Curb Alert!!!

4 cloth bags, 2 divided wine bottle bags, 2 superhero bags for a friend (not pictured), 1 canvas bag, and a roll of brown craft paper for wrapping presents…

A few months ago I was reading a post over at Frugalwoods about how if you are open to the things you need being provided to you, a lot of the time you can spend little to no money and be very blessed in finding the things you need.  At the time I just sort of scoffed and said, yeah right… maybe in her area.  And then I found Facebook Marketplace. And don’t get me wrong, I had known it existed, but thought it existed for selling Coach knockoffs and used soccer gear.  I am sure it does that, but there is so much more as well.  When I finally opened it up and looked at it the purpose was to sell the dress my daughter wore for my brother’s wedding.

My daughter on the left in a blush dress from David's bridal with a flower headband, and my son on the right in blue dress pants, a white dress shirt, suspenders, and a bow tie
Kiddos looking all fancy and a bit bored…

Being a junior bridesmaid meant a really expensive dress in a certain color and not something that she really had the chance to wear much later. Researching a sale meant seeing things for sale.  And for Free.  And the hey, I don’t want to pay to have this stuff hauled off or to take it for donation, so come and get it, curb alerts.

Somewhere between these two moments in time I made a short wish list of things I had been wanting.  Apparently not all of them because what I picked up today wasn’t there when I went to cross it off. Oh Well.   It was there in my head.

A few months ago I had been getting something out of my back seat and an old Mr. Peanut jar fell and shattered in the driveway.  It fell because it was rolling around loose and not contained because if jars are just in a fabric grocery bag they clang together and chip or break so I just put them in the back and hope for the best most of the time…. usually when I think I will be using them in the next few days.  But I didn’t, and it is no longer.  Anyway, it dawned on me that what i really needed was something that would keep the jars separated like one of those wine bottle bags you occasionally see at the store….  and since I hadn’t seen one in years because I hadn’t been into those types of stores, I was like, yeah, but where do you find that?  And onto the wish list in my head it went.

On my way home today I was thinking about how it would be cool if I found a desk along the road and could surprise my son with it (he would like to get rid of the love seat in his room and get a desk).  And low and behold a few turns later, I do indeed see a pile by the side of the road— which is just as good as a curb in the country. No desks, but I decide to see what’s there anyway, and they had a bag of bags!  I have a ton, so wasn’t really wanting more bags, but decided I would sift through them and see if anything caught my eye, totally not thinking of the wine bags!  But then I saw it…  slid down to the bottom, next to something very natural colored, a bag that is thicker than the others, and not as big, and I am sure I was grinning from ear to ear. Oh, and those natural colored bags?  Actual fabric instead of some sort of fabric-like plastic.  All in all, I managed to not bring home clutter, I was blessed with bags that will work wonderfully for produce, bags that will keep my recent accumulations of Mr. Peanut jars in good shape, and was also able to pass a few superhero bags onto a friend.

So in the end, put out there what you are looking for, be open to things that serve the purpose, and I hope you find happiness in the hunt!

~Going Green Mom

 

Foodie Fridays- Chuck Wagon Chow

    Chuck wagon chow in the panChuck Wagon Chow- Piping hot!
  • 1 lb Ground Beef
  • 1 can whole kernel sweet corn ( drained)
  • 1 can chili beans (mild or hot will work, check to make sure they are gluten free if needed)
  • salt/pepper
  • garlic to taste

Start by browning the ground beef in a large skillet. Season with Salt and Pepper if desired.

Drain excess fat from pan and add the whole can of chili beans, liquid and all, and the corn. Stir.

Now that it is mixed up, season with the garlic (this might take more than you think, so check it a couple times as it seems to change as it heats up and melds together.  Also depends on how much flavor your beans have).  The liquid from the chili beans adds the rest of the flavor.

Heat through and serve.

Cost per serving: $1.86

We used to eat this with garlic bread back when I could have such things.  These days the kids will sometimes eat with bread and butter, but normally it is just on its own.  Over the years I have started adding a second can of corn and beans to stretch this meal as my kiddos have gotten bigger and we needed more to make a complete meal and no one complains about a lack of meat in the dish.

Can’t do much to beat a quick, simple, and hearty meal with your family.

Wishing you a happy mealtime,

Going Green Mom

 

What’s in the trash?

What would be better options for what you see?

Somewhere between recycling and minimalism I stumbled on the idea that you don’t have to produce a bunch of trash every week.  I quickly embraced the idea that a person could work toward a zero waste lifestyle by adjusting how they do things.  It probably doesn’t shock anyone that knows me in real life that I have a thing about wanting to know how things used to be done.  Probably explains the degree in anthropology too.  One of the assignments in my intro classes also helped with that since we dug through trash to see what we could find out about people based on it….  no worries, it was the professor’s, and he is the one that brought it in…  but what can you really learn from looking in your trash?

  1. What you spend your money on.
  2. What you actually use.
  3. Where you get stuff that you don’t want.

And where to start.  Back when people were living on the farm and raising their own food, or wandering the prairies following the herds they used everything that they had.  They picked the vegetables and maybe cut them up or cooked them, then they ate them.  They didn’t wrap them in plastic, put them in a Styrofoam tray, plaster them with language to make them sound appealing to everyone else in town.  They didn’t need to.  If you think about it there are probably places in your town that you can still buy vegetables that way.  If you are lucky you might be able to buy things out of bulk bins like rice or beans, maybe herbs and spices too.

What was in my trash at first you might ask?  A lot of everything.  Many people said switch to reusable… but I already had. Think cloth napkins instead of paper, kitchen towels instead of paper towels.  Lots of people seemed obsessed with reusable straws when I first joined groups, but I didn’t use straws at that point….  I have since started drinking smoothies for breakfast and bought stainless steel.  I am reusing the foaming hand soap dispensers that I have had for years, and if you need to know how to clean them I highly recommend watching this video from Stacy at Humorous Homemaking.  I have started getting shampoo and conditioner from Plaine Products, who include shipping for you to send the containers back to them to be cleaned and refilled….  but I had already been using a wall mount dispenser that GREATLY reduced the amount of product we go through in a year.  It has actually taken me about a year to get to their product because I had most of a bottle of my old brand here already.  But maybe I am getting a little ahead of myself here.  The point is you need to look at your trash and see what’s in there.  I would recommend just snapping a quick shot with your phone, and then picking 1 or 2 things to try to get rid of.  In order to do that, let me explain the steps of zero waste…

The zero waste movement was started by Bea Johnson who decided to eliminate the waste coming in and going out of her home.  As I recall, I believe she basically made this her job at the time to change how their family of 4 did things.  Anyway, she came up with an expansion of the 3 R’s that we all know and love (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle), and so the 5 R’s of Zero Waste are Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Rot.

Refuse- This is the best approach for the little knick-knacks and clutter that people give away for free various places, as well as a viable approach for a fair amount of random purchases you might make if you are prone to impulse purchases.  You simply say no thank you, and move on.  Or you enjoy the item in the store without bringing it home.

Reduce- Choosing items that are less or not at all packaged allows you to eliminate the need to throw away the part of what you bought that is not usable.  Recent pictures I have seen highlighting this are individual oranges wrapped in plastic or maybe putting a gallon of milk in a bag.  If you need a bag for your milk you can change to a reusable option…  but the image I saw was a gallon of milk in a plastic jug in a plastic bag still being carried by the handle on the gallon of milk.

Reuse- In some instances something can be reused.  This might be the jar that you bought pasta sauce in being re-purposed for canning peaches, or a box from pasta being used as a fire starter.  You might be inspired by craft projects to transform the item on Pinterest, or you might use the item as is.  You might use it for the same purpose as before, or you might use it for something completely different.  Use your imagination, and if you choose your materials wisely they can follow you to the next step if you wind up with too many.

Recycle- This is probably the most recognized step in the process and comes with lots of misconceptions.  Many people think things can be recycled that can’t, and others think things can’t be recycled that can.  Unfortunately this often takes a little bit of research on the services in your area, and if you don’t have curbside recycling a little more legwork to get the materials to their next life-stage.  It is also important to note that pretty much everywhere recyclables must be relatively clean or they still go to the landfill.

Rot- The last step on this journey is rot.  Once you have refused, reduced, reused, and recycled, most of your waste is carbon-based.  That means that it can go into a compost pile or bin of some sort to be broken down in any of several ways, then used as nutrients for the next batch of gardening you or your neighbor might choose to do.

Hopefully this gives you a bit of information to chew on and we can dig into each of the steps further as I refocus and work on our waste output again.  When I started we were pretty well filling our big rolling trash bin each week, and taking a few recyclables to what we called the smiling families.  I have since picked up curbside recycling which is a very small investment for the amount of time, effort, and peace it has given me.

Wishing you easy first steps,

Going Green Mom

 

 

Foodie Friday- Leftover Saute

Last Friday I told you guys that I had joined a pantry challenge.  I managed to only grab a gallon of milk mid-week, but I do have a few things I have to grab before I pick the kiddos up.  Most of them are requests from the kids.

  • Orange juice-they were fighting colds for whatever reason last time they were home, and prefer juice to Vitamin C tabs
  • Pudding- chocolate, vanilla, and lemon…. we already have vanilla, so I will grab the other two
  • Tortillas
  • Cheese
  • Honey Bunches of Oats (this will only happen if it is on sale, they have raisin bran, and he will make quesadillas which will work out cheaper)
  • Veggies
  • Vinegar
  • Potatoes

I use vinegar as my principle cleaning agent, so this is actually more for laundry and cleaning than cooking. Mash was requested by my girl child, apparently she doesn’t remember having it a couple weeks ago when she requested it last time, so I need potatoes for that.  At the store I am going to they mark down produce on Tuesdays and Fridays, so I will see what I can find to add some fresh veggies to the plan for the week.  Cheese and tortillas are on the list every time.  Mainly because my son is going to turn into a quesadilla any moment.  He will have a couple for breakfast before walking out the door (even though he could have cereal or any number of other things at school), and then turn around and want that for both after school snack and as a bedtime snack if he isn’t digging into the ice cream.

In case you didn’t know, I think pretty much any mother can tell you that you don’t go into a store hungry.  Or with kids if you can help it.  I do break that last one because after a few years of monthly grocery shops without kids I realized my kids hadn’t actually been in a store in over a year. But I still only take them occasionally.  My goal for today is to make it in and out for less than $25.  This is somewhat arbitrary, but in order to not have to play whack-a-mole with my budget, that is the goal.  I also try to see how fast I can get in and out because the longer you are in, generally the more you spend.  So I just fixed myself what I am calling Leftover Saute to get my belly full, and then I will head out.

Sometimes lunch can be a bunch of stuff thrown in a pan with some seasonings and turn out awesome.

Leftover Saute

1 leftover turnip (diced, but I also took the little sprouting tops off and added those)

1 leftover chicken thigh (skin removed, cut into pieces- skin saved)

1/2 leftover medium onion- diced

2 spiralized carrots- cores were eaten for breakfast this morning, and sprials saved in a bowl of water

2 small kale leaves- fresh from the garden…  is it leftover considering the kale was leftover from last year?

4ish garlic leaves? stalks?  it was the soft tops, not scapes, and not the cloves….

4 spearmint leaves- also picked from the garden today….  the rest of the bunch will probably be dried and used in my morning smoothies

I cut up the chicken into the skillet, put the skin in the toaster oven for 5ish minutes, and then cut the onion and turnip.  I did add a pinch of Pink Himalayan salt, and chicken fat leftover from cooking chicken thighs…  I honestly don’t know if this is schmaltz….  which I understand to be rendered chicken fat, but that is what I have been calling it for ease of labelling.  I used to use bacon grease in these type applications, but am avoiding pork these days.  Anyway,  once those were all melding well I tossed in the lightly squeezed out carrot spirals, and went to pick the stuff from the garden. It just didn’t have enough color.  I did cut those into strips and tossed them in, and basically just let it get good and wilted.  Top with the chicken skin. Then nom, nom, nom…..  why do I automatically see pacman when I use that term?

~Going Green Mom

Changes in Trajectory

Once upon a time, in a life far, far away, I met a financial advisor named Nick Liskey in a meeting about 401ks and planning for retirement. The room he was speaking in had a door in either direction beside him, probably 30-40 feet away from each other.  He asked where we would go if there was a fire, and inevitably most people pointed at the door they could easily see.  If you were facing one way, even if you were closer to the one behind you, most people didn’t say they would use that door.  His point after this exercise is that you tend to go in the direction that your feet are pointed.  That is great if you like the outcome, but if you don’t, you need to change direction.

Over the course of my adult years I have been blessed in many ways, but have also faced some challenges.  I come from a family where I had 2 loving parents with a relatively good head on their shoulders when it came to saving.  I grew up hearing various conversations about generic money topics, and saw examples of side jobs first hand.  My mom had a second income  using her sewing skills, my dad his computer repair skills.  They both worked on rental properties in various capacities over the years.  When I moved out of the house right around my 20th birthday, I was pregnant, in school (and really didn’t want to be), in a dead end job (for another couple days), and really had no plan.  The direction I was headed was debt, debt, and more debt.  First with student loans (the one thing I think was very bad advise from my parents), and then credit card debt, and as soon as my employer found out that I too was pregnant, no job.  I was also thrust into a little bit different mindset from what I grew up in.  I can’t really say why, and I am positive there are a ton of studies explaining people’s theories as to why, but moving into a trailer park with my kids’ dad, I was suddenly around a lot of people that didn’t have a plan.  Based on the trailer park I live in now, many of the people I was around probably didn’t have goals either.  Or rather the goal was just to survive.

I want to be very clear on this point…  if you move yourself into a position that allows you to save money on living expenses, but puts you with people that are just trying to survive, you need a plan to not adopt this mindset! 

This was actually the mindset of a lot of the people in the factory this meeting took place in.  They didn’t really have a plan, so they just spent the money they had and got more money next week when the next check came in.  Nick’s suggestion was figuring out what you need to retire, and then working toward putting money away each check that would help you get there.  I have no idea what he said as far as how to figure that out, but the point of moving your feet so they point in the right direction stuck with me.  I “need” to be saving several hundred dollars a month to retire in 10 years…  I can’t afford that right now, but I can at least put 1% away so that I am in my current 401k program.  Then once I am getting 40 hours a week regularly, maybe I can put 2 or 3% in.  Then maybe I’ll be able to get the full match.  But moving my feet closer to the direction they need to be going changes the trajectory of my retirement plans, because it is easier to change by a little bit at a time than trying to go from none to a whole bunch all at once.

One baby step at a time,

Going Green Mom

 

 

Pantry Support…. because sometimes things are more fun in groups.

For the month of May I joined a pantry challenge on Happy in the Hollow.  This isn’t the first pantry challenge I have done, but many times I don’t join a group.  I tend to do them when either space or money is tight.  We have a local store that does a Buy 2 Get 3 free sale 3 times a year, and I will typically stock the freezer at that time.  It always helps if there is room in the freezer to do so.

So what is a pantry challenge?  It is a period of time when you make a conscious effort to eat down your pantry instead of buying groceries as you normally would.  This may be in an effort to reduce spending if your budget is stretched that week or month, or it may be to clean out old and forgotten items before they go bad.  Food does eventually do that even if it keeps for a long time, so in order to get the most nutrient value out of it, you want to cycle through the food in your pantry on a regular basis.  Even if you have long term food storage it is a good idea to regularly use that food in your cooking so that you know how to prepare it, and this should be done in a First In, First Out fashion.  This keeps a cycle going so that you are always using the oldest food first, and as you (or if you) replace something it will go behind the oldest of the item you already have.  They make rotation shelves for this, or there are lots of different ways to do it on pinterest…  or you can just pull the old to the front and put the new in the back on your shelf.  Do whatever works for you.

Most people will probably start a pantry challenge by looking at what they have.  Pull things off shelves or out of cupboards, or if you have certain things you know you keep moving around to get to other things— those are prime targets.  The next thing is to set your parameters. Will you buy any groceries during the challenge?  If so, will you limit your budget? Only buy certain items? Only buy things if they are needed to finish a recipe to use something up? In my experience, I will almost always still need to buy milk.  I may or may not need to buy bread or tortillas for the kids (I am gluten free, but they do some cooking for snacks or food while I am at work).  I have tried the buying to recipe approach, but found that it is usually better to ask google for substitutes so that I don’t wind up with another ingredient I wouldn’t normally use for the next challenge.  You also want to think about how long you will do the challenge for.  If you are doing it for financial reasons that might be until you get another paycheck, or the next month.  I will often do a month at a time, unless I am trying to clear a particular location out.  Then I go til the food is gone (hopefully with enough time to clean it before refilling it with the food that has gone on sale).  After you have set your parameters, and you know what you have that needs used up, you are ready to start planning.

Are there obvious meals your family likes you can make with those ingredients?  Can you throw in an extra item in something you know you like to get it used up?  Maybe those last few stalks of celery could get tossed into a sauce or a soup you wouldn’t normally have celery in.  Maybe that canned salmon that you accidentally bought can turn into salmon patties instead of the hamburgers you would normally fix.  Make sense? Great! I will be writing more in this series over the next few weeks, so make sure to check back to see what I am working on. Let me know what you are using up in the comments below!

Wishing you clean shelves and good food,

Going Green Mom

 

Going Green with the K.I.S.S principle

While fixing the issues with the website and email stuff I had several tech support people that were awesome to talk to.  One of them started asking questions while she waited for things to go through, and I found it is a conversation I have had with lots of people when they hear my screen name (and in this case website address).  So let’s start with a couple of things. 1.  No I didn’t take this name because I was cutting chemicals out of my life, but I have done that.  2. I don’t sell anything that is going to make your life greener (surprised?).  Now that we are done with that, on to the fun stuff.

Most people have heard some explanation of KISS…  I will go with the Keep It Simple Sweetie version, as I have outlawed the other common word in my house.  Don’t talk badly about yourself because you teach other people how to treat you, and for goodness sake, don’t talk badly about others either.  So, What does the KISS principle have to do with Going Green?  Well, usually the greenest option is going to be one of the simplest.  It might seem like a crazy idea considering how many things there are to buy, most promising to save the environment by planting trees or saving wildlife if you buy their product.  When I chose my screen name green washing wasn’t a thing- yet.  The only cleaner that had claims on being environmentally friendly was probably Simple Green, and most people had never even heard of it.

Keeping it simple in my life often means looking to what was used before the industrial revolution changed this country so much.  This isn’t because I have issues with products, but because often people that were here were using something for any of the “needs” that we have, at least in terms of keeping house or basic life skills.  Most of those needs were filled with techniques, tools, or something that could be found a) easily, b) inexpensively, and c) locally.  I know.  Strange concept, to think that we wouldn’t find something on that magical internet shopping center…  and actually, I have looked for my cleaning products on that site, incredibly more expensive that at my local stores.  So what do I use, you ask?  Vinegar, Baking Soda, Peroxide, Dr. Bronner’s soap, and a few essential oils (I am NOT brand specific).

Vinegar can be purchased at any of my local grocery stores for no more than 4 dollars a gallon (I normally pay about $2.60).  The exception to this being if you want to buy organic apple cider vinegar that still has the mother.  I do buy it by the gallon, and I buy it in plastic jugs.  I reuse some of those jugs, and recycle the rest.  There are lots of tutorials on making vinegar on youtube….  I haven’t been that brave yet.  I use vinegar in my wash- this is the only thing I use in my wash.  I was once told that I could let the water do the work, and I gave it a whirl…. and it worked.  I did throw the vinegar in as I figured it would help disinfect somewhat and also works as a fabric softener. I hang dry my clothes, so I was already not using the sheets anymore.  I also use vinegar as needed for mopping, and cutting grease, and in place of typical spray type household cleaners.  Sometime I will track down the study, but after lots of reading it seems to be somewhat common knowledge that vinegar is antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal….  with one of the 3 being a bit less than bleach but the others being about the same as.  That is good enough for me.  It also works well for washing windows, and I keep meaning to try the vinegar on car windows makes them not frost trick, but I guess I will wait another year to try it as we are finally above freezing most mornings here.  There are books out there about vinegar if you need more uses, but a browse through pinterest or google yield hundreds of options too.  If you don’t like the smell you can water it down, or throw some in a jar with citrus peels and it will smell like your citrus cleaners instead. Just be aware that combo can remove paint or any variety of sticky mess, so be careful about the surfaces you use it on.  If you have granite or marble counters, do not use vinegar on them.

Baking soda is the heavy hitter abrasive type cleaner.  It doesn’t damage surfaces, and I am sure someone can explain better than I, but it really doesn’t scratch things while you clean with it.  I use this on things like the toilet bowl, the stovetop and oven, sticky stuff that needs to come off of something (think stickers or label residue), and once you are done a spritz of vinegar will get rid of any remaining baking soda.  I am trying to think of other things I use this for, and am not really coming up with anything…   it works well in the tub on soap scum or dried on drips from the shampoo/conditioner dispenser.  This can be made into a paste with a little water, sprinkled on a surface, or sprinkled on a damp towel and then used.  Just keep it simple.  I have found the cheapest way to buy this is in a large bag or box (5 lbs?) at a time…  found with the swimming pool supplies during spring, summer, and early fall.

Peroxide is for blood.  It is really the only stain we occasionally have anymore…  mainly because I am not the most graceful, but also because my kids unfortunately inherited that trait from me as well.  I just keep a spray bottle in the bathroom and if someone gets a nosebleed or cuts themselves, rinse with cold water and spray whatever clothing it is on with peroxide…. after whatever you need to do first aid wise of course. lol.  Available from your local pharmacy or supermarket, this is almost always sold in smallish brown bottles.  They are recyclable, but I haven’t found it available in other formats.

Dr. Bronner’s soap- honestly this just goes in our foaming hand soap dispensers that I have been reusing for years.  I use like a 1:8? ratio of soap to water, and add a couple drops of whatever essential oil smells good that day.  Usually a citrus or mint, or both.  They do have already scented varieties out, and most of my local health food stores and coop have it available in at least 2 or 3 scents.  At least a few have it available as bulk and you can refill your own bottle or container from their bigger one.

Another cleaning product tip I have found helpful I picked up from my Dad.  Like dissolves like.  If I am trying to clean a greasy buildup off my backsplash or the vent hood on the stove, it is much easier to add a little oil to my vinegar than to just use the vinegar alone.

The last bit of advice I had for my tech support person as she was mulling over the fact that I basically have 4 items doing all of my cleaning tasks…  look at what you use and search for how to replace it.  If you look at your cabinets and you aren’t using the products to begin with—- they really don’t need to be replaced, just get rid of them.

Just go one step at a time…  it really can be that simple.  Promise.

Going Green Mom

 

 

Reinventing…

It isn’t very often that most people reinvent themselves.  Maybe after high school when you become an “adult”.  Maybe after college, or maybe it is that mid-life crisis when you freak out and can’t take what you’ve done for the last 20 years and decide to pick something new.  Hopefully I haven’t hit mid-life yet, but my Mom only got 60 years, so having just hit 35 I guess it might be…  Anyway,  after a long and crazy couple of months with every technological disaster most people probably see in a 10 year period,  I am reinventing my website again…  and somehow it seems sort of liberating.

Last fall I jumped (was pushed? ) into a career change.   Some wonderful friends talked me into going to a career fair, knowing that I wasn’t happy where I was at, and one of them even met me there….  and lost 5 bucks because I showed up.  Sorry, not sorry! 🙂 I went into the career fair open to any sort of office work.  I had been in order entry type positions for a year, and for the 10 or so years before that I had been in HR type positions in a couple of industries that we have here locally.  What I found at this particular job fair was that there were simply no “office jobs” to be had.  They had already hired the ones that they wanted and in fact they were actually the ones working this job fair.  After talking to any of the tables of people I would have remotely been qualified for he pushed me toward the one for food and beverage…  he was finishing up some sort of testing, and he knew I was interested in the kitchen.  So I walked up to the chef and stumbled and stammered my way through what turned out to be my job interview.  3 weeks later I was doing new hire paperwork, and 6 weeks after that I walked into the kitchen.  I am still in awe of the change almost 5 months later. Due to the rather sudden trajectory shift in my life, I am not going to say this blog will go one way or the other this time.

When I started before I had some idea what I wanted to talk about.  I had areas I wanted to explore, to bring together from different projects or areas of interest. This felt…  boxy. And anyone that knows me probably realizes I don’t fit well in a box. So for now I am going to write about what I want, what is on my mind, and hopefully you will see a whole person, a full journey, with multiple facets, multiple elements that are sometimes feuding, and come to understand how I go about my day and life, and find some nuggets of information you can use along the way.

Nice meeting you!

Going Green Mom