Balance in All Things

 

So I was talking with a Health Coaching client recently, and we were discussing how important it is to keep up with self care (no, not the ridiculous “treat yo-self” kind).

It is so easy in our world today to get overwhelmed.

We are assaulted from all sides all day long with the idea that we are never “enough”; we need to be smarter, sexier, earn more money, be better looking, and always be “busy”.

If you have ever been enjoying a walk, a good book, a soak in the tub, or a mindless TV show and felt guilt and anxiety because you were not being productive right that moment, you know what I mean.

If you’ve ever caught yourself, past midnight, still replying to work emails in bed even though you’re exhausted and have to go in early for a meeting tomorrow, you know what I mean.

If you’ve ever gotten so overwhelmed and burnt out on your writing, or blogging, or side-hustling, or maintaining your homestead you early retired to that you just cannot even, you know what I mean.

We need balance.

Balance in all things.

This applies to all areas of your life.

How do you feel if you’ve worked overtime for three weeks straight, you have yet to get more than 6 hours of sleep per night, you haven’t seen your wife or husband or kids or friends in a month?

How do you feel after a buffet of all your favorite things, where you had two plates too many and just couldn’t help yourself, and then also there is always room for dessert too?

How do you feel when you just can’t say no, and so you are working, and volunteering, and on a committee, and helping out at your kids school, and don’t even remember the last time you showered?

How do you feel when you work your day job, and another few hours at your side hustle, and have three freelance projects due by tomorrow as well as a post you need to write before 8am?

Probably not great.

find your balance

But, how do you feel when you have one of those days.

A day where everything clicks. Flows. Is easy.

You get things done.

You’re ahead of your deadlines, you finished a big project, your boss praised you in front of everyone, you got an unexpected raise.

The house is clean, the laundry is done, the yard is mowed, the sink is empty, dinner was a breeze.

You’re in the zone.

AND there is still plenty of time for you.

To work out, do some yoga, read a good book, listen to an inspiring podcast, have a glass of wine/beer, sit and watch the sunset.

You got to spend time with the people you most enjoy, laughing until your cheeks hurt and making memories you know will last forever.

You feel fulfilled, creative, glowing, on top of the world!

Feels pretty awesome, yeah?

Yeah.

Balance looks different for everyone.

Maybe you are a single male in a metropolitan city, living in a tiny apartment with 2 roommates while you finish an MBA. Maybe you are a legal aide, renting a small apartment by yourself within walking distance of work, struggling to pay off six figures of debt.

Maybe you are early retired, living in South America on 10,000/year. Maybe you are a married couple with three kids living in a house you inherited from your grandparents in the suburbs, or a McMansion you earned through a decade of schooling and licensing and work.

In each of these scenarios, your priorities will be different.

But your needs are the same.

Everyone needs the basics: water, food, clothing, shelter.

After that, we all want to be comfortable, whatever level of income and luxury that means for you. We all want to feel loved and valued, be part of a community. We all way to feel healthy, passionate, inspired, capable, and independent.

Woman holding Freedom banner

But this is the 21st century.

We can all be Connected, all the time.

We must be On, all the time.

Reachable, all the time.

Working, all the time.

Exhausted.

All.

The.

Time.

Where is the time for you?

Health

To be truly healthy requires balance.

If you go to any extremes, that is usually where the most unhealthy habits begin and thrive.

You eat far too much and too often, you risk obesity and diabetes.

You lean on fast food, processed meats, tons of cheese and oils, and solely pre-packaged meals, you risk serious cardiac issues, high blood pressure, and strokes.

You indulge too much and too often with alcohol, and you risk addiction, destroying your liver, starving your cells of nutrition, and shattering your relationships and ruining your entire life.

However.

If you eat only raw vegetables every day, you will slowly starve from lack of proteins and fats.

If you try every herbal supplement on the market, you risk interactions with other medications and crazy unanticipated side effects.

If you become too obsessed with eating “clean” and working out constantly, you risk eating disorders, weakening your bones, losing your hair, and collapsing from exhaustion.

And so, the need for balance is clear.

healthy vegetarian avocado salad

Eat your vegetables.

No excuses.

There are SO MANY KINDS, and so many ways to cook them.

Try spinach, carrots, onions, potatoes, bell peppers, hot peppers, radish, beets, collards, mushrooms, zucchini, lettuce, cucumbers, squash… you get the point.

Eat fruits too.

They are nature’s candy.

Go ahead and eat carbs, but try to make them whole grains (brown rice over white rice, whole oats, quinoa, barley…)

Get protein from the source your body responds to best, but lean heavily on legumes (black beans, pinto beans, chickpeas, split peas, lentils, navy beans, and more).

Move your body.

Every day.

As frequently as you can, and for as long as you can.

Try new and different ways of moving too. Try yoga, pilates, cycling, water aerobics, or just go run around a playground. Monkey bars are a LOT harder than you remember, I bet.

And for pete’s sake, drink water! (Especially if your name is Pete)

You will literally die without it. Don’t try to rationalize to yourself that coffee counts, or tea, or soda. Drink actual water. Like, about half your body weight, in ounces. Every day.

Add fruits, flavorings, or try fizzy water if you can’t handle tap. But please, please, drink water.

But also?

Go ahead and eat that brownie now and then.

Say yes to a 2nd margarita on Cinco de Mayo.

Listen to your body and know the difference between a healthy soreness from muscles being worked out and an actual overuse injury or something that needs medical attention.

Give yourself rest days.

Don’t forget that by eating healthy and exercising so you can live longer,  you should also be enjoying living right now. 

balanced stack of donuts

Relationships

Another aspect of life which requires balance is our relationships.

Relationships with coworkers and bosses, with our neighbors and friends, with our family, with our romantic interests.

We need a balance of personalities in our lives, people we can go to when we want to celebrate, when we want to vent, when we need a shoulder to cry on, a drinking buddy, someone who tells us the truth no matter how much it might hurt, someone we can count on to get something done right and on time.

But it can be easy to overextend ourselves too.

You know how sometimes, friends or family come to stay for a holiday or vacation, and by day 8 they have worn out their welcome by 4 days? That’s unbalanced.

You know how your significant other can become too needy if you haven’t spent enough time together, or too distant if you are around each other too much? That’s unbalanced.

You also need to nurture your relationship with yourself.

Think about it: when is the last time when you were totally alone?

Like 100%. No other people. No phone, no Twitter, no Facebook.

Just you. And your mind.

Did you love it? Did it scare you? Make you uncomfortable?

Time alone is time for self reflection, growth, recharging, release.

Struggling with the “big questions” of life.

If you feel like you need permission to be alone and not be doing productive things, schedule it into your life.

Put it on an actual calendar.

8pm - 10pm Tuesday: Massage followed by bubble bath.

2pm - 5pm Saturday: See action hero movie alone and check out that new book store.

Figure out what it is that recharges you, makes you happy, and inspires you to be your best.

Then do more of it.

When you are fulfilled and at your happiest and most vibrant, is when you are capable of giving of yourself the most.

You cannot pour water out of an empty pitcher. Click To Tweet

pouring water from a pitcher

Career

Here too is where many of us cannot find balance. We are pushed to “become” our careers.

Oftentimes the very first thing someone asks when meeting someone new is “what do you do?”

You job or employment is seen as the definition of who you are as a person. It defines you. You are not “Joe” or “a coffee lover” or “a girl who likes Left for Dead” or “the best a capella singer in this room”.

You are “an engineer”, “a teacher”, “a mom”, “a construction worker”.

And in the pursuit of money (we will talk more about that in just a second) it is all too easy to get sucked into your career and let it be all consuming.

With our smart phones and constant connected world, you can answer emails at 10 pm and 4 am, you can be on conference calls from anywhere and anytime, you can be working at the dinner table or on a train or in the toilet.

And we do.

Man Standing infront of Red Locker Using Mobile Phone

But what we need to not lose sight of is that it is just a job. At the end of the day, what you trade so many hours of your life for in order to keep bills paid is just a job.

You can get another one. You probably will.

If you love your work and are invested in what you do and you willingly work overtime because it is your true passion, that is amazing and I honestly am so happy for you!

But it is still a job.

And you still need work-life balance.

You need time to put work thoughts on hold, and engage in other areas of your life.

Stop stressing over hiring interviews, projects, looming deadlines, or presentations, and start planning a trip to Spain, a visit to an old college friend, hang out with your neighbor, or try a new hobby like painting or skiing or hiking or glassblowing.

If you are terrible about unplugging, start small.

Just try setting limits for yourself, like “no phone after 7 pm” or “no work email on the weekends”. Maybe you can even progress to the point of outright turning your phone or laptop off when you are off the clock!

Just like above with your personal relationships, your work relationship needs balance.

When you give your brain time away from work tasks to be creative and process, you never know what magical solutions your subconscious might come up with.

And you will definitely be better able to make decisions and solve problems when you are a happier, more relaxed employee.

Money

When it comes to money, it seems “enough” is not a word that will ever apply.

Even when someone is demonstrably in the top 1% of earners in the world (think those pulling down six digits per year, like 200-400, but not quite into the millions), they will still defend to their last breath the fact that they are “average” and “just getting by” and “it’s not quite enough”.

We are encouraged to compare ourselves to top earners and innovators like Elon Musk, Warren Buffet, Steve Jobs. Ads for bigger houses, flashier cars, ivy league schools, the nicest clothing, the scent that will definitely make you sexier, flood our senses 24/7.

And the bills never end.

Whether you have plenty of breathing room, or pinch every penny and still come up short some months, it never feels like enough.

So you take on overtime, extra shifts, a second job. You pick up tutoring, cleaning houses, bartending, work all the weekends.

You start hustling, building your websites and courses and ebooks, and freelance writing every spare minute.

But do you ever evaluate your ROI?

How much are you making, in dollars, but how much are you spending, in time and opportunity cost?

These are very personal choices, hence the world of Personal Finance. I cannot tell you which high-paying-but-stressful projects are worth keeping, or which pain-in-the-ass-but-pays-on-time clients you should ditch.

But I highly recommend you use the 80/20 rule which basically means that when we’re talking about earning, 80% of the income comes from 20% of the effort. And conversely for frugal living, 80% of your savings will come from 20% of the expenses you can control.

Concentrate yourself on the 80% at work which reaps the highest rewards. Ask what your boss wants the most, and take steps to make it happen. Prove your worth and ask for it.

And don’t worry about the 20%. The whole office will not implode if you don’t check email until Monday. No one will quit if you leave a little early to go for a run on a particularly stressful day (probably).

laying in a hammock, betsy jacobson quote

Balance is not better time management, but better boundary management. Click To Tweet

By taking concrete steps to create balance and space in your life, you are one step closer to living the life of your dreams.

Moderate in order to taste the joys of life in abundance.”
– Epicurus

 

 

What do you struggle to balance in life? Or are you a total “Lord of the Dance Pose” expert in all areas? Share your tips and opinions below!

Battling Blogger Burnout

 

If you habitually read many blogs, or especially if you have one yourself, you know the phrase. Blogger burnout.

This is how we describe the feeling of running out of steam.

Everything is going along great, you are building your audience, interacting on social media, promoting your awesome content, traffic is growing… and then for whatever reason, you just stop.

Staring at a blank page in WordPress or Word or Notepad or an actual piece of paper. Typing a few sentences, deleting it, trying again. You get distracted by Twitter, Instagram, the news, a car driving by, or an ad in the corner of the Google search bar.

Five hours later your wordcount is still barely double digits.

Blogger Burnout - blank page

When I first started this blog 7 years ago as College Approved Food, I had big dreams.

I was going to write a cookbook for college kids using only a microwave and recipes with 5 ingredients or less.

I was going to have my own cooking show someday.

I could live off my blog income full-time while I traveled and tasted food from all over the world.

Then I did it, and saw how much work went into blogging.

Consistently. On a schedule. Regularly.

To build a following, to create things people actually could use and wanted to read, to add value to the world.

To interact with others in the space and create a network of like minded people who support you as well.

And of course, “real life” got in the way a bit as well.

Getting through undergraduate studies while working three jobs, dealing with a broken engagement, applying, getting into, and surviving graduate school, paying off all my undergrad loans before finishing graduate school, leaving grad school, moving across the country (thrice)… Occasionally I lost focus.

Sometimes I took a break.

Sometimes it was for a few days, other times a few months.

I changed my publishing schedule from not having one, to three times per week, down to once per week, and back again, trying to find the perfect balance.

Then, for the past year or so, it seemed I’d hit the sweet spot.

I was publishing both food and finance content, and plenty that was a bridge between the two.

When I ran out of recipes for One Pan Buffalo Chicken Potato Bakes and Holiday Diets for a while, I could tell you all about how I save money on beauty and why a $1000 raise didn’t change my life.

And when I got tired of writing about how we bought our house from 1000 miles away and my top tips for saving money, I could write about how easy it is to make your own yogurt at home or our attempt to become ‘almost’ vegetarian.

I even had so many ideas flowing through my brain that I increased my twice a week Sunday/Tuesday schedule to three times a week Sunday/Tuesday/Thursday schedule.

And then, eventually, the ideas started slowing down.

Maybe it was turning thirty, or the holidays, or winter hibernation, but I started to lose focus.

Creating posts became more of a chore that I had to schedule into my days rather than a firehose of words I couldn’t turn off.

It seems I’m not the only one going through this, since just recently the intrepid Pete at Do You Even Blog posted an article with top tips from 12 other bloggers, and the illustrious Frugal Asian Finance enlightened us all with her Blogger Burnout: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.

How do you know you’re burnt

<FIRE joke?>

Battling Blogger Burnout - the Budget Epicurean

The symptoms may include:

  • Inability to focus, especially when trying to write
  • Questioning why you write or blog in the first place
  • Feeling like social media is taking over your life
  • A feeling of utter exhaustion, where even getting up to go to the bathroom seems like too much work right now
  • The inability to come up with new ideas for a post
  • Wondering if any of this matters or why you keep going
  • Not even wanting to listen to yourself talk about blogging
  • Binge reading other blogger posts on blogger burnout!

I feel like this is a ripe opportunity for “You Might Be Burnt on Blogging If…” jokes… if you got any good ones feel free to share in the comments!

But truly, “burnt out” manifests differently for everyone.

You are the only one who knows when you hit the wall.

You start to procrastinate on writing. Whatever you do manage to write, you hate it and delete it and start over. You stare at a blank page for hours on end, hoping for the magical Muse fairy to sprinkle the page with words of wisdom.

You might be burnt out.

What are the Causes?

Why does “burnout” even happen? How is it that almost every writer in all of time experiences periods of a lack of inspiration?

Psychological Science writer Alexandra Michel says: “burnout results when the balance of deadlines, demands, working hours, and other stressors outstrips rewards, recognition, and relaxation.”

There are several components to what makes people willing and motivated to do something. A physical reward such as candy might get a toddler to pick up his toys. A mental reward like praise could convince hubby taking out the trash is a good idea. A raise at work will keep you at your desk hitting your targets on time.

Those rewards balance the time, effort, and mental strain to complete the task which earns those rewards.

People may do their jobs or write or side hustle for the money, for the recognition from peers or superiors, or because it is a cause they truly believe in and they get personal satisfaction from.

When those do not balance out, you burn out.

How do you Cope?

Battling Blogger Burnout at the Budget Epicurean

To battle the burnout, I attempted immersing myself even further into great content creators, reading like my life depended on it, up to 4-5 hours per day!

This ultimately made me feel like I was staring into a limitless black hole of content, most of it created by people far wiser, more experienced, and ‘better at blogging’ than myself.

The comparison game is one you cannot win.

When reading more about food and health and money didn’t work, I gave it up and started reading anything else.

I lost myself in fictional stories, mystery novels, a few non-fiction works. I escaped into video games and virtual worlds, and even tried going back to some very old stories, songs, and scripts I had started.

None of it worked.

For several weeks, I struggled just to create enough content to keep the blog going on its regular schedule. I came very close to taking it down a notch to fewer posts per week, or taking a few weeks off altogether.

Fellow blogger friends were a big help, though they might not have known it. All the reading I’d been doing helped spark a few ideas too. But ultimately, unplugging is what seemed to flip the switch for me.

I backed way off social media for a little while.  Twitter is my preferred verbal playground slash coffee shop slash news source, and I was spending upwards of 9-10 hours a day on there!

I would obsessively refresh as soon as I woke up, everytime I went to the bathroom, when I was walking between places, on my way to meetings, while watching Netflix at night, sometimes even at red lights! It was unreal. And I knew it was a problem.

I just love all the bloggers out there SO MUCH!

There are some amazing people with amazing life stories, and goals, and great writing style, and humor, and tips, and wisdom.

I NEED TO KNOW IT ALL!

But I had to set some boundaries. There are only 24 hours in a day, and I cannot get anything done of my own, if all I am doing is consuming content 24/7. I want to actually enjoy my IRL life, as well as create my own things.

So I took a brief social media break for a few weeks, followed by rules about phone use.

It doesn’t matter what my rules are, because you have a different life and daily patterns, so make your own that work for you.

But a healthy distance gave me space to go for walks, watch TV and focus on one thing at a time, connect with my husband more, and expand my social group.

And by doing more things in real life, guess what?

More ideas sparked!

More things I wanted to write about came to mind.

More post drafts were created.

But I know this may not be the last time burnout happens, and I know you may be going through this too, or will at some point in the future. So I wanted to explore a little more, for selfish reasons in case I need to refer back to this, but also to help anyone else who has been there or is there, and doesn’t know where to go now!

This advice is slightly tailored to writing, but can apply to any work situation. Whether self-employed, a consultant, or working for The Man, you can burn out.

If that happens to you, try a few or all of the things below. And in the worst case scenario, if you need a new direction from life, follow the steps to a Career Transition Without Going Broke.

What Can You Do to Battle Burnout?
#1) Set a schedule
  • One of the most important things I learned early on about blogging is that if ALL the successful bloggers say it, it is probably true. And they all say to set a schedule. I didn’t do that at first, I just published when I made something I thought was good enough to share, or when I had the time. Then after a few years, I buckled down, set a schedule, announced it, and kept to it, diligently posting on the days I said I would. And my pageviews nearly tripled within a month!
  • The beauty of blogging is, that you can choose your schedule, and you can change your mind! It doesn’t matter if your schedule is “once per month”. Start small, say you will post less often than you think you will. If you have more content that you need, see tip #3 below. Worst case, you change your mind and increase your posting frequency! But, if you start off balls to the wall saying you will write a post every day, well, that is a recipe for disaster.
  • Bless Erin at ReachingForFI, she blogs even when she doesn’t want to, even when it’s past bedtime, even when she thinks she doesn’t have anything to say. And sometimes those are the best posts! Where you are real, spontaneous, raw, and honest.
#2) But, give yourself permission for breaks
  • Sometimes, life happens! We get it. There are holidays where maybe you are hosting or traveling or just want to spend time with family not worrying about work or writing. You might go on a long vacation, and the least relaxing thing you can think of is to keep writing while there. Or you are going through a particularly stressful period of time, with a new child, or a sickness in the family, or moving and upheaval.
  • There’s no shame in taking a time-out! Stop posting for a few days, a few weeks. You can get back in the game once your head is back in the game.
  • If you are burnt from your job, make sure you are taking breaks. Set boundaries about “no email on weekends” or “no work after 6pm”. Make sure you are using your granted vacation time! Take 5-10 minutes every hour to go for a quick walk, drink some water, or do stretching exercises at your desk. It will keep you motivated and help you focus when you return to your tasks.
#3) Have some content in the bank
  • You know the story of the ants and the grasshopper right? The ants toiled away in the summer sun, saving up food in the store room. Meanwhile the grasshopper lived for today, playing his guitar in the sun. Winter came along, and the ants had plenty of food stored in their warm home, while the grasshopper was left to freeze and starve.
  • Be like the ants! When your ideas come faster than you can put pen to paper (well, fingers to keyboard nowadays) let the words flow, and catch them in jars for later. Also known as ‘draft posts’ or saved Word documents. Having a backlog of posts that can be put out anytime is a huge lifesaver when you’re due to publish (see above) in 2 hours and have yet to write a title.
#4) Automate what you can
  • Automation is the best friend to those who cannot remember things, are terrible procrastinators, or anyone who just wants life to be easier!
  • Use any automation system you can to make repeated tasks simpler. Set up auto-posts ahead of time. That way 2 hours on a Sunday and you are covered for the week, no more thinking. Set up automatic Tweets, Pins, Insta pics, whatever type of sharing platform you use. Less brain power overall, same amount of self-promotion. (But, please, do not only automate! You also need to engage with your audience and community. Or else everyone will hate you and mute you.)
#5) Find your tribe
  • It really helps to find a group of like-minded and supportive people, in real life or online.
  • These people can be there to support you in tough times, give you life advice on things that worked or didn’t work for them, be your sounding board, and help guide you in new directions. They can inspire writing, or sharing, or networking, that might be the key to unlocking a new room of potential inside your brain.
  • Reach out to those who have been where you are. Even if it seems scary, even if a blogger seems so “BIG” there’s no way they would respond to you. Sure, maybe some won’t. They are probably jerks who just want the $65 you might get them from a Bluehost affiliate link. But most of us are pretty cool. (As long as you aren’t spammy or needy. Be respectful.)
  • We have all been there, just starting a new blog, getting stoked and dancing around the room at our first comment, getting over our fears of joining in the “cool kids” talk on social media. We should all be there for each other, because we all want the same things. Savings. Investing. Encouraging others. Sharing. Thinking. Talking. Health. Progress. Financial Independence. Happiness.
Battling Blogger Burnout at the Budget Epicurean
#6) Focus on the good
  • This can mean a lot of different things. Maybe take a look at all the ways your life has changed positively in the past month, year, decade. Maybe just focus on this week, or today, and find three things to be thankful about.
  • Or maybe decide to take one day per week, or per month, to totally disconnect and unplug. Put down the phone, turn off notifications, shut off the laptop.
  • You could try a gratitude journal, where you write down things that made you happy or grateful on a regular basis. You could try writing thank you letters to significant people in your life. Or you could commit to 100 Days of Happy.
  • Just go out and live life in the real world, it will leave you refreshed and perhaps with the exact breath of fresh air and new perspective you needed.

#7) Don’t be afraid of a new direction

  • Sometimes, you reach a place where something which used to be a passion project and defined you, you have outgrown. It can be very tough to admit to. You have poured your time, money, heart, and soul, into a book or project or relationship or degree. And now, you feel it is all for naught.
  • But rather than be sad at an ending, think of how exciting new beginnings are! Like a dew-covered spring morning, the world is fresh and waiting for you to take a different path.
  • J Money from BudgetsAreSexy and formerly Rockstar Finance is a great example! As a seasoned blogger (past the decade mark, y’all!) he has been through a lot. And he has started, finished, and abandoned many projects, writing and otherwise. He knows how to re-evaluate priorities based on where his life is at the present moment, and sometimes you dig deeper… but sometimes you walk away. And that’s okay.

Battling Blogger Burnout - the Budget Epicurean

What does the future hold?

I’m still not sure where we will go from here. I do not think I would ever give up blogging completely, I love it too much.

The community is just mind-blowingly awesome, and the wealth and depth of knowledge out there is truly outstanding. I enjoy this little creative outlet where I get to connect with others and share ideas and lessons.

I do know that I have been quieter than usual on social media, and not as engaged in community projects like the #WomenRockMoney movement, “middle class” debates, or the Rockstar Throwdown.

That will likely continue for some time, as I revert back to more of a “lurker” and just keep this little guy afloat for now.

But hopefully, as seasons change, this too shall pass, and my blogger mojo will return.

 

Have you ever experienced burnout? What did you do to get over it and keep going? Or did you switch projects completely or try a new path?

Weekly Eating – 3/19/18

 

Hey y’all! Welcome to the series Weekly Eating.

Here is where I’ll talk about the week’s meal plan versus reality, what we ate for the week, and how we did budget-wise. I hope it gives readers a behind-the-scenes look into our life through the lens of food, and it’s also a way to keep us on track with meal planning and grocery budgeting.

Feel free to share your wins and lessons in the comments below!

 

So, remember how we had five 20-year-olds at our house for St. Patrick’s Day? Turns out they are just as much old people as we are! They got in around 8pm, we played some games, and then everyone headed for bed around ten. They are welcome back anytime! 🙂

st. patricks day preparation

I made a big green breakfast spread for them, and they hit the road early so as to get home, presumably to sleep for 16 or so hours. What is it about sitting in a car for hours that just exhausts you?

st. patricks day green breakfast

Then on Sunday, I realized Monday was the next Bull City Food Swap! I had some pierogi in the freezer so I took those out, but I wanted another item too (you can never have too much to trade), and I had found a recipe for sweet potato biscuits I really wanted to try out. So I whipped up a batch and OH MAH LAWD Y’ALL…

sweet potato biscuits

Biscuits. Are. So. Good.

Fresh and hot out the oven, drizzled with butter and honey… swoon

fresh sweet potato biscuits from the oven with butter and honey

So I packed up a few packages of biscuits to trade too, but kept a good batch for us to nom all week. I also prepped some overnight oats, since the steel cut kind is not my favorite to microwave.

refrigerator full of overnight oats

Monday:

Breakfast – Tried the overnight oats, with golden raisins, chia seeds, and pumpkin seeds. I added what I thought was a “pinch” of salt but whoa boy, it was too much for even me, the die-hard salt lover. Good thing my office drawer still had a jar of my favorite breakfast. I split it in half and mixed in some non-salted oats and all was well.

Lunch – I made a much more successful batch of black beans over the weekend, and brought in a big container of beans & rice.

black beans and rice with hot sauce

Snack – I was an unstoppable snacking machine today. I had some grapes and strawberries just before lunch.

strawberries and grapes

Then a handful of pistachios in the afternoon.

handful of pistachios

And finally a granola bar on the drive home so I didn’t gnaw my arm off. What the heck?

granola bar in the car

Dinner – I tossed a bunch of cans into a slow cooker, and came home to Slow Cooker Tortilla Soup. Deeeeeeelish and soooooo easy.

slow cooker tortilla soup

The Bull City Food Swap was fun, even with me showing up almost an hour late! I got my times mixed up, thinking it started at 8 when really it was at 7. So I rush in at 7:45, just as the swapping part is wrapping up…

cutting fresh bacon

But, since I had high-value trades, I still made out like a bandit with 3 types of energy bars, granola, gingersnap cookies, chicken sausage, and homemade carrot cake. People went nuts over the pierogi… maybe 3 hours for a few dozen really is worth it?

bull city food swap trades

Tuesday:

Breakfast – More overnight oats, which does not make for exciting pictures, so I spared you 🙂

Lunch – Leftover refrigerator soup

refrigerator soup

Snack – A mixed berry pecan energy bar from the swap. They are sort of Larabar like, made mostly from dried fruit, nuts, and dates. And hot damn are they delicious…

berry pecan energy bar

Dinner – Since it was the first official day of spring, I made my Spring Green Creamy Gnocchi! With cut up chicken sausage added, because seriously, if I could put a scratch-and-sniff on this screen for you, I totally would. IT SMELLS SO GOOD.

spring green creamy gnocchi with chicken sausage

Wednesday:

Breakfast – Sweet potato biscuits with honey, & fresh pineapple. I love that pineapples have been on sale a lot lately.

sweet potato biscuits with honey and pineapple

Oh, and we woke up to a dusting of snow… happy Spring?

second day of spring snow

Lunch – Leftover gnocchi, and the rest of the beans and rice. For once I actually felt really full after lunch 🙂

spring green gnocchi beans and rice and salsa

Snack – I didn’t even want to snack until almost 4pm, when I cut up some mini cucumbers and had it with turmeric hummus.

cucumbers and turmeric hummus

Dinner – One pan salmon, asaparagus, and potato wedges. We gettin all fancy up in here. (By fancy, I mean lazy).

one pan salmon, asparagus, and potato wedges

Dessert – We don’t often have dessert, unless popcorn and/or wine counts. But since we had high-quality carrot cake in the house, we split a piece, and totally inhaled it. Addictive, for sure. This is why I don’t keep it around!

homemade carrot cake

Thursday:

Breakfast – Sweet potato biscuits and honey, and a protein shake

sweet potato biscuits with honey

Lunch – Last of the tortilla soup

leftover tortilla soup

Snack – Berry/nut energy bar. These things are seriously so good. On my list of things to figure out how to make now.

Dinner – Split pea soup!

split pea soup ingredients

Super easy, nice and warm on a cold day, and totally delicious with some multigrain bread.

split pea soup

Friday:

Breakfast – Sweet potato biscuits with honey. I almost forgot to take a picture I inhaled it so fast! And a bag of honeydew & pineapple.

sweet potato biscuits

Lunch – Leftover gnocchi, and the tiny bit of leftover salmon and potato wedges. Waste not, want not!

gnocchi and leftover salmon

Dinner – I looked at my fridge and realized I had a batch of slow cooker pinto beans that needed used ASAP, and had a half a cabbage. Turns out there aren’t a ton of recipes using those two ingredients, but one with pasta sounded interesting, so I did an experiment.

cabbage pinto bean and carrot pasta dish

It turned out decently too. I steamed the carrots and cabbage for about 20 minutes until soft, then added in the beans, about 1/3 lb of spaghetti noodles and 1 cup water, and simmered for 10 more minutes. Then I sprinkled on some garlic salt and cayenne, and it was actually pretty tasty! And super cheap.

 

The Weekend

This weekend I’ve a baby shower to attend, so I’ll spend a little bit on a gift for that. I think I’ve come up with the best way to contribute to the food at a low cost to me.

baby shower cake pops

I have a white cake left over from my “3/3” party (I made Tres Leches cake, but the mix made enough for 2 so I froze one). I thawed it, and made my own cream cheese icing, to create cake pops! Then I decorated them with sprinkles, and they are totally adorable, and basically free (given I already had all ingredients paid for).

And I also have a girls’ night planned, which will include dinner at a local Thai place (SO EXCITED!) and probably a drink or two afterwards. I think it is so important to have friend groups to just hang out and relax with. Whatever the expenditure ends up being I consider worth it, and an investment in my health and happiness!

 

Food Total: $27.66

WHOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!

This week’s food total is something I am quite proud of! I based my meal plan havily around pantry staples, and with making my own bread products plus the trades from the Swap we ate like kings on very little cash. I needed to balance out last week’s spendiness.

Staples $7.49 Fruit/Veg $18.45
Vanilla frozen yogurt quart 3 Asparagus 1 lb 1.09
peppermint extract 4.49 Green grapes 1.5lb 3.04
Bananas 7 1.85
Kiwi 4 1
Cabbage 2.6lb 0.77
Avocado 4 1.94
Russet potato 8lb 2.79
Frozen peas & onion 1.98
Honeydew 3.99

And this is even with factoring in the “splurges” to make Shamrock Shakes (frozen yogurt, peppermint extract) and green breakfast (honeydew, kiwi, grapes) on St. Patty’s Day.

shamrock shakes

Lessons Learned

I really need to incorporate more soups in the meal plans! It is unfortunate the boy is not a big fan, but I’m slowly bringing him around. The split pea soup was something I was nervous about (he HATES peas) but he actually said it was pretty good! Soups made with pantry staples and legumes are soooooooo cheap y’all. I’m going to shoot for a similarly low bill next week too.

It can also never be said enough, but eating leftovers is so important to saving money and being frugal! I ate tons of leftovers this week, which is basically like free meals. You’ve already paid for the ingredients, and cooked the meal, so re-eating it is free. Whereas if you don’t eat leftovers and trash them, you are contributing to food waste and throwing away dollar dollar bills. Just suck it up and eat the leftovers! The world and your wallet will thank you.

 

How about you guys? Did you have a learning week or an awesome week of wins?

How to Have a Gorgeous Destination Wedding for $10,000: Part 2

This is the second part of my recounting of our wedding week in a 10-bedroom cabin holding 22 people, with a total of 45 guests on the Big Day, and how we kept the total costs to $10,000.

Go back and read Part 1 for the deets on The Dress, how we found the right place in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, and why we decided to do it our way rather than the standard Wedding Industrial Complex  “Big White Wedding”.

 

Food & Booze (& Cake)

My parents stepped in again and were total heroes here.

My mom bought all the food, cooked it, and served it. I know, she should be sainted someday. My aunt and other family members also chipped in and made this dream a reality!

To be fair, I did offer to find and order catering. Honestly, we were price shopping Chipotle at this point. But my mom LOVES cooking, especially for a crowd, and insisted she wanted to. I think she may have regretted that in the end…

For drinks, we had only wine and beer, local moonshine (because let’s be real, we were in the Tennessee mountains!), and anything else the guests wanted to bring to share.

This kept the costs for wining and dining 45 people pretty low, which totaled about $1000.

Before you’re all “whoa I can feed 45 people for way less than that!” keep in mind this total includes the breakfasts, lunches, drinks, and snacks for the 22 of us who stayed in the main cabin for all 5 days leading up the wedding as well.

wedding burrito buffet
We had a burrito buffet! Beef, chicken, and 2 types of beans plus cheese, salsa, and sour cream.

For the wedding dinner, we had a burrito bar!

Yes we are very cool, I’d be happy to be your friend 🙂 Burritos are their own food group to the boy, he could pretty much live off them forever. I also love me a good burrito, so I was totally in.

Mom and a few others cooked for hours in the days leading up to the wedding, to make huge batches of grilled steak and chicken, black beans and pinto beans, and grilled peppers and onions.

We had chips and tortillas, cheese, salsas, and lettuce, and let everyone build their own. It was awesome!

About the cake…

Neither of us are super crazy about cake, or really sweets in general.

Lots of family members thought we were totally nuts, but be honest folks, how many weddings have you been to where more than half the cake is still left at the end of the night and you’re begged to take a few pieces home?

Plus the thought of eating a frozen cake a year from now was not at all appetizing to us.

So we opted for cupcakes, in our colors, and found these amazing cake toppers on Etsy. This might be my favorite little detail of the whole day!

However, on the day of, I had a lovely surprise in store for me.

A family friend from way back, who is so well known in my home town it’s unreal, had baked us 2 cakes special, and my mom had driven them down from Ohio to make it a part of our day.

It was very sweet and very special.

She also had found the cake topper my grandmother and grandfather had used at their wedding in my grandmother’s basement, and had it retouched to use for our cake.

My family is pretty much the best.

grandparents wedding cake topper

Flowers / Decorations

Here again my mom was a total superhero.

She decorated basically the whole cabin herself. We had colored tulle swags on the banisters outside and all down the stairs, fabric flowers and bows draped all around the cabin, and a light-up decorated white metal arch they had bought online.

I’m not including the arch or flowers in the total, because they have used it several times since for other events back home. And because if they hadn’t bought it, I wouldn’t have used it!

It was a really nice addition to the day though, and made the photos much cuter. If you factor in the decorations, that adds only another $200 or so to the total.

I love flowers, but hate spending money on flowers that will die within days. Originally I was adamantly against flowers at all, I wanted to get a fake bouquet for me and that’s it.

But in the end, I did end up caving and buying flowers for me and my girls, along with matching boutonnieres for the guys and wrist corsages for the moms.

I searched online for all the flower shops in the area, and created a spreadsheet. The first thing I did was contact each place, and made sure to NOT mention the word “wedding”!

That instantly doubles or triples your quotes, honest.

I simply requested “five bouquets in purples and blues with silver accents”, and waited to see what they suggested. I also requested ranges for other possible add-ons, like centerpieces or corsages.

Once I had all the quotes in writing, I checked out their website and portfolio and reviews, if they had any. Then I got back to my top two to ask if that was their best offer.

The one with free delivery had the best quote as well, so that is who we went with.

They showed up to deliver the flowers on the morning of the wedding, which was awesome because we certainly didn’t have room in the refrigerator to store them overnight!

The total for 1 bridal bouquet, 4 smaller bouquets, 5 boutonnieres , and 2 corsages came to $268.89.

I think they did a fantastic job with the colors and flower types for the money spent. I really love hydrangeas, and the blue ones were absolutely beautiful.

We ended up putting the bouquets into glass vases immediately following the ceremony to use as the centerpieces on the tables during dinner too.

Music

We are blessed to have a very talented pianist in the family, his grandmother is a professional level player. She very kindly offered to play the ceremony music for us. My sister in law brought her digital keyboard, and we set it up just inside the door on the porch we used for the ceremony.

She played a beautiful classical mix as the parents and wedding party processed in.

The song for when I walked in was not Pachelbel’s Cannon in D, or “Here Comes the Bride”. It was a song we chose together that has special meaning to us, and still makes me tear up a little bit when I hear it to this day.

Then because we were having the ceremony and reception in the same place, and that place was a cabin in the mountains with limited space, we knew we would not have a dance floor and did not want or need a band, live or otherwise.

Good news for the boy, as he is very adamantly against dancing, especially in front of people.

Did I want a father-daughter dance where I was trying not to step on my dad’s toes, and towering over him in heels?

(Let’s be real, those were off the second I said “I do” and bedazzled flip flops took their place).

Did I want to torture my 6-foot-6 hubby with paralyzing anxiety about being the center of attention?

Nope.

And so during the post-ceremony-reception, we had someone’s phone playing the radio softly, but it didn’t matter because it’s not like anyone could hear it! We had 45 people packed throughout a four-story cabin and out on the decks, everyone was talking and laughing and playing games, so music was not a priority.

This was a personal choice for us, because no one in either of our families is big on dancing. We did have tons of games scattered throughout the cabin, from Jenga to cards to cornhole to pool to board games.

And so our cost for music was $0, and no one was forced to dance awkwardly in front of all our friends and family! Though as the night wore on and the drinks stacked up, there was some dancing going on here and there…

Photos/Video

So it is probably no surprise by now, but we skipped the formal ‘engagement photos’. We just dressed up while on vacation and took some sort of posed shots. A family friend had a really nice camera, so we took some serious and some goofy pics and used those in our Save the Dates.

For the wedding, I searched online for days. I compared prices and websites, and used a couple bidding sites as well to get quotes. The person we eventually used actually came through my mom, who was also looking online for deals for us.

She bid $400 for 4 hours; before, during and after the ceremony.

We had a phone meeting to ‘get to know each other’, and I had a good feeling about it. She didn’t even require a pre-payment or down payment. We discussed how the ceremony was going down, our plans afterwards, and what type of “feel” I was going for with our photos.

We talked over email a few times, and I sent her a list of the shots that I really wanted. She also had a few great suggestions.

On the day of, she got shots of me getting dressed and primping, all throughout the ceremony, and then afterwards she did formal posed family shots, as well as casual shots for a few hours afterwards. She got all the artsy shots of the shoes, rings, flowers, etc.

artsy shot of bride wedding bouquetartsy shot of bride wedding bouquet

She also got a free dinnner for her and her daughter from the deal!

It did take about 3 months to get the final batch of edited photos back, but overall I was quite pleased with how they turned out.

We also had people all around us taking photos, which they shared with us via a free app & website, and had 2 more receptions “back home” in OH & TX months later (which our parents paid for, respectively) for those who couldn’t make the actual wedding.

For video, hubs is super into Virtual Reality, and we had a Ricoh Theta set up on a stand to record the whole thing.

Once it is all set up, all you do is press the “go” button, and it records everything as it happens, in 360 degrees.

That way, family members and friends who couldn’t be there could watch the video and feel as if they were actually present. And we have it to enjoy over and over again forever!

We probably saved thousands by doing this ourselves instead of hiring someone.

Favors / Transportation

We did not do general wedding favors, but we did get gifts for those in the wedding party and our parents.

The groomsmen all got matching blue or purple shimmery ties, purchased online weeks in advance. The girls got a nice Bath & Body Works gift set with the fragrance “A Perfect Day”. These were purchased months in advance while a huge sale was going on, to the tune of about $12 for 4 girls.

For the moms we got engraved silver cuff bracelets which said “Thank you for raising the man/woman of my dreams” with the date, and to the dads we gifted engraved “Father of the Bride/Groom” glass beer steins!

We chose not to do official favors, but we did have a bucket of bubbles which everyone used at the end to do a “we are officially married” tunnel for us to walk through.

Also, once the honeymoon was done and we settled into married life a bit, I made necklaces for my girls as a thank you. I saved some petals from each bouquet, pressed and dried them, and put them into a bevel and cast them in resin. Then I wrote a personal note and mailed one to each lady.

dried flowers and empty bevel to make a necklace

The ceremony & reception were in the same place, so no one had to worry about driving between two locations. They just had to get to the cabin and hang out for a few hours! This saved everyone the cost of a cab, Uber, etc. and the headache of logistics. It also meant that there were no double-charges for space rental.

The entire wedding party and the parents of the bride & groom were all staying in the same place together, so no one there had to worry about housing/hotels either.

A few people had driven in from neighboring states, while a few others who rented vehicles at the airport and were kind enough to ferry those without cars to and from their flights.

The Numbers

Okay, if you’re still with me by now, you probably really want me to get to the good part!

For those of you who are hard-core financial voyeurs, here is the total breakdown of all the wedding related expenses.

This does not take into account the flights and honeymoon, and thank goodness because that was a gift to us and probably was at least as much if not more than the actual wedding!

Flights $560.00
Location $7,338.56
Officiant $0.00
Rings/license $63.75
Music $0.00
Flowers $268.89
Food & Drink $955.50
Housing $0.00
Transportation $0.00
Paper $123.00
Apparel $135.45
Beautifying $39.00
Photo/Video $400.00
Favors/Gifts $120.00
TOTAL $10,004.15

And there you have it! This is how we hosted a week-long party and got married in the Tennessee mountains for under 10 grand!

If you are sure of your priorities and willing to compromise on everything else, you can absolutely have the wedding of your dreams without mortgaging your future to do so.

Please, for the love of all that is good, DO NOT ever get a Wedding Day Loan! Just wait and save up more. Or ask your folks for help. Or say no to the giant swan ice sculptures.

Let’s hear all your thoughts in the comments!

Did you do something unique at your wedding? Are you planning to do something creative? Just head to the nearest Justice Of the Peace? Did you go whole hog on a big white wedding and black tie reception?

How to Have a Gorgeous Destination Wedding For $10,000: Part 1

 

This is my personal story and lessons I learned from planning a simple yet meaningful destination wedding for <50 people. If you are dating, recently engaged, or even just dreaming of a fabulous wedding that doesn’t leave your bank account empty, pour yourself a warm beverage, get comfy, and prepare yourself to fill an “idea board” on Pinterest.

The Story

Boy meets girl*. They become friends. Really good friends.

Girl realizes she likes boy, and tells him so.

Boy realizes he likes girl too, and asks her on a first date: laser tag.

Over the next 3 years, they move in together, move across the country, change careers a few times, and adopt a pair of puppies. They both realize that this is a match made in heaven, and the real deal, and The One, Mr. and Mrs. Right, and whatever other saying you want to use.

This is forever.

Boy and Girl then realize:

  • we are super poor right now
  • we don’t want to be poor forever
  • we want to get married
  • we don’t want to spend tens of thousands of dollars on one day
  • our families live in at least 7 states, 1000s of miles apart
  • eloping is not the route we want to go
  • we want to have an epic week long party
  • did I mention not wanting to be poor forever?

Sooooooo what do we do?

Do we get married in his home town, and piss off all her relatives who have to travel? Do we get married in her hometown and piss off all his relatives who have to travel? Do a city hall ceremony in CT, with 2 seperate parties later?

Nah man, let’s just have our whole immediate family and best of friends all go on vacation together.

And then also, get hitched!

Destination Weddings

When you think of a destination wedding, you probably think of a white sand beach, with the bride in flip flops or bare feet. A tropical location with hibiscus flowers and drinks poured in coconuts and pineapples. An all-inclusive resort.

And a five-digit bill at the end of the weekend.

It doesn’t have to be that way!

A destination wedding at its simplest is just that: A wedding, at a destination. Typically, a destination which is neither of the couple’s hometown.

When you are considering a destination wedding, make sure you take into account all the different factors.

Have an honest conversation about your priorities, including: your budget, whether any family members will be contributing to the cost, who you want to invite, what you want your day to look and feel like, and if there are any meaningful places to you.

Even though some people still think “Talking about money is tacky,” (LOLOLOL), you need to get right the hell over that.

There is literally nothing more important than talking about your money, because no one cares about your money and your financial future like you do. And if you don’t trust your chosen life partner enough to talk this over, y’all are in deep doo-doo from the get-go.

So put on the big girl panties, and start throwing out real numbers. Realistic numbers.

 

Our Priorities: location in the mountains, housing for the wedding party, relaxed vacation-like vibe, keeping it frugal
Our budget: $10,000

 

Now, I won’t be mean and wait until the very end of the article to tell you (spoilers!) we basically hit our budget. Yes, we hosted a 6-day, 5-night wedding weekend in the mountains of Tennessee for $10K.

Summary

  • Total cost: $10,004.15
  • Location: Pigeon Forge, TN
  • Venue: 10 bedroom log cabin
  • Season: Spring (May) of 2016
  • Wedding party: 8 + 4 parents + wedding couple = 14
  • Guests total: 45 (including the wedding party)

 

Below I’m going to break down each area of a typical wedding celebration, and walk you through how we went about finding the right balance. We wanted an experience that stayed true to who we are as a couple, and I highly recommend you do the same.

It is a wonderful day and age we live in now, where you don’t have to stand on tradition if it isn’t something that fits with your values and desires.

Just because someone in your family did a first dance, but you are terrified of dancing in public, don’t feel like you have to do one.

And so what if your best friend had a ten tier, 6 flavor cake that cost more than your car. If you hate cake and way prefer pie, definitely go for the pie, girl!

The point of a  wedding, at the end of the day, is to celeberate the joining of two people’s lives. You are agreeing to be there to love and support one another, no matter what crazy things life throws at you. That is a unique and beautiful thing.

It is definitely NOT a carte blanche to become Bridezilla about every little detail, but yes, the day should be about you as individuals and as a couple, and to hell with anyone else’s expectations.

Location

We started the search for the right place by deciding that we were not location bound, but that we wanted to stay within the US.

Since our families were scattered all over Texas, Ohio, Arizona, Tennessee, Iowa, and Chicago, and we were currently living in Connecticut, all we knew was that there was no right or wrong answer!

People were going to be traveling regardless, and we knew we weren’t attached to CT (and their silly high prices for everything).

We both love the ocean and the mountains. As our time in Colorado showed us, the mountains are pretty much our favorite place, and guaranteed to be gorgeous no matter the weather. So we wanted to go somewhere in the mountains. That narrows down a few states.

We also knew we wanted a spring wedding, so we needed a place that would be tolerably warm in May, so likely the lower states.

Look at that perfection. Seriously. The Smoky Mountains are breathtaking.

Honest to God, we started with AirBnB and VRBO. We wanted to be able to provide a location large enough that the wedding party did not need housing. This would save everyone in the party the cost of a hotel room for the week/weekend.

We simply searched for places that could accomodate a minimum of ten, no maximum, and went from there. Options included lavish mansions in Las Vegas, oceanfront mansions in California and all along New England, a castle or two, beautiful antebellum homes throughout the South, and log cabins in several different states.

From there we narrowed by price, starting with a pretty wide band and then winnowing down into our more comfortable range. We also wanted a long celebration, not just one day, so the cost was considerably higher for nearly a full week. If you do only one day or one weekend, you can probably knock off another grand or two.

Honestly, the huge place for a whole week makes up almost 75% of the money we spent.

You could quite easily get that down to 1-2K for a shorter duration or a smaller place. But rolling the ceremony, reception, and whole weekend into one space is what we wanted, and we were willing to pay for it.

Given the price-to-value ratio of how many people a place could sleep, what level of luxury it offered, and the prices, a large log cabin in the Tennessee/Kentucky/Virginia area hit all our requirements.

After weeks of looking and pros and cons, we narrowed it to two cabins. My parents so generously offered to cover this part of the weekend. My mom was really the major factor here, basically stepping in as my de facto wedding planner.

She called them each and asked what kind of deal they would give us. One place let us adjust the dates, added one extra free night for just us to stay after everyone else left, and threw in a pre-holiday discount (it was right around Memorial weekend), so we went with a 10 bedroom cabin in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.

Guest list

This one might merit some input from family, if they are very invested in your celebration. We just knew that we wanted to keep it on the short side.

We agreed to “immediate family” only. What hubby didn’t know at the time, is that my admittedly very small family is still nonetheless very close, so essentially my whole family is my immediate family.

When we drew up the list, it was pretty clear who was on the “must invite” list, we were lucky that way. We ended up with about 50 people, of whom roughly 45 showed up. This was on the higher end of comfortable for us and the size cabin we had.

Paper: Save the Date, Invitations, RSVPs

We chose our date a little less than a year in advance, because we knew that people were going to have to travel. People need time to plan, book flights, arrange cars/hotels, etc. Therefore it made sense to send “Save the Date” cards.

I knew I wanted to try my hand at making all our own paper goods, because 1) I enjoy crafting 2) I hate spending money and 3) We had a small enough list of those we were inviting that it wasn’t totally overwhelming.

I would not recommend DIY with a guest list over 50!

The invitations were all hand-made, with the help of one of my indefatiguable friends. I looked through ideas online and settled on a simple design with a ribbon tying two small rings together, in our colors of purple and blue.

A good friend at work was kind enough to volunteer some of her crafting supplies (a paper cutter, hole punch, scissors, etc) and her time to help me put them all together. We cut, glued, and tied for hours.

DIY wedding invitations and RSVP

All told, the paper, glue, ribbon, envelopes, and rings cost about $100 for about 50 invitations, save the dates, and RSVP cards. Stamps were another $20 or so; I was lucky to also already have a stash from before.

Depending on the number of guests, your costs might be more or less. Many people nowadays are also opting to go paperless, for money-saving and/or environmental reasons.

Wedding events

My mom really loves me and wanted to throw an engagement party/wedding shower, but I turned it down.

The reasons were multiple:

  • The same people who would come would also come to the wedding and after-wedding-reception
  • I don’t like the idea of multiple large gifts being expected of people
  • It was in February in Ohio and she wanted us to drive there
  • I just don’t like those kinds of events, the waste, & attention
  • We had been living together for a few years already at this point, there wasn’t much left for a “household” that we needed

So no engagement party or wedding shower.

For pre-wedding events, I did end up having 2 bachelorette parties. As mentioned we were living in CT at the time. We had only been there a little over a year, so I didn’t know too many people outside of work friends.

But these work friends were amazing people, and decided I needed a party. We planned a great day of winery-hopping (there were three relatively close together) followed by a downtown New Haven bar crawl. I didn’t pay for a thing, and I’m told it was a lot of fun! 😉

Then we also had a smaller, quieter party in TN with the wonderful ladies of the bridal party: my sister, my cousin, my best friend from grad school, and my sister in law. We are all such laid back women that we opted to just hang out at the cabin and drink wine and play games!

The guys went out in downtown Pigeon Forge at the same time to do their thing, then we all met back at the cabin for general merriment.

I wore dresses I had already owned, no special clothing, shoes, or accessories were purchased by me for these events. Some of my friends did go all out and got me a “Bachelorette” tiara and light up sash, which was quite fun to wear.

bachelorette party swag

2 days prior to the Big Day, the boy and I went downtown together to get the marriage license, which was $41. This was the easiest part of getting married! And our officiant very kindly took care of signing and mailing it afterwards to complete the ‘make it official’ part.

The rehearsal was quick since we were holding the ceremony at the cabin, and it was to be very short and simple. We all just lined up in order of who we were walking in with, and practiced processing in, standing, and then walking out 2-3 times.

The rehearsal dinner the night before the wedding was covered by my wonderful in-laws, and was held at a restaurant downtown.

We had a great time sitting and talking, our two sides of the family and closest friends getting to know each other better and make memories. A few toasts and speeches were made, but there was nothing “official” about it and no pressure. It is also much easier to sit everyone at one long table and actually hear each other talk when there are about 20 of you.

Apparel & Beautifying

Everyone knows the big white dress is an important part of the day.

But honestly even that is up for discussion now. I toyed with the idea of a non-white dress, like a pale peach or champagne. I tried on dozens of dresses in all different styles, at every boutique within driving distance.

And while I loved the look of the mermaid, the A line, the curve hugging slinky kinds, the puffy ones with huge trains… they just weren’t me. I felt uncomfortable, like I couldn’t walk or dance or sit.

Then I tried on a shorter ‘tea length’ dress, and (I’m told) my face and eyes lit up and I couldn’t stop smiling. Clearly, 3/4 length dresses are my thing. The swirliness of the skirt and lightness overall felt so right; I knew I would have a short wedding dress.

Tea length bridal gown
My face hurt from smiling so big all day! This exactly captures my love of this style of dress.

But, as I only planned to wear it for a few hours, and probably not pass it on to anyone, I didn’t see a point in paying several hundreds of dollars. Those boutique dresses were just to try different styles, no way was I walking out with a 4-digit charge on my credit card.

The Dress was purchased at the end of season, online, and was the last one they had, in my size. The total was just over $100. Turns out it fit like it was made for me, so no altering was required!

My shoes were purchased on sale from Payless, with a coupon, and the jewelry was borrowed from my sister. I got a crinoline online to make the skirt poofier, for less than $10. And there was no veil; I just didn’t like how they look on me, and didn’t want to do the whole ‘guy uncovers your face’ thing.

So once I was clothed, we had to figure out the rest of the party.

We decided to let the guys wear a suit they already had (black, with a white dress shirt to keep it super simple) and the girls could wear any dress they chose as long as it was approximately knee-length, and a shade of grey to go with our colors.

This way everyone gets to wear something they love and look and feel good in, and almost all of them didn’t even have to buy anything new for the event.

**It will always be appreciated if you take others’ budgets into consideration!!**

I’m so glad the mismatched-but-same-color-palette thing is a trend, because it looked amazing on my girls! They even magically chose half silky and half lace (2 each) so it looked almost planned anyways.

We like it and wanna put a ring on it!

Let it be known, that you do not HAVE to have wedding bands, or engagement rings either. This is a personal decision for each person and each couple. No judgment here. A piece of jewelry cannot summarize your feelings for your person. Obviously, not having wedding bands will save you this expense completely.

But, we did want that outer symbol of our commitment to each other. I also wanted a simple band I could still wear when I didn’t want to wear my larger bling and tempt fate. Our wedding bands were bought online, in tungsten, because it is so durable.

I simply did a few minutes’ of research on different metal types and price compared across a few companies. The boy picked his favorite, and we clicked “order”.  We even sprung for the extra few dollars to engrave the wedding date inside the matching bands.

engraved wedding bands

Mine was a super slim 2 mm and hubs had a larger size with rounded edges. We both love how comfortable they are to wear, except when playing video games for long periods of time.  😉

Though I was of the opinion that we could do our own hair and makeup thank you very much, on the day of the wedding, the girls did all go to the salon together to get our hair done in matching styles, and I even got upgraded to makeup as well.

Which is probably for the best, as I don’t use makeup and would likely not have worn any otherwise!

The salon we used did a fantastic job, I loved the curls and braids! And the makeup was enough without making me look like a whole different person. It was also extremely reasonably priced (the girls were sweet and chipped in to cover my cost).

Officiant

The cost for this was $0 because hubs’ cousin is a pastor!

He has done TONS of weddings, so he was not at all nervous, and was very well prepared. His words were beautiful and heartfelt, and he brought a special perspective to the ceremony since he had such close lifelong knowledge of the groom.

If that sounds like a nice idea, but no one in the family currently is “of the cloth”, you can have a family member or close friend become ordained quite easily online.

For example, my brother, who recently got engaged, has two close male friends. He wanted to involve them both, but wanted only one best man. One of them is very religious already, so it was an easy choice to ask that he become ordained and perform the service, while the other stood as best man.

This way, both are integral to the process and close to my brother on his special day. And he doesn’t need to pay a pastor either!

Ceremony

We kept the ceremony short and sweet, since neither of us is particularly religious. If you have a faith you grew up in or live in now, there may be traditions you keep.

There was no rental fee, because we had the ceremony in the cabin we had already rented. If you choose to use a church or other venue, there may be a location fee.

We had our sisters do a short reading on love, and we did have a “unity” thing, because “you have to make it at least symbolic of joining your lives”. This did seem like a legitimate suggestion, so we thought long and hard about what we could do that would be actually meaningful to us.

There are all kinds of ideas out there on the interwebs if you just search. We debated a few different ideas including candles, building things, breaking things, planting things, and then the idea of a sand sculpture made something click.

But instead of sand, we wanted to use spices!

(Because I’m the Budget Epicurean, duh)

So we created a mixture of garlic powder and salt, to “spice up our lives together”.  🙂

 

 

 

*Intermission*

In the interest of pausing this novel and giving you all a chance to catch your breath, I’ll cut this article off and continue in Part 2.

Be sure to come back and catch How To Have a Gorgeous Destination Wedding for $10,000: Part 2. It has all the goodies on food, drinks, gifts, and the all-important final reveal of the numbers!

 

*Disclaimer: This story is in no way meant to alienate readers who may be gay, lesbian, bisexual, asexual, transgender, transexual, or polyamorous. This is also not meant to imply or insinuate that any- or every-one should enter into a legally binding marriage. I am also not saying that a wedding celebration/party is required to have a meaningful and lasting marriage.

 

Let’s hear all your thoughts in the comments!

Did you do something unique at your wedding? Are you planning to do something creative? Just head to the nearest Justice Of the Peace? Did you go whole hog on a big white wedding and black tie reception?

Weekly Eating – 3/12/18

 

Hey y’all! Welcome to the series Weekly Eating.

Here is where I’ll talk about the week’s meal plan versus reality, what we ate for the week, and how we did budget-wise. I hope it gives readers a behind-the-scenes look into our life through the lens of food, and it’s also a way to keep us on track with meal planning and grocery budgeting.

Feel free to share your wins and lessons in the comments below!

 

Oh man, this week was ups and downs all over. First off, Sunday was my tea party! I had such a blast getting all dolled up, when I have a theme I go ALL IN. The group of women was a great mix of personalities and it led to some really great conversation. Maybe after a while I can convince them to talk finances? 😉

tea party dress and hat

The downside of having the party hosting bug is that I go ALL IN. This means occasionally I over-do it, and I definitely over-did-it. I spent way too much on groceries, and it turned out we didn’t even use a good chunk of the food! I even tried to keep telling myself that it’s tea, not a full meal, but… I just can’t help myself!

tea party finger sandwiches

I’m gonna blame this one on my mom, who is the world’s most awesome party planner, ask anyone who knows her (she planned my amazing destination wedding for <$10,000!). I grew up with lavish parties on a shoestring budget, and a big weakness for making sure when there are 10 guests, I have enough food to feed at least 25.

tea party tea and sugar

 

Monday:

Breakfast – Waffles with fresh berries. I made a batch of waffles on Saturday and stuck them in a ziplock for breakfasts this week. And I’m so glad it’s spring, and berries are on sale again! It is not quite blueberry or strawberry season, so I know they’re greenhouse grown or imported, but I’ve missed fresh berries!

waffles with fresh berries

Lunch – Leftover 5 Bean Chili with leftover koftes mixed in. The boy didn’t love these re-heated and honestly neither did I (most things are best fresh) so I just mixed them into the chili. I figured, hey, lentils and onion go great in chili! And it tasted just fine.

chili and a salad

Dinner – Changed our minds from stuffed baked potatoes to mac n cheese! Two reasons: 1) we got a “wintry mix” of rain/sleet/snow which made for a yucky cold night and demanded comfort food and 2) I had soooo much cheese leftover from the tea party!

pesto mac n cheese

Made a big pot of “lazy black beans“, and then accidentally got caught up blogging and burnt the bottom. 🙁 I still put them in the fridge, we will see if they’re salvageable.

lazy black beans on the stove with onion and orange

Tuesday:

Breakfast – Leftover biscuits from the tea party warmed up with some strawberry jam.

tea party biscuits with jam

Lunch – I made this black rice and radish salad, with a few differences. I added lemon juice and zest to the dressing, laid it all over a bed of torn kale, and added thin sliced cucumbers.

herby black rice and radish salad

Snack – Then after lunch I had a triple chocolate brownie (from last weekend’s 3/3 party) and it was heaven. If this isn’t your definition of heaven I don’t want to know how you define it, and probably don’t want to go there.

triple chocolate brownie

Dinner – I made some crispy baked tofu for myself and ground turkey for the boy, and we had Taco Tuesday! My tacos were a little smoky but I figured it was from the fire…

tofu Taco Tuesday

We lit up a fire in the backyard and ate outside. It was still super chilly, but really nice. I can’t wait for it to warm up so we can do this more often.

fire pit in backyard

Wednesday:

Breakfast – Waffles with strawberry/OJ sauce. I just microwaved a cup of cut up berries in about 1/4 cup juice and poured it on.

waffles with strawberries

Lunch – Leftover chili and mac n cheese mixed together

leftover chili and mac n cheese

Snack – Finished the beet hummus and some veggies

beet hummus and veggies

Dinner – Sooooooooo I made a big batch of black beans… and today I tried to eat them with stir fried veggies and rice.

I choked down part of a bowl because I’d already dished it out, but the burnt flavor was just too much. I had to throw out a whole pound of cooked black beans, and my heart broke a little  🙁

burnt black beans

I had a follow-up bowl with the rest of the tofu and more rice.

black bean rice bowl
And yum-yum sauce, because, YUM

Thursday:

Breakfast –Roasted sweet potato with white beans. I loved this combo last week, but for whatever reason I took 2 bites and just could not…

roasted sweet potato with white beans

Snack 1 – good thing I had a granola bar in my lunch bag

peanut butter granola bar

Lunch –The last bit of leftover chili mac, and leftover Black Rice & Radish Salad. I’m glad I had double the lunch since I had such a lackluster breakfast appetite.

leftover chili and mac n cheeseleftover black rice and radish salad

Snack 2 – I did also make a bunch of kale chips yesterday, so I packed up the half I didn’t immediately inhale for an afternoon snack

kale chips

Dinner – I had no idea what to make, so I made refrigerator soup! It’s basically when you just pull everything out of the refrigerator and toss it together with some water to make soup. I added the sweet potato and white beans I couldn’t finish, plus some rice, some of the tofu, and other veggies.

refrigerator soup

It’s different every time, and a great way to use up bits of leftovers so you don’t have to throw them away. The boy said that with extra chilies and hot sauce it wasn’t even that bad!

Friday:

Breakfast – Great Grains cereal with Almond milk. Yet again, a cereal the boy requested, and I’m the one eating it. 😀

great grains cereal

Lunch – In cleaning out the fridge, I found out that I’d hidden a few pieces of the spinach artichoke pizza! So I dug those out to finish it off. I also had 2 lonely beet veggie burgers hanging out, so I nommed those too.

leftover spinach artichoke pizza

Things came up at work, so by the time I got back to my desk it was after 3pm. I was ravenous, and never more happy I had double the lunch than this moment.

beet veggie burgers

And now I can almost see the back wall of the refrigerator! Time to cook something…

Dinner – Stir Friday! I made my oven baked tofu and topped a stir fry of frozen veggies and extra odds and ends for a tasty, frugal meal.

crispy tofu stir fry

 

The Weekend

My sister and her friends were in Florida this week for their spring break. Since I’m halfway-ish on the drive back to Ohio, they asked to stay at our place to save on a hotel. Of course I said sure! So we will have 5 20-somethings in our house on St. Patty’s Day! Hahaha we will see how us old folk fare, if we can still hang. 😉

green beer
Please forgive me for drinking food coloring! Its only once a year I promise.

We got all the fixings for Shamrock Shakes! Not as healthy as the one I made a few years ago, but definitely tastier!

shamrock shake

Plans beyond Saturday morning? Sleep. Sit. Read. That’s pretty much it. 🙂 Well, maybe start some sweet potato slips.

 

Food Total: $122.81

Ugggggggghhhh… this was a death by a thousand cuts. No one thing was super expensive or put me over budget, I just went a little party planning crazy.

When I was looking up tea party recipes, I kept finding more and more sandwiches and sweets that I wanted to make! I ended up with five different kinds of finger sandwiches! FIVE!

But… you know… they were all delicious, and everyone seemed to really like trying one of each kind to see which was their favorite. So I can’t be too mad. At least I had plenty of tea so I didn’t have to buy any of that.

Harris Teeter

Dairy $15.43 Staples $20.92 Fruit/Veg $18.56
Sliced cheese 5 5.98 Almond milk 2 3.94 Lemons 1lb x2 4
cream cheese 0 Pancake mix 1.99 Pears 2 1.46
Goat cheese 3.99 Cereal 2 5 Pineapples 2 1.94
Quart half and half 1.47 Blue agave 9.99 Baby carrots 2 1.68
Fage Greek yogurt 0 Strawberries 2 quarts 4.98
plain Greek yogurt 3.99 Mini cukes 6 1.99
Kale 0.99
Bananas 6 1.52

Harris Teeter has email coupons just for eVIC card holders. I always check because there is usually at least one free or very marked down item that we use. This week the Fage Greek yogurt and cream cheese were totally free. Which is great, because the finger sandwiches needed cream cheese.  🙂

I admit, the blue agave syrup was a total splurge. We have started using agave as our main sweetener for tea, oatmeal, etc, rather than sugar. This was a HUGE bottle, marked down $3. So I went for it.

Kroger

Staples $23.48 Fruit/Veg $15.97
Tofu 2 3 blueberries pint 1.78
clif bar (should be free) 1.5 avocado 6 4.14
tortillas chips wtf also should be free 1.29 markdowns red bell peppers 2 0.99
buffalo sauce 0.89 markdowns yellow squash 3 0.99
hot pepper sauce 1.09 organic dill 1.99
green and red curry sauce 4.98 radishes 1.29
Hot pepper sauces 6 6.58 markdowns Serrano peppers 0.99
burger buns 0.89 markdowns apples 4 0.99
bread loaf x2, rolls 2.27 Mushrooms quart 1.99
French bread loaf 0.99 Roma tomato 4 0.82

At Kroger, they do Freebie Friday deals, and I usually wait a few weeks to get several at once. The tortilla chips and Clif bar were included, and I would not have bought them if not free, but they didn’t ring up.

I noticed once I got home and was filling in my spreadsheets… but is not quite $3 worth going back to the store to fight over? Probably not. Just very annoying.

 

Lessons Learned

More ugggggh… I hate food waste! Hate it. And having to toss a huge batch of my favorite frugal food (black beans) kills me. Plus it throws off my plan of eating black bean breakfast tacos, and beans and rice for lunch. So this week was a bit of a scramble. I plan to do better next week.

I’m considering doing intermittent fasting for a bit, due to my weird dislike of breakfast lately. I used to be a devoted fan of breakfast for many years. Now it seems like nothing sounds good, and even when it does, I take a few bites and then am over it. I don’t want to waste food, that’s for sure. So maybe my body’s just changing in my 30s, and trying out not eating until a little later in the day will help.

 

 

How about you guys? Did you have a learning week or an awesome week of wins?

Blackberry Cherry Smoothie

 

We have Sprung forward and lost an hour of sleep but gained an hour of daylight. The first Official Day of Spring will be March 20th, but you can enjoy spring like flavors anytime with my Rainbow of Smoothies!

Depending on your mood and what color you’re feeling, you can whip up a batch of Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, or Blue. And now finally, today we bring you a nice plum Purple smoothie.

Blackberries are a very vibrant color when blended, and great for hiding all sorts of nutritious things. Keep that in mind for the future.

The deep color of blackberries and cherries comes from their anthocyanins, a super healthy antioxidant you should strive to eat daily. And with a smoothie, there is no excuse, since you literally need about 30 seconds to toss everything in the blender and press a button to have breakfast ready to go.

Oh, you can do something good for your health that is also super fast and delicious?? Sign me up!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup fresh or frozen blackberries
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen cherries
  • 1/2 cup fruit juice or coconut water
  • 1/2 cup yogurt

blackberry cherry smoothie

Put all ingredients in a blender, and blend until smooth. If using fresh berries, you can add a handful of ice for a different texture.

rainbow of smoothies

 

Congratulations, you’ve reached the end of the Rainbow! I hope you’ve found some inspiration to step up your blending game and add lots of colorful produce to your life.

 

 

Want to enjoy the whole Rainbow? Check out all the colors:

 

Please, feel free to share your favorite smoothie recipes in the comments below!

Blueberry Pear Smoothie

 

So we are now into the “cool colors” side of the Rainbow of Smoothies, and almost to the end. We’ve covered Red, Orange, Yellow, and Green.

rainbow of smoothies

Have you tried any? Do you have a favorite yet?

Today we bring you: Blue! With blueberries, of course. I wonder if blueberries ever get tired of being the default “blue” food item? Because really, there aren’t many naturally occurring blue foods.

When I was searching for inspiration, I did come across something that seemed like a total trick at first, called Blue Majik spirulina powder. But nope, it is forreal, there are actually blue pigmented algae that you can buy as a supplement to make Pinterest-worthy smoothies and smoothie bowls.

But, in the interest of keeping the recipe simple and within budget, the much more common and often on sale this time of year fruit is the way to go.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
  • 1 whole fresh pear
  • 1 cup coconut water or milk
  • 1/2 cup yogurt
  • Optional: Dash of lime juice

blueberry pear smoothie

Blend all ingredients in a blender on high until smooth. Frozen berries will create a thick smoothie, fresh will be a bit thinner. If using fresh, you can add a handful of ice for similar texture.

blueberry pear smoothie

 

 

 

Want to enjoy the whole Rainbow? Check out all the colors:

Weekly Eating – 3/5/18

 

Hey y’all! Welcome to the series Weekly Eating.

Here is where I’ll talk about the week’s meal plan versus reality, what we ate for the week, and how we did budget-wise. I hope it gives readers a behind-the-scenes look into our life through the lens of food, and it’s also a way to keep us on track with meal planning and grocery budgeting.

Feel free to share your wins and lessons in the comments below!

 

Well, we picked a great weekend for a dinner party! Harris Teeter was having a 10% off all wine sale, and I also got a coupon for $20 off an order of $100 or more. Without the booze for the party, I would not have hit that $100. Yes, I know, it is justifying spending I didn’t necessarily have to make. But between the sale and the coupon, the alcohol was basically half price!

the Budget Epicurean weekly eating

The party was on March 3rd, so I had a “3” theme. I made three dips: buffalo chicken, beet hummus, and vegan spinach artichoke dip, along with a nice antipasto platter. I had homemade pickles, bacon jam, olives, nuts, figs, dates, and prunes.

antipasto platter

Then I had three different types of pasta (one of which was tri-color) and three sauces: marinara, pesto, and alfredo. That way people could mix and match with whatever they wanted; alfredo plus pesto was a popular combo.

three types of pasta

And for dessert, triple chocolate brownies with chunks of dark chocolate, cocoa powder, and chocolate sauce drizzle, and a Tres Leches cake! It was totally awesome and delicious. We had a great time chatting, and playing games late into the night.

tres leches cake

I paid for it on Sunday though! Good thing it’s supposed to be a day of rest, because I didn’t leave bed all day.

Monday:

Breakfast – Oatmeal with golden raisins & craisins. I don’t know if this is a different type of oatmeal, but the individual oats keep their shape and don’t stick together well. Even after multiple rounds of microwaving. I like my oatmeal to be more mashed-together like, so I was pretty unhappy with it. But I ate it anyways. I’ll have to try it as overnight oats and see if that goes better.

raisin oatmeal

Lunch – Leftover pasta, made new by adding some veggies and shrimp from the freezer, with a lemon garlic sauce.

veggie pasta with lemon butter

Dinner – Spinach Artichoke Melts + Tomato Soup. I had a ton of spinach artichoke dip left from the weekend, and read that one way to use it is to put it into a grilled cheese… well, hell yeah!

spinach artichoke grilled cheese

It turns out whoever wrote that is a flipping genius, and these sammies were hands down AHmazing. Not sure I can have a “plain” grilled cheese ever again…

spinach artichoke grilled cheese

Snack – a chocolate peanut butter granola bar in the car on the way home. Good thing I put one in the pocket of every coat…

choc peanut butter granola bar

*Soaked beans overnight in the crock pot for tomorrow’s chili

Tuesday:

Breakfast – Uh, so, I’m usually pretty behind the times with food trends. I’ve heard of “sweet potato toast” for years, where you thinly slice a sweet potato and just toast it like in a toaster. So I decided to try that. One of the slices ended up kind of charred on the end, and the other was evidently so thick that even putting it through the toaster four times, it was still crunchy… so I microwaved it for 2 minutes and that did the trick.

sweet potato "toast"

Once softened, it was pretty dang tasty. I spread a smashed avocado with lemon on one for the bougie-est toast ever, and then I had some more cooked white beans, so I figured, what the hell why not. DUDE. Why did no one ever tell me that white beans and sweet potato is a DELICIOUS combo?? With a squirt of lemon, sprinkle of salt, I was in heaven. New favorite.

sweet potato "toast"

Lunch – I had bits of random veggies all over the fridge, and a batch of cooked rice, so naturally I whipped up a super quick stir fry. The boy was funny, he goes “awww I got all excited because it smelled really good, but then I look and it’s just vegetables”  😛

veggie stir fry

Dinner – Slow Cooker 5 Bean Chili. We stirred in a few spoonfuls of spinach artichoke dip too, just for funzies, and it was pretty ok. Not a thing I’d be sad about not having, but it used up more dip, so, win.

5 bean chili with spin artichoke dip

Wednesday:

Breakfast – Pineapple Kiwi Green Smoothie! with a pear tossed in because it was bordering on spoiled.

kiwi pineapple smoothie

Lunch – Leftover white bean soup and a big salad. I also used the lemon tahini yogurt dip from last week’s Turkish koftes as dressing

white bean soup and salad

Snack – Beet hummus with cut veggies

beet hummus n veg

Dinner – Bowtie pasta with meatballs, of course. We had a LOT of pasta in the fridge…

bowties and turkey meatballs

Evening snack – herbal tea and a Stroopwaffel!

Thursday:

Breakfast – Peaches & Cream Smoothie

peaches and cream smoothie

Lunch – Pasta with meatballs, a salad, with roasted sweet and hot Brussels sprouts

pasta and brussels sprouts

Dinner – Roasted beet & sweet potato veggie burgers. I used cooked brown rice and breadcrumbs as the binders, and tossed in the little bit of cooked white beans left along with the roasted beets and sweet potato. These were softer than the last batch but I liked the flavor better. Still working on the exact right blend.

beet veggie burgers

Friday:

Breakfast – Banana walnut bread

banana bread

Lunch – Vurgers on rice cakes w hot sauce and lettuce

beet veggie burgers on rice cakes

Snack – Beet hummus & veggies

beet hummus n veg

Dinner – Pizzas! Pork and pineapple for the boy and a veggie for me using the last of the artichoke dip and some peppers and olives

spinach artichoke pizza and hawaiian pizza

The Weekend

Saturday is a lazy day for me, but the poor boy has to work the weekend. A big project launched this week, and he is ”on call” for fixing all the things. So I’ll be cleaning the house, lots of grocery shopping, and prepping for Sunday.

Sunday I’m having a tea party!! If you know me on Twitter you’re probably already aware, I am simply bursting with excitement! I adore parties, and tea, and tiny sweet and savory snacks. I’m super pumped to have a half dozen lovely ladies over in our Sunday best to sip oodles of tea, use terrible fake British accents, and talk about life. Hopefully it will be an absolute blast and become a regular thing.

mountain of tea
Uh, yea, that is all actually tea or tea related items. Bags, loose leaf, herbal, matcha… a French press, honey of different flavors, cups with built in spoons, and more…

And guys, I realized, I have a serious tea problem… I’ve always loved tea and everyone knows it, so between being unable to stop myself around new flavors and gifts from family and friends, I have amassed a formidable collection. The newest addition, of which I am most proud, is this gorgeous porcelain cup and saucer:

yellow gold rose tea cup

I was at the thrift store, and sifting through the housewares section (honestly, in search of a tiered serving tray for this party, which I sadly did not find). The cup jumped out at me with its’ royal pattern and those big yellow roses just immediately made me think of Beauty and the Beast. I had to have it.

I carried the cup around the store another 2 aisles, hoping to find a saucer that looked at least okay with it, but it was coming home with me regardless.

And then, when I was about ready to give up and leave with my few gems, I saw on a lower shelf THE MATCHING SAUCER! It was clearly meant to be. The universe wanted me to have this set. And for only $1.48 total, how could I say no?!?

yellow gold rose tea cup

Food Total: $75.52

Man I’m excited about this week, pretty much nailed it! Even with the impulse purchases and tons of produce we came in at our $75 goal. I’ve also decided that alcohol gets its own category now, so the booze we got for our dinner party was not included here.

Dairy $21.72 Staples $28.38 Fruit/Veg $22.63
Greek yogurts 10 8 Pretzel crisps 2 bags 5 Fresh beets 3 2.99
2lb sharp cheddar cheese 7.99 Canned tomatoes 12 5.64 Bag spinach 2.49
Dozen lg eggs 0.77 Canned garbanzo beans 2 1.54 Fresh stir fry veggies 1.5
Cream cheese 2 2.38 Brownie mix 1.69 Stir fry veggies frozen 1.98
Evaporated milk 0.59 Yellow cake mix 1.49 3lb clementines 2.99
Sweet condensed milk 1.99 Crackers 2 kinds 5 Bananas 8 2.12
Northern beans 2 cans 1.54 Frozen spinach big bag 2.99
Stroopwaffel 8 3.49 Bag spring mix 1.99
Pasta sauce 2 2.5 Cucumber 0.59
3color bowtie pasta 0.49 Basil plant 2.99

Lessons Learned

I did totally give in to temptation at the store when I saw a whole shelf full of Stroopwaffles! I held a box in my hand, then put it back, almost walked away… picked it back up… and then put it in the cart. At least I checked the “per unit” prices, and though the bag full of tiny waffles was close, the not-individually-packaged box of 8 was the best deal, so that is the one I chose.

shelf full of stroopwaffels

Part of me wants to add breakfasts into the meal plan. But then the other part of me knows it is currently the least predictable part of my day. Some mornings a smoothie sounds amazing, other mornings toast is the only acceptable answer. And more and more frequently lately nothing at all sounds good, so I just open the fridge and force something in my face because I can’t in good conscience not eat breakfast at all… c’est la vie, we all go through seasons of eating.

 

How about you guys? Did you have a learning week or an awesome week of wins?

Kiwi Pineapple Green Smoothie

So we all know that Green Smoothies are all the rage in nutrition circles, and it is even expanding to the general population. And for good reason! Greens are easily one of the top healthiest, most nutritious food groups on the planet. They are great for your bones, brain, heart, gut, blood, hair, skin… etc.

But it seems like kind of a lot to eat four to six cups of leafy greens every single day. Like, a girl can only have so many salads.

But, it is super easy to drink a cup of greens every day!

Enter the green drink. Just tossing a handful of spinach into a smoothie instantly elevates it from ‘laziest breakfast ever’ to ‘I’m a nutritional goddess’.

rainbow of smoothies

In keeping with my Rainbow of Smoothie series, I had to come up with a green smoothie that really knocked it out of the park. With a little experimentation, I finally hit upon what is now my absolute new favorite green drink!

Kiwi Pineapple Green Smoothie

Ingredients:

  • 2 peeled kiwi fruits
  • 1/2 cup fresh, frozen, or canned pineapple
  • 1 cup coconut water or milk
  • 1 cup spinach
  • 1/2 banana

Kiwi Pineapple Green Smoothie

Put all ingredients into blender, and blend until smooth!

The kiwi and pineapple make this drink super tropical and tangy, I totally love it. If you don’t have coconut milk or water, you can use any type of plant milk, or plain old water to make it the right texture.

You can also add a handful of ice cubes for a slushier smoothie.

 

Want to enjoy the whole Rainbow? Check out all the colors: