Monday, September 21, 2015

Weekly Steps Forward...and Back Sept 12 to Sept 18

As long as we take more forward than back, I'm happy...and even the baby steps count. 

I rearranged L's room. It now feels more spacious with more floor space for playing and more room for his toys and books. He's happy about it.

I hung up some wall art - slowly but surely, things are getting less barren around here!

I turned down water heater temperature to save money on electricity. The water previously got scalding hot, which is not safe and just not necessary.

I made a batch of my all purpose cleaner.

I hung 3 loads laundry to dry on the clothesline instead of using the dryer.


I made a Peach Crisp, a loaf of bread in the bread machine, and a batch of mini applesauce muffins. I made them mini because 2 are the perfect size to throw in a lunch box. My husband and son ate a few this week (I'm off gluten, sugar and dairy), but I froze most of them to pull out later for snacks.

I  bought a giant bag of reduced bananas for $1 at Walmart. They were ripe so I left out a couple but froze most of them for smoothie fodder. When I do this, I'm always reminded of a phrase I read in Economy Gastronomy that 'smoothies are sad fruit made happy'!

Family and Kid Stuff


It was a very rainy Sunday around here and we felt like doing something fun as a family. My husband, a history nerd, suggested that we visit the Diefenbunker, a 1960's nuclear bunker that served as a top-secret military base as well as where the Canadian government would decamp to if the country had been hit with a nuclear bomb if the Cold War turned hot. I wasn't entirely convinced at first that this would be a fun outing for the 3 of us, but it was really interesting. I wish we had had more time to explore but hunger struck! At 4 underground levels totally 100 000 square feet, there's a lot to explore. Above is a typical hallway as well as the War Room (which was pretty cool, replete with all the 1960's tech). 

My husband and I watched a movie that I took out from the library one evening called Jiro Dreams of Sushi. It's a documentary about an 85 year old sushi chef in Japan who has dedicated his entire life to perfecting his craft. It was a thoughtful and interesting watch.


A bought a new winter coat. This purchase was a huge splurge. Huge.

So why is this in the accomplishments rather than steps back section? Well... I needed a new very warm winter coat since my old one is done (and I'm also a bit frightened of my first winter coming up in Ottawa!) and after a LOT of research -- I think I made the best choice for me. Tracking down my size also turned out to be a feat! I chose a coat by Quartz Nature. After looking at a couple of other competitors, I chose this one because it's really high quality and should last I think at least 8 years, it's a Canadian company and made in Canada, it uses sustainably sourced down, it was the only one that was waterproof, and the only one that was machine washable. Seriously, machine washable is huge. A parka costs between $80-100 to dry clean and at once per year at minimum, that adds up to whole other coat over its lifespan. Time will tell, but right now I'm happy with choice!

While I only got in 3 workouts this week (I am for 4), they were 3 good ones where I really pushed myself so I'm counting them as step forwards.

Steps Back

We are already over budget for eating out this month....way over. :(

I caved and ate ice cream and pizza -- so  much for week one of my diary, gluten-free, and refined sugar free diet!

Is there something that represents a splurge for you that paid off in the long-run? 

Friday, September 18, 2015

This Week's Meal Plan

So this week I'm still on my diet of cutting out gluten, dairy, and refined sugar to help with my migraines. As an added bonus, when I've done this diet before I also found my energy levels were higher but more noticeably, way more consistent throughout the day. No more 3 pm slump! That being said...I still hate not eating what I want, when I want. You will notice some items that contain said restricted ingredients -- those are for the other members of my family to enjoy.

To save money this week, not only am I shopping sales but also making a special effort to use the same ingredients across multiple recipes to reduce waste. For instance, both the turkey burgers and the tuna pasta use anchovies, half a bunch of green onions will be used in the tofu dish with the other half used in the slaw, limes will be used in the slaw and in the chicken, and parsley will be used in the soup, in the pasta, to poach the chicken, and in the burgers to use up the whole bunch.

Main Meals this coming Week:

- Tofu Triangles with Rice and Carrots (this was on last week, but we had a moment of weakness and ordered in)

- BBQ at a friend's!

- Stuffed Pepper Soup with Homemade Bread (using ground beef that I bought on sale and froze in 1 lb portions. I will likely substitute quinoa for the rice this time as we are already having rice once)

- Green Goddess Turkey Burgers (without buns) and Rainbow Slaw Salad

- Chicken with Rosemary and Lime with Amana-style carrots (both recipes from Quick, Thrifty Cooking)

- Tuna Pasta Toss (with gluten-free spaghetti -- adapted from a recipe in Cheap, Fast,Good)

School Lunch mains next week:
1. Avocado, Grated Carrot, and Cheddar whole wheat tortilla 'sushi' rolls (a big favourite)
2. Curried Chicken Salad with Green Grapes on homemade bread
3. leftover Stuffed Pepper Soup
4. Chicken and Cilantro Dumplings (have a big bag of these from Costco in the freezer)
5. Tuna, Veggie and Cheddar Cups

Some sides and snacks will include: Cucumber slices, pepper slices, leftover slaw, popcorn, date butter, crackers, apples, grapes,  and cinnamon sugar wonton crisps.

Other things this week to make: bread, poach whole chicken, chocolate chip protein bars.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Weekly Steps Forward...and Back Sept. 5 to Sept 11

As long as we take more forward than back, I'm happy...and even the baby steps count.


I started to set up what will be my craft/sewing area in our basement. I haven't used my sewing machine for years, but I've decided to learn how to use it again. I bought the desk (which came with the lamp!) off Kijiji for $60 and the person I bought it from delivered it! The chair is an extra solid wood one that I had that I purchased years ago for $10 and then painted white. I think I'll add some art and organizers to this area but I'll wait until I start to use it more to decide what would be best. The cabinets beside offer extra storage since we don't have tons of storage space in our new house. They are currently a mess but will hold seasonal items, kitchen tools and appliances that I only use occasionally, and overstock of pantry staples.

I did some more purging of stuff we don't need including a pair of too-small rain boots, clothes, and some outgrown toys, in all I was able to donated 1 big garbage bag.

I created a family command centre in our entryway which I will show in a post coming soon! This will hopefully help to keep us all more organized, especially with the start of the school year.


I stocked up on carrots and onions at .19 a pound. We will be eating lots of these coming up!

I picked up the above cookbook at Value Village for $5. The tagline "Over 450 recipes for busy people who want to serve fast, delicious meals without spending a lot of money" was just too perfect to resist. Going through it I have found a slew of recipes that I'm excited to try.

Family and Kid Stuff

We hit up some yard sales on Saturday, we didn't have much luck but I did pick up 2 like-new board games for my board game loving boy for $4 (Scrabble Junior and Operation).

On the Sunday we went to explore Bonnechere Caves in the Ottawa Valley. It was L's first cave experience and he thought it was pretty cool (especially seeing the bats - he loves bats) although he found it a little scary at parts, and has been talking about it since.

This week was the first week of school and we were feeling a bit nervous for L, since not only was he starting a new school, but he was starting French Immersion not having done it last year so he would be a bit behind the other kids and his classes are in 100% French. However, our adaptive little man has been absolutely loving it! He has a great teacher, had made new friends, and is absolutely not fazed by the language.

Other Random Money-Saving

Went to the library, as usual, and picked up one book in particular that has been really interesting. It's called Cool Tools: A Catalogue of Possibilities. Lots of gift ideas, interesting and useful websites, and a whole list of other books I now want to read!

I did 1 swag bucks survey.

When I picked up the cook book I also picked up two cheap stuffed animals for our dog, a duck and a skunk. We have long ago stopped buying him stuffies specifically marketing to dogs for him to mock-kill. They last absolutely no longer and cost many times more. Also, I'm biased, but is he not so gosh darn cute?!

Steps Back

I went over my cell phone long distance minutes to the tune of $67! I will be looking into options for inexpensive long-distance this week now that we don't have a home phone. Ugh!

Friday, September 11, 2015

This Week's Meal Plan

This week I'm returning to the diet my naturopathic doctor put me on to help with my migraines for the next 3 months. When I was on it before it really did seem to help and I've really struggled health-wise lately so I'm hoping I'll start to once again feel better but I completely fell of the wagon. If I find that after 3 months things are once again improved, then this diet will be permanent for me.

 I dislike eating this way but I also dislike feeling like crap. So for the next 3 months, no dairy, gluten or refined sugar or any kind. My husband and son will be eating the same main meals but they will still have some lunches and snacks that are outside of my dietary restrictions.

One of the biggest challenges with eating this way (besides craving ice cream basically all the time) is that it's really rough on our grocery budget. I've really tried to keep costs down for this coming week by using what we already have, picking sale produce (like carrots, sweet potatoes and cucumbers)  and using less expensive ingredients (like ground beef and whole chicken).

So for the first week of this return to eating this way we are having:

- Moroccan Lentil and Vegetable Stew

- Pork and White Beans, Rosemary and Sage with Garlic Lemon Green Beans (pork recipe from Art of the Slow Cooker)

- Tofu Triangles with Nut Sauce with Rice and Veg (exact veg TBD)

- Hamburgers Diane with Roasted Cauliflower (Hamburger recipe from Quick, Thrifty Cooking)

- Chicken and Sausage Fricassee with Sage, Shredded Carrots with Herbs and Lemon, and Whipped Potatoes (main also from Quick, Thrifty Cooking)

- Gluten Free Pasta with Salmon and Dijon 'Cream' (substituting non-dairy plain yogurt for sour cream), Cucumber Salad (pasta recipe adapted from Cheap, Fast, Good)

- Sausage and Sweet Potato Soup with whatever needs eating up

I am also planning to make: instant oatmeal packs (without powdered milk), Cinnamon Raisin Bread, a batch of caramelized onions, a batch of hard-boiled eggs, and making Raw Carrot Cake Bites.

School Lunch mains this week will be:

1. Pasta with homemade Red Sauce (have a bit of sauce leftover in the fridge that needs using up)
2. Ploughman's Lunch with Pepperoni slices, hardboiled egg, pickles, cheese, prosciutto and veg
3. Leftover Moroccan Stew
4. Apple Cream Cheese sandwich on homemade Cinnamon Raisin bread
5. leftover Salmon and Dijon Cream pasta

If you have an awesome thrifty gluten-free, dairy-free super tasty recipe, please share!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

DIY Antiseptic All-Purpose Cleaner

I have been making this particular cleaner for years. Non-toxic all-purpose and kitchen cleaners can be pricey. This recipe literally costs pennies to fill a spay bottle. Pennies! 

I have have tried at least a half dozen different formulations of homemade all-purpose cleaner and I have found this one adapted from Better Basics for the Home: Simple Solutions for Less Toxic Living by Annie Berthold-Bond is the most effective. This is a great cleaner for everything from wiping down kids stuff, to crayon marks, washing baseboards, and kitchen and bathroom countertops. It's almost always the cleaner I grab first. Just let sit a few moments on crusty kitchen cleanup to let it do its work before wiping up. 

DIY All-Purpose Antiseptic Cleaner

- 1/2 tsp washing soda (you can also use baking soda, but it isn't as alkaline and so won't be quite as effective)
- 1 tsp borax 
- 1/2 tsp liquid castille soap or dish soap
- 2 cups hot water
- 1 tsp total antiseptic essential oil (i.e. I like 3/4 tsp lemon and 1/4 tsp rosemary but you can also any combo of: sweet orange, lavender, tea tree, thyme, rose, cinnamon, eucalyptus, or birch) 

Add washing soda, borax and soap to a clean spray bottle. Pour in the hot water and essential oil, cap, and shake until the minerals are dissolved. Give the bottle a shake each time before using. 

Makes 2 cups. 

Monday, September 7, 2015

Weekly Steps Forward...and Back Aug 29 to Sept 4

As long as we take more forward than back, I'm happy...and even the baby steps count.


Made some wall 'art' for our dining room. I followed this idea that I found on Pinterest. I had to purchase drywall compound as we didn't have enough and the canvas itself which I got on sale. I used a combination of paint that I already had as well as the darker green paint I picked up from someone in my local Buy Nothing group. In total I spent $20 on this project. I'm not completely happy with it, but I think it's a whole lot better than the blank expanse that was there before!

Sold a small chandelier on Kijiji for $40 that was here when we moved in. It didn't go with our stuff and we had purchased the new one in the pic above using a gift certificate we got as a housewarming gift.. Our dining room, which is the one room of our new house which is completely done, cost us a grand total of $40! The furniture was given to us by my mother-in-law when she moved and could no longer fit it, plus $20 for the wall 'art' and $20 for new curtains from a discount store. The previous owners left the curtain rod and we didn't need to repaint this room. That it cost so little makes me enjoy the space that much more in a weird way.

Bought a brand new drip coffee maker from a yard sale for $10, still unsealed. When I looked it up, this model retails for about $110 new. Score! We have used a French press for years but lately with more guests visiting and staying with us it's been a bit of a pain in the ass, as we have to make multiple pots in a row when it's more than just us to get everyone caffeinated. Also programming this one for the morning saves my husband a few precious minutes before his bike commute.


Made 5 freezer meals ahead that can just be dumped in the slow cooker day of: including Chicken Curry, Honey Sesame Chicken, and Midwestern Pork Chili. I froze them in the chest freezer gifted to me by my mom when we moved as she had replaced her's with an upright and had this one sitting unplugged.

This will be very handy for evenings when L has swimming and hockey at the Rec Centre starting mid-September as those  nights will be rushed. But especially these will be a lifesaver for days when my migraines are bad. I haven't made freeze and dump kind of meals before so I'll see how it works out and then decide if I'll keep it up making batches of these on occasion.

Batch cooked 2 lbs of dry black beans in the slow cooker and froze in 15oz portions to use in future cooking.

Family and Kid Stuff
One of my husbands colleagues gave him a few pieces of hockey equipment that her children had outgrown. This gives us a head start on equipment for next year for free!

To celebrate our last day  home for the summer with just the two of us, L and I went to play mini-putt together on Friday and then grabbed ice cream cones nearby. It was some good quality time.

We've also been exploring new parks all around our new city, some for kids and some for our furry 4-legged friend. The highlight for L was this big new park with a castle, although he did complain that it wasn't as fun as he'd like. This is always a particular issue with new-build parks as they are so safe that they look a lot more fun then they are. It was still good though and we'll be back as it's only a 5 min drive from our house (thankfully we have 6 parks we've discovered also within walking distance).

Other Random Money-Saving

Hung 5 loads of laundry to dry instead of using the dryer (on our new clothesline! We're pretty excited never having had one before!)

Started using YNAB again. We totally fell off the budgeting wagon leading up to our move so we haven't kept track of our spending at all since April when all the pre-moving craziness started.

Signed up for Swagbucks. My goal is to earn enough to purchase 2 Christmas gifts. I did 3 surveys this week.

Steps Back

Kinda literally this week.

While these classic black pumps only cost me $10 at Value Village, there is no way that I need these and I can't justify them in any way. Oh well. Clothing, shoes, and food out are my weaknesses. I'm getting way better but clearly not there yet.

What did you do last week?

Saturday, September 5, 2015

And here we go again!

So I've decided to pick this blog back up again.

I have toyed with the idea many times since calling it quits and now feels like the right time.

Not only because I now have more time on my hands but I also feel like keeping this blog helped to keep me motivated along the path of creating, along with my family, a life of our choosing. We have just had some big changes in our lives, namely moving to a new city, buying our first house and my leaving my job without a new one. I'm excited to figure out what's next. We were so focused on saving for our house knowing that my husband was going to be relocated for work, that now we need to figure out what's next in the plan out of competing priorities. Our goal of saving a decent percentage of our income has not changed however. The peace of mind and freedom that allows for our future is invaluable. How to get their and what exactly our goals and timelines are in very much a work in progress. Unearthing this blog again will, I think, be useful along the journey of sorting all that out.

I'm planning on continuing my weekly progress reports (those are really motivating for me), the odd recipe, diy projects, thoughts and plans.

It feels good to be back!

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