Thursday, January 28, 2010

Pantry challenge: what I learned

Well, I am true to form and did not write down everything we ate this month like I had planned. Life gets in the way and good intentions aren't good enough. But, I did pretty well with not buying much food this month, and we also didn't go out to eat very often at all. We had one dinner out as a family at Chipotle (Matt's favorite), but that was the only meal out this month that came from our main joint account. Not too shabby! :)

As for the grocery bill, I know I spent well under $100 this month on food, and I definitely had a focus on making good meals from what we had for my family. The cupboards are a bit more bare, the freezer is a little less full, and the refrigerator is definitely on the empty side -- just in time for us to be gone for a week on vacation of Phoenix!

This challenge has turned into something else for me, too -- I have become more committed to cooking more from scratch and buying less prepared foods. I don't buy very many prepared foods in the general sense of what people would normally think -- you know the stuff: all-in-one box dinners, Lean Cuisines, etc. I do have some boxes of Mac n Cheese, frozen pizzas, stuff like that. But what I didn't think of as prepared foods previously, I now see as a culprit for added sodium, preservatives, and other stuff our bodies simply don't need. I'm taking about (some) canned veggies, condensed soups like cream of mushroom, tomato, etc, canned beans, store-bought bread -- the kind of stuff we cook "from scratch" with, without actually having to make everything from scratch. You follow me? So, I am now challenging myself to use freshly prepared foods, fresh or frozen produce, fresh bread, etc whenever I can. Fresh, fresh, fresh. That's my new mantra. That doesn't mean I'll never cook with or eat prepared foods, nor do I think it's wrong or bad if you do. I am just choosing to make a commitment to thinking about fresh foods wherever I can and incorporating them more and more into our diets. We will still eat the occasional frozen pizza and box of Mac n Cheese. I'm sure some of Matt's and my lunches we bring to work will be Marie Callender or other frozen dinner. But I have seen the value in knowing everything that is in my food. And enjoying it that much more because of it.

I have started a new blog to chronicle my adventures in cooking from scratch: I'll be using this site to archive my recipes and modifications to existing ones, give tips and ideas on how to transition to cooking more foods from scratch in your own kitchen, some basic to advanced cooking techniques, and more.

This is not a site that will emphasize low-fat or low-carb recipes, but rather will focus on non-artificial eating and savoring good, fresh and wholesome foods. I hope you'll join me on my journey to more healthful eating.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

EFTPC: January 9-14

Okay, I might not remember every day here, but I'll try.

January 9
Bought some groceries today in order to prepare an appetizer for our cousins get together at my parents house. Had to buy artichoke hearts and green onions to make my artichoke dip. Yum!

  • Cereal

  • Turkey sandwiches
  • Clementines 

At my parents' house
  • Shepherd's pie
  • Sweet potatoes

January 10
This was a bad, bad eating day. I was so stressed out with trying to get the house ready to go on the market, I barely ate. And paid for it later with lightheadedness.

  • Granola bar

Lunch/Dinner at 3:30 p.m.
  • Frozen blueberry waffles
  • Bacon

At small group
  • Angel food cake with fruit and whipped cream

Not my proudest food day.

January 11


  • Toast with peanut butter

Don't remember...

  • Pizza party at Jasmine's -- Jet's Pizza. Delicious!

January 12

  • Cereal

  • Punch Pizza with some lovely ladies

Panera with Becky
  • 1/2 Bacon Turkey Bravo sandwich

January 13

  • Mini quiche

  • Other 1/2 Bacon Turkey Bravo sandwich
  • 2 clementines

  • Chicken enchiladas from the freezer
  • Ice cream

Phew! I can't believe I remembered as much as I did.

Now for today.

January 14

  • Cereal

  • TBD

Amanda & Rachel Christmas get together at my house
  • Lasagna
  • Homemade bread

Friday, January 8, 2010

EFTPC: January 7 & 8

January 7

  • Homemade bread with peanut butter
  • 1 clementine
  • Frozen chicken pot pie
  • 1 clementine
  • Chicken ala King on biscuits
  • Biscuit with crab apple jelly
January 8

  • Wheaties with milk
  • Lunch at Michele's: Chili and hummus with multigrain chips (delicious!)
  • Pork roast sandwich
  • Frozen veggies

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

EFTPC: January 5 & 6

You all may or may not care what I eat, but I thought it would be fun to look back on what we ate this month. So, I'm going to try to document what I make. I might also use this space to try to meal plan for the week starting next week.

January 5

  • Home-canned peaches
  • Homemade bread with peanut butter
  • Some more of that delicious Ham and Bean soup
  • Some more homemade bread
  • I actually went out for dinner for a business networking event and had some yummy pizza from Angeno's. Matt and his mom made Mac & Cheese with chicken and peas at home.
January 6

  • Oatmeal
  • Leftover soup
  • Leftover Mac & Cheese
  • Pork roast sandwich (pork from freezer, homemade bread)

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Eat from the pantry challenge

One of the blogs I read regularly is hosting a challenge for the month of January -- to eat from your pantry and buy very few, if any, groceries. So, I decided to give it a try. I am still going to buy some groceries, like milk and fruit, and if I need one or two ingredients to make a meal made up of mostly pantry items, I will do that. The idea of this is to use up and eat what you already have on hand -- in the cupboards, fridge, and freezer. I have a lot in the freezer right now -- we shared a 1/2 pig with some family so we have a lot of pork, plus several freezer meals I had made, including enchiladas, chicken ala king, turkey pot pie, soups, breads, pancakes, and more. I also have some things in my cupboards to use.

Last night, I heated some frozen Ham and Bean Soup and homemade bread from the freezer.

It's a good month to do this for us, since we are going on a trip to Arizona the beginning of February. The money I save on groceries will help balance out the remaining cost of the trip.

Speaking of our trip, I am so excited to be able to go to Arizona! We are going February 4-10 and are staying with my cousin and her husband for most of the trip, with a one-night hotel stay in Sedona as we head up to the Grand Canyon. We will explore the Sedona area Monday, and then Tuesday morning we will get up early and continue on up to the Grand Canyon for the rest of the day. Our out of pocket cost for the trip (for airfare, one night hotel, and three day car rental) is $269, thanks to our Cash Back Bonus with Discover and being able to stay with my cousin for the majority of the trip. Evan will be staying with my parents, so this vacation will be a special time for Matt and me to relax and enjoy our time together without constantly chasing after our sweet and very active little boy! I know we will miss him terribly, but he will have fun with Grandma and Grandpa!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Financial Goals

Over the past few years, I have come to desire a simpler way of life (hence the name of this blog). One of the biggest ways to live more simply is to have financial freedom. I think financial freedom is something almost everyone wants, but not many people want to take the necessary steps to get there. It's taken me awhile to get past the American way of instant gratification, and I'm sure it will always be a little bit of a struggle, but I am ready to take the plunge.

Our pastor said a phrase during one of the sermon series that has stuck with me, and I really think it's true: you can live life/do finances two ways -- Easy Hard, or Hard Easy. In other words, you can have all the things that you want now -- a nice house, a boat, a fancy car, etc -- and pay for it later by way of lessened retirement funds, paying more than twice what you would if you hadn't charged up your credit card, etc. OR, you can save and pay for the things you can afford -- a more modest home, saving up to buy your dream car, building up your savings account before you take your dream vacation -- and reap the rewards of not paying high amounts of interest, having a savings account, and not being a slave to your lending institutions.

Matt and I have worked hard and have come a long way from where we were 6 years ago. Over time, we have completely paid off our credit cards and have no student loans. We have $1000 in an emergency savings account and are two payments away from paying off Matt's car. Once we do that, we will start applying that monthly payment amount to my car loan. By August this year, we should have both of our vehicles fully paid for. After that, the cumulative amount of both car payments will be going into a savings account so that we will be able to pay cash for our next cars and never have a car payment again.

We are putting our home on the market next week. Our next home will be a modest single family home and our goal is to be able to get a 15 year mortgage and still pay less per month than what we are currently paying for our townhome. Based on what I've seen, it is possible. The difference between what we currently pay and what we will pay will be put into a savings account. We will apply this money toward principal on our home after we have saved 3-6 months worth of income to keep in a savings account.

Attaining financial freedom takes a lot of sacrifice, but it is well worth the payoff. If we meet our goals, we can be completely debt free in 13 years. By the time I am 40, we will completely own our house, our cars, and everything else we have. We will not be enslaved by any debt. How amazing!

Living this way gives us the freedom to spend the money we do have and wish to spend without guilt or worry, give generously, save for college for our children and for our own retirement. It is also a great model to set for our kids.

I know there will be bumps in the road, and things may not happen as I've laid them out here. But this is our goal, and we are going to work hard to meet it!