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?

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. I’ve never been a fan of shopping… malls make me sooo cranky! By simply not mindlessly frequenting retail establishments, more money is saved than coupons ever could!

  2. Jacquie Snell says:

    I just loved your post! I always struggle with trying to be coupon mom and natural mom. Thanks for the encouragement~

  3. Thank you Stacy for your very informative writings. I too made the big change to country living after an ‘inner city’ life for the sakes of my children and health. As I educate at home as well, I can do with as many tips as I can get on living within one’s means and on one income! Thank you for sharing your knowledge in this department. On the topic of alternative health, I thought you may be interested to hear of the simple and very frugal ‘alternative’ to medicine – Natural Hygiene. If you go to the website of http://www.drbass.com you will get some great information and further links. All the best,
    Sophie

  4. Kymberleigh Chavez says:

    OMGosh! That’s exactly where I am right now. Feeling like I got swallowed up by the couponing monster, and wanting to simplify and go back to more natural things. Just getting started, ad my husband thinks I’ve lost my marbles, but that’s what he first thought when I began couponing too, it’s become such a chore though! Baby steps on my way to better health for the family. Almost growing season, so I’m stocking up on seeds and canning and freezing necessities.

  5. Great post!! I seldom use coupons for the reason that I don’t want to buy the products that most of the coupons are for! What you save by buying overly processed foods and chemical-based products, you will eventually spend in doc bills. I grow a garden and support my local farmer’s market. I have almost always made my own cleaners. I stopped making my own soap but really need to go back (just got busy, I guess). And I’ve done natural herbal health for several years now. The natural medicine is more expensive but if you eat right, you barely ever need it. I do NOT compromise on my vitamins/supplements.

    • Natural medicine is a bit expensive….but I sorta feel like it’s comparable with most prescriptions. :-) And you’re right….food can heal very well, so you don’t need meds as often.

  6. I just stumbled across this post and wanted to say a big THANK YOU!! Reading about being more green or organic seems to add more stress to my life than take it away, as I’m just starting out on this journey and felt judged when I read of how ‘perfect’ others were. You just seem so real and that helped me feel that there’s others out there who are just figuring it out as well. Thanks again!

  7. I loved this post! This is just the encouragement I needed today. As of November, we have gone organic for all foods. I am working toward natural items for the household. I started making my own shower cleaner and drain cleaner. As soon as my stockpile of toiletries and cleaners is gone, it’s natural all the way! No more chemicals if we can help it! Thanks so much, Stacy, for this post!

  8. crystal says:

    essential oils are a must, but please do not buy cheap ones, youngliving oils or doterra. a great book to read to educate yourself on natural health are, “how to raise healthy children in spite of your doctor”. we are learning our self too and its a fun journey. he are alot less sick now

  9. We are in the process of going all natural and for deodorant I started using Thai Stone. It is a crystal stick that you just dampen and use just like regular deodorant. You can find another kind of it at Walgreens it is called Crystal. It is a purple bottle and in my store it is on the very bottom shelf.

  10. LOVE LOVE LOVE 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.” –> SO true!!
    When my husband and I made the 180 switch to a more natural lifestyle we found our shopping and cooking habits changed more than our budget.

  11. This was a fun post to read. I’m currently on the same journey, taking it slow. Interestingly, for me it started due to lack of good coupon deals [due to the recession, I assume]. I’ve always been striving for natural food… my husband on the other hand still wants so processed stuff – so we still do use coupons. Once I [finally] run out of couponed cleaning supplies (I don’t think I clean enough) I’m on track for homemade. Bath items are one thing we still use coupons for. No one in my family seems to have sensitive skin, but this is inspiring to read that it can be done. Thanks.

    • Keep the husband happy. :-) Let him have his little treats here and there…as you change your lifestyle, he’ll likely see how much better he feels and jump right on the train. :-)

  12. Love the article. We cut out all processed food for Lent. It’s an amazing experience!

  13. Oh, fabulous post. I’m going to bookmark this, so I can go back and read it later :) :) My journey into a natural living/healthier lifestyle started when I read Jordan Rubin’s book “The Maker’s Diet” That was a life-changing moment for me ;) :) I’m so much healthier and happier. As a natural by-product of eating healthier, I’ve also lost a lot of weight. It’s a choice everyone has to make for themselves…for my small family, it’s been a great choice :) Love and hugs from the ocean shores of California, Heather :)

  14. I am definitely going to follow this blog!

  15. I’ve made this switch myself over the past 3 years since my daughter was born. I too shun coupons for the frightening products that are usually featured in them. I did want to encourage you about switching to natural medicine. Finding a good naturopath has been very helpful for our family. Also, I buy nearly all of my natural remedies and homeopathic treatments from vitacost.com. Also, if you are in an area serviced by Azure Standard farms you absolutely must check them out too. Very good prices on all sorts of natural living products, bulk foods, even produce. Between Azure Standard and Vitacost.com I can find most of the products we use regularly for at least half the cost of buying them at my local healthfood store or even from my naturopath.

    Don’t forget about CSA and farmers markets too. Buying good quality produce doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg.

    It’s so nice to see others who are on this journey. And my family teases me all the time about being a hippy now. My mom recently asked me if she should worry that I was going to stop bathing anytime soon. I know she was joking, but I really didn’t find it funny. I’m focusing on living cleaner all around, not just finding an antibacterial chemical to “sanitize” my skin. It’s definitely a lifestyle. A much simpler lifestyle.

    • Tara, I just LOVE Vitacost! :-) I bought almost all of my essential oils there because of their great prices. I love a good deal.
      I also just switched to a homeopathic doctor and I’m super excited about that.
      I’m blessed that my parents live on a farm and share their garden bounty – I’ve been raised to preserve food – so it’s in my blood. ;-)
      And you are spot on sister – it IS a much simpler lifestyle.
      Thanks for stopping by to comment! :-)

  16. I tried sharing this with a friend because she’s looking to implement a more natural lifestyle for her family…but she can’t open the link..it tells her it’s forbidden :-(…Any ideas why this might be happening? (I shared both the facebook post and the actual link of the post from the blog, neither worked).

    Thank you for any help and advice :-)

  17. I am in love with this post. I’m constantly telling people that it’s entirely possible to eat healthy whole foods while being frugal. Processed foods seem cheaper, but they really ugly aren’t and they take a toll on one’s health. When I got pregnant with my son in 2005, I really ugly started to look at what I was putting into and on my body. I started small with natural cleaners and I am still learning. I now make most of our body care products. I am learning a lot about cooking from scratch. I just started making our own butter and yogurt. It’s awesome and I have had a lot of fun learning over the years.

  18. Karen Suzanne says:

    Thank you for the wonderful post! I too have been gradually becoming healthier. A good way to get rid of food that you just can’t stand to throw out, (after all, it cost MONEY), is to give it to your local food pantry. I have to admit I do feel a bit guilty about that. After all, that stuff is poison. The mindset that those “food” items are poison has helped me to throw out the rest of the items that I could not donate (opened or expired-but-frozen). Now if I could just convince my husband to stop buying the stuff… have you written anything about THAT?!

    A GREAT way to use up that harmful body soap and shampoo – without further endangering your health – is to use it to clean the toilet. It works like a charm if you clean your toilet regularly. I cannot take credit for this idea, however, it comes form Flylady.

    Thank you for the recipes and ideas. Your point that you can stay within budget and eat healthy is so true. Cooking from scratch greatly reduces your pantry contents. I love the simplicity of a healthy lifestyle!

    • I’m very blessed to have a husband who is totally on board. :-) I’ve found that if the wife cooks the meals, it’s pretty easy to control that part. BUT, we have to keep our spouses happy so they don’t totally buck the idea. I find that letting Barry have a diet coke now and then and pick what we’re eating for dinner sometimes has really helped.
      If he needs to buy a Twinkie now and then to survive, I really think that’s okay.
      :-) We try to embrace the 80/20 lifestyle. If I can get my family to eat well 80% of the time, I don’t worry too much about the other 20%.

  19. i am like you and have to do things a little at a time. i have been at the switch for quite a while and our food is about where i want it… buying seasonally and in bulk has been a key for me. cleaning, i am about half and half at this point as well as in skin care. we make our own deodorant (have for almost 2 years and love it) and have been on the no-poo method for three months as a whole family. my next step is to try oil cleansing on my own face since pregnancy has made my face really dry and sensitive. great post! i love hearing your journey.

  20. THanks for the tips! I love natural stuff and want to go that route but the world makes it so hard… expensive, inconvenient, controversial… uggghhh! Every little bit we can do helps though :)

  21. I loved your line: “a lie from the devil”… so true. People will twist and squirm for years believing their compromising is just, well, necessary. Then when we finally make a change we find it’s often pretty danged simple and straightforward and the only thing making more change so difficult is US. Our own selves just being scared.
    One note about deodorants: I read that if your magnesium level is adequate, body odor is nonexistent. I have been ON magnesium therapy (mostly soaking in tub with magnesium flakes) and OFF any kind of deodorant for a couple months now… no b.o.
    Before that I had been using either liquid crystal or coconut oil, both very inexpensive.

  22. oksana freeman says:

    ok, I followed your link (Back to the Basics: Frugal, Non-Toxic Green Cleaning) and found the answer to my question. peroxide is good for disinfecting.

  23. oksana freeman says:

    *I meant “killing” the germs, not cleaning :)

  24. oksana freeman says:

    Thank you for sharing Stacy. I have a question: are there any natural household cleaners that do a good job of sanitizing and cleaning the jerms? Just getting it to look clean isn’t good enough when it comes to the bathroom, etc.

  25. This is wonderful! I agree with you and my journey is very similar to yours. Paying down our mortgage and all! I’d love to hear more about your grocery budget and compare notes! :)

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