My Goal For More Repurposing This Year…How’s It Going?

I’ve never been a big fan of the ‘no spend week/year/month’ (whatever time frame is given) because if I need a new pack of socks, I’m getting it.  But I do have a goal this year of repurposing/reusing more.   Thereby spending less and making less waste.

The one thing I’ve noticed is that it’s made me more aware of what I actually can repurpose/reuse.  We’ve been big fans of reusing old crates from Mr. DNL’s work in the garden for years.  And saving wood scraps from finished projects for other projects around the homestead. 

Here’s how it’s going so far:

*The most surprising thing for me has been mending and patching of clothing.  It’s been more fun and less drudgery than it used to be.  Maybe because there’s a goal now?  Plus my sewing skills have improved a lot with more practice.

*We decided to try using old feed bags in the garden.  This summer we’re using them to grow sweet potatoes.  So far the plants are growing great.  We’ll see how they really did at harvest time.  But I’m saving more bags for more planting.

*Another thing I’m trying is using shredded paper in the garden as mulch.  We do get a lot of junk mail!  So I weed out the glossy papers (they’re not good for the garden, but are fine in recycle), shred the papers and I have a bag I keep them in until it’s time to take to the garden.  I also shred used note paper, invoices from shipped in packages, paper toilet paper wrappers, paper bags and paper packing material.  It is a big messy when you’re first getting the paper into the garden (this works with traditional planting or in containers).  But once you wet the papers, they stick together and stay down.

*I don’t buy ziplock baggies.  But I have some that I’ve reused for years now.  Plus I reuse bread bags and tortilla bags for freezing, storing, etc.  But I’ve recently read an article about using cereal, cookie, cracker bags.  Cleaned and washed, of course.  I’m going to be adding those to my repertoire.  I’ve also noticed that a lot of small clothing items (socks and underwear, for example) come in their own reclosable bags now.  I’m using those as well…as long as they don’t have small holes.  I currently have a reclosable bag that sock came in inside my freezer with veggie scraps for broth.  My one rule about reusing these bags is if they’ve had meat in them, I don’t reuse them.  I’m also going to wash and reuse pieces of aluminum foil that’s not torn.

*I’ve signed up for my local and with my closest Buy Nothing group on Facebook.  I’ve been able to give a small child’s life jacket and child’s rubber boots to a neighbor through Nextdoor. com and I have a few things to put on the Buy Nothing group to see if someone can use them.  I’ve also signed up for TerraCycle (it’s free) to find companies that are recycling things that aren’t being recycled on the local level…like deodorant containers or toothpaste containers.

I do other things for repurposing (reuse cat litter containers for planters, cut up old t-shirts for rags, etc.) but these listed are pretty new to me.  I’ve been trying to look at everything we use through fresher eyes of, ‘can we reuse this somewhere?’   It’s not always a yes, but sometimes it’s ‘oh, I didn’t think of that before!’  Every little bit helps.  And if a lot of us do our bit, it makes a lot of difference.

New to canning?

New to canning?  Start small. 

*Pickles or jams are the easiest to start with.  There are a lot of recipes to choose from.  When starting out, the simpler the recipe, the better.

*Inventory what equipment you have.  No need to spend money if you don’t need to.  A large, heavy bottomed pot is great for starting out.  You can put a dishrag in the bottom of the pot (add water before heating) to keep the jars from rattling on the bottom of the pot.  I do recommend a canning jar lifting tongs.  They’re pretty inexpensive and it gets hot jars out of the hot water safely.

*Canning jars and rings can be reused.  Always check the jars for chips and the rings for rust, dents, etc.  Defects can cause your jars not to seal.  Canning lids are ALWAYS SINGLE USE for canning.  They can be reused for other things later, but never can twice with the same lid. 

*Process a small batch (one or two jars) to start.  Like any new skill, it takes practice.  Some people will can water to get experience without having to risk any food.

*Read up on canning times for what you’re canning.  Every type of canned food has its own cooking time.  Your canning times start from when the water is at a rolling boil (212 degrees F/100 degrees C).   Also know which foods are high acid (safe for water bath canning) and which foods are low acid (require pressure canning).  The NCHFP website and the USDA home canning website both have all the information you need for canning times and food acid levels.  Your local extension office website can be a great resource for canning advice. 

*Set aside a block of time for yourself for canning.  Your attention is needed.   Make sure you have all of your supplies on hand before you start boiling water.  Prep work usually takes longer than the actual boiling, but both are equally important.  If time is an issue, you can prepare your food, put it into the jars, add the lids and put into the refrigerator and do the water bath canning the next day.  I’ve done this before with no issues.  I just add the jars to the water when it’s still room temperature and heat the water and the contents at the same time.  You can have cracking/breaking if you add cold jars to boiling water.

*Have fun.  This is a great skill to have to preserving food in your home.  And as your confidence grows, you can add more foods to the list of what you can.

Year Six of the Six Year (Actually Six+…but that’s ok) Debt Free Plan

A little over five years ago we came up with a plan to be debt free in six years.  Well, I came up with the plan, crunched the numbers and made the spreadsheets (yes, that’s fun for me!) and Mr. DNL said, ‘Sounds great!’ and we moved forward.

Our plan was pretty simple.  Stop spending and pay off debt.  Now the stop spending part was for extraneous stuff (going out to dinner, movies, etc.) and we never did much of that.  And if something was needed, we could save up for it.  The paying off the debt portion, while still simple, has taken a long time, a lot of hard work and dedication to our goal.

A little back story:  In 2013 when we bought that land that DNL Homestead now sits on, we had no debt but the mortgage on our home in the city.  So we decided to buy the land, do some improvements and have our home built.  And in the space of a short time, we were back in the hole again.  Wow!  Mortgage on the land, mortgage on the house, having the driveway built, well installed, septic system installed were just the beginning.  Equipment and storage for the equipment we needed for the homestead.  Let’s not forget the county putting impact fees on the land since we were the first to develop it.  There was always something or someone that needed money when we first started out.  It added up and did it quickly.

Moving forward and the debt free plan was created.  Our pay off debt plan was this:  we paid off the smallest debt first, then rolled the monthly payment for that debt (it was already in the budget, so no extra funds needed) to the monthly payment for next smallest debt.  Paid that and rolled the monthly payment forward and so on.  And while one account at a time is being concentrated on, the regular payments on the rest are still being made.  We’ve been doing that for five years now and our only debt is the mortgage on our house.  The cars, the land, and loans are all paid.  I had my doubts about that rolling the payments into the next system working, but I’m living proof it does work! 

Budgeting is a big part of the debt free plan.  Knowing what your bill are, knowing when they’re due and paying them is a way to start the budget.  Also, if you have a bill…like your mortgage…that is more than your weekly pay, break it up into smaller amounts each payday and put that amount into savings.  Then when the bill is due, you combine what you’ve saved and pay the larger than your weekly pay bill.  My budget is the four week/month budget.  All of my bills are broken down into four weeks and when there is a five week month (four times a year), there’s an extra payday.  If you get paid every other week, you will get that extra payday twice a year.  But it’s still four weeks of pay.   Broken down…4weeks x 12month=48weeks.   And since there’s 52 weeks/year, that’s the extra four paydays.  We’ve been using our extra paydays for paying towards bills.  You can also save for a purchase, college, vacation…whatever.  Just a small reminder that on that week where there’s no bills due, you still have to budget for groceries, gas, etc.

And what about the ‘six plus’ on our six year plan?  Well, we had a couple of unexpected expenses pop up in the last few years.  We were able to take the rolled-up monthly payments and pay those expenses.  But the length of time that we paid on the extra expenses pushed back the final bill (our house mortgage) being paid off.  But the beauty of this system is its flexibility.  Yes, dates were pushed back, but it didn’t change our plans nor how we were paying bills.  So paying off our mortgage went from approximately February, 2022 to approximately August, 2022.

Again, it’s a simple plan…hard implementation.  It takes dedication, focus and stick-to-it-ness.  And the willingness to stop spending money on things you don’t need.  Living simply and frugally helped a bunch with that.  So, yes, you can get out of debt.  But it’s a lot harder than getting into debt.  But you can do it.

New and Improved…and You Don’t Need It

There are so many new and improved products out there all vying for your money.  Seriously, look up products that are trying to replace the simple broom and dustpan.  The amount of items being offered is staggering.  And most have tag-lines about ‘convenience’ and ‘never touch dirt again’.  It’s as if the act of cleaning or touching dirt is somehow beneath people.  Modern society is drowning in garbage due to believing that convenience (and the waste it creates) is the be-all-and-end-all of life.

My goal for this year is to repair and repurpose items in our home so that:

A-More waste is not created

B-Money is not unnecessarily spent

C-Repaired items have a longer use life

D-Repurposed items have a longer, but different from original, use life

One important way to keep on using what you’ve already purchased is simple maintenance.  From trimming strings to keep clothing/linen items from damage, to cleaning the vent on your vacuum or your outside dryer vent.  Everything needs a little attention some times.  The internet is full of articles and videos showing how to maintain items around your home.  Extending the life of items you own is a savings unto itself.

The most often advertised ‘new and improved’ items seem to be cleaning supplies.  And cleaning supplies don’t have to cost a lot of money.  My kitchen broom, that I’ve had for about 20 years now, still has the $1 price tag on it.  Brooms and dust pans last for years.   Homemade all-purpose cleaner from vinegar and orange peels is easy and cheap to make.  Cleaning rags can be made from cut up old fabric.  Most people have everything they need to do what they need in and out of their homes.   And renting an item you don’t have, but need, is also a good way to save money and not create waste. 

Many years ago, Mr. DNL had extended an invitation to a Kirby vacuum salesman to come into our home.  This isn’t a jab at Kirby…I’m sure it’s a fine machine but I wasn’t going to spend roughly $1000 for a vacuum.  And I remember this salesman going on and on saying, ‘It does this, it does that’ and for everything he said the vacuum did, I told him I had a broom, dustpan, mop, regular vacuum, etc. that already did that.  And that encounter has stayed in my memory.  And every time I hear about ‘new and improved’ whatever, the first thing that pops to my mind is, ‘I’ve already got something that does it’.

Don’t fall for the hype.  New and improved just means spending more money.  And you probably already have something that does that job.

Homesteading Skills…Totally Customizable

There are so many articles about being a homesteader and the skills you will require.    If you put ‘homesteading skills’ into a search engine…wow, that’s a lot that comes up!  I do read a lot of them because learning new skills is a valuable commodity.  Plus sometimes I read something that I’ve not done before and go ‘ooh, I’d like to try that!’  Please remember though, not all of the articles say, ‘not all of these skills you will need…it depends on how you homestead’.  This is important. 

Where you live and how you homestead determines what skills you need.  Homesteading is not a one-size-fits-all thing.  You customize it for you.  If you’re a vegetarian, the articles about hunting and fishing probably won’t be something you’re interested.  But foraging might be.   If you don’t enjoy gardening or find it physically difficult then the ‘grow your garden’ section of an article might not be for you.  But that doesn’t mean you won’t enjoy the preserving food sections.  This list could go on and on but this is where customizing your homesteading skills to your homestead situation is important.

One thing I rarely see written about with homesteading skills is financial skills.  Because, seriously, this is a mega-important skill to have.  If you are going to finance a piece of land/farm/homestead/apartment in the city, understanding what you’re getting yourself into is vitally important.  Fixed rate interest, variable rate, down payment percentage, closing costs, etc, are terms you have an understanding of or you can find yourself in a real financial bind.  For example, when we bought our land, the 15-year mortgage was a combination of fixed and variable rates.  Three years fixed/12-years variable.  And that meant on the same day each year (after three years) whatever the prime lending rate was on that day determined what our interest rate and payment amount for the next 12 months would be.  I had never dealt with a variable rate loan before and had it explained in detail to me.  If you don’t understand, please ask the person telling you about your financing to explain it.  Not understanding something you’ve never dealt with does not make you uneducated.  And asking to have things explained does not mean that either.  It means you’re smart for asking.

Another homesteading financial skill I’ve not seen much about is debt.  As in ‘getting out of and staying out of’ debt.  And budgeting…let’s not forget that one!  I know this isn’t real sexy stuff, but it is something that people need to know.  If you run out of money before you run out of month every month…it’s not good.  There are plenty of good articles online for debt and budgeting.  Find what works for you, put it to use and stick with it.  That’s the best advice I can give on the subject.

If you’re going to be selling things from your homestead (foods/homemade goods/animals) reading up about local/state regulations is talked about quite a bit in homesteading skills articles.  But what’s not talked about is the financial side of that.  Taxes-state (if your state has income tax) and federal,  quarterly tax filing and minimum amounts of money made to make filing required, different types of incorporation to protect your personal assets should your homestead be sued, business licenses-if required, etc.  This is basically if your homestead is also your business.

A lot of people who homestead also have jobs outside of the homestead.  And sometimes I feel a bit slighted by some of the authors writing about them.  I read words like ‘weekend homesteader’ or ‘hobby farmer/homesteader’.  Those terms are garbage.  I have a full time job and so does Mr. DNL.  But every morning and every evening and every weekend (basically when we’re not on our FT jobs) we’re doing what needs to be done around here.  Homesteading isn’t a hobby for us.  It is how we have chosen to live our lives.  But downplaying what we do because we have jobs outside of our homesteads does a great disservice to a whole lot of homesteaders.

Homesteading skills are many and varied.  And an article or two isn’t going to tell you the whole story.  Nor is everything listed by one author something you’re going to need or want for yourself.  For me, I don’t  need a tractor, I don’t want to keep bees and I buy my pie crusts because mine are not as good as store bought.  Does that make me less of a homesteader?  Nope.  And not following someone’s list won’t make you any less of a homesteader either.

Waste/Recycling/Repurposing During a Pandemic

We here at DNL Homestead work hard to make less waste, repurpose and recycle more.  I work to reuse/repurpose as much as possible the items that come into our home.  And using cloth bags for groceries and other purchases.  Basically we’re trying to keep what we waste to as minimal as possible.

Then March hit…along with the COVID-19 pandemic.  We’re pretty much home-bodies and not too much changed for us.  The two main exceptions are that I began working from home and we started online grocery and supplies shopping.  I haven’t been in a grocery or department store since March.  It’s a little difficult to reuse your cloth bags when you’re not going into the store.  And when the wonderful workers at our local grocery store load up my grocery order into the trunk of my car, it’s in single-use plastic bags.  And when boxes of supplies are delivered, the packaging is invariably single-use plastic.

I’ve saved up and taken all of the plastic bags and single-use plastic packaging to recycle at a local grocery store twice now.  Do I hate that I have to have so much single-use plastic come into my home after fighting so hard against it?  Yes.  But I do understand that there’s been nothing normal about the last six month of my life.  Also, yes.

We’re still set up to repurpose/reuse most of the food containers that come into our home.  We recycle the boxes that our supplies are shipped in and as much food packaging (cans, thin cardboard, juice-box style milk boxes, etc.) as we can.  And kitchen scraps go to the chickens, ducks and goats or to the compost pile.  I’ve not noticed any uptick in our garbage.  We still only put the can to the curb about once a month.

I know I’m not the only one that’s concerned about the increase of single-use plastic.  I’ve read many posts and articles about this increase right now.  And there’s a lot of us that are hoping that we’re not undoing all of the hard work been done to decrease waste in our lives.  I guess only time will tell.

So, it would seem trying to live a life with less waste and more repurposing/reusing is possible during a global pandemic.  But it’s a little harder than before.  And that’s what worries me.  A lot of people, when asked to do something that’s a little harder will simply give up due to not wanting to be inconvenienced.  Here’s hoping that I’m wrong.

Creating Food Security At Home

The dictionary defines preparedness as being in a state of readiness.   I recently read a quote that we are all preparers…just preparing for different things.

Things happen.  Life happens.  Illness, loss of job/income, natural disasters, and as we’ve learned very recently, global pandemics can happen.

Being a frugal person, I’ve been a proponent of keeping cabinets and freezers stocked.  Especially when finding items at the grocery store on sale.  In the last six months or so, I’ve been expanding that stocking up.  I’ve been working on keeping about three months of food on hand.  Rice, beans, pasta, home and store-bought canned foods are in our pantry and pantry annex (a set of shelves in our spare room).  We have fruits, veggies, garden produce, homemade items (stewed tomatoes and spaghetti sauce) and meat in our freezers.

Being stocked up on food is just the first step.

*Make an inventory so you know what you have on hand.

*Buy what you’ll eat.  Canned beets are great unless you hate them.

*Rotate your stock.  Just like the stores, put the newer stuff behind the older stuff so you use older first.

*Use your stock!  This is so important.  Get into the habit of using what you buy and replacing what you use.

It doesn’t have to be expensive to start stocking up.  Budget an extra $10/week at the grocery store.  Figure out what you want in your stock and start building it with the extra $10.  If you buy one bag of rice, buy two.  Buy four extra cans of veggies you like.  It really doesn’t take long before you see your stock grow.  And dry goods usually aren’t that expensive.

I know space (or lack of) can be an obstacle for stocking.  A case of 15 oz cans can fit under a bed easily.  Laying rice and bean packs flat and stacking them takes up less space.  Reorganizing cabinets/pantry can help to find room what your stock.

If you have the freezer space, check with a local meat market if they have bundles of meat for sale.  We recently purchased about 40 pounds of meat (chicken, beef, pork) for less than $120.  Plus the ground meat we purchased (beef and sausage) was packed in one pound packages.  I use ½ pound of meat in my recipes that call for it.  So I repackaged it to the smaller size and that stretched my meat out even farther.

Learn to make planned-overs instead of left-overs.  When I make soup in the crock pot, I always make a full pot.  That leaves extras for lunch the next day and enough to freeze for a later meal.  I make up some rice and pour the soup over it for that second, planned meal.  And all that second meal cost is the cost of the rice.  If you make a roast, save what’s leftover in the freezer.  Shred it and put it into soup, or a dish for a later meal.

Storing a few months of food can be done with a plan, organization and budgeting.  And you’ll give yourself the peace of mind knowing that if life throws you a curve, you’ll have some food to get you and your family through.  It’s one less thing to worry about.


We Have What We Need

One of the ways that advertisers make you part with your hard-earned money is to tell you that you need what they are trying to sell.  But the truth is that most of the time you already have what you need and you can repurpose it to fill other needs.

There are some obvious things.  Using paper egg cartons to start seeds.  A coffee cup with a broken handle makes a great pen holder.  An empty tissue carton as a garbage holder in your car.

There are some not-so-obvious things as well.

*Athletic sock with a hole in the toe?  Cut the toe off and cut long ways down the sock.  Open it up and you have a heavy duty cotton cleaning rag.  These can be sewn together to make a larger cleaning rag.

*You think you need a fancy fruit holder to protect your fruit from bruising in your lunch box?  Just take an old dish towel, place the fruit in the middle and bring the corners up to the middle and wrap.  Your fruit is now protected.

*An old, raggedy towel can be cut into smaller wash clothes/dish rags.

*You need a pet bed?  Take an old pillow cloth, stuff it with clothes that you know won’t be sold at the thrift store (torn, stained, worn, etc.) fill it up and then sew the top of the pillow case shut.  And you have a pet bed.

*Jars for dried goods (beans, herbs, pasta, etc.) are needed.  Old glass jars from pickles, salsa, and spaghetti sauce can be washed and reused.

*Plastic bags can be cut and knotted into plarn (plastic yarn) and new items can be knitted or crocheted out of it.  The upside of that is that these items are very sturdy!

*You need a pot to put a plant in?  You can repurpose a cat litter container (just make sure to drill some holes!) and you already have what you need.

We’ve been so conditioned our whole lives by advertisers that our lives are incomplete unless we give them our money for things they’re selling.  They’re not.  Our lives are full.  And in a lot of cases, over full.  Don’t believe me?  Look around at how many self-storage places keep being built.

If you’ve already spent your money on something, why not repurpose when its original use is done?  It takes looking at something and asking ‘what else can I use this for?’ before getting rid of it.  Or looking online for ideas when you’ve got nothing.  It takes a shift in thinking.


Removing Plastic from DNL Homestead – 2020 update

A couple of years ago I started on a quest to remove plastic from our home.  Let me tell you, it’s definitely easier said than done.  Walk through a grocery store and just look at the packaging.  Almost everything has some plastic in it.  Or the packaging is completely plastic.  Getting away from it is tough.

Now I will say that there are some things packaged in plastic that I use over and over again.  Sour cream, mayo, and peanut butter are the main ones.  When the original contents are gone, the containers are washed and reused.  I reuse them for storing food in the freezer and in the pantry.  They are also used for scooping animal feed and holding assorted items in and around the house.  They’re heavy duty plastic, wash and reuse great.  And they last for years.

Here are the areas that I’ve concentrated on most with removing plastic.


*Toothbrushes-They’re still plastic but have replaceable heads.  Over 90% of the toothbrush is reused.  Ordered online.

*Razors-Both Mr. DNL and I like single blade razors but are not fans of the disposable ones.  I found out that Gillette makes a single blade razor with a replaceable head (reuse the handle).  I order these online.

*Soap-I got rid of the liquid soap containers and went to bar soap for hand washing.

*Shampoo-I got rid of the liquid shampoo and use bar soap.  I buy either coco butter moisturizing soap or Yardley’s of London moisturizing soap for shampoo.

*Toilet paper-I buy TP by the case now and each roll is wrapped in paper.  And it’s actually less expensive than the bargain store brand per roll

*Personal hygiene items:

*Deodorant-I make my own now and reuse a small plastic lidded container (it originally held the copper bolus for the goats)

*Moisturizer-I used coconut oil mixed with a little lavender oil for everyday moisturizing.  And I made a salve for dry skin/redness

*Hairspray-I use the last bottle that held store bought hairspray and make my own for a few pennies.


*I removed the plastic liner from our kitchen garbage can.  I put some newspaper in the bottom to catch any spills and wash it out when needed.  I also do this in other, smaller, garbage cans around the house.

*I use a regular bar soap for washing up the dishes.  I do have a small bottle of liquid soap but I only use it for things that are very greasy.

*I started using pod dishwasher detergent.  The pods are made of non-plastic material.  I also use the pods in the washing machine.

*Any plastic containers that come from the grocery store have to serve double duty past their original design.  Sandwich holders for lunch, freezing garlic/onion greens, etc.

We still end up with plastic bags and foam in the house.  I’m fortunate that we have a local foam company that accepts recycling.  Plus I can take the plastic bags to our local Walmart for recycling.  Many grocery/retail stores allow for both of these types of recycling.

As hard as we try, we will never completely remove plastic from our lives.  The goal is to keep it to a minimum and try to keep it out of the garbage/recycle stream.  And if you do have plastic, use it and make it last as long as you can.  I have a plastic laundry basket that I’ve had for 33 years that still in great shape.


Increased Self-Sufficiency

This morning it dawned on me how much food we’ve produced/preserved for ourselves on DNL Homestead.

  • Potatoes
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Chicken and duck eggs (a whole bunch of frozen duck eggs)
  • Onion and garlic greens cut and in freezer –more growing in the garden
  • Jalapeno and bell peppers (frozen)
  • Tomatoes (frozen and canned)
  • Jam
  • Cilantro (frozen)
  • Pickles
  • Canned fruit
  • Spaghetti sauce (frozen)
  • Applesauce
  • Salsa
  • Frozen blueberries and elderberries
  • Irish soda bread (frozen)
  • Broth made from bones
  • Frozen whey leftover from cheese making
  • Dried herbs

I’ve got radishes, sugar snap peas and tomatillos growing great in the garden right now.  Plus we’re hoping for black berries and guava blossoms this spring.  And (fingers crossed) we’ll get some pears this year.

This is not bragging.  This is just a realization that we’re producing more and more for ourselves each year.  And TONS more than we did while living in town!  I know we’ll never be completely self-sufficient here and that’s ok.

Sometimes it takes a step back to really see what you’re doing and how far you’ve truly come.