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…
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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- Sign up for focus groups, studies, etc via Facebook. These often pay $50-100 and every dollar counts.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Combining errands so we can save gas.
- 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?
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!