Since I began writing this blog, our family has made it our motto to live simply. Let me tell you, it hasn't been easy.
I struggle with deciphering what is a true need and what is a want. Is is wrong to want new or new to us 'things'? An excuse can be made for every purchase. Some of the things that I struggle most with are:
... cutting food costs.
... making myself instead of buying with regards to clothes, diapers, certain foods etc.
... doing without certain tools that are costly, like a large electric frying pan or hand blender.
... putting my needs on the shopping list.
So in trying to live simply, I have come to the conclusion that cutting food costs at all cost is simply not worth it. I don't do the coupon thing. It is time consuming and most of the products are non-foods (processed) and contain grains of some sort. I do use coupons for things like shampoo and cleaning products, though. But again, I only use coupons if it isn't a hassle to obtain them.
Our food is expensive! Eating grain free is difficult to do on a budget. It is time consuming, too. I can't give my kids a bowl of cereal for breakfast and be done with it. I have to bake them something. We usually bake banana or pumpkin bread in a 9x13 pan, in the evening, in order to make breakfast quickly. We eat a portion of bread smeared with natural peanut butter, a bowl of fruit or a smoothie and sometimes an egg or cheese. It is simple food, but costs more than a box of cereal and milk. It is healthier, too. I bake mostly with almond and buckwheat flours, both of which are highly nutritional. We consume a lot of fruit in this household, which is also worth mentioning. So in order to live simple, we make it all from scratch, eat natural products and keep our meals simple. Living simply with regards to food means spending a little more, but on real food. We go to the grocery store with a calculator in hand and try to get as much as we can for our budgeted amount.
My second bone of contention is making vs. buying. I am quite handy, but I have my limits. I often have the good intention of making things myself, but don't get to it.
I have purchased material to make my boys some new pants, but have yet to sew a stitch. Out of four pairs that I intended to make, I have made one pair. I made Noah a pair of joggin pants with reinforced knees. They still fit and look great, but drafting a pattern is definitely not my forte. I was too cheap to buy a pattern. My boys are really hard on pants, not to mention skinny. I remember my brother at their age. He was skinny, too. Finding a good fit was really, really difficult. Tall and lanky runs on both sides of the family. Buying off the rack is difficult. My boys have long legs and are lean. If there isn't an internal maternity elastic, we don't buy the pants. If they fit the waist, the pants are generally too short. Making my own is worth it if I can find the time. I bought some nice material that works out to $7 a pair. I can tailor them to fit, add pockets or reinforced knees as I please. The problem is actually doing the sewing. I don't always make the time to sew. I need to simplify the rest of my day to make it work.
So living simply means making do or doing without. The kids don't have a lot of clothes, (nor do I) which is a good thing. I have less to wash, I know what they have and can keep up with the laundry. On the other hand, if they wear something good and I don't catch them it can be a disaster.
I often do without certain tools in order to live simply. My husband gets really upset about this, though. Our deep dish electric frying pan went to its grave over a year ago and we never replaced it. This proves to be a big mistake everytime hubby wants to do a large batch of scrambled eggs. When frying a dozen eggs at a time, you need to do it batches. This gets hubby upset. Noone likes cold eggs, or waiting when they are hungry and I am reminded that we need to buy an electric frying pan as soon as we can afford it. We somehow never have the money for it, so we do without.
Over the holidays, hubby made a huge decision to buy some new appliances. Living simply means spending little money on luxury, if at all. All of our appliances worked. The problem that we had with them was the amount of energy they consumed and how loud they were. The fridge was probably 20 years old (it was almond coloured and used 185kw/h a month). The dishwasher is likely just as old. It is loud, uses a lot of water and doesn't get the dishes very clean. A dishwasher is a luxury, I grew up without one and there were eight of us. It is a necessity for hubby, so he bought a new one that is energy efficient and hopefully quiet. It just needs to be installed. We need to pay someone to fix the hook ups. They are old, not the right size, and not safe. The third appliance to be replaced was our harvest gold coloured clothes dryer. Again this is a luxury for some. We haven't anywhere to hang out laundry and with the number of us, I don't think we could do without. So far, the new dryer alone is making my life easier. The clothes come out soft and virtually wrinkle free. I don't need to iron, so that is a big plus. Luxury or not, hubby did a great job picking out good appliances that save us money on water and electricity. They will help us to be more efficient in running our household and that is worth a lot to me.
My last struggle is with putting my needs on a shopping list. I take vitamins and they are expensive. I sometimes need a new bra or socks. I try to do without for as long as possible. Why? I guess it is because everyone else's need come first in my opinion. I can do without. This drives my husband wild. You should see my last pair of track pants. They were literally falling apart. Hubby bought me a new pair for Christmas. Vitamins are a must when preggers, so I won't argue with him. I wish it were simple to go out and buy them, though. Did you know that most vitamins use starches and corn products as fillers? Do you know how hard it is to find vitamins that are safe and affordable when you have to be on a grain free diet. I have to take everything separately because there isn't a prenatal vitamin that is free from gluten, corn, starches, etc.
So I have come to the conclusion that it is impossible to live simply. I strive to live simpler, do without and make do. My dietary restrictions force me to eat simply. Our financial situation forces us to make our own or to do without. I have also come to the conclusion that I can not really offer advice to others about living simply.
Although, this comes across as a pity post, let me assure that it is not. I sacrifice a lot compared to most on this continent, but the truth is that I still have a great life. I don't have to sleep on the streets, I sleep in our cosy basement. I don't starve, I eat rather healthly and we CAN afford to eat! We don't have the biggest, newest of anything. But we have a van that hold us all and runs. We have a house that is small, but quaint. We have a loving marriage and great kids. I have the opportunity to homeschool my kids and offer them affordable opportunities to learn, grow and socialize. I have so much to be thankful for that all of the other stuff doesn't really matter. This is my life.
I just hope that I do enough for those who are less fortunate. I wish that I could do more, make my dollar stretch even further. I wish that I could live more simply so that other could simply live. That is why I get so upset over my food bills. If I could eat cheaper food, I could give more to charity. We sponsor two children, but is that enough? We want to do more, but can't financially. I thank God for all of the blessings and pray that He will always provide. If we had to rely on the food bank, we would starve. There are too many foods we couldn't eat or we would get really sick eating what we were given. I count my blessings that we are so fortunate.