The first small change we made was to get rid of plastics. We took down our plastic mini blinds, which I am finally almost finished replacing. We also tossed all plastic kitchen utensils and storage containers. It's true, I do not use any form of Gladware. I do, however, still use plastic freezer bags. I try to use them minimally, but for as much as I cook and freeze, glass storage is just not always practical.
We also started reading the labels on baby toys. Anything that was going to be played with by our daughter had to be phthalate free. We still stay away from the cheap toys as much as possible and almost everything that goes into the baby's mouth is wooden or cloth.
Around the time that we started paying attention to baby toys, we also switched to cloth diapers. I love cloth and can now sew diapers. I don't mind the extra laundry and poop in cloth is not a big deal. We've probably saved thousands of diapers from going into a landfill and have saved ourselves a great deal of money.
When plastics and diapers were conquered, we moved on to safe cleaners. I use baking soda and vinegar to clean. I'm not fond of scrubbing the cast iron tub, in fact it's embarrassingly dirty right now, so I still use Scrubbing Bubbles. Vinegar works on the floors, counters, sink, etc. It's also great on salads and you can't say that about the Scrubbing Bubbles. I also make my own laundry detergent for our front loader. I use two bars of grated Ivory, two small boxes of baking soda and two cups of washing soda. It only takes one tablespoon of the detergent to clean a load of clothes.
I have attempted to make my own natural body care products, but I have given up temporarily. The homemade deodorant worked okay, but I didn't like wrestling it out of the jar and smearing it on my pits. Gross and time consuming. I have opted to only use deodorant when I'm going to be somewhere that I might sweat. Like the doctor's office with three kids in tow. I tried using baking soda and apple cider vinegar for my hair and I didn't like the smell. Kiss My Face makes a wonderful lime smelling conditioner that I love. It is without all of the nasty ingredients so I'm happy and so it my nose. I am currently on the look out for fluoride-free toothpaste, but I've only looked at Target. I want to mention too that I try to buy most things that are fragrance free and free and clear. I don't wear perfume or smelly lotions. Or make-up for that matter because it's full of ingredients that I can't pronounce.
Another thing we've learned how to do is buy in bulk, buy on sale, buy in season and buy local whenever possible. We pay attention to ads and don't buy things like fresh strawberries in the middle of winter. If potatoes are on sale, we buy 15-30 lbs of them. We walk the delicate line between buying organic and local and buying in bulk. Sometimes it's just not cost effective to buy organic food and I'm okay with that.
We have a huge garden every summer and learn more each year. We grow our own squash, tomatoes, green beans, broccoli, greens (kale, lettuce, swish chard), snap peas, carrots, radishes, beets, peppers, celery (new this year, we'll see how it does) and herbs (also new this year). We will be planting an apple tree, a cherry tree, a pear tree and a plum tree this year. We pick apples from a family's tree in the fall and use them throughout the winter. I plan to learn how to can this year. Actually, I know how to can, it's just a matter of doing it.
We buy our meat in bulk. Our beef is from a local rancher who doesn't feed his cows crap. Our pork is from a local farm that is working on its organic certification. Bacon is a hot commodity in our house and never makes it to the table. We dig the pig. We use whole chickens. Some are from a friend who raised them for us and some are from the grocery store. I curse daily at the fact that I can't have chickens in my back yard. I would love fresh eggs. Sigh.
I make big batches of food and freeze it according to how it will be used. I have seven freezer bags of pulled chicken and tons of chicken, beef and ham stock. I always double pancake and waffle recipes so that I have some to freeze. I freeze muffins, cupcakes, banana bread, etc. I also soak an entire bag of beans, use what I need and freeze the rest for later. I have frozen bags of sliced and peeled apples that are waiting to be turned into applesauce and apple butter. I try not to waste anything and have even started saving steak bones to use for making stock.
I love making my own bread and use the dough for everything. I have started making my own tortillas. I cook with lard, coconut oil and olive oil. I read a lot about food and cooking and it's a constant work in progress. Overall, we buy very few things from the store that are boxed or canned. I feel good when I look at the dinner table and see that everything was made by me. If you would have asked me five years ago to make my own salsa or tortillas, I would have laughed in your face and said that there was no way I had the time. Three kids, a dog and four rabbits later, I have the time because I've learned how to do it.