Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Saving Money 

While I am extremely blessed to have a husband who has an amazing work ethic and a very good job, we have been feeling the effects of a depressed economy. Food and gas are not luxury items, but they might as well be for the prices we are paying for them! I have, over the years, looked for and implemented a variety of ways to save some green, and have decided it's time to do that again. I think we have become a little too relaxed about our spending and have slipped into some less than frugal habits. I want to start with a few simple goals, and once those are in place, move on from there. 

Recently, I purchased Crystal Paine's book, The Money Saving Mom's Budget. I love her practical, encouraging and simple advice. She also blogs at The Money Saving Mom where she shares frugal ideas and inspiration for making your money go farther. I have begun to implement some of her ideas, including some serious decluttering (which has already saved me money when I located some True Value Rewards coupons which I was able to put toward some hardward purchases), as well as getting great ideas about created a food budget. So, I have come up with these goals for the next few weeks and then will  evaluate what to do next when I have checked these off:

  1. Finalize food budget and successfully implement for three months.
  2. Downgrade Netflix to streaming only.
  3. Transition to once a month shopping (except for fresh purchases like produce - these must be cash purchases and budgeted for).
  4. Commit to cash-only spending for three months.
  5. Research getting rid of satellite and replacing with Netflix, Hulu, etc.
  6. Get organized and make a plan for making regular freezer meals.
  7. Add four raised beds to grow more of our own fruits and veggies.
  8. Make improvements to chicken coop and implement a routine for egg collection and cleaning to ramp up egg production.
  9. Eliminate at least one car trip a week (combine trips, carpool, etc...)
  10. Start hanging out several loads of laundry a week.
Hopefully these goals will be easy to achieve. I think with commitment, some organization and planning we be able to save money! How do you hang on to your hard earned dollars?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Smoothie Kits

Recently we were blessed to receive (for free!!!) a practically new upright freezer from a friend who is moving. So, I am working to fill it with yummy and healthy food. I especially would like some homemade convenience foods, made from great ingredients, to have on hand when I need something quick. I checked out Pinterest for some ideas and came across some really creative ones! One of my favorites was a smoothie kit. I made five up to try and have loved having a healthy whole foods breakfast ready in minutes with no prep work. 

For ours I used:

2 c bananas sliced 1" thick
2 c organic strawberries sliced in half
1 c organic blueberries
3 Tbsp orange juice concentrate
2 Tbsp ground flax seed

I put all the ingredients in a gallon size freezer Ziploc and repeated four more times :) It was fast and easy to make several at once. On Pinterest, one person froze yogurt into muffin cups and popped one cup into each kit. I definitely want to try that next time.  

When ready to use, just pour ingredients into blender, fill with water or milk or milk alternative half-way up pitcher and blend! I have also been known to add in a big handful of baby spinach (which is nearly undetectable when done this way, and really boosts the nutrient content), raw honey, coconut milk, coconut oil and bee pollen. The cool thing about smoothies (no pun intended!) is that you can sneak in all kinds of super healthy things and even the most picky eaters will seldom be the wiser. Heh heh heh. Score one for mom.

Monday, March 19, 2012

On the Homestead 

We have a loose goal around here of moving slowly toward self-sufficiency. We aren't too militant about it since we are newbies to this rural farm-life. But, we do want to progress toward growing a substantial amount of our own food. So, we picked out a site for our fledgling orchard and brought home a whopping four new baby trees. We picked out persimmon, plum and two varieties of apples. I think we need to get another plum for pollination and I'm not sure if the persimmon needs a buddy to pollinate with.

Next, we added a berry patch. We put in two kinds of blueberry bushes, four varieties of raspberries and one blackberry. I am so excited for berries! They are so expensive at the store, even more so for organic, and the thought of being able to pick tons of them from our own garden is so cool! I can hardly wait to make pies and cobblers and crisps!

And, since I really want to build and maintain a well-stocked pantry, I put in an Azure Standard order for pantry staples such as apples, oats, baking soda, shampoo, pasta and other necessities. I love Azure. My goal is to shop only once a month. So far, we have transitioned from weekly shopping to every other week. Now, I would like to mostly order from Azure and then just fill in for fresh things  like produce and raw milk from our tiny but wonderful little health food store up here in the mountains. I really want to find out if we save money shopping this way. I am guessing that just the fact that we are staying out of the stores by shopping only every four weeks will save a lot.

My next goals are to transplant the seedlings we started several weeks ago into larger pots, add another couple of trees, add four more planter boxes and start lettuces, spinach and kale in tubs. That's what's going on on the homestead!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Freedom Baby!

My poor chickens have been cooped up (literally) for about a year after an ill-conceived decision to purchase a trio of guinea hens. Those guineas decided to declare war on my hens and killed at least one if not more. So, we had to keep the chickens locked safely in their coop and yard. Fast-forward one year and two of those guineas have been "taken care of" by coyotes. Without the other two, the third one has decided "if you can't beat them, join them" and has assimilated into the flock fairly well. The only thing I have caught it doing is herding the girls back into the coop just after they were let out. It gave up after awhile and just went with the flow. So, now we are "go" for free-ranging again! 

Wahoo! I have missed those bright orange yolks and the cheerful sight of hens scratching around in the grass. More importantly, since I have to feed substantially less when I free range, I can afford to finally switch over to a soy-free organic feed. I am so excited to have free-ranged organic eggs!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

My Favorite Way to Wake Up

It's so simple but soooo good. I have hunted around and found most boxed Chai teas to be sadly lacking, but I have found the occasional brand that is quite good. I have great plans to try making my own - we'll see if that actually happens. ;) Since I can't have dairy at all, I was really missing a hot creamy cup of something in the morning until I came up with this.

1 bag good Chai tea 
1-2 Tbsp full fat coconut milk
Raw honey to taste

Pour boiling water over tea bag and steep covered in mug for five minutes (don't skimp on this step, it really enhances and deepens the flavor). Then just stir in the coconut milk and honey. Yum!