Thursday, February 8, 2018

50 Ways You Can Create Less Waste This Year

  This past October I had a lot of fun working to live a zero waste lifestyle. Though I haven't been quite as strict since then I have still been making steps to live the lifestyle more on a normal basis. I guess I have been making steps towards doing that for a very long time but I just wanted to point out that I am still making progress. This is a goal but not a finished process.

 So, with it still being near the beginning of the year I thought I would list a bunch of different ways that we can create less trash this year. Maybe you would like to work towards the goal of creating less trash as well. If so, I would love to have you join me...

  1. Throw no food scraps in the garbage. Instead you can compost them, feed them to your chickens or various other animals or give them to somebody else who has animals and would gladly feed them your scraps.
  2. Use cloth napkins. It is easy to make your own. We really like the ones that I have made out of cotton polo shirts.
  3. Bring your own bags to all stores. I have discovered that in stores other than grocery stores they don't seem to expect you to supply your own bag but it works just fine. In some stores you actually get a few cents taken off your total for each bag used.
  4. Pack your lunches instead of going through a drive through.
  5. See what you can do to get less junk mail. This site has some ideas. I just signed up at this place but I have no idea whether it works or not.
  6. Make your own spray cleaner and put it in a re-used spray bottle.
  7. Drink tap water (or your own filtered water) and bring your own re-usable water bottle with you.
  8. Skip drinking pop/soda. It isn't good for you anyway.
  9. Bring your own cup to fill if you want to get coffee, tea, hot chocolate or I guess even pop at a gas station.
  10. Make food from scratch instead of buying pre-made heavily packaged food.
  11. Buy second hand whenever possible (though not food! ) and avoid all the extra packaging.
  12. Use handkerchiefs instead of tissue. I suggest making your own from old flannel sheets or pajamas or shirts.
  13. Save and re-use your wrapping paper until it is past that and you have to burn or recycle. Then use fabric pieces or bags for wrapping with.
  14. Buy food from bulk bins at your grocery store or health food store. Take your own containers, get a tare weight on them and then fill them. I guess you can also do that at the deli counter but I haven't tried that yet.
  15. Make your own deodorant.
  16. If you want to subscribe to something (a paper or a magazine, etc) do it digitally if possible.
  17. Mend your clothes and make them last as long as you can.
  18. Make your own salad dressings. I haven't been doing very good at this and I would like to get better at it. I saw this dressing recipe and would like to try it.
  19. Bring your own cloth produce bags to the grocery store. I still need to make some for me so that is a project in my future. If that sounds challenging to you - check out this simple tutorial.
  20. Get your eggs from your own chicken coop or from a local farmer and re-use the cartons over and over again. (Take them back to the farmer for him to use.) When they are finally completely worn out you can compost them or start a fire with them.
  21. I want to try out making a bees wax cloth wrap to use instead of cling wrap. I use cling wrap quite rarely but still I would like it to be not at all.
  22. Bake your own bread and skip the plastic bag that comes with store bought bread. It really isn't that hard. And it tastes so good!
  23. Make your own tortillas too. Again, they taste so much better!
  24. Buy your milk straight from a farmer if possible in your own glass bottles that you can use over and over again. We are so thankful that this is available to us - both in being able to buy cows' milk and my parents giving us goats' milk.
  25. Make your own yogurt and skip all those little (or big) plastic containers.
  26. Make your own toothpaste.
  27. Skip the dryer sheets and the fabric softener. Generally they really aren't needed. The smell they provide is unnatural and gives many of us headaches anyways. I think they do help a little to cut down on static cling but if you line dry your clothes you never will have issues with that and when you use the dryer just try to not over dry your clothes and then it will usually not be a big problem. I have been meaning to try making wool dryer balls again, this post tells all about them for an alternative.
  28. There are alternatives to buying shampoo and conditioner (which pretty much always come in plastic bottles). I personally have used the no 'poo method for years and have been fairly satisfied with it. You can read about how I do it here.
  29. Use bar soap instead of liquid hand soap and you can use a lot less plastic packaging (and save a fair amount of money). I like to get homemade soap that is not packaged personally.
  30. Use rags instead of paper towels. You can make them from old towels, cotton t-shirts, etc.
  31. Use bar soap instead of shaving cream. An electric razor is another way to avoid using shaving cream.
  32. I found that I could buy toilet paper in bulk and also not packaged in plastic at a local paper supply store. All the packaging now can easily be recycled or used for fire starter, etc.
  33. I personally prefer methods that create no waste for dealing with my menstrual cycle. Here is how I made cloth pads. I also use the Diva Cup.
  34. I have tried to make ketchup before but it wasn't successful - here is another recipe I have found. I think I might need to try it and hopefully I can stop buying plastic bottles with ketchup in them.
  35. Use cloth diapers. I haven't done this for many years but I was glad to do it when I had babies.
  36. Use cloth wipes too. Simply having a set of wash cloths for this purpose only that you get wet before you change their diaper works wonderfully. Just wash them with the diapers.
  37. Say "No" to unneeded freebies that businesses offer.
  38. Skip wearing make-up. I know this isn't desired for many but I am happy with life that way and it saves money and time as well as not creating trash.
  39. Turn old clothes into quilts or rag rugs.
  40. Can your own food in season with re-usable canning lids.
  41. Make your own sprouts.
  42. Buy food in bulk. We actually buy quite a few things in 50 lb. bags (wheat, rye, oatmeal, popcorn, rice, etc) which are generally nice paper bags that can be re-used/recycled. We then store it away in containers and eat on it throughout the year. This is only a good thing when you actually use what you buy. We do. We are quite careful not to overbuy and waste food. I also buy my cheese in 40 lb chunks which greatly reduces the amount of cheese packaging that I have to deal with.
  43. But your animal food in bulk. I am still wanting to figure this out for our cat and dog but for the chickens and rabbits this is working wonderfully. It saves a lot of money and I have no waste as I can bring back the bags that they put it in to be re-used. 
  44. Use baking soda for scrubbing sinks, tubs and toilets.
  45. Any plastic bread bags or zip lock bags or whatever sort of bags - wash them and re-use them over and over and over. Except I don't re-use ones that have meat in them. But I try whenever possible to put meat in containers rather than bags.
  46. Make your own underwear from old t-shirts. I have also been wanting to try making bras but haven't done that yet. Here is someone else's blog post on how to do that.
  47. Skip the breakfast cereal (with all it's packaging) and eat homemade granola or oatmeal or homemade pancakes or eggs and toast (from homemade bread) instead. 
  48. Make your own laundry detergent.
  49. Make your own lotion.
  50. Skip out on using paper or Styrofoam plates and cups whenever possible and just keep handy camping gear and such like that you can use instead.

There are way more ways to reduce our trash use than that but at least it will get us started. :-) By the way, nearly all of these ideas will also save a fair amount of money as well. It is a win-win!

Monday, January 22, 2018


  I have been thinking about neighbors a lot lately. We are blessed with some of the best neighbors a person could wish for. But though I love the ones that I know there are still a lot of people on our street that I do not know and some I haven't even met. I would like to change that. That is one of my goals for this year that I can make some measurable progress in getting to know and showing love to my neighbors.

   I have been thinking about some Bible verses about neighbors and figured I would share some with you. While I realize that the Bible clearly teaches that our neighbor isn't just the people that live next door or in our neighborhood - it is whoever should cross our path - I still think that our physical neighborhood is not a bad place to start as we try to follow these verses....

Romans 15:2
"Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. "

Proverbs 27:10 and 14
"Do not forsake your friend and the friend of you father, and do not go to your brother's house when disaster strikes you - better a neighbor nearby than a brother far away."
"If a man loudly blesses his neighbor early in the morning, it will be taken as a curse."

Matthew 19:17-19
"Why do you ask me about what is good?" Jesus replied. "There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments." "Which ones ?" the man inquired. Jesus replied, "Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother, and love your neighbor as yourself."

Romans 13:9 and 10
"The commandments, "Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not covet" and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule; "Love your neighbor as yourself." Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law."

Galatians 5:14
"The entire law is summed up in a single command; " Love your neighbor as yourself."

It is my desire to truly get to know my neighbors better this year.

Why do I want to know my neighbors?

  • So I can truly love them the way the Bible says I should.
  • So I can share the gospel with them.
  • Because it is fun.
  • Because it is very helpful to know your neighbors - to be able to help and share with them and they do the same for you. For the neighbors we do know and have known through the years this is truly a wonderful thing.
  • For safety's sake. If we know each other and a little of what is going on in each other's lives we could see and prevent a break-in or something like that. Also in emergency situations of various sorts it can be super helpful to know your neighbors and be able to help each other.
What is my plan for getting to know them?

  • I am hoping to host a neighborhood party this summer. We will probably see if our super sweet next door neighbors want to co-host with us.
  • When we have the party I plan on hand delivering the invitations and trying to meet people in the process.
  • I hope to have our neighborhood party early enough the we can then afterwards invite them to come to our 4th of July party as well.
  • I am thinking that maybe we will do May Day baskets for the whole neighborhood this year.
  • Inviting people that we do meet and feel at ease with over for a meal on a more one on one basis. I especially have the goal of making that happen with our next door (seasonal) neighbors on the other side (on the one side we have gone back and forth quite a bit.)
I am looking for more ideas on how to get to know and develop deeper relationships with your neighbors. If you have any suggestions please let me know in the comments!

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Homemade {Colorful} Cleaner

Lately I had really wanted to have a spray cleaner in every bathroom (before I had been carrying one around to each one but I wanted a little more convenience) so I went looking and found that I did have some extra spray bottles saved. Yeah! I use spray bottles over and over again and have at times rescued empty ones from the trash after cleaning at the church building. I have hardly bought any spray cleaners for years and years.
    Anyway, I quickly put together some white vinegar, rubbing alcohol and water and had them all ready to go. I just lately discovered the nice addition of rubbing alcohol. It helps clean mirrors and windows nicely and also dissolved some sticky stuff. I was working on making labels for them when Aaron came along and wondered if he could "color them". Since I was working on the labels I assumed that is what he was talking about (and I think that was his intent) and I said sure and went off to teach Megan a piano lesson. He didn't finish labeling them but then I looked over and saw that he hadn't just colored the labels - the cleaner was all colored too. Food coloring at work.
  He was pretty tickled about his project and making my natural cleaner not so natural anymore. He thought they looked just like store bought now. Oh my silly boy!
   They seem to still be working fine but I will be a little more careful where I use them for the time being.
   Do you make your own spray cleaner? What do you use?

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Priorities, Family and Doing God's Will

Our precious children
This Sunday, Ken and his Dad were watching the Vikings/Saints game and Mara and I joined them for the last minute or so of the game. Though I am not really into professional sports (Ken has been so happy to have his Dad move here and watch games with him) it was fun to watch "our team" win in such a dramatic way.

  But something I enjoyed much more than the game (I am a people person after all) was seeing a brief interview of Case Keenum the guy who threw the football. They were asking him what he thought about this moment and I loved his response. I couldn't find the exact quote but basically he said that this winning moment was 3rd on his list of great moments. 1st was when he gave his life to Jesus Christ and 2nd was they day he married his wife. It brought tears to my eyes that in an emotional career high like he was experiencing he was still able to remember what his right priorities were.

  Priorities can be challenging and it is something I have been thinking about lately. We are getting ready to host a Retreat at church at the end of February and the topic this year is centered around the family. As I have been thinking about that to prepare my mind and also helping to get decorations made and various other things ready for the Winter Retreat I have thought about the various priorities that many people have concerning God and their family.

   I think there are some wrong concepts out there concerning raising a family and serving God in a big way. It seems like some people think that they are called to ministry (whether it be going to the mission field or working here at home) and so even if they have to "sacrifice" their family in the process that is what they need to do. And I don't think they truly feel like they are sacrificing their family but I know that some kids that have been left in boarding school while their parents go to the mission field often feel quite a little sacrificed. Or let's bring it a little closer to home in these modern times - A wife who is left home so very often while her preacher husband goes off to preach at yet another camp or rally or is just gone nearly every evening leading this or that Bible study or counseling somebody. She can feel rather sacrificed. Especially when all that time apart from your spouse and with others leads to adultery -which I have known of happening far more than I care to think about. When any parent is involved in "ministry" so often that it causes the children to be shoved aside I think those children often feel and end up being rather sacrificed.

  I am not the only one who has seen these issues - others have too and I am noticing that sometimes there is a big pendulum swing. They don't want to happen to their family what I mentioned about so they vow to care for their family and make that their top priority. Sometimes they start leading a rather reclusive lifestyle and simply focus on their home with no outward focus at all. The problem is - family shouldn't be their top priority, God should. Don't get me wrong, family ranks super high on the list but our life isn't about our family (at least not for Christians) it is about God and seeking and doing His Will. When we read scripture we can clearly see that taking care of our family (1 Timothy 5:8), Loving our spouses and carefully training (Proverbs 22:6) and caring for our children is God's will. So we can follow God with all our heart and give our lives to His service (doing whatever He should see fit) realizing that in whatever we are doing if we have a family it is God's will that we love and care for them too.

 God does not ask us to do two different things that don't work together. In the Bible (which has in it God's revealed will for us) we find that it is God's will that we share the gospel with others (Mark 16:15 & 16, 1 Peter 3:15-16, 2 Timothy 1:7-8, etc) and we also know that we need to love and care for our family. Those have to be able to work together. We don't just choose one or the other (unless we do choose to stay single for the purpose of being able to devote our time to God without any distractions which is perfectly okay though not what God has planned for most people) - they can go hand in hand.

  The Bible clearly gives directions to husbands and wives in Ephesians 5:22-33 and many other places as well. The husband is to love his wife like Christ loves the church and the wife is to submit to and respect her husband. I don't think that if a couple is following this scripture (and others like it) that either spouse is going to feel sacrificed or neglected.  1 Peter 3 also is a great chapter that addresses marriage relationships. Ephesians 6 has some good verses about raising children. The book of Proverbs is also full of advice concerning raising children. Raising children to love Jesus Christ takes time it isn't done in just a few minutes or even a day here and there.

   I hope I haven't just rambled on and on and not made sense. This is something I feel passionately about - that we as Christians were put here for a purpose and that is to seek His will and to do it and to glorify Him in everything. He has given us the job of sharing that Good News with others. If we are blessed to have a spouse and children it is also His will for us to love and care for them and train up our children. I fully believe that these two activities can both be done.

  I believe that working together with our spouse we can in fact accomplish more for the sake of the gospel. I believe that working with our children (even when they are little) we can find opportunities to share the gospel. Our families can be an asset - not a hindrance. When we can serve God together it causes all of us to grow and is a bigger light to shine to share the Good News.

   Here are just a few ideas of things we have done or I have seen others do to spread the gospel  along with your family.....

  • Invite others into your home, it could be just for a meal where you visit and encourage, it could be a Bible study or a time of prayer. We have also been blessed to have people come to our place to use our area of the river for baptisms.
  • Write. Letters, e-mails, blog posts, etc. These can be done with children around and sometimes they can even join in. These are opportunities to share the gospel and to encourage.
  • Help at a Bible camp. I have seen many families that go together to help out at camp.
  • Help at an church event. It is much easier to do things with my children's help than alone.
  • Serve at a homeless shelter. The whole family can help.
  • Sing together and for others.
  • Serve others together - you never know what opportunities you may have to share the gospel with those you are serving.
  • Spouses working together to do counseling.
  I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic!


Friday, January 12, 2018

Our New Youtube Channel -Let Me Tell You About Jesus-

My son Jonathan has been working on learning how to edit videos and create YouTube channels so lately he has been recording a song at our morning music time. Mara has been working lately so she hasn't been in many of them. We still have a lot of room for improvement but Jonathan decided we couldn't wait until we were perfect to start sharing.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Seeking to Simplify - 2017 Recap and Ready to work on 2018

In 2017 I made the goal of getting rid of 5 things every day (Monday-Friday) and cleaning out/sorting through a space every day (Monday-Friday). I am really happy to report that I was indeed able to get rid of the 25 things a week that I had wanted to do. I actually did that plus a whole lot more. That means I got rid of well over 1300 items! Some of them were small - a dried out marker counted. So did a letter that I had been saving. So each item didn't always make a real noticeable difference but some of them did and together they did.

  I didn't quite manage to go through a space every day, Monday-Friday all year long but I came very close. I ended up only lacking a couple of weeks worth of spaces. That doesn't mean that I don't have cupboards, shelves, drawers and closets that don't need clean out (we do have a lot of "spaces" when you think about it) but they are in better shape than if I wouldn't have made that goal.

  With getting rid of stuff I have heard people say two things "You'll regret getting rid of that later" or "You'll never miss the stuff you get rid of" I have decided neither of those are always true. I am so happy to have gotten rid of most the stuff and I don't even remember much less regret getting rid of the majority but I have been missing something the last couple of days. I decided to get rid of some snow pants that were to small for my children and as some children have come over to play in the last couple of weeks without proper snow gear I have kind of regretted getting rid of them. I do still need to look through our stuff some more though because maybe I have another pair stashed somewhere. Or I could just keep handy some extra sweatpants that they could layer on. Now I am wondering if I should keep the boots that Megan has outgrown - just in case????

  I made the goal of selling one item a week and I think I did double that goal - which was nice. Most of it came from have a garage sale and then craft sales. I would have loved to triple or quadruple that goal but I don't think that happened.

 Just having the mindset of not buying anything to bring in but always looking for ways to bless others with our excess or make some money off of it was really quite fun. I also really love how having less makes areas so much easier to clean. I am not a minimalist yet but we are working that way. :-) 

 When making things for our craft sale this fall we bought nothing to make things with. We simply used what we had on hand except for picking up some free pallets for making signs with and picking evergreen (for free at a friends).
 It was nice to be able to make some money with things that we already had on hand.
As far as other simplifying goals. I had hoped to go through 5 photo files on my computer each day and delete things that we didn't need. I did very well at the beginning of the year on that project and then took a big break through the busy summer. I did make progress however so that we good.

 I also planned to empty my e-mail in box every day. That went much better but then I go lazy on that too but yesterday I got it cleaned all out again so we have a fresh start on that project.

  I do truly love living a bit more simply. I am still working to get even better at this. So, I think last years goals will continue on for this year and hopefully they can even more become habits.


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