Archive for April, 2011

Shopping From The Pantry

April 29, 2011

Whew what a night ! How ironic that I post about power outages and then we have one. Thankfully it was only for a short time. Storms have been brutal this year. My thoughts and prayers go out to those who have been caught in their way.

I am sure like many homes your kitchen is the most lived in space in your whole house, I know ours is. We have a schoolroom, but you could call it our school space instead. There are desks in there as well as lots of shelving for books and games(thanks Papa), then there’s the chalkboard but it is the kitchen we always seem to come back to. I am beginning to wonder if we should have painted some walls in our kitchen with chalkboard paint(like that of another very well-known, inspirational blogger :)).

Could the reason possibly be because that is the place I always seem to be ? Lets see when I am not cooking, I am eating, then there is the dishes (Oh lots and lots of dishes), and we are exceptionally blessed to have our washer and dryer in there as well.

As you can see space is something I don’t have a lot of. Until project root cellar we have been using a storage cabinet as our pantry. Which brings me to goal #4, monthly visits to the grocery store.

Having a pantry off our bedroom isn’t my ideal place for one but when dealing with a small house it will have to do (We will be adding a new shelf each week).First though I want to be completely honest about what comes home with us from the store. We are not fanatics. Yes the majority of our meals are baked from scratch but I would be lying if frozen pizzas and chips never made their way home with us. I mean sometimes there are days you don’t want to have anything to do with a stove, but I thought I would share a few tips that have helped us on our way to accomplish this goal.

My first (and best kept)secret is food.com This is where I look when I want to find a recipe to replace my old processed one. For example I wanted taco seasoning without msg so food.com is where I go, but they have much more than food recipes. Try looking up laundry soap and deodorant.

Wait, what exactly do you mean by processed, I make most of our meals at home ? Yeah I did too but most of my recipes called for things like cream of mushroom soup or onion soup mix. To cook from scratch means to use “real” foods and to me those items are not real food. A real food should only have 1 ingredient, itself. So I had to find a replacement for all my recipes that did not use real foods.

This may seem overwhelming at first but just experiment with 1 at a time. Once you have a few recipes under your belt you begin to see a pattern, like using garlic, onions, or fresh mushrooms are big substitutes for these items.

Okay I found new recipes to replace my old ones what’s next? Stocking up real foods. After all my goal is to shop at the grocery store once a month. So how does one do this without breaking the bank? By adding a few extra items to your cart at a time, especially when they are on sale. This way I am shopping from my pantry first, when I run out of an item I replace the pantry item when we go to the store.

Our family pretty much shops for the same items eliminating the need to go down each and every isle. I have organized all my new recipes according to season with 2 weeks worth for each one. For example during spring we are still eating lots of root vegetables, jarred items (from fall) like applesauce, bread and jam. The weather is still cool so roasts, soups, and stews are still apart of our menu. Breakfast this morning was potato cakes and eggs.

But I do not have any time, or I need quick meals! I SO hear ya. The crock pot is my best friend, after my husband that is ;).

Here are tips that have helped me save time in the kitchen. First double up recipes such as soups and beans. These are easy items to jar and freeze. I always make 1 pound of pinto beans when making re-fried beans (in the crock pot) and store the rest in the freezer. This way the next time I make tacos I just need to pull the already cooked beans out of the freezer and mash. The same goes for tortillas( they are great  for quick pizzas ),pancakes, and waffles. Once this becomes habit try doing it with meatballs, meatloaf, and lasagna, the ideas are endless. Before you know it you have quick homemade frozen dinners.

I hope some of these tips this week have been helpful. I plan on sharing more goals of how our “city” family is trying to become more self- sufficient in the future, like how not to support sweatshops and our ideas of getting around having “farm animals” in our backyard.

Wishing everyone a great, safe weekend!

Home Economics 102

April 27, 2011

When one does not watch a lot of television sometimes you have no other choice than to get into really long conversations. 🙂 Papa and I pass many hours talking about life, love, and the pursuit of happiness. We always talk about our dreams. We would love to get far out of the city, find us a few acres and live off the land. To be completely self-sufficient. The small city where we live will not allow us to have chickens. Even though people who live 2 miles away can. Well as much as we hope one day for our dreams to come true for now it looks like we will have to make do with what we have.

I see so many beautiful blogs of people who are living this dream, but what about the rest of us who live in the city or are not allowed to live off their own land? This brings me to goal # 3. To not be reliant on grocery stores for food.  This of course is still a work in progress.

We often wonder with so much hunger in the world why our country decided to grow lawns instead of food? I look across the street at all our neighbors perfectly chemically sprayed green grass and think wow we are wasting SO much land we could be using to grow our own food.

One of the first things Papa and I did when we bought our house was to find the best place to plant a garden with our first crop being tomatoes. Each year we have made our garden a little bigger adding more and more crops. We now have  blueberry bushes, potatoes, onions, garlic, broccoli, zucchini , cucumbers and lots of peppers. We hope to add grapes, spinach, and carrots this year.

I have learned how to can tomato sauce, and salsa using our crop as well as make breads, muffins,and jam for the freezer. We are now in the process of making room for a “root cellar” in our bedroom. We had a lovely little storage space that connected to our bedroom from the backyard. Papa made a doorway in our bedroom wall to connect it on the inside. We have left the floor concrete, as we live on a slab, and this is the coolest place in our home while using the wood burning stove. Perfect for storing  bushels of apples and potatoes during winter.

Okay what about meat (if you are not a vegetarian)and other things you can’t grow in your yard ? Find local farmers in your area and make friends. It truly has been very rewarding to get to know the people who are behind raising the food on our table. We are truly blessed to have SO many local places in our state to purchase food.

Once you find a farmer who believes in the same practices you do (free roaming, organic, and no hormones) see if they offer bulk purchases. Once a year, our family of  (now) 4 saves and purchases 1/2 a steer, 1 hog ,  20 chickens, and 1 turkey to last us through out the year. We believe in using all of the animal that gave its life for us and not just parts.

You will need more money up front this way but in the end it is much more cost-effective than buying from the store (averages about $2.99  a pound) and you are getting local, fresh, organic food.  This of course will fill 2 stand up freezers so you will have to make sure you have enough space. Again our home is 980 square feet. We have learned how to organize our space quite well. You also want to make sure you have a back up to run your freezers if you were to have a power outage. A years worth of food would be a terrible loss. We have a small generator for this reason.

We get our eggs, milk, and dairy from a farm, buy our honey (which we hope to start our own hives soon) and maple syrup by the gallon from a farm and the majority of all fruits and vegetables we don’t grow from farmers.

For us good food is our top priority right under shelter. These 2 areas are not negotiable. There are many other ways to cut spending. Really look at your budget, keep a journal of all your spending. I love the idea I read (I believe over at Simple Mom ,great information over at those blogs ) about having a separate envelope with a budget for each of your purchases, for example food in one envelope , clothes, school supplies, field trips,and entertainment each have their own envelope. This way you see first hand which savings you are taking from when making a purchase.   I want to add that we are considered a low-income family and “could” qualify for government assistance if need be. I know what living paycheck to paycheck looks like. I have also come to realize that electricity is a luxury that gets taken for granted. Remember baby steps, one step at a time.

So now you grow your own food, can, put back, and purchase the majority of your food from farmers what is left?

Learning how to cook from scratch. With prices going up at the grocery store this really is becoming a necessity.

So what does my pantry look like and what comes home with us from the store? And how do I find the time to cook from scratch? Well I will have to save that for my next post.

Home Economics 101

April 25, 2011

I am always posting about our homeschooling journey, after all that is why I started to blog, but rarely do I ever post about who we are as a family.

I am sure that if you have been following my blog for a while you probably figured out we are what others label a “green” family. I am also sure you know that doesn’t mean we are descendents of Kermit the frog. However I don’t think I have ever posted much about the journey we have taken to get here.

Today as I started to go through our house once again, downsizing anything that didn’t serve much of a purpose or took up too much space, I was reminded of the many changes our family has made over the years. I am going to be completely honest and say that what now is considered a popular choice wasn’t the reason our family became “green”, we had to be. We started a garden and hung our laundry out to dry because it was cheaper. We also bought a small house (less than 1000 square feet) because it was all we could afford at the time. The same goes with only having one car, not having cable, or cell phones( I am beginning to think we are the only family without one). These choices now however have finally paid off as I can truly say we have almost reached our goal of being completely debt free.

I have mentioned before Papa and I don’t exchange gifts for birthdays or Christmas (or any holiday for that matter). Instead each year we make a list of goals we would like to see accomplished within the next year. One of these goals was to be able to survive in an emergency situation if we were to lose power. This actually happened a few years ago to the people who live directly across the street from us. During a storm they lost all power for 1 week. Thank goodness it was during the summer but what would have happened if it was during the winter?

That became our number 1 focus. We saved (which is goal #2 but more on that later)and purchased our wood burning stove. Having a small house this meant giving up space that we really didn’t have to begin with. I had to make choices of having a collection of “stuff” or for my family to stay warm. Of course there are other choices not as costly as ours like a small propane heater but we didn’t want to be reliant on propane or gas. In the long run though our stove has already paid for itself just in heating bills. Our little stove (about 21 inches) keeps our whole house warm even during 0 degree weather, which thankfully we have not had to experience much of. During winter we don’t even need to turn our heat on. Goal #1 accomplished.(Merry Christmas 😉 )

Goal #2 not to be reliant on credit (say bye- bye credit cards). Yep all of them. Out came the scissors. If there is one thing I can teach my children it is not to get a credit card. “Oh but you need to establish your credit status” Trust me you will have LOTS of other opportunities to do this without the need of a credit card. If you don’t have the money to buy something now more likely you will not have it next month and before you know it you are in debt. This is something we learned the hard way and are still paying on.

There is just something about our culture that makes you believe we need all this “stuff'” to be happy. I mean you work hard you deserve to be rewarded right? Funny thing about that is the less our family has the happier we seem to be. Sure our family has faced boredom, lots of times. Not to mention all the things we have had to decline or go without like fancy vacations, but we can afford to go camping or even a hike can make all the difference in the world.

Shopping for hand-me-downs hasn’t always been the most popular of choices either. It seems shopping at Goodwill is no longer frowned upon. I have noticed more and more crowds lately and no longer find myself to be the only one in the book isle anymore. In fact during 50 % off sales I have seen the line wrap around the store. Being that we homeschool has helped quite a bit with this as my children don’t worry about what they wear, but I am amazed at how many name brands I have been able to find. I have even purchased 100% organic cotton shirts for myself.

Something I don’t want to lead on is that this has been an easy journey. There have been SO many times I have wanted to just give in. I mean you only live once. It has been years since we cut up our credit cards and we are still paying for them. Papa puts in lots of overtime sometimes an extra 20 hours a week just so we can double our payments and have a savings. Then it never fails when you finally feel like you are ahead that your dryer goes out, you need new tires, or your 4-year-old oven explodes (seriously). It is times like these when we are just grateful to replace them without the need of any credit cards. I also think about my girls and how I DON”T want them to get caught in the vicious cycle of debt. I want them to know they have choices. That consumerism is a choice not a necessity.

Okay so we have accomplished our goal to get us through a winter emergency and we no longer use credit cards, what is goal # 3?

Food ,but I will have to save that for next time.

Wishing everyone a great week!

Happy Easter!!!

April 24, 2011

Wishing everyone a happy Easter !

We will be taking next week off for more spring cleaning.

Someone Has A Boo-Boo (Bunny That Is)

April 20, 2011

The Little’s received a special package in the mail yesterday that couldn’t have arrived at a better time. Continuing with our Easter theme the girls dug in and got busy.

First project up on the list was hatching an egg.It didn’t take long before a little head started to peak outand upon waking this morning the little chick had grown its full size.

Next up was math by practicing more  symmetry (with new pencils).The Little’s finished by decorating and cutting them out and I placed them next to Little Sis’s eggs she made for around the nature table last week.

Moving right along eggs needed paintingand bunnies needed making.I think I am beginning to get on their good side again.Thanks Dad and Sharon the gifts have been put to good use :).

Many Blessings!

Just In Time For Earth Day

April 20, 2011

So I am catching up on one of my favorite blogs, Nature Moms, when she mentions these shoes. All I can say is it’s about darn time a made in the USA company put out a eco- product that a family like ours could afford.

Bring on the children’s shoes.

The Bunny, The Bunny Oh I Ate The Bunny

April 19, 2011

Yes our family is Veggie tale fans :). In fact truth be known Larry the cucumber makes me laugh.

Well to get caught up from last week there has been lots of creating going on around our home. Besides helping in the garage with sanding, gluing, and just lending a hand when need be The Little’s have been working on projects of their own.

For starters Miss Sky has now moved on from gorillas to lions

and has been reading up all she can. We also finished one of our “finish what you start” projects.I know it looks a little like a bear but we tweaked a pattern to make our own dalmatian felties. I think they turned out cute.

Little Sis found a project to work on (she did everything herself)

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and has been busy making more mud pies. She also discovered where she thinks a gnome may be living in our yard.  Looks like a perfect spot to me. Maybe he will bring our garden good luck this year ;).

I found out that I LOVE roasted dandelion root tea. Oh why hadn’t I discovered this while trying to kick the caffeine habit. If you like to drink your coffee black like myself then dandelion root tea is right up your ally, only this is better for my body. I am sure if you need sweetener you could add some but I think it is great just as it is(pausing to take another satisfying sip).

School this week is all about Easter. Today started with circle. We are doing the same circle as last week with the exception of switching out twinkle twinkle little star with Little Bunny Foo Foo (a Little’s favorite).

Next was a reading of our most favorite Easter tale The Country Bunny And The Little Gold Shoes by Du Bose Heyward. Then outdoors it was for our own egg hunt.

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Only these eggs were filled with jellybeans to be used for our math project. I found these projects on Teaching with TLC’s blog (thanks).

Each Little had 10 eggs, once they were all found we headed inside to graph their results.Counting the jellybeans inside 5 eggs, Little Sis found out she had more green jellybeans and Miss Sky had more yellow. They came to the conclusion there must be more jellybeans of those 2 colors and the least of red and purple.

Next we worked on finding the mean, median,mode, and range of their eggs. These were both big hits and just a jumping off point.  Little Sis sorted her jellybeans into groups of colors and made patterns. Miss Sky worked on fractions, if I have 12 jellybeans and eat 2 what fraction of jellybeans are left? What is the fraction of green jellybeans and so on.

Next The Little’s made bunnies using tangrams and pattern blocks.

Can you make this pattern using different shapes?

So how did we “eat” the bunny? Cookies of course. 🙂

Wishing everyone a great week?

Gratitude

April 18, 2011

Such a little word, so why is it SO hard to show?

Sometimes it is very easy to get swept up in the rat race we call life. We work hard day after day to pay for luxuries we really don’t need. Bigger, better, and more , more , more define our culture today.

Sometimes it takes standing still and letting everyone else pass you by before your eyes really begin to open to all the gifts we have surrounding us.

Sometimes we just need a little reminder. I know I do.

Peace

With A Little Help From My Children

April 15, 2011

Wishing Everyone A Great Weekend!

Fly Like The Wind

April 13, 2011

So we have received some really good news this week! A new shop opening in Pennsylvania wants to carry our treehouses

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and mangers.

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Our Esty shop has not be stocked lately due to the fact Papa got his job back but we have still been doing custom orders on the side. The girls think it is TOO cool that something their dad made is being used in a preschool in California. They are overjoyed to think our treehouses will be in someone’s store 🙂 (okay I am too).

When the deal is complete I will let you know which very talented lady is carrying our items, because by supporting her you support us. Well if that was not enough I also found out my bread was a hit (yippee). We are now trading my homemade bread for one of our farmers products.

It feels really good to be working with our hands again along with mother nature. This has been  a really crazy year and I feel like our family hasn’t been 100% since Papa’s layoff. This was just the good news we needed. (Just learned there have been more lay-offs today at his company and a strike may be soon, man there is always something to rain on our parade.)

For School the Little’s talked about what they learned from the story, this is really cute retold as a play using silks, and about dandelions. Then they made a picture in their MLBs. Today they wrote their composition. I gave Little Sis a bit much this time and before I could help her she was done(she is speedy quick like that). Next time I will give her less and we will work together writing.

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Miss Sky practiced her spelling words by looking at them then turning them over and spelling them and she wrote the definition of her vocabulary words. They are:

herbaceous

perennial

edible

exterminate

regenerate

germinate

Today she practiced her spelling at spellingcity.com.

Funny thing about the girls new computer time, they have lost interest. The weather has warmed up and there are just too many mud pies to be made ;). I for one am happy about that. It is still available to use as a tool for learning(just like the television) but they just find better use of their time. I still like spelling city though I feel it helps with Miss Sky’s spelling words as well as keyboard skills (as she has to type in her words which helps her learn to spell them).

Since a dandelion seed resembles a parachute I thought doing some experiments of how the wind carries a seed might be fun. I was missing supplies to make a parachute (I hope to once we get paperclips) so we made bubbles instead.Well as one that likes to experiment with everything I thought we might as well try one by finding out which bubble recipe works best. So in one jar we placed glycerin in the other we used corn syrup. Next we needed wands. Then outside we went for testing.

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So what were our results? Well they were inconclusive because I don’t think Ecover is made for bubbles. We will try again using joy dish soap. We were however able to see how the wind plays a part in helping dandelions regenerate.

A day well scientifically spent 🙂

Wishing everyone many blessings!