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Showing posts with label children. Show all posts
Showing posts with label children. Show all posts

Sunday, July 8, 2012

My Frugal Limits

By: Notes From The Frugal Trenches























Every now and then I hear about a large family with the same food budget as our more avearage size family, or a family in size similar to ours, with a much more modest food budget and I question why I'm not able to be as frugal. I wonder where I am going wrong and I usually sit down committed to read their blog, or the article and learn something. The goal? To reduce our expenditures. I begin reading feeling like I'm doing something wrong, I finish, feeling like I'm doing something very right. You see, we all have to do what is right for our family and I believe, what is kinder and gentler for the earth and those who are more vulnerable. But reading the nitty gritty about what people are willing to compromise on, I actually leave feeling like it is a compomise too far. I'm personally not willing to:

- Shop once a month: access to fresh fruit and veg is too important
- Purchase ready meals or packaged foods with coupons
- Skimp on fruits and vegetables - one blog which which received much attention for being frugal and healthy posted a menu plan which included only 2 fruit and 1 veg a day (most studies recommend a minimum of 5-6 a day)
- Purchase factory produced animal products
- Build a diet around cheap fillers without much nutritional value. For example, a pasta dish served with bread was recommended as a cheap meal. Whereas e may have pasta, but it would be served with a fresh spinach salad and a veg.
- Shop at unethical major corporations

The more I think about it, the more I realize that while I certainly do budget and work hard to stick to it with food, I do see placing priority on green living, simple healthy meals and supporting others (for example by purchasing fairtrade items) as more imporant to me than slashing my budget another $50 or $100 a month. And for somewhere between $300 and $350 a month we purchase:

- Free range eggs from local farms
- All organic animal products
- Fairtrade: sugar, bananas, tea, coffee, mangos, flour and cocoa
- Green cleaning and laundry supplies
- Pet food & litter
- About 50% of our fruits and veg organic
- Enough fruits and veg for 3 fruits and 3 veg (plus a salad) a day
- A locally sourced produce box
- Seeds for our community garden plot

Yes, I could probably shave at least $50 a month off the budget if I changed to what some frugal bloggers recommend. And that $50 would come in handy. But more than that, I want my children, who have experienced malnourishment prior to joining our family through adoption, to continue to make educational and emotional gains that good food has allowed them. I want my hard earned money to tred softly on this earth and help people. I want to invest in our health now, to safeguard us for the future. And if that takes another $50 - $100 a month, I'm really OK with it.

What about you? What is your line when it comes to compromise? Is it only about money, or like me, something more?

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Weighing Up Organic & Natural Newborn Options

by Amanda 

Instinctively mothers want the best for their babies. Our main concerns are for their health and well being. Before and after new babies arrive we are bombarded with information from well meaning family members, friends and books, blogs, informative websites and magazines. It can be overwhelming and often times leads to uncertainty and utter confusion. Try to pay attention to the things that matter most to you, consider what is practical and listen to your instincts. There are options and choices for everything baby - new, second hand, borrowed, hired,  handmade, organic and eco friendly. You may choose a combination of these things depending on your budget and lifestyle or may choose one only. Whatever YOU choose will be the best for YOUR baby.

When I was expecting with my last son I had a bee in my bonnet and I only wanted to use organic skincare, organic bedding, organic bath linen and organic clothes. But when I started to investigate these options and products I realised we simply couldn't afford everything and as it was our last baby it didn't make sense to be spending that much money. I did manage to pick up a few items from ebay, but not every item I was seeking could be found there. I then started to weigh up how often these items would be used, their value after use and what items would be in direct contact with my baby's skin.

I prioritised the wish list and skincare wasn't an option for me. It had to be natural even though I didn't plan to be using it all the time. As skin is so porous and can absorbs traces of all kinds of materials, I didn't want any products to go near our baby that had ingredient lists with long words that I couldn't pronounce or understand. Natural and organic skincare was an easy choice. It had to be simple and in most cases I can make the products myself.

I then looked at bedding and decided to buy a secondhand cot and mattress. As new mattresses 'off gas' chemicals (that's the 'new smell') a new one was not on the shopping list and as we couldn't afford an all natural one, a secondhand one was the best choice for our child. I was lucky to pick up one locally that was in excellent condition. My compromise was to layer the bedding with organic linen and I purchased two sets of fitted, organic bamboo sheets for the bassinet and the cot. I also chose an organic mattress protector. Admittedly I did have a few sheets left from my previous children's bedding and these are my spares. Using pre-loved sheets are a wise choice for bassinets as they are only used for such a short time and most are in near new condition.

Bath linen was another priority for me, as again this would be used directly against my baby's skin. I chose two organic bamboo towels and a 3 pack of bamboo muslin washers. Muslin washers are by far the most gentle cleansing cloth for newborns and I highly recommend them. The bamboo towels being so absorbent, dry the skin very quickly and the fibres are soft and super gentle against a baby's skin. I am still using all of these items today along with some hand knitted washers (see pictured) and they will last beyond the toddler years.


When it came to newborn clothing I chose to buy and use only secondhand items made from 100% cotton and wool where possible. Items that have been used and washed over and over again have had their manufacturing residues washed away and this put my mind at ease. We were gifted many items and I chose to buy a few organic undergarments, again because these items were against his precious skin. Style wasn't an issue for me. Items had to be practical, easy to put on and take off with minimum fuss.


Other items that I chose to buy organic were the Organic Ergo Baby Carrier (half was a gift), natural medicines and remedies, cloth nappies, feeding products and a handful of toys for gifts. I didn't require bottles to bottle feed, but if you do, you may want to use glass bottles or at the least BPA FREE plastic ones. There are plenty of options and compromises and secondhand can be the most eco friendly if this is something you strongly value. Make your own decisions about what items you really need and weigh up the choices and alternatives in relation to your budget.

Don't forget to make the most of the opportunity whenever someone asks what you really need or want for your new baby and don't be afraid to share your core values and wishes. You may not like to ask for something organic due to the price tag, but there are small organic items that will be appreciated like organic socks and scratch mittens or you may know someone that makes beautiful crocheted hats...so ask for one in organic cotton! The path into parenthood can be an opportunity to learn as much as you can about the impacts of the living environment you create for your child and sharing what you learn with your family and friends provides a supportive environment when your baby arrives.

What decisions did you make or do you plan to make about choosing products and items for your babies in relation to your values?




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.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Inspiring play tables

by Amanda of Amanda Brooke

Tomorrow we are collecting my nephews and bringing them home to stay with us for a few days. I am looking forward to getting to know the 'little men' that I mostly see throughout the year only when we celebrate birthdays and Christmas. They are both under 5 and I have been planning some play experiences to keep them happy and occupied whilst my own children are at school.

Whilst we do have plenty to do around the house it is nice to have some ideas 'up my sleeve' just in case some boredom and 'missing mum and dad' moments set in!

Something I invested in when working in children's services is a low play table. It has been used for all sorts of play and I especially like to make little themed displays. Sometimes these were strongly themed like this one below.


Sometimes the play space was less structured and set up to encourage the children to create their own ideas and play.


I think I'll make up a table based on my nephews current interests (farms, cars or trains) for them to play with tomorrow. You don't need a big space to create something like this. Even a place mat on the floor with a few different items based on your child's interests will be enough to create a new play space for your child.

Some themed ideas are:
  • Recycled items eg. paper tubes, milk bottle caps and rings etc (safe for age)
  • Colour tables eg. a red table containing only red objects in different shades of red
  • Farm, jungle, beach, forest themes
  • Different countries and cultures
  • Items with different textures

You can include toys, objects from around the house, hand made props, scarves and coloured fabrics, books and boxes/blocks for building. A good idea is to partially create the space and let your child continue to build on it. Leave the space set up until your child loses interest and then return to re-create another inspiring table!

These spaces needn't be full of new or toy related items. The best spaces use items from around your home or from nature. They needn't cost anything to make.

It's going to be a fun few days here!

Amanda

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Candle Making

Posted by Bel
from Spiral Garden

Today my friend and I, with our nine children (between us) made all sorts of candles from beeswax - most of it from her beehives.

Firstly, we gathered materials outdoors - old tables, aprons, gas burners, old pots and bowls, jars and tins, newspaper, pop sticks and blu tack.  With so many people, mostly children, candle-making is a messy activity!  We also had blocks of beeswax, some offcuts of beeswax sheets and some wick.

Beforehand, we had a look at a candle-making book and searched online for methods to try.  We'd made rolled candles before, so that was the easiest way to begin.

While we set up the pots to melt wax, the children rolled small tapered candles from triangles of beeswax sheet.  They got the hang of it quickly and finished off the whole box of sheets in no time.

Next we tried dipping candles.  It was a slow process and the adults tired of it very quickly, but the children were fascinated by the lumpy-bumpy results of their dipping!  Some of us dipped some tapered candles, to fill the gaps in the beeswax sheets so they'll burn longer, and to give a different finish.

A sample of the results of our candle-making.


We also made a couple of candles in moulds, and it gave the neatest, fastest result.  Because we have access to a lot of wax, we'll be hunting down some more moulds for our next candle-making day!

It's great fun to make things with children.  Their focus on the process, not the product, helps us lighten up and enjoy the activity more.

Have you made anything new lately?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Naturally caring for kids teeth

by Amanda of Amanda Brooke

In recent months our youngest son has had his wee baby teeth cleaned with a clean damp cloth. Last week he took the next step up to a junior size toothbrush and toothpaste. It is an exciting time as he explores the new sensation of flavoured paste and a brush being stuck in his mouth with bristles on it!


You can start cleaning your children's teeth from the time that the first teeth start arriving. You might like to start by using a clean, damp (I dampen with cooled boiled water) cloth and then try a small age appropriate toothbrush or a silicone finger brush.

We are using toothbrushes that have a biodegradable handle. You simply break off the head and throw that in the rubbish and the handle can be thrown in the compost.


I am keeping Ben's toothbrush and pastes separate from the older kids brushes. I air dry the brush and then store it in an airtight container. I wrapped the top of a jar in kitchen string to 'spruce' it up a little and everything is together and neat when we finish brushing.

Our toothpaste is one I grew up with - 'Jack n Jill' - which still comes in the great flavours it used to. It is made from organic ingredients and is safe to use from 6 months of age.

Whilst some may view these items as expensive compared to some of the readily bought supermarket brands I feel good about choosing to buy these organic and recyclable items as they are both good for my children's health and the environment! I am not sure about using homemade oral care products on children....this is something I'd like to look more into!

Starting good oral care habits early is important for your child's health. What products do you use for your family? Have you thought about using organic toothpaste, making your own or using compostable brushes?

Amanda x

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Spaghetti Scones

by Amanda of Amanda Brooke

I discovered a great recipe for scones last week and they were a huge hit with the kids. Simple, inexpensive and tasty, they've been added to my regular list of snacks for the kids.

This recipe is adapted from a CWA Classics recipe book.

80gm butter chopped
110gm S/R flour
170gm Wholemeal S/R flour
pinch of salt
1 egg beaten
1 420gm tin of spaghetti in tomato sauce
1 tb Worcestershire sauce

Add the flour and salt to a mixing bowl. Rub the butter into the flours until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add the beaten egg, spaghetti and sauce to the mixture. Mix until just combined. Turn out the dough onto a well floured surface. Knead the dough until smooth for around 30 seconds and then cut using a drinking glass or a scone cutter. Makes around 10.

Place onto a greased or baking paper lined tray and bake at 200 degrees Celsius for approx 15 minutes. Bake until cooked through. Place into a tea towel lined bowl and once cooled store them in an airtight container. These scones will keep relatively well until the following day or freeze any leftover for school and kinder snacks. Big kids and adults like these too!



I usually add grated cheese, fresh herbs and bacon pieces to make savoury scones, but the spaghetti is a great change. Enjoy!

Amanda

Sunday, November 27, 2011

We're Different And That's OK

By: Notes From The Frugal Trenches

Yesterday, my email provider had a front page article about the biggest mistakes people make when giving Christmas gifts; totally out of my character, I clicked on the article and began to read it. Lo and behold, one of the biggest mistakes, according to the author, anyone can make is to give homemade gifts, particularly knitted items. Apparently such things are ghastly and embarrassing for the giver and receiver. Who knew?!

When I got over my initial one second check in (I had just, the hour before, finished putting together a few little handmade gifts) I enjoyed a little laughter at the hilarity of it all. Not only did the article suggest homemade things are totally inappropriate, but so is anything useful, including some items of clothing, giftcards etc. And I began to think of the hilarity of it all, one person, who came across as incredibly spoiled and pampered, a person who is probably quite young and used to having money spent on them, is dictating what is acceptable/normal/OK. Well, here's the truth, his/her norm is certainly not my norm.

And there in that little article was the theme of my life over the last few months. As I navigate motherhood and find what other parents view as normal is vastly different to our life and the norm I want for my children. As I chat with colleagues and hear their views on necessities (a family can not live in less than 2500 square feet, apparently, nor can they function without TVs in their van), I've come to really think about being different and being OK with being different.

We are all on a journey. In my teenage years I desperately wanted to fit in and truth be told, for most of those years didn't. Sometimes, when I compare "notes" with the lives others have, I fleetingly think how nice it would be to have what they have, because in the throws of it, we are all human beings with needs and emotions. But the truth is, I'd rather be different. I'd rather put thought into what comes into our home, than accept the toys a manufacturer tells me my children need. I'd rather give money to help causes, then fret over which new car/van/TV/laptop to buy. I'd rather spend a couple of hours making a dishcloth, then pick up 10 for $2 and I'd certainly rather have to shop at 4 or 5 local shops/farmers stalls, than go to one big conglomerate and feel proud of how much more I could get for the same money.

Sometimes being different is challenging. Sometimes I can feel too different. Sometimes it would be easier not to think critically about each choice, not to have to wonder where something came from, or how its production impacted others. Sometimes it would be lovely to simply roll up at a particular fast food joint and be done with dinner in 2 minutes flat. But the truth is, 99.9999% of the time, I am totally head over heals in love with this different life, bad gift giving (knitted items!) and all. My greatest hope, is that 20 years from now, my children are OK with being different too.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Rainy day birthday party activities


by Eilleen

Hello everyone!

Today is my daughter's birthday party. We were going to have her party at the local community festival but....

Today's weather

So the party is now at my house. EEEK! At times like these, I prefer to keep things simple. I figure that for 15 children (ages 7 to 9), I would only need two pre-set activities for them. They are, after all, old enough to really entertain themselves.

The first activity is craft. I had planned on making them these fairy headbands out of newspaper, paper flowers and ribbon so I can easily spot them all in the festival. Now, I figure they can make it themselves! (Luckily I had already pre-cut the paper flowers.)

Fairy headband materials box

Here is the video tutorial I found on Youtube for this idea:



And the other activity? Karaoke! (Thank you Mum and Dad for lending me your karaoke machine in the last minute!)



Anyway, I best go and prepare my house for the onslaught of 13 tween girls, and two little boys (her brother and a friend)!

In the meantime, do you have any stories of rained out outdoor children's parties? What did you end up doing?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Cloth baby wipes and cleaning solution

by Amanda of Amanda Brooke

It has been 10 months since our youngest was born and I am still dedicated to using re-usable wipes and my own cleanser at change times. It may sound strange to some, but I really enjoy nappy change times, using handmade products that I have blended and experimenting with materials for wipes.


The recipe I love most for cleansing bottoms is:

1tsp natural/organic SLS FREE baby bath wash (I use the Little Innoscents body wash)
1tsp almond oil
250ml cooled boiled water
Mix in a spray bottle and shake before each use.

I spray the cloth wipes and then use, but you can spray directly onto an older baby's bottom. This mix needs replacing regularly, but I like that it is fresh each time I make a batch. You can also make up tubs of cleanser and soak your cloth wipes in the solution, but I would recommend that you replace the solution daily for this method.

Some other ingredients that can be used in this recipe in small quantities are:
  • Manuka honey (1/2 tb in the above recipe)
  • Vitamin E capsules (1/2 capsule - not synthetic E)
  • Essential oils (only oils that are safe for infants and use only as directed at the right ratio babies and the solution base)
  • Pure Aloe Vera gel (1 tb)
Or you can just use plain water without any additives!


My favourite wipes are ones made from upcycled flannel baby blankets and bamboo velour. I just throw the soiled ones in with the nappies and the wet ones go in with the baby's clothes. Wipes are really fast and simple to make and don't need to be any special. Just a square cloth that has been over locked around the edges is fine but I make mine double sided with top stitched edges to make them last. I also use terry cloths, but I much prefer the softness of the flannel and bamboo velour variety. You will need at least 24 to 36 wipes for your baby.

Some of the reasons you might like to consider using cloth wipes are:
  • Your baby has sensitive skin
  • You wish to avoid the chemicals found in most commercial baby wipes
  • You wish to save money
If you don't want to make your own wipes there are plenty of online shops that stock cloth wipes. You will find wipes made in gorgeous rainbows of colours, bamboo, organic cotton and more! Often the hand crafted websites Etsy and Madeit have WAHM's who make wipes too.

BABY WIPES TIPS
  • You can re-use some of the stronger varieties of disposable wipes by throwing them in the wash. They will last around two to three washes before starting to fall apart and this makes your dollars stretch a bit further if you use these full or part time.
  • You might like to consider some of the more natural varieties of disposable wipes. They are generally dearer but your baby will be exposed to less chemicals and this has to be a good thing. Combining the use of these or the non-natural variety with cloth wipes will save you money too.
  • For short trips travelling with cloth wipes use a good quality wet bag to store and pre-soak your wipes.
  • Cloth wipes also make great face and hand cleaners at meal times and you can upcycle them to the rag bag when you no longer require them to be used as baby wipes.
  • Hand made wipes make a lovely gift for a new mum. Make a stack and tie them with hemp string for a thoughtful, eco-friendly gift.
What are your experiences with cloth wipes and solution?

Amanda x

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Spending to make up for parenting

by Eilleen

Hello everyone!

I'm posting this a little late. I've had such a busy week with my kids. It was the last week of school holidays in my little part of Oz. I had managed to take a week off work to be with my kids. Its been a wonderful week. We have spent much of the time swimming, going to taekwondo, and being with friends.

Anyway, today, I thought I'd share an older post of mine from my personal blog which was the very antithesis of what I have been doing this week. Its certainly made me smile and I know many out there can relate....
Spending to make up for parenting - 15 May 2009
Now that I'm on leave from work (2nd full day at home!), I've looked around my home and noticed... that my kids have gotten a hell of a lot of toys from me the last few weeks.

Its amazing how when I'm under pressure, I revert back to my old consumerist ways and use spending as a way to make up for what I see as shortfalls in my parenting. See, I know that all my kids want really want is my time and attention.. and when I fail to give it to them, then I feel that the only way I can make up for it is by spending on them.

...and the thing is I didn't even know I was doing it!! Times like these when I realise how far I have to go in this journey to be an empowered and rational consumer - one who joyfully consumes rather than one who consumes to assuage feelings of guilt and anxiety.

The thing is... I don't even know why I should feel so guilty! I know that I can't do it all (unlike Rosie the Riveter below) and that I am doing my best. But that's the rational side of me talking and as I said, my recent spending spree was not rational.
(image from edupics.com)

Funny enough, when I look back I can also see that I was also doing some positive things during those hectic times. I juggled my workload so I can be home to put the children to bed, I made sure we still had breakfast together and for the 2 nights when I ended up working all night, the children went to their grandparents and got plenty of attention there. And despite that I disregarded the value of the positive things and still fell back on using money as my way of showing my children I love them.

So this weekend, I'll be spending some time on myself and letting go of my feelings of guilt... to accept that hectic times will occur and that I do not need to spend in order to make up for my lessened time with the children.
(Image from Tsheko's photostream - displayed here under a General Attribution Licence)

So here's to a quiet and reflective weekend. I wish you the same. :)

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Less toys, more joy

Aurora @ Island Dreaming


 
Our son turned three this week. Much joy, much cake, many sweeties...even more toys! We have always aimed for a minimalist toy box, having thorough clear outs every few months as new things come in. What we do buy is usually second hand. An army of friends and relatives are on hand to express their love with the latest new novelty toys and games. Unfortunately, very little stands the test of time - lack of interest or initial over enthusiasm usually consigns many toys to the charity shop or dustbin. For this reason, we rarely buy toys ourselves, reserving that money for experiences.

As we are sorting the toy box yet again, we are deciding what  to keep for his three month old sister. She has already been bought toys of her own, which she is currently showing zero interest in. But then why would she? She has many faces to learn to recognise and the antics of her parents, brother and pet cats to amuse her.

As I was finding space for all the new bits and pieces that came into our home this week, I noticed the set of stacking cups I had placed on the mantelpiece. We bought these from a charity shop when our son was just 6 months old. At first they were brightly coloured objects to look at and manipulate. Gradually he learnt to build the tower and to stack them inside each other once again. Then he used them to hide things under. Then to serve us pretend cups of tea. Then they became pretend hooves to clip-clop around the room. Just last week he had one of them in the bath to slop water and to rinse away the shampoo. These will be keepers for his sister.

The belief that children need dedicated plastic play props for every imaginative scenario - play kitchens, shops, stables, beauty salons and space ships - is not founded in evidence, but by advertising budgets running into the hundreds of millions. Pretend play is good, but then pretending is the fun of it, and rooms full of dedicated props distract from that.

Some things don't need to be pretend anyway - our son doesn' t pretend to sweep, I actually let him sweep with our dustpan and brush. We also bake together, he watches me cook and when he was younger he played with our actual pots and pans and utensils. Imagination can be left for the things we can't actually do - adventure on the high seas, for example. Getting out of doors, running around, exploring and collecting things is also essential to our children's - and our own - well being. It is free and costs the earth nothing.

There are a few things other than the cups that have stood the test of time, that are still being played with and will be kept for our daughter. A lot more will be given away. Occasionally I feel that we are being stingy (usually when I have been told as much by loved ones who are buying lavish toys). Resist that feeling at all costs, especially in the face of opposition. I have realised now that exposing my son to an endless stream of influences that suggest to him that his life is somehow lacking will only make him dissatisfied and me feel like a terrible parent. We avoid supermarkets and toy shops, we watch DVDs not television, so as to limit our exposure to advertising - and now we are beginning the task of explaining how precious our time, our money and our environment is - far too precious to waste on throw away possessions.The best gift we can give our children is the knowledge that happiness cannot be built on a rising mountain of possessions.

What toys have given you the best value for money? How do you pass on your material values to your children?






Thursday, October 6, 2011

Short Notice | Traveling Simply and Frugally

by Amanda of Amanda Brooke

This post is not the original post I had planned to write this week. But I have found myself confronted with the 'cost of travel' on short notice and it isn't fitting in too well with my simple living ideals! Ideally, traveling anywhere is planned and calculated and if you live simply you might want to consider the many options to make your trip as frugal as possible, without compromising enjoyment. The topic of traveling simply could be rather lengthy too, but I will just share with you what I have experienced this week as I plan to travel to Tasmania to visit my sick uncle and his family.

Firstly I have had to make a quick decision about making this trip. I cannot wait for several weeks to book a flight. Time is not on my Uncle's side. I cannot wait to see if prices will be 'cheaper' for flights. I have just had to book flight times that work best around my family that I will be leaving behind at home, accepting the cost of flying in such rushed circumstances. This has been difficult.

I believe that boat travel is better for the environment. This is an option when traveling to Tasmania. Again though time is not on our side. It would seem that when you have to rush...things aren't so simple and you end up spending more money or doing things that aren't so good for the environment. I think this can be seen in regular day to day life too! Slowing down saves money, I am certain of this.

As I breastfeed my youngest son, Ben, and I don't express milk he will be traveling with me. I am fortunate that we use cloth nappies and I can take a dozen nappies with a couple of wet bags to store the soiled ones in. They will last the couple of days without needing washing and the bags are good at locking in smells.

I feel very strongly about feeding Ben 'real food' cooked from scratch, so I am freezing up his lunch and dinners and taking them with me. A fridge is available in our hotel room so I can store his food safely. The short trip also works in my favour, in that the food won't spoil over such a short period of time spent traveling. The hotel has a communal kitchen so I can make Ben anything extra and warm his food when necessary.

The fact that the hotel has a communal kitchen also means that we can cook our dinner and make lunches if we buy supplies (or take them) which will again reduce the costs involved in 'eating out'. We have chosen a simple hotel, close enough to walk to the hospital where my uncle is ill, so we won't need to rely on taxi travel to and from.

Yesterday I made a cover for the stroller we will use and I am taking my Ergo baby carrier as well. I made the stroller cover from a vintage thrifted sheet that was in good condition.


The design inspiration and the cord used to tie one end with, came from a camping chair cover. This cover will protect the stroller when it is in the aircraft and is a little stronger than the garbage bags that I've seen some travelers use. I think bags like this would make useful protective covers for prams and strollers stored regularly in your car boot too.


I created a box shaped end and doubled the fabric and stitching to make it a little stronger.


I don't need to buy anything special for this trip, which is good as I have pledged to buy nothing 'new' for the month of October ...I don't think this includes travel and accommodation!

Do you find that when anything needs to be done quickly that you end up spending more? Do you have any frugal traveling tips you'd like to share here?

Amanda x

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Organising Days

Posted by Bel
from Spiral Garden

Last month, I posted about Organising Information.  Following on from that I'd like to describe how I use tools to organise our daily lives...


We are a busy family with one adult who works full-time (shift work) and plays in a band, myself with a home based business and lots of volunteer/community commitments, and six children, five of whom we homeschool.  One daughter works 5 days a week and is studying, two daughters work at least 2 shifts each week and have busy social lives including sport and rehearsals, and three younger children with various classes, excursions and friends to meet up with here or out and about.

Diary - I choose a week-to-an-opening diary which is opened flat on my desk at all times.  My family can look at it, write down their commitments, check if we're busy before accepting a shift at work or invitation someplace etc.  Because I look at my diary often, and write events in there by hand as soon as I find out they're on, most things stick in my mind.  I tried using my phone so I could respond to invitations and make appointments when out and about, but the downside was that the whole family couldn't access the info like they can with a paper diary on my desk.  If I'm out and need to book something, I usually just make a tentative date and check when I'm home.  On the rare occasion the tentative booking doesn't work, I'll phone and change to a date/time that does suit.  I have also tried Google calendar and various software tools because I use my computer daily, but again, the paper version won out and we're sticking with the diary.  Garden-themed diaries and Moon diaries are my preference, and you can buy diaries from the very simple generic version at your local newsagent to one themed to almost any area of interest!

Menu Plan - My first ever post here at the co-op was about menu planning, and I use the same method today! 

I always have a sheet of paper on the side of the fridge listing all meals for the week, who’s cooking, baking to do, outings, birthdays, work shifts and other reminders for the whole family.  A lot of this info is transferred from the diary on my desk.

On Sunday night I take one of these sheets of paper (they’re printed from a Word doc on the computer with days of the week etc and spaces to hand write all details)… After writing the next week’s outings, visitors etc on the list, I begin planning meals. On the days we have busy afternoons or are home late, I choose a meal from the freezer (I cook in bulk and freeze), or a quick meal. Then I think about what fresh produce I have from the garden, markets or co-op to use up. We have these meals early in the week so that nothing spoils in the fridge.

Next I think about what’s already planned and choose other types of meals to slot into the plan - we divide our usual meals into lists depending on what they’re based on: egg, legumes, rice, potato, fish/meat or bread. At times I challenge myself to include new recipes, other times I try to use up a lot of frozen homemade meals and pantry basics to save a bit of money. Overall, the menus are well-thought out so they work.

If you’d like a helping hand to get started with menu planning, I recommend Mealopedia and Menu Plan Mondays at Org Junkie for inspiration. Some good advice can also be found on this page of the Hillbilly Housewife site.

Lists -  My lists have been the subject of a few giggles within my family over the years - packing lists, shopping lists, To Do lists and so on.  Sometimes I stop making so many lists and guess what?  Not very much gets done!  I forget things and feel a bit harried not knowing exactly what it is I have left to do.  I guess I am not a naturally efficient person - I never feel obliged to do housework and don't have rhythms like "Monday is cleaning day, Tuesday is baking day etc".  I also wear many hats - so while I'm busy teaching algebra, it doesn't come to mind that I have a phone call to return or need to start a sourdough loaf today...

Having a list and crossing items off is a sanity-saving tool for me!  I write my To Do lists in an exercise book which sits with my diary on my desk.  I also write bits and pieces of phone messages and other things in this book, and it's amazing how many times I have needed to go back and check on something.  When I use scraps of paper, they flitter around everywhere and I end up losing my lists - and part of my sanity!  I do write my shopping lists on scraps of paper (and sometimes lose these) but by the time I've done the menu and noted the ingredients required for the week, I normally know my shopping list anyway.  Again, phones and computers have apps and software for list-makers like me.  I've tried to use these tools, and also the whiteboard and eraser, but nothing compares to crossing out completed tasks with a firm blue line from a pen!

I am hearing whispers about the festive season here and there lately...  If you want to be more organised this festive season, you may make use of a how-to article such as, Organized Christmas?  I think Christmas is a perfect time to flex your organising muscles... The perfect warm-up to a stress-free, planned and productive 2012!


Please leave a comment describing your favourite daily life organising tool - do you favour apps or a calendar on the wall?  Or do you have an excellent memory and barely use lists?  Or maybe you just prefer to wake up and see what the day brings?


Sunday, September 25, 2011

Documenting the Firsts

By Megan at The Byron Life


This week I have been packing boxes in readiness for our return home and I came across Melody's cherished  "ballet book" - a simple scrapbook I made to document her first ballet classes. I wrote about its creation on my blog last year and I thought readers here at Simple, Frugal and Green might appreciate the idea that memory-keeping needn't be an expensive or elaborate affair. 


***


I’m no Martha when it comes to scrapbooking, that’s for sure. No designer layouts and special albums for me; I prefer to wing-it with whatever’s at hand. While my efforts wouldn’t pass muster with serious scrapbooking enthusiasts, I am happy that I have at least made the effort to document and celebrate some of the significant events and activities in my girls’ lives in this form.

Pictured above is a crazy-huge scrapbook of Ella’s very-first artwork from her toddler and pre-school days. We made this book together when she was a young child, I think she was four-years-old, and we took it off to a local copy shop to have it bound. For many years she would trot out this book to proudly show visitors and to this day it is still one of her most prized possessions. It is an especially important keepsake to Ella as she has developed into a most talented young artist and this book documents her “early years” (or her “bunny years” as I like to call them as that was about all she was interested in drawing for quite some time!)

This one is a book I made last year to document Melody’s first year at ballet. It has photos and mementos from her first ballet classes through to her first performance and I have written the text in very simple storybook style. It is now one of Melody’s favourite bedtime reads (what three-year-old doesn’t love to read a book all about themselves?) This book was made late at night, after Melody had gone to sleep, while I was pregnant with Maddison and finished just the night before she was born. So, for me, this book is also infused with those special pregnancy/birth memories... I gave it to Melody for Christmas and it was one of her favourite presents.

I think this home-made, free-form approach to scrap-booking works better for me because I get intimidated by expensive, “perfect” scrapbooks and I procrastinate over what is the “perfect” thing to write and add to them. If I am just winging it with less expensive materials, in a less structured way, I relax a bit more with the whole thing and don’t end up placing such huge expectations on myself that I never get around to doing anything.

The results are, in a word, wonky! That’s my style... But they are made with mama-love, and I reckon that’s what really counts.


We have some significant things happening in 2010 – Maddi’s first year being one of them - and Melody has oh-so-enthusiastically started pre-school a couple of days a week, so right now I am playing away documenting these major events.
This is the start of a scrapbook of Melody’s artwork from her first year at pre-school. As you can see, it’s made from a simple, old-fashioned scrapbook, and Melody is the creator-in-chief - from making the artwork to start with to sticking it in her book each week. I can’t wait to see how her drawings and paintings change over the year. The book is covered in one of her paintings and then clear contact paper is applied over the top.

While these books will ultimately be in the possession of the girls, I freely admit the making of these is as important, if not more important, to me than them! Childhood, that most powerful of times, scoots away from us so, so quickly... I want to savour, and remember, every moment with my girls while it lasts.

x
Megan

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Life Changes

By: Notes From The Frugal Trenches

Since I wrote my last post here, I've become a mother to two beautiful children, a daughter and a son. Life has felt anything but simple, green and frugal. In fact, I'd go so far as to say like has been somewhat complicated, definitely the opposite of green and more expensive than it has ever been [aka I am leaking money]. One piece of advice has carried me through, from a seasoned parent who I really respect: focus on survival until it feels like you can do more.

This whole experience has taught me so much about understanding people who feel the simple, frugal or green life is beyond them. I've heard friends, co-workers and people in the media say that they feel overwhelmed at the thought of making their own soap, recycling, composting or cooking from scratch. While I've long held the belief we should all start slowly, being a mother for just shy of three weeks has really given me a level of compassion and understanding about why changes can feel so challenging.

Almost three weeks in, we are doing well. I can't say I'm cooking every single day, I certainly can't say my laundry situation isn't scary. But in terms of small successes:

- I am using green soap and green cleaning products, even if I didn't make them myself
- I am composting, even if the bucket is in a sorry state and needs to be dealt with
- I am ensuring we get three meals a day, even if they are simple or from a favourite independent store instead of more complex {what I would do for a roast!!!}
- I can see where I want us to be (a more simple, green and frugal life defining parenting choices) and I know slowly we will get there...

One of my favourite quotes is this: "All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another.” Anatole France.

So if you are struggling with life changes, just know part of embracing the single, frugal and green life is to be simple with yourself and your needs. Don't be harder on yourself than you would be with others. Understand sometimes focusing on survival is the right thing to do.

I feel hope our new life is emerging and I'm sure as long as we are together it will be a grand one. I hope wherever you are in your life you see hope to.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Simple, Green and Frugal Parenting

By: Notes From The Frugal Trenches

In one more sleep I become a mummy, it has been a long and hard journey and one I'm delighted is finally happening! I've been thinking a lot about how to encorporate a simple, green and frugal life into parenting and the truth is I know no one can accomplish it all, so I'll need to focus on the most important things. So far I've been focusing on a couple of key points/ideas so that I don't feel overwhelmed.

Simple
- Establishing a rhythmn that meets everyone's needs and is flexible, yet predictable
- Not over-committing and prioritizing time to adjust

Green
- No disposable products
- Get a community garden membership
- No plastic
- Shopping for locally sourced products and/or fairtrade

Frugal
- Focusing on what is really needed vs. what people tell you are needs (I'm shocked at what people believe you need in order to parent)
- Buying second hand where possible
- Establishing a "norm" which isn't about commercialism or materialism

But here is where I turn it over to you. I'd love to know how you encorporate a simple, green and frugal life into your parenting and family life? I feel like I have a lot to learn and am most probably only scratching the surface!

So dear co-op readers: what advice do you have for living purposefully while parenting? How do you explain raising your children so differently than most people they will come into contact with?

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 !

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Outdoors and our kids

by Eilleen

Hello everyone!

In my personal blog, I am running a competition for the National Tree Day campaign which is tomorrow.

Did you know that:

- only 13% of our children play outdoors more often than indoors?
- only 35% if our children play outdoors everyday?
- 1 in 10 children play outside once a week or less?


This is a huge difference from my childhood. When I remember my own childhood, I remember riding on my bike and exploring the neighbourhood all day.

My fondest memories were of my brother and I waking up on a Saturday morning, cycling (what I now know to be) 5 kms to a huge playground and we'd stay there all day. We knew it would be time to go home when the street lights would go on!

I remember cycling to the river and swimming with my friends. There is a small cliff face in that river and we'd dare each other to jump off the top and jump in.

I remember cycling even when it was cold - so cold that frost would form on my beanie and my gloves as I am riding!

I remember having tree climbing competitions where we would dare each other on how high we can go.

I want that for my kids......but.....its hard.

I sometimes feel that I should not let my kids out of my sight and if I let them go to the playground by themselves, then I am a bad mother.

I sometimes feel that I just don't have enough time to go outside with my kids and still get dinner done and pay house bills.

I would like them to jump in the river....but the government has now bulldozed the little cliff face next to the river so kids can't jump off there.

I would like them to climb the trees in the public recreation area outside my home.....but the government recently they came and chopped off all the lower branches to stop children from climbing the trees.


The trees without their lower branches

....... because all of that is dangerous....and the government might get sued.

While my children still play everyday outside, I know that they do not spend as much time outdoors as I did as a child.

And that just makes me sad.

I will be outdoors for National Tree Day. I can't join any of the planned activities, but you know what? The outdoors is just a door away. I hope you will be too.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Autumn

Posted by Bel
from Spiral Garden

Early sunsets and nature’s bounty set the mood for family feasts.



Gathering together is the theme of autumn. Traditionally, it is the time when we store food for winter, close up our homes and spend more time indoors. The Autumn Equinox was on 21 March 2011 (in the southern hemisphere) - a wonderful time to unite with friends for a harvest feast. It is a time of balance – equal sunlight and darkness. Harmony...




Taste – Cooler evenings see the return of soups and slow-cooked meals. The bountiful harvests of Autumn ensure that plates explode with colour, flavour and warmth.



Touch – Little hands delight in the varied textures of treasures found on nature walks. Nature sows as man harvests. Seeds are enchanting – great power in the palm of our hand. There is a chill in the breeze and we seek out jackets and shoes, amazed at how tall children have grown through summer.



Smell – Inhale the fertile soil when digging in the garden to harvest the last of summer’s abundance. Allow earthy scents to envelop you as you crunch fallen leaves underfoot. Absorb the sumptuous aroma of a simmering soup, or something baking in the oven.



Sight – The resplendent colours of Autumn are a celebration of nature: one last party before winter sets in. Notice how the golden pumpkins capture some sunshine to store through the grey days ahead. To compliment the brilliant hues of trees, the sky is bluer than in any other season.



Sound – Migrant birds call farewell as they leave for warmer climes. Autumn sounds are as crisp as the cold winds that begin to blow.



Feelings – Autumn is the time to preserve the living wonders of summer - try making jam, pressing flowers or drying herbs to give thanks to the waning sunlight. Soak up the last rays of warmth as summer disrobes and darkness creeps in. Relax and enjoy the fruit of your labours – your garden, your work, your family.



Activities – Autumn is a good time to clean up the garden and plant in readiness for spring. Depending on where you live, different crops will do well through the cooler months. Seed packets and catalogues have appropriate instructions, or ask a local gardener, as their advice will be the most valid to your locale. Most things you plant now will take quite awhile to reward you – bulbs, brassicas (the cabbage family), potatoes, onions, garlic and broad beans, for example. For fast results, try some sprouts or a terrarium indoors.




This season will provide many treasures for your seasonal tableau.Find a warm-toned cloth and adorn it with seeds, leaves, bark and pods.Dry some flowers and leaves to put into a little pottery vase. The hues of Autumn showcase nature’s splendour.



It’s time to come inside. The days are shorter, the evenings cool. The summer holidays are but a memory and each of us is settling back into our routines and rhythms for the year. This is the time to revive evening rituals neglected during the fast and fun summertime. Long story times and meals by candlelight are some of our favourites.





Craft in autumn can include Mother Nature’s offerings – simple bark and leaf rubbings, seed pod characters, arrangements of dry foliage or jewellery-making. It’s also time for fibre crafts – if you want to knit a scarf for winter, start now!



Enjoy this season of slowing down and reconnecting with home and family.





This is part of one (of three) Seasonal Fun Series I have had published in parenting magazines. I know many of our readers are in the northern hemisphere. For more seasonal inspiration, here are some relevant articles:
Spring #1
Spring #2
- for the northerners, and...
Autumn #1
Autumn #2

Blessings,
Bel