Wednesday, 25 November 2020

Changing how we buy food

 The other week I was doing groceries online like I normally do. We buy regular grocery items for our family of 5 plus 2 cats and a dog. 

Now I've noticed our weekly grocery budget creep up over the past year, normally sitting between $200-$300 per week (depending on if we need to buy big ticket things that week like dog food etc.) But in the past month or so our grocery bill has been between $300 and $350 which seems really high considering all the things we don't buy. If we weren't using cloth nappies for 2 kids and had to buy formula for our baby our grocery bill would be through the roof.  That online grocery shop resulted in me being angry and closing down the website to revisit it later in the week. I could not even fathom how low income people even survive in a climate with food prices so high and rents so expensive. We own our home and pay far less on our mortgage than people in the area pay for renting. 

Are groceries getting more expensive do you think? I think my family eats very simply, we cook at home, meat, veg and pantry staples nothing overly fancy.  

This has forced me to look at how we buy food especially as my family heads into a new chapter where our costs have to come down. 

Lets talk about it, how do you shop?Weekly? Monthly? In bulk? 

Have you noticed your food bill increasing this year? 

This is the start of a new series that I'll share with you how and if I can cut our grocery budget and still eat real food! 

Friday, 8 March 2019

How we manage financially on one income- Homeschooling in New Zealand

One of the questions I see a lot is surviving on one income, in particular homeschooling on one income. Its not just wealthy people who home educate, people on a very modest income can do it too. Obviously every situation is so different but I thought I would share how my family is able to manage financially on one income. Just for background we have 2 kids (almost 8 and almost 1), my husband and I and also 2 dogs and 2 cats. I am in no way a financial expert, just a mama who has found a way to make it work!

When I had my first baby almost 8 years ago we made the decision as a family for me to not go back to work, at the time we thought I would eventually have to return to work because financially we weren't earning very much. But we have made it work for almost 8 years. It has not been easy, at times it has been really hard but there are a few really easy things that make it easier to live on one income.

We shop once a month: Recently I started once a month grocery shopping, meal planning and an actual food budget. Once upon a time in the not so distant past we were the people who's card declined and we had to chose what to put back at the supermarket. When things became easier financially we were spending way too much on food, we went from one extreme to the other, with eating out, buying lunches and late night treats! I have found meal planning and shopping for an entire month helps us stay on budget and saves both time and money. It also means that we can buy in bulk saving more money and excess packaging. I estimate we save about $400 a month eating at home and shopping monthly.

We don't have paid TV:  It was a proud day for us when the TV man came and installed our paid TV service. I thought "Wow! We made it!" I never had paid TV growing up, it was just an extra expense that we could never afford. I saw it as a huge luxury. We were paying $80 a month to watch old re-runs and a couple of movies. A couple of years ago we cut the cord, we gave up on this thing I thought was a trophy of financial success and saw it for what it was, a waste of time and a waste of money! Now we have Netflix and watch any other shows online. Saving total about $65 a month.

We fix it, wear it out and use it up: Not just financially but also environmentally we are careful with what we buy. We fix things wherever we can and we use things until they are good and dead. I'm talking clothing, appliances, home ware, tools, furniture and everything else.

We work our butts off: I think there is no way of avoiding this section on a post about money. My husband is gone 12+ hours a day and has at times worked 7 days a week. Over the years I have made money while at home in various ways and I can do a post about that if you are interested in how I have made extra money while being at home with kids. My husband changed jobs about 5 years ago to increase his income too.

We live out of town: 6 years ago we bought our own home, we live about 40 minutes from the city so this means a long commute for my husband each day or to activities for my daughter but we save hundreds of dollars a week by owning our home instead of renting in the city. This is probably the single biggest money saver for us in our budget. We pay about half as much to own our own home as we would pay renting the equivalent house in the city.

We DIY everything!! I mean everything. I cut our hair, I cook dinner every night, I plan our homeschooling, we do all the housework, gardens, home repairs and maintenance everything. There is so much that we could and I would love to outsource, when I worked I would spend $80 on my hair every 2 months that's almost $4,000 in the time that I have been at home. Those are the kind of things I loved at the time but at this stage I don't miss them. Saving money is sometimes about sacrifice and what people are willing to sacrifice depends on the person.

We borrow, shop second hand before we buy: If you saw my post on 8 Ways We Afford To Homeschool I mentioned this about our homeschooling materials and resources. But it's true for our life outside of home educating. If we need something we ask around first, people have so much stuff now days and everyone is trying to Kon Mari everything so ask around for the things you need and someone might just have it. Pretty much all of our furniture expect our beds are second hand, things like sets of drawers are always at second hand shops and often you can pick up better quality things for much cheaper than crappy kit-sets.

We don't use disposable things (except toilet paper): Paper towels, disposable nappies, tissues, crappy kitchen sponges, wet wipes, make up wipes, cleaning wipes and everything in between are things we don't waste our money on. All of those things are used for a maximum of about 3 minutes before they are thrown in the bin. There are so many easy alternatives that are either free or at very low cost that can be used over and over keeping your wallet and the planet much happier!

We've learnt new skills: Gardening, sewing cooking, baking and budgeting were all very new skills I had to learn when I became a stay at home parent when I was 20 years old. Learning new skills has saved us a huge amount of money over the last 8 years.

We stopped buying stuff we didn't need: Things like magazines, alcohol, manicures etc. We cut our spending big time. Yes it meant getting rid of somethings we really enjoyed but in the beginning it really helped us see the things that we really needed and the things we really wanted. Spending money on an experience for the entire family like going on a day trip gave us a lot more joy than spending money on a magazine we would maybe read once. We still spend money on things that wouldn't be considered necessities but we are far more conscious of how we want to spend that money.

If we buy new we buy to last: I mentioned before that we DIY, repair, borrow or buy second hand but if we do have to buy new we buy the best quality we can afford. We try our best to not just buy things, rather we look at those big purchases as investments. My husband and I have been together 12 years and the first 10 years of our relationship we went through countless second hand washing machines, not to mentions the dozens of repairs to each one. 2 years ago with our growing family, and also a house renovation I had had enough of them contentiously breaking down, not working properly or flooding the house. So we did our research, shopped the sale and made an investment in a brand new washing machine. We bought one with a bigger capacity than we thought we would need because we knew our family would grow, and we bought one that was both energy and water efficient. We noticed a decrease in our power-bill switching to something more efficient and the quality of life and decrease in stress over something so small made a huge change for us. It's also kinder on our clothing so it lasts longer. All that to say that we don't choose the cheapest option where it counts. Somethings are worth spending a little bit more money on in the beginning.

There's a way simplified version of some of the things we do to survive on one income while home educating.
If you would like more info on any of the above things comment below or drop me a message over on our Instagram

You might want to check out these posts:

8 Ways We Afford Homeschooling

4 Reasons We Started a Garden

Chocolate Caramel Snack Balls Recipe

Finding Balance Working From Home

Thursday, 21 February 2019

4 Reasons we started a garden.

I have never been a gardener, it's never been my thing. I never really cared for flowers and the idea of putting on gumboots and getting dirt under my fingernails just didn't appeal to me.

About 3 years ago something shifted. We planted a few tomato plants outside the kitchen and I remembered what it was like going to my uncle's house and eating cherry toms straight off the vine. Ever since then I have slowly been learning more about gardening and getting more into it. I thought I'd share 4 reasons why my black thumb started turning green.

We have the space- We live on over a quarter of an acre, I hate mowing lawns as does my husband so converting them into productive gardens just makes sense! It's a large area and what's the point to own it (or rather be paying a mortgage) for land we're not actually using.

A reason to be outside- These days it's so easy for me to get busy inside doing the never ending tasks within the home, gardening gives me more jobs to do outside so more reason to be outside. My favourite time to go outside now is either first thing in the morning or last thing at night.

Food- Providing for my family from our own property is becoming increasingly important to me. Both financially and environmentally growing as much food as you can for your family (and others if you can) is so important. Being connected to our food is also the solution to the stupid problem we have of food waste. I tell you if you plant that seed, babysit it, plant it out, protect it from bugs and then finally get to harvest it, you will not let that go to waste in the bottom of your fridge. You will eat it, share it, preserve it, cook it, do whatever you can to make best use of that fruit. It's so easy for us to just pick up another melon from the supermarket that someone else has put all that effort into growing (not to mention the resources used to get it to that supermarket) that we just don't value our food anymore.

For my kids- The thing about education in our current world is that we are educating our children for a future that we have no idea about what it will look like. If we look at the changes in technology, climate, resources and financial changes that have happened in the last 50 years we can't really imagine what it will look like in another 50. One thing is for sure, my children will need to eat, through gardening I can teach them how to provide for themselves and be more connected to the earth that they will be stuck with. I'll talk more about this side of things at a later date and how we make sure our children for a strong connection to the earth. I want my children to fell that same joy I felt picking cherry tomatoes. I also think teaching your children to garden is a great way to teach delayed gratification, meaning they will need to put in lots of hard work before they get the rewards. A practical real life chore chart!

What do you think? Do you garden?

You may also like to check out these posts:

How To Have A Fairy Bath
How To Plant A Sack Garden
The 5 Week Term
Chocolate Caramel Snack Balls

Wednesday, 20 February 2019

How to have a fairy bath. Zero Waste Activity

We are trying to make the most out of the last few weeks of summer, trips to the river and beach are top of the list but trying to find fun things to do around home with both a older child and a baby is how we have been spending most days.

Everyone loves water play right? Well we turned ours into a fairy bath by adding flowers from our garden. It's simple, easy and keeps the kids occupied and cool on a summer afternoon.

We used our baby bath, to not waste a ton of water in a giant paddling pool. It's also a lot faster to fill and easier to empty using a smaller container.

A hydrangea flower made the perfect water sprinkler over top of a little baby face.

When we finished we used the water in our veggie gardens and put the flowers on the table and then into the compost when they died. You could also dry them or dry them off and use them in a flower press for future art projects.

This activity provides a great sensory experience that is interactive and free of single use products. It also doesn't include food items so is culturally appropriate for more people or in a multicultural environment.

Obviously use your common sense, ALWAYS watch a baby around water. No matter how shallow the water is!

Monday, 18 February 2019

8 Ways we afford to homeschool- Homeschooling in New Zealand

I see this question a lot, how do families actually afford to homeschool their kids and still give them as many opportunities as they would get in a traditional school?

Firstly home educating and traditional schools offer very different opportunities I don't think they can be compared directly or fairly against each other because they in their nature very different.
Secondly, we are a family of 4 living on a slightly above average income (according to the stats I just googled) So we are comfortable financially now, however when we first tarted home schooling we were on less than the average income. So take that with a grain of salt of course, every situation is different!

Borrow, hire or rent before you buy: Self explanatory right? Libraries, science museums, friends, family, homeschool groups etc. Before you go out and buy things ask around first, you might be surprised by a friend down the road who has an awesome telescope you can use for your astronomy unit study!

We buy second hand: Again it's far more affordable and better for the planet. Whenever we need something I always try to find it second hand first. Local second hand shops, online sale sites, Facebook marketplace, even asking around friends and family. We try all of these options before we go and buy something from a big box store. This includes clothing, toys, things for the home, homeschool supplies etc.

Make Friends: Connections can be so valuable- building relationships, sharing skills, borrowing resources, sharing resources and social opportunities are so valuable in any home school. 

Make the most of free/ low cost activities: Get to know your library, science museum, homeschool groups, local clubs etc. Check your local listings for free or low cost things that you can get involved with. Extra curricular activities can get really expensive and I know for me as a home school mum we can't afford to do all of the dance classes, music lessons, drama clubs etc. We normally choose up to 2 paid classes per term and fill in the rest of the time and school holidays with free or very low cost activities. Also some things are available cheaper through a local homeschool group, swimming lessons, zoo visits and things like that have a lower group rate. Also our local homeschool group has their own list of activities and also a library that we can access for a very low yearly membership.

Compare prices- for everything: One of the big ways I save money homeschooling is comparing prices, if I do have to buy something new I always compare prices, it takes some more time but it can be so worth it. For instance our local library you can print in black and white for 10 cents a page- including double sided, at our nearest copy/stationery shop it can cost up to double that. It might seem like a small number right but if you are printing hundreds of pages it adds up quickly! 

Free Printables: There are hundreds of free printables, lesson plans and activity ideas online that you can use for free! I can do another post with a full list of places I get free printables in the future but we have definitely utilised free printables a lot especially in the early years of home educating. 

DIY: You don't have to buy the super expensive fancy curriculum that costs over $1000 without even knowing if you're going to use it. I searched for months for curriculum that suited our family only to end up DIY'ing almost our entire homeschool. You can write your own book lists, your own lesson plans and your own educational goals. When you buy these box curriculum you are paying for convenience, when you DIY you can cater your curriculum to your family, individual child, budget, time and circumstances. 

Use it up: Everyone loves new supplies right? New pencils, paints and crisp new books are one of the best things to kids starting off a new school term or year. However the wastage and cost that is created by not using these things up is huge! One of the great things about home education is being able to use what you have or what you access to. You can absolutely use a book up even if it does lap over from year to year.

So there are 8 super simple ways we make home educating affordable for our family. I will be doing a follow up post about how we afford to live one one income too that  will go into more of our household budgets and how we save money in that way.

You might also like to check out:

Monday, 27 November 2017

Homeschooling While Pregnant

You may have seen in my last post that we are expecting a new baby! While we are super excited being pregnant comes with it's own set of challenges. Namely my ability to function as a normal non-pregnant human.

We have been lucky this time around, last time I was working full time and along with the normal pregnancy stuff I also developed gallstones at about 14 weeks, I spent the rest of my pregnancy sick and in terrible pain. This time I would say this has been a very "normal" pregnancy. In the beginning I had a bit of morning sickness but nothing too major, the fatigue was pretty intense and now that the end is drawing closer the heartburn can be difficult to manage but all in all and compared to last time this pregnancy has been pretty happy-go-lucky.

While I'm not working this time around I do have a 6 year old who depends on me, not just for the normal stuff like food, water, clean clothes etc, but also for her education. She is always keen to pick up a book and "Do school" however some days for me it has been really tough. There have been a few things that we have been doing over the last 6 months to make sure that school is still ticking over and learning is still happening so I thought I would share some of those things with you.

Computer School: We normally don't do a lot of homeschooling on the computer/tablet but it has been so helpful during this phase of our lives. I downloaded a bunch of cool apps (If you want a list of cool free apps let me know) and sometimes Abby will ask to do some 'computer school'

Friends/Family: We are really lucky to have awesome friends and family. We have been outsourcing to them. Abby has done electronics with her granddad, spent beach days with cousins and played cards with grandma.

Outside Activities: We have made Abby's activities a lot easier to manage, we have taken a couple of terms off the activities we have to travel into the city for and become more involved with ones closer to home. She is still doing the same amount of activities each week but it's been a lot easier on me not to have to travel as much.

Current Unit Study- How baby's grow: Abby is so excited about having a little brother or sister and we have taken this and turned it into a real life learning opportunity. Abby has seen ultrasounds, heard the baby's heartbeat and seen me get a blood test. I have an app on my phone and together each week we read about all the things that are going on inside my tummy.

All in all we are making it work. Abby is right on track to where she needs to be and our family is still so pleased with our decision to home educate. For us home education will look different at different phases of our lives and we will flex and mold it to what our children need.

If you have any advice for this upcoming season in our lives (homeschooling with a baby) please let me know I would love to hear it!

Robin xx

You may also want to read:
Can my homeschooled child even read?
What is secular eclectic homeschooling?
Why we chose to homeschool our only child.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

I'm Pregnant

Surprise I'm pregnant!! 

You probably already know if you follow me on Instagram but I thought something should be said over here on the blog. 

The blog has been quite quiet lately mostly because I have been so tired and frankly the thought of doing anything that isn't sleeping has tired me out. But now I am feeling a bit better I thought I'd fill you in!
Currently I am almost 26 weeks pregnant, my due date is the same week as my daughter's 7th birthday. I will write a blog post later about why there is such an age gap between my kids but for now I'll just fill you in! 

I found out I was pregnant at 5 weeks, I was excited of course but being someone who has been through an early miscarriage I tried to keep my excitement to a minimum.  Even though I had a successful pregnancy after my miscarriage I think that early pregnancy stage will always be a time of worried anticipation at what may or may not be for both my husband and I. 

I had my first scan at 10 weeks, everything was as we hoped it would be so we decided to tell our close family. They were so happy mostly because I think they thought we were done having babies and had finally stopped asking us when/if it was going to happen again.

This time around apart from feeling tired, some heartburn and those normal pregnancy symptoms I have been feeling just like myself. Which let me tell you compared to my last pregnancy when I suffered with gallstone attacks from 14 weeks is a welcome experience. 

I'm starting to nest, we renovated last Christmas and allowed a space off our bedroom to make an en suit which we will turn into the nursery. I can't wait to have that finished so I can start putting baby's room together. 

So that's our news, we're having a baby early next year and apart from being heavily pregnant in the summertime again (something I said I would plan better next time) I am so content and happy. We can't wait to meet the newest member of our family! 

You may want to read these articles 

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