Friday, January 29, 2010

lest you think i haven't got anything under control with less and using what you've got.

so i have a lot i want to do, but there are some things i have been working on for years. At this point, we are trying hard to pay off all of our debt. It's been tough, a lot of ups and downs, but we are getting there. Ideally we want to buy a home with out a mortgage. But, that is a post for another time. Today I will talk about the raising kids on a ultra tight (that's an understatement) budget.

There are the more obvious things, cloth diapers, cloth napkins, everything homemade and from scratch. This is where you see how "green" and "frugal" go hand in hand. We also buy in bulk and are trying to buy more this way. The first thing for us was oats. we eat oatmeal every day for breakfast, all six of us. When I get too many complaints, I make granola, but they eat twice as much. So we buy 50lb bags of organic rolled oats. We bought food grade barrels with lids to store it in. We also buy 50lb bags of Maine grown organic whole wheat pastry flour. The pastry acts more like an all-purpose, we do still mix for some recipes. We also are lucky enough to have an awesome health food store that will order just about anything in bulk at a 10% discount. So we get cases of Silk yogurt, we eat about 4-6 quarts a week. A yogurt maker is in our future but the art of making soy yogurt has yet to be perfected. We also now buy our laundry detergent in bulk. A 3 gallon bucket of an all natural bio-degradable cedar smelling laundry detergent made by a local family of 7. it works out to I think about 15cents per load. It's called o-natur-l and it was designed by this mom for her baby with extreme exema, so you know it's gentle. I love it, does great with diapers too. this week I will be ordering Chick peas, lentils and black beans. The bonus, along with savings is not running out of food. The weather can be wacky here. Its like -12 right now and then there is the snow. You don't want to get caught with a storm coming and no food.

Now for entertainment, here are the boys bean pictures,

and here is indigo playing in the left over beans like a sand box. Use what ya got and get creative. Check this out....
ya we eat a lot of yogurt and our town won't recycle the containers, i can't bare to throw them out.
We are trying to cut way back on videos so we have been borrowing books on CD from the library. AAAHHH the library, the most frugal, green entertainment ever. We try to get to story time every other week. and books come home with us, lots of books. Ok so here is a list of simple easy things to get you going on the greenugal (ya, thats green and frugal, I know! I am quite clever) road to a better life.

cloth napkins and rags (seriously, how many paper towels do you think a family of 6 would go through!) we bought ours at thrift store over time, quite an ecletic collection! I have also made them as gifts pretty quick to sew up

cloth diapers, even buying a few and trying part time would make a huge difference

no plastic bags (like ziplock sandwich bags) we use containers for everything, trash free lunches for mike when ever possible.

high quality long johns or "base layer" if your young and hip, did this one throw ya? Well clearly this is only if you live in a climate like mine, cold! and about six months of it! but i really REALLY like to be warm so in order to cut down on the wood we burn, i wear long johns, I mean a silk or wool base layer every day. The boys wear high performance synthetic (it's cheaper and washes very well, someday I will step them up to wool but the budget does not allow it right now)

So there are a few things we do here that you can try. so many more and so little time My next post will be my February One small change post. Please, be prepared for some over sharing! If you don't want to talk Feminine hygiene or worse, steer clear. until then here is a pantry minestrone recipe. sooooo yummy!

2 onions chopped
4-6 cloves of garlic pressed or minced
3 tbls olive oil
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes
3 carrots chopped
1 can kidney beans
1 1/2 cup small shell pasta
1 tbl oregeno
1 tbl basil
1 tbl thyme
fresh ground black pepper
salt to taste
1/2 of a 120z bag of frozen chopped spinach
64 oz of veg broth or water

saute carrots, onions and garlic in oil in large stock pot until soft, add spices saute for 3 more minutes add all ingredients except pasta, simmer for 30 minutes to 3 hours, add past and cook until pasta is tender, about 10-15 minutes serve with homemade bread. n

you could make this in the crock pot too, just wait on the pasta until about 30 minutes before serving

Saturday, January 16, 2010

how it's going so far..... and Goal # 4

Well, The de-cluttering is going great. I find it easier and easier to part with things. Honestly, the hardest part is what to do with it. Let's face it, some of it is just junk. No one wants it. I hate to throw anything away. Socks! this has been the biggest one. I have simplified by buying each child many pairs of the same socks, each child's socks are different from the next. This way I don't pair anything, I just stack them, or put them in a basket. No more matching. But, unfortunately, I went through several different types of socks before I found ones that would stand up to my boys. So I have about a billion stray socks, many with one little hole in them. Lets just say, we have plenty of rags now. I have 3 full trash bags of clothes to go to one of the three local non profit thrift stores. We have recycled or burned sooo much paper. Paper is a real issue here. I am looking for suggestions, homeschooling and drawings are our biggest problem. I was thinking about slates, like little house in the prairie? but realistically how many math problems can be done at a time. I have started to limit how much drawing the littles do. They love it, but they are not very mindful of how much paper they go through at 2 and 6 years old. Truth be told, they would just assume play in the sink or draw in salt on a tray.
goal # 2, inner peace. It's going quite well. ok, a good amount of the time it is. Still a long road ahead, that is for sure. I am trying to have 5 minutes to sit quietly in the AM. unfortunately, I am pretty convinced my sitting up, silently, on my bed, sets of some type of alarm in Indigo's head ( he sleeps in the next room mind you, not with us). Then the shouting starts, "MOM, MOM! M O M!". This makes it tougher to "concentrate on the breath". Its a work in progress.
Goal # 3 ...I am pretty proud of myself here. Probably seems silly, but it is really hard for me. I have realized I have three addictions, The computer, Sugar and raw carrots. Clearly raw carrots is one I can live with, 2 lbs a day on average and haven't turned orange yet, The sugar, I am working on it, But the computer, I have only slipped twice with the no computer before 1:00 pm rule, and it started with turning it on to pay a quick bill, or check the balance in the checking account. then comes downward spiral into " did i get on this web page?" and an hour has gone by. But then I get right up and shut it off. Two days this week I did not turn it on at all. Can't wait to see if my electric bill goes down.
I have been cooking more on the wood stove. On sunny days I really can't. It just gets too hot in here. Not really complaining, as it is often below freezing outside and 72 inside!

Now for goal #4...........Saying YES. I just seem to say no so much. I will still be saying no to TV and Wii and computer usage in the middle of week days. But hopefully I will get back to a place where I say yes to playing, yes to having help with all things in the kitchen, even by a two year old, yes to a picnic in the snow,

yes to helping build an igloo, "A REAL IGLOO" and yes to more stories and games. That is the idea.

On a side note, I am feeling neglected in the comments area! I can see that I am getting lots of visitors, but not many messages. Ummmm, I have no shame here in saying, "talk to me" What are you up to at your place. And if you are new here, introduce yourself, I want to know who is out there! I want to check out your blogs! Dare I declare anti-stalking day!!! come out from behind your computer and say Hello!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Goal # 3...

One Small Change

this is an idea that some moms put together to get us all hopping on the green wagon. I think it is an awesome motivator. Lots of other families making small changes, one at a time to improve our world and our lives. So I got all excited, then I couldn't think of anything to do. Most of the suggestions listed are things we are already doing. Bringing bags to the store, cloth diapers, composting, etc. Family cloths is something that is going to take a little convincing here, especially with a teen and tween, who already looked at me like I had 3 heads when I merely mentioned the idea. I'm hoping to make this our February change. So, what to do, what to do. Well here is what I came up with. It might be cheating, but I came up with a way to incorporate this into my goals for the new year. So in the spirit of halving our clutter, I will be halving our computer time. This is our one electric vice, More often than not, we turn it on in the AM and shut it off before bed. It is our music, our way to pay bills, how we communicate with friends and family, my sometimes baby sitter, (Bob The Builder anyone?) We use it,,,,,,A LOT. So, starting today, during the week (Mike may not cooperate on the weekends) We will not turn the computer on until 1:00 pm. I will also try to find two days a week to not turn it on at all. It's small i know, but huge for us. And, lets face it, this is going to do big things for our family and my lack of time. As a bonus, I will be trying to cook 1/2 of all meals on and in the wood stove. This is sometimes tough as I usually make dinner around 3 pm and that is when the sun is strongest and warmest in the house and we don't usually burn wood at this time. Breakfast should be no problem if I get my butt (or mike's butt) out of bed to stoke the fire before oatmeal goes on. So there it is, Goal #3 and one small change. Click the link and join in. Let me know if you get on board with this.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Goal # 2.......

Bring Back My Inner Peace. There have been two stretches of time when I felt like I really had it together. One of which was when we lived in Tennessee. As I mentioned, I'm sure part of the reason for all the peace was the great lack of "stuff". But I also had a sort of calm there that I have never had before and haven't had since. I was meditating almost daily(this might mean 3 minutes, and sometimes I was lucky to get that with 3 home schooled boys and one on the way) and I spent a lot of time focusing on my new found spirituality. I have searched and researched and tried all sorts of forms of religion or spirituality and finally felt something click when I discovered Kabbalah. It just made sense to me. I am a firm believer of "to each their own" I am very happy for, sometimes even envious of, my friends and others who are so sure and solid in their faith. It seems to be harder for me to find it and stick to it. Any way, the point is, I need that feeling back.
Some things have been going on here. not quite ready to discuss them out loud, but lets just say circumstances that our out of our control are beginning to have quite an effect on our lives. It is taking a toll on me mentally. I suddenly have headaches almost daily and the mere mention of certain people and or situations starts my blood boiling and brings on the anger. This is really not like me. And quite frankly, I hate the feelings I am having. The worst part is, it effects my home live and my interactions with my boys. Mostly, I just feel like I am not fully present in what we are doing, and, ok, I am yelling a lot more. It's stinky. So....It needs to go. So I dug out my Kabbalah books and cds and have started at the beginning. I already feel better but I have a lot more work to do.
Its a big one, but so far so good. I just miss being able to recover from bad feelings quickly. I still can't keep other people's issues from interfering with my family's life, but I can stop it from sending me into a downward spiral that can last a day or longer. I can keep it from taking my focus away from what I am doing at the moment. I can help to send the tension away from our home quickly and quietly. I have come across this sign multiple times on blogs in the past few weeks. I think it should be another new mantra around here. I have also got my, often angry, tween reading The Celestine Prophecy and listening to the Power Of Kabbalah, I hope he can get something from it. I'm afraid he is heading down a long and cranky tantrum filled road. Maybe I will glue the above sighn to his forehead? hope you all are finding peace in the new year. We are searching hard here.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Goal number one.............

Cut our "stuff" in half! Yes HALF!

A few years ago, when we moved from Massachusetts to Tennessee, we had to transport everything ourselves. This led to a mass purge of stuff. It was strangely freeing and fun! We set up a table in front our home and gave it all away. yes, for free! It was great entertainment and felt good. My only regrets...the big television, I'm still not sure how that happened. The pogo stick, this has been a sore spot with a certain child ever since. It was an accident. And lastly the big furniture I actually left at the apartment. My kitchen set, it was a steal at $50 and I don't think I realized how pricey they really are! My TV table, mostly because Mike made it for me and I loved it! And the Ethan Allen living room set mike rescued from a fire rehab job. It was awesome! The fact is, these things just wouldn't fit. Other than that, the "stuff" I don't miss a thing! I've been thinking about it a lot, then seeing photos of a certain SIL's spotless and "stuff free" home was the the straw that broke this camels back! So it's time, time to do it again. This week I cleaned the big boys room with them. We put the bunk beds back together and moved the dogs crates into the room. We set up good work spaces for school and are working on a simple clothes system. I am thinking 9 or 10 outfits hung on hangers, everything else goes? these are boys remember, they would wear pjs all day if i let them! Does any one else have something that works for them? I will admit to being frustrated all ready as they simply refuse to pick up after themselves. But, if I pause and think back to My bed room and Mikes, during our teenage years, ummmm, I guess I have nothing to say. I just want more peace and less chaos for them. I truly understand how hard it is to concentrate with all that crap, I mean stuff everywhere. So I am working on a control journal for them. Its a fly lady thing. Check lists of basic things to do in the morning and at night to keep it all under control. They are less than thrilled, but it should help. They were great about getting rid of stuff. We packed up the books in boxes(book hoarding is a family disorder and I don't expect them to just change their DNA) we are just storing them for now. less distractions ya know? Thew were able to part with posters, endless paper and even Lego creations (this was a hard one) they went back into the Lego box with a deal of one creation on the desk per week. It took all day, and nothing else got done. Luckily we have MRS P to keep one kid busy, the other little, well, he took advantage of the absence of supervision to dump out anything and everything he could get his hands on.
Next I worked on the play room. I have been working towards truly simplifying this area. So I ousted the remainder of the plastic toys with a few exceptions. All train sets stay. I packed them into crates in the closet. I also kept the plastic animals, these are a favorite and the wooden versions are absolutely out of our budget for the time being. Then I hit the books. Why is this so hard for us? We go to the library weekly! I boxed up about 3/4's of what was in this room. I kept our favorites and special gifts. We listed our toy storage shelf free on craigslist and were able to find a local teacher who was thrilled to get it. She is also taking the books and toys. That makes me happy. I know just how much teachers have to buy out of their own pockets and these are good toys. They will now have a good home. The kids are loving all of the space and there were no complaints about the missing toys. Interestingly, even with the few toys available, they still can completely trash the place, and fast! The good news is, everything has a place, so they can also clean it up!

Today, I will tackle the art/school shelves. I am trying to work towards each child having their own high quality pencils and crayons in a homemade case. This will help them to appreciate them. It will also help with the constant stream of broken and lost crayons, pencils and markers all over the house! so my new mantra ....LESS IS MORE LESS IS MORE LESS IS MORE.
What are you all working on for the new year? Does any one else feel that January 1st is officially, "start over day"?