Category Archives: Food

2017: An Illustrated Year in Review, Day 7 – The Conclusion to “Our Year of Living Minimally”

2017, Our Year of Living Minimally, has come and gone and it’s time for some reflection on how the decision to buy (almost) nothing for a year has impacted our family.  We are not the people we were at this time last year as this experiment has affected us in almost every way imaginable.  So here I share our five biggest benefits and takeaways from this project as well an as answer to the question for this year: What now?

  1. Perhaps the most tangible benefit to this undertaking is simply the amount of money we saved, or in our case, the amount of debt we were able to pay off.  We are teachers; we don’t make a lot of money, and for the past year and a half we’ve been living off 1.5 salaries (and just one the year before that).  I used to get really discouraged when thinking about how long it was taking us to pay off our school debt (Wheaton grad school loans are no joke, people); I felt like we would be stuck on Dave Ramsey’s baby step #2 FOREVER.  However, this year has cleared up a lot of that discouragement haze and allowed us to see a light at the end of the tunnel.
  2. Maybe the most surprising benefit is how our decision has affected our health.  David has always been fairly thin and fit, but this year he’s gained more muscle and speed than ever before.  He’s getting closer and closer to achieving his audacious goal of a sub-5 minute mile.  I, on the other hand, will be happy to get back into sub-10 minute mile shape, and I’m not that far off.  🙂  By making the one decision to limit our eating out to approximately once a month, we are both so much healthier.  From January 1 to January 1, I am down 32 pounds, and it honestly wasn’t that hard.  By preparing our food at home, we are able to control both the content and amount we consume.  And if I’ve gone to the trouble of cooking, you can bet that we try to stretch that meal out into leftovers.  Rarely do we go back for seconds but rather eat a piece of fruit or nuts if we’re still hungry … cost efficient and healthy.
  3. By outlining guidelines at the beginning of the year, we avoided decision fatigue and the often resulting poor spending choices.  By eliminating many options ahead of time (clothes shopping, buying gifts for each other, eating out, etc.), we simplified our lives and freed up mental energy for other pursuits.  I have spent my time this year reading, teaching, cooking, working out, playing with my daughter, and relaxing with my husband, all of which I argue are infinitely superior to going shopping!
  4. The biggest takeaway I would say is our change in mindset.  Honestly, that first month of eating out only for book dates hurt a little.  I was in withdrawal, and Friday nights hurt the worst.  However, now it’s the new normal, and I don’t even really think about it.  Or if I do (on the rare occasions we do eat out), I think about how much money we’re spending and how much I could have bought at the grocery store with that amount!  Eating out has become a treat, something to be thoroughly enjoyed, savored even, not taken for granted.  The same goes with any purchase.  If something is a true need and we’re going to depart with our hard earned money to buy it, I want to ensure that it will last, that it’s actually worth the cost.  If it is, then we work to take care of it.  We are learning to be faithful stewards of what’s been entrusted to us whether that’s time, energy, money, or possessions.
  5. The most surprising takeaway would be an increased confidence in our ability to do hard things.  The only thing I’ve ever given up for a year was soda, and it wasn’t that hard.  However, as I was hearing stories of people’s journeys and experiments with shopping bans over the course of a full year, I was incredibly inspired.  All these people were doing this really hard thing!  We could surely do it too, couldn’t we?  Yes, we could and we did.  We didn’t do it perfectly, but when I look back at my life years and years from now, I am certain I will consider 2017 a catalyst for the achievement of many audacious goals.

So, what now?  Are we done?  Do we now get to buy all the things?  Nope.  We’re signing up for another year … or 50.  We’ve discussed our needs for the upcoming year and have settled on some guidelines to see us through 2018.  Our eating out plan is still in place as is our clothes buying ban excepting some athletic wear we’re both in need of.  I don’t think I’ll churn out a post a month (considering I didn’t even meet that goal this year), but I do plan to keep writing about our experiences in frugality and minimalism mostly for selfish purposes in that it keeps me accountable to the guidelines we set.

Wishing you all a happy and healthy 2018!

 

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Enjoying her once a year Antipodean French toast!
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2017: An Illustrated Year in Review, Day 5 – Money, Health, & Time

If 2016 was the year of decluttering and minimalism, 2017 was the year of intentionality and frugality.  The year began with a sharp focus on our finances with the advent of our “Year of Living Minimally.”  As the year progressed, however, I noticed my focus and interests broadening to other areas that could use the same level of scrutiny, namely health and time management.  Outside of book dates and book club, my reading (and listening) this year has been fairly concentrated in these three areas.  Because, like my husband, I love categories and lists, here is a list of some of the more helpful books, blogs, and podcasts I’ve read/listened to this year.


Money:

  • frugalwoods.com – I found this blog last January just as the blogger was launching her first “Uber Frugal Month Challenge” (which I highly recommend, btw) and have gleaned so much from her wisdom and unique perspective.  While David and I don’t share the same goal as The Frugalwoods of retiring in our early thirties (it’s a little late for me anyway …) and moving to a homestead in Vermont, we do share the same desire to be intentional with every dollar (or rupiah) spent, making sure that our financial decisions align with our values.
  • youneedabudget.com – I kept hearing people rave about this app, and after months of tracking our spending on an Excel spreadsheet, I finally caved a few weeks ago and signed up for a free three month trial.  I had listened to the YNAB podcast a few times and appreciated the simple principles espoused, an updated/digital envelope system a la Dave Ramsey, if you will.  I never liked carrying around cash, so this system is perfect for our needs, and I plan to continue past the trial period.
  • Your Money or Your Life – I’m only about halfway through this one, but I highly recommend what I’ve read so far, chapter four especially (“How Much Is Enough? The Nature of Fulfillment”) with gems like: “You may discover that you’ve been measuring your fulfillment, or lack of it, by what those around you have or by what advertising says you should want.  Being fulfilled is having just enough.  Think about it.  Whether it’s food or money or things, if you don’t know, from an internal standard, what is enough, then you will pass directly from ‘not enough’ to ‘too much,’ with ‘enough’ being like a little whistle-stop town.”
  • Honorable Mentions: The Millionaire Next Door and Broke Millennial

Health:

  • Foodist – I think I came across summertomato.com a few years ago in a Fitstar (now Fitbit Coach) newsletter, but only in the past year have I really dove in to the blog and listened to the Foodist podcast.  I read her book back in March and love how un-faddy it is.  The author’s focus is on eating real food mindfully and building healthy habits that are sustainable.  Her post on “home court habits” is especially worth the read.
  • Honorable Mention: livestrong.com

Time Management:

  • Getting Things Done – It was kind of a tedious read at times, but the two-minute rule alone is life changing.  The system works especially well with the concepts behind bullet journaling, and differentiating between simple tasks and multi-step projects has helped me bring so much order to both home and work life.
  • Triggers – Not exactly focused on time management, per se, but I deeply appreciated Goldsmith’s analysis of the environmental factors affecting behavior and his suggestions for creating environments that support the achievement of goals rather than their derailment.
  • Honorable mention: Crazy Busy

Our Year of Living Minimally – January Update

Well, we survived the first month of our “Buy (Almost) Nothing Year,” and it wasn’t as difficult as I’d anticipated!  All of the decluttering and simplifying we did over the Christmas holiday really paved the way for initial success with our audacious goal.  In the past, I would get overwhelmed by the amount of stuff in our kitchen, both random utensils and a decent amount of non-perishable food, so much so that I was discouraged from cooking.  However, by ridding ourselves of the excess, cooking is a much more pleasant endeavor … and it doesn’t hurt that David doesn’t mind doing the dishes.  🙂

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Friday Night Fettuccine

As I mentioned before, my biggest apprehension going into this year was our no eating out rule (excepting book dates and travel).  That first Friday night at home it was a little sad not to head out together for our weekly Amigos date, but it’s since become the new normal.  We’ve decided to make Fridays “Italian Night” complete with either homemade pizza or a pasta creation.  It’s also been great having leftovers to carry us through the weekend.

Since we’re a bit behind in our reading, going into the month it looked as though we might not eat out at all the entire month of January.  However, the school needed to send us to Singapore for a visa run, which meant we had no choice but to eat away from home.  🙂  We thoroughly enjoyed our rogan josh and chicken tikka masala in Little India.  And Clementine is a huge fan of the mango lassi!  We were thankful for the little “splurge” and I am newly motivated to try out some Indian recipes in the not so distant future.

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Enjoying our Little India “splurge”

We did do a little Orchard Road shopping for Clementine while in Singapore, although all under our “approved” guidelines.  Her grandparents gave her some money for Christmas we had yet to spend, so we got her a Grimm rainbow, which she’s loved.  Since potty training is in our imminent future, we also got her a potty seat … (pray for us now).

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Loving her Christmas present

One thing I did notice on our trip was the lure of Starbucks.  At the airport I mentioned to David how on any other trip we’d be grabbing our triple caramel macchiatos (easy on the syrup) before boarding the plane.  I was proud of us for drinking homemade coffee in the car on the way there.  I hadn’t missed it much, but walking around Singapore where there was a Starbucks every few meters it seemed, I was suddenly very aware that I hadn’t had a takeout coffee in awhile and how nice it would be to get one.  It’s crazy how much our surroundings influence us!  I am so thankful that I don’t see a Starbucks on a daily basis or really any other “tempting” shops.  (See photo above for the “We Miss You!” email I received from them the other day …)

While we didn’t finish Anna Karenina (our December book) this month, we went ahead and read January’s The Underground Railroad since a digital copy recently became available from the library (and was going away at the end of the month).   Even though we live overseas, we still have access to three Dallas area libraries, and more often than not we are able to find the books we’re wanting to read.  There’s even an option to “recommend” the library purchase certain digital titles, and a few times they’ve actually stocked David’s requests.  All that to say, if you haven’t looked into your local library’s digital titles, you are potentially missing out on a goldmine of convenient and free reading.

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January #DaSHbookdate

In addition to our unforeseen Singapore trip, we actually got a book date in this month as well.  Because eating out has become a treat and not the norm, we have appreciated it so much more.**  We really savored each meal, taking no bite for granted.  However, now that eating at home is the norm, we appreciate those meals more as well.  We’re eating more healthily both in content and quantity, and we’re spending less money.  It’s still very early in our year long experiment, but we are happy to see some rhythms emerge and notice positive change.

So that’s the update at one month in.  I realized after the last post that I hadn’t gotten much into the “why” of our decision and had planned to use this month to cover that more fully.  However, I’m going to leave that one to David.  This year is the culmination of ideas and promptings spread over the course of several years, so much so that “the why” deserves its own post.  Plus, David spoke in chapel this month over the spiritual discipline of simplicity, and I know he’ll express our heart much better than I could.  So … stay tuned.  🙂

** I would be remiss if I didn’t mention a fantastic resource we stumbled upon this month that has further shaped our thinking about consumerism and its pitfalls.  The whole blog is worth checking out, but this post in particular really helped put our eating out habits into perspective.