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Fall and Frugality: Of soups and sweaters

Posts: 1703
Location: Western Washington
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Last night it was pouring rain and the thunder and lightning were going all night. I even lost power for a couple seconds a couple times. I wasn't worried about it - I have candles sacked away.
Anyway, its getting wet and chilly and I'm thinking fall is just about here. That maters to me. You see - I don't heat my house.

None. I don't.

See, for several years lived in a tin can in the Olympic Foothill with no heat and no electricity. These are the sort of near mountain valleys famous for freezing fogs. The kind you sometimes have to kick yourself out of in the morning - and I mean that literally. It was not an airtight tin can. I would get snow drifts inside. I have woken up with my boots frozen solid to the floor - which made kicking doors open even less appealing - but I did it. and I made 200 bucks a month doing it. No running water and all the vegetables I could eat. I had to pay for the propane though... It ran (with soups going mind) +- 22 USD a month (178$ left)

It's not a situation I would leap at entering again - but it was an experience to be sure. It made me realize, we Human's survived a freakin' ice age! Toughen up! Get smart! and save some money while you're at.

So here's my advice on how to do so.

Soup: Soup just makes sense, especially if you grow your own vegetables.If you don't know how to cook, this is a great place to start - keep it simple and add experimental things slowly see how all the flavors blend in your water. It's all a grand experiment from there. I'll give you a hint you can't go wrong starting with simmering onions.

Sometimes I would cheat. We didn't have poultry enough for meat at his particular farm and a Scamway day old leftover preroasted is only 4.99 USD and will make a weeks worth of chicken soup. I also might buy a bottle of Heilz malt vinegar (3.99$), molasses (3.79$), and if the corn was ripe and the salmon where running a quart of milk (4.19$) and if I'm really feeling ritzy a nice heavy package of ox tail (7ish$.) and then I'd leave before I let the bastards ring anymore blood out of me. 2$ to the driver on a 3 way split for gas and I'm left with 156 USD

With these, vegies, mushrooms, and eggs I'd make:

*Chicken Soup - A Matsutakii if you can find one will really make it the absolute tops.
*Sweet and Sour Egg Drop soup
*Hot and Sour Egg Drop soup - Soak sliced homegrown peppers in the vinegar to make it good and hot
*Salmon and corn 'chowder'
*Oxtail and Onion soup

All of these are winners and will last a week if you keep stretching them with water and veg. The chicken and beef soups also taste good as 'sours' with the vinegar so you can change it up on the fly.

Now sweaters. I can't think that anyone here would need the obvious common since stuff stated but here it is: Dress in Layers and try keep dry. Wool is great in its ability to continue insulating once wet and is nice and warm generally. Good polar fleece works well when you're dry too.

In the depths of January if its really cold I'm usually sporting something like:

Top: Poly activewear undershirt, 80/20 wool/poly long underwear top, GI wool uniform top, a wool sweeter and either a US NAVY peacoat or Karheart rubberized 'water dare not enter' dry suit depending on how wet it is and what I intend on doing.

Bottoms: A pair (sometimes two pair) of polar fleece sweet pants with wool army pants as an exterior. Karheart ruberized rain bottoms if nessisary.

Accessories: Nit Wool hat. Wool scarf, Wool gloves, two pairs wools socks, and Waterproof steel toe boots

When it came time to sleep I'd nest two generic cheep sleeping bags inside each other and plop a good down blanket over me with a dog under the blankets as an effective space heater (dog food 30$ = 126 USD in my pocket for the month, more like 115$ after taking into account candles - because it gets to dark to work inside by 4pm in winter)

That's it.

I've rocked this set up (along with farm omlets and farm tea) Down to temperatures of about 4*F. I was cold but I was never worried about loosing toes or ears to frostbite.

In summery for those facing winter on the tight:

Put on a damn sweater, try to keep dry, and keep warm from the inside out

Posts: 3600
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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+1 on soups, (and stews and porridges) being frugal staples. Don't forget hot tea!!

Also look for sources of cheap/free stock meat base. If you know a butcher sometimes you can still get chicken backs and wingtips, fish heads, or beef bone scraps for free.

Posts: 345
Location: Midcoast Maine, Zone 5b
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I love wool but don't think it is any better than anything else at keeping you warm when it is wet. I've found when something is wet it stops insulating and accelerates heat loss regardless of material and nothing dries quickly when it is cold. Just don't get wet in winter

I will probably forever sing in praise of soup, and as R Scott mentioned, tea. Definitely agree that soup is a good place to start if someone doesn't have much experience cooking. Soup is pretty hard to mess up, and if you do, just throw something else in there and see what happens. Worst case, it doesn't taste very good but you still end up with a full belly.

About two months before it is time to break out the down sleeping bag but I look forward to it, comfort in the cold.
Posts: 4437
Location: North Central Michigan
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I'm a soup-a-holic..I totally love soup and even make it in the heat of summer occasionally (hot soup tends to cool you off on a hot day for some reason??). My plan for today is my favorite soup..cabbage patch stew (but really too runny for stew)..I got recipe from a magazine and I do tend to change it up..it has browned ground meat ...carrots..celery..cabbage..red peppers..beans..broth..onion..salt..pepper and if you want a dash of sugar..I cook it at least an hour in a big pot..yummo
Posts: 7926
Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
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If the soup it too thin, throw in yesterdays leftover mashed potatoes. Makes a good thickener.
You can always stretch it a bit with rice or pasta.

Posts: 9002
Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
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I thought I was hard core ! I've lived in vehicles and houses slated for demolition for most of the past 15 years. But I'm city camping. I've made use of Starbucks, restaurants and steaming hot public pools. The van is my bedroom. The world is my livingroom and urinal.

More important than any blanket is my super plush memory foam. I sink into it. I have good blankets. When going to bed in an unheated vehicle, it's important to not get chilled in the process. I get in fully clothed and strip down to nothing as things warm up. I've never heated any of the vehicles. (vans)

I once had the job of guarding a cold war bunker that was being demolished.
One week of horrible winter conditions. I had to park across the opening and sleep there until 7 am. when the excavator guys showed up. I was perfectly warm under the blankets but the world around was frozen stiff. These underground towns were hugely expensive and very well guarded at one time. 40 years on, they hire one guy in an old van with a dog to guard against metal thieves. It was the strangest gig I've ever had.

It's possible to survive and thrive when you plan a little. I've known several Inuit guys that I met while working at a mine. They were so well dressed that they often worked without mits and their jackets were open in order to shed heat. Meanwhile some of the white guys from Toronto were shivering in inferior winter gear. They preached layering and helped the helpless choose good gear from a mobile boot guy who served remote places. That guy made money.
Landon Sunrich
Posts: 1703
Location: Western Washington
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Ben Plummer wrote:I love wool but don't think it is any better than anything else at keeping you warm when it is wet. I've found when something is wet it stops insulating and accelerates heat loss regardless of material and nothing dries quickly when it is cold. Just don't get wet in winter

Ben, call me crazy but I really do feel that since wool has evolved over millions of years to insulate mammals under adverse conditions it might have just a slight leg up over some fabrics. Mostly I just wanted to stress the dressing in layers and dressing appropriately for conditions. Staying dry is not always around here. I spend half my fall and winter living in 40 degree cloud of mist.

My exceptions to layering for warmth would be when kayaking or else wise working on or near bodies of deep water. Wool is devilishly heavy when wet -. Though I do generally where the GI shirt over the wet suit. It has breast pockets with good buttons. I picked up the wool at an army surplus shop for 12 bucks a top (I got two). The wet suit's both came from the dumbp. I boiled them.

I probably should have mentioned always make sure you have dry clothing or a dry shelter (and sleeping bags!). You can climb into wet cloths in the morning, work all day, and generate enough heat to be toasty (if a wee bit wet and uncomfortable) but if you stop moving your are going to start to loose heat rapidly. Again - layers - lots of them - a sheep has like 4-6inches of puffy jacket on. Wet socks suck. Have an extra pair. Dry them over the stove when you make tea.

and Dale, when you put it that way:

"I once had to guard a cold war bunker solo"

Sounds pretty hardcore.

In the mean time I've been working on my Muscle Mushroom Nettle summer soup. I'm going to have to tweak it for the fall
I've mostly been using summer squashes, fresh baby nettle (more on that later and elsewhere), and onion along with all those lobster mushrooms and chantrels I got my hands on.

It's wanting in white wine (or a beer/cayenne {during the muscle steaming}) and rosemary to make it really come out strong.
Clean With Cleaners You Can Eat by Raven Ranson
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