Metatalktail Hour: Good things on the cheap August 15, 2020 12:22 PM   Subscribe

It's the weekend, Metafilter! This weekend heyho suggests: "How about a thread of users offering up tips on how to do some things for free, or on the real cheap, that others might not know about but might be able to take advantage of." I will add: ...or sharing anything else that you've recently been glad to learn about, or that makes life a little nicer.

As always it's a conversation starter not limiter, so feel free to just let us know what's up with you these days.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) to MetaFilter-Related at 12:22 PM (87 comments total) 34 users marked this as a favorite

With a Chicago Public Library card, users can access the OED (and a lot more) online without having to pay for the subscription. This is likely true of other libraries!
posted by heyho at 12:34 PM on August 15, 2020 [16 favorites]

Oh my gosh, even without counting access to all the books, music, and videos, SO MUCH free stuff may be available to you if you have a public library card. It’s definitely worth taking a look at your library’s website—you may be surprised at what’s available.

Through my library (either via a computer at the library or at home with internet) you can take unlimited Lynda classes for free, read tons of newspapers and popular magazines online for free, take online language courses for free, get free virtual help with your resume, take free practice SAT, ACT, and many professional exams, get free online homework help, use free virtual resources to do ancestry research, get access to thousands of how-to crafts videos... so, so many free things.
posted by bookmammal at 12:53 PM on August 15, 2020 [10 favorites]

My small nice cheap thing isn't online, it's basically re-using packaging materials for cheapo household organizing. We have more pantry stuff these days, and it's kind of a problem. I've enjoyed making some little custom shelf dividers out of discarded cereal boxes (etc) to tame the worst of it. E.g. bulk spices in bags flop around and are hard to inventory, so this week I made a little organizey thing for them and now I can see what needs re-stocking without having to unpack the whole mess. It's nicer!
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 12:58 PM on August 15, 2020 [17 favorites]

Interlibrary loan! If a circulating item is located at an in-state lending library, it can be shipped to my home library. And it's free! Amazing, and a benefit that many cardholders don't even know about.
posted by MonkeyToes at 1:10 PM on August 15, 2020 [8 favorites]

Not free, but a big box home improvement store that's blue sells broken open bags of stuff in the garden center or lumber area for half price. Oftentimes, there's just a wee bit missing. Everything from potting soil, fertilizer, mulch, rock: whatever. It's how I get all that I need. Near closing or early mornings are the best time....

Threads pulled on your top? Use a wooden toothpick to push it to the backside. The toothpick has enough texture to grab the thread. Pull the pick all the way and presto new top.
posted by mightshould at 1:45 PM on August 15, 2020 [6 favorites]

We buy eggs several dozen at a time and so we have those larger molded-paper square egg carton things sitting around. My husbear uses them to put hot skillets on or pie tins that need to cool, etc. Free cooling racks! (Could probably use two dozen-egg cartons next to each other for the same effect, if you don't buy a bunch of eggs at once.)

Do not do this with styrofoam egg cartons.
posted by hippybear at 1:55 PM on August 15, 2020 [4 favorites]

How to get cheese, for free, in rural England.

1) Pick blackberries from the hedgerows, especially in the late summer and early autumn. Avoid fields contains cows or doggers. Do not touch any magazines you find in the same hedgerows.
2) Put blackberries in the fridge of wherever you are staying or live at.
3) Visit the village pub. Casually drop into a conversation or two with locals that you have a surplus of fresh blackberries, but have a deficit of cheese in your fridge/life.
4) Receive communications from a random stranger overnight, offering to trade blackberries for cheese. You will be puzzled how they got your contact details. It's a rural English village; they'll find you and have an alarming amount of information about you, your history, and your nearest relatives. Just roll with it.
5) Meet up and trade the next day, replacing the blackberries in your fridge with the cheese.
posted by Wordshore at 3:11 PM on August 15, 2020 [109 favorites]

Not so much “free” as it is “less waste”, but...Sliced cucumbers will last a week in a container in the fridge (and not get slimy!) if you put a paper towel on top of them and then flip the container over so it sits on its lid. I eat SO MANY CUCUMBERS now that I don’t have to slice them to order and/or toss them in the bin when they get slimy after 24 hours.
posted by okayokayigive at 4:04 PM on August 15, 2020 [17 favorites]

Totally unrelated to the topic, but I was cleaning my office on Friday and uncovered a slip of paper that had "Why are beach balls different?" written on it. It was in my handwriting and I assume I had written it but for the life of me I have no idea what it means.

I googled beach balls to see if maybe I could jog my memory but got nothing. However, it did lead to a Wikipedia list of inflatable manufactured goods, which was nice.
posted by Literaryhero at 4:09 PM on August 15, 2020 [28 favorites]

The mister and I decided on a whim to go to a virtual stand-up comedy thing last night which was basically "pay what you want" (tickets started at I think $3 which is the cheapest I will ever get to see Myq Kaplan, Judah Friedlander AND Emma Willmann) and was surprisingly good. Lots of "crowd work" for people who had their cameras/mics on, and you can keep your mic and camera off if it's not your thing. There's a show tonight!

Other than that I've just been taking advantage of our town forests and going for long-ass hikes and it's remarkable that on a day like today when the weather was great I was there for 90 minutes and didn't see another person. Trailforks can be good for finding trails. I even got lost for a while (one of those things where you walk and walk and find yourself back at the same place you were 45 min ago and you're like "Uh oh...." and it was nice having my mind off of the general Pandamnit for a bit.

Also if you like to kinda hate read Twitter--I am not usually a hate reader, but I do make exceptions--a pal of mine owns the domain which just lets you see your actual timeline in actual order (redirects to a custom search) but he also set up to redirect to a search there for "This website is free" which are often some good jokes, or terrible jokes depending on how you are feeling.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 4:29 PM on August 15, 2020 [6 favorites]

"Why are beach balls different?"

Because they always play the pool.
posted by iamkimiam at 4:31 PM on August 15, 2020 [2 favorites]

If you have a destruco-dog who none-the-less loves playing footie, here's how to keep your soccer ball kickable and playable until the cover falls off (instead of for however long it takes them to puncture it--minutes for pup-of-maxwelton):

Deflate the ball by inserting a loose "ball filler" for your air pump into the ball. Let the pressurized air out, and give it a gentle squeeze after that. Remove the filler. You're not trying to get all the air out, just the pressurized air. The ball is now "flat", but can still be kicked to, caught and carried around by the pooch--it just can't be kicked 20 or 30 meters.

When doggo's fangs go through the cover, the (now flat) rubber bladder inside can deflect away from the ivory pup daggers instead of being pierced. (If you're really unlucky, they might put a canine through right next to the valve, where the rubber is glued to the cover, and a puncture will happen anyway...but otherwise you'll be golden.)

Instead of a few minutes, I get a month or more out of a hardware-store ball now (I recommend the Franklin brand, which has two layers of "leather", Mitre seems to only have one). My pup has removed the outer layer from the ball and it looks like heck, but can still be played with. I can afford a $15 ball every month or two. I cannot afford a semi-truck-full every week. Footie is our favorite game and makes pup so happy.

(Apologies if everyone knows this and I had to discover it from first principles, but hopefully it will make some of y'all and your doggos happy.)
posted by maxwelton at 4:45 PM on August 15, 2020 [4 favorites]

-a pal of mine owns the domain which just lets you see your actual timeline in actual order

Is this different from switching from "Home" to "Latest Tweets" setting by tapping the stars at the top of the screen?
posted by hippybear at 4:45 PM on August 15, 2020

"Why are beach balls different?"

I wonder if this note is about where you might find them in a store? I would not be surprised if they were sold with kid's toys or pool accessories instead of in sporting goods. (I say this with my tech brain.)
posted by maxwelton at 4:55 PM on August 15, 2020 [1 favorite]

Is this different from switching from "Home" to "Latest Tweets" setting by tapping the stars at the top of the screen?

I think so? Without getting too into the weeds, the full query is
So it doesn't toss weird stuff into your timeline like other people's nonsense who you're not following. If I'm reading people talking about it correctly it's Twitter "without retweets, liked tweets, or any algorithm nonsense." If you're on mobile I think you also have to hit the Latest tab.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 4:59 PM on August 15, 2020 [3 favorites]

"Why are beach balls different?"

I googled up a couple legal cases where people are parsing the finer points of beach balls, if that helps. The first one has some arguing about serial commas as well.

The insurer argued that the beach ball was an excluded “amusement device.”

Court rejected the argument that this made the beach ball the type of “inflatable game or device”

posted by paper chromatographologist at 5:00 PM on August 15, 2020 [2 favorites]

"Why are beach balls different?"

So you can tell yours from your fellow beach-goers'?
posted by Greg_Ace at 5:58 PM on August 15, 2020 [2 favorites]

Kanopy, which is a fancy-ass streaming service with a lot of classic movies, non-English titles, small indie award winners, documentaries, etc., is available free with a library card through a LOT of libraries in the US. (Also through universities, if you're a student or employee.)

But for my nerdy ass, the best part of it is that the Great Courses are on Kanopy and I've been watching ENDLESS NERDERY for FREEEEEEEEEE, thanks local library!
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 5:58 PM on August 15, 2020 [36 favorites]

The suspension fork on my pushbike has been squeaking, and it had never been serviced, so I ordered a kit of new seals and o-rings, downloaded the manual, made sure I had the tools, and tried to do the job myself. It’s done! What would have been several hundred dollars of work and all it took was hours of swearing at myself, bleeding knuckles, ever-spreading filth across the backyard (the inside of a never-serviced fork is a greasy Hell), a completely lost temper, and a renewed appreciation for the skills of bike mechanics, which I am not. I’m looking at the bike now thinking ‘I should do bike repair more often’.

Anyway. YouTube and manufacturers’ websites are a goldmine for basic mechanical repairs. Name any arcane job and there’s a video of someone showing you how to do it and what you need, and probably a step-by-step manual in PDF.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 6:01 PM on August 15, 2020 [6 favorites]

Another thing your local library probably does is provide free passes to things like museums, aquariums, even theme parks. Usually you need to reserve the pass in advance, and you also need to call ahead and make sure the destination will take whatever kind of pass that is on the day you want to go - but you want to talk about saving money, a library museum/attraction pass can instantly save a family group $100. Ask about it, it's really a common benefit to library membership!
posted by Miko at 6:20 PM on August 15, 2020 [7 favorites]

Great Courses are on Kanopy

!! I have Kanopy and had no idea these were on there. Understanding the World's Greatest Structures helped me immensely when going after my civil engineering degree.
posted by curious nu at 6:52 PM on August 15, 2020 [8 favorites]

Seconding LobsterMitten on reusing packaging - I cut down a cracker box to corral my plastic lids, and it works great. And as I empty my nice metal tea canisters, I can repurpose them to hold pens and markers.

Great thread, heyho - thanks!
posted by kristi at 6:58 PM on August 15, 2020 [2 favorites]

Used 1-liter water bottles, frozen, parked in front of a fan, make for nice low-cost cooling if you don’t have air conditioning.
With enough of them, you can always rotate in fresh ones from the freezer.

When filling them, leave a little space at the top for expansion, so the bottles don’t burst, and mix in a little bleach or oxiclean or aquarium cleaner so the water doesn’t gunk up. Be sure to write “do not drink” on the bottles if you put stuff in the water.

I mean there are fancier and more labor-intensive ways to gin up some cool air, but water bottles are dirt cheap and very low-maintenance.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 7:14 PM on August 15, 2020 [11 favorites]

In the spirit of less waste, this post RE dishwashers from a few days ago and the associated thread that SED mentioned is already saving me time (a little), money (a little) and water (a fair amount).

In other news, a domestic violence advocacy program I've been volunteering with for the past 17 1/2 years, which was already paused because of COVID, has undergone a tectonic shift, and is moving from its long-standing parent organization to another home. On the one hand it is terrifying, because there are still a lot of details to work out and the future is so, so uncertain. But it's also exciting, because my manager (who is mindbogglingly amazing) has some pretty bold ideas about how to grow/improve/change the way we deliver our services to the people who want them. I either want to throw up or celebrate, but I'm not sure which. At least some of the intense anxiety I've had for the past three months about this issue is beginning to wane, and now I can go back to just feeling shitty about COVID and politics.
posted by Gorgik at 9:37 PM on August 15, 2020 [4 favorites]

I've picked at least five pounds of free blueberries at the blueberry farm inside a local municipal park in the last week. Aside from the price of sugar, this means FREE JAM if I use crabapples from my tree for pectin. I've also harvested at least four pounds of windfall apples from a tree that's being neglected in a neighbor's yard dropping them into mine. And, of course, it's free blackberry and please-take-my-plums season in the PNW. August and early fall are an orgy of free fruit here.

My library system lets you check out tickets to various local museums and things. I JUST learned while looking up what that it includes state parks, which is good to know!

Also, I stepped on a yellow jacket nest on Friday - DO NOT DO THIS!!! - and luckily had the presence of mind to bend down, pick a plantain weed leaf, chew it up, slap it on the stings, and tie my COVID mask around my ankle to keep it in place, which was free and definitely saved me from worse pain.
posted by centrifugal at 10:00 PM on August 15, 2020 [5 favorites]

With regards to blackberry season... This rental hardly has enough space to garden a single plant, but the blackberries that have infiltrated the decorative evergreen shrubs between the patio and the neighbor's yard have been a very convenient source of tasty berries to put on waffles for the last few days. I think I've picked at least a quart already.
posted by Zalzidrax at 12:27 AM on August 16, 2020 [5 favorites]

If you want your dog to stop destroying his stuffed toys, have a few cats move in that he will want to befriend. After discovering their horror at watching him rip apart a cat-sized toy, he will treat the next toy with loving care and present it to them as evidence of his goodwill and good intentions.

Note: this may not work with all dogs, YMMV etc
posted by ananci at 1:40 AM on August 16, 2020 [38 favorites]

Two weeks ago, just b4 six am, I'm on the bicycle, I'm passing through a cut-out and lo and behold -- the end of the month, people have moved and put all kinds of items out by the dumpsters. It's a bad habit, and one that I've mostly kicked. But -- I had a feeling.

A hundred dollars worth of paint, oil and acrylic. At least 20 brushes, most of them brand new, not top of the line but not from Walmart either. Crayons. Crayon colored pencils. A super great double set of high quality pencils. Charcoal out the wazoo. A million, bazillion pens -- I let go all of the sharpies (I've got plenty of sharpies here, I gave them to a friend, the pens also) so let go the sharpies but kept all of the art pens and pens that are actually brushes, real high quality stuff. The art pens -- if they didn't flow with perfect ease I chunked them, so easy for me to keep supplies that are "pretty dang good" or whatever. Not this time: I kept them if they flowed like new. More art supplies, foo much to list. And a damn good, almost new backpack to carry it home -- sweet.

After the ride I hopped into the pickup and went back -- again, just a hunch. Turns out there was a plug draped over the side of the dumpster.. I pulled it -- is that a laptop power supply? Looks like one. Long story short it's a sweet Dell laptop, needs a battery, the hard drive is trashed but I kept trying to somehow get it to fire up, came close a couple of times but no cigar. Damn shame -- a 1 TB drive. But it wasn't solid state anyways so it'd be a big gross pig, finally gave up trying to get it to fire, took the puter apart (big pain in the ass that was) and swapped out with a solid state drive I had gathering dust, put it all back together and ZAM! a sweet little laptop. (Not little, actually -- 15.6inch screen.)

Dell has a really great set up, plug in the number on the puter and they'll give you a copy of the OS and all the drivers needed, took a couple hours to download. Took maybe 1.5 hours to get WIN 10 on the machine, a lot of the time was spent researching online how to set up WIN10 and not give MS any email or phone number or whatever else they wanted. Anyways, I got it loaded, booted a few times to make sure, then loaded Linux Mint onto the puter, it'll be a dual-boot, almost certainly I'll be in Linux more than Windows but I guess it's nice to have it. Or something.

I'm gonna take it apart at least once again -- it's got 4 gig RAM, I've got lots of 4 GIG RAM laying around, gotta make sure to use the correct one, if I've got it, bounce up from 4GIG to 8GIG.. (I bet I do have the right RAM here somewheres.) As soon as I get that machine totally squared away I've got to take this one apart, add more RAM, probably take WIN10 off the machine completely, load Linux Mint onto this little puter and call it a day.

I haven't let myself near another dumpster, and I won't, either. (I hope.) But all of these art supplies and this laptop make a strong case, which I'll just have to ignore ignore ignore.
posted by dancestoblue at 2:07 AM on August 16, 2020 [29 favorites]

Yeah, the saddest thing about the current state of affairs is that so many have upped sticks and left. This isn't a place where a lot of people call Mayflower and drop $5000 on a professional move, so a vast selection of rugs and furnishings go out on the curb. I've seen everything from tiki bars to a baby grand out there recently. If I had thought about it, I should have documented some of it, just for the woah factor.
I have managed to collect a decent pine bookcase and an upholstered chair without guilt by moving them on my bike.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 3:50 AM on August 16, 2020 [4 favorites]

This might be utterly useless to many, if not all, but I’m incredibly lazy, and leave my razor (one of the dumb ones with too many blades) in the shower, less than a foot away from the little bin that holds the fresh razor cartridges. By the time I think, huh, I should load a new cartridge, I’m already about to start shaving, which is when this advice comes into play:

When your razor is starting to get a little dull, wet it and run it in the opposite direction (so the blades slide, but don’t cut) across your forearm or thigh. It’s pretty much the same effect as sharpening a straight razor by running it over a leather strap, and this little trick keeps me from shaving with a dull razor for months before I finally remember to change the cartridge. Remember: run it across the opposite way, so it doesn’t cut any hairs, about six or seven times, and you’ll feel the difference when you shave.
posted by Ghidorah at 4:28 AM on August 16, 2020 [7 favorites]

If you've mail-ordered something and they cushioned the package with crumpled-up brown paper, save the paper and iron it flat (cooler setting, put a towel between the paper and your ironing board). Then use rubber stamps to decorate it. Voila - wrapping paper.

An increasing number of my pantry storage is recycled jars from pasta sauce or salsa or suchlike. I soak the jars in hot soapy water for a few hours to soak the labels off, then either paint the lids or paste on pretty paper just for extra cuteness. Some brands of pasta sauce even have quantity markings on the jars underneath the label.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:48 AM on August 16, 2020 [14 favorites]

For a long time, I didn’t know you could replace just the rubber part on car windshield wipers, instead of the whole wiper. Nearly as easy, just as effective if the wipers themselves are still fine, and cheaper.
posted by daisyace at 5:46 AM on August 16, 2020 [4 favorites]

Seafoam fuel additive. For $7 you rediscover the motor that came with your car. The first and only such product that’s ever impressed me.
posted by spitbull at 6:32 AM on August 16, 2020 [3 favorites]

Ghidorah, that's amazing! I sharpen my razors that way on my jeans and have done so for years after seeing it in an AskMe, I think. I can't believe how much money it saves; it's silly not to do it once you learn it's possible.
posted by heyho at 7:04 AM on August 16, 2020 [2 favorites]

Metafilter: an Orgy of Free Fruit
posted by Kitchen Witch at 9:10 AM on August 16, 2020 [2 favorites]

Don't have a 'free' things to offer but I've scored some fantastic flea-market paintings over the last couple months. I'm an educated art-snob, I know 'good' art and why it's good and blablabla. And really all of the paintings I've bought (all under 20bucks ) have been good and some have been 'officially' good: art from the mid 20th and some from the mid 19th, modest landscapes mostly. And by 'good' I mean that in the full, aesthetic sense: they set out to do something and they are true to that intention. It is deeply satisfying and scratches an itch for aesthetic stimulation.

Today I picked up an utterly... strange painting likely from the early 60's (I'm guessing from the stretcher and staples and painting technique) that is... it should be terrible - there are some choices some convictions that are really - peculiar but still work. Like, the painting is tall and skinny, about 18" tall and 12" wide and there's a pretty big block, about five inches (?) at top and bottom of just dark mushiness. But not just opaque mushiness, there's method to the madness. And the main figure, the point of the painting (an older gent with glasses communing with a houseplant (this is what I think is going on, and I'm staying with that)) is right smack in the middle of the picture and then space is filled out around him as needed. But skillfully. It's a really - interesting - painting. Not 'pretty' or attractive but full of integrity. I have no idea who painted it or where it came from, but I'm assuming it's from the area and I 'want' to say it's not a professional but - there's too much smarts in it to be anything less than the result of lots of experience.

Paintings are weird, they talk to you. You don't have to spend a fortune to find good ones.
posted by From Bklyn at 10:44 AM on August 16, 2020 [17 favorites]

Wow, that razor trick sounds great.

I used to get salmon carcasses from my fishmonger for free. They were perfectly fresh and yielded a delicious salmon chowder with big chunks of fish. The other ingredients of salmon chowder are pretty cheap too so it was very satisfying.

U-pick places will lower their prices drastically toward the end of their season. Last year the local blueberry place went down to $1/lb.

Investigate whether your local paper might affiliate with a national paper. I got a year of the WaPo for free through my dinky little 10-page local rag.

If you are still buying from Amazon (I'm trying not to, getting there but I'm very rural and once in a while it's the best solution) they seem to be going crazy with lots of stackable offers lately. I just bought an $80 item for $0. I have a Chase Freedom credit card that gives me 1.5% back (via points). I had a bunch of points sitting there and got an offer from Amazon for a $25 credit if I used my points there, and then another offer for a $15 credit if I just entered a debit card into their system--no need to actually use it. So I was able to get this thing by combining the $40 credit and $40 worth of points.
posted by HotToddy at 10:48 AM on August 16, 2020

A hundred dollars worth of paint, oil and acrylic. At least 20 brushes, most of them brand new, not top of the line but not from Walmart either. Crayons. Crayon colored pencils. A super great double set of high quality pencils. Charcoal out the wazoo. A million, bazillion pens -- I let go all of the sharpies (I've got plenty of sharpies here, I gave them to a friend, the pens also) so let go the sharpies but kept all of the art pens and pens that are actually brushes, real high quality stuff. The art pens -- if they didn't flow with perfect ease I chunked them, so easy for me to keep supplies that are "pretty dang good" or whatever. Not this time: I kept them if they flowed like new. More art supplies, foo much to list. And a damn good, almost new backpack to carry it home -- sweet.

I... I think I need a cigarette after reading that. Whew.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 11:13 AM on August 16, 2020 [13 favorites]

I use that razor trick too!

Nothing free here, but I've had really good luck with Craigslist lately. Bought a huge old 30" 2560x1600 LCD monitor for my wife's WFH setup for $120 this week, on the advice of a coworker. Did the handoff on the sidewalk, paid with Venmo, zero fuss. I managed to scratch it a bit getting it into our car, but she's okay with it, and it has space for all the spreadsheets.
posted by Alterscape at 11:35 AM on August 16, 2020 [1 favorite]

Not so much “free” as it is “less waste”, but...Sliced cucumbers will last a week in a container in the fridge (and not get slimy!)

I recently learned that you can freeze eggs! I rarely make it through a whole carton of 18 (cheaper per egg than the carton of 12) before they’re in danger of getting iffy, so I was going through this phase of not getting eggs because I was afraid of wasting them. Now I get a new carton even if I’m not out because I know I can freeze any extras.

Also, my new favorite free video streaming service is IMDbTV. They’ve got a lot of classic TV titles for bingeing, and a lot more recent and classic movies than I expected.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 12:03 PM on August 16, 2020 [9 favorites]

Two weeks ago, just b4 six am, I'm on the bicycle, I'm passing through a cut-out and lo and behold -- the end of the month, people have moved and put all kinds of items out by the dumpsters. It's a bad habit, and one that I've mostly kicked. But -- I had a feeling.

OMG I live in a college town where half the p moves out every summer. I haven’t bought a new piece of furniture in decades. There’s an organized dump-and-run every year with the proceeds going to charity, but a lot of quality furniture still goes out to the dumpsters of apartment complexes. One year I got a whole matching dining room set, buffet/dresser, coffee table, and end tables, higher-end IKEA. The dresser was too big for my sister’s car, so we balanced it on the roof and I walked alongside holding it in place while she drove reeeally slowly. We called it “The Lucy and Ethel Method.”
posted by The Underpants Monster at 12:11 PM on August 16, 2020 [24 favorites]

For a long time, I didn’t know you could replace just the rubber part on car windshield wipers, instead of the whole wiper. Nearly as easy, just as effective if the wipers themselves are still fine, and cheaper.

Oh, dude, same here, but with kitchen appliances. I had a food processor that I'd been convinced I had to replace, because I keep it on top of my fridge and so when I take it down I'm always in danger of the lid falling off, and after five or six tumbles enough of the plastic had chipped off in places that it couldn't stay on the processor any more. So I was facing having to shell out 80 bucks for a new food processor just because the lid had fallen off.

But something made me double check on the manufacturer's web site - and sure enough, they sold replacement lids for that same model machine for only about 15 bucks. Much better! (I used that very processor to make a huge batch of pesto this weekend.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:51 PM on August 16, 2020

I went through a parts replacement thing this spring, new blender jar, lid, washers, a beater bar for my pet vacuum, I love getting my stuff back in use. Gonna make pickles today, the garden, though the startup was a relative lot, has been my everyday entertainment all summer. I hoard art supplies, but not inthusiasm, so I have to be better at that. This is a hard scrabble town, but always has freebies from the neighbors.
posted by Oyéah at 1:57 PM on August 16, 2020 [3 favorites]

I've nursed a washing machine, dishwasher, vacuum cleaner and two ovens through 10-15 years, and they're all running just fine. Well, the ovens are actually crap, and I can't put off replacing them much longer. But the other stuff has either been reliably well made to start with (Miele and Bosch things especially) or I've serviced or replaced them myself. People don't think of repairing appliances like they used to. But large modern appliances are often very modular, parts can be ordered online, and YouTube will show you how to swap out a pump or a heating element. This really should be a golden age for appliance repair.
posted by pipeski at 4:53 PM on August 16, 2020 [9 favorites]

My kids used to write hand written letters to companies and ask for samples. Almost all of them either sent some or sent coupons for free or reduced cost.

Mostly grocery store items, although Hanes once sent a package of Spiderman underwear to my son
posted by AugustWest at 5:33 PM on August 16, 2020 [5 favorites]

My main money-saving tip, other than all the aforementioned library stuff, is to buy spices in bulk from the bulk bin. They're way cheaper than spices in little jars, and you also don't have to buy big amounts of spices that you don't use very often.

I'm back home in Iowa! I postponed coming home because of the storm, and I was a little worried that travel would be difficult, but it was fine. I got back yesterday, and in the past 24 hours I've managed to clean up all the debris from my yard, throw out all the thawed-out food in my freezer, set up my work-from-home office, and start cleaning up the house. (I left the house a bit messy. That was five months ago. Now it's messy with a fine coating of dust on everything.) I am feeling very accomplished. Sometime this week, I plan to attempt a quarantine haircut, which should be an adventure.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 5:46 PM on August 16, 2020 [11 favorites]

I'm really appreciating the local chapter of the international Buy Nothing Project and recommend it especially for building community bonds. It also feels pretty great to hand off (figuratively due to COVID) items hanging around here that others can really put to use.
posted by vers at 6:10 PM on August 16, 2020 [6 favorites]

I dropped off my oldest at college yesterday. I’m feeling all the feels and my only advice remotely on topic is to give your younger kids a (free) hug. They’ll be grown before you know it and you know what ain’t free? College. Eep!
posted by cheapskatebay at 6:18 PM on August 16, 2020 [5 favorites]

vers - yes! My (relatively low-income) community has this and it's legitimately keeping some neighbors healthy and fed right now, in addition to people not in dire straits being able to clear out our homes and support our neighbors. The group is keeping a couple of high-traffic little free pantries stocked. I've scored a wireless headset, a kitty litter mat, and five pounds of rhubarb recently and given away outgrown kid shoes, extra seeds saved from my garden, and Gorilla tape to fix a torn kiddie pool.
posted by centrifugal at 7:28 PM on August 16, 2020 [6 favorites]

My kids used to write hand written letters to companies and ask for samples.

I have some cousins who used to write or call the “not satisfied with our product?” contact and tell them their (soda, cereal, whatever) was awful, and they’d receive a free case of said soda, cereal, or whatever. That was in the ‘80s so I have no idea if that still works.

Lots of companies will send you FREE STICKERS upon request! I wanted to make my laptop into a proper palimpsest of odd stickers, but grabbing a sticker when I’m out is a no-go now that I’m not going out and a lot of stores are still closed.

Most times you need only a self-addressed stamped envelope. Some companies want you to do a request thingy on their website, but most just need the SASE.

Many companies’ websites have a spot hiding in their faq about stickers, if you’re interested in a particular brand, or a quick googling for “free stickers” will return a boatload of lists like this one:

Or if you want to pay money for stickers, will do custom stickers the way vistaprint does mailing and other promotional materials. They’ll send you a sample catalog for free.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 8:17 PM on August 16, 2020 [8 favorites]

Well I saved all my canning jars, and put them to use this evening, not all of them, but nine of them are full of bread and butter pickles from my "organic Armenian cucumbers" that have just made and made themselves. Some were huge, three inches in diameter. I love canning. So I don't know if dropping this here is OK, but I kept getting text messages from what I now know is a PR firm out of Alabama, the Democratic Party of California payed to shake candidates for low level offices, out of the bushes. It went on and on, and finally a real person, not the AI asked if I were going to file, so I did. (Ursula the sea witch laugh, here.) Yes I did, and the local party wouldn't have run anyone against this guy, because, there are others who need to be run against. However, if I had talked to them up front, they would have discouraged me from doing anything but putting labels on envelopes, or walking for someone else. So I am running for the county wide high school board, the trustee seat in my neighborhood. No, one, and I mean, no one is particularly happy about that. But hey, it will be a learning experience. I already interviewed with the Kern County High School Teachers Association. I thought it went well. Was a good excuse to straighten up my art crap. My very, very saavy youngest daughter walked me through a Zoom meeting, and told me what she could see in my place. It worked. OK. Well, and I have pickles.
posted by Oyéah at 9:45 PM on August 16, 2020 [15 favorites]

jessamyn, hippybear, going to even on desktop takes me to "top results" for the "filter:follows -filter:replies" Twitter search, not the actual timeline-in-order. A pure reverse chronological timeline that matches the "latest results" search has a slightly different URL (f=live shows latest; f=tweets shows top). Let your friend know there's been a switch since they made the original redirect and they might want to change it :)
posted by Pandora Kouti at 9:58 PM on August 16, 2020

Some 'inexpensive but makes me feel rich' food stuff that we have going on has been - the local pan-Asian store packages up beef bones for $1, which I make into stock, and then add to caramelized onions for soup (or any soup really). Risotto is another one; I have a butternut squash and feta recipe that doesn't require the good cheese. (Canadian milk anything products are pretty pricey; I wish I had a pub to trade with.) Quick refrigerator onion pickle, added to salads or grilled cheese. We've kept our fresh herbs alive in the garden too. We've also been making homemade 'slushies' with Ribena and crushed ice. Popcorn, air- and coconut oil-popped, also makes me feel pretty frugal.

Free stuff: My kids and I have been going on a lot of walks and we've hauled a number of things away from the curb. At the start of the shutdown we had no backyard patio furniture and we rescued first a bistro set which didn't need anything and then two lounge chairs that had rusty legs/arms, so we got a can of Tremclad paint and fixed those up, which was also a cheap art project. That inspired fixing up a metal/plastic set of drawers, the kind people have in their garages/workshops for screws, also found on the curb. We liberated a broken side table and are about to turn it into a cornhole game, borrowing my dad's power tools. Other finds include a set of comics based on historical events, a set of serving bowls, and a spice rack set that is holding beads and rainbow loom loops.

Free fun: We've been touring local outdoor sculpture gardens and visiting monuments and (shockingly) then learning the history of them, problematic or otherwise. The Toronto Public Library has a service called Hoopla where you can borrow what they have on DVD and we've been working our way through some PBS series. We've also been doing a lot of kind of nature/found art, stick carving and rock painting and that kind of thing. In the initial shutdown a group of moms started a Zoom crafting club which we've suspended during all the good weather but we may well start up again; we did a lot of paper crafts including origami (cutting 8 1/2 x 11 sheets, not with the fancy paper.)

A few women and I are having 'socially distanced yoga' in our yards, following a few YouTube yogis together. We do it in the evening as the sun sets (bugspray!!) and it is actually really connecting and relaxing. Groups are small, so we're all sort of taking turns going and hosting (those of us lucky enough to have backyards, the hosting bit.)

I keep trying to convince my kids that weeding the garden and lawn is great free fun but no dice. The sprinkler, however, has been a hit, as well as water gun fights and bike riding...all the OG 70s stuff. I can't say that's just for kids either. :)
posted by warriorqueen at 7:48 AM on August 17, 2020 [7 favorites]

Oh! I can make a pitch for canning things and DIY food!

This book is a decent resource for lots of DIY versions of foodstuffs - ricotta, pickles, granola, granola bars, crackers, ice cream, hamburger buns, soda also has good advice for freezing vegetables. The granola and DIY instant-oatmeal-mix are recipes I use frequently.

This is a good resource for canning - she organizes recipes by season, based on what might be growing then, and within each season she divides between canning recipes involving fruit, and then vegetables. She also gives you recipes for things to make with the stuff you've canned. Her tomato canning guidelines are my go-to.

And in general - canning does involve an initial cash outlay to get the jars and the lids, but you can get those in a ton of places - even thrift stores. And it's possible to buy the lids separately - and even the flat bit of the lid separately even further, because you can re-use the jars and the ring part of the lids, so that next time around you only have to buy the flat bit of the lid for considerably cheaper. So your biggest investment after your initial outlay would just be in the food itself, and labor.

But the payoff is huge. Case in point - in a couple weeks, I will be picking up a half a bushel of tomatoes from the farmers' market for about $15 (that's less than a dollar a pound), I will buy the flat lids for about a dozen mason jars for another $15, and then I will barricade myself in the kitchen for a day to process all 25 pounds of tomatoes, turning them into a years' worth of canned tomatoes. I should also get a pint and a half of super-fresh tomato juice as a byproduct, some of which will immediately be used to make a bloody mary. It's a days' worth of messy work, but I will have summer-fresh tomatoes preserved all winter standing by to be turned into amazing pasta dishes, jambalaya, soups, stews, and the like.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:18 AM on August 17, 2020 [8 favorites]

Gah I hit "post" too soon - canning is also easy enough to pick up, so once you know the drill you can salvage fruit that's about to go bad by turning it into a single jar of jam, which will help you cut back on food waste and will also let you play with funky jam flavors (apple/peach/plum? Sure, why not).
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:20 AM on August 17, 2020 [3 favorites]

You can play a bunch of board games online for free. Board Game Arena has a lot; is free for the base set and about $4/month for all the expansions; there is also a site with Agricola whose name escapes me.
posted by ferret branca at 9:41 AM on August 17, 2020 [7 favorites]

In the last week:
  • a major tech company is closing all of its retail stores because of All This. The charity I work for work with them a lot, so I pinged the local team mostly to commiserate. They got back to me with “Could your charity use ~$30K-worth of high-end gaming laptops that we can't return?” I think that was the fastest I've ever typed “Yes please and thank you!”
  • I had to return some 3d printer filament that was just unreliable (tip: don't use 3D850 PLA in a Prusa: it'll jam up badly) and needed to pick up some replacements. When the company owner heard what we do, we got $90 of filament on the house!
posted by scruss at 9:47 AM on August 17, 2020 [9 favorites]

Let your friend know there's been a switch since they made the original redirect and they might want to change it :)

You can let him know yourself, he's here.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 10:26 AM on August 17, 2020 [1 favorite]

Microfiber sports towels are actually microfiber household cloths/rags of various sizes in more expensive packaging.
posted by Too-Ticky at 10:42 AM on August 17, 2020

Youtube has videos on just about every kind of maintenance and repair. Need to mend a garden hose, fix an underperforming vacuum cleaner, find your dishwasher filter, clean your AC condenser, rewire a lamp, tighten up a wobbly piece of furniture? You will likely find at least a dozen videos about more or less your specific item/circumstance, with explanations ranging from somebody's dad with a vertical phone video to a professional with an HD camera - sometimes what you actually need is the narration from the former with the video from the latter, so watch more than one if you need to. Even if you're just wanting to understand better how a thing works - your disposal, your car, a toaster - someone has probably put up videos about it. I've learned volumes about how to use my drill and what kind of attachments are available for various jobs, just from short videos.

This has often been helpful even if I need a professional to come in, because I can at least talk about the problem at more than a 101 level, and gives you a little bit of a bullshit detector when a service tries to tell you the whole thing has to be replaced instead of repaired.

I once had to explain, and then send the video, to my mechanic that older Priuses have a known issue with the Combination Meter - after using youtube in a parking lot to find out the secret code to shut the car off when the CM issue prevents it from doing so normally.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:00 AM on August 17, 2020 [9 favorites]

Youtube has videos on just about every kind of maintenance and repair.

I once looked up "how to fix garbage disposal" when my disposal stopped working without warning, just so I could sound like less of a doofus when I called the repair person, and discovered that my disposal has a reset button on the BOTTOM of it, that I was able to press and solve the problem instantly. Heaven knows why they put the reset button on the bottom rather than on the side where a person might be able to see it, but in this case the internet was my friend.
posted by Daily Alice at 11:38 AM on August 17, 2020 [3 favorites]

Youtube has videos on just about every kind of maintenance and repair.

YES! A pair of turn signal bulbs costs around $8 at Autozone and thanks to Youtube. I change all of our cars' bulbs now and it feels SO GOOD to save that money.
posted by kimberussell at 11:50 AM on August 17, 2020 [6 favorites]

YES! A pair of turn signal bulbs costs around $8 at Autozone and thanks to Youtube. I change all of our cars' bulbs now and it feels SO GOOD to save that money.
posted by kimberussell at 1:50 PM on August 17

Also know that Autozone tends to hire ppl who have worked on cars their whole lives* and they will help you change out a battery or new wiper blades or headlights and/or other bulbs. Not to mention the fact that they have diagnostic tools (the type that plug into a receptacle underneath your passenger side dashboard) and they will tell you why this warning light or that one is flashing red or yellow; most often it's a minor fix that they can repair fast, inexpensively, and get you on your way. I offer to tip them or even to buy them a coke, whatever, mostly though they wave me on, happy to have been "an expert."
*Same as Home Despot tends to hire guys who've been in the trades.
posted by dancestoblue at 12:22 PM on August 17, 2020 [6 favorites]

Y'all have inspired me. I was given, via craigslist/free*, a desk/shelf stereo, intended to replace the one that died, and it needed the power cord fished through the back of the bookcase and up to the top where there's a plug. Wire coat hanger and ingenuity and I have a nice music system again! I have 2 boom boxes, I guess I can give one away now.

* not saying when
posted by theora55 at 6:41 PM on August 17, 2020 [1 favorite]

Getting back to free stuff from the library - I've been surviving the lock down reading Kindle books downloaded from the library for free. We also have an Echo Dot speaker that runs the Alexa program. So if you download, let's say, Moby Dick in Kindle format and than say, "Alexa read Moby Dick," she starts reading it for as long as you want to listen. Tell her to stop and then, later, say "read Moby Dick" and she picks up where she left off. Great for when you are in the kitchen doing kitchen stuff because it is hands free. We use it hours a day. It is a robot after all, so you get some funny mispronunciations and wrong emphasis, but it does amazingly well and is quite listenable. Oh, and did I say, it's free.
posted by charlesminus at 10:23 PM on August 17, 2020 [4 favorites]

Youtube has videos on just about every kind of maintenance and repair.

My previous car had a known issue where the ignition coils (which sit on top of the spark plugs, I have no idea why) would burn out. So my 4 cylinder car would lose a cylinder and would begin to limp rather sadly. The first time it happened, I took it to the dealer and it was under warranty. The second time it happened I took it to the dealer and it cost me over $500. Light research told me to buy one of those plug-in computer readers and YouTube told me how to read the output from that reader and which coil I needed to replace based on that, and how to do it, which is a 10 minute ritual with an $80 part from NAPA and a 10mm socket wrench and often involves maybe 5 bolt removals and a tricky plug separation and basically is a fresh new car.

$80 part. 5 bolts. Maybe a screwdriver to pry plastic with. Over $500 dollars.

Thank you YouTube. That car burned out something like 9 of those ignition coils across the time I was driving it. (Known issue, resigned (but self-repairing) owner.)
posted by hippybear at 10:35 PM on August 17, 2020 [6 favorites]

Our library is taking orders online and doing curbside pickup. This is great if you know just what book you want and can find it in the catalog. It's ... less great if you need a big stack of picture books for your kids. So my wife called the librarians and they asked her a handful of questions about our kids' ages and reading levels and what they were into (science, dinosaurs, princesses, ideally princesses who are dinosaur-riding scientists) and two days later produced a bag of books for each kid. They have been a great hit, especially since we have read our bookshelves to death in the past six months.

Also, I've needed a pannier for my bike, but have always held off as decent ones are like $180. I own a handful of backpacks and messenger bags which are in varying states of disrepair or just I don't especially like them anymore. I learned yesterday that you can buy replacement rails and hooks for your existing panniers for like $15, so I've ordered some with the intention of making an old messenger bag into a pannier.
posted by gauche at 7:15 AM on August 18, 2020 [9 favorites]

"My kids used to write hand written letters to companies and ask for samples. Almost all of them either sent some or sent coupons for free or reduced cost."

Oh man, I'm gonna have to put my kids to work. My three-year-old won't even need my help to spell "BMW".
posted by kevinbelt at 9:07 AM on August 18, 2020 [9 favorites]

I have a friend I've known since high school. He met and married a Spanish girl and lives in Spain.

During the quarantine, he sent me a postcard. It was nice to get something tangible. The following week another postcard arrived. And the week after that, another one. Each one was different, with short anecdotes or jokes or observations. I realized I should send one back. So I did. And his kept coming too. The result is that I've got stacks of his postcards too and I've been sending him mine too. It has become a postcard frenzy, a wild correspondence and also great fun!

As a side note, we sent a huge batch of postcards to family and friends around the world. All motivated by my friend in Spain. Some people really appreciated it. In one case, our postcard arrived exactly on this friend's birthday and she was super-touched that we had timed it so well (spoiler: we didn't) and how thoughtful it was.
posted by vacapinta at 11:11 AM on August 18, 2020 [12 favorites]

Not really free, but I got the urge to pick up a guitar after ages after marvelling at all the resources available nowadays. Since I didn't want to spend much money, in case it was passing infatuation, I got a second-hand guitar for the princely sum of €45, which sounds surprisingly good after a bit of setup. With some help from the internet I'm getting back my chops and attacking some of my weak points that led me to drop playing a decade ago. It destresses me and feeling like I'm doing something slightly creative feels great under the circumstances.
posted by ersatz at 1:54 PM on August 18, 2020 [2 favorites]

I learned recently that you can cook watermelon rind into a curry. I wasn't thrilled with the recipe I tried but the rind itself has potential - a little like cucumber maybe? We've been eating a lot of watermelon this summer so may as well use the rind too instead of throwing it out. I also saw you can make preserves or candy out of it, which I might try next time.
posted by randomnity at 12:07 PM on August 19, 2020 [1 favorite]

Until the end of August, library card holders at a great many public libraries in the US can access for free, if they go to their library's web site and follow the link there to get to Ancestry.

I was able to find the names of a whole bunch of ancestors I didn't have before, and even got a photograph of my great-great-great-grandmother to add to my family tree!
posted by chromium at 3:41 PM on August 19, 2020 [4 favorites]

I got a free covid test yesterday! The old school up your nose kind. Remarkably uncomfortable sensation.

I got the test cuz as I was drifting in and out of sleep yesterday morning I was sweating and shivering and having strange dreams, then when I got up I had pain. Pain in all the usual places but more intense, and pain in new places. It was difficult to even walk.

I texted my boss he said stay home get tested. Feistycakes took my temp it came in at 100.3

I got a test appointment, drive thru, at the local hospital at 3:30 the same day. I should have the results tomorrow.

But things happen for a reason. Today, one of the kittens broke thru the flappy air conditioner flaps and got out, and if I'd been at work and not home waiting for test results nobody would have noticed for possibly hours. We found her next door- a house that is for sale and was being shown, so a bunch of potential buyers saw barefoot shirtless me come charging up the driveway shaking a jar of chicken treats. Feistycakes coaxed the kitty out of the bramble, I grabbed her, and we hurried back indoors.

If i had been working today, that might have gone much worse. So I'm grateful for that. I'll let you know if I result neg or pos.
posted by vrakatar at 5:01 PM on August 19, 2020 [6 favorites]

Wishing you the best, vrakatar.

A few weeks back I bought inexpensive watch-repair tools, and have replaced batteries and changed out straps for a few wristwatches. (This interest is partially the fault of The Repair Shop, because the show's third-generation clock & watch restorer has the best work niche.) I'd gotten out of the habit of wearing a watch most days, with my favorites in need of attention; I feel slightly more pulled together now, even though I'm not.
posted by Iris Gambol at 7:01 PM on August 19, 2020 [2 favorites]

You can in fact preserve watermelon rind as a pickle; it's common in Pennsyvania Dutch country and I like it! Though a lot of people call it "pickled garbage." This is a reliable recipe. I figure, if we're paying for the whole watermelon by the pound, I'm going to use the whole thing!
posted by blnkfrnk at 7:44 PM on August 19, 2020 [2 favorites]

So I have some low-quality supermarket peaches (mealy), nectarines (overripe), and apples (underripe) and I put some cut pieces in a bowl, and nuked them (covered w/ a plate as lid) in the microwave, 70% power 3 minutes. They transformed into a warm, fragrant fruit compote, smells and tastes amazing! The natural pectins firmed up the texture and their exuded juices mixed together, self-saucing each translucent morsel of fruit. 10/10 will cook again.
posted by polymodus at 1:08 AM on August 20, 2020 [12 favorites]

Test came back negative, but I'm taking the rest of the night off anyway.
posted by vrakatar at 2:17 PM on August 20, 2020 [17 favorites]

Libraries in Washington State will also let you check out passes for state parks and The Washington Trails Association has a gear library (though on hold cuz of COVID). The Mountaineers also has a gear library for youth leaders.

The King County library has lots of maker gear for checkout - 3D printer, digital camera, laser cutter, even reserve room for sound recording!

There's also a tool library in my neighborhood and probably in other communities too.

And basically every theater I know has a program for volunteer ushers so you can see shows for free (again, on hold cuz of COVID). And every museum I know has pay-what-you-can days.

Washington state residents over 60 can audit courses at the University of Washington for deeply discounted rates (pay modest fees) and get access to the university libraries.
posted by brookeb at 4:20 PM on August 20, 2020 [1 favorite]

Oh I found something inexpensive! I learned about the kids math game Prodigy from this askme thread, and my kids are crazy about it. They play it constantly, which normally I wouldn't like, but I can actually see their math skills improving, so I am more than satisfied with it.

Anyway, memberships are kind of expensive (like 60$ a year for one kid or 9$ monthly) and I didn't want to commit to it. Then somehow I randomly found this group buy in thing where you can get a yearly membership for 17$! Their FB page has thousands of active members, so even though it seemed fishy I tried it out (plus it was only 34$ for 2 kids, if they scammed me it wouldn't be the end of the world) and within like 3 days both of my kids have year long premium memberships.

Apparently they also do other learning apps/games for kids which I haven't checked out yet, but I highly recommend the Prodigy game buy in if your kids are into it. It isn't instantaneous (apparently they have to wait until a certain number of people join), but the site says that they do Prodigy at least once a week, and for me, personally I signed up yesterday and got the membership today.
posted by Literaryhero at 7:56 PM on August 20, 2020 [4 favorites]

There are lots of my neighbors in this thread!

The guy across the street gives me bouquets of dahlias and roses in exchange for the jam I make. We still have a lot from last year (strawberry, blackberry, blueberry, plum) so all that I've made this year is Rainier cherry and raspberry. But we've gone through all the applesauce and apple butter so I can go apple picking again this year at our favorite farm in Snohomish, which will be fun!

My family got some really good deals on kayaks from the REI garage sale (one was unused and 50% off, the other one was missing a bracket and 70% off) so I've been kayaking a lot after busting my foot on a hike. I see kayak camping as a backpacking substitution in my near future...
posted by mollywas at 10:10 PM on August 21, 2020 [2 favorites]

Kanopy, which is a fancy-ass streaming service with a lot of classic movies, non-English titles, small indie award winners, documentaries, etc., is available free with a library card through a LOT of libraries in the US.

And overseas. I came here specifically to mention Kanopy and also Beamafilm (which is similar), both through my free public library account in Sydney.

Only just discovered this week that The Great Courses are unlimited credit-free viewing on Kanopy. Otherwise it has a monthly limit on most other videos. Beamafilm is unlimited.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:31 PM on August 26, 2020 [2 favorites]

I've done a pretty cool techno-thing that I'm actually pretty proud of, mitigated only slightly by the fact that a.) I don't know if anyone else will ever actually use it, and b.) it's so esoteric that the potential audience of people who could appreciate/use it is really, really small. Still. It's a thing. If you're having trouble sleeping, I could go into detail about it.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 6:41 AM on August 29, 2020

Mr. Bad Example, can you post your cool techno-thing on Projects?
posted by moonmilk at 9:20 AM on August 29, 2020

I'm going to be Making A Thing today - Herbes Salées. it's an old Acadian way of preserving herbs and making a seasoning/condiment/thing.

There are a couple of schools of thought on Herbes Salées - one which says that you must use a specific set of herbs for it (usually parsley, chives, chervil, and celery leaves), and one which says "hell, use what you've got as long as the herbs you've got play together nice." I'm taking the latter approach because my window box herbs run more to the Mediterranean than the Acadian. If you have some leftover bits of herbs from those huge-ass packages they sell at the supermarket and you don't know what to do with them, this is a way to deal with that too.

Whatever herbs you use, try to get equal amounts of each. Chop 'em all up and mix 'em together. You can throw in some chopped scallion as well. Then get a big jar and some coarse salt or kosher salt. Put a layer of chopped herbs in the jar, then add a tablespoon of salt. Then more herbs, then more salt, and repeat until the herbs are all in the jar. Cover that, stick it in the fridge for a couple weeks (shaking it around if you think of it), then drain off any excess liquid that's leached out. It's ready to use. Use that as a seasoned salt when cooking - soups, stews, rubs for roast chicken. Store it in the fridge.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:54 AM on August 29, 2020 [2 favorites]

moonmilk: Mmmaaayyybe. I'd need to stop being lazy and get it up on Github and get it into some kind of fit-to-be-read-by-humans state first. :) While I'm here, though, since I've had at least one request in my email:

It gets a little technical, but the short version is that...okay, there's this REST API I work with a bit for what I do at my job. It lets me do things with our main student-facing system like create users, set up courses, and so on. There's a specification for it that tells you things like "do a POST request to this URL with this JSON-formatted body", and so on.

It's pretty easy to work with, but one of the annoyances with it is that there's been no standard way to create the JSON body to send to the system--you'd have to construct it manually, making sure you include all required fields, format them properly, and so on for every single operation you might need to do.

What I've done is create a script that will read the underlying structure behind the API specification and automatically create Python classes that let you generate the proper JSON documents just by making an instance of them. For instance, you can get the JSON for a new course by just doing something like:
course = CreateCourseJson(courseId='ENG101', name='English 101') 
Better yet, the classes that get created are self-validating--that is, if you omit a required field or try to give it the wrong data type, the object creation will fail--and you get that for free with one of the libraries I'm using. It helps cut down on "400 Bad request" errors when calling the API.

So, anyway...might be useful just for me or at most for a blog post for participation points on the developer community website, but I'm still kind of proud of it.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 3:46 PM on August 29, 2020 [1 favorite]

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