Saturday, July 30, 2011

Preparing for Our First CSA Box!

This coming week we will be trying out a large box of produce, a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) Box from a local farm. It's a great way to get healthy fresh produce and support our local farmers. We are trying to eat more healthy and add more fruits and veggies to our diet, so I'm hoping this box will inspire us to do that. I am also anticipating it will help introduce us to produce we normally would not buy. We're trying the CSA program from Underwood Family Farms in Moorpark, CA. The cost for a large box is around $25. Based on what I currently spend at the grocery store, and the fact that every time I go to their produce stand I end up spending around $30, this is a very reasonable cost and an investment for our family's health. They have a deal going right now where if you sign up for a subscription you get 1 week FREE! (See link below.) If we end up liking the CSA program, another great benefit is that we get free admission to the farm! Our family loves this farm and all of the wonderful activities they have for the kids. We currently have season passes, but if we continue as active CSA members, we won't have to pay for the season pass, another added money saving benefit!

It's the weekend now, so I have a tiny bit of extra time on my hands, but once the busy week begins, I have found it really hard to just plan meals day by day. So, some meal planning is in order. I used to meal plan every week, but I fell off the wagon. Luckily this farm posts what you're going to get in the box ahead of time. I am using to search for recipes. I love this site because it's customizable. You enter what food you have as well as staples in your pantry and it comes up with a list of recipes. You simply click on the ingredient you want to highlight & it lists a whole bunch of recipes for that item. So, for example, I am getting the following in my box this week:

1 basket Raspberries
3 Bi-color Corn
1 Green Leaf Lettuce
1 bunch Red Chard
1 Cherokee Tomato
1 Texas Sweet Onion
1 French Morning Melon
1 Saticoy Melon
1 pound Yellow Wax Beans

I entered these items into my Supercook account and updated some other staples in my pantry. I first decided to highlight the chard, since I don't think I've ever cooked it! Immediately a whole list of links to recipes showed up. I chose a chard & beans recipe, thinking it will be a great way to use 2 of the week's ingredients together. I will continue with other produce as well as some chicken and beef I have on hand to continue my meal planning for the week. I am planning on doing this on a weekly basis, writing the plan on a magnetic calendar I have on my refrigerator. I am also going to print out the recipes and arrange them in order on a magnetic clip on my refrigerator as well. With a little planning, meal time will be a little less stressful and a lot more tasty!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Our Frugal Journey . . . A Summary of Our Family's Frugal Adventures - So Far

For the past few years, my husband & I have been chipping away at living a more frugal lifestyle.  We are doing this because we have certain goals, values, and ways we want to live our life in the future in mind.  We have done a lot, little by little.  I have really been amazed at how some of the changes we have implemented have positively affected our lives.  Some of the positive outcomes were expected like being able to get out of all consumer debt, and saving more.  Other positive affects were a surprise, like actually enjoying life more without cable.  I do not miss cable at all!  Here I have compiled a list of things we have implemented.  We are still learning a lot, and still in progress, but this is definitely an exciting journey we are on!

1.  Cut Cable

2.  Cut traditional phone line & switched to Voice Over IP (VOIP)

3.  Shop for best internet service price and switch to another if a better deal is found - you may have to do this every few years.

4.  Switched to pre-paid cell phone plans.

5.  Use iPod Touch instead of opting for a smart phone - you have the benefit of the same apps, and with so many public places offering free wifi, you really can't go wrong.  Plus no data fees!

6.  When our family grew we saved up and paid for a used mini-van in full. No car payments, saved a ton over buying a new car (which loses 25% as soon as you drive it off the lot), and saved a ton in interest!!

7.  Keeping our other car (which has been paid off for years) and opting to pay for repairs when needed instead of buying another.

8.  I am using cloth diapers most of the time with my youngest.  I also used these with my oldest, so I am getting a lot of mileage out of them!  I could write a whole other blog post on how much these save!

9.  Trying to not use as many paper towels. Instead I am using more kitchen towels, rags, flour sack towels, and glass cleaning towels.  (Smart & Final has great prices on glass cleaning & flour sack towels!)

10.  I make my own cleaning solutions with vinegar & baking soda.  These are super cheap at Costco - a huge jug of vinegar is under $4!  I still have other household cleaners I am using up so they don't go to waste & a few I will rebuy, but for those I only get when on sale & if I have a coupon.

11.  We have recently started our own "Extreme Couponing!"  We're still learning a lot, but already we have saved a ton & on products we actually like & use.  It's not just junk either (although I did get a free candy bar today)!  This weekend alone I got 2 free razors and my husband got paid to take 2 toothbrushes from the store.  We are figuring out a couponing strategy which best meets our families needs. A great resource for couponing info. and classes is:
12.  I follow several frugal sites on Facebook & am alerted to deals and freebies.

13.  We have taken time to ask other frugal people what they are doing and seize opportunities to learn more.  We recently graduated from Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University, an amazing course.  I also take tips from friends - I am now shopping for produce at Sprouts, which has double ad Wednesdays to maximize savings thanks to a friend's advice.

14.  I rarely buy new clothes for my kids.  They are either hand me downs or bought at consignment sales.

15.  Craigslist!  We have scored some great deals on higher priced items on Craigslist.  We got a train table for $25!  I even got my gym membership on Craigslist, as I found someone who had moved away & was looking for someone to take over the contract.  Thanks to another friend who recommended I look there for this deal - I now save approximately $40 off the current price for this membership!

16.  Online shopping - sometimes online is the way to go , pending shipping costs don't offset the savings.  I've been very pleased with Amazon, especially with the Amazon Mom program.  I am enjoying free shipping for a year now because of that program.  Always google to see if there's a coupon code when online shopping or check out

17.  Eat out less often.  Also, we look for coupons & deals like kids eat free.

18.  Enjoy free or nearly free family activites; parks, beach, running through the sprinklers, the list of free stuff you can enjoy is too long to list here!

19.  Gardening - I am starting small with just a bell pepper & tomato plant.  It's so exciting to see the veggies growing!  I am getting a ton of veggies - way cheaper than buying at the market.

20.  Selling things we are not using on ebay, through consignment, or Craigslist.

21.  Learning to be content with what we have & having fun getting creative with things.  I am a sucker for organizing products; baskets, bins, cute boxes, but those can be expensive.  I have learned to accept that my house does not have to look like the homes in Martha Stewart Magazine.  It's ok that my recycle bin in the laundry room is a diaper box, and one day when I have time I can decorate it.

22.  Getting as much mileage as possible out of products:  cutting dryer sheets in half (by the way I returned the dryer balls I mentioned in a previous post - just not worth it), trying to use less of products, squeezing as much as possible out of bottles, etc.

23.  Dying my own hair.  I did have to switch hair color, as I just could not get the blonde right, but I love the change.  This hair applicator has made the process of doing it myself so easy:

I'm sure there are other things I am not thinking of right now.  It is quite late (12:32am).  I am having a moment of inspiration and want sum up everything we've done.  I have other things I plan on implementing which I will cover in future posts.  Hopefully some of these ideas will inspire you too.  Please share what you are doing too! Have a great week!!