Friday, January 31, 2014

Happy Friday! Tackling Debt, and No-Spend January is almost over!

The End of No-Spend!

Today is the very last day of No-Spend January! Yay! My husband's on night shift for work, and I told him that he's allowed to go the grocery store after midnight tonight. (He already has a long list of things he wants.) I hope that when I wake up Saturday morning we have lots of yummy food! I also have a Fun Run Event planned for my Vegan-Powered Meetup group on Saturday morning that is supposed to end at Whole Foods so that we can all grab lunch afterwards. I'm planning on also picking up some grocery essentials.

I hope I don't go too crazy when I hit the stores on Saturday, but our pantry has been well cleaned-out. Also, there is not much food left in our house so we kinda need to replace everything we've eaten this month (and to restock my fridge with fresh produce)!

No-Spend January has been a good learning experience. We've cleaned out our pantry, gotten a little creative with our cooking, and learned that you can actually buy a lot of food, even on a tight budget. I've also realized that I don't need to spend as much money on convenience items to have a good meal. It's actually much healthier not to eat processed foods. I'm usually kind of an organic foods health nut, and I've realized that I could save a lot of money if I don't focus so much on "organic" produce as much as what's seasonal, cheap, and available. I plan on taking some of what I've learned and extending these practices into the future: get less expensive foods, price shop, buy more in bulk, focus on affordable produce, etc.

An added bonus to all of this no-spend-month-ing is that our bank account is looking pretty healthy! I get paid today, too, so there's even more moolah on the way! I've made some long-term budgeting plans, and I plan on cooking more, eating out less, spending less on groceries (in regards to convenience and junk foods), and using that extra money to pay down some serious student loan debt each month. I talked to my husband about this last night about debt and budgeting. We took a good hard look at our student loans and car loan and decided that instead of using Dave Ramsey's Snowball Method, we're going to pay off the loans with the highest interest first. We're also using to keep track of budgeting. It's a great tool, and I've had an account for a while. However, I'm going to start taking it more seriously and checking how well we stay within our budget each month. It's time to start being an adult and stop spending money like it's going out of style! 

Tackling Debt 

Debt is a major concern of mine, but for a few years I've just been ignoring it and consigned to that "fact" that everyone has student loan debt and you're going to be stuck with them for a good long while. Not True! I've been reading up online about Dave Ramsey's method and lots of blogs from people who have gotten completely out of debt or are making serious progress getting out of debt. We're lucky because we've never abused credit cards and have fairly smart spending habits. Thanks mom for raising me this way! Well, we spend a lot of money, but we at least live within our means.

Now, I've got a serious action plan! We're going to knock out some of these student loans so that we can free up some money to pay for the things we really want! We'd like to have a house eventually and start having a family (Ah! The thought of having babies still scares me.). As we pay off our debts, we'll have more money available to put towards our house fund (which strangely has been getting smaller lately due to a large purchase of new living room furniture in October and from when we took out almost $4K to pay off one of my Sallie Mae loans in December).

It's such a great feeling to make your debt disappear! So far we've paid off: my husband's car loan, my Sallie Mae loan that had 10.75% interest (That was criminally high!), and one of my small federal loans! I'm excited to get rid of more of these puppies!

Anyways, let's end on a less serious note! One of my favorite bloggers, Bonzai Aphrodite, likes to start off her weekend's with a "love list", a list of all the great things happening in your life or things that you're loving. I'd like to mimic this with a love list of my own, and please feel free to submit your own little love list in the comments section below! (Also, check out her blog because she is one awesome chica!)

Things I'm loving lately:  Jillian Michaels ab workouts (This lady is one tough cookie, but she makes me smile while kicking my ass!); running outside in the cold single digit temperatures (Yes, I'm one of those crazy runners!); not spending a single dime on anything unnecessary this month; my Siberian Husky, Miki, and how she barrels through the piles of snow on our runs and never seems to get cold thanks to her super soft furry coat; my awesome husband for sticking it out with me through most of this No-Spend January challenge; and chocolate-cherry oatmeal (one of the few good foods left in my pantry)!

Have a great weekend and spread the love!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

No-Spend Month Update: The Final Stretch! (And partial failure)

I have something to admit: We failed!

We were doing so well on this challenge. Yeah, it's been hard, but I've planned ahead, cooked every meal at home, packed lunch every day, made very careful shopping trips to stay under budget, turned down invitations from friends, etc. Unfortunately, yesterday morning my husband made the executive decision to spend money on some chicken sandwiches for himself on his way home from work. This was very disappointing for several reasons: A) We only had four days left of the challenge! Four days! B) I had already made dinner for him. Yeah, it wasn't meat, but couldn't he have waited just 4 more days?!?  C) I knew that I would have to tell you (my readers) that we had failed to complete the challenge, D) We've worked so hard and made sacrifices all month!, E) He didn't even call me before he purchased them! I believe that I could have talked him out of it! and also F) He didn't get anything for me! Okay, maybe I should thank him for that last one. If he had brought home some delicious General Tso's vegan chik'n from Whole Foods (or something else pre-made), I probably would have been powerless in the face of such delicious prepared food!

Anyway, regarding C): My husband said that I didn't necessarily have to write on my blog that we failed because you wouldn't actually know that we screwed up. Also, he said that I haven't failed. He slipped up, not me! I have avoided spending money like the plague and have made very careful trips to the grocery store weighing my produce to make sure that we don't overspend!

I disagree with his first point because that's dishonest to myself and to my readers. I feel like for the sake of my own integrity, I should tell you about any slip-ups that we may make.  Also, by telling the truth it might help you to understand that it's not so easy to spend less than $1/day on food (and it sure isn't simple, especially as we near the end of the month and our pantry and fridge are emptying out)!  However, I kind of agree with the second part of what he said. Last night, I battled with myself over whether or not to just scrap the entire challenge for the remainder of the month since he'd already messed it all up. I came to the conclusion that : "It's just three more days, and just because he couldn't make it doesn't mean I can't!" The delicious-looking dark chocolate-covered raisins in the produce section tried to convince me otherwise, but I stuck to my guns!

Last night, after my running group, I went to the grocery store. We needed dog food (essential, not included in the $1/day budget for people food).  I spent $2 and some change on 1 lb. of collard greens and 4 bananas. I'm used to eating so many more fruits and veggies, and all we have left are some frozen mixed veggies, prunes, and dried cherries. So collard greens and bananas will have to help me through the rest of the week. For dinner I made the last of my udon noodles with a sauce that was a mixture of both tahini and tamari (which is basically gluten-free soy sauce). It was actually a pretty delicious combination! I also made popcorn with nooch. I'm all out of tahini and peanut butter now and running dangerously low on nooch (only about 2 tsps. left) and popcorn (my favorite foods)!

For dessert, I used some accidentally-vegan frozen pastry sheet that I purchased ages ago and made a chocolate filling out of powdered sugar, cocoa, and melted earth balance. It was delicious! I loved it so much that I made another chocolate pastry for breakfast. I also tried one with mango preserves last night. Yes, so I ate half of the package of pastry sheet, but I was super hungry after my run in the cold! Also, I haven't had a proper dessert in the past two weeks due to the limitations of my steadily-emptying pantry, so no excuses necessary. I can eat whatever and however much I want without justifying it!

Our pantry is looking pretty cleaned-out and so are both the fridge and freezer! There are actually only three items left in the freezer: non-vegan mochi ice-cream, which is off-limits for me, 1/2 bag of mixed vegetables, and 1/2 package of frozen pastry sheet (which I'm probably going to finish off for dessert tonight)! The fridge still contains quite a few condiments, pickles, cooked chickpeas, carrots, collard greens, and a few containers of leftovers. I cooked some extra quinoa and mixed veggies and put them into glassware to bring for my lunches this week since there isn't any quick and easy lunch food left in our apartment. The pantry is down to mainly just baking ingredients (flours, powdered sugar, etc.), rolled oats, brown rice, jasmine rice, lentils, spaghetti noodles, and a few odds and ends. It's slim pickings in our humble abode! I've been making meals out of whatever we have left, which means the food's been a little bland and my diet is heavy on the grains and light on the veggies lately.

I'm so looking forward to going back to the grocery store on Saturday! My friend suggested that when I return to the store I should make like Supermarket Sweep and just dump everything off the shelves and into my cart. :) Does anyone remember that show?

Wish me luck! Only 2 1/2 days left, and I think I can power through it (with or without the support of my husband)! The thought of my epic Whole Foods trip on Saturday, February 1st is helping me deal with the absence of delectable food and fresh produce at the moment.

Also, here's a picture of what I wore to stay warm while running in single digit weather:

I'm a crazy running ninja bandit! 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Six Week Six-Pack Update

So, I've been doing the Jillian Michaels Six Week Six-Pack video for 3 1/2 weeks now, and I'm seeing some serious results! I'm on week 4, so I just moved up to the Level 2 workout this week that I'm supposed to do for the second three weeks. It's a killer, but I'm loving it! I'm feeling fit, my stomach is looking flatter, and I think I can see some definition. I wasn't expecting a six-pack, but I think if I followed this program for another 6 weeks after this, I might end up with one. I actually was looking at Jillian Michaels' other videos online yesterday morning (right after my workout), and there's one called Killer Abs that's next on my wish list after I finish this one. Also, she has two different 30-Day Shred DVDs that look good.  If anyone's tried any of these, let me know how it was!

I've been getting up early a few days a week to do my workouts in the morning instead of the evening, which has made it so much easier and enjoyable. Working out in the morning just gets you pumped up for the rest of your day and wakes you up a bit! I hate waking up early, but it makes my evening so much more relaxed when I take the time to work out first thing in the morning.

Also, thanks to Cassi from Pretty in Pink Vegan for the advice on eating bigger breakfasts and lunches. I've been eating more in the morning and afternoon and an afternoon snack sometimes, and it's been helping me to take more time to cook food instead of just snacking on whatever's around and making quick meals. This is very helpful, especially since I'm doing this No-Spend January Challenge, and my meals seem to require a little more cooking lately. I haven't been eating any convenience foods in the past few weeks (mostly because I ran out of them in the first week and a half), and I miss them! Some nights I just want to come home and throw a frozen pizza in the oven, but I'm eating much healthier without that processed stuff and looking slimmer thanks to my diet, running, and Jillian Michaels!

How have your New Year's Resolutions been going?

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

"No-Spend" Month Update Week 3

*If you're not familiar with my No-Spend Month Challenge click here to get up to speed.*

This no-spend thing has been getting a little tricky lately. My husband has already compiled a short grocery list for all of the things he wants once No-Spend Month is over!  I've had to get a little creative to use up some of the ingredients in my pantry for my Pantry Clean-Out efforts. 

Last night, I put together an impromptu chili in the crock pot.  I unfortunately didn't take any pictures, but the ingredients were: black beans, kidney beans, fingerling potatoes, carrots, onion, chilies in adobo sauce, chili powder, cumin, oregano, garlic, and lentils (which I didn't put in the mix until this morning so that they don't fall apart).  I cooked it all overnight, so I haven't tried it, yet, but I have high hopes for this protein-packed spicy chili soup.  It was partially inspired by a recipe I got from Happy Herbivore's meal plans, but never got around to making since it's a little more time intensive.  Her version has quite a few different ingredients, though, such as a sweet potato instead of fingerling potatoes.  I love sweet potatoes, and her recipe sounded more amazing, but I just used what I had on hand.

I've spent $17 and some change so far.  I spent $15.20 on groceries last Thursday, and I let my husband order two items off the McDonald's dollar menu on Saturday.  He came to a Ragnar Relay Race running event that I'd been looking forward to and didn't complain when I parked us 1.8 miles away so that we wouldn't have to pay to enter the park. (Yes, I'm cheap, but it's No-Spend Month and I had to get in 8 miles on Saturday anyway.)  We jogged there from our car. I joined the 60 minute running group, and my husband did the 30 minute group.  One of my awesome friends from my Tuesday night running group luckily offered us a ride back to the car.  It was freezing out, but it was a good time, and I made some new friends who work at my favorite running store, Potomac River Running, who hosts my weekly Tuesday night running group each week.  Except yesterday it was cancelled because of the horrible weather/snowstorm we had here in Northern Virginia. :(

On the way home, my husband said, "Man, I'd really like to get some steaks right now."  He's an omnivore, and he ran out of meat and cheese in the first week or two because he only asked me to get one thing on my pre-No-Spend Month grocery-shopping trip, despite the fact that I asked him what he wanted and even asked: "Do you want anything else?"  (I actually got him two items and some eggs and shredded cheese.)  So anyway, I took pity on him and offered to get him some dollar burgers from McDonald's on the way home.  (I didn't want anything because I don't really like McDonald's, plus the only vegan options there are fries or a salad without the meat and most of the toppings.)  It was actually still breakfast time, so he ordered two burritos and still ate 3 or 4 of the blueberry pancakes that I made for myself.

I'm planning on going to the grocery store again today to pick up some cheap spinach, canned (or dry) beans and anything else on sale.  Probably bananas and carrots because last time I went they were only $.79 and $.69 per pound.  The only things I really want are produce, and I don't think they usually have coupons for those.  Last week I got lucky and they were having a two for one sale on salad, so wish me luck with that!

Receipts from this week/weekend:
Mickey D's for my husband as a reward for sticking with me on this challenge and coming out to run with me on a super cold morning! 
Update: Groceries from Wed. night
We have spent a grand total of $21.90 so far out of $31 for the entire month. (I got cash back because I felt really silly using a debit card to pay for less than $5 worth of food.)  Pickings are getting slim, my stockpile of canned goods and grains are being used up, and I plan on giving the fridge a nice wipe-down this weekend while it's still pretty bare!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

"No-Spend" Month Update - Week 2

*For all the details on what No-Spend Month is to me, please read this post first.*

Two weeks down, and I've spent $0*.  I've been slowly making my way through the frozen veggies, excess amount of grains, and used almost all of my frozen fruits making a green smoothie this weekend.  It was actually more of a purple smoothie.  I used a handful of kale that was still alive from the pots on my balcony, 1 frozen banana, frozen mango, frozen berries, peanut butter, hemp protein powder, and a little bit of agave nectar.  So I ended up with 3 smoothies, but I only have one left in the freezer because it was a pretty delicious combination!  I'm going to try to make it to the store to pick up some cheap produce, salad greens, and maybe some frozen or canned vegetables or fruits tonight if I'm not too tired after Jillian Michaels and dinner.  I heard that the best store deals usually happen in the middle of the week on Tuesday or Wednesday, so I'm hoping that I'll find things for cheap since my budget for the trip will only be about $15.

Not having as many things to choose from has made me plan out my meals a little better (and cook way more)!  Last night, I had some Shells & Cheeze to use up some Daiya slices that I have leftover with a side of peas and corn.  I've already planned on making some tofu and vegetable curry tonight for dinner.  I have a can of coconut milk that's been sitting in my cabinet forever, a block of tofu from my last grocery trip back in December, some frozen broccoli and bell peppers, fresh carrots, and a huge bag of brown rice that's still looking pretty full.  I'm going to try to make enough so that I'll have leftovers to take in for lunch on Thursday, but my husband can eat a lot, so we'll see if that plan works out. 

I also still need to use up my quinoa, couscous and lentils.  If anyone has any good recipe ideas for quinoa, couscous and/or lentils, let me know!

*I do have to disclose that my husband went to drill for the Air Force National Guard this past weekend.  While he was super awesome about trying not to spend money and brought food from home to eat on Friday night and ate lunch on base on Saturday and Sunday, he went out for dinner on Saturday night.  So that's technically cheating, and he felt bad about it because he could have went back to base for a free dinner at the cafeteria.  However, he was out of town and didn't really have a kitchen to work with, so options were kind of limited.  He said he didn't want to drive from his hotel all the way back to base in a thunderstorm because sometimes they'll make you stay on base when the weather gets really bad.  However, other than that one slip-up, we've been doing pretty well.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Six Week Six-Pack and Mini-Marathon Training Update

Jillian Michaels Six Week Six-Pack

I'm finishing up Week 2 of the Jillian Michaels Six Week Six-Pack (or 6W6P as I've been marking it on my calendar), and this week has been a little more difficult.  Week 1 I was super pumped, and there was a convenient holiday in the middle of the week.  Doing the Jillian Michaels workout 5 days/week on top of mini-marathon training and my busy work schedule has been tough, but I'm sticking with it!

Here's the problem I'm having: When I get home from work around 6:30 pm after my hour-long metro/car commute, the first thing I want to do is EAT because I'm super hungry by then! (Maybe I need to try eating a bigger breakfast or lunch?) So I usually make dinner as soon as I get home, then eat and watch some TV with my husband and end up commandeering the TV set (We only have one.) to do my JM workout around 9:30 pm or sometimes even later in the evening.  This keeps me awake later because I have to get my heart rate down, relax, and take a quick shower before I can go to bed. On Tuesday night I had my running group, so I didn't do my Jillian Michaels until after 10pm, and then I still had to shower, pack my lunch, etc. afterwards.  So it feels more like a chore because I'm relaxed and feeling kind of lazy by the time I start working out.  (But I do feel really good about it afterwards!)

What's a busy/lazy girl to do?  I'm not a morning person, so I'm definitely not getting up super duper early at 5:50 am to do my workout before I need to get ready for work at 6:30 am.  This week, I ended up skipping two of my workouts during the week because I was just too tired and it was already late, which means that I have to do them on Friday and Saturday when I was planning on taking those days off.

Possible solution:  I'm going to try eating a little more for lunch or maybe having a snack in the afternoons so that I can do my workouts right away when I get home from work or running, then make dinner, etc., etc.  I hope this works out!  If not, I'm going to have to try the waking up early idea, and that will probably make me tired and Ms. Grumpy-Wumpy Pants.  :(  And nobody wants to see grumpy Elise in the morning!

On the plus side, the moves in the video are getting easier with experience, and I've been moving up to doing the more difficult moves for most of them!  I can feel a definite difference in my stomach! (No six-pack, yet, but I'm actually hopeful that I'll have some visible definition and serious size reduction in the abs region by the end of 6 weeks.)  I'm even thinking about sneaking a few Level 2 workouts in next week!  You're supposed to do Level 1 for 3 weeks, and then Level 2 for 3 weeks, but I'm feeling pretty strong and think I might need more of a challenge.

Mini-Marathon Training

I've been running more miles this week and feeling great about it!  This past Sunday I ran 6.4 miles (!) with my Siberian Husky, Miki, for my long run of the week.  (If you're a serious distance runner, yes, 6 miles is a long run for me. Don't make fun!)  She loved it!  I was only planning on running 5, but I was feeling good and my dog wasn't slowing down at all, so I kept going.  Now I'm a week ahead of schedule for my training plan!  This was the longest run I've done in probably the past year, so it was a big achievement for me.  Also, the weather was ridiculously cold and there was still lots of slush on the sidewalks, so it was a big effort just for me to get myself out there.

This weekend, I'll be running 7 miles on the trails at Great Falls Park with some lovely people from my Tuesday night running group!  I'm excited about this!  I reached out and let people know that I was looking for a buddy for some longer runs leading up to the mini-marathon in March, and found a whole group that meets regularly for morning runs over the weekends. 

Yes, I'm a runner, but during the winter time I have a lot of trouble with motivation because of the colder weather and precipitation.  This year, I've improved leaps and bounds in relation to this problem.  One of the women from my running group proposed a challenge to run just 1 mile every day from Thanksgiving to New Years.  This challenge really helped keep me accountable and whip me into shape.  I missed a handful of days, but only a handful!  And I normally probably would have only run once or twice a week without this challenge.  It got me a little more comfortable with the treadmill, too.  (Or the "dreadmill" as I prefer to call it because I finding running in place to be ridiculously boring!)

Vegan-Powered MeetUp Group

More great news on the running front!  As well as being a regular attendee of a Tuesday night running Meetup Group (DC Capital Striders NOVA, Tuesday Tysons Corner run at Potomac River Running store, in case you're in the area and wanted to join), I'm also a member of the Vegan-Powered Meetup Group.  I'm not a very active member, but I try!  Recently, the head of the group sent out an email to the group asking for suggestions and talking about events in the upcoming year.  I responded talking about some races I'd like to do and how I'd love to get together for some group runs with the group.  She responded and asked me to be a co-organizer of the group to set up events for these races and group runs

I sent out an email and created some events for the group, not expecting much response.  The positive feedback has been overwhelming!  I've received over 25 email responses!  I'm so pumped about putting together and leading these runs!  It's only been about 24 hours, but I already have 7 attendees who RSVP-ed for my first Fun Run group run on February 1st!  (Okay, that's probably WAY too many exclamation points in a row, but I'm SO EXCITED!)

Things are seriously looking up on the exercise front, despite my struggles with finding time to get my Jillian Michaels on, and I'm looking forward to organizing all of these events and running the DC Rock n' Roll Mini in March! 

Readers, have you been exercising more this year or have you made any health/fitness-related resolutions?  What's your favorite type of exercise or what exercise do you plan to try out for the first time in 2014?

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

"No-Spend" Month Update - Week 1

*If you're no familiar with my No-Spend January Challenge, click here to get up to speed!*

The first week of "No-Spend" Month hasn't been too hard. We have spent $0 of $31 allotted with the $1/day rule. In my last post, I said that I stocked up at the grocery store on the 29th. Apparently, I did a pretty decent job stocking up. I do think I'll have to go to the store this weekend to get some more produce, but I plan on staying within the $1/day limit. For example, if I go on the 11th, I'll try my best to spend less than $11 (and definitely no more than $31). I just checked our bank account (literally just within the last minute), and I'm not seeing much of a difference, yet. I think it might take a few more weeks for these changes to make an impact, considering I just did a larger than usual grocery trip at the end of December and the beginning of the month is when most of the major bills come due (rent, student loans, utilities, health insurance, etc.).

I've also been making an effort to do a Pantry Clean-Out during this "No-Spend" month. I buy a lot of food items, and sometimes even doubles of items that I use very sparingly because when I come home from work, I don't want to spend longer than I need to cooking. In fact, a lot of times, I just eat frozen pizza, freezer meals, grab-and-go foods from Whole Foods or Trader Joes (which can be expensive!), or processed vegan products because I don't feel like spending time in the kitchen. Frankly, I'm generally pretty lazy unless I'm feeling inspired and excited about a recipe. It's not a good habit because well, we all know whole foods are better for us than processed foods. Also, processed foods cost considerably more than whole ingredients. And a major part of No Spend Month is spending WAY less and saving more, so the only processed foods that we'll eating this month are ones that were purchased before January 1st.

This has made me a little more creative in the kitchen this week because I'm using ingredients that I don't often use in my cooking. I've also spent more time in the kitchen because between my husband and myself, I do 99.5% of the cooking. (Talking to one of my friends about this, she suggested that he may just not feel comfortable cooking vegan food (yet, I hope), and since I've only been vegan about 5 months, that makes sense. Tom, if you're reading this, I have half a shelf full of cookbooks for whenever you're feeling adventurous!) Also, if we want to stretch out our food supply without being bored, that requires more preparation.

Following this train of thought, I've been making more things out of the products that take a little more time. Today I made some "Meat"loaf Bites from Happy Herbivore's recipe from her new cookbook, Happy Herbivore Light and Lean, using some of the instant oats that have been sitting in my pantry for the past few months without being opened. (The link is to a video of Happy Herbivore making her "Meat"loaf Bites and two other delicious-looking dishes.) I'm excited about her new cookbook, and I plan to make Happy Herbivore Light and Lean one of my first purchases of February since I unfortunately didn't get it for Christmas. Before you start feeling bad for me, I did get a lot of other awesome cookbooks like The Veganomicon, Party Vegan, Vegan with a Vengeance, and Quick-Fix Vegan (from one of my bosses!). So I've been busy trying lots of delicious recipes! This Saturday I made "The Best Pumpkin Muffins" from Vegan with a Vengeance. They're called "The Best" for a reason, and I do love pumpkin! I have to admit that I ate FIVE of them (and that was just on Saturday).  So warm, so delicious, so punkin-y!  My husband and my coworker also approve of these muffins. (My coworker almost didn't get one because my husband ate all but one of them before I could put one aside for her.)

Anyway, back to my original point...Pantry Clean-Out! So I used some of my instant oatmeal and a can of great northern beans (supposed to be kidney according to the recipe, but we didn't have any) for the "Meat"loaf bites this evening. I also cooked lentils while making the Meatloaf Bites to save time in the kitchen, and so that they'll be pre-cooked for tomorrow when I want to make curried lentils. (I'm not sure what I'll make as the side dish to the lentils, yet.)

For the record here is a list of a few of the items that I have in my pantry and cabinets:

-Lentils (2 packs of red ones. I guess I thought I might be out and bought another one. This happens a lot)
-Quinoa (2 packs)
-Black Beans (1 bag of dry beans)
-Brown Rice (1 large and 1 small bag)
-White Rice (1 large bag)
-Quick Oats
-Rolled Oats
-Millet (never cooked it before, but it sounded cool!)
-Gluten free flours: brown rice, arrowroot, almond meal, potato starch)
-Xanthan gum (for use with the gluten-free flours)
-Regular flour
-Whole Wheat flour
-Rye flour
-Whole Grain Sorghum (Why?!?)
-Ground Flaxseed
-Bisquick Heart Smart Mix
-Pinto Beans (canned)
-Garbanzo Beans (canned)
-Coconut Milk
-Tomato Sauce(Two large cans)

I'd really like to clean out some of the doubles/multiples that I've obtained. If you have any ideas using any of these items, please leave some comments below. I could use some fresh ideas, and I always love to get comments!

Also, if you're wondering what I did this weekend that involved spending $0/day. I had a private Doctor Who Season 4 marathon and knitted up a storm on Saturday. Results: a leaf-patterned hat* and matching emerald green cowl in a simpler seed stitch pattern. Note: these were knit with cotton yarn. My first Vegan Knitting project! Picture below!  I apologize for the bad photograph.  I seriously did receive an amazing new camera (Canon Powershot G15) from my awesome husband for Christmas.  Unfortunately, I did not receive a cord to connect it to my computer, and it's "No-Spend January"!  Womp, womp, womp!

* Hat pattern is called "Foliage" from, my favorite free knitting zine!

Friday, January 3, 2014

Happy New Year!

No, I haven't  left you, my dear dedicated readers (all two of you)!  I've simply been very busy with holiday vacation, traveling to visit family, and working on preparations for some new endeavors!

So instead of my New Year's Resolutions, I'm going to give you some of my January Challenges and Personal Goals for the coming year!

I have two new challenges for January:  (Well, one is technically for January and February, but close enough, right?)

1) No- Spend January!

The rules: No spending on non-essential things such as: going out to eat, new clothes, movies, etc. Only $1/day to spend on groceries as needed.  The only spending this month will be on bills and necessary expenses. 

My husband is totally on board, and I stocked up groceries this past Sunday.  The only potential problem I see at this point is running out of fresh fruits and veggies.  I have some frozen and canned ones to hopefully tide me over for the month, but as a vegan, I go through a lot of fruits and vegetables in an average week.

The point of this challenge is (selfishly) to save money, but also to limit needless spending and consumerism.  Sometimes I find myself buying lots of things I don't even need.  I've been making an effort this last year to become more minimalist, but hopefully this challenge will help highlight how to save money and be more conscious of spending.  Also, my husband and I love to go out to eat, which is probably another large source of spending.  So hopefully I'll be challenged to be more creative in my cooking and eat through some of the various grains and canned goods that I have stockpiled in my kitchen.

Wish me luck!  So far I have managed to spend $0, so I still have $31 left to spend for the month.

To see my inspiration for this challenge, check out these links below to some blogs of other families who've successfully completed this challenge:

30 Days of Nothing from Living the Frugal Life

Thinking About Nothing from Bushel and a Peck

Yes, entire families!  We're only two people, and I think it's going to be a little difficult.  But if they can do it, so can we!

2) Jillian Michaels Six Week Six-Pack

I know, an exercise resolution!  But this one actually seems pretty damn awesome!  I'm planning on completing six weeks of following the Jillian Michaels exercise routine.  According to Jillian, you should do the 30-minute routine 5 times/week for 6 weeks.  There are two different levels, and you're supposed to do Level One for the first 3 weeks and Level Two for the second 3 weeks. 

I've only been doing this routine for less than a week, but I feel a difference already!  My stomach looks and feels tighter.  (I should note that I've also been exercising, running, and eating healthy on the side.)  Now, I don't expect to have a six-pack at the end of the 6 weeks, but I believe that I'll be more toned and lose some fat.  I've taken a before picture, and I plan to take an after picture to show you my results of this challenge at the end of the six weeks.  So stay tuned!

Goals for 2014:

1) Complete a mini-marathon (or two)!

I'm already signed up for the DC Rock n' Roll Half Marathon on March 15th, and I've made myself a training plan for how to reach this goal.  My plan is to run at least 3-4 days/week with a long training run on Saturdays or Sundays.  The plan is kind of flexible, but I have my first longer training run this weekend (5-6 miles, depending on if I feel strong enough to go for 6 this week).  I hope the weather gets better! We just got about 3 inches of snow, and I had to do 4 miles indoors last night.  I hate treadmills, so I only did one mile on the treadmill and 3 miles on the elliptical.  The elliptical isn't really comparable to running outside, but it's better than nothing!

2) Pay down some serious student loan debt!

My 30 Days of Nothing/ No-Spend January challenge should help with this goal, but I want to make more of an effort to spend less on entertainment and fancy food and to have significantly less debt.  We recently paid off one of my Sallie Mae student loans with the highest interest rate (10.75%! Yikes!), and it felt so good!  I want to keep this up because one day, we'd like to be able to buy a house.  If we pay off large amounts of our debt, we'll have more money to put in our savings each month for that goal.

Between myself and my husband, we have about a dozen student loans and one car loan for my car that we just got last year.  We pay more in loans each month than we do in rent, and adding it all together it just becomes a staggering amount!  I've read a lot online about other people tackling their debt, and I've become inspired to be more frugal and work on this for myself.

Other News:

I've done some thinking about the purpose of this blog.  I initially started it to keep track of my 90 -day Vegan Challenge, but it's become more than just a challenge and turned into an entire way of life!  I've decided that I'd like to expand my blog to include all of my interests.  There are lots of other things than being vegan that I'm passionate about:  running, exercise, music, nutrition, and more.  I'm planning on writing more about these topics in the coming year.  I'm currently thinking up a new title to my blog and expect to see some design and layout changes this month.  I hope you enjoy it, and I appreciate your feedback!

What are your goals/resolutions for 2014?  Do you have any short-term goals for the month of January?