Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Um, That's Different...

Seeds in my sprouter

For quite some time, I'd wanted to incorporate a healthier diet into my lifestyle, but with the high cost of whole grains and organics, this desire hadn't materialized.  Several weeks back, though, a friend introduced me to the concept of sprouting.  I hadn't known that it was possible to sprout so many seeds so effortlessly.  You don't even need soil!  I was hooked and began researching more on sprouting.

Researching sprouting led me to soaking grains, which led me to sourdough starters, which led me to kombucha, and somewhere in between all of those I found recipes for home-made deodorant and brownies made from black beans and spinach.

Are you grossed out yet?

I promise I'm not becoming some rogue health nut, but some of these concepts intrigued me to the point that I tried them.  Some, like the sourdough starter and kombucha, I've yet to try, but I do hope to experiment with them in the near future.  Stay tuned for those. 

All that to say, I didn't plan on 2012 turning into my year for trying new, do-it-yourself (DIY), frugal (and sometimes crazy!) ideas, but I'm having a lot of fun.  Some things have proven to be wonderful, while others have done nothing but given me a good laugh.  I'm excited, though, at the prospect of inexpensively incorporating healthful living into my current routine.  My next several posts will focus on these new endeavors, both the successes and the failures.  If you're interested, come learn with me.

No doubt that this will be a fun, odd, and occasionally awkward adventure!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Fixing the Broke

We've all been told, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it!" but my friend D pointed out in her post here that occasionally things do need to be modified or updated.  So it was with my scheduling and couponing systems:  what had once worked was no longer effective.

A couple of years ago, I started with a coupon binder that I got with gift cards I'd earned on some money-maker deals.  It worked for a little while, but I quickly tired of the time it took to get the coupons in and out of the sheet protectors.

After reading through several coupon-compiling methods in The Money Saving Mom's Budget, I settled on the coupon box.  I was eager to put this together, and since we were studying finances and stewardship in school, I had the kids help.  Educational fun - what a great combo!

All three spark plugs had a great time helping me sort and prepare the envelopes.

We followed the example pretty closely, not because it's a perfect model, but because it was a place to start.  I'm learning that if I wait until I've worked out everything perfectly in my mind, I'll never start anything!

A few things we did change:  I used legal-sized envelopes instead of the smaller size; I put the empty envelope box in the back for holding unsorted coupons; and we added our cash envelopes that I made last year based on the "prettified" version, explained here.

Yep, I made those!  It was fun to work with all of those lovely patterns and flowers.  I had decided a while ago that if I had a hope of sticking to the envelope system (and honestly, I mostly use these to file receipts), it should be attractive enough to warrant the constant viewing.  :)

Lastly, I made some space for a pen, scissors, and a grocery list so that I have everything in one spot.  I won't take all of those cash envelopes with me, but it's nice to have a place to store them.  And to solve the issue of 152-coupon-pickup when the box gets dropped (the biggest drawback to using a coupon box), we picked a box with lid locks. 

So far, this method is working well.  I find it quick and easy to toss the coupons right into the envelopes instead of letting them stack up, unfiled, on the top of my microwave (I can't believe I'm admitting that I actually do that).  Less clutter makes a happier me, so this is a complete win-win situation in my book!

In addition to updating my coupon storage, I was struggling with home organization.  I love lists, but making impractically-long "to-dos" on random pieces of paper did nothing but frustrate me and clutter my house further.  I have a homemaking binder, but I kept forgetting to reference it.  I also tried using digital lists to minimize the scraps of lists that followed in my wake, but I do much better with a physical, tangible list.

I recently found the answer to my need for a sensible, paper list:  the Motivated Moms Chore Planner.  I'd seen it advertised on Money Saving Mom, but it wasn't until my friend A purchased it and gave it a more in-depth review that I felt confident in spending the money on it (I don't like to spend money on things that I could make on my own, especially when purchasing the item still requires me to print it out and thus increase expenses with more paper and ink).

The result?  I LOVE it.  It's simple; it's sensible and realistic; and it even reminds me to do things like feed the cat and trim the kids' nails.  It was definitely worth the $7.  It also suggested something I'd never thought of:  cleaning the bathroom over a few days instead of the whole thing in one fell swoop.  Since cleaning the bathroom is one of my most hated chores, I tend to put it off.  But if I look at it from the standpoint of cleaning the mirrors on Monday and wiping down the sink on Tuesday, somehow that is more manageable for me (and oddly enough, I often get the whole thing cleaned on Monday and free up time later in the week).

Coupon binders and scribbled lists were a great start for me.  As my needs have changed, though, it's been nice to find better solutions that fit my current situation.  Not every change in life will be as easy as these were, nor will each change transition as smoothly as I hope these will.  My hope, however, is that by implementing small bits of positive change, the larger upheavals won't be as earth-shattering as they could have been.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Avocado Attack!

I've tried many frugal adventures in the past few years.  While I've never purposely taken showers without hot water, I have glued shoes (it didn't hold), made laundry soap (so much fun!), and sewn fleece jammies (better to leave that to the experts for now).  However, pitting and peeling 95 overly-ripe avocados has to rank up there on my "unusual frugal finds" list!

When a limb from Jon's parents' avocado tree came down just before Christmas, it showered down over 300 avocados in the process.  A hundred were too bruised to be salvaged; Jon's brother kept a hundred; and we were blessed with the last 95 (yes, I counted them all).

The above photo does not do justice to the situation, since there were only about 45 left in the box by the time I decided to photograph the endeavor.  It took hours of sitting on the floor of the kitchen, getting covered in guacamole-esk avocado guts, to get through the pit-and-peel process.  Although I was tired and sore after doing it, Jon figured out that since avocados on sale are 2 for $3 and I was pitting them at a rate of one avocado every 2 minutes, I was getting paid a handsome hourly wage!

We all love guacamole around here, but we're not often willing to pay the price for avocados.  So, even though it took a little elbow work and a few hours of my time, this was definitely one miserly attempt that went well and produced good results.

Over 30 pits in the sink (yep, my sink is nauseating chartreuse)!  After we got the avocados divided and frozen, I decided that I'd like an avocado tree of my own and saved 6 pits to sprout.  That part of the avocado frenzy didn't go quite as planned.

I'm currently saving up the money I don't have to spend on avocados to buy a tree next year.  :)