Friday, January 29, 2016

the poverty luxe kitchen vol. 26: leftover fried rice.

here in the meyers house we eat a lot of white rice. partially because its cheap as heck and goes great with things like salmon, curry lentils, and cajun red beans, and partially because im asian and freaking love white rice (no, im not making this up, my dad is literally filipino). the thing with rice though is that its really hard to correctly guess how much of it were actually going to eat. since rice takes a long time to cook i always end up making extra just in case and then we end up with way too much rice. 

and well... leftover rice is  kind of a difficult thing to deal with when you dont have a microwave or rice cooker for reheating it. for a long time all our leftover rice used to languish in the back of the fridge getting drier and drier until either i cleaned out the fridge or needed the container it was in and threw it away. 

recently i remembered my mom saying that cold, leftover rice was the perfect start for making fried rice. on that particular day we happened to have some leftover rice, so i threw some things together to try it out, and... it was great! not only was it a quick, tasty, and reasonably healthy lunch, but it totally helped us up all kinds of bits of leftovers. once i perfected the right recipe, i made a habit of always making extra, extra rice so i can make this for lunch the next day. 

leftover fried rice. 
(serves two)

heres what you need: 

2 cups cold, leftover rice
1 carrot
1 rib of celery
1/4 of an onion
1 cup shredded cabbage
2-3 cloves garlic
1 egg
2 tablespoons soy/tamari sauce
olive oil

heres what you do: 

finely chop all of the vegetables and heat a small amount of olive oil in a very large pan. 

sauté veggies in over high heat until fully cooked (approx 7-10 minutes). 

add rice and continue to cook, stirring constantly (making sure to break up any large chunks of rice) until all of the rice is hot. 

scoot the rice away from the center of the pan toward the edges, forming a "well" in the center of the pan. 

crack the egg into that well, scrambling it well and quickly stirring it into the rice and veggies as it cooks. 

continue to stir until eggs are completely cooked and toss with soy/tamari sauce. 

*note: one REALLY great thing about this recipe is that its SO easy to scale up! if you have more rice, just add another egg and some more veggies and make as much as you want

this fried rice is a super tasty way to use up leftovers that would otherwise be thrown away, whats your favorite way to repurpose leftovers? 

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Thursday, January 28, 2016

tips for making a meal plan that doesnt suck.

obviously, I'm a huge advocate for meal planning. it has a lot of huge benefits (saves time, money, stress and encourages healthier eating habits when done right) with a minimal time investment (i do mine in about ten minutes every wednesday morning). but the big potential downside with meal planning (well, any planning, really), is that if your plan sucks... the whole week sucks. you might end up eating too much of the same thing, spending too much time in the kitchen, eating meals no one really likes, or ending up with a ton of uneaten food. be been fine-tuning our meal planning system for a few years now and i can tell you that all of those situations have happened here at one point or another. but to save you from meeting the same fate, here are a few helpful hints for making a meal plan that wont suck: 

account for the nights you arent eating at home. 
i feel like i shouldnt have to say this, but dont make a five or seven night meal plan if you know youre only going to be eating dinner three or four nights that week. this will save you a lot of time and money and wasted groceries. 

dont repeat meals in the same week. 
some meals i make (like curry lentils or black bean chili), are HUGE and feed us multiple times. to keep us from getting bored/sick of eating the same thing, i only serve that meal once the week i make it, freeze the rest in one-meal portions, and only pull them out once each week until they run out. added bonus: most weeks my meal plan is halfway done from freezer meals!

if you do freezer meals, balance what you put in and take out. 
unless you have like, the worlds biggest freezer and dont mind eating food thats been frozen for three years, dont put more meals in the freezer than youre taking out on a weekly basis. this is just basic math. 

plan for a "treat" meal in every week. 
ok, i know typically the whole point of meal planning is to eat healthier/save money/save time/whatever and thats great and all, but pushing too hard for any one of those things gets old fast. so plan on one dinner each week being something good, even if its not the healthiest/cheapest/fastest thing there is. we typically eat really cheap and healthy, but every week i make sure we have something really nice like salmon (or in n out, if theres room in the budget...). 

balance labor intensive meals with easy ones. 
ill be honest: no matter how much i like cooking (which is more and more the older i get and more i learn to make), i do not like slaving over an elaborate meal (and the corresponding elaborate mess) every single day. so for every big, messy dinner like shepherds pie or mac and cheese, theres a meal that gets pulled directly from the freezer. 

get the whole family involved. 
even though the meal planning/grocery shopping/cooking is more or less my job, im only 1/3 of the people in this family that need to eat. so im always asking james and alice their thoughts on what were eating, what they like/dont like, and what sorts of new or different recipes they want to try. 

plan for "leftover night" if necessary. 
we dont end up with a lot of leftovers, and when we do, i typically eat them for lunch since im home all day. BUT if leftovers ever are an issue, we do what i like to call a "leftover extravaganza" and kill two birds with one stone: leftovers get used up and thats one less meal to shop/cook for. 

keep to one "new" meal per week. 
a great way to drive yourself (and your family) insane and spend all your money ever on groceries is to make your entire meal plan of new recipes that youve never made before. trying new recipes is an awesome thing to do (saying this mainly to myself because i really need to do it more), but they can use a lot of new ingredients and dont always turn out (or maybe you/your family just dont like them). so just to play it safe i recommend sticking to a once-a-week rule with new recipes: the worst case scenario is that youll have one lame night the whole week, but the best case scenario is that every week has an exciting new dinner. 

keep it quick, simple, and flexible. 
contrary to what pinterest may have you believe, meal planning should not involve complicated calendars or spreadsheets or eight hour days in the kitchen (unless youre into those kinds of things, then i guess go for it). heck, i dont even assign specific days for the meals on my plan. meal planning is supposed to make your life easier. if its not, then theres absolutely no shame in trying something else. 

when done wrong, meal planning can be a total drag (i have very un-fond memories of a few times my mom tried to do the "month of freezer meals in one day" thing...), but by keeping a few things in mind, you can totally put together a plan that makes everyone happy. 
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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

10 ways to declutter in five minutes or less.

one of the reasons it took us so unnecessarily long to get onto the minimalism wagon is that i thought we just didnt have the time to do it. i thought the only way to really clear out our home was to do a giant, sweeping purge of the whole hose all at once which was obviously so overwhelming and terrifying so i never bothered to do it. 

well, these days im a lot older and wiser and more experienced in the field of decluttering. and one of the most important lessons ive learned through this whole thing is that you totally can make a huge difference in a small amount of time (especially if youre consistent about it). in fact, small, frequent purges are probably more effective than big drastic ones because they make decluttering a habit, rather than a single event. 

and it really doesnt have to take much time at all. i mean, there are tons of ways to take baby steps toward simplifying your life that take literally less than five minutes. and we all have five minutes, right? 

in five minutes you could: 

clean off one shelf. 

clean out one drawer. 

unsubscribe from 10 email lists. 

unfollow 10 social media accounts. 

set a timer and delete files from your phone of computer. 

toss expired foods/medicines. 

fill up one box/bag of junk. 

throw out old mail. 

toss empty/unsued bath + body products. 

clean out your purse/wallet/planner. 

see, these small steps are totally fast and easy (and i made sure to include some that help combat the "other" kinds of clutter that are just as problematic as junk) . while they may not seem like they accomplished a whole lot at first, over time enough baby steps will start to turn into big changes. 

how do you like to do some quick decluttering? 

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Tuesday, January 26, 2016

7 surprising things that have totally saved us money.

ok, i want to be completely honest here: my absolute #1 pet peeve with the majority of personal finance/frugality type bloggers is that they tend to make saving money into a neat little system and say that their way is the only way and as long as you do exactly what they say your money problems will disappear. well, i shouldnt have to tell you thats a huge load of bologna. there are as many different ways to save money as there are people on earth. and depending on the needs and preferences and even location of your family, some of the traditional "money saving tips" end up doing the exact opposite. 

it can be really frustrating, trying to figure out how to make your budget work, researching different ideas and having them not work at all. i cant even tell you how many times thats happened to us. so in the interest of showing the other side of things, and maybe help encourage anyone out there who is not having good luck with the typical frugal living tips, heres a list of a few of the more surprising ways weve saved (a lot) of money: 

quitting coupons. i used to be big on coupons, but theyre a lot of work for not a lot of savings, plus i had to buy newspapers/paper/ink and keep all of the coupons organized... one day i lost my coupon book at sprouts and never looked back. surprisingly, our grocery spending went down because i was just buying what we needed and not trying to work in the things i had coupons for. 

ditching the "normal" grocery store. about a year and a half ago i stopped shopping at vons and just bought groceries at sprouts. the grocery bill went down like $20 a week. i was like "wait what how is that possible because its vons that has the crazy sales", then i realized that everything else at the regular store is marked WAYYY up to compensate for that cheap cereal. 

avoiding thrift stores/yard sales, etc. one of the most important things that took me way too long to learn is this: if you dont need a thing, no matter how cheap it is, buying it is just a waste of money. now we only go to thrift stores if were dropping stuff off or my sister calls me frantic that theres a gorgeous vintage emmaljunga pram at salvation army that i have to buy RIGHT NOW. 

getting rid of as much as possible.  embracing minimalism and getting rid of as much as we possibly can (which were still in the process of, apparently this never ends) taught us that we dont actually need about 90% of the stuff we think we do. so we buy about 90% less than we used to, saving about 90% of the money we spent on clothes and miscellaneous house stuff (mostly at thrift stores). 

not shopping at dollar stores. this kind of goes along with the thrift store one, except that basically everything at dollar stores is either so crappy you just have to replace it with the more expensive version of the thing you were trying to save money on, or (in the case of food and cleaning supplies) its so small/watered down that you have to buy 10X the amount youd buy at target for like 50 cents more. 

my gluten free diet. being gluten free forced us to pay more attention to what we eat and basically only eat fresh, homemade food because gf packaged food is absurdly expensive. also, we have WAY less options for eating out so we eat out WAY less than we used to. 

moving back to california. southern california has a reputation for being the most expensive place on earth, and maybe it is (our one bedroom apartment costs literally twice as much as the much nicer one bedroom duplex we rented in northern arizona), BUT were in a MUCH better position financially, partly because james makes way more money here but mostly because we need way less stuff, utilities arent a million dollars, and we dont have to drive up and down a mountain to get anywhere. 

long story short, saving money isnt a one size fits all thing. just because something works for one person, does not mean it will work for you. you just might find savings in the most surprising of places. i know we have. 

have you had any surprising money saving decisions? id love to hear about them in the comments! 

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Monday, January 25, 2016

five ways to use essential oils without a diffuser.

when people think about essential oils, they usually associate them with being used for aromatherapy in some kind of diffuser. and while that is a great way to use them (and i do love diffusing oils) diffusers can be on the pricey side and i can see where that would be a turn off to someone who wanted to try out oils without making a giant financial commitment (this is coming from a person who spent over a year interested in trying/learning about essential oils but not doing it because i could NOT fathom dropping $100+ on a diffuser to try). 

well i have some great news for you: you totally dont need a diffuser to use essential oils. in fact, diffusing is just one of many ways that we use them in our house. to be completely honest, diffusing is probably the least frequent way that we use oils (not that i dont like it its just not always convenient to set it up). so how can you incorporate essential oils into your daily life without buying a diffuser?

(again, in the interest of transparency: while i am very much not in the business of selling oils, i am technically a doterra wellness advocate and any purchases made through any links in this post would, in theory, earn me a commission. also, anything i say here is my own personal opinion/experience, has not been evaluated by the FDA, and is not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any disease)

in the shower. 
a great way to get the aromatic benefits of essential oils is to put a few drops on a washcloth and put it in the bottom of the tub while you shower, the combo of the steam and the oils is very similar to the effect youd get from running a diffuser. 

on jewelry. 
tons of artisans and crafters make jewelry from materials that absorb the oils so that you can apply your favorite oils to them and enjoy them for the whole day. i have this necklace that i wear every day with a couple drops of citrus bliss to keep me energized and happy and i love it. 

on your pillow/linens. 
honestly, i dont like running the diffuser at night (mainly because it has water in it and the cats knock it down and im 90% sure that had something to do with our first one breaking), so when we need help sleeping or are feeling a bit stuffy, ill put a drop or two of the oils we need directly on our pillows or sheets. 

in diy skincare/cleaning products. 
a lot of natural skincare and cleaning products are super expensive, and the thing that makes them special is... essential oils. you can save a ton of money (and have a ton of fun!) by making your own with common household ingredients and a few drops of essential oils. just spend like, two minutes on pinterest and youll have projects for days. 

many (but not all, please be careful and do your research!) essential oils can be used topically (that is, directly on the skin, either with or without being diluted by a plain "carrier" oil) to take advantage of their benefits. they can be used to enhance massage (like lavender for relaxation), directly to a specific area (like deep blue on sore muscles), or on the bottom of your feet so you can use them without having to smell them constantly (ideal for oils like oregano, which is great for immunity but not that great smelling).                  

as you can see, diffusing oils is only one of the many ways to enjoy essential oils, so dont let the cost/commitment of buying a diffuser deter you from trying out essential oils. 

*though, if you are looking for a diffuser, i cant say enough good things about our petal diffuser, which i like MUCH more than the aroma lite diffuser we used for about a year before it broke (apparently youre supposed to clean them....), mainly because its VERY hard to knock over and our house is full of littles and cats. 

do you diffuse essential oils? what kind of diffuser do you have? 

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Friday, January 22, 2016

the poverty luxe kitchen vol. 25: merengue cookies.

i believe ive talked about my fondness for hollandaise sauce (yes, yes i have), and let me reiterate: i freaking LOVE hollandaise sauce. i literally named my son benedict because of how much i love hollandaise sauce (benedict, like the eggs. i seriously dont understand how i am allowed to adult). 

the thing about hollandaise sauce though is that it only uses the egg yolks. so what the heck do we do with all those whites? obviously we dont just throw them away (actually once upon a time we had a dog and i would feed them to the dog). what we do is we make merengue cookies. 

merengue cookies are amazing little things: theyre naturally fat and gluten free and taste like lucky charms marshmallows. also, theyre really easy to make, AND (if youre already using the yields for something else) practically free! the only caveat is that you do kind of need an electric mixer of some sort (thank you, my dear kitchenaid) and they take kind of a long time to bake (for cookies). but still. theyre awesome. 

merengue cookies. 
(makes 1 cookie sheet full, approximately 30-35 1.5 inch cookies)

heres what you need: 
3 egg whites, at room temperature (this is very, VERY important!)
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

heres what you do: 

combine the egg whites, cream of tartar, and vanilla in a large bowl (or bowl of your stand mixer), and beat at a high speed until foamy. 

slowly ad in sugar and continue to beat until stiff, glossy peaks form. 

gently transfer merengue into a gallon ziplock bag and cut a small hole in one corner. 

pipe small (1.5 inch in diameter) dots onto a foil lined baking sheet. 

bake at 300 degrees for 45 minutes, or until completely dry. 

let cool completely before removing from baking sheet.

store in an airtight container for up to a week. 

that was easy, wasnt it? whats your favorite easy dessert to make? 

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Thursday, January 21, 2016

6 steps to a meal plan that will ACTUALLY save you money.

***note: this post was originally published on 3/4/15, but since its very much relevant to the money saving series im working on right now, im going to re-post it with a few edits***

when it comes to groceries, the two things i mainly get asked about are meal plans and grocery lists. mainly thinks like "ok, i made the plan and the list and my grocery bill was still exactly the same!" which at first i thought was really weird, because meal planning and list making were what totally cut our grocery budget in half. but then i realized that "make a meal plan and list" probably way oversimplified the process. so today I'm going to share our method for meal planning, and hopefully, youll find at least some of it useful. because seriously, this method has been a lifesaver for us. i mean really, any weeks that we dont follow this plan (due to holidays, james working out of town, illness, laziness, etc.), our bank account really hurts. 

now, i feel like this needs a big fat disclaimer because i see SO many frugal living/personal finance bloggers talk about THIER way of doing things as though its the only way or that it is guaranteed to work for everyone/produce a certain result. because the majority of the advice ive read on such blogs has not been applicable/beneficial to our family and situation, im just going to come out and say it: that is a lie. 

this is by no means any kind of proven system and i can not guarantee any specific results or that it will even work for you/your family. 

however, the majority of this plan revolves around planning, efficiency, and reducing waste, which i do believe can at least help in most situations. so with all that out of the way, here we go: 

1. decide (in advance) where you will be shopping and how often. look, it really doesnt matter whether you go to three different stores once every few days or just go to costco once a month. in order for you to be able to effectively plan the groceries that youre going to buy, you first have to plan where/when you are going to buy them. this may sound silly but it will make a lot more sense in a minute when we get to steps 2 and 4. 

2. double check your schedule for the week (or two, or whatever the space between shopping trips is) so that youre only planning for the meals you need to plan. see, knowing how far apart your trips are going to be is essential, because the biggest money drain when it comes to groceries is buying more food than youre actually going to eat. looking over your calendar and accounting for the days/nights you dont need to cook (for example, family dinner, date night, birthday party, whatever), will keep you from buying supplies for meals that you wont even get to before its time to go shopping again. 

3. start your plan based on what foods you already have and aim to buy as little as possible. after youve figured out where youre going, when, and how many meals your preparing for, do a thorough search of all the food you currently have. got a bag of potatoes? cans of soup? chicken in the freezer? an absurd amount of cheese? start planning meals that will use up those ingredients. and if you have freezer meals/leftovers on hand by all means include those in your meal plan. do not just let them sit there taking up space. 

4. next, take a look at what's on sale. this is where its really important to know where youre going to be shopping. and while grocery sales are really there to trick you into buying extra groceries and spend more money because youre getting a "good deal", you can use this to your advantage by choosing your meals for the week based on what meats/produce/etc. are currently on sale at the store of your choosing. are pasta and sauce super cheap? make lasagna! huge sale on fish? put that on the list! doing this has the double benefit of not just saving money, but also keeping you from eating the same foods every single week (which was a really bad habit of mine for the first couple years we were married). 

5. FINALLY fill in the rest and add any extras/treats. ok, so lets pretend that im planning meals for the week (because thats how often i shop), and once i account for the nights we wont be home and leftovers in the freezer i have four dinners left to plan, using the foods that are on sale as inspiration. once i have that general plan, then i look over the pantry and fridge to see if were missing anything else: lunch supplies, cereal, condiments, spices, snacks, etc. you know, the kind of stuff that doesnt necessarily run out at the same time, that you dont have to buy very frequently but the meal plan cant go on without (in our house the #1 such thing would be olive oil), that stuff definitely goes into the plan and on the list. just, last. and only whats absolutely needed before the next shopping trip. 

6. once your plan is finished, make a detailed list (with quantities). so youve made it to the end, you know where youre going, how long youre shopping for, and what youre going to buy. now write it down (all of it). be specific ("1 lb shredded cheddar" not  just "cheese"). note the quantities (if you need three onions, then for crying out loud make sure you include that you need three onions!). the more detailed your list is, the less likely you are to forget something you needed, and the less likely you are to buy things that you dont need. trust me on this. 

and there you have it. thats how we plan our meals to save the big bucks on groceries. this plan also has the added bonus of reducing the wasted food we generate (either from things going bad before we can get to them or stuff just sitting around), and keeping out fridge and pantry from becoming disorganized and overcrowded (did i mention that the benefits of meal planning go way beyond just saving money?). 

i know everything i just wrote is the EXACT OPPOSITE of the generally accepted "start with staples and stockpile whats cheapest now to eat later and spend all day making a month of freezer meals" philosophy for thrifty grocery shopping, but you know what? thats never worked for us. and maybe it doesnt work for you either. thats ok, there are totally other ways of doing things and you can still save money. 

do you plan out your familys meals? whats your #1 tip? 

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

nine great times to purge.

here we are in the middle of january and the meyers family is in the middle of what i am affectionately referring to as "purge 2.0", even though we spent basically all of 2015 cleaning, organizing, and downsizing in order to simplify our life and home. if we did all that, then why are we doing it all over again? well, as im pretty sure ive mentioned before, decluttering has a way of just uncovering an entirely different mess that was lurking below the mess you just cleaned up. also, between the new baby, alices birthday, and christmas, weve kind of had a little extra "stuff" coming in to our apartment lately. 

it seemed appropriate that with the new year, wed do a quick (but thourough) purge of the house in order to keep on top of the clutter situation. after we decided to do this, i got to thinking about how small, frequent purges are a lot faster, easier, and less emotionally draining than trying to do the whole house in one go. so i decided to come up with a handy list of great times to do some decluttering: 

after the holidays. holidays = presents, wrappings, decorations, and just, like, so much stuff. we chose new years for an annual (starting this year) purge to help us get out of "holiday" mode and back into "real life mode" as quickly as possible. 

after birthdays. birthdays are like mini-christmases that happen at all different times of the year, and it really helps to clear out the old to make room for the new (especially when you have kids. why do kids have so much stuff?)

before having a baby. not only do babies have a lot of stuff, but do you know whats really hard to do when you have a new baby in the house? clean. getting rid of as much as possible before the baby comes means youll have WAY less to clean (and more time to enjoy that new baby). 

when you move. if its not worth moving, its not worth keeping is what i always say. packing and unpacking forces you to see everything you have and you might as well get rid of anything youre not into while youre at it. 

before school starts. for us, things get really busy and hectic during the school year and it really helps to start the semester with a fresh, clean house. 

after school gets out. on the other hand, sometimes stuff piles up during the craziness and needs to be cleared out over break. 

after kids growth spurts. before i had kids i thought they grew slow and gradually, but apparently they dont grow at all for a long time and then SUDDENLY are an entirely different size. these times are great for getting rid of not just outgrown clothes, but also outgrown, broken, or unloved toys. 

when you have unexpected free time. sometimes youre just bored, and decluttering is a really great way to use that downtime productively. 

when youre stressed out. maybe its just me, but there is something SO calming and therapeutic about getting rid of stuff and making clean, empty spaces in my home. as i get older i realize how much clutter totally stresses me out, so when i get stressed, i get rid of stuff. 

basically, any time is a good time for some decluttering, but some times make a little more sense than others. after talking things over with james, we decided that it would be a good idea for us to do a quick purge at new years, and at each of our birthdays (which are in april, july, and october, respectively) so that we can all work together to keep clutter at bay. 

when do you like to declutter? do you do it on any kind of schedule? 

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Tuesday, January 19, 2016

nine great things to do when youre broke.

when i say that were broke, i dont mean it in the way that people tend to mean it (as in, that we made plenty of money but we spent it all so we cant buy some expensive thing we want), i mean that were broke. im going to be real here: its january (right when the slowest part of the year for jamess work starts), the spring semester is about to start (meaning, $$$ for childcare and supplies), we just came out of one of jamess work years at work ever (despite the fact that he makes over twice as much per hour as he did when he started), AND instead of using our tax refund to pay off our credit card and start saving for a house.... we need to shop for a new car. this is not a great time to be our bank account. but thats not the point of todays post. 

my point today is, that sometimes the money situation just sucks. it happens to the best of us (some of us more than others), and its not entirely under our control. but it doesnt have to be the end of the world. in fact, these times can be incredibly productive, and (dare i say it...) enjoyable(?), if you know how to spend them wisely. 

since ive got lots of esperience in this department, here are a few handy suggestions of ways to make the most of the broke times:

take a long, hard look at your bank statements. 
its easy to lose track of your money (especially if you never use cash), and its really helpful to take the time to take a serious look at exactly where your money is going and decide if youre happy with that. 

make a list of your hopes, dreams, and priorities (short term and long term).
even though it seems like an impractical or unrealistic thing to do, figuring out exactly the kind of life you want is a great thing to do when youre broke, so that you can start figuring out how to take steps to make that happen when you arent quite so broke anymore. 

look for expenses to drop. 
once you have a good idea of where youre money is going and whats really important to you, look really closely and see where you can cut back: first to help out in the short term until the money situation gets better, but also to help in the long term to free up money for the things you really want in life. 

break bad habits. 
maybe you have some habits that arent so great. maybe you buy lunch every day because you dont want to make it ahead of time, maybe you binge on netflix to avoid doing real work, maybe you go to starbucks twice a day. and maybe these habits are also costing you a lot of money. using the money as a motivation to break these habits can be a great way to kick them for good. 

decluttering is a great thing to do when youre broke for three reasons: 1. its totally free, 2. youll probably find some stuff worth selling (see my post about doing exactly that), and 3. theres nothing like confronting all the stuff you own (and spent money on) that you dont like/use to really change your perspective on spending. 

look for potential side hustles. 
obviously if moneys tight, it doesnt hurt (at all) to look into ways to make some more. maybe an actual second job is out of the question (like it is for james), but it doesnt take much research (ahem, pinterest) to find hundreds of ideas to try and get to the one thats right for you. 

go outside. 
not only is outside 100% totally free, but spending time out in nature is a perfect way to take a break and just think about things that arent money. 

use things up.  
one of my favorite things to do when moneys tight is to challenge myself to see how long we can go without buying anything: using up all the leftover bits of toiletries and cleaning products that accumulate and getting creative with recipes to use up as much groceries as possible. its a fun little game and a nice double whammy of saving a little money and also clearing out a little clutter. 

be thankful for what you have. 
seriously. money problems are stupid and they suck and its so, so easy to get stuck in a mopey black hole of self-pity but really, there are so many things to be thankful for. taking a few minutes to focus on those things can make things a lot easier. 

im not saying hard times have to be fun, but what i am saying is that they dont have to be all bad. 

what do you do to get through tough financial times? 

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Monday, January 18, 2016

our top five essential oils (and how we use them).

i personally think essential oils are awesome, but at the same time, i can totally see why someone new to the essential oil scene would be turned off to the idea of them after meeting a few "essential oil people". mainly because it seems like people either dont use them at all OR they have 239847832648712 that they use 300 times a day and they insist that everyone needs all oils or theyll die. its intimidating for sure, and if youre on the budget-conscious side of things, well...

so today i want to share a short list of our 5 most used essential oils and what we use them for. this list may seem a little different than other top essential oil lists because 1. im not trying to upsell you a big "starter kit" and 2. im going to focus on the most budget friendly and multipurpose oils in our arsenal because, frankly, thats whats going to be most useful to you if youre new to oils. also, i think its really important to give a reasonable, not-crazy perspective on essential oils. 

again, in the interest of transparency: while i am very much not in the business of selling oils, i am technically a doterra wellness advocate and any purchases made through any links in this post would, in theory, earn me a commission. also, anything i say here is my own personal opinion/experience, has not been evaluated by the FDA, and is not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any disease. 

so with that out of the way, what are our top five essential oils (the essential essential oils,  if you will)?

used for: relaxation, headaches (combined with peppermint), allergies (combined with lemon and peppermint), skin healing (combined with melaleuca), and swelling. 

used for: increasing energy, mood lifting, allergies (with lavender and peppermint), cleaning up sticky stuff, and flavoring water (note: be sure to do your research about the quality of the oils you use and the safety of ingesting them). 

used for: headaches, focus, allergies (with lemon and lavender), relief from fevers, and breath freshening (again with the reminder to research quality and safety). 

used for antibacterial, immunity-boosting, and anti-inflammatory purposes. 

(also known as tea tree oil) used for: skincare (especially acne!), skin healing (with lavender), cleaning, and as an antibacterial/antifungal. 

if you ask 100 different essential oil people what their favorite oils are, im sure youll get 100 different answers. these five oils are the ones that we use the most, for the most things, and are probably the ones id recommend to anyone just starting out with oils. but then again, thats my opinions. 

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Friday, January 15, 2016

the poverty luxe kitchen vol. 24: not boring oatmeal.

the one thing about living (somewhat) near the ocean is that its always freezing in the morning (and by freezing i mean below 60 degrees, yes, i know). doesnt matter what time of year it is or how hot its going to be later, mornings = freezing. and cold mornings are just begging for a hot breakfast. unfortunately, i am very much not a morning person and no matter how much i want a hot breakfast, im just not all that into putting that much effort into making that hot breakfast. 

thankfully theres oatmeal. oatmeal is super easy and takes like two minutes. except, oatmeal is kind of boring, and (for my bottomless pit of a stomach, anyway) not all that satisfying. so in the interest of getting the hot breakfast that i so wanted on cold mornings, i came up with a few super simple additions to make my morning oatmeal a little less boring.   oh, and fast too. none of this twenty-minute oatmeal business...

not boring oatmeal. 
makes one serving. 

heres what you need: 
1/2 cup rolled oats
1 tsp chia seeds
1 tsp flax seeds
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp cinnamon 
1 cup water
brown sugar (optional, for topping)

heres what you do: 

combine all of the ingredients except for the brown sugar in a small pot and bring to a boil. 

reduce heat to medium/low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the oats soften and reach your desired consistency (i like mine really thick so this takes about five minutes, so if you like yours thin, they should be even faster). 

top with brown sugar (and/or any other desired toppings) and serve immediately. 

and thats how you make the exact same thing ive had for breakfast every day for at least seven or eight months maybe even longer I MEAN oatmeal thats super fast and totally not boring. 

whats your go-to breakfast? do you eat the same thing every day or prefer to mix it up? 

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