January 24, 2008

Freecycle

Have you heard of Freecycle? Here's how Freecycle describes itself:

""The Freecycle Network™ is made up of 4,231 groups with 4,403,000 members across the globe. It's a grassroots and entirely nonprofit movement of people who are giving (& getting) stuff for free in their own towns. It's all about reuse and keeping good stuff out of landfills. Each local group is moderated by a local volunteer (them's good people). Membership is free. To sign up, find your community by entering it into the search box above or by clicking on “Browse Groups” above the search box. Have fun!"

Freecycle involves signing up to a Yahoo Group, and receiving emails with lists of items people are searching for -- you add your wish list to the emails, too, of course.

When you see something on the list that you have and don't want, then you give it away. See something on the list that you want? Connect with the owner and get it for free ....

PCMag gives it a glowing review, although over at Yahoo's Frugal Living group, there have been some comments about posts seeking HDTVs and diamond rings. (I'm assuming that those posters are under the 'don't ask, don't get' banner.)

Personally, I haven't joined yet -- but it's on my to-do list. Sounds like a good way to recycle things, as well as meeting other folk who are interested in simplifying ....

January 22, 2008

Starting to Simplify: Step 1 - Start Cooking at Home

Lots of folk are in the process of simplifying their lives, and from the looks of today's economy, a lot more are going to be revamping their lifestyles - maybe as a necessity, as much as a proactive choice.

What if you're interested in changing your life, taking control and simplifying things, but you're not sure where to begin?

Perhaps the easiest place to start is to begin preparing your food at home. This means bringing your lunch to work, and cooking meals at home - not eating out, not grabbing fast food.

It's easier than you think, it's fun, it's a stress-reducer, it's healthier, and it's a great family ritual to get everyone communicating with each other at the table. Plus, you will be amazed at the amount of money you save.

Start slowly, Rome wasn't built in a day. Take your lunch to work on odd-numbered days, or cook a big meal on Sunday that can serve as yummy leftovers during the week.

For more guidance, check out these posts:

How to Cook - 1
How to Cook - 2
How to Cook - 3: Slow Cookers
Menu Planning 101
Menu Planning 102
How to Cut Up a Whole Chicken
How to Fillet a Whole Fish
Cleaning Burnt Pans

January 21, 2008

Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Words for Simplifiers


I'm proud to say that San Antonio will once again have the largest MLK march in the nation today, and I'm thankful that we have a national holiday legally set aside to remember just how truly great Martin Luther King, Jr. really was ....

To that end, I've collected MLK quotations that serve to encourage those of us who are engaged in living simpler lives.

Sure, there are his great words of wisdom dealing with Vietnam, discrimination, the power of non-violent protesting, etc. and I encourage you to go read all those quotes, as well as some of King's speeches and sermons. (Videos of several speeches are available online, and there are audio excerpts of his sermons, too.)

What I'm providing for you here, though, are words that speak to the ongoing effort of living a simplified life in a complex culture and all that entails.

Simplicity is not easy in today's America, and I for one found these quotes to be encouraging and comforting:


We are prone to judge success by the index of our salaries or the size of our automobile rather than by the quality of our service and relationship to mankind.

There is nothing more tragic than to find an individual bogged down in the length of life, devoid of breadth.

We must use time creatively.

Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.

All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.

Almost always, the creative dedicated minority has made the world better.

Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.

Everything that we see is a shadow cast by that which we do not see.

Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase.

I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made straight and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.

If we are to go forward, we must go back and rediscover those precious values - that all reality hinges on moral foundations and that all reality has spiritual control.

Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.

Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men.

Philanthropy is commendable, but it must not cause the philanthropist to overlook the circumstances of economic injustice which make philanthropy necessary.

Put yourself in a state of mind where you say to yourself, "Here is an opportunity for me to celebrate like never before, my own power, my own ability to get myself to do whatever is necessary."

Rarely do we find men who willingly engage in hard, solid thinking. There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions. Nothing pains some people more than having to think.

Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will.

The hope of a secure and livable world lies with disciplined nonconformists who are dedicated to justice, peace and brotherhood.

If man hasn't discovered something that he will die for, he isn't fit to live.

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.

Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal.

Take the first step in faith. You don't have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.

The quality, not the longevity, of one's life is what is important.

The strong man is the man who can stand up for his rights and not hit back.

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.

January 17, 2008

Yerba Mate - Better than Coffee or Green Tea?

Down Argentine Way, the drink of choice isn't coffee or tea - it's yerba mate.

Made from steeping dried leaves of the yerba mate plant, it's extremely popular in South America and looks to be gaining ground in the U.S. - popping up in lots of mainstream publications, including USA Today and Epicurean. In fact, Bombilla & Gourd's Yerba Mate Tea just won the 2007 Best Non-Carbonated Beverage award over at BevNet.com, the beverage industry's trade publication website.

As the national drink of Argentina and Uruguay, mate is brewed much stronger and drunk much more often during the day than in other parts of the world. It's also accompanied by a social component: from Brazil to Argentina to Lebanon and Syria, the drink is served as loose leaves in hot water, in a special gourd-shaped container (shown above) and drank through a metal straw ("bombilla") whose tip includes a strainer. Yes, people share the same metal straw, passing the container from person to person in Latin America's answer to the coffee break.

There's a worldwide fanbase for yerba mate. Folk herald yerba mate as a superior caffiene source than coffee (there's not a gnarly effect on the stomach) as well as aiding in weight loss and helping with all sorts of health maladies.

Weight loss catch your eye? Check out this article in Women's World where a woman claimed to have lost 100 pounds just by incorporating mate into her daily life.

Yerba mate is a distinctly different plant, and it's been studied for its medicinal properties. Studies have found it to be filled with good things like B vitamins, antioxidants (more than red wine or green tea), and a mood enhancer similar to that found in chocolate. Some are saying it's a possible cancer-fighter.

However, other studies have warned that it may have a cancerous effect among heavy drinkers - those drinking significants amount of the drink over long periods of time.

Me? I got a box of Yerba Mate tea bags for Christmas. Taste was just fine (I sweetened it with Stevia) and I had a cup each morning for a week. I liked it, I had lots of energy and no yucky-stomach feeling. Better than coffee, for sure.

I'll keep it in stock, but I'll still have my tea as well. Tea is just too fun to abandon: choosing between the pretty packages, deciding between milk or lemon, picking the mug. Maybe it's a girl thing.

January 15, 2008

Personal Post 8: Watching Food Prices in 2008

During the first week of this month, I went to the grocery store with a list and a plan and a $100 bill. I thought I'd leave there with a lot more than $3.78 in my pocket.

So, I've decided to track food prices this year, and share my findings with you. Here are ten items from that January 2008 grocery receipt and their corresponding prices:

1. Dole Yellow Bananas .39/lb
2. Small Limes - 5/$1.00
3. Store Brand Cage Free Brown Eggs - 1 Dozen $1.99
4. Silk Unsweetened SoyMilk 1/2 Gallon - $2.79
5. Store Brand 98% Fat Free Cream of Mushroom Soup - $0.75
6. Store Brand Diced Tomatoes Canned 15 oz. - $.059
7. Regular Ground Beef Chuck 70/30 16 oz. - 2.08
8. Suave Invisible Solid Powder Deodorant - $1.48
9. Store Brand Frozen Green Sweet Peas 16 oz. - $0.92
10. Barilla Plus MultiGrain Rotini Pasta 16 oz. box - $1.65.

Let's see what happens.