Easy Ways to Create a Zero Waste Home

Can you believe this blog is over a year old?! I started it when I was a new mom and wanted an outlet and a way to express my crunchy lifestyle. Since then, as some of you may know, I’ve decided to become a web developer/designer and have been teaching myself to code. Between that and being a mom, army wife, living with RA and trying for a zero waste home- life can get super busy. But I still do very much care about my followers and the purpose of this blog- to hold myself accountable to being a healthier, more effective human being and also to document my progress along the way. So far in this blog I’ve covered a lot of topics surrounding gentle parenting, veganism, minimalism, saving money and how I’m striving to achieve a zero waste home.

 

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An easy step to a zero waste home: cloth napkins.These cloth dinner napkins are 3 years old but still look great!

 

Yesterday I joined the awesome facebook group Zero Waste Vegans and noticed a post from one of the members named Mailyne who is a mom, artist, owns a zero waste shop and blogs about her zero waste home at A Dream Lived Greener. I first saw her talking about her Zero Waste journey a youtube video which was so inspiring. I can’t seem to find it again, but if I do I will definitely update you with the link. Seeing her post made me remember about this blog, and my dream of one day living a Zero Waste Lifestyle. I thought it would be a great start to update you all on my progress thus far, and with what I have left to do to get closer to having a zero waste home and life. I will start with the most major changes I’ve made, followed by the changes that were smaller/easier to accomplish.

1. Buy in Bulk

 

I’m not talking big box stores: I’m talking bulk bins like you’d find at a health food store. As readers of this blog likely already know I do most of my shopping at in.gredients in Austin. Check out my blog post about why here. If you don’t know where to shop for bulk you can find other stores that are near you that carry bulk with the Bulk app. I must admit that I was nervous the first time I went to buy in bulk- I knew in theory how it was supposed to work but I wasn’t really sure how I would handle all the accessories and the process, plus juggling my daughter in the shopping cart. Check out this video for a great overview from in.gredients to see how it works.

 

 

Even though I do buy in bulk for most things, I still buy packaged things like toilet paper and soy/almond/cashew milk. I need to work on making more things from scratch and figuring out where to buy items in bulk that is not wrapped in plastic. I know that Bea Johnson from Zero Waste Home recommends buying toilet paper wrapped in paper from a hotel supply store.

Another thing I’d like to do is make laundry and dish soap, which I have done in the past but not consistently. Bea recommends using citric acid, which can be bought in bulk at a brewery supply store. Going to these specialty stores presents a challenge as I’d probably have to drive a distance, but once I buy these items in bulk I will be set for awhile. It’s definitely something that I need to make time for in the next week.

 

2. Garden

 

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Growing in pots on the porch: a menagerie of herbs including sage, mint, dill, marigold and squash that just happened to sprout from the compost that was added to the soil.

 

You certainly don’t need a garden to have a Zero Waste Home, but having a garden certainly cuts back on the cost, and can give you things you couldn’t otherwise find (depending on how robust your local source for bulk and/or farmer’s markets are). I’ve been growing my own herbs growing in containers and raised garden beds which I can harvest continually which is very convenient, easy, delicious and beautiful. Many of the herbs I’ve actually grown from non-GMO seeds that were sent to me in paper packaging which is awesome. The only thing about starting plants from seeds is that you have to have a ton of patience. If it’s wintertime you have to have the ability to tolerate the vision and lack of space that’s a result of soil sitting on your windowsill for months which is not the prettiest or most convenient thing in the world to experience.

 

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basil planted next to strawberries, aloe and summer squash. The spacing on the package is for gardens that you need to walk in, but for raised beds planting close is beneficial because it keeps weeds to a minimum.

Some of my herbs and veggies are plants bought at a nursery, which is nice because you can start harvesting right away. If buying from a nursery, try to get the thicker plastic containers and see if they will take them back for reuse. Unfortunately this doesn’t work too well with the thin plastic containers because they are so fragile and rip very easily. I have some other veggies growing in my garden including tomatoes, peppers, squash, and watermelon, but haven’t yet reaped the fruits of my labors.

 

3. Line Dry Clothes

 

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yep there’s my foldable clothes drier doing it’s job well

A major zero waste home goal is to always look to reduce waste of all kinds, not just physical trash. Drying my clothes outside is pretty simple- just put the wet clothes from the washing machine back into the laundry hamper and bring it outside to hang on a folding rack in the sun. My clothes drying rack looks just like the one in this article that details the benefits of air drying your clothes over using a drying machine as represented by the actual numbers. My drying rack is also still going strong after about 3 years, and is normally stored outside on my porch behind my grill. Another free option is a clothes line, which is simply string tied between two high points such as trees, posts, or a fence. I found using clothing pins on a line to be far more cumbersome than drying on the drying rack because the wind isn’t typically strong enough to blow clothes off of it as they push together when the clothes blow around.

My husband complains that his clothes feel to stiff after being dried outdoors, so with his clothes I just pop them in the dryer for a few minutes to tumble all the creases out (though obviously this is not the best solution for the environment or your wallet). I’ve also found that if you hang the clothes on the drying rack properly, they actually are easier to store as they are kind of pre-folded.

 

4. Replace Packaged Hygiene Products

 

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compostable bamboo toothbrush and my jar of home made tooth powder

 

This one has been surprisingly easy. I make my own toothpaste powder out of a mixture of baking soda, coconut oil, stevia and peppermint essential oil. I just mix the ingredients with a hand mixer and add the contents to a resealable glass jar. I have found that it’s best to make individual containers of the toothpaste for each individual family member as we do stick our toothbrushes in there. It is so good that my daughter will actually try to eat it if left unchecked. You can make it powdery or more like a paste, but it has the consistency and taste like the inside of a junior mint candy.

For liquid hand soap I use Dr. Bronner’s which I can buy in bulk in several different scents at in.gredients, and for the shower I buy bar soap that’s either handmade (bought as a slice from a slab) or Dr. Bronner’s which is wrapped in paper. Contact solution is something I still buy new (not sure how safe it would be to try to make your own). Glasses would be great except for the fact that I hate the way they feel on my face- like they’re too heavy and cumbersome. I also make my own lotion using this body butter recipe here:

I have yet to try to make my own makeup as I rarely wear it and am still using my stash from bareminerals. It’s amazing how simple it is and how much less chemicals there are hanging around when you replace the beauty products in the bathroom a zero waste home.

 

5. Buy Clothes Second-Hand

I haven’t actually had to buy many clothes at all in the past year as I already had so many. I still wear the same pink Sac State hoodie I bought when I was a Junior 9 years ago and it looks surprisingly vibrant, as well as the same wool blend jacket which has lost a button that I need to repair. You can find things that are either new or nearly new at the goodwill. I found a pretty dirty pair of converse which looked brand new when I took out the laces and ran them through the wash. They are still in good condition with heavy wear and I bought them six months ago.

As a side note, it’s easy to forget your reusable grocery bags when you go to thrift stores and other non-food outlets, but if you keep them in the car you can always just go back and get them when you forget! I also have a large purse that I carry all the time which I keep pretty empty so I have room to bring stuff home without a bag. Another zero waste home tip is to turn old clothes into new clothes with a sewing machine, or make reusable bags for yourself or a friend. Other creative options for resewing old clothes into fabulous useful items include: wrapping paper/gift bags, doll clothes, bean bags, line, rags, quilts and napkins.

 

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rags we use as paper towels, napkins and tissues made from fabric scraps

6. Use Reusable Containers

If you buy them from a health food store reusable containers can be super expensive. It’s definitely not the most attractive solution but using washed out pasta sauce, pickle and jam jars has been my go-to source for easy reusable containers. I just soak them in hot water and use coconut oil to rub away the extra stickiness left from the original label. I use these to store leftovers, nuts, dry beans, rice, herbs and other ingredients.

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my reusable jars storing dry ingredients like nuts, beans, seeds herbs and rice

I found out the hard way that it is much easier to use cloth bags for transporting dry goods from the store, and then depositing the contents into the glass jars once I get back home. I used a bunch of old fabric I had lying around and sewed them into different sized bags with drawstrings one afternoon. Bags of varying sizes are great for bulk because you’ll want large bags for flour and tiny bags for expensive spices. I use a big LifeFactory water bottle for myself and keep an also keep an assortment of stainless steel water bottles for when we go out of the house, and make sure to keep clean containers and cloth napkins in the car for when we go out to eat and want to bring home leftovers.

7. Compost

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the little stainless steel compost bin I keep by the back door.

 

This is a big one. It can be annoying to constantly bring scraps and ends from your produce out to the compost, but it becomes second-nature when you do it over and over again. Another option is to have a compost bin on your counter, but because it attracts flies and gnats I like to keep mine by the back door for when it is raining and I don’t want to go to the compost in the yard. I’ve had a worm bin in the past, but it got knocked over by my toddler and I just never replaced it. It was simple to set up and maintain, and really breaks down your compost fast.

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my compost bucket! It has holes drilled in the sides but it still needs a lot of shoveling to get air to circulate.

Although you can purchase devices, composting doesn’t have to be complex. It is simply allowing organic matter to rot and all it requires is time and oxygen from the air. I use a bucket, but you could also just have a pile if you have the space. Using free wood pallets is a great way to get a compost going in your yard. Did you know you can also compost things like coffee grounds, bread, eggshells and even hair? Speaking of hair, though this may not be an option if you’re living in an city, I throw my hair out of the bathroom window and it just blows away in the wind. I have learned to save things like apple cores when we go out instead of throwing them away in a public trash can so that they can be composted when I get home. In some cases you don’t actually need a compost to have a zero waste home. Some progressive cities have municipal composting systems so that you can bring your compost there! In this case, freezing your compost until your trip to the city’s compost makes it easy.

8. Shop Craigslist/Ebay

I’ve written before about how to sell on craigslist, but buying stuff on EBay works if you can’t find the item locally. When my Keurig wouldn’t take the reusable cups, I simply searched Craigslist for the older model of Keurig that would take the reusable cups, and then sold my newer model on craigslist. It cost me no money (actually saved me money if you consider I could simply fill the cup with coffee rather than using the expensive and wasteful plastic throw aways), and saved a new Keurig from having to be made for both me and the person who bought my newer Keurig. It was also completely simple and free of packaging.

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my refillable K-cup. Isn’t it beautiful? Why wouldn’t you use one?

If you can’t find something locally on Craigslist, EBay is another option. Simply filter your search for used items. There are also Facebook groups that are specifically for buying and reselling items such as Waldorf Tag Sale (for natural children’s toys and books- by the way I think my next post will be about  kids stuff in a zero waste home because there’s so much to say on that subject that I’ll save it for it’s very own blog post). There are many categories including ones for clothes, collectibles and local yard sale groups. It is secure if you use PayPal and specify that the payment is for goods/services and the groups are usually closely monitored to prevent members that try and take advantage of buyers. Almost anything you need can be found used online if you are patient, persistent and know where to look.

 

Changing Careers
to successfully find something on Craigslist or EBay, check for items regularly as items come and go quickly!

 

Where are you on your journey to a zero waste home? Share your story with us in the comments! Thanks for reading!

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How to Make Decisions (Uncomplicated)

When I describe the KonMari method to people it is so simple it seems stupid at first. “Make a pile of like-objects, hold each one in your hands and as yourself, ‘does this bring me joy?’ Discard the nos and keep the yesses.”

This is as basic as addition (subtraction?) and is a method that has proven effective for both me and millions of others around the world.

I would never attempt to say that I have an idea as amazing as the KonMari method, but I can’t help but wonder, “what if there were a similar method, not for objects, but for making decisions on how we spend our time?”

 

With that thought, I created this diagram a long time ago, when I was at the height of my Mustachian fandom. I wanted to illustrate the idea that making educated, controlled decisions, no matter how minor they may seem, add up to a more meaningful life over time. A great example of what a best choice might be is probably the most Mustachian activity imaginable: riding a bike. It saves you money by not using gas or increasing the wear and tear on your car (Increases Wealth) it gives you an opportunity to exercise (increases endorphins=Increases Happiness) (increases heart health and muscle tone= Increases Health). Some examples, such as riding a bike, are universally obvious. Others are more personal and depend greatly upon your specific situation, personal values and circumstances.How to Make DecisionsStarting a side business, for instance, could easily end up costing you money if you’re not careful. On the other hand, if your business requires little in the way of overhead and is flexible enough for you to keep your job, it would end up satisfying the goals of increasing health, wealth and happiness- making it a best choice for you. Off the top of my head the idea of walking dogs could be perfect for someone who loves dogs. You would get outside, get exercise, spend time with fluffy animals who are always happy to see you, and increase your wealth by making some extra money. Even if your side business does not satisfy all of these requirements, it is still worthwhile even if there’s only a chance it could meet all the requirements in the future.

Selling jewelry, for instance, may not increase your health and it may cost you a lot to buy supplies, meaning you’d just break even. If the happiness it brings you is worth it however, it might be something to stick with because it is quite possible in the future to have enough business to increase your wealth through it. Overall, I’d say even if your choice only includes two out of three criteria, it is worth pursuing if it’s not possible or practical to make a choice that includes all three.

If the choice meets one requirement, it’s a “good choice.” If it meets 2, it’s a “better choice,” and if it meets three, that it’s the “best choice.”

Though it may seem obvious at this point, if a prospective choice doesn’t enhance your health, wealth or happiness it should no longer be something for we should consider at all. Like the possessions you need to ‘let go’ when you’re tidying, there are choices in life that we have to decide for ourselves to walk away from. Leaving a time commitment, hobby, job or relationship can be a painful decision- especially if we have invested a great deal of time, money and energy on the endeavor. If the choice affects someone else, it can be downright scary to even consider abandoning the commitment. As a motivating thought there is a fundamental defect in staying in these scenarios that are solely for the benefit of other people.

The problem is that all the little choices we make for other people will slowly accumulate into a life that doesn’t advance us to our true destiny.

On the flip side, the more we examine each choice we make in the present moment and evaluate its potential to propel us forward, the closer we come to living to our true potential. No one else can decide for us what it means to be healthy, wealthy, and happy- although there is a great deal of research that points to what can statistically contribute to a higher quality of life for most people. If you’d like to learn more about this topic, I’d highly recommend the documentary “Happy” on Netflix instant. It is a captivating film that I am positive will be worth your time.

To give a quick recap in case I lost you:

We make choices at almost every minute of every day.

The choices we make affect our mood, our health, and our financial freedom (or bondage).

When we make choices that increase our health, wealth, and happiness we generally become better people over time.

We can think of it like a software program that mandatorily updates to the newest version every day. Do you want your newest version to work well, to be fluid and run at optimal performance or do you want your newest version to run slow, have kinks and crash all the time? Of course you want it to be better than before! This philosophy and diagram is simply an external cue for being present in every moment; having awareness of our own free will and life force.

Simply trying to feel happy in the moment actually can backfire, but as this wonderful article points out, we can make an effort to plan our time out in a way that incorporates our most rewarding activities.

I’m currently choosing to use mine to spend time with my family and close friends, to make art and music, to learn web development, garden, eat well and move closer to a more minimal, intentional and eco-friendly environment in my home.

How will you use yours?

 

 

Jumping Ship or Changing Course? On switching careers

The way that things usually happen for me is shakily, in a very slow waxing and waning cycle that takes place over many months and weeks. It starts with the tiniest of inklings, caused by reading something in a blog post or seeing something in a movie and quietly observing, “maybe that could be for me.”

There’s always those intense jolts in life that make you snap to reality, such as when I had one of my daycare kids run out the front door, leaving me waiting at the door with all the other children in my charge. That definitely was one of the single most stressful moments in my life. It was after that incident that I questioned what I was doing and where I was going, and if it was truly worth it. As a parent, I could understand the high demands when it comes to caring for your children. I completely sympathize with the desire to have the best quality of care possible but not being able to afford the cost. On the other hand, as the care provider, I could most definitely get the reason why child care has a huge turnover rate. The stakes are high, the pay is very low.

With my Rheumatoid arthritis, it seemed that I could not be as hands-on with the children as I needed to be. It hurt to pick up the little ones to change their diapers, I couldn’t run over to stop a fight or, as in the aforementioned scenario, keep a kid from running away. I’ve had multiple parents get upset with me for their kid getting hurt on my watch, and even with an able body, with many children sometimes there’s nothing you can do in the moment. Having worked at child care centers before, I witnessed how the director had to constantly be in the role of substitute teacher when the other subs were not able to come in. I saw how she stayed at the center from 6:30 AM to PM, even 6 days a week at times. I saw her having to deal with kids that had zero respect for authority, with parents that tried to pick their kids up drunk, with staff members that gossiped endlessly about their fellow teachers, their students and their students’ parents.

What took me so long to decide officially to change careers was the fact that I dedicated so much time and education into that career. I read so many books and blogs and watched videos, attended conferences and developed business plans. Everything I did was to one day open up my own child development center. How could I just throw it all away? A lot of personal finance bloggers will have you believe otherwise, but a huge part of saving money can come from simply making more of it. That is something that would be tough to do in the field of child development. There was a big part of me, and still there is today, that does want to open up a center one day, but I’d rather it be when I wasn’t strapped for cash, I’d rather it be when I can afford to pay someone else to be the director and buy all the amenities of a Waldorf school. It would be a wonderful retirement project that I would be so proud to finally accomplish.

When I told my sister I was considering changing careers to web development, she mentioned that she had a friend who owned her own web development business and that she was very happy and successful. I got the nerve up to ask if I could talk to her sometime. At first she was hard to get a hold of, but with some persistence I finally got to speak with her on the phone. She was completely nice, enthusiastic about her profession as CEO of an online marketing company, and patiently answered all my questions and spelled out any definitions of terms she used that I was unfamiliar with.

When she described how she could pick up and go practically anywhere whenever she wanted as long as she brought her laptop along I was sold. I was also pleasantly surprised when she made the suggestion that I could teach myself with all the free resources online these days. She invited me to let her know how I was doing as I progressed in my knowledge and that her company may even be able to give me some work in the future once my skills were up to par. Looking up BLS statistics online about the web development field was greatly reassuring as well, with excellent projected job growth and great pay as the standard of the field.

Changing Careers

About three weeks ago, I finally officially decided silently to myself that I was going to do it wholeheartedly, to dedicate myself to learning web development in order to be at the level where I could freelance or get an entry level junior developer job. Since then, I’ve been working around an hour a day on practicing basic skills such as html and css and trying my hand at building my own website. I’ve also been researching local web development groups in the Austin area and online so that I can connect with others in the same field. I still feel scared sometimes to have left my old career, but I feel like this one has greater potential to make me happy and allow me to follow my goals and values in life.

Though it may seem as scary as jumping ship, it becomes easier to re-frame it in your mind as just charting a new course. We can’t always predict what will really be satisfying or turn out to be exactly what we estimated, whether that is our career, our location, our companions or anything else really. It is a virtue to be faithful and diligent, but the way I see it, your career is not necessarily going to be faithful and diligent to you (though you may find a company with absolutely amazing employers that do hold these values, I haven’t personally come across this in this day and age).

Because of this it’s much better to change courses if you’ve carefully considered it, taking into account many factors such as location, job satisfaction, potential for upward mobility, financial reward, family circumstances, time commitment, education expense in both time and money. If you’re seriously considering a career change don’t be afraid to reach out to friends and family or even members of your local community to see if they might know someone you could talk to. Not only will you get valuable information about the real state of affairs in that position or career field, you will also gain a valuable contact that you can reach out to in the future once you’re job ready, or even if you just have a simple question. Ultimately if you’re feeling that you’re not as happy as you could be, it’s up to you to change your situation.

I changed course and I’m so happy that I did.

 

 

Beating Stagnation to Maximize Progress

A few weeks ago, I talked about how making small, sometimes unnoticeable changes can add up to huge results over time. But what about when you’re not sure what changes you need to make in the first place?

With the ever-present and unending amount of information available to us because of the internet, just about every human being has access to recourses and knowledge on any topic under the sun. While this is amazing, it can also be extremely stifling, especially for those of us that lack confidence or experience imposter syndrome. Past mistakes such as bad investments or career missteps can also make us question our own inner compass. Taking what we can to learn from these experiences rather than letting them control our decision making is the key to moving forward.

When we have reflected and spent time thinking about what we want, hopefully we will have come to an educated decision about what we want, and it will be something that truly resonates with our spirit. After that point is reached it’s imortant to take action rather than waiting. Even a small step such as reaching out to a group, signing up for a class, or executing the first step in a plan counts!

Starting the process of change- especially when it is a big change such as relocating to a new city- can be daunting. Starting small and working our way up to bigger and better goals is one approach- diving in and putting yourself in a sink or swim situation is another. Whichever approach you take is up to you and your personality. The most important thing is following through after committing.

If you still have doubts- that is perfectly acceptable. Believe it or not everyone, even and especially the most successful people live with fear every time they perform, publish, or produce something. It’s learning to live with the fear, in spite of the fear, that sets one up for great success and satisfaction. To look at it philosophically, the time will pass anyway, you will age anyway, and the world will keep turning anyway. The real question is not “what will happen if I do this?” It’s “What will happen when I do this.”

To keep up this momentum and acheive optimum happiness, we must continue to have new goals and set up new pathways that will alow us to reach them. It’s not about some ultimate acheivement, it’s about getting to where you want to go and then doing it again and again. As we change and the world changes, our dreams change. Life rewards action, so let’s take the bull by the horns and make it happen for ourselves.

Earn Huge Savings with Tiny Changes

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There are endless amounts of small changes we can all make to lighten our environmental footprint, which you can learn a comprehensive amount of information about from Zero Waste Home, (Read the book for a definitive guide), this blog specifically focuses on those little habits that keep money in our bank account (which most often does add up to a savings in consumer waste as well). It’s a hassle sometimes to acquire the right tools to keep more money in our pocket. For some examples, it can be a pain to walk outside in the cold to compost a bowl of table scraps. It can be painful to turn down a trip to the ice cream shop. It can seem damn right counter-intuitive to sell something new for the exact same thing in an older model. But all these things are examples of small changes I’ve made, some of them were one time changes while others are daily changes.

Deciding Which Changes Will Be Worth it

A big part of the name of this blog, “The Scratch Paper Saver” comes from the idea of using scratch paper to casually predict outcomes depending on certain variables into the future. For someone who struggled with math my whole life (I swear to god it was a miracle that I passed each math class I took from Sophomore year of high school up until university), this is very doable as long as you take the few minutes to look up the variables to make sure they’re accurate.

one will save $0.61 per coffee by using reusable filters in the Keurig

Oftentimes a quick google search can come up with articles in which others have already done the calculations for you, such as in this case where I quickly googled k-cup vs reusable filter cost comparison and found this awesomely detailed and compelling article  by the personal finance blogger, Squawkfox toward the top of the simple google search pile. So by this article’s rather diligent explanation, one will save $0.61 per coffee by using reusable filters in the Keurig rather than the severely trashy and expensive K-Cups that are relentlessly marketed for use by Keurig owners. So with simple back of the napkin math, if you drink 2 cups of coffee a day (a rather modest estimation by stay at home mom and dad standards), that’s a savings of about $37 a month. And to magnify the savings, just multiply that amount by 12 to find out the savings in a year (Around $450)! With every change, you also have to evaluate the time/effort factor that goes into each change. This is a personal decision that depends on the amount of spare time you have and how flexible you can be with external expectations (not going out to lunch with your co-workers for instance).

Using a Compounding Interest Calculator to Estimate Long-Term Savings

To make things even more mouth wateringly juicy, use a compounding interest calculator to play with the savings amount when that yearly savings is invested in an index fund with a 7% average return. This is where you put the pedal to the metal when it comes to the phrase, “A penny saved is a penny earned” my friends, as we are now very  quickly and easily going from 61 cents to thousands of dollars. Now when you throw away one of those flimsy K-cups you can simultaneously imagine reaching into your wallet, pulling out several dollar bills, and tossing those in the trash too. That thought right there should be enough to get us to take the 30 seconds needed to compost those coffee grinds and rinse out our own filter in the sink with a smile!

Small Changes Worth the Effort

    • Go to the library over purchasing new books. If you do purchase new, resell them on eBay.

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    • Sell your unused stuff on Craigslist. Learn from my mistakes here

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    • Make as much home made meals as you can from scratch.
    • Prepare a to-go breakfast the night before such as soaked steel cut oats or chia seed yogurt
    • Take a sack lunch to work
    • Freeze prepared meals for the work week on Sundays
    • Use the crock pot to make dinner while you’re at out
    • Stick to the memorable slogan, “Something to Wear, Something they Need, Something they Want, Something to Read” for your child’s holiday gifts
    • Simplify or opt out of traditional family/friend gifting

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    • Discover even more money saving (small) change that are worth the effort in this post.

 

What other money-saving changes have you made? Please share in the comments!

Relatively Speaking

There’s the tiptoeing around in the early morning, the absurdly quiet sex late at night, going to restaurants you avoid like the mall on black Friday, searching for your Tupperware containers that happen to be suffocating underneath your pots and pans.

There are more than 24 hours of driving time between me and my family, my parents are all retired, and we have the first grandchild, a giggly 2 year old with blonde curls. This means that they visit us frequently and for long stretches of time spanning anywhere from two weeks to two months. It is a long time to silently cringe as your child is fed all forms of unnaturally sweet confection on a regular basis, and to feel the immense pressure of entertaining or at the very least being around your family member constantly.

Old family patterns can creep back into your relationship and control your responses without you even noticing. As the youngest sibling, the “sweet” one, the automatic reaction I have is to be amicable, accommodating, and to absorb endless amounts of criticism disguised as advice or as innocent questions with a good attitude.
When I begin to sigh heavily and feel my words snapping like fresh peapods, I take a little time out for myself.

I think about the fact that two of my grandparents died less than twenty years from the age that my parents are now. I remember that soon enough I’ll be dropping off them off at the airport and will return home to an empty house, going back to the long mornings and afternoons with no adults to talk to. Soon enough Sierra will be asking “where’s grandpa?” And he will already be hundreds of miles away.

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Someday I will say goodbye for the last time. Maybe then I will remember the irritating little habits, the times they angered or upset me, but those memories will look like tiny crumbs compared to the enormous feast that makes up the soul and presence of this person; this beloved family member. As in all things, looking at a situation with a telescope rather than a microscope can help us to move forward in peace in our relationships with the ones that raised us, the ones that loved and knew us the longest. In this way we put our egos in check and choose grace and love to guide us in making the most of our time together with our relatives.

My First Weeks as a Nutritarian

There was a waiting room, followed by an exam table, the doctor typing on a computer, taking my blood pressure and looking over my lab results. But unlike any other doctor appointment I’d been to, this doctor gave me zero prescriptions to fill. Instead I got a complete diet overhaul, and an order form for nutritional supplements as well as tests for adrenal stress and other blood work to be done. I was told to continue practicing yoga every day to keep my blood circulating and for stress relief.

Looking over the many printouts when I got home, I soon discovered I was on the autoimmune protocol designed by Dr. Joel Fuhrman, a plant-based doctor with a nutritional approach who founded the ANDI nutritional food scoring method used to easily determine the nutrient density of foods. Logically, his diet is designed around the idea that one should eat as much of the foods with the highest ANDI scores as possible.

So for the past two weeks I have been OFF the pharmaceutical drugs and on a very specific food diet that has nothing to do with counting calories and everything to do with consuming nutrient rich foods. Here is an example of what I eat in a day:

Breakfast: Cup of steel cut outs with raisins and ground flax seeds, 10 oz fresh green vegetable juice (80% cucumber or celery, 20% anything else including carrot, apple, greens, etc).

AM Snack: Fruit

Lunch: salad with spinach, lettuce, arugula, radish, celery, cucumber, carrot, any vegetables topped with sunflower seeds, 10 oz green juice (leftover from the morning)

PM Snack: Protein drink (inflammacore plant-based protein powder and water)

Dinner: another vegetable salad with hemp seeds, a bowl of vegetable/pea soup, steamed cruciferous veggies with brown rice.

Dessert: coconut milk/berry/banana smoothie with chia seeds

I’m also taking a digest supplement with every meal, probiotic, multi-vitamin, omega fats marine oil, and a liquid vitamin D.

It has been difficult to keep up with eating the correct foods and avoiding other types of foods, and getting used to not using salt or sugar has been a challenge. Overall, the ease of eating this way came about after the first week. Now I wake up and look forward to my fresh juice in the morning, and more and more I’m enjoying the taste of this simple food. My arthritis symptoms have gotten worse, but I keep reminding myself that there is still a lot of work for my body to do to heal itself and it will not happen overnight. Some people take 2 months or more to see results. Reading Dr. Fuhrman’s books have been eye opening, and motivate me to continue on with eating this way even after I heal my autoimmune disease.

When you know better, you do better.

I look forward to continuing on this journey and being amazed at the results!