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.