Thrifty Thursday: Simple Ideas for Creative Play

I invited my friend and fellow blogger, Jen Lee, to be a guest poster for this week’s Thrifty Thursday tip.  I chose Jen because I really admire her parenting style, and the way in which she teaches her girls (Amelia & Lucy) to love the world around them.  A couple of years ago, Jen & her husband moved their family from the suburbs of Denver to live the urban life in New York.

Jen is an amazing artist and is fostering her girls’ creativity with everyday life. 

Thanks so much Jen for putting this one together, great photos and all!!



Simple Ideas for Creative Play

Children are easier to entertain than marketers would like us to believe.  Still, it can be a challenge to think of creative ways to play with them, since there aren’t any commercials or glossy magazine spreads feeding us inspiration about How to Play with What You Have.  In my mothering, I’ve been learning how my own creative places can be satisfied through creative play with my children, and I’ve watched how easily they can become engaged and how long they can focus when they are making something or experiencing something with their senses.  Here are a few of our favorite ways to play.

1. Let them play with something that’s traditionally “for grown-ups only”. 
My youngest daughter and I played for an entire morning once with the balls of yarn from my knitting basket.  She piled them up into towers, laid on them like pillows.  We played catch.  I marveled at how long I’d kept them “off-limits”.  Real measuring cups and spoons and kitchen utensils are favorite bath toys, and also fun to play with in one side of the sink while I wash dishes in the other.  (Off-topic:  I knew I was getting some serious mommy moves when I routinely put my second baby in one half of my kitchen sink for a bath while washing dishes in the other half.)  Children love interacting with the things in our world, especially things they see us using as tools for our work or our hobbies.

2. Sensory play rocks.  Water and sand are magic ingredients for childhood play, but indoors we like to keep water play in the bathroom or the kitchen and I try to keep sand outside completely.  One good indoor option is fabric shapes you can cut with pinking shears so they don’t fray.  This can be a good use for your scrap bag, or old clothes or sheets.  Our fabric shapes get used as baby blankets or set decorations for little people and anything in between.   Babies love to just feel the different textures.  Dry beans are another good indoor alternative to the sensory pleasures of sand.  Bean bags were a fun part of my childhood, and one of the biggest hits at Christmas when I made my youngest a set.  Older kids who are past the choking stage love using dry beans in their dump trucks (which is what we did growing up), or in their own cooking play (a way my girls taught me).  Sometimes we take a mix of different beans and sort them by kind.

3. Create projects you can add to over time.  The Bear House is a good example of this in our family.  Amelia learned to sew with a project where two pieces of felt were cut out in the shape of a bear and dots were drawn around the edge of one side with a permanent marker.   She used a large, not-too-sharp needle and thread and sewed it together by coming up from behind near a dot and repeating.  She stuffed it when it was almost through, then sewed the last bit and decorated the bear with a permanent marker.  It has a face, a belly button, and “those dots on your chest that everybody has”. 

The whole way home after sewing the bear, she listed about 200 accessories she would make for her bear.  It needed a wardrobe, it needed a house with a toilet.  That was in January.  The bears (she made one for her sister, too) come out when we’re feeling restless.  When the weather’s bad.  When visitors are in town to help.  They have dresses and hats made of felt.  The only sewing that’s required is the level of sewing buttons.  We used a box to start their house, and made a bed out of felt and a toilet out of an old clear plastic container and a lid.

bear-house   bear-house-2

A friend helped my daughter build the most clever piece, an empty tea box with magnets on the front and the top with interchangeable surfaces.  It can be a dinner table or a sink or a stove and oven.  Recently we went to our hardware store to pick out patterned yards of contact paper for the floor and the walls.  The hardware store employees are now charting the progress of The Bear House with us.

When my girls see things for sale that they like, my first question is always, Could we make that ourselves?  If the answer is yes, then we’re always more satisfied and appreciative when we make our own fishing pole game or a true build-our-own-bear than when we consume something less inspired.  Instead of adding new toys, I’m constantly looking for ways we can enjoy the things we have even more.  It takes some effort to see your belongings and your time together in a new way.  Parenting can be a creative expression, and when it is, it invigorates our children and brings us deep pleasure, as well.

Jen Lee is a writer, poet and storyteller living in Brooklyn, NY.  She is the author of Solstice: Stories of Light in the Dark and blogs at

Categories: Thrift | Leave a comment

Thrifty Thursday: DIY Diaper Sprayer

diaper-sprayer-sprayingWhen you first begin to use cloth diapers, (provided you breastfeed) your baby’s poo is very liquid, and doesn’t need to be flushed before washing the diaper. It just rinses right out in your washing machine with no mess or trouble. But after about six months, when you’ve began to introduce foods to your baby, you will eventually get a diaper with a sticky poo that just won’t come out without help. In the past, this would result in sticking your hand in the toilet to swish the diaper around until you liberate the diaper from it’s poopy mess.

Fortunately, there are people out there with the smarts to make sure there are alternatives to this reality. Someone invented the Diaper Sprayer.

A diaper sprayer attaches to the water supply on your toilet so you can conveniently spray the poo into the bowl, without getting your hands in the muck. These usually run about $40 and up, depending on where you get them.

I did not use a diaper sprayer with my first son’s diapering. I had not heard of one, and so I diligently stuck my hand in the toilet and was thus motivated to get my boy potty trained before he turned two! Yuck!

But, now I’m in the know. And while I think $40 is totally worth a sprayer, for the DIY crowd (I am one), there are less expensive alternatives! I found a blog with an awesome tutorial (which I see no need to replicate) with good pictures, so I wanted to share the link: Gidget Goes Home as well as a great YouTube instructional video on the subject.

In the video, the man recommends using a ball valve to shut off water to the sprayer when it’s not in use. I really liked this addition to the recommended tools/parts from Gidget’s blog since I think it will head off and potential for my toddler to use the sprayer to, shall we say, *clean* the bathroom by himself!

We ended up with something that will be easily detached from the system when the new baby is out of diapers. Here are the pictures (click for best view, the thumbnail too):


The sprayer has great pressure, and the ball valve is already proving it’s worth, since my toddler wants to spray the hose. It took all of fifteen minutes to install… if that. All we need now is a hook for the wall next to the toilet to hang the nosle on.

A copy of this post is on my birth/parenting blog:

To see more of my Do-It-Yourself projects click the DIY category on the right.

Categories: DIY, Thrift, Urban Homesteading | 4 Comments

Sustainable Food Budget Challenge Wrap Up

susbudgetWow!  This challenge certainly has been an eye-opener for our family!  It has been a lot of fun for me, and good for us all. 

For the month, our total is $398.56. This includes the trip to the farmer’s market and a smoothie from Whole Foods Saturday, two trips to Chick-Fil-A (although Rick packs his lunch, he just can’t seem to keep away –it’s addicting!), and I took a friend to coffee at a local shop (but the coffee was only $2.50 for the both of us).  We count as a family of four, since I’m pregnant, but that is even under the family of 3 limit. We still have $64.44 (if we counted as three) to spend for the month, and that is good, since I know we will need milk, some greens, and some lunch stuff before the week’s over. But I don’t expect to surpass the limit. 

Crunchy Chicken didn’t have the success she expected on this challenge, and from the looks of the comments on her wrap up, neither did most of her readers, though most remained optimistic that it was possible.  One of the readers at Crunchy Chicken’s blog commented:

I admit, I find the “you can do it but we didn’t” message a little troubling in this particular challenge. Most people who have to live on food stamp budgets don’t really have the option of going over – if you hit the limits, you eat what’s in the pantry (or you don’t eat much) for the rest of the month.

I don’t mean to give you a hard time, but I guess asking people to live like they live on food stamps, to prove something to the people there, and then really disregarding the limits, while still asserting the validity of the challenge – “sure, you can do it” seems a little troubling to me.

There is so much truth there. We are not on food stamps, but our budget is such that we can NOT go over on our grocery budget each month. If we run out of money, we eat the rice in the back of the pantry.  We took the challenge quite seriously. 

I don’t know if this would actually be possible on food stamps because the majority of our savings came from food saved from the CSA last summer, the hog we bought whole last fall, things we saved our money up for so that we could have a year of sustainable eating on our tight budget. That and two years of practice at cutting the grocery bill each week a bit more, while still making fresh meals for my family.  Things like eating out, coffee shops, and convenience foods have not been in the budget for a long time (though, I’ve seen the Chick-Fil-A receipts creep in this month). 

Dollars wise, it does work.  But I don’t know that anyone raising a hog accepts food stamps for meat and processing (though they should if they don’t).

Bottom line… I enjoyed this challenge.  It got me thinking about ways that we could eat more sustainably, and even prompted discussion of not buying bananas (or at least not so many).  🙂  And it illustrated to my husband that we really do have a tight and good grocery budget.  I was even surprised that we spend less than what is alloted for food stamps. 

I was disappointed to see the results of so many unsuccessful at this challenge.  But I think to jump into this kind of lifestyle without practice or preparation is not really setting yourself up for success.  I was really pleased with the outcome our family had.  I greened up more of our purchases without going over our budget, made extra effort to get to the one farmer’s market that was open in April around here, and even crossed things off the grocery list that we’re there in the store, at a good price, but were not local. 

Can it be done?  Yes.  Does it take practice and preparation?  YES!  Should that keep you from trying it?  Please, no!  It’s a great feeling knowing where your food comes from, supporting local farmers, and saving money!

Categories: CSA, Food, Garden, Recommended Reading, Sustainability, Thrift, Urban Homesteading | 2 Comments

Thrifty Thursday: Cloth Diapers

fuzziSo, as the number of days get smaller until I have this new baby, I am looking for some creative money saving tips for children.  For the next few weeks, I’ll be focusing my Thrifty Thursdays on kids.  This one may not be for everyone, but it is something that has saved our family hundreds, if not thousands of dollars.  Cloth Diapers. 

When I was pregnant with Henry, I never really considered cloth diapers seriously.  I pictured the lumpy, dumpy prefolds with pins and plastic pants.  They seemed messy and a lot of work, and well, frankly, I didn’t know sh… er, um, BEANS, about cloth diapers.

Thankfully, my friend, who had moved to Texas with her military husband (and was thus meeting new people with new ideas) sent me a list she had one of her new friends make for me of baby essentials.  On the list was Fuzzi Bunz cloth diapers.  I had to check them out. 

Fuzzi Bunz are really cool.  Like no cloth diaper I had ever seen before.  They are a pocket diaper, meaning they have a soft, cloth exterior with snaps that are waterproof, a fleece lining to wick moisture away from baby’s bum, and a pocket in between where you stuff an absorbent micro-terry (or hemp or whatever else you choose) insert to absorb the pee.  The idea of cloth diapering with these appealed to me.  I mean it is greener and they say kids potty train earlier.  And disposables stink and are expensive.  You put them on like a disposable, except with snaps instead of tape, and you just wash both the diaper and the insert in the washer.  Seemed easy. And, they come in fun colors (I’m a sucker for colorful things).

I stared doing research and found there are tons of alternative cloth diapers out there: Bumkins, Fuzzi Bunz, Bummis… there’s a long list actually.  Some are called All In Ones (AIO), some are pocket diapers like the Fuzi Bunz, and there are still some traditional pre-folds and plastic (or wool in some circles) covers.  There really aren’t pins any more though.

Cloth diapers are an investment.  Like buying meat in bulk or joining a CSA, the cost is upfront, but the saving over the lifetime is HUGE.  When we bought Henry’s Fuzzi Bunz were about $14 per diaper.  We did a lot of research to figure out what kind of cloth diaper we wanted to use, and where we could get them for the least amount of money.  The cheapest we’ve found them new is at  They have a registry. 

So we registered for a package called the “Everything You Need to Cloth Diaper Special” for about $385.  This included cloth wipes, detergent, two diaper pail liners, a wet bag (travel tote for dirty cloth diapers), and 18 Fuzzi Bunz with inserts.  There were a few other accessories in there too.. just can’t remember them all. 

We got a couple gift certificates at baby showers towards this, and Rick and I ponied up the rest.  We ordered 15 of our 18 diapers in size small, and three in size medium.  Then, when Henry moved up to mediums at 5 months old, we bought 18 more, used, on ebay for $10 each.  When he needed the larges at his first birthday, my mom bought half for us, and we bought the other half, all new.

In all, we spent $736.49 on diapering Henry from birth until potty training.  He still wears his size large Fuzzi Bunz to bed at night (with plenty of room to grow if needed).  But wait… we sold the size mediums.  I bought them for $10 each on ebay, and sold them for $10 each on Craigslist when Henry out grew them (I didn’t love the colors and decided if we had another baby, I’d get new mediums then). So I can deduct $180 from that.  So the total for diapering our first born is $556.49.

Now, I know that doesn’t factor in water usage in washing them and flushing the toilet a few extra times for the poopiest of diapers.  Yes, I’m sure our water bill is slightly higher due to running the machine a few more times a week.  But I can’t give an accurate picture of what that cost is, since the diaper washing started at the same time as all the newborn-spit-up-on-clothes-and-sheets-and-blankets washing did too.

But, for only $556.49 (which doesinclude detergent, since I bought special detergent from the FuzziBunzStore for the diapers only) I diapered not only Henry for two plus years, but I saved the size smalls and the larges (which, as mentioned, still get nightly use).  So those will carry over to the new baby. 

How many disposable diapers could you get for $560?  How long would they last you? 
On (the site I understand to be the money saver in disposable diapers??) you can get a case of 4 Seventh Generation diapers for $43.99.  So if you bought them all at once, you’d get 12 cases.  Depending on the size of diaper, that’s 176 newborn diapers per case, or 104 size 5.  The price difference for Huggies and Pampers is with a dollar or two.  A newborn goes through about 8-12 diapers per day.  For easy math, I will say 10.  So one case will get you through 17.5 days. This does not include buying any wipes.

I’ll leave the exact math to you, but Mary McCarthy of estimates that a child goes through 8,000 – 10,000 diaper changes before potty training. Based on an average cost of .35 per diaper (since no baby stays either a newborn or 20lbs forever), that comes to $2,800-$3,500 per child, not including wipes and trips to the store or sales tax if not bought online.  I’ve seen other averages as low as $1850 and as high as $4500 as well.  For one baby. 

Don’t even get me started on the environmental impacts of all of this. 

So what about the second baby?  Well, I need new wipes and a new wet bag (the wipes are so dead by now, you don’t even want to know).  And we need to buy the size mediums.  The price is a bit higher now than it was in 2006.  But I expect to sell all of my diapers for about $10/each after our second is potty trained.  I should have around 45 or 50 total diapers by then.  That will bring a big chunk of the investment back. 

All in all, cloth diapering is a very affordable choice.  And there are lots of options.  We chose Fuzzi Bunz because despite their higher initial investment cost , they had a high resale value as well.  The potential for recovery there was the greatest.  But if you are less worried about resale value, there are even more affordable cloth diapering options.  Check them out.  You might find a brand that is the perfect fit.

Look for more Thrifty Thursday tips with Katie Jean.

Categories: Thrift, Urban Homesteading | 4 Comments

Sustainable Food Budget Challege Update!

susbudgetSo has anyone been participating in the Sustainable Food Budget Challenge?  Here’s an update on how our family has done for the last two weeks.

The week of Easter, we did really well.  It helped that we were only hosting dessert for my mom and Manuel, and that they brought the carrot cake.  I did make a ham with an orange glaze, but the ham was from the hog we bought in November.  It was probably around 5 pounds, so it was pretty inexpensive.  That week we ate, Super Spaghetti (spaghetti with spinach, cheese and egg all added to the sauce), pork chops with summer squash & potatoes (veggies from the freezer), antelope steak with green beans and corn bread, tilapia with escarole and tomato pasta, leek, spinach & mushroom quiche, and that Friday we also had a pizza night with a couple of friends (I made sausage and mushroom pizza on whole wheat crust).  Rick also made some zucchini bread from frozen zucchini.

So, the grocery receipt was $69.02, plus the stuff from the freezer (squash, potatoes, onions, tomatoes, zucchini, ham and antelope).  It’s SO hard for me to estimate the cost of those stock-piled items.  We’ll put the pork at $2/pound.  So that’s $10.  The antelope… we paid $59 for the whole animal… I think there was about 40 pounds of meat total, so that’s $1.48/pound.  Including the left overs for Rick’s lunch, we probably ate about a pound, before cooking, give or take.  Also, $1.97 for the sausage for the pizza.  For the veggies, probably a pound of potatoes, two big tomatoes, a whole squash and 4 cups shredded zucchini.  Geeze.  I can’t remember what those seeds cost, or how to figure the cost of those in.  Maybe they’re freebies??? Is that cheating? 

Well, for the groceries and meat, my total for week two is about: $82.47
Week two’s sustainability?  Well, the meat is, of course, and the veggies from the freezer.  Rick went to the store that week, so I can’t testify to everything he bought.  But I know he got local milk and eggs, and probably about half the veggies he bought were organic.  We got sparkling lemonade as a treat for Easter, and that was made locally.  And the non-organic mushrooms were locally grown as well.  Otherwise, I think we’re not so sustainable on the juices, tilapia and pasta. 

For week three, we spent quite a bit more.  $92.76 at the store and another $4.76 at Chick-Fil-A (Rick just couldn’t resist, and I don’t blame him).  🙂  So, that’s $97.52.  We ate ham & egg fried rice (the ham was left over from Easter) with bok choy (not organic), Glorious Mac & Cheese (from Glorius One Pot Meals: it has tons of veggies), spinach & pinto bean salad with biscuits, and antelope chili.  Tonight we’re supposed to have pork scalopinni with mushrooms, tomorrow is tortilla soup with black beans, and Wednesday is supposed to be a spinach & cheddar omelet.  But I’ll probably nix the omelet, since we have lots of left over chili.  The only things coming from the freezer for week three is the pork for the scalopinni, pork from yesterday’s biscuits and gravy for breakfast, the antelope meat, and some corn and green chiles.  So that’s another $6.90.

Provided Rick doesn’t eat lunch out until Wednesday, week three’s total is $104.42.  Most everything made it into one sustainable category or another, except the pineapple, pasta, lemons, and cherry tomatoes I bought (I know… tomatoes!).  A vast improvement, but the bill was higher.  Though I did buy two boxes of cereal (we usually don’t eat cereal), and some snacky foods at Rick’s request.  So that contributed to the higher price as well. 

In week one, I originally reported us at spending $88.63, but we ended up with another $11 on misc. things (a trip to Einstein’s and I ran to Whole Foods for pizza dough and a bottle of Naked Juice on Friday, since the day got away from me and I didn’t make my dough ahead of time).  So that brings week one up to $99.63. 

For the month so far we’re at $286.52.  I expect two more trips to the store this month, though I might try to make just one instead if I can.  We’re still within budget, but as I shared on the first update from the Crunchy Chicken, I am finding the hardest part of the challenge is the sustainability part… I thought I had that down, but when I look at some of the things that end up in my cart, I am surprised.

I was really wanted to make the trek up to the Boulder Farmer’s market this past Saturday, but with all the snow, I chickened out.  Hopefully we can get up there this weekend, and nail the sustainability portion of this challenge in the last week.

Categories: Food, Garden, Sustainability, Thrift, Urban Homesteading | 1 Comment

Thrifty Thursday: Seed Saving & Sharing

Let me start off by admitting: this week’s tip is not something I know a lot about.  But I do think it would be very, very Thrifty indeed.  Each year, Rick and I spend quite a bit on our garden.  We buy some things as small plants and transplant them (tomatoes and peppers, in particular).  Other things, we start ourselves from seeds. 

This is one fact I know for sure: seeds are WAY cheaper to buy than plants.  WAY WAY WAY cheaper.  For this reason, we try to plant as many things as possible from seed.  Each year, we’ve gotten a bit bolder in trying to plant this or that, starting earlier, saving left over seeds, etc. in order to cut the cost of the garden down even further. 

We have spent $28.37 on the garden so far this year.  All on seeds.  We had some seed left from previous years, but we still had to buy quite a lot.  Thankfully we had a gift certificate for this!  But regardless, it’s safe to say that even seeds aren’t free.  That is, unless you are harvesting them yourself. 

I do know you can’t save seed from hybrid plants.  But you can from heirloom and open-pollinated plants.  The trick is find seeds that are these two to plant instead of the hybrids.  🙂

One of my big garden goals this year is to harvest and save seeds from our plants this year to try to replant them next year.  I don’t know a lot about harvesting seeds, but I am learning.  Even with buying seeds and plants, home gardens are very affordable.  But this is just another way that we can cut a bit more of the cost.  

Last year, our dear friends shared some home-grown concord grapes with us.  I saved quite a few of the seeds before making the grapes into a pie.  I’m hoping for success at starting my own grapevine this year.  What a great way to get a new fruit of veggie into your own garden… seed sharing!   A gift from a friend that keeps on giving! 

Since I don’t know a lot about these subjects, I’m posting a few links that I’ve been using to educate myself. 

Seed Saving Basics
International Seed Saving Institute
The Growing Challenge: From Seed to Seed

Do you have any tips for me??  What have you done or tried that has and has not worked? 

Happy growing!

Categories: Garden, Thrift | 2 Comments

Frugal Friday: Composting

YUCK!  What is that??


It’s my compost.  That’s the bowl on my counter, super-imposed over the pile outside.  🙂

Week two of my Gardening  Thrifty Thursday Frugal Friday tips (sorry, I just didn’t feel like writing yesterday) is about composting.

I was actually lobbying for a compost pile for a long time before we got one.  A couple of years.  Rick grew up thinking that they were smelly heaps of rotting food that attracted neighborhood cats, and provided little benefit, except for those hippies.  He also grew up dusting baby tomato plants with pesticides and dousing them with chemical fertilizers.

I had to change his thinking!  I wanted to compost to reduce the need for those pesticides and fertilizers.  I wanted to foster a garden that could support and sustain it’s self!  And, my dad was a “worm grower” (throwing coffee grounds and eggs shells in the garden, to grow big, fat, night crawlers to use for fishing bait), so I knew the compost bin/pile needn’t be complicated or smelly.

In order to compost, you need only a few basic things:
– Green material (like veggie scraps, coffee grounds, etc.)
– Brown Material (dried leaves, straw, dried grass clippings, etc.)
– Water
– Somewhere to let it do it’s thing (a bin or pile)

After showing Rick some of the facts about composting, and pointing out to him that he had been doing it every fall all along (digging holes and filling then with layers of leaves, dirt and water, and then leaving the to rot through the winter to improve the soil in the veggie garden), he did a little research of his own and jumped in with both feet.

Rick  decided to save money by building his own bins, following a plan we found online, just by Googling it.  So far, he has the layout done, and we’ve been composting without walls for the last year or so.  He will eventually put in walls around the pile, where the steaks are, so we can transfer from one side to the other easily.

But why should you start composting?  I mean, who wants a pile of rotting organic matter sitting around the outside of their house?  Really?  Here are a few reasons why (from….

Benefits of Using Compost

  • Improves the soil structure, porosity, and density, thus creating a better plant root environment.
  • Increases moisture infiltration and permeability of heavy soils, thus reducing erosion and runoff.
  • Improves water-holding capacity, thus reducing water loss and leaching in sandy soils.
  • Supplies a variety of macro and micronutrients.
  • May control or suppress certain soil-borne plant pathogens.
  • Supplies significant quantities of organic matter.
  • Improves cation exchange capacity (CEC) of soils and growing media, thus improving their ability to hold nutrients for plant use.
  • Supplies beneficial micro-organisms to soils and growing media.
  • Improves and stabilizes soil pH.
  • Can bind and degrade specific pollutants.


In other words, it’s good for your garden, your plants, and the Earth!  This short list doesn’t even mention that the EPA estimates that 24% of what ends up in landfills is made up of yard trimmings and food residuals.  All of which can go into your home compost pile/bin and be used to enhance your own soil for your own veggie and flower gardens.

Wait… I thought this was supposed to be a tip about saving money.  How does composting do that?  Well those points up there basically equate to this:  Using compost reduces the amount of water, fertilizer, pesticides, and soil modification needed to grow a great garden.  It also reduces the amount of garbage you send off to the landfill, and combined with diligent recycling, that could even lead to eliminating the trash bill  completely!  So what, exactly, is the savings?  Well, I don’t have that broken down.  It all depends on what you grow, and what you need to make it grow.  But I can tell you this.  We don’t need to buy fertilizer, peat moss (for soil modification), manure, or pesticides any more.  We haven’t bought those things in a long time.  🙂

It’s easy to do.  We just keep a bowl on the kitchen counter to collect our food scraps, egg shells, coffee grounds & filters, veggie peeling, etc.  We dump that into the pile when ever we fill it up (once or twice a week).  This accounts for most of the “green matter” in the pile.  We add grass trimmings and dried leaves, the used pine shavings from the chicken house and paper from our shredder to account for the “brown materials.”  The only other things needed are water and time.

Be sure to check out these helpful sites for more reasons to compost, details on what should and should not be composted, compost uses, and methods of composting:
U.S. Environment Protection Agency
Washington State University County Extension

Also, before I wrap this up I wanted to share a link to KGI’s post about the Obama’s first planting in their new garden!  Check it out!

Be sure to check around for other Thrifty Thursday tips this week. Katie Jean posted about the Value of Memberships! Check also with  Tracy, Crystal and Genny(though I know Genny is taking a break to prepare for the home birth of their baby!, and some of the others have been busy with other life things as well).  🙂

Categories: Compost, Food, Garden, Sustainability, Thrift, Urban Homesteading | 3 Comments

Thrifty Thursday: Joining a CSA Farm


Monroe's Logo, click to visit their blog!

One of the biggest money savers Rick and I did last year was joining a local CSA farm.  CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture (see my March 2008 post,  “CSA – And it Tastes Good Too” for more info on how CSA’s work and where to find one in your area).  Like buying your meat in bulk or using cloth diapers, the upfront cost of a CSA membership is a lot to shell out at once, but the savings over time is incredible!

At Monroe’s farm (the CSA we belong to) the fee is split into two parts:  a Membership fee, which is set for all members, though it is reduced if you chose to be a working member; and a Produce fee, which is based on the size of share you are purchasing (single, half or full).

When we joined Monroe in 2008, we signed up for a working membership.  To figure out if this would be worth wile for us, we sat down with our grocery store receipts from the months past, and added up just what we spent on produce alone.  Then we figured out the mileage to drive to Monroe in Kersey, CO once a week, and what that would cost us in gas.  The fuel costs combined with the membership & produce fees from Monroe were still FAR, and I mean FAR, less than what we’d been paying at the grocery store for often times non-organic, shipped across the country, under ripe produce for the previous summer.

About a week after we signed up (before things were really started for members on the farm), I got a call from another member who also lived South of Denver and was interested in car-pooling to the farm each week.  That meant our fuel cost was cut in half from what we calculated it would be.

For the whole summer’s worth of produce, including fuel costs, this is what we spent in 2008 (when gas prices were through the roof, remember??).  And, it should be noted that we froze, stored and canned some of this produce and have been eating it all winter too (we still have onions, tomatoes, potatoes, green chiles and corn)!

Membership Fee (working member):  $100
Produce Fee (half share):  $135
Fuel (we got aprox. 20 miles/gallon):  $497.07/2 = $248.54
Total for the summer:  $483.54

That amount divided by the number of weeks we received produce from the farm (approx. 24) is $20.14/week on about 20-25lbs of local, fresh, organic produce.  This does not count the 2 flats of strawberries, asparagus, and 4 bushels of roasted green chiles which were “pick your own” that I brought home in addition to the share, or factor in all the stuff we stock-piled for the winter.

You have to remember that this number could change based on how far you drive to the farm (assuming you’re a working member), car pooling with more or less people, fuel costs, and how bountiful the harvest is.  Or, it could change if you are a non-working member as well.

The produce is so incredibly fresh.  As in, picked just that morning!  The half share was plenty for our family.  We ate most of it in a week, and were able to store what was left.  However, for 2009, we uped our share to a full size with plans to store/can/freeze much of the excess in order to ensure our grocery bills for winter produce are further reduced.

Check out Monroe’s website and their brand new blog to see what we do at the farm.  And make sure to check into a CSA in your area!  The saving is incredible!  And the food is out of this world!

It should also be said, that we got a lot more out of the CSA last year then produce as well.  We made new friends, Rick has a new hunting partner, Henry got to play in the dirt all summer, eat melons warm from the sun, pick strawberries… it was very very cool.

Categories: CSA, Food, Garden, Thrift, Urban Homesteading | 3 Comments

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