Simplifying Meals and the Budget (So You Want to Be a Homesteader #19)

I am learning a lot this summer.  I am learning to simplify my meal plan, my shopping list, and my budget in order to save time, energy, and a whole lot of money that will be used for other things.

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Making cookies is super easy and keeps Pa from buying packaged.

My meals are usually pretty elaborate affairs.  I would always have a long menu plan filled with delicious looking recipes from magazines and cookbooks.  Great if I happen to have all of those ingredients (not usually), and if I happen to want that particular meal on the night allotted.  No?  Then we were out at a restaurant.

When do you think restaurants skyrocketed in price?  It seems like overnight but yet, a few years later, I am still shocked that $40-$60 is the average ticket for two of us!  We noticed how we feel, the extra weight gain, the heartburn and pinned it down to when we go out.  I generally serve much smaller portions and the food is fresh and additive free at home.  We also took a look at the average we were spending on restaurants in a month.  Lord, have mercy.  That is money that could certainly be used elsewhere.

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Eggs, a little milk, chopped spinach and chives, sprinkle of cheese, salt and pepper.  Bake at 350 degrees until a knife comes out clean.  About 20 minutes.

I have found a few ways to make meals super easy.  First, choose a side or a main.  What do I have in the freezer?  Do I feel like wild rice?  What is growing in the garden?  Basically, what do I have?  Chicken, rice, frozen peas, carrots….I can make a homemade cream of celery sauce (milk, flour, salt, celery…you don’t need to buy those cans of cream soup), and fresh salad from the garden.  I plan that the day before so I can defrost as needed.  Things don’t get wasted, nothing languishes in the back of the fridge, and we eat clean and simply.  If I am short one ingredient, I go get it.

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I plan Doug’s lunch the day before as well.  Leftovers?  Sandwiches?  Do I need to make bread?

Hot cereal or homemade yogurt and granola start the day.

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By taking out elaborate and processed foods, I have saved time, money, and a lot of stress.

Now for simplifying the budget; this is important!  I needed to glean through and find lots of money.  Wedding, down payments….I have my reasons.  We usually do the envelope system.  I have $200 allotted for groceries for the week.  I would take two weeks worth of money and go to the store with my elaborate lists and spend the amount.  Until I noticed that I have tons of staples, frozen foods, and vegetables growing in the garden.  I was spending the money just to spend the money!  So instead I only get what I need.  A short list at the end of the weeks of things like flour, yeast, coffee, etc.  We are saving $400 a month on groceries.

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So then I’m on a roll, ’cause Mama wants a bigger farm.  Where else am I spending just to spend?  Well, let’s just say I am busy spending only what I absolutely need to.  No dwindling “extra” money in envelopes and using the dreaded budget buster- the debit card.  I am saving an average of $800 a month!

Try it!  Don’t use credit cards.  Rarely use the debit card.  Pull out a hundred bucks and make it last as looooong as possible.  Use what you have.  Cook simply with what you have.  Try to sell some things and earn a little more and see how quickly things add up.

Simple=Peace of Mind

Our 30 Day Real Food Challenge’s Epic Failure

I told you about a month ago that we were going to embark on a journey of real food.  It sounded absolutely ridiculous that we were perhaps eating more lab created food then natural food.  But we somehow did invite the world of marketing into our pantry and seems we have a lot of boxes, bags, and frozen this and that.  Organic, but still super processed and lots of questionable ingredients.

I have gained five pounds so far.  Oh no, not from the real food, but because not two days in I defiantly remarked, “You can’t tell me what to do!”  To myself.  I instantly became all bent out of shape about having to cook three meals a day and everything from scratch.  I would spend the day baking bread, scones, looking at cracker recipes, mess up my kitchen, and then make Doug take me out to dinner.  We have been out a record amount of times this month.  

Doug had the idea in his head that we were going to have something like smoothies for breakfast, salads for lunch, and Buddha bowls for dinner.  Doesn’t that sound amazing?  Delicious, fresh, easy?  I can feel my stomach growling.  Sooo boring.

Let’s say I want tacos.  Well, I have to make the tortillas.  No problem.  Now, real meat or lab created veggie meat?  Okay, cheese or no cheese?  Lord, by the time I am done worrying about all this real food I am down at the Mexican restaurant slurping down a margarita.  I am a rather difficult housewife, it seems.

I am rereading, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver.  The author and her family embark on a journey of not just real food, but local food as well.  I stood in front of my impressive old pantry shelf filled with jars of staples and realized that not a single thing on it was produced locally.  I also have so many rogue ingredients from trying (or intending to try) one recipe.  I have so many things going rancid.  And nothing in my house is local save for what is now coming up in the garden and the eggs from the coop.

It is certainly difficult to rewire the brain.  Simplifying my recipes is the answer I am sure.  Local food.  Organic food.  In its original form.  Without all the overthinking.  But trying to figure out what to eat without the helpful addition of boxes, bags, and this and that, is actually rather difficult.  I had no idea we were so dependent.  Throw in moral dilemmas of meat or no meat and a tired housewife and you have yourself a predicament and an extra five pounds.

My friend laughs because I am actually a lot better at being healthy when I am not planning.  So, perhaps we are better if we just take one meal at a time.  One little change at a time.  One local food in, one box out.  One more walk around the lake.  We’re doing fine.

Birthday Travels Through the Southwest (and the year of learning and adventure)

As adults we don’t seem to celebrate birthdays with the same festivity as when we were children, but I think all birthdays are incredibly special.  Having lost many friends at a young age, I know that each birthday is a great time to reevaluate, reground, regroup, and to be filled with gratitude.  Each lesson leading into another great discovery and memories fill the spaces in our days and lives with those we love and experiences to treasure.

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Last year was my year of bravery.  I shaved off all of my hair for my birthday.  It was freeing and light and was like the world’s burdens had been lifted off of my shoulders.  Now of course I am trying to grow out with some semblance of normalcy!

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My birthday is Sunday.  This year is my year of adventure and learning.  My farm is ready to really increase food production with experiments, new gardens, and my greenhouse.  I am registered for school in the fall.  But before everything gets really amped up, we are going on a ten day trip through New Mexico and Arizona.

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We will be staying with our dear, dear friends, Monte and Erik, whom we haven’t seen since they moved away over three years ago.  My friend from high school (26 years since I have seen her) is down there, as is one of Doug’s (30 years), and my wonderful Great-Aunt Lila.  I have never been to Arizona and I am excited to see the land and the people.  There are restaurants, parks, and museums to discover!  Sun to soak up!  Glasses of wine to clink with dear ones.  The overnights to and from Arizona in New Mexico I look forward to and always savor.  Chimayo is calling me.  So, for the next ten days I will be reporting to you from the fabulous Southwest with inspirations, ideas, and life.

 

 

 

Falling in Love with Cactus at the Torta Grill

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We were forty-five minutes early so we walked to the nearest restaurant to grab something to eat.  We went into a small shop with a counter and a smaller counter by the window.  An entrepreneur’s dream with open kitchen and a simple but dazzling menu.  Our first thought is that Shyanne would love this place.  She is an artist and draws the ladies from the Day of the Dead.  The décor would have pleased her.  The young woman and man behind the counter spoke easy Spanish and English.  They both were smiling and helpful, explaining what the sandwiches were and the options.

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The Torta Grill’s specialty is what they call “authentic Mexican sandwiches”.  Now, y’all know I am not a fan of sandwiches.  These were a far cry from the ham and cheese, peanut butter and jelly, or turkey and cheese of our culture.  We stood looking up at the menu on the wall, taking in the slight cool breeze from the sweltering outdoors, and tried to decide.  The first line I read was “Enrique- eggs, cactus, panela cheese, crushed red peppers, and more cheese.”  I needed to look no further.

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The bread was similar to ciabatta but a bit softer, grilled to a perfect brown on the open grill.  He layered on a smear of black beans to one side and light, sweet mayo on the other.  Juicy, cut very thin tomatoes and marinated red onion topped the mayo side.  Then cold avocado, fresh, and flavorful topped that.  On the other side of the grill he was busy sautéing the eggs, cactus, and cheese.  He placed them on the bread, put it all together and sliced it deftly.  It was a thing of messy beauty.

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I was five bites in before I just took a fork to the thing pulling out separate components and dipping them in a hot, smoky chipotle sauce.  The cactus tasted like a sweeter green pepper, and wrapped in hot cheese made it irresistible.  I had the mini sandwich that was under five bucks and it filled me up.  Doug had an egg, steak, and cheese sandwich that I would love to tell you about it but while I was savoring chipotle and cactuses in silent bliss Doug devoured his.  These sandwiches were good.

The highlight of the Torta Grill was the juice offerings.  We had been walking a lot in a hundred degree heat and those thirty-two ounce drinks caught our attention immediately.  Doug had cucumber lemonade, perfect for a summer day.  I fell for a huge thing of horchata.  The cinnamon spiked milky drink was cold and delicious.

One of the positives of our current homeless, jobless situation is that we have been able to enjoy summer.  Every day for the past six years we stood on hot pavement under a farmer’s market tent, or watering our gardens, or milking goats, or making products for our Apothecary, or running our store.  This summer, while we can, we are playing in sprinklers with our granddaughter, swimming, hiking, visiting friends, and eating new things in new places, like cactus and panela in chipotle.  You must try this place if you are downtown!

The Torta Grill

1818 East Colfax Avenue

Denver, Co

A Weekend Away From the Farm (Nederland and Boulder)

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A weekend away is always a welcome respite.  Once babies are being born and farmer’s markets begin we will be busy on our farm so we welcome these few winter weekends when we can get away.  This time we went to Boulder and Nederland with our daughter, Emily, her boyfriend, Bret, and our granddaughter, Maryjane.

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We met the kids in Boulder for lunch on Pearl Street Mall.  This strip of shops doesn’t have cars on it, just people walking, musicians playing, as well as jugglers, acrobats, and unique talents.  We went to a deli for a quick lunch before heading to our hotel.

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We barter herbal medicines for stays at this historic and lovely bed and breakfast in the Boulder canyon.  The Alps is owned by a very nice couple, Jeannine and John.  We are lucky to have made friends with these fine folks and that we have had the opportunity to stay here several times over the years.  The rooms have large tubs, fireplaces, and delicious breakfast.

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Is there anything more precious than time with loved ones?

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Saturday we headed to Nederland where a gentleman named Grandpa is cryogenically frozen waiting for new technology to bring him back.  They have a dead guy festival in the spring.

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We visited fun stores and walked across a fabulous bridge to get to the Carousel of Happiness.

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Upstairs there is a do-it-yourself puppet show.

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There were many great offerings of restaurants in Nederland and we decided to try Katmandu, a Tibetan restaurant.  We really enjoyed the fare there.

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We drove up the mountain roads in an attempt to get the baby asleep.  This allowed us to find some amazing scenery of the city at dusk.

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It was getting colder as a storm came in so our activities were limited to indoors.  We ate at great restaurants and visited the book store where Maryjane met new friends.

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It’s always nice to have a change of scenery now and again.  This lifestyle allows us the freedom to take some time away to just relax and make new memories with our family in the winter.

Wishing you are restful winter and wonderful memories.