5 Ways We Gardened For Free!

This post was originally published on August 10, 2011.  It was updated on April 2, 2020.

Michael and I talked about planting a garden just before Naomi was born.  He picked up a large rectangular planter at a yard sale that spring and a few herb seeds and soil from the local dollar store.  We planted them, fussed over them, and prayed over them.  Slowly, but surely, the little shoots started to break through the soil and emerge.

Then we went into labour.  Then we had a baby.  Then we moved.  And then winter came.  And in the process, our lovely little herbs were pretty much forgotten and died.  But our dream of a garden didn’t disappear.  Here is how we have continued to grow food for ourselves for free.

5 Ways We Gardened For Free!

Keep Your Eyes On Freecycle, Kijiji, WeShare and Craigslist.

In early winter last year, I saw a note on Freecycle for a bunch of plant pots.  Eagerly, I contacted the person offering them and bundled up my pretty little girl, and we ventured across town to find them.  The lovely lady who gave them to us was an avid gardener who had accumulated more than her fair share of plant pots and wanted to give them to someone who wanted to start a garden.  We fit the bill ideally.  We have also received gifts in the past from folks on Kijiji, our local WeShare groups, and on local buy/sell/trade groups, especially local gardening groups.

Dig Through Your Recycling Bins

Water jugs, milk boxes, butter tubs and tin cans can all be used to make perfectly servicable pots for plants to grow in.  Egg cartons (and shells), newspaper cups, plastic yogurt or pudding cups, and even old shoe boxes can make great seed starters.  It doesn’t have to be Instagram worthy in order to be used!

Find Ways to Use What You Already Have

Did you know there are a whole bunch of fruits and vegetables you can grow from the seeds of grocery store items?  Green peppers, tomatoes and squash can be grown from seeds found in the fruits you purchased.  Leeks, green onions and lettuces will squeeze out a few more leaves from their bulbs.  Celery will grow some new stocks from their base.  Ginger, potatoes, pineapples, onions, garlic, and various herbs, can all be cut and planted to grow new growth.

Never Pass Up an Opportunity

Recently, I went to the grocery store and as I was leaving, I noticed a large assortment of half-dead seedlings.  I looked at them longingly, but knew we weren’t going to be able to afford them.  Until I noticed the “Free” sign on the cart.  I began sorting through the seedlings and discovered mostly cauliflower, but also a tomato, a lettuce, a broccoli, and several spinach.  I took the majority of the different ones and left a few of the cauliflower.  Then I headed home.

Start Your Own Vermicompost

Both Mike and I have allergies to animal dander, but we do have about a million pets — worms!  If you can get past the ick factor, having a thriving vermicompost bin can help you create wonderful compost and fertilizer for your garden.  Simply save the scraps of vegetables and fruits (no meat!) and add it into the worm bin.  Your worms will happily chew it up and “process” it into some of the best compost and fertilizer you can imagine!

It Never Hurts to Ask!

After having received the pots and the plants for free, I figured I had nothing to lose, and I posted on Freecycle a request for some soil.  It took me a few days, but finally, someone offered me half a bag of all-purpose potting soil!  I picked it up one evening on my way home from work.

Once the weather was nice enough, Naomi and I planted the seedlings we thought were most likely to survive.  Unfortunately we lost most of the spinach and lettuce, but the tomatoes, cauliflower and broccoli looked promising.  So with a little love, patience and faith, maybe our lovely little garden will bring about some blessings!


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“…with space left over”: An Inspirational Story of Minimalism and Simple Living

This post was originally published on December 29, 2010, and was updated on March 29, 2020.

Here is a story that pretty well defines my take on what I perceive minimalism to be about. This is a testimonial sent out by Marla “Flylady” Cilley to all her “flybabies” several years ago.

“My elderly cousin died Wednesday night. I went to her funeral today. The church was packed. Everyone from teenagers to old people was grieving. The funeral singers couldn’t sing because of their grief. The preacher got choked up talking about her and almost couldn’t go on.

“Everyone was talking about her many kindnesses, how she helped so many people, touched so many lives–in spite of various infirmities and having so little in the way of financial resources. I kept remembering how I always felt so welcome when I visited her in the house she shared with her sister, and how much I was going to miss knowing that welcome and encouragement was always there.

“Then, her nephew got up to speak about her, and he mentioned that when they’d gone into her little bedroom, you could pack up every worldly possession she owned, and it would fit into the trunk of a normal size car… with space left over.

“And I thought–ahh, so that was part of her secret. She lavished her time on all of us, instead of investing it in things.

[edit] I’m wondering if it might be possible even for a packrat like me, to come to the end of my life with only enough possessions to fill the trunk of a car… but with a church and community packed with people whose lives I’ve touched.

Limping along, in Ohio”

This, to me, is the inspiration I draw upon when I stumble with minimalism.  I have had and read this story over and over again for many years.  How amazing, that this elderly lady could easily live with so few possessions, and yet had a circle of friends and community who adored her so much!

Now it’s your turn to tell me a story! Share your inspirational minimalism story!

7 Ways Minimalism Saves Christmas

This post was originally published on December 24, 2010.  It was updated on April 2, 2020.

Who needs to add on more chaos and drama to an already exacerbated time of year?  By applying the principles of minimalism to our lives, we can avoid so many trip wires that the festivities and celebrations of the season can send our way.

7 Ways Minimalism Saves Christmas

Minimalism helps you avoid the need for extravagant gifts.

Some people feel you have to give a lot of gifts in order to show how much you love them.  Some people’s love language is gifts.  But Michael and I set a limit on our budgets. I spent $30 on a Lego set for him, with which I will fill his stocking tomorrow. I don’t know what he got me but I trust it is within budget

Without extravagant gifts, there’s no long hours shopping either.

We purposefully chose to keep our gifts relatively simple this year for our extended family as well.  For example, I created photobooks for our parents and my grandmother free online using a promotion that is no longer on. The yarn I bought for Naomi’s stocking was only $4.00. The Lego were a purchase weeks ago. My brother and sister-in-law’s gifts were on CDs we had at home.

And, no increase in debt.

And because we made or purchased carefully our gifts, we were able to avoid spending chaotically to impress people who already love and care for us.  Total spent (outside of gas) was under $100.00 for gifts for 8 people.

Minimalism allows you to avoid stressful holiday parties.

My mother’s side gets together several times over the month of December, while Michael’s family celebrated one large party tonite. We decided that we would attend one party per family each holiday.  At each function, we secured a changing spot, a comfy chair, and a sling, in which to nurse and nap our baby. And we made it clear that we intended to leave early so all three of us acquired adequate rest. No guilt trips, no fuss, no drama. Simple.

Or polite social gatherings.

Confession time: I am a wallflower. I hate get togethers with people I don’t know. Fortunately Michael’s workplace did not include a fancy party with expensive clothes or excessive alcohol. To some, this is sad, but instead they provided a lovely turkey dinner for their employees. Michael was pleased and I don’t have to pretend to understand math and machinery. Nor does our daughter have to be fondled and cooed at by strangers. Win-win!

Keeping it simple also means not having to do lavish meals or excess baking.

We have never been good at the food aspect. We’re more the dishwashers and less the dishmakers.  Our holiday meals have been simple dishes at home, like baked chicken or ham, with mashed potatoes, carrots, stuffing, and a homemade dessert.  There’s no need for excess.  Simple keeps our stomachs full and our pocketbooks happy.

And best of all, little to no commercialization.

Because we avoided shopping malls, television, and modern consumerism, we have been able to keep our sights on what matters most for our family at this time of year: each other, as a family, celebrating Jesus, the reason we are all together in the first place.

What about you? What wasn’t your Christmas this year?