Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Peasful morning

I spent a peaceful morning shucking peas:

And listening to The Circle of Simplicity: Return to the Good Lifeon Simple Living Radio

(Can you forgive me my punning?)

Monday, July 28, 2008

4 Lazy ways to be more green (and frugal!)

There is really nothing I enjoy more than being lazy. Sitting with a cup of coffee and a book or taking a nap in the middle of the day are my kind of entertainment. Sometimes, though, I get overwhelmed by all the things I know I should be doing in my journey to make my life more green, and to save a bit of money (so I can work less of course, what other goal would a lazy person have?). The good news is that there are lots of green changes you can make in your life that don't take any effort: in fact, many of them actually require less effort than what you are already doing.

1. Do less laundry. Unless you are exercising or have a job where you have to work in dirt all day long, do you really need to wash your clothes every time you wear them? Instead, assess your clothes and hang them back up if they are still clean. Then, when they are dirty, wait until you have a huge old pile of laundry and do a gigantic load of laundry in cold water, no sorting required. Easy peasy!

2. Cook less. Especially in the summer, it's a good idea not to cook every single night. Turning on your stove uses energy, and heats up both you and the kitchen. Plus, it's a pain. So every so often (or more), have a salad night, a cold sandwich night, or even eat cereal for dinner like you did in college. And once a week have a free-for-all leftover night to make sure none of the good food you paid for ends up in a landfill.

3. Pay your bills automatically. Sure this takes some effort upfront, but it will be one less thing for you to do and to worry about every month from now on. Go online and set your bills up to autopay. This will save paper, save gas for shipping, and save you time and the money for a stamp. While you're at it, make sure your paycheck is direct deposited and your bank statements are paperless.

4. Stay home. Probably the greatest lazy green tip of all. If the mere thought of figuring out bike routes or public transit makes you tired, just think about whether you need to go out and spend your money at all. Stay in, play a board game, eat from your pantry and just chill out on your couch for a while.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Filling my freezer little by little

One of the things I've been doing lately to combat my Weakness for restaurant food is trying to put up fully cooked meals in my freezer for days when I just feel blah and don't want to cook. My husband is a big fan of once a month cooking and all its variations, but I tend to get overwhelmed by big projects and making two gallons of chili, a lasagna, and a big pot of beef stew in one day makes me nearly want to crawl under my bed and hide. So, instead, I've been babystepping towards a freezer full of meals.

I was reading Love food, hate waste a lot lately and the obvious idea occured to me: freeze my leftovers. A lot of the meals I usually make tend to be too much for just the two of us, and then the leftovers go in the fridge and I have to either adjust my meal plan or end up throwing out the food when it finally goes bad. Instead, unless I have a specific plan for the leftovers, I'm popping the 1-2 extra servings of dinner into my freezer so I'll have it for another day. Right now, I have two servings of chicken taco meat and a container of barbecue pork (both from my crock pot). Since I also have rolls, tortillas, and shredded cheese in my freezer, it sounds like I have two easy dinners already taken care of. I'm hoping to save them for the first few weeks of school when I'm tired and cranky and overwhelmed.

Now that I also have all my beautiful CSA vegetables, I'm going to have to double time at getting things into the freezer in order to prevent food waste. Anyone know the best way to freeze or preserve summer squash?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


Today is my two year wedding anniversary. How should we spend our afternoon? (G-rated please, and the answer is not "writing a blog post.")

Monday, July 21, 2008

Book Review: How to be a budget fashionista

How to Be a Budget Fashionista by blogger extraordinaire Kathryn Finney of The Budget Fashionista is a fun little book on how to dress well without spending too much money. Targeted at young professional women, this book carries off it's casual, slightly irreverant tone without ever coming across as silly or offensive. Instead, it breaks down buying clothes to its most basic components so that the fashion-challenged (like me!) can learn to dress well for less.

Budget Fashionista is broken down into three parts: Know your budget, know your style, and know your bargains. It begins with a simple discussion of budgeting and ways to save and earn a little extra, to scrape up a good pot with which to update your wardrobe. While this may be useful for a lot of women, and while it was quite pleasant to read, I found it a little basic. The heart of the book is in the section on style. With lighthearted quizzes, descriptions, and exercises, Finney helps the reader to define her personal style and then gives recommendations of what to buy for each style type. This gets down to specifics (with a chapter called "Clumpy, Frumpy, and Lumpy: The importance of good undergarments" how can you go wrong?), explaining what articles of clothing are staples and what are just extras. The overall message is to invest in some good basic timeless articles and then to buy a few trendy items for fun, on clearance or deeply discounted, since these items are less likely to last in your wardrobe.

The third section on where and how to find bargains gets into the detail and nitty gritty about everything from sample sales to yard sales, and how to get the best deals at each. These are really practical tips, no hypotheticals just actionable points ("join the mailing list," "shop in the children's department").

I think this book would be particularly great for young women who are just out of college and trying to figure out how to wardrobe themselves for new professional jobs - without going into debt trying to do it. It's also got useful tips that just about anyone could use, along with fun tools, resources, and quizzes. It's a great, quick read for anyone who wants to know how to buy great clothes for less.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The fast pace of life

I can't believe how fast the summer is going by. Hubby and I just got back from spending 10 days with our families and while that usually seems like the upper limit we can tolerate, it seems to have just flown by. Still, by the end, I was ready to be home and to sleep in my own bed again.

So, for the past ten days I haven't worked at all and haven't made a penny. Plus, since we went to another wedding and I had to buy a dress and a gift, we spent a chunk more money. The only thing keeping me from feeling panicked is that I know that I have a somewhat large summer emergency fund sitting in my ING account - which is I guess the best reason to have it.

And life continues to go by. I realize that every time I write about simplifying my life or talk about the little things that bring me joy I say that I want to sit on my porch in my pajamas, drinking a cup of coffee and reading a good book. And yet I don't think I've done that all summer long. So, I'm going to brew myself a nice cup of french pressed organic coffee and spend my afternoon engrossed in a good book (I finished all of One Hundred Years of Solitude during my vacation, and let me tell you - wow is all I can say. Anyone have thoughts or opinions on The Namesake?) Because while I understand living like no one else so that later you can live like no one else, if there's no little joys in your life, it's hard to understand what's worth saving for.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Save the world for free by playing games!

Just a short post to let you know about two new sites I just found. If you love Free Rice as much as I do, check out these similar sites.

Free poverty is a geography game that donates to the UN's program to increase clean water. You have to locate places on a map of the world and the closer you get, the more water you donate.

Save the world with music is a music trivia game that also donates to clean water charities. This one works with an organization that provides well pumps to villages.

If you know any other similar sites, let me know!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Break Even 2008 Week 4 Update

Okay, here goes:

On the food budget, still $10 overbudget on groceries, ARGH. I say, "Really this week, let's not buy too much," and it never seems to work. I'm going to need to convince hubby to have a "pantry challenge" for at least one week this summer just to get to where I can find all my food again.

On the eating out budget, $5 under! Yay! We only ate out once, and we had a really great time. It's such a relief to me since this is the first week we've stayed within our budget on this.

On the income front, still working a lot. That's going to end soon, though, as this was the last week of my 8 hour a week class. Have to find more ways to earn money.

And since it's the end of the month: overbudget on gasoline (as expected), underbudget on electricity (yay!), so I'm doing pretty okay.

So, here goes,

Break even number = 245
Overbudget on food = +10
Overbudget on gasoline (for month)= +12

Underbudget on electricity (for month) = -10
Underbudget on restaurants = -5
Income (Part time job) = -580
Savings account interest = -8

Making my expenses -336 for the week and putting me $512 ahead for the summer! That means that I could theoretically not work at all for 2 weeks and, as long as I stay on budget, still be coming out even. Woo Hoo!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Make $1 for eliminating junk mail!

Right now, Green Dimes, a service which helps remove you from junk mail lists, will pay YOU a dollar if you sign up for their new basic "do-it-yourself" program. You can get that dollar through a check in the mail, use it to donate a tree through their programs, or get a free issue of their green magazine. There are a lot of free programs out there that help you lower your environmental impact by cutting out your junk mail, but this is the only one I've ever seen that pays you! And of course the only thing more frugal than free is getting paid to do something you ought to do anyway.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Why I love CSA

I recently signed up for a share in a CSA, which stands for Community supported Agriculture. For a seasonal subscription fee, I get a basket every week of fresh, naturally grown vegetables from a local farm. The contents of the basket change week to week based on what's coming up at the time.

At about $25 a week, it may not at first seem like the most frugal choice for me. I don't typically spend that much on fresh produce; it's nearly half of my weekly grocery budget. I probably won't save any money on food by having it However, there are a lot of reasons why I consider this to be a good choice for me, and why it may even save money in the long term.

1. Community. When I picked up my share yesterday, the owner of the CSA offered me homemade lemonade from a pitcher on her kitchen table and then walked me back to show me her garden. I played with her dog and met her kids while she clipped me herbs right off the plant and asked what kind of peppers I liked. I feel much better about buying produce from someone whose dog I've played with than from a huge corporation.

2. Better food. The produce I get is organically grown and locally produced. I know this because I've seen it. It's also in my hand within 4 days of when it comes off the plant. This is the absolute best way to maximize the nutritional content of my vegetables (thus making me healthier, one say it saves money) and also the taste - oh my the taste. Tomato basil salad is practically a spiritual experience.

3. Variety and abundance. A share is really too much for my husband and me, so we are always able to share (hmm, pun unintended) with our friends. In the past, when we had farm subscriptions, we've had more dinner parties and meal swaps because we had stuff we just needed to use up. We're also much more likely to eat more vegetables because we have them, and to eat things we might not normally buy. In this way, we eat less processed food and meat which saves us money in the long term and short term.

4. Environmentalism. Supporting CSA, and buying local food in general, is one of the best ways to reduce your eco-footprint. Transportation of food uses an awful lot of fossil fuel and puts a lot of carbon into the atmosphere. By buying local, you avoid that. I also am using my dollar to support farming practices in my local community that I believe in, thus encouraging them to increase. Plus, I am extremely fortunate in that my CSA offers lower cost shares and donates to local food charities, thus encouraging food justice which is so important to me.

If you are interested in joining a CSA, check out Local Harvest, which is how I found mine.