3 Things to Let Go of this Fall

3 things to let go of

These trees are about to show us how lovey it is to let the dead things go.” -Anonymous

I felt the cool wind rustling my wispy bangs and wondered why it was I always seemed to cut off my hair when any big life changes occurred.

It was September, and instead of preparing to go back to work as a high school teacher, I was sitting outside of a tiny cabin at a Catholic Hermitage retreat center. It was my last night there, and my last chance to contemplate this new step I was taking, or was it an old step that I simply wasn’t taking? I wasn’t sure what direction I was headed, only where I no longer was.

Looking up at the sky, I saw more stars than I normally could from my home in Chicago. A million tiny white sprinkles in a blue orb framed by the dark shadows of trees shedding their leaves. Out here, away from the smog of the city, the stars were clearer. I wanted more than the stars to be clearer. Silently I prayed that these swirling questions in my life would be answered. That things really would become clearer.

It was then that I noticed the trees. These giants above me, stretching towards the clear sky, their branches shaking in the wind while their roots stood firm. And their leaves were swirling all around me, making the stars even clearer as they did so. They didn’t hold on, grasping for what once was but never could be again. They knew it in their bones; now was the season to let the dead things go.

Stars peeked out behind where those leaves had once been, and precious light shown through what once was. I also had to let the dead things go. Not just of who I was or what my career used to be, but of all the unfulfilled hopes and expectations that I had for my life. It was no use holding onto them. They were blocking the light. They were blocking clarity…

It’s been almost four years since I quit my job and let go of all the expectation I had for my life as an inner city teacher. I now have a new life and things are much clearer, at least when it comes to most things. But I am finding that now is still the season to let go.

This fall, here are 3 things I want to let go of–let go, and never look back–let go, and let the light shine down brighter–let go, and know that I can practice minimalism, even in my own needs…

1- The Need to Look Good

We’ve all done it– slipped on the ice in the parking lot and immediately looked around to see if anyone noticed, all the while silently praying that no one did. We have this desire to always look composed and like we’ve got it all together. As a woman, I have often felt the pressure to look a certain way and maintain a certain image so as to “look good”.

But what if I let that all go? What if I didn’t need to look good every moment of the day? Would the shame of tired and eyes and messy hair at the 3:30pm trip to the grocery store go away? Would I feel freed up to wear what’s comfortable rather than what’s cute? Would I stop comparing my lack of makeup skills to that of my friend at MOPS? Would I stop obsessing over my skin and eyelashes and weird postpartum hair loss/regrowth?

And what about the need to look good, as in to look composed, smart, funny, and morally “good”? If I let that go, would I feel less embarrassed when I misspell a word in a text message (yes, even despite autocorrect)? Would I be unafraid to ask a question about a word I don’t know in my Bible study class? Would I cease to feel insecure when I’m out with my husband at a party where all of his actor friends are discussing the shows and films they’ve worked on? Would I stop feeling like a failure when I hurt someone’s feelings by accident and simply seek forgiveness and genuinely try to make it right?

The need to look good can never be met.

The beauty of youth fades, bodies change, and lack of sleep or time to shower while caring for a newborn… well, it happens. I don’t always have to look good.

Instagram isn’t real life. I make mistakes. I am not always hilarious nor do I always understand the jokes of those who actually are hilarious. What I consider a successful day in my life isn’t what everyone else may consider success at all. My house will get messy. I’ll forget to put my daughter’s sippy-cup or wipes or her bib in the diaper bag and then I won’t look like a “good mom”. Yes, I will sometimes look silly and dumb. Sometimes I actually am silly and dumb. But that’s okay.

I want to let go of the need to look good so I can focus on what is already good in my life. Trying to be perceived a certain way is never fulfilling or fun. I want to let it go.

2- The Need to Feel Good

I began my journey towards minimalism in part because I realized that comfort had become an idol in certain areas of my life. I wanted to feel good rather than do the hard things. Sometimes I wouldn’t even do the very things I actually wanted to, because they would require some sacrifice or suffering. Can you relate?

No one enjoys suffering, and it is human nature to avoid it. But sacrifice is necessary to achieve our goals and make progress in our own character, families, relationships, careers, and lives at large.

The need to feel good is actually extremely temporary. It’s the need to own modern conveniences and comforts that make us feel like we’re worthwhile, even though “stuff” can never define who we are. It’s the need to relieve stress with retail therapy, which only lasts as long as it takes to remove the price tag. It’s the need to be comfortable and have an “easy” lifestyle that is actually wasteful and irresponsible in the long run. It’s the need to play it “safe” and not go the extra mile for someone, even if that someone is our own selves.

Mandy Arioto of MOPS International recently said this: “We resist the suffering we need to do to get what we want, but then we stuffer just the same.” This is exactly what happens when the need to feel good outweighs our deepest desires, hopes, goals, and convictions. We cannot accomplish much of anything if we refuse to feel uncomfortable, vulnerable, and press into the hard feelings of life.

And this is why I’m letting go of the need to feel good. It’s overrated.

3- The Need to Be Right

If Facebook has taught me anything, it is that the human brain is trained to seek out information that we agree with–that makes us right. The articles that I and my friends, family, and acquaintances all post on social media are rarely objective. The news we tend to watch is probably the same. It all has a slant to it which we are already inclined to agree with.

I want to let go of the need to be right. I want to approach people and places and news articles and conversations with curiosity, not assumption. I want to be open to other people’s opinions and when I disagree, because sometimes I genuinely will, I want to be okay with that person thinking I’m wrong. I want to let go of the need to defend my case, to explain myself, to feebly attempt to control the way I am perceived by other people.

Being an Enneagram Type One, this is especially challenging for me. Type Ones are always seeking out what is good and right and true in the world, which is positively noble. But we also have an insatiable desire to be right and also, to be perceived by everyone else as right.

Being in relationship is messy. People misunderstand one another. Apologies are necessary. Some conflicts cannot be reconciled. Agreeing to disagree rarely comes peacefully or easily. But being in relationship with people who think differently than I do is more important than being right and needing to express all of the reasons why I am.

This will be humbling, but if my “One Word” for the year has taught me anything, it’s that I cannot hope to keep stumbling towards wholeness without letting go of some things. 

So let’s start with these three.

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10 Things I No Longer Buy

10 things i no longer buy

My personal practice of minimalism is definitely about simplifying life, but it’s also about creating less waste and spending less money. It’s not always easy to say “no” to these things, particularly if I’m feeling down and there’s a super cute outfit on the clearance rack at the consignment store I frequent. But in these moments when materialism tempts, I remind myself that more stuff will not make me happy, and that the less I spend my time and money on, the more I have to focus on what’s truly important in life.

I’ll get right to it–here are some things I’ve managed to eliminate from my shopping list:

1- Clothes I don’t need or absolutely love

This has gotten tricky in the past few years with two pregnancies and nursing, but I think I finally have a basic wardrobe that can cater to all seasons of life (literal weather seasons, and also seasons of carrying children and not). I keep about 30 hangers in my closet and three drawers for socks, underwear, and workout attire. I rotate my clothing when the weather changes as well as if I need to accommodate a baby bump (like right now). I have a rule that I will NOT add more hangers to my closet, nor add anything to my drawers without first getting rid of something. Every now and then a tee shirt is donated or something gets an unrepairable hole or stain (welcome to mom-life), but for the most part, I have all the clothes I need.

Some tips:

-Know your style and stick with it. Chances are you’ve experimented a lot with different clothing styles and now is the time to choose what looks and feels best on you.

  • Have a limit. It might be 30 hangers or 50, but don’t allow your closet to intimidate you. You also shouldn’t have to search high and low for an outfit– there shouldn’t be so many clothes that you can’t easily find something or that you can forget about an entire collection of blouses.
  • Have a purpose. Before going through your wardrobe, call your local Salvation Army or Not-For-Profit Thrift Store and tell them you have a donation of clothing. When going through your closet and dresser, keep that “good cause” in mind and ask yourself who really needs that item more.

2- Purses

I’ll be honest, this one has been tough for me, to figure out. I’ve tried smaller satchels, I’ve tried larger shoulder bags, I’ve done the backpack purse, and I’ve tried to stuff all my essentials in a cross body. Finally, I’ve settled on a few bags that I use on the regular: A small shoulder bag– my everyday purse that can still fit my water bottle; a tiny cross body– when I’m out on a date with the hubby or making a quick trip; a large shoulder bag– when I need to carry all kinds of stuff with me (think traveling, carrying a laptop, or a trip to the library or farmer’s market).

This might seem like a not-so-minimalist list of bags.  But I’ve found that I need a few options depending upon what I find myself doing at any given time.

Even with these 3 bags, I’ve worked to make them as versatile and high quality as possible so that I won’t need to purchase a new one in the near future. They are all neutral colors and can go with any outfit or season. They are all well made and have stood the test of time. I also like the look and feel of all of them, which is pretty important if you ask me.

Some tips:

  • Again, know your style. This may take some time, but figure out the look and feel you like rather than what’s trendy or what you’re feeling in the moment.
  • Choose a size that’s realistic yet manageable, or, like me, choose a few sizes for very specific occasions. If you choose multiple sizes, make sure each purse can be used in any season and for any occasion. Avoid neon or super bright colors unless that fits with who you are and what you usually wear.
  • For if you have multiple purses: Rather than leaving all your stuff inside of your purse, take everything out between trips. You can have one spot for all of it, or you can place everything back where it belongs in your home. This will help you keep your bags less cluttered and will allow you to switch your purses easily if that’s something you feel you need to do.

3- Paper Napkins

This one is simple. I have invested in cloth napkins and I swear I’m never going back to paper. Paper napkins are wasteful and I also find that they don’t work as well as cloth to actually clean surfaces (surfaces like my daughter’s yogurt-covered face, for instance). When we are done using them, they just get thrown in the laundry. I love never having to purchase paper napkins at the store!

Tip:

  • Choose colors and textures that will go with your home decor, or keep it simple and use a solid dark color. I recommend a darker color as opposed to white if you have children or if you like to eat BBQ ribs 😉

4- Plastic Water Bottles

This one is also pretty easy folks. I use a stainless steel water bottle that I refill constantly. I actually don’t even use the cups and glasses we have too often because I’m always drinking out of my water bottle. We’ve invested in a nice water pitcher with a filter so our water is clean and safe for drinking, and this makes it so I never have to purchase bottled water.

Some tips:

  • I understand that some people are really into flavored water and soda. We sometimes will purchase soda, but it’s not something we have on hand all the time. Consider infusing your water or making your own simple syrup to sweeten your drinks and make your own “mock tails” of sorts. The hubby and I make a really great lemon cucumber spritzer and it’s a real treat we look forward to. If it becomes a rarity, it becomes something special!
  • Give yourself incentive to use a water bottle by investing in a really beautiful one that you like to carry around. There are some gorgeous glass bottles with space for infusing fruit or mint or lemon inside to give your water that extra kick too!

5- Cotton Balls or Cotton Rounds

Instead, I use organic bamboo round pads that are absorbent and washable. I can use them to take off nail polish, remove makeup, or to apply toner as part of my skincare routine.

Tip: 

  • Nursing moms, you can also use these as washable nursing pads!

6- Lotion

Instead, I exclusively use coconut oil. I find that it’s cheaper and works better, and I enjoy the smell. Many lotions have tons of ingredients (a key one being alcohol) that can actually dry out your skin, which is the opposite of what lotion is meant to do, right? So save yourself $12.99 and a trip to Bath & Body Works–just hit up your local grocery store and get some coconut oil.

Some Tips: 

  • Cold-pressed, extra virgin coconut oil is best, and will cost you anywhere from $3-7 for a jar, depending on where you purchase it. Be aware that it will solidify in the colder months. I use a small spoon to get it out, then rub it between my hands before applying.
  • Coconut oil is also a wonderful oil to cook with and is an ingredient in many DIY products that you can make right in your home (see below!).

7- Face Wash

Don’t worry people; I still wash my face! But I am wary of all the ingredients that most commercial face washes have listed on their ever-so-hard-to-recycle plastic tube. In order to be more thrifty, sustainable, and simplistic in my skincare regimen, I’ve been making my own face wash for about a year now.

Some Tips:

  • Last month I posted a Facebook Live video of me making the face wash I use on a daily basis with only 3 ingredients. You can also add essential oils like tea tree oil, lavender, or frankincense, depending on your skin type.
  • If you’re not a DIY-er, I still encourage you to be conscious of what is actually in the face wash you use. Also, keep in mind that many of the containers that commercial face washes come in are very hard to recycle. Try natural products that are packaged in glass containers. Neal’s Yard has some great options (not a sponsor; just sharing to be helpful).

8- Toothpaste

So… this is only partly true. I did purchase some natural toothpaste in the last month, but after using it a few times, I decided to go back to making my own. Similar to my face wash, I also started making my own toothpaste a few months ago, and I don’t think I’ll go back to purchasing it on the regular ever again. I like making my own because I can control the taste of it, I know exactly what is in it, and I can use my own silicone tubes, so I never have to worry about being wasteful.

Some Tips:

  • If you are interested, the toothpaste recipe I used is this one. But instead of peppermint flavor, I actually just used peppermint oil, and I also added a few other drops of essential oils that I found to promote health and kill bacteria.
  • If you do use the above recipe, please be advised that it gets hard in cold temperatures and very runny in warmer temperatures.
  • Again, if you’re not into DIY, that’s totally cool. I’m just sharing because this is something I’ve found to be helpful in my pursuit in sustainable minimalism.

9- Menstrual Pads or Tampons

Instead, I use a silicone menstrual cup and cloth menstrual pads. There are so many great brands of menstrual cups out there; I personally use the Diva Cup, but there are other great options out there.

Some Tips:

  • Read this post for the best menstrual cups if you’re thinking about this option.
  • Some cloth menstrual pads may seem expensive, but if you think about the amount of money you’re saving in the long run, it’s worth is. Besides, Amazon has some unbeatable prices in the area. Here is a great option to get you started if you’d like to go the cloth pad route.

10- Parchment Paper or Foil

It’s only been in the past two years that I’ve started to roast veggies and make some killer sheet pan suppers. I honestly don’t know what took me so long to discover how easy it could be to just chop, season, and stick it in the oven. Once I started, I found that I was going through parchment paper like most people go through paper towels. This made me search for a more sustainable option that would save me time and money at the grocery store.

Enter the silicone baking mat. These are what I use now, and I love them! They are pretty easy to clean, and I never have to worry with foil or parchment paper again.

Tip:

Here’s a great option if you’re interested in trying these out!

 

And there you have it: 10 items I no longer buy. What about you? How have you used your pursuit of a minimalist lifestyle to save money and become more sustainable? I’d love to hear all about it in the comments below!

This is Our Call: On Writing, Social Media, Shame, and Mommy-Blogging

Screen Shot 2018-09-16 at 3.41.43 PM

I am a blogger. I am a mother. But I don’t really consider myself a so-called “mommy-blogger”.

My writing includes my experience as a mother, but does not revolve around it.

Also, I’m not about to tell you how to mother your kids.

Do I have opinions? Yes, and I almost always think I’m right–who doesn’t? But that’s not what my writing is about.

My writing is about my personal journey towards minimalism. My hope is that my writing serves and encourages you as you simplify life and invest in the stuff that truly matters (like mothering your kiddos the way you feel called to, for instance).

Sometimes my motherhood and my minimalism collide– in fact, they often do. And sometimes I’ll write about how what I’m doing as a mommy is helping me become more free and more focused on my current calling rather than what’s “comfortable”. But my hope and prayer is that this blog can be a place for all kinds of men and women at different walks in life– not just moms who use a specific kind of feeding/diapering/sleeping method that I personally subscribe to (or am just trying out–let’s be real).

Another huge reason why I’m not a “mommy-blogger” is because I am not comfortable with making my kids too much a part of my online presence. Their stories and their images are precious and private to me, and so I am very choosy about how I share them with the world. I also feel it is part of respecting my children’s self-agency and personal privacy to keep them off of social media at large until they can choose to share what they wish with whom they wish.

That’s my preference. I totally understand it’s not for everyone. I also totally get if my preference frustrates some people (as I know it may). And I very graciously tell those people that my choice isn’t an evaluation of their choice, and also: “tough– this is my call”.

I think all of us mommies, bloggers or not, could afford say this to some people in our lives: “tough–this is my call”.

I began this post by stating that I don’t consider myself a “mommy-blogger”, but I should clarify that this is not meant to shame any bloggers or mommies that do. This label has gotten a bag rap in recent years, not because bloggers are out there shaming other moms, but because we as moms experience a ton of shame already.

I think people in general experience a ton of shame, but moms especially. We are constantly and frantically trying to figure out what we are doing as care-takers of our children amidst the crashing tidal waves of their growth and development. We are drowning, even if our Instagram accounts look like we’re all smiles and Starbucks and cute mom-buns.

The Internet and social media can make motherhood seem even harder. Because we are constantly comparing our lives to other people’s, and also, overwhelmed with more information and opinions than we could even sift through, we tend to doubt ourselves and constantly wonder if we are “doing this right”. It makes us crazy–even crazier than we already feel trying to raise tiny humans.

While I don’t consider myself a mommy-blogger, I do understand why there are so many out there.

Being a mom is all-consuming and sometimes can feel utterly isolating, even in the sea of information and “connections” online. Your mind is constantly reeling about whether to use a pacifier, or how to get your 4-month-old past this awful sleep regression, or if choosing to co-sleep is an amazing way to bond with your baby or if it’s the lead cause of SIDS. And that’s just the “newborn” phase.

I can see why many moms turn to writing and seeking an online community to share and learn and reach out. And while social media and the Internet at large can sometimes make things harder, it also can be a lifeline in other instances.

We must remember that not all “mommy-sharing” is or is meant to be “mommy-shaming”. In fact, I think most moms are coming from a place of trying to be helpful by simply sharing their experience.

But it can be easy to forget that other people’s choices aren’t evaluations of our own choices.

What we as mommies (and as people in general, really) have to continually remind ourselves is that the way we choose to live our life is our call.

Just because one mom writes a post about cloth diapering doesn’t mean you should feel bad about buying Huggies.

Just because one mom balances a full-time job and raising her 5 kids doesn’t mean you are any less for being a stay-at-home mom of 1.

Just because one mom documents in her natural birth experience on Instagram doesn’t mean your C-section was any less natural.

Just because one mom posts articles about the necessity of vaccines for all kids doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t dare voice any questions about what the CDC recommends.

Just because one mom proudly breastfeeds until her daughter is 3 doesn’t mean you should feel shame about weaning at 12 months.

And just because you disagree with these mommies doesn’t mean that they are wrong or bad or should be ashamed.

This is their call too.

 

Minimalism vs. Convenience

minimalism vs convenience

Minimalism can help you make your life easier because practicing minimalism, in whatever capacity, helps to simplify your life. But there is a distinct difference between making your life easier with modern conveniences and actually simplifying your daily routine, schedule, space and finances.

The difference between making things easy and making things simple is usually just less stuff. This is often the difference between convenience and a practice of minimalism.

More stuff can sometimes make things seem convenient, but it actually complicates and clutters your life.

We could spend days coming up with examples of this in different capacities, but I wanted to share with you 5 ways I have found that minimalism trumps convenience in my own life.

1- French press over Keurig

My morning routine always involves coffee. The first thing I do when I wake up is turn on the stove to heat the kettle, which I always fill with enough water the night before. I used to have a Keurig, which was given to me by my grandparents, who upgraded to a larger one, and I totally thought this would be simpler and more “minimal”. Wrong.

While it was super easy to load the pod in and pour a mug of water into the machine, owning a Keurig meant that I had to also buy those little coffee and drink pods, or at least own a reusable one. Then, if I used the individual pods, I had to find a place to store them. I also found that I used way more coffee pods in a day than seemed necessary, since it only made one cup at a time. Also, the amount of waste that created, or work it created to keep cleaning out the reusable one, was tedious and obnoxious. What I thought would make my morning more convenient actually cluttered my time and space with more stuff–stuff to own and stuff to do.

I quickly went back to my French press. It sits on my piano (yes, we have a piano in our kitchen), and it doesn’t need to be plugged in. I usually fill it will coffee the night before so all I have to do in the morning is pour the hot water in, and sometimes I’ll empty it into an insulated carafe to keep it warm for when my husband wakes up. It makes enough coffee for both of us in the mornings, and it creates zero waste, since we don’t use filters and compost the grounds.

Simple. Easy. Efficient. But oddly, few would call a French press a “modern convenience”.

2- Cloth diapers over disposable

So, I am well aware that not everyone who reads this will identify with this one, as not all of you have kiddos, but since this is my personal practice of minimalism, I have to share this way that minimalism beats out convenience in my life. I started cloth diapers when my daughter was 3 months (the first three months I was just trying to figure out my life and try to get some sleep). By then, I felt like I could handle throwing in a new laundry routine into my schedule.

While using disposable diapers is definitely much easier than washing cloth ones, I still think that choosing cloth simplifies my life. I don’t have to buy disposable diapers. Ever. I also don’t have to worry about the size changes either, since I own cloth diapers that adjust to smaller and larger sizes with handy little snaps. I have less waste as well, since we just flush the “stinkies” (as my daughter calls them) down the toilet with the diaper sprayer, and throw the cloth diaper and insert in the diaper pail to be washed.

My laundry routine for diapers is simple, and by now I’m used to it. While washing diapers would hardly be considered “convenient”, I believe it ultimately simplifies my life and helps me embrace minimalism as well as sustainability.

3- Limiting “Monthly Subscriptions”

A few years ago it became very popular to start subscribing to monthly subscription boxes that mailed you all kinds of things you might need or want. These seem to be becoming increasingly popular, and I totally understand why. It’s so easy to sign up, and then all you have to do it wait for the packages to arrive. No going to the store, no searching the aisles, no waiting in check out lines. Many of these subscriptions also make great gifts!

Some of the subscriptions our family has been a part of have included: Dollar Shave Club, Stitch Fix (get $25 off your first fix), Madison Reed hair color (get $15 off your first order), Amazon Subscribe and Save, Imperfect Produce (get $10 off your first box), FabAthletics, Ipsy, as well as other non-physical subscriptions like Hulu, ESPN plus, Prime Music, Spotify, and Netflix. (Not all at the same time, mind you!)

After evaluating the quality of the items I was purchasing via these monthly subscriptions, as well as the drainage they placed on our bank account, I decided to limit our monthly or bi-monthly subscriptions so that we get quality “stuff” for better prices.

While it’s convenient to get perfectly styled and fitted clothes delivered to my door, I would rather go out in search for the items I really need, even if it takes me longer and is therefore less convenient.

However, I have found it to be worthwhile to have certain cleaning products and non perishable foods that we use consistently delivered to my door each month.

This one is pretty self-explanatory: the less monthly subscriptions I get, the less stuff I own. That always helps on a minimalist’s journey. So even thought it’s “easy” or “convenient” to have things delivered right to me, it’s not always going to simplify life.

4- Secondhand Clothes Only

This one probably exists more so because I’m interested in being sustainable than interested in minimalism. Just read my 10 Hanger Project posts and you will understand the lengths I’ve been to in order to curb my addiction to clothes.

It’s far easier to head to Target or Kohl’s or Anthropologie and purchase new clothing in the style and color pallet I like than it is to hunt for possible gems in my size at thrift stores, consignment shops, or even search online via eBay, ThredUP (get $10 off your purchase), or Posh Mark. However, I personally am tempted to buy less if I decide to only shop for clothing secondhand. If I want something bad enough, I’ll take the time to hunt it down, and I’ll spend less money on it since it’s slightly used.

This simplifies my wardrobe, budget, and time, since I only own a few items of clothing to choose from when get dressed each morning.

While it may be “convenient” to order a dress from Land’s End, or new yoga pants from Lululemon, it’s way more likely that I will end up owning more than I need this way, which doesn’t help me in my practice of minimalism. Buying exclusively secondhand also helps me create less waste in general, and allows me to support local businesses–added bonuses if you ask me.

5- Giving up the gym membership

I used to work at a gym. Actually, I’ve worked at three different gyms in the past few years. I love fitness and working out. So why would I give up a gym membership?

Well, this certainly will not be the case for many people, but for me, owning a gym membership was complicating my life unnecessarily. During this particular season of my life, I don’t have hours to spend at the gym. I have a small child who would need a babysitter, which I would have to arrange for, and I would also have to plan out my schedule around gym hours, or fitness classes, or open lap swim– something that’s hard to do when my life revolves around nap time, dinner prep, and a one-year-old’s intricate bedtime routine. Also, up until just a few months ago, my husband and I shared only one car, which also made it hard to plan for trips to the gym.

On top of the scheduling issues, a gym membership costs money, and so does finding a babysitter.

I have found that giving up the gym membership helped to simplify my budget and schedule tremendously. I still workout almost everyday, but I do so at home or out with my little one.

My workouts are usually pretty simple–running with a jogger stroller at the park, doing an Insanity Max 30 video during nap time, or practicing my favorite yoga poses before my family wakes up on Sunday mornings.

While it used to be convenient to head to a gym that had literally every piece of workout equipment I could want, or to drop into a yoga class on a Saturday morning, my time and budget is limited these days, and so too have my workout options become.

Rather than see this as an annoyance or something that complicates life, I am grateful for the reminder that all I really need to stay healthy is the desire to do so. I can easily stay fit by moving my body and using my own body weight. No special equipment, studio, or even attire is required. Simple and minimal.

Easy vs. Simple

I am all about making life simple and easy with less clutter and more time and space for the stuff that really truly matters. However, it can be very easy to confuse convenience with minimalism in the pursuit to be “more free”.

For me, “more free” doesn’t include the modern convenience of a coffee maker or Keurig, even if I do have to boil my own water for coffee. I does include a pretty intricate laundry routine for my baby’s diapers, even if that might seem like the opposite of simple. It doesn’t include a ton of monthly deliveries, even though not having to shop at stores sounds way more convenient. It does include hunting down necessary clothing at consignment stores as opposed to simply finding my size and color at a retailer. It doesn’t include an easy-to-swipe gym card or fitness classes already scheduled in my day.

These “rejects” might be what make your practice of minimalism easier to embrace. That’s okay. I share my experiences simply to inspire others to evaluate those “conveniences” in life that might actually be complications.

Because minimalism and convenience is not the same thing.

What are your 5 ways minimalism (or simplicity of any kind) trumps convenience in your life? Tell me please, I’d love to know!

(Please note: this post contains referral links but was not written for the purpose of using them. They are there incase you are interested; feel free to ignore them completely.)

Never A Failure

Never a Failure (1)

I began my career as a high school English teacher with an unapologetically idealistic attitude about the difference I could make in my student’s lives and in Chicago’s far South Side community as a whole. After all, when you’re young and energetic and still on an academic high from all of what you’ve learned as a recent college graduate, there is literally no passion you cannot chase successfully.

I think I envisioned myself as one of those young, inexperienced, yet unexpectedly inspiring and successful teachers you always see in the movies. I knew it wouldn’t be easy to achieve, but I also had no idea how hard it would be.

After three years of teaching in Chicago Public Schools and living in the Roseland community, that passion I had clung to so dearly dwindled from a raging fire to barely a smoking ember. What I believed to be God’s calling for my life now felt far away – lost, even.

I was tired; I was bogged down with paperwork; I had too many classes; I had over-crowded classrooms; I had a steep cultural learning curve that I was barely getting over the hump with, and on top of that, being a recent hire made my job security slim to none. Some students consistently skipped my class; I struggled immensely with getting certain kids to listen, or to even pick up a pencil; many of the tests I gave came back with dismal results; I was constantly sleep-deprived and over-stressed, and I got sick more times in a single year than I had in the past four combined – in short, I felt like a complete failure.

So, when I left the teaching profession at age 25, I felt disillusioned and disheartened about passion as a whole. I thought that if I couldn’t live out my perfect dreams of being an inner city educator, then how could I hope to live them out in any other area of my life?

But mostly, I was just afraid – afraid that because I had quit, that meant I would forever be labeled a quitter – afraid that because I had given up on a past hope, then all hope was lost for me – afraid that because I hadn’t achieved this dream, I would never achieve anything of value.

But more than anything, I was afraid that all of this meant I was a failure.

Two years later, when I found out I was pregnant, those fears resurfaced. I was afraid to have any expectation of motherhood at all, or of my child, for that matter. I didn’t want my passions to be killed yet again.

And I didn’t want to fail.

But how could I hold a new life inside of my own body and not have wild and courageous dreams for her? How could I not hope for so much in this tiny person’s future? How could I not cling to the promises that God had made to this little baby, and also to me?

 After quitting teaching, and especially after becoming a mother, I was pitched into a new season of life where my motivation was very different than it was when I was fresh out of college. But I’ve come to realize that isn’t bad.

We would never say that the little girl who dreamed of being a ballerina at age 5 failed because she ended up becoming a doctor at age 27.

In the same way, God showed me that I wasn’t a failure simply because my dreams in college changed into different dreams even just a few years later.

My passion for teaching impoverished urban kids has grown into a passion for raising my own kids to befriend them and advocate for their rights and for their futures. My passion for living in the Roseland community of Chicago has grown into a passion for pushing myself to see things from other’s perspectives, and learning to love all people where they are, not where I think they should be.

It would take more pages than I can count to recall all of what my former students have taught me, and all of what I am still learning from my Chicago neighbors and South Side friends. But I know that God has used these experiences to mature me and help me see that his perfect plan for me is never just one thing.

My daughter is toddling around now, and a new life is growing inside of my belly, along with new passions and new hopes. I know not all of those fleeting and idealistic dreams will come to fruition in this lifetime, but some of them will, at least to some extent. The rest can wait for heaven.

Passion, in the form of tentative hope, peeks forth from already-fertilized soil. Dreams have grown and died and been stripped away to make room for a new and freshly pruned crop. It’s the way things grow, and it’s the way we grow. And I know now that it is never a failure.

Originally posted on The MOPS Blog

Learning to Say “No” Without an Explanation

No is a complete sentence

I had this section in my Bullet Journal that I absolutely love. It’s about three and a half pages of graph paper with Washi-tape sectioned off squares and rectangles—it’s my quote page. In the tiniest of squares is one of my favorite quotes that I keep having to go back to time and time again, especially during seasons when I get caught up in the people-pleasing hamster wheel.  The quote reads:

“No.’ is a complete sentence.”

I’m not sure who first said this, but many have taken this concept to heart, and I am one of them.

For a long time I struggled with feeling like I always had to explain myself.

Many times these explanations came off as lame excuses. “I’m so sorry I’m late to lecture; I my roommate locked me out of my dorm this morning when I got back from my run.” 

Many times these explanations actually included very helpful information. “I won’t be able to make it to your baby shower because my father-in-law’s funeral is that same day. I wish I could be in two places at once.”

But sometimes these explanations were unnecessary and were born out of a desire to tell people what they wanted to hear when I couldn’t give them what they really wanted. 

If they wanted time, money, or really anything else from me, but, for whatever reason, I could not give it to them, I felt like I needed to explain why. If my choices went against what someone else would have chosen for their life, I felt like I needed to justify my decision. If I even got a whiff of disapproval from pretty much anyone, I felt like I needed to go into all the details so that maybe–just maybe– they would understand and not be disappointed in me.

All in all, these tugs to explain myself were coming from a place of not believing in who I was or what I was doing with my life. I needed validation from others to feel like I was worthwhile or that my decisions were “good” ones.

But I have come to realize that “no” truly is a complete sentence. And while sometimes further words are needed for the sake of sensitivity and comprehension, the idea behind this quote, for me, is that I am allowed to do what’s best for myself and my family and my life without needing everyone else to approve or even understand.

We all desperately want a fulfilling life. Yet the more we fill it with things—items, busyness, worry, unnecessary commitments, debt, pressure, stress, people-pleasing–the more cluttered and unfocused and empty it becomes. We have to say “no” to these things.

Explaining myself was one of those things that was emptying me. It left me feeling like I could never please the people in my life. It left me feeling unsure about my choice to say “no”. It left me comparing myself to other people’s schedules and commitments and lives in general. I wasn’t confident in my choices. I wasn’t sure of myself. I didn’t stand my ground in what was best for me or what I knew I needed to do, despite what anyone else wanted.

There are times when we need to sacrifice and say “yes” when we don’t want to. There are times when saying “yes” is joyfully easy.

There are times when saying “no” is the hardest thing we have to do, and there are times when we say it as a knee-jerk reaction. Most of the time, it’s hard. Even if we really don’t want to do something, often the pressure to say “yes” makes saying “no” difficult. But after we do the hard work of saying “no”, we need to be okay with that choice.  We need to know that we don’t owe anyone an explanation if it comes from a place of pressure and people-pleasing.

We can say “no”.

We can let people think what they want about it.

We can know in our truest selves that we made the right choice.

And then we can have room to say “yes” to something even better.

On Unkindness and Cowardice and How Truth is Essential to Defeat Both

white and pink flowerson a book beside eyeglasses

Photo by Burst on Pexels.com

I am not the kindest person I know.

I am sometimes socially shy to the point of rudeness; there are moments when I value my own comfort over making others feel comfortable; I can be extremely harsh and judgmental, to my own self as well as to everyone else; I often have mean thoughts about other people that pop into my head.

I share this with you all today lest you think this post is coming from a “holier than thou” place. It’s not. I’m a pretty mean person sometimes. I think we all can be.

I recently went to a wedding this past year that was beautiful. The ceremony was heartwarming, the music was fun, the food was tasty, and the decor was gorgeous.

But the people… the people were mean.

No, not the bride and groom… I’m talking about their guests, whom I was one of.

There were countless times at the wedding where the guests made a snide remark about the wedding itself, or even the bride herself, or the way they chose to order the events. Overall, I got a sense of extreme judgment going on, and it was very unkind.

Being a pretty mean person myself, this still baffled me.

Why on earth would you attend a wedding where you didn’t love and support the couple getting married? Why in the world would you expect someone’s wedding to entertain YOU rather than be the bride and groom’s special day? Why, oh why, turn the happiest day of these people’s lives into a haughty evaluation session of their clothes, taste in music, wedding budget, and food choice?

I was astounded at the unkindness I saw from the so-called “guests” at this wedding.

I know that in American middle-class society, there is are norms of what a wedding should be. Sure, there are subcategories of style and location and theme, but there are some expectations about what happens at a wedding these days. I don’t know if I was ever aware of this before I got married myself, and I know that many of these key expectations were not present, or were dramatically altered at my own wedding.

So, self-centeredly, the unkind guests at this wedding, an event which I thought to be pretty standard with societal norms, made me wonder what on earth was said about my own wedding, and my own choices for one of the biggest moments of my life.

Was my choice to walk down the aisle in sunglasses to Hall and Oates’ “You make my dreams come true” scoffed at? Did people roll their eyes when the guests were asked to move chairs from the wedding location a few yards to the reception tables? What about the buffet of Hy-Vee catering– did people turn their noses up at it all? Was the dollar dance seen as cheap? Was our music contemporary and trendy enough? Did people think a dry wedding reception was lame?

I’m so glad that I didn’t think about these things the day of my wedding. I was too focused on becoming Mrs. Florine, and how grateful I was for all the things I wanted my wedding to be. What others wanted my wedding to be didn’t really enter my head. Maybe that was another sign of my self-centeredness, but if you ask me, that’s the way it should be for the bride on her wedding day.

A wedding is about two people getting married. 

It’s not about how fancy or expensive things are or even how smoothly everything goes. And while I think it also should be a fun party for the guests, I really think a wedding should be whatever the heck the bride and groom want it to be, and the guests can deal. It’s not about them. 

But regardless of what you believe a wedding should be like, I have to wonder how being kind plays into the lives of these guests I keep referring to.

As I stated earlier, I am far from the kindest person I know. But this is something I am not content to sit in.

I hate my unkindness. I hate my selfishness. I hate when my reflex is to be mean or judgmental or harsh, even if it’s behind someone’s back. No–especially if it’s behind someone’s back, because that means I don’t even have the spine to tell someone to their face that I think a certain way about them (which usually would imply that the way I think is cruel).

Or there is another option. Perhaps I don’t tell them something to their face because I’m too much of a coward to do so. Even as I write these words, I think there might be fear behind much of this blog post. Fear that stops me from telling these guests to their face that their comments are unkind and rude and downright mean.

Sharing the truth isn’t easy, and often we don’t get rewarded for it. Perhaps this is why we even have the temptation to gossip or talk poorly about someone behind their back: because telling someone something negative to their face is hardly ever appreciated, even if the comment is true or warranted.

The comments that these guests made were not warranted, and most of them weren’t true at all. They were just cruel evaluations and harsh opinions.

But here on this blog, where I evaluate these wedding guests and share my own opinions, harsh or not…. is it really much better?

While I refused to participate or even listen long to the gossip I heard, and while I didn’t make a cruel remark myself, I certainly didn’t call out these people for their unkind behavior.

I’m doing it now… behind the shield of a semi-ambiguous blog post.

And it’s now that I realize that truth has a huge part to play in the remedy of both unkindness and cowardice, two things I think we all struggle with from time to time if not everyday of our lives.

When we are unkind, the truth is we are often just masking an insecurity we are feeling. We do this by putting another person down. It makes us feel elevated ourselves because “at least we’re not like so-and-so”. Or sometimes it’s because we are masking a deep wound that we feel from the other person’s actions, and instead of addressing the hurt, the sadness, or the betrayal, we simply lash out at them and are either unkind to their face, or behind their back. Covering up these truths only makes the wound deeper, and the insecurity’s power over us stronger. It does no one any favors.

When we are cowardly, we hide from the truth that needs to be exposed, either in our lives, or in the lives others. We refuse to look at our own mess in the light and shy away from facing our fears. And we won’t speak up when someone else is being oppressed or abused or even just gossiped about because it means confronting someone else’s unkindness and potentially alienating ourselves, or becoming the brunt of more unkindness. Refusing to act out of cowardice hides the truth and allows others to become victims. It makes us into guilty bystanders instead of advocates for the less powerful. It also does no one any favors.

I am guilty of both unkindness and cowardice.

And so are you.

We all are.

To be kind means to speak the truth in love. This is also what it means to be courageous. 

To the bride and groom: I truly hope your day was everything you dreamed it would be. You both looked beautiful and the whole day was so special. I’m extremely happy for you both.

To the guests at their wedding: I truly hope that your unkind behavior is exposed to you in some way so that you can examine the root of either your insecurity or your hurt. And I truly apologize about not being courageous enough to speak truth to you at the time. While you may have been offended in the moment, I know that it’s my responsibility to be honest and loving and kind, and part of that means saying things that are uncomfortable but true.

This blog post is an attempt at sharing truth, feeble and untimely though it may be. I should have said something simple, kind, and true in the moment, and not allowed my cowardice to stop my mouth in the face of someone else’s unkindness.

I will try to do better next time, as I hope we all will.

A Minimalist’s Wish List

Wish List

A minimalist having a wish list seems like an oxymoron. If the idea of minimalism is to own less, then why have a laundry list of more “stuff” you want?

I get that. I really do.

But hear me out, even though I’m just a “wannabe” minimalist.

Having a wish list helps you be a minimalist in a few different ways:

1- It saves you from impulse buys.

I recently went to a consignment store with a friend. We were looking for very specific things: she was looking for a leather shoulder bag and I was looking for cloth napkins. Looking for extremely specific items can be a total hit or miss when it comes to resale shops, and as expected, we ended up walking out of the store with nothing. However, I doubt it would have been that way if we hadn’t had very specific purchases in our heads. In my browsing, I found a number of blouses that I would have loved to try on, and my friend noticed two extremely cute dresses in her size. This often happens to the average person at the grocery store: if you don’t come there with a list, you’re likely to leave the store with more than you planned on getting. This also puts a stress on your budget! Having a wish list, or just a single item you are in search of, can help you when you feel the urge to purchase something on impulse–just because it’s there and looks like something you’d love. Since there is a list of things you KNOW you’d love, you aren’t as likely to stray from that list for impulsive decisions you may later regret and may add up to break the bank.

2- It allows you to really think about what it is you want, and gives you time to decide if it’s worth it.

I noticed this the most when I created a baby registry for my first child. I started the registry very early, not because I was eager to pick out things that I wanted, but because I wanted to spend a lot of time deciding upon the essential and best things I knew I could use and enjoy. I ended up changing that list so many times because I had time to sit with it, research, and reevaluate every item I placed on that registry. In the end, I don’t think I had any items from the registry that went unused. If I hadn’t spent as much time with it, I think I would have registered for a ton of things I didn’t really need, which is not the point of minimalism at all. When you create a wish list of any kind, you get to spend time really evaluating what it is you want, what you really need, and what would be useful to you.

3- It allows you time to decide if this particular item is even in your budget, and if it’s not, it gives you a goal to save towards.

If you aren’t registering for something or creating a birthday wish list of some kind, then a wish list ends up being a list of things you plan to buy yourself. If you plan to purchase something at all, among other things, you need to factor in how much it will cost you and if you can afford it. For the majority of us, if we don’t ever evaluate these things, we end up in serious financial strain or credit card debt. Having a wish list helps you decide if these items you want are even in your budget, and it gives you time to price compare as well. If something ends up not being in the budget, it can remain on the list until you save enough money for it. If you have to save for it, it also helps you evaluate if this is something worth all the time and effort in saving in the first place. If it’s not, then you probably don’t need it and it can come off the list.

4- It gives others ideas for useful, meaningful gifts to give that would not simply add to the accumulation of “stuff” in your life.

If you have a wish list already carefully made, then you can easily help others give you thoughtful and meaningful gifts. I know that minimalists can be hard to buy for since the accumulation of “things” is something we try to avoid. However, when someone asks you what you would like for your birthday or Christmas, having a wish list will allow you to clue them in on things you actually need. Of course, you don’t ever need to share your wish list with anyone, but at least it gives you an option to give friends and family a little guidance. Instead of getting the usual Bath and Body Works lotion and yet another cute coffee mug, they can get you those reusable cotton produce bags that you will use and appreciate the heck out of (or whatever is on YOUR wish list!).

There are a number of ways one can keep a wish list. Here are my top four ways:

1- Amazon Wish List: it’s so simple. Just go to Amazon and create one. You can also create private lists for other items so you can save gift ideas for others, or create a list of things to price compare. I currently have a personal gift wish list, a list of items my daughter will need soon, a list of gift ideas for my hubby, and a shopping list of things I will need to save for.

2- Written out on paper or in a bullet journal: way too simple and arguably the most minimalist. However, it’s not as easily shareable or editable. I used to have two in my bullet journal–one for my wishes and one for gift ideas for other people. I’d also have a column for locations to purchase and the price I found the items for.

3-An Etsy list: the only drawback to this one is that it’s limited to Etsy items, much like the Amazon lists, but you can find way more items on Amazon. This is good for vintage wishes or handmade items you would want made for yourself or others. You can also make different lists for different things. For instance, I have one for gift ideas for myself, but also one for gifts for others that I plan or buy or will consider buying. I also have a board for my daughter, because who doesn’t love handmade baby girl clothes?

4- WishList.com: here you can add anything from any website. I don’t have one myself, but my sister-in-law uses this to clue her Secret Santa in each year when we use Elfster to exchange gifts with my husband’s family. It reminded me of my baby registry (babylist.com) where I also could add anything from any website and categorize it all. If you aren’t a pen and paper person, this is probably the most appealing to a minimalist because you can have everything in one location that is easily managed and shared. You can put things from Amazon or from Etsy and it’s all on one place; you don’t need to have multiple lists going on different websites.

Before you get started making your “minimalist wish list”, a word of caution: remember your own personal reasons for a minimalist lifestyle. I don’t know what those reasons are, but I’m assuming they help you to get rid of the access stuff in your life, rather than aid in adding to it. If your wish lists ever start to make you crave a more materialistic lifestyle or clutter your life with more stuff, then they aren’t working for your pursuit of minimalism and, ultimately, freedom.

How about you? Do you have a wish list? How do you decide what goes on it, and of course, I’d love to hear what types of things are on it! Leave a comment below!

$70 Per week Grocery Budget: The Good, the Bad, and the Tasty

The month of June is coming to a close, and I have successfully completed my minimalist money challenge to only spend $70 on groceries each week.

Here’s what I’ve learned:

1- Grocery shopping every week is HARD. 

Up until this week, my husband and I only had one car to share between the two of us. His work schedule is different almost every day, and so planning times to go grocery shopping every single week was pretty difficult. It was also tough brining my daughter with, since I had to be very meticulous in calculating the prices and sticking to a list. It was hard to be so distracted while shopping, and I know the trips weren’t quite as enjoyable for her.

I think that sticking to a budget is doable, but I might have to go grocery shopping for two week stints at a time. This way, I’m not having to drag my baby to the store each week, and I can save myself some stress in the meantime.

2- While I’m not a coupon-clipper, shopping the sales is totally worth it.

I usually wouldn’t pay attention to sales at all. I’d just stick to my list or throw whatever looked good in the cart, regardless of the price. But I found that shopping the sales at Aldi was very helpful in allowing me to stick to my budget. It also made me try some things I normally wouldn’t try, and that leads me to my next point…

3- I can form my meal plans around what I can afford, rather than try to afford all I want to meal plan.

I would go to the store with a rough list that was roughly priced out, but if I saw sale items, I would alter my list. In doing this, my meal plans would usually get bungled. But this month I learned that I can create my meal plans around what I can afford within the budget, instead of just buying things I want to make, which may or may not be the best price at the time. This made me go a little out of my comfort zone and try some new recipes and combinations of foods. I think I’ll probably stick to this method of meal planning because it’s helpful to the wallet, and it’s not too much trouble for me to do. It also limits my options so I don’t get too carried away planning out crazy-intricate meals that are probably unrealistic to make anyway.

4- Rationing snacks is very helpful in preserving their “life” for  the week.

I came up with a system to ration snack items so that they lasted more than one week. This way, I wasn’t always having to buy Lara bars, cashews, and veggie straws at every single trip to the store. I packaged the dried fruit and bars so that only what we could eat for the week was set out in the pantry, and I did the same with the chips and crackers and other items that usually go fast. Then I hid the rest in a basket up high on the shelf that was clearly off limits. This way, nothing got devoured in too short a time.

I actually started doing this before this month-long challenge, but I found it to be very helpful for June as well. Some things were still weekly purchases (like OJ and spinach), but this helped me save money and helped get our snacking a little more under control. I’ll be keeping this up for sure.

Here are some pictures of the great deals I found at Hope for Joliet (read more here):

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Here are some of my family’s favorite meals I made this month:

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And there you have it folks! That’s what I learned on my month of strict grocery budgeting. I hope you’ve enjoyed this adventure and have been challenged to save some pennies while you shop for your family’s food.

 

June Minimalist Money Challenge: The first 2 weeks

It’s been two weeks of grocery shopping with a $70 per week limit. If you’re new to my version of this challenge, check out my last post for a quick overview.

My first grocery shopping trip totaled to $69.98. I cut it that close. I am not kidding.

IMG_0621

Reusable grocery bags are a must for trips to Aldi. And no, that blue bottle of window wiper fluid was not included in our trip…

It was a bit longer of a trip than I usually like to take with my 15 month-old daughter, as I had to write down the prices, add up the total, calculate sales tax, and put some items back so as to keep within our budget. But we left the store with four cloth bags full to the brim, and one giant watermelon that was on sale. And Esther still had some of her veggie straws left to munch on during the drive home. I’d say it was a success.

 

You can sort of see some of the sales on the meat are marked (those red stickers in the first photo say “$1 off” or “$2 off”). Watermelon, blueberries, spinach, and asparagus were also on sale.

While I didn’t document my second week of groceries, I did only spend $68.40, and was pretty pleased with how many leftover items we still could use from the first week.

I’ll be sure to snap some photos this week, but some of the meals we made these past 2 weeks were as follows:

For Breakfast: Veggie frittata, peanut butter apple oatmeal, eggs over baked potato and leftover roasted veggies, toast with peanut butter and banana, hard boiled eggs with avacados.

For Lunch: Salami spinach tomato wraps with watermelon, mango chicken panini’s with carrot sticks, ramen noodles with peas, carrots, green beans, and corn, leftover pulled pork on top of sweet potatoes and veggies, apple and swiss curry panini’s.

For Dinner: Blueberry waffles, bacon, and over-easy eggs (yes, breakfast for dinner is amazing), bacon wrapped steaks on the grill with roasted asparagus and macaroni, homemade pepperoni and veggie pizza, pulled pork with potato wedges and steamed broccoli, brats with potato wedges and roasted veggies, shepherd’s pie with watermelon, ground turkey tacos with avocado, salsa, black beans, and roasted onions and peppers.

You guys. These are pretty amazing meals right here! I could really get used to this. So far I’m finding that shopping with this type of budget just takes a little more effort, planning, and flexibility in meals.

I’ll share more of the benefits and drawbacks when I can look back on the entire month, but so far so good!

Tomorrow I’m headed with my daughter and best friend to Hope for Joliet, a location where food items that are almost past the sell-by date are sold for a fraction of the price, and ripe produce is literally GIVEN away. I have no idea what things will be there, so I’ll have to be pretty flexible in what I plan for this next week’s meals. But I do still have leftover frozen chicken, ground beef, some cauliflower, and a bunch of other things I can use as a base for a few meals.

Next week I am also cooking for 10 college students, so my shopping may include extra so as to feed those hungry mouths (I will be reimbursed for this, so it will not be included in the $70 budget). I am also going to make a meal for my friend who just had a baby! This will be included in the $70 budget.

I’m excited to do more documenting of meals and of our shopping excursion tomorrow! Stay tuned!