Thursday, August 8, 2013

I’m No Starving Artist

As you might imagine, I spend time talking about “thrifty” things with family and friends.  Many tell me they “don’t have time for such stuff” (*Edited version*)  Perhaps they envision me a lady of leisure, given I’m a stay-at-home writer.  They don’t realize, this writing life is enabled because of our thrifty lifestyle.  Despite the stereo-type about artists, we eat well and live comfortably.

My contributions to our home are, in part, the savings and benefits we realize by my baking, cooking, concocting, building, crafting, or repairing.  And, these savings and benefits are considerable.  Every project either costs us less, lasts longer, tastes better, is healthier, or fits (body, home or purpose) more specifically and to better effect.  These nurturing practices, products and foods enrich our quality of life beyond most standard measures of wealth.

There are savings in dollars and cents, like those gained with the nightgown I sewed, eight years ago, for about $12.  It just went to the rag bag, finally threadbare. The next nightgown will cost even less, as I always include the cost of new patterns in the first garment made from them. So, subsequent clothing costs only the required fabric and notions.  For those, I take advantage of sale pricing and club memberships, buy in larger quantities, and thus attain supplies (for any project) while prices are lowest.  New clothing is only one way sewing saves us.  Repairs and mending, while not fashionable, give garments and linens second life for "messier duties" like gardening, household cleaning, painting, etc.   I don’t spend all my time sewing, either.  By allotting a half hour, a few times a week, slowly, over a few weeks, I complete another garment.  Then, its greater durability trickles down further savings.

Oddly, the “hardest sell” is home-made and garden-fresh foods.  With the reduction and, in certain cases, elimination of processed foods from our kitchen, the cooking and baking processes are longer.  We also don’t use a microwave, so conventional cooking techniques add some time to cooking duties, although, not as much as people might suppose.  Besides, some of the most succulent meals come from five minutes of prep work and six hours in a slow cooker.  I don’t argue there is a heavy time-cost for cooking and baking from scratch, and quality ingredients either cost money in-store or time in the garden or kitchen.  It all comes down to how much we value the heavenly flavours, heightened nutrition, less waste and significant health benefits.  We believe better health is an asset of incalculably high worth.

I've actually heard groans when I tell people about some new thing I'm making.  I understand, too. Time is crunching everyone these days. The thing is, now that we've experienced the many benefits, these home-made items have become an integral and indispensable part of our lives, and hubby and I are eager to share the results.  By far, their greatest value is the many positive effects on our health and vitality.

So, it’s a little embarrassing to admit but, I do NOT spend a lot of time on most of the products I make; my life has its own schedules and time constraints.  Although, just how much time would you spend to be free of troublesome health issues?  As an unexpected and startling bonus result, since hubby and I began using homemade personal and household care products our libidos are once again active, yet were once headed for early retirement.  Coincidence?  Not when considering the number of hormone disrupting agents contained in many of the products we've replaced with healthier alternatives.

People are still suspicious, though.  “How much do all these things cost, anyway?”  As you can see (pictured below), I have only a small collection of natural ingredients -- some from the kitchen, such as baking soda and vinegar.  From these few basics, I make a wide variety of personal and household care products, at minimal cost, with very little effort, and the results are exceptional.
My Apothe-Curio

These are a few examples of everyday items I make, their costs and benefits:

Deodorant:  takes about 30 minutes, including clean up; uses about $2 of ingredients; produces two deodorant bars which last us about three months; works effectively without harsh chemical ingredients.  I once suffered glandular swelling and pain under my arms.  I stopped using commercial deodorants in January 2010 and that problem became a distant memory.  Since then, I found and now make a bar- style deodorant which Hubby prefers – both its subtle, herbaceous aroma and its effectiveness.
Shampoo:  takes about 30 minutes (or less) to prepare, costs about $1 a batch; lasts two of us, about 2-3 weeks depending on usage.  Now that I've perfected a formulation that suits our dry hair, both of us enjoy greater manageability and clean, invigorated scalps, all without harsh chemicals of any kind.  By tweaking a simple shampoo recipe I found online and substituting a tisane made with fresh rosemary from our garden, I've created a shampoo which has, literally, eliminated hubby's dandruff problem.
Perfumed oil:  takes 5 minutes to mix; costs about 50 cents per ounce, which has lasted me three months already and is not yet half-used.  I'm guessing this batch will last about 8-10 months. Since I began using this perfumed oil, the rash I experienced with store-bought fragrances is no longer an issue.
Tooth-powder:  5 minutes or less to mix; costs less than a dime for a three-four week supply.  My sensitive teeth are no longer sensitive, plus the tooth-powder has natural and gentle whitening properties.  I now add a few drops of peppermint essential oil, and the flavour is quite pleasant.
Body Cream:  takes the longest – about an hour, including clean-up; once every four-to-six months, depending on usage (and, usage is declining because this cream works so well for us.) One batch (I make 1/3-recipe) costs approximately $2-3 dollars.  To buy similar products cost, on average, five to twenty-five times more, were less effective, and contained chemical ingredients too harsh for my skin.
Window & Glass cleaner:  2 minutes to prepare; one quart costs less than a dollar (usually pennies, but this depends on the cost of dish soap and vinegar used);  though mild, this solution cleans extremely well without leaving streaks.

Whatever I make, the process inevitably serves double-duty.  Rather than interfere with writing, these pursuits add significantly to my process.  When I need to ponder a story scene or work out an article point, I immerse myself in another unrelated but creative endeavour and suddenly the Muse pops by for a visit – I get some of my best ideas while up to my elbows in dish water or pizza dough!  So, for me, any time invested produces many pearls of potential.