Low Impact Life

have less, do more, be more

Category: Back to Nature (Page 1 of 10)

Frugal vs Low Impact food shopping

One of the hardest parts of living a Low Impact Life and a frugal life at the same time is food. In the best of worlds food wouldn’t have plastic packaging, would be locally grown and only in an organic way but we’re not there yet. Since we want to keep our food budget low we have a plan of action for that. Unfortunately it is not totally compatible with buying low impact food. Obviously we try to minimize impact where we can but it isn’t always easy to do that. Here is our holistic approach when it comes to food:

Our system: the standardized list

Mr LIL and I are quite boring when it comes to food and usually eat the same types of food so we pretty much have a standardized list. If some of our items are on offer we stock up so that we don’t have to pay full price for our items. We then base our cooking around what we have at home. Making sure that you only shop from the standard list eliminates most of the spending on random things that catches your eye. Creating a meal plan and only shop things that are needed for your plan is usually a tip to get control of your food budget. We find that working with the standard list works well for us and also means that we can buy stuff on offer which would be harder if you were following a strict list connected to a preset meal.

Comparing prices

The food prices are very simliar in the different food stores in Sweden (that would be generally high prices…). I have of course price compared the different stores around us and we do shop at the cheapest ones (that would be Willys and Lidl for us) but it is not a lot of difference. Where we get the savings is from stocking up on food and generally buying foods that are on offer.

Meat

One of the most expensive foods is meat. We have a two part approach to buying meat. First of we have a subsription to a “meat box” that gets delivered to our door every other month by the company Gårdssällskapet. We get around 8kg of local and organic meat with free delivery which lasts us a long time (usually about a month). Secondly Swedish food stores have a started a very good system of selling meat that is close to its best before date to a very discounted price. When we come across such meat (organic or sometimes non organic Swedish meat) we buy as much as we can and either make a big batch straight away or freeze it for later. So we get our high quality meat from Gårdsällskapet when we have got a delivery and then in between we buy the meat that is marked down. Since this meat would have been thrown out otherwise I think it’s both good for the environment that the food isn’t wasted and for the wallet since its usually 30-50% off. And since we also get the meat box we support the local organic farms.

Eat seasonally

Eating after the seasons in your country and also thinking of vegetables and fruits that are not from your local climate as luxury items makes for a frugal and low impact meal. The fruit/vegetables that are in season are cheaper and also don’t have to be shipped across the world (don’t see many pineapples growing in Sweden…). Shopping like this means that we get a varied selection over the year (even though food stores make it possible to buy the same stuff year round). Some months might be more boring, like now it feels like we have cabbage and carrots coming out of our ears but when summer comes around the selection is much wider. Since you only eat certain vegetables at certain times of the year you look forward to the season when you get to eat that specific vegetable again. You also feel closer to natures cycles when you know that the food has been produced locally at that time.

Less plastic packaging

We try to only buy food with either glass, carton or aluminium packaging and in bulk when we can but there is still a fair amout of plastic in our recycling bin. We always bring our own bags so that we don’t have to buy plastic bags at the store. Of course buying food with no packaging and bringing your own mesh bags/glass or aluminium containers is the optium level. This can be done with vegetables/fruits, cheese/meat over the counter, bread and nuts usually but since we don’t eat cheese or bread (see post on how we eat here) and want to get the offers on the meat this is a area we struggle in. What I am exploring now is making sauces and products that are packaged in plastic from scratch (which is also healthier) and go around some of the plastic packaging that way.

Foraging food for free

There are plenty of plants that you can forage for free if you know what you are looking for. Obviously the plants that are suitable for foraging changes in different zones and climate so getting to know your local plants is both a frugal and low impact way of aquiring food. Also check around the neighborhood (and with your neighbors) or in local groups if they have an excess of fruit or something else edible. In Stockholm there are many gardens with apple trees and the owners just want to get rid of the buckets of apples that they get each year.

Grow your own food

A both frugal and low impact approach to food is growing it yourself. Since we are growing vegetables that are expensive in the store like salad, herbs, spinach, bell peppers, chili, squash and tomatoes it is cheaper. Then we also get no pesticides, less emissions from transporting the food and no packaging. Quite the win! I can really recommend growing salad and herbs even if you only have a tiny apartment.

Hate waste

About one third of all food produced gets thrown away, that is 1,3 billion tonnes of food every year that is wasted. It is crutial to make sure that you eat everything that you buy both for minimizing impact and saving money. Save your left overs and if you’re a person that “just doesn’t like leftovers” this is a habit that you really need to consider changing both for the planet and your wallet. You can read more about food waste in my post Stop the food waste with Selina Juul.

These were my tips on how I approach the frugal vs low impact struggle when buying food. Since we need to eat every day this is an ongoing process of combining these two areas in the best way.

Our big picture plan: the Low Impact Homestead

Lately me and Mr LIL have been discussing at length what we want out of our life. It is not an easy question to answer and takes time and self reflection as well as reflection together to start figuring it out. Now we feel like we have found our heading that both of us feel equally passionate about and our ideas also feel ripe enough to share here on the blog.

Before we dive into our plan I want to raise a very important point that the last couple of months has lead us to which is we have fully embraced the fact that we don’t need or want to be mainstream in any way. It is such a freeing thought, like a weight was lifted and made us see our path clearer. Before we were trying to fit our plan around the mainstream way of living which made it very hard to figure out (aka we would have to wait until retirement at probably 70). The financial independence movement has opened a completely new world of possibilities. By saving money aggressively over a couple of years we can create the option of never having to work again or to be able to do what ever we want knowing that our base cost of living will be covered. That’s why we have started to save a large part of our income and become (more) frugal. That in itself is very good but now we also have a plan connected to our general saving. So without further ado, presenting:

The Low Impact Homestead

The Homestead plan comes from a couple of different interests/passions: we both want to live sustainably (obviously), we love being outside and connected to nature, we love doing things with our hands, we love animals and being self sufficient greatly appeals to us.

Our plan will be divided into stages so that we can learn the skillset necessary to be able to graduate to running a proper homestead/farm in the future which is our goal. So what will the stages look like?

Stage 1: learn how to grow vegetables

First off we’ve started on a tiny scale by growing salad and some herbs indoors. Our next step is starting the seeds that we will then plant in my dads garden as soon as Swedish weather permits it. In this stage we will continue living in the city and work on “homesteading where we are”. This might include making most food from scratch, eating seasonally, composting, learning how to preserve food and how to mend things. All the while saving as much as we can for our money making machine.

Stage 2: learn how to raise chickens (and possibly rabbits)

For this stage to come into play we will need to buy our own plot of land with an existing house or build a house ourselves. This is a very real plan for us within a couple of years because 1. we really want to live in the woods and 2. want to be able to create a self sustaining house. When that is in place we will be able to grow our own food and have some smaller animals. Since we eat an amazing amout of eggs chickens are the first animal that we want to keep (except for the LIL wolf of course). We will keep saving as much as we can and will live in this house until we’re financially independent.

Stage 3: The Low Impact Homestead

By the time we’re financially independent we will have had plenty of time to figure out if we want to move on to the full time homestead plan. If that is the case we will buy more land and a farm to have room to grow more and have larger animals. This will of course be as self sufficient as we can make it. In this stage we will have our base living costs covered to there will be no pressure of having to work normal jobs at the same time (although it might be something we want to do but probably not full time if we’re pursuing to create a larger homestead) or figuring out how to earn a living from the homestead. If we end up being able to produce enough so that we can sell the excess that will be bonus money.

 

So there you have it, our three stage homestead plan! I thought that presenting our long term plan might tie together what otherwise looks like quite random posts on the blog. I will be writing posts with updates along our journey under the category Homestead.

Södra Törnskogens nature reserve

Today we did a almost 9 km/3 hour hike in a beautiful nature reserve Södra Törnskogen which is quite close to where we live (15 min drive). We packed a bag with water, frugal snacks (boiled eggs, bars, nuts and a termos with coffee) and the LIL wolfs dog food. The nature shifted from swampy areas with birches to pine and fir forests  to open areas with decidious trees like oak. It was amazing to find all the different vegetation in the same reserve together with a lake and lots of little streams. Because the snow/ice hasn’t comepletely melted it wasn’t super muddy yet. A great saturday hike!

The highest point!

Snack break

High five for a hike well done

 

Frugal Hedonism

The latest book in my long line of frugality books that I’ve been reading is The Art of Frugal Hedonism (you can read more about it in my post here). I thought I’d try to implement some of the actions that the chapters of the book were centered around. I picked out 5 of the 51 chapters that are all related to changing my mindset around the relationship between spending money and enjoyment:

1.Relish – to be aware of and fully enjoy the small things in life which is a habit and a skill that needs practising and honing.

It is easy to use spending money as mental confirmation that something of value is being obtained. We can equally choose to relish and recognize value in experience, atmosphere, sensuality or company. 

2.Hate waste – nature has no concept of waste and human societies haven’t until very recently had much concept of waste.

By developing an allergy to wastefulness, you can not only diminish your role in this bizarre state of affairs, but save a wallop of money too!

3.Recalibrate your senses – transform every day things to become treats or luxuries through the element of restriction and pressing reset on our expectation button.

The basic blueprint for modern first-world living is normalized hyper-abundance and hyper-stimulation, punctured by desperate attempts at escape when the fallout becomes too distressing. Frugal Hedonism inverts this pattern by normalizing an elegant sufficiency of consumption and then artfully dotting it with intensely relished abundance.

4.Find free “third” places – this is a place that is not work or home but a third non-spending-oriented place where you can be. For example town squares, parks, the library, a community garden, the beach or a boardwalk/pier

Simply by sitting back and looking outwards, we can replicate the mental state we are chasing when we go into public spaces and pay for something as an excuse to feel leisurely there.

5.Indulge your curiosity – instead of buying something new when craving novelty or stimulation learn something new which is a less expensive way of getting the same feeling.

Most people love the feeling of getting something new, but forget that it can come as easily from discovery as from consumption.

March free time

Now I am back to focusing on my free time for a month. I started it off with going to dinner and a dance show with my mum yesterday that I got as a Christmas present. I also have a week long ski trip to the Alps in Italy coming up where I will spend time doing what I love with Mr LIL and two other couples which is going to be great!

Other than that this month I will focus on:

  • working on the blog
  • starting to grow seedlings for our garden
  • meeting friends
  • figuring out a new skill to learn
  • Mr LIL and the LIL wolf are always a central part of my free time

There is so much snow in Stockholm and it has been freezing cold for the past week

Summary February vitality

This month hasn’t really gone as planned. After I was sick I ended up getting a really bad cold so I haven’t been well enough to go to the gym at all.

Semla

I have also cheated some when it comes to my diet. I’ve been quite good at not eating gluten and lactose except for eating some semlor (a Swedish pastry thing with cream and marzipan in a bun that we eat on “fat Tuesday” which are amazing). Instead the issue is that I have eaten quite a lot of gluten free carbs. I have also slipped when it comes to sugar and I’ve even eaten some candy!

To bring myself back from this I decided to go two weeks (until we go skiing) with strictly following a LCHF/ketogenic (high fat and low carbs diet and of course no gluten, dairy or sugar ). I have also been rereading and reading some books about why high fat diets are so good for you (and why gluten/dairy/sugar is bad) to get my mind back into optimizing my health.

Chicken stuffed with guacamole and wrapped in bacon with steamed broccoli and sallad

I am currently reading a book by Martina Johansson, a Swedish keto diet blogger, about sugar and food addiction. What is the hardest is that 85% of all sugar is hidden in food. So even if you try to avoid food like candy, cakes and soda you might still be eating a huge amount sugar without knowing it. And it isn’t just sugar that is the problem. High fructose corn syrup, 8 times sweeter than normal sugar and highly processed is beeing added to more and more food because it is cheaper to produce. More on the addictive and dangerous effects of sugar can be seen in the documentary That Sugar Film (can be seen on SVT Play in Sweden here).

So Februarys vitality resolutions will stretch into March so I can get a handle on my diet and exercise.

How I became a frugal weirdo

Reading a post on the Frugalwoods blog about being a frugal weirdo and loving it made me reflect on my own path and how I ended up where I am today: a frugal weirdo and proud! (spoiler: it’s very linked with being an environmentalist)

Let’s start off with the statement I’ve never been one of the “cool” girls in school. As a child I spent most my weekends on a boat in the archipelago exploring islands, playing games with my family, reading books and writing my own stories (still a dream of mine to actually finish one). I am pretty nerdy when it comes to books (don’t get me started on Harry Potter!) and have always had a strong passion for nature and animals. Being outside wether it was sailing, hiking, swimming, canoeing, skiing, skating or just playing outdoors was a natural part of my childhood. When I was little I first wanted to be a wildlife photographer and then a vet (until I realized that I have a problem dealing with blood and injured animals…). When the vet dream died I got into environmental science and the huge challenges that we as humans face today (read more here). I wrote my 9th grade project about the problem with too much nitrogen in the Baltic sea that is disturbing the ecological balance.

one cool sailor right there 😉

From there on my passion for the environment grew although I made few changes to my life at this stage (I was 16 and trying to fit in and going shopping after school was a common activity with friends). After high school I worked at a kindergarten for 6 months to save money to study one semester abroad in California. This period was marked by me being extremely frugal and having the mindset that “either I buy this now or I do something cool in California” which made me put down whatever I was going to buy. Worth mentioning is that although I have been quite a shopaholic I have always had the frugal bug. I think it has to do with me not having an extra job when studying until I was 22 which lead to me having to save and make my monthly allowance stretch very far (I must add that I had the privilege of help from my parents although I never took it for granted that I would get money from them).

Hiking in Yosemite National Park

When I was living in California I studied environmental science among other courses, all natural science focused, so my interest continued and I spent a lot of time hiking, skiing and being outdoors (the California climate makes that a bit easier than in Sweden). I watched the documentary Food, Inc and after that I became a vegetarian mostly beacuse of the horrendous situation of the industrialized production of meat.

Having to explain again and again why you don’t eat meat and bring your own food to dinners with people having to deal with depressing discussions with me about the future of the earth was definately the start to me inhabiting the weirdo box. Before this stage I had kept a lot to myself but getting more and more worried about the state of the earth I couldn’t just keep going on like it wasn’t happening.

I studied environmental science at Lund University and though my class all understood the no eating meat (I think half the class were vegetarians) and the environmental problems were old news to them everyone else I hung out with definately though that me and my friends from my class were slightly weird. I kept being frugal during my university years (most people are!) and worked with babysitting children and walking dogs for some extra money. I didn’t take out the full loan that is offered to Swedish students through the government but I have some debt to pay back. I am glad that I did take my loan so I didn’t have to work like crazy while studying (studying in Sweden is quite different compared to other countries – tuition is free, we get money every month from the government, the student loans have really low interest rates).

Graduation from Lund University

When I moved back to Stockholm at 24 I lived with my mum for a year first to write my thesis and then because I didn’t have a permanent contract at my job I couldn’t rent an apartment. This was also a frugal period since I didn’t know if I would have a job the month after and I lived at home. Although I didn’t actively track my money so a fair amount was still went to different purchases like food out, things, travel and so on.

When I started the blog about 1,5 years ago I started properly owning and loving being a weirdo. Before that I had kind of been trying to hide my weirdness (and failing) and trying to fit in somewhat. I wasn’t being true to myself and the knowledge that I was carrying about how we are treating the planet that we live on and especially how I was contributing to it. Because of that I was feeling quite a bit of despair, guilt and sorrow. Now that I am alined with my values of a Low Impact Life and a frugal lifestyle which have lead to a lot of changes in my life I feel lighter and more at peace with myself. What is even more awesome is that Mr LIL and I share the same values. He is also a frugal person that is worried about the planet. With the support of each other we are taking frugality/LIL to the next step in 2018.

February Vitality

Since I have been sick quite a lot lately, most of December and again now in January I am quite tired of feeling unwell! I haven’t been able to exercise or have the energy to do much for a long time. Now I am hoping that it will be better from here. One thing being sick does is create appreciation for being healthy. So I am going to harness this the coming month and really appreciate my body and health.

My focus for February is getting back on track with my vitality resolutions. Especially exercise, being outdoors and also sticking to my diet. My nightly routine is pretty much set, it just needs small adjustments.

I want to start exercising slowly with the exception of skiing (I’m going skiing in Norway Thursday-Sunday this week). I want to start taking 15 min walks at lunch time and will start doing my weight lifting routine with easy weights and slowly working myself up to my old weights. I think the mental challenge of not going to quickly will be the hardest (I like seeing progress quickly).

As for diet I will stick strictly to my eating for a healthy life plan and reduce the amount of gluten free carbs slightly because I am eating a bit too high percentage at the moment which makes me really hungry in the afternoon.

So those points are my aim for February!

Summary frugal January

January was fairly frugal. I did have two larger expenses that I knew were coming: a spa day with my mum that we gave each other for Christmas/birthday present and paying for our skitrip that’s coming up in March. These I have taken from my fluid savings account that I use for trips, activities and also as a buffer for expenses like dentist and so on. I also invited my girlfriends to a brunch to celebrate my birthday which was a out of the ordinary but other than that spending was low this month. I haven’t done anything special on the frugality front but been focusing on my new job which in turn has lead to not spending much money.

On the front of public transport and lunch connected to my new job I bought a public transport card but have been able to eat lunchboxes every day which I will continue to do! The lunches are the important one since a lunch in town costs a lot of money. The calcualtions: lunch costs around 100kr times 20 which is 2000kr a month. Minus of course around 30kr per homemade lunch box which is 600kr so that equals 1400kr a month saved!

Buying a public transport card cost me 860kr for a month and if I don’t have one I buy tickets that usually land on about 400kr a month so the card cost me an extra 460kr. I still have to fix my bike and it has been really cold and a lot of snow so it has been worth taking the underground so far. I’ll probably buy a card for next month too and then I’ll start biking in March.

Summary December free time

My December didn’t quite work out as I had thought. I was sick first and since then I’ve had a really bad cough. This equals low quality sleep and no exercise. When I got back on my feet LIL wolfs stomach got really bad so we were at the vets and have switched her food twice. We’ve also been worried of course and gotten woken up at nights when she needs to go out. So all in all not very relaxing.

So my first 4 weeks of freedom haven’t been exactly as planned. I am proud of myself however that I have accepted it for what it was and am glad that I didn’t have to go to work at the same time as everything else was going on. Despite all of this I have managed to work on my resolutions (some more than others):

Mr LIL

Me and Mr LIL have been spending quite a lot of time together at home (being sick and having a sick dog will do that). We have been together for three years now and during December we have talked about what we want for our future. We have started planning the broad brush strokes that are our dream life with a bit more detail which is really exciting.

LIL wolf

I have been home alot with the LIL wolf during December and we’ve taken wonderful long walks and chilling at home. Because she’s been sick a lot of time has gone towards trying to make her better. We haven’t been doing as much training as I planned because of lack of energy from the both of us.

Family

It being Christmas I have spent a lot of time with family without really having to do that much extra planning. It has been really nice and good since I wouldn’t have had the energy to plan lots of things. I also got many experience/activity based presents which means that I have lots of things to look forward to doing with family (both mine and Mr LILs) this spring that are already booked.

Friends

I had hoped that I would be able to meet lots of friends during December since I was off but because of the circumstances I have barely been able to meet any friends. That is okay though and what I have done is invited everyone to a party brunch at mine on the 6th of January to celebrate my birthday. I have said that I don’t want any presents just that everyone brings a bottle of bubbly that we can put in the pot. It’s going to be so much fun! Since I am starting a new job and a lot of energy is going to be directed to that I know that I probably wont be able to meet that many friends at first. So I’m giving myself permission to not focus that much of my energy on meeting friends until March when this theme is back again. Although I will try to get better at keeping in contact through texts and phone calls.

New connections

My plan was to find new contacts through the facebook communities that I am a part of (finding new girl friends, dog groups and hiking groups) and also to become more active in different blogging communities. I didn’t work on this resolution as much as I had hoped. Other than getting in contact with and going on a playdate with a couple that had a cavalier king charles spaniel puppy I haven’t really done anything else this month. Because of the same reason as above this area will also be on hold until March (except for new connections at work).

Blog

I have been working on the blog quite a bit, both with my pages and writing posts. I think that the first week of January (my last week before starting my new job) will be dedicated to setting up a blog strategy for this year and writing more posts that I can space out during the coming month.

My own interest

This is where most my my time in December has gone to. I have been reading books, laying puzzles, watching series, started to grow our own salad and herbs, decluttered our apartment some more, researching different areas of interest and reading lots of blogs. It has been so good to be able to take this time and both relax and spend some uninterrupted time researching and planning for our future.

This is a start to the theme and hopefully I am able to delve into these resolutions more in March.

Frugality update: It has been a very frugal month since I haven’t been doing much and we’ve eaten quite many dinners away (connected to Christmas and my birthday). The LIL wolfs vet bill was not very cheap although it came from our emergency fund that we have for precise this reason so hasn’t affected our normal monthly budget. It has also been very frugal to recieve gifts in the form of experiences since I will now get to do lots of fun things and not have to pay for them myself.

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