Sunday, October 31, 2010

No Impact Man

This weekend I watched this amazing documentary called No Impact Man.  It was fabulous.  It follows Colin Beavan, his wife, and daughter as they try to live without creating any negative impact on the earth for an entire year.  It certainly shows the extremes of making no impact on the environment (no fridge, toilet paper, electricity), but I found it incredibly inspiring.  As the year passes the family draws closer together and finds satisfaction in a more simplistic way of life.  I also found it to be a good kick in the butt.  No matter how "green" I think I am, I can always find way to improve and lower my waste.  A few ideas came to mind:

*Try to lower my use of Kleenex by using a handkerchief.  My family of Amish decent always does this, so not only am I saving trees I'm also embracing my heritage.
*Try to minimize the amount of packaging I bring into our home and find creative uses for the packaging that cannot be avoided.  Beavan makes that point that even if we recycle out plastics, we recycle down, i.e., down in the quality, until our plastic becomes toxic.  I'd never thought about that.
*Actually program our programmable thermostat, with a lower temp at night while we sleep.
* Start a compost bin.  We plan on having a garden next year, so a compost heap would be incredibly helpful.  Additionally my Gram composts, so again, embracing my familial traditions.
* Increase the amount I walk, even as the weather gets colder.  This is a big one for me.  I'm quite good about walking everywhere in the summer, but as the fall approaches I give up and hop in the car.  I've never really made an effort to bundle up & still walk.  I'd like to try.  
* Use up what I have on hand, instead of purchasing new products.
*Repair and mend things we already have, instead of replacing items that have a defect.
* Try to eat more local and organic foods.
* Keep reading and researching more ways to cut my impact.

These are just a few of the things I thought about while watching the film.  What are ways that you can improve your impact?

Friday, October 29, 2010

Dolly Parton's Imagination Library--Free Children's Books

Today I signed Little E up for Dolly Parton's Imagination Library. As an English major and a former English teacher I could not be more thrilled.   If you have never heard of this program it is absolutely amazing.  Once you sign up, your child will receive a brand new age appropriate book every month until their 5th birthday and it is completely free.  Parents can enroll all of their children under the age of 5 and because the books are age appropriate, siblings will receive different books for their own libraries.  The program, available in the US, Canada, and the U.K.,  is supported by the local community and may not be available in all areas, so it is important to check out their website to see if the library is available in your city.  I highly believe in early childhood literacy, so if it is available in your area I encourage you to sign up!

If you live in the Fort Smith area the local number to call is 479-782-1311.

Happy Reading!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Inexpensive Child Gift Wrap

I know that newsprint has long been a frugal gift wrap staple. While the jury is still out as to whether it is a social faux pas, it is something that I use occasionally. I like to use newspaper as wrapping when the gift is "given" by a child or is a child's present.  Here are two examples of how I made newspaper wrapping paper work for me. 

 This was Emerson's present to her Nana on Mother's Day.  I glued a sticky note as the gift tag (N for Nana).

The other present was for the daughter of some of our friends.  Amelee was turning one, so again I glued a sticky note down as the gift tag and wrapped it in some left over red Christmas ribbon. 

I think both presents looked festive and child like and best of all the wrapping was resourceful and free!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Sometimes You Just Need to Laugh

Today I am ridiculously tired and my internet isn't working very well, so I'm giving up on posting anything of importance.  I'll be back at it again tomorrow.  In the meantime, I saw this today and it made me laugh so hard I cried.  Twice.  Enjoy.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Living Well With Less

 Today I was filled with gratitude.  It is often my mantra as the day goes on to pray and meditate upon the things that I am thankful for.  Inevitably, none of the things I am thankful for have anything to do with material possessions.  Instead, it is my life with my family and people whom I love that make my heart filled with joy on a daily basis.  I have made a conscious choice to not clutter my life with material possessions and instead focus my energy upon experiences and my family.  Over this last year I have really learned to embrace simplicity and find joy in small things.  It has been my hope to pass this on to Emerson and today I realized, without trying, I have.  I was reflecting upon our play in the last week and all of E's favorite toys were not "must-have-plastic-Einstein-toys".   

Playing with the pop up picture inside the Vocalpoint box. 

Drum made from more Vocalpoint packaging

Reading the newspaper with Daddy

Helping in the kitchen
Surprisingly, Emerson was just as delighted with our homemade toys as any other toy we have for her.  It is amazing that children are equipped to be content with what they have, while often, as adults we struggle to find that same joy and peace.  It is definitely something I know I continually work on, but for now, I think I'll just take some lessons from my daughter.

How do you find joy in simple things?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Rewarding Rewards Programs

Manufacturer rewards programs are amazing.  Over the past couple of years I have been using the to get things for free.  I've gotten many things including gift cards, magazine subscriptions, movie tickets, and toys, to name a few.  Some of these things have been for our family and some have been given as gifts, and all have been enjoyed.  Here are just a handful of manufacturer rewards programs I use.


Swagbucks: This is possibly the easiest and most rewarding of all rewards programs.  Swagbucks is a search engine that rewards you for searching through their search engine and downloading their toolbar.  When you search, you will occasionally receive Swagbucks as a reward for your search.  Those Swagbucks can then be used to purchase items at the Swagstore or cashed in for gift cards.  Swagbucks quickly accumulate and you can earn a $5 Amazon gift card for 450 swagbucks.   I signed up at the beginning of September and have already earned $15 worth of Amazon gift cards, all just for using their search engine and toolbar.  Very simple, and very easy.

Coke Rewards:  We don't tend to buy a lot of pop, but when we do, Coke is my brand of choice.  Inside each lid or 12/24 pack of pop there is a code that can be entered for points; however, you do not need to be a huge Coke drinker to get codes.  My family saves the codes for me, and I have gotten them while picking up litter on walks.  I have used these codes to purchase free magazine subscriptions and movie tickets.  Codes can be accumulated to get free Coke, car rental upgrades, Chilis gifts cards, etc.  One warning, your Coke rewards WILL expire if you don't add any new codes for a decent length of time (6 months or so) so if you don't drink a lot of Coke you can space out entering in your codes to help keep your account active. 

Huggies Enjoy the Ride Rewards:   I primarily use cloth diapers, but once we got married I started paying attention to the promotional codes posted on MSM and other places and started an account.  Not only are Huggies Rewards found in packages of diapers and wipes, but they also publish promotional codes.  That means, even if you don't purchase any Huggies products (i.e. you're a grandparent, aunt, in the stage of life where you have to go to baby showers) you can join Huggies Rewards and start accumulating points.  They offer diapers, toys, and music downloads as rewards.

Pampers Gifts to Grow:  This is Pampers Rewards program, and it is very similar to Huggies.  They too offer codes on their diapers and wipes, and they too often have promotional codes that will float around on frugal living websites.  They, however offer a MUCH larger selection than Huggies does.  While many of the rewards are babycentric, there are also rewards for photo books, photo development, and a spa basket.

*With both Pampers and Huggies rewards you do not need to have children to sign up!  You can use these rewards to get music and a spa basket.  Pamper yourself a little!

One final note, you can also donate you rewards at Huggies, Pampers, and Coke to charitable organizations and schools.

Whether you choose to donate your rewards, or use them as a fun supplement to your budget I highly recommend joining rewards programs.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Eating Out of the Pantry: World's Easiest Supper

Tonight I was tired after cleaning up around the house and didn't have much energy to put toward supper.  I decided to revist a meal I made a lot when I was a poor college kid and often only had groceries my mother had given me. 

Supplies:  Brown Rice, Black Beans, Corn, Tomatoes with Chilies

 Steam rice according to directions.  Dump in a bowl.  Open black beans and corn, drain and rinse.  Add tomatoes and chilies with sauce. 
 Combine thoroughly.

There is no need to heat the beans and corn, as the heat of the rice will warm them up.  Sprinkle with cheddar or Mexican blend cheese and eat!

This meal can be made in about 7 minutes or less depending on how long it takes to steam your rice.  Fast, delicious, and nutritious.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Take A Peek At My Frugal Shower

The best frugal living book that I know is The Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyzyn.  In fact, I would go as far as saying Amy Dacyzyn is the Godfather of the modern frugal living movement--if there is such a thing.  I adore her book and use it as a reference continuously.  

One of the more charming features of her book are the hand drawn photos of what a frugal person's home would look like.  A picture of their fridge, a picture of their garage, etc.  When thinking of what to write today I thought I would present my own frugal shower.  NOW, before I get people jumping down my throat, I want to explain something.  I try to be as green as possible, but I do not extend that effort to my toiletries.  I would like to, LOVE to in fact, but natural toiletries are about triple the price of mainstream products and are rarely free with coupons.  My friends and family know that I like natural products and often provide them to me as gifts, but I cannot see making room in our budget to pay for things that I can otherwise get for free.  If that makes me a horrible environmentalist, I own it.  

But I digress...

This is what our frugal shower looks like:

In our shower caddy, on the right, we have multiple bottles that I have filled with samples.  I send away for them, wait until I have a few of the same kind and squirt them all in a little bottle.  I realize to some that this might seem tedious, but I genuinely enjoy it.  Call me a freak, but I find it relaxing to fill up those little bottles.  I like switching brands often, and dare I say it, I find it EXCITING to try something new.  (I'm sure I could get help for this condition somewhere).    On the left that yellow tub is a sugar scrub that was a Christmas gift.
On the bottom left there is a toothpaste sample and on the right a bar of soap that was a gift. 
On the other side, the Gillette body was wash free after a coupon.  The orange tube of body wash was a gift.  The water bottle is from the hospital and is now holding Emerson's Hiney wash.  The bottle of Citre Shine conditioner was a gift from my Dad.  It was $3 for a salon size at Big Lots and I couldn't rationalize spending money on it (even though it is my absolute favorite) when I can get conditioner for free.  My dad, seeing my freakish tightwad struggle, bought me not one, but two bottles.  If that isn't fatherly love, I don't know what is.  The last bottle is a leftover from JC's bachelor days.  It is probably a million years old, but he sometimes uses it, so it's still hanging around.

Total Amount Spent on Entire Shower of Toiletries:  $0

I try not to pay anything for toiletries for our household if at all possible.  If I can't get shampoo and conditioner for free after coupons, I will use my stockpiled samples until I can find a deal on a full sized bottle.  For Emerson, I try to pay less than $1 for Aveeno products, and $0.50 for Johnson & Johnson products after coupons.  The largest expenses we ever have are razors and I tend to be able to find JC a sample or two just about the time he needs them, so I don't think I've had to pay for any razors for him in the last three years.  For my razors, I buy whatever is on sale and the cheapest.  Last week, after two coupons, I paid a little under $0.50 a blade for me.   (I try to keep a bottom price for each toiletry and stick to it. It helps me stay on budget).

How I do it in 3 easy steps:

1.  Give Samples a Chance--  I adore sampling.  If it could be considered a hobby, it would be mine.  I find many, many samples linked from and  I have also found in my years of sampling, that samples are cyclical.  For instance, when I first started sampling deodorant samples were being given out like candy.  At the moment, I'm find that toothpaste and laundry detergent samples are prevalent.  If you stock up, when samples are being given, you should be able to get by for a long time without having to purchase anything.

2.  Don't Be A Monogamist--Switch brands.  A lot.  Buy what is on sale or the lowest price after a coupon.  Sure, I have personal preferences and I try to find them at my absolute bottom price, but most of the time, I just use whatever I can get for free.  Gotta love free.

3.  Ask & You Shall Receive--If you must have a certain brand of [insert toiletry here], put the word out that you like whatever it may be.  My mom and sisters always make a point of trying to buy me a few special bottles of lotion or body scrub that they know I will like.  That usually keeps me pretty stocked through the year.

Try to adopt just one of these methods, and I am certain you will see a HUGE dent in your toiletry budget.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

New Wrap

I spent most of the day today at the dentist getting 3 of my 9 cavities filled.  9, you read right.  Perhaps my Skittle addiction is catching up to me.  Pretty sad for only having one my whole life.

The only highlight of the day was I got to try out my new wrap.  I finally made the splurge and bought a Lovey Duds wrap.  I wore it for around an hour today, long enough to make lunch, hang wash, and pick up the house.  I am happy to report no back pain.  Woo Hoo new wrap!  Hopefully it will work just as well when we're walking around India. 

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Works for Me Wednesday: Diaper Edition

 When I first found out I was pregnant I decided to forgo any baby "must haves" and do what would work for us and our budget. Some of the things we cut out were buying brand new clothing, formula, a matching crib suite, disposable diapers, and a changing table.  I have never regretted any of these decisions and in some ways they have allowed us to come up with more creative solutions and utilize things we've already had in new ways.  For instance, our diapering area.


Some of our friends blessed us with this pack and play before Emerson was born.  It came with bassinet and changing table attachments, as well as this shallower section.  This pack and play has been a life saver, and for the first 6 months of Emerson's life it was her bed in our room.  After Emerson out grew the changing table attachment on her pack and play we had simply been putting a towel down on our bed and changing her there.  That worked, but it got to be a bit of a pain, so once E was no longer sleeping in her pack and play I decided to repurpose it as a changing table.  It has worked out beautifully.  The pack and play still has the little diaper holder for the diapers and the wipes and I just put a towel under her to protect the pack and play from any "moisture" that might be flying about.   I know it doesn't look as pretty as a wooden changing table, but it totally works for us.  Also, beside the pack and play is our broken stainless kitchen trash can, that has since been repurposed as our cloth diaper pail.  Again, may not look pretty, but it works.

 This is a shot inside E's closet.  This little plastic drawer guy was in our garage.  After a quick wipe down it became our cloth diaper/extra wipes/toiletries holder.  It is awesome.  The Christmas basket on top was a clearance item from Target a couple of years ago, and that holds all of E's prefolds and diaper covers.   Both of these items have been stuff that was just sitting around, not serving a lot of purpose, and now they keep me totally organized. 

I have found that when I need something if I just look through what I have, I tend to find a solution.  It might not be adorable, but I would pick something utilitarian over cute any day of the week.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Cloth Wipes for Beginners

After using disposable wipes since Emerson was born, I have finally made the transition to cloth wipes.  I had intended to use cloth wipes a lot sooner, but being a new mom is overwhelming, and I keep getting wipes for free after coupons, so I kept putting it off.  Well today, everything officially changed!

 Here's how I did it.

  I took a receiving blanket the hospital gave us when we took E home, and laid it out.

I folded it in half, fourths, & finally eighths.  After folding it I cut it in to strips, and then smaller sections.
 I did it while watching The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills on Hulu, and I think it took less that 5 minutes.
The final product yielded 16 wipes.

I decided to use a combination of baby wash cloths and the receiving blanket.  I have to be honest and confess that I have no idea how long this supply will last, but I have another blanket that I can cut to use.

I then had to make the wipe solution.  After reading many opinions online, I decided on dry storage, instead of wet. I took a water bottle the hospital gave me to recover (ahem) post childbirth to hold the solution, while storing the wipes in an old disposable tub.

Below are the materials I used to make the solution.

Emerson's Hiney Wash (This is a patented term):

2 T of Witch Hazel
2 T of Olive Oil
2 drops of Lavender Essential Oil

Finished Product
I store the solution inside the tub on top of the wipes, just to streamline things a bit.  When it comes time to use them, I just hold the wipe over the tub, squirt a little solution on the wash cloth and use it.  It's actually easier because I only have to open the cloth diaper pail, instead of the cloth diaper pail and the trash.  Super easy, super cheap, and they smell great!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Easy Hair Clip Organizer

My Mother-in-Law blessed us with a huge gallon zip lock filled with bows this summer.  I tried to use the ziploc to keep all of E's bows and barrettes collected, but it was just not working.  I was continually struggling to  find a barrette in a hurry.  Then over the weekend, I stumbled upon a solution.  I did the easy, no sew, no glue, lazy version and it worked out great.

Simply take some spare ribbon and two flat thumb tacks.

Put the thumb tack through the ribbon, and wrap the ribbon over to hide the thumb tack on both the top and the bottom of the ribbon.

Push the thumb tacks in to the wall and...

The top ribbon was a ribbon given to us by my MIL, and it made the perfect topper.  Easy peasy!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Fashionista Sunday: Doodle Bug Edition

Fashionista Friday (showing off your fabulous, but fashionable frugal finds) is upon us; just a few days late.  This past week we have been passing around some sort of flu/cold  bug, and it finally caught me.  I spent all Friday in bed, so Fashionista Friday is now happening on Sunday.  I had planned on doing a Fashionista Friday ala Domestic Fashionista, but seeing as how I was in sweats I decided to do a child edition.

Fortunately Emerson adores having her picture taken. 


Children's Place Denim Dress:  Once Upon a Child $3
Old Navy Onesie:  Thrift Store $1
Tights:  Target Clearance $2

Earlier this Summer
I absolutely adore this dress! Not only was it in mint condition, but it matches E's eyes perfectly!
Baby Gap Dress:  $1 Garage Sale
Bow:  A gift from Grandma, the queen of bows

 Labor Day

I had to show off this Baby Gap hat too.  Not only is it precious; it may be the best garage sale find ever. I found it at the same garage sale that had the above Baby Gap dress. The hat was brand new with tags on it and when I went to check out, the woman gave it to me for free.  Awesome!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Tips to Save Money & Energy: Kitchen Edition

Today while I was in my kitchen I got to thinking about how my first kitchen looked and how things have changed since that time.  I have tried to find ways to save money and energy wherever possible.  Here are some tips that work for me:

Eliminate Paper Wherever Possible--For our family, we don't use any paper products.  We don't use paper napkins, paper plates, or paper towels.  Instead, we use real dishes, cloth napkins, and cloth rags.  Our rags consist of old, bleached, or ragged bathroom towels, and cut up t-shirts.  I just keep a pile under my kitchen sink and wash them with my other kitchen towels and cloth napkins.  

Ditch the Electronic Can Opener-- This is one of the easiest energy savers I know.  Instead of using an electronic can opener, invest in a manual one that turns easily.  I can open a can manually in the same time my electronic can opener can.  Ditch the can opener; not only will you save energy, you'll also get a tiny little forearm work out.

Turn off the Heat--When washing dishes in the dishwasher, do not select the Heat Dry option after your wash cycle.  Your dishes will still dry and you'll save yourself a little money on your electric bill.  Also, in the winter, you can open up your dishwasher after the wash cycle and let that steam heat your home. And always wait until your dishwasher is full to run it to save on energy and water.

Choose Your Energy Wisely--Invest in a toaster/convection oven.  Not only does it save having to heat up an entire oven for something small, it also runs off electricity.  If you have selected to have your electricity provided by wind energy (as I'm sure you all have), you can rest easy knowing that your energy used is not harming the environment. 

Make your own foaming hand wash/dish soap--  Can't take credit here, I learned this one from my mom.  Reuse a foaming hand wash bottle by filling it 1/4 full with dish soap and the remainder with water.  I have been refilling the above Tone bottle for well over a year and it is still going strong.  This is a great way to save on liquid hand soap in the kitchen.

 Bottle It Up-- Whenever possible bottle your own tap water instead of purchasing bottled water.  (This works for me, it does not work for my husband).  Also, if you have the ability, when selecting a refrigerator, purchase one that has a built in water filtration system.  That way you will have filtered water whenever you would like, without having to purchase a filtration system.  We were lucky enough to move in to a house that already had a fridge like this and it is awesome.

Every Little Bit Counts--To avoid wasting water, when making tea, measure the amount of water needed by the actual tea cup you plan on using.  You will save the energy used to heat unnecessary water, and you will use all of the water in the kettle.  Better yet, heat your water in the microwave, which is much more energy efficient.

Unplug-- Unplug all of your appliances after use as they use up phantom energy.  This will also prevent them from being harmed if you were to have the misfortune of a power surge. 

Put a lid on it--When boiling water, if you put a lid on the pot, your water will boil quicker.  Additionally, when baking, use the oven light to check progress instead of opening the oven door.  This will allow your oven to use residual heat, instead of having to heat up again after you check your food.

Out of Sight, Out of Mind--Keep your recycle bin next to your trash bin, so it is unavoidable.  It has been my experience that if your recycling is out of sight, more recyclable material will wind up in the trash.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Adventures in Eating Out of the Pantry

Today E and I went grocery shopping at Walmart.  It proved to me the benefits of staying at home.  Not only is traffic AMAZING during the day, but it is so much easier to shop. 

Here are our groceries for the month:

Our subtotal was $35.  We spent our $15 gift cards, and after coupons we had to pay $5.80 in cash.  Not awful, but definitely not a lot of food.  (The cash was from rebates checks I had received from Luvs Leakguard Guarantee so I really didn't spend any money out of our budget.  Score!

Here's the break down of coupons:  
4 x $1.00 Ronzoni coupons making each box $0.50
$1 off any two Gerber Graduates, the third had a rebate on it 
$1 off Gain dish soap from Sunday's paper
Free Cottonelle Moist Wipes coupon

Not a great shopping trip in comparison to Aldi prices, but ok.  What put me over were the three Gerber Graduates.  I had no idea how expensive those were!  Holy cow!  I will continue making homemade baby food for as long as possible.  Man are those things over priced.

As soon as we got home I offered E some yogurt melts.  

She played with them.

She ate one...

 Oh well, maybe next time.

I got some fabulous samples today:

The Crest was from Walmart, I have no idea where I got the shampoo sample, and the BioTrue came from Costco.

For supper I made an Italian Frittata.  I'm not sure such a thing existed before tonight, but it turned out well. I made my own recipe up using egg, onion, potatoes,  roasted red peppers and fontina all of which we had on hand.  It was delicious. Even the hubs was pleased.

Another excellent day on my frugal adventure.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Free is my favorite word

Today was awesome. Period. My husband's work had a health fair that was ginormous and filled with a ton of free goodies. And I think we even got the junkier goodies because we came at the end of the day, but whatevs, I am still thrilled. We got a ton of candy (ironic for a health fair, right?), apples, granola bars, Fig Newtons (yum!), nail files, enough hand sanitizer to last for the next 3 years, letter openers, coloring books, you name it. I was particularly excited about the apples and granola bars because I've convinced J.C. to eat out of the pantry this month (more on that later) and they are a lovely little addition to our pantry.

But WAIT! there's more...the best part of the whole health fair was...drum roll please...

The FREE massage!!! Apparently the university has a massage school and they were offering massages. It.was.amazing. Amazing I tell you! I didn't realize how much my back was hurting me until that guy started pushing all around. I had some MA-JAH knots, and my entire spine cracked. I don't know if I'm all out of whack from carrying/wearing Little E or what, but man, I am thankful to that masseuse. Bravo Masseuse Man. You made me one happy Mama! They also gave me a zen garden for being the 10th person to get a massage. Um, you're welcome! Any time!

Anywhoo, on to what some might find less exciting news...

We're eating out of our pantry this month and seeing how that goes. I've read about hardcore bloggers who plan this, but really we just stumbled upon this plan out of sheer laziness. We have been trying to only grocery shop once a month and this month for multiple reasons we haven't made it to the store. Finally, I just asked J.C. if he would be alright with trying a pantry month, since the month is already well under way. Surprisingly, he agreed, as long as I would buy him bread. (How cute is he?!)

Here's the game plan: I recently received $15 worth of Dirty Wal-Mart gift cards for answering preggo questions for the Dept of Health in Arkansas. You're Welcome. I plan on using them to buy the essentials: milk, bread, tomatoes, lettuce. We had stocked up on cheese last month, and surprisingly still have a lot of canned goods, etc from last month. So we shall see how this goes. I've found recipes I'd like to try for some things that are a little out of our ordinary food rut, including making homemade pitas. I'm anxious to see how that goes.

I only wish I'd taken a before picture of the pantry.