Archive for March, 2009

Monday, March 30, 2009

is frugal the new black?

le-repas-frugal

Here is Merriam-Webster’s definition of frugal:

Pronunciation:
\ˈfrü-gəl\
Function:
adjective
Etymology:
Middle French or Latin; Middle French, from Latin frugalis virtuous, frugal, from frug-, frux fruit, value; akin to Latin frui to enjoy
Date:   1590

: characterized by or reflecting economy in the use of resources

Did you notice the etymology?  Virtuous, value, akin to “to enjoy”.  Positive words.  Why then does frugal have such a negative connotation?  Being frugal is becoming almost hip.  More out of necessity than desire though.  As we (people, society, American or other, humans, earth-dwellers, you and me) are being told constantly of a downturn in the economy, and experiencing it for ourselves, we are paying more attention to what we buy.

We are all consumers, whether we are buying brand new shoes from Zappos or a used bread maker from the local thrift store.  To me, The Compact merely designates us as conscientious consumers.  What we buy, where we buy and how we buy defines our consumerism and only we can determine if it is conscientious.

So whether we are buying a lot or a little, new or used, a positive attitude about our individual circumstances seems to be key to finding value and joy in our frugality.

Mary Hunt, over at Debt-Proof Living, said it well with these three tips.

1.  COMMIT TO A CLEAN CAR.  Even though I’m still driving a 1998 Honda it doesn’t bother me so much that we can’t upgrade if it is clean.  A good car wash and garbage clean-out always make me feel better about my wheels.

2.  CURB THE CLUTTER.  Clutter of stuff creates clutter in my mind.  By cleaning out the closets and shelves I not only open up my space for all that “good energy” but I also open myself up to feeling good by donating all that stuff I don’t really need to someone who might.

3.  TUCK A C-NOTE.  I have to admit I haven’t tried this one but I can see it’s benefits.  By tucking a $100 bill (or a $20 if that’s where you need to start) into your wallet you won’t feel poor.  The challenge of course is keeping it there.  But if you have to think twice about breaking a hundred dollar bill to have an $8 lunch with co-workers you may keep to the brown bag you brought.  Just knowing it’s there will put a spring in your step.

I’m not much for telling others how to live their lives, in fact, I’m not likely to ever say anything on the subject.  But as this blog is about me (okay, okay, and my family) sometimes you might just get to hear my thoughts.  Whatever they may be.

The Compact works for my family because we are happy to make the sacrifices required.  We see the positive upside.  If that’s not your thing, so be it.  But if you find yourself cutting back, whether it’s just your daily Starbucks or as much as your monthly food allowance, please try to think of how the change may be helping.  If not you then somebody else or something else, maybe even the planet we’re all spinning our wheels on.

artwork: Le Repas frugal, Pablo Picasso, 1907

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Friday, March 27, 2009

cooking, shopping and getting it done

Wow, I have been so busy being frugal I haven’t had a moment to tell you about it!  Let’s see, a recap of what’s been going on…

  • I made more bread!  It was sooo much better than what we started with.  I thought I loved my new toy but waking up this morning and finding fresh, warm bread when I got to the kitchen really clinched the deal.  Uuummmmyummmyum.  I got this recipe from the Hillbilly Housewife.  It’s my new daily bread.  It is so good.  But I already mentioned that.  It’s so good it deserved another mention though.  Really.  Try it.  I told you, you will have a good life.  Maybe next time I’ll take a moment to get a picture before I cut into the fresh loaf.  If I can wait that long.
  • I slaved for hours to get our grocery shopping and meal planning in order.  I created a grocery list.  It’s very detailed.  It includes price breakdowns for multiple stores.  It lets me vent some organizational OCD.  I may even be able to send the husband to the store by himself one day.  It’s truly a thing of wonder.  Or not.  But hopefully it will keep the pantry stocked and the dinners flowing.
  • Speaking of dinners, I decided to try a weekly menu planner.  Based on the weekly specials I hope to will plan meals and buy the appropriate foodstuff.  The Frugal Girl does it and writes about it.  I’m impressed.  I want to be just like her when I grow up.  No really, I do hope some of her planning skills rub off.  And her baking skills.  She makes bread all the time.  I need to exercise more so I can eat more bread.

Although I just read about The Non-Consumer Advocate‘s system of filling the pantry and cooking from what’s there.  She has a pretty good list of staples to work from.  I still think I’m going to stick to my meal planning for now.  The extra planning will help me not lose sight of the perishables and hopefully I won’t be throwing away any more unused bok choy.  That one hurt.  I like bok choy.  As this is week one (day one really) of our new regime I am open to any successes and failures.  I’ll be sure to keep you posted.  Can’t wait, can you?

  • Lastly, a non-food related item.  I’m currently working on a fabulous gift for a 3 year old boy.  Unfortunately, I have no idea what a 3 year old boy likes.  Plus, my favorite kids consignment store was out of everything labeled “fabulous gift for 3 year old boy”.  I’m off to see what other Compactors have come up with.  The party’s on Saturday so an Ebay score of baseball cards and chewing gum is probably out.  What do you think?  I’m not panicking but I could use your help.

procrastinate

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Saturday, March 21, 2009

thrifty scores again

It’s been a good trip to Las Vegas so far.  On our first day here, off we went to find Value Village (also known as Savers to the locals).  I have to say it was as good as our experience in Toronto.  Good finds for Toddler L and the husband.

I found a spoon and baking pan I like very much.  If you were still under the impression I was normal, there you go.  I get excited about spoons and pans.  Especially when they are cool and vintage but still work perfect for my needs.  I have great needs.

And best of all, (wait for it)…

bread-machine

I found a Williams Sonoma bread maker.  (I even had a choice of 4 different machines.)  For less than $20.  Something to really get excited about.  Trust me, I’m excited.  I do excitement quietly.  I got home and rushed to the computer (two hours later is rushing in my world) to look up the manual and bread machine recipes.  Found a site that told me everything I needed to know to work my new toy and as well as several basic recipes.

I even tried one.

Ta Da!

Ta Da!

It was a success.  I take that very seriously.  I need all the successes I can count.  Especially in the kitchen.  It’s not my natural habitat.  But this bread was so easy.  And good.  I’ve forsaken most all of my usual internet wanderings to look for more recipes.  I will be making lots of bread in the coming days.  If I have any more successes I’ll be sure to tell you.  I know you can’t wait.

Now if I just had that Kitchenaid mixer.  Kidding.  My yearning has abated to a dull roar now that I have my bread machine (angels singing in the background…in my head).  It kneads.  It rises.  It bakes.  I eat.  Life is good.

If you want a good life buy a bread machine.

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

a strip from the strip

arctic-3-19

Alex Hallatt really tickled my funny bone with this one.  It’s almost an inside joke, made funnier because it is so true.

But that’s another story.  Today I’m just saying a quick hello from Las Vegas.  We came over for a couple of days visit with the in-laws.  And so my husband could watch a lot of basketball.  Somewhere in between those games we will find some time to check out the local thrift stores.

And I can ask my mother-in-law how she made bread before she got her Kitchenaid stand mixer.  (I covet that mixer.  It was sitting on my counter for weeks before being wrapped as her Christmas present last year.)  I’ve heard she did it.  I just want to know how.  I can learn.  Okay, I can try.

If you want to try, take a look at The Frugal Girl.  She makes it look so easy.  But then again, she’s got one of those stand mixers.  That must be it.

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Monday, March 16, 2009

random thoughts

I’ll start with the bad news.  We’re going to Ikea.

I am desperate for storage bins for all the clothes Toddler L has outgrown (that we can’t get rid of as Baby X will be needing them shortly), and the clothes he hasn’t yet grown into.

As well as the clothes I have outgrown.  Luckily I don’t have clothes I haven’t grown into yet.  My closet is family storage/catch-all/throw-it-in-there, so I don’t have room for not currently needed work clothes, pre-preggers clothes and maternity clothes.  In this small apartment of ours we just don’t have the storage space for everything.  More than likely the bins will end up on the back porch so cardboard just won’t cut it.

Not that I feel a need to explain myself to you.  No, that’s not it at all.  It’s not that I feel guilty.  Nope, not me.  Okay, very guilty.  But I need organization or I will lose what little of my sanity I still have.

felix

So now that that’s off my chest, moving on.

I made soup today to use up some veggies that were getting a little limp.  I made a really big batch.  Unfortunately, I only seasoned it for a small batch.  Our lunch was very bland.  But I flavored it up a bunch before putting the leftovers in the fridge.  Tomorrow’s lunch should be much better.  Feeling good about that.

felix1

I spent way too many hours today looking at food posts for ideas on everyday dinners.  I think I’m going to do what I thought everyone else was crazy for doing.  I’m putting together a list of meals and will be choosing the weekly menu from it.  Kind of obvious to many of you, I know.  But I was never a good grocery shopper and having the ingredients on hand was never something I did well.  Somehow I didn’t grasp that the planning was the key to having the ingredients on hand.  Oh, well.  Better late than never.

Plus, I’m not really good at deciding what I want for dinner on Wednesday when I’m not even sure what I want to be doing an hour from now.  Again, I guess I missed the point.  If I know I’m having duck a l’orange with tri colore salad on Wednesday then I will be really wanting it by then.  Or so I tell myself.  Do you menu plan?  Is this a problem for you?  Did you really think I would be making duck a l’orange?  If you don’t know me and think that, you’re wonderful.  And deluded.  If you know me and think that, you’re just deluded.

felix1

I want to start baking bread.  Easy bread.  Not the kind that I have to wait 3 days before I can bake.  Not recipes that make 8 loaves because they’re for the Ingalls family.  Nothing that requires a great amount of kneading.  I have about 2 linear feet of counter space to work with.  And I don’t have the Kitchenaid stand mixer that I covet.  I should have started this pet project back when I could run to Crate and Barrel for every kitchen gadget I hankered for.  And yes, I know bread was made long before the Kitchenaid stand mixer was invented.  But they are the best.  Everybody says so.  And I want one.  My bread would rise better.  It would be the perfect golden color.  It would taste like it came straight from a woodfire oven in Italy.  It would make my child eat broccoli.  Okay, okay.  I know.  But I still want one.

felix1

We’re also headed to Las Vegas this week for my husband’s annual March Madness trip.  Luckily my in-laws moved there two years ago so it’s considered a family trip now.  Not only do we get at least one night of free babysitting but said husband is very excited to check out the numerous Value Village thrift stores in the city.  I think I’ve created a monster.  He’s more excited to go shopping than I am.  And I’m the girl.

Well, I guess that’s about enough randomness for one day.  Thanks for listening.  I feel better.  This free therapy blogging is really good to clear the headspace.  Feel free to criticize comment below.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

can you share your toys?

car-share

If you could have a car at your disposal, whenever you really needed it, would you give up owning your own?  I have thought so much about what type of community I would choose to live in upon leaving the greater Los Angeles megatropolis.  One of the key ingredients for me is walkability.  In my ideal world I could take Toddler L to school, go to my local farmers market for fresh produce, and if I’m really lucky make it to Trader Joe’s without anything other than my two feet.

Although how I would get everything I invariably buy home again is another matter.

But I’d like to think that between my own steam and some decent public transportation I could make it around my community for most of my needs.  I think it’s unrealistic to imagine that a family with one (almost two) small children could do without any vehicles but if we could downsize to one I would be thrilled.  (Hey all you Portlanders.  You’re smart.  You’re savvy.  You’re often environmentally conscious.  Would it work in your city?  I’d love to know.)

I don’t know if my husband realized how seriously I consider this option when he sent me this article from the New York Times*.  If I could live in a community with Zipcars or a similar car-share alternative I’d like to think I would become a member and gratefully, eagerly even, unload a few thousand pounds of steel from our lives.

After having read this article I can also say that my motives would be financial-relief, stress-relief and a sense of community in addition to any environmental benefit there may be.  Sometimes being green is the side-effect and not the medication.

I’ll keep this post short because the article is long.  But totally worth it.  Please don’t be dismayed, it’s interesting stuff.  I want you to read it.

Really, I do.

And I want to know what you think about the issue.

Have you ever used a car-share program?  Can you let go of what we have been raised to believe is a symbol of our freedom to grasp what some say is the financial and responsibility freedom of non-ownership?  Can you share your toys?

*You will need to register with NYTimes.com to read the entire article.  I wish there was another way.  I do.  But I still say it’s totally worth it.  C’mon it’s the New York Times.

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

non sequitur

Whew!  For the most part, being pregnant has no impact on my life.  Other than the whole “bringing another person into the world” thing of course.  I mean, physically I usually seem to handle the situation pretty well.  And then something happens that throws you flat on your back.  Literally.  Well, okay, kind of figuratively too.  I have the utmost respect for all the great bloggers that post every day.  It’s not easy.  (…being green.  Don’t those words just pop into your head every time you hear the phrase?  Oh.  It’s just me?  Oh well.  Digression.  I know.  Back to it…)  I had some big days that really took their toll on me.  It’s taken me a few to feel kind of okay again.  But now I do.  At least enough to let you all know I’m still around and plan to bug you with great thoughts soon.  As soon as I think them.

I do have some things I can’t wait to share with you, and I will.  As soon as I get them out of my head.  Until then I leave you with this.

garlic-press1

These are my two new favorite kitchen gadgets.  And actually neither one of them are new.  The garlic press I bought last year (with a gift card) but didn’t use much until I recently started cooking a lot more.  And I use garlic.  A lot.  I love this thing.

The citrus squeezer was a little more obtuse.  And a little older.  I never thought about having one.  My mother offered it to me on our recent trip to visit her in Toronto.  I loved the color and design so I said sure.  Really had no thought of using it any time soon.  Or any time for that matter.  But then I saw Meyer lemons at the farmers market, always wanted to use those.  An ode to the husband.  So I bought some.  And I squeezed them.  Oh my!  So easy!  Love that!

That’s all for now.  Hopefully tomorrow I will have some more thought provoking ideas to share.  Or maybe not.  You’ll just have to wait and see.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

one box at a time

recopack

Have  you recently moved?  Are you thinking about moving?  (I think I saw you shudder.)  I know, it’s not something we like to dwell on.  Moving is rated as one of the most stressful life experiences.  Right behind divorce.  (And considering divorce usually requires moving that’s just a ridiculously unfair double whammy don’t you think?)  And that’s not even getting into the guilt of what you’re doing to the environment.  At least as far as the divorce.  I’m going to get into the guilt of moving.

I really don’t like moving.  And I should know.  I’ve moved over 25 times in my life.  Most of those as an adult who actually had to participate in the process.  It’s a pain in the ______ (fill in the blank depending on your temperment).  As we are staring another move in the face I’ve been thinking more about the process.  And I’d have to say, one of my greatest moving pet peeves is the moving box.  I’m pretty darn good when it comes to packing (so many years of practice and all) but to take full advantage of each cardboard box they must be not-too-heavy and yet completely full.  A box that isn’t full is a disaster waiting to happen.  Especially if they are getting stored for any length of time.  The sight of a caved in box about to topple a stack is enough to make my neck scrunch up and wonder “why, oh why, can’t square pegs fit in round holes?”

And then what do you do with the boxes once you’ve moved?  I know, many do end up on freecycle.org and craigslist, but what about those now ruined, caved in boxes?  And the ones that got wet when put in a puddle instead of directly on the back of the truck.  (Not speaking from experience here, nope, not me.)  Some may get recycled, but too many get tossed in a dumpster on their way to the oh so plentiful landfills that abound.  I will claim one or two for forts or play-houses now that the reason for a move is the two legged squirt that would rather play in a cardboard box than the most expensive toy any grandparent could give.  But that’s another story.

In trying (not so quickly, I know) to wrap up this story, I come to the point.  I found out about rentagreenbox.com and can finally give a sigh of relief – the better way is here.

“Rent-a-Green box is America’s first, comprehensive, zero-waste pack and move solution made entirely from post consumer recycled trash mined from local landfills. Our mission is to provide relocating business and residences with an authentic and genuine earth friendly packing and moving alternative that will save time, money and Earth.

We convert massive quantities of post consumer trash to make really cool earth friendly packing and moving products that replace traditional and expensive supplies like cardboard boxes, bubble wrap, and Styrofoam peanuts that are really bad for our Earth.”

Here’s a product, and a service I can get behind to the point of pledging to use them for my family.  I hope these guys are a great big green wave of the future.  Pass the word and be a part of the solution.  Doesn’t the thought of moving seem just a little bit less daunting?

*This is strictly a personal endorsement of this company’s ideas and goals.  rentagreenbox.com has no idea who I am and probably would refuse my calls if I made any.  Except when I place my order of course.

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Sunday, March 1, 2009

the green guide to marriage

divorce1

I was  over at My Year Without Spending and saw this post about the Australian lawmaker who told a Senate hearing in the Australian capital Canberra that divorce only made climate change worse.  I found it kind of funny.  In a “that’s not really funny” way.  More like a “that’s just ridiculous” way.  That’s just my opinion.  But that’s what you’re here for right?  No?  Oh.  Well, sorry.  You’re going to get it anyway.

When couples separated, they needed more rooms, more electricity and more water. This increased their carbon footprint, Australian Associated Press (AAP) quoted Fielding as telling the hearing on environmental issues.

“We understand that there is a social problem (with divorce), but now we’re seeing there is also environmental impact as well on the footprint,” AAP quoted him as saying.

Such a “resource-inefficient lifestyle” meant it would be better for the planet if couples stayed married, he said.

The concept of divorce being bad for the environment seems like it might be somewhat valid.  But then, so would moving out of your parents house or living on your own at any point in time.  Maybe we should mandate that to move away from home everyone is required to live with at least one other person, be it roommate, friend, partner, whatever.  And should you choose to marry and subsequently divorce  then you can only do so if each party will henceforth take on another housing partner.

It might be better for the planet if couples stayed married, probably because bad marriages might just end society before we have a chance to do in the planet.  Is it just me?

Oh, and by the way, this started with a study done at Michigan State University and published by the National Science Foundation.  (So it’s not just that the Senator is upside down.)

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