Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Signing off

Next month I would have been blogging for one year. Its been so great sharing this first year of extreme frugality with you. I'm been so overwhelmed by how many people have chosen to read my blog. I never thought it would be so popular. Mostly, I just thought my mom would read it. :)

As I'm sure you've noticed, I haven't been as into blogging lately. I've needed to spend more time taking care of myself, my family, and my career.  However, with work, homeschooling, raising kids, building a business, earning a PhD (yes, I'm working on that too!), and producing income, I've decided that blogging just doesn't fit into my life anymore.

I am so grateful to have had an audience to write about my frugal lifestyle. I hope you continue on your own journey of frugality with much success. There are so many great authors, blogs, and resources out there for the frugal woman or man. I leave you with what I am reading right now to support my own continued journey of frugality:

Native Style Cookery is an ebook by Ayida Honor. Ayida's book is a vegan, soy-free, from-scratch book. It calls for ingredients that I have or am able to get easily. The recipes are fairly easy to replicate and are a hit with the family--even picky children.

I've read a lot of vegan cookbooks and often I feel like they all essentially contain the same recipes. This is not true of the Native Style Cookery book. Her book is full of unique recipes and I'm so glad she shared it with me!

Jeff Yeager is my ultimate cheapskate hero. He has written four books in total: The Ultimate Cheapskate's Road Map to True Riches, Don't Throw that Away, How to Retire the Cheapskate Way, and The Cheapskate Next Door.

While I really encourage the reading of Dave Ramsey's books and find his work to be invaluable for those trying to make a budget for the first time, Jeff Yeager's philosophies much more closely resemble my own. Yeager believes being cheap is a greener, happier, and healthier way to live. He is down to earth and he gives advice that makes sense for my life and the way I live. I love him for that!

So, that's what I'm reading.

With that, I bring my blogging days to a close. Take care and many blessings to you and yours. Thank you so much for reading.


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Kiss Your Dentist Goodbye Review

In researching fluoride, I came across Dr. Ellie's website. She explained the differences between natural occurring fluoride and synthetic fluoride (the kind that is a byproduct of pesticides). I had never understood that about fluoride before and so I continued to read her website, hoping to learn more.

So, I wrote to Dr. Ellie and ask her to send me a free copy of her book, "Kiss Your Dentist Goodbye", in exchange for an honest review on my blog. Her book claims that with the proper oral health regime you can actually eliminate your need for a dentist completely! This program claims it can do things like repair cavities. I was very intrigued and excited to learn from a professional especially after my baking soda toothpaste disaster.

Dr. Ellie immediately wrote me back and said the book was on its way. When I received her package, I couldn't believe it! She sent me the book as well as everything else I would need for her program! I was blown away and excited to get started!

I learned so much from this book about dental health! Its a very interesting read!

After using the program for almost two months, I have to say that I love it! I think Dr. Ellie's program has totally strengthened my tooth enamel  and made my teeth whiter and stronger. I no longer have tooth sensitivity of any kind and I know it is the result of this program! I'll definitely continue to use this system.  I have no doubt that Dr. Ellie's system is frugal--especially since she tells you how to repair your own cavities and avoid needing most dental work altogether! Amazing!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

5 Minute Kid Connection Ideas

As I'm sure you've noticed, I've been away from my blog for a while. Although I'll talk more about why later, part of the reason is because I've needed to take some time to focus on my family and our needs. Budgeting time is even more important to me than budgeting money. Because of that, I'm excited to share the following guest post is by Kassandra Brown, author of Parent Coaching Services.

My husband and I were talking yesterday about how we’d like to have more space from our children. We want to hang out, have dates, and be adults without interruption. Then it hit us – in addition to better boundaries to get space from our two girls, we also need to look at how to connect more deeply with them. Once they feel us wanting to play with them, they are more likely to be content to give us space. Here’s the list we brainstormed to help ourselves and our friends connect more easily with our girls. Each one is designed to be free take five minutes or less. But beware! You might find yourself having more fun than you expected and wanting to play longer. 

5 Minute Kid Connection Ideas
  • Read a Kids Book aloud. Talk about the pictures.
  • Tell a story from your imagination or memory. Cut yourself some slack. It doesn’t have to be publishable.
  • Play pretend.  Chase games, low on the scary high on the adult awkwardness, are especially fun.
  • Eat some raisins together
  • Draw or color
  • Take a walk to see what’s growing outside. Offer the names of plants you know.
  • Offer piggyback rides
  • Chase a child with a sweeper mop. Don't catch her. Dramatically fail to catch her. Try again.
  • Make a fort. A blanket and two chairs go up very quickly.
  • Swing in a hammock together.
  • Turn on some music and dance together. Follow the child’s lead.
  • Sew, weave, knit, or braid. Friendship bracelets from leftover yarn can be braided very quickly.
  • Play in sand, mud, dirt. Even girls who normally like to stay clean can really enjoy getting dirty - especially when invited by an adult.
  • Play in sprinklers or the hose on a hot day.
  • Resist the urge to always prioritize talking with grown-ups. Sometimes talk with and play with the children even if there is an adult nearby you'd like to engage.
  • When sweeping, offer the fun of playing jump over the broom handle by laying it on or close to the floor.
  • Pick a bouquet of wildflowers and give it to someone
  • Turn a jump rope. Invite other kids and adults to join in the skipping.
  • Pick berries
  • Do some mental math. Start easy and see what they ask for.
  • Play catch with something soft. Rolled up socks are good.
  • Invent an Activity

This guest post was written by Kassandra Brown who offers support, love, and guidance at www.parentcoaching.org. Kassandra says “Although direct conversation can be great once children are warmed up, it is often not an easy a place to get started.”  A unique discount  - not available to the general public - can be found by visiting http://parentcoaching.org/budgetingwiththebushmans

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Possum Living Book Review

Several people had recommended a book to me called Possum Living: How to Live Well Without a Job and with (Almost) No Money.  It was written in 1978 by a 18 year old who goes by the name Dolly Freed. It is about how she and her father lived with no "real" job between them in a house they bought for cash. Their living expenses were just a couple of hundred dollars each year and they covered those by doing the rare odd job for money. They raised their own meat, had a huge garden, did not own a car, etc. in order to accomplish such frugal living.

In reading Dolly's book, I had the experience that many of my readers may have had when they first came across my blog: "How can they live on so little? Are they crazy?" If you thought I was extreme, you won't believe some of Dolly's advice!

Possum Living  has a lot of information in it that I was unable/uninterested in applying to my own life. For example, Dolly raised and killed her own meat. She goes into very specific detail about how to kill and skin rabbits and other animals. Since I don't eat meat, this didn't interest me much. The other thing Dolly talked about that didn't apply to me was distilling her own alcohol. I have no need to make hard liquor and my understanding was that it is illegal to do so. However, if you are someone who is interested in these things, Dolly's level of detail about them would be helpful indeed.

Having mentioned the things that didn't apply to me, I can honestly still say I enjoyed the book. I agreed with Dolly's frugally philosophies almost entirely. I liked how she understood the importance of not spending money, even at a young age. I was inspired her story and it opened me up to the possibility that even if I lost my job, I might still be able to etch out a way of survival for myself and my family. For me, that was a  really, really empowering!

Here are my favorite quotes from the book and good examples of Dolly's way of thinking:

"It’s easier to learn to do without some of the things that money can buy than to earn the money to buy them." (p. 32)

"Television is like a loud salesman in your living room. Sometimes he's interesting, frequently he's embarrassing, and always he's trying to sell you stuff." (p.213-214)

"Many people . . .won't raise their own meat. But someone had to kill the animals you buy in the store. People who will buy meat but won't kill their own are being hypocritical, its seems to me. If you're not a vegetarian, kill your own meat--don't hire someone else to do it." (p. 41)

Thanks to the author of the book for providing me with a free copy in exchange for a review on my website.

What's your favorite frugal living book? Do you have a book about extreme frugality that you'd like me to review?

Thursday, June 14, 2012

How to Make Almond Milk

Almond milk is very easy to make. Since we buy our almonds in bulk, it is also fairly cost effective. To make my almond milk go further, I sometimes mix it in a 1:1 ratio with banana milk. This makes for a winning combination!

 Here's what you'll need to make almond milk:

4 cups water
1 cup almonds
liquid sweetener

The night before, put 1 cups of almonds into a pitcher with 4 cups of water. Let it soak overnight in the fridge.

The next day pour the water with almonds in it, into a blender. Puree on high speed until the almonds become pulp-like.

Pour the mix through a tight weaved strainer and into your pitcher. Set the almond pulp aside.*

My almond pulp
Add 1 tsp vanilla and 1/8 cup liquid sweetener, or to taste. Stir. Enjoy!

That's all there is to it!

*Don't let that almond pulp go to waste! Use it to make some banana nut muffins or cookies!

GREAT READER QUESTION: Is it really cost effective to make your own almond milk? 
For us, yes. We can buy almonds from our bulk supplier for $21 for 5 pounds, or $4.20/pound. There are 3 cups of almonds in each pound. Therefore, this recipe contains about $1.40 of almonds and makes a half pitcher. It costs about $3 at my local store for about the same amount in a small carton. And don't forget: I still had the almonds to use in baking so really, I got to use them twice for the price. :)

So, what do you think? Would it be cheaper for you to make or buy almond milk? What if you cut it with banana milk?

Monday, June 11, 2012

Homemade Dishwasher Detergent

I'll be honest with you: Storebought dishwasher detergent works best. In fact, my favorite kind is Seventh Generation. Both their powder and liquid are exceptional. However, I am too cheap to buy them. So, I make my own. I've tried A LOT of homemade dishwasher detergent recipes and most of them stink. Here's the best one I know of:


1/4 cup Castile soap 
1/4 cup water 
1 tsp lemon juice 
1/4 cup salt 

Put in a container and shake. This recipe will not clump like Borax-based recipes!

(This recipe makes a small amount so that you can see if you like it before creating a huge batch.)

Instead of rinse aid, use vinegar.

Photo credit: Jeremy Zawodny
When I don't want to bother with making up a batch of the homemade dishwasher liquid above I use one TINY squirt of dish soap and a three TBS of vinegar. (You can also use bleach instead of vinegar, depending on your comfort level with that.) This seems to work pretty well in a pinch. You have to be careful with the dish soap though. If you put in more than a tiny squirt, you will have suds everywhere.

What's your favorite dishwasher detergent? Have you ever made your own?

Thursday, June 7, 2012

How to Make Peanut Sauce

My friend introduced me to peanut sauce and I am in love! Its very easy to make and is full of healthy ingredients. I like to eat it in the following ways
  • As a veggie dip, especially for carrots and celery
  • As a spring roll dip
  • As a stir fry sauce
  • On sandwiches, pita bread or crackers
I've only been eating it for about a month so I'm sure there are many other ways to enjoy it. In fact, I've yet to have it on anything that I didn't enjoy!

Here's how you make it:

Mix the following in a saucepan

1 cup peanut butter
1 cup water
1/2 cup vinegar
1/4 cup Braggs, soy sauce or tamari
1/4 cup molasses
1/2 tsp cayenne
Sriracha or other hot sauce to taste

Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Once it begins to thicken, remove from heat.

This makes a generous amount of sauce--enough for one family dinner of stir fry, or for veggie dip for the whole week.

Peanut sauce and spring rolls
I enjoyed my peanut sauce as a dip for spring rolls. To make the spring rolls, I bought the rice paper wrappers from the store. (They cost about $5 and come in a huge pack of 50 or so.) You get them wet and then roll your ingredients in them. These spring rolls contain sauteed tofu and onions, raw cabbage, and raw shredded carrots. Yum!

 Have you ever had peanut sauce? Does anyone else believe that Sriracha is the ultimate condiment?

Monday, June 4, 2012

How to Barter

Part of the way we meet our needs and wants is with barter. Because my husband doesn't work for pay, he has more time to barter than I do. In fact, with the exception of cold winter months, my husband works hard every day for barter, for the experience of learning a task, or just for free because he's a kind man.

Even though he does most of the barter work, we both use barter to meet many of our needs. Here are a few things we do, have done, or plan to do in the future using barter instead of dollars:

  •  When we moved here, my husband did not know how to build or repair much of anything. However, because he has offered his services to others who are building their house in the area he has gained many valuable skills and many free, hot meals on the job site! He is also developing handy man skills that he can use should our family need more money. Since we plan to build our own natural house and business within the next couple of years, these new skills will very shortly save us tens of thousands of dollars!
  • Although we were able to heat our home last winter partially for free, for this next winter my husband has struck a deal with some local elderly residents to get free heating wood for us all winter long. The deal is that he will help these residents harvest the wood on their property. My husband will help get enough for them and will also cut and deliver (using their truck) enough wood for us in exchange for his work.
  • This summer I am considering taking unpaid work with a woman to exchange child care for cooking lessons. This woman is the best cook I know and she is in need of about 10 hours of childcare each week, so I will watch her child and she will teach me to be a better cook. Of course, I will then share her recipes with you! 
  • One of our kids gets drum lessons in exchange for us allowing his drum teacher to park a vehicle at our house. This saves his teacher the money and hassle of having to pay to park his car elsewhere.
  • Our other kid gets piano lessons in exchange for work my husband does.
  •  We often do work in exchange for food from someone's garden, homecooked meals, or other supplies.
  • My husband has worked for families in exchange for them coming to help us when we need a task done.  
  • As a family we try to volunteer for others when the opportunity presents itself. We've found that these gifts of time often come back to us in one way or another. 

 If our barter arrangements are too specific, here are a few barter ideas that anyone can do!

  • Swap childcare with another family.
  • Teach someone a skill in exchange for having them teach you a skill.
  • Watch your neighbor's pets or house sit for them in exchange for returning the favor next time you are on vacation.
    Photo Credit: La Grande Farmers' Market
  •  Run errands for your neighbors in exchange for gas money or car maintenance. This can pay for your own trips to get things as well. (This is one we also do.)
  • Trade homemade items or homegrown foods with your neighbors.

Barter work can be difficult because so many people are pressed for time. We've found the abundance of time to be the biggest benefit of living a simple life. Working with others in our community for barter creates good feelings and has helped us to teach our children about kindness and responsibility.

Do you barter? Do you volunteer? Do you see value in exchanging goods without using money?

Friday, June 1, 2012

Our Budget Updated

I've noticed that the post titled, Our Monthly Budget Exposed is by far the most popular thing I've written. I'm sure that's because you want to know what a budget looks like for a family who lives on so little. I don't blame you. I like to know the details of things as well.

Photo credit: taxcredits.net
I love having a budget. It helps to keep me on track. For us, we take all the money we don't spend each month and put it in savings. We are saving for long-term rainy-day-type stuff, but also for things like current home repair, building our future business of storage units, and building our own natural home in a couple of years.

Since I shared that first budget with you eight months ago, it has become a little out of date. After all, budgets have to change and evolve. Some of our expenses have gone up (like our water bill), some down (like our utilities and internet), and we've added a couple of things we decided were really important (like music lessons and personal spending.) I decided the best way to share our new budget with you was to add a new tab on my homepage which will take you straight to our current budget. That way, I can keep that budget up to date without creating a new post for you to read every time I make a change.

Aside from my homepage, you can also find the current budget here.

Even before I had this blog, I enjoyed sharing our budget with others. When people would come to me for face-to-face budget help, I always started by showing them our budget. I mean, how can I help someone else if I don't have my own budget under control, right? Plus, it always helps me to see an example. Now that I consider myself to be an extreme budgeter, I think its even more important to share what that looks like!

What do you think? Is it helpful for other people to share their nitty-gritty financial details with you? When you see my budget do you think its doable or do you think its too extreme for your tastes?

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Homemade Vegan Toaster Waffles

I was talking with someone who said she didn't cook more things from scratch because she needed to have things on hand for convenience foods. My reply was that you can have convenience foods that you make from scratch! Here's something my kids love to eat for breakfast, afternoon snack, or those make-your-own-dinner nights.

Homemade Toaster Waffles

3 1/2 cups whole flour
2 TBS sugar
2 TBS baking powder
1 cup applesauce
1 cup oil
2 tsp vanilla
2-3 cups water or milk depending on how thick you like the batter (Most often I use water.)

Mix the ingredients up into a batter.

Add two large spoonfuls of batter to your waffle maker and cook until light comes on or waffle no longer separates when you open the lid.

My favorite way to eat them: PB and fresh strawberries!
I make a big batch of these about once a week when we're in the mood for them. They freeze really well without sticking together. When you pull them out of the freezer you can put them directly into the toaster on the high setting. Or you can eat them fresh off the waffle iron.

I'm working on a big stack. I usually freeze them in glass containers.

I have also frozen them in zip lock bags and it works just as well.
 My mom bought me a waffle iron a couple of years ago as a gift. This isn't something I would've bought myself, but I actually do use it quite a bit. If you don't have a waffle iron, I would think you could also make homemade toaster pancakes with the recipe. You will just have to be more aware of keeping the pancakes a size that will fit in the toaster.

What your best homemade convenience food? Do you make your own toaster waffles?

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Write It Down Challenge

Last night I was talking with my friend who said she wanted to save more money and curb some of her spending. Whenever I want to change my behavior (which usually means eating less or spending less), I simply force myself to write it down. If I write down every thing I eat or spend, I will automatically change my behavior.

If you are having a hard time getting your spending under control I encourage you to try this. In June, I will taking my own Write it Down Challenge. At the end of the month I'll post everything I spent. Yes, every. single. thing. for the whole month.

Photo credit: Brendan DeBrincat

I'm a little nervous about this as I definitely make spending mistakes too. However, since I mostly blog about the ways I save money, I've probably given you the impression that I never overspend. Of course this isn't true. After all, I'm human too!

I do know this, though; writing down my expenses and sharing them with the world WILL make me spend less. In fact, I want to see how little I can actually get by with spending in the next month.

I invite you to join me. At the end of the month (June 2012) you can send me the results of your Write It Down Challenge via email, via blog comment, or via Facebook. Or you can just write it down and never show another living soul. Whatever you do, I encourage you to give the Write It Down Challenge a try! What do you have to lose except poor spending habits?

Will YOU take the Write it Down Challenge? Have you ever written down your spending before? Did it cause you modify your spending habits?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Am I gonna be on TV or what?

Those of you who follow Budgeting with the Bushmans on Facebook know that TLC was talking with me about being on their show Extreme Cheapskates. I had a lot of email correspondence with them and an initial interview on Skype, but then I heard nothing. Some of you have been asking, "Are you going to be on the show or what?" Frankly, I've been wondering that too.

Photo credit: Louis Bustamante, St. Petersburg

 I emailed the show and asked them what they had decided about having me on the show. Basically, I got the brush off. I think the reason is that my life simply wasn't drama filled enough for the producers. They asked me questions like, "Is your husband on board with your frugality?" and "What do your kids think about being so frugal?" I answered honestly that the whole family has seen the benefits of changing our lifestyle to a more frugal one and that we are all happily on board.

Also, during the interview, I stated that I really did not want my kids to be on TV. I also told many of you that I actually didn't want to be on TV. The only reason I would've agreed for only me (not the kids) to be on the show was because I'd like to make a career out of giving frugal advice to others. I saw the TLC show as a possible springboard for that.

However, upon realizing that it probably isn't going to happen I'm feeling pretty relieved. I wasn't really looking forward to looking like an idiot on TV. And, even though we haven't had a TV for a while, I've watched enough reality TV to know that it was inevitable that they would make me look like an idiot. Sensationalism is what reality TV is all about.

So, if I'm going to become a popular extreme frugality guru, its probably going to have to happen through this blog. TLC isn't going to do it for me. And that's okay.

Would you ever agree to be on reality TV? Do you think a reality TV would've helped or hurt my image? Do you have other ideas for ways I can get my message "out there" without looking like an idiot on reality TV?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Baking soda and tooth sensitivity

I've had several readers ask me if my tooth sensitivity was getting better since my failed baking soda toothpaste ordeal.

The answer is yes . . .finally. It took a while, though. In fact, I would say it took a full month after I  went back to using a natural Xylitol toothpaste.

Since I didn't want to make any more tooth related mistakes, I began doing lots of researching. After finding Dr. Ellie's site and her book called, Kiss Your Dentist Goodbye. I became very intrigued. I contacted Dr. Ellie and asked if she would consider sending me a free copy of her book in exchange for an honest review on my blog.

Today in the mail I received a package from her containing all this:

It was like opening a present because I'd only expected to receive the book, but instead she sent me everything I would need to complete her oral health program! I decided to go ahead and start her program today. I fully expect to have her book read within the next couple of days. However, I will hold off on giving you a complete review until I have tried her program for at least a full month.

Since I know some of you might be concerned about Dr. Ellie's use of fluoride, please read this quote from an email she sent me to further explain it. (As you may have guessed, I had some initial concerns about it as well.)

"50% of this improvement comes from the correct use of xylitol and 50% from the correct use of the mouth care regimen.
The hardest hurdle for me with "natural" folks is that I recommend a limited use of fluoride.
My chapter on fluoride explains that I am certainly an anti-fluoridationist when it comes to adding it to our water supplies- but I recommend TWO specific products that contain sodium fluoride for healing teeth.

Years ago Kevin Troudeau was promoting his book Natural Cures - and his publishers were interested in my book - provided I eliminated my suggestion to use fluoride rinse and Crest toothpaste.
I would not - because I do not believe that you can get this amazing natural healing of teeth without these two products.

With the limited use of these specific products ( as described in my book) you can stimulate natural repair of cavities, natural improvement in tooth color ( not bleaching and harmful whitening) and natural strengthening of enamel ( so teeth are more able to resist acidic assault and also they are more shiny to resist plaque build up). The outcome is sustainable oral health - year after year with minimal maintenance.
That, in my humble opinion, is what we need to consider the goal of oral health care!"
Do you believe in repairing your own teeth? Had you heard of Dr. Ellie or her book before? Would you ever consider a tooth care regimen that used fluoride?

Sunday, May 20, 2012

How to save on your water bill

When we first moved in, our bill was the minimum, which is $17/month as long as we used less than 1000 gallons of water. Lately, though the Bushman's water bill has been on the rise. I've taken several steps to reduce our bill and I'd thought I'd share some of them with you! Here are some money saving ideas you can apply to your own household water usage.

  • Fix any leaks. We have a leak in the bathtub that we weren't aware of until recently. We're in the process of fixing it. No doubt this will lower our water bill. During the time we had the leak, we were catching it in a bucket and using it to water the garden and do laundry.
Our current leak which is costing us big time!
  •  Use less water in the toilet. To do this put a brick, bottle, or something heavy in the toilet tank. (If you use a bottle, you must fill it with water or rocks.)

  •  Consider replacing your toilet. In our old house we bought a dual flush toilet when our toilet broke. The local utility company gave us a 50% rebate on its cost! In this house, we wanted to take water saving to the next level so we recently bought this waterless toilet. We got ours used for $300. It needs some work as it was sitting outside for a while. 
Our rough-looking used waterless toilet

  • Use less water for bathing. My grandmother drew a line in her bathtub with a magic marker and we grandkids were not allowed to fill the bath any fuller than that line.
  • Time yourself in the shower, purchase a low flow shower head, or both.
  • Use less water for washing dishes. Fill one side of your sink for washing and one for rinsing. Basically, don't let the water run down the drain without something there to catch it!
  • Put a bucket under your shower or reuse bath water for laundry, mopping, or watering plants. To reuse water for your laundry you simply set your washer dial to the point where it would be AFTER it filled up with its own water. You might even want to make a special mark on your washer so you know where this notch is. Warning: it is hard work to carry bucketfuls of water to the washer. However, it will give you a good appreciation for how much water goes into one load of laundry.
  • Bathe less often. Daily bathing is the habit of most Americans. Usually, though it isn't necessary to bathe daily. Spot cleaning/sponge bathing with a wash cloth will often do just as good a job.
  •  Install rain barrels. Why let all that free water run off your roof without catching it? Use rain water to water your plants. They will thrive on it!
  • Don't wash clothes unless they are really dirty. Many people wash clothes out of habit. They take them off, and throw them in the hamper or washer without thinking. If something is still clean, hang it back up! Don't wash already clean clothes.
How is your water bill? Have you tried any of these water and money saving tactics? Do you have any water conversation techniques of your own?

Monday, May 14, 2012

Dear Bobbie . . . answering your questions

I love getting mail from people who read my blog! Those of you who have written me know I will write you back and I will be excited to do so! Here are some reader questions I received recently:

Do you ever splurge on anything?

I would say that I'm most likely to splurge on homeschool materials for my kids, although I try to sell the homeschool items we are no longer using in order to finance the splurge. I'm also very good about keeping an eye out for books at thrift stores and then reselling them on Ebay at a profit to also help pay for homeschool curriculum splurges.

I also use my Swagbucks to purchase splurge items on Amazon, which makes them free. To learn more about how I do that, read this.

Is there something you just don't want to live without?

Something I can't live without? Hmm, my family, of course! I'm assuming you mean material things though. This question is hard for me to answer because when I evaluate things, I tend to think, "Yes, of course I could live without that if I had to." Something I really wouldn't want to live without is a washer for doing laundry. I know some people who live a life of voluntary simplicity live without a washer and don't complain, but I REALLY wouldn't want to do laundry by hand on a regular basis. Other things I enjoy having are a dishwasher, a stand up mixer, and my Kindle. The dishwasher because I don't like to wash dishes much (except in the winter when I like to have my hands in the warm water because its cold outside). The stand up mixer because it makes making all our own bread SO much easier. My Kindle is something that I really enjoy because I'm an avid reader and I like carrying something to read with me at all times. I never buy books for my Kindle and only borrow them from the library. This saves money because I don't have to drive to the library when I run out of things to read--I simply download the library's newest e-book!

What do you feed your cats?  

As you know, we have two cats. One of our cats is an insane mouser so he supplements his diet very nicely making it more like we just have to buy food for one cat.We feed our cats the 20 pound bag of cat food that they sell at our local store. It costs about $12 and lasts all month.  In our town there is only one kind of cat food for sale, so we just buy that. :) I take the money out of our grocery budget.

Speaking of cats, I leave you with a cute picture of one of our kitties!

Do you have a burning question? What would you like to know? Send your questions to bobbie@budgetingwiththebushmans.com

Friday, May 11, 2012

How to Make Tofu (or Soy Milk)

My friend Tom showed me how to make tofu and I must say, I couldn't believe how easy it was! Tofu is something we rarely buy because of its cost, but now that I know how to make it I feel more excited about eating it!

Here's how you make your own. (The same process also makes soy milk. To get soy milk you simply stop earlier in the process.)

To get started you will need:
2 tsp nigari or Epsom salts (Tom had nigari. I will probably use Epsom salts until I can get nigari. Nigari has lots of good-for-you stuff in it so many people prefer to use it.)
2 1/2 cup soaked soybeans (only soaked, NOT cooked)
cooking pot
 2 cheese cloths
something to use as a tofu press

1. Soak 2 1/2 cups of soybeans in 5 cups of water overnight.

2. Rinse and drain the soybeans.

3. Put one cup at a time of soybeans in the blender with 2 1/2 cups of hot water. Blend one minute. Continue until all soybeans are blended.

4. Pour the soybean and water mixture from the blender into a pot. Boil soybeans and then turn down to a medium heat for 20 minutes. When they are done cooking, they will start to have a foam on top like this:

5. Lay your cheesecloth inside a strainer and pour the mixture through it. (What you've caught in your cheese cloth is called the pulp and you can make things like soy sausage out of it.) The strained liquid is now soy milk. STOP if you want soy milk and not tofu.

Pulp. If you aren't going to use it for soy sausage right away, freeze it.
SOY MILK: If you are keeping the soy milk and not making tofu, add some salt, sweetener and possibly vanilla or cocoa for flavoring to your liquid. Refrigerate immediately.

OK, back to tofu:

6. Heat your soy milk until it is at least 185 degrees.

7. Add nigari or Epsom salt with 1/4 cup of hot water. Pour slowly into the mixture to begin curdling the milk.

Pour slowly as you might not need it all. If you need more, simply mix more up.
8. Stir as you add until curdled. When curdled, it will look like this:

9. Line your tofu press with cheese cloth. Start scooping out the curds and putting them on the cheese cloth.

10. Once you've scooped out all the curds and placed them in your tofu press, put the lid on top.

11. Put something heavy on top to properly press it.

A great balancing act!

12. After 30 minutes, remove tofu. You can use immediately or store in container with water in refrigerator.

To learn more about making and cooking with tofu, I highly recommend my favorite cookbook, The New Farm Vegetarian Cookbook.

What do you think? Is tofu making easier than you thought it would be? Isn't it neat that the same process also makes soy milk?

I'm linking up to the Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways blog hop!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

How to grow a garden cheaply

I'm no master gardener, but I've been using the raised bed approach for a couple of years and I've found it to be pretty effective. Even though this is my primary method, I also plant edibles anywhere there is room in my yard, whether I am working in a raised bed or not.

The Square Foot Gardener tells you to use a mix of peat moss, compost and vermiculite. Of course, I try to never buy anything that I can get for free, so I make up my own cheapskate garden mix. It contains top soil that I beg off people doing construction, compost I make myself, and manure that I get from nearby animal farmers. Without these measures, it would be very expensive to get a raised bed garden going!

Let me show you some of the things I have growing. (We've only lived in our new place for about eight months so our gardens are not as developed as I envision them being in the future.)

Black currant bushes (8)

Strawberries (15 plants)

walking onions

garlic grass and garlic chives (among weeds)

cabbage, spinach, kale, swiss card, peas, carrots, turnips

lots of onions, broccoli, cauliflower

Some of these pictured plants are things I grew from seed, some I got from friends as plants, a couple I bought, and some I foraged for since they grow wild in my area. We also have wild mint, garlic, two apple trees, three lilac bushes and two honeysuckle bushes which are not pictured. Additionally,  I still have two more (currently empty) raised beds that I want to fill with peppers, tomatoes, melons, and squash!

Oh yeah! Indoors I have aloe vera, a banana tree, a tangerine tree, and shitake mushrooms growing. I will share more information on these indoor plants with you soon!

What about you? What's your favorite thing to grow? Are you a square foot gardener?

Friday, May 4, 2012

Cheap homemade wine

I debated a bit about posting this because I didn't want to offend my readers who choose to never consume alcohol. If this is you, please just skip this post and read about my next adventure when I'm writing about something that applies more specifically to you.


As part of my offer to help anyone with their budget, I'm currently helping a reader evaluate her spending. One of the things she was spending money on was wine. She said she felt red wine was important for her health and wanted to continue drinking it, but she wasn't happy with spending the money.

My solution? The four dollar gallon of wine!

Here's what you need to make it:

 2 frozen concentrate juices
4 cups sugar
4 1/2 tsp yeast
bowl/pot for mixing
gallon jug
rubber band
funnel (mine was missing, so I used a glass pitcher)

Mix together the ingredients in a bowl. Pour them into your gallon container with a funnel. Leave the lid off of the gallon container and put a balloon on in its place. Put a rubber band around the balloon to hold it on place on the rim.

Put your wine in a dark cupboard. The balloon will expand. Let it sit for about a week until the balloon is no longer expanding. Remove the balloon and rubber band an put the cap on it tightly. Now allow it to sit for another two weeks-one month.

Open and enjoy! My wine was SO good. It turned out quite sweet, so if you like a dry wine you may want to use less sugar in this recipe.

For this batch, I just used regular bread yeast. I learned later that its better to use wine or champagne yeast.  (If you do that, you might not need as much. You should check on your wine/champagne yeast packaging.)

In the summer, I plan to make this out of fresh fruit. I learned from a wine maker that if you do that, you must increase the sugar to 1-2 pounds per gallon! I will post more about my experiences with fresh fruit wine when I make some. We are currently growing black currents, apples, and strawberries so my wine will likely be from one of those things.

As for my missing funnel: No worries, I later found my funnel in the yard next to several "tools" the kids were using for their outdoor projects.

Have you made your own wine? Did you find it to be economical? Were you surprised at how easy balloon wine making seems?

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Vegan biscuits and gravy

I love biscuits and gravy. I thought B&G was a meal with no room for improvement--until my friend introduced  me to this amazing vegan sage gravy recipe. Not only is it tastier than my old gravy recipe, its easier to make too!

My whole family loves it! My daughter previously disliked biscuits and gravy (if you can imagine!) but she gave this recipe a try and it made a fan of her. The taste is like a mix of turkey gravy and white gravy. It is SO good.

Don't let the color fool you. Best. gravy. ever.

Here's how you make the gravy:

(One of the best things about this gravy is you can add the ingredients in any order.)

1/4 white flour
2 TBS nutritional yeast
2 cups any kind of unsweetened milk
1 tsp sage
1 tsp granulated onion
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
2 tbs butter or butter substitute

In a saucepan on medium-high heat, throw all the ingredients in and stir the gravy with a whisk until it thickens and is lump free. Isn't this an easy gravy recipe?

I have made this with several kinds of milk (including cow's) and also several kinds of butter and butter substitutes (including coconut oil). It is a great recipe and has been a crowd pleaser every single time.

For the biscuits, you can use any kind you like. If you don't already have a great biscuit recipe, we love these herbed whole wheat biscuits:

2 cups whole wheat flour
5 tsp baking powder
2 tsp thyme
2 tsp rosemary
1 tsp salt
5 TBS oil or butter
1 cup water

Bake at 450 degrees in a muffin tin for about 15 minutes or until brown on top. (If you've never made biscuits in a muffin tin, you are missing out! You won't ever roll them out and cut them again. Just drop the dough into each muffin spot and you'll be amazed with the results!)

I forgot to take a picture of my biscuits before putting the gravy on them, but here is a picture of someone else's muffin tin biscuits:

Photo credit: Chris Winters
Does your family eat biscuits and gravy? If so, what's your favorite B&G recipe? Do you eat them for breakfast, lunch, or dinner?

Monday, April 30, 2012

Baking soda toothpaste doesn't work for me

You probably remember me raving about how clean my teeth felt after trying homemade toothpaste.
Now that I've been using it for a little over two months, I've noticed its making my teeth sensitive. I kept asking my husband if he was experiencing the same thing and he kept saying no . . .  .until this week.
So, back to our old natural, store-bought toothpaste! :(

Photo credit: Walterrrrr

I think I'll keep the baking soda toothpaste for deep cleaning and whitening, but use it no more than once a month. Here's some of the reasons why:

  • Baking soda has made my teeth feel very clean. When I run my tongue over my teeth, it is squeaky clean like I just came from the dentist.
  • The baking soda does a great job of whitening naturally.

Besides the very important teeth sensitivity, here are other things I didn't love about my homemade baking soda toothpaste after two months of using it daily:

  • The bathroom sink became covered in an oily residue. Because I switched over to the paste instead of the powder, there is coconut oil residue in our sink. Not a huge negative, but it definitely made the sink harder to clean and keep clean.
  • My breath wasn't feeling fresh over time. I've read other homemade toothpaste users say they've also had this experience. Even with the mint, my breath wasn't as fresh as I would've liked.
  • Brushing with baking soda made me really thirsty. This is probably due to the saltiness of the baking soda. The bigger problem was I brush my teeth before bed, which would make me drink lots of water in bed, which would make me have to get up more in the night to go to the bathroom. I found this annoying.
Now, I'm not saying I've given up on the idea of homemade toothpaste. I've been reading lately about the benefits of Xyitol and the concept of re-mineralization. But, for now, I'm going to put perfecting my baking soda free homemade toothpaste at the bottom of my to do list.

So, those are my homemade toothpaste adventures. Hopefully they were helpful to hear about. Maybe some of you already knew I would come to the conclusion not to use baking soda daily on my own. Maybe some of you are using baking soda daily and loving it. Either way, I'd love to hear about your experiences!

What happened when you used baking soda as toothpaste? Have my experiences deterred you from trying it?

Friday, April 27, 2012

Homemade lemon-lime Gatorade

Here's a drink I make for my kids when they are under the weather or in need of electrolytes. My kids love it and request it frequently. It tastes just like store bought lemon-lime Gatorade. Here's what you need:

1/3 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 tsp salt

Put the sugar, salt, and lemon juice in a regular sized pitcher. Fill the rest of the way with water.

That's all there is to it!

Do you make your own electrolyte drink? Does your household have a special "sicky" drink?

Thursday, April 26, 2012

What should I do about medical insurance?

Photo credit: PeacockParables.com
What should I do about medical insurance? 

By far, this is my most common reader question. My family is very fortunate that my part-time employer provides medical insurance at no cost to me. I feel like my family does a lot to insure our own health by eating well and living a healthy lifestyle. Unfortunately, even if you take great care of yourself, you just never know what the future brings.

I'm not an insurance expert, but here are some insurance options that might work if don't have employer-provided affordable coverage:
  •  Look up insurance agencies in the phone book and get quotes. For a while we used an agency from a company who shopped around for the best quote. It was great because that one agent could give us at least five good options that she could provide. I also loved having that agent to call with questions or concerns. The coverage was surprising affordable too.

  • Check with the local hospitals. Sometimes hospitals also have their own health plans that are affordable. We've had this kind of coverage as well. Of course, you'll want to make sure any coverage you get covers major medical and catastrophic stuff--not just regular doctor's visits.

  • Carry a high deductible. If you have a six month emergency fund and are mostly needing insurance for catastrophic purposes, consider carrying a $5,000 or higher deductible. This can prevent you from going bankrupt if you have a serious medical issue arise. In this scenario, you'll probably want to rely on health clinics for routine care or minor injuries.

  • Consider all alternatives. One of my favorite blogs, Stacy Makes Cents, did a great post about alternative plans. She mostly talks about faith based plans, but there are also other kinds out there. 
  • You may qualify for state insurance, especially for your children. Check with your local department of social services or their website. You may be surprised at how high the income guidelines are!
I hate hearing that some of my readers struggle to insure themselves and their families. This is a struggle that my family and I can absolutely relate to. It makes me angry that medical care costs so much. Sometimes it seems that there aren't easy answers when it comes to health insurance.

What options have you used to insure your family? Have you ever had to go uninsured? Are you aware of insurance options that I didn't mention? 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

How to Clothe Your Family for Free

You may remember from my budget, I do not budget any money for clothes. How can I clothe four people for free? Its not as hard as you think. Here are the things we do that allow us to get clothing using no money.

  • The main way we get clothing for free is through clothing swaps. We have done them formally through homeschooling or other groups where everyone brings in old clothes and swaps them for clothes they need. We currently do them as part of a group we meet with weekly.
  • We also have a system with many friends where they pass clothes to us when their kids outgrow them and I pass mine to someone else. Passing bags of clothing to friends is fun.  My girlfriends and I also have a clothing bag that we continually pass around, taking out what we like and putting in what we don't need. When we see each other we point and say "Hey! That looks great on you!" I love seeing our family's old clothes being put to good use.
  • I know I've mentioned this before, but another way I get clothes for free is to help people move, clean, or have a garage sale. Although I never formally ask, the people I help always give me lots of free stuff. Another strategy I've used is to hit garage sales at closing time and offer to help clean up. People are usually exhausted and are glad to give me stuff just so they won't have to deal with it.
  • My mom picks up used clothes for the kids pretty regularly. Grandparents and other relatives are a great way to fill in the clothing gaps that occur.  If, like us, your kids don't play with lots of electronics and they aren't into whatever the hotest toy is, then that leaves room for clothing as gifts. (If you specify that you prefer used clothes, you're likely to get even more!)
  • We take old items that we don't want to the consignment store regularly. (This includes clothes, books, and anything that's cluttering up our house.) Then, I use the credit to get "new" things we need. Right now we are getting lots of credit at the consignment store because our $13,000 house came with LOTS of the previous owner's stuff. So, we take that stuff in for trade-in credit. :)
  • If you do drop some money for clothes, try to buy out of season.  Even better if you can combine this method at a trade-in consignment store. For example, bring them clothes they need this season and make your store credit go further by "buying" clothes that are going out of season and thus 50-75% off.
  • Many thrift/consignment stores I've found have free boxes where the clothes didn't quite meet the standard in one way or another. These are a jackpot, as far as I'm concerned. I pick up anything my kids can wear or will be able to wear in the future.  (Mending is often required.)
  • If you shop thrift stores, do it when there's a sale. A thrift store near my mom's house is one where everything costs a quarter. On their sale days, (usually at change of season) they give you a sack and the sale is as much as you can stuff in a sack for a quarter! Even though that's not technically free, its pretty stinkin' close!
Photo credit: Brian J. Matis,San Luis Obispo, CA
There are a couple of tricks to keep in mind to make this free clothing stuff work:

Store it. In our garage, we have tubs of clothes that are too big for the kids.  Every season change, I pull them out and then figure out what we need. I trade in their out of season clothes in order to get any needed items.

Stitch it. If your not a mender, taking free clothes will turn you in to one. Many people get rid of clothes when all they need is a button or a patch.

Say it. There's something magical that happens when you let people know your needs. It didn't take long of me telling people that I'm open to free clothes before the clothes started finding me. So many people have stuff that they want to get rid of and they are happy to give it to someone who will use it!

So, can you do this? Do you have a group who you can swap clothes with? Have you asked around at all the thrift store to see about their sales and free boxes? Do you have a consignment store that allows you to get store credit?

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Our new piano

Hi all! We've been busy as we enter into the last month of our homeschooling school year! We've also been doing a lot more playing outside, gardening, etc. I'll share some garden pics with you soon.

In the meantime, I wanted to show you my newest freebie. We got a great piano from another homeschooling family for free. My husband and daughter are learning to play, so its great that we now have something for them to practice on. Even though our house is small (850 square feet), we made room for the new piano in the living room.

Our living room previously had an entertainment center with a TV on top, which we kept around for the purpose of watch DVDs even after we gave up broadcast TV several years ago. We decided to get rid of the TV and entertainment center to make room for the piano. Here was our living room before the piano:

The corner piece must go

This stuff must be moved to make room for the piano
Even though our living room is now a little more crowded, I'm very happy that we decided to get the piano. I've noticed my kids stop to play a little on the piano every day without any prompt from me. I think the piano makes all of us strive to be a little more musical.

Our FREE piano

The bookshelf and dresser found a new home
I also really like having our bookshelf so close to the couches because it feels like a built-in reading nook. The couches now both have a window directly behind them which makes for great access to natural light in the daytime when we sit on the couches to read or do other tasks that require light.

Do you have a piano? Did you get it for free? Do you think mastering a musical instrument is important in the homeschooling/self-sufficient lifestyle?
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