Thursday, January 14, 2016

Keeping Healthy

Striving to have a healthy family is something I work hard at.  It has been a long road, however, slowly but surely we are making strides in that direction.

We rarely fry foods any more.  I use coconut oil in many of my recipes.  I am using less and less processed foods.  Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera...

When Kei first started having emotional / hormonal issues, I was desperate.  We switched to using soap nuts instead of chemical laced laundry detergent.  We started her on supplements to help balance things out.  We switched to natural soaps.  Anything we could think of we tried.  I am not sure which helped the most, but something in the combo helped because she is much more stable and is no longer on antidepressant medication.  

BUT, organic, natural products are expensive.  You are on a tight budget.   Natural organic products are even more expensive in Japan.  How do you balance that?

A couple years ago I discovered iHerb.  At iHerb I can get organic products at a reasonable price. AND... this is H.U.G.E for me... if I order more than $40 at one time, shipping is free - even shipping to Japan!!  Anyone who has mailed a package internationally know that shipping is crazy expensive. 

So what bring me to blogging about this?

I haven't been doing any online shopping for a few weeks, but today I noticed that our soap nut supply is nearing the end.  So off to iHerb I went.  I looked through old orders and discovered that the last time I ordered soap nuts was May 2015.  So 32oz of soap nuts lasted us 8 months.  At the current price that breaks down to 449 yen ($3.80) per month for natural laundry detergent.  And that is for ALL the laundry we do, and there is a LOT at our house.

December was a hard month on the coconut oil supply because in addition to extra cooking, I also made lotion, sugar scrub, & lip balm for gifts.  Add coconut oil to the cart and I'm well over the magic number to get free shipping + I have earned an extra 10% discount.  YAY!

Healthy doesn't have to be prohibitively expensive.  It takes a little extra effort, but I am finding that it can also be fun.  BTW if you do decide to check out iHerb please use my code, MNS758, to receive a $5 discount on your first order. 

Let's all strive to be a little more healthy this year! 

Tuesday, January 12, 2016


Six months...

No, make that 9 months...

NOPE, needs to be at least a year...

Say WHAT?!?

What started out as a nice safe idea for our 2nd oldest to stretch her wings has turned into something more, much more.

The idea was to go to the US to help her older sister with the kids.  Good chance to spend some quality time with her sister, nieces & nephew, as well as, get a taste of life in America.  She can get her official GED in the process.  Hey, she could get her driver's licence while she is at it and not need to take the expensive, as in several THOUSANDS of dollars expensive, drivers course here.  As we have tracked down various details the time required just keeps growing.

As it stands, Bekah will be flying off in less than a month and will be back in...



We hope! 

I'm not sure I am ready for this!

Monday, January 11, 2016

Two Steps Forward

Two steps forward, one step back might be better know as the budget cha-cha.  

Did not cave and go pick up obentos or subway sandwiches.

We did use the credit card at the grocery store.  We still have a couple weeks until payday, so the grocery envelop hasn't had a chance to be properly filled.

At the store, we stuck to the basics we needed to round out the week's menu.  No extras!

We bought 2 new snow tires for the car today...sigh...  

Today has been the 1st real snow fall of the year.  I have been hoping the mild weather would continue, but alas, it IS winter.  We knew the snow tires were in bad shape, but that was reconfirmed on Saturday when a friend just happened to look at them and ask when we were going to put our snow tires on... ummmm... they are on.  He suggested we at the very least switch the rear tires for the front tires (front wheel drive) because the back tires are better (not good, but better).  Jerry, with Bekah's help, attempted to change the tires around, but the lug nuts would not budge.  I needed to drive to the church so decided that I would take the car to the gas station and ask them to change the tires.  After slipping and sliding my way there, I decided to ask how much 2 new tires would be.  I hated to do it, but slipping & sliding here in town where the snow is minimal and the streets are relatively clear vs. highway driving into/threw the mountains which I have to do almost weekly.  New snow tires for the front seemed like the most prudent thing to do.

Cha, Cha, Cha!

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Little & Often

Last year was a budget buster for us.  Well... I guess it would have been had we actually been following a good budget. Sadly, I have never been a good budget-er.  Something I am working hard to correct this year, especially after last year.

Last year, not only did our income go down (again) but we had a lot of extras, some big, some small, but when added together they equaled chaos.

I have felt the LORD prompting me to get this area of life put into order.  Therefore, we are starting off the new year with a new budget system.  I used tips from a couple well known financial experts, to pull together a plan of attack.  Then went to the 100 yen shop (dollar store) to get a few envelopes to help organize things.  The fun colors should make budgeting more fun & less painful, right? 


I am pretty sure I have forgotten to add a few items to the budget worksheet.  I am sure we will need to twink things along the way, but I have faith that within a couple months we should be switched over to a mostly cash system & things will be looking up.

Truth be told, simply having a budget won't get us where we want to be: financially stable.  The budget will have to be followed and, to begin with especially, we will need to be extra frugal so that we can actually get switched over.  To get our heads above water.   This in mind, in order to get some new ideas, I have been reading some blogs from frugal moms.  These encourage me to keep at it.  They help me remember that little & often makes a difference.   Here are some of the little things I have been doing, as well as, a few new tricks I will be adding.

  • Save veggie scraps in a ziploc bag in the freezer.  Add onion skins, carrot peels, broccoli leaves, cabbage hearts, etc. - you know the parts you usually throw away.  When the bag is full make veggie stock.
  • Save the juice from cooking to use as a soup base later... i.e. we have Carolina Pork at New Years.  I froze the left over liquid.  Yesterday, I took the container of "juice" added 2 containers of veggie stock, some veggies & pasta and we have some amazing soup for lunch. 
  • Keep a bucket in the shower.  Instead of running water down the drain while you wait for the water to get hot, put it in the bucket.  Dump the bucket into the washer.
  • Switch to soap nuts for laundry.  Not only do I get a natural, no chemical wash, but by taking the nuts out between the wash cycle & the rinse cycle, I can step down the water level for the rinse, saving a few liters of water with each wash.
  • Unplug electric cords, chargers, etc when they are not in use.  Electricity is going to those cords even thought it has no place to go.  This one I need to be more vigilant on.
  • Stop paying extra fees... i.e. there is a 108 yen fee every time an use the ATM after hours, on weekends or holidays, here in Japan.
  • Write down every thing you buy.  This is a new tip and a little tedious, BUT it makes me stop & think before I spend.
  • Accountability... before making that on-line purchase, run the purchase by a friend.  1st it gives you time to think about it.  2nd it gives you a second opinion as to if the purchase is really necessary.
  • Don't spend those 1 & 5 yen coins (pennies & nickels).  Every time I get a 1 or 5 yen coin I put them in my pocket then when I get home I put them in a jar.  When the jar gets full take it to the bank. 

 All of these are little things, but added together they can help loosen up the budget.  They can give breathing space where air is short.  So, do you follow a budget?  Do you have any other tips?  Let me know!