07 January 2014

Can you spot what is missing from our basket today?


One of the most useful suggestions we could make to families, whether they are going out for a few hours in the car, or taking a day trip, is to assemble their own 'going out basket'.  As simple as a basket of basic eating and drinking products that makes meal-times easier and cheaper; but which could also include nappy or swim bags, picnic mats etc

Having one saves you money on expensive prepared meals & drinks and gives you greater flexibility.

Ours is a basket like that which you carry through a supermarket, with open mesh bottom and sides, and two handles that come together to hold.  

The items we like to have in ours are:

  • hand sanitiser
  • baby wipes
  • handbag packet of tissues
  • sun tan lotion
  • 8 bowl-plates (affectionally called blates in our household as they could be used as either)
  • 8 cups (although each person does have a stainless steel water bottle that they are responsible for filling and bringing with them)
  • 8 teaspoons
  • 8 forks
  • 8 knives
  • 8 dessert spoons
  • knife with cover
  • heavy duty plastic bag for clean cutlery and knife (a long pencil case would do if you have one lying around)
  • plastic bag or two (for used dishes and cutlery; or food that needs to be re-wrapped)
  • small chopping board (the plastic type with drip groove around the outside)
  • string bag
  • large bottle of water
  • snacks (if we plan to be out for morning or afternoon tea times)


This means that we can stop by a grocers, or supermarket and pick up just what we need to make a meal, knowing that we can prepare it back at the van or in a playground or wherever we are.  

We also have a cold-hot box in the van, which is useful for keeping water and left-overs cold; several picnic mats; and a first aid kit too.


Sometimes when we don't want to take the entire nappy bag we add:

  • nappy tote with cloth nappy, cloth wipe, bottom balm, and wipe solution
  • book or activity for the baby
  • sippy cup


At other times, when toilet training, we have also included:

  • a waterproof tote with a roll of toilet paper, plastic bag and change of underwear


Our basket wasn't always so well kitted out.  Instead of all the cutlery we simply had the serrated knife and 2 teaspoons.  Even having the cups and water will save you money and stress.  At one stage we always had a box of muesli bars in the basket as snacks.  Now it's whatever the children put in.  Children always tend to be thirsty and hungry right when you are in the middle of something or not quite wanting to have to go home yet.  We all know how, all too often, tasks take longer than we expect as well!


Just in case this also helps, we have a swim bag on stand-by in the house, with:

  • swimwear for each person
  • beach towels
  • sun tan lotion
  • goggles, hats & accessories

It's so easy to pick it up and throw it in the van, so long as everything has been returned to it after washing the previous time.


Let us know in the comments if you have a going out box, basket or bag, and what your essential items are.


This idea could be extended to having an activity box for the children (books, playing cards, toys, mp3 players), a mummy box for when you are the taxi driver and waiting for children at activities (crosswords, books , nail polish, notebook for ideas and lists), a letter-writing and card kit (pen, cards or paper, envelopes, stamps etc), language box (audio files, flash cards, grammar book, foreign reader or magazine, exercise book), car cleaning kit (hearth brush, cleaning/polishing cream, rag, glass cleaner and cloth)....you name it!


Happy travels! 

What repetitive household tasks can you simplify through standardising?

02 January 2014

One of the Easy Key laundries


Cleaning still needs to be done, regardless of where you are, right, or unless you have a live-in housekeeper ‽  

So I have been considering how to make sure we have all that we need for when we are on the road. 

Thankfully the space will be smaller so that ought to reduce the time and amount of product needed; but it also means that we need to be more mindful of what we are using as we are in such close quarters.


At home we have a stainless steel culinary shaker filled with baking soda for cleaning the bathroom, and a spray bottle of vinegar for cleaning the table and kitchen surfaces.  Both of these will be going with us.


We blend our own clothes washing powder in the food processor from 125g of grated soap and 1kg of soda ash. [Usage:1T per 6kg load.]  The soap we have begun to make ourselves from olive oil, coconut oil, rice bran oil and caustic soda.

[Usually I add some vinegar to the rinse cycle.]


We make our own toothpaste too: 3 Tablespoons baking soda, 3 teaspoons salt, 10 drops orange oil, 3-4 drops clove oil; and use a simple disinfectant in the toilet.


So that's: vinegar (acetic acid), baking soda, soda ash, salt, orange and clove oil, disinfectant and our homemade soap for: washing kitchen surfaces and sanitary areas, cleaning teeth, washing clothes and bodies.  Not bad for simplifying.  We could make the clothes washing powder in bulk so do away with taking the soda ash; and possibly vinegar/salt might replace the toilet disinfectant.


Though how, oh how, are we going to physically wash and dry the clothing and linen?

I've seen a mobile washing device called the Wonder Wash - a hand-cranked container that boasts that a 3-minute session is enough to wash your clothes.  While foregoing a standard washing machine does seem a little on the insane side with a little one still in nappies, I am not sure how running an electric machine would fit into our desire to run totally self-sufficiently.  The electricity draw would be too much on solar alone, and a regular machine uses a lot of water.  The same company who manufacturers the Wonder Wash have a centrifugal spinner, which looks to be a necessary companion (note it is 110v though).  

Perhaps we could compromise, and run a generator when we had to use a regular washing machine (note: front loaders generally use less water than top loaders) while we're sited at a dump station so we could refill that precious commodity of H2O?

In the process of looking around the 'net I also stumbled upon this amazing-looking washing machine - the Xeros.  I wonder when they will have a domestic model available for trial - I'd be a starter.  No water at all!

Of course there are public self-service laundromats (also called launderettes or simply laundry) with some operating multiple sites using a key entry system (one in the lower North Island is called Easy Key and charge $4 per load to wash or dry).

We already line-dry our clothes under the back deck at home, which works all year round for us, but this isn't as tenable on the road.  I've heard stories of the police and council being called when locals take exception to seeing washing outside a motorhome that was parked in a public place.  A drying rack of some sort in the bathroom will definitely be required; and perhaps one or two nights a week away from civilisation may allow us to get all the washing dry outdoors.

Staying at camping grounds would usually take care of the clothes washing, with many having laundry facilities, but they're not really an option (financially) for long-term stays. 

If habits serve you well, keep them.  If they don't, question them.