Mar 5 2011

the sky is falling [day 283]

Giant, shrink-wrapped books.  They’re everywhere.  I think it rained phonebooks, although I don’t remember seeing that in my weather forecast.  Flint Lockwood must have made another machine, but this one storms phone books.  They’re on top of the mailboxes, on the sidewalks, in the grass, they’re pretty much everywhere.  They’re taking over the neighborhood.

Why do the Yellow Pages still exist?  Simple, because advertisers are still giving them money.  Let’s look at the logic here.  Are these businesses just clutching on to a past dream of advertising success, unwilling to let go?  I walk my street twice a day and nobody is bringing these books in the house.  Now the advertisers are probably paying for internet and print, so as long as they’re getting new customers, they’re probably not concerned with the details, they just want the results.  How many people still use phone books?  I’m sure there’s a small percentage and I’m all for print some for the people that want them.  But why are they mass producing them to throw them in people’s yards when 99% of them will go in the recycling bin, or worse yet, the trash?  I find it funny (the disturbing kind) that they have a dumpster specifically for phone books.   Continue reading


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 31 2011

I don’t like to drink bubble bath [day 249]

I met with some friends at a local coffee shop a couple of days ago.  Coffee shops are good… the implied earthy feel, the aroma of fresh brewed coffee, the trendy decor, the comfortable seats, the people watching entertainment and the busy sounds of much needed liquid caffeine being altered into complex 8 word requests from the addicts.  I say all of that as I sit here drinking my one-shot, non-fat latte.  A latte I made at home for a fraction of the cost of a coffee shop latte.  Yes, I’m sitting at home, alone, looking at the mess I should be picking up, laundry I should be washing and saving money by not going to the coffee shop to blog.

Because I don’t like paper waste, I bring my own cup or mug to anyplace that will fill it, as opposed to a paper or styrofoam cup.  I brought my retro orange mug into the coffee shop, and thinking about the 2 lattes I’ve had already, I really didn’t need another.  But I also wanted to purchase something, as I’m sure they don’t appreciate me bringing in my own cup with my own drink.  (yes, I admit, I’ve done that before)  I decided to get a tea bag, as it’s probably the cheapest thing they have and I can use it a few times before it just makes hot water look dingy.  So I got a tea bag that was some sort of green tea.  “That will be $2.44…” the cashier said with a smile.  ??!!?  $2.44 for a tea bag?  I paid, irritated with myself for not looking for a price before ordering this.  I got my tea, in my retro mug and took at seat in the loft.

As I sat down and started to take a sip of my steaming hot tea, the shocking aroma of lilac stopped me immediately.  I was pretty sure I was about to drink hot bubble bath.  I took a deep breath and tried it.  It didn’t taste as horrible as it smelled, and for $2.44, I’m going to drink it.  I tell my kids not to be wasteful, so I’m gonna suck it up.  (pun intended)

I drank about 3/4 of it and spent a lot of time thinking of other uses for this tea bag.

Green tea?  Not so much.  Bubble bath?  Possibly, but it would stain my tub.  Fabric dye?  That would work, but I can’t think of anything I need to dye that color.  A drawer sachet?  I do not want my clothes smelling like that!  Air freshener?  Not a chance.  Perfume?  I could send it to my mom’s friend that used to wear vodka and lilac as perfume.  She my enjoy it.  Aroma therapy?  No, this would be like aroma torture.  Decor?  I’m creative, and even I can’t make this work as a decor item.  Any ideas?  It’s still sitting on my counter.

My idea.

I’m not opposed to spending $2.44.  I am opposed to spending that because I didn’t need anything to drink.  What if these coffee shops had a program to buy something for someone in need?  I go there, use their free wi-fi, take up table space, meet my friends there that are spending money, but my purchase is for a homeless person to have a cup of coffee or for a donation of their coffee to a local food pantry?  This could be a win-win-win.  I have a good place to meet friends, the coffee shop builds their business, someone in need gets a little help and our community is a better place.  Works in my head.  :)


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 24 2011

how many kids does it take to screw in a light bulb? [day 244]

My kids keep leaving lights on all the time.  Mostly in their rooms, but also other rooms, where I don’t have energy efficient lighting.  They weren’t always this way.  To make a point about electric costs and being wasteful, I used to charge them 25¢ each time they left a light on in the bathroom or in their bedroom.  At first, it was a nice offset to my utility bill, as they left the lights on frequently.  After a period of time, I got less money, as their habits started to change.  Over time, I stopped asking for payments, and over more time, their habits returned to forgetting to turn off lights and being wasteful again.  Time to regroup.

I could start charging them again, but I felt we needed something different.  Light bulb!!!  I had an idea.  I will educate them by showing them the utility bill, explain kilowatt hours and challenging them to a low utility bill.  If it’s lower than our projected amount, they get a fun dinner at Gattitown.  Also, because I thought they needed something tangible and a little out of pocket cost, I made them each buy 2 boxes of CF light bulbs.  This would allow me to switch out more of the bulbs we use frequently to save on energy costs.

We got the bulbs at Aldi.  They’re much cheaper there than anywhere else I could find.  You don’t have to buy yours there, but at least look to find them on sale, as many of the major retailers will run sales on them.  Aldi’s prices are half of what the other retailers charge for these.   I couldn’t find much info on this On brand off brand.  Ha!  Get it?  So far, these work as well as the other brands I have.  And I do have some of these I’ve been using for a while and they work great.

First, we replaced the 6 bulbs in the kids bathroom.  I replaced them with only 4 bulbs, and it’s still to bright, so much that the kids are complaining about it.  I’ll take one out, and that will have decreased the bathroom lighting cost overall by 87.5%.  Then I replaced all the lamp bulbs and the lights over my stove top.  I tried to replace the kitchen halogen lights, which have the standard bulb socket, however these won’t work, as the ballast on the bulb is too large to fit in the opening.  Bummer, because that would have been the biggest savings of all.

And don’t worry, I found a good home for all of the old bulbs, as they shouldn’t go to waste.  :)


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 27 2010

the story of stuff [day 214]

I have an idea.  I know, no surprise…

I stumbled upon this little video called The Story of Stuff.  It’s a little over 20 minutes long, but I watched the whole thing.  Before I get into the details here, take a look if you haven’t seen it.  If you don’t have time to watch the whole thing, skip around and take a quick look.

Although I like the overall message, I was questioning the statistics as I was watching it.  The presentation is awesome, the content easy to follow.  Again, the overall message here is a good one, but I have a few things to discuss and challenge.

The big picture of stuff. The message here is that we, as Americans, are abusing our planet, taking advantage of the disadvantaged and that we have all fallen victim to materialism.  On many levels, this is true, but some of the statistics seemed a little off to me.  After a bit of research on this video, I found they are using it in schools to teach children about materialism and “stuff”.  I’m not opposed to that at all, but this video is not just creating awareness, it’s trying to impose a guilt trip, and as Fox News stated, “Other critics have called it a “firehose of paranoia” meant to scare children into becoming environmental activists. They say the video romanticizes poverty in its attack on industrial nations and corporations.

I hope we’re teaching our kids to watch something like this and process it in a healthy way, as they should do with everything.  My kids question things, think about everything they take in, and sometimes have a viewpoint that even I haven’t thought of.  This video’s overall message is a good one, and unfortunately, it does paint an accurate “big picture” of our wasteful society.  The reason I say that, is because this video could be remade without all the statistics, showing both sides of the message about consumerism.  That’s a hint for my idea…   Continue reading


Dec 5 2010

if you gotta go, you gotta go [day 193]

We’re at a restaurant and Joe comes back from the restroom, running toward the table, carrying a paper toilet seat cover.  He holds it up and says, “Mom, can you believe this?!  They have paper thing to put on the toilet seats.  How wasteful is that!”  There’s no genetic testing needed to know he’s my child.   Continue reading


Jun 21 2010

sharing a hamburger [day 24]

Last night I went to II Brothers (also know as the ‘other brother’) with a large group of people.  We had so many people that we had to get a separate table for the kids.  Yep, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

My kids were on their own and ordered for themselves.  Now I gave them no instruction whatsoever, so they could have ordered pretty much anything and extra desserts and I wouldn’t have been the wiser.  After a nice time visiting with my friends, it came time to pay the bill.  I neglected to order anything, apparently I was talking when she came to take our orders, so I just had my iced tea and the kids stuff.

The bill came, I looked at it and immediately thought it was wrong.  I asked her if there should be two hamburger kids meals on there, not just one.  She said, “No, it’s correct.  They decided to share a meal.”  After picking my jaw up off the floor, I was speechless.  My kids ARE learning not to be wasteful!  It’s really working!!!!  I don’t cry and I almost had tears in my eyes!!!!!

Every time we go to a restaurant, I always ask them to share if they’re not that hungry.  We can always order more food, so just order what you know you can eat.  Okay, so I also bellyache about the price of food too, again, making the point of not being wasteful.  Wow.  It really works.  My kids are so awesome.  (no bias there, of course)  😉