Archives for July 2009

Eating Better

vegsMy family and I are trying to eat better. For us, that means more local and organic foods, creating our own square foot garden, and switching to grass-fed, pastured, and humanely raised meat. We’re not completely there yet, but we’re working on it.

It’s no secret that eating fewer processed foods and more whole foods (foods in their natural state) is healthier and allows you to avoid many chemicals and preservatives. What I’m learning, is that it takes a bit of work to seek out the healthiest choices. While those options are sometimes more expensive, if you plan well and do a little research, you can actually save money as well as time.

Over the next week, I’ll be highlighting in more detail some of the steps we’re taking to improve the quality and health-factor of our food. I’ll also talk about how we’re attempting to plan better to save both money and time. I’m certainly no expert and since we’re just getting started on this path, I may not have learned the “best” way to go about it yet. But I wanted to share with you what I’ve learned so far, and hopefully inspire you to think about the food you’re eating, too.

To kick off the healthy food theme for next week, I’ve listed some food-related sites I like:

Cheap, Healthy, Good

Food Renegade

Small Homestead

Make It From Scratch

Have a great weekend everyone!

Photo Credit: Chiefnuh

The Cheapest Isn’t Always Best

I have a guest post up today over at It’s Frugal Being Green. The post is about the need to sometimes spend a little more to get products that either work better or last longer. Carrie has a great site; I’d encourage you to check it out.

If you’re new here, welcome. Feel free to look around and please consider subscribing.

Autism and Environmental Factors

hc-logoHealthy Child, Healthy World, one of my favorite sites for child safety information, received permission to reprint an article highlighting the results of a study conducted by University of California scientists. Their conclusion: the exponential increase in Autism rates “cannot be explained by changes in doctors’ diagnoses and most likely is due to environmental exposures.” It’s an interesting and important read. You can find the article, titled, Autism: It’s the Environment, Not Just Doctors Diagnosing More Disease by clicking the link.

How to Make Your Own Cloth Napkins

Cloth Napkins D

This is a guest post from Nicki at Domestic Cents. Nicki writes about all things domestic, frugal and crafty.

Our family used to use a LOT of paper napkins and paper towels. We used them at every meal time and we used them generously. I don’t like greasy fingers and I especially don’t like those fingers wiped on clothing. The rate that we went through paper towels and napkins was beginning to be ridiculous. I was purchasing large packages of them far too frequently.

Paper napkins bothered me for two reasons:

1. Using them was very wasteful.
2. Purchasing them constantly was cutting into my food budget.

We’re pretty casual people so cloth napkins hadn’t really crossed my mind for our home. They felt too formal for us. I decided to give them a try anyway because they seemed like a good solution to me. After using them for a couple years now I can confidently tell you that I was wrong. They work great for us and they don’t have to be formal at all. In fact, I have a set with polka dots on them – very fun.

I’ve never purchased any because they are simple to sew yourself, even without a sewing machine. I picked up some remnant fabric to make the set I’m about to show you but you can really think outside the box with these. Do you have sheets or pillowcases that you no longer use? How about a men’s collared shirt? Do you have old curtains shoved into a linen closet? Any of these things could be washed, cut and sewn into cloth napkins. Get creative. To avoid using napkin rings, each person could have a different-looking napkin. Maybe you could make one with a funny pattern for your younger kids and help your hubby feel more manly by choosing something with a cool logo on it. It’s completely up to you.

Here’s what you need:

* (1) 18″ square of fabric for each napkin
* Thread, to match the fabric if you like
* Needle or sewing machine
* scissors
* pins
* iron
* ironing board

Here’s what you do:

1. Cut however many napkins you’d like to make.

2. Iron out any wrinkles then iron each corner over half an inch, then half an inch again. Like this:
Cloth Napkins 1
3. Stay at the iron and iron over each side half an inch, then half an inch again, just like you did with the corners.
Cloth Napkins 2
This should make the corners form a pointy triangle.
Cloth Napkins 3
4. Pin around each side to secure.

5. Sew it. Use either a sewing machine or sew by hand. Be sure to secure each corner and back stitch at the beginning and end so they will hold up well when they’re washed.

6. Iron your final product and voila!

Cloth Napkins E

Thing to note:
*You can make these any size you like. Your beginning square just needs to be 2″ larger than the size you’d like your final product.
*Are you good at embroidery? (No? Neither am I.) If you are, consider embroidering each person’s initial in the corner of their own napkin.


For more fun and easy projects, check out Handmade Home: Simple Ways to Repurpose Old Materials into New Family Treasures, by Amanda Blake Soule.

 


Why? Give Yourself a Reason

I write about saving things here. Saving time, saving money, saving the planet. Lately, I’ve been thinking about the why of it all. Part of this is because I’ve just finished Gail Blanke’s book, Throw Out Fifty Things: Clear the Clutter, Find Your Life. In it, she talks about getting rid of both the physical and mental clutter in your life so you’re free to be the person you were meant to be. To do that, though, you have to know who you want to be and why.

That same concept is important when it comes to saving the three things I mentioned above. Why do we want to save time? What are we going to do with it? Why do we want to save money? What are we saving it for? Why do we care about saving the planet? Unless we can tie these things to some greater purpose, or view them as integral parts of the person we wish to be, then they’re really nothing more than chores. And chores stink. They feel like work. They’re no fun.

If we base our lives around nothing but chores, we take the fun, and often the happiness, out of everyday living. Life becomes a series of days in which we labor for something (what?) at some undefined point down the line. That’s no way to live.

As I’ve been turning these ideas over in my mind, I’ve come up with a few things to ask yourself (and things I’ve been asking myself) with regard to the three areas most dealt with here: time, money, and the planet.

Time

It seems that everyone wants to save some time these days. There are countless books and seminars on time management. We constantly hear phrases like “work smarter, not harder.” Efficiency is something we value in this society. Let’s assume you could become your absolute most productive. What are you going to do with all that time you save? The problem with generically thinking about saving time is that, if we’re not careful, the time we save is frittered away on something pointless. If you’re saving yourself some time on things you don’t really want to be doing, take some time to figure out how to use it on things you really do want to be doing? If you had an extra 15 minutes a day, what would you do with it? How about 30 minutes? How about an hour? Think about how you really want to spend your time (exercising, reading, watching that movie you’ve been meaning to get to, spending some quiet time alone, learning a new skill, hanging out with friends) and make sure you end up doing those things. When you have a purpose or a goal, suddenly that free time breeds happiness.

Money

Saving and cutting costs can feel like denial. Most of us would like to have more money now to do the things we want to do. But, if we can view saving as a way to accomplish larger goals, it can feel like fun. Each dollar added to your dream, can create the excitement of being one step closer to it. The key is to identify your dreams. Determine, as specifically as possible, what you’re saving for. Do you want to pay off debt? Trust me, your whole person will feel lighter when you do. Do you want to be able to pay cash for your next car? Do you want to buy a house? Do you want to go on a really great vacation? What is it that matters to you? Once you’ve identified that dream (or those dreams, if you have several), write them down. Cut out pictures of your dreams and post them where you’ll see them every day. Trent, at The Simple Dollar, used to wrap a picture of his son around his credit card when he was trying to cut back on his spending. Every time he was tempted to buy something, he saw the photo of his son and knew that if the purchase was frivolous, it just wasn’t worth sacrificing his family’s goals for it. Once you know what you want, and how much it will cost to get it, saving is no longer a drag, it’s quite literally a dream coming true.

The Planet

Saving the planet sounds great–very noble. Who wouldn’t want to save the planet? But the fact is, though it’s not as difficult as some might imagine to make changes in your daily life, we’re all busy. Unless you view helping the planet as something that you value, you’re not going to make much progress. I became more interested in my impact on the world around me when I had children. When they arrived, I was suddenly forced to think about the world I want them to grow up in, and the world I want to leave behind for them and their children. Every time I recycle something, I think of it as one less piece of trash my kids will have to clean up.

It’s also about teaching my children to look beyond themselves. If we focus only on ourselves and our stuff, we become extremely selfish. By thinking about our impact on the world and the people around us, we become better stewards, better people.

Simple Mom created a Back to Basics series that will cover all manner of basic homemaking tasks. The very first post in her series isn’t about a skill at all, but a call to first define why you want to learn these skills. She asks her readers to figure out what they value individually and as families. Because, she writes, “All the canning, ironing, and meal planning in the world will matter a hill of beans if they’re done out of obligation, or accomplished aimlessly out of not knowing what to do next. . .unless there’s a motivating reason behind doing our day-to-day chores, we’ll lose heart, and we won’t care about our results.” I couldn’t agree more.

I’d love to hear about how you bring meaning to the things you do in your everyday lives.

This post was submitted to the Link Party at Remodeling This Life. Check it out to read posts from some great blogs.