Thursday, December 31, 2009
1) I want to go "no poo". I want to end my and my husband's shampoo addiction and stop my kids' before it takes hold. My husband has oily-ish hair, where my hair is rather dry, so this will be an adventure.
2) I want to start soap-making. I've wanted to for a while, but we had a large stash of store-bought soap that we've been working through. When that's used up, I am going to start churning out my own soap.
3) I want to start cheese making. This is not a frugal undertaking, but a hobby. I think I've figured out a way for it to not cost more than store-bought cheese, but I'll save those details for another post.
1) I want to be a better wife. Mainly, I want to be a better forgiver. My husband is very forgiving, and I would like to reciprocate with Christ-like forgiveness.
2) I want to blog with reckless abandon. Whenever I try to make this blog less controversial, it becomes more and more of a battleground. Believe it or not, that is not what I am aiming for. So, I'm going to stop trying to avoid the the controversy and blog however I want.
3) I want Daniel to be able to write his name by the end of the year. He can recognize maybe half of the letters of the alphabet. I would like him to know them all by the summer, and start writing enough for his name by the end of the year. If he writes "DAN" and not "DANIEL" that counts as success.
What are your goals?
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
What I did know was that I was aiming for a more and more sustainable and self-sufficient life. I am aiming for a life that demands less and less outside income and outside resources.
As an apartment dweller, I am admittedly more limited in this. Dan won't let me build a chicken coop in here, but I am practicing now for larger goals.
Our indoor window winter garden is not only thriving, it is multiplying. We have all the fresh lettuce and green onions we could want. I just started three more pots for lettuce, so we will have six pots growing. My two garlic plants are getting tall, but neither has started a bulb yet. We eat some of the greens in recipes calling for garlic.
We have our water kefir and our sourdough starter for yeast and bacteria cultures. These are our pets. We feed them and they feed us. I made my sourdough starter from the Nourishing Traditions recipe, but used wheat instead of rye flour. It turned out okay. I'm still playing with some other starter recipes so I can report on one I whole-heartedly love.
Sprouting seeds can multiply the quantity of food for the price of the water. I do this with beans for our chili, starting the sprouting on Tuesday for Friday's chili. I also have been experimenting with sprouting wheat, which metabolizes as a vegetable after sprouting.
I love that I have this apartment homesteading time. It is a low-pressure time that gives me practice and allows me to study for future plans. I love that I can do this step by step, adding in new things leisurely, yet with purpose. Sustainability and frugality go hand in hand and I find the possibilities thrilling.
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
He brought home this big gift, all wrapped in paper, and told me that his co-worker said it was a toaster oven.
A toaster oven?
So, I listed to my husband the ways in which my crock pot was far superior to a toaster oven and that we didn't need it. Having expected this, he said we couldn't return it, so I set my mind to selling it on Craigslist.
I tore off the paper so that I could get information to list it properly only to find...
A roaster oven!
A roaster ovenis like a giant crock pot/mini-oven.
- It is more energy efficient than an oven by up to 70%.
- It holds more stuff than a crock pot, up to an 18 pound turkey, or larger if I hack the legs off first.
- It fits all of the pans I own except my pizza pan, but I can cook a good sized pizza in it anyway. It also fits the car pan I got for my kids, so I won't have to turn on the oven to play with it.
- It has the temperature control of an oven, with ranges of 150-450, plus a lower range for warming.
- It has a rack that slides in, like the racks in an oven.
- The enamel "crock" of it is removable for easy cleaning.
My crock pot adventures have now turned to roaster oven adventures. I'm even thinking of figuring out a way to make cheese in it.
Monday, December 28, 2009
First, make tortillas. Mix
2 cups whole white wheat flour
3/4 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup shortening
1/2 cups water
For a soaked grain tortilla, add 1 tablespoons of whey, yogurt or cider vinegar, mix dough the day before and leave at room temperature until you are ready to cook it.
Divide the dough into however many quesadillas you want. We make seven, two for each adult, one for each Bobby and Daniel, and one for Dan's lunch the next day. Roll the dough into a circle. It doesn't have to be perfect, just symmetrical. Then, fry it in a dry pan on both sides.
Now, for the filling. Quesadillas can have anything you want as long as it includes cheese. We like to spread cream cheese on one half when we have it. Then start loading in meat, veggies and spices, then put more cheese on top.
Here are some combinations we like:
chicken, green onions and Cajun spice
sausage and bell peppers
beef, peppers and onions
chicken and salsa
taco beef, salsa and green onions
garlic and chicken
You can use whatever cheese you have, whatever fillings you have. It's great for using up leftovers. When you've got your ingredients assembled, fold the tortilla over. Fry it in a hot pan, flipping it over halfway through, until the cheese is melted and the tortilla is crispy.
Sunday, December 27, 2009
Would you pay $0.98 per pound for potatoes if you knew you could get them for $0.35 per pound elsewhere? Would you pay $1.99 for pork chops if you knew they went on sale regularly for $0.99? How do you know when a sale is really a good sale?
As far as I can see, there is only one way to get the lowest prices on food. It is commonly referred to as a price book, but I find a chart easier to work with and fit in my purse. First, list all of the most common ingredients you buy. Here is my list, basically divided by where they are in the store:
white wheat flour
frozen green beans
Your list will probably look different.
Next, what stores are in your area? The best way to find this out is the yellow pages. There were stores in my town I didn't know about. Most of them were high priced Mom-n-Pop type stores, but I found a small market where I get most of my produce for way less than anywhere else.
I also live a short distance from the biggest city in Maine. I go there frequently, so I included a few stores, but certainly not all. I included a Dollar Tree with a big frozen section and a Save-A-Lot, which we don't have in our town.
So I have Walmart, two in-town supermarkets, the local market with good produce, Save-A-Lot and the Dollar Tree. If you have a Sam's or BJ's membership, include these. I went into all of them and got their regular price on the items on my list. This is a time investment, but it will pay for itself quickly.
Walmart and Save-A-Lot have the most general low prices. Walmart has a better selection, but Save-A-Lot has better meat prices. One supermarket has the best prices on cheese, dairy and ham. The other supermarket has high prices but good sales, along with an "almost expired" produce rack, where I can add variety to my produce menu I would otherwise not afford. The local market has the best price on produce and a few other things. The Dollar Tree has the best price on strawberries ($1/lb, frozen!) and a few other things.
Now, with this knowledge, I DO NOT GO TO EVERY STORE EVERY WEEK. I go to Walmart every week, because that's where I get my flour, eggs, and butter, which I seem to run out of a lot. When I go to the other stores, I go to buy several weeks worth of what they have cheapest.
I check www.mygrocerydeals.com almost every week to see if any of the stores are having worthwhile sales on my ingredients. This website is an excellent free resource that gathers the sales flyers for the supermarkets in your area.
I also have a basic price guide for buying things that aren't in my regular menu when the mood strikes. I don't pay more that $1.50 per pound for meat or more than $1.00 per pound for produce, with occasional exceptions.
Saturday, December 26, 2009
Why don't you use Angel Food Ministries?
First, to explain, Angel Foods Ministries sells boxes of food for $30 which are supposed to be worth $60, so that sounds like quite a bargain. It is not a handout, as you pay for the groceries, and it is not bound by income restrictions, as WIC, Food Stamps, and often food pantries are. Anyone of any income level can take advantage of it. I have been asked about it several times.
I don't use Angel Food for a simple reason: it's not a good deal.
I have some general food shopping rules:
Produce: I don't buy produce for more than $1.00 per pound. I sometimes stretch this rule to allow for $1.00 to be the average in a meal. This rule allows me to regularly purchase: oranges, apples, pears, bananas, berries, potatoes, onions, bell peppers, tomatoes, broccoli, cabbage, and carrots along with a larger variety during various seasons when other items go on sale.
Meat: I don't pay more than $1.50 per pound for meat. Within that I can get chicken quarters, whole turkey, whole chickens, ground beef, brisket beef, beef ribs, ground turkey, pork shoulder, ham and eggs. I break this rule for bacon, like yesterday for Christmas, or tuna, which often goes on sale.
Grains and Spices: I have no rule for grains and spices, but I shop around for prices and buy in bulk if it saves. I count some produce as a spice, like ginger, chili peppers, and garlic.
I looked for the best prices for the Angel Food Ministries boxes. You have to buy a whole box, you can't just buy individual items. Angel Foods Ministries best price on meat, for example, in their December menu, is 10 pounds of poultry for $20, or $2.00 per pound. You can get whole chickens for $0.88 per pound without looking too hard, so you can get 10 pounds for $8.80.
Their fruit and veggie box, for $22.00 includes 3 pounds sweet potatoes ($0.75), four large russet potatoes ($0.50), 3 pound bag of onions ($1.20), 1 pound carrots ($0.45), 1 head cabbage ($0.80), one stalk celery ($1.30), four lemons ($1.20), six oranges ($2.00), four grapefruit ($3.00), 1 mango ($2.00), one avacado ($0.79), one pound kiwi ($2.00). It's been a while since I've priced kiwis, mangoes or grapefruits, so I guessed high for those. So, for $22.00, you can get $16.00 worth of produce. No one in my family likes grapefruit, so those might even go to waste. I would rather buy produce that I know we like for a reasonable price.
Even worse, the meat and produce boxes are additional boxes. You have to buy their $30 signature box to get the meat and produce box. Their signature box, in December, includes nutritional gems such as: chicken nuggets, fish sticks, french fries, shelf stable milk, white flour tortillas and a "dessert."
It's possible that in some areas, like maybe Hawaii, the prices of Angel Food Ministry boxes beat out shopping around. However, I use a price chart, find the best prices for the food my family eats the most of and get lower prices than Angel Food Ministries. I'm not going to say it is not worthwhile. For people who live in an area with a very high cost of living, and for the perpetually lazy who can't bother to make themselves a price chart*, this is a good deal.
* (A price chart, or price book, is made by listing the foods you most frequently buy and checking local stores to see where you can get the best price on each. I don't stop at every store every week. I buy a few week's worth of an item each time I go to the store.)
Thursday, December 24, 2009
For the Son of god, who came,
Ruined sinners to reclaim...
Guilty, vile, and helpless me,
Spotless lamb of god was he.
Full atonement, can it be?
Roughly two thousand years ago, a baby boy was born.
Even as a child, he spoke authoritatively about the ways of God.
Many people have sought to know this man and to understand what he taught.
He taught a standard of ethic that no man could live up to, except he himself did.
After he was executed for his teachings, he could not stay dead, but conquered death.
The man-God, who is Yeshua, Jesus, the majestic creator, is worthy to be worshipped.
That he became a man is what we celebrate at Christmas, but it should be celebrated daily. The fact that God became a man and conquered the curse of death on our behalf has in every way changed my life for now and forever. My gratitude can never be fully expressed, as it is eternal.
Hallelujah! What a savior!
"Man of Sorrows" © Phillip P. Bliss, 1875
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Dan's Paternal Nana
Nana and two of Dan's aunts are visiting us today, weather permitting. We exchange a small gift with Nana and are going to give a few pictures to the aunts. Daniel is pretty excited to see them. He loves it when Dan or I are chatting with either Nana or "Auntie" on Facebook. I expect a lot of rough play with "Auntie" today. She is a gem of an aunt.
My Mom's Family
We alternate Christmas between Dan's family and my mom's family. This year is Dan's family's turn, so we see my mom's family on Christmas Eve. There is a massive gift exchange here, with everyone buying everyone else presents. On Christmas Eve, my mom hosts a get together. I like to help her with the cooking. My kids love to play with her young step-children.
Dan's Maternal Nana
We will be going to the home of Dan's maternal Nana on Christmas day. We exchange gifts with Dan's parents and Dan's Nana. I love my in-laws, especially Dan's cousins, who have become dear friends. We went from seeing them several times a week to seeing them a few times a year, so we are looking forward to seeing everyone. Most of Dan's family hasn't met Thomas yet. Even though our children are the only ones of their generation, we expect a lot of playing to be going on.
My Dad's Family
We always get together the week after Christmas. We go to an all you-can-eat Chinese restaurant, then go back to my sister's house, that used to be my grandparent's house. We do a small gift exchange, where everyone buys for everyone else, but nothing big. My Dad sells stuff on ebay for a living, so he gives out the yard sale stuff that wouldn't sell.
My Multiple Christmases Tip
My non-tightwaddish but sanity-saving holiday tip for people with a lot of Christmases: buy a package of disposable diapers. That's my solution for pretty much all hectic times. It's my Christmas present to myself. I get a week without washing cloth diapers. I don't have to bag up poopy diapers and take them with us in the car for two hours. I don't have to explain anything about cloth diapering to family members, because no one will ask.
Do you have any tips on surviving many christmases and hectic holidays?
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Santa Claus of today seems to be a glutton who probably has some serious gut dysfunction from all those cookies. He seems to pass over the poor of the world, and heap toys onto the wealthiest children this world has ever seen.
My parents did Santa when I was growing up. We got a stocking from Santa. When I asked Santa for a piano, I got a mini piano, because he only can bring things that will fit in a stocking. One year, my Dad had my oldest brother, who was nine years older than me, get us all up in the middle of the night to peer down the stairs at Santa putting toys in our stockings. We thought it was awesome how the dog didn't bark at Santa, since the dog always barked at strangers.
Dan's parents omitted Santa because they thought it was lying to their kid. I can agree with this point. If we put gifts in stockings in the future, we won't lie to our children and tell them someone else bought them for them. We might tell the story of a kind man who gave to the poor, and remind our children that they too should be thinking of those less fortunate than themselves.
I don't like that for some families doing Santa feels obligatory. No tradition should feel forced. We may do Christmas differently than others, but we are evaluating each tradition open to us and deciding if it is something we want for our family. It will probably be years until we have a set of traditions that we are truly content with for our family, and I think that's a good thing.
Monday, December 21, 2009
Mine is different, since ground pork is usually over $2 per pound and tomato soup has corn syrup.
I make the sauce from
12 ounces cooked pork shoulder - $1.20
1 can, 28 ounces, tomato puree - $1.08
1 pound peppers and onions, chopped - $1.00
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped - $0.14
1 tablespoon black pepper - $0.03
whole wheat pasta - $0.24
For the peppers and onions I will do one of two things. I can get a bag of peppers and onions chopped and frozen for $1 per pound. They have green, yellow and red peppers. It is a variation of my mom's recipe, but it is still good. Or, if I can find green peppers for under $1.60 per pound, I will buy large ones. One large pepper and one large onion bring the average cost for the produce to just under $1 per pound, so it still fits into my produce rule. If the price is good enough, I buy several and chop them and freeze them for this meal. It tastes more like home with the green peppers.
Sunday, December 20, 2009
My Christmas present to you is COLOR. I hope you like it.
I liked having a black and white blog, but adding in color for advertisements and the food posts took away from the crispness of it. So, I've been searching around for a high contrast background that would welcome color in the posts. I really like it.
This coming year, I want to turn this blog into more of a resource, not just a hobby, or even just an income. I'm going to do a lot of redesigning in the sidebars to make it more reader friendly and so that you can more easily find useful information that you are looking for. I enjoy a good debate with you all, and will continue the FAQ Fridays, which I am sure will stir up controversy. It seems like my perspective is controversial whether I want it to be or not. However I want my focus to be more useful, informative and fun content, even if that means my readership goes down a little.
It's going to take some time for the blog to look exactly the way I want, so bear with me and leave me some feedback. If you're here at the right time, you might see the blog while it's a real mess!
Saturday, December 19, 2009
paper toys as a whimsical touch on gifts for kids. A sculptural shape from some pipe cleaners can take the place of a bow. On gifts for women, I might attach a fake flower. In a pinch, I'll use curling ribbon to make a bow effect.
Trent at the Simple Dollar is keeping things really simple with packing paper and yarn.
Amy at the Simple, Green, Frugal Co-Op sewed fabric wrapping paper. This isn't so good for kids who like to tear open paper, but for green-thinking adults, this is a great idea.
Lynnae at Being Frugal has some creative ideas for reusable wrapping paper.
Slugmama explains the Japanese Furoshiki, among other frugal alternatives to wrapping paper.
Amy at Circus McGurcus has a great way to wrap a gag gift with paper grocery store bags.
Stacy at Moderate Means has her gifts under the tree in their cloth sacks.
(If anyone else has recently written a post about wrapping paper, link it in the comments section and I'll add it to the post.)
How do you save on gift wrapping?
Friday, December 18, 2009
What would you do if you were given a million dollars, taxes were already taken out and you had to accept it?
I'm not sure how this would happen, where I would be forced to take money, but here's my answer. My husband and I talked this over, because it was kind of hard for us to come up with an answer that accounted for all of the money. The first $100,000 would be a tithe, split between the local church we attend and our "home church" that Dan is in the process of being ordained by. That was the easy part.
Another $100,000 to $200,000 would go into setting up a modestly built-by-us, sustainable homestead.
This is where it gets sticky. My husband wants to help our kids through college. I think putting kids through college teaches them they don't have to work for their goals. With our current income, we'd be splitting our annual $2 from UPromise between ten kids. I'm not sure how he's planning on helping more.
In real life, I am winning this debate by default, but if we had $1,000,000, he would have a better chance at winning the debate. At this point in real life, we are considering it an open discussion, since it is so far off.
If it weren't for the college debate, the rest would be put into savings of some sort. I'm sure we would be booted from government health insurance and would start paying our own health insurance with that money. (We are still on the government insurance and waiting to see what happens with the health care bill before deciding on the most economical way to proceed.)
My husband would continue college and continue working and seek a pastorate. I would still mystery shop for free restaurant meals. It's kind of a boring answer. Sorry if you were hoping for something more exciting.
What I find interesting is that the premise of the question suggests that we are frugal due to a lack of funds. That is not true. We are frugal because it is the right thing to do. Having a lack of funds has just given us better practice at being frugal.
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Daniel loves Lightning McQueen. I bought him a Lightning McQueen tambourine and a Lightning McQueen block puzzle, each $1.
Bobby is obsessed with wallets. So, for a few months, I've been saving those cards that come in the mail for him, along with my expired AAA card and used gift cards. I got him a $1 wallet that was distinctively different from mine and Dan's so he learns the difference.
Traditionally, we have bought nothing for our babies on their first Christmas. That may sound harsh, but if you are spending money on a two-month old baby at Christmas, you are buying yourself a gift-giving memory. The baby doesn't know the difference. However, I wanted to make these super-cute booties. I enjoyed making the craft and I think they are cute. They don't really affect Thomas' quality of life.
I got four Lightning McQueen toothbrushes on sale for $0.75 each. Daniel was with me when I got them. He is really excited about these. He's only seen the "Cars" movie once, but he loved Lightning McQueen even before the movie because it was everywhere and he loves cars.
I got this pan for $24 at Target. I also bought a box of crayons from the Dollar Tree. The first thing we will make will be car-shaped crayons. I found the idea from Organized Everyday. Having a car shaped mold allows us to make an infinite quantity of cars. We can make clay cars and paper mache cars to paint and color. I am excited about the various crafts this will create for my boys over the years, along with some fun baked goods from time to time.
Dan and I pick out our own gifts. With a small budget, we find this is the best way for us to get what we actually want. He picked out a book, some DVDs, a CD, and an iPod accessory for his iPod, which was a gift from years ago.
I'm the toughest person to buy for. My birthday was a month ago, and I still feel quite satisfied with the gift of the Wonderwash. I have wanted a kitchen thermometer so I can start making cheese, and a black dish drainer that would look nicer in my kitchen than our gawdy red one. Between those two, I have spent only $10 on myself. I am thinking of buying a coffee grinder to grind sprouted wheat berries into flour, but I'm not sure that is what I want. Another possibility is a metal pasta strainer instead of our plastic white one that never quite looks clean or a cast iron skillet instead of our aluminum one. I could probably buy all of these things with the remainder of the money, but I'm not sure if any of them are what I really want. I'll have a standing "IOU" until I figure it out, which won't be by Christmas.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Swagbucks is my favorite. It is a search engine that pays you back a portion of their ad revenue. I earn through referring others. They match all referrals' first 100 swagbucks, or about $10. I love swagbucks because I am genuinely enhancing my readers' life through referring them.
With BlogHer, I am paid per impression or page view. I can earn anything between one twentieth of a cent all the way up to half a penny per impression, depending on the ad. If you like me and read my site through a feed, don't worry that I'm not getting a fraction of a penny through you; I'm doing okay. If you come to my site and don't want me to get a fraction of a penny from you, subscribe and read me through a feed. But beware, you'll be missing out on the comments section, which is half the fun of this blog.
Often in a post, I include an Amazon affiliate link to something I bought or I am talking about. If you click on the link, you don't have to buy the product I'm talking about for me to be paid, but if you buy something else, I will get a percentage, around 6%.
My Adsense account was cancelled, but I got paid for some of what Adsense owed me. I may or may not get the rest of what Adsense owes me, including some earnings in my fourth month. With Adsense, I earned through people clicking on links.
I haven't done anything with Commission Junction except browse and create one relationship with a seller, Fabric.com. They have clearance fabric for $1.95/yard which isn't bad, but I really only like paying up to $1/yard for fabric, unless I have something special in mind. I'm a little hesitant about buying fabric online as I like to feel it first and I'm afraid the colors will look different in real life. I'm a great salesperson for them, huh? They have free downloadable patterns, though, which I think is something that some of you might be interested in. I haven't decided what I'm going to do about putting an ad up.
I haven't technically sold ad space, but I'm open to the idea. I would warn those who are interested that a good chunk of my readers are trying to not spend money, so this may not be the best place to advertise, unless you sell something that will save money. I do get a good chunk of traffic, though, and I have a lot of readers who think I'm crazy for not spending money, so they might be buying what you're selling.
As a bonus, I won two giveaways this past week. Neither has anything to do with my blog, but I sure do love winning giveaways! I won a dishrag from Ultimate Money Blog and a $25 Marshalls gift card from We Are THAT Family.
My total in my fourth month blogging, not including the Adsense money that I'm not sure I'll get or the giveaway stuff, is $425.20. I haven't seen most of it yet and almost half of it will be coming by way of Amazon gift cards. Swagbucks out earned BlogHer this month, but I didn't start BlogHer until December first, so I think that will be different next month.
For a recap:
Month One Blogging: $55.50
Month Two Blogging: $215.32
Month Three Blogging: $299.48
Month Four Blogging: $423.20
The month three income includes unpaid income from Adsense, so I'm not sure that one is accurate. Although our savings is only technically up $200 from the blog, we didn't have to take out the money that we had set aside for my birthday and for Christmas. So, I think I can definitively say, "Yes, you can make money blogging."
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
An interesting question came up about stockpiling with sales, and how to balance frugality in a small space. I'm all for stockpiling and thought it was time to address this.
The one thing I wish we had but don't is a chest freezer. I've got a spot picked out where we can fit it, even in our little apartment. My husband says it's not the right time, though, and he's right. Our family is still small enough that the extra $5 it would cost us in electricity would not be saved by stockpiling on sales more than we do.
When we get one, we will get a BIG chest freezer and a new energy efficient one. A chest freezer is more energy efficient by design than an upright. The reason for that is that when you open a door of an upright, the cold air falls out the bottom. Cold air is heavy, so it basically stays put in a chest freezer.
So, I have to maximize the space in my freezer. It's not that hard to put 100 pounds of food into a standard sized freezer, but you have to pick and choose what goes in. I can get various fruits and veggies at a reasonable price year round. So, it takes a rare deal for me to stock up on a sale of veggies. Some meats I can get consistently at a good price, but other meats vary in price, like beef. When I see brisket beef for $1.30 per pound or ground beef for $1.25 per pound, I stock up. I consistently can get chicken for $0.59 per pound, turkey for $1.00 per pound, and pork for $1.12 per pound, so I don't stock up on those.
In the fridge, I keep my semi-stable foods. There are obvious ones, like milk, cheese, butter, and eggs. I keep my potatoes and onions in my fridge as well, along with most vegetables. Most fruits reside on the table until eaten. We eat the potatoes before they turn sweet and onions that have been refrigerated don't make me cry like room temperature onions do, but I don't keep them in the same drawer as the potatoes. I keep lacto-fermented veggies in the fridge, and my husband's leftovers. I also keep a jug of water in there just as filler for the electric bill.
I don't buy a lot of shelf-stable foods. I buy flour, lard, salt, and canned tomatoes. Canned tomatoes are rarely on sale lower than the Walmart price. Salt and flour rarely go on sale either, so I don't stock up much on these.
For couponers who have shelves upon shelves of boxed food, bought for pennies, I would recommend stacking. In a small home, thinking vertically is crucial.
I have a full boys' wardrobe up to four years old. I have bins stacked in the kitchen and labelled. I have two near empty bins for when Daniel turns five and six. When I hit yard sales, I am on the look out for a few pieces to finish his 4T wardrobe and pieces for the next few years up. Working with vertical space allows these bins to take up a little more space than a bureau would. With my bins, the lid of one holds the bottom of the next one up securely in place. When stacking bins, look for features that will make it near impossible to be tipped over.
In the coming year, I'm going to be kicking off two new series. Touring Tuesdays will give you the opportunity to snoop around our apartment. Storage Solutions Saturday will highlight some of the ways that we can fit a bunch of stuff into small spaces without feeling crowded. Just like with FAQ Fridays, these are posts I've been meaning to get around to, but I need a structured framework to remind me to fit them in.
Monday, December 14, 2009
When we first got Therese we had to rehydrate her in sugar water for a few days, then she was ready to get to work. Every day or two, Dan pours out the fizzy fermented sugar water. He then fills her jar back up with water and feeds her a few more tablespoons of sugar.
The sugar water she has fermented he then turns into a soda-like beverage. For something like sprite, he adds some lemon juice and lime juice. For cream soda, he just adds vanilla. For a cola-like beverage, he adds vanilla, cinnamon and lime juice.
You can also make fruit sodas by allowing the kefir to ferment juice instead of sugar water. There's a free eBook with kefir recipes from Cultures for Health. It has mostly milk kefir recipes, but it has some water kefir recipes toward the end that use fruit juice.
When I found the free eBook, I excitedly told my husband about all the kefir recipes: lemonade kefir and cherry kefir and grape kefir. He asked, "Did they have Mountain Dew kefir, or Dr. Pepper kefir?" No, they didn't, but if anyone has any suggestions on how I can make our kefir taste something like Mountain Dew, that would make my husband very happy, and in turn make me happy, too.
Kefir is not only a nourishing soda alternative, it is a money saver. We paid about $20 for our kefir grains from Amazon, but as long as we keep feeding them, the community will not die. The sugar we feed them costs less than the tonic water we used to use for Dan's soda. Pets generally are not frugal, but there are useful pets, like our kefir, Therese, who save us money.
Saturday, December 12, 2009
I have a love-hate relationship with booties. They are basically useless, but so cute. If a baby is not wearing booties an older lady is bound to approach you and scold you for it. My husband and I used to ignore these older ladies, knowing they were well meaning but that our babies don't need booties in August. Our resolve has been battered-down and broken. We now plan our children's wardrobe so as not to be approached and scolded by older ladies. When we take Thomas' snowsuit off at church, he will be sporting these booties. I found this free booty pattern, through Dustin's blog. I thought a choo-choo train would be so cute for Thomas. They need a little finishing around the opening and then they'll be ready.
I usually see my sister sometime between Christmas and New Year's Eve, so after Christmas I'll be making at least one pair for her baby girl. I'm thinking black Mary Janes.
This Easter tradition can make great tree ornaments. You can find full instructions and tons of patterns here.
I am going to be making egg-shaped lady bugs. Lady bugs are supposed to symbolize good luck on a tree. I'm not buying any of the traditional materials, but using household items. I draw on the pattern with lard, which repels the dye as well as wax, but you have to be careful about smudging it. I put it in a baggie with a pinhole to draw, just like you would draw with frosting.
Star Trek Stockings
My husband and I recieved a pair of stockings for a wedding present. They were hideous. We never got into the stocking tradition because of it. I've wanted a uniform stocking for everyone in the family. My mom made stockings for all of us and they were basically the same, each with our names on them. So, when I saw these on GeekCrafts, I had an "ah-ha moment." I have found our stockings. My goal is to have one made by this Christmas, as a bonus gift for my husband, with the promise of having a whole family of stockings by next year, probably finished by the spring. With this free stocking pattern, I can easily add another one when we have another baby.
Generation Block Tower
This is what I did last year for my kids' great-grand parents, but I thought I'd share it anyway. I got three photo cubes and filled each one with photos from a specific generation. My grandparents got a block with my mom and her siblings at different ages, one of me and my siblings, and one filled with my kids. The blocks build a tower that is suitable for displaying baby pictures. I made a set for each of Dan's Nanas, customized with pictures they would enjoy. It takes some work collecting these pictures, but was a cute personalized project that older family members would love.
Friday, December 11, 2009
If you have questions you want added to the FAQ, you can ask them on any FAQ Friday post or in the FAQ page.
Why do you want to home school?
First, this will answer only this question about homeschooling and not any others. Like most homeschooling parents, we have researched and thought through the topic thoroughly. It will take whole other posts to explain our thoughts on socialization, curriculum preferences, frugality and homeschooling, and time management, among a host of other homeschooling topics. If you feel like the questions in the FAQ do not address your homeschooling question, ask. I will happily add more questions to the FAQ.
My husband and I have the same primary reason for homeschooling. We want our children to be like Christ. We want them to strongly pursue a relationship with God. We want it to be their number one priority. The best way to instill this in them is by teaching them ourselves.
We could just add Bible lessons on top of a regular public school education, but children are taught priorities and behavior at public school as well as academics. They would be spending their prime waking hours being taught by someone who probably doesn't believe the same thing as us. They would be conforming to their peers' behavior, peers who probably are not striving toward Christlikeness.
In our opinion, children are the way we can have the largest impact on the world. It's funny, because I have a blog that over 1500 people come to each day, which is probably numerically the largest audience I will ever have. But my true audience is my children, whose life my actions form. I can impact each of your lives a little, but I will impact their lives in every way. It's just too big of a responsibility for us to hand over to anyone else.
My husband's secondary reason for wanting to home school is Israel.
"And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed." - Genesis 12:3Many people say that this is the old dispensation and that it is not for today. If that were true, I wonder why God still stands by it. If you look back over recent history since the nation of Israel was established, each nation who has supported them has prospered and those that turned their back on them have declined.
Often, although not always, Israel is spoken of in public school as though they were the enemy. Now, neither my husband nor I would say that Israel has done no wrong in their dealing with Palestinians, but they are God's people and we stand by them. It is important to us for our children to, as well.
My secondary reason for wanting to home school is that I think I can do it better. Some may think that is arrogant. Others may think it laughable, because they think I'm an idiot for coming to different conclusions about life than they have. I excelled all through school, and could give you a list of credentials, awards, honors, and even my IQ to prove it, but the fact remains that the only higher education I received was one year of Bible college at an unaccredited school. This means I am seen as worthless as a teacher to many. But how I am seen doesn't matter, what matters is what I can do.
I can spend years developing curricula catered to my children's needs. I spend time with each of my children, knowing their weaknesses, since I am their mom, and knowing what will motivate them to want to learn. If you think a large family limits my time, compare it to the public school. One teacher has twenty students that they will only know for a few months before getting another twenty students, for six hours a day, five days a week. I will have maybe ten students who I live with twenty-four hours each day, seven days per week for years and years, who I have seen through each of their triumphs and failures. Even if all I had was a high school diploma, I am better equipped to teach my children than any one else in the world.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
My husband makes less than $1000 per month.
Our monthly expenses are under $1000 per month.
Our annual household income is higher than $12,000. I currently make money mystery shopping and from ad revenue. My monthly mystery shopping income rarely puts us over $1000 per month, but my ad revenue has for the last few months.
No matter how much money this blog makes, it would be counter productive for us to spend more than $1000 per month. Here are three reasons why:
#1) We don't need to.
We have everything we need on my husband's income. Our basic monthly expenses are taken care of. These include food, shelter, gas, electricity, car maintenance and any odds and ends that come up.
#2) It goes against our long-term goals.
Our long-term goals involve drastically reducing our expenses. We are practicing now and are getting better and better at cutting our expenses. Increasing our standard of living to match a new income is not the best thing for us in the long run.
#3) It is a catch 22.
If I spend more money, the information in this blog becomes obsolete and the blog income goes away. To me, this reason is not valid alone, which is why it is third.
What are we doing with the extra money?
We are building our savings. We had to take some money out of savings to pay for our midwifery bills and it is still at a level below what we are comfortable with. I can usually throw $20 into our savings each month, sometimes more, but when I threw a little over two hundred in from Adsense and Amazon last week, that felt good. That is not money we want to touch, as it is counter productive. It doesn't help us to spend that money.
Don't you want a better life ?
Of course I could find things that I could justify as "needs" to spend extra income on. Since our true needs are met though, we are using extra money not to increase our standard of living and level of luxury now, but to invest in our goals for the future. That is having a better life.
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Heat the following ingredients in a saucepan on medium heat. Add one ingredient at a time, making sure the mixture is completely combined/melted/dissolved before adding the next ingredient.
1/3 cup water
1 1/2 tablespoon stevia*
1/2 cup butter
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup dry milk powder
6 ounces of unsweetened chocolate*
*I used my NuNaturals white stevia powder and added a lot more than the original recipe called for. Some stevia is sweeter than others, so keep that in mind with any stevia recipe. I used Ghirardelli chocolate because these are Christmas gifts.
Line an 8"x8" pan with tin foil and spread fudge in it. Let chill in fridge for at least one hour, then cut.
Chocolate Chip Cookies
Dan's Bible college has a gift swap party today. I never know what to give at those gift swaps, especially since there is such a vast age range among students.
I was seriously thinking about making a batch of soaked grain, sugar-free chocolate chip cookies, but I could picture how that would go. Dan would say they were some kind of healthy cookie; he might even use the words "sugar-free" and no one would want them. I'm still using my whole white wheat flour, but I'm not going to highlight that to Dan.
Cookies are great for these kinds of swaps. I don't know a college student who wouldn't want cookies, my husband included.
I make chocolate chip cookies by the recipe on the bag of chocolate chips, just like my mom taught me.
1 cup melted butter
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
12 ounces of chocolate chips
Bake for 10 minutes at 375. Then feed this massive batch of cookies to a large crowd or one college student.
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
I was using the lacto-fermented recipe from Nourishing Traditions, but when I posted my taco seasoning recipe, a reader posted a good recipe that I adapted in my last batch to be lacto-fermented. By lacto-fermenting condiments they will last longer, although that is not a problem with us and salsa. A batch of salsa doesn't last us two weeks here because it is so good. Lacto-fermenting also adds nutrition for no extra cost.
Salsa has proven to be a better solution to getting some lacto-fermented veggies into my husband than pickles. Although he likes the pickles, unless I put them on his plate, he doesn't think to eat them. Since I'm obsessed with salsa, I just put it on his food when I put it on my food.
To keep the lacto-fermented benefits, I add it to the food when it's on the plate ready to be served, not when it's cooking on the stove. I add it to eggs, tacos, quesadillas and taco mac. By adding it to our eggs in the morning we are getting a lacto-fermented condiment every day, which I am thrilled about.
1 lb tomatoes - $1.19
2 small onions - $0.13
2 jalapeno peppers* - $0.25
3 cloves garlic* - $0.20
1/2 tablespoon cilantro* - $0.06
1 teaspoon oregano - $0.04
2 tablespoons lemon juice - $0.06
1 tablespoon sea salt - $0.02
4 tablespoons whey (or additional tablespoon of salt) - $0.02
1/4 cup water - $0
I don't bother peeling or deseeding my tomatoes, but you can.
Chop the veggies, then put all ingredients into the blender, a few at a time if necessary. Put in jars, covered and let sit at room temperature for two days. I had divide mine into two jars, since I was using old salsa jars. Then move it to the refrigerator.
*The garlic and cilantro are optional. I put in half the amount most recipes call for because I like the flavor of both, but I don't want them to be overpowering. You can add more jalapenos, but I add less because the hotter it is, the less I use. By keeping it mild, I can pour it on my food.
If you don't want it lacto-fermented, reduce the salt to a teaspoon, add more water, and refrigerate immediately.
Two Cent Apples
I'm not sure if this is regional, but my Walmart has apples on sale for $0.06 per pound. It was not an error. I checked with the produce guy. We bought over 21 pounds for $1.30. My husband put a limit on how many we should get, but I thought this was an amazing deal. I'm processing them into applesauce so I can freeze it. I'm going to have a busy crock pot!
Monday, December 7, 2009
Most drugs, at least the ones I'm thinking of, are illegal. Biblically, I'm not supposed to be doing illegal things, so my argument against drugs stops there. Drug addictions are expensive to boot. My life is not one that I am looking to escape, so drugs are not a temptation.
Tobacco is something I could slip into if I weren't careful. Cigarettes are that addicting. Sometimes when I'm near someone who's smoking, the smell grosses me out, but sometimes it makes me remember when that was the smell of relaxing.
Not only is smoking ridiculously expensive, it is horrible for your health. I've recently, within this past year, become uber health conscious and smoking would go against all of the work I have done.
Alcohol is legal and morally acceptable in small quantities. Jesus turned water into wine, not grape juice. But Proverbs says strong drink is a mocker, so excess is not okay or wise. My husband and I don't drink. We don't drink because we don't want to. Alcohol was the least enjoyable indiscretion and I only did it because I was a looser swayed by peer-pressure. Alcohol is not worth the cost to us. None of it is, and drugs, alcohol and tobacco are areas where many people could save a lot of money.
I was asked what I thought about some of the alcohol ads running in the sidebar sometimes. This post is a response to that query. I don't mind them. I could have opted-out of those ads but I didn't because I don't mind them. It is my opinion that drinkers will drink regardless of this blog and non-drinkers will not drink, even though there is a coupon on the ad. I find the ad makes me thirsty, but not for what it's promoting. A glass of water will do.
Saturday, December 5, 2009
Bobby always need me to "start" his, which means I take the first bite. That first bite is hard for him to get his little teeth into. Daniel has recently been having me "start" his, too. They like having things the same. Then, they are ready for consumption.
I don't cook apples often because I don't need to. They are fine just as they are. Peeling and cooking reduces the nutritional content as well as costing extra money in ingredients and electricity. It takes extra work on my part. That is a lose-lose all around.
My kids don't always finish their apples, though. Amy Dacyczyn recommends making individual microwave apple crisps with these reject apples. Putting sugar and unsoaked grains onto a perfectly good apple seems like a bad idea to me.
When I find a half eaten apple, I chop it up, with the peel on, and throw it into a bag in the freezer. If I find an apple with a small rotten spot, I chop off the bad bit, chop up the rest, and throw it into a bag in the freezer. When the bag gets full, I throw them all into the crock pot with some water. I cook them overnight on low. I add a pinch of stevia, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. With little effort, I have turned my reject apples in to a prized treat: applesauce.
Friday, December 4, 2009
My Mother's Family
They usually want pictures of the kids for Christmas, and I like making food for them. One Christmas craft with stevia fudge will be going to everyone. I'm going to be making my mom some Ukranian egg ornaments and, if I have time, I'll make some for my aunts and Grammy. I'll be posting about these this coming week. I budgeted $20 to give my mom some fun jewelry and she will also get surplus stevia.
I have a young step-brother and step-sister, aged five and eight. I have budgeted $5 for each. He is getting a small toy car, and she is getting an ice cream sandwich maker. Both gifts will contribute to their ever growing car and kitchen collections.
My Father's Family
My Dad had more kids than my mom. My mom had me and my two brothers, who are twins. One brother is counted in my Mom's family, getting a Christmas craft and fudge, and the other doesn't celebrate Christmas. Then, from my Dad, I have my half brother and sister, each of whom will get a Christmas craft with fudge.
Dad and my step-mom will get a Christmas craft with fudge, my old bread maker and bulk yeast that I never got around to putting on ebay, and surplus stevia. I asked if they wanted the bread maker and surplus yeast for Christmas and they did. I might have gotten more than what I usually budget for them if I resold it, up to $40, but I'm glad to be giving it to someone who can use it.
I was thinking of making a cheesecake for my step-sister. I did cheesecakes for everyone a few years ago and she ate the one I gave to her family real fast. She's 13 and doesn't eat much, so she needs it. I found a Wham-o ball for my eight-year-old nephew and a Baby Einstein toy for my three-month-old niece. They each had a $5 budget, too.
My Husband's Family
They used to have a gift swap where everyone drew a name and gave a gift of about $10. Dan's uncle has been under-employed for several years now and has two kids in college, so that has stopped. They still buy for our kids, which I would rather they didn't, but I guess it makes them happy to buy gifts for little kids. Just about everyone buys too much for our kids.
We exchange gifts with Dan's parents. We have an up to $40 budget for them, and it's Dan's job to decide what to do. I always have lots of suggestions for him, though, because I like to help. They will also be getting the Christmas craft and fudge.
Dan's maternal grandmother has Alzheimer's so we are giving her lots of pictures of us and the kids along with her Christmas craft with stevia fudge. Dan's paternal grandmother will also get a Christmas craft and some Turkish egg ornaments if I have time to make extra.
Everyone in each branch of the family will also get wallet sized photos of the kids.
To sum up, we have a $20 budget for each of our parents, including step-parents. We have a $5 budget for the kids we buy for. Everyone else gets the same homemade gift.
The purchased gifts have been bought with swagbucks Amazon.com gift cards. Yes, swagbucks paid for Christmas. If you haven't signed up yet, you should. If you have, refer your friends. Referring is not only good for you, it is good for your friends, too. (For full disclosure, this post is full of Amazon referral links, but their primary purpose is to show what cool stuff I'm getting, not to sell you that stuff.) If I didn't have swagbucks, about half of this would have been saved for, and half would be purchased through mystery shopping.
So, I've gotten my family's shopping done, but I still have crafts and cooking and wrapping. I'll be writing a separate post about our immediate family's budget and what we'll be getting each other. That shopping I have not finished yet.
How much shopping have you gotten done?
How do you decide how much to spend on everyone?
Will this year be different than last?
Thursday, December 3, 2009
But, there is another option. Yes, you can use cloth toilet paper. Just take a soft fabric, like flannel, and cut it up. Keep it in the bathroom. Make separate spots for the clean and dirty ones and you've got reusable toilet paper. It is a one time expense. You will save money and trees. It might even be softer than what you use now.
Why Don't I Do This?
Even though I scrub the poop off of my kids' diapers daily, I don't have any inclination toward scrubbing my husband's or even my own poop off of cloth wipes. This may be what Amy Dacyczyn refers to as "selective squeamishness." I'm not sure why kid poop seems less dirty, but it does. Maybe some day I'll feel differently.
What Do I Do?
I am a compulsive counter and folder of squares. There are folders and scrunchers when it comes to toilet paper. Oh, I used to be a scruncher, until I started thinking it through. Scrunching, in my opinion, allows for less control and forces you to use more to get equal results. So, even though I don't reuse toilet paper, I am toilet paper conscious, and I'm teaching Daniel, my oldest, to fold as well.
How do you feel about reusable toilet paper? If you use store-bought toilet paper, do you fold or scrunch?
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Oatmeal is one of the few convenience foods I use. I confess, I buy rolled oats. I still soak them, as they are a whole grain, but I'm not sure how much good it does, since they are already partially cooked by the time I get them.
I've wanted to make the switch to steel cut oats, so I've been searching everywhere for the best price. Here are the best prices I have found for each kind of oat:
Quick Oats: $1.80/42 oz, $0.67/lb, Save-A-Lot
Old Fashioned Rolled Oats: $2.20/42 oz, $0.84/lb, Walmart
Steel Cut Oats: $22.95/25 lbs plus $11.20 shipping, $1.36/lb, Amazon
One serving of steel cut is a quarter of a cup, but a serving of rolled and quick oats is a half a cup. So, steel cut is cheaper, right, and we all live happily ever after? Well, no. They are priced by weight not by cup.
I found out that a quarter cup of steel cut oats is 40 grams. One gram equals 0.0022 pounds, so forty grams equals 0.088 pounds, or 1.4 ounces. One serving of steel cut oats costs $0.12.
Guess how much a half cup of rolled oats weighs. Forty grams. It is the same for quick oats. So a serving of quick oats is $0.058 and a serving of old fashioned rolled oats is $0.073.
It is one of the few foods I have found where the whole food costs more than the processed, although according to chow.com, even steel cut oats go through some heating and processing. The other whole food that comes to mind is milled four, which costs less than buying the grain whole and milling it yourself. Oh, and tomatoes, that are cheaper to buy canned and already cooked into a paste than to purchase fresh and cook them into a paste yourself.
I'm willing to pay an extra penny and a half per serving to get old-fashioned rolled oats, but I'm not willing to pay twice the price for steel cut.
Sometimes, health wins out over budget, like for ketchup, which I didn't even bother comparing in cost to store-bought. Sometimes budget wins out over health, like with oats.
In the comments, you can either share where budget trumps health for you, or you can explain to me why I am a horrible person for compromising my kids' health this way.
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
God gave us brains, and using them glorifies him.
My husband always says, "It's a hundred-year-old technology. You don't see people going around with a Victrola. So why are we still using the same basic car engine?" We know how to do this another way. The auto industry is a little further behind, but we can heat our homes in a myriad of other ways.
Oil won't last forever.
We know it won't. We know we have a only a few decades left of oil, yet our consumption seems to be increasing. Everyone else says they find this crazy, but if everyone agreed, why isn't our oil consumption decreasing?
I hate government regulations.
If I use too much heat on my landlord's dime, he may raise the rent. If we all use too much oil, the government may be forced to ration it. This wouldn't effect my family much. Our family won't be using more than it's allotment any time soon. It's just something we don't want to happen. Can't we be responsible if we're not being forced to?
Some wars do not need to happen.
If oil were not so precious a commodity, the Middle East would be a less volatile region. We as a nation would not so readily step into Middle Eastern affairs, often messing things up further, if there were not oil interests.
Last fall, the landlord replaced some windows. One window in the kitchen was great. The other two were still horrible. We got curtains with a thermal lining and kept the windows covered all the time. It let in less light, but the kitchen wasn't that cold. This fall, the non-efficient kitchen windows were replaced as well.
Our door really should be replaced. It is drafty up top, and as far as I know, there aren't door jams for the top of the door. Again, we put up a thermal curtain that we close when we are home, covering the door completely.
The boys' room has a window that was an original when the house was built. The view from their window is into the hallway, so I wasn't too fond of that window to begin with. I hung two heavy floor rugs onto the wall. I leave them there all year long as a decorative element.
Besides home improvement techniques, most other heating options are about keeping your body warm. Consider the difference between the crock pot and the oven. The oven heats a large empty space around the item it is cooking. The crock pot heats very little space, but only heats a small space directly around the food cooking. If we keep our bodies warm, we don't have to keep the air around us as warm.
Starting in the fall, I wear slippers. Some may not have appreciated it when Jimmy Carter told the nation to put on another sweater, but it was sound advice. We have a blanket on our couch and will put on another layer of clothing before turning to the thermostat. All the kids wear at least as many layers as I do. Changing the thermostat is our last resort in keeping us warm, not out first.
What other ways do you reduce heating costs and consumption?