Consume less, Waste less, Spend less – First Month Overview

My Dear Readers,

This first month of living on a budget (pretty strict budget) is over. As much as it feels like a relief, I am anxious to start the new month. I already put a February budget together: I did not make it as strict as January but I still made sure to be on track with my new year’s financial goal that I set for myself. I think it’s important to mention that living  with a modest budget keeps us on track of living below our means. Living paycheck to paychek is not in our plans. Instead of figuring out how to make ends meet, we will work on having fewer ends.

There are a few takeaways that I would  like to share with you. Some of those are funny, some are a little tough to share and some might be just plain every day things that most of you do. 

First of all, my husband and I are still on a simplifying & downsizing journey. As a result, he caught a “selling” bug and we sold about $500 worth of random things. Those were old phones that we had in the house, some toys that our toddler wasn’t playing with, some household items that nobody cared for. Things that we didn’t sell in the first couple weeks, we donated to Salvation Army & shared with friends. I also dropped off some toddler clothes & toys to the second hand kids store resulting in some nice store credit. We will need some spring gear for the little man, so it worked out perfect. One of the things that I was having a little bit of a hard time departing with was my wedding dress. I was trying to sell it for a while but I couldn’t imaging having tons of girls going through my home, trying it on. It didn’t feel right. It wasn’t worth much so I didn’t want to spend tons of energy trying getting rid of it. At one point I thought: if getting rid of it is the right move for me, the Universe will show me the way how to do it. And It sure did. One day, I drove by a small wedding shop that I’ve never seen, emailed the owner asking if she knows any place in town that take donations and there absolutely is one. There is a group in town that takes wedding gowns to make dresses for infants that were not meant to come to this world. I cried after I donated it. And not because I felt sorry departing from a gown that I worn once and will never do it again. Not because of some myths that if in this life I will have a daughter, she will wear it (silly myth anyways, why I would force my child to wear something out of an obligation?) I cried because It felt like it was the right thing to do for a great beautiful cause. God willing, my dress will not be used, but there are things that happen in life that we have no control over. 

Alright, enough sadness. Quick note, my January budget was strict – I already mentioned it. I didn’t allocate any money towards clothes or any extras towards cosmetics and other things that we girls like. Although, i did have an emergency! I ran out of mascara! One morning, my mascara made that ‘pop’ noise.. ‘Pop’ like there is an air in the tube and not a drop of a product left!! I surely treated it as an emergency. But you know what I did? I pulled $30 out of my food budget (I have very few items but those are very good quality items) and used it to buy a nice organic, not tested on animals Dr. Hauschka mascara. Love it! Here she is – my emergency 🙂 


Other than that, this months went pretty flawless. We used food out of a pantry, wore what we have, didn’t drink much wine, didn’t have any take outs but made sure we went out with a couple friends to keep our social life going. When I had something non-urgent popped up that I needed (or wanted), I put it on the next month’s budget. At the end, it felt good. It felt like we didn’t use any non-essential resources from our Earth, we didn’t spend any unnecessary funds that could have gone to a better cause. We treated people around us good as always, we read, studied, played outside, played at the house, worked hard and volunteered. There are lots of things in this life besides shopping and mindless time spending. 

I absolutely look forward to next month! Will keep you posted 🙂

Cheers,

Y

Minimizing spendings & consumption: week 1

Today is Saturday and I am proud of myself: since the first day of the New Year, I have not had a single cup of coffee (made or purchased, would be $4 per cup at the coffee shop), have not had a single glass of wine ( we are not big drinkers but used to enjoy a glass or two occasionally (that is $15 per bottle & $10 per glass at a restaurant) – removing it is a part of the overall life cleanse now), have not purchased a single lunch which would be $12 per meal (I pre-cooked and brought meals with me to the office; we had a lunch date with Hubbs on Friday but it was within the planned budget) and I made $30 on the things that were never used in the house. Pretty nice savings on my part for the first week of the year. 🙂

All of these steps are my current actions to achieve my  financial and overall lifestyle goals for 2017. Some of the goals include: minimizing coffee & wine intake (reducing consumption and detoxifying my body), without a doubt continuing with vegan organic lifestyle (it’s been 10 months and we still are going strong), saving my emergency fund (I am a big fan of Dave Ramsey’s snowball plan & all his money makeover books (If you are familiar, you will know which step I am on)) and minimizing/decluttering as much as I can (if I can make a few dollars on that, my savings will be happy). I made those goals measurable so I wouldn’t lose track.

We all make new year resolutions but for the most part those are just wishes until we have a game plan and start acting on it. I turned my wishes into goals and lists of actions. I will be reporting my progress here as well, so I wouldn’t lose track.

In a meantime…I have two boxes in my car ready to be dropped off at a donation location, a box of old photos that I am taking pictures off to save on my computer later so I can  eliminate actual physical pictures and… I emailed a local shelter to see if anybody there is in need of a wedding dress. Here it is; here is it what I’ve been doing/thinking of lately.

Cheers,

YM

Pantry & Fridge Staples: menu update

Hello friends,

It has been a few months since my husband and I adopted vegan lifestyle and I thought an update on our daily menu would be nice. My first post was looking way too fancy and to be honest, nothing of this is happening in our everyday life. First, who has so much time for this? And second, it can get expensive. Here are our current basic menu and pantry staples to give you some ideas. You can make veganism as expensive as it can be or prove that vegan can be very affordable and actually save you some money.fru

My main mantra in our family is that we try to minimize our food waste (it is absolutely hard to do when everything is wrapped in plastic but at least we recycle most of it), keep meals simple and healthy. So I tend to use up what I have first before buying anything new. Here are my samples:

Breakfasts: overnight oats, granola or protein shakes. Those are our to go breakfast choices. We always have frozen berries, oatmeal, non-dairy milk, nuts and chia seeds on hand. If I don’t have time to eat at home, you can see me making a coffee and a simple protein shake to go. Ninja Nutri version is absolutely wonderful – no mess, no cleaning up and super fast. For me, it is usually a handful of whatever frozen berries are on hand, some greens, non-dairy milk and a scoop of chocolate vanilla vegan protein mix (we buy ours at Costco).

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You can definitely play with lunch options. Examples: salads, quinoa bowls, sweet potatoes, roasted veggies and rice bowls, burritos and soups. Just countless options. We often order lunch at the office so I scan the menus for vegan or at least vegetarian options and then customize it over the phone to eliminate cheeses that they often add. I still miss that taste but a couple times when I tried eating it, it left me feeling bloated. My favorite is a local Thai place that has an extensive vegan menu that I am a big fan of.

Dinners: are pretty much similar to lunches. Although, we like to explore with making different pastas, tacos, soups, stews, stir fries etc. Something that can require a little bit more time and can get messy. I have to watch out for messy lunch options – a girl just has to keep her nice office clothes in check 😉 We order take outs too because fairly so there are nights when neither of us feel like cooking. We opt in for a pick up at the Thai place close to home, QDoba Mexican grill where you can customize your order or our local organic restaurant (they have the best vegan Roubens). spAnd when cooking at home, remember to experiment with sauces and spices. We have a cabinet full of countless variety of organic spices, vinegars, oils etc.  Miso paste and fresh lemons are always on hand to make a quick dressing.

Toddler: our toddler eats very much what we eat just in a slightly different variation. He loves rice, pasta, tofu, sweet potatoes, regular potatoes, breads, berries and bananas. We are having not much luck with veggies yet but I try to incorporate it and mix it into actual dish recipes and it seems to be working. We also buy baby food pouches from Costco that have fruits and veggies and he loves those. FrHe does drink regular organic whole milk though and occasionally I buy organic grass-fed beef and make him meatballs but that’s as far as animal products go in our house. I do buy him mozzarella cheese once in a while and Silk yogurts that are based on soy milk. So there is a fine balance. We are still figuring out our way around meatless and non-dairy options.

We are new to this and still learning. We are also busy professionals with full time jobs, family, friends, travel plans, sports and other hobbies. We like our wine and our friends that are not vegan. We are not perfect and will never be. But we are trying our best to take care of ourselves, our family and the planet.

Cheers,

Yours YM

Do you read the ingredients?

Pick up a bottle of something in your bathroom and read it. What do you see? Is it Petrolatum, alcohol and perfume by any chance? Probably…And just think about it – this goes on the largest organ of your body – skin. Ick!

A couple things happened last week that made me go: wait what?

I always wash dishes with gloves. It’s a matter of habit by now because water and dish soap leave my hands extremely dry and I very much dislike that feeling. The other day, I only had a couple baby bottles to wash and thought: let me take care of those really quick without bothering putting gloves on. Next morning I saw, what it looked like an allergy/chemical burn right between my fingers! IMG_3404

I had those before but thought it might be because of it is cold outside and I need lotion or I started to have eczema ( never had it before but was looking for an explanation). Occasionally I wouldn’t put gloves on when washing dishes and never thought of that because’ we buy environmentally friendly dish soap’… It might be environmentally friendly’ish but I never bothered to read the ingredients on the bottle. Ick! Last week I perfectly remembered that my skin was normal until I washed dishes without gloves and got this thing that is still on my hands. It had to be a reaction to chemicals. That incident opened my eyes: we buy these products that touch our dishes that we put our food in and then it goes to our bodies… Well, guess what was my first move: immediately, I went to my pantry, pulled out 3-4 bottles with different cleaning products and dumped it into the sink (probably desensitized it really well), washed the bottles and threw those into recycling. Went to Natural Store, bought castile soap and will never use anything else again.

A few days after the incident with the soap, I got a sore throat and to fight my coming up cold I thought of just grabbing a Baby Rub Vicks Ointment would be a good idea. I bought it long time ago when my baby was born but never used it on him. And boy, I felt so good realizing that I didn’t, cause after reading the ingredients, that thing flew into trash. But before I read the label, I generously put it on my throat. Have you read the ingredients on it? The very first thing is Petrolatum! And we put those on ours and our babies’ skin – NO WAY! I felt like I just stuck my head into a gas tank.

Obviously, I am not a scientist and will not be arguing over chemical part of any product. This is my reflection, my experience and my intake on what I should and should not use in my family home. If you are curious, google some blogs and information on what it is truly in most of the household items that we are so used to buy.

Just a few products that I absolutely eliminated (already): drug store deodorant (switched to natural – will make homemade someday when I feel brave), cleaning products all went to the drain (castor soap, vinegar, soda and lemons are in my house for this purpose – that’s it), soap (only buying local with natural oils), bubble bath (making it myself from now on), facial toner (making it myself – super easy)  and I am working on test driving Soap Nuts so I can eliminate detergents. And that is just during last couple weeks. I hope I got you thinking, inspired you to read the label and decide for yourself if you want to put it on your skin.

Cheers,

Yana

Raising a vegan kid?

I am following several vegan moms on YouTube that raise their kids vegan and I absolutely love what they do. By proxy, I have a dilemma at my own house. My husband and I follow a plant-based lifestyle; my mom who lives with us does not. She was raised on meat & fish and has a strong opinion that human body requires animal protein. I respect that opinion. In fact, I respect any opinion that any person might have so they should respect mine, correct? I have a strong belief that in the 21st century we do not need to eat animals: we have a huge amount of alternatives to meat available and we mostly lead a sedentary lifestyle with very little physical activity. Although, I respect her opinion as just a few year ago it probably was almost impossible to keep a vegan lifestyle in a cold climate. All the vegan products that are currently in abundance in our stores, were not heard of back then. Especially in where she cames from. It’s a meat and potato kind of country.

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Back to babies and kids. In my house, we came up with an agreement that our son’s parents (i.e. us) will be following plant-based with him, mom (his grandma) will do what she thinks is right. Although, one very important condition: I will be the one who will be buying him animal-based products to ensure a superb quality. I look for made in Alaska, organic, grass-fed. So there are just a few things that I agreed to buy: Alaska grown ground meat (he loves his meat balls), shrimp, whole milk and occasionally mozzarella cheese (he actually lost interest to it already – so we might be done with this item). Sometimes we would steal an egg from grandma to make banana pancakes (I am pretty sure I can find a way to do it without an egg ). That’s it. He is growing fast and his taste buds care changing almost overnight so I am trying different recipes with him: as I expand my vegan cooking repertoire I am sure certain things will go away. BerriesHe is 1.5 and eats lots of grains, legumes, potatoes, vegan mac & cheese, pasta – all kinds of kid friendly yummy things. And of course fruits, berries and veggies. He pretty much eats what we eat except salads – not enough teeth yet:)

So later on, when my son is older – he will make his own choice. Everybody should have a right to form their opinion in life: so do kids. I will try to influence it, lead by example and let him decide. Yes I will be telling him that we don’t eat animals, yes there will be very little animal product present at the house. However, he is his own person and he will make that choice for himself later in life. It might even change several times but I will make sure to respect whatever that choice will be.

Carrot

Vegan BDay Party: Challenge Accepted

Challenge was accepted Monday morning to host a birthday party for my husband on Friday night. Condition one: of course, it has to be vegan. Condition two: I work on Friday until 5 pm – dinner party is at 6. Good luck to me!

Menu:

Appetizers: secondcranberry salsa and tomato bruschetta with whole wheat crackers and rustic bread turned out to be delicious. Bruschetta was a little runny but I used on tacos the next day and it was fabulous. Cranberry salsa was an absolute favorite: sweet and sour with a little hint of jalapeno pepper. It went very well with organic quinoa crackers. Salsa and bruschetta were prepared a day in advance.

 

Main course: vegan spinach lasagna – was a Hit! My family loved it and husband bragged about it the next day at work. I prepared veggies and a sauce a day in advance, so all I had to do to is to assemble and bake it. It took a little longer that 25 minutes that what said in the recipe but it was absolutely divine. I also added balsamic roasted veggies for the side: I just marinated those in balsamic and brown sugar overnight – simple but delicious. first

Dessert: vegan banana cream pie turned out to be the best ever. I made it on Thursday night in advance – it has to be in the freezer. Also, we thawed it out for about 20 mins not 5 like it says in the recipe. To my taste, I would keep it out longer as otherwise it tastes like banana ice cream (which is still amazing).

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Most of the dishes have been prepped in advance the night before. I was up until almost 11:30 pm (not because it was too much work but because I had to wait until my toddler goes to bed); I was tired but so pumped up and excited that it didn’t matter. All I had to do when back home from work is to open wine to air out, have a sip and put lasagna into the oven. Cut bread and set the table.

Voila! It was a great success.

I am adding links to the lasagna and pie recipes. Thank you for the wonderful bloggers that have these out there in the cyber world 🙂

http://www.cearaskitchen.com/vegan-lasagna/

http://minimalistbaker.com/raw-vegan-banana-cream-pie/

Cheers my friends,

Yana

 

 

 

 

 

Let’s talk trash bins

One of my goals this year was to switch to the smallest trash bin that our waste company can provide. Sounds weird? Funny perhaps? Let me tell you my thoughts behind this.

We are a family of 3 and ½ (a toddler). My challenge to my family was to try to use less, trash less and buy products that come in recycling packages. I was feeling guilty already with so many diapers that we throw away every day (don’t try to convince me on the cloth diapers – not going to happen) that I thought at least we can do something better. We had two large bins for our trash service to pick up: recycling and regular. My goal was for us to switch regular bin to the smallest size possible. This morning, it happened.

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Changes that we undertook:

  • When shopping, we make sure that packages can be recycled – no styrofoam and no milk cartons (cannot be recycled in our town – plastic milk bottles can though)
  • Do not trash items that can be used by somebody else: donate it to goodwill, animal shelter
  • Our recycling service picks up cans, plastic, cardboard, paper – so I keep a separate bin in my pantry for glass recyclables that I take out maybe once a month to the recycling center directly.
  • Compost: my husband bought this wonderful composting “device” that seats on our backyard now. It was not easy to put together, but super easy to use. We collect compostables in a dish in the fridge and then take it out once it’s full. These bins are sold in Costco. If you don’t feel that ambitious, start small – there are small versions in Costco too (and I am sure in every large store or amazon)compost
  • Shopping and consuming less was the most important change: we are still working on it but the change is visible. It is also hard not to think how good of an influence it is on our budgets.

In a conclusion, it is not that complicated and not expensive at all. I keep recycling bins in my pantry (one for glass and one for everything else) so I can take it out all at once. It doesn’t take that much time; just a little bit of preparation, awareness and a phone call to your local trash company to switch trash cans and add recycling service. Easy. Even my toddler knows that paper goes into the recycling bin – he is 1.3 yr…See? Not that complicated 🙂

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It is also very refreshing to see more and more bins with yellow “hats” outside on a trash day – people are aware, they care, they do it. We live in the world that full of toxins and materials that trash our planet, let’s make small but powerful steps. Next goal: get a smaller recycling bin too…

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Cheers,

Yana