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3.02.2009

Things I've learned

I've turned my blog back over to randomness for the moment. I'm still sticking to my resolution to not buy new clothes for a year, but that's not a terribly exciting thing to keep up with (if you want exciting, check out the crock pot lady's blog- she crock potted -not a word, I know- for 365 days!). Yet I must blog. So I'm going to change my title a little and this blog will just be me, in a nutshell- too many random things going on in one small space.

I was reading Nifty Thrifty Mama's blog post about things we don't need, and it made me think of all the things I've learned since I've begun to put a concious effort into becoming "crunchy." Unlike many of my peers, I like that label. I am not a fan of generalizing groups of people, especially in a negative way, but I also know enough about the nature of people to know that we like feeling like part of a group, and by identifying myself as either "crunchy" or "green" I feel
like I am part of a larger group that has similar interests as me. I view it as a positive description. So I'll embrace it, even though others won't.

So one of the first things I put an effort into was eliminating single use things and anything that I didn't feel was necessary, and the more I thought about it the longer this list got.

First was diapers. Really, that was the catalyst of it all. What happened was that I was
watching the green channel (which really is kind of annoying, but some of the shows aren't bad) while Izzy was napping. "Wasted" was on, and
the family on the show had an older baby. The host of the show, as one of the family's way to improve their footprint, gave them some All in One's and told them how long it takes
disposible diapers to decompose. AND that even supposedly biodegradable diapers take that long to biodegrade in landfills because there is no air or moisture to help the process along. At
the time I was pregnant with Ollie and Izzy had been potty trained for a while. But I thought back to all the diapers I had used on Izzy- first the totally bad Pampers, then the slightly better (although apparently only better for my conscience!) Nature Babycare diapers. And I felt AWFUL. In that moment I pretty much decided conclusively that I was going to use cloth for this coming baby. However, cloth diapering isn't what it used to be, and while all the choices and resources we have now are wonderful, there are so many that it is really overwhelming to a newbie, and I almost whimped out. But I'm so glad I did! Like many of the other things I eliminated, this helped both my budget AND the environment, and I am not gonna lie- I love my cloth!

And speaking of babies, another thing I did was less active but also eliminated a pretty significant thing I used to buy. I committed myself more fully to breastfeed Ollie longer than I did with Izzy. I nursed Izzy until she was just past 6 months old and then, for various (and really, no good) reasons I weaned her to formula. Forget the health benefits (which I know are considerable) of breastmilk, nursing is much better for the budget, too! Formula is DARNED expensive, and I remember how fast Izzy mowed through it when she was an older infant. Not doing that again!

Another common thing housholds with small children mow through is BATTERIES. I try as hard as I can to avoid toys and baby stuff that needs batteries, but I get a lot (thanks guys:P) from family and friends. Also, part of my recent campaign to make bedtime easier for Izzy was to buy her a flashlight. She LOVES it, but she
always forgets to turn it off (and often I forget to go in and do it after she falls asleep!), so we were sometimes going through a set of AA batteries a day! Not only is that wasteful, it's really bad for the environment. Instead of banning the flashlight, I bought this cute little green pod- it's a AA battery charger, and it was only $12! Sure, it only charges AA's, but seriously, that's really all we use now that we've retired the baby swing. The batteries are more expensive (the charger comes with 2, and it's $12 for four more, so a total investment of $24). BUT you only buy as many as you need once, then recharge them. I would spend that on batteries in a month, easy.

I also stopped buying every single household cleaning product that I used to use. Not only were almost all of them really bad for the environment, but they are expensive and unnecessary. Now I only buy dishwasher detergent (phosphate free of course, which I stock up on when it's on sale) and besides that my cleaning supplies consist of Dr. Bronner's liquid (it's super concentrated castile soap- a large bottle costs $10 and so far has lasted my family almost a year, and I still have 1/3 of a bottle left!- I use it to mop the floor, wash anything that requires soap, and to fill our foaming hand soap dispensers), Ivory dishsoap, white vinegar, baking soda, Hydrogen Peroxide, Borax, washing soda, and tea tree oil. With those few simple ingredients you can wash ANYTHING with pretty much the same amount of effort, it gets just as clean, and you don't have to worry about your kids being exposed to harmful chemicals (anyone hear about the swiffer wetjet? Yeah, made me feel pretty good about myself, although I realize that's kind of morbid). And it's much more budget friendly, and you're not polluting the environment with chemicals or throwing away containers. I also make my own laundry detergent and diaper detergent, which takes about 10 minutes. I BELIEVE I have the recipes posted already, but I'll check.

Another small thing I changed- I have a swiffer sweep and vac for my lovely tile floors and, instead of buying the dusting cloths that you throw away, I bought two packages of automotive microfiber towels (they were on sale, of course!) and put those on it instead. They work BETTER and you just wash and reuse them.

Similarly, I stopped buying paper towels and paper napkins. For everyday napkins, I bought a lot of brightly colored dish towels (cheap at target). We color code them by person (each family member has a diff color, that way we can use them until they're dirty instead of using each one just at one meal- but I have 24 total and it's more than plenty even if we do use one per meal). For paper towels I use a variety of things, depending on the job. For super messy dirty things I use rags I cut out of old worn out t-shirts (not only are you not wasting paper, you're also reusing something that would otherwise be thrown away). For spills and wet messes I use the microfiber towels. I LOVE the microfiber towels. The only thing I briefly miss paper towels for is anything greasy, because that tends to not come out of fabric.

One I am still working on is reducing/eliminating ziplock bags. I try to reuse them when possible. I am very seriously considering making some food storage bags from some extra PUL I have (from diaper making). But I'll have to look into that a little more. Ziplocks are VERY handy for storing things, particularly in the freezer. I have plenty of reusable freezer containers, but my freezer isn't very big and I can fit more stuff when it's in bags. Like I said, I'm not giving up- I'm still working on it. Maybe a bigger freezer is my long term solution:)

I also (mostly) cured myself of my addiction to buying beauty products. I did this for 2 reasons- first, it is a huge waste of money, and more often than I would like to admit I would go on a declutter kick and throw a lot of it away. Second, I started to pay attention to the ingredients of what I put on my face and body, and it makes it much easier to edit to what you really feel you need. I try everything in my power to avoid parabens, and as such there's pretty much not anything I CAN use- I have mascera (not paraben free, but close) and foundation (same deal, but I very rarely use it), and I wash my face with Dr. Bronners and use JASON cocoa butter to moisturize. But enough on my beauty routine- my point is that I've eliminated a lot of the crud I used to use, and I look pretty much the same. Funny how that works, huh?

Lately we've been working on cutting way back on packaged/prepared food, which cuts way back on the budget as well. There are several things I didn't think we could do without that we don't even miss- example, most snack foods. I thought that, with a two year old in the house (and, well, a bottomless husband) that would be rough, but we don't really miss them. I've been baking a little, but we also have been eatting nuts, fruit, cheese, raisins, applesauce, yogurt... gone are the crackers, chips, cereal bars, etc. Meal planning also helps because it reduces the amount of food waste- you only buy what you need.

The last thing we have been doing to reduce waste and keep our spending in check is a spending notebook. Both my husband and I are bad about impulse spending and immediate gratification. So, before we spend money on anything other than gas or grocceries we have to put it in the notebook (which also has a monthly budget overview and a list of upcoming expected larger expenses like oil changes, new carseat, etc). It's just a spiral notebook. For this to work, though, you would have to be committed to the accountability. I'm committed- my husband just lives in fear of my wrath:)

So think about it. What do you use and just throw away? How could you replace it with something reusable? What can you live without altogether? Think about the ways you can help both your budget and the planet, and once they're gone I can almost guarantee you won't miss them. And let me know if there's anything I can add to my list!


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