Sunday, January 4, 2015

Happy 2015!

I hope you had a blessed, beautiful holiday season this year and that you are excited about 2015! I miss blogging. No grandiose visions of making money or having thousands of readers -- but written things. Writing usually equals having to think about things, and that has to be good for a person!

Since January is a great time to look over things that we'd like to change, I noticed about three things that intertwine with each other that I think I want to improve for me and this house this coming year: save money, be healthier, be greener. Yeah, I am sure these goals are pretty common and are also really, really vague. (I have specific steps in mind!)

But I like these three things because they are super interconnected. My thought process is that we save money when we don't have to keep buying things. Herp derp derp, everyone knows that. However, there are a lot of things that we don't realize we have to constantly refill and repurchase that we could easily replace with something that lasts. Most of those kinds of things things are everyday products that end up in the garbage, and then a landfill. We can also save money by taking the slow way of cooking rather than the quick way with processed, prepackaged foods, which also end up with a lot of trash!

Lots of things done just a little more slowly, the old-fashioned way, makes a huge difference.

Are you thinking of making some changes along these lines, too? Here are some of my favorite things that I found that you might like!

1. Planet Wise Reusable Snack Bags

Image from

I find that I don't go through plastic zipper bags that fast since it's generally just a few people using them, but they still often hold a little bit of food or one toothbrush for travel, and then end up in the trash. These are really cute reusable snack bags (made in the U.S. -- awesome!) that you can use, throw in your washing machine in a cold wash, leave to dry, and use again! 

I had some Paypal money sitting around from using Smart App and Ibotta, so I grabbed a couple of these from Nicki's Diapers since through this retailer, they ship for free and you get reward points you can use later. 

Yes, it's primarily a cloth diaper store, but they also have other reusable home products that can help presently kid-free families (like us, obvi). And we plan on using cloth diapers someday when we do have kids because of the cheapness and environmental impact, so if you are going to be entering the world of parenting a baby anytime soon, that's something else you can totally look into to save money and be green! 

2. Topping Sweet Potatoes with... Everything

My sweet potato bounty!


The inspiration came from this recipe for paleo pulled pork topped sweet potatoes. Now, I am not really a big believer in the paleo diet, per se, but this combo sounded SO GOOD. It got me thinking about what else you could put on a baked sweet potato. Maybe some kind of cordon bleu with chicken, ham, and swiss? A Mexican style topping of ground turkey, salsa, cheese and sour cream?

Sweet potatoes are a whole food packed with nutrients. They also happen to be pretty cheap and filling, and last a while if you store them in a cool, dark place. Incorporating them into more dinners by sweet potato-fying your regular casseroles and crockpot meals is smart for your health and wallet. 

3. Grocery Shopping with a System EVERY Time

Me, in the college days, holding a leek at Publix. Why? I don't know. My bangs were also turnt up due to the Florida humidity that I don't miss. This just fits the grocery shopping theme, I guess? I miss being that tan. :'(

I am far from a crazy coupon lady. We don't get any newspapers, for starters, so we don't get coupons in the mail -- just printing them once in a while or using them exclusively in an online format. The stockpiling and clearing out entire stores that you see on TV isn't what I am interested in for a few reasons:

A. Too much time
B. Too much effort
C. Too much shame (I am a major people-pleaser and I can't stand taking up tons of time in line!)
D. Too much junk food that I don't want to eat

The last point is probably the biggest one -- you usually can't use coupons to save on fresh fruits and veggies. They often are for things such as sugary cereal, which we really don't eat even when we have it, so it'd be a waste. (Although if Oreo O's came back, this would be a totally different story. Dlahsdlifhalisudhf crying.)

And we're trying to eat healthier, so how do you get fresh and better foods on a budget?

I've already blogged before about what I usually do here, but I realized that a gap in my system is menu planning. This is huge. Being realistic about what I have time and energy to cook, and what we will really like is key. Will it make good leftovers that we actually want to eat? Does it reheat well? What sides go with the main entreés we like? Can the ingredients for these sides be used in other sides later in the week? 

It may take time to see how best to plan menus for you, after seeing what leftovers you really don't want to eat or what groceries are going bad before you can use them again. Set up multiple reminders to bring leftovers to lunch the next day, or when certain things in the fridge go bad so you can use them up! 

And when you plan that menu, save that money. Then, proceed to drop the mic.

4. Mrs. Meyer's Hand Soap

Image from Drool. This scent is one of my faves. Thanks to my brother for introducing this stuff to me.

Although this truth might not seem to jive with the other things I talk about, you need to know: I am extremely biased against all things "crunchy," or hippie. 

How can this be? I bought reusable snack bags!

I will never go "no poo" and wash my hair with vinegar. I prefer using over-the-counter medicine for sickness over teas and garlic. I think that essential oils are mostly voodoo science. I will not give up my Urban Decay eyeshadows and start making them out of cocoa powder or whatever. (You're totally free to disagree with any of the above, by the way!)

My point: yo no soy hippie.

However, if there is a more eco-friendly alternative with more natural ingredients -- that doesn't smell like vinegar, and actually works -- I want to switch. There are some chemicals that I don't love having on my skin if I can help it. 

Here is where Mrs. Meyer's joins the party. The scents are so, so excellent; I love Basil, Peony, and Iowa Pine the most. The fragrances are from essential oils, which is still OK by me as long as no one tells me to start rubbing it on my feet to cure the flu. The other ingredients are more natural. And it works like regular ol' soap.

They also have laundry detergent, dish soap, and other products that are earth friendly! I feel the best use of my money is investing in the soap since it has the most direct contact with skin, so that's the only thing I buy from them right now. Grab some at Target or Meijer sometime and enjoy smelling your hands over and over without realizing it. (Meijer had an mPerk coupon one time for them to be BOGO, which is a killer deal, by the way!)

5. Handwash, Handwash, Handwash!

Ever since moving to Michigan... I have finally been able to indulge myself in my love of graphic sweaters without shame.

I have been über guilty of this, but I used to just chuck everything into the washing machine and be done. On the bright side, when I did this, it was with all my college student-era clothes, which tended to be on a college student budget, so nothing made out of silk or wool. Wool? In Florida? Who are we kidding?

Now that I've hit the middle part of my 20's, I've invested in a few somewhat higher quality things, such as nicer undergarments, blouses, and sweaters. The sticker shock can turn some people away from spending more on clothes, but if they are made better and taken care of, then they will last ages longer than the typical Rue21 or Wet Seal stuff, thus saving you money! And you'll look good, too.

Delicate items deserve to be washed by hand. Some people find it time-consuming and a pain, but for some reason, I have found it highly gratifying since I recently started. I like knowing that the items I really like and invested money into are going to look good. 

Good ol' Woolite does a great job, but if you're really going for the budget option, use baby shampoo! It is gentle and gets things nice and clean. Or, hey -- I bet my buddy Mrs. Meyer would do a good job. Turn items inside out and soak them in warm water with your cleanser mixed in, and then massage the pieces, focusing on the areas where you might sweat the most. Rinse with cold water, and lay on a towel and roll up your garment to get the excess water out. Hang to dry and you're good to go! (Ikea has awesome little octopus hanging racks that will work great!)

Whew. These are a few little things I've incorporated to get us closer to living the kind of life that we want, with more money in the bank, healthier bodies, and a healthier planet. Mind, none of these things should be idolized! They are good things, but not the greatest thing. 

Make plans to know God more this year, and love Him more deeply. Everything else should just point to Him, as we steward what He's given us in the wisest way possible. I should post later as well about what practical steps I am taking to do just that.

What goals do you have as this year starts off fresh? What tiny steps will you take to get you started? What bigger steps should follow? What inspires you?

Kicking off the new year with you,
- Lara