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Sunday, January 29, 2012

Declutter 2012 {Recycle Clothes}



It is Operation De-clutter in our home. It's time for some serious purging! It feels great to be getting rid of stuff and living with less. However, I've realized it takes quite a bit of research and a little creativity to be sure I'm disposing of things in the most environmentally friendly way possible. So every week I'm going to post on my findings on how to do a green declutter.  I'll also tell you what other items I've cast off that week.


Closet Declutter (Image Source)


It seems like the bulk of any declutter project rests with clothing. How often do we have so many clothes in the closet, but nothing to wear! After I cleaned out my closet, I was able to fit all of my nursing and pre-pregnancy clothes for all seasons in the closet. Only the maternity clothes needed to be stored away. This way I will always know what I have, and ideally will enjoy wearing it. 


In order for that to happen, a LOT of clothes were given away. If clothes are still in style, you maybe able to consign them or sell them directly to a recycled clothing store. There are also many different organizations that can use donated clothing. I was happy to be able to donate my maternity clothes to a Christian pregnancy counseling organization.  The rest of the clothes went to Goodwill. 


It's important to follow the guidelines provided by the organization to which you are donating. If you give dirty or damaged items, there is a good chance they will end up in the dumpster anyway. Instead, there are many ways to reuse even worn out clothing. You can unravel sweaters to make recycled yarn.  This is easier if you have a ball winder or a very patient husband to help you. The cloth from old clothes can be used for sewing projects and crafts. If nothing else, they can be cut up and used as cleaning rags.  




And now....
What I got rid of this week...


Tea light candle and candle holder
Orange Artificial Foliage
A Rock
1 Water Bottle


What creative ways do you recycle your clothing? 


Please click to subscribe to the GrowingSlower RSS feed.  This post is linked up with SortaCrunchy

Saturday, January 28, 2012

No Spend Month {Week Four}

January is No Spend Month at our house this year. We are doing it to bring our current spending more in line with our new one-income status and as a detox after the consumer-centric holiday season.  Of course, buying less stuff will help us be more green and more resourceful as well. We usually spend about $500 on groceries each month. Instead, this month we will be budgeting to spend only $500 on all non-bill expenses including groceries, gas, household items, dining, entertainment, and yes coffee! 

Introducing No Spend Month
Week One
Week Two
Week Three

Coffee Unfree © Dennis Mojado
Caution: One Mocha vs Breakfast for a Week
(Image Source)

What We Spent
This week we spent a total of $71.   We spent $28 at Whole Foods. As always, $43 went to a box of organic produce from our CSA. 

How We Did It
We started off the week with another round of Rubber Chicken.  We've been using this concept of making the most of a whole roasted chicken for a while now, but I love Raising Knights term for it! The fresh stock and leftover chicken became Chicken & Rice Soup. Thanks for the recipe Danica!  We also had Stuffed Bell Peppers, Lentils & Meatballs, Salmon Salad, and Bean Burgers. 

What We Learned
I couldn't help but making comparisons this week. One dinner out for the two of us would cost more than what I spent at Whole Foods for the entire week's worth of groceries.  One mocha at Starbucks would cost more than a dozen eggs.  This could go on and on, but you get the picture. Of course, everyone needs a special treat once in a while. That is just what it should be though, a special occasion and not an everyday occurrence. Making our own food at home is not only healthier, but also is many times less expensive than going out. It takes a fair amount of time and planning but is worth the many benefits. 

We only have three days and $35 left!

Stay tuned to see if we succeed!  
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This post is linked up with Frugally Sustainable.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Wordless Wednesday {January 25}

A new pattern is finally in the works.
Who knew Drafting 101 would actually come in handy one day? 




Please click to subscribe to GrowingSlower RSS feed or by email.  This post is linked up with Thought I Knew Mama.

Monday, January 23, 2012

I Can't Believe I Almost Forgot

Last week we had our first snow of the winter. The neighborhood was hushed and beautiful covered in a fresh coat of white.  Even the streets stayed pristine, unplowed, and more skied than driven upon. Most everyone took a snow day, adults and children alike. Families brought out sleds and built snowmen together. Everyone (who didn't try to commute) was in a great mood. One family stopped along our walk to chat with me and admire BabyE. "I almost forgot they come so small!" the mother of school-aged kids exclaimed when she saw Baby in his Ergo.  I smiled, but in my head I wondered, How could you forget?

The snow melted a couple of days later, so we were able to have several friends over for a Saturday morning brunch. It was wonderful to catch up and visit with everyone. I especially loved holding our friends' seven week old. She is almost the same size that BabyE was when he was born. As soon as I got her in my arms the very thought that leaped into my heart was, I almost forgot Baby was ever this small!  She felt as light as a feather, easily held in the crook of one arm while I admired her tiny facial expressions. I wondered and worried, What other precious memories will the passing months and years try to blot out of my memory?  

I want to remember.


This post is linked up with The EO Just Write.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

No Spend Month {Week Three}

January is No Spend Month at our house this year. We are doing it to bring our current spending more in line with our new one-income status and as a detox after the consumer-centric holiday season.  Of course, buying less stuff will help us be more green and more resourceful as well. We usually spend about $500 on groceries each month. Instead, this month we will be budgeting to spend only $500 on all non-bill expenses including groceries, gas, household items, dining, entertainment, and yes coffee! 

What We Spent
Last week we only spent $120. We spent $54 at Whole Foods and $8 at Safeway. As always, $43 went to a box of organic produce from our CSA. We also paid $14 for parking. 

How We Did It
One day I cooked a roast in the slow cooker. The next day I made Beef and Barley Soup with the left overs.  I made fajitas and saved $4 by making my own tortillas. Almost once a week we make a big entree salad with canned salmon on top. We spent a little more on meat than last week, so we went vegetarian two nights. I made a Moroccan inspired Lentil and Sweet Potato Stew and we had Quinoa and Black beans again. 

What We Learned
Over the past few months, we have gotten a lot better at meal planning. Everyone talks about meal planning like it's some mystical art, but it is really pretty simple. We have learned that the better we plan, the more we are able to save.  We sit down together over the weekend and look at what we will get from our CSA that week. Then, on one side of a sheet of paper we write down six dinners we'd like to eat that week, with enough for leftovers for lunch. On the opposite side, we write down any ingredients that we don't already have or aren't getting in the produce box.  Of course we figure in breakfast, but we eat almost the same thing everyday. On Monday I go to the store and purchase only the items on the list. It ensures that we always have enough for the week and only what we will really use. 


As one of my readers reminded me in the comments, I was planning to look into our monthly payments during No Spend Month to make sure we are getting the best deal on all of our accounts.  This week I talked to our insurance agent and compared other companies.  I am confident that there isn't much extra savings we could get out of this monthly payment. However, I did find out we are being charged a $1/month fee for having automatic payment set up through our insurer. I will change the method of payment and save $12 per year. It's not much, but every dollar counts, right? 

At some point, we realized that doing No Spend Month this January was even hard than it might otherwise be because there are five Monday grocery shopping trips. We only have $106 left, and two more weeks of groceries to buy. It's time for some serious budgeting and creative meal planning!


Do you have any tricks for negotiating lower monthly payments on services and insurance? 

Stay tuned to see if we succeed!  C
lick to subscribe to the GrowingSlower RSS feed.  This post is linked up with Frugally Sustainable & SortaCrunchy

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Blessing of Having Little

Small house
Image Source
Over the last couple of years, we've spent a fair amount of time bemoaning the fact that the bad economy has us stuck in a one-bedroom condo with a serious lack of storage. To be sure there are some drawbacks.  However, there are many reasons that this is a great place for us to settle into our lives as a family of three.  





Family Togetherness
No matter where I am in our home, I am still only a few steps away from BabyE.  We do use a baby monitor on the rare occasions that he naps in our bed without me.  We don't really need to though. I just don't feel right if I don't hear every little breath.  In addition I am never far from DH when he's home either.  It's more natural to start up a conversation or just say "I love you" when you're always within earshot. Sometimes it's annoying  that our kitchen is so small, but rarely do we bump into each other without exchanging a smile. 


Less Time to Clean
I don't know about you, but I do not enjoy cleaning. I do love the feeling of having a clean and tidy house. I'm just not going to go around dusting, vacuuming, and scrubbing toilets for fun. Living in a small space frees up lots of time that I would otherwise have to be cleaning to enjoy spending time with Baby. One time DH said, 'Wouldn't it be nice to have two bathrooms?'  I just looked at him like he was crazy. To me, that would just be one more bathroom to clean! 



Less Energy
Small spaces use less energy. There is simply less volume to heat. Multifamily buildings especially use even less. Our unit is insulated by the units above, below, and to three sides of us. Of course this is green and save us money. 

Less Stuff

As I've been decluttering, I'm amazed at how much stuff we actually do fit into our small space. I can only imagine if we had more bedrooms, closets, and (gasp!) a garage! A tiny home makes  it harder to accumulate unnecessary possessions. It also takes less and is cheaper to furnish. 



No Yard Work on the Weekend
One of the draw backs of our current home is that we have zero outdoor space. Still, on sunny summer Saturdays I am thankful we can walk to the park and enjoy the "yard" maintained by someone else rather than spending time weeding and mowing. Not that I'd ever want lawn no matter where we live, but in theory it saves time.


Someday, in the hopefully not too far distant future we will move to a (slightly) bigger place. For today I'm counting my blessings to be living in a small cozy space with my two favorite people. 




If you'd like to read the next post, click to subscribe to the GrowingSlower RSS feed.  This post is linked up with Sorta Crunchy and Frugally Sustainable.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Declutter 2012 {Dispose of Expired Prescriptions}

It is Operation De-clutter in our home. It's time for some serious purging! It feels great to be getting rid of stuff and living with less. However, I've realized it takes quite a bit of research and a little creativity to be sure I'm disposing of things in the most environmentally friendly way possible. So every week I'm going to post on my findings on how to do a green declutter.  I'll also tell you what other items I've cast off that week.


Image Source

The one room in our house that has officially been decluttered is the bathroom. It was probably the easiest because it has a finite number of cabinets and drawers to clean out and not a lot of places for piles to accumulate. I got rid of about half of everything in there, and now there is a lot more space that helps keep everything organized. I found out that I don't need to buy a lot of items like tooth paste, face wash, or moisturizer for a long long time. Now all the extras are in one easy to spot location, so we know what's available. Decluttering saves money.



How to Dispose of Prescription Drugs
While decluttering the bathroom, I found several expired prescriptions. I wasn't exactly sure what the green options for disposing of them were.  With BabyE soon to be crawling, I knew it would not be safe to keep them around the house.  Properly disposing of pharmaceuticals reduces the risk that little ones will accidentally get into these dangerous substances. Putting them in the garbage is not an option because the drugs can leak into the ground water from landfills.  Flushing unused prescriptions is also not a green choice because it puts the drugs directly into lakes, reservoirs, and groundwater which supply drinking water for humans and habitat for entire ecosystems. Prescriptions are great when you need them. It is not so great when substances such as antidepressants, birth control, and antibiotics reach the drinking water of healthy individuals, especially kids. Even in trace amounts, this is a big problem. 

Instead, it's best to take back expired prescriptions to local pharmacies and government agencies that will properly dispose of them.  Do a quick search of DisposeMyMeds.org, The Drug Take Back Network, or Earth911.com to find drop off locations in your area. I've noticed none of these is a complete list, so you may need to check more than one. You can also call local pharmacies to see if they accept expired prescriptions. Then, simply take back your meds! I took back mine this week, and it was really simple.  There was a secure bin where I could drop my prescriptions without having to wait in line. The Drug Enforcement Administration also hosts community prescription take-back days. The next one is April 28.  House Resolution 2939 Pharmaceutical Stewardship Act of 2011 is currently in committee. Contact your representatives to encourage them to make environmentally friendly drug disposal more available nationwide. 


And now...
...What I got rid of this week...


2 Pairs Sunglasses
Fondue Pot
1 Pair Boots
Salad Spinner
Christmas Plate
6 years worth of Pay Stubs





There's much more decluttering to come! Click to subscribe to the GrowingSlower RSS feed to see next week's post.  This post is linked up with Sorta Crunchy & Frugally Sustainable

Saturday, January 14, 2012

No Spend Month {Week Two}

Image Source
January is No Spend Month at our house this year. We are doing it to bring our current spending more in line with our new one-income status and as a detox after the consumer-centric holiday season.  Of course, buying less stuff will help us be more green and more resourceful as well. We usually spend about $500 on groceries each month. Instead, this month we will be budgeting to spend only $500 on all non-bill expenses including groceries, gas, household items, dining, entertainment, and yes coffee! 

What We Spent
Last week we spent $165. This week we spent only $110.  Thirty dollars went to gas.  Since it's only week two, we decided not to fill the tank all the way up.  As always, $43 went toward our box of organic produce from our CSA, and I spent $28 at Whole Foods.  That's right. I made it out of Whole Foods spending under $30! Netflix got $9.

How We Did It
We started off the week eating a Salmon & Spinach Quiche.  Eggs are a delicious and relatively inexpensive source of protein. It takes 3 1/2 eggs to equal one serving of protein, which costs us about 87 cents. Compare that to one serving of beef which costs around $1.87.  The next day we had beef and lentil stew. Stew meat costs about half as much as steak, and if you put it in the slower cooker it will get nice and tender. Other low costs favorites are Cuban Green Soup and Quinoa and Black Beans.

What We Learned
What I realized this week was that we're not just saving money by doing No Spend Month.  I'm also saving an amazing amount of time. I only had six items on my grocery list this week. I was able to leave the house, strap BabyE into his carseat, drive to the store, grocery shop, check out in the express line, put the groceries in the car, go back into the store to find Baby's hat that fell off, put Baby back in the car, drive home, and unpack the groceries all within 35 minutes! We have $225 left and over two weeks. I hope we make it!

What ways do you save on buying Real Food?

Stay tuned to see if we succeed!  C
lick to subscribe to the GrowingSlower RSS feed.  This post is linked up with The EO, Sorta Crunchy, and Frugally Sustainable

Monday, January 9, 2012

No Spend Month {Week One}


January is No Spend Month at our house this year. We are doing it to bring our current spending more in line with our new one-income status and as a detox after the consumer-centric holiday season.  Of course, buying less stuff will help us be more green and more resourceful as well. We usually spend about $500 on groceries each month. Instead, this month we will be budgeting to spend only $500 on all non-bill expenses including groceries, gas, household items, dining, entertainment, and yes coffee! 


What We Spent
We just wrapped up week one. All together we spent $165 this week.  That was $43 for our box of organic produce from the CSA, $35 at Whole Foods, and $87 at Costco for bulk staples.  

Image Source
How We Did It
It almost goes without saying that there is no room for dining or coffee out this month. Instead, we are making sure to pack lunches using dinner left overs, and make coffee at home. DH is using Starbucks VIA packs for real "caffeine emergencies" because they're cheaper than going to a cafe especially if you buy in bulk. 


We have tried to make the most out of everything we buy at the grocery store. At the beginning of the week, I roasted a whole chicken and potatoes. After we were done, I made chicken stock with chicken carcass. I used the stock in a double batch of chili later in the week. Soups and chili are a great way to make less meat go further.  The next night, I made Thai peanut chicken with left over chicken.  When trying to eat on a tight budget while still buying organic, it often means leaving out meat. This week I tried making my own veggie burgers for the first time. They came out pretty well. I think I'll do it again soon with just a couple of tweaks, and then freeze them for a quick meal when we don't have time to cook. Way cheaper than the store bought version!  We've also been baking our own bread and granola at home for a while now for even more savings. 

What We Learned
We initially thought that a $500 budget sounded pretty generous. It has taken a surprising amount of thought in order to keep us within our budget. This being only the first week, I'm still not entirely sure if we're going to make it. If everything comes together, and nothing unexpected comes up, I think we're on track to meet our goal. Maybe. 


Are you doing No Spend Month? What motivated you to try it?


Stay tuned to see if we succeed!  Click to subscribe to the GrowingSlower RSS feed.  This post is linked up with The EO & Sorta Crunchy.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Ear Flap Hat for BabyE

I had almost given up hope of ever knitting again after BabyE was born. When does a mom ever have two hands free or two minutes to sit down and do something that is all her own? When given the choice, I always choose to be snuggling Baby than doing anything else. (He is sleeping in the Ergo as I write.) On the way home for Thanksgiving, though, I knew he would have to be safely strapped into his carseat, leaving me with at least five hours on my hands.
As soon as I found out for sure I was having a boy, (I had already guessed it for weeks, but the ultrasound confirmed it) I bought this gorgeous variegated blue wool called Trabajos Del Peru.  It's hard to believe it has sat in my knitting basket for a year! (Yes I have a little yarn addiction, DH would point out) It is spun in a thick-thin texture with an overall aran weight. As a pattern called Big Wool Little Hat would indicate, it called for super bulky instead, so I had to do a little big of finagling to get the gauge to work out right.

I doubled up the yarn and used size 15 needles.  My new gauge was 3 stitches per inch, so I knitted the child pattern to end up with a hat that was 16 inches around and 7 inches tall. It was extremely quick and easy to knit. It only took me about two hours in between comforting and singing to my babe who hates the car. There was just one hiccup at the end.  If you braid the tassels as written in the pattern, it ends up with two separate braids instead of one fat one. Instead, I used the pattern notes posted by maganv on Ravelry:

"For the top braids, I modified the instructions in the pattern as follows:
Movement 1: Thread your R3 finger through the R2 loop and the L2 loop and pick the L1 loop up, drawing it back through the L2 and R2 loops."

If you decide to knit with the yarn suggested in the original pattern, be sure to check the comments on Ravelry as some people had trouble with the size coming out as expected. Also, ignore the stitch counts at the end of the rows because they're not quite right. I just love this hat design, and we've already gotten a bunch of compliments on it when we're out and about.

Do you find time to knit with a little one (or more) at home?

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This post is linked up with Sorta Crunchy and Frugally Sustainable

Sunday, January 1, 2012

2012 Resolution: Bible Literacy Challenge

I have to admit I am a little sad to see 2011 pass. It was the most joyous year of my life so far with the expectation and arrival of our little BabyE and watching him grow and learn in his almost five months so far. However, it seems as if each year keeps getting better and better, so if the trend continues, 2012 promises to be a great one!  I hope it will be happy and blessed for each of you too.


This of course is a great time for resolutions. I typically avoid making any resolutions, because they always seem to get broken, don't they? I am going to make an exception this year. There really is something about having a baby awakens an aspiration to be better in all aspects of life. We've already made so many positive changes to give Baby the best start possible. I don't want to let another year pass without making this important change in our daily lives.

My dear Aunt has challenged us all to read the entire Bible with her this year.  This will be her 14th time reading the entirety of God's Word. What an inspiration! She'll be blogging about her journey. Won't you join us? Go to BibleGateway and sign up to receive emails with each day's reading assignment. I look forward to all God has in store for us this year!


Are you going to take the Bible Literacy Challenge?


If you'd like an update on my experience reading through the Bible in one year, be sure to subscribe to the GrowingSlower RSS feed.  This post is linked to Just Write at the EO

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