Category Archives: Finances

Articles concerning finances. This is the “budget” Epicurean after all.

Weekly Eating – 3/25/19

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!

 

Over the weekend we made a lot of progress on the coop. The chicks are getting so big I don’t know if I can even call them chicks for much longer. They are also very bouncy and like to run around the box and jump and fly up into the screen covering it, so they need to get out, and soon!

quail around the water bowl

I also went to the Tanger outlets for the first time with a friend, and we had a ball trying on clothes for a few hours on a gorgeous sunny day. I even caved and got 3 new things from Old Navy. I couldn’t tell you the last time I bought a new piece of clothing. But all three things were pieces I felt great in and that I love and know I will wear over and over until they wear out.

Tanger Outlet NC

And we went to a local Hispanic market that I’ve been meaning to get to for forever. We picked up several different flavors/spice levels of salsa along with some hot sauces, jalapenos to replenish our stock of pickled jalapenos, chorizo, some chicken, and some avocados.

haul from the hispanic store

Monday:

Breakfast – Mango strawberry smoothie

strawberry mango smoothie

Lunch – Buddha bowl with roasted cauliflower, quinoa, black beans, cherry tomatoes, and avocado. And someone brought a peach pie to work to share so you better believe I had some of that!

buddha bowl and pie

Dinner – White bean and rice soup with green beans and spinach, with homemade veggie stock and homemade bread

white bean and rice soup

Tuesday:

Breakfast – Homemade bread with 3 quail eggs, 1 slice organic white cheddar cheese and 1 slice smoked turkey

open face breakfast sandwich

Snack – guac & chips

Lunch – leftover roast brisket with roasted root veggies

leftover lunch and guac

Dinner –leftover colcannon and corned beef; also I am so loving that we can eat dinner out on the porch now! It is still light & warm out.

leftovers on the porch

Wednesday:

Breakfast – accidentally skipped it bc I overslept…

Lunch – leftover soup and bread

leftover soup for lunch

Snack – apple and celery with peanut butter and raisins, and some gummy bears

snacks

Dinner – breaded roasted chicken quarters, and some radish top pesto and roasted cauliflower

chicken and pesto

Thursday:

Breakfast – gorgeous purple berry smoothie

gorgeous purple berry smoothie

Lunch – leftover chicken drumstick, cauli, and whole wheat penne pesto with cherry tomatoes

chicken and pesto

Dinner – chana saag over brown rice – chickpea, tomato, and spinach stew with masala spices

chana saag and rice

Friday:

Breakfast – everything bagel with turkey, quail eggs, and organic white cheddar cheese

everything bagel breakfast sammie

Lunch – last leftover beef and root veggies

leftovers and hummus

Snack – everything hummus, with sliced cucumber, radish & carrots. And cookies later, because the sugar demon is strong.

choc chip cookie

Dinner – Crazy combo of chorizo, sweet potato, onion, and apples. That’s it. Was quite weird, different, but really good.

sweet and spicy hash

The Weekend

GUYS IT’S SPRING. It finally feels like it at last. The sun in shining and we are in the upper 60s and 70s and I am freaking thrilled. The flowers are all blooming, the trees are blossoming, and my yard is regularly visited by robins and cardinals and blue jays. I love it.

spring daffodils

Also, WE FINISHED THE COOP!

new quail coop!

Yeah, pretty flippin excited about it. Took a ton of work and ingenuity but by golly, we got it done. Hubs was KEY, I could never have finished this all by my lonesome. I needed his advice, level head, and boy mode strength to get through it. Not the prettiest coop that ever existed, but it is functional.

new quail coop!

And the babies are no longer babies, we kicked them out of the house! They were starting to get too big and feisty for their box, it was just a matter of time until they figured out how to pop up and rip the screen lid off. Plus, they started to stink.

new quail coop!

They seem a little bewildered, but very happy in their new home. And boy, are they spoiled! This coop is HUGE, it’s like a quail mansion. Hopefully, the first egg is just around the corner…

Food Total: $67.22 + 33.05 = $99.27

Weekly Produce Box = a build your own, so I got to choose all my favorites. I got Brussels sprouts, broccoli, green beans, red potatoes and yellow potatoes, beets, tomatoes, lettuce, and a stock up box of 8 pounds of NC sweet potatoes.

the produce box sweet potato stock up

 

Lessons Learned

It’s good to have standby recipes that you know you can cook well, and quickly, and easily. But it is good to experiment too. That’s how I find crazy new combos, that the boy approves of. I got kudos for the creative chorizo meal, not as a thing we could eat daily, but once it a while it is nice to have something totally out of the norm.

And I’m sure y’all are super tired of me crowing about quail, but seriously. They bring me so much joy. If you’ve ever considered raising your own animals for food, for eggs, milk, or meat, just do it! You won’t be sorry.

 

 

 

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

2019 Goals: February Recap

 

In my first post for the year, I outlined why I don’t really get into “resolutions” so much as goal setting, and outlined my top goals for 2019. So, to help keep myself accountable, I will recap how each one is going, along with any tweaks or changes, each month.

I’d love to hear about your goals for this year and your progress in the comments below!

 

Thus, my goals for 2019 include:

Call one family member per week

Continuing my strong streak, I definitely talk to at least 1 friend or family member per week now. And I’m trying to vary it a lot, and talk to people I haven’t in a while.

I got to have an almost hour long amazing chat with Angela from TreadLightlyRetireEarly, whom I haven’t seen or spoken to since last spring’s trip to Seattle!

And I spent nearly 3 hours on the phone one day with my aunt and grandma! I may have to consider upping my minutes on my bare bones phone plan 🤣

A+

Date night at least once per month

February is kind of a ‘cheat month’ since it has Valentine’s Day baked into it. We will see what happens in March.

A

Savings rate of 50% or better every month

This will be complicated since we both have a work mandated 401k, as well as an HSA and Roths to factor in, before any contributions to our mortgage, taxable investment accounts, and money market.

The market is crazy and net worth is not a thing I can control. But savings rate, we can control, and improve.

Oooh boy, this month hurt a bit since we finally got the Southwest card churn going. I think we are sitting around 40%, yeowch.

B-

Max out both Roth IRAs by end of February

I got mine fully funded! We aren’t all the way there yet on the boy’s though, so not quite nailed it. But close, and we will complete it before end of March come hell or high water.

B-

Veganuary (ish)

My lifelong intended way of eating is 80/20 plant-based.

Well Veganuary was a solid B+ overall I think, since the only little meat was self raised or high quality. However.

We got tossed into a Whole30, which takes away my precious rice and beans, along with other less good goodies like sugar and alcohol, so the animal meat consumption has skyrocketed. I wrote about why the boy will finish it out, but I’m jumping off the wagon <here>.

D

The Daily Dozen – I will do my best all year to stick to this

Again, with the Whole30, they take away all grains and beans.You need 3 servings of beans and 3 servings of grains per day for the Daily Dozen. So nope, the max I could do was 6 per day. At least there was significant overlap in the loving of greens, veggies, fruits, and nuts and seeds.

F

Do more of what is good or good for me

I’ve picked up reading again, between restarting an old favorite and several new books, and that makes me blissfully happy. I’ve also been annoyingly consumed with the quail and hatching new chicks, as I knew I would be. So, soul is full for sure. Still working on the working out motivation.

B

Make someone smile every day

Maybe I should actually track this somehow, but I am certain that I make at least my husband or myself smile every day. I also try to give genuine compliments at work, and to random strangers at the grocery store, gas station, etc.

A

 

Overall Goals: C so far  🙁

How is your 2019 going?

 

BE’s Seven Simple Rules of the Road

 

The vast majority of working (or even non-working) adults own a car and have to drive. We drive to work, to school, to the store, to the bank, to the mall, to children’s practices and events, to visit friends and family, to go on vacation.

I know MMM would like to punch us all in the face for that, but it is a fact of life. Most of us just cannot, or will not, function without a car.

Related Post: My Commuting Mistake

So, since we will all spend approximately 9999999 hours sitting in traffic (not an actual statistic, I hope), we should all at least agree on some basic fundamental rules.

At least I assume everyone who is driving holds a valid license.

And to get that license, you had to complete Drivers Ed training.

Maybe that was 4 decades ago, but still. You learned the rules at some point.

But as we get out onto the road and actually drive, those rules tend to morph and change and fall by the wayside. We make up our own rules, and tend to ignore the less convenient ones.

We think whatever it is we need to do and wherever it is we are going is SO MUCH MORE IMPORTANT than that of the other 367254387 cars on the road around us.

So, let me remind you of the rules, and add a few of my own.

Cuss words changed to be more colorful and reader friendly.

  1. Learn how to forking zipper.
    Say you are on a road, where two lanes merge into one. You are in the blue car, the green car is in front of you. You see the red car on the left, trying to merge.What do you do?a) Speed up and ride the green car so the red car can’t get in and you can get home 0.05 seconds faster
    b) Not be a donkey and let the red car in
    how to zipper
    The ONLY acceptable answer is b. Do not be a donkey.Nothing makes my blood boil like some forking gremlin a-hole driving dangerously close to the car in front and studiously avoiding eye contact while you correctly have your turn signal blinking (see #3) and are trying to merge into a lane.
  2. The flip side of that is, do not just zip down the left lane and cut your turn in line because YOU want to get home 0.04 seconds faster.

    Literally everyone in the right lane who zippered correctly now hates you and is hoping you die in a ditch. In case you didn’t know.

  3. Use your gremlin turn signals. Correctly.
    There is not much in life that will rocket my blood pressure faster than someone who just assumes all the lanes are theirs to swerve through and cuts me off with nary a heads up or sorry I’m an idiot wave.

    IF YOU ARE TURNING OR MERGING PUT YOUR BLINKER ON. 

    That is literally the purpose for which they exist.

    AND THEN REMEMBER TO TURN THEM OFF.

    Please don’t drive for 2 miles in the right lane with your left blinker on, causing nice people who want to let you in some serious confusion and slow downs. Or turn on your left blinker, but then turn right. Again, die in a ditch, please.

  4. Do. not. tailgate. period. I will mess with you.
    People who ride my bumper when I am already doing 10-15 over the speed limit?

    Bruh, I don’t care if your wife is about to give birth, if your house is on fire, or you just don’t want to miss the start of the game.

    Imma slow down to exactly the speed of the car in the right lane, and ride it out until the next stop light. Then I’m gonna wait when it turns green, until just before it turns red, and zoom through to get you stuck there.

    You flashing your lights, or honking at me, will just make me smile.

    And no regrets. I hope you learn your lesson.

  5. Leave some space between you and the car in front of you.
    Not exactly like #4 above, but to prevent yourself from having to tap the brakes every 3 seconds.

    THIS is the cause of most traffic jams, according to physics & math.

    If all cars left an appropriate amount of space (1 car length for every 10 mph you are going, remember?) we could avoid a lot of 8am and 5pm cussing.

  6. If you are on a bike, or walking, you have rights.
    But YOU ARE NOT A CAR. No matter what NC says.

    Don’t get me wrong. The onus for avoiding crashes rests securely on ALL parties shoulders.

    Cars need to be aware at all times. NO texting. No games. Not even a phone call unless it’s with a hands-free device. And to respect pedestrians’ rights to cross at crosswalks, and cyclists’ right to be on the road too.

    But pedestrians also need common sense of ‘look both ways’ before you cross, comply with traffic lights and crossing signals.

    Bicyclists should follow all the same traffic laws as cars do, and not ride side-by-side in the middle of a road that has a speed limit of 45 and you’re going a maximum of 20 mph.

  7. There is a fine line between proper caution in weather and being a donkey.
    Also, weather is not an excuse to drive like a donkey.

    Whether you’re a 70-year veteran of driving in Montana winters or a delicate snowflake raised on the Equator who doesn’t know what snow it, people freak the fork out when it precipitates.

    All the same road laws still apply. Still, and especially now, do not tailgate, change lanes without warning, speed (too much).

    Some people seem to take a deluge as an excuse to blow past the “slow” people at 30 over the speed limit, just because they have all wheel drive or something.

    But now, yes, some extra caution is advised. The more severe the weather, the more cautious you ought to be. Having hit mailboxes and guard rails during snow or rain, even though I was doing everything right, I can say that accidents do and will happen. You should try your best to mitigate those risks.

    On the flip side, don’t be the shirt-head who is now cruising on the highway at 20mph with your flashers on. It is literally only sprinkling. And you’re dumb.

traffic at night

There you have it, seven simple rules to make everyone have a much more peaceful, harmonious drive. None of us want to be there, but we all have to be. So show a little compassion and understanding, and we will all get where we’re going.

 

What say you? Too harsh? Not strong enough words? Are there any rules you wish we could get rid of, or enforce?

 

Weekly Eating – 2/18/19

 

 

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!

 

 

Over the weekend I had many adventures, mostly food related of course. I pickled some carrots, cauliflower, and beets. They turned out pretty great. I had a food tour on Saturday that was super fun, everyone was very talkative and there for a good time.

Durham Food Tour

I finally got my egg incubator! That meant that I got to put 14 of my quail eggs in for their 18 day journey. I am impatiently waiting and checking the temp and moisture levels daily. We should have baby chicks by the first week of March and I cannot wait!

quail egg incubator

And Erin from ReachingForFI was in town! We went to AYCE sushi on Sunday, and made an impressive tower of empty plates. She was the most perfect house guest and is welcome back any time.

AYCE Sushi wall of plates

Monday:

Breakfast – cinnamon raisin bagel with almond butter and an apple

bagel with apple and almond butter

Lunch – leftovers from tour

Dinner – I made what was meant to be a sausage and kale soup, but then I decided to let it thicken a bit and eat it over rice. Fabulous decision! Even the boy loved it.

sausage and kale stew over rice

Tuesday:

Breakfast – tropical smoothie and a nut kolachi

tropical smoothie in blender

Lunch – leftover homemade Ethiopian dal, kale, and beet hummus with grape tomatoes and a black bean brownie

leftovers lunch

Snack – apple

Dinner – made a killer mac n cheese, then added some leftover cooked sausage, spinach, and pinto beans

mac n cheese with beans, spinach, and sausage

I also meal prepped a pork roast with beans in the insta pot and a big tray of roasted veggies

Wednesday:

Breakfast – smoothie

Lunch – leftover sausage kale soup and roasted veg

sausage and kale stew over rice

Dinner – had dinner at a friends house, with sausage made on his farm, green beans, rosemary potatoes, and pickled goodies made by yours truly (beet pickled veg and pickled watermelon rind)

pork sausage with veggies and pickles

He’s also a woodworker, and gave me piece of a barrel stave that was smoked and then used for whiskey followed by beer. I added it to my soy sauce, and it has darkened considerably already! I can’t wait to see what the difference in flavor is like.

homemade soy sauce color

Thursday:

Breakfast – spiced pear and raisin oatmeal

spiced pear and raisin oatmeal

Lunch – the last leftover enchilada from last week with avocado, rice, tomatoes, and spicy salsa

leftovers lunch

Snack – leftover from Valentine’s day cookie & chocolate covered strawberry. And then a nut bar on the drive home.

valentines day treats

Dinner – tortellini with sauce (that smelled suspiciously like salsa…)

tortellini

Snack – big ol bowl of popcorn. Clearly I was a bottomless pit for some reason this day…

popcorn

Friday:

Breakfast – burrito of 4 quail eggs scrambled with salsa and spinach

quail egg burrito

Lunch – rice & beans with roasted veggies

leftovers lunch

Snack – bits of PB&J and an apple

snacks

Dinner – leftovers

Food Total: $53.23

Harris Teeter + Weekly Produce Box = Eat the Uglies

Produce Box: Uglies

I am so in love with the movement to eat “ugly produce” that is gaining traction around the US and the world in general. Grocery stores usually have pretty strict standards on produce they will accept, like the size, shape, and color. Anything that has the slightest bruise, dent, nick, or blemish or doesn’t fit these requirements just gets rejected, and thrown out.

So this produce is wasted, sent to landfills, or left in the field to rot. The farmers lose out on money, and it does the world at large a lot of harm, just because we want our apple to look “perfect”.

Guess what folks?

Nature ain’t perfect.

Sometimes carrots have 2 legs, or taters are alien shaped, or apples get gnawed on a little bit. Produce grows from literal dirt, and poo is probably involved somewhere (hopefully, it’s the most perfect fertilizer). It’s still perfectly edible and healthy. Just give it a rinse before you eat or cook it.

The Weekend

I will be avoiding the online hullabaloo over the recently published Alt-FI Manifesto. This blog is not a place for politicking or arguing; it is a place to talk about food and money and health. The end.

I will say I am happy to see those who are willing to have a respectful dialogue regardless of beliefs, and saddened by those who seem to delight in attacking and generalizing.

I will also be attending my first NC Drag Show!

Not my first ever, but first since… oh, over a decade for sure. So I am nervous and excited to see how it goes! It will surely be full of fun and music and glitter.

Then Sunday we have brunch plans with our recent CA transplant Steve & his wife! They came to Durham from San Fran, and I am going to do my darndest to show all the ways the Triangle is far superior! Friendly people, great weather (maybe a losing battle here), and phenomenal cost of living (for now…).

One last announcement…

The boy has decided we are doing a Whole 30

Starting now.

🤪

 

 

 

 

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

Weekly Eating – 2/11/19

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!

 

Last weekend we started off with a big bonfire and party, which was a lot of fun. But also tiring. We stayed up way too late, and maybe had a few too many beers. Saturday and Sunday were much slower and quieter haha.

Monday:

Breakfast – green smoothie: spinach, banana, frozen tropical fruit mix, flaxseed

green smoothie

Lunch – it was a super crazy day so I didn’t have time for lunch, but I got a late afternoon cup of tea and a nut bar, so that’s good. Oh, and someone brought Krispy Kreme donuts, so I had one of those.

afternoon tea

Dinner –I treated us to Chipotle burritos! The boy got steak and I got a sofritas with guac and it was glorious

Chipotle sofritas burrito with guac

Tuesday:

Breakfast – berry smoothie

berry black bean smoothie

Lunch – quinoa, cauliflower, black beans and cashews over a bed of mixed greens

quinoa cauliflower salad over a bed of greens

Snack – apple and a KIND bar

afternoon snack

Dinner – Instant Pot Fish & Veggies!

Instant Pot Fish & Veg

Wednesday:

Breakfast – berry smoothie, with black beans!

berry black bean smoothie

Lunch – leftover Instant pot fish & veg

Instant Pot Fish & Veg

Dinner – Enchiladas!

enchiladas

I had thawed a pound of free range Butcher Box ground beef. Mixed with some diced mushrooms and olives, and a healthy scoop of black beans, that made the perfect filling. I wrapped a big spoonful in a tortilla, times ten. Cover in diced tomatoes, chili powder, hot sauce, and garlic salt, plus a little shredded Mexican cheeses.

enchiladas

Thursday:

Breakfast – berry smoothie with black beans

berry black bean smoothie

Lunch – since it was Valentine’s Day, there was a party at work. They provided pizza, and everyone else brought salad and toppings and desserts. I had an eggplant pizza slice, it was surprisingly delicious

Valentines Day pizza & salad Valentines Day pizza & salad

Dinner – the boy always cooks on Valentine’s, since I cook 99% of the time. He met me at the door in a suit, there were candles everywhere, it was lovely. There is a no phone rule on V Day so no photos, sorry!

Friday:

Breakfast – mooooore smoothie!

Lunch – leftover enchiladas

Dinner – more leftover enchiladas! And there are still 2 left if you can believe it. I love making huge batches of meals that last all week

The Weekend

This weekend my pal Erin at Reaching For FI is in town, along with a special guest! And due to unfortunate sickness, we get the honor of hosting them. So I’m pretty stoked about that. Even if I nearly lost her friendship forever over my unpopular opinion on cumin

They already have plans Saturday and I have a Durham Food Tour lined up, so we won’t see much of each other. But then on Sunday, we are debating hitting up an all-you-can-drink mimosa brunch, and for sure will be stuffing our faces at All You Can Eat Sushi.

My sweat pants are ready.

AND, I finally got my quail egg incubator!!!

quail egg incubator

I have collected 7 eggs so far, and however many else I get Sat & Sun, they are all going in on Sunday. Quail eggs only take 18 days total to incubate, so I’ll have thumb-sized little chickies by March 8th! And, because they are small and their lifespan is so quick the girls will hopefully be up and laying eggs for me by April!

Oh, and no, Monday is not a holiday for me, I have to be at work at 8am thankyouverymuch. So if it is a holiday for you, boooo. And I hope you enjoy it.  🙂

Food Total: $53.40

Weekly Produce Box = I ordered all my favorite things this week: bananas, 2 lbs of beets, Brussels sprouts, Pink Lady apple, pears, rainbow carrots, cabbage, zucchini, yellow squash & cucumber

And a stop by Aldi for some sale produce and to restock some of my baking supplies that were running low or out.

Dairy $3.48 Staples $7.16 Fruit/Veg $8.48
Yogurt 12 3.48 4lb sugar 1.99 grape tomatoes pint 1.39
baking cocoa 1.79 blackberries 0.89
chocolate chips x2 3.38 baby bella mushrooms 0.99
cauliflower 1.29
avocados 8 3.92

Lessons Learned

Cooking a big ol batch of something that lasts for many days leftovers is a super time saver. Both the boy and myself had a couple doozies of a day at work this week, and I was too annoyed and/or exhausted to cook. As long as there’s still some enchiladas, then there is no reason to panic.

Also, dang it, not creating waste is next to impossible in this world today. I love having nuts and dried fruits as a snack, but a bar is even more convenient. I know I could make my own batch of KIND bars weekly, and should. But I just cannot dedicate enough mental space and time and effort to it. And that sucks.

Anyone have deep guilt and existential crises over our contribution to the demise of the planet? No, just me? Okay.

 

 

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

Instant Pot Potatoes & Green Beans With Fish

 

Happy Valentine’s Day!

I love each and every one of you reading this. If you want a fabulous last-minute dinner idea that is drop-dead easy, I’ve got you covered.

How about we make everyone happy and start with the recipe, huh?

Instant Pot Fish n Veg Gif

Ingredients:
  • 2-4 filets of fish – your choice, I’ve used cod and salmon with great results
  • 6 – 8 potatoes – any kind works! Or all the kinds.
  • ~1lb green beans – you can use fresh, frozen, or canned
  • 1/4 c soy sauce
  • 3/4 c chicken or veg stock
  • 2-3 tbsp crushed/diced garlic or garlic powder to taste
  • Optional: 2-3 tbsp honey or maple syrup if using salmon
  • Optional: crushed red pepper or black pepper for spice

This recipe is very flexible! If you don’t like potatoes or green beans or just want some extra variety, add some carrots, onion, radishes, grape tomatoes, mushrooms, collard greens, or whatever suits your fancy.

This can easily be made vegetarian/vegan if you skip the fish and use tofu/tempeh or just a medley of veg instead. And you can adjust the cooking time, I have done 6 minutes (perfect) and 10 minutes (a little too much).

Step 1: Dice the potatoes into a medium size, add to the pot. I’ve used russet, sweet potatoes, redskin, and Yukon gold, and a combination of all of them, they all work well here.

Step 2: If using fresh green beans, cut the ends off, discard any black or rotting beans. If using canned or frozen just toss em in. Add to the pot on top of the potatoes.

Step 3: Add the fish filets on top of the green beans, if they have skin, skin side up. I had salmon filets that were 3-4 oz each.

Step 4: Mix the rest of the sauce ingredients, and pour over everything. Set your cooker to 6 minutes. Then go do something else while it comes up to pressure and cooks.

10 minutes later, enjoy!

 

This is a full meal in one pot, one dish to clean up! If you want a little more, you can serve it over rice, with crusty bread to sop up the juices, with a side salad, or over a bed of wilted spinach.

We had plenty for dinner for 2 with enough for 2 more containers of leftovers for lunch the next day.

Obviously this doesn’t have to be saved for a special occasion, you can have this any day of the week. In fact I encourage you to have it every day of the week! Just kidding. But I hope you like it, let me know if you try this in the comments!

 

If you want to adapt this for stove top:
  1. Cook the potatoes in a covered pan for 25-30 minutes first. Add veggie stock, water, or oil to keep from sticking/burning.
  2. Add the green beans and flavorings, cook another 10-15 minutes until beginning to soften.
  3. Add the fish, cover, and cook a final 7-10 minutes until fish is opaque and flakes apart with a fork.

Weekly Eating – 1/28/19

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!

 

The weekend was very relaxing. Saturday we took a reeeally long, like almost 3 hour walk to a park, then found a new way home. Turns out there’s actually a paved walking trail through some woods for part of the way.

On Sunday we went out to lunch with some friends to one of my favorite spots. We thought it was still Restaurant Week… but sadly that ended Saturday. We made the best of it and had a delicious brunch though.

Oh, and also I cut off a donated 12 inches of hair! 😲 Yes, you read that right, a full foot. I’ve been wanting to for years, and finally just said enough is enough. I sent it to Hair We Share, to give a free wig to a child who lost their hair due to chemo or other medical issues. Its been quite and adjustment so far, but I’m getting used to it.

one foot less hair

Monday:

Breakfast – scrambled quail egg breakfast burritos with mixed potatoes, vegan cheese, and hummus

potato and quail egg burrito

Lunch – Carrot dogs! A fun thing I’ve noticed on vegan blogs, where you marinate cooked carrots to taste like hot dogs. So I gave it a try, and they are actually quite delicious

vegan carrot dog

Dinner – Rice bowl loaded with Brussels sprouts, broccoli, sweet potato, carrot, some shredded chicken breast & hummus

veg and bean and hummus rice bowl

Tuesday:

Breakfast –smoothie

Lunch – leftover white bean soup & a big salad

salad and white bean soup

Snack – nuts & berries

Dinner – Butternut squash stuffed with black rice, lentils, carrot & onion. This is something I just kinda threw together with what I had and felt like eating, and bless the boy, he tried it. And actually liked it! Success.

stuffed butternut squash

Wednesday:

Breakfast – smoothie

Snack – green tea & a KIND bar

tea and nut bar

Lunch – out to lunch with a friend! We go out 2-3 times per month and I really love it because we don’t see each other much outside of work. So it is worth the $6-$9 per lunch.

out to lunch

Dinner –family was visiting overnight, so we took them out to Neomonde Durham! I got the half falafel pita platter with grape leaves and quinoa tabbouleh and it was amazing. Their garlic paste is to diiiiiiiiie for! And we ended up with oodles of leftovers.

Neomonde platters

Thursday:

Breakfast – smoothie

Snack – peanut butter

Lunch – leftover Neomonde & a salad

neomonde leftovers

Dinner – roasted veggies with rice & black beans

Snack – zombie corn! This is popcorn with nutritional yeast and chlorella to make it green. Looks crazy, tastes awesome, tons of health benefits.

zombie corn

Friday:

Breakfast – raisin bagel with almond butter and coffee

raisin bagel with almond butter

Lunch – the rest of the leftover roasted veggies with black beans and rice

roasted veg rice bowl

Snack –2 Thin Mint cookies! Just kidding, I ate the whole sleeve

two thin mint cookies

Dinner – Since Veganuary was over, when the boy said he wanted pepperoni pizza, I said sure why not! So we had frozen pepperoni pizzas haha

The Weekend

Well the food tour on Saturday got cancelled, so the day is mine. And thank goodness because we planned a big, ridiculous, outrageous stockup trip to Costco. Let’s just say some travel hacking is in the works, and to hit the minimum spends, we are front loading our food expenses, along with many other things.

And of course Sunday is the Super Bowl. Not that I care all the much about the game (still don’t know who is playing…) but we got invited over by our neighbors and I’m pretty stoked. It’s taken over 2 years, but we are finally making friends that live by us!

Food Total: Not even telling

The Costco trip… was crazy. Let’s just say we gave our über frugal friend serious heart palpitations!

Speaking of heart palpitations, February is Heart Health month! I’ll just say it again, straight from my Instagram:

 

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

Tracking My Trash Round Two

 

In a previous post I had guest written for Angela’s blog on how I wanted to start moving towards a more zero-waste lifestyle. That basically just means trying to cut back on what I buy, cut down on single use items, especially plastic, and re-use as much as possible.

Then I followed that up with one week of tracking every single piece of trash I ended up generating. It is quite an eye-opening experience, I would highly recommend you try it. It makes you much more aware of tiny things you would just trash without a second thought.

Well, some time has gone by, and Angela and I discussed tracking for a week again, to see how we were doing. We are equally terrible at remembering, so we decided to just start on a Tuesday.

boxed Panera lunch

For the purposes of tracking, I kept a running list in my phone of anything I threw away while at work or outside the house. Luckily I have already implemented a few tips and tricks at work to cut down on waste.

  1. I have a reusable k-cup and a small container of coffee, in case a second cup is required
  2. I have my own reusable coffee mug, water bottle, silverware, oil and vinegar, and salt in my desk
  3. I bring lunch & snacks in reusable containers and take anything compostable home with me
  4. I bring a new dish towel each week that I use at lunch and for drying my hands after using the bathroom
  5. I try to use as little TP as possible now
Trash outside the house:
  • Panera boxed lunch:
    • big paper box
    • plastic salad clamshell
    • tiny plastic dressing cup
    • plastic silverware wrapped in plastic
    • thin napkin
    • plastic paper wrapper on sandwich
    • plastic bag for cookie
  • 2 times forgetting my towel, used paper towels for hand drying
  • 2 tea bags at work

So overall, not a bad week. That one day of Panera just killed me though, and at least 2 dozen people were there with similar amounts of waste each.

Catered lunches are a pit of plastic.

Moral of the story: Bring your lunch!

single use plastic in trash

At home, I tried to keep anything I would normally throw away in a separate bag in the other room. Food containers I rinsed out so I didn’t have troubles. But some things had to just go straight into the trash, like moldy cheese.

Also, the boy lives here too. And he creates some trash, which I did not include because I don’t want to force him onto the blog without permission.  🙂  Only things which I used or emptied or cooked with are included here, because it is a pretty accurate representation of what I would do were I living alone as well.

We have 2 dogs, 11 quail, and no kids, for context.

I have a home-delivery for produce weekly, which re-uses the delivery box and any packaging needed. So if I get a pint container of strawberries, I just send it back empty so they can refill it for next time. Thus, no waste.

But, I do also supplement with things from ALDI, other grocery stores, ethnic markets, Amazon, and my co-op as well.

Trash at home:
  • 2 sliced cheese wrappers, and 4 slices moldy cheese
  • 2 plastic bags from frozen mixed fruits
  • Small black styrofoam box from food tour leftovers
  • Big white styrofoam from leftovers after Friday dinner
  • Top rip off from several cheese, frozen fruit, and tortilla packages
  • Half brick of cream cheese that went moldy, foil wrapper and box
  • 3 q-tips (don’t @ me, I mostly just hate water in my ear)
  • Sticker from 2 bananas and a grapefruit
  • Plastic inner ring from an Almond milk container
  • Empty Almond milk container
  • Giant plastic boxes from mixed salad greens (2)
  • Plastic bag from spinach (2)
  • Plastic lid from a tea box set I got for Christmas
  • Plastic wrapper from 2 boxes of green tea
  • Plastic wrap from a Butcher Box pork roast
  • Plastic wrap from a Butcher Box chicken breast
  • Edamame bag
  • Lemon bag
  • Avocado bag
  • Brussles sprouts bag
  • Plastic window from some mail
  • Plastic wrap from Charmin 
  • Plastic covering from Greek yogurt container
  • Plastic inner bag from “Cracklin Oat Bran”
  • Plastic wrapper from a frozen pizza
  • Plastic ring around new can of raisins
  • 1 stevia packet
  • Tempeh inner and outer wrapping
  • Bag from loaf of seed bread
  • Plastic grocery bag
  • Plastic wrapper from cauliflower
  • Foil top of new coffee can
  • Vitamin water mix packet
  • Mio knockoff bottle
  • Vegan cheese wrapping
  • 2 grocery receipts
  • 1 gas receipt
  • 2 dining out receipts

Yikes.

The thing that stands out to me is that is a really long list!

I thought I did better than this.

And I felt pretty ashamed of how much plastic I’m bringing home from the grocery store.

But then I thought of how much better I’m doing since a few years ago. How the co-op has become part of my life, so I do my best to shop in bulk for things like oats and barley and beans. How I now have a 100% local and package free source of daily eggs.

And all I can do is keep trying to do better.

recycling bin

Luckily, I now live in a place where recycling is an option.

This is the first time, as all my previous apartments and rental houses have not offered this. I could have saved things to take to my grad school campus to recycle but we all know how motivated grad students are when there are a million other things on your mind…

Anywho, the things that got tossed into the recycle bin did not have to go in the trash, and for that I’m thankful. But for those who don’t have the option to recycle, the below list would have been trash too.

Recycle:
  • 1 plastic soy sauce bottle
  • 1 plastic lemon juice bottle
  • 1 coffee tin
  • 1 can pineapples
  • 6 cans beans
  • 1 can beets
  • 1 can tomatoes
  • 3 beer bottles
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1 can coconut water

box full of boxes to burn

Another fun thing about having a house now is that we also have a fire pit in the back yard. We recently took down 6 big trees, so we have tons of wood and sticks. But, we usually need some fast burning items to start it up, or keep it going.

So, we keep a “burn box”.

This is where we put any big or small cardboard boxes, paper towel or TP rolls, envelopes, etc. Anything that will burn, can go into a bonfire rather than a trash can.

But again, not everyone has this option. So these things could have been trash instead.

Burn box:
  • 3 paper covers and rolls from “Who Gives a Crap” tp
  • Box from “Cracklin Oat Bran”
  • 1 paper towel tube
  • 1 empty box tissues
  • Cardboard bottom from a tea box gift set
  • Empty frozen pizza box
  • Dentastix box
  • Blue Moon beer box
  • 2 boxes from pasta
  • Box from cake mix
  • Box from granola bars
  • Bagged green tea box
  • Amazon delivery box
  • Tissue paper from a swap (quail eggs in exchange for 2 cute crystal serving trays and a neat ceramic soup tureen)
tea set
The tea box gift set. At least I can re-use the tins for loose leaf tea later!

And finally, my favorite way of keeping things out of the trash, is composting.

When we lived in a rental and I didn’t know if we would stay long enough for a pile to make sense, I had a big Rubbermaid container full of worms in the yard and did vermicomposting.

Now, I have enough space for a permanent pile.

We toss our kitchen goodies in there, and combined with the fall leaves and mulch, and sawdust shavings and quail manure, we make our own supercharged garden fertilizer. And keep literal tons of organic matter out of land fills.

compost

Compost:
  • Banana peels
  • 2 pear pits
  • 5 clementine peels
  • Coffee grounds
  • Old hard bread
  • Persimmon peel
  • Centers of broccoli and cauliflower
  • Zucchini and carrot ends
  • 2 paper tissues
  • 4 tea bags
  • 2 lemons
  • Loose leaf green and hibiscus tea
  • Ends of sweet potatoes
  • Onion ends and peel

Tracking My Trash: Round 2

Woof.

There you have it, in startling technicolor, all the trash created by an actually-quite-eco-conscious person trying not to make trash.

What a world we live in.

 

Any suggestions guys? How do I do better?

Weekly Eating – 1/21/19

 

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!

 

The weekend was great, I led a really fun Durham food tour on Saturday. 4 of the visitors were a young man touring colleges and his family, and the others were 2 couples visiting as well (a mom and daughter, and old friends) so none had ever been to Durham before. I entertained them all night with stories and things I’ve learned.

table covered in food at Neomonde Durham

We got a crazy huge spread at Neomonde. I cannot say enough nice things about them! Their food is amazing and super fresh and tasty, it is Mediterranean/Lebanese. Best hummus I’ve had in a long time.

the Little Dipper Durham salted caramel chocolate

And I looooove that we end the tours with the chocolate dippers at The Little Dipper now. I just love their staff and atmosphere, as well as the food of course! We had the Fluffer Nutter (chocolate, peanut butter, and marshmallow fluff) and the Dark Chocolate Salted Caramel. Mmmmm… they even gave me a to-go cup of the leftover chocolate! I had joked about it with my group, but they insisted…

carton full of quail and chicken eggs

And I am just so so thankful to finally have farm friends! To be able to visit the chickens and guinea hens, and have my own quail… the magic has definitely not faded, not yet! Every time I go out to the coop and find an egg, it is a tiny miracle.

Monday:

Breakfast – this was a holiday, so we slept in! Black coffee

Lunch – I had some small corn tortillas that needed using, so I brushed them with lime and toasted them in the oven, then loaded them up with refried pinto beans, salsa, red sauerkraut, and avocado for some tasty tostadas

tostadas

Dinner – Refrigerator soup! Basically bits of whatever veggies are about to go south, some beans, dried mushrooms, and veggie broth. With the rest of the toasted corn tortillas crushed on top.

refrigerator soup

Snack – We had a really awesome mixed berry ‘soup’ haha and a cup of turmeric golden milk for a nightcap

bowl of mixed berry nice cream

Tuesday:

Breakfast – pear and raisin oatmeal with flaxseed

pear and raisin oatmeal

Lunch – I forgot I’d ordered a lunch that got cancelled and rescheduled a while ago… so we had Panera today. Conveniently the same day Angela decided we would start tracking trash again… 🙈

boxed Panera lunch

Snack – local greenhouse strawberries and orange slices

strawberries and oranges

Dinner – mango tempeh and roasted veggies with black rice, and a garlic tahini hot sauce

mango tempeh and roasted veggies

Wednesday:

Breakfast – pear and raisin oatmeal with flaxseed (hey, I had 2 pears)

pear and raisin oatmeal

Lunch –mango tempeh and roasted veggies with black rice

mango tempeh and roasted veggies

Snack – local greenhouse strawberries and orange slices

strawberries and oranges

Dinner – giant salad of mixed greens & arugula, with seasame seeds, dried apricot, and walnuts. Dressing of tahini, lemon juice, garlic.

big salad

Snack – mixed berry smoothie with flaxseed and amla and spinach. I found it amusing, the size difference of our cup and spoon.

blender and coffee cup of smoothie

Thursday:

Breakfast – cinnamon raisin bagel with almond butter

bagel with almond butter

Lunch – I had some black beans left from the weekend batch cook, so I just added some dried onion, cumin, lime juice and salsa and used my immersion blender to make it a soup. Plus a big salad.

salad and black bean soup

Snack – faux Oreo cookies

Dinner –Instant pot baked potatoes smothered in vegan chili with vegan cheddar and fresh guac

chili baked potato

Friday:

Breakfast – big rainbow smoothie: canned beets, my last persimmon, spinach, frozen pineapple, a fresh banana, frozen mixed berries, flax seed, amla powder, coconut water

big rainbow smoothie

Lunch – the rest of the leftover mango tempeh with roasted veg

Snack – homemade garlic hummus and cucumber slices

hummus and cucumbers

Dinner – Went out with a friend for dinner on Friday for some awesome girl talk and Mexican food. This local place called Toreros has really good food and decent margaritas. I got a vegetarian burrito that was so enormous, I literally just started laughing when she put it on the table.

huge vegetarian burrito

The Weekend

This weekend we have no set plans really. Just relaxing at home and taking it easy. Doing some cooking projects, and maybe going out for the end of Triangle restaurant week.

Food Total: $164.99

Oof. Y’all.

I have totaled up January food spending, and it is not pretty.

We need to reign it in. Maybe I will ban myself from grocery shopping for a few months.

Dairy $6.48 Staples $69.77 Fruit/Veg $57.68
greek yogurt 3.99 diced tomatoes 12 6 frozen fruits 3lb x5 39.95
almond milk 2.49 canned beans 4 + 2 6pk 8.38 brussels sprouts 2.5
can pineapple 2.38 bananas 0.99
progresso 0.97 kiwi 6 1
spinach bags 2 5.98
frozen pizza 9.49 avocados 1.79
salad mixes 2 3.98
lemons 1.49

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

One Small Thing – Toilet Paper

 

In this series, I am highlighting one small thing that you can do in your day to day life to decrease your waste. Just one or two small changes can add up to a massive reduction in single use plastics and the overall burden on our planet’s resources.

Don’t forget to read back through why you should consider cloth napkins, cloth handkerchiefs, anything other than plastic water bottles, bringing your own coffee mug, alternatives to coffee filters, and not using plastic straws.

Today’s topic is pretty crappy*.

*TMI warning: this post is about toilet paper! If you are squeamish about bathroom facts and humor, now is your moment to click the little ‘x’ in the top right corner.

Who Gives a Crap Toilet Paper

Let me hit you with some facts.

“On average, Americans use about 50 lbs annually or 57 squares of toilet tissue every day. The average consumption of toilet paper across the global [sic] stands at about 20,000 sheets or 100 rolls every yearToilet paper production per day stands at about 84 million rolls. ” (source)

That’s a CRAP-TON of T.P.†!

All puns here will be fully intended.

Which is pretty mind-blowing, considering we didn’t even really start using it until the 1990s. Really.

Toilet paper is divided many different ways, but in general there are three categories: low-grade, mid-grade, and premium.

It seems at our own homes, cheaper is fine, but when we are at a house that’s not our own, we prefer “brand names” we trust (source)

Though overall, the “luxury” toilet paper category is making great strides. It is even becoming a bit of a barometer for how confident in the economy we are, since it is still “affordable” but seen as a “splurge”.

Is luxury toilet paper the new lipstick?

However, there’s a dark side to this lotion-covered, honey-scented, cloud-like goodness. One of my favorite no-nonsense teams, Bitches Get Riches, breaks it down for you, on why you should not fall prey to marketing ads for “pillowy softness” and “aloe coated” bull… poo.

budgetepicurean one small thing toilet paper

So, you realize this is a problem and a massive waste of resources.

But, when you gotta go you gotta go.

How do you answer nature’s call, while still ensuring there will be more nature in the future?

Better Paper = same use, but better source

There are many companies already out there that are trying to create a better paper. The paths are varied but the destination is the same: A more sustainable toilet paper.

Non-Tree TP

There are many products on the market, and I’m sure more on the way, that are proudly creating paper from things other than trees. Trees take a long time to grow big and strong enough for harvest, hence the issue with cutting them down daily by the millions.

But you know what grows really fast?

Bamboo.

And you know what we have plenty of, but it is considered (for now) a waste product?

Sugar cane.

Sugar cane is used to make sugar (duh) but once the edible part is extracted, the fibrous stuff gets tossed. It is not even composted, meaning it also contributes to the greenhouse gas from fermentation in landfills issue.

But by recycling the castoff fibers into toilet paper, we get a win-win! More circular economy by using the whole plant, and no more problematic downstream effects from the organic waste.

Companies like Public Goods and Hello Tushy sell this TP type.

TP That Gives Back

Toilet paper companies are also realizing that their customers are starting to ask questions, and to give a crap.

Case in point: “Who Gives a Crap” toilet paper. I’ll let them speak for themselves:

“We’re determined to prove that toilet paper is about more than just wiping bums. We make all of our products with environmentally friendly materials, and we donate 50% of our profits to help build toilets for those in need. To date we’ve donated over $1.8m Aussie dollars (that’s the equivalent of over $1,300,000!) to charity and saved a heck of a lot of trees, water and energy. Not bad for a toilet paper company, eh?.”

https://us.whogivesacrap.org/pages/about-us

Who Gives a Crap TP Roll

Recycled Paper TP

TP made from recycled paper is at least not using new resources, and is creating a market for paper to be recycled. It is rare that a company or person will do something that takes extra effort (recycling) and even moreso if there is no other profit or product to be made.

https://www.papernet.com/americas/usa/en/virgin-vs-recycled-paperq

There’s a bit of an issue here with recycled TP though: it may (actually probably does) contain BPA. BPA = bis-phenol A, this is a known endocrine disruptor found in thermal printed things like receipts and lotto tickets.

When these things are recycled in with other types of paper, the bulk paper pulp becomes contaminated.

This chemical can be easily absorbed through the skin. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to wipe that across my sensitive bits daily.

Bidet = Less Paper (possibly none)

Also recommended by eco-home-inspectors, a bidet is widely used in basically all the rest of the world except for the USA.

Perhaps it is just our in-born spoiled-ness, or our extreme germaphobia, but most Americans find bidets confusing, if not downright disgusting.

Happily, that seems to be changing, as public opinions of bidets warm, and the ease of use, cleanliness, and price point options continue to expand.

budgetepicurean one small thing toilet paper

Hardcore: Reusable cloth wipes + bidet = 0 paper!

By cutting down on toilet paper usage, you are saving trees from being harvested, preventing the whole chemical process of bleaching toilet paper, and keeping literal tons of waste out of landfills every year.

Especially if you have cloth diapered, this is probably no big deal to you. Or if you are already on the cloth period products bandwagon.

These make the most sense to me for wiping after peeing for ladies, and in combo with a bidet for drying yourself.

There are of course many drawbacks to this practice.

You should probably keep at least a few rolls of TP around for guests, unless everyone who ever comes to your house has the same eco values as yourself.

You should also have a sealable container to store them in between using and washing.

And given the stories of those who have tried it, the only thing I would say is make sure you do laundry, often!

 

 

What do you think, too much? Do you already use any or all of these alternatives? Would you try one?