Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Personal Growth

Big Rig Jig by Mike Ross

I grew up with a wasteful attitude. I didn't know it, I was American. I lived life big, always wanted the newest and best of everything. Shopping used and recycled meant poor to me. I can remember ducking my head whenever mom wanted to shop at Goodwill just in case someone from school would see me. The word handmade was usually followed by the word "crap" when I was younger as I saw homemade gifts as cheap knock-offs. I stupidly thought as a child that people only move up in this world. Once a solid middle-class girl, now I am a struggling lower-class artist.

With age comes appreciation though. I live in a tiny house with a walk in closet for a nursery and an oven that is older than sin to cook on. One of our built-ins used to be a window and it never got properly sealed so if I forget to spray it with bug repellent I sometimes have the pleasure of fending off a line of ants that comes in the cracks. Eventually I will caulk it myself but at the present time I don't have money in my budget for even that.

My mom still can't believe I manage to buy groceries for three, diapers, and formula on a $300 per month budget. Sometimes I don't think I believe it either. The key to that is actually making sure to buy only what you need and NEVER waste. Single serving casserole dishes are a huge help as well as having access to a large freezer. I almost never buy meat at full price and instead make sure I get to the store early enough to have first pick of the sale items and then I can put them in my sub-zero freezer when I get home. After graphing my monthly food expenses I found that between non-obsessive coupon clipping, shopping sales, saving scraps, and doing the eCoupons through Safeway's website I can save myself an average of 30% of my bill. Potatoes that sprout no longer look like trash can liners to me. Shredded, soaked, and frozen between wax paper will save that bag of spuds and give me a side dish for breakfasts.

Recycling is not some lofty concept for me anymore. I can't afford new canvases to paint on which means I definitely can't afford a new frame to put it in. Instead I frequent Goodwill, the Arc, and other thrift stores. It feels better to only spend $5 and walk out of a store with 2 canvases and frames that fit. Then I watch out for free sample quarts of paint in the papers so when I redo the frames it costs me nothing but time. I make it a goal to only fill a bag a week with trash so the landfills aren't as filled by me. I started using Chickory in my coffee too which saves me a few bucks a week. Heaven help the world if I don't get my coffee.

The other day a friend of mine called to say he was moving and to see if I wanted anything from his house that he wasn't going to take. The old me would have scoffed at the food that wasn't directly from the supermarket, anything I already had, or something that I might need to wipe the dust off. I would have taken the office chair I'm sitting in and that's about it. The current me however took everything and then blushed as I said thank you. It still feels weird sometimes to take "handouts" but I just remind myself that it's better that I use it then it get tossed out. "It's not greedy if you use it, it's thrifty" I keep telling myself.

Never again, I promise myself, will I walk by a penny on the ground and kick it further into the street. Never again will I use a freezer bag once and toss it out because it has condensation droplets inside. For the days ahead; I hope to be thrifty while leaving a smaller footprint on the planet. It's not just necessity anymore. I feel a passion for living small and being within my means. Life is more rewarding when my waste is less.     :)

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