Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Changes We've Made and What's to Come

I have been reflecting on the past year and all the changes we've made in the way we live. If I have to be honest, we made them out of financial necessity. But we've discovered that living with intention has brought our family together and made us realize our place on this earth. Some of these adventures worked really well, others-well-we are still learning. While our budget has been cut back drastically in our efforts to get out of debt, I don't feel like I'm missing anything. In fact, I feel all the richer (in spirit) because of it. We've done a lot this year. A lot.

In the Garden
We found resources to supply us with free manure for our garden. One of our neighbors has a horse farm and always has free manure. We used all 5 yards that we took away. We could use another 5 yards to top dress our perennial gardens.

We planted raised bed gardens this year and used cheap straw from the feed store to cover the aisles in between and cut down on weeding. If our crops grow like we hope, we may need to expand the garden next year. I didn't have room for potatoes and onions this year. We have 2 rain barrels made out of recycled plastic that we use for watering and two compost bins that our food scraps and yard waste go into. We also used the composted chicken manure for fertilizer. We are hoping to reduce our produce bill by growing much of our own food this year and preserving as much as possible.

We planted 36 Tomato plants
12 Broccoli
8 Eggplant
12 Peppers-green and red
6 Chili peppers
12 Romaine Lettuce
12 Spinach
12 Leaf lettuce
12 Corn
8 Cucumber
6 Zucchini
6 Summer squash
Pumpkins
Loofah gourds
Birdhouse Gourds
Peas (didn't do well)
Sunflowers
2 Apple Trees
1 Cherry Tree
Dill
Tarragon
Basil
Rosemary
Lemon Balm
Sage
Marigolds around plants for pest control

We went apple picking last fall and picked 65 pounds of apples that I made into pies and preserved applesauce. We will go back again this year until our own fruit trees start producing.

Around the Home
We no longer use paper napkins or paper towels and instead use cloth napkins and rags for cleaning. I purchased dish towels at Job Lot for $0.25 each and cut them in half and sewed an edge on them for really pretty napkins.

They work well, and launder easily.

We eliminated all chemical cleaners from our home. Not only is this healthier for us and for the environment, it has been a huge money saver.

We now make our own all purpose cleaner, laundry detergent, dish soap, bath soap, dishwasher soap, floor cleaner and window cleaner. The basic ingredients are very cheap and the kids really enjoy making the cleaners with me.

The Pantry

I learned how to stock pile my pantry by hitting deals, store sales and replenishing only those supplies that are low. I can now shop about once every three weeks. My last bill for 3 weeks of shopping was $169.00. I shop for produce weekly and have my milk delivered from a local dairy so that price is not included in my grocery bill.

We really got a good handle on using coupons combined with store sales and I can now save an average of $50-$60 in coupons alone when I shop. Looking for freebie coupons have allowed us to get many items for free. Shopping carefully has allowed us to save over $1200.00 since February. It's been great for our budget. I shop with only canvas tote bags never using the plastic bags any longer. I'm still trying to find a way to eliminate ziploc bags but am having difficulty with this.

We decided to switch to all organic, pastured meat. It is more expensive but we've been making more vegetarian meals and creating meals that can be used at multiple sittings like chili, lasagna and Shepherd's Pie that all help to stretch the dollar. This meat above was bought at Stop and Shop. The pile to the left is all the fat we cut off. This was a 7 pound roast when we started, after cutting out the fat-it was down to 5 pounds. Not much of a savings there. We've been more conscious of where our food comes from too after watching films on the milk industry, meat and chicken industry and especially the ill effects of genetically modified food/seed from the Monsanto company. We are trying to make better choices for our family.

Organizing

In order to save money we needed to create a household notebook to keep all of the everyday information we use. Some areas of this have worked well, like my garden section, plastic keeping envelopes that I keep stamps, church tithe envelopes, address labels etc in. We also have a section for recipes, pool care and homeschool. The other sections I created for coupons and grocery shopping didn't work out because I do this in my office where I can spread out the papers and coupons. I need to look at this book again but because it's in a 3 ring binder I can easily change out what works and what doesn't.

We bought 2 plastic shelving units to keep our stock piles and supplies all in one place. I make sure that it stays clean so I can see what I have and what I need.

All of our closets were organized to help us see our supplies. This is the closet in my office and has mostly craft and homeschool supplies.

We also bought 2 very nice bookshelves for all of our homeschooling books. Each child now has a shelf for all of their own books and we can easily find eveything. This was one of the best things we did to help us organize.

Homeschooling

We streamlined our homeschool day to only include one subject per day. It has helped tremendously with stress and staying organized.

We saved a ton of money this year by ordering the kids curriculum from Amazon. Some of the books were used but in great condition. We saved $483.65 by buying closeouts and used curriculum. The rest of this money was then placed in our homeschool budget.
Having a homeschool budget allowed us to take many field trips this year. In years past this was not possible for us. Careful planning has made for a very enriching year.

Home Cooking

We bought a food dehydrator and use it frequently. I have dried herbs from the garden, apples and fruit that were too ripe for the kids to eat but makes wonderful fruit snacks and we are going to try some Turkey jerky soon. It's been a money saver because these foods are now not getting thrown out. We also bought a Cuisinart ice cream maker and make ice cream once a week. Since we can control the ingredients that go into this, we know the kids are eating healthy.

I mostly bake my own bread with whole wheat flour. I still buy some bread but am hoping to cut that out as well. I've been buying organic flour and the smell of fresh bread in the home is just delightful. Unfortunately, the kids like to be taste testers so it never lasts for long.

I've been doing more canning/preserving and using things from my yard to cook. This year I made Wild Violet Jelly. All 6 jars are gone and I made extra to give away to some of our homeschool moms. It was was delicious.

We took our first adventure in raising chickens and building a coop after watching http://www.chickenindustry.com/ and seeing how our meat chickens are brought to us and how the eggs are massed produced. We order our meat chickens from another homeschooler instead of buying them at the store. We know that they are farm raised without the use of antibiotics and growth hormones and the price isn't much different than the store.

We have 4 laying hens right now and 11 more babies in the brooder that will hopefully start laying this fall. They grow so fast.

Yes, Patrick loves his chickens.

In return for all that chicken love, they give us very pretty, delicious eggs.

Things I'd Like to Change

  • Learn to knit so I can create my own dishcloths and blankets
  • Get Goats for milking and making cheese and soap
  • Learn how to make soap-real soap
  • Expand the garden so I can plant potatoes and onions
  • Work every inch of our property to benefit our family
  • Have a huge yard sale to clean and purge stuff I don't need
  • Double my canning/preserving efforts
  • Buy more fruit trees
  • The changes we've made have not been hard. It takes research and patience to make things work and things don't change overnight. It's all been for the better for our family. I hope you decide to make some changes too.

8 comments:

Momma Snail said...

I wish you lived near me in Georgia! That way you could teach me how to be more like you! It is my dream to live on a farm and be a homesteader. We live in the city, and even though we could have chickens...our neighbors would hate us! And I want to learn to garden..but it just seems to "hard" for me. I love the idea of one subject a day! That is a great idea!

homeschool mamma said...

Thank you-And I often read your blog and think the same thing. If you get all hens they are mostly quiet. Dogs are more noisy. Most people don't even realize their neighbors have hens. We are working toward homesteading. It's baby steps.
Bev

Kate in NJ said...

We are on the path too...I have a ways to go before we order chickens..lol.It has been awesome to watch you go through this year of change and see you shining like a beacon at the end of it!

homeschool mamma said...

A shining Beacon....I like that. Thanks so much.
Bev

Unpredictable Journey said...

I think I've told you before, but I love your blog. I love what you post about. I aspire to get to where you are someday. The whole part about homeschooling, going green, gardens, chickens, budgeting, couponing, etc.
I have started but got thrown back far by a house fire last year, then starting new takes time. My kids dont attend public school yet but I'm planning on them never having to. Hopefully soon we can move again, settle down & have things start to fall into place.

Thanks again for all your information and pictures. Very inspirational to someone who has plans but feels so far away sometimes.
Thanks Thanks Thanks!

homeschool mamma said...

One thing I've learned is that everything has a time and place. Things happen for the better in baby steps. Everything takes time and patience.
Good luck with your efforts-you will be there soon enough.

Valerie Willman said...

Will you come live with me?

homeschool mamma said...

Valerie, LOL!I'd have to put you on a wait list- a few others have already invited me to live with them.
Bev