Simple Daily Planning

In my last post, I discussed how living a simple life can get complicated and that planning was essential to keep it all organized.

So today I want to give you a peek into my daily planning process!

I’ve tried planners, phone calendars, white boards, you name it. My favorite planning tool so far? A notebook and colorful pens (colors are optional – it just makes it more fun for me).

Tools aren’t for everyone

Before I dive in, it’s important to note that tools are definitely good for some people, and they are definitely bad for others. For example, I can’t get into tools that are online or on mobile devices because there are infinite ways to get distracted.

I’ve also been working on getting into daily planners (my current one breaks each day down hour by hour and has space to prioritize goals). I start the day neatly, but I end up just writing all over them without actually putting anything where it’s supposed to be.

So don’t feel compelled to use a certain tool if you’re just not into it – work with yourself, not against yourself.

Make it a pleasant habit

Don’t force planning if you’re not feeling it. Allow yourself time to get into a good headspace before you start breaking down your day, or else you’ll over- or under-whelm yourself with to-dos.

I like to wait until I’ve had some breakfast and have a fresh cup of coffee poured before I even consider planning.

I broke down and bought an unnecessary package of colorful pens for that same reason – I wanted to make this a fun process, not a frustrating one. I take my time and practice my cursive (am I the only one who still loves handwriting?)

PlanningNotebook

Keep it organized and don’t overdo it

I start by listing the date (mostly just for fun), then I break my to-do list down into sections. I’m focusing on creating a balance for myself this year, so I break it down into home, work, and personal categories.

Planning

As much as possible, I keep it to about three items per section. Work, of course, is my work goals for the day. Personal is where I put blogging, self-care, exercise, etc. Home is for housework – usually something to do with cleaning the rabbit’s cage, cooking meals, or soaking beans.

The goal for your goals is to be able to complete them all in a days time. So don’t set a full day’s worth of goals for home while also setting a full day’s worth of goals for work.

I’m starting to get into the practice of trimming the list down after I’ve made it, just so that I can be sure to complete everything. There’s nothing worse than seeing a list with only one thing crossed off of it at the end of the day.

First things first

Once you’re done with your planning, check if there’s anything you can do in a few minutes. Clearing clutter or tossing dishes into the dishwasher is usually an easy first step.

If I’ve made “read twenty pages” a goal for the day and I haven’t yet finished my coffee, I’ll pull my book out and get to work. Basically, if there’s anything easy or that fits your current situation on your list, do that first.

I’ve also started to shift the order of my planning & processing of the day’s to-dos. Instead of getting work and home stuff out of the way first, I focus on the personal category. Why?

Because that’s always the category that doesn’t get crossed off. So be kind to yourself and try to do what you can for yourself before everything else, and you’ll feel a lot more positive energy to do the rest of it.

So there’s a look at how I plan my day! Do you have a planning habit?

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Cheap Food February: Week 2

I’m going to be honest: I forgot to save my receipts and track exactly what I got this past week.

But I do know that I made it in around the $70 mark! I’ve got next week’s receipt sitting beside me as I type this, and I’m going to keep track this time for sure.

Before I dive into specifics (as best as I can), I can tell you one very important thing we’ve learned so far: staying stocked on the essentials is, well, essential.

Staying stocked up and a confession

Our existing stock has helped us get further into this month than I had anticipated, but it’s starting to run out. Specifically flour, oats, honey, peanut butter and jalapeno sauce (you may laugh, but we usually have a few bottles on hand since we use it all the time).

Staying stocked up may sound counter-intuitive to a minimalist lifestyle, but I learned a practical tip from an old friend: use your dry ingredients as decorations.

Decorate your kitchen, your bookshelves, the top of your cupboards – anywhere you want – with ball jars of dry ingredients. It looks lovely, saves on decor costs, and you always have things like flour, oats, and beans on hand.

Ball Jars Dry Goods

Now for the confession: for the purpose of this experiment, I’ve been taking the cost of most stock-up supplies out of my weekly calculations. Since we have been using tons of rice and beans, those are all included in my calculations.

I’d estimate it adds up to an extra $20 or so each month for things that will stretch past one or two meals – flour, peanut butter, honey, sauces, tea. But when I need these things, I try to get bulk or sale as much as I can.

Our grocery list for week two

So here’s what we got! Remember, this is a rough estimate (especially when it comes to bulk items). I only know that we stayed around $70.

  • 1 lb chickpeas
  • 1 lb black beans
  • 1 lb white rice (wanted brown, but it was out of stock)
  • 2 bunches of kale (most of which went to the rabbits)
  • 2 bags frozen corn
  • 10 Roma tomatoes
  • 1 lb jar of minced garlic
  • 6 zucchini squashes
  • 1 bunch green onions
  • 4 bags frozen brussel sprouts
  • 4 bags frozen cauliflower florets
  • 5 lbs carrots
  • 1 dozen eggs
  • 2 bags frozen spinach
  • 1 bunch bananas
  • 24 oz honey
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 3 lbs red onions
  • 8 burrito-sized tortillas
  • 16 oz shredded mozzarella

Looking at it now, that’s a ton of food! We save by getting frozen veggies, dry goods and very few processed foods. We had a hankering for bean burritos, hence the tortillas and cheese. I only get cheese once every couple of months or so, because it’s expensive, not highly nutritious and I also tend to eat it straight out of the bag until it’s gone.

Some of our favorite meals

I was able to do a lot with this haul. We drank smoothies every day, and I was able to make some amazing granola bars from the Minimalist Baker. They’re my absolute favorite, and I throw in any additional seeds or nuts I have available for an extra boost. If you don’t already love Minimalist Baker, I recommend them for simple, delicious recipe inspiration.

I made burritos with these restaurant-style black beans. I threw in rice, beans, frozen corn, red pepper, homemade salsa, mozzarella and some lettuce. I wrapped and kept them individually in foil so they stayed together when I reheated them as leftovers.

Burritos in foil

I tossed the rest of the homemade salsa (a random mix of onions, tomatoes, cilantro and jalapenos) into rice as a substitute for some of the liquid, cooked it up and topped it with a poached egg for another evening.

We also had this vegan black bean soup, which was ah-may-zing over rice and also over zucchini noodles.

Roasted chickpeas are an addictive snack if you’re looking for a cheap alternative to chips. You can even make a honey version for when that sweet tooth comes on strong. For the adventurous, save the water you cook your chickpeas in (which is actually called aquafaba) – you can make vegan chocolate mousse with it.

There you have it! Week two, in the bag. Look forward to our notes on week three sometime next weekend. Week three’s goal is $65, and we’ve already spent $53 in preparation. Wish us luck.

Why I Stopped Thrifting

Four our five years ago, while I was still in college, you could usually find me at Goodwill on the weekends. You could usually find me shopping the sale racks at super-cheap mall stores too.

It wasn’t that I was donating things or using the one-in/one-out strategy that keeps so many closets in check. In fact, I think it was my frequent thrifting that took my two closets from stuffed to overstuffed.

I still love thrift shops

Before I talk about the reasons why I no longer thrift, I need to clarify: I love buying secondhand. I think thrift stores are an amazing way to get things you need without contributing directly to the worlds of fast fashion and fast everything.

What I don’t love is thrifting for the sake of thrifting – it became a mindless habit for me and I didn’t really need the things I usually brought home with me.


Source: Know Your Meme

Blinded by the price

One of the big issues I now find with my thrifting was that I too often saw something that looked interesting and bought it based on price alone.

It doesn’t fit perfectly? Well it’s only five bucks. It has a stain or a tear? Well it’s half off and I could probably fix it or wash it out.

I ended up with a bunch of cheap clothing that looked and felt cheap. I would wear something once and realize I didn’t like it as much as I had initially thought. At that point it would fall to the depths of my closet and I wouldn’t see it until years later when I started my simplicity journey.

The mindless shopper

I was also a mindless shopper. I would go to Goodwill when I was bored or when I had extra time. I think I was even using thrifting as a way to cope with stress.

If I had a bad week, I’d go buy a blazer that was too big for me. If I had a good week, I’d buy a dress that maybe actually got worn more than once.

You get the picture – it was just as bad of a habit as going to the mall with a credit card and no real reason to be there. I’d buy fun things to put on my desk, my nightstand, my walls, and none of it was there intentionally. It was just there.

How I buy secondhand

Now I only go to Goodwill when I need to. On Halloween, my husband and I were able to get almost everything we needed for our costumes there (we went as Bojack and Princess Carolyn from a show called Bojack Horseman).

When I do go, I try to have a very specific intention. Am I there for workout gear? Then stay away from the dresses.

I’ve also found that buying online is helpful (eBay and Shop Goodwill are my favorites). Buying secondhand things online is a little risky since you can’t see exactly what you’re getting beforehand, but that adds just enough hesitation to the process. That way, if you really don’t need something, you have a little more time to think it through.

I wrote a post over two years ago about dressing like a million bucks (without spending a ton) that still holds true.

Speaking of clothing, I am planning a wardrobe overhaul this year. There are quite a few pieces that used to bring me joy that don’t anymore, and I’ve been researching some ethical clothing brands that I may integrate into my wardrobe along with quality used items. As always, it’ll be an intentional process with a simple outcome. So look out for posts in the coming months about that!

What shopping habits do you have (good or bad)?

Cheap Food February

We made it through the first week of February! I’m still reeling from the fact that it’s even 2016…but time marches on, whether we’re ready or not.

Like I said in an earlier post, we’re going to explore different monthly challenges. This month was going to be vegan month, but it came up so quickly and our budget wasn’t quite ready for all the vegan exploring we wanted to do.

So naturally, we came up with Cheap Food February.

Cheap Food February

What we mean by cheap food

I don’t mean that we’re going to eat dollar-menu takeout every day. I also don’t mean that we’re going to be eating Instant Ramen or macaroni and cheese.

The goal for the month is to fill up on healthy, inexpensive foods like beans, potatoes, eggs, rice, frozen and fresh veggies, and certain fruits. We’ll be eating chicken occasionally, but since I’m not a big fan, it will probably be once every week or two.

We’re exploring new recipes and planning carefully to avoid food waste.

How much are we going to spend?

A middle-of-the road food budget for two is around $550. I think there have been months where we get close to that, but typically we’re under $450. It can be difficult to determine exactly because the bunnies cost us around $50 in fresh veggies each month, and we often share their kale, parsley, and cilantro.

For the first week, we planned to spend $80. We have spent $68.41, but we’ve also had a lot of dry ingredients and leftovers from last week that have helped keep it low.

For the next three weeks, we’re going to vary our costs:

  • Week Two: $70
  • Week Three: $65
  • Week Four: $60

None of these will include rabbit food expenses or booze expenses. We’re only planning on going out for food once (maybe for my birthday on the 18th, but I actually might prefer to stay in and cook).

Also worth noting: we are using cash only for groceries so that we can keep a good tally of what we’re spending and to avoid going over our budget. It’s new for me, since I’m surprisingly not a very mindful grocery shopper.

What we ate this week

So, what did we buy with our $68.41?

  • Kroger brand olive oil
  • 4 packages of frozen cauliflower
  • 4 packages of frozen brussels sprouts
  • 2 lbs zucchini
  • 4.5 lbs sweet potatoes
  • 5 lbs golden potatoes
  • 1.5 lbs on-the-vine tomatoes
  • 1.25 lbs leeks
  • 2 avocados
  • 2 green bell peppers
  • 1 orange bell pepper
  • 1 gallon coconut milk
  • 2 lbs chicken breast
  • 2 cans mixed beans
  • 2 cans organic crushed tomatoes

We didn’t need rice, oats, eggs or any spices this week – that’s the key to this. Stock up on bulk dry goods and spices when you can, then you can eat kingly foods on a meager budget.

I could have saved a bit more by just buying bulk dry beans instead of the canned ones, but I didn’t get my act together in time to soak and cook them before dinner.

Here’s what we’ve made and links to the recipes we used:

FullSizeRender (7).jpg

Super simple mixed bean chili

FullSizeRender (6).jpg

Roasted veggies are my life

I also made a couple of egg and rice dishes to get through ingredients before they went bad, but no recipes worth sharing.

We supplemented everything with green smoothies made from frozen spinach and fruit that we had on hand.

Next week will be more interesting because we’re running low on existing supplies! Plus, I want to add in a few more raw things like salads and more spiralized goodness (we just got a spiralizer with my husband’s birthday money, and it was well spent).

What are your favorite healthy, inexpensive recipes?

Avoiding Last Minute Food Waste

I just returned from another successful visit home! Since we didn’t go home for the holidays, we planned a trip back this month. It was a great visit, but as always it’s good to be back in the swing of things.

With all this traveling, our bank account and our refrigerator have been seriously struggling – one is too empty and the other is too full.

So how can I make sure to not waste the food I’ve worked hard to pay for? Not to mention save myself the anguish of having to throw away food when there are others in my own city that are going hungry.

Welcome to Food Saving 101: for the unprepared beginner.

Too much, too late

I often find myself in this predicament, despite adequate planning: I have too much fresh food and only a day or two to deal with it.

Sometimes I just throw it all into a smoothie and hope it works out. But there are better ways to handle it!

Here are my tips to saving your food before vacation or if you just can’t seem to eat it fast enough. Please note that I am not a food-prep expert, so these tips are just what have worked for me.

Plan

This is the best way to avoid a last-minute excess. Sit down and plan out every single meal and snack for the five days leading up to your trip. Think of recipes that allow for variables: smoothies, salads and pasta dishes can usually knock out a few stray veggies.

You may alter your meal plan to include more dry or frozen items in the week leading up to a trip so that you don’t have to worry about spoilage.

I’ll even add some frozen pizzas onto the shopping list so that I can fall back on those if I end up not getting enough.

Prepare

One or two days before you leave, evaluate your food situation. Still too much? Then it’s time to get smart with how to save it.

Freeze it whole

When bananas are on their way out, I toss them whole into the freezer. Same goes for any leafy greens that I want later for smoothies. I also toss jalapenos and ginger whole into the freezer.

For easy meal prep when you return, chop up peppers, squash or zucchini. Or whatever you find yourself in need of chopping later on.

Get saucy

My kitchen looked like a science lab a couple weeks ago: things were bubbling, beeping and it all smelled really odd. That’s because I was making sauces.

I cut up all my leftover apples that wouldn’t survive the ten days we were gone and tossed them with some cinnamon and water into the crock pot. Boom, applesauce.

I threw some spices, cilantro, onions, tomatoes and jalapenos into the blender. Boom, salsa.

I mashed up some avocados with our last bit of sour cream (and some cilantro, lime juice and spices) and boom, guacamole.

I tossed all of these into tupperware (I used a ziplock bag for the guacamole) and then into the freezer. I was so happy to have this all prepared when I returned this week.

I have no set process for this, but I did pull everything that was going to spoil out of the fridge. I took some time to look it all over and to think about how I would really use it when I returned ten days later.

Also, learn from my mistakes: label your food. For some reason, the applesauce and the salsa kind of ended up looking the same, so I accidentally made some really funky applesauce beans and rice this week.

Cook it down

If you have a little extra time, roast your veggies before tossing them into the freezer. Future busy-you will thank you for it. Same goes for soups! Just take them out a day or so before you need them and they’re a great leftover meal option.

I also had a ton of extra cooked beans (I buy them dry), and they stood up well in the freezer too.

Moral of the story, the freezer is your friend.

Keeping it all clean

At the end of all this prep, I recommend that you give your fridge a good cleaning.

Get rid of expired things, leftovers and just generally anything that is or could get gross. I see it as doing yourself a favor because there’s something almost as bad as having to waste food: having to clean up moldy food.

I know this isn’t as typical as my other posts, but I got a lot out of this process and I think it will help me avoid food waste in the future. So I decided to share!

What are your best tips for avoiding food waste?

A California Christmas

We’ll be home for Christmas. But in a different way – we’re going to spend Christmas at our home in California instead of our home in Indiana.

So this year I really want to design a Christmas around that idea – we are home. Our Christmas plans will look different from year to year, but a lot of what I said last year about the holidays still rings true. Especially the part about trying to focus on experiences over things for Christmas.

So let’s take a peek at five of the big pieces of our holiday this year.

Christmas California

Home

I love Christmas lights, but for some reason I’m not crazy about other seasonal decorations. My husband loves it though, so I picked up a few different festive items and did what I could to make the apartment cheerful (and not overwhelming).

Alternative Christmas Tree

Our Christmas Tree

We even decorated the bunny cage with little ornaments and some garland. The most important decorations were actually candles, because we love the ambiance that the scent of winter pine brings to our space.

The best part? We can store these decorations in a space smaller than a shoe box.

Gifts

Again, we’re keeping it simple. For the nephews (six of them under the age of 12), we got walkie-talkies – a gift that is only fun if you’re spending time with others. I loved the idea of them running around the house, radioing to each other like secret agents.

[SPOILER ALERT] For the grownups, we did what we felt each family member would use or appreciate most. We gave practical things like gift cards, fun & useful coffee mugs and I even found some awesome glass straws for my smoothie-loving mother.

We also did something new this year for a few of our family members – we donated to charities in their honor. We picked a different charity for everyone we did this for, because we wanted it to be relevant and meaningful to each of them.

Family

We miss everyone terribly this season, but we’re so fortunate to have the communication we do with everyone. Calling, texting and skyping keep us all almost close enough to touch.

To reach out even a little further, we took Christmas photos of us and the bunnies and are sending out hand-written cards to let grandparents, friends and other family members know that we’re thinking about them.Christmas Cards

Even sitting down to write the cards has helped with those holiday blues I wrote about in my last post.

Charity

Since we don’t have a lot of holiday parties to go to this year, we’re going to spend a little bit of Christmas Eve volunteering and serving food for those in need.

We’ve both been feeling like it’s time to start sharing our time more with others who need it, so I think this is a start to something we can pick up in 2016!

I wanted to share this little tidbit since I think it might be a good option for people celebrating holidays far from home, and it might serve as a starting point for our future holidays in California.

Togetherness

This is the most important for us this year. Instead of gifts, we’re investing in strategic, sit-down-and-talk-to-me games.

King of Tokyo and Rivals for Catan are our most recent additions.

My husband has some holiday time off, so we’re going to spend our days exploring new places in LA, planning for 2016 and playing games to our hearts’ content.

Because being together is what it’s really about, right?

Happy Holidays!

 

A Minimalist Apartment Tour

Happy Friday!

I want to kick off this glorious, autumn-in-LA morning with a tour of my home. We’ve lived in Los Angeles for ten months and have slowly added things back into our life based on our needs and our values.

We are a far cry from where we were in Indianapolis a year ago, drowning in stuff we didn’t need and didn’t love.

But first, I want to share my best tip for avoiding new purchases for your home.

How to not buy new home decor

I often catch myself saying things like “what if we got just one more chair…” but I know that’s not something that will truly bring me happiness. I’m guessing that you’ve said something like that too.

The other day, I actually considered getting a bar cart for a random corner of the apartment. Sure, it sounds cool, but it’s one more thing to wipe rabbit hair off of. And I doubt that prominently displaying our liquor will help with us in our efforts to trim back on the booze.

So what do I do when I’m sick of the way things are and want to add in a new piece? Hint: it’s not new throw pillows.

I rearrange the furniture.

When the room no longer feels “right” to me, I move things around. I have relocated our furniture no less than five times in ten months. This last switch actually has hit the right chord for me and made me never want to move out of this apartment. I love this space more than ever, all thanks to some heavy lifting.

So there you have it: to change the entire look and feel of a room without spending a dime, rearrange the furniture.

Our minimalist apartment tour

Remember how I said minimalism can be colorful? My minimalism is definitely not for the monochromatic crowd, so prepare yourself accordingly.

First, the main space where we eat, work and relax:

Apartment Tour - Living Room Apartment Tour - Table Apartment Tour - Desk

We’ve covered the whole space in giant rugs so that our rabbits can frolic freely, which I love because it brings so much color to the room.

Next, the bedroom and bathroom:

Apartment Tour - Bedroom Apartment Tour - Bathroom

Again, colorful and bright – I can’t get over how many windows are in this place. What sold me on our apartment in Indianapolis was that it had three windows, compared to most other places having only two. This apartment has five huge windows that keeps things so cheerful that I can’t help but smile.

And finally, our kitchen:

Apartment Tour - KitchenApartment Tour - SpicesI decided to bring all the spices and many dry ingredients out of (and off of) the cupboards because I want them to be easily accessible and I want to be aware of what I have on hand at all times.

Personal tidbits

To finish this post off, I want to share a couple spaces that make our apartment really ours. Especially since it’s basically an IKEA showroom.

As silly as they look, these odds and ends are meaningful to us:

Apartment Tour - Toys Apartment Tour - Nightstand

I just wanted to show that you can dedicate space in your home to collections of things that truly bring you joy. Minimalism isn’t about getting rid of meaningful collections – it’s about getting rid of meaningless excess.

And of course, I want to wrap this up by saying this: these photos were taken when our apartment was freshly cleaned. I cropped out the dirty laundry and kept the rabbits’ litterboxes out of sight. I tend to compare my reality with what I see on blogs, so just know this: six out of seven days a week, my apartment is not nearly this clean.

I love all the colors in my home. What part of your home do you love the most?