Project 7: Food

My friends and I started talking a few weeks ago about Jen Hatmaker’s book 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess. I read this book a while ago, but remember feeling challenged to reduce my consumption and take steps to move away from materialism in several aspects of my life. But in the craziness of life, I’m not sure I followed through with too many of those good intentions.

Said friends decided it would be a good idea to pursue our own experiment based on the precepts of Jen’s “experimental mutiny.” We planned to tailor the boundaries to challenge ourselves while still not setting impossible goals, and got really excited as we began to think about what doing this together might look like.

The goal is to reduce our consumption in 7 areas: clothing, food, spending, waste, possessions, media, and stress. I will be starting with food for the month of May, and I’m pretty pumped for the challenge!

Jen chose just seven foods to eat for an entire month, and I’m going to be sticking pretty close to that premise. I have allowed myself a little wiggle room with the addition of spices, cooking oils, and alliums that I currently have in my kitchen (to add a little flavor and to avoid wasting the onions and garlic that won’t keep), in addition to the seven items I’m choosing for the month.

I gave a lot of thought to what foods to choose; I mean, there are so many delicious options to pick from! But what could I eat for an entire month without getting sick of it (or at least, without reaching that point after only a week)? Taking this into consideration, I began to seek out foods that were versatile. I also had to think through what types of foods I chose to ensure that I wasn’t lacking any critical components my body needs to function. I ended up landing on the following:

  1. apples
  2. bananas
  3. oats
  4. chickpeas
  5. kale
  6. broccoli
  7. sweet potatoes

I’ve already curated a list of recipes that I’m eager to try, and I only hope I can motivate myself when it starts to feel too repetitive. I expect I will probably hit a rut a couple weeks in and really want some chocolate or peanut butter, and I certainly will have had my fill of these foods by the time June rolls around, but hopefully that will only make me more eager to embrace the variety of foods the summer farmers’ markets have to offer!

Wish me luck as I try to eat only these foods (with a little flavor added by my oils, spices, & alliums) for an entire month! What foods would you choose if you were to take this challenge? I’d love to hear your input!


Naturally Frugal, Frugally Natural

I embarked on a 31-Day Frugal Natural Living Challenge from Don’t Waste the Crumbs for the month of October. It was arranged so that I received daily emails with ways to frugally live a more natural lifestyle. These two things are often seen in opposition with one another, as many natural products are expensive. However, as this challenge proved to me, there are more frugal ways to adopt natural practices.

I found some of the challenges to be easier than others. Each day there were two or three ways to implement change in a specific area– usually offering beginner, intermediate, and advanced applications. I liked having the opportunity to choose my level of involvement to customize the challenge to fit where I’m at in my journey toward healthy living. I wanted to challenge myself, but knew I had to have realistic goals, or I would never follow through with them.

It was encouraging to see how well some of my current habits aligned with the suggested applications, as I was already doing some of the things included in the daily emails, like flossing my teeth, maintaining a budget, trying to get enough sleep, and reducing my use of disposable items (like paper towels, paper plates, and plastic baggies). It made me feel like I had already gotten the ball rolling, giving me momentum to continue.

Some of the more difficult challenges included using natural cleaners (which I hope to do, but will focus on more once I deplete what I already have so as to not be wasteful), avoiding a pretty comprehensive list of toxic ingredients in personal care products (it’s more difficult than I thought to find products without them), and eating seasonally (I’m working on it, but sometimes I just want that banana in November).

I really liked how the challenge ended. On the last day, the email had the same format as before, but the action steps were left up to us to fine-tune. The last challenge was to set new goals, to continue moving forward in our natural frugal living journey in whatever way best suits us, knowing that it’s a journey that never really ends. It reminded me that this wasn’t meant to only last a month while I was receiving daily emails to keep pushing me in the right direction, educating me about harmful ingredients in common products, and natural alternatives that are easier than I would have expected.

As a result of this challenge and the other reading I’ve been doing, I am working toward making and buying better personal and household products, sticking to my budget, getting more sleep, eating more seasonally, and trying to embrace a slower, more natural lifestyle. Won’t you join me?

Learn by Doing

Although I wrote before about breaking my ties with perfectionism, it’s still something that permeates my daily life. I’m more aware of it, for sure, and sometimes even have the strength to combat it. Most days, I have to I remind myself it’s okay to sometimes be content with “good enough” instead of “perfect,” to see life as more of a journey of progressing towards my goals than always having to do a stellar job at everything, to extend myself some grace for my mistakes, and to try new things.

Today’s post from Anne at Modern Mrs. Darcy hit home for me, as she talked about her own struggles with perfectionism. She suggests adopting an outlook of learning by doing, seeing any outcome as a success, instead of setting yourself up for failure by expecting perfection at every turn. In a practical sense, this kind of approach looks like not agonizing over decisions, paralyzed by fear of making the wrong choice, but being willing to experiment with things, knowing they may or may not work out, and that’s perfectly okay. Maybe that’s really what we should be aiming for anyway– perfectly okay. Not perfect, but perfectly okay. Perfectly imperfect. Perfectly genuine. Perfectly human. Perfectly beautiful in all our flaws.

I could try to paraphrase Anne’s words, but I wouldn’t do them justice. Take a moment and head over to her blog to read her encouraging entry about banishing the need to be perfect. You’ll find yourself nodding in agreement as you read about accepting mistakes and failure, a much healthier approach to life, and be both uplifted and challenged to revamp your approach to life by the end. Enjoy!

Chopping Shopping Challenge

If you know me very well at all, you know I tend to be a pretty frugal person. I shop the clearance racks, even at second-hand stores. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with buying gently used items, and in fact, I have a hard time paying full price for things when I know I could get them somewhere else for less money.

Because I am working hard to pay off debt, my budget is fairly tight. In looking for practical ways to cut costs, there were only so many areas I could scale back. Personal purchases was an easy choice for me.

In the midst of my journey into greater simplicity, coupled with my commitment to dropping my debt, I challenged myself to an even stricter shopping lifestyle. I decided in March to not buy any clothing, accessories, home decor, music, movies, or books for the remainder of 2015. This, of course, was only restricted to buying things for myself; gifts for others don’t

Why such an extensive list, you wonder? In taking a more objective look at what I already own, I could confidently say that I have far more than I need. I really, truly, don’t need any more clothing or entertainment. I have roommates I can borrow things from if I feel the need to change up my wardrobe. Between all of us, we have a vast library of books and movies, and there’s always the library and internet. I essentially limited myself to buying consumables– food and paper products (although I’m working to reduce those, too).

Although I’m less than three full months into this challenge, I feel good about my progress. I have been tempted at times to buy things, but have been able to walk away content that I have enough. It actually hasn’t been as hard as I expected it to be. I have chosen to not frequent stores that make it difficult for me to stick to my convictions, and I regularly remind myself why I have chosen to commit myself to this challenge– so that I can pay off my debt and be free from it.

I want to encourage you to consider your own shopping habits. Are you more prone to buy things when you’re upset? Do you participate in retail therapy? Do you stare at a full closet and feel like you have nothing to wear? I challenge you to rethink your tendencies and consider finding other ways to express yourself.

Here are some suggestions of things I have done to make this process easier:

1. Get more creative with your clothing, putting things together in ways you haven’t before. It will give you more options without requiring any new pieces.

2. Borrow things from friends or family members, especially if you wouldn’t use it regularly enough to own it yourself.

3. Shop at stores that don’t tempt you to defy your new standards. I have chosen to go to a small grocery store that has very little besides food because it doesn’t allow me to wander into other departments and buy things I didn’t go to the store for.

4. Keep your reason for reducing your shopping at the front of your mind; don’t focus on what you aren’t getting. Remind yourself instead that you are choosing things you want more– freedom, debt-free living, less clutter, more space, room to breathe, a more organized home.

Will you join the challenge?

Interested in a money-saving challenge, but don’t think this is the one for you? Check out my sister’s $5 Piggy Bank Challenge.