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Discussion Starter #1
And some creative feedback please.

Our neighbors had their electricity cut off (unknown how long that has been) and they don't know when they will be able to get it back on.

I'm looking for any tips that they can use to help them get over this hump or provide more efficient use of their resources. They have 4 kids under the age of 10. I'm not willing to call child protection services on them but I will ask what resources they have already accessed to see what they can get assistance with.

Her husband works at an Ice House but his boss is still charging him $15 a day for dry ice. This made her tear up when telling me this but she is able to keep some foods cold. I'm wondering if a cooler in their basement might be more efficient than keeping a full fridge cold. She shops at the local Aldi's and BiRite and she cooks from scratch for the most part.

With the loss of their electricity they are grilling or getting prepared foods. I gave her some print outs for solar ovens (pizza box style) and full size. Along with 2 pizza boxes (donated from my brother) and a glass window that we just replaced. Her teen age son is looking forward to building this simple one and her husband is a carpenter.

One of the things they miss is hot coffee in the morning.
They have a small hibachi style grill but that still takes up a lot of fuel.

Idea:
Smaller camp stove made from Coffee Can (I can donate this)
I have a few large coffee cans and have been researching their use as a small grill base that would direct the heat to a single pot or kettle placed on top. I'm thinking it could be small enough they could use it on their porch instead of out in the back yard and it could also get hot enough that she could scramble some eggs, make oatmeal, and make griddle cakes. I have never tried this but would like feedback on the theory or if anyone can share experiences. We have a paver stone they can use to sit the pot on for safety.

Idea:
Precook things in the fire like potatoes wrapped in foil for a future meal where as much heat won't be needed. They could be stored in their chill chest after they have reached room temp.

Pancakes could also be made when a grill fire is needed then wrapped in foil and reheated over a smaller camp stove or used as sandwich bread with jam at room temp.

I was thinking of Grainlady's method of cooking beans in a thermos but I don't know if they have a thermos available.


I would greatly appreciate feedback and any links from FV that may be pertinent. I've been using the search program here but there is just SOOO much infor to sort through.

Thank you all so much!
 

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i lived in a tent for a year.

oil lamps, candles, cool baths. cajun cookers, propane stoves.

all this fuel and the dry ice may cost more than the electricity, though.

ceashells - is THAT your dog. gawdalmighty...
 

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When we went through an ice storm a few years back we boiled eggs on a kerosene heater we were using to heat the house. We boiled a whole pan full of them to use later on. Boiled eggs keep longer than raw eggs. We made egg salad, deviled eggs, or just hard boiled eggs w/ bread for breakfast.
 

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Some of our food pantries offer financial assistance as well as food. They don't advertise, you have to ask them about it. Also, some churches will help financially with basic living expenses. Have they looked into that?
 

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Sorry - I don't have any tips to offer but what you are doing is very kind Cea :). Would love to have a neighbour like you.
 

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How about outdoor solar lights? You could get the ones that hang instead of stick in the ground, and put them by a window. Use them in place of indoor lights. I don't know how long the light would last, though.
 

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In my town there are a few parks that have community bake ovens (large stone ovens for baking multiple loaves of bread)...is there anything like that in your town? Maybe she could make use of those while other groups are using them?

I also have a vague memory of a method of cooking rice by soaking it in very hot water and wrapping the pot in blankets and putting it under the covers in bed (maybe from Living More w/Less?)...I'll try to get some more specifics.

She is lucky to have such a caring neighbour!

Also, is it me or is anyone else INFURIATED that her husband's boss is charging them for dry ice?
 

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One other thing...sometimes churches or community centres have community kitchen nights where a bunch of people get together to cook and eat (usually leftovers to take home after).

Is this affecting her heat or is that gas? In Ontario, utility companies are not allowed to turn the heat off between November and March because it endangers people's lives.
 

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They should be able to get canned sterno at a hardware store. Here is how to make a stove from a tin can: Tin Can Sterno Stove

With a small aluminum (this heats faster) pan they can make hot water to pour into their coffee filter basket (NOT into the back of the machine) to make coffee. They can also heat soup this way. With careful use each can will last two days or more.

The biggest problems I had cooking over a grill or charcoal fire are that the heat is real uneven, things burn on one side and are half raw on the other. With meat you can move it around. It's trickier if you are trying to cook eggs or make rice in a pan. And it's real hard on your pans. They get black and burned on the bottom and take forever to scrub, so expect that.

Right now I think they should concentrate on room temp foods like PB&J, fresh fruit and things that don't need refrigeration. It's important that anything they cook get eaten within 24 hours, before bacteria has a chance to set it, even if they keep it in the cooler.

If they do cook, it should be quick stuff, pork chops, not pork shoulder. Hotdogs or burgers, not chicken breast. Instant rice or noodle dishes, not ones that have to be cooked 30 minutes. Couscous is a great starchy side, just add hot water and let it sit (no additional cooking required).
 

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Buy regular ice if they have a cooler. A seven lb bag a day is waay cheaper than the dry ice.

run an extension cord to them for fridge and a few lights.
 

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I do volunteer work for my church and for our city's ministerial association. Both have benevolence funds set up for helping with utilities and rent, however, we do not cover the deposits to have utilities turned back on. I know it sounds 'harsh' and doesn't make sense, but if the benevolence fund pays a deposit on a utility and the person keeps the bill paid in full, then can move and get the deposit returned to them in cash. Many times (I'm not saying this would happen in this instance) the cash returned from the deposit is used for what a lot of people wouldn't consider to be necessity items (cigs, alcohol and even drugs). And I know our local Salvation Army maintains the same policy.

I do recommend that they seek assistance through their church or through friends who are members of a church. Many times our church has helped people just because one of our members has asked us to assist them. Some don't feel it's the best policy, but we also want to assure that the funds are used appropriately and wisely.

I wish your neighbors much luck. I, too, have fallen down on my luck and have needed assistance in the past, so I know firsthand, the situation they're in. That's one reason why I find it so satisfying to me personally to be able to give back to my community by assisting others in need.

God Bless.
 

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I found this information that you could pass on to them that may help:

Electric Universal Service Program (EUSP) and Maryland Energy Assistance Program (MEAP)
EUSP is a state program designed to help qualifying limited-income customers pay the electric portion of their bills. MEAP provides a grant for qualifying limited income customers and is available once each heating season. However, customers may apply for either or both programs anytime during the year. The programs provide: bill payment assistance; arrearage retirement; and targeted weatherization services. Call 1-800-352-1446 for information. EUSP and MEAP applications and brochures are available for download from the Maryland Office of Home Energy Programs (OHEP) Web site.

Here is another very useful site for you to take a look at:

http://www.utilitybillassistance.com/html/maryland_assistance_and_help_w.html


I hope this information helps your neighbors.
 

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How about thermos cooking? You can cook oatmeal, rice, etc. in a thermos with hot water. If they use the coffee can method, they should be able to get hot water and then pour it in with the grains to make rice and oatmeal.

Depending on their home, an outside fireplace might be possible, but you'd have to check your city's code on that. If so, there are a huge range of things that can be cooked on an open fire. You can wrap potatoes in tin foil and bury them among the hot coals for baked potatoes.

Why did they lose power? What happened to them? Are they so financially strung out?
 

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My only suggestion is that since a hand out of money isn't really an option, how about offering a trade for power. They keep your yard in good shape and in return, they run cords to keep the fridge on. They could always switch out the plugs with the coffee pot in the morning.

A website that I love is instructables.com. They have all sorts of ingenious ideas to make things that you need and don't from scrap.

I have a big bottle of grain alcohol that I was going to offer to ship you, but I just realized that its illegal to do so.

I am glad that you are unwilling to call child protective services, but you may want to spend more effort into helping them get the power back on. Just because you are not willing to call, dosen't mean that someone else won't. Keep in mind that kids talk at school and it only takes one of the younger ones saying something that the teacher can hear for a call to be made.

I wish you all luck.
 

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Thank you EVERYONE for the links and ideas. I really appreciate the information.

I know things have been tight for them. She has 8 kids (5 that I see around with her and I'm assuming 3 on their own). They rent the home which is small for a family that size. The Mom doesn't work with 5 kids under the age of 10 and one with special needs. But she still smokes which aggravates me but it isn't my place criticize her choice of priorities.

My main goal is to give them as much creative assistance/ knowledge as I can to help them get through this.

I'll be printing out copies of the Tin Can Sterno Thank You Contrary Housewife! and probably just making a few for her. I think I have 2 sterno cans here that I can put in them. They should have most of the items needed for the solar cooker and also have it made within a few days if they are really that interested in trying it.

I was considering, if they foresaw still being here in the fall if growing veggies would help them. I also have some seeds for lettuce and bush beans that I can offer them but don't yet know if they have the skills or desire (or time) to garden some of the easier and quick growing veggies. It might be a good project for her 10 yr old to do some container planting of easy things.

:) Thank you again
 

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If you have room in your freezer you can make ice for them to save the cost of buying it. If you make it in a solid block it lasts longer than cubes. I think it would be easier to keep a cooler or two in the basement than to try to keep a whole fridge cold.
 

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BTW, I have made a bean cooker that works pretty well and is along the same idea as the Thermos Cooking. I used an old cooler and lined it with several layers of card board. The inner most layers are wrapped with aluminum foil to direct the heat to the "cooking" chamber. I soak beans overnight and then boil 15 minutes and then poor into a quart mason jar and put into the cooker, 8 hours later they are done. Mine will hold 6 quart jars at a time and works just as well with one it in.

On the vegatables, remember that things like leaf lettuce and spinach are ready for a salad in just a few weeks.

Also, I do not know if they have tried this yet but......In VA where I am from the power company will actually work with you to get the power on and keep it on. If you call and ask they sometimes will defer amounts or spread it out over the next few months without any problem.

There was a huge increase in December and my Mom had a $500 bill, they gladly spread it out over a few months for her with no interest.
 

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I put water in large juice bottles and freeze them and use to keep my cooler cold. I have enough that I change them out and keep some frozen all the time. I never buy ice for my cooler.
 
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