Hello October <3 // Fall 2016 Bucket List!

 

It feels like I blinked and the entire year dissolved. Like a cube of sugar met to a cup of tea, it was over. A friend and I were discussing how much seasonal changes can influence our moods – for me, I spend all year looking forward to October, November, and December. I love the holiday season and everything it stands for – giving and serving others, reflection and being thankful, and sharing love and light with those we care about. However, for her, it’s the complete opposite. The cold weather, darker skies, and quietness instead create a sort of sadness in her heart. If this is you, I hope you find solace in the kindness and softness of others.

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One of my favorite things about autumn is how abrupt the changes are. It gets chilly overnight and the physical world changes. We get thrown into it, usually unprepared, and have no choice but to adjust quickly. I think there really is no better time of year to let go of whatever may no longer serve you, and begin something new. Something new could be a lifestyle or career change, while for others, it may be something simple as picking up a new book, or starting a new craft. I also find this the perfect time to set new goals and make preparations for what’s ahead.

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With that being said, here is my TOP 10 must-do’s (BUCKET LIST) for Fall 2016:

1.) Make art!

The art you make is entirely up to you. Perhaps, take up a new craft or work on an on-going project you’ve been putting off for a while now. This is a fantastic time to try out some DIY projects! My “craft” is writing. November is NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and I’d really like to dedicate at least an hour a day to writing in the month of October. This will hopefully prepare myself for writing an entire novel in November. I have yet to decide if I will start something new or continue something old.

2.) Document everything!

Take photos of everyone and everything. Journal EVERYTHING. Although I personally think it’s good idea to journal 365 days a year, most of us recognize it’s that the most important events happen during this time of year. Families often get together for the holidays, and you’ll want to photograph it all. In this day and age, journaling can take on many forms. For me, blogging and using social media apps such as Instagram can be a form of journaling as well.  I do, however, also journal privately on LiveJournal!

3.) Enjoy hot cocoa, warm cider, and holiday inspired coffee drinks (pumpkin spice latte – DUH!)

My absolutely favorite hot cocoa is Nestle’s Abuelita Mexican Chocolate. This isn’t your average hot cocoa, ya’ll. Abulita hot cocoa requires you to melt down an actual brick of chocolate in a pot of whole milk – it takes time and patience, but it’s well worth it. This is the real deal – as close to homemade as it gets. A single purchase makes more than a gallons worth of hot cocoa, so it’s an incredible value when you compare it to single single packets. However, if you fancy the convenience packets, you can also buy Abuelita Instant Hot Chocolate! (Just add water.)

4.) Purge your closet!

Do you have winter attire (coats especially) that you haven’t worn in a few seasons? I urge you to donate it! Coats (and socks) are in high demand among low income families and homeless as the weather starts to become colder. Donate your cold weather clothing to your local coat drive. Check out One Warm Coat!

5.) Take a free (or low-cost) course. Join a writing, art, or craft workshop!

This is in addition to #1. Last night, in a frenzy, I found myself enrolling in not 1, but 3 courses at UC Berkley! 100% free, by the way! If you’re interested in writing courses, I welcome you all to join me in English Literature & Composition! Ed2Go is an awesome resource for adult learning, continuing education courses, and for those not necessarily interested in receiving college credit or obtaining a degree.

6.) Attend free local events in your area!

TimeOut is a very good resource for finding out what’s going on in your town! Check your local news as well. Any city ran events will surely be on the 6 o’clock news, or in your local newspaper.

7.) Dress up your home in seasonal appropriate decor!

This is a good time to check out DIY projects, as well! You don’t have to spend a lot, either. Go to your local dollar store, such as Dollar Tree or Family Dollar! (which, by the way, are sister companies so you’ll find more or less the same type of stuff at both stores!) While you’re there, look for Halloween costumes as well. Many child costumes run as low as $5.

8.) Bake pies!

For the amateur chef, like myself, a pie may seem like a huge and complicated task to take on, however, you’ll be surprised by how simple it actually is – especially if you opt in for a pre-made crust! Pie filling, those made of  fruit such as apple or peach are very simple to make and the quality of that pie really does come down to the quality of the fruit (ex. the apple variety, and/or, the ripeness of the peach), not so much your skill or talent in baking.

9.) Whip up some of your favorite soups and stews!

I wait all year to whip up a big pot of soup. Hot soup on a cold night is the ultimate comfort. Consider making large batches to freeze for later. This will save you both money and time. My all time favorite winter dishes are Beef Stew and my very own Cheesy Chicken Veggie Chowder! Both of these recipes are low cost – less than $1/serving!

10.) Watch horror films!

Believe it or not, I used to be a huge horror movie junkie. I loved the Saw series in high school, and have been a huge fan of A Nightmare on Elm Street, the classic Freddy Krueger slasher film, since I was a child. These days, the scariest thing I watch is American Horror Story on Netflix. LOL! If you’re like me, you probably don’t even bother with cable. <3 Oh Netflix, you’re all I need! <3

Truly, there isn’t anything you can access on the internet. There isn’t anything you can’t *cough* pirate *cough* off the internet. I mean WUT? Of course EYE don’t do that. 😉

Wanna kick it up a notch? Go to free or low-cost haunted houses in your town!

What do you folks have planned for October? What are you goals? Any special plans? I’d love to hear from you.

 

 

 

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Sept. 2016 Grocery Haul / $100/M Budget!

It’s definitely been a hot minute since I’ve shared any kind of haul on this blog! As I’ve mentioned in other recent posts, money has been tight on our end, so investing in hauls has overall been a challenge. This doesn’t change that I do believe that buying in bulk, cooking in bulk, is essentially the smartest, most time sensitive, and efficient way to save money.

As I’ve mentioned time and time again, this can be particularly challenging for city dwellers, who don’t have access to big box grocery stores, especially those who do not or can not drive, and are more or less limited to their surrounding 5-10 block radius. (*Like yours truly.) That in itself is one of my biggest challenges in saving money. I can’t hop in my car and go to a Walmart. I don’t have a license. I don’t have a car. Even if I had a car, I’d have nowhere to put my car.

Thankfully for us, convenience delivery services are popping up left and right for nearly every industry out there. From laundry, to grocery delivery, you can get that delivered to you, and in many cases, the time and money saved in doing so is extensive.

So, let’s see – yesterday, I found myself with a $50 food budget. Ideally, I’d like to stretch it over the course of 2 weeks. The only way I’ve ever really been able to do that is by taking advantage of “value packs” at Stop&Shop and digging through tiny Mom & Pop convenience stores in the neighborhood for marked down items (in short, crap shoved to the back of freezers and shelves – crap that nobody wants).

Frankly, the prices at my neighborhood Bravo and C-Town has been really bad for months. Meat and produce prices are to the roof, so Stop&Shop/Peapod seemed like the next best move. And, am I glad I did it! In short, I put over $75 worth of groceries in my cart and paid only $50 for all of it. I used a $25 off $75 coupon, as well as free delivery coupon! There is absolutely nothing complicated about it either. Simply use the “60daysfree” coupon code at check out and you’re good to go! Any order you make over the next 60 days will also have free shipping! Awesome right?

The best part is definitely the seasonal items – pumpkin spice EVERYTHING! I am so ready for Fall. I can’t even tell you how absolutely READY I am! The weather has been really nice too. Today’s high is 71, and the low is 50. Fantastic hot cocoa and a book weather.

Ok – let’s get right to the good stuff! My receipt! LOL.

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I’d also like to point out that Stop & Shop DOES often miss a few items in your order. For example, I did not get my Stop & Shop frozen vegetable mix (x2). It’s also important to note that – like in-store merchandise, things do sell out. It happens. So be ready for that possibility.

Now, I didn’t just throw anything on sale in my cart. In fact, I was meal planning as I go. Yes, I did end up spending probably 2 hours shopping online, but there really is a benefit in sitting down and planning out your meals and taking your time with this. It’s a time-consuming process – that’s definitely a part of it.

The way I shop for groceries is pretty simple. I focus on bulk meals. Large “dinners” that can be stretched over several days. Every meal will offer lots of leftovers. Go with soups, stews, and chili – whatever is easy to reheat – foods that “get better” the longer it simmers on the stove. My husband and I often eat very simple breakfasts and lunches – often a cup of tea, banana, egg-in-the-hole, and/or oatmeal. If we want something a little more hearty, we go with pancakes because they’re dirt cheap and a box of generic pancake mix can last forever!

 

Here is what we have planned for this grocery haul:

  1. Spaghetti + meat sauce
  2. Creamy mushroom chicken
  3. Chicken corn chowder
  4. Chicken tortilla soup
  5. Chili + rice
  6. Chili + corn bread
  7. Chili dogs
  8. Chili mac
  9. Hot dogs + baked beans
  10. Goulash
  11. Hamburger steak + gravy
  12. Loco Moco
  13. Cheese burgers
  14. Corn beef hash + eggs
  15. Fried bologna + eggs

The chicken dishes will use up about 10lbs of chicken, and ground beef recipes will use up about 6.5lbs. Give or take. Each dish will use about a lb of meat.

Alright guys, I’ll keep you posted on how the next few weeks plan out and let you know if we stick to our meal plan or not!

Hope you all enjoy your weekend!

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I’m a snacking enthusiast.

While we’re still on the subject of investing in frugality, I’d really like to take the time to reiterate what I said in my previous post. That message is quite simple: There are really no right or wrong ways to go about this. If you’re making progress, you’re making progress. To be honest with all of you, these last couple of months have been challenging – I’ve been occupied with some of life’s many obstacles, and this blog, as well as this lifestyle, has taken a backseat to overcoming them, as well as prioritized self-care.

During this time, I still needed to work with a very small budget, and I found myself snacking A LOT. I have a tendency to skip meals in order to save money (as well as under large amounts of stress), and though this is a hard thing to hear, it’s incredibly common. It is, however, very bad for you and your body! So, please, don’t skip meals! In my opinion, the best way to combat missed meals is to invest in affordable nutritious snacks. Keep easy access and easy to eat foods in your home – especially foods that do not need to be prepared or cooked (with the exception of oatmeal!) Some of my favorite snacks are fruits, vegetables, yogurt, oatmeal, popcorn, and biscuits or crackers.

When buying fruits as vegetables, I suggest to stick to carrots, apples, and bananas because they’re often cheapest year-round. Buy a generic box of plain saltines or biscuits. For yogurt, always go for the tub! Never buy those tiny cups. Sure, they’re convenient, but it’s insanely cheaper to buy the tub. Another great option is buying cheese by the block, and cutting them up into cubes. Hard boiled eggs can be cooked and stored for later. A friend of mine suggested any kind of sausage you can cook and store away for later is another great option. I’ve been told they’re very tasty eaten cold, wrapped in cabbage with a little mustard, however, I’ve never tried that myself!

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Living Frugally: Is Money More Precious Than Time?

Many would say that saving money, particularly on food, requires a huge commitment of time and effort. And, that really is true in most cases. Cooking in bulk, clipping coupons, using grocery apps, and meal/budget planning before even leaving the house are big factors in saving money. And, all of these tasks require disciple, commitment, and a whole lot of time. Being frugal is indeed a time-consuming process – but a process that does pay off in a big way.

Over time, I’ve realized that this kind of investment of time isn’t always an option. When I ask others what stands in the way between them and their goals, the answer is always TIME and INVESTMENT. Over recent months, I’ve learned that even I find this way of life not ideal. Ideally, I would like to reduce the time and effort it takes to save money. You’ll notice this when you read some of my blog posts regarding concepts such as grocery delivery where time and effort are greatly reduced. Think crock-pots!

Truly, what’s the point of saving money, if you have no time to spend it elsewhere? Yes, saving money, living minimally, and frugally, is important to me, and I choose to live this way for numerous reasons, but that is not who I am. Balance, baby.

Before everything else, I am a wife, a daughter, and a friend – an optimist, a humanist, a lover of life, an educator, a poet, and a painter. Heck, most of my free time is actually spent gaming! Eventually, I’d like to learn to incorporate all these other parts of me into my blog. I’m sure my readers don’t actually think my life is just an array of throwing together tasty slop, clipping coupons, and writing about it!

What is the purpose of this post? (You don’t need to tell me I went off on a very obvious tangent – I see that :P) I just want to tell all of you that if you’re making progress, you’re doing everything right – keep pushing, keep grinding, but most importantly, be you always. Also, that I wrote this post for you just as much as I wrote it for myself.

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Ipsy Dipsy August

Through a friend’s referral, I was able to get my first Glambag for only $5! What can I say? I’m already in love. Not only was my Glambag valued at over $70, YES SEVENTY DOLLARS, each produce is absolutely amazing!

Any frugal fashion or beauty guru would be quick to tell you how fantastic the Ipsy Glambag is. However, no product subscription comes without a little gamble, am I right? In fact, you won’t know what products you will receive until it’s shipped. However, with Ipsy, you can easily receive five high quality, high-priced beauty products for only $10 a month! (both full-sized and large deluxe samples that are long-lasting!)

In my opinion, Ipsy is a fantastic way to not only discover new products, but also to build a collection of high quality make-up products without investing a lot of money doing so.

At first I thought – this really isn’t a very minimalist thing to do! And, in a way, it’s not. However, I don’t think that’s entirely true. I believe that having few high quality items that bring us joy and make us feel good about ourselves is a big part of what minimalism is all about. My suggestion? Well, we know these are great products, however, sometimes we simply have no interest or use for them. Instead of holding on to these products for the sake of holding on to them, consider trading or giving away with friends and family! In short: Use what you love, and let go (share) of the rest!

My favorite product in this month’s Glambag was definitely the Luseta’s Argan Oil Hair Masque. Not only does this masque keeps your hair soft and moisturizer for days at a time, it also prevents future tangling (and I have very long, very thick, easy to tangle hair!) So far, I’ve also noticed that it prevents my hair from getting oily in this hot and humid weather!

What did you gals receive in this month’s Glambag?

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Happy 26th Birthday To Me!

While journaling, I noticed a phrase repeated often, “I really need to redeem myself.” It feels like it hasn’t been “my year” for a few years now, and I really am ready to take my life back. I’m turning 26 years old tomorrow – my early 20’s are officially over. It is a good feeling to look back at all the progress made and times I faced adversity with a strong fist. It’s even a better feeling to have new and ongoing goals clearly paved along my road of life.

In celebration of a year wiser, here are 26 life lessons I’ve learned over 26 years of life:

1. You can do everything right, and still fail. If there is anything I’ve learned this year, it is that there will always be things you cannot control. It doesn’t matter how many right steps you’ve taken, it doesn’t matter how hard you’ve worked, the door may not open, you may not win.

2. Wellness is important. Your physical, mental, and emotional health make such a huge impact in other areas of your life. So, take care of you.

3. Money comes and goes, and you should enjoy your life now. However, if you are bad with money, you will suffer for it. At the same time, you can be very good with money, and STILL be poor. *So don’t be a judgemental twat!*

5. Take what everyone says with a grain of salt. Respect and trust experts (those who have dedicate their entire lives to their work.) However, the truth is – they can still be wrong. There is no one who will know what’s best for you. Only you know that. The best scientist, the best experiment, is you and your own life.

6. Too much of anything is a bad thing. Balance and moderation is key. Enjoy everything. Indulge. Don’t torture yourself. God, why would you want to do that anyhow? As far as anyone knows, we don’t get a second chance at life – make sure you enjoyed yourself.

6. You are not alone in this world.

7. You are who you spend the most time with. No one is resilient to the influences around you – in fact, you are your influences. Plain and simple. Want to be smart? Surround yourself with smart people. Want to be happy? Surround yourself with happy people.

8. You will know which friends to let go of and which friends to hold on to.

9. Some folks, like myself, are just different, unrelatable, and too weird for the mass majority of everyone else, and that’s O-K.

10. There isn’t anything you can’t write through.

11. Processed, convenience, and fast foods are bad for you. Stop being lazy and cook real food.

12. If it’s meant to be, you’ll be passionate about it. If you’re passionate, you’ll prioritize. Passionate people are busy people. They get shit done.

13. No one is perfect. We can’t always be our best 100% of the time.

14. Hard work and persistence isn’t enough. You need smarts and creativity to go the extra mile.

15. Just put yourself out there. Other people with similar interests will come to you, naturally.

16. Even the worst of the worst – you can get through. Sure, you won’t like it, but you’re human, and humans are resilient as fuck.

17. All we have is each other. You can do absolutely nothing alone. Help others, and remember we have nothing without the compassion of other human beings.

18. Your idea of success will not be the same as everyone else.

19. There is nothing more meaningful than giving yourself to others. There is nothing more useful than serving others. Personal growth and contribution. If you do anything at all with your life, do that.

20. We all worship. It doesn’t really matter what it is, at long as it makes you a better person. You may worship your God, you may worship the stars, you can worship other humans or even yourself – it doesn’t really matter. Just be a good human.

21. Removing yourself from the center of the universe could be the best thing you ever do for yourself.

22. The biggest freedom you have is your awareness. Your greatest privilege is what you know. Your access to education allows you to make informed decisions about anything and everything in your life.

23. The only person you should ever change for is you.

24. Start now – where you are and with what you have.

25. Invest in the inner self, not the outer self.

26. Love and relationships are sometimes easy, but most of the time they’re work. A lot of work.

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Frugal Foodie Funk

That is what I’m calling it! It could be the heat (I’m almost positive it’s the heat), or any number of things – however, I’ve been in this frugal foodie funk for nearly a month now! And, I might need your help getting out of it!

What do I mean by this? Well, not only have I been struggling with producing and maintaining meal plans, but I’ve also been lacking an appetite to cook both our favorites as well as exciting new recipes. Until just yesterday, I’ve have almost no appetite for the last month or so.

It wasn’t until my husband whipped up this fantastic bacon cheese burger (with all the fixing, I must add) that I was able to finally reignited my love for stuffing my face. My life-long love affair with taste and smell is no secret, but you could say there has been tension in our relationship. Due to a tight budget and an indifference to meal-time, I’ve been feeling almost defeated in the kitchen.

Have you guys every experienced something like this? Perhaps it’s time to shake things up. I’d love to know what your favorite frugal foods are. What is your go-to recipe when money is tight? Any favorite websites or blogs for recipe searching and sharing?

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Real Food IS Frugal Food

Fresh food, or what I like to call REAL food, really is the most cost effective way to eat. What do I mean by fresh food? Homemade, or “nearly” homemade meals. Meals that consist of mostly fresh ingredients (can and does include dry grains – rice, beans, oats, and pasta.)

Science and logic will tell us immediately that this is so.

We all know it’s better for us. It’s wholesome, and more likely to be nutritionally complete than any convenience meal. Sure, a packet of instant noodles can easy be eaten for 30 cents, but what are you really getting out of that? Not only is it a waste of money, but it is also terrible for you. A serving of oatmeal with a banana and a side of eggs is cheaper than your instant noodles or TV dinner. Same can be said about box mac n cheese, all canned foods, and most prepackaged meals or snacks.

We know this, yet, we are stuck in our ways. Why is that? There are many factors that prevent us from eating real food, even when we know it’s cheaper and better for us. Many roadblocks stand in the way: access, skill, and willpower, just to name a few. Even for me, I struggle with these roadblocks every day. I am not perfect. The act of living more frugally, healthfully, and with minimalism in mind is a on-going process. Living well is an on-going process. The real truth is this: It’s work. It’s hard work, and it’s even harder work depending on your income level, where you live, and how skilled you are in the kitchen.

My advice? Make the commitment, but don’t hold it against yourself. First and foremost, the journey should be exciting and rewarding. Life is too short to be punishing ourselves. Make small changes, build strong habits, and enjoy the journey. When things pay off, and they always do – when you feel good, when you look good, when your wallet is full, when your family smiles – celebrate.

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