Eating Better in March-Week Two: Gluten Free

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The changes we’ve been trying and planning to make with our diets this month are not based on an acute need like a suspected allergy for any of our three family members.  We just want to be more mindful of what we’re eating, how it may affect us, and how we can use the foods we eat to keep ourselves healthy for years and years to come.  We have family members and many friends who have to be on Gluten Free diets for Celiac Disease and various gluten allergies.  We’ve even heard people who don’t have an allergy say they feel so much better on a Gluten Free diet after just four days, hence our four day changes.  So we decided to take this week’s upcoming Monday through Thursday to go Gluten Free as a family.  We also chose four days because it was the majority of the week, didn’t include the weekend, and wasn’t so drastic as to affect nursing baby Matthew.

In our weekend off between vegetarian and gluten free and thinking ahead to our dairy free week coming later, we decided to make and eat lasagna and croque-monsieurs where we could enjoy meat, wheat flour, and dairy all at once.  Yum.

On our cooking list this week we have a lot of whole food recipes; buffalo shrimp, spatchcocked chicken with potato/green bean salad, baked eggs inside baked potatoes, shrimp and feta, homemade chili, shepherd’s pie, pad thai, huevos rancheros, and tostadas.  That is way more recipes than we’ll be able to eat but I love having lots of ideas.  Though oatmeal is essentially gluten free, we only have Quaker Oats which doesn’t guarantee to be free from gluten contaminants so we’ll be skipping that this week.  On our grocery trip (see photo above) this week we were so happy to realize our list only called us around the store’s edges where the real fresh, least processed foods are sold.  Obviously we won’t be eating the Dave’s Killer Bread this week but the price was too good to be passed up.

To prepare today we cooked up another giant pot of beans, boiled eggs, and prepped a Shepherd’s Pie for lunch tomorrow.  I also went through our pantry, kitchen, and freezers reading labels and making a giant box of items with gluten or questionable gluten content.  Check out all the gluten filled items below…

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Eating Vegetarian Experience

We survived four straight days without meat, a first for either of us!  We liked the idea of it and had always wanted to challenge ourselves and it definitely worked. Robert even said it was easy and he would like to do more weeks with purposeful days of eating no meat.  The Indian spiced bean soup was our favorite by far and will probably be a regular household meal.  I even threw together chapatis for that meal, surprising Robert since he never knew I learned how to make them in college years ago.

A few things we learned:

  • breakfast and lunch are relatively easy without meat, we often eat meals that are naturally vegetarian at those times
  • eggs are amazing, cheap, filling protein
  • we can pressure cook a lot of beans and eat them all in a week too
  • we ate a lot of carbs to stay full without meat.

Early March Update on Getting Out of Debt

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Shortly after we got married I created this paper chain. While it’s bright colors (my favorite) it doesn’t represent anything fun for us. Instead it represented our debt: college and grad school loans and the remaining payments on our car.  We worked hard our first year of marriage and took off over 30 of those chains last year.  At the start of 2013, we still had 42 chains left plus this big audacious goal of destroying this chain one link at a time by fall of this year!

  • In January, we were able to put a large chunk into loan payments beyond our minimum because we had baby in December.  Since we had to have a scheduled c-section for our sweet, but stubborn breech baby we asked for a surgery date of December 29th and our doctor agreed.  This allowed the surgery, birth, and full hospital stay to happen in 2012 when Robert’s insurance covered every expense.  Seriously, we got a bill saying that out of our $11,926.21 hospital bill, we were responsible for $0.00.  And that didn’t even include the doctors’ bills which were also written off under the 2012 insurance.

Now that 2013 is here our insurance has now moved to a Health Savings Account and doesn’t cover quite as much.  But our breech baby saved us a lot of money.  Best part is, we had saved up our whole pregnancy assuming he would come naturally in January since his due date was January 5th and most first babies come later rather than earlier.  Since we didn’t have to pay anything for his birth we were able to put a big chunk of change from baby savings into loans while still saving a good baby fund for purchases that came up for baby (this was one of our favorite purchases so far).

  • In February, our savings plan for the  month was to eat out of our pantry and freezer, which we had stocked up before baby’s birth so we had easy to grab and prep meals!  We also cut our cash budget in half, taking out only half of what we usually take since implementing our cash envelope system last summer.  In the end, we only bought eggs, milk, produce, and $50 of groceries total in the month and stayed within half of our cash budget.  Plus, we got a nice tax refund so all that plus what we saved went into loans and now our car is paid off and soon will be signed over to us!  

So now by early March, we’ve already paid off over $11,000 and destroyed 11 more rings.  Just 30 to go by Fall, Lord willing.

There’s a lot of hard work ahead.  Some more ideas we have to save/make more money for loans are:

  1. I opened an online editing, review, and writing business!  http://www.martincorrespondence.com/   I already have some interested parties and also sent out emails with big asks.  I hope to make at least one big ask every week for now to either get some great business or keep working to kill any fear of rejections I may have-it’s better to ask and get a no than to not ask at all.
  2. Not buy anything unnecessary for a month.  Essentially, make ourselves wait a month to see if we really want to buy that item at all.
  3. Declutter our house for cleanliness and to prepare for a garage sale.  We had a great garage sale two summers ago and hope to have another this year.  Best part was we also got items to sell from friends who have overfull garages and just wanted less stuff.  We came and picked up their stuff, clearing their space for them and then were able to sell their items and keep the profit.  Win-Win for everyone!
  4. Sign up for focus groups, studies, etc via Facebook.  These often pay $50-100 and every dollar counts.
  5. Hold off on needs like clothes, major home improvements, etc until we’re debt free. This will help us keep our cash budgets low by not spending all or at least much of our personal or home improvement or miscellaneous cash budgets.
  6. Make homemade gifts if at all possible or keep gift costs low if something can’t be made.  I bought a $10 gift for a friend today which was the lowest priced gift I have bought in years, but I made sure it was still a great item and should be well received.
  7. Robert is working to create some apps and even if they don’t bring money he is learning skills that could make extra income one day.
  8. This month we’re working to eat more whole foods which if done wisely can save money over eating out or buying fully processed, prepared, and more expensive meals.  Plus, it’s a lot healthier way to go!  Meal planning helps a lot here too in keeping costs low.
  9.  Combining errands so we can save gas.
  10. Staying in constant communication and working as a team to kill these debts and burn the last final chains!

What ideas do you have for either saving more money or making more money?

 

Eating Better in March-Week One: Vegetarian

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Robert and I have been wanting to eat more whole foods, less processed, more organic, more mindful for a while now.  But with baby arriving in late December we did the new parent thing of stocking our freezer with prepped foods, microwave items, and frozen pizzas.  Last month our get out of debt savings goal was to eat out of our pantry and freezer and we only bought milk, eggs, fresh produce, and $50 worth of extras.  So our freezer has a bit more space now and we are ready to start buying more and more fresh items with ideally one ingredient each.

We decided March was a great month to start and discussed doing week focuses, for four days straight in each week.  This week’s focus will be eating vegetarian foods only for four days.  We could go longer but don’t want to go too intensely since I am nursing baby still.  We already eat vegetarian for most breakfasts and about one to two dinners a week but making more of an effort is a goal for us health-wise as well as great for the environment.  It is also a great opportunity to dig through all the recipes I have saved online and from magazines to try new foods/meals/techniques.  It should also keep costs low because cooking at home with fresh food is often cheaper than eating out or eating a fully prepped dinner.

The new recipes I chose for this week are: Martha Stewart’s Indian-Spiced Bean and Tomato Soup, pasta with leeks and sugar snap peas & lemons, kale salad, and corn chowder with zucchini and orzo.  We made a vegetarian frittata this weekend and have another half of one in the fridge for breakfasts as well as cereal, oatmeal, and regular toast and eggs.  We also have bean burritos and vegetarian chili in the freezer for lunches.  And boiled eggs, garbanzo beans for hummus, and other fruits and vegetables for snacks.  We probably have more than enough food but that’s great because we’ll eat it!

Motherhood is Tough…As If You Didn’t Know

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In Matthew’s first few weeks I felt like things were perfect.  We went to church when he was 8 days old, showered, clean, and decently rested.  I had time during his  naps to declutter the house.  He didn’t cry without explanation, there was always a dirty diaper or a feeding needed or a desire for cuddles.  H’ even slept great, sometimes sleeping seven hour nights five days in a row.  Once he even did two nights of ten hours.  But the exhaustion of new motherhood crept in and is a giant monster now.  And sometimes now Matthew gets overtired and angry or cries just to cry.  And in comparison to the sweet/easy/sleepy baby times, rough times are SO rough.  I don’t know how other moms and dads handle more difficult babies (though I’m sure we’ll find out with future babies of our own, let alone other seasons in Matthew’s baby-hood like teething).

This post by Jillian Lauren resonated so well with my recent thoughts, even though she is years ahead in experience and self thoughts.  http://www.jillianlauren.com/2013/02/enjoying-a-suck-ass-day

At church recently they said we will all be given a chance to shine this week. I realize that every opportunity with my son, who won’t even remember these moments, is a chance to shine. And often, especially late at night I don’t shine at all-I dim myself, I dim the room, I dim the love I have for my own son. Which is NOT at all what I long to do. With every fiber of my being, I want to shine even if I am not happy with it. I can shine with God’s help.

So I have been trying to self-talk  myself and wake up thinking: It’s Not About Me. | God can shine through me. | This is only a short season and this one night just one of thousands in my whole life.  Problem is, when I am exhausted and it’s the middle of the night my words of affirmation don’t come to  me when I hear him cry over the baby monitor.  Groans come first, every single time.

Is that terrible?  I love my son, ridiculously.  But I grumble and moan and take minutes to get out of bed to go rescue him.  I grumble as I pick him up, I grumble as I check/change his diaper, I grumble as I settle him in for a feeding.

But then as I get him and me all tucked into the chair, a blanket, the Boppy perfectly wrapped around me and balanced for him, burp cloth nearby, nipple shield or bottle lined up, at some indefinable point my mood changes.  This is okay, I can do this, I will be tired tomorrow-yes.  I will probably be tired a week from now, a month from now. But this is my SON who grew inside me.  I sustained him for over nine months inside of me where I couldn’t see him or hear him or hold him in my arms.  And now I can.  I can hear him breathe, I can listen to him sing-song in happiness as he is fed, I can hold his hand as he stretches it out to grab something, someone.  I can love him with all my senses and not just my mind and body as I did when he was in utero.  Goodness, how God must love us then in turn too.

I can love Matthew now, at 1 am and 4 am, and at 6 am when he cries again tonight.  I can love him now as I nurse and as I pump and as I bottle feed.  I can love him now and tomorrow and everyday till forever.  And maybe, if I keep praying and seeking my Heavenly Father and asking him to teach me how to mother and maybe if I keep self talking the groaning and grumbling and selfishness will keep melting away in God’s love for me and my love in turn for Matthew.

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“…Spirit-led parenting doesn’t work like that. And the reason for this is yet another radical idea: the first year should be less about training our babies and more about God developing us as parents and human beings. If we let Him, God can use that first intense year of baby’s life to TRAIN US how to live a life that is fully surrendered to Him. To cultivate in us a trust that follows His lead, seeks Him first, and understands His grace.” -Spirit-Led Parenting by Tietz & Oyer

Things We’d Like to Do in Our House

 

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I have a terrible habit.  I NEVER decorate.  This made sense in college and grad school when I lived in dorms or concrete walled structures or someone else’s home and couldn’t/didn’t put up nails.  And I have never grown out of that habit.  Before I was married, I told myself I would save my decoration ideas/skills for marriage-silly idea.  But now I’ve been married a while, long enough to have a two month old baby and I still haven’t decorated.  I always tell myself well…I’ll decorate our next house where we’ll stay longer or I’ll decorate once every room is decluttered, clean, and painted.  Silly me.

The funniest part…I have bought decorations over the years for my “future” home.  Not many, because I am actually really picky about decorations/artwork.  I want to love it for at least ten years or I won’t buy it.  But I have a good amount of things saved up and ideas for how to place/put/hang them and yet I haven’t.

So we’re going to start decorating even if we move someday, even if the walls aren’t all painted yet, even if I might decide I don’t like a room/decoration/set up in less than ten years.  This may be a slow movement towards a dream house.  Because:

  1. We’re on a tight budget to get debt free ASAP.
  2. We have a newborn who takes up a lot of time.
  3. The house isn’t decluttered and every room isn’t clean yet.
  4. The walls aren’t all painted.

But we can do what we can; slowly, surely, frugally.  So here’s our current list.  I will add more ideas as they come and share photos and feedback as we complete them.

  • Finish painting all the rooms and doors and trim Behr’s Hushed White
  • Paint one to two accent walls downstairs
  • Curtains on sliding glass door
  • Curtain in baby’s room
  • Curtains in living room
  • Cushy kitchen mat
  • Pegboard for hanging items in kitchen, ala Julia Child style
  • New windshield wipers and windshield
  • New vacuum-current one is great and even vacuums up chewed up pine cones (thank you dogs) but won’t last forever
  • Improve lighting over fireplace
  • Frame my diplomas and make a diploma wall
  • Frame and create a photo wall of Robert’s photography
  • Choose, print, and frame Black and White photos for Downstairs bathroom
  • Find artwork for Master Bedroom
  • Choose, print, and frame family photos for Matthew’s nursery so he can stare at faces of people he loves often even if he can’t see them often

Slowly Going Natural

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I took several environmental health and sciences classes between college and grad school, each one slowly encouraging me to seek natural options.  They gave ways of living that allow seven generations from now to live contentedly too and not leave them with a ravaged earth.  So slowly bit by bit I have been trying to switch every day or common use items in my life and now my family’s lives to be more natural, which often is cheaper too which I totally support.

I’m going to list and link to some things we’ve already switched over directly and love.  Then others we’re working on, things we’ve tried and haven’t liked, and last things we’d like to switch over.  If you have any other ideas for us or links for things we’d like to switch send them our way!

Switches We’ve Already Made

Switches in Process

  • Eating more whole foods and less processed.  We’re doing this by:
  1. Buying free range, locally raised, naturally organic (but not certified) beef and pork
  2. Make more and more items homemade-for us we do this largely through seasoning mixes, baked goods, soups, etc.
  3. Eat more local and/or organic food
  4. Eat more vegetarian meals
  • Personally, I am attempting homemade deodorant currently.  http://www.passionatehomemaking.com/2008/03/update-homemade-deoderant.html  I went deodorant free for a few days just to clear anything out of my skin and get a baseline.  Now I have three little containers one each with coconut oil, baking soda, and corn starch. So far I like it-no rash, itchiness, or smell. I even asked Robert if he had noticed anything different as I went completely without and now that I have my three containers and he said no, so that’s great so far.

Switches We Made and Didn’t Like

  • Dishwasher detergent.  Since our laundry detergent worked so well, we thought this similar recipe for dishwashers would be fabulous  http://pinterest.com/pin/131589620331909042/ . So we made a giant batch-nope!  After two or three washes all of our glassware had a distinct film and weren’t their normal sparkly and clear selves.  So now we use that giant batch to clean toilets/sinks/whatever can handle a hard scrub.

Things We Are Interested in Trying to Switch

  • I am fascinated and terrified with the No Poo Concept.  Here’s a news article detailing it, though lots of how to websites exist if you google… http://www.nbcnews.com/id/30337386/ns/health-skin_and_beauty/t/ditching-shampoo-dirty-little-beauty-secret/#.US_AHzDFLw8 . I love the natural origins, the fact that people didn’t use shampoo for thousands of years, the low cost, and the potential for beautiful hair.  But the trial period terrifies me so far, though granted I am currently a stay at home mom and maybe no one would see me for a while anyways besides Robert and baby.
  • Probably next year we hope to have a small organic container garden.  We grew a few potatoes last year, darn you cutworms!  This year I was hoping to grow potatoes, bush beans, strawberries, and a few others but when we sat down with our budget and our goal of trying to pay off all our debt and decided against it.  The cost up front would be over $100 and with a newborn I probably won’t have the time to really invest the way you should in a garden.  But next year should be our year and we’ll be debt free by fall hopefully so I can spend the winter dreaming and budgeting for this goal.
  • Someday…I’d love to make all my own bread and cheese and yogurt.  I tried yogurt once before I had as many nice kitchen utensils like a picnic cooler or crock pot and the only jar I had was a clean store bought spaghetti sauce jar.  Yogurt texture was good, but tasted like spaghetti sauce.
  • Switching most household cleaners over to baking soda, vinegar, lemons, and elbow grease.  We have a ton of cleaners, see our photo above there?  Robert bought cleaning supplies from Costco for years so we have about 4 of every kind of bottle. But as I keep using them up bit by bit, I want to start moving to completely all natural, safe for anyone products like baking soda, vinegar, and lemons.  And the easiest way to do that and to stop using removes-built-up-grime full of chemical products…is to clean more often and scrub hard.

What have you switched over in your house? What do you long to switch?  What hasn’t worked for you?