Archives for October 2009

Under the Weather. Time for Soup!

Something’s gotten me. I don’t think it’s swine flu, but I’m feeling pretty miserable. I’m tired and achy and congested . . . you get the idea. It’s a little cold out and it’s been drizzling all day. I’m cuddled up with a soft blanket and am about you warm myself up with some of my favorite soup mix.

It occurred to me that some of you may be interested in the soup mix, so you’ll find the recipe below. I mix it up in big batches and store it in glass jars (Ball jars, leftover pasta sauce jars, etc.). That way it’s always at the ready when I want something warm. I like knowing what’s in it (unlike many canned soups from the grocery store that have ingredients I can’t pronounce), it’s economical, can even be vegan depending on what you add to it. Without further ado:

Soup Mix Recipe

1 16 oz bag pearled barley
1 16 oz bag split peas
1 16 oz bag lentils
2 cups brown rice or pasta (like macaroni or rotini)
1 cup dried onion flakes
1/2 cup celery flakes
1/2 cup parsley flakes
1 1/2 tsps. thyme
1 1/2 tsps. white pepper

Mix all ingredients together and store in airtight jars. Makes 10 cups.

To cook: Add 4 cups broth (vegetable or chicken) for every 1 cup of soup mix. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer 45-60 minutes.

The beauty of this soup is that you can eat it as is, or add in anything else you want. I’ve used chopped tomatoes, carrots, basil, spinach and mushrooms in various combinations. You can also add cooked meat if you have some on hand — I’ve eaten this once with chicken and once with sausage.

I hope you’ve been able to escape some of the nastiness of this flu season, but if it’s cold and rainy where you are, this soup may be just the thing.

What frugal food do you like to eat when it’s cold out?

Photo Credit: JD’na

Blog Action Day: An Open Letter to Climate Change Naysayers

From Blog Action Day is an annual event that unites the world’s bloggers in posting about the same issue on the same day on their own blogs with the aim of sparking discussion around an issue of global importance. Blog Action Day 2009 will be the largest-ever social change event on the web. One day. One issue. Thousands of voices.

7,331 Blogs
137 Countries
11,379,251 Readers

An Open Letter to Climate Change Naysayers

Dear Naysayers,

I am no scientist. I majored in English. I’m a reader and a thinker. Science was never a strength for me in school and it still isn’t. I cannot prove to you scientifically that climate change is real, but I believe there are people who can, and I believe that it is.

I know that you disagree with me.

Actually, I wish I could believe that you are right. That we could continue to pillage and plunder this planet while it keeps rising to meet our voracious consumption. That progress, and buying into that progress, with our money and our habits are what really matter for civilization to move forward.

But I cannot.

Because I cannot, I will continue to try to: reduce my own consumption, decrease my footprint, eat more mindfully and locally, and pesticide-free. I will try to drive less and grow more. All because I believe it is necessary and because I believe it will make a difference.

I know you think this is foolish.

But let’s suppose for a moment that you are right. That the planet is not changing, that we are not using up a limited supply of resources. Let’s assume we can do whatever we want, whenever we want, however we want, with no global consequences. Even if this were true, what is the harm in living a life of less? If I, and many others, choose to take shorter showers, or choose to use public transportation, or choose to grow some of our own food — if we try to be good stewards of the planet by wasting less and giving more, where is the harm? If we come to the end of our lives and have done our best to reduce, reuse and recycle, is anyone really worse off for our efforts?

I get that you don’t think there is such a thing as climate change. What I don’t get, is why you so vehemently cry out against it. If the scientists are wrong, how does is hurt you if we try to save the planet in vain?

I realize there isn’t as much money to be made when people become more mindful of consumption and wastefulness. But truly, if money is the only motivator in life anymore, then I’m not only concerned for our planet, but for our sense of humanity.

To find out more about how you can help fight climate change, visit the Take Action Page at Also, check out all of the blogs participating in Blog Action Day 2009.

Please leave a comment below to tell us how you respond to naysayers.



Part of being ecologically and socially responsible citizens is giving back, either of your time or your money, or both. Helping others and helping the planet are both areas that I am interested in working on more. In the last couple of years, I’ve tried to become more deliberate about my giving — planning ahead of time how I want to give rather than handing some money over to each cause that pulls at my heart strings. Ultimately, this is the best decision for me. It allows me to give more to the causes I care about, which allows my gift to have more of an impact.

There are a few ways I like to give. Keep in mind that this is what works for me and it may not be the best option for you.

Large Organizations. There are a few large organizations whose work and vision are aligned with my own values. When possible, I like to give to them. A few of my favorites are Kiva, Environmental Working Group, and Healthy Child, Healthy World. Each of these groups can effect far more change than I can on my own. They are also devoted to truly making a difference, and less interested in lining the pockets of the people who run them.

Groups that provide a service I use. Public radio comes to mind first here. I regularly listen to NPR and believe I should contribute when possible because I get so much value from their programming. I also donate to the public library (usually in the form of books), because I’ve gotten a great deal of value from the services they provide as well.

Individuals. In many ways, contributing to other individuals is the most rewarding. It’s much easier to see the direct impact of the gift. The beauty of helping other people directly is that there are so many ways to help. All it takes is the willingness to listen for what’s needed and the effort to find a way to provide it. Some examples: I have worked in a high school where several of us learned that a young lady wanted to attend her senior prom, but because of her family’s circumstances, she was unable to afford the required formal attire. Someone took the initiative to let other faculty members know, and after collecting a small donation from each of us, not only was the young lady able to buy a dress and shoes, but she had enough to enjoy a nice dinner as well.

Another example, one of my favorites, comes from Jason at Frugal Dad. He says that each year his family goes out to eat on Christmas Eve. They intentionally choose a very modest restaurant, usually Waffle House or something similar. Once they’ve finished their meal, they leave a $100 tip. His rationale is that anyone working at a Waffle House on Christmas Eve could probably use the money.

Random Acts of Kindness don’t have to be monetary, though. Simply being thoughtful enough to take care of something for someone else can make a considerable difference in a person’s day.

Sometimes the things other people need are very “big” to them because of the situation they are in. Depending on your own situation, it may be that what someone else needs is relatively easy for you to provide. I’d encourage you to listen for opportunities to do what you can for others. . . not only because it’s a decent thing to do, but because it does wonders for your own sense of well-being.

What do you think? How do you like to give?

Photo Credit: Mr Kris

Square Foot Garden: Year 1

It’s been a good year with our first garden. I thought I’d show you the various stages once again.

Winter & building the boxes.

winter-gardenSpring & getting the fence up. There are SO MANY deer.


First plants coming up.



Squash plant.


Bush beans and herbs.


Tomatoes are getting tall.

organic produce garden

Even taller — holy tomatoes, Batman!

tomatoes sft

After getting the fence up, the final project for the garden area this year was adding some crushed stone over weed-fabric. Hopefully, it will continue to keep the weeds down. The tomatoes are winding down and the beans and squash are long finished.

We learned a lot this year and there are some things I’ll do differently. I’m also eager to try some new varieties of plants. We’re even talking about expanding the garden area and creating a plot on the other side of the detached garage. We’re thinking about trying our luck with corn and maybe some pumpkins over there.

Overall, this was a great experience and one we’re eager to continue. Look for updates on our continuing gardening adventures.

How did your garden grow this year?

Leo Babauta’s The True Cost of Stuff


This post is reprinted from Leo Babauta’s (of Zen Habits) new blog, mnmlist. I liked it so much, I wanted you to be able to read the full text rather than simply providing a link.

Leo writes:

Often we think about cutting down on what we buy because we’d like to be frugal, and save money. And I’m all for that.

But there’s more to buying less. Way more.

The cost of purchasing an item just scratches the surface. When we buy something, we are taking it into our homes, our lives, and we are taking on the life of another object in this world.

The life of an object? But surely you’ve gone mad, Leo.

It’s entirely possible I have — I’m talking to myself in this post, after all. But hear me out, O hypothetical reader in my mind.

An object isn’t born in the store. It is born in the woods (if it is wood), in the mines (if it’s metal), in the depths of the world (in the case of petroleum-based products such as plastics, synthetic textiles and such), or perhaps all three places and more if it’s a combination of materials. It’s born when those natural resources are mined or harvested (at great cost and great cost to the environment), and then hauled to a factory somewhere, a factory that pollutes, inevitably. It’s shaped and shifted into its final form (often in various factories), then shipped to various distribution systems and finally to the retailer.

I say finally, but it’s far from final. The life of this object has just begun to enter our lives, even though we’ve already paid for the destruction of our Earth just to own it.

Now we must transport it home, further polluting and consuming and paying — paying for the cost of fuel and maintenance of our transportation, unless it’s human-powered, as well as the cost of time, precious seconds of our lives that we’ll never get back).

All of that spent, it now occupies valuable real estate in our homes (or offices), real estate that could go to living space, or real estate that we could give up if we had less stuff and a smaller home. This is real estate that’s really expensive, btw: we pay exorbitant prices to own or rent a home, and every square foot of that home costs us more precious time that we spend working to earn the money to pay for that real estate. And that’s just for rent or mortgage. Add in the cost of power or gas to heat or cool that home, the cost of maintaining the home, and the time we spend maintaining and cleaning and decluttering and organizing that home and the stuff in it.

And yet, we’ve still only scratched the surface. The item, if it’s electronic, requires power. All the time. The item needs to be maintained. Switched on and off, cleaned, oiled, and caution taken not to break it. These are more precious seconds, precious dollars. If it’s wood or metal or glass, it might need to be polished. It might break a bit and need repairing. We have to store its warranty somewhere, and not forget about that (more mental cycles spent). We might have special tools for it, cleaning products, accessories. All of those require space and care and money.

And yet, we’re not even halfway there. I’ll spare you the rest of the narrative and just make a list.

And this is only a partial list. Some costs of owning stuff:

  • It clutters our space, causing distractions and stress.
  • We must constantly move it to get to other stuff, to clean, to organize, to paint walls or decorate or remodel.
  • We must take it with us if we move, and often if we travel. That’s a ton of trouble and costs.
  • Often we pay for extra storage, outside in our yards or in storage facilities.
  • If it breaks, we will often take it to be repaired.
  • If we have kids or pets, we have to worry about it getting broken, or scold them for not being careful with it.
  • If we get used to it, and it breaks, we’ll replace it because we think we need it.
  • If it gets old and crotchety, we have the headache of putting up with a less-than-functioning tool.
  • If we have too much stuff, it weighs us down, emotionally.
  • We get attached to our stuff, creating an emotional battle when we consider giving it up (whether we actually give it up or not).
  • If we have too much stuff, we live in a cramped space, and don’t have room for our other stuff.
  • Too much stuff causes more messes and is harder to clean.
  • We might trip over stuff and hurt ourselves.
  • If we don’t trip over it, we must worry about that each time we pass by the item.
  • If we went into debt buying the stuff, we must deal with all the pain and worry of that debt, added to other debt.
  • Even if we don’t go into debt, there’s the added burden of dealing with the financial transaction in our checking registers or financial software, or reconciling it with the bank statement. If we even bother, because sometimes it’s just too much.
  • It gives us a false sense of security.
  • It reduces the time we have to spend doing things, instead of worrying about, cleaning, maintaining, using, and working to pay for stuff.
  • It reduces the quality of the time we do have.
  • At some point, we must worry about (and spend time and money on) getting rid of the item. This means time and money spent on Ebay, Craiglist, a yardsale, giving it to a charity or friend or relative (and the driving required to do that), taking out a classified ad, dealing with buyers, and so on. A real headache.
  • If you die and leave your stuff, your relatives will have to deal with all of it. A real headache indeed.
  • If, goodness forbid, a natural disaster happens, or your home gets burgled, you’ll have to deal with the emotional loss of stuff.

I could go on, as you can probably tell. There is no way to calculate the true cost of stuff, as it’s way too complicated to put numbers on.

Just remember all of that, when you consider getting an item — even if it’s supposedly free. Nothing is free, when you consider all of the above. Are you ready to deal with the life of that item, and the life you’re going to give up to own it?

Beth’s note: This post was written by Leo Babauta and originally appeared on his new blog, mnmlist.
Photo Credit: Diego Cupolo