Monthly Archives: February 2016

Ronnica’s 2016 Goal Update

I’ve written a few posts already this year with my goals. Today, I’ll talk about the progress on these goals.

First, how am I doing on my resolutions?

I’m doing a good job cleaning most days for 30 minutes. My apartment is still not where I would like it to be, but it’s much closer than it was in December.

I’ve not been as faithful to distraction-free time with God first thing in the morning. I’m a habit person, but I feel like my schedule keeps changing, so I haven’t had a chance to build the habit. I know if it’s important to me, I’ll make it happen, though it may look differently as I’m temporarily shifting to a much earlier shift.

I’ve completed my organizational projects. I’ve successfully been able to keep no more than 2 pairs of shoes in my entry way. I noticed the other day that I had 3 pairs there for the first time in over a month, and I immediately rectified the situation. I definitely solved my problem without spending a dime.

hanging coats and bagsMy coats and purse problem has also been solved. They’re now hanging at the door, and I love it. My spices and pens have also benefited from their new situations. I was right in thinking that taking care of these things has encouraged me to take care of other areas of clutter as well.

I can’t provide much of an update on my spending goals, as I’m writing this mid-February. January’s “Buy Little” month started me off right. As good as it feels to sock away extra money for the month, my favorite part of “Buy Little” months is how it dampens my spending for the following months as well.

How have you been doing on any goals you set for 2016?

Amanda’s 2016 Goal Update

unnamed (12)I have done New Year’s Resolutions in the past, and made several for 2016.  Time for an update on how some of those are going!

Journal and devotions daily.  This one is a work in progress.  As I am getting up earlier, I am finding a lot to occupy my child-free time each morning (housework and showering, for starters).  I think carving out time for daily journaling and devotions will simply be a matter of making them a priority, but if it will require more, then I will simply get up a few minutes earlier each day.

As an aside, although I have not been journaling and “devotioning” (new word!) as often as I would prefer, I have begun reading a chapter a night to Bean from the Little House series.  It’s been a great experience for us both.  We have also implemented family devotions each evening, which is great for everyone…but not the independent devotional time I’d like to have at the start of each day.

Invite six families to supper.  Making great strides on this one.  I have personally invited three families to supper, and one is already on the calendar for next month.

Screen time to four times daily.  In  word:  no.  Not even close. I feel like I have made some improvements on this (in that I have gone from checking  my phone dozens of times a day to single digits), but nowhere near four time daily, and certainly not an hour or less a day.  To change things, I’d plan to download an app similar to BreakFree on my new phone.  Fingers crossed!

So basically, my resolutions are all works in progress.  Seems appropriate, since I still have ten more months!  Come back on Thursday to see how Ronnica’s goals are coming along!

Joint Book Review: The One-Page Financial Plan by Carl Richards

one-page financial planCarl Richards’ The One-Page Financial Plan is about what it sounds like: simplifying personal financial planning. Richards walks his readers through creating this very simple guide for their personal financial decisions.

Amanda’s Take

This was not my first experience with Carl Richards’ work; I am also familiar with his previous work, The Behavior Gap, and enjoyed it.  As such, I was eager to read what he had to say in Financial Plan.

I was not disappointed.  What I appreciated most was the over-arching theme of prioritization–a topic near and dear to my heart.  It is difficult to make a plan of any kind–financial or otherwise–without taking note of one’s goals and priorities (be it on one page of paper or ten).

This book would be especially helpful for those just starting out in life–specifically young adults.  As Ronnica will note in her portion of the review, there are plenty of diagrams to help illustrate the author’s point.  As an added bonus, the book is relatively short, which is something not all financial books can say.

Check out The One-Page Financial Plan for a good introduction (or reminder) on financial well-being.

Ronnica’s Take

I really enjoyed The One-Page Financial Plan. While I’ve had some formal training in budgeting and personal finances, this was the most useful book or training that I have.

Simply, Richards walks you through specifying the one most important reason why you are working on your finances, then takes you from there.

In specifying what financial goals that will help you achieve your bigger “why” I love that he walks you through determining which of those are most important to you. I think it’s rare if anyone has a set of financial goals that can all be accomplished to their fullest desires. We all have to prioritize, and this book provided a good framework to recognize that.

Another thing that stands out to me in this book was the multitude of simple diagrams. In this age of apps, memes and infographics, I think that this helps the book and it’s teachings “stick.”

If your finances need a tune up or an overhaul, I recommend checking out The One-Page Financial Plan.

The Simple Things

Though a key aspect of simple living is fewer possessions (and we are definitely proponents of that here on Striving Stewardess), I will readily admit that there are a few extras that help make our simple life a bit, well, simpler.

Aside from the obvious, like the library, Castile soap, and vinegar, permit me to share with you some items that help make my life a bit simpler.

1.  Amazon Prime.  This is a program that is relatively new to me, but enough of a priority that, when a special for new customers came along in January (incidentally our Buy Little Month), we paid the fee and signed up.  We order enough from Amazon that it should pay for itself in just a few short months.  We plan to also order diapers from there; with discounts from Prime, it should be even more of a money and sanity saver.  And apparently you can watch shows on there too…?? Very handy with no cable!IMG_1157

2.  Carpet Cleaner.  Yep, I’m eating my words here and joining the dark side:  I got a carpet cleaner for Christmas, and while I have only used it once, I am a complete convert.   Even if I only use it twice this year, it will save us over $300 this year alone.  Sure it’s a bit more work, but it is pretty easy to use.  And did I mention the financial savings?

3.  Slow Cooker.  I don’t know of any simple living adherent/frugal fan that doesn’t appreciate their slow cooker.  What is not to like about putting in the cheapest, toughest cuts of meat, vegetables, and some broth or water to make a hearty stew that will be ready in just a few hours?  Or the ability to toss in a can of fruit, some flour and some sugar to make a cobbler?  Seriously–this thing is brilliant and saves us countless hours in food preparation and in money (it even saves in energy costs!).

What gadgets have you found to make your simple life simpler?

Ronnica’s Garden Plan, 2016

balcony garden in evening sunThis may be the blog post that I’ve spent the most time on. I know that I’ve spent at least 5 or 6 hours before I even started typing the first sentence.

Clearly, I take gardening very seriously.

Daydreaming about gardening is one of my favorite things to do. Before you have planted your first seed, you can imagine months of produce. Powdery mildew, late-coming spring and windy days do not appear in my daydreams, so the fruit is always abundant.

I think that is one of the exciting things about gardening: you’re always trying to game the weather, elements and pests. What choices will provide the highest yields this year?

What’s New

The biggest new thing I’m attempting this year is to grow my tomatoes and peppers from seed. I plan on completing the transition of part of my living room into a plant nursery in order to make the most advantageous environment for them.

I want to grow my plants from seed for a few reasons:

1. Save seeds. I’ve had a dream to save my own seeds for a while now. In order to do so, you have to have heirloom (not hybrid) plants.

2. Save money. I spent $8.50 for heirloom seeds, instead of twice as much for hybrid plants. If I’m successful in saving seeds, this may be my last expenditure for these seeds until I want to add another variety when I have more garden space.

3. It’s a fun challenge. There’s a reason kids get excited about growing their own plants from seed: it’s exciting.

What I’m Growing

garden seedsVeggies: cucumbers, onions, snap peas, bell peppers, tomatoes (Amish paste), spinach, zucchini
Herbs: basil, chives, cilantro, dill, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage, thyme
Flowers: lavender, nasturium, likely some others

Last year I only grew nasturium, but I want to up my ante for flowers. They are the best use of my hanging baskets, and I want to grow varieties that will be useful for bees and butterflies as well as good companions for my veggies and herbs.

I still have a couple of weeks before I can start to plant, even indoors. But when it’s time, I’ll be ready!

What are you wanting to grow this year?

Wintry Weather Recipes

04f11a8c-94b6-4eec-b3ca-25ba4fca0263I don’t know about where you are, but as I write this post, it is sleeting.  Winter is very definitely here–what better way to keep warm than in a toasty kitchen?

It’s been awhile since I’ve shared some recipes, especially ones of the “use it up” variety.  Here are a couple that have been on heavy rotation over the last several weeks.

Baked Potato Soup (borrowed from Grit Magazine)

4 baking potatoes (about 2.5 pounds)

2/3 cup all-purpose flour

6 cups 2% milk

1 cup cheddar cheese, divided

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1 cup reduced fat sour cream (I use plain Greek yogurt.)

3/4 cup chopped green onions, divided (I use dried minced onion instead.)

6 bacon slices, cooked and crumbled (We aren’t bacon people, so I omit this.)

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

Pierce potatoes with fork and bake for about one hour, or until tender; cool.  Peel potatoes and discard skins (Since much of a potato’s nutrition is in the skin, I omit this step).  Coarsely mash potatoes.

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cup; level with knife.  Place flour in large Dutch oven (or pot); gradually add milk, stirring with whisk until blended.  Cook over medium heat until thick and bubbly, about eight minutes.  Add mashed potatoes, 3/4 cups cheese, salt and pepper, stirring until cheese melts.  Remove from heat.

Stir in sour cream and 1/2 cup onions.  Cook over low heat for ten minutes, or until thoroughly heated.  Do NOT boil.

Ladle soup into individual bowls and sprinkle each with equal amount remaining cheese, onion, and bacon.  Yield:  8 (1/2 cup) servings.

We always serve this with a homemade biscuit or cornbread.  A delicious way to use up those old potatoes and soon-to-expire milk you may have!

Daddy Granola

8 cups oatmeal

1.5 cups flax seed

1 cup sunflower seeds

1 cup finely chopped almonds

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup maple syrup

3/4 cup honey

1 cup coconut oil

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

2 cups raisins

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  Spray two 9×13 baking dishes with nonstick spray.

Combine oatmeal, flax seed, sunflower seeds and almonds in a large bowl.  Stir together the brown sugar, honey, oil, cinnamon and vanilla in a saucepan.  Bring to a boil over medium heat, then pour over the dry ingredients, and stir to coat.  Spread the mixture out evenly in the baking dishes.

Bake until crispy and toasted, approximately twenty minutes.  Cool, then stir in the raisins (or other dried fruit).  Can be stored in an airtight container for several days.

Riley (the “Daddy” of the title of this recipe) and Bean will eat this dry for breakfast; Peanut and I prefer to eat it with some yogurt.  It is a tasty treat, even if it doesn’t strictly follow the limited sugar diet we prefer.  It is also worth noting that a little goes a long way–the flax seed and oatmeal do a great job ensuring regularity (if you know what I mean…)!

Got any tasty recipes I should try?

 

Ronnica’s Buy Little Month Wrap-Up, January 2016

coinsJanuary has gone quickly for me, even though it was my “Buy Little” month. Typically these months where I am focusing on not spending are slow, as I’m hyper-aware of each day’s decisions. I think that’s one of the beauties of doing something like this: it forces me to pay attention to something I might have otherwise done mindlessly.

While this was my 3rd go around at a “Buy Little” month, I was surprised that I had different lessons to learn this go around than previously. The biggest take away I had this month was that I really did not have a lot of excess food, and quickly had to start buying almost everything again.

I think the last 2 cycles of “Buy Little” months has trained me to buy less groceries throughout normal months. I still have room to grow, as always, but I’m encouraged to see the progress that I have made.

So how much of my regular budget was I able to save this month?

$119.27 from my grocery budget
$47.77 from my gas budget
$19.92 from my utilities budget
$187.16 total saved

This is not an insignificant amount, as January I wasn’t otherwise able to save as much I would like as I was not yet working overtime in my new position.

I also spent $13.22 mailing Bibles to a charity who takes used Bibles. I find this worthwhile money as I wasn’t going to donate the Bibles to Goodwill or throw them out, and they were just taking room up on my shelf.

I want to keep up this month’s conscientiousness in a new way next month by keeping track of every item that comes in and out of my apartment. I look forward to what I will learn from that experiment as well!

Photo by John Liu

Amanda’s Buy Little Month Wrap-Up, January 2016

unnamed (13)January was “Buy Little Month” in our house.  Ronnica sang the praises of intentionally minimizing purchases, so I figured…why not try it?

We did not keep records as meticulously as she did, instead opting to track expenses as we would ordinarily.  Rather, our thought processes were what we took note of more than anything.  “Is this a need or a want?” is something that crossed my mind whenever potential purchases came up.  (I think this is how Riley thinks on a regular basis, Buy Little Month or not, so this month really benefited me more than anyone in that regard!)

That said, I wasn’t terribly surprised to find that not much changed in how things went–we didn’t save a great deal of money (although if one considers what has been saved via the new grocery shopping method alone, we did pocket an extra couple hundred dollars).  It turns out, one of our financial strengths is that we tend to be pretty intentional and thoughtful when it comes to purchases.

What I did appreciate about our Buy Little Month exercise was the fact that it was good to refocus on our financial goals at the beginning of the new year.  I don’t know that this is something we will actually sign on to do again, but making sure we continue to stay on the same page as a couple is always a good practice.

Be sure to come back on Thursday to read about Ronnica’s Buy Little Month experience!