9 Ways to Save on Garbage!

Save Money On Garbage ~ Our Cozy Den

Did you know that the average American produces 4.5 pounds of trash per day? For my family of 6, that would be 189 pounds every week! That’s crazy!!

Producing a lot of garbage is expensive, not to mention the fact that it just feels wasteful. I feel like a bad human being if we have a big pile of trash. It’s bad for the environment and my pocket. Here are some ways to save money on your garbage pile, and help the planet in the process!

1. Stop trash before it starts.

Buying things isn’t just expensive at the cash register. You also spend money transporting your purchase, disposing of the packaging, storing your stuff in your home (more stuff = more space needed to hold it), and eventually — throwing your purchase away. If you buy fewer items that you don’t need, then you will save a LOT more than just the amount on the price tag.

2. Buy used.

When you shop at thrift stores & yard sales, those items already have no packaging. You save a ton by buying used, and you also don’t have to get rid of all that trash to go along with it.

3. Buy in bulk.

I’ve mentioned before that we do most of our grocery shopping at GFS. When you buy in bulk, there is a lot less packaging, so there is less to throw away!

4. Cook from scratch.

We buy almost no groceries that are prepackaged or premade. Those things (in addition to being less healthy and more expensive) come with more trash! Cooking from raw ingredients: flour, eggs, spices, etc. — will result in less garbage.

5. Recycle.

We lived in Germany for 3 years, and one of my favorite things about being over there was that everyone recycled. They had to, it was the law! And it was color-coded to boot! {swoon!} This is what the trash cans looked like over there:

Save Money On Garbage ~ Our Cozy Den

In Germany, we could recycle almost all of our garbage. Only diapers and used tissues/napkins went in the regular trash. Back here in the U.S., we can’t recycle quite as much as we could in Germany, but we can still recycle quite a lot! We have a recycling station set up in our back room, where we have separate bins for: cardboard, glass, newspaper, plastic, & cans. And we have 2 in our kitchen for regular garbage and paper (my little arts-and-crafters go through a LOT of paper, so this made the most sense to have in the house. Also, it doesn’t stink.) We drive to the recycling center once or twice a month to take it all in, which costs us nothing.

6. Change the way you do holidays & birthdays.

Holidays and birthdays tend to be a big trash-producer for many families. Since we only do 3 small gifts per child, and I sewed reusable gift wrapping sacks, we don’t have much garbage from the holiday. For gifts from extended family, if you can convince them to spring for a membership to the zoo or a children’s museum, that’s another way to cut back on trash (and toys and clutter and room cleaning… it’s really win-win-win if the grandparents will go for it!) And there’s no rule that says you have to use disposable plates and cutlery when you have guests. Yes, it’s easier to just throw it away. But it’s not really that hard to throw it all in the dishwasher either, and it produces no trash that way.

7. Compost.

We started a compost bin this year, and I was surprised at how much we are able to put into it! All of our scraps from fruits and vegetables, banana peels, apple cores, egg shells, yard clippings… there’s just so much! It’s all going to turn into rich, fertile soil for my garden next year. And if you don’t garden, you could start a compost bin anyway and give the compost away to someone who does! (Or sell it! $$$)

8. Don’t use consumable things when you can use reusable things.

I haven’t purchased napkins, paper towels, or tissues in years. We just don’t go through them that often, because I can usually use a cleaning rag, a dish towel, a washcloth, a cloth napkin, or something else washable instead! We never use things like paper plates or plastic silverware. Even when we went on a camping trip, we took washable plates and I did dishes after each meal. I have a small stack of paper plates in my back room that have lasted for years that I use to take the occasional plate of cookies to the neighbor (and they were items I didn’t purchase, but were left at my house by some party or some guest at some point).

I do use a lot of ziploc bags for traveling and moving, but I never use them for daily tasks, like food storage or packing lunches. We use washable containers for those! When I do use them for travel & moving, I save them and use them over and over again. I’m still using a $1 box of bags that I bought from the dollar store in 2011.

9. Shop around for trash providers.

When we lived in Tennessee, we could drop off our garbage at one of the city’s trash places for free. That was nice! Here in Ohio, there is no free trash pickup, so we have to pay to have our garbage hauled away. I looked around for quite a bit, and the cheapest option I found was a 1-bag-per-week pickup for $6 a month. That’s pretty cheap for curbside pickup! It’s easy for us to stay under 1 bag a week, because we are diligent at following steps 1-8.

Advertisements

What I miss about Germany

Before I left Germany, I wrote a blog post about what I missed about the USA. I am SO happy to be back on American soil and to be enjoying those luxuries again.

But now that we have been back for 10 months, I’m reminiscing fondly about the things I miss about Germany!

Here are a few things on my list.

The Running Paths

The entire German countryside is a patchwork of paved farm roads which are perfect for running. There are no cars, only horses and the occasional tractor. You could run for miles and miles and miles without having to step foot on a street. And the view was breathtaking, too.

IMG_0155

The Driving

I mentioned the difference between American and German driving when I first moved to Germany. In Germany, it’s smoother sailing overall. Here in the US, it’s very stop-and-go.

*I do NOT miss the parking issues. I love in the US that I can park right in front of the store that I am visiting. And my van fits in the spot! With room to spare! And parking is free!

The Home Features

I loved our house in Germany. And not only because we had 5 awesome bedrooms! I sure miss that.

But I also loved so many features of German houses. I love the lightswitches and the fact that I had one right next to the bed, so I didn’t have to walk across the room to turn out the light. I love the towel warmers in the bathrooms. I love the giant spacious closets and cabinets with built-in storage shelving. I love the soundproofness of our house. Oh, how I miss that! I also miss our balcony!

The Neighborhood

We lived in military housing, so there were kids EVERYWHERE. I loved that I could send the kids out to play and they had a dozen friends to play with at any given time. And I love the sidewalks all over (perfect for sidewalk chalk and scooter riding!) and the numerous playgrounds.

IMG_0387

The Homeschool Group

We were all so close, and we spent so much time together. I miss them all, so much. Some of the best people I’ve ever met were my fellow homeschool moms in Germany.

The Travel Opportunities

Of course, I couldn’t forgo mentioning my favorite perk of life overseas – the traveling! While we were in Germany, we visited sixteen countries!! It was the experience of a lifetime.

 

Military friends, what were your favorite things about living overseas? 

 

Our Move ~ The Long Story

Our crazy move from Germany to Ohio happened very fast, and honestly it left me a little traumatized. I’m finally able to look back on it without seizing, so I thought I’d share the story of what happened.

Here’s our timeline, in a nutshell.

March 25 – we find out that the house we were buying has failed inspection, miserably. We knew it needed work, but we didn’t know that there was irreparable damage. So we’re back to the drawing board on the house front. We knew a move was coming, but we didn’t know if it was days, weeks, or months away.

March 31 – my best friend from high school and bridesmaid Martie tours another house for us, takes pictures & video, and we put in an offer. It is accepted, and we are excited!

April 1 – Byron receives orders to sign out of the army in TEN DAYS. It falls on a Friday, and we schedule our flight for Monday the 14th. That same day, they take our van to ship it to the US, so we all of a sudden need to move and have no car. Luckily, my amazing friends Kitty and Heather loan us vehicles.

April 7 – the movers come and pack us up. It’s also Sophie’s birthday and dentist appointment day. Byron stays home with the movers while I handle business with the kids. My Germany bff Aimee watches the kids, and we all spend the night at her house.

April 8 – moving day #2. Packers finish packing, and housing delivers temporary furniture. Back in the states, things are moving along with our new home, and we will be able to close on April 16th, 2 days after arriving.

April 9 – cleaning, paperwork, errands, packing, laundry

April 10 – we move into the hotel, and say good-bye to our home.

April 11 – Byron signs out of the Army, we clear housing. There’s a good-bye lunch with Byron’s unit, where they give him some nice going-away gifts. Then we go to the post office and mail the gifts, as well as all of our curtains.

April 12 – we receive the devastating news that another house has failed inspection, with damage that we cannot fix or afford to have fixed. We are faced with homelessness. I frantically research our options, but everything – hotels, extended stay places, is way out of our price range. I cry. A lot.

April 13 – Our last Sunday at ChapelNext, and we have lunch at the Entertainment Center afterward. Lots of hard good-byes, and more tears.

April 14 – The flight

We head to the airport for our flight to the US. We are 3 hours early, and when we arrive at the counter, the line is over an  hour long. Byron asks the employee at the front if he can talk to a gate agent ASAP, to make sure we get seats together. He assures us it isn’t a problem. So we wait in line. When we get to the front 90 minutes later, the agent informs us that sorry, there are not seats together for us, and there’s nothing she can do. We are given 3 seats together and 3 more that are all alone. (Do the math. We have FOUR young children). She assures us that once we get on the plane, we’ll be moved so we can sit with our children.

When we board the plane, the flight attendant tells us that the flight is full, so she can’t give us new seats, but she can ask people to switch for us. We put me with Lia and Finn, and Byron, Sophie, and Connor take the seats that are all alone. (Sophie is in the seat in front of me, but the other 2 are nowhere nearby.) Connor cries, nestled between two strangers.

The flight attendant asks people all around the plane to switch seats, and everyone refuses. So we take the seats we were given and we take off.

Finn sleeps for the first 30 minutes of the flight. All is well for a time. Then all heck breaks loose. Kids are tired, crying. Finn won’t sleep another wink, Connor is feeling abandoned, Sophie is being needy. Nobody sleeps. Nobody will eat the yucky plane food. Finn won’t stop crying. Byron and I take turns bobbing up and down with him in the tiny space in the bulkhead row.

The pilot informs us that we hit headwinds so the 9 hour flight becomes 11.5. But he says, “don’t worry, if you have a connecting flight, we have already rebooked you to another flight to reach your final destination”, and we should see the gate agent upon debarking.

When the neverending flight from you-know-where finally lands in Chicago. We ask the gate agent for our new flight information to our final destination – Detroit. She informs us that our family was the only one she could not rebook on another flight because of our size. So we need to gather our bags, go through customs, go to the ticketing desk, and see what they can do for us there.

It’s then that we decide that getting another ticket, rechecking bags, going through security, boarding and flying to Detroit, then driving 2 hours to Findlay would take more time than just driving 4 hours from Chicago to Findlay. So we go out to the rental car place, get a minivan and hit the road. Besides the fact that you could not PAY me to get on another airplane with those children at that point.

We drive for about an hour, then we all crash hard in a motel room along the highway. It’s about 4 am Germany time, but 9 pm Central time. We sleep for 7 hours, then we grab our first in-the-US meal at the only thing open at 3am- Denny’s.

Then we hit the road again, arriving in Findlay that morning. We go straight to the home of our new friends Kay and Joel (who we have never met), and are taking us in for the night.

April 15 – lunch with my dad, and Kay and Joel found a place for us to stay (since our house fell through). It is an incredible blessing. They have a friend with an empty apartment and he offers it to us for free while we find a home. We move into it.

IMG_2141

Outside our temporary apartment.

IMG_2237

Playing around inside the apartment.

Late April – we find a new house, put in an offer, and finally we get an inspection that comes back with only minor issues.

May 1-3 – I take a business trip to Arizona and reconnect with my bestie Krista.

May 5 – we close on our new house!!!

IMG_2272

May 6 – Byron’s first day of school, and he is officially in seminary.

IMG_0333

May 21 – our household goods are delivered.

May 22 – Byron drives to St. Louis to get our van.

May 28 – Byron flies to Minneapolis to get our truck.

And with that, we finally had all of our belongings, a home, and our new life in Ohio.

IMG_0103

Couponing in Germany

Couponing in Germany ~ Our Cozy Den

I was a pretty serious couponer before I moved to Germany. Boy, was I shocked when I got here. My first several months in country, my grocery bill more than tripled what it had been in the states. Finally I got my bearings and figured out a few things that helped me save money over here.

Commissary Rules

First, let’s talk about the rules at the overseas commissary.

1. The commissary (and PX) take coupons 6 months past their expiration date. So if the coupon expires 6/30/14, you can use it until 12/31/14. This is nice, because sometimes by the time coupons make their way over to us, they are expired already.

2. The commissary coupon policy allows for overage – yay! This means if we have a coupon for $2 off, and the item only costs $1.85, that extra 15 cents comes off the REST of our groceries. We get the whole $2 off.

3. The commissary does allow stacking – if you do it right. You can see my other post here about coupons and how to stack them legally.

But how do you get the coupons?

It is really hard to get good coupons over here. In my experience, people end up sending the ones they don’t want, so we don’t get most of the high value coupons.

Here are a few ways I collect coupons here:

1. Ask for them! I put out a post on facebook asking for friends to send me coupons, and several did!

2. Sign up at coups4troops.org and get matched with a coupon sponsor. My sponsor sends me a nice big box every few months.

3. Print them online – if you can. Many coupon printing sites block our German IP addresses, but you can use a VPN to block it. I use Hotspot Shield. It’s easy & free.

4. Buy them on ebay. Buy a set of 20 and remember – you have 6 extra months to use them!

5. Share them with friends. Find other locals who coupon, and pass the coupons around until you’ve all looked through them.

6. You can also pick up coupons various places around post, like ACS & the commissary.

Other tips:

  • Shopping off post for food could save you money, if you caught a good sale. I’ve personally gone to off post grocery stores a dozen times, and the commissary is always cheaper. So I don’t go off post any more. There are lots of neat farmer’s markets as well. But again, those are not cheaper. It’s a fun experience, but the food costs more.
  • Like I talked about in my groceries post, keep a price book and watch the sale cycles. You’ll get an idea of what the lowest prices are after a while.
  • Cook from scratch – I buy very little packaged items. Everything from my taco seasoning mix to my cream of chicken soup is made from scratch. It can save a ton of money to cook that way.

I hope these tips helped a little. If anyone has something helpful to add, do let me know!

The Frankfurt Christmas Market

We have been enjoying lots of holiday activities this Christmas season. We’ve been in Germany over 2 years now, and I still hadn’t been to Frankfurt (which is only 30 minutes away). So we decided to head to the Frankfurt Christmas Market with the kids.

I loved the giant snowflake lights!
I loved the giant snowflake lights!
Stomper called this a "black hole" - it was a glass building, with a hole in it to the other side. It was very cool looking!
Stomper called this a “black hole” – it was a glass building, with a hole in it to the other side. It was very cool looking!
Lights on the ceilings over the sidewalks.
Lights on the ceilings over the sidewalks.
This picture does not capture how huge and bright and hauntingly beautiful the moon was that night.
This picture does not capture how huge and bright and hauntingly beautiful the moon was that night.
IMG_1307
The kids were SO excited to ride the carousel!
Hiccup waited with Daddy while the rest of us rode.
Hiccup waited with Daddy while the rest of us rode.
Bunches wanted to ride on a horse.
Bunches wanted to ride on a horse.
They were so excited to ride the carousel!
They wanted to ride in the rocking carriage.
A fancy jewelry store called Schmuck. At those prices, you'd have to be a schmuck to shop there.
A fancy jewelry store called Schmuck. At those prices, you’d have to be a schmuck to shop there.
IMG_1297
The nativity

IMG_1295IMG_1294IMG_1291

German "Mexican" food. Not Mexican food.
German “Mexican” food. Not Mexican food.
The church looked so beautiful at night.
The church looked so beautiful at night.
The streets were SO lit up, and gorgeous!
The streets were SO lit up, and gorgeous!

It was very pretty and festive. I’m not sure it was worth the hassle of traffic and finding parking – and the Wiesbaden market is just as pretty. But we all had a nice time.

A Quiet Walk Among Monks

We spent the morning visiting my friend Aimee, who lives in an amazing house with an amazing view. It’s a bit of a drive to get there, but it’s like a breath of fresh air when you finally do.

This is the view that she gets to see from her window every day:

Gorgeous!
Gorgeous!

Aimee has been talking about this monastery in her back yard since I’ve known her, so I asked her today if we could walk up and see it. So off we went!

The monastery is surrounded by many ornate statues that appear to be places of prayer.
The monastery is surrounded by many ornate statues that appear to be places of prayer.

IMG_0761

Walking up a LONG hill to get there.
Walking up a LONG hill to get there.
We all got pretty tired.
We all got pretty tired.

IMG_0768

Looking at the fish in the pond. (That's the monastery behind it.)
Looking at the fish in the pond. (That’s the monastery behind it.)
This big guy was at least 2 feet long. He kept nibbling on the leaf.
This big guy was at least 2 feet long. He kept nibbling on the leaf.
Aimee showed us a cool hidden door in the side of the hill in the forest.
Aimee showed us a cool hidden door in the side of the hill in the forest.
What it looks like from further back.
What it looks like from further back.
Pointing out mushrooms.
Pointing out mushrooms.
It's a tumultuous friendship, but sometimes they are bffs.
It’s a tumultuous friendship, but sometimes they are bffs.

IMG_0782

Diggin' for gold.
Diggin’ for gold.

IMG_0787IMG_0788IMG_0789

Kayla, Aimee's daughter.
Kayla, Aimee’s daughter.
My four munchkins.
My four munchkins.
My four plus Kayla :)
My four plus Kayla 🙂
Somebody got tuckered out from all that walking! (I mean, riding in a stroller.)
Somebody got tuckered out from all that walking! (I mean, riding in a stroller.)

Idar-Oberstein – Church in the Rock

After we visited the gemstone mine in Idar-Oberstein, we headed downtown to visit another magnificent site in the area – the Church in the Rock. This is a church built into the side of the mountain. It was awesome!

The Church in the Rock
The Church in the Rock
We had lunch out on the patio of this cute restaurant.
We had lunch out on the patio of this cute restaurant.
The kids love eating outside!
The kids love eating outside!
There were 246 steps up to the church!
There were 246 steps up to the church!
The entrance to the church was actually inside the mountain.
The entrance to the church was actually inside the mountain.
The back wall of the church was rock - so cool!
The back wall of the church was rock – so cool!
We went up more stairs inside the church to reach the scenic overlook.
We went up more stairs inside the church to reach the scenic overlook.
From the top, we could see the whole town.
From the top, we could see the whole town.
Between the church and the rock.
Between the church and the rock.
Art inside the church.
Art inside the church.
This painting was dated in the 14th century.
This painting was dated in the 14th century.
The facade of the church.
The facade of the church.
In the church foyer.
In the church foyer.
Afterward, milkshakes for everybody! (PS, I hate German milkshakes)
Afterward, milkshakes for everybody! (PS, I hate German milkshakes)
The church from the town below.
The church from the town below.