Monday, January 31, 2011

Treasure Hunt 2011: January Check-In

Nautical Theme for Everett's Room: Antique Mall

Welcome to the January check-in for Treasure Hunt 2011!

First off, a disclaimer. I have never done this before so please forgive any mistakes.

Before I ask you all to share, I will tell you about how I did.

Red Cabinet: Craigslist

It was harder than I thought. As I reviewed my monthly purchases today to prepare for this post, I realized January was a great teacher. Lessons learned (in no particular order):

1. Just because I can treasure hunt, doesn't mean I have to. I think I ended up buying more than I should have just because I was so excited about the idea. Ultimately, less is more, even with cool stuff.

2. I need to give myself a waiting period. Because Craigslist has some neat finds with quick turnover, I feel pressured to jump on purchases without thinking them through only to regret it later. If I am meant to have a piece, I will.

3. Buy less at the beginning of the month. Make notes of potential wants/needs and at the end of the month, review the budget and purchase accordingly.

4. Get more creative. I think this goes along with giving myself time. If I have time to think about it, I will often come up with a plan that doesn't involve buying anything, new or used. (More on this later in the week).

With all that and a plan to do better next month in mind, here's what I bought in January:

Lantern for Tucker's room: Antique Mall

New items (does not include food purchases):
Argan oil skin care and makeup set
2 candles
Eddie Bauer shirt
"Four Seasons Harvest"
New Wallet (Note to self: When you attend home parties, you will buy something.)
Birthday gift
Sketchbook/Garden Journal

Blue Cabinet: Craigslist

Used Items:
Nautical themed items for Everett's room
Lanterns for boys' rooms
Cabinets from Craigslist
Clothing from resale shops (pjs, sweater, pants, dress, jacket,)

Got Creative/Went Without:
Chalkboard/new dry erase board
New toys for boys
Toy storage for said "new" toys...more to come on these later.

Dress and jacket: Resale shop

All of that said, I did better with my budget this month than I have in years (coming under budget in a few areas), but I have a lot to learn and fix for next month. My primary goal for February is to limit new purchases even further and have my used items and got creative list far outnumber new items bought.

How did you do? Please link up and share with us how you did this month. You can share any or all of the following...What were your best finds? How did you go without or get creative? How much did you save by buying second hand? How did you limit new purchases? What are your goals for next month?

Lantern for Tucker's room: Antique mall

Link right to your Treasure Hunt Post rather than your homepage
Place a link back to the Treasure Hunt within your post so others can join the party
Don't be afraid to share! Remember, every month's post earns you an entry to win a fabulous prize!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Monday is the Big Day!

It's coming...Monday is the first installment of Treasure Hunt 2011!

Check in here on January 31st and link us back to your post on your treasures found and/or savings kept for January.

Are you getting ready?

Friday, January 28, 2011

2 Add-Ons to How To Shop

The How To Shop post has been on my mind this week as I make meals and grocery shop. I realized that I missed two big points. So with that, the addendums:

1. Utilize punch cards. I thought of this one this week when I went to Great Harvest for my bread as I do every week until I learn how to make my own edible bread. I go every Tuesday for double punch day and end up earning a free loaf at least once a month. Which is a good thing because have I mentioned, healthy food can be expensive?

2. Get in a rut. The boys and I eat the same thing almost every day for breakfast and lunch. This does a couple of things for us: it lets me buy in bulk knowing that we will use everything, it keeps me from having to guess or short order cook for every meal, and it helps us stick to a plan. I once read Dr. Oz said that eating the same thing for certain meals helps you to limit your junk food intake my limiting your options and your confusions around food. I have come to believe this is true.

Ok, I really think that's everything now. Have you thought of any more?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Product Review: Argan Oil

I don't think I would ever be accused of being a fashionista. Don't get me wrong, I like to look as pretty as possible. But I can be realist, and realistically 2 little boys + sticking to a budget = easy does it in the beauty department. This means I was excited when I found something that not only simplifies my beauty routine, but helps my skin feel clearer, brighter, and healthier.

I have been using Josie Maran's argan oil for a few months now. I bought it myself and have no vested interested in the product except that it works for me. I use the pure 100% argan oil as a morning and night moisturizer and find that when using it I don't need any additional eye cream. Just a little bit (about 1/3 dropper) works to cover my whole face and doesn't leave it feeling oily. I have sensitive, dry skin and it doesn't irritate at all. Because I don't have oily skin, I can't speak directly to that (please share if you do and have tried it) but because it absorbs so fast and you can use so little, I really think it might be ok for oilier skin.

After the oil worked out so well, I tried the color stick, concealer, and, tinted moisturizer (with SPF 30! I use the fair color). I am now officially having a mini love affair with my beauty products. I have stopped using mineral foundation (which I loved but was very messy and time consuming) most days and am really enjoying the fresh look these few products provide.

I would love to hear if you have tried this or something similar. How did it work? What else have you found that works? What is your favorite new beauty find?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

How To Shop

I have a good friend who has always been a great cook and baker, but has recently become more interested in making and buying food for her family that is more natural, less preserved, and closer to the source. Last night she said, "Willo, I need you to teach me how to shop." I am not by nature a shopper-and I am certainly not an expert on grocery shopping or money savings-but there are some things you pick up after years of gradually trying to improve your diet, your footprint, and your budget. So today for my friend and anyone else it might help, some tips on how to shop for the healthiest food and not break the bank.

1. Get a good cookbook (or two). There are few facts as simple in life as the one that states if you cook your meals at home you will spend less money than going to a restaurant or buying pre-packaged meals. There is also something so loving about making good, healthy food for your family. As we have learned more about staying close to the source with our food and eating seasonally I have found a few cookbooks I love and use all the time. My favorites are the Clean Food and Clean Start cookbooks by Terry Walters. She tells you how to keep your cupboards stocked with healthy essentials and divides the recipes seasonally for easy reference.

2. Make a list. Once you have your recipes, make a list for weekly shopping. If you have your list in hand as you cruise the aisles you are far less likely to get overwhelmed or make impulse decisions.

3. Shop locally when possible. For fresh produce and eggs, we try to support our local farmer's markets as much as possible. In the summer we have a thriving market just a few miles away in our local village every week. Winter months we have to drive a little further, but can find an indoor winter market bi-weekly. Chances are, you can find something similar near you. There are also local health food and independent organic stores you can support. Ours is quite a drive for us, so we only go for the obscure ingredient we can't find closer.

4. Get a big box store membership. I know that for someone always shouting local from the rooftops, it seems odd that I am recommending a big box store like Costco. Taking another look though, many of these big stores now have organic grocery brands and are great for stocking up in bulk, which saves money, packaging, and gas. We make a trip once every 3 months or so and stock the pantry with items such as old-fashioned oat meal, organic peanut butter and jelly, organic applesauce, rice and soy milk, baking soda and vinegar.

5. Make a mental and financial commitment to yourself and your family. I will not lie to you. Eating healthy, local, and organic food costs more money right now. Until organic and permaculture farmers start getting subsidized and we develop a better system to transport food regionally, making the healthier choice means more money out of pocket. I know in these times of belt-tightening that it seems a lot to ask, but it is an investment. By paying more for food you are less likely to waste it and more likely to make a commitment to changing your lifestyle towards cooking, eating at home, and honoring your health. Michael Pollan in "In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto" talks about this very thing and makes the point that just as we pay for quality in other areas of shopping, so we must do to eat real food. That being said...

6. Take little steps. If you can only do one of two of these things, that is one or two more than you did prior. Each step you can take will bring you closer to a healthier lifestyle and our society closer to a sea change in the way we shop for, cook, and eat food. I know how overwhelming it seems to make changes, but each journey starts with the first step.

What steps have you taken so far? What steps do you still hope to take? What are your healthy food shopping tips?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Bookin' It

I was recently introduced to this beautiful little book called, A Householder's Guide to the Universe: A Calendar of Basics for the Home and Beyond. In it, Ms. Fasenfest brilliantly lays out an argument for why the art of Householding is important and the intelligence of building your own at home economy. Better yet, she does it in a month-by-month layout that is incredibly easy to follow. January is a time for rest (got that under control with my stack of books and recently discovered Glee addiction) and garden planning.

Every year we intend to start a garden and don't, but this year I am determined to be more on top of it. Which is why I went out and found the biggest gardening journal (in form of sketchbook) I could find and am currently using it to jot down the wisdom in my big book of Country Wisdom & Know-How. I also ordered this book.

Because we have a very high water table and the previous owner filled a lot of the land with rocks for his RV, we are facing all raised bed veggie gardening. So I will soon be off to the library for books on that topic (recommendations?). I have to admit, I am utterly overwhelmed and this is the most homework I have felt like I had since I finished school.

Someone please tell me it gets easier. And please share your tips, reference recommendations, country wisdom, etc...Golly could I use it!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Making a Birthday Gift Fit

My oldest is in Kindergarten now, and woooo wee does that mean a lot of birthday parties! We already had one this month, so when the invitation for another arrived in the backpack, I knew it would be a challenge to fit a gift in the budget. I checked our regifting box, but unfortunately found nothing suitable for a soon-to-be 6 year old. Which reminds me that I can't wait for garage sale season to stock up on new books, games, have on hand at times like these.

Anyway, back to my dilemma...birthday gift. Then I remembered a $10 gift card I had from Best Buy for recycling an old TV. The way it works there is that you have to pay a $10 fee to recycle your electronic item, but receive a gift card for that amount to use in store. I also remembered that I had a DVD player waiting to be recycled.

So $20 of in store credit (with $10 out of pocket this month) let my son pick out this for his friend.

What is it with those penguins? A little reused packaging paper decorated by Tucker and we are good to go with about $5 left on the gift card!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Walking With Gratitude

I've been in a funk lately. Blame the Winter blues, two little boys who rebel against sleeping, or adjustments to new routines in the new year. Whatever it is, it needs to be shook. I used to think that I needed something big to shake me out of my funk. Now I know that all I really need is a walk around my house with gratitude in my heart.

Gratitude for the good health to be able to take a walk. Gratitude for that sunrise.

Gratitude for a warm bowl of oatmeal on a cold winter day.
Gratitude for food at all, let alone the indulgence that is citrus fruit in January in Michigan.
And most of all, gratitude for these sleepy boys.

What are you walking with gratitude for today?

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Fishing for New Ideas

These beautiful little glass baubles used to be in my brother's fish tank when he was little. My mom has been cleaning out all the stuff from when we were kids and thought my boys might enjoy them. I put them in a glass hurricane I just had sitting in the closet and now I like them too. "New," fun bathroom decoration cost=$0.
What have you rediscovered or found a new use for in your home lately?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

My Misto

My mom gave these Misto things out for Christmas. Have you seen these? They are intended for use instead of store bought oil sprayers. You fill it half way up with the oil of your choice, give it a few pumps and spray. This allows more control over what you are eating and less impact on the environment.

I am also thinking of other uses: citronella oil and water mix for bug spray in the summer or lavender (or lemon, or mint, or whatever your favorite is) and water for air or fabric freshener. And of course, they make a great gift, especially for the foodie in your life.

What do you think? Do you have one? Do you have more ideas for uses?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Dry Clothes, Low Energy Bills

We heat our home with a wood stove because that's the way it was built to function best. The wood comes from fallen trees on our land or a local supplier who uses found trees (i.e., not cut to burn). This keeps our energy bills low. Also using the wood stove to dry our clothes, keeps the energy bills lower. Some days, like this one, I get really lucky and the sun pitches in too!

How are you using innovation and what you have to keep energy bills down this winter?