Category Archives: Reduce Spending

Minimalist / Project 333 Shoes

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So I am a big believer in reducing the number of shoes and clothes that my family own and this was in large part inspired by The Minimalists and Project 333.

There is a lot of tips and hints out there about how to plan your wardrobe, capsule wardrobes, starting project 333 and the minimalist movement. I wanted to share with you my journey and today I thought I’d talk about my shoes.

When it comes to shoes, I wanted to really reduce them and I thought this was more apparent if I went for one set of shoes I always had available rather than having a set of shoes for each 3-6months.

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I had an overflowing shoe box of family shoes, plus shoes just stuffed in our hallway and then more shoes stuffed under our bed… most of which we never even wore… Yes I included the children in this downsize too.

So what stayed for me?

  1. Wellington Boots or Country Boots – we live in the country side and are often romping around fields and muddy puddles so these were a must in our household. I have country boots rather than wellington boots (or wellies as we call them but I’m not sure how to spell it so I went with wellingtons!) but either would suffice.
  2. Work shoes – I have to wear flat practical shoes for the type of work I do, so I have a smart pair of black flats. These can be worn with a wide range of outfits so aren’t just for work but still you get the idea.
  3. Casual trainers – I had a few pairs of trainers and I realised I didn’t need them all, I settled on my favourite pair and kept them. Unfortunately I didn’t have any plain black/white trainers which would have been more versatile and easier to fit into a minimalist wardrobe with a wider range of possibilities, so when these are worn out I will probably go down that route, but for now I love my flowery Vans and they are going to stay.
  4. Black Boots – I went with my flat biker girl style ankle boots as an essential as they add a funky edge to most outfits but are still practical, versatile and comfortable. I get a lot of wear out of these boots so they stayed.
  5. Brown Boots – I have a lovely pair of flat warm winter boots that are also funky and practical and so I kept these for cold snowy winter days a they are versatile, can be dressed up or down and I really like them
  6. Black heels – This is versatile shoe for dressing up for work or going out and can be worn with just about anything. I went with a pair of comfortable black court shoes.
  7. Stunning heels – I chose one pair of heels that make me feel really good and that I love wearing for special occasions, I went with my red heels that I absolutely love and couldn’t be a part from, these are my special ‘treat’ shoes but by no means is essential in my wardrobe but I just couldn’t let these ones go… guilty pleasure
  8. Sandals / flip flops – I actually don’t have a pair at the moment but a pair of summer flip flops or sandals for hotter days is on my allowed shoe list.
  9. Running / exercise shoes – Again I don’t have these in my wardrobe as yet, I usually just borrow someone else’s (thanks mum!) but I think this is another shoe most people including me, would need in their allowed shoe list.

This could be minimalized more or less to suit you, yes I could do without the pair of guilty pleasure shoes and could be more vigilant in my options, however for me this seems to be a good year round minimalist shoe list. I may adapt it in the future to suit changing needs or trends but what it has taught me is a certainly don’t need any more than 10 shoes in my wardrobe at any time and there is no point holding on to the large number of shoes  that I never or hardly ever wore.

The above list is comfortable for me at this time and  that it why I stuck to it, you could go more or less extreme to suit your own wishes. The point is to only have things that are valuable to you and I genuinely love and/wear all of the above shoes and that is key when you are making your choices. I think the key to my minimalist journey is to have numbers and tips as a guide such as project 333 but to adapt it to suit your own needs and values.

As for the children they have the following

  1. A pair of school shoes – smart black shoes which can have a variety of uses
  2. A pair of party shoes – they’re girls and they deserve a touch of sparkle too
  3. A pair of trainers – for my eldest that includes running trainers and casual trainers as she does a lot of exercise including cross country running (shoes get muddy and aren’t so nice for going out to hang out with friends)
  4. A pair of wellington boots – again same as me, country girls
  5. A pair of sandals – for hot days again, I try and get ones that are practical, comfy and pretty so they can be dressed up and dressed down.

What are your essential shoes? And what are your views or experiences of minimalism or project 333? I’d love to hear from you!

How can we protect the planet on a tiny budget?

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Today I pose a question to you all… how do we protect the planet on a tiny budget?

I have read and watched a wide variety of books and documentaries, on eco friendly tips, living off grid, self-sufficiency, minimalism, etc. all of which have been influential and inspirational sources of information and ideas… however during a conversation I was having, the question arose…. most of the people who are leading the movement and some stage had money (i.e. access to capital/investment).

Whilst there are lots of simple, small steps we can make to reduce the impact of our existing lifestyles, if we want to go mainstream into our eco values either through self-sufficiency or community initiatives… we need capital.

We need money to fund the land, invest in technology (sources of power and water) and much more….

Some have access to this source of investment to fund their eco homes and lifestyles, others choose to live above the law and I am not criticising any of these means, but I have access to neither of these options, and I don’t think I am alone…

What do average day to day families do? The families who want more intense options such as off grid living do when they have zero or very small capital, are working to pay off bills alone, and are unable to take the risks of doing things that do not fit with the law either for principle reasons or due to family commitments?

I am a single mum working part-time. I can not increase my hours as this would involve increased child care which I can not afford. My wage goes towards essential bills and servicing debts. My budget has been squeezed as much as is viable and I still can not seem to save any money each month…

I have no capital, I live in rented accommodation and all I own is the furniture within it which has little sellable valuable…

I am able to do a wide number of things to reduce my impact on the environment and I am well aware and striving towards this… but my dream is to live off grid ideally as part of a community of like minded people, but doing such requires land (costly) particularly land that I would be allowed to live on, access to technology (such as solar panels) and so on and I have no means of gaining  the funds to do this….

So my question is, how do people like me who are on a very limited budget step into the world of off grid living? Particularly in a way that provides a secure roof over my children’s heads….

I’d love to hear your tips, ideas and views on this discussion!

How to relax without electricity, tv or gadgets?

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On sunday I wanted a nice chilled out relaxing day. Lets face it I would be happy with this most days, but sunday in particular I was so tired! It was the kind of day where you want to just stay in your PJs and sit on the sofa watching tv all day long. But then I wondered about how I would relax when my off grid dreams come true? What could I do instead of watching tv, playing on my gadgets? What is laid back but doesn’t use electricity?

I had previously looked into entertainment options that don’t rely on electricity, but most required me to use my energy and that defeated the point of this day.

So on Sunday I decided to cope without my electrical gadgets and entertain myself in a nice chilled out way.

  1. Read – To be honest this is basically all I did on Sunday and realised its just as relaxing as watching tv. I rotated between a comic book (for when I felt really tired as pictures helped), a non-fiction book (this one was about living off-grid which fixed my google addiction) and a fiction novel. This surprised me, as although I like to read I usually think of it as quite a tiring activity but it wasnt.
  2. Simple crafts – I’m talking knitting, crochet, sewing etc. Something you can do whilst sitting on your butt!
  3. Music – By this I mean play an instrument. I’m not very musically talented but I found the ukulele quite easy to learn and like to sit down and play on that in an evening. Would work just as well on a lazy day
  4. Bake – I’ll be honest if I hadnt removed all the tempations of processed quick foods, I may have faltered on this one on sunday. I couldn’t be bothered to bake. But once I did I felt quite good. I baked a simple cheese and onion pasty but something like cheese scones would do. If you have a bit more energy than I did you might want to try and bake something a little mote complicated.
  5. Snuggles – lets face it snuggles and hugs make us all feel good. So if your family is around snuggle up and have a little chat together, if your on your own then why not spend time with your pet if you have any. I love sitting with my bunnies and having little cuddles. Heck if your lucky convince a willing friend or family member to give you a massage!

So there are five of my favourites, but im sure if you just comit to no technology you will all come up with lots of other things you can do to chill out without electricity.

Homemade / Natural Deodrant

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So as part of the FreEco Bus journey and my personal journey, it has also been important for me to consider how I will meet my hygiene needs in as eco friendly way as possible whilst still trying to reduce my dependency on money. As part of this I have used a lot of the eco alternatives, both shop bought and homemade.

Here are some eco options to consider and my experiences of them.

crystal-deodorant-travel-salt-of-the-earth-200x2506482Salt Crystals: The ones I used had no scent to them and were used in a similar way to roll on deodorant, except that you need to get you or it wet first. I didn’t notice any bad odor when I used these, but equally didn’t get that nice clean feeling or scent. They left me with damp skin which I didn’t want to dry off in case it rubbed of the salt. They were long lasting though and  they seemed to work ok, not great but ok.  I just found them a bit clumsy and uncomfortable.

Lush Deodrant: I haven’t tried Lush deodorant as I went straight from the above to the homemade alternatives as they are so easy to make, but I have used a lot of Lush products during my transitioning phase with each cosmetic and hygiene product that I use. I use them as they use recycled and/or compostable packaging and they try and reduce the use of chemicals in the products, don’t test on animals… the ethical list goes on. So if you are going to go for shop bought I recommend them!

Homemade Bicarbonate of Soda & Coconut Oil Roll On Deodorant: This is one of my favorites, but I think there are more eco friendly alternatives out there. I like it because it feels like a typical roll on pretty much, you can add scent if you want to but I prefer not too and it is easy to make. The bicarbonate of soda provides the deodorizing effect whilst the coconut oil moisturizes the skin. Simply keep an old roll on tube and when empty wash it out to put the homemade alternative into. Mix enough melted coconut oil (to fill the container when solidified) with 1-2 tablespoons of bicarbonate of soda. Then pour into your container and let set.

WP_20151218_004Homemade Natural Deodorizing Spray: This is my favorite for environmental reasons and is the one that I will likely keep, although I may vary it slightly over the years as most people do with homemade recipes. What I did was I kept a pretty old perfume bottle (use pliers to get the spray bit off) to use as a container but any spray bottle will do. Make a herbal infusion (or if you’re a bit lazy like me a tea) with bay leaves and scented herb, I used rosemary to scent. I also didn’t clean my perfume bottle out too much so a bit of that scent comes through. Then when it’s cooled pour the liquid into your perfume bottle and spritz on armpits. Granted it doesn’t last as long as the others and the wetness takes some getting used to, but I like this for the environmental benefits. I have my own bay tree and rosemary plants so I can make this completely from home sourced materials. Therefore it is the most sustainable form of deodorant that I have found so far. I tend to spritz it more often than I would traditional deodorant to make up for how long it lasts. Generally though it seems to work for general day to day use. You might need something stronger if you were doing something more intensive. Generally though I would just wash after those things… but if you can’t then maybe opt for the bicarbonate of soda method above?

I tend to be of the belief that if you eat a healthy diet and maintain good hygiene (i.e. wash regularly) you shouldn’t be too smelly. So something like the natural deodorizing spritz should be enough to give your body a little bit of help. I also oppose the use of antiperspirants as our body has evolved to sweat for a reason! So I really hope this post will give you some ideas to try out some new alternatives, and if one doesn’t work for you keep trying different options.

If you have any other ideas for eco options for deodorant please comment below, ideally homemade with local materials.

Water Conservation Attempts

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So this week I have been thinking about water conservation and sources of water.

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Fresh water is not an infinite resource

I know that when I get the FreEco Bus I want to be off-grid for water, so I need to carefully consider my land to ensure that there is a nearby stream that I could use or the likelihood of creating a good well. I will also need to consider how I will purify this water for consumption. I will also be trying to collect rain water as well. But right now, as a preparatory step for being off grid, I need to be focusing my efforts on water conservation.

Current Useage

According to a water calculation the average water useage per person per day is 150l. Our useage before being particularly concerned with water conservation was 102l per person per day according to a calculation I did (details are below). They suggested that this was as low as I could get it, but that wasn’t good enough for me. There is no way I can justify 102l per person to day taken from the environment. Imagine carrying that amount each and every day? So I needed to make some drastic measures.

Where is the water going?

The first thing I did was work out where I use water at the moment.

  1. Drinking – minor useage in comparison but still something to consider
  2. Cooking – including scrubbing muddy veg and boiling potatoes
  3. Washing Dishes – by hand using a washing up bowl
  4. Washing Clothes – A+ rated washing machine still uses a surprising amount of water
  5. Bathing / Showering – Usually share the one bath between us with medium level of water
  6. Hand Washing – Tap running
  7. Toilet Flushing – Often… kids ey?
  8. Brushing Teeth – Turn the tap off whilst brushing
  9. Watering Plants – House plants mainly
  10. Animals Drinking  – Rabbits and chickens water bottles and bowls
  11. Washing the Car – Rarely… it’s a mess. If so, couple of buckets
  12. Goldfish – In a tank currently that gets changed every 2-4 weeks

Goals and Changes Made

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Fresh water is not an infinite resource

  1. In terms of drinking water I haven’t really changed this nor aim to reduce it as a family we don’t really drink enough. So the aim is really to reduce our use of fruit juices and drink more water and herbal teas which can be sustained when we go off-grid.
  2. Cooking – Our use of water for cooking is minor, however I noticed that I would leave the tap running when cleaning vegetables which was wasteful. Now I use a salad bowl which I fill to a certain level and scrub my veg in that. I then keep the dirty water and use it water the house plants instead. This conserves some water and adds nutrients from the mud to my house plants. Win win really!
  3. Washing Dishes – Currently I am using tap water in a washing up bowl to wash my dishes which is a relatively good level of water useage and possible sustainable off grid. In the longer term though I would like to use rain water for this instead to get me used to collecting the water for use and also conserve a bit more from the tap water. In order to do this I need to source some more water storage containers as the one I have at the moment will no be enough.
  4. Washing clothes – Currently I am using my washing machine. The aim is to use grey water or collected water to wash my clothes and no longer rely on the washing machine. I am considering getting a hand crank washing machine and mangle instead to use collected water and save energy in the future.
  5. Currently me and my girls share a bath, well actually take turns as we can’t all fit anymore! This used less water than each of us showering individually, especially with the length of time my girls would take in there. However, in order to be off-grid we are going to have to be even more frugal with our water than that. It is likely to be a good old strip wash most days. To get used to this we are taking the odd strip wash now but not every day to get used to it. I actually felt surprisingly clean using this method, but need to work on the hair washing technique! Gradually we will increase this to be mostly strip washing with the occasional bath.
  6. As for hand washing, we only really do it when our hands are dirty so it’s not too big a deal. To reduce it a bit, if I’ve just got a bit of soil on them when I’ve been in the garden and it’s a rainy day then I’ve been a rather odd lady rinsing them in a puddle haha! I guess really what I’m saying is in the future I will be looking to use more rain water for this.
  7. In terms of toilet flushing I think this is the one I am most concerned with at the moment. I can not install a compostable toilet in my rented house (I will get one put in the bus though). It’s really hard to get out of the habit of flushing so much though. Currently I am using grey water from our baths to flush when possible and generally trying to operate the (sorry folks) if it’s yellow let it mellow technique. It’s taking a bit of getting used to but I think if I can get a couple of buckets for the bathrooms to store grey water, we could definitely start using mostly grey water for our flushing.
  8. For brushing our teeth I have started getting a small container full of water to rinse with which is making us more mindful of how much we use. It’s the equivalent of a cup of water most days now. Which I think would be continued, but in the future we would look at using rain or collected water for this.
  9. Plants are no longer using tap water, they are using grey water, washed vegetable water or rain water now which will be continued
  10. The animals are drinking a bit more rain water that I have collected now. I am introducing this gradually to make sure they don’t get unwell with it, but hopefully they will be drinking rain or collected water in the future.
  11. Generally I use two or three bucket loads of water to wash my car, I haven’t washed it recently but I aim to use rain water to wash my car in the not too distant future. I will let you know how I get on!
  12. As for the goldfish, eventually I will be looking to get a pond for him as I think he would be happier there and it would be better for the diversity of my land too (when I get it). For now though he is using tap water, but I am going to see about rain water next time he gets cleaned out.

The main things I’ve learned is that I’m going to need an awful lot of water containers, big and small to make this more accessible and possible. Also, a great way to conserve water is to imagine carrying it for the purpose you are using it for. If carrying 10 buckets (guessing here) to heat and fill a bath with sounds like hard work, you will find a way to reduce it!

You can get details on your home water use here: STWater

Where to start???

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So, I’ve decided to make my dream of creating the FreEco Bus Small Holding a reality… but where on earth do I start???

Honestly… I have no idea!

questionsAt the moment I have a rush of questions filling my head… How on earth do I convert an old double decker bus into a family home? Do I need planning permission to site the FreEco Bus on land? What about power, water, warmth, budget? What do I need to be self-sufficient?

But the most burning question of all is… Where do I start?

There is so much to sort out, so much planning, learning and preparation involved. I really just don’t know where to begin with it.

I’ve opened up a Twitter account in the hope that someone may have some useful suggestions on there and I sent an email to a bloke who played a large part in inspiring me to consider the FreEco Bus a legitimate possibility… I’ll post more on that later… If any of you have any tips then please let me know!

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For now though… here is a list of questions that I am considering:

  1. FreEco Bus Requirements – What do I want? Already converted/blank canvas/partly converted? How old? Driveable or not? Size? Design? Can I get one free? If not, can I get one for less than £2000?
  2. FreEco Bus Design – What living space do I need? How much storage do I need? Floor plan design? Retro/boho style (I know so practical right)?
  3. FreEco Bus Conversion – How do I convert a bus into a home? Electricals? Plumbing? Insulation? Walls? How will I install a bathroom and kitchen? How much time will it take? Can I learn the required skills to do most of this work myself? Do I know anyone who can help? How much would it cost if I need to hire laborers?
  4. Sourcing Materials – What do I need? How likely is it to source the required materials for free? Can I get the majority of things needed second hand? Where will I get them from?
  5. Land – Planning permission? How much land do I need? Where does it need to be? What facilities does it need on site or nearby? Type of land such as woodland / field? Should I buy or rent? How much will it cost? Can I make an arrangement with a local farmer/land owner?
  6. Budget / Time – How much is it all likely to cost in the worst case scenario? Can I afford to start this project? Have I got enough time to offer?
  7. Self-Sufficiency – What do I need to be self-sufficient? What level of sufficiency can I realistically manage? Fully self-sufficient / mostly / partly? What skills will I need? What equipment will I need? What can I grow? Planning a yearly crop? What about the food gap? Do I have the time to maintain the crops? What about livestock? Would I get more chickens? Would I get goats? What about their upkeep and requirements?
  8. Power, energy and water – What will my source of water, energy and power be? Can I get land with a nearby stream? Can I make good use of grey water and rain water? Would I want to be plugged in or collect water? Source of power and energy? What are the limits of solar panels? Storage of power? How much will they cost? What fuel source will I use for cooking and warmth? What are the environmental impacts of all of this and what can I do to improve this?
  9. Skills – Can I do this? How can I learn? Who can help?
  10. Downsizing and impact on family – What will the impact of downsizing our living space have on the children? Would we get on each others nerves? What about rainy and cold days? Will my children benefit and be happy with these changes?

There are probably much more than this scrabbling around my brain right now. But having a list like the above written down has made me feel like I’ve got a bit of a to do list going and I can gradually work my way through each question at a time.

I guess to begin with, the main priority with this project is to create a low cost eco home for my family… so I guess figuring out the land and the bus requirements would be a logical place to start… What do you think?

thinkingI don’t feel like this project should be rushed as I want to enjoy the journey and I think that if I take it slowly my family will adapt to this new way of life gradually rather than being thrown in at the deep end. I think it will also help us to learn and develop the skills needed to maintain this new way of life for us.

So here’s to taking one question at a time!