I’m in the honeymoon phase of new home ownership right now. I’m also having some time to rest and look over my new kingdom. It was a house that needed a lot of TLC but had good bones. It has a strange yard and we had to do a lot to create a backyard that would actually serve the family.
In the beginning, there was nothing but weeds on one side of the yard and cement on the other and it was small. With a cedar fence placed around all our small allotment of property, planting of many shade trees and fruit trees, building garden beds on the cement, an old but large canvas gazebo, and other pots, plants, strawberry patches, and a big umbrella style clothes line…voila! I have a yard that offers something. It is a start.
It is also me getting back to all the things I used to do to in the beginnings of my frugal days as a new housewife with a small budget. I used to have a nice vegetable garden, pick the fruit from the trees around my home, hang my clothes out, and make my own cleaners. Somewhere along the way with a few moves to new homes, making more money, two children, and getting lazy I stopped doing those things. I sort of lost my spark after creating so many sustainable yards only to move and leave them behind.
But here I am with my very own property and home and whatever I do, I get to stay this time. I also don’t have to ask permission and the husband doesn’t argue that we are throwing money away. This time the tiny, humble urban farm that I create is for us.
And so, I am going back to all my sustainable and frugal ways. The fruit trees won’t produce for a couple years but they are there now and my gardens and patches will take time also. It is the start and I look forward to each year, watching my expanding yard grow into a paradise.
We are also on a tight budget again and not because of the mortgage. I bought wisely and the mortgage is less than any rent we have ever had…which had been my goal. I felt that if we bought a home it should be so that we were paying less than in rent and therefore changing our lives for the better and not making it suddenly stressful and financially difficult with a huge mortgage. Our budget is tight because I have encouraged Bali to take two days off a week instead of his usual one. This has improved the quality of life for the whole family but requires some frugal and thrifty measures from now on.
When our deposit was returned from our last rental, I used it to finish the raised beds, buy a sturdy outdoor umbrella clothesline, plant more trees (of course, there can never be enough trees), and purchase the last materials to finish the house.
I’ve found a few tricks to cleaning and stretching the budget lately in my new homemaking endeavors.
Vinegar is a great cleaning tool. I found a gallon of vinegar when we moved. It cost a couple dollars and you can use it to clean windows or mix with dish soap to clean just about everything. It is nontoxic with children and pets.
Bar Keepers Friend. My neighbor introduced me to this powdered cleaner. I have porcelain or ceramic sinks and tub. They are impossible to clean. I tried Ajax and bleach…then I tried this BKF and it got every sink and tub sparkly white. You have to let it sit for a time and then rub it in some more.
Clothesline. It’s been 107 to 111 degrees lately and a hot dryer in my laundry room off the kitchen is not going to happen. This is a great energy saver. It also really saves the clothes. Dryers fade and wear clothes out fast especially the elastic on things. The clothes smell great too.
Planting fruit-bearing trees. You can get trees and seeds on food stamps. A tree may cost $25 and seeds $1.25. In the end, you will have hundreds of dollars of food for years.
Potatoes. God, I love potatoes. You can buy a huge sack for a couple dollars, literally, and just do all sorts of things. They are so filling and nutritious. Potatoes have a lot of fiber and vitamins no matter what the diet fanatics say. I make thick cut french fries and drizzle olive or avocado oil and sea salt and bake in the oven. Mash them, bake them whole and put all sorts of things on them, make casseroles, au gratin, soups, hash browns…
Make your own pickles. Making pickles sounds easy. I have yet to do this but I have a big patch of cucumbers coming up and I’ve been reading canning recipes in anticipation.
Create your own gym in the garage. This seems off the subject but it’s a budget saver. Instead of paying for the gym, make your own. I have the tread climber, weight benches, weights, and a radio in the garage now and I just open the big door and do my workouts while the boys play outside. I save money and time going to a gym.
PG&E Weatherization Program. If you make under a certain amount to the ratio of people in the home you can qualify for this program and I can’t say enough good stuff here. They will insulate your attic, weatherstrip doors and windows, give you all new LED light bulbs for every single light socket, a microwave if you have none, caulking under sinks, a blanket for the water heater, check that you have no gas leaks or carbon monoxide leaks, replace old refrigerators and probably more. It’s free! We just had this done and the lightbulbs alone saved us $300.
Ordering online. I find that it’s a waste of gas and time to drive all over town for this product and that thing. I’m not a fan of Walmart and you can’t always get all your needs met in one destination. With two little boys, I feel like I’m taking two feral puppies out for a wild ride. I sat at my computer yesterday and ordered everything I needed in five minutes and didn’t have to drive around in the heat, drag my kids in and out of the truck, use gas, pollute the air. I found deals and got free shipping since I ordered enough. This is a blessing for a mother or anyone that getting out is a chore.
Feng Shui. I’ve been reading a book on stress management and it had a fun section on this topic. I take it with a grain of salt, however, I find that there is a flow to a home and placing the furniture in the right places, uncluttering, and keeping the home clean and tidy does wonders for the mind and spirit for all who reside in the home. The more the home is uncluttered the easier to clean. I like to rearrange my rooms several times until I find that, “Ah, now that feels right.” feeling.
Make your own Premade salads. I’ve been loving the packaged salads. Making your own saves a big bundle. Each salad cost around $3 and to make my own would cost half that or less. However, I have gotten some great ideas from my frivolous purchases. Basically, they use yellow and purple cabbage, carrots, cilantro, shredded broccoli, and kale. These veggies last a long time if you make a big salad to last for a few days. Add dried cranberries, raisins, seeds, peanuts, chips, cheeses, and then make or purchase different dressings. Being that it’s so hot this summer, salad and fruit are about all we can digest.
Water. We love water in our house. I put a Brita filter on the sink faucet and I freeze water bottles and jugs at night for the hot days. Cold water with lemon or lime slices, mint, or cucumber is delicious and doesn’t cost a thing. Just put a pitcher in the frig over night and it will have a hint of the lemon or cucumber. We don’t buy bottled water ever. It’s a waste of money and environment. Our filtered tap water tastes better. You can always look into better filtration systems if you have big concerns for the local water. We did check into this and it cost about $1,100 to install and the filters are around $250 a year to replace. It’s worth it if the water has chemicals. Even that will save you in the end.
Library. We love our library. I just ordered some movies and books to keep us entertained for the summer days ahead. You can even order music and magazines. They have great little programs and reading challenges for the summer and the kids.
Enjoy your summer!