Sep 6, 2011

Pasta Prices Rising

According to an article on Yahoo Finance pasta prices are going up. Flooding in ND is to blame. We have stocked up on boxed pasta to insulate ourselves from the increase. Keep an eye out for sales and use coupons to get a deal! I bought ours at Publix when it was buy one get one free. Storage is important- make sure to keep it in a dry, pest-free area. If you have problems with pests/humidity you can store it in the refrigerator to extend the shelf life. With so many things going up in price every little bit helps.
Aug 20, 2011

Green Stamps from the USPS

The United States Postal Service has released a series of Forever Stamps that give suggestions on how to "Go Green." The stamps are a cute reminder of easy things we can do everyday. They are the same price as other stamps and never subject to price increases.

The USPS website offers the following description: "Go Green, a pane of 16 stamps, is the Postal Service's social awareness issue for 2011. Award-winning animator, filmmaker, and illustrator Eli Noyes worked with Art Director Derry Noyes on his first stamp project, using a colorful, playful style to convey the message that every American can take simple actions to conserve energy and improve the environment. These Forever stamps are always equal in value to the current First-Class Mail one-ounce rate." 

You can pick the stamps up at your local post office or buy online at on the USPS website.
Aug 8, 2011

As If I Needed Another Reason to Love Fiesta Dishes...

I came across an article today that made me smile. I love Fiesta dishes for many reasons: durability, made in America, lead free, and of course the pretty colors. Now I can add another reason: they are considered sustainable dinnerware. I learned some fun green facts from the article pulled from HLC's green statement pledge.
  • To continue to provide a safe, reusable product free of harmful materials. There is no lead in the paint or glaze of Fiesta dinnerware.
  • To vigilantly pursue innovative ways to reduce our carbon footprint on the global landscape. HLC reroutes waste kiln heat to other processes. They blend their waste clay back into the formation process. The products are only made in the U.S.A. so they don’t have to transport anything overseas.
  • To reduce or eliminate our resource consumption and recycle what we use. HLC has impressive conservation efforts for their packaging, wastewater, and ordering processes. They also send non-saleable dinnerware to a refinery that uses them as aggregate for tabletops and countertops.
Although the dishes can be pricey I have found that there are usually good sales at Amazon and Macys that make them really affordable. You can also buy them from the factory outlet. Fair Warning: Fiesta dishes can be addicting!
Apr 22, 2011

Happy Earth Day!

Happy Earth Day, everyone! Here are some ideas to celebrate:
  • plant a container herb garden
  • have a picnic
  • go on a nature walk
  • plant a tree
  • go to a state or national park
  • organize a neighborhood or beach clean up
  • plant wildflower seeds
What did I do to celebrate? I spent some time with my porch garden. We are going to reward ourselves with  free Starbucks coffee in our reusable cups :)
Apr 3, 2011

Being Present in Your Present

Last Sunday I made pot roast for dinner. As I cut up the vegetables and trimmed the meat I had an overwhelming feeling of gratitude for the wonderful meal we would enjoy. The roast was one my parents had sent us from their farm. It came from a cow that they had bred, watched being born, and cared for. And it gave its life so I could enjoy the dinner that I would be having. I'll never be a person who can give up all meat but I think a healthy respect for the animal is important. In that moment I felt so close to my parents and appreciated the cycle of life. I was truly present in what I was doing: cooking dinner.

So much of what we do with our time is routine. We do not stop to appreciate the miracle of our lives and the pleasure that can be found in the simple things we do each day. I truly enjoy cooking dinner each night. Even if it is something simple, it is time that Rob and I spend together. Being sick and starting chemo for my lupus has really added perspective for me. I find myself appreciating simple pleasures so much more. Enjoying cappuccino on the porch, feeling the sun shine on my face, or sitting quietly petting Daisy and appreciating how soft she is are things that I might have took for granted before or not even thought about while I was doing them. Our lives our truly a gift. I'm trying to be more present in mine.

Here is an excerpt from a great post by Leo Babauta over at Zen Habits about "9 Mindfulness Rituals to Make your Day Better"

Mindfulness Rituals

Ritual isn’t about doing a routine mindlessly. It’s a way of building something good into your life, so that you don’t forget what’s important. Done mindfully, a ritual can remind you to be conscious. Done mindlessly, a ritual is meaningless.
Here are a few of my favorites:
1. Sit in the morning. When you wake up, in the quiet of the morning, perhaps as your coffee is brewing, get a small cushion and sit on the floor. I will often use this opportunity to stretch, as I am very inflexible. I feel every muscle in my body, and it is like I am slowly awakening to the day. I’ll also just sit, and focus on my breathing going in and out. I’m an absolute beginner when it comes to meditation, but this always starts my day right.
2. Brush your teeth. I assume we all brush our teeth, but often we do it while thinking of other things. Try fully concentrating on the action of brushing, on each stroke of each tooth, going from one side of the mouth to the other. You end up doing a better job, and it helps you realize how much we do on autopilot.
3. Eat mindfully. Turn off the TV, put away the computer and mobile devices, even put away the book or newspaper. If you eat with any of these things (most people do), eating without them will seem boring. And yet, unless you do this, you are not truly appreciating your food. I like eating my oats (with nuts and berries — see my diet) mindfully, paying attention to each bite. It makes the food taste better, and I eat slowly and with gratefulness.
4. Wash your bowl. When you’re done eating, wash your dish immediately. Do it while paying full attention to your washing, to the water and suds. Read more.
5. Drink tea. There’s something ancient about the tea ceremony — and when you drink tea as a mindfulness ritual, you’re connecting with millions of others who have done so over the centuries. Make your own tea ceremony — prepare the tea carefully and mindfully, pour it slowly, sip it with thoughtfulness. See if you can set aside one time each day to do this, and it will transform your day.
6. Walk slowly. I like to take breaks from work, and go outside for a little walk. Walk slowly, each step a practice in awareness. Pay attention to your breathing, to everything around you, to the sounds and light and texture of objects.
7. Read in silence. Find a quiet time (mornings or evenings are great for me), and a quiet spot, and read a good novel. Have no television or computers on nearby, and just immerse yourself in the world of the novel. It might seem contradictory to let your mind move from the present into the time of the novel, but it’s a great practice in focus. Also, I love a good novel more than almost anything else.
8. Look at someone gratefully. Each day, find someone you care about. Instead of just seeing what you always see, really look at the person. Try not to do it creepily. See this person for the miracle that she is, and be grateful for her existence. If you’re feeling generous, tell that person how thankful you are for her.
9. Work with focus. Start your workday by choosing one task that will make a big difference in your work, and clearing everything else away. Just do that one task, and don’t switch to other tasks. Single-tasking is a great way to find focus. Increase your Monk Mind.
These rituals aren’t the only time you should be mindful, but they’re great reminders. Today, try a few of them to fully live and fully appreciate this wonderful day.
Mar 16, 2011

Rising food costs + political turmoil + natural disasters= time to prepare

I am usually not the kind of person to sound like an alarmist (I leave that to my dad) but there are a few reasons EVERYONE should have their stockpile in order.  According to this article on Yahoo Finance food prices have had their steepest rise in 36 years. Combine that with the expected rise in oil prices due to political upheaval occurring in the Middle East and disaster in Japan and you start to see why it is prudent to be prepared. Not only will food cost more to make but also to ship. It is always a good idea to be prepared for the unexpected. If the earthquake in Japan has taught us anything it is that everything can change in an instant. Having a well stocked pantry helps insulate you from rising food prices while also helping keep you prepared for emergencies.
     So what can you do to be better prepared without going overboard? 

Canned Goods
Most people know to have a stock of canned goods- vegetables, fruit, canned meat (ie tuna), soups etc. It is important to rotate this stock by putting new additions (with further away expiration dates) in the back and move the old stuff to the front. Another lesson I have learned is to only buy stuff you will actually eat when there isn't a disaster. I hate to think about the food that went bad because I bought it in case of a hurricane but wouldn't eat it otherwise. Only buy stuff you will actually use.

Dry Goods
People often overlook the value of raw goods when they stockpile. Dry beans and rice will keep virtually forever if stored properly in sealed plastic food grade containers. Beans provide protein and are inexpensive. Rice is an inexpensive carbohydrate. Buy brown whole grain to add fiber. Other important dry goods to store include flour, sugar, salt, and cornmeal. I know of some people who store wheat berries and mill their own grains but that is above what I am capable of doing at the moment.

Health and Beauty Aids
It is also important to have a stock of products such as toothpaste, soap, and shampoo. You can get this stuff for free or almost free if you shop the sales at CVS right. I always keep a 6 month supply on hand. What I can't use gets donated to shelters.

Storing water is possible but can be a pain. A few drops of bleach will keep water sanitary. Water should be changed out every six months. Rather than keeping mass quantities of water on hand I recommend a good ceramic water purifier if you live close to a pond, stream, or lake. We keep enough bottles around to fill for a hurricane or other emergency (plus your bath tubs etc) if we need to fill them but don't keep them all filled all of time due to space constraints. Make sure whatever you keep it in is food grade. 2 liter Soda bottles are good, milk containers are not.

If you have pets don't forget to have at least a month supply of pet food on hand. 

Some helpful websites: LDS (later day saints) also have great local resources as their church preaches about preparedness
Mar 5, 2011

The Tangible and Intangible Benefits of Gardening

    Most people who know me know that I love flowers. What many of them don't know is how much I love to garden. There are so many benefits to gardening and it's not just the frugal benefits of cheap food and the green benefits of organic produce. There is a less tangible quality that gardening gives me. It just makes me happy. I love the smell of the dirt. I love watching seedlings sprout. The time I spend sitting on my patio drinking coffee with my plants while watching the bird feeder with Daisy is my favorite part of the weekend. I'm so glad it's finally spring!
      I think I caught the gardening bug when I was young. My mom loves to garden and she always let us help. She taught us the names of flowers, the difference between perennials and annuals,  and how to care for them. When I was about seven she let each of us pick out our own rosebush from the nursery. Mine was a pink Queen Elizabeth rose. I loved it. When we moved out of that house when I was 19 it was taller than me.
       For someone who loves memorizing facts and minutia gardening is a perfect pastime. There are literally millions of plants to choose from. I'll never forget my first extended trip at Academy to Colonial Williamsburg. I walked around pointing out all of the different plants to the children. My boss was shocked that I knew all of the names. It was fun to see the kids start to identify the plants on there own.
        Summer is my favorite time of year. I love picking fresh basil for our pizza and spaghetti sauces. Baked potatoes just taste better with fresh chives. Flowers bloom and the serenity of my small porch garden is sublime. It truly is my happy place.
         I'm not trying to imply that the life of a gardener is all sunshine and roses (though that is a big part of it!). Last year's tomatoes grew as tall trees and were attacked by bugs. Our attempt at blueberries was a failed effort that ended in a mildew infestation. But I still love to plant things. The hope and excitement outweighs the risk that things will go wrong.
         Someday, Rob and I will have a house where I can plant and grow things until my heart's content. Until then, here is my top list of plants for container gardening:

  1. Sweet Basil- easy to grow from seeds. Has a beautiful aroma, tastes great, and does well in pots.
  2. Chives- I grew these from seeds in a container and this cold winter couldn't kill them. They're back and better than ever.
  3. Epipremnum aureum aka Devil's Ivy- an impossible to kill hanging plant. It actually removes toxins from the air. I love hanging plants but they can be finicky. This one is not. I have forgotten to water it, left it outside every winter, and pruned it back to its base but it always comes back and grows over ten feet long every year. It is also very easy to propagate from cuttings. Here is a great site for information on hanging plants.
  4. Impatiens- love shade and make great container and border plants. They come in a variety of stunning colors. They do need a lot of water.
  5. Calibrachoa aka million bells- a petunia like plant with cute little flowers. Great for containers because it will hang over the edge. This plant needs to be fertilized.
  6. Bogonias- another easy to propagate plant that does well in semi-shady areas.
  7. Mint- great for tea and mojitos. It is also invasive so it's hard to kill.
  8. Pentas aka star flower- very pretty and colorful. They do need more sun than some of the other ornamentals listed. A bonus- mine came back for several years before it finally died.
Ultimately, it is the intangible feeling that gardening gives me that keeps me coming back. I love having fresh herbs and flowers but it's the way I feel sitting on my porch with Daisy and the connection to my mom that really drives me to dig in the dirt.
Feb 27, 2011

Compostable sneakers- the next big thing or just odd?

     So I read this article on compostable sneakers and was intrigued by the idea. At first I envisioned sneakers that melted off your feet when it rained. Apparently, they are a little more durable than that. "Made using hemp, cork, bio-cotton, certified biodegradable plastics, chlorine-free bleach and other nontoxic materials, the shoes are designed to completely break down when buried in the ground." The concept is the brain child of a Dutch duo who call their company OATS. You can't buy them yet, but they are keeping all of their potential customers up to date with a blog. The initial sales will only be released in Europe. They have stirred up a lot of buzz. The shoes won second prize at last month's Green Fashion Awards in Amsterdam. No price is posted so I am wary about what they will charge for these "green" shoes.

     I honestly never really thought about what happens to my sneakers after I am done wearing them since I usually donate them. I have seen some pretty snazzy planters made out of old boots though. I'm not big on high tops but I guess it would be pretty cool to plant your shoes in your back yard. They have wildflower seeds in the tongue so they would actually grow something. It's definitely an interesting idea.
Feb 21, 2011

10 Things You Waste Money on Everyday

MSN had an article on the 10 Things people waste money on daily. Their list is:
1. Lottery tickets
2. Expensive coffee drinks
3. Newsstand Magazines
4. Dry cleaning
5. Premium gasoline
6. Movie concessions
7. Workday lunches
8. Professional Manicures and Pedicures
9. High-Priced Grooming Products
10. premium cable channels

I am doing alright in most of the categories. I don't buy lottery tickets (it's a voluntary tax). I only buy magazines when I'm flying somewhere. It's sort of a treat I allow myself at the airport. My car takes regular gas so I'm good there. I almost always bring my lunch to work. I buy all of our grooming products as cheaply as possible at CVS and we don't subscribe to premium cable channels.

There are areas in which I could improve. I make my coffee at home with my cappuccino machine most days but I do occasionally give in to the urge to patronize Starbucks. Luckily, my students help subsidize this habit with giftcards. I have about 5 clothing items that require dry cleaning. I put it off as long as possible and hand wash everything I can. My cashmere sweaters are the one item I really worry about so I do take them to the cleaners. That being said, I have yet to pay the $150 to have my wedding dress cleaned and we are quickly approaching our 3 year anniversary (I really need to get this done...). I don't attend the movies often, but when I do I am a sucker for overpriced movie popcorn. I try to economize this by buying the $5 kid pack that includes a small soda and candy in addition to the popcorn. I love pedicures but only get them about twice a year because of the expense. I should probably cut them out altogether but you have to indulge once in awhile I suppose.

So, how do you stack up against the list? Are you guilty of any of these frugal infractions?
Feb 14, 2011

A frugal review of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

    Last weekend, after a year of waiting patiently, I finally went to the The Wizarding World of Harry Potter! Although the $80 ticket to Islands of Adventure was steep, for a die hard Potter fan like me it was worth the money. That being said, there are still some ways to save on your adventure to Hogsmeade.
     I think the first thing that struck me was just how well done everything was. Hogsmeade village was meticulously recreated. Half of the fun was simply walking through the village. It really was like the books had come alive. I felt like I had fallen through the pensieve.
      The rides were all great. It rained and was Super Bowl Sunday so crowds were not a problem for us. The hallmark ride, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, lived up to expectations. It made me a little nauseous with all of the video involved but it was still fun. This is the ride located in Hogwarts Castle. Half of the fun is waiting in line to see all of the sights such as Dumbledore's office and the Griffendor common room.
        The flight of the Hippogriff is a kid friendly coaster. For those of you familiar with Islands of Adventure it is the old "Flight of the Unicorn." Hagrid's Hut is there along with Buckbeak the Hippogriff.
         After those rides we hit some of the shops. Merchandise is pricey. The best deal in the park for a souvenir is to mail a postcard from the owlry. The postcards cost about $1. The really exciting part is that you mail the cards from Hogsmeade and it is postmarked "Hogsmeade." Make sure to bring your own stamps though. They sell a sheet of Hogwarts stamps for $14 so they are seriously marked up.
         Other merchandise is comparable with other theme park fare. The way I see it, if you are a die-hard fan and there is something you really want it's worth it. Otherwise, I would pass. Adult t-shirts ran between $25-30. Honestly, the experience of being in Zonkos and Honeydukes is awesome even if you don't purchase a $10 chocolate frog.
         Lunch at the Three Broomsticks was, again, a great experience. My only complaint is that service was VERY slow. The most economical dish was the fish and chips and it was very good. It cost under $8. I heard the shepherd's pie was not so good, but the ribs and chicken were alright. The Butterbeer was delicious! I would splurge for the frozen one since it waters the sugar down a bit. The portion is generous so if you have smaller children I would ask for an extra cup and share it. Also, the adult fish and chips could be split between 2 children for cheaper than buying 2 children's meals.
        After lunch we rode the Dragon Challenge roller coasters. The theme is the Triwizard Tournament so there was plenty of cool things to view in line. Some of the minutiae included the Triwizard Cup, the golden dragon eggs, the tent that the champions waited in etc. If you rode the old dueling dragons ride it is the same,  the line experience was just updated.
         We didn't do Olivander's wand experience. With a price tag of about $40 it wasn't worth it for me.
        The one souvenir that I really liked but wasn't willing to pay for was a scarf in the house colors. They were between $25 and $35. The most basic could be knitted for under $7 or so. Definitely over priced.
          Ultimately, I had a great day. It is totally worth the entrance fee but I would go easy on the merchandise. It's worth it to send your friends (or yourself) postcards from Hogsmeade if you bring your own stamps. I would definitely eat at the Three Broomsticks. Set a limit on souvenirs so you don't go overboard.

Jan 30, 2011

Birthday Savings!

This is my birthday week and I thought I would share a secret with you all: the BEST mail comes right around your birthday! Yes, there are the wonderful cards from friends and family but there are also other fun surprises. So without further ado, here are the frugal birthday surprises I have received thus far in honor of my birth:
  1. $10 of of Purchase from Victoria's Secret- no minimum purchase required
  2. 20% off of purchase at Halmark
  3. $15 off of purchase from Banana Republic- no minimum purchase required
  4. Buy one get one free fillet Mignon from Land and Sea Market
  5. Free Brownie Sundae from Cantina Laredo
I will update this as my mailbox and inbox continue to fill up this week :) In the meantime, where else can you get freebies or discounts for your birthday? Leave a comment!

  • Free shipping from Macy's
  • free sub at Firehouse Subs (show ID)- Thanks Melissa!
Jan 28, 2011


     EcoSharing is an intriguing concept. Rather than buy certain tools you seldom use thus wasting money and resources you can use to share with your facebook friends. I feel like most of us have been doing this for years. The website just allows you to do it in a more organized way. It also gives you a wider net to see what your friends have that they are willing to lend. You decide what items you are willing to share and with which friends you are willing to share them with. The service is free. I also think it's a nice way to reconnect with people you don't get to see as much. I'm really looking forward to reading your comments to see what everyone thinks of this idea.
Jan 21, 2011

Sharing Frugality

    One of my favorite things is when I can inspire others to live frugally. This past weekend I visited my best friend in Northern Virgina. We sat down together with the newspaper and I explained how to combine coupons with loss leaders to purchase products for free or for pennies. I don't know why, but sharing frugality makes me happy. I love helping other people save money. I think that in some ways society has made talking about saving money a sort of taboo. I don't understand why people are embarrassed to share their adventures in couponing. I think we need a cultural shift where we embrace sharing our knowledge on how to save money. With much of the world experiencing an economic recession I feel we need to stop being embarrassed about wanting to save money. I joyously share coupons with strangers in the grocery store. My husband thinks I am crazy. Friends bring me coupons they think I will use and I am thrilled. We share so many aspects of our lives with our friends. I think it is high time we share frugality as well. Who knows, maybe others will embrace sharing coupons with strangers in the grocery store as well. We can call it coupon philanthropy :)
Jan 12, 2011

Green vs. Gross--- Where do YOU draw the line?

        Today's post was inspired by my younger brother. When Rob and I were home for Thanksgiving my brother had an interesting reaction to one of our "habits." In order to use less water and save a little money we don't flush the toilet every time we use it. When we visiting it completely did not occur to me that this might bother my brother with whom we shared a bathroom. Bother it did. We quickly rectified our etiquette faux pas.
         This situation got me thinking about what different people are comfortable with when it comes to being green and frugal. What seems second nature to some is disgusting to others. I will fully admit that there are certain things I do that are potentially gross to others. There are also things I know that others do that I would not be willing to do.
          So what are some of the more "questionable" things I do?
    • "Rescue" coupons from the trashcan by our mail box
    • Limit toilet flushing to solid waste
    • Reuse dish towels
    • Use natural cleaners like vinegar and baking soda for a lot of my home cleaning
    • Freeze leftovers for another meal-- this seems normal to me but I know some people who refuse to eat leftovers
    • Stretch meat dishes with beans
    • Shop in thrift stores
    • When we have kids we will use cloth diapers
             And what do I refuse to do?
    • Dumpster dive for food products
    • Allow solid waste to sit in the toilet
    • Eat expired food
    • Shop at day old bakeries-- I don't know why this weirds me out
    • Use "reusable" toilet paper-- eww

So where do you draw the line? What do you do that others won't and what grosses you out?
Jan 10, 2011

Why do we choose a frugal, green lifestyle?

    I was talking to my mom on the phone the other day and she said something that really made me think. I was explaining to her how we had saved $50 last month by using a space heater instead of central heat. I was super proud of this accomplishment. I thought my excitement was apparent but after a few seconds of silence my mom asked, "Are you and Rob having money troubles?" I was really surprised by her question. "Of course we aren't having money troubles," I thought. "We just saved $50!" To my mom this seemed extreme but to us it was merely another notch in our proverbial frugal bedpost. For me, the decision to lead a frugal lifestyle is a choice. For many people the decision comes out of necessity. I feel fortunate that Rob and I are in a position to choose and not forced to do so in order to survive. To some people, however, our choice seems odd.
      For me the choice to lead a frugal lifestyle isn't about sacrifice but about opportunities. Rob and I are both teachers. We love what we do and feel that we really make a difference in the world. Money wasn't (and isn't) the most important deciding factor for us. I feel lucky that I was able to discover my purpose in life early on and find my soul mate who is like minded. For us, a frugal lifestyle makes it possible for us to live well on teachers' salaries.
      Everyone needs to decide what your own personal "remarkable life" looks like. To us, it is a life surrounded by children broken up by long vacations that we get to spend together. Having expensive "stuff" is not what brings us joy. In fact, I have found that being surrounded by loads of stuff makes me really anxious. For others, their remarkable life may be totally different. I don't see it as a one-size-fits-all sort of philosophy. This is just what works for us.
        I really enjoy living a more simple life. I find peace hand drying my dishes with dish towels and clipping coupons. I also love the opportunities it provides us. I am thankful that I can pay for graduate school with cash and not go into debt. I am thankful that we are able to travel if we want to. I am so thankful that couponing allows me to help others by donating food to Metropolitan Ministries and other charitable organizations. These are things that make me far happier than more clothes or the latest gadget ever could.  Ultimately, it comes down to knowing what makes you most happy.
       I feel that our society has become so bogged down in consumerism that we take simple pleasures for granted. I really feel my life has changed for the better since we began our frugal journey. I appreciate things like a homegrown tomato or a walk with my dog. I love not feeling like I need to keep up with the Joneses. I like feeling that we are doing our part to help the planet and saving money in the process.
        Choosing to live more simply has brought me peace. I am happier and more in touch with myself than I have ever been in my life. While it began as an endeavor to save money and minimize our human footprint, I feel our journey has evolved into so much more. By deciding so carefully what we are and are not willing to spend our money on I have gained a greater understanding of what I value. And for me at least, this understanding is priceless.

"Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants." - Epictetus
Jan 5, 2011

A green funeral?


I know funerals are not a particularly happy topic and most people don't like discussing their "final arrangements" but I came across this article on  a message board and was intrigued. The article discusses the concept of "green funerals." I have never liked the idea of being pumped full of chemicals and put in an air tight box for all eternity. Cremation is not an option because of  my religious beliefs. I also think the amount of money spent to prepare a body for a funeral and on a casket is ridiculous. This article in Audubon Magazine provides an alternative. In my opinion, a really beautiful alternative.
       The article first explains some of the problems with the funeral industry: 
"we go into the ground pumped full of formaldehyde-based embalming fluids, which cause elevated rates of cancer in workers who handle them every day and which don’t actually halt our tissues’ decay. (Our blood, other bodily fluids, and waste are pumped out and simply washed down the drain.) Our remains are often sealed inside “decay-proof” metal caskets, and entombed in concrete vaults to prevent the subsidence that occurs when the casket inevitably collapses. The grave is dug by backhoe, not human hands. 
        A barrage of pesticides and herbicides, along with fossil-fuel-guzzling, pollution-emitting machines, keep our final resting places so tidy—and sterile—that some cemeteries even remove offerings of fresh flowers.
        Choosing cremation, the choice of one-third of the Americans who die each year, may save space in graveyards, but it isn’t particularly green either... cremation releases carbon dioxide: about 350 pounds per cremation, according to an Australian study—soot particles, sulfur dioxide, and trace metals, including mercury from dental fillings. (Other potentially harmful items, such as pacemakers and their batteries and some prostheses, must be removed before cremation.) Then there are the fossil fuels consumed in heating the ovens to 1,400 to 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit for the two and a half hours required to cremate a body and its casket, adds environmental journalist Mary Woodsen, a board member of New York’s Greensprings Natural Cemetery. “You could take 83 round-trips to the moon on the power used annually for U.S. cremations.”

     All of this runs completely counter to what seems natural to me. I abhor the idea of my family spending thousands of dollars on something that I see as unnecessary and that is harmful to the earth. The alternative presented is called a "conservation funeral." The first company to provide this service is the Ramsey Creek Preserve. The family purchased a 36 acre farm in South Carolina and converted it into a nature preserve. Here, people are laid to rest in their natural state without chemical preservatives (ice or dry ice preserves the body for transportation). The caskets are simple wood and biodegrade. The phrase "ashes to ashes and dust to dust" comes to my mind. The body becomes part of the nature preserve and enhances the beautiful preserve. The graves are dug by hand. Only native species plants are allowed and graves are marked by simply carved stones native to the area. When families visit their loved ones they go to a nature preserve instead of a cemetery which has a more industrial feel to me.
     One of the best parts is that a conservation funeral is actually cheaper than a traditional one. Because bodies cannot be embalmed a considerable cost is eliminated. The average cost of a traditional burial and funeral in the US is $7,300. According to the article, "a burial at a conservation cemetery the whole package, including green funeral home services, eco-coffin, burial, and plot, might average around $4,000.” 
      I do believe that it is important to be good stewards of the beautiful earth God has provided us with. Death is a natural part of life.  Conservation burial seems like a green and frugal way to make our final farewell natural- the way it was intended to be.

"In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread till thou return to the earth out of which thou wast taken: for dust thou art, and into dust thou shalt return."
-Genesis 3:19

***All images are from Ramsey Creek's website.

Jan 4, 2011

Free Books! Save money on Paperback Swap

Trade Books for Free - PaperBack Swap.

One of my all time favorite frugal websites is paperback swap. It's a free service where you list books you don't want anymore and request books you do. Each book is worth a credit. You get credits for mailing a book to someone and spend them when you request a book to someone else.

To sign up you register and post ten books you are willing to mail. You automatically are given book credits for signing up so you can request books right away.

A few tips:
  • use media mail from the US Postal Service to send heavier books. It will cost under $3 usually.
  • I use brown paper bags from the grocery store to wrap books in so I don't pay for packaging.
  • If you hate lines like I do you can use the automated postage service (APS) machines at the post office. The only caveat is that they don't do media mail so if the book is heavy it's worth waiting in line.
In the last two years I have saved $198 on Paperback Swap. It's easy to use, the books I have received have been in great condition, and it's always exciting to receive "fun" mail instead of bills.

What are you waiting for? Sign up! Swap Books for Free -
Jan 2, 2011

New Year Tips

      I always feel like the New Year is a stressful time. There's the pressure to come up with resolutions, advertisements telling us to lose weight, and a myriad of chores calling out to us to complete them. Here are a few tips to make the New Year a little more simple and frugal.

  1. Clean out your coupons. The first week of the year is one of the best for coupons. There were five inserts in today's paper! I clip all of these coupons and use this time to throw out expired coupons. If you don't have an organizational system for coupons yet now is a great time to start. I use a binder and plastic sheet protectors but you can buy organizers like this one. I like that it is biodegradable.
  2. Rotate your stock pile. I tend to do this automatically by putting new products in the back but somehow I always end up with things that reach their expiration date before I use them. I use this time to toss/recycle items that are no longer good and donate items that are close to expiring that I won't have a chance to use.
  3. Take a look at your overall financial situation. Look over your investment and retirement accounts to see if you need to make changes. Do you have an emergency fund in place? Do you need to update beneficiaries on your accounts? Remember, this includes not only checking and savings but also retirement accounts, investments, life insurance policies, and other insurance policies.
  4. Organize your important documents. Keep a record of account numbers, insurance policy numbers, driver's license numbers, credit card numbers and 1-800 phone info, passports, birth certificates, marriage certificates, deeds/title to cars and home, and any other important documents. The best place to keep this is in a fire proof safe.
A little bit of work now will save you a TON of time and anxiety later, especially in case of an emergency.
Jan 1, 2011

Post - Christmas Frugal Projects

     Christmas is a busy time of year for everyone. I have found the easiest way to ease Christmas stress is to begin preparations December 26th! There are so many ways to save money and the environment after all of the presents have been opened. Here are a few:
  • Buy wrapping supplies for the upcoming year- Target puts all of it's wrapping and Christmas supplies on 50% clearance the day after Christmas. I purchase wrapping paper, bags, curling ribbon, and scotch tape. I fill any "holes" in my Christmas supplies and also make sure to stock up on silver wrapping paper. It can be used for birthdays, baby showers, weddings- any occasion just by changing the color of the ribbon! 
  • Re-purpose your Christmas Cards-  I use my Christmas cards to decorate during the holiday season. Because many Christmas cards cannot be recycled I re-purpose them for next year when it's time to take them down. I use pinking shears and a hole punch to cut them into gift tags for next year's gifts. I also know people who cut off the design (front part) and make Christmas post cards for the next year. These are good for people on a budget since they are cheaper to mail.
  • Hit the sales for gifts for the upcoming year- I take advantage of after Christmas sales not only for next year's Christmas gifts but also birthdays and other holidays like Father's Day. I keep an inventory of what I have purchased for each holiday and who the gift is for. I have a bag that I keep all gifts in so I don't lose what I buy.
  • Wait for CVS and Walgreens to mark greeting cards to at least 70% off- I like to purchase my Christmas cards for next year at CVS because I can use extra bucks when they mark them down so they end up being free.
  • Stock up on baking supplies- after Christmas a lot of the baking supplies go on clearance. I pick up things like sprinkles in different colors and flour that I will use all year long.
I hope this give you some ideas on how to prepare for the upcoming year and save money. I look forward to hearing what other people do post Christmas.