As those of you who follow Alternative Mama on facebook will know, I have decided to postpone my return to work for three more months – this means I won’t have to go back until August! Hurrah! This also means that I don’t have to stress about trying to get Squish to take a bottle (he won’t) or trying to encourage Monkey to learn to fall asleep on his own at bedtimes (I work evenings, so Alternative Daddy would have had to do bedtime alone). Most importantly, it means that I can soak up even more of my gorgeous kids without work getting in the way. When I imagined having a family, me working outside of the home wasn’t part of the plan.
However, this loveliness comes at a price – my wage. Not a lot, but very necessary. I am starting to wonder how on earth we will manage without it.
We are going to have to tighten our belts- big time. There has never been a better time for us to start focusing our energies on reducing what we consume. I refuse to see this as a sacrifice – it’s a challenge that we must rise to. And I’ve never been one to shy away from a challenge.
I’ve been racking my brain for days for ideas on how to reduce what we consume (and what we throw away) as a family. This is a great opportunity not only to save money, but also to reduce our impact on the environment. The focus now is to reduce what we spend, what we use, and what we throw away.
Following are my ideas so far of ways that we are going to save the planet as well as our pennies.
#1 – Soapnuts for Everything!
I have recently been introduced to the wondrous cleaning ‘product’ that is Soapnuts. Why didn’t I know about these before?! Soapnuts are the dried husks from the Soapberry tree and they make a fantastic replacement for laundry detergent. Not only that – these amazing little husks can be used to make a variety of cleaning products, including (but not limited to) hand wash, bubble bath and shampoo as well as household cleaning products. They are also much cheaper than regular products – as a laundry detergent, it works out as costing around 3p per wash which is a lot less than good old Fairy Non-Bio – and much better for the health of you and your family.
I will write a more in-depth soapnut post very soon, as soon as I have ordered some and tried out some recipes to review for you!
#2 – Food Budgeting
OK, so it’s no secret that I am a terrible gardener. No, really. Terrible. Like I’ve said before, I have the Non-Green Fingers of Death. Not only this, but we have a crappy garden. I know that’s no excuse, so we are, as we do every year, going to make an attempt at growing some veg. We really should get cracking, seeing as though it’s April already and all we have growing are some tomato plants. We haven’t even got the spuds in yet.
My point is that our attempts are just that – attempts. This year we will not be able to feed ourselves primarily with food from the garden. So, we are going to have to find ways to lower our food bill (about £100 a week, at present – ouch) without compromising on quality. After all, we could get our entire weekly shop from the cheap ‘n nasty Tesco Value range but at what cost? All of those additives and cheap ingredients are not the makings of a healthy diet – certainly not good enough for my family.
It makes sense to start cooking from scratch as much as possible. At present I cook from scratch maybe three or four times per week. Again, this will not just benefit my family’s finances – our health will benefit, too. Meal plans are a must, as is cooking in big batches so that I can freeze portions for our own ‘fast food’ – hopefully leaving no room in the freezer for the pizzas and Ben & Jerry’s that we love so much!
Come to think of it, I may finally end up losing this baby weight at this rate…
#3 – Stop Spending!
This is mainly my failing. I spend money like it’s water. Monkey, Squish and I tend to go to town at least twice or three times each week to run errands and we always end up spending money that we don’t really need to spend. A fiver here, a tenner there… and we have nothing to show for it.
I worked out the other day that I probably spend about £30 a week on absolutely nothing. This has to stop. I need to really examine why I feel the urge to spend so frivolously; why spending money makes me happy and makes me feel at ease, but I think that’s a subject for another time. There is just no need for constant consumption. Freeing ourselves from that will benefit us in so many ways.
From now on, my mantra will be as follows – “Do I need it? Can I afford it?”
#4 – Buy More Cloth Nappies
This may sound counter-productive, but buying more cloth nappies will be key in saving money. At the moment we still have to rely on disposables for night-time use and occasionally through the day because we just don’t have enough for full-time use. I don’t like to tumble-dry the nappies if I can help it – regular tumble-drying trashes fabrics, and I don’t like to waste the electricity when we could line-dry instead. Thankfully we are approaching summer, so (hopefully) we will have some sun with which to dry the nappies.
And besides… who needs an excuse to buy more cloth? Second hand, of course ;)
#5 – Become a Charity Shop Queen
Now, I have always been one for rummaging in the charity shops and car boot sales for bargains, especially for clothes and household items. However, in recent months I have neglected my second-hand roots in favour of the temptations of the shiny and new. It’s time to dive back in and start becoming resourceful again. It’s amazing what you can find in charity shops – granted, a lot of it is tat, but if you dig deep and use your imagination you can avoid buying things new at least 90% of the time.
To be honest, I’m somewhat ashamed that it’s taken a financial motivation to make these changes. We should have done this long ago for the sake of the planet, and our family’s health.
I’d love to hear your tips and tricks for frugal green living. Please share in the comments – I know I for one could use all the help I can get!