Apr 8 2011

4 kitchen thermometers [minimalist challenge item #50]

[item] Lot of 4 kitchen thermometers

[purchase info] Purchased new from housewares stores or coffee shops

[time in my possession] Approximately 13 years

[last used] Over 5 years

[difficulty level in getting rid of it] Easy

[destination] Thrift store

[info] I had a ‘bouquet’ of these in a small vase of coffee beans.  This is a true picture of excess, as I can only use one at a time.  I kept my 2 favorites, one in use, one in the dishwasher if it’s dirty.  Why did I feel the need to have 6 of these???  My senselessness on display here.  :(


Feb 7 2011

downsizing the kitchen & food supply [day 256]

I’ve been doing a lot of downsizing lately.  Right before snowmageddon, I decided to clean out the kitchen, not just utensils and cabinet crap, but food.  I don’t like being wasteful, and although we waste a lot less than the average American family, I felt that we needed to make some changes.  We made some radical changes and some subtle changes, and the results are proving to be really good.  I’ll share the overall goodness of this, the process of cleaning out the kitchen and a couple of mini-challenges.

The big picture.

We haven’t died of starvation. Again, we started this a couple of weeks before the ice storm.  We have much less food in the house, but we had plenty to eat during the 4-5 days at home.  I didn’t buy extra, in fear that we would starve and have nothing to eat for a week.  I bought a gallon of milk and a loaf of bread the day before the storm hit.  We had plenty, and I was even able to feed the two painters working in my house a couple of times.

Airstream… I mean streamline. Okay, I want an Airstream, but that has nothing to do with my kitchen.  The tasks of cooking, grocery shopping and cleaning the kitchen is much easier.  Cooking is easier, as there’s less stuff to shuffle around and I know what ingredients I have on hand.  Grocery shopping is easier, again, because I have less and I know the few things I need.  Cleaning is easier too, as I have a lot of extra pantry and cabinet space.  So much extra, that I was able to move all of my pantry items into empty cabinets while the oil paint takes 5 days to dry.

Here a snack, there a snack, everywhere a snack snack. My kids will open every bag of everything we buy at the store.  We could have, and have had, a pantry overflowing with food, and yet the kids can’t find a thing to snack on.  With much less in there, this is not a problem anymore.  It’s easy to see we have two open bags of crackers or pretzels.

Waste not, want not. We are wasting very little food these days.  Not that we wasted a lot before, but it was still more than I was comfortable with.  Waste is unnecessary, and by making some small changes to lessen it allows us to save a little money, be better to our environment and enables us to help others that don’t have enough to eat.

What did we do?

Downsized the pantry. If you have a smaller house like mine, the pantry is a small closet.  The picture is my “before” picture.  I don’t have an after right now, as the oil paint is still drying.  Whether your pantry is large or small, stuff always gets hidden in the back.  My pantry wasn’t horribly unorganized, it just had too much in it and could use a little more a system of “first in, first out”.  We took everything out and carefully selected what would go back.  I had cedar balls that didn’t smell like anything anymore.  Out.  Ridiculously expired stuff?  Out.  Open bags of stale crackers and chips?  Out.

We broke down the boxes and recycled them.  We couldn’t see all of the food behind the big boxes of crackers and cereal.  The boxes take up a lot of space.  I found it best to use see-through containers and baskets as much as possible.  Most of the stuff I didn’t know I has was in these black plastic crates and could not be seen. Continue reading


Jan 29 2011

aldi vs. walmart: a shopping comparison [day 248]

You asked for it.  Here it is.  The price shopping comparison between Aldi and Walmart.  After my post on day 241, many people asked for a price comparison with Walmart, some because they love shopping there, others because they believe Walmart to have the lowest prices.  So what’s your guess on the savings?

Aldi is still a lot cheaper in comparison t0 both of the other stores.  On similar size off brand and generic items, Kroger was 52% more and Walmart was 47% more.  The savings at Walmart for these brands is not much less than a regular grocery store, neither coming close to the savings at Aldi.  On the name brands, Kroger was 113% more and Walmart was 67% more.  Here’s where the Walmart savings come in.  Name brands you’re familiar with, for much less than other places.  This whole process has made me think about my previous grocery shopping habits and has encouraged me to make some changes.  I’m going to label these a little differently.  Let’s call these stores by type.

conventional grocery storediscount grocery storesuperstore – convenience store

All of the store types have pros and cons, however making educated shopping choices for your money and well being isn’t the easiest thing to do sometimes.  Here are a few of my observations and answers to questions I had before doing this comparison: Continue reading


Jan 20 2011

the ridiculousness of cereal straws [day 239]

I told my kids I would let them buy a box of cereal straws if they promised to blog on the  ridiculousness of them.  They chose to do it, so I purchased the box of Oreo Funstix cereal straws for $3.50.

Joe: O.K. First of all. My mom is making me do this. So I’m not going to write much. Here’s what I am going to say. ‘’Cookie straws are stupid. Their a waste of plastic, and a waste of sweet, precious, awesome money.’’

Obviously he places a high value on his money, not mine.  He can buy the cereal straws next time, with his own money.

Cole: I don’t mean any of this. Cookie straws are too expensive. Also pointless and stupid.

I don’t allow him (or his brother) to say the word stupid, but I suppose he thinks it’s okay to type it.  Apparently cereal companies aren’t selling enough cereal, so they’re molding cereal into other forms and marketing it to kids.  If my kids want more of these, they will have to buy them with their own money.  I think they’ll become less important to Cole and Joe will buy a box every so often just to annoy me.  :)


Dec 16 2010

santa claus [flashback]

December 11, 2009… I was listening to talk radio on my way to work yesterday.  It was so incredibly cold I didn’t want to let go of my warm coffee mug to steer the car, much less turn on the radio.  The news guy was reporting on the experiences of the fake mall Santas this year, disclosing the newest Christmas lists they’re receiving.  Many of the kids sitting on Santa’s lap are not asking for the typical toys and electronics, they’re asking for basic necessities.  “Mommy really needs a job” or “Could we just have our house back?”  Some others are asking for food and clothing.  You know the economy is bad when kids are happy to get socks and underwear for Christmas.

Santa Claus.  The historical Saint and the modern day icon of commercialized Christmas.  Who is Santa?  Santa has many roots in history spanning the globe, roots also ranging from Christianity to paganism.  The early Christian Santa was Saint Nicholas.  He was a Saint that gave generous gifts to the poor, especially to daughters of poor parents so they did not have to become prostitutes.  I could go on for days here about the history of Santa, but he did have his start as a good guy that helped people.

Honestly, I’ve always struggled with the whole Santa thing.  I did not want my kids believing that some overweight guy in a furry red suit is going to give them anything they want for Christmas.  Their dad said that was wrong and I was awful for even thinking it.  Choose your battles, right?  I chose not to fight this one.

My earliest recollection of Santa is asking my parents if Santa was real.  I was in kindergarten, five or six years old, and already wondering how one guy could go around the planet in one night, bringing lots of stuff to kids.  And don’t get me started on the flying reindeer and sleigh.  I suppose my over-analyzing of everything started at an early age.  My parents told me the truth and quickly proceeded to tell me that my knowledge was a secret.  I wasn’t very good at keeping secrets back then.  Even with my secret knowledge, Santa continued to bring me lots of toys and stuff, and much more than he brought anyone else.  Continue reading


Nov 5 2010

ask the chickens, maybe they know [day 162]

Last night at dinner, I was having a conversation about not being wasteful, mostly with food, but really anything else.  In efforts to not be wasteful, the conversation quickly lead to the subject of expiration dates.

Expiration dates are helpful in many ways, but also used for control.  I’ve had this conversation a few times with my friend E, who gets rid of everything the moment it expires.  I’m quite the opposite, so for her birthday last year, I found the most expired thing I owned and gave it to her.  It was a tube of Coppertone sunscreen that was 10 years expired.  Would I have still used it?  Yeah, probably, however it might not have worked, but it wasn’t going to kill me.    Continue reading


Aug 11 2010

no hay bolsas para la leche [day 75 & 76]

I shopped at the Soriana while in Mexico, only for food and toiletries.  It’s similar to a Kmart here in the states.  They have the best bakery there, aisles and aisles of breads and pastries as far as the eye can see.  I had fun messing with my kids since all of the prices are in pesos, not dollars.  They thought everything was super expensive until I taught them the conversion.  I’m not sure they understand it completely, as it does add a new dimension to grocery shopping.  Math, yuck.

I didn’t see reusable shopping bags anywhere, so I felt a little weird bringing mine in.  If they don’t have them and have never seen them, they might think I took them or something.  With the whole language barrier, I decided not to chance it.

As we were checking out, I asked Tere how to say no bags for the milk.  We were buying eight gallons and that’s a lot of unneeded plastic.  It did make me wonder about recycling in Mexico.  Do they have it?  I’ve not seen any recycling bins anywhere down there.  More research for me to do.  :)