. Sprinkle with sugar or honey and a few drops of water. Cover with an upside-down cup. After a short while, onion juice will appear outside of the cup. Swallow a tablespoon. It works, and is perfectly fine for small children as well (although it would be best to cut their portion down to a teaspoon). Don't try to make a bunch ahead of time, though; it seems to lose a lot of its effectiveness after it sits for a few hours.

—Marilyn Dunne
Denver, Colorado
 

A Twist on Affordable Camping

Are you and your family ready to go camping but have gone into sticker shock looking at RVs, fifth-wheelers and campers at the dealers' lots? Well, you really don't have to settle for a tent and a blanket.

First, you have to decide what size camper you really need. This depends on more than just the number of people in the family. How often will you be going camping? What type of weather are you camping in? And most importantly, what are your interests?

This is what I was able to do on a limited budget. First, I found an ad in the local classifieds for a 12-foot camper for $500. I went to check it out and found that although it needed some work, all the fundamentals were there and in working order. It had a 12-volt evaporative cooler, icebox, cookstove and heater. The couch could also be made into a full-size bed. The dinette converted into a single bed that one teenager or two small children could use. Sounds good so far, but I wanted to be able to camp without any hookups. With this in mind, I started making changes that would give me the conveniences I needed and still allow me to enjoy the beauty and peace of the desert locales I like to visit.

I replaced the icebox with an AC/DC refrigerator (from the J.C. Whitney & Co. catalog) that would run off a battery. The cooler was designed for DC operation, but needed a pump to raise the water up about 6 feet. I went to the junkyard and got a fuel pump from a pickup truck. This gave me the lift I needed to maintain the water flow for the cooler. I bought two deep-cycle batteries and hooked them in parallel. I had a flashlight that used C batteries or could be plugged into the car lighter. I changed the plug and added a receptacle giving me adequate lighting. The cook-stove and heater ran on propane gas, so all that was left were the toilet facilities. A Port-a-Pot fits nicely under the bed and can easily be found at rummage or garage sales if you can afford to be patient. I replaced the manual water pump with a 12-volt one.

Since desert nights are notoriously cold, a source of heat had to be considered. The propane tank can be adapted for use by a heater during a cold snap so food (and occupants) won't freeze. Then it was just a matter of loading up the food and venturing outward. It works! The batteries lasted two days before they had to be recharged. I used jumper cables from the car, and after about 45 minutes, the camper batteries were back to full charge. Of course, the main thing to remember is conservation of energy. Any appliance not immediately needed must be turned off or your venture could be reduced to a tedious series of recharges. Eventually, I intend to install an electric solar panel, which will mean that much more independence while we're out trekking.

The last thing to consider is how to make the camper look its best. I gave the top three coats of CoolSeal and painted the outside with a good grade of semigloss house paint. My wife made new curtains, and we carpeted the floor with a short-nap indoor/outdoor carpet.

The total cost for our camper was less than $1,000. It can be pulled by a midsize automobile, truck or van.

—William B. Bacon
Henderson, Nevada

Easy Homemade Bouillon

I have a favorite way to make my own bouillon cubes. First, I freeze chicken giblets, backs, necks and other poultry parts in an ice-cream container until full. Out comes the pressure cooker: After an hour or two of listening to the dance of the weight, I shut it off and add Worcestershire sauce and fresh herbs. The strained liquor is then poured into ice-cube trays. After cooling, the trays are frozen. Whenever I need to cook some vegetables, throwing a cube of the bouillon into the steamer adds wonderful flavor.

—John Tax
Aukland, New Zealand
 

Early Tomatoes

Early tomatoes can be an annual affair if the grower cuts out the bottom of a 5-gallon plastic bucket. Dig a hole for the plastic bucket and bury its large end about halfway down in garden soil. Fill the buried bucket three-quarters full with rich soil and place a tomato plant in it.

Tomatoes can be planted earlier than usual, because on cold nights when there's a danger of frost, you can place another plastic bucket over the small, upturned end of the buried bucket. But be sure to remove the cover bucket during daylight hours. Later, leave the bucket on to keep the mature tomato up off the ground or remove and replace it with a wire form. The plastic buckets can be used again each year.

—Dorothy Rieke
Julian, Nebraska
 

A Family Bank for Groceries

Trying to make one's money go further these days is a job in itself. Well, I know of one job that's fun and saves money at the same time. I call it a "grocery bank," and everyone in the family who buys goods for the home can participate.

Start with $20 or $30 (less will work but not as well). This is called seed money, and it represents the initial assets of the bank. But where, you might ask, can one get 30 bucks when times are tough and basic grocery items are a burden to begin with? Here are some ideas:

  • Start using those coupons. Put what you save in the bank.
  • Have a yard sale. Get rid of those things you never use, and make that cash work for you.
  • Gather all the loose change that might be hiding in your purse, pockets and around furnishings. It's always surprising how much this amounts to.

Now, all banks make loans, and your bank will do the same — interest free! When you do your grocery shopping this week and an item you use is on sale, buy three of this item. Pay as follows:

  • Item 1: Pay for it out of your regular grocery money.
  • Items 2 & 3: Pay for them by taking out a "loan" from your grocery bank.
  • When you use items 2 & 3, you then pay back your loan with money from that week's regular grocery money at the sale price. For example: Suppose coffee is on sale for $1.49 at a savings of 50 cents off the regular price. Each additional coffee you purchase will yield a 25-percent return on your investment when you use it — and pay for it — from your pantry.

Remember also to use your coupons for additional savings. Keep ahead by buying this way, and you may never have to pay full price for certain items again. I never pay full price for coffee, chips, cookies, cheese, ice creams and many other products.

A good rule is to keep your bank with you in an envelope. Write your loan dates, items and amounts on the front. Cross off as you "shop" in your pantry and repay your bank. You can also use your bank loans to purchase other items, but only if they are on sale.

If you do this enough times, you will not only save on groceries, you'll also save all those trips to the store, gas, time and waste from impulse buying. These problems are all replaced by simply shopping in your own pantry, where everything is on sale.

So start taking charge of your finances, and enjoy a hobby that gives you something in return.

—Peggy Johnson
Cape Canaveral, Florida
 


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