Sunday, December 30, 2012

Candle Fun

Pinterest you are evil- I saw a cute way to reuse some jar- Make your own jar candles! Matt and I decided it would be fun to try. I am a collector of glass jars. Some of the peanut butter jars I have are not standard size jars. They are between a regular mouth and a wide mouth jar so they are useless for canning. I had some beeswax from a previous project so we decided to melt it and add some essential oils to make candles. In my quest of de cluttering my home I came across about 100 votive candles that I never use and probably never will. So we took the wicks out of  the votive candles melted them and added scents and re poured them into jars with new wicks. We made something useless into something useful!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Sweet Orange

A cool and easy trick to get get the good off of used jars is to use a few drops of Sweet Orange essential oil. I paid $1.99 for my bottle at the local grocery store. It is cheaper than Goo Gone, free of any chemicals, and it smells good! Sweet orange where have you been my whole life.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Goals for 2013

2013  is right around the corner and it has gotten me thinking about things I would like to accomplish in 2013.

1- Pay off $10,000 in debt between our home equity line and our mortgage- Our goal is to have our mortgage paid off in 5-7 years.

2. Grow more of our own food and keep a garden journal. This also includes building several more raised beds.

3. Appreciate the stage my children are in and really enjoy them... not just walk through the stages with them. They are only little once and I need to cherish the moment they are in NOW!

4. De clutter each room and get rid of what we don't need or want- and stop bringing new things into the house that we don't need.

5. Stop bringing home plastic bags!

I will keep posting status updates as we move through 2013! Happy New Year!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Working Vacation

I am a stay at home mom so I don't really get a vacation ever. But my husband is home this week because he has "vacation." Our finances have been pretty tight this past year so we are having a "stay-cation" which really means we are working around the house.

Our new raised beds we just built
Yesterday we shipped our kids off to grandma's house so my husband and I could build level and fill our new 4'x12' raised garden beds. We loaded our trailer twice with compost from our local compost site and once with mulch. We shoveled and shovel and shoveled. As I look out at my garden right now we have plantless boxes filled with dirt. It doesn't look like much but I know we spent a lot of time working on them. I can't wait for the threat of frost to pass so we can get the rest of our garden planted. We still have touching up the paint on the house to finish and spreading the mulch..

For the rest of vacation we are hoping to take the kids to the zoo tomorrow, having a babysitter and date night Friday, Saturday we have Easter with extended relatives, and Sunday a free day. So much for a relaxing lazy vacation... but our stuff needs to get done and it is wonderful to look at a finished project and know we did it.

Last years raised bed garden project
Do you think you need to go somewhere to have a vacation?

Friday, April 13, 2012

Recovering Consumer

I am a recovering consumer. I used to to clip coupons and then go and buy things that we didn't really need because I was "saving" money on them. I guess it isn't really saving when you are spending and don't need it.  OK I wasn't super crazy (I don't have my showers filled to the brim with toilet paper and toothpaste). The month of March we tried not to buy anything new. We purchased a few small things but nothing too extreme. At the beginning of April or very end or March we bought a Roomba vacuum (which is keeping my floors clean). Then a few days later we bought a SodaStream maker. Two nights ago I bought a slip cover for my couch. I didn't need any of it. But I wanted it all.

Last night we went out for supper since my husband wanted to and we had a few dollars in the "entertainment" fund. That lead to a trip to the liquor store because we are going to a party tonight and  our friends asked to bring something "fun" to drink. We then went to Walmart and spent another 30 dollars on stuff. Most of the stuff with the exception of food we didn't really need.

I am so frustrated with myself. We are trying to get rid of clutter and stop spending mindlessly. But every time we need something we buy some wants as well. I usually talk about my want purchases with my husband. He is such a pushover and says sure go ahead. I want him to talk to me about why we "need" something or what benefit it will bring us before he says yes.

So I declare today that I am not using my credit card anymore once it is paid off for anything other than my Consumer Supported Aggriculture (CSA) payment. I am not going to buy any more wants this month. I am a recovering consumer... I went on a binge but I am back on the program.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Sourdough bread

Golden brown and hot out of the oven!
I have been on a quest to find the perfect recipe for 100 percent whole wheat sourdough bread. After many attempts I have finally perfected my recipe. My recipe was inspired by Nourishing Frugal recipe. We don't buy bread anymore and we know what we are eating is whole wheat with no chemicals that we cannot pronounce. Hope you enjoy this recipe as much as my family does.

100 percent whole wheat sourdough bread

1 cup of sourdough starter

1/2 cup of water

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1/4 cup sugar

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

1/4 cup vital wheat gluten

Mix all ingredients in a mixer for 6-8 minutes until dough forms a ball and is moist but not sticky. Add more flour as needed. Place in an oiled bowl and cover to let rise until doubled in size. (I place my bowl on top of a yogurt maker to speed up the process) Usually 3-12 hours depending on how warm your house is.

Nice moist dough but not sticky
Doubled in size

Punch down dough and form into a loaf that will fit into a greased bread pan. Cover in a warm area until doubled in size. Usually another 3-12 hours or overnight.

Flatten into rectangle

fold over 1/3

fold over other 1/3

fold over 1/3

fold over 1/3

shape into loaf

place somewhere warm to rise

Bake at 375 for 45-55 minutes until golden brown. (I usually check the temperature and aim for 190° F)

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Roomba Guilt

I feel so guilty that we purchased a roomba vacuum last Thursday because we didn't need it. I have wanted a new one since my old one broke 2 years ago. We found this one on clearance and open box so it was even further discounted than I expected. We got it for a little over $100 at Sam's club. According to Sam's their price for the model we got was $250 and Amazon wanted $315. So comparatively we got a fantastic deal. The thing I struggle with is the guilt of buying it when we didn't really need it. I try to justify it by saying that it will keep our  house cleaner and that it will be my Mother's Day and Anniversary gift. Somehow it still makes me feel guilty. I really shouldn't feel guilty but I do. We tried to not buy anything new in the month of March and we almost made it. Compared to other months we did fantastic on our spending or lack of spending. I think for the month of April we will try to limit our purchases again to only things we can get used and what we need.

Speaking of purchases... last night we went to the Goodwill and found 3 sets of BOB books for 1.99 each. I have been looking for them for months and the cheapest I could find online was 11 dollars each. We also got another Magna Doodle for my children since they both are in love with them currently.We spend less than 20 dollars and got 4 sets of beginner reading books, a single princess book, a pair of new boots, and a doodle. We also donated about 6 boxes of things and only brought home 2 small bags of new things. So I think we met the criteria of one thing out one thing in.

So while I am still feeling guilty about purchasing our Roomba who we named Penny we have welcomed her into our house and I am more than willing to let her clean my floors with just a push of a button.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Almost a no spend month

In the month of March my family and I decided to try a no spend month meaning only buying things that were "needs" not "wants" from our checking account. We almost made it. We only had a few indiscretions I bought a pair of pants and a cookbook at Savers for 8 dollars and bought some waterproof fabric to make a water proof pad for my daughters bed. We also spend 1 dollar on a pair of shoes for my son. So we only spent 20 dollars on wants and not needs this month.  

The reason we decided to have an almost no spend month was because I felt like our finances where getting behind. We turned our other house into a rental in January. So we had to buy a new washing machine for it... that was 300 dollars, then my husbands computer broke and we bought a new one and it was 900 dollars. We usually try not to use our credit cards but since December we have had a bill of 500+ dollars on it every month. We decided that March would be the month where we get caught up on our budget and made a course correction. Luckily my husband has 3 paychecks this month so we are able to pay our final credit card payment off and not put anything new on it. 

Being a one income household of 4 our finances don't have a lot of wiggle room. We have been nickled and dimed to death this past year having 2 houses. We purchased budget software this year that have us being proactive with our money instead of reactive. By being proactive I mean we set aside a certain amount of money into categories such as groceries, gas, insurance, fun money, etc. Our goal is to only spend what we have set aside in a category and not borrow from other categories or use our credit card. We want to live a life where we have cash in hand before buy anything. 

What I have learned this month by not buying stuff is that we have a lot of stuff already that we should use up before buying. I had a gallon bag of travel sized soaps and toiletries from various trips over the years. Why do I let them sit in a cupboard and never use them? So we are using them up and then we are actually going to stop buying shampoo and conditioner. (A few months ago I did an experiment using only baking soda and vinegar to clean my hair. My hair has never looked or felt better.)

It is nice to look in my cupboard and see I have more space for things (if I need it). I have felt like we were drowning in all of the stuff that we have. Slowly but surely by not buying things we will evaluate our needs for each and every item in our house and decide if it deserves a place to stay or if someone else could use it. Clearing out junk from our house is an spirituality uplifting activity. It just puts me in a better mood all around. 

I guess this is all about how we live a simpler life. We buy less stuff, we have less stuff in our house so we have more money for the things we need or want later. Not to mention I have less stuff to clean so I have more time to do things I love. Makes sense to me. 

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Finding calm in crazy

I am a stay at home mom of two children under the age of five. We have two dogs and four cats, three guinea pigs, and two fish. Each and every thing needs to cared for daily.  My kids have tons of things, my husband and I have lots of things. Sometimes I feel like it all too much.

Today I woke up on the wrong side of the bed... I couldn't sleep last night because I kept sneezing so I took some Benadryl... and that knocked me out. I was tired when I woke up, my dogs needed to be fed and let out, and my 3 1/2 year old started in on the bossy demands before I even had a cup of coffee. I got my 21 month old up and fed and put into underwear (we are working on potty training). I went downstairs to take a shower to hopefully wake up and find a happy place to only hear my daughter yelling that my son pooped in his pants and it was all over the floor (AHHHH!!!).  Not only that it was time to leave the house for a play date. So we ended up late and I got to clean poop off the floor. And don't forget the fact that my cat ran out the door and under the deck when I opened the door to leave! Awesome. Luckily our play date was relatively calm. Got home to feed my kids lunch and they both spilled it all over the kitchen. I guess when it rains it pours.

I finally got my two kids to sleep. I am going to find my calm in my crazy life. My morning is my past and I can't change it. I think I am going to go take a  nap for 30 minutes and spend some time reflecting and meditating in the quite. I can only move forward with my day and let go of the things that have happened this morning. How do you find your calm?

On another note I continue to go through things at my house and give away or get rid of things that I don't need or want anymore that are just taking up space. It is such a freeing feeling to give to those in need and simplify my life.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Gardening in the Rain

So this morning I decided to play in the spring rain and plant all my cool weather crops in my small garden. I planted asparagus, strawberries, 2 kinds of kale, rainbow Swiss chard, several lettuce varieties, spinach, onions and peas. I have decided that this year we are going to try growing as much food in our yard as we can. I also plan to grow tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, cucumbers, beans,  winter squash, basil, lavender, cilantro, and potatoes as well. We also have two apple trees, raspberries, and rhubarb on our property. I would also like to add a pear tree and boysenberries this year. We put some planter boxes in our front yard for our garden last year. My boxes are almost all the way full so we are going to have to add more.. We have very poor sandy soil so planter boxes are our best option. Luckily we have plenty of wood left from our old deck that we tore down last summer that we can reuse to make our boxes.

Planting a garden is a huge money saver for my family. We eat very healthy and eat lots of produce. My kids, almost 2 and 4, beg and whine for fruit :-) We very rarely buy prepackaged foods. I cook everything from scratch. I buy things in bulk and use it up before it spoils. What small amount of things that do spoil make their way into our compost bin, or our worm bin.  We try to waste nothing. Plus knowing where my food is coming from is comforting. 

I recently found a buying club in my town that gets things from Azure Standard. I just placed my second order yesterday but I am able to buy grains and produce in bulk that are far cheaper than most of the stores where I live. Most of it is organic and it is cheaper than the conventional products in stores. So needless to say I am in love with them. The only problem is you need to be able to find places to store 50 pounds of detergent or 50 pounds of flour. I am lucky to have a huge laundry room with open shelves.   

We try our best to use what we have before purchasing something new. I am trying to live by the motto "use it up, wear it out, make do, or do without." For the month of March we have limited our purchases to needs. Not wants. It is helping us to get back on track financially and helping to simplify our lives. I think we will continue only buying needs in the month of April and see where it takes us.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

My Story

My husband and I were married in 2008 and we started a family shortly after and I decided to stay at home with our daughter. At the time we got married I had several thousand dollars of debt and my husband had over $20,000 of.debt. My husband and I scrimped and saved and put every extra penny towards paying of the debt we started with. In August 2010 we paid off the debt we started with and 2 "new" used cars we purchased. From August 2010 to March 2011 we set aside a small amount for an emergency savings account. 

In March 2011 we decided that our house was too small since we had added another child to our family. A two bedroom one bathroom house was not enough space for 4 people, 2 dogs, 4 cats, a guinea pig, and a goldfish. So we found the house of our dreams in a neighborhood that we previously said we would love to live in. We found it on foreclosure and decided then and there we would buy it since it was priced right. We hoped that we would be able to sell our cute little house for a decent price- late hoping to just sell it. We moved into our new house in April 2011 and our old house sat on the market until December 2011. During that time we had 2 house payments and utilities payments. - Needless to say we didn't save any money but we also didn't go into debt. Every last penny was accounted for in our budget. 

So fast forward to now... we decided to rent out our old house. We found a great couple to rent it. We still have   house payments but the rent offsets our old house payments. We are finally making ends meat paying more than interest on our new house and paying off our credit card. Our goal for the next few years is to live life more simply and appreciate what we have. We are going cut back where we can to find more money in our budget to pay off our houses and to to use what we have before buying more stuff. 

It is funny to think when we bought our new house I said "We'll have to buy so much more for our new house" Not only was that not true I am now trying to declutter our house. Its amazing how much "junk" my small children accumulate through holidays, birthdays and hand me downs. My new rule is if something new is coming into the house it either has to something we need or replaces something we already have. It if it doesn't fit those rules something will have to be donated to charity to make room. We are trying to use up as much of the stuff in our house as possible before having to purchase anything new. 

So follow along with me as my family and I set out of a journey to live life more simply financially and environmentally.