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

Aug 26 2010

sign of the times? [day 92]

I snapped this photo a couple of months ago… I call it ‘sign of the times’.  I love hearing on the radio when someone announces that the recession is over or almost over.  I still have many friends without jobs and also many that are underemployed.  What is the definition of ‘recession’?

re·ces·sion 1 [ri-sesh-uhn]

Economics – a period of an economic contraction, sometimes limited in scope or duration. Compare depression.

a temporary depression in economic activity or prosperity

Cultural Dictionary (I didn’t know there’s actually a cultural dictionary)

general business slump, less severe than a depression.

Our economy is built on our society’s shopping patterns and habits.  If everyone shopped like me, we would have a HUGE recession, and really, for people like me, there would be nothing to purchase.  Supply and demand.  As long as there’s a demand, there will be a supply.

When my friend lost his job a couple of years ago, I took it much harder than he did.  It made me think about a few things.

  • What if I lost my job?
  • Am I living within my means?
  • What short term changes would I have to make?
  • What long term changes would I make?

I decided not to wait and make these changes if I had to, in some sort of crisis situation, I decided to make changes immediately.  Changes meaning no debt, paying myself and my charitable donations first, learning to live within my means, a healthy savings, an emergency fund, planning ahead on purchases, and of course, this challenge.  Doing this progressively and intentionally made it easy.  I hope life doesn’t ever throw me the jobless status, I can’t even imagine how difficult that must be.  I’m living more within my means, but trying to live less than my means now.

Aug 19 2010

school supply update [day 83]

I was able to find a lot of supplies at thrift stores and I also pulled from the stuff we still have from last year.  Again, this was a lot of work.  I see why people just buy new stuff each year.  It’s easier.  It took several hours shop at resale places, find all of last years stuff and gather everything together.  I could have just gone to the store, spent $50 and had supplies for the kids.  No hassle.

My friend Mari, who is a school teacher, gave me the stuff I was missing.  She had some leftovers and helped me out.  I feel weird taking the supplies for free, so I told her I would do some graphic design work for her class.

Now the fun part… Friday night I get to meet the teachers and bring in all of the mostly used supplies.  Markers in baggies, crayons in baggies, folders that look like they’ve been run over by a car 1000 times, liquid glue instead of sticks, vintage spiral notebooks and the list goes on.  To not embarrass my kids, I’ll try to do this under the radar.

Here’s a cool thing.  My church (prestontrail.org) collected backpacks with school supplies for a local elementary school that had kids in need.  Our church sure rises to the occasion!!  We collected more than we needed for the school, but we were able to help kids at other schools and through Christine, our awesome compassion person, matched up these gifts to kids that would have otherwise had no supplies.  Yeah PTCC!

Jul 24 2010

back to school [day 58]

Houston, we have a prob… challenge.  It’s time to buy school supplies.  The boys dad is buying their new shoes, which is good, because I have had a difficult time finding used ones for them.  I suppose it would be helpful if I knew what size they wore!  I realized I did not have that info when asked what size bowling shoes they needed last week.

Here’s the school supply list for Frisco ISD, 4th grade:

  • 1 Crayola Crayons, 24 count
  • 1 Crayola Washable Markers, Classic Thick
  • 1 Crayola Map Colors (colored pencils)
  • 12 #2 Pencils
  • 1 Pink Pearl Eraser
  • 2 Ballpoint Pen, red
  • 1 Highlighter, yellow
  • 1 Wooden Ruler, 12 inch with 1/8, 1⁄4, and 1⁄2 inch markings
  • 1 Fiskars for Kids Scissors, sharp tip, 5‐to‐8 inches
  • 2 Large Elmer’s Glue Sticks
  • 1 Spacemaker 8 X 5 School Box
  • 1 Assorted Construction Paper, 12 X 18
  • 2 Wide Ruled Spiral Notebooks, 70 Notebooks
  • 4 Composition Notebooks
  • 2 Packages of Wide Ruled Notebook Paper, 200 Sheets
  • 6 Folders with brads/pockets‐blue, purple, yellow, green, orange, and red
  • 1 Large Box of Kleenex Tissues

Notes Specific for Fourth Grade: Student planners will be provided by the school. Students will be using dictionaries and thesauruses in their work; if you do not have these items at home, you may consider purchasing them.


  1. Since this is a standard list, sometimes the teachers don’t need or want this stuff.  Some of it is used, some of the stuff came back home at the end of the school year.
  2. Name brands.  Really?  Is the school getting a kick-back from Crayola, Fiskars or Elmer’s?  I agree that sometimes these companies do make better products, but most times you pay a premium.
  3. My kids are going to be embarrassed by me bringing in a bunch of used or incorrect supplies.  Maybe I SHOULD join the PTA.  Can you imagine???  LOL


  1. Finding some of these supplies used, such as colored paper and spiral notebooks, is going to be difficult.
  2. Finding all this stuff for free or in thrift stores is going to be difficult, and most likely, very time consuming.
  3. Brainstorming a way to change the system for the better, getting the needed supplies to the school, but also having a system for the extras.  (teachers, help me out here)


I don’t have many answers yet, as I haven’t really started the search.  I am starting today and will keep you posted.  Here’s a few things I do have:

  1. We are reusing lunch boxes and backpacks.  If they want new (used) ones, they’ll have to go shop for them in thrift stores.
  2. We are using a lot of supplies leftover from last year, such as scissors, paper, rulers, etc…
  3. Share multi packs of supplies with neighbors.  If you buy in bulk, you can save money.  This is a greener way to shop too, as the bulk stuff usually has less packaging.
  4. If possible, talk to the teachers to see what they need.  This usually is not an option before school starts, but once school is in progress, you might have some supplies laying around the house that they could use for projects.
  5. Old folders can get a facelift with a little artwork and duct tape.

Off to thrift for school supplies.  :)