Category Archives: Money/Time Saving

How Feasible Are Those ‘Money Saving’ Ideas? – Part 5

February 18, 2015

So can you really save money eating healthily, using cloth diapers, using soap nuts, homeschooling, and/or gardening? In my opinion and experience, yes!

Other things we have been doing for years to save money:

  • cloth napkins
  • stay home (consolidate errands, invite others over)
  • make everything from scratch (bread products, canned products, convenience foods, etc.)

The next thing I am trying is going no-poo (water-only).

But one big thing I have had to do in order to really save money:

Change My Way of Thinking

When I started going meatless, I felt like I was ‘depriving’ my children by not feeding them meat and dairy (especially cheese and ice cream). I tried to keep other (costly) things to make up for that. Things like cheerios, coconut milk, raisins, etc. – all expensive things. I recently started to realize that those things are not necessary and dropping them will save us close to $10/week. That is a HUGE savings!

So I dropped them from the grocery list. We eat oatmeal about half of the week for breakfast. The kids used to not like oatmeal so we would only have it once a week. Now that we are having it more, in order to make it more special, I am letting them choose the toppings. Every child has a day they get to choose what we put in our oatmeal. The choices have been weird but they like it. One child chose, jelly and walnuts, another chose peanut butter and honey, another chose dried mango and cinnamon.

Does it take more time and effort to cloth diaper and use soap nuts? Yes. Is it worth it? Yes. I could say, ‘It’s a sacrifice I am willing to make’ but really, it’s not a sacrifice. It is just a choice. A choice to not have instant gratification all the time. A choice to slow down.

Is homeschooling difficult? At times, yes. But it is a choice. A choice to stick it out with my kids, to learn and grow with them, to invest in them.

I have REALLY had to change my way of thinking in order to grow all of our food! (I am still doing that). If I really want to take this seriously, I have to be willing to go out in the cold and uncover the hoop house so the plants don’t overheat. We have to be willing to not take time off when things need to be planted and harvested (that doesn’t mean we don’t take time off, it just means we plan it around the busy seasons). I have to be willing to wake up at the crack of dawn in the heat of the summer to pick blueberries and plant more seeds.

With my American, suburban upbringing, I could say, ‘It’s just not worth it. I’ll pay someone else to grow my food. I’ll send my kids to someone else to learn. I’ll buy for convenience. It’s just not worth it.’ If only I change my point of view…I see it truly IS worth it! 🙂

I hope you have enjoyed this series of posts and maybe you have gotten a few ideas to try. I hope the posts coming up will be all about gardening! It is still terribly cold here – I’m ready to start this new season!!


How Feasible Are Those ‘Save Money’ Ideas? Part 4 – Homeschool

#6 Homeschooling

This is another example, like eating plant-based, of NOT doing something to save money…but being pleasantly surprised that saving money was exactly what we were doing.

I have done a couple of posts on homeschooling efficiently and inexpensively. Basically, I buy used, non-consumable if I can help it, use free curriculum on the internet, and use the library.

In short, for us this means:

Kindergarten: Saxon, Handwriting Without Tears (HWT), Ordinary Parents’ Guide to Teaching Reading (OPGTR), MEP
–  I paid for Saxon and OPGTR (used) for child #1 (free for the rest). We buy a new ($10) HWT book for each child.

1st Grade: OPGTR, Saxon, First Language Lessons (FLL), Story of the World (SoW), Spelling, MEP
–  I paid for Saxon, FLL, and SoW for child #1 (free for the rest)

2nd Grade: OPGTR, Saxon, FLL, SoW, Spelling, MEP
–  I paid for Saxon & SoW for child #1 (buy new workbooks for the rest)

3rd Grade: Saxon, Rod & Staff, SoW, Spelling, MEP
–  I paid for Rod & Staff & SoW for child #1 (Saxon was given to us by someone getting rid of it)

We use the library for reading and science and use the Bible for our Bible time (go figure, huh?).
The oldest three are also taking music lessons (piano, harp, violin, and guitar) for free from a lady we met who graciously offered to teach them.

My yearly purchases are about $50 for all of the children (about $100 for child #1 the first year of homeschooling). I currently school the oldest 4 children. I can promise you I would be spending more than $50/year for all of the children if I sent them to public school, on school supplies and field trips alone, not to mention all of the other costs (gas, lunch, clothes, etc, etc, etc.).

You can see, by buying used, NON-consumable homeschooling materials, it is easy to homeschool efficiently and cheaply! I truly cannot count all the reasons I am thankful we homeschool but saving money surely is one of them 🙂

**Every family is different. This works for our family. Most of my ideas came from The Well-Trained Mind. Check it out at your local library! It is WONDERFUL & beats any curriculum fair I’ve ever been to.**

Next post…gardening! Sure, it’s the new(ish) fad but does it really save money? Haven’t you heard of the $64 Tomato? I’ll show you how we really do save money gardening 🙂

How Feasible Are Those ‘Save Money’ Ideas? Part 3 – Soap Nuts

February 4, 2015

Parts 1 & 2 are about if/how I save money eating less meat and cloth diapering.

#3 Soap Nuts

I found soap nuts on a Simple Lives Thursday post a couple of years ago. I read a lot of blog posts about them and decided to try them out.

Result: LOVE them! I would recommend these to anyone! I bought a bag ($30) March of 2013 and bought another one this past September. $30 for a year and a half of laundry detergent for a family of 8 (including cloth diapers). That cannot be beat!

So it’s cheap…does it really work?

Yes! I break the soap nuts in half easily with my fingers and put 14 halves in a bag. After about 10? washes (whenever the bag is looking a little limp), I will stick the bag in a mason jar, put some water in it and shake. If the water soaps up, I use it some more, if it does not, I put it aside to dry and fill another bag with soap nut bits. They give you multiple little bags in the big bag of soap nuts.

Problems: There are two issues I have had with soap nuts.

  1. You have to find the bag.
    When switching clothes from the washer to the dryer, you have to make sure you don’t transfer the soap nut bag with the clothes. Sometimes, it is easy – it is at the bottom of the washing machine. Sometimes, it is wrapped up in a towel so as I am transferring items, I will shake them out, just in case the bag is in there.
  2. The bags are hard to open.
    After being in 10+ washes, the strings that close the bag are twisted so the bag is difficult to open – nearly impossible if wet. So, when I need a bag with new soap nuts, I just set the wet bag aside and work on opening a bag that has already dried. It is still difficult but doable.

That’s it! If you can deal with those two things, you can save a bunch on laundry detergent each year (not to mention no chemicals in your clothes and you are choosing a sustainable product).

Other people say these are issues (I disagree but thought I would mention them.)

  • Smell – or lack thereof
    Soap nuts smell like vinegar. It’s gross. However, your clothes do not come out smelling like vinegar 🙂 They come out smelling like…nothing. I am fine with that. I have a sensitive nose and do not like flowery-smelling things so I like my clothes smelling like nothing.
  • Have to use hot water
    I have heard people saying you have to wash your clothes in hot water in order for the soap nuts to soap up but that is not the case. As mentioned before, in order to see if the soap nuts are soapy, I stick the bag into a mason jar with (tap, cold) water & shake. If there are suds, I use it more. The fact that I can make suds with cold water means that I do not have to wash clothes in hot water in order for soap nuts to work.
  • Stains
    How well do soapnuts get stains out? Just as well as a typical laundry detergent, which is not too well, in my experience. I buy a spray stain remover & use that whenever needed. Soap nuts gets out regular messes and all smells though.

***We have a virus going around in our house & soap nuts took all of the blueberry throw up out of the sheets this morning, if that tells you anything about stains***

If you haven’t noticed, I highly recommend these as a wonderful way to save money and get chemicals out of your clothes!

Next way we save money…homeschooling! You may not think of homeschooling as a way to save money. After all, curriculum sets cost $200-500/student, easily. Find out how we homeschool for $10-20/student each year (more spent the first year) on my next post 🙂

I am linking up to Simple Lives Thursday, hoping to help someone else out who is researching this decision!

How Feasible Are Those ‘Save Money’ Ideas? Part 2 – Cloth Diapering

January 31, 2015

Part 1 on the How Feasible Are Those ‘Save Money!’ Ideas? Series was about how we have been saving money for the last two years eating less meat and more plants.

Part 2 is about Cloth Diapering

I never understood the hype about cloth diapering. I reasoned, if you buy the cheap brands of disposable diapers & potty train your kids early, you end up spending about the same amount of money as you would if you cloth diapered. After all, cloth diapers can be upwards of $20/diaper!

A couple of years ago, when baby #5 was 6mo, I heard a podcast about cloth diapering. They made it sound very doable and suggested ways to buy used. I decided to go the insert and button route and bought my first set of diapers off of craigslist for $6/diaper. I reasoned, all I had to do was cloth diaper him for 4mo to break even so it was not much of a gamble.

I ended up cloth diapering him (except at night) for the next 19 months (until he was potty trained). Those cloth diapers MORE than paid for themselves. Talk about savings! We saved, what, roughly $400?

By the end of the 19 months, a few of the diapers were stretching so I bought 9 more diapers with inserts off of Amazon for about the same for baby #6. I did not start cloth diapering her until her older brother was potty-trained. For some reason, I couldn’t wrap my head around cloth diapering two at the same time. We have about a month more of cloth diapering her before we break even.

(I have never cloth diapered at night. There are plenty of reasons babies wake up in the middle of the night. I do not want a leaky diaper to be one of them so I don’t even take the chance!)

So, how does cloth diapering work, realistically?

There is definitely a learning curve.

  • how frequently do you need to change them? (typically every 2-3 hrs for my babies)
  • how do I wash them?
  • how/why do I need to strip them?
  • what is the best way to dry them?

Thankfully, I knew some wonderful moms who had been cloth diapering for awhile and they helped tremendously.

Washing (As with everything, everyone is different. This is just what I do.)

  • Take the diapers & inserts apart, put them in the washing machine on a soak cycle (cold).
  • Put them on a regular cycle (hot) with soap nuts and vinegar (supposed to break up everything that soaks into the inserts so it will wash well).
  • Take the soap nuts out & put it on a regular cycle again.
  • Put it on a rinse (cold) cycle.

I used to not do step 3 (the extra wash) but I found when I did that, I did not have to strip them as often. To strip them, you do Step 3, 5-7x, until all of the soap is out (when the machine is filled with water and is washing, check for soap bubbles).

Strip them when they are new (more soaking than washing) and when they get stinky.


I try to dry them outside if at all possible. The sun bleaches out the stains and they end up smelling great 🙂 In the winter, I will dry just the stained ones outside and the rest are hung up inside.

After a year of cloth diapering, I would never flippantly suggest to someone that they should ‘just cloth diaper’ to save money. However, if anyone was interested, I would be more than happy to help in any way I could because, if you can navigate what type of diaper you want and how to wash and strip them, it is relatively simple, and it saves a bunch of money!

Did you notice my laundry soap? Next post will be about Soap Nuts. What are they? How do they work? Do they really work? and, of course, How much do they cost?

I am linking up with Simple Saturdays Blog Hop to see what others think about cloth diapering.

How Feasible Are Those ‘Save Money!’ Ideas? Part 1 – Going Meatless

January 29, 2015

I read many blogs about great ideas to save money but I always wonder…do these people keep up with this stuff? How does that work in a busy life, really?

I have written a few posts of my own about how to save money on this or that. This is the first in a series of posts in which I will update you on a ‘how to save money’ post. Did I stick with it? How difficult is it to do on a daily basis? Does it really save money?

#1 Going vegan

After watching Forks Over Knives, my husband suggested dropping meat and dairy. I spent the next week looking up some recipes and jumped right in! We were going to try to be completely vegan…

How did that work? It has been 3 years since we watched Forks Over Knives…

Being vegan did not stick very long.

  1. We have chickens so we never stopped eating eggs.
  2. It was more difficult to drop dairy than meat.
  3. We dropped milk (our pediatrician was none too pleased) but still eat grilled cheese once a week and eat cheese on our pizzas.
  4. We eat meat when we go out to eat and on people’s birthdays (and get sick right after). If we have left-over meat from holidays or birthdays, I’ll try to stretch it as long as possible (ham bone soup, cutting chicken/turkey up & freezing it in 2c bags for pot pies or pasta or enchiladas).

The original goal of dropping meat/going vegan was not to save money. It was to get healthy — eat more plant-based meals. We achieved that goal. Even though we eat eggs every day and eat meat and cheese occasionally, we eat a plant-based diet.

My kids don’t know they are not supposed to like salad or other veggies. They love when I make them ice cream (frozen bananas and blueberries in a blender).

Yes, if you offered them real ice cream or cookies or mac’n’cheese, they would jump at the chance. But, because their bodies are not used to those things, they get sick right after and they are starting to see the correlation.

An unexpected benefit of having a plant-based diet is how much money we have saved, not buying meat most of the year! Dried beans vs. meats is a HUGE price difference.

I know many women who would say their husbands would NEVER buy into a plant-based diet. I hear you. I certainly didn’t want to drop meat! I would encourage two things.

  1. You and your husband watch Forks Over Knives
  2. If that does not change his mind, talk to him about doing a meatless meal one night/week.

Conclusion: I guess we fail at being vegan. But we are healthier and save a bunch of money on food so it’s an overall win to me!

I am linking up with Simple Lives Thursday, Green Thumb Thursday, and the Farm Blog Hop— always looking for more ideas! 🙂

Who else wonders if those ‘Save Money!’ blogs really live up to the hype? Next post, I’ll be talking about Cloth Diapering and if/how it really saves money and is doable…