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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Month Three Already?

I have already become so used to 'living with less' that it hardly feels like much of a 'challenge' anymore.  As such, I completely forgot to give my 2 month update... (the countdown meter is in the 200's now, did you notice?) 

Here are some 'month two' trials and tribulations:
  • I finally started using some of my gift cards.  First of all, my friend Amie has been giving me even MORE gift cards for babysitting her son... and one of these gift cards?  STARBUCKS!  So, after a few weeks of deliberating, I finally decided that it would be okay to spend this one.  To help ease the guilt, I also treated my parents to their coffees and snacks, using up more than half of the card.  Of course, I did treat myself to a special coffee, but this time, it felt like just that, 'special'.  Starbucks is no longer something that I take for granted, so, I guess you could say 'mission accomplished' on that front.  Amie's second gift card was a bookstore card.  Now, I have a bit of a book fetish... so, this couldn't have been more appropriate.  I used the card to buy myself a 'sew your own clothes book', so I am super excited to get it and start sewing.  As usual, Trent thinks that I am a bit nuts, but we'll see... Thanks again to Amie for her generosity... although you and I both know that I would have done if for NOTHING!  (silly goof!)
  • In other gift card news, I used one of my gift cards to buy supplies for setting up my indoor grow-op.  I needed to buy/build a light hanging device, and now I have the supplies to do it!
  • Speaking of my indoor garden, it is sprouting nicely.  Everything is up, just waiting on the peppers. 
  • I have started to 'master' bread making.  Once a self-described 'non baker' I am now able to make such delicacies as breadsticks, ciabatta bread and soft pretzels.  Every week it just gets better and better.  I am loving the fresh-baked bread.
  • I have returned (yet again) to my knitting.  I have knit a whole host of cute and colourful toques that I am stock-piling for gifts. 
  • The first installment of 'meatless Monday' was a bit of a bust.  My family is not convinced.  My husband would hardly touch the stew that I made.  I myself thought that it was delicious.  Again, if you have any delicious vegetarian recipes to share, SEND THEM!  I need to avoid a revolt at all costs!
  • Our grocery bill was even lower this month than last... I am getting to be a master at finding the 'good deals'
  • Other than the purchase at the kids consignment store and few thrift store visits, I have continued to succeed at reducing our expenses on retail goods
  • I have been reading about investing as of late... I need to find somewhere to put all of the money we are saving!
  • If I am being honest... I am finding the clothes-dryer challenge a bit tougher than I expected.  You really need to be a planner to do something like this, especially in the winter.  I find myself doing at least one load of laundry per day instead of trying to do five loads at once like I used to do.  I just need to be a bit more organized and try to hit the good weather days as well.  I will admit that I have thought about chucking a few things in the dryer more than once, but as I said, I fully unhooked the thing and hooking it back up will require some effort.  (Self-sabbotage does work you know)
Well, that's about all that I can think of for now... Here's to another month under my belt!

Thanks for reading!

Marebare :)

3 comments:

  1. Maren - what kind of veggie recipes are you looking for? I have a ton of wonderful soup ones, including a lentil soup that uses water rather than stock (I tend to use chicken stock for soups for some reason). You could make an entire pot for pennies (well maybe a dollar or two) and serve it with your delicious breads. I'll look them out and share with your Mum.

    I'll see what else I have!

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  2. OK... here are some thoughts on the meatless thing. For reasons that aren't completely clear to me, going meatless can be a real psychological hurdle for people.

    One way to "bridge the gap" is to try using meat substitutes like TVP (textured vegetable protien), tofu, tempeh, seitan or products such as Morningstar farms or Quorn imitation meats. They're not ideal because they're highly processed and generally have more packaging than you'd like, but it's a fairly painless way to get started. Morningstar's ground beef substitute is excellent in any sort of casserole or lasagna, or pretty much any recipe that calls for ground beef. TVP works best in highly flavored dishes like chili. Tempeh and seitan are wonderful when marinated in stir fry or for making fajitas, Tofu is a bit of a challenge because of the texture. I usually puree it in creamy soups and stews to add protien. If I'm gonna use it in chunks I freeze it first, then defrost and squeeze out all of the liquid before sauteeing it. That gives it a much meatier texture.

    Another strategy I've had success with is instead of trying to prepare meatless meals, just add the meatless options in as additional side dishes. When you do that, you can generally cut back on the portion size of the meat without anyone really noticing, and if you prepare a whole host of veggies and side dishes you'll generally be met with a responsoe of "What a feast!" rather than "Where's my meat?" It's also much less threatening to try curried lentils with sweet potatoes as a side dish than as a main course.

    OK... that being said, here are a few of my favorite vegetarian recipes. I'm sending you links to recipes that are very similar to what I make and you can adapt them as you see fit (much easier than trying to type them all in here)

    Curried Pumpkin Soup: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Curried-Pumpkin-Soup-232968 This recipe callse for fresh curry leaves... I have no earthly idea what those are, I've never used them. You can also substitute fresh steamed squash of most any variety for the pumpkin. I'm personally a fan of butternut.

    White Chili: http://www.cdkitchen.com/recipes/recs/15/Bob_Talberts_White_Chili48843.shtml This one calls for chicken, but I generally omit it and add a pound of pureed tofu instead... makes it nice and creamy. It also really helps the flavor to add some mashed potatoes and just a spoonful or 2 of cream cheese. You can also add corn and/or red bell peppers to the mix.

    Curried Sweet Potato & Lentil Stew: http://www.thedailygreen.com/healthy-eating/recipes/5077 My recipe calls for steamed kale or spinach in addition, but it's pretty similar.

    Vegetarian Lasagna. Just use your favorite lasagna recipe only grind up some tofu and add it to the ricotta/egg layer. Also, adding a layer of cream cheese is always a real hit!

    Potato & Kale soup: http://www.cooks.com/rec/view/0,1648,151172-227199,00.html This one came in handy last fall when I was up to my eyeballs in fresh kale!

    Other ideas are egg dishes. I'm a huge fan if spinach & swiss cheese quiche. I just found a fellow in my neighborhood who is raising chickens and selling wonderful eggs so I may check out fritatta recipes soon too.

    Best of luck and happy cooking!

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  3. Rebecca, I am pretty sure that you should be writing this blog instead of me! You are always so full of great advice and ideas!
    Thank you for the tips and the recipes... I already had the same thought about the 'meat substitutes', and I stocked up on some of them last time I was grocery shopping. I don't get the mental block either... to me, if you are going to eat a vegetarian meal, trying to 'fake' the meat part seems kind of silly, but if that's what it takes to fool my husband's brain, it is worth a try!

    Fritatta's are a weekend staple in this house... we honestly have them pretty much every weekend for brunch. Delicious! Fresh eggs are the best!

    And Zoe, thanks for the lentil soup tip, I think that soups are a great way to get the vegetables in! Especially when I do use the fresh breads as bribes! Thanks for your comments!

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