The kitchen is really starting to take shape and I’m excited to share the progress with you!
We got basic butcher block countertops from Home Depot and Trent cut them to fit. We oiled the bottoms with mineral oil and screwed them down.
That all sounds easy, but it was a whole Saturday and several weeknights. Welcome to building.
Then, I made a VERY strong black tea and brushed two coats on for a natural stain. The kids enjoyed being a part of this, and I enjoyed using something that wasn’t caustic and prohibitive for kids!
The final product was a little more yellow than we wanted, but we still liked it.
Then, we rubbed it with a few coats of hemp seed oil to seal it. Again, it feels good to use something that isn’t full of chemicals.
Trent looked at this expanse of countertop and almost tried to talk me into not having a sink “just like a dry cabin!” Usually, I’m all up for his crazy against-the-grain ideas, but not this one. Nope. I’ll willingly give up counter space for a big sink.
Then, Trent cut out the sink hole and we plopped it in! Trent was able to reclaim this sink after it was torn out of a remodel he was working on. It is so incredibly heavy! But I am so excited to use it and have a large sink.
Once I saw the sink in place, and the contrast of the pure white with the honey wood… I screamed! I can’t believe I will get to cook in this kitchen every day!
Then, it was time for the kid invasion! The sink made an awesome Barbie pool! Skinny dipping, of course, since Barbies never seem to have clothes on.
I’m excited to see such beautiful touches being added to the house. It seems to be going faster now, which gives us both hope.
Yes, we made our mattress. And it’s stuffed with straw, like pilgrims.
We knew we needed a new bed since Trent’s and my loft in the tiny house is smaller than a queen sized mattress. When we started looking at different mattress styles, we learned about Japanese futons. I loved how eco-friendly and simple they are, but I still couldn’t bring myself to spend somewhere around $500 on something I will lay on to sleep.
I’m not sure who came up with the idea of the straw mattress… probably Trent, since he comes up with all of our far-fetched ideas so far. When we realized we could possibly make a great sleeping surface for just a few dollars, we couldn’t NOT try it and see if it would work.
There isn’t much information about making a straw mattress on the internet, but I did find this blog post. Sometimes it’s just nice to see that you’re not the only person doing something. I sewed basically a large pillowcase of old sheets together. I think the dimensions are about 5’x6.5′. I re-enforced the top layer with an old hospital-style blanket that is thick and tightly woven.
Me, with my creation- the cover for the bed.
Then, we bought a very large bale of straw for $10. That was the only money we spent on the whole project. Trent fluffed up the straw, I put it in the cover, and Wade held it open for me.
Me stuffing the tick with Wade’s help.
Trent used a little punch to make snaps for the end. I’m not claiming to have made a great product here and the little flap on the end is super funky and looks like a old-fashioned pair of pajamas with the drop-seat bottoms. But hey, it seems to work and it’s covered with sheets the whole time.
Trent added snaps to the end
Then we were left with this funny lumpy mass. But I knew a few small people that could take care of THAT problem for me!
Funny lumpy mess
If there’s one thing my kids love to do, it’s JUMP!!! They had that thing flattened in no time!
Jumping it flat!
And here is the final product! We will be able to sleep on it for several months before we move into the tiny house, which will give us time to figure out whether we like it.
So how has it been so far? To be honest, it’s good, but it’s also a bit of an adjustment. Here are my pros and cons so far:
It smells like straw!
It makes me not want to stay in bed when I wake up.
It seems to be making my back more strong (There have been studies that prove that sleeping on hard surfaces helps to realign the back.)
You make a nest or indentation for your body at the beginning of the night and that feels strangely nice and primal
It’s simple, cheap, and compostable!!
The straw compresses a lot when you sleep on it. It’s not a soft, fluffy bed at all.
It’s a little extra work to fluff it up and to make a little nest at night.
We will need to change the straw from time to time.
Time will tell how we like it, but overall, I do like it so far. And you can’t beat spending $10 for a eco-friendly mattress!
We have been sleeping on the mattress for about 3 weeks now, and we still love it! It has actually helped reduce my lower back pain/weakness, which I have been thankful for! We each have a little “nest” where we sleep that is contoured to our body.
Ok, I know I’ve said it before, but I’m going to say it again. Plastic takes 1,000 to turn into dirt, folks. It is filling our landfills and polluting our oceans. It needs to be used moderately. Single-use plastic is so sad to me because it never has a chance to have a second life. Food packaging is the worst when it comes to single-use plastic, so this is why it is so important to evaluate this part of our life as a consumer.
Ever since I have become aware of plastic in my life, I have been trying to use less and less of it. I even stopped shopping at Costco as somewhat of a cultural statement– I want to be conscious of my plastic usage. I’m going to share with you some things I do to reduce my plastic consumption.
I don’t want you to think I am some zero waste goddess that never uses plastic, though. It is pretty much unavoidable to use some plastic. The point I hope to make, though, is that it is super important that we try to reduce our usage. My goal is to always be a little better than the year before.
This post contains affiliate links that earn me a commission at no cost to you. Read my disclosure policy HERE.
Use reusable produce bags
There are a lot of reasons I like reusable produce bags. First, they look cool. Second, they help reduce single use plastic consumption and garbage. Third, its just not cool to eat food out of a plastic bag. They are affordable and really handy. There are a lot of styles you can choose from. I bought these but I think if I could go back and choose different ones, I would get these or these.
Use reusable shopping bags
These really help cut down waste, and they are sturdier and don’t tear. Plus… they make you look super hip and cool.
Don’t buy processed food
Processed foods use so much plastic! It always amazes me how much they manage to use. The food isn’t good for you and the packaging isn’t good for the planet! This is probably the most important tip. If you can cut processed foods from your diet, you will drastically reduce your single-use plastic consumption, and you might find yourself feeling better too!
Grind your nut butter
Several grocery stores offer a on-site nut-grinding service free of charge. The store I visit lets me bring my mason jars from home, making it a waste-free situation! I always weigh the jars at home before I go. Once I’m at the store, I grind peanut butter right into the jars, then tell the cashier when I check out how much the jars weighed when they were empty. We eat a lot of nut butter, so it really helps cut down our plastic usage.
Use the bulk section
I make use of my reusable produce bags when I get beans and grains from the bulk section of the grocery store. Another alternative to this would be to purchase dry goods from a company like Azure Standard, where they often come packaged in large paper bags.
Lots of oils come in thick plastic containers, such as olive oil, coconut oil, and vegetable oil. A lot of times, these containers are also hard to reuse. By making lard, I am reducing my plastic consumption and giving my family a good-quality fat with lots of the fat-soluble vitamins our bodies need. Learn how to make it here.
I hope these tips help you get started on your zero waste journey!
Be sure to like my Facebook page for updates each time I post, as well as weekly photo updates on our tiny house progress! I hope you’ll join in our journey as we finish the last stages of our tiny house!
Ready for soup season? The beginning to any good soup is, of course, broth! Bone broth is a wonderful way of getting minerals and nutrients to your body. Bone broth has minerals, amino acids, and gelatin. These all promote healthy connective tissue and strong bones and teeth. Bone broth also is soothing to your gut and is a non-fibrous way of getting nourishment if your gut feels irritated.
This post contains affiliate links that earn me a commission at no cost to you. Read my disclosure policy HERE.
What is bone broth?
Bone broth is the result of boiling bones (and a few other things) with water to make a delicious liquid! The only difference between bone broth and stock is that bone broth is cooked longer than stock, has a different amino acid profile, and is more watery.
The cool thing about bone broth is that it is made from, well, basically kitchen waste. Here are the main components:
Bones of any kind, chewed steak bones, chicken carcasses, chicken necks, soup bones, chicken feet (they add a lot of gelatin, which is great for your gut!)
Vegetable scraps such as onion skins, zucchini tops, cores of hot peppers, carrot tops, etc.
There are endless add-ins you can throw in the pot to add more minerals and medicinal properties. Here are just a few to get your imagination going:
Turmeric fresh or powdered
Herbs such a rosemary, thyme, or sage
Soy sauce or Coconut Aminos
Crockpot– I use the crock pot because it’s simple and I feel safer about leaving it going when I’m gone or in bed.
Stock pot– This is the best method to use if you have a lot of bones and want to make several gallons at a time.
Instant pot– This is the quickest method, taking only 3-4 hours.
How to Make Broth
Alright, it’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty. But trust me, this isn’t hard and you definitely can do it!
Put the bones in your pot. Experiment with how many bones you need to make a good tasty broth. I’ve found that one chicken carcass per crockpot full of water is a good ratio. If you are doing a big stock pot, you might want two or three chicken carcasses. This time, I’m using chicken necks.
Add veggie scraps. I am using onion skins and ginger root.
I added turmeric powder and kelp granules for extra minerals.
Put the lid on and cook:
In the crockpot, put on low and leave for 12-24 hours
In the stockpot, bring to a boil, then reduce to low for 12-24 hours
In the instant pot, cook under high pressure for 2-3 hours, let pressure release naturally at the end.
Once it’s done, let it cool, pour the broth through a strainer into a large bowl.Taste for saltiness and add salt as needed. It’s always better if your helper is grumpy and tired, too. Just trying to share tricks of the trade, y’all.
Pour into jars or any container you have. I use half gallon mason jars. Refrigerate for up to a week. Mine is being kept company in my fridge with 20 pounds of pig fat to render into lard and gargantuan onions!
If you freeze it, make sure you have only filled your jars 1/2-3/4 full, otherwise it will expand and you will have a bunch of cracked mason jars. Don’t ask me how I know…
I remember when I got my Costco membership. It was a cold and rainy winter day when they snapped that notoriously grainy picture and printed it on a card for me. The kids and I needed something to do that day and I couldn’t wait to walk all over their wonderland and be wooed by their bright lights and flashy packaging.
So, month after month, I filled my cart with food fortressed in plastic. It was even healthy food. Spinach, avocados, frozen fruit, bananas, peanut butter, and whole chickens.
Opening my eyes to ethical buying
My friend Laura told me one evening over wine, “The clothing industry is killing people on the other side of the world. The dyes on our fabrics are polluting their waters and the sprays for the cotton crops are ruining their health.”
I watched the documentary.
My friend had just opened my eyes to the world of ethical buying. It blew my mind that you would care about where your stuff was coming from. She made me wonder what else was broken in our commercial world. I was on a mission.
I bought some fair trade clothes* and started going to the thrift store more.
Then I had my vegan phase. I realized how most commercially raised meat animals are treated: Cages, feedlots, crappy grain food, and antibiotics. Not only did I not want to be consuming them for my health, but also for the principle of the thing. We are here to take care of the earth, not abuse the earth and and animals created alongside us. I considered becoming a vegan, but settled on deciding to consume mostly grass fed, locally raised, humanely killed meat.
Then I realized plastic doesn’t decompose for 1,000 years. And that sea turtles get straws stuck up their noses*. The last thing that tipped me over the edge was that my county stopped accepting most plastic recycling. It was time to use less plastic.
Photo by Sharon Pittaway on Unsplash
It was about this point in my journey I was doing my monthly shopping at Costco and realized just how much freaking plastic packaging they use. It is so excessive. I had already stopped buying meat there because all I could think of when I looked at the beef section was cows cramped in a feed lot shitting on each other.
I decided it was time to talk to Costco and make them stop using so much plastic, gosh darn it. The customer service employee looked like he had practiced a compassionate, understanding look for people like me. But he didn’t seem to care about my mission, nor could he really do anything because after all, he was just an employee, not Cotsco itself.
As he suggested, I called “Corporate”. The guyot the phone cared even less. “I’ll pass this message on,” he told me.
“How can I know this is going to actually get seen? Will I get a call back or anything?” I asked.
He sputtered around a bit before telling me I wouldn’t get a call back and all he could do was pass my message on.
“Is this something Costco is thinking about changing? Do they realize this is an issue that matters to many people?” I asked in a burst of courage.
Again he sputtered around saying he didn’t know and all he could do was pass my message on.
But you know, I can’t feel mad at these employees, they really have no power over the larger machine. Costco won’t stop their excessive plastic packaging just because of my request.
In fact, Costco doesn’t need to change. They are who they are because they have sturdy 2-packs that you can lift with one hand. That’s the charm of Costco.
So I cancelled my Costco membership.
The cashier on my last visit told me, “You’ll miss it!” … and she’s right. I will miss the samples, the clean store, and the huge bags of Pirates Booty.
But I am doing what I believe is right. The best way to make your voice heard is to vote with your dollar. I’m going to give my dollar to more deserving businesses this year, like the local health food store and a CSA.
If we are going to bring rightness and justice to this world, the first place to start is with our shopping cart.
Ever since our oldest was born, we have lived on one income. Both Trent and I feel it works best to have me stay home with the kids while they are young, and we have prioritized making sure our life is affordable with Trent’s income. I’ve loved the time I’ve had with the kids, and living on one income has been totally do-able.
The amazing thing is that we really do feel rich! We eat delicious food, have clothes, are building a beautiful debt-free tiny house, we love each other, and we even have enough money to buy a few “fun” extras.
I want to share some tips for making end meet on one income. These are all things we practice on a regular basis and have found to really make a difference in our budget.
Cook whole plant foods from scratch
People often say that healthy food is super spendy, and it is if you’re buying pre-made food, such as bread, crackers, sausage, drinks, and stuff like that. But if you’re willing to buy whole foods and cook from scratch, healthy food is the cheapest food you can buy! I find whole foods to be super affordable for the bulk you get. My family eats a LOT of food, but we still manage to keep our grocery budget around $500 because I mostly buy whole foods. Here’s a list of foods I often buy:
These are all affordable, nutrient-dense foods that are also delicious!
Grow a garden
We eat like Veggie Kings in the summer and usually enough to can or freeze for winter. It’s really nice to have some home-grown food to eat in the winter and it eases our wintertime veggie budget. We usually spend about $20 on our garden and we get way more than $20 out of it!
We pick blackberries from our yard and freeze them (free!) and forage apples from a nearby orchard’s windfalls (free!) and that really helps in the wintertime. This year so far I have dehydrated a huge bag of apples and picked 7 gallon bags of blackberries! It only costs some time and elbow grease.
Broth is basically made from what would have been garbage: meat bones and veggie scraps. It transforms into a super nutritious liquid which makes amazing soup or rice! Everyone knows that soup helps stretch your budget, and when you make your own broth, you can make a soup dinner for just a few dollars!
Buy thrift store clothes
Thrifting makes sense on so many levels. It is easier on your budget, helps reduce waste, and it helps not contribute to the toxic problem of the clothing industry. I have also been very blessed to have been given most of my kids’ clothes, and I am very thankful for it!
Make herbal medicine
You can make a few simple medicines that are cheap, easy, and healthy that also save a you a little money! I make wound salve with lavender and plantain from my yard that takes place of Neosporin in our household. I make tea blends with bulk herbs, which saves us a load of money. I also make a few simple tinctures that boost our health for very little money.
No monthly subscriptions
We don’t keep a monthly subscription such as magazines, Netflix, Amazon prime, Hello Fresh. I feel like these type of things get forgotten easily, but meanwhile, your card keeps getting billed! If I do a free trial of a subscription, I always write on the calendar when I should cancel it so I don’t lose track of time.
I realize this isn’t for everyone, but camping can be a really wonderful way of taking a fun, memorable vacation and keeping your expenses low. We took a super fun vacation this summer boondocking for free on BLM land all over Oregon. It was a 5-day vacation and we only spent about $300, gas and food included! It was a vacation we’ll never forget.
Sunset in Christmas Valley, OR
Call utilities for discounts
I have successfully lowered my phone and internet bills by calling and asking for a lower rate. Sometimes they have a promotion or sometimes they seem to scrape a discount out of nowhere. It has surprised me every time how willing they are to lower my monthly rate.
Check Craigslist first
Before we buy any large purchase, we often check Craigslist first. Sometimes we find what we’re looking for, and sometimes we realize it’s just more cost effective to buy it new. But it’s always nice to make a informed decision and give ourselves the chance to find a bargain and save a few hundred dollars!
Share your money saving tips in the comments; I’d love to hear them!