2. Cooking: I froze most of the peaches, froze some Chinese long beans, made one batch of wine from our own green grapes, plus made three pints of tomato sauce.
Hubs and I had a great conversation last week about canning. I expressed frustration at spending my two free hours every day canning tomatoes, only to save $5.00 or less. Not only that, but my tomato sauce never tastes as good as the store sauce, or even sauce I can make from tomato paste that costs $0.40 per can. I asked Hubs if he had any ideas about how I could make the sauce better without spending even more time cutting and canning tomatoes. I wondered if we should buy a Kitchen Aid Victoria strainer attachment.
“You know, I don’t really like canned food,” he said. At first, I was shocked. There was no amount of work I could do to make my canned tomato sauce perfect. I would never win the battle for a perfect sauce! “What I like about having a garden is how fresh the fruits and vegetables are, and how good they taste,” he continued.
Suddenly, I had an epiphany.
“So you don’t like canned food. Come to think of it, I actually don’t love canning," I said. "What I like is the gardening! Why don’t I work on extending the garden season instead of planting so much to freeze and can?”
A weight lifted off of my shoulders. I’m not going to throw away my canner, but for this season of life it doesn’t make sense for me to do a lot of canning, especially for low-value products like tomato sauce. Why not spend time doing something I enjoy—gardening—and create food that my husband also enjoys? Nowadays there are all sorts of ways to grow things early in the spring, late into fall and even through the winter if you are willing to invest in a hydroponics or aquaponics system. I am so excited to be shifting my focus with the garden.
3. Thrift store: I bought some things at the Volunteers of America 50% off sale. I got a wicker tray for $1.50, a water container for $0.75, a book for $0.30, baby shoes for $1.00, a bowl for $0.50, brand new muffin cup liners for $0.30, and a belt for $0.50. The water dispenser and basket tray work great for a kitchen station that I’m working on for Baby (who is quickly becoming more of a toddler and less of a baby… sniffle!).
4. Collected cans to recycle on several bike rides.
5. Rearranged my recipe cards into days of the week and months of the year, rather than in categories of “Drinks,” “Soups,” “Desserts,” etc. I hope this will help me to have a more seasonal menu plan, while not changing the basic plan much. This system is a lot like the Sidetracked Home Executives plan for cleaning, except I’ve used it for cooking instead. My goal is to find specific recipes for each month that will utilize fresh, in-season and on sale ingredients as much as possible. The rotating menu plan is something I’ve wanted to implement for a long time, but wasn’t sure how to organize it. If the note cards work as planned, I’ll refill the “weekly” tabs once a month with new recipes. Then when I go to cook each day, all of the recipes will be in one place. I’ll also be able to peek at the next day’s note cards to see if I need to thaw out any meat or start cooking anything the day before.
6. Cloth diapers: I tested our water for hardness, and it came out at an average hardness of 250. I’ve been trying to resolve ammonia stink issues that developed over the last eight months. I stripped the diapers, which seemed to help a lot but didn’t entirely take away the stink. Supposedly your wash routine is not optimal if the diapers ever have stink issues, so I want to fix the problem and not have to strip again. Stripping isn’t particularly expensive or complicated, but it’s a hassle. It cost $5.00 for the bottle of Calgon, plus at least $1.00 for disposables that I had to use while stripping.
I also spent $29.00 on five new diapers from the Alva factory in China. We had some diapers poop out (haha) due to delamination, so I wanted to buy some more. I looked into some other different diaper options, but none were as cheap as the Alvas. Plus, I like the prints and how they fit.
As I continue to do cloth diapers, I hesitate to recommend it as a frugal activity for anyone besides first-time moms. At this point, I’ve spent at least $300.00 on cloth diaper related supplies—some of which worked, some of which didn’t. Diapers, inserts, pail liners, a sprayer, gloves and a spatula, more diapers and inserts, store-bought laundry soap, stripping supplies, special cloth-friendly clothing and clothing patterns. I’ve spent hours and hours crunching numbers, checking for deals, trying to fix issues like the ammonia stink one. I save less than $30.00 per month. Every time I buy new stuff for the stash, it cuts into savings. For example, I spent all of August’s savings on new diapers. Not only that, but I’m not saving 100% of the time because I still keep a small number of disposables on hand for road trips, stripping, severe rash, etc. Now I'm looking at adding water softener to the list, which would cost about $2.00 per week. I’m not saving as near much money as I originally thought I would.
I’m convinced that the big savings from cloth diapers come mostly from use on the second child, and subsequent children; after you’ve worked out a lot of the kinks in your system, and when you’re not burning through diapers from misuse or buying accessories willy-nilly to find what works best. That means that the key to saving money with cloth diapers is to make your diapers last as long as humanly possible, while carefully limiting the ongoing costs of laundry detergent, disposable liners, etc.
So yeah, I’m feeling a little burnt out on canning and ambivalent about our cloth diapers. But excited about other things, like fall and new gardening projects and my birthday coming up. It’s important to re-evaluate what you’re doing at regular intervals to see if it’s still a good fit. Why settle for good when there is a “best” still out there?
Til next time,