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Saving time for reflection.

Saving time for reflection.

I wrote a post a while back about the busy boycott, about allowing ourselves to slow down and enjoy some space in our days and in our lives.  Some might think that being a stay at home mom with “only” one kid would leave me plenty of free time, but with the terrible twos in full swing, I assure you that is not the case!  I have, however, been trying to follow my own advice and leave some time in my day that is just for me.  Time that is not spent cooking, cleaning, planning, packing, or even socializing.  When I first started scheduling down time, I didn’t really know what to do with myself.  Normally, if I have a few spare minutes, I can find something to clean or some way to get ahead for tomorrow, like laying out clothes or packing snacks and lunches ahead of time.  But, when you let yourself totally off the hook for a couple of hours, what do you do?

Sometimes I watch too much TV.  I think that’s one of the reasons that I  like to stay busy.  When I’m not busy, I feel like I waste my free time zoned out in front of some mindless show.  Like Vikings.  I loved Vikings.  I want to be a Viking warrior like Lagertha.  If you haven’t seen the show, you probably shouldn’t start because there are five seasons of it and you will waste months of free time glued to your TV.  Plus you’ll start wandering around your house using various objects as weapons and fantasizing about charging into battle with your sword and shield.  I  don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with TV for those of you have self restraint, but moderation is not in my vocabulary, so when I get into a show, it takes over my life.  I become Lagertha!

Anyway, watching TV is fun in the moment but it does nothing to improve my overall quality of life.  In fact, I think it has a negative effect on me.  For one, it’s not really relaxing.  I don’t feel rested after watching TV.  But it’s not stimulating either.  I don’t feel fulfilled or challenged or satisfied after watching TV.  It’s just a way to pass time.  And time has become such a precious commodity that I don’t want it to pass any faster than it already is.  So then, what to do with my free time?

I’ve found that I have been spending a lot more time reflecting on myself and my life.  I like to think about, and sometimes even write down, my beliefs and ideas about who I am and how I should live my life.  Surprisingly, I really like doing it.  It’s like getting to know yourself.  What a strange concept!  I  think sometimes we get so busy doing things that we don’t take the time to figure out who we are.  And that’s an important thing to know.  There’s an old country song by Aaron Tippin that goes, “You’ve got to stand for something, or you’ll fall for anything.”  What do you stand for?  Who are you?  Do you really like yourself?  Do you even know yourself?  These are the types of questions that I ask myself.  I don’t know, maybe I should just watch Vikings, but it seems like a worthwhile way  to spend a few minutes a day.

Sometimes I think we’ve lost the ability to truly relax and do nothing.  Think about it.  When you have a free moment in the evening or on the train or in the airport, do you ever just sit and think?  Or do you immediately grab your phone, open up your computer, or turn on the TV?  Maybe all three at once?  I find myself doing this all the time.  I will have five free minutes while my son is playing on the playground and instead of relaxing and enjoying the breeze, I automatically grab my phone and check my email, Facebook, and Instagram.  When did I become that girl?

So, in the interest of being less busy and slowing down my day, my goal is to use my phone only as a phone, texter, and camera.  I will sit down once or twice a day and send emails from my computer, but I’m not going to worry about them while I’m at the park with my son.  I can check out Facebook and Instagram for a few minutes in the evening after my son is asleep.  My days as a stay at home mom are numbered so I’m going to enjoy every minute we spend playing outside.  And when I  have a moment to relax, I’m going to do just that.

Packing Light.

Packing Light.

As promised, we took a little road trip over Spring Break.  We didn’t want to  take a big, expensive vacation but we wanted to get out of the city and enjoy some peace and quiet, or as close to peace as you can get when you’re hanging with a two year old.  So we took a little four day, three night, road trip.  The plan was really simple…

Day 1: Drive an hour up to Evergreen and stay at my sister’s house.

Day 2: Drive a little over 2 hours down to Buena Vista to stay at the Cottonwood Hot Springs Lodge

Day 3: Drive back to Evergreen and spend another night there.

Day 4: Hangout in Evergreen for the morning, and then head back home.

While the vacation was simple, traveling with a kid can still be complicated.  In the past when we’ve traveled with James, I brought everything but the kitchen sink.  I remember going up to Steamboat to visit my family for two nights when James was just a couple weeks old.  I  filled up my entire car!  No joking.  The ENTIRE car.  It was so much work to pack, and so stressful to keep track of all that stuff, that it really took a lot of the fun out of our trip.  If I could go back in time, I would have brought diapers, blankets, and a couple changes of clothes.  What else does a breast feeding newborn really need?  I wish I hadn’t made things so difficult!

Anyway, this time we packed pretty light.  Here’s what I brought for myself…

In addition to the clothes I was wearing, I brought a Ziplock with my toiletries, a water bottle, running shoes, running tights, one sports bra, one workout tank, a jacket and hat, two swimsuits, two T shirts, one long sleeve shirt, one pair of pants, one bra, three pairs of underwear and two pairs of socks.  Everything fit into a small backpack with room to spare.

Here’s what I  brought for our son…

One sweatshirt, one rain jacket, two T shirts, two long sleeve shirts, two pairs of pants, two pairs of PJs, two swimsuits, two swim diapers, three pairs of socks, three pairs of undies, four overnight diapers, 10 regular diapers (he was sort of half potty trained when we left), wipes, sunscreen, changing pad, diaper rash cream, tooth brush, tooth paste and a comb.

I knew my sister had this little fold out pad that’s just the right size so James slept on this thing for the whole trip.  We even stuck it in the car and took it to Buena Vista with us….

Oh, and I brought his Thomas the Train blanket!

My husband also brought a small backpack with his stuff and we let James fill up his toddler backpack with toys.   Then we packed a cooler full of food and James’ Stryder bike.  I brought food to make while we were in Evergreen but we planned to eat most meals out while in Buena Vista.

Over all, it was a pretty great trip.  I pretty much wore one outfit the whole time and just changed my underwear daily.  I felt like we could have easily left for a full week with the few clothes we packed.

How to save money on beauty products.

How to save money on beauty products.

Want to know how to save money on beauty products?  Stop using them.  A lot of them are probably toxic, anyway.

That’s what I did.  I have VERY acne prone skin.  Even in my 30s, my skin has been more often than not, a mess.  I have spent a TON of money on beauty products, spa services, dermatologists, and acne treatments.  Do you know what worked the best?  Nothing.  Like, literally, nothing.  No soap, no lotion, no acne treatments, and just enough concealer to cover the acne scars.  For the past month I have been washing my face with a cool, wet wash cloth whenever I feel the need to, but not more than once a day.  If my skin feels dry, I rub a tiny bit of coconut oil on my skin.  That’s it!  I wish I could tell you that my skin magically transformed into a perfectly clear, supermodel caliber, complexion, but that would be a lie.  I still have some zits, but my skin is a little bit clearer, and my bank account is a lot fuller!

That’s not all.  Here’s the best part…

I also quit using shampoo and conditioner.  My hair is pretty long these days and it was starting to get dry so I switched out my $2 a bottle Tresemme shampoo and conditioner for a more expensive spa brand called Umberto.  After a few uses, my hair felt a little better but my entire back broke out into deep, painful, cystic acne.  Awesome!  Totally worth it, right?  My skin from the neck down was totally clear before this.  I tried switching back to the Tresemme but once your skin starts breaking out, it’s really hard to stop it.  I finally got fed up and decided not to put any chemicals on my body whatsoever (except deodorant because everyone has got to draw the line somewhere).

For the first couple of weeks, I just quit washing my hair all together.  I was afraid to use shampoo and conditioner because I didn’t want to make my back acne any worse.  The acne on my back got much better but, as you can imagine, my hair got really greasy!  I started googling natural shampoos and came up with the “no poo” method.  It turns out, you can wash your hair with water only and it actually works.  I followed the instructions on this blog and it really works!  The basic idea is that shampoo strips the oils from your hair, and conditioner replaces those natural oils with manufactured ones.  Doesn’t that sound kind of dumb?  Why not just leave the natural oils in your hair, right?  As it turns out, the oil that your body naturally produces is a great shampoo and conditioner in one.  You can check out the blog.  It takes a little time and effort to get used to it, but it works, it’s free, and it doesn’t cause painful, cystic acne on my back.  Here’s what my hair looks like now…

It’s soft, shiny and it never gets tangled.  When I used regular shampoo and conditioner, and then brushed my hair, a ton of hair came out in my brush.  I always thought that was normal and it would somehow grow back fast enough that my hair wouldn’t get thinner.  After using the water only method for a couple of months, no hair comes out in my brush.  None!  Maybe three or four strands, but nothing like the gobs of wet, gross hair that I used to have to pick out of my brush every couple of days.  And if my ends get a little dry, I just use a touch of coconut oil.  It works for everything!

So, here’s what my new beauty supply list looks like…

  1. coconut oil
  2. uh… that’s it

You really don’t need to wash your body with soap either, just warm water and wash cloth does the trick.  Okay, maybe I’m just a dirty hippy, but I haven’t noticed any bad smells.  If my skin is dry, I use, you guessed it, coconut oil!  For shaving… coconut oil.  Are there other oils out there that work better?  Quite possibly, but I use coconut oil a lot when I cook so I already have a ton of it.  Basically, I replaced soap, lotion, face soap, face lotion, shampoo and conditioner with coconut oil and water.  If we didn’t live in such a dry climate, I think I could even skip the oil.  Now I just need to figure out a replacement for deodorant and sunscreen, and I will have completed my dirty hippy transformation.  Do I get a badge or anything?

Nothing New for a Year.

Nothing New for a Year.

There is  a popular trend weaving itself around the interwebs and I’m jump’n on the bandwagon.  I’m not buying anything but essentials during 2017.  I know, we’re already three months in, but I really already started.  When I started the food budget, it was supposed to be just a first step toward a simpler life.  But the effect has really snowballed.  When I made myself aware of how much I was spending each day, each week, and each month, my decision making process changed.  I started asking myself, “Do I need that?” instead of “Do I want that?”  And so far, the answer has been a resounding “NO.”  We buy food; we buy batteries when they run out; we went to dinner and movie for my husband’s birthday; but we haven’t bought ANYTHING in the last three months.  No clothes, no trinkets, no gadgets, no electronics.  And you know what?  It saves time as well as money.  If you cut out those little trips to the store to pick up this or that, you have that time to spend doing things that bring you joy, like cooking great meals for your family, or starting a blog; apparently 2017 is just going to be a really cool and trendy year for me.  (more about impulse buying here)

Well… there is one thing we bought.  We bought our son a $15 train track with some $5 dollar trains.  But that was already promised to him if he started using his potty every time he had to go.  And I’m not sure what the parenting books say about bribing your children, but it works!  When that train track showed up in the mail, my son was potty trained!  That little monster had been sandbagging for months.  I told him he wasn’t getting the track until he pooped in his potty, so he ran over to his little Paw Patrol potty, pulled his pants down all by himself, and pooped on demand.  That’s not even an exaggeration.  That’s how our son learned to poop in his potty.  So, I guess we cheated with the train set, but it was worth every penny!

In all honesty, we have the most fun as a family when it’s just us, in nature, with no distractions.  During the time we spent in Costa Rica, we went to the beach almost every day.  Sometimes we would bring surf boards or a pail and shovel for our son, but often times we just stopped at the beach on our way home, with no swimsuits, no toys, nothing but ourselves and maybe a water bottle.  Those are my fondest memories because we truly spent time together, jumping over waves, laughing and allowing ourselves to relax and take it all in.  Sometimes all the stuff we think we need to have fun, just gets in the way of a good time.

 

 

Minimalist living.

Minimalist living.

Right now we’re renting an apartment in Cherry Creek, CO.  It has been great living within walking distance of my mom and we will take full advantage of that for the next four and a half months.  But when our lease is up, it will be time to move on and find a simpler, more affordable, living arrangement.  So, in preparation, I’ve been thinking a lot about how we want to live.  Where we live will depend a lot on how our job situation plays out in the next four months, but how we live is entirely up to us.  I’ve been reading a lot about minimalist living and parenting styles and it’s pretty intriguing.  The basic is idea is that less is more.  If we live with only what we need, we can free up space in our home, in our lives, and in our hearts and minds.  Okay, that’s a little cheesy but I like it.  And I think it might be true.  I just spent thirty minutes putting things away in our 900 square foot apartment.  Thirty minutes just to put away all the stuff we took out in the last twenty four hours since the last time I put it all away.  As I was picking it up, I had a sudden urge to just throw it all away.  How much stuff do three people need?  How many plastic toys does a two year old need?

That got me thinking, what do we really need?  In our family, we tend to have a lot of sporting equipment because we like to bike, run, swim, ski, box, sled, etc…  But how many hobbies does one person need?  Personally I enjoy, sewing, knitting, playing guitar, running, biking, reading, watching movies, blogging, cooking, baking, and doing craft projects.  And that doesn’t even include time with my family.  If I enjoyed one of my hobbies each day, it would take me two weeks to get through the list.  A person can only do so much.  That’s the point of minimalism.  Pick the things that are most important to you and cut everything else out.  That way you have the time and the space to enjoy the things that really matter.  Simplify.  Simplify your home.  Simplify your mind.  Simplify your life.  You don’t have to get swept away in the whirlwind of the 21st of the century.  You can live how you want to live.  We all design our own lives, so why not design one that brings you some peace and contentment?

Do you think you would be more peaceful and content living in this space?

Or in this space?

I’d take the latter, even thought there’s probably $10,000 worth of stuff in the first picture.

As Americans we tend to have a lot of stuff.  And then we buy big houses so we can store all of our stuff.  But, who wants to spend all their time organizing and reorganizing all that STUFF?  And what about all the new stuff that we keep buying because we’re too busy to stop and make rational decisions about what we buy?  What if we just stop buying stuff and stick to only what we actually need?  Wouldn’t that be a lot easier?

 

Impulse buying.

Impulse buying.

I just read this great post called 10 Frugal Tips for Simple Living and the author made a lot of great suggestions but the one I liked the most was about impulse buying.  For me, controlling impulse buying has been a natural side effect of tracking my spending and creating a budget.  I didn’t really even realize that I made a lot of impulse purchases until I stopped.  Have you ever walked out of Target $200 poorer and wondered to yourself, “What did I just buy?”  If you’re trying to live cheap, don’t ever go to Target, but that’s another rant.

Before I started really tracking our expenses closely, I made purchasing decisions kind of like this…

“Hmm… That looks cool/yummy/pretty/other appropriate adjective.  How much is it?  That sounds somewhat reasonable.  Toss it in the cart!”

After tracking my expenses, setting some goals, and putting some real time and thought into my spending, my purchasing decisions look more like this…

“Hmm…  That looks cool/yummy/pretty/other appropriate adjective.  Do I really need it?  Nope.  Do I even want it?  Not really.  It costs how much?  That’s a whole day’s worth of food for my family!  Who would buy that!?!?”

When you stop to think about it, it’s kind of scary how much stuff we buy that we don’t need at all.  And with so much stuff, we need bigger houses, and houses are expensive so then we have to work more.  It’s a vicious cycle.  But you don’t have to play that game if you don’t want to.  At least I don’t think you do.  I’m only a couple of weeks into my life transformation so I don’t want to get too cocky just yet.  But so far, I really like it!  Knowing that I don’t have to buy anything except the necessities is actually very calming.  Shopping is just one less thing to think about.  One step closer the simple life for which I long.  Wow.  I’m getting really profound.  I’ll just stop there.

Eating for $150 a week.

Eating for $150 a week.

So…

We started our $150 a week meal plan and we haven’t quite managed to stay under $150 but we’re close and we have cut way down on our grocery bills.  It’s amazing how much you can save just by being organized and planning a week of meals in advance.  One reason why we’ve been coming in slightly over budget is milk.  Both my son and my husband are lactose intolerant and I like to buy organic milk because I don’t want my son to drink any weird hormones.  Because I’m convinced that I started my period at age 11 due to the enormous amount of hormone infested milk that I drank as a kid (sorry if that’s TMI!)  Wow.  I’m such a cool blogger now.  I can use abbreviations like TMI and OMG and BFF.  Yeah, that’s all I got.  Maybe I’m not as cool as I thought.  Anyway, organic, lactose free whole milk only comes in a half gallon size and it aint cheap.  Not to mention, my husband drinks more milk than a baby calf.  Like a gallon and a half to two gallons a week!  He’s one of those guys who drinks whole milk like it’s water and wolfs down plates of pasta and bread and just can’t seem to gain an ounce to save his life.  Oh, waah, Caleb.  Oh, freakin, waah!

Anyway, I plan to work on making our meals a little healthier but it’s tough to please both my husband and I because we have very different dietary needs.  But, here’s what I do.  On Saturday night, I plan out all the meals we are going to eat; breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks (I know, I need a life.  But I’m super dorky and I live for this stuff).  So, then I write down all the ingredients I would need to make all of those meals.  Then I go through the kitchen and cross off things we already have.  Last but not least, I go online and order all the groceries on ClickList, through King Soopers.  Then, on Sunday, either my husband or I drive to King Soopers and they load all of our groceries into the car for us, swipe our credit card, and we’re off. If you’ve never used ClickList, you haven’t lived!  Seriously, such a simple idea but simply genius.  ClickList is the greatest invention ever because it allows even a man to pick up the groceries without forgetting anything or making any ridiculous substitutions.  Ever sent your husband to the grocery store for orange juice and had him come back with donuts and Tang?  Or send him out for cheddar cheese and have him hand you an aerosol can full of mysterious orange goo?

Image result for angry mom image

Never again.  He doesn’t even get to go inside!

So, here is what my meal plan looks like.  Keep in mind, I didn’t buy nearly all of these ingredients because I make a lot of the same things every week so I already had a lot of the ingredients.  But that’s the key to saving money.  Use the leftover groceries from last week in this weeks meals.  Here you go…

Meal Plan 2
   
Dinners Grocery List
Pork chops w/ sweet potato hash & salad 6  small Pork Chops
Broiled chicken thighs w/ rice and broccolli 5 large sweet potatos
Paleo pizza pie (from paleomg) 2 onions
Gallo Pint w/ Sausage 1 tub mixed greens
Pasta w/ meat sauce & sald 1 cucumber
Salmon w/ sweet potato fries & carrots 8 gala apples
Leftovers &or pita pizzas 1 small bag brown rice
1 crown broccoli
Lunches 8 chicken thighs w/ skin and bone
1 green pepper
Salomi pita sandwiches w/ fruit 1 red pepper
Leftover paleo pizza 2 cans black beans
Leftover gallo pinto w/ sausage 1 tub fresh salsa
Yogurt w/ granola & fruit 1 lb italian sausage
Pita Pizzas 1 lb ground beef
Leftover sweet potato hash w/ sausage 1 bag whole wheat pasta
Salomi pita sandwiches w/ fruit 1 jar of pasta sauce
3 salmon filets
Breakfasts 1 2lb bag of carrots
1 bag of celery
Sweet potato hash w/ eggs 1 pag of pita bread
sausage w/ peanutbutter & toast 1/2 lb of sliced salomi
Oatmeal w/ berries 1 spachetti squash
Eggs w salomi & spinach 1 can tomato sauce
Protein shakes w/ toast 1 package breakfast sausage
Yogurt w/ fruit and granola 24 eggs
Protein shake w/ peanutbutter toast 2 packages blueberries
1 package strawberries
Snacks 10 bananas
2 bags cuties oranges
2 loaves of pumpkin bread 1 container plain yogurt
Chocolate chip oatmeal cookies pumpkin seeds (in bulk)
Ants on a log 1 package quick cooking oats
Crackers and cheese 1 bag of fresh spinach
Dried cranberries 2 cans pumpkin pure
Apples 1 bag dark chocolate chips
Oranges 1 jar peanutbutter
Kashi cereal bars Dried cranberries (bulk)
Kids Cliff Z Bars Whole wheat flour
pumpkin pie spice
Drinks coconut oil
baking soda
4 half gallons lactose free milk baking powder
3 half gallons of juice vanilla
butter
3 half gallons of juice
4 half gallons lactose free milk

To buy everything I needed for these meals came in at a whopping $159.62.  That didn’t include the milk and juice but it did include $20 worth of diapers so it was wasn’t actually that far off.  I think we came in right around $165.  And since my husband has rekindled his love for swimming and I’m now feeding Michael Phelps, I think that’s pretty good.

All of you paleoers and south beach dieters and just general health conscious human beings probably don’t think this looks like the healthiest of meal plans but what can I say, I’m a work in progress.  Healthier meal plans to come!