Sunday, February 27, 2011

Food Waste Friday on Sunday and our Garbage

Every Friday we are going to join the “Food Waste Friday” Bloggers and post what food is inedible from the week.  I feel frustrated when food goes bad.  We work really hard to pay for food; we have a combustion engine transportation system that gets it to our stores, and wonderful grocers who work hard on supplying the food.  It takes a lot of energy to get food from the ground to our plates, and it bothers me that at the last link on the chain of command that I have failed to get it to our family.  

The Frugal Girl invites us to share our waste, so we will be motivated not to waste it.  Please share your gripes, so that you will be motivated to eat those leftovers, cook appropriate sized meals, and not let those veggies get ignored in the bottom drawer.

This past week ended with ¼ of a container of egg salad for sandwiches, and a container of butternut squash soup that I had made with too much onion.  I didn’t realize that it had gone bad and added a ½ butternut squash and a sweet potato to it to take reduce the onion taste…oops.  It smelled so gross that I dumped it down the toilet before taking a picture.

It is incredible how little garbage you produce when you are conscious of your purchases.  We had an equal sized bag in the upstairs bathroom with diapers in it for the past 2 weeks and this is our kitchen garbage.

I have been collecting the silver packages to use for art, and a couple weeks ago used them at our local playgroup for the kids to make collage valentine’s day art.  I love simple toddler art!  Even though it is still garbage in the end, to reuse materials rather that buy new one’s at Micheals is more economical.  The kids don’t notice…it’s more about the process that the product.

Alas, since the internet is a great place where you get to display only the pictures and activities that you choose I decided to add a picture of the negative side of this project.  It is inspired by the Frugal Girl Kristin's quote "for those of you who think I am deceptively awesome"  where she showed pictures of her post vacation house with four children.  What a mess!  I loved it!  Here is a photo of our new kitchen that does not have a dishwasher that we so desperately miss from our old home in the Burn.  Since there is very little eating out, our litterless lunches, and batch cooking; if we don't keep up on the dishes it gets completely out of hand!  


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Home Cooking

One of the more enjoyable aspects of the compact has been making our own food from scratch .Its still the winter, so there is not a lot to choose from but we have gotten quite a lot better at making flour based foods. We have used our bread maker to the max; it is usually running once a day or every other day at least. We have made lots of dough, breads, buns, and so on. So, yeah, you’re thinking, you bread-maker-using cheaters! Do it the right way! Ummm, no thanks. The amount of time it saves using that thing is great, I would not have the time to knead dough, rise it, knead it etc…
Looks just like they came from the store! 

Baking keeps them busy, happy, and teaches them how to not rely on consumerism for everything! Make it yourself!
We tried some things that we didn’t really think of until we realized we had none, like tortillas and English muffins. Which were remarkably easy to make and turned out just like the store bought varieties. The kids have enjoyed helping us make stuff too. When we make tortillas, Hannah and Jillian have a great time rolling out their dough; it usually takes Jill the whole time to roll one and keeps her quite busy!

Erin has made us some nice desserts too. She has made some Danish pastries, cookies and other delicious treats! Its fun, rewarding, and costs a heck of a lots less, so go get your apron and a bag of flour and get to it!
The amazing sideways muffins!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Frugal Gifts and Entertainment (with lots of pics!!)

This past week we have been missing in the blogging world, yet we have continued to plug away at purchasing nothing new and trying to keep our food packaging to a minimum.

One thing that I learned from my nanny (grandmother) many years ago was to always look ahead and plan for your family’s needs.  She didn’t have much money growing up as a child or while she was raising her own children.  She taught me that Christmas shopping needs to done all year long, same with your child’s birthday, their friend’s parties, plus the numerous baby showers and wedding showers.  Hannah’s b-day is not till April but I have already picked up some used books, a terry cloth bathrobe since hers is too small and we are on the lookout for a new-to-her bike with gears.  I also picked up a Dora PS2 game for Jill’s b-day in July off freecycle this week, plus some used books at Boomerang Kids.  Because I wasn’t sure on which books Hannah already had in a series, I ended up with 6 that were repeats…so I wrapped them up and have two gift bags ready for the next couple birthday parties she gets invited to.

A blank canvas for Hannah to decorate
Frugal fun is also great for our family.  A large chunk our planned spending is for Hannah’s gymnastic fees, which leaves little in the way of weekly entertainment for the family.  This past month we were able to get out to the ski hill down the road to use our season passes, get out to Winterlude on the Canal and Jacques Cartier Park, attend a local winter carnival, and use our family pass at the Museum of Civilization that Jillian got for Christmas from her Aunt Heather (another awesome gift!)

3 steps before we all gave up!

Working with wire at the museum

We tend to do a lot of entertaining of our children at home this year due to being so far away from the city and the cost of gas.  We often bake together, snowshoe, skate on the awesome rink Adam made for them, toboggan, hang out in the playroom and we read books from the library  in the evening as well as watch internet free t.v.(super frugal!) and netflix. 

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins..yummy

Valentine's Day Cupcakes for Dad
Pink and purple sand for Jill to enjoy in her sensory table

Adam building the rink

The girls teaching their Maplea Dolls how to skate.
Very Canadian

to the lake

Trying to build a fire together

Spent my free time reading The Guardian by Nicholas
Sparks last week instead of blogging...oh well.

To those in Ontario, have a great Family Day Tomorrow!


Friday, February 11, 2011

Food Waste Friday

            Every Friday we are going to join the “Food Waste Friday” Blogger’s and post what food is inedible.  I feel frustrated when food goes bad.  We work really hard to pay for food; we have a combustion engine transportation system that gets it to our stores, and wonderful grocers who work hard on supplying the food.  It takes a lot of energy to get food from the ground to our plates, and it bothers me that at the last link on the chain of command that I have failed to get it to our family. 

The Frugal Girl  invites us to share our waste, so we will be motivated not to waste it.  Please share your gripes, so that you will be motivated to eat those leftovers, cook appropriate sized meals, and not let those veggies get ignored in the bottom drawer.

 While trying to use up our leftovers of pizza dough and the fajita filling I tried to make a fajita pizza on half our pizza for dinner.  This picture is a couple days after where we reheated it for lunch since it didn't get eaten for it's original meal.  I think Adam pulled off a piece to try, ate the meat off it, then we composted it.  Leftover leftovers=not a chance.

There was also a pear, a lemon and  a banana that no one would eat, so I threw it in the freezer for smoothies or juice at a later date.  As luck would have it we were the lucky recipients of a juicer on Orleans Freecycle this past week!  So we will save the forgotten fruit to make juice.  Although I do not wish for fall to come soon, apple picking with our girls is one of our favorite low key activities and now we won’t have to limit their pickings.  We will have frozen apple juice all winter long next year J

Share your food waste and let us know if you have been trying to follow the Frugal Girl's lead.
Have a great weekend

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Mend Don't Spend

Our family must be really good at sharing and taking turns.  We have each passed on a bug of some sort to each other and taken turns getting sick.  Wonderful.

Anyways, since we have been having a hard time posting consistently, I fall asleep and wake up at the oddest hours I wanted to share with you a few projects that I have been working on this morning.  A few years ago I would never had imagined that knitting and sewing would become a hobby, and it only came about because I wasn't allowed to play sports for a year.  Now I am just too tired and in pain to get out there and play hockey, soccer and rugby and these hobbies have stuck.

Here is some puzzle bags I made for our playgroup using the ends of my curtains that I hemmed.  I am trying to get away from using plastic bags for everything, including ziploc for snacks.  The girls received cute snack pouches from their Aunt Tanya last Christmas that I absolutely need to make more of.  Did I mention that I love homemade gifts!?

Next, is an upcycled tee shirt dress that I made Jill one afternoon.  Inspiration came from Cheri at I am Momma-Hear Me Roar.  I cut a bunch of tank tops that I really don't want to have to wear again this summer, and since I am a beginner sewer it did not matter if I make a mistake (or two, or three..)

At first she wasn't a happy camper    

A few minutes later she was all smiles

Lastly, is a sheer to put behind Hannah's curtains that I have yet to make.  It usually takes me months to get the motivation to get around to bigger projects since we don't have a space where things can be left out for too long.   Originally it looked reasonably ok, but not finished....then some mischievous quiet toddler who I thought was reading in her sister's room took her scissors to it.  Great.  At least she didn't destroy the pockets.  The pockets are to display "special" treasures Hannah finds in nature, like pressed flowers, rocks, and leaves.  I would like to put some of the material from the curtains around the edges but I don't know how yet.

Note: after yesterday's electricity discussion we ran out of propane for the kitchen fireplace.  The temperature is a cool 10 degrees Celsius and the kids are eating in their snowsuits this morning.  If I could I would drive to Florida today to warm my freezing feet!


Monday, February 7, 2011


So as it turns out, living in a log house in the forests of Quebec is an expensive endeavour. While we have the fortune of having great supplies of hydro electric power in this province, which translates into reasonable electricity rates, when you use thousands instead of hundreds of kilowatts, you have a problem. 

This eating area is actually cold, not even cool.
We knew moving here that the heating costs would be substantially higher than our previous home, a townhouse. The new place has baseboard heaters as its main heating source as well as a propane fired woodstove-looking heater in the kitchen (lowest level in the house) to keep the lower area of the house warm. This propane heater works well to keep the ultra-drafty kitchen reasonably warm. We also use a 1000W space heater that we move around the house as needed, an electric fireplace heater in our bedroom, and then the baseboard heaters do the rest. We have a wood fireplace in the main living room area, however, it is an old stone masonry fireplace with no installed blowers, so essentially, if you want to kick all your draft points into overdrive, you light a fire. The fireplace blows so much air out the chimney that replacement air has to come from somewhere and that somewhere is all the draft points. So in effect we cool the house by lighting a fire, so we don't do it all that often on really cold days. The house also has a lot of big windows which are drafty, too.

You can feel a small breeze from these windows

So back to my main point: electricity. We went from using about 15 kWh per day in the summer to a whopping 50kWh per day in the fall. Recently we got our latest bill for the winter months: 95 kWh per day! A shocking embarrassment. Now, we knew that the baseboard heaters would cost more to run but a 600% increase!?! We are doing all this stuff we can to live more responsibly and reduce consumption etc... yet we have this 6100 kWh bill for a 64 day period.

We decided to brainstorm a bit to figure out some simple and easy solutions to reduce our consumption. Here is a brief list:

-         Not use the electric fireplace in our room, instead, we use the electric blanket Erin got for Christmas. Erin is constantly cold in the best of circumstances, so winter here has been a bit tough for her in the temperature department. We used to have the electric fireplace on high all night (or whenever I would wake up sweat-soaked and turn it off) which would run about 8 – 10 kWh per night. The electric blanket should cut that substantially.
-         We have been setting all the thermostats down to about 15°C at night except the girls’ rooms.
-         We are going to go back to hang drying most of our laundry on the 3 drying racks we have
-         Setting the hot water tank down 10 - 15°C
-         Committing to taking shorter showers (pssst: Erin)
-         Replacing some 100 and 60 W bulbs in the house with some of the CFL’s we saved from our old place
-         Identifying and temporarily covering major draft areas
-         Erin made some draft baffles for the bottoms of doors (I need to do a major repair / overhaul of the weather-stripping on doors but this will be a bit more challenging, considering I cant buy anything new…).
-         Turning off the computer when not in use
-         Candles! Nice motif and kick off a pinch of heat.

So this is just a starter list of things we are doing immediately but there is so much more we can do.

My goal for the next billing period is to have cut our electricity consumption by 45% or down to an average of 52 kWh per day. I will be tough, especially if we get some more serious cold snaps, but I think, if we all make the effort and put on some sweaters, we can do it.

If you have some more neat ideas to save electricity of save heat energy in our home let us know! Send a comment here so everybody can share them and try as well!



Friday, February 4, 2011

Food Waste Friday

We have been keeping a close eye on what is heading into our composter and this watermelon is the only food waste from this week.  We looked into getting a juicer this past week off kijiji so we could use up all the left over fruits to make juice.  I am wondering if I could freeze the fruit that have bruised till I have enough to make a liter of juice?
We do this with our veggie's to make veggie broth after someone suggested it to us months ago.

Here is a picture of our first attempt at making the vegetable broth.  We haven't used it yet, but we've been told it is really good to cook your rice, quinoa and couscous instead of water.  My family loves white rice, and one day I will tell the story of my husband being a "vegetarian" when we met back in university which will explain why I am not such a big fan of it anymore!

Anyways, rather than adding more energy to produce tetra packs of veggie, chicken, and beef broth we are committing to making it ourselves from now on.  All we did was instead of throwing our vegetable peelings, and wimpy veggies in the composter we scraped them into a ziploc bag in the freezer to save till we were ready to make the broth.  We put the veggies in our slow cooker on low for 12 hours, along with water, salt, pepper and a couple of bay leaves.  Once cooked, strained the vegetables and were left with 4 liters of broth.

 So along with not adding more recycling to be processed we are keeping $ in our bank.  Appoximately $2.50 a tetra pack that we use about 6 a month vs $0 that we can use indefinately. Also, in the past few years I have had a hard time doing groceries because of fatigue and the strain in puts on my shoulder.  Lately without all the packaging I don't find it as daunting because there is little lifting of heavy cans and tetra packs.  There is always a silver lining to everything. Sweet.

Here is what I forgot to post last week, we were going to have pesto for dinner but when we went to use it realized that we had purchased a condiment without preservatives and it had expired 3 months prior..ewe.

Have a great weekend!  Hopefully we'll all get a good rest tonight so we can head out for a couple of hours at  Winterlude tomorrow.  Thank goodness for free entertainment in the Capital for 3 weeks!  We can pace ourselves and the kids can go back again (and again).  We'll have to remember our reusable mugs for hot chocolate with our Beavertail's so we don't miss out on their favorite snack too.


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A Treasure Hunt

After yesterday's post I decided to go around the house with our camera snapping pictures of the items that we have gotten for free or second (third, fourth) hand from various sources including garage sales, online, consignment shops, and friends.  I had also forgotten to mention yesterday the clothing swap that my friend Tonya had arranged last year that was a huge hit.  I was able to pull together a whole winter wardrobe at that event!  So here's so pics to inspire you to search, have a little patience and ASK around for what your family might need!

future gifts shhh!

Our trusty bread maker that I use for all things 
needing to be kneaded

the wok for Adam

Montessori puzzles

This is 1/3 left of the scrap paper I have used
for the last 5 years of daycare


1.99 basket to keep the markers,
pencils, crayons, glue and scissors ready
for the kids enjoyment

Wet Jet Mop

Used Ottawa

Used Ottawa super cheap

Boomerang Kids

various garage sales

Can you tell what Hannah's favorite past time /
excuse to not go to bed is?

Plasma car: $4 at Sally Ann's!

'Rainbow' play structure - $400 used vs $3000 new
plus, the cozy coupe was a brand new curb side find!

Castle my mom picked up used, but our kids didn't 
play with it...passed it on to our friend Malcolm
Note: Hannah's figure skates were $6 at Sally Ann's
and we leave them at Mac's so she doesn't have to 
remember to bring her skates 

Huge 18 foot trampoline (far left) from used Ottawa, we also picked 
up another free 12 foot one at the end of the year with an enclosure 
for Jill...the Diego one will need to be passed on as a gift to a friend's 
toddler at some point.

Wooden Kitchen Set for the Wakefield Playgroup

This is all just in the past 6 you can imagine how much has been picked up and passed on over the past 4 years since joining Freecycle.  We were also given a children's playhouse when we moved but unfortunately don't have a picture.  Plus, I forgot to mention all the larger items that our family's lend us instead of purchasing such as my MIL's Kitchen Aid mixer and food processor; my bro's Bissell to clean the carpets and furniture; and anytime we need an extra shovel, ladder, or wheelbarrow we head over to our awesome neighbour's instead of running out to buy something.  In turn everyone knows that if they need a lift, the snowblower, painting supplies, a bike, bike trailer etc., they know where to come to borrow one!