Renewing the Thrift Kitchen

In the beginning, Thrift Kitchen started out as its own separate blog. I realized pretty quickly that a lot of the people who were reading Thrift Kitchen we also reading Craft Leftovers. And I also realized that posting about home-y stuff once a week was really all I wanted to do. So I made Thrift Kitchen a post series here on Craft Leftovers and called it good. First it was on Thursday, then this year I moved it to Tuesday.

While I’ve continued to post a recipe from time to time and talk about growing food and meal plans, it’s been a long time since I’ve fully embraced the Thrift Kitchen model – providing food for my family that’s healthy and cheap.

After two years of jumping from project to project, I finally gathered enough time to survey my life. I love it, and wouldn’t change a thing. But I’m also not happy with the way I’m living on a day to day basis. I feel like it’s my job to take care of our home, and I just haven’t been living up to my own expectations. It hit me hard when we got back from the Maker Faire.

Here’s our state of being when we got home from vacation:

  • Eating out way more than we should.
  • The house was a mess after the mad dash to prep for Maker Faire.
  • The yard was out of control after being gone 2 weeks.
  • We weren’t being intentional with our finances. Not irresponsible, just, we want to be more forward thinking about it.
  • I’m not meeting deadlines. Which really stresses me out and makes me feel like a jerk and literally keeps me up at night.
  • And the laundry was out of control.
Where do I want to be?
  • A clean house.
  • Good food for every meal.
  • Meeting deadlines.
  • Debt free (student loans + mortgage).

Right now, this week, things are much better. Just by taking the time to reflect I’ve made leaps and bounds on a daily basis. I’m cooking all our meals and the house is fairly tidy. The garden is weeded and the lawn’s mowed. And we’ve only ate out once.

Where are you at with your daily living? Are you on a happy course of frugal thriftness. Or are you scooting around furr, unpacked boxes from a move, and wondering why you can never find two socks that match.

If you are living a happy frugal life, what’s your favorite inspiration/resource that you turn to? 

If you want to live a happy frugal life, where are you at? What’s your goal? 

Leave me a comment, let me know. Help me get on track and also let me know I’m not alone in my chaos. Join me next Tuesday for Phase One of the Thrift Kitchen Plan!

14 thoughts on “Renewing the Thrift Kitchen

  1. GOOD LUCK! :) Meal planning helps me a lot, and I know you do that, too. When I’m really stumped I still turn to e-mealz, but usually now just looking at my cupboards is enough to get me started. 

    1. I’ve never heard of that, I’ll definitely have to check it out. Last week I really started turning things around meal plan wise. Jason and I are loving it. I mean, heck. I ENJOY cooking. So he’s enjoying eating it. I’m enjoying cooking it (and eating too).

      And this week there has been a load of cleaning. It helped I got an air bnb guest for this week coming up so I’m whipping things into shape FAST. Sometimes I feel like air bnb is pretty much getting paid to make this place look good :) More on that in a future post.

      1. I have LOVED e-mealz. I use it for new recipes less now, because I often refer back to recipes I really liked that they gave me. It made me try out different ways of cooking, too.

        Oh, the AirBNB scramble! :)

  2. I sometimes think we live parallel lives…except I’m in the city and you’re in the country (kind of).
    I recently found that I was eating out all the time for lunch, every day, towards the last few weeks I started making an effort to bring lunch and eat it. I was successful about 30% of the time, caving to peer pressure. 

    I just recently joined the ranks of the unemployed so now I’m at home job searching, I’m in quite a bit of debt and would like to get out of it. I wonder if trying to cook more from home instead of eating out could someway contribute to bringing down debt?

    Also could you do a post about drying herbs or what to do with different types of herbs. I’m currently overrun with basil and I have no idea what to do with it.

    1. I suppose chicago would make Ames pretty country in comparison :) Though being just a few blocks from campus often reminds me it’s not, haha. Parties. Every weekend. 

      Oh my gosh yeah it can, especially in areas of the country where the general cost of living is so high. Taking lunches and cooking meals at home can save a ton! I remember in DeKalb I used to eat off $40 a week. Including a margarita and thai food once a week (separate nights).

      For basil (though I haven’t tried this), I hear it freezes really well – which is a great way to quickly save it. I know people who also freeze it in water in ice cube trays. Then when it’s frozen they put all the cubes in a bag. In theory you just take one out, let it thaw and you are good to go. Being in the cube prevents freezer burn. I’ll have to play around with a few methods and get back to you :)

  3. I am right there with you! Things are getting better, slowly. I’ve found a few things that help me. One is the reminders list on my iPhone. I often think of random things I have to do at some point in my day, and now I just add them to the reminders list (paper works great too). If it’s something coming up later I can ask for a reminder on that date. I can check things off the list so that helps me (I love checking things off lists), and just getting it down on paper or my iPhone so it frees up brain space.

    Keeping things simple and slow is a big part of it for me too. I work full-time outside my home so I try to only have three things to do each day, including cooking dinner if we’re out of leftovers. I break up household chores throughout the week–Monday is laundry (sometimes it extends to Tuesday), Friday I clean up and vacuum the living room, etc. I learned this from the book Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Home. It’s still a bit cluttery and dirty, though. So another thing I am doing is picking one small area to declutter every week, such as my vanity table or on drawer in my dresser. It’s slow going but I can see some progress.

    Breaking things down into small pieces and smaller days (instead of having to clean the whole house at once) works better for me and I’m more likely to stick with it. I also try to spend a few minutes before bed picking up items and putting them where they belong, but this isn’t quite habit yet. I think that’s the last part–making these habits. I clean the bathroom almost every Saturday morning (Sunday if I don’t have time Saturday) and because it’s such a habit and I have the routine for cleaning it down pat it’s not too bad anymore. I’m trying to get rid of things and also organize what I have left
    better. I’m working on creatively making our house work better for us by
    looking at our habits and how we can accommodate those habits instead of swimming against the current–there are only so many habits I can change at once!

    Meal planning is helpful too–I have to include enough easy meals that I’m not tempted to skip cooking.

    I honestly think a little bit of it is letting go, too. If I get my three things done, then it’s been a good day. If I didn’t, oh well. Tomorrow’s a new day. Take the time to be proud of and enjoy what you do get done, instead of just looking to the next thing to be done (which can be hard for me).

    1. I learned a lot from the FlyLady about putting chores into steps AND that every thing I do right is a victory. It’s not “oh I didn’t get X done today”, it’s “I got Y and Z done, hooray!” I think I’ve been trying to swim against the current for a long time now and it’s always ended in frustration and giving up. Knowing myself has been pretty huge to getting past my cleaning hurdles. Most of which are attitude vs actual hardship. 

      Decluttering is huge towards getting things put together. We still have a long way to go, but like you I’m trying to just work on it as I go along. A little bit at a time and focus on getting rid of more than I’m bringing in. Today I was pretty proud of myself because I actually went through the freezer and ditched anything that had been in there too long and just shuffling it around so it made more sense and I could easily see what’s there. Small victories. But victories. 

      I feel too like I’m finally taking small steps in the right direction.

  4. Hi I am not new to being a homemaker, and constantly feel “Ive failed” in the model set by my Mum. (but some would describe her as Ocd so I wont ever match that! ) But during Surrey open studios, I was talking to a painter,Jo Quigley, like me similar age, family and creative impulses. we agreed we have other interests and demands and our lives are not centred on housework but creativity.  I know i am hardworking but sometimes I need to just powerdown, read blogs and facebook or even rarer watch tv. I am learning not to feel guilty when my body tells me its tired! Yesterday I did insist on doing a bit of cooking, my husband wanted oven chips (we’d done these for the girls the night before and he’d been out so I rustled up an alternative, (wedges) for him he  also suggested going out to buy pizza. but I had things in the fridge and freezer googled some ingredients then used the inspiration to make something else. The fresh food would have probably gone in the bin if kept another couple of days! the trouble is I know my children would have eaten Pizza with less compliants! A compromise for another night with some different ingredients perhaps I will do  gluten free homemade for everyone! Now the reason I love your blog is its so honest and inspiring, and you do not look like your are trying too hard or make it look hard to do.  We can see your energy and enthusiasm is infectious. I have used lots of your tips the fly lady, and zen living but my house currently is in turmoil as I have turned out the understairs cupboard to take my felt making stuff into a preschool and let them have a go! a little job for this morning! we try our best, get distracted, then try again!

    1. Those mom’s do set a high standard. Our home was far from perfect and I wouldn’t call my mom ocd, but things were always tidy, there was always home cooked meals, and the garden always yielded loads of food. We were frugal out of necessity – my mom and dad made the choice to have a single income (my dad’s) – so my mom could stay home with us. She took on odd jobs (baby sitting, cleaning, volunteer work, and the like), but the main way she contributed to the household was through saving money. 

      It’s funny that it’s not until the last few years I’m really seeing the value in that. Thankfully we aren’t in the position where we have to pinch pennies – though it was like that in the beginning – but, I guess, it’s kind of like why not pinch some pennies when the reward is so great! 

      That’s a good point about compromise, and being creative. I feel like being an artist/crafter always adds a certain level of chaos to any home. How to balance that? I feel like I’m getting there, and having a designated space does help. But when my studio was the dining room it was always so hard. To leave it out for the night or put it all up so things are picked up?

  5. I dream of growing my own veg, making all our meals from scratch and having a clutter free home.
    The reality if that I work a 40 hour week and spend a huge chunk of my at home time on the computer or crafting (which I love), so, the house is a mess, meals are put togther in a hurry using more convienience stuff than fresh, and (due to the rubbish Summer we have had in the UK so far), my veg garden is not thriving, and we throw out far too much food. It feels like such a daunting task to get on top of the housework (I cant tell you how much I HATE ironing) and get to grips with making better use out of the food that I buy. I also spend way too much time worrying about our finances as we cant live on my wage and the husbands work has been very scarce over the last few years.
     We try to be thrifty, but there are only so many things you can cut back on. We dont eat out, we dont drink, we dont go out to the movies etc.
    Like you I need to sit down and work out where I can make small changes so at least Im heading in the right direction. I think Id feel a lot better if I could get some control over things, even if its only a little.
    Im really looking forward to Thrifty Kitchen Tuesdays and sharing ideas.

    1. I can be really hard when the weather isn’t cooperating with homesteading plans. The last few years were really hard, but this year has been too good to be true – just enough rain, an early spring so we planted everything about 2 weeks early. When things aren’t going right, or we are faced with the fact that we can’t grow it all, I try to buy what’s in season in bulk from the grocer and put it up just like I would if it were from my garden. The Strawberries have been totally destroyed by the bunnies and chickens this year so when I saw 4lb of strawberries for a $1.25 a pound I sprung at the chance and that’s what I’m making jam with. Which comes out to about $1 a jar vs $3.75 at the store. Though I do want to go pick my own when things are season. Which reminded me to look it up and right now blueberries and black currents are in full swing! Thanks for the Reminder!

      I think the chore I hate the most is putting away the dishes. It’s like a traffic jam happens at the dishwasher where they are all clean and so dirty ones pile up in the sink. Jason and I just struck a compromise this week that he’ll unload the dishwasher if all he has to do is bring his dishes to the sink and I’ll rinse and load them. While I handle most the house stuff, it’s good to have help with a few daily things so I don’t get overwhelmed and so I also don’t feel like I’m in it alone.

      For me, it’s about so much more than just thriftiness too. Saving money is great, but I think even if it seriously cost the same, I’d prefer home cooked over eating out most of the time. And garden veggies over store bought. And pick my own berries over pre-packed berries from across the country. There are the added benefits of health and joy that come from “keeping house” or “homesteading”. I have no delusions about living 100% off the land, but growing food, raising chickens for eggs and meat, and putting things up for winter are deeply satisfying things. Not to mention added security by saving for our future. Which is really important given that we are both self employed. And, I tend to be less crabby when the house is clean :)

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