Monday, April 23, 2012

Frugal Food

In light of my efforts to stay within our monthly food budget, I started doing things that I thought were a waste of time before. Like cooking beans. The time it can take to cook them seemed ridiculous. Especially when canned beans are fairly inexpensive and duh, easy. However, thanks to Pinterest, I came across Budget Bytes. The author of this blog breaks down the cost of her recipes per serving and they are so tasty and even pretty good for ya! My favs so far have been hearty black bean quesadillas (seriously one of the best things I've ever put into my mouth), cumin lime chickpeas, and her homemade taco seasoning. She just posted a recipe for lentil tacos that I cannot WAIT to try. So, back to my original thought... I've been trying to cook recipes with inexpensive ingredients. Beans (and lentils too) seem to fit the bill. And thanks to Budget Bytes, they are now even less costly. The genius behind the blog, Beth, shows how to cook them in the crock pot. Basically you take 6 cups of water for every pound of beans, 4 hours on high in the crock and bam. You've got soft, delicious beans. 

Rinse 'em off in a strainer.

Then divvy them up using a measuring cup to scoop roughly 2 cups worth of
beans into freezer safe containers. Each container equals about 1 can of beans. 

I get about 6 or 7 "cans" worth out of 2 pounds of beans. And other bonus: less packaging waste and far less sodium and preservatives. It's really amazing to see the amount of salt, sugar, and other such things I've never heard of that are in a seemingly innocent can of beans. Before I started cooking my own beans I found myself buying organic canned beans because of the junk that was in canned chickpeas and kidney beans in particular. Canned organic beans run about $1.25 a can. Now I'm paying only cents more for an entire bag of beans that I can get at 3 cans out of. Granted they're not organic, but they are much more pure. It's a good thing to see when the only ingredient listed is: beans :)

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Attempts at Living Frugally

Oxford American Dictionary defines frugal as:
-sparing or economical with regard to money or food: He lead a remarkably frugal existence.
-simple and plain and costing little: a frugal meal.

I think it all started with the food budget. We blew it every month. It's not like I didn't keep track of my spending, because I did. It just wasn't working for me. I wasn't using what I already had. Last year I started planning my meals around what was in our cabinets. I'm not a big stocker of food, unless there's a crazy-good sale. Our cabinets and fridge aren't usually brimming with all types of food. I've got staples that I use frequently like rice, quinoa and certain spices. But for the most part I use what we have then replenish. I re-evaluated our food budget again recently because it didn't seem to matter how many "budget" meals I cooked, we were still going over. One thing blared loud and true. Eating out, even once a month, seemed to tip the scales. And eating out for us is Panera, or Qdoba, or Subway even. Not places one might expect to find a big bill. But that extra $20 was a big factor in our over spending. And so was coffee from Grounds for Thought, and individual cups of Greek Yogurt and other little niceties like gum and orange juice... :( So anyway, as I've been evaluating spending in our food budget, the thought of using what I already have has been haunting me. It's been a good kind of haunting though. As I decorated our home for the first Easter we would celebrate here, things looked far from festive. I mean, we have a lot of extra space now so the couple of decorations that seemed to over-crowd the Enterprise house seemed a bit sparse here. I began to brainstorm how I could use what I already had. I really wanted to buy some fresh flowers for a centerpiece, but we only budgeted for a certain amount extra for our Easter celebration and I had used that on food for brunch and an egg hunt for our Easter guests. So I grabbed a cake stand, some wooden eggs, a candle I was saving for a special occasion and cut some flowers from outside. A touch of brown rice kept the eggs from rolling and added some texture.

Then I was really wanting something festive with a little bit of height to sit on the armoire in the living room. I loved the idea of an Easter egg tree like we always had growing up, and I was fortunate enough to find the ideal egg-hanging branch right outside. It fit perfectly into a vase I had sitting empty under the kitchen sink. Add some ribbon that I had collected from old gift packages and used some of the left over eggs we weren't using for the hunt and Voila! I grabbed a frame that I had normally hung on the wall but was now replaced by a hanging wooden Easter egg and a lantern that set on our dresser upstairs as finishing touches. The plant already lived in the spot previously. Just the arrangement I had been hoping for!

As for the kiddo's Easter baskets, I did break down and purchase them. But 50 cents a piece at Goodwill plus the cost of spray paint wasn't too bad :)

They were filled with some kid friendly gardening tools, a little pot with a sun flower seed to be planted and a ball to play with outdoors. Best of all, we got them the Big Picture Story Bible. Best Bible for toddlers ever!

I've also been trying to be frugal with our clothing. We are so blessed to have so many clothes (and cute ones at that!) for the kids passed down to us. It is SO tempting to buy new outfits for them, especially the girls stuff, but it makes me a little sick inside to buy something new when there is so much used floating around. For myself, clothes swaps or give and gets have been a HUGE blessing. It is so amazing to be able to do a clean sweep of my own clothes and then walk away with something that someone else is done with for FREE. Mosaic has also been fun. I've made money selling some of my own things and have used that money to purchase some items there. In fact I was really hoping (and checking the store weekly) for a dress for Easter, but was not having any success. I was really hoping for a dress just right for this special holiday, but didn't want to spend more than 10 or 20 dollars and was desiring to buy something used. As a last ditch effort, the day before Easter I hit up Goodwill and found the perfect Easter dress. It was a sheer chiffon with a beautiful floral print in different shades of purples and white. Right next to that dress was a dark purple dress from H&M that I grabbed to try on underneath since the dress was so sheer. Despite the scuzziness of that Goodwill dressing room, I rejoiced in finding something so perfect and so affordable, all without buying new. Each dress was $5, so I walked away spending a grand total of $10.07. I was thankful to God for giving me the patience and self control to not run out to Target earlier that week like I SO wanted to do. I'm still riding on the high of this killer find and can't wait to wear it again!

Those are just some of the ways I've been attempting to be a better steward of what God has given us. Buying used can definitely take extra time and even extra work, but it's worth it. We reap the benefits in our pocketbook and sense of a job well done. And our precious planet benefits as well! So go used when you can. Just pause to think about what you already have. Or when you need to make a purchase, think of what you might find at a Goodwill or a consignment shop instead of at Target. (no offense, Target- you still have a piece of my heart!)

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


We had a very special Easter this year. It was the first holiday I hosted in our new home. First holiday I hosted ever, really... Some friends who are in graduate programs at BGSU were able to spend the morning at church with us and then head over to enjoy Easter brunch at our place. We met Lanming, Mikhail and Ramadha through Global Connections and have been enjoying dinners with them once a month since fall semester. We were very excited to help them celebrate their first Easter in America and share with them the purpose and customs of the season. Mikhail took some wonderful pictures throughout the afternoon and was sweet enough to share them with us. Thanks Mikhail!

Not pictured is the intense egg hunt that took place throughout the house and in the yard. There were 63 eggs hidden and our friends definitely did their job in finding each and every one of them! With all of our families at a distance (either hours or oceans away) we were thankful to have great friends to spend this special holiday with.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Good Friday

I read this excerpt this morning and I had to share. I think I've heard this before, but it's worth sharing even though it's probably common knowledge and I don't know it!

Bobby Gross in Living the Christian Year writes:
"The term "Good Friday" may in fact be a corruption of an earlier English phrase, "God's Friday," in the same way that our "good-bye" is a contraction of the sixteenth-century phrase "God be with ye." Of course "good" also carries the idea of holy, as well as the affirmation that the day is beneficial because on it Christ secured our salvation."

The past few days I've been relishing in prophecy of Isaiah. How beautiful and completely stunning to be living and celebrating these things that were foretold and captured in writing thousands of years ago. Just a few verses or "servant songs" to share with you in light God's great servant in whose suffering we cherish on this day.

Isaiah 42:1-4
Here is my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen one in whom I delight;
I will put my Spirit on him,
and he will bring justice to the nations.
2 He will not shout or cry out,
or raise his voice in the streets.
3 A bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.
In faithfulness he will bring forth justice;
4 he will not falter or be discouraged
till he establishes justice on earth.
In his teaching the islands will put their hope.

Isaiah 52:13-15
13 See, my servant will act wisely;
he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted.
14 Just as there were many who were appalled at him—
his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any human being
and his form marred beyond human likeness—
15 so he will sprinkle many nations,
and kings will shut their mouths because of him.
For what they were not told, they will see,
and what they have not heard, they will understand.

Isaiah 53
1 Who has believed our message
and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
2 He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
3 He was despised and rejected by mankind,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
4 Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
7 He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away.
Yet who of his generation protested?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
for the transgression of my people he was punished.
9 He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
nor was any deceit in his mouth.
10 Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
and though the LORD makes his life an offering for sin,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand.
11 After he has suffered,
he will see the light of life and be satisfied;
by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many,
and he will bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,
and he will divide the spoils with the strong,
because he poured out his life unto death,
and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Round Here

So I've come to realize that I haven't posted much about the kids as of late. We've been having good times and this past weekend we had an especially great time since Uncle Joe and Aunt Lucy came to visit! I thought I'd share some pics from that. And if you want even more of the Martin kiddos, you can click here.

The kids got some awesome Easter baskets from their
favorite Aunt and Uncle :)

Even Buster got in on the Easter fun

We colored eggs, which was far less fun for Asher than I thought it would be.
It's really just a lot of waiting around... and Millie "supervised" from her high chair.

I tried making my own dye. The yellow (made from boiled carrot and caraway seed water) was the least successful. It had to soak forever to get the color shown below. The light purple was made from frozen blueberries and the pinks were dyed with boiled beet water.
Some of them turned out kind of speckled or streaky, but it looked kinda cool in the end.
It was fun to try but I think next year I'll just stick with the store-bought kind.

My bunnies. So bummed Millie is blurry!