Tiny House, Tiny Living, The Tiny Life.

Monthly archive for July 2017

Minimalism & Diet: Simplify Your Food, Simplify Your Life

After minimizing my belongings, my relationships, and my schedule, I took a look at my diet. Minimizing my diet has been one of the biggest money savers that minimalism has brought me. Here are tips on how to simplify your diet:

minimalism and diet

1. Learn Staple Meals

Learning how to cook a few simple meals is not only a beneficial life skill, it can drastically reduce your grocery budget. I have a few simple breakfasts, lunches, and dinners that I alternate between, which makes it easy to know what to eat when that time rolls around. I know that I love all of these meals, so when I go grocery shopping, I make sure to pick up ingredients for each one.

2. Eat the Same Meals Weekly

I tend to get really into a meal, and eat it constantly. By eating the same foods over and over, you’re saving money by not needing new spices, exotic ingredients, or a vast array of groceries. I like to always have staples on hand to create any of the following: smoothies, breakfast muesli, vegan sandwiches, sweet potato and chickpea curry, burritos, and my famous nourish bowls. Nourish bowls happen when I throw the following into a bowl: some type of grain, some type of protein (usually beans, as they are so high in fiber and minerals!), loads of veggies, avocado, and hummus. This can also be a really simple way to use up leftovers.

3. Keep Snacks Simple

minimalism and diet I used to be a big snacker – and I was a fan of processed, oily, junk food. After minimizing my diet, I’ve switched my snacking habits to become a bit more simple and budget friendly. Now, I snack on fresh or dried fruit, veggies with hummus, apples with peanut butter; I try to keep it as whole-food-focused as possible. Not only does this save me money, it is so much better for my overall health.

4. Try Themed Nights

One of my favorite ways to keep my diet simple and minimal, but still exciting, is themed nights. I have a few themes that I like to work around, including tacos and docos (documentaries) night, or meatless Mondays. This is a really fun way to introduce simplified diets to children.

5. Keep it Nutritious

A simplified diet is a whole-foods focused, nutritious diet. Focus your meals around whole grains, beans and legumes, and fresh fruits and vegetables.  I like to get my food as close to the source as possible – this means farmers markets for produce, bakeries for whole grain breads, and bulk stores for whole grain pasta, and dried beans. By constantly having the staples on hand, you’ll be able to make such a variety of meals.

minimalism and diet

Minimizing my diet has improved my health, relieved stress, and made me a happier person. There are so many benefits to eating more simply and healthfully, your wallet and your body will thank you.

Your Turn!

  • Would you consider simplifying your diet?

Protect Your Wealth

You’ve worked hard and have been financially responsible. You’ve lived on less than you’ve made and saved those extra dollars. Let’s safeguard what you’ve built and look at four things that you can do to protect your wealth.

protecting wealth

Make sure you have the proper insurance in place:

Having proper insurance in place plays a critical role in protecting your wealth in the event of the unexpected. You want to make sure that you regularly review your health, homeowners, and auto insurance to ensure that you have the proper protection that is needed.

You also don’t want to forget to insure yourself and your family against any possible loss of income that may occur. Although not pleasant to think about, having a proper amount of life insurance is necessary in protecting your family’s financial picture.

Most experts recommend having enough life insurance to cover 10 times your annual income. This ensures that your family will be taken care of in the event of your death. My husband and I each have 20-year term insurance. We get the coverage we need, at a price we can afford.disability insurance

If your employer does not already offer it, you may also want to look into disability insurance so that an illness or injury will not destroy the savings that you’ve worked hard to build. Disability insurance will not replace your income, but it will provide a buffer, paying out 60% of what you would normally be making.

It might not seem likely that this type of insurance is something that you would need, but the Social Security Administration estimates that one in four 20-year olds will become disabled and be unable to work before the age of 67, so it’s better to be safe than sorry and make sure that you’re protected.

Have an emergency fund:

Setting aside 3-6 months of your living expenses will serve as insurance for the wealth that you have built and are continuing to build. The money is there when you truly need it, without having to go into debt or withdraw from your retirement savings.

We often think of our emergency fund in the case of job loss. Another good use for your emergency fund is to use it for any home, auto, or medical insurance deductible. We have enough to cover all of our deductibles. This meant that we could raise the deductibles on our various insurance policies and thus lower the premium payments freeing up some extra money each month.

Have an estate plan:

I have many friends who have avoided this step, because planning for your death is not the most glamorous of topics, but having a current will in place is a critical step in your financial plan.

Your estate plan will allow you to reduce administrative expenses and legal fees upon your death. It will also mean that you preserve and leave a lasting legacy for your loved ones. Finally, your will allows you to control, manage, and allocate who receives your assets upon your death.

estate planning

Name your designated beneficiaries:

As important as it is to have a current will in place, it is equally important to name your designated beneficiaries to ensure that your assets are distributed according to your wishes. Be sure to name beneficiaries on any assets that will allow it such as your life insurance, pension plan, IRAs, or 401 (k)s.

Your Turn!

  • What steps have you taken to protect your wealth?

How To Organize Your Life With Trello

Trying to keep on top of things in life is sometimes daunting.  If you’re like me, I’ve tried a lot of different things over the years, but finally I have found something that works for me.  It’s called Trello and it’s a free web app and also has a really good iphone app for free too.

how to organize life and keep organized

Before I get into Trello, I wanted to share a little bit about my philosophy of use and then also a break down of other things I’ve tried over the years.

Applying a philosophy of use to productivity tools

A tool is only as good as the skill of the user.  The truth is that most tools work really well, it’s when you bring a human in the mix that things go awry.  We have a plethora of tools at our disposal, what we need to do is bring in a way of thinking on how we use them and form habits around them.

Start with your goals

know where you want to go

The biggest thing I see people failing on is not having goes.  If we don’t know where we are going, how can we figure out which direction to even go?  How can we validate that the things we do are even the right things?  What if we are doing things that are actually working against us!?

Take big goals and break them down to bite sized pieces

When you are setting out on a ambitious journey it’s very helpful to think about the first step you need to take.  If you focus too much on the entire goal it can be overwhelming, it can seem impossible, but when we break it down into smaller parts, we then realize all we have to do is this one thing today.

Understand you can only work on a few things at any given time

focus on one thing at a time

In many cases it’s better to focus on one thing at a time, tackle that head-on.  I will often work on a few things at once because there is often time when I’m waiting on someone else (email response, contractor to finish work, etc).  Have a select few things means I can work until I have to stop, then transition to work on that other thing.

Understand you’ll get to the other things later

This is something many people struggle with a lot.  I see it time and time again.  When you set your goal, you must understand that trying to do all of them at once will get you nowhere.  Like I said above, focus on 2 or 3 things at once and put the rest to the side.  This is where people falter; putting things aside for now, isn’t the same as putting them aside forever.  We need to get over the emotions that

The Tiny Life guide to using Trello to manage your life

 

Your Turn!

  • What do you use to organize your life?
  • What tricks work for you?

Minimalism And Sustainability

Minimalism is something you can do to improve your life; but the ripple effects improve our surroundings. By cutting down on consumerism, you’re not just helping your wallet or your closet; you’re helping the planet.

minimalism sustainability

Here are 4 ways to use minimalism to become even more environmentally responsible:

1. Try A Bamboo Toothbrush

I’ve recently made the switch to bamboo toothbrushes and I love it. Plastic toothbrushes don’t ever break down – and they are creating quite a problem for landfills. It’s estimated that 50 million pounds of plastic toothbrushes enter landfills every year! Bamboo is a compostable material, so by making the switch, you’ll be saving the landfills a few extra toothbrushes every year.

2. Minimize Packaging

minimalism sustainabilityThough it’s common to use reusable grocery bags now, did you know that you can also purchase reusable produce bags? I bought two mesh produce bags, which has allowed me to do a large part of my grocery shopping plastic-free. If you aren’t ready to take the plunge yet, try just taking a look at the plastic that you do use. Is it necessary to put onions, garlic, or lemons into a plastic bag?

3. Buy Second Hand

I recently watched a documentary called The True Cost. I was not aware, prior to this documentary, of the impact that our clothing has on the environment. Becoming a minimalist vastly reduces the amount of clothing that I purchase, but after watching this documentary, I decided to start purchasing as many of my clothes second hand as possible. This documentary shows not only the working conditions of sweatshops, but it really shows the impact that fast fashion has on our planet. So many clothes are being made, bought, and discarded at alarmingly rapid rates. By combining minimalism and buying second hand, I do as much as I can to help the planet in terms of clothing waste.

minimalism sustainability

4. Consider What You Have Before Buying Something

I recently wanted to switch from using a hairbrush every day to a wooden comb. I searched for wooden combs for months before finding the perfect one. I was so excited to become more sustainable by using a wooden hair tool instead of a plastic brush that I’ve had for three years. But right before I checked out, I realized that this would not be a more sustainable choice at all.

My plastic hairbrush still worked just fine. There was nothing wrong with it, and the only reason I wanted to switch was for my own convenience (and what I thought was sustainability). Luckily I realized this before checking out, and have now decided to use my plastic hair brush until I no longer can. At that point, I’ll check out with that wooden brush. Sustainability is about creating less waste – not about buying something new because it’s more eco-friendly.

minimalism sustainability

These tips have helped me become more sustainable on my minimalist journey over the last two years. Minimalism in itself is a wonderful way to be more eco-friendly, but I love learning more about how we can help the Earth even further.

Your Turn!

  • Which tip will you try?
  • What are your favorite tips for environmental sustainability?

 

 

 

How to Season and Care for Cast Iron Cookware

When cast iron is well-cared for it easily becomes your trusty standby that you wouldn’t dream of cooking without. The more you use it, the more the finish builds up and becomes part of the pan. Before long you will be slipping a fried egg out of it faster than any non-stick pan out there.

seasoning cast iron

As the finish builds up so does the flavor! The oils that you cook with and the fats from your food are what bond with the pan to create that non-stick coating. Many people have concerns over using Teflon to cook with because of concerns over chemicals leaching from nicks or scrapes in the finish. Cast iron is the perfect solution to that problem. A well-developed finish is nearly indestructible and if for some reason rust develops you can always re-season the pan.

What does it mean to season cast iron?

Cast iron cookware is made of raw metal without any coating on it which means that if exposed to water it will rust. That is why it needs to be seasoned. Seasoning your cast iron cookware is a process of heating oil beyond the smoke point to create a smooth, durable finish.

vintage cast iron

How to season a new pan!

You will want to season your pan when it is new, if it has rusted, or anytime the finish has been compromised. It is a very simple process. You will need about a tablespoon of oil. Flax seed oil is considered one of the best oils for creating a durable finish. I really like avocado oil too.

Dribble a little oil into the pan and then use a clean, lint-free rag or a paper towel to wipe the oil all over the pan. Now take an additional rag or paper towel and wipe off any excess oil. Leaving a thick layer of oil on the pan will cause the finish to build up too quickly and leave a sticky residue. The finish that you create with thick coats of oil does not bond to the pan, so they easily flake off while you are cooking.

old cast iron skillets

Now take the pan with all excess oil removed and place it in the oven face down and then heat your oven to 400 F degrees. Once the oven has reached 400 F degrees, continue cooking for ten minutes. You want your pan to get hot enough that it begins to smoke a little bit. That is how you know the oil has reached a high enough temperature to bond to the pan.

Turn the oven off and allow the pan to cool down in the oven. Do not pull the pan out of the oven and do not submerse it in water when it is hot.

How to clean cast iron cookware

cleaning cast iron

It is ok to submerge the pan and to use soap. Just make sure you do not leave the pan in the sink to soak. Rust will develop, and then you will have to season it again. I use a stainless steel scrubby on my cast iron. It doesn’t absorb the oil and seems to preserve the finish on the pan better than anything else.

Now that you have a great finish on your pan how do you clean it up? Start by scraping any food bits out of the pan. It is ok to submerse your pan in water while you are washing it, but you don’t want to soak it at all, or it will rust. Heating water in the pan is how I deal with food that gets stuck to the pan.

season cast iron skillet

How to maintain the finish.

Once the pan is all cleaned up again, it is important to add to the finish of the pan and seal it again. However this time it is a simplified version. Pour a little oil into the pan, wipe off all of the excesses, and then heat on the stove top. You want to heat just until you see little wisps of smoke then promptly remove from the heat. Set it aside and let it cool. There really isn’t much you can do to mess it up, just make sure that you wipe off all of the excess oil so that you don’t end up with a gummy build up.

Don’t be overwhelmed by any of this. I am sure it seems a bit foreign if you didn’t grow up with cast iron cookware but it is tough to mess it up. Even better, if something does get messed up, you can just scrub the pan really well and start again.

cast iron finish

 

Your Turn

  • What do you remember your grandma cooking in her cast iron pan?
  • How do you season your cast iron pans?
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