blog post feed en-us <![CDATA[Carving a Jack-o-Lantern this Weekend? Here's How to Cook the Pumpkin Goop!]]>
pumpkin carving

[In his ongoing but sporadic series Don't Throw That Away!, the Green Cheapskate shows you how to repurpose just about anything, saving money and the environment in the process. Send him your repurposing ideas and challenges, but whatever you do, Don't Throw That Away!]

"Jeff, can't we at least celebrate the holiday before you eat the decorations?" I've heard that more than once from my long-suffering wife during our 26-year marriage.

You see, cheapskates like to celebrate Halloween and other holidays just like everyone else. But we grimace at wasteful rituals like throwing away a perfectly good pumpkin after using it for only a few days as a decoration. Americans buy more than one billion pounds of pumpkins at Halloween, and the vast majority of those end up in the trash. But at the Green Cheapskate's house, we eat our jack-o-lantern, every last bit of it.

While some particularly meaty varieties of pumpkins are specifically grown to be eaten (including Sweet Jack-be-Littles, Cheese Pumpkins, Sugar Pumpkins and some delicious heirloom varieties), any commonly available pumpkin is perfectly edible. Best of all, at Halloween (and immediately after Halloween) you can usually buy pumpkins for less than half a buck a pound. At that price, why not pick up a couple extra just to eat?

Pumpkins are a true American vegetable, a favorite of the Aztec, Inca and Mayan people before becoming a staple of early European explorers and settlers in the New World. Pumpkins belong to the same family (Cucurbitacae) as gourds, melons and cucumbers. And, according to the American Institute for Cancer Research, pumpkins are packed with beta carotene, a powerful antioxidant that fights cancer.

If you're buying a pumpkin specifically for eating, the smaller ones are usually the best. If you're going to use it as a jack-o'-lantern as well, you can eat or freeze some of the pumpkin when you carve it, and then pickle the remaining rind when Halloween is over, provided that it's still in good shape. So, here's how to eat your jack-o-lantern:

Seeds First

Toasted pumpkin seeds are a healthy snack filled with zinc, magnesium, manganese, iron, copper and protein. They're also great in salads, muffins, bread, and in other recipes as a nut substitute.

Remove the seeds, rinse them in water to get rid of the stringy inner membrane, and dry them out a little on a towel. Flavor with coarse salt for a traditional taste, or let your imagination and spice rack run wild. Some options for flavoring designer seeds include: pumpkin pie spice; Cajun seasonings; ginger powder; garlic salt; curry powder; Tabasco; cinnamon; vinegar and salt. Once seasoned, bake the seeds on a lightly oiled cookie sheet (single layer thick) in a 250-degree oven for about an hour, stirring every 20 minutes. Or, my preferred method is to cook them in a spray-oiled skillet over medium heat on the stove top, stirring and shaking (the skillet, not your booty) constantly. On the stove top, they'll be toasted nicely brown in only about five minutes. Store in air-tight containers.

Wed, 17 Oct 2012 04:06:00 EST
<![CDATA[The Green Cheapskate's Guide to Buying Used Bikes]]>

Although I bicycle all year long – even in the snow and ice of winter – the fall is my absolute favorite time to be out on the road on my rusty-but-trusty 10 speed.

I’ve also noticed that fall is probably the best time of year to buy a bicycle. If you’re looking for a brand new one, bike shops often discount their inventory in the fall to make room for next year’s models. But I’ve also found that fall is the best time to score some real deals on used bikes at thrift stores and yard sales; with summer now in the rearview mirror, everyone seems to be jettisoning their lightly used cycles rather than making room for them in the garage.

If you’re not mechanically inclined, buying a used bike can seem a little intimidating. But the risk is usually worth the potential reward: I frequently find used bikes in the $25-$50 range. With a similar amount invested in repairs and labor, that used bike can be rehabbed into one that would cost $250-$500 new. Of course many of them are vintage bikes from the 1970’s and 80’s, the likes of which you can’t buy today at any price.

Here are some of the most common mechanical problems to look for if you’re thinking about buying a used bike:

  • used bikes

    Flat/worn out tires and inner tubes. Dry rot is common in tires/tubes that have been sitting un-inflated for a period of time, so they often need to be replaced, rather than just inflated and/or patched. The good news is, new tires and tubes are usually pretty cheap and easy to install.

  • Bent wheels/rims. This is easy to evaluate before buying a used bike. Just spin the wheels, and if they wobble significantly when you spin them or if they’re so bent that they won’t spin at all without hitting the frame, then you have a problem. Diagnosing how serious the problem is – and how costly it will be to repair – is more difficult. It could just be a few broken or loose spokes, and a bike mechanic can fix it with minimal labor and parts. But it could mean you need a whole new wheel, which can get expensive and hard to find for some older bikes. Unless you know what you’re looking for, it’s probably best to stay away from used bikes that have wheels that are seriously out of balance (aka “true”).

  • Check the frame carefully. I’ve bought some used bikes simply because the frame was intact and well worth the price alone, even though all of the other components were worthless. Look for any signs that the frame (including the front forks) is bent, cracked, broken, or has been in an accident (patches for flaking paint can be a sign that it’s seen some collision action). Don’t buy a bike with a bent frame or any clear signs of frame damage; it probably can’t be repaired and will lead to further problems down the road (assuming it even gets you down the road).

Sun, 16 Sep 2012 08:41:00 EST
<![CDATA[5 Frugal Fall Gardening Tips]]>
digging in the garden

Sure, everybody's green thumb seems to blossom with the first warmish day of spring, just about the same day the green blades of the daffodils pop up in the flowerbed. But by autumn, most fair weather gardeners have long ago hung up their hoes for the season and planted their butts firmly in front of the TV to watch football.

That's a shame, because in most parts of the country the Fall is the best time of year for all kinds of garden activities, including planting and transplanting my types of plants. It's also the time of year when you can save a bushel of cash on gardening equipment and nursery stock, and save even more by properly tucking in your garden and equipment for its long winter's nap. Here's how:

Great deals on end of season nursery stock:
In most climate zones, Fall is actually a better time of year than even spring to plant or transplant trees, shrubs, and many other perennial plants. The soil tends to be warmer which promotes root growth, and — unlike with spring planting — there's not the potential of a long, hot, dry summer facing the young upstarts. And, even though I'm an anti-lawnite, if you're going to put down sod, Fall is also generally the best – and cheapest – time to do it. Many nurseries dramatically discount their remaining container-grown plants and other nursery stock, both to avoid over-wintering them and to make room for the soon-to-arrive Halloween pumpkins and Christmas trees. I've found it's a great time to negotiate an even better deal by simply asking for an additional reduction on already discounted nursery stock.

Sun, 16 Sep 2012 09:23:00 EST
<![CDATA[Cheap Sleep: 8 Budget-Friendly Lodging Options for Travelers]]> Sleep the Cheapskate way, even if you won't follow him to bed down in bus stations, jail... or the morgue.]]> Fri, 03 Aug 2012 10:05:00 EST <![CDATA[7 Ways to Control Lawn and Garden Pests - The Green Cheapskate Way]]>
dont throw that away book by jeff yeager

Gardening and landscaping – or, as I call them, the "soil sports” – are among my favorite pastimes. It’s a chance to enjoy being outdoors and exercise both my green thumb and my passion for creative repurposing – you know, finding innovative ways to reuse items that most people simply throw away.

There a bunch of different ways to reuse would-be throwaway items in the garden and yard, including a number of techniques for deterring plant loving insects and other garden pests by repurposing things that might otherwise in end up in the trash. These pest solutions are easier on both the environment and your wallet than toxic chemical pesticide. Did you know that, according to the EPA, 78 million U.S. households use home and garden pesticides each year, with chemical pesticide sales topping $9 billion annually? That’s a lot of dead bugs and a lot of dead president (AKA cash, bucks, greenbacks, lettuce, etc.)

Wed, 13 Jun 2012 08:23:00 EST
<![CDATA[The Snobbish Wine Guest Switcheroo and Other Cheapskate Wine Tips]]>

As you might have heard, it's a controversial element the NCPP ("National Cheapskate Profiling Program"). Many, but not all, cheapskates like me love box wine.

In fact, I'm fond of "recanting"—as opposed to "decanting"—the wine I serve our dinner guests. "Recanting: Secretly funneling inexpensive box wines into empty, premium brand bottles kept on hand for the express purpose of impressing guests who care about such superficial stuff."

I've done this for years, and no one has ever questioned the authenticity of the wine I serve. Not even wine snobs have enough confidence in their taste buds to question what the label on the fancy bottle is telling them. If you don't believe me, this study by the Stanford Graduate School of Business and the California Institute of Technology essentially proved the same thing.

> Related: 8 Boxed Wines and Meals to Pair With Them

Not only is box wine a terrific value when it comes to saving money, but there's more and more research showing that—compared to most bottled wines—it's saving Mother Nature, too. According to the American Association of Wine Economists and other industry sources, boxed wine (a.k.a. "bag-in-box" packaging) decreases landfill waste by roughly 85 percent and is more than 50 percent more carbon efficient when compared to wine packaged in traditional glass bottles.

Tue, 01 Nov 2011 11:48:00 EST
<![CDATA[Saving Money, Amish Style]]>
amish road sign

I've always been fascinated with the Amish]]> Thu, 15 Sep 2011 07:57:00 EST <![CDATA[To Repair or Replace? That is the Question.]]> Follow the 50% rule and these four other rules for determining when it pays to repair an item, rather than replace it.]]> Wed, 31 Aug 2011 12:29:00 EST <![CDATA[17 Creative Things to Do with Phone Books]]>

Is it just my imagination, or are they sending out updated editions of the phone book and Yellow Pages a lot more often than they used to?

When I was growing up, it seemed like we had the same phone book the whole time. I remember it, because my Uncle George — who fancied himself the Human Hulk — said he knew a trick whereby he could tear an entire phone book in half with his bare hands. It didn't quite work out that way, although he did thoroughly mangle the A-G listings.

 wallking fingers yellow pages phone book logo

And the Yellow Pages; I don't ever remember getting an updated version. Our copy was sort of our family Bible, not only a source of information but a record of our lives. Especially the page with the phone listing for our family doctor, which was crammed with frantically written margin notes in my mom's handwriting, instructions from the good doctor's office for treating her two accident-prone young sons. Things like: "Induce vomiting immediately!", "Not far as the doctor knows," and (multiple entries) "Should pass in his stool within 48-hours."

Okay, so maybe it is just my imagination, but certainly the phone company is distributing a heck of a lot more phone books than they need to in this era when so many of us retrieve the phone numbers we need on the Internet instead. More than half a BILLION phone books are printed and distributed every year in the U.S., which is nearly two books for every American. That consumes about 19 million trees. Here's how to help curb this waste of paper and make the best use of outdated phone books you have on hand:

  • Opt Out: Go to and register to be taken off the distribution list for white and yellow page phone books.
  • Recycle: Less than 10% of all phone books printed are recycled, even though they can be recycled into everything from ceiling tiles to cereal boxes. Go to to find your nearest phone book recycling center.
  • Repurpose: As they say, "One man's trash is a Green Cheapskate's treasure." Here are some creative reuses for old phone books and Yellow Pages.
  • Child Booster Seats: Cover them in fabric remnants.
  • Press Autumn Leaves/Plants: Better yet, have the kids sit on them at the same time.
  • Flip Books: Here's a fun art project!
  • Window Wipes: Perfect for cleaning windows with a simple mixture of vinegar and water.
  • Phone Book Step Aerobics: Duct tape them together to use in stair-stepping exercises.
  • Fire Starters: Perfect for the fireplace, grill or woodstove.
  • Garden Mulch: Shred 'em (a few pages at a time, Uncle George), they're great biodegradable weed blockers.
  • Origami: Recreate the Tale of 10,000 Yellow Swans with a single book of Yellow Pages!
  • ]]> Fri, 29 Apr 2011 09:26:00 EST <![CDATA[How Many Recycled Cans Does It Take to Make an Airplane?]]>

    February is the month I finally force myself to clean out and organize my office for the new year. It's an annual ritual worthy of a season-long special of Hoarders, a head-on collision between my weakness for made-to-be-broken New Year's resolutions and my deculttering phobia.

    The good news is that my yearly office cleaning gives me a chance to sort out the hundreds of press releases and news clippings I've saved during the year for my annual Top Ten Shocking Eco-Facts blog post. Remember, being the Green Cheapskate, that's "eco" as in ecological as well as economical. Here are the top ten factoids that emerged from my desk top this time around:

    We waste enough Sporks to circle the Earth, and then some.
    Talk about a big table setting. According to the Clean Air Council, enough plastic eating utensils are thrown away every year to circle the equator 300 times. That's about 40 billion pounds of plastic knives, forks, and spoons, the vast majority of which end up in landfills where scientists say they'll take 500 years – give or take a couple centuries – to decompose.

    crushed soda can

    Airlines waste enough soda cans to build dozens of planes.
    Coffee, tea... or a new plane? The U.S. airline industry has been encountering some turbulence over its reluctance to institute recycling programs for trash generated onboard. But here's a fact from the Natural Resource Defense Council that should grab the industry by its profit-centers and force it to take action: U.S. airlines throw away enough aluminum cans every year to build 57 new 747s.

    Related: The 13 Coolest Things Made from Recycled Bottles

    Wed, 02 Mar 2011 12:54:00 EST
    <![CDATA[10 Painless Ways to Save for Vacation]]>
    travel luggage piled in the sand by the beach

    The average American family plans to spend about $1,650 on summer vacation, according to a study by Visa. That's more than chump-change, particularly in these hard economic times.

    Here are some simple ways to pump up your piggy bank so that your vacation is paid for before you ever leave home.

    Make mine a water
    According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, most of us spend nearly 45% of our food budget on meals prepared outside the home. Cooking more meals at home can save you about 80% compared to restaurant meals, but -- even if you still want to eat out -- just by ordering tap water instead of overpriced beverages with your restaurant meals the average family of four can save about $800 a year ... nearly half of your vacation budget. I'll drink to that.

    And speaking of water
    Heating domestic hot water -- the water you use to bathe, wash dishes, etc. -- accounts for about 15% of total home heating costs, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. It's easy to cut that expense in half and save hundreds of dollars a year by turning down your hot water heater to 110 degrees and/or turning it off completely overnight, installing inexpensive low-flow shower heads and putting an insulating blanket around your hot water heater, and washing clothes in cold water only. When you're lying on the beach on vacation, surrounded by warm ocean waters and breezes, you'll be glad you did.

    Call your insurance agent
    It pays to call your insurance agent once a year and ask him or her to help you lower your premiums. Often times there are special discounts you may now be eligible to receive (e.g. a "good drivers discount") or your coverage can be updated and adjusted to possibly lower premiums (e.g. reducing or even eliminating collision coverage on an aged vehicle). And "bundling" your policies -- for example placing your auto and home policies with the same company -- can many times save you 10% or more off the total premium.

    Find some money
    Check the websites and for unclaimed funds and other property that might be due you. These sites allow you to search for unclaimed property (free of charge) and are sponsored by the nonprofit organization The National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA). This could include monies due you or your family members from sources like forgotten bank accounts and inheritances, to utility bill refunds, security deposits, etc. NAUPA says that about one out of every eight Americans is entitled to unclaimed assets, with claims averaging about $1,000.

    Mon, 17 Jan 2011 03:00:00 EST
    <![CDATA[6 Ways to Go Green and Save Money in 2011]]> These New Year's resolutions from the Green Cheapskate show you how to build wealth by going green.]]> Mon, 03 Jan 2011 12:53:00 EST <![CDATA[10 Handy Alternative Uses of Charcoal]]>
    natural charcoal burning

    [In his ongoing but sporadic series Don't Throw That Away!, the Green Cheapskate shows you how to repurpose just about anything, saving money and the environment in the process. Send him your repurposing ideas and challenges, but whatever you do, Don't Throw That Away!]

    Remember when you were a kid and the biggest fear you faced was the prospect of waking up on Christmas morning to find a lump of coal in your stocking, Santa's ultimate up-your-chimney gift for kiddies more naughty than nice?

    Well, when I put away our outdoor grill a couple of weeks ago for the winter and stood pondering what to do with a partial bag of leftover charcoal, it got me thinking. After some research, I've concluded that a lump of coal -- or rather charcoal* -- may not be such a bad gift after all. Here are some creative repurposing ideas for last summer's leftover charcoal:

    * 1. Rust-free tool and tackle boxes: Charcoal absorbs moisture, so stick a couple of lumps in your toolbox and fishing tackle box to keep your hammers and hooks from rusting. I also put a few pieces in a garbage bag and wrap the business ends of my gardening tools in it for a rust-free winter's nap.

    * 2. Compost it: Charcoal can be added to the compost pile -- in moderation -- and will increase the carbon content of the resulting humus. Of course there are plenty of other unusual things you can compost as well.

    * 3. Natural air freshener: Charcoal keeps air smelling fresh by absorbing moisture that can cause mold and mildew. Put a few pieces in an old pair of pantyhose and hang it in the basement or other damp room, or put some in drawers, closets, or even in the fridge instead of baking soda.

    * 4. Moisture-free salt and sand: Replacing the bag of summertime charcoal in the garage with sacks of rock salt and sand to handle winter de-icing? Mix a couple of pieces of charcoal in with the salt and sand; it will absorb moisture and keep them from clumping.

    ]]> Wed, 22 Dec 2010 10:51:00 EST <![CDATA[9 Great Free and Ultra-Cheap Christmas Gifts]]>

    christmas gift package

    Given that Christmas has grown to be a nearly $400 billion spending spree here in the U.S., I sometimes think that Ebenezer Scrooge should have stuck to his guns and ignored those three spirits who visited him on Christmas Eve.

    According to a recent Gallup Poll, this holiday season, the average American adult expects to spend about $700 on gifts alone. At the very least, with the economy still tipsy from too many eggnogs, a little temperance seems to be in order this gift-giving season. Who knows, a simpler, less materialistic holiday might just be a more memorable and enjoyable one, too.

    So how do you have that potentially awkward conversation with family and friends? You know, the one where you broach the subject of maybe cutting back on gift giving, or even entirely forgoing a gift exchange this year?

    The important thing is to have the talk --- don't be shy. With friends and family you don't see that often, a thoughtful letter or even an email suggesting that maybe it's time to take a different approach to gift giving is perfectly acceptable, according to Peggy Post. She's the great-granddaughter-in-law of etiquette queen Emily Post and a director at the Emily Post Institute.

    "As long as you do it politely, directly, and sincerely, many times others will thank you for starting the conversation," Post says.

    Many families cap holiday gift giving by setting -- and sticking to -- a maximum amount per gift, and/or giving gifts only to children under a certain age. In addition to a strict $20 spending cap, in our family nieces and nephews no longer receive gifts once they reach age 18, but they then become part of the Secret Santa plan for adults. That's where we all draw names ahead of time and buy a gift for one other adult family member, so we all have something to open on Christmas.

    Tue, 30 Nov 2010 09:00:00 EST
    <![CDATA[25 A-peeling Uses for Fruit and Veggie Scraps]]> Got watermelon rinds or onion skins? Save money around the house with these creative food waste recycling tips.]]> Mon, 25 Oct 2010 11:11:00 EST