Moving to a More Natural Lifestyle: Ramblings of a Former Coupon Queen

Guest Post written by Stacy Myers.

Hello – My name is Stacy and I used to be a coupon addict. No…really. I would take my coupon binder camping – in the woods – with all of nature – and no electricity. There I was, in the woods…just me and my coupons with the Sasquatches. A year ago, if I could see myself where I am now, I would have told my husband that I had lost my mind and he needed to commit me to an institution. And yet, here I am – a complete 180 from what I used to be. Why?

Why did I make this HUGE change? It was for my baby girl, Annie…but now it’s turned out to be the best thing for my whole family.

In March 2011, I led my readers on a family journey called Stacy Goes Storeless where I did not shop retail the entire month. I wanted to prove to my readers that stockpiling worked. During that month, we only ate what I had stockpiled and it caused us to take a serious look at what we were putting in our bodies – high fructose corn syrup, MSG, and food colorings, to name a few. Yuck.

And Now

I started reading all I could get my hands on, and we changed our diet. At first, I thought it would only change how we ate….but then everything changed. I started making my own cleaners and buying homemade soaps. My husband jokingly says that I need to wear a tie-dyed skirt (I’m actually wanting one of those!) and drive a VW van (no plans for that purchase, but if you have one you’d like to give me I’ll take it).

I’ve embraced this new, natural lifestyle….but it was a gradual change. I encourage everyone who wants to make this switch to TAKE IT SLOW – or else you’ll end up going crazy and could possibly be relocated to the poorhouse where you’ll live until your mama sends you a cake with a file inside so that you can bust out.

Making the Switch

As we ran out of something in our home, I replaced it with something better: coconut oil for canola oil, butter for margarine, frozen veggies for canned veggies. For the love of Pete! I couldn’t just throw all that food out – I’m frugal all the way down to my undies. So, I would use it and comfort myself with the fact that I would replace it with something better.

I will tell you that I did throw out a good bit of the soy that I found lurking in my shelves. Soy scares me now….and there is good reason to avoid it. I was scared to death that our budget would go to pot and we wouldn’t be able to afford high quality food – but let me tell you something, people….that’s a LIE OF THE DEVIL.

The mindset that we cannot “afford” good food for our family on a modest budget is not true.  We just have to prioritize and set goals. I quickly found out that my budget could stay the same by buying in bulk and buying items in season to freeze (I was already doing this since I was raised on a farm – so I have a preserving instinct).

Don’t buy into the lie that you can’t buy good food and you can only afford Twinkies and HoHos…just start slow and begin to replace your food with something better when it runs out.

Image by Sara Alfred

Out With the Soap

At first, the food seemed to make sense – but I still embraced my body wash and Colgate toothpaste. Don’t touch my Bath and Body Works stuff, dude – I might have bitten your hand off. But then I started to notice a change in Annie’s skin – it was rough and dried out. Depending on what type of soap I used on her, she got red splotches. Weird. Soap is supposed to make you feel clean and beautiful – not red and splotchy like you have the pox.

I immediately switched to natural soap for Annie and saw a HUGE change in her skin….and I slapped myself when I realized that it couldn’t be that great for Barry and I either. Duh.

Your skin is your largest organ – why slather it all over with chemicals? I can’t even pronounce that stuff and here I am smearing it inside my mouth. Doesn’t that seem crazy to anyone else?

So, now I’m buying homemade soap from a wonderful local lady – for our body, hair, and shaving. One product…more room in the shower – no bottles to knock over. Natural lotions and no fluoride in our toothpaste. Has this totally creamed my budget? Nope. I find that by cutting out all the unneeded mess, I had plenty of room to buy nice soap – one thing to do the job of many. Now I have this handy dandy little book from MadeOn called My Buttered Life with EASY recipes for making your own lotions…I can’t wait to dive in!

Do I still use some of that yucky stuff? Yep, I’m phasing it out and we’re almost done – “au natural” here we come! My next step in the bathroom will be to make our own deodorant. Being natural doesn’t mean you have to smell like Pepe Le Pew.

Natural Cleaning

I was already making my own laundry detergent because it was cheap….and I’m cheap (I try to embrace it). So, when I began the switch to natural cleaners, it was pretty easy.

Here’s a news flash: homemade cleaners are CHEAP, BABY! You can clean your entire house with white vinegar and baking soda. Natural cleaners are just a part of my cheap lifestyle – it’s a beautiful thing. I bought a great book called Simply Clean which has totally revolutionized how I clean now….it’s a miracle book full of cleaning recipes for every room in the house. It’s my favorite eBook of all time.

If you’re cheap, or you want to be cheap like me, then natural cleaners are a great place to start! If the food switch overwhelms you, start with cleaners first. I think it will make your switch a lot easier. Next on my list to make this a huge batch of liquid dish detergent, using the recipe from The Farmer’s Nest.

Where Am I Now

I’m still very new to this lifestyle….but I am excited about it and I’m blessed to have a husband that is on board.  I’m now delving into the world of natural medicines and it’s a little slower going – a lot of information to wrap my mind around – but I’m gradually changing out our medicine cabinet.

So, that’s my testimony – I wanted to share it with you because I know a lot of women out there are scared…scared of the switch – afraid they can’t do it. I’m living proof that it can be done – you can put down the coupons and save more money. And let me tell you something, honey – using coupons does not make you frugal. Switching to this lifestyle – making things at home and getting rid of the chemicals – still left us enough money in our budget to pay off our home mortgage balance of $20,000 in eight months on only one income.

You can do it – you can make the change. I’m with you all the way… I’ll be your cheerleader.

What has it looked like for you to move to a more natural lifestyle? What inspired your changes?

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About Stacy Myers

Stacy is the author of Crock On: A Semi-Whole Foods Slow Cooker Cookbook and a stay-at-home mom to her two children, Annie (3) and Andy (newborn). After an “awakening” in March 2011, her family switched to a more natural, whole foods diet. She likes to blog about how to live on less than you make and how to eat good food while doing it. Her passion is teaching others how to save money and she tag teams with her husband in this endeavor. At Stacy Makes Cents you’ll find information on how to save money in the kitchen, how to have fun with your kids, and how to be thrifty in all areas of life. Her passion is teaching others how to live debt free. Make sure to follow her on Facebook and Twitter to keep up with her daily antics.

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Comments

  1. Love the post! I’ve been trying to convince my couponing friends that the way I shop isn’t crazy just because I choose to not let a ton of processed foods into my shopping cart! I think I will be guiding them to this post now :)

  2. I enjoyed this post, although I made most of my changes over many years ago starting as a teen since I had such bad health issues then. Gradual is definately the way to go, especially for the budget hit. I do find that where I live though that good food, no matter how hard I try, really does take A LOT of money and more than processed food by FAR for us. I live in a more rural, semi-isolated area and don’t have a lot of access to lots of good deals, although we do what we can stocking up, picking TONS of berries, growing a garden, part of a buying club (although the deals mostly aren’t better I have to watch that) etc. I noticed even though I am shopping at (albeit smaller) version of the larger Loblaws/Superstore etc chain for a lot of my groceries that the same store closer to the big city where I was recently for a few weeks was $1-2 cheaper per item same thing I am buying where I live. I guess its gas costs to transport it here too. So we do have to make choices at times that I would rather not make (I’d rather buy everything organic) but I just can’t or else we really would go broke. So I try to stick with the best I can afford which might mean non organic food that is still in its most natural state or things like that.

    Anyways…I totally think that its worth it, and I see the results in our health. One major thing I think about is how my kids have rarely been sick in their young lives (3 and 6) and when they do get sick its hardly long before they are better. I think that is something major and I think it has to do a lot with how we eat/what products we use.

    • I don’t purchase all organic items either. Would I like to? Sure…but the budget won’t allow me to. And I’ve always said, staying home to take care of my babies trumps buying all organic foods. :-)

      • I agree! Sometimes I want something (whether it be more organic food or a couch thats in better condition or whatever…) and then I think that this is much better to stay home with my kids!!

  3. This is such a helpful post! I’ll be bookmarking it for future reference!

  4. This is a great journey!

    I, too, am making the switch slowly but surely. I wish I had done some of this back when I was a young wife and mom. Alas, lateis better than never!

    With us it started by doing a fun family activity. We decided to get a community garden plot. Then I moved to essential oils and from then educating myslef, our life has exploded! Medically, food, mindset, FREEDOM!!

    And you are right, replenish more than replace. And I found that it does cost the same, because you are now starting to buy useful things, not loads of junk food. Granted we still get treats, but it is now ever so often as opposed to a need.

    Great post!

  5. Great post! And congrats on your mortgage – that is FANTASTIC!!!

    I also used to be a “coupon queen.” Then, I started getting sick a lot, had horrible heartburn and just overall felt terrible. I had always been interested in health and fitness – and loved to cook, so it was natural for me to begin studying those areas. Leads me to where I am today as a Certified Health Coach – with an emphasis on whole foods and natural living! I truly believe in balance in everything, so although you won’t see me buying junk food – if the kids get some at a birthday party, you also won’t see me taking it away from them – 80/20 is my rule too! My next goals are to start investigating essential oils and homemade / natural beauty products – I love learning about all our options – fun stuff!!!

  6. Great post!! Thank you!

  7. Stacy you are so awesome. And your blog helps everyone realize how easy it can be! You rock!

  8. So true! I have switched to all natural body care for myself but my husband think it’s all very weird. But I can’t complain; he’s been a good sport with all the other changes I’ve brought to his life:)

  9. Nice job Stacy, I love that you mentioned couponing. My friends and family members are raving about couponing. I think it’s a waste of time for me. I dont’ buy any of the products they advertise. Almost all of them are harmful. As a mother who is watching out for her families health, coupons are not for me.

    As for what has inspired me to make a change, good question. I have been asked this before. I think it comes from a mother with many food allergies. A sister-in-law who strives for organic. A mother-in-law who would rather make it herself than pay the big bucks and a husband who loves to save money.

    Also my son is suffering with the same red spots all other his body expect diaper area ( strangely enough). I have just recently made my own soap and am eager to try it out on him to see if it works. Any more suggestions are much appreciated.

  10. This was a wonderful post, Stacy! I’m all motivated to make the switch. Wait, I already made the switch a few years ago…. But I really am re-motivated! It’s so fun to read others’ testimonies of making the switch. Well done, friend! Well done!

  11. Great post!

    Being pregnant in 2010 was the catalyst for my move toward natural living. It has been a slow journey here too.
    I am an advocate of balance and I too was not going to throw away everything in our cupboards and go off grid in two months. I made small changes, soaps, cleaners, replacing things as they were used. Switching to raw milk, making my own bread, etc.
    My husband is reluctant to change some things and I honor what he wants to hang on to right now knowing that it will change some day.

    • We really do have to keep our spouses happy. For me that means that sometimes I let him buy Diet Coke and eat at Long John Silvers. :-) We don’t want them to buckle against a new lifestyle, but we DO want them to see how much better they feel.
      My husband’s mind was totally made up when he saw how much better he felt after getting rid of all the processed stuff.

  12. We started with our household cleaners and it saves money so I can spend a little more on whole, good for us foods. Another great recipe book for household cleaners is Clean and Green. And whipping up a batch of glass cleaner or all purpose cleaner takes less time than a trip to the store.

  13. Wow – that is incredible on your mortgage pay-off! Congrats! Reading your article, I realize I’m a lot further down the “natural” road than I thought. I don’t even think about it anymore, but we eat very little “processed” food. it is still conventional, for the most part, but it wouldn’t be hard to switch to organic meats, oats, etc. We fall hard, though, for eating out, cereal and soda. :(

    But I have hope. I, too, make our laundry soap, (I haven’t found a DW soap recipe I like yet) and have even considered making family cloth (-ahem- for #1 only :/ ) I make yogurt and have a homemade bread recipe I LOVE. I plan on making my own cleaners soon – because I have athsma and know how much I dislike using them – and I can’t bring myself to ask the kids to use them to do the chores that they are more than able to do if it wasn’t for the cleaners.

    I was raised using coupons. I hit them HARD when the kids were in diapers and there were fantastic deals when you hit the sales right. That fueled stocking up on razors (which we still have a stock of), toothpaste, shampoo, etc. Then suddenly, I didn’t need to buy baby diapers, had a stock of non-food items. and no desire for shopping with kids who hated it. Then It made sense to switch to less-processed foods and scratch cooking. And there I am now. My kids didn’t even KNOW you can buy breaded chicken at the grocery store until I had surgery a few months ago and had to get some convenience food to get us by. (and I haven’t bought it since!)

    • Wow! You’re doing great! :-) And I know for sure there are times in our life when we need to extend grace to ourselves (like surgery, etc) when we have to eat processed…I’m a firm believer in the 80/20 principle. :-)

    • Karen Suzanne says:

      Jenny, I like the dishwasher soap recipe of 1T baking soda and 1T borax with vinegar added in place of the rinse agent. I think the real difference is that I used vinegar with 20% acidity that I bought at Lowe’s. It is quite a bit more expensive than regular vinegar, but it takes so little per wash load and comes in a gallon jug so it should last a long time. It actually cleans my dishes better than cascade ever did with NO SPOTS! (And we have EXTREMELY hard water.) One tip – you have to scrub the food off of your dishes before you put them into the dishwasher. You can also substitute washing soda for the borax, but I haven’t tried that yet.

  14. Good for you!!!!! I am on this journey too. I am retired with a really small income. So my reason for doing the cleaning products change is $$$$ such a big savings. I use castile soap that I make, it is great for the skin and costs only pennies.
    I live near an Amish bulk store and I save a lot shopping there. I have found some things cheaper at an ethnic store as well. Mexican market has huge bags of rice and beans pretty cheap. The Asian market here has some good buys as well.
    I am into healthy eating as well. I cant really afford the organics all of the way. I do not eat processed food. It takes a bit longer to cook from scratch but I do multiple meals so even a person who worked could manage the change. Planning and a crock pot.
    I am enjoying the challenge of it and I even think its fun to find new ways of doing things.
    Margaret
    Pinterest.com is my go to place for all of these recipes and ideas

  15. What an inspirational story! I love you Stacy:) You’re always so really and just “tell it like it is”…my kind of girl! Thank you for keepin’ it real and helping everyone to see that living this lifestyle is attainable!

  16. Great post, Stacy! A lot to learn, but it’s all so interesting! I have been enjoying my switch from the SAD and life to traditional foods and more of a crunchy lifestyle. I can’t imagine going back!

  17. Great post! I completely agree. I used to do coupons. But I switched my family to a mostly-vegetarian diet and began buying our produce from a local produce shop. That strategy, paired with making my own household cleaner has saved me so much money (way more than couponing!) that now I can actually afford to buy organic for most of our groceries!

  18. You have inspired me! I do want to eat more healthy. I bought a juicer and now I’m going to start jusicing. And eat more better..I know I’ll loose weight and have a lot more energy. I’ve done a lot of reading and seen many shows on these matters, but I have to tell you after reading about your transition, I starting today..You are never to old to change. Keep writing. Alway learning, always changing. That’s what life’s all about!

  19. Totally agree! I too use to be a coupon addict and now I am more concerned about our well being then the cheapest item I can get. I first noticed a difference in my youngest health and from there it just got better. Thanks for sharing your accomplishments!

  20. Thanks for sharing! This sounds similar to our journey (which was accelerated by the knowledge that I was pregnant and wanting to protect the little life growing inside!). I’m curious, what kind of (bar) soap were you thinking to use to make dish soap? That’s one product I’ve been wanting to replace but can’t get over the $$$$$ of the “natural” dish soaps :( Thanks!

  21. What a great article. I used to coupon a lot more until we got an Aldi’s near my house too. For the record Shaklee has an organic cleaner that is actually cheaper then vinegar. I have been using that now for 2 years.

    I would like to get off my dependence of chemically laden dish soap and laundry detergent. Curiously how long have you been making your own. Sometimes I wonder if there are long term consequences on the machinery or septic using alternatives like that? Otherwise I think I would be all in if I didn’t worry about that.

    • I didn’t have septic at my townhouse – I had the sewer system. I didn’t see any difference in my washer though…and it was already old to begin with. :-) I’ve been using the homemade detergent for a bit over a year now.

  22. What a great post! I started the whole coupon thing, but like you, realized really quickly how much more processed stuff I was bringing in. Now I really only clip coupons for the things I actually use, and it’s a whole lot less stress. I’ve been using my homemade laundry detergent for about two years, and actually prefer it to most commercial brands. The thing I’ve been doing for about 3 years now that still makes me shake my head in disbelief is that I wash my face in an olive oil/caster oil mix. Yep, I do. Still makes me laugh, but by golly, my skin looks amazing! I just recently started using a homemade surface cleanser. The bathtubs look great, and the cost savings was awesome! One step at a time! I figure if I don’t like a product that I make, I can always go back to the commercial version. So far, homemade rules!

  23. As always, I LOVE your voice! You educate while making your readers laugh out loud! Love it! You say you’ve made a slow transition, but I’d say it’s been fast! You’ve done almost everything in less than a year! It’s taken me much, much longer! (Hey–I don’t even grind my own flour yet!) Great post!

  24. Stacy, I can relate to your story 100%. I too was a coupon junkie and yes it did feel great to get so many products free but our health was changing for the worse. At that point I knew some changes needed to be made. The changes are not only keeping us healthy but was also a huge load off my shoulders. As you know, couponing is very time consuming. Sunday coupon clipping became such a chore that I didn’t enjoy doing it anymore.

    Great post!
    Jackie

  25. I have taken back all of my cans of food (years ago). The store can still sell them. That’s always an option.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] dumb to anyone else? Real food is NOT too expensive – that’s a myth…and this is coming from a former coupon queen who would get $100 or more worth of groceries for [...]

  2. [...] I used to think saving money by using coupons was the wisest and conscientious way to be frugal – I carefully set aside each Sunday’s paper for its coupons and lurked on couponing websites to get the best deals. Then I realized that none of the nutrient-dense foods we really wanted to be eating were ever available via coupons. Here’s a fantastic article whose author hits the nail on the head. [...]

  3. [...] cutting out junk in their life- whether it be activities, debt, stuff, or habits.  Here’s a story * real similar to mine.  She seems to feel that same peace that I feel from the changes [...]

  4. [...] Stacy’s journey is very similar to our own:: Moving to a More Natural Lifestyle:: Ramblings of a Former Coupon Queen [...]

  5. [...] very honored to have had the opportunity to guest post at Keeper of The Home – one of the most encouraging websites I’ve ever found. If you’re not subscribed [...]