Living Simply and Efficiently
I recently purchased a new book, Simply Living Well by Julia Watkins. This hard cover book is a guide to creating a natural, low-waste home. The book is filled with great ideas and recipes on how to reduce what you consume and throw away. But it got me thinking about how we live. What are we currently doing that is living efficiently and reduce what we take in and what we discard?
About 30% of our kitchen waste is recycled through composting. I have written about this before (see post here) and we put every single peel, pit, skin, eggshell and other non-cooked fruits, vegetables and flowers into the composting garbage can.
Grass clippings, tree branches and other brown material is also composted here on the property. This significantly reduces our waste that goes to the City’s landfill and dump.
All the luscious rich fertilized soil goes back into the yard~the garden, the orchard and all the bedding areas. Giving back to the land is very rewarding.
If you do not compost, please consider doing so. There are many containers on the market that make composting a breeze.
The City of Phoenix has a recycling program so we separate our garbage into separate bins for pick up once a week. Cardboard boxes, paper, plastic, glass and cans are separated from the trash. In our kitchen we have 3 cabinets with pull out garbage cans~one for composting, one for trash and the other for recyclables. Does your community have a recycling program?
Gardening and Chickens
Growing our own fruits and vegetables reduces the number of trips we take to the grocery store and farmers market. With the exception of summer, our garden is in production.
What we don’t eat, or what has grown past its prime, goes to the chickens or into the compost bin. Growing your own vegetables and fruit is immensely satisfying too.
Our chickens provide us with the most delicious eggs. In order to increase egg production, we will soon need to get some more chicks as our flock is aging out. It is joyful to have these feathered friends and they, too, help reduce our food scrap waste.
This summer we are spending more time up at our mountain cabin. If we continue to do so, then it may be time to plant a garden and set up a composting system there as well.
Preserving Food and not being wasteful
Growing up in a family of 7, my mother never wasted a thing. For example, leftover stale bread was turned into bread pudding. I am sure that philosophy is a result of living through the Great Depression and also having a limited budget.
Because I was raised with a frugal mindset, it’s hard for me to throw good food away. I just made a big batch of mole chicken and after eating it a few days in a row, I will freeze the rest in individual servings for another time. Same with the big pot of chili I just made. How nice to have a meal ready, especially on those busy days where cooking for dinner is the last thing I feel like doing!
Abundant harvests from our garden or the orchard are canned and preserved for use during another season. From fruit preserves to tomato sauce, these are either canned or frozen. Though preserving food does take a bit of work, the rewards outweigh the effort. Opening up a jar of summer tomato sauce in the middle of winter, is such a treat!
Line drying here in Phoenix, especially in the summer, is a quick and easy energy efficient task. Not only does the sun acts as a powerful disinfectant but also has natural bleaching powers. Nothing smells better than slipping into freshly washed sheets! Even my children notice when their sheets are washed and line dried.
Our local electric rates increase significantly over the summer. Not running the dryer and other large appliances is an effective money saving strategy too.
I recall a time when daily and sometimes more, we would drive through the local Dutch Brothers and get our coffee. The staff knew us by name and their fun, upbeat vibe was a plus to our cup of Joe. Unfortunately, that coffee location closed, but fortunately for us we removed Dutch Brothers as a line item from our monthly budget.
Now we make our coffee here at home using my favorite Nespresso machine (currently 38% off a used one on Amazon!). The coffee pods get recycled through Nespresso recycling program. Making our morning coffee at home not only saves money, but we are no longer using paper cups, plastic tops, time and gas to drive to and from Dutch Brothers.
As I mentioned in a blog post about my kitchen, there is an industrial shredder placed sitting in our kitchen, which some people think is odd. See that post here. Daily, the excessive amounts of junk mail is shredded and added to the composting bin. The shredder keeps the paperwork stack down on the counter and it gets recycled!
Manage our Utilities
A few years ago, I was asked to give a lecture to a group of 7th and 8th grade students about the recent utility (electric) increase and how that rate hike affected our neighborhood. Of course, I didn’t even realize we had a rate hike. So in order to provide an intelligent presentation, I did a deep dive and thorough analysis of the cost of electricity.
What I discover is that we, personally, are not on the most efficient or advantageous utility plan. Once I understand that, then I start paying attention to our electric usage. By changing our behavior slightly, we save quite a bit of money. Over time, we save even more.
The moral to this story is 1) understand your utility usage; 2) investigate the best plan for you and your family; 3) by making reasonable changes you can reduce your usage and save money.
Now, during the warmer months (trust me, air-conditioning bills can be ridiculously expensive here), we monitor our large appliance and air conditioning usage from 3:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Water here in Arizona is a precious resource. Rates increase especially in June, July and August. By using flood irrigation provided locally, we are able to deep water the orchard and yard at a low annual cost. The well that we re-instituted many years ago, handles additional yard watering in a cost-effective manner (see that post here).
Room for Improvement
Like with most things in life, I can certainly improve and lessen my waste. We have too many things that need to be sorted, organized and donated. My hope is to reduce the items in each room by 50%. Lofty goal, but this is an ongoing effort.
Are you familiar with Marie Kondo’s organizational tips? I believe she has (had) a Netflix show where she shares her organizational philosophy. See where I use Maria’s tip in organizing my master closet here.
Other Ways live Simply
I’d love to live in a place that doesn’t require driving everywhere. Phoenix is more car-dependent than other cities, but during the cooler weather I do try to bike and walk more. No one wants to bike or walk when it is 116 degrees.
In addition, I need to assess my use of cleansers/detergents and investigate more eco-friendly cosmetics.
So what are you doing to live more simply and efficiently? Please share any ideas so we can all get better at this!
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This post shared with Between Naps on the Porch Metamorphosis Monday #614