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Sunday, April 20, 2014

Meal plan for April 21-27th

To my Christian and secular friends -  Happy Easter!

To everyone else, happy "Zombie and candy day" as my Jewish friend Elaina calls it.  HA!

Spring is here, and it can't be denied.  The peas I planted in February are finally growing (sheesh), the trees are blooming, and the birds are chirping at 5 am every morning.

 This time of year is so full of hope and beauty, that some times I feel like my heart can't handle it all.

Our three year old mini drawf Akane apple tree is blooming right now.  I just want to sit next to it and smile all day.  Except there is supposed to be a lot of rain this week, so I probably won't be smiling the whole time.  Maybe one smile and then inside to drink some tea?

My seedlings are coming along nicely and need to be up-potted again.  I planted my squash and cucumbers way too early, but ain't no thang like a chicken wing.  I don't even know why I said that.  Do you?  I think the pollen in the air has inserted itself in to my brain.

The boys were having an epic Nerf war yesterday.  Battlefield: livingroom.  The couch was pulled away from the wall for Troy's bunker...

...and the cushions were propped in the hallway for Jack's bunker.

My purse was in No Man's land.  I shall miss that purse; it's been foamed darted to death.

I spent last night working on the goodie bags for Jack's birthday party next weekend.  Jack chose a Seahawks theme, and so I'm making cloth ziplocs with Seahawaks fabric.  I made a beautiful protype, only to realize that I used two of the same sides of velcro on the same bag...both the soft sides and none of the gripper stuff.  So that was absolutely fabulous!  I am making 14 bags because I have no idea how many kids are coming to the party since no one in our families actually will RSVP to parties.

Meal plan time!  Reminder, I only plan dinners.  My breakfast of choice has changed, and I'm now obsessed with homemade Greek yogurt with tons of cut up fresh fruit (or fruit I froze in the summer), and a homemade granola bar crumbled on top.  It's delicious and keeps me completely full and satisfied until lunch. Lunches are always leftovers.  We rarely eat dessert during the week, and our dinner drink of choice is water kefir soda.

Monday:: Frittata and fruit.  the chickens are cranking out the eggs at the rate of 4-6 per day, and I'm sitting on four dozen in my fridge right now.

Tuesday:: Balls.  We're putting them in our mouths.  A few months ago I found a recipe for spicy Asian meatballs and they are a favorite around here.  I need to share the recipe soon.  Pairing it with grilled asparagus, and sesame noodles.

Wednesday:: Some more of Nom Nom Paleo's Kaula Pig that was saved in the freezer, artichokes, and fruit.

Thursday:: My in-laws are feeding us.  Yay!!

Friday:: Popcorn and movie night.  Yay!!

Saturday:: Jack's 5th birthday party.  It's at 1 pm, but tradition calls for us to go out to dinner afterwards.

Sunday:: Dinner at my parent's.  As always, they provide the main dish, and we all provide the sides and dessert.  I'm not going to be creative...I'll bring whatever is left over from Jack's birthday.

Getting ready for Jack's party made me KILL my grocery budget.  Oh well, he only has a birthday party once a year, right?  I spent a whopping $101 at Costco, $24 at Trader Joes, $37 at Fred Meyer, $16 at our local butcher, and $14.50 at our local farm for raw milk and local honey.

What are you having this week?

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Hello Sarah, 2008 welcomes you

I finally joined instagram.  If you remember, I didn't join Facebook for my blog until 2012 (ish), and I still don't have a personal account.

I didn't get an ipod until 2010...and it was a gift.  And I've only ever downloaded free library audiobooks on it.

I am frequently behind the times.  And I'm ok with that.

So, I just joined instagram, and I'd love for you to follow me (beingfrugalbychoice).  Here is my first photo:

From here on out, the photos will likely all be about food, ninjas, Nerf, and boy stuff.  With some gardening, chickens, and unintentionally dirty products thrown in...
There will be a very limited supply of selfies though, if only because a) why take a photo of yourself constantly and 2) the term selfie makes my skin crawl.

A boy and his chore chart

Mr. Jack takes being five VERY seriously.  For the last two years, he has been telling us that when he turns five, we need to refer to him as Jackson.

Five came and went, and he announced that we could keep calling him Jack, but NOW when he turns 10, he will ride a horse with a bow and arrow and we need to call him Dark Hawk.

Please say that name quickly.  Dark Hawk...

Did you hear it?  Did it make you giggle like it makes us giggle?

Back to being serious about being five.  Jack is all in.  He will eat vegetables put on his plate without whining because "I've five now".  Crazy.  One of the "being five" things he was most looking forward to was getting an allowance.  I talked about my need for help giving kids money before.  I was lost on how to implement it, but Jack being the visual learner that he is, I knew would benefit from some sort of chore chart.

Uncommon Goods contacted me recently to see if I might be interested in reviewing one of their products.  My aunt and uncle introduced me to this company a few months ago, by bringing a catalog to family dinner.  I was struck by the variety and uniqueness of the selection, and no wonder, considering almost half of their products are homemade, most are made in the USA, and one-third are made with recycled or upcycled goods!  Quirky and sustainable? Basically, right up my alley.

Every fiber of my being screamed "for the love of god, get the unicorn mug"!  It called to me in its glitter-filled voice.  The practical side of me chose their amazing chore chart shown here.

I hate that I'm always being practical, but I swear it was the best move I've made in years.

The chore chart arrived, and Jack was so freaking excited.  The first part he loved was the bubble wrap.  Naturally.

The part I loved was how it was organized, and basically set up how I would have, if I had talent and could make one of my own.  There are two categories that crack me up whenever I walk by it:

1) Daily Deeds, so I can help my family team
2) Daily Chores, so I can live on my own one day

Jack got to select the daily deeds, and I picked out the daily chores and he got to assign them to the particular day.  The daily deed for Friday made me laugh so hard that I almost peed.  He wanted "set couch" since Friday is our popcorn movie night.  That boy is so sharp!  Well, he is five afterall.

I've decided on a total of $2.50 per week that he can earn.  I'm going to pay him in quarters to that he can distribute them in the awesome money savers that are conveniently labeled.  It will also help him understand the concept of tithing, because 10% is just simply a quarter.

The kit also comes with sticks where you can list chores individually, and the child can "pick" a  deed for the day.

I also love the "paycheck" that came with the set.  Fabulous!

Jack is enthralled with his chore chart, and checks it every day to see what he needs to do.  None of the chores right now actually really reduce MY workload, but I love that I'm instilling a work ethic in my over-indulged (looking at you grandparents!) only child!

So, I didn't get the amazing unicorn mug, but I did get an early mother's day present in the form a super mature five year old who is beyond proud of his contributions to the family.  After all, a self-sufficient child is the best gift of all right?

Did I mention he was super mature?

For additional Mother's Day gifts, visit Uncommon Goods for an amazing selection of unique and fabulous gifts.

Note: Uncommon Goods provided me with the chore chart at no cost, but the review and thoughts expressed are entirely my own.  I could have said it "sucks unicorn butt" had I truly felt that! 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Burning questions - answered

Last week, I gave you all the opportunity to ask me anything your heart desired, with the promise that I'd answer them.  Ready?  Here we go!

1) From Jordan, a two parter:
A. Why are your in-laws moving in with you??
My in-laws are not moving in with us, but my parents are.  The long version of the story can be found here.  The short answer is that we live in my parent's rental home, and they're gimpy and it would be better for everyone if we were under one roof.

B. Do yall get to go on vacations much??
That would be a big fat NO.  With Troy's crazy schedule, we have been on exactly two family vacations in four years.  Both of those were to Ocean Shores, where my in-laws have a cute little beach house.

Every time we plan something, Troy's schedule gets changed and we end up having to cancel it.  Jack and I visit my friend Anne out of state once every summer for a few days.

2) From daydreamhouse: I have been dying to ask. I read your post "On the Path to Cheapness" all about how your family was forced into frugality. I was wondering how ugly was the transition? Were there any huge roadblocks like anyone getting really upset about having to give up a particular thing to make the budget work? 

Well, the answer to that takes a little history.  I had actually started a journey to a more sustainable life style in 2007, so by the time we had to get REALLY cheap in 2010. we were already on our way.  I had the luxury of taking baby steps for three years before I had take huge fat giant leaps.

It all started with a set of cloth napkins from Target.  Cloth napkins are a gateway drug.  After I didn't hear any complaining about that, I switched out light bulbs, got cloth grocery bags, changed our cleaning supplies, etc., etc.

Also, Jack was only one years old when the first layoff happened, so he didn't really have a voice or a choice about anything.  Troy knew what we had to do, so there wasn't too much complaining.  The hardest thing to actually do was cancelling cable.  Looking back, it turned out to be the best thing and freed up so much of my time to learn more scratch cooking, and to start this blog.  But, at the time, it was painful.

3) From MissyB_in_NJ: my question is, how do you spend so little at the grocery store? I do have two teenage boys, I'll give you that, but I spend about $150 a week. 

Teenage boys are like garbage disposals.  My MIL describes Troy and his friend coming to her house after school as "a plague of locusts descending on the kitchen".  Teenagers are no joke!

The short answer is I have a well-stocked pantry and I'm able to build on it for meals in a way that doesn't cost a ton of money.  In the summer, I turn $20 worth of tomato plants in to 40+ quarts of tomato soup, diced tomatoes, etc.  I am perfectly fine with having tomato soup, a salad, and grilled cheese for dinner.  Making homemade bread is super cheap, and since I make eight loaves at a time to freeze, I'm always ready for sandwiches.  I purchased a crap ton of wheatberries back in 2011 or 2012, and have been using those to grind for flour to make bread ever since.  The output a few years ago has resulted in me nothing having to buy bread or flour for a very long time.

And keep in mind, I "gleam" a TON of free fruit each summer to can or freeze.

We also have dinner with my in-laws on Thursdays, which means I don't have to cook.  And then we eat with my family on Sundays...again, I don't have to cook but always contribute a side, appetizer, or dessert.  Fridays we eat popcorn, cheese, fruit, and veg, and leftovers which is DIRT CHEAP.  I think being able to refine what dinner actually looks like has helped me save a ton of money.

When Troy is at work, the people on that shift make dinner together.  So at least two to three times a week, it's just Jack and I for dinner which saves on the old grocery bill.

4) From Anne: IF you could only eat five foods for the rest of your life (condiments are free so they don't count), what would they be??

1)  Fresh summer tomatoes from my garden.  If I can't have home grown ones, I would rather never have another tomato in my life!

2) Cheese.  Can I only pick one kind?  If I could have two, I'd love cheddar (Tillamook) and a really good creamy burrata mozzarella.

3) Grilled chicken.  Troy makes the best grilled chicken, and it would be so great to eat forever.

4) Fresh raspberries from the garden.  I wanted to pick strawberries, but they are so small in my garden, and raspberries yield a ton for little work.

5) Eggs.  So versatile, so much protein, and so delicious!

5) From 20 North Ora: Have you ever had a question you didn't answer? LOL That's mighty brave of you.
Hmmm,  yes and no.  I won't disclose anything that would put my family at risk, so for now, I don't share my last name, my home town, or the name of my employer.

6) From Kerrly: The frugal practices - were they practices you knew of because you watched parents/grandparents, or things you learned as an adult?
A combo of things.  My grandparents all grew up in the Depression, so some of their life practices were ingrained in them as a result. Both grandmas canned a ton and could sew.  Both grandpas were handy and could fix anything.

That being said, I think a lot of it is just my DNA.  My mom recalls a story where we were grocery shopping, and she was looking for canned beans.  I was probably six or seven.  She grabbed a can to  put in the basket, and I grabbed another can saying "these are $.07 cheaper mom".

The cheapness has always been there, but the skill hasn't.  I have spent a lot of time reading, studying, and learning how to do stuff to save us moola.

7) From Jan:
A) How in the world do you get everything done? Are you an incredible organized person. Or require very little sleep?
I am a very organized and efficient person!  Like I should teach a class on it.  But...I refuse to sacrifice sleep for the sake of getting stuff done.  I'm fine with walking away from a task or job when it is bed time.  I get up at 4:30 am, so I try to get in bed by 10 pm.

Getting up early does allow me to get a lot stuff done without boys (Jack and/or Troy) underfoot.  Also, the life we live has been a seven plus year work in progress.  We started slowly, and added things piece by piece, so it never seemed overwhelming at the time. 

B) What do you do to relax just for you?
I always like to be busy...sitting on the couch and watching TV isn't relaxing for me, unless I'm writing, knitting, or doing something else.  Probably why yoga and I never got along. Troy says I'm like a shark; if I stop moving, I die.

A very happy day for me is getting a pedicure (I save up and get one every two ish months) while reading a book, and then grocery shopping ALONE.

C) How do I retrain my adult palate to like foods that are good for me but taste like monkey butt?
Can I be so bold as to suggest if something doesn't taste good to you, just don't eat.  It's not about training or anything, but rather preferences.  That being said, if you want to, I'd encourage you to try something in a form that you haven't yet consumed.  I always thought I hated Brussels sprouts, but I had some that were really crispy and it was amazing.  I always thought I hated asparagus, and then I had some roasted and tossed with soy sauce and sesame oil and I realized asparagus is the!  Trying a previously hate veg in a non-traditional format helped changed my mind about things.

8) From NarbRunner: I really enjoy your blog and also wonder how you get everything accomplished when you work full-time and, it seems, long hours at your paying job. So my question is, what is your paying job? 

Ah, well this is a question I won't answer directly.  I work for a large medical non-profit, and in respect to my employer and my clients, I keep that info private.

9) From Martina Lively: How do you expect your home life to change once your parents move in? BTW, you are such an inspiration to me. How do you have the energy to work so hard, do so much at home, be a great wife and mother and keep your sense of humor?? Love you!

Love you too!

I think the biggest change for both my parent's and my little family will be an increase in quality of life.  For my parent's, it will be the food they'll be eating cause I'll be making it!  Right now, they need convenience, and as a result, eat a ton of processed food.  That will be persona non grata here.

For me, the quality of life will be all about a reduction of stress.  I know I'll have more food to cook, more laundry to do, and more house to clean, but knowing that they're safe will remove a huge load from my shoulders.  Every time I call them, if they don't pick up within a few rings, my head goes to the negative and I start to freak out that something has happened to one of them.

From an internal stand point, I think the word "patience" is going to be the theme for the first few months during the adjustment period.  Troy is crazy aggressive with locking doors (he'll even lock me out of the house if I'm in the front yard), and my dad loves to leave the door unlocked constantly.  Troy is going to either stroke out, or have to adapt.

I am used to living at an incredibly fast pace because I have to in order to get everything done.  Forcing myself to slow down and adapt to my parent's slower pace is going to cause me to pop my patience pills on the daily.

And from my parent's standpoint, they are going to have to adapt to being around a small kid again.  They haven't consistently been around a five year old in 28+ years, and a five year old boy never.  I some times think they forget what it is like to have little kids around, and their assumptions of how a five year old boy acts, are not always how Jack actually act.  Jack is very high energy, and always will be, but I think he has a really good heart that is often overlooked while he is bouncing off the walls like a methed up cheetah.  I too often find myself having to ask Troy "is this normal boy behavior", and to date, he has always said "yes".

I've always been high energy, and I don't like sitting still too much.  And I'm rarely both a good mom and wife at the same time, if ever!  At least a few times a week, I find myself laying in Jack's bed while he is asleep apologizing for not being patient, attentive, or nice enough.  I am quick to be terrible, but quicker to apologize.  Even if I am not successful, I always try to be better.

10) From deb: 
A) Does Troy read your blog?
Some times.  I'm not sure how regularly.

B) What does he think of the blog?
He is proud of me for sure, but doesn't always love how he is portrayed in my stories (even though they're true).  He thinks I make fun of him too much for being a sissy when he is sick (which he is).  I've tried to be more respectful/complimentary lately, but I also write EXACTLY like I speak, so what I type here is what I'd say to his face.

C)  Do you have any gnomes in your gardens?
Nope!  But I have a real life peacock.

11)  From Sara W: While out and about has a stranger ever approached you, recognizing you from your blog? Pretty sure if I ever met you in person I would geek out all intense like. 

Kinda, but I'm not sure it counts because it was actually Troy's distant cousin.  We're not close with that side of the family, so I had never met her before, but she did/does read my blog.  She said I look much different in person than I do online, but I'm not sure how so.

I'm pretty sure I'd be the one to geek out if anyone actually recognized me.

12) From Lauren: What town do you live in? I'm in Washington as well, and I'm not trying to stalk you or anything, but it helps me picture things better!

That is one I keep close to my (little sad) chest as well.  Just for the safety of my family, and out of respect for my employer, I don't divulge that.

13) From Mary E: How do make money blogging? 
Man, I wish I knew!!! I make a very nominal amount each month, but not enough to live on or even pay my car payment, that is for damned sure.  I'd like to think if this was my "job", I'd be more successful at it, but alas, it is not.  Here is how I make my "millions"
  •  Google Adsense.  Some of the ads on the right side of my blog are hosted by Google, so if you are legitimately interested in the ad, and click on it, I make like $.03.  :confetti:
  • Swagbucks.  I've used Swagbucks for years in that I use the search toolbar from Swagbucks, and some times earn "bucks" for certain searches.  Once I get up to 450 "bucks", I can trade it in for a $5 Amazon giftcard.  I've been doing Swagbucks for almost three years, and have cashed in $325 worth of Amazon giftcards.  If you sign up via the ad at the top of my page, I get a little kick back for that.
  • Sponsors. I have a handful of personal sponsors and they pay a low monthly fee for their ad to be on my page.  I'm always looking for more sponsors, and I feel like if I did a better job in reaching out to businesses, etc., it would probably be a more successful venture.  At the end of the day, I have to decide if I want to solicit sponsors, or sleep.  Sleep always wins!
  • Amazon Affiliates. I'm an Amazon Affiliate, which means if I link to Amazon, and if you purchase that product, or even anything else, as long as you started on my page, and bought something from Amazon, I earn a small percentage of what you purchase.  I'm not able to see WHO purchases things, so don't worry if you tend to buy embarrassing products.
  • Please read this next part with the understanding that I am NOT bad mouthing anyone.  There are some bloggers who post daily or weekly deals with Amazon or other companies and they do very well at this.  I have gone back and forth about this for a long time, but in the end, I decided it doesn't align well with my mission/philosophy.  I'm sure I'd make a lot more money, but at what price?  Making a few pennies because someone bought some plastic junk that I wouldn't buy myself...just doesn't sit right with me.  Again, I am not faulting a single person for doing this, but it just isn't for me.
  • Private company ads/links.  I contract with a company to place a few ads and links on my page and in my posts, and I earn a very small amount of money each month from that.
  • There are many companies who contact me each week to shill their products or insert their links in to my post, but if the item/company is not something that aligns with my values, I turn them down.  They might make me a bunch of money, but honestly I prefer to have integrity at the end of the day.
Thank you all for your questions; I had such a fun time reading and answering them.  And thanks as always for reading! I would write if no one read, but I swear it's way better that you do!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Homemade Mondays week 76

Homemade Mondays is a series for people that are on a journey to better living, via healthier eating and a more natural lifestyle.  We realize that there are different paths that we all take to get to that place, and this bloghop celebrates that.  Whether you’re a seasoned raw foodist who has banned all things unnatural, or a rookie who is starting out by cutting out junk food, we’d love to hear from you! Link up with your favorite recipes, projects, crafts, or rants and raves.

The Hosts:
Jess from Scratch Mommy
Joyce from the Skinny Pear
New co-host, Kelly from The Sustainable Couple 
How to:
Homemade Mondays will open every Monday. You have until Thursday to make your submissions. We will share our favorite posts on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and shout it from the rooftops.
  • Link up. Use the submission form below to add your blog posts to our gallery below. You can add as many links as you’d like, as long as they’re on topic. What’s eligible? Recipes, crafts, DIY projects, gardening, fitness, green ideas or just plain old advice. We’re pretty open.
  • Tell us about yourselves. Leave a comment telling us a little about your site and what you’ve shared. Of course this isn’t mandatory, but it’s a good way to stand out.
  • Link back. Share the love by adding a link back to this party with your readers so they can see all of these great ideas as well.
  • Follow our Pinterest board. Remember to check out our Mostly Homemade Mondays Pinterest board where we're pinning some of our favorite posts from the week.
My favorite post from last week was "Rain Water Catch System" from Glass Slipper Restorations.  Cindy shares an amazing water retention system for fighting the Texas drought.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Meal plan for April 14th - 20th

I pride myself on being responsible and on the ball.  It's something people always comment on when we work together.  I'm known for it.

When I was getting ready for my work trip last week, a total of three groups of people were going to be watching Jack so that I could attend the conference.  That is a lot of balls in the air, so I created a color-coded schedule of events so that everyone was on the same page.

A thing of beauty, right?

I also lined up chicken care for the ladies, made a reservation for parking, packed healthy snacks for the plane, and basically made arrangements for every single thing that could go wrong.  I even swapped out my bigger purse for a small little travel one that would fit nicely in my bag.

So, you can imagine how I felt when I got to the airport and realized I didn't pack my meerkating drivers license!!!!!!!!!!

Oh for the love of Pete, I have never been so mortified in my life.  I approached TSA and explained the situation.  I'm sure the look of embarrassment on my face screamed "not a terrorist".  I had my AMEX in my little travel purse, which thankfully is also my Costco card so it had my photo on it.  After what I will describe as an intense pat down, and bomb testing of everything I packed, I was allowed through security.

What a freaking moron.

I just know Troy is holding on to this one to use at just the right moment.  Maybe the next time I remind him to please push his chair in, I'll probably hear "oh yeah, well at least I take my license to the airport".  Dick.

Excluding the license snafu, my trip to Nashville was pretty great!  The conference was fabulous, and I ate so much food.  I did well eating healthy, but I definitely indulged in desserts, BBQ, and I tried my first ever fried pickle.  Holy balls, where have those things been all my life?

I also had some fried pie.
That's right, fried pie.  It's a thing. I ate it.  I shared it with a few other people from the conference.

Jack was so happy to see me when I got back.  I don't think I've ever gotten so many snuggles in my life.  He keeps calling me in to his room before he falls asleep and then says "do you think you might want to crawl in to bed with me and hug me"?  The answer is always yes!

We spent most of our time at the Gaylord Opryland Conference Center, and dang that place was enormous. It was way too much for my senses to take in.  You should have seen the look I got when I asked a staff member where their recycling bin was.  Short answer is, they didn't have one.  I was a long way from Seattle.

Jack wanted to do a little photoshoot this weekend.  I have 429 of these, but the two below are the ones the crack me up the most.

A good friend is pregnant, and borrowing a bunch of my baby stuff.  Before giving her my slings and wraps, I wanted to make sure I still knew how to use them so that I could show her step by step how to put them on.  I was able to figure out my sling, and Simba was quite comfortable in the style of attachment parenting.
PS, I know our nasty carpet, popcorn ceilings, and 1980's wallpaper border make you want to call HGTV on us.  Don't worry, it will all be taken care of during the upcoming remodel!
Meal plan time!  Reminder, I only plan dinners.  My breakfast of choice has changed, and I'm now obsessed with homemade Greek yogurt with tons of cut up fresh fruit (or fruit I froze in the summer), and a homemade granola bar crumbled on top.  It's delicious and keeps me completely full and satisfied until lunch. Lunches are always leftovers.  We rarely eat dessert during the week, and our dinner drink of choice is water kefir soda.

Monday:: Taco bowls and grilled asparagus.

Tuesday:: I'm working late; lame.  Today I am using my crockpot to make some of Nom Nom Paleo's Kaula pig.  This stuff freezes awesome and reheats like a charm.  We'll be having some of that, with grilled asparagus, and coleslaw.

Wednesday:: Troy will be grilling up his yummy chicken, and I'll make sweet potato fries, and leftover coleslaw.

Thursday:: Dinner at my in-laws.

Friday:: Popcorn and movie night!

Saturday:: Easter with my side of the family.

Sunday:: Easter with Troy's side of the family.

This week I spent $3.50 on raw milk, $42 at the local butcher, $19.78 at the grocery store.

What are you enjoying this week?

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Burning questions for your blogger

A few years ago, I did a post called "Burning questions with your blogger", where readers asked me questions, and then I answered them.  Pretty much how things work around here; you tell me to jump and I say "how high"!

I had such a good time doing this before, that I wanted to give it another shot.  HEre's how it works:

-You ask a question in the comments section
-I'll do a post next week where I answer all of them

Seems easy, yes?  Seems fun, yes?  Let's get started!

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