Posted in Gluten Free, healthy diet, recipe, saving money

Post-Easter Instant Pot Ham and Bean Soup

I bought my Instant Pot  in Nov. 2016…I have used it about every day, multiple times a day, and can’t imagine my gluten-free life without it!!  It reduces my stress levels involving food prep significantly, especially since my diet has had to evolve so greatly.

This is one of my son’s favorite soups, which he calls “camping soup” ever since we read about what cowboys ate back in the day.  Recently I became aware that onions and garlic really upset my stomach (possibly due to chronic SIBO issues) and I had to start removing that from my cooking.  While beans are not Low FODMAP in general, they do not bother my stomach when I’ve soaked them overnight.

(We’ve also been using these digestive enzyme capsules for myself and my husband, and for the kids chewable digestive enzymes , and nobody felt bad or gassy after eating.  With chronic fatigue and high stress overall in our family, I felt it necessary to use digestive enzymes for a time until we’re seeing improvement.  After all, the saying “You are what you eat” is not so accurate; it’s more like, “You are what you absorb.”  Malabsorption issues (leaky gut) can do a number on your health no matter what organic, healthy stuff you’re eating.  If you’re not digesting well, nothing else goes well, at least in my experience.)

I keep shredded or sliced celery and carrots in the freezer for easy meal prep. This turned out so tasty that my son, who is learning a lot of new vocabulary, told me “Congratulations for how well this turned out.” hahaa

IP Ham and Bean Camping Soup

1 lb.  soaked beans (I used red beans, white beans or other are good too)
1 lb ham or ham bone with meat
2 c. shredded carrots
1/2 c. diced celery/celery leaves
2 tsp. oregano
2 tsp. smoked paprika (optional, but adds depth of flavor)
2 qt.s broth or filtered water, up to the fill line on the IP
3/4 c sliced fresh chives (or 1 Tbsp dried)
shake or two of cherrywood smoked sea salt
pepper to taste

1. Combine the above ingredients in the instant pot.
2.  Set IP to manual for 25 minutes, and release pressure naturally, or 30 minutes and release when it beeps.

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Posted in Edible Awesome, Featured Inspiration, Gluten Free, healthy diet, recipe, saving money

5-minute DIY Cream of Mushroom Soup Recipe! (using TJ’s Umami seasoning)

I LOVE mushrooms.  Chunky or not, they’re right up there with olives for me on my list of top flavor pops.  But I understand that not everybody is a fan of their texture, which is why I am super excited about Trader Joe’s Mushroom & Company Multipurpose Umami Seasoning Blend.  First of all, I can have all their ingredients, which in seasoning blends is becoming more and more rare for me (they usually have MSG or soy mixed in, or tomato, or something like that on my intolerance/list of no-no’s).  It’s just porcini and white button mushroom powder, salt, dried onion powder, ground mustard seed, crushed red pepper, black pepper, and dried thyme.

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I’ve heard umami described as that “something something” that just makes a dish taste more enjoyable.  For my sensational kids  and husband (others might call them picky, but sensory processing disorder is a thing), texture with food is a biggie, and now I can use this mushroom-packed powder in recipes without them detecting squishy little chunks of “yuck” yum. ( Please note it does have the crushed red pepper in it, so if you are sensitive to spiciness, go easy on it.  I’m not a lover of too much spice, but I do like the level in the recipe below. )

We got the flu, and it was not fun.  I made a bunch of chicken broth that week to try to speed the recovery process, and after chicken noodle soup, I wanted to make GF stuffed manicotti.  My mom’s no-bake recipe for manicotti growing up used a can of condensed cream of mushroom soup.  As I have to read food labels for gluten, MSG, soy, etc., I find it rather challenging at least and expensive for sure to buy considering those parameters. 

When I went GF and dairy free, I knew there were ways to make your own.  But previously, when I used pre-cut mushrooms, it came out gritty when the ones I got turned out to have dirt in them.  Now that’s disgusting! So this time I wasn’t going to mess with actual mushrooms, plus I was sick and wanted something easy, and considering the aforementioned sensory issues, was delighted that I’d recently bought 3 of the mushroom seasoning mix jars at TJ’s the week before.  (A risky move, since I’d never tried it before.  But as I said–mushrooms=love.  So that was enough for me. )

Below is the Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Cream of Mushroom Soup Recipe I came up with in order to use it in the Instant Pot Manicotti recipe I attempted!  (Son asked for seconds of the manicotti, so since he’s generally the pickiest of them all, I consider that a win!)  I used the organic chicken stock (a little thicker than broth because it uses the bones, too) I’d made, which was already flavorful, but I am sure you could use store-bought as well.  I also used my GF flour blend mix.  This recipe only takes about 5 minutes to make!
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Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Cream of Mushroom Soup Recipe

6 TBSP gluten-free flour

2 TBSP dairy-free butter (or coconut oil, ghee or regular butter if you can tolerate those.              I used nitrite-free bacon grease since I am not opposed to some fat in the diet for                good hormone synthesis.)

2 Cups organic chicken stock

2 TBSP TJ’s Umami Mushroom seasoning

1 cup dairy-free milk (or regular works too)

Directions:  (You could choose to saute’ some onions prior to step one…but I was tired and didn’t).

1. Melt dairy-free butter (or whatever fat/oil fits your diet) and mix the 6 TBSP GF flour in to make a roux.

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2.  Pour chicken stock and stir with a whisk/fork until the roux has dissolved.

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3. While stirring, mix in the Umami seasoning.

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4.  Keep stirring occasionally until you see bubbles and thickening occurring.
(At this point I kind of wanted to eat it all like that, condensed-soup style, but I needed it for my next recipe.  If you want to freeze this recipe, stop here before adding the dairy-free milk, which you can add after thawing).

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5.  If you want it to be like soup and not condensed cream of mushroom soup, add 1/4 to 1 cup dairy-free or regular milk and stir until incorporated.Easy pleasey!  (Not peasy…there are no peas in this recipe.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Gluten Free, healthy diet, recipe, saving money

Goals, Gluten-Free Living and My first YouTube Video

I recently posted about productivity and goals.  I set an achievable goal for myself for January, but I was a little doubtful of my ability. I feel mostly confident in the creative world…except when it comes to technology. I challenged myself to learn some basic video-editing on Shotcut. Well, my geek hubby keeps elbowing me happily about joining the dark side (I don’t know about that–computers frustrate me still. Oh, and since filming this portrait-layout instead of landscape, I have learned a thing or two about how YouTube works, and my next videos will definitely be more professional.)

Anyhow, as a recovering perfectionist who knows both I and my work are not perfect, I’m going out of my comfort zone and sharing the results of my effort although I cringe at the idea of possible critical viewers. This is a video I made sharing what I wish I knew when I first started the gluten-free lifestyle. I made it because some friends have been wanting to go gluten-free but find it really overwhelming, so I tried to cover the basics, from what types of GF flours to start with for baking, other meal options (including pre-made), best shopping options, and how to thicken sauces. (See show notes for more details.)

Feel free to share with friends you hear of who find out they have a gluten sensitivity and are feeling overwhelmed. If I can help someone on their journey, I feel like a little bit of my health trials are being redeemed for good.

YOUTUBE.COM
Skip trial and error as you enter the world of Gluten Free living! Here I share with you the best GF flour blend…

 

Posted in DIY, Edible Awesome, Gluten Free, healthy diet, recipe, saving money

Amy’s Favorite GF, Egg-Free Waffles Recipe

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This recipe was inspired by an Allrecipes Pumpkin Waffle recipe; however I have an intolerance to egg and found the original recipe’s batter way too dry, so I customized it to my diet and tastes.  I like to make a double batch of this and use 3/4 of the waffles to prep some of my sons’ school lunches, using the waffles as a bread replacement since GF loaf bread is so expensive! (Otherwise he gets leftovers from the week, which he doesn’t mind.)  Have you ever noticed the frozen PBJs in the freezer aisle of the grocery store? Well, that’s what I make, except I can’t have peanuts either, and the school is a nut-free zone, so we use sunbutter instead.  (Sunflower seeds, btw, are hormone friendly…heard of seed cycling?)  I mix it all up in a blender to make it easier for pouring into my Belgian Waffle Maker.  I bet this recipe would work for pizelles if you have a pizzelle press and add a dash of anise extract to the batter and leave out the baking powder.  Speaking of baking powder, I can’t have corn, and corn starch is usually in baking powder.  So I made my own replacement to refill my old baking powder container using 2 TBSP baking soda plus 1/4 cup cream of tartar (while cream of tartar usually comes in tiny spice containers, I bought mine in a big bulk container because it’s handy for cleaning powder as well). Anyhow, on to the best GF, egg-free waffle recipe ever!

5 minutes prep time, plus cook time.  Makes 4 huge Belgian waffles (or 8 thin waffles, depending on your waffle iron.)

Amy’s Favorite GF, Egg-Free Waffles Recipe

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Directions

 

  1. Start by measuring psyllium husk and flaxseed into a blender (or bowl…I just like to make things easier for myself) and adding the warm water to create the flax eggs.
  2. Pour in melted coconut oil, maple syrup, vanilla extract, pumpkin puree, and give a pulse with the lid on before adding the cold almond milk. 
  3. Preheat your waffle iron.
  4. Add gluten-free flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt to the blender (if you want to play it safe, you could mix these in a different bowl before adding, but I’ve never had an issue with distasteful baking powder or salt clumps) and blend until the batter looks like cake batter with no dry spots left.
  5. Pour about 1/2 to 2/3 cup batter (depending on what your waffle iron normally holds) onto the preheated iron and spread to the edges. Close iron and cook until iron stops steaming or the light comes on, plus another minute or so.  Repeat with remaining batter.
  6. Swat impatient hands away until everybody can sit down and eat together.  Try not to let them see you swiping some secretly.
Posted in DIY, Edible Awesome, Gluten Free, healthy diet, recipe, saving money

My Favorite Gluten-Free Flour Blend Recipe

I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time paying $8 for a GF cup-for-cup flour blend.  In fact, I’ve never bought even a bag of that stuff, on principle.  Doesn’t seem right to capitalize that much on others’ health-related need for GF flours.  But enough of my rant–let me tell you what I do instead!  I went online to Vitacost (which frequently has sales going– the GF flours of several varieties were anywhere from 15-47% off, last I checked, which was yesterday) and during a buy-one-get-one sale I bought 4 boxes each of sweet sorghum flour, potato starch, and tapioca flour. The sale happens regularly, and I’ve restocked twice this way.

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Then, I mix them in this ratio:

1 1/2 cup sorghum flour

1 1/2 cup potato starch

1 cup tapioca flour

Buuuut I don’t like to measure.  So instead I just dump these amounts into a container and shake it up.  Easy peasy.

2 lb bag sorghum flour

2 lb bag potato starch

2/3 of 2lb bag tapioca flour

Keep reading!  In regular wheat flour, gluten acts as a binder that allows baked goods to stretch, and the GF mix needs a binder too…so for each cup of the mix, I add 1 tsp of psyllium husk to whatever liquid is in whatever recipe I use.

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In my research for digestion-friendly replacement for xantham gum (which is a product of the bacterial fermentation of the sugars in either corn, soy, wheat or dairy) or guar gum (which is derived from the guar bean–not bacteria–but can still cause digestion issues), I settled on psyllium husk.

P.S.  You can use that leftover tapioca to thicken your GF soups and gravies!  Use 1-2 TBSP with your butter, ghee, or coconut oil (I would use the latter) to make a slurry, then slowly add your broth or other liquid.

 

Posted in DIY, Gluten Free, recipe, saving money, Uncategorized

Recipe for DIY Corn-Free Baking Powder

If you have intolerances or food allergies, you know it can get tiring trying to read all the ingredients and look for “safe” consumable goods!  When I started my hormone recovery journey, I went gluten-free and soy-free.  That was a lot of effort, and I guess I was well-prepared for eliminating an even longer list.  When I had some IGG blood testing to find out what else my body couldn’t handle, though, I was in disbelief.  Actually, I laughed when the lady read me the results because the first thing she said was chocolate.  Are you kidding me? *Sigh.* My morning treat had been frothy hot chocolate (cacao, maple syrup or honey, and milk).

Then there was dairy. (Oh cheese, how I miss you.) And yeast. (Well…I guess no GF pizza for me at MOD anymore…but what’s pizza without cheese anyhow?).  Coffee (well, I’d already ditched that a few years ago, though occasionally I would swipe a sample at Trader Joe’s).  Eggs (I’d been having one each morning with salad.  Ugh).  Peanuts. Tomatoes. Some other stuff I probably have forgotten and need to look up.  And corn.  Which is in a rather lot of gluten-free things–have you noticed? So my already limited fare got even more narrow of a selection.  (On the bright side, my symptoms of chronic tiredness and achiness in the morning have improved! So I guess it’s all worth it.)

While I generally read food labels for ingredients, as someone who is constantly baking, I actually had never noticed that BAKING POWDER contained corn! I would never have thought to check because I just sort of figured it was its own ingredient, like baking soda.

Thankfully, a friend mentioned her nephews have corn allergy and can’t even having baking powder in things.  Enlightened, I was on a hunt for corn-free baking powder.  Almost impossible to find and very expensive, I decided to make my own replacement to refill my old baking powder container using 2 TBSP baking soda plus 1/4 cup cream of tartar (while cream of tartar usually comes in tiny spice containers, I bought mine in a big bulk container because it’s handy for cleaning powder as well).  It works!  I do smash each teaspoon it in my palm before adding it to recipes because it can clump a bit.  (FYI, If you are not corn free and do not have cream of tartar, you can still make your own baking powder if you need some in a pinch with the same ratio of baking soda to corn starch.)

Posted in minimalism, saving money, Uncategorized

The No-Spend Month Conlcusion

Well, my husband and I found out a lot about ourselves and our spending habits by being extra intentional with our spending.  We started out strong, using no credit at all, finishing up gift cards and paying cash (including change I found in the car and piggy bank) or going without.  Then, after week one, I found out my hubby had used the credit card.  Bum-bum-bummmmm! He bought a computer cord replacement.  That kinda irked me.  I didn’t see it as a necessity.  We have two laptops, one “his” and one “mine.” We could have been ok using only one for a few more weeks.  I’m all or nothing, right? If we’re doing a no credit challenge, let’s do this thing!!  So my bubble popped a little there. However, something positive did occur in that we had to communicate about our expectations of the month a little better, and then hubs had a few “wait lists” for the upcoming months put on Amazon for things we’d like to get, and wanted to plan ahead for, instead of instantaneously ordering.

Yep, we discovered he and I define necessary spending quite differently. We could have kept up the beans and rice dealio…but my hubby requested that we use credit for “necessities” like food.  He meant the particular food he wanted, which I saw as not really a necessity.  But I value him more than a personal goal, so I got what he wanted, and we used the credit card.

Aaaand, since we had caved and used the credit card, and there was meat on sale, I went ahead and stocked up a little bit to put in our deep freeze.  So that was also not just buying the bare minimum.  But in the long run, I guess we do save money, because I got $5 off each on a few hams.  So we’ll have that for Easter.  And there was a fundraising opportunity for an adoption and something else I really believed in so we gave some money for those things as well.  We did turn down a birthday party invite (but managed to find a gift to give later on super sale and bought with gift card money) because the venue costed. (And also, my kids don’t yet know how to swim, as the party was for an older kid at a YMCA; I was worn out anyways and didn’t feel like trying to keep two kids 5 and under above water on my own).

Anyhow, my conclusion is that if you know you actually have money to pay for stuff, it’s rather easy to not be uber frugal.  I was a little disappointed in how the thing went, but it was good to use up those gift cards and loose change and in general spend a lot less, putting savings towards kids’ school and other important things.  We’re not as hardcore as I’d hoped.  Oh well.  Do you have an awesome no-spend success story to share?

 

 

 

 

Posted in Day in the life of a mom, Mental Health, minimalism, saving money, sensory processing disorder

What everyday SPD looks like for my 3 and 5 yr olds…

My 5 yr. old son asked for another piece of pizza, a rare treat at our place since I am gluten-free and don’t usually have the energy to make it myself and avoid certain ingredients for my healthy eating standards.  He was so happy when I said sure…but when I gave it to him, he kind of stared at the piece and started to zone out as his face fell a little.

I asked him, “What’s wrong, hon?”  But I could have guessed.  You see, the pizza crust was not big enough for him to hold without getting sauce on his fingers.  The sauce went too far up.  And as much as he loves pizza, his desire to avoid that messy feeling is greater.  He knows he can wipe his hands on a napkin or wash his hands later, but he can’t do it.

I found myself thinking, Wow. He didn’t throw a fit!  He didn’t meltdown over it today! He didn’t cry or get angry!  That looks like progress to me!  And it is.  We’ve been working with him a lot about his responses.  To be frank, a lot has to do with me not getting upset with his particularities, which was hard at first because I grew up in a family where you weren’t allowed to be “picky.”  Then I married a “picky” person…but I see it’s not always about pickiness.  It can be about texture.  It can be about how tastes hit a person’s brain.  My son got a lot of the way his brain works from his dad.  They can’t deal with some fabrics (my husband won’t wear “scratchy” wool sweaters, or cotton sweaters that aren’t soft enough).  Not only are some things like that a turn-off or irritating, it can just plain overwhelm them, because of how their brains magnify, misinterpret, or translate a sensation.  I can see now they’re not “spoiled” or “bratty” because they choose not to flood their brains with highly unpleasant feedback.

The fact that my son got a little sad about not feeling like he could enjoy the pizza he was anticipating so much makes me want to figure out ways to help him cope with his SPD more.  Because sometimes, you can’t change the way things are.  But in this case, it was an easy fix because the pizza was thin crust, and I just folded it over onto itself so the back of the pizza could be more of a crust, and that worked for him.  No messy fingers.  I guess another solution could have been cutting it up and eating it with a fork, which he has done in the past, but whatever the issue, the triumph was that he remained calm and went on to enjoy his pizza.

Another instance of SPD showing occurred when he needed new shoes.  I got him some cute ones that only needed to be zipped (because he is also kind of OCD and if the shoes have velcro, he takes forever aligning the velcro just right…more than one strap? You’ll be waiting a while) and was thrilled when he put them on, ran and hopped around, and wore them to school the next day.

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After a day of school, however, with all the movements an active 5 yr. old does, he informed me they felt bumpy at the top when he knelt.  So brand new shoes that I can’t return now?  Tah-tah.  And today, I can be okay with that.  (And also thankful I mostly only buy things on sale or second-hand).  Previously, I would have gotten mad that I went through the trouble to find the shoes, spent the money, and he didn’t like them after all.  Life is better when I accept his issues and treat him with dignity instead of trying to fit him into my idea of the way things should be.  I would want somebody to do the same for me.  My husband does not get mad or rant or resent me (though it may exhaust him) when I get stuck in anxious mode and he has to hear all about my fears knowing he can’t fix me.  He makes life better for me by hearing me, understanding it’s hard for me, and loving me unconditionally.  I want to do that for my son.  

I sometimes see my son trying to mask his SPD reactions.  When we were looking for shoes another occasion, he tried to use logic to reason his way into a new pair of Paw Patrol light-up shoes.  They looked perfect!  But the first thing he said when he tried them on before I asked or anything was, “hmm, I feel a bump on the bottom.” Then seeing my face, and knowing I would not get them if he had a complaint, he immediately tried to reason it away, saying, “BUT I think they’ll be fine after I wear them a little while and get used to them!”  Experience has taught me that if it’s annoying initially, that’ll always be the case.  There were tears shed over those Paw Patrol shoes, but I wouldn’t budge.

Similarly, his little sister got some brand new PINK tennis shoes after searching many stores.   They were NIKE!  (We were given a gift card to the store).  She LOVES pink!  She tried them on.  She danced around!  She was so happy.  She WANTED them to work! But when it came down to it, she couldn’t stand them for longer than a minute every time we tried them on after that.  She’d put them on, then get stuck like glue with her bottom on the floor, not being able to get up and walk in them. It’s like her brain just shut down with them on her feet.

I am not very patient when we’re getting ready to go and people don’t have their shoes on when I asked 15 minutes earlier.  A 20 minute delay really irks me.  One day she tried on 3 pairs of socks and 3 pairs of shoes, and we were so late.  I definitely returned the pink shoes.  I was disappointed because of the amount of effort searching, and feeling exhausted and dreading that now another kid is manifesting some real SPD stuff.  (It’s SO draining for me to figure out how to do life with SPD!  And not just one kid’s particularities!  But two…If you add in their dad’s preferences, three sensory processing packages! I guess it is draining to HAVE the SPD oneself, though, eh?!)  But I was SO GLAD I know it’s just not worth it to try to MAKE something work that just isn’t going to work.  

Like the pretty dress I’d bought when she was a baby, waiting for her to fit into it.  It was a perfect Easter dress!

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too “scratchy” for threenager

She would not wear it.  She wanted to!  She put it on, excited to dance and spin in it…But it was “too scratchy,” and she freaked out and cried until she got it off.   Just like when she put on the brand new shirt with a seam across the chest (which I also had bought in advance.  I think I have learned my lesson. “Saving money” buying things when they’re a good deal doesn’t always save money.  I am also glad I can let things go by embracing minimalism and saying if it doesn’t work for me, we can pass it on, no problem.  Why waste my emotional energy on it, looking at it and feeling bothered it was supposed to work but didn’t?!)

Anyhow, that’s just a glimpse of some examples of everyday issues that crop up with family members with SPD.  There are more, believe me…there are more.  But I can say that with a smile.  Life is not over; it is just more interesting.

 

 

 

Posted in Day in the life of a mom, minimalism, saving money, Uncategorized

After a Week of the No-Credit Challenge

After a search for podcasts online about ways to successfully save money to “get in the zone” and distract/motivate me as I folded laundry, I discovered a lot of people do a no-spend challenge.  (Which, in actuality, really means no impulse buys, because people still need to buy food to eat, in most cases, for those of us who are not farmers with a food cellar stocked up.) Yesterday, I was listening to a podcast by a financial advisor, Amanda Abella,* in which she mentions that after noticing some larger spending, she wanted to practice going without just to start building into savings more again.  One thing she pointed out that is so true is how shopping venues have really made it easy for you to spend mindlessly, for example, the Amazon One-Click order button.  Your credit info is already in there, and you “need” something?  Want it?  Get it!  To delay gratification isn’t really something happening in this day and age.  (So her advice was getting rid of the Amazon One-Click, unsubscribe to seller adverts in your inbox, and lose the store cards.)

Well, as Amazon Prime members ourselves, with “free shipping!” so enticingly easy, we had been in the habit of ordering something as we thought we needed it; for me, this was because I was so forgetful when I went shopping, and usually distracted by two kids.  It was easy to just remember while near a computer, and click away until we had acquired whatever we had forgotten at the store.  And why delay when you can get it in two days? So, a week into our no-credit month, my husband and I found ourselves having several conversations about “needs” and “wants”.  And I had a couple of chuckles at the fact that my husband, who generally looks at me as the “spender” in the family, and himself as the “saver” with few wants, was the one mentioning stuff to buy more frequently than I was! I had to remind him that he’ll have to wait for next month.  So he has a growing wish list for February.  Thank you, no-credit-month challenge, for building my credibility again in his eyes as someone not ruled by impulse.  *smug smirk*

Somewhat irksome to him, but not regrettable to me, is that I recently gave to a homeless drive the long johns he used to wear snowboarding, but didn’t plan to use again anytime soon, and hadn’t used in several years.  Although a cold snap arrived making him want them again, I do not feel badly for having gotten rid of them because of the fact that arriving at the point where I can part with stuff was a big milestone for me.  (And another chuckle might have slipped out because he’s the one saying we have too much stuff, and wanted us to be minimalists.  We had a conversation and he agreed the thermal unders could go.)  But now that he found himself wanting them again, well…Guess we’ll put them on the wish list.

The cool thing about grocery shopping without credit has been that money has turned up…change in the car amounting to enough with the money a friend paid me for something to get just what we need, within 25 cents of what I had in total going through the checkout.  Then, I found a bag of flour sack towels that I needed to return to Walmart because they weren’t nice enough to embroider as gifts as I’d intended (with unsightly fiber runs in them), which provided another $8.50 that I’ll be able to use for veggies or whatnot next time we need them.  Which is probably today.  There’s another something I can return to a store to get about $12, which makes me feel pretty confident that although we need sour cream (to go in the potato soup I plan to make with the pocket change potatoes I got at Aldi), eggs, carrots, cheddar, and greens, we’ll be able to get all that without feeling majorly deprived this month.

I’ve been using what’s in my freezer, which is awesome, instead of just refilling it atop what’s already in there.  So for fruit, after our apples run out, we’ll be using up the pear slices and pear sauce my mom gave me from their trees.  I “roasted” the two organic super-sale chickens in my big crock pot to debone, make broth, and use the meat this month.  That turned out really tasty and I will be looking for more sale chickens next month to restock the freezer with.  Then we’ve been having a variety of dried bean dishes (thanks, instant pot, for making those not seem intimidating!) like white chicken chili and beefy chili.  Perfect for extra-chilly weather.  I made fried rice with frozen veggies and some uncured bacon we had in our freezer (because I bought a few on sale b1g1 last month).  That was a hit, for sure.  We love bacon!  I’d already had some ham cubed and frozen from Thanksgiving as well a turkey meat, for a variety of other dishes with those.  I am finding I’m actually a better meal planner and cook when there is less in my fridge and freezer to work with, ironically.

So that’s recap of week one.  I don’t think we’ll feel deprived this week either, because on my husband’s day off we’ll be using a gift card we got for our anniversary to go to a restaurant with the kids.  We’ll definitely have to make sure we stay under the amount on the card enough to include tip, because we’re out of cash!  So I’m guessing we’ll skip drinks and go with water, no real biggie.

Have you ever had to or wanted to pinch pennies? What were some tips that worked well for you?

*P.S.  This podcaster had some good insights, but I should mention that earbuds are necessary if you look her up as some words she uses are not for little ears, IMO.  In our home we try to limit screen time, so when my kids watch their Octonauts or Little Einsteins show, I do a podcast or youtube with my earbuds in.  Nobody’s being ignored or needing attention that way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in minimalism, Ponderings about life, saving money, Uncategorized

Aiming high in 2018!

As I take down and prepare to recycle our 8-year old, pre-lit, 4 ft. Christmas tree that slowly dwindled down to having only 1/5th of the lights working, I start to think about how I might miss out on the after-Christmas sales, where I was hoping to snag a replacement.  They’re probably all sold out by now! I worry.  (Did I mention how I am an expert? At least at worrying.  I’m trying to lose that credential lately.)  Even if they weren’t, I spent the cash, mostly piggy bank quarters, on groceries and now we’re not using credit this month! I think, defeated. 

Then I catch myself and say, as it is a new year, how about a shift in thinking?  I am determining to stay on the sunny side of life this year.  The past several years were way too wearing on me, full of anxiety and more often than I’d like to admit, negativity (which grows easily when you’re chronically fatigued), and I’m ready for an improved point of view. (And hormone health…but that’s for another post!)

My January goal, as mentioned earlier, is not using credit.  After December and gift buying, mostly on Amazon (where Discover offered 5% cash back on purchases!!), my husband showed me our mint info…and there was a lot of red.  Actually, in more than just December.  Because we don’t buy what we can’t afford, I didn’t think of it as a problem.  I’m the acquisitions expert in the family.  (Read: shopper extraordinaire).  We had money in savings. I discussed everything beforehand with my financial partner, my handsome hubs.  But with over half the year drawing from it (mostly for medical bills and health efforts like buying organic and gluten free foods), maybe it’s time to scale back in other ways?  So, thought-pattern shifting time!

I don’t really do things half-heartedly.  I’m kind of all or nothing.  So when my husband suggested we be careful the next few months and try to save, I got curious.  What if we didn’t use credit AT ALL this month?! (With the exception of buying gas, which Discover offers 5% cash back on, again…that’s making money, you know)?! How much could we save then? The possibility was rather exciting. 

The goals?  Save for our kids’ next year at a private school, be able to afford plane tickets to visit my brother on the other side of the US, and budget for a dog (wasn’t that like $1,000 a year including vet bills?).

So, no impulse buys this month.  Empty our pantry.  Get creative with meals, only use gift cards ($40 to Target, $25 to Amazon, and the rest of our cash, which was about $20 in bills, and $10 in coins) to restock the empty fridge with fresh milk, fruit and veggies for the kids after returning from Christmas vacation.  Put all “wants” on a list for next month.  I got this.  So I think.

Stay tuned. 

P.S.  Back to the Christmas Tree…I changed my thinking to more outside the box.  I’ve always wanted a little 2-3 ft. live one that come in cute little pots at Lowes!  So that’s my plan.  Next year, we’ll have a tree/bush to plant outside after adding some live greenery to our home.  No artificial one in storage(we don’t really have storage spaces in our home) for me!  How’s that for a step towards minimalism? I should pat myself on the back for that triumph out of decor-tragedy!