Sunday, October 11, 2009


An old friend of mine IM'd me to see how the job search was going for Brian. That led to a discussion of the things we had cut back on. We talked about the gym, goals of not buying anything new, etc. I mentioned to her that I had managed to feed my family of 6 this week on a budget of less than 125.00. She asked how, and I told her I used to browse my circulars for their adds, but now I use . It works for me, I live in the south. I plan my menu (NEVER did that before) and have easily cut 300.00 a week for groceries down to 125 or less, AND managed to make the girls stop and think about snacks before they just randomly eat out of boredom. I wasn't convinced that printing coupons was worth the time, until I saved 84.00 one week on groceries. I'm not a woman carrying a binder in the grocery store yet, but give me time, I may join those ranks yet. This week's budget went toward dinner items, school lunch stuff, and fruits and veggies.

One thing I've noticed about this whole coupon thing though is how much I DON'T buy anymore. I'm really trying to stick to the idea of cooking from scratch as much as possible, and considering packaging when I buy so many of the coupons are not what I am buying, but I managed to find a few things every week, and then max out on printing them.

One thing I wished my grocery stores here did that I used to use in Washington were the dry bins. I used to shop at Poulsbo Market, in Poulsbo Washington. I LOVED that store. I could bring in my own bag, and get as much dry good as I needed. It might be pasta, or flour, or beans, or whatever. It made sense to do it that way, and with my determination to cut down on packaging, I'm bummed that none of the stores around here do that . I've also cut back on plastic containers in the pantry - I use mostly glass, and try to get everything out of cardboard as fast as possible (we get moths otherwise).

Just so you don't think I'm skimping on meals, here is what we are having this week:
Sunday: beef veggie soup (my lunch for the rest of the week - some veggies from the farmer's market), and homemade bread
Monday: big salad night, deviled eggs
Tuesday: roasted chicken, rice, and broccoli (again, stocked up with b1g1 deals from the past)
Wednesday: spaghetti (easy, stock up on pasta, and sauce attempted from this summer)
Thursday: pork chops, mashed potatoes (both b1g1 free deals) and corn from my summer stash
Friday: leftovers

These are practical tips as well, if you're interested:

Owlhaven also just published a new book called family feasts on 75.00 a week, and if she can do that with 10 kids, I can get my bill down with 4. Pop over there and check her out.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Christmas thoughts

YES! Christmas. I have always loved the big Christmas' we have had in the past. My favorite Christmas EVER was at my grandmother's house (I was 17) and my great grandmother, mom, sisters, brother, cousins, aunts and uncles and I even think Brian as my boyfriend was there too (although he may not have been there Christmas day). My grandmother had a formal living room with a grand piano in the corner, and very high ceilings, and we had a pretty tall tree that year. I remember staying up and putting together my sister's wooden dollhouse that year (we worked every night after she went to bed for weeks). Mostly I remember the fires in the fireplaces, and the people walking around talking, and activity in every room of the house.

I've always worked throughout the year to buy things for the girls, and save as much as I could because we aren't incredibly extravagant during the year, but we tend to have one BIG Christmas. After the kids open their gifts we gather at someone's house for brunch, and family gifts, and then we head either home, or to another house gathering for dinner.

This year, with Brian out of work, I've been thinking about the skills I have. Turns out I know how to do a LOT of things. I can knit (blankets, sweaters, scarves - want to learn socks) sew (felt food, tote bags, quilts, ornaments), I can crosstitch (ornaments), and I've been kicking around some ides for altered art presents. I can also make earrings and bracelets, hairbows, etc. Doesn't that sound like a big part of Christmas? Last year Big Al made playdoh for the little girls, T-Rex made jewelry, etc. Brian and my mom also took gorgeous portraits of the girls today, and I'm thinking some people may find those, or incorporate his art and my sewing together, under their tree too. Obviously I can't post my absolute ideas here because someone may stumble upon it, but those are my thoughts at the moment.

Are you making anything wonderful this year? Leave a comment, and help inspire me - we only have 11 weeks left.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

I'm still here

At some point last year I decided to split my blog into 3 different blogs. Now I'm not so sure that was a good idea, because instead of simplifying I have created more work - which I really don't need. I like the idea of keeping all of my entries about changing how we live, so maybe it will benefit someone else.

If you look at my main blog you will see that I am a typical suburban American mom with 4 kids. I think though I am starting to live my "inner tree hugger" life, and little by little introduce my kids to it. This past August my husband's mortgage company closed, and now we are supporting a family of 6 on a teacher's income. It has definitely been challenging, but now when I make changes people think I'm doing it because of financial reasons and not the simplifying/greener living reasons.

Planting: I am planting my new fall garden with broccoli, cauliflower, and lettuce again. It has to be on the deck though because I can't fence in my garden plot. It must be fenced because the deer LOVED by spring/summer garden, and we got very little of it. Fencing would be the financial choice, growing my food is my simple choice. I want healthier food, so that is how I'm choosing to spend my money.

New Skills: Brian has actually become quite skilled at making homemade bread - although the kids aren't using it to take to school yet. School lunches are going to be my next crusade. We are still slowly making in roads into eating healthier "whole" foods. I did can the pears from my grandparents trees at the lake house.

Purchased: I purchased a drying rack for clothes. Our financial choice because of job loss is to only do one load of laundry a day. My simpler choice is to hang all of our clothes now. I have always hung my own up to dry because I don't like to have things shrink in the dryer, but now I'm thinking that to cut out the dryer entirely may not be too difficult and so far it doesn't seem to create a time drain. I toss all of the clothes from the wash into a basket, and I hang them up in about 10 minutes. Big Al looked at me today and said, "This whole drying rack thing seems to be working pretty well, who knew it wasn't a big deal to hang clothes up to dry." I worked very hard not to roll my eyes at the obvious, but maybe it is something she will carry with her. Unfortunately we can't put up clotheslines in our neighborhood, so I just keep my clothes on the deck or the screened porch. I can always move it to my bathroom in the winter time too. Yes, you need extra fabric softener in your wash so your towels aren't stiff.

Planning: Handmade Christmas presents - wish I could post my ideas here, but you'll have to wait until the day after Christmas to see them, I'm also going to make some little fabric/vinyl wraps for lunch boxes to cover sandwiches - not because I'm worried about the price of ziploc bags, but because of the trash and the war on plastic I'm quietly waging. I found a pattern at one of the blogs I read about sustainability, so I think I'll give it a go.

If you can pop over to Towards Sustainability and read her post about her efforts seeming so small compared to events where she still sees so much waste out there. I'm also concerned about our political environment, and joined which is fairly conservative, but there are so many things to take a stand on right now that I think everyone needs to examine their beliefs and stand up.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Assessing my efforts

I didn't intend this to be my food blog, more of an opportunity for me to openly explore living a different lifestyle. If you read my family blog you know that my dad died of stomach cancer a year and a half ago. Watching him go through his illness really impacted me because it was my wake up call. I'm overweight myself, but more importantly we're raising four young women. Over the last two years I am working hard to slowly phase out as much processed food as I can. I actually think I'm at the point of having to go hard core because we're really only down to a few things..... now I say that, but reality is that my husband came home with frozen pizza and corndogs for dinner tonight because I had one of our daughters at her OT session. Since dinner was his to do tonight he took a shortcut. He knows my desires to eat whole foods, or at least use original ingrediants. So, I guess as a family we're still working on this. Since I'm a teacher and home in the summer this is always a good time to tweak our habits.

So here's an assessment of my new habits:

1.) I am actually taking the shopping bags with me, not leaving them on the hook by the door, or in the car.

2.) I have consistantly bought fruits and veggies from the local farmer's market. I am learning to blanche and freeze veggies, and have quite the stock of corn and beans. Now, why do I think this is important? It goes way beyond eating locally for me, although that is important too. A conversation I had with a dear friend scared the crud out of me.... he works at a plant that irradiates food. Apparently most every food is zapped at some point in the process to kill bacteria/germs. I thought I wasn't really touched by it (except my meat that I don't have a local source for) because I buy organic, but he said that gets zapped too. I wonder how much radiation we can handle before we become affected.
3.) I am growing a small garden of veggies this summer, and enjoying my daily tomatoes at the moment, but losing the battle to rabbits when it comes to my pepper plants. Our pear trees will have a lot to offer in late August, but our peach tree was stripped by the deer because it is so small. Next year I will have to put a fence around it, and probably the lemon tree as well. I have an apple tree out front, but I don't know what kind it is, or how to use the fruit - it seems to be VERY sour to me, so I'm clueless on that front.
4.) I'm actually already making some presents for gift giving times this year, and I'm knitting and sewing - nothing major, just stuff for the girls.

5.) I'm paying double (okay, more) on car bills to get them paid off almost 2 years early, and then will start in on the credit card - also the orthodontist will be paid off early too. If one of us end up losing a job we have a lot of things we can cut out, but we aren't in that position at the moment, so I'm trying to cut as many extra monthly bills as possible.

6.) I'm about to get rid of all plastic in my kitchen. I've been buying glass bowls, and stoneware baking sheets. I don't know that whatever clay my stoneware is made from is any better, but I'm NOT using aluminum for anything anymore, and hope to end my dependence on plastic. The down side is that these things are very heavy for our daughter with only one "normal" arm to lift, but we'll figure something out.
7.) The kids are doing well with less TV. The rule is that they can't watch until after 6:30. I do find them watching it in the morning if they get up before me, but they'll easily turn it off and find something else to do. This one will definitely continue into the school year.

Overall not bad.... I'll post soon on my new goals to meet, and a "to do" list.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Tuesdays and Thursdays

That's me in the capris on the right.
On Tuesdays the local farmer's market is less than a mile from my house. I went there today and was surprised at how large it is getting. It is still hit or miss as to whether people actually grow their own veggies, or bring them from the grocery store (last time I looked Chiquita bananas weren't grown in SC, and definitely don't come off a plant with a sticker on it). After tending my own garden for over a year now I tend to know what's in season, so I can weed out the fake vendors pretty quick.

On Thursdays it is in the neighborhood where our daughter (blog name Blondie) gets her OT and PT. So while she exercises I shop. Last Thursday my mom was with me because I wasn't able to drive due to the medication I was taking, so she captured these pictures of my bean man. I love him.... no doubt about it. I met him a couple weeks ago when he had a little folding table. He pulled out pictures of his large garden, and told me how he kept a shotgun on his back porch 'cause his brother-in-law, the preacher, keeps helping himself to his garden. "Ya never can tell with preachers, don't ya know." I really threw him for a loop when I bought all of his beans. His question to me was, "Well, now what am I gonna sell...." On this day I walked up and he started giving me good natured grief about buying all of his beans the previous week so he had stocked up for me..... that was fine.... I bought those too - I left some for the couple in line after me, but only enough for their dinner. They asked what I was going to do with all 12 pounds and I explained how I'm freezing them for fall and winter when I can't get local produce. They didn't realize people still did that.
Today I went out to the one by my house, and bought from my cucumber guy (mine will be ready in a week, so I won't have to buy his anymore - he's in the picture above) who had a pick-up truck and a trailer full of corn (so my cucumber guy has now turned into my corn guy). I also blanche and freeze corn too, so I"m going to have to make sure anything unneccessary is out of my extra freezer (or maybe buy yet another one). So tonight I'll blanche and freeze corn, and on Thursday when Blondie has therapy again, I'll stock up on corn some more. My bean guy won't be there because his "granddaughter was coming to carry him down to Disneyworld this week." Hope he's back next week my supply might be dwindling at that point.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Starting to harvest more....

Onions are a new one for me to grow this year, although I didn't start them from seed. From what I read I am supposed to pick them when the tops have flopped over and are brown. So I've started picking the ones that are ready, although small they are tasty.

The grape tomatoes are going crazy right now, and I can count on new ones for dinner each night. The larger tomatoes are still very green, but getting bigger every day. I do have a handful of beans most nights too, but I'm buying larger amounts from the farmer's market of both beans and corn to blanche for later in the year.

I was also thoroughly inspired by when she takes pictures of her absolutely spotless corners. Alas, I cannot keep my house spotless, although one day I'm sure it will happen. For now I"m content with a clean linen closet and folded towels. Not a big cleaning, but I did find 5 sets of queen sized sheets and 0 queen sized beds in the house. So they are going to my brother, and whatever is left over goes to the family lake house. I'll probably purge bathroom cupboards next, but I won't post pictures of that either. I'll just keep scooting over to beauty that moves for my peace....

On the positive front... the kids are doing fine without tv, and we're finding that after the 6:30 p.m. time they may watch a movie, but chances are they are still running around hanging out together (or finding turtles to harass). My goal this summer is to also get them picking up after themselves (HA), and doing some review work with each of them to keep them ready for school. It's only been a week though, so I have a ways to go to get our new habits in place.

Friday, May 29, 2009


Harvesting - the beginnings of beans, and grape tomatoes. The larger tomatoes are still very green. I keep trying to grab a strawberry, but the birds beat me to it.

Saying goodbye - to the lettuce - I'm trying to figure out this seed thing, and think they are beginning to show the pods, but have to read tonight about when to pick them (part of my seed to seed growing challenge). Also had to say goodbye to the broccoli that grew enough for a tiny piece to dip, and then bloomed. I've ripped them out, and the cauliflower too, I'll have to figure out the soil thing this fall and try again. Also, every single peach off of the tiny peach tree was eaten by something (probably deer) so I need to fence that in next year. Something also ate one of pepper plants, I don't think the geese would do that, so it might be a rabbit or deer.
I don't own these geese, they just flew in years ago and never left - and then have really cute babies, until they grow up and come in my yard.

Sowing - more bean seeds. They'll grow all summer, and we eat a lot. I'm also transplanting some more tomatoes into deck pots because we eat a lot of those too. I also purchased more basil to dry and eat (although I'm really enjoying it fresh right now), and more pepper plants because I found out I can freeze them VERY easily.

Blanched - ears of corn from the market. Locally grown and 12 ears for 3 dollars. I'm going to do this again too. I'm going to buy a bunch of beans from the market too, and set those aside, my garden will never produce enough unless I tear up the rest of my yard, and I"m only willing to move the butterfly garden at the moment.

Farmer's Market- thank goodness its every Tuesday by our house, and every Thursday by Blondie's physical therapy. This week I bought potatoes, beans, cantaloupe (1.50), watermelon (2 DOLLARS) and of course strawberries. I'm thinking that I want to go to one of those u-pick places for strawberries, but it's really starting to get hot AND I'm really not a fan of frozen strawberries (or jelly for that matter).
ADORING - a dear friend of mine who admits that she too reads Hobby Farm and Hobby Home, and spent hours on the computer looking for the perfect stainless steel water bottles for her children. Not all my friends "get it" but I appreciate being able to talk to those that do - even if I'm just starting with baby steps.

I still have not made anything because I'm wrapping up the school year, but I will get on it after I get rid of a lot of crap (I mean simplify) certain spaces around my house.

Sunday, May 17, 2009


Recycling is nothing new to my family - we lived in Seattle for 10 years - the Meca of environmentalism. BUT, when we moved to SC we found our curbside recycling seriously lacking. It only took 1 and 2 plastics, NO bottles, No waxy cardboard (food boxes), etc. In my effort to reduce and recycle things I've felt a lot of guilt about the amount of trash going into my container when it COULD be recycled if someone simply offered it. Well I am guilty no more. About a quarter of a mile from my house I found these lovely blue containers that will accept all of my less than desirable packaging. I am so excited. Next thing to do is set up a recycling box for these things and show my kids where they go. We were down to one large trash container a week (great for a family of 6), but now we can lower that even more.

Beans are ready

WOOHOO - I have bean ready to pick. I also have ONE grape tomato that is ready, I'm not making fun of that little tomato, because as soon as the rain stops I'm eating it. It is absolutely pouring down today, so I'm going to have to wait. Cheesie and I were trying to find a time when the rain slacked enough to go, but alas it is not meant to be at the moment. So my little beans, and my one tomato will have to be eaten tomorrow.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Lemons and Basil

Sorry for the serious lack of blogging, all 3 of my blogs have suffered this month. As a teacher, the last month of school brings a million extra things to do, and add into that all of the children's end of year activity parties, etc, and I am NOT living simply, I'm simply surviving.

Yesterday for Mother's Day, my husband and children gave me a lovely little lemon tree and a large potted coneflower. I haven't learned a lot about either one, but a month ago I was admiring the lemon tree because of the fruit on it, so I am looking forward to next year. The dilemma becomes.... where to plant it. I have an expensive goal of removing all of the tall pine trees in my yard (about 12 of them) and I know what that is going to cost.... so the lemon tree may have to enjoy it's pot for a little while longer.

The basil is growing nicely, and had quite a few large leaves (unfortunately I didn't photograph the plant until I picked off about 8 of the large ones). The tasted AMAZING however, when I made mozzarella caprese for dinner tonight. Brian and I enjoy it as an appetizer at restaurants, so I bought some "real" mozzarella and used my basil. Maybe by the middle of summer I will have figured out how to make my own (I hear it isn't too hard), and then use my own, basil, cheese, and tomatoes ......mmmmmmm..... So if you look carefully at our plate (the first one was polished off quickly) and ignore the sloppy tomato juice everywhere, you can see the green peaking through.... I grew that.... and then we ate it.

Also, getting ready to be eaten in a few weeks are all of the tiny grape tomatoes suddenly making their appearance. I haven't grown these before, but we eat so many of them I figured I would give it a shot.

I really enjoyed watching the girls last year discover that food from our garden tasted better than the food from the grocery store. They loved the taste of our cucumbers and peppers, and were very surprised at the actual taste of tomatoes. I've given Brian the ultimatum - this fall he MUST move the butterfly garden so we can expand. I CAN'T WAIT. Hopefully another update tomorrow - I'm starting to get control over the madness that is my schedule (4 more weeks until summer vacation.... and I can do ANYTHING for 4 weeks).

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

I am NOT a broccoli farmer

Update for the Growing Challenge - The beans I've started from seed are doing well and are about to be transplanted.... unfortunately they are probably going to have to take the place of the broccoli I planted. I was very excited about a week ago when these tiny little broccoli bunches showed up on a couple of plants.... SADLY they bloomed, and I went to look up what had gone wrong. According to my veggie book, these "bunches" were called buttons, and the book says to rip them out - probably not enough nitrate in my soil. Now, while I love gardening, and only know a small amount of information I know absolutely ZERO about the soil. I'm trying to be enthusiastic about learning, but I still find myself just planting things to try them out. On the other hand, my lettuce is doing very well, and we're going to eat some of it tonight. The tomato plants are going very well, and I'm going to transplant some more peppers into the garden too.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

I totally stole this way of listing our simple living activities from Towards Sustainability - I am totally unoriginal - except for the first one.

Teaching the Next Generation - I finally have my students' "garden" up and running. I have 4 window boxes under grow lights where we're growing "already started" lettuce, onions, green beans and tomatoes. Then each child has two pots from seed of lettuce and green beans. THEY ARE LOVING IT. Today they were commenting on how the bean plant looked like it was unfolding in their peat cups. They find it absolutely cool that they are going to get to eat these - in previous years a seed was put in a cup, and then the cup came home and sat on a windowsill until it dried up from lack of tending. This year we are going to try to eat a salad before they leave for summer. - several have had their parents buy seed for them. One girl ran out and bought seeds, but doesn't have pots or soil. She is watching her yard to see where it is sunniest - I think I'll run by the garden shop to their recycle pots box and grab some big ones for her to use.... I'll try to post pictures of this soon.

Doing - Hanging on for the end of school, and trying to wrap up all of the suburban mom activities that make life anything but simple.

Making - I have a lot of projects to finish.... I need to pick one..... I also still need to make my little girls some more felt food. Maybe I'll do that tonight... hmmmm.... I've posted it, so I better get on it.

In the Garden - lettuce is getting larger and really starting to call to me to snip them. I have Romaine, and Red Leaf lettuce. The Romaine looks almost ready - I think - any suggestions? AND LOOK - I have 4 whole strawberries... better get those before the kids eat them.

Reading - The Omnivore's Dilemma - am I the last one to read this? I've just started, so no opinions yet.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

New Growth

Growing: The azaleas are dropping their blooms, and the veggies are growing just fine. Tonight I was able to catch the beginnings of the possible peaches, and the first little broccoli sprouts. If all of these fuzzy things develop right, then we're going to have to prop up the peach tree - It's only about 3 feet tall this year, but looks to have over 20 peaches on it - last year there were only 6.
The broccoli is also shooting up. I haven't grown this before, so I'm sort of just feeling my way around this.... and trying to keep Blondie and Cheesie from picking it for their Ranch Dip. They aren't quite convinced that the broccoli gets larger.

Sewing - I'm secretly working on some more "play" food for Blondie and Cheesie - okay, it's only been cut out. They have been asking for a couple of the patterns I have, so I hope to get those done this weekend while waiting for soccer games to get started. I may have to postpone it though so I can catch up on school stuff.

Cooking - Nothing significant, but I'm very much working on this whole Menu idea. It does seem to help us eat healthier, and cuts way down on grocery runs. I'm looking forward to later this spring when I can eat some of these delicious veggies.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Planting the garden

So, I've finally started putting the purchased plants into the ground. We had a freeze last night, and it was hard to wait, but I'm crossing my fingers we'll be okay. So today I planted about 60 sweet onions, 8 broccoli, 8 cauliflower, 12 tomatoes (various varieties), 8 bush bean plants, 2 peppers, and 4 cucumbers. I also planted 9 heads of lettuce in window boxes since the deer/rabbits got to them last year. I'm hoping they will stay safer on the deck. I begin an herb garden with oregano and basil, and still see part of my bay leaf tree growing. I still have more to plant, and think Brian is going to have to build some more boxes for me. I'm going to join the Growing Challenge over at one green generation, although the idea of trying to save seeds is very intimidating. To that end, we have beans growing from seed to add to the garden once cool weather plants start to wither a bit.