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Archive for the ‘Frugality Project’ Category

It’s been a while since I’ve written about my Frugality Project: How to live simply, save the earth, save your health and save money in the process… A lofty goal, but we can all take small steps!

I came across this article from NPR about food scarcity in the United States and how government programs aim to help people like the family featured in the article. Some of the articles highlights are below:

Image Credit: PamFessler/NPR


The Williamson family of Carlisle, Pa., is among those who struggle for food. They’ve been in and out of poverty for years.

Connie Williamson and her husband, Butch, have an 8-year-old son and two teenage girls, including one who is pregnant. Connie says her sister and brother-in-law also spend a lot of time in the Williamsons’ small apartment because they’re homeless right now.

“It makes it a challenge for the food to stretch sometimes,” she says….

Families like the Williamsons rely on a patchwork of government programs to survive. Soup kitchens and food pantries help fill in the gaps. They also get $600 in food stamps from the program now called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.

The article continues to interview the Williamsons family and talk about the struggle to obtain nutritious, healthy food and to stay under their small budget. (I recommend reading the whole article) I sympathize. I totally get the need for government support.

But at the same time, I don’t… $600/month? For 5 people? That makes for $120/person/month. To me, this seems crazy. The Musician and I spend only $125/person. Often we eat organic food, we also purchase gluten free specialty items quite often, probably totaling to over $10-$20/month. If you remove this, we would probably spend no more than $110. There are months that we have spend under $100/person, easily. Usually, we like to eat cereal and buy organic cheese, and host a dinner party or two… you know, live a little.

So when I heard this NPR article complaining that a family runs out of food with $600 allotted, I just couldn’t really believe it.

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I spoke to my friend and lovely host of The Gifted Blog today about her series tutorial tryouts. I’ve always admired her for her unique ideas and decided to co-opt this idea for our own blog here. While I don’t really have time to be super crafty, I do have time to cook! (Well, okay mostly I make time to cook so I can eat, which I always have time for!) Thus, this is a new series of posts to document my trials of various recipes floating around on the internet. Also, this maybe news to some of our readers: I am gluten free, which means I don’t eat any wheat, barley, or spelt. I do sometimes eat oatmeal in small quantities, so all the recipes I try are gluten free. However, with a few quick shifts, they can all be adapted to suit any diet.

So what do you guys think? What should I call this series?

Here’s a hint at the first post of this series…

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I was thinking about consumerism the other day.  One of my colleagues did a presentation on “the body shop”, a store that markets to the ethical consumer.  She pointed out that the advertising (in store) is all designed to make you feel good when you buy these products because you are making a difference in the world.  While I applaud the body shop for donating a significant amount of its products to good community projects, I am left wondering:  are they selling soap or ideals?  Do we really have a society that can sell anything?  While, I myself am a card holding member of the Body Shop and am a big fan of the spin off, Lush; and while, I myself believe in ethical consumerism, I can’t believe that I/we cannot feel good unless we buy something!  This is a real travesty and even if we buy ethical, wonderful, locally, fair trade, organic, etc, I don’t think we can simply count on being a consumer to really make a difference.

Now, I know it’s the holiday rush and everyone (myself included) is running around trying to buy things and save money or make things and save more money.  But I think it’s important that we enjoy being humans first and consumers second.  In this way, we need to be anti-consumerism.  By consumerism, I mean valuing, placing trust in, and harkening to consumption, specifically over-consumption, which means most Americans are guilty, because most of us own more that one or two pairs of shoes.

So here’s my challenge:  In order to fight consumerism on any level, lets reflect on a moment we enjoyed that was not consumption.  That generally means food is out, hegemonic notions of beauty are out (you can’t say that you finally fit into your skinny jeans for example), purchasing gifts is out.  Family and friends are in, nature is in, service is in, and fun is definitely in.  Are you game?  I’d love to hear your reflection in a comment.  Or even better, write it on your blog or tell a friend.  Basically, I think that by valuing things other than consuming, we value our humanity over and above our consumption.  This is the very heart of frugality.

My moment: Running through the Arroyo Seco with changing leaves and feeling the crisp air bite a little on my lungs.

My moment 2: My husbands embrace.

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This week, after reading, Kitchen Stewardship’s post on homemade gifts for children I became inspired to reflect on my personal history of making homemade Christmas gifts…

Age 5, a putty filled meat tray became an elegant work of art with my hand print in it.

Age 6, Polaroid picture with Popsicle sticks, a little glitter glue and SHAZAM, a wonderful ornament for the tree.

Age 8, cardboard cutout, some white yarn… a sheep!

Age 10, I begin sewing little stuffed animals, just for decoration.

Age 11, does any one remember shrinky-dos?  In the 90’s they came in awesome gold colors.  Earrings for everyone!  (including Dad, if I remember correctly?)

Age 12, was really the year for clay, animals, beads, people, you name it.

Age 13, sophistication set in, pubescent and awkward, I discover hygene and want everyone else to also:  Homemade soaps!

High School: Knitted scarves and a few hats.

College:  I’m not sure I even remembered Christmas in college!  I was always so tired from finals.

Post-22, I begin making art: paintings, photography, and collages for my friends and family.  I think they all turned out really well, they’ve all been really appreciated at least.

This year:  Wedding aftermath, we are mostly giving prints from our wedding, hopefully framed.

What about you?  What are you giving this year?

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Our first Thanksgiving was held in our trailer with our lovely family in addendance.  We missed the Musician’s side in Boulder and my bro in Bloomington, but my sis and parents were here.  We served a roast duck from Sam Woo Chinese deli along with traditional American sides (with a twist!)–gluten free cornbread stuffing, mashed potatoes, bacon fried sweet potatoes and a butternut spice tofu pie with almond crust!  Food was amazing and it turning into a lovely low key day.  We walked through the neighborhood and admired the lovely gardens, hiked up an abandonded hill to view the LA sky line and ate lovely cheeses.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

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IMG_0035Well I’ll be… look at what the 99 cent store has turned up this time!  Organic products!!  We’ve personally made a move to incorporate more organic foods into our diets, but only when the cost is justifiable.  With the rise of  popularity in organics, they are becoming more affordable and more available.  Just a few items we buy regularly from the 99 store: organic garbanzos for making hummus, organic raisins for our homemade granola, organic vegetable broth for a plethora of soups and side dishes, and organic rice milk in three different flavors!  All for 99 cents!  I’ve done price comparisons around and we have the most affordable goods here and what is more, I think the 99 cents store purchases the “extras” from distributors so we are really cutting down on corporate waste too!  Hurray!

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Sweet Potatoes

I know, usually people write about gardening vegetables in the summer and spring, but since we live in southern California, we still have a month or so of growing season left.  Even then, I think that our veggies will do pretty well throughout the winter.

I’ve always been somewhat of a gardener.  When I was about 13 or 14, I decided that I would make a raised bed in the backyard.  I built it from the timber scraps I found from our fence building project, dug up the dirt with a pick axe and proudly showed my parent’s when they got home from work!  I think they were pretty shocked, but it went over okay.  We soon planted swiss chard, eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, and of course zucchini.   Gardening became a past time for me and a pretty good stress releaser.  When I moved away to college, I really missed gardening and the first thing I did when I moved into an apartment after college was to get some plants.
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Since we live in a trailer park now, we have a pretty nice little porch area that we can put a lot of pots and plants on.  Throughout the summer, our tomato plant yielded fruit about twice a week, enough cherry tomatoes to make a nice salad or pasta with.  Our zucchini did not do as well, as you can see in this picture, one little veggie is all we have had!

I hope to see some sweet potatoes soon, and we’re getting set up to have some more herbs.  I hope that by gardening, we can learn to appreciate the earth more, we can learn to appreciate the real fruit of our labor.  I hope that by gardening and eating our produce we can help save the earth just a little.

What about you?  Why do you garden? What do you grow?

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