Saturday, March 31, 2012

Former Coupon Queen Comes Clean Part. 1

I use to be a Coupon Queen.
You know the kind, with my binder, paying $2 for $200 worth of groceries.
So much so I had my own "store" in my garage. Lovingly called, The Stockpile Room.
My friends and family knew if there was anything in the world they needed or wanted
that more than likely, it was in the The Stockpile Room.
For a year and half we paid maybe $500 for over $20,000 with of food, heath care,
cleaning supplies and toiletries. For the love of Glade coupons, I taught Coupon Classes.
So what changed?
After 18 months of this frugal addiction....errr... I mean hobby, God showed
us that gathering food was now going to be a tad bit difficult.
No more mindless filling the shopping cart with all of my great bargains.
It was near Halloween. Our family does not celebrate this holiday. But some
neighborhood friends brought over some candy for the kids. Candy Corn.
Who does not love candy corn? My oldest daughter for a day or so happily
munched on the candy corn when I said they could indulge. Then one night
as she was in the kitchen doing dishes she popped a piece in her mouth.
Her body said, enough.
She had an allergic reaction that made her throat close and for her breathing
to come to a small struggling wheeze. Thankfully after a trip to the ER, she
survived. Many children who have severe food allergies do not. I was so
thankful. I was also full of questions. The ER doctor just said in passing,
"No more candy corn for her." No one said why or what was in it.
It took many trips to her regular doctor and then a allergy specialist to
finally get to the bottom of why one day she was fine and the next she
almost died from this seemingly innocent treat.
The explanation?
Her body had had enough of artificial food dye.
But why I ask. I had to know. No one else in our family had issue with them.
Because they said, over time consuming "chemicals" and tricking our body
to think it's food is going to effect some of us. And given that her father has
a horrible allergy to honey bee's and I to was just a wait and see
game of what thing her body would reject.
And to make life interesting, her test for wheat showed a probable allergy there as
well. More test would need to be done to be exact but we should probably refrain.
I came home that day and sat in The Stockpile Room. I did something I had not
done yet. I turned over the packages of all this free fabulous food.
Red 40
Yellow 5
Why was there wheat products in my canned beans?
Modified Food Starch
My lunch meat was NOT gluten free. Huh??  
There is wheat in lunch meat?
Names of things I could not even pronounce much less know what it was.
By the end of the night I sat with a house of $1000's of dollars worth of
food that my daughter could not eat.
To be continued....

Friday, March 30, 2012

Bill Paying For The Clueless By Choice

Every household has a system for paying bills.
In some households the couple pay bills jointly.
Or maybe one pays them and the other stays in the loop about the particulars.
Our is neither of those.
I pay them and my husband begs to not have to look at.....
Seriously, its not even a blue folder anymore. But the name stuck.
So I pay the bills, I juggle the expenses. I budget.
All he wants to know is when is dinner ready and when can he buy another gadget.
Nothing more, nothing less. The less he knows, the happier he is.
I am really okay with this system. It works for us for the most part.
I figure he is a great Dad and works hard, really hard, so I will let him off the hook on this one.
But lately I had a morbid feeling take over me.
What if I was sick and could not pay them?
What if I was in a coma and could not pay them?
What if I died....would the kids ever have electricity again?!
Dramatic much? Meh.
But seriously, the problem with a one sided system is if the keeper of the
system goes down, so does the system. Not good.
So, in a effort to keep a roof over my children's head and power
for their Wii should I eat shellfish accidentally and die....I made a manual. 
All of our bills are in there, current one of top of each section. I also staple
receipts, confirmations etc. to the bill once it is paid.
Neat. Organized. Informational.
But because that is not enough for my clueless by choice hubby, I went a
step further. I added paying instructions at the beginning of each bill.
I went into Word and I typed in step by step of where, how, how much, and when.
OCD much? Meh.
Seriously, if you have never paid the electric bill in like 10 years, you need to know
where to go, how much the service fee is going to be and how long it takes to
credit to your account. Or at least I would need to know this. If I was clueless. By choice.
I am working on a table of contents. Oh yes, I have issues.
And also should note I am keeping a years of bills with paid receipts in the binder.
I know organizing experts claim there is no need. Trust me, there is a need.
Ever have a company you owe claim you did not pay 4 months ago?
BAM! Shut the front door, yes I did. Here it is.
This happened to us with a rental company. The wrong amount of entered on the computer
but was entered correctly on the receipt of payment. Had I not kept the receipt we would
have paid $375 for someone else's mistake. No thanks.
I am also going to print the Excel budget I have each month and include it.
However this may or may not send him off the deep end.
Too. Much. Numbers.
The point?
Do what works for you and your family.
Experts can only suggest what may have worked for some.
Adapt systems so that they work for you, not you work for them. 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

How to stop using trash bags

I told you in a previous post that I would talk more about how 6 months ago we
stopped using trash bags. Well, here we are.
I am guessing the first question everyone will ask is...
Just like the TP question. Everyone wants to know what is so
wrong with what many consider a must have, can not live without,
your nuts for not using it, household item.

Here's why....
It's made of plastic. Duh, I know. Many are not biodegradable or
can be recycled. That means it fills a landfill never to break down or
never to be recycled into anything else.The EPA estimates that nearly
100 billion to 1 trillion bags are used each year with less than 6% of
them being recycled. That is a lot of plastic. We won't even address
the process of making plastic and the air pollution. The fact is, we are
running out of room to bury this stuff. Consuming less or even better
stop consuming at all is the answer.
The next question we always get when we challenge the status quo on
things is always this :
"Well, what do you use instead?"
Our answer always causes that rapid blinking look that I find so entertaining.
We don't use anything.
That's right. Our trash cans are naked. Naked naked naked.
Now, some of you probably just threw up a little bit in your mouth on that
thought but I assure you, I am a germaphobe so it isn't all that gross.
I am going to show you how to get unhooked off those bags. But before
we go any further I wanted to say, if your using recycled or biodegradable
bags, kudos for you. I know that biodegradable ones exist, I just can
not justify the price on our income. And our thought is, it is best just to learn to do without. 
Want a naked trash can? Here is how.
Compost. Easy enough. Nearly all of our food that is not edible goes into our compost.
We also add in grass clippings sometimes. Shredded paper as well.
We must have a wicked garden, right? No. We don't garden! However, that soil gets
used in potted plants, flower beds and the like. Even if you do not do those things here
is a great idea to get rid of your compost....give it away on Craiglist/Freecycle. You
will be overwhelmed at the people who will want your crap...I mean compost!
Recycle. We had up to that point recycled in a lazy way. We knew the basics. But
I went to our county recycling website and got a break down of the recycling. Now nearly
75% of our trash is recycled. Paper, glass, cardboard, plastics all go into our curbside
recycling program. Any plastic bags we get go back to store recycling. We try to avoid them
at all possible by using cloth shopping bags and mesh produce bags. Sometimes it is
unavoidable. Our county does not recycle Styrofoam but our local grocer, Publix does
recycle the egg trays. We have drop off points for magazines & newspapers. Office
supply stores recycle our ink cartridges, old cell phones and so on. The point is if you
take 15 minutes to research you can recycle nearly all of what you toss. With very little
effort on your part.
Donate. Anything that is useable, we donate, sell or give away. There was a time
that we would just put the old beat up table down by the curb, *gasp*, I know.
Even things you think are not worth it can be used by someone else. Like I mentioned
above, old cell phones are recycled by organizations. Shoes , even beat up ones, are.
Our area has a diaper bank for any unused diapers. Whenever I see something in our
home that we no longer have a use for and I am not sure its worth anything to anyone,
I put it on Craigslist for free. I have never had an item not taken & used. There is always
someone who can use what you can not, I assure you.
What does that leave? Not a lot. We went from being a 4 curbside trash can family
a week to a half filled one can a week. We realized the #1 reason we lined our can was
for messy messes, like food. Once we eliminated that, we saw clearly that there
was no need to line our trash can. The poor thing is naked all the time now.

Is it easy to stop using trash bags? No, not at first. Because let's be honest,
do you really want to have to focus that much time on how to dispose of your
trash? Not what I enjoy doing either. But when I realized the key to conserving, less
consuming was all just a matter of a lot of brain work and little physical work then it
was just a no brainer for me to give it a try. Our transition from 4 curbside cans a week
to naked trash can took us 6 months. It was a constant process of, "where does this go?"
Looking for recycle symbols, referring to our local recycling center and digging yogurt
cups out of the trash while yelling at the kids & hubby. Fun times. But soon it became
second nature to question it. Soon it became the norm for the recycling can to be taken
out more than our trash needing to be taken out. It became our norm.

If you think this all too much for you. Then please, switched to biodegradable bags. If you
can't justify the cost (and they are a bit more than those hefty ones) then go to a landfill
just one time. I dare you. It's gross. I don't want my children's children to live on top of one
nor do I want that stuff to keep piling up. It was enough for me to know I had to do something.
Is it extreme? Maybe. But that is how I roll. I don't do things half way or to the norm extent.
But when I see how this earth is being taken care of, I question our stewardship to God. Or
rather, our lack there of. I am as far from a PETA tree hugging vegan as your ever going to meet.
I am a God fearing, raised in the South conservative folk who likes a good ol' juicy hamburger.
But I can't help but think, is this how God intended us to use what He blessed us with? When
it takes so little for us to do better? It is like the old saying...
When we know better, we do better. 

~This post is being linked up over at Frugally Sustainable Link party "Frugal Days, Sustainable Way's #20" this week, go take a's awesome sauce!~

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


We are in the middle of a stomach virus.
Everyone but hubby has it.
Sending soup and prayers please!
Be back soon!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Where is the pictures???

Some have noted the lack of photos here.
There is a reason for that.
I'm poor.
No, really. I have a very slow internet connection and it takes
FOREVER for them to load up.
But we are working on that!
Until then I am kinda of liking the clean sparse look. :)

Thursday, March 22, 2012

How to Become a Paper-less Kitchen

First, let's get the most ask question out of the way....
'What's the big deal anyways? It's just a few paper towels.'
If you have ever handed a guest a cloth napkin or a dish towel for a mess,
and your not at a Crunchy Mother Play-date, then your going to get this.
Or maybe I just have strange people in my home.
It never fails, someone has to ask.
I use to say something cute like, 'Because I love doing laundry.'
But that is an lie and it also does not deter the more adamant ones.
So, how about some facts instead?
Did you know that 40% of the landfill is made up of paper products?
That is always shocking to me when I read that. That means 40% of what
is in there can be recycled. But people choose not to. Mindlessly tossing their paper
items in the trash. I use to be one of them. Using cloth deters that lazy mind of just tossing.
Besides, paper towels can NOT be recycled.
It is estimated that if each family cut back one roll of paper towels a year it would save over half a million trees each year. Just one less roll.
Because I am all about going big, my first thought was....if I forgo all of them think of how many trees would be saved??? And I like breathing air, so I am all about saving some trees. ;)
Furthermore, it take one or sometimes two WHOLE trees to make one roll of paper towels.
Let that sink in.
I will wait.
Mind boggling isn't it?
That is the effect I was going for.
At this point in the conversation I am usually faced with a person with their mouth agape.
Now it's time to sell this paper-less show!
I do one extra load of laundry a week for my cloth kitchen products. Not even a full load.
I was in cold. A little bit of homemade organic detergent (yes, another post, another time) and
if they are icky, some homemade oxyclean/bleach (yes yes yes, another time) helps as well.  
I line dry and I'm back in business.

What do we have in our cloth only kitchen?
Various cloth napkins. All picked up from the thrift store for less than $.10 each at the most.
We are a family of 5 , we eat 3 meals a day at home so for me I am comfortable with about 50
napkins. We don't need them every meal so this lasts a week.
Cleaning Cloths. This is a modge podge of rags. Some are worn out wash cloths. Some are towels that
had holes in them that I cut up for rags. Some are some neat microfiber cloths someone gave me. I save those for cleaning mirrors and windows. These cloths are used to scrub counters, wipe up messes, dampen use for BBQ fingers at the table and so on.
Cloth Kitchen Towels. Again, all bought used at the thrift store for less than $.50 each. I have about 12 and need more. I have found after a few years doing this that traditional dish towels are nice but good quality hand towels meant for the bathroom are much more absorbent. Often they are tad bit larger. I am not a person whose hanging towel on her stove must match the throw rug at the sink, so this works for me. These cloth are use drying dishes, cleaning up spilled drinks and whatever else you can think of.

Laundry like I said is once a week. Maybe a half to 2/3 of a load. I wash in cold and then line dry. It
really isn't an issue. Maybe because I have solved the laundry battle in our house is why I can say this!
YES, another time and another post. It's a recurring theme around here.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Reducing Our Output

One area of concern for us is our trash & recycling. We have downsized our trash output
greatly but we seen an dramatic increase in our recycling.
Which means we haven't bought less but just recycled more of what we bought.
So now the issue comes down to buying less packaging.

Here are the things our family has already gave up:
Bottled Water (large or small bottles)
Produce bags (we use reusable ones we bring with us)
Ziplock Bags (Mason jars are my new friend)
Shopping Bags (Reusable ones)
Paper Towels
Paper Plates
Toilet Paper (insert EWWWW in here, go ahead.)
Trash Bags (I will have a post on this later on)

This has helped a great deal but food packaging is still an issue. Such is meat packaging.
How does one get around this? And how does one freeze meat safely without plastic?
Maybe this is a stupid question but I truly do not know.
I get how to get around veggie packaging - buy right from the farm.
Doing that right now.
Also buying bulk helps reduce packaging, which we do.
I am open to any suggestions.
I will be posting about any solution we have found. :)

Monday, March 19, 2012

Polyvore - Playing Dress Up

Have you joined Polyvore yet? It's a fun website that allows you to make outfits without
leaving the comfort of your home. It's like playing endless dress up. And it costs you nothing! :)
You can follow me on Polyvore or a board I made on Pinterest just for them!
Here is some of the outfits I made :

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Project One A Day : March 2012

Alittle background on this project. My hope is by removing clutter and items in my home which hold no value to me, that my family is able to live a more simple life. We are able to focus on the Lord more, be more grateful for His blessings and to get off the roller coaster of excess that Americans indulge in. I post monthly, sometimes weekly and sometimes daily. How do you like that for well thought out? ;) 

Well this month has been amazing in clutter freeing. I have let go of so many things, I lost count. Pretty sure just in one closet I donated over 30 items. And I am not even half way done. My van is always loaded with donations looking for a good home.

This project also has forced me to look at what I use in my home & wonder if I should be or if there is a better way. One area that keeps coming back is using plastic in the kitchen. It has always bothered me but in a way that was never to the forefront. Now, during this month it has moved to the front of my brain which means if I don't focus on it, I will be dreaming of Ziploc for like forever. Stuck on an uneven board trying to balance is my desire to rid plastic from our home but not to drag home tons of items after purging so much. Obviously I need to use something in place of the ziploc bags in my home, but I don't want clutter. It has been a conundrum. Until it was suggested I use my awesome collection of canning jars. BRILLIANT! And I don't feel bad about thrifting more because they serve multiple uses in my home (i.e. holding my homemade toothpaste, making candles in them, storing food, sorting craft items). Right now, I have no added to my stash.  I vowed to use up what I had first before adding to my collection. Which is hard for me because I am a jump in head first type of girl! I will be making more posts about this in the future.

An area we worked on this month so far has been my daughters closets. They are 10 and 14. For a year they had their own rooms for the first time in their sibling lives. It did not work. We had girls who were more disconnected to each other. So, this past week we moved them back together making the spare room a craft/play/school room. But my word, what these girls collected in a year! 3 days of complete chaos when we merged their rooms. I have pictures but almost scared to show them. Plus I don't know how to take them off my iPhone and put them here. There was about 200 things donated, 50 things tossed because they were beyond repair and tons & tons of paper, junk and SCHTUFF tossed or recycled whenever possible. And we haven't even got to the teenagers make up stash y'all. That one is going to go over like a fart in church, I promise ya. She doesn't wear much or even wear makeup at all often but she likes to own a lot. Ahem. Issues over here, issues. I can tell their room is going to be one that will go into next month getting it pared down.

So those are our areas of progress this month. We also managed to get our trash down to one can a week and upped our recycling to two cans a week. Which made me happy for a whole 3 minutes then I realized I should be buying LESS packaging, therefore creating LESS recycling. Sigh. I can never let myself be happy with anything, I swear. Again, we will be talking more about that in the coming months.

Have you tried to simplify your life this year? Have you got fed up with excess? If so, post in the comment section your story or better yet, your blog so we can be inspired too. You can also follow along on Twitter using the hashtag #SheddingExcess. Let's share and encourage one another! :)

Family cloth. Or how I lose all 3 of my readers.

Have you heard of using family cloths? Instead of TP.
Yes, its washable TP.
I know, it sounds.....gross.
But if you have ever changed a cloth diaper (I have, a ton of them!) then this is no different.
We have been using family cloths for about 3 years now exclusively.
I used them for about 5 years before the rest of the family converted.
I also use mostly all cloth feminine pads.
I save the disposable ones for when I am out of the house.
At home I use the washable kind.
And lets face it, when its time to use those I am home A LOT.
The most obvious question we get is...why?
First of all, millions of trees get chopped down each year just for TP.
Just for stuff to wipe your hinney with.
That is just nonsense poopy pants. 
Second, its convenient. We never run out.
I keep a bag of t-shirts etc in the bathroom to cut up new ones and in a pinch until the dryer is done, I can cut a few up.
Three, and the most important reason, it just feels darn good.
We feel and are much cleaner.
Since we are already all over TMI Land, I will just put this out there.
No more "marks" from the men of the family.
Don't worry Honey, I was talking about the little guy. ;)
We occasionally wet them for a messy .... mess.
Use a clean dry one to dry the bum if needed.
Now the second most ask question.
Does your bathroom smell?
I assure you.
I am the person who gags at the first hint of cat poop.
Each bathroom as two cans. Each clearly marked.
The master bathroom cans are just small trash cans.
The kids bathroom is cans with lids.
Only because they use the wipes to clean up any animal accidents.
And for whatever reason that seems to get ripe smelling over the course of a day or two.
One day a week I dump them all in the washer, run it twice on the hottest setting, extra rinse and bleach.
In the 3 years the family has done this (and 5 years I have done this) we have had zero instances of any infections we were having before or any sanitary issues.
I am convinced we are cleaner. Healthier. Better wiped if you will.
Does it save money?
Well, lets be honest a $1 a week for cheap TP here at our house.
And I honestly use that in the washing & drying.
So probably not.
Its one less thing we are adding to our septic or landfill.
Less packaging.
Less waste.
More comfort.
And one less thing I depend on the grocery store for.
Now, excuse me. My toilet paper needs to be washed. ;)

Monday, March 12, 2012

How I clean my bathroom mirror...

Riveting. I know. As if you didn't know how to clean your potty.
But as I was scouring Pinterest (spawn of the devil that place is...) for all natural homemade cleaners I realized there was a common compliant about homemade window cleaners.
It doesn't get the really gnarly schtuff off bathroom mirrors is what I heard, consistently.
I have used homemade window cleaner for awhile and never had that problem.
Then it dawned on me....maybe how I clean is different.
Maybe someone hasn't tried the way I do it.
This isn't a recipe but a method.
It's not hard.
In fact it's so simple, I am wondering if everyone doesn't already do this.
And maybe they have some super sonic grime I'm not aware of.
Before I even think of cleaning the mirror, I wipe down the sink and counter in the bathroom.
Again, not rocket science. But there is a method to my madness.
wait for it...
I take my wet cleaning cloth and scrub the mirror.
I don't use anything but vinegar in my home, which is why I can do this and not make a huge smudgy mess.
But it works.
Then I leave it, and go clean the potty.
Once I am done the last thing I do is take my homemade window cleaner and clean up the streaks on the mirror.
Viola, no mo' icky grime.
Easy peasy lemon squeezy. :)

Thursday, March 8, 2012


I was warned. It will mess you up.
Did I listen? Do I EVER listen? Heck nah.
I didn't listen about "Food , Inc." either. Go figure.
I saw the title for the book "7 - An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess" and
clicked to read the review over @ Money Saving Mom.
It sounded good. Someone said something about hermeneutics in the comments.
It was a big word. Never heard it before.
That should surprise no one.
Anyways, I spent a few days ignoring the book and looking up the word hermeneutics.
Still. don't. understand.
Again, no one should be surprised.
Things like that need to be taught to me by a Pre-K teacher using small words, crayons and visual aids
for me to wrap this little mind around. And I am guessing, I lived this long
without knowing the word much less it's meaning....I will be okay.
Here's to hoping at least.
Anyways, another comment I saw about this book either there or somewhere
else was a warning...'It will mess you up."
Awesome! I am down with that. I am an extreme gal.
All or nothing. There is no gray in me and I am not skeered of change.
Or so I thought.
Listen y'all, this lady is nuts. In a good way.
But none the less, 1/2 way in I posted on her facebook wall.....because I am
a stalker like that...asking if it was possible to love & hate her all at the same time.
By asking if it was possible to hate her I mean I said is it possible to hate SOMEONE.
Because I am from the south, we talk to people to their face in third person.
It's how we love on you.
Anywho, the book has messed me up.
I mean JACKED up.
We give our 10%. Volunteer in our church. And when I am moved and have cash,
I will give money to a homeless person. I donate stuff to Goodwill. I felt good about myself.
Until I read that dang book.
The more I read, the more I felt sick to my stomach and renewed all at the same time.
I made the mistake of half way through putting on my righteous pantloons and
wonder out loud (oh yes I did) to a group of ladies if it was wise for us to be
having Wii's & stuff while so many suffered.
Yea, as we say...that went over like a turd in the punchbowl.
I needed to shut my mouth and eventually I did.
But not until I had made an giant ass out of myself.
That is not how this battle is going to be won.
This is not how Jesus would want us to do this, shaking a finger at people. 
Listen people, I have a Wii and a PS3. I am the worst if that is the case.
The issue isn't do we have stuff.
The issue is are we gathering stuff instead of people?
Are we trading suffering orphans and widows for iPads?
I think as a whole our world is.
Dare I say Americans do it worse than most. 
I want to do better.
I have no dang clue but get this crap....that crazy lady Jen Hatmaker did not tell me step
by step how to change my life and make others lives better. Can you believe that?
Crazy lady.
I guess I am just going to have to keep reading (yes, there are more books - God love it)
And I am praying. And listening.
Sincerely, thanks Jen for taking the time to plant a precious seed.
I am forever changed, for the better.
Not like the time I got that perm.
Wait...that was just recently.
Bad idea.
Me + Perm = Bad Idea.
Jen Hatmaker + Words. = Good Idea.
Glad to clear that up. 
Go buy the book. All the books. And if you REALLY want to
jump on the ledge, get her hubby's book too.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Are You Deprived?

One of the things I hear often when people talk about being frugal is how not to feel deprived.
You hear how its the one thing over and over, don't deprive yourself.
And you know what I think?
That it is good for you to deprive yourself.
That it stretches you.
You learn what you really need vs. what you just want.
Furthermore, while its good to treat yourself every now and then, isn't that how most of us got here?
This thinking that we can't wait.
We need it now.
We need a treat.
We deserve it.
We have earned it.
When I start thinking that way, all fleshy like, I start thinking of how much I already have.
So what that I don't have a Starbucks?
I have my God.
I don't "need" my girl time out to dinner.
I need God.
I am not deprived.
I am blessed.
What do I deserve?
I have an eternal life that I did not pay for and do not deserve.
I have more than most people in the world have.
I have access to clean drinking water.
I have a roof over my head.
I have so much.
When I realize this, doing without doesn't seem like depriving.
It seems like I'm coming along aside the Lord.
And truly, if your in the presence of the Lord.....
How can you be deprived?

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Where in the World did Chele go....?

Miss me?
Sniff sniff.
I have dislocated my right shoulder.
I'm trying to let it heal.
Just wanted to add, that the Wii is not intended for old people.
No matter how much Sugar Hill Gang on Just Dance 3 fools you.
I will be back, soon.