We've had to abandon the homemade dishwashing detergent. Or at least temporarily suspend its use. It was leaving a horrible cloudy/chalky coating on everything, especially the glassware. I need to look into what is causing this and see if I can rectify it. If not, that's ok - this learning experience has only cost me a little more than $2.00.
The homemade laundry detergent seems to be working and our first utility bills (since starting to line dry some of our clothes) have come in and they were slightly less than previous months' bills. I expect to see a more significant drop come next month. And I'm loving the smell of our clothes - just a faint smell of 'clean laundry'. MacGyver's PT gear seems to smell like clean laundry as well which is a plus.
The new year brought changes in spending habits including converting to Dave Ramsey's envelope system. The first pay period was pretty mellow and I was able to dump a significant amount of my spending money back into our cash savings. At the end of each month, whatever of my spending money (and any other overage) is leftover will be split between savings and an extra payment on the credit card. I figure that's covering two bases at once: building up our emergency fund and paying down our debt. Once our emergency fund is where I want it to be (I'd prefer to have 6 months' worth of expenses socked away), ten all of my overage will go toward paying down our debt.
Another way I'm looking to cut down on our food budget is by starting a small garden this spring. I don't have time to grow an apple tree or a pear tree (the two fruits this family eats the most of) but I can plant all of our regular salad fixings, and the majority of the veggies we eat on a regular basis. I ordered the Burpee catalog and the kids and I are having a blast going through it, trying to figure out what varieties of fruits and veggies to order. Right now, my list includes:
~ lettuces (a variety)
~ bell peppers
~ green beans
~ pumpkins (? not sure about this one yet)
I'm saving the excess money in our food budget to cover the cost of the seeds and supplies. Because the soil here is so junk, most of the things we plant will be either in a raised bed or a container of some kind. The soil on this lot is horribly clay-like and rocky and it will be easier to construct a simple raised bed and plant in containers than it will to get our soil rehabilitated to the point where it will allow us to grow decent food.
Thankfully the extension department at the local university is a WONDERFUL resource for backyard gardeners like myself. And, once we wrap up Astronomy, the kids and I will start in on Botany as our next science unit. I don't expect to get through it before summer break - and that was my plan. We'll use the curriculum all summer long as we tend to our garden (but shh! Don't tell The Boy and The Girl - they won't know that we're still technically "doing school"!).
And now, it's bedtime. The rain outside is turning to snow and the roads are going to be an icy mess tomorrow. For now, I will hunker down with my heated mattress pad (a WONDERFUL Christmas gift!) and stay warm.