Category: Simple Living

Simplifying: How Do You Want Your Closet To Look?

Do you want your closet to look like this or this?
Do you want your closet to look like this or this?


Can you walk into your closet right now and, with a 5 second glance, find a great matching top, skirt and sweater? How about being able to find your best dress for church or a date with your spouse? Or do you stand there, overwhelmed and unable to find anything that goes together, at least with out digging through for minutes or more? Maybe you are somewhere in the middle?

Look closely at the photo of the two closets? Which does yours look more like? A pile of clothing, all shoved together with no order? Or an ordered set of clothing with room in-between each thing so the clothing can “breathe?”

Now, you might be saying, the disorganized closet looks like men’s clothing and the organized one looks like women’s clothing. Yes, you are correct. One is my stuff and the other is my husband’s. But this post is not to dis on my husband. He likes his way of doing things and that is fine. BUT if you would like to be more organized, here is your chance to learn how. I have laid out three simple tasks that will get your closet in order quickly.

If You Can’t Fit It In, You Have Too Much Of It

Task #1: Stand back and look at your clothing. Is it all smashed together, almost on top of each other (see the photo below)? Unless you have a very small closet that more than one person is trying to use, you probably have more clothing than you need. If you really want a simpler life, you don’t want to have more than you need and more than you have room for. Decide what you want to get rid of, then what you should get rid of. Task #2 might help you clear more stuff out.

Is your clothing all smashed together?
Is your clothing all smashed together?

If You Haven’t Worn It, You Don’t Need It

Task #2: Go through every item in your closet. Have you worn it in the last 6 months? No? It is a seasonal item (i.e. only for winter or summer)? No? Then sell it or give it away. Do not hold on to it with the thinking, well, I might wear it again or I need to loose 20 pounds to wear it, etc… If you haven’t worn it, and it isn’t the wrong season, then you aren’t going to wear it! It is causing clutter and excess that is not helpful to you.

If It Isn’t Organized / Ordered, It Will Be Harder To Find It

After sorting through and eliminating some of your clothing, you then need to organize your clothing so it is easier to find. Looking again at what not to do (above), here are two photos of my closet:

100_3242

Ordered and organized
Ordered and organized

The first photo is my skirts and dresses. They are organized by color – brown, green, blue, purple, pink, off white, white, grey, black. The second photos are my tops and sweaters. They are also organized the same way. I can look in one area, see that I have a black top with some print, then turn around and look at my skirts and see that I have a solid black skirt available. Time – 5 seconds. If it is cold, I can turn back to my tops and see that I have a solid black sweater available.

It is so quick and easy to find my clothing every day!

Let me know if I can help you more or if there is anything in this post that you aren’t clear on.

Save more at Get Organized-Shop our Clearance

10 Things To Do This Summer Under $10: #4 – Public Pool and/or Lake

10 Things Summer Swim
We love to swim!


So far this summer we have: started the summer reading program, played at the park, and done some arts and crafts during a rainy day. Now comes one of the best activities of summer – swimming.

Unfortunately, swimming can add up quickly – swim suites, floaties, the cost of lessons, etc… However, if you can get some inexpensive suites (think Walmart), or reuse what you have from last year or accept hand-me-downs (some people prefer not and I do understand), and not have to have all the other stuff, you can do summer swimming on a few dollars.

We have found for myself and our 3 children, it is $7 or $8 to take them to the local, public pool. If we add dad, then we come up to the $10 threshold. If you family is bigger, then the public pool could become expensive quickly.

Which brings me to the other option – public lakes. We have a couple of lakes within a 30 minute drive and it costs either $5 or $10 for day use for one vehicle (depending on the lake). Some are even free. We made it really frugal last year by going with another family in their cargo van. They paid gas and I paid the day use fee at our favorite lake.

We also know of a family who has built a pond on their property. They allow families to book a day or half day, for free, to swim there. What a blessing!

What is your most frugal way to go swimming?

A Simple Truth: Why Do We Keep Doing What Doesn’t Work?

A_Simple_Truth_Why_Do_Keep_Doing.jpgThey say the the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. So why are you still doing it?

During a session with our counselors, my husband was told the above quote to something he is working through. Of course, my first response was, yea, why aren’t you making the changes that need to be made. However, the correct response that I needed to make was to look at my own life and see what things I was continuing to do that weren’t working, and figure out what needed to change.

The first thing I realized was I needed to change some things with my interaction with my children, They have a routine they are supposed to do every morning – yet they don’t do it w/o me reminding them to do so – every morning! So what do I need to do, to change this?

1) I need to get up when they get up. I have used my pregnancy as an excuse to sleep in, in the morning. If I get up when they do and I tell them to do their routine, it will be done before breakfast, not after.

and/or

2) I need to tell them today, that from now on, they are to do the routine every morning after they get up, whether or not I am up, and that they will be disciplined if they do not. The consequence should be that they miss out on something “fun” that day.

The next thing I realized was that I was not spending enough time / days in devotionals. Maybe one or two days per week. I don’t do well in the morning, usually falling back asleep, so I have to do them later in the day. What do I need to change so I can do daily or near daily devotionals?

1) I need to make devotionals a priority before I work on my blog or do afternoon projects. I am not allowed (with rare exception) to start working on my blog business or project until after I have spent time seeking what the Lord wants for me. And if He wants something different that day than my plan, then I need to be prepared to do it.

One more thing that I was seeing is that some interactions with my husband were getting strained and that I was trying to “get” from him instead of give.

1) To change this, I needed to change how I was dealing with him daily. When he gets home at night, no matter what I have been doing or how I feel (did I mention I was pregnant:-)), I choose to greet him as he comes in, ask what I can do to help him settle in for the evening, and what he would like to do tonight.

2) Anytime I feel I want something from him, I take it to the Lord instead. If what I need really is something I need and is good, the Lord will work through him or someone else to provide it, whether it is changing a faucet or just needing some affirmation.

I hope these examples will help you stop what you are doing today and examine what you are doing over and over again and are getting results you don’t like / want / need. See what you could do differently instead. I would love to hear your stories!

Blessings!

10 Things For Children To Do This Summer Under $10: #2 – Play At The Park

10 Things To Do This Summer - Park
What is your favorite park like?

Last post, we talked about the free summer reading program. Item number 2 on our top 10 list – playing at a local, public park.

Update 2017: Oh! They were so little! But now we have a new little one and even though the others are older, they still love park days!

I sincerely thank whomever first created the concept of the public park – bless them!!! The park is this frugal families’ saving grace each spring, summer and fall. We make a bi-weekly trip during the summer, especially since we currently have a park within walking distance.

We also try to visit a larger park a few miles away – it is huge and has water features open between Memorial Day and Labor Day. This park was mostly paid for by the city’s recycling program.

I always spend the first part of the park visit with the girls on the swings. This is not only their favorite activity, but this is my time to spend directly with them. After 10 minutes or so, depending if people are waiting, the girls are then sent off to the rest of the playground, and mom rests while keeping an eye on them.

Sometimes I chat with other moms and sometimes I just enjoy a few minutes of quiet pondering. The children are all pretty outgoing, so we usually make a new friend or two each visit. If anyone ever wanted to know how homeschooled children could possibly have social skills, just watch my girls in action at the park!

Please share your favorite park and why your family likes it.

10 Things For Children To Do This Summer Under $10: #1 – Summer Reading Program

10 Things Under $10
10 Things Under $10
What is your favorite free or frugal summer activity?

Update for 2017: Our girls STILL love the summer reading program and we are doing it again this year!

The first item on our 10 Things To Do This Summer Under $10 list is not only free (or nearly if you are like me and have the occasional late fee), but most summer reading programs also give the children stuff – just for reading!

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links.

Our local library’s summer reading program lasts from June 1st – July 31st. There are 3 levels of prizes, which usually include free meals @ local restaurants for the children and free skating, bowling and/or other activities. At the end of the program, the children get a shiny new book. Last year, my children picked out Boxcar Children books.

As you can see in the photo, the girls are excited for the program again this year! As a bonus, my older girls sometimes read the required 20 minutes to the younger one. More reading, less TV, real quiet time, and prizes – this is our families #1 thing to do this summer under $10.

Now go ahead and read the rest (yes, I know there is only 5. I promise someday to get to 10):

10 Things To Do This Summer #2

10 Things To Do This Summer #3

10 Things To Do This Summer #4

10 Things To Do This Summer #5

Super Simple Menu Plan: One Week Of Meals For Less Than $100

Menu

Our goal for a family food budget is $450 per month. This means that we have $100 or less to shop on each week (since there is 4 ½ weeks to almost every month). We eat fresh, healthy, whole, homemade food, which means very few coupons are useful to us. So how do we do this?

The following is our menu for a week, which I plan Thursday to Wednesday, since Thursday is my usual shopping day:

Thursday –

Breakfast: homemade whole grain waffles with maple flavored agave syrup.

Snack: ½ orange

Lunch: tuna-fish sandwiches on homemade bread (with pickles)

Dinner: Black beans with shredded cheese and tortilla chips

Friday –

Breakfast: ½ banana, oatmeal with non-dairy milk and honey

Snack: store-bought cheesy crackers (with whole grains and real cheese)

Lunch: tuna-fish sandwiches on homemade bread (with pickles)

Dinner: top-sirloin steak, mashed potatoes and carrots, homemade bread, ice cream

Saturday –

Breakfast: grape juice, ½ banana, cold cereal (whole grain, low sugar), non-dairy milk

Snack: store-bought ginger snap cookies (natural, no artificial ingredients)

Lunch: top-sirloin steak, mashed potatoes and carrots, homemade bread

Dinner: mixed veggies and pirogies

Sunday –

Breakfast: oatmeal with berry mix, honey, non-dairy milk

Snack: ½ orange, ¼ protein bar

Lunch: mixed veggies and pirogies

Dinner: Black beans with shredded cheese, tortilla chips, salsa, Panda black licorice

Monday –

Breakfast: grape juice, ½ banana, cornmeal mush with honey and non-dairy milk

Snack: cheesy crackers and peanut butter (no salt or sugar added)

Lunch: veggie salad and tortilla chips

Dinner: whole grain pasta, marinara sauce with ground turkey sausage

Tuesday –

Breakfast: oatmeal with honey and non-dairy milk

Snack: ¼ orange, whole wheat crackers

Lunch: homemade artisan bread with olive oil and balsamic vinegar dip, mixed veggies

Dinner: whole grain pasta, marinara sauce with ground turkey sausage

Wednesday –

Breakfast: cornmeal mush with honey and non-dairy milk

Snack:  gingersnap cookies and ice cream

Lunch: homemade artisan bread with olive oil and balsamic vinegar dip, mixed veggies

Dinner: veggie stir-fry with rice noodles

If you would like to see any of the recipes, please post a request. I would love to hear your healthy, simple menus – post a link if you have one!

Blessings and healthy eating.

 
YWAM

How to Feed A Family Of Five For One Week With $25

Learn to eat simple / cheap from other countries!
Learn to eat simple and cheap from other countries!

No, this is not an extreme coupon challenge. We recently had a situation where we only had $25 to shop for the week and feed our family of five. With a very limited pantry and no coupons or stockpile, I had to quickly seek the Lord and ask Him to show me what we would do. And, He did – during the past week, through a series of events, I had learned about Ethiopian Food. Due to their very limited economy, Ethiopian’s have learned to make inexpensive but flavorful and filling food.

What follows is the menu we followed for the week.




  • 5 breakfasts of oatmeal

  • 2 breakfasts of peach muffins

  • 3 lunches and 2 dinners of Injera bread and lentil stew w/ tomatoes and spinach

  • 2 lunches and 3 dinners of fried rice

  • 2 lunches and 1 dinner of mac and cheese with mixed veggies

For total disclosure, the final dinner was pizza when we finally had money in the bank again:-)

Disclosure: Some links in this post may be affiliate links.

This is what we had in our pantry:

  • Whole wheat flour

  • Brown rice

  • Cane sugar

  • Tomato paste

  • Vinegar

  • Soy Sauce

  • Olive Oil
  • Canned peaches

  • Salt and Spices

This is what we purchased for $25:

  • Oatmeal

  • Lentils
  • 1 qt of almond milk

  • Butter

  • 5 pack of mac and cheese

  • 2 bags of frozen veggies (one mixed, one spinach)

  • 1 – 18 count eggs

  • Carrots

We honesty ended up enjoying the food and did not feel that we were going without for the week. We are so encouraged by this, that we have decided to take up this challenge once a month and only have a $25 budget for one week every month. Our normal food budget runs about $75 – $100.

Oh, and another positive note is that I lost two pounds during the week. There really is something to be said about simple living, including simple eating.

What would you do if you only had $25 for one week to feed your family?

 

How Some Families Are Successfully Going Outside The Health Insurance System

Read the post from Money Saving Mom about the Samaritan Health Care Ministry:

http://moneysavingmom.com/2013/10/how-we-save-money-on-health-care-costs.html

I believe the Samaritan’s Health Cost Sharing ministry is a great idea and is working. However, the following is my response to the post:

We would like to join Samaritan, but we can’t afford $370 per month.

Currently, my husband and I go without health insurance and God has been faithful to take care of us. My husband currently has a cellulitis infection and we are treating it naturally as we have done in the past.

We treat colds and flues all naturally and ask for God’s will and intercession before we see the doctor.

My children have Medicaid for their once a year visit.

If we were to be in an accident, there are many ways it could be covered, including by charity from the hospital because of our low-income.

God knows how hard my husband works to support our family (over 80 hours per week), and where we are at financially, and meets us there. Until the fines for not getting insurance exceed $4000 per year (what it would cost for us to join Samaritan or get “regular” insurance), this is where we will live.

Simple, Healthy, Cheap! A Healthy, Delicious Dessert for $.40 per Serving!

English: Coconut oil in solid state
English: Coconut oil in solid state (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Leave it to the Mennonites and Amish to have a repertoire of tasty, fairly healthy and very simple and inexpensive foods. Many of their cultural dishes are worth learning to make and then improving upon by substituting healthier ingredients.

This classic dessert is called: Shoo-fly Pie. It is especially good to make if you are wanting a sweet treat and are needing an iron boost. Using organic molasses in the dish provides 20 – 30% of your daily iron value, depending on how large of a piece you eat (1 Tbs of organic molasses contains approx. 15% of your daily iron value plus 730mg potassium).

Cost Per:

Family of 5 – $2.05

Serving – $.40

*prices are approximate and will vary by where one lives and other factors.

Shopping List:

Pie Shell

1 ½ cups whole wheat flour – Fresh ground flour from white wheat berries is best.

½ tsp salt – Sea salt.

¼ cup butter or coconut oil – Coconut oil is one of the healthiest oils available and if kept at less than 77 degrees, will be solid and act similar to butter in making the pie crust. Coconut oil can sometimes be found with other oils or in specialty and health food markets.

1/8 cup water

½ Tbs rice or apple cider vinegar – White vinegar is good for cleaning, but not so good for cooking. Find rice or apple cider vinegar near the white vinegar.

Filling

¾ cup organic molasses – Organic molasses can be found in specialty and health food markets or ordered online (try Vitacost ). Using regular molasses greatly reduces the nutritional content of the desert.

½ cup hot water

½ tsp baking soda – Baking soda is usually found with other baking products.

1 egg – Brown, free range eggs if you can.

¾ cup whole wheat flour – Fresh ground flour from white wheat berries is best.

½ cup cane sugar – Look for sugar in the raw, demerara, sucanat, or cane sugar. They can usually be found near white sugar. White, refined sugar is one of the least healthiest foods on the market and there are so many better options. You could also try making this pie with honey, but would need to cut back on the molasses and water by ¼ cup each.

¼ cup butter or coconut oil – Coconut oil is one of the healthiest oils available and if kept at less than 76 degrees, will be solid and act similar to butter in making the pie crust. Coconut oil can sometimes be found with other oils or in specialty and health food markets.

¼ tsp salt – Sea salt.

Instructions:

  1. Make the pie crust 1 hour before making the filling and baking the pie.
  2. Mix 1 ½ cups whole wheat flour with the ½ tsp of salt.
  3. Measure the ¼ cup butter or coconut oil into a bowl and mix it together with your hands. It should seem like crumbs when you are done, although the coconut oil variation may be a little smoother, depending on how warm the room and your hands are.
  4. Fill a liquid measuring cup with 1/8 cup water, add the ½ Tbs vinegar to it and stir. Then add this liquid combination to the flour and butter / oil mixture. Mix with a spoon or your hands and form into a ball.
  5. Refrigerate for 1 hour.
  6. After 1 hour, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  7. Make the bottom layer of the pie: measure ¾ cup molasses and pour into a large bowl, measure ½ cup hot water into the bowl, and then stir in ½ tsp baking soda. Be sure you have a large bowl, as the baking soda will cause the whole bowl of molasses and water to foam up quite a bit. Fun to watch, not fun to clean up if using too small a bowl.
  8. Beat the egg in a small bowl, then beat or whisk it into the molasses mixture.
  9. For the top layer of the pie: measure ¾ cup flour and pour into a medium bowl, measure ½ cup cane sugar and pour into the bowl, then mix in the butter or coconut oil with hands. It should seem like crumbs when mixed.
  10. Bring out the pie crust dough ball from the refrigerator.
  11. Press or roll it out flat between two sheets of wax or parchment paper and put it into a 9 inch pie pan.
  12. Pour the molasses mixture into the pie pan on top of the crust.
  13. Gently crumble the topping layer over the molasses mixture in the pie pan. Don’t press it down / don’t press on it.
  14. Bake for 15 minutes at 400 degrees, then drop to 350 degrees and cook for another 30 to 40 minutes. Knife test the pie at 30 minutes to see if set (knife should come out clean, not wet).

Do you like what you see here? Did you try the recipe? Would you like more healthy, simple and cheap recipes for your family?

My eBook: Simple, Healthy, Cheap! A Simple Life’s Guide To Home Economics: Beginning Cooking, will be available in a few weeks. This recipe is from the Intermediate Cooking book, which will follow it up a few months later.

Want a healthy cookbook now? I have found a great eBook, Eat Good For Life that is worth a try for only $4.95!

Saving 101: Save On Food Costs

Saving 101 Food Costs

We continue our series on ways to save money by focusing on food costs this week.

Eat In More, Eat Out Less

Savings: $10’s to 100’s

It is a simple fact that it costs a lot less to make something yourself rather than eat it out. Even the bulk food purchases that a restaurant may make, does not offset the cost of running a restaurant (employees, building, overhead, etc…). It also doesn’t offset their profit. If you are used to the rich, flavorful and even exotic foods from eating out, it may be hard to make the change and eat in. If the budget still allows, you can make the change gradually vs. cutting yourself off completely. I will admit, this was a hard one for me. I have learned over the years how to make a lot of ethnic foods, but there are some I can not master. 

Example 1: A young couple with 2 incomes used to eat out 2 or 3 times a week. They were spending about $100 a week this way (about $400 per month). When one of the their schedules were reduced to ½ time, they cut back to eating out 1 day a week. This way, they were only spending about $25 to $40 a week, cutting the budget by more than half.

Example 2: A couple starting a family reduces down to the husband as the sole provider for the family. They were eating out about 1 time a week (about $120 per month) and they cut back to eating out once per month (about $30 per month). 

Compare Store Prices

Savings: $10’s to $100’s

It is pretty surprising how much prices can vary on an item between stores. Even in your favorite discount or bulk store, the price for certain items may not be the best or lowest. Keeping track of the prices of items only takes a couple of minutes after every shop. Then, every time you shop, only purchase the items from the store you are at that has the best price for the item.

Example: Here is a spreadsheet of some items, with prices tracked per store:

  Costco   WalMart   WinCo  
Alfalfa Sprouts            
Alfredo Sauce Mix            
Apples – Fuji 9.29 for 5.5 lb

$1.69

    1.28 per lb

$1.28

Apples – Gala     3.22 for 3 lb

$1.07

4.98 for 5 lb

$1.00

Apples – Pink Lady         .98 per lb

$0.98

Avacado     .78 each

$0.78

.88 each

$0.88

Baby Wipes 15.49 for 704 wipes

$0.02

7.97 for 288 wipes

$0.03

   
Baking Powder – No aluminum         2.51 for 10 oz

$0.25

Baking Soda         1.87 for 4 lb

$0.47

Bananas 1.39 per 4 lb

$0.35

.48 per lb

$0.48

.48 per lb

$0.48

Bean Sprouts         .98 for 8 oz, lb

$1.96

Better Than Bouillon         2.88 per jar

$2.88

Blueberries            
Bread – Bagels 4.49 for 12 bagels

$0.37

2.00 for 6

$0.33

3.48 for 12 bagels

$0.29

Bread – Buns     1.14 for 8 buns

$0.14

.87 for 8 buns

$0.11

Bread – Loaf – No Corn Syrup 3.89 for 2 loaves

$1.95

2.50 per loaf

$2.50

2.28 per loaf

$2.28

Bread – Puglaese 4.49 for 2 loaves

$2.25

    1.68 per loaf

$1.68

Bread – Sandwich Rolls 1.89 for 36 oz, lb

$0.84

       
Broccoli            
Butter 7.69 for 6 lb

$1.28

1.98 for 1 lb

$1.98

1.66 for 1 lb

$1.66

So, when you go to Costco, only get baby wipes, bananas, loaf bread and butter. At WinCo, get your apples, bagels, and buns. You don’t have to go to multiple store in one week if you don’t have the time, just stock up on a couple of weeks or a month supply at the one store each week. Many things can be frozen for weeks at a time.

NOTE: I originally wrote this for my old blog 4 years ago. I don’t maintain this list anymore as it is mainly in my head. Note that some of the prices aren’t available much anymore. 

What is your best way to save on food costs?


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