Exploring ideas for affordable, sustainable, enjoyable living.

Free Fitness Logs

There are many great online resources for diet and exercise tracking.  I’ve been exploring some of the free ones, and thought I’d share my reviews.

For GPS tracking of my outdoor workouts, I’ve been really happy with the CardioTrainer smartphone app.  It provides real-time data on steps, speed, distance, calories burned, plots my route on a nice street map, and would apparently integrate with my in-phone music library (if I had one).  I was much less impressed with the affiliated Noom application for diet tracking.  It would be great for anyone who wants to characterize a meal by size (small, medium, large) and color (green for healthy, red for unhealthy, yellow for in-between), but I found that to be far too subjective to be useful.

My new favorite online food diary is  It also has downloadable smartphone apps that work seamlessly with the main website.   The database for the food diary is extensive, and it is also simple to add your own foods or quickly log calories only.  The fitness tracker is equally efficient:  just tell it what you did and for how long, and it calculates your calories burned.  There are also handy tools, a blog, and message boards to help keep you on track.  The best part, however, is the instant gratification I get when I log my exercise and it immediately increases my daily limit for food calories by the amount that I just burned.  Bring on the cheesecake!  😉

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Kid Safety Tips

One of the greatest tips I’ve heard lately is so simple, and yet could make all the difference.  On your way out the door to take the kids to the park, the fair, or any other public place, pause for a moment and take a photo of each of them (use your cell phone, if you always keep it with you).  That way, should you get separated, you have a current picture of each child, including what they’re wearing that day.

This also works for pet owners.  There’s probably no need to take a picture of your dog every time you go out for a walk, but it’s a good idea to have a current, clear picture of each animal.  For pets, I’d also suggest trying to get a picture that doesn’t show the collar, or any other unique feature that would be known only to your family.  These details can be used to identify the true owner by someone who might find your lost pet.

While we’re on the topic, it’s also a good idea to prepare a child identification kit, to help in the search if the worst happens and your child goes missing.  Many schools and police stations hold events to help prepare identification kits.  You can also order kits from a variety of online sources, which typically include materials and instructions for collecting and storing your child’s fingerprints and DNA swabs, as well as a recent photo.  These kits may help to guide you in assembling all of the materials and information, but it is also possible to put together a kit at home.

A fingerprint card can be made using an ink pad, cardstock, and a little bit of practice.  For DNA samples, simply take two sterile cotton swabs and rub them on the inside of the child’s cheek (saliva is full of DNA), then allow them to dry and store them in a tape-sealed paper envelope…just be sure that the cotton ends are not handled by anyone else (before or after DNA collection), and don’t lick-seal the envelope, or they could end up producing a mixed DNA profile that would be much less useful to law enforcement.  To be on the safe side, it’s a good idea to wear clean gloves while collecting the samples (that way your DNA won’t rub off on the swab sticks and potentially transfer to the cotton ends during storage).

These sites have more information on making your own Child ID kits:

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Free Campsite Finder

Camping is one of my all-time favorite vacation activities. Unfortunately, the price of campsite rentals has really skyrocketed.  I remember spending one summer as a kid road-tripping with my family and camping all along the way.  With a membership to a national campground chain, we could find a site almost anywhere for $8.00 per night.  Not anymore.  Many sites now range from $25.00 to $50.00 (US) per night.  In some places, it’s actually cheaper to rent a motel room.  That’s why I’m so excited about  The site has interactive maps for finding free and cheap campsites throughout the United States and Canada.

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Adventures in Dishwasher Installation

Today, I finally got my new dishwasher working.

I must admit, this is the same dishwasher that I purchased in August and which almost killed me when I stepped in a dog-hole whilst trying to carry it in from the truck. I installed it shortly after the trip to the ER, but it wouldn’t fill with water and, thus, was useless. Until today.

Turns out that there was a little yellow wire that had become disengaged (possibly during the scuffle on the front lawn when the appliance attempted to take my life). This afternoon, after being encouraged by my awesome brother to take another look, I reunited the wire to its proper location and re-installed the dishwasher as I had before.

Behold! Two loads of sparkling clean dishes!

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Dog Wheelchair Odyssey

A week before his demise, our five-and-a-half-year-old St. Bernard, Dagda, suffered with hips that had deteriorated enough that he needed help to stand up but, once up, he could walk on his own, although he was a little wobbly and would sometimes fall down. My hope was that we could customize a wheelchair so that we could lift him into it and then he’d be stabilized enough to move around on his own. Dagda agreed, so I helped him post an ad on Craigslist. Lots of people responded…I hope that folks are as willing to donate used wheelchairs to needy humans as they are to crippled Saint Bernards.

Anyway, we got the chair and, due to Dagda’s unusual size, it required some additional modifications, compared to the web link that had inspired our quest. By the time we had it fitted to him, his condition had deteriorated substantially. His doctor thinks that he had a degenerative (spinal) disk disorder, in addition to the hip dysplasia. He could no longer shift himself from lying on his side (sleeping) to lying on his belly (Sphinx position) on his own. His steroid pills made him very thirsty, so he would cry at night and need to be propped up to drink water approximately once per hour. I slept on the couch next to him and helped him up many times every night during his last few days. He also lost control of his bladder and it turns out that puppy pads are no match for the amount of urine produced by a steroid-fueled 180-pound dog.

We did give him a chance to try out the wheelchair, but since it couldn’t help him with his nightly struggles, it wasn’t a viable solution for the long-term. It did work nicely, though, (with brakes on) for propping him up so we could give him a bath. See the pictures of Dagda in his wheelchair, below. This kind of chair may work well for dogs with hip issues only.

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Aquarium infested with snails? Miraculously coinicidental cure!

So, unless you’ve had an aquarium infested with snails, you probably won’t care, but if you’ve taken the time to read this far, then you might as well keep going and file this away so you can have something clever to share the next time you find yourself stuck in an awkward conversational pause with an aquariaphile.

Our freshwater aquarium was doing swimmingly until we got a free plant from one of Hubby’s coworkers. It was infested with snails. In short order, we had thousands of tiny snails and numerous big ones. The tiny ones would pile up on the backs of the big ones and careen around like they were in some slow-motion underwater version of a Wisconsin Dells waterskiing extravaganza. It was a nightmare.

We have fancy guppies, and they don’t eat snails, but we read online that another kind of fish, the clown loach, specializes in eating snails. So we bought one and it showed no interest in snails and promptly died. We took the dead one back and exchanged it for a big, healthy clown loach, and bought a bunch of sinking shrimp pellets, to supplement its snail diet.

Well, the big clown loach shows about as much interest in snails as the little clown loach did. However, the snails flock to the shrimp pellets like flies do to our side yard (or like our dogs do to the the kitchen garbage, which ultimately ends up in our side yard). Within an hour of dropping in a shrimp pellet, there is a pile of at least a hundred snails sitting on it. We just take the fish net and scoop them out. It’s amazing! Our tank is almost completely clear of snails after only a few days!

Aren’t you glad you read the whole thing?

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About CheapyKeen

Hello, and welcome to the CheapyKeen blog!  The objective here is to explore and exchange tips for affordable, sustainable, enjoyable living.  I’ll share my own ideas and experiences, as well as posting links to inspiring content on other sites.  I hope that my readers will chime in, and am excited to learn new ways to live cheaper and smarter.

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