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Showing posts with label Living Well on Less. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Living Well on Less. Show all posts

Sunday, May 27, 2012

How Simplicity Prepares You For The Harder Times

By: Notes From The Frugal Trenches

Late yesterday evening I wrote on my personal blog about the difference in the experience of frugality when it is forced vs. it being a choice. The days grocery shopping "adventure" was still fresh in my mind. And in truth, my mind was on the black formal dress shirt school is insisting each child owns by Monday (for a concert), my daughters need for sandals, my son outgrowing his trousers (again!), four prescriptions that need renewing this month, three bills which recently arrived and a petrol tank in the bottom 1/4.

I've lived a frugal and simple life for many years. You will find us hiking instead of shopping, watering our community garden plot instead of going to an adventure playground or theme park, and spending our evenings reading, playing games, riding bikes or volunteering instead of frequenting paid activities. But this is the first time under our new circumstances of it not being an adventure, or a reason to save for something (emergency fund, car repair fund, holiday fund, long term savings plan). This is no longer about choice, but circumstance. The two very different c's.

The difference for me is two fold. Firstly, the "what if' thought is never far from my mind (what if there is another bill, or an emergency which costs $$ arises) and secondly, the constant need to prioritize, or choose what to cut in order to make it all work. And that isn't a nice feeling at all.

And yet, honestly, I see beauty in how we live. Yes, I've certainly learned that when things are already tough, more seems to go wrong - like a double blow that seems, at times, ridiculously unfair. But I've also learned about joy, faith, perseverance and commitment to a choice, and owning that choice even when it no longer feels like you've chosen such a path. If we had an extra $1000 a month, the reality is, our activities would not change, you would still find us hiking, bike riding, visiting parks, cooking from scratch, playing games, making art and crafts and loving life. None of that would be any different. What would change is the bank balance, our ability to easily deal with the emergencies that arise and perhaps a little bit more peace. But the reality is, we are not poor, we have a very nice roof over our heads, our fridge and cupboards are full, everyone has all the clothes they need, we have more books than we could possibly read (though we are trying!), we have our garden plot, a car that gets us from A to B, each child has a hobby, or two, that they enjoy each week. And our life really isn't any different, except that I need to be far more creative at times. And you know, the artist in me knows, creativity is never a bad thing!

I'd love to hear from you. Do you have any tips for me, or other readers, about embracing forced frugality or living well on less?

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Treasure What You Have

written by Gavin Webber from The Greening of Gavin and Little Green Cheese.
"Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; 

but remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for"
-Epicurus, Greek Philosopher (341 BC - 270 BC)
I found this quote when stumbling through the web the other day, and it got me thinking. I remembered reading about a psychological effect that describes this quote to a tee. It is called the ‘DIDEROT EFFECT'.

Let me explain.  Have you ever purchased something, something you really wanted, only to discover that it made the rest of your stuff seem a bit old and dated?  Rather than accepting some variance in the style against your older possessions, have you then been tempted to upgrade your old and dated stuff? This is called the ‘Diderot Effect’, named after the French philosopher Denis Diderot (1713–84) who first described the effect in an essay titled "Regrets on Parting with My Old Dressing Gown".  In this essay he describes how a gift of a brand new scarlet dressing gown leads to unexpected results, nearly making him bankrupt in the process.  

How do you become bankrupt just by receiving a gift of a new, sleek and beautiful scarlet dressing gown (aka smoking jacket).  Well the effect kind of tricks you like this.  Have you ever bought nice new shirt, and thought that your old pants now look shabby against it?  So you go and buy new pants to match, and shoes, and a handbag, and a belt, etc.  You get the picture.  The same can be said for putting a new piece of furniture into a room of existing pieces.  Soon you are shopping at the mall or high street to buy new furniture and fittings to make the original purchase look at home probably to the detriment of your bank account.

The same thing happened to Diderot or so he wrote.  He thought that his new robe looked so nice, that he thought that all the stuff in his apartment looked drab and ordinary against it.  So he bought lots and lots of new and expensive stuff to spruce up his abode, with a big hit on his financial accounts.  In the end he had this to say,
"I was absolute master of my old dressing gown, but I have become a slave to my new one … Beware of the contamination of sudden wealth. The poor man may take his ease without thinking of appearances, but the rich man is always under a strain.”
Between 2001 and 2006, I too was a victim to the Diderot Effect.  I would buy a new stereo system, only to think not long afterwards that I needed a new media player or DVD player to go with it.  The old one was in good working order so I was behaving irrationally.  When I bought a new computer, I would also upgrade the display, even though the one I had was perfectly okay.  Same goes with a lawn mower that I had, which just needed a little TLC, but I dumped it and bought a new one.  My old petrol (gas) can was old and rusty, but still functional, but I bought a new one, and threw the other away with the old mower.  Yes friends, I was wasteful as well.

These are just a few example of being sucked in by consumerism for consumerisms sake.  Today I would call it the 'steak knife effect' after all of those infomercials that start off flogging you one product, but then throw in a whole bunch of other stuff (that you never wanted anyway) just to justify the deal in your mind!

It has taken me a few years since my green epiphany, and a lot of thought after reading a book by Clive Hamilton and Richard Denniss titled "Affluenzza - When Too Much is Never Enough", but I am no longer influenced by this effect or most advertising for that matter.  I only replace what I need, when the old item is beyond repair, and only after I have gone without it for a few weeks to see if I can get by without it.  Case in point, my clothes dryer that broke a few months back.  You can read about how we adapted in the absence of this so called laundry necessisty on the post on my personal blog titled "Ditching the Clothes Dryer".  This is a classic example of rethinking and changing my behaviours for the better.

My warning to you all is beware the Diderot Effect and get off the consumerist treadmill which will help you stop the upward creep of material desire. Knowing how much is enough is a powerful skill to possess in this, the age of rampant consumerism.  Despite what advertisements tell us, stuff just doesn't satisfy our desire for meaning, and it is a very poor substitute for your sense of self worth within a manipulative and demeaning society.  I don't mean to sound preachy, but it feels to me that consumerism in western society is totally out of control for all the wrong reasons.

So to sum it all up, Treasure What You Have.  It will save your bank balance, and might just save a few resources in this ever declining, resource strapped, finite planet of ours.

Have you succumbed to this effect and regretted it later on?  How did it make you feel?

Monday, March 5, 2012

There Is Nothing Like A Walk In The Woods

By: Notes From The Frugal Trenches



















I've been a mother to two for six months. Adopting two children who have quickly become the lights of my life! As they are older, there is much pressure to do (though I'm sure this internal & external pressure can occur even if one has a wee babe in arms). I don't have many mummy friends, being only the second of all my friends to become a mother, the other had her first baby last year. The parents at the school gate are older and always seem so much more put together than I am. Their children seem to be masters at everything: yoga, ballet, tap, gymnastics, soccer, hockey, music, swimming and skating. They busily discuss how filled each weekend is with friend's Birthdays, which must be celebrated, and skiing and tutors and, and, and...For the first few weeks, or months, I wondered if I was doing my children a disservice. What if that tutor would make all the difference? What if not being able to skate yet becomes a sore point? What if they never catch up after such a rocky start in life? But slowly, one day, when on a long Sunday walk through the woods with a friend I realized something profound - my children are masters at nothing except being children. They know how to run, skip, hop and jump. They love collecting sticks (& counting them!), they like to giggle, laugh, tickle and be tickled. They like to explore and jump in puddles and visit farms and visit the ducks. And for them that is the good life.

Here's the truth, the six months has taught me a lot (though I have so much more to learn - oh how I hope the gaps close soon!), but most importantly it has taught me to listen to them, to push out the noise as much as you possibly can and just be. It has made me more and more committed to a simple life, a life not found by rushing to people's Birthdays each weekend, or spending each evening hurrying from one activity to the next. Yes, balance is important. Yes, hobbies can bring such joy. And slowly but surely my children are finding out what their interests are - for my daughter it is art, my son is a little actor (we are working on his confidence and I hope one day he will be at a place where he can join a small local theatre group). But more than that, if you ask my children what makes them happy they will answer: time with our family, going to the woods, knitting together and playing games. All of which are simple. All of which are free. All of which centre around just spending time together. And slowly but surely I'm learning the age old wisdom that there really is nothing at all like a walk in the woods with those that you love. The best things really are things that money can't buy.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A Stock Pot in Every Kitchen

by Throwback at Trapper Creek

I've blogged about making bone broth and stock before but it bears repeating. If you're not making stock already with bones from the meat you're cooking, Thanksgiving is just around the corner and lots of turkey carcasses will be gracing our tables and can be put to good use instead of being tossed.

I make stock every week because:

1) Of the health benefits.

2) It makes food taste better.

3) I don't like to waste anything.


This is what's left of one of our home raised chickens by the time I get done with it.

That handful of bone pieces is about the size of the chick when it arrives at the farmstead.



Rather than thinking of just filling the freezer for our needs, we concentrate on intensively pasturing our poultry after the brooding stage. By doing this, we are fertilizing our pasture at the same time we are growing our meat chickens.

Providing fresh pasture daily helps grow a healthy bird, and ensures a healthy nutrition profile for the meat and broth.

To make sure I use the broth in my cooking, I like to have it on hand, either in the refrigerator or in the stockpot that seems to be always simmering on the back of the stove. We consume roughly one chicken per week. We raise them ourselves, but they are still an expensive item for the pantry. To stretch those dollars, I squeeze the most out of each bird.

One chicken per week feeds our family of three plus two dogs in the following ways:

1) One breast butterflied and sauteed for my husbands lunches.

2) One breast cubed for fajitas.

3) Breastless carcass wet roasted in 3 - 4 quarts of water to yield 3 - 4 quarts of semi-gelatinous broth, and cooked chicken. (I roast my chicken in a covered roaster at about 400 degrees Fahrenheit for about 4 hours.)

4) Remaining cooked meat makes at least 2 more meals of chicken salad, enchiladas or whatever you wish to use cooked chicken for.

5) After all that I take the carcass and make at least two more quarts of stock, since the bird has been roasted already, this stock needs no skimming and stays clear. I cook this for 12 - 24 hours with a glug of vinegar to help release the minerals and gelatin in the bones and gristle. Note: since the dogs will be getting the spoils I do not add onions to the stock. If you're not feeding dogs, onions are a good addition, as well as any other vegetable odds and ends in your kitchen. Carrot ends, celery trimmings etc.

6) Strain the stock for the kitchen and break down the skins and bones for the pups. Most bones will be soft enough for dogs, except the weight bearing bones of the bird. On these I squeeze the bone and marrow until I get to the hard part of the bone. Feeding cooked bones to dogs is not a good idea unless the bones are soft. They are very sharp (unlike uncooked bones) and may potentially puncture your dogs digestive tract. I personally inspect each bone and piece of chicken before my dogs get any of it. This go round yields about two quarts of chicken skin, leftover bits of meat and soft bones for the dogs. They love it!

What hasn't softened in the cooking process goes into our woodstove and is cooked into ash that goes to the garden. I suppose if you were so inclined you could pressure cook the hard bones and make them entirely soft, however for me, it's just one more step that isn't needed. My garden can always use some ash, and it is an amendment that I don't need to buy if I can make my own.

For more reading on the health benefits of bone broths and stock check out the Weston Price organization here:

http://www.westonaprice.org/abcs-of-nutrition/health-topics

The interconnectedness of farm and kitchen is an amazing and satisfying feeling. Stock warms your belly and your heart.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Childhood Joy Rediscovered (Again)

by Sadge, at Firesign Farm
As a child, I couldn't wait to learn to ride a bicycle. First on the grassy hill in front of the house, then out on our little suburban street - my dad jogging along behind, holding onto the seat, exhorting me to "keep pedaling", until suddenly I left him behind. I kept pedaling, and the world was mine!

I had wheels, and my boundaries grew - from my street, to my block, to the neighborhood defined by the "busy" streets. The bikes grew too, from that first little bike soon passed down to a younger sister, to a bigger one, with fat tires, coaster brakes, and a basket. It was great! As an avid reader, I was overjoyed once allowed to ride to the library on my own - I could get more books whenever I wanted! I taught our little dog to ride in the basket, and the two of us had our faces in the wind every day. Whoopee! I had wheels!

By high school, I had traded up once again - getting a Schwinn 10-speed, and a job. My boundaries had expanded too. Even the steepest hills were no barrier now, and I was old enough to be allowed out after dark. I could now ride for miles, and did. Oh, the fun I had! When I went away to college, that bike did too - providing plenty of exercise along with my new-found freedom.

Once out of school, my commutes got longer (and I was making more money). I got my first car, and the bike gathered dust in the garage. About 20 years ago, I sold that old 10-speed to buy a mountain bike. It wasn't suitable for in-town riding, but made for some fun weekends. As I got older, it got harder to ride the hills - it wasn't as much fun anymore. Eventually that old mountain bike was pretty much just gathering dust in the garage. I still liked being out, and on the move, though. I live in a gorgeous part of the country, with plenty of trails and paths nearby. Hiking and walking was more my recreational speed; with the car for work and errands about town.

I believe in living as "green" a lifestyle as possible. In order to put some effort behind my beliefs, I joined a local organization advocating for pedestrian and bicycle safety. I went to a lot of public meetings, met with a lot of elected officials, and kept speaking out that transportation need not mean only cars. Over the years, and through our collective efforts, we now have a pretty good start on a bicycle-friendly community (and a nascent bus system, too).

And this summer, I figured it was finally time for me to stop merely advocating and "walk the talk" - put my muscles where my mouth is, so to speak. I'm old enough to need my comfort, though. The old mountain bike out in the garage never did work very well other than recreational. I saved up my money, and went shopping for something I could ride about town. I'm amazed at the advances technology has made in bicycling. I was thinking a little-old-lady cruiser-type bicycle, but eventually decided a hybrid would better suit my needs and riding style.

And it does - it's perfect! It has the suspension (oh, what a concept!) in seat and handlebars, and upright sitting and wide, padded seat of a cruiser. But then it has the gearing and brakes like my old mountain bike (definitely a plus, as my house sits up on a hillside). I never liked strapping my purse on the back rack, or wearing a backpack, so I love having a bike with a front basket once again (and now they make detachable baskets - I just lift it off and use it as a shopping basket in the store, and then carry it in the house to store my helmet, water bottle, and lock). And a bell - I had to have a bell! - I'm a town rider now, I wanted a bell :-) I've also found that an Ipod - turned down very low, so I can still hear traffic noises - makes riding so much more enjoyable (I always have the radio on in the car - why not enjoy my music while out on the bike?)

I've rediscovered the simple joy of having the wind in my face once again. I use the bike for running errands about town, even bundling up to keep riding as the weather has gotten colder. I've noticed I can get a little farther up the hill to my house, before having to get off and walk, each time I go out. Before, I'd started having problems with my knees, feeling like I was kneeling on gravel. The doctor said I needed to strengthen the tendon that runs under my kneecap. When I get out on the bike regularly, I've found I can once again kneel without pain. And need I even mention the savings in gas money, or the benefit to the environment? That I'm losing weight and getting in shape? All that aside, it's just plain fun!

Friday, November 4, 2011

keeping warmer


by Francesca @ FuoriBorgo

chimney

One problem with living in an ancient stone house built directly above a chill, humid wine cellar is that, though it's wonderfully cool in summer, heating it in the cold season is hard.  To keep heating costs down (while not freezing to death), we've found some simple and efficient ways to stay warm - which I wrote about on FuoriBorgo last year (I've linked the relevant posts below).

hot water bottle

-    Hot water bottles - a time-tested and yet vastly underestimated method of keeping warmer.
-    Felted blanket curtain - we added a thick layer of insulation to our largest double-glazed window.
-    Warm slippers - yes, warm feet do make a huge difference!

How do you keep warm in your wintry house?

Monday, August 1, 2011

Sell Outs

By: Notes From The Frugal Trenches



















I have long held the belief that a simple, frugal and green life isn't about following a script or ticking off certain things on a list. A simple life in the country isn't so simple if you spend your time yelling, constantly bargain hunting or feeding a tv addiction. A simple life doesn't mean you have to keep pigs and bees or make every single meal from scratch. A simple life doesn't mean you can't work. Instead I view the simple life as a paradigm and a lense by which I view the world; a fundamental belief in focusing on the most important things, seeking to find balance in all I do and living by the principals "less is more" and "living simply so others may simply live".

Lately all around me colleagues and friends have been talking about what is important to them, a few even mentioned the term sell out. You see many of them thought in their early 20's that they would make "good choices" (that is their term, I certainly am not value judging their choices as good or bad) but as their lives have developed through their late 20's and 30's they really haven't decided to stick to those "good choices" they once thought they would live by. I spent the last week listening to their examples, some of which were:

- Deciding to commute for 2 hours to work so they could have the "biggest bang for their buck" aka the biggest square footage house
- Not buying free-range or organic meat or dairy because they don't care anymore about animal welfare (this person was very pro responsible farming in her late teens)
- Not taking the option of a 4 day work week after returning from parental leave because that extra day is a weekend in Las Vagas every year.
- Never hanging clothes to dry because it would take an extra 10 minutes and interrupt precious facebook time
- Feeding the family hot dogs, boxed pizza and boxed macaroni & cheese almost every night because that is what is quickest and after 10 hours outside the home, no one has the energy to cook
- Admitting they see less than 10 hours a week of their 4 and 2 year old because with an 11 day work day 5 days/week and a love of bargain/frugal shopping (thus visiting 5 different shops on Saturdays and often nipping to the US for the real sales) the grandparents pick up the grandchildren from daycare Friday afternoon and keep them until Sunday morning. This was a hard one for this friend to admit because while suffering from infertility they swore time with their children would always come first, now they have 2 very good careers, a very large house they just totally renovated and only see their children Sundays.
- Being scared to go without because their friends are richer than they are.
- Becoming so obsessed (their words) with paying off their mortgage, buying a second and third home to rent out and retiring at 55 that they are not really living now
- Throwing away anything with a tear/needing a new button and buying new

As I have listened to these conversations, I have tried not to make any value laden statements but did occasionally ask "so if you know, would you change anything", I further asked one "would you now go to work 4 days a week so you can do the things that used to be important to you and simply shop/eat out less". What was really interesting to me, is that no one said they wanted to change a thing. One, a top city lawyer married to another top city lawyer, who eat out 20x a week and admits they don't see their children at all between Mon-Fri said "nope, I'm a proud sell out - I want as much as I can have for as little as I can get it for, we're not interested in having less money, we want more money". I smiled and pondered those words, asking myself what I can learn from their experiences, choices and definition of happiness/selling-out.

What is interesting to me, is in my experience, the older I get the less I want to "sell-out" and the more comfortable I am going without what most people view as a necessity. It took fostering four very broken and traumatized children to help me see there was another life waiting patiently for me to embrace; they taught me there is so much more to life than work, stuff, money and materialism. And while I don't really have any friends in real life who live like I do (although I am blessed to have one friend on either side of the Atlantic who are at the beginning of their simple living journey!) hearing these friends and co-workers yearn for more money and not desire to change anything about their current circumstances, made me very thankful for places like this co-op, the readers of my own blog, Rhonda's blog and the myriad of others which remind me daily that each day I will face choices, those choices bring me closer to the values I hold or further away. While I do aim to be careful about how much time I spend online, I do feel a bit of a haven in what I choose to read in this amazing place. It was that haven that helped me stick to my choice not to attend a friend's wedding and your words gave me the confidence to stick to my conviction when the bride expressed her anger.

Through my own learning this past month (both from the wedding and the new life that awaits me, as well as conversations with those who live so differently to myself) I've come to a place of both certainty I'm on the right path and also grace - grace in deciding I don't have to be perfect or do things exactly like other simple life followers. I've come to realize if we embrace the simple life as a lifestyle choice, then we are probably all doing the best we can, sometimes under extra-ordinary circumstances and most often without people around us to commiserate or encourage. I've come to accept this path will often be lonely. And maybe when it comes to a simple, frugal and green life, that is OK. Maybe as long as we hold onto that value and don't allow ourselves to totally "sell-out", then our anchor will at the very least keep us grounded through the seasons where being simple, green and frugal is more challenging. Like my current season of vermicomposting - and it failing time and time again. Yes, it may be easier to throw in the towel like many people and not bother with spending more time trying to "do good" but since when is the right choice the easy choice. And by heck, one day I'll get that worm compost system right!

My own personal goal this week is to write a list of things I'm not willing to compromise on, as I begin a brand new and exciting chapter in my life, maybe it will serve as a reminder to hold onto what is most important and leave the rest behind! Because the truth is, whether people see it or not, there is a cost to selling out - a cost to ourselves, our families, those we love, our community, our environment and future generations. By focusing on the most important things, I hope to avoid the real cost associated with selling out and instead reap the rewards of a slower, more balanced, person/community centered path. And suddenly I'm reminded of the tortoise and the hare. And now I can firmly, without a shadow of a doubt, say I'm the tortoise, how about you?

Have a happy, simple, frugal and green week, filled with choices which represent the real you !

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Looking to the past

Aurora @ Island Dreaming

The problems that the world has begun to face (whether consciously or not for the majority) - financial, energy and resource descent, and an increasingly unpredictable climate - signal the onset of a decline in material living standards for many of us - a sizeable number of whom have got used to ever increasing levels of consumption and material wealth over the past decades. How we individually and collectively navigate these challenges will largely determine the quality of life we experience; and I personally do not believe that a decline in material consumption is a one-way ticket to misery and social breakdown.

Last year I finally got around to visiting my city's flagship tourist attraction - the historic dockyard. This is the home of the Royal Navy, and the place that it keeps its historic flagship, HMS Victory. As Victory is now preserved as a museum in dry dock (though technically it is still in commission) and has been restored and patched up several times over the centuries, it offers a sanitised view of life on a 250 year old warship. There were no fires, slop buckets, wounded soldiers, or unwashed sailors on board when we visited and conditions on board would have been grim when the ship was in active service.  But it did show that humans have lived and thrived with far fewer resources, far less complexity, than we have today. 


Fast forward a century, or take a walk a few hundred yards across the dockyard, and step on board HMS Warrior, the most advanced warship of the 19th century navy. The British Empire project was well under way, and it shows - a majestic, iron clad ship boasting the very best engineering and built and furnished from raw materials imported from across the world. By today's standards, it is still rustic (no running hot water, no electricity)  but it shows something of how humans climbed up one side of a bell shaped curve to the level of energy and resource consumption we enjoy today. Can the past show us a possible path down the other side of that curve?


 In the UK there has been a resurgent interest in WWII era house keeping since the onset of the financial crisis. This era, more so than more recent economic recessions, inspires people. Government pamphlets from the era covering everything from victory gardens to 'make do and mend' have been republished, and wherever you are in the world, you have probably seen at least one piece of merchandise or blog buttons with the phrase 'Keep Calm and Carry On' splashed across it. 1940's cookbooks have been reprinted and ration diet challenges taken - none of which is necessarily a bad thing when it inspires people to face the material challenges in their lives with 'Blitz spirit'.


The problem with looking to the past for inspiration on how to live today is the tendency to over-romanticise things, to look through the prism of the Hollywood movies we may have seen - to believe that society was rosier back then and the hardships that people faced were more severe but somehow more 'real' and endurable than the more familiar, boring challenges we may find ourselves facing today. A discerning eye is necessary when adopting historical practices and 'lost' skills - some make no sense, financially or ecologically, in the modern era. Still, many of us will be engaged in old fashioned, rustic and downright medieval experiments of our own in our quest to lead simpler, less consumption driven lives; and we will extract great enjoyment from them. 

If we can overcome a tendency to romanticise, there are real lessons to be learnt from the past. As humans we have used our ingenuity and opposable thumbs to increase our ability to exploit resources, increase consumption and create waste. Any era before our own shows that it is possible to live with less than we have today; and it is possible to live a good life with much less. Combined with the vast knowledge we now have in physical, environmental and social sciences - knowledge we have traditionally channelled predominantly into growing a consumer society - the practices and perspectives of our less spendthrift forbears might show us a way forward through challenging times. If our ascent has been characterized by increased consumption and  decreasing quality, increased outsourcing and decreasing self reliance and self determination - how might we be able to fashion our descent?

I am currently rereading articles and books from the 1970's and 1980's fuel crises and back-to-the-land movement, and the DIY and craft books that were spawned by that era - because they happened to be my first introduction, many years ago, to the issues we currently face. Much has to be taken with a pinch of salt, much is still valid and inspiring. What periods of history are you inspired by?

Monday, June 20, 2011

Weekly Rhythms Which Help

By: Notes From The Frugal Trenches


After a few weeks which left me feeling positively disheveled, I've been taking some time to commit to getting back into a rhythm which helps me lead a simple, green & frugal life even among the chaos of life! And for me, right now, those essential rhythms include...



















:: A weekly walk, preferably repeated each day ;)




















:: Homemade soup, perfect for a winter's eve - or for tackling summer allergies & sinuses



















:: Weekend cooking sessions so meals are healthy & simple during the week - this week roasted trout, brussel sprouts, cooked sweet potato, roasted lemony carrots and broccoli salad



















:: A few sessions with the needles - the perfect way to unwind

And when I take the time to incorporate a few little activities which help me lead a simpler life, I find that I'm learning an important lesson. A lesson in understanding no matter how busy, there is always a choice. A choice to rest, a choice to be in that moment, a choice to let go of the distractions and instead take a few minutes to focus, to be, to let go. And in that very moment - even if in the background there is noise and lists of things to do, I see the beautiful! And when I find that beautiful, even just a few minutes each day, it helps me set the tone for a relaxed and simple week.

What activities do you incorporate into your life which help you lead a simple, green or frugal life?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Making the Most of the Summer Heat


It's been hot hot hot a few days already here in NE Ohio so far this summer. A few days the temperature has risen into the 90's. I don't really mind the heat as long as I don't have to be out in the sun in mid-day. I do take advantage of these hot days by making the most of the high temps. I check the weather at the beginning of the week and try to plan to do a few chores on the really hot days, things like: making yogurt, making bread, laundry, and drying herbs.
Fresh Laundry
All my laundry is done on the hot days of the week, because everything dries super quickly. I also think the hot sun really helps freshen the rags and the kitchen towels. I also make the most of the heat by making yogurt on these hot days. It eliminates the need for either turning on the yogurt maker or putting it in a cooler. I simple put the jar up in the attic where it's nice & warm.
Harvesting Herbs
My attic is hot and dry, so herbs dry very quickly, no dehydrator needed. I have a window screen that we don't use that I have set between two boxes. In the morning, right after the dew evaporates I snip fresh herbs and spread them out on the screen to dry. It only takes a few hot days and the herbs are ready for the pantry.
Taking Advatage of the Heat
I love making the most of the weather because it saves me money on my electric bill by not having to use appliances to complete these tasks and it keeps my house cooler on those hot days!

In what ways do you make the most of the summer heat?

I can also be found at Chiot's Run where I blog daily about gardening, cooking, local eating, maple sugaring, and all kinds of stuff. You can also find me at Ethel Gloves, Not Dabbling in Normal, and you can follow me on Twitter.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

I Occasionally Want But I Don't Need

By: Notes From The Frugal Trenches


















I'm not sure about you, but for many of the people I know I am the only person they know who lives a simple, green, frugal and downshifted life. Many of them would never elect to go without their SUV's, drive through dinners, busy schedules, quest to climb the career ladder, extensive clothing/shoe/jewelry collections, the convenience of disposable diapers or even the use of paper plates {I have a friend who uses paper plates, cups and cutlery for all their meals - going through 72 of each per week!}. One of the main things I've noticed is they struggle to understand why anyone would choose to wash dishes by hand, hang clothes to dry, live without a vehicle, wait for books at the library and wonder how anyone can want those things. I try never to seem perfect or totally put together either on my blog or in real life and I certainly share that there are times I do really wish for a little bit of convenience {usually after a long hard day!} and yes, occasionally I want. The other day after a long day, I thought about all the things I occasionally want and I wrote them down. A few minutes later I countered my wants by identifying what my needs were...

I want to drive a car down a big open road, listen to tunes on the radio & gaze at the sky...but I don't need to own a car.

I want a week of no dishes...but I don't need a dishwasher, I have two hands that work perfectly well

I want a weekend where I don't have to make time to take my food waste to the city compost when my vermicomposting worms aren't quite up to the challenge...but I don't need that time, in fact I like my weekly walk and I certainly like my worms {most days!}

I want to be able to eat 3 mouthfuls of a cookie {which contains gluten} without spending the night with skin bleeding {like it is tonight!}...but I don't need to eat cookies to survive, in fact going without cookies is a good way to make my frugal budget stretch further

I want to have some reprieve from life & eczema by sitting on a beach in the sun for a week or more {just like my Dr. recommended!} and enjoying a good 5* service...but I don't need anything except inner peace and the earth certainly doesn't need those carbon miles!

I want a much healthier bank account...but I don't need anything more than trust, sacrifice and perseverance and I certainly don't need more work hours to give me that bigger bank account

I want a microwave to make my meals in 2 minutes flat...but I don't need things to be ready at the push of a button, there is a rhythm to waiting for good nourishing food that fills my evening routine, which I'd be sad to say goodbye to

I want a week of no dishes...but I don't need a dishwasher, I have two hands that work perfectly well

I want a new wardrobe that doesn't need to be built around my skin issues or a non-existent budget... but I don't need anymore than I have, even if compared to the world it is more than frugal.

I want my clothes to be dried in a dryer with no creases and no extra work of hanging to dry...but I don't need a dryer and there is something exceptionally mentally cleansing about hanging clothes to dry!

I want land with lambs, donkeys, rabbits and chickens {oh my!}... but I don't need anything more than myself in order to live the frugal, simple and green life.


Once I finished writing out my list, I reflected on what life would be like if I had all those wants. The truth is, my life wouldn't be something I personally would want to lead. I have enjoyed my little journey in downshifting, learning self-sufficiency skills and the peaceful rhythm which finds its way into my daily and weekly life. I like that my choices reflect the values I have and that I aim to tread lightly on this earth. Yes I occasionally have hard days, every so often I wish there was a little button I could push to make that particular day easier, but the truth is, I wouldn't swap my new life, or my new choices, to return to my old ways. Nope, no going back!

What things do you occasionally want that you don't need? Do you think about what life would be like if you weren't on this journey? Could you ever go back?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Nesting

by Amy of My Suburban Homestead 

Well, dear readers, I haven't been as active in writing about my homesteading experiences as I have been in the past. This is largely due to the fact that I am pregnant, and most of the time struggling to keep my eyes open and nausea at bay! Most often I've been curled up under the blankets catching up on movies I've wanted to see over the last few years but have been too preoccupied with other projects.

In preparation for the new addition to our family, I've sold off all of my extra chickens. I had been selling their fertile hatching eggs on e-bay (which is a great way to make some extra money from home, by the way if you have a rooster) because I would like to focus on just our family needs. I find that when I have too much going on and try to make a little extra money for myself, the effort that I spend in doing so ultimately means that I have less time to spend on things that would save me money in the long run, such as making my own laundry detergent or growing food or even building a fire in the wood stove. Like they say, time is a precious commodity.

On my personal blog, I wrote recently about our first experience in raising our own pig for meat and lard. If this is something you've been considering, you might find this an interesting read, and if you are a veteran in raising pigs, I'd love to hear your feedback on your experience.

I've also got three runner ducklings in the brooder, and am hoping that they will help me keep the slugs and snails under better control this year.

I'm finishing up my master gardener course, and have learned a lot. I hope to apply all that I have learned this year and will keep you updated on the progress and new varieties that I am attempting to grow. I have a lot of vegetables growing in the house already, and it should be quite the productive season! 

Monday, March 7, 2011

Progressive Stew

by Throwback at Trapper Creek

Food Security is on many peoples minds these days, I posted about our mainstay food crops that we rely on in this post on my personal blog. Bel has written several posts here recently too. Rather than growing or buying food to match recipes, in my kitchen, meals are planned around our food stores or garden depending on what season we are in. That is our food security, basically eating what we can grow and store easily. While that may sound like a recipe for disaster, (pun intended? maybe) actually a little kitchen magic occurs when you are forced to innovate and use up what you have.




My kitchen week starts out with a broth fast for dinner made from our chicken broth. I always have broth on hand for cooking or soups. My husband has digestive issues and a rich bone broth is helpful on that front. Usually seasoned with onion, garlic and sage this light soup is delicious and health giving.


The next day, though we are ready for a little more substantial meal and I use the leftover chicken broth as seed for the next day's stew. Usually roots are the norm, as they grow and store easily.





We're not really fussy eaters, and the blend of vegetables is always different, and may range from celeriac, and carrots, to rutabagas and parsnips or all the above. And of course more onions and garlic.

Freezer stores come in handy too. I freeze in jars, so the soup may contain corn, sweet peas and mushrooms depending on what needs using up. I am not using a recipe per se, just utilizing what is available and working through our stores.


Using our own grass fed beef is another way to add flavor and substance to the stew. Season and brown the stew meat, deglaze the pan with last last swig of wine and add to the chicken broth. This is also when I make a quick look through the fridge too. Wanting to keep this meal frugal I look for dibs and dabs of stuff. That little bit of salsa in the jar? Just add water to rinse the jar and throw in the watered down salsa. The jar is rinsed, saving water, and the salsa finds a new calling, flavoring the soup. Same with that little teaspoon of jam or pesto languishing in the back waiting for some toast or crackers, it can lend flavor to a soup too, giving you a balance of salt and sweet. Taste as you go, you may not need more seasoning when all the flavors meld.

If you're wanting to stretch your meat budget a little, after browning the meat, reserve half for another meal, it won't be missed in this flavorful stew. And of course, if you don't eat meat at all, vegetable stock and vegetables would work just fine. It just depends on what you have on hand.


Our stew simmers on the woodstove all day, but a slow cooker would work great too.

What's your most frugal meal?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Banishing drudgery

By Aurora @ Island Dreaming

Many of the activities encompassed under the simple living banner - all that gardening, growing, decluttering, brewing, sewing, knitting, (natural) cleaning, community work, animal husbandry, holistic child rearing, cooking and fermenting - can look a little like hard work. I know that most of the people I come into contact with in my everyday life have absolutely no interest in pursuing any of these activities, let alone a number of them, to create a satisfying, sustainable, frugal lifestyle. Whilst I love most of these activities; I sometimes panic that the domestic sphere will be the sum of my life and I will not attain all of the other goals I have. If you are finding this life is becoming hard work, it might be time to reassess why you are here at this stage of your journey.

I have been taking the last few weeks to assess where I am going in life. In the midst of all the cutting back we have done to pay off debt, I sometimes feel my life slips into drudge territory. I have had to reconsider what my ultimate goals are. Some of the things I have realised are important and had to change in my own life are:
  • Clutter. With a blank slate (and work surfaces), it is much easier to see where you want to devote your time and energy. 
  • Make everyday activities as attractive as possible. In my case I hate washing up, but paring down my kitchen equipment to the barest minimum, throwing in some hand crocheted dishcloths and decanting my washing up liquid into a pretty glass bottle has made the job infinitely more tolerable.
  • Make room for beauty. I am in the process of decluttering our living space; and am realising just how much ugliness there is amongst our possessions. Obsessing over utility and thrift over all other considerations is a recipe for unhappiness; make sure that you take the time and effort to make your environment soothing and beautiful, whatever that means to you.
  • Make time to pursue goals outside of the domestic sphere. In my case learning French has been a goal for several years. I am now attempting to rearrange my life that I might have the time to do this. 
  • Cut expenditure sensibly. Do not cut your grocery budget, or entertainment budget back so far that you feel impoverished. Unless there is a very good reason too, do not hack your budget to the point that all of the sources of joy in your life are obliterated. 
  • Spend money when it needs to be spent. If something in your life is not working and there is no frugal solution, budget and spend the money.  Whether that be sturdy storage boxes, new tools or a new outfit - if it will improve the quality of your life and you have the money, spend it.
  • Reconnect with your original motivations. If your most passionate goal has been to pay of debt, then read and watch and connect with people also passionate about that subject. If sustainability is the dearest thing to your heart, connect with people who are living the greenest lives they can. Whatever fills you with enthusiasm, begin there.
Frugality, simplicity and ecology are not bywords for drudgery, miserliness or misery. They should instead embody creativity and resourcefulness, and unswerving focus on that which is truly important and good in your life and in the world. If you feel deprived, or stuck in a rut, take a step back. Where are you now? Where are you going? What can you do today to add a little more joy to your life? Arrange your life so that it embodies these qualities, brings you great joy and gives you a future to look forward to.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

One Hundred Ways To Save Money in 2011 Part II

By: Notes From The Frugal Trenches

Part one of this series can be found here! Hopefully people found some helpful suggestions in the previous post, today I'll be looking at another 50 suggestions!

51. Keep 15% to 20% of your weekly grocery budget for stocking up on items when they are on sale.
52. See what you can produce/make {hats, scarves, gloves, soap, jams etc} and organize a swap with someone else whose items you need, such as someone who keeps chickens/hens and has eggs to give away.
53. Search for local farms and see what they sell in bulk, friends of mine buy gallons of wheat & honey for 20% of the cost the shops by purchasing it in very large quantities.
54. Can produce in the summer.
55. Buy bulk produce from farms in the summer and make pies, tomato sauce, crumbles, apple sauce, pear sauce. One year I made 18 apple pies,18 apple crisps and 12 peach pies and froze them!
56. Get your pets from rescue centres, my local centre charges $50 and that includes all the vaccines needed as well as neutering/spaying and micro chipping!
57. Keep a large stock of pet food, if you happened on lean times it is one less worry!
58. Consider getting pet insurance!
59. Learn to knit
60. Learn to sew
61. Learn to make your own shampoo & conditioner
62. Learn to make your own soap
63. Keep a list in your purse of household needs and always pop into second hand shops and/or garage sales to see if any of your items are available at a reasonable cost, but be strict with yourself no purchasing of anything that isn't on the list!
64. Ask your friends if they'd be willing to sell you the clothing their child has outgrown.
65. Organize a clothing swap with friends
66. Attend mom to mom sales and twin sales
67. Start a baby-sitting coop
68. Search for any shops the specialize in second hand furniture - I bought a wonderful couch and a fabulous retro chair for less than $100 {and they both look new!} at a wonderful charity shop that specializes in furnishings!
69. If you are buying new, always arrange to purchase items during the sales.
70. Do your research on prices pre sale {so you know if you are getting a good deal!}
71. Don't be afraid to ask for discounts on large purchases.
72. Consider buying the store model - I did this today as I needed a table, the table was $199 on sale but the sales person gave it to me for $50! $50 for a beautiful new table that was the store model {and it was right at the back of the store with very little traffic so is in great condition!}
73. If you don't have a good rapport with a sales person, go find another one or go back another day!
74. Ask the shops if they have any sales coming up!
75. Buy yourself gift cards, I purchase a couple of cards and put a balance of about $20 on them, this means on the rare occasion I choose to purchase a coffee {usually because I'm meeting a group of friends at a coffee shop} it doesn't cost me anything.
76. Ask for gift cards for Christmas gifts.
77. Get your DVD's from the library
78. Join a wool co-op if you knit
79. Keep lights turned off
80. In the evenings light candles
81. Keep your TV & computer off when not in use {and ensure the power is fully off and they aren't on standby}
82. Turn the tap off as you brush your teeth
83. Take quick showers
84. If you go to the gym or swimming shower there
85. Learn to love simple meals, like a baked potato with salad.
86. If you eat meat, make it an accompaniment to a meal not the main part of the meal!
87. Use nuts, seeds and beans to get protein
88. Shop around for medication, prices vary greatly
89. Ditch the make-up {or at least use bare bones!}
90. Ditch the perfume {or keep it only for special occasions}
91. Hang clothes up after you've worn them, this helps keep them looking nice & reduces the amount of washing you have to do
92. Find a cobbler and see if your shoes can be repaired rather than thrown out
93. Buy plants instead of flowers, they last for years!
94. Keep a tally book in your purse/handbag with average costs of items, this helps you know when something is worth stocking up on
95. Only allow yourself to go to the shops once a week at most
96. Suggest pot luck meals when getting together with friends and family
97. Volunteer - a great social activity at no cost!
98. Do your taxes - you never know when you'll get a refund!
99. Pay yourself each pay day - put a set amount of money into a long term account that you don't touch!
100. Get rid of your sense of entitlement - just because you work hard it doesn't mean you have a "right" to buy what you want. I ran a series about how damaging a sense of entitlement can be, part one is here, part two here and part three here.

In thinking about it, I think the greatest way to save money is to: enjoy life, find joy, search for beauty, commit to reducing your carbon impact, live purposefully and be thankful! The simple, green & frugal life is a beautiful life!

What are your tips for saving money?

Sunday, December 26, 2010

One Hundred Ways To Save Money in 2011 Part I

By: Notes From The Frugal Trenches

















Happy Holidays to you & yours! As the Holiday Season closes and the New Year approaches, I've been thinking a lot about the frugal life in 2011. Saving money can feel like a long hard road and while it certainly takes determination, sacrifice and motivation to get out of debt and save, there are hundreds, if not thousands of ways we can live more frugally! Here are my own 100 suggestions for ways to cut back spending in 2011.

1. Join the library, go visit, order some books and pledge not to buy a book this year!
2. Cut your magazine subscriptions or ask for them for gifts or even share one between friends.
3. Stop buying cleaning products and instead purchase baking soda and vinegar. Great cleaning solutions and ideas can be found here
4. Stop buying paper towels and instead designate certain tea towels for cleaning the floors, counters etc.
5. Use reusable toilet paper.
6. Buy or make reusable feminine products.
7. Use reusable nappies.
8. Use reusable baby wipes
9. Hang your laundry out to dry.
10. Do not wash things just because you have warn them once except for undergarments!
11. Turn your heat down a few degrees and wear socks and a sweater instead!
12. Turn your air con down a few degrees and wear thin clothes that don't reflect the sun
13. Always either make cards or stock up on packs of cards. You can make or find packages of eight cards for the same cost of 1 card in some shops!
14. Keep a gift drawer in your house and stock it with reasonable items
15. Make homemade gifts
16. Keep cookies, squares and soups in the freezer to give as gifts!
17. Swap names for the holidays instead of buying for everyone.
18. Give charity gifts - a donation to charity and gift in one!
19. Ditch the gym membership.
20. Take up walking, hiking or running.
21. Find free hobbies like joining a choir or book group
22. Nominate two days a week as vegetarian days then build to three
23. Nominate two days a week as no spending days, aim to get used to it (maybe for a month or so) and then increase it to three days a week.
24. Nominate one evening a week as soup night. Soup + veggies + a roll (or crackers) is a very frugal family meal
25. Box up leftovers before sitting down to dinner so that you don't pick at them or have second helpings.
26. Pack a lunch for work each day
27. Always keep water and snacks on hand.
28. Pay cash for your groceries and only take that amount with you to the store.
29. Always shop with a list and a menu planner.
30. Plan your meals, even if you simply plan which meals you'll have over the course of the week.
31. Nominate one day a month as freezer cooking & baking day.
32. Join a food co-op.
33. Grow your own fruits and veg, if you don't have a garden look at a community plot or growing herbs indoors.
34. Make a list of local activities that are free.
35. Nominate one weekend a month as a no-spending weekend.
36. Set yourself no driving days.
37. Combine shopping trips to limit the petrol you use
38. Walk to shops, friends, school, work as much as possible
39. Ride your bike
40. Shop at second hand stores
41. Join freecycle
42. Have a rule that if something comes into your home, something must leave it.
43. Get a slow cooker and nominate one day a week as slow cooker day
44. Repair items that are torn or broken
45. If you are going to purchase something make yourself wait 48 hours
46. Ask yourself if something is a need or a want and calculate how many hours work you would have to do to pay for it.
47. As much as possible drink water
48. Give up soda.
49. Give up candy
50. Set yourself a mad money limit each month which you can spend on what you want, $20 can let you splurge on some new music or some treats or a trip to the movies. But when it is gone, it is gone! :)

Part II will follow on my next posting day!

What are your money saving tips for 2011?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Land Efficiency

by Gavin from The Greening of Gavin

You have probably heard of energy efficiency, but what about land efficiency.  Are you really using what you have in the most efficient way.  Or do you ever dream of selling up and moving to the country to settle down on a few acres?  Do you really need a house cow or goat to live a sustainable lifestyle?  

I never have.  Sure I may have dreamed about it for an odd minute or two, but never seriously and I just don't have the room for livestock.  At an early stage of my greening, my family and I decided that we would do the best we could with the space we had available.  Our space is a 779 sqm or 8385 square feet or 0.19 of an acre.  More than most around my area where the houses are getting bigger and the land getting smaller.  McMansions abound because property developers have gotten greedy!  To some this may sound like a lot of land.  It is all relative I suppose.

Anyway, I have managed to squeeze a lot of things into my normal sized suburban block of land.  Click to enlarge. 


Here is an aerial shot of the house which I sourced from www.nearmap.com.  Near map have detailed aerial photos of most Australian urban centres.  North is at the top of the picture and I have marked our boundary in red, with some of the stand-out features labelled and circled.  Hopefully it has put all the other outdoor photos of my garden that I have taken for my blog into context for those who are regular readers.

There is not one bit of land that is unused except for the most of the pool space where I store extra water when the tank overflows and the new citrus trees are against the back fence.  However, before I had to fork out a small fortune for dental work a few months back, I was going to put another 5000 litre water tank in this area, but I will have to wait until I save up a bit more cash before I reconsider my options. 

There is room for improvement in the front yard, as I am planning on planting in some fruiting shrubs and putting some drip irrigation in for the existing fruit trees.  I have 11 fruit trees in the front yard with the tallest being 2 metres (7 ft) and the shortest only 30 cm (1 ft).  Only a lack of potable water is holding me back at this stage, which seems like a funny statement considering the size of the pool.  Unfortunately, it is a salt water pool, so not much good on plants!  If worst came to worst, I would convert it back to fresh and just use it as aquaponics and water storage. 

We also have no lawn.  That's right, not a blade of grass to be seen except for the nature strips which I just mow and don't water.  I ripped up the rest years ago.  Such a waste of space and water. 

However, all in all, I wouldn't have it any bigger and certainly not much smaller and I find that I can manage it in the spare time that I have available.  I am happy with what we have and couldn't want for any more land. 

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Fifty Ways To Save Money For The Holidays

By: Notes From The Frugal Trenches


















With the holidays looming, many people fear that the extras aren't possible within their income level or budget so the additional "needs" get dumped on the credit card! There are so many teeny tiny greener changes we can make over the next 8 weeks which will save you hundreds of dollars and maybe pay for the turkey, trimmings and presents :)

1. Stop buying books and magazines and start using the library instead!
2. Don't buy cleaning products and instead invest in vinegar and baking soda [see the Down To Earth blog for tips]
3. Only wash clothes that are dirty, don't wash simply because you've used them
4. Hang your clothes to dry
5. Shower instead of bath and put a timer on
6. Swap childcare with friends
7. Eat vegetarian meals 3 nights a week - eating less meat is certainly greener!
8. Set yourself no spending days begin with 2 a week for the first month then add in another!
9. Use low energy light bulbs
10. Turn off the water while brushing your teeth
11. Turn off all lights in empty rooms
12. Put a sweater and socks on so you can keep the heat lower.
13. Turn down the water temperature.
14. Pack snacks
15. Practice freezer cooking once a month so you have frugal meals handy!
16. Don't use things that are disposable like water bottles
17. Stop buying paper towels
18. Plan a weekly menu
19. Have breakfast for dinner once a week
20. Only shop once a week maximum
21. Try to buy direct from local farms and co-ops
22. Limit or ditch the cell phone
23. Schedule a long walk each weekend (great frugal family activity)
24. Pick your own - in some areas apples are still available!
25. Use what is available free - does your gym have showers and shampoo you can use instead of showering at home?
26. Wash your clothes at lower temperatures
27. Establish a change jar
28. Set yourself no driving days - if you need your car for work, nominate one day at the weekend where you aren't allowed to use it.
29. Set yourself the goal that if you could walk somewhere within 30 minutes you shouldn't take your car.
30. Write down everything you eat.
31. Write down everything you buy
32. Cancel the newspaper subscription
33. Don't eat out. Maybe challenge yourself and see if you can not eat out at all between now and the holidays!
34. Nominate one night a week to be soup night
35. Commit to cutting your grocery bill by at least 10% [I cut mine by 75%]
36. Stop buying soda, juice and alcohol
37. Ditch the cigarettes
38. Have a movie night at home.
39. Rent movies from the library - in most countries that means they are free.
40. See if you can get what you need for free by making use of local adds and enquiring if friends or family are looking to get rid of what you need.
41. Join a book group - usually a free way to have a night out.
42. Turn off all electrical equipment
43. Get back to nature [photographing squirrels is free, green & fun!]
44. Make your own shampoo
45. If you want to purchase something, make yourself wait 48 hours and examine whether you need it or want it.
46. See if what you need you can purchase second hand
47. Wait to do dishes until there is a full load [by hand or machine!]
48. Watch your portion sizes
49. Be your own beauty therapist
50. Ask for the necessities for holiday gifts

Taking a minute to reflect on this list, it is obvious that many of these money saving measures are actually green choices too! I've always found being greener doesn't need to be expensive despite what media reports often say! There are hundreds of every day little steps you can take to green your life, reduce your carbon footprint, enjoy a simpler life and live within a budget!

Have you got any green tips which help save money? Do you find being green expensive or frugal?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

No Compromise

By: Notes From The Frugal Trenches

















Lately the budget has been a bare-minimum-essentials-only kind of budget, which has made me think about what one can go without and what items are not up for negotiation. I am sure the list looks different for each of us as our families are in different seasons and our bodies need different things! Currently I'm going without tv (4 months + now), a car, pets, cell-phone or visits to friends further than my two legs will carry me :) However there are some things I haven't gone without (yet!) and I thought I'd share here!



My No Compromise (Yet!) List:

  • Organic milk (admittedly I drink very little milk, so really this is a once a month purchase at most!)
  • 3 fruits a day and 3 veg a day (although I actually find this cheaper than junk food! My grocery bill this week was $22)
  • A swimming pass - nothing fancy just a local rec centre!
  • A phone card ($5/month) to phone close family members half the world away!
  • A bare bones vitamin regime - Currently taking folic acid with Vit D & Calcium and a Vitamin E; when the budget allows I'll go back up to my 5 vitamins a day!

Looking at my list almost everything relates to health, this could be because I have a long term health condition, so staying in good health includes quite a bit of work on my part! I also can think of a lot of things I now am willing to go without which before were more important, cable TV is one example, magazines are another!

So I'd love it if we yet again played a little game! What do you not compromise on in your budget and why? Has this changed as you've grown on your simple, green & frugal journey?

Friday, August 13, 2010

Salvage Operations

by Sadge, at Firesign Farm
"Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without" was the Depression era mantra. "Reduce, reuse, recycle" popular when I came of age. The idea never really goes away, and with the resurgence of the simple, frugal mindset in today's economic distress it seems more important than ever.

Salvage operations can run the gamut from huge to tiny, depending on what you have, what you can find, and what kind of space you have to store those finds. A few years ago, a 1940's-era trailer park below us was taken out in order to build a new strip mall. We watched as the residents left, and the trailers still movable were taken out. I checked with the project manager about salvaging what was left. Other than the office building, wrapped for hazardous asbestos remediation, he told me to help myself. They were going to bulldoze everything, and had to pay for everything hauled away by weight. If we wanted to "lighten their load," we had a couple of weeks to quietly help ourselves.

Wire fencing we rolled up - fencing always comes in handy around gardens and chickens. A few dry-stacked cinder block walls and cement patio blocks also found their way up to our place. The few remaining trailers, too decrepit to move, were pretty heavily vandalized by local teens, but we did find a couple of exterior doors we could use. One now graces our chicken coop, its sliding window providing welcome summertime ventilation.

Even more important, to us, were the trees in between the now-empty spaces. We gave a friend with access to a tree spade first chance at them, but he could only take out a couple because of the crisscrossed mess of electric, gas, and water pipes buried over the years. Then, it was our turn. We heat with wood - chunks of 50-year old apple, sycamore, and locust soon added to our firewood stacks.

Of course, you don't need a truck or lots of land to salvage things for reuse. Many of my canning jars came from Freecycle offerings. Mom had her junk drawer in her house in the suburbs; Dad had an old coffee tin filled with odd little bits of hardware out in the garage. When I inherited my mother-in-law's button box, she'd obviously cut sets of buttons from worn clothing, then tied them together with bits of string. Even the rubber bands from the daily newspaper and twist ties from bread wrappers have their spots in my kitchen drawer; plastic freezer bags are washed and hung up to dry over my sink.

Just a couple of caveats: anyone that's seen the reality TV shows about hoarders knows that sometimes people can go too far. Creative people are most at risk of this mindset - they're the ones that can come up with all kinds of reasons something "might" be nice to have. You have to balance what you find with what you really can use (fabric stash-busting, anyone?). And beware that upholstered piece of furniture out on the curb - it might not be such a good find after all. You certainly wouldn't want to bring bedbugs or other pests into your home just because it's free.