November 09, 2012

Our Simple Life~ Living on Less and Loving It!

We made the decision a few years ago to simplify our lives. We didn't have a specific goal, just to downsize here and there. People often ask, how we did it.. Well, it was a long process. Here is a little summary.

 In March of this year we decided to move off grid. Off-Grid means not getting our electricity (or for some, water) from public utilities. We had been talking about it for years, just kept saying, someday... well someday came, even if we weren't ready we had to make a first step or we would never get to where we needed to be. We have a generator system for electricity when it is needed. The summer was a trial to see what our needs and wants were. We had planned to use the income from a new job to build a solar bank by fall, but the job was short lived and replaced with a part time income, so our plans have been delayed and we stay on the generator.

Laundry is the first thing that comes to mind when others ask us about electricity. We have a regular top load washing machine. We wash one, maybe two loads a day. We run the generator and use that time to charge and use our laptop and phones and any electrical appliance we may need ( toaster or food processor for example). We have decided that when this washer breaks down, we will invest in either a wringer washer or a bicycle powered washer. We have learned to live with out a refrigerator and we actually prefer it. We have a cooler on hand for the things that need to be cool temporarily, such as yogurt for breakfast and store bought eggs. We also shut off our freezer. It would be great to have back on for food storage, but it is not a necessity at the moment. We do have plans for that with the solar bank. We have a lamp we run with the generator and we have oil lanterns. We do plan to have  incandescent lights on the solar grid system. We do hot water the old fashioned way. I looked into a few electric instant hot water systems, and we may still do one. We do plan to have a boiler on our wood stove, and possibly use passive solar for summer use. Till then, we make do. Our generator runs us about $100 a month, depending on our use. Its far more than I would like to spend, but it gets us by for now. We discussed connecting back to the grid, but we would rather put our funds towards a solar bank and not the fees associated with re-connection. We use wood to heat and wood and propane to cook with.

We have also simplified how we eat. Feeding a large family is not as hard as I had first made it. It just took some training! I recall when I was pregnant with my 6th child, our food budget began to scare me. We had just moved into a higher cost area, and our income stayed the same. That sent me to my friend Lisa, a couponista. I was soon transformed into a coupon queen. I did this for about 5 years. I think I saved about $7,000 my first year. A little less the second year and I stopped tracking after that. What I do know is that in 2008 our household grocery budget for 3 adults and 6 children was about $500. We now have 2 adults and 9 children and we budget $700. I no longer coupon but we eat very simple, inexpensive healthy meals. For example for dinner tonight, we had black bean salsa and tortilla chips. The meal for all of us was about $7. Breakfasts are oatmeal, which costs about $2 for the meal.

Another way we simplify is by homeschooling. I have heard some would be home schoolers say they would love to, but just cannot afford to. I know for us, we save money. All my children go to the same school. No driving from place to place, no missed days of work because school is cancelled or a child is sick. No fundraisers for this or that, no over priced school photos and no crazy back to school supply lists. We buy our supplies when they are on sale, and stock up. We use what we find deals on. We use FREE. The internet is one basic expense, the resources are unlimited. We use the library, trades and pass along books. And of course real life presents some of the best learning opportunities! I think the #1 reason my family is so close is that we actually know each other. It has been a blessing in so many ways.

Clothing a family is another daunting task. Twice a year we buy everyone new socks and underwear and shoes if needed. 90% of our clothing is donated. We take and and all clothing donations, (friends, freecycle, craigslist etc) pick out what we can use and pass the rest along to other families. I actually love doing this as do the children. We shop yard sales and thrift stores for what we need to supplement. My two oldest boys are the same size, and if I have learned anything about raising boys, its that their pants have a short life span. I have been lucky so far to find second hand, but this winter, they will be getting brand new and very durable pants. For the girls, I plan on sewing some dresses and skirts for them. We keep 8 outfits on hand per person, this keeps laundry on task. We wear our clothes more than once if they aren't dirty (some are better with this than others).

We drive one vehicle, although we do need two. Our family van is a wonderful vehicle but the gas mileage is not. We hope to have a second vehicle to run errands and travel to work. We buy used and pay cash.

We use the Dave Ramsey envelope system to budget. I recommend it if you do not already use it. I even saw a great app on Pinterest today. Its free and It looks secure. The paid version has the ability to link bank accts, but I prefer the free version, esp since I don't use banks. You can check it out here

Living on less doesn't really mean suffering. I do get that sentiment a lot. But simplifying our lives has brought new blessings. We have more time for self education, we spend more time as a family. We still have our struggles, especially when the economy has reduced our income, but I know we can survive on very little. It may not be everyone's goal for living, but I do suggest that everyone use these guidelines to prepare for emergency. Over the next few months I will be posting more on how to expand on these topics and many others.

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  1. I knew you all were working on living off the grid, but I am in awe! You all are doing a great thing. Most people probably want to say they can't afford it, but I think it really comes down to fear of the unknown. Fear that you have to live without something you have used for years. I think this is even the case for me. I think about living off the grid and living without certain things. It would be a giant step.

    At any rate, we work toward less reliance on the city or community. We work toward using what we need and living simply. It is a process which will take a lot of discipline.

    1. It was a bit of a leap. I wish we had been able to do a few things differently, but I know, if we had waited, we would have never taken the first step.

  2. Good for you! There's a house on the next road that has a small wind turbine now. They've been paying very little for power...of course there is the cost of the wind turbine...but over a few years everything will work out. Solar panels seem like a good plan too! Simplifying is such a good thing to do in general because life actually seems less complicated! I'm SLOWLY working towards it, but I don't think we would ever go off the grid...I do have our power bill down to $65 though! ::wink::

    1. off grid, you could ideally keep everything you already have, you would just have to produce enough energy for it. There are several people in your area who use water power. By the house we had in Sebago, one lady generated enough for her and she sold back to the power co.

  3. I loved reading this as I hadn't realised you were off grid ( I get your blog via email). I look forward in hearing more of how you manage everything ~ I am intrigued by the no refrigerator ~ do you do a lot of canning? How do you keep meat?
    Thanks for posting!

    1. We do not have a perishable food storage. We buy and use meat sparingly, I hope to can deer this winter. I really didn't like having a refrigerator. It was usually full of sloppy left overs and condiment bottles. I actually enjoy not having one!

  4. Just wanted to say hello! I am a homesteading, homeschool, simplified mother of four. I love your blog. We too are LDS. Southern Texas is our home and we love the freedoms we are blessed with. I must say I would hate giving up my freezers full of food storage. I hope you like canning....?

    1. Welcome! I am learning to can. I do want to have our deep freezer run on solar, if anything so that I can keep ice cream on hand! But I would also like to have a mix of both, canned food storage and frozen. I have this concern, of the freezers failing and losing all that was in them.

    2. Loosing my freezers full is a fear of mine as well. I do have a plan to check them every single day. We also have a generator and gas should we loose power. In that event I will be canning my guts out with all power sources I can cook with. I do a ton of canning and my blog name reflects my canning life. I love making new connections. Melissa


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