Dinner with Friends (on a dime)

We have dinner with my two best girl friends and their beaus once a week.  We started this tradition about three years ago once we were all settled into our career lives out of college.  At first, we would go out to eat – spending about $40 – $60 per couple each week.  One week, we decided to have our weekly date night at one of our houses and our official dinner club was born.

We keep it simple.  Each week we rotate between our three homes, and each one of us rotates making the appetizer, ent

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Homemade hummus for dinner with friends.

ree and dessert.  We bring our own adult beverages unless it is a special occasion (this works well for my husband and I who can get by with water or a $3 bottle of wine).

I spend a little more on this meal than the others during the week, but usually I am able to make the appetizer

for $5 – $10, entree for $25, and dessert for less than $5 – it evens out (Note: on a normal day my husband and I cost about $5 – $7 to feed.  That may seem like a lot to some, but he is 6’4 and I am a marathon runner so we eat like three people).

I was pretty proud of myself last week.  I was able to make hummus (from scratch!) and cut up fresh veggies (carrots from the garden) to put together a quick, easy, and cheap app.  I had some leftover cheese and grapes from other meals that I added as well.

This week was my birthday so I treated everyone to the whole meal.  I was able to feed 8 people and get three more meals for my husband and I for $100 (this is with buying organic meats).  We are suckers for Mexican food so I made a three course meal with drink pairings:Appetizers: Guacamole, two salsas, cheese dip and chips with margaritas or Corona
Dinner: Taco bar with homemade refried beans, shrimp, ground beef and chicken (we had hard and soft shells, sour cream, lettuce, tomato, rice, jalapenos, cheese and red onions to top) with a local Kosch
Dessert: Homemade Mexican Chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream with a milk stout

Eating on a budget is going to be key for us to reach our goals of spending less, but our weekly dinners give us a great way to socialize without breaking the bank!

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Weekly Menu and Grocery Trip

As part of living and eating more simply – and to save money for our tiny house goal – one of my big goals for 2013 is to create a weekly menu.  I am hoping that this goal will help us with smaller goals of eating out less, spending less of our budget on food, and eating more fresh, local foods.

My menu this week uses recipes from my favorite cookbook mentioned previously, Wildly Affordable Organic.

Sunday:
Breakfast – Sweet raisin bread, egg (from our chickens), and tea
Lunch – Chickpea stew on couscous (using extra beans from my hummus dish last week)
Snack – apple
Dinner – Pizza (homemade), salad, pudding

Monday:

Food Lion receipt

Food Lion receipt

Breakfast – Toast (from homemade bread) with peanut butter, tea
Lunch – Leftover pizza, carrot, apple
Snack – Oatmeal cookies
Dinner – Potato Curry, rice, ginger cake

Tuesday:

Breakfast – Toast with peanut butter, tea
Lunch – Leftover curry with rice, orange
Snack – apple
Dinner (with friends) – Chili Cornbread Casserole, Salad (other couples bring apps and dessert)

Wednesday:

Breakfast – Toast with peanut butter, teaLunch – Leftover chili, apple
Snack – Oatmeal Cookies
Dinner – Bean and tomato stew with rice, ginger cake

Thursday:

Breakfast – Toast with peanut butter, tea
Lunch – Leftover stew with rice, carrotSnack – Oatmeal cookies
Dinner – Hummus with roasted vegetables, pudding

Food lion grocery spoils.

Food lion grocery spoils.

Friday:

Breakfast – Toast with peanut butter, tea

Lunch – Leftover Chickpea Stew with Couscous
Snack – Apple

Dinner – Rotini with tomato sauce, salad, ginger cake

Saturday:

Breakfast – Oatmeal with peanut butter and raisins, tea
Lunch – Leftover rotini with, banana
Snack – Apple
Dinner – Out (free dinner at my husband’s gig – he plays solo acoustic guitar at about three to four times a month)

I had most of the ingredients on hand, but went to Food Lion (who has a good selection of local produce) for the rest.  I will need to stop by Harris Teeter tomorrow for the rotini, as they do not carry the high-protein brand I buy at Food Lion.

I will be able to stay under $25 for the week for groceries for this meal plan.  I have two work lunches scheduled

that will cost a total of $15 bringing our weekly food budget to $40.

Tiny House Field Trip

To kick off our new year, we spent two nights in Asheville, NC.  This is one of my favorite places in NC and what I consider the perfect mountain town.  The people of Asheville are great examples of living local – and have perfected support

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Kitchen and loft at the Hummingbird House. I love the farmhouse iron sink.

ing local food, art and beer.

This was unlike any trip we have made there before, because this time we stayed right downtown in a tiny house. After spending a good part of my vacation perusing tiny house plans and blogs, I stumbled into the Hummingbird House Backyard Cottage.  I just had to see it, so I booked a last minute vacation to Asheville.

As part of seeking a simpler life, Jonathan and I are committed to creating a smaller, simple home, but with Jonathan nearing 6’4, I really wanted to see how we fit in tiny accommodations.

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Half sized oven – it was big enough to bake bread!

We were pleasantly surprised how much this tiny cottage had to offer.  The bathroom was normal sized with a nice shower (that Jonathan could fully stand under), the loft had lots of space, and we were able to eat, cook, and relax without feeling like we were on top of each other.  We got there Sunday and had dinner and a flight of craft beer at the new brewery Wicked Weed – very tasty and trendy.  Monday, we had our toast from home for breakfast with an added treat – fresh eggs from the cottage owner’s chickens.  This was great fuel for our two hour hike on the Mountains to Sea trail.  Then back to our tiny house for Hoppin’ John from home for lunch (blackeyed peas with rice and tomatoes).  We spent about three hours just enjoying the house before going out for New Year’s Eve.  We visited a few local breweries, had a delicious dinner at Salsa’s with dessert at French Broad Chocolate Lounge, then were in the loft by 10 p.m.  Tuesday morning I did a short, but hilly training run then took a yoga class at the Asheville Yoga Center (They were very open to visitors, and at $7 for the class I thought it was a great way to start the year.  I run marathons, and am a terrible Yogi, but I try!)  In short, we loved our visit and the house, and will be using this as the standard to start designing our tiny home.

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The “tiny” but real sized bathroom. Stained concrete floors throughout the house made it super easy to clean.

If you are thinking of visiting Asheville, consider staying here.  We were a 5 minute walk from downtown, two minutes from the Asheville Yoga Center, and a 10 minute drive from a great hike on the Mountains to Sea trail.  The owner will sell her plans and is available for in person design consultations – her taste is impeccable so I may be taking her up on this!

Simply Eating

Last week, we tallied up everything we spent on food in 2012.  It came to $9,918.73.  For two people.  For one year!  Gulp.

This won’t do for the new game plan.  New plan time.

In December I borrowed Linda Watson’s book Wildly Affordable Organic from the library with the goal of testing out her menu for a month.  I had a feeling our food budget would be on the chopping block for our 2013 goals, and I was looking for something that would allow me to use produce I could eventually grow at home.

Her recipes are simple, use fresh and healthy ingredients, and are just delicious.  Jonathan (hubby) said that he could eat this way every day!  This is saying since her meal plans are vegetarian.

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Bread baked fresh tonight.

Tonight, I baked a batch of bread for our breakfasts (dough was already made a few days before), cooked chickpeas while I was at work and made a big batch of hummus for dinner with my best girls and their beaus tomorrow night, and made a spicy noodle dish.  She uses local, seasonal produce (which is perfect for me, as she is also based in NC), so I got to use carrots and green onions from our garden.  I had to bribe my husband to leave some for lunch tomorrow by letting him lick the blender bowl after I mixed the hummus – it was that good.

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Carrots and green onions just pulled from the garden.

We really enjoy her menus, and plan to follow them as closely as we can throughout the year (allowing flexibility to eat with family and friends).  Eventually, we would like to grow the majority of the produce ourselves, which will hopefully bring our food budget to under $40 per week.  After writing out her menu requirements we determined we need at least one acre to grow the produce she uses (including lots of peanuts for our daily peanut butter toast breakfast).  This will actually be enough to feed four people, which allows us to feed friends and family, or have some leftover to trade/sell.

I try not to buy books, but after my library book was due I purchased this cookbook and have used it every day since!

 

Day 1: The Game Plan

The first of January is my favorite day of the year.  I realize that there is nothing real that separates it from any other day of the year, but in my mind it is a blank slate and I have 364 days to conquer my goals.

In 2012, I became interested in minimalist living – especially the concept of living with less stuff, determining what really matters (to me), and taking up less space and resources.  This blog is intended to document progress towards living a simpler life in my home state, North Carolina.

So here is the game plan:

My husband and I are going to sell our (two) houses and most of our belongings.  We are going to reduce our food budget by growing most of our produce at my in-laws and following the awesome menus from Linda Watson at cookforgood.com.  Once we have converted our assets to cash, ee are going to purchase enough land to have a small farm (at least 5 acres) in North Carolina and build a tiny house for us and our two dogs and eventually junior(ette).

Always the lover of lists here is our to do list for January:

1. Fix the laundry room floor (we never finished our hardwoods into this room), patch holes from rerouting our cable, and replace the smoke detectors (which were removed in a fit of rage when they wouldn’t stop their incessant beeping EVEN with new batteries).

2. Clear out the yard – taking our chickens/chicken coop, garden boxes, and homemade greenhouse to the in-laws.  We have cultivated a small urban garden in our three years here, but alas this is not great for re-sale – farming will continue at the in-laws who live 10 miles away. 

Our homemade chicken coop and garden beds:

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3. Sell – our millions of billions of books, scooter, clothes, and other items we have accumulated in our storage bin a.k.a. garage.

I will check back in as we get going.