Veggie and hummus bento

Hello, Spring!  Hello cool, misty mornings and dark, drizzly nights.  Hello puddles and crocuses and – 80 degrees and sun?  Hello… ten percent humidity?  Hey Boulder, get with the program!

Mud season, ubiquitous in early Maine springs, is unheard of in Colorado.  There’s just not enough moisture here for a good, old-fashioned mud season.  It was very spring-ish today in Boulder, though – partly cloudy, slightly breezy, and cool, with a hint of moisture in the air.  Boulder has so few cloudy days, let alone wet days, that we all savor them when they come along.

It may sound funny to people in wetter climates, because it is more common for people feel depressed when there isn’t enough sun.  Here, though, we all feel so dry and sunned-out that we relish the wet days.  I read an NPR article last year about summer seasonal affective disorder, which is exactly like it’s winter counterpart but happens in the summer months.  My first thought?  Eureka!  I’m not a party-pooping outcast after all – I have A Thing!  My mother and I both suffer from Summer S.A.D. – we both hate scorching sun, cloudless skies, roasting by a pool, or really anything to do with days hotter than 70 degrees.  We greet September with joy, and by October we are positively giddy.  It’s COLD!  And is that a dark cloud on the horizon? Oh goody, I can wear socks again!  Hallelujah!

I can only remember ONE time when the lack of sun actually got to me.  One May in Maine, when I had just arrived home from college for the summer, it was gray and rainy for twenty-eight days straight.  Aside from that extraordinarily rainy month, I have never once complained about a wet day.

Anyway, all that is to say that it was cloudy today, and it was wonderful.  Here’s a picture from a bike foray to the library a few days ago – also a slightly cloudy day!

I haven’t really “made friends” with the mountains, even after five years.  They still kind of LOOM, you know?  Like big rocky, looming things.  As Justin says, “Mountains aren’t my natural habitat.  I’m more of a forest and lakes type person.”  Me too, honey, me too.  But I do like the mountains when I catch glimpses of them looking so pretty.

And here’s Justin’s lunch from Wednesday!  It includes a small tub of hummus, celery sticks, cucumber rounds, apple/peanut butter sandwiches, and a mix of peanuts and “m&m’s” (actually Sun Drops, the natural equivalent without any strange food dyes).  Let’s pretend the plastic bag of corn chips isn’t there (the plastic, not the chips).  I’m on the hunt for a lightweight, non-plastic alternative.  The actual lunchbox in this photo is made of corn!  How, I have no idea.  Is it safer than plastic?  Again, no idea… probably somewhat safer, at least.

I’m a big fan of peanut butter for its protein, healthy fats and oils, and antioxidant power.  And, of course, its deliciousness!  If I don’t eat some protein regularly throughout the day, I start to feel really yucky, so peanut butter is a lifesaver for me.  Justin invented these apple and peanut butter sandwiches, and reports that they retain their sandwichy integrity even after a few hours in a lunchbox.



Sorry for the lack of posting lately – because I know I have so many people ON THE EDGE OF THEIR SEATS – I have been busy finishing up at work for the past couple weeks.  Today is my last day as an administrative assistant… perhaps FOR EVER!  In a month I’m starting a new job teaching reading to kids.  Teaching!  Kids!  And READING!  All of my favorite things.

I can’t really express in writing my excitement that I’m going to have a month off AND get to start a new, fun job.  I’m also excited to start some budgeting and cooking projects.  Until then, this illustration sums up my feelings about all this:


Are You A Scrimper or an Earner?

I’m a fan of a website called Get Rich Slowly:  Personal Finance That Makes Cents.  It’s full of good tips about managing money wisely, and the tips are refreshingly down to earth.  No extreme couponing (woe!), and no crazy money making schemes.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that I’m already implementing some of the tips recommended on the website.  Go me!  I already:

1.  Don’t own a car.  Save paying for insurance, registration, repairs, gas, etc. 

2.  Learn to cook.  Chee-yeck!  Although I still need to learn how to stop buying $4 gluten free cookies.  Hmm.

I was also reminded of some money-saving strategies I am not using, like:

1.  Don’t have recurring expenses.  This includes cable, Netflix, cell phones (get a landline or pay-as-you-go-phone), gym membership and more. 

Case in point –>Over the weekend I got a call from Comcast, offering me a promotional rate for better cable.  It ends up being $5 more than we’re paying currently, so we went for it.  I guess that decision doesn’t really make Cents, but it sure is nice to have some decent channels again!

2.  Get a second job, or start a business.  When I work part-time, I tend to glory in my time off, rather than look for more work.  I don’t really like this tip too much!

I also read a very telling article by Rya Hristova titled: “ Are You Afraid to Earn More?”  The author proposes the idea that people raised in a very frugal environment tend to be frugal themselves.  These frugal people prefer to stop spending when they want to save money, rather than get a job that pays more.  I thought that was so fascinating, because I definitely fall into the save rather than earn category.  The article also suggests that very frugal people won’t choose expensive items, even if they are free.  For example, present a frugal person with a coupon for a free item from the department store, and they will probably choose something inexpensive.  This rings true for me, too, since I do that very thing.  When I lived in Boston I used to go to my favorite coffee place, Espresso Royale, with work friends during breaks.  I would always get a small coffee with cream, and every ten drinks would earn a free drink.  My friend Megan would laugh at me when I would get a small coffee with cream as my free drink, since I could have ordered any fancy, expensive drink as a treat. 

How about you?  Is frugality engrained in your system, or is it a challenge to “just say no” to fancy lattes?

Extreme Budgeting and Simple Living: Living Beneath Your Means

Above:  A tiny house in Portland, Oregon.  Though I don’t think I’d like to live in one permanently, the simplicity inherent in living in a tiny space appeals to me.  Photo by Steve Walling.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

I just discovered a blog called Not Buying Anything.  It’s written by  a couple who is trying to live simply and reduce all unnecessary spending.  There are certainly budgetary reasons for doing so, but they emphasize simplicity as the primary goal.  Wealth does not buy happiness, they reiterate; after a certain point of having enough money to be comfortable and secure, wealth does not really increase happiness.  It’s a relief to remember this, especially since living in Boulder can easily make a person (moi?) feel like a failure, money-wise.  It is too easy to look at the people with the nice car, fancy designer clothes, expensive gadgets and overflowing shopping carts at Whole Foods and think:  They are so lucky.  They must be so happy.

Except they probably aren’t so happy all the time – they’re just normal, like all of us.

One post at Not Buying Anything stood out to me.  They asked the question:  What do you need?   and answered by putting expenses into two categories.  Category one is what you need to survive, and category two is everything else.  I’m going to do some thinking this weekend about what we need to survive, since my primary goal with living frugally is to throw as much money as possible at my student loans.  I won’t sacrifice our health by buying substandard food, and I won’t sacrifice our happiness by overly stressing about money, but I do think a life of simplicity is a very worthy (and, conveniently, frugal!) goal.

Detoxify With Veggie Wraps from Delicious Living

Detoxification is always a hot topic in food blogs and natural living circles around this time of year.  Spring has sprung!  Time to stop eating savory stews and casseroles, and perk up your diet with fresh fruits, vegetables, and broths.  Start the exercise regime, and eat some chia seeds if you know what’s good for you!

I was exhausted last night and my “meal plan” consisted of scrambled eggs, bacon, and, if we were lucky, some organic chard I had in the fridge.  I was perusing this month’s issue of Delicious Living, however, and saw a recipe for detoxifying chard veggie wraps that didn’t look too hard.  I modified them slightly by adding leftover lentils in place of the almond filling, and adding leftover cold chicken and some chopped bacon.  The wraps as written in the recipe are vegan, and I’m sure they would be completely delicious that way.  You could substitute hummus for the soaked almonds, too, which would be pretty awesome!

Here’s a picture of what the wraps looked like unwrapped:

I made a simple dressing for them out of some vinaigrette I already had in the fridge, plus some lemon juice, flaxseed oil, and fresh ginger and garlic for some antioxidant punch.  It was very zesty!  Perfect for spring.

Here is what the wraps looked like wrapped!   They were SO GOOD.  Making wraps is a great way to eat more vegetables, or to include vegetables you know you should eat, but don’t really love, like chard.

Remember the very last post when I was bemoaning the high price of organic peppers?  Behold!  A “dollar bag” of three red peppers, organic, from the Vitamin Cottage.  Now that I think about it, this meal really was a budget meal (especially if you make it vegetarian), unlike the other “budget” meals in the Delicious Living from last month.  You are forgiven, Delicious Living, and thank you for detoxifying me for at least one night!

Frugal and Organic Week Two Tally

A cheap and healthy weekend lunch: Tuna and celery sticks, and a salad with chickpeas, leftover pasta and veggies

Sorry I haven’t been keeping up with my daily totals this week.  To be honest, I’m finding it difficult to keep track of how much everything costs and how much of it I use. Rather than trying to calculate the value of leftover food from the week before, I might just say to heck with it and present the weekly total as is.  Some weeks will be higher, then, and some lower.  On Saturday’s trip to Sunflower, for example, I bought a lot of weekly staples, so 90% of that $24 really should be in the coming week’s tally.

Anywho, here are the fascinating details:

Sunday, March 25 – Saturday, March 31

Sunday (Sprouts):  $34.30

Supplies for the week, including almond milk, romano cheese, yogurt, tea, two boxes of granola bars, organic ground beef, and tons of produce

Monday (King Soopers):  $5, Eating out at Chipotle, $14

Tuesday (Whole Foods): $5.41, Total including anniversary gift:  $11.83

Wednesday (Whole Foods):  $10.30

Thursday:  Where art thou, Thursday receipt?  According to my bank log I spent $15.22 at Vitamin Cottage, which included a $3 stain remover.  We’ll call it $12.22.

Friday:  Online banking says $15.70 at Whole Foods, though I can’t remember for the life of me what I bought!

Saturday (Sunflower):  $24.23

  • I bought a lot of stuff for the coming week, including corn tortillas, olive oil, trail mix for snacks for the week, garlic, organic chard, bananas, hummus mix, etc.

Adding all that up, we get $107.16, and $20 more if you count the anniversary gift and eating out. I had about $20 worth of food from the week before to use up, and then I bought a lot of stuff last week that I’m going to use for this week and…. ahh!  If we just call it even and say the leftovers used for the week are about the same as the stuff bought last week to use for this week, then the total of $107.16 equals $15.30 per day.  YIKES!  I admit that I wasn’t so serious about budgeting this week, and I bought a lot of packaged foods like granola bars and waffles.  My true but lame reason is it was so hot (80’s) and our sunny apartment was so muggy that I didn’t want to heat the place up cooking, hence packaged foods.  Oh well, it’s only week 2!  Better luck next time.

How Do You Make Coffee Without a Coffee Maker? Broke My French Press Again…

You know how certain words start to look strange after you stare at them for a long time?  I just looked at the word “coffee” for a while… COFFEE… COFF-EE, CO-FF-EE… argh.  Weird!

Do any of you use a French press to make coffee?  I use the Bodum 32 oz press, and it’s awesome!  I specifically decided to buy a French press because I was sick of relying on the electrical wiring of an automatic coffee maker, ever since that one traumatic time when Justin and I were really looking forward to our morning coffee and… zap!  Broken.  What I didn’t predict, however, was the frequency with which I would knock my  Bodum to the floor and smash the inner glass lining.  So far I’ve broken THREE inner linings, and since they’re about $14 each to replace, that’s $28 for two replacements plus whatever the original cost.

Out of a combination of thriftiness and laziness, I’ve been brewing coffee for the past few weeks in a big Mason jar.  Does it work?  Well… you tell me.  Does this setup look like a winner to you?

You’re right, it’s a pretty awful method.  This is what happens when I try to pour it:

And this is on a good day!

Despite the mess, I’m determined to prevail without buying a new glass liner. The pioneers couldn’t go out and buy new liners willy-nilly, and neither will I. The only thing I really need to make my low-tech coffee pot work pretty well is a piece of mesh from the hardware store. I can lay that over the top of the jar and screw it on in place of the lid.  That would make it easier to handle, anyway, but it might still be messy.  My REALLY great idea is to produce some screw-on rings for Mason jars that have SPOUTS!  Imagine that the lid is a solid circle with a mesh portion (maybe 1/2 mesh, 1/2 solid), and the screw-on ring is exactly the same as usual except with a small spout – more like an extension of the ring than a spout, really.  You’d have a nearly unbreakable, super cheap, recyclable coffee maker!  Justin says this is a good idea, but wonders if it would appeal to the general public.  I wonder if the frugal/hippie/canning community is large enough for this one to be a winner?  Anyone else have a good method for making coffee sans pot?

I see a trip to Home Depot in my future!  My only regret is that the hot dog man in the parking lot doesn’t offer gluten-free buns 😦