Archive for the ‘eating intentionally’ Category

How to have a Successful No Spend Month

Please come in.  Have a seat.  I want to show you some of the plans I made for a no spend month. What?  No I don’t think I’m being too dramatic.  Trust me I have lots of examples of that.  The only way I can alter my behaviour is to be intentional.  Here is what I needed to do.  First I had to recognize my patterns, where I spend and what to do when I feel the pull to my ancestoral stomping grounds. OK yes that one was a little over the top but I know I am going to struggle in two top areas.

First off I am a hunter/ gatherer.  I do not like the mall but I do like to hunt.  I have a favourite thrift store. It is staged every week with new things and i love to explore and find out of print book titles, vintage mirrors or sunglasses.  I drop things off at least once a week and then I swing in just to look.  The paperback books are .50 so what’s the harm? No that was a rhetorical question.

The other weakness is eating out.  I like to have someone cook for me. I like not having to take the time to prep. and cook and just be able to eat.

Neither of these things worked with my plans so I needed a default.  One of the things I did was check out some of the local foraging.  No not portaging.  Foraging for materials to make my baskets, or for alder tree buds to make salve will help with the impulse to search for treasure.  No I do not have access to a canoe or gold panning supplies.  Can we stay on track?

For the eating out I’ve pooled some of my gift cards, or coupons that offer a free anything consumable and will have them as my safety net.

Being invited out to someone’s house is OK as is being taken out but the point is not to continue in my old behaviours.  For me that means not wasting money eating out when I can cook for a fraction of the price.

To have a real no spend month I needed to take stock of my supplies in my freezer, fridge and cupboards.

I needed to plan some meals around the food stuff I already had.  If I don’t have it and I want it I have to learn to make it from scratch.  If I’m missing an item I will need to substitute.  You can barter or swap items with friends or family but try to create some sustainable habits.  For the last few weeks I’ve been writing down our dinner meals to help me come up with quick ideas.  Allrecipes.com comes with a search function that allows you to enter the ingredients you have and ones you do not want.  There is also PInterest for specific food items and accompanying recipes.  With both of those the caution is that you do not know if the recipes will be to your liking.  I am making lists of some of my favourites that match my supplies so I am less tempted to run out and yell my requests into someone else’s window.  No I do not mean a neighbors. No I will not be yelling in your window.  I’m sorry to have alarmed you.

The other thing I will have to do is throw out all flyers before reading them to avoid temptation to get a deal. I will also have to stay off of the auction sites.  I usually go to try and sell but inevitably look at what everyone else is trying to sell.

So here we go.  There is no avoiding the fixed costs of life.  The taxman frowns on that behaviour. It is the variables that are to be frozen with the exception of some perishable items.  These will be listed in advance and the list is surprisingly small.  What’s that?  Yes you are still invited for dinner.  No it will not be foraged.  You are welcome.  Meeting adjourned.

Let There be Peas on Earth and in the Stir Fry

I will admit that there can be a rather chilly detente that occurs in my refrigerator.  There are certain shelves that see a fairly brisk rotation of items. These spaces are the accepted free trade region.  To the sides are the condiments that are the story keepers, the elders of the fridge that rarely cede their spots to newcomers.  In the crisper I do my best not to let the denizens liquify but how much parsley do I really need?  Oh sure I could freeze it but as long as it is visible I can tell myself I am going to make a fresh and healthy soup.  It is a green leafy badge of clean eating superiority.

So what has this all got to do with being penny pinched?  I admit that some days I am intimidated by my fridge.  I open it and see random supplies and am not sure what to do.  I might see one dish for a meal but I get a little sketchy on how to make it reflect the food rainbow.  I’ve been told a handful of M & Ms does nothing to meet the requirements of the bottom of the food pyramid.  Elitists.

That being said I realize I will never balance my food budget or dietary needs without some help. I had gotten into the habit of buying new food because I didn’t know how to use up what I had.  This is where I found this helpful tool on allrecipes.com.  I had been looking for the perfect cornmeal muffin recipe and I noticed that one of the search engines was to list the ingredients I wanted and also the ones I did not want.  This opened up a lot of possibilities.  I decided to haul everything out of my fridge.  Green Peace launched a formal complaint as the contents of the veggie crisper were being considered as a part of a self sustaining eco system but I prevailed.  I found recipes that would use up the scraps of cooked chicken, 1/2c. of green beans, red pepper paste and pearl onions.  I began to make headway into hostile territory and dismantle the peculiarly stacked architecture of tupperware, take out boxes and ziploc bags. (In my defence there was really only one takeout box but the visual image was too cool not to use).

I also found that Pinterest became a great place to store recipes that worked for me with veggies where I was lacking a bit of imagination.Translation: I sometimes need encouragement to not settle for just meat and potatoes.  The photos help.

This new year coming up I am setting Friday as ifits day.  If it is in the fridge then that is what’s for dinner.  If it is still there the next week it is time to shuffle it off to that great compost pile.  My goal is for a couple of empty shelves because I learned to use what I already had.  Now to go back into negotiation with my tartar sauce who is staging a sit in.  Wish me luck.

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Sleeping with the Enemy

This last week has been a nasty kind of hectic and left me bone weary.  This is usually the worst time for me to try and eat healthy and look after myself.  Money usually streams through my fingers and it all goes to food or the rough equivalent.  I know when I am exhausted and stressed I eat solely from the four basic food groups: drive thru, delivery, frozen and Pepsi.

I have had a shower that refuses to shut off on request, a backed up sink with a belligerent blockage, the tenant’s kitchen tap burst and his bathroom tap could not even rinse his toothbrush.  I had to bring paperwork to Canada Government Services, complete a type of audit for Revenue Canada and more forms for yet another branch of Federal Government.  The toughest part was that my lupus was flaring and created a titanium strength fatigue along with a wisp of the blues.  Each morning I felt like I’d just pulled two all nighters and couldn’t focus. Even dressing/getting ready can take up to an hour.  Sometimes just lifting the pots and pans were too much and I’d sleep for 14 hours at a stretch or more. This would usually be the perfect storm for bad eating.

 What came next was a surprise.  After spending Monday racing from place to place it was already 2:00 pm and I hadn’t eaten lunch.  I thought about the foods available at the local drive throughs and something happened.  I realized I didn’t want them.  I thought about what was in the fridge at home and my brain started putting together a meal. In fact it was a far superior meal to what I could have bought.  All during the drive home I expected that at the last minute I would think of something I would prefer but it didn’t happen.  I  found myself pulling into my driveway and going inside.  Now for the non-addicted ( as in addiction being used as a term to cover lazy and unhealthy behaviour that I routinely choose) this is normal.  For an exhausted stress bunny this was exceptional.  I found this pattern repeating itself for several days.  OK I did breakdown and get a small hamburger and fries at McDonalds at 10 pm one night but I had just met with my ex-husband’s new wife for the first time.  (She turned out to not only be beautiful but an amazingly nice and authentic woman.  I even forgave her for being so slender. )

I know I’m not out of the woods with stress eating but I think I am slowly turning my pantry into my go-to place for food.

Thursday- $5.34 spent on 4 litres of 1% milk for Josh.  Lunch was naan bread with sauce, cheese and Italian seasonings.  Dinner was lazy beef stroganoff on egg noodles with red peppers and a side of carrots.  Cinnamon buns for dessert.

Even though I’m getting to the end of the month and the end of the “Eat Your Pantry” challenge from the Year of Less I know I need a lot more practice before this becomes a permanent habit.  I still have a lot of goals yet to attain and I need the accountability so we will see where I can bring this to and be happy even if I am penny pinched. 🙂

thanks, Deb

Sept.21rst Christmas Tacos

I’ll admit it.  I tend to overthink things.  When I decide on something I want to get started now and work until it is finished.  “Hhm. To get in shape I need to be active for at least an hour a day.  That is 7 hours a week, 28 hours in a month, so if I work out for 12 days in a row I’ll be good for the year.”  OK I exaggerate a bit but not much.  I have learned to beware the zeal with which I approach new projects in favour of creating plans that have a bit more staying power.

With trying to do the “Eat Your Pantry” challenge from the Year Of Less blog I quickly spread out from saving money to making sure I hand made everything.  That came with a huge amount of left overs, as there are only two of us, many hours searching for recipes that used what I had,  and massive amounts of pots and pans to wash.   I quickly learned that not every night could be new culinary creations.  One night as I looked over a table brimming with hand pickled veggies, crockpot chicken, and a specialty salad with fresh made dressing I asked Josh what his favourite part was.  Without looking up he said, “The rice.”  The rice.  The stuff I measured out into a steamer. The plain white rice.  The counter was littered with every measuring cup and spoon, pots, bowls, knives and cutting boards I owned.  I’d be washing up an hour at least and he liked the rice. I got the message.

To be honest I should have got the message many years ago, almost eight years ago to be exact.  It was six days before Christmas that the three of us were moving into our new house.  There was little time to put up a tree, unload and get ready for the holidays.  In the middle of appliances that were not working and a phone line that didn’t get hooked up I realized it was Christmas eve and there was no way I was going to be able to put on a proper traditional Christmas dinner.  I reached into one of the bins and came up with a package of taco fixings.  I decided to chop up a red and green pepper and presented them to our son.  “Here we go sweetie. Christmas tacos!”  He was six and munched happily as I felt like a complete con artist.  I promised myself that the next year would make up for it.

The next year I did thing up in style with an actual table cloth, candles, candied yams, mashed potatoes and gravy, cranberry sauce, corn and of course the turkey.  We sat down at the table and my son looked at everything and hung his head.  “Josh, what’s wrong?”.  He looked up at me, his eyes filling, “Mom, where are the Christmas Tacos?  I’ve been looking forward to them all day,  It’s just not Christmas without them.”  I quickly promised we’d have some the next day and he perked up and we had a good dinner.  I had no idea that he’s remembered that and that making a memory didn’t need all the crazy making activity. Since then it has become one of our traditions.   The times that I’m the most stressed are a direct reflection on my expectations.  It is not just the work that causes the stress but the expectation I have of what I must create in order to for me to call it a success. Sometimes I am a royal pain in my own backside.

Sometimes simple is enough.  Sometimes simple is just better.  This thanksgiving I will be alone for the first time.  I thought about trying to create a big traditional dinner. Maybe I’ll just invite some people over for Thanksgiving tacos. Red and orange peppers make it perfect for Thanksgiving right?

May you all be richly blessed this thanksgiving and dwell on all that makes you truly grateful.

When “to be” is the Only Option

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve canned  corn relish and made blackberry jam from hand picked blackberries.  I’ve created balanced homemade meals and avoided fast food (pretty much), started to organize my closets (You didn’t seriously think I got that done yet did you?), started to reduce my pantry and freezer stock, cancelled online daily deal subscriptions, avoided flyers and searching for airmiles deals, as well as sifting through paperwork, art supplies and filling donation boxes.  As I finished up washing yet another stack of handwashed pots and pans generated from apples studel made with apples from my own tree I was struck with the strength of my feelings.  I’m tired!!!!  There was a reason I ate out, ignored the filing and did not hand make my own shampoo and deodorant (and trust me folks, crystals do nothing to reduce the stink even if you think your aura is cleaner.  I’m just saying.)

Today my joints are swollen, my face is puffy and I can’t follow the plot line of America’s Next Top Model.  In other words it is time to rest, and let the world take care of itself.  Today I will ignore the dog toys, eat ifits (if it is in the fridge you can have it) and just enjoy my home.  We work so hard to create an environment for everyone but ourselves.  It is hard to realize that I have limitations but there is wisdom in knowing yourself, testing the boundaries and accepting when you have gone as far as you can.  Today is the day to let my home look after me rather than the other way around. Today I will enjoy snippets of summer that still exist in my garden. Today I will just be and be content.

Sept. 15th Here there be dragons

I’ll admit it.  I’m finding that decluttering, saving money, simplifying, and trying to make things by hand do not all play nicely together

Doing it yourself can end up being much more expensive than buying a finished product.  Is saving money more important than shopping for local produce?  Is it better to thin out the wardrobe to live simply or keep the old clothes to save money?  That last question assumes that the clothes you let go of will ever see the light of day but who knows.  The gingham taffeta bridesmaid’s dress with the football player shoulder pads might one day be a big fashion hit, besides, it was stinking expensive. Those Hammer pants in leopard print could be adorable throw pillows. Maybe. OK lets skip that one, but it shows the problem. To declutter you get rid of the pants. If you are saving money you find a way to repurpose them.  To make something of them you will need to buy interfacing, thread, trim, a pillow form and any other embellishments.  You have made use of them and done it yourself but it cost you money to do it.  It also does nothing to simplify your space as you have just added another object.  Did you need another pillow?  Does it go with anything you have?

This whole process will hit rough waters without a clear destination.

I want to save money.  I want to eat healthy foods.  I need to simplify my possessions.  During this journey I ran into a few cross currents.  How can I let go of my crafting books as they hold the information as to how to make many items I might one day want.  I am a huge information junkie.  I used to say that I was an info. junkie but if you say it out loud you realize that that does not sound nice!  I become an avid hunter and gatherer when it comes to back issues of Rug Hooking Magazine, Polymer clay books, crocheting patterns, and material on mosaics, beading, wire jewelry and basketry.  I have done all of these crafts and tend to flit back and forth.  All of these crafts require tools and materials.  Did I mention mult-media sculpture?  I am proud of being able to create and sometimes even sell.  Art is a form of communication and these things are often our words and our language.  My desire to repurpose, to be able to make whatever I want has me huddled protectively over these possessions and it requires a plan so that these artistic impulses do not lead me in the opposite direction of my goals.  Tomorrow I will share an unexpected sandbar related to crafting.

In terms of my established goals I brought another two bags to the thrift store, left a full bag for the food back drive, picked a few end of season blackberries and had a great lunch of perogies, farmers sausage, onions and peppers.  Today was the day I let myself replenish some fruit for the week, and then bought myself dinner.  I didn’t need to.  I gave into an “I want that ” moment.  My trigger?  Doing errands by myself when I knew my son wasn’t coming home tonight. My need to reward myself with food is still strong and I’ve got a long way to go. I also gave into the nursery (plants not babies) that is closing out and bought a number of pretty plants for the front of the house.  I didn’t need but wanted pops of colour for the front.  I want to feel like I’m winning my own war of independence by not letting my divorce make me sad and invisible. See my bright and beautiful gerberas and know that I am still a woman to be reckoned with! 🙂

In trying to get your life together you need clear goals to help you navigate these uncharted waters because here there be dragons,

With dirt under her nails and Chinese food in her belly,  sincerely, Deb

Sept.12th The Tyranny of Excess

One of my favourite authors is Mary Hunt who has an online site called the Everyday Cheapskate.  When I have a few minutes I like to ready over her “Dear Mary” column or articles like http://www.everydaycheapskate.com/marys-perspective/paralyzed-by-too-many-choices/.

In my grandmother’s day most everything was done by hand and hard work but the one thing that they had was the gift of simplicity.  What I mean is that you knew what they would harvest, how to use the foods and what was expected.  You knew that when you went visiting you would be offered a fruit plaatz.  There would be relishes at the table, sliced meats and buns. You learned to cook the soups, stews and breads.  You knew how to succeed.  You had measurable goals and tried and true recipes.

Today we are awash of international fare that needs to be served on coordinated plating with themes that take into account vegan cooking, gluten free, wheat free, sugar free, cholestrol reduced, low cal, low carb., environmentally and socially sensitive foods.  No genetically modified please. Menu planning is like looking at a closet with thousands of separates. We can’t see what we have and we don’t know how they go together.   No wonder we stand frozen in the aisles unable to formulate a meal and head to the drive thru instead.  Yes we are condemning our bodies to a three mile island of toxic ruin but at least all our choices are on one board.

This month as I’ve been eating from my pantry there has been a certain freedom in restricting my choices.  I know what I have and what I can use. If I’ve gone to the store it is for milk, butter, or a red pepper.  It was almost like I was breaking the rules not to look to fill every empty spot with food I might want.

Yesterday part of the challenge was to remove one item from my wardrobe. I’d already sent out bags of clothes but I knew there was always more to go.  My fingers landed on a crushed velvet, 3/4 length shirt in shades of purples and grays.  It is beautiful. It fits but any time I put it on I tended to change out of it before I’d leave the room.  The few times I’ve worn it I feel blocky looking.  It was one more choice but it wasn’t adding anything to my life. Then I grabbed another piece and another.  It felt good.  I’ll admit that there was the old fear that if I let go of these piece I’d never be able to afford to replace them.  What I realized today is that choice is good but too much is a tyranny that can grind you to a halt.

Being free of the pressure to grab a deal, and to own it all can block your freedom and happiness.  I look forward to continuing to simplify my life through decluttering, narrowing my choices through donating and using what I have.  Today I ran out of fruit so I picked some of the remaining apples from our two trees.  It is nice to know what to serve for snacks and dessert.

Wishing you all lives free from the tyranny of stuff,  Deb

Miss you Oma.  Thanks for all you taught me and all I still have to learn from your beautiful and godly example.