The Great Chicken Massacre

Around the same time we purchased our 10 laying hens A bought 50 Cornish Rock chicks to slaughter. Our hens grew up with them and I helped take care of them because of that. Fast forward now almost four months later and here we are. Its time for the slaughtering of the chickens. We have been slowly taking down about 10 a day about twice a week. I became certified to slaughter chickens to sell last year but haven’t had an opportunity to actually slaughter any until now. These wont be sold but I still got some great practice in, and i’m now super excited to slaughter mine in another 4 months. Which i figured out wont be until November or December, which isn’t ideal but its better than nothing. Next year I’ll have to order them earlier in the year. I’ll also order 50 next time (if I like them).

I think the hardest part for me is actually killing the chickens. She doesn’t have a stunner (which knocks them out before you kill them). I think I’m going to have C buy me one before November so I’m not as squeamish about it. I really don’t like the idea of killing something while it’s conscious. We first put the chickens in some sort of a cone. She uses old detergent bottles that have been completely cleaned. know a lot of people use traffic cones. You stick the birds in upside down, then shock them and slit their throats. Once they have bled out you either skin them or scald them in boiling water for a few seconds to loosen the feathers and pluck their feathers. Once that is done the other person takes over and takes out their insides. A keeps the heart and gizzards while we take the livers. C really likes some fried liver. I haven’t had any yet. We will fry some up soon though. Then we throw them in a cooler of ice water until we are done and can take them back to the house to put in the fridge for a day or two before finishing the processing and vacuum seal them and throw them in the freezer. A is giving us a few for helping her process them all. She also has another 50 to do in another 4 months.

She does hers very differently than we do ours but they are still better than what we get at the grocery store, and a lot cheaper. Ours are pasture raised. We are putting together our run in the next few days so I’ll post pictures of that once we get it up. The way it works is you move it once a day to the next section of pasture so they aren’t in their own feces for longer than a day and they get fresh bugs and grass every day. I like this method better than any other.

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Finishing the Chicken Coop

Yesterday we got it together and finished the chicken coop.  C helped me pull all the boards off the pallets.  it took me 30 minutes to pull 6 boards.  It took him 30 minutes to pull ALL the boards.  Go figure.  It took us about 4 hours to pull the boards, screw them on, put the wire on the three sides and screw more boards around them so that the racoons and other predators don’t get them.  The only thing we didn’t do is put a roof on, and that’s only because the person we were getting the tarp from wasn’t home.

  
So now we have a fully functioning chicken coop.


And we only had one major injury. C scratched his back pretty good on the metal wires around the door of the coop. He got himself pretty good too. We cleaned it well and it’s already half healed today. 

  
So what did we do next? We added the chickens. I walked down  to my friends chicken coop and rounded up the eight chickens I still had.  I’m actually getting a lot better at rounding up chickens.  I had the 10 year old stand by the front of the run (because my friend doesn’t really have a door between her run and her coop).  Then I trapped the chickens (thankfully mine like to run in a group) with a metal door type thing and put them in a big cage.  Then walked them down to the coop.  Put in some food and water, closed the door and they were fine!

Until this morning.  We come back from our half failed camping trip (watch for THAT bqlog later today) and C goes, “What the heck is on top of your chicken coop?!?!”  I look up and the chickens have roosted on top of the almost 5 foot tall coop.  We left them there instead of trying to wrastle them back in at 5am.  An hour later C was down making sure they were ok because something was messing with them.  I think it was our dog running through them on the ground.  He like to do that, not kill them, just run through them and watch them scatter and squawk.  We brought him in and when I finally got up this morning, at 10, I went and rounded them all back up and put them back in the coop.  Tonight I am putting a roof on.

First World Problems

It’s amazing the things in life that we take for granted.  We are so lucky to have power in our home, clean running water, the choice of how we want our children to be educated.  I am visiting this topic because yesterday our cistern ran out of water (or at least I thought it had, it ended up being a malfunction with the pump which was easily fixed) and it got me thinking about how much we as Americans take for granted.  We are so wasteful and many of us dont even care.

It’s funny, it’s almost as if this is my form of fasting.  It’s a way for me to become closer to the earth and to the things God gives us so that I don’t take them for granted.  I am blessed to have these things at my disposal, it’s my job to not be a glutton to them, and to be thankful for them everyday that we have them.

Some of what we do comes from being so poor for so long, but most of it comes from our views on the environment and how we should be treating it.  So here is a brief look at the life we live.  We have about a 300 gallon cistern under the cabin we are renting.  Until we get the rainwater collection set up we are relying on filling the water tank whenever it is empty.  It takes us about 7-10 days to empty the cistern.  Lets look at this critically.  We have six people living in a household that uses 300 gallons of water in a week.  We can run 3 loads of laundry, take about 2 showers each, 2 baths, and wash dishes every day.  How can we do this in a time when most households use 100 gallons of water per person every day?  Technically we should be refilling the cistern twice a day.  We have changed the way we do things in order to conserve more water.  i wash my dishes with a soapy dish towel before i rinse them off.  The water is only on while i am rinsing.  We take short showers.  When the kids take a bath we use the same bath water.  The washer uses less water than other washers.  We also don’t wash our clothes after every single time we wear them (unless they need it, like diapers or underwear).  I have some people who call me gross, I have some people who have stopped being friends with me after finding out how we use our water, and that’s fine.  We have been conditioned over the years to believe that showering everyday, washing your clothes after every wash, etc, was more “sanitary” and that “normal people” do it.  These things have actually been shown to not be better for us, or for the fabrics in our clothes, but we have been conditioned by those who benefit from the profits of us doing these things (shampoo companies, laundry detergent companies, etc).  The one thing that I do is wash my face everyday and the places that i sweat a lot, but i do this with a washcloth.  I don’t care what people think because this is the life I want to live.

We also spend about $200 on groceries every month, nothing is packaged, we have very little food that we waste and what is wasted gets fed to the dog or the chickens.  We throw away 2 bags of trash a month, and hopefully soon we will be down to 1.  Most of what people throw away is some sort of packaging, both food and non food.  If you reduce the amount of packaging you buy you reduce the amount of trash you have.  I feel much better about adding 1-2 bags of trash to a landfill every month than i did tossing 3-4 a week.  We reduce the food waste too by only buying what we need.  Yes, by the end of the 2 week pay period our fridge is looking very bare, but it should.  I find if it doesn’t we tend to not eat certain things that end up going bad.  This way we are forced to figure out how to incorporate these things into our meals, or just not buy them again for a while.  Once our garden is up and running we also will be spending much less on food.

We conserve electricity too.  We don’t keep appliances running during the day except the ones that have to (like the fridge).  We almost never have the tv on.  We also make sure to turn the lights off when we leave a room (or at least try to, our 10 year old is terrible at this).  Although part of what helps is that we are almost never home.  I find that we get cabin fever even if we are home for a few hours with so many of us in such a small space.

All in all our footprint on the environment is very low and we want it that way.  We are always looking for more ways to cut back without compromising on our heath and well being.  I have trained myself to stop and ask “what is the least wasteful way I can do this”.  I recommend trying it sometime.  It really does make you appreciative of the things you have.

Stuff is growing!!!

Our garden is doing really well.  I am so proud of it.  The house is still currently at a standstill, but I should hopefully be getting the sewage permit this week, or at least getting the perc test complete.  I’ll feel better once we really get the ball rolling on this.  In the meantime we are diligently working on the garden!  We have been weeding at least every other day.  We have 20 poblanos that have actually started growing.  That doesn’t count the HUGE number of buds and flowers on each plant!  There are also hot banana peppers growing, and there are buds on at least 1/4 of the tomatoes and two habanero plants.  I have to start planning what I am going to do with them so that I’m not scrambling to put stuff together and letting vegetables go to waste like I did last year.  We also picked 3 pints of black raspberries yesterday and are hoping to get at least another 3 pints before the end of the season.  The blackberries should be starting to ripen in the next week or two and we have at least 20 times more than we have raspberries (although C has said I am not allowed to sell anything with blackberries since they are his favorite).

raspberries

Also once the farm gets an address, which is any day now, we will be setting it up as an official farm, business license and all.  I will also be taking the class that the state offers to allow me to start selling my canned goods.  It’s only $50 and one afternoon and I’ll be able to, which is very exciting!!  Here are my thoughts so far: I would like to can a BUNCH of sweet relish.  It’s impossible to find sweet relish that doesn’t have high fructose corn syrup in it.  Here is my plan for selling the canned goods: We will charge a $1 jar deposit which we will waive if you bring us a jar (or bring your jar back).  The cost of the goods will be different depending on what is inside but most everything will only cost about $2.  Preserves will be closer to $3-$4 because of the amount of effort it takes to collect the berries (since they are wild and have thorns, tons and tons of thorns).  I will also be selling baked goods like sweet breads, doughnuts, artisan breads, and french bread, all for about $2-$3 each.  I know I am not asking much for these things but the amount I am putting into them isn’t much and the whole goal of the project is to show people that you can eat really healthy for the same, if not cheaper, than what you are currently spending on food.  It’s not going to make us rich, but that isn’t our goal anyway.  We want people to start making the switch away from processed food to good healthy non-man made chemical foods.  We use organic cane sugar (if we dont use our honey), unbleached unenriched flour, sea salt, etc.  Plus everything we make is low sugar so that also helps.  I can’t wait until we start selling our processed chickens too.  once we really get going (our five year plan) my goal is to be selling about $500 a month through the farm.  That will pay for supplies and all of our bills.  We have a long way until we get there though.  One step at a time.

living the wild life

A very good friend came to visit us today!  I love having visitors.  She was actually our midwife for the birth of the three youngest children.  She came to check on the new baby but made sure to set aside some time to check out the farm.

We showed her the chickens, both the hens and the meat birds.  We then all piled into the explorer and headed down to the farm.  We did an entire off road tour going around the boarder.  C had pointed out a massive grouping of blackberry briars up at the top of the field so i was trying to see if we would have any fruit, but the field had been mowed last year and all we had were first year shoots.  It was a bit disappointing, but i was still looking along the outer edge of the property to make sure i hadn’t missed any.  We were finishing the tour and were coming back up the field when we spied a bunch of color.  I pulled over and to my surprise we had berries all over!  I started picking but they didn’t look like blackberries to me, and they were still too early.  I took a picture and sent it to C.
To my surprise he sent back that we had black raspberries!!!  I was so excited.  raspberries are by far my favorite berry.  I grabbed a container and started picking.  I was not at all prepared to be walking through raspberry briars but that didn’t stop me.  My legs are all cut up now but it was completely worth it to be able to enjoy about 1-2 small containers that you buy at the stores worth of raspberries.  I cant wait to go out in the next few days and pick some more.  I would like to make at least 1-2 small jars of jam and maybe a pie or two.  we would like to have a larger patch than we currently have so i may try and take a few cuttings to grow and plant more for next year.  I would love for us to have a fairly large crop of raspberries and blackberries next year.  YAY!!

It was also really nice to see our friend J teaching our oldest daughter G about some of the other plants we have.  They were pulling wild onions and garlic, and they pulled a wild carrot (but nobody is going to eat it because none of us knew enough about then to tell if it was a poisonous one or not).  We visited for all in all about 3 hours.  it was really nice and really fun and resulted in some great wild food finds!!

Grocery Shopping

We totally overspent yesterday.  We knew we would, and I know it’s going to save us a ton of money in the long run, but it still sucks.  How did we overspend?  Thanks to some awesome friends of ours (you know who you are!) we discovered a restaurant supply store right next to Cs work.  This is where C bought the 50lb bag of flour for $14 the other day.  we bought butter, 10 lbs of flat iron steak, 10lbs of ground beef, 10lbs of pork chops, a huge jug of the good Worcester sauce, 3lbs of Mozzarella, and a large piece of Parmesan cheese, oh and enough olive oil to last us about 6 months.  We spent about $145.  I just about had a heart attach, but after thinking about it a LONG time i realized we are actually saving ourselves a lot of money.  If we send $20-$40 every month on meat we will be buying at least 10-20 lbs of meat, will have a huge repertoire of meat to chose from, and we will only be buying veggies at the grocery store (that is until ours come in).  We currently have about 10 weeks of meat in our freezer.  that’s pretty darn good i would say!! Plus we wont be buying more meat until next month.  our freezer is so full.  We need to get the deep freeze from Cs mom soon, especially before our 25 chickens are slaughtered.  We have enough food to feed us for over 3 weeks.  I’m pretty excited about all this, and NOTHING is from a box or “processed”.  It’s gonna be great once the veggies come in.  We will be spending probably about $50 a month on food if that.  I don’t think we have ever had this much food before.  ever.  We had trouble closing our freezer.  It felt pretty darn good.  Just to think that only three months ago we were striving to live on food stamps.  God is good!  We have a long way to go but we are so much better than we were when we started.

Payday and Groceries

C gets paid every other Thursday. I (am such a dork)…no I have a spread sheet of possible dinner ideas that we have made and liked.  I do this not to be anal but because when I don’t we tend to eat the same thing every 2 weeks.  It helps me remember more creative dinners we have made so i don’t have to spend hours going through cook books to try and “spice it up” a bit.  Although you all know I do that anyway, darn being a foodie.  I think I probably think about food 80% of my day.  Not in an unhealthy way mind you, but in a “food is my hobby there is so much that you can do with it” kind of way.

We have so far planted squash, zucchini, three or four different types of tomato, jalapenos, poblanos, two types of habeneros, hot banana peppers, eggplant, cucumbers, and beans, and possibly some other things i can’t remember.  I am keeping a journal of how much we spend on the garden so at the end of the year I can figure out if we actually did save money having the garden vs buying food at the grocery.  BUT in the meantime we go grocery shopping every 2 weeks.   I make my list of dinners we would like to eat in the next 2 weeks, make a list of what we need in order to make those dinners, and modify based on our $100 budget.  This week we are going over a bit because we are buying some things in bulk so that NEXT payday we can spend less.  We are mainly buying the expensive things in bulk until we can make/grow them ourselves.  Meat, oil, butter, things like that.  C bought me a 50lb bag of unbleached unenriched bakers flour two weeks ago and i havent even made a dent in it (after making 8 loaves of bread, 20 tortillas, pancakes, pasta, and various other goodies).  We also have 25 meat birds that will be ready for slaughter in 4 months which will be a  HUGE help.

So what does our grocery list look like?  it’s almost 100% vegetables with some lemon juice (we go through 1 large jar a week of the organic kind), cheese, and some various bulk food items.  NOTHING IS FROM A BOX (except the Annies mac and cheese).  What will we do with it?

Dinners:

french bread pizza with broccoli salad, thai chicken salad with peanut sauce, kale and quinoa patties with spicy mayo and mac and cheese (2 nights), roast chicken and veggies, pork stir fry, taco skillet with beans, ranch taco salad, spinach and mushroom quiche, stuffed cabbage rolls, black bean burgers with cole slaw, 3 cheese and spinach tortellini with grilled squash (2 nights), stuffed chili peppers

Snacks:

Bagels, Zucchini bread, Banana bread, oatmeal raisin cookies, snickerdoodles,

Breakfasts:

upside-down Apple pancakes, egg sandwiches, french toast, frittata, Omelete, strawberry pancake, breakfast burrito, and pork biscuit sandwiches

Lunches:

leftovers, green goddess sandwiches, feta and spinach fritters, ranch chicken club roll-ups, chicken salad sandwiches, bacon sandwiches, eggplant sandwiches, fish tacos, burritos.

As you can see we eat pretty darn well, and other than the extra we are spending on butter, and meat we are within our $100 budget.  Once the garden starts producing and our chickens are ready we will be spending even less.  i’m pretty excited about the whole thing!!!

It’s Februrary!!

Last Sunday I had just gotten home from church when C looked at me and says “it’s February, we should start thinking about planting”.  I turned to him and said “ok, we’ve got $30 to play with, lets head to lowes!”.  So we did.  We had some 72 well starter greenhouses left over from last year, so we bought more of those, some seeds to go with the ones we had saved, and starter soil.

garden 2 garden 1

That was the best feeling in the world.  Last year it took us until the end of march to be able to afford to start growing.  I know it made C feel good too.  I also realize it’s a bit early in the season to be planting, but last year we had such a hard time getting the seeds started we wanted to give ourselves plenty of time this year to work out all the kinks.  We planted 6 different kinds of peppers, 3 kinds of tomatoes, spinach, brussel sprouts, ad maybe some other stuff?  Our plan is that once it starts to get warmer and we are past the fear of frost we can start planting on the property.  We expect to have at least an acre garden this year.  We would like to have a yield that will take us through the year.

We have been talking about these plans for so long it’s so surreal….  This is going to be fantastic!

The Challenge!!

I did a lot of thinking after writing my post yesterday.  I had a very interesting conversation with a friend of mine after publishing my post about cost of living vs budget, and how my $100 a week food budget was unrealistic in places where the cost of living is much higher.  At first I agreed with her that yes budget restrictions are limited by cost of living, but that statem

ent REALLY bothered me because deep down I don’t agree with that.  So I did a little research…

The whole premises of this blog is teaching people how to be able to live a happy fulfilling life, being able to eat well and save money for the occasional fun activity, and not have to live in poverty when you are, well, living in poverty.  There are two numbers I want to throw at you.  The first is, acc

ording to the National Conference of State Legislatures the highest STATE minimum wage currently in effect as of 1-1-15 is $9.50 in D.C(1). so that is the number we will use as the highest cost of living we will address.  This is because that number is the highest of the lowest people have to live on, so that is the highest someone is expected to be able to live on when assessing cost of living.  That is $380 a week if NO taxes are taken out (so about $285 a week).  Basically this person would be on food stamps, they would have to be.  The second number is the cost of land.  As of 2014 the highest cost of agricultural land per acre in the US was Rhode Island ($13,700) (2). So basically if an acre of agricultural land would become available it should only cost $14,000, of course that numbe

r is completely arbitrary because it also is based on where it is, but usually only residential or commercial land costs more than that.  Based on these figures there are several things I want you to understand about this project:

This project takes work and dedication. Period.  You have to want to do it.  It also takes sacrifice.  Over the course of the past two years we have had to train ourselves to say no to ourselves, and that’s hard, but it’s important.  I think as a society we spoil ourselves too much and we come to expect that these things that we spoil ourselves with are needs and not wants.

ducks

Our current $100 food budget figure is based on several factors.  The first is how much we know we can afford.  Based on C’s current wage increase we can afford more than $100 a week, so the second factor comes in, how much we WANT to afford.  When we were on food stamps we were expected to live on $270 a month.  There were times we really had to scrimp to make it because we really couldn’t afford more than what they gave us.  We don’t want to have to scrimp like that anymore, but we don’t want to over-indulge either.  We also want to show that you can eat well, and very healthy, with less than what the government thinks a family of 4 needs ($150/wk).

I also understand that it is difficult to find land in some areas, especially around cities.  If you are considering something like what we are doing then you may have to either move a little outside your comfort zone, or outside where you work to be able to achieve these goals, or figure out how you can urban-farm where you are (below are some great ideas, keep reading!!).  Yes city farming does occur, but many times you have to deal with city laws and crabby neighbors, but it’s still completely possible.  We chose our piece of land because it was within our price range and exactly what we wanted but it’s almost an hour from Cs work.  That was a sacrifice we were willing to make.

This is not an easy task and really I only recommend it for people who really want to homestead.  Yesterday’s blog was not a “this is a quick fix” post.  These are major life changes I’m talking about here.  My friend was talking about high food costs despite the fact that they cut coupons and look at grocery store fliers each week.  I don’t.  I don’t do any of that.  I am the worlds worst couponer ever.  When I do find a coupon I want to use I forget to use them, or don’t bring them with me, or whatever.  So how do I do it?  How do I expect others to do it?  Hard work, dedication, sacrifice, and imagination.

First off we grow a lot of our food.  We also have become close with our local homesteaders.  This goal is hard to achieve if you don’t.  Homesteaders are GREAT.  They are a fantastic community of people who want you to be educated on how to live like them.  We got out there and met our local homesteaders.  When someone would say, “hey you need to talk to so-and-so” we DID.  We asked questions, we went out to learn things, we exchanged services for goods.  We made deals to help buy feed in exchange for eggs, we exchanged produce,  If you don’t take advantage of the homesteading community you are missing out on a lot of resources that would greatly cut down on your food costs.  This is especially helpful if you live in an area where land isn’t available or if you can’t grow your own garden.  I know people who rent space in either public gardens or private so they can grow a garden without having the space.  Be creative.  It’s going to take time, it’s going to take energy, but it’s totally worth it.

So here is my Challenge.

I Challenge each of you to live on my food budget for a week, wherever you are.  I want you to show me it can be done, and done well, without eating non clean foods.  Our food budget is $100 a week, but that’s based on 2 adults and 2 small children who don’t eat much.  C and I discussed in detail what we think an accurate food budget should be and here is what we came up with:

$50 per person over 13

$25 per person 5-13

$10 per person 0-5

Here is an example of a week or groceries at our house:

Meal Plans:

Breakfasts: pancakes, eggs with cheese, banana smoothies, oatmeal

Lunches: lunchmeat Sandwiches, Beans and rice with cheese and sour cream, grilled cheese, peanut butter sandwiches, fruits and veggies for sides, leftovers

Snacks: homemade crackers, pancakes, fruits and veggies

Dinners: Fajitas, Chicken Tikka Masala, Chicken Salad Sandwiches, pizza, stir fry, hashbrown surprise (potatoes with meat and a cheese sauce), sweet potato cakes with cheese sauce
Grocery list (I am not adding everything you need to make these items because many of them you only need to buy every 3-4 months so I will leave out the cost of some of them)

Whole wheat pastry flour $6 (we buy every 2-3 weeks)
Milk (un-homogenized low temp paste pasteurized) $3.75 (sometimes we buy 2)
butter $3.75 faometimes we buy 2)
baking powder (most people already have this)
2 doz eggs (these are typically free for us, but this is winter so we will say $3 per doz) $6
3 blocks Chedder (we can get antibiotic free cheese at lucky’s for pretty cheap $4 per block) $12
1 block Lucky’s mozerella $4
bananas LOTS $5
cream (un-homogenized low temp paste pasteurized) $8
2 lbs oatmeal $2.50
1lb sale lunchmeat $7
2 cans blackbeans $2
sour cream $2
natural peanut butter $4
carrot sticks, celery (or whatever veggie kids like that’s on sale) $5
strip steak for fajitas $5
Whole Chicken (bake half to make chicken salad, cut up rest of raw meat for tikka masala) $10 (if it’s not already in your freezer!)
cumin $2
garlic $.50
bag of onions $3
bag of potatoes $4
sweet potatoes $4
oil (this is an expensive item, but one you really only need once a month) $8 (I keep olive oil and expellor pressed safflour oil both of which I get at about $8 a bottle but it takes me a while to go through them)

Total = $107.50. I went over but the flour and oil I don’t buy every week, plus we wouldn’t be spending the $10 on chicken either. I know what you are thinking “you didn’t buy bread, or many veggies”. For one I make my own bread, for two ….

bread

Here is the list of stuff that’s already in our freezer, fridge, or pantry:

stewed tomatoes (I blend and boil down to make the tikka masala, and pizza sauce)
Peppers for the fajitas
mayo (I make my own and everything I need is in the above grocery list)
berries (I bought some when they were on sale but we also freeze them if we pick a lot

rice (I buy a large bag 2-3 times a year)

I do believe that’s everything. We eat really well, don’t go hungry, and stay pretty close to our budget. There are some weeks that we rely more on freezer/ pantry goods so we can splurge and make huge batches of beef jerky or granola.

So how about you? How can you eat clean on a food budget?

How to raise children on a budget- my version

I have been coming across a lot of articles lately titled something like “raising a child on a budget” or something along those lines.  So apparently this is a fairly hot topic right now.  I do have to say that too many of the articles are written more from the perspective of someone who really means “budget” as in you know how much you can set aside each month for baby stuff.  Lets get real.  Really real.  Lets actually call this article “How to afford a child when your flat a*^ broke”.

raising kids

Here is my honest opinion: Children are not expensive.

The figures are insane if you look at the cost of raising a child born in 2013.  $250-300 THOUSAND DOLLARS.  … Really?  That doesn’t even include college!  According to these figures housing is the most expensive cost, followed by childcare and education, then food, lastly transportation, healthcare, and miscellaneous stuff falls at the bottom.  These figures are confusing to me.  I guess the understanding is that as we have more children we are expected to have bigger houses… ok, i can see that logic, sort of.  Childcare and education… childcare is EXPENSIVE, education really shouldn’t be, unless you are paying for private schools or special programs.  Food I get, and healthcare i would think would be a larger chunk than that, although my kids qualify for medicaid so ours is free, but im not sure how long that will last since we are making more money now.

So lets take these figures and break them down into my thinking.  Really the only kid that should be expensive is the first, they are paving the way.  You know what to expect after the first one. Plus hand me downs are fantastic.  So lets look at what you need when having a baby.  These are my essential items: 1) a co-sleeper bassinet 2) a moby or some sort of baby carrier 3) a carseat 4) at least 7-10 cloth diapers.  I prefer the one size covers without a pocket.  the Flips are my favorite.  I also would have about 15-20 inserts.  the really nice sturdy cotton flour sac towels are the best.  you get them in the kitchen section and they are like 5 for $5.  That’s it.  That’s what I have for newborns.  No special shampoos or bath seats or random stuff that’s just gonna take up room.  My babies shower with me, and only about 2 times a week.  I don’t use harsh soaps on them, usually just rub a handmade soap onto a washcloth and rub them down.  I don’t even really have a diaper bag.  I have a large bag that i sometimes take with me with a change of clothes for the kids, diapers, and snacks but i rarely use it.  usually i just throw a clean diaper in my purse with a plastic bag for the dirties.  You really dont even need a changing table.  babies can be changed anywhere, especially if you have a towel handy.

There is big stuff you will need for later.  That’s the crib, the high chair, and some sort of a swing or bouncy chair.  something that entertains them so you can put them down and walk away for a little bit.  Ask for those for your baby shower (ask for ALL the essentials for your baby shower).  The bouncy seat you will probably use pretty quickly but the rest will take you probably at least 6 months so if you dont get it, you have some time.

Here is the most expensive thing i have come across: if your income relies on both of you working.  Childcare is expensive.  We were lucky enough for me to be able to work part time from home which means we dont need childcare.  I highly recommend if you can figure out how to be able to survive on one income, or can have a job that allows you to be flexible with your schedule, that is the best, plus there is nothing quite like staying at home and raising your kids.  I still do pay for childcare when i can though.  i prefer to have someone watch the kids 2-3 times a week for 2-3 hours at a time (when we can afford it).  That ends up being about $10-15 a day.  That’s not too bad, especially when it allows me to make at least $150 more a week than i would have, and have sanity.

Lets now tackle the big one: housing.  We are about to be a family of 5/6 and we are building a 1500 sq foot 3 bedroom home, which will probably end up costing us about $80,000.  We expect our kids will spend most of their time outside or in the family room/kitchen with us.  They dont each need their own bedroom.  I understand that house size and bedrooms are completely a personal preference, but don’t feel like you cant have a child because you only have a 2 bedroom place, you totally can.  Housing costs to me is a total non issue.

Food: well, you know my stance on food.  But still food cost is a big one.  This is also an area where each kid will cost approximately the same.  it’s not like other costs where once you jump the hurdle of having the first the rest are far less expensive.  it doesn’t work that way.  So we cut costs other ways.  Mainly by growing our own and making everything from scratch.  We have been discussing our food budget since we are off of food stamps and we are looking at about $100 a week.  That’s not because we can’t afford more, that’s because we don’t WANT to buy more.  That $100 would feed us VERY well.  Very Very well.  with snacks and 3 meals a day and real hearty nutritious stuff.  According to the USDA the average family of 4 should be spending $146-289 on food every week.  To me that number is crazy.  I could eat a gourmet meal every night on that kind of budget.  Once we start growing our own livestock and hunting deer we wont even have to worry about the cost of meat, and possibly even most dairy.  Although we will have to pay for the livestock, that cost isn’t $0, but it is smaller than what we would be paying at the store.

So here is my summery: I LOVE my kids.  I love my kids more than I knew I could love.  I love being a mom (even though some days I just wish i had a good tall glass, make that bottle, of wine to get me through the day).  Of all the money issues we have had over the past 2 years not once were my kids one of them.  They are probably the least expensive part of my life right now.  So when I hear about how to “raise a child on a budget” I have to laugh, because you really don’t need a budget to raise a child.  Lets rephrase that again, you don’t need a budget to raise a WELL EDUCATED, DISCIPLINED, INTELLIGENT, LOVING, QUALITY MEMBER OF SOCIETY child.  You don’t  You just have to WANT to put forth the effort to do it.