the last post brought out so many great suggestions about being careful with money, i thought i would share a bit of what we actually do, as well as some of what we aspire to do (or at least some of us aspire to do) and what we continue to wrestle with. apologies for not addressing the final few comments- i’ll catch you up on where i’ve been the last few days in a later post…

we eat at home, as a family, every single night. in fact, when we hear about families who don’t do this, my kids are always a bit puzzled, like ‘but then when do those kids eat? and who do they eat with?’ (i know, a dangling preposition- cut me some slack…) we make dinners at home, mostly from scratch, if you don’t count that i use things like canned tomato sauce (it would be literally impossible to grow and can the amount of tomatoes we would need to keep us supplied with sauce unless i owned a multi-acre farm, so i continue to take a deep breath and make walmart very happy every time i walk in…). my older kids have started to help with making suppers as part of their chore rotation, so i feel like i am preparing them to go out into the world one day and become good spouses. i know their future spouses will thank me😉 we also eat every lunch either at home or packed from home, and this helps use any leftovers from the previous night’s meals, if there are any. and yes, i use tupperware (or whatever brand i have…) so i can re-use the containers.

aside from getting pizza once every few months as a very special treat, we don’t ever eat out. i literally can’t remember the last time my kids were in a restaurant. the last time *h and i were in one was when we went to detroit for my oldest son’s engagement and my grandma took us all out to lunch along with my son’s fiancée’s parents. the last time before that was when we first came to seattle and ate at the indian restaurant. remember i posted about it on the blog?

i make menus for a month ahead of time, both to limit impulse buying and to be able to stock up on things i know i will be needing when they go on sale. this way i can buy 8 pounds of grated cheese when it’s a great price and divide it up and freeze it in meal-sized bags and then take it out as needed. score! i buy as many store brands/off brands as i can, although i am really trying to just rely more on fresh things so i can get away from that canned mindset altogether. maybe when i’m feeling better (soon!! please let it be soon!!!) i will be up to doing some canning and some dehydrating and that would be great to really move us in the direction i want us to be in…

we rely on lots of cheap protein like eggs, and use things like cheese as an accoutrement more than as a feature food. we fill out meals with lots of veggies- my family is crazy for fresh salads, but we also try to serve potatoes or rice or pasta as a cheap (i know: junky) filler. maybe one day i’ll be able to say beans or lentils or spilt peas, but for now it is what it is…

we do freecycle- both as givers and receivers. we (read: i) love to go to places like value village when we “need” something- like a new baseball mit or pajamas for me or other stuff that i won’t mention because certain people hate that i shop there and certain people would be mortally embarrassed if i confessed here publically that i bought certain (non-gross) items at a second-hand store. oh well. more money for the budget.

we’ve never had cable television, don’t watch TV (although i am a big fan of netflix), and don’t see commercials. that’s great for cutting down on commercial-driven behaviour, and great for keeping our entire entertainment budget under $15 for the month for the entire family. and let’s not forget that, since we watch homeschool stuff too, part of that money is a legitimate school expense for at least 2 kids. we make great use of the library, and we request so many things (which they are awesome about getting for us) that sometimes i think they may come to hate us one day. but for now they don’t even seem to notice the armloads of books we carry out every week, and we get smarter and smarter on the city’s dime. nice, huh?🙂

i will only pay full price for something in the most dire circumstances. we use the cheapy brands of anything that works as well – in my opinion- as the “better” brand, and if my teenagers think otherwise, they spend their own money to buy themselves what they want instead.  i do turn off lights (*h thinks i’m a bit obsessive in this regard, but i am supposed to be the CFO of the house…) i make my own laundry detergent, make long distance calls from my cell phone on sundays when it’s free, send *h to the store when i’m in a buying mood, and taped the following onto my kitchen cabinet:

want what you have.

don’t want what you don’t have.

spend less than you earn.

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what i aspire to: being more self-sufficient without breaking the bank to get there. i wish i could say i am willing to suffer more than i already do in order to save money. but honestly, i am so physically uncomfortable so much of the time just existing that the idea of turning down the heat even more (i currently wear pajama pants and wool hiking socks under thick skirts. i wear at least three shirts, at least one of them always a sweater or sweatshirt, while my kids play outside with no coats on because they claim it’s nice outside. hmmm. )- makes me cringe. i take a few hot baths a week to get my muscles to relax when the muscle relaxants and pain killers aren’t working, so the idea of giving that up to save money makes me want to cry. we could wash less dishes, but then we could have to buy more disposable stuff (my kids would LOVE that!).

i aspire to using more fresh, unprocessed ingredients (that would entail shopping more often, which isn’t possible right now- but this is what i ASPIRE to- not what i am capable of this minute- right?). i aspire to incorporating more whole foods and grains into our diets. i aspire to growing more of our own food and learning how to be more independent.

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what we still struggle with: what to pay more for because i believe it is a worthwhile expenditure. for example, i believe that grass-fed beef is better for you. there are a thousand reasons why this is the case, but the father away you get from corn-fed factory-raised beef the more the health benefits increase and the health negatives decrease. but in reality, this type of meat is more expensive. if we had unlimited money, do i believe it’s worth it? absolutely yes. but here’s the equation: we have a limited grocery budget and hungry bellies to fill. we have medical insurance and prescription coverage that will cover us getting sick from the food we eat,  but no grocery supplement that will cover healthy food to keep us healthy. so, what to do?  that’s a sick sick equation, isn’t it?

here’s another: i believe that not only are eggs from free-range hens healthier (they are, but only if they actually free range- not if they are in a factory with a little trap door that leads to outside that they have access to for 2 weeks before they are killed), but they are much much more humane. i can put my money where my beliefs are here- but only partially. i can certainly pay $3/dozen for humane eggs as opposed to $1 whatever for factory eggs. but that only works for the first certain number of dozen. we use 3-4 dozen eggs, on average, a week (more if i do a lot of baking). so, that extra few dollars adds up quickly. and if i have to drive out to a farm, that extra expenditure compounds even faster. isn’t my family’s health priceless? of course it is. but so is being able to afford our mortgage.

have you ever noticed how sickening it is that principles are a luxury item?????

i can buy a steamer ship full of cheap toxic toys from china for like $8 but to feed my family one good quality meal of grass fed meat costs about what i would spend on a normal week’s grocery budget.

so, we took the plunge and got chickens. we used our discretionary income from about 2 months and got a coop. and then we got hens. and then we fed them and took care of them. and then, because i was not a good steward and because our dog is a dog and because because because of a million different reasons, we now have 3 hens instead of 7. so we can buy more hens. and it’s still cheaper than the extra money for eggs. but not really if you figure in the price of the coop. but it is if you figure it in over the long term. but not really if we lose more hens. but it is if we keep it going for a long time.

and on and on it goes, until you get dizzy, and you just want to stop. but you also just want to do your best.

and *h already said we aren’t getting a cow. or even a cow share.

and not a llama or a goat either.

so, what are your thoughts on the upside-down-ness of cheap food being so expensive in terms of the toll it takes on your health and our society? and do you think it’s paranoid/fanatical of me to think that we should be able to do better? ( i think *h leans this way.) and is there any reason- short of big government-big agriculture-big manufacturing- big whatever that you can think of that this would be so?

in the meantime, here we are on our little homestead with our little family and our little chickens, trying to do our best. and you can keep those ideas pouring in. because i’m certainly never too old to learn.