Sunday, March 23, 2014

Whole Food Plant Based on a (Minimalist) Budget

The New Rules
Every month, we spend a higher majority of money on food than any other expense. Not because we NEED to but because we like to eat out and we are sometimes very lazy (or tired) during the week.

When we took a much closer look at our spending habits, food was the easiest and hardest to drastically change. We made some new rules which we have been following for over a month now:

- Eat one meal out together each week
- Go to Starbucks/other coffee spot once a week
- Buy lunch for ourselves once a week
- Shop at the Hollywood Farmers Market every Sunday, buy anything we can't get there at Whole Foods or Trader Joes

These four rules have helped us cut our spending on food by almost HALF last month! Spending cash at the farmers market also makes us think more about how much we're spending on items since we only bring about $40 or $50 each visit. 

We knew we were being a little reckless with our food spending but we were too lazy to change our ways. Then, I saw how much I owe the government in student loans and believe me, that was enough to make me want to eat cheap ramen for the next year (not really, that would be gross).

The Weekly Haul
The husband is on a spring break trip this week so this is all just for me. I am going out with friends tonight but other than that, I plan on eating at home and bringing lunch all week. I spent $49 (including $3 for parking) on groceries. This includes almond milk which will last me a few weeks and eggs which will definitely not be gone by next weekend. Normally, we spend about $70-80 per week for two of us.

The Haul
 I try to eat a whole-food, plant-based diet (pretty much vegan except that I eat eggs at home from Lily's Eggs, pictured above, or Vital Farms which is certified humane).
It would have been a little cheaper to buy the rice from TJ's or Whole Foods bulk bin but instead, I supported a local farmer at the market. 
 The lettuce was such an amazing deal and last week, we bought four and one of them has made it until today and is still fresh and crisp!
I normally also buy tangerines or some kind of citrus but decided to buy extra cucumbers to snack on instead this week. I consumer tomatoes and cucumbers at an alarming rate anyway, so we'll see how long they last.
Japanese cucumbers: AMAZING! I went with four "aesthetically defective" avocados at $1 each because they still taste amazing and who doesn't love the underdog? Those two bunches of kale were only $3 and the four heads of lettuce were $5! That's all my greens for the week.
I bought one basket of these tomatoes. Should have bought two, they are so delicious.

The Menu
I like to take Matt Frazier's advice from No Meat Athlete and cook as simply as possibly during the week. The menu this week will consist of:
- Brown rice, kale, and black beans (from a previous farmers market trip) with some kind of homemade tahini sauce
- My favorite meal in one bowl: brown rice, tomato, cucumber, onion (the tops of the ones pictures), avocado, and soy sauce. It's like veggie sushi in a bowl!
- Giant salad with Frank's sauced tofu
- Tofu scramble with tomatoes, onions, and red pepper
- Garlic stir fry with broccoli, kale, red pepper, onions, and beans over brown rice
- 2 eggs, cucumber tomato salad, and a yummy smoothy (fresh banana, frozen strawberries, some greens, ground flax and almond milk)

We both value supporting local farmers and our awesome Hollywood Farmers Market, so this weekly trip has been great. Plus, we get an hour and a half together on Sunday morning when we are not rushing or thinking about other things and we share the load (literally) of shopping!

What's your method for keeping your food budget in check? Any awesome tips and tricks?

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Why I'm Learning to Write

In order to finish my graduate program and magically be ordained a rabbi next year, I need to complete a traditional thesis or capstone project.

I chose to write a capstone project and will embark on a journey to learn about ethics, Judaism, and food in order to write an ethical cookbook. The finished project should be about 80 written pages and I am so scared about writing those 80 pages.

Why "learn" to write?

Writing is an important medium we have at our disposal to share ideas with one another. Here I am, blogging away...showing you the thoughts that swirl around in my brain only to be plucked to the top, scooped out and splashed back onto the page in letters and sentences. Pretty cool, right!? I get to show you what's going on inside my head just through this act of writing.

In order to be most successful at completing my capstone and writing worthwhile material here and in other places, I'm embarking on a journey to really learn to write.

I plan to start with Chuck Wendig's ebook 250 Things You Should Know About Writing and basically ravaging any wonderful writing books and blogs I can get my hands on.

Words matter and I want all of the words I send out into the world to make an impact. This, in itself, feels like a very minimalist idea and I'm stoked to begin.

What books or blogs have you read that inspire you to be a better writer?

Friday, March 7, 2014

The Highest Compliment

We had a friend come over yesterday who was last here a few months ago. She came in, looked around for a minute and then said, "Your place looks so clean! It looks great!" I was over the moon!

The fact is that our apartment DOES look cleaner and great. Since getting rid of clutter out front and minimizing the amount of things that "live" in the area, the front part of the house is a cinch to clean up. A piece of mail here, a coat into the closet there...viola! It's so nice!

Not to mention it makes vacuuming easier...even though neither of us fight over being able to vaccum.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Paring Down - The Monster Email Inbox

One of my greatest sources of stress recently was my HUGE inbox with overwhelming numbers of emails. I had over 15,000 saved emails in two main accounts!! 15,000!!!

It took a few days and a bit of stress to be clicking constantly on "Select All" and "Delete" but I finally got rid of almost ALL of those emails. BUH BYE!

Here are a few tips I discovered when paring down my own email inbox:

1. Don't become overwhelmed. If you're like me and had 8,000 emails in an inbox, chances are that you don't need most of them. Think about emails that you may want/need to keep before starting and then like other things, be ruthless!

2. Important things will come back to you. A friend gave me this tip. Ongoing conversations in Gmail will ALL come back to you when the other person replies. So, if you don't need those previous emails right now, delete it and the whole thread will show up again when they reply.

3. It's all about upkeep! To keep my inboxes clean after the big purge, I have to continually get rid of things each day so the inbox doesn't get cluttered again. It happens easily with email but if you try hard to maintain a clean inbox, it feels so nice to have less emails floating around.

4. It seems silly but you'll feel so much better when you're done. A clean inbox is a happy inbox? I don't know why, but once I got rid of all those unwanted emails, my brain felt less cluttered and I felt like I had accomplished a decluttering action. It felt great!

Anyone else done a big purge before!? Any tips I missed here?

Monday, March 3, 2014

Letting Go - The Hope Chest

As I continue down the path towards minimalism, I find that for me, letting go of bigger items remains difficult.

My husband gave me a hope chest in 2004 or 2005. It is from Ikea so we're not talking expensive or antique but I had always wanted a hope chest and it was a very thoughtful gift. He built it in my childhood bedroom and I came home to discover my lovely Chanukah gift waiting for me.

In our new apartment, the hope chest never found its own spot. It has been full of our board games and blankets, what it normally houses, but has sat dustily and awkwardly in a corner since May. Since we are trying to minimize the things simply taking up space in our home, I suggested we sell the hope chest.

My husband had no problem with my letting go of his gift but I had a hard time letting go of its sentimental value. Now that we have sold it on Craigslist and that spot sits empty, I have learned (again, just like with my briefcase) that having one less possession leaves more room for other things to fill that space in which to live.

And again, I find comfort in knowing that the hope chest will be used in its new residence.