Category Archives: Friday Bites

Friday Bites #14 – Eat Whole Foods on a Budget

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Here’s the lowdown: uy pesticide-free produce and natural meats, eat as close as possible to how these foods were created. Eat only real, unprocessed food, switch from boxed foods to whole. Start gradually. Cook from scratch, it will take more time…and cost more.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m totally behind this concept but I have to admit I find it hard to exercise in real life. It’s not a money thing – although we certainly have to be conscious of how much we spend at HEB – but it’s a time thing. It’s hard to cook from scratch every night – even though I know it’s the best thing. Even worse, our 4 year old has no taste for home cooked food, he primarily eats boxed crap. I know, I know, awful….right? I swear I’m just trying to get calories into my little flac-ito. He’s like 5% in weight – it’s a constant struggle. Anyway,

Here is how Simple Bites instructs us to eat whole foods on a budget:

  • Eat less meat
  • Emphasize grains and legumes
  • Buy in bulk
  • Avoid the “dirty dozen” – produce with highest conentrations of pesticides – and buy those organic (peaches, apples, bell peppers, celery, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, pears, grapes, spinach, lettuce, potatoes)
  • Clean non-organic well with pesticide washes (equal parts vinegar and water or use a veggie wash)
  • Buy locally and invest in a CSA coop. For Austinites, here is a great site with a listing of local community supported agriculture programs: http://www.edibleaustin.com/content/csas-resources-108
  • Eat seasonally. Here is an excellent site listing all seasonal charts by state: http://www.fieldtoplate.com/guide.php ForTexans: http://www.pickyourown.org/TXharvestdates.htm
  • Grow your own – this isn’t happening for us, we can’t even make the grass grow at Casa Lopez
  • Preserve it when it’s cheap – canning, drying and freezing fresh produce. This seems like a rather large undertaking, and might be tackled last after the preceeding items on this list have been achieved.
  • Forgo processed food – duplicate your favorites in the kitchen from whole ingredients so you can control what goes into your meals.

Baby steps. We’re trying.

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Friday Bites – (#11) Clean as you go (#12) Clean kitchen as you cook

This week’s selection of Bites from Tsh Oxenreider covers two topics near and dear to my heart. Keeping an organized house – whether you live alone or have more crotchfruit than the Duggars requires constant vigilance.

 

#11: Clean as you go

Best cleaning hack there is – if something spills, or gets dirty, clean it up right away. A few minutes of time can really add up when it comes to keeping your home under control. I know either F or I make the bed every morning as soon as we get up. It takes two minutes and it makes the room look that much less like ass. The other thing I do – and this is a constant struggle, I won’t lie – is to hang up clothes and put away shoes after I take them off. A tough thing to do when you drag home from a long day and just want to throw everything in a pile and curl up on your (unmade) bed…

Here are a few more things we currently do to keep things a little less chaotic in Casa Lopez:

• put away primping items when I’m done (I hate having a bunch of crap on my bathroom counter)

• wiping down kitchen after cooking

 

Things we need to work on:

• loading and unloading dishwasher (HATE the damn dishes)

• clearing the tub of dinos and Polly Pocket dolls after Oliver is done with his bath

 

The book suggest that you set a timer for 15 minutes and see how much you can get done in your immediate environment. Do this until it becomes a habit – clean your house in small sprees throughout the day.

 

#12 – Clean your kitchen as you cook

Professional chefs learn this – and they look like they’re pretty damn busy (at least on Food Network), so I’m pretty sure we can do this in real life. Easier said than done.

Clean up after every task, no matter how miniscule, before moving on to the next. What seems like a drag will eventually become a habit.

 

Tips:

Start with a clean kitchen

Assign a proper home for each type of kitchen waste – compost, recycling, garbage

Arrange your workspace for a mini cleaning “mise en place” – place a garbage container nearby for food scraps, for a double sink: run one side half full of hot soapy water for hands and dishes and leave the other side free, keep a dust broom and bin right there, have several clean towels on hand.

PRO Restaurant tip: place a jar of warm water on the counter and stash several soup spoons inside. Use them for stirring sauces and other foods while cooking, eliminating sticky crap on the counter where a spoon has been rested. Also cuts down on dirty dishes since the spoons can be reused.

 

I know we always TRY to clean as we cook – but when we’re up against a deadline, like a looming gathering or trying to get the kids fed, etc – it’s a struggle.

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Friday Bites – (#8) Streamline Your Mail (#9) Streamline Your Receipts

Look at this dizzy jackass, does she look happy to you?

ImageI can’t stand having a bunch of paper crap scattered around the house, it makes me batsh!t crazy. So this week’s “bites” were a good reminder to take a walk around the place and clear up some of this nonsense.

#8 – Streamline Your Mail

The goal here is to keep mail from entering the house at all

• Toss in recycling/trash by mailboxes if possible

• Opt out of junk mail (go to http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/alerts/alt063.shtm for more information)

• For any flyer or notice related to an upcoming event, jot it on your calendar and toss the paper into recycling

• Make your bills paperless

At our casa, all of the incoming mail goes into the in bin on the entry table. Sometimes I’ll sort it right when I get into the house, tossing the junk and putting the rest in the in-bin. The stuff in the in-bin is further processed 1x/week – into either pay, file, or to-do areas in my home office. Wherever I possible (and when I remember), we have paperless billing established on our accounts. However, and this is because I’m an old luddite, part of me still likes getting a paper statement every month that I can review and file for future reference.

#9 – Streamline Your Receipt System

If you really want to make my blood boil, just litter the house with receipts…little slips of crap jammed into every crevice of the place. Hate it. Sometimes it’s inevitable – but 90% of the time, there is NO REASON to hold on to receipts.

Only keep the following:

• receipts for large purchases that come with warranties

• medical receipts (especially if you’re on an individual health insurance plan)

• tax deductible receipts (charity donations, home office expenses, etc).

• anything you need for your business expense report

Each of these categories should have its own plastic folio/envelope and applicable recipts should go right into them. All else should go directly into the trash.

If you REALLY want to free yourself from your paper shackles, consider one of these receipt scanners : http://www.squidoo.com/best-receipt-scanners. I’m saving my pennies for one of those NeatDesk dealies (drool).

Now forge on, with your newly paper-free selves….

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Friday Bites #7 – Downsize Your Book + Magazine Collection

Ok – wrong wrong wrong….

I’m putting this week’s bite on the blog out of obligation, and keeping things sequential. However, I totally disagree with the principle…the books part anyway. I know you should go through your magazines and books and toss the crap you don’t like/need. But my argument is – why did you BUY it in the first place if you don’t love it – and intend to read it and keep it and cuddle it and call it George…?

Every book in my house (and I have a lot) is there because I enjoyed reading it and either might revisit it or like to look at it as a reminder of when I had time to read constantly – or it’s a beautiful, expensive book full of gorgeous imagery that it would be a crime to toss. If you don’t love it, don’t buy it – that’s a great way to operate in general…

We have several bookcases – scattered around the house – based on the topic. Living room is our general stuff, F’s office has the design books and our bedroom has parenting books and my Taschen collection. Of course, there are eleventy billion kids’ books in Oliver’s bookcase as well. Every book in our house is loved and treasured. Maybe it’s because I grew up in a library, but just being around our books makes me feel centered and content. Someday, in our dream Casa Lopez, I’ll have a whole room with built-in bookshelves stuffed with books…

Magazines are a different story – I mean, everything we subscribe to is read and enjoyed, but that crap does tend to pile up. I keep the good stuff like now-defunct Cookie and Domino, CMYK and Print and my European fashion stuff in magazine butlers. The rest is read, pertinent articles are pulled out and put into my filing system (see last month’s post about that) and then tossed. The current stuff, that I haven’t torn up and filed, is kept in this awesome orange lacquer tray from West Elm. Holy crap I love orange….

Anyway, the takeaway here is: don’t buy it/subscribe to it if you don’t love it.

If you’re not sure, there’s the library…and Kindle. But as a librarian’s kid, I must say – support your local branch! And save the bookstore for the heirloom stuff that occupies your soul.

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Friday Bites – (#6) the family purpose statement, (#13) weekly family meetings

I’m combining a couple of items from “52 Bites” today, since they’re related. This weekend, we’re all about family. Going on a hike together, trekking down to SA to see the in-laws, just hanging out, enjoying each other and trying to shake off the stresses of the week…. That’s the goal, anyway. I’m sure reality will creep in there somewhere.

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I’ve seen the concept of the Family Purpose Statement before – like a corporate mission statement for the home, a declaration that will clarify your choices and actions. I’ve been doing some thinking about Familia Lopez and though I have to consult with the Mister, I think our family purpose would look something like this:

Our family is a safe sanctuary from everyday stresses and judgments, where we learn and create together, are generous with our time and assistance, and support each other as we make our ways in the world.

Maybe it’s too big of a slogan to put on a commemorative plate, but it’s a good place to start.

One of the things we recently instituted in Casa Lopez is the Sunday family meeting. Although truthfully the only attendees are F and I at this point unless O is joining us to finger paint or make his collages.

On the agenda:

  • the budget
  • weekly menu planning
  • the calendar: appointments or engagements coming up that week
  • dropping off/picking up duties
  • keep on kicking ass and being awesome

I highly recommend the weekly family meeting – particularly the budget agenda item – just so everyone is on the same page as you go through your week.

Friday Bites: #4 Establish a Morning Routine and #5 Menu Planning + Groceries

Mornings are uniquely stressful affairs in Casa Lopez, but evenings can be a bitch as well – especially work nights. Getting back to work and having both kiddos now in daycare together has allowed us to somewhat streamline our morning process (see my January 20 post: “Establish Your Morning Routine”). Of course, it’s somewhat dependent on when H wakes up since he is just 3 months. However, we’re getting there. The morning task list is set and we get it all done, with a few hiccups. So, on to the evening routine!

On deck for dusk:

1. Straighten house , wash all dishes

2. Put out clothes for following day (outfits for week have already been chosen on Sunday – I put them out and accessories the night before, changing to a better matching purse if needed)

3. prep breakfast, program coffee, make night/early morning bottles for H, cook O’s lunch and store

4. DVR clear and set up, alarms, charge electronics

5. nighttime pre-bed primping (we olds need to put on that retin-A nightly to avoid looking busted)0

Another seemingly routine task that can get out of hand in a hurry is grocery shopping. If I go to the store hungry and/or with the kiddos, all bets are off… I end up with a cart full of nonsense and way too much cheap wine. It’s time to rein that in and stick with a pre-determined list.

Here is a link to the grocery list template that will be instituted in our house starting with this week’s HEB run: http://www.vertex42.com/Files/pdfs/1/grocery-list.pdf

It’s handily divided into similar categories that I’ll find at the store, so I’m not running back and forth between aisles across the store like a jackass. I’ll let you know how it goes over the next couple of weeks. Give it a try!

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