Thursday, 6 October 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

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Considering Staples in the Garden

by Throwback at Trapper Creek

Harvest time is still in full swing in our garden, and while we are busy, it is still a good time to assess the garden and think of next years garden. Consider growing staples. Staples in the garden are usually easy to grow, and easy to store for long periods. Many take no processing, just harvesting and proper storage. And many don't require any energy to store, just proper attention to the particular vegetable and its storage requirements which may vary. Cool, dry, room temperature, and high humidity are the factors you need to consider when choosing a staple crop to grow and store.

Crops that I consider staples in my garden are potatoes, winter squash, dry beans and storage onions in addition to root crops like carrots, beets, rutabagas, and parsnips. Your list of staples may be different due to climate and growing conditions. Sweet potatoes are a marginal, fussy crop in my area and Irish potatoes are not. The path of least resistance is the most energy conscious footprint for the garden. Grow what suits your area.




The downside to growing staples is that to be a staple, that implies that you need a large amount to last into winter and maybe spring until the garden gets going again. Large amounts of vegetables require space to grow. Growing staples just may become a community building exercise. Garden too small? Ask a neighbor to allow you to expand your garden, or collaborate with a friend and instead of growing all your crops in one place, trade off. Grow up too, the sky is the limit, many plants take well to trellising, and can be trained on various types of trellis materials.

I'm just tossing ideas out there for more pantry building gardens. Soon the garden will be put to bed and seed catalogs will start appearing in our mailboxes. Winter is a good time to rest, rejuvenate and plan for next year. Bring the new seed catalogs on!

Tuesday, 4 October 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?


Can I Last a Whole Month of Buying Nothing New?


By Megan @ The Byron Life



This October I have taken on the challenge of buying nothing new – all month!  It’s part of a campaign organised by op-shops (thrift stores) here in Australia, and when I heard about it I thought it would be a great way of reinforcing my desire to live simply and frugally.

The “rules” are simple enough: Buy nothing new for a whole month unless it is an essential item such as food, medicine or hygiene product.

I thought, being an avid recycler, op-shopper and thrifter, that I’ll cinch it. Won’t be too hard a challenge for me, right?

Well,  as I write I’m four days in and I can tell you it has already been a challenge. Mostly it has to do with planning ahead. I forgot about a child’s birthday party that was coming up, and whereas I might normally go to the shop and buy something new for a present, that isn’t an option right now so I had to think “outside the box”. (I ended up finding a ready-made present at home that would be perfect!)

The big test will come when we are fully moved back into our home in the next week and I start looking around at renovations I would like to make to the place. How to do that on a budget, buying second-hand or recycling what we have already... I’m looking forward to seeing what creative ideas I can come up with.

Could you live for a month, or longer, without buying anything new? Perhaps you already do – I know there’s a lot of Simple, Green, frugal readers way ahead of me on this frugal path. Feel free to share any tips with me – I’m going to need them!

* You can find out more about Buy Nothing New Month 2011 here.

x
Megan

p.s The photo above is a little microwave rice cooker that I bought from an op-shop a while back that we use as our kicthen scraps bin. Works a treat.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Chicken and Apple Sandwich Spread

by Eilleen

Hello everyone!

I hope you are having a good start of the weekend (and for those in Australia and the UK, a good start to the long weekend).

With summer around the corner, I've started turning my mind now to quick, no-cook but still filling and yummy meals for myself and my family. I've been googling for ideas and came across the idea of making my own sandwich spreads. I've tried savoury pre-made sandwich spreads from the shops but have yet to come across any that I liked.

Yesterday, it was my turn to contribute to my work's fortnightly morning tea. So I thought I'd give making my own sandwich spread to try it out. Like always, I got the basic idea from various recipes on the net and then just made my own. This is my version of the Chicken and Apple Sandwich Spread (note that all quantities are to taste but I have added approximates):

Shredded roast chicken meat (1/2 the chicken - kids and I ate the other half as...roast chicken..haha)
2 red delicious apples, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
3 heaped tbsps honey mustard
4 heaped tbsps mayonnaise
1 heaped tbsps ranch dressing
pinch of cumin
pinch of paprika
shallots for garnish

Mix all of the above in a bowl. Serve with your favourite bread! In my case, I used wholewheat mini pita pockets.


Glad to say that it was a big hit at morning tea. I should've made more!

Do you have a favourite sandwich spread recipe or no-cook summer meal idea? I'd love to hear it!