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Frugal Project Update #2-A Little Better, A Little Worse, And Still Learning

It’s been more than two weeks since I shared a Frugal Project Update. It’s time again to share how I’m doing with some of my frugal projects and approaches. So here goes:

The Paper Towel Project:

  • We made it 2.5 weeks on one roll of paper towels!  How did we do that?! We are getting better at not using paper towels unless we absolutely have too. I’m really proud of my husband and kids for getting on board with this project. Paper products are expensive and I’m really glad we’ve cut our budget so deeply. We just started our 3rd roll of paper towels and since it’s the beginning of August-that means we used 2 rolls of paper towels for all of July. Amazing! I didn’t think it could happen but it has! Looks like our paper towel weaning is working. Next step: making it a full 3 weeks on one roll!

My Household Notebook:

My household notebook has fallen by the wayside a little. I have it. I’m using it. Sort of. Mostly I use the calendar. I really need to get back to working with this more. I know it’s going to make a difference. I just need to keep prioritizing my use of it until it’s a better habit (I’m beginning to wonder if I have a short attention span!). Again, like the FlyLady recommended, it’s a slow going project and constantly in development. What I’m using most right now is the calendar. I’m still scribbling to do lists on scraps of paper. Not so effective. Sad but true. It’s on my “get better at it” list. I spent time making it look great-I will use it. I will!

My ongoing challenge that I’m struggling with: 

  • Meal Planning: I’m still working on the fine art of meal planning. I like ‘spur of the moment’ a little more than I realized and this is not effective in meal planning. However, I am good at keeping simple and flexible staple items in my house and that helps me keep our grocery budget on track. As we gear up for our homeschool year though, this is becoming more important as a time saver for us so it’s still an evolution for me-more for my time budget than my grocery budget.
  • Our cloth diapers: Success! We skipped trying the RLR I’d talked about in the last update in favor of trying a different bar soap in our homemade laundry soap recipe. Dr. Bronner’s is a clear winner over the Ivory bar I’d been using. I’m thinking it was less a mineral deposit issue and more that the soap not rinsing completely out of the diapers (clean rinsing is very important in cloth diapers!). I’m a big fan of Dr. Bronner’s soap anyway and I like the lavendar scent. It’s subtle and my little guys bottom seems to be just fine with it! We’re sticking with cloth and very happy about it.

New challenges for our Rice and Beans Life Frugality:

  • I’ve jumped on board the Food Waste Friday wagon from The Frugal Girl’s call out. I’m excited about how this is keeping me on my toes and minimizing our food waste.
  • Adjusting our prepaid cell phone needs. My husband needs more minutes than we’d previously needed for him so we are working on finding the right balance for his phone. I’ll keep you posted!
  • A friend recommended using cloth napkins to continue our quest to minimize our dependence on paper products in the kitchen. I’m trying to decide if it will be less expensive to make them or buy them. I’m wishing I had an overlock machine just now to make this decision a no-brainer. But I don’t. And buying one just to make napkins definitely wouldn’t be budget friendly (though maybe it would get me sewing more again!). I’m still exploring the best approach for us on this one!
So that’s where we are this week with our Rice and Beans Life and the challenge of staying frugal minded.
Comment Worthy-let’s discuss it further:
What are you doing well with and what’s getting the best of you in your walk with frugality?

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Inspiration Thursdays: Give It Away (a Quote Roundup to Help Inspire Simple, Frugal Giving)

Because Thursday’s child has far to go…

I want to ask a question today: Do you know what you have to give?

I ask this because I know life is busy and we don’t often think about what we have to give. But we should. We’ve all faced difficult times in our lives. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t. It is a part of the reality of living. There are peaks and valleys. That is just how life is. This week I have encountered at least five people who are struggling with personal tragedies and hardships. It made me wonder just how many people we cross paths with in a day who are quietly enduring some kind of difficulty or pain. It has inspired me to ask you to consider, for just a minute, what you have to give away. Forget, for today, financial giving. Get back to basics and more creative that that.

I love quotes and rounded some up for you today to inspire you to give simply.

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle.” -Plato, ancient Greek philosopher

Be gentle and understanding. You don’t know what the woman behind the checkout counter is going through today. Or the customer service person taking your call. Or the man who sits quietly next to you in church every Sunday. Realize people may be facing mountains today and they still have to get through their lives just like the rest of us.

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” -Leo Buscaglia, American author, motivational speaker and professor

Each of us has more power to give joy and hope to others than we realize.

“Wherever there is a human being, there is opportunity for kindness.” -Seneca, Roman philosopher

Don’t let the opportunity to give gentleness and kindness pass you by. You might be the only one today that offers it to that person. It might change their life.

“It is one of the most beautiful compensations of this life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson, American Poet

Remember that when you pour out kindness, it is the kind of giving away that fills you up. Don’t hold it back. Don’t worry about the right words. Worry about the right intentions. Kind intentions go a long, long way.

“Remember there’s no such thing as a small act of kindness. Every act creates a ripple with no logical end.”  -Scott Adams, American Cartoonist

You don’t have to solve the economic troubles of our country, win a Nobel Peace Prize, or give a million dollars. Small acts of kindness are contagious and powerful.

“Don’t look down on anyone unless you are helping them up.” -Jesse Jackson, American civil rights activist and Baptist Minister

Don’t judge someone. Kindness isn’t judgemental.

“I cried because I had no shoes, until I met a man who had no feet” Author Unknown.

My grandfather used to recite this quote when I was a child and it stuck with me. It helps me remember that no matter what my challenge is, someone else is struggling harder than I am.

“Be helpful. When you see a person without a smile, give him yours.” -Zig Zigler, American Author, salesman, and motivational speaker

(This one was sent my way by a reader and I so appreicated it. Thanks Melanie!)

It’s not always the big things that change people’s worlds. Hold the door for someone. Let someone else who has only a small handful of items in their cart go before you in line at the grocery store (or that frazzled mom who’s child is having a meltdown). Tell someone you like their hair or that they’re wearing a nice shirt. Notice something special in someone and tell them. Appreciate them out loud. Be kind to people you encounter today. Purposefully and genuinely kind. Giving doesn’t have to be about money. Give what you’ve got: Give away kindness. Give your time or your talent. Give away your smile.  It’s the most frugal way to give because it won’t cost you a dime. Be inspired to simply give. You’ll be glad you did.

Inspiration Thursdays: Give Credence to Your Ideas (and 10 Inspiring Quotes)

Because Thursday’s child has far to go…

Today I watched my boys playing in the dirt. What they were doing, exactly, I do not know. They were covered in orange desert sandy clay and joyful. They clearly had an idea and a willingness to explore it. This is one of the amazing things about childhood. Even when their idea might seem nonsensical to the adult mind, a child is open to explore any fleeting notion. It is their inclination to explore simple notions, without self judgement, without delay that leads them to learn something good, bad or otherwise. When we learn something new we cannot be the same as before we’d gained that knowledge. We grow. It opens us to movement. It gives us momentum. It propels us forward and sometimes in an entirely different direction than we had expected to go. Ideas matter. It is important to give credence to your own ideas, even the fleeting ones. Don’t let them pass you by.

My back to basics, rice and beans life began with an idea. I wanted something better. I didn’t know how to get there, but I knew it was where I wanted to go. And that’s where I have been headed for a while now. It all started with a simple idea.

Because I love quotes and the ideas of others, I wanted to share some inspiring favorites with you today:

1. “A half-baked idea is okay as long as it’s in the oven.” –Author Unknown

2. “I know quite certainly that I myself have no special talent; curiosity, obsession and dogged endurance, combined with self-criticism, have brought me to my ideas.”  – Albert Einstein

3. “It is a lesson which all history teaches wise men, to put trust in ideas, and not in circumstances.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

4. “Believe in something larger than yourself. . . . Get involved in the big ideas of your time.”– Barbara Bush

5. “Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple, learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.”– John Steinbeck

6. “Nearly every man who develops an idea works it up to the point where it looks impossible, and then he gets discouraged. That’s not the place to become discouraged.” – Thomas Edison

7. “No idea is so outlandish that it should not be considered.”– Winston Churchill

8 “No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world.” –Robin Williams 

9. “Just once in a while let us exalt the importance of ideas and information.” –Edward R. Murrow 

10. “They fall from the sky, they run round your head,they litter your sleep as they beckon, they’d teach you to fly without wires or thread, they promise if only you’d let them.” -Mary Chapin Carpenter, from the song “Ideas are Like Stars”

I’d love it if you post a comment to tell me what you think:

Which quote inspired you today or do you have another favorite idea-based quote? Do you give credence to your ideas or do you let them pass on by?

Frugal Project Update!

Ok. I figured it’s time to share how I’m doing with some of my frugal projects and approaches. So here goes:

The Paper Towel Project:

  • Week One: We made it!! We got through a full seven days with paper towels left on the roll. I found I had a few busy moments that impeded my mindfulness. My husband enjoyed poking fun at me for forgetting a few times and reaching for a wad of paper instead of the cloth kitchen towel. Even my little ones are on board and it’s going well. Our challenge to get through one week on one roll is now moving into Stage 2: Two weeks on one roll of paper towels. Can we do it? Stay tuned! I’ll let you know in two weeks!

My Household Notebook:

My household notebook is getting plenty of use and is continuing to evolve daily. Like the FlyLady recommended, it’s a slow going project and constantly in development. The things I’ve found that I love having in my notebook are:

  • My husband’s work schedule (it changes a lot and with this insane summer overtime it’s very, very handy to have on hand. We have it in our computer calendar too but somehow having it printed out is easier for us.)
  • My Daily To Do List.
  • My Monthly Calendar (just a print out of my iCal. I print new ones if it changes significantly. Otherwise I pencil it in.)
  • My Shopping List-now everyone knows where to write down what we run out of and no one has an excuse for not finding a writing utensil.
  • My running training schedule
  • Tracking my calories. I’m still working on losing some baby weight (yeah, it’s hung around a little too long since baby is now toddler!) I like having this in a place I look at several times a day. It’s keeping me on track better than I had been previously.

My ongoing challenge that I’m struggling with: 

  • Meal Planning: For some reason I’m a little too loosey-goosey with this. I’m having trouble making and sticking to my plan. I’m still working on it and trying to get the rhythm of it. I like routines (because they are open-ended) but I’m bad with schedules (which are more specific). I’m working on this. I know it can benefit our lives so it’s staying on my list of things to improve on.

New challenges for our Rice and Beans Life Frugality:

  • Our cloth diapers: Ugh. This one is getting the best of me. When we moved to the desert we got hit with having to use what seems to be the hardest water on the planet. I’ve learned far more about water, detergents, soap, minerals, pH and softeners than I EVER wanted to know. I loved using cloth before moving here. But we are having issues with mineral deposits from before we realized we had to have the water softener. Having done a load of research I have found out a couple of things: Very few people in this region seem to use cloth diapers which I’m guessing is because of the water issues and basically, hard water is a pain in the neck. Our water is off the chart hard. BUT, I’ve decided to try a product called RLR (no affiliation, by the way) to see if that helps. It’s supposed to. I really, really, really don’t want to go back to the hassle and expense of paper diapers. Fingers crossed! (Maybe we can get him potty trained shortly and this whole challenge will end naturally anyway!).
So that’s where we are this week with our Rice and Beans Life and the challenge of staying frugal minded.
Comment Worthy-let’s discuss it further:
What are you doing well with and what’s getting the best of you in your walk with frugality?

What the Heck Ever Happened to Home Ec? (And My Goal for the Year)

I’d been thinking about this for a for the last few days when, on Friday evening I happened to run across Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution show on ABC. He was in the midst of helping a single father of two boys understand why and how living on fast food wasn’t actually easier or cost-effective and how it was hurting their health and their future. I was fascinated to watch Jamie challenge this Dad to go get what he usually gets at a fast food joint while Jamie and the boys stayed home and made a meal from scratch. Dad came home to find the boys and Jamie Oliver tossing a pigskin in the street thinking he’d saved the day with getting a meal so quickly (it actually took 45 minutes!). He soon realized that not only had dinner been on the table for a bit waiting for his arrival, but the boys, who I believe were adolescent aged, had cooked the entire meal themselves with only direction from Jamie. And it had cost significantly less than what Dad had brought home half-cold and soaked in grease.

I was thinking to myself EXACTLY! And then I had a thought: What the heck ever happened to Home Ec?

When my husband and I were married, and honestly up until I had a pregnancy were I couldn’t eat let alone cook for the first 4 months, he could do little more than make a sandwich, grill a piece of meat and pour himself some cereal. He’d never learned to cook. When we got married, I knew the basics from having watched my mom and my grandmother. Mostly though, along the way, I taught myself. In fact, in our house, it’s commonly said: If it doesn’t work out, we order pizza. So far we’ve never had to order pizza. But what has happened to us all that we not only believe we can’t cook, but that we believe that cooking is hard and expensive or time intensive? It doesn’t have to be any of those things!

I’ve also often been astounded by the fact that so many people I know cannot sew on a button or balance a checkbook. I find myself scratching my head often over the fact that our students can all relate to “A train leaves Chicago at 6pm going 100 miles per hour and another train leaves St. Louis at 5:45 pm traveling at 110 miles per hour…” you get the idea. And yet we struggle with the basics of how to take care of ourselves and our homes. I have to wonder, if we learn the simple things of self-sufficiency at home, wouldn’t it create a better base from which our children can confidently go forth into the world to build upon those basic skills knowing that, at the very least they can care for themselves?

In our house we homeschool. I’m sure plenty of people think we are a little off the beaten path and a tad strange. That’s ok. But even if we didn’t homeschool we’d be teaching our boys how to care for themselves and handle the basics. When they head off to college years from now I want them to know how to cook something other than Top Ramen (even if they choose not to).I know we live in an age of ever increasing technology and speed, but the simple fact of the matter is, we need to know how to take care of ourselves in a way that is healthful in order to be of much use out in the world. It’s a matter of learning simple self reliance and personal responsibility.

So, if you have children, and you haven’t already done so, or if you know a child who may not be learning the basics: help them learn. If you don’t know how yourself, start learning. It’s never too early or too late to learn to boil an egg, to sew a button, to balance the checkbook, to wash a load of laundry properly….to simply care well for ourselves. If you can read this post, you can certainly figure out how to do any of these things. Or in this day of technology do what I’ve been often been known to do: Youtube it! But for heaven’s sake give learning some basics a chance. You might be surprised at how knowing some basics, or learning ones you haven’t learned yet can make you feel accomplished and able to face the world. At the very least, you’ll be fed well, your button will be on your pants and maybe, just maybe you might even have your pants hemmed to the right length and your checkbook balanced. My personal goal for the year: Learn to change a tire. Simply because I don’t know how (I know this actually falls under Automotive and not Home Economics-but it’s a matter of self-sufficiency so I’m including it here!)

So readers, were you taught the basics or are there plenty you are still learning? Are you teaching these things to your kids?