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raising a glass to simpler times

Today I’m beginning with an aside. Have you joined Bloglovin’ yet? I held off joining because it was just one more social media gadget, I couldn’t imagine getting yet another username and password, and I already organize the blogs I follow in Google Reader. I changed my mind yesterday because it occurred to me Bloglovin’ might be a good way to find new blogs. And it is! If you’re thinking of trying it out, you can follow my blog with Bloglovin. Now, onto the topic at hand…

If I’ve learned anything about myself during this frugal challenge, it’s that I enjoy simplifying my life. Rather than feeling burdened by buying less, I feel more free than ever. Nate is feeling it too. In fact, we are so enjoying our new-found freedom that we’re willingly cutting out any expense possible. I’m following up on the frugal challenge goals I started out with 23 days ago so you can see how far I’ve come.

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1. Consolidate my driving trips down to one/day or less to save gas and time.

I did well on driving less and was helped on that score by winter weather and sick kids

2. Find other forms of (free or cheap) entertainment besides TV. Cancel cable.

Done! I have a stack of library books to read, joined a book club, and we canceled cable. We are still watching TV but only via Netflix, Hulu, and a digital antenna.

3. Learn how to make more food from scratch, like bread, chips & crackers (I can’t even pop popcorn!) for snacks, vanilla extract, and seasoned salt.

I am making lots of bread, got the recipe for and made my dad’s famous popcorn (will post soon), and am beginning to gather homemade recipes for vanilla, Italian dressing, seasoned salt, and even cocoa and chai!

4. Start using homemade remedies, toiletries, and cleaning products.

I went “no poo”! I also bought borax to make grapefruit scouring scrub, and I’m on my way to making more homemade cleaning products from this e-book

5. Learn how to make homemade toys to reuse items like plastic bottles and cereal boxes.

I’ve gathered the boxes and bottles but haven’t purchased paint or other materials yet. I am waiting on a budget surplus, which is a new way of shopping for me.

6. Compost.

I am learning as I go. There isn’t much happening with it now because I am again waiting on a budget surplus to purchase a pitchfork to turn it and add coffee grounds.

7. Start planning our first spring vegetable garden and manage herb garden better this year.

I admit I haven’t pondered this one yet. Who can think about spring when the ground is frozen?

8. Learn about conserving electricity, e.g. via water bottles in the fridge to eliminate fridge cutting on so often.

I added ice cubes and water bottles to our fridge and freezer. I’d like to learn some other tricks too. Anyone know of a good place to find ideas?

9. Find recipes to make large batches of food at once and store in our chest freezer, cutting costs and number of times I have to cook.

I’ve been doubling recipes left and right and finding new freezer recipes, so our freezer is gradually filling with goodies

10. Learn how to can and buy necessary items like tongs and ball jars to begin canning.

I started a canning board on Pinterest for inspiration and am learning from my fellow bloggers like Food in Jars and Roving Lemon. Jar-lifting tongs and ball jars are on the “budget surplus list” too.

I consider this frugal challenge only the beginning of our quest to simplify our lives. I was inspired by Design Mom’s interview with the couple who bought 90% of their belongings on Craigslist, and I think one of our new goals, to add to the list above, is to buy the majority of things we need second-hand. We already use consignment for the kids’ clothes and toys, but most other purchases have been newly manufactured goods.

One of my favorite consignment items, Charlotte’s “Marilyn” jacket

When you cut out charge for overhead and sales tax, you can save a bundle. I am proud to say I haven’t purchased anything for us at Target/Walmart/Amazon/Insert-Warehouse-Store-Here in 2 months, so it’s a start!

In what areas are you simplifying your life? I would love to learn from you!

This post is part of Seasonal Celebration Sunday, the Homestead Barn Hop, Homemaker Monday, Monday Mania, Natural Parenting Group’s Monday Blog Hop, the Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways Blog Hop, Teach Me Tuesday, Green & Natural Mama Thursday, Simple Lives Thursday, Your Green Resource, Farmgirl Friday, and Frugal Friday